Swamped

Swamped
RE: Swamped
You are now Rider. And you are still in the Path Between.

You didn't really need the crate - this "place", if it can be called that, isn't nearly so hard on the senses after a few journeys into it. But it might have helped Long or Marshall to get back, so you didn't bother clarifying.

Still, you hadn't expected an outright ambush here. The creatures native to the Path have never been hostile - the worst you ever had to deal with was a curious Flord trying and failing to absorb your boots. And even the few dangerous Traveler species you've come across never attacked without provocation.

But you hadn't really thought about the fact that humans can Travel through here as well. Or the fact that they could wait here if they knew you were coming.

Now, how they knew is a very interesting question. Especially as they ignored Corvus, which suggests they were specifically waiting for you. You have some thoughts on that, but first you have a more pressing matter to deal with.

Namely, how to get out of these magical ropes they've tied you up in.
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RE: Swamped
With the help of a friend. Not a human or grebling friend, though.
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RE: Swamped
Your captors seem somewhat less familiar with the Path Between than you. Several seem nervous. Perhaps they're first-timers, somehow protected from the physical effects it has on the senses. If so, that would be a shortsighted decision, considering the mental toll the Path can easily exert.

It would also suggest the local fauna are a source of worry to them. And indeed, you see that two are watching a Blodorn in the distance nervously - clearly they have no idea that despite its size, it's completely intangible.

So when you spot a Vahrn wandering near their makeshift camp, you let out a very particular sort of whistle to get its attention. The Vahrn responds by rising to its hind legs, and as it does, an identical Vahrn appears in the midst of the enemy.

Three panic and flee right away. Two attempt to poke it with their pikes, but they just pass through. Two more rush in from the perimeter to help, futilely, while another pair at the perimeter run off.

"Cowards! Get back here!"

Their commander, however, seems less afraid. He promptly fires an arrow towards the Vahrn in the distance; it gets struck in the forelimb and goes back down, the other one vanishing.

"Now listen here," he says to the remaining men. "There's nothing in this place more dangerous than me. I want two of you to go find the deserters and drag them here so I can clarify that point with them."

"I'm still here, sir!" one of them says defensively, rushing back. "I was just caught off guard by that thing."

"Then you can join the search party."

"Sir," protests one of the remaining ones, "that just leaves the three of us, including you, to watch the prisoner. We already had four wounded in the capture attempt. There's no way we can win if he gets loose somehow."

"And how are you expecting him to get loose if you're watching him carefully?" the commander asks accusingly.

You've seen this type before. Personally competent, but has no respect for the troops under him. It disgusts you.

It also disgusts you a bit that you had to persuade a Florp to absorb these ropes. The enchantment isn't strong enough to provide it a good meal.

The ropes soon weaken enough that you feel able to break through them, and you think the soldiers can't see the Florp. So you may have the element of surprise... but you can't be entirely sure. The commander seems like he might be clever enough to pretend he hasn't seen it when he actually has.

So how should you handle this?
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RE: Swamped
tackle him. have the florp absorb his entire being
[Image: Iv0bTLS.png]
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RE: Swamped
There's no need for subtlety, really. If they thought they were a match for your strength, they wouldn't need to set up an ambush in the first place.

The commander seems like he might be clever enough to come up with a plan for dealing with that, though. So it would be best not to give him time to.

You break through the ropes as they lose their potency, and rush at the commander. The troops see you and start panicking; you use the opportunity to fling the Florp at the commander's head.

It's not actually harmful, since it can only consume ether. And rather slowly, at that. But the soldiers don't know that, and it's going to make it hard for their leader to see.

He does manage to get loose, but by then you've already collided with him. He falls to the ground, groaning.

Now there's five soldiers around you, and none of them look particularly eager to fight. They're just staring at you, two daring to raise their pikes defensively, the other three just shaking.

You're used to this. Frightened soldiers are usually amenable to surrender, but they're also prone to rash actions.

This is a good time to talk, but you'll have to choose your words carefully to avoid making them any more afraid. What should you say to them?
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RE: Swamped
Stay your hands and I can get you out of this place.
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RE: Swamped
These men are new here, unfamiliar. So you should probably handle them the way you do when you run into a newmuck Bogknight - focus on their fear of the environment. They're not used to it enough to fear you more than it, and the power they fear you for becomes a weapon against the terrors of the swamp.

"Stand down," you say. "I only wish to return to the real world. I can even bring you all with me, if you'd prefer."

The soldiers start looking back and forth at each other. You see a few glances turn towards the commander sprawled on the ground.

So they fear him, too. That speaks volumes about how he treats his troops.

Well. You've got them thinking about it, at least.

"I'll give you some time to consider the offer, then. I'll be over there."

You point somewhere in the distance. Not far from the exit you want. Given the strange way time flows here, it doesn't particularly matter when you leave - you'll likely be late, of course, but only by a few minutes.

Just as you start walking away, though, one of the soldiers calls out to you.

"Wait!"

You glance back.

"The Master is watching. He'll pull you to him if you try to leave. And he'll punish us if we let you go."

