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File 156393346605.png - (177.57KB , 533x700 , 10-1.png )
940228 No. 940228 ID: 7816e7

18+ adult content
Chapter 10: Heart of the Mountain

First thread: https://tgchan.org/kusaba/quest/res/860238.html
Wiki: https://tgchan.org/wiki/Moot_Point
Previous thread: https://tgchan.org/kusaba/quest/res/932953.html
332 posts omitted. Last 50 shown. Expand all images
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No. 946779 ID: cb6404

>>946695

Smells like zombuddies.
>>
No. 946795 ID: 7816e7
File 157058967282.png - (124.26KB , 588x700 , 10-100.png )
946795

“Seems empty. We should be careful though.” Casey squints at the village with suspicion. “I hope nobody got hurt when the bridge came down.”

“I could check.” Kol offers, sitting down and preparing to enter a spirit walk. “Gabe, can you give me a ward? We don’t know what might be down here.”

Gabe nods and focuses, creating a red glow around the edge of the elevator.

Closing his eyes, Kol steps out of his body and floats momentarily in front of them. “I won’t be long, I’ll just circle around and see what I can spot.” Gabe opens the ward for him to pass through and the ghostly mouse takes off on his journey.
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No. 946796 ID: 7816e7
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946796

The ghostly figure sweeps low over the tiny houses, phasing through walls in search of life. Checking the ruins beneath the fallen stones, he finds the remains of some kind of storehouse. Scattered about are dried fungi, broken pottery and scurrying insects making a break for freedom.

Satisfied there’s no casualties, he phases into some of the houses, finding small, low beds and simple accommodations carved from stone or woven from some form of natural fibers. All of the structures appear to be empty.
>>
No. 946797 ID: b1b4f3

Nobody home, but what's that green thing? Let's check it out.
>>
No. 946798 ID: 958d59

>>946796
We have our target. That cube and that bowl. Were those mushrooms picked recently?
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No. 946807 ID: e3730d

What's behind the table, on the same wall as the door?
>>
No. 946817 ID: 3ce8ff

>>946797
i think it is just a light?
>>
No. 946819 ID: e6f10c

Inspect the food in the houses. If there is recently prepared food that isn't dried or otherwise preserved, that means there were people living here. Most likely they fled to a safer or more defensible position when the bridge chunks impacted. We ought to inspect the exits from this chamber for signs of recent mass movement to try and pick up their trail.

Return to the group and report your findings and be relieved that nobody was hurt or killed by the bridge collapse.
>>
No. 946822 ID: f57349

Now that we've found a habitable environment, would it make any sense to drop a beacon here, write down those runes from the elevator controls (or take a picture or something) and portal back to the library to attempt a more thorough translation? If the main reason we're rushing in is strategic time pressure, it'd be really embarrassing to miss something like a clearly-labeled "mana well maintenance" level.
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No. 946823 ID: 8226f2

Hm. Interesting. The undead lord had living serfs. I mean, given, it seems like plenty of the undead used to be on pretty chill terms with living people back in the day.
Still, if there's anyone still alive, and they've been living down here since the old days....there's no telling how they'll react to your presence. Making contact should be a priority now, but boy howdy do be cautious.
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No. 946842 ID: 7816e7
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946842

Kol sweeps the room, eyeing the spilled bowl. Freshly cut mushrooms ooze onto the floor and mix with some kind of exotic grain: this was spilled recently. 

Evidence in hand, he turns to leave and rebounds against something. 

“What? What is this? Gabe, are you messing around with wards?” Dazed, the ethereal mouse backs off to examine the barrier and finds himself hemmed in on all sides.
>>
No. 946843 ID: 7816e7
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946843

Glowing crystal walls converge around him, shrinking and squeezing the hapless figure within. Without a physical body, Kol finds himself condensed into a dense vapor, caged within a fist sized construct of energy. 

Kol fights back a rising panic as a scaled hand reaches out and clasps his prison. 
“Well, well, well. What have we here?”
>>
No. 946844 ID: 2df440

“Well hey there, cutie~. You’ve definitely caught my eye!”
cue finger guns
>>
No. 946845 ID: 028f23

This is the exact time to draw on those wellsprings of self-control and temperance you've developed, mate. This is a bad situation, but panicking can literally only make it harder to salvage.
Are you able to tell if they're undead or something different? They seem to have some sort of crystal prosthesis or focus, but it could be a totally different kind than the one they just trapped you in.
Whether undead or alive, we've learned that these old feudal types go whole hog for professional and dignified introductions, so give 'em one of those.
Or, ah, as best as you can manage while you're soul trapped i guess.
>>
No. 946846 ID: 91ee5f

>>946843
>Kol got caught
Called it. I knew there was going to be something down here that could affect Kol’s spirit, which is why I said that we should explore the area together in a group and not split up!

