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At last, the final sight of the Tartarian Descent Team is engulfed by the interminable darkness.

The Great Seal rends the earth with a deafening quake, as it slides nearly shut, open only by a hairsbreadth. The Loyal Kerberos, ten thousand Umbral Hounds strong, holds one end of Shei's Black Thread in one of his mouths. He leers at it contemptuously, but holds it nonetheless as agreed.

Most of the others accompanying Sir Pryce cannot look anymore at the Great Seal, ready to direct their thoughts to anything other than the fates of their friends… and foes. Sir Estuary is the only one who seems composed. He looks to Pryce, and with a slight bow of his head, says, "Perhaps we should make for the surface, milord. We have no further business here."
841 posts and 1 image reply omitted. Click reply to view.


"Oh, um, well… thank you," Alloy stammers. "But, I want to apologize too… I overreacted. It's a… tough subject for all of us.

"Our grandfather went out of his way to keep us all out of his business. Mocha didn't just have to convince our dad to let her go– that was nothing in comparison to convincing our grandfather… even now, I feel like we're all still learning the full extent of everything that happened… from his banishment out of the Beyond, to everything going on today. In his words, he wanted to keep us safe. But that required keeping us in the dark about what he was doing… about the people who got hurt along the way.

"There's a side of him that you've never known… but by the same token, there's a side of him we've never known, either. You have your reasons for feeling the way you do… so do we. I'm going to have to choose what side I land on, sooner rather than later."

He taps his hooves together, and blinks. "Ah, sorry… rambling again."


"No, you reacted fine. I crossed a line for family," Pryce apologies again. "I should've realized this before when we met you all."

"No no, it's fine," With his apology on apology and Alloy's stammer, Pryce gives an awkward chuckle.
"Want to get some breakfast?" He offers before they get into a loop.


"S-sounds good," Alloy says, moving with relief away from the awkward moment. In the dining room of the inn, you find your allies. Grantz sits at his own table, flanked by his guard, while Zjetya has gotten you a separate table. It looks like the special for this morning is a plate of dumplings, along with chopped vegetables, and tea. Zjetya's pulled up a chair adjacent to her own– evidently your seat for more flank-to-flank love conduction.


The warm smell of breakfast and tea is a nice perk up as they enter the dining room, a good start before the meeting to come later.
Pryce takes his seat next to Zjetya, face red as the bump together.
"Good breakfast today," He says, looking at the special.


"Mm," Alloy agrees as he finishes one. "I get the sense that a lot of these villages all have their own spin on the same dishes."

After she's full, Zjetya takes Hopper outside so he can get some insects. Meanwhile, Grantz reminds you that the meetings are due to take place in the early afternoon. You'll meet here like usual, before heading to the council-hall. But until then, you've got the morning to spend as you like.


"Makes sense, since the variety of ingredients won't change much here. I can see them trading recipes during these meetings too."

Once they're all full from breakfast, and with the morning open, Pryce proposes an idea.
"We should tour the village. It'd probably help the cause if we get more used to the area, and the locals."


Zjetya nods. "Sure, could be fun."
Alloy starts to stack the empty plates for want of something to do. "Well, while you guys do that, I'll–"
"You should come with!" Zjetya says.
"Oh, but… um… I was gonna… books…" Alloy mumbles.
"Those books will be there when we're done, but we won't always be in this area," Zjetya says. "C'mon."
"Heh, I guess that's true," Alloy admits.


Pryce chuckles at Alloy's mumble.
"It'll be as adventurous as any book. Closest to the capitol for the tribe as I can imagine, there's sure to be fun sights to see."

"Hmm, wonder what we should look for first, or ask Grantz's chauffeur for places to see. Do you think they'd have an entertainment center?"


Zjetya turns to the chauffeur, and relays your question. He responds, and Zjetya jots down some notes in the native language.

"Okay," she says. "Let's get outta, my little ponies… and frog."

Hopper wonders why everyone likes saying that phrase so much.


"I take that as a good sign," Pryce notes as Zjetya jots down some info from the chauffeur.

"We're not that little," Pryce jests. "But, lead the way princess."
He says as he lifts up Hopper to perch on his head for the tour.


"Okay," Zjetya says as you exit the inn. "Security's tight around the village ever since what happened to Yvain and Calogrenant, so the only hiking we can do is pretty close to the village's walls. Besides that, there's supposed to be a flyting in a bit. And if all else fails there's always the town's library. I asked if there was work to be done, but since we're technically Grantz's emissaries, there's a few reasons why they wouldn't let us pitch in."