Ah. Now it's a bit clearer what's going on.

The others pointedly step away from the one who spoke up. No doubt even more fearful of this Master's wrath.

He must be powerful if he can see into the Path Between, and even more so if he can do what this soldier claims. But it's unlikely he's as familiar with this place as you are, considering how uninformed his soldiers are about the local creatures.

Which gives you a thought as to how to make use of this information.
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RE: Swamped
Send the master on a wild goose chase
~◕ w◕~
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RE: Swamped
The Path Between inherently distorts the senses. The soldiers here seem unaffected by the general chaos, but they still seem to be observing the oddities of the local creatures.

Most likely, this reflects the Master's own limitations on seeing into this place - what good would it do to deny such protection to the troops you were entrusting with a mission if you had it?

And since you've picked up a few tricks that work here, that offers a way to confuse the Master.

"Thank you for the warning," you say to the soldier. "If that's the case, best to manage that confrontation sooner rather than later."

And then you stand perfectly still.

But that's not what anyone sees. They see you walking off in the direction you indicated before. It's basically the same trick the Vahrn used, except you're combining it with a Mox's camouflage technique.

A few minutes later, you feel the sensation of a gateway opening in the distance.

---

"The fastest option is to modify something that's already built," the inventor muses. "The digging machine, perhaps. The ground there is very rocky so I'd need to upgrade its drills, but we could use it to make our own route in. Or simply cause a collapse underneath the beast. Well, the details would be up to you, of course."

You are pleased.

"Very good. Speak to Lar if you need any additional materials. How long will the upgrade take?"

"Four or five hours. There's going to be enough of a difference in weight that I'll need to make a bunch of adjustments to be sure it can still move properly. Still, shouldn't be anything major."

"That should be adequate. The important thing is that there is no need to adjust our course."

"Naturally. I'll get a list to Lar and work on what I can right away."

You're about to leave when you hear Dreon's voice echoing in your mind.

Master! Rider has escaped! He's headed for a gateway!

There's an unnecessary tone of panic in their voice. Dreon knows full well what you can do when someone tries to leave the Path Between. You'll have to speak to them about maintaining composure later.

In the meantime, you simply plant your staff on the ground and hold your other hand high in the air. You concentrate, and can see hundreds of possible gateways. All you have to do is wait for the one Rider will use.

Ah, there - you see him now. With barely a thought, you link that gateway to the one in the specially-prepared holding cell. Dreon was fretting over nothing.

Wait.

He's not in there!

---

Your projection should have sprung the Master's trap now. Which means it's time to make your next move.
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RE: Swamped
At least you don't have to worry about these guys getting stuck here with their commander out of commission; seems like the Master can pluck them out at any time.

You could vahrn walk your way to another exit and make it look like you escape, while hanging out camouflaged to learn the motives and plans of these agents, possibly following them back through their own portal (only if you manage to disguise yourself in their clothing/uniform should the opportunity present itself).
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RE: Swamped
Leave for real!
~◕ w◕~
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RE: Swamped
You consider staying hidden, but you don't think you can manage the Mox's intangibility. They'll find you sooner or later. Besides, the others would worry about your absence.

So instead, you opt for confusion. You make another projection, and have it approach another gateway. You repeat this a few times before revealing yourself; by now they'll be completely lost.

Then you head for the gateway you sent the first fake through. In the normal world, not enough time will have passed for the Master to connect to it again, not unless he can cast the spell faster than he can think.

You step through and find yourself surrounded by machinery. Every way you look, gears are turning. You can see a few paths through them, but you have no idea where any of them lead.

So you settle for making a little bit of noise. Perhaps someone will come to investigate.

A few minutes pass. You think you hear some talking in the distance, but the machinery drowns it out. You have only the vaguest idea what direction it's in.

Well, that's better than nothing. You take a path that heads that way, and...

A crow stands in your path. But you can tell it's no ordinary bird. This one was sent by Reth.

It caws at you, and flies away. Leaving a small package behind. A gift?

You open the package.
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RE: Swamped
It's a key to your solutions!
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RE: Swamped
A key. No - a copy of one, made from clay. Not obviously useful, but Reth's not one to go to all this trouble for frivolities.

Wait. There's a scent on it - a grebling scent. She's giving you a trail to follow.

It's not particularly easy - the grebling doesn't seem to have actually come this way. You're essentially tracing the key's path rather than that of its owner. But it's enough to lead you through the machinery. You come to a ladder, and start climbing.

There's a closed door not far off. You open it, as quietly as possible, and look inside.

An unconscious grebling priest. And one of the lizards you met earlier today is laid down next to him. Looks like there's a sleeping enchantment on them.

Reth guided you here. Now what are you to do?
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RE: Swamped
Try making some gentle-at-first but increasingly raucous bird noises to awaken them.
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RE: Swamped
You think back to your youth, when the farm ducks often woke you up. They didn't even have to be that loud, the noise itself was distinctive enough that it usually intruded on your dreams.

