Wizardquest 2: Chapter 4- Between a Rock and a Hard Place

It is not a very long war  of decision in your head as one side is full of blind feelings and the other is the screaming voices of years of history and weavers upon the Communion Matrix. No, the Danuki are never to be trusted and when one is seen there most certainly is some shit going down. It is your solemn duty as a Wizard to find out what this is and put a stop to it if necessary.

Chaika… well… you’ll think of something if you run into her. As far as you’re concerned, you just need to make it to Borne and hideout for abit until she passes, or just enter the pass and then hide and…

It’s not going to be fun, no matter what you do.

“Alright girls, listen up.” You say, commanding their attention. Mr. Ed and Erwin give you flat looks but you return them in kind before saying, “The Danuki cannot be trusted, they must be out here doing something nefarious and it is our duty to find out what it is.”

“Uhm.” Ebe says, looking about in confusion. “I don’t-” She’s cut off as Sophie places a gentle hand on her shoulder.

“It’s… it’s a Wizard thing. We heard much and more about Danuki conspiracies while at home.” She looks off to the side and mutters, “Most of them are probably true…”

“This is going to be a strange and painful experience, isn’t it?”  The Gandharva says, her expression sinking.

“That’s how the best lessons are taught.” You say before turning about and heading into the small copse of woods nearby.

Sending Erwin ahead to scout for you, the group follows his path back toward where the Danuki and her crew are working. He signals it’s all clear ahead, and you soon find yourself near the side of the cliff where the men are working.

Sounds of pickaxes on rock reverberate through the air as the man pick away to clear the area. Their actions are measured, steady, the work of professionals, however something about it seems… wrong. As if they were just following motions without any actual gain being made. You can’t tell this from your distance however, as getting any closer from the woods would likely have you be seen and you don’t need to send Erwin out yet.

Taking a deep breath, you place your hand on the ground and send your magic out, coursing through the earth. You have to strain a little to have your magic reach the area where the men are working, but as it leaks into the rocks, you detect… granite? Certainly there are trace amounts of certain minerals you can identify but it’s just… well it’s just rock.

Frowning, you make to move your magic out of the area until you find that the granite seems to just stop at a point. Confused, you press at your limits and find that yes, it stops, as in there’s no rock any longer. The only reason this could be is that… it’s hollow. This hill is a cave!

Your eyes focus and and you look back up at the cliff critically. The Danuki can’t know this… can she? Ah who the fuck are you kidding, of course she does. Maybe this is some ancient cairn or something and it’s full of gold and she just found the map? But if that’s the case, why work so pitifully at getting in? Why act so nice to you and let you observe her if something so secretive is present?

Because what she’s really doing is out of sight, duh.

Nodding to Erwin, he dashes around the other side of the cliff and confirms your suspicions. Another group of men are working with magitek tools to break through a section of recently disturbed rocks at much improved speeds. With some interest, he also notices two men standing by, swords at their hips and looking down the cliff towards the forest, clearly guards.

“I told you.” You say to the others, unable to keep the smug from oozing out. “I told you, I told you, I told you.”

“You’re kind of scaring me.” Ebe says, looking a little nervous.

“All Wizards get like this around Danuki.” Sylphie says, sighing. “This is why Mom always made Dad take us to lunch or something whenever Danusreal representatives were present.”

“Yes. Of course there was that trade negotiation where Father burst into the room and started reading from his list.” Sophie says, shaking her head. “Mother was quite cross with him for some time. He was unable to lay on his back if I recall?”

“Haha, yeah. It was sad but a little funny. Chaika would always point and laugh at him too.”

Both of the Cat o’Ninetails look off in rememberance until you snap your fingers in front of their faces. They blink in confusion before blushing and looking away, embarrassed. Rolling your eyes, you turn back to the hill and say, “We’re finding out what’s in there. Whatever it is, the Danuki cannot be allowed to have it.”

“Can’t you just… use your magic and interrogate her?” Ebe says, still looking troubled. “Not that you should! I just… This is still so weird.”

{Hey… hey!} Erwin shouts in your mind. {They’re running about and shouting. I think they’ve found something! One of them is running back toward the road.}

{Stay put, we’re on our way over there.}

Nodding to the others, you head through the cover of the woods, staying far away from the men eyes of the watching guards and wait, seeing through Erwin. It’s not long until the Danuki arrives, her suit getting dirty as she walks up a trail, dry rubbing her hands the whole time. The men speak with her and she nods her head before pointing at the cliffside.

Looking closer via Erwin, you see that she’s pointing at a hole in the rock face, lined by ancient sculpting work. Runes carved along the sides in an unknown language and worn away by the millenia are too difficult to make out but at the sight of them the Danuki’s dry rubbing increases and she points with excitement for the men to clear a larger path. Soon enough a person sized opening is made.

A guard pulls out a magitek lantern and lights it before entering the hole. He’s gone for a minute before returning and nodding for the others to follow him. Another guard enters the hole followed by the Danuki and then the work crew, leaving one man behind to guard the hole.

“Alright.” You say, snapping back to your own body. “We need to get in there.”

“C-can I stay back here?” Ebe says, shuddering. “I don’t… I don’t like cramped places like that.”

“Sure, sure.” Sophie says, touching her shoulder. “You watch for any other guards, alright?”

Ebe smiles in thanks and hugs her guitar as the rest of you creep toward the treeline. Crouching down, you look at the guard who is some distance away and frown. He has a perfect view of you, and you have no way to getting up the cliff without evading notice. Which means that you need to take care of him. But how exactly should you do this?

[Pebble Gun] comes to mind, but if you miss, he’ll raise the alarm. It needs to be something quick and quiet, but how are you going to pull that off?

{Uhm. I can channel magic you know.} Erwin sends, seeming annoyed you didn’t think of that.

{Oh, right.} You send back, taking control of your little friend. Though his perceptions are different than your own, the man doesn’t take much notice of the little fox playing around for more than a few moments to take off the boredom, and he quickly looks away again to the trees.

With a lack of a helmet, he’s a prime target, and you’d rather just knock the man out than kill him. After the events of a few days ago, it just… you’d rather not kill people if you don’t have to. When he turns his head, you quickly channel [Rock Throw] through Erwin and smash a rock right into the man’s head and he crumples to the ground with barely a sound, the rock not hitting the ground until you gently set it down.

Waving to the others (sans Mr. Ed who rightly states that he’s a damn horse), you make your way to the cliffside. Sylphie looks about for a path up while Sophie uses her tails as grappling hooks to propel her up the cliff. Shrugging, you tap the ground with your staff and cast [Build the Wall] to form a sort of lift that travels up the side of the cliff, Sylphie clinging to your side with a smirk until you reach the entrance.

Sophie looks over the runes etched around the entrance and frowns as she notices what looks like the remains of rock within the entrance, barely hanging on. There’s no rock on the inside of the entrance however. Did something push it out? That doesn’t make sense, they just broke IN.

As you try to channel magic into you staff to form a light, Sylphie places a hand on your arm and shakes her head before tapping pointing at her eyes. Frowning, you turn the light off and Sophie walks into the entrance and turns around, nodding for you to follow. Cocking your head, you look to Sylphie who rolls her eyes and whispers, “CAT o’Ninetails.”

Fucking Monsters and their fucking special senses and shit. Cats and their superior dark vision and whatever. She grabs your arm, making certain she doesn’t touch your hand, and leads you into the darkness.

You lose sight of everything soon after entering. Feeling a little disoriented, you find yourself wishing you can light your staff, but you know she’s right, you can’t afford for the Danuki to see you just yet. Fortunately, the path you’re walking is mostly smooth and Sylphie moves with sure feet, leading you around any potential obstacles, which you’re certain there aren’t. This place feels too synthetic, crafted too well for such things. Maybe on your way out you’ll illuminate this.

It feels as if you’re walking at an incline at one point, twisting and turning down in a spiral into the bowels of the earth. Sylphie stops you at one point and you take the opportunity to [Survey]. All about you is simple granite. There should be something else here though, something else inside the dam rock, but no, it’s straight granite! In fact, the only abnormality from what you can feel is that you’re unable to pierce through the outside of the rock, as if some kind of ward was blocking you from being able to push magic out. It feels weak though, to the point where you can’t even identify it.

Taking a deep breath, you close your eyes and then open your [Mage Sight].

The cave comes alive, and you see all about you a clean, if mildly damaged, road of stone which heads downward into the earth. The walls are smooth, lacking any decoration, and the ceiling, the CEILING! The roof of the cavern is painted in glowing runes that pulse with feeble light. A shudder passes through you, as if witnessing the death spasms of a great being.

Sylphie grips your arm and you shake your head, signaling you’re fine before she lets out a soft sigh and continues forward. Moving down the spiral, you soon see a soft light playing from a chamber and you get the indistinct shape of a squared tunnel present. Your companions appear to your eyes in contrast to the light as well, and you nod to each other before heading toward the edge of the chamber and looking within.

The Danuki and her men, three guards and four workmen, stand within a large, oval chamber. From the light of the lanterns, as another man had activated a second one, you see the walls lined with intricately carved columns and alcoves, where humanoid statues sit, dead eyes focused on the center of the room where a central dias sits, decorated by a stone table utterly littered with runes that seem to be different from what is around otherwise.

A stone table that is cracked in half.

“What the fuck!” The Danuki shouts, looking about the table. “There’s nothing here!” She points at a nearby workman and says, “The entrance was closed, right?”

“It… It looks like something blew out the entrance and caused a mild rock slide, but no one had dug through the rock before us! I promise!”

“Then why is there nothing here?” She shouts, voice echoing in the chamber. “All I see are these stupid constructs lining the wall and they’re inert!”

“This one’s broken, ma’am!” A man says, and she snaps her fingers as the men drag over a feminine-looking construct, it’s chest torn open, magitek innards exposed.

She examines the construct and frowns.”This is pretty advanced stuff. Looks like ancient magitek to me…” She starts to dry rub her hands. “Hmmm, maybe I can pawn these off for some profit to some idiot engineers or collectors. Yeah… yeah!” Snapping her fingers, she shouts,

“Round them up! Let’s take them with us!”

The men shrug and walk over to the constructs, pulling them with effort out of their alcoves, layers of dust falling off them as they toss them into a heap to look over. Some fall apart from a touch, but most are in decent condition, and one looks rather serviceable. As this one hits the pile, the Danuki looks it over, chuckling.

“Well, it’s no Dwarven artifact, but we can make some tidy money off this.”

“Ma’am, there’s two empty alcoves!” A man shouts and she frowns.

“Two? Well, here’s the one, but where’s the other?”

She walks away from the pile to look at an empty alcove. When she does so, you look between your companions and nod, while interesting, this isn’t really something worth fighting over. Some old constructs? Fine, the Danuki can have them as you can’t afford to transport any of them anyway. You’re interested in the stone table with those runes, some of which look familiar, and her mention of Dwarven artifacts, but…

“GAHHH!” A man cries out from near the pile of constructs, dropping his lantern to the floor in panic. Everyone’s gazes snap toward the pile where a loud, metallic whirring occurs. A moment later, a hand shoots out from the pile, throwing the constructs about it into disarray as the torso of one of the constructs, the dust falling off its metallic exterior as it’s emotionless face stares out at the intruders, its eyes glowing a faint red.

“What the fuck, they were supposed to be inert!” The Danuki shouts before pointing at it and shouting at her men. “S-shut it down!”

One of the guards runs toward it, sword drawn. His sword swings down toward the construct and he turns slowly, intercepting the blow with its face, the steel of the man’s sword cracking the faceplate. He stands there, his sword pressing against its face as he tries to press it down into the pile to break it up. The construct, its face shattered, merely stares at him for a long moment before turning to the stone table and staring at it. A static issues from the crumbling faceplate and it a voice issues forth, difficult to hear and understand.

“Contain…. protocols breac…. eliminate and recov…”

The man staggers back as the construct rises, it’s joints shedding accumulated dust and grime. When it reaches its full height, its eyes flash and it’s arm snaps to the man’s neck, snapping it in a single motion before dropping him to the floor.