Pryce mulls over the options as they decide what to do to spend time.
"Alright. Hiking may not be the best option all things considered. Helping out could help our image and the cause with the locals… What's a flyting?" He asks, curious.


"A verbal duel of sorts," Zjetya says. "Two competitors, or teams of competitors, square up in a theatre. Whoever can insult the other in the cleverest, funniest way – according to the audience – takes the prize, whatever it might be. Apparently it's just going to be a practice run for the local team today, but we can sit in all the same. Of course, most of the punchlines will probably fly right over your heads. So, what'll you vote?"

"I mean…" Alloy hazards. "Is it too obvious for me to vote for the library?"


"A verbal duel, that sounds fun to sit in on, if you don't mind translating," Pryce votes. "Could be good to pick up the local language too."

"We can stop by the library if this doesn't turn out well," Pryce adds to Alloy.


"With the pace that these can go, no way I can translate fast enough," Zjetya says. "But I'll teach you the swears at least."

"That can be useful in a way," Alloy agrees.

Hopper makes his way down toward your cloak, and crawls into a special, enchanted pocket– a parting gift sewn by Volkama. Doesn't seem like the flyting would be his thing, and besides, it's time for his morning nap.


"They really use that many?" Pryce questions.

As Hopper crawls into his pocket for a nap, Pryce gives him a little pat.
"Alright, let's check this flyting out."


You make your way to the town's amphitheater, a little far off, separated from the town center by a charitable distance, so as not to disturb anyone's sleep or good taste with noise. A small audience has already gathered, while the flyting team goes through their vocal warmups.

When it begins, the performers gather in a semi-circle. Two, the first duelists, approach the center of the ring, evidently the first stars. The others begin the beat, mostly a cappella, with occasional stomps. The duelists launch into a rally of insults, retorts, wordplay and wit, or so you imagine without a grasp of their language. Zjetya's a decent enough judge of quality, however, so it's easy to take a little secondhoof amusement from her. Perhaps that's a bit of what it's like to be a changeling.

It goes on for some time, during which there's a couple duels which turn into stage brawls. Per Zjetya, seems like the offending opponents went a bridge too far here or there. In all, it's to the audience's delight. At the end, however, with the disputes settled, the performers gather and bow. The audience wing-clap their applause, and then they start to file out.


While the language goes over his head, aside from Zjetya's fill-in, the display itself is enjoyable. It's like a more rough stage play in presentation, especially so as they break into brawls.
As it comes to an end, Pryce gives a stomp of applause.
"That was fun, can't say I've seen much like this back in Hearthome. Is this the usual entertainment in Ornifex?" Pryce asks Zjetya, curious after seeing her enjoyment and amusement.


"Plus or minus a wingful of cultural differences, yeah, a pretty popular art form," Zjetya says. "These guys… well, they'll have a hard time in the tournament scene, but for locals, it's good enough."

With some time left to spare before the meeting, Alloy suggests checking out the library, a suggestion that gets Hopper's attention.

>timeskip to meeting available


"I can see why it's popular, it looks like it'd be fun to try sometime," Pryce says. "They'll have a hard time? How intense do tournaments get?"

Since there's still some time to kill, Pryce is in agreement for a library visit for Alloy, and to see what kind of literature they have after seeing their entertainment.


"No offense," Zjetya says. "But you're a bit too kind-hearted for it. They're not just intense, they get mean. Even I didn't want to throw my crown in the ring."

She looks Alloy's way, and he shakes his head. "Not for me."

You spend the time you have left at the library. Hung prominently for display are historical tapestries, organized by clan and village. Migrations, battles, plagues, discoveries; good and bad all recorded here. Though you get a sense each clan's got its share of unique tales and artistic styles, each tapestry converges – not physically, but with an event: The descent of ominous lacunae, large spots in the tapestries that are completely blank. Surrounding them are myriad wyrms, drakes and other lesser draconics.


"Really?" Pryce says with pause. "Didn't think it'd be too bad from the music part of it…"

When they hang around the library, Pryce finds himself drawn to the tapestries, a bit being that its not stuck in the native language so he can pick up on it more. He stops on each one as he sees they all have the same common thread, a swarm of dragons.
"How long ago did the dragons show up?" He asks Zjetya.


"That's a complicated question," Zjetya half-whispers, motioning for you to keep your voice down too. "Up in Yongning-si, they'd say that they've been here forever, but for the people down here, it's… mm, somewhere around 84 and 144 years ago."

"That's a pretty sizable gap in dates," Alloy observes.

"Right," Zjetya says. "Because not everyone agrees as to what you mean by 'the dragons.' There's wyverns, drakes, dragons, and–" She lowers her voice to say, "the Draconic Lords. A lot of people on both sides of this conflict like to pretend they're all just one big group– to the detriment of those actually in those groups."


