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Earth.

It has been a while since you've set foot on her cosmic shore. You have been away for a year now, amidst the High Elves of Holy Luna, which men call 'the moon'. You arrived as a guest of honor, studied there as a student, were nearly made a prisoner, and departed as a fugitive.

It has, in short, been one hell of a vacation.

When you left the city of Hawksong for the Sylvan Realms, the place of your birth, you expected it to be a relatively short trip—a matter of a month, perhaps a little longer. You didn't expect to find yourself battling back the dark fairies of the Unseelie Court to protect a holy artifact of the ancient fairy-gods of the moon, let alone be invited to stay among their celestial cities and beatific woodlands of that distant satellite as a reward. You had hoped to master your condition: a semi-corporeal state of being brought on by the reckless experimentation of a friend and lover. You did so, learning to control the <Rite of Attunement> which brought it about, and to adopt at will an <Improved Aetherial Form>. But that was not ALL you learned... Oh no.

You discovered the secret origins of the True Fey and the Chaotic Good Gods: alien not just to the material plane, but to all the cosmos, envoys from another universe.

You were taught of their sacred purpose: to bring about a new nature, free of pain and predation, strife and suffering. It is an objective stymied only by their conflicts and peace-pacts with the Gods of Darkness... Though in truth, you have your own misgivings about the matter.

You became privy to secrets beyond mortal, 'earthling' ken: that the denizens of the moon have been monitoring the spread of magic and the evolution of biological and spiritual life on Earth, and that these readings and analyses have predicted an imminent Era of High Magic, when the people of Earth shall once more control forces with the potential to reshape the world... Or rip it asunder.

You learned that the gods themselves can feel fear... And that they fear what comes next.

A... let's say a 'heated disagreement' with Divine Princess Yllarquin of the Three-Quarter Moon led you to leave in rather a rush, an escape enabled and expedited by an enchanted envelope and the letter within: a letter from Izirna Henzler, your childhood rival, dear friend, first love, and the daughter of your Archmage master. It brought you back to our second home, where you have dwelled for the past fifteen years: Hawksong, the crown-jewel city of the Race of Man and symbol of the peaceful reign of the centuries-old dynasty of Paladin Kings.

...And a city on the front lines of the coming chaos, if the lunar eladrin are to be believed; a vortex of arcane energies coming to a singular point of no return, with unpredictable results, possibly by the devious machinations of the wicked and cruel Gods of Darkness.
>>
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>>5906767
Your name is Ezreal Mious Van Houtzmann, one-time apprentice to the Archmage of Hawksong, Disciple of the True Fey, and defender of Dappulyet. You are elven, and human, and touched by ancient magic. You are a scholar of the arcane, a healer of the sick, a protector of the forests, and a friend to animals. You are an adventurer, if not always entirely of your own volition, and you have traveled long and far as few have done, in pursuit of hidden truths.

You are a SEEKER OF THE ESOTERIC...

And right now, you think you are about to be sick.

"Easy, eeeaasy does it," Costella Fanucci soothes you, rubbing your back as you clutch the sides of the wooden bucket and dry-heave.

"Strange. The <Greater Teleportation> spell woven into that letter shouldn't have been so... Disruptive."

You glare halfheartedly up at Izirina—'Izzy'—who is watching you with the detached fascination of a researcher observing a subject... Or perhaps like an angel passing judgment from on-high, with how her contained elemental energies set his bronzed complexion aglow and radiate with crackling brilliants from her eyes. The environs do little to soften the impression, as you seem to have been translocated to the human girls' current location, which appears to be some sort of magically-lit and rather sterile facility, presumably below the Mages' Tower. You spent no shortage of time in such rooms, playing the role of a researcher yourself.

"Well, it was," you groan, and heave again.

"I'll have to fix that," she says with a frown. "Though... There was some sort of interference, I think. A snag in space-time that led to delayed transit and temporary body-spirit disjunction. Does the moon have some sort of spell-of-protection in place around it? That might do it if it's like a stronger version of whatever stopped you at the border of the Silver Realms..."

You look back up at her, surprised at how well-informed she is about what you've been up to.

"Your father told us where you went," Izzy offers by way of explanation.

"When you didn't come back," Costella adds, sounding more than a little hurt.

"Ah," you say, "right."

(You did ask him to do that, didn't you? It's... Been a while. In some ways, it doesn't FEEL like it's been a year. In others, it feels like it's been a lifetime.)

"We were worried," Costella says, pouting rather fetchingly.

"I wasn't," Izzy corrects her, and she smiles knowingly at you, as if sharing in some secret. "I had every confidence in you. I knew you'd be alright. After all... You're you."

You open your mouth to say something, and then close it. There's a lot you'd like to say, to both of them... But right now, you think you need a moment to catch your breath, get your bearings, and regain your strength.

"Water..." you moan.
>>
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>>5906774
"Oh! Silly me, of course!" Costella says, bouncing to her feet and bustling off to grab you something to slake your thirst and clear the taste of bile from your palate.

"Costella."

She stops and turns to Izzy questioningly. The mage prodigy clears her throat and casts:

"<Teleport Object>. <Create Water>."

A cup appears in Izzy's hand and fills almost instantaneously with clear, cool refreshment. You accept it gratefully. It is a casual and almost mundane display of what is, in truth, shocking levels of magical precision and mastery of the School of Conjuration.

"I've been practicing," Izzy says with a brief, secretive smile when she sees your expression.

Costella fidgets, fussing a little with the cloth belt cinching in the waist of her peasant-dress, and looking at a loss for what to do, however. After a moment, she seems to snap back to eager attention, though.

"Oh, and food! You'll be wanting to, like, refill that stomach now that it's all... You know, empty and stuff. How about a shepherd's pie, Ez?"

Before you can answer, a flutter of rapid wingbeats buffets your hat as Veloz—your shimmering celestial hummingbird companion—settles upon your hat. You're gratified that he made the trip with you—you weren't sure the spell would bring him as well! However, he is also a reminder of the Moonwoods, those scenic and sanctified forests of Holy Luna... A place without predator or prey, where animals and plants live in blessed harmony in a veritable paradise. You haven't eaten meat in a year, for to do so would have been sacrilege of the highest order. Even before then, in the land of elves, your mother's people are mostly vegetarian outside of small amounts of fish and game, reserved for special occasions and consumed with ritual significance.

Of course, you're back on Earth now, and in Hawksong, among your father's people, and Costella is awaiting a reply.

"Actually," you say...
> "That sounds great."
> "I'm vegetarian now."
>>
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>>5906777
[For those of you just joining us, the archive of Seeker(s) of the Esoteric, AKA A Mage Apprentice's Quest, can be found at https://suptg.thisisnotatrueending.com/qstarchive.html?tags=reptoidqm, as well as Reptilian Infiltrator Quest and Dragonborn Antipaladin Quest. The earlier quests will play a role here but, as ever, they are not required reading. Anything important from them will be addressed and explained as the main characters become ware of it.]
>>
>>5906777
>"I'm vegetarian now."
Wow quick, I didn't even have time to respond to the end of thread questions from the previous one. Might as well do it here.

>How did you enjoy the lore revealed in this chapter? What are your feelings about the gods and eladrin introduced and explored in this part of the story?
Fantastic, though it makes me wonder if the light side are really ayy lmaos what are the true forms of the dark gods

Also some anons seem to want to team up with Theral against the gods but despite the little dispute we just had on the moon our goals seem to align pretty closely with the goals of the light.

>Was the balance of exposition to action to your liking?
ye
>Earlier in the quest some said Tips felt a bit like a blank slate of a character; does he feel more distinctive and consistent in how he is being written now?
I'm not sure how early that was - understandable in like the first thread but he's felt pretty distinct for a while now.
>Were there any stand-out characters (good more bad) for you in the Dappulyet and moon arcs?
I saw an anon badmouthing the Unseelie champion last thread and wanted to say they seemed like a very decent sort to me especially considering their background. I'm not sure where other anon got those negative impressions, she seemed to be fighting for the good of her people and offered mercy multiple times when she had the upper hand, it's a shame we let the werewolf devour her .
>>
>>5906777
>"That sounds great."
dunno about vegan, but we can reduce the amount of meat we regularly eat
>>
>>5906777
> "That sounds great."

Anti meat eaters are cringe, living creatures by design aren't immortal and the eco system wouldn't be able to handle it if they were.

Animal's break down and die of illness and old age and are then consumed by bacteria regardless.

And in fact not eating prey animal's causes damage to the local ecosystem, as their out of control numbers devastate local foliage.
>>
>>5906777
> "That sounds great."
Such luxuries are not possible here - we don’t have berries which could make us full for an entire day or so. We take what we can get.
>>
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>>5907017
[Quick point of order: you do have some magically-nourishing moon-berries.]
>>
>>5907018
Neat. Can we grow them here?
>>
>>5907023
[Yes*]
*It would probably take some doing, and it isn't guaranteed, but theoretically you have much of the magical toolkit you would need to attempt it between Cone and the Rite of Attunement. Your experiences and abilities are more focused on animals and fair-spirits, but it IS an avenue of magical research which you could pursue.
>>
>>5906777
>> "I'm vegetarian now."
I find it more interesting when quest protags are weirdos with hangups
>>
>>5907025
Kino. Sounds like a decent objective.

>>5907049
I’m pretty sure we already are that.
>>
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>>5906849
>>5907001
>>5907017
>>5907049
>>5906811
“Actually…” You pause to think on it, but eventually concede. “That sounds great. Thank you.”

Costella beams at that, evidently happy to have made herself useful. She practically skips out of the room for the spring which enters her step. You smile a little bit to see it, happy that the bubbly vivaciousness which returned to her after you cured her condition has stuck, even in your absence. Though… Well, it’s not as if Costella has ever had trouble making friends, as far as you can tell. Even without the friendship which she and Izirina seem to have kicked off, in your absence, you can’t imagine her ever being left lonely for long.

Without Costella present, you are left with alone with Izzy. There is a dearth of comforting back-rubs or cooing concern, which is a curious contrast since Izzy is the one who you are ostensibly dating… If that’s even how she perceived your relationship, or still perceives it. This woman remains a mystery to you in man ways. Every time you think you ‘get’ her, she surprises you, sometimes with dangerous results. And yet…

“it’s good to be back,” you say.

Izzy smiles, and nods, gingerly taking your bucket and helping you to your feet. With another casting of her <Teleport Object> spell, she summons a chair for you to sit on. It’s a welcome gesture, but as she begins to pace excitably before you, it begins to feel uncomfortably like an interrogation.

“Tell me everything,” she demands. “What was it like? Did you… Oh, you must have met GODS, actual GODS. And… The MOON! It must have been amazing!”

“It was different,” you say carefully. “Strange. In some ways a paradise. But… Strange. Unnatural.”

You reflect on your experiences on the moon: the pristine curated woods with their perfectly-symbiotic ecosystems, maintained by powerful fairy ‘groundskeepers’… The sprawling city-sized laboratories, and observatories, and campus, and magical megastructures, all staffed by chalk-white, opal-eyed hermaphroditic ‘high elves’ or ‘eladrin’, long-lived and created wholecloth as adults. A world without natural birth or death. The things that work there are not, you realized before you left, things that necessarily fit in with the way of YORU world… THIS world. Here on Earth, living creatures aren't nigh-immortal, and the ecosystem wouldn't be able to handle it if they were. Aging, death, and decay are natural elements of the grand design… Perhaps a dark design, a relic of the Dark Gods, but you aren’t entirely comfortable with simply discarding all the world’s biological processes in pursuit of such a sterile paradise, even a beautiful one.
>>
>>5907103
It isn’t just obligate and universal herbivory that was novel to Holy Luna, though. There was also the way their Sacrae Scholae Lunae functioned—their ‘Mages Tower’ equivalent. There, every student as also a proctor, and information flowed freely and openly between the eladrin. Now, here on Earth, and especially alone with Izirina Henzler, you wonder if that might not ALSO be something best left on the moon. For all her infectious enthusiasm, you cannot help but remember the little girl who you grew up with: a girl who sought to escape her body, her society, her whole world… Who risked your life, and hers, and Costella’s, in pursuit of that escapism. You have learned a great deal since you last saw her, about the nature of the gods, the universe, about bodies and souls and the fate of all the cosmos. You have mastered the <Rite of Attunement> and the <Improved Aetherial Form>, and between this and your gift for the living alchemy of Chimericism, you suspect you are on the precipice of a power which could very literally change the world… And here is Izzy, that brilliant, talented, inscrutable mage, wearing the black robes and hat of the Archmage's own elite arcane agents.

But how much do you trust her? How much should you share with her?
>Tell Izzy everything about your adventures in the Sylvan Realms and on Holy Luna
>Tell her only the basics, and guard the rest as holy secrets of the fair-folk
>Hide or exclude something specific [what?]
>Write-in

There is also just the matter of… Well, of other, more personal disclosures. Seeing Izzy again, one thing that strikes you is how good confidence and excitement looks on her. You saw a glimpse of this Izirina Henzler once, long ago, but you were both so young. Now she is in her full womanhood, as you are now a man. She is your first lover—your only one, aside from a brief and unsatisfying tryst—and she is, undeniably, lovely… A beautiful woman, literally glowing with life, escapes strands of hair blowing in an unseen breeze. You may never know how much of the gravity she exerts on you is spiritual entanglement from that first sue of the <Rite of Attunement>, amateur and unconventional, but she DOES call to you… But, by the same token, so does Costella, and while that girl is a genuine paragon of physical magnificence, and a wonderful and supportive friend, you know for a FACT that at least the initial impetus for THAT attraction is the result of magic.

Should you broach the subject with Izzy? You missed her, you care for her… But do you love her?
>Yes—confess your feelings, and kiss the girl
>No—hold your tongue, you’re still not sure of yourself, and this isn’t the time
>Actually… This is probably a better discussion to have when Costella returns as well
>Write-in
>>
>>5907105
>Tell her only the basics, and guard the rest as holy secrets of the fair-folk

>Actually… This is probably a better discussion to have when Costella returns as well
Am >>5906849
>>
>>5907105
>Tell Izzy everything about your adventures in the Sylvan Realms and on Holy Luna
The happenings of the moon, the goddess’ response to us, those are not dying with us. We need to get this out, as much as possible.

>Yes — but don’t confess. State that you miss her and see how she respond.
It’s been a long time. A lot of things can - and have - changed. Let’s not come off too strongly. If she’s open to it, great. If not, it is what it is.
>>
>>5907105
>Tell Izzy everything about your adventures in the Sylvan Realms and on Holy Luna.

Misinformation can't help anyone, and if this is going to be an age of rising high magic. Izzy is going to be swept up in it just like we are. And she did help us escape from luna, so the we least we can do is be honest and forthcoming.

>Actually… This is probably a better discussion to have when Costella returns as well
>>
>>5907105
>Tell her only the basics, and guard the rest as holy secrets of the fair-folk
We haven't seen her in a while, but best not to forget Izzy is dangerous and forced us into the attunement ritual.

>Actually… This is probably a better discussion to have when Costella returns as well
>>
[As we're tied, we'll hold off until tomorrow for the next post.]
>>
>>5907023
Thanks for asking that exact question for me
Let's plant them at Sprigganbro forest resort
>>
>>5907105
>Tell her only the basics, and guard the rest as holy secrets of the fair-folk
>Write-in : add details on how the whole godhood plan is a shitty idea and your experience comforted you in fixing the local plane first

>Actually… This is probably a better discussion to have when Costella returns as well
>>
>>5907105
>>Tell her only the basics, and guard the rest as holy secrets of the fair-folk
>No—hold your tongue, you’re still not sure of yourself, and this isn’t the time
She's a stinker
>>
>>5907515
>>5907460
>>5907235
>>5907140
>>5907133
>>5907130
You meet Izzy’s expectant enthusiasm with trepidation. It's not that you don’t care for her, but... Well, you’ve been burned before, almost literally by the Elemental plane of Fire. It doesn’t matter how you feel about Izirina Henzler. Being friends with her (or more than friends, for that matter) is like being friends with Muffins: she may be cute, and she may mean well, but you must never forget that she is DANGEROUS. If this is going to be an age of rising magical potential and potency, Izzy of ALL people is going to be swept up in it, just as you have been... And that means managing some expectations, and keeping some secrets, for everyone’s well-being.

“The Moon,” you begin. “The Moon... Was interesting. Very low gravity, and the people there are sort of peculiar. ‘High elves’, they call themselves.”

“Peculiar how?” she presses, summoning a chair for herself and scooting forwards with wide eyes.

It's almost absurd to see such a grown woman, but... Well, it’s also very much like your old study sessions. In fact... These are the same chairs, aren’t they? From the storage room where you used to spend so much time together when you were just kids? You feel a pang of bittersweet nostalgia.

“They're very pale,” you say, “and it turns out they’re, uh, androgynous.”

“Well you all sort of are,” Izzy notes. “Elves, I mean.”

“I mean more than...” you trail off, registering what she just said. “Hey!”

“It’s not a complaint, Ezreal,” Izzy says softly, with a subtle smile that reminds you of old times.

“R-right,” you say. “Anyway, the gravity's low, and the animals are weird, and their whole school system is frankly bizarre... But kind of nice. It's whole... Communal sort of system, rather than the mage proctor and apprenticeship system of the Tower, or the seer-sermon approach that the elves take where I’m from.”

“So you studied there?” Izzy seizes upon your words, and you must hide a wince at your slip-up. “Spells? What sort of magic did you learn?”

“I mean... Just the regular sort,” you mutter vaguely. “You know... Life magic and Feycraft. Pretty much what you’d expect.”

Izzy narrows her eyes a little, and purses her lips. You’d sweat a little, but your body no longer really does that.

“It’s... Just sort of a secret,” you say lamely. “Fairy secrets, you know? I’m kind of not supposed to say.”

“Tips,” she says with a terse sigh, “I thought we were past all this. I’ve been to the fairy court with your friends on that hill... Costella and I have even been helping to maintain and expand it while you’ve been away, you know?”

“You have?”

Izzy nods.

“ Well… I mean, this is… It’s different!” you protest. “This isn’t just local True Fey. This is... this is DIVINE stuff, you know?”

“So was the ritual,” she says.

“And how did THAT turn out?!"
>>
>>5908228
The anger escapes before you can swallow it back. Izzy looks a look shocked, and then hurt. You immediately find yourself regretting it but, well… It’s the truth. Last time you trusted her with magic of this magnitude, she violated that trust.

“Is that why you used the letter?” Izirina whispers. “Because you stole secrets from the gods?”

You freeze, caught in her gaze as surely as if you were once more in the telepathic clutches of moon-goddess mentalism.

“Well there had to be SOME reason they didn’t send you back themselves,” she reasons, “and you still haven't said what that reason is, so it must be something you don't really want to talk about.”

You say nothing, squirming in your seat. With dawning clarity, you wonder if this is how Princess Yllarquin felt, when she tried to detain you as you left Holy Luna, to keep those same secrets from you which you now hesitate to share with Izirina, for much the same reason.

“I understand,” Izzy says quietly.

“You do?” you ask, a little skeptical that she really does.

She looks up at you, her smile still bright, but brittle.

“We all have our secrets to keep,” she says. “Especially in unprecedented times like these.”

(Wait, what does she…?)

Your thoughts are interrupted by warmth. You look down, and find Izzy’s hand, tingling and hot with her internal elemental energies, resting on your own. You look up, and find her gaze.

“I’m glad you’re back, Ezreal,” she says.

“Yeah,” you say, “me too.”

A part of you wants to say more, but… Maybe not just now. After all, Costella will be back any—

“Lunchtime!~”

Izzy’s hand leaves yours as you both look over to the source of the sing-song voice of the third member of your strange trio. Like an angel bearing sacred alms, she bequeaths the both of you a fresh, hot shepherd’s pie, carrying the distinct aroma of the expedient elemental cookery of the Tower’s cafeteria.

“Here,” says Izirina, standing up. “Take my chair.”

“You’re not going to eat with us?” Costella asks.

Izzy’s eyes flit to you briefly, expression shifting subtly before her smile returns.

“I’ve already taken too much time from my—our—work,” she says. “Anyway, I only enchanted two chairs with the summoning-sigil.”

What do you do?
>Let Izzy go—you can catch up with her later, and you actually kind of want to talk to Costella alone…
>Summon an Earth Elemental to serve as a seat—you need to speak with both of them
>>
>>5908233
>Summon an Earth Elemental to serve as a seat—you need to speak with both of them

Dang we suck at hiding things
>>
>>5908233
>Summon an Earth Elemental to serve as a seat—you need to speak with both of them
alright, time to spill it out
>>5907130
>>
>>5908233
>Summon an Earth Elemental to serve as a seat—you need to speak with both of them
I still dont see any advantage of keeping secrets from her. We’re running out of allies and the first thing we do is push izzy further away.

am >>5907133
>>
>>5908281
>We’re running out of allies
We are?
>>
>>5908392
You think our friends and family back at dappulyet won’t be fed lies about our current whereabouts and behavior?
>>
>>5908457
What kind of lies do you think they'll tell?
>>
>>5908233
>Summon an Earth Elemental to serve as a seat—you need to speak with both of them.

Our decision to keep information about the moon from izzy is defiantly cringe. Since the moon demi god princess might send agents to come abduct us and theral is hunting us. And we will presumable need izzy's help to stay a step ahead of them.

But we fumbled worse socially before.
>>
>>5908550
tell others we are a dangerous individual that must not be aided, for example. All sorts of slanders and excuses to make them lose sympathy for us.
>>
>>5908580
yeah im not sure what the thought process behind that was either.

>4/6 anons chose to hide news
>currently we have 4 votes to talk with both of them
what the fuck is this
>>
>>5908585
I don't think they'd say that, and I don't think our family/friends would believe it if they did
>>
>>5908233
>>Summon an Earth Elemental to serve as a seat—you need to speak with both of them

>>5908588
Easy; I've been pushing toward this relationship since the ritual + I don't trust Izzy because of her past shenanigans
>>
>>5908588
>what the fuck is this
talk about our relationship, anon
>>
>>5908233
>Summon an Earth Elemental to serve as a seat—you need to speak with both of them
>>
>>5908588
[Sorry, >>5908643 is right. I probably could have stood to be more clear.]

>>5908246
>>5908279
>>5908281
>>5908580
>>5908604
>>5908786
[We seem to be unanimous, though! I'll write up a post if I get time between work-related matetrs today in the office; otherwise, when i get home.]

>>5908604
>>5908585
>>5908580
>>5908550
>>5908457
>>5908392
>>5908281
[I also just wanted to say I appreciate all this discussion! it's this sort of stuff that makes quests worth running. thanks, anons!]

>>5908246
>Dang we suck at hiding things
[In fairness, you've known each other for almost twenty years at this point, you are sort of dating, she is an actual genius descended from the Yosefs, no less, who are an especially shrewd family, and your spirits are entangled.]
>>
>>5909016
Ok everything else you have a point but she’s a magic genius, not a social one. We had to drag her into our friend group kicking and screaming
>>
>>5909022
[Ah, true of most people, but she mostly deduced the situation through logical reasoning as to info you were hiding, and she's used to Tip's mannerisms from spending so much time with him specifically... And she even knows what you're liking when you're keeping secrets from her because you've done it a few times and then revealed what you were up to later (checking into her origins and the Archmage's history, investigating a cure for her, etc.). That was my rationale, anyway. Tip has tells, and Izzy knows them. Her social issues are more because of being burned a few times and being raised by a VERY peculiar mother figure rather than actual inability to read cues.]
>>
>>5909016
"Stay."

Izzy's head whips back to you, her expression suddenly quite concerned. In truth, you've never seen this expression on her face, but you think it might be... Guilt? She has never apologized to you for springing upon you the scheme which robbed you of your physical consistency and made you into a pseudo-eladrin—never even evinced any understanding that she had anything to apologize for, as a matter of fact—but it seems that your refusal to trust her with your secrets has shaken her. Perhaps, finally, understanding is dawning?

(Perhaps, if you're being totally honest with yourself, part of the blame lies with you for never actually talking to her about it, and letting her continue thinking everything was fine between the two of you for over a year...)

“Please,” you add, and then: “<Summon Elemental>.”

Both the girls look over with some startlement as a denizen of the Elemental Plane of Earth materializes from thin air with a pop. It is a vague facsimile of a man—by its proportions, maybe more an ape, or an orc, actually—but without finer features such as eyes or mouth. It grinds and groans as earth and stone scrape against one another, and assumes a position as if of absolute submission, on clumpy, lumpy hands and rocky knees. Costelal claps her hands togetehr giddily.

“Like, perfect! A seat! See, Izzy? Now we can all eat lunch together!”

“Y-yeah,” Izirina mumbles, her partly-false confidence flagging slightly.

She flips other cloak behind her and daintily takes her seat across from you and from Costella. Her sparkling eyes flit to you periodically, though she avoids directly meeting your eyes as she unwraps and nibbles upon her shepherd's pie, grazing at the crust first as if afraid to really dig into the meat and vegetables of the thing. Costella, oblivious to the tension, noshes down on her own savory pastry almost immediately, and with gusto.

“Ever since we got transformed, I just get so HUNGRY, you know what I mean?” Costella says, after swallowing and brushing away the crumbs from her lips. “It’s like I have all this extra energy all the time, but it’s still got to, like come from somewhere. Must be a change to, like, my metabolism or whatever!”

You nod along with her, and, unwrapping yours, take a testing bite. You feel the juices fill your mouth, the medley of spices and the texture and taste of the meat—lamb, you think—mingle with the grain and greens. You practically swoon. Gods, you missed meat...

But like Izzy, you can’t put this off forever. Doubly so because it was your idea.
>>
>>5909085
“So,” you say after a while, “I think we need to talk.”

Izzy nods, a perfunctory gesture of having heard you. Costella looks at you with wide, curious eyes, and then smiles.

"Well, duh!" she laughs. "You've been gone FOREVER! We have so much stuff to catch up on! Like, Izzy said you were living on the MOON for a while? Like, actually THE MOON Moon, right? The one in, like, the LITERAL sky! That's crazy! What was it like?"

Izirina sighs, drawing Costella’s confused eyes. When you don’t answer right away, she looks between the two of you and, belatedly, seems to recognize that this is not the best topic to talk about at this exact moment, even if she doesn’t know precisely why.

“So,” Costella says, and sets her remaining pie gingerly between her knees, balanced precariously, as she wipes off her hands, “what did you want to talk about, Ez?”

“It’s about...”

>The Old Maple Hill land reserve and what you’ve been doing there...
>The Rite of Attunement, and how you’ve been using it...
>These secrets Izzy is apparently keeping, and what you two have been up to...
>Us... The three of us, and our... Feelings...

[You can choose as many as you’d like, or write in your own, but PLEASE also include and vote on how you’d like to address it, especially the relationship thing. This is the vote where you decide on whether you wish to officially date either of them. For clarity’s sake, if you choose the relationship dialogue, also specify...]

>>You love Izirina Henzler, and wish to formalize continue your romantic relationship with her
>>You love Costella, and wish to pursue a romantic relationship with her
>>You love them both, and cannot choose between them, and wish to... Explore options and gauge their feelings about something less conventional
>>You love them both, you think... But you have misgivings about dating either of them right now, and you want to be up-front with them both about not being ready
>>
>>5909088
>Us... The three of us, and our... Feelings...
>>You love them both, and cannot choose between them, and wish to... Explore options and gauge their feelings about something less conventional

First and forthemost. Most important vote of the quest so far (with the one of the consequences of our planar incursion)

Then, after everything is... sorted...

>>The Old Maple Hill land reserve and what you’ve been doing there...
>>
>>5909088
>The Rite of Attunement, and how you’ve been using it...
We found out overuse of it is perilous
>These secrets Izzy is apparently keeping, and what you two have been up to...
>Us... The three of us, and our... Feelings...
How do they feel about us? About each other? Izzy I think would appreciate a frank discussion, Costella maybe too. This is a situation unaccounted for by the usual social rules, after all.
Don't put them on the spot with a sudden confession. But for the record, I'm all for a polyromantic relationship.
>>
>>5909088
>Us... The three of us, and our... Feelings...

>You love them both, you think... But you have misgivings about dating either of them right now, and you want to be up-front with them both about not being ready
>>
>>5909106
Yeah that sounds good +1
>>
>>5909088
>Us... The three of us, and our... Feelings...
>>You love them both, you think... But you have misgivings about dating either of them right now, and you want to be up-front with them both about not being ready

>These secrets Izzy is apparently keeping, and what you two have been up to...
If she gets to ask probing questions so do we
>>
>>5909637
>>5909516
>>5909158
>>5909131
>>5909106
[Close vote! I was going to see about another post tonight, but i think we'll hold off until tomorrow if our sixth regular doesn't vote by the time I'm ready for bed.]
>>
>>5909106
Support, but with
>These secrets Izzy is apparently keeping, and what you two have been up to...
thrown in as well
>>
>>5909106
>>5909516
>>5909673
>>5910044

>More (You) in answer to a prompt than I had in my first quest when I reached page 3

Made it as a player?
>>
>>5909088
>The Rite of Attunement, and how you’ve been using it...

>Us... The three of us, and our... Feelings


>>You love them both, you think... But you have misgivings about dating either of them right now, and you want to be up-front with them both about not being ready
>>
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>>5910413
>>5910044
>>5909637
>>5909516
>>5909158
>>5909131
>>5909106
[Alright, locked! I'll write it up if I get a chance in the office, or otherwise when I get home.]
>>
>>5910583

"It’s about... Our future. All three of ours."

This seems to take both Costella and Izirina off guard. They exchange a quizzical look, though in Izirina's posture at least, you see evidence of relief. A tension seems to leave her body, visibly. You only wish you could say you felt the same.

"Ever since we performed the <Rite of Attunement> together... We've been connected. I think we all know that much, right?"

The women across from you both nod.

"And not just physically, or magically," you clarify, stealing a glance at Costella's eyes—and those full, soft lips which kissed yours, not long before you left Hawksong last. "Emotionally."

Whatever anxiety abandoned Izzy seems to have found Costella now. She fidgets in her seat, cheeks rosy.

"I, ah... I didn't mean to..."

"I've given it a lot of thought since then," you interrupt. "About what that... means, exactly. About the way I feel about each of you... Both of you. Whether it's just a side effect of the magic, of our spirits and bodies being... Well, entangled or whatever. And as I've learned more about the ritual, and the very real DANGERS associated with it..."

(Here, you fix your gaze meaningfully upon Izirina, whose back straightens and whose lips quirk briefly into a frown, as her forehead creases subtly.)

"...I’ve decided that it doesn’t matter."

You pause here. Your feelings well up in your chest like air in a balloon, threatening to explode forth violently—to burst your ribs open and spill forth your every unspoken thought and urge if you don't say SOMETHING to ease the pressure.

"I had the chance to do away with them, to free myself from these feelings, if they ARE false. But, well... They're not."

You look to Izzy and say, "I have feelings for you."

You slowly turn to Costella and admit, almost apologetically, "For... Both of you."

The two young women are silent—not looking at you, not looking at each other either. Silence reigns for a moment, and then Costella starts to stand.

“I’m... I’m so sorry,” she whispers, sniffling slightly. “I ruined everything. I... Oh God Above, I mucked it all up, didn’t I? I shouldn’t have been there. I shouldn’t be here! I--”

“Costella,” Izzy interrupts the outburst, her voice authoritative, “sit down.”
>>
Rolled 2, 15, 19, 18, 12 = 66 (5d20)

>>5910630
Costella hesitates but does so, hands balled up in her lap, staring down at them and shaking slightly. It’s... Not the most promising start. She still seems to be listening, though, or you HOPE she is. Izzy certainly is, her eyes fixed upon you such that you’re certain that, behind the lightning, her pupils must be focused to those reptilian slits as they tend to assume when she is concentrating intently. It's a little disconcerting, but you can’t stop now.

“Now, I’m not really sure what that MEANS for... Us.” You exhale. “I still have misgivings about how everything happened. About the secrets and surprises.”

Izzy says nothing, still as prey in hiding... or perhaps a predator in wait. You see her muscles tense up a little bit more, though, with fight or flight or both. Your own instincts are torn: whether to offer comfort or press your advantage. But in the end... You need to know.

“What have you two been doing?” you ask. “With the <Rite of Attunement>. Out on the land reservation, by Old Maple Hill. And DON’T lie to me, please. If this is going to work... Whatever ‘this’ is going to be... We need to rebuild the trust between us.”
>>
>>5910636
Izzy is the first to reply, not angry or accusatory, but speaking: "That's not fair, Tips. You're still keeping secrets of your own. You always have."

"I have," you admit, "and I want to be able to trust you enough to share them with you... Like I always did in the past, when the time was right. I want this time to be RIGHT Izzy... Don't you?"

>19 for Sociability

"We're making an army."

Your eyes and Izzy's alike snap to Costella, who's still staring down at her lap, and speaking softly. It's the first thing she's said in a while but... What a thing to SAY. You stare at her for a while, then glare at Izzy, who sighs.

"It's not an army," she clarifies. "It's more of a... Community. Like a fairy court of our own... An inner court. Costella and I have been using your <Rite> to cure and heal the sick, and wounded... Elderly, infirm, deformed, and crippled. The sort of thing that I think someone like you would approve of, Ezreal."

"Someone like me?" you reel.

"Yes," Izzy says, and smiles a bittersweet smile. "A good person, with a soft heart."

The manliest part of your heart wants to feel offended at that assessment but, well, it's not inaccurate. Moreover, the way she says it, it's clear that it isn't meant as an insult. Not at all: she speaks the judgment with tender admiration.

“Well, where does an ‘army’ fit into all this then?” you demand, and when she doesn’t answer immediately, you turn to the other girl. “Costella?”

“We’ve been using <Plane Shift> as well,” Izirina answers quickly, before Costella can do more than open her mouth. “I mean... I have been. I’ve been working on ‘attuning’ people to the Elemental Planes, as we are.”

“WHAT?” you balk. “Gods, WHY? Don’t you understand how dangerous that is yet?!”

“I do,” Izzy asserts, “and I’m equal to it. You’re not the only one who has grown stronger, wiser.”

This is the Izirina Henzler who pulled you free from the grip of the gods, you suppose. There's obviously some truth to this assertion. And yet, the question remains: Why?

"The Prince Consort has returned," Izzy explains.

"The secret lizardman," Costella whispers conspiratorially, looking at you with fearful eyes. "The one the fairies say is, like... An evil paladin, pretty much!"
>>
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>>5910829
You have never encountered the Prince Consort of Hawksong, the so-called 'Eastern Exorcist' and former adventurer called Prince Long Wang. You know all the common rumors, of course: that he is a hunter of demons and of dragons, a masterful swordsman, and a skilled magician of the Oriental tradition; that he is a close ally of the so-called Green Knight, Lord Heinrich Yosef, and an enemy of the sinister reptilian race which infected the city with 'dragon-pox' two years prior; that, in true adventurer fashion, he left his pregnant wife (Hawksong's young, recently-orphaned queen) to face her coronation and turbulent rule alone while he journeyed far and wide waging war on all manner of monsters.

You also know something of the TRUE 'Long Wang', though: that he is, in fact, a 'Dragonborn' (whatever that means, exactly), a reptilian monster in his own right who merely wears a human skin, and whose machinations have long been at odds with the goodly humans and demihumans of this metropolitan city-state, and all the children of the Gods of Light.

"He's planning something," Izirina elaborates. "He's been all over town, meeting with all sorts of people... Giving speeches, courting influence, stoking paranoia. Tips, he's talking about war. War with the ELVES."

"Wh-what?" you say quietly. "You mean... Between Hawksong and the Sylvan Realms? Gods, WHY?!"

Neither of your companions can answer that, only offer up the talking points which have been bandied about town: that he has rooted out a hidden corruption among the elven elite, possibly demonic in nature; that the calling-back of diplomats and abrupt end to free travel and trade are themselves preludes to an attack by the elves upon Hawksong’s lands and subjects; that he has this on good authority from mysterious, black-skinned elven allies who approached him fleeing persecution by their brethren, representatives of whom he has brought with him to lend credence to his words.

“Bullshit,” you huff. “I was just there. It’s nonsense.”

“Obviously,” Izzy agrees. “He has another objective.”

>18 for Sense Motive

There’s something about the way she says that, a tone. She knows more about this ‘other objective’ than she is letting on, you sense. It’s why she’s building this not-an-army.

“Izzy,” you say, “come on. What’s really going on?”
>>
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>>5910832
Izzy’s face scrunches up as if in physical discomfort at being so swiftly seen-through, but before she can deflect or deny (or worse, lie), Costella reaches out and places a hand upon hers. She squeezes it in turn, and then both look back to you.

“I told you what I’m making isn’t an army,” Izzy says, “and that’s TRUE. It's more like... A task-force. My new teacher tells me that there’s a way to resolve this without bloodshed... or at least without much. That there's something in the Silver—Sylvan, rather—The Sylvan Relam, that the Prince Consort wants. SomeONE. That they’ve captured some sort of powerful living weapon... Something that can turn the tide of the coming age.”

“An Era of High Magic,” you whisper, before you can stop yourself... But it doesn’t matter. You can see it in Izzy’s face: she already knows.

“The ‘army’... it’s just an idea right now,” Izzy continues. “More of an elite task force, like Mother's. We haven't... Well, we haven’t really done much with it yet. But the principle is sound: we take people to the Plane of Water and they become fluid, capable of subaquatic infiltration and extraction activities.”

(Or assassins, you realize without her saying so.)

“And those attuned to Earth make for perfect shock troops, or defenders,” she continues.

“Not Air or Fire?” you ask.

Izzy’s eyes widen a little, and she looks away. And is she... yes, she’s blushing.

“I know it’s silly,” she mutters, sounding disgusted with herself even as her voice raises an octave, turning somehow more girlish. “I just... Kind of liked the idea that those could be OURS, somehow.”

(...Oh.)

“But they’re not exactly ideal for this sort of operation anyway,” she concludes.

“And what sort of ‘operation’ IS it that you’re planning?” you ask.

The two girls exchange a meaningful look.

“We weren’t really sure,” Costella says sheepishly.

“It seems plain to me,” Izzy contests this. “Either the Prince Consort is our friend, or our enemy. The latter seems more likely, so we kill him or we destroy or capture whatever this living weapon of his is.”

“That’s an invasion of the elven lands,” you point out, stating the obvious issue. “Or an attempt on the life of some sort of... Dangerous secret dragon-monster with the power of an ‘evil paladin’ and the backing of THE PALADIN KING.”

“The Paladin king is dead,” Izzy retorts, “and the Queen is weak.”

“But, like she’s NICE,’ Izzy interjects. “We’ve met her, Tips, both of us. You remember, right? I seriously don’t buy that she’s, like, an ‘agent of the forces of darkness’ or whatever. We could just TALK to her!”

Izzy frowns deeply at this idea, and shakes her head.

“If we do that, then we should have an escape plan ready,” she asserts.

“Escape plan?” you ask, alarms blaring in your head. “What kind of... Escape?”
>>
>>5910834
Izirina brightens at that, a dangerously-excited smile spreading across her face. This reminds you again of old times... And not necessarily in a GOOD way.

“The land reserve,” she says. “We’ve been attuning it, and the people we’ve been helping there... Building a sort of community, as I was saying. I’m getting close... With just a bit more work, we could make it self-sufficient, protected... Hidden. Whatever else happens, the people we pick—useful people, GOOD people, people who deserve it—they can be safe from...”

...From whatever terrible fate befalls everyone else. Suddenly, your romantic troubles seem rather secondary. And yet, while your mind races your heart is still standing still waiting.

“We’ll figure this out,” you promise them. “together. But... Well, speaking of that...”

“I won’t get in your way,” Costella is quick to say, though she is obviously pained to say so, “you two... You’re, like, star-crossed! Meant to be! I’m just...”