Panic ensues as the other men see their friend hit the floor, dead. In this time the construct makes walks over to another man, its movements becoming more fluid as it gains momentum, and it batters him aside with a backhand before turning to the others.

“S-stop it! Stop this thing and get me out of here!” The Danuki shouts, her voice growing nasally. “Stop itttttttt!”

“Holy shit.” Sylphie says, her eyes growing wide. “We gotta help them!”

“I’m not certain we do.” Sophie replies, not caring about stealth anymore. “We can get out of here before that construct gets us. I don’t know if we should fuck around with an ancient construct, who knows what else it can do.”

“But it’s sluggish still!” Sylphie says, biting her lip. “Can we really just let it kill them?”

You grit your teeth as your eye twitches. Gods damnit, why did you have to get involved in these situations?

“Rommel!” Sylphie shouts again, getting your attention as she grabs your arm. “Please!”

Another man screams in the chamber and you sigh out loud. Some small part of your mind shouted for you to just let this go, to allow the Danuki to be killed. But at the same time, it just felt wrong to do so. The rational part of your mind tells you that she has information you need, and you really want to see what’s up with that table, but you know in your heart that you don’t want to grow too comfortable with killing.

“Alright, alright.” You say, taking a deep breath and surveying the situation. “We need to lure it outside. The walls here are warded and I don’t want to cause a cave-in anyway.”

“Second, we need to immobilize it and tear open its armor to get to its core.” You no to Sylphie.”Then I’ll need you to electrocute it.”

“I-yeah!” She says, puffing our her chest. “I got this!”

“I can distract it, draw its attention.” Sophie says, watching the construct’s movements. Another sword wielding guard strikes at it, his blade being caught upon her hand and then snapped in half, causing the man to stagger backward as it creaks toward him. He turns to run but the construct’s arm shoots out, grabs his arm, and throws him behind it to smash against the wall, making the roof shudder.

“Kiillll itttttt!!!!” The Danuki shouts, her eyes watering with tears. Your teeth clench together at the sound, your body shuddering in anger at the shrill screeching of her voice. The Danuki fears the construct, fears the golems that were their own creations. A fitting end.

And yet… You sigh and nod to Sophie. “Be careful, it’s faster than it looks.”

“So am I.” She replies before giving you a wink. After taking a deep breath she focuses her expression and runs into the room, yet she doesn’t unwrap her tails. Clever, if fucking crazy, girl.

You grit your teeth and run in after her, just in time to watch a worker be flung across the room. The Danuki wails, unable to flee like her kind normally does, even if she has a chance to get out. The few survivors cower for cover, hands over their heads as the construct turns toward the Danuki.

“Pay attention!” Sophie cries, grabbing the arm of a construct and throwing it at the awakened one. It dents against its head and the construct stops, turning its head to Sophie. Red, emotionless eye set in an exposed metallic face shine and it starts toward her. Sophie readies herself, but the construct, which was sluggish before, picks up speed and lashes out at her. The Cat o’Ninetails yelps and leaps to the side with feline agility, narrowly avoiding getting pulverized.

The construct stands in place, seeming unable to process that it’s blow missed. It turns its eyes to Sophie again and then comes at her, faster this time. You hear a small hum as it does so, but she leaps back, avoiding its blows again.

“Haha! Tin-can! I deal with scarier buckets of bolts every day!”

Her taunts have zero effect on the construct, but it still comes after her, protocols racing. She nods to the Danuki as you push Sylphie and yourself against the wall, waiting as Sophie dashes out of the room, the construct following behind her, steps growing more sure as it chases her up the spiral incline.

“Y-You!” The Danuki shouts, pointing a shaky finger at you. “W-What are you doing here?”

“Saving your ungrateful ass you damn snake in the grass.” You growl before nodding to Sylphie. “We need to hurry.”

Subtlety over, you light your staff and run up the incline, barely taking notice of the polish in the path, the immaculate architecture. Something lines the walls also, but you have no time to study it as you make your way to the top where you see Sophie vanish out the entrance, the construct close on her heels. It reaches out for her, trying to grab her tails, but stops as soon its fingers reach the treshold of the exit.

The construct stares out at nothing and then pulls its hand backward and turns about, eyes turning to you and Sylphie. You stop the Monster by slapping a hand across her chest, arresting her movement as she shouts, “Oh hells!”

So close to being outside, and yet so far away! You reach out with your magic, but the barrier inside the cavern keeps it from spreading outside to grab nearby rocks as weapons. You dig into your pockets for Greg, for you have named the copper Greg, to use as a weapon of last resort when blades latch onto the construct’s arms, legs, and head, pulling at it.

The construct shudders and then it lifted off its feet as Sophie screams in exertion to throw the machine outside the cavern. It stumbles back a few feet before righting itself at the edge of the cliff. Lifeless eyes bore into Sophie but it takes a step forward, intent to return to the cavern.

Well, until you collapse the side of the cliff under it.

Rocks slide and fall as a section breaks off, carrying the construct with it. It reaches out an arm in a futile gesture before falling down the cliffside, tumbling against the wall and rolling multiple times in air before slamming into the ground at the bottom with an audible cracking sound.

The three (four, as Rommel has been there the whole time) of you look down at the crater where the construct lay, covered in various debris. One of its arms is broken and hangs useless at its side while its head twitches with faint gestures before it goes still.

Sighing in relief, you feel someone wrap their arms around you and you look in surprise at Sylphie who is shouting in joy. Rolling your eyes, you use your staff to push her off you and she sniffs before giggling. Sophie walks to the side of the cliff and watches it before giving you a shit-eating grin. You roll your eyes AGAIN and say,

“Do you want a cookie?”

“Yes, I would very much like a cookie.”

“Too bad.”

“How uncouth.” She says, sticking out her tongue. She’s having fun with this!

“Alright, alright.” You say, waving your hand. “Let’s get back inside and interrogate that damn Danuki.”

A whistle pierces the afternoon sky and a voice sounds behind you, “Ehehe, not so fast.”

Turning about in confusion, you see the Danuki standing behind you, dry rubbing her hands with that predatory smile on her face. She’s flanked by one of the guards and a worker, but seeming shaken. Frowning at her, she says, “How did you find out about this place?”

“Benny Garitine.”

“Bah, he’s just a legend-eh.” She mutters, face flickering for a moment. “You followed us, hmm? Thought you’d get the treasures of this place yourself?”

“Lady, we just saved your damn lifes.” Sylphie says, hair bristling.

“Oh, we had everything under control.” The Danuki says, waving her hand. “The real question is, how are you going to pay me back after you DESTROYED that is MY property now? Hmm?” Her dry-rubbing intensifies as her eyes grow beady. “Maybe a few years working for me, hmm? Yes, a fair trade indeed!”

“I told you.” You say, throwing up your hands. “I told you we should have let her be killed!”

The Danuki clasps a hand to her chest. “Did you HEAR that? This man wished violence upon one of the Danuki! Well, I assure you, once Danusreal hears of this, there will be a hell to pay!” Her smile intensifies.


Rock shifts behind you and you turn your head around to see a surprising sight. The construct, which was so recently deactivated, has pulled itself up from the ground and is using its one, good arm and its legs to bound up the cliffside faster than you can imagine. You snap magic into the earth, but your strikes are too poorly timed and the construct easily avoids them before leaping up in the middle of the two groups, rising slowly as it turns about and stares at your party.

Though its arm is broken, the majority of it is still functional, save for areas where the breastplate is cracked, the exterior crumbling. Gods damn, what did the ancients build these fucking things out of?

“G-Gah!” The Danuki cries, taking a step backward as her haughty behavior melts. “It-It’s not dead! K-Kill it, kill it!”

“I swear to fucking Solos!” You begin to shout, but are too busy leaping away toward Sylphie as the construct lashes out toward you. It clips your side and you feel a searing pain as you fly across the rock shelf and hit the wall, driving the breath from your lungs.

You want to say, “Why does this keep happening to me?,” but find it difficult to do without any air in your lungs. You look up to see Sophie backing away from the construct toward the Danuki and her men. Your eyes go wide as the Danuki runs forward and shoves Sophie into the construct, throwing off her balance entirely.

The Cat o’Ninetails lets out a short yelp as she topples forward into the grasp of the construct. Everything seems to go in slow motion as it wraps its hand around her wrist, eyes flaring bright red. Your heart beats furiously in your chest as the burning in your lungs presses upon your consciousness. Unable to pull yourself up, you focus everything in your mind in a single point and latch onto a nearby small rock. Without time to shape it, you fire it as the construct begins to squeeze.

The pebbles misses its target of the construct’s arm and instead smashes into its chest, shattering the remainder of the protective armor, exposing the soft, glowing red core. It staggers back, grip failing on Sophie as it tries to right itself. It drops her to the ground where she crumples, holding her wrist as she curls into a ball.

Breath fills your lungs in that crucial moment and you take your newfound strength and slap the ground, sending a wave of magic through it to [Tremor] at the feet of the construct. It shudders in time with the ground, but appears to control itself until you press more power into the earth and make it shatter with [Inhospitable Ground], trapping the construct and forcing it to fall.

Beaten and abused, the construct still tries to rise from the earth. Trying to pick yourself up, you feel your arms give out as you’re still too weak. You try to cry out to Sylphie, but without any words from you, she thrusts her staff forward and shouts as tendrils of lightning surge from the tip and into the core of the construct.

It rocks backward as the [Lightning Bolt] rips apart its insides, frying its delicate machinery and shorting out its core. It staggers forward in spastic, uncoordinated efforts before the core fizzles and snaps like a broken magitek bulb, and it slumps to the ground, inert.

Sylphie takes a few deep breaths before taking a step toward Sophie, then looking back at you with worry. You shake your head as you get your breath back, and she runs over to her sister, helping her up as she does so. Lifting yourself from the ground with slow movements, you look up to see the Danuki regaining her calm again, and that calculation forms in her eyes.

She nods to the guard, who walks up to Sylphie and places a hand on her shoulder before pulling his sword.

A furious galloping of hooves is heard from all around you and in the blink of an eye, Mr. Ed appears from the side trail, dashes behind Sylphie and turns about to kick the guard in the face with a perfectly executed kick. He doesn’t even say a word as he flies backward, hitting the side of the cliff and slumping into a heap. The angered Gelding turns his gaze upon the Danuki and snorts, pawing at the ground with his hoof.

“Ehehe… nice… horse.” The Danuki says, but before she can retreat you cast [Tremor] and knock her and her last worker to the ground. She squeals and tries to stand, but when she does, she finds you and Mr. Ed staring over her with blank expressions that seethe with hatred.

“Uhm… how about we cut a deal?”


“P-please, anything but that!” The Danuki squeals straining at her bonds. Her eyes are wide as she stares at you in horror, terror oozing from her body. Sweat drips from her every pore and her lip quivers as she says, “I’ll do anything, please! Just- just don’t!”

You slowly lower the gold coin from before you, the rich hue sparkling in the lantern light. You run your finger over the coin showing an old relief of Sanctifrond on one side, an older King on the other side. Glancing down at the pile of five other, defaced gold coins, you shrug.

“Ready to talk then?” You ask, and the Danuki sobs, her tears hitting the floor of the chamber. Once you had been sure that the threats were taken care of, you had returned down there to investigate and interrogate the Danuki. Sylphie stayed outside with Ebe, who was looking after her wrist, which thankfully doesn’t seem broken, if abused. She kept muttering about not using a potion on her wrist, and wouldn’t drink one.

Once you’d reached the chamber, the Danuki freshly tied in rope, her worker having long gotten the fuck out of there and the others she called in via whistle having been dealt with my Mr. Ed (somehow), you began to interrogate her in the way you know would hurt her the most.

“Hmm. I suppose we can keep the coin safe. For now.” You say, flipping it and causing the mettalic sound to echo through the chamber.

The Danuki breathes out a sigh of relief before whimpering as you get closer to her face. “Tell me, what are you doing here?”