Pryce takes note, and lowers his voice.
"There's a notable distinction between the groups?" Pryce asks. "Does that mean some dragons don't align with the the Draconic Lords?"


Zjetya nods. "Not that you'd be able to know if you only heard the belligerents talking about the oppression and the uprising."

She makes sure nobody else is looking, then points to part of one tapestry. You can see that it's a place where newer thread has been woven into older thread. It would seem that the tapestry was finished at one point, then resumed, as more history unfolded. Near that point of continuation, you see places where it appears that threads have been excised, cut out and then replaced. Those patches of excision – of historical removal – appear to be about the same size, or larger, than the patches displaying the pegasi villagers.


Pryce looks at the tapestry Zjetya points out. After hearing about the tribal politics yesterday from Vortigern, and now this, he's unsure if its good or bad that he doesn't know the local language.
"Why would they cover up dragons that would be on their side? Isn't that reductionist, when they could've had more allies?"


"I don't exactly know," Zjetya says. "All I know is that at some point, the dragons – sapient mortals like you and me – migrated en masse to Yongning-si. Laborer, merchant, aristocrat, whatever their social standing was. The griffons and vola broke away too, going off on their own, pretty much without any kind of warning or explanation. This tore apart lots of little hamlets and villages in Ornifex, who just lost huge chunks of their population. In some of those places, the pegasi who were left behind got pretty furious. They banded together and started destroying any evidence that the other races, with whom they had gotten along before, were ever there."

Alloy grits his teeth behind his lips, deeply troubled.


"That's…" Pryce trails off, unsure of how to even respond. "…Do you think things will be fine here once we're done?"


"Nothing ever improves quickly," Zjetya says. "But… well, they say that most Ornifexans used to get along fairly well, no matter who or what they were. Things might not be able to go back to the way they were, precisely, but… things never do. But they can become good again, in a new way."

Alloy nods. "That's what my family believes, too."


"Guess that can be said of the whole world right now," Pryce comments, thinking of the journey the rest of their group is going on through Tartarus.


Zjetya nods. "Maybe we should have Grantz bring it up at the meeting this afternoon, see if the rebels have anything to say about it?"

"I dunno…" Alloy says. "Could go over pretty badly… but it did seem like they all answered to him yesterday. More than he would have liked, even. Even if those old prejudices are still there, they might be too afraid of Grantz to go against him."

>timeskip to meeting available


"No, we can bring it up later. Our goal is to take down the Draconic Lords, and I don't want to push our luck after getting him to side with our non-lethal plan," Pryce says, nodding in agreement with Alloy. "We wouldn't want to add to much onto the plate now anyways either."

>Good to timeskip


You return to the inn, where Grantz waits. Like yesterday, you move together, and Grantz departs for the separate chamber to put on the ceremonial garb for the proceedings.

Zjetya gestures to you and Alloy as the chauffeur leads you to the main chamber again. "Check your seats when you get in," she whispers. "Just in case the Gang's reps got any funny ideas after seeing us at yesterday's meeting."


("Do you think they'd be that brazen to do it in a public space?") Pryce whispers as they head to the main chamber.
When they reach their seats, Pryce gives them a cautionary check for any tampering before any of them sit.
>Check Seats [1d10]

Roll #1 3 = 3


You and the others check your seats, much to the annoyance of the attendants who had to prepare the place earlier. But, it seems like everything's all in order. Alloy and Zjetya sit, and so do you, as the others file in, councilor and entourage in kind, and take their own seats.


With everything looking to be fine, Pryce eases somewhat as to keep a good appearance. In the meantime, he keeps a lookout to see of the any of the protestors from yesterday show up again, wondering how today's meeting will go.


Just like yesterday, right before the meeting begins, one last group shoves their way into the chamber with immaculate timing. They're, in fact, a different group of wealthy-looking youths, but they go to sit in the same spot as where the representatives of the Gang of Four sat yesterday. The guards eye them with annoyance, but the arbitrator of the meeting says something to the guards, and they stand down. No doubt this new group is working with yesterday's protestors, but since they've technically committed no foul yet, they can't be ejected, it seems.

The meeting begins as yesterday's did. Grantz reluctantly leads, and his apparent sycophants among the rest of the village council repeatedly prompt him. You can sense him trying to keep things moving along as speedily as they can, but like with anything bureaucratic, it takes its sweet time.


The new group, looking different from the others, gives Pryce some curiosity. Were they better behaved ponies sent after yesterday's issue, or is it just a simple replacement regardless.