At least, that's what you thought it was before you learned about sound magic, and how easy it is to inadvertently produce a little bit of it even if you're not a wizard. Or if you're a duck.

Properly focused - well, you still won't be performing miracles. But you can break minor enchantments, especially if light magic was the source.

You start quacking melodically. You see the lizard starting to stir, but the grebling is still as ever. Well, a smaller creature probably doesn't need as strong of an enchantment.

There's not much you can do about the song itself to improve its magical qualities, so you'll have to sing louder. You might draw some attention, but it's unlikely to be anything you can't handle.

After raising your voice twice and going through the chorus three times, as well as the lizard joining in, the grebling finally blinks and slowly gets up. He doesn't look very happy.

"Are you that human woman's associate?" he asks, clearly upset. "If so, I hope you can at least be a little more respectful to a man of the cloth."

How should you respond?
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RE: Swamped
Yeah, ok, your goddess sent me here and all; Can I get a thank-you before a demand for respect?
~◕ w◕~
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RE: Swamped
"I don't know who you're referring to. I was guided here by your goddess."

He looks skeptical. You show him the key mold.

"She brought this to me so I could find you."

He snatches it out of your hand. That might have been unpleasant for him if you were actually trying to hold onto it.

"That's the thing the human woman was supposed to get for me. So pardon me if I'm not convinced. Although if it means getting out of this place, I suppose I don't really care; I just don't appreciate your weird human pranks."

"Does it not concern you that you were kept unconscious with an enchantment?"

"Look, I made a deal with her already, I don't know what you're playing at but I just want to leave. If she sent you along to pick me up, then let's get going already. If it's anything else, then quit wasting me time. Though I suppose it's good that the key-mold's finished. Can't be that much reason to delay in that case, can there?"

Well, if nothing else he's talkative. It's unlikely he knows much, but he shouldn't take much prodding to share what information he has.

"My apologies, I wasn't told the precise details."

"Ha! She didn't seem to think you were very reliable, I can see why. What more do you even need to know?"

As you thought. Hardly any prodding at all. Now you just need to think about what to ask.
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RE: Swamped
It's be great to know where you are. Try: Where do you want to go?
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RE: Swamped
"Where exactly is the destination?"

The priest gives you a scornful look.

"What, she didn't tell you that much? Or were you just that inattentive? I'm supposed to show that key-mold at the temple so they know the warning I'm going to pass along is serious. I'd rather present them with the actual key, but your partner is being stubborn about that."

"The temple of Reth?" you ask.

"Of course I mean her temple! Why would I go to a stupid human temple? Wow, you're thick even as humans go."

Well. You don't really have the means to take him there, though Ember probably does. Not unless you deal with that device blocking him from making proper gateways, though.

So the question you're faced with is whether to bring him with you while you take care of your other business, or if you should just leave him here. Of course, there's a slim chance you might be able to learn something more if you continue talking.

How should you approach this?
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RE: Swamped
I'm afraid I've awakened you too early to guide you to the temple of Reth. However, there must be a reason Reth guided me to you. I assume you would do best to accompany me. Do you have any insights from her?
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RE: Swamped
"My apologies. I'm not ready to take you to the temple."

The priest looks at you, annoyed.

"Then what's the point in you coming here?"

"As I told you already, it was Reth who guided me here. Perhaps she wanted me to help you, or perhaps she wanted you to help me. Either way, it seems that she is suggesting we work together."

"Now don't you go back to that nonsense..."

"You are a priest of Reth, are you not? You need not take my word for it, in that case."

He looks, for a moment, like he's about to yell at you. But then he pauses, probably realizing you're right. He just stands there, praying.

Then he looks very confused.

"Reth seems very pleased to see you here," he says. "Not that I've got the slightest clue why, but it's not as if I can argue with her."

"Good," you say. Then you turn to the lizard and pick her up. "And it would probably be best for you to come with us, little one. Just try to remain quiet - we don't know who might be listening."

"Quiet," the lizard whispers. She seems to understand. You put her on your shoulder for now.

"Fine, fine," the priest grumbles. "So where exactly are we going?"
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RE: Swamped
To a better temple.
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RE: Swamped
"Eventually, we'll get you to your temple. Perhaps even someplace you'd rather be than there. But for the moment, there's something on this ship which complicates that process, so we're going to break it."

The priest suddenly adopts a commanding pose. You suppose he's dealing with his situation by acting as though he's in charge.

Well, you can probably humor him as long as he doesn't give you actual orders."

"All right then, lead the way."

"I haven't figured out where it is yet."

The priest groans.

"So, what, do you expect me to help you with that? I've only seen two rooms here. This one, and the one I arrived in."

How useful.

"Could you describe the one you arrived in?"

"It felt kind of like I was in a big closet. Except it was in a corner of the room. Didn't see much of it because that human woman came rushing at me as soon as I arrived."

Well. It's not much of a description, but it gives you something to work with. The "closet" is probably specifically for transportation, since it sounds as though he was surprised to arrive here. Which means the control device likely isn't far from it.

That leaves the matter of how to find the room.
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RE: Swamped
Pry off the planks.
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