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The Land of Dragons and Dungeons

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==> Dreamer: Remember

PAST carcinoGeneticist [PCG] 6132000 HOURS AGO opened memo on board YEAH THIS ISN'T IN THE LEAST BIT FUCKING PATHETIC.
PCG: HEY ASSHOLE.
PCG: COME ON, I KNOW YOU'RE THERE.
PCG: I MEAN IT ISN'T LIKE EITHER OF US HAS ANYTHING BETTER TO DO.
PCG: SERIOUSLY.
PCG: NOT ONE. SINGLE. FUCKING. THING.

How long have you been here?

You are vaguely aware that this is not real, that the hazy impression you have of stacks of books and blinking banks of lights in the echoing shadows and ancient, dust-covered furniture is an illusion being summoned by your mind. And yet in this moment, you are not sure what reality would be without these faded ideas, small details thrown into sharp contrast while sweeping brush-strokes of conception fill in the gaps between them. It's like a play, where the actors all take the stage and act out their parts until you forget that the towering castle or the endless forest is just paint and paste and plyboard and the seat is hurting your ass...

There is something you should be doing. No, more than that: you can feel the urgency, the expectation. Your mind shifts and in an instant you are aware of just how long you have been waiting.

CURRENT carcinoGeneticist [CCG] RIGHT NOW responded to memo
CCG: WELL IT'S ABOUT TIME.
CCG: I'VE BEEN WAITING FOREVER FOR YOU TO SHOW UP, YOU INCONSIDERATE NOOKSTAIN.

It feels natural to talk this way, silent save for the tapping of your claws on the keys, watching the words appear on the gently glowing computer screen. The alphabet is so familiar to you that you almost think you hear the conversation aloud as you read it.

A flicker of confusion, a passing fragment of reality: you can barely read your own tongue. You don't know this language, these symbols. What is a computer? Then the dream reasserts itself and you are once again pulled under.

PCG: SO SORRY I MISSED OUR APPOINTMENT.
PCG: OH, NO, WAIT, I DIDN'T.
PCG: YOU KNEW EXACTLY WHEN I WAS GOING TO SHOW UP, FUCKASS.
PCG: IF ANYTHING I'M THE ONE GETTING SCREWED OVER HERE.
PCG: HERE I AM, GOING OUT OF MY GOGDAMNED MIND WITH BOREDOM, AND YOU CAN'T EVEN BE BOTHERED TO LOG ON EVEN A TINY BIT FASTER?

You fucking hate this asshole. You can feel it, old and worn inside your chest, tried and tested and familiar as your own face. You can't stand him, he's such a fucking annoyance, always makes you mad, always screws everything up and acts like a complete fucking bulgelicker about it...

… and there's an echo here, another voice just out of time and as grey as yours is red, saying the exact same thing about you. It's yours. They're both your voice.

Of course they are. After all, the asshole is you. Well, Past You. Fuck, you're glad you don't have to be him any more.

CCG: SHUT UP AND STOP BEING SUCH A FUCKING WIGGLER.
CCG: I'VE BEEN HERE SEVEN CENTURIES LONGER THAN YOU AND YOU DON'T SEE ME BITCHING AND MOANING LIKE I'M SOLLUX FUCKING CAPTOR.

Sollux Captor is a name that brings to mind- not really a face, more an impression of another asshole, but one you care about. For an instant your mind is filled with blue and red, and then you're back in the dark, talking to Past You and just somehow knowing what you mean without ever having to really wonder why.

PCG: ...
PCG: SHIT, IT REALLY IS SEVEN CENTURIES, ISN'T IT?
PCG: YOU MEAN NONE OF THEM HAVE SHOWN UP YET?

You can remember it now. You've been here all that time. Longer. Here, in the dark and in the silence, waiting and waiting and so very afraid that nothing would ever change. It stretches out around you like the corridor between two mirrors, reflections of endless centuries spent in solitude because none of those fuckers came back for you.

Not that it's their fault. No, it's yours. And by you, you mean Past You. No reason why that nooksniffer should have to remain hopeful, seeing as how he got you into this mess. You spent this whole time knowing they weren't going to show up, so he can fucking well suck on it.

CCG: I HAVE BEEN ENTIRELY ALONE THIS WHOLE TIME.
CCG: AT THIS POINT IF ONE OF THEM DOES DECIDE TO COME IN I AM CONSIDERING THROWING THEM RIGHT BACK OUT AGAIN.
CCG: FUCK THEM AND FUCK THEIR STUPID RIVER OF SOULS.
CCG: IF I HADN'T HAD THIS CONVERSATION I WOULD PROBABLY HAVE GONE INSANE.
CCG: AGAIN.

You can feel the warm glow against your side, the light from the Door just in the edge of your vision, mocking you with what you can never have. Brief images flit through you, the shapes of times long past when you were not yourself, but were instead

a farmhand forgotten, but later a soldier, who marched to war and blood and death but in the depths of that hell found love and kindness, and later returned to be a farmer again in a land that never seemed to have changed. You never forgot, but the horror faded with time and with the laughter of the children, and you hardly ever resented leaving behind your dreams of glory...

a storyteller exalted, dreaming from childhood of worlds beyond the mundane and adventures that spanned the stars. You were famed for miles around, and the peak of your fame came when the Queen herself travelled to your town to hear you weave a tale. You lived out the rest of your days at court, beloved by all, and told none of the vague sense of unease that plagued your sleep...

an oracle betrayed, first drawn to the priesthood by your visions and your cursed knowledge. You trusted them and they used you, paraded you to the crowds like a mascot, threw you trinkets to placate you like a pet. Then your prophecy and your power became inconvenient and there were daggers when you least expected them, a false martyr with your name and your face raised in your stead...

a heretic condemned, filled with senseless fury at an unknown betrayal even as you publicly decried the authority of the church and its corrupt excess. You knew you were special, knew that you were important, but you kept the secrets that were entrusted to you by the Great Powers, spitting in the faces of your foes even as the crowds jeered and the flames began to consume you...

a revolutionary ascendant, wily in your vengeance as your dreams guided you to gather support before striking. The world called you by one name but you knew another, and the true name you bore was one that could build worlds anew if only you tried. Half a continent was in flames by the time they captured you; as the axe fell to your neck, you stayed strong in the knowledge that there was nothing they could do to stop the plans that you had wrought...

a madman abandoned, your mind full of strange certainties that you foolishly shared and your body marked with the sign of an accursed God. Those who cared about you turned to healers who could have done nothing even if you had been broken; they took a mind that was whole, if filled with alien thoughts, and in trying to repair it they tore it asunder. Torture gave way to neglect, and by the time you starved you had no sane mind left to care...

PCG: WHAT THE FUCK ARE YOU ON ABOUT?
PCG: THIS SEEMS LIKE A PRETTY NORMAL CONVERSATION SO FAR.
PCG: YOU'RE AN ASSHOLE, I'M AN ASSHOLE, WE'RE BOTH BORED AND LONELY, AND OUR SUPPOSED FRIENDS ARE A BUNCH OF UNRELIABLE BULGEMUNCHING FUCKHOLES.
PCG: WHAT ELSE IS NEW?

The others never remembered their lives. If they did, they would have come back long ago instead of continuing to ride the River, and you wouldn't be stuck talking to fucking Past You and redoing every stupid, inane thing you ever thought of to stave off boredom. You should have fucking had a better plan than this: agreed to do it in shifts or rotations, or at least come up with a definite number of goes round before you stopped and met up again. Maybe even done some more gogdamn test runs before committing to a plan that left the place completely fucking empty.

At least you can be sure that the tedium is nearly over.

CCG: CURRENTLY, NOTHING EVEN REMOTELY DIFFERENT HAS HAPPENED SINCE I WAS YOU, WHICH IS ABOUT AS FUCKING AWFUL AS YOU THINK IT IS.
CCG: BUT IN A FEW MINUTES I'M GOING TO NOTICE SOMETHING OUT OF THE ORDINARY AND START TALKING IN PURE, UNADULTERATED CRYPTIC BULLSHIT.
CCG: THEN WHILE YOU'RE STILL TRYING TO WORK OUT WHAT THE FUCK'S GOING ON, I'M GOING TO START PANICKING LIKE A HELPLESS GRUB AND LOG OFF.
CCG: AND THEN YOU'LL NEVER HEAR FROM ME, OR ANY FUTURE VERSION OF ME, EVER AGAIN.

You can remember sharply and clearly how much it had pissed you off to get that message from Future You- not only being a cryptic know-it-all as usual, but actually letting you know in fucking advance that he was going to do it! From this end, it just makes you feel relieved and a little smug. Finally you get to learn what all the gogdamn fuss was about, and Past You is just going to have to wait around like the bulgemunching little shit he is.

PCG: WAIT, WHAT?

Ha, ha, fuckass. Enjoy that confusion: it's not going anywhere in a hurry.

CCG: I FIGURE WHATEVER IT IS, IT HAS TO BE MORE FUCKING INTERESTING THAN THE LAST MILLENIUM.
CCG: WHICH ISN'T REALLY SAYING MUCH, AS WATCHING A DEAD SHELLBEAST RUN TEN CONSECUTIVE MARATHONS WOULD BE MORE FUCKING INTERESTING THAN THE LAST MILLENIUM.

Even dying would be an improvement, really. You'd settle for dying. You've seen all nine of the afterlives this place has to offer, and okay some of them are fucking shitholes, real and actual fucking hells, but at least they're full of people. Real, honest-to-gog people you can interact with. Most of whom are clearly stupid, seeing as how they're dead, but still better than temporally dislocated versions of yourself.

PCG: I DON'T FUCKING BELIEVE THIS.
PCG: YOU ARROGANT SHIT, I FUCKING HATE YOU.
PCG: I MEAN, OBVIOUSLY I HATE YOU, YOU'RE FUTURE ME.
PCG: BUT SINCE YOU ARE BY YOUR OWN ADMISSION THE MOST FUTURE ME THERE IS, I HEREBY DECLARE THAT I HATE YOU THE MOST.
PCG: OF ALL THE DUMBFUCK, EMPTY-PANNED, SHIT-SPEWING VERSIONS OF ME TO EVER POLLUTE THE COURSE OF HISTORY ACROSS FIVE SEPERATE UNIVERSES AND COUNTLESS AEONS OF LIFE
PCG: OF ALL THE SMUG, CONDESCENDING, BARELY LUCID PIECES OF VAPID EXCREMENT I HAVE EVER OR WILL EVER HAVE THE MISFORTUNE TO BE
PCG: YOU ARE THE WORST.
PCG: IT'S YOU. HAVE THE FUCKING PRIZE, JACKASS.

Normally you'd be frothing at the mouth over that, but now? You're so tense with waiting that you can almost taste what's going to happen. You can feel the pressure of it on the back of your neck and your digestive bladder is in knots, which are themselves full of fucking flutterbugs. For once in the entire history of the universe, you don't care at all about the shit you're giving yourself.

CCG: FEEL BETTER YET?

This universe is fucking stupid anyway. When it was first created, it spawned attendant planes of existence like that insufferable prick Dave Strider spawns obscene metaphors. Jade and Kanaya had provided some very long and complicated explanations which had made no fucking sense to anyone who wasn't an Asshole of Space, but personally you always thought it was because this universe was the result of four separate sessions of fucking about and sticking things where they didn't actually belong and generally breaking everything that could, in fact, be broken. Only made sense that the resultant reality would get the idea it was meant to fucking splinter off into dozens of weird extra dimensions and populate them with wannabe horrorterrors. Maybe a few actual horrorterrors, too- you still aren't sure those things didn't follow you here.

PCG: BETTER? ARE YOU FUCKING KIDDING ME?
PCG: HOW CAN YOU JUST SIT THERE AND JUST TELL ME THAT YOU'RE GOING TO VANISH
PCG: AND I'M NOT EVEN GOING TO KNOW WHY
PCG: AND THEN BE SO FUCKING HAPPY ABOUT IT!

Like he wouldn't have seven hundred years' worth of other versions of you to talk to. Grubfucking idiot.

CCG: I GUESS I'VE HAD A WHILE TO COME TO TERMS WITH IT.
CCG: YOU SHOULD BE GLAD I'M GIVING YOU ALL THIS WARNING.

At least you weren't going to have to read all thousand books of Lalonde's shitty wizard fiction a third time. It had been pan-rottingly awful enough from page one.

PCG: YOU COMPLETE ASSHOLE.

When was Past You going to shut the fuck up and realise you were basically better than him in every conceivable way?

CCG: AT LEAST I'M NOT A WHINY LITTLE

An alarm goes off and you jump in your seat before you realise- it's just the alert you set up centuries ago to let you know when one of those other assholes dies. You used to get excited about that, before you realised they weren't going to leave the River at this station. Now it's just an occasionally annoying...

Wait, shit, did it just go off again?

PCG: WHINY LITTLE WHAT?
PCG: WHAT?
PCG: OH FUCK, IT'S HAPPENING, ISN'T IT?
PCG: WHATEVER IT IS THAT MAKES YOU VANISH. IT'S STARTED.

You ignore your Past Self in favour of scrambling over to examine the alert, which is now showing three- no, four- of your comrades dead. John, Aradia, Kanaya, Jake.

Oh, look, there goes Roxy. What the fuck is going on down there?

CCG: YEAH...
CCG: THIS IS WEIRD. NOT WHAT I EXPECTED.
CCG: SHIT, THIS CAN'T BE GOOD...

Dirk and Dave go out at the same time. The alert is flipping its computerised shit and flying completely off the handle; those pirouettes are so fucking acrobatic that, in a different universe, they would be winning all of the gogdamn medals. Your world has narrowed to a blaring alarm and a growing list of familiar names. Jane. Jade. Gamzee.

PCG: WHAT? WHAT CAN'T BE GOOD?

They can't all fucking die at the same time, that's not even fucking possible. You watch as Rose falls, then Terezi, then finally Sollux. Figures that stubborn asshole would be the last to go.

CCG: ALL OF THEM AT ONCE. THAT CAN'T BE FUCKING COINCIDENCE.

Someone had to have planned this. Who fucking could plan this? They don't even know who they are when they're down there- the only person who knows is you. Shit, did you do this? Is there some demented Future You out there doing this, and that's why you haven't been able to speak to anyone further forward than right now? No, wait, that makes no fucking sense, you're not a Time player, you can't do that bullshit no matter how shithive maggots you get.

PCG: WHAT DOES THAT MEAN?
PCG: ARE THE OTHERS COMING BACK?

Why won't that asshole shut up? But he's right, they're all in the River right now, and if they've got any fucking sense at all they'll get their collective asses back in here to discuss this shit. That is, if they know what just happened. Shit. All of them at once, in a short space of time? Most of them probably don't have a fucking clue.

CCG: YES.
CCG: NO.
CCG: MAYBE.
CCG: SHIT, WHAT WAS THAT!

You freeze as something in the distance recesses of the complex clatters. The world that had shrunk around you suddenly expands again, and you are uncomfortably aware of how large this place is. You rattle around in here like a frozen seedpod in an old pie tin, and you always hated it for being huge and empty and dead and constantly reminding you of how alone you were.

Now you're thinking that maybe you preferred being alone, because there is only one real fucking entrance and exit to this place, and none of the others have come in through the Door.

PCG: WHAT WAS WHAT?

You listen, ears sensitive to any sound after a thousand years of near-silence. Something chill settles into your blood-pusher as you hear a soft rhythm in the distance, leather falling on metal.

CCG: I HEARD SOMETHING.

Footsteps.

PCG: SOMETHING? ARE YOU DELIBERATELY TRYING TO BE COMPLETELY FUCKING UNINFORMATIVE HERE?
PCG: WHAT EXACTLY DID YOU HEAR?

You heard footsteps.

CCG: SHUT THE FUCK UP, I'M TRYING TO LISTEN.

Nobody should fucking be in here but you. You glance over at the alerts again, but the fuckers are still in the gogdamn River and they're not coming out, oh fuck, oh shit, you're on your own up here except you're fucking not.

PCG: AND I'M TRYING TO FIND OUT WHAT THE FUCK IS GOING ON, YOU ASSMUNCH!

Run or fight? It's not the Noir demon, it's not Lord English, you know that, you dealt with that shit, so in theory you should be able to take on anything that isn't one of the others and win. Of course, in theory something that isn't one of the others shouldn't fucking be here, so maybe you shouldn't bet your life on that. Funny how now that you really do seem to be under threat you're suddenly all fucking concerned about survival.

CCG: WHAT'S GOING ON IS THAT SHIT JUST WENT CRAZY AND NOW I CAN HEAR...
CCG: OH FUCK
CCG: OH FUCK FUCK FUCK FUCK

That's not just one set of footsteps.

PCG: NO, DON'T YOU FUCKING DARE.
PCG: YOU HEAR ME?
PCG: DON'T EVEN THINK ABOUT IT.

You can feel the malice pouring from the darkness, the raw hostile intent of the intruders. You haven't been this fucking scared as yourself since you were in the Game. Staying is not a fucking option here: whoever orchestrated this, they knew what they were doing, and they'll be ready for you. Hell, they killed the others off, which means they probably want to have all of you here. Whoever they are, your sanctuary has become their trap for you.

There's only one way for you to really leave this place; the kind of physical manifestation that would let you walk the world as yourself would leave most of your power here, and you are pretty certain that whatever psychotic cult or demonic entity has invaded your sanctuary it would fucking love to snack on your unguarded essence. You suppose it's a good thing that the others haven't come out of the Door yet, but that doesn't mean you won't want some extra insurance. You find the tools that the purple Lalonde left behind and gather your power with one eye over your shoulder.

If Eridan knew what you could do in this new universe, he would fucking cry. Magic is fakey bullshit your divine ass, and a good thing too. You don't have time to do much. Just enough to be sure that you can find them. Oh, fucking hell, you hope you can find them. You can't afford to lose this place; this has to be a strategic retreat, not a surrender, or the entirety of reality is completely, irrevocably, incomprehensibly fucked.

Despite the encroaching footsteps, you take a moment to remember Past You, and complete a stable time loop in accordance with the bullshit rules of Paradox space and the somewhat more predictable rules of any memo you ever fucking opened, anywhere, ever.

CCG: I HAVE TO GO.
CCG: YOU'LL UNDERSTAND WHEN YOU'RE ME.
CCG banned himself from responding to memo

Duty discharged, you turn back to the Door. It's ajar now, the light spilling out from behind it blindingly bright, and the rest of the world is unreal as it reverts to painted backdrop. It's just you and the shining portal, that last step your choice and not one you ever wanted to make again. You can feel the approaching footsteps as much as you can hear them, a deep pulse of terror that ticks away like a clock and counts down to some unknowable yet malign deadline. When the time runs out, you lose. You can hardly breathe so instead you step forward into the swirling evanescence of the River, knowing that it will make you nothing but an idea, an existence at its most basic level riding the current of a million mortal souls. As the world begins to dissolve, taking your body with it, you're not sure which thought terrifies you more.

Knowing that you're going to remember, or fearing that you're not going to remember enough.

PCG: FUCK.
PCG: WELL, I GUESS THAT'S SEVEN HUNDRED YEARS OF SITTING AROUND WAITING USELESSLY FOR ME.
PCG: FUCKASS.

PCG closed memo.

Chapter Text

==> All: Provide Clear Summary Of Your Circumstances

==> Karkat: Summarise your life

Your name is KARKAT VANTAS, it's the only name you've got, and your life is a STEAMING PILE OF SPIDER DROPPINGS which have been left to fester on an ALCHEMICAL DUNGHEAP for three weeks before being used by INSANE WIZARDS to create TOXIC NASAL WEAPONRY. Today you are going to attempt a course of action which will change this state of affairs, probably by getting you PUBLICLY AND DEGRADINGLY EXECUTED.

You have spent all twenty-three years of your life in GOLGESI, the largest and most magnificent of all cities ever built in a VAST UNDERGROUND CAVERN, which since you are a drow is the only way your people ever build cities at all. Its OBSIDIAN SPIRES feature in virtually all the SHITTY POETRY ever written by your people, and its bazaars and markets are the very foundation of your culture's MYSTIQUE AND LEGEND.

Naturally, you grew up and live in THE SHANTIES, a complete and utter shithole of MAKESHIFT SHACKS AND CRAPPY TENTS known for its population of vagabonds, whores, thieves, addicts and whatever other CASTELESS SCUM manage to eke out some mockery of existence between the midden heaps and the labyrinthine caves full of monsters. Your home, such as it is, is a SHITTY HOVEL that only has four walls because it was built leaning on another shitty hovel, and you still have to occasionally stab people to convince them that it's yours and they can't fucking have it. You used to share it with your MOTHER, but she died several years ago. Towards the end you were looking after her rather than the other way around, but you don't resent that. She was the one who kept you FED AND CLOTHED when you were too weak and dumbshit to look after yourself, and she even taught you reading and writing which around here is RARER THAN GOOD HYGENE.

Sometimes you use your AWESOME LITERACY SKILLS to earn money writing shit down for people, but mostly you just VIOLENTLY STEAL THINGS. The LAWKEEPERS will fucking dismember you if they catch you, but then most decent citizens would happily KICK YOU TO DEATH anyway for the crime of BREATHING WHILE CASTELESS. Your ability to record information for posterity is mostly used to write down your WEIRD TRANCE VISIONS in your CRAPPY JOURNAL. You personally think that your trance visions are just fucked-up beetleshit, but your mother always laughed when you said that and then wrote them down herself. Now she's gone you do it religiously. It's as close as you get to all that GODLY CRAP, unless you count the BIRTHMARK on the inside of your left wrist. It's in the shape of the symbol of the KNIGHT OF BLOOD, a heretical god who's only worshipped by MONSTERS, BARBARIANS and the sort of SECRETIVE CULTIST FUCKWITS who like to wear shitty robes to sacrifice virgins then have gory orgies over the remains.

It's not difficult to work out that you're casteless because of that fucking mark. What's harder to understand is why your mother, who was CLEARLY WELL EDUCATED and probably well-off, didn't just ditch you and forget the whole terrible embarrassment of having an accursed child. Probably because, for some unaccountable reason, she loved you and actually wanted you to survive. That would make her one of exactly two people who have EVER GIVEN A SHIT ABOUT YOU AT ALL.

The other person is your BEST AND ONLY FRIEND, and you are really more like BROTHERS than anything else. He is probably the only person you've ever met whose life is even more fucking terrible than yours, and in ten hours time it's going to take a hairpin bend for ABSOLUTE UNMITIGATED ATROCITY. Unless you do something first, of course, which brings us back to the monumentally stupid thing that you are planning to do today.

See, you and your brother have plenty in common. Both your lives suck a diseased cock, your other friends are conspicuously nonexistent, and oh, yeah, you are both indelibly marked with the symbol of a pagan god which has fucked up all your shit, ever. But whereas you are one of the thousands of FACELESS INHABITANTS of a foul-smelling and decrepit slum, he is... well, he...

Well, let's just say that the most powerful noble house in the city probably aren't going throw you a fucking hatchday party when you ABDUCT THEIR SON.

==> Gamzee: Summarise your life

Your name is GAMZEE MAKARA, family name GAMZEE KUTSANMIS, and your life is NOT YOURS.

You're probably twenty-three, and you hear that you live in a motherfucking miracle of a city called GOLGESI, but mostly you all up and live in the PESH-FUELLED HAZE that fills your head. Your chambers are being a RECEPTION ROOM, a RECIEVING CHAMBER, your PRIVATE QUARTERS, an EXTENSIVE WARDROBE and CHANGING ROOM, and a TRULY LAVISH BATHING ROOM. All of these are bitchtits luxurious and there ain't nothing you lack; you have a small army of SERVANTS AND SLAVES at your beck and call, and they will unquestioningly fetch you ANYTHING YOU DESIRE. Food, drink, toys, musicians, magicians, drugs, whores... you really can up and have anything, do anything, within these rooms.

What you cannot do, however, is LEAVE.

You know why. You'd know even if Mother hadn't all up and told you, back when you were YOUNG AND STUPID and wanted to GO OUT AND PLAY like what you'd heard kids do. You've got this MONSTER what LIVES INSIDE YOU; you see him sometimes, looking at you out of the mirror all behind your eyes, or in some trance vision where he's all up and killing the friends what you don't got. You know he's there and you're even all knowing of his name, because the motherfucker up and MARKED YOUR BICEP when he chose you, before you was even hatched.

He's the BARD OF RAGE, and he's the reason you've been all spending your life LOCKED ALONE IN A TOWER while your brothers and sisters become warriors and priestesses and wizards and proper motherfucking heirs. Laws of Blood Feud say you can't kill family, what with it being the worst motherfucking crime there is, but there ain't nothing to say that you can't take some CURSED SON what's no use to you and hide him away and give him all the EMPTIEST OF MIRACLES until he's being completely hollowed out and there ain't nothing left to him at all.

Things all up and started changing a little while back, though, because Mother somehow found a MOTHERFUCKING USE for you after all. Seems some minor noble house had themselves a CLEVER INVENTION what they weren't willing to trade without a MARRIAGE ALLIANCE. Don't want to waste some valuable scion wedding them so low, those motherfuckers are barely even the right motherfucking caste. Good for Mother that she had something else to offer; good for the bride-to-be that she cared more for the KUTSANMIS NAME and the promise of a young husband a FRACTION OF HER AGE with no will of his own than she did for any kind of PROPER MOTHERFUCKING DECENCY.

Good for you that you ain't been so isolated as they think, because you've got a brother who ain't yours by blood but what is going to motherfucking RESCUE YOUR ASS ANYWAY and get it up to the SURFACE WORLD. You've heard tell some WICKED STORIES about the world up above, saying as how it's all weaklings and cowards worshipping the GREAT AND TERRIBLE DEMONS what drove your people underground with BURNING LIGHT. But then the motherfuckers what tells those stories also tell the stories about how the Shanties ain't full of nothing but GARBAGE AND VERMIN, and you don't believe that none because the only two people ever cared about you for yourself came out of the Shanties, and if they was vermin or garbage then you don't even want to know what your Mother is when she's giving you that look like she's adding up how much coin you're worth.

She was giving you that look only a SHORT TIME AGO, when she came in here to be all up and telling you how the LADY YETENEKLI who's all thinking to marry you sent a message on how she's getting here EARLIER THAN PLANNED, and how you're going to be moving into your new chambers in the heart of the complex in two hours. You protested, said you were meant to have ten hours before you was moving, and she all up and got REAL MAD AT YOU and said you were gonna do what you was ordered to do, brat.

You got your ass COMPLETELY FUCKING HIGH after she left, but you're still shit-scared and all up and hoping that your brother gets here in the next hour because your time just RAN THE FUCK OUT if he don't.

==> Terezi: Summarise your life

Your name is TEREZI PYROPE, chosen name TEREZI SEERBORN, and your life is NEVER GOING TO BE DULL.

Twenty-three years ago you hatched with the mark of the SEER OF MIND on the back of your neck, and the minor noble house that spawned you went into COMPLETE UPROAR. The High Priestess herself was called in to verify your affiliation, and before the day was done the contract was drawn up and your allegiance transferred. Your birth family got RICHES AND INFLUENCE. You got to be a WARD OF THE TEMPLE.

There were always children in the NOVITIATE CLOISTER- fortunate orphans, poor cousins, the occasional scion of a truly pious house. You were always special, always the most important, and you freely admit that for a while there you were COMPLETELY SPOILED. You had the run not only of the temple grounds, but of the entire Inner Ring of Golgesi, and when even the most aged and venerable of the clergy bowed to you it was easy to think you were a GOD INCARNATE.

But then you began lessons with your sister temple and met someone else marked as you were, her belly coloured with the SIGIL OF THE SYLPH. Her gentle patience reigned you in even as her very existence took you down a much-needed peg or two. You knew her for only a few short years before her birth family made a DISASTEROUS POLITICAL MOVE. That was how you first learned that even in the HOLY ORDERS, even when everyone renews their Vows of Neutrality each season, FAMILY IS EVERYTHING. Suddenly even being CHOSEN OF THE GODS was not enough to protect her, and with no other choice left but betrayal you helped your friend flee.

After all, if your home is the temple, then the Seer is your kin and Justice your Ancestor, and your friend had done nothing to deserve the sentence that would have been handed down. You chose the name Seerborn as a warning to others, that you have but one creed, and that you will see miscreants punished whatever their CASTE AND STATUS. So far, they do not seem to have HEEDED YOUR MESSAGE.

These days, as a fully-fledged JUNIOR LAWKEEPER of the Judicial Branch, you get to do all sorts of INTERESTING MISSIONS. You worked out quickly that whether from jealousy or from some undisclosed blood feud, your mentor is TRYING TO GET YOU KILLED. At first she just sent you alone on DANGEROUS ASSIGNMENTS; tracking killers through the Shanties, exterminating wandering monsters that had gathered at the city's edge, apprehending illegal alchemists with labs full of caustic, acidic and toxic chemicals to throw. To her credit, she stopped when it became apparent that you weren't going to die so easily.

Now she mostly sends you on POLITICALLY DELICATE ASSIGNMENTS, especially ones with conflicting objectives. It's a better strategy but a riskier one, since if you annoy someone powerful enough she'll swing on the gallows right alongside you. You love the way she turns more furiously pale every single time you come back successful. Really, you don't think anyone else could have given you such a CHALLENGING AND REWARDING EDUCATION.

Your current assignment is a puzzle, though. Not because House Kutsanmis have requested a Lawkeeper presence to guard their son before his nuptials, nor because the TEMPLE OF THE SEER has so swiftly complied. The task is nothing unusual, not in the least bit complicated or difficult, and that worries you because it means your mentor is UP TO SOMETHING.

You've caught a glimpse of the scion. He's tall and gangly and if you're any judge at all so doped up on pesh that he wouldn't notice if you stabbed him through the gut. He's not going to cause trouble. The House Kutsanmis Guards are formidable enough that no outside force could disrupt the wedding. You suppose that having neutral parties on hand could prevent unpleasantness if the bride takes exception to the groom, but why would your mentor expect that?

ASSASSINATION is a possibility, though. If another Great House wants access to HOUSE YETENEKLI'S INVENTION, your mentor could be in the know. If you let the boy die on your watch then the KUTSANMIS MATRIARCH will certainly be out for blood.

You patrol the House Kutsanmis Compound on HIGH ALERT, looking forward to interrogating a suspect or two later, and vow that one of these days you're going to turn the tables on that MANIPULATIVE BITCH of a mentor and every backstabbing BETRAYER OF JUSTICE like her.

==> Kanaya: Summarise your life

Your name is KANAYA MARYAM, chosen name KANAYA GODSCHILD, and your life is quite simply AN ADVENTURE, whether you WANT IT TO BE OR NOT.

At twenty-three years of age, you are a POLITICAL EXILE from your homeland, your primary source of income is taking freelance commission work in dangerous terrain, you lack any form of PERMANANT ABODE unless you count the guest rooms of the Waypoint Inn, and you think you may be having a CRISIS OF FAITH- which, considering you have the MARK OF A GOD on your skin and can call on divine powers is probably quite ridiculous, verging on the hysterical.

Currently you are somewhere in the GREENWEALD FOREST, two weeks travel from the city of PORTHAVEN, and you are theoretically supposed to be MAPPING THE REGION. You would feel more confident about the success of this mission if more than one of your group knew how to draw maps. Your comrades are, as usual, SOLLUX TWINBLOOD and ARADIA DREAMWALKER. They are not the first people you met when you emerged to the surface world, although your ORIGINAL BENEFACTORS also hail from Porthaven. You remain grateful for the influence and assistance of the sisters who found you, without which you would most likely have been EATEN BY WILD BEASTS long before you found any sign of civilisation. The two aasimars do have a keen interest in your small fellowship, however, as the five of you have in common the GODMARKS that display the favour of a divine entity- the only uncertainty being which god or goddess acts as your patron.

For Sollux there is no question; he bears the MARK OF DOOM, and thus his connection to the feared and fearsome Mage God is as undeniable as it is wisely hidden. For yourself and Aradia, bearing the marks of SPACE AND TIME, there are two deities under whose watchful eye you might fall. You had once assumed that you were a ward of the Sylph, but in these strange and sunlit lands it is only by claiming kinship to the Witch that you have found welcome. The question of whether her guardian is Knight or Maid bothers Aradia far less; she never trained as a priestess and the power that she wields is arcane in nature, not divine.

Truth be told you often wonder about the history of your two sorcerous compatriots, with their wandering ways and their ESOTERIC HERITAGE. Aradia is a tiefling, a race whose grey skin and infernal horns are rarely seen and oft feared in these lands; Sollux fares even worse, his body a strange blend of tiefling features and the dark elven nature of your own drow race. Perhaps it is only the fact that neither of them can truly fit in anywhere in this sunwalker's world that makes them as CLOSE AS SIBLINGS, but from fragments of conversation and overheard whispers you suspect something more. You are only a RECENT COMPANION in the journey they take together- although from what you hear, you have already stayed with them far longer than anyone else they have worked with. You can see why a different person might find them extremely trying, but you find their company to be refreshing after so much time spent dealing with people who persist in believing you to be a monster. Perhaps that is the true reason why you all continue to accept tasks you are ill-suited to perform in the heart of a DANGEROUS WILDERNESS.

At any rate, you have all come to rely on one another implicitly. When you can, you do your work by night; the light of the six moons is easier on you and Sollux, and Aradia cares little either way. She is the one who leads the way as you move, and the one who knows how to KEEP YOU ALIVE AND WELL even when your rations run short. You suspect that Sollux would have perished long ago if he were alone- you have lost count of the number of times he has WALKED INTO TREE BRANCHES or startled DANGEROUS WILD ANIMALS, and that is just since you have known him. Yet while he does cause trouble, you cannot deny that his magical abilities are considerably better suited for USE IN COMBAT than Aradia's or your own. For your part, you provide PROTECTION AND HEALING, a service that the two of them are in dire need of. You have also taken up the task of ensuring that their clothes are in a STATE OF GOOD REPAIR and at the very least colour co-ordinated.

Sometimes when you make camp at dawn, and it is just the three of you alone around a crackling fire, with Sollux COMPLAINING ABOUT THE DAMP while he tries to read and Aradia enthusing about whatever ANCIENT TRINKET you found most recently, while you make patches and repairs to clothes that have seen BRUTALLY HARD USE... on those days, it feels more like home to you here than ever the Temple of the Sylph did.

==> Rose: Summarise your life

Your name is ROSE LALONDE, called ROSE THE ORACLE, and your life is overshadowed by the threat of IMMANENT ARMAGEDDON that goes UNHEARD BY THE MIGHTY as they struggle for SCRAPS OF POWER within the hallowed halls of the MIGHTY TEMPLES OF PORTHAVEN.

You are now twenty-three, which as an aasimar makes you slightly more emotionally mature than an elf of equivalent age, and for the past nine years you have been the official ORACLE OF THE SEER and the figurehead of the CHURCH OF LIGHT. Leader in name only, for the HIGH PRIEST is many years your senior and has the political support that you lack. He is the one who chooses time and again to disregard your visions, insisting that to make public APOCALYPTIC PROPHECIES of worldwide devastation would cause only panic and despair. You suspect that he lacks the courage to face the oncoming cataclysm, and you can no longer afford to be subject to his foolish prevarications. Your latest meditations in the Chamber of Smoke have shown you a vision of the world DEVOID OF LIFE, the sun blotted out by DUST AND SHADOW. The last survivors fell before a countless army of the UNHOLY RISEN, undying corpses that shambled and slaughtered under the leadership of pale-faced monsters that hungered for blood.

Your visions have never reached more than ONE YEAR AHEAD. The time for fearful denials is at an end: you must act now or the world is FATED FOR DESTRUCTION. If you had your way, you would rouse the Templars and call upon the holiest of Clerics to aid you. Unfortunately, you do not believe that course will be possible. You are a DEDICATED STUDENT and although it would most likely horrify your tutors you have spent many hours poring over FORBIDDEN TEXTS and SECRET HISTORIES, your interest piqued ever since you met the strange drow girl who bore a Godmark so like and unlike your own. You know that the fall and eventual demonisation of the CHURCH OF BLOOD began with the suspicious martyrdom of the God's chosen Oracle. You would like to think that the HIGH PRIEST OF LIGHT would not do something so heinous, but you know that frightened fools rarely have such sane boundaries.

Your NOCTURNAL FRIENDS are currently out of town, but fortunately your other resources are not limited to your Temple contacts and your loving but pious parents. For while you were marked with the SIGN OF LIGHT on your shoulder, your twin sister was born with the SIGN OF VOID on her ankle, and although she did not receive the same divine gifts as you she has more than compensated for their lack. Followers of the Rogue are known for being UNPREDICTABLE, UNTAMEABLE, and disinclined to SUBMIT TO AUTHORITY. Normally Roxy's adherence to this stereotype infuriates you, especially as despite all your prowess in reading others you still cannot tell whether she is actually like that or merely attempting to provoke a reaction. Currently, however, you are glad that she has avenues of recourse that you lack.

Although your sister lives in her own suite next to yours in the CENTRAL TEMPLE COMPLEX, her life is very different to your own. While you were confirmed as the Oracle at the age of fourteen, she entered an apprenticeship with a man you suspect to be a follower of the Rogue. Certainly the theories of arcane magic she has learned from him favour DECEPTION AND ILLUSION, and she is as wily as the cat-shaped familiar she keeps and which you are not in the least bit fond of. You most assuredly do not keep a SMALL DISH OF TUNA and a DECANTER OF CREAM in your rooms, just in case the curiously named Frigglish drops by. That would be RIDICULOUSLY FRIVOLOUS of you and you would never even consider it.

That cream is for you, and you happen to QUITE LIKE FISH. And if you had a cat-shaped familiar, you would call him by a sensible name, such as JASPERS.

The feline nature of your sister's arcane assistant aside, you are currently most concerned that she may have managed to FALL ASLEEP DRUNK instead of getting in touch with her less than savoury associates. The same routes and connections that allow her to STOCK UP ON CONTRABAND BOOZE can hopefully arrange smuggling the pair of you out of the city. You have rarely had cause before to regret that your luxuriously appointed and closely guarded lifestyle is akin to that of a prisoner; that is merely the lot of an EXALTED SPIRITUAL LEADER, and you have learned to do a lot with a little freedom. Yet if you are to begin your quest to SAVE THE WORLD, you will have to execute an escape, and that is Roxy's purview rather than your own.

Perhaps you are being too harsh on your sister: for all that she is capable of aggravating you to the point of VIRTUAL INCOHERENCE, her rapid progress in the study of the arcane arts shows that she is no fool. Of all the people in your life, she was the only one outside the priesthood you dared tell of your visions, and she was the only one who took them seriously. On the other hand, this means that in what is supposedly your spiritual stronghold your only ally is a PASSIVE-AGGRESSIVE DRUNK with a penchant for DECEPTION and the ability to TRY THE PATIENCE OF A SAINT.

You do not wish to sound alarmist, but the world may very well be UTTERLY DOOMED.

==> Dirk: Summarise your life

Your name is DIRK STRIDER, called DIRK SILVERTONGUE, and your life is a NON-STOP SHELL GAME where the pea of SINCERITY may at any time be under any of the shells of DECEPTION, STOIC BADASSITUDE, AND IRONY. Or not, because you actually know HOW SHELL GAMES WORK.

You are twenty-three years old and currently staying just outside the City of Porthaven with your bro and the rest of your PHOOKA CLAN. Most people who find out about your family express their surprise and sympathy that two nice young aasimar boys like you are living with those UNTRUSTWORTHY WILD ELF VAGABONDS. You usually nod and say oh yeah, it's such a hard life, and shake their hands while your brother PICKS THEIR POCKETS CLEAN. You don't know who your real parents were, or why they dumped you both in the middle of the forest, but the Phooka have a saying; FAMILY IS WHERE YOU FIND IT. Literally, in most cases. There's a reason the city-dwellers lock up their eggs when the Clans come to town.

So you and Dave got raised by THIEVES AND SCALLYWAGS, and your teachers were TRICKSTERS AND ENTERTAINERS, and you learned to watch each other's backs and be smarter and faster than your average mark on the street. Life's pretty good, and it sure as the hells could've been worse. You earn some pretty good money showing off your completely fucking top-grade skills, and Dave brings the cash count up by taking a toll from the fatter purses of your ADORING AUDIENCE. He treats it like a COMPETITION to see who can make the most, but you figure that you're both better off together so it doesn't really matter who's winning. You still beat him regularly because he seems to NEED THE CHALLENGE.

Not that this game of yours is just about money; no, you try to outdo each other in EVERY CONCEIVABLE FASHION. Dave even wears a fucking BANDIT COSTUME when he's robbing the chumps of their change. If you weren't wearing a GAUDY MASQUERADE MASK to cover your face, you might find it obscenely difficult to hide how hilarious you find that. Some days he even joins you at the end of your act and you do a little skit where you play the BIG DAMN HERO and SLAY THE BANDIT KING. The crowd loves every second, and you are both the winners in the game of life.

Yeah, the pair of you are pretty much the WORLD'S COCKIEST ASSHOLES, but tempting fate is addictive and addiction is a powerful thing. Besides, you've got insurance; everywhere you go you take care to do favours for friends, and by now you've got enough GET OUT OF JAIL FREE markers stored up with influential people to last a lifetime. There's a reason they call you SILVERTONGUE.

Dave has friends in the city too, and although none of them are as highly placed as yours there's nothing wrong with his judgement. Besides, you can't just base a friendship on FAVOURS OWED. You wouldn't put yourself through half as much projectile crap as you do for your tipsy sister up in the Temple if you didn't genuinely like her CRAZY DRUNKEN ASS. Her latest request is STRANGE AND DANGEROUS, and it'll pretty much blow her out of the water as an avenue of recourse- but she's helped you out plenty in the past, and what the fuck. It sounds like it'll be a BARREL OF LAUGHS.

In the meantime, you're just going to stand in the middle of this street and wait for people to THROW MONEY AT YOU. All you have to do is your usual gig, and keep an eye open to see if anyone's about to catch Dave out. You put on your best fake bullshit smirk and begin to draw in the crowd with a bit of THEATRICALLY EXAGGERATED SETUP.

Another day, another game: round and round the shell game goes, but where the pea stops no-one knows...

==> John: Summarise your life

Your name is JOHN EGBERT, called JOHN WARDEN, and your life is FULL OF EXCITEMENT. You're usually looking forward to something anyway, but in the next month you're going to have two of the MOST IMPORTANT DAYS OF YOUR LIFE and it's pretty hard to stay calm with all that's going on!

Firstly, in about a week's time, you and your sister JANE are going to finish your training and be sworn in as full members of the PORTHAVEN WATCH. She's going to be an INVESTIGATOR, but you decided that you'd rather be a TOWN GUARD. You just really like patrolling the streets and HELPING THE CITIZENS, and that's okay because Jane loves to SOLVE MYSTERIES and you know you'd only get in her way if you tried to help. You've both spent a really long time working hard to get to this point and your parents are very proud of you. They run the WAYPOINT INN out on the edge of town, so you and Jane have been talking to all sorts of people since before you can even remember. Just take your friend DAVE GHOSTSTEP, for example- you're pretty much the only member of the Guard the Phooka Clans trust in their camp, and you're not even sworn in yet!

The other thing is due to happen at the end of the season, in a month's time, and it is even more important than finishing your training. See, when you were hatched twenty-three years ago in the town of Daleford, you had two sisters and a brother. Then the ORC RAIDS had happened and your parents had to flee alongside their neighbours, escaping from the RAZING OF THEIR HOME with the four of you by means of what should have been a safe road through the forest.

The road hadn't been safe. The TERRIFIED REFUGEES had managed to fight off the bandit attack, but afterwards your infant brother and one of your sisters were NOWHERE TO BE FOUND. Your parents had brought you and Jane safely to Porthaven and rebuilt their lives, but for years they were saddened by the loss and you wondered why you only had one sibling when all your other elf friends had at least two. Then one day when you were six a STRANGE WILD WOMAN, a real live wood elf, had arrived at your inn with a huge grey wolf. She told your parents that she was a DRUID, one of the GUARDIANS OF THE GREENWEALD, and that six years ago she and a band of her companions had rescued two infant children from the hands of routed brigands as they travelled to Daleford to reclaim it from the orcs. With no way to track their parents or even any guarantee they lived, one of her comrades had taken the boy to raise as a son; she had taken the girl as her ward and apprentice. She had come, she said, because the SPIRITS OF THE FOREST had whispered your names to her child.

Since then you have been in regular correspondence with both of your ESTRANGED SIBLINGS, and although their letters are sometimes kind of confusing they sound like they have INCREDIBLE LIVES. Because they live far away and the roads are still really dangerous they've never come to visit before, but this spring your sister finished her Druidic training so now she can guide them both to Porthaven and you can have an AWESOME FAMILY REUNION! This is basically the best thing ever.

In the meantime, though, you have plenty of work to do. There's always a jump in crime when the Clans come to town- and it's not the Phooka, or not just them anyway. People think they can get away with things when there's someone else to blame it on, but in the end it's the ordinary people who get hurt when their shops get burgled or their life savings are stolen. You and Jane know how hard people work in this city and you're not going to stand by while they get their LIVELIHOODS DESTROYED! Although you do try to be understanding when the thief is poor or having real difficulties at home, because you know that sometimes life doesn't go how you plan.

Fortunately, although you're not very religious, you and Jane managed to get some meetings up in the Temple, and you've been pushing to get more CHARITABLE FUNDS to set up a sort of free inn for people who are having trouble affording food. Your parents have already said they could help out with setting it up, and you think it's a really good idea! The Oracle and her sister are pretty nice and want to help, even if they are confusing to talk to. You and Jane agreed not to tell them about your WEIRD BIRTHMARKS, because religious people get excited about those and they're only a stupid thing that look like Divine Sigils by accident.

It's like your Dad always says: you try to leave the world a better place than you found it, and you treat people with respect whoever they are. Also he says that EVERYTHING'S BETTER WITH CAKE, but you think that one is totally stupid because cake is GROSS AND DISGUSTING. But the other stuff he's right about and you've always acted that way.

You wonder if, when you meet them in person, your brother and sister will also agree.

==> Jade: Summarise your life

Your name is JADE HARLEY, called JADE OF THE GREENWEALD, and your life is FULL OF THINGS TO DO. Its okay though, because you LOVE YOUR JOB, and when things get difficulty you'll always have BEC to HELP YOU.

You're a DRUID OF THE GREENWEALD, which means it's your responsibility to maintain the BALANCE OF NATURE and HELP AND PROTECT TRAVELLERS within the bounds of the forest. Currently you're headed towards the DRAGONSHARD MOUNTAINS to meet one such traveller and make sure he journeys safely to his destination, which also happens to be your destination. This is because he is your brother, and you are finally both going to meet your family. It's a long journey on foot to Porthaven, but at twenty-three you're a grown woman and you can definitely make one trip through your own forest! Besides, you've been in contact with your soon-to-be companion, and you know that he can take care of himself in a pinch as well as you can.

By now, you know the Greenweald like an old friend. Ever since GUARDIAN WOLFSISTER took you in as a hatchling you've been training for this. She told you that the day you were chosen by her companion Fleetwind's pup was the proudest of her life, even if you did give the wolf a funny name. You don't even remember why you chose it, but BECQUEREL you called him and Becquerel your companion remains. He's the most LOYAL AND HELPFUL companion ever and you look out for each other because that's what best friends do.

You've heard from your SIBLINGS IN THE CITY that most children get looked after by their parents all the time. You think that sounds strange and kind of restrictive. From the time you were old enough to crawl you had the freedom of the WHISPERING GROVE, and Guardian Wolfsister had always been willing to leave you with Fleetwind. Once you had Bec she would leave you alone with the pack for hours at a time. When you learned who your parents were, she left you with enough food for the entire month and cast a spell to keep you in the Grove. You stayed with the wolves and didn't see her for weeks and weeks but you were TOTALLY FINE and she came back with a LETTER FROM YOUR KIN and a warm hug. You never doubted that she loved you, just as you never doubted that she would come back home. Even now she sends you messages as you travel, written on dried bark and delivered by hawks and falcons.

You're glad to hear from her, too, because the forest is a big place and it can be pretty dangerous. The Whispering Grove where you were raised is kept safe and pure by Druidic Magics, but you have had to learn to sense the places where DARK ENERGIES gather so you can avoid them and their histories of SLAUGHTER AND PLAGUE. There are old secrets buried under the soil, ANCIENT CURSES and FORGOTTEN HISTORIES. And then there are the more mundane dangers, like BANDITS and STORMS and RABID BEASTS and the occasional WANDERING MONSTER that has emerged from the deep caverns under the Dragonshard Range. Of course, there are good things too. You love it when you stumble across some GNOMISH GLADE or other beautiful hidden corner of the world where peaceful magic pours from every crevice, and you once spent half a day watching a mother bear play with her cubs. Sometimes you'll meet Traders or Phooka Clans on the roads, and they're usually as glad of the company as you are when you escort them safely to the nearest town.

Yup, you've got plenty to get done, alright. It's sad that your original parents lost you so young, but you're glad they did. If they hadn't, then Guardian Wolfsister would never have found you, and you wouldn't be who you are. And you really, really like being yourself, even when the forest is dark and the roads are scary. You wouldn't trade it for an entire dragon's hoard, and that's as CERTAIN AS SUMMER!

==> Jake: Summarise your life

Your name is JAKE ENGLISH, going by JAKE QUARTZKIN, and your life is about to DRAMATICALLY CHANGE. It's a JOLLY STRANGE AFFAIR, all told, but dash it all if you aren't LOOKING FORWARD TO THE ESCAPADE.

You've always known that you weren't native to these parts. You would have had to have been bally blind to miss it, seeing as how you're an elf in the middle of a DWARF HOLD. Your parents were always jolly honest with you about the whole thing, about how your father had found you as a little tiddler in the hands of ILL-INTENTIONED MISCREANTS and how he'd brought you home with him because it was the only decent thing a chap could do, under the circumstances. They and their other children never treated you as anything other than one of the family, but you really do wish the rest of your clan-brothers could have been such good sports about the whole business. On the bright side, you do become jolly HANDY IN A SCRAP when you live in a mountain stronghold full of STURDY FELLOWS who want to give you a fine seeing-to on a regular basis. You're rightfully proud of the fact that you don't need your kinsmen to lend a helping hand when trouble comes a-calling; no, you're a STRAPPING YOUNG LAD in your own right, and you know how to DELIVER A THRASHING when you have to!

You have a right old laugh whenever your father's DRUID FRIEND comes to visit, because she's an elf like you and good in a scrum to boot. Those bullies don't dare go near her, no sirree, and she brings you news about your brother and sisters which is never an unwelcome occurrence. Still, it's a tad difficult to read about all the interesting things they get up to day by day, when you're mostly stuck in the house avoiding a RIGHT ROYAL DRUBBING. You do your best to reciprocate in kind, but you are rather afraid that they find your accounts of your parents' work DREADFULLY DULL.

Your father is a STORYTELLER these days, although in his younger years he had more than a few hair-raising adventures out in the world. You love to hear his stories, both the OLD SAGAS and the somewhat EMBELLISHED ANECDOTES. You're not even sure when you made the decision that you wanted to have adventures of your own one day, but really, it is the done thing when you're a MISFIT FOUNDLING with a MYSTERIOUS BIRTHMARK. You're quite certain of it.

Fortunately for your ambitions, your mother is a MASTER GUNSMITH, and she's taught you a little of her trade. Guns are a dashed nifty invention of the Quartzkin Clan, and they happen to be your very favourite weapon. You're a CRACK SHOT with a pistol, and you know how to make your own ammunition which should be extremely useful when you get out on the road. You think it would be completely badass to wield a pistol in each hand, but you have yet to work out HOW THE DICKENS you would reload so you stick with just the one. Besides, guns are TERRIBLY VALUABLE, especially with all the Drow blighters popping up right under your bloody doorstep these days, and you are lucky your parents agreed to let you have your father's old sidearm. You don't think you could persuade them to give you another.

Any day now you're expecting your sister to arrive at the Clanhold. She'll be seeing to it that the pair of you get through the forest to Porthaven, although of course you plan to offer assistance wherever you can. You've not much experience as a woodsman, but you wouldn't want her to think you're CHURLISH. It's a little nerve-wracking to tell the truth; you may have been PEN-PALS for most of your lives, and of course you've met the woman who raised her, but now that she's nearly here you're quaking in your boots. You have packed and repacked your bag every evening and you think your kinsmen are growing a little exhausted with your ENDLESS FRETTING. It's got to the point where you're taking a RELAXING STROLL every evening in the outer caverns of the Clanhold, deep inside the mountain where you can't keep checking to see if she's arriving yet.

At least you'll have gotten it all out of your system before you get to your other siblings in Porthaven, or so you hope. It would be just your BOTHERSOME LUCK if you got AMBUSHED BY DROW or some such nonsense before your sister can even arrive!

Chapter Text

JOHN EGBERT FIGHTER (TWO-HANDED FIGHTER) 1
NEUTRAL GOOD

TL:DR - A front-line warrior with a penchant for hitting people very, very hard with hammers.

John LVL1, For attachment to LODAD fic on AO3.

BASIC STATISTICS
GENDER: Male
HAIR/EYES: Black hair, blue eyes
HOMELAND: City of Porthaven (Outer Ring)
DEITY: The Heir of Breath
LANGUAGES: Common, High Elven
RACE: Tuatha (High Elf)

ATTRIBUTES
STRENGTH: 15[+2]
DEXTERITY: 12[+1]
CONSTITUTION: 12[+1]
INTELLIGENCE: 10[+0]
WISDOM: 12[+1]
CHARISMA: 13[+1]

HIT POINTS: 11/11
HERO POINTS: 2/5
INITIATIVE: +1
BASE SPEED/S: 30ft (land)

ARMOUR CLASS [AC]: 14
TOUCH AC: 11
FLAT-FOOTED AC: 13

BASE ATTACK BONUS [BAB]: +1
BASIC MELEE ATTACK: +3
BASIC RANGED ATTACK: +2
COMBAT MANEUVER BONUS [CMB]: +3
COMBAT MANEUVER DEFENCE [CMD]: 14

SAVES
FORTITUDE: +4
REFLEX: +2
WILL: +2

WEAPONS/ATTACKS
WARHAMMER - Wielded two-handed for greater damage, and with the option of Power Attack for greater damage with lower accuracy.
DAGGER - Can be thrown, range 10ft.

EQUIPMENT - CARRYING CAPACITY (STR 16)

EQUIPMENT - ITEM SLOTS
CLOTHING: ARTISAN'S OUTFIT
This outfit consists of a shirt with buttons, drawstring pants, shoes, and a slightly battered hat. It also includes a belt for carrying small items such as a money pouch.

ARMOUR: PORTHAVEN PARADE ARMOUR
+3 armour bonus, +5 max DEX bonus, -1 Armour Check Penalty, 15% Arcane Spell Failure Chance, LIGHT
SPECIAL: A character wearing a country's parade armour gains a +2 Circumstance bonus to Diplomacy and Intimidate checks to influence a person from that country.

EQUIPMENT - POSSESSIONS
Warhammer 5lbs, Parade Armour 20lbs, Dagger 1lb, Waterskin 4lbs

>BACKPACK, MASTERWORK 4lbs (Capacity 60lbs, +1 STR to carry loads)
Tent (Medium, 2 people) 30lbs, Bedroll 5lbs

>POUCH, BELT 0.5lbs (Capacity 10lbs)
Flint and Steel

TOTAL 69.5lbs (30.5lbs without backpack)

EQUIPMENT - MONEY
0CP, 9SP, 62GP, 0PP
OTHER:

SKILLS
TRAINED
BLUFF +2(1), +KNOWLEDGE(DUNGEONEERING) +4(1), +PROFESSION(PORTHAVEN GUARD) +5(1)

UNTRAINED
ACROBATICS +1*, APPRAISE +0, +CLIMB +2*, +CRAFT +0, DIPLOMACY +1, DISGUISE +1, ESCAPE ARTIST +1*, HEAL +1, +INTIMIDATE +1, PERCEPTION +3, PERFORM +1, +RIDE +1*, SENSE MOTIVE +1, STEALTH +1*, +SURVIVAL +1, +SWIM +2*
(FLY +1*)

*Armour Check Penalty: Skill at –1 due to armour worn.
+Class Skill

FEATS
POWER ATTACK [REQUIRES: STR 13, BAB+1]
The character can make exceptionally deadly melee attacks by sacrificing accuracy for strength.

RACIAL ABILITIES: ELVEN
LANGUAGES - Tuatha begin play speaking Common and High Elven. Tuatha with high Intelligence scores can choose from the following: Celestial, Draconic, Gnoll, Gnome, Goblin, Orc, and Sylvan.

SPECIAL ABILITIES
GODMARKED
LEVEL 1:
HERO’S FORTUNE - Even at the start of his career, it was clear that the character had a chance at greatness, and his legend continues to grow with every adventure.
DEFLECTION AURA [SUPERNATURAL ABILITY] (1 USE/DAY) - The character can emit an aura that makes nearby allies harder to hit for a short time dependent on his character level.
EXTRA - The character receives a +1 resistance bonus on saving throws. This bonus increases by +1 for every 5 levels he possesses.

CLASS FEATURES
WEAPON AND ARMOUR PROFICIENCY: FIGHTER
A fighter is proficient with all simple and martial weapons and with all armour (heavy, light, and medium) and shields (including tower shields).

FEAT: CLEAVE [REQUIRES: POWER ATTACK]
The fighter can strike two adjacent foes with a single swing.

* * *

ROSE LALONDE ORACLE - DARK TAPESTRY (SEER) 1
TRUE NEUTRAL

TL:DR - A divinely powered spellcaster who can heal injuries, inflict damage, and see a little of the future.

Rose LVL1, For attachment to LODAD fic on AO3.

BASIC STATISTICS
GENDER: Female
HAIR/EYES: Blonde hair, purple eyes
HOMELAND: City of Porthaven (Temple District)
DEITY: The Seer of Light
LANGUAGES: Common, Celestial, Abyssal, Draconic, Sylvan
RACE: Aasimar

ATTRIBUTES
STRENGTH: 8[-1]
DEXTERITY: 12[+1]
CONSTITUTION: 10[+0]
INTELLIGENCE: 14[+2]
WISDOM: 15[+2]
CHARISMA: 17[+3]

HIT POINTS: 8/8
HERO POINTS: 2/5
INITIATIVE: +1
BASE SPEED/S: 30ft (land)

ARMOUR CLASS [AC]: 13
TOUCH AC: 11
FLAT-FOOTED AC: 12

BASE ATTACK BONUS [BAB]: +0
BASIC MELEE ATTACK: -1
BASIC RANGED ATTACK: +1
COMBAT MANEUVER BONUS [CMB]: -1
COMBAT MANEUVER DEFENCE [CMD]: 10

SAVES
FORTITUDE: +0
REFLEX: +1
WILL: +4

WEAPONS/ATTACKS
DAGGER - Can be thrown, range 10ft.

EQUIPMENT - CARRYING CAPACITY (STR 8)

EQUIPMENT - ITEM SLOTS
CLOTHING: SCHOLAR'S OUTFIT
Perfect for a scholar, this outfit includes a robe, a belt, a cap, soft shoes and a cloak.

ARMOUR: LEATHER ARMOUR
+2 armour bonus, +6 max DEX bonus, -0 Armour Check Penalty, 10% Arcane Spell Failure Chance, LIGHT

EQUIPMENT - POSSESSIONS
Dagger 1lb, Leather Armour 15lbs, Waterskin 4lbs, Holy Symbol (Silver) 1lb, Signet Ring

>POUCH, BELT 0.5lbs (Capacity 10lbs)
Flint and Steel, Sewing Needle, String/Twine [50ft] 0.5lbs

>POUCH, BELT 0.5lbs (Capacity 10lbs)
Stationary, Sealing Wax 1lb, Ink (Black) [1oz. Vial], Ink (Purple) [1oz. Vial], Inkpen

TOTAL 23.5lbs

EQUIPMENT - MONEY
9CP, 3SP, 32GP, 0PP
OTHER:

SKILLS
TRAINED
+DIPLOMACY +9(1), +KNOWLEDGE HISTORY +6(1), +KNOWLEDGE NOBILITY +6(1), +KNOWLEDGE PLANES +6(1), +KNOWLEDGE RELIGION +6(1), +SENSE MOTIVE +6(1), +SPELLCRAFT +6(1)

UNTRAINED
ACROBATICS +1*, APPRAISE +2, BLUFF +3, CLIMB -1*, +CRAFT +2, +DISGUISE +3, ESCAPE ARTIST +1*, +HEAL +2, +INTIMIDATE +3, PERCEPTION +4, PERFORM +3, RIDE +1*, +STEALTH +1*, SURVIVAL +2, SWIM -1*
(FLY +1*)

*Armour Check Penalty: Skill at –0 due to armour worn.
+Class Skill

FEATS
COMBAT CASTING
The character is adept at spellcasting when threatened or distracted.

RACIAL ABILITIES: AASIMAR
AASIMARS DO NOT COUNT AS OUTSIDERS FOR THE PURPOSE OF THIS SETTING.
DAYLIGHT [SPELL-LIKE ABILITY] (1 USE/DAY) – Aasimars can touch an object and cause it to shed a brilliant light which drives back even magical darkness.
LANGUAGES – Aasimars begin play speaking Common and Celestial. Aasimars with high Intelligence scores can choose any of the following bonus languages: Draconic, Dwarven, High Elven, Gnome, Halfling, and Sylvan.

SPECIAL ABILITIES
GODMARKED
LEVEL 1:
HERO’S FORTUNE - Even at the start of her career, it was clear that the character had a chance at greatness, and her legend continues to grow with every adventure.
LORE KEEPER [SPELL-LIKE ABILITY] – The character can touch a creature to learn about its abilities and weaknesses.
EXTRA – The character treats all Knowledge skills as class skills.

CLASS FEATURES
WEAPON AND ARMOUR PROFICIENCY: ORACLE
Oracles are proficient with all simple weapons, light armour, medium armour, and shields (except tower shields).

CURSE: TONGUES (Abyssal)
Whenever the oracle is in combat, she can only speak and understand the Abyssal tongue. She automatically knows the language and can speak it at other times voluntarily.

REVELATION: NATURAL DIVINATION [EXTRAORDINARY ABILITY] (1 USE/DAY)
An oracle can read the entrails of a freshly killed animal, interpret the flights of birds, and chart marks in dirt or stone to gain small advantages at some point in the next day.

SPELLS
LEVEL 0 [At Will] Save DC 13
DETECT MAGIC, GUIDANCE, LIGHT, READ MAGIC, STABILIZE

LEVEL 1 [4/Day] Save DC 14
ABADAR'S TRUTHTELLING, CURE LIGHT WOUNDS, INFLICT LIGHT WOUNDS

* * *

DAVE STRIDER ROGUE (SWASHBUCKLER) 1
TRUE NEUTRAL

TL:DR - A cunning fighter with unexpected tricks up his sleeve and very fast fingers.

Dave LVL1, For attachment to LODAD fic on AO3.

BASIC STATISTICS
GENDER: Male
HAIR/EYES: Blonde hair, red eyes
HOMELAND: City of Porthaven (No Fixed Abode)/The Greenweald Forest Region (No Fixed Abode)
DEITY: The Knight of Time
LANGUAGES: Common, Celestial, High Elven
RACE: Aasimar

ATTRIBUTES
STRENGTH: 14[+2]
DEXTERITY: 15[+2]
CONSTITUTION: 13[+1]
INTELLIGENCE: 12[+1]
WISDOM: 12[+1]
CHARISMA: 10[+0]

HIT POINTS: 9/9
HERO POINTS: 1/3
INITIATIVE: +2
BASE SPEED/S: 30ft (land)

ARMOUR CLASS [AC]: 15
TOUCH AC: 12
FLAT-FOOTED AC: 13

BASE ATTACK BONUS [BAB]: +0
BASIC MELEE ATTACK: +2
BASIC RANGED ATTACK: +2
COMBAT MANEUVER BONUS [CMB]: +2
COMBAT MANEUVER DEFENCE [CMD]: 14

SAVES
FORTITUDE: +1
REFLEX: +4
WILL: +1

WEAPONS/ATTACKS
LONGSWORD - Fragile Quality, can use two-handed for additional damage but cannot use buckler.
SHORTSWORD
DAGGER - Can be thrown, range 10ft.

EQUIPMENT - CARRYING CAPACITY (STR 15)

EQUIPMENT - ITEM SLOTS
CLOTHING: PICKPOCKET'S OUTFIT + MASK
Outfitted with concealed pockets, this clothing gives the character a +2 bonus on hiding small objects on his person. It consists of a pull-on shirt with long sleeves, a loose jacket, drawstring pants, boots and a sturdy belt. The mask is an ornately decorated strip of dark fabric with eye-holes, that both mimics and mocks a stereotypical "bandit" mask.