Izzy reaches out to her this time, as Costella has done for her, and seizes Costella’s hand in hers.

“I couldn’t have done all this without you, Costella,” she says. “You’re not ‘just’ anything.”

Costella’s eyes are wracked with something you can’t quite place. Guilt, but also... Uncertainty? And longing? You wonder if, like your friend Logan Pearce, she perhaps feels something more than merely platonic affection for her own sex. She kissed you, it’s true, but as you discovered among the hermaphroditic elves of Holy Luna, things are not always as simple as one or the other... And honestly, if your suspicions WERE accurate, it would rather simplify the whole affair in many ways.
>>
>>5910841
“I think,” Costella concludes, “that we should all... Um, you know... Like, take a moment, to really think about... Everything.”

“Right,” you and Izzy say at once.

And it IS sensible. Your heart is set upon both of them, but your stomach is also churning and your mind turning with everything ELSE you just discovered and discussed. THAT is the main priority, clearly. For your part, you think...
>The Prince Consort is too dangerous to let live... And aetehrial as you are, you are well-suited to help take him out, in a rare example of necessary and justified violence
>Before you do anything rash, it behooves you to speak with Queen Ekaterine of Hawksong about the sinister activities of her monstrous paramour
>You need to uncover what exactly is driving the Prince Consort’s ambition—what this ‘living weapon’ is. That means returning to the Sylvan Realm, despite your ‘falling out’ with the Moon Goddesses
>This is all getting out of hand... You have the means to help protect and defend the Old Maple Hill land reserve, and that is where you would be most useful
>Write-in

In addition, how do you feel about ‘Izzy’s Army’, or ‘elite force’, or ‘inner court’, or whatever you want to call it?
>It’s an inappropriate use of the Rite of Attunement, and dangerous; you cannot approve it, and will ask her to cease any further exploration of this magic
>It’s daring, audacious, faintly sacrilegious... But necessary, and so you will help her
>Write-in

Sorry for the long one, but there was a lot to cover!
>>
>>5910842
>Before you do anything rash, it behooves you to speak with Queen Ekaterine of Hawksong about the sinister activities of her monstrous paramour
As much as I want to go fuck up Theral for funsies, this is more IC.

>It’s daring, audacious, faintly sacrilegious... But necessary, and so you will help her
We were told that overuse could upset some balance or disturb some pact, but I forget what the consequences of doing so would be so it can't be too important
>>
>>5910842
>You need to uncover what exactly is driving the Prince Consort’s ambition—what this ‘living weapon’ is. That means returning to the Sylvan Realm, despite your ‘falling out’ with the Moon Goddesses
>It’s an inappropriate use of the Rite of Attunement, and dangerous; you cannot approve it, and will ask her to cease any further exploration of this magic
But explain to Izzy why. This balance stuff.
>>
>>5910901
+1

Sounds good. I’d rather not return to the sylvan realm if possible - we’d just get locked up there again and we’ve got no escape plan this time.

Am>>5909516
>>
Sheesh, and I thought a war wasn’t gonna happen this soon since we went with the human disguise option.
>>
>>5911052
If Theral had gone 'loud', then rather than trying to leverage his connections in Hawksong, he would have spent the last year already staging direct attacks and the Sylvan Realms with the aid of the vengeful Drow of Wevenore and the Unseelie Fey, and the borderlands would already be on fire or occupied thanks to his True Dragonborn, with the 'upside' being that he would have left humanity and Hawksong out of it.
>>
>>5910842
>Before you do anything rash, it behooves you to speak with Queen Ekaterine of Hawksong about the sinister activities of her monstrous paramour

>It’s an inappropriate use of the Rite of Attunement, and dangerous; you cannot approve it, and will ask her to cease any further exploration of this magic
explain to her the balance shenanigans
>>
>>5911110
alright then, guess this is still the better option
>>
>>5910842
>You need to uncover what exactly is driving the Prince Consort’s ambition—what this ‘living weapon’ is. That means returning to the Sylvan Realm, despite your ‘falling out’ with the Moon Goddesses

>I wanna see this ‘Tips’ Army’ before I make up my mind on it
We should at least see what’s happening with our own eyes
>>
[Looks like we're waiting for a tie-breaker, eh?]
>>
>>5910842
>Before you do anything rash, it behooves you to speak with Queen Ekaterine of Hawksong about the sinister activities of her monstrous paramour.

Our goal should be to make war impossible, going to the sylvan realm wouldn't do this.

>Tell Izzy that moon eldrin and similar factions closely watch and investigate spiritual changes in populations. And that expansion of the ritual could risk their intervention.
>I wanna see this ‘Tips’ Army’ before I make up my mind on it
>>
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>>5912130
>ties it up further
Anon, porque?
>>5911423
>>5911113
>>5910934
>>5910916
>>5910901
[Ah well, I can work with this. Writing!]
>>
>>5912241
Rash action will lead to catastrophe—that much, you’re sure of. With things as tense as they are, and the GODS THEMSELVES already mistrustful of you, an attempted infiltration of the Sylvan Realms could escalate things into outright war if you are detected. Preventing that outcome—a war between your mother’s race and your father’s—is the GREATEST priority right now.

(Which means leaving Muffins, your pet chimera in your mother’s care for a while longer… Poor little guy. Gods, you miss him…)

Before you do ANYTHING, anything at ALL, you need all the facts. You’ve been away a while, busying yourself with cosmic enlightenment and the novelties of a Heavenly Realm. It’s time you came back down to Earth in a more-than-literal fashion, as it were. First things first, you want to see this totally-not-an-army Izirina has been forming.

“It’s really not an army,” Izzy reiterates, face scrunched up in distaste as the two of you prepare to travel to the Old Maple Hill land reserve. “Costella is... She’s a very good woman, very sweet and helpful, but she’s not… She just SAYS things, without thinking! We’ve HAD this conversation! She just wants everything to be SIMPLE all the time!”

“Or maybe you’re overcomplicating things to try to obscure the fact that you’ve used the sacred secrets of my people to form your own personal strike-force.”

Izzy looks at you, as if shocked at the suggestion, btu you simply look her up and down—at her black hat with its silver buckle, at her black robes and rather practical, mannish leathers and trousers underneath. It’s rather militaristic even by the standards of her adoptive Archmage mother’s secretive, pseudo-inquisitorial personal agents.

“They’re not,” Izzy protests weakly, pouting a little and looking, honestly, rather cute.

“Then show me,” you say.

Long gone are the days when you would have needed to travel three or fur days there-and-back by foot to the hill where you first became initiated into the divine mysteries of the True Fey. Now, with Izirina Henzler’s mastery of advanced intraplanar and extraplanar conjuration, it is as simple as a swish of her wand and a few words of power, those being:

“<Dimension Door!>”
>>
>>5912295
A few seconds later, the two of you are there: at the foot of Old Maple Hill. In truth, the space which ahd been so sacred to you through childhood and into your early adulthood (well, you’re STILL only an ‘early adult’, technically, but ANYWAY) was never especially impressive to those without a mage’s second-sight. When you had come here in your youth, it was simply a small hump of land a half-hour’s walk off of one of Hawksong’s main trade-roads, a barely-higher-than-average point among the farmlands and attendant villages which bore a single old, misshapen maple tree barely tall enough to impress even a child like you. But now… Well, things have changed.

“What IS all this?” you ask.

“Community,” Izzzy says, proudly if a little smugly. “I TOLD you, Tips. We aren’t making an army. Not JUST an army, at least. And not REALLY an army. That’s just… Secondary.”

Primarily, it seems what Izirina and Costella are building is indeed a community—a village, specifically. It isn’t like Dappulyet, of course, but neither does it resemble Sparrowtown or Crowhurst or any of those other hamlets of the human lands. Rather, it is somewhere between a nomadic tent-encampment and a proper township, with many a bonfire and signs of familial living (that is to say, scampering, screaming human children) and commerce (well, some people have animals, or are making and hawking trinkets and foodstuffs). The standard of living seems rather basic, and you doubt it could be called self-sufficient by ANY stretch of the imagination—It is currently little more than a pet project by a certain magically-adept and well-connected young mage-woman—but the people all seem hearty and hale enough. A quick squint shows the reason: each and every inhabitant of this place, though outwardly fully human, is the recipient of the gifts of <the Rite of Attunement>, imbued with some of the health and youth which Costella and Izirina derived from YOU, and the blessings of the fairy court of the spriggan who presides over it from within the Old Maple on the eponymous hill.

“You know,” you warn Izzy, “the gods and eladrin up on the moon… They know what you’re doing.”

“Oh?” Izzy asks, curious but not concerned.

“Yes,” you say pointedly. “They’re WORRIED about it. There are… Arrangements of GREAT COSMIC IMPORTANCE which these sorts of things have the potential to disrupt.”

“What sorts of things?” she shoots back. “Helping people? Making them see the world as it is? Making them stronger, and smarter? Healthier? BETTER?”

You sense the rising tide of Izzy’s old mania in her tone—that half-deranged drive to escape her flesh and blood, this world of flawed and fallible people and failing bodies. Only now…
>>
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>>5912297
“You’re the one who inspired all this, you know,” she says gently.

“ME?”

She takes your hand in hers, and squeezes, staring into your eyes.

“You showed me I didn’t have to be alone, Ezreal,” she says. “You taught me I was being selfish… Not thinking about how magic could benefit anyone besides myself, thinking only about my OWN freedom.”

You stare at her, unsure how to reply.

“Thank you,” she says. “I mean it. Now, thanks to you… Look how many people we’re helping! Don’t you see how many people we’re freeing? How can the Gods of Freedom be AGAINST this?”

“Show me the army,” you sigh.

“It’s NOT an—”

“I know, I know,” you groan.

And show you she does. Izzy takes you into a great construction of stone—well, ‘great’ by the standards of this place. As you travel there, you note the efforts which the people of this… Place… Have already put into making it more like the sacred groves of the Sylvan Realms: they have planted many a tree, though most are still but saplings. They tend to them with reverence and care, if with a somewhat unpracticed hand, and amongst them they have also begun the amateurishly cultivate small plots of wild and domesticated food-plants, such as berries and herbs and squashes. It’s not MUCH, but then again these are mostly city-folk, from the world’s LARGEST city, and this land is not so fertile or fecund as the blessed and feytouch wilderness of the elven lands.

(And you could make it better… So much better… With what you’ve learned, with what you could yet discover and refine...)

You set aside the thought for a moment, an echo of both Izirina’s ambitions and the teachings and ideology of the Wild Gods of the elves. Inside the stone construction, you find a small cadre of men and women—some familiar others less so. Each of them is young, but not too young: adult, strong, and standing almost at attention. You look questioningly to Izzy, who looks a little embarrassed.

“I sent word ahead,” she says.

“Magic letter?” you ask.

She nods.

You do not recognize most of the people here, or half-recognize them at best. Each is clad in black, though none wear wizard-hats as Izzy does, and so you doubt they are affiliated directly with Archmage Theresa Henzler in spite of their sartorial affectation. A few of them you recognize as former research subjects and patients of your own efforts to cure the lizardman-engineered ‘dragon-pox’, now cured and made strong. Others are total strangers. One… One is technically family, and a rather odd individual to see in such company.

“ADOLF?” you balk, recognizing your father’s sister’s… Well, a cousin-by-marriage, essentially, on the human side of your family.
>>
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>>59122You meet her gaze, her intensity amplified by the fiery, electrifying light which shines forth from within her… And yet you cannot share that enthusiasm which has so infected these men and women.

“We should still try talking first,” you say.

Izzy doesn’t glare or glower, doesn’t stomp or shout, but you can sense the shift nevertheless: a stiffening of neck and back, a subtle change of posture, a tightening of the face and a quick sharp inhale through the nose. It’s a lot like the Archmage—your one time master. You never realized that before, but you see it now.

“I’m not saying that you’re WRONG, or that I don’t think your way will WORK,” you quickly appease her. “I’m not… I’m not necessarily AGAISNT what you’re doing here.”

“You aren’t necessarily FOR ‘what I’m doing here’ either, though,” she surmises.

“I just think that… There might be other approaches we can try first. Approaches where nobody here maybe gets chopped up or run through by the swordsman who—from what I hear—once dueled the PALADIN KING’S ELDEST SON and won.”

“And your alternative approach is to talk to his probably-brainwashed wife, and hope she changes her mind and divorces him? Or changes HIS mind?” Izzy asks. “Tips, even if he was a PERSON that wouldn’t work, but he’s a MONSTER… And she’s MARRIED to him.”

“Costella is right,” you assert. “She’s a good person. And she’s your QUEEN, Izzy.”

“Not yours,” Izirina Henzler says, “and not…”

She stops herself short of outright voicing rebellion against her own monarch, but you can see the defiance flashing beneath the surface. You reach out, and with a single soft palm upon her cheek you calm the roiling storm.

“You have callouses,” she notes, voice softening as she closes her eyes and savours the sensation, leaning into your hand.

“I’ve been fighting,” you say, grimly. “I’ve… I’ve seen enough death. I won’t shy away from doing what needs to be done, but PLEASE Izzy… I don’t want to see more, not if it’s not one hundred percent necessary.”

“Alright,” Izzy sighs. “But… Do you really just plan to ask of a meeting with her? With DARK QUEEN Ekaterine?”
>>
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>>5912307
You frown at the name, which you’re not really sure is fair or accurate to slap upon Hawksong’s twenty-five year old monarch. IT IS a fair question, though. What IS your plan for dealing with the woman upon the Silver Throne of Hawksong, and wife of the enigmatic and sinister dragon-man threatening both your peoples?

>A formal diplomatic entreaty—maybe Izirina’s mother, your former master, can help facilitate that?
>You can switch between physical and aethereal forms at will… Perhaps, in the latter form, you can slip into the royal palace and have a private meeting?
>Maybe magic letters ware the answer—Izzy can probably send messages back and forth to communicate your concerns, without being face-to-face
>Write-in

Whom will you approach and address?
>Queen Ekaterine
>The Queen AND her Prince Consort
>>
>>5912299
>>5912307
I think we missed something boss
>>
>>5912321
this, there's some missing info between those 2 posts you forgot to add, I assume, from the deleted one
>>
>>5912321
>>5912336
[Dagnabbit.]

>>5912299
>then:

“Welcome home, Ezreal,” he greets you, with a stiff salute to your companion.

“Not an army?” you whisper to Izzy.

“I don’t ASK him to do that,” she protests. “He just… Does.”

“What are you DOING here?” you ask Adolf, who was never overly fond of magic or trusting of the Archmage, or the Queen, or elves, or fairies, or really ANYONE.

“Well we can’t just let the bastards get away with it, can we?” he demands. “Taking over our government… Replacing our people… Destroying our society?!”

Ah. Yeah, you think you see what happened here, to lead to Cousin Adolf joining a task-force formed to stop the Dragonborn Prince Consort.

“And these people… These are the ones you’ve imbued with elemental magic?” you ask Izzy. “They don’t LOOK any different.”

“I told you,” she sighs, “I haven’t DONE it yet. I just… Discussed it with them. And worked on the theory. I CAN do it… When the time is right.”

She glances at them, and then looks to you, and you see that unfamiliar expression again: guilt.

“I know I was… I rushed it last tie. I was just so… I hated myself, Tips. My body. My… Everything. I felt so awful, all the time, just… Trapped. I was afraid that you didn’t understand, COULDN’T understand, and that you wouldn’t ever…”

She trails off.

“I’ve been making sure to plan properly this time,” she asserts. “it’s safe. It’s tested. They’ll be okay. They’re ready, and I’M ready. With you here, too… We can do this, Tips. We can stop the war before it starts, end the threat.”

>then...
>>5912307
[Pardon the disruption. I hope that clarifies the flow.]
>>
>>5912310
>You can switch between physical and aethereal forms at will… Perhaps, in the latter form, you can slip into the royal palace and have a private meeting?

>Queen Ekaterine
let's meet her first
>>5911113
>>
>>5912310
>A formal diplomatic entreaty—maybe Izirina’s mother, your former master, can help facilitate that?
We should have plenty of our own cred, having made the cure for the plague and all.

>The Queen AND her Prince Consort
Hey I know you're an overgrown lizard, come at me bro
>>
>>5912300
>It's primitive, but has promise — I’d like to see their logistics and supplies
What weapons? What training do they have? What specialities do they possess?

>>5912310
>You can switch between physical and aethereal forms at will… Perhaps, in the latter form, you can slip into the royal palace and have a private meeting?

>Queen Ekaterine AND her prince consort
I’ve got a plan.
If she’s there, he’ll be reined in. We do this, we’re not just some random person Theral could assassinate, Ekaterine is our safety net.
>>
>>5912416
>the vote on the deleted post
[That question will be back, never fear. I just realized I was dragging out the scene without addressing the previous vote about talking to Eka, hence why I deleted it. Keep that in your back pocket for now.]
Second-guessing the decision and undoing it was how I fucked up my formatting
>>
>>5912310
>You can switch between physical and aethereal forms at will… Perhaps, in the latter form, you can slip into the royal palace and have a private meeting?

>Queen Ekaterine AND her prince consort
>>
>>5912310
>Maybe magic letters ware the answer—Izzy can probably send messages back and forth to communicate your concerns, without being face-to-face
>Queen Ekaterine
I would also like to immediately explain to Izzy WHY the gods are against using the rite. Don't leave any space for misunderstanding, like Tips did in this update for some reason.
>>
>>5912631
>for some reason.
[Previous votes were to share only the basics of what happened and what Tips learned on the moon, so I've been writing him as cagey about details.]
>>
>>5912631
>>5912508
>>5912416
>>5912408
>>5912353
"Not JUST with her," you reply. "And not a FORMAL meeting."

Izzy looks at you strangely, but you simply raise a finger to your lips, eyes flitting meaningfully to the others in the stony dome. Rather than speak with her immediately, you take a moment to catch up with everyone here first—acquainting yourself with some, reacquainting yourself with others. Adolf in particular, you spend a while chatting with, gratified to hear that his little boy Addison—technically unrelated to you by blood, but who had come to feel like something of a nephew to you during your time living with your father’s family, and who had been afflicted by the chimeric plague—was doing much better.

"Thanks to Costella and Izirina," Adolf says, saluting an exasperated Izzy again. "Oh, and you, of course."

"Right," you say wryly, "thanks, Addy."

"Adolf," he insists. "'Addy' is a child’s name. WAR calls for men."

"Right," you mutter again, and beckon Izirina outside to speak about matters of war. It's none too soon, for just as Adolf is itching for a fight, Izrina Henzler is practically vibrating with impatience by now.

"You have a plan." The words burst forth from her mouth as soon as you're outside. "What is it??"

You have to stifle a laugh. In some ways, so many ways, she is still that same over-excitable girl, easily caught up in big ideas and untenable dreams. This time, it’s YOUR turn to share a big idea with HER: your scheme to avert catastrophe, so that Adolf might live as ‘Addy’ (or not; you’re not really that bothered) and war avoided altogether without a single life lost.

She laughs.

“I’m sorry,” she apologizes quickly. “It’s just... Tips, you always seem so skeptical of my plans, but... You really mean to sneak into the Royal palace of Hawksong?”

“And why not?” you demand, a little huffily.

"They have magical defenses," she points out. "Mother and her predecessors put them in place, and have maintained them over the centuries, to guard against demonic attacks."

"Good thing I'm not a demon, then," you retort.

"That doesn't mean they have nothing to guard against elves."

"I'm not going there to fight," you reiterate. "It's a diplomatic mission. Me, the Queen, and... Him. This dragon-man. Face-to-face-to-face. To figure out what's going on, to sort it out without any of this bloody business."

"And if 'what's going on' is just that the Prince Consort wants to start a war?" Izirina presses. "What if HE wants to fight?"

"You said yourself that it's just a means to an end," you say, a little uncertain now. "If he can get what he wants without a war..."

"He wants to acquire a living WEAPON," Izzy reminds you. “If he wants something like that, I don’t imagine it’s for peaceful purposes.”

“Then maybe we can figure out WHY he wants it, and... Stop him from needing it. Address what it is he wants the weapon FOR. WHY he wants a war."

“Tips...”
>>
>>5913026
"I know!" you shout, getting a little frustrated at this. "But... Well, there have been times when I would have thought that you or your... or the Archmage, that you might have been on the wrong side of things. Or Zith-Zi. I’m not naive, Izzy... I know that sometimes violence is necessary. But Queen Ekaterine didn’t seem like some ruthless murderer. She didn’t seem brainwashed, either."

"It can be subtle," Izzy says darkly, and you sense the shadow of her adoptive mother's stories - those which she only hinted at, of how she had been demonically puppeteered by an agent of the same Reptilian race from which the Prince Consort hails.

"I'll be careful," you promise her.

Izirina sighs and nods, but she isn't done yet.

"You shouldn't go alone," she says. "Tips... Let's perform the ritual. It isn't the new Moon, I know... But the extraplanar version, the one I've been working on... It shouldn't matter, right? There's no moon there, anyway. We can transform some of the..."

"The army?" you ask, quirking an eyebrow and making her cringe.

"We can send SOMEONE with you, in case... Well, just as a contingency."

You frown, glancing back at the stone shelter which, in your absence, the 'special task force' has filed out of. They now mill about, chatting with one another amiably—even Adolf, though he's still a little stiff, affecting a military posture. But, well, he's not a soldier. NONE of them are. This place... These people... they're all playing at elves, or at warriors, or both, but they're just a bunch of regular, peaceful human beings. You might be 'soft', but you're seasoned. None of these, but you have seen battle. You don't get the feeling any of these people has...

Though you know others who have. Others like your father, absent from proceedings but almost certainly in Hawksong. Others like Zith-Zi the goblin, the wasteland raider turned professional 'adventurer', and your old friend (and her partner, seemingly in both senses of the word) James Efron. Or even Nicolette Testa... She was always rather skilled at illusion, after all!

Do you recruit anyone to accompany you on your unannounced ‘meeting’ with Queen Ekaterine and ‘Prince Long Wang’?
>Yes, someone from the 'task force'; you will help transform them with the Rite of Attunement
>Yes, but someone trained and seasoned [who? Specify]
>No, you’ll go it alone

How do you feel about the community and army more broadly, having seen them in person?
>You actually much better than you expected, and you think you're beginning to see what Izzy's doing here... And you approve
>It's primitive, but has promise... You'd like to help these people along, but it's not for you
>It's misguided and foolish, the product of Izzy's least-healthy impulses, and you think it's time to talk

CAPCHA says: "JKYS". Jesus, what a write-in, kek. I'm not THAT upset about the formatting issue...
>>
>>5913031
>Yes, but someone trained and seasoned
Zi and James
>It's primitive, but has promise... You'd like to help these people along, but it's not for you
I wonder if that living weapon is our werewolf pal. Would you give him up, anons?
>>5912675
We can at least tell Izzy the gods' reason isn't ideological.
>>
>>5913031
>Yes, but someone trained and seasoned [who? Specify]
Nicolette
moar screentime for her

>It's primitive, but has promise... You'd like to help these people along, but it's not for you
I'd be ok with explaining the full consequences of doing this to Izzy
>>
>>5913031
>Pierce and Testa
in addition to
>Yes, someone from the 'task force'
Let's take the three most level-headed ones and turn them into water-genasi.
GodSpiteMaxxing.

>You actually much better than you expected, and you think you're beginning to see what Izzy's doing here... And you approve
>>
>>5913031
>Yes, but someone trained and seasoned
Zi and Testa
>You actually much better than you expected, and you think you're beginning to see what Izzy's doing here... And you approve
>>
>>5913216
I’ll also support the GodSpiteMaxxing ;)
>>
>>5913031
>Yes, but someone trained and seasoned [Nicolette]

>It's primitive, but has promise... You'd like to help these people along, but it's not for you
>>
>>5913031
>Yes, but someone trained and seasoned [who? Specify]
Dad

It’s been a year, we really need to talk and set things right. Who knows what those elves have been telling him?

>It's primitive, but has promise... You'd like to help these people along, but it's not for you
We gotta have some improvements, though. What are their specialities? What can they do? If they don’t have one, train in one. Medicine. Traps. Explosives. Food production. Construction.

Am >>5912416
>>
>>5913031
>>Yes, but someone trained and seasoned
Zi and Pierce

>It's misguided and foolish, the product of Izzy's least-healthy impulses, and you think it's time to talk.

Even if it didn't bring the gods attention down on our head, it's a good way to get a bunch of people who would otherwise be civilians killed in battle.
>>
>>5913887
Do you want a newsflash about what happen to civilian when important battle are lost against a ruthless ennemy?
>>
[I have some friends over this weekend, so please pardon a small delay in updates. In the meantime, might I recommend...
>Disappearing Hogwarts
>Path of the Exorcist
>Jail Quest
>Greenhorn Quest
>Slice Quest
>Kobolt Klan Adoption
>>
>>5913980
Have fun RQM
>>
>>5913980
>Slice Quest
what's this one about ?
>>
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>>5914065
[Thanks!]

>>5914110
[A party on an island gone very, very wrong.]

>>5913887
>>5913510
>>5913306
>>5913283
>>5913216
>>5913096
>>5913054
[Locked and writing!]
>>
>>5915820
“I’m not taking anyone from the ‘task-force’.”

“Tips, please,” Izzy insists, “if they’re not needed now, they WILL be needed, and soon. We both know—”

“That’s your business,” you say, “not mine.”

Izirina flinches as if slapped.

“You really hate it that much?” Izzy asks, softly. “I… I did this because of you. All this… It’s in your image, too, Ezreal. Not just mine, or Costella’s. It’s… I wanted it to be OURS.”

This community which Izzy and Costella have created… It has potential. You can see that, even if something about it still feels somehow WRONG on an emotional level. You can’t bring yourself to condemn something which has given so many people—people who in many cases were once isolated, ostracized, on death’s door through no fault of their save a susceptibility to a mutagenic plague—their hope back. You see smiling faces, humans struggling sometime and failing more often than not… But you also see in them a sense of determination. They’re failing upwards, learning and growing. There is community, and of connection to nature and to spirituality. Even if the gods themselves shun it, you cannot.

“I don’t hate it,” you say. “I don’t hate it at all. “It’s actually much better than I expected. I thin I’m beginning to understand what you’ve been working towards, Izzy.”

You smile, and take her hand in yours. She stares down at it, and then looks back up at you, and she understands as well.

“…But it’s not for you.”

You shake your head sadly.

“I don’t think I belong here. If we started using this place to create soldiers, or assassins or whatever else… I don’t think it ever would be.”

Izzy frowns again, and for a moment almost looks like she might cry… But she doesn’t. You can count on one hand the number of times you’ve ever seen her shed tears, and this isn’t one of those moments. Instead, she forces a smile… No, she doesn’t force it, it is forceFUL. She ahs some of that same oh-so-human grit and determination in her.

“I see,” she says. “Alright. I understand. And you know, they’re probably not really TRAINED enough to offer as much assistance as they could, later, if we keep them in reserve now.”

“I guess that, too,” you admit.

“But… What now, then?” she asks. “You don’t SERIOUSLY intend to confront the Prince Consort ALONE, do you?”

“Not for a second,” you answer quickly. “I’m not an idiot. And actually… I was thinking maybe you could help me with that.”

Izzy raises an eyebrow, and you explain your plan. A short while later, she has opened a <Dimension Door> to where you long-time friend and one-time schoolmate, Nicolette Testa, has been undergoing her apprenticeship.
>>
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>>5915890
While you were becoming Mage Apprentice to Archmage Henzler in the Tower which taught you, training under a master chimericist and perhaps humanity’s greatest living mage, Testa’s mystical career had followed a different trajectory. Always adept at aesthetic enchantments and the School of Illusion, it would have been ideal for her to study under a practitioner of Feycraft; unfortunately, as a human alive during the apparent nadir of human-elf relations, that was quite impossible. Instead, she had sought out a certain Mistress Margot Gartner: a renowned enchanter of clothes and cosmetics, and a rather successful merchant besides. It was in Mistress Gartner’s much smaller (yet gaudier) tower where you found your friend.

Gartner’s’s stronghold of fashion and finery sat in the southernmost territories of Hawksong’s allied territories, in a border-fiefdom known as Turtledove. Turtledove itself rests below the foothills of the jagged, brownish south-central mountain-range which formed the unofficial boundaries of the Southlands, holding back the heat and sand of the adjacent desert and trapping the rain’s bounty on this side, of field lush fields of green grass despite poor soil quality. This humble fiefdom was once a bustling trade-port not so long ago, a gateway for exotic furs and ivory, gold and gemstones, and fine fabrics from the south of the continent, and processing them by means of craftsmanship mundane and magical into goods sold to Northmen and Southmen alike.

Well, before the trade-wars and rumblings of border-violence between the different races of Man.

Now, despite the ornateness of the buildings, the facades are less-than-fine. The plaster crumbles and paint chips. The population has plummeted as merchants here to make their living are forced to find their money elsewhere, or else to take up less glamorous professions. And yet, Margot Gartner’s tower still stands, brilliant purple and pink banners fluttering gaily and gallantly in defiance of trade-winds. Its magically-applied and augmented paint is as brilliant as ever, unblemished by sun’s rays or sandstorms or stormy weather, untouched by time or poverty. Without the lasting, deep enchantments of the dwarves of the touch of the divine, it must take frequent reapplications of magic to maintain this beauty amidst the collapsing community of Turtledove, the stark opposite of the growing, newborn one at Old Maple Hill. You find Nicolette Testa engaged in just such a task.
>>
>>5915893
Nicolette is, as ever, a beauty. Slender of frame, fine of face and features, sparkling of eyes, she has some advantages in this regard. Even toiling beneath the unseasonable sun in full, bespokely-tailored robes and skirt she shines rather than sweats. Or, at least, that’s how she APPEARS... But you have seen her without make-up. Increasingly girlish and appearance-conscious as she became, she long ago learned how to use her magic and keen sartorial sense to deemphasize her slightly-weak chin and longish face, to hide away her knobbly knees and elbows. Her blue eyes are brought out to full brightness by copper-orange makeup which fades to pink. Her robes are subtly enchanted with magic to both keep her cool and wick sweat, you would deduce, as well as to shed dirt and grime acquired as she waves her fine ivory-and-gold wand like a conductor, telekinetically directing paint and magically spreading it across the surfaces, only to further enrich it and lend it a subtle ombre. The gold and purple-pink accents of her own robes are thus maintained, the ribbons and bows tastefully tied upon the rich blue-black of the heavily-modified Tower uniform a match to the brilliant banners of her master’s keep, and complementary to her impeccable magical make-up which hides the weariness which her posture attest to. She's developed quite the mid-continental tan, though, including on her slim, elegant legs, decked out with sporty boots and a daringly-short skirt

“Testa!” you greet her, causing her to yelp in surprise and nearly drop her paint can.

She splatters some on her shoes, and groans in deep grief. She sets the can down and quickly flicks her wand this way and that, metering: “<Prestigidation>! <Prestidigit>—aaaah, this isn’t going to come out properly!”

“I’m sorry,” you say.

“Well, you had better be, you…” she trails off mid- insult, looking at you properly and recognizing you instantly despite the years apart, communicating only by the occasional letter. “TIPS!”

Testa throws herself upon you in a bearhug, or what WOULD be such a huge if she weren’t both shorter and weaker than you—finally! You outgrew ONE of your human friends!

“Look at you!” she giggles. “Interesting style. What is this material …”

“I don’t know” you admit, yanking your robe free from her finger with their perfectly-painted nails. “It’s from the moon.”

“The WHAAAAT?” she balks. “Come in! Come IN, you big dummy! Tell me EVERYTHING! I’ll have one of the servants make us some tea.”
>>
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>>5915898
The two of you eat strange little nutty shortbread confections (‘ghraybeh’, apparently) and sip a fragrant tea as you catch her up on the summarized, sanitized version of your adventures, scrubbed of any fairy-secrets. She in-turn tells you of her own Apprenticeship—of how she has managed to become the Mistress Gartner’s prime pupil.

“Which is like a glorified housekeeper and seamstress, honestly,” she pouts. “I expected it to be MUCH more glamorous, but with the downturn in trade, we mostly just fill these boooring, repetitive orders for the local noblewomen, fixing up their dresses or doing their make-up and hair for long journeys up north. We never even get any fun galas HERE! Nobody wants to come to a place like this from all the way up North, and it’s not like we get anyone from the SOUTH, obviously.”

“Right,” you agree. “I mean… Sorry to hear it.”

“Well, you know…” Testa trails off, with a sigh, and then shrugs. “Still, I’m learning a lot! All kinds of magic, and design philosophies, and colour theory, and how to enchant different materials…”

“Actually,” you smoothly segue, “that’s what I’m here to discuss, kind of. What you’ve been learning. I bet you’re even better at illusion magic than you sued to be, aren’t you?”

“Uh, duh,” she boasts, then sips her tea and squints at you. “What do you want EXACTLY, though?”

You want…
>Testa to accompany you on a mission to slip inside the Royal Palace of Hawksong, concealing your entry with illusion magic and helping you escape if need be
>For Testa to help expose the truth of the Pricne Consort’s nature and intentions, helping break any illusions or mind-clouding magics he has in place
>Some accessories or garments for yourself (and for Zith-Zi) to help disguise your true idnetities and cloak your approach
>Write-in

What are you offering her in turn?
>Your remaining gold
>Magical assistance with her own projects
>To get her a date with Logan Pearce
>Your sincere appreciation as a friend
>Write-in

Zith-Zi's recruitment and catch-up will come after this, as well as addressing whatever aid you want to lend the community at Old Maple Hill
>>
>>5915901
>For Testa to help expose the truth of the Pricne Consort’s nature and intentions, helping break any illusions or mind-clouding magics he has in place

>Magical assistance with her own projects
>Your sincere appreciation as a friend
>An audience with royalty

and the gold if the above isn't enough
>>
>>5915901
>For Testa to help expose the truth of the Pricne Consort’s nature and intentions, helping break any illusions or mind-clouding magics he has in place

>Magical assistance with her own projects
and if need be, some gold as well
>>5915955
what royalty would we present her to ?
>>
>>5916106
>what royalty would we present her to ?
.....
who do you think we're bringing her to see?
>>
>>5915901
>Testa to accompany you on a mission to slip inside the Royal Palace of Hawksong, —— helping you escape if need be with illusion magic
Incase things don’t work out, but the meeting will be done in earnest.

In return

>Magical assistance with her own projects
>An upturn of Turtledove
Visiting hawksong will give us opportunities to advertise. And if that doesn’t pan out, we’ll go to other cities.

Am >>5913510
>>
>>5916212
>who do you think we're bringing her to see?
but does it even count that way ?
>>
>>5915901
>Testa to accompany you on a mission to slip inside the Royal Palace of Hawksong, concealing your entry with illusion magic and helping you escape if need be.

>Magical assistance with her own projects.
>>
>>5916250
I don't see why it wouldn't.
>>
>>5915901
>>For Testa to help expose the truth of the Pricne Consort’s nature and intentions, helping break any illusions or mind-clouding magics he has in place
>Magical assistance with her own projects
>>
>>5916258
>>5907140
This is me don't know why my ip changed.
>>
>>5915955
>>5916106
>>5916243
>>5916258
>>5916317

In truth, you don’t exactly need Testa to accompany you. Rather, what you need is her skill: a means to remove a glamour and undo an illusory transformation. What you require is the ability to reveal the truth of the Prince Consort’s abhorrent and inhuman nature to those from whom he has kept it hidden—either as a means to stop him or a threat to hold over him in the event negotiations fail.

“So you want ... What, Lenses of True-Sight?” Testa laughs. “Tips, that’s like THE goal of Illusion and Divination as disciplines. It’s pretty much High Magic. I’m good, but I can’t make something like that on my own!”

“Well... What if I could help fill in your gaps?” you ask.

Testa quirks an eyebrow.

“Not like that!’ you protest, flushing.

“Good,” she says in a sing-song voice, “because you’re not my type anyway~”

You well know her type: tall, blond, handsome, and built like a dresser. In other words: Logan Pearce, your mutual childhood friend... And a fellow of, ah, more masculine tastes himself. It's been over a year since you've seen your best and oldest friend, but the last you’d seen him, his ‘type’ seemed to be, well, YOU. Upon reflection, it’s rather ironic that someone as skilled in illusory arts as Nicolette Testa can’t see as much... But now’s not the time to break the bad news to her. There are more important and urgent matters to discuss. Namely:

"I know a spell, an elven one, called <Free Senses>. It allow someone to see through illusions. It’s potent.”

“Well, seems like you have it sorted out already, then, don’t you?” Testa says, with a cheeky half-smile.

“...But...”

“Oh, there's a ‘but’!” Testa interrupts again, all too pelased with herself.

“BUT,” you continue pointedly. “It’s not foolproof or long-lasting, let alone widespread. It works for me, and someone else close enough to cast it on. AND it’s a one-off; all it would take is for my spell to wear off for the opponent to cast their own spell again, and it would be for nothing. There’s noeway I could expose him to everyone, to make it stick.”

“Well then, it sounds to ME,” says Testa after some musing, a finger brought cutely to her mouth and eyes tlted upwards in imitation of deep thought, “that what you need isn’t something to make other people see this mysterious ‘opponent’ as he is, but o stop him hiding himself. It’s more efficient anyway: a single lasting item or spell on him, rather than SEPARATE castings or items for everyone else.”

“Testa, you’re brilliant,” you say. “And you can do that?”

“Yuh-huh! Just don’t let it get around,” she says sweetly, batting her eyelashes. “Human guys prefer a girl who’s a little stupid, you know?~”
>>
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>>5917319
You roll your eyes, but whatever her silly affectations, you’re confident in her ability—this is the girl who aced every exam in this particular subject, practical and theoretical, to earn her current apprenticeship.

“Thanks,” you tell her, “I owe you one!”

“Mmmhm!” she agrees, and you realize what you just said. Well, too late to take it back.

“What do you want in return?” you ask warily.

“Hmm...” she muses, though you know she’s already thought of something, and you just pray to whatever Wild Gods are still listening that it will be something you can actually do.

“I don’t suppose you could lend little old me some of your elfy beauty secrets? Tips’ tips, you could call them?”

“Uh, well I don’t really have any...”

“Like the ones you shared with Izirina Henzler?”

You shut your mouth, and stare at the shrewd-yet-unassuming mage before you, who is affecting total innocence.

“You heard about... That?”

“it’s sort of hard to miss a weird little cult starting on the outskirts of the biggest city in the world, you know? Word gets around, even all the way out here!”

“The <Rite>... I mean, that spell, it isn’t for frivolous cosmetic purposes, Testa,” you chastise her.

“Frivolous cosmetic purposes? You mean like... The magic you came to me to get help with?”

You scowl deeply, which Testa politely and demurely ignores until it devolves into a pout. Just sharing the <Rite of Attunement> with two people was enough to set an entire chain of events in motion with such potential for transformation—or disaster—that it put you in the crosshairs of the gods themselves. Do you really want to share it with another?

>Yes, you’ll share knowledge of the Rite with Nicolette
>Yes, but you’re only transforming Testa—you're not teaching her how to do it herself
>No, it’s too dangerous, but you have something else to offer... [what?]
>No, and if she’s going to be like that you don’t need her help [Sociability check to see if she still helps]

“Hey,” Testa interrupts your thought, “what’s this all ABOUT, anyway? You never said who this ‘opponent even is.”

>Tell Testa the truth of your target: the Prince Consort of Hawksong, who is secretly a shapeshiftingl lizard-monster
>Keep the secret for now, allowing her the bliss (and safety) which comes with ignorance
>Write-ins
>>
>>5917324
>Yes, but you’re only transforming Testa—you're not teaching her how to do it herself
With the army Izzy is building, I can't imagine one transformation for Testa will be the breaking point.