“Treasure hunting, I swear!” She says, a little too quickly. You narrow your eyes and she gulps. “I- I mean, it’s the truth! I’d found a map in some ancient archives about a Dwarven structure here made centuries ago and decided to scout it out!”

“But someone got to it first?”

She frowns, “I suppose. But you saw it, the door was blown from the INSIDE!” She mutters to herself before shaking her head. “All that’s here is some lousy constructs and a broken table. There was supposed to be gold, or some ancient weapon! Why even build this stupid place if there’s nothing here?”

“I wonder.” You say, dropping the coin to the ground. The Danuki flops onto the floor and bites the coin, dragging it to herself and sighing in relief. Ignoring her pathetic gestures, you head toward the table and look it over, confirming your suspicions.

While formed of simple granite, the table is not a table at all, but instead a sort of coffin, sealing something in. It had shattered, pieces laying about it, but inside there is no trace of whatever could have been inside beyond a broken orb. Frowning, you pick the orb up to find it made of very conductive crystal, like Galmathorian glass, but it is fractured horribly and falls apart at your touch. Useless. You sigh and run your hands over the fractured pieces of stone and then pause, realizing some of the runes make sense to you.

“These are… Wizard runes.” You mutter, your long hours studying what had been pieced together of the dead language not going to waste. While the current communion glasses have runic keys that echo the old language, even that has been replaced by simple letters for access to the general public. Still, you’re shocked to see these runes interspersed with more, likely Dwarven, runes and another, stiffer set of runes.

“Can you read this?” Sylphie asks, walking up next to you.

“Some of it… yeah. The ancient Wizards had a real way of speaking.” You mutter as you trace intact runes. “Most of it is generic warnings, something about danger. A few of these runes seem to be runes of power of some sort, I think warding runes, used to keep this thing sealed.”

“What about the other runes?” She asks, touching the blocky script. “This seems familiar too for some reason.”

“Yeah? Is it a Monster script?”

“I don’t think so. Most older Monster Nation history is oral. Literacy is a fairly recent development.” She frowns and then shakes her head. “I don’t know what it is.”

“And no one knows Dwarven anymore.” You say, sighing. To be honest, no one really knows Dwarves exist too much anyway. The only reason you knew of them were some weaves you’d read about the  that child’s story that you heard multiple times growing up. That thought makes you sad however, and you dismiss the thought before returning to the task at hand.

“Whatever was in here was worth building all of this for.” You say, nodding your head solemnly.

“Do you think whatever it was… took that missing construct?”

You shrug. “I don’t know. Hopefully we don’t have to find out.” You look back at the coffin and ask Sylphie for some paper. She finds some hidden in her bag of holding, along with a pen (fantastic inventions), and you go to work rubbing the runes.

“Ohhhh.” Sylphie says, clapping her hands together. “Good idea.”

“That’s why they call me a Wizard.” You say, tucking the sheet into your pocket.

>You gain [Runic rubbings]

>Imprints of runes found on an ancient coffin. What could have been stored in there?

>You gain [Crystal shards]

>Pieces of a crystalline orb found in the coffin. Its worthless.

She frowns. “I thought they called you Wizard because of the virginity thing and the being thirty.”

“That too.” You say, nodding your head and making your way outside. The other carvings in the cavern are dwarven runes, but they all say the same thing. You’re pretty sure it has to do with a warding spell, but the magic in them has long since faded away.

“H-hey!” The Danuki shouts. “W-what about me?”

“What about you?” You say flatly.

“Y-You can’t leave me down here!”

“I can.” You say, shrugging. “A fitting end to a Danuki who tried to backstab us twice.”

Sylphie frowns at the Danuki but sighs. “We can’t leave her down here.” When you give her a concerned look, she shakes her head. “We can’t stoop to her level.”

“Oh yes, so kind, so wise the daughter of the Monster Lady is.” The Danuki says, a relieved smile on her face.

Both you and Sylphie’s eyebrows raise and she gulps, slinking back. “I-I’m sorry, I mean uh, ahaha… what?”

“She saw our tails.” Sylphie groans, placing a hand on her forehead. “Uggghhh.”

“I’ll tell no one! I’m quiet as can be!” The Danuki says, putting her lips firmly together.

Gritting your teeth from pain, you lean down to the Danuki and say, “That’s right. And if you breathe one word of what happened here, those coins will seem like nothing to the shoah I’ll perform.”

Sylphie cocks her head in confusion, but the Danuki goes pale and nods her head with fierce bobbing. Grunting, you pick the Danuki up and push her before you. She looks over her shoulder at the coins and makes to make a sound, but you narrow your eyes and she whimpers, tears at the corner of her eyes. Some would say this is a fate worse than death for such creatures.


Your group continues down the road in the now afternoon sky. Sylphie looks at her sister and insists she rides Mr. Ed, but Sophie insists back that she’s fine and that after some rest her wrist will be better. It’s already swollen, and she at least accepts some ice from Sylphie at the constant insistence. Ebe seems a little upset that she couldn’t help anything and frets about while you walk, to which you have to constantly reassure her that it’s fine and things ended up okay. Well, you might have difficulty stretching your back after that injury, but it’s fine. You can ice it or something later.

The Danuki was left where her carts were, tied up still. She was alone, the men having fled as soon as they could. Not even Danuki money would make them stay after all of that. Some good traveler would help her out you guess. Or a slaver group. Either was fine, if you were talking about Danuki anyway.


With the group’s aches and pains, you decide to stop earlier rather than later. Walking a little bit longer, until dusk settles in, you find a good campsite via Erwin to hunker down for the evening. Though Sophie wanted to go further, Ebe and Sylphie pressure her into stopping for the evening. Mr. Ed sitting walking off to the side of the road and laying down also played into the decision.

While the camp is set up well enough, food is a different prospect. Sophie usually uses her tails to cut up the food, but when everything is prepared, she has difficulty with the finer details using her hand and winces in pain. Having Sylphie help out, despite Sophie watching over the meal, ends up with a strange tasting brew laced with cat-hair that makes you have to scrape your tongue.

“Well.” Ebe says, putting down her half-eaten meal for Erwin to eat. “I have to watch my figure, you understand.”

{My figure is fine} Erwin says, eating with gusto. You don’t even bother to question him because you know his answer will be, {I’m a fucking Fox!}

{Aww, you know me so well!} He sends, an incredible amount of smugness in his thoughts.

Narrowing your eyes at him, you then sigh and turn back to the Sophie. “How is your wrist?”

“It’s fine, it’ll be better tomorrow.” She says, waving a tail in dismissal.

“And if it isn’t?”

“It’s just a sprain.” She says, voice a little haughty. “We shouldn’t waste supplies on something so minor.”

Fingers lacing together, you look at her and say, “What happens if we reach Borne and Chaika is there? What happens if she sees you hurt like that?” The two stiffen up and look between each other before gulping. Sophie looks down at her swollen wrist and frowns as you continue.

“We spent a lot of time on various little side trips.” You nod to Ebe. “No offense.”

“None taken.” She says, looking a little disturbed. “So this Chaika… she’s your maid? Why does it sound like she’s going to hurt you?”

“Oh, it mostly won’t be physical, and she won’t kill us.” Sylphie says, shuddering. “But Rommel… well, you’ll probably be fine Ebe.”

“Thanks.” You say, rolling your eyes. “Thanks for that.”

“It’s probably true though.” Sophie sighs. “If she finds us, she will at least give us LIGHT bruises or something, nothing she can’t fix up as we’re grounded for life.” She looks back at her wrist. “Of course, if she sees I did get hurt… I can see her shutting off a limiter or two.”

“She has limiters?”

“She’d break all our furniture otherwise.” 

“I…” You begin, before shaking your head and pulling out a [Health Potion]. “Just drink it.”

She stares at it and says, “Can I just… wait until it’s necessary?”

“Drink it Sophie.”

She winces at the harsh tone and takes the vial with a tepid hand. She looks over the potion and sighs before saying, “God this feels so lewd.”

“It’s just a bottle of refined jizz and other materials.”

“Yes, but… Gods, you don’t understand.” She says before sighing and uncorking the bottle with her teeth. Gulping, she drinks the potion and shudders, more in delight than disgust, before licking her lips and then sighing. “Bother, it tasted really good.”

>You lose 1x [Health Potion]

>You have 1x [Health Potion] remaining

Everyone looks at her wrist as the swelling reduces in seconds, her skin returning to its normal hue. She sighs and rotates the wrist, smirking in satisfaction as she feels no pain from it any longer. Stretching out her arms and tails, she sighs in relief before handing back the empty vial.

“Well, nothing more it now I suppose.”

“Nothing for it now.” You agree, nodding in response.

A quiet descends over the camp in the midst of this, everyone not really knowing what to say. You lick your lips and prepare to say something when Ebe stands up, jingling and jangling, before she claps her hands and says, “I think I have perfected my dance!”

The group blinks in surprise before Sophie waves for her to dance. Ebe steps back and takes a deep breath before opening her eyes and snapping her hips in a clatter of cymbals which cuts through the night. Immediately your attention is focused upon her as she slides back to a neutral pose and then begins the dance in earnest.

Holding her arms about her, instead of above her, you find yourself focused more on the rhythm of the adornments clattering on her body rather than her absurdly attractive body. The effect is subtle, but you feel your heart beating in your chest in time with the music, the blood flowing through your body in pulsing rhythm. Sitting there, you begin to feel restless, like you should be doing something, like your inhibitions are gone.

It’s not a sexual feeling, but more one that makes you want to get up and just do something, like you can’t fail. It’s a good feeling, and you find yourself channeling magic before pausing and noticing that you feel other magic being channeled from… Sylphie?

The Cat o’Ninetails has her eyes locked onto Ebe, her body simmering with energy. You reach over and place a hand on her arm and she blinks in confusion before shaking her head and then placing a hand over her heart as Ebe gives one final shake of her hips to end the dance.

Chest heaving, Ebe smiles and says, “Well? What did…hah, what did you think?”

“What was that?” You say, still feeling your blood sing. “What kind of magic did you use?”

“The magic of dance!” She says, chuckling. “Danceomancy I guess.” Rolling her shoulders, she says, “So, I take it all of you feel confident, yeah?”

“I WANT TO BLOW UP A BUILDING!” Sylphie shouts before blushing and placing her hand over her mouth. “Oh Gods, I’m sorry, I don’t know where that came from.”

“You’re clearly some kind of terrorist” Sophie says, smiling despite herself. “What a scandal that would be! Mother would be so displeased.”

“But I just… just what do I do with all this energy in my blood?” Sylphie says, looking pitiful.

“Practice your magic.” You say, stretching your back and wincing. “Oww, oww, damnit oww.”

“Oh goodness!” Ebe says, hopping over to you and putting a hand on your back. “Oh! You’re so tense! Here, let me help you stretch!”

“I’m fine! I don’t need the help! I just need to sleep and-“

“No, no, no.” Sophie says, wagging a finger. “You need to take your medicine.” She gives you a shit-eating grin and you feel your blood boil at this brat when you feel warm, downy feathers wrap around your chest as a soft pressure plays against your back.

“Ehm.” You say as you feel oddly comforted and uncomfortable. “Ebe, can you no-HOLY SHIT!”

A cry escapes your lips as her warm embrace turns fierce and she presses upon your back with such force that a popping sound issues and you gasp and push away from her, finding yourself lying on the ground, face down.

“Oh good, okay lay like that.” She says, stretching her wingarms. “Yeah let me just step on your back.”

“Are you crazy?” You say, trying to push yourself up. “I’m not going to let you just- Guh!”

Her taloned feet press upon your back and you feel your words turn into a gurgle as she begins to apply pressure. Sophie leans into your field of view, smile spreading to her eyes like some kind of fictional cat creature from the fevered dreams of a madman. She speaks in a slow, clear tone:

“You should feel lucky. People pay a lot of money for sexy harpies to dance on their backs.”