ARMOUR: LEATHER ARMOUR
+2 armour bonus, +6 max DEX bonus, -0 Armour Check Penalty, 10% Arcane Spell Failure Chance, LIGHT

SHIELD: BUCKLER
+1 shield bonus, -1 Armour Check Penalty, 5% Arcane Spell Failure Chance
SPECIAL: The character can use his shield arm to wield a weapon, but takes a -1 penalty on attack rolls while doing so, and loses the +1 shield bonus to AC until his next turn. It is not possible to shield bash with a buckler.

EQUIPMENT - POSSESSIONS
Longsword (Fragile) 4lbs, Shortsword 2lbs, Leather Armour 15lbs, Clothing (Mask, 3gp) 1lb, Buckler 5lbs, Dagger 1lb, Waterskin 4lbs, Tools (Thieves') [Hidden on person, DC18 to find] 1lb

>BACKPACK, MASTERWORK 4lbs (Capacity 60lbs, +1 STR to carry loads)
Tent (Small, 1 person) 20lbs, Bedroll 5lbs, Kit, Cooking 2lbs

>POUCH, BELT 0.5lbs (Capacity 10lbs)
Flint and Steel, Whetstone 1lb

TOTAL 63.5lbs (32.5lbs without backpack)

EQUIPMENT - MONEY
8CP, 8SP, 4GP, 0PP
OTHER:

SKILLS
TRAINED
+ACROBATICS +6(1)*, +APPRAISE +5(1), +BLUFF +7(1), +ESCAPE ARTIST +6(1)*, +INTIMIDATE +4(1), +KNOWLEDGE LOCAL +5(1), +PERCEPTION +7(1), +PERFORM(ILL BEATS AND SICK FIRES) +4(1), +SLEIGHT OF HAND +6(1)*, +STEALTH +6(1)*

UNTRAINED
+CLIMB +2*, +CRAFT +1, +DIPLOMACY +2, +DISGUISE +0, HEAL +1, PERFORM +0, RIDE +2*, +SENSE MOTIVE +1, SURVIVAL +1, +SWIM +2*
(FLY +2*)

*Armour Check Penalty: Skill at –1 due to armour worn.
+Class Skill

FEATS
SKILL FOCUS (BLUFF)
The character is particularly adept at the chosen skill.

RACIAL ABILITIES: AASIMAR
AASIMARS DO NOT COUNT AS OUTSIDERS FOR THE PURPOSE OF THIS SETTING.
DAYLIGHT [SPELL-LIKE ABILITY] (1 USE/DAY) – Aasimars can touch an object and cause it to shed a brilliant light which drives back even magical darkness.
LANGUAGES – Aasimars begin play speaking Common and Celestial. Aasimars with high Intelligence scores can choose any of the following bonus languages: Draconic, Dwarven, High Elven, Gnome, Halfling, and Sylvan.

SPECIAL ABILITIES
GODMARKED
LEVEL 1:
WEAPON PROFICIENCY (BASTARD SWORD)
INSPIRING COMMAND [SUPERNATURAL ABILITY] – The character can issue an inspiring command to his allies, improving their accuracy, defence, and focus for a short time.

CLASS FEATURES
WEAPON AND ARMOUR PROFICIENCY: ROGUE
Rogues are proficient with all simple weapons, plus the hand crossbow, rapier, sap, shortbow, and short sword. They are proficient with light armour, but not with shields.

MARTIAL TRAINING [EXTRAORDINARY ABILITY] (Longsword)
At first level, the swashbuckler may select one martial weapon to add to his list of weapon proficiencies. In addition, he may take the combat trick rogue talent up to two times.

SNEAK ATTACK [EXTRAORDINARY ABILITY] (+1d6 Precision Damage)
A rogue can strike a vital spot for more damage whenever their foe is in a vulnerable position.

* * *

JADE HARLEY DRUID (WOLF SHAMAN) 1
NEUTRAL GOOD

TL:DR - A magically empowered guardian of nature with a wolf companion.

Jade LVL1, For attachment to LODAD fic on AO3.

BASIC STATISTICS
GENDER: Female
HAIR/EYES: Black hair, green eyes
HOMELAND: The Greenweald Forest Region (The Whispering Grove)
DEITY: The Witch of Space
LANGUAGES: Common, High Elven, Sylvan, Druidic
RACE: Tuatha (High Elf)

ATTRIBUTES
STRENGTH: 8[-1]
DEXTERITY: 15[+2]
CONSTITUTION: 12[+1]
INTELLIGENCE: 12[+1]
WISDOM: 15[+2]
CHARISMA: 12[+1]

HIT POINTS: 9/9
HERO POINTS: 1/3
INITIATIVE: +2
BASE SPEED/S: 30ft (land)

ARMOUR CLASS [AC]: 13
TOUCH AC: 12
FLAT-FOOTED AC: 11

BASE ATTACK BONUS [BAB]: +0
BASIC MELEE ATTACK: -1
BASIC RANGED ATTACK: +2
COMBAT MANEUVER BONUS [CMB]: -1
COMBAT MANEUVER DEFENCE [CMD]: 11

SAVES
FORTITUDE: +3
REFLEX: +2
WILL: +4

WEAPONS/ATTACKS
SLING – Less damage from improvised ammunition.
DAGGER - Can be thrown, range 10ft.

EQUIPMENT - CARRYING CAPACITY (STR 8)

EQUIPMENT - ITEM SLOTS
CLOTHING: TRAVELLER'S OUTFIT
This set of clothes consists of boots, a wool skirt, a sturdy belt, a shirt with a vest, and an ample cloak with a hood.

ARMOUR: PADDED ARMOUR
+1 armour bonus, +8 max DEX bonus, -0 Armour Check Penalty, 5% Arcane Spell Failure Chance, LIGHT

EQUIPMENT - POSSESSIONS
Sling, Padded Armour 10lbs, Dagger 1lb, Waterskin 4lbs

>POUCH, BELT 0.5lbs (Capacity 10lbs)
Sling Bullets [x20] 10lbs

>POUCH, BELT 0.5lbs (Capacity 10lbs)
Flint and Steel, Holly and Mistletoe, Fishhook, Silent Whistle

>BACKPACK, COMMON 2lbs (Capacity 60lbs)
Tent (Small, 1 person) 20lbs, Bedroll 5lbs

TOTAL 53lbs (26lbs without backpack)

EQUIPMENT - MONEY
0CP, 7SP, 40GP, 0PP
OTHER:

SKILLS
TRAINED
+HEAL +8(1), +KNOWLEDGE(GEOGRAPHY) +5(1), +KNOWLEDGE(NATURE) +7(1), +PERCEPTION +8(1), +SPELLCRAFT +5(1), +SURVIVAL +10(1)

UNTRAINED
ACROBATICS +2*, APPRAISE +1, BLUFF +1, +CLIMB -1*, +CRAFT +1, DIPLOMACY +1, DISGUISE +1, ESCAPE ARTIST +2*, INTIMIDATE +1, PERFORM +1, +RIDE +2*, SENSE MOTIVE +2, STEALTH +2*, SWIM -1*
(+FLY +2*)

*Armour Check Penalty: Skill at –0 due to armour worn.
+Class Skill

FEATS
SELF-SUFFICIENT
The character knows how to get along in the wild and how to effectively treat wounds.

RACIAL ABILITIES: ELVEN
LANGUAGES - Tuatha begin play speaking Common and High Elven. Tuatha with high Intelligence scores can choose from the following: Celestial, Draconic, Gnoll, Gnome, Goblin, Orc, and Sylvan.

SPECIAL ABILITIES
GODMARKED
LEVEL 1:
WEAPON PROFICIENCY (MUSKET)
DIVINE VESSEL [SUPERNATURAL ABILITY] (4 USES/DAY) – The character can, whenever divine magic is cast on her, grant her nearby allies a boon on one of their next actions.

CLASS FEATURES
WEAPON AND ARMOUR PROFICIENCY: DRUID
Druids are proficient with the following weapons: club, dagger, dart, quarterstaff, scimitar, scythe, sickle, shortspear, sling, and spear. They are also proficient with all natural attacks (claw, bite, and so forth) of any form they assume with wild shape.
Druids are proficient with light and medium armour but are prohibited from wearing metal armour. Druids are proficient with shields (except tower shields) but must use only wooden ones. A druid who wears prohibited armour or uses a prohibited shield is unable to cast druid spells or use any supernatural or spell-like class abilities while doing so, and for 24 hours thereafter.

SPONTANEOUS CASTING
A druid can channel stored spell energy to summon a creature to aid her.

NATURE BOND [EXTRAORDINARY ABILITY]: ANIMAL COMPANION (BEC, WOLF)
HIT POINTS: 11/11
SIZE: Medium SPEED: 50ft
STR 13[+1], DEX 15[+2], CON 15[+2], INT 2[-4], WIS 12[+1], CHA 6[-2]
ATTACK:
BAB: +1 ATTACK: BITE +2 (1d6+1), trip
CMB: +2
DEFENCE:
AC: 15 (Natural Armour +3)
CMD: 14
SAVES: FORT 5, REF 5, WILL 1
SKILLS:
Survival 2, Perception 5
FEATS:
Improved Natural Armour
TRICKS:
Down – The animal breaks off from combat or otherwise backs down.
SPECIAL ABILITIES:
Low-Light Vision, Scent, Link, Share Spells

NATURE SENSE [EXTRAORDINARY ABILITY]
A druid is more knowledgeable about nature and better able to survive in the wilderness.

WILD EMPATHY [EXTRAORDINARY ABILITY]
A druid can communicate wordlessly with an animal, in the hope of making it more friendly towards the druid and her allies. A wolf shaman is particularly good at communicating with canines.

SPELLS
DRUID LEVEL 0 [3 Prepared, At Will] Save DC 12
+KNOW DIRECTION – You discern north.
+MENDING – Makes minor repairs on an object.
+SPARK – Ignites flammable objects.

DRUID LEVEL 1 [2/Day Prepared] Save DC 13
+ANT HAUL – Triples carrying capacity of a creature (2 hours/level).
+GOODBERRY – 2d4 berries each cure 1hp (max 8hp/24 hours).

* * *

KARKAT VANTAS FIGHTER (MOBILE FIGHTER) 1
TRUE NEUTRAL

TL:DR - A warrior who specialises in multiple fast strikes in the thick of melee.

Karkat LVL1, For attachment to LODAD fic on AO3.

BASIC STATISTICS
GENDER: Male
HAIR/EYES: White hair, red eyes
HOMELAND: City of Golgesi (The Shanties)
DEITY: The Knight of Blood
LANGUAGES: Undercommon, High Elven, Drow Sign Language
RACE: Drow (Dark Elf)

ATTRIBUTES
STRENGTH: 14[+2]
DEXTERITY: 17[+3]
CONSTITUTION: 11[+0]
INTELLIGENCE: 12[+1]
WISDOM: 8[-1]
CHARISMA: 12[+1]

HIT POINTS: 10/10
HERO POINTS: 2/5
INITIATIVE: +3
BASE SPEED/S: 30ft (land)

ARMOUR CLASS [AC]: 17
TOUCH AC: 13
FLAT-FOOTED AC: 14

BASE ATTACK BONUS [BAB]: +1
BASIC MELEE ATTACK: +3
BASIC RANGED ATTACK: +4
COMBAT MANEUVER BONUS [CMB]: +3
COMBAT MANEUVER DEFENCE [CMD]: 16

SAVES
FORTITUDE: +2
REFLEX: +3
WILL: -1

WEAPONS/ATTACKS
DUAL SICKLES – Two attacks a round at a reduced attack bonus, or one attack a round at normal attack bonus. This is a trip weapon.
DAGGER - Can be thrown, range 10ft.

EQUIPMENT - CARRYING CAPACITY (STR 14)

EQUIPMENT - ITEM SLOTS
CLOTHING: PEASANT'S OUTFIT
This set of clothes consists of a loose shirt and baggy breeches. Cloth wrappings are used to hold the shoes together.

ARMOUR: ARMOURED COAT
+4 armour bonus, +3 max DEX bonus, -2 Armour Check Penalty, 20% Arcane Spell Failure Chance, MEDIUM
SPECIAL: Can be donned or removed as a move action (there is no "don hastily" option for an armoured coat). If worn over other armour, use the better AC bonus and worse value in all other categories; an armoured coat has no effect if worn with heavy armour. The only magic effects that apply are those worn on top.

EQUIPMENT - POSSESSIONS
Sickle [x2] 4lbs, Armoured Coat 20lbs, Dagger 1lb, Waterskin 4lbs

>BACKPACK, COMMON 2lbs (Capacity 60lbs)
Tattered Journal 3lbs, Blanket (Common) 1lb, Rations (Trail) [x18] 18lb, Pesh Dose [x1]

>POUCH, BELT 0.5lbs (Capacity 10lbs)
Flint and Steel, Charcoal Stick [x2], Whetstone 1lb, Compass 0.5lbs, Map [+1 circumstance bonus on Knowledge Dungeoneering checks made to navigate to the surface from Golgesi] 2lbs

TOTAL 58lbs

EQUIPMENT - MONEY
8CP, 6SP, 10GP, 0PP
OTHER:

SKILLS
TRAINED
ACROBATICS +4(1)*, +CLIMB +6(1)*, KNOWLEDGE(LOCAL) +1(1), SENSE MOTIVE +0(1)

UNTRAINED
APPRAISE +0, BLUFF +1, +CRAFT +0, DIPLOMACY +1, DISGUISE +1, ESCAPE ARTIST +3*, HEAL -1, +INTIMIDATE +1, PERCEPTION +1, PERFORM +1, +RIDE +3*, STEALTH +3*, +SURVIVAL -1, +SWIM +2*
(FLY +3*)

*Armour Check Penalty: Skill at –2 due to armour worn.
+Class Skill

FEATS
COMBAT REFLEXES
The character can make additional attacks of opportunity.

RACIAL ABILITIES: DROW
DANCING LIGHTS [SPELL-LIKE ABILITY] (1 USE/DAY) – Drow can create up to four illusory lights and direct their motion.
DARKNESS [SPELL-LIKE ABILITY] (1 USE/DAY) – Drow can touch an object and cause it to radiate a deep darkness that dims even magical light.
FAERIE FIRE [SPELL-LIKE ABILITY] (1 USE/DAY) – Drow can cause a person to glow with a pale fire that clings to them even if they are not otherwise visible.
LANGUAGES - Drow begin play speaking Undercommon and High Elven. Drow with high Intelligence can choose bonus languages from the following: Common, Dark Folk, Draconic, Drow Sign Language, Dwarven, Gnome, Goblin or Infernal.

SPECIAL ABILITIES
GODMARKED
LEVEL 1:
HERO’S FORTUNE - Even at the start of his career, it was clear that the character had a chance at greatness, and his legend continues to grow with every adventure.
INSPIRING COMMAND [SUPERNATURAL ABILITY] – The character can issue an inspiring command to his allies, improving their accuracy, defence, and focus for a short time.

CLASS FEATURES
WEAPON AND ARMOUR PROFICIENCY: FIGHTER
A fighter is proficient with all simple and martial weapons and with all armour (heavy, light, and medium) and shields (including tower shields).

FEAT: TWO-WEAPON FIGHTING [REQUIRES: DEX 15]
The fighter can fight with a weapon wielded in each of his hands. He can make one extra attack each round with the secondary weapon.

* * *

GAMZEE MAKARA BARBARIAN 1
CHAOTIC NEUTRAL

TL:DR - A front-line fighter who can pick up anything and kill you with it. Angrily.

Gamzee LVL1, For attachment to LODAD fic on AO3.

BASIC STATISTICS
GENDER: Male
HAIR/EYES: White hair, purple eyes
HOMELAND: City of Golgesi (House Kutsanmis Enclave)
DEITY: The Bard of Rage
LANGUAGES: Undercommon, High Elven
RACE: Drow (Dark Elf)

ATTRIBUTES
STRENGTH: 14[+2] (18[+4])
WITHDRAWAL: 12(16): -1 to all STR
DEXTERITY: 15[+2]
PESH HIGH: 11: -2 to all DEX
CONSTITUTION: 13[+1] (17[+3])
WITHDRAWAL: 11(15): -1 to all CON
INTELLIGENCE: 8[-1]
WISDOM: 12[+1]
PESH HIGH: 8: -2 to all WIS
CHARISMA: 12[+1]

HIT POINTS: 14(16)/14(16) [+15 PESH HIGH- FIRST HOUR ONLY]
HERO POINTS: 1/3
INITIATIVE: +2
BASE SPEED/S: 40ft (land)

ARMOUR CLASS [AC]: 15(13)
TOUCH AC: 12(10)
FLAT-FOOTED AC: 13(11)

BASE ATTACK BONUS [BAB]: +1
BASIC MELEE ATTACK: +3(5)
BASIC RANGED ATTACK: +3
COMBAT MANEUVER BONUS [CMB]: +3(5)
COMBAT MANEUVER DEFENCE [CMD]: 15(17)

SAVES
FORTITUDE: +3(5) CURRENT PESH ADDICTION DC: 20
REFLEX: +2
WILL: +3(5) PESH HIGH: +2 morale bonus versus fear effects.

WEAPONS/ATTACKS
IMPROVISED WEAPONS – Attack as per basic ranged or melee attack, and damage as per closest match on the weapon list. There is a +1 circumstance bonus to attack rolls for improvised splash weapons.
CROSSBOW, LIGHT – 10 ammunition

EQUIPMENT - CARRYING CAPACITY (STR 14/18)

EQUIPMENT - ITEM SLOTS
CLOTHING: MONK'S OUTFIT
This simple outfit includes sandals, loose breeches, and a loose shirt, and is bound together with sashes. The outfit is designed to give the character maximum mobility, and it's made of high-quality fabric. He can conceal small weapons in pockets hidden in the folds, and the sashes are strong enough to serve as short ropes.

ARMOUR: HOUSE KUTSANMIS PARADE ARMOUR
+3 armour bonus, +5 max DEX bonus, -1 Armour Check Penalty, 15% Arcane Spell Failure Chance, LIGHT
SPECIAL: A character wearing a country's parade armour gains a +2 Circumstance bonus to Diplomacy and Intimidate checks to influence a person from that country.

EQUIPMENT - POSSESSIONS
Crossbow (Light) 4lbs, Bolts (Crossbow) [x10] 1lb, Parade Armour 20lbs

>BACKPACK, COMMON 2lbs (Capacity 60lbs)
Blanket, Common 1lb, Pesh Dose [x2]

TOTAL 28lbs

EQUIPMENT - MONEY
0CP, 8SP, 1GP, 0PP
OTHER:
[PESH COSTS 20GP/DOSE]

SKILLS
TRAINED
+CRAFT(COOKING) +3(1), +INTIMIDATE +5(1), PERFORM(CHILL RHYMES) +2(1)

UNTRAINED
+ACROBATICS +2*, APPRAISE -1, BLUFF +1, +CLIMB +2*, +CRAFT +0, DIPLOMACY +1, DISGUISE +1, ESCAPE ARTIST +2*, HEAL +1, +PERCEPTION +1, PERFORM +1, +RIDE +2*, SENSE MOTIVE +1, STEALTH +2*, +SURVIVAL +1, +SWIM +2*
(FLY +2*)

*Armour Check Penalty: Skill at –1 due to armour worn
+Class Skill

FEATS
THROW ANYTHING
The character is used to throwing things he has on hand.

RACIAL ABILITIES: DROW
DANCING LIGHTS [SPELL-LIKE ABILITY] (1 USE/DAY) – Drow can create up to four illusory lights and direct their motion.
DARKNESS [SPELL-LIKE ABILITY] (1 USE/DAY) – Drow can touch an object and cause it to radiate a deep darkness that dims even magical light.
FAERIE FIRE [SPELL-LIKE ABILITY] (1 USE/DAY) – Drow can cause a person to glow with a pale fire that clings to them even if they are not otherwise visible.
LANGUAGES - Drow begin play speaking Undercommon and High Elven. Drow with high Intelligence can choose bonus languages from the following: Common, Dark Folk, Draconic, Drow Sign Language, Dwarven, Gnome, Goblin or Infernal.

SPECIAL ABILITIES
PESH ADDICTIONADVENTURER'S ARMOURY VERSION
A Pesh high lasts for one day. For the first hour, the character is tougher, and for the full day he is braver, but he is also uncoordinated, unfocused, and mentally pliable. When the character comes down from this high, he suffers physical weakness and fragility. Curing the addiction without magical intervention is a long and difficult process, requiring good physical health and complete abstinence.

GODMARKED
LEVEL 1:
CATCH OFF-GUARD: Foes are surprised by the character’s skilled use of unorthodox and improvised weapons.
DESTRUCTIVE SMITE [SUPERNATURAL ABILITY] (4 USES/DAY)– The character can do more damage on a single melee attack, dependent on his character level.

CLASS FEATURES
WEAPON AND ARMOUR PROFICIENCY: BARBARIAN
A barbarian is proficient with all simple and martial weapons, light armour, medium armour and shields (except tower shields).

FAST MOVEMENT [EXTRAORDINARY ABILITY]
A barbarian can move faster than other members of his race, so long as he is not heavily burdened.

RAGE [EXTRAORDINARY ABILITY] (5 ROUNDS/DAY)
A barbarian can call on inner reserves of strength and ferocity, granting him additional combat prowess for a while but exhausting him when spent.

* * *

TEREZI PYROPE INQUISITOR 1
LAWFUL NEUTRAL

TL:DR - A middling warrior with some magical talent who gets many, many bonuses in the pursuit of justice.

Terezi LVL1, For attachment to LODAD fic on AO3.

BASIC STATISTICS
GENDER: Female
HAIR/EYES: White hair, teal eyes
HOMELAND: City of Golgesi (Temple Spire)
DEITY: The Seer of Mind
LANGUAGES: Undercommon, High Elven, Infernal
RACE: Drow (Dark Elf)

ATTRIBUTES
STRENGTH: 10[+0]
DEXTERITY: 15[+2]
CONSTITUTION: 12[+1]
INTELLIGENCE: 12[+1]
WISDOM: 15[+2]
CHARISMA: 10[+0]

HIT POINTS: 9/9
HERO POINTS: 2/5
INITIATIVE: +2
BASE SPEED/S: 30ft (land)

ARMOUR CLASS [AC]: 15
TOUCH AC: 12
FLAT-FOOTED AC: 13

BASE ATTACK BONUS [BAB]: +0
BASIC MELEE ATTACK: +0
BASIC RANGED ATTACK: +2
COMBAT MANEUVER BONUS [CMB]: +0
COMBAT MANEUVER DEFENCE [CMD]: 12

SAVES
FORTITUDE: +3
REFLEX: +2
WILL: +4

WEAPONS/ATTACKS
SWORD CANE - The blade is well-concealed in the cane.
CROSSBOW, LIGHT – 20 ammunition
DAGGER - Can be thrown, range 10ft.

EQUIPMENT - CARRYING CAPACITY (STR 10)

EQUIPMENT - ITEM SLOTS
CLOTHING: EXPLORER'S OUTFIT
This set of clothes is for someone who never knows what to expect. It includes sturdy boots, leather breeches, a belt, a shirt, gloves and a cloak. The clothes have plenty of pockets (especially the cloak). The outfit also includes any extra accessories the character might need, such as a scarf or a wide-brimmed hat.

ARMOUR: GOLGESI LAWKEEPER PARADE ARMOUR
+3 armour bonus, +5 max DEX bonus, -1 Armour Check Penalty, 15% Arcane Spell Failure Chance, LIGHT
SPECIAL: A character wearing a country's parade armour gains a +2 Circumstance bonus to Diplomacy and Intimidate checks to influence a person from that country.

EQUIPMENT - POSSESSIONS
Sword Cane 4lbs, Crossbow (Light) 4lbs, Bolts (Crossbow) [x20] 2lb, Parade Armour 20lbs, Rope (Hemp) [50ft] 10lbs, Eyeglasses, Holy Symbol (Copper) 0.5lb, Dagger 1lb

>POUCH, BELT 0.5lbs (Capacity 10lbs)
Flint and Steel, Whetstone 1lb, Manacles 2lbs

TOTAL 43.5lbs

EQUIPMENT - MONEY
8CP, 9SP, 3GP, 0PP
OTHER:

SKILLS
TRAINED
+BLUFF +4(1), +INTIMIDATE +5(1), +KNOWLEDGE DUNGEONEERING +5(1), +KNOWLEDGE LOCAL +5(1), +KNOWLEDGE RELIGION +5(1), +PERCEPTION +6(1), +PROFESSION(GOLGESI LAWKEEPER) +6(1), +SENSE MOTIVE +7(1)

UNTRAINED
ACROBATICS +2*, APPRAISE +1, +CLIMB +0*, +CRAFT +1, +DIPLOMACY +0, +DISGUISE +0, ESCAPE ARTIST +2*, +HEAL +2, PERFORM +0, +RIDE +2*, STEALTH +2*, SURVIVAL +2, SWIM +0*
(FLY +2*)

*Armour Check Penalty: Skill at –1 due to armour worn.
+Class Skill

FEATS
BLIND-FIGHT
The character is skilled at attacking opponents that she cannot clearly perceive.

RACIAL ABILITIES: DROW
DANCING LIGHTS [SPELL-LIKE ABILITY] (1 USE/DAY) – Drow can create up to four illusory lights and direct their motion.
DARKNESS [SPELL-LIKE ABILITY] (1 USE/DAY) – Drow can touch an object and cause it to radiate a deep darkness that dims even magical light.
FAERIE FIRE [SPELL-LIKE ABILITY] (1 USE/DAY) – Drow can cause a person to glow with a pale fire that clings to them even if they are not otherwise visible.
LANGUAGES - Drow begin play speaking Undercommon and High Elven. Drow with high Intelligence can choose bonus languages from the following: Common, Dark Folk, Draconic, Drow Sign Language, Dwarven, Gnome, Goblin or Infernal.

SPECIAL ABILITIES
GODMARKED
LEVEL 1:
HERO’S FORTUNE - Even at the start of her career, it was clear that the character had a chance at greatness, and her legend continues to grow with every adventure.
LORE KEEPER [SPELL-LIKE ABILITY] – The character can touch a creature to learn about its abilities and weaknesses.
EXTRA – The character treats all Knowledge skills as class skills.

CLASS FEATURES
WEAPON AND ARMOUR PROFICIENCY: INQUISITOR
An inquisitor is proficient with all simple weapons, plus the hand crossbow, longbow, repeating crossbow, shortbow, and the favoured weapon of her deity (THE SEER OF MIND favours the SWORD CANE). She is also proficient with light armour, medium armour, and shields (except tower shields).

DOMAIN: INQUISITION (Justice)
JUDICIOUS FORCE [SUPERNATURAL ABILITY] (2 USES/DAY)
The inquisitor or an ally next to her has a better chance of doing a massively damaging strike to their foe.

JUDGEMENT [SUPERNATURAL ABILITY] (1 USE/DAY)
The inquisitor can gain one of several abilities for a combat, so long as she is able to participate in the action. She can also switch which ability she is using partway through.

MONSTER LORE [EXTRAORDINARY ABILITY]
The inquisitor is skilled at identifying the abilities and weaknesses of creatures.

STERN GAZE [EXTRAORDINARY ABILITY]
Inquisitors are skilled at sensing deception and intimidating their foes.

SPELLS
LEVEL 0 [At Will] Save DC 12
BRAND, DETECT MAGIC, DETECT POISON, SIFT

LEVEL 1 [2/Day] Save DC 13
COMPREHEND LANGUAGES, DIVINE FAVOUR

* * *

SOLLUX CAPTOR SORCERER - ARCANE (SAGE)/DESTINED (KARMIC) (CROSSBLOODED WORDCASTER) 1
CHAOTIC NEUTRAL

TL:DR – FUTH RO DAH! Only with more fire.

Sollux LVL1, For attachment to LODAD fic on AO3.

BASIC STATISTICS
GENDER: Male
HAIR/EYES: White hair, one red and one blue eye
HOMELAND: The Greenweald Forest Region (No Fixed Abode)
DEITY: The Mage of Doom
LANGUAGES: Common, High Elven, Orc, Infernal, Undercommon
RACE: Halfbreed (Drow/Tiefling)

ATTRIBUTES
STRENGTH: 12[+1]
DEXTERITY: 14[+2]
CONSTITUTION: 13[+1]
INTELLIGENCE: 17[+3]
WISDOM: 8[-1]
CHARISMA: 10[+0]

HIT POINTS: 8/8
HERO POINTS: 1/3
INITIATIVE: +2
BASE SPEED/S: 30ft (land)

ARMOUR CLASS [AC]: 12
TOUCH AC: 12
FLAT-FOOTED AC: 10

BASE ATTACK BONUS [BAB]: +0
BASIC MELEE ATTACK: +1
BASIC RANGED ATTACK: +2
COMBAT MANEUVER BONUS [CMB]: +1
COMBAT MANEUVER DEFENCE [CMD]: 13

SAVES
FORTITUDE: +1
REFLEX: +2
WILL: +1

WEAPONS/ATTACKS
SHURIKEN - 5 Ammunition

EQUIPMENT - CARRYING CAPACITY (STR 12)

EQUIPMENT - ITEM SLOTS
CLOTHING: EXPLORER'S OUTFIT
This set of clothes is for someone who never knows what to expect. It includes sturdy boots, leather breeches, a belt, a shirt with a jacket, gloves and a cloak. The clothes have plenty of pockets (especially the cloak). The outfit also includes any extra accessories the character might need, such as a scarf or a wide-brimmed hat.

EQUIPMENT - POSSESSIONS
Shuriken [x5] 0.5lb, Eyeglasses

>BACKPACK, MASTERWORK 4lbs (Capacity 60lbs)
Tent (Medium, 2 people) 30lbs, Bedroll [x2] 10lbs

TOTAL 44.5lbs

EQUIPMENT - MONEY
0CP, 8SP, 3GP, 0PP
OTHER:

SKILLS
TRAINED
+KNOWLEDGE ARCANA +9(1), +KNOWLEDGE DUNGEONEERING +7(1), +KNOWLEDGE HISTORY +7(1), +SPELLCRAFT +9(1), +USE MAGIC DEVICE +5(1)

UNTRAINED
+ACROBATICS +2*, APPRAISE +3, +BLUFF -1, CLIMB +1*, +CRAFT +3, DIPLOMACY +0, DISGUISE +0, ESCAPE ARTIST +2*, HEAL -1, +INTIMIDATE +0, PERCEPTION -1, PERFORM +0, RIDE +2*, SENSE MOTIVE +0, STEALTH +0*, SURVIVAL -1, SWIM +1*
(+FLY +2*)

*Armour Check Penalty: Skill at –0 due to armour worn.
+Class Skill

FEATS
EXTRA WORD [CASTER LEVEL 1ST IN BARD, ORACLE OR SORCERER]
The character has uncovered a new word of power.

RACIAL ABILITIES: HALF-ELF (ALTERNATE RACIAL TRAITS)
ATTRIBUTE SHIFT - +2 Intelligence.
DROW-BLOODED – Replaces Low-Light Vision.
ELVEN IMMUNITIES.
MIXED BLOOD – The character counts as both Drow and Tiefling for any effect related to race. Replaces Elf Blood.
WARY – Replaces Keen Senses.
DUAL MINDED – Replaces Adaptability.
ARCANE TRAINING – Replaces Multitalented.
LANGUAGES – Halfbreeds begin play speaking Common and High Elven. Halfbreeds with high Intelligence scores can choose any language as a bonus language (except secret languages, such as Druidic).

SPECIAL ABILITIES
GODMARKED
LEVEL 1:
WEAPON PROFICIENCY (SHURIKEN)
ARCANE BEACON [SUPERNATURAL ABILITY] (3 USES/DAY) – The character can emanate an aura that makes spells cast near him more powerful and harder to resist.

CLASS FEATURES
WEAPON AND ARMOUR PROFICIENCY: SORCERER
Sorcerers are proficient with all simple weapons. They are not proficient with any type of armour or shield. Armour interferes with a sorcerer's gestures, which can cause his spells with somatic components to fail.

FEAT: ESCHEW MATERIALS
The character can cast many spells without needing to utilize minor material components.

BLOODLINE: CROSSBLOODED SAGE/KARMIC
CLASS SKILL: Knowledge (Any One: Dungeoneering) and Knowledge History.
BLOODLINE ARCANA: Unlike most sorcerers, the character understands and masters his magic through intellect rather than force of personality, and has a better understanding of arcane forces as a result. Additionally, if he fails to cast when under threat, the creature that disrupted his concentration is left vulnerable to attack.
DRAWBACK: A crossblooded sorcerer has one fewer spell known at each level, and is weaker willed.
BLOODLINE POWERS:
1. ARCANE BOLT [SPELL-LIKE ABILITY] (6 USES/DAY): The sorcerer can unleash a ray of magical force as an attack, increasing in power dependant on the sorcerer's class level.

SPELLS: WORDS OF POWER

LEVEL 0 [At Will] Save DC 13
One Effect Word Only (Level 0)

LEVEL 1 [4/Day] Save DC 14
One Effect Word Only (Level 1 or lower)

EFFECT WORDS
FLAME JET (Fire 0), LIFT (Gravity 0)
BURNING FLASH (Fire 1), GLIDE (Flight 1)

TARGET WORDS
CONE (Target 0), PERSONAL (Target 0), SELECTED (Target 0)
BURST (Target 1), LINE (Target 1)
BARRIER (Target 3)

META WORDS
(NOTE: META WORDS CAN ONLY BE USED ½ WORDCASTER LEVEL TIMES PER DAY)
BOOST (Meta 0), DISTANT (Meta 0)

* * *

ARADIA MEGIDO SORCERER - DREAMSPUN 1
TRUE NEUTRAL

TL:DR - An instinctive spellcaster with a gift for spells of sleep (which all elves are immune to, by the way) and distant force. Also very squishy.

Aradia LVL1, For attachment to LODAD fic on AO3.

BASIC STATISTICS
GENDER: Female
HAIR/EYES: Black hair, red eyes
HOMELAND: The Greenweald Forest Region (No Fixed Abode)
DEITY: The Maid of Time
LANGUAGES: Common, Infernal, Orc, High Elven
RACE: Tiefling

ATTRIBUTES
STRENGTH: 8[-1]
DEXTERITY: 12[+1]
CONSTITUTION: 12[+1]
INTELLIGENCE: 15[+2]
WISDOM: 14[+2]
CHARISMA: 13[+1] (15[+2])

HIT POINTS: 7/7
HERO POINTS: 1/3
INITIATIVE: +1
BASE SPEED/S: 30ft (land)

ARMOUR CLASS [AC]: 11
TOUCH AC: 11
FLAT-FOOTED AC: 10

BASE ATTACK BONUS [BAB]: +0
BASIC MELEE ATTACK: -1
BASIC RANGED ATTACK: +1
COMBAT MANEUVER BONUS [CMB]: -1
COMBAT MANEUVER DEFENCE [CMD]: 10

SAVES
FORTITUDE: +1
REFLEX: +1
WILL: +4

WEAPONS/ATTACKS
WHIP - This is a nonlethal, reach, disarm, trip weapon. A whip deals no damage to any creature with an armour bonus of +1 or higher, or a natural armour bonus of +3 or higher. Using a whip provokes an attack of opportunity, just as if the character had used a ranged weapon.

EQUIPMENT - CARRYING CAPACITY (STR 8)

EQUIPMENT - ITEM SLOTS
CLOTHING: EXPLORER'S OUTFIT
This set of clothes is for someone who never knows what to expect. It includes sturdy boots, leather skirt, a belt, a shirt with a vest, gloves and a cloak. The clothes have plenty of pockets (especially the cloak). The outfit also includes any extra accessories the character might need, such as a scarf or a wide-brimmed hat.

EQUIPMENT - POSSESSIONS
Whip 2lbs, Waterskin 4lbs

>POUCH, BELT 0.5lbs (Capacity 10lbs)
Rope (Silk) [50ft] 5lbs, String/Twine [50ft] 0.5lbs, Sewing Needle, Compass 0.5lbs, Kit (Map Making) [Anyone using this kit to draw a map as they travel receives a +2 circumstance bonus on Survival skill checks to avoid becoming lost] 2lbs

>POUCH, BELT 0.5lbs (Capacity 10lbs)
Kit (Cooking) 2lbs
Rations (Wandermeal) [x16] [Eating this tough, dried cake for over a week without other nutrients causes the eater to feel ill] 8lbs

TOTAL 25lbs

EQUIPMENT - MONEY
3CP, 3SP, 29GP, 0PP
OTHER:

SKILLS
TRAINED
+ACROBATICS +5(1)*, KNOWLEDGE DUNGEONEERING +3(1), KNOWLEDGE HISTORY +3(1), SURVIVAL +3(1), +USE MAGIC DEVICE +5(1)

UNTRAINED
APPRAISE +2, +BLUFF +1, CLIMB -1*, +CRAFT +2, DIPLOMACY +1, DISGUISE +1, ESCAPE ARTIST +1*, HEAL +2, +INTIMIDATE +1, PERCEPTION +2, PERFORM +1, RIDE +1*, +SENSE MOTIVE +2, STEALTH +1*, SWIM -1*
(+FLY +1*)

*Armour Check Penalty: Skill at –0 due to armour worn.
+Class Skill

FEATS
COMBAT CASTING
The character is adept at spellcasting when threatened or distracted.

RACIAL ABILITIES: TIEFLING
TIEFLINGS DO NOT COUNT AS OUTSIDERS FOR THE PURPOSE OF THIS SETTING.
SORCEROUS GIFT - Tiefling sorcerers treat their Charisma score as 2 points higher for all sorcerer class abilities.
DARKNESS [SPELL-LIKE ABILITY] (1 USE/DAY) – Tieflings can touch an object and cause it to radiate a deep darkness that dims even magical light.
LANGUAGES - Tieflings begin play speaking Common and either Abyssal or Infernal. Tieflings with high Intelligence scores can choose any of the following bonus languages: Abyssal, Draconic, Dwarven, High Elven, Gnome, Goblin, Halfling, Infernal, and Orc.

SPECIAL ABILITIES
GODMARKED
LEVEL 1:
WEAPON PROFICIENCY (WHIP)
BINDING TIES [SUPERNATURAL ABILITY] (4 USES/DAY) – The character can temporarily take the suffering as an ally onto herself, rendering them temporarily immune to the condition for a short time dependent on her character level.

CLASS FEATURES
WEAPON AND ARMOUR PROFICIENCY: SORCERER
Sorcerers are proficient with all simple weapons. They are not proficient with any type of armour or shield. Armour interferes with a sorcerer's gestures, which can cause her spells with somatic components to fail.

FEAT: ESCHEW MATERIALS
The character can cast many spells without needing to utilize minor material components.

BLOODLINE: DREAMSPUN
CLASS SKILL: Sense Motive.
BLOODLINE ARCANA: Whenever the character targets a single creature with a spell, she is briefly better protected against attacks made by that foe.
BLOODLINE POWERS:
1. LULLABY [SPELL-LIKE ABILITY] (5 USES/DAY): The character can make another creature drowsy, rendering them less perceptive and more susceptible to sleep magic.

SPELLS
LEVEL 0 [At Will] Save DC 12
DETECT MAGIC, MAGE HAND, MESSAGE, PRESTIDIGITATION

LEVEL 1 [4/Day] Save DC 13
UNSEEN SERVANT, SLEEP

* * *

KANAYA MARYAM CLERIC 1
TRUE NEUTRAL

TL:DR - Heals comrades, explodes undead, and occasionally calls down the divine wrath of the heavens.

Kanaya LVL1, For attachment to LODAD fic on AO3.

BASIC STATISTICS
GENDER: Female
HAIR/EYES: White hair, green eyes
HOMELAND: City of Golgesi (Temple Spire)/The Greenweald Forest Region (No Fixed Abode)
DEITY: The Sylph of Space
LANGUAGES: Undercommon, High Elven
RACE: Drow (Dark Elf)

ATTRIBUTES
STRENGTH: 13[+1]
DEXTERITY: 10[+0]
CONSTITUTION: 12[+1]
INTELLIGENCE: 10[+0]
WISDOM: 15[+2]
CHARISMA: 14[+2]

HIT POINTS: 9/9
HERO POINTS: 2/5
INITIATIVE: +0
BASE SPEED/S: 30ft (land)

ARMOUR CLASS [AC]: 14
TOUCH AC: 10
FLAT-FOOTED AC: 14

BASE ATTACK BONUS [BAB]: +0
BASIC MELEE ATTACK: +1
BASIC RANGED ATTACK: +0
COMBAT MANEUVER BONUS [CMB]: +1
COMBAT MANEUVER DEFENCE [CMD]: 11

SAVES
FORTITUDE: +3
REFLEX: +0
WILL: +4

WEAPONS/ATTACKS
SAWTOOTH SABRE - This weapon counts as “light" for the purposes of two-weapon fighting.
SHIELD BASH, LIGHT - Treat as “light" for the purposes of two-weapon fighting, and lose shield bonus to AC when used as a weapon.
DAGGER - Can be thrown, range 10ft.

EQUIPMENT - CARRYING CAPACITY (STR 13)

EQUIPMENT - ITEM SLOTS
CLOTHING: EXPLORER'S OUTFIT
This set of clothes is for someone who never knows what to expect. It includes sturdy boots, a leather overtunic over a cloth skirt, a belt, a shirt, gloves and a cloak. The clothes have plenty of pockets (especially the cloak). The outfit also includes any extra accessories the character might need, such as a scarf or a wide-brimmed hat.

ARMOUR: STUDDED LEATHER ARMOUR
+3 armour bonus, +5 max DEX bonus, -1 Armour Check Penalty, 15% Arcane Spell Failure Chance, LIGHT

SHIELD: LIGHT WOODEN SHIELD
+1 shield bonus, -1 Armour Check Penalty, 5% Arcane Spell Failure Chance
SPECIAL: The character can bash an opponent with a light shield. Used this way, a light shield is a martial bludgeoning weapon. For the purpose of penalties on attack rolls, treat a shield as a light weapon. If she uses her shield as a weapon, she loses its AC bonus until her next turn.

EQUIPMENT - POSSESSIONS
Sabre (Sawtooth) 2lbs, Studded Leather Armour 20lbs, Shield (Light Wooden) 5lbs, Eyeglasses, Holy Symbol (Wooden), Dagger 1lb, Waterskin 4lbs

>BACKPACK, COMMON 2lbs (Capacity 60lbs)
Tent (Small, 1 person) 20lbs, Bedroll 5lbs, Kit (Healer's) [This collection of bandages and herbs provides a +2 circumstance bonus on Heal checks. A healer's kit is exhausted after 10 uses] 1lb

>POUCH, BELT 0.5lbs (Capacity 10lbs)
Flint and Steel, Whetstone 1lb, String/Twine [50ft] 0.5lbs, Sewing Needle
Rations (Wandermeal) [x8] [Eating this tough, dried cake for over a week without other nutrients causes the eater to feel ill] 4lbs

TOTAL 65lbs (37lbs without backpack)

EQUIPMENT - MONEY
9CP, 2SP, 3GP, 0PP
OTHER:

SKILLS
TRAINED
+CRAFT(APPAREL) +4(1), +DIPLOMACY +6(1), +HEAL +6(1)

UNTRAINED
ACROBATICS +0*, +APPRAISE +0, BLUFF +2, CLIMB +1*, +CRAFT +0, DISGUISE +2, ESCAPE ARTIST +0*, INTIMIDATE +2, PERCEPTION +2, PERFORM +2, RIDE +0*, +SENSE MOTIVE +2, STEALTH +0*, SURVIVAL +2, SWIM +1*
(FLY +0*)

*Armour Check Penalty: Skill at –2 due to armour worn.
+Class Skill

FEATS
SELECTIVE CHANNELING [REQUIRES: CHA 13, CHANNEL ENERGY] (CAN EXCLUDE: 2)
The character can choose whom to affect when she channels energy.

RACIAL ABILITIES: DROW
DANCING LIGHTS [SPELL-LIKE ABILITY] (1 USE/DAY) – Drow can create up to four illusory lights and direct their motion.
DARKNESS [SPELL-LIKE ABILITY] (1 USE/DAY) – Drow can touch an object and cause it to radiate a deep darkness that dims even magical light.
FAERIE FIRE [SPELL-LIKE ABILITY] (1 USE/DAY) – Drow can cause a person to glow with a pale fire that clings to them even if they are not otherwise visible.
LANGUAGES - Drow begin play speaking Undercommon and High Elven. Drow with high Intelligence can choose bonus languages from the following: Common, Dark Folk, Draconic, Drow Sign Language, Dwarven, Gnome, Goblin or Infernal.

SPECIAL ABILITIES
GODMARKED
LEVEL 1:
HERO’S FORTUNE - Even at the start of her career, it was clear that the character had a chance at greatness, and her legend continues to grow with every adventure.
RENEWED STRENGTH [SUPERNATURAL ABILITY] (5 USES/DAY) – The character can cure her allies of exhaustion, fatigue, sickness and nausea with a touch.

CLASS FEATURES
WEAPON AND ARMOUR PROFICIENCY: CLERIC
Clerics are proficient with all simple weapons, light armour, medium armour, and shields (except tower shields). Clerics are also proficient with the favoured weapon of their deities (THE SYLPH OF SPACE favours the SAWTOOTH SABRE).

CHANNEL ENERGY [SUPERNATURAL ABILITY] (5 USES/DAY, DC12)
The cleric can channel positive energy through her holy symbol, choosing to either deal damage to undead creatures or to heal living creatures in a burst of holy power.

SPONTANEOUS CASTING
The cleric can channel stored spell energy into healing spells that she hasn't prepared ahead of time. She can "lose" any prepared spell that is not an orison or domain spell in order to cast any cure spell of the same spell level or lower.

DOMAINS: CHARM (LOVE) AND DEATH (UNDEAD)
DOMAIN POWERS: ADORATION [SUPERNATURAL ABILITY] (5 USES/DAY) – The cleric can attempt to thwart a single physical attack against her person.
DOMAIN POWERS: DEATH'S KISS [SUPERNATURAL ABILITY] (5 USES/DAY) – The cleric can cause a creature to take on some of the traits of the undead with a touch.

SPELLS
CLERIC LEVEL 0 [3 Prepared, At Will] Save DC 12
+MENDING – Makes minor repairs on an object.
+SPARK – Ignites flammable objects.
+STABILIZE – Cause a dying creature to stabilize.

CLERIC LEVEL 1 [2/Day+1 Prepared] Save DC 13
DOMAIN SPELLS:
CHARM PERSON – Makes one person your friend.
+CAUSE FEAR – One creature of 5HD or less flees for 1d4 rounds.

+ABUNDANT AMMUNITION – Replaces nonmagical ammunition every round.
+DEATHWATCH – Reveals how near death subjects within 30ft are.

* * *

JANE CROCKER RANGER (URBAN RANGER) 1
LAWFUL GOOD

TL:DR - A middling warrior with good tracking skills, whose abilities improve dramatically when the enemy is familiar.

Jane LVL1, For attachment to LODAD fic on AO3.

BASIC STATISTICS
GENDER: Female
HAIR/EYES: Black hair, blue eyes
HOMELAND: City of Porthaven (Outer Ring)
DEITY: The Maid of Life
LANGUAGES: Common, High Elven, Celestial, Orc
RACE: Tuatha (High Elf)

ATTRIBUTES
STRENGTH: 15[+2]
DEXTERITY: 15[+2]
CONSTITUTION: 12[+1]
INTELLIGENCE: 10[+0]
WISDOM: 12[+1]
CHARISMA: 10[+0]

HIT POINTS: 11/11
HERO POINTS: 2/5
INITIATIVE: +2
BASE SPEED/S: 30ft (land)

ARMOUR CLASS [AC]: 16
TOUCH AC: 12
FLAT-FOOTED AC: 14

BASE ATTACK BONUS [BAB]: +1
BASIC MELEE ATTACK: +3
BASIC RANGED ATTACK: +3
COMBAT MANEUVER BONUS [CMB]: +3
COMBAT MANEUVER DEFENCE [CMD]: 15

SAVES
FORTITUDE: +3
REFLEX: +4
WILL: +1

WEAPONS/ATTACKS
TRIDENT - This is a brace weapon. Can be thrown, range 10ft.
SHIELD BASH, LIGHT - Treat as “light" for the purposes of two-weapon fighting, and lose shield bonus to AC when used as a weapon.
DAGGER - Can be thrown, range 10ft.

EQUIPMENT - CARRYING CAPACITY (STR 15)

EQUIPMENT - ITEM SLOTS
CLOTHING: ARTISAN'S OUTFIT
This outfit consists of a blouse with buttons, drawstring skirt, shoes, and a neat cloth cap. It also includes a cloth apron for carrying small items such as a money pouch.

ARMOUR: PORTHAVEN PARADE ARMOUR
+3 armour bonus, +5 max DEX bonus, -1 Armour Check Penalty, 15% Arcane Spell Failure Chance, LIGHT
SPECIAL: A character wearing a country's parade armour gains a +2 Circumstance bonus to Diplomacy and Intimidate checks to influence a person from that country.

SHIELD: LIGHT STEEL SHIELD
+1 shield bonus, -1 Armour Check Penalty, 5% Arcane Spell Failure Chance
SPECIAL: The character can bash an opponent with a light shield. Used this way, a light shield is a martial bludgeoning weapon. For the purpose of penalties on attack rolls, treat a shield as a light weapon. If she uses her shield as a weapon, she loses its AC bonus until her next turn.

EQUIPMENT - POSSESSIONS
Trident 4lbs, Parade Armour 20lbs, Shield (Light Steel) 6lbs, Dagger 1lb, Waterskin 4lbs

>BACKPACK, MASTERWORK 4lbs (Capacity 60lbs)
Bedroll 5lbs, Kit (Cooking) 2lbs, Rations (Trail) [x8] 8lb

>POUCH, BELT 0.5lbs (Capacity 10lbs)
Flint and Steel, Manacles 2lbs, Map [+1 circumstance bonus on Survival checks made to navigate in the Greenweald Forest region] 2lbs

TOTAL 58.5lbs

EQUIPMENT - MONEY
0CP, 9SP, 0GP, 0PP
OTHER:

SKILLS
TRAINED
ACROBATICS +3(1)*, +CRAFT(COOKING) +4(1), DISGUISE +1(1), +KNOWLEDGE LOCAL +4(1), SENSE MOTIVE +5(1), +STEALTH +6(1)*, +SURVIVAL +5(1)

UNTRAINED
+APPRAISE +0, BLUFF +0, +CLIMB +2*, CRAFT +0, +DIPLOMACY +0, ESCAPE ARTIST +2*, +HEAL +1, +INTIMIDATE +0, +PERCEPTION +1, PERFORM +0, +RIDE +2*, +SWIM +2*
(FLY +2*)

*Armour Check Penalty: Skill at –2 due to armour worn.
+Class Skill

FEATS
COSMOPOLITAN (APPRAISE AND DIPLOMACY)
Living in large, exotic cities has put the character in touch with many diverse civilizations, cultures, and races.

RACIAL ABILITIES: ELVEN
LANGUAGES - Tuatha begin play speaking Common and High Elven. Tuatha with high Intelligence scores can choose from the following: Celestial, Draconic, Gnoll, Gnome, Goblin, Orc, and Sylvan.

SPECIAL ABILITIES
GODMARKED
LEVEL 1:
HERO’S FORTUNE - Even at the start of her career, it was clear that the character had a chance at greatness, and her legend continues to grow with every adventure.
BINDING TIES [SUPERNATURAL ABILITY] (3 USES/DAY) – The character can temporarily take the suffering as an ally onto herself, rendering them temporarily immune to the condition for a short time dependent on her character level.

CLASS FEATURES
WEAPON AND ARMOUR PROFICIENCY: RANGER
A ranger is proficient with all simple and martial weapons and with light armour, medium armour and shields (except tower shields).

FAVOURED ENEMY [EXTRAORDINARY ABILITY] - HUMANOID (ELF)
A ranger is better at attacking and damaging their favoured enemies. They spot them, track them, lie to them and understand them better, and know more about them than other similar creatures.

TRACK [EXTRAORDINARY ABILITY]
A ranger is better at following or identifying tracks.

WILD EMPATHY [EXTRAORDINARY ABILITY]
A ranger can communicate wordlessly with an animal, in the hope of making it more friendly towards the ranger and her allies.

SPELLS
START AT LEVEL 4

* * *

JAKE ENGLISH GUNSLINGER (PISTOLERO) 1
CHAOTIC GOOD

TL:DR - Decent mid-ranged combatant, has a weapon nobody else can use or even recognise.

Jake LVL1, For attachment to LODAD fic on AO3.

BASIC STATISTICS
GENDER: Male
HAIR/EYES: Black hair, green eyes
HOMELAND: Quartzkin Clanhold
DEITY: The Page of Hope
LANGUAGES: Common, High Elven, Dwarven
RACE: Tuatha (High Elf)

ATTRIBUTES
STRENGTH: 13[+1]
DEXTERITY: 16[+3]
CONSTITUTION: 10[+0]
INTELLIGENCE: 10[+0]
WISDOM: 15[+2]
CHARISMA: 10[+0]

HIT POINTS: 10/10
HERO POINTS: 2/5
INITIATIVE: +3
BASE SPEED/S: 30ft (land)

ARMOUR CLASS [AC]: 15
TOUCH AC: 13
FLAT-FOOTED AC: 12

BASE ATTACK BONUS [BAB]: +1
BASIC MELEE ATTACK: +2
BASIC RANGED ATTACK: +4
COMBAT MANEUVER BONUS [CMB]: +2
COMBAT MANEUVER DEFENCE [CMD]: 15

SAVES
FORTITUDE: +2
REFLEX: +5
WILL: +2

WEAPONS/ATTACKS
BATTERED GUNSLINGER PISTOL - Ammunition 30 bullets, 20 black powder charges (both required to fire).

EQUIPMENT - CARRYING CAPACITY (STR 13)

EQUIPMENT - ITEM SLOTS
CLOTHING: TRAVELLER'S OUTFIT
This set of clothes consists of boots, wool breeches, a sturdy belt, a shirt with jacket, and an ample cloak with a hood.

ARMOUR: LEATHER ARMOUR
+2 armour bonus, +6 max DEX bonus, -0 Armour Check Penalty, 10% Arcane Spell Failure Chance, LIGHT

EQUIPMENT - POSSESSIONS
Battered Gunslinger Pistol 4lbs, Leather Armour 15lbs, Dagger 1lb, Waterskin 4lbs

>BACKPACK, MASTERWORK 4lbs (Capacity 60lbs)
Tent (Small, 1 person) 20lbs, Bedroll 5lbs, Kit (Cooking) 2lbs, Rations (Trail) [x4] 4lb

>POUCH, BELT 0.5lbs (Capacity 10lbs)
Flint and Steel, Gunsmith's Kit 2lb, Firearm Bullet [x30] [crafted at 10% cost] 0.5lbs, Compass 0.5lbs

>POWDER HORN 1lb (Capacity 10 x Black Powder)
Black Powder [x10] [crafted at 10% cost]

>POWDER HORN 1lb (Capacity 10 x Black Powder)
Black Powder [x10] [crafted at 10% cost]

TOTAL 54.5lbs

EQUIPMENT - MONEY
0CP, 9SP, 42GP, 0PP
OTHER:

SKILLS
TRAINED
+ACROBATICS +7(1)*, +CLIMB +5(1)*, +CRAFT(ALCHEMY) +4(1), KNOWLEDGE DUNGEONEERING +1(1), LINGUISTICS +1(1)

UNTRAINED
APPRAISE +0, +BLUFF +0, CRAFT +0, DIPLOMACY +0, DISGUISE +0, ESCAPE ARTIST +3*, +HEAL +2, +INTIMIDATE +0, +PERCEPTION +2, PERFORM +0, +RIDE +3*, SENSE MOTIVE +2, STEALTH +3*, +SURVIVAL +2, +SWIM +1*
(FLY +3*)

*Armour Check Penalty: Skill at –0 due to armour worn.
+Class Skill

FEATS
RAPID RELOAD (PISTOL) [REQUIRES: WEAPON PROFICIENCY]
The character can reload pistols quickly.

RACIAL ABILITIES: ELVEN
LANGUAGES - Tuatha begin play speaking Common and High Elven. Tuatha with high Intelligence scores can choose from the following: Celestial, Draconic, Gnoll, Gnome, Goblin, Orc, and Sylvan.

SPECIAL ABILITIES
GODMARKED
LEVEL 1:
HERO’S FORTUNE - Even at the start of his career, it was clear that the character had a chance at greatness, and his legend continues to grow with every adventure.
HONOR BOUND [SUPERNATURAL ABILITY] (3 USES/DAY) – The character can, with a touch, remind a creature of its duties and responsibilities and help them shake off an enchantment or compulsion. He can also attempt to shake off effects of this nature that have affected him.

CLASS FEATURES
WEAPON AND ARMOUR PROFICIENCY: GUNSLINGER (PISTOLERO)
Pistoleros are proficient with all simple and martial weapons, and with one-handed firearms. They are proficient with all light armour.

GUNSMITH (PISTOLERO)
A gunslinger has a battered pistol, which only he knows how to properly use. To anyone else, the gun seems to be broken.

FEAT: GUNSMITHING
The character knows the secrets of repairing and restoring firearms.

GRIT [EXTRAORDINARY ABILITY] (2/2)
Gunslingers make their mark upon the world with their grit, which they use to accomplish daring deeds (see below).

DEEDS
1. UP CLOSE AND DEADLY [EXTRAORDINARY ABILITY]
2. GUNSLINGER'S DODGE [EXTRAORDINARY ABILITY]
3. QUICK CLEAR [EXTRAORDINARY ABILITY]

* * *

ROXY LALONDE WIZARD 1
CHAOTIC GOOD

TL:DR - Student of the magical arts, specialising in illusions and not very good with necromancy or divination. Has a cat-shaped familiar.

Roxy LVL1, For attachment to LODAD fic on AO3.

BASIC STATISTICS
GENDER: Female
HAIR/EYES: Blonde hair, pink eyes
HOMELAND: City of Porthaven (Temple District)
DEITY: The Rogue of Void
LANGUAGES: Common, Celestial, High Elven, Draconic
RACE: Aasimar

ATTRIBUTES
STRENGTH: 10[+0]
DEXTERITY: 13[+1]
CONSTITUTION: 14[+2]
INTELLIGENCE: 15[+2]
WISDOM: 10[+0]
CHARISMA: 14[+2]

HIT POINTS: 9/9
HERO POINTS: 1/3
INITIATIVE: +1
BASE SPEED/S: 30ft (land)

ARMOUR CLASS [AC]: 11(15)
TOUCH AC: 11
FLAT-FOOTED AC: 10(14)

BASE ATTACK BONUS [BAB]: +0
BASIC MELEE ATTACK: +0
BASIC RANGED ATTACK: +1
COMBAT MANEUVER BONUS [CMB]: +0
COMBAT MANEUVER DEFENCE [CMD]: 11

SAVES
FORTITUDE: +2
REFLEX: +1
WILL: +2

WEAPONS/ATTACKS
UNARMED STRIKE
CROSSBOW, LIGHT – 20 ammunition
DAGGER - Can be thrown, range 10ft.

EQUIPMENT - CARRYING CAPACITY (STR 10)

EQUIPMENT - ITEM SLOTS
CLOTHING: SCHOLAR'S OUTFIT
Perfect for a scholar, this outfit includes a robe, a belt, a cap, soft shoes and a cloak.

EQUIPMENT - POSSESSIONS
Crossbow (Light) 4lbs, Bolts (Crossbow) [x20] 2lb, Signet Ring, Dagger 1lb, Waterskin 4lbs

>POUCH, SPELL COMPONENTS 2lbs

>POUCH, BELT 0.5lbs (Capacity 10lbs)
Drink (Wine, Fine) [Bottle] 1.5lbs, Ink (Black) [1oz. Vial], Inkpen

TOTAL 15lbs

EQUIPMENT - MONEY
0CP, 9SP, 0GP, 0PP
OTHER:

SKILLS
TRAINED
+BLUFF +6(1), +KNOWLEDGE ARCANA +6(1), +SPELLCRAFT +6(1), +STEALTH +8(1)*

UNTRAINED
ACROBATICS +1*, +APPRAISE +2, CLIMB +0*, +CRAFT +2, DIPLOMACY +2, +DISGUISE +2, ESCAPE ARTIST +1*, HEAL +0, INTIMIDATE +2, PERCEPTION +2(4), PERFORM +2, RIDE +1*, SENSE MOTIVE +2(4), SURVIVAL +2, SWIM +0*
(+FLY +1*)

*Armour Check Penalty: Skill at –0 due to armour worn.
+Class Skill

FEATS
ARCANE STRIKE [REQUIRES: ARCANE SPELLCASTING]
The character draws upon her arcane power to enhance her weapons with magical energy.

RACIAL ABILITIES: AASIMAR
AASIMARS DO NOT COUNT AS OUTSIDERS FOR THE PURPOSE OF THIS SETTING.
DAYLIGHT [SPELL-LIKE ABILITY] (1 USE/DAY) – Aasimars can touch an object and cause it to shed a brilliant light which drives back even magical darkness.
LANGUAGES – Aasimars begin play speaking Common and Celestial. Aasimars with high Intelligence scores can choose any of the following bonus languages: Draconic, Dwarven, High Elven, Gnome, Halfling, and Sylvan.

SPECIAL ABILITIES
GODMARKED
LEVEL 1:
IMPROVED UNARMED STRIKE - The character is skilled at fighting while unarmed.
COPYCAT [SPELL-LIKE ABILITY] (5 USES/DAY) – The character can briefly, dependent on her character level, create an illusory double of herself to distract or mislead others.
EXTRA – Bluff, Disguise and Stealth are class skills.

CLASS FEATURES
WEAPON AND ARMOUR PROFICIENCY: WIZARD
Wizards are proficient with the club, dagger, heavy crossbow, light crossbow, and quarterstaff, but not with any type of armour or shield. Armour interferes with a wizard's movements, which can cause her spells with somatic components to fail.

ARCANE BOND [EXTRAORDINARY ABILITY]: FAMILIAR (FRIGGLISH, CAT)
Grants his master a +3 bonus on Stealth checks.
If a familiar is dismissed, lost, or dies, it can be replaced 1 week later though a specialised ritual that costs 200gp per wizard level. The ritual takes 8 hours to complete.
HIT POINTS: 4 HIT DICE: 1
SIZE: Tiny REACH: 0ft SPEED: 30ft
STR 3[-4], DEX 15[+2], CON 8[-1], INT 6[-2], WIS 12[+1], CHA 7[-2]
ATTACK:
BAB: +0 ATTACK: BITE +2 (1d3-4), CLAWS[x2] +2 (1d2-4)
CMB: +0
DEFENCE:
AC: 15 (Natural Armour +1)
CMD: 8 (12 vs. trip)
SAVES: FORT 1, REF 4, WILL 1
SKILLS:
Climb 6, Perception 5, Stealth 14 (use master's skill ranks if better)
FEATS:
Weapon Finesse
SPECIAL ABILITIES:
Low-Light Vision, Scent, Empathic Link, Improved Evasion, Share Spells

ARCANE SCHOOL: ILLUSION
OPPOSITION SCHOOLS: NECROMANCY, DIVINATION
A wizard that chooses to specialise in one school of magic must select two opposition schools whose spells are harder for them to cast, but they gain the ability to cast an additional spell from their school each day and related school powers.
1. EXTENDED ILLUSIONS [SUPERNATURAL ABILITY]
2. BLINDING RAY [SPELL-LIKE ABILITY] (5 USES/DAY)

FEAT: SCRIBE SCROLL
The character can create magic scrolls.

FEAT: ALERTNESS [REQUIRES: FAMILIAR WITHIN ARM'S REACH]
The character often notices things that others might miss when her familiar is nearby.

SPELLS
LEVEL 0 [3 Prepared, At Will] Save DC 12
+(ILLU) GHOST SOUND – Figment sounds.
+(TRANS) MESSAGE – Whisper conversation at distance.
+(UNIV) PRESTIDIGITATION – Performs minor tricks.

WIZARD CANTRIPS KNOWN: RESISTANCE, ACID SPLASH, DRENCH, DAZE, BREEZE, DANCING LIGHTS, FLARE, LIGHT, PENUMBRA, RAY OF FROST, SCOOP, SPARK, GHOST SOUND, HAUNTED FEY ASPECT, JOLT, MAGE HAND, MENDING, MESSAGE, OPEN/CLOSE, ROOT, ARCANE MARK, PRESTIDIGITATION

LEVEL 1 [2/Day+1 Prepared] Save DC 13
SCHOOL SPELL (ILLUSION):
+(ILLU)ILLUSION OF CALM – You appear to be standing still, even when you take some actions.
+(CONJ) MAGE ARMOUR – Gives subject +4 armour bonus.
+(ENCH)CHARM PERSON – Makes one person your friend.

WIZARD FIRST-LEVEL SPELLS KNOWN: MAGE ARMOUR, ILLUSION OF CALM, MAGIC AURA, SHADOW WEAPON, CHARM PERSON

* * *

DIRK STRIDER BARD (SOUND STRIKER) 1
NEUTRAL GOOD

TL:DR - Jack of all trades, knower of all things, supporter of all allies, and also he can kill you with his voice.