>Tell Testa the truth of your target: the Prince Consort of Hawksong, who is secretly a shapeshiftingl lizard-monster
She's smart enough to be safe with the knowledge
>>
>>5917324

>Yes, but you’re only transforming Testa—you're not teaching her how to do it herself (yet)
>you’ll share knowledge of the Rite with Nicolette AFTER we are done

A reward now and a bigger one later.

>Tell Testa the truth of your target: the Prince Consort of Hawksong, who is secretly a shapeshifting lizard-monster

am >>5916243
>>
>>5917324
>Yes, but you’re only transforming Testa—you're not teaching her how to do it herself
anon brought a good point, with Izirina making an army it's not like Testa will be the straw that breaks the camel's back
>Tell Testa the truth of your target: the Prince Consort of Hawksong, who is secretly a shapeshiftingl lizard-monster
she's a smart girl, she can handle it
>>
>>5917324
>>Yes, but you’re only transforming Testa—you're not teaching her how to do it herself
>Tell Testa the truth of your target: the Prince Consort of Hawksong, who is secretly a shapeshiftingl lizard-monster
>>
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>>5917375
>>5917383
>>5917600
>>5917654
“Fine,” you say with a sigh. “But this is a one-time thing, alright? It’s… One of those moon-secrets. Fairy cousins only.”

“Well THAT’S racist,” Testa complains.

“I can’t be racist,” you say. “Some of my best friends are human, and about half my ancestors.”

That gets a laugh, and a shrug.

“Your loss,” Testa says. “You could make a LOOOT of money with spells like that, you know?”

You glower.

“I’m kidding, I’m kidding,” she says, slapping you on the shoulder softly. “You still pout like a girl when you’re mad, you know.”

“You still snort hen you laugh.”

Testa sets down her tea-cup with a cloud clack, and glares daggers, but a moment later she sighs, and laughs—quietly, so as not to snort.

“It’s good to see you again, Tips,” she says. “Alright, you’ve got yourself a deal.”

It takes you the better part of the afternoon and evening to prepare the material components and to trace the arcane geometry needed for enchantment. This was always Testa’s secondary school, the one which allowed her to imbue powders, creams, fabrics and bangles with her aesthetic enchantments, though it was the wearer’s own mystic power which helped to replenish and maintain them. It seems she really ahs learned a lot, to be able to imbue an object with another’s spell as she now proposed to do—something akin to your <elemental Infusion> but for inanimate objects and with even greater versatility.

“Don’t you ever kind of feel like you’re wasting your potential, doing this sort of thing with your magic?”

“You’re being catty again, Tips,” she snaps.

“No, I… I’m just saying, Nicolette. If you know rituals like THIS, you could be making magic weapons and armour, or wands and staffs even!”

“But I don’t WANT to make dumb magic weapons and wands,” she retorts. “I want to make beautiful dresses and skin creams.”

You roll your eyes.

“Anyway, you’re one to talk,” she says. “You could be making all kinds of battle-ready chimeras and familiars, and instead you’re—”

“Teaming up with you to help stop a secret, shapeshifting lizard-monster from plunging Hawksong into war against the entire elven race to seize a mysterious living weapon, with which he could kill hundreds or thousands more and usher in an era of unending horror?”

“…Well, okay, when you put it like THAT, if sounds half-way heroic.”

You allow yourself a smirk.

“But I’m helping, so it stands to reason we’re BOTH living up to our full potential,” Testa concludes, lighting the last of the candles around your magic circle.

Well, you can’t really argue with that, you suppose.
>>
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>>5917701
You still protest and swat at her when she grabs your hat, though.

“Hey!”

“First of all, I MADE you this hat,” Testa reminds you. “And second, relax, would you? I just need something to enchant for the binding spell.”

You watch as she unbuckles the belt around your hat, which—in the wizardly tradition of Hawksong—serves as your hatband. She places it in the centre of the circle, carefully and on tiptoe, so as not to scuff any of the chalk lines or topple the candles. You snatch your hat back, placing it upon your head with a huff, and take your position.

“You could have used your own, you know,” you say.

“No,” she says with a smile and wink. “Mine’s cuter.”

You roll your eyes, and together begin the spell. It is no simple spell, woven immediately and instantly, but something almost like a rite or ritual in and of itself.

“<Create Magic Item>,” Testa intones, and then: “<Bound Item>!”

“<Free Senses>!” you add hurriedly, which the mystic matrices of flowing aura from the swirling candle-smoke are in alignment, flowing from point to point and following the artificial leylines of the circle.

Together, your energies and intent intermingle, and settle like a haze upon the one-time hatband. The belt absorbs the magic, turning from mid-brown to a darker as the smoke sticks to it, flecks of ash settling upon it in a speckled pattern of grey and black, until the ash is gone and the candles extinguished. So, too, the small, polished gems set between them-material components necessary to make the spell function and the enchantment last, and likely the source of the curious, sparkling shine which your mage-senses pick up when you lift the belt and turn it this way and that in your hands.

“There,” Testa exhales, releasing a held breath, and very nearly wiping her sweat from her forehead before she catches herself, to avoids smearing her foundation. “Now, your turn. Make me elfy.”

“Can’t,” you reply.

“Wh-what?!”

You maintain your stern visage for a moment, before cracking up into a smile.

“We’re both low on energy, and it’s not a New Moon,” you reply.

“W-well, then you better not get yourself killed fighting this Lizard King guy, alright?!” she says. “You owe me!”

“Thanks, Testa,” you say. “Seriously.”

Testa’s annoyance dies out like one more sputtering candle at your gratitude, and she waves it away.

“Yeah yeah,” she says. “Just get going before—”

“TESTA!”
>>
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>>5917704
Nicolette’s eyes go wide, and she flinches at the sound of a woman’s voice from the floor below.

“Oh shi—crap!”

“WHY ARE MY WALLS ONLY HALF-PAINTED, APPRENTICE?!”

“Go, go!” Nicolette Testa says, waving her wand to sweep away the candles and chalk as quickly as she can. “I’m not allowed any boys up here, and I need to make an excuse AND hope Mistress Gartner doesn’t figure out where her deep-opals and sun-topaz went before I can replace them!”

Testa shoves you into a nearby closet before you can protest—better than out the tower window, you suppose, though our <Free Movement> can serve as well as <Slowfall> in a pinch. If you’d needed to cast THAT, though, you wouldn’t have had the mana necessary to activate your envelope, though—a new one, enchanted like the last, and good for one quick return-trip to Old Maple Hill.

“Oh, and take this,” she says, shoving something into your hand. “Now hurry! She always checks the closet first.”

(So she’s done this… or something like it… Before, huh? Hm. Mayeb she’s NOT still holding out hope for Pearce…)

You just about hear the beginning of your old friend exclaiming “I can expl—” when you activate the envelope. Your business here is conclude and, until you need to make good on your bargain, you suppose the least you can do is avoid getting her in trouble with her master.

When you reappear at old Maple Hill, you find the sun a little lower in the sky than on the Southland’s mountainous border. Veloz, your lunar hummingbird companion, is quickly upon you, humming an thrumming about in excitement at your return. Izzy is there, too, though her own excitement and relief are more subdued… But still present in her eyes.

“What have you got there?” she asks.

You look down and see in your hand a new band—velvet rather than leather, and thinner than your old hatband, with a small, stylized owl’s face in place of the classic, simple buckle of your old one. You squint at it, considering your opinion of it, but ultimately you place it upon your hat. As Nicolette Testa must have recognized, a wizard’s cap looks naked without its band…

And the old belt which served as your band these last few years now serves a new purpose, as the tool by which you will bind the illusory and shapeshifting abilities of your reptilian adversary, if it comes to it.

>Magic item acquired: Belt of Binding, capable of being attached to an opponent and restricting their ability to hide or shift their shape or form; removing it, too, requires an Arcana check or a keyword.
>>
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>>5917705
“Do you have what you need?” Izzy asks.

“I do,” you say. “The only problem will be getting close enough to get this ON him.”

And that, of course is where Zith-Zi comes in. The goblin adventuress is in Hawksong—Izzy confirms that much. No more cross-country jaunts for you just-yet, thank goodness! The trip to Turtledove and back wasn’t nearly as unsettling as the one from the Moon to Earth, but you still feel disoriented, and that’s AFTER being wiped from your spellcasting with Testa. You’re exhausted, in a way that you haven’t been in over a year; the last two days away from Holy Luna’s invigorating energies have been tiring ones by comparison, but TODAY has been especially taxing. You take a step, only to wobble and nearly fall over before Izzy rushes to catch you, nearly taking HER out as well.

“You’ll be alright,” Izzy promises you, helping you up. “You just need rest.”

“Yeah,” you agree. “You’re probably right.”

“Let’s go to bed,” she suggests.

Weary as you are, the implication passes right by you. You don’t pick up on the subtext until Izzy guide you to one of the makeshift domiciles of the tent-city, where a simple bedroll is laid out… And only the one. You suppose you just assume she’ll be leaving once you’re settled down, but then you turn around and—

“Woah!” you say.

Izirina Henzler’s jacket has been shucked with surprising speed, and her black leathers popped open and half-shed from her shoulders and she begins unbuttoning her blouse.

“What?” she asks, looking genuinely confused.

“Uh…”

It’s nothing you haven’t seen before, of course. This is the girl you gave your virginity to—and vice-versa. And you love her, of course. But… It’s been almost a year and a half since you last shared her bed. And there’s still matters with Costella—the OTHER woman you love—to sort out.

What do you do?
>Bed down with Izzy
>Request some privacy for tonight
>Write-in
>>
>>5917707
>Bed down with Izzy
hello nurse. in a more serious note, we've kept it clear we still like her even though we're still confused about the source and our session with the elf made it clear we're not shying away from it.
>>
>>5917707
>Ask Izzy if we shouldn't get Costella here
>>
>>5917707
>Bed down with Izzy
>>5917744 is also decent
>>
>>5917707
>Bed down with Izzy
Let's not invite Costella right now. Our relationship needs a good discussion and agreement first.
>>
>>5917701
>“I can’t be racist,” you say. “Some of my best friends are human, and about half my ancestors.”
Least racist knife ears

>>5917707
>Bed down with Izzy

Kino. Handholding + cowgirl seggs + headpats please

>>5917383
>>
>>5917707
>Bed down with Izzy
>>
>>5917796
Don’t forget the feet licking
>>
>>5917739
>>5917744
>>5917776
>>5917778
>>5917796
>>5918219

A small part of you hesitates, but another part of you—growing larger by the moment—resents even this infinitesimal delay. You at least have the good sense not to try to invite Costella—exhausted as you are, the idea of emotionally (let alone PHSYICALLY) juggling the two objects of yoru affection is unthinkable. Your relationship with Izzy, complicated as it is, is at least ESTBALISHED; your relationship with Costella needs a good discussion and agreement first, if it’s to go anywhere at all.

(And anyway, it’s been over a year at this point, and Izzy’s improved health and attitude has... Well, she’s obviously been taking quite good care of herself.)

You struggle out of your own robes and the crisp, seemingly-unstainable white shirt and trousers beneath, your overeagerness and tiredness combining to turn even simple acts into an arduous endeavour. Luckily, the same physical and emotional transformation that ahs lent Izirina Henzler an unearthly glow and a surge of confidence has also seemingly made her a bit more ‘take-charge’... or perhaps ‘hands-on’ is a better descriptor.

“here,” she says, “let me help.”

There is something unspeakably intimate about the feel of Izzy’s warm, tingling fingers removing your clothes for you. She does so not with an alchemist’s efficiency but with an almost reverential, worshipful quality. Her hands, her eyes, even her breath linger upon you as she strips you naked and bare before her. It isn’t at all like the quick-and-dirty thrill of your liaison with that the elfmaid Sylmare—your only other frame of reference for this activity—but something altogether more measured. You appreciate her as she appreciates you, admiring the ways she has changed; she must, you realize, be doing the same.

When you lay down upon the mattress, it isn’t an immediate release of pressure. Rather, you simply hold her close for a time, spooning with her. She curls up against you, taller than you still--even a little heavier thanks to her fully-human bone structure and penchant for sweets—but still delicate in a peculiar way you can’t place. Neither of you says anything for a time—you simply listen to one another's breathing, feel each other’s skin, refamiliarize yourself with this closeness. Eventually, she rolls over, and buries her face in your neck, taking a deep inhale of your scent—something she was always fond of.

“You smell different,” she says, “but still good.”

She, for her part, smells faintly of ozone—like the crisp, sizzling air after a lightning strike, and like a clean burn of alchemical fire, and like a summer breeze. And she’s warm, and soft, and her passion is infectious... Especially when her hand slides down your slim torso, and between your legs.

When she finally climbs atop you, the slow build makes the long-awaited physical reunion absolute perfection.
>>
>>5918367
The rest that follows is the deepest and most complete you’ve had in a long, long time, held in the embrace of an electric sun, her hair faintly blowing across your face in an unearthly air-current like a hundred softly-stroking fingers.

When you awaken again, it is with renewed vigor and purpose. You rise and dress only grudgingly, wide wake at dawn as usual and yet all too happy to remain in bed—even a relatively-uncomfortable one like this bedroll. You force yourself out of the tend, giving Izzy’s sleeping hand a final squeeze before stepping out and surveying her camp. You watch as people begin to rise and shine and start their day. Little Veloz zips between them, not as speedy or as buoyant as on the moon, and thus requiring frequent stops between flowers to rest and recuperate; this, however, just gives you more opportunity to appreciate the pearlescence of his silvery plumage, adding to the beauty of the moment. It's still not 'home', not by any means... But you can't help but feel even more fondly disposed towards it before.

(It's funny what some lovey-dovey sex with an old flame will do to a fellow, like a peculiar sort of <Rite of Attunement> all its own...)

Whether motivated by altruism or post-coital emotionality, you’re inclined to help Izzy and her strange collective. The question is: how?
>You still have those mystically-fulfilled berries from Holy Luna... Maybe you could get them to take seed and grow here?
>You haven’t caught up with the local fairy court and the old spriggan who presides over it in quite some time... Maybe you could petition them to formally induct and tutor those humans they find worthy?
>Teaching the locals some of your spellcraft could go a long way to making them self-sufficient, and TECHNCIALLY anyone who has undergone the ritual should have some capacity for magecraft...
>Write-in
>>
>>5918369
>>You still have those mystically-fulfilled berries from Holy Luna... Maybe you could get them to take seed and grow here?
>>
>>5918369
>You still have those mystically-fulfilled berries from Holy Luna... Maybe you could get them to take seed and grow here?
>>
>>5918369
>You still have those mystically-fulfilled berries from Holy Luna... Maybe you could get them to take seed and grow here?
>>
>>5918369
>You haven’t caught up with the local fairy court and the old spriggan who presides over it in quite some time... Maybe you could petition them to formally induct and tutor those humans they find worthy?
>>
>>5918369
>You haven’t caught up with the local fairy court and the old spriggan who presides over it in quite some time... Maybe you could petition them to formally induct and tutor those humans they find worthy?
>>
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>>5918369
>You still have those mystically-fulfilled berries from Holy Luna... Maybe you could get them to take seed and grow here?

>>5918367
>When she finally climbs atop you, the slow build makes the long-awaited physical reunion absolute perfection.

Kino.

>>5917796
>>
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Rolled 1, 4, 10, 20 = 35 (4d20)

>>5918382
>>5918398
>>5918436
>>5918758
>>5918717
>>5918501

You fish around in a pocket of your lunar robes, extracting a small pouch. You haven't thought much of the <Goodberries> which you plucked in the Moonwoods of Holy Luna since you first acquired the delicious, magically-fulfilling fruit. A single one of them is enough to energize a human (or a half-elf, at least) for a whole day, carrying the caloric intake and mystically-charged life-energy sufficient to equal three full meals (if not necessarily the full vitamin and mineral content). Even if it can't be a perfect substitute for ALL foodstuffs in a balanced diet, these berries could do worlds of good... If, indeed, you can get them to take root and flourish in Earthly soil. The moon is a highly energetic environment, and the Moonwood a cultivated paradise garden; can this land reserve, barely in its infancy and on comparatively non-magical earth, provide the conditions needed for them to grow?

Can you MAKE it so, using your Feycraft to 'attune' the berries to the local milieu?

A further complication, of course, is that you are not actually very adept with plants. For all your mastery of chimericism and the shifting and molding of body and soul, your focus has been on a different kingdom of life: on animals. Do plants HAVE souls? These berries contain more intrinsic magical energy than a goblin, but certainly less of the activity and awareness that you would associate with 'life' as you know it. Then again, an inclination to grow... An ability to seek and acquire resources... The capacity to mature, and to 'breed'... Plants have all of that, right? Theoretically, it should be POSSIBLE.

You find a seemingly-suitable plot in a probable location, clear of other rivalrous plants and as loamy as you can find. The berry itself is curiously fresh and thankfully unsquished, and seeds pepper it between the globules of delectable juices—ready to take root, one hopes. It glimmers with potential in your mage-senses. You plant it, pat the soil, and –together with Veloz—you begin the song and dance of a little <Ritual of Attunement>, as best as you can manage without a New Moon in the sky.

[Life Magic roll, +1 die for Feycraft given its origins; DC 17]
>>
>>5919250
what a heart attack of a roll
almost poisoned Izzy's army to death
>>
>>5919250
>>5919297
A small crowd gathers to watch you work. You try not to let them distract you, though you're not used to doing this sort of thing with an audience, and you feel your face warm. You nearly trip over the sacred words a few times, though with your multiply-augmented elven grace, you don't trip over your feet at least; this is no small thing, as you're still reacclimating to Earth gravity... But you are also no longer a mere novice. You are a Mage Apprentice and a Disciple of the True Fey, and you are privy to secrets beyond mortal ken.

>1

When you finish, breathing hard, you look expectantly to the plot in question... But there is no change. You frown and glare at the dirt in faint outrage, CERTAIN that you did everything right...

>20

...And you see it: a sprout! Small and dainty, and oh-so-delicate, but it grows with preternatural speed visible to the naked eye. To your vague disappointment, no cheer goes up from the confused crowd, ignorant of the true nature of what you have accomplished this day, and so you turn to them and explain:

“This sprout—see it? You must guard and protect this sprout with your LIFE because it might as well be. This is the beginnings of Earth's first <Goodberry> cultivation, understand?”

(They don’t, of course.)

“They’re magical moon-berries,” you explain a bit more slowly and methodically. “Each one is a meal. One of these bushes, fully grown, could feed everyone here, pretty much on its own!”

That gets a reaction, at least, with excited and confused murmurs. A few more horticulturally inclined individuals (or maybe enthusiasts, who can understand the economics of such a wonder-food) begin eyeing the sprout with a hunger which goes deeper than the stomach.

As the crowd thins out, you recognize one face amidst the many unfamiliar and half-recognized ones, unmistakable in its inimitable beauty: Costella Fanucci. She doesn’t seem to be looking at you, though, at least not until you approach; rather, her full lips are pursed in thought as she watches a few of the audience members depart.

"Ez!" she greets you, waving when she sees you and bouncing (there is, you can never help but notice, a bit more 'bounce' than with Izirina, especially in her loose and flowy spring-and-summer attire) over towards you.

"Costella," you greet her in turn, accepting her embrace with a lot less self-consciousness than you would have before your year abroad.

Even after the lingering hug, Costella looks past you and after those departing strangers again. You sense something amiss, and so you ask:

"What’s going on? Do you know those people?"

"No," Costella says. "Weird! But I guess not, like, THAT weird. People get curious about what we’re up to out here, sometimes, you know?

You suppose that makes sense.
>>
>>5919321
"Anyway, I figured you and Izzy must still be out here when neither of you came back to the Tower last night," Costella continued. "I just wanted to..."

She pauses, looking past you, and you follow her somewhat troubled gaze. There, you see Izirina emerging from the tent the two of you shared, tying off her constantly-billowing air-elemental hair and jamming it under her black, pointed wizard’s cap.

"O-Oh," Costella says. "Yeah, I guess, like... NEITHER of you came back, huh? I... Uh..."

She trails off, looking conflicted and even GUILTY.

“I was... I don’t want to intrude, but I was thinking about what you aid and... Uhh... Maybe we could go, like, get lunch and t-talk a bit about... You know... Like... The THING?”

(That’s one way to refer to a tremendously-unconventional three-party relationship, you suppose. You can’t blame her—you PROPOSED it, and even to you it’s a bit weird still.)

"Well," Costella continues, nervousness dissipating as she puzzles out the mealtime technicality, "I mean, it's early for lunch, I guess. Breakfast? Or... Brrr-unch? Yeah, let's call it, like, a 'brunch'!"

How do you respond?
>That’s a really good idea, actually; you will go to brunch with your girlfriend(s)(?)
>You can’t right now—every day you spend in preparation is a day when the Prince Consort could be advancing his own villainous agenda; you need to go meet with Zith-Zi and ready to make your move with haste
>Actually... You’re kind of suspicious about these strangers, foreign even to this fledgling community, who apparently took great interest in your fairy-rituals and now seem to be beelining for Hawksong
>Write-in
>>
>>5919327
>That’s a really good idea, actually; you will go to brunch with your girlfriend(s)(?)
let's get it out of our system
>>
>>5919327
>That’s a really good idea, actually; you will go to brunch with your girlfriend(s)(?)
quick threesome before we go kick theral's ass
>>
>>5919327
>Actually... You’re kind of suspicious about these strangers, foreign even to this fledgling community, who apparently took great interest in your fairy-rituals and now seem to be beelining for Hawksong.

Those strangers might not even be people, they might be reptilian spies going to report back to theral.

Or they could be thives who plan to uproot and steal the moonberry bush.
>>
>>5919327
>Actually... You’re kind of suspicious about these strangers, foreign even to this fledgling community, who apparently took great interest in your fairy-rituals and now seem to be beelining for Hawksong
>>
>>5919327
oh shit I totally glossed over that part
swapping to
>Actually... You’re kind of suspicious about these strangers, foreign even to this fledgling community, who apparently took great interest in your fairy-rituals and now seem to be beelining for Hawksong
>>
>>5919327
>That’s a really good idea, actually; you will go to brunch with your girlfriend(s)(?)

Most important matter first.
>>
>>5919327
>That’s a really good idea, actually; you will go to brunch with your girlfriend(s)(?)

>>5919434
>>5919449
We still have two moonberries left. Even if they take everything - assuming that’s even possible with that many people here - they still won’t be able to monopolize it, let alone grow it like us.

Am >>5918758
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>>5919726
>>5919465
>>5919449
>>5919441
>>5919434
>>5919413
>>5919372
[Close, such that the tie-breaking factor is (as has long been the case in this quest) the negation of the non-backlinked 1post ID. Writing!]
>>
>>5919750
Your mind lingers on the matter of your mysterious visitors. How much did they see, and hear? Were you perhaps too profligate with your magic, and with telling the people at Old Maple Hill the full potential of the newly-planted goodberry bush? What if those strangers are something nefarious—spies for the Prince Consort, or simple (but no less terrible in a practical sense) profiteers?

Then Izzy joins Costella and yourself. Seeing those two beautiful young women side by side, you can think of naught else.

Costella tells Izirina of your ‘new project as the world’s greatest gardener’, somehow not making that sound condescending with how genuinely enthused she is. Izirina, her make-up still subtly sex-smeared, looks doubly satisfied.

“Of course,” she said. “Tips is talented at a lot of stuff.”

Costella giggles and flushes, mirroring the redness you can feel rising in your own cheeks.

“So,” you say, “would you like to hear about this new concept Costella has come up with, while I was doing that? She calls it ‘brunch’.”

(After all, you still have two lunar berries to repeat this initial experiment. Even if you’re not just being paranoid, and they WERE to uproot the bush or destroy it, they cannot hope to prevent you from replicating the experiment now that you know the secret of it. Really, what’s the worst that could happen?)

“You two are going to love this place,” Costella gushes. “It’s this little inn, like, one of the roadside ones the travellers and adventurers and, like, merchants and stuff use… But it’s SOOOO good! It’s cozy, and they make these amazing, like… Pancake-y things, but they use a weird dwarf-y looking press to shape them and poke all these dents half-way through. They call them ‘waffles’.”

“Dented pancakes?” you ask. “Sounds weird. I don’t get it.”

“It’s a surface-to-volume equation,” Izzy supplies. “It’s for retention of the fluid or spread. It would produce pockets to hold syrups or butters in greater quantity. They’re most likely more unform in crispness and texture, as well.”

“Izzy! You’ve had waffles before??” Costella asks.

“No,” Izirina answers simply, looking puzzled. “It just seems intuitive.”

You and Costella exchange a glance, and both burst out laughing.

“I really don’t get what’s so funny,” Izzy mumbles.
>>
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>>5919803
The three of you travel a ways down the road—by foot, to conserve magic and for the joy of one another’s company. That it takes longer than a <Dimension Door> just gives you more time to talk… And yet, you don’t not really. Not about what, ultimately, you have gathered together to discuss. Somehow, it seems to awkward to talk about it here, out on the roadside—exposed, though to whom you cannot say. Instead, you continue to catch up on one another’s adventures and endeavors. You tell them of Dappulyet, and the Unseelie, and of the werewolf Oncyth and the Moon Priestess Clanirae, and of Holy Luna, the Moonwoods, and your attendants-turned-friends Neremyn and Devidan.

(You don’t tell them about the cuddling with Nym and Devi, or the… Other matter, with Sylmare of Dappulyet.)

Eventually you reach the inn in question, the Heart’s Own Inn, a place that had obviously stood for ages on this well-traveled road. It's a sturdy structure of old honeyed stone and weathered, darkened timbers. The roof is thatch, thick and uneven, a patchwork of fresh straw next to older layers. The wooden door, thick and sturdy, is propped open, and its singular central window is carved in shape of a stylized heart.

“Isn’t it, like, SUPER cute?” Costella asks, presumably rhetorically.

Upon entering, warmth wraps around you like a familiar blanket. A cozy array of mismatched wooden tables and chairs filled the space, set upon worn but immaculate cobblestone flooring. The bar kept to one side of the room, a half-timbered affair, heavy with time-polished barrels and gleaming with an array of dusty, jewel-tone bottles. An enormous hearth took up most of the adjacent wall, glowing with red-orange embers as if a matter of principle even at midday and at this time of year. The scent of wood-smoke dances with the tantalizing aroma of caramelizing batter.

In the back corner, a robust (ie. portly) halfling works a peculiar contraption at a steady pace. His eyes crinkled in a permanent grin, his hands sure and seasoned as they poured, pressed, and flipped over the iron device. Enthusiastic sizzles and generous wafts of the batter cooking alerted the senses of his expertise. A scant few customers anticipating their waffles idled around the dwarf, watching his expertise with a hawk's eye, exchanging jolly exchanges about matters salient to simple farmers or merchantile travelers.

“It’s a halfling inn?” Izzy asks.

“Gnome,” Costella corrects her, whispering.

“What’s the difference?” Izzy asks, innocently confused. “Aren’t those largely synonymous?”

“Gnomes get MAD if you call them halflings,” Costella clarifies, “but not as mad as dwarves do.”
>>
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>>5919808
The three of you line up for your own waffles, with Izzy insisting upon covering the bill.

“Neither of you have been properly working for a year,” she points out, “while I’ve still been drawing a salary. Tips, you really should consider speaking with Mother about your Apprenticeship…”

You wave the notion away noncommittally. It’s something to consider when the current crisis is dealt with, perhaps… Or perhaps not. Perhaps never. You honestly haven’t given much thought to your ‘career’ as a Tower-taught Mage Apprentice in some time. And right now, sitting down with Izirina Henzler and Costella Fanucci, there’s only one thing on your mind.

“By the Gods Above and Hells Below,” your murmur through a mouthful, “these ‘waffles’ ARE bloody good, aren’t they?”

“Mmmhmm!” Costella agrees.

Even Izirina seems astonished at them, almost standing up to charge the gnome at the waffle-iron and to ask him his secrets before Costella gently grasps her wrist and shakes her head, pulling her back down. When you’ve all devoured much of your meal, and the morning-afternoon rush has thinned out enough to afford you some privacy, you finally broach the subject that brought you here.

“So,” you say, since nobody else seems to be starting, “Costella, you wanted to talk about… Us? The three of us?”

Costella gulps, swigging some farm-fresh milk for a moment and averting her eyes.

“Oh?” Izzy asks. “We’re talking about Tips’ proposal.”

“THAT,” you butt in, “is NOT the word I would sue.”

Costella is bright red, while Izzy simply seems perplexed, looking between the two of you.

“A proposal implies, like, an ENGAGEMENT and MARRIAGE, Izzy,” Costella clarifies.

Izzy looks annoyed at that, just for a moment, before saying: “I KNOW that, Costella. But isn’t that what’s on offer, essentially?”

“I—” You blurt out, before stopping short. “WHAT?!"
>>
>>5919809
“The three of us are spiritually and spatially intermixed, entwined, bound in body, mind, and soul.”

Izzy sets her cutlery down on her plate gently, and meets your eyes, and Costella’s, each in turn and with a strange intensity.

“Tips—Ezreal—is right,” she says, as if stating textbook fact. “It makes no sense to exclude any of the three of us from any union, or to pretend that such a thing is temporary or experimental. We all surely see that this is inevitable.”

“Polygamy isn’t even legal,” you say weakly.

“And I… My parents would FLIP,” Costella whispers, looking shaken. “M-marriage… I mean, I… That would…”

“And I’m not attracted to other women,” Izzy says simply, “but much like legal matters, or outside parties, that’s immaterial.”

“IS it?” you ask, incredulous at this abrupt outburst.

“I think I proved adept enough,” Izzy says simply, “right, Costella?”

You both turn to Costella who is, by now, as red as the jam-and-jelly upon her waffles’ remnants. Slowly, realization dawns.

“You two…?”

“If it’s Costella,” izzy says simply, “it’s fine.”

You feel a stirring below the table at the unbidden mental images that summons up.

“W-we just… Kissed a little!” Costella protests. “Nothing else!”

“Anyway,” Izirina says, “what is the alternative? I want both of you in my life, and that’s what Ezreal wants, too, right?”

“Uh,” you say, “right.”

“And isn’t that what you want, Costella?”

Again, you two mages fix your attention upon the fidgeting, freckled brunette before you.

“It’s just,” she says, “how would it even… I mean, I… I want a wedding someday. So even if you say it doesn’t matter legally… It will matter to my folks. And they wouldn’t want me to be… I mean, a ‘second wife’ or anything. It just sounds so, like… Degrading, you know? I’m not sure -I- want that for me.”

“Who says there is a ‘first’ or ‘second’?” Izzy asks.

“The two of you have known each other FOREVER,” Costella points out. “You know Izzy’s mom, Ez!”

“And you know Ezreal’s father,” Izzy counters. “I’ve scarcely interacted with the man.”

“You’re both WIZARDS!”

“Mages,” you both correct her as one, then exchange an embarrassed glance.

"A-and you've both, you know... DONE it."

The embrassment deepens, and you find yourself looking over your shoulder to make sure nobody is listening in.

“You have way more in common with each other, and you’re smart, and you’re magic, and I’m…” Costella struggles for a moment, and then concludes: “Just ME. But I’m also… I don’t want to NOT be me. I… I want to be a part of things, too, and to belong, and to feel…”
>>
>>5919812
Costella trails off, unable to put her obviously-complex feelings about this arrangement’ into words. Izirina’s forehead creases as if faced with an especially inscrutable foreign text to decipher, and she turns to you expectantly for the solution. You suppose that makes sense—it’s always been you with more grounding in human social affairs, ironically enough.

How will you untangle this mess?
>Write-ins only, but the more of Costella’s concerns you can address, the lower the DC of the coming Sociability roll; bad enough failure could jeopardize the relationship's future and the emotional well-being of at least one of you
>>
>>5919815
>"You don't need to become a mage as well. You can learn magic now but you don't need to make it take the place of what you really want to do. About our compatibility, sure me and Izirina have known each other for longer and we're more intimate as well but what drove me to spill my mind to both of you is that I had developed feelings for you as well and from my time away from Hawksong I have a pretty good idea that those feelings are more than just lust for someone else and I will treat you as an equal partner in a relationship, not a second fiddle, and Izirina herself just told you there's not gonna be a 1st or 2nd girlfriend nor wife if we decide to tie our bonds together."
Anons may fill any gaps I left unatended or just improve on it.
>>
>>5919872
[A good start that addresses or touches on 2 of 5 main issues which are troubling Costella. The DC of the upcoming check will go down from a starting value of 15 for each one that is addressed, but will be increased by 1 for every approach that actively worsens her insecurities and uncertainties.]
>>
seems like anons are sleeping rn
>>5919932
what are the other 3 issues specifically ? the legality of the marriage is one of them I assume.
>>
>>5919812
>I'm Just Me
And that's why we love you Costella. You're beautiful, with a fresh, and innocent viewpoint on matters that's frankly helping, and supporting.
You're an inspiration not only to Irizina and me, but also to all the people you helped.
>A-and you've both, you know... DONE it
Maybe we can work out something? As painful as it is, no more of it for her and me while we work things out to include you in the equation, going at your pace?
>Wedding legality
With the path we're taking, we can probably have enough influence to MAKE it legal. Also, we'll behave around your folk - maybe Rudolfo can help for that?
>>
>>5919872
I like this. Here are my additions to it.

“I understand your feelings about marriage — while it might not be - legally - possible in Hawksong, we could have it take place somewhere else. If that does not pan out, we could do it quietly; just us, our families and a few friends. As far as the world’s concerned, we’re colleagues.”

(address legal issues about marriage)

“And take your time! We are not in a hurry. Izzy and I… we go way back, that’s right, but it’s not always sunshine; we fight, we argue, and we hurt each other at times, but we made it work. Hell, look at my parents! They… they’ve been together for a while but that too wasn’t always so clean. I’ve seen it in person. Seen it with my very own eyes; my father being stuck in an alehouse - I had to bail him out on my own. He’s come a long way since then, but yes, no doubt, it is a tough thing, marriage.”

“If you’re not feeling it, if you’re still unsure, it is quite all right — I won’t push you towards marriage or anything of sort.”

“As for sex and virginity. Yeah, that matters a lot less than you think. I am serious. Take a good look at.. anyone, really, and estimate the amount of times they have sex. It’s probably a lot less than you think. And among the people that actually - do - have them, how many do it perfectly? How many finish before they intend to? How many still feel frustrated, at themselves, or at their partners? Libido is one hell of a thing. A fickle thing that differs from person to person. And what of comfort? The positions the person enjoys, the types of acts each person enjoys, that too, varies, heavily.”
“It takes a lot of time. And dedication. And understanding. And trust. And a whole lot of things to do it perfectly.”
“If you want to.. belong, to feel this, to.. be a part of this, that is fine by me. I’d gladly help you, Costella. If not, that’s quite all right, too. I was quite nervy during my earlier days - we all have our own boundaries.”
“But none of this “I’m so much worse than us” horseshit — we’re here to help. To understand things together. To learn. None of us is infallible. And right now I wish to make you understand things from my eyes.”

(address her feelings towards sex and self-esteem issues)

am >>5919726
>>
>>5919815
>"We want todo it with you too"
Take her hands. Channel dad.
>Wedding legality
Tips can legally marry her to mollify her parents - I doubt the Archmage will have the sane concerns for Izzy.
>>
>>5919994
[Now that would be telling, anon! I included hints about all of them in the discussion.]

>>5920004
>>5920005
>>5920033
[These have touched on at least 2 others, so you're on a good roll for the bonus auto-success for specifically addressing all five]
>>
>>5919812
DO we have to get married in Hawksong? Izzy makes travel easy and polygamy's gotta be legal somewhere.
>>
>>5919994
I think the last issue is the parents' approval. Their issues could be:
>wanting a high status and well-to-do husband for Costella
>disliking a non-traditional arrangement
>banal racism
>distrust for mages
>approval of Izzy (I think they more or less like Tips)
I don't have solutions for this right now, but personal relationship with Tips and Izzy's status in the Tower are good starting points.
>>
>>5919872
>>5919994
>>5920004
>>5920005
>>5920033
>>5920444
You might be a bit more tactful and a GREAT deal more sociable than Izzy, but you’re every bit the problem-solver. This, then, is right up your alley: a social puzzle! At least, that’s what you tell yourself, so that you might better project an air of comforting confidence.

“Costella…”

The girl begins shoveling jam-covered waffle into her mouth, or tries to, before your hand finds hers, fingers tracing gently along her knuckles. She looks up again, almost frightened.

“You don’t have to do this, if it doesn’t work for you,” you assure her. “Your boundaries, your feelings, they matter just as much as mine or Izirina’s. But… I’m with Izzy. I think we’re better together than separate, and… Well, you know how I feel about you.”

Costella’s forehead creases. You can see the question forming in her mind, if not yet on her lips: ‘why?’

>1. What do you like about Costella, specifically: SUCCESS, -1 difficukty

“None of that,” you quickly interject-rather sternly, to cut the line of thinking off right then and there. “Just because you’re not a mage doesn’t make you useless. Far from it! None of us is infallible, and we’re all learning, but look at things through our eyes…”

You hold up a finger.

“You’re beautiful, for one,” you say. “Not to sound shallow or anything, but you’re gorgeous.”

Izzy nods a little, looking at her with appraising eyes—not lustfully, but almost scientifically.

“I never saw you before your infection with the chimera-plague, but your symmetry and proportions are essentially perfect, anatomically-speaking.”

If your comment flattered Costella, Izzy’s bizarre-yet-frank addendum leaves her flustered, stammering and speechless.

“Thanks?” she hazards.

“That’s not all, though, obviously,” you continue, raising a second finger. “You’re… Innocent. I mean, just… GOOD. Genuinely a good person, and always optimistic, and helpful, and supportive. Not just of me, or of Izzy, but of everyone—this whole community you’ve started, Hawksong as a whole, EVERYBODY.”

“I… I’m just doing my part,” Costella attempts to deflect, tugging at her hair as memories of her past flit across her freckled features. “I know what it’s like to be, like, oh the other side of that stuff… Sick, feeling ugly and… And gross, and like nobody is there for you. And you, Tips.. And YOU, Izzy… You helped me get, like, through that.”

“And you paid it forwards to so many other people,” you say. “That matters, Costella.”

Izzy nods again, though she doesn’t say anything to that, and her own brow furrows slightly.

>2. What interests do you have in common… Neutral

“You can learn magic now, you know,” you point out. “If being the only non-magic user in our… Uh, trio?”

“Triumverate,” Izzy suggests.

“Throuple,” Costella supplies.
>>
>>5920992
“Anyway,” you push on, “you CAN, but you shouldn’t let trying to be like US take the place of what you really want to do.”

“What I want to do…?” Costella repeats, sounding rather lost. “I’m… I want to help you two. You’re both doing great things, and I’m just—”

“Also doing great things,” you assert firmly. “If you have OTHER great things you want to do… Or just things in general, like this date, that’s fine. Like Izzy just told you there's, not going to be a first or second girlfriend…”

>3. How would you handle a wedding and marriage: MIXED RESULTS, -1 DC to Costella, +1 DC to Izirina

“N-nor wife,” you mumble, feeling you face warm. “When and if it comes to that. Eventually. When we’re all, you know… When the time is right.”

“But—” Costella begins

“With the amount of stuff we’re doing for the city, and especially after we get this whole ‘Pricne Consort’ business settled, they’ll damn well MAKE it legal for us!” you say, a bit more intensely than you intended. “And… If not, Izzy can find us somewhere where it IS legal.”

“Multiple wives are the norm towards the tropical regions of the Southeast,” Izirina supplies quickly, “as well as many areas of the South, though they ma be less favourably-inclined to officiate the marriage of Northmen.”

“And take your time!” you hasten to add. “We are NOT in a hurry here. Izzy and I… we go way back, that’s right, but it’s not always sunshine an light.”

You look to Izzy for support, but her face is almost as much of a mask in that moment as her adoptive mother’s is, giving you nothing, merely looking expectantly at you and awaiting an explanation.