“Degener-ah-tes…” You mutter, feeling the pressure as she smoothes her feet upon your back, talons itching you. Groaning, you place your face into the dirt and sigh as Ebe does her thing. There’s nothing much for it at this point, though you vow to get even with Sophie somehow.

It takes a few minutes before Ebe hops off your back and leans down to help you up. Getting a good view of her cleavage from the unintended angle, you shake your head and rise up, sitting back and frowning at her. She makes a stretching motion and your frown deepens before realizing that your back doesn’t hurt as much anymore.

Blinking in surprise, you look it over and then clack your tongue. Sophie moves back into your field of view and you quickly avert your gaze. Gods damnit, and you thought Sylphie was supposed to be the insufferable one. You wave your hand at her and say, “Alright, alright, we need to get to sleep. Sylphie, you’re on first watch.”

“Really? You mean it?” She says, eyes sparkling.

“If you touch the wards though, you’ll have to use the next healing potion.”

She gulps and looks over to Mr. Ed, who won’t look her in the eyes. Her mouth drops open and she holds out a hand before hanging her head in acceptance.

You nod over to Mr. Ed and say, “Honestly, he’s the probably the most level headed member of the team. Great job today big guy.”

He lets out a whiney and paws the ground, to which Erwin sends, {He says, ‘I know’.”}

Well okie dokie then.

“Alright, I’m on second watch, and Ebe is on last watch.” You say, to which Sophie protests, but is voted down by the others, especially after her events today. With a sigh, she retreats to bed along with Ebe while you ready yourself for bed. Sylphie cracks open the geomancy book and reads it over again as you fall asleep.


Your shift comes too early, as it always does, and you take the time to [Survey] the land and finding, with surprise, a small supply of raw iron. You pull it up from the ground and spend the time manipulating it about, getting used to its feel. While you feel pretty good about your basic manipulation of iron, when you try to manipulate steel, it doesn’t move at all. Iron components though, you can move those a little.

>You learn <Iron Manipulation: Adept>

>You can draw iron from around you and manipulate it to some degree. Purified iron and steel is still too difficult to work upon, however.

Taking a piece of Iron pulled from the ground, you look it over and decide to add to your collection. As you do, you look down at the pieces of Greg, or Greglets, and pull them out, whispering apologies. How could you ever think about using him/them as a weapon? You were so blind.

>You gain [Iron chunk]

>You’ll think of a name later.

{You’re fucking weird} Erwin sends, mind groggy.

{And you need to be careful when you’re out scouting, or you’re going to become a nice pelt}.

{Gee, thanks bud}.

{I just care for you, my dear familiar}.

His reply is delayed before he sends, {I just don’t know what to do with you sometimes. Look at that thing I brought you before you go to sleep}.

Feeling a shift in his thoughts, you think he’s gone to sleep. Without much else left to do, you fish into your bag and pull out what he was talking about.

In your hands you hold a damaged core taken from a construct. While you were so busy interrogating, you forgot to look over the constructs. Thankfully Erwin rooted out a nice souvenir, and you turn over the crystalline core in your hands, runes inscribed into it seeming dull and lifeless. At one point this core had basic artificial intelligence, a simplistic core that powered the construct through mana siphons and gave it the ability to act fairly autonomous.

There’s no doubt that this is ancient Wizard work, as no one else used such runes, or really even made such devices. The current constructs couldn’t compare to these older devices, and older models even needed sorcerers to handle them. Models today still needed guidance, but could perform simple tasks without someone being present. These constructs though, they adapted and reacted to threats.

Gods, imagine if they were all functioning correctly? The one you fought was sluggish in comparison, and you begin to wonder what happened to the missing unit? Did whatever was in the coffin take it somehow? That disturbs you even more considering that the constructs were clearly made to guard it…

Your mind racing, you power up your [Port-o-Glass] and start looking over the runes you found. While you still can’t find anything about Dwarven runes, you are able to weave and find clues as the other runes. When you find a solid lead, you have to pause, thinking you’ve been rused.

“Ancient Ectrian runes?” You say, frowning deeply. “Why in the name of Solos would there be Dwarven, Ectrian, and Wizard runes? Why here?”

Because of the lack of Ectrian information and leylines in Ectria, there’s basically no information about something as obscure as ancient Ectrian. Would Ebe know? Maybe… but you are going to Ectria anyway you suppose.

Even though her shift is now, you decide to ask her tomorrow about this, going to sleep with an easy mind.


Ebe knows nothing about the runes.

Well, you expected as much. Both you and Sophie feel fantastic today though, much to your dismay, she continues to smug at you. Sylphie tells you about how she understands walls now, and even shows you a simple one, which you have to praise her for. She leans her head to you for a headpat, which you roll your eyes and give. Damn you’re a softy.

Travel through the day is fairly easy and you begin to see more travelers on the road. While you ran into the various cart here and there, nothing really was worth noticing beyond the other events. Because of the advent of Leyways, most commercial traffic went that way from Borne, though Port Dorning still went via river traffic. Because of this, until you get closer to Borne, you don’t see many people on the roads.

Now you mostly see farmers and local traffic, though you suspect from the other side you’d see something a little more… exotic. Because of your earlier rest, you are unable to reach the town until the sun is low in the sky and the world grows dark. As you crest a nearby hill, you finally get your first view of Borne.

Borne is a city of circumstance. Because it is the only feasible land route in and out of Ectria (as well as Blackfire Reach) it was a logical location for fortress to be built. Over the years, when no Ectrian or Lizardman invasion ever came, the fort became anemic, the soldiers and Heroes stationed there bored and disinterested. This changed when Ectrian traders finally started to make their way into the country, it became an important border trading post. Where trade goes, civilization follows. Over time, Ectrian traders and immigrants formed a community with Deleorians and the city known as Borne was formed.

Because of its history, a wall is still maintained about the outer city, though on the Ectrian side of the city a separate community of sorts had formed. The Deleorian side, however, is fairly simple and utilitarian, except where it has been opened for the new Leyway station.

You make it to the walls in the early evening and the men look you over before allowing you in after a small tax. Few cities have such taxes anymore, but given it’s a merchant city, you shouldn’t be surprised. Sophie pays it without issue, but as you pass by, you notice one of the men pointing and whispering something to another guard. He backs away and heads into the guard house, but no one bars you from entrance.

Mentioning this to the others, you make your way into the city and see an interesting sight. Magitek lights, everywhere. Hanging from street poles which previously had lanterns strung, they cast the city in bright light, showing the strong, angular architecture of the city.

Most of the buildings are made of stone, easily quarried from the mountains and worked into the defense of the town, but there is a clear flare of something foreign here. Ebe seems right at home with it, and when you see an Anubis walking down the street, chatting with a Deleorian man, you instantly recognize the influence must be Ectrian.

While only of modest size, the city boasts an impressive population of mostly Deleorians with some Ectrian humans and Monsters. Lizardman are quite common here too after the fall of Blackfire Reach, and you’ve read that the Danuki also keep a strong presence here, quashing any rebellions before they can form. Also, the money, that’s also why Danuki are here.

Reaching the center of the city, you find a massive, sprawling marketplace that is still active. People selling all sorts of wares from pottery to grains, exotic jewelry to weapons, are talking with excited voices, the voice of commerce. From established stalls to hasty tables with cloth hanging over them, people buy, sell, and trade with abandon.

You feel like something is watching you, and you turn to see a few guards milling about, seeming board on duty, but nothing malicious. Honestly, you think that you’re going to find Chaika right behind you if you’re not careful. Speaking of which, with the evening coming in, you need to figure out your next plans, especially considering it might be any time that Chaika could appear.

A guard runs up and talks with the others with furious gestures and the others stand and look alarmed, running through the market with quick feet. You grow incredibly worried as they approach you, but when they dash past you look as confused as everyone else. The marketplace seems to fluctuate for a moment, but the commerce continues soon enough, though a new commodity, rumors, have been added to the market.

You notice other guards in the distance running past and you realize they must be going to the Ectrian part of town. Was there a riot or something going on? No one here seems overly scared or anything, so you wonder if it’s really your business.

“Erwin?” You ask verbally, looking down at your familiar

He stares at you with eyes that seem as distant and hollow as a moonless night.

“You wanna go… you know?”

Darker than the night, a void of emotion, lacking in all things.

“Come on, just a little scouting, it’ll be fine.”

The deepest of Nerg’s hells must look like this emotion, this soulless nothingness.

Rolling your eyes, you reach down and pick your familiar up. He lets you, showing a hint of emotion. It’s annoyance, a deep seated annoyance, but it’s better than the void. Smirking at this change, you hold him in town hands over your head and he just stares down at you.

{Come onnnnnn.}

{Can’t I just go one day without being your scout?}

{Don’t make me throw you}

{You wouldn’t dare.}

Something inside you says that you would dare, but your common sense takes hold and you merely “toss” your familiar to the ground in a rolling gesture, and he lands on his paws. He stares at you and then sighs before padding away into the market, vanishing in the foot traffic toward the Ectrian quarter.

Watching him go, you turn back to the others and begin to speak when you hear someone shout from further in the market. A sweating fat man points toward something, screaming about, “DAMN VERMIN!”

You sigh and send, {Well?}

{I’m not scouting on an empty stomach! Also this chicken dish is really good.}

“Erwin is… a strange soul.” Sylphie says, scratching her cheek before nodding to Mr. Ed. “Yes, horses are far more noble and majestic creatures.”

“So you sent him to scout again?”

“When in doubt.” You say, shrugging and then shaking your head. “Anyway, we probably have some time to do some shopping I assume. It’s our last chance before we enter the pass.”

“I do not know how I feel about this.” Sophie says, looking worried. “I feel like eyes are on me.”

“Well, yes.” Ebe says, swaying her hips. “You have quite the lovely face and very noticeable chest.”

“Oh, it’s that kind of eyes.” The Cat o’Ninetails says, seeming relieved. “I’m fine with that.”

“And I am fine with the two of you getting something to cover yourselves up.” You say with a grunt.

“Tch, you sound like our Father.” Sophie says, sighing. Sylphie tenses up at this and then blinks in surprise as she realizes the tone in which Sophie said it. Her expression becomes conflicted before she notices you giving her a questioning look and he turns away, covering her face.

“You can see the necessity of covering up, yes? Besides, I believe such clothing will do good in the desert, right Ebe?”

“Hmm? Oh, well for a native of Ectria and a Gandharva, I don’t really need such things, as my sweat keeps me well protected.” When everyone gives her odd looks, she hurriedly waves her hands and says, “Ah no no! Ahhh that’s embarrassing! I meant that I don’t need cloaks but you two should or your skin will burn!”

“Or maybe we’ll become tanned like Mom.” Sophie says, looking down at her cleavage with interest at the thought. “Rommel, do you have any objection to me sunbathing in the nude?”

“You’re doing this on purpose.” You say with a flat tone.

“Doing what?” She asks with a sweet tone.

“Stop doing whatever… it is you’re doing.” Sylphie says, waggling her staff between the two of you. “Let’s just go before Chaika finds us.” She stops as she says this and looks about her, as if she fears that Chaika would be summoned by her voice.

“Oh very well, dear sister.” Sophie says, walking primly next to her sister. “Come along Ebe, Rommel.”

The Gandharva and you trade glances before shrugging and following after them into the marketplace proper.

Despite, or perhaps because, of the evening air, the market is abuzz with activity. Despite many wide thoroughfares, you find it difficult to walk with Mr. Ed in the group, and have to suffer through some very annoyed people as you do so. Still, they soon forget him, as he is not the only horse in the market, though still rare.

Vendors hawk various foods at you, as well as fine silken garments and other niceties. Sophie spends some time staring at an array of rather scanty clothing, but is dissuaded from this when Ebe looks shocked at the prices and calls the shopkeeper, a copper-skinned human woman, something in her native speech. The shopkeeper waves her away in disgust and Ebe sniffs before shaking her hips at the woman and walking away with a confused Sophie.

Not hearing much from Erwin, who apparently had to run away from a gang of street urchins (which you’re fairly certain one is a hedgehog girl by his description), and is delayed in getting to the district. You get a little piece of mind at least when you find yourself in front of a stall selling very utlitarian clothing.