>What do?
I guess just explain that you and your friends were exploring this place and you’ve separated your spirit from your body so that you could scout around the area for any unstable structures that you’d need to avoid stepping on, like the bridge that collapsed earlier. Then politely ask to be released so you can go back to your body and friends.
>>
No. 946848 ID: 094652

Quick, shape your spirit form into a giant dildo!
>>
No. 946849 ID: 28ae7c

>>946843
A spirit guide, and an apologetic one at that. Forgive our trespass.
>>
No. 946850 ID: b1b4f3

>>946843
Apologize for the intrusion, introduce yourself, and ask to be released.
>>
No. 946851 ID: e3730d

>>946849
Secondly this.
>>946846
Congratulations, you're very smart. Now how much do you want to bet that if Kol didn't split off they'd ALL have been captured?
>>
No. 946857 ID: f0762a

Explain that you're part of an exploration team who were directed here because of a "help" sign. Apologize if you have disturbed anything. Ask who they are and offer to introduce your friends. And silently examine if there is any way for you to break free if necessary; and/or signal others.
>>
No. 946869 ID: cb6404

>>946843

>Musty smell

Oh. Right. Serpents.

Guess we found those Nagas someone mentioned a while back.
>>
No. 946873 ID: 91ee5f

>>946851
>Congratulations, you're very smart. Now how much do you want to bet that if Kol didn't split off they'd ALL have been captured?
There was probably no way of avoiding being caught, but with everyone in a group with physical bodies, we probably wouldn’t have been put in a very tiny crystal. Which is seriously triggering my claustrophobia right now.
>>
No. 946874 ID: a9af05

>>946843
Kol has always had a ghostly tail connecting his spirit to his body. Now that he's been trapped, his ghostly tail isn't connected to his body anymore. That is a very obvious sign to the others that something has happened to Kol and he's in trouble.

Which means that the others are going to be here any second now in order to find out what happened to Kol.
>>
No. 946897 ID: 7816e7
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946897

Kol takes a moment to steady himself. Were he in his body, he’d take a deep breath, but instead closes his eyes and focuses.

“Uh, hello? Can you hear me?” He speaks through the crystalline barrier, watching her eyes narrow. “I’m sorry to intrude. I’m Kol, a spirit guide. My friends and I are exploring these caverns. We’re sorry if we caused any damage coming down here.”

His captor snorts, bringing the spirit close to her face. “Kol spirit guide, I am Three Horns. wisest of the warren. It is I who was chosen by the elders to carry the magics of the old masters.“ Looking into her face, Kol recognizes the glow of an arcane tattoo across her forehead. “My people have fled into the deep tunnels. Scared off by your arrival.”

“We’re very sorry about that. We had no idea anyone was living here. We saw the rune that said ‘help’ and decided to examine it.”

“The rune of ‘servant’ you mean? We were once the playthings of powerful magic users. Lost. Forgotten. This place is ours now.”
>>
No. 946898 ID: 7816e7
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946898

“We? Who are your people?”

“We are the kobolds.”
>>
No. 946899 ID: b1b4f3

>>946898
Well good news, there aren't any magic users of that caliber anymore so they don't need to fear slavery, and we can open up trade for their settlement here.
Tell her you really mean no harm, and if she wants she can talk to the rest of your group? Or is there some way you can prove your intentions are good?
>>
No. 946901 ID: f57349

Okay, time to dust off the ol' first contact procedures. Common language seems to have been established, they've made a territorial claim. Have you got official diplomatic authority to recognize that claim on behalf of Moot Point's government? Probably not, and you shouldn't set yourself up for trouble later by pretending to, but offering introductions to appropriate officials might be reasonable - or for that matter, introductions to the rest of your group. She'd probably need to let you out of the yasal crystal to accept.