“I’m just saying, we fight, we argue, and we… We’ve hurt each other at times, but we made it work.”

Both girls are looking at you now. You clear your throat, and scramble for something to say.

“Hell, look at my parents! They… they were together forever, until they… You know…”

You trail off, not so confident in using the example of an unmarried couple who spent about three decades living apart and, to your knowledge, never really reconciled as more than tolerant friends.

“I mean, it IS a tough thing, marriage,” you say. “But I think… We could make it work, someday, if that’s what you want.”
>>
>>5920994
4. Physical intimacy – PARTIAL SUCCESS, +1 DC Costella, +1 DC Izzy

“As for… You know, sex, and virginity, that matters a lot less than you think.”

Costella looks a little nervous, admitting: “I’m… Not ENTIRELY, you know…”

“Neither are we,” Izzy notes.

“I know,” Costella says quietly. “But with you two, it was with EACH OTHER, and I still haven’t…”

“Maybe we can compromise?” you say, as painful as it is to suggest it after how wonderful last night was. “No more of it for Izzy and me, while we work things out to… You know, include you in the equation? At your own pace?”

The subtle tension in Izzy’s body increases, her fingers gripping the table’s edge. You grit your teeth between your lips, and feel as if you’re walking a tightrope between the two.

“O-oh, no, I wouldn’t want to get in the way of what you already have… Both of you!” Costella is quick to protest.

“It’s fine,” Izzy says a touch tersely. “There is no first or second wife.”

“Right,” you say, suddenly less certain of yourself.

>5. How would you break it to her family: acknowledge, but with no real solution proposed… NEUTRAL

“Marriage…” Costella murmurs again, waffling between a giddy, giggly excitement and obvious excitement. “But… My parents would never… I mean, even if we went to another country, o-or got the Queen to say it was okay, they’d still be upset. I just know it.”

“Because Tips is half-elven?”

“What?” you exclaim. “No! Mister and Missus Fanucci love me!... Right?”
>>
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>>5920996
Costella nods a few times, and says: “My family is VERY progressive. I mean… You’re not a GOBLIN or an ORC or even a…”

She leans in and whisper: “A halfling or gnome or dwarf, or anything like that. Elves are… Like, you know, people are just sort of fine with that, right?”

“Right,” you say blandly, feeling as if you should be somehow offended, or flattered, or both.

“But it’s still a whole THING, you know? Like… A throuple, a triple marriage, a-and to a, well…”

“A mage?” Izzy guesses.

“Well, a kind of adventurer, really,” Costella says sheepishly.

“WHAT?” you demand. “I am NOT an…”

You trail off. To you, ‘adventurer’ conjures up images of your father in that alehouse, in tattered traveler’s garb and a silly hat, singing for his supper while telling tales of bygone days before he was past his prime: gormless, rootless, a wanderer and mercenary, devoid of responsibility. He’s improved, of course, but you…

You HAVE gone from a promising Tower Mage, apprentice to Archmage Henzler, to a sort of wandering seeker of esoteric ephemera. The only reason you even have any gold left is that you’ve been dwelling in a Heavenly Realm and before that in a mystical woodland, neither of which really have traditional commerce or ‘living expenses’.

“it’s not just, like THAT, though!” Costella adds quickly. “It’s just… It’s weird, right? Like, whatever we say, however we feel, whatever the ALW is, it’s not NORMAL to marry a… To marry two people, or whatever.”

One option occurs to you, of course: IF and WHEN it comes to it, you could legally marry Costella to mollify her parents, for you sincerely doubt the icy-hearted Archmage will have the same sort concerns for Izzy’s own marriage prospects. However, Izzy…

Izzy is looking a little on-edge after the last few concessions made for Costella’s sake. You’re not sure how she’d take such a proposal. No, rather, you KNOW it wouldn’t sit well with her, even if she doesn’t actually complain out loud. Wisely, you hold your tongue, instead simply saying:

“We’ll cross that bridge when we come to it. Together. If that’s what you want.”

You look to Izzy, who nods (a bit curtly) once more, and then you both look to Costella.

“What do you say?”

[3d20 Sociability, DC 12 for Costella (physical Intimacy should read -1 DC for her, woops!), DC 12 for Izzy (she started at 10 but a couple choices increased it)]
2d20 Sense Motive, may or may not become relevant
>>
Tips bros… we won.
>>
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>>5920998
>>5921013
>19 for Sociability
There is a long, pregnant pause between the three of you. Nobody east, nobody speaks, and nobody dares look away. The awkwardness grows, until finally, Costella breaks it, laughing out loud, a wonderful and full-bodied, yet still quite feminine laugh.

“I’m sorry, it’s just… I pictured all of us at the, like, altar… And Tips… Haaa,… Tips looked the best in the dress!”

“H-hey,” you say.

Izzy’s mouth quirks up on the corner slightly at that, and she nods in approval, obviously picturing it herself...

“HEY!” you hiss, actually getting annoyed now…

>20 for Sense Motive

There's something else, too. As the tension leaves Izzy's body, there's something else in her eye: the gleam of some secret victory, which you recognize as alarmingly-similar to that which you caught in passing as she prepared, over a year ago, to subvert the <Rite> and transform all three of you...

You'd be more concerned, except that Costella’s hand grasps your own and squeezes it tight. And… yes, you see her squeezing Izzy’s with her other one, and unsociable Izirina Henzler returning the gesture.

“Whatever happens, we’ll figure it out,” Costella says firmly. “I mean, like, we totally WOULD, right? I’m m-marrying the two biggest brainiacs I know!”

“Brainiac…?” you frown.

“The three of us,” Izzy agrees eagerly, “against the world.”

“The world?” you balk. “I mean…”

You stop short.

“Did you just PROPOSE to us?” you ask dumbly.

“Izzy started it!” Costella protests, pulling her hands back. “B-but… Well, sort of, kind of, like… Maybe?”

You can’t help it: you smile two. At that moment, it does sincerely feel like the three of you could take on anything and anyone—even the whole world.

(But for now, perhaps, a ‘dragonborn antipaladin’ would be a good start…)
>>
>>5921019
“I can’t fuckin’ believe it,” Zith-Zi says, slamming her flagon down and wiping the foam from her upper lip, looking you up and down. “You landed BOTH of those broads? What kind of sword are you SWINGING down there, ya’ twinky little twerp?!”

“Zi!” you hiss. “Keep your voice down! And anyway, I’m taller than YOU.”

“Uh, doi,” Zith-Zi replies, jabbing you in the stomach. “I’m a goblin. A TALL goblin. You’re a fuckin’ half-elf.”

“A tall half-elf,” you protest.

“How many other half-elves ya’ know, Tips?”

You glare at her for a while, eventually dropping the subject. The answer, after all, if probably ‘one or two, in passing, vaguely, and I don’t know their names’.

“Well, I guess congratulations are on order, to your ‘engagement’, and ta’ nightly fuckin’ threesomes for my old roomie that late-but-great bloomer!” Zith-Zi says with a grin and a slap of her sharp-nailed hand on the table. “Next round’s on you!”

“We aren’t… We haven’t decided on…”

You stop mid-sputter, and narrow yoru eyes.

“On ME?”

“Well, yeah,” Zith-Zi says. “I’m not the one getting’ my gob slobbed by two chicks at once, am I? What, you want all that AND free booze? Come the fuck on, kid.”

“I’m older than you, too,” you grumble, but place a gold coin on the table. “Anyway, what about you and Afron?”

“I don’t wanna’ talk about it,” the little green woman mutters, demeanor immediately shifting.

(Ah. Rough patch, huh? Hm.)

“You didn’t call me out here ta’ brag about your sex-life, though, right?” Zith-Zi unsubtly segues. “What’s the deal? Yous aid something about a job?”

“Well, kind of,” you reply. “You see…”

You have the Belt of Binding. You have a whole suit of spells at your disposal. You have Veloz—though, sadly, not Muffins. But you know very little of the security measures of Hawksong’s Royal Palace, save that they are meant to prevent immaterial and invisible demons to have the run of the place—and the same may hold true for True fey, such as your <Improved Aetherial Form> resembles. You also don’t know if the Prince Consort has brought any sort of spies with him, or perhaps a whole monstrous REGIMENT, though they’d have to be in disguise and you’ve not heard tell of any foreign armies or mercenary bands in Hawksong right now.

What is your plan?
>You wish to sneakily scout the palace together, to get an understanding of what the Dragonborn Antipaladin is up to, and the confront him
>You want to get close enough to get the Belt of Binding on him, and then negotiate from a place of power once any mind-affecting spells he might have on him (or the Queen) are broken
>You want to approach the Palace directly, while Zith-Zi lays in wait to provide back-up—to attack or extract—as required
>Write-in
>>
>>5921020
>You wish to sneakily scout the palace together, to get an understanding of what the Dragonborn Antipaladin is up to, and the confront him
Glad to have you back Zi- I missed you
>>
>>5921020
>You want to get close enough to get the Belt of Binding on him, and then negotiate from a place of power once any mind-affecting spells he might have on him (or the Queen) are broken
yes we do want 2 wives AND free booze
A HALF ELF CAN DREAM
>>
>>5920996
alright, I didn't see the suggestion to stop sexing while we sort things out before. I'd suggest something else but things worked so whatever. Got a little surprised when I saw the +1dc for easy for the 1st time.
>>5921020
>a whole monstrous REGIMENT
Captain_America.gif

>You want to get close enough to get the Belt of Binding on him, and then negotiate from a place of power once any mind-affecting spells he might have on him (or the Queen) are broken
>>
>>5921020
>You want to get close enough to get the Belt of Binding on him, and then negotiate from a place of power once any mind-affecting spells he might have on him (or the Queen) are broken

I’d rather not stumble across his regiment
>>
>>5921144

Am>>5920005
>>
>>5921020
>You wish to sneakily scout the palace together, to get an understanding of what the Dragonborn Antipaladin is up to, and the confront him.

We can use aethrial form to walk through walls. And we need to figure out what our foe's plan is.
>>
>>5921020
>>You wish to sneakily scout the palace together, to get an understanding of what the Dragonborn Antipaladin is up to, and the confront him

Tips three-way relationship GETS

Now, we find Theral. We get friends over fucking the god in the arse and having several wives. We even help him with his Princess Ekaterine issues. And we team up : the not-so-good fairy twink and not-so-bad dictator dragon. We'll be unstoppable.

But that's heavily metagaming.
>>
>>5921228
If anything the
> >You want to get close enough to get the Belt of Binding on him, and then negotiate from a place of power once any mind-affecting spells he might have on him (or the Queen) are broken

is more metagamey
because he wont be able to use the voice of metatron then if he has it on
>>
>>5921020
>You want to get close enough to get the Belt of Binding on him, and then negotiate from a place of power once any mind-affecting spells he might have on him (or the Queen) are broken
Wew Tips is based as fuck, and this is a decent apology for throwing us in between 2 elemental dimensions and intermingling our souls
Now lets go metagame our way into being besties with our boy, Tips will cream his khakis over Endymion, and the pure craftsmanship that Ssezty has provided in Therals careful and esoteric construction, might make him sick at first from the dark magic but his morbid curiosity will ultimately win out, plus Tips is a little bit faggy and will think he picked a handsome human face
>>5921239
Hoping somehow (Idk why) he still actually can, we made Theral grossly OP at the end with what resources we had, I really hope we dont end up beefing, as much as I love Tips I have a genuine love for Theral and his rise to power and will back the dragons reign over the astroelf and his bitches he got with his wizardtism
>>
Dragonfags in bodybags, I'm backing the elf ayys.
>>
>>5921020
>You wish to sneakily scout the palace together, to get an understanding of what the Dragonborn Antipaladin is up to, and the confront him
>>
>>5921292
based and alienpilled
>>
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>>5921294
>>5921253
>>5921239
>>5921228
>>5921197
>>5921144
>>5921080
>>5921069
>>5921033
[Alright, another close one. Breaking the tie by the traditional method!]
>>
>>5922082
You and Zith-Zi have met in a tavern—the so-called Tumblin’ Lark—where you first met with your father several years prior. This was done with some difficulty, given the tavern’s ‘no monsters’ policy, which the half-orc bartender seemingly applies even to the goblinoid races, but it was worthwhile. It’s on the edges of the city, for one thing, in an area that FORMERLY was adjacent to the long-defunct Goblintown. That mean it’s far from respectable society—form Queens and their Prince Consorts, for instance. You hope )even pray, maybe) that it’s beneath notice.

Somewhere like THIS place, secluded in a corner of a dingy and down-on-its-luck tavern, you can maybe tell Zi about the ‘job’.

“So it doesn’t pay, is what I’m hearing?” Zith-Zi says sipping her drink and quirking an eyebrow.

“THAT’S your takeaway?” you blurt out, louder than you meant to.

“Well,” she asks levelly, “does it?”

You sip your own drink trying to formulate an answer that will satisfy her.

“Tips,” she says, “you’re asking me—a goblin, in a city that hates goblins, and I’m not even a proper subject or nothin’—to sneak into the QUEEN’S palace, to spy on her fuckin’ HUSBAND, so you can maybe blackmail or assassinate him.”

“ZI!” you gasp, looking around, for this is a daring thing to say aloud even in hushed whispers in the dusty corners of such an establishment as this.

“Well?” she demands. “AREN’T you?”

“I am NOT,” you object. “I… I’m not a killer, Zi. I can be—I know I can kill, if it comes down to it. I’ve… I’ve seen death, and been party to it.”

Zith-Zi’s face registers surprise, buts he doesn’t interrupt—not to praise, or mock, or condemn. If anyone in your social circle understands the brutal necessities of the real world, it’s this woman—an adventurer, gobliness, a former bandit and present ‘adventurer’, clad in her rough leathers and with her scimitar on her side.

“I don’t revel in it, through,” you say. “I don’t know this… ‘, Logn Wang. I don’t know if he NEEDS to die. And I’ve met the Queen, and she’s not… She’s a good person, Zi. I believe it, I really do. I just want intelligence.”

“What, books didn’t give ya’ none?” she quips.

“ACTIONABLE intelligence,” you growl. “Something I can use… To understand what’s happening, to stop it from getting worse!”

Zith-Zi leans back—a posture that emphasizes her chestiness, but also her strong, well-hewn arms, deceptively strong for her minuscules stature. She surveys you with shrewd, keen eyes—the eyes of a killer, of a sellsword, of a GOBLIN.

…And little Hershy, her feathered chimera-drake, regards you also, and burps a small smoke-ring. And both of you look when he does so, and melt a little at his yawn and stretch.
>>
>>5922126
“Fuck’s sake,” Zith-Zi hisses through her sharp little goblinoid teeth. “You know I owe you one. You KNOW I can’t say know. And then you go and do me dirty like this, ya’ fuckin’ knife-eared son-of-a-bitch.”

“It’s not polite to talk like that about a woman you’ve never met,” you say.

“I meant Rudulfo,” Zith-Zi rerorts with a crooked grin and a snigger, referring to your father.

“Oh,” you say, and then “aren’t you TRAINING under him?”

“Shiiiit,” she says glancing sidelong. “He’s a good swordsman. Whaddaya’ want from me? Still the only human I know with a bigger body-count than me. And I DON’T mean kills.”

You flush fluorescently.

“ZI!” you shout.

“What,” she leans forwards, smirking. “Still plyin’ innocent? Seems like father like son, from where I’m sittin’. But yeah, alright—your daddy’s taught me some shit, and not UNDER-under him, for the record.”

(Ugh... YOu did NOT need that mental image.)

“An’ YEAH,” she powers through your grousing, “I’ll use it ta’ make this stupid fuckin’ scheme of yours work. So, what, we’re sneakin’ and scouting and… Just gathering intel? And THEN what?”

“And then we bring it to them,” you say, serious again as your goblin friend similarly enters ‘business-mode’. “Both of them. We make Queen Ekaterine see sense, and together, we force ‘Long Wang’ to do what’s right… To stop this madness, this senseless war, before it truly begins.”

“If it were me,” Zith-Zi counetrs, “I’d just up and leave Hawksong. Let it sort out its own fuckin’ mess.”

“But it’s me,” you reply, “and I won’t. I can’t.”

Th goblin-girl—no, too old now to be called ‘girl’, already and at less than forty, but by her race’s standards past ‘middle-age’—sighs.

“And I love that about you, you stupid little shit,” she says. “I’m in.”

You don’t even have the heart to argue about relative heights or ages again.

“Thanks, Zi,” you say, and mean it.

She tuts, and the two of you stand up and depart.

Zith-Zi’s tolerance is, thankfully quite high. Your own libations were limited. By the time the two of you reach the outskirts of Hawksong’s most ennobled areas, it is dark out. The presents no issue to you, with your low-light vision tied to the magical second-sight of your mother’s race, nor to Zith-Zi—intrinsically unmagical, but with reflective membranes behind her irises which make her eyes flash unnervingly with every flicker of torchlight. In this quarter, skulking like brigands in the black, you find the oldest and highest nobility, and the mountains into which are built the expansive palatial estate of the royal family and the temple-castle of the Holy Order of Hawksong—AKA ‘The Paladins’, the backbones of Hawksong’s increasingly-fragile hegemony over the north-and-west of the continent.
>>
>>5922129
“You said they got magical defences?” Zi whispers.

“Yes,” you acknowledge. “But… primarily for demons. And my <Improved Aetherial Form> can walk through walks. In theory… I can enter quite easily?”

“Yeah?” she shoots back harshly. “How about in practice, Tips? With paladin patrols, and royal guards, and all kinds a' known-unknowns and unknown-unknowns?"

"U-uh..."

"You ever actually done anything like this?”

“Well…” you say, suddenly feeling substantially less certain of your classification as an 'adventurer' now than you had when Costella had leveled it like an accusation.

“’Cause I have,” she interrupts. “Me ‘n Zach ‘n the gang have snuck into all kindsa’ crypts and dungeons, and let me tell you from INTIMATELY personal experience: magic-resistant does NOT mean magic-PROOF. You done ANY research at all on this place?”

“I visited once,” you hazard, and then admit: “as a guest, during the day.”

“Great,” the goblin replies sarcastically. “Well, fuck it. You’re smart, and I know my way around traps. And if it all goes tits up, I guess I’ll just cut and run.”

(You’re not sure if she’s kidding… But she came this far. And for free, apart from making you buy her a few shots of hard liquor before leaving the bar. That counts for something, right?)

“What’s our play?” Zith-Zi demands.

>You’ll go in first, in your transformed state, and attempt to navigate a route which bypasses magical defences
>Zith-Zi should go in first, being resistant to magic and experiences with matters of practical stealth and physical countermeasures, and disable whatever she can
>Maybe you could send in an animal companion [Hershy? Veloz? Please specify] to do the initial scouting for you
>Write-in
>>
>>5922131
>You’ll go in first, in your transformed state, and attempt to navigate a route which bypasses magical defences
>>
>>5922131
>Zith-Zi should go in first, being resistant to magic and experiences with matters of practical stealth and physical countermeasures, and disable whatever she can
considering she's more experienced on this thing, she can spot it better
am>>5921080
>>
>>5922131
I forgot what Improved Aetherial Form does again. I recall we could fly and phase through things but what else?
>>
>>5922171
[The Improved Aetherial Form is an upgrade of Free Movement. It makes you: able to pass through non-magical obstacles and barriers; immune to mundane physical weapons; able to grasp and grapple with ghosts, spirits, and demons as well as True Fey; able to render yourself undetectable to those without supernatural senses, and harder-to-detect by even mages that aren't versed in Feycraft. It gives you a limited flight capacity, and 'swim-speed', and makes it so you don't need to breathe as long as you have access to magical energy fields.It DOES offer less 'true flight' than fast low-to-ground hovering, on Earth as opposed to the moon, where gravity is reduced. Wildshape still can offer true flight, though...
>>
>>5922187
>able to render yourself undetectable to those without supernatural senses, and harder-to-detect by even mages that aren't versed in Feycraft.

Hm. Alright. That sounds like a decent gamble.

>>5922131
>You’ll go in first, in your transformed state, and attempt to navigate a route which bypasses magical defences

>>5921144
>>
>>5922131
>Zith goes in first and paves us a route
She’s the expert between us
>>
>>5922131
>>You’ll go in first, in your transformed state, and attempt to navigate a route which bypasses magical defences
>>
>>5922131
>You’ll go in first, in your transformed state, and attempt to navigate a route which bypasses magical defences
How about using our ground swim and going under the walls?
>>
>>5922131
>You’ll go in first, in your transformed state, and attempt to navigate a route which bypasses magical defences
Least we can do is take a hit for ya, Zi
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>>5922145
>>5922169
>>5922202
>>5922238
>>5922274
>>5922292
>>5922446
[Locked and writing!]
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>>5922543
“I’ll go first,” you answer. “Inexperienced or not, this is my ‘job’, so it’s the least I can do.”

“What, take a hit for me?” Zith-Zi asks. “Come off it.”

“I’m more mobile than I used to be,” you complain.

“Just as fragile, though,” she shoots back.

“You’d be surprised,” you say darkly, remembering the pain of a lance in your shoulder, the sounds of a wailing, then shrieking, Unseelie Champion as a certain dire werewolf ate her alive.

Zi raises an eyebrow, looking you up and down.

“Alright, I think I get it.”

“What?” you ask, confused out of your morose memories.

“What Henzler and Fanucci see in ya’.”

You blush a little as she slaps you on the rear through your robe.

“Get in there!” she says cheerfully. “Scream twice if you need help! Girliest ones you can, so I know it’s you.”

“You suck,” you mutter.

“You WISH,” she replies with a grin that, with its predatory sharpness, makes the flitting mental image less arousing than alarming.

You leave such fleeting thoughts (and resulting shivers) behind, and cast <Improved Aetherial Form>.

>3/4 MP
>3/3 HP
>>
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Rolled 4, 6 = 10 (2d20)

>>5922559
Here on Earth, and in an area you have not been long enough to meditate and align your energies with, you are notably less energized than on Holy Luna. Your magical regeneration rate is not as great as it could be, and while this form allows <Free Movement> to an extent, it isn’t the same swift, soaring low-gravity travel possible on the moon. You can ‘fly’, but it’s really more like leaping and falling with style. The <Wildshape> could afford you true flight, of course but a hummingbird-elf-man—or even just a large hummingbird, if you were to push the spells shapesifting to its limits—is rather more conspicuous than what are now: a spectral apparition, half-visible in half-light cast by torches and oil lamps around the grounds and castle.

Hawksong’s royal palace is famed for its vast, maze-like topiary garden full of statues, fountains and hidden alcoves where one might sit and read or socialize, pr listen to court musicians play beautiful music on special occasions. There are fields and arenas, too, for various ceremonies and sporting events; these have been increasingly opened up to the common folk of the kingdom since Queen Ekaterine took the throne, or WOULD have been, had not the dragon-pox seen such venues shut down for even the nobility during its most dangerous phases. They have reopened since, but at this time of night there are no wandering art-appreciators, no athletes, no children playing: just scurrying servants wearing the attire of royal maids or butlers… And the occasional knightly protector, a paladin or high-ranking guardsman. Of the lot, only the Paladisn of the Holy order stand any chance of seeing you—they are generally not born or trained mages, but rather gifted the ability to protect the people, expose evil, and smite the wicked by the Gods Above—especially their patrons, Moroth and Marese, whoa re principle deities of Man in the Northwest and the Royal Family in particular.

[Stealth check; no relevant skills, but in your Aetehrial Form, we'll add a bonus die for Feycraft, and the DC is only 10 to avoid the Paladins' attentions; nobody else can see you.]
>>
>>5922562
You need only avoid the eyes of the Paladins, since no butler or maid here is equipped with the arcane sight to see a True fey, which you presently resemble in most regards. You hop and flit across the tops of the hedges, dip and duck around statuary, and use cover only occasionally—such as when a young, dark-haired man in the unmistakable shining silver of a Paladin guard comes around a corner. You dive behind a lamp-post just in case, thankful for your slim half-elven propiortions…

>4, 6

…Only for your errant touch upon the lamp to set it aglow with a sudden surge of light. You draw your hand back, realizing that these lanterns must be lit with some sort of magical charm which senses touch or motion and responds. You realize this mistake too late, however, as the Paladin ahs obviously noticed the light as well, and responds with a concerned:

“Hello? Who goes?”

You say nothing, of course, ducking behind the pedestal and bench adjacent to the lantern and flattening yourself on the ground. You calm yourself, steadying your rbetahing. You ahven’t been spotted, nor identified. You’ll just need to wait for him to leave.




…Why isn’t he leaving? The sacred sentinel of Hawksong’s highest knightly order instead ahs the gall to do his due diligence, slowly walking up and down the grounds around you, peering this way and that. He has drawn his sword, and you hear him murmuring holy words of power—magic words, words to reveal the hidden and protect the paladin against evil. Well, you’re not EVIL, but you REALLY don’t know how he’ll react if you are revealed. After all, what adequate explanation could you offer for your presence?

The palace itself is within your sight

What do you do?
>Attempt to knock out the Paladin with a summoned <Earth Elemental>
>Send Veloz out as a distraction, and hope this assuages his concerns
>Make a ‘run’ for the palace and hope you aren’t spotted or otherwise detected before you slip inside
>Come out and attempt to negotiate
>Scream twice for Zith-Zi
>Write-in
>>
>>5922567
Could we sink into the ground and sneak in that way? He can’t see though solid rock right?
>>
>>5922632
[Sinking into the ground isn't an ability you have, really. Through a floor to a lower floor, sure, but not into solid rock or earth. You also wouldn't really be able to see or navigate down there if you could. THAT sort of art would have followed if you'd spent more time tutoring in the Wastes with the Neme/Ashurati.]
>>
>>5922637
Could we go back to the waste to learn it? Because that would compliment our mobility spellset.

>>5922567
>Send Veloz out as a distraction, and hope this assuages his concerns
Cute innocent animal should do the trick. Now, if only we could talk to animals…
>>
>>5922567
>Throw something at another lamp and run away while the paladin is distracted
>>
>>5922662
>+1
good thinking, snake
>>
>>5922567
>Make a ‘run’ for the palace and hope you aren’t spotted or otherwise detected before you slip inside

Can we sink down just enough that only our eyes are above ground level and move that way? Much less of us visible and we can still see.
>>
>>5922662
>>5922672
Supporting Snake.
Faerie Fire can be the best spell to fuck up with the lamps and turn Paladin detection spell against him as some flashbang?
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>>5922682
>Can we sink down just enough that only our eyes are above ground level and move that way? Much less of us visible and we can still see
[You can't sink down into the earth, only through thinner things like floors, and generally not into ''living objects' for any length of time without risk. the natural terrain of Earth counts as 'alive'; make of that tidbit what you will]

>>5922652
>Could we go back to the waste to learn it?
[Sure! Someday! And if you can find and reunite with them again, and convince them to do so. You haven't seen them in many years.]
>>
>>5922567
>Write-in:Summon an air elemental and have it lead the paladin on a wild goose chase in the opposite direction.
>>
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>>5922762
>>5922719
>>5922682
>>5922672
>>5922662
>>5922652
[Alright, writing!]
>>
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Rolled 15, 12, 16 = 43 (3d20)

>>5922788
The paladin’s footfalls, heavy from his metal boots and loud in your ear with the weight of your own fear, draw closer and closer. You need to act fast—to do SOEMTHING. Little Veloz hovers nearby, all-but-invisible in the darkness, and you consider perhaps dictating that eh serve as a distraction… But, peculiar as he is in this biome (or on this WORLD), he would perhaps draw more specific and curious attention than you’d like. If a moon-hummingbird flits past a person, they’re bound to know SOMETHING is amiss. What you need is a more mundane distraction…

And what is more mundane than a rock?

Granted, with the royal yards being swept, trimmed, and tidied, there’s not exactly any sizeable stone in easy reach. Luckily, however, you are an adept Elementalist, even if such is not your primary specialty. It costs you a bit more of your aura…

>MP: 2/4

…But you are able to <summon> a clod of Elemental Earth—the magical, extraplanar equivalent of the more mundane matter beneath your prone form. The somatic components are tricky to manage without exposing yourself, and the magic incantations must be whispered, but summoning a simple clod is much easier than materializing a whole, functional earth elemental. You think you can just about manage it… No, you KNOW you can. The question is whether you can do so quickly, quietly, and hurl the resultant material with enough accuracy to draw attention to a different lamppost several yards away before the Paladin becomes problematic…
>>
>>5922755
>the natural terrain of Earth counts as 'alive'; make of that tidbit what you will
oh god
the hippies are right

good thing we are the hippies
>>
>>5922793
>>5922795
As the holy knight draws nearer, nearer, you very nearly sweat. You whisper the words, half-remembered and not spoke in years, to summon a simple cloud of the mystic dirt. Eyes squeezed shut, whispering a prayer to any nearby spirits of luck, you lob it without really looking…

>16

You hear the thump, and through your eyelids see the flash of another lamp turning on. The paladin wheels about to face the direction of the new disturbance, and you take this cue to take your leave. Leaping to your feet, you transfer the force of your rise into liftoff—a single, great, springing leap towards the palace, silent as an owl through the hair. Veloz, excited to see you airborne, buzzes along quietly beside you as you alight upon a nearby balcony. The windows are shut and latched—you learn this much from a cursory rattle—but you don’t need to enter just yet, and you can perhaps pass through without actually unlocking it anyway. For now, it is enough that you are now hidden, unless the warrior below knows to look up at your exact location. Of course, he has no reason to, to his knowledge; rather, he investigates the area around both lamps, and then leaves. You breathe a sigh of relief… Though you suspect he may be going to alert others to a possible intruder, if he has any sense.

You’ll have to move quickly, and decisively, if you’re going to get the most out of this scouting mission. You decide to…

>Try phasing through window, which seems to lead into some sort of unlit guest quarters; perhaps you can learn more about the Prince Consort’s attendants or entourage?
>Hop back down and slip in through one of the main doorways, then trace the familiar and well-lit path to where you once met with the Queen
>Follow the paladins from afar, shadowing them and listening in to learn their plans and patrol routes
>Case the exterior with your mage-sight, looking for the easiest entry-point for a material being like Zith-Zi, then go fetch her
>Write-in
>>
>>5922797
>Case the exterior with your mage-sight, looking for the easiest entry-point for a material being like Zith-Zi, then go fetch her
>>
>>5922797
>Case the exterior with your mage-sight, looking for the easiest entry-point for a material being like Zith-Zi, then go fetch her

we have used up allot of mana, and she is our only back up.
>>
>>5922797
>>Case the exterior with your mage-sight, looking for the easiest entry-point for a material being like Zith-Zi, then go fetch her
>>
>>5922797
>Case the exterior with your mage-sight, looking for the easiest entry-point for a material being like Zith-Zi, then go fetch her
>>
>>5922559
>“You suck,” you mutter.
>“You WISH,”
Fuckin’ mind reader, I swear

>>5922797
>Try phasing through window, which seems to lead into some sort of unlit guest quarters; perhaps you can learn more about the Prince Consort’s attendants or entourage?
Curious
>>
>>5922800
>>5922801
>>5922818
>>5922850
Cognizant of your limited energy reserves, you decline to probe more deeply into the complex. Instead, you silently, stealthily circumnavigate the central citadel at the heart of Hawksong’s palace-grounds. Built into a mountainside, it has considerable vertical span, but much of that you discover to be the mountain ITSELF: that is to say, each section of the palace is largely a single horizontal floor, or perhaps two, with narrower or wider walkways, sometimes with ceiling and sometimes not, connecting them to other semi-separate buildings which sit nestled in various natural protuberance and outcropping of the mountain. It is, in other words, EXTREMELY defensible from a conventional siege, and ALSO very difficult to infiltrate even as a partly-immaterial magical being. Even the Neme-Ashurati of the Goblin Wastes—those earth-wind-and-fire ‘genasi’ you encountered many years ago, would struggle to enter through so many thick floors of solid stone, which have merely been thinly-plated with armour of white marble, to better match the imported and human-worked pillars, columns, and arched rooves.

And that’s BEFORE you get into the magical aspect of things.

Each major complex is warded—protected with <Alarm> and other such spells to alert to arcane (especially monic) entry, and to weaken such intruders—again, especially but not EXCLUSIVELY of a demonic variety. It is a lucky thing indeed that you did not try the window, for slipping through the panes would surely have tripped such a spell if you didn’t first deactivate it, and you’re not ENTIRELY confident in your ability to do so. Such spells are the purview of Abjurationists (far from your own specialty) or divination mages (whose art you have only passing familiarity with, as it forms a major facet of Feycraft). No, in your circuit of the building you find another angel of approach, and it is THIS one that you suggest to Zith-Zi, when you return to her.

“Some of the walkways between upper levels of the complex are mostly undefended by wards or alarms,” you note. “They don’t really NEED to be, because you’d need to fly to reach them.

“Shitty defence against winged demons or ghosts, then,” she notes. “or dragons.”

“Well… I said ‘mostly’ for a reason,” you note. “We could land upon the walkway, but once we’re there, LEAVING the walkway will require disabling or bypassing—or tripping, I guess—a single spell to enter.”

“How’s that different from the window or main door, then?” Zith-Zi asks, face crunched up in confusion.
“No paladins patrolling, if we time it right,” you say. “And they’re pretty far from any commonly-sued living quarters of servants or guests… Or the royal family. Once we’re inside, though, we’ll have access to MOST of the complex.”
>>
>>5922911
sorry, just finished writing! Also, what a dirty mind. Zith-Zi's parents would approve.
>>5922931
“Most?”

“Well,” you admit, “I don’t know FOR SURE, but I’d imagine there is a second wave of defences around the Queen’s own quarters, if nothing else.”

“Makes sense,” Zi agrees, crossing her arms and nodding her head. “So, how do we get ta’ this walkway?”

>You’ll spend 1 more point of MP to assume <Wildshape> and fly Zith-Zi there in your arms; fast, safe, but costly
>You’ll retain your MP, instead letting Zith-Zi use her adventuring gear to rappel across a gap while you play lookout; slow, methodical, but energetically inexpensive
>Write-in

Will you eat either of your remaining <Goodberries> to recover MP?
>Yes, one
>Yes, two
>No
>>
>>5922934
>You’ll spend 1 more point of MP to assume <Wildshape> and fly Zith-Zi there in your arms; fast, safe, but costly
https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=1SiylvmFI_8
>No
>>
>>5922934
>You’ll spend 1 more point of MP to assume <Wildshape> and fly Zith-Zi there in your arms; fast, safe, but costly

>Yes, one
>>
>>5922934
>You’ll spend 1 more point of MP to assume <Wildshape> and fly Zith-Zi there in your arms; fast, safe, but costly
>yes, one
while I'd prefer using the rappel, we can't afford to lose time here
>>
>>5922943
+1

I’d rather not use the berries if we could help it

>>5922202
>>
>>5922934
>You’ll retain your MP, instead letting Zith-Zi use her adventuring gear to rappel across a gap while you play lookout; slow, methodical, but energetically inexpensive

>Yes, one
MP maxxin
dang we shoulda gone with the official audience
sneaking in like this is gonna tucker us right out
>>
>>5922943
>>5922999
>>5923003
>>5923058
>>5923093
You pop a single Goodberry into our mouth, preparing for what you must now do. You chew until the globules have burst into a delicious, satisfying astral wine that fills your stomach and restores your energy and mental acuity.

“How much do you weigh, would you say?”

“Rude,” Zith-Zi snorts, and then: “Forty pounds. Why?”

Despite the lingering sweetness of the berry, you grimace. You are NOT the most athletic, and while forty pounds is manageable, hefting it for any length of time… Well you’ll have to make it work. You can’t afford to waste time.

You hold out your arms. Zith-Zi looks back at you in disbelief.

“Trust me,” you say. “Hope on.”

The goblin rolls her eyes, hand on hip, and nods. You glance between Veloz, humming about your head, and then over at Zith-Zi’s own shoulder-pauldron—and the chimera-drake, Hershy or Hirschel, alighting upon it in gentle repose.

“<Wildshape>,” you cast, but it isn’t into a hummingbird form. It’s into something mightier, at least when scaled up to your size: something with aspects of The Great Green Dragon.

>2/4 MP still
>1 Goodberry left

By integrating the already familiar aspects of Hershy’s own chimeric anantomy, you sprout powerful, membranous wings coated with a thin layer of those golden feathers, and clawed arms and legs to match. Almost as much a DRAGONshape as a ‘wild’ one… Though then again, just as much amphibious or avian. You don’t exactly feel physically ready to take on a true dragon-man.

“HOLY SHIT!” Zith-Zi shrieks as you take off with her in your arms, grunting with the exertion despite your choice of form.

“Quiet,” you grunt. “You’ll get us caught!”

Zith-Zi clutches close to you, pressing several quite squishy parts of her otherwise well-muscled form against you in a vaguely-distracting manner which you pointedly ignore. Both Hershy and Veloz follow after you, flying on their own and almost in formation. Through the darkness, you descend upon a set of stairs carved into the mountain-rock, between two domed-and-shared chambers—one higher, one lower.

“Lower one will lead towards the guest quarters and main hall,” you explain to Zith-Zi, once you’ve landed, and set her down, and caught your breath.

“So, what’s up top?” she asks, checking that door as she did the lower.

“The Queen’s chambers, I’d assume,” you say. “And the rest of the Royal Family’s, as well as those of their personal servants. That’s what I gathered scouting around. I had to guess from the exterior and from what I didn’t remember seeing down below.”
>>
>>5923119
“The rest a’ the royals, huh?” Zith-Zi muses aloud, narrowing her eyes. “Yous aid the Prince Consort’s a lizardman, right? How the fuck is there and heir to the throne, then, huh? And how has nobody noticed the scales? Seems like the kinda’ thing humies would fume about their ruler-to-be havin’, amirite?”

“Maybe they hide them with magic,” you guess. “I… Don’t really know.”

“Guess it’s one more thing to ask,” Zi quips. “So, upstairs or downstairs? What’s it gonna’ be, Tips?”

“We want to get the drop on the Prince Consort,” you say. “We want information we can use to understand him and to appease him, or to control him and make him stop this warmongering.”

“So we want his chamber, right?” Zith-Zi infers. “Whaddaya’ figure? He staying with his guys, or is King Lizard-dick all up in Queenie?”

You frown a little at the rather undignified reference to a woman who is SORT of your sovereign, kind of, and also has seemed genuine nice. But it’s a good questions: if indeed the Prince Consort’s chambers and any secrets therein are your objective, or the Prince Consort himself, he could be above or below. Zith-Zi seems confident she can disable the enchantments and material measures meant to lock the doors against intrusion, at least. The goblin-woman has already began empty a pack laden with magical and mechanical doodads—no WONDER she felt so heavy!—to do just that. Time being of the essence though, and the risk of capture being very real, you must choose a route, and there’s not much chance you’ll be able to double back without taking undue risk.