Dirk LVL1, For attachment to LODAD fic on AO3.

BASIC STATISTICS
GENDER: Male
HAIR/EYES: Blonde hair, orange eyes
HOMELAND: City of Porthaven (No Fixed Abode)/The Greenweald Forest Region (No Fixed Abode)
DEITY: The Prince of Heart
LANGUAGES: Common, Celestial, High Elven, Dwarven
RACE: Aasimar

ATTRIBUTES
STRENGTH: 13[+1]
DEXTERITY: 12[+1]
CONSTITUTION: 10[+0]
INTELLIGENCE: 14[+2]
WISDOM: 10[+0]
CHARISMA: 17[+3]

HIT POINTS: 8/8
HERO POINTS: 1/3
INITIATIVE: +1
BASE SPEED/S: 30ft (land)

ARMOUR CLASS [AC]: 13
TOUCH AC: 11
FLAT-FOOTED AC: 12

BASE ATTACK BONUS [BAB]: +0
BASIC MELEE ATTACK: +1
BASIC RANGED ATTACK: +1
COMBAT MANEUVER BONUS [CMB]: +1
COMBAT MANEUVER DEFENCE [CMD]: 12

SAVES
FORTITUDE: +0
REFLEX: +3
WILL: +2

WEAPONS/ATTACKS
KATANA – This is a deadly weapon.
DAGGER - Can be thrown, range 10ft.

EQUIPMENT - CARRYING CAPACITY (STR 13)

EQUIPMENT - ITEM SLOTS
CLOTHING: ENTERTAINER'S OUTFIT + MASK
This set of flashy- perhaps even gaudy- clothes is for entertaining. While the outfit looks whimsical, its practical design lets the character tumble, dance, walk a tightrope, or just run if the audience turns ugly. The mask is made from painted, varnished wood and cloth; it is ornate, gaudy even- a cheaper and more practical imitation of what a nobleman might wear to a masquerade ball.

ARMOUR: LEATHER ARMOUR
+2 armour bonus, +6 max DEX bonus, -0 Armour Check Penalty, 10% Arcane Spell Failure Chance, LIGHT

EQUIPMENT - POSSESSIONS
Katana 6lbs, Leather Armour 15lbs, Clothing (Mask, 3gp) 1lb, Dagger 1lb, Waterskin 4lbs

>BACKPACK, COMMON 2lbs (Capacity 60lbs)
Tent (Small, 1 person) 20lbs, Bedroll 5lbs, Kit (Juggler's) 10lbs, Rations (Wandermeal) [x20] [Eating this tough, dried cake for over a week without other nutrients causes the eater to feel ill] 10lbs

>POUCH, BELT 0.5lbs (Capacity 10lbs)
Flint and Steel, Whetstone 1lb

TOTAL 75.5lb

EQUIPMENT - MONEY
8CP, 6SP, 9GP, 0PP
OTHER:

SKILLS
TRAINED
+APPRAISE +6(1), +BLUFF +7(1), +DIPLOMACY +7(1), +INTIMIDATE +7(1), +KNOWLEDGE LOCAL +7(1), +PERCEPTION +4(1), +PERFORM(SHARP RHYMES) +7(1), +PERFORM(SWEET MOVES) +7(1), +SENSE MOTIVE +4(1)

UNTRAINED
+ACROBATICS +1*, +CLIMB +1*, +CRAFT +2, +DISGUISE +3, +ESCAPE ARTIST +1*, HEAL +0, +KNOWLEDGE ARCANA +3, +KNOWLEDGE DUNGEONEERING +3, +KNOWLEDGE ENGINEERING +3, +KNOWLEDGE GEOGRAPHY +3, +KNOWLEDGE HISTORY +3, +KNOWLEDGE NATURE +3, +KNOWLEDGE NOBILITY +3, +KNOWLEDGE PLANES +3, +KNOWLEDGE RELIGION +3, +PERFORM +3, RIDE +1*, +STEALTH +1*, SURVIVAL +0, SWIM +1*
(FLY +1*)

*Armour Check Penalty: Skill at –0 due to armour worn.
+Class Skill

FEATS
SPELLSONG [REQUIRES: CHA 13, BARDIC PERFORMANCE, 1st-LEVEL SPELLCASTING]
The character can blend the power of his performance and spellcasting.

RACIAL ABILITIES: AASIMAR
AASIMARS DO NOT COUNT AS OUTSIDERS FOR THE PURPOSE OF THIS SETTING.
DAYLIGHT [SPELL-LIKE ABILITY] (1 USE/DAY) – Aasimars can touch an object and cause it to shed a brilliant light which drives back even magical darkness.
LANGUAGES – Aasimars begin play speaking Common and Celestial. Aasimars with high Intelligence scores can choose any of the following bonus languages: Draconic, Dwarven, High Elven, Gnome, Halfling, and Sylvan.

SPECIAL ABILITIES
GODMARKED
LEVEL 1:
WEAPON PROFICIENCY (KATANA)
DESTRUCTIVE SMITE [SUPERNATURAL ABILITY] (6 USES/DAY)– The character can do more damage on a single melee attack, dependent on his character level.

CLASS FEATURES
WEAPON AND ARMOUR PROFICIENCY: BARD
A bard is proficient with all simple weapons, plus the longsword, rapier, sap, shortsword, shortbow and whip. Bards are also proficient with light armour and shields (except tower shields). A bard can cast bard spells while wearing light armour and using a shield without incurring the normal arcane spell failure chance. Like any other arcane spellcaster, a bard wearing medium or heavy armour incurs a chance of arcane spell failure is the spell in question has a somatic component. A multiclass bard still incurs the normal arcane spell failure chance for arcane spells received from other classes.

BARDIC KNOWLEDGE [EXTRAORDINARY ABILITY]
A bard has a little knowledge in all areas, and learns more as he becomes more experienced.

BARDIC PERFORMANCE (7 ROUNDS/DAY)
A bard can create magical effects around him, so long as he is able to keep performing. He can make use of the following abilities when he performs, so long as he can be seen and/or heard by those he wishes to affect.
1. COUNTERSONG [SUPERNATURAL ABILITY]
2. DISTRACTION [SUPERNATURAL ABILITY]
3. FASCINATE [SUPERNATURAL ABILITY] (TARGETS 1)
4. INSPIRE COURAGE [SUPERNATURAL ABILITY]

SPELLS
LEVEL 0 [At Will] Save DC 13
MESSAGE, PRESTIDIGITATION, SIFT, UNWITTING ALLY

LEVEL 1 [2/Day] Save DC 14
CHORD OF SHARDS, TIMELY INSPIRATION

Chapter Text

==> Karkat: Time's A-Wastin', Get On With It Already!

The Kutsanmis family enclave is towards the centre of the city, where the scum like you are theoretically kept at bay by the ever-vigilant Eyes of the Law. Fortunately you've had more than enough practise at getting through the Inner Ring unseen; those overfed cave slugs are too busy examining their own navels to keep an eye on every entrance and exit, and as usual you can trudge through the thick sludge coating the riverbank to your heart's content. Here and there fragments of paving remain, tumbledown structures a testament to an earlier time when the rich and powerful of the city had used the waterways as a means of travel and fun. Fucking idiots never realised that a thriving alchemical industry slap-bang in the middle of the city was going to turn their playground into a toxic waste dump. You'd be viciously satisfied at their loss if it wasn't for the fact that you grew up drinking that shit. Everyone you know boils their water unless they have a death wish, but that doesn't stop it from occasionally glowing, or tasting like something died in it, came back to life, and then died in it again. You're probably not going to reach old age before you expire from Engelbert's Luminescent Shitfever or Galloping Demonbreath Arcane Vomitstorm or some equally disgusting magical beetleshit that you just made up right now.

At any rate, the riverbank is a good way to get past the Lawkeepers and the House Guards, and you're not the only one to have been using it for years. The nobility would probably have a fit if they knew how easy it was for the likes of you to get into their precious walled compounds, and you can't help but feel deeply satisfied every time you break into the Kutsanmis enclave over the remains of their own past decadence. You eye it now, your old foe, a crumbling edifice that might once have been a small boathouse built into the outer wall. The interior is a lost cause, not even enough space between the tumbled stones to squeeze a rat, but you don't give a shit. You're not going through the ruins of the boathouse. You're going over it.

Long practise guides your hands to the stable holds and you swarm up the side of the cool black rock. You glance about to check that you are unobserved before you carefully lower yourself over the edge and let go, dropping the fifteen feet to the ground below. You don't so much land as crash, letting out a pained howl as you overbalance and slam hard into the cracked flagstones. Something internal makes a sick little crunching sound and you roll onto your back, cradling your aching face in your hands and whimpering like a useless hatchling for a few moments before you remember that noise draws attention, genius. You're up like a shot and lurking in the shadow of the wall, but there are no cries of alarm, no watchful guards or curious servants wandering in your direction. With a sigh of relief you wipe a dribble of blood off your upper lip, glaring at the boathouse that once again has almost proved your undoing. Shit like this is why you're not a burglar. That and the fact that you know fuck all about locks, but as far as you're concerned that's a completely idiotic way to steal anyway. So what if those smug pricks can lift purses and walk off with diamonds and have the original owner none the wiser? All their fancy fingerwork doesn't do shit for them when some pushy asshole decides it's easier to rob the robbers than steal from someone with bodyguards the size of half-giants and the might of the law on their side.

Slumped against the wall, you take a breather and remind yourself that it could be worse. The boathouse isn't your only way into this place; in the past, when you've thought you can get away with it, Gamzee's sent guards to fetch you. Gets them to come all the way to the Shanties and drag you in too, sometimes, when he gets his stupid pesh-filled head worried or confused or starts panicking and decides he needs you now. They don't ask questions but you know from the way they look at you what they think. You know you're not the only visitor they bring, and you know what Gamzee does with his days when you're not there, but fuck you want to gut the assholes when they sneer and judge and look down on you and you are utterly, completely, irrevocably certain that none of those leering shit-for-brains have ever had to risk their necks on a daily basis just so they can eat.

Avoiding those stares is why you started coming in over the boathouse in the first place, but today things are going to be even more hideously unpleasant than usual. Normally you would sneak into the dark, narrow corridors that the slaves use to move invisibly through the compound, and rely on the almost pathological disdain of the higher orders of society for their lessers to keep you safe on the journey to Gamzee's tower rooms. In the middle of preparations for a marriage, though, security will be tight. You don't fancy being turned into a pincushion by dozens of jumpy House Kutsanmis Guards, so you're going to be using the plan you and Gamzee came up with together. Even if it is thoroughly disgusting and you are going to hate yourself for ever even considering the idea, let alone suggesting it in the first place.

Gamzee's tower isn't far; you think it was originally built to have a view of the river, back in the days when that was a good thing. Now it's a dusty spire in a forgotten corner, dwarfed by the spiralling towers nearer the centre of the House compound and as wasted and decayed as the scenery it overlooks. It's useful only as a dumping ground for something the family wants to forget and you feel your blood boil in sympathetic rage for your soul-brother. At least you've always had the freedom to leave your own personal shithole and stare at all the things you're not allowed to have. At least you always had someone who cared, someone who thought you were worth something just for being you. As awful as that makes you feel when you remember what you must have cost her, you're glad you had your mother. All Gamzee ever had was the two of you, and for someone born a step shy of royalty you don't think you can imagine something more pathetically tragic.

Now it's just you and him, and you are not going to lose each other, which is why you are even contemplating the pure holy font of dwarf piss that is this plan. You talked about this, lying on his couch with your head in his lap while he played with your hair and hummed made-up lullabies that didn't mean a thing. If his evil viper of a mother succeeds in her plot to get him married off, then the best-case scenario is that he gets locked up in a smaller tower by another heartless viper with less money to keep him high and happy, in a city so far away that you don't have a hope in the hells of following him there. Worst case... you don't even want to contemplate. You've seen enough of the shit that people will do to each other, and with your stupid cursed marks neither of you exactly draws sympathy and kindness from others. And whatever happens to Gamzee, you end up living out your days in the Shanties and becoming increasingly bitter and empty until you eventually die one of the hundreds of colourful, fascinating and above all premature deaths available to the Casteless.

No, fuck that shit. If you're going out, you're going out together and you're going out fighting. Or running. Whatever. The point is that you're not just letting this happen. The pair of you are going to fight fate and if the bitch wants to screw you, she'll have to do it fast.

You smell your destination before you see it, a strong wafting aroma of piss and shit that would make you gag if you weren't used to worse. There's still nobody around and you feel your skin crawl as you make your way across the empty ground, scurrying from the shelter of the wall to the shadow of the tower like a bug running from under an upturned rock. Your luck isn't this good; the world's just waiting for a chance to give you a lovely big sucker-punch in the teeth. You can almost hear the stones fucking snickering at you.

It's not until you're fairly close that you can make out the faint, rounded outline worked into the smooth stone of the tower, the shaft you intend to climb smoothed and blended into its surroundings until only the dark opening at the base remains. You take a deep breath and hold it before you step through the cleft in the tower wall, but the stench still hits you full force. It's been cleaned out lately, but you're standing at the bottom of a privy shaft, and there is no possible way for you to forget that you are literally ankle-deep in crap.

Your eyes adjust to the deeper darkness quickly, and you smile grimly as you see the knotted rope dangling against the wall. If you were the praying sort, you would thank the heavens that Gamzee pulled his head out of his ass long enough to remember to put it there. As it is, you refrain from mentally cursing the gods when your foot slips on something slick and squelchy, and try not to think about what you get on your hands when you catch yourself on the wall.

Climbing at least is simple enough. Between the rope and the narrowness of the shaft, you're practically taking an evening stroll. There are a few indents in the wall along the way, various indoor privies on the floors you pass, and you scowl as you think bitter thoughts about people who can afford to shit into a pre-built hole and have someone come to haul the excrement away. Gamzee is on the top floor, so you have plenty of time to work yourself into an utterly foul mood by the time you reach the top.

Pushing yourself away from the far wall of the shaft with your legs, you reach out and shove the top of the privy up with one arm, grabbing the edge of the bench and hauling yourself after it. You emerge crouching in a round stone room, plain and windowless and decorated with heavy purple tapestries on the walls. As you straighten you catch a flash of teal out of the corner of your eye: a lifetime of instinct takes over and you whirl, drawing your sickles and hooking one around the leg of the stranger. It's only as she hits the floor with a heavy thud that your brain catches up with a scream of LAWKEEPER!

You don't have time to wonder why she was lurking in the privy as she lashes out with her narrow blade, trying to tangle your legs. She misses by a mile but you only put her down, not out, and she's already getting to her feet. You wait the half-heartbeat it takes for her to be upright, then lunge forward and knock her down again. You're still aching from your fall earlier so you don't want to get in a real fight, but shit, she's seen you, you're already screwed. You have to get to Gamzee, get the pair of you out of here right fucking now.

You turn to run for the door but you don't get a single step before something slams into the back of your knees and knocks you off balance. For a breathless moment you're on the floor only inches away from the Lawkeeper, staring wide-eyed at her tinted red eyeglasses and newly dishevelled hair, and then you're scrambling to your feet again. This time you keep your eyes on her as you back up towards the door, and so you see her wide, manic grin as she gets to her feet. Your back bumps into the burnished metal, the handle digging into the small of your back, and you tighten your grip on your weapons as she strides across the small chamber towards you, easily closing the distance.

The moment she's in reach you lunge, swiping with both sickles. You don't think she's used to fighting opponents with two weapons, because she ducks away from the one strike right into the path of the second. You catch a weak point in her standard-issue armour and score a deep gash under her sword-arm, narrowly missing anything vital. Her riposte is clumsy and clatters against the wall near your head. You swipe at her again with one hand while you fumble for the door handle with the other, stumbling back half a step as the portal opens. Your strike is deflected harmlessly by her bracers and your opponent cackles.

“Go ahead, strike as often as you like,” she says, tilting her head so you're staring straight at those blank eyeglasses. “Because no matter where you run now, you're caught, little ratling!”

The conviction in her words is so strong that for a moment you almost falter, but then you remember that so far you've been wiping the floor with her ass and Gamzee is still counting on you. Rather than answer, you turn and bolt, wrenching your arm out of the uncertain grip she manages to get on you to flee into a far larger room lavishly furnished with couches and cushions. The air in here smells of incense and drugged smoke, and despite everything your heart leaps in your chest when you see Gamzee entering from the door opposite.

“INTRUDER IN THE CHAMBERS!” your pursuer yells, and you curse, turning to watch her and her wicked blade as you draw back towards your puzzled brother. She hisses and raises her sword to point at you, not stopping in her relentless approach, and you wonder how much longer this can last.

Not much it seems, because the third door, the one to the outer chambers, opens to admit an alarmed House Kutsanmis Guard. He levels his crossbow at you, joined only moments later by a second Kutsanmis Guard and a pair of Lawkeeper Eyes who followed them in. You glance between your opponents, and the first Lawkeeper laughs, a harsh bark which sounds far too happy for someone who is fucking bleeding from the armpit.

“Surrender now,” she demands, smiling triumphantly at you. “I can't promise we'll go easy, but...” she waves a hand to the crossbows- “don't think we're going to let this kill you if you give us trouble.”

A long-fingered hand, cool and soft, presses against the small of your back. You don't have to look to see Gamzee there behind you, and as you meet the Lawkeeper's gaze you can see the faint furrow on her brow. Of course. They won't want to risk firing at you when you're so close to the person they're meant to be guarding; Gamzee's presence has given you a few moments of grace to come up with a plan.

You take a deep breath and prepare to do the only thing you can think of that might stand the faintest, most incorporeal ghost of a chance of getting you out of this mess alive.

Chapter Text

==> Terezi: Apprehend This Mysterious Felon, Before He Causes More Trouble!

From the moment the intruder first draws close to the Kutsanmis boy, you know two things. First, you're now fully convinced that he isn't the assassin you're expecting. You'd suspected as much when you first saw him- nobody with the money to go after a member of a noble house would hire a cutthroat from the Shanties- but the way he ignored his supposed target to stay clear of you spoke volumes as to his priorities. Most likely what you have here is a thief with bad timing, although the means of his entrance still bothers you. Someone had to put that rope there for you to find and him to climb, and you intend to know who, but that investigation will have to wait because of the second, more pressing realisation you have arrived at.

You've screwed up.

Your training has taken you to the Shanties more often than you strictly care for and you know how the casteless think. They don't have anything to lose and although they'll generally try to run from a fight, they attack almost senselessly when cornered. If it was just you and your people, you wouldn't be too worried, even if this little ratling is pretty handy with those sickles. But like an idiot you've managed to back him into a corner with the individual you're meant to be protecting, and it doesn't matter that he's not an assassin because right now he's just as dangerous as one.

You surreptitiously raise your hand, hoping that the House Guards and the Lawkeepers are all decent shots, but before you can give the signal to fire the intruder's thought process seems to catch up with your own. Snarling, he steps back and to the side, grabbing your charge and holding the sharp blade of a sickle to the noble scion's neck. The Kutsanmis boy looks terrified through his drug haze, eyes wide and confused as he tugs uselessly at his captor. The casteless felon ignores the weak struggles of his hostage, holding the scion up like a shield and pointing his other sickle directly at you.

“Alright, listen up, you beetle-brained bluebellies,” he says, lips still curled in an animalistic snarl. “I, personally, have no interest whatsoever in slitting this pesh-head idiot's throat and leaving inconvenient stains all over this ridiculously expensive rug. I do however have some very fucking strong feelings on the subject of my blood, and it staying inside my body, so if you give a shit about him breathing you're going to let us go out that door there, and you're not going to fucking follow!”

He jerks his head towards the door to the reception room, where the guards were waiting only moments ago. From there he'd have a clear run to the courtyard below, and who knows what escape routes lead from there? You frown, trying to judge his intent and hoping like the hells that it's all a bluff. He meets your eyeglasses with a furious red-eyed gaze, and tenses his sickle hand ready. The scion whimpers in fear and you realise that there is nothing you can do but acquiesce.

“Step aside,” you order your Lawkeepers, and the two Eyes do smartly as they're told. The Kutsanmis Guards look at you in shock, and you jab with your sword at the patch of floor you want them to move to. “Unless you plan to explain to the Matriarch why you let a marauding intruder harm her son?” Any normal, rational person knows that a hostage is worth more alive, but he's from the Shanties and an angry little ratling at that. You're better off leaving him an exit until you can trap him properly. You hope you don't end up having to explain that reasoning to the Matriarch over her son's corpse.

You all watch him like a hawk as he drags the Kutsanmis boy across the room to the door, head snapping around to watch you all in turn as he passes. The fingers of the Guards are twitching on the hilts of their swords and you can't blame them because your own hands are itching to do something, anything. You fight the feeling, not daring to even move until the door clicks shut. Then you're over there, ear pressed to the smooth bronzed surface. If you hear anything that even sounds like it might be the scion's grisly murder, you will be in there in a heartbeat.

It's not the noise of death that greets you through the door, however, but instead the faint whisper of voices in the other room. You frown and wave your minions into silence, trying to make out the words.

“... can't believe you left it here, you dicklicking moron, I told you to keep it close!”

“They were all up and searching everyplace for assassins and shit, best friend. This was the only place what I could put it where nobody was gonna motherfucking look.”

“Seer's shithole, Gamzee, and you left the fucking rope? Were you actually trying to get me quartered by the Eyes, or were you just frying your thinking matter so completely that you lost the capacity for even the vague imitation of rational thought you usually string together?”

“Oh hells, brother, I was so busy being thinking about the miracles of getting out of here that I didn't even think of that none...”

You've heard enough. With a hiss of annoyance you slam the door open, sword at the ready, just in time to see the two of them absconding through the door opposite into the corridor. You have just long enough to see the Kutsanmis scion- Gamzee, his name is Gamzee- wearing a backpack and what looks like one of his own guard's crossbows before he slams the door shut and you're left having to chase after what are, you will admit, a very skilled pair of deceivers.

The tower is old, built in the days when Matriarchs feared assassins enough to kill their architect when the commissioned structure was complete. The passages are a maze of curving, snaking corridors that turn sharply and lead to apparent dead ends that then turn off into hidden walkways behind tapestries. Your Lawkeepers vanish after the intruder in moments, but fortunately your quarry doesn't seem much better at navigating the place than you are because as you emerge you see Gamzee pause uncertainly at the end of the hallway and turn back. He freezes when he realises he's been seen, and the Kutsanmis House Guards race past you to try and grab him. He slips away from one but the other gets a firm hold on the thrashing, panicking noble and for a moment you think he's caught.

Then like lightning the intruder appears again, and you knew he was good with those sickles but it still takes your breath away when he cuts down the Guard holding Gamzee with a single swipe. You're on him in an instant, sword flashing, but he steps easily aside from the blow even as you holler for one of your own followers to get back here and help the bleeding Guard.

One of your Lawkeepers rushes past you and you leave her to tend to the wounded man, following the remaining House Guard down a side passage that brings you to the spiral staircase at the same time as Gamzee and the intruder hurtle at full speed around the corner and start to pelt down the steps. Like the rest of the tower, they are treacherous with age, and you are forced to duck as you run to avoid hitting your head. You can see your quarry doing the same, and you curse as your remaining Lawkeeper slips on a stair whose surface has been worn smooth by generations of passing feet. You charge past her after the intruder, who is as sure-footed as you would have expected from seeing his earlier climb, and emerge into the back courtyard of the compound hot on the heels of your prey.

Gamzee is leading the chase, his rapid pace barely faltering even as the cook's foul-tempered canine jumps up and stretches its chain to bark at him. You encountered the dog earlier and you're amazed when the supposedly sheltered Kutsanmis son absently shooshes it back while barely breaking stride. You think that your assessment of him as docile and useless was probably the single biggest mistake of your career. At least whatever he did to the creature seems to hold as the rest of you hurtle past over the uneven, cracked flagstones of the courtyard and after him into the kitchens.

In preparation for the upcoming nuptials, the kitchens are a riot of activity. It's hard to see anything through the press of people, even as they start crying in alarm and trying to move aside, You see the disturbance in the flow of people where the two fugitives are muscling their way through the crowd, and attempt to follow in their wake only to find your way blocked by the sizeable bulk of the furious Head Cook.

“WHAT IN THE DEEPEST HELLS ARE YOU DOING IN MY KITCHEN!” he bellows over the uproar. You snarl and jab at him with your blade.

“Get out of my way or I'll have you hanged!” you yell, eyes narrowing at the man who dares impede the forces of law and justice. He seems to note the teal of your armour and flushes, stepping aside so that you can continue to shove your way past the startled servants and slaves around you. The remaining Kutsanmis House Guard seems to be having trouble making headway, but you can't afford to stop and help him. You need to stay on the chase, or else risk losing your targets.

You emerge from the kitchens into the feasting hall, which is being decorated by yet more servants. A glance shows that the two you're looking for are sticking to the shadows at the edge of the hall and remaining unnoticed. Presumably they're trying to avoid a commotion, and you feel the same. The last thing you want is for the people in the hall to panic, so you slip to the edge of the room and pass through unobtrusively.

Or you try to, at least, but for once your brilliantly coloured Lawkeeper armour isn't working in your favour. Heads turn as you pass, and as you reach the halfway point of the hall your way is blocked by a woman wearing high-quality servant's clothes in House Kutsanmis colours. From the way she's looking down her nose at you, you'd guess she's fairly high caste herself- most likely her kin have served the Kutsanmis House for generations, and consider themselves a few rungs above anyone who isn't the Family.

“I am sorry, but you cannot be in here,” she says, sounding not sorry at all. You crane your neck to look past her just in time to see the fugitives disappear through the door to the main courtyard and you frown.

“I'm just passing through,” you say, pointing to the door. She sniffs, a haughty affectation that makes you really, really want to arrest her for impeding an Initiate of the Seer.

“I am afraid you will have to turn back and go round,” she says, indicating the kitchen door behind you. You ignore her and try to step around, but to your shock she moves to block you, even going so far as to put a hand on your chest.

“It's the exact same distance!” you say, waving your sword emphatically at the distant door. “In fact, I'd be out of here already if you weren't standing in the way of the just pursuit of the law.”

The woman shrugs as if this is an entirely secondary consideration. “Things must be done the proper way,” she insists. Out of the corner of your eye you see the Kutsanmis House Guard creep past, taking advantage of the distraction to rejoin the pursuit, and your patience snaps.

“Then file a complaint with my order,” you say, roughly shoving her aside and charging for the door before she can summon a means to stop you. As you step out you hear a clattering sound and turn to see that your Lawkeeper has caught up, and rather than avoid the meddling servant by stealth has chosen to charge headlong across the feasting table. You chuckle as you emerge into the courtyard, only for your amusement to die as a ceramic pot whistles past you and strikes the wall next to the House Guard, shattering into dust and fragments.

There is a serious commotion amongst the traders out here as the ordinary citizens try to get away from the two fugitives, who are hemmed in by the carts and crates scattered everywhere. Gamzee is hovering protectively between you and the intruder, and his hand is reaching towards another pot; before you can fully assess the situation, the House Guard lets loose a crossbow bolt. The projectile grazes the casteless intruder's cheek and scores a bloody line, and you don't miss the way Gamzee Kutsanmis tenses when the thief hisses in suppressed pain. You dart off into the tangle of wheels and wedding goods, squeezing through to try and reach the mysterious felon as the Kutsanmis House Guard runs forward to grab Gamzee.

For a moment it seems that your ally has the scion caught, but then before you can reach him the other fugitive darts back and attacks. The swinging sickle goes wild but you find yourself wondering why he would try at all- he could have kept running, and if you're being honest he would have had a fighting chance to get clean away from you. Instead he's headed back into the thick of the chase to try and free his co-conspirator. This goes beyond some money-making scheme, or even simple friendship, and you make a mental note to get to the bottom of it later. Then Gamzee yells and tugs and pulls himself free of the House Guard's grasp, and you jump forward to try and grab the intruder as your Lawkeeper emerges from the feasting hall.

Too late you remember that your opponent's got his sickles out and is fighting; your reminder comes in the form of a lethal swipe across your throat. You know from how smooth it was that there's barely even a line marring your skin, but you can feel the deep throbbing pain of a serious wound. Slamming your hands to the injury you stare in shock at the panting, wide-eyed Shanties boy, feeling your heartbeat pounding through your fingers as you try to hold in your blood and fail. Ridiculously, you think how appropriate it is that his eyes are just the colour of blood- bright red, like brilliant little sugared fruits. The phrase cherry candy pops into your mind, and even though it's stupid because everyone's blood is the same colour it somehow fits him best of all.

Then the House Guard and the Lawkeeper both draw their swords and attack him at once. He dodges the first strike without even trying and stares in shock at the second blade that erupts through his belly, somehow sliding between the armoured plates of his coat and making short work of everything after. His mouth forms a surprised “O” and you think he looks almost betrayed as he slides off the sword and falls unconscious to the ground, lying motionless in a spreading pool of his own blood. He's somehow still breathing, but you don't think he will be for long.

There is a growl.

You look over to see the Kutsanmis scion looking at the three of you with such hateful murder twisting his face that you would never, ever have guessed he was the same placid, pesh-addled boy you had been ordered to protect had you not seen the change happen before your eyes. One long-fingered hand reaches over to grab an ornate but heavy candlestick from a nearby crate and something about the way he moves is completely wrong. Its as if something else is the puppeteer of his body, something dark and demonic and more than anything else furious. You kind of want to run away, but you're too busy holding your throat together, so all you can do is watch as he slams the metal candlestick into the side of your Lawkeeper's head, visibly caving her skull in and dropping her like a stone. You stagger back a few steps and open your mouth, shouting hoarsely for assistance as the Kutsanmis House Guard, presumably acting out of some sort of faulty preconceived notion of how the boy will respond, tries to grab him again.

The Guard falls to the candlestick before he can even get a grip on Gamzee, and then those furious purple eyes are fixed on you, clawlike nails scraping against the bloodsoaked tool as he shifts it in his grip. He takes a few steps forward and stands over the casteless intruder, snarling. Far too slowly it dawns on you that he's guarding him, trying through whatever madness possesses him to keep his dying friend safe. You glance at the three injured on the floor, all of them plunging ever closer to death, and you feel your own heartbeat racing on the edge of your life.

“Please,” you whisper, wincing as the words cause you pain to speak. “We need a healer. I know you want to protect him, but we can't save him if you don't let anyone near...”

You try to take a step forward, and hastily abort the attempt when you are snarled at. A glance around shows that help is arriving, and you look back at the casualties. You can't be sure, but you think they might have stopped bleeding. They're still in dire need of medical aid, as are you. You eye up the furious scion as the Guards and the Lawkeepers draw closer, wondering how you're going to get him away from his friend.

Then a shadow passes across his features, followed by a look of surprise, and he slumps as if someone just cut his strings. The candlestick drops from his grip as he looks around wildly at the crossbows and swords pointed in his direction. Wide-eyed he crawls over to the side of his fallen friend, and as you feel the gentle hand of a healer on your shoulder you can see tears starting to make tracks down his face.

“Please...” he begs, looking around the assembled crowd like he doesn't even know who to ask. “I'll be good, I'll up and do any shit you want, I promise I will, just don't motherfucking hurt him. It's not his fault, it's me, he wouldn't have done none of this if I hadn't wanted him to, please, just let him fucking live...”

You hear his voice breaking with fear and it makes you wonder. On the one hand, since the incident happened on House Kutsanmis land, the law gives the family primacy in deciding punishment of the perpetrator. On the other hand, you and your associates were badly injured by this miscreant, and if the Temple of the Seer makes a request for custody of the prisoner under those terms then any House, no matter how noble, would be hard-put to refuse. Professionally it's quite a risk, but then you've never been risk averse when there's something suspicious afoot. You have questions and you doubt the Matriarch is going to allow you to question her son.

Then again, you still haven't found that assassin. You may not have time for this, and you let yourself be slowly led to a corner for medical attention while you mull over whether or not Cherry Candy Casteless is worth risking your reputation and career to question.


Suggestions

unholygrunt and jadescribe – Karkat: Take Gamzee hostage.

MASK - Terezi: better catch this guy quickly. you doubt the Kutsanmis would appreciate such an... inconvenience, during their son's 'special day'.

kaysin – Gamzee: React to what's going on.

OrderOfTheToast – Karkat: Bolt through the compound with Gamzee, disturbing preparations and being chased by Terezi.

What am I using? Soon you will see...

System Notes

Chapter Text

==> Jane: Watch A Street Show

The city is quiet at midmorning; when you first saw it so still, back when you were just a rookie in the Watch, it surprised you that the streets were empty when the sun was shining brilliantly overhead. But as the experienced Guard showing you and your brother the ropes had pointed out, everyone going to work has arrived by this time, and nobody is taking a break for lunch yet. The only people about are the ones whose chores or work take them onto the street, or those up to no good.

You have yet to work out which category Dirk is in today. Your eyes narrow thoughtfully as you lean against the cool grey stone of a handy haberdashery, watching as the masked performer reels in a small but steady crowd with his patter. He keeps them enthralled with a little juggling and the rapid-fire poetry that you've not heard properly spoken outside the Phooka Clans. Dave hovers around the edge of the crowd as usual, waiting for his cue. You haven't seen him brush too close to anyone yet, and you think that's probably because he knows you're there. Dirk's certainly seen you and what one of the brothers knows the other is usually aware of. They aren't going to take risks with you there, in uniform or not.

Normally on your days off you would be home at the inn, helping Mom and Dad keep the place running smoothly and maybe doing a little baking. Things are quiet lately though, and with John's steadfast refusal to eat the fruits of your labours you think it's probably best to let the stockpile of cake die down a little before you make any more. You're not used to doing nothing with your time, which is probably why you ended up going for a stroll just to kill the time. Of course, now you've seen that Dirk's about, your plans are changing. Most people would say that Phooka mischief- and it is Phooka mischief, even if the pair of them are aasimar- is more a matter for the Town Guard than an Investigator-in-training. To your mind, the Watch is the Watch and crime is crime. Besides which, you don't trust Dirk or Dave as far as you could throw the pair of them together.

It's only because you're watching for it that you spot the moment Dirk gives a small nod to Dave, and then the black-clad bandit is slipping through the crowd to stand next to his brother. You can already see people laughing and elbowing each other, making the natural assumption that Dave's outfit is a costume like his brother's colourful getup. In a way they're right, because you don't think you've ever seen Dirk out of his performing clothes either. Sometimes you wonder if that's because he's treating the whole world as his stage and everyone in it as the audience. You've known the pair of them for years now, arrested them both at least a dozen times and never for anything worse than pickpocketing. Dave always shrugs and flirts with whoever puts the handcuffs on- the first time you and your brother met the pair of them it was you he ended up hitting on, and you swear to the heavens that he was playing it up to make John giggle even harder. Your brother thought Dave was hilarious, and ended up fast friends with the quick-tongued thief and his obscene vocabulary. You were more interested in the other brother, the one who dressed like a mockery of a dandy and who quietly seemed almost pleased to get caught.

The charges didn't stick that first time, or any time after that. You'd hate the way the two of them get away scot-free, except that they never do anything serious and every time they do get released, you learn about another legal loophole to avoid in future. You tilt your head as Dave draws a sword and theatrically menaces Dirk with it, wondering for the thousandth time whether your mysterious acquaintance is secretly your friend or your foe.

Dave flourishes his sword dramatically at the crowd, and a few of them gasp. You see the small smile twitch at his lips. He was never as good as Dirk at hiding his feelings, and you know for a fact that your dear brother has a real talent for getting under Dave's skin when he wants to. It's amusing to watch, if childish.

“You'd better gasp alright, 'cos I'm the bandit king,” Dave intones, waving his sword in a slow arc across the audience. Even from across the street you can hear every word perfectly; his projection has really improved over the years. “And I'm coming here to steal every purse and every ring. Every pendant, every bracelet, every coin and every gem- and if you've got a pretty daughter then I think I'll steal them!”

The crowd is laughing now at the sudden intruder in the show, and you can't suppress a smile as Dirk speaks up. “Your majesty, I'm sorry, but there must be some mistake, because those things you say you're taking, well, they ain't your things to take. They ain't your rings and pendants, they ain't your gems and gold, and I'm sure that pretty daughters go to heroes brave and bold.” On the last line he catches his juggling clubs and winks theatrically to the audience. It's your turn to giggle. One thing you do know about Dirk is that he's about as interested in pretty daughters as you are, maybe even less.

Dave does an exaggerated turn, scanning the street carefully before turning back to Dirk. “If there's a hero hereabouts, then I don't see or hear him.” He lifts his sword again and waggles it at his brother. “Unless of course your cunning plan consists of volunteering.” He starts to pace around Dirk, the sword never wavering. “But I really can't advise that, because when all is said, if you say that you're a hero then I say I'll see you dead!”

Dirk reaches behind himself and draws his own sword, long and curved. It's completely distinctive and you've not seen another one like it; clearly it's something he picked up travelling with the Clans. Unlike most of the audience, you're also keenly aware that both Dirk and Dave's blades are sharp and lethal. You have no idea why they don't use safe, blunted blades for these performances. Perhaps it just amuses them for things to be this way.

“I'd not say I'm a hero, just a normal working joe,” Dirk says slowly, turning to keep Dave in his vision as the “Bandit King” continues to circle. “But I'm not a man to pass on by and let a robber go! You think that you can slay me- well, strike me if you can, and may the final blow between us go to the better man!”

Dave lunges first and your heart does leap into your throat, but as usual it's a show fight- slow, looping blows aimed at each other's blades rather than anything actually vulnerable. It still makes you nervous. What if a child were to run into the middle of their pretend fight? What if one of them were to slip, or lose his grip on his sword?

Perhaps they really are just that good, a part of you thinks, and to be honest that's the thought that really scares you. You've never seen either of them fight for real, but to use sharp blades in a pretend fight is the kind of insanity that only the truly skilled or the immensely stupid would ever attempt, and neither of the brothers strikes you as particularly foolish. You drift closer as metal clashes on metal, the crowd barely noticing as you push your way closer to the performance just in time to see Dave thrust his ordinary longsword “through” Dirk. The blade obviously just passed by on the opposite side from the crowd, but Dirk clutches his side and staggers about in mock pain, tugging a red ribbon out from between his fingers.

“It seems that I am stricken, a deep and mortal blow,” he gasps to the audience, the ribbon fluttering in the breeze. “And yet there is one magic that can stop this scarlet flow.” He drops to his knees as behind him Dave takes a few steps back, fading into the background for the scene. “If you would stop the Bandit King and turn his strike into a miss, then send the fairest maiden forth to give her healing kiss!”

And all of a sudden you could just kill Dirk, because his outstretched hand is reaching pleadingly towards you. You intend to resist, naturally, but the rest of the audience has other ideas and you find yourself being shoved forwards into his waiting arms. Scowling, you lean in and give him a chaste little peck on the side of his lips. He smells of sweat and lavender, and you can feel his breath on your cheek as he whispers “thanks,” in your ear.

Before you can really wonder about that, he discards the ribbon and jumps to his feet, flourishing his sword again. “Aha! I am recovered! And your crimes are at an end!”

The Bandit King, aka Dave, laughs. “We shall see who's ending who now, my resurrected friend!” He slips sideways and then charges in, only for his painfully unstealthy sneak attack to be obviously and dramatically parried by the newly “recovered” Dirk.

“Perhaps you are a cur, but you shall fight me like a man!”

Dave snarls at him. “I struck you once already, fool, I'll kill you where you stand!” The two of them get to fighting again and you slip back into the crowd, albeit right at the front this time. An elderly man gives you a smile as you step next to him, which you return in good humour.

Inevitably, the rejuvenated hero gets the upper hand in the duel and it is Dave's turn to have Dirk's sword cause an apparently fatal injury. Dave staggers backwards as he speaks the Bandit King's last words. “I am slain upon your blade, good sir, a villain to the grave. It seems you were a hero after all, upstanding, bold and brave.”

You don't think he delivers dying lines as well as Dirk did, but he gets a cheer when he makes a “guuurk” noise and falls flat over onto the cobblestones from standing. You wince. That had to have hurt.

Dirk ignores his brother's antics and turns to the crowd instead. “The Bandit King is slain and all good folk are free!” he declares, as behind him Dave gets back up and brushes off the dust of the street. “So we thank you for your patronage and your generosity.” The last word has a slight emphasis and is accompanied by Dave rather pointedly picking up the money-bag and holding it out to the crowd. You sigh and fork a couple of copper out of your money-purse to throw in, and as the rest of the audience start to either follow suit or hastily retreat you see Dirk give you a raised eyebrow.

“Don't look at me like that,” you tell him, folding your arms. “You two always have more money than I do, and you made me participate!”

“Oh, come on, Janey,” Dave says, wandering over with the jangling bag. “Who else was gonna save hero-boy? Shit, if it wasn't for you, we'd all be living under the heel of the Bandit King right now, stuck wishing for all the King's horses and all the King's men to get their asses into this godforsaken corner of the world and lay some law down on us. You don't want that fucking asshole getting all the bitches and bling, do you? 'Course not, that's why you danced the tongue tango with his nemesis.”

You smack yourself in the face, in the vague hope that this will reset the universe to one where Dave knows when to stop talking. This miracle does not occur, but when you feel a reassuring pat on your shoulder and look over to see Dirk's hand you think that maybe that's good enough for now.

“So, not that it isn't great to see you,” Dirk says, tidying the money bag away with the rest of his performing gear, “but is there any particular reason you decided to come and witness our little theatre production of spectacular bullshit today?”

You shrug. “I was just around and caught sight of you.” You frown. “Why? Are you up to something?”

Dirk waves an admonishing finger in your face. “Ah, ah, Investigator. That is racial profiling, which will only perpetuate the social stigma attached to our cultural heritage and leave us and all our kinsmen trapped in a perceptual cage which fucks up any attempt to improve ourselves or our situation.”

“Plus it's rude to accuse your friends of shit just because you're bored,” Dave adds. You grab Dirk's finger and glare at both of them.

“Okay, firstly, you know damn well that I'm not prejudiced against wild elves- and that is who you were talking about with that racial profiling crack, don't even try to pretend otherwise, because you're only aasimar when it suits you. Secondly, social stigma be damned, you know damn well that Phooka cultural heritage does not include a very firm grasp on the concept of personal property and that as a member of the Watch I have to at least be aware of this! Thirdly, I know you two. You're always up to something.”

Dave and Dirk share a look, red eyes meeting orange in a moment of silent communication, then Dave holds his hands out meekly.

“Whelp, I guess that's it,” he says with a sigh. “You got us bang to rights, lock us up and throw the key the fuck away. This case is so fucking watertight, when you're done with it they're gonna use it for searching the bottom of the bay. Gonna dredge up all the storm-wrecks for miles with that shit, make a fucking mint on the cargoes, that's how solid your evidence is.”

“Seriously,” Dirk adds, pulling his finger out of your grasp. “While it's nice to know that your gut feelings are apparently a highly-regarded and carefully-trained tool of legal investigation, we promised our Guardian we'd be home for midday meal.”

“And she is one scary lady,” Dave says.

“So we're just going to walk away, until you find something that's actually fucking admissible in a court of law,” Dirk finishes. He swings his bag over his shoulder and starts walking off, Dave giving you a jaunty little salute before following. You watch their backs retreating down the street and three things occur to you.

One, they never actually said they weren't up to something.

Two, they've told you in the past that their Guardian never gets up before midday unless her caravan is actually on fire.

Three, the Phooka Clans are camped in the other direction.

Following them isn't even a proper conscious decision. They stand out in the crowd so you can afford to hang back, and as noon approaches there are more and more people on the street to mask your presence. Once or twice they look back and you have to hastily turn and examine a stall with extreme interest, or duck behind a cart to avoid notice, but overall they don't seem even slightly aware of your presence as you stalk them through Porthaven to the Temple District. Here the crowded, narrow buildings of the city make way for a large circular plaza, surrounded by the eight temples of the Pantheon of Light. They're theoretically eight separate buildings, but over time the red brick structures behind the marble entrances and colourful domes have joined together into one single complex. The Temple of Breath is the keystone, of course, with the Temples of Light and Life supporting it in equal marble magnificence. The Temples of Time and Space are modest but age-worn, while the Temple of Hope looks considerably more shiny and new. The Void and Heart temples are at the edges near the entrance to the plaza, smaller and shabbier than the others. In the case of the Temple of Heart, that's because the main religious centre is out by the Barrow Hill and this is just a token showing in the religious core of the city; for the Temple of Void, you suspect it has more to do with the number of Priests of the Rogue that need bailing out and legal fees for charges of public drunkenness, trespassing, robbery, causing affray, and in one memorable case indecent exposure and defacement of a public building.

None of these buildings should be of any interest to someone who considers themselves culturally Phooka, and you grow all the more curious when the brothers head straight for the Temple of Light. You wander casually after them, watching from by the central fountain as they slip down a side alley towards the servants' entrance.

You have a mental debate with yourself about whether to follow, and lose. When you reach the alleyway you stop trying to look casual and instead stay low and tread softly. The gap between the two buildings is wide enough to be considered a proper street anywhere else in the city, but overhead the arching bridges that connect the two neighbouring buildings block the light and make your journey that bit more treacherous.

When you hear Dirk's voice drifting out of an open window you move to crouch under it, eavesdropping like the professional Investigator you almost are. You hear an unfamiliar female voice- probably one of the servants- talking to them.

“... should be out of Midday Devotions soon, but I really shouldn't leave all this work!”

“Come on, Lyra, we're fucked if you don't help us out,” Dave says. He doesn't sound all that concerned to you, but you guess not everyone is as suspicious as you because you hear Lyra mumble something about “maybe in a few hours”.

“Lyra,” says Dirk, and you can imagine him putting his hand over hers and gazing soulfully into her eyes. You've lived and worked in an inn since you were tiny and in all that time you've never met such a manipulative flirt as Dirk Silvertongue; he turns the charm on when he needs it and when he doesn't, poof! Out like a candle. The fact that he doesn't try it on you is probably a compliment to your intelligence, or something.

When you hear Lyra agreeing to go and do whatever it was they wanted her to do, you're a little ashamed to find yourself thinking what an idiot she is. But honestly- how could anyone know Dirk and Dave at all and still be taken in by the faces they chose to show? They gave up trying to fool you that way ages ago. You think.

Oh, gods, if they were putting on their whole mysterious bullshit façade just to jerk around the silly little trainee Investigator, you are going to have them in jail so fast the doors will be spinning.

“Hey, bro,” says Dave, and you freeze as you realise that yes, this is them alone in a room and you can hear everything they say... it is quite possible that no living being in the universe has ever had the opportunity to witness this before. You should feel privileged.

“Sup?” Dirk asks, and you're amazed by how like Dave he sounds in that one word.

“What sort of trouble we looking at for this? Like, slap on the wrists and no supper for you trouble, or getting all close and friendly with the hangman so he drops us sharp and not slow kind of trouble?”

He sounds curious rather than afraid, and you spend the long pause wondering if maybe you underestimated the brothers and their unending capacity for diffident stoicism.

“Does it even matter?” Dirk says eventually. Dismissively. “We're Striders, bro. Trouble is our bread and butter.”

Perhaps they keep their bullshit masks up even around each other. Perhaps they don't even know what's under there any more. Either way the revelation of their shared truename isn't enough to stop the frustration that makes you grind your teeth so hard it's amazing they don't hear it. Then a door opens with a heavy creak inside and you remember that you're supposed to be gathering evidence. Daringly, you crouch up to peek over the edge of the window, expecting to see the unidentified “Lyra” returning.

Instead you see two figures that you immediately recognise, even if they are wearing long hooded cloaks over their usual elegant robes. The white cat purring on the second figure's shoulders would have given it away for you even if you hadn't been personally speaking to them both for weeks and knew their faces on sight.

Hastily you drop back down to the ground, hardly daring to breathe. What the Oracle of Light and her sister are doing meeting a pair of disreputable street performers in their own kitchens you can't even begin to decipher. You hear a few simple greetings, Roxy and Dirk speaking to each other as established acquaintances, before Rose interrupts.

“As I understand it, time is of the essence,” she says, sounding more than a little impatient. “If we are to attempt to blend with the crowds as we move, we will have to go before they dissipate.”

“But of course,” Dirk agrees. “This way, ladies.”

Your heart stops again as you realise that all four of them are about to exit into the alley. The straight, empty alley, where you are currently crouched just by the door they will be exiting by. You have about four seconds before they will be able to see you, and there is no way you can explain crouching by the open window as a purely innocuous position.

Oh, shit.

Suggestions Used

Well, I have six (or seven?- someone went twice) suggestions that would continue the plot threat from the previous couple of chapters, but for the twin purposes of drama and also writing someone I haven't already done yet, I'm going to follow these suggestions:

Ms Arano - Jade: Watch street show. (I suspect this is meant to say “Jane” as Jade is nowhere near a street, let alone a street show).

Jack-Of-Spades - Dirk: Get the pea rolling on this scam, then cut to the chase and immediately out-do Dave in "heroic" sister related shenanigans.

Don't worry! I've got all the previous suggestions saved for use and I will use them. I just wanted to make sure this story doesn't get stuck in a rut.

System Notes

Chapter Text

THE HEIR OF BREATH

Heir Of Breath God Symbol, AO3 ficpic, Homestuck Breath symbol with an oval round it.

Lord Laughter, Storm Brother, the Hammer of Faith, the First God

ALIGNMENT: Neutral Good

PORTFOLIO: Defence, Laughter, Family, Leadership

DOMAINS: Protection (Defence), Air (Wind), Good (), Strength (), Trickery (), Community ()

FAVOURED WEAPON: Lucerne Hammer

THE HEIR OF BREATH is a god close to the heart of many communities, whose mission is to draw people together with the simple joys of life and protect them with his strength.

HISTORY
All the creation stories that acknowledge the Heir at all name him as the first of all the gods, the exact meaning of which has caused no small amount of dispute throughout history. Revelations to Oracles in days gone by have led to the generally accepted idea that he was the first to become divine, a turn of phrase that has left many religious scholars questioning. They are liable to continue in their puzzlement, because for every tale which tells of the god aiding in the creation of a community or defence of a home, there is one which speaks of his mischievous sense of humour and impish troublemaking. Tales of him rarely end badly, however, and it seems that whatever his methods his purpose is always to spread happiness and safety in the world.

PANTHEONS AND RELATIONSHIPS
The Heir of Breath appears in the worship of three different pantheons as well as individually.

In the PANTHEON OF LIGHT, he is considered to be the leader of the eight gods and to maintain good relations with them all. In particular he is considered to take advice from the SEER OF LIGHT, and is as close as a brother to the KNIGHT OF TIME. He does sometimes clash with the PRINCE OF HEART, but is otherwise on friendly terms with his fellow deities within the pantheon.

As one of the RULERS OF HEAVEN, he is once again considered to be the leader of the four, but this time in a much more informal sense. His relationship with the KNIGHT OF TIME is played up further and he is brother to the WITCH OF SPACE; in this pantheon, his nature as a trickster comes more to the fore, and he has greater distrust for the SEER OF LIGHT.

Within the HOLY TRIAD, he is one of three equal deities along with the WITCH OF SPACE, who is once again his sister, and the KNIGHT OF TIME, who is once again his closest friend. In this pantheon his love of laughter and family are paramount, as is his nature as a guardian warrior.

Alone, he is most usually depicted as benevolent and friendly towards other deities, but with a decided trickster streak that can infuriate others. He is sometimes depicted as deliberately annoying, and rarely gets on well with the short-tempered.

As an antagonist to other pantheons or deities, he is depicted as either a fool or an irritant, as well as monstrously strong and disinclined to listen to reason. He is in fact the primary villain in many of the stories of the worshippers of the KNIGHT OF BLOOD, in which he is the combined forces of stubbornness, wilful blindness, and thoughtless gestures that cause most of the problems of the world.

APPEARANCE AND EMISSARIES
The Heir of Breath is most often depicted as a dark-haired aasimar with blue eyes and a long blue hood. He carries a brightly coloured hammer and is almost always in motion, usually flying on a gust of wind. Sometimes he is shown as a Tuatha or a Phooka instead, but with the same blue eyes and clothing.

SERVANTS
Good-hearted creatures that fly or are by nature of the air are sacred to the Heir of Breath. Oddly, he also seems to have a soft spot for kobolds, muckdwellers, and other small lizardfolk- so long as they are not harming others.

The Pretties
These Air Mephits, distinguished from others of their kind by their trailing blue hoods, are the divine messengers of the Heir. They are well-known to cause mischief if summoned for tasks they consider boring or pointless.

Lyvtaeler
This celestial Dragon Horse appears on the eve of battle to aid whichever side the Heir favours. It is said that to see the enemy leader sitting on this mare is a clear sign that you should abandon the field.

Breezecaller
This ancient Cloud Dragon is claimed to be both immortal, and the oldest living paladin of the Heir. He is rarely seen and more rarely recognised; to those who do find him, he grants three questions to be truthfully answered, and more if they can beat him in a game of riddles. He never joins a battle unless it is for the sake of the world, but will rescue individuals when he sees they need aid.

CHURCH
Temples of the Heir are generally at the hearts of communities, performing marriages, training guards and defenders, and hosting celebrations of all kinds. Those that follow a pantheon generally report to the primary temple of that pantheon- Porthaven for the PANTHEON OF LIGHT, Madianzi for the RULERS OF HEAVEN, and Hintta for the HOLY TRIAD. His solo temples are generally locally run, but maintain a loose cooperative which helps unify his worship. Worship of the Heir worldwide tends to originate in settled, above-ground communities with peaceful goals.

WORSHIPPERS AND CLERGY
Clerics of the Heir of Breath are Neutral Good, Lawful Good, Chaotic Good, or True Neutral.

Followers of the Heir are usually ordinary working-class people, both in cities and the countryside. He is also popular amongst sailors, merchants, soldiers and anyone else who risks life and limb travelling far from home.

The clergy of the Heir are primarily Clerics and Paladins, although some Inquisitors take up his calling. Oracles are rare and appear only in times of great need, when the Heir feels he must act more directly in the world. His devout followers tend to act as watchmen and guards against outside threats, or as activists and reformers within their own societies.

TEMPLES AND SHRINES
Temples to the Heir of Breath are usually designed around a high-ceilinged, spacious central chamber. Large windows to let the light in and brightly-painted designs are common, and they often serve as the venue for parties and feasts. Shrines to the Heir are also common at roadsides, simple carven stone altars bearing his symbol and festooned with the offerings of weary travellers.

HOLY TEXTS
The holy books of the Church of Breath are mostly simply stories about the Heir, and the doings of various champions and prophets of the faith. The idea is that by retelling the tales, people can learn from the events and the actions of the heroes how to make a positive mark on the world.

The Tale of Skaia
The primary book of the faith, this tome tells the story of the birth of the gods and the defeat of several demons that led to the creation of the world. Despite its central position in the faith, the entire tale is generally held to be “extremely confusing”, and largely allegorical. Fortunately there are enough individual tales within the overarching plot that they can be recounted individually, without the wilder themes in the original becoming apparent.

The Tale of The Templar
The life story of the first mortal champion of the Heir of Breath and the founding of the first temple on the site of what is now Porthaven. This book is better known to laypeople than the Tale of Skaia, and informs their views on the god accordingly.

Five Times The Heir Of Breath Knew What He Was Doing, And One Time He Didn't
A bizarre book, which many members of the clergy have in the past tried to have declared heretical. It never sticks. Generally viewed as being for children, it highlights the trickster nature of the Heir and shows him interacting with other gods- including several which are not in any of his standard pantheons. Phooka worshippers of the Heir, although rare, almost always own a copy of this book.

HOLIDAYS
The church of the Heir assists in the celebration of hatchings and births, along with any other local joyful events, in addition to its own holy days.

Mischief Night
At the end of autumn, after the last harvest has been brought in but before the first frost, children and adults alike dress in masks and facepaint to pull pranks on one another and eat as many treats as their stomachs will hold. It is traditional on this night to select a Mischief King or Queen to direct the proceedings, just as it is traditional to spend the next week after cleaning up the mess.

Guardian's Day
On the thirteenth day of the fourth moon of the year, it is traditional for children to show appreciation for their guardians by giving them gifts and by arranging a celebration- often putting on a small play or dance.

Warden's Watch
For three days before and after the new year starts with the spring equinox, the adults of a community will keep vigil outside under the stars to see the old year out and the new year in. This usually takes the form of a large bonfire and an ongoing party, but by custom and tradition there will always be a small contingent alert and standing sentry.

Heir Of Breath Portrait by proserpine-in-phases

Chapter Text

==> John: Help Your Sister Out Of A Jam

You have always thought that Guard duty in the Temple District is unbelievably dull, and several long hours in the sun today have done nothing to convince you otherwise. Every temple has its own wardens, and they keep order well enough that the presence of the Watch is mostly just to make sure everyone knows that the place is still part of Porthaven and doesn't run on private law. In theory since you haven't been properly sworn in you should be accompanied by an experienced member of the Watch who can make sure that you don't screw up anything too badly. In practise Constable Richies wandered off half an hour ago to find lunch for you both, and she hasn't come back yet. You sigh and look longingly over at the children playing in the fountain; your feet are aching, and you're definitely starting to wish that you could just jump and splash in the water like they're doing. Sometimes the Porthaven Anchor on your chest is more of a burden than a blessing.

You catch sight of bright colours and black out of the corner of your eye, and feel your spirits lift when you notice Dave and Dirk crossing the square. You're about to call out to them when you see Jane, a good few paces behind and definitely in tracking mode. She looks about herself to check for watchers before following them down the alley between the Temples of Light and Time, and a slow grin spreads across your face.

You have the best idea for a prank.

Abandoning your useless post by the Temple of Life, you stroll across the square, pausing only to dig out your waterskin and fill it at the fountain. You wouldn't really want to drink this, but you're not planning to, and you can clean it out with the kettle at home. The little kids splash past you as you fill the leather container, and you flick some water back at them, making them screech. You're chuckling to yourself as you arrive at the end of the alley and note with satisfaction that Jane's attention is focused entirely through an open window.

Eavesdropping is of course fantastically rude, which is why you will be totally justified when you sneak up behind her and soak her with your recently-gathered fountain water. Before you can put this masterstroke of comic genius into effect, however, Jane jumps back from the window looking pale. You realise a moment later as the door opens that she's about to get caught listening in, and from the shade she's gone you think you can guess why.

You might be a pain sometimes, but nobody ever accused you of being malicious. You abandon your plans to give Jane an impromptu shower in favour of striding boldly down the alley and waving to the four figures that emerge. Dirk and Dave you were expecting, but when you see the Oracle and her sister with them you can't help but wonder what you've walked in on.

“Hi!” you call, and thank the stars that all four of them are now looking at you and not Jane, who kind of looks like she's trying to find a way to vanish into thin air.

“John,” Dave says, sounding almost surprised. “What, are you stalking me now? Because I know that what we have is special, but you gotta give me some space, man...”

You laugh and wave your hands in denial. “No, dude, nothing like that,” you tell him, cutting your friend off before he can get into full swing. “Actually, we came to see Rose and Roxy.”

“Us?” Roxy asks in a delighted squeak, at the exact same moment that Rose narrows her eyes and says, “We?

Jane picks up on your gambit and coughs softly. Four pairs of bright aasimar eyes turn to fix on her, and she goes pale again. You think she might even be sweating a bit with all the attention.

“Uh, hi,” she says, her voice evaporating into a tight little whisper. You roll your eyes and wish, not for the first time, that Janey had moves half as smooth as yours.

“We were hoping to talk some more about the Free Inn,” you say, narrowing your eyes and trying to send psychic sibling-waves of thought to your sister.

“Uh, yeah,” Jane agrees. “We were totally, definitely wanting to do that. Because. The Free Inn is important, and that is certainly a thing we should be talking about.”

Psychic sibling-waves of thought are not a real thing, which is sometimes a real pity. You shrug as Dave shoots you a quizzical look: none of this is really making sense to you at the moment, and you sort of wish you'd gone with the prank instead. You're not the only one looking a little incredulous; Dirk's stony gaze hasn't wavered from Jane since her first cough, and Rose and Roxy appear to be having some sort of silent conversation through the medium of raised eyebrows, pursed lips and twitches of finger motion.

You make a mental note to come up with some sort of cool sign language that you can use to talk to Jane- and Jade and Jake, when you finally meet them.

“How much did you hear?” asks Dirk. Jane shrugs. She looks about as bad as she did that time you filled her pillowcase with balls of fluff that looked sort of like spiders. You still don't get what all the fuss was about; it wasn't as if you used real bugs. That would have been creepy.

Rose sighs and pinches the bridge of her nose. You've only spoken to the Oracle a few times, but the first time you met her sister told you to call them both by name and you do want to be friendly. Besides, it makes them more like people than icons of their Churches, and people are a lot easier to deal with than religious symbols.

“I believe a full explanation may well be in order,” she says, her voice low as if she's afraid to be overheard. “But unfortunately I cannot give you one here. Secrecy is, as you may have guessed, a critical element of this endeavour and we simply cannot risk being overheard. Again.” She narrows her eyes and looks between you and Jane. “Suffice it to say that these two gentlemen are acting as our guides and protectors, at our own request, and that the fate of the world may very well be at stake. Now may we continue along our way? Quietly?”

You look at Jane, who sees your expression, sighs, and gives a single nod. You beam at her and scoot forward to wrap an arm around Dave's shoulder.

“Well, if you can't explain here, then we'll just have to come with you until you can tell us!” you say cheerfully. Rose stares at you in shock, and her sister breaks into peals of laughter.

“Oh, I like yooou!” Roxy trills, leaning over to link elbows with your free arm. You feel an extra, unexpected weight as her white cat unwraps itself from around her neck and puts a tentative paw on your shoulder; you glance at it and are met by a pair of surprisingly intelligent pink eyes. The girl resting on you smirks and reaches her hand out to Jane. “Come on, Janey! Let's have anadva... advanat... an addent... fuck it, an advanature!”

Jane hesitantly takes the proffered hand, and suddenly you are wrenched away from Dave by a blur of dark blue and pink motion. You follow Roxy as best you can as she drags you and your sister out into the main square, then stumble again as she pauses and looks around in confusion. A few seconds later Dirk walks past her without even breaking stride.

“This way, sweet cheeks,” he calls, and you're off again. When you hear a faint snicker from Dave you decide that enough is enough and wrench your arm out of the giggling aasimar's death-grip, prising the fingers of her other hand off Jane's arm as her cat sits on your shoulder and purrs in your ear. It's starting to weird you out a bit, actually- you're fairly sure that familiars aren't supposed to touch people other than their master. Maybe the kitty is just as gregarious as its owner. You sort of hope that's it.

As Dirk leads your small group down the hill road towards the inland edge of the city, you fall back to walk beside Jane. Your sister looks at you with a frown.

“Aren't you supposed to be on duty?” she asks. You nod.

“Yeah, but nobody's going to notice I'm gone. It's Temple District, Janey! What's going to happen, someone steals a building?” You wink and give your sister a nudge. “Don't worry. I won't tell anyone about your crush on Dirk.”

She turns a really interesting shade of pink and splutters a bit, and you reach up to absently scratch at the cat's ears. “Yeah, I figured you must like him if you were following him around the city!”

“I... you... he...” she stammers, before taking a pause and drawing herself up to her full height- just a couple of inches shorter than you. “I do not have a crush on Dirk Silvertongue!”

“Do too.”

“Do not!”

“Totally do.”

“Do not! Oh!” She huffs and stamps a few steps ahead before turning back and rounding on you. “For your information, I was following him because he was acting suspiciously! I was investigating a suspect!”

You stick your tongue out at her as you walk up. “Aren't you supposed to be off duty?”

She smacks you across the head. “Shut up! A good investigator is never off duty!”

“Yeah, not when your duty is looove!

Another smack. “I'm not even his type!”

“Oh-ho? And is he yours?”

Jane stares at you, eye twitching. “NO!” She turns on one heel and storms off, leaving you to wrap your hands behind your head and stroll on after, whistling a nonchalant tune. You actually couldn't care less whether or not she has a crush on Dirk. It's just really fun to wind her up like this. Although you kind of wonder what she meant about not being Dirk's type- wow, you wonder if she asked him out and got rejected. That would be hilarious.

It doesn't take you too long to work out where you're headed to. Porthaven is built on a hill and you can see over the wall to the bright caravans of the Clans ahead of you long before you come close to the gates. You nod to passers-by and exchange pleasantries with acquaintances, but it doesn't escape your notice that Dirk and Dave are carving a path with purpose, or that Rose and Roxy have pulled their cloaks close around their distinctive robes. You suppose that they don't want to get mobbed by worshippers, and the thought makes you scratch at the back of your forearm. Even though you know it's nothing, the shape of your birthmark still bothers you from time to time. If people knew about you and Jane, then you might not be able to be in the Watch any more. You might not be able to help your parents with the inn. You might not even be able to live at the inn.

It's not like you're keeping it secret, exactly. Technically, nobody ever asked if you have the symbol of a god on your arm.