As it the meeting begins again, Pryce sits by patiently. After the discussion with Vortigern, Grantz's intent to move things quickly is more apparent. He can only imagine how much more he's speeding this along now that they've made direct progress against the Dragons now.


Much unlike yesterday, however, the protestors remain oddly silent. They don't interject, crack wise or go to the center podium to make frivolous statements or questions to the councilors.


That doesn't mean they're just sitting by idly, however. Every time your eyes are not on them, you can feel at least one of them glaring at you. Then, when you look back at them, they're looking away, feigning disinterest– or sometimes, taking notes. Sometimes you catch councilors double-taking at the silent protestors, shifting uncomfortably in their seats, as they ask themselves whether that protestor was just glaring at them or not…

Grantz continues the meeting, apparently undisturbed by this intimidation tactic. You aren't called upon like yesterday, but that monotony only adds to the pressure the protestors put upon you…


Pryce is not one to mind attention, given his stage performing background. But the constant turn away, he can't help but feel they're either studying or planning something.
("Are you two getting any weird feelings from those four?") Pryce whispers to Zjetya and Alloy.


The two of them nod quietly. Alloy, already prone to stage fright, mostly just tries to ignore them. But Zjetya, a bit of a performer herself and not one to be intimidated, offers them no reaction.

Eventually, after fielding questions and comments from the general public, the meeting wraps up. Sooner than expected, both from Grantz's expediting of the discussions, and from the lack of interruptions from the loyalist protestors. Alloy starts to rise, eager to get gone, but Zjetya subtly motions to him, and he sits. She keeps an eye on the loyalists, electing to let them leave first… just in case they have any funny ideas. Though, soon enough, they do leave. As far as you can tell, without incident.


When the meeting feels to end early, Pryce also almost gets up until he sees Zjetya's gesture. He waits, seeing the gang leave first.
("We're going to need to watch our back until we get back to the village I feel.") He whispers.


("Makes me wonder how long they've been watching us,") Alloy whispers.
("Alloy… you can use the Dark Corridor, right?") Zjetya asks.
Alloy nods.
("Good," Zjetya says. "We can skip town in a hurry if we need to.")

Grantz enters the meeting-chamber from the main door, looking about as if he'd been looking for you for awhile.

"Ah, there you are," he says when he sees you. "Phew. That's the last of it for this month. You're free to go as you please, now."


("Might be for the best, could avoid them trailing and ambushing us on the way back.")

When Grantz enters, Pryce looks up.
"Ah, yea we were just talking about that. Say, uh, I noticed there were different representatives today instead of those protestors yesterday. Can they swap out like that?"


Grantz nods. "I let them more or less do as they please. Especially when it's these guys. Those punks from yesterday are always annoying."
"Do they usually stare everyone down?" Zjetya asks.
"Hmm… they might've been feeling more bold today. Now that the rebellion's getting more active, and we've got some new faces, the hecklers from yesterday must have sent the silent, brooding ones to appraise you."
"And they sent you the Gang of Four's regards…" Zjetya probes. "Just like yesterday."
"Ah," Grantz says. "You need a little history lesson?"

Grantz seems unaware that Vortigern informed you already of his history with the Gang. Alloy and Zjetya seem like they want to let you answer this one.


"We already got filled in a little by Vortigern," Pryce answers. "After how those hecklers acted we called her after to ask how these meetings usually go."

"If they were appraising us, do you think they're going to try something today?"


Grantz chuckles. "Well, they usually end off with their little death threat, that's not out of the ordinary. But normally it's just me and my guys at these meetings. This time, I have all of you. Trouble is… they don't know just how tough you guys are. They've heard me talk about your accomplishments, but I'm sure they think I'm enhancing the truth. So, I'd say let them try something. Then, demonstrate the error of their ways. It's the only way that spoiled rich punks like them learn."


"I see your point, and I'm not threatened that they could do much, but…" Pryce glances back at Zjetya momentarily. "I don't want to put anypony in danger just to prove a point."


"We've been in danger since we arrived," Grantz says with a shake of his head. "And most places we go to from here, that'll stay the same. As I'm sure Vortigern told you, she considers this enemy territory."
"Think it's dangerous enough for us to leave early?" Zjetya asks.
Grantz looks disappointed. "It'd be a bad look to leave town on account of some obnoxious loyalists. But, I don't have authority over you. Decide what you will."


"I know, but there's a difference between being in danger and seeking it out," Pryce says. He thinks over the situation, knowing that it wouldn't help their cause or morale if they made it look like the loyalists bullied them out.

"Alloy, if anything happens, get Zjetya out of here and back to the others."

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