>Go upstairs, to the sleeping-chamber of the Royal Family
>Go downstairs, to where the Prince Consort’s retinue may be lodging
>>
>>5923120
>>Go upstairs, to the sleeping-chamber of the Royal Family

I know it's a bad choice in term of meta-game, but this is what Tips would choose;

Plus maybe we can warp reality enough to get another Theral Sweep. Long Wang living to his name.
>>
>>5923120
>Go upstairs, to the sleeping-chamber of the Royal Family
we did want to catch them both together, lol
>>
>>5923120
>Go upstairs, to the sleeping-chamber of the Royal Family

We are - not - getting jumped by theral’s entire squad
>>
>>5923120
>Go upstairs, to the sleeping-chamber of the Royal Family
>>5923146
>I know it's a bad choice in term of meta-game, but this is what Tips would choose;
was the anti-paladin not fond of sex ?
>>
>>5923193
Im pretty sure him and ekaterine at the end of dragonborn antipaladin are not as fond of each other as before. Chances are we’ll stumble into an argument. But that’s probably preferable to confronting his entire retinue.
>>
>>5923120
>“Whaddaya’ figure? He staying with his guys, or is King Lizard-dick all up in Queenie?”
Such a dirty mind Zi… let’s indulge in it ;)
>Go upstairs, to the sleeping-chamber of the Royal Family
>>
>>5923193
>>5923194
I believe the proper term is hate fucking (or at least a heated argument turned into a night of passionate romance) ;)
>>
>>5923193
As >>5923194 said, shenanigan makes Theral sleep on the couch for now - we can only hope by picking this option he's back into the queen's favor.
>>
>>5923230
>>5923193
>>5923171
>>5923163
>>5923146
You point up the stairway, and Zith-Zi snaps a half-mocking salute; you say ‘half’ because, for all her flippancy and sarcasm, the goblin really does hurry up the stairs with surprisingly alacrity and set straight to work. You watch as she does so for a time, watching as she traces something like a summer-market shishkebab, but bearing a strange array of rough-hewn gems and metallic discs, up and down the edges of the door.

“Trapfinder,” she explains shortly. “Each f these are materials that respond ta’ different kinds a’ spells, based on how strong or—”

One of the gems—a blue-green one—begins rapidly wobbling and spinning on the central metal skewer, while one of he metal discs seems to rapidly heat and produce a squealing sound before Zith-Zi pulls it away.

“Aight, okay,” she mutters. “Uhhh…”

She rummages through her bag for the means to deactivate the ward, while you remember to gaze out into the dark, playing look-out. Between your low-light vision and mage-sight, ‘darkness’ of this sort is no obstacle to your vigil. You see no one coming—no paladin astride a winged gryphon, no ‘dragonborn’ swooping down out of the night to end your infiltration. You breathe a sigh of relief, and look back, only to see Zi already packing up her bag, and the door open a crack.

“Well?” she demands. “Gonna’ just stand there posing an’ gazin’ elfily into the middle distance all day, bird-boy?”

“I’m not ‘posing’,” you mutter. “This is just… How I stand.”

“Uh huh,” she replies with a smirk, and gestures towards the door. “Age before beauty, ain’t it said?”

You huff a little, but step through the door. Zi isn’t far behind, and your respective animal friends are quick to rejoin you; tuckered out by their flight, Veloz settles upon your hat, and Hershy upon Zith-Zi’s over-armoured shoulder, protected by an oversized pauldron for just this reason. Together, the two of you creep closer and closer through the hallways towards the bedchambers of Hawksong’s Queen and her family… What family remains, after plague and age and disappearance all-but-decimated the royal line these last few years.

“Which one’s which?” you wonder.

“Head ta’ the biggest an’ fanciest door, an’ you’ll find the grand poobah of the place. Dungeoneering tip for ya, Tips.”

“I don’t think that works for man-made households, Zi,” you mutter.

“What, you think the Queen has the SECOND-best bedroom in her own castle?”
>>
>>5923399
You frown, but follow her lead and… Well, the goblin is right. A pair of large and ornate doors of oak, embossed with mother-of-pearl and filigreed with gold, are almost assuredly those of the royal bedchamber… Luckily, with no guards specifically standing sentinel outside it. Before you can step through this portal, though, Zith stops you with a little green hand on your abdomen, and produces her ‘trapfinder’ again.

“ALWAYS check an unopened door for traps,” Zith-Zi admonishes you. “Adventuring one-oh-one, kid.”

You roll your eyes, but nod, finding your temper short. It’s the nervousness, the uncertainty of what you’ll find or when a guard, patrolling by, might catch you in the midst of what may VERY MUCH look like an assassination attempt by two demihuman foreigners. No such witness appears, though, and Zi is quite efficient. As she tucks the tools away again, you gently, quietly open the door and peer inside—it has no locks, no secondary safeguards save the magical.

Inside, you see a large and well-furnished room, but not an OPULENT one necessarily. The furnishings are all well-constructed and of good—sometimes exotic-looking—woods. The dressers are large, the bedspread at the centre and back of the room is a large one with four large and delicately-carved wooden posts bearing swirling patterns and depictions of eagles and hawks among flocks of other, smaller birds; these posts in turn support a gauzy curtain of fine fabric, shrouding the bed’s occupants. There are no great trophies or ornate artworks here, though, or any other purely ornamental embellishments, save for a single landscape-painting of a sunset over Hawksong’s great bay… And what appears to be a crude, childish fingerpainting of some sort of blobby humanoid which could be a reptilian abomination OR could just be a toddler’s attempt to depict the queen herself.

You and Zith, who is gently shutting the door behind you, both exchange a look. The room is dark, implying that the person or people (or things disguised as people) within are asleep… Or that they are elsewhere. With the curtains closed against moon and stars, and no more torchlight from the hall outside, you have nothing to see by. You light a <Faerie Fire>—a blue-purple light which illuminates the space for those with magical vision—and see Zith-Zi’s shining eyes catch the light unnervingly, as do those of her pet: four pinpricks of luminescence in the blackness.

What will you do?
>Approach the bed and pull aside the privacy curtain to see who lays there
>Check the writing desk and dressers for clues as to what the Prince Consort (or maybe the Queen herself) have been up to
>Check another room on this floor
>Write-in
>>
>>5923401
>>Check the writing desk and dressers for clues as to what the Prince Consort (or maybe the Queen herself) have been up to
snooping
>>
>>5923401
>check that no one is laying in eait in the room to surprise us once we start digging through the desk
Because the scene seems to be set up just for this.
>>
>>5923401
>Approach the bed and pull aside the privacy curtain to see who lays there
Rather than the virgin skulk we shall do the chad confrontation
>>
>>5923481
>+1
>>
Rolled 2 (1d2)

>>5923445
>>5923481
>>5923494
>>5923546
The writing desk and dressers hold the most promise, you reckon—at least, if you’re not yet ready for a direct confrontation, which you aren’t. You still don’t have all the facts! How much does the Queen know of her husband, and how much does she tacitly or consciously condone and support? You WANT to think that these plots to attack the elves are beyond the pale of Hawksong’s monarch, heir to the throne of the paladin kings, but… Well, she DID marry a lizardman and bear his child. Who can say what is or isn’t possible for such a person?

As you and Zith-Zi softly creep through the room and begin to investigate the area for hints as to Queen Ekaterine’s involvement (or, one hopes, lack thereof), an idea occurs, though. With dawning dread, you consider: what if this is a set-up, an ambush? The scene seems set for it. Perhaps it’s just nerves—you’re not exactly used to sneaking about like a burglar, after all, let alone in so auspicious a home. But then… What if it’s not? You stop wheat you’re doing, and slowly pivot towards the bed, towards the curtain.

“What are you doing?” Zi hisses, but you shush her with a quick gesture.

You reach out, drawing the curtain aside. You hold your breath as you do so, your other hand hovering near your wand, to draw and cast if need be. Your mystical senses open up and expand, as you cast the <Faerie Fire> forward. There is potent magic on the other side, you sense---and not fairy magic, for the subtle reflection of its ‘sheen’ differs from that which you are by now intimately familiar. But what, then? The aura of a ‘dragonborn’, hewn by Dark Gods to serve as some sort of counter to the paladins? Does he slumber there… or wait, fanged bared, ready to leap and shred like some lurking predatory beast?
>>
File: fearsome presence.png (117 KB, 220x344)
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Rolled 5, 16, 13 = 34 (3d20)

>>5923606
“<STOP RIGHT THERE!>”

The voice where bellows forth is not that of any man, or beast, but of a woman—of a Queen. However, you don’t just hear the command, but FEEL it. The emerald eyes which meet your own reflect the shadow-light of the <Faerie Fire>, yes, but they also blaze with a force all their own. Queen Ekaterine rises up from her bed, but not as one might imagine such a dainty and demure young woman as you met two years ago would do so. You could imagine such a girl as that perched upon the bed, clutching her sleepclothes tight, like a frightened housewife perched upon a chair to avoid a mouse or rat. That isn’t what you see here, though. Rather, you see a woman drawn up to a greater height than you have ever seen before—on Earth, at least. Her white gown is like a robe of office, her simple bonnet a crown of state, he bed a pedestal or podium from which to pronounce judgement. Despite being roughly your own height, she seems suddenly a colossus, and her eyes upon you a condemnation. You feel the urge to repent, to apologize, to submit. You feel it deeply, instinctively, almost as you had when Pricness Yllarquin of the Three-Quarter Moon had tried to stop your escape from Holy Luna.

“Nnn,” you grunt, straining to reject the influence.

You might have expected something like this compulsion from the Prince Consort, the so-called 'Dragon King'... But from the Queen?!

[Rolling Courage to see if you can resist the Queen's aura effect without spending any MP to use <Free Senses>]
>>
>>5923626

>16

The force of will emanating from Hawksong’s (Dark?) Queen IS great… But you have felt, have resisted, greater still. She is a mortal woman, and you have defied GODS. It takes you only a moment to wrench your gaze away from hers, but a moment is enough. Gasping for breath, you stumble back, free from… whatever on the gods’ own Earth THAT was.

Once you’ve regained your bearings, you take quick stock of the situation. Your first instinct is panic—you have been spotted, seen invading the queen’s chamber like a sneakthief or assassin! However, as you watch her with clearer sight, by the dim light of your fairy flame, you see her casting about directionlessly, groping for the bedposts, and realize: whatever her power, she does NOT have the mage-sight, and the glow of your mystical torch offers no light for her non-elven eyes. She has not seen your face, then—not clearly.

“Who’s there?!” she demands. “I’ll… I’ll have your heads! Show yourselves!”

You cringe at the commotion, but no guards explode into the room—nor shall they, you reassure yourself, since you surveyed the area immediately outside the door before entering. You also note the absence of the Prince Consort—he is elsewhere, then, rather than sharing his human (?) spouse’s bed. You contemplate what this might mean, and what your next move might be, but you know you don’t have long.

“Come on!”

Your eyes snap to Zith-Zi, who is clutching a handful of papers—letters? Personal notations?

“Let’s go!” she snaps.

Perhaps these contain the insights you need… Or perhaps not. There can be no doubt that Zith-Zi is a skilled adventurer of the roguish sort, but you are less confident in her literacy or ability to prioritize and sort through writings with any speed, urgently and by darkvision. Still, every second you remain here runs the risk fo capture or worse., if you cannot calm the situation or turn it to your advantage. Perhaps it WOULD be best toe scape with what you can grab—leap out the window and assume <Wildshape> once more, to flee to somewhere safer and assess what you can learn from this abortive escapade?

…Or perhaps this is just the opportunity you’ve been waiting for, to resolve the situation more lastingly?

>Grab some affects and flee, to review the documents later
>Attempt to calm the Queen, and to speak with her, though it be a rather unconventional audience
>Slap the Belt of Binding onto Queen Ekaterine, and demand some answers
>Kidnap the Queen—knock her out and take her with you
>Assassinate Queen Ekaterine, if she truly be in league with a monster and capable of wielding terrifying power
>Write-in
>>
>>5923642
See, it was a trap.
>Attempt to calm the Queen, and to speak with her, though it be a rather unconventional audience
I'm afraid if we escape now she'll raise the alarm.
>>
>>5923642
>Attempt to calm the Queen, and to speak with her, though it be a rather unconventional audience

>>5923653
Was it a trap? I think we just woke her up, or perhaps she couldn't sleep in the first place
>>
>>5923642
>Attempt to calm the Queen, and to speak with her, though it be a rather unconventional audience
royal lock-in resisted succesfully.
>>5923653
considering she can't see us and there were no guards near to help her, I dunno it was, seems more likely that she was awoken and got lucky looking into us when we came near. btw OP does her command need to look into our eyes to work or that was just a coincidence ?
>>
>>5923683
>does her command need to look into our eyes to work or that was just a coincidence ?
[Narrative license. The more directly she can be perceived and perceive you, the more powerful the <Fearsome Presence> (the name for this ability, btw, for those who didn't play Dragonborn Antipaladin), but technically as long as you are aware of her presence in SOME form she can attempt to use it. Direct, close-up eye contact is definitely a situation in which you'd feel it very intensely, though.]
>>
>>5923642
>Attempt to calm the Queen, and to speak with her, though it be a rather unconventional audience
>>
File: ai tips.jpg (179 KB, 1024x1024)
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>>5923692
>>5923683
>>5923673
>>5923653
A dozen possibilities race through your brain—including, again that this is all some sort of clever trap by the Prince Consort (or the Queen herself) to ensnare you. However, the longer you see Queen Ekaterine of Hawksong stumbling around in the dark, very nearly tumbling off of her bed with a yelp of dismay, the less plausible that seems. Maybe it was just that brief instance where her… Whatever-it-was was affecting you that made her seem so threatening If this was a planned ambush, why does she seem so groggy and disoriented, even AFRAID? Where are her guards? Where, for that matter, is the Prince Consort?

No. You are no assassin, no thief. You came here to talk—with both she and her husband, ideally—but that REMAINS your intention. You shake your head at Zith_Zi, who cringes and whose eyes flit towards the exit… But who then sighs, relenting and throwing the pages of paperwork over her shoulder with a dramatic slump.

“Not like I’d get far without ya’ anyway, huh?” she sighs.

When next the Queen steps and starts to stumble, you catch her. She flinches away from you, slapping and flailing , and actually gets a few good licks in… But this woman, whoever and whatever else she may be, is not a warrior, nor especially physically imposing even to a slim and studious half-elf like yourself.

“Get off of me!” she shrieks, pulling back from you and falling backwards upon the bed. “Guards! GUARDS!”

“Please, Queen Ekaterine, calm down,” you whisper, taking a step back and raising your hands—pointlessly, you realize, since she can’t see the gesture. “It’s me… Ah, Archmage Henzler’s apprentice. We met once before. Do you remember?”

You see her eyebrows knit together in concentration and confusion.

“Van Houtzmann, wasn’t it?” she whsipers. “Ezreal van Houtzmann?”

You nod, and then sigh when you remember that this, too, is pointless.

“Yes,” you say aloud. “It’s me.”

A long period of tense silence follows.

“What are you doing in my bedchamber?” Hawksong’s Queen eventually hisses, “and why should I not have you arrested and jailed right this instant?”

There’s some ferocity in her tone, and some steel in her spine as she sits up… But she still strikes you as quite helpless. You know you are a skilled mage with many esoteric techniques at your disposal, but it DOES alarm you a little to see how easily you were able to slip through her defences, if she really ahs no defenders nearby enough to rescue her by now. You can only speculate that there must be some reason for this… But not what that reason is, necessarily. Regardless, it’s not the subject at hand.

“I’m here for an audience,” you say.
>>
>>5923789
Queen Ekaterine stares in the direction of your voice and, even if she can’t see your own reassuring smile, you can certainly see the disbelief etched across her fair features.

“This is, ah, rather IRREGULAR, isn’t it?” she demands.

“Desperate times call for desperate measures,” you say. “And these times… They are desperate.”

“Is this about the… About the Prince Consort?”

You are surprised at how quickly she alights upon the reason for your ‘visit’. Perhaps it’s not so surprising: you’re an elf, and the Prince Consort has been very publicly vocal about his conflict with the elven lands and their council in Iternagreyn.

“It is,” you confirm.

You exchange a quick look with Zith-Zi, who shrugs and looks back anxiously towards the door, as if a platoon of paladins or lizardmen might come barreling in swords-drawn at any moment.

You look back towards the Queen, who is waiting (im)patiently for you to continue.

“Queen Ekaterine…” you begin
>Confront her with the truth of her husband’s inhuman nature and dark masters
>Speak on behalf of the Sylvan Realms, and assure her they mean no harm to Hawksong
>Ask after the ‘living weapon’, and ascertain what she knows about her husband’s intentions
>Ask where the Prince Consort is right now
>Write-in

[Remember, you don’t have unlimited time, so please don’t try to choose EVERYTHING. Patrols may yet arrive… Or, quite possibly, the Dragonborn Antipaladin himself I will address any option/subject which gets more than 50% of the vote, or the one with the largest plurality, but every subject after the first incurs a compounding 20% chance of being overheard and interrupted]
>>
>>5923791
>Speak on behalf of the Sylvan Realms, and assure her they mean no harm to Hawksong
>Ask after the ‘living weapon’, and ascertain what she knows about her husband’s intentions

These are the two most important and pressing topics.
>>
>>5923797
>+1
Yup, gotta know if she's with her husband on the war and what he wants to take from our kin.
>>
>>5923791
>Speak on behalf of the Sylvan Realms, and assure her they mean no harm to Hawksong
>Ask after the ‘living weapon’, and ascertain what she knows about her husband’s intentions
I want the first 3 but that discovery chance :(
>>
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>>5923809
+1

We don’t have the time. We just need to exonerate ourselves enough.

>>5923058

>mfw double update while sleeping
>>
>>5923789
> “A long period of tense silence follows.”

I do find it odd that ezreal wouldn’t explain himself right away and instead wait. Just say something like “I am ezreal van houtzman, I seek audience with you. I apologize for the measures but time is of essence.” Instead of this back-and-forth one answer at a time. Just speak! We don’t have time to begin with.
>>
>>5923851
I probably conveyed it poorly, but he was still a little shaken by almost being controlled with essentially a Dominate spell. In addition (as a feudal subject dealing with a monarch) it is sort of polite to wait for her to ask a question before speaking, and he was trying to be deferential... But Ekaterine was ALSO still shaken up by essentially being home-invaded.
>>
>>5923856

That makes a little more sense. I see. I do feel like trying to defer to her is a mistake considering she has no idea what our agenda is at the moment.
>>
>>5923791
>>Speak on behalf of the Sylvan Realms, and assure her they mean no harm to Hawksong
>>Ask after the ‘living weapon’, and ascertain what she knows about her husband’s intentions
>>
Rolled 16, 11, 9, 8, 12 = 56 (5d20)

>>5923797
>>5923801
>>5923809
>>5923841
>>5923905

“Time is short, so I’ll be brief,” you say to the Queen. “I know that your husband has been spreading rumour—to lots of people, maybe even to you, that the Sylvan Realms mean to harm the people of Hawksong and the surrounding lands.”

The Queen says nothing, but frowns and looks as if she is holding her tongue.

“it’s nonsense,” you say hotly. “I was just there, quite recently, and while they have… Concerns… There concerns rooted in the Prince Consort’s own… Well, in the Prince Consort.”

“I don’t know what you mean to say,” the Queen says, a little too quickly, so that you’re sure she must.

You bite your tongue, though. You don’t’ have time to press her on the true nature of ‘Prince Long Wang’ or what that implies for her, or for the next heir to the throne. That’s a big deal, no doubt, but in spite of your human heritage and long-time residence in the ‘shining city on the hill’, you aren’t here as a subject of Hawksong. Rather, you’re here on behalf of the elven peoples who can’t speak up in their own defence, and whoa re endangered by this dark crusade.

“My husband is, well, a cautious and decisive man, eager to eliminate threats,” the Queen tells you. “But what he is NOT is a warmonger. I have seen with my own eyes his capacity for violence, but he wields it in defence of himself, and his people… Including the people of Hawksong.”

You repress a scoff at this. You have heard enough to know that politics among the ‘Reptilian Master Race’ (as Archmage Henzler once told you they call themselves) is complicated and that they are not wholly unified, but it was HIS people who engineered and deployed the dragon-pox which YOU made your name curing, thus earning Old Maple Hill its expanded land reserve.

“Is that so?” you counter. “Is that why he seeks a weapon—to steal it from the Sylvan Lands? So that he can better defend Hawksong, and its people?”

“That isn’t--!”

The Queen stops herself short, looking vexed. It is plain to you that there is more she wants to say, but that she is holding back.

[3d20 Sociability, 2d20 Sense Motive, continuation when I have time.]
>>
>>5924354
“I don’t want to expose anyone,” you say truthfully, “much less fight them. I am NOT a warrior or assassin.”

“Can say that again,” Zith-Zi whispers, earning a brief glare before you turn back to Queen Ekaterine.

“I’m here to make, and maintain, peace. The Pax Argentum of the Paladins, and the peace between Man and Elf which has endured since the War of Dragons and Elven—for CENTURIES, your highness—is at risk. I need to know WHY. What is this weapon? Why does the Crown Prince want it?”

Queen Ekaterine doesn’t avert her eyes, instead seemingly searching the dark for your face, as if to assess your intent. Blinded by the blackness as she presently is, she relents, shaking her head.

“Whatever you’ve heard is wrong,” she says, and she certainly SOUNDS as if she believes it. “Prince Long Wang is NOT seeking a weapon.”

“I understand that may be what he has told you, Your Majesty, but--”

“No.”

You stop yourself short, surprised by the vociferousness of her defence, and the certainty in her tone.

“My husband is many things... Some of which I approve of, and some, ah, perhaps less so. We do not always see eye-to-eye on every issue. But I know his heart, Mister Van Houtzmann. I know what is near and dear to him. There are things he would, well, BEND the truth about for what he perceives as the greater good, and those he would not.”

Could Izzy—or this mysterious new teacher of hers—be wrong, then? It’s possible, but to your mind it’s just as possible if not MORESO that the Prince Consort has deceived the Queen. She does not seem amenable to such a suggestion, though, and you soon understand why.

“I can concede that the Sylvan Council might BELIEVE that what they have captured is a weapon,” she says. “I can, uh, even understand why they would not believe any claims to the contrary, because it certainly has the capability to be one.”

You begin to grow a little frustrated with this game of vague and delayed responses. Why does she not simply specify?

“With due respect, Your Highness, time is of the essence,” you say. “If this thing he seeks is not a living weapon, or if that isn’t WHY he seeks it... What IS it? Why is he willing to go to war over it.”

The Queen’s face scrunches up in deep concentration, as if another war is already being waged within her—a battle between the part of her which wants to trust in the man who healed her plague-ridden city and the part of her loyally keeping her strange spouse’s sinister (?) secrets.

>16

“It is his child,” she relents. “They... Have captured his son.”
>>
Rolled 59 (1d100)

>>5924370
Roll for interruption chance
>>
>>5924372
>59, vs. 20% discovery chance

>No interruption

You exchange a startled look with Zith-Zi.

“You don’t mean YOUR--”

“No,” she answer perfunctorily. “His son by his... First wife.”

You think you begin to understand her reticence to admit this truth. It is, to put it mildly, not common knowledge that the Prince Consort HAS another wife, let alone that someone as auspicious as the Queen of Hawksong is not even his FIRST wife. Is THSI why he is at court so infrequently?

“And this secret son,” you begin, “he is considered a ‘living weapon’? Why?”

“You would understand if you had seen him,” Queen Ekaterine says rather grimly, “or if you met his mother.”

This is a lot to take in. You try to imagine what sort of reptiloid terror the so-called Prince Consort might spawned with some great and terrible wife. Is it perhaps one of the dragons which, several years prior, scourged some of the outlying farmlands around Sparrowtown with flame? Something like that could certainly classify as a weapon-of-war, whatever its heritage.

With no knights and monsters barging in on your negotiation, and faced with the revelation of the Prince Consort's true objective, you must now decide what to DO with this information.

>Try to make the Queen see sense—she's married to a monster, who is fomenting a war to save some abominable creature! How can she countenance this?
>Ask the Queen to take you to see the Prince Consort—you can find another way to liberate his captured son
>Leave, to consult with the others—you have the information you need, and you need to consult with your other learned allies
>Write-in
>>
>>5924381
>>Ask the Queen to take you to see the Prince Consort—you can find another way to liberate his captured son

We trust the queen.
Maybe we can associate "Temporary" with that long wang dude for her sake?
>>
>>5924381
>>5924381
>Ask the Queen to take you to see the Prince Consort—you can find another way to liberate his captured son
>Ask if this means she's going to legalize polyamory, since you actually have like this magical entanglement soulbond thing going on with two other women and the parents of one of them are really big on marriages and customs so you'd like the approval of the state for that and if her husband also has a multiple wives thing going on that's a great precedent for you.
>>
>>5924394
I like that write-in and how you don't lose any of your bearing. Support polyamori issue.
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>>5924399
Thanks anon. Figured we may as well make small talk on the way to Extensive Dong
>>
>>5924394
>+1
alright anon, I like your thinking altough the more I hear about bigus dickus the more I think his polygamous relationship wasn't exactly discussed with the queen.
>>
>>5924381
>Ask the Queen to take you to see the Prince Consort—you can find another way to liberate his captured son
>Ask if this means she's going to legalize polyamory

>>5924399
>>5924419
I’d rather not push our luck right now. We can discuss the finer details later - right now we just need her on our side. Personal requests can come later.
>>
>>5924516

Am >>5923841
>>
>>5924516
>>5924419
>>5924399
>>5924394
>>5924383

Your answer is immediate, automatic before you can even rationalize it:

“Then we’ll help.”

“We will?” Zith-Zi asks skeptically.

“We will,” you assert. “Without armies or armadas. Without violence of bloodshed at ALL, if it an be avoided. We’ll liberate the Prince Consort’s son.”

“WHY?” Zi asks, before she can stop herself, though you she winces apologetically at undermining you when you give her a look.

“For the same reason I agreed to negotiate with goblin raiders all those years ago, and why I helped Hershy.”

“Because you’re a big softy?” she sniggers.

“Because it’s the right thing to do.”

“Oh,” she says. “Right, THAT.”

You take the Queen’s hand in yours, slowly so as not to startle her, and begin to guide her towards the door of her chamber. She resists but briefly.

“Please, Your Majesty… I think I need to speak with Prince Long Wang, immediately.”

“Alright,” she says, after a moment’s consideration. “Only… I need to don my robe, first. A Queen of Paladins doesn’t go about in her negligee.”

After a brief yet somehow intolerable delay, the Queen emerges from her chamber. She takes in your mismatched appearance, in particular that of Zi, upon whom she lingers a moment. You suppose it’s not every day you see a leather-clad, green-skinned wasteland ruffian in your castle, when you’re a Queen of Paladins. To her credit, though, she makes no comment, saying only: “Follow me.”

You both fall into formation behind her as she leads you through the stairwell, not pausing to deactivate any enchantments. Curious, you peer at the mystical workings of the doors’ seals and alarms as you go, and witness a fluttering of the underlying arcane wards, seemingly identifying Queen Ekaterine by blood or spirit and permitting her in particular to pass. Well, it is HER home, you suppose, but it’s still an impressive (and no doubt EXPENSIVE) magical array, almost as advanced as that which protects the darkest secrets of the Hawksong Mages’ Tower. Did Archmage Henzler have a hand in these, also?

“Must be nice,” Zith-Zi mumbles, raising a eyebrow at the same display of advanced security, albeit without the eye or full technical understanding of just how advanced and complicated the underlying spellcraft IS—a burglar’s appreciation of locksmithing, one could call it.

“It will require substantive upgrades, evidently,” the Queen replies, causing Zi to squeak in surprise at being so overheard.

“Y-yeah, heh, I guess, huh?” the goblin replies with forced cheer, and more quietly: “Shit, no wonder she woke up… Ears like a fuckin’ jumping-mouse on this one.”
>>
>>5924620
Hopeful to interject in case Queen Ekaterine heard THAT particular aside, you attempt to make small-talk on the subject of, well, your unexpected common ground with Hawksong’s monarch.

“So your husband has two wives ?” you say. “And… You have met the other.”

“Three,” she answers after a moment, slowing only for a second as she processes the question. “And yes. I have met both of the others.”

“O-oh,” you say, surprised anew. “And… How is that going?”

At THAT, she stops, turning around and giving you a stern look. You flinch, half expecting another casting of whatever will-sapping spell she almost ensnared you in before, or maybe to brust into flames.

“I mean no offence, Your majesty!” yous ay quickly. “I just…”

“He’s got two girls himself,” Zith-Zi says with a smirk. “What, you want Prince Biggus Dickus to give ya’ pointers?”

The Queen’s stern look only turns more malevolent, but you catch a glimpse of a blush upon her cheeks as well—at the subject, or at your goblin-girl companion’s offhanded mockery, you can’t be sure.

“Have you been u-front with them both?” she asks.

“Uh,” you say.

“Communicating such things early on, and setting clear mutual expectations, is of the utmost importance,” she says. “Discretion may seem the better part of valour, but that is a matter for OTHERS. Between the three of you, there should be a CLEAR flow of honest and dforthright communication, if the relationship is to be equitable.”

“R-right,” you say. “uh, we had brunch. It’s a sort of breakfast-lunch hybrid that…” you trail off.

“You can count on our discretion, Your Majesty,” you say.

“Good,” she says. “And ‘Long Wang’ actually means ‘great Dragon’ in an old Oriental dialect… Though perhaps it is best that this is not widely spoken or understood. Once I translated it, I could not help but find it, ah, less than subtle.”

The Queen begins to walk again and, ignoring the heat in your own cheeks and Zith-Zi’s laughter, you continue on at a redoubled pace to keep up with the Queen. Perhaps, you realize this is not the time to talk about such matters. And yet… Well… When else WILL you have a chance to address this particular matter with the greatest and most prestigious ruler in all the North and West?

“As for discretion with others, that is sort of a sticking point, admittedly,” you say. “One of the.. Oh of my partners… Comes from a rather traditional family. A marriage is a must for them, to legitimize the relationship, and she would like one as well. But, well, there is some concern about anyone feeling ‘secondary’, as it were, and with the laws surrounding polygamy being as they are…”
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>>5924621
“Laws enacted for good reason,” Queen Ekaterine asserts, “to protect young women and girls from the exploitation of callous and ravenous men who would treat them like chattel, or cattle. Polygny in particular, while part of many rich cultures, is TARDITIONALLY the province of parochial patriarchy, exacerbating inequalities between the sexes.”

“R-right,” you say.

Only…

“Then how come YOU did it? Huh?”

You shoot a look to Zith-Zi, who simply shrugs helplessly, as if to say ‘What? Am I wrong?’ When you look back at the Queen, though, she has stopped walking again, and her hands are balled up into fists. After a moment, she releases a breath, and looks over her shoulder at both of you, with tired eyes.

“I was young,” she says wistfully. “And he was charming. He still is, as I’m sure you’ll find.”

Her expression hardens a little, very voice a bit more brittle.

“And… he was NOT very communicative on the matter, not at first.”

“Oh,” you say.

“Of course, I understand WHY he was not,” she continues. “There were, ah, one could call them CULTURAL DIFFERENCES, far more pronounced than even if he were REALLY an Eastman. And the circumstances… Well, our relationship has not been uncomplicated, or easy. Even if I WERE his only wife, it would not have been so.”

Queen Ekaterine closes her eyes, collecting herself, and then continues walking.

“Enough of this,” she asserts. “We have more important matters to discuss.”

You keep mum this time, having learned your lesson. Zith-Zi apparently hasn’t though, nudging you in the side with a bony elbow and whispering:

“Sorry Tips, I don’t think Queenie’s gonna’ legalize it.”
>>
>>5924625
It isn’t long after that you and the Queen enter the area of the palace reserves for guests and attendants, as well as servants f lower station. The few guards actively on duty snap to attention and bow to their queen, before looking to you and Zith-Zi with obvious concern and confusion. Since Queen Ekaterine is obviously unbothered by your accompanying her, though, and given that she is walking with such purpose, none of them make any move to intercept you, or even raise their voices to question the situation. One individual joins you, though: a rather thin, slightly hunched man with a round, flat-topped cap, a narrow beard, and a fancy-looking dwarven quill with which to write notes upon his partly-rolled parchment-scroll. He falls into place beside you and your all with a curt, professional nod.

“Master Scripner,” the Queen addresses him, and you’re genuinely unsure if that’s just his title or his familial name, “where is the Prince Consort.”

“Two of his associates arrived to hold council with him earlier,” this Scripner replies immediately. “He chose to hold private council with them in the wing of the palace where we have been lodging and attending to the elven delegates.”

“Elven delegates?” you ask, surprised. “But the Sylvan Realms cut diplomatic ties.”

“Different elves, Magus Van Houtzmann,” the Queen replies.

Ah, yes… The ‘dark elves’ you’ve heard tell of. Recalling your encounters with the Unseelie Fey—‘dark fairies’—you stiffen up a little, and your hand drifts towards your wand.

As you approach the quarters in question, the Queen gestures to her Master Scripner, who bows his head wordless and stops, leaving the three of you to proceed on alone. What conversation will come next, it seems, is not for him to hear, or to record, and he accepts this. Ou round several corners and Queen Ekaterine, with a simple gesture and a gentle push, throws open the doors of a guest bedchamber.

This chamber is nearly as expansive as the Queen’s own own. If it is not QUITE so finely furnished, it is certainly more decorative, and its exotic and ornate décor is accentuated by the unusual figures within: two elves with deep black skin, the colour of moonless night or rich earth, with pale and shining eyes of purple and red respectively, one with stark white hair and the other streaked with a violet hue to match her irises; the former has the ambiguous androgyny of many an elfman or elfmaid, while the latter is UNMISTAKABLY female, having perhaps the most impressive bust you have ever seen—nearly impressive enough to distract from the two shining sabres she produces the instant you enter, with such speed that you only notice them in appear after she has assumed a deathly-graceful battle-stance.

(Maybe not quite chesty enough to distract from the fact that she's maybe the ONLY person you've ever seen dress more garishly than your father, though)
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>>5924629
Only after you have registered both of these black elves do you register the other two occupants of the room… And only a moment after THAT do you recognize them.

“Hey,” you say, “you two… The humans, I mean. You were there earlier today… This morning, when I performed the <Rite> with that berry!”

“They aren’t humans,” the Queen corrects you quickly, and then demands with surprising force in her voice: “Azonia! Thief! Infiltrator Halle! Where is Dragon King Theral?!”

You realize the reason for the venom in the Queen’s voice—and the half-apologetic tilt of the busty dark elf’s head—when you look past all for of them and to the open window… And see it. Perhaps Ekaterine’s human eyes are insufficient to catch a glimpse of the distant figure in the poor evening light, but not yours. You see, silhouetted against the half-full moon and the partly-illuminated clouds, the outline of a great, soaring figure on webbed wings—like a bat the size of a man.

Like a man-sized thing made in the image of a dragon.

“That direction…” Zith-Zi says. “Ah shit, Tips.”

“Old Maple Hill,” you agree.

‘Dragon King Theral’, or Prince Long Wang, or ‘the Dragonborn Antipaladin’… Whatever his agents told him of you, of Izirina Henzler, and of the ostensibly fairy-faithful community, he is headed there by dead of night. This man, or monster, who would wage a war on all the elves of the Sylvan Realms in a personal vendetta for the sake of his imprisoned son, is making a midnight flight towards a fairy court adjacent to the city he has partial claim over.

You can’t imagine his purposes are peaceful.

What will you do?
>Petition the Queen to hail a carriage and ride out with you immediately, to meet him there and talk him down
>Assume <Wildshape>, and attempt to catch up to him in mid-flight—though it means going alone,w ith only Veloz for assistance
>Demand details from the elves and shapeshifting lizards in this room—what did they tell him? What is he going to do?!
>Write-in
>>
>>5924630
>Demand details from the elves and shapeshifting lizards in this room—what did they tell him? What is he going to do?!

Theral isn’t retarded. He knows a food source like the berries is infinitely more useful if kept alive and reproduced, so chances are he will leave it alone. Worst case scenario he takes the whole thing. Either way I doubt that’s something he’s planning to destroy any time soon.

More likely is he’s sent to find us or Izzy or anyone with information in which case going there alone would just leave us at his mercy. We don’t have that much mana right now.

I’d say we hear them out and stay here. Chances are, he’ll return. His spies are here. Ekaterine is here. We will have leverage here - now that Ekaterine is aware of our cause, him killing us right away won’t be an option.

am >>5924517
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>>5924630
>Demand details from the elves and shapeshifting lizards in this room—what did they tell him? What is he going to do?!
so the queen already knows of his true self. shit, going alone isn't an option and while I'd like to try convicing him of doing anything stupid we don't know much that could dissuade him
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>>5924630
>Demand details from the elves and shapeshifting lizards in this room—what did they tell him? What is he going to do?!
If only we had learned the lightning bolt spell
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>>5924685
What was the spell that won over it on that vote again ?
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>>5924685
[Your wand still has Magic Missile. He's a bit far away, but you COULD try to shoot him down...]
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>>5924700
man, I assume the dc is exactly 20 but it'd be so funny if we made it. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nDROiMF3_r0
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>>5924705
[Not that high, but without a crit you might just aggravate him while surrounded by four of his allies and his wife, with only a goblin fighter/rogue and a chihuahua-sized hummingbird for back-up]
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>>5924630
>Assume <Wildshape>, and attempt to catch up to him in mid-flight—though it means going alone,w ith only Veloz for assistance

Let's try to catch up and talk with him. Theral is reasonable - goodberry help solve his existential food scarcity; maybe we can gift him the second one as a plant on his lair as a goodwill?
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>>5924630
If not for the anons' horniness we'd have intercepted the infiltrators
>Send Veloz with a note of warning to Izzy
I assume she's at home in the tower, and she can outrun Theral with DimDoor.
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>>5924817
I’ll be honest, that’s probably would have resulted in us getting killed by the spies. She moved way faster than we could have reacted to.

That might’ve lead us to confront theral alone too and that’s not a good prospect.
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>>5924836
The elf wasn't one of the spies
>>
>>5924841

Really? I’m pretty sure both of those dark elves were

>>5924630
>“Hey,” you say, “you two… The humans, I mean. You were there earlier today… This morning, when I performed the <Rite> with that berry!”
>>
>>5924842
He's saying it was the humans and not the elves right there in your quote
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>>5924630
>>Petition the Queen to hail a carriage and ride out with you immediately, to meet him there and talk him down
+
>Send Veloz with a note of warning to Izzy

>>5924836
The spies were >>5924630
"Thief! Infiltrator Halle!" I don't think the elves were given shapeshifting amulets.

And we probably could have taken them, Halle doesn't seem like a combatant and the thief doesn't have magic weapons. We could have just thrown an ice elemental at them or something.
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>>5924895
>>5924842
>>5924841
>>5924836
>>5925017
[The two individuals who your recognized were indeed the 'humans' in the room -- seemingly, disguised reptilian 'infiltrators', and perhaps one is some sort of profligate thief given how the Queen of Hawksong refers to him. You can only assume 'Azonia' is then one of the elves.]
little Dragonborn Antipaladin cameos, fear not if you don't recognize them as a new reader, their specific identities are unimportant besides being lizardfolk secret agents from the Dragon king's retinue
>>
>>5925017
This is me >>5923797
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>>5924657
>>5924681
>>5924685
>>5924759
>>5924817
>>5925017
[Locked & writing!]
>>
>>5925459
You grimace at the retreating figure—rather, APPROACHING, hurtling towards your friends. In a brief moment of madness, you consider drawing your wand and unleashing Hell upon the dragon-man’s flank, blasting him from the sky… But no. Even if that was a wise decision, even if you were confident in your aim and ability to incapacitate rather than enrage, you can see how even your subtle shift in stance was enough to immediately draw the keen eye of the strange, swarthy elfmaid before you—‘Azonia’, you gather, though it’s a rather un-elven name. She watches you with the instinct of a trained killer, and you have no doubt that she would remove the hand that harmed her master with some expediency.

“Your Majesty,” you ask instead, “should I fear for my friends?”

Queen Ekaterine opens her mouth and you can see on her face the desire to assure you of their safety. She doesn’t, though. That has rather the opposite effect, but you force yourself to remain calm. If you would trust this woman, and work with her malevolent mate, you MUST assume that he is no murderous maniac. He must be, if not a rational actor necessarily, at least not INSENSIBLE.

“What did you tell him?” you ask the assembled dark elves and not-truly-humans—reptilian infiltrators, you suppose, going by the title by which the Queen of Hawksong referred to one of them.

They exchange looks with one another.