As the crow flies, it is hardly any distance to the Phooka camp, but by the winding roads of Porthaven it takes a good hour to reach the northern gate. As usual the great wooden doors are wide open to let travellers come and go; a couple of members of the Town Guard give you a smile and a nod as you pass by, and you breathe a sigh of relief because neither of them know you. The six of you slip through the oncoming traffic of farm carts and merchant caravans to stroll along the grassy verge, travelling against the flow of people until you can smell woodsmoke and incense in the air and Dirk leads you to scramble up a small slope and into the Clans' encampment.

Ever since you were tiny you've thought there was something magical about the wild elves. Perhaps it was living in an inn where you heard every traveller's tale and stranger's story; maybe it was those early glimpses of bright carts and caravans before you were dragged safely back inside by your mother. Whatever the reason, no matter how many times you visit Dave, you never get over how amazing his home is. You wave cheerfully to dark-eyed Phooka as you pass, getting small nods of recognition for your trouble. Dirk and Dave lead you over to a caravan near the centre of the temporary village, and you recognise the patterns of dancing flames, wheels and cogs and intricate blades painted along its sides. This is your friends' home.

Rose seems to be eyeing it with some suspicion, but when it becomes apparent that you have arrived Roxy quickly scrambles up the steps to poke her head inside.

“Where's the beds?” she asks, voice muffled by a layer of weatherworn wood. In response, Dirk wordlessly steps past and over her to pull a handle on one of the side benches. You grin as Roxy's eyes go wide, and Dave nods.

“Yup, us ne'er-do-wells got all the amenities. We got fold-away beds, folded-away benches, overhead and underfoot storage, chamberpot there, pots and pans there, don't start a fire in the caravan or I swear to the fucking heavens I will end you, and that's pretty much it. Home sweet home. You break it, you bought it.”

“Do you have the articles we discussed?” Rose asks politely. Dirk nods and jumps down out of the caravan.

“In there, under the bed on the left,” he tells her. With a nod of acknowledgement, the Oracle walks up inside with her sister and pulls the door closed, leaving you and Jane out on the grass with Dave and Dirk.

“So, what's going on?” Jane asks casually. Dirk shrugs.

“Oh, you know. Apocalyptic visions of doom, last ditch attempt to save the world, that sort of shit. I'm just in it for the ride, really.”

Your eyes go wide. “Wow, that sounds really important!”

“John!” your sister groans, slapping a hand into her face. “He's not being serious.”

“Yeah, he is,” Dave says, from his position lounging against the caravan. “He's serious as marshfever in the mountains. We're calling all the healers up for this one, stripping the bark right off those willow trees and it's doing shit all. There's snow all over every last fucking woodpile and it's time to start praying because this patient's a goner, doc.”

Jane glares at him. “I'm not going to believe something so clearly ridiculous,” she snaps. “The world is not coming to an end!”

“Oh, I am rather afraid that it is.”

You look around to see that Rose has emerged from the caravan, her distinctive Church robes cloak shed in favour of bright Phooka garb. You admit that maybe your jaw drops a little as she joins you, adjusting a patterned headscarf to hide her blonde hair and blunt ears as Roxy stumbles out in an equally outlandish getup. With a small mew, the cat familiar jumps down from your shoulders and goes to twine between her legs, getting tangled in new layers of cheerily-coloured skirts.

“What is that supposed to mean?” Jane demands of the Oracle, frown deepening. Rose sighs and presses a hand newly ornamented with carved bangles to her forehead.

“Please do not belabour me with your scepticism. I have endured quite enough of that from my peers in the Church of Light, and I will not tolerate it any longer.” She purses her lips and looks at the pair of you. “My whole life, I have had true visions of the future. For several months now they have warned of impending disaster. I choose to act to prevent the events I foresee, and my sister and the Phooka have agreed to aid me. What action you choose to take is down to you, but I would take it as a personal favour if you would refrain from mentioning our location or means of departure to the authorities of Porthaven. I have clashed with the High Priest repeatedly on this matter, and I do not wish to push an unnecessary confrontation.”

You raise a hand and she sighs. “Yes, John?”

“So, what you're saying is that you're going to go on an adventure and be heroes?”

Roxy laughs and slumps down onto the steps of the caravan. “Yeah!” she crows. “We're gonna be the bestest advent'rs in the whole pane. Plane.”

Jane looks at you uncertainly. You know she can tell what you're thinking. “John, we're supposed to be swearing our oaths to the Porthaven Guard in the next few days!” she argues. “We have to stay here, not go off on wild goose chases after adventure!”

You know she's probably got a point. But Rose is an oracle- and the Oracle of the Seer of Light, no less! If she says the world is in danger then you have to do something!

Right?

Suggestions Used

Okay, let's see what I can do with these:

Firebird766 - Jane: Standing up is less suspicious than crouching by a window. Stand up, straighten up your clothes, and bluff as hard as you can.

unholygrunt – Jane: Make sure you're behind the door when it opens.

MASK - Jane: Roll with it. They come up to the window and see a stern-looking Jane standing with her arms crossed: “So, where are we going?”

Jack-Of-Spades - John: Happen upon your furtive friends in town a little later on. Misunderstand what is going on completely.

Ephemeral_Dreamer - John: Notice a suspicious person in the temple district (basically I thought John might be patrolling there when he notices Jane. He then decides to have some fun by pretending he doesn't know her and she's acting suspicious so she's obviously a burglar or something^^)

System Notes

Chapter Text

==> Aradia: Find Something Interesting

You wake to sunlight shining through the canvas of your tent, and the unmistakeable sound of Sollux shouting. For a moment you are tempted to wrap yourself in your bedroll and drift back into sleep, but you know that it'll probably end badly if you do, so instead you start to disentangle yourself from your bedding. You're still yawning when you stick your head out into the clearing where you made camp in the predawn, and sigh when you see your best friend in the whole world throwing sticks at the fire, the forest, and Kanaya. Not all of the firewood is being hurled by hand, either- his shouts are punctuated with the incomprehensibly arcane words that characterise his magic, and little flickers of red and blue light assault your already overburdened eyes.

Kanaya is ignoring him in favour of calmly sitting by a log and sewing a small pile of clothes back together. You admire her composure, although when you notice that she seems to be using one of his jackets as patching material the pieces fall into place. You scramble out into your camp, march up to your wayward friend, and without any concern for the powerful forces he's throwing around like cheap confetti you grab his ear.

"I was trying to sleep!" you yell over the din, and the change in him is as dramatic as it is sudden. A goodly pile of firewood rains down, narrowly missing the three of you, and he flushes with yellowish embarrassment.

"I... er, thorry, Aradia," he mutters shamefaced. You let go of his ear and give him a hug instead.

"It's okay," you tell him, even though you are actually pretty tired and you wish that you could get just one uninterrupted day of sleep. You know that Kanaya trances rather than sleeping, and only needs four hours of rest, but even though you've lived with each other forever you've never been able to work out what Sollux's rest requirements are. Some nights he seems to sleep like you, others he zones out like an elf, but mostly he either won't get out of bed at all or refuses to lie down in the first place. You used to think it was because his mixed heritage was causing rest problems for him, but now you're certain that it's actually just his own messed up head.

Hugging Sollux is a bit like hugging a particularly skinny tree, if trees grumbled in undercommon and started trying to wriggle away after half a minute. From the way Kanaya shakes her head almost imperceptibly and how well you know him, you work out that whatever he just said is horribly rude and you break the embrace to give him a smack.

“OW!” he protests. You snort and get to picking up the firewood he was scattering. Sollux slumps down by the warm glow of the embers, not that you really need them at noon on a bright summer day. You dig through your belt pouches and pull out breakfast. Sollux groans when you hold out the paper-wrapped cake, and you sigh.

“You have to eat something,” you insist, although your own stomach is churning a little at the thought of another day on such unappetising fare.

Sollux takes the wandermeal and starts to unwrap it moodily. “This thtuff ith dithguthting,” he mutters. “I hate travelling rathionth. I hate travelling. I fucking hate thith fucking foretht. When can we go back to Porthaven?”

You pick a small corner off your own cake and stare at the dense brown mush. Maybe if you only try and eat a tiny bit at a time, it won't be so bad? “Sollux, if we go back to Porthaven, you'll spend one day sleeping, one day in the library, then you'll come to the inn screaming about how much you hate the place and can't we go back to the forest.”

“I would not!” Sollux objects. “When have I ever done that. I hate thith thitty foretht and I loathe every thecond we thpend here.”

Kanaya looks up from her sewing. “From my observations, Aradia is correct,” she says in mild tones. “Although I also agree with your assessment of our rations. They are extremely unpalatable.”

“They're lightweight and nutritious,” you insist, shoving another corner of wandermeal into your mouth. “If I see anything edible on the way, I'll promise I'll pick it up, but we have to keep our strength up!”

Sollux sighs in defeat and starts to eat his breakfast. You finish yours off and check the supplies- enough for one week. You might have to start looking harder for ways to supplement your diet, or you'll all starve to death before you get back to Porthaven!

Kanaya sets the last of the clothes down on her pile with a smile. “All done.”

“Yeah, great. Why couldn't you jutht uthe magic?” Sollux says, gathering up his newly-patched clothes and glaring at the remains of his jackets.

“I did, in places,” Kanaya replies. “But such spells can only do so much, and since I had some rags anyway...”

You giggle as your oldest friend hisses and stalks off to start taking your tent down.

Packing up camp doesn't take too long, a lifetime of practise letting you all work around each other until both tents are stowed and the remains of the campfire are fully doused and covered over. As usual, Sollux carries the pack you both share and you take the lead through the tangled trees of the forest.

It's slow going, pausing every so often to jot down notes so that you can fill in the map later. Kanaya is beautifully patient, as ever, and after a while Sollux stops complaining and instead trudges along in sullen silence. The Greenweald is beautiful by sunlight, the leaves shining a golden green and every moss-covered rock or log an emerald beacon. The canopy keeps just enough of the brightness away for you to be okay with this, although you're thinking it might in future be worth stopping earlier and sleeping during the afternoon instead of the morning. Either way you are filled with a sense of being lighter than air, as if the whole world is laid out before you. It's like you could just keep going forever, a never-ending adventure. You love it.

You can hear the soft curses behind you occasionally as Sollux walks into branches or stubs his toe on roots, and you feel a little guilty for being so happy. He hates this life. For all that you tease him about it, you know he would much rather be in the city, within easy reach of books and research apparatus. You wish you had the sort of life where he could have a little magic lab of his own and you could just come and visit him whenever you got back from an archaeological expedition. But however much you want your dreams to come true, you know it's not that easy. Forget how neither of you fit in there, with the aasimar and the high elves in their daylight city. You just can't afford to join a university, or for Sollux to own any books, or even to rent a proper house. That's why you took up this line of work, because it's the only way you'll ever get the gold you need. It was the best option you had. The fact that you like this so much more than he does is just something you both have to put up with.

Then you walk out into a clearing, of sorts, and the sight that greets you makes you forget any kind of guilt you might have been feeling.

A magnificent temple structure stands amongst the trees, ancient stones crumbling and covered in moss and twining roots. You don't recognise anything about it, save that it is clearly very old- perhaps more than a thousand years. You hear rather than see Kanaya and Sollux arrive beside you as you look up the side of the green-and-grey structure.

“My goodness,” Kanaya whispers, and you agree. You agree so much. You want to climb all over it and take notes and wow, just wow. You can't believe you just found this by accident!

Sollux brushes past you and walks on, ignoring the temple to his left. “Great. Now we have to thpend forever at thome thitty old building that'th not even...”

There is no warning, just a slight hesitation, and then Sollux vanishes with a scream of panic. You and Kanaya run to where he was standing and see a hole torn in the forest floor, a thin network of roots and fallen leaves concealing the edge of a deep hole. Beneath you can see the glimmer of light on water, but not much else.

You don't even stop to think before you jump, Kanaya right beside you. You have a few fractions of a second as you are falling to panic- oh gods what am I doing I must be completely crazy- and then you hit the water hard, flailing for recovery as your eyes adjust to the darker interior.

To your embarrassment, when you see the narrow strip of tumbled stone and earth that constitutes a “shore”, Sollux is already there. You set out paddling the short distance towards him and he helps pull you out, then you turn to look for Kanaya.

“Where...” you begin, then you see the dawning horror on Sollux's face and remember that Kanaya was wearing armour and a heavy sword and her pack and oh no, this is really, really bad.

“Thit!” Sollux says, dropping his own pack and jumping back in the water. You follow, but catch movement out of the corner of your eye. A few seconds later another splash sends you reeling and then the lean, grey form of a wolf is swimming right past you towards where Kanaya must have gone under. Alarmed, you start to swim back to the patch of gleaming sunlight under the hole in the ceiling, but the wolf is a lot faster than you and you're not really a great swimmer. You see the creature dive under the surface, followed closely by Sollux, and then you're taking a deep breath and dropping yourself.

It's only when you see the wolf nudging at Kanaya's unconscious, drifting body, trying to push her towards the surface, that you realise its intent. Your heart, already racing, beats a little faster when you see Sollux slowly sinking beside her. You should have known he couldn't swim like this, but you didn't think and now both of your friends are going to die.

No. You will not think like that. You kick a little closer and try to get your friends closer to the wolf. Somehow he manages to swim under them both and then he's moving up, heading for air and the surface, and you follow with a relieved gasp as your head breaks the surface. The wolf is already crawling up onto the shore and you can see someone else there helping him, an elf girl you think, wearing greens and browns that blend so well into the background that you can barely make her out. You slowly set out back to shore, the rush of adrenaline leaving your limbs weak. You slip under the water a couple of times, but manage to pull yourself back up before any harm is done.

By the time you pull yourself onto land, the stranger has laid both your friends out on their sides and is worriedly examining them. She glances round as you approach and beckons you closer. You're not even thinking about the wolf that sits like an obedient dog next to her; you run to Sollux and Kanaya, and you can feel the tears welling up when you see how still and lifeless they both are.

What are you going to do without them? You can't even remember your life before you met Sollux and Kanaya might be a more recent friend but she was a good one nonetheless. They're all you have and you knew this career was dangerous but you don't know how to lose them, not like this...

“They're not dead.”

You look over in surprise at the stranger, who gives you a worried but nonetheless kindly smile. “I know they look pretty bad, but they're both stable, and if you give me a hand I should be able to wake them up.”

Hope blossoms. “You... are you a healer?”

“I'm a Guardian of the Greenweald,” the girl tells you, and you can hear the note of pride in her voice. “I don't have any healing really prepared today, but I can do this...”

She closes her eyes and whispers something, a prayer, and for a brief moment there is the golden-green glow of sunlight on leaves and the smell of a warm day after rain. Then she opens her hand to reveal four bluish berries, all glowing with a faint light. You've seen Kanaya's magic before, of course, and this is similar, but at the same time different. You lean over to examine the magical berries.

“If we give a couple to each of them, that should at least wake them up,” the Guardian says. You surprise yourself by shaking your head.

“No, wait,” you say, thoughts of what your priestess friend can do filling your head. “Give them to Kanaya. She's a healer, she can cure Sollux.”

Jade looks at you for a moment then nods, settling herself at the head of your unconscious comrade. “Okay, I just need you to hold her mouth open while I do this,” she says. You nod and gently apply pressure to Kanaya's jaw. Her teeth are neat and white and blunt, and you think that it's a good thing this stranger was here because there was no way you could have saved them both.

The Guardian pauses for a moment before she acts, and for an instant it's as if you're falling and will never land. Then she gently pops the berries into Kanaya's mouth and massages them down, one by one. The faint glow spreads across your friend, that same gentle gold-green light, and then your friend sits up and winces.

“Remind me to never do something so foolish again,” she says, before her eyes fall on the stranger and the wolf. She seems momentarily surprised, but recovers fast. “I assume I have you to thank for the magical healing.”

The Guardian nods and sticks out a hand, smiling. “Jade of the Greenweald and Bec, at your service.”

Kanaya returns the smile weakly and takes her hand. “Kanaya Godschild. My companions are Aradia Dreamwalker and Sollux Twinblood- ah, I see Sollux needs my services again.”

“Godschild? Does that mean you're a priest?” Jade asks, following as Kanaya shuffles over to Sollux.

“In general, yes,” Kanaya replies. You can understand her evasiveness. Her relationship with the temple that raised and taught and then abandoned her is a complex one. “Everyone, gather close,” she adds, glancing at you all. “I see more than a few bruises, and there is no point to being wasteful.”

You take Sollux's hand and stroke it as Kanaya digs out her carved wooden pendant and cups it in her hands. Her chanting is in undercommon and you don't understand a word, but you feel the usual heat as her skin begins to glow with an ethereal light. You have to close your eyes against the flash of brilliance that washes over and through you, removing the lingering stiffness of the fall and leaving the roughness of burnt earth and the vitality of hardy flowers in its wake. A second flash follows, and then Kanaya stops chanting and you open your eyes to see Sollux sitting up and you throw your arms around him because you're just so glad he's still here.

“Tho, what did I mith?” he asks, glancing at your company. “Who'th the wolf girl?”

“Jade of the Greenweald,” your new acquaintance says, buoyant as ever. “And this is my companion, Bec. You're Sollux, right?”

“Yeah,” your friend agrees as you help him to his feet. “Tho what, did you fall down here too?”

The girl looks rather embarrassed. “Well, yeah... and I've looked all over, but the only way out is a corridor over there that leads downwards, and I was just thinking about whether it was a good idea or not to go down there on my own when you all showed up!” She stops and looks a little expectant. The three of you look at each other.

“We do all have the same objective,” Kanaya says.

“And it would be nice to spend time with someone new,” you agree.

Sollux rolls his eyes and starts to walk in the direction Jade indicated. “Brilliant. Welcome to team idiot. Can we get out of the thtupid hole now?”

When Jade gives you a puzzled look, you just shrug and start to follow him. You wanted to explore this ruin anyway. You guess that now you have the best excuse!


Suggestions Used

The hive mind has spoken! No, really, you guys did a hive mind. It is both cool and creepy.

Marycontrary - I'd like to see some of Jade's journey. She imagines she's utterly safe, but a level one hero can get in over her head in a kiddie pool.

Ephemeral_Dreamer - Kanaya: Stumble upon an elf with a strange weapon traveling alone through the forest. [A/N: I believe this is meant to refer to Jake, but :P]

Redmage - Kanaya: Watch Sollux walk into a tree branch. Again.

Ryo Hoshi - Sollux: Startle a wolf.

MASK - Kanaya: Tend to Sollux's injuries. Again. [A/N: Seriously. Hive mind. Or I need to stop doing the “again” thing in my fic.]

Marycontrary - Sollux: find something dangerous. Does your divine connection with doom tell you anything about people's futures? Is it going to draw you to whatever Rose is looking for?

Due to a conflicting series of orders, I believe that the following command will no longer be possible to follow and it has thus been struck from the command list:
Kamaete - Jade: Meet Jake and get on your jolly good way.

System Notes

Chapter Text

==> Sollux: Try two find a way out of thith thtupid hole.

Most people are completely fucking retarded, which is why they don't appreciate that the world is a fantastically complex system based on a series of immutable laws, the various interactions of which lead inevitably to the existence of both nonphysical phenomena and physical objects- also known as magic and the annoying idiots who think it's somehow breaking the laws of nature to be a spellcaster. Magic wouldn't exist if the laws of nature didn't allow it; just because you can do things that some dumbass farmers think is impossible, that doesn't mean your abilities are actually outside the realm of possibility. You don't ignore the principles on which reality is built; you were just born knowing how to access them on a deeper level, and this obviously allows you to rewrite the higher laws in a local area around you with a few words and gestures.

Basically, you are too fucking smart to be stuck down a hole with a crazy forest girl and her pet wolf, even if Aradia has used her magic to dry you off and promised to try and improve the taste of your next meal. Right now you hate that she's looking after you like she's your guardian, although you're self-aware enough to know that later you'll feel guilty about that. It's just hard not to be irritated when your head is buzzing with ideas that you want to write down and you're so far from civilisation that by the time you get the chance you won't just have forgotten these thoughts, you'll have had a whole new set of brilliant insights and forgotten those too. A small but insistent voice in the back of your mind is trying to point out that it's your fault you all ended up down this hole...

... your fault Kanaya nearly drowned...

... but you're determined to ignore it for as long as you can.

Aradia is busy making friends with your new companion, and you stomp along sullenly behind the pair of them as they chatter and giggle and point excitedly at chicken-scratching on the walls that they think is ancient writings and you think is just more fucking cracks in the stone. Kanaya although quieter is taking an interest too, which leaves you hanging out with the hairy, smelly, ridiculously enormous fucking wolf that apparently saved your stupid ass from the water. You don't even like dogs- last time you were in Porthaven your friends had to rescue you from an overly friendly slobbering furmonster and you're not keen on a repeat.

The buried temple is dark: the occasional holes high above you let scattered daylight into the square, time-worn tunnel, but Jade is having to hold onto Aradia's arm to avoid tripping over fallen blocks of stone. You're glad that you inherited clear night-vision from both of your ancestors, whoever they were. The ravages of a passing age aside, the corridor is perfectly square, and winds around others in an insane labyrinth made all the worse by blocked passages and flooded pools. Fortunately for you all, Jade waved her arms about and did whatever sort of magic it is that crazy woods-people use, and now she's pointing north with what she swears is perfect accuracy at every intersection. It's still been hours, and you've had to double back more than once. You're starting to think that you might get stuck down here forever.

Your first warning that something is amiss is when Bec stiffens and then streaks forward like a bolt of grey-furred lightning. Then something low to the ground and heavy slams into you. You reel back and fall straight over another form, to find yourself looking up into the snarling muzzles of two wolves. You're not an expert in animals, but these two canines are both thinner than Bec, with patchier fur and breath that stinks of something rotten and foul. It only makes sense that your small band wouldn't be the only things to get trapped down here. Why the fuck did you have to linger at the back of the group again?

The wolves growl and you try to form a spell, the knowledge of the words of power rising out of your instinctive mind and tripping over your clumsy tongue as you try to keep half an eye on defending yourself from two sets of sharp fangs. The arcane magic fizzles and dies on your lips and you desperately wrap your arms around your head and curl up. You hear Aradia hum a melodic tune that speaks of soothing rest and dreams, and for an instant the wolves hesitate before shaking off her influence. There is a tremendous snarling and growling coming from not far off and you can hear Jade saying something just above you. You don't know what it was, but one of the wolves hovering over you turns and lunges. You see a flash of a heavy wool skirt and sturdy leather boots and know that the stranger you've been resenting for hours probably just saved your sorry ass.

Kanaya's voice booms around the enclosed space and you can feel the whispers of a thousand doomed souls echoing in the dark as the other wolf beside you lets out a terrified whine and flees without looking back. Blindly you try to cast again before realising that Jade is too close; the confusion causes you to stumble again and another fading waste of power dissipates into the air. You feel a similar discharge from Aradia as the wolves shake off her spell, but now that you're not fighting to protect yourself from tearing teeth you can hear that the snarling has died down somewhat. You raise your head to see Bec growling at a third wolf, Jade's hand coming to rest on her companion's ruff as she steps towards it. You feel a sense of vastness, a feeling of being everything and nothing at once accompanied by a faint greenish glow from the Guardian, and then she growls at the third wolf. To your amazement, it flinches back. Then the other wolf lunges after her, yellowed teeth tearing a chunk of bleeding flesh out of her leg, and she sways alarmingly. Fear jolts through you as you realise that you might all be depending on her bluster.

A burning heat from behind you reminds you that Kanaya is still here to help. The fiery desert light of her magic washes through you and over the wolves, bringing with it a sense of wellbeing and vitality. You see Jade and Bec's wounds close up, and realise that the tide of this fight has just changed. There's nothing to keep you on the ground, so you scramble upright and keep the momentum going in your favour by firing off two words that echo and twist and pull the very essence of magic around them. Your wrists slam together and you direct a jet of fire, blue and red entwined, towards the wolf that helped knock you down. It yelps as its fur chars and you smirk at its panic.

Aradia starts to sing again, and the wolf you just singed starts to sway drowsily as her dream-magic dulls its mind. The final wolf's ears are flat to its head and it looks more scared than aggressive; Jade growls again, and it makes up its mind. With a fierce yip, it turns tail and runs, followed a few moments later by its dozy compatriot. You look to Aradia to see if that means you're safe now, only to see her wandering through a doorway into another room.

"By the heavens..." Aradia whispers, and you hurry to follow her and see what the fuss is about. You stop as soon as you are standing on the threshold, because you have definitely not been in here before during your wanderings, and this chamber warrants the exclamation.

The room is perfectly cubic save for a pile of tumbled rocks and tangled roots in the corner. The light streaming through the hole illuminates a large space, the walls and floor and ceiling all carved with the same chicken-scratch words that filled the corridors. This time the letters are too deep and too clear for you to dismiss them as cracks. In the centre of the room on a raised dais stands a stone altar, and against it, clutching a tattered leatherbound tome, is a skeleton.

“I wonder what manner of temple this was,” Kanaya says, walking in behind you and turning to take in the scene. Jade and Bec ignore the wonder the three of you are showing, and head straight for the tumbledown corner.

“Oh, there's loads of old temples in the forest,” the Guardian says, examining the pile of rocks. “I mean, exploring them can be pretty fun, but if we don't get out of here then we'll end up starving like those poor wolves!”

“Yeah, poor wolveth,” you mutter, stomping over to the skeleton and crouching down to examine it. The blank sockets of the skull stare back at you. You feel rather than see Aradia approach behind you.

“That's interesting,” she says, leaning forwards to examine the skeleton. “Looks like he was an Aelfen. I wouldn't have expected to find a shining elf somewhere so well-trafficked.”

“Well-trafficked?” you splutter, and Aradia laughs.

“Well, it is by their standards! Aelfen hate being near other races!”

“I wonder what he was protecting,” Kanaya says, walking over and crouching down to gently pry the book out of the skeleton's hands. Even her delicate touch proves too much for the fragile bones, and some of the fingers crumble away and clatter in fragments onto the floor. “Oh, dear.”

You can't help being curious, but you're not expecting it when Jade joins you in squashing up close to see what the book contains. She looks straight into your freakish bicoloured eyes and gives you a bold wink. You're too surprised to even scowl at her, and then Kanaya flips the pages open and you see page after page of scrawled writing. You don't really know jack shit about languages or alphabets, but even you can see that there are at least three different ones being used here, and whoever wrote it managed to smudge ink and write around corners or in the margins with disturbing frequency. You're proud of your own regular, painstakingly precise handwriting, and the sight of paper and ink being used so carelessly is almost painful to see.

“What does it say?” Jade asks. You wobble a bit as Bec forces himself into the not-really-a-gap-at-all between you and pants enthusiastically.

“I am not certain,” Kanaya replies. “Some of it looks like High Elven, but the language is too archaic. And the penmanship is atrocious.”

“Let me see,” Aradia says, taking the book off her and studying it. “Hmm. Hey, Sol, does this look like Infernal to you?”

You back away from the wolf and his mistress, leaning on Aradia's shoulder as you scan the page she's looking at. “Thame characterth, but like KN thaid, it'th old. I can't read it.” You narrow your eyes. “Holy thit, did thith guy ever hear of lowercathe?”

Aradia flips through the book. “Looks like he wrote more normally in the beginning, look.” She points to an early page that is written in row after row of neat High Elven characters. A few examples of Infernal scatter the text, and another set of symbols that you don't really recognise at all, but they are isolated and tidy. “It's only later on that things get messy.”

You glance uneasily at the skeleton, reminded of how your own notes start getting when you stay up for three days straight and the library staff fail to kick you out.

“We can bring it with us, right?” Jade asks. You glance sharply around.

“With uth?” you demand. A sudden uneasy tension falls across your small group, and Kanaya and Aradia share a glance.

“It only makes sense, Sol,” Aradia says slowly, closing the book and passing it over to Kanaya again. “Jade only has to pick up her brother, and then they're both heading to Porthaven. It's only a day or two out of our way, and we'd all be much safer travelling in a group.”

“Tho what, you thought you'd all jutht dethide thith without even athking me?” you yell, stepping back from the group. You can feel words fizzling in your mind, words for force and fire and targets. You ignore them; you're pissed, sure, but not that mad.

“It is nothing like that,” Kanaya said. “You simply did not seem interested in the discussion. We thought you would not mind.”

“Bullthit!” you reply. Aradia scowls and walks up close, shoving an admonishing finger under your nose and making you go cross-eyed trying to follow it.

“Sollux Twinblood, you are being ridiculous!” she says. “You want the truth? Yes, we did decide without telling you, because we knew you would say no and because that would be the wrong answer! I know you don't like making new friends or being around people, but Jade has been nothing but pleasant and helpful, and I'm not putting all of us in danger because you are an antisocial idiot!” She lowers the finger and jabs you in the chest. “So if you want to sulk about it, go ahead, but don't think for a second that we're changing our plans because you want to act like a spoiled wriggler!”

“Hatchling,” you mutter sullenly, but she knows she's won because she gives you a tight hug. Her breath tickles your ear as she whispers in your ear.

“It's going to be okay.”

It is so fucked up that you can trust that better when nobody else hears it, and you know it, and she uses it on purpose. You console yourself with the knowledge that you know how to manipulate her too, if you ever pull your head out of your ass long enough to make the attempt.

After a long few moments, you pull out of the embrace to see that Jade and Kanaya are studying the rubble pile again. “Tho what'th the plan?” you ask. Jade turns and beams at you.

“Well, I think that we can rearrange this pile to climb out,” she says. “We just need a way to move some of the rocks. They're not that big, but they are kind of high up.”

You and Aradia share a grin. “I take the lower stuff, you do the top?” she asks. You nod. Her Unseen Servant isn't very strong, but it can move a few rocks about, and you can shift pebbles from down here.

“Out of the way,” you say, raising a hand. Aradia's magic glows a soft red next to you, and you smile as you speak in arcane syllables and blue and red light flickers overhead.

Suggestions Used

Marycontrary - Search the ruins for treasures (and incidentally a way out).

unholygrunt - Sollux: Get out of this thtupid hole.

MASK - Aradia: See if you and Jade can't put your heads together to figure out where you are, and then make like a tree and get the hell out of there.

System Notes

Chapter Text

THE SEER OF LIGHT

Seer of Light

Fateweaver, the Guiding Star, She Who Casts Shadows, the Abyssal Emissary

ALIGNMENT: True Neutral

PORTFOLIO: Fate, Prophecy, Intellect, Guidance

DOMAINS: Knowledge (), Luck (Fate), Sun (Light), Void (Dark Tapestry), Magic (), Rune (Language)

FAVOURED WEAPON: Dagger

THE SEER OF LIGHT is a goddess shrouded in mystery, her motives and nature unendingly debated by followers and detractors alike.

HISTORY
Tales of the Seer across history have cast her in every conceivable role; hero and villain, victor and victim, monster and child. All that is truly known of her is that in her dealings with mortals she has been scrupulously truthful, if often cryptic, and that those who are intelligent and wary prosper under her guidance. Whatever the stories say, it seems she cares little for the opinion of the masses, and acts according to an agenda that only she knows.

PANTHEONS AND RELATIONSHIPS
The Seer of Light appears in the worship of three different pantheons as well as individually.

In the PANTHEON OF LIGHT, she is depicted as the benevolent ruler of fate and the primary advisor of the other gods. Despite her secondary position, the pantheon is named after her, and she is considered to be less a subordinate to the HEIR OF BREATH and more an equal or superior who chooses not to rule. She maintains a polite and distant relationship with all the gods of the pantheon.

As one of the RULERS OF HEAVEN, she is shown as a much more ambiguous or even dangerous figure. Again she is the advisor and fate goddess, but she is shown more as a puppet of greater powers who makes use of unknowable demons to gain secret knowledge. She is sister to the KNIGHT OF TIME and friend to the WITCH OF SPACE, but despite mutual fondness the HEIR OF BREATH knows to fear the dangerous game she plays.

Within the STARWALKERS, a pantheon whose worship has faded in all but a few lands, she is the leader of the pantheon and guides her fellow deities safely through the dangers that beset them. Once again the KNIGHT OF TIME is her brother, but she also has a close companion in the SYLPH OF SPACE. She spends little time with the KNIGHT OF BLOOD, although it is said she tried to save him from betrayal by the SEER OF MIND and the BARD OF RAGE. She is here shown to be the one who makes the hard decisions, using her divine powers to lead her comrades in the fight against greater foes and bring hope of victory even as the consequences of those powers bring her pain.

Alone, she is worshipped in one of two ways; either by the evil cults who see her as an emissary of the foul and demonic forces of the abyss, or as the bringer of knowledge, understanding, and fair warnings of future disaster. This latter form of worship is the primary religion of the Aelfen, or Shining Elves, who consider themselves her chosen people.

As an antagonist to other pantheons or deities, she once again takes on the mantle of abyssal messenger, a puppet or willing servant for horrific forces that would destroy all the good things in the world. Hubris and arrogance are her sins, and her fall dooms all those she touches.

APPEARANCE AND EMISSARIES
The Seer of Light is most often depicted as an aasimar in an orange robe, a hood covering her head and shading her face. She may also sometimes be shown as a white-haired tiefling with violet eyes and sharp horns, wearing black robes and bearing wands that crackle with dark power.

SERVANTS
Horses and felines are beloved of the Seer of Light, most particularly those of magical heritage or great intelligence. Unicorns are sacred to her. There are also claims that she also favours hideous aberrant creatures with tentacles and beaks and squamous flesh, but some churches consider this heresy.

The Maple Hoof
This unicorn is taller and more graceful than even others of its kind, and its horn is a distinctive pale violet spiral that resembles a wand. Those who follow it are always led somewhere of great consequence, but there is usually a hefty price for accepting the goddess' gift. If anyone has ever been foolish enough to attack this sacred messenger, they have not survived to tell of it.

Chamber of Echoes
Tended by generations of Aelfen, this vast chamber in the heart of Starspire mountain is lit by bioluminescent flowers that cling to the rock and scatter the ceiling like stars. It is said that if you whisper a question in the heart of the cavern, the echoes will give you a true answer.

CHURCH
Temples of the Seer usually only exist in larger towns and cities, supporting universities, higher education and governance, although the shrines of dark cults can and do spring up anywhere. Most of the true churches report to a central authority- Porthaven for the PANTHEON OF LIGHT, Madianzi for the RULERS OF HEAVEN, Kalvik for the STARWALKERS, and Starspire Peak for solo worship.

WORSHIPPERS AND CLERGY
Clerics of the Seer of Light are True Neutral, Neutral Good, Neutral Evil, Lawful Neutral, or Chaotic Neutral.

Followers of the Seer are primarily scholars, philosophers, academics, and similar intelligentsia. They congregate behind the walls of cities and monasteries, where they can study and debate in peace.

The clergy of the Seer are mostly Clerics, but the goddess sends one Oracle to each church authority every generation to act as a direct contact and divine guide. Devout followers become mind-healers, academics, or politicians.

TEMPLES AND SHRINES
Temples to the Seer of Light are usually long and thin, filled with columns decorated with lights either magical or mundane that light the otherwise shadowy interior. Incense burns all hours of the day and night on the focal altar where the Books of Prophecy are laid, and scenes from those same books are painted on the walls.

HOLY TEXTS
The holy books of the Church of Light fall into two categories; books of prophecy and revelations, broken by tales of how the information was received, and books of advice on how to interact with other people and recognise various mental and social problems as they form and correct them.

The Books of Prophecy
The backbone of the faith, these tomes are a living testament, the collected revelations of every Oracle of Light ever born. There are some doctrinal differences, as the established temples do not use each others books, but since the Oracles will have the same revelations in all but the most parochial issues the Books of Prophecy are fairly consistent across the worship of the Seer. Only the three most recent tomes are kept easily accessible; the rest are generally archived for convenience.

The Complacency Of The Learned
Many centuries ago, not long after the founding of the first official Temple, the Oracle of the time was gripped in a trance which did not end until she had written all three books of this strange work. The story is often held to be allegorical and warn against hubris, although some cults have taken it as a literal excuse to go and slaughter wizards.

C'gof'nn C'grah'nn Lw'nafh'nafl Nglui Shugg Ch'shagg'nafl
This heavy grimoire is written entirely in abyssal save for one line at the end, which in celestial reads: “We were children and lost ones and dreamed past the threshold of our worlds to cross the realm of dreams.” The tome is banned in almost all places which worship the Seer of Light; outside the evil cults, only the followers of the STARWALKERS pantheon consider it a legitimate text, and even they find it distasteful. Some religious scholars have noted a similarity between some of the events in this tale and those in the TALE OF SKAIA, the core book for worship of the HEIR OF BREATH, but given the heretical nature of the source they rarely progress far in their studies.

HOLIDAYS
The church of the Seer is primarily concerned with education and politics, and supports national and civic functions, also observing several holy festivals.

Promise Day
On the first day of the new year, followers of the Seer take one ribbon for each promise or resolution they wish to make, and tie them to a tree or post. Through the year, as they keep the promises, they take the ribbons down; if a ribbon falls down on its own or is stolen, the promise is judged best forgotten.

First Seed
It is traditional for the first planting season of the year to start with a ceremony in which a tree is planted and divinations and auguries for the following year are taken. This occasion can be either solemn or joyful, depending on the omens received.

Summer Solstice
On the longest day of the year, a grand feast is held in honour of the Seer and her symbol burning overhead. A day-long party is held by most communities that worship her, including formal dances and the giving of small but elaborate gifts.

Stardance Festival
The Stardance festival is held on the Autumnal Equinox. Children go on treasure hunts and in the evening there are dances for all ages.

Seer Of Light Portrait by proserpine-in-phases

Chapter Text

Important Note: This chapter takes place the evening BEFORE every other chapter so far!

==> Jake: Where In The Blue Blazes Are You?

The excitement of waiting for your sister seems to have imbued your feet with the urge to wander, because this evening's constitutional has been excessively long. Your ramble has taken you along winding tunnels and across high ledges, barely even noticing the splendid majesty of the underground caverns as your thoughts twisted and whirled around the idea of finally meeting your birth family. Not that you want to malign your parents or your clan, of course, not at all, but... you know you don't fit in there. No matter how hard you try, you're not a dwarf. You know you're not really quite an elf either, and if you're going to be honest- which a gentleman always should- that's the main source of your nerves. What if you don't fit in with your birth kin, either? What if you're too strange, too dwarvish, too different for them?

You tell yourself to stop being a silly fool. Your sister is a Guardian of the Greenweald, for goodness sakes, she's a dashed sight stranger than you'll ever be.

Your torch, picked up and lit when you left the clanhold, flickers uncertainly. You pause to look at the flame and with mild alarm note that it's more than half burned down. Still, no need to panic. You meandered quite astoundingly to get here, it should be no problem to get home on a straighter, faster route. You turn around and head back down the passage you came from, retracing your steps towards home.

An hour or so later, it is starting to dawn on you that you may have been an utter saphead to wander quite so far from home. Your attempt to go back the way you came has left you standing in an unfamiliar smallish cave where the stalagmites and stalactites have grown together into hourglass pillars, smooth mineral deposits glittering in the light coming from the torch you picked up back at the clanhold. The flickering flame illuminates the mouths of several narrow, jagged tunnels running into the mountain, the glisten of wet walls and sound of running water signs of what carved this network of passages through the deep strata. You have no idea which one leads towards the clanhold.

You are trying to remain chipper, but under the circumstances it's difficult to maintain a cheery demeanour. The torch is starting to gutter alarmingly with every mineral-rich drop of water from above, and you're fairly sure that your misguided venture has put you a good few hundred yards below the surface line. You're outside hold lands, your only light source is dying, and regardless of what you spend every day trying to prove to the clan you are horribly, uncomfortably aware that you are a surface-born elf and entirely unsuited to the subterranean environment.

Another drop from a forming stalactite above falls into the flame of your torch with a low hiss, and you twitch nervously. The shadows jump and flicker around you, and you pause to take a steadying breath. Just because you were careless enough to get yourself lost doesn't mean you have to be a bloody coward about it. Why, if your brothers and sisters saw you being such a ninny, jumping at shadows, you'd never live it down! You look again at the dark maws of the caves, and realise that you've managed to lose track of which one you entered by. Moving at this point will probably get you even more lost- but then, staying still is hardly going to get you found. You do a slow circuit of the cave and choose an exit where you think you feel a breeze.

Within minutes the world has once again shrunk to a small patch of torchlight and a rough tunnel of water-slick rock, stretching ahead and behind you into deep shadow. Generally you're not a religious sort of chap but you don't think it'll hurt your chances too badly that your lips are moving in whispered prayer. You're not sure the Smithlord's listening, though, because the low guttering of your torch has become erratic flickering, and as you try to fumble in your pouch to see if you have something, anything that will burn you accidentally drop it into a gathering pool of moisture.

The tunnel plunges into perfect blackness with a small splash and hiss. The only sound you can hear is your own breathing, ragged and heavy in the oppressive silence. You think it's jolly unfair that you're going to die this way when you had so much to look forward to, and you can't help feeling a little guilty about the distress you're going to cause your parents- both dwarven and elvish. Oh, gosh darn it, you even brought your father's pistol out here, so he's going to lose that too. Silly though it is, the thought of the precious weapon lying forgotten for all eternity in a dank, lightless cave upsets you rather more than the idea of your skeleton next to it. At least dying doesn't make you feel like an utter cad.

Shakily, you reach out until your trembling hand touches damp stone, and with your fingers brushing the uneven surface of the wall you take a few short steps forward. While there's life there's hope, and as long as you keep moving there's still a chance that you'll get out of this in one piece. Maybe you'll stumble back into Quartzkin lands, or perhaps you'll find a cave of glowing edible mushrooms, or a tribe of friendly troglodites... it's not likely, but it's possible. Your steps grow a little bolder as you continue onwards; you occasionally trip or stub your toe on rock, but it's impossible not to feel a little better when the worst has already happened and you're still up and moving.

Your foot slips out from under you before you can react and you flail blind in the darkness, your body a treacherous alien thing as gravity snatches it and drags you down what feels like a slope made of razors and sandpaper. You roll and slide and yell and grab at the things that bash into you, fingers scrabbling and nails cracking on things that either give way and tumble over you or provide hard, unyielding obstacles for you to smash against. Your head slams into something and the darkness blossoms into red and white sparkles, like popping gunpowder caps inside your skull. You scrape to a halt lying on your backpack, unable to tell if your eyes are open or closed, and groan because every single inch of you is burning with scrapes and cuts and bruises.

After a while- you don't know how long- you notice that the blackness behind your eyelids is slightly darker than the blackness around you. You blink muzzily and roll your head over to see a dim ball of light hovering several dozen feet away; it glows with a ghostly greenish light, and despite the stinging ache and pain in your muscles you roll over and start pushing yourself upright. That light is either a deep-dwelling creature or the arcane power of one, and nothing that lives this far down is friendly. Your hands start fumbling to load your gun as you see a pair of shadows silhouetted by the light, both bipedal and elfin, and your breath catches in your throat as one points to you and shouts something in a hissing alien tongue. You scrabble for your powder horn, cursing the darkness as they draw closer; you don't think you suffered any permanent damage from your tumble, but any tussle at this point is going to be over spectacularly fast one way or another. Your hand tightens around the butt of your father's pistol, heart pounding as the creatures approach.

As they come nearer, their dim figures resolve into two black-skinned, black-armoured, white-haired elves. Drow. They each have a crossbow ready, loaded and aimed at you, and it is with a strange combined rush of fear and relief that you lower your gun. Despite the strange angles and design of the weapons, you are quite certain that either of them could put a bolt through you if they so wished, and there is no way that you could shoot both of them first. You note that each of them has a symbol across their chest, possibly some sort of clan signifier. The lessons your parents taught you come ringing back through your head; the drow are a civilised people ruled by great families, but their callous cruelty is unmatched by any denizens of the Underdark.

One of the drow draws a slim sword and levels it at you. Your eyes fix on the sharp blade as he hisses something; you shake your head, not understanding, and with a roll of his eyes he switches to High Elvish.

"You stand," he growls, voice surprisingly deep. You nod shallowly, careful of the razor edge near your throat, and finish standing upright. You are slightly taller than either drow, a fact that seems to irritate your captors. The one holding the sword says something to his companion in their own tongue, and then you are being relieved not only of your weapon but of your pack and pouches, too. You don't resist. If they had wanted you dead you would be a corpse already, and from your father's stories you know that it's best to wait until a better chance for escape presents itself. You hold yourself back from flinching as businesslike hands pat down your body, presumably searching for hidden weapons and tools that you don't possess. The drow who searched you steps back and his comrade flicks his head towards the direction they approached from.

"Move, sunwalker," he says, and you start walking. The blade retreats from your throat, partly so that you don't decapitate yourself as you pick your way across the uneven floor but mostly so that the owner can fall in behind you and hold it pressed in the small of your back. The light hovering just over your shoulder is more than bright enough for you to see your way and your head is clearing fast, but you are sure to stumble clumsily a few times as you go. You aren't sure where they're taking you, but given your current predicament if they underestimate you then so much the better.

You hear your destination before you see it, the distant babble of foreign voices rising and falling over the rumble of wheels on rock. There is a distant glow in the darkness, as anaemic and chill as the light marking your path, and as you draw closer you see an entire parade of drow in carts and carriages and on foot, pale greenish lanterns adorning poles and hooks throughout the crowd. Before today you have barely seen any drow, let alone what seems enough to fill a small clanhold, and everything from their strongly-coloured clothing to the eerily organic designs carved on the carriages fills you with a sense of otherness that raises goosebumps on your arms. A sharp shove in the small of your back propels you towards the lead carriage, even as you note that despite the strangeness the atmosphere of the journey is casual, even joyous.

Your guards prod you onwards until you are keeping pace with an elegant black conveyance, details and decoration picked out in lines of silver and gold. Anyone else might mistake them for the true metals, but your mother's lessons have given you a sharp eye and you recognise alchemical creations when you see them. The same materials display proudly the symbol that adorns your captors, and it is that more than anything that tells you who is in the carriage. The guard ahead of you pulls the carriage door open and jumps in; before you can react, you are pushed in after to sprawl in a truly undignified fashion across a thick blue carpet.

Inside, the carriage is lit by the same ghostly lanterns. They show you filigree seats and plush cushions, as well as the boots of your guards and a pair of expensive velvet shoes. You look up to see a drow woman regarding you curiously; her obsidian skin is almost smooth and flawless, but a few fine lines at the corners of her eyes tell her true age. From the ornate and costly nature of her dress, you surmise that must be the head honcho, and you meet her brilliant turquoise gaze without flinching as you kneel upright. Her lips twitch in amusement for an instant before one of the guards leans over and, saying something in their strange hissing tongue, passes her your pistol.

She turns it over in her hands and to your dismay seems more curious than puzzled. Manicured fingernails run along the barrel, feeling their way around the trigger guard and the powder pan, and from the intensity of her narrow-eyed gaze you sense that she is taking detailed mental notes. You glare fiercely at her, but she doesn't even notice. Not so the guards; one snaps something impatient and harsh-sounding in your direction. You snort derisively, and it seems to translate well enough because he responds by grabbing a handful of your hair and dragging it down, forcing you to bow your head to the shaking carriage floor.

The tussle gets the attention of the noblewoman, who looks up in mild irritation and snaps something at the guard. Your sigh of relief as he backs off is stifled as she grabs your face in her fingertips. Her grip is wickedly strong, and you are certain you will have bruises on your cheeks where she has gripped you.

"This is one of the new dwarven weapons," she says, in the sort of flawless High Elven that you secretly wish you spoke. "How did you come to possess it?"

You keep your mouth stubbornly closed, and her grip strengthens until you are certain her fingers are going to burst through your skin. Good golly, but she's strong! You nearly bite your tongue keeping quiet, but you manage it, and after a moment she snorts and uses her hand to turn your head thoughtfully from side to side. She studies you every bit as carefully as she did your pistol, and seems satisfied when she releases you with a slight wrench that makes you lurch forward as she sits back.

“A tuatha in dwarven clothes, with a dwarven weapon, wandering blind and alone on the deep roads,” she says, presumably to you as she is still talking in High Elven. “You present an enigma, boy, and like the Seer herself I do so adore to unravel a mystery.” Her fingers stroke the barrel of the gun- your gun- possessively. “I certainly appreciate the opportunity to study one of these devices more closely,” she adds. A vulpine smile appears on her face. “I wonder if the Lady Kutsanmis will try to marry me another of her sons when I am able to arm her guards with these?” She chuckles and leans back in her seat. “Yes, I like that idea. Make one of her valued children second string to the wastrel.” She winks at you. “Don't go telling her now, little one, or else I might just give you to my new husband as a wedding gift.”

You have no idea who this Lady Kutsanwhatsit is, but you nod anyway. Getting caught up in pernicious drow politics seems like a terribly poor idea to you, and something about the way she mentioned giving you to her new husband made a chill run up your spine. You watch warily as she gives a few swift orders to one of her guards, and the man bows his head respectfully to her before jumping out of the carriage. You wait in silence for a few minutes before he returns, carrying a small wooden box. The noblewoman smiles as she takes it off him, and opens it to reveal a slim golden collar. It has a loop for a chain or leash at the back, and the same crest that adorns all her possessions is picked out on the front in semiprecious stones.

You don't need to understand the language in the slightest to know what her next order is, and this time you fight back. It does you absolutely no good at all; one of the guards grabs each arm and a firm hand on each shoulder stops you from wriggling out of it. You are forced to kneel helplessly as the noblewoman leans forwards and snaps the collar around your neck. You are released and the sudden loss of resistance makes you fall backwards with an unpleasant thump. One hand comes up to run along the smooth metal at your throat; it's not uncomfortable, not really, but just knowing it's there is making you feel sick.

The noblewoman yawns theatrically and gives a few more orders. You are grabbed again and hauled to your feet, and this time you don't bother offering resistance as the drow drag you out of her carriage and back down the line of the procession. Your possessions are all left behind, and futile as it is you secretly hope that the vile harpy accidentally shoots herself. The guards are surprisingly gentle as they half lead, half lift you into a cart and clip a leash to the back of your collar. It's long enough to let you sit on one of the long wooden benches, and as you look around you notice that your fellow cart-riders are sporting the same style of neckwear. Most of them are drow, but you notice a couple of goblins at the far end of the cart, and you think there might be a dwarf in the next cart back.

You try smiling at your fellow captives, but the ones who don't just ignore you glare back. You sigh and look down at your hands, wondering where you're headed and how you're ever going to get out of this sorry pickle.

Suggestions Used

Ms Arano - Jake: Have BOTHERSOME LUCK before your sister can even arrive!

Unholygrunt - Jake: get ambushed by drow.

MASK - Jake: where in blazes are you?

Ephemeral_Dreamer – Jake: Be cheerfully unaware of just how lost you are...

The suggestion “Ephemeral_Dreamer - Jake: get lost in the forest” has been not quite really used. But it almost has!

System Notes

Chapter Text

==> Terezi: Interrogate Suspicious Character

A wise old elf once said “it is easier to ask forgiveness than permission.” You have long since modified the maxim to: “it is easier to pretend that you don't need permission at all.” The more flagrantly you flout proper behaviour, the less likely you are to get called on it. On this philosophy you start to take charge of the situation as soon as the healer has put your throat back together. You still feel like death warmed up, but if you don't act fast then someone else will.

The Holy Sister doesn't have the skill to heal more than one of you, so after she makes sure that the injured are stable you send her to fetch more help. That gives you maybe half an hour; you spend the first five minutes commandeering the nearby Guardroom. It's in the base of a small, round tower attached to the gate, and apart from the door the only access is via a trapdoor to the roof. You order it locked as you make sure Cherry Candy is manacled to a nice sturdy chair. You haven't tried to arrest the Kutsanmis boy- that would be pushing it too far- but he's followed you anyway, trailing after the casteless intruder like a lost puppy. The House Guards are watching him with a mixture of irritation and uncertain fear that makes you want to giggle, but you manage to keep a straight face as you solemnly order them to do exactly what they were doing anyway. They nod, happy to have someone in charge.

Finally, you chase out everyone who isn't a Lawkeeper or a prisoner, pointing out that Gamzee can be guarded just as well from outside the door unless you want to question the integrity of an Initiate of the Seer, Guardsman. You and two members of your command are left, you sitting across the wooden card table from the unconscious intruder, your Eyes watching over Gamzee. You study the Kutsanmis scion as he slumps against the wall, staring wordlessly at the ceiling. There is no sign of whatever fury possessed him earlier and that concerns you. Nobody is a good enough actor to hide that. Like everyone else, you have always assumed that the Kutsanmis family locked their son away for being a drug-addled hedonist with no sense of responsibility or duty to his kin. And while he certainly is all of those things, you're starting to think that popular opinion has the cause and effect upside down.

You are also fairly certain that Gamzee Kutsanmis is out of his mind.

He jumps a little when you lean in close to him; not frightened, just surprised that you were there at all. “Hey, lawsis,” he says with a lopsided grin. It looks a little nervy, and his purple eyes flick past you to look at the bloody, battered figure manacled to the chair. You pointedly follow his gaze. It doesn't escape his notice.

“You're gonna heal him up okay, right?” he asks, more hopeful than you would have expected. You drum your fingers on the table thoughtfully.

“Who is he?” you ask. Gamzee says nothing, and you reach out to grab the backpack recovered from the intruder. Rooting through it, you shove aside a tatty blanket and pull out a couple of bundles of dried food.

“Looks like you were planning a long trip,” you comment, stacking the rations neatly. There's a small pouch of pesh in there and you make a show of studying it carefully. Technically it's illegal, but you're not going to hang Candy-Eyes for one measly dose when the Kutsanmis kid stinks of the stuff. You don't think Gamzee even knows he's not meant to have it, and you know the ratling doesn't care. You grimly wonder how it is that the law breaks down so badly at both ends when you're all supposed to be under the watchful gaze of the Seer.

“So, he's not your dealer, or he would have brought more,” you say, laying the drug aside. “And he's scruffy for a whore, although you do seem pretty attached to him...”

For a moment Gamzee's face carries a flash of that hidden anger. Not his lover, then. Interesting. Your fingers, still searching the bag, brush against something in the bottom corner under the blanket. You grab it and draw out a battered book, the once slim volume augmented by crudely glued-in pages and tied shut with string. Curious, you start to pick open the knot.

“Don't!”

Your head snaps sharply up and you stare at the wide-eyed Kutsanmis scion, who has pushed forward from the wall and is reaching for the book in your hand. He freezes, and for a long moment you stare at each other.

“Why not?” you ask. He looks uncertain, and you let the leap of victory in your chest become a triumphant smile. This is clearly important evidence.

Before you can study the book further there is a knock at the door, and you set it down on the table before going to answer. Your blade is ready as you turn the handle: when you see the Lady Kutsanmis outside you almost drop it. You manage to retain enough composure to sheathe the weapon and bow; the Lady sweeps in past you and narrows her eyes at Gamzee, still slouched in the corner. A nervous-looking man in Sylphite jade steps in after her and gives you a professional nod, which you return.

“Why have you detained my son?” the Lady demands. You bow again for good measure, a small incline that reminds of your status even as it respects hers.

“As you can see, the primary perpetrator has not been in any fit state to answer questions,” you reply smoothly. “I thought it best to keep the young Lord in a place of safety while I asked him what he could recall.”

The Lady studies her son disdainfully. “You could have saved your breath. He's a fool.”

You mutter something vaguely affirmative as Gamzee looks downcast, and contemplate the consequences of striking a powerful noblewoman. You can still recall his tearful pleading in the courtyard; I'll be good, he'd said, promising like a hatchling who doesn't understand right from wrong, only in trouble or not. It's hard to shake off the lingering feeling that he should be sent to the Sylphite healers, not a marriage altar.

As if your thinking of it summoned the thought, the Lady Kutsanmis turns back to you. “The Lady Yetenekli will be arriving shortly. I need to make him presentable.”

There's no direct order in there, no explicit instruction to a member of the Temple, but you know that this isn't a point to argue. You've got all you're getting from Gamzee Kutsanmis, at least for the moment.

“I would like to send Lawkeeper guards with him,” you say instead. If you can't question the boy, you can at least be assured of his safety from assassins.

“Why?” the Matriarch asks. You stare at a point just above her knees; to meet her gaze would be an unacceptable challenge to her authority right now.

“I believe your son may still be in danger,” you explain. “Until I am done questioning the intruder, we must assume that our security has been compromised.”

The Lady Kutsanmis glares at you. “Your security.”

“Ours, ma'am,” you reply firmly. “And we did catch the intruder. I simply want to avoid a repeat incident.”

There is a long pause, and then the Matriarch sighs. “Very well.” She makes an impatient gesture towards her son. “Come along, Gamzee.”

The boy gets unsteadily to his feet, but doesn't follow his mother as she strides to the door. You stare fixedly at your boots when the Lady Kutsanmis turns in the doorway, not wanting to draw the ire you can feel bubbling off her. “Is there a problem?” the Matriarch asks coldly.

“Can my bro come with?” Gamzee says. There is a swish of fabric as the Lady Kutsanmis strides back past you, and you wince at the crack of flesh as she slaps her son.

“How dare you!” she hisses. “Do you think I am an utter fool? A mewling infant, blind to what happens in my own house? I have tolerated your juvenile obsessions this long, but no more. You disobey my orders, you attack my guards, you plot with gutter trash to betray your own kin, and you think you can ask me for favours?” Her voice drops and you strain your ears to listen, but she is whispering directly into Gamzee's ear and her voice is too soft to be heard. Whatever she says, though, it seems to end the argument- she strides for the door again, and this time Gamzee follows, casting a pleading glance your way as he leaves the building. You make a gesture to your Lawkeepers and they both nod, following the Kutsanmis scion to continue their protection. At least you can be assured of his safety from outside assassins for the moment.

As the door closes you settle back on your chair. The Sylphite healer reaches into his bag and pulls out a small glass phial, stoppered with wax.

“The temple sent me with this and their compliments, ma'am,” he says respectfully. “And her Eminence says to remind you that we are not made of gold so you'd better not get your throat slit again this month.”

You laugh as you take the potion and draw your dagger to pry off the seal. “Her Eminence can be assured that I have no such plans,” you tell him. Objectively you would guess he's probably a few years older than you, but he seems younger. Followers of the Sylph rarely have to deal with the darker side of elven nature the way Seer Initiates do.

The potion goes down in one swig, cooling and warming at once as the magic flows into your flesh. What hits your stomach is likely nothing more than water, the divine power already soothing your injuries and knitting your wounds. You sigh in relief as the dull ache in your throat goes away and the pain lifts from your limbs. You retrieve the ragged book from the card table as the Sylphite starts to attend to Cherry Candy and start to leaf through the pages.

The pages are packed with words and sketches. You can make out two distinct hands, one whose elegant calligraphy is ruined only by the fracturing charcoal the writer was using and the other consisting of neat but plain blocks of text, carefully written and atrociously spelled. The latter passages are interspersed with rough images, strange symbols, and to your surprise carefully inscribed blocks of Infernal. When you examine the lines in the Holy Tongue, you see that they are mostly incomplete sentences or even words, some of them running together in a baffling manner. Coupled with the way the symbols are almost sketched rather than written, you'd say the writer didn't understand what they were transcribing, but you can't think where he might have copied it from. You are naturally assuming that your captive wrote this: the blocky writing certainly suits what you have seen of him.

A name in ordinary undercommon catches your eye; Gamzee Makara. You frown, because although they are clearly close you wouldn't have suspected that the Kutsanmis boy would give his Soul Name to a Casteless brat. Yet that is what this looks like. There are some other names on the same page, and you decide to look into them later. They're probably friends of Cherry Candy, and with the true names of their inner selves available it shouldn't be too hard to find Sollux Captor, or Aradia Megido, or Kanaya Maryam...

You freeze as you read the name. It has to be a coincidence. You never knew the Godmarked Sylphite's Soul Name, and there has to be more than one person called Kanaya in the city. Except that right underneath it says “Terezi Pyrope” and you know you never told anyone that. How did a ratling from the Shanties learn your best-kept secret? More importantly, who has he told?

There is a warm glow and a smell of burning sand, and you look around sharply as the last vestiges of the Sylph's power fade and your captive muzzily starts to come to. There's blood on his eyelashes and it glues them together; you use the few seconds it takes him to open his eyes to close the book and settle it on the table in front of you.

“That will be all, thank you,” you tell the Sylphite. He leaves gladly with a respectful bow, and as the door clicks shut you lay your hands casually on the table. You see Cherry Candy glance around the room and take note of how you're the only two in here; he weakly tries to lift his manacled arm before letting it drop back to the chair with a pained wince. He looks mostly dead still, but you don't need him healthy. You need him talking.

“This is an interesting book,” you say brightly, one hand still on his journal. “Where did you steal it?”

He glares at you, fierce despite the grey pallor on his skin. “Fuck you. That's mine.”

You grin broadly, your very best aggravating smirk. “Sure it is. You do realise that when we find the rightful owner, they're probably going to press charges.”

He sneers at you. Actually sneers, even though he has more blood outside his body that inside it right now. “Like we don't both know that I'm gallowsbait already. I'd be amazed that I woke up at all, except Lady Fancypants probably wants me conscious when they start the dismemberment. You want to threaten me with pretend legal charges for crap I didn't do, go right ahead. I literally have no remaining shits to give.”

You lean forward. “You stink of the Shanties, ratling. You couldn't write your own name, let alone keep notes.” You lower your tone to sound disappointed, shake your head sadly. “Really, I don't think we're going to get anywhere in this relationship if you can't be honest with me.”

He squints at you and for a moment your heart pounds, afraid that he's caught you in the outright lie, but then his head droops forward and jerks back up angrily. He scowls. “This is not a relationship, you insane bluebelly broad. This is you tying me to a chair and asking inane questions about a dumb book full of beetleshit. How do I know it's full of beetleshit, I hear you ask? Why, because I fucking wrote it, of course! Because I'm not a peshhead fuckwit who can't even hold a stick without applying it to the inside of their nasal cavity; I can form actual letters and associate them with sounds. If the concept of a literate Shanty kid makes your head explode then I'm not even slightly sorry. Thanks to you I'm going get hung, drawn and quartered and Gamzee's going to spend the rest of his life being fucked over by whatever heartless witch her fucking imperiousness has sold him to. I personally hope you die disgraced and in gut-wrenching agony.”

He stops, chest heaving for breath, and you tap your fingers on the table. “So, what you're saying is, you wrote this?”

“YES!” he yells, before bursting into a fit of coughs. You wait politely for him to stop, then lean in across the table.

“In that case, what I would like to know is where the fuck you got my Soul Name,” you say sweetly, giving him your very best menacing smile.

He stares at you, wide-eyed and suddenly looking very young. “...what?”

You slam your hand down on the book. “Don't pretend you don't know what I'm talking about!” you snap. “I know my own name when I see it! Where did you learn it? Who told you? Have you been following me? Who hired you?

“No... I didn't...” he protests, retreating as far into the chair as he can as you loom over him. “I fucking swear, okay, I don't have any clue who you are, it's a fucking coincidence, that's all it is, just some cosmic fucking joke...”

He would be pretty convincing if you didn't have proof of his lies. “Do you really expect me to believe that?” You stab a finger down on the book. “You reek of deceit. It's not just me, you know. You have Gamzee Kutsanmis' name on the same page! And his isn't the only name I know there, either! Are you going to try and persuade me those are coincidences, too?”

He narrows his eyes at you, and to your surprise you can see tears welling up in them. “It's a coincidence,” he says through gritted teeth. “There is no way, not even the slightest fragment of a ghost of a chance, that it's actually you.”

You fold your arms. “And why is that?”

“Because it's not real!” he yells, and the edge of panic in his voice is unsettling. “Understand? It's not fucking real!”

Something is definitely amiss here. You sit back in your chair, wait for him to stop gulping for breath, and let your fingers patter thoughtfully on the journal.

“What isn't real?” you ask him. He fidgets uncomfortably.

“You have to promise not to laugh,” he says, voice uneven. “I mean it. Not even a fucking snicker.”

You nod solemnly. “My oath as an Initiate.”

He chews on his lip nervously for a few moments, before guiltily blurting: “It's a journal of my trance visions, okay?”

He glares like he's expecting you to laugh. You don't see why you would. You're usually pretty good at seeing the funny side of things, and you guess a Shanty thug keeping a vision diary like a fanciful hatchling is objectively hilarious, but you're a little caught up in how he's either the best liar you've ever met or actually did learn your truename while he was resting one night. You're no expert in clairvoyant visions, but you have heard tell of the goddesses speaking through mortals before in times of need. Your mind races as you study the casteless felon opposite you.

“It's not that fucking shocking,” he snaps. You realise you were staring. You also realise that you believe him. There's something honest about him, abrasive and obviously criminal as he is.

“We have to get you to the Temple,” you say, getting out of your seat. His already pale face blanches a few more shades.

“What?”

You frown thoughtfully, pacing a little. “It's where you should have been all along, with this kind of blessing. Even as casteless, you should have known...”

“NO!”