You came here for access to the mana well, and if you're acknowledging it as their territory they're well within their rights to deny that, so think about what you're able and willing to offer in exchange, and what they'd want. Mineral wealth would probably be redundant. Medical supplies, and magical healing? Mountaineering equipment? Ethically sourced coatl feathers? Fruits, vegetables, and/or fish by the ton? Cash money, and a portal back to markets in Moot Point where they can spend it as they choose?
>>
No. 946903 ID: 7dc36a

Steps for Diplomacy of Liberated Kobolds:
-Congratulate her tribe on their freedom. May be long overdue, but still deserved.
-Swear that her clan will not be thrall to the dragon they may or may not have sensed outside. Really, he's a nice Coatl, he'd never want anything like that.
-Explain what you are here for and reassure you mean no harm
-Request, as politely as you can, that she help your friends through any traps she or her former masters set up to protect themselves
>>
No. 946904 ID: e3730d

Ask her what her clan's diplomatic stance is on meddling explorers, such as yourself.

>>946901
This. A thousand times over, this.
>>
No. 946905 ID: 094652

"How would YOU like to shove a pole up a Dragon's ass? Repeatedly? I can hook you up. Please don't smash me."
>>
No. 946906 ID: 0ecf4c

>>946903
This seems fair. Let's play diplomat.

... Is this binding magic?
>>
No. 946910 ID: cb6404

>>946897
>>946898

>'help', but actually it's 'servant'

... ooops. Guess we napped through those lessons a bit, huh?

Well, good that we explained things. Guess we should probably tell Three-Horns why we're here, and ask nicely if we can be let out.

In the very least, we're here to help, since Three-Horns and the other kobolds will probably know a lot more about this place than we will. Maybe they can guide us so we can get this mana-well thing figured out?
>>
No. 946911 ID: a9af05

>>946898
"You want to meet my friends? We can all sit down and talk with each other."

Kol, do you have a time limit on how long your spirit can be separated from your body? Like, if you don't get back in your body within a certain amount of time, your body will die and you're stuck as a spirit?

If there's anything like that, then you might want to consider asking to be let out before you die.
>>
No. 946916 ID: 7816e7
File 157083955450.png - (136.62KB , 700x466 , 10-106.png )
946916

“Thats fantastic! We come from a free and open society that doesn’t believe in the enslavement of sentient species. The ways of the Wild Age have long been abolished.” Kol explains from his prison.

She eyes him suspiciously.

“We’re sorry for intruding, and want to respect your territory, but are here searching for something. Is there anything that we can do to help you trust us?” He offers.

Three Horns nudges the spilled mushroom based meal with a toe claw. “Yes. But not for you. You stay with me for the safety of my people and yours. When we can trust you, you go free.” She hefts the crystal and strides out of the tiny hut in a haughty swagger. “You come with me, Kol spirit guide. Your friends will answer for your trespass.”

Striding into view, clad in strands of bronze jewelry, Three Horns approaches the stone elevator and stops. The kobold holds up her captive and announces, “Friends of Kol spirit guide! I am Three Horns, wisest of the kobolds! Your intrusion has disrupted the lives of our warren. You will make right the damage you have caused, or we shall keep your friend’s spirit for always!” She thrusts the crystal forward, giving it a slight shake.

“H-hey, careful! Uh, hi guys...” Kol’s dejected voice emerges from the glowing shard.

“What? Kol? Is that binding magic?” Casey demands. “Are you okay?”

“Yeah. I’m fine. I guess we never really considered the possibility of running into another binder.” He admits.

“What do you want from him?”

Three horns continues, her voice echoing off of the stone ceiling and giving the diminutive lizard much more presence than one would expect. “You will appease us, or Kol spirit guide will remain here. There are old magics here, left by the lost masters to bind a spirit to machine-things. As such he will serve us: we who were once servants.”

Casey puts her hands up, acknowledging the kobold’s position. “Okay, okay. No need for that. We’re sorry for intruding on your territory, Three Horns. What can we do to help establish trust between us?”
>>
No. 946917 ID: 7816e7
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946917

Three horns points to the wreckage left by the falling bridge. “Our village’s food supply, smashed by your actions. First: you will bring food, so that my people do not go hungry.”

“Oh is that all?” Gabe opens a gate and pulls out a sandwich. “We can get you whatever you want. What’cha thinkin: pasta, fish? Uhhhh, got some cheese puffs in here...”