“Should we to tell this mongrel?” asks the chesty swordswoman, in curiously-accented, somewhat-broken elvish—an obscure dialect, you suppose.

“Fool!” the one called ‘Thief’ responds—outwardly a plain-looking human of Northern stock, and speaking the local human trade-tongue. “Do not speak—”

He stops short, and switches to some strange, serpent-tongue with hissing syllables and a rough, stuttering intonation. The elf rolls her eyes, before snapping back—in Common as well:

“I can’t speak your snake-speech, stupid Thief! Is literally not POSSIBLE.”

“Speak plainly,” the Queen says dangerously, “or I’ll summon the guards and have you all placed in the dungeon.”

“With all due respect, Your Majesty,” the other, grey-faced elf in the corner says, stepping forwards with a regal gait and speaking with much more fluent Common, “I do not think your guards, mighty though they are, would be a match for all of us.”

“And if you defied me, or harmed me in the resistance, how do you thing King Theral would react, Ambassador Jhaamdath?”

That gives them all pause, with the last one—‘Infiltrator Halle’—simply muttering a very human, if slightly lisping: “Fuck’s sssake.”
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>>5925513
“We simply did as we were instructed, Queen of Humans,” the one called ‘Thief’ volunteers after a moment, when none of the others seem ready or able to explain themselves, with a respectful bow of his head. “The Dragon King requested that we investigate reports of an elven outpost, loyal to the True Fey and Wild Gods, on the outskirts of the city. We heard tales of strange and nefarious rites being performed under your own nose, and that of the King. We found truth to these tales.”

“NEFARIOUS?” you repeat, honestly offended at this hypocritical reptile-in-disguise casting aspersions upon your good work.

“Thief, I would remind you that your King is only PRINCE CONSORT in these lands,” the Queen chastises him, whereas I am a Queen here AND in your home Why was I no informed?”

The Thief and the others exchange a furtive look, before he replies pointedly: “Queen of Humans. Mate of the Dragon King. NOT Queen of the Master Race. Mine is the SERPENT Queen, and the Dragon King is king ever and always, EVERYWHERE. His word is law.”

“That’s not how I recall the coronation speech delineating our authority,” Queen Ekaterine snaps back, but then sighs, rubbing her temples and lowering her head. “So he instructed you to keep this from me. Theral…”

“What on the Gods’ Green Earth made you two find a magical berry-bush NEFARIOUS?” you interject, unable to help yourself. “It’s a means to alleviate HUNGER! To improve people’s LIVES!”

“An army marches on its stomach,” the sagely-looking dark elf says simply. “A food source that can be feed hundreds or thousands with only a single small patch of soils, and limited water, can render a people immune to a siege, or simplify supply lines.”

You recoil at this mindset which would so casually and profanely militarize of a holy gift from the Celestial Realms, which you brought back and reared with only best intentions. What sort of elf IS this man?

“That’s not—” you begin to protest.
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>>5925514
“Your Majesty,” he addresses the Queen, ignoring you, “the so-called Sylvan Realm of our traitorous surface-kin have presumably had access to such food sources for a long while, and have no shared them. They have let your poor and hungry farmers suffer terrible winters and the recent,… Unpleasantness with the Dragonborn without any magical berries or other such food sources being provided. Now, by all indications, they seem to be ending their alliance with your people, and if they mean to make war, such a strategic resource kept only within their own lands would be an INCREDIBLE advantage.”

“It’s not ONLY in their own lands if Tips is growin’ it right near Hawksong, though, is it?” Zith-Zi demands, looking rather smug at having latched upon a point of a conversation that—by your judgement—seemed to have been going over her head up until now.

“True,” the dark elf diplomat—Jhaamdat, another odd name—says, and holds up an ashen finger. “But having a patch of safe territory under the province of foreign gods and spirits, semi-independent and right in the heart of Human civilization, a short march from Hawksong, which can feed those DOING the besieging… That is also a fine thing, for those who would make war.”

“Right,” you spit, “this coming from the ones who SENT dragons to burn our fields AND the chimera-plague which -I- cured, AND whose Dragon King is the reason for all this friction to begin with?!”

“So you admit that there is friction, then, darthiir?”

“Darthiir?” you ask, confused by the unusual term. “What?”

“It’s a swear,” Zith-Zi says authoritatively. “Racist, too. You can tell by the way his lips goes all curly and he squints when he says it.”

Ambassador Jhaamdath’s expression abruptly turns very very neutral, while the Queen frowns at him.

“Enough,” you sigh. “What, exactly, did you lot tell your ‘Dragon King’ to DO about it?”

“A Dragon commands,” the Thief asserts, almost proudly. “This one obeys. There is no ‘telling’ The Copper Dragon King, Ignorant One.”

“Weird flex, braggin’ about bein’ a little BITCH,” Zith-Zi snorts, which provokes the dark elven swordsman to guffaw, and the Thief to hiss—actually HISS!—with irritation.
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>>5925517
“I merely advised him that it would be wise to investigate personally,” Ambassador Jhaamdath says. “Is it not prudent to ask relevant questions, during such tense times? And if there IS evidence of secrets being kept from the Royal Family of Hawksong… If this ‘land reserve’ IS hosting unapproved activities which could be a danger to Hawksong, or Bloodrise, or to my own people... Well, land which is granted by the Crown can be recalled into the service of the Queen of these lands, surely? And if there are foreign agents operating in YOUR aegis, against YOUR people... Well, might they not serve as hostages in trade for our missing Prince of Bloodrise?”

“I rather hope I’d be CONSULTED before my husband asks me to break an oath,” Queen Ekaterine notes. “I would never ask such a thing of HIM.”

“I’m certain that King Theral intends to bring you a report and seek your approval before taking any… Rash action, Your Majesty,” the Dark Elf Ambassador says with a slight bow of his white-haired head. “Perhaps it will not even be necessary. Your… Companion here seems quite certain there is nothing untoward occurring there. Is it not so, da—half-elf?”

You narrow your eyes at the way he says ‘half-elf’, almost the same way he said ‘darthiir’ before. All eyes are on you now, though, and you must respond. But, well, it should be fine… Right? Izzy and Costella were both heading there after the date and, between the them, they’ll be able to sort this out.

Well… Okay, maybe Izzy has some weird stuff on the go with this ‘task force’ and all, but you could explain! It’s honestly nothing bad!

…Shit. Shit shit shit. You might need to make up some excuses fast, or rush to get there before things escalate. If the Prince Consort runs into Cousin Adolf… Oh Gods, this could escalate.

What will you do?
>Accuse them all of being liars and warmongers, making things up or misrepresenting them for evil ends
>Make some excuses and explain some irregularities [how?]
>Trust in Izzy and Costella—they’ve got this, and you have nothing to hide
>You… You need to go. You need to go NOW.
>Write-in

Do you raise any other points? Have other questions you want answered?
>Write-in if so
>>
>>5925517
>“It’s a swear,” Zith-Zi says authoritatively. “Racist, too. You can tell by the way his lips goes all curly and he squints when he says it.”
>Ambassador Jhaamdath’s expression abruptly turns very very neutral, while the Queen frowns at him.
based

>Trust in Izzy and Costella—they’ve got this, and you have nothing to hide
What are the chances that Theral is gonna run into Adolf
Even if he does it's not like he alone represents the whole community, majority should be ok
Seriously doubt Izzy gathered people by saying "hey who wants to be soldiers and assassins"

also we brought up that they made the pox that ravaged Hawksong and we cured it and Jhaamdath just brushed it off like it was nothing? bring that shit back up. the dragons burning the fields too. even if theral does find some members of the commune with less that peaceful ideas, it pales in comparison to what they've already done, and the hard work we've put in to fix it
>>
>>5925543
>+1
the task force is made of selected people and while izzy has some strange ideas she's not picking soldiers for the community and there's barely any training for the masses yet. And even if maximus phalus ran into addy we can say he's paranoid because of what happened (plague and etc).
>>
>>5925543
+1

I’d like to argue against her previous point >>5925517

>“the so-called Sylvan Realm of our traitorous surface-kin have presumably had access to such food sources for a long while, and have no shared them. They have let your poor and hungry farmers suffer terrible winters…
>… if they mean to make war, such a strategic resource kept only within their own lands would be an INCREDIBLE advantage.”

“Funny you say that. I have been to the sylvan realm - the moon - and spoken with the moon goddess herself. She did not approve of me growing these berries - that reason being you. Your folk would try to use it to feed your own armies and march against the sylvan realm. She wished it to be used to help those in need, those in poverty, but she considered it too high a risk to share such a gift. My garden was an attempt to change that, to prove to her it did not have to be that way. That we could live in peace.”
“And you and your fellows fucked it all up. She had her doubts about warfare, about sharing gifts of this nature and you proved her right.”
“I wished for a garden and you razed it.”

>>5924657
>>
>>5925519
>You… You need to go. You need to go NOW.

I do not think that izzy and costa have it. Izzy force is untrained borderline civilians, izzy herself is a book worm who i don't believe has ever seen actual combat.

A massacre could go down if we don't intervene.
>>
>>5925543
>>5925551
>>5925790
>>5926227
You take a moment to breathe. This whole night has been a rather stressful escapade, to say the least, but there’s no reason to lose your head. There are many factors at play to consider, and there’s no reason to assume the most catastrophic outcome is the most likely. If this ‘Dragon King Theral’ is really concerned to shutting down a perceived military outpost, then a quick glance at Izirina & Costella’s encampment will quickly disabuse him of their capability as a threat. After all, the people there—even the so-called ‘task force’—are far from fit for any kind of military service. You saw no soldiers, scarcely even any hard labourers—mostly well-meaning, somewhat naïve people, lost in their old lives, untethered by the plague and the resulting social shock, and grateful for the help which Costella had provided them, and excited by Izzy’s rhetoric.

“Fine,” you spit. “Do what you will. There is nothing to hide there—no ulterior motive. Izzy ahs some funny ideas—”

“Humorous in what way?” interjects the ambassador in a blatant attempt to throw you off, which you simply power through.

“—but IF there is any conflict, it is because of rather WARRANTED paranoia,” you continue, glaring at the dark-grey elfman. “Do you really think you can just brush away all the actions of your people like they were nothing, while slandering mine? If simply closing off trade and travel is warfare, what do we call all that your people have done?”

“My people?” the Jhaamdath asks, as if affronted. “We have don’t nothing! The elves of Wevenore are newcomers to this land, ever since your people cut US off from our birthright—betrayed your own cousins, closing off your paradise realm and forcing us to scramble in the cold and dark!”

“I don’t even know who you are!” you complain. “I’ve never heard of this ‘Wevenore’ in my life!”

Both the dark elves narrow their eyes at this.

“I have fought—and beaten, for all who are hearing of this, just so it is known—many of you darthiir,” the swordswoman, Azonia, says. “You tell me that they do not even speak of my glories? Offence! Rudeness!”

“Perhaps it is unsurprising that the traitors would not speak openly of the misdeeds and deprivations which they cannot justify,” the ambassador says, and looks again to the Queen. “In a few hundred more years, perhaps they will be saying ‘Hawksong? I have never heard of such a place in my life!’”

“That’s not…” you pause. “You’re deflecting again! If it’s not YOUR people, then it’s theirs!“

You point at the disguised lizard-people in your midst, and the female one—Halle—flinches, but the so-called Thief simply tuts in disapproval and annoyance.
>>
Rolled 93 (1d100)

>>5926437
“The Human Queen knows of the divisions among our people, which our Dragon King was forced to wage war upon our own race to remedy,” he says. “It was the foolish followers of the old ways who did these things, and he, The Copper Dragon King, who brought them to heel! Our Serpent Queen who laboured to cure the afflicted!”

“Yeah?” you counter. “And where was that cure? Queen Ekaterine, even if SOME people in that camp harbour less than peaceful intentions against THESE, these people, can you BLAME them any more than you would blame these dark elves and lizardmen for what members of THEIR group did, while we were working to fix it? Most of the people there are victims of THEIR mutagenic plague!”

The Queen holds up her hands, to you and to your opposite numbers, saying with tested patience and forced calm: “I am not BLAMING anyone, for ANYTHING. NOBODY is being accused of any wrongdoing. We came here to negotiate a PEACE, did we not? Jhamdaath, is trade and plenty not the desire of Wevenore’s king?”

The amabassador frowns, but nods.

“Magus Van Houtzmann, is averting conflict not your intent?”

“Well,” you mumble, “yes, but…”

“Then how do we achieve this?” the Queen of Hawksong asks, clasping her two hands together in union, and regarding you both—and the reptilian representatives, who seem lost and, in Halle’s case, nearly as out-of-place as Zith-Zi.

“We should trust in Magus Henzler,” you say, “and Miss Costella Fanucci. They aren’t fools.”

“Nor is King Theral,” Queen Ekaterine adds.

“Of course,” you say quickly. “So… It should be fine.”

The dark elf ambassador sniffs, and the reptilian agents shift awkwardly.

“Kinda’ an anticlimax, ain’t it?” Zi says after a moment.

Ambassador Jhamdaath smirks slightly at that, crossing his arms, and says: “That, little goblin, remains to be seen.”

1d100 to determine how the Dragon King's initial appearance at the camp goes, 'first contact' if you will; higher is friendlier. Depending upon that, there will be more rolls...
>>
Kino.
>>
>>5926440

On Old Maple Hill, the light of moon and stars is briefly blotted out, as by a cloud. Few see it, for it is a small shadow which passes across the sky, and only for a moment... But Izirina Henzler notices.

"That amount of magical energy..." she murmurs aloud. "It's him. The monster."

Costella Fanucci notices, too, though, and places a hand on hers.

"Ez said he was going to talk it out, rememebr?" she says softly. "Maybe this is, like... Him coming to see what all the fuss is about?"

"Then where is Ezreal?" Izirina asks, eyes narrowed.

"Well... Like, let's go ask!" Costella suggests, smiling for a moment and brightening up the night.

Then she frowns a little.

"Uh, maybe let me do the talking, though, huh?"

3d20 for Costella's diplomacy...
>>
Rolled 1, 19, 8 = 28 (3d20)

>>5926442
>>
>>5926444
Zamn, a 19
>>
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>>5926444
>>5926446
He winged figure descends like a falling star forged of blackest night. The shape collapses in on itself, wings folding into nothing, leaving only a humanoid silhouette. Beneath the half-moon, Costella approaches the dark silhouette, nervous, Izirina close behind her. The mage places a hand upon her companion’s back, offering much-needed support. Costella repeats mental affirmations of her own capability, and stops a respectful (and SAFE, she hopes) distance away.

“Uh,” she says, “like, welcome to the Old Maple Hill Land Reservation!”

The figure says nothing, simply tilting his head. It is a rather unsettling gesture, more like a bird or lizard than a man-a predatory creature, alien and inhuman, regarding a potential snack. Neither woman can yet see the beast’s face.

“Did, um, Ezreal send you?” Costella asks, to break the silence.

>1

“Nobody SSENDSSS me anywhere,” the figure boasts, in a voice like rolling smoke and thunder. “I go where fate and fortune demand I mussst… And do what MUSSST be done.”

“U-uh, neat!” Costella says, digging her fingernails into her palms. “I’m, like, kinda’ into astrology, too!”

The figure stares in silence, tilting his head again, this time the other way. His hand comes to rest upon the pommel of his blade, curiously swaddled in some sort of silken coating, almost naturalistic, like the egg-sack of some terrible spider or caterpillar.

“O-oh, sorry!” Costella says, grabbing handfuls of her dress and curtsying deep, a gesture of respect which seems to utterly confused Izirina—though Costelal ignores it. “Pricne Consort Long Wang, it is, like, a TOTAL pleasure to meet you!”

Finally, the figure steps out of the shadow and into the moon’s light, and both women are surprised to see not the terrible visage of some eldritch, scaly-skinned nightmare from a bygone aeon… But a man. An Eastern man, with a flattish face and somewhat sallow skin, but with a square ja—a hero’s jaw—and brilliant green eyes, starkly contrasting to his reddish bead and long, braided ponytail. He stands tall, and straight, and wears gem-studded copper-gold armour, broken up by red leather (or… Some sort of shell?—and fine, silver-grey silks, and wears a horned helm.

>19

“The pleasssure,” he says, with obvious amusement, “isss perhapsss mine, Miss…?”

“C-Costella, Costella Fanucci,” she says blushing profusely as the Pricne fo Hawksong bows his head to kiss the back of her hand. “And this is, um… Izirina Henzler. The daughter of he Archmage of Hawksong, and sort of, like, our leader I guess?”
>>
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>>5926449
Izirina Henzler steps forward, entering the patch of moonlight as well. The Prince Consort raises an eyebrow at her approach, subtly shifting into a defensive posture at the mention of the name ‘Henzler’, ready to attack or defend as needed.

…And then he sees her, really sees her, and his eyes go wide.

Nobody says anything for a moment. Costella looks to Izirina, who merely shrugs, just as lost as she is.

“Are you, like, okay, Mister… Um, Your Highness?” she asks Costella asks after a moment. “You look like you’ve seen a ghost!”

Eyes still locked on Izirina, the Copper Dragon King whispers:

“Perhapsss I have.”
>>
>>5926452




It feels like an eternity of waiting in the awkwardness of that ill-lit guest room of the palace. Even when you cast a <Daylight> spell, just to part the gloom, it results in the dark elves and reptilians all groaning and hissing—and Zith-Zi as well—and does nothing for the atmosphere.

“Thank you,” the Queen says at least, clearly grateful to not be the only one fumbling around in blackness anymore.

Eventually (and it can’t be THAT much later, really) a young man in the finely-made but relatively unornamented attire of a royal servant comes rushing towards you, stopping short and bowing deeply and apologetically when the Queen shoots him a look.

“I asked not to be interrupted or disturbed, she says, firm but not harsh, “so I trust you are doing so with good reason, Young Master Brown?”

“Y-yes, Your Highness!” he says. “The Prince Consort has return—um, APPEARED, actually—with a young woman near the edge of the grounds. A mage, by the look of he.”

He seems to see you, and points above your eyes.

“Had a hat like that, Your Majesty!”

“Izzy!” you say.

“See?” the Queen says. “IT all turned out alright in the end, as it was bound to when reasonable heads prevail.”

You glance at Ambassador Jhamdaath. His expression gives nothing away—not happiness to hear this, not displeasure. You can’t say you trust him, or any of this lot… But it seems you might just have to work with them, and so you put it aside.

“Shall we?” you ask.

“So it seems we shall,” he says neutrally, and briskly steps out of the room after Queen Ekaterine, and pointedly ahead of you.

You hover back, biting your tongue and glaring at his back, and Zith-Zi slaps your back—a feat requiring her to stand on tiptoe.

“Come on, you can check out his ass later,” she says. “Let’s go see your ‘fiance’ and this big fuckin’ deal dragon-guy everyone keeps shitting their pants over.”

You roll your eyes, but can’t stop yourself from smiling at just how casual Zi is about this whole thing. Together, you go join the others.

You find the Prince Consort standing next to Izzy, side by side, in the great foyer of the palace’s main entrance. He cuts a surprisingly handsome fellow, every bit the strapping and chivalrous figure one would expect from his public persona… Though of course, those good looks are as artificial as the reputation which accompanies them. ‘Prince Consort Long Wang’ is a farce, hiding a hideous truth. IT’s no mystery that, even having presumably transported the Dragon King here, Izzy looks ill at ease next to him, quickly joining you at our side.
>>
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>>5926469
“Are you alright?” you ask, when she grabs your hand with surprising urgency. “Is everyone else okay, at the Hill?”

She looks physically fine—utterly unharmed, and yet she does not nod, instead pursing her lips. Her eyes scarcely leave the Prince Consort as he and the Queen Step close, nearly (but not quite) embracing, and share some whispered, private words.

“Did something happen?” you ask.

“I’m not sure,” Izirina admits, and you see Long Wang—or Theral, or whoever—look her way, repeatedly, each time provoking her to crowd closer. “He was polite enough, but… The way he looked at me… I don’t like it. I don’t trust him.”

After all this back-and-forth, this tension and release, and having gotten to know this monster-disguised-as-a-man by way of his wife and his associates, you…
>Have to agree—you don’t trust him, and you think it’s best to limit information sharing and keep your guard up, even as you cooperate
>Think it’s worth maybe giving him the benefit of the doubt—after all, he didn’t hurt anybody, or steal anything, and the Queen trusts him
>Write-in
>>
>>5926470
>Think it’s worth maybe giving him the benefit of the doubt—after all, he didn’t hurt anybody, or steal anything, and the Queen trusts him
Absolutely kino
>>
>>5926449
>1 gives a ntr glance
of course
>>5926452
so izi comes from the family of the infiltrator who originated this series ? interesting. you'd expect them to treat her better for it.
>>5926470
>Think it’s worth maybe giving him the benefit of the doubt—after all, he didn’t hurt anybody, or steal anything, and the Queen trusts him
let's see why he thinks it's a good idea to sow distrust beetwen man and elf
>>
>>5926470
>Think it’s worth maybe giving him the benefit of the doubt—after all, he didn’t hurt anybody, or steal anything, and the Queen trusts him

A good start.

>>5925790
>>
am >>5925551
>>
>>5926470
>I don’t trust him either
God damned scalies
>>
>>5926470
>Think it’s worth maybe giving him the benefit of the doubt—after all, he didn’t hurt anybody, or steal anything, and the Queen trusts him

Still takes into account our girl's word
>>
>>5926470
>>Have to agree—you don’t trust him, and you think it’s best to limit information sharing and keep your guard up, even as you cooperate
>>
>>5926470
>Have to agree—you don’t trust him, and you think it’s best to limit information sharing and keep your guard up, even as you cooperate.

He is in kahoots with the dark fey, who are our sworn enemies, we shouldn't give any information that we don't have to.
>>
>>5926634
>>5926582
>>5926560
>>5926486
>>5926479
>>5926472
>>5926912
"I think we should maybe give him the benefit of the doubt," you say.

Izzy looks at you, shocked and appearing almost betrayed, and so you hasten to add: "I'm not saying we tell him EVERYTHING, obviously, but... Well, he didn't hurt anyone or destroy anything, right? He didn't steal any of our secrets yet."

"And if it's a trick? A manipulation?" Izzy asks, lowering her voice and tearing her gaze away from the Prince Consort. "It's what these creatures DO, Tips... it's why they're here in disguise."

You nod slowly, surprised at the level of anxiety that the reptilian agents here provoke in your lover... But perhaps you shouldn't be. After all, Archmage Theresa Henzler—Izzy's adoptive mother—has very personal reasons to despise and disparage the 'reptilian master race', and Izirina herself was deformed and afflicted by an early iteration of the dragon-pox from an early age, and her biological parents were seemingly slain by a reptilian 'Infiltrator' like Halle. It again makes you wonder why she was spared... A question you've never found an adequate answer for.

As you mull over this, Hawksong's Queen and the Dragon King seem to be engaged in an increasingly charged conversation, though both of them keep their voices low. You watch them both, attempting to glean some detail of what they might be discussing, but it's in vain—you cannot hear their voices with any clarity. What you DO notice is the subtle wrongness of the Prince Consort's movements. You might not have latched upon it if you didn't know the truth of his nature, or perhaps you would have dismissed it as a foreign peculiarity, but as it is you can see subtle tells that he is not what he appears to be: the way he sometimes bobs his head, and other times turns it this way or that, as if to regard the Queen with one eye or the other; the way his body and head in fact sometimes seem to move independently, or how unnaturally still he is when listening; the speed and jerkiness with which he moves with purpose.

You’ll trust him for now, to some extent, but he still unsettles you. It’s instinctual—some repressed race-memory, perhaps, of the ancient war between his kind and both your parents' bloodlines. You’re shocked at how unafraid Queen Ekaterine is, right next to such a being... But you suppose they have been closer still. The thought provokes an involuntary shudder, which you suppresss when they approach.

“Sso,” the Prince Consort says, and you note his subtle lisp, like that of Halle but more pronounced, “You musst be the Tower Magusss, yess? The one called Ezreal Van Houtzmann? Sstudent of the Archmage?”

“I am all those things,” you confirm, and force yourself to extend a hand. “Though it’s actually Ezreal MIOUS van Houtzmann. From my mother, and my father.”
>>
>>5926919
The Prince Consort regards your hand for a moment, and you have the fleeting mental image of him leaning down to bite it, but instead he smiles and shakes it. The smile, you note, doesn’t quite reach his narrow, almond-shaped eyes. Izzy at your side a moment ago, subtly shifts to stand behind you, an unconscious response made faintly silly by her greater height.

“Yess, your mother... The elf, from teh sso-called Ssilver Realmsss.””

“Sylvan,” you correct, “and yes. She is. Is that a problem, Your Highness?”

“Not at all,” the disguised dragonborn replies affably. “I have long been an admirer of elvenkind. Ssome of my mosst valued alliesss are elvesss... I believe you have met Azonia, the Duelissst? And Ambasssador Jhamdaath?”

“I have,” you say, forcing it not to come out as a growl. “They are... rather different than my mother’s folk, though.”

“Yess, well, the harsh vagariess of life where they come from—where WE come from—produccesss a degree of... Harshnessss, in those with the sstrength to sssurvive.”

“I see,” you say levelly.

“I underssstand that the landsss you hail from are rather more... Fecund?"

“They are,” you admit, if not a little warily as you consider where he might be going with this.

“It musst grant a great deal of free time to purssue the artsss... I have longa dmried teh craftssmanship of your people’sss armour and weaonsss, for insstancce.”

Your eyes flit to the sword at his side, and you raise an eyebrow. Swaddled in strange silken substance as it is, you cannot deduce its make or origin... Nor, admittedly, are you any sort of weaponsmith or martial aficionado to recognize it even laid bare.

“Thank you, Your Majesty,” you say simply, and then add, in teh spirit of (limited) openness: "Their bounty is the product of the same sort of fairy-magic—or Feycraft—which produced the <Goodberry> bush at Old Maple Hill, and healed all those afflicted by the chimeric plague. I understand that we have you to thank for that particular pandemic not being worse than it was?”

The Prince Consort regards you with renewed scrutiny, then nods.

“We would have done more, to rectify the IMPETUOUSSS and MISSGUISED actionsss of the faction ressponssible, but alass, there were...”

He glances towards Queen Ekaterine, and you think you detect the faintest hint of guilt in his posture.

“Unavoidable delaysss,” he concludes. “I thank you, Magusss, for protecting my—our—ssubjectsss.”

“You’re quite, uh, welcome,” you say. “They’re my people, too, of course. On my father’s side.”

“Yesss,” the Prince Consort says, nodding. “And I underssstand that you wish to exxtend the ssame ssservice, that of SSALVATION, to your mother’sss racce now, yess?”
>>
>>5926923
“I don’t know that their ‘salvation’ is at stake,” you say a bit haughtily. “Your elven ambassador friend seems to think that they’re quite capable of repelling an invasion indefinitely, or affecting an invasion. And, of course, there are the Bonum Chaoticum...”

The Prince Consort tilts his head slightly, rather like Hershy the feathered drake when you are holding an unfamiliar treat up to him for the first time.

“The elven pantheon,” you clarify.

“Ah,” the Dragon King grunts, and then forces a smile again. “Let usss sspeak of thiss more privately... And pleassse, bring your wife.”

You blush a little, starting to stammer a reply, but Izzy grabs your hand again and gives in a gentle squeeze with her warm one. You meet her eyes—well, the shaded glasses she wears in mixed company to hide the lightning behind her eyes—and she nods slightly.

“Alright.”

The four of you—Queen of Hawksong, King of Bloodrise, Izirina, and you—all gather in a drawing room—a small meeting-place hosting a globe, a desk, and a few seats, as well as a small bookshelf and a crystal decanter. The others—dark elves and reptilian operatives, as well as Zith-Zi—take their leave, either returning to their rooms in the palace or leaving to attend to other matters.

“We’ll catch up later, ey lovebirds?” the gobliness suggested as she left. “All this high muckety-muck politics business ain’t my scene. Let’s get a drink later, huh?”

Now, you and Izzy both take your seats, while the Dragon King sets himself behind the desk and his wife—Hawksong's Queen—awkwardly hovers about, straightening things and brushing away thin coatings of dust.

“Oh, I’ve been rude!” she says. “Would anyone care for a drink?”

“You are all welcome to do sso,” the Dragon King says, “but I musst decline.”

You nod, taking the opportunity to clear the air: “Reptiles have limited tolerance for alcohol. It’s quite toxic to them, and results in extreme disorientation, without the euphoria we mammals enjoy.”

The Dragon King again seems to reassess you, but nods.

“I have developed an appreccciation for ssmall amountsss,” he says. “But the mushroom-wine of the Drow—the dark elevsss—iss more to my liking.”

For your part, you and Izzy...
>Have a drink, to help calm your nerves
>Stay sober, stay sharp

[C]
>>
>>5926924
"The Queen tellsss me that you are already aware of the... Ssituation, with the Princcce of Bloodrissse who hass been captured.”

“I am,” you admit, though you see Izzy shift in surprise. “I’d like to help free him by PEACEABLE means, if it can be arranged.”

“IF it can be arranged, that would be ideal,” the Dragon King agrees.

“Hold on a moment,” Izzy inetrrupts. “The livingw eapon is...”

“My ssson,” the Dragon King cofnirms, bringing her up to speed, and grins. “A living weapon, though? Quite the accusssation. I ssupossse any sssuficciently sstrong individual could eb called sssuch... Yourssself, for insstancce?”

“What?” she balks.

A thin, barely-perceptible membrane slides across the Prince’s left eye as he tilts his head to again focus upon Izzy, who recoils backing into her chair as if to shrink through it or sink into it—sadly, not her particular gift as it is yours.

“You radiate with potent magicksss, Magusss Henzler... The gift of the Archmage’sss ressearch?”

“The product of my own work,” Izzy murmurs, “and, of course, Ezreal’s.”

“I ssee...” he hisses softly. “Quite imrpesssive... And good evidenccce that, asss with YOUR work, it isss possisble for innocccent sselfimprovement, or the very NATURE of a thing, to make it ‘weaponizable’,, without BEING a weapon. My ssonsss are sstrong, asss I am sstrong... Assss Paladinsss are sstrong. Sstrength iss not SSSIN, though. The ABILITY to dessstroy, asss you have both pointed out, iss not intention.”

You nod again, slowly. You infer the undercurrent of veiled threat: the hidden monster-kingdom which apparently hides in the westerly Bloodrise Mountains is full of powerful entities, their King is telling you, and so is Hawksong. When he speaks of ‘salvation’ for the Sylvan Realms, it is because—rightly or wrongly—he is confident in his ability to wreak destruction upon them if he does not get his way.

"Yes,” you say, “even if we CAN destroy, we should very much try not to. Strength has better uses, I think we can all agree? Building, preserving, protecting...?”

“Protection can take many formsss,” the Dragon King replies. “To defend the innocccent from harm, one musst ssometimes make their enemiesss fear... Teach them the PRICCCE of harming thosse we love.”
>>
>>5926925
“Innocents?” Izzy murmurs beside you, in disbelief. “Love? What?”

It’s rather peculiar to hear a draconic monster—whatever flattering features he might wear—talk in such terms. Still, You notice the sympathetic gaze the Queen gives him, and the way she reaches out to touch his hand—not so different from you and Izirina. And this creature, this “Dragon King’, he IS ostensibly waging this (hopefully abortive) military campaign on behalf of his child... A noble-enough cause…. In theory.

“Your Majesties,” you address both monarchs...
>You think a straight-forward, diplomatic approach is best: a delegation should be sent to the Sylvan Realms, to discuss a de-escalation of hostilities with Iternagreyn
>You have the means to infiltrate the Sylvan Realms and retrieve this captive prince without implicating Bloodrise or Hawksong... Perhaps subtlety would be better than brute force?
>You have some questions that you need answered before you can decide what steps should be taken [specify your questions]
>>
>>5926924
>Have a drink, to help calm your nerves
Intoxication helps us get more in touch with the magical energies

>>5926926
>You have some questions that you need answered before you can decide what steps should be taken [specify your questions]
How'd your kid even get captured? Where is he being held? If hypothetically we were to stealth spring him free, what obstacles would we have to contend with?
>>
>>5926926
>Have a drink, to help calm your nerves.

>You have the means to infiltrate the Sylvan Realms and retrieve this captive prince without implicating Bloodrise or Hawksong... Perhaps subtlety would be better than brute force?

keeping natvosk isn't to the sylvan realms benefit, we should release simply on principle.
>>
>>5926924
>Stay sober, stay sharp
Who knows what kind of reptilian parasite that drink may contain
>>5926926
>You have some questions that you need answered before you can decide what steps should be taken
Who captured the kid, why and how?
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>>5926924
>Have a drink, to help calm your nerves
We should grab some of that mushroom-wine for Zi later.

>>5926926
>You have some questions that you need answered before you can decide what steps should be taken [How do we source this… mushroom-wine?]
Otherwise, same questions as the others.
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>>5926924
>Have a drink, to help calm your nerves
>>5926926
>You have some questions that you need answered before you can decide what steps should be taken [who's your son captured and do you know the specific people who did it ?]
considering the elves were basically on isolation before we went to the moonI assume junior flew too deep, whatever the reason for, and met the mushroom force.
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>>5927026
>>5927003
>>5926976
>>5926975
>>5926966
You and Izirina both accept a glass of the brandy which the Queen proffers. Izirina sniffs at it, plainly suspicious, but when the Queen pours one for herself and enjoys a dainty sip, then two of you cannot do but likewise. Almost immediately, the taste of alcohol and the smooth warmth of the liquid slipping down your throat brings you back to happier times and helps soothe your nerves.

“As I see it,” you begin, “we can take a diplomatic approach of negotiating for this prince’s release, or we can... Well, let us simply say we have other options, as well.”

“Meanss OTHER than direct warfare, I asssume?” the Dragon King asks, leaning over the desk.

“Yes,” Izzy says simply, with a tone that indicates that she would NOT appreciate further inquiry.

“Interesssting... Very interesssssting....” the Dragon King hums, leaning back.

You grimace at the unpleasant tension between Izirina and the Dragon King, exchanging a mutually-apologetic look with the Queen; both of your eyes say to the other ‘I’m sorry they’re being like this, I don’t know what ahs gotten into them.’

“Anyway,” you continue, “I think the most pressing matters are these: how did your son become captured, and by whom?”

The Dragon King grimaces, before turning it into a charming grin, and shrugs helpelssly.

“I wish that I knew,” he said.

“Oh come ON now!” Izirina groans, and glares. “Ezreal is being QUITE forthright with you, it seems, and yet you’re STILL playing the hapless innocent? You know nothing about the plague, nothing about the dragon-attacks, nothing about your own son’s travels into the elven lands? REALLY?”

The Dragon King looks a little shocked at the outburst. You can't say you aren't a little surprised yourself, and you begin to wonder if the brandy was the best idea. You sip your own rather more enthusiastically, simply to give yourself time to formulate a strategy in light of this surprising emotionality from usually cool-headed Izzy... And also because, frankly, you’re curious how the reptilian regent will reply.

“There wasss... An acccident which took placce, following an exxpedition... A hunt, which I particcipated in the year befroe lassst,” the Dragon King confesses. “I wass out-of-comisssion for ssome time. THISSS iss the reasson for the delay in my return... In the curing of the plague. It wass during thisss time that my son, who iss rather young, disssappeared.”

The Queen’s eyes water slightly at the tale, though you imagine she’s heard it before. Izirina regards the dragonborn coolly, neither condemning nor pitying him aloud.
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>>5927167
“My belief isss that he perhapsss ssought a meanss to cure my... Affliction...” the Dragon King continues. “that or, sseeeing no future in my kingdom if I wass to never recover, he decccided to sseek hiss fortunesss elssewhere.”

“Why would that search have led him to the Sylvan Realms?” you ask.

“He had never traveled far beyond our landsss before, and never alone,” The Dragon King says. “Nor could he exxactly asssk directionsss. He isss... Unlike mysself. He cannot sspeak your tongue, and hass no meanss to blend in with the localsss. My speculation isss that he mussst have been sseized OUTSSIDE of their territory, by elven aggresssorss, beyodn their bordersss.”

“Quite the accusation,” you say, repeating the Dragon King’s own words, which gives him pause and, if you’re not mistaken, irritates him. “The elves have been in isolation. When and how would they have captured your son outside of their own territory?”

“Then perhapsss he entered their realms unwittingly, and was captured that way,” the Dragon King retorts, a bit of edge to his tone. “It doess not MATTER how it happened!”

You frown, not so sure that the circumstances DON’T matter, but you can tell thais is going nwoehre. Inseta,d you ask: “I take it you don’t know exactly where he’s being held, ro what defences might surround him, either?”

The Dragon King glares at that, and you hold up both hands.

“I mean no disrespect, Your Highness,” you say quickly. “But… How do you even know he has been captured by the elven people?”

“There were… Witnesssessss.”

“Who?” asks Izirina, and even the Queen looks to the Dragon King expectantly.

Rather than answer, though, he repeatedly taps his finegrs on the table, working his jaw.

“Reliable onesss,” he answers cagily. “Oness who ssaw him enter… And ssaw him CAGED, like an ANIMAL. Like a SSSLAVE.”

“They’re sure it was him?” you ask.

The Dragon King looks at you incredulously.

“They dessscribed him, quite accurately,” he replies. “There are only eight other beingsss on earth who ressemble my ssson, and I have accounted for each of them. It isss he.”

Do you have any other subjects you would like to touch upon?
>Izzy’s origins, her lineage and former affliction, and the way he keeps eyeing her...
>The land reserve, and guaranteed protections for it
>These ‘Drow’ elves from ‘Wevenore’... What’s their deal?
>So, uh, about this whole polyamory thing... Mayeb he has advice?
>What is this ‘Bloodrise Kingdom’, anyway?
>So he, uh, likes elven culture?
>So, about this mushroom-wine...
>Write-in

Do you have a plan for how to get him back?
>Infiltration and extraction
>Negotiation and diplomacy
>Maybe a BIT of warfare IS in order
>You know what? Naw. You’re out—this lizardman and his son are on their own
>Write-in
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>>5927171
>These ‘Drow’ elves from ‘Wevenore’... What’s their deal ?
man, my gamer instinct is urging me to pick the 4th option https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CcPgeAiK70Y

>Negotiation and diplomacy
this first
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>>5927171
>Izzy’s origins, her lineage and former affliction, and the way he keeps eyeing her...
>The land reserve, and guaranteed protections for it
>So, uh, about this whole polyamory thing... Maybe he has advice?
>So, about this mushroom-wine...

>Infiltration and extraction
>Negotiation and diplomacy
Could probably do versions of both, because they mesh well. Charisma is the Dragonborn’s strong suit though, and Tips should take notes under him on it.
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>>5927202
[To be clear, infiltration/extraction involves a sneaking in and liberating the Prince of Bloodrise by underhanded means. Do you mean for diplomacy to be a distraction while this is happening, or something else?]
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>>5927171
>These ‘Drow’ elves from ‘Wevenore’... What’s their deal?
They keep saying we took everything from them but I don't even know who they are
>So, uh, about this whole polyamory thing... Maybe he has advice?
hahaha
how can we not

>So he, uh, likes elven culture?
>So, about this mushroom-wine...

>Negotiation and diplomacy
I mean, if he looks like a freaky lizard monster, and he can't speak any common tongues, maybe he was caged like an animal because they genuinely mistook him for an animal? In any case we can explain that keeping him is provoking a major diplomatic incident.
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>>5927171
>Izzy’s origins, her lineage and former affliction, and the way he keeps eyeing her...

>Infiltration and extraction

At the end of last thread we had to break out of moon house arrest. And the moon princesses are spiritual leaders amongst our people. Depending on what the reaction to that was or what transpired after we teleported to hawksong. Diplomacy might not be on the table for us.
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>>5927171
>These ‘Drow’ elves from ‘Wevenore’... What’s their deal?