You look up in surprise and catch it, a brief downward flicker of his eyes, a faint shift of his unmanacled arm that tells you he's hiding something. He flinches back as you crouch down and grab the offending limb.

“GET THE FUCK OFF ME!!!” he yells, scrabbling at you. He's still too weak to do anything dangerous, and you easily shove back two layers of grubby sleeve to reveal a thick wrap of cloth scraps. He hollers like you're murdering him as you pull the rags apart, which only spurs you on to discover what he's so desperate to hide.

You see a few flashes of paler grey as you tug at the covering, but it isn't until it slips and you're holding his wrist still with a grip tight enough to bruise that you can see it. For a moment you aren't quite sure what you're looking at. A long stylised gash runs across his forearm, looking more like a scar than anything else until you see the three flowing runnels that stretch up his arm from it. If he lifted his hand over his head, it would look like it was running down his arm; as it is, it's upside down, not in the least bit elegant or subtle, and for a moment you think it might be an ordinary birthmark. Then the memory of long dull afternoons spent learning about heresies and illegal cults come back to you. You recognise the symbol and what it means in the same moment.

The Knight of Blood.

He's marked like you. Except not. Looking back up at him feels oddly slowed, like moving through syrup, and you can see the naked fear written all over his face. He knows what you're thinking: he's a monster, an abomination. You have to purge him, purify the world of his taint. It's everything you've ever been taught to believe. It's your duty. It's only the only right and just course of action.

It's empty lessons echoing in your skull, because the foe is a frightened thug from the Shanties who secretly writes his trance visions in a journal. Perhaps if he was a cultist, if he'd made a choice, but you know better than anyone that he never asked for a godly patron. You used to wonder what your life would have been like, if you hadn't been chosen, if you'd just been a normal hatchling. Sometimes it was hard to handle the weight of expectations and the knowledge that your life could have so easily been different.

He's your enemy. He's your kin. Just like Kanaya was, once.

A shout goes up from outside and you start in surprise.

“THE LADY YETENEKLI HAS ARRIVED!”

You turn back and see the bright red eyes of your Cherry Candy Captive watching you, cornered and wary. Gently you start to wrap the cloth back around his wrist, covering up the illegal symbol. He follows your actions as you tug his sleeve back down over the wrap.

“What the fuck are you doing?” he asks. “Shouldn't you be calling in every Eye and Templar and Inquisitor in the city right now to come and spread the holy wrath?”

“So you know what that mark means,” you say, walking back around the table and stuffing his journal back into his pack.

“I know that it's the symbol of some retard god who decided to make me even more of a fucking pariah than every other casteless asshole in the Shanties. Because obviously that was exactly what my life needed.”

For a moment you smirk. His tone is so disgruntled, you can imagine him stomping up to the Knight of Blood himself and demanding an explanation. Maybe even carving a few chunks out with those sickles. It's ridiculous, but somehow it's true as well in a way you can't really define.

“I want to show you something,” you tell him. He frets as you turn your back and start to tug at your cloak. You can hear him even if you can't see it.

“Great, just my fucking luck. I get the crazy Lawkeeper. Let me guess, you collect eyeballs. Or fingers. What...”

His voice dies away as you slip the cloak off your neck and pull the heavy mass of hair aside one-handed. You can only imagine the look on his face as he stares at your Godmark. You let him get a good eyeful before you pull your cloak back on and turn around.

“So are you going to kill me?” he asks.

“I hope not,” you reply. “I'm Terezi.”

“Pyrope,” he finishes absently. “Girl of my fucking dreams.”

You laugh. “Well, you've got my name,” you point out. “More of it than any other soul alive.”

He stares at you for a long moment, thin and grey-pale and still covered in too much blood, and sighs.

“Karkat Vantas,” he says.

You think it suits him pretty well.


Suggestions Used

unholygrunt - Terezi even if the thief had no attention of killing the Scion, he managed to break in and make you guys look like chumps. You need to question him as soon as possible to patch up all the holes in you security and to do that you need him healed and awake.

Firebird766 - If a nobody from the Shanties can get in, clearly something is wrong here. You need to give the security detail a full chewing out for letting someone like that slip in, because if that thief can get by them an assassin would have no trouble at all. Use that as leverage for making House Kutsanmis let you heal the thief and question him.

Ephemeral_Dreamer - Terezi: Don't allow them to be taken away from you. Something is fishy here... and these two are at the centre of it!

Ephemeral_Dreamer - Terezi: Instruct the guards to bring those two to the temple as soon as the healer has stabilized the thief (can't have him die before you find out what's going on...)

MASK - Terezi: get your men (and gamzee and the thief) off these streets--you're much too exposed here, and gamzee getting assassinated while you've just gotten him back into custody would leave you in a rather poor light to both his family and your higher-ups. Perhaps requisition some space in a nearby building while you wait for your medics to get there (this gives you some time to question gamzee during the wait as well).

MASK - Terezi: Don't allow them to be taken away from you. karkat would likely be summarily executed for both trespassing and being casteless, which means any information or secrets he may have would die with him. And investigate while he's in holding – what is a casteless even DOING knowing someone of Gamzee's status?

ttd0000 – Terezi: Interrogate the... kidnapper?

Ms Arano – Terezi: Explain the situation to the Kutsanmis matriarch

Ephemeral_Dreamer - Gamzee: Get arrested. Try your best to protect Karkat. Don't let them separate you.

MASK - Karkat: wake up covered in blood

System Notes

Chapter Text

==> Gamzee: Save Your Motherfucking Best Friend

Mother ain't never got her motherfucking anger on so much as this before.

Its the thought what keeps running around your head as a cloud of slaves and servants wrestle you out of the old clothes you put on for travelling and get you ready for something all fancy and uncomfortable what got picked out for you. It's like what you think being in the middle of a river might be like, what with the currents buffeting you back and forth and leaving a motherfucker no kind of control over his own direction. You wince at the sharp tugs on your scalp as someone starts dragging the tangles out of your hair, and cast occasional glances at the motherfucking mage what called this storm down on you. She is waiting by the door, the irritated furrow of her brow the only sign what your mother ain't all chill, and you get to feeling all small and cold inside because she knows, she MOTHERFUCKING KNOWS that you tried to defy her and she's all up and twitchy on account of how you

LET

THE

MOTHERFUCKING

BARD

OUT.

If she didn't need you for her plans so bad, you ain't so sure you'd be seeing anything as even looked like thinking of freedom again. As is, you're not getting nothing out of her except what she's gotta give you, and if you had any kind of sense at all you wouldn't even be up and thinking of trying for more. But then your mind gets to imagining Karbro, battered and bleeding and all up in the hands of the law. Them motherfuckers don't like casteless none. You were all up and hoping for your brother to be saving you, but it looks like you're going to have to get your motherfucking rescue on for him instead.

Luckily, you still have one option that ain't all motherfucking screwed to the hells and back. It ain't all being a thing you want to do- shit, it ain't even being a thing you want to think about doing, not really- but if you got any kind of luck, if any motherfucker up in them heavens gives some kind of a shit about you or your best friend, it could work. So you lie there and you let them motherfuckers pretty you up without even making no peep. It ain't hard to let your mind just wander and your thoughts go all chill, and pretty soon you get to feeling some bit sorry for the poor fucks what got the unenviable task of working on you. Most of the hands what touch you are shaking in fear, and if you move so much as a muscle half the attendants flinch away like they're all up and made of china and you're some sort of motherfucking rock giant here to break them all in to tiny, fragile pieces. Your mother ain't making no shit better, either, hissing and snapping at the worst offenders and sending two unfortunate slaves to get their selves beaten on your account. You try holding still some more after that. It ain't their fault what happened in the courtyard, and it sure as shit ain't no kind of motherfucking unreasonable to be scared of the Bard. You ain't all full of the miracle of remembering what the fuck happened, not clearly, but you live in the same head as the motherfucker, and sometimes you wake up all clean and motherfucking sober. It's like staring down a hole in your own head, all darkness and horror and bad shit inside, and on the worst days you can hear him motherfucking laughing and asking you to come play until you freak the fuck out and drown him with whatever shit you got closest to hand.

Yeah, being scared of the Bard is pretty motherfucking normal, in your book.

You're half-naked and being scrubbed clean of blood when the cry goes up from outside; your mother exchanges a few brief words with the two lawkeepers who followed you up in here, then with a final warning glare at you leaves to go greet your wife-to-be. You can feel your belly getting all knotted up inside. You didn't think none about what you were going to do when she arrived; you weren't supposed to be here any more, you were leaving with your brother, and now shit's all mixed up and you feel sick and scared and you can't do nothing about any of it, which makes your eyes up and start miraculously watering all on their own.

The same clinical sponging that washes off the gore and sweat of your earlier flight attempt mops your face clean of tears. It's gentle but impersonal; nobody moves to comfort you. None of them even motherfucking acknowledge your distress. Makes you want to cry more, makes you want to scream and shout and BREAK their MOTHERFUCKING HEADS and PAINT THE WALLS with their BLOOD, get the MOTHERFUCKING DARK CARNIVAL STARTED up in here...

You squeeze your eyes shut, take a deep steadying breath, and fight back the bubbling anger welling out of your cold centre. There ain't enough to really let Him cut loose again, not today, but you could throw one motherfucking bitch of a screamer tantrum if you were wanting to. Thinking of Karkat's face and reminding yourself how much your brother needs you is enough to make you not want it. You gotta be in control now. Your plan ain't got space for all them feels you got in you, so you ruthlessly scrunch them up and cram them down and bury them under the passive mask you been wearing for years. If this works out, your best friend can help you work that shit out later. If it don't- well, then you ain't really gonna motherfucking care any which way what the Bard gets up to in your skin.

Time passes in a neverending blink, and you ain't really up to noticing how much of it there was. It's later, you know that, because somehow you're all brushed and washed and dressed up like a real respectable motherfucker. You blink slowly as the attendants back away, staring in bemused surprise at your beautiful self in the mirror. A bit skinny around the arms and a bit hollow and haunted in the face, but elsewise you could be looking at one of your brothers, the ones what you're related to by blood. Motherfucking miracles is what it is. You reach out to touch the stranger and your fingers meet those of your reflection, the guy in the mirror looking all spooked as shit. You don't see some ancient evil lurking behind his eyes, just a scared kid who's way too motherfucking young for all this.

Is that motherfucker really you?

“Okay, that's enough,” says someone, and your arm is grabbed by one of the two Lawkeepers. You stare at her for a long minute, bemused by the hatred in her face, before you notice the dent in her helmet and get your remember on that the Bard did a real good job of bashing in her skull earlier. “The Matriarch asked us to deliver you as soon as you were ready, and I'd say you are. Time to get moving.”

You can almost hear her adding shithead to the end of that, words what she wants to up and say and can't, so rather than argue you meekly let her drag you across the room and out the door. She and her companion, the chica what stayed behind to deal with your best friend's mess, both keep some sharp motherfucking eyes on you as they lead you down the corridors. You ain't spent enough time going all over the house that you have the knowing of where you're headed, but you know you're getting close when the iron grip on your arm is released in favour of falling into step behind you. Can't motherfucking introduce you any way else, can they?

You come to a corridor which ends in a pair of heavy double doors, the gilded metal showing frescoes of your kinfolk and all the shit what they up and did in the past. Most of it ain't any kind of pretty so you stare at the floor as you draw close, avoiding the gaze of the House Guards watching you and wondering about the raised babble of voices you can all hear coming from the other side.

The Lawkeeper with the dented helmet nods once to the pair of House Guards, who wordlessly pull the doors open. A hand in the small of your back shoves you forwards and you step out into a land of miracles. Takes everything you got not to gawp at the huge room, lined with long tables what groan under the weight of food and filled with seated people dressed in all the motherfucking colours you ever even thought to imagine. At the far end of the room, a band of musicians are playing, and you stumble forwards as one by one the people in the room turn to look at you. Your mother is all sitting right across the other side in the middle, right in front of the minstrels, and you feel all cold and fluttery again because next to her is a woman in deep blue what you don't recognise none.

The hall echoes with soft music, drowning out your footsteps as you walk down the centre of the room to where the two women sit. You force yourself not to look from side to side, make yourself not be caring none that every motherfucker is getting their stare on at you. Let them look. As you draw closer you can see that the strange woman next to your mother is like to be the same age as her, maybe even older, but other than that there ain't much comparison. She's short where the Kutsanmis Matriarch is tall, softened by fat and smile lines where your Mother is harsh and bony. She don't look too scary and for a moment you up and feel some motherfucking hope. Then dark blue eyes catch your own, and the woman smiles. Your blood freezes to ice and it's a fight to take the next step towards her. Bitch is a Matriarch, same as your mother. Ain't a thing you should be forgetting, most especially not now.

You halt a few steps from their table and bow, the perfect dutiful son.

“Lady Yetenekli, may I present my son Gamzee?” your mother says, her voice projecting around the hall in formal announcement. You straighten up and chance a glance at your betrothed; she returns your gaze with an undisguised look of assessment. Standing all straight, you try not to be grinding your teeth as she examines you like a piece of meat she's up and planning to haggle over. You know as what you ain't even been close to a kindness for all the other souls around you, but you like to think you never gave a one of them that look.

“A pleasure,” your betrothed says with another small smile, this one as empty as the formality. You incline your head towards her politely, not trusting your tongue in the least.

Your mother gives you a sharp look, but is quick to cover. “I apologise for his lateness,” she says. “I assure you it will not happen again.”

The smile grows and you could swear it up and looks more genuine now, if a whole load more hungry. “That is quite alright, Matriarch. You have been a most engaging hostess thus far, and I must thank you for the excellent meal.” She narrows her eyes in amused contemplation. “But now I feel it is the turn of your son to take over my entertainment. With your permission, my Lady, I would ask him the honour of a dance.”

“By all means,” your mother replies, her eyes not leaving your face. You stare at her blankly until another hand takes yours and starts to lead you out into the centre of the room. The Lady Yetenekli is all having rough hands, not calloused like your best friend's but no kind of motherfucking smooth either. She puts one of them hands on your waist and the other in your own, and then the minstrels strike up some slower dancing tune and you're motherfucking moving.

You ain't exactly spent huge periods of your life dancing, unless spinning in circles while singing and shit like that is up and counting, but when she signed off on the marriage contract your mother made motherfucking certain you knew how to follow your partner's lead. You don't tread on no feet, or be sticking elbows where they ain't wanted, and you even figure out how to do a few little twists and fancy-ass motherfucking steps in there that look impressive as all fuck but ain't no kinds of hard. Pretty soon you ain't the only pair treading the floor and your partner has tucked her head up under your chin. You take one last glance at your mother, sitting there like the motherfucking Seer herself to judge you all, and decide you ain't getting no kind of better chance than right now. Your future wife doesn't seem at all surprised when you lower your head to bring your lips next to her ear.

“Hey, I'm all having a motherfucking offer for you,” you whisper. You're close enough to hear her chuckle.

“Is that so?” she asks, voice as soft as your own and dancing with amusement. “And what might a handsome young thing like you have to offer for a dried-up old hag like me?”

You swallow nervously. “Good behaviour.” She doesn't laugh this time, but when you twist your head slightly to be glancing at her you see an eyebrow raised and a smile spreading.

“Well then, you must be either very foolish, or about to present an excellent argument,” she whispers, almost purring. “Because I know you wouldn't want to cross me otherwise.” Her hand tightens against your lower back, the other one sliding up your arm to wind into your hair and tug on it painfully. “Your mother has told me everything about you, and I do mean everything. I'm entirely prepared to handle you if I must. I would dearly prefer not to need to.”

You let a little of the anger seep out, just enough to be ignoring yourself some motherfucking pain and fear. Just enough to be putting on a small grin of your own. “What makes you think that bitch is all knowing everything to tell?” you ask her, and it is more than some bit satisfying to see her eyes widen the tiniest part. “I can scream for motherfucking weeks, did she tell you that? I can live on the motherfucking blood of the servants you send in to feed me. I can throw myself against the motherfucking walls of any place you put me until either I break, or they do. Am I any kind of motherfucking use to you like that?”

“I can feed you potions that will keep you asleep and alive the rest of your life,” she whispers, a vicious hiss in your ear. “Give me enough time and I can make an elixir that strips away every part of your mind but the few primitive bits I need. Although it would be a terrible shame, naturally, to have to do so.”

“So don't,” you say, heart pounding. You knew she was an alchemist, knew from Karkat that those clever motherfuckers could up and do all kinds of magic with their little miracle bottles, but this shit was way past what you were prepared to deal with. You wished you could motherfucking change your mind and back out, but this was it. The last motherfucking chance you were ever gonna get. “This shit ain't about what you need. It's all up and about what you want.” You pull her a little closer on the last word, let your breath ghost across her neck, and part of your mind gets to wondering exactly which whore you learned that trick from. “Just think; you take me out all scrubbed up, all chilled out and clean, show me off to your motherfucking friends. Shit, you just did what the Matriarch of the Kutsanmis never fucking could- made something worthwhile out of this motherfucker.” You roll your head over to rest it against hers, cheek to cheek, warm and soft and, as you know so well, almost like being loved. “Best motherfucking behaviour from me, for life. No scandals. No shit. You want to show the bitch up, I'm the tool you want. I'll be the most perfect motherfucking puppet you ever up and pulled the strings of, good for the rest of forever, you just gotta do one thing for me, one single motherfucking thing.”

The hand in your hair changes motion, starts to stroke in a motherfucking MOCKERY of kindly soothing. “Well, you'd have to tell me what you want, darling.”

Now or never. You breathe softly on her neck again, inches away from intimacy, teasing to pretend that you have control when you have MOTHERFUCKING SHIT ALL. “I got a... friend, casteless, what got in some trouble earlier today on account of me. I want him to be okay.” You close your eyes. “I want him with me.”

“That's two things,” your betrothed points out. Your head shoots up and she snorts at the fury in your eyes. “Did you think I wouldn't hear about your little escapade earlier? Sorry, my dearest, but they were still clearing up the courtyard when we arrived, and it's the talk of the entire House.” She taps you gently on the nose, her other hand still stroking your hair. “How do I know that you and your little accomplice won't just make another break for it as soon as we leave here, hmm?”

You grin at her, dizzying heights of adrenaline a better motherfucking drug than any pesh you up and remember taking. “Shit, sister, we only made a break for it so as we wouldn't go and get split the fuck up. He didn't want to be all up and losing this motherfucker, and I... I motherfucking need him, you dig? We all up and figured running was the only way.” You motherfucking pray you weren't right on that.

The look she gives you ain't no kind of thing you can read. “You know, after my first husband died, I knew I was never going to remarry for love,” she says quietly, one hand slipping out of your hair to run across your face as the other goes to cradle your waist again. “Remarrying for power is another matter entirely, but if you're willing to work with me then I see no reason to make this any harder on you than it has to be.”

“So you'll do it?” you ask. Too motherfucking eager. She chuckles at your enthusiasm.

“I'll do my best, darling,” she purrs, leaning in. “But only if you promise me that once we're married, I get to find out how long you really can scream for.”

“Anything,” you say, and mean it. Karkat is going to get some serious shout on at you for this, but it's worth it. If you can save his motherfucking life and keep him close, there ain't nothing you won't give up for your brother. You bow your head and return your concentration to your dancing, trying not to feel Mother's eyes burning into your skull and your hands trembling helplessly as they up and rest on your future wife.

Suggestions Used

Marycontrary - Since Gamzee's dropped his cover as "too stoned to talk", I'd like him to try intimidate or diplomacy to get Karkat cured and to bring him along as a servant to his marriage. Survival first, escape later.

unholygrunt - Gamzee: Save your motherfucking best friend.

Ephemeral_Dreamer - Gamzee: try your best to keep Karkat save!

System Notes:

Dancing Skill Check
Gamzee's perform check = 16
DC15 (ENTERTAINING PERFORMANCE) ACHIEVED.

Chapter Text

THE KNIGHT OF TIME

Knight of Time God Symbol

Warsinger, the Caller of Ravens, the Legion One, Lord of Broken Blades

ALIGNMENT: True Neutral

PORTFOLIO: War, Competition, Fire, Sacrifice

DOMAINS: Nobility (Martyr & Leadership), Time*, Song*, War (Tactics), Animal (Feather), Fire (Smoke)

FAVOURED WEAPON: Greatsword

THE KNIGHT OF TIME is a god of the battlefield and the messenger of strife, the patron of all dedicated combatants who measure the beat of life in the heat of every moment.

HISTORY
The stories told of the Knight are a history of war and conflict; his name is invoked in the accounts of generals, his influence seen in the clash of armies the world over since records began. Tales of his divine dealings speak of him fighting vast hordes of foes and lone opponents alike. His deaths are many, many more than his victories- and yet still the god lives triumphant. Whether he fights for his own glory or the defence of his comrades is in the telling, as the god himself is evasive and his divine communications are prone to exaggerated boast and unrepentant misdirection.

PANTHEONS AND RELATIONSHIPS
The Knight of Time appears in the worship of four different pantheons as well as individually.

In the PANTHEON OF LIGHT, he is the general of the forces of heaven, and the marshal of their defences. Warlike and unrelenting, he is their protector against all dangers. His nature as a warrior is brought out all the more when he spars with the PRINCE OF HEART; it is commonly said when they fight the stormclouds gather, and that the flash of lightning and crash of thunder is their blades colliding. He nonetheless has a great fondness for the HEIR OF BREATH and the WITCH OF SPACE, who can both mollify his dangerous nature.

As one of the RULERS OF HEAVEN, he is the god of war and sacrifice- both his own, and of others. As the lone warrior and the desperate messenger, he is seen as the last defence against disaster and ruin. He is shown to be like a brother to the HEIR OF BREATH, but only the WITCH OF SPACE is ever thought able to make him smile.

Within the HOLY TRIAD, he is one of three equal deities along with the HEIR OF BREATH and the WITCH OF SPACE, who are again brother and sister. In this pantheon he is more messenger than warrior, and he is more often associated with birds and sacrifice to the point that depictions often show him impaled on a sword. He is the most serious of the Triad, the one who warns of impending danger so that preparations may be made.

Amongst the STARWALKERS, a pantheon whose worship has faded in all but a few lands, he is brother to the SEER OF LIGHT and sometime lover to the SEER OF MIND. His duties as defender are shared with the KNIGHT OF BLOOD, with whom he is ever in competition to outdo, and of the two of them he is seen as embodying the more irresponsible and self-aggrandising aspects of combat and war.

Alone, he is considered the patron of all soldiers, warriors and mercenaries, and even those who do not consider themselves religious will call on him- or curse by his name- in battle.

As an antagonist to other pantheons or deities, he is presented as an arrogant and careless god, who seeks only his own glory and gratification and takes without consideration whatever he desires. He is unpopular with followers of the KNIGHT OF BLOOD, but most reviled of all by followers of the BARD OF RAGE for reasons known only to them.

APPEARANCE AND EMISSARIES
The Knight of Time is most often depicted as a blond or white-haired aasimar in brilliant red, his eyes covered by a helm, hood or blindfold and wielding a broken greatsword. He is also represented by corvids, either lone or in flocks, and it is common to show him in aasimar form with wings of black feathers or orange flame.

SERVANTS
Ravens, crows, magpies and other corvids are sacred to the Knight of Time, although all birds of the sky have his favour.

The Fallen
Long ago, a company of mercenaries deserted a battle they had sworn to fight in the Knight's name. They were ambushed and slaughtered as they fled, and the god claimed their souls for his own. Their spirits were transformed into crows, but when the Knight so decrees they become a full company of ghostly soldiers and join battle on the side of his choosing.

Legendary Piece Of Talking Shit
This famed greatsword has been credited with many magical effects, but only two are consistent: firstly, that while it is stunningly easy to break, it can at a word become whole again. Secondly, that it talks incessantly. The otherwise lucky souls who have found and wielded the blade all agree in their accounts that the LPOTS could probably have done without the second power. It is currently lost again.

Li'l Cal
This eerie puppet is associated with three different deities and thus cannot be considered a true servant of the Knight. To those who follow the teachings of the Church of Time, Cal is an omen of doom; a warning that danger too great to handle will soon arrive. To see him on the eve of battle is though to be the worst kind of fortune and a sign of impending defeat or death.

CHURCH
Temples of the Knight exist in two places; in the hearts of cities, where they act as recruitment centres for every band of sellswords sober enough to stagger in, and beneath makeshift canvas ceilings on the eve of battle. While the temples of a given pantheon do in theory report to a central location, in practise each temple stands alone and yet also together as one- a dichotomy perfectly in keeping with the god's practises.

WORSHIPPERS AND CLERGY
Clerics of the Knight of Time are True Neutral, Neutral Good, Neutral Evil, Lawful Neutral, or Chaotic Neutral.

Followers of the Knight are for the most part warriors of one kind or another; mercenaries, soldiers, champions, bandits- anyone whose life rests on the edge of a blade and the actions of each and every moment.

The clergy of the Knight are almost all Paladins, Inquisitors, Battle Oracles and Clerics who walk the path of the Holy Vindicator. The most notable are those who guard the temples and fight in his name – the Landstriders. His devout followers are equally dangerous in combat, and often find employment as blades for hire.

TEMPLES AND SHRINES
Temples to the Knight of Time are most often dark, hot, and full of pounding music. The drums never stop beating, day or night, and those who enter his halls are challenged to make list of their deeds. Any true follower of the Knight knows how to make a shrine with a drum, a campfire, and some comrades to boast to.

HOLY TEXTS
The holy books of the Church of Time are both a joke and an example; a joke, in that significant portions are either blatantly untrue or claim to be falsehood, and an example in that they are held to be the premier examples of warrior boasts for mortals to strive towards.

Sick Fires
This book, one of the two main texts of the faith, contains nothing but battle poetry. It recounts various fights and battles that the Knight of Time supposedly fought. Rather than quibble over which accounts or versions to include, the priesthood just puts in every story that sounds sufficiently different, leading to multiple contradictory tales.

Ill Beats
This somewhat slimmer book tells a more melancholy saga, although still in poetic form. The stories are set between and around the stories in the other primary Holy Book. All of them are stories of loss, defeat and despair, although the way they are told is darkly humorous.

Tales From Can Town
The origins of this book are lost, but its contents are a series of brightly-coloured shitty pictures that are astonishingly hard to reproduce. They seem to depict some manner of toy township, an argument supported by the captions written in two different hands. It would seem to be a child's picture book, if it didn't veer between incomprehensible and obscene with malicious glee.

HOLIDAYS
The church of the Knight has little interest in holy days and festivals, but he is often called on formally both before battles and after, whether it be in celebration or in mourning. His followers are not farmers or traders; their work cares little for the seasons, and even less for plans made in times and places of peace.

Knight of Time Portrait by proserpine-in-phases

--------------
* Third Party Domains, 4 Winds Fantasy Gaming

Chapter Text

==> Roxy: Get This Partay Statred-There's An Aventur To Get To!

You haven’t been outside of Porthaven since you were a little girl, and you’re really thinking that this whole running away schtick might just be the totes best idea evar. Dirk’s stories, amazing though they were, failed to do justice to how utterly wonderful it is to be sitting on the grass by a campfire as the sun sinks below the horizon, eating delicious stewed… something… with your bestest buds. The only way this could get any better would be if you had some of the sweet, fiery booze that the brothers used to smuggle to you in the Temple.

Oh, and if your sis wasn't busy spreading her dire predictions of death and doom and stuff, that would be the abs best thing. The thing about having the chosen mouthpiece of the Fateweaver telling you that Armageddon is nigh is that it pretty much kills any sort of party atmosphere. You're trying your best, you really are, but it's hard to even pay attention when you've heard the whole thing before... blah blah endless undead armies blah blah blah world turned to dust blah blah blah all hope extinguished... hey, did that cute wild elf boy over by the other campfire just wave to you?

You are considering the relative merits of various courses of action, ranging from waving shyly back to running over there and body-tackling him into sloppy makeouts, when your pleasant reverie is interrupted by Frigglish jumping onto your shoulders and mewing. The sudden presence of your familiar is startling but it gets your attention back on what your own little circle is doing.

“... totally ridiculous,” Jane is saying, her arms folded across her chest and her back bolt upright. “We can't just run off across the world doing heavens-know-what! We have responsibilities here!”

Dave leans back until he's lying in the grass. “Sorry to break it to you, babe, but Porthaven's part of the world. I know, shocked me too, but apparently the end of everything isn't a picky date. The apocalypse got girls in every town, gonna break their fragile little hearts and move right back on over here to fuck your shit up too. One perverted sonovabitch.”

Jane purses her lips. “And how do we know it's really the apocalypse?” she asks, voice high-pitched and wobbling. “No offence, your holiness, but it's only a few dreams...”

“The gift of prophecy is more than simple sight or suggestion,” Rose says, brow furrowed in a frown of irritation. “I may not have seen the whole world, but I know it is to be consumed.” She narrows her eyes at Jane. “Since you have always shown reasonable faith in my precognitive abilities before, I can only assume that your doubts this time are the result of a deficiency in your own ability to face the unknown.”

“I am not scared!” Jane snaps. Rose raises a lone eyebrow.

I never said you were,” the Oracle replies. You can sense the smugness radiating off her and you throw a glare her way before rocking onto your knees and shuffling over to your Tuatha friend. She's sniffling a little, and you choose to ignore it as you put a friendly arm around her. She might be technically the same age as you, but in elf years that's like... five years younger or something. She's barely more than a kid.

“It's okay,” you tell her, resting your head on her shoulder as Frigglish purrs in your lap. Nothing could be more reassuring than the pair of you, you are like some sorta awesome spell for getting people calm and happy. “We got a sweet plan for saving everyone and it's totes gonna work.”

The next thing you know you're lying on the floor, and it takes you a confusing half-second to realise that Janey has pushed you off her and jumped to her feet.

“I can't believe this!” she yells. “You're really all buying into this?! One oracle has visions that the world- which seems perfectly fine to me- is going to come to an end by next year, and you're planning to save it with two street performers and a drunk wizard?” She points a finger accusingly across the campfire at Dirk. “You can't tell me you really think this is real!”

Dirk shrugs. “Seems legit to me,” he says, unperturbed by Jane's outburst.

“So you're just going to do whatever she says?” the frantic girl demands. Behind her, you can see her brother getting to his feet.

“I'm going to do my best to assist the Oracle,” Dirk is saying, face impassive behind the mask he hasn't taken off. “See, as my bro here pointed out, we all happen to live in the world. If I accept that she has the gift of prophecy, then I have to accept that we're probably in big trouble here. And I sure as fuck am not planning to just lie down and wait for the end to find me.”

“Amen!” you chime in, giving a small round of applause. You couldn't have said it better yourself. Jane, on the other hand, is staring at the pair of you as if you are completely out of your minds.

“But... I don't... how are we...” She shakes her head. “You're mad. You're all completely...”

A pair of tanned, appealingly toned arms slide around Jane, who squeaks as her brother pulls her into a hug. “Right,” he finishes. “They're right, Jane.”

You've only met John a few times before today, but you know he's never exactly serious. The expression he has right now, a sort of wide-eyed earnestness full of an easy confidence that things will work out, is as close as he gets. The weird thing is that until you see it, you weren't even noticing the funny little knot of fear that's been planted in your belly since Rose first told you about her visions. Now it's gone.

You decide right then and there that you are definitely going to have your wicked way with that boy. Eventually. When he's done being all cool and comforting and the best brother in the world.

“What about our training? What about Mom and Dad?” Janey is protesting, refusing to return John's hug but not pulling away either. “Gods walking, John, what about Jake and Jade? They're supposed to be here in a few weeks!”

John shrugged. “We'll have to sneak home to get our things anyway; we can leave them a message,” he says. “I think they'll understand; they seem like pretty cool people! Actually...” his face lights up with a grin. “Wow. Jane, what if we asked them to join us? I bet they'd be great at helping save the world!”

“We cannot leave a message in Porthaven that would indicate our destination,” Rose cautions.

“We don't have to!” John replies cheerily. “Dave, you said that your Clan usually runs into Guardians of the Greenweald when you're leaving Porthaven, right?”

“Yeah,” Dave says. “They get attracted by the irresistible Ghoststep charm and follow us for miles just to get a glimpse of me. It's like I'm the Lord of Aldebaran, except I got a sweet-ass caravan instead of a shitty brown moon and instead of being followed by the beasts of the forest and field, I'm best buds with every hairy unwashed tree-hugger from here to the Dragonshards.”

You throw a small clod of dirt at him. It falls short.

“Okay, well, we can leave a message with your people, and they can tell the druids, and they'll get a message to Jade for us!” John says, letting go of Jane to gesticulate some shapes that might be somehow vaguely related to his plan. “That should be totally safe!”

Rose nods thoughtfully. “If your friend is connected to the Guardians, then she may be a help,” she concedes. “Besides, we are hardly in the position to discount potential allies.”

“She's our sister, and she is one of the Guardians! And Jake, he's our brother, but he grew up in a clanhold and he has awesome dwarven weapons!” John says. Rose looks a little stunned. You know the feeling. Guardians are totes badass and dwarves are about as mysterious and exotic as anything. Plus John has a brother! You bet he's cute too.

“That... would be useful,” says Dirk, echoing what you're all thinking. “You think they'll be onboard with this?”

“I don't see why not!” John replies.

Jane scowls at her brother. “Wait a minute here! They haven't agreed to anything, and neither have I. Do you even have a plan for tracking down this mysterious threat?”

“Of course,” Rose replies. She leans towards the fire, the flames already starting to cast odd shadows in the dying sunlight. “We need more information about the threat we face. Since I am unable to learn more from my own gifts, I thought a more direct communication with the Seer might be in order. Do you know of the Chamber of Echoes?”

You don't look blank, but only because your sister explained this to you weeks ago. Everyone else is confused as all hells.

“What the fuck is that?” Dave asks. Rose gives him a tight smile.

“It is a cavern in the heart of the Starspire mountain, where you may ask any question and hear a true answer.”

“Starspire?” Dirk says, tilting his head ever-so-slightly to the side. “Good thought, but I don't see how we're gonna pull it off.”

“What do you mean?” John asks. Dirk waves a hand in the air.

“Starspire's Aelfen land. The Shining Elves can get pretty antsy about visitors. And oh, yeah, Starspire is also right at the end of the Dragonshard range. It's months of travel away.” He fixes a harsh gaze on Rose. “We don't have time to get there.”

“We do if we cut through orc lands,” Rose replies calmly. “Unless the thought dissuades you from assisting, in which case I will cut through orc lands and you will remain here.”

Dirk shrugs and leans back. “I'm afraid I can't oblige, darlin'. Me and my bro here are in for the long haul, at your side, come what may. You don't chase us off that easily.”

“This plan is dangerous,” Jane says, arms folded across her chest. “Not to mention reckless, ill-thought-out, and completely lacking in important details! You've just jumped straight to the religious answer and haven't even considered the hundreds of other ways you could go about gathering information...”

“See, that's why we need you!” you exclaim, bouncing excitedly. “You're an Investigator, Janey! And we've got the biggest mystery in the world to solve!” You shuffle up to your friend again and tug on her sleeve. “Please say you'll come with us! Please please please please...”

“Oh, fine!” Jane says with a huff, slumping to the ground next to you. Immediately you glomp her, knocking her over with the force of your hug.

“Alright!” you squeal. “Let's get this party started!”

John laughs as he sits down next to Dirk. “Wow, a real adventure! I'm going to be a hero, like in the stories!”

Dave snorts. “Dude, you can't be a story hero.”

“Oh yeah? Why not?”

“Because I'm the hero,” Dave tells him. “You're more bumbling sidekick material. Like, after I'm done being badass you show up and drop something or trip over your own feet or whatever and everyone laughs.”

“Bluh, I am totally hero material!”

Dave tilts his head thoughtfully and examines the other boy. “I dunno, man, I'm just not seeing it. Maybe you should prove it, if you're so sure.”

“Okay, I will!” John says, grinning.

Jane rolls her eyes. “And how exactly are you going to check for heroism?” she demands.

“I've got an idea,” Dirk says. All of you look at him and he shrugs. “Well, a hero always gets the girl, right? So he's gotta be good at kissing.”

John's face lights up. “Hey, yeah! I could just kiss one of the girls and mmph!” He's cut off as Dirk's face suddenly attaches itself to his own. You can't help giggling; Dirk is clearly making the whole thing as passionate and romantic as he possibly can, while John is paralysed in shock and looks sort of bug-eyed.

The whole thing lasts for only a few seconds before Dirk pulls back, licks his lips, and says: “Yup. Definitely hero material.”

John flushes a brilliant shade of pink and stumbles to his feet. “I, er, that is, thanks, but, um, I... I HAVE TO GO PEE!” He charges off at top speed towards the treeline and you can't help it, you're actually helpless with laughter. Rose is smirking and you think even Dave might have a quirk at the corner of his mouth.

Jane, however, is furious. “What in the hells, Dirk?” she yells, clambering to her feet. “Augh, it's stupid enough when you drag me into your shitty games, don't start playing them with John too!” She storms off after her brother, leaving the four of you who remain to stare at each other and feel maybe a little guilty for messing with them like that.

You are the first one to move. “Well,” you say as you stand, “time to go find Janey and tell her it was just a joke!”

“Why bother?” Dave asks. “They'll be back soon enough.”

“No,” Rose says suddenly, flowing from sitting to standing in the sort of smooth movement that you wish you could pull off. “We have to go and look for them, now.”

“Premonition?” asks Dirk, as he joins you.

“Perhaps,” Rose agrees. She narrows her eyes at the forest. “Let's just find them quickly.”

“What are they gonna run into on the edge of town? A psychotic goat?” Dave demands, but he follows you all anyway until you enter the trees.

It's dark in the woods but not too much so, the last dregs of twilight giving you enough to see by. You kind of want to stick together but Rose suggests splitting up to search, as “time is of the essence.”

Something about the way she says it makes a chill run through you. You hate it when your sister vanishes behind the Oracle, even briefly. You don't argue, walking deeper into the sparse trees until you see a flash of blue ahead and step out into a clearing where John is lying on the ground and looking up at the sky. Frigglish runs over and jumps on his stomach. The elven boy sits up in surprise and looks around, jumping guiltily to his feet when he sees you approaching. He rubs the back of his head, wearing a lopsided grin.

“Guess I was pretty stupid back there, huh?” he asks. You laugh and punch him in the arm.

“Jane got so mad at us!” you tell him, grinning right back. “She's probably planning to march back to Porthaven and call the whole Guard out!”

His eyes go wide at that. “Oh, gosh, you really think she might?”

You laugh. “Nah, but she's totes gonna threaten to!”

“Well, we can't have that,” purrs a voice nearby. You both whirl to see two men step out of the trees on the far side of the clearing. They are both pale and dark-haired, dressed in black leather and similar enough in the face to be brothers. For a moment you think they're elves, they're so slender and fine-boned, but their ears are round. Yet they don't really look like any aasimar you've ever seen, either.

What they clearly are, however, is hostile. You don't need Frigglish hissing at them to notice that each of them has a drawn rapier, or the way they split apart to try and circle you. John draws his own weapon, a heavy-headed hammer that's as divorced from a working tool as your tome of spells is from a children's picture book. You grab your familiar and you all back slowly away from the advancing pair, Frigglish digging his claws in as he rides your shoulders, until your back touches bark. John glances at you then steps forwards, raising his hammer in challenge.

“Who are you?” he demands. “Bandits?”

One of the pale men laughs, a curiously rich and mellow sound. “You wish, little boy.”

The other one licks his lips hungrily. “Do we have to wait for it to catch up?” he asks wistfully. The first one shrugs.

“Don't see why,” he says, then lunges forwards. John flinches aside and the blow passes him by, the second strike from the other man skittering off his armour. The young elf grins and takes a two-handed swing at the first assailant, but his aim is off and his foe ducks away. The hammer smashes into the trunk of a nearby tree, sending thick splinters of wood flying. One passes by your eye and you stumble back away from the flurry of combat, hands already moving and lips forming the words of the spell you sensibly prepared this morning.

Pale pink light glows around you as you tear power from the astral plane, then hardens into plates of eldritch light as you bend it to your will. The arcane armour snaps to your body in the blink of an eye and fades to a near-invisible pink shimmer in the air around you.

“Shit! She's a caster!” one of the pale men yells. You don't know which, because right then is when the trees on the other side of the clearing start to creak and bend. With ponderous footfalls that leave deep dents in the forest loam, a man in heavy plate armour strides out of the woods. His shield is black and spotted with age; his sword, as archaic as his armour. As soon as you see him the world takes on a chill like someone just dunked you in a cold tub of water. Frigglish's hissing grows even louder, and you decide that this stranger is definitely not a friend of yours.

The man takes up position between your two attackers, who take advantage of your distraction to strike again. This time one of them goes for you, slim metal blade sliding straight between the magical planes of your armour, and you cry out as blood blossoms from between your ribs. Then John appears in front of you, his left arm soaked in his own blood, and raises his hammer like a shield.

“Guys!” he yells. You really, really hope that your friends hear, because you are outnumbered and bleeding and John doesn't look a whole lot better than you.

“Looks like trouble going down over here,” says a familiar voice, and you could kiss Dirk as he emerges from behind you, his strange sword gripped in both hands. “But there's nothing to fear, help's near, gonna make 'em disappear.”

Dave is a flash of black moving past you, his sword swinging at the hulking central figure only to clatter uselessly against its armour. Its helm turns to face him, and he stares impassively back. Out of the corner of your eye you see one of the pale men dodge aside as Jane's trident jabs at where he was just standing, the elf girl furiously trying to avenge her brother's injuries.

Your heart lifts as you realise you're not alone, but you don't just want to stand here and be rescued. You spent years learning to make your will manifest and you know exactly what you can do to help here. Magic is in your blood after a lifetime of study and it comes when you call, focusing it into a beam of brilliant, blinding sunlight that shoots out towards the pale guy who skewered you earlier.

You miss your target and the light scatters harmlessly in the air, but both of the pale guys flinch back from the beam as if it were death incarnate. Behind you, you can hear Rose intoning a prayer.

“... blessings of the Guiding Star, shine from beyond the darkness to grant us a future...”

Her palm presses into your back and you are filled with warm healing light, golden and ancient and holy. The wound in your side closes up and your sister gives you a brief nod.

Then the guy in the armour moves. His shield flashes out- one, two- and then Dave and John are both reeling back with bleeding faces. You don't have time to worry about them, though, because suddenly both of the pale guys are on you and you're in the middle of a whirling storm of blades. You avoid one of them even without John's help, but the other manages to open a nasty slice across your leg. You wonder if this stupid armour spell was even worth the casting time as John slams his hammer into the back of the guy who cut you. He's a real gentleman, which is seriously hot and you are going to think about that later.

“We got heroes on this raid, you got played, playing with fire too hot to handle, we got an angle, it's a mission we can't fail 'cos we're here to tell our tale...”

Dirk's still chanting as he plunges into the fight, and his voice is something to cling to, a steady line of certainty in the fight. You're so busy watching him you miss Dave stepping behind the pale guy that John smacked, only noticing he's there when his sword emerges out of the front of the man's tunic. He pulls it back with a flourish and you're one assailant down.

“Darius!” wails the other pale guy, hardly seeming to notice as Jane stabs at him and he effortlessly steps aside. You grit your teeth and summon another bright ray of light. If the asshole doesn't like it, let him eat it, because Janey needs your help! As the light finds its mark, the pale guy lets out a thin wail and to your surprise his face blisters and burns where the beam touches it. You are almost seventy-five percent certain the spell isn't meant to do that.

“Keep doing that,” Rose whispers as she steps past you. “Gracious Lady of Destiny, send us the blessings of the Guiding Star...” This time John is the recipient of the glowing divine power, seconds before the armoured guy's shield smashes towards him again. This time both he and Dave jump out of the way of the surprisingly fast attacks and you...

WOAH!

A sudden flash lights the clearing as the guy Dave put down bursts into white flames. Within seconds there is nothing left but drifting ash. Frigglish's claws dig into your shoulder and make you flinch, pulling you just barely out of the path of a blade. You stagger away from the burned, snarling creature in front of you.

“I'm gonna kill you, bitch!” he hisses. “I'm gonna tear your corpse to pieces and eat your heart!

You don't think he's exaggerating and look around for a little help. John, Dave and Dirk all seem to be ganging up on the guy in armour, even doing a little damage. Then Jane lets out a wild yell and jams her trident into your attacker. She looks as surprised as he does when it goes straight through his torso and out the other side. She pulls it back and you belatedly fire off more sunlight. Somehow your elbow slips and the ray goes wide, blazing up into the sky like a beacon. You see Rose stepping a little too close to the armoured figure as she tries to heal John, and the effort of concentrating so close to the violent blur of weaponry causes the divine power to fade and die in your sister's hands. Moments later she is hit by the blur of the shield, staggering back as another blow turns Dave's face into a bloody mess. You hardly even notice as your own assailant swings wildly at you, heart racing as you watch your friends battling to take down the seemingly invincible figure. You see John and Dirk's weapons both clatter harmlessly off the heavy plate metal, and although the aasimar is still keeping up a steady chant you don't know how they're going to win.

Then Dave rises up from behind like an avenging angel, and with a yell drives his sword straight down through the top of the helm. There is a pulse in the air, a feeling of something ancient and rotten that shoots past like a tangible wave, and then the armour comes to a juddering halt and falls over. There is no blood.

“Baa baa, fucker,” Dave says, prodding the armour with a toe. “Gotta watch out for us crazy goats.”

You would be so much more impressed if you weren't still face to face with a crazy pale guy trying to kill you and somehow still dodging everything you and Jane throw at him. Another beam of light goes awry and then you see Rose stepping up behind him.

“Gracious Lady of Destiny, send us the blessings of the Guiding Star...” she begins and your eyes widen. Why is she casting a healing spell? She's too far off to reach you and Jane is fine, but that only leaves...

“... shine from beyond the darkness to grant us a future as the Light wills!” she finishes. Her hand barely brushes the pale man's fingertips as he tries to stumble back. It's enough.

He screams in agony as golden healing light flows over his body, ivory skin crumbling to dust wherever the power touches and blood leaking from his eyes, his ears, his mouth... it's horrific to watch as he slumps to his knees, and the pure hatred in his face when he looks at Rose is terrifying.

“He's going to make you pay,” the pale man hisses, coughing blood. “And your precious bitch destiny goddess can't save you. He's going... to kill... fate...”

He slumps forwards and bursts into white fire. The six of you stand in dumbstruck silence as the last of the day's light fades from the sky.

Jane goes over to the armoured figure and crouches down by the helm, lifting the visor with shaking hands. “It's empty,” she says blankly, lifting the helm off the figure entirely. John seems freaked; you look accusingly at Rose. Your sister sighs.

“I am not surprised,” she admits. “I suspected that our attackers were not precisely of the living.”

“What do you mean?” John asks, gaze darting nervously from shadow to shadow.

“She means this thing was undead,” Dirk says, claiming the helmet from Jane's unresisting hands. “And the other two were Dhampir. Half-vampires.” He tosses the helmet back onto the chestplate of the fallen armour, where it clatters loudly on the metal. “Not actually undead, but certainly close enough to be killed by healing magic. Never heard of them spontaneously combusting on death, though.”

“They don't,” says Rose. “I think it's clear that we're dealing with another entity here, possibly even the instigator of the coming cataclysm.” She frowns. “I had hoped to get a little further before drawing adverse attentions from my foe.”

“Oh, gods walking,” Jane says, her eyes going wide. “Our parents!”

John jumps to his feet. “We've got to warn them!”

He's stopped by Dave's hand in his path. “Chill, Johnny-boy. Best way you can protect your parents now is to steer clear of them. Me and Dirk'll pick up your stuff tonight and we can be on the road in the morning, a regular band of vagabonds, nothing new to see here. But we've gotta stay cool, yeah?”

Slowly, John nods. “Okay.” He glances over at Jane. “Are you...?”

“Oh, I'm coming,” she says through gritted teeth. “I hardly have much choice now, do I?” She sighs and shakes her head. “And I suppose you were right. We've hardly even left Porthaven and someone tried to stop us. That means that Rose must be onto something.”

You smile and wander up to drape an arm over each of the elves. “Come on, guys, don't look so down!” you say, putting on your very best smile even though you hurt and you're still oozing blood and actually you don't feel so great about this whole thing either. “We won,” you point out, to yourself as much as the others. “And we're gonna keep winning. We are basically the best team evar. That's us.”

John manages a weak grin and slings his arm back around you. “Yeah, we did win, didn't we?” he says. “Hehe, we're awesome!”

“You're both lunatics,” Jane grumbles, but she slips her arm around you anyway as the six of you make your way back to the relative safety of the Phooka Clan camp.

Suggestions Used

Jack-Of-Spades – Roxy: Get this partay statred
*paryt
*party
*started

ttd0000 – Roxy: Flirt... or Drink... Both.

MASK - Roxy: get acquainted with your new neighbors. also warn jane not to be a tightass- it's a aventur.
*adeture
*fcuk it

Asuka Kureru – Dirk: kiss a dude. (I don't care who, canon or OC and for any reason, it could be hella funny. Hay thar a distrakshun! *smooches*XD)

Ms Arano – Dave: Bleat like a goat.

Cec – John: Get lost

Asuka Kureru – Jane: argue with Dirk and/or Roxy.

Cec – Jane: Interrogate Rose

Ms Arano – Jane: Remind John that they were supposed to get a visit from Jade and Jake.

System Notes

Chapter Text

==> Karkat: Make The Best Of Your Situation

After hours trapped with her in the tiny stone box that is being laughably referred to as a guardroom, you're no closer to knowing what to make of Terezi. She's still got you manacled to a chair, and neither of you have forgotten how spectacularly you slashed your sickle through her neck earlier. Even if she did pull some strings and get the healer to come back and work on you- which has actually left you in better condition than you started the day in- she's still a Lawkeeper. A Lawkeeper born marked with the sigil of the Seer, no less.

Which is actually the entire problem in a spider-egg; your whole strange truce is based entirely on your trance visions and the fact that you both have bizarre birthmarks, and you don't trust it or her for a heartbeat. You watch as she continues to flip through your journal, absorbed by the pages of what you're absolutely certain is either heretical apocrypha or semi-illiterate scrawl regurgitated from the more fanciful depths of your imagination. Already you know you could fucking hate her so easily, or fall for her hard, and the weirdest thing of all is how you feel like you already did both. There are vague memories swirling about in your head, half-formed ideas that you scribbled down or blurted out once then forgot about. They tell you that when you're trancing you feel the same way about the maddening, beautiful, impossible maniac that is Terezi Pyrope.

Not that you're planning to share any of this with her. Even if it wasn't a complete load of magical beetleshit, you're not exactly going to tell the lunatic who has you at her mercy that when you were a hatchling you used to play with an imaginary friend that shared her name and face. She's good enough at worming things out of you as it is. Besides, she's a pure and incorruptible enforcer of the law, while you are a casteless thief with a heretical god's mark on you who was arrested for trying to kidnap the guy she's meant to be guarding. However friendly things are right now you are still a matter of hours away from being so much offal and ash. Pointless deaths of the Casteless number six hundred and twelve; get cocky about your chances, fail spectacularly at something dangerous and illegal, and die screaming for the entertainment of a crowd of sadistic fucks who will probably get off to your slow and painful demise for months to come.

You can almost persuade yourself that you'll find a way out of this, that the first chance you get you'll be gone so fast that it'll be up to your dust cloud to give everyone behind you the finger. Realistically, though, at this point you're mostly just aiming to get a goodbye message to Gamzee. You watch your last chance at a messenger as she frowns thoughtfully down on the record of your trance visions.

"Your handwriting is terrible," she says, tapping a finger idly on the page. "Especially in Infernal."

You roll your eyes even though she isn't looking. "So fucking sorry about my calligraphy," you say, voice dripping with the exact opposite of sincerity. "I'll tell you what, next time I try transcribing a language I don't speak, I'll just make sure to get proper godsdamned lessons on forming the letters from the temple scholars themselves. I was trying to scrawl down as much as possible in the sixty seconds before it became too vague. Do you seriously think I give a tainted shit how pretty it looks?"

She chuckles a little at that, showing off a whole mouth of very white teeth, and you simultaneously find it incredibly attractive while also furiously wanting to wipe that grin off her smug know-it-all face.

"It's all so familiar," she says, setting the book down on the table. Craning your neck to see, you manage to read the name of the mysterious Kanaya Maryam on the open page. From what you recall of your own scribblings, a good friend to have and a terrifying enemy to make.

"You don't know it's her," you say. "It's just a first name."

"It's her," Terezi says. "I don't doubt it. They're only small hints, but I knew her well enough to be sure." She pauses, looks up at you. "How did you find Gamzee?"

You flush a little. "It's not like I was fucking looking for him! Unlike some gullible morons, I don't get a massive throbbing prophecy boner every time I look at my journal." She tilts her head, looks at you curiously, and you sigh. "My mother met him first, okay? She was the one who set us up. She was always reading too much into my dumbass visions, acting like I was some sort of special divinely chosen oracular asshole."

"You are," Terezi says, and you glare at her. She ignores your anger to flick through the book again. "Interesting that she could recognise him, though. If I hadn't seen him flip out like that earlier I don't think I'd be able to put it together easily from what's in here."

"Yeah, well, she used to write most of this shit down for me back then," you mutter, slumping down in your chair. "And besides, it was pretty fucking obvious when she saw his mark..." Your voice trails away as you realise what you just said. Slowly you bring up your free hand to cover your face, and groan. "Oh, drider shitpits."

"I thought so," Terezi says, smug again. That's twice she's fucking tricked you like that now; if you had any brains at all, if the universe in all its glorious, crap-infested majesty granted you a single iota of common sense to use on anything, you would shut your loosely hinged mouth right now and sew it closed.

"Can we just forget I said anything?" you ask, because you are a colossal idiot and cannot resist shovelling a few more yards of dirt out of this unspeakable death pit you are diligently excavating. "Is it possible to pretend that I just kept my fucking trap shut and that the last couple of minutes didn't happen at all? I'll make it my last fucking request if I have to."

If anything, Terezi seems even more pleased with herself. "Sorry, Karkles, too late for that. Your confession has been witnessed and your testimony accepted."

You can't take another second of this. "Will you cut it out with the legal shit?" you snap, lurching forward in your seat and being brought up abruptly by your chained wrist. "I get it, okay? I'm your fucking prisoner! You want all my deepest, darkest secrets, fine, I might as well spill my guts all over the place since you're obviously planning to mess with me until I tell you anyway! Just stop fucking laughing at me, you sadistic bluebelly bitch!"

She looks at you in what could almost be genuine shock if she wasn't a soulless infiltrator from the most maniacally cruel of the outer planes, whichever one that is. You don't really care. "You can't be that upset over a little joke."

Your jaw actually aches as you grind your teeth. "Yes, I find your jibes in the face of my impending messy demise absolutely hilarious."

Her head tilts to the side a little. "Demise? What are you talking about?"

"My execution!" you yell, finally waving goodbye to the last strained vestiges of your mutilated temper. "Remember? When we finish having this lovely little demented sit-down tea party you've decided to hold and you remember what you're supposed to be doing! We both know how this ends- you drag me off back to your temple and have me killed for even daring to exist in your precious city! Or have you forgotten that you're a good little servant of justice and I'm not?"

Her chair hits the floor with a loud crash as she pushes it back, moving impossibly fast around the table. Hands fall next to your arms with a crack of flesh on metal. You shrink back as she leans in, torchlight gleaming in her red eyeglasses as she looms overhead. For a moment in the shifting light, you are looking at something other than drow, an impression of grey skin and two sharp conical horns flickering in your mind and overlaying what you can see. Her teeth seem sharper than they should be, and your heart is pounding with adrenaline and fear and a sharp undercurrent of treacherous admiration.

"I am a servant of justice," she says, voice low and dangerous. "Which isn't the same as being a servant of the law." She reaches up one-handed and raises her eyeglasses away. Underneath her eyes are teal, a duller shade than her uniform armour, and for some reason it surprises you. It takes you a few seconds too long to remember that the Terezi Pyrope you had visions about was blind and you wonder why you ever expected that similarity.

"Kanaya was godmarked," she says, so quiet that nobody listening from outside would ever have a chance to hear. "So are you and I, and so is Gamzee." She reaches out to point towards your journal, still lying open on the table. "There are fourteen names in that book, including us. What does that tell you?"

"That you can count?" Apparently your entire brain has been replaced with faecal matter. You always knew that drinking polluted river water was going to cost you something important someday. On the other hand, maybe your idiot hindbrain knew what it was doing, because the dangerous Lawkeeper hovering over you has broken into a grin again. You freeze to avoid flinching as one slender hand pats your cheek, and your eye spasms in an uncontrollable twitch which you tell yourself is rage.

"That too," she says, before backing up and retrieving her chair from the floor. You take advantage of the moment to let out a deep breath you were holding and carefully ignore the little flower of hope blossoming inside you. She settles nonchalantly back into her own seat, sliding her eyeglasses back onto her nose. For a while you just look at each other.

"I used to think I was alone," she says eventually. "It was fun in some ways. The priestesses especially, they treated me like the Seer incarnate. But when I met Kanaya, it was like coming home."

You nod. You can still remember what it was like the first time you saw Gamzee's mark and he saw yours, how the two of you had stared and stared and then he had grabbed onto you and wrapped himself around you like he was drowning and you were the only makeshift flotation device in a million miles. You'd held on just as tight, not that you'd admit it to anyone.

"Do you remember the reformist uprisings?" Terezi asks. You nod, but slowly; you were only a hatchling at the time, and mostly what you remember is hiding in the dark with your mother until the sounds of chaos and destruction died away entirely. "Her family were at the centre of it, and the Temple doesn't tolerate threats to its power for long." She pauses to drum her fingers on the table. "I helped her to get out of the city. The Lawkeepers burst in on an empty chamber to arrest someone long gone." She smiles, a shark-toothed grin that is definitely sharper in your head. "They haven't really trusted me since."

"What do you know, our glorious theocratic matriarchs do have something between their ears after all," you mutter. Terezi snickers and leans in closer.

"The law is rotten," she says, and you wish you could see her eyes because she's still smiling but you sure as shit don't think she's joking. "Our city, our nation, our people are falling to decadence and decay. The reek of it is everywhere.”

“That's not corruption, that's the river of shit in the middle,” you tell her.

She chuckles before her face falls back to sincerity. “The Seer didn't choose me to be a powerless puppet for the people who are failing Her. I've known for years that one day I would have to challenge the hierarchy if I wanted to make change happen.”

Your eyes go wide. “You're a fucking reformist?

“You say that like it's a bad thing,” she says, grinning. You have no idea how to reply. Since before the uprisings, as long as you can remember, the word has been synonymous with treachery, with heresy, with the violent replacement of civilisation with barbarism. Actually, when you think of it like that, you aren't sure what your problem is with the idea. But it still makes your skin crawl.

“We don't actually eat hatchlings,” Terezi says blandly, and you wince because you actually were thinking about that story. Which was stupid. Because honestly with some of the shit people are willing to do in the Shanties, you don't think you've got much in the way of moral high ground even if it wasn't a load of crap.

You look at her again, this strange Lawkeeper who is somehow like you and yet still so different. “So is there a point to all this, or are you trying to talk me to death?” you ask.

Terezi's smile fades. "There are another ten of us out there," she says, fingers drumming on the table. "Or that's what I suspect. And there has to be a reason for that, something bigger than I'm prepared to handle alone." She looks at you in a way that's almost hesitant. Almost. “I want to understand this, and you're my best lead. I'd be a very bad investigator if I let you get killed.”

“So you're going to lock me up,” you say, heart sinking as understanding dawns. Not that you were looking forward to torture and execution, but at least it would have been over soon. You might survive in a cage, but you know you can't live in one.

“Actually, I was thinking of offering you a job.”

Your head snaps up and you stare in disbelief at your captor. “I'm sorry, I think that all the blood leaking out of my ears earlier might have blocked them,” you say. “Because I know you didn't just say what I think I heard.”

“Why not?” Terezi says, smug smirk back full strength. “They might not trust me, but I've got enough pull to make you vanish and reappear as one of my guardsmen. You're good in a fight and it keeps you where I can see you.” She snickers. “And you'd look adorable in teal.”

"Adorabloodthirsty," you say automatically, eyes narrowing. You pulled the word from some dark recess of your own memory that you don't even want to contemplate, and she chuckles in recognition of its suitability.

“I'm not saying it'll be easy,” she says, leaning forward across the table. “Even if the Seer doesn't have other plans, I'm planning to change this society. Justice should be immutable, the same for everyone; it shouldn't serve the powerful and punish the desperate.”

You snort before you can stop yourself. “Nice idea. It's never going to work, because people are complete raging fuckholes and the only thing they care about is themselves, but thanks for the thought.”

“If people are only out for themselves, then why did you risk everything to try and help Gamzee?”

You scowl at her. “And what about Gamzee?” you demand, ignoring the uncomfortable feeling that she might have just trapped you again. “If I take this deal, what happens to him?”

“He gets married and moves away,” Terezi says. She looks down at the table and shifts in her chair. “There's nothing I can do about that.”

You knew that, of course you did. It still hurts to hear it.

“There has to be something,” you hear yourself saying. Pleading. Fuck, you're actually begging, aren't you? Your cheeks are burning and you basically have no shame left any more, you're utterly pathetic in every possible way, but fuck that. Fuck being proud when Gamzee is going to be left scared and alone and there's nothing you can do to help him.

One corner of her mouth quirks up in a smile. “Maybe... after the wedding, when things have calmed down a bit, I might be able to help him out. Like I did for Kanaya.”

Hate her or love her, you want to kiss her right now. Before you can express your thanks, however, you are distracted by the scraping of a key in the door lock. It provides barely enough warning for Terezi to slam your journal closed. You blink as the magical light of the courtyard flows into the dim room, followed by a woman and a pair of guards.

You don't recognise her, but you know who she is instantly. Silk and velvet scream of nobility, and the shades of blue she and her escorts wear combined with the unfamiliar House symbol only leave one possibility. You glare sullenly at Gamzee's fiancee, and she responds with the raising of a single amused eyebrow before turning to Terezi and handing over a rolled parchment.

“What is this?” Terezi asks, unrolling the document.

“An agreement between the Lady Kutsanmis and myself that cedes all her rights of disposition to me in the case of the abduction of her son, my betrothed,” the unfamiliar Matriatch replies. It takes a moment for that to sink in and when it does it feels like someone just sneaked up and replaced all your blood with ice. Terezi only got to decide your fate thus far because Gamzee's mother doesn't give a shit what happens to you as long as the wedding goes through; if this woman cares enough to get a legal writ, then you're certain that she won't leave you in what suddenly seems to be the iron-clad protection of your favourite crazy Lawkeeper.

You can't breathe as Terezi scans the document, hoping that it's a fake or somehow wrong. It seems to take a very long time for her to check it over before she passes the scroll back to the woman and nods.

“It seems to be in order,” she concedes, and for a moment her eyeglasses are looking right at you. You want to scream, to curse and swear and remind her of what she was saying only a few moments ago. You don't, because you can still see the bodyguards this Matriarch brought along. If you were cornered by them you'd attack, but then again you're an idiot. Terezi is smarter than that. You wish she wasn't.

“I would like to take custody of the prisoner now, my dear,” the Matriarch says. Wordlessly Terezi passes over the key to your manacle. Then to your astonishment she plucks your journal up off the table as if it were her own, tucking it under her arm and inclining her head politely to the woman. She walks out of the room without challenge and you are too stunned by her brazen theft of your property to notice as the Matriarch approaches you. You are jolted back to attention when long fingers wind in your hair and yank your head up. You find yourself looking straight into a pair of turquoise eyes, set in a face that is lined with age and wearing an amused smile.

“Well, isn't this a pleasure?” the Matriarch says with a jollity that makes your skin crawl. “Allow me to introduce myself. I am Matriarch Esin of House Yetenekli. You are?”

“Why do you fucking care?” you snap. Moments later your head is ringing from a sharp slap; you can feel your cheek stinging where her sharp nails scraped the skin.

“Try again,” she says, still smiling like she gives a shit. You glare at her and find yourself caught in a staring match, your furious will battering silently against her implacable calm. She doesn't blink, or twitch, or even change her expression; meanwhile your eyes start to itch and you are acutely aware that your neck aches at the angle she's holding it. After what seems like an age, you can't keep it up any more and your gaze drops.

“Karkat,” you mutter. It doesn't matter that your pride was a lost cause already, because it still feels like defeat. As soon as you say your name she releases your hair. You weren't expecting it and your head lolls forward before you catch it and pull it back, but it makes her point well. She's in charge here, and defiance gets you nowhere- which, since that's all you've ever been any good at, puts you straight in the spike pit from the word go.

A snap of her fingers and one of her guards has moved Terezi's chair over for her to sit on. She's less than a foot away from you, close enough that if you lashed out just right with a foot you might be able to break her shinbone or kneecap. You are absolutely certain that to do that would be tantamount to suicide.