“No!” Three Horns folds her arms. “I do not trust outsider food. Not yet.” She points up, back towards the top of the mountain. “Our food comes from the garden. In the old days, the machine-things cultivated it for the masters. Now it grows wild and unchecked. You will bring us enough to sustain ourselves.”
>>
No. 946918 ID: 54fe4d

Alright. Enough food for how long? I see no way to fix that bridge back to the main entrance, But the elevator shouldn't need that particular birdge right? We can just go directly to the garden from here, yeah? Also Cecil should stay here and talk with Three Horns. Trade info.
>>
No. 946923 ID: a9af05

>>946917
Ask if she'd be willing to come with us? Since we've never been here before, we need someone to act as a guide to make sure we don't get lost and to make sure we don't grab anything that would be poisonous. We'd also need her to read any signs we come across, since she can apparently read this language better than we can.

She can keep Kol with her the whole time she's with us.

Also, who's going to volunteer to watch over Kol's body?
>>
No. 946925 ID: ce39da

>>946918
>>946923
Both of these sound good. Open with immediate acceptance of her demands, first; a flat "Sure!" will do. Perhaps the sudden, no-hesitation agreement less than a second after she's done saying all that will catch her off-guard, at the very least. XD
>>
No. 946936 ID: b1b4f3

>>946917
Alright, ask for details. What kind of plants are we looking for, and how much do we need to collect?
>>
No. 946944 ID: 91ee5f

>>946916
>uses machines that are powered by trapped spirits
Isn’t that pretty much slavery? I’d like to point that out to her. But let’s wait until after we rescue Kol before we do that.

>>946917
>go get food for the kobolds
How do we know she’s not going to put Kol into one of those machines as soon as we leave? We’ve got no guarantee that she’ll keep her word. In fact, as long as she has Kol, she could continuously make up more things for us to do for her and never release Kol.

>>946923
>have her come with us
>we need a guide
>make sure we don’t grab poisonous food
>she can read the signs
>let her hold onto Kol while she’s with us
These are good points. Plus, if she comes with us and she has Kol with her, we can make sure she doesn’t put Kol into one of those machines she talked about.
>>
No. 946946 ID: 7dc36a

>>946925
Double this, yes.

>>946944
>Isn’t that pretty much slavery?
Well anthropologically speaking, living within a closed homogeneous society like the kobolds do would lead them to treat outsiders as more alien, and thus more enslavable, than they really are. Exposure and integration with the outside would help diminish this kind of thinking. We could invite someone on a tour of Moot Point, for later.
In this case though, Kol's predicament looks less like a normal practice of theirs and more like the worst punishment they can think of.
>>
No. 946982 ID: 015bf2

>>946917
Sure! Meanwhile, will they take care of Kol's body? He's kind of, uh, limp right now and his body needs to remain within the circle so nothing else, y'know, comes around to take it while he's a hostage. Would suck if some errant ghost ran off with your friend's physical form! Oh, and no eating him! (that's a joke)

... also, you don't mind paying the dues of your mistake, but if there's anything you should be careful about, you'd really appreciate an advance warning! Clearly you don't know what to activate and not. Oh, and what's the food plants look like?

As for Kol, ask if the whole being bound to a machine-spirit thing is reversible like other binder skills can be. Perhaps you could ask to be temporarily bound to one and check out what it's like? That way you could help clear the rubble while the others are gone. Pay your own dues. And while the food is probably squashed, Gabe could probably slice the rock that fell on the storage house before he goes so that it becomes more managable to shift. Maybe something survived?

Anyway, all efforts should be made to get along with this cute li'l imperious kobold and her people. Imagine that, an entirely new race, hidden in a mountain! A secret culture to explore and greet! People with memories of and skills passed down from the Vampire Lords!
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No. 946983 ID: 015bf2

>>946982
Oh, and if Three Horns is confused about Kol being willing to voluntarily get bound, he should pshaw and say "I'm not worried, Three Horns. Casey once freed a Coatl from an Ages-old bondage, y'know. That's how we could even get here over the mountains - with our friend's blessing."
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No. 946987 ID: f57349

How much was in the smashed stockpile? Unpack and hand over at least twice that much "outsider food" as a gift/collateral (presumably there are some not-the-wisest kobolds willing to taste-test cheese puffs so everyone else can find out whether they're poison or what), but try to get a complete, quantified list of demands before you run off and start doing all the farm work.
>>
No. 946989 ID: a9af05

>>946944
>How do we know that she'll keep her word and not harm Kol?
>How do we know she won't make Kol a permanent hostage to make us always do things for her?
Yes, those are legit concerns. But the real question is, should we ask those questions?
>>
No. 947004 ID: e6f10c

Okay, y'all will do that, but you need some info first. First, y'all don't know what mushrooms to harvest, since this is the first time any of you have had experience with picking mushrooms, let alone these kind. We do know there are toxic mushrooms, so we don't want to pick any bad ones. Also, we don't want to pick any immature ones, so what does a mature, but not too mature, type of mushroom she wants look like?