>ask about the witnesses further
“Those witnesses. I need to know more about them - I don’t doubt their authenticity, but I would like to know who we are dealing with. If they have resources which could be helpful to us.”

>Negotiation and diplomacy

Ideally. If that those not plan out, we have a plan; the letters which teleport us back to here. We just need to prepare a bunch of those.

>Infiltration and extraction

>>5926486
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>>5927206
I mean to set up the ability to infiltrate and extract if diplomacy and negotiations fail, cause I figure they have good synergy.
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>>5927171
>What is this ‘Bloodrise Kingdom’, anyway?
>About those witnessess?
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>>5927399
[Got a vote for the approach to rescuing (or not rescuing) the Prince?]
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>>5927741
Shit, did I forget it?
>Negotiation and diplomacy
>>
>>5927171
>The land reserve, and guaranteed protections for it
>So, uh, about this whole polyamory thing... Mayeb he has advice?
>Izzy’s origins, her lineage and former affliction, and the way he keeps eyeing her...
In that order

>Negotiation and diplomacy
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>>5927879
>>5927814
>>5927399
>>5927268
>>5927267
>>5927259
>>5927226
>>5927202
>>5927192
You find yourself rather suspicious of not King Theral per se (at least, no more than is sensible, when dealing with such a being), but rather his sources and counsel. He seems reasonable enough, but this Ambassador Jhamdaath reminds you of the Unseelie Fey, with his talk of grievance against your mother’s race. As you finish your first glass of brandy, you decide it prudent to do some digging into these dark elves.

“These witnesses... They wouldn’t happen to be these ‘Drow’ friends of yours, would they?”

The Dragon King neither confirms nor denies this, instead leaning back a little and patiently waiting for you to fill the silence. Despite your best efforts, you eventually cave and do so.

“It’s just peculiar,” you say. “They seem to have a problem with me, and my mother’s people, but I don’t know the first thing about them.”

“Thisss iss not ssurprissing,” the Dragon King says. “The bad blood between their people and your mother’sss goess back ccenturiessss... At leasst asss far back asss the lasst of teh great warsss between Dragon and Elf, maybe further.”

“So they sided with the dragons, then?” Izirina infers.

The Dragon King shakes his head, answering: “I underssstand the disspute to have been more DOMESSTIC... A disssagreement over ssuccessssion. Iss it not the casse that the Sylvan Realmss are, in thisss era, a collection of largely sself-governing clansss, who gather into larger politiessss, which in turn elect a councccil of eldersss?”

“Uh,” you say, scrambling to recall the fine details of elven politics. “I guess, essentially, yeah?”

“In the dayss when your peoplesss were one, the Drow were one sssuch polity,” Theral expalins, “but the eelcted councccil wass ssubordinate to a ccentral monarchy, not unlike that of Hawksssong... A ssingle great royal family who dessscended from children of your ‘Bonum Chaoticum’. During a dissspute between membersss of that family, variousss clansss took ssidesss, and the Drow, under their king Endymion... Did not win. They were persssecuted for thisss, and were driven out, ssstripped of their birthright to the bountiesss of your people, and forsssaken by your godsss.”

“The Gods of Freedom aren’t in the habit of persecuting mortals,” you say, though with a hint of uncertainty.

“Isss that sso?” the Dragon King asks, arching an eyebrow. “Well, that isss how they tell it... While your people do not sspeak of THEM at all. It iss curiousss, yess?”

You exchanged a quick aside-glance with Izzy who, if she is inherently mistrustful of King Theral, also knows something of the unfortunate circumstances under which you departed Holy Luna: urgently, illicitly, and in direct defiance of a goddess. The Bonum Chaoticum are GOOD gods, of course... But that does not mean they don’t keep secrets, even dark ones.
>>
>>5928061
“Well, whatever the Drow say, I still think diplomacy is best,” you assert, over your second glass of brandy.

“Tips, are you sure?” Izzy asks. “This might be a matter for..."

Izirina trails off, stopping short of mentioning her ‘task force’ in this mixed company, but the Dragon King only grins and spreads his arms wide.

“Pleassse, we are all friendss here,” he says cheerfully. “We are already in agreement that jusst becaussse one HASS a ssecret which could sserve a military purpossse, it doess not mean that iss itss only or primary purpossse. Sspeak freely."

The Dragon King’s open approval seems to fill Izirina with disgust, giving her pause.

“Any such measure is a last resort,” you assert, to EVERYONE in the room.

“Iss that how YOU feel, Magusss Henzler?” the Dragon King asks solicitously. “You sseem troubled.”

As Izzy glowers back silently, the brandy emboldens you—or perhaps it is discomfort of your own, at how openly this lascivious lizard is eyeballing your significant other.

“Your Highness,” you say, “I suspect that Izirina’s discomfort comes from her history with your people.”

“Hisstory?” he asks, innocently or faux-innocently.

“One of your ‘reptilian infiltrators’ poisoned me with a variant of your plague before I... When I was a little girl,” she says, voice trembling. “They terrorized... My mother, and my whole family.”

“And what family isss that?” the Dragon King presses, with strange eagerness. “Forgive me for ssaying sso, but I have met with Archmaguss Henzler, and you do not exxactly resssemble her.”

“Theral...” Queen Ekaterine interjects gently. “I don’t know that—”

“Is that why you keep staring at me?!” Izzzy demands, evidently invigorated by her own glass of liquid courage—or maybe just pushed to her limit by this unexpected reversal of the interrogation which you had instigated. “You want know why I was made, or IFNECTED? Well, so do I! And as for my real family, well, maybe I’d have answers about them if I’d ever met them, but I DIDN’T. They were KILLED first, by one of YOUR murdering monsters!”

A silence passes, with Queen Ekaterine bringing her hands to her mouth, eyes wide. She looks to King Theral for answers, still trusting him even in light of this revelation evidently... But expecting explanation. Instead, the Dragon King simply stays perfectly still, scarcely even blinking, simply staring in eerie silence... And then exhales, a long sigh, and nods.

“I underssstand,” he says. “I never met my mother, either... And met my father only rather recccently, late in life. I wish I had—she ssoundsss to have been a rather IMPRESSSIVE woman, the sssort of perssson who could achieve great thingsss with limited ressourcccesss... Who commanded and earned resspect even from thosse who would despissse her for the CURSSE of her birth.”

“Curse...?” you ask, confused.
>>
>>5928065

King Theral hesitates to speak, clicking his tongue as those strange, membranous inner eyelids flit across his eyes again... But when he does speak, it is a rather startling disclosure.

“I ssaw my mother only oncce, maybe twiccce, in dreamss,” he says.

“Your kind dream?” Izzy asks, a little unkindly.

“Not often,” he admits, “but thosse of uss with human heritage, more frequently.”

The dragonborn has human blood? Does that mean his appearance is more authentic than it appears, perhaps? Is that what he meant by his son being ‘unlike--that this missing prince is less human, the product of some dragon-woman, the 'Serpent Queen’ which his subordinates mentioned?

“In my dream,” he continues, “She appeared to me ass rather more human than one might exxxpect, even of a hybrid—what my people call a ‘degenerate’, and she taught me the fundamentalsss of family... of ‘love’, and ‘community’, and sset me on the path of my desstiny...”

All through this tale, he doesn’t take his eyes off of Izirina, and soon it’s apparent why that is.

“She looked jussst like you, Magusss Henzler.”

“Wh-what?” Izzy stammers. “I... I don’t understand.”

“Nor do I,” he admits. “Were you born a hybrid, ass I wass? If sso... How wass thiss hidden? And why? If she were alive... Perhapsss we would both have our ansswersss.”

Your hand finds Izzy’s own, shaking, and squeezes it to comfort her. You search her expression, knowing how deeply this must be affecting her. She doesn’t look upset, though, nor angry, nor fearful. Rather, a different look—a look of intense, thoughtful, concentration—has returned to her. It is as if King Theral’s words have banished a fog of trauma and resentment, and exposed once more the woman underneath: a seeker, as you are a seeker, of knowledge yet unknown.

“My parents were nobles, weren’t they, Tips?” she asks. “My birth parents?”

“Yeah,” you say. “Lord Vaz, and a daughter of House Yosef.”

"Oh!” the Queen gasps. “The murders... The missing child... I recall hearing of it, of course, though as a young girl my father and brothers sheltered me from the worst of it.”

The Dragon King’s reaction is rather more muted... For a mammal. You have some experience with diverse organisms and their reactions to stimuli, though. You can see telltale signs of agitation in this ‘Theral’--discomfort, a fight-or-flight response. You reach for your wand, not sure which to expect or WHY.

“The House of Yosssssef...” he hisses through gritted teeth, as if uttering a curse... or recalling one.
>>
>>5928070
“You had some business with them,” you say warily. “Worked with, ah, Lord Yosef the Twenty-First? Heinrich Yosef, the Green Knight?”

“After a fashion,” the Dragon King says darkly.

An uneasiness fills the room, and unexpectedly, the Dragon King reaches out and grasps the decanter of brandy, pouring himself a glass and hurriedly gulping it down. The motions are sudden, whiplike, and purposeful in an inhuman way, but otherwise... Well, it is a very human response to what you gather to be some unknown trauma of his own.

“You have my condolenccesss,” he says, “of coursse. But tehre isss much that we musst both consssider, I’m ssure...”

“Right,” Izirina says, standing immediately. “I... I’ll meet you outside, Tips.”

You and the Queen meet one another's eyes, though neither says anything as your respective significant others turn away from each other. You stay seated, trying to work out what exactly this might mean. Izirina and this dragon-man... A quiet literally dragon-MAN, it seems... Could they be related? What does that mean for Izzy’s origin? And where does the House of Yosef fit in?

“I’m, uh sorry,” you say.

“No, no, don’t be,” the Queen says hurried. “WE’RE sorry.”

King Theral grunts noncommittally, leg twitching slightly, hunched forward and regarding the contents of his glass.

“I’ll... Go check on Magus Henzler,” the Queen suggests.

“Thank you,” you exhale in relief.

Or the first time, you and this strange, mysterious creature, neither lizard nor man and perhaps both, are left alone together. You nurse the last of your drink, somehow knowing that your business here is not quite concluded. Only when the brandy fills your stomach and your heart do you realzie what it is that’s been eating at you.

“Is that how you managed to maintaina relationship with Queen Ekaterine, then?”

The Dragon King’s head whips around, regarding you imperiously through one eye, over his shoulder.

“By being human?" You ask. “It’s only... Well, I’m in a bit of a complicated romantic situation myself.”

“I can ssee that,” he notes, with a surprising humour in his voice. “She isss sstrong-willed, your... Mate.”

“Girlfriend,” you provide, cringing at the awkwardness of his chosen term.

“Ah, yesss. ‘Girlfriend’. The lexxxicon of your ssslang iss a bit beyond me,” he admits.

“Not just her, though,” you admit. “There’s, uh, another.”

“An elf?” he asks.

“Huh?” You blink. “Uh, no. Another human.”

“Hm. Perhapsss wisse,” he says, turning to face you and setting his still-half-filled glass on the table between you. “I often wonder if... Thingsss might have been eassier, choossing one path or another, rather than sstraddling thisss line between the two... Between your world and mine, EKA’sss world and the one into which I wass born.”
>>
>>5928072
“So having, um, multiple partners... it doesn’t get easier, or elss complciated.”

“Not with wivesss ssuch asss mine,” the Dragon King replies, cringing slightly. “I have to admit... I don’t really underssstand any of them, ssome daysss, nor do they sseem to fully undersstand me.”

You raise your eyebrows at just how open and EMOTIONAL this being has become. You realize his hand is on the desk not merely as some struck pose of power, but to steady himself. Has half a glass of brandy really inebriated this nearly seven-foot-tall behemoth??

“Do you ever... Regret it?” you ask. “Trying to make it work with more than one of them?”

Despite his intoxication and sudden sullenly turn, the Dragon King’s answer is immediate, and absolutely certain:

“Never.”

When you find Izirina outside, she is still speaking with Queen Ekaterine. When they see you coming, the Queen hands her off to you.

“Thank you, both of you,” she says. “I... Do not relish the thought of war, with ANYONE. As with my husband, I will not shy away from it—I know that a strong hand is sometimes necessary, that the duty of the Royal Family and the Holy order of Hawksong is to be a shield AND sword to those in need. And to lose a child, any family...”

She looks again to Izirina, and bites her lip.

“May we all find our peace, and safety, and... Keep what family we have, safe and sound.”

“Yes,” you and Izirina both agree.

The Queen takes her leave, and as soon as she is gone from your line of sight, Izzy all but collapses into you, burying her face in her robes and taking a deep inhale of your scent, as if for comfort.

“Let’s go home,” she says.

“Okay,” you agree, stroking her hair.

“Costella’s going to want all the details,” she groans.

“It can wait for tomorrow,” you assure her. “For tonight, let’s rest. It's... been a long one.”

She nods in agreement, and by the time you’ve walked to the edge of the palatial ground and she’s cast the necessary spell to transport you both to Old Maple Hill, you have to struggle to practically CARRY to emotionally-and-mystically exhausted girl to her tent.
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>>5928076


“So?” Costella asks, still evidently wide wake and curiously exhilarated. “How did it go? Oh, gosh, he was so COOL and so SCARY and... WOW! Did it go well?”

“We’ll see,” you reply, “but I hope so.”

You pause.

“Uh, hey,” you say, maybe we should go to bed?”

Costella nods sympathetically, helping to take Izzy’s weight off of you.

“Sure, I’ll, like, help tuck her in and get her some water and then you can--”

“All of us, I meant,” you clarify. “Uh, togetehr/”

Costella blinks, and then her cheeks flush.

“O-oh,” she says. “Um... Y-yeah!"

Soon, you will be leaving for the Sylvan Realms once more—returning to a land where the gods may be against you, to rescue the captured spawn of a king of a dark empire. For now, though, you rest, three bodies huddled close together, three souls made one.

In the days that follow, you...
>Catch up with Zith-Zi, and have that drink
>Check in on your father and your human relatives
>Meet with Archmage Henzler, to discuss your continued apprenticeship
>Catch up with Pearce and Efron, your old friends and colleagues
>Return to Testa, to make good on your promise
>Plant and tend to the remaining Goodberry and the other, which you had already planted
>Surreptitiously investigate the Drow
>A shopping date with Costella
>Write-in
[Please choose no more than two]
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>>5928079
>Catch up with Zith-Zi, and have that drink
>Return to Testa, to make good on your promise
We did give our word
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>>5928079
>Return to Testa, to make good on your promise
>Surreptitiously investigate the Drow
>>
>>5928083
>+1
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>>5928079
>Catch up with Pearce and Efron, your old friends and colleagues.

>Surreptitiously investigate the Drow.
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>>5928079
>>Plant and tend to the remaining Goodberry and the other, which you had already planted
>Return to Testa, to make good on your promise
>A shopping date with Costella
Last two points can probably be done together
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>>5928079

>Catch up with Zith-Zi, and have that drink
>Plant and tend to the remaining Goodberry and the other, which you had already planted

We can return to Testa after we’re done with the sylvan realm - we could ask for a reward after that.

>>5927267
>>
>>5928079
>Plant and tend to the remaining Goodberry and the other, which you had already planted
>A shopping date with Costella
>Return to Testa, to make good on your promise
I too think the last 2 can be combined
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>>5928344
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>>5928308
>>5928167
>>5928134
>>5928117
>>5928083
[Locked, and writing soon! First, coffee.]
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>>5928499
Whoa did you change your font? Looks retro.
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>>5928505
Depends how close or far I zoom in Excel

>>5928499
Before you can go off gallivanting on another adventure, you have responsibilities to attend to. First and foremost is that to the two women whose warm, soft embrace you wake up in, and to the community on Old Maple Hill. You extract yourself gingerly from their embrace, careful not to wake either of them. Izirina is still so depleted that she can muster only a quiet whine, but Costella-still sleeping—cling to you.

“Nnn, staaay~”

You kiss her the forehead, finding the whole situation unbearably endearing, and then extract yourself anyway. There’s work to be done, after all. You spare a glance back at the girls as you leave the tent, and find then spooning with one another, which at least solves THAT problem.

Outside the tent, you extract the one remaining <Goodberry>. Potent as it may be as an emergency ration or source of last-minute magical reinvigoration, it is MOST useful as a gift to the future—a second plant, to expedite your experiment here.

You think again of Pricness Yllarquin, who feared you bringing such treasures back from the moon. She feared the forces of darkenss would try to use it to feed their armies and march against the Sylvan Realm. You have to imagine she would have been—still IS—sympathetic to your plans to help those in need, those in poverty. With this dark alliance you have made, and with this garden, you hope and pray that you can prove to her that it does not need to be as she fears—that by bringing people plenty, you can also bring peace.

You bury the berry beside its fellow, still a barely-budded sprout. Its magical energies will sustain and preserve it for now. Soon, it will be time for the ritual… But before that, there is someone else you must retrieve—someone to whom you made a promise, that she might attend the next such rite.

Once Izzy and Costella have awoken and you three have shared some morning tea and a simple breakfast of bread, eggs, and jam—made somewhat more festive by Costella’s insistence on cutting the bread into heart shapes—you ask a mostly-refreshed Izzy to transport you once more to the distant, dilapidated mountain-port of Turtledove, and at the door of ‘Mistress of Magic’ Margot Gartner. This time, you knock.
No response comes.

You knock again, and after a while, a third time. Eventually, the door is thrown open, revealing a woman festooned in a form-hugging magenta robe, with a large and fluffy collar of unknown feathers and fur in purest white, and wearing a deep pink hat with a matching, fuzzy hat-band. The stern look in her hazel eyes and sneer of displeasure upon her lips marks her out as someone of (assumed) importance; the pointed tip of the hate makes it clear she is a mage.

“Why do I even HIRE you people, if you can’t open a bloody door?!” she shouts over her shoulder. “Nicolette, go find where Dieguez is hiding—probably napping in a closet again."
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>>5928556
She looks back at you, looking you up and down as if assessing you. You notice that she doesn’t seem to pay your face or body so much attention as your clothing, which makes her coo in appreciation. Finally, she squints at your hat, and frowns.

“Amateur work,” she says, “but with promise. That’s what Is aid when I firsts aw an example of that. I knew, with some careful tutelage, she had the makings of a skilled enchantress.”

“…Testa, you mean?”

“Well, she’s the one who made you that hat, isn’t she?” Mistress Gartner retorts. “But the robes…”

You quickly take a step back before she can reach out and fondle your attire, feeling faintly uncomfortable with the idea of explaining their origins to a stranger.

“Touchy,” the famed illusionist and aesthetic mage notes, resting her palm on her cheek. “Trade secrets? Are you a rival, come to poach my apprentice? Or… Oh! A collaborateur?”

“I’m not looking to ‘poach’ anyone, but I am here for Testa,” you admit. “My name is Ezreal Mious Van Houtzmann. The, ah… Archmage’s apprentice?”

“The ARCHMAGE?” Gartner recoils. “What does that old mummy want with MY student? I thought she had a mental block preventing her from remembering beauty and life.”

“I’m… Not at liberty to disclose,” you say, exploiting the misunderstanding. “But I need to return to Hawksong with her. It’s vitally important.”

“A secretive, by how vague you’re being,” Mistress Gartner notes wryly and narrows her eyes. “You can’t tell me ANYTHING of this vital work for the Tower? It sounds like the sort of thing a Mistress of the Arcane ought to know about… Perhaps even assist in, for a reasonable contractor’s rate… The master is MUCH more adept in the Arts Esthétiques Arcaniques than the student, you know!”

“Afraid not, ma’am,” you say.

“MA’AM?!”

“Uh,” you stammer, “Mistress, rather?”

“For a cute young thing like you,” Mistress Gartner purrs, leaning forwards and taking your arm. “Margot will suffice, darling. Now, about this project…”

Mistress Gartner guides you inside her tower—as much workshop or boutique as magic laboratory, busting with human and halfling attendants busy at work, sweaty in the southerly heat. She presses you for information, while you carefully deflect and dodge to preserve your ancestral secrets, and to hide the less-official nature of your activities, until…

“Tips!”

To your relief, Testa appears before you, accompanied by a swarthy halfling girl in maid’s attire, who is carrying armfuls of variously-coloured fabric.
>>
>>5928561
“Very sorry, Mistress Gartner,” the halfling (Dieguez?) says with an accent you cannot place, “I was organizing and inventorying the materials as you had—”

“Yes, yes,” Mistress Gartner waves her servant off dismissively, and the halfling takes the hint and takes her leave. “Nicolette, you didn’t tell me you were collaborating with the ARCHMAGE’S APPRENTICE!”

“I am?” Nicolette Testa asks, setting down her own heap of frilly, gauzy materials.

“You are,” you assert, extracting yourself from Testa’s overbearing master. “The… Thing, remember?”

Testa stares at you uncomprehending for a moment, before realization—and excitement—dawn.

“OH! Is, uh, that THING today?”

“In a few nights,” you clarify, “but we need time to practice and prepare, for reliable results.”

Mistress Gartner watches this back and forth with increasing frustration, though she hides it behind a demure mask and a quiet sigh.

“This is really MOST irregular. Tell the Archmage that I expect COMPENSATION or EXPLANATION, when she takes my dear Nicolette away from me on such short notice. SHE can decide which she’d prefer.”

She smiles a seductive, yet somehow spooky, smile.

“OR,” she adds, “she can return the favour and loan me YOU, Ezreal. Or… ‘Tips’, was it? We can discuss your tailor…”

“R-right,” you say nervously, feeling like a rabbit before a fox. “I’ll… Convey the message.”

Together with Testa, you leave Margo Gartner’s domain and with a mutual sigh of relief, escape her master’s clutches.

“Is she always like that?” you ask.

“When she’s around,” Testa replies, “and sober, and not locked in her room. So… Some of the time?”

“But it’s worth it?” you ask, skeptically.

“Oh, yes! One hundred percent!” she says, then hesitates. “Well, ninety? Eighty-five? It’ll look good on a resume.”

You shrug, no stranger to eccentric masters or odd living conditions yourself.

“Ready to go?”

“One-hundred-and-TEN percent, yes,” Testa exhales with relief. “I could use a break.”

In a flash of Izirina Henzler’s patents teleportation magic, you leave Turtledove and return to the familiar fields and hills just outside Hawksong.
>>
>>5928563
Later that evening, you attend to your other obligation—grabbing a drink with the goblin Zith-Zi, yet again financed by YOUR gold. You don’t argue the point, since she DID risk life, limb, or at least potential imprisonment to invade the royal bedchamber and face down the forces of darkness.

“Aaah, it was nothin’,” Zi brags. “Not fer a skilled sellsword like yours truly! And anyway, things didn’t even get stabby.”

“So I DON’T need to pay for your drinks?”

“Funny guy,” Zi replies, and waggles her flagon until a barmaid refills it. “Actually, it was payment I wanted ta’ talk about.”

“Zi, I really appreciate what you did,” you say, “but I haven’t been EMPLOYED for over a year, really. Not earning coin. I’m an adult now, even by elf standards, so I don’t get an allotment of gold for my schooling. Even buying your drinks is—”

“It’s not gold I’m after, Tips.”

You sip your own drink, and eye the little goblin warily, wondering what scheme the onetime bandit might be hatching. But, to your surprise, she doesn’t fix you with some canny, predatory glare. Rather, she is staring down into her own drink, looking more thoughtful—and sadder—than she has ever looked.

“What’s going on, Zi?” you ask.

“First, ya’ gotta’ promise you’ll do it,” she says petulantly.

“Do WHAT?” you ask, exasperated. “Zi, you know I can’t just promise something like that without knowing what you’re going to ask.”

“What?” she demands, “Ya’ don’t TRUST me?!”

“No,” you say flatly.

She sniffs, and swigs her freshly-filled flagon down to the dregs, and slams it down.

“Fair,” she belches, making you cringe, and provoking the goblin-girl to at least smirk at your reaction.

“Well,” she says, “promise ya’ won’t, you know, let it get around? What I’m asking for, whether you do it or not?”

“I… Think I can do that,” you conclude, if only to sate your curiosity.

“I’ve heard about that whole business you get up to on the Hill. Fairy woo-woo shit, ya’ know? Turnin’ people pretty, and young, and… Elfy.”

You say nothing, nursing your drink and listening. Zith-Zi can’t even look at you, and her voice is low.

“Well, do you think… It would work on a goblin?”

“…Zi?”
>>
>>5928564
She taps her flagon nervously on table.

“It’s just… I’m not as young as I used ta’ be, right? We met, what, nearly a decade ago now? I know for YOU, ten years is nothing, but…”

She goes quiet, but you understand. The average lifespan of a goblin—even one who doesn’t die a violent death—is only fifty or sixty years. It occurs to you that Zith-Zi doesn’t just look sadder or more tired than you’re used to—she looks OLDER. In the time you have known her, you have finally grown from your adolescence to young adulthood… But in that same time, she has moved from adulthood to middle-age, despite being younger than you in absolute terms.

“If you want to extend your life, Zi, what are you still doing ADVENTURING?” you can’t help but ask. “Even if I could sue magic to change you, it wouldn’t stop you from getting killed by some trap or monster or whatever.”

“Stop adventuring and do WHAT?” Zi snaps. “Settle down? Have a family? Where—out in the WASTES?”

“Or here in Hawksong,” you reply. “You seem pretty at-home around humans these days.”

“Ha!” she barks, then looks down at the table again. “Maybe… But even so, a goblin’s a goblin’s a goblin, Tips. Every humie knows that. A-and… A goblin dies young, and a goblin can’t do magic, and any kid you have with a goblin… Is a goblin, is a goblin, is a goblin.”

You think you begin to understand. Zith-Zi and your old friend and fellow student James Efron had become rather close over these last few years—first socializing together, then going into business with the same adventuring company, and eventually (or so you inferred) beginning some form of romantic relationship. You haven’t seen the two together since you came back from Holy Luna, though, and the subject has been a sore spot for your goblin companion.

“This is about Efron,” you state simply.

Zith-Zi looks up at you sharply, baring her jagged little teeth… And then snorts in bitter amusement. She starts to saying something, but sighs instead, slumping.

“He says magic’s run in his family for generations,” she says. “And… Well… Even if I was the most magic gobliness alive, a goblin’s a goblin’s a goblin. His family’s ‘respectable’. What ‘RESPECTABLE’ family lets their son settle down and have kids with… A goblin?”

You finish your drink in silence, thinking on your friend’s request.

“Do you… Not LIKE being a goblin?” you ask.

“Never said that,” she mumbles, a little tipsy after so many drinks despite her shockingly-sturdy constitution for such a small humanoid. “Just don’t like feeling, you know… Alone.”

“Zith-Zi…” you begin.
>You agree to help Zith-Zi, and invite her to attendant the rite with you and Testa
>You advise her that she shouldn’t change herself for someone else
>Write-in
>>
>>5928566
>You agree to help Zith-Zi, and invite her to attendant the rite with you and Testa

On one condition.

"Promise me you intend to do this rite for yourself - not for Efron’s family. If that is the play, then don’t; no matter how hard you try to cater to them, if they have already made up their mind about goblins, there’s not you could do. They’ll just demand more and more - I doubt it would be the basis of a happy relationship and family then.”

“If you wish to be with Efron, then that’s quite alright; I will help you with that - it’s the least I could do.”

“I understand being alone is a hell of a thing, but marriage or family might not fix everything about that either. I would know. Take your time and think about this, a lot, Zi.”
>>
>>5928599
Supporting
>>
>>5928599
Support
>>
>>5928599
>+1
>>
>>5928566
>You’re not alone. Feel free to bother me (more than you already do) if ya ever feel like this. You don’t need to change yourself for others- you’re already fantastic.
I mean, you make alcohol and coin disappear right in front of me! And you say you’re not magical… ;)

>>5928599
Support- this decision needs to be for her, not to appease others.
>>
>>5928566
>You agree to help Zith-Zi, and invite her to attendant the rite with you and Testa
Hahaha yes experimentation on sentient beings
>>
Rolled 2 (1d4)

>>5928599
>>5928622
>>5928631
>>5928674
>>5928680
>>5928694
“Zi,” you say, “where is this coming from?”

She looks geninelya nnoyed at the question, shootign youa galre.

“Ain’t you been listening, kid?”

“I’m older than you,” you remind her. “And honestly… No matter what you say, I’m starting to think I’m more experienced, too.”

“Say what?” she asks, eyes narrowed and body tense.

“You’re not alone,” you say, rather than rising to her bait, and that seems to throw her off and defuse her. “Feel free to bother me—more than you ALREADY do, I mean—if you’re feeling like this… Lonely I mean.”

Zith-Zi laughs uproariously at that, and shoot you a sarcastic sneer, asking: “What, two girls ain’t enough for ya’? When did little Tips get so big in the britches.”

“All I’m saying,” you say levelly, “Is that you don’t need to change yourself for others. You’re already fantastic.”

That shut her up, making the little goblin blush.

“You’re just saying that so you can avoid DOING it,” she mumbles.

“On the contrary,” you shoot back, “You think I wouldn’t LOVE the chance to properly experiment with my spacecraft with a consenting sapient?”

“A, uh…?”

“A thinking felling, logical being,” you explain, “who can properly understand what exactly I’m asking of them.”

“Oh, yeah,” Zith-Zi replies after a moment’s consideration. “Well… That’s me alright.”

“Are you sure.”

Zith-Zi look at you in confusion, maybe even vague irritation, but it’s no matter: you need to be sure.

“Promise me you intend to do this rite for yourself,” you demand. “Not for Efron’s family. If that is the play, then don’t do it. No matter how hard you try to cater to them, if they have already made up their mind about goblins, there’s nothing you can do. Do you really think if you make yourself a little different with a ritual, their prejudices will disappear? They’ll just demand more and more, and it will NEVER be enough. Do you think that sound like the basis of a happy relationship and family?”

The goblin glowers, and eyes her emptied flagon, but says nothing.


“If you wish to be with Efron, then that’s fine,” you say. “I’ll help you with that. It’s the least I could do.”


She waits for you to continue, and so you do.

“I understand being alone is a hell of a thing,” you say, “but marriage or family... Just having those things won’t magically fix everythng.”

“Says the guy with two girls, no kids, and a hundred years ahead of him!” says Zith-Zi.

“You’re right,” you admit. “I can’t know what you’re feeling. I’m just asking you to PLEASE… Take your time. Think about this, Zi. Not a little; a LOT.”

You pay the tab, get up, and leave, with your goblin friend staying put and looking deeply troubled.
>>
Rolled 7, 3, 2, 11, 20 = 43 (5d20)

>>5928836
Costella offer lessons in elven-tongue and in the ritual dance and song of the rite to Testa. As you prepare and plan to enter the Sylvan Realms as a diplomatic envoy, and to thus hopefully forestall a major diplomatic incident, the two women prepare for the upcoming New Moon. For you part, you take what free time you can to study up as well—memorizing the steps and syllables, and refreshing your knowledge of the underlying faith and theor.

And on the day in question, Zith-ZI arrives as well.

“I… I wanna’ see what I’m capable of,” she justifies herself. “Whoever I have kids with, whether it’s Jimmy or not… I want them to have every oportunity available ya’ know?”

“I think I get it,” you sa. “As long as you’re sure.”

“I am,” says Zith-Zi.

“Me too!” adds Nicolette Testa, unnecessarily.

“Alright,” you say. “Then let us begin.”

And so the dance, and the song and the <Rite of Attunement> begin…
>>
>>5928842
In the realm-between realms, the space-between spaces, you dance. Costella helps to guide the rhythm, to anchor your essence and direct the dance, and to keep everyone corporeal. In amazingly-unaccented elven, she sings the song of your mother’s race: a song of community, unity, and natural fealty to the wild around you and the gods who created it. She directs disoriented Zith-Zi, who feels to fall numb and half-limp, pliable and barely conscious in the magical miasma. Testa is more alert and awake, eyes wide with wonder a the arcane and divine mysticism encircling and encircling her.

You have a unique perspective, through. Having gone through this ritual (pr similar ones) so many times, and having seen the working behind reality’s machinery, you are uniquely positioned to direct this evolutionary moment. I fact, it cannot progress without your permission: nobody here can receive and transmute these energies safely and successfully without your guiding hand, not here an not now. Your judgement is REQUIRED,a nd what results is YOUR doing.

You realzie, on some small scale, what the Gods Above must fee… And it is harrowing.

The <Goodberry> bushes grow, and blossom, and bloom, and both the women who dance with you—Zith-Zi and Nicolette Testa—emerge…
>Green-skinned [-1 DC]
>Short [-2 DC]
>Capable of breeding [+1 DC]
>True-breeding [+-2 DC, requires ‘Capable of breeding.\’]
>Magic-resistant [+2 DC]
>Poison-resistant [+1 DC]
>Beautiful and symmetrical [+1 DC]
>Fast-growing [+1 DC]
>Fast-aging and short-lived [-2 DC]
>Capable of casting spells [+2 DC]
>>
>20
We’re so back.
>>
>>5928851
interesting. hope testa likes the new skin color.
>>
>>5928855
>>5928873
[The 20 was an arcana to see whether the whole thing backfired tremendously due to the nature of goblins; you still have an upcoming roll depending on which traits you pick from the list.]
>>
>>5928851
>Capable of breeding [+1 DC]
>True-breeding [-2 DC, requires ‘Capable of breeding.\’]
>Beautiful and symmetrical [+1 DC]
Should even out- Testa wants beauty, and Zi wants kids.
>>
>>5928851
>Short [-2 DC]
>Capable of breeding [+1 DC]
>True-breeding [+-2 DC, requires ‘Capable of breeding.\’]
>Beautiful and symmetrical [+1 DC]

That’s +4 DC if we don’t have short. I’ll take the disadvantage.

>>5928879
(I presume True Breeding is +2DC? If so then this is my answer.)
>>
>>5928851
>Green-skinned [-1 DC]
>>Short [-2 DC]
>Capable of casting spells [+2 DC]
>Capable of breeding [+1 DC]
>True-breeding [+-2 DC, requires ‘Capable of breeding.\’]
>Beautiful and symmetrical [+1 DC]

There's a lot on the docket to fulfill both of their requests without ruining either of their lives. Beautiful and True-breeding are necessary for each of their requests. And Anons seem to have forgotten that Testa is a Mage Apprentice and therefore needs to be able to CAST MAGIC. Which means we have to take both non-short-lived -DC options.
>>
>>5928946
>>5928961
True breeding isn’t a + by my estimate lads.

>>5928961
Actually, I assume Capable of casting spells would be relevant in Zi’s case- like, Tips and Izzy weren’t incapable of magic after the rite after all.
>>
>>5928961
I thought Testa was able to cast spells in the first place?
>>
>>5928965
Zith-Zi herself would probably like to be able to cast magic. Since she has experience with magic wards and disabling magic traps. And Efron parent's rejected her because of her lack of mystical ability.

Also our natures were partial mixed when we did the ritual with izzy and costa. Infact costa gained magical abilities due to it. So if Zith-Zi and teste are mixed it wouldn't be surprising if teste magic was reduced.
>>
>>5928851
>Short [-2 DC]
>Capable of breeding [+1 DC]
>True-breeding [+-2 DC, requires ‘Capable of breeding.\’]
>Beautiful and symmetrical [+1 DC]
>Capable of casting spells [+2 DC]
>>5928965
>Actually, I assume Capable of casting spells would be relevant in Zi’s case- like, Tips and Izzy weren’t incapable of magic after the rite after all.
I think that's because zi isn't able to so she murked things for testa
>>
>>5929001
>>5929004
So, what? That nat 20 critical success on Arcane doesn’t help us? That’s frustrating.
>>
>>5928914
>>5928946
>>5928961
>>5929004
[True-breeding (ie. producing offspring predictably in-line with this template) is indeed a +2 DC. My apologies for the confusion.]

[And yes, Testa can of course cast spells, but i can't at all, categorically, and goblins are so unmagical that they may well be 'soulless'... So it will increase the DC to ensure that both women emerge still capable of magic, and the 'soulless' property is so poorly-understood that you cannot even predict or control what happens with THAT.]
>>
>>5929017
>So, what? That nat 20 critical success on Arcane doesn’t help us? That’s frustrating.
from what OP said, that roll was because goblin's nature had a chance to make the ritual backfire but since it was a nat 20 I dunno what bonuses we got
>>5929027
zam, so I'll have to change things a bit
>>
>>5928851
changing from >>5929004
>Short [-2 DC]
>Capable of breeding [+1 DC]
>Beautiful and symmetrical [+1 DC]
>Capable of casting spells [+2 DC]
welp, since Testa magic potential would be lessened and picking 'Fast-aging and short-lived [-2 DC]' isn't really an option I'll keep all but 'true-breeding' so while both will have reduced fertility, testa will have the good looks she wanted and zizi will be capable of birthing hummies + cast magic.
>>
am >>5926490 only now I noticed it has changed
>>
>>5929017
>>5929034
[A failure there would have meant the ritual backfiring and assigning unpredictable, probably undesirable, characteristics. THIS way, you essentially get to build a custom load-out. The critical success means a lower base DC]
>>
>>5929048
hmm, if that's the case it's tempting to bet and add full-plap (probably with green skin) to the choices...
>>
Hm. I’ll switch from >>5928946 to

>Short [-2 DC]
>Capable of breeding [+1 DC]
>Beautiful and symmetrical [+1 DC]
>Capable of casting spells [+2 DC]
>>
>>5928836
>experiment with my spacecraft
*experiment with my spellcraft
[Turns out AI can't solve typos with things that aren't words OR if you mash both integer symbols.]
>>
>>5929027
Please ignore my >>5928851 True breeding vote, thought it meant limiting the selection pool. Maybe it’ll take some time, we could research how to get Zi casting magic later, cause I think it’d be cool for her to explore it with childlike wonder.

Mainly going with the limited selection because Testa didn’t sign up for an surprise experiment with unknown detrimental side effects.
>>
>>5929144
so you're only gonna pick the partial fertility and the good looks one ? anon I gotta remind you that tessa will have her magic capabilities reduced that's why we're picking "capable of casting spell' + short to balance it out
>>
>>5928851
>Capable of breeding [+1 DC]
>True-breeding [+-2 DC, requires ‘Capable of breeding.\’]
>Beautiful and symmetrical [+1 DC]
>Capable of casting spells [+2 DC]

we take everything and surrender nothing
>>
>>5929171
Kek, at least pick the short one to help our chances, anon
>>
>>5928851
>Magic-resistant [+2 DC]
>Capable of casting spells [+2 DC]
>Green-skinned [-1 DC]
>Poison-resistant [+1 DC]
>>
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>>5927259
this is me
>>
>>5928836
Btw what was the 1d4 for ?
>>
>>5929199
wrong screenshot
>>
>>5929202
[Since the voters leaned towards granting Zith_Zi's request, but also wanted to leave it up to her, she had a 25% chance of deciding not to attend the ritual, but a 75% chance of going ahead with it.]
>>
>>5928851
>Short [-2 DC]
>Capable of breeding [+1 DC]
>True-breeding [+2 DC, requires ‘Capable of breeding.\’]
>Beautiful and symmetrical [+1 DC]
>Capable of casting spells [+2 DC]
I'll take the +4 DC.
No green means less prejudice for Zi
>>
>>5928851
Maybe we should've conducted separate rituals for them
>Capable of breeding [+1 DC]
>True-breeding [+-2 DC, requires ‘Capable of breeding.\’]
>Beautiful and symmetrical [+1 DC]
>Capable of casting spells [+2 DC]
>>
>>5928851
>>Green-skinned [-1 DC]
>>Short [-2 DC]
>>Capable of breeding [+1 DC]
>>True-breeding [+-2 DC, requires ‘Capable of breeding.\’]
>>Beautiful and symmetrical [+1 DC]
>>Capable of casting spells [+2 DC]

For a total + 1 +-2 .
This is any chimericist's dream: our own, sentient (and powerful) race! Testa will of course dislike the colour but she's herself the best at reverting this (even if it's temporary). The sloght magical boost should appease her enough. Zith-Zi will be more beautiful, long-lived and capable of casting spells. The shortness is actually somewhat positive: we want to end hunger everywhere and small people need less food!