The merchant, a tall Arachnae-like Monster with an Ectrian complexion, brown, scale-like abdomen, and sharp pedipalps shows you her wares. It surprises you how cheap her clothing is, and she admits that she uses wool and light cloth from Ectria as opposed to silk. When you give her a confused look, Ebe gently places a wing on your shoulder and whsipers in your ear, “Her species doesn’t make silk.”

It doesn’t take long to find two sturdy, if plain, cloaks to cover the two Cat o’Ninetails. Sylphie looks like at home while Sophie pouts at having to be hidden. She buys a second cloak anyway. When the merchant looks to you, you shake your head and point at your clothing. She looks it over before sighing and acknowledging that you’d be fine, though she does try to offer you a headwrap called a “turban.” You refuse her, thinking that it looks rather silly.

With the girls now properly clothed, the next item of business is to restock food and water supplies. Getting proper waterskins is a top priority according to Ebe, and you take the opportunity to stock up on that, hiding a fair amount in your [Trenchcoat] and the [Bags of Holding] owned by the twins. Fortunately food is also easy to come by, especially the kind that does well in the desert. You’re also quite fortunate to find a stall owned by a Monster Witch, though it was a Dark Elf, a rarity outside of the Monster Nation or Derrick. Of course, they were still more common than normal elves who…

Where did normal Elves live anyway?

Regardless, you purchase from her 3x [Healing Potions], 4x[Mana Potions], and a [Featherfall potion]. She doesn’t carry many books of magic, merely just a few on alchemy, but Sylphie wants nothing to do with it. Neither do you frankly, as the thought of using the only ready supply of jizz and then drinking it seems very wrong to you.

>You gain 3x[Healing Potions]

>You now have 4

>You gain 4x[Mana Potions]

>You now have 6

>You gain a [Featherfall Potion]

>This potion, when imbibed, will make you nigh-weightless, making you fall at a safe speed.

As you make to leave, you notice Sophie paying for something else when you’re not looking, a large bottle of an off-white substance whose name you can’t read. She slips it into her bag as you turn to her and she smiles, walking up with a jaunt in her step. When you give her a questioning look, she merely returns with an expression of innocence. Smart-ass cat.

Taking the opportunity to eat while shopping, you munch on the chicken that Erwin recommended, finding it to be very good indeed, while the twins eat something with a more Eastern flare, though how they found it here of all places, you have no idea. As you stop to peruse some heated bread pouches for your bag, you see Ebe almost squeal in delight as she begs Sophie to buy her a fried lizard on a stick. You watch in morbid fascination as she tears at the Lizard’s flesh, getting bits of glistening fat running down her chin and down onto her breasts. Actually, you realize that everyone in a ten foot radius is watching the radiant Gandharva eat the disgusting creature with ravenous gusto.

You have to quickly pay for your pouches and quickly escort her away and hand her something to clean herself up with, much to her confusion and dismay. As you watch, she continues to eat the lizard, who’s dead eyes stare at you as she eats. Is this the food in Ectria? This is going to be one hells of a long trip if so.

Getting sufficiently far away from the scene, Ebe munches with innocent little bites as you look about to find yourself surrounded by stalls selling various ores and minerals. Feeling a spike of curiosity, you push out with your [Survey] and find… a lot of conflicting sensations. With so many minerals of varying consistencies around, it’s like everyone yelling at you in different languages, and you have to pick one out while the others scream in your ear. Needless to say, it’s a lost cause.

Taking the less magical route, you look over the rocks in person. At a large stall, a man watches your every move as you slide your fingers over a piece of raw iron, showing the quality of the ore they have for sale. You feel it flowing under your fingertips and you smirk as you feel you understand the iron more. Looking over to the side, you see copper, tin, and an interesting, lighter metal the man calls lead. Having never seen the stuff in person, you take a moment to acclimate yourself to the metal, though the merchant gives you weird looks as you do. It’s not like you’re masturbating to the metals or anything…

>You gain <Lead Manipulation: Unpolished>

>You can pull raw lead from the earth and shape it. Purified lead is hard to come by so you’re probably fine.

>You gain <Tin Manipulation: Unpolished>

>You can pull raw tin from the earth and shape it. Purified tin is harder to work with.

Finding the lead ore to be interesting, you ask the man the price for it and nearly balk at the cost of 5 silvers per ounce. What kind of madness is this?! Feeling a little pang of guilt though, you buy two ounces and a much cheaper rock of tin. Placing them in your bag, you make to go when you notice something else nearby, a glass, black chunk of rock.

Inquiring as to what it is, the merchant tells you that it’s obsidian, a fairly common material here because of the nearby mountains. Though it can be hard to obtain if Wurms are about, it’s still fairly abundant, and he offers to sell it for a decent price. When you slide your fingers over the glassy substance, you nick yourself on an edge and find it bleeding. Damn that’s sharp! Wonder if it could make a weapon…

“Yeah, this stuff is really fragile.” The merchant says, yawning. “Makes interesting weapons, but they break easily and fragments into super painful shards.”

You buy five pounds without further thought.

>You obtain [Tin ore]

>You obtain [Lead ore]

>You obtain [Obsidian]

Okay well, that was fun. You stretch and then realize the twins aren’t around you anymore. With some panic, you look about and see Mr. Ed in the crowd, and push through to find Sophie and Sylphie looking over a stall selling various refined metals and finer goods. With surprise, you see Sophie pick up a fork of a silvery metal and twirl it in her fingers before setting it down. Curious, you send your magic into the fork and find… Nothing.

Not like, “I can’t move this,” but outright nothing at all. As if it’s resistant to magic in any way, shape or form. Looking utterly confused, you walk over to the girls (and Mr. Ed), to be greeted by Sylphie.

“Hey Rommel, this guy’s selling ALUMINUM!”

“Huh? Isn’t that stuff really expensive?” You ask, looking interested at the utensils made of the stuff. The man who is selling the items gives you a dirty look at you approach, clearly thinking you a vagabond. Well, maybe he shouldn’t be selling these kinds of products in the marketplace and inside of a building instead.

“We have a set in the embassy.” Sophie says, nodding her head. “It’s not that strong of a metal, but it’s very rare and hard to refine, and thus it is expensive and fancy.”

“Did you know it’s also magically inert?”

“Really?” Sylphie says, looking at the items with new interest. “That’s pretty cool.”

“But the price is… that’s crazy.” Ebe says, her lizard having been finished. “Five gold pieces? That’s crazy!”

“Ouch.” You say, wincing. That is an insane price, though you glance to Sophie and she shrugs, though she does seem a little concerned. Yeah… money, but not that much money to be spending on such things. Damn if that wouldn’t be cool though, to do… something with it.

{Woah.} Erwin sends, clear as day in your mind. You pause and move off to the side as you listen to him speak in your mind.

{I made it here and looked around and… it’s the same as in the forest. There’s people, Monsters, their hearts ripped out of their chests, blood painted… damn it’s awful.}

{Woah woah, slow down.} You send, calming your little friend. {Explain what’s going on.}

{That thing from before? The one who killed those slavers? I think it’s here, and it’s killing Ectrians. The guards have the place nearly on lockdown, I think this is going to get out to the marketplace soon though. How did this go unnoticed?}

{Are you alright?}

{Yeah, no one can find whatever it is though. There’s a series of bloody footprints down an alley that just seem to… vanish next to a wall.}

{That’s… not good.} You send, seeming concerned. You really do not want to mess with whatever this thing is, thankfully it seems to be confined to that part of the city. Taking the information, you inform the others but are interrupted by Erwin sending again.

{Hang on.} Erwin sends, sounding interested in something. {There’s someone coming to speak with the guard Captain here, sounds like they’re armored and…Oh.}

{Erwin?} You send, a little worried. {You okay?}

{It’s Chaika, oh boy, Chaika is here.}

{Fucking hells. What’s she saying to them?}

{They’re apprising her of the situation and… uh oh.} He cuts off again, his thoughts growing worried. {She was asking about whatever this is but is not asking, and one of the guards is describing us as we entered the city and- wait is she looking at?}

A spike of fear passes over your bond and you feel your heart grow heavy. Quickly snapping your focus into Erwin’s senses, you immediately find yourself staring into the cold, emotionless faceplate of Chaika, her red eyes burning as she bores holes into Erwin’s face. A little fritz of static plays before she says in a calm voice that belies a deeper anger,

“I know you, little street fox. Tell your master that he better deliver the girls to me in the next hour, or I will snap your little neck.” She brings him closer and hisses,

“And I don’t much think his heart could take that.”

Snapping back to your senses, you put a hand to your head and whisper, “Oh shit.”

“What, what’s wrong?” Sophie asks, looking alarmed.

“She’s got Erwin.”

“She…?” Sylphie says before her eyes grow wide. “Oh Gods, no she couldn’t be-“

“She is, and we’re in the palm of her hand.” You say, slumping against a stall, despite the merchant’s protests. Putting a hand to your head, you take a deep breath and think over your options. She wasn’t kidding when she said your heart might not be able to take it. If Erwin was killed then you, because of your bond, you’d be lucky to wind up in a coma at best.

Sylphie puts her hands up to her mouth while Sophie curses. Ebe seems concerned, though it appears to be more for the distress of the others than due to being invested herself. Despite the loud chatter about you, your party grows silent as decisions rush through your heads.

You need to rescue Erwin, but if you fight her, you can’t win. But maybe that would be the best option? Maybe if you bring her to the top of a building, make her fall down, right onto a spike of earth and impale her through her core? But if you do that, the twins won’t forgive you, and that also brings the question of, HOW DO YOU GET ERWIN BACK?

Groaning, you place a hand to your head and slump back against the wall. She has you good here, and there’s really no way out of this. Chaika is… from what you can tell, ruthless. She’ll kill the fox if she has to. She’ll kill your friend, in truth your only friend. You feel a pang of pain in your heart at this, and wonder what you’d do if he was gone. Gods, what would those two kittens do if they saw…

Wait. Chaika is ruthless, but she’s also hyperprotective, never letting these two alone, right? If she’s like that, then would she really kill someone in front of them? You know they could handle it, seeing as you’ve killed in front of them, but she doesn’t know what. You’re just some asshole who is tricking them into something.

A plan begins to formulate in your mind when you feel a tug at your sleeve. It takes another two tugs before you look up to see Sylphie standing before you, head down, tears forming at the corners of her eyes, and trembling. She opens her mouth to say something before biting her lip, her ears flattening down under her hood.

You’re struck dumb by the sight, feeling a terrible pain in your heart at the sight. It takes all of your will and your lifetime of training to keep yourself calm. You take a breath and place a hand on her shoulder, noticing its shaking as much as she is. Calming yourself, you ask, “What’s wrong?”

“We- we’re going to have to go back home, aren’t we?” Sylphie says, sniffing. “We were supposed to-to save Mom and Dad and… and be a family again and…” She begins actually crying and you find yourself disconcerted, thrown utterly out of your element. Seeing a young woman crying before you again brings back memories that have unfortunately been at the front of your mind recently, and you have to take a step back, unsure of what to do.

Ebe seems to understand the situation, and walks up to Sylphie, pulling her close to her bosom with her wings which enfold the Cat o’Ninetails like a blanket. Finding solace, Sylphie presses into Ebe’s chest, and outright bawls. You look at the Gandharva and she gives you a disappointed look before singing something to Sylphie which seems to calm her down some.

You look over to Sophie, who is biting her thumb, mind racing. You see her tails flicking back and forth behind her in the large mass of fluff. Shuffling over to her, you ask, “What are you thinking?”

“We can’t fight her, and to be honest, I won’t fight her.” She makes his very, very plain. “But I don’t want to just stay home anymore. I love Chaika, but she doesn’t understand how stifling she is. The irony is that she bemoans us staying home, but how can we live our lives if she’s always there? Saya got lucky because she was sent to boarding school and is different than us but we… we’re a little different.”