Second, how many mushrooms would she consider enough for her village to "sustain ourselves?" Maybe she could mark out a square and hold her hand up how high it'd have to be filled to be enough. But related, how much can we take without over-harvesting? Since their storehouse already had a harvest in it, would taking another now be too much? Do we have to put anything back, like fertilized dirt or compost?

How long can Gabe keep up the binding circle around Kol's body at his current mana drain? We talkin' minutes, hours or indefinitely if Gabe doesn't expend mana on other things? Because if we don't have enough time to harvest what Three Horns wants before the protection around Kol's body runs out then we've got a big problem and should voice it. And does Gabe have to stay near the binding circle to keep it up? That'd slow down harvesting if Gabe has to stay near Kol's body. Also ask Three Horns if there are known hazards around here for a spirit-less body, even one protected by a binding circle. Don't want to come across something down here that could punch through a binding circle to possess his empty body.

Actually, suggest that another person stay as Three Horns hostage, since her holding Kol's spirit would make it harder for your group perform the harvest for her. See, Gabe here has to keep the binding circle up to protect Kol's empty body, so that means he can't help physically or magically. And Kol in his body would be able to work way harder than a normal person, owing to his spirit magic training. So, would Cecil be alright with staying? I'm sure he'd love to talk with Three Horns about her people's history and share our people's with her.

Also offer to clear away the rubble of the fallen bridge and help rebuild their storehouse when your group returns.

>>946944
If Three Horns turns out untrustworthy, then we'll deal with it. But until then we'll assume she's operating in good faith.
>>
No. 947018 ID: 10c408

>>946983
We may be playing the peaceful diplomat, but we should still hold certain things close to the chest. Especially our very powerful weather god friend.
>>
No. 947053 ID: 015bf2

>>947018
Nah, that's too much paranoia. I think they'll be impressed despite themselves if we can claim (and prove, whether through the feather, Casey's Wings or an eventual meeting) that Casey freed a friggin' Coatl from a thousand-year bondage. Given Three Horns' aversion to the idea of enslavement as anything other than a form of punishment, that should earn the home team some brownie points on the 'huh, maybe not bad guys' scale. We'll need those when we are to discuss the use of their mana well by a remnant of the old masters!

Also, if you personally know a 'god', why NOT flaunt it to the tribal society magic-user? Worst thing she'll doubt us (when we can show proof) or be thoroughly unimpressed and go 'pshaw, everyone knows a coatl, we got dozens down here' in which case, uh... just call that bluff? Gently.

Also also, I really wanna see mecha ghost Kol, so let's play all the cards we can! The tech in those ghost-machines could also end up being used as new 'bodies' for a certain silly pair of spirit medium friends, y'know?
>>
No. 947054 ID: 10c408

>>947053
Okay, first of all, it's not paranoia. I'm just being cautious since they're holding Kol's spirit hostage.

Secondly, the two groups are still feeling each other out and while I don't think it's a bad idea to introduce flashing feathers to the kobolds, doing so right now before at least assessing the task they've given us to build trust is not only bra
>>
No. 947055 ID: 10c408

>>947054
(apologizes, I was still typing when my post was submitted somehow)
-brazen and a huge dick move from the gunboat diplomacy playbook, revealing that we do in fact have a bigger stick then her isn't wise at the moment. It's not a bad idea later, but we're not done with the speaking softly part of the proverb just yet and there's a lot of groundwork we can lay after the current task is accomplished.

Plus, accomplishing all of her tasks WITHOUT requiring the aid of a literal god is only going to add weight to her opinion of us since we could have threatened her with sucking the air out of the cavern to release Kol and didn't do so.

(and speaking of, when we eventually do go to get flashing feathers, Gabe is going to have to re-suit up and make his portal pretty far away from the periphery of the village so the oxygen getting sucked out is negligible)
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