This is my first post since the ghostliness vote way back.
>>
>>5929296
That would result in +3 DC. True breeding is considered +2 DC. >>5929027

But I see what you’re trying to do.
>>
>>5929296
Ghostliness ? And why didn’t you vote before as well ?
>>
>>5929399
Maybe dude's a lurker that enjoy riding along and voting only on what he deemed important matters?
>>
File: tally man.png (15 KB, 846x183)
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Rolled 8, 4, 20, 17, 9 = 58 (5d20)

>>5929296
>>5929275
>>5929263
>>5929196
>>5929171
>>5929054
>>5929039
>>5929004
>>5928961
>>5928946
>>5928914
The colours and contours of hill and valley seem to flatten, to merge and swirl in your perception. From that sameness emerge new topographies, unnatural and wild. New colours fill your senses, colours rarely seen by even elven eyes or those of human spellcasters... And never before by goblin ones.

"Woah!" Zith-Zi says, panic creeping into her voice. "What is... Tips, what the fuck is this?!"

"Second-sight!" Testa supplies.

“Is it always like this?!”

“No,” Testa muses. “This is new…”

Zith-Zi stumbles, nearly taking Testa down with her.

“Hey, keep up!”

“I can’t help it!” Zi shoots back, stumbling and nearly taking you all down with her. “You two are too damn TALL!”

“Stop talking!” you chastise them both. “Start singing”

It’s true that the arrangement, dancing in a circle with hands clasped, following the steps and singing the ancient song of <The Rite of Attunement>, is made more awkward by Zith-Zi’s addition. She is less-practiced AS WELL as being shorter, requiring adjustments to keep the rhythm of the ritual going. However, the longer you persist, the easier it gets, for it is not truly the outside world which is changing and transforming… It is the two women dancing with you. In body, in spirit, in fundamental substances you see them shift, and meld. Distinguishing features—facial features, skin colour, capabilities, dimensions—all seem to melt and merge for a moment before your own second-sight.

The time is now. You lift your voice, and lead the chant:

“Belbau nossta ulu uns'aa ghil!

Ori'gato uns'aa el lu'tlu rosin 'sohna, 'sovah, xondyerna lu'k'olah.

Ori'gato uns'aa dro ghil lu'nin; ori'gato nindol k'lar lu'draeval dro wun uns'aa, mziln.

Ori'gato uns'aa ssinssrigg, lu'tlu 'che, erl'eleeus 'zil l'dalhar wun nind ilhar, lu'tlu rosin natha seke ligah d'nindol sel thac'zil, dalninuk ulu nindel vel'bolen dron lu'dalninil ulu nindel vel'bolen elar!”

[Base DC 10, thanks to your initial critical on the rite; with your selected options, DC 16]
>>
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>20 back to back
>>
>>5929429
You feel resistance as you guide the magic through the circle of people. It’s like the resistance you feel when practicing Elementalism, when lightning strikes a non-conductive substance… And in this case, the ‘non-conductive substance’ is Zith-Zi herself. Goblins are naturally magic-resistant, after all; it isn’t just that they cannot CAST spells or SEE magic, it’s that they are actively ANTI-MAGICAL, such that you aren’t even certain that they can be said to have SOULS as you have come to understand the concept.

That is the first thing you change. It is no small thing to craft a soul… But effectively, that is must do. You pray that the Gods forgive you this transgression—one you had delayed all these years, resisting the temptation to meddle with things beyond your ken and risk the balance of their pact… But if Zith-Zi is to receive this opportunity, to take in this magic and be changed by it as she so desires, you must make her a soul.

>The 20 from >>5928842
That was actually for this; I just rolled it too early, realized it removed narrative tension and oversimplified your decision-making, and then lied

And so you do. You raise your voice, repeating the chant, and will some of your own spirit-and some of Testa’s—to flow through Zith-Zi. As the energies swirl through her, it is as if you are one organism. Of course to lend her some of your soul permanently would risk diminishing you two non-goblins, and perhaps even result in another soul-bonding event. That would be less than ideal—practically philosophically, ethically, ROMANTICALLY—and so it is a good thing that there is another source of magic here. You draw upon the land, and the <Goodberry> bushes even now sprouting and growing between the three of you. You take that excess lunar energy into yourselves, and focus it upon Zith-Zi.

You watch with wonder as, before your very eyes, her strange and mysterious ‘soulless’ heart grows warm and bright with the light of magic.
>>
>>5929429
Wait, shouldn’t it be +4 DC instead?

Breeding (+1)
True breed (+2)
Beauty (+1)
Short (-2)
Spellcast (+2)
>>
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>>5929442
The difficult part done, and spirit shaped, the flesh proves much more willing. You watch as Zith-Zi grows subtly taller, a little leaner, while at the same time Nicolette Testa experiences the inverse: shrinking slightly, diminishing in height. Their facial features warp and change as their own voices rise in song, carried away by the ancient music; when it stops both are distinctly still the same women they were before, but also somehow DIFFERENT. IN the manner of elves their symmetry and proportions are ‘perfected’, made more even and hale-looking in every aspect. Neither is green, though both are subtly between human and goblin proportions, with the large eyes and large, pointed ears of a goblin. Their teeth are not the jagged fangs of a goblin when they gasp, but neither is it the dentition of humanity—it is something in-between as well, most prominent in the front teeth and canines.

You look across the dance to Costella, and to your relief she is unchanged. She smiles back at you with open relief, so you can only assume the same is true of you, also: that you have sustained your own sense of separate self, and remained as you were, unaffected by the Rite on any deep level.

If this were the only affect of the ritual, you would have stopped then and there, in absolute triumph...

>>5929433
>The second 20 is for... This

...But it is not. In the midst of the four of you, you see a fifth shape taking form—hazy, smoky, a vague and half-humanoid silhouette of greenish smog. At first you are confused, having never seen such a thing in your previous performances or observances of the Rite. You take it for goblinoid impurity—the leftover residue of whatever uncanny character it is that makes goblins so inherent ‘unmagical’ or ‘soulless’… But it is not just that. Squinting at it through the distortions produces by the ritual, you recognize with dawning horror that the formless thing which has emerged from the ritual is not merely magically-resistant null-matter. No, rather it is that same demonic taint which once afflicted and limited Izirina’s own spirit! But… How, and why? From WHERE?

A horned head forms from the smoke, and a mouth opens wider and wider in a silent scream—the scream of giving birth, or being born—as the demonic entity struggles to congeal itself into something cogent and whole. As ego takes shape from the blackened, Hellish ectoplasm, it attempts to escape… But the three you still dance, and it is caught in the whorl, bounced back into the centre.

“What is that?!” Costella gasps.

“I don’t know,” you admit.

“It came from Zi!” notes Testa.

“That was… INSIDE me?” Zith-Zi asks, sounding both disgusted and fascinated.
>>
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>>5929470
The foul Hell-smog swirls and spins, flowing this way and that, but it cannot escape—not while the <Rite> continues—nor does it see to have the strength of will or necessary physicality to attack or possess you. With great and terrible effort, it collapses in on itself, collapsing to a singular point like a hovering, golden-green orb, still smouldering with acrid smoke, and it produces a voice at once Zith-Zi’s, and someone else’s…

“Love…” it whispers “Love me… Treasure me… Desire me… Release your need, your dreams, to me…”

“Some sort of… Succubus? A desire-demon?” Testa guesses. “Oh drat, it’s been YEARS since I brushed up on Extraplanar Binding…”

The same is true for you, but it doesn’t matter. The demonic spirit is weak, disoriented, bound and helpless.

“I am nothing… Where am I? Why am I nothing? Where is… Me?” it cries out, and then seems to take notice of Zi. “You! I was you! Become me! Let me be you!”

“Uh… Tips?” Zith-Zi yelps, nearly losing a step in the dance as the orb of unclean energy wobbles vaguely towards her. “A little help here?!”

The orb stops, seeming to take notice of you, and then begins to wobble instead in your direction.

“You… Let me be you! Become me! Desire me, give into me, share with me!"

You resist the urge to release you grasp of the girls’ hands, to step back and way from the foul thing. After all, that would break the magical circle you three have formed, and release it.

The orb wobbles in place, beginning to flake and crumble back int mist. When it speaks again, its voice is pitiable, pathetic.

"I am… So cold…”

"I feel kind of, like, bad for it," Costella says aloud.

Before you can stop the <Rite>, you need to decide what to do about this unexpected party-crasher.

What will you do?
>Attempt to communicate with the demon
[You need answers… Though the longer you keep it here, amidst all this swirling magic, the greater chance of it manifesting]

>Return it to Zith-Zi
[If it came from her, and wasn’t harming her, perhaps this thing is some… Benign infection native to her body? Maybe even important to her being in some way?]

>Bind it
[You could trap the demon in an object, theoretically… You were never really trained in such magic, but you know it CAN be done, and this is a rather WEAK demon.]

>Banish it
[Again, not your specialty… But with such a weakling spirit, sending it back to the hellish realms should be a simple enough thing, right?]

>Write-in

>>5929446
Ah, right you are. Well, with the Nat 20, you had it either way
>>
>>5929471
>Bind it
To whatever Costella have under her smooth, beautiful hand.
I mean, who can resist our succubus-empowered already irresistible socialite?
>>
>>5929477
[To be clear, are you looking to trap it in something to gift to Costella, or to trap it... IN Costella?]
>>
>>5929471
So we created a soul. The very act that breaks the bargain between the gods and may have unknown horrible consequenced. Marvelous.
>Attempt to communicate with the demon
I have 2 hypotheses:
>Goblins have demons sealed into them, and we have just forced Zi's out and replaced it with the new soul
Or
>Since a soul is the creator gods' intent, maybe goblins were a collaborative project and effectively have 2 mutually compensating souls. And we kicked one of them out.
>>
>>5929481
trap it in something to gift to Costella
Wait, did the soul creation balanced out with a demon creation to not break the bargain?
>>
>>5929471
>Ask Zi whether she wants it returned to her or bound in an object
I have a sneaking suspicion that it may be important to her being lads.

>>5929486
I mean, don’t mortals create souls the regular way? It just means that’ll we’re cosmically and soulfully her Daddy (Zi’s not gonna let us live that down is she?)
>>
>>5929486
Maybe goblinoids are a type of tiefling in this setting bred or crafted by hell's demon princes.

>>5929471
>Write-in: Make a soulless clone of Zith-Zi and put the creture3 inside in order to study it.
>>
>>5929471
>Bind it
Oh man is this Iri?
We can decide what to do with her after she’s safely bound
>>
>>5929508
I like this write in- it’ll be like Zi has a twin soul-sista!
>>
>>5929471
>Bind it
let's mafuba this thing until we know what to do later on.
>>5929486
>>5929504
man, I hope it's something we ended up "dividing" from zizi rather than a creation of ours. now to the questions, are goblins' soullessness due to a demonic taint after their creation or is it factory setting ? considering that they're anti-magic and can breed with anything like humans but only birth other goblins, it seems like the evil ones version of cannon fodder.
>>
>>5929625
The fey told us that neither they or the dark gods made them.
>>
>>5929471
You can consider me supporting the write in >>5929508, as I quite like the soul-sista idea.
>>
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>>5929645
>>5929625
>>5929521
>>5929508
>>5929504
>>5929489
>>5929486
>>5929477
Not for the first time, Zith-Zi and her race have you asking that question. Back when you were apprenticing under Archmage Henzler—and ‘next door neighbours’ with ZIth-Zi, whose hybrid-drake ‘Hershy’ served as the focus of your first great experiments with advanced Chimericism—you were often more perplexed with ZI’S anatomy than with Hershy’s… And not in the way she would tease you about. A you developed your signature spells, <Elemental Infusion> and <Clone>, you came to understand just how truly BIZARRE goblinoids are as a class of life. Much like the duplicate organism which <Clone> created, they seemed to lack any sort of spark of life, or of conscious will.

And yet they live. And yet they are conscious. And yet, as Zith-Zi herself so amply evinces, they are ESPECIALLY willful. This hidden little demon… Is THIS their animating force, then?Is one of THESE inside every goblin, tucked away somewhere within them?

“What ARE you?”

“I am nothing,” the orb repeats. “I don’t want to be… Nothing… I want to be you! Or her! Or her!”

The orb becomes frantic, beginning to fracture and break apart as it bounces around within the confines of your slowing dance. Costella and Testa both scream as it hurtles towards them, but you shout for them to continue the dance, and they both halting raise their voices in song. The circle holds, the demon retreats, whimpering and whining to the centre of the circle.

“Zi… What should we do with it?” you ask the (former?) goblin.

“Me?!” Zith-Zi shouts. “What the fuck are youa skin’ ME for, Tips? Ain’t YOU the magic-man??”

“This thing… Whatever this demon is, it came from you,” you explain. “It might even be a part of you.”

Zith-Zi’s eyes—still faintly yellow, despite her pinkish skin—widen. She looks at the oblong ovoid hovering in the air before her, giving off smoke and ash, shuddering and wailing.

“That is NOT me,” she asserts.

“But the soul that’s in you now…” you begin.

That soul is new, fresh. What if this demonic entity is, in some unknown way, vital to the Zith-Zi you know?

“Zi, goblins aren’t… They don’t naturally HAVE a…”

You’ve changed her body, remodeled her brain, and infused her with a new spirit… And only now do you realize just how little of the Zith-ZI from earlier this same day is there. An existential dread wells up in you as you realize what you’ve done—that in your eagerness to help a friend, to finally explore this avenue of living alchemy, you may have destroyed your friend rather than preserving her.
>>
>>5929760
“I’M me.”

The words, spoken with such conviction, snap you out of your spiraling thoughts. You meet Zith-Zi’s eyes, seeing no panic there, but certainty.

“Tips, I don’t know much about magic or none a’ that shit, but I know about one thing for godsdamned sure: Zith-motehrfuckin’-Zi. It wasn’t that floatin’ ball a’ whatsit that my momma' popped out and raised into a badass bitch. It wasn't no fuckin' ball-a-flamin'-shit that kicked ass and took named and stabbed and shank and stole and drank its way ta’ being top gob a’ her own little merry warband. I did that. It wasn’t some glob a’ devil-spunk that decided ta’ come here with you ta’ fix up Hershy—I did that. It was me that had ta’ share a basement with ya’ for a year, and it’s me that started likin’ it here with gettin' all sappy about you humie fucks... O-or getting’ all mopey about Jimmy. It’s ME that came here today lookin’ for your help, and made the deicion ta’ go along with your weird fairy fuckery. Alright?”

You nod, slowly.

“And it’s the SAME Zith-Zi tellin’ ya’ right now that whatever THAT thing is…”

She points an accusatory finger at the orb which shrinks back from her, further disappating into mist as if in response to her unexpected fury.

“That ain’t no fuckin’ Zith-ZI I ever heard of.”

Her face may have changed. Her skin might be a different colour. Her teeth might be better aligned. Her voice might have even gotten a little less harsh, you notice. But that attitude... Yeah. Whatever changes she's gone through, you recognize her after all these years. The woman before you, now longer a goblin, is nevertheless still Zith-Zi.
>>
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>>5929764
“Should we banish it?” Testa asks.

“Like… Do we even need to?” Costelal asks quietly. “Look.”

You all watch as the orb’s shape finally breaks and shatters, leaving only a slowly dissipating mist.

“I don’t want… To go…” a dozen distorted voices whisper from the cloud. “I want… To…”

“…To live,” you finish the thought.

For a moment, you’re that little boy again, in the lab, staring down at a distressed rabbit and a trapped, barely-breathing deer, being asked to sacrifice them in the name of knowledge and progress. You feel the bile rising in your throat, just like it did back then. This thing—whatever it is, part of Zith-ZI or parasite, demon from Hell though it appears to be—is dying, dissipating, because of you. It wasn’t harming anyone, not that you can tell. You might not known its nature… But you want to, to understand. There are answers locked inside it, but even if there weren’t, it isn’t in YOU to let a pitiful creature suffer and expire.

“We’re binding it,” you say. “Quickly, before it dissipates completely!”

“O-okay,” Testa says. “But… How, Tips?”

A few options occur to you. The safest, most conventional one is to find an object that can hold the demonic miasma—perhaps the owl-amulet upon your hat?

The other option, more daring, more DANGEROUS, but also more within your usual magical wheelhouse, is biological: you could clone a body for this thing. Zith-Zi’s body, perhaps? It IS its ‘natural habitat’, as best you can determine.

What will you do?
>Create a body for the dissipating demon
>Bind it to your hat-buckle
>Write-in
>>
>>5929766
>Create a body for the dissipating demon
"evil" zizi, let's go https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CcPgeAiK70Y
>>
>>5929766
>Create a body for the dissipating demon
Finally we can use the clone spell
>>
>>5929766
>Create a body for the dissipating demon.
>>
>>5929766
>Create a body for the dissipating demon

Preferably one different than ZithZi

>>5929054
>>
>>5929871
>>5929828
>>5929786
>>5929778
While banishing the demonic spirit or letting it fade away is out of the question, imprisoning it in a glorified belt-buckle hardly seems much better. Aside from the moral argument against it, it’s ALSO outside of your specialty, and Testa hardly seems any more confident. Perhaps this is the downside of the Tower’s gutted Demonology curriculum, then…

Or perhaps, if you’re being totally honest, you’re perversely excited to finally test out <Clone> without the usual mora compunctions which hold you back.

“Zi, can I ask you for a favour?”

Zith-Zi looks at you incredulously for a moment, then down at her newly-transformed body, and then back at you.

“Tips, you could ask pretty much any goddamn thing you want right about now,” she says.

“Thank you,” you say, and you mean it.

“But no tongue,” she adds.

You roll your eyes, and say: “Glad to see you didn’t lose your sense of humour in the ritual.”

You nod to the women in the dance, signalling your intentions, and then release their hands and quickly step back, allowing the women to link up and close the circle. The demon deems to weakened to make any sort of daring escape or possession attempt, but you know well that a cornered and dying animal can be the most dangerous—even or ESPECIALLY to an unfamiliar person trying to help it… And helping it is exactly what you plan to do.

You murmur the magic words of the <Clone> incantation, holding the spell in reverse and moving your hands in the circles, half-circles, and other eesoteric gestures needed to channel and direct the power which you now muster. You adjust your stance, steel yourself, and wait for the dance to carry Zith-Zi into range. When she enters the space, you place a hand upon her back and, with a quick exhale that carries the mystic syllables, you push hard upon her back and for e the energy through her.

“Wh-AAAH!”

You cringe a little at the shriek of pain and panic which she emits, though you know from past experimentation that it will (probably) be short-lived. There’s just no way to force magic through an entire body, mapping and memorizing it and replicating its fundamental structures upon a magical lattice, without SOME discomfort.

(Well, no way that YOU know, and as far as you’re aware you’re the only living person who can use this spell AT ALL, so you’re working with what you’ve got)
>>
>>5929943
Zith-Zi pitches forwards, and the dance—the <Rite of Attunement> is broken. The strange currents in the air fall to stillness as Costella and Testa rush to the one-time goblin’s side, helping her up as she shivers and convulses, spitting a string of swears and slurs in goblintongue and multiple trade-tongues. Funny—you never remember that the borderline-illiterate adventurer is actually a POLYGLOT except when she’s really mad.

In front of her, between the girls and the globules of Hellish ectoplasm, a second amorphous shape begins to form. Ehile the demonic mist is struggling to hold even a vague silhouette, this new form is rapidly congealing, manifesting into… Well, into a short, curvaceous, very naked woman with Zith-Zi’s familiar (if newly restructured) face. This duplicate Zith-Zi lurches forwards gasping and groaning, falling to her hands and knees and babbling in incoherent mockery of the original. The TRUE Zith-Zi, meanwhile, looks on in confusion and horror.

“What the fuuuuck,” she groans. “Is that… Fucking hell, is that ME?”

“Not quite,” you say, and then turn your attention to the orb. “It’s you. For You! Do you understand?”

“I am… I was you,” the orb whispers to the blank-eyed trembling woman—fully-formed, but newly-born, soulless and empty, disoriented and without apparent comprehension. “You are… Me. Become me… Let me be you…”

“That’s right,” you assure the spirit. “It’s a home… A vessel for you.”

“Tips, since when can you do THIS?” Testa asks, not sounding entirely approving.

“And, like… Are you sure you SHOULD be, Ez?” Costella adds, concerned.

“There’s nothing else I could do,” you say, rather than answering directly… Because, in truth, you now walk ground untrod by all but perhaps the gods themselves. “Come on, dem—ah, spirit. Take it! It’s yours!”

And so it does. The blackish haze settles upon the <Clone> Zith-Zi, who scarcely sees to register it. The <Clone> does not shrink from the demonic fog, and with every unthinking breath it—she?—takes, more and more of the miasma flows into the doppelganger, coating its lips and tongue. The clone’s eyes roll back, and her breathing becomes more laboured, and but if anything they SPEED UP, as if the empty vessel is almost EAGER to complete the absorption and integration of this foreign entity…

(But then, perhaps it is not so foreign, if your half-formed theories are correct?)

Once the process of absorption is complete, something unexpected happens: the clone of ZIth-Zi, once identical to her new semi-humanoid shape, begins to shift and change. You recall your early lessons with Archmage Henzler, many years prior, as they take on renewed relevance:

“The soul shapes the body,” you murmur, “and the body shapes the soul.”
>>
>>5929944
In the absence of a soul of its own, and with a demonic entity taking its place, the body begins to twists and contort its dimensions to mirror the nature of its occupant. At first this seems to simply mean becoming more ‘goblinioid’—more like the ‘old’ Zith-Zi, a bright green spotted with darker patches. Then, alarmingly, those patches begin to sink, and shrivel, decaying or burninga way it create a splothy, patchwork appearance. The false Zi shrieks an inhuman (and not very goblin-y, either) shriek, tilting her head back as horny protrusions pierce her forehead at both temples and curl upward and back, forming short nubs. A tail erupts from above her buttocks, though only a short affair, and her fingers elongate slightly to claw-like shapes even as her toes fuse and nails extend into a pseudo-hoof, a half-formed amalgam of humanoid foot and cloven hoof. Her teeth, already more goblin-like than the ‘new and improved’ Zith-Zi’s, become more jagged and irregular still, while certain aspects of her anatomy—feminine aspects, in particular—seem to swell and engorge yet further.

“…And that,” Zith-Zi mutters, pointing between ‘her’ legs. “That’s, uh, that’s a fuckin’ DICK.”

You can only nod, because… Well, she’s not wrong. You don’t even blush, for the entire affair is far too surreal and the process of reformation of fascinating and disturbing to have even the slightest element of eroticism, for good or ill.

When it is done, your creation—a demon embodied in replica flesh, a <Clone> given darkly-novel life, lies trembling upon the ground, curled up in a foetal position, whimpering.

“I am… Me?” the demo-goblin asks the four of you, as if seeking permission. “I… Am what you wanted?”

“Uh,” you say, and look to the others for help.

Testa simply has her hands clasped to her mouth, too shocked by this denouement to even properly appreciate her OWN changed form. Zith-Zi, made of sterner stuff, is nevertheless unhelpful.

“Don’t fuckin’ look at ME, kid,” she says with a half-hysterical laugh. “This ain’t MY circus.”

Costella’s response is the most unexpected, though. She stands up, and sprints away, and for a second you fear that your transgression has been so great as to offend one of your dearest friends—one of the women you love. However, she returns a moment later, and in perhaps the most beautiful, tender, and thoroughly COSTELLA FANUCCI gesture you can imagine, she throws a blanket over the trembling creature, to cover what remains of its modesty.

“Shh,” she says softly, crouching beside the thing that is not-quite-Zi, gently stroking its familiar hair with trembling hand. “You’re going to be okay. It’s alright.”

You watch with mixed emotions as the demon-incarnate seems to take solace in this, leaning into the affectionate gesture, and sighing happily.

“Mmm... I feel… Love…”
>>
>>5929947
You join Costella’s side, as do the other two participants in the ritual, string down at the cloaked creature. If ZIth-Zi’s face has been made more conventionally attractive, more human (or even elfin), cleared of pock-marks and imperfections, then this shadow-Zi has drifted down the opposite road: more goblinoid than a goblin, more monstrous than Zith-Zi ever was, less human, almost ghoulish…

But right now, sleeping soundly with an almost beatific expression of satisfaction and solace, it—she? they?—very much looks like your friend, Zith-Zi, and you cannot hate or fear this being.

(Whether this sense of security is a FALSE one... Well, that remains to be seen.)

You look up, and see Izirina Henzler, returned from her own work. She gazes down upon the curious and strange assembly and, with an eerily-familiar look on her face, she nods to you, and smiles in grim approval. You realize you have finally given Izzy the answer she wanted to a question she asked so long ago, in nearly this same spot:

‘Are you going to create life?’ she’d asked you then.

‘Are you going to play god?’

“So,” Zith-Zi says after a moment. “This has been some fuckin’ night, huh?”

You can only nod weakly.

What will you do with the demon-Zi?
>Keep it under close personal observation, though it will delay preparations for the diplomatic mission
>Seek the aid of the fairy court at Old Maple Hill to care for this clone,a s they did for your jackalope experiments many years ago
>Consult with the Archmage Henzler, who is both the world's greatest living Chimericist and experienced with demons
>Bring it with you--you still have a mission ahead, and perhaps an embodied demon could be a useful asset?
>Write-in
>>
>>5929950
>Bring it with you--you still have a mission ahead, and perhaps an embodied demon could be a useful asset?
>Lovebomb the hell outta it
>>
>>5929950
Fairy court is a trap option, but I can't choose between the others right now.
I wonder if Efron will like the new Zi. She seems to have changed a lot.
>>
>>5929947
hmm, the bobs and booty growing was expected but the dick took me off guard. is the succ zi a futa of somekind or she has a dick instead of a pussy now ?
>>5929950
>Consult with the Archmage Henzler, who is both the world's greatest living Chimericist and experienced with demons
what better time to get in touch with out old teacher than now ?
>>
>>5929970
>is the succ zi a futa of somekind or she has a dick instead of a pussy now ?
[The answer to that is only truly knowable to a version of Tips, the extremely effete and sympathetic but also (but repeated popular vote) extremely heterosexual half-elf who is comfortable closely examining the genitals of a faintly-terrifying monster-woman. I'm afraid that, barring an extremely popular write-in campaign, you may be route-locked from getting an answer to that question.]
>>
>>5929943
>“But no tongue,” she adds.
But that’s my favorite part! ;)

>>5929967
>I wonder if Efron will like the new Zi. She seems to have changed a lot.
Personally? Don’t think so- I think the sucubus influence of dependency was a subtle but important part to the attraction dynamic. He’ll probably give it the ol’ college try, but I think it’s end up in an Edwin situation with Tips being the Roth in this situation ;)

>>5929970
It deals with desire, fundamentally

>>5929973
Hey! They were cute together ;_;

Frankly, I think Tips, focused on chimera and biology, would be curious and scientifically minded enough to examine and speculate without mostly weird thoughts. And if all else fails, we do have Izzy.
>>
>>5929950
>Write-in: Have Zith-zi take the imp-goblin to her tribe in the wastes. So the new creature can live amongst them and integrate into their society.

I dont think we can really have a embodied imp walking around hawksong. The paladins are responsible for the city border security, and they will probably smite her on sight.

She is probably better off in the wastes with the rest of the goblins. Who knows maybe she can even become their ring leader like zith zi did.
>>
>>5929973
Fair, I’ll keep that in mind
>>
>>5929983
>I think it’s end up in an Edwin situation with Tips being the Roth in this situation ;)
[That, too, would require a popular write-in vote. After the Sylmare situation and the introspection on the moon, the vote was for Tips to be more narrowly focused on a serious relationship with Izzy and Costella.]
>>
>>5929950
>Keep it under close personal observation
Gotta study it while it’s fresh
>>
>>5929986
It’s better to lovebomb it now and habituate it to be good (or at least non-evil) than to give marauding bandits a literal free demon unfettered and unchecked. Like, Jesus dude.

>>5929993
I know, but an anon can still hope :^)
>>
>>5930001
You have a point but a embodied won't be accepted in the sylvan realms. and the fey border guards will sense her coming since they detected us teleporting.

>Consult with the Archmage Henzler, who is both the world's greatest living Chimericist and experienced with demons
>>
>>5930006
Sista-Zi actually would be accepted, specifically because this is a diplomatic outreach of the ‘Forces of Darkness’- at worst, they’ll just think she’s apart of the Dragonborn’s crew and still gets given diplomatic immunity.
>>
>>5929950
>Keep it under close personal observation, though it will delay preparations for the diplomatic mission
Wanna personnally check Nature vs Nurture and stuck it to the gods.
>>
>>5929950
>Consult with the Archmage Henzler, who is both the world's greatest living Chimericist and experienced with demons

>>5929986
>>5930001
Yeah definitely cant have her wandering about

>>5929871
>>5929943
>>
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I have called upon bing to illustrate the current events, thoughts?
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>>5930135
Cute! But Testa and Zi look too much like each other I think
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>>5930135
Breasts and cock not big enough.
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>>5930135
Awesome. They look a bit like kids instead of short women, but I like the vibe.
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>>5930142
That was intentional as theyve taken on aspects of eachother during the rite
>>5930150
Agreed, it wont add tits I think the goblin proportions have confused them for children
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>>5930135
[Not too shabby, if you aged and sexed them up.]

>>5930142
[True: in actuality, they look less 'twin-like' than like sisters, and less like elves than like perhaps human women with some uncertain ancestry. Most people would probably take them for being descended from 'short folk' like dwarves (fr Zi, who is still stacked and jacked) or a gnomes/halflings (for Testa, who is still more evenly proportioned and not very physically strong).]
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>>5929973
But... for science? We ARE a mad wizard after all. Even though we play pretend at pacifism and morality, we are capable of much more questionable things. Here it would be important to see whether or not they (demon-Zi) can reproduce and thereby summon more demons.

>>5929950
>>Consult with the Archmage Henzler, who is both the world's greatest living Chimericist and experienced with demons

Backlink >>5929296
>>5929399
I am a partial lurker and also have family, job, and frustration about the ghostliness vote. This is one of the fastest quests on the board, so I miss some votes.
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>>5930213
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>>5930037
The morning brings the dawning of a new day, but in many ways it feels like a new ERA. Testa is initially rather put-off by her subtle shift in height and elongation of her ears, stomping about and more than once reminding you that this is NOT what happened to the other members of the community at Old Maple Hill.

“I didn’t sign up to be some laboratory rat, Tips!”

She sort of did, in actuality… But you don’t say that aloud. Inviting Zith-Zi WAS reckless, and sprung upon her suddenly, and neither you nor he could have predicted all that unfolded as a result. Perhaps, though, you should have anticipated SOME complications. You offer to help adjust or reverse the process next month, feeling that it is the least you could do.

“A whole month? Well, no point in THAT,” Nicolette Testa says haughtily, in a quick reversal. “I mean, by then I’ll have adjusted my entire wardrobe and selected a new foundation, so it’ll hardly even MATTER anymore.”

You roll your eyes a little when you realize how much of her objection is solely for the sake of it. Indeed, by the end of the day you find her and a rather out-of-her-element Zith-Zi both sorting through several bags of newly-acquired clothes, as Testa accessorizes them both to suit their new forms.

Zi, for her part, is adjusting more gradually. You catch her staring at herself in the mirror of conjured water which Testa provides, not in vanity or self-obsession but in uncertainty.

“Hey, you okay?” you ask her.

“Yeah, why wouldn’t I be?” she demands, just as dishonest about her actual feelings as Testa but FAR less skilled in veiling them. “Probably’ll even give me more reach with my sword, ya’ know? Tougher to squeeze in little space ‘n shit, but fuckers better watch out when they see me comin’!”

“Efron had better watch out, too,” you note with a quirk of your eyebrow, expression carefully neutral.

Zith-Zi snorts, smirking at the thought for a moment, before her expression gradually contorts and complicates herself with some other unknown emotion.

“Ya’ know, it’s funny,” she says, “but it don’t matter quite so much to me anymore. It’s like… I was all choked up about it, an’ now I don’t even really get WHY. I LIKE that smug, handsome son-of-a-bitch, don’t get me wrong. And I’m DEIFNITELY giving him first go at takin’ this new bod for a ride—”

“Too much information,” you interjected, squeezing your eyes shut and rubbing your forehead.

“Ha!” Zi barks, and jabs you in the side while you’re defenceless. “I’m just sayin’, if it don’t work out… It don’t feel like the end of the world no more, ya’ get what I mean?”
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>>5930221
The obvious explanation for this change of heart is… The OTHER Zith-Zi. The demon. How much of the ZIth-Zi you know is bound up in this other iteration?

When they (‘it’ seems impersonal for something or someone who so resembles your friend, whatever their reproductive biology or genesis) regain consciousness, they are curiously quiet. You keep them under close observation, still faintly afraid of what they might do… And of public reaction, even among those loyal to Izzy and Costella’s vision. You encourage the newly-formed being to wear the sheet which Costella provided as a robe and hood; they show no sign of understanding your words, but also put up no resistance when you held tuck in and tie off the sheet to achieve this effect. They simply watch your hands and your face with open-eyed attentiveness, in spooky silence.

Throughout the day, the demon-infused clone follows you as you go about necessary planning and preparation, and discuss what you have done with Izirina.

“Fascinating,” is how Izzy describes it.

“Fascinating?” the clone whispers back.

“Yes,” Izzy asserts, and then looks to you. “The fairies of the court… They won’t approve of this.”

“No,” you acknowledge, with a grimace.

“Nor will the Paladins, if they catch word of it,” she adds.

“I know,” you sigh.

Izzy considers the matter carefully, and then suggests: “You should go see Mother.”

You look up at her, startled. The idea had occurred to you, but you have still been dreading your reunion with your old master on some level. You DID effectively abandon your post and position, for one thing; you expect some sort of reprimand is forthcoming for that, if you’re even still welcome. Aside from that, there’s the worry you have about how that woman—the Archmage Theresa Henzler-might make use of this sort of alchemical breakthrough.

“Maybe we can just observe them here?” you ask.

“Observe…?” the clone asks, though to nobody in particular.

“It’s going to attract attention,” Izzy says. “We can’t hide it from the True Fey or from the paladins forever, out in essentially an open field. And we can’t stay here forever, either—we still have that diplomatic mission ahead.”

“We could delay it,” you suggest.

“Would you risk a war to babysit this… Being?” Izirina asks.

“Risk a war… For me?” the being in question asks, gesturing to themselves, and for a moment their neutral expression becomes altogether too pleased. “Mmm… Feels good.”

“Uh,” you stammer. “Okay, I see your point, Izzy. I’ll think about it.”
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>>5930223
The other option you consider is simply bringing the clone with you on the mission, but the remainder of the day disabuses you of that idea. The newborn entity is no child physically, but mentally is rather like a psychic sponge. You catch them mirroring the movements and mannerisms of those around them several times, fixating upon an individual and adjusting their posture and bearing to behave as they d, mouthing or murmuring snippets of their words. Most especially, they fixate on Zith-Zi whenever they cross paths, gravitating to the (not quite) goblin and even reaching out to touch her—something that causes Zith-Zi herself considerable distress.

“I SAID, ‘fuck OFF’!”

You turn around from a conversation with Cousin Addy to see Zith looming with fist raised over the clone, who has been knocked to the ground and is gingerly holding her face.

“Zi!” you shout, and rush over to wedge yourself between then. “What the hell?!”

Zith-Zi’s eyes are wild, breathing laboured, new human-like dentition locked in a grimace of fury and fear. Seeing your own expression, though, she seems to calm, and has the good grace to look a little ashamed of herself.

“Sorry, but it’s just… It keeps followin’ me, and TOUCHIN’ me, and STARIN’ with those creepy fuckin’ eyes.”

The strange, twisted doppelganager speaks up then, speaking their first full sentence since the evening of their birth, their voice quite like Zith-Zi’s but their inflection and affectation a bizarre hodgepodge of yourself, of Izzy, of Zith-Zi, and of Costella, and seemingly of a dozen others as well:

“Well I mean, like, I’m you, ain’t I?” the clone asks. “You an’ me are spritually-intertwined ‘n shit… One ‘n the same, bound by , like… Metaphysical forces beyond present mortal understandin’, right?”

You stare at the succubus-goblin-thing, and can only imagine that your own ‘first sentence’ was rather less eloquent.

The 'original' Zith-Zi, though, is rather less academic about the matter.

“We are NOT,” she growls, “the same.”
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>>5930227
It’s this confrontation, and this rapid evolution of the clone’s cognitive and communicative capacity, that settles it for you: the being must be observed and contained, at least until you better understand what you have wrought. This must be done in a facility that can contain them, and by personnel who understand demons, and chimeras, and how to handle both, and where intellectual curiosity will prevent its immediate smiting.

“Come on,” you say, tugging the clone along by their hand, which eagerly grasps and clings to yours. “The Archmage is a very skilled and powerful mage, and very smart.”

“She is?” the clone asks.

“Yes,” you say, though the clone seems more interested in observing your mouth’s movements and your expression than in the actual answer. “I actually stayed where you’ll be staying, for a year, with… Uh, the other you. With Zith-Zi.”

“Yeah, I remember,” the clone says.

You stop shot, and stare back, which seems to delight the bizarre being.

“You do?”

She nods, grinning at the attention.

“How much do you remember? About… Before the Rite?”

“I remember, like… Ya’ know, waning Hershy ta’ not die,” she says. “Though I don’t really, like, remember HERSHY as well, ‘cept for really wanting my… My mom, I think?... Ta’ let me, like, play with him, when I was a little gob. And I remember lots of things from growing up… Like, fights, and kissing, and fucking…”

You feel your face heat up.

“I remember drinking, and food… And I remember you!”

“M-me?”

The clone nods again, grinning, and says: “When I lived down there, in the basement, there weren't' a lot of other, like, guys around... And we wanted to kiss you, when you saved Hershy.”

“Y-you WHAT?” you balk.

The clone frowns a little, and adds: “We don’t anymore, though.”

“Oh,” you say uncertainly, “good?”

“Well,” the clone adds, grin returning. “unless you wanna’, I guess… Now that I’m not me, I don’t really know, like, WHAT I fuckin’ want, ya’ know? Except to be, like, wanted.”

“A-anyway,” you say, flustered beyond words, “Let’s… Go see the Archmage.”

Along the way, you consider your responsibility to this new entity, how you might feel and relate to them. Moreover, you realize that they REALLY need a name, if only for the sake of keeping the Zis straight in your head.

You find yourself thinking of this new creation as...
>A sort of sister to Zith-Zi, and thus a friend to you
>Something akin to a sibling of your own
>Like a child... Oh gods, like you've become a FATHER?
>Just an experiment, albeit one with thoughts and feelings
>Write-in

What will you name her?
>Write-in
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>>5930230
>Just an experiment,
Definitely not a child
>albeit one with thoughts
Yeah, normal experiment right?
>albeit one with and feelings
We're not feeling responsible. Not in any way.
We are not her daddy because she remember her Mommy.
>Mental gymnastic olympist
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>>5930245
>daddy
[I'd keep that monologue strictly internal around a succubus-derived entity, or consider changing the precise terminology.]
Just memeing, Tips is loyal unless and until everyone writes in to make him an adulterous cad
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>>5930230
>Like a child... An orphan child who's father is definitely not us
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>>5930245
>>5930250
[No pitches for names?]
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>>5930268
Oh yeah i'm a scrub
>Zith Zwei
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