“Besides…” She nods to Sylphie. “This was more her idea than mine. I went along with it because she wanted to and… and I miss them too.”

Nodding your head, you say, “So, you’re committed to getting to Ectria.”

“Yeah.” She takes a deep breath and looks at you with feline eyes that burn with determination. “Are you?”

“I…” You pause before taking a deep breath and then saying, “Yes.” She smirks at you and you say, “We do have a contract, afterall.”

Sophie blinks, seeming taken aback, before a smile cracks her lips and she punches your arm. “Asshole.”

Smirking yourself, you focus your mind and send to Erwin {Hang on, we’re figuring out a way to get you out of this}

{Yeah, yeah I knew you would.} Erwin sends back, his thoughts a little shaky.

{She’s taking us further into this alley, I assume waiting for you to make your move. She says you only have a few more minutes to send a message.}

{What? Gah, how does she think I’m going to send a message anyway?}

{Ehm. I don’t know, but it would be nice if you could.}

Groaning, you place a hand on your face, and then pull it down before shaking your head and saying, “Alright, that’s enough crying.”

Ebe frowns at you while Sylphie sniffs and rubs at her eyes. Mr. Ed neighs and paws at the ground as you plant your staff before you. Taking a deep breath, you say, “Alright. First things first, we give Chaika what she wants.”


Your footsteps echo through the alleyway as you walk down the dark path. Refuse and some darker skinned bum lay in the alley, and you take the hand of your companion as not to trip over them. Walking further, you make your way until you reach the end of the alleyway, a stone wall blocking your path. A furred hand touches your shoulder and you turn to your companion to see them nod their hooded head.

“This is the place?”

“Not quite.” You say, listening for Erwin’s sending. It comes a moment later, and a soft clinking sound is heard far above you. Looking up, you see the tops of a four story building near the Ectrian quarter and you send back and acknowledgement.

“You ready?” You ask, and she nods in return. Waving her closer, you tap your staff upon the earth and [Build the Wall].

The ground of the alleyway rises higher and higher, using some of the nearby stone to reinforce the wall, and you find yourself at the top of the building, stepping off and allowing the wall to regress some, as not to break apart due to the height. You help your companion down as well and turn to the nearly empty rooftop.

Under the clear night sky, moon shining down upon you, a wind blows, ruffling your [Trenchcoat]. While not the tallest building (that would be the fortress itself), this building has a commanding view of the city, and has a full view over the walls leading to the Ectrian quarter.

Standing atop the stone building stands a lone, feminine figure holding something that squirms faintly in her hands. You narrow your eyes and take a step closer, deliberately striking the stone with your staff. The figure turns about and you see red, glowing eyes that stare at you with emotionless malice.

“Sorcerer… You came.” Chaika says. She looks next to you and then speaks again, “And yet, you did not do as I had demanded. Do you not care for the life of your familiar?”

“I’m glad you got my sand writing then. Talking in the Ectrian quarter given the current situation seems… not wise, don’t you think? And I have brought you ONE of the girls.” You shout back. “The other is not here any longer.”

“What.” Chaika says, and you feel Erwin panic some. “I told you both of them should be here. Which one of them is gone, Sophie? No, it must be Sylphie.” She hisses through her vocal unit, “Regardless you’re not playing by the rules, are you?”

The construct holds up Erwin, placing her hand next to her throat. She squeezes down slightly upon it and Erwin gasps in response. You snap your hand up and say, “I wouldn’t do that if I were you?”

“Oh? What are you going to do, throw a rock at me, Geomancer?”

“No, I’ll do something worse.” You take your free hand and pass it over to your companion’s hood and pull it back to show the face of Sylphie, standing there with her ears down, a look of concern on her face.

Chaika falters for a moment, her grip loosening on Erwin’s throat. “Sylphie? You bastard.”

“Can we talk now?”

“This isn’t a negotiation, sorcerer.”

“Wizard, actually.” You say, a little ball of fire appearing in your hand, followed by a coating of ice. “But I do a lot of geomancy.”

“Wizard? They were taken by a Wizard?” She says, eliciting a sigh laced with static. “Well, at least they weren’t duped by just a sorcerer.”

“Duped. You believe they were duped into something? To what end do you suppose I have done this?”

“You’re not stupid, you know who they are, and thus I must assume you’re going to use them for some political means. I bet your of Al-Sabbath or something.”

“Al…what? Anyway, it’s true that I know who they are, but have you ever considered that I’m the one who was duped into this?”


You shrug, “Well, you’d be correct, I wasn’t, not fully.” Shaking your head, you look at her with a firm gaze. “But it doesn’t matter what I say, what matters is what SHE has to say.”

“I don’t want to hear it. These two left home on some stupid quest to, and I quote, ‘See Mom and Dad, be back later.'” She hisses static. “Foolish girls, leaving on your own in this dangerous world. You’re going to get hurt! I’m surprised you’ve been safe so far, especially not going to the Port and with such dangerous Wolverines in the woods.”

So… they did slow her down some. Not enough it seems, though Gods you hope they weren’t hurt at least, they don’t deserve that.

“So, you won’t hear anything out. A shame. I suppose you’ll never find Sophie then.”

{GACK!} Erwin cries as Chaika tightens her grip.

“What does that mean?”

“See, on our way here, we met a nice Ectrian friend who said she’d take us down a secret path through the mountains that bypasses the Mountain Pass. By now, they’re probably out of the city, almost there. If they reach that pass, you’ll never find them.”

“Oh, and before you ask, Sylphie doesn’t know where this path is. Besides, you’ll never catch up with them if you take her with you. It will slow you down, and frankly I don’t think she’ll cooperate.”

“So, you can chase after Sophie, maybe find her and then come back for us, or you can take Sylphie from us, though I doubt it will be in a fashion that is pleasant or will leave her unscarred.”

You take a breath and then relax some, putting on a tired expression. “Or we can just talk.”

Chaika doesn’t move for a long while, staring at you for a long period of time. Eventually, she slackens her grip on Erwin and turns her head to Sylphie before asking, “What is it?”

“Chaika… I know you care for us. I know you’d do anything for us, go across the world and slay anything to keep us safe but we had to go. We had to go save Mom and Dad.”

“Save? Your parents are the strongest people in the world. If there was something that could have harmed them, then I’m sorry Sylphie, but it would be far too dangerous for you. You have to trust that wherever they are, they’re doing something important and wait for them to return.”

“It’s been six months Chaika! SIX MONTHS!” Sylphie reaches into her robe and pulls out a letter. “Dad sent us a letter saying he went to Ectria with Mom, he said he’d be back before the spring! But where is he? Why haven’t we heard from them?”

“Would you like to see the letter?” You put in and Chaika shakes her head.

“I know where they are. Blake told me, implored me to go and look for them.”

Sylphie blinks in confusion. “Blake? Dad sent a letter to him too?”

“Of course, this is very important news. I had only just heard of it before I left on my sabbatical and I was waylaid by… well, let us just say that it is divine providence that I knew to look for you.”

“If you knew that they were possibly in danger, why didn’t you go to help them!” She puts a hand to her head. “Wait… Chaika, why are we even fighting at all? You should come with us!”

You nod your head, thinking about it rationally. “You wish to keep them safe, why don’t you join us?”

“Because… I have been commanded to keep them safe.” She goes quiet for a moment before speaking in a softer voice. “Because if anything happened to them, I don’t know what I’d do. These two girls are not my children, but if they were hurt, I don’t know if I could live with it.”

Cold winds blow down from the mountains, flapping your coat and Sylphie’s cloak upon the rooftop. Erwin’s fur is pushed with the wind, but he stays silent, staring at you with hope in his eyes. Feeling his trust in you, you say what comes to your mind almost before you have time to think it over.

“Is keeping them coddled at home all their lives truly living though?”

“I don’t keep them coddled, they just don’t show initiative to-” She pauses mid sentence, thinking it over.

“Chaika.” Sylphie says, placing both her hands on her staff. “Rommel is right. Oh, his name is Rommel by the way, sorry for the lack of introduction.” She chuckles awkwardly before shaking her head. “We asked him to come along because we soon realized we were out of our league and yet… yet knowing that we could help Mom and Dad, knowing that we were some of the few who were able and willing to go… how could we not?”

“We’ve been told all our lives that we’re destined for greatness from everyone we meet, that our lineage means we are expected to do amazing things! And yet we haven’t too afraid to take a risk, to go on an adventure.”

“I’ve seen slavers, heard one tell me that my Mother might be a captive of the Pharaoh while she tried to fight us. I’ve seen the passions of lust, I’ve seen that the world is not as simple as I thought it might be.” She closes her eyes. “I’ve even seen a Monster die.”

“However!” She says, opening her eyes and stamping her staff butt on the roof. “I know you mean only the best for us, but if you won’t go with us, then we’ll have to go on our own, whether that means crossing you or not.”

Your eyes had already grown wide as she spoke, but now your mouth is open. Gods, she just ruined this with that speech! And yet… yet you can’t fault her for saying it. Her words ring true to you, such to the point that you have merely to sigh and nod in acknowledgement before turning back to Chaika.

“You’ve heard her declaration, heard her reasons. What do you say? Will you come with us? Or will you shelter them from the world forever while two of the most important people in the world are probably in danger?”

“I… I…” She says, her grip slipping on Erwin. She places her free hand to her chest and says, “Dollora said… protect that’s in my heart and…”

The fox slips from her grasp and he backs away from her before bounding over to you, leaping into your outsretched arm. He snuggles against your chin and you sigh in relief at him being back. “Hey buddy, you good?”

{I knew this would all play out fine.} Erwin sends. {Thanks… though don’t think I’ll nuzzle your chin again. It’s kind of gay.}

“Yeah, okay.” You say, chuckling before turning to see Sylphie walking toward Chaika, her hand outstretched. She smiles softly and makes to place it upon Chaika’s cobalt shoulder when she stops in her tracks, eyes going wide.

Chaika immediately snaps to alert and looks about for signs of danger before snapping her gaze to you. Before you can even think, she pushes past the girl and you see a blur of motion as some kind of thrusters push her forward and she appears before you, holding you up by your neck. You wheeze as she compresses your throat and she shouts, “What did you do?!”

“N-Nothing!” You gasp. Fucking hells, what is Sylphie doing? Everything was going smoothly and then this? Damnit, you thought it was all going to work out! Shit, shit, shitshitshit. You don’t want to go to plan B but…

Your magic slides into Chaika, on your way to reach to the core. It’s merely made of crystal or gemstones, right? Your geomancy should be able to rip her out of her body, if only you can reach it! But… you can’t. Her adamantium hide is so well refined it rebuffs your magic with almost contemptuous ease. That’s alright though, because your true goal is the roof beneath her, the roof made of stone.

You prepare to shatter the stone and drop her, and probably yourself, down to the bottom floor of this building, for you were able to find out ahead of time that the center of the building was an open area overlooked by the housing units inside of it. You think it’s some kind of weird communal space but that’s not important right now. What is important is your plan.

As you force the magic to fracture the roof, Sylphie whirls about and shouts, “STOP!”

The magic dispels in your hand, your concentration ruined. Chaika turns her head 180 degrees about (which is actually kind of disturbing) and she says, “Sylphie! What did he do?”

“Do? I don’t- No, that’s not important. Listen, Mr. Ed told me that something is attacking Sophie and Ebe!”

“What?!” Both you and Chaika say before turning to each other. She drops you and you rub at your throat as Sylphie continues.

“East side of the city, near the outer wall. They were going to wait for us when something… oh Gods, we have to help them!”

“Got it.” Chaika says, grabbing Sylphie under her arm. She looks at you and then sighs before grabbing you as well, despite Erwin and your protests. With barely a thought, she leaps into the air, using thrusters on her back to give her more power as she lands on a nearby building, before doing it again and again, hopping between buildings so quickly she appears a blue blur. In no time at all, you hear Mr. Ed’s neighs and Chaika leaps down from a building to land in the middle of a battle.