“My husband-to-be is quite attached to you,” she says. You watch warily as she leans in. “And I am not a cruel woman by nature. I promised the dear boy that I would see what I could do about bringing you along with us and, as you can see, I am keeping that promise.”

Your can't believe what you're hearing. “Wait, seriously?” There has to be a catch somewhere, but your frantically searching mind can't find it. “You want me to stay with Gamzee?”

“Perhaps,” she says. “There is one teensy little complication.” She sits back in her chair and sighs sadly. “You know, I married into my House. If it hadn't been for a series of tragic accidents I wouldn't be Matriarch at all.”

If those were accidents you will eat your blood-soaked, ass-smelling shirt.

“There are still a large number of my in-laws who would rather not see me in power,” she continues, as if she hadn't just skirted by a confession of mass murdering her own kin. “And of course, the massed foes without who hate my House and I for leading it. What am I to do when beset by so many enemies? I have to be careful, don't I?”

You nod cautiously, not sure where this is going and positive that the answer is nowhere good. She chuckles and reaches out to pat you on the head.

“Good boy. Now, who are you working for?”

The question takes you by surprise and absolutely no thought at all goes into your response. “What the fuck are you talking about?”

She grabs your hair again and this time yanks it sideways, giving her a nice long expanse of neck to walk the claws masquerading as her fingernails up and down. “Who. Are. You. Working. For.” Her voice is a low hiss right near your ear, and you tug frantically at the manacle keeping you attached to the chair. It remains sturdy and closed.

“I don't know!” you yell. “Nobody!”

“You are a nobody,” she says softly, fingers tightening in your hair. “But you made that boy trust you. You risked everything to take him away from here, away from his mother, away from me. I know his reasons, but not yours. So I will ask you one more time: who are you working for?

Matriarchs are paranoid. Matriarchs demand loyalty and expect treachery. Matriarchs believe nothing, not even the truth. The prickle on your neck becomes a sharp pain and you feel a trickle of blood where her nails pierced the skin. Shit, shit, she's running out of patience, come on Karkat, you just need an answer, who are you working for, who do you answer to, who are you loyal to...

“Gamzee!” you blurt, and immediately you regret it. It was a test, obviously a test, you should have said her name, now even if she believes you she knows you won't be loyal to her, not ever, and that's not a risk she can afford to take.

Then the fingernails are gone from your neck and your head falls again as she releases it. You blink up at her and she smiles at you.

“I married into my House,” she says. “For love, if you can believe it. If you'd been a spy you would have kept denying, or said my name.” She cocks her head thoughtfully. “You still could be a spy, but somehow I doubt it. You really do love him.”

Holy fucking shit you gave the right answer. You gawp open-mouthed. “You mean you actually don't mind?”

She laughs. “I'm old enough to know better than to expect total loyalty from everyone around me,” she says, eyes narrowing into sly slits. “But you and Gamzee are a perfect pair, my dear. After all, I can hardly do anything too permanent to my darling husband; his mother would object and that would get messy. But now I've got you to keep him in line, I don't have to worry about someone else's clever agent turning him against me, because you'll be keeping him on my side, won't you?”

You understand. Of course you do; it's a pretty simple hostage situation, starring you as the poor sap with a knife to his throat. You're pretty sure Gamzee had to make some sort of deal with her too, and whatever it is you know you hate it because it's got both of you trapped. Do what she wants or the other one gets hurt. You want nothing more right now than to break out of your restraints, punch the bitch in the face, stab her guards with their own swords, carve a swathe of destruction through every asshole in the enclave until you find Gamzee, sling him over your shoulder and run for the deep caverns, then stay with him and look after his sorry drugged-out ass all the way up to the surface where you can both finally, really be free.

You give your arm a subtle tug and your manacle rattles. You don't really have to think about your answer to the Lady Yetenekli. “Yes, ma'am.”

“Good.” She stands and brushes dust and dirt from her dress with her hands. “Now, let's get you into something more suitable for your new station. I can hardly have a member of my household going about in rags. It's a terrible impression.”

She tosses the key to one of her bodyguards, who unlocks you and grabs your arm while the other guard picks up your confiscated property. You don't bother trying to struggle back, instead fighting to keep your feet and walk rather than be dragged to the door after your new mistress. You feel oddly reluctant to leave the sanctuary of the guardroom. Over the long hours of your captivity, the guardroom has become your best fucking friend, and you are left bereft by its absence when you are rudely thrust blinking into the cool air of the cavern evening.

Terezi is waiting just by the door and you know without question that she's been listening at the door. As you pass her you find yourself hoping that she'll reach out or say something, do something to tell you that she's still on your side. It's stupid and of course she just stays still, but out of the corner of your eye you glimpse your journal still tucked safely under her arm and realise that in a way she's already shown you which side she's on by keeping it out of the hands of the Matriarchs.

Your march is a short one that ends at a covered stable, and your eyes take a moment to adjust again when you are led back into darkness. Rows of empty carts and carriages are lined against the walls, the beetles that were pulling them safely closed away in stalls. You are led past the more elaborate transports to the carts lined with benches and with heavy metal rings driven into the chitin. You stare at them blankly. Of fucking course.

Then something shifts in one of the carts and you jump back, crashing into your guard. He doesn't seem too amused and tightens his grip. You can't even twitch as a ghostly pale being sits up in the cart, chest looped about with chains, dark eyes peering about the room from beneath a pitch-black halo of hair. A sunwalker.

You've seen them before, of course. They're hardly a common sight, but there are a few of them as slaves in the inner rings, and a few more bundled, parblind figures that shuffle around the Shanties. And since you are a sane and rational person you put absolutely no stock in wild tales about breathing fire and summoning demons and shooting beams of light from their assholes or whatever else superstitious idiots like to come up with while they fondle themselves all day.

Oh, who are you fucking kidding, this thing could be able to kill you all with a nasty look. You don't want to be anywhere near it and you are just about to express this entirely reasonable opinion by yelling a few panicked obscenities and making a break for it when the Lady Yetenekli steps up to the end of the cart.

“Well, you've certainly been busy,” she says in High Elven, following her words with a small chuckle. The sunwalker's head spins to face her, but his glare misses her by several feet. You abruptly realise that he can't see a thing- you have heard that surface dwellers can't see if there's no light, and weird as it sounds that is apparently true. Actually, now you look at him properly, he doesn't seem too scary at all. More like a drow with all the colours inverted than some sort of terrifying nightmare monster. And there's a slave collar around his neck, an expensive one.

“Where the blazes are you, you loathsome woman?” the sunwalker demands. His High Elven is strangely accented and tricky to follow, but you're used to figuring out all sorts of speech impediments and your mother did a good job of teaching you the language. “If you think I am going to roll over and start helping you take things apart just because you leave me alone in the dark for a few hours, then you can blooming well think again! I've been through worse than this just picking up groceries!”

You can't decide what's more annoying; that the sunwalker is stupid enough to mouth off at a Matriarch, or that you really fucking wish you were brave enough to be that idiotic. You settle for hating his guts, which works either way.

“Oh dear, you can't see, can you?” the Lady Yetenekli says. “Well, we shall have to do something about that.” She snaps her fingers and the guard who isn't holding you produces a rod which she strikes on the edge of the cart. The end flares into a light that quickly settles from “painfully bright” to “tolerable illumination”, and for the first time you see the sunwalker in full colour. His eyes are green rather than black, and his skin is pinkish-brown, but other than that not much changes. He stares back at you in obvious interest. You think he's about your age- it's hard to tell when he looks so different to what you're used to. His clothes are different too, a style you don't recognise, good cloth recently damaged and torn.

You're not the only one noticing the state of his outfit. “Fetch two sets of clothes,” the Matriarch orders her spare guard in undercommon, and he bows before vanishing off into the darkness. The sunwalker frowns.

“What was that?” he demands, in High Elven. You roll your eyes. Arrogant little shit. The Matriarch ignores his words in favour of walking up to pluck at the chain wrapped around his body. If you had to guess, it looked like he somehow...

“Oh dear, did you get yourself all tangled up trying to get free?” Lady Yetenekli asks. “That will never do.” She glances over to you and beckons. The hands that held onto you all the way here let go and for a second you hesitate. If you made a break for the door now...

“Karkat,” says the Matriarch, with only a slight hint of impatience.

… you'd be dead before you reached the courtyard. You walk obediently over to your mistress and she smiles at you. “I have a job for you,” she says, and although her eyes are fixed on you she's talking High Elven so that bastard can understand. “I want you to unwind our little sunwalker here and make sure he doesn't do anything stupid.” Her smile darkens. “Consider it practise. After all, I will be relying on you to take care of something precious to me.” She presses something into your hand and you stare down at it. A key. Presumably to unlock his collar from the chain.

You look at the sunwalker again. Fuck that. If you unlock him he's going to run or attack or something, and you aren't sure you can stop him. With a sigh you kneel down next to him and start feeling your way around the heavy loops of metal. Maybe if you lift this one here- no, it's trapped under that one, but then this other one won't move unless you shift this bit out the way. You shift into a sitting position, chewing on your lip as you try to straighten out the problem.

After a minute or so of increasingly aggravating attempts to disentangle the idiot, you finally manage to get somewhere- or so you think. The heavy loop of metal you lift over his head immediately falls oddly, and you curse in frustration as you realise that you've made the situation even worse.

“You should unlock the chain,” the sunwalker says. “Isn't that why she gave you the key?” It takes you a few seconds to realise that he's talking to you; you glance around and see the Matriarch watching you, then shuffle a few fractions of an inch closer.

“I bet you'd love that, wouldn't you?” you whisper, keeping your voice low so she can't overhear. You've learned that lesson once already. “I unlock you, you start running, the gigantic musclebound asshole over there snaps your neck and then I get shit for letting it happen.” You snort. “Not fucking happening.”

“I won't run,” the sunwalker says, lowering his voice to match your own. “Gentleman's honour.”

“Yes, because I believe every promise people make to me, especially the ones from complete strangers and sunwalkers,” you reply, tugging roughly on a new loop of chain. “I also happen to be a cunningly disguised Drider and the High Priestess' favourite concubine.”

“Gosh, really?”

“No, fuckass, not at all. Were you hatched this stupid or did your parents drop you repeatedly on your head as a child?” The chain appears to be attached to itself at all points. How the fuck does it not have any ends? You are fairly sure it should have two.

“Well, I did have a dashed dramatic time of it as a hatchling,” the sunwalker says, beaming at you. “See, my parents were evacuating...”

You kick him. Two wide green eyes stare at you in hurt shock. “What in the world was that for?”

You risk a small jerk of your head back in the direction of the Matriarch. “Look, either she can hear everything we're saying, in which case shut the fuck up, or she can't and she thinks we're plotting, in which case shut the fuck up. I'm not letting you go, end of conversation.”

There is a pause, during which he fingers idly at the edge of his collar, before he speaks again. “Running wouldn't do me any good anyway with this on, would it?”

“You wouldn't get out of the building,” you confirm. You don't know exactly what spells are on the collar, but no noble would commission something that fancy unless they were one hundred percent certain it wasn't going to walk off on someone's neck.

“And I don't suppose it's easy to get it off.” He's tugging at it a little stronger now.

“Depends,” you say, watching his fingers warily. “Technically they're really fucking easy to remove, as long as you don't mind taking your head off at the same time.” He looks a little confused so you clarify. “They explode if you tamper with them.”

He stops fiddling with it. “Uh... tamper with them how?”

You roll your eyes. “I don't know, I never tampered with one! Now will you just be quiet before we both get flayed?”

He goes paler than ever and glances over your shoulder at the Matriarch. You kick him again and he hunches back down.

“But you can unlock the chain,” he whispers to you after a moment. “It would make your job a good bit easier, and even if you think I'm enough of a cad to break a promise I still can't run because of the collar.”

You look at him, weird and pale and, in his own way, just as fucking stubborn as you. You sigh and reach up behind him to unlock the collar chain.

“I'd better not fucking regret this,” you mutter. The chain slips down with a rattle and you pick up the loose end, threading it back through the first tangled loop.

Having a start point to work with makes you job much easier, and to your everlasting relief the sunwalker sits as still as a frightened hatchling and stays quiet the whole time. As soon as you finish, the heavy chain dropping onto the floor of the cart, you glance back round at the Matriarch. To your relief she seems amused, not angry. There's a large bowl of water and some cloths beside her, along with a folded pile of clothes and a small box made of what you think might be actual wood. She sees you looking and beckons you over. You obediently stand and walk over, your feet dragging like lead until she motions and you kneel in front of her. She reaches over and opens the box, pulling out a collar that is the twin of the sunwalker's.

You close your eyes when she reaches over but the soft click as it closes around your neck is like a crypt door slamming shut. Less than a fucking hour to completely take ownership of you, and if you're being honest you've been acting like a good little slave for most of that time anyway. You didn't think you had anything left to lose. Now it's gone and you can feel the hole where your freedom used to be.

When you know you can open your eyes without letting any tears show, you raise your head and stare at her with every last scrap of dignity you can muster. You aren't sure what you're expecting- anger, mockery, to be ignored- but to your surprise she smiles, a genuine quirk of the lips that leaves you feeling confused all over again.

“Wash up and get changed,” she tells you, pointing to the pile of cloths. Her gaze flicks over to the sunwalker and she chuckles when he folds his arms. “Yes, you too. I'm not having slaves that stink, dear, it's unseemly.”

You get up and walk stiff-legged over to the basin, where you're met by the sunwalker. He looks as uncertain as you feel as he looks at the Matriarch behind you.

“Um, is she just going to... sit there?” he asks, cheeks turning a weirdly bright shade of pink. You risk a brief glance back, and Lady Yetenekli waves to you both.

“Don't mind me, dears!” she calls. “I doubt you've got anything I haven't seen a good few times before!”

“Guess that answers that,” the sunwalker mutters, folding his arms around himself a little tighter.

You sigh. “Let's just get this over with,” you say quietly, starting to tug off your coat. Putting on a show for a woman old enough to be your great-grandmother isn't exactly something you want to do, especially since you have a godmark to hide. If she wants a good view of anything other than your back she's going to have to fucking ask for it.

Excessive modesty isn't really a concept you grew up with; you sure as the hells don't walk around naked or anything like that, but when people are packed in as tight as they are in the Shanties there are some things that you are just inevitably going to see or show and you've long since given up being shy about them. You're down to your skivvies and grabbing a wash-cloth before the sunwalker's even done taking his shirt off, and from the temperature of the water when you touch it you suspect it'll be cold before he starts trying to clean himself. You wipe off the leftover blood and grime from the day along with a few more months of accumulated muck and toss the dirty cloth to one side. Grabbing clothes is something you do with your unmarked arm, fumbling at the pile and praying for long sleeves. The weight of the bundle you get seems off and you frown. Then you shake it open and your jaw drops.

Wrapped up in the simple blue tunic and trousers is a gleaming chain shirt, the silvery metal brighter than anything you've seen except on the highest-ranking guards and a few nobles. Next to you, the sunwalker gasps and reaches out to run a ringer over the gleaming surface.

“Great forge!” he says, eyes going round as gold coins. “That's mithral! I've barely even seen it before! It costs a fortune!

You spin to stare back at the Matriarch, who returns your look with an amused smirk. Aware of the sigil exposed on your flesh, you yank the tunic over your head as an excuse to get something between the air and your wrist. It's sleeveless, but bundled with the chain shirt are a pair of wrist-wraps and leather bracers that should do a good job of keeping your secret hidden.

It's when you stand to pull the breeches on that you see it; the sunwalker is crouched by the bowl of water, spine curving to push his back upwards, and right between his shoulder-blades the skin is darkened in the perfect pattern of a pair of wings. They are very familiar. Pairs just like them are scattered through the pages of your journal, drawn in charcoal as you woke up and ringed with notes that you can't fucking remember now that you actually care enough to try.

Ten more like us out there, Terezi had said. Nobody had ever said they had to be drow.

He starts to straighten and you realise that if the Matriarch sees that mark she's going to ask questions. There's no way she doesn't know about Gamzee's, which means she knows what to look for, and a pair of wings is hardly subtle anyway. Thinking fast, you grab the second tunic and throw it at him as he stands up, which has the double benefit of covering his back and making him face you- hiding it from her.

“Get dressed already, idiot,” you say, grabbing one of the two chain shirts that have now spilled across the floor and easily pulling it over your head. Shit, this thing is insanely light; it's like it's not even made of metal at all, although the cold links against your skin say differently.

To your relief the sunwalker takes your advice and gets dressed without showing his back to your mistress' prying eyes. You breathe a sigh of relief when you're both clean and dressed, and try to ignore the part of your brain reminding you that you're going to have to do shit like this a lot more in future. It's strange to be dressed like this, in clothes that aren't patched and layered and worn until they fall off, but you grudgingly admit that it might not be so bad. You just hope this super-expensive shiny idiot armour is half-decent in a real fight.

The Matriarch seems pleased too, if the look she's giving the pair of you is any indication. She walks up and takes a good long look at the pair of you, which is about the most unnerving thing she's done yet. Then she spins on the spot and jumps down from the cart. Her bodyguards fall in beside her as she lifts the rod of light again.

“Follow,” she says in High Elven, and then they turn and start to head for the exit. Seeing the light retreat seems to motivate the sunwalker; he's moving even before you are, and fucked if you're being left alone in here. You scramble after him, catching up as you emerge into the courtyard and slowing to an easier pace as your small group enter one of the large central towers.

There's something unnerving about walking around and belonging here. Your collar, tunic and armour make you part of the scenery in a way you've never been before and you don't know if you like it. It's like you're drowning, as if every pair of eyes that looks at you is stealing some part of yourself away and replacing it with what they think should be there. But then, they've always done that. It's just that now what they see is something different than an angry casteless thug.

The tower is bustling inside, but your destination lies past more than one set of armed guards. By the time you reach the final branching corridor the hallways are virtually deserted, the only living beings in sight a pair of House Kutsanmis guards stood to attention alongside a familiar pair of Lawkeepers. They don't even recognise you until you draw close, by which time you can ignore their glaring. You think you've worked out where you're headed and if you're right, you don't give any shits at all what anyone else thinks.

“State your business,” one of the guards says. Lady Yetenekli smiles at him.

“Delivering a present for my betrothed,” she says, winking. Then she waves a hand to the pair of you. “I thought another pair of guards couldn't hurt.”

There is visible consternation at that. “Guards!?” one of the Lawkeepers splutters. “That little shit's the one who...”

She falls silent as the Matriarch gives her a smile. “From what I hear, he was very protective of my darling- more so than some of you. That sounds like a good guard to me.” She lays a hand on your shoulder. “I promise, if either of them misbehave, I will take full responsibility for their actions.”

Her hand squeezes a little tighter- a warning, perhaps, but not one you care about. Not when the guards reluctantly step away from the door, and it swings open into an antechamber. Only the sunwalker and the Matriarch come in with you; her guards have to wait outside. You're about to head straight for the inner door when her hand tightens again, turning you slightly to the left where you see two sickles- your sickles- lying on one of the couches.

“You'll hardly be much of a guard without weapons now, will you?” she says. You're already picking them up, feeling the weight like an old friend. You love your sickles; you want to fucking marry them and never again be parted, that is how much you worship them. Across the room, the sunwalker is being passed a crossbow.

“I thought this might be a weapon you could use,” the Matriarch is saying, and that's an odd way to put it but now isn't the time for questions, now is the time for pushing open the far door and running into the next room and seeing him turn, seeing the surprise and the joy grow on his face before you barrel into him and...

...yeah, so Gamzee isn't the only one hanging on for grim death here. But you thought you'd never see him again. You thought you'd never get to say goodbye, and now you're here and it doesn't matter what you had to promise to get this far because you're back with your brother and everything is going to be okay.

He's talking to you- “I'm sorry, I'm all sorry bro, I'm sorry, it's all my motherfucking fault,” - and you're just babbling back- “I was so fucking scared, I thought I lost you, tell me we're okay, you idiot.” You've got your face buried in his shirt and he smells like wine and food and smoke but not pesh, because he's been cleaned up just like you have. It's still him. You can feel it in the way he's holding you, bony arms wrapped right around your waist to pull you close, one palm resting against your back and pressing you in.

“I see I made the right choice.”

You both look around at once. The Matriarch has led the sunwalker in and is watching you with the strangest look on her face, a slightly sad smile which unnervingly reminds you of your mother. Gamzee's hands tighten into fists and he tilts his head to rest it on top of yours.

“Thanks,” he says. The Matriarch waves a dismissive hand.

“It's for my own good,” she says with a shrug, before switching to High Elven. “I wasn't lying to the guards outside. You need protecting, my dear, and your little accomplice there will do a fine job.” She glances over at the sunwalker. “As for this one, I'm counting on self-interest. If he plays up, do remind him that I have the command word for that collar of his.”

The sunwalker looks less than delighted at this reminder. You don't blame him. It's hardly comfortable to think about what you're wearing around your neck.

“Well, until tomorrow, my darlings!” the Matriarch says, backing out of the door and leaving the three of you alone in the room. The sunwalker is staring at the pair of you, jaw slack, and you glower at him.

“Fuck you,” you snap, and he hurriedly looks away to gawp at the rest of the room while you burrow back into Gamzee.

“Don't suppose you have any way to take these things off,” you mutter, poking gingerly at your collar.

Gamzee shakes his head, hair flopping around his eyes. “Sorry, brother, I ain't even all up and being trusted with the command words for that shit. Bitch ain't gonna give me no way to get you free.”

You groan and let go of him, drifting over to the nearest couch and falling back onto it. “Is it in any way possible for our plan to get more fucked up than it already is?”

“Could be worse, bro,” Gamzee says, drifting over to the table where a decanter of wine sits full and waiting. “We're still all up and being here, together. Motherfucking miracle after all that shit we pulled, you all getting me?”

“Yeah,” you mutter, watching as he pours a glass and starts to lift it.

“Wait!”

You barely pull your legs out of the way in time as the sunwalker streaks past and smacks the glass out of Gamzee's hand. You stare in shock at the deep red wine sinking into the carpet, surrounded by shards of glass, then with a growl grab the sunwalker's wrist.

“What the fuck?” you hiss in High Elven, trying desperately not to let a suspicious sound leak out to the guards outside. “We've not even been here five minutes and you're already acting like a spell-addled lunatic!”

“It was poisoned!”

You glance back at the spreading stain. “What?”

The sunwalker reaches out and, with a cautious eye on Gamzee, grabs the decanter. “Look, you see those crystals around the edge of the rim? The greenish ones that shine in the light?”

Gamzee leans over and makes an appreciative noise. “Oh yeah! I see it, like little mossy brothers with all them motherfucking little rainbows in them and shit!” He grins at you. “Check it out, best friend, they're all growing up on the glass!”

“I can see it, idiot,” you say, eyes narrowing. “What I'm not seeing is what it has to do with the expensive pool of carpet ruiner and foot-destroying shards this dicklicker decided to spread about the place.”

The sunwalker carefully sets the decanter back down on the table. “My mother has been showing me alchemical processes since I was a hatchling. This is basic crystallisation, a process which occurs when a secondary, solid substance has been dissolved into the liquid.” He frowns and looks about, then grabs one of the bolts from his crossbow quiver. Gently he scrapes the tip over the crystals, catching a couple and tipping them out onto the table. “There. That's what you would have been drinking.”

You look at the little crystals nervously. Away from the surface of the wine, there is something ominous about them. “What is it?” you ask.

“Not sure,” the sunwalker says. “But I have some ideas. Give me a moment, chaps.” He gets up and, grabbing a clean glass, fills it with water from the jug on the table across the room. He puts the glass next to the crystals and carefully drops one in. It sinks to the bottom and no amount of stirring with the bolt makes it dissolve.

“Not soluble in water,” the sunwalker mutters. “But it does dissolve in alcohol.” He sighs and sits back. “I'm rather afraid this might be King's Sleep.”

You grab him by the collar and pull your face close. “What the fuck did he nearly drink?” you whisper, fighting to keep your voice quiet.

“A poison meant to kill slowly, certainly, and without drawing suspicion,” the sunwalker says, garbling his words slightly in panic. “I don't know much; I read about it in a book while I was looking for something else, I've never really seen it before. The effects are supposed to look like a wasting disease, and it only needs one dose!”

You drop him and slowly turn to look at a horrified Gamzee, both your faces ashen with fear.

“Did you drink any?” you ask. He shakes his head.

“No, bro, that was the first glass today.” He points to the liquid soaking into the carpet. “I been all out and at my engagement party.”

“What about other things? Did you eat or drink anything that tasted weird?” you say, heart pounding frantically.

“I don't know, man! I ain't all up and looking for little green crystals on shit!” Gamzee is almost in tears, and you aren't far behind him, when a pale brownish hand rests comfortingly on your brother's arm.

“I think you're okay,” the sunwalker says. “I mean, I can't be sure, but... well, there wouldn't be much point trying to leave the poison here if you'd already taken some, and if you'd ingested it before today you'd be feeling the effects by now.”

As your pulse slows, you and Gamzee share a look of utter relief. “Still, we have to be careful,” you say, reminding yourself as much as telling them. “Someone managed to get in here past all the guards. They'll probably try again.”

“But why?” Jake asked, puzzled. Gamzee laughs.

“Shit, bro, ain't you all like knowing nothing? My family's all rich and important and shit, and my betrothed, she's all super smart. Like she's all up and understanding all the motherfucking miracles of the universe, you dig me? Lotta people got their worry on up about this wedding shit.” He shrugs when you look at him in surprise. “Motherfuckers talk about me all the time, sometimes even when I'm all there to be hearing it. Ain't got no mind that I'm getting my motherfucking listen on.”

“I don't understand,” the sunwalker says. “Why is anyone trying to kill you for getting married?”

“How are your people even alive if they're this naïve?” you ask, rolling your eyes. “It's an alliance, genius. Between a House that can design the best weapons and a House that can afford to raise armies that carry them. Any power with any investment at all in their own influence is going to...” your voice trails off as you make a connection. “Oh, shit. Oh, fuck.”

“Bro?” Gamzee asks.

“She said it,” you say, dazed by the revelation. “She said, they don't tolerate threats to their power.”

“Who doesn't, exactly?” the sunwalker says, tracking you with his head as you get to your feet and start pacing the room.

You pause to smack yourself in the forehead. “Fucking think about it. Who do the nobles answer to? Who do they turn to when they need help? Who do they trust to guard this room?

Slow as he can be, Gamzee gets it before the sunwalker does. His eyes go wide. “No motherfucking way. They wouldn't.”

“They would,” you say, with the absolute certainty of someone who has lived in the Shanties their whole life and seen the shit that the people in charge do to people they decide are in their way. “It's the fucking Temple. The Lawkeepers are trying to assassinate you.”

The sunwalker jumps to his feet. “We have to tell someone!”

“Who?” you ask, waving an arm around the room. “We're both slaves, and for me that's a step up. Nobody's going to fucking listen to Gamzee at the best of times, and accusing the Temple of the Seer of planning an assassination is about the worst level of self-immolating heresy I can think of. If we tell anyone about this we'll be doing the assassin's job for them.”

Gamzee's fingers press hard into the sides of the couch cushion. “Why didn't they all up and let us go?” he asks, voice desolate and empty. “If they're not motherfucking wanting me doing this, why... why didn't they just motherfucking get some pity in them and just let us go?”

You sit down next to him and lean over, cuddling into his side. “Because,” you say. It's a beetleshit answer, but it's what your mother always used to say when you asked why the world was a sack of stinking crap that took every possible opportunity to make your lives a little more miserable. It used to drive you mad when you were younger, but now you kind of get it. Because. That's just how it is, nothing to be done, keep on surviving anyway.

Thinking of your mother reminds you of your journal, which in turn reminds you of your journal's current location. You jolt upright.

“Terezi!” The other two are looking at you like you've gone completely insane, but you don't care because if she wasn't pretending in order to trick information out of you then she's on your side. Maybe it's the desperation talking, but you don't think she was just using you; the look on her face when she talked about other people with marks was too hopeful. And in the same way that Gamzee is similar to the person you dream about, you have reason to think that she'll be fair in her own way. You look at the sunwalker and your smile becomes a little predatory. You might not remember the notes around the symbol, but you're pretty sure you know which one he is, too. You only ever dreamed up one idiot who spoke like that.

“Jake, right?” you say, and hold your breath.

He nods absently. “Yes, that's... hold up just one minute here, buddy, I never told you that!”

“No, you didn't,” you say, reaching for the straps on your bracer. “Now sit down and shut up while I tell you what else I know.”

Suggestions Used

Asuka Kureru – Karkat: let it slip/hint that Gamzee is also god-marked.

Ephemeral_Dreamer – Karkat: see if you can convince Terezi to help you save Gamzee

Asuka Kureru – Karkat ==> LOOK TOO CUTE TO KILL D:

UDMonk - Karkat: Punch the bitch. Be the hero. (Don't actually do this, but vindictively imagine it as the situation with you and Gamzee is being explained to you.)

Asuka Kureru – Karkat: *kick* Jake.

Silverkyo – Karkat: Save your Friend

WhiteTiger1221 – Karkat: Recall what your trance visions have shown you about Terezi Pyrope. Make plan to save Gamzee.

Ms Arano – Terezi: Read more of Karkat's book.

Silverkyo – Terezi: Assist your fellow marked hero and get to the bottom of this.

OrderOfTheToast - And maybe eventually She [Terezi] would join with them after Karkat convinces the Crazy blind- Drow that no hes not going to murder the high prince...

WhiteTiger1221 – Terezi: This Shanty thug is in a similar position to you when you helped Kanaya escape, help him save his friend.

Ephemeral_Dreamer – Jake: try to escape from the dungeon.

unholygrunt – Jake: find your way out of this mess you made.

Silverkyo – Jake: Where the hell are you?

Ms Arano – Jake: Converse with your fellow prisoners.

MASK – JAKE: make the best of your situation

WhiteTiger1221 - Jake: Become relevant, help rescue Gamzee, probably unwittingly.

WhiteTiger1221 – Gamzee: Wait unknowingly for rescue.

System Notes

Recognising that fourteen is a divinely significant number = DC20
Karkat cannot make the appropriate skill check.
Terezi's knowledge religion check = 17
NEITHER CHARACTER REALISES THAT THERE ARE FOURTEEN “REAL” GODS.

Seeing that something is off about Gamzee's drink = DC19
Jake's craft alchemy check = 20
Karkat's perception check = 2
Gamzee's perception check (+2) = 15
JAKE NOTICES THE KING'S SLEEP POISON IN GAMZEE'S CUP JUST IN THE NICK OF TIME.

Chapter Text

==> Jade: Get On The Road Again

Warm evening sunlight and spots of soft rain hit your face as you pull yourself up over the lip of the hole. Shuffling around to help the others over the uneven edge of broken flagstones and thick vines stains your knees mossy green. Bec needs a hand the most, your new friends having to shove from behind while you pull from above, but the crude stairway that you built together doesn't quite reach all the way to the top and both Kanaya and Aradia gladly accept your hand to help them over the chest-high obstruction. Sollux just glares at you when you offer; you decide that if he wants to be an ass about it you're not going to get in his way. Instead, you take the chance to straighten up and stretch out muscles that are aching from hours of moving big heavy rocks.

The five of you are in the ruins of what was clearly once one of the temple rooms, but it's hard to work out much more than that because the forest has dismantled it thoroughly. None of the remaining walls reaches higher than your head and most of them are nothing more than a few eroded blocks poking out of tangled roots and thorny bushes. A lopsided tree behind you seems to be responsible for the collapse of the floor and wall that let you escape; you pat it gently as you look at its exposed roots, destroyed themselves as their support crumbled away beneath them. Its thick curtain of leaves forms part of the canopy that replaces the roof here, the green branches staining the golden sunlight as it passes through and warding off both raindrops and any fierce summer heat that lingers. A faintly puzzled frown crosses your face; a strange, putrid smell hangs in the air, and you can't quite shake the feeling that you should know the cause.

"This is quite an interesting sculpture," says Kanaya, and you look around to see her standing in front of the remains of a statue. It's more intact than the rest of the room, which isn't saying much; the chipped plinth holds an oversized pair of crouching legs, a strangely predatory stance that shears off mid-waist. Scattered chunks of stone give a few hints as to the rest of the original figure; here a stone fist grips the hilt of some unknown weapon, there a pair of blank granite eyes stare out from under a carved scowl.

"I wonder who it is?" Kanaya says, running her fingers along the edge of the broken torso. She seems pretty interested, but the little hairs on the back of your neck are tingling and under your hand Bec is tense. Something about this place is giving you both the jitters, which is a sure sign that it's bad news! You're about to suggest moving further away from the creepy abandoned ruins when the breeze shifts and the horrible scent becomes strong enough to make you gag. Your companions watch with various levels of concern as you walk slowly over to the door-gap in the higher of the side walls, holding your nose closed and breathing shallowly as you look into the next ruined room.

You sort of know what you're going to find, but what you see on the other side is worse than you were expecting. A dozen or more dead bodies litter the cracked stones, bloated and purpling, interspersed with dry elfish bones and scattered, rust-spotted weapons and armour. Your stomach does a seriously acrobatic flip as the stench of rotting flesh surrounds you, and there is barely time to turn and prop yourself against the half-wall before you hurl up everything you've eaten lately and then some.

You hear rather than see your companions coming up behind you, incapacitated as you are. Beside you Bec whimpers and you reach out in an attempt to ruffle the fur between his ears. With his sensitive nose it must be a thousand times worse, poor thing!

"What's going on... oh!" Aradia moves into your line of vision, eyes becoming round as she looks at the grisly scene. You're about to comment, to say how awful it is, when she lifts her hand and makes a few swift gestures. Her eyes begin to glow with the same deep red light that you saw when she was moving rocks earlier; you just about have time to realise that she's casting a spell to detect magical energies when Sollux comes up behind her and looks at the bodies critically. "Anything?" he asks. Aradia nods, smiling in delight as she points to several of the dead in turn.

"His cloak... oh, and those bracers... ooh, that guy has something in his pocket!"

As Sollux strides out across the moss-covered flagstones you can't do anything but watch him in shock. Bec nudges against you and your voice starts working just as the sorcerer kneels down next to the first oozing corpse.

"What are you doing?!" you squeak, disbelief and nausea warring for supreme command of your thoughts. Sollux blinks owlishly and stares at you in vacant surprise.

"Looting, duh," he says. Thin grey fingers lift the edge of the gossamer brown cloak that is trapped under the dead man, the fine material stained by several dark patches. "Thith thit ith magic."

You swallow, trying and failing to ignore the litany of ew, ew, corpse juices, gross that is chasing around your head right behind your keen awareness of the smell. "But... isn't that kind of, uh..."

"Mercenary?" Kanaya suggests shakily from just behind and to the side of you. You look over to see that her lips are a tight line and her usually black skin looks a little more charcoal than usual. "Amoral? Utterly disrespectful to the souls of the departed?"

Aradia giggles, walking backwards away from you towards another dead body. "It's okay! They're not using it, after all, so I'm sure they wouldn't mind us helping ourselves!" She nearly trips over an outflung arm and pinwheels to regain balance. "Oops!" She glances about thoughtfully then perks up, pointing to a slumped corpse in the shade of one of the ruined walls, its gender no longer distinguishable. A somewhat tattered backpack hangs from its rotting shoulders. "Hey, you should check and see if there's food in there. We're running kind of short, after all!"

Kanaya follows her finger; from the look on her face she feels about as unwell as you. "Forgive my ignorance, but won't any food in there be contaminated by the adjacent decomposing form? Because even if I can remove the toxins from the food, I am not particularly comfortable consuming something that contains material that used to be part of a person." She frowns. “And I believe that this is a smell that will cling, anyway, which in my case will certainly preclude any great consumption of food for some time.”

You pale a little at the thought that you might start to smell of gross purple rotting bloated dead people. Sollux doesn't even seem to be bothered; he pulls a slightly disgusted face when a layer of nearly black skin peels off on his fingers and you nearly vomit again when he wipes it off on the moss.

"Food thoud be fine if it'th wrapped properly," he says, fiddling with the cloak clasp and completely unheeding of the look of horror you and Kanaya are sharing. "The thmell almotht thertainly got to it, but Aradia can fixth that, no problem." He sighs wistfully. “If we're really lucky then they'll have thomething better than fucking wandermealth.”

It's the final straw; you can't stand one more second of this callousness. “What in the hells is wrong with you!?” you yell, temper rising fast. How can he sound so normal about casually robbing the dead? He's spent the whole day being nothing but rude and unhelpful and you've really tried to be friendly but if he's going to act like some sort of heartless bandit then you don't really think you want to bother with him any more!

Oh, wait, did you say all that out loud? Good!

All three of them are staring at you, but you only have eyes for Sollux. Flickers of blue and red fire are flashing in the air around the sorcerer, his eyes narrowed to slits behind his dark glasses. You glare right back at him as he slowly gets to his feet, fists clenching into tight balls.

“What the fuck did you call me?” he hisses, and you reach out to wrap your fingers in the thick ruff of fur around Bec's neck. The low rumble of your companion's growl reverberates through your whole body and you square your shoulders, straightening from the slump the sick smell of the carnage had you in.

“You heard me!” you say, glad that something you've done has finally gotten through to this jerk. “You're a stupid dumbass bandit who never does anything nice for anyone, ever!”

Sollux starts shouting, and in the half-second it takes for you realise that his words aren't in any language of mortalkind Aradia has already grabbed his arm and slammed a hand across his mouth.

“NO!” she yells, and it's not a protest; she's ordering him not to cast against you. You remember the fire he summoned against the wolves earlier and it's like a bucket of cold water down your spine. Your eyes briefly meet Aradia's, and you think you see a small frown cross her face before a bright smile asserts itself.

“I've got this!” she calls to you, not releasing her grip on Sollux. “Why don't you just go back that way and wait for us to finish up!?”

A gentle hand touches your arm. “That sounds like an extremely good idea,” Kanaya says. “While I can't say I usually appreciate the sunlight, given its effects on my eyes, I do consider this to be an ideal opportunity to enjoy the weather and perhaps relax a little.”

You know when you're being herded, but honestly you're just glad to be moving away from the decomposing bodies and the disturbing pair looting them. To your dismay, though, the smell follows you out of the ruins and a couple of dozen yards into the forest proper, a distance that Kanaya deems somehow proper. Curious, you sniff at your sleeve and gag; it turns out that dead people get in your clothes.

Bec whimpers and lies down, paws covering his snout. You can sympathise.

“Aradia will be able to remove the smell,” Kanaya says, watching you through drooping eyes. “I myself will still be bathing at the earliest possible convenience, but Sollux was not deceiving you.”

“Screw Sollux,” you reply, still replaying that moment in your head; his mouth opening, his arm already half-raised to summon arcane power against you. In a straight-up fight you think you've got a good chance of beating him, but you shouldn't have to fight him at all, let alone worry about him trying to kill you when you should be safe. “He's just crazy,” you tell Kanaya.

The drow sighs. “I will agree that Sollux is hardly the most stable of personalities, but I believe that you may have inadvertently provoked him into his chosen course of action.”

You snort. “Yeah, right. I didn't say anything worth slinging spells over!”

“Perhaps not from your perspective, or mine,” Kanaya says, leaning back into the heavy trunk of an oak tree with a little wiggle. She seems to hesitate for a few seconds before continuing. “Several months ago, not long after I first joined up with Sollux and Aradia, the Porthaven watch posted an open bounty on bandits in the region. I believe there had been some significant problems with trade caravans being raided, and even some pressure from the Phooka clans. At any rate, for ten gold pieces a head, alive or dead, there were a good number of hunters interested in the offer. Including us.”

You frown, absently petting Bec as you try to work out where this is going. “So, what? Did the bandits call him names too or something?”

Kanaya's shakes her head. “They never got the chance.” Her face is grim, glancing back to where her comrades are still at their grisly task. “Neither of them ever tried to take a live prisoner; I honestly don't believe they even considered it.” She hesitates. “I... cannot be sure of this, but I think that a few times there might have been survivors. Until I turned my back.”

Your hand stops dead in Bec's fur. “Sollux murdered them?”

“Not just Sollux,” Kanaya says, voice soft as if she's afraid to be overheard. “Aradia hides it better, but I saw the same anger in her a few times.” She casts another glance towards the ruin before looking back to you. “Understand, they aren't usually so vicious. I would not travel with them if that were so.”

You nod understanding. “So, they really hate bandits?”

“I would say that hatred is something of an understatement,” Kanaya says. You wince as things slot into place.

“Oh, and I called him one!”

Kanaya nods. “Personally, I'm amazed Aradia stopped him, but I suppose she is generally more rational. Don't be surprised if she is upset with you later, though.”

You sigh and lean back against the tree. “Wow. I had no idea!” You're starting to feel pretty terrible about slinging that insult. Protecting people from bandits is supposed to be one of the things that the Druids do, and it's sounding a lot like your order failed Sollux and Aradia at some point in the past. You fall into a mildly uncomfortable silence; Kanaya closes her eyes, either resting or praying as the sun sinks lower on the horizon, and you try to keep your breathing shallow as you follow her example. You wish that you had Guardian Wolfsister here to talk to; everything is getting way more complicated than you were expecting, and you need her guidance.

You can imagine her now, tall and proud, hair the colour of autumn leaves bound back with leather and green eyes always looking through to the heart of things. In your mind, she's sitting on one of the large rocks at the edge of the hot springs in the Whispering Grove; Fleetwind is curled at her feet, the older wolf dozing in the warmth. It's dark in the cave, the only light coming from the shaft overhead that lets in the natural light whatever it may be. Spring rain, summer sun, autumn showers and winter snow all fall in turn to land in the bubbling pool.

The smile of your guardian is a root, a foundation, that holds you up and makes you strong. Nature is never wasteful, she says, the old lesson sounding new again in your mind. And we shall follow that example.

Light pressure on your shoulder jolts you back to the waking world; your eyes fly open and you find yourself looking right at Aradia's face. She grins at you.

“Hey! We're done,” she says, and you look about to see Sollux crouching a few feet away and glaring at you warily. There's a small pile of things on the ground in front of him, barely visible in the dim twilight under the trees. From the sky you'd guess you've been trancing for just less than an hour. Kanaya is also sitting up and stretching a little guiltily, but fortunately Bec seems to have been awake the whole time to keep watch; you scratch behind his ear in thanks and he licks your cheek affectionately. It occurs to you that neither you nor your wolf stink any more, and you experimentally sniff your hand to be sure. It smells faintly of lavender, but nothing more.

“Oh, I cleaned up while you were out,” Aradia says, scooting back over to Sollux and their haul. “I mean, I already had the spell ready for all this stuff, so I figured I might as well do us too! I hope you don't mind.”

“No, that's fine,” you say, relieved that you won't have to try and scrub it out. You had the uncomfortable feeling that it would have lingered for days. “And... I'm sorry.”

Aradia looks over her shoulder at you and tilts her head. “Sorry? For what?” She sounds genuinely puzzled, but after what Kanaya told you that's probably just a pretence. You wonder how much else she hides.

“You were right,” you say, deciding to focus on the present. “About taking from the dead, I mean. It would have been a waste to leave it behind, and I shouldn't have been upset by that.” You can feel your cheeks burning a little pink at the admission and Kanaya is staring at you like you just lost your mind, but Aradia's face breaks into the sunniest smile you've ever seen on another person.

“That's okay,” she says, dropping down next to Sollux. “You can't help being upset, and dead people do smell pretty bad!” She reaches into the pile of items by Sollux and holds one out to you, a bundle of thick leather cords that form some sort of convoluted harness.

“Hey!” Sollux protests, trying to grab the straps back; Aradia holds him off one-handed and offers them to you.

“Here, I think you probably deserve something for helping us out of that hole, and I bet you'll find these handy!”

You take the harness cautiously, but your questing fingers find nothing suspicious about the leather. It smells as clean as you, and the patterns tooled in the straps are free of strange marks or stains.

“Thanks!” you say, still peering at the thing. “Um- what is it?”

“Oh, here,” says Aradia, grabbing one end and throwing a loop over your head. You have to take off your cloak but she helps you settle the harness so that it wraps around your shoulders and upper arms. Even through your shirt, you think it makes you look more muscular, but you still don't really notice any difference and you say as much.

“If you don't want it, give it back,” Sollux says. Aradia rolls her eyes then shoves the backpack he had dumped on the ground towards you.

“Here, lift this,” she says. “And yours! Oh, and- Kanaya, can I borrow that, thanks- this too!”

You grab the three packs and heft them, expecting to stagger under the weight. Instead, you lift them easily in your arms, the three laden bags as light as feathers to you. You squeak in delight and take a few steps, your magically enhanced strength balancing the weight like it's nothing.

“They only make you stronger for carrying things,” Aradia says, watching you with amusement. “But I thought that since you're going to have to travel a lot as a Guardian of the Greenweald, it should be helpful for you!”

“It's amazing!” you reply, putting the backpacks down by their owners one by one. You can't wipe the grin off your face. “Thanks!”

“You want to theem thankful, you can carry the exthra food,” Sollux says, glowering at you. You roll your eyes and settle back onto the ground, but you start loading the salvaged packets into your own backpack.

“Will we be continuing on our way now?” Kanaya asks. You look up in dismay; it might be selfish of you as the only diurnal member of the group, but you'd much rather spend the night resting than travelling, especially after such a busy day!

To your everlasting relief, Aradia yawns. “Actually, I wouldn't mind getting some real sleep,” she says with a wry smile. Sollux snorts and reaches for his backpack again.

“I'll thet up the tent,” he says. “The retht of uth can draw up a watch thcedule, I thuppothe. Make thure that whatever killed thothe people doethn't come back.”

You look up from stashing the food in surprise. “What do you mean?”

Sollux makes a rude gesture, so Kanaya steps in to answer. “The most recent of those bodies were only a few weeks old,” she says gently, as if scared to upset you. “But there were others that were older. It seems that there is something dangerous in this region that we would be best advised to be wary of.”

You try not to laugh at her, but a small snicker escapes nonetheless. “No, it's fine!” you say, glad to have some good news. “I mean, you're right about some of the bodies being older, but they all died in the same fight!”

All of a sudden you're the centre of attention again. “What the fuck ith that thuppothed to mean?” Sollux asks, eyes narrowing suspiciously. You feel Bec shift and rest a soothing hand on him before he gets too protective and bites the sorcerer or something. But really, couldn't they tell from where the swords were? From how the bones were scattered across the bodies? The whole scene is burned into your memory and you know that the blades clasped in skeletal hands are the ones that delivered fatal injuries to the recently dead.

“It means that there was a fight a few weeks ago, and that only one side were alive to begin with!” you tell the others. “It can happen with old temples- some of them have undead sealed up inside for centuries, Guardian Wolfsister told me. But they're probably all dead now!” You pause to think about what you just said. “Well, they were already dead, so destroyed, I guess? Not going to get up again, anyway!”

“Fuck thith tho much. I want a new Druid,” Sollux says, and you're about to start explaining that you're perfectly qualified to do your job so he can just stick it when you are interrupted by the inside of your own head. It chimes like a bell, a sense of some foreign magic touching against your own, and you recognise the furfeelrunningpackmoonhowl of the aura moments before words start to form unbidden in your mind.

alphaWarden [AW] is SENDING a message to gardenGnostic [GG]
Gunnar Quartzkyn SENT too me thys Hoour past- yoour Broother ys myssyng. Coontynue too the Clanhoold too assyst. They fear the Droow may have Jake.

Jake. Horror grips you as your mind races; you only have a few seconds to reply to your guardian's Sending and you won't have another chance. She must have used one of her scrolls to get you this message- you don't even know if she has another.

Fortunately, you have the perfect idea of what to do, and just the right people to ask.

gardenGnostic [GG] is SENDING a reply to alphaWarden [AW]
:O ive met some adventurers on my way so ill ask them to come too!! very worried, but thanks for the SENDING. ill be careful!!!

The spell carries your carefully formed words away into the ether and dissipates in their wake. You open your eyes to see Kanaya looking at you through dark eyeglasses in confusion- probably to ask what's happening, you know you get kind of a goofy look when you're receiving magical messages. In the growing night she's hard to see except for the white crown of her hair.

“So, I know you said that you were an exile from the drow, but what kind of exile?” you ask, bundling your cloak up into your lap nervously. “I mean, would you be able to go back in disguise, or do you really have to stay away forever?”

She frowns. “I would most likely be safe to return if I used a false name and did not draw attention to myself,” she says. “But it is not something I would want to risk, and I have no compelling reason to do so. Why do you ask?”

You shift uncomfortably and take a deep breath. “Well, I just had a Sending from Guardian Wolfsister, and my brother Jake is missing and his family think that the drow kidnapped him, so I thought that since you're for hire then maybe if I paid you then you could come with me and help to find him?” You pause and look between them; Kanaya shocked, Aradia sadly sympathetic, Sollux still glaring. “Uh, please?”

“How much?” Sollux demands, before anyone else can speak. You shrug.

“I don't really know?” You pluck at the leather straps across your shoulders. “But if nothing else I can sell this! It's magic, so it has to be worth something. And the Guardians have a fund for things like this, so I can ask Guardian Wolfsister for some money, and Jake's family will probably be able to give you something too! They're dwarves, so they have all kinds of neat stuff.”

Sollux looks like he's calculating something in his head, then whistles. “Okay, tho that'th like, three hundred gold each minimum.” He shrugs. “Promithe to thtop being an inthufferable bitthch and I'll hunt drow for that much. You guyth?”

Aradia leans over and rests on his shoulder. “If you're in, I am,” she says, smiling. “Someone's got to keep you out of trouble!”

You look hopefully at Kanaya, and the drow woman sighs. “I am not exactly comfortable with returning to my people,” she says. “But three hundred gold is an appreciable sum, and if your brother truly is a captive then he will need whatever help he can get.” She pauses and drums her fingers thoughtfully against the trunk of a tree. “I will accompany you to see his kinfolk,” she says, finally. “Perhaps it will be an easier decision when I know what precisely I am committing to with my words.”

She is bowled over by your flying tackle-hug. “Thank you!” You may not know everything about her past, but you know it was tough for her to even agree to this much. You know that Jake may be in terrible danger, but as you let Kanaya go and start offering to help Sollux set up his tent, you can't shake the feeling that with these allies you will be able to help him.

The warm feeling of being able to help stays with you for your entire watch and lingers in your visions as you trance.

Suggestions Used

Silverkyo – Aradia's Group: Continue on your Journey

UDMonk – Jade, Sollux, Aradia, Kanaya: Get out of the temple before even more bad shit happens.

MASK - Jade: okay, rocks in place, time for some sweet, sweet sunlight.

Ephemeral_Dreamer – Aradia: Try to find a way out... even if you would love exploring these Ruins further you haven't got the equipment for it right now and your companions (mostly Sollux) are starting to get twitchy

Cec – Sollux: Get in a fight

Silverkyo – Aradia: Pacify Sollux

ttdOOOO – Jade: Discover that your brother [Jake] is missing.

System Notes

Chapter Text

JOHN EGBERT FIGHTER (TWO-HANDED FIGHTER) 2
NEUTRAL GOOD

TL:DR – Gained the ability to push foes back with a strong strike, and got pretty good at breaking stuff.

John LVL2, For attachment to LODAD fic on AO3.

BASIC STATISTICS
GENDER: Male
HAIR/EYES: Black hair, blue eyes
HOMELAND: City of Porthaven (Outer Ring)
DEITY: The Heir of Breath
LANGUAGES: Common, High Elven
RACE: Tuatha (High Elf)

ATTRIBUTES
STRENGTH: 15[+2]
DEXTERITY: 12[+1]
CONSTITUTION: 12[+1]
INTELLIGENCE: 10[+0]
WISDOM: 12[+1]
CHARISMA: 13[+1]

HIT POINTS: 17/17
HERO POINTS: 3/5
INITIATIVE: +1
BASE SPEED/S: 30ft (land)

ARMOUR CLASS [AC]: 14
TOUCH AC: 11
FLAT-FOOTED AC: 13

BASE ATTACK BONUS [BAB]: +2
BASIC MELEE ATTACK: +4
BASIC RANGED ATTACK: +3
COMBAT MANEUVER BONUS [CMB]: +4 (+5 for Sundering)
COMBAT MANEUVER DEFENCE [CMD]: 15 (16 for Sundering)

SAVES
FORTITUDE: +5
REFLEX: +2
WILL: +2

WEAPONS/ATTACKS
WARHAMMER - Wielded two-handed for greater damage, and with the option of Power Attack for greater damage with lower accuracy.
DAGGER - Can be thrown, range 10ft.

EQUIPMENT - CARRYING CAPACITY (STR 16)

EQUIPMENT - ITEM SLOTS
CLOTHING: ARTISAN'S OUTFIT
This outfit consists of a shirt with buttons, drawstring pants, shoes, and a slightly battered hat. It also includes a belt for carrying small items such as a money pouch.

ARMOUR: MASTERWORK STUDDED LEATHER
+3 armour bonus, +5 max DEX bonus, 0 Armour Check Penalty, 15% Arcane Spell Failure Chance, LIGHT
SPECIAL: Masterwork armour has an Armour Check Penalty one lower than normal and can be enchanted.

EQUIPMENT - POSSESSIONS
Warhammer 5lbs, Masterwork Studded Leather 20lbs, Dagger 1lb, Waterskin 4lbs

>BACKPACK, MASTERWORK 4lbs (Capacity 60lbs, +1 STR to carry loads)
Tent (Medium, 2 people) 30lbs, Bedroll 5lbs, Parade Armour 20lbs

>POUCH, BELT 0.5lbs (Capacity 10lbs)
Flint and Steel, Bird Feather Token [x2], Flash Powder [x2], Itching Powder [x1] 2lbs, Sneezing Powder [x1] 2lbs

TOTAL 93.5lbs (34.5lbs without backpack)

EQUIPMENT - MONEY
0CP, 9SP, 62GP, 0PP
OTHER:

SKILLS
TRAINED
BLUFF +3(2), DIPLOMACY +2(1), +KNOWLEDGE(DUNGEONEERING) +5(2), +PROFESSION(PORTHAVEN GUARD) +5(1)

UNTRAINED
ACROBATICS +1*, APPRAISE +0, +CLIMB +2*, +CRAFT +0, DISGUISE +1, ESCAPE ARTIST +1*, HEAL +1, +INTIMIDATE +1, PERCEPTION +3, PERFORM +1, +RIDE +1*, SENSE MOTIVE +1, STEALTH +1*, +SURVIVAL +1, +SWIM +2*
(FLY +1*)

*Armour Check Penalty: Skill at –0 due to armour worn.
+Class Skill

FEATS
POWER ATTACK [REQUIRES: STR 13, BAB+1]
The character can make exceptionally deadly melee attacks by sacrificing accuracy for strength.

RACIAL ABILITIES: ELVEN
LANGUAGES - Tuatha begin play speaking Common and High Elven. Tuatha with high Intelligence scores can choose from the following: Celestial, Draconic, Gnoll, Gnome, Goblin, Orc, and Sylvan.

SPECIAL ABILITIES
GODMARKED
LEVEL 1:
HERO’S FORTUNE - Even at the start of his career, it was clear that the character had a chance at greatness, and his legend continues to grow with every adventure.
DEFLECTION AURA [SUPERNATURAL ABILITY] (1 USE/DAY) - The character can emit an aura that makes nearby allies harder to hit for a short time dependent on his character level.
EXTRA - The character receives a +1 resistance bonus on saving throws. This bonus increases by +1 for every 5 levels he possesses.

CLASS FEATURES
WEAPON AND ARMOUR PROFICIENCY: FIGHTER
A fighter is proficient with all simple and martial weapons and with all armour (heavy, light, and medium) and shields (including tower shields).

FEAT: CLEAVE [REQUIRES: POWER ATTACK]
The fighter can strike two adjacent foes with a single swing.

FEAT: PUSHING ASSAULT [REQUIRES: STR 15, POWER ATTACK, BAB +1]
A strike made with a two-handed weapon can push a similar sized opponent backward.

SHATTERING STRIKE (+1) [EXTRAORDINARY ABILITY]
At 2nd level, the two-handed fighter gains a bonus to sunder attempts and on damage rolls made against objects.

* * *

ROSE LALONDE ORACLE - DARK TAPESTRY (SEER) 2
TRUE NEUTRAL

TL:DR – New clothes, new wand, new spells.

Rose LVL2, For attachment to LODAD fic on AO3.

BASIC STATISTICS
GENDER: Female
HAIR/EYES: Blonde hair, purple eyes
HOMELAND: City of Porthaven (Temple District)
DEITY: The Seer of Light
LANGUAGES: Common, Celestial, Abyssal, Draconic, Sylvan
RACE: Aasimar

ATTRIBUTES
STRENGTH: 8[-1]
DEXTERITY: 12[+1]
CONSTITUTION: 10[+0]
INTELLIGENCE: 14[+2]
WISDOM: 15[+2]
CHARISMA: 17[+3]

HIT POINTS: 13/13
HERO POINTS: 3/5
INITIATIVE: +1
BASE SPEED/S: 30ft (land)

ARMOUR CLASS [AC]: 13
TOUCH AC: 11
FLAT-FOOTED AC: 12

BASE ATTACK BONUS [BAB]: +1
BASIC MELEE ATTACK: +0
BASIC RANGED ATTACK: +2
COMBAT MANEUVER BONUS [CMB]: +0
COMBAT MANEUVER DEFENCE [CMD]: 11

SAVES
FORTITUDE: +0
REFLEX: +1
WILL: +5

WEAPONS/ATTACKS
DAGGER - Can be thrown, range 10ft.
COLOUR SPRAY WAND (3/Day) – Standard Action to activate, does not provoke Attacks of Opportunity.

EQUIPMENT - CARRYING CAPACITY (STR 8)

EQUIPMENT - ITEM SLOTS
CLOTHING: ENTERTAINER'S OUTFIT
This set of flashy- perhaps even gaudy- clothes is for entertaining. While the outfit looks whimsical, its practical design lets the character tumble, dance, walk a tightrope, or just run if the audience turns ugly.

ARMOUR: LEATHER ARMOUR
+2 armour bonus, +6 max DEX bonus, -0 Armour Check Penalty, 10% Arcane Spell Failure Chance, LIGHT

EQUIPMENT - POSSESSIONS
Dagger 1lb, Leather Armour 15lbs, Waterskin 4lbs, Holy Symbol (Silver) 1lb, Signet Ring

>POUCH, BELT 0.5lbs (Capacity 10lbs)
Flint and Steel, Sewing Needle, String/Twine [50ft] 0.5lbs

>POUCH, BELT 0.5lbs (Capacity 10lbs)
Stationary, Sealing Wax 1lb, Ink (Black) [1oz. Vial], Ink (Purple) [1oz. Vial], Inkpen

TOTAL 23.5lbs

EQUIPMENT - MONEY
9CP, 3SP, 32GP, 0PP
OTHER:

SKILLS
TRAINED
+DIPLOMACY +10(2), +KNOWLEDGE HISTORY +6(1), +KNOWLEDGE NOBILITY +6(1), +KNOWLEDGE PLANES +7(2), +KNOWLEDGE RELIGION +7(2), +SENSE MOTIVE +7(2), +SPELLCRAFT +7(2), USE MAGIC DEVICE +4(1)

UNTRAINED
ACROBATICS +1*, APPRAISE +2, BLUFF +3, CLIMB -1*, +CRAFT +2, +DISGUISE +3, ESCAPE ARTIST +1*, +HEAL +2, +INTIMIDATE +3, PERCEPTION +4, PERFORM +3, RIDE +1*, +STEALTH +1*, SURVIVAL +2, SWIM -1*
(FLY +1*)

*Armour Check Penalty: Skill at –0 due to armour worn.
+Class Skill

FEATS
COMBAT CASTING
The character is adept at spellcasting when threatened or distracted.

RACIAL ABILITIES: AASIMAR
AASIMARS DO NOT COUNT AS OUTSIDERS FOR THE PURPOSE OF THIS SETTING.
DAYLIGHT [SPELL-LIKE ABILITY] (1 USE/DAY) – Aasimars can touch an object and cause it to shed a brilliant light which drives back even magical darkness.
LANGUAGES – Aasimars begin play speaking Common and Celestial. Aasimars with high Intelligence scores can choose any of the following bonus languages: Draconic, Dwarven, High Elven, Gnome, Halfling, and Sylvan.

SPECIAL ABILITIES
GODMARKED
LEVEL 1:
HERO’S FORTUNE - Even at the start of her career, it was clear that the character had a chance at greatness, and her legend continues to grow with every adventure.
LORE KEEPER [SPELL-LIKE ABILITY] – The character can touch a creature to learn about its abilities and weaknesses.
EXTRA – The character treats all Knowledge skills as class skills.

CLASS FEATURES
WEAPON AND ARMOUR PROFICIENCY: ORACLE
Oracles are proficient with all simple weapons, light armour, medium armour, and shields (except tower shields).

CURSE: TONGUES (Abyssal)
Whenever the oracle is in combat, she can only speak and understand the Abyssal tongue. She automatically knows the language and can speak it at other times voluntarily.

REVELATION: NATURAL DIVINATION [EXTRAORDINARY ABILITY] (1 USE/DAY)
An oracle can read the entrails of a freshly killed animal, interpret the flights of birds, and chart marks in dirt or stone to gain small advantages at some point in the next day.

SPELLS
LEVEL 0 [At Will] Save DC 13
DETECT MAGIC, GUIDANCE, LIGHT, READ MAGIC, STABILIZE

LEVEL 1 [5/Day] Save DC 14
ABADAR'S TRUTHTELLING, CURE LIGHT WOUNDS, ENTROPIC SHIELD, INFLICT LIGHT WOUNDS

* * *

DAVE STRIDER ROGUE (SWASHBUCKLER) 2
TRUE NEUTRAL

TL:DR – Cool new magic pouch, improved at getting out of the way of area attacks, and able to cause bleeding damage on a sneak attack.

Dave LVL1, For attachment to LODAD fic on AO3.

BASIC STATISTICS
GENDER: Male
HAIR/EYES: Blonde hair, red eyes
HOMELAND: City of Porthaven (No Fixed Abode)/The Greenweald Forest Region (No Fixed Abode)
DEITY: The Knight of Time
LANGUAGES: Common, Celestial, High Elven
RACE: Aasimar

ATTRIBUTES
STRENGTH: 14[+2]
DEXTERITY: 15[+2]
CONSTITUTION: 13[+1]
INTELLIGENCE: 12[+1]
WISDOM: 12[+1]
CHARISMA: 10[+0]

HIT POINTS: 15/15
HERO POINTS: 2/3
INITIATIVE: +2
BASE SPEED/S: 30ft (land)

ARMOUR CLASS [AC]: 15
TOUCH AC: 12
FLAT-FOOTED AC: 13

BASE ATTACK BONUS [BAB]: +1
BASIC MELEE ATTACK: +3
BASIC RANGED ATTACK: +3
COMBAT MANEUVER BONUS [CMB]: +3
COMBAT MANEUVER DEFENCE [CMD]: 15

SAVES
FORTITUDE: +1
REFLEX: +5
WILL: +1

WEAPONS/ATTACKS
LONGSWORD - Fragile Quality, can use two-handed for additional damage but cannot use buckler.
SHORTSWORD
DAGGER - Can be thrown, range 10ft.

EQUIPMENT - CARRYING CAPACITY (STR 15)

EQUIPMENT - ITEM SLOTS
CLOTHING: PICKPOCKET'S OUTFIT + MASK
Outfitted with concealed pockets, this clothing gives the character a +2 bonus on hiding small objects on his person. It consists of a pull-on shirt with long sleeves, a loose jacket, drawstring pants, boots and a sturdy belt. The mask is an ornately decorated strip of dark fabric with eye-holes, that both mimics and mocks a stereotypical "bandit" mask.

ARMOUR: LEATHER ARMOUR
+2 armour bonus, +6 max DEX bonus, -0 Armour Check Penalty, 10% Arcane Spell Failure Chance, LIGHT

SHIELD: BUCKLER
+1 shield bonus, -1 Armour Check Penalty, 5% Arcane Spell Failure Chance
SPECIAL: The character can use his shield arm to wield a weapon, but takes a -1 penalty on attack rolls while doing so, and loses the +1 shield bonus to AC until his next turn. It is not possible to shield bash with a buckler.

EQUIPMENT - POSSESSIONS
Longsword (Fragile) 4lbs, Shortsword 2lbs, Leather Armour 15lbs, Clothing (Mask, 3gp) 1lb, Buckler 5lbs, Dagger 1lb

>BACKPACK, MASTERWORK 4lbs (Capacity 60lbs, +1 STR to carry loads)
Tent (Small, 1 person) 20lbs, Bedroll 5lbs, Kit, Cooking 2lbs

>POUCH, BELT 0.5lbs (Capacity 10lbs)
Flint and Steel, Whetstone 1lb

>POUCH, PATHFINDER 1lbs (Capacity 10lbs)[Extra-Dimensional Space, Command Word Activated, Does Not Detect As Magical]
Tools (Thieves') 1lb, Waterskin 4lbs

TOTAL 59.5lbs (28.5lbs without backpack)

EQUIPMENT - MONEY
3CP, 0SP, 5GP, 0PP
OTHER:

SKILLS
TRAINED
+ACROBATICS +7(2)*, +APPRAISE +5(1), +BLUFF +8(2), +ESCAPE ARTIST +7(2)*, +INTIMIDATE +4(1), +KNOWLEDGE LOCAL +5(1), +PERCEPTION +8(2), +PERFORM(ILL BEATS AND SICK FIRES) +5(2), +SLEIGHT OF HAND +7(2)*, +STEALTH +7(2)*, +USE MAGIC DEVICE +5(2)

UNTRAINED
+CLIMB +2*, +CRAFT +1, +DIPLOMACY +2, +DISGUISE +0, HEAL +1, PERFORM +0, RIDE +2*, +SENSE MOTIVE +1, SURVIVAL +1, +SWIM +2*
(FLY +2*)

*Armour Check Penalty: Skill at –1 due to armour worn.
+Class Skill

FEATS
SKILL FOCUS (BLUFF)
The character is particularly adept at the chosen skill.

RACIAL ABILITIES: AASIMAR
AASIMARS DO NOT COUNT AS OUTSIDERS FOR THE PURPOSE OF THIS SETTING.
DAYLIGHT [SPELL-LIKE ABILITY] (1 USE/DAY) – Aasimars can touch an object and cause it to shed a brilliant light which drives back even magical darkness.
LANGUAGES – Aasimars begin play speaking Common and Celestial. Aasimars with high Intelligence scores can choose any of the following bonus languages: Draconic, Dwarven, High Elven, Gnome, Halfling, and Sylvan.

SPECIAL ABILITIES
GODMARKED
LEVEL 1:
WEAPON PROFICIENCY (BASTARD SWORD)
INSPIRING COMMAND [SUPERNATURAL ABILITY] – The character can issue an inspiring command to his allies, improving their accuracy, defence, and focus for a short time.

CLASS FEATURES
WEAPON AND ARMOUR PROFICIENCY: ROGUE
Rogues are proficient with all simple weapons, plus the hand crossbow, rapier, sap, shortbow, and short sword. They are proficient with light armour, but not with shields.

MARTIAL TRAINING [EXTRAORDINARY ABILITY] (Longsword)
At first level, the swashbuckler may select one martial weapon to add to his list of weapon proficiencies. In addition, he may take the combat trick rogue talent up to two times.

SNEAK ATTACK [EXTRAORDINARY ABILITY] (+1d6 Precision Damage)
A rogue can strike a vital spot for more damage whenever their foe is in a vulnerable position.

EVASION [EXTRAORDINARY ABILITY]
At 2nd level and higher, the rogue can avoid even magical and unusual attacks with great agility.

ROGUE TALENTS
BLEEDING ATTACK [EXTRAORDINARY ABILITY]
A rogue with this ability can cause living opponents to bleed by hitting them with a sneak attack.

* * *

JADE HARLEY DRUID (WOLF SHAMAN) 2
NEUTRAL GOOD

TL:DR – Gained the power to take on aspects of the wolf for short times. Also can move unhindered through pesky vegetation now.

Jade LVL1, For attachment to LODAD fic on AO3.

BASIC STATISTICS
GENDER: Female
HAIR/EYES: Black hair, green eyes
HOMELAND: The Greenweald Forest Region (The Whispering Grove)
DEITY: The Witch of Space
LANGUAGES: Common, High Elven, Sylvan, Druidic
RACE: Tuatha (High Elf)

ATTRIBUTES
STRENGTH: 8[-1]
DEXTERITY: 15[+2]
CONSTITUTION: 12[+1]
INTELLIGENCE: 12[+1]
WISDOM: 15[+2]
CHARISMA: 12[+1]

HIT POINTS: 14/14
HERO POINTS: 1/3
INITIATIVE: +2
BASE SPEED/S: 30ft (land)

ARMOUR CLASS [AC]: 13
TOUCH AC: 12
FLAT-FOOTED AC: 11

BASE ATTACK BONUS [BAB]: +1
BASIC MELEE ATTACK: +0
BASIC RANGED ATTACK: +3
COMBAT MANEUVER BONUS [CMB]: +0
COMBAT MANEUVER DEFENCE [CMD]: 12

SAVES
FORTITUDE: +4
REFLEX: +2
WILL: +5

WEAPONS/ATTACKS
SLING – Less damage from improvised ammunition.
DAGGER - Can be thrown, range 10ft.

EQUIPMENT - CARRYING CAPACITY (STR 16)

EQUIPMENT - ITEM SLOTS
CLOTHING: TRAVELLER'S OUTFIT
This set of clothes consists of boots, a wool skirt, a sturdy belt, a shirt with a vest, and an ample cloak with a hood.

ARMOUR: PADDED ARMOUR
+1 armour bonus, +8 max DEX bonus, -0 Armour Check Penalty, 5% Arcane Spell Failure Chance, LIGHT

SHOULDERS: MULEBACK CORDS
These thick leather cords wrap around the wearer's biceps and shoulders; when worn, they make the muscles appear larger than normal and allow her to carry far more than usual.

EQUIPMENT - POSSESSIONS
Sling, Padded Armour 10lbs, Muleback Cords 0.25lbs, Dagger 1lb, Waterskin 4lbs

>POUCH, BELT 0.5lbs (Capacity 10lbs)
Sling Bullets [x20] 10lbs

>POUCH, BELT 0.5lbs (Capacity 10lbs)
Flint and Steel, Holly and Mistletoe, Fishhook, Silent Whistle

>BACKPACK, COMMON 2lbs (Capacity 60lbs)
Tent (Small, 1 person) 20lbs, Bedroll 5lbs

TOTAL 73.25lbs (26.25lbs without backpack)

EQUIPMENT - MONEY
0CP, 7SP, 50GP, 0PP
OTHER:

SKILLS
TRAINED
+HEAL +8(1), +HANDLE ANIMAL +6(2), +KNOWLEDGE(GEOGRAPHY) +6(2), +KNOWLEDGE(NATURE) +8(2), +PERCEPTION +8(1), +SPELLCRAFT +6(2), +SURVIVAL +11(2)

UNTRAINED
ACROBATICS +2*, APPRAISE +1, BLUFF +1, +CLIMB -1*, +CRAFT +1, DIPLOMACY +1, DISGUISE +1, ESCAPE ARTIST +2*, INTIMIDATE +1, PERFORM +1, +RIDE +2*, SENSE MOTIVE +2, STEALTH +2*, SWIM -1*
(+FLY +2*)

*Armour Check Penalty: Skill at –0 due to armour worn.
+Class Skill

FEATS
SELF-SUFFICIENT
The character knows how to get along in the wild and how to effectively treat wounds.

RACIAL ABILITIES: ELVEN
LANGUAGES - Tuatha begin play speaking Common and High Elven. Tuatha with high Intelligence scores can choose from the following: Celestial, Draconic, Gnoll, Gnome, Goblin, Orc, and Sylvan.

SPECIAL ABILITIES
GODMARKED
LEVEL 1:
WEAPON PROFICIENCY (MUSKET)
DIVINE VESSEL [SUPERNATURAL ABILITY] (4 USES/DAY) – The character can, whenever divine magic is cast on her, grant her nearby allies a boon on one of their next actions.

CLASS FEATURES
WEAPON AND ARMOUR PROFICIENCY: DRUID
Druids are proficient with the following weapons: club, dagger, dart, quarterstaff, scimitar, scythe, sickle, shortspear, sling, and spear. They are also proficient with all natural attacks (claw, bite, and so forth) of any form they assume with wild shape.
Druids are proficient with light and medium armour but are prohibited from wearing metal armour. Druids are proficient with shields (except tower shields) but must use only wooden ones. A druid who wears prohibited armour or uses a prohibited shield is unable to cast druid spells or use any supernatural or spell-like class abilities while doing so, and for 24 hours thereafter.

SPONTANEOUS CASTING
A druid can channel stored spell energy to summon a creature to aid her.

NATURE BOND [EXTRAORDINARY ABILITY]: ANIMAL COMPANION (BEC, WOLF)
HIT POINTS: 15/15
SIZE: Medium SPEED: 50ft
STR 13[+1], DEX 15[+2], CON 15[+2], INT 2[-4], WIS 12[+1], CHA 6[-2]
ATTACK:
BAB: +2 ATTACK: BITE +3 (1d6+1), trip
CMB: +3
DEFENCE:
AC: 16 (Natural Armour +3)
CMD: 15
SAVES: FORT 5, REF 5, WILL 2
SKILLS:
Survival 2, Perception 5, Intimidate -1
FEATS:
Improved Natural Armour, Dodge
TRICKS:
Down – The animal breaks off from combat or otherwise backs down.
SPECIAL ABILITIES:
Low-Light Vision, Scent, Link, Share Spells

NATURE SENSE [EXTRAORDINARY ABILITY]
A druid is more knowledgeable about nature and better able to survive in the wilderness.

WILD EMPATHY [EXTRAORDINARY ABILITY]
A druid can communicate wordlessly with an animal, in the hope of making it more friendly towards the druid and her allies. A wolf shaman is particularly good at communicating with canines.

WOODLAND STRIDE [EXTRAORDINARY ABILITY]
Starting at 2nd level, the druid may move through any sort of undergrowth (such as natural thorns, briars, overgrown areas, and similar terrain) at her normal speed.

TOTEM TRANSFORMATION [SUPERNATURAL ABILITY] (2 MINUTES/DAY, STANDARD ACTION)
At 2nd level, the wolf shaman may adopt an aspect of the wolf while retaining her normal form. She gains one of the following bonuses:
>MOVEMENT (+20 enhancement bonus to land speed)
>SENSES (low-light vision, +4 racial bonus to Survival when tracking by scent)
>NATURAL WEAPONS (bite [1d4 plus trip], +2 CMB to trip)
While using totem transformation, the wolf shaman may speak normally and can cast speak with animals (canines only) at will.

SPELLS
DRUID LEVEL 0 [4 Prepared, At Will] Save DC 12
+KNOW DIRECTION – You discern north.
+MENDING – Makes minor repairs on an object.
+SPARK – Ignites flammable objects. +STABILIZE – Cause a dying creature to stabilize.

DRUID LEVEL 1 [3/Day Prepared] Save DC 13
+CURE LIGHT WOUNDS – Cures 1d8 damage +1/level (max +5).
++MAGIC STONE – Three stones gain +1 on attack rolls, deal 1d6+1 damage.

* * *

KARKAT VANTAS FIGHTER (MOBILE FIGHTER) 2
TRUE NEUTRAL

TL:DR – Cool new armour, nasty slave collar. Better with sickles and harder to slow down.

Karkat LVL2, For attachment to LODAD fic on AO3.

BASIC STATISTICS
GENDER: Male
HAIR/EYES: White hair, red eyes
HOMELAND: City of Golgesi (The Shanties)
DEITY: The Knight of Blood
LANGUAGES: Undercommon, High Elven, Drow Sign Language
RACE: Drow (Dark Elf)

ATTRIBUTES
STRENGTH: 14[+2]
DEXTERITY: 17[+3]
CONSTITUTION: 11[+0]
INTELLIGENCE: 12[+1]
WISDOM: 8[-1]
CHARISMA: 12[+1]

HIT POINTS: 15/15
HERO POINTS: 4/5
INITIATIVE: +3
BASE SPEED/S: 30ft (land)

ARMOUR CLASS [AC]: 17
TOUCH AC: 13
FLAT-FOOTED AC: 14

BASE ATTACK BONUS [BAB]: +2
BASIC MELEE ATTACK: +4
BASIC RANGED ATTACK: +5
COMBAT MANEUVER BONUS [CMB]: +4
COMBAT MANEUVER DEFENCE [CMD]: 17

SAVES
FORTITUDE: +3
REFLEX: +3
WILL: -1

WEAPONS/ATTACKS
DUAL SICKLES – Two attacks a round at a reduced attack bonus, or one attack a round at normal attack bonus. This is a trip weapon.
DAGGER - Can be thrown, range 10ft.

EQUIPMENT - CARRYING CAPACITY (STR 14)

EQUIPMENT - ITEM SLOTS
CLOTHING: PERSONAL SLAVE'S OUTFIT
This set of clothes consists of a sleeveless tunic and loose trousers, both made from expensive silken cloth. Comfortable sandals are provided as footwear.

ARMOUR: MASTERWORK MITHRAL CHAIN SHIRT
+4 armour bonus, +6 max DEX bonus, -0 Armour Check Penalty, 10% Arcane Spell Failure Chance, LIGHT
SPECIAL: An item made from mithral weighs half as much as the same item made from other metals. Masterwork armour has an Armour Check Penalty one lower than normal and can be enchanted.

NECK: PERSONAL SLAVE COLLAR
This ornate collar is worked gold, set with a single gemstone carved with the sigil of the wearer's owner. It is magically attached to a pendant worn by the owner. When the wearer of the pendant places a Personal Slave Collar on a subject, the slave cannot remove the collar without the use of a remove curse, limited wish, miracle or wish spell. The wearer of the pendant can also remove a linked slave's collar at any time. Attempting to remove the collar in another fashion, such as through force, causes the collar to explode and do 6d6 points of force damage to the wearer and anyone nearby; any creature other than the wearer within 10 feet may make a Reflex save for half damage. The owner and anyone they specifically instruct do not trigger this effect.

The owner is aware of any wearer of a Personal Slave Collar like a constant status spell (awareness of relative positions and general condition). Additionally, all wearers of linked collars count as familiar to their owner for purposes of spells such as scrying and teleport.

By uttering a particular command word (usually known only to the owner and a few trusted individuals), the collar can be caused to send wracking pain through the wearer's body. The pain causes a -2 penalty to AC, attacks, melee damage rolls, and Reflex saving throws; characters must succeed as a DC 16 concentration check to cast spells. If, however, the wearer spends a move action screaming as loudly as possible they can act without any other penalties for the remainder of their turn. Creatures that cannot scream must suffer the full effect of the spell.

EQUIPMENT - POSSESSIONS
Sickle [x2] 4lbs, Masterwork Mithral Chain Shirt 12.5lbs, Dagger 1lb, Waterskin 4lbs

>BACKPACK, COMMON 2lbs (Capacity 60lbs)
Blanket (Common) 1lb, Rations (Trail) [x18] 18lb, Pesh Dose [x1], Compass 0.5lbs, Map [+1 circumstance bonus on Knowledge Dungeoneering checks made to navigate to the surface from Golgesi] 2lbs

>POUCH, BELT 0.5lbs (Capacity 10lbs)
Flint and Steel, Charcoal Stick [x2], Whetstone 1lb

TOTAL 47.5lbs (19lbs without backpack)

EQUIPMENT - MONEY
0CP, 0SP, 0GP, 0PP
OTHER:

SKILLS
TRAINED
ACROBATICS +5(2)*, +CLIMB +6(1)*, +INTIMIDATE +5(1), KNOWLEDGE(LOCAL) +1(1), PERCEPTION +2(1), SENSE MOTIVE +1(2)

UNTRAINED
APPRAISE +0, BLUFF +1, +CRAFT +0, DIPLOMACY +1, DISGUISE +1, ESCAPE ARTIST +3*, HEAL -1, PERFORM +1, +RIDE +3*, STEALTH +3*, +SURVIVAL -1, +SWIM +2*
(FLY +3*)

*Armour Check Penalty: Skill at –0 due to armour worn.
+Class Skill

FEATS
COMBAT REFLEXES
The character can make additional attacks of opportunity.

RACIAL ABILITIES: DROW
DANCING LIGHTS [SPELL-LIKE ABILITY] (1 USE/DAY) – Drow can create up to four illusory lights and direct their motion.
DARKNESS [SPELL-LIKE ABILITY] (1 USE/DAY) – Drow can touch an object and cause it to radiate a deep darkness that dims even magical light.
FAERIE FIRE [SPELL-LIKE ABILITY] (1 USE/DAY) – Drow can cause a person to glow with a pale fire that clings to them even if they are not otherwise visible.
LANGUAGES - Drow begin play speaking Undercommon and High Elven. Drow with high Intelligence can choose bonus languages from the following: Common, Dark Folk, Draconic, Drow Sign Language, Dwarven, Gnome, Goblin or Infernal.

SPECIAL ABILITIES
GODMARKED
LEVEL 1:
HERO’S FORTUNE - Even at the start of his career, it was clear that the character had a chance at greatness, and his legend continues to grow with every adventure.
INSPIRING COMMAND [SUPERNATURAL ABILITY] – The character can issue an inspiring command to his allies, improving their accuracy, defence, and focus for a short time.

CLASS FEATURES
WEAPON AND ARMOUR PROFICIENCY: FIGHTER
A fighter is proficient with all simple and martial weapons and with all armour (heavy, light, and medium) and shields (including tower shields).

FEAT: TWO-WEAPON FIGHTING [REQUIRES: DEX 15]
The fighter can fight with a weapon wielded in each of his hands. He can make one extra attack each round with the secondary weapon.

FEAT: WEAPON FOCUS (SICKLE) [REQUIRES: WEAPON PROFICIENCY, BAB +1]
The fighter gains a bonus on all attack rolls he makes using the selected weapon.

AGILITY (+1) [EXTRAORDINARY ABILITY]
At 2nd level, the mobile fighter gains a bonus on saving throws made against effects that cause him to become paralysed, slowed, or entangled.

* * *

GAMZEE MAKARA BARBARIAN 2
CHAOTIC NEUTRAL

TL:DR – Can now freak people the fuck out while raging. Is now impossible to ambush.

Gamzee LVL2, For attachment to LODAD fic on AO3.

BASIC STATISTICS
GENDER: Male
HAIR/EYES: White hair, purple eyes
HOMELAND: City of Golgesi (House Kutsanmis Enclave)
DEITY: The Bard of Rage
LANGUAGES: Undercommon, High Elven
RACE: Drow (Dark Elf)

ATTRIBUTES
STRENGTH: 14[+2] (18[+4])
WITHDRAWAL: 12(16): -1 to all STR
DEXTERITY: 15[+2]
PESH HIGH: 11: -2 to all DEX
CONSTITUTION: 13[+1] (17[+3])
WITHDRAWAL: 11(15): -1 to all CON
INTELLIGENCE: 8[-1]
WISDOM: 12[+1]
PESH HIGH: 8: -2 to all WIS
CHARISMA: 12[+1]

HIT POINTS: 21(25)/21(25) [+15 PESH HIGH- FIRST HOUR ONLY]
HERO POINTS: 2/3
INITIATIVE: +2
BASE SPEED/S: 40ft (land)

ARMOUR CLASS [AC]: 15(13)
TOUCH AC: 12(10)
FLAT-FOOTED AC: 13(11)

BASE ATTACK BONUS [BAB]: +2
BASIC MELEE ATTACK: +4(6)
BASIC RANGED ATTACK: +4
COMBAT MANEUVER BONUS [CMB]: +4(6)
COMBAT MANEUVER DEFENCE [CMD]: 16(18)

SAVES
FORTITUDE: +3(5) CURRENT PESH ADDICTION DC: 20
REFLEX: +2
WILL: +3(5) PESH HIGH: +2 morale bonus versus fear effects.

WEAPONS/ATTACKS
IMPROVISED WEAPONS – Attack as per basic ranged or melee attack, and damage as per closest match on the weapon list. There is a +1 circumstance bonus to attack rolls for improvised splash weapons.
CROSSBOW, LIGHT – 10 ammunition

EQUIPMENT - CARRYING CAPACITY (STR 14/18)

EQUIPMENT - ITEM SLOTS
CLOTHING: NOBLE'S OUTFIT
These clothes are designed specifically to be expensive and gaudy. Precious metals and gems are worked into the clothing. A would-be noble also needs a signet ring and jewellery to accessorise this outfit.

ARMOUR: HOUSE KUTSANMIS PARADE ARMOUR
+3 armour bonus, +5 max DEX bonus, -1 Armour Check Penalty, 15% Arcane Spell Failure Chance, LIGHT
SPECIAL: A character wearing a country's parade armour gains a +2 Circumstance bonus to Diplomacy and Intimidate checks to influence a person from that country.

EQUIPMENT - POSSESSIONS
Crossbow (Light) 4lbs, Bolts (Crossbow) [x10] 1lb, Parade Armour 20lbs

>BACKPACK, COMMON 2lbs (Capacity 60lbs)
Blanket, Common 1lb, Pesh Dose [x12], Harlot Sweets [x3], Shiver [x1], Opium [x1], Potion of Lesser Restoration [x1], Potion of Cure Light Wounds [x4], Wound Paste [x5] 0.5lbs

TOTAL 28.5lbs (25lbs without backpack)

EQUIPMENT - MONEY
0CP, 8SP, 1GP, 0PP
OTHER:
[PESH COSTS 20GP/DOSE]

SKILLS
TRAINED
+CRAFT(COOKING) +3(1), +INTIMIDATE +6(2), PERFORM(CHILL RHYMES) +2(1), STEALTH +4(2)*

UNTRAINED
+ACROBATICS +2*, APPRAISE -1, BLUFF +1, +CLIMB +2*, +CRAFT +0, DIPLOMACY +1, DISGUISE +1, ESCAPE ARTIST +2*, HEAL +1, +PERCEPTION +1, PERFORM +1, +RIDE +2*, SENSE MOTIVE +1, +SURVIVAL +1, +SWIM +2*
(FLY +2*)

*Armour Check Penalty: Skill at –1 due to armour worn
+Class Skill

FEATS
THROW ANYTHING
The character is used to throwing things he has on hand.

RACIAL ABILITIES: DROW
DANCING LIGHTS [SPELL-LIKE ABILITY] (1 USE/DAY) – Drow can create up to four illusory lights and direct their motion.
DARKNESS [SPELL-LIKE ABILITY] (1 USE/DAY) – Drow can touch an object and cause it to radiate a deep darkness that dims even magical light.
FAERIE FIRE [SPELL-LIKE ABILITY] (1 USE/DAY) – Drow can cause a person to glow with a pale fire that clings to them even if they are not otherwise visible.
LANGUAGES - Drow begin play speaking Undercommon and High Elven. Drow with high Intelligence can choose bonus languages from the following: Common, Dark Folk, Draconic, Drow Sign Language, Dwarven, Gnome, Goblin or Infernal.

SPECIAL ABILITIES
PESH ADDICTIONADVENTURER'S ARMOURY VERSION
A Pesh high lasts for one day. For the first hour, the character is tougher, and for the full day he is braver, but he is also uncoordinated, unfocused, and mentally pliable. When the character comes down from this high, he suffers physical weakness and fragility. Curing the addiction without magical intervention is a long and difficult process, requiring good physical health and complete abstinence.

GODMARKED
LEVEL 1:
CATCH OFF-GUARD: Foes are surprised by the character’s skilled use of unorthodox and improvised weapons.
DESTRUCTIVE SMITE [SUPERNATURAL ABILITY] (4 USES/DAY)– The character can do more damage on a single melee attack, dependent on his character level.

CLASS FEATURES
WEAPON AND ARMOUR PROFICIENCY: BARBARIAN
A barbarian is proficient with all simple and martial weapons, light armour, medium armour and shields (except tower shields).

FAST MOVEMENT [EXTRAORDINARY ABILITY]
A barbarian can move faster than other members of his race, so long as he is not heavily burdened.

RAGE [EXTRAORDINARY ABILITY] (7 ROUNDS/DAY)
A barbarian can call on inner reserves of strength and ferocity, granting him additional combat prowess for a while but exhausting him when spent.

RAGE POWERS
INTIMIDATING GLARE [EXTRAORDINARY ABILITY]
While raging, the barbarian can make an Intimidate check against one adjacent foe and attempt to leave them shaken.

UNCANNY DODGE [EXTRAORDINARY ABILITY]
At 2nd level, the barbarian gains the ability to react to danger before his senses would normally allow him to do so.

* * *

TEREZI PYROPE INQUISITOR 2
LAWFUL NEUTRAL

TL:DR – Faster off the mark when trouble starts, better at tracking suspects and can now tell alignment (ie: read your basic nature) at a glance.

Terezi LVL1, For attachment to LODAD fic on AO3.

BASIC STATISTICS
GENDER: Female
HAIR/EYES: White hair, teal eyes
HOMELAND: City of Golgesi (Temple Spire)
DEITY: The Seer of Mind
LANGUAGES: Undercommon, High Elven, Infernal
RACE: Drow (Dark Elf)

ATTRIBUTES
STRENGTH: 10[+0]
DEXTERITY: 15[+2]
CONSTITUTION: 12[+1]
INTELLIGENCE: 12[+1]
WISDOM: 15[+2]
CHARISMA: 10[+0]

HIT POINTS: 15/15
HERO POINTS: 3/5
INITIATIVE: +4
BASE SPEED/S: 30ft (land)

ARMOUR CLASS [AC]: 15
TOUCH AC: 12
FLAT-FOOTED AC: 13

BASE ATTACK BONUS [BAB]: +1
BASIC MELEE ATTACK: +1
BASIC RANGED ATTACK: +3
COMBAT MANEUVER BONUS [CMB]: +1
COMBAT MANEUVER DEFENCE [CMD]: 13

SAVES
FORTITUDE: +4
REFLEX: +2
WILL: +5

WEAPONS/ATTACKS
INCORRUPTIBLE (SILVERSHEEN SWORD CANE) - A more accurate but less damaging weapon, all but immune to rusting away. SWORD CANE - The blade is well-concealed in the cane.
CROSSBOW, LIGHT – 20 ammunition
DAGGER - Can be thrown, range 10ft.

EQUIPMENT - CARRYING CAPACITY (STR 10)

EQUIPMENT - ITEM SLOTS
CLOTHING: EXPLORER'S OUTFIT
This set of clothes is for someone who never knows what to expect. It includes sturdy boots, leather breeches, a belt, a shirt, gloves and a cloak. The clothes have plenty of pockets (especially the cloak). The outfit also includes any extra accessories the character might need, such as a scarf or a wide-brimmed hat.

ARMOUR: GOLGESI LAWKEEPER PARADE ARMOUR
+3 armour bonus, +5 max DEX bonus, -1 Armour Check Penalty, 15% Arcane Spell Failure Chance, LIGHT
SPECIAL: A character wearing a country's parade armour gains a +2 Circumstance bonus to Diplomacy and Intimidate checks to influence a person from that country.

EQUIPMENT - POSSESSIONS
Incorruptible (Silversheen Sword Cane) 4lbs, Crossbow (Light) 4lbs, Bolts (Crossbow) [x20] 2lb, Parade Armour 20lbs, Eyeglasses, Holy Symbol (Copper) 0.5lb, Dagger 1lb

>BACKPACK, COMMON 2lbs (Capacity 60lbs)
Rope (Hemp) [50ft] 10lbs, Karkat's Tattered Journal 3lbs, Sword Cane 4lbs, Manacles 2lbs

>POUCH, BELT 0.5lbs (Capacity 10lbs)
Flint and Steel, Whetstone 1lb, Bandages of Rapid Recovery 1lb

TOTAL 53.5lbs (32lbs without backpack)

EQUIPMENT - MONEY
8CP, 9SP, 3GP, 0PP
OTHER:

SKILLS
TRAINED
+BLUFF +5(2), +DIPLOMACY +5(2), +INTIMIDATE +6(2), +KNOWLEDGE DUNGEONEERING +5(1), +KNOWLEDGE LOCAL +5(1), +KNOWLEDGE RELIGION +6(2), +PERCEPTION +7(2), +PROFESSION(GOLGESI LAWKEEPER) +6(1), +SENSE MOTIVE +8(2)

UNTRAINED
ACROBATICS +2*, APPRAISE +1, +CLIMB +0*, +CRAFT +1, +DISGUISE +0, ESCAPE ARTIST +2*, +HEAL +2, PERFORM +0, +RIDE +2*, STEALTH +2*, SURVIVAL +2, SWIM +0*
(FLY +2*)

*Armour Check Penalty: Skill at –1 due to armour worn.
+Class Skill

FEATS
BLIND-FIGHT
The character is skilled at attacking opponents that she cannot clearly perceive.

RACIAL ABILITIES: DROW
DANCING LIGHTS [SPELL-LIKE ABILITY] (1 USE/DAY) – Drow can create up to four illusory lights and direct their motion.
DARKNESS [SPELL-LIKE ABILITY] (1 USE/DAY) – Drow can touch an object and cause it to radiate a deep darkness that dims even magical light.
FAERIE FIRE [SPELL-LIKE ABILITY] (1 USE/DAY) – Drow can cause a person to glow with a pale fire that clings to them even if they are not otherwise visible.
LANGUAGES - Drow begin play speaking Undercommon and High Elven. Drow with high Intelligence can choose bonus languages from the following: Common, Dark Folk, Draconic, Drow Sign Language, Dwarven, Gnome, Goblin or Infernal.

SPECIAL ABILITIES
GODMARKED
LEVEL 1:
HERO’S FORTUNE - Even at the start of her career, it was clear that the character had a chance at greatness, and her legend continues to grow with every adventure.
LORE KEEPER [SPELL-LIKE ABILITY] – The character can touch a creature to learn about its abilities and weaknesses.
EXTRA – The character treats all Knowledge skills as class skills.

CLASS FEATURES
WEAPON AND ARMOUR PROFICIENCY: INQUISITOR
An inquisitor is proficient with all simple weapons, plus the hand crossbow, longbow, repeating crossbow, shortbow, and the favoured weapon of her deity (THE SEER OF MIND favours the SWORD CANE). She is also proficient with light armour, medium armour, and shields (except tower shields).

DOMAIN: INQUISITION (Justice)
JUDICIOUS FORCE [SUPERNATURAL ABILITY] (2 USES/DAY)
The inquisitor or an ally next to her has a better chance of doing a massively damaging strike to their foe.

JUDGEMENT [SUPERNATURAL ABILITY] (1 USE/DAY)
The inquisitor can gain one of several abilities for a combat, so long as she is able to participate in the action. She can also switch which ability she is using partway through.

MONSTER LORE [EXTRAORDINARY ABILITY]
The inquisitor is skilled at identifying the abilities and weaknesses of creatures.

STERN GAZE [EXTRAORDINARY ABILITY]
Inquisitors are skilled at sensing deception and intimidating their foes.

DETECT ALIGNMENT [SPELL-LIKE ABILITY]
At will, the inquisitor can use detect chaos, detect evil, detect good or detect law. She can only use one of these at any given time.

TRACK [EXTRAORDINARY ABILITY]
At 2nd level, the inquisitor adds half her level on Survival skill checks made to follow or identify tracks.

SPELLS
LEVEL 0 [At Will] Save DC 12
BRAND, DETECT MAGIC, DETECT POISON, SIFT, STABILIZE

LEVEL 1 [3/Day] Save DC 13
COMPREHEND LANGUAGES, DIVINE FAVOUR, PERSUASIVE GOAD

* * *

SOLLUX CAPTOR SORCERER - ARCANE (SAGE)/DESTINED (KARMIC) (CROSSBLOODED WORDCASTER) 2
CHAOTIC NEUTRAL

TL:DR – Learned another magical power and got some magic gauntlets that protect him. Slightly.

Sollux LVL1, For attachment to LODAD fic on AO3.

BASIC STATISTICS
GENDER: Male
HAIR/EYES: White hair, one red and one blue eye
HOMELAND: The Greenweald Forest Region (No Fixed Abode)
DEITY: The Mage of Doom
LANGUAGES: Common, High Elven, Orc, Infernal, Undercommon
RACE: Halfbreed (Drow/Tiefling)

ATTRIBUTES
STRENGTH: 12[+1]
DEXTERITY: 14[+2]
CONSTITUTION: 13[+1]
INTELLIGENCE: 17[+3]
WISDOM: 8[-1]
CHARISMA: 10[+0]

HIT POINTS: 13/13
HERO POINTS: 2/3
INITIATIVE: +2
BASE SPEED/S: 30ft (land)

ARMOUR CLASS [AC]: 13
TOUCH AC: 12
FLAT-FOOTED AC: 11

BASE ATTACK BONUS [BAB]: +1
BASIC MELEE ATTACK: +2
BASIC RANGED ATTACK: +3
COMBAT MANEUVER BONUS [CMB]: +2
COMBAT MANEUVER DEFENCE [CMD]: 14

SAVES
FORTITUDE: +1
REFLEX: +2
WILL: +2

WEAPONS/ATTACKS
SHURIKEN - 5 Ammunition

EQUIPMENT - CARRYING CAPACITY (STR 13)

EQUIPMENT - ITEM SLOTS
CLOTHING: EXPLORER'S OUTFIT
This set of clothes is for someone who never knows what to expect. It includes sturdy boots, leather breeches, a belt, a shirt with a jacket, gloves and a cloak. The clothes have plenty of pockets (especially the cloak). The outfit also includes any extra accessories the character might need, such as a scarf or a wide-brimmed hat.

WRISTS: BRACERS OF ARMOUR +1
These items appear to be wrist or arm guards. They surround the wearer with an invisible but tangible field of force, granting him an armour bonus of +1, just as though he were wearing armour. Both bracers must be worn for the magic to be effective.

EQUIPMENT - POSSESSIONS
Shuriken [x5] 0.5lb, Bracers of Armour +1 1lb, Eyeglasses

>BACKPACK, MASTERWORK 4lbs (Capacity 60lbs, +1 STR to carry loads)
Tent (Medium, 2 people) 30lbs, Bedroll [x2] 10lbs

TOTAL 45.5lbs (1.5lbs without backpack)

EQUIPMENT - MONEY
0CP, 8SP, 13GP, 0PP
OTHER:

SKILLS
TRAINED
APPRAISE +5(2), +KNOWLEDGE ARCANA +10(2), +KNOWLEDGE DUNGEONEERING +7(1), +KNOWLEDGE HISTORY +7(1), +SPELLCRAFT +10(2), +USE MAGIC DEVICE +6(2)

UNTRAINED
+ACROBATICS +2*, +BLUFF -1, CLIMB +1*, +CRAFT +3, DIPLOMACY +0, DISGUISE +0, ESCAPE ARTIST +2*, HEAL -1, +INTIMIDATE +0, PERCEPTION -1, PERFORM +0, RIDE +2*, SENSE MOTIVE +0, STEALTH +0*, SURVIVAL -1, SWIM +1*
(+FLY +2*)

*Armour Check Penalty: Skill at –0 due to armour worn.
+Class Skill

FEATS
EXTRA WORD [CASTER LEVEL 1ST IN BARD, ORACLE OR SORCERER]
The character has uncovered a new word of power.

RACIAL ABILITIES: HALF-ELF (ALTERNATE RACIAL TRAITS)
ATTRIBUTE SHIFT - +2 Intelligence.
DROW-BLOODED – Replaces Low-Light Vision.
ELVEN IMMUNITIES.
MIXED BLOOD – The character counts as both Drow and Tiefling for any effect related to race. Replaces Elf Blood.
WARY – Replaces Keen Senses.
DUAL MINDED – Replaces Adaptability.
ARCANE TRAINING – Replaces Multitalented.
LANGUAGES – Halfbreeds begin play speaking Common and High Elven. Halfbreeds with high Intelligence scores can choose any language as a bonus language (except secret languages, such as Druidic).

SPECIAL ABILITIES
GODMARKED
LEVEL 1:
WEAPON PROFICIENCY (SHURIKEN)
ARCANE BEACON [SUPERNATURAL ABILITY] (3 USES/DAY) – The character can emanate an aura that makes spells cast near him more powerful and harder to resist.

CLASS FEATURES
WEAPON AND ARMOUR PROFICIENCY: SORCERER
Sorcerers are proficient with all simple weapons. They are not proficient with any type of armour or shield. Armour interferes with a sorcerer's gestures, which can cause his spells with somatic components to fail.

FEAT: ESCHEW MATERIALS
The character can cast many spells without needing to utilize minor material components.

BLOODLINE: CROSSBLOODED SAGE/KARMIC
CLASS SKILL: Knowledge (Any One: Dungeoneering) and Knowledge History.
BLOODLINE ARCANA: Unlike most sorcerers, the character understands and masters his magic through intellect rather than force of personality, and has a better understanding of arcane forces as a result. Additionally, if he fails to cast when under threat, the creature that disrupted his concentration is left vulnerable to attack.
DRAWBACK: A crossblooded sorcerer has one fewer spell known at each level, and is weaker willed.
BLOODLINE POWERS:
1. ARCANE BOLT [SPELL-LIKE ABILITY] (6 USES/DAY): The sorcerer can unleash a ray of magical force as an attack, increasing in power dependant on the sorcerer's class level.

SPELLS: WORDS OF POWER

LEVEL 0 [At Will] Save DC 13
One Effect Word Only (Level 0)

LEVEL 1 [5/Day] Save DC 14
One Effect Word Only (Level 1 or lower)

EFFECT WORDS
FLAME JET (Fire 0), LIFT (Gravity 0), FORCE BLOCK (Armor 0)
BURNING FLASH (Fire 1), GLIDE (Flight 1)

TARGET WORDS
CONE (Target 0), PERSONAL (Target 0), SELECTED (Target 0)
BURST (Target 1), LINE (Target 1)
BARRIER (Target 3)

META WORDS
(NOTE: META WORDS CAN ONLY BE USED ½ WORDCASTER LEVEL TIMES PER DAY)
BOOST (Meta 0), DISTANT (Meta 0)

* * *

ARADIA MEGIDO SORCERER - DREAMSPUN 2
TRUE NEUTRAL

TL:DR – Another basic spell. Not much change overall.

Aradia LVL1, For attachment to LODAD fic on AO3.

BASIC STATISTICS
GENDER: Female
HAIR/EYES: Black hair, red eyes
HOMELAND: The Greenweald Forest Region (No Fixed Abode)
DEITY: The Maid of Time
LANGUAGES: Common, Infernal, Orc, High Elven
RACE: Tiefling

ATTRIBUTES
STRENGTH: 8[-1]
DEXTERITY: 12[+1]
CONSTITUTION: 12[+1]
INTELLIGENCE: 15[+2]
WISDOM: 14[+2]
CHARISMA: 13[+1] (15[+2])

HIT POINTS: 11/11
HERO POINTS: 2/3
INITIATIVE: +1
BASE SPEED/S: 30ft (land)

ARMOUR CLASS [AC]: 11
TOUCH AC: 11
FLAT-FOOTED AC: 10

BASE ATTACK BONUS [BAB]: +1
BASIC MELEE ATTACK: +0
BASIC RANGED ATTACK: +2
COMBAT MANEUVER BONUS [CMB]: +0
COMBAT MANEUVER DEFENCE [CMD]: 11

SAVES
FORTITUDE: +1
REFLEX: +1
WILL: +5

WEAPONS/ATTACKS
WHIP - This is a nonlethal, reach, disarm, trip weapon. A whip deals no damage to any creature with an armour bonus of +1 or higher, or a natural armour bonus of +3 or higher. Using a whip provokes an attack of opportunity, just as if the character had used a ranged weapon.

EQUIPMENT - CARRYING CAPACITY (STR 8)

EQUIPMENT - ITEM SLOTS
CLOTHING: EXPLORER'S OUTFIT
This set of clothes is for someone who never knows what to expect. It includes sturdy boots, leather skirt, a belt, a shirt with a vest, gloves and a cloak. The clothes have plenty of pockets (especially the cloak). The outfit also includes any extra accessories the character might need, such as a scarf or a wide-brimmed hat.

EQUIPMENT - POSSESSIONS
Whip 2lbs, Waterskin 4lbs

>POUCH, BELT 0.5lbs (Capacity 10lbs)
Rope (Silk) [50ft] 5lbs, String/Twine [50ft] 0.5lbs, Sewing Needle, Compass 0.5lbs, Kit (Map Making) [Anyone using this kit to draw a map as they travel receives a +2 circumstance bonus on Survival skill checks to avoid becoming lost] 2lbs, Wayfinder 1lb, Bird Feather Token [x1], Swan Boat Feather Token [x1]

>POUCH, BELT 0.5lbs (Capacity 10lbs)
Kit (Cooking) 2lbs
Rations (Wandermeal) [x14] [Eating this tough, dried cake for over a week without other nutrients causes the eater to feel ill] 7lbs

TOTAL 25lbs

EQUIPMENT - MONEY
3CP, 3SP, 39GP, 0PP
OTHER:

SKILLS
TRAINED
+ACROBATICS +5(1)*, CLIMB +0(1)*, KNOWLEDGE DUNGEONEERING +4(2), KNOWLEDGE HISTORY +4(2), SURVIVAL +3(1), SWIM +0(1)*, +USE MAGIC DEVICE +6(2)

UNTRAINED
APPRAISE +2, +BLUFF +1, +CRAFT +2, DIPLOMACY +1, DISGUISE +1, ESCAPE ARTIST +1*, HEAL +2, +INTIMIDATE +1, PERCEPTION +2, PERFORM +1, RIDE +1*, +SENSE MOTIVE +2, STEALTH +1*
(+FLY +1*)

*Armour Check Penalty: Skill at –0 due to armour worn.
+Class Skill

FEATS
COMBAT CASTING
The character is adept at spellcasting when threatened or distracted.

RACIAL ABILITIES: TIEFLING
TIEFLINGS DO NOT COUNT AS OUTSIDERS FOR THE PURPOSE OF THIS SETTING.
SORCEROUS GIFT - Tiefling sorcerers treat their Charisma score as 2 points higher for all sorcerer class abilities.
DARKNESS [SPELL-LIKE ABILITY] (1 USE/DAY) – Tieflings can touch an object and cause it to radiate a deep darkness that dims even magical light.
LANGUAGES - Tieflings begin play speaking Common and either Abyssal or Infernal. Tieflings with high Intelligence scores can choose any of the following bonus languages: Abyssal, Draconic, Dwarven, High Elven, Gnome, Goblin, Halfling, Infernal, and Orc.

SPECIAL ABILITIES
GODMARKED
LEVEL 1:
WEAPON PROFICIENCY (WHIP)
BINDING TIES [SUPERNATURAL ABILITY] (4 USES/DAY) – The character can temporarily take the suffering as an ally onto herself, rendering them temporarily immune to the condition for a short time dependent on her character level.

CLASS FEATURES
WEAPON AND ARMOUR PROFICIENCY: SORCERER
Sorcerers are proficient with all simple weapons. They are not proficient with any type of armour or shield. Armour interferes with a sorcerer's gestures, which can cause her spells with somatic components to fail.

FEAT: ESCHEW MATERIALS
The character can cast many spells without needing to utilize minor material components.

BLOODLINE: DREAMSPUN
CLASS SKILL: Sense Motive.
BLOODLINE ARCANA: Whenever the character targets a single creature with a spell, she is briefly better protected against attacks made by that foe.
BLOODLINE POWERS:
1. LULLABY [SPELL-LIKE ABILITY] (5 USES/DAY): The character can make another creature drowsy, rendering them less perceptive and more susceptible to sleep magic.

SPELLS
LEVEL 0 [At Will] Save DC 12
DETECT MAGIC, MAGE HAND, MESSAGE, PRESTIDIGITATION, RAY OF FROST

LEVEL 1 [5/Day] Save DC 13
UNSEEN SERVANT, SLEEP

* * *

KANAYA MARYAM CLERIC 2
TRUE NEUTRAL

TL:DR – New cloak, not much else.

Kanaya LVL2, For attachment to LODAD fic on AO3.

BASIC STATISTICS
GENDER: Female
HAIR/EYES: White hair, green eyes
HOMELAND: City of Golgesi (Temple Spire)/The Greenweald Forest Region (No Fixed Abode)
DEITY: The Sylph of Space
LANGUAGES: Undercommon, High Elven
RACE: Drow (Dark Elf)

ATTRIBUTES
STRENGTH: 13[+1]
DEXTERITY: 10[+0]
CONSTITUTION: 12[+1]
INTELLIGENCE: 10[+0]
WISDOM: 15[+2]
CHARISMA: 14[+2]

HIT POINTS: 14/14
HERO POINTS: 2/5
INITIATIVE: +0
BASE SPEED/S: 30ft (land)

ARMOUR CLASS [AC]: 14
TOUCH AC: 10
FLAT-FOOTED AC: 14

BASE ATTACK BONUS [BAB]: +1
BASIC MELEE ATTACK: +2
BASIC RANGED ATTACK: +1
COMBAT MANEUVER BONUS [CMB]: +2
COMBAT MANEUVER DEFENCE [CMD]: 12

SAVES
FORTITUDE: +5
REFLEX: +1
WILL: +6

WEAPONS/ATTACKS
SAWTOOTH SABRE - This weapon counts as “light" for the purposes of two-weapon fighting.
SHIELD BASH, LIGHT - Treat as “light" for the purposes of two-weapon fighting, and lose shield bonus to AC when used as a weapon.
DAGGER - Can be thrown, range 10ft.

EQUIPMENT - CARRYING CAPACITY (STR 13)

EQUIPMENT - ITEM SLOTS
CLOTHING: EXPLORER'S OUTFIT
This set of clothes is for someone who never knows what to expect. It includes sturdy boots, a leather overtunic over a cloth skirt, a belt, a shirt, gloves and a cloak. The clothes have plenty of pockets (especially the cloak). The outfit also includes any extra accessories the character might need, such as a scarf or a wide-brimmed hat.

ARMOUR: STUDDED LEATHER ARMOUR
+3 armour bonus, +5 max DEX bonus, -1 Armour Check Penalty, 15% Arcane Spell Failure Chance, LIGHT

SHIELD: LIGHT WOODEN SHIELD
+1 shield bonus, -1 Armour Check Penalty, 5% Arcane Spell Failure Chance
SPECIAL: The character can bash an opponent with a light shield. Used this way, a light shield is a martial bludgeoning weapon. For the purpose of penalties on attack rolls, treat a shield as a light weapon. If she uses her shield as a weapon, she loses its AC bonus until her next turn.

SHOULDERS: CLOAK OF RESISTANCE +1
This garment offers magical protection in the form of a +1 resistance bonus on all saving throws.

EQUIPMENT - POSSESSIONS
Sabre (Sawtooth) 2lbs, Studded Leather Armour 20lbs, Shield (Light Wooden) 5lbs, Cloak of Resistance +1 1lb, Eyeglasses, Holy Symbol (Wooden), Dagger 1lb, Waterskin 4lbs

>BACKPACK, COMMON 2lbs (Capacity 60lbs)
Tent (Small, 1 person) 20lbs, Bedroll 5lbs, Kit (Healer's) [This collection of bandages and herbs provides a +2 circumstance bonus on Heal checks. A healer's kit is exhausted after 10 uses] 1lb

>POUCH, BELT 0.5lbs (Capacity 10lbs)
Flint and Steel, Whetstone 1lb, String/Twine [50ft] 0.5lbs, Sewing Needle
Rations (Wandermeal) [x7] [Eating this tough, dried cake for over a week without other nutrients causes the eater to feel ill] 3.5lbs

TOTAL 65.5lbs (37.5lbs without backpack)

EQUIPMENT - MONEY
9CP, 2SP, 13GP, 0PP
OTHER:

SKILLS
TRAINED
+CRAFT(APPAREL) +5(2), +DIPLOMACY +7(2), +HEAL +6(1), +KNOWLEDGE RELIGION +4(1)

UNTRAINED
ACROBATICS +0*, +APPRAISE +0, BLUFF +2, CLIMB +1*, +CRAFT +0, DISGUISE +2, ESCAPE ARTIST +0*, INTIMIDATE +2, PERCEPTION +2, PERFORM +2, RIDE +0*, +SENSE MOTIVE +2, STEALTH +0*, SURVIVAL +2, SWIM +1*
(FLY +0*)

*Armour Check Penalty: Skill at –2 due to armour worn.
+Class Skill

FEATS
SELECTIVE CHANNELING [REQUIRES: CHA 13, CHANNEL ENERGY] (CAN EXCLUDE: 2)
The character can choose whom to affect when she channels energy.

RACIAL ABILITIES: DROW
DANCING LIGHTS [SPELL-LIKE ABILITY] (1 USE/DAY) – Drow can create up to four illusory lights and direct their motion.
DARKNESS [SPELL-LIKE ABILITY] (1 USE/DAY) – Drow can touch an object and cause it to radiate a deep darkness that dims even magical light.
FAERIE FIRE [SPELL-LIKE ABILITY] (1 USE/DAY) – Drow can cause a person to glow with a pale fire that clings to them even if they are not otherwise visible.
LANGUAGES - Drow begin play speaking Undercommon and High Elven. Drow with high Intelligence can choose bonus languages from the following: Common, Dark Folk, Draconic, Drow Sign Language, Dwarven, Gnome, Goblin or Infernal.

SPECIAL ABILITIES
GODMARKED
LEVEL 1:
HERO’S FORTUNE - Even at the start of her career, it was clear that the character had a chance at greatness, and her legend continues to grow with every adventure.
RENEWED STRENGTH [SUPERNATURAL ABILITY] (5 USES/DAY) – The character can cure her allies of exhaustion, fatigue, sickness and nausea with a touch.

CLASS FEATURES
WEAPON AND ARMOUR PROFICIENCY: CLERIC
Clerics are proficient with all simple weapons, light armour, medium armour, and shields (except tower shields). Clerics are also proficient with the favoured weapon of their deities (THE SYLPH OF SPACE favours the SAWTOOTH SABRE).

CHANNEL ENERGY [SUPERNATURAL ABILITY] (5 USES/DAY, DC12)
The cleric can channel positive energy through her holy symbol, choosing to either deal damage to undead creatures or to heal living creatures in a burst of holy power.

SPONTANEOUS CASTING
The cleric can channel stored spell energy into healing spells that she hasn't prepared ahead of time. She can "lose" any prepared spell that is not an orison or domain spell in order to cast any cure spell of the same spell level or lower.

DOMAINS: CHARM (LOVE) AND DEATH (UNDEAD)
DOMAIN POWERS: ADORATION [SUPERNATURAL ABILITY] (5 USES/DAY) – The cleric can attempt to thwart a single physical attack against her person.
DOMAIN POWERS: DEATH'S KISS [SUPERNATURAL ABILITY] (5 USES/DAY) – The cleric can cause a creature to take on some of the traits of the undead with a touch.

SPELLS
CLERIC LEVEL 0 [4 Prepared, At Will] Save DC 12
+MENDING – Makes minor repairs on an object.
+PURIFY FOOD AND DRINK – Purifies 1 cubic ft/level of food or water.
+SPARK – Ignites flammable objects.
+STABILIZE – Cause a dying creature to stabilize.

CLERIC LEVEL 1 [3/Day+1 Prepared] Save DC 13
DOMAIN SPELLS:
CHARM PERSON – Makes one person your friend.
+CAUSE FEAR – One creature of 5HD or less flees for 1d4 rounds.

+ABUNDANT AMMUNITION – Replaces nonmagical ammunition every round.
++BLESS – Allies gain +1 on attack rolls and saves against fear.

* * *

JANE CROCKER RANGER (URBAN RANGER) 2
LAWFUL GOOD

TL:DR – Improved her use of a shield.

Jane LVL2, For attachment to LODAD fic on AO3.

BASIC STATISTICS
GENDER: Female
HAIR/EYES: Black hair, blue eyes
HOMELAND: City of Porthaven (Outer Ring)
DEITY: The Maid of Life
LANGUAGES: Common, High Elven, Celestial, Orc
RACE: Tuatha (High Elf)

ATTRIBUTES
STRENGTH: 15[+2]
DEXTERITY: 15[+2]
CONSTITUTION: 12[+1]
INTELLIGENCE: 10[+0]
WISDOM: 12[+1]
CHARISMA: 10[+0]

HIT POINTS: 18/18
HERO POINTS: 3/5
INITIATIVE: +2
BASE SPEED/S: 30ft (land)

ARMOUR CLASS [AC]: 17
TOUCH AC: 12
FLAT-FOOTED AC: 15

BASE ATTACK BONUS [BAB]: +2
BASIC MELEE ATTACK: +4
BASIC RANGED ATTACK: +4
COMBAT MANEUVER BONUS [CMB]: +4
COMBAT MANEUVER DEFENCE [CMD]: 16

SAVES
FORTITUDE: +4
REFLEX: +5
WILL: +1

WEAPONS/ATTACKS
TRIDENT - This is a brace weapon. Can be thrown, range 10ft.
SHIELD BASH, LIGHT - Treat as “light" for the purposes of two-weapon fighting, and lose shield bonus to AC when used as a weapon.
DAGGER - Can be thrown, range 10ft.

EQUIPMENT - CARRYING CAPACITY (STR 16)

EQUIPMENT - ITEM SLOTS
CLOTHING: ARTISAN'S OUTFIT
This outfit consists of a blouse with buttons, drawstring skirt, shoes, and a neat cloth cap. It also includes a cloth apron for carrying small items such as a money pouch.

ARMOUR: MASTERWORK STUDDED LEATHER
+3 armour bonus, +5 max DEX bonus, 0 Armour Check Penalty, 15% Arcane Spell Failure Chance, LIGHT
SPECIAL: Masterwork armour has an Armour Check Penalty one lower than normal and can be enchanted.

SHIELD: LIGHT STEEL SHIELD
+1 shield bonus, -1 Armour Check Penalty, 5% Arcane Spell Failure Chance
SPECIAL: The character can bash an opponent with a light shield. Used this way, a light shield is a martial bludgeoning weapon. For the purpose of penalties on attack rolls, treat a shield as a light weapon. If she uses her shield as a weapon, she loses its AC bonus until her next turn.

EQUIPMENT - POSSESSIONS
Trident 4lbs, Masterwork Studded Leather 20lbs, Shield (Light Steel) 6lbs, Dagger 1lb, Waterskin 4lbs

>BACKPACK, MASTERWORK 4lbs (Capacity 60lbs, +1 STR to carry loads)
Bedroll 5lbs, Kit (Cooking) 2lbs, Rations (Trail) [x7] 7lb, Parade Armour 20lbs, Elixir of Truth [x1], Elixir of Vision [x1]

>POUCH, BELT 0.5lbs (Capacity 10lbs)
Flint and Steel, Manacles 2lbs, Map [+1 circumstance bonus on Survival checks made to navigate in the Greenweald Forest region] 2lbs

TOTAL 77.5lbs (39.5lbs without backpack)

EQUIPMENT - MONEY
0CP, 9SP, 75GP, 0PP
OTHER:

SKILLS
TRAINED
ACROBATICS +4(2)*, +CRAFT(COOKING) +5(2), DISGUISE +1(1), +KNOWLEDGE LOCAL +5(2), +PERCEPTION +6(2), SENSE MOTIVE +5(1), +STEALTH +7(2)*, +SURVIVAL +5(1)

UNTRAINED
+APPRAISE +0, BLUFF +0, +CLIMB +2*, CRAFT +0, +DIPLOMACY +0, ESCAPE ARTIST +2*, +HEAL +1, +INTIMIDATE +0, PERFORM +0, +RIDE +2*, +SWIM +2*
(FLY +2*)

*Armour Check Penalty: Skill at –0 due to armour worn.
+Class Skill

FEATS
COSMOPOLITAN (APPRAISE AND DIPLOMACY)
Living in large, exotic cities has put the character in touch with many diverse civilizations, cultures, and races.

RACIAL ABILITIES: ELVEN
LANGUAGES - Tuatha begin play speaking Common and High Elven. Tuatha with high Intelligence scores can choose from the following: Celestial, Draconic, Gnoll, Gnome, Goblin, Orc, and Sylvan.

SPECIAL ABILITIES
GODMARKED
LEVEL 1:
HERO’S FORTUNE - Even at the start of her career, it was clear that the character had a chance at greatness, and her legend continues to grow with every adventure.
BINDING TIES [SUPERNATURAL ABILITY] (3 USES/DAY) – The character can temporarily take the suffering as an ally onto herself, rendering them temporarily immune to the condition for a short time dependent on her character level.

CLASS FEATURES
WEAPON AND ARMOUR PROFICIENCY: RANGER
A ranger is proficient with all simple and martial weapons and with light armour, medium armour and shields (except tower shields).

FAVOURED ENEMY [EXTRAORDINARY ABILITY] - HUMANOID (ELF)
A ranger is better at attacking and damaging their favoured enemies. They spot them, track them, lie to them and understand them better, and know more about them than other similar creatures.

TRACK [EXTRAORDINARY ABILITY]
A ranger is better at following or identifying tracks.

WILD EMPATHY [EXTRAORDINARY ABILITY]
A ranger can communicate wordlessly with an animal, in the hope of making it more friendly towards the ranger and her allies.

COMBAT STYLE FEAT: SHIELD FOCUS [REQUIRES: SHIELD PROFICIENCY, BAB +1]
Increase the defensive bonus granted by any shield you are using.

SPELLS
START AT LEVEL 4

* * *

JAKE ENGLISH GUNSLINGER (PISTOLERO) 2
CHAOTIC GOOD

TL:DR – Shiny new armour, nasty slave collar, and he's lost his gun which is a big deal for this class. He is, however, more nimble now when lightly armoured.

Jake LVL2, For attachment to LODAD fic on AO3.

BASIC STATISTICS
GENDER: Male
HAIR/EYES: Black hair, green eyes
HOMELAND: Quartzkin Clanhold
DEITY: The Page of Hope
LANGUAGES: Common, High Elven, Dwarven
RACE: Tuatha (High Elf)

ATTRIBUTES
STRENGTH: 13[+1]
DEXTERITY: 16[+3]
CONSTITUTION: 10[+0]
INTELLIGENCE: 10[+0]
WISDOM: 15[+2]
CHARISMA: 10[+0]

HIT POINTS: 15/15
HERO POINTS: 4/5
INITIATIVE: +3
BASE SPEED/S: 30ft (land)

ARMOUR CLASS [AC]: 18
TOUCH AC: 14
FLAT-FOOTED AC: 14

BASE ATTACK BONUS [BAB]: +2
BASIC MELEE ATTACK: +3
BASIC RANGED ATTACK: +5
COMBAT MANEUVER BONUS [CMB]: +3
COMBAT MANEUVER DEFENCE [CMD]: 16

SAVES
FORTITUDE: +3
REFLEX: +6
WILL: +2

WEAPONS/ATTACKS
CROSSBOW, LIGHT – 20 ammunition

EQUIPMENT - CARRYING CAPACITY (STR 14)

EQUIPMENT - ITEM SLOTS
CLOTHING: PERSONAL SLAVE'S OUTFIT
This set of clothes consists of a sleeveless tunic and loose trousers, both made from expensive silken cloth. Comfortable sandals are provided as footwear.

ARMOUR: MASTERWORK MITHRAL CHAIN SHIRT
+4 armour bonus, +6 max DEX bonus, -0 Armour Check Penalty, 10% Arcane Spell Failure Chance, LIGHT
SPECIAL: An item made from mithral weighs half as much as the same item made from other metals. Masterwork armour has an Armour Check Penalty one lower than normal and can be enchanted.

NECK: PERSONAL SLAVE COLLAR
This ornate collar is worked gold, set with a single gemstone carved with the sigil of the wearer's owner. It is magically attached to a pendant worn by the owner. When the wearer of the pendant places a Personal Slave Collar on a subject, the slave cannot remove the collar without the use of a remove curse, limited wish, miracle or wish spell. The wearer of the pendant can also remove a linked slave's collar at any time. Attempting to remove the collar in another fashion, such as through force, causes the collar to explode and do 6d6 points of force damage to the wearer and anyone nearby; any creature other than the wearer within 10 feet may make a Reflex save for half damage. The owner and anyone they specifically instruct do not trigger this effect.

The owner is aware of any wearer of a Personal Slave Collar like a constant status spell (awareness of relative positions and general condition). Additionally, all wearers of linked collars count as familiar to their owner for purposes of spells such as scrying and teleport.

By uttering a particular command word (usually known only to the owner and a few trusted individuals), the collar can be caused to send wracking pain through the wearer's body. The pain causes a -2 penalty to AC, attacks, melee damage rolls, and Reflex saving throws; characters must succeed as a DC 16 concentration check to cast spells. If, however, the wearer spends a move action screaming as loudly as possible they can act without any other penalties for the remainder of their turn. Creatures that cannot scream must suffer the full effect of the spell.

EQUIPMENT - POSSESSIONS
Crossbow (Light) 4lbs, Bolts (Crossbow) [x20] 2lb, Masterwork Mithral Chain Shirt 12.5lbs, Dagger 1lb, Waterskin 4lbs

>BACKPACK, MASTERWORK 4lbs (Capacity 60lbs, +1 STR to carry loads)
Tent (Small, 1 person) 20lbs, Bedroll 5lbs, Kit (Cooking) 2lbs, Rations (Trail) [x4] 4lb

>POUCH, BELT 0.5lbs (Capacity 10lbs)
Flint and Steel, Compass 0.5lbs

TOTAL 59.5lbs (24.5lbs without backpack)

EQUIPMENT - MONEY
0CP, 0SP, 0GP, 0PP
OTHER:

SKILLS
TRAINED
+ACROBATICS +7(1)*, +CLIMB +5(1)*, +CRAFT(ALCHEMY) +5(2), KNOWLEDGE DUNGEONEERING +2(2), LINGUISTICS +1(1), +SURVIVAL +6(1), USE MAGIC DEVICE +1(1)

UNTRAINED
APPRAISE +0, +BLUFF +0, CRAFT +0, DIPLOMACY +0, DISGUISE +0, ESCAPE ARTIST +3*, +HEAL +2, +INTIMIDATE +0, +PERCEPTION +2, PERFORM +0, +RIDE +3*, SENSE MOTIVE +2, STEALTH +3*, +SWIM +1*
(FLY +3*)

*Armour Check Penalty: Skill at –0 due to armour worn.
+Class Skill

FEATS
RAPID RELOAD (PISTOL) [REQUIRES: WEAPON PROFICIENCY]
The character can reload pistols quickly.

RACIAL ABILITIES: ELVEN
LANGUAGES - Tuatha begin play speaking Common and High Elven. Tuatha with high Intelligence scores can choose from the following: Celestial, Draconic, Gnoll, Gnome, Goblin, Orc, and Sylvan.

SPECIAL ABILITIES
GODMARKED
LEVEL 1:
HERO’S FORTUNE - Even at the start of his career, it was clear that the character had a chance at greatness, and his legend continues to grow with every adventure.
HONOR BOUND [SUPERNATURAL ABILITY] (3 USES/DAY) – The character can, with a touch, remind a creature of its duties and responsibilities and help them shake off an enchantment or compulsion. He can also attempt to shake off effects of this nature that have affected him.

CLASS FEATURES
WEAPON AND ARMOUR PROFICIENCY: GUNSLINGER (PISTOLERO)
Pistoleros are proficient with all simple and martial weapons, and with one-handed firearms. They are proficient with all light armour.

GUNSMITH (PISTOLERO)
A gunslinger has a battered pistol, which only he knows how to properly use. To anyone else, the gun seems to be broken.

FEAT: GUNSMITHING
The character knows the secrets of repairing and restoring firearms.

GRIT [EXTRAORDINARY ABILITY] (2/2)
Gunslingers make their mark upon the world with their grit, which they use to accomplish daring deeds (see below).

DEEDS
1. UP CLOSE AND DEADLY [EXTRAORDINARY ABILITY]
2. GUNSLINGER'S DODGE [EXTRAORDINARY ABILITY]
3. QUICK CLEAR [EXTRAORDINARY ABILITY]

NIMBLE [EXTRAORDINARY ABILITY] (+1)
Starting at 2nd level, the gunslinger gains a +1 dodge bonus to AC while wearing light or no armour.

* * *

ROXY LALONDE WIZARD 1 / ROGUE 1
CHAOTIC GOOD

TL:DR – Took a level of Rogue, so gained sneak attack and the ability to disable traps along with a bucketload of skill points. This does, however, make her terrible at hitting things in melee.

Roxy LVL2, For attachment to LODAD fic on AO3.

BASIC STATISTICS
GENDER: Female
HAIR/EYES: Blonde hair, pink eyes
HOMELAND: City of Porthaven (Temple District)
DEITY: The Rogue of Void
LANGUAGES: Common, Celestial, High Elven, Draconic
RACE: Aasimar

ATTRIBUTES
STRENGTH: 10[+0]
DEXTERITY: 13[+1]
CONSTITUTION: 14[+2]
INTELLIGENCE: 15[+2]
WISDOM: 10[+0]
CHARISMA: 14[+2]

HIT POINTS: 15/15
HERO POINTS: 2/3
INITIATIVE: +1
BASE SPEED/S: 30ft (land)

ARMOUR CLASS [AC]: 11(15)
TOUCH AC: 11
FLAT-FOOTED AC: 10(14)

BASE ATTACK BONUS [BAB]: +0
BASIC MELEE ATTACK: +0
BASIC RANGED ATTACK: +1
COMBAT MANEUVER BONUS [CMB]: +0
COMBAT MANEUVER DEFENCE [CMD]: 11

SAVES
FORTITUDE: +2
REFLEX: +3
WILL: +2

WEAPONS/ATTACKS
UNARMED STRIKE
CROSSBOW, LIGHT – 20 ammunition
DAGGER - Can be thrown, range 10ft.

EQUIPMENT - CARRYING CAPACITY (STR 10)

EQUIPMENT - ITEM SLOTS
CLOTHING: ENTERTAINER'S OUTFIT
This set of flashy- perhaps even gaudy- clothes is for entertaining. While the outfit looks whimsical, its practical design lets the character tumble, dance, walk a tightrope, or just run if the audience turns ugly.

EQUIPMENT - POSSESSIONS
Crossbow (Light) 4lbs, Bolts (Crossbow) [x20] 2lb, Signet Ring, Dagger 1lb, Waterskin 4lbs

>POUCH, SPELL COMPONENTS 2lbs

>POUCH, BELT 0.5lbs (Capacity 10lbs)
Drink (Wine, Fine) [Bottle] 1.5lbs, Ink (Black) [1oz. Vial], Inkpen, Pearl of Power (1st level)

TOTAL 15lbs

EQUIPMENT - MONEY
0CP, 9SP, 0GP, 0PP
OTHER:

SKILLS
TRAINED
+BLUFF +7(2), +DISABLE DEVICE* +6(2), +ESCAPE ARTIST +6(2)* +KNOWLEDGE ARCANA +7(2), +SPELLCRAFT +7(2), +STEALTH +9(2)*, +USE MAGIC DEVICE +7(2)

UNTRAINED
ACROBATICS +1*, +APPRAISE +2, CLIMB +0*, +CRAFT +2, DIPLOMACY +2, +DISGUISE +2, HEAL +0, INTIMIDATE +2, PERCEPTION +2(4), PERFORM +2, RIDE +1*, SENSE MOTIVE +2(4), SURVIVAL +2, SWIM +0*
(+FLY +1*)

*Armour Check Penalty: Skill at –0 due to armour worn.
+Class Skill

FEATS
ARCANE STRIKE [REQUIRES: ARCANE SPELLCASTING]
The character draws upon her arcane power to enhance her weapons with magical energy.

RACIAL ABILITIES: AASIMAR
AASIMARS DO NOT COUNT AS OUTSIDERS FOR THE PURPOSE OF THIS SETTING.
DAYLIGHT [SPELL-LIKE ABILITY] (1 USE/DAY) – Aasimars can touch an object and cause it to shed a brilliant light which drives back even magical darkness.
LANGUAGES – Aasimars begin play speaking Common and Celestial. Aasimars with high Intelligence scores can choose any of the following bonus languages: Draconic, Dwarven, High Elven, Gnome, Halfling, and Sylvan.

SPECIAL ABILITIES
GODMARKED
LEVEL 1:
IMPROVED UNARMED STRIKE - The character is skilled at fighting while unarmed.
COPYCAT [SPELL-LIKE ABILITY] (5 USES/DAY) – The character can briefly, dependent on her character level, create an illusory double of herself to distract or mislead others.
EXTRA – Bluff, Disguise and Stealth are class skills.

CLASS FEATURES
WEAPON AND ARMOUR PROFICIENCY: WIZARD
Wizards are proficient with the club, dagger, heavy crossbow, light crossbow, and quarterstaff, but not with any type of armour or shield. Armour interferes with a wizard's movements, which can cause her spells with somatic components to fail.

ARCANE BOND [EXTRAORDINARY ABILITY]: FAMILIAR (FRIGGLISH, CAT)
Grants his master a +3 bonus on Stealth checks.
If a familiar is dismissed, lost, or dies, it can be replaced 1 week later though a specialised ritual that costs 200gp per wizard level. The ritual takes 8 hours to complete.
HIT POINTS: 7 HIT DICE: 2
SIZE: Tiny REACH: 0ft SPEED: 30ft
STR 3[-4], DEX 15[+2], CON 8[-1], INT 6[-2], WIS 12[+1], CHA 7[-2]
ATTACK:
BAB: +0 ATTACK: BITE +2 (1d3-4), CLAWS[x2] +2 (1d2-4)
CMB: +0
DEFENCE:
AC: 15 (Natural Armour +1)
CMD: 8 (12 vs. trip)
SAVES: FORT 1, REF 4, WILL 1
SKILLS:
Climb 6, Perception 5, Stealth 14 (use master's skill ranks if better)
FEATS:
Weapon Finesse
SPECIAL ABILITIES:
Low-Light Vision, Scent, Empathic Link, Improved Evasion, Share Spells

ARCANE SCHOOL: ILLUSION
OPPOSITION SCHOOLS: NECROMANCY, DIVINATION
A wizard that chooses to specialise in one school of magic must select two opposition schools whose spells are harder for them to cast, but they gain the ability to cast an additional spell from their school each day and related school powers.
1. EXTENDED ILLUSIONS [SUPERNATURAL ABILITY]
2. BLINDING RAY [SPELL-LIKE ABILITY] (5 USES/DAY)

FEAT: SCRIBE SCROLL
The character can create magic scrolls.

FEAT: ALERTNESS [REQUIRES: FAMILIAR WITHIN ARM'S REACH]
The character often notices things that others might miss when her familiar is nearby.

SNEAK ATTACK [EXTRAORDINARY ABILITY] (+1d6 Precision Damage)
A rogue can strike a vital spot for more damage whenever their foe is in a vulnerable position.

TRAPFINDING [EXTRAORDINARY ABILITY]
The rogue adds 1/2 her level to Perception skill checks made to locate traps and to Disable Device skill checks (minimum +1). A rogue can use Disable Device to disarm magic traps.

SPELLS
LEVEL 0 [3 Prepared, At Will] Save DC 12
+(ILLU) GHOST SOUND – Figment sounds.
+(TRANS) MESSAGE – Whisper conversation at distance.
+(UNIV) PRESTIDIGITATION – Performs minor tricks.

WIZARD CANTRIPS KNOWN: RESISTANCE, ACID SPLASH, DRENCH, DAZE, BREEZE, DANCING LIGHTS, FLARE, LIGHT, PENUMBRA, RAY OF FROST, SCOOP, SPARK, GHOST SOUND, HAUNTED FEY ASPECT, JOLT, MAGE HAND, MENDING, MESSAGE, OPEN/CLOSE, ROOT, ARCANE MARK, PRESTIDIGITATION

LEVEL 1 [2/Day+1 Prepared] Save DC 13
SCHOOL SPELL (ILLUSION):
+(ILLU)ILLUSION OF CALM – You appear to be standing still, even when you take some actions.
+(CONJ) MAGE ARMOUR – Gives subject +4 armour bonus.
+(ENCH)CHARM PERSON – Makes one person your friend.

WIZARD FIRST-LEVEL SPELLS KNOWN: MAGE ARMOUR, ILLUSION OF CALM, MAGIC AURA, SHADOW WEAPON, CHARM PERSON

* * *

DIRK STRIDER BARD (SOUND STRIKER) 2
NEUTRAL GOOD

TL:DR – Now resistant to Sonic Attacks and able to look good while being Acrobatic.

Dirk LVL2 photo DirkStrider_zps0acb3acc.png

BASIC STATISTICS
GENDER: Male
HAIR/EYES: Blonde hair, orange eyes
HOMELAND: City of Porthaven (No Fixed Abode)/The Greenweald Forest Region (No Fixed Abode)
DEITY: The Prince of Heart
LANGUAGES: Common, Celestial, High Elven, Dwarven
RACE: Aasimar

ATTRIBUTES
STRENGTH: 13[+1]
DEXTERITY: 12[+1]
CONSTITUTION: 10[+0]
INTELLIGENCE: 14[+2]
WISDOM: 10[+0]
CHARISMA: 17[+3]

HIT POINTS: 13/13
HERO POINTS: 2/3
INITIATIVE: +1
BASE SPEED/S: 30ft (land)

ARMOUR CLASS [AC]: 14
TOUCH AC: 11
FLAT-FOOTED AC: 13

BASE ATTACK BONUS [BAB]: +1
BASIC MELEE ATTACK: +2
BASIC RANGED ATTACK: +2
COMBAT MANEUVER BONUS [CMB]: +2
COMBAT MANEUVER DEFENCE [CMD]: 13

SAVES
FORTITUDE: +0
REFLEX: +4
WILL: +3

WEAPONS/ATTACKS
MASTERWORK KATANA – This is a deadly weapon.
DAGGER - Can be thrown, range 10ft.

EQUIPMENT - CARRYING CAPACITY (STR 13)

EQUIPMENT - ITEM SLOTS
CLOTHING: ENTERTAINER'S OUTFIT + MASK
This set of flashy- perhaps even gaudy- clothes is for entertaining. While the outfit looks whimsical, its practical design lets the character tumble, dance, walk a tightrope, or just run if the audience turns ugly. The mask is made from painted, varnished wood and cloth; it is ornate, gaudy even- a cheaper and more practical imitation of what a nobleman might wear to a masquerade ball.

ARMOUR: MASTERWORK STUDDED LEATHER
+3 armour bonus, +5 max DEX bonus, -0 Armour Check Penalty, 15% Arcane Spell Failure Chance, LIGHT
SPECIAL: Masterwork armour has an Armour Check Penalty one lower than normal and can be enchanted.

EQUIPMENT - POSSESSIONS
Masterwork Katana 6lbs, Masterwork Studded Leather 20lbs, Clothing (Mask, 3gp) 1lb, Dagger 1lb, Waterskin 4lbs

>BACKPACK, COMMON 2lbs (Capacity 60lbs)
Tent (Small, 1 person) 20lbs, Bedroll 5lbs, Kit (Juggler's) 10lbs, Rations (Wandermeal) [x20] [Eating this tough, dried cake for over a week without other nutrients causes the eater to feel ill] 10lbs

>POUCH, BELT 0.5lbs (Capacity 10lbs)
Flint and Steel, Whetstone 1lb

>CARAVAN (Capacity 200lbs, Can produce mundane items up to 25gp in value)
Maplehoof (Heavy Horse)

TOTAL 80.5lb (33.5lbs without backpack)

EQUIPMENT - MONEY
8CP, 6SP, 9GP, 0PP
OTHER:

SKILLS
TRAINED
+APPRAISE +6(1), +BLUFF +8(2), +DIPLOMACY +8(2), HANDLE ANIMAL +4(1), +INTIMIDATE +7(1), +KNOWLEDGE LOCAL +7(1), +PERCEPTION +4(1), +PERFORM(SHARP RHYMES) +8(2), +PERFORM(SWEET MOVES) +8(2), +SENSE MOTIVE +5(2)

UNTRAINED
+ACROBATICS +1*, +CLIMB +1*, +CRAFT +2, +DISGUISE +3, +ESCAPE ARTIST +1*, HEAL +0, +KNOWLEDGE ARCANA +3, +KNOWLEDGE DUNGEONEERING +3, +KNOWLEDGE ENGINEERING +3, +KNOWLEDGE GEOGRAPHY +3, +KNOWLEDGE HISTORY +3, +KNOWLEDGE NATURE +3, +KNOWLEDGE NOBILITY +3, +KNOWLEDGE PLANES +3, +KNOWLEDGE RELIGION +3, +PERFORM +3, RIDE +1*, +STEALTH +1*, SURVIVAL +0, SWIM +1*
(FLY +1*)

*Armour Check Penalty: Skill at –0 due to armour worn.
+Class Skill

FEATS
SPELLSONG [REQUIRES: CHA 13, BARDIC PERFORMANCE, 1st-LEVEL SPELLCASTING]
The character can blend the power of his performance and spellcasting.

RACIAL ABILITIES: AASIMAR
AASIMARS DO NOT COUNT AS OUTSIDERS FOR THE PURPOSE OF THIS SETTING.
DAYLIGHT [SPELL-LIKE ABILITY] (1 USE/DAY) – Aasimars can touch an object and cause it to shed a brilliant light which drives back even magical darkness.
LANGUAGES – Aasimars begin play speaking Common and Celestial. Aasimars with high Intelligence scores can choose any of the following bonus languages: Draconic, Dwarven, High Elven, Gnome, Halfling, and Sylvan.

SPECIAL ABILITIES
GODMARKED
LEVEL 1:
WEAPON PROFICIENCY (KATANA)
DESTRUCTIVE SMITE [SUPERNATURAL ABILITY] (6 USES/DAY)– The character can do more damage on a single melee attack, dependent on his character level.

CLASS FEATURES
WEAPON AND ARMOUR PROFICIENCY: BARD
A bard is proficient with all simple weapons, plus the longsword, rapier, sap, shortsword, shortbow and whip. Bards are also proficient with light armour and shields (except tower shields). A bard can cast bard spells while wearing light armour and using a shield without incurring the normal arcane spell failure chance. Like any other arcane spellcaster, a bard wearing medium or heavy armour incurs a chance of arcane spell failure is the spell in question has a somatic component. A multiclass bard still incurs the normal arcane spell failure chance for arcane spells received from other classes.

BARDIC KNOWLEDGE [EXTRAORDINARY ABILITY]
A bard has a little knowledge in all areas, and learns more as he becomes more experienced.

BARDIC PERFORMANCE (9 ROUNDS/DAY)
A bard can create magical effects around him, so long as he is able to keep performing. He can make use of the following abilities when he performs, so long as he can be seen and/or heard by those he wishes to affect.
1. COUNTERSONG [SUPERNATURAL ABILITY]
2. DISTRACTION [SUPERNATURAL ABILITY]
3. FASCINATE [SUPERNATURAL ABILITY] (TARGETS 1)
4. INSPIRE COURAGE [SUPERNATURAL ABILITY]

VERSATILE PERFORMANCE [EXTRAORDINARY ABILITY] (Perform [Sweet Moves])
At 2nd level, the bard can choose one type of Perform skill. He can use his bonus in that skill in place of his bonus in associated skills. Perform (Sweet Moves) can substitute for: Acrobatics, Fly

WELL-VERSED [EXTRAORDINARY ABILITY]
At 2nd level, the bard becomes resistant to the bardic performance of others, and to sonic effects in general.

SPELLS
LEVEL 0 [At Will] Save DC 13
DETECT MAGIC, MESSAGE, PRESTIDIGITATION, SIFT, UNWITTING ALLY

LEVEL 1 [3/Day] Save DC 14
CHORD OF SHARDS, MOMENT OF GREATNESS, TIMELY INSPIRATION

Chapter Text

==> Dreamer: Observe

617.

You are not yet certain what the numbers mean. They drift discrete but connected through the fabric of your visions, the deepest root and the furthest branch of history, the inevitable purpose of the universe and yet, you sense, far from the entirety of the tale. Your waking self has no conception of their existence and you, no means to fathom their nature. Sometimes you think it one number; at others, a multitude folded into the same short space.

617.

History moves. More like the wind than any river, vast and chaotic, sometimes still enough that it seems to not be there at all and sometimes fierce enough to destroy all works of those who toil within its path. And yet it has direction, intent, a pull stronger than the ocean's sway on the waterways of the world. In your mind's eye it is a light, a brilliant burning sun whose evanescence scorches through the flimsy fabric of reality and sears away everything that cannot lead to its glory.

617.

Nothing can defy the light, but many roads twist and turn and branch and meet before they reach the ultimate goal. All you have are glimpses, brief windows into moments of possibility that let you twist the future and transform it into one which better suits your wishes. You look ahead to see what can be done and note with the cool detachment of one who walks with destiny in hand that more of them are dark. The tangle of futures past is the shroud your adversary weaves, concealing themselves within a shell of doomed timelines that even your light cannot penetrate.

617.

From the machinations of your foe stretches only one possibility; beneath the roiling clouds of darkness that blot the sun and moons from the sky march armies of undead, the few scattered survivors being hunted down one by one. Even on such a simple path you cannot see too far ahead and the ultimate resolution is beyond you, but whatever fate awaits this world you cannot imagine a more tortured journey than the one your nemesis has devised.

617.

Like your waking self, you need to know more. With every passing day your options shrink and now the single bright thread of hope grows fragile in the shadow of fates unbound. You reach out to touch the motes of light around you, drawing glimpses of the lives who still have the power to overcome warped and malign destiny. Those nearest to you are somehow darkest, hidden not by the power of your enemy but by some other force which keeps you all protected and possessed of your own agency. Others not so near are a simpler proposition.

617.

The night is bright as the thief approaches the inn, a black shadow on grey walls who moves not furtively, but with a simple swagger as if his right to be there is unquestionable and inalienable. Despite the brazen nature of his garb no one stops him to question or challenge his presence. Through the gaps in closed shutters pours the warm light of the taproom's hearth fire and the merry laughter of the merchants, travellers, and adventurers who are the patrons of the inn.

617.

The thief- the Knight, whispers your heart, and you make note of the discrepancy for you do not recall that he has yet been given such elevation- knows he must be careful. The landlord and landlady of this place will be watchful, their eyes turning to the darkness beyond their doors as they await the return of their beloved children. Tomorrow they will know that the waiting will not soon end, but for now they are hopeful and ready to give stern lectures to their wayward offspring. If their watching catches the thief then they will not be so kind.

617.

Horses shift in the stables as he passes, faint whickers and whinnies that fail to carry through thick stone walls and the joyful chatter within. Accustomed to strange stable yards and unfamiliar people the dozing animals pay little heed as he finds foothold in the planks of the wall; he climbs to the stable roof with practised ease and from there it is a simple matter for him to reach the windows of the upper floor. A slim piece of metal slides between the shutters and lifts the latch, the thief vanishing into the dark portal and the interior of the inn.

617.

Is it even theft, when what he takes already belongs to the people he will then deliver it to? The question is moot. He will take more than he was sent to find, although how much is still uncertain. You cannot predict his actions when even he does not know them; on some level you think he understands that, manipulates his place in the pattern and finds his own path much as you do. His mission will succeed because it must, and the inn fades as you follow the threads once again. Sparkling fragments of understanding fly by and you struggle to assemble them into coherence.

617.

Faces flash before you, the connection intermittent as you brush against the veil that protects those closest to you. It is patchy in places and through them you glimpse the thief's brother, settled by a campfire and from the motion of his mouth singing something. Beside him, with an eerie echo, you see the Oracle. Yourself, sleeping. Through her you hear the song, and you are surprised to hear something melodic, almost melancholy. You look closer at the singer and see fractures, a single self reflected in so many broken fragments that you are not sure which is truth. Perhaps all of them are; you have little time to wonder as the grey shadow closes over him once more. As your vision fades he looks up and for an instant seems to see you clearly.

617.

Unsettled by the contact you retreat, seeking greater distances in space or time. Another voice is singing, raised in a cheery tune that calls to you across the vast reaches all the web of fate and draws you in. The singer is unfamiliar to you but in the threads around you are the vibrations of a future acquaintance. You examine her, dark hair loose and shining in tomorrow's sunlight, a dance in her step as she leads a small band of travellers through what you recognise as the deep Greenweald.

617.

She is a druid, you think, from the easy way she moves through the foliage around her. The impression is borne out by the immense wolf that pads softly after her. Though he seems gentle in the moment you see, you know well enough what a danger he might be to any who threaten his charge. You are not the only one aware of the peril; one of her companions watches the wolf warily, although the beast seems to pay him little heed.

617.

He is a strange one, this watchful traveller. Neither elf nor tiefling, and unlike any half breed that your waking mind recalls. Around him bend the lines of predestination, his to see but not control, and although he cannot be consciously aware of the weight of endings that overshadow him you think he feels them anyway. A more distant part of you suggests that he, like you, should see more than the lot of ordinary mortals. An interesting impression; you note it for later study.

617.

Another of the party intrigues you more, a Drow woman who walks serenely behind her fellows and merely smiles as they quibble and banter. You know her, you remember, and her companions too save the druid, but as you see the intersections of futures unmade the interest of familiarity becomes something tighter in your chest. You miss her, although you don't know why, and you find yourself wondering what place she holds in this tapestry.

617.

The thought sends you spinning, detaching from the small party of adventurers, plunging beneath the earth and back in time until you stand almost upon the present moment, watching another stranger as they go about their business. Another Drow, a woman in teal and a symbol you remember from ancient, forbidden texts. She is in a temple thick with incense and smoke, the darkness broken by dim magical lights, coloured reflections sparkling off priceless idols of precious metals and gems. She walks as if she owns the place and yet still glances to be sure she is unseen before drawing a sword from behind the plain stone altar. It more than glitters or gleams; it shines with its own inner light.

617.

From her you find your way to three others, mere boys to the eyes of an aasimar and oracle. From the angular patterns and heavy fabrics you can tell that, ornate as it is, this is another Drow room. Unsurprisingly, two of the occupants are dark elves, but the third is a Tuatha who appears familiar to you. Not for the first time you regret that your dreaming self and your waking self seem singularly incapable of sharing information.

617.

As you try to look more closely at the boy you think you recognise, a prickle runs up the back of the neck your dreaming self does not possess. Trying to locate the source, you find yourself looking into a pair of vivid red eyes. The Drow is looking at you, not the possible glance that you received from the singer at the campfire earlier but instead a direct stare that leaves no question that he can see you as clearly as you see him.

617. 617. 617...

413.

612.

TT: It appears that I am not the only one dreaming.
CG: NO SHIT GENIUS. ARE YOU ALWAYS THIS PERCEPTIVE OR DO YOU GO THROUGH PERIODS OF BEING EVEN MORE COMPLETELY FUCKING OBLIVIOUS TO THE WORLD AROUND YOU? NO, WAIT, DON'T ANSWER THAT. I DON'T ACTUALLY CARE.
TT: There is no need to be hostile. I presume that you are a fellow oracle? Perhaps we could compare notes on our impending doom and potential strategies to avert it.
CG: I WOULD ASK WHAT IMPENDING DOOM, BUT HONESTLY IF THE UNIVERSE ISN'T CONSPIRING TO FUCK US ALL OVER THEN SOMETHING HAS PROBABLY GONE CRITICALLY WRONG AT A FUNDAMENTAL LEVEL.
TT: I believe that that is precisely what has happened, or is at any rate happening. Do you mean to tell me that despite your presence here, you cannot see the future before us?
CG: SHIT. YOU DON'T REMEMBER ANYTHING. WELL, I GUESS THAT'S US COMPLETELY SCREWED. NOT EVEN THE SEERS CAN SEE ANYTHING; WE MIGHT AS WELL ALL START GOUGING OUR OCULAR SPHERES OUT WITH HEMISPHERICAL SCOOPING UTENSILS.
TT: I think that perhaps a more meaningful exchange of information might prove more fruitful than this directionless aggression. If we could just start over and attempt to converse like civilized sentients this discussion would be considerably more amicable.
CG: NO, FUCK THAT. IT WOULDN'T DO ANY GOOD.
CG: PRESENT ME IS A NOOKSNIFFING, NUB-BITING BULGESTAIN WITH A HOLE THE SIZE OF BOTH STRIDERS' PUFFED UP EGOS IN HIS THINKPAN OUT OF WHICH LEAKS ANYTHING THAT MIGHT CONCEIVABLY MAKE HIM ANY LESS OF A USELESS BILE EXPULSION.
CG: HE WON'T REMEMBER A SINGLE THING YOU TELL ME.
CG: AND SINCE I DON'T KNOW ANYTHING USEFUL THAT YOU WILL REMEMBER WHEN YOU LEAVE THIS PLEASANT LITTLE INTERLUDE IN THE LAND OF ASSHOLES AND DISAPPOINTMENT
CG: I THINK THAT I WILL JUST TAKE THE OPPORTUNITY TO SAY FUCK YOU WITH A RUSTY CULLING FORK, LALONDE, BECAUSE I DO NOT APPRECIATE BEING DITCHED AND YOU ARE THE ONLY ONE OF MY SO CALLED FRIENDS THAT I WILL ACTUALLY GET THE OPPORTUNITY TO SAY THAT TO WHILE I'M STUCK AS THAT DRIBBLING MORON.
TT: ...
TT: Fascinating. Have you always projected your self-hatred onto those around you, or is this a more recent development in your psyche?
CG: HA. HA. ANALYSE AWAY, ASSHOLE. THE DAY I GIVE A SHIT IS THE DAY WINGED OINKBEASTS START DEFECATING ICE INTO THE BURNING FIRES OF HELL.
TT: Then you don't mind?
CG: NO. BECAUSE, AS WE HAVE ALREADY ESTABLISHED, YOU DON'T KNOW A FUCKING THING ABOUT ME.
CG: DO YOU REALLY THINK YOU CAN GET AN ACCURATE READ UNDER THESE CIRCUMSTANCES?
TT: I can hardly be certain, but I do seem to be striking some kind of chord, don't I?
CG: AH, OF COURSE. NO MEANS YES, AND YES MEANS YES, AND FUCK OFF MEANS PLEASE DISSECT MY THINKPAN MORE.
CG: I REMEMBER THIS HOOFBEAST SHIT AND I DIDN'T LIKE IT THE FIRST MILLION TIMES.
TT: And yet you are not willing to find some other topic of discussion with which to occupy my time- such as, to pluck an entirely random example from the ether, the possibility of an exchange of information on the threat which hangs like a darkening cloud over us all.
TT: Without such an intervention, I can only assume that you in fact have a deeply seated desire to discuss your obvious issues with a neutral party, and as such I offer my own humble services as a listener.
CG: UGH. OKAY, FINE.
CG: IF IT'S THE ONLY WAY TO SHUT YOU UP AND PREVENT THIS ABOMINABLE MOCKERY OF A FEELINGS JAM, THEN I WILL COOPERATE WITH YOUR SLIME-ROTTED "PLAN".
CG: YOU CAN GO FIRST. FUTILE AS IT IS, I'LL ASK YOU TO KEEP IT BRIEF; MAYBE THEN SOME FRAGMENT OF ACTUAL MEANING WILL SURVIVE THE MENTAL FLUSHING LOAD GAPER OF WAKING.
TT: You have quite the way with words, don't you?
CG: JUST GET THE FUCK ON WITH IT, LALONDE.
TT: Very well, if you insist.
TT: My visions show me very little, save that some person or persons unknown are setting in motion plans that will result in the demise and unholy reanimation of the vast majority of the world's population.
TT: Despite the lack of evidence currently at large, I believe these plans will reach fruition within the next year.
TT: Beyond that, things are unclear. Our adversary has no small mastery over the webs of fate.
CG: TRUST ME, IF THEY CAN HIDE WHAT THEY'RE DOING FROM YOU, THAT'S PUTTING IT MILDLY.
TT: You know something relevant?
CG: I KNOW LOTS OF THINGS, BUT WHAT'S IMPORTANT HERE IS THAT TO PULL THE WOOL OVER YOUR EYES LIKE THIS THEY WOULD HAVE TO BE WIELDING THE POWER OF A GOD. OR SEVERAL GODS.
CG: SHIT, THAT ACTUALLY MAKES SENSE. NO WONDER THEY
TT: No wonder they what?
CG: NOTHING. OR NOTHING YOU'LL REMEMBER, AT LEAST.
CG: OKAY, HERE'S MY ADVICE, AND I'M GOING TO SAY IT IN SHORT, SIMPLE WORDS SO THAT YOUR RIDICULOUS THINKPAN HAS SOME CHANCE OF RETAINING IT:
CG: LOOK FOR THE LORDS OF THE LUNAR PLANES.
CG: SERIOUSLY. IF THEY AREN'T SOMEHOW RESPONSIBLE- AND I WOULDN'T PUT IT PAST THEM, ESPECIALLY NOT ANTARES AND SADALMELIK, THEY'VE NEVER BEEN ANYTHING BUT TROUBLE- THEN THEY'LL KNOW BETTER THAN ANYONE WHO IS.
TT: Hmm. An interesting thought, and one I had not considered.
TT: I was planning to head for the Starspire, myself- do you think I should continue in that direction, or should I be attempting to locate or contact the planar lords?
CG: NO, STARSPIRE ISN'T A COMPLETELY RETARDED PLAN.
CG: I'D BE CAREFUL, THOUGH. NO WAY TO TELL IF OUR FATE-WEAVING ENEMY HAS STUCK THEIR GREASY LITTLE FINGERS IN IT YET.
TT: You are correct. I will be cautious.
TT: One other thing- the roads of destiny show a possibility that if we continue our opposition of the coming apocalypse, our futures may well entwine.
TT: For reference, then, might I ask the name of my ally?
CG: TYPICAL. WHY ARE THE MOST ANNOYING ASSHOLES ALWAYS THE MOST DIFFICULT TO GET RID OF?
CG: IT'S CARCINOGENETICIST.
CG: KARKAT VANTAS.
TT: tentacleTherapist. Rose Lalonde.
CG: I KNOW, IDIOT.
CG: SEE YOU LATER.
CG: TRY NOT TO FORGET.

612.

413.

617.

Normality returns, the beat of the universe resuming, your command over the pathways of light renewed. The other consciousness fades, leaving you alone at the heart of the web of light. For what could be an eternity or could be a single heartbeat you pause and take in your domain; the myriad lines of evanescent wyrd, the shadowed snarl of mystery that lies ahead, the deep fog that surrounds your present.

617.

Your time here is drawing to a close. You look outwards to the real world and see the light of a new dawn; in a mote of thought you are ascending towards it, returning to your body through the guidance of the silver cord about your ankle. All around you echoes the number of prophecy but already it is fading from your mind. You try to hold on to the words given to you by your ally.

617.

When you're awake it is all at once. No lounging, no long doze and slow return to the land of the living for you. Sunlight filters into the caravan through the patterned curtains on the small window; the cloth gives it a reddish cast which stains everything within. Across from you, curled up and snoring on the other narrow bed, lies your sister. An empty bottle is still clutched loosely in her hand it to dangles over the edge.

Look for the lords of the lunar planes.

You mouth the words to yourself as you swing your legs out from under the blankets and sit upright. Pots, pans, and other assorted sundries come perilously close to hitting you in the head as you traverse to the door, but you make it unscathed and step out into the bright, warm air of morning. Not far from the caravan you can see your companions gathered around a campfire; Jane is still stubbornly wrapped in a bedroll, and Dave appears to be either sleeping with her as a pillow or making a show of doing so, but John and Dirk are attempting to cook a pot of something that you are certain will not be half so nutritious as it is hot. Your suspicions as to the nature of breakfast are only made more dire when you see John snatching utensils and hiding them from his fellow cook; Dirk is stirring the pot with a dagger, and you dread to think of what else that blade might have touched.

They look up as you approach; Dirk greets you with a nod and John with a broad smile and a "Good morning!" Dave waves without even looking in your direction, which you think rather neatly answers the question of whether he was asleep. The grass is damp with dew and cool as you sit by the pot and note that you will be breaking your fast on porridge seasoned with that same greenery. The warmth of the rising sun burns through the last vestiges of your sleepiness, chasing away your nebulous dreams and making you once again a whole person.

Your mouth stops moving as you greet your friends, and the details of your dreams are burned from your mind by daylight. Were he not in similar straits, Karkat Vantas would probably get a sense of bitter vindication to know that within a few minutes you have forgotten about the Planeslords- and him- entirely.

Suggestions Used

Ms Arano - Rose: Dream

WhiteTiger1221 – Rose: Ponder how you and this motley band are possibly going to be able to save the world

Silverkyo – Dave: Sneak into the inn and get your bro's stuff

Silverkyo – Dirk: Sing me a song piano man

Silverkyo – Jade: Start Singing “On the road again”, that song you heard from old man willie nelson

Chapter Text

==> Dirk: Your Position Is Obviously No Longer Safe. Leave As Fast As... Oh, Who Are We Even Fucking Kidding Here?

After you've eaten breakfast and reclaimed the majority of your cooking kit back from one John Warden, defender of the peace and prankster extraordinaire, you lie back on the grass and tilt your head very slightly to the side to watch as your brother recounts his part in last night's battle for what seems like the thousandth time. You don't begrudge him the success- in fact, you're impressed as all fuck and more than a bit proud- but you're starting to get the feeling that he needs taking down a peg or two before his head gets permanently inflated. You're clearly not the only one who feels that way, either; although John is listening to Dave's story with a big dopey grin, Rose's smile looks more like patient tolerance to you and if Jane tries to narrow her mouth in any more disapproval it will probably vanish altogether.

“You know, the rest of us were fighting right beside you!” she snaps, tugging her blanket a little tighter around herself as she glares at the boys. They stare back, John's mouth making a little round “o”, and you see the faintest flicker of a smirk cross Dave's face.

“Nah, that was just in your head,” he says, with a nonchalant shrug. “My combat skills were so sicknasty smooth, your eyes couldn't believe the levels of badass they were seeing, so they made shit up to stop your brain exploding out your ears and making a gross mess all over my sweet gear.” He taps the top of his sword and briefly meets your eyes; you roll them to let him know that you are unimpressed.

Beside him, John laughs. “Oh, man, no way are you claiming that sword is good!”

Dave turns his head to stare at the elf. “What you on about, Warden? Clearly this is a legendary fucking blade. I killed three undead monsters with it...”

“Two and a half, tops,” John interjects, grinning like a loon. It occurs to you that maybe he's a bit smarter than you thought. “I'm pretty sure I remember Rose totally obliterating the last guy. And oh, yeah, two of them weren't actually undead anyway! This is just bullshit!”

“No, it's not,” Dave says calmly, slapping John's hand away as he pokes at the sword hilt. “For all you know I got it from a dragon's horde. Just crept right up in there while the big magical death lizard was sleeping. I'm the hero from one of your cheesy stories, John, it's me.”

“Oh, yeah?” says John, folding his arms. “Did you fight the dragon, Dave? Or did you steal the sword?”

“Who do you think you're talking to, dude?” asks your brother, smirk pulling at the corner of his mouth again. “It was a lady dragon. I totally seduced the fuck outta her.”

“Eww, Dave!”

“Seriously, man, I swear on my best pair of boots. She shapeshifted into the hottest mother you ever saw, kinda scaly but all woman, and bro, I tapped that. Shit was epic; mountains moved, earth shattered, just fucking for days on end. I would've died from exhaustion if it wasn't for my incredible manly stamina and porking skills. We just kept going until she was too exhausted for more. Got the sword for services rendered.”

Rose raised an eyebrow. “I find it interesting that you find the need to construct tales in which your conquer your adversaries sexually.”

“Who says it's a tale?” Dave replies. “Shit happened, okay? Me and the lady dragon, dancing the horizontal samba. Where the fuck else do you think swords of this impeccable quality come from?”

It's fun to listen to, but Jane has gone the colour of ripe beetroot and you don't really want her to have a brain-storm. “How 'bout a dodgy market stall in Clynemouth? You know, the one that sells the crap that used to belong to dead misers. Unless that was the cheap piece of shit before this one.” Dave gives you a look that screams “traitor!” and you shrug. “Get a better sword, dude,” you tell him. He throws a tuft of grass at you. It lands in the fire. You ignore it and scramble to your feet.

“Where are you going?” Rose asks, watching you curiously. She's an interesting one, the Oracle. You heard about her from her sister, of course, and saw her at public events, but if you're being honest you expected someone more... religious than this girl. You think that given enough time you could like her. As it stands, you don't feel like baring your soul just yet.

“We're still missing someone,” you say, pointing a thumb over your shoulder to your caravan. After a moment she nods. You decide that you can probably leave your unruly companions to themselves for a few minutes without everything exploding and excuse yourself politely, tipping an imaginary hat to the ladies and raising an obscene salute to Dave before heading back towards your caravan. When you poke your head in, the lump on your bed shifts and moans an indistinct complaint. You roll your eyes behind the carnival mask that already sits securely on your face. Like you haven't spent a lifetime dealing with Dave's bullshit; this chick isn't even being original.

"Come on, sweetcheeks," you say, plonking yourself down on the side of the bed and lounging against the wall. "We got a big day, and your presence is required to be up, active and hopefully not butt-naked."

Her head turns from its nest of bedding and a sly pink eye regards you. "Oh, REELY?" she asks, waggling the eyebrow you can see suggestively. You slap away the hand that creeps playfully across the bedclothes towards you, but the way the blanket slips lets you know that yup, she really isn't wearing jack shit under there. The level of your surprise does not even twitch up from zero.

"I'm serious, Rox," you say, not letting a hint of either amusement or impatience show on your face. "Just because we didn't make an expeditious retreat into the dark woods full of lurking danger last night doesn't mean this right here is the safest seat in the house. Or did you forget our new admirers?"

The girl sighs and sits up. You are treated to a completely spectacular view that is sadly utterly wasted on you. Like the gentleman you are, you grab the blanket and hold it up until she takes it to cover whatever declining fragments of modesty she has left. She pouts at you.

"I d'know, you're kinda makin' a girl feel unwanted, Dirky," she says, fluttering her eyelashes.

"Roxy, you have a truly spectacular set of tits," you inform her, deadpan as you lean back against the caravan again. "On tits like those are empires founded and for them cities might well burn. You take it from me, because I know the stories; for tits like that, legendary heroes go and pull some truly apeshit schemes and outright bananas stunts."

Roxy sighs and seems to fold over herself. "But not you?"

You don't smile, but you reassuringly pat a foot under the blanket. "Never me," you agree. "And probably not John, either. Show him those and the poor kid'll have a fucking heart attack. I'm guessing you don't want to be solely responsible for his untimely, if deliriously happy, demise."

She tilts her head and looks at you hopefully. "So you thunk I gots a chance?"

"Depends."

"Depends on what?" she asks. You get to your feet and shrug.

"On whether you're dressed and out here before we leave without you."

You duck on the way out the door and the embroidered cushion she flings misses by a mile. You allow yourself a small smile, since who the fuck's going to see? It only lasts a second, vanishing like summer mist as you approach the caravan opposite yours. It's about the same size, but where yours is decorated with red and orange flames this one is covered in scenes of night-time forests and distant cities. Knocking on the door is accompanied by a trepidation that you have only ever felt in the presence of one person. You have no idea how you're going to explain this to her; for a moment you consider just leaving, gathering up your things and clearing out before she has time to realise you're gone.

That's bullshit and you know it. She'd be after you and drag you back to tan your hide before you even hit the first crossroads.

The door swings open to reveal a Phooka woman, yellow cat-slit eyes glaring in suspicion until she sees who's on her doorstep. Then her face breaks into a wide smile and you are part of a sudden, enthusiastic embrace that drags you inorexably into the sweet-scented, dark interior of the caravan you once called "home".

"So, you decided to take some time away from your friends to visit your old guardian, huh?" she chuckles. You snort. By aasimar standards Desta might have been around a while, but no elf would call the woman who raised you old. She turns away and starts rustling through pots and pans in the back; you spend the time helpfully folding away one of the beds. You've just settled down on the resulting bench as she manages to triumphantly produce not only a kettle, but a pitcher of water. She pours the latter into the former and settles down next to you, fake golden charms jangling softly as she mutters under her breath and places a hand to the kettle. The metal starts to glow with heat.

"You know, we could light a fire," you say, although you know it's pointless. "I mean, we already fucking did. It's right outside, just over there. You want to go use it?"

"Shoosh, brat," she says, a wily grin taking the sting out of her words. "I'm older and wiser than you, and I can waste my gods-given magic however I please. And I am currently pleased by tea with my boy."

"Okay, we can have magic tea," you say, leaning back on the bench and wedging your feet against her leg. She laughs and swats at you.

"Scoundrel," she scolds, and you salute her in acknowledgement of the praise. As she works, you lie there for what seems like an age, watching as she bends over the kettle and the red heat of the metal around her hands reflects onto her hair. Normally it's as golden as yours- she always said that was why she first noticed you and Dave, two aasimar babies with her hair colour alone and crying on the roadside. In the dim caravan, the red glow makes it flickering orange, a flame shifting with every breath and small shuffle she makes on the seat. Her skin glows the same rich colour, hardly a surprise as it's the same fucking shade as her hair. All wild elves are made that way; it took you years when you were young to question why you and your brother didn't look like the other Phooka. You were a smart kid, though; you worked out what the differences meant real fucking quick.

She looks the same as she did then, and although you manage to keep it from your face you feel a sharp dart of pain in your heart. You're going to die long before she does. Long before most of your people, really, but that's not the issue here. What bothered you- still does, if you're honest- is that for every year you grow up, get older, she ages maybe half that. She's more an older sister than a mother, these days. One day she'll be a younger sister, and after that... you try not to think about it often.

"Tea's ready!" she says, turning to you with a bright smile, and you sit up, grabbing a cup for the herbal brew and putting your worries about the future on the shelf in order to take down a totally different set of unrelated worries. All things considered, these ones are probably bigger. They're certainly a shit-ton more cataclysmic.

"So, I gotta rap about something with you," you say, keeping it cool. No biggie, Des, me and Dave are just going to get our asses handed to us on some crazy quest right outta an epic ballad...

"Mhm," she says, topping up your cup with a completely inscrutable smile. That unreadable shit's a Phooka thing. With anyone else you just put on your stoniest mask and meet them stare for stare. For Desta, you break.

It doesn't take long to lay it out for her, the basics that you know. You tell her brusquely, matter-of-fact, and she listens in the same vein; nodding, sipping her tea, smiling faintly. You're delivering the data, not telling a story, and you're not quite sure if you're asking for permission or offering up an explanation.

When you finish she carefully sets down her cup, takes your face in her hands, and plants a gentle kiss on your forehead.

“My brave boys,” she says, and there are tears in her eyes. “I always knew you were meant for great things.”

You sigh. “That's a normal feeling for a guardian, Des. No shit, I'm glad you have that much faith in us, but we were just in the right place at the right time. It's luck, nothing more.”

Desta takes one of her hands from your face to rest it on your right shoulder. “That's not true,” she says, and the humour that she always wears is gone. “Dirk, when I did the ceremony of souls for you and Dave, I learned more than your names.”

You frown, the mask hiding the furrow of your brown from sight but not, you know, from the senses of a guardian. “What do you mean?”

She keeps the one hand on your shoulder, squeezing the spot where your birthmark lurks under your shirt, and uses the other to stroke your cheek. “Strider,” she says in a whisper, and the sound of your true name, your soul's name, makes a cold shiver run across your skin. “When I heard that, when I touched your deepest self... Dirk, your birthmarks shone, red and orange, light as bright as the sun.” She pauses. “You know what they are.”

There is no way you could know Roxy and not be aware of the Aasimar gods, or what meaning the celestial race would place on you and Dave. Phooka have different gods, and you never saw a need to mention it to anyone.

“I know,” you say.

“They're not a coincidence,” Desta tells you, and you nod because you think you knew that all along. Her cheeks are wet and you aren't really sure what to do about that, because your guardian is crying and Des doesn't cry. She laughs, or she gets even.

“It's okay,” you tell her, and to your surprise she grabs you and buries her face in your collarbone.

“I'm going to lose you!” she sobs, and it's only basic fucking compassion to wrap your arms around her and rub a soothing hand on her back. “Gods, I'm so fucking stupid! I knew... I knew this was going to happen...”

Her words dissolve into tears and you don't say anything. You're pretty sure that at this point, you can only make things worse. Instead you sit and you wait patiently until your guardian can once again raise her head and look at you, warm eyes watery with grief.

“Go,” she says, and her voice is as firm as it ever was. “Go on. You've been an adult for years now, your brother too, and it's more than time I accepted it. You have my promise to explain things to the clan, and my blessing for your journey.”

You kiss the top of her head. “It's not forever, Des,” you say, and you can feel the disbelief she doesn't voice as you stand. “I'll send Dave over before we go,” you say, and she nods. It feels wrong to turn away and leave her like this... but the longer you wait, the more chance that you'll bring danger down on your people. You push open the door and step into sunlight. Your body weighs a preposterous amount as you start back towards the campfire and your new kin.

“Dirk!”

You turn back to see Des standing in the doorway, tearstained but smiling as she waves to you.

“Be who you truly are!” she calls, and your heart feels so warm that for an instant you smile back. Then she vanishes inside, and you resume your journey feeling oddly lighter, if pensive.

You can see that Dave appears to be waxing lyrical once again, but it's only as you get closer that you hear what he's saying. All of a sudden the world rights itself as the sheer ridiculousness of the situation hits you.

“So we got a knight and a princess, epic story, pretty sweet- but to get this tale kickin' then these lovebirds gotta meet. This is gold, shit be sold, gettin' piled in a heap; and you know that's where this dragon's gonna get his beauty sleep.”

John is watching with rapt attention, and you're not sure who seems more amused- Rose, or Roxy. You note that the latter has acquired a bottle of wine from somewhere and is busily downing it in complete disregard for the potential dangers of being absolutely fuck-faced if and when you are next attacked. She has also, you note, left the top couple of buttons of her blouse undone and is making every effort to “wonk” at young Master Warden. He remains predictably oblivious.

“So I'm sleeping on my treasure in a cave above the town, when I kinda get to thinking that it's time for...” Dave breaks off and pauses expectantly. John chews his lower lip thoughtfully- and shit, that is pretty cute. Shame he freaked out so bad last time you kissed him. You don't think you've got much of a shot there, even if it wouldn't be a critical betrayal of bro-code to snipe the guy Roxy's got her eye on.

“... chowing down?” John says after a long moment, and Dave gives a quick nod.

“Okay, good rhyme, dude. But you gotta keep the rhythm going. Can't stop this shit halfway through; premature poetic ejaculation is off the cards if we want this shit to get off the handle.”

By your estimations, there is an apeshit bananas chance that John is going to continue sucking hairy balls at this. You cast another glance at Roxy, still vainly trying to get the guy's attention, and decide to kill three birds with one stone. One sexy Strider stone.

The others glance your way as you approach, of course. Even Jane from her place a little off to the side spares a glower. John looks a little more taken aback when you drop down next to him, and graduates to utterly uncomfortable when you lie down and settle your head comfortably on his lap like it's the most natural place in the world- elven laps, the only pillow for the discerning Phooka aasimar.

“Kinda busy here, bro,” says Dave after a moment, and you can hear the faint testiness buried behind the casual delivery. Why are you messing up my shit?

You wave a negligent hand towards your guardian's caravan. “Just talked to Des,” you say. “She wants to say bye.” Rather than put the hand back on the ground, you use it to trail along John's jawline, elf-smooth and not half bad, either. Oh well. All the best jokes have a hint of truth to them anyway, and you figure stealing his audience isn't bad revenge for Dave boring you to tears with his bragging earlier.

“I can keep John here occupied while you're gone,” you practically purr, letting your eyelashes flutter a little. You have never been dumped on the ground so fast in your life.

“Um I'm so sorry!” John yelps, standing over you and wavering in concern. “But I was just, ha! I wasn't really... oh, boy.” He looks across at the others; you see Rose tilt her head a little, but otherwise he gets no response. The elf boy looks back down at you fiddling with his fingers. “Dude, I'm really sorry,” he says, and holy fucking shit he actually does sound sorry too. “But I'm not a homosexual.”

He looks kind of devastated by that, actually- like he's scared that he might actually break your heart or some shit like that. You know better, of course.

“It's okay, man,” you tell him, and some of the panic recedes, although he's still blushing bright red. You'll admit that he's attractive, and you're mildly disappointed, but nothing worse. You're not fucking retarded enough to fall head over heels for a guy you barely even know. You don't know if it makes you eminently sensible or a hopeless romantic, but you've always figured love for something that grows over time and binds people ever closer together rather than an arrow that strikes in an instant and can only fade.

Like your love for Roxy, for example. Hopefully she's sober enough to take advantage of this huge emotional opening you just pried open for her...

“... where the fuck is Roxy?” you ask, looking at the empty space where your drunken dipshit of a soul-sister was sitting moments ago.

After a few minutes of frantic scrambling and calling, you catch sight of a glimpse of white at the edge of the forest. You all run over to see Frigglish mewing and butting against Roxy, who is standing on tiptoes with her arms wrapped around one of the low-hanging branches of a really tall tree. As you draw closer, one of her feet slips and she lands on the roots with a oof, narrowly avoiding landing on her familiar.

“What the fuck are you doing?” you ask, at the same time as Rose says, “Is this not somewhat excessive even by your standards, sister dear?”

Roxy giggles and waves a hand in the air. “I'm gonna... climma treeee,” she sings, off-key. You sigh, and are about to go and help her up when a thought strikes. You turn to John, half-hiding behind your brother but still very much present, and nod towards your fallen comrade.

“Hey, Warden, you gonna give the lady a hand up?” you ask. For a moment he looks startled, then blushes again.

“Oh, yeah!” he says, darting forwards and past you to crouch beside your buddy. He grabs her hand and is clearly trying to slip it around his shoulders to help her up, but Roxy has other ideas. As soon as her hand is in position she pulls him down into a sloppy but decidedly passionate kiss. On her end, at least- John really looks more surprised than anything else.

Eventually, even Roxy's attempts to emulate a facehugging monster from the depths of the earth come to an end, and she falls back onto the mossy bark with a wide, self-satisfied smile.

“You... I relly, reeuly like you,” she says, trying to poke John in the chest and missing. As the boy stares at her in surprise, she closes her eyes and snuggles back into the root. “You're hawt.

You sigh and look over at Dave. There is no need for words; a single nod and he's off, heading back to talk to Des and get the caravan ready to set out.

It takes another half an hour to get everyone's shit together and move out. You walk beside Maplehoof, guiding her, as Roxy lies on the driver's seat and plays with Frigglish. The air is clear, the sun is warm, and the forest whispers around you as you leave civilisation behind and turn your small progression towards the depths of the Greenweald. Your shoulder itches; most likely an illusion of the mind, a reaction to the sense of destiny that sits uneasily within you.

From behind, you can just make out Rose interrogating John as to the precise meaning behind his choice to use the phrase “not a homosexual” rather than any other expression. Does he have some problem with homosexuality? Could he be denying something? Such a curiously specific phrase- is he perhaps bisexual, or some other preference? No? Is he sure that is not simply more denial?

You remember the old Phooka proverb, family is where you find it, and decide that if this is what you have found then you could have done considerably worse.

Suggestions Used

LostSock – Dirk: Have a chapter in your POV because you haven't had a turn yet.

WhiteTiger1221 – Dave: Gloat over your kills, engage in banter with John

WhiteTiger1221 – John: Engage in banter with Dave. Be really excited

Ms Arano – Dirk: Explain to your clan the crazy priestess's plan to go to Starspire.

Asuka Kureru – Dave ==> try to teach John the noble and ancient art of slam poetry.

LostSock – Dirk or Dave: Also, rap about dragons.

WhiteTiger1221 – Roxy: Flirt unironically. Realize that drinking could be a liability on this mission, fail to care.

WhiteTiger1221 – Dirk: Flirt ironically. Plan way to get revenge for your brothers gloating

unholygrunt – Dirk: Keep flirting with John, ironically of course.

Silverkyo – John: Emphasize how you're not a homosexual and satisfy this 4th wall breaking meme joke before people beg

Asuka Kureru – Roxy ==> climb a REALLY TALL tree.

Ephemeral_Dreamer – Roxy ==> Seduce John.

Silverkyo – Roxy: Go get your mac on that hot defending gentleman

ttdOOOO – Rose's Group: Be on your way

Ephemeral_Dreamer – Rose: Your position is obviously no longer safe. Leave as fast as possible.

System Notes

Attempting to climb a REALLY TALL tree with plenty of branches while drunk = DC17
Roxy's climb check = 4
ROXY FAILS UTTERLY TO CLIMB THE TREE.

Chapter Text

==> Jake: Be The Messenger. Intrigue is afoot!

Karkat forgot to mention that it's pitch dark in the slave tunnels.

According to the foul-mouthed drow chappie, the narrow corridors run under or along or through most of the house. Except house isn't really the world at all for the miniature village you've got yourself trapped in- you thought the Great Clanhall was big, but by gum these Dark Elves don't hold back when they want to build impressively! Apparently the whole fortress belongs to Gamzee's family, some bigwig noble lineage. You tried to listen but by that point the amount you'd had to take in was frankly astounding and you kind of zoned out for a bit.

Point was, these tunnels could get you anywhere in the place without being seen, which was proving jolly useful right now! Although worrying, too, with some pesky assassin on the loose. Karkat had let out more than a few choice words when he found out that nobody was watching the entrances near Gamzee; personally you think it's just as well the Lawkeepers don't seem to have thought of them, or else you'd all be completely buggered. As it is you have a decent shot at getting to this Terezi woman without anyone asking you precisely why you would want to do such a thing.

Of course, as soon as you'd got a few hundred feet away from the thick tapestry that hid the tunnel and blocked the draft, you had realised you couldn't see a bloody thing and turned back. A rapid hunt of Gamzee's room had turned up nothing that would make a serviceable torch. The place was lit by glowing crystals that were both bloody impressive works of magic and damned well secured to the wall. Unless you started destroying furnishings and clothes, there was nothing to be done, and Karkat had promised you that if the damage was spotted "both of our sorry dicklicking asses are going to regret it, Quartzkin."

You'd told him your clan name after he'd started saying the first syllable of your truename, halfway through the explanation that you still can't quite believe. You'd thought it all so much hogswash as first, until your new comrade had rolled his eyes in exasperation and started to rattle off the names of your siblings- and one or two others they mentioned in their letters besides. You still aren't sure which is more astounding to you; that some otherwise unremarkable drow in the deeps was dreaming about you and your kinfolk, or that you are all most likely marked with some sort of divine symbol! Not that your brother and sisters ever mentioned anything of the sort in your communiques, but that doesn't make it implausible- after all, you never bothered to write it down either.

All your father ever had to say about your birthmark was that it was "elf nonsense, boy, nothing for you to fuss over." Your mother would smile and shake her head, and your siblings would tease, and in the end it never mattered until right now. Gamzee explained his mark to you, and Karkat's. It was all a bit garbled, but although you're no expert on any religion- not even the Smithlord you grew up with, not really- you got the impression that the Gods that marked them aren't really supposed to be the most upstanding and pleasant of sorts. None of you know much about what God your mark could be for, so you aren't going to bother overly about it just yet. Your new allies are a pair of funny onions and no mistake, but neither of them strikes you as being so terrible as the Gods they're associated with. You don't see how any daft old divine symbol is going to change you, no matter how bloody strange it is to have on your skin.

This Terezi woman, though- her mark is an altogether different matter. To tell the truth, you aren't so certain she'll help as Karkat is, and you think you even caught Gamzee looking dubious as the shorter drow insisted on enlisting her aid. But you don't exactly have a fat platter of options here; if you do nothing, you're stuck with the noblewoman who collared you at the centre of a religious war- assuming the assassins don't succeed before then, in which case you'll most likely either be dead or wishing you were in short order. Karkat seems to think this Lawkeeper knows a way out of the city, and you know better than anyone that when it comes to adventure it's nothing ventured, nothing gained.

Given that Karkat has met the lady you're looking for, knows how to navigate these blasted tunnels, and can actually see in the dark, it might really have been better if he made this trip. But gods damn it, when you saw how happy Gamzee was to have him there and how tightly Karkat was clinging on, you'd have had to have been a cad of the lowest order to demand that they split up for this. Especially since there was apparently some trouble earlier and they're both sure that Karkat is in everyone's bad books right about now.

"Anyone who's breathing in this place wants to make both of us suffer agonies the like of which have never before been seen," Karkat had said, cuddling up against his- friend? you're not sure, although you're quite certain they aren't really brothers- as they settled back into the pile of trance cushions. "And since this stupid assmunch is officially off-limits, that means they'll just do it to me twice. So I'm staying here where it's at least approximately in pissing distance of safe, and you're going out to find the crazy Lawkeeper bitch."

Which is how you wound up stumbling about in a darkness so deep that closing your eyes might actually make things a little lighter. One of your hands is trailing on the wall, and you are treading very carefully. Let nobody say that you haven't learned your lesson about stumbling uselessly around in the dark. Occasionally you hear footsteps, feel someone brush past you in the narrow tunnel; the first few times it happened you nearly jumped clean out of your skin, until you heard someone snickering at your frightened yelp. You're not the only slave down here, just the only one who can't bloody see.

You get used to the unseen encounters pretty fast, if you say so yourself. After a couple of tries you manage to grab someone and as they try to wriggle free you demand directions. Repeating the process a few times you arrive in a tunnel where the scent of incense permeates the air and the stones under your hands are old and rough. Your fingers run out of wall, fall into an alcove and brush woven cloth. You step into it, pulling the tapestry aside and peeking out before you accidentally stride into something you shouldn't. The light in the room beyond is dim, supplied by flickering candles whose fire melts into the curling smoke. There are no less than five guards in the large chapel, which looks more like a full-out High Temple to you but then you've already come to realise that Gamzee's family don't like to settle for second best. You may not be gifted with darkvision, but your eyes are more than good enough to pick up that three of the armed watchers are in teal, which you are told means Lawkeeper.

From what Karkat and Gamzee say, the latter will be getting married in this room at some point late today. Neither of them seem too happy about it, but when you suggested trying to leave they gave you a look that made you shut your mouth a dashed sight faster than you'd opened it. Then again, who can fathom a people who go around enslaving a chap who's just got himself into a spot of bother? Not to mention marrying folks off against their will, or trying to assassinate them because of an objection to the aforementioned nuptual arrangements. Doesn't make a blind bit of sense to you but you suppose it must be normal around here.

When you get home, you are going to have one humdinger of a story to tell!

First, though, you have to avoid any untoward questions about what you might be doing here. Fortunately all five of the guards are clustered down the far end near the chapel entrance, failing utterly to consider the slave tunnels. It all seems like a massive flaw in security to you- no Clanhold would ever be built with such a weakness, and even if hidden tunnels were added the designers would have to be completely addle-pated not to add some defences against unwanted intrusion! Why, you knew the safe passage of more than twenty traps before you even turned ten! Somewhat more relevant right now are the many, many occasions on which you avoided bullies and boneheads hell-bent on giving you a thrashing by staying quiet and out of the way.

Compared to half a dozen actively malicious dwarven adolescents, even heavily armoured drow aren't all that perturbing. You're starting to get used to the stark contrast of ink-black skin and snow-white hair, and without that shock all you can see are a group of adults sitting about chatting and guarding and mostly being bored out of their wits. It takes an effort to remind yourself that if they catch sight of you it could get a good sight worse than a thrashing. Maybe they'd ignore you as beneath their notice, or maybe they'd be worried about damaging the Lady Yetenekli's property. Karkat had a great deal to say to you before you began this little excursion on the subject of "maybe" and how it pertains to your current station. Suffice to say that after his erudite and colourful warnings, you won't be trusting your safety to any "maybes" unless there is absolutely no other option available.

You wait until all of the guards are facing away from you to slip out into the chapel, thick drapes of blue and green cloth forcing your hand away from the comfort of the rough stone wall. None of the shades match the deep velvety midnight colour of your tunic, or the bright silver of the mithral over it, and you keep your head down and move fast in the hopes of getting by without notice. You tread carefully and whatever small sound your steps might make are swallowed by intricately woven rugs; as you pass the halfway mark behind an altar covered in offerings of gold and silver and precious stones you risk a glance over at the still-oblivious guards. For a moment you feel a pang of homesickness as you remember the manner of offerings left at the foot of the Smithlord's Forge- finely wrought swords, copper shields as smooth as glass, decorated rifles that could still pick off a cavebat from a hundred yards distant- and wonder what sort of god would have any use for jewels and gilded toys.

Then one of the guards looks around and you drop, crouching behind the altar with your heart pounding in your ears and accidentally yanking the altar cloth as you go. Upset by your grabbing hands, a glimmering golden chalice inset with sapphires teeters alarmingly then overbalances. Bright metal flashes in your vision and the world seems to slow as it plummets to the hard stone floor. Frantic, you grab it a few fractions of an inch away from disaster, and hold the priceless goblet perfectly still, unable to breathe as you wait for the inevitable demand to show yourself, slave! Gods damn it all, you were doing so well, too!

Then you hear laughter from over by the door, the chatter of the guards in their dark elven tongue rising and falling as normal, and you breathe out all in a rush as you realise you're okay. It's a bloody miracle you weren't spotted, but the coast is clear and you don't feel like looking this particular gift horse in the mouth. A cautious peek over the top of the altar confirms that nobody's looking your way. You take a moment to set the blasted cup back with its fellows- one of a matched set, all equally gaudy, crass and useless- and play it safe by crawling the next few feet in cover before making a mad dash to the far side of the room.

The door you went through all these ridiculous shenanigans to reach is small and modest by the standards of the rest of the chamber, set in a small recess and framed by thick curtains a slightly different shade of teal than the rest of the decor. Normally you'd be a mite more hesitant before intruding on a lady, particularly one who might kill you for bothering her, but after what you've just gone through you yank the door open and dart in like the Lord of Regulus herself was after you.

It's only after you've put your back to the solid, comforting weight of the worked metal door that you notice your audience.

The first thing that springs to mind when you see the Drow woman is that she's pointier than Gamzee, and the second thing is how that isn't really true. It's the way she holds herself that makes you think of sharp angles and razor edges, written in every line of her, from the way her cheeks fold around her disturbingly wide grin to the arch her fingers make on the table she has pushed up against the opposite wall. When she moves, unfolding up out of her chair in a single predatory motion, you can't help shrinking further back into the solid metal at your back. She moves like a bat, like a lizard, like someone who's not only never had a doubt in their life but probably wouldn't understand the concept even if you tried to explain it to her.

She's wearing blue leather and startlingly red eyeglasses and she leans in far too close, trapping you in place with a hand that rests against the door. You look at her, sleek and deadly and inches from your face, and you do the first thing that comes to mind. You grin right back at her.

"Good morning!" you say cheerily. "Would I be right in assuming that you are Prelate Lawkeeper Terezi?"

The Drow woman tilts her head and you swear her impossible smirk grows a little wider. "Would I be right in assuming that you're in trouble if I'm not?" She leans in a little closer and- is she sniffing your hair?

If there's one thing you learned from your father's stories it's that a hero doesn't panic, even if he is being faced with morally questionable hair-sniffing clergy. "Well, it would be rather an embarrassing gaffe," you admit with a wry shrug. "But as you're a dead ringer for the description Karkat gave, I'm inclined to think I'm not in any real bother."

She pulls back to study you, smile fading and leaving behind a face that is altogether too calculating for you to feel safe around. After a few moments, she drops her hand and spins, striding back to her impromptu desk and slumping into her chair to regard you with an inscrutable glare. You try to return it steadily, but since you can't see anything behind those eyeglasses you're at a sizeable disadvantage. Pretty soon your gaze drops, and despite your most stoic efforts you begin to fidget. To your annoyance, the blasted woman doesn't say a word- she just sits there and stares at you patiently until you want to shake her, scream in her face, do anything just to make her react.

"My name's Jake," you blurt, suddenly remembering something from the middle section of an extensive introduction to creative profanity. "Karkat said I should tell you my name, and that you were right, and that I have a... a birthmark between my shoulders." The stocky Drow had also added something about keeping you if she wanted to stare at it, but you decide not to repeat that part.

She still says nothing, but her fingers drum a short tattoo on the book she was reading before you entered. You glance at it, see the rough bindings and a glimpse of tight-packed writing, and leap straight to a conclusion.

"Is that Karkat's journal?"

"Why are you here?" she asks, not even glancing at the tome. You swallow nervously; this is the most dangerous part of your mission, because there's no telling how she'll respond to what you say next.

"Someone tried to poison Gamzee," you say, and you don't miss the way she stiffens. It's gone before she turns, but the reaction gives you enough courage to go on. "Karkat thinks- that is, it does seem like it could be the Temple's doing."

Another inscrutable look, and if it wasn't for the fact that you know there are guards outside you would already be running.

"Is it a wing?" she asks. It takes you a moment to realise what she means, and then you nod, confused. Suddenly her face breaks back into a radiant, knife-edged grin. It looks no less worrisome than her more serious face and you start as she darts forward and grabs you by the chin.

"I say, steady on!" you say. Or try to- your voice comes out a tad muffled as she tugs your head from side to side, studying you with a truly unnerving intensity. Then she releases you and steps back, her smile softening as she walks back over to the ragged journal and flips to a page. She looks back up at you, standing in the middle of the floor, and beckons.

"Come see," she says, and you walk closer to see your birthmark scrawled haphazardly across a page. From here you can also see the other books she has open around it, and you follow her finger as she taps one of them to see a far smaller but more accurate rendition of the shape.

"What in the devil-fucking dickens...?"

"It's the symbol of the Page of Hope," the Lawkeeper says, brushing it with a gentle finger. "One of the sunwalker gods. You don't know him?"

You shake your head. "I'm dwarf-raised," you tell her, and it's hard to keep a hint of pride from your voice. "Don't know a whole lot about this bally elf nonsense."

She cackles at that, sharp and harsh. "The prosecution finds your argument to be flawed, elf," she says, twisting her head so that the breath of her words passes over your neck. It's not unpleasant, but you don't think this is really the time to be getting distracted. You look around at the other books, see them open on various other symbols, and frown.

"So what's all this, then?" you ask. She follows your finger as you point and chuckles again.

"Gods," she says, settling back in her chair. "Half a night of research, but I think I'm onto something." She taps the journal again. "There are fourteen symbols in here, and through tireless investigation and relentless inquisition I found them all."

"Well, that's good, then!" you say. You aren't really sure what's so important about knowing but she seems fairly keen, and besides your mother always said there's no such thing as wasted knowledge.

"Oh, it gets better," the Drow woman says, snickering. "Although since you're not a fan of elf nonsense, I wouldn't expect you to understand."

You blush. "Now you just hold your horses a moment there! I never said I had a problem with it, just that I didn't know much. You're being a little harsh!"