Mr. Ed, a gash over his flank, rears up at your appearance while Sophie turns her head to you, her tails straining to hold something. She shouts, “HELP HER!” and points toward a wall where Ebe sits, her eyes wide, shaking in fear with her broken guitar in her wings. Mere inches before her face is a hand dripping with gore, a hand belonging to a construct very similar to the ones you saw in the dwarven crypt.

Chaika accelerates and slams into the construct, to which Sophie lets it go, forcing the thing to go flying. It lands in the dirt and rolls before springing to its feet in a display of athletics that is far above that of what the other construct could perform. It crouches down and looks at the two of you, and in the light of a magitek lantern, you see the construct in whole.

While of the same make as the others, its outer coating of dust had been removed, showing red , armor plating and a mostly intact faceplate that exposed one eye. Where the other construct’s eyes glowed red, like most constructs, this one’s eyes glow purple with an odd, intelligent malice.

Feeling a shiver go down your spine, you don’t notice until just then that the red of its armor seems off, like it was applied randomly. Focusing on it, you realize that it’s not paint at all, but blood slathered all over the armor. This thing… is killing people and painting itself? No… it has to just be coincidence.

The construct takes all of you in before looking at Ebe again. The Gandharva gasps and pulls away, shaking violently. Chaika takes a step in front of her holds out her hands before declaring, “What is your designation?”

The construct pauses before a rasping sound comes from the faceplate, the static hiss generated by the vocal components at times. The voice that comes out however is mechanical and yet… something else seems to be suffused within it, something that makes your skin crawl. “Desig…nation? Eheh… Haha.”

Chaika balls her hands into fists. “I do not recognize your model. What forge did you come from?”

“Error. Error. Override of security functions, sub… subroutine…” The construct twitches violently before a static-laden laugh ensues again.

“Uh, Chaika.” You say, growing very concerned. “I think this is an ancient construct guarding an old dwarven site that had the help of wizards and I believe Ectrians. The other one we fought didn’t act like this at all.”

“As well it shouldn’t.” She says, “This construct possesses no AI core. This must be a revenant.”

“EHehehahaha!” The construct screeches. “Ec-ians! Sustain-ce!”

Without further warning it dashes toward Chaika, reaching its hand out. Before your eyes, you see the metal fold back from the fingers to reveal pointed talons hidden underneath. The thing is fast, very, very fast, but Chaika is faster.

With practiced motions, Chaika grab’s the construct’s arm and twists, sending it to the ground. She tries to snap the arm but the construct, unable to feel pain, unlocks the joint of the arm and turns about to twist a kick into Chaika’s face, sending her crashing to the side.

“Geh. Get out of here!” Chaika shouts to you, grabbing the construct’s leg as it leaps for Ebe again. “It wants to kill her for some reason!”

“W…why?!” Ebe shouts, clearly shaken. You dash over to her and pick her up, pulling her away as the construct kicks Chaika into the wall where you were standing, her hand still attached to its leg. It laughs that eerie laugh before reaching down and squeezing on Chaika’s arm. Despite being ancient, she presses with enough force to damage the adamantium, making the servos spasm in response and let it go.

It backs away and grabs its other arm placing it back into the joint, but before it can do much else, Chaika pushes herself up with one arm and springs forward with the aid of her thrusters and barrels into the construct, grabbing it with one arm and then twisting it about to perform a piledriver into the dirt. This merely seems to anger the construct which is tougher than it looks apparently, and it spins, catching Chaika off guard and allowing it to grab and wrench off a piece  of Chaika’s left leg.

You raise your staff, making ready to fire your [Pebble Gun] into the damn thing when it turns its face to you and you see the faceplate fall away to reveal not dull metal, but an inky darkness. Your breath catches in your throat and you know not what to say before it punches Chaika repeatedly until she catches its fist with… her face. Using the momentary confusion form such a tactic, Chaika drives a thruster assisted fist into its chest, shattering a large portion of the chest armor and exposing a glowing, purple core.

“Now!” She cries, and both you and Sylphie lash out with magic, you a [Pebble Gun] and Sylphie a [Lightning Bolt].

The electricity hits the construct first and it spasms in wild directions, forcing your shot to miss and instead hit her on the shoulder, making a large dent in the armor plating there and sending it staggering backward. You make ready to fire another [Pebble Gun] when it snaps its head up at you and then looks about your group.

“N…no… this is not it. Ret-rn to the s-nds. Ful-ill the cove-ant.” Its speech breaks and staggers and it steps backward, cover its exposed chest. You reach out with your magic to probe at the core with [Survey] but you feel your magic hit an icy wall, a sort of foreboding presence that makes you curse and pull away. It laughs maniacally before turning and running, leaping to a building and pushing off to leap over the walls and out of sight. You hear a scream from the other side before nothing else.

“W-what the fuck was that?” Sophie says, looking utterly distressed as all her grace departs her. “Shit, Ebe, are you alright?”

“I…yeah. I… I think I’ll be fine. You should worry about Mr. Ed and her.” She looks at her guitar with a dazed expression, as if wondering how it got there.

“He’s alright.” Sylphie says, placing her hands on Mr. Ed’s face. “He says it doesn’t hurt too bad and isn’t too deep. Even with a health potion, I don’t think riding him is going to be a good idea for awhile.”

“Gods that all happened so fast…” Sophie says, seeming flustered. “We were waiting for you to give Mr. Ed a signal but that… that thing attacked us and then you arrived and Chaika…” Her eyes go wide. “Wait a second, CHAIKA?!”

“Hey there kitten.” Chaika says, still on the ground. Her right arm twitches against her control while her left leg lets out solemn sparks. “This is embarrassing.”

“Gods, that thing just tore into you! It was nothing like the mostly slow, methodical unit we fought before.”

“That’s because this thing is not just a construct anymore. Something is possessing it, its core is something living… or was once living, like me.” She shakes her head and chuckles, “Well damn. There goes my plans of going with you two now.”

“Going with…? What?” Sophie asks, looking stunned.

“Haha, well… your sister as a different way with words than you do but…it’s not bad.”

Sylphie looks down, her eyes conflicted. Chaika sighs. “Damnit… this throws a wrench in everything. I can’t stop you two from going now, but I can’t protect you either, not without going back to Havenforth and doing some repairs, which is going to take some serious time. I guess…” She chuckles, “Well I guess you’re finally getting your wish. You get to make your own decisions now.”

“Yeah.” Sophie says, standing up and taking a deep breath. “I guess we do.” She turns to the members of your party before looking to you specifically and saying, “Well Rommel, we signed a contract. What’s our next step?”

Chaika nods and says, “Rommel… I don’t know you, and I don’t think I like you, but you remind me of some else who was in a very similar position. These girls trust you for whatever reason, and I know them to be goofballs, but not idiots. If they want to travel with you… then so be it.”

“Hells.” You say, scratching the back of your head. “Feels a little weird when you all look at me like that.”

“What, you don’t like being the leader of a group of pretty girls?” Sophie says, lip twitching into a smirk before she yelps as Chaika uses her good arm to slap her.

“Hey! Mind your damn manners.”

“S-sorry.” The Cat o’Ninetails says, shrinking back a little, her cheeks red.

You cock your head at their dynamic before shaking your head and saying, “First things first, we need to get out of here and find somewhere to stay the night. I don’t think that… whatever that was, will return to find us, but the guards will.”

“Ah, right, the guards.” Chaika sighs, her voice crackling into static before returning normally. “Give me your shoulder, Rommel.”

“Aren’t you like… 500lbs. or something?”

Everyone in your group looks at you in horror at the question, and Erwin sends, {You idiot. You never ask a woman how much she weighs!}

{But she’s a construct.}

{A WOMAN construct, ugh}. He leaves it at that, forcing you to cough into your hand and walk over to Chaika, helping her up. Thankfully because she has one functioning leg, she can keep herself upright in some manner of speaking, though walking just is impossible without help. With her properly set, you begin walking toward the center of the district, toward where Chaika says some inns should be. Due to the lockdown, getting into the Deleorian inns would be impossible, and because of Chaika’s condition you won’t be able to get through the small area that Ebe and Sophie used to get here in the first place.

The others follow behind at your slow pace, something you think that Sylphie is thankful for as she frets over Mr. Ed. He whinnies at her minstrations, but doesn’t push her away. Sophie helps Ebe along, who is still shaking some while holding the pieces of her guitar close to her chest. Her expression is downcast and her normally cheery attitude is quiet.

“You must be rather strong to carry 500lbs of my fat ass.” Chaika says, an edge in her robotic voice.

“I work out.”

“Hah, asshole. I see why those two like you.” She chuckles before hissing low, “You haven’t touched them, have you?”

You stumble at the question, and Sophie has to leap forward to keep Chaika from falling. Once stable, the Cat o’Ninetails gives you a questioning look, though Chaika waves her off. After she heads back toward Ebe, Chaika whispers, “Well? You fucking them?”

“Gods no, why the fuck would you ask that?”

“Because if you were, I’m not sure if I’d shake your hand or tear it off. But you clearly are a virgin, so that’s comforting in some way.”

“I… thanks?”

She cocks her head, the emotionless facemask looking at you with what you feel is a sense of confusion. “How in Dollora’s name did you get a compliment from that?”

“I’m not interested in such things.”

“Pfff, everyone is interested in such things. Some are just better at denying it than others.”

“I’m a Wizard you know.”

“So is their Father.”

You go quiet at that statement, keeping silent the rest of the time as you walk through the streets. It was a fairly quiet travel, as most people had shut up in their houses, made either of wood or from stone shaped into a facsimile of what you’ve seen of Ectrian styles of square buildings with small windows. Some had small walls around them, but most merely had multiple levels, stacking about each other in odd ways.

You get stopped once in the streets by five guards who look over your group and ask you some questions. Mainly they ask about Chaika, and you explain that you were traveling about the area with your guide with your two handmaids and construct when the panic had occurred from the announcements and an accident had caused your horse to break the guitar and your construct. They poke and prod her, to which Chaika gives the most basic of answers, creating the illusion of being a simplistic construct that the guards find satisfactory. They tell you about a safe, nearby inn and one escorts you there, looking very nervous the whole time.

When you reach the inn, a square building with the picture of a golden beetle on the front, the guard leaves you and you thank him before entering. As soon as you do, a wave of heat, smoke, and conversation washes over you, making you stop and stare.

The inn is packed full of copper skinned people and Monsters of all varities you’ve never seen before. While there are some Deleorians present, the vast majority are clearly Ectrian, and they chat with worried or excited tones over their alcohol and meals. Many of them have long, thin pipes that trail smoke which smells vaguely sweet to you, yet still makes you cough.

“Well don’t stand in the doorway like idiots.” A heavily accented voice calls. Your group turns to it to find a short, black haired woman standing behind a desk addressing you, and you stare at her.

The woman is clearly not human, as her arms and legs are covered in black chitin that end in thin, insect-like appendages. Upon her back is a set of wings that are folded into a back sheath of chitin giving her the apperance of a beetle. Which, you assume she probably is.

“If you’re looking for ale, we’re kind of full up. If you’re looking for a room, then how may I hel-” She stops talking abruptly and leans over to look at Ebe, her eyes growing wide as she asks in her strange tongue, “hal ‘ant ghandarfa?!”

Ebe looks taken aback and she says, “‘awm, nem?”

The innkeeper claps her hands together and says, “Oh, wonderful! Thank the twins, we need a distraction tonight. Here, I’ll give all of you free rooms if you would just sing.”

Your group gives Ebe surprised looks and she fidgets with discomfort as she holds the guitar pieces close to her chest. “I’m sorry, but my ghitar is broken.”

“Phah, that is no matter.” The innkeeper says, waving over a slightly brown Wolfgirl who is dressed as a barmaid. They say a few words in Ectrian before she heads into another room and returns with a guitar that frankly seems much nicer than the one Ebe has, even before it was broken. She hands it toward Ebe, who looks at it with discomfort.

Her eyes shift to you with a pleading glance and you sigh before saying, “I won’t force you into anything Ebe. If you don’t want to do it, you don’t have to.”

“I… no, I’ll do it.” She says, sighing and turning to Sophie. “Can you look after this?”

The Cat o’Ninetails nods her head and takes the pieces with a sort of reverence. Ebe sighs and takes the other guitar, strumming it a few times before nodding to the innkeeper who claps again in delight and then hands you a few keys.

“Great, have fun, okay to the stage!” She pushes Ebe toward a little raised section of the room which probably doubles as a stage and sets her up there. Many of the patrons at this point look in interest toward the stage, clearly recognizing the Gandharva present. You didn’t really believe before that they commanded this kind of interest in Ectria, but this kind of reaction is clear.

Ebe takes in a deep breath before strumming the guitar and addressing the crowd. As if by magic, the patrons all grow quiet and turn their attention to her. Taking in a deep breath, she then puts a smile on her face before beginning to dance and sing.

The effect is immediate, and the patrons grow cheery and carouse, caught up in her music. They hang on to her dancing, they way she sways her hips, and the music of her voice. Ale flows freely during this, and the innkeeper, though she cackles with greed, moves in time with the music.

And yet… something feels wrong about all of this. Yes, you can FEEL the power of her song, the rhythm she plays and the tone of her voice, but it just… doesn’t have the same emotion to it. You still don’t really KNOW Ebe that well, but she’s been part of your band long enough that you can tell something is wrong.

“I’m taking Chaika up to the room.” You say to the others, Sophie deciding to stay and watch while Sylphie goes to stable Mr. Ed who is staying outside. She takes a [Health Potion] from you, which you freely give as you’re sure you can find more, and goes out to treat him. Erwin follows you up the stairs and you make your way into one of the two rooms you were given.

With a creaking sound, you lay Chaika down on the bed in the room (As you took the single bed room) and sigh, sitting down on the chair. She lifts her head and looks up at you. “Well, you got moody.”

“I didn’t want to hear it any longer.” You say, feeling tired.

“Why, it sounded nice. What, was it giving you a boner?”

“I can see why those two grew up the way they did.”

“Snark, classic.” Chaika chuckles. “Why am I on the bed anyway?”

“Because you’re damaged.”

“Yeah, but I’m a construct, I can’t feel this shit anyway.” She doesn’t make to leave the bed, but ends up sighing instead. “Dollora, I’m sorry, it’s just who I am, and things are rather… stressful.”

“I understand.”

“Mmm.” She hums, looking at the ceiling. “So, why are you really traveling with them?”

“Because I need to speak with the Grand Wizard, and their goals coincided with mine.” You sigh, “They also asked.”

“You need to… speak with him. Your desire to speak with him is so fierce that you’d travel to Ectria to do it?”

“Yes.” You say with finality.

She turns her head to you and says, “Fine. If you meant harm to him, you wouldn’t need to go anywhere, and frankly, they’d never follow you otherwise. Now then, what happens now.”

“That’s it?” You say, blinking in surprise. When she nods her head, you shake yours and say, “Alright then. Well, it would be nice to have you along for your skills, however…”

“Yeah, I’m kind of a junk heap. Sometimes I regret that this body is made of adamantium, hard to come by and harder to work with.”

“Well, we could potentially find some and-“

“And you’ll repair me? Come on, don’t make me laugh.”

Shrugging, you say, “Fine, fine. I figured we could find a way to rig something up, but that probably won’t work too well. You said you could get repaired in Havenforth?”

“Yes, the foundry there has replacement parts and Jeeves knows the basics of the Wizard’s designs. We can probably make this work fairly well.”


“Head of the foundry after the Wizard himself. Anyway, that’s probably the best option is to hitch a few Leyways there. I can probably manage something of a peg-leg until then, maybe regroup with the rest of you later.”

“So, you do want to come along?”

“And let a strange man who is similar to their Father travel with them into danger? Yeah, yeah I will.”

“Then why not stop us for now?”

“Because… because…” She trails off before sighing. “Because this might be good for them, for a little bit anyway. The way Sylphie spoke to me… I haven’t seen that kind of conviction from her before. It almost made me cry in joy and rage, because I feel that she’s growing, same with her sister.”

“I heard you’ve kept them at home, hovering over them like a protective Maid. They’re afraid of you.”

“I…” She says, voice growing unsteady as it crackles with static. “I always saw them as… I don’t know, lazy and unlike their sister, unwilling to leave the house but I never… never thought that.”

“They had to leave under subterfuge and hide from you for fear that you’d take them home and hide them under lock and key, ready to emotionally, if not physically, harm them.” You look into her glowing red eyes and ask, “Is that what would have happened?”

She grows quiet for awhile and says, “I love those two girls. Seeing them harmed would shatter all that I have in this shade of a life. I want them to grow and prosper but the thought of them hurting… of what they think of…” Her voice crackles as a whine comes forth before resolving back into words, “Dollora, but I was supposed to protect them.”

“You still can, you know.” You say, looking at your staff. “I’ve read Wizardquest, I’ve read of your history, know what revenants are.” Turning your gaze back to Chaika, you say, “You could still come with us, but as an advisor, rather than a protector.”

She’s silent for a long while before sighing and saying, “No. I understand what you’re saying, the benefits of such a thing, but I’m not Harmony. I can’t do what she does, and honestly, I’m afraid getting in Sylphie’s head like that would put her too much at edge. Despite what I said, she was still trembling on our way over here.”

“I see.” You say, looking down. “What about my staff?”

“Is that an invitation? Next thing you know, you’ll be asking to touch my cogs.” She pauses and says, “If you ask nicely…”

“I swear to the Gods, you damn Monsters and-” You cut off as she chuckles in earnest.

“Dollora, what has the world come to?” She shakes her head and says, “I wish that bird brain was here and not off in the damn mountains. Ah, oh well, I’ll probably see her at home then.”

Shaking your head, you say, “We’ll help get you situated tomorrow before heading off through the pass.”

“Fair enough. I know you’re into geomancy and all, but you need to watch out for Wurms. They sometimes come down from Blackfire Reach and harass travelers.”

“I know.” You say, nodding your head.

“Oh, you might know, but you don’t KNOW.” She says, chuckling. “Those damn scale-freaks are tougher than steel and dumb as rocks.”

“Rocks are not dumb and I would appreciate if you don’t speak about them in such a manner.”

Her voice crackles and she says, “I… alright well, dumb as a sack of potatoes.”

{I think potatoes are pretty smart.} Erwin sends, looking up from the bed behind Chaika.

“Alright, we’ll be careful.”

“Fine, fine. It’s not a terribly long pass, should be able to cross it  in a day or two. There’s a rest stop in between the pass that’s guarded fairly well, so you should be safe there as the Danuki don’t want any harm coming to it.”

“Just don’t go off the path. The mountain rage is very large, and you can get lost easily.”

“I understand.” You say, nodding your head as a knock comes at the door. You walk over and open it to find the others of your band standing there. Ebe looks tired, her body covered in sweat and holding her guitar again, while Sophie smiles next to her. Sylphie’s just there you guess.

“We’re back!” Sophie says with cheer. “We need the key to the other room.”

“Ah, right.” Grabbing the key, you hand it over to her and look to Ebe before asking, “Are you feeling alright?”

“Huh? O-oh.” She says, forcing a smile.”Yes, it was a lovely audience. I’m just…tired.”

“I see.” You say, leaving at that. You resolve to speak with her tomorrow. “Get some sleep. We have some time now and things to do before heading into the mountains.”

They nod and leave you to go to their room, the twins trying to chat with Ebe. Closing the door, you turn to Chaika to see her staring behind you. She says, “I sometimes wish I could still smile. Seeing them with another girl their age… are they friends?”

“They get along well enough.”

“Good.” Chaika says before pushing herself to fall on the floor. “Well you better get to sleep.”

“Are you just going to watch me sleep then?”

She sighs and rolls over, face pointing at the floor. “That better?”

“Yes, thank you.” You say, making ready for bed and crawling into it, Erwin curling up on your chest like some kind of cat. Sighing, you reach forward and scratch his ears, which makes him let out a pleased breath.

{I’m glad your alright.} You send, strong emotions coming through. He doesn’t respond, but you feel a sense of comfort coming from the fox. {You know what, tomorrow, I’m getting you a rock}.


{You seriously got me a rock} Erwin sends, staring at the chunk of iron ore before him. You smile and he looks down at the orange-red rock before looking back at you. {It’s… lovely}.

{Isn’t it? This is an uncommon kind of iron apparently, someone calls it Limonite or something. Anyway, kind of reminded me of your fur, thought you’d like it.}

{Yes, well, why don’t you hang onto it for me, as I don’t have pockets}.

{Ah, right}. You say, pocketing the ore.

>You gain [Limonite]

>You’re just holding this ore for Erwin, because it’s his. He should name it.

Looking up from the exchange in the marketplace, you see the rest of your group going around the morning market, just as lively as the night market. You breakfasted at the inn, free of charge again, as Ebe’s singing drew in many more patrons who “Just had to stay the night.” While the innkeeper complained that she’d have to clean a lot of jizz off everything, the coin was worth it.

By the time you finished, the area was off lockdown and you were able to take Chaika to the Leyway station, where she says she’s going to stop in Sanctifrond first and speak with Blake about all of this. She manages to even get cargo rates for her ticket, despite the Trolls of the Union giving her weird looks. But the shoddy peg-like she’s made allows her to hobble along and she leaves you after giving both of the girls hugs and you a word of warning.

And with that, you find yourself back in the market, making sure you’re stocked up again. You purchase another health potion (still warm) from the same vendor and you try to look for another bottle of what Sophie bought, but can’t find anything. You try to ask the witch with a little tact and she merely laughs and says, “You’ll like it.”

You’re not certain you will.

Anyway, as you walk through the market, you find Ebe looking at Ectrian style guitars. The man behind the stand gives her odd glances and as you approach, he says, “Sir, can you move her along? I appreciate looking at her, but she’s in the way.”

“Oh, sorry, I think she’s just looking, right Ebe?”

She blinks and then looks at you before looking down to the guitar pieces, held now in a bag in her wings. “Uhm, yes, I suppose.” She looks back to the guitars before sighing.

“Why don’t you buy a new one? Many of these look a lot like the one you have.”

“I… it’s not the same.” She says, shaking her head. “This ghitar was a gift from my Mother, something she made for me for my fifteenth birthday when I became a woman. I love it, and it reminds me of her and…” She shudders. “I can’t just replace it.”

“Ebe.” You say with a hard voice. “I don’t expect you to replace such a memory, but you can’t be down like this the whole way through the pass. Would a rock cheer you up?”

“What? No, why would a rock cheer me up?”

“Nevermind. Look, I know something scary happened, but do you’re making Sophie and Sylphie worry about you.”

“They…they’re worried?” She says, seeming alarmed. “I’m sorry, I didn’t know!”

“It’s fine.” You say, gently patting her head. “It just means they care about you. And they also care for you to get back to yourself. We can’t replace your guitar, but you can always look toward the future.”

“Yeah… you’re right.” She says, nodding her head with confidence. “Oh, but all these ghitars are made of cheap, Deleorian materials, their sound is probably terrible.”

“HEY!” The man shouts, looking worried as people give him a wide berth. If a Gandharva says its bad…

“Okay time to go.” You say, ushering her to the others, who are at the edge of the market already. Gathering up with them, you look up at the morning sky, seeing it can’t be before 10am.

“We ready to go?” Sophie says, seeming full of energy. “Or is there anything left you want to do?”

LackingFairGoodExcellentPerfect (7 votes, average: 5.00 out of 5)

4 thoughts on “Wizardquest 2: Chapter 4- Between a Rock and a Hard Place”

  1. well thank the Gods! I was just thinking it was about time to see more from you! but I thought it would be another year-and-a-half of weekly releases. X3 Anywho, I am loving this darker persona you have going, though it is a bit frightening to see my family’s fanaticism for ‘rocks’ so perfectly captured… I have to wonder “Is this how people see me!?” and it make it ever so much more hilarious.

Leave a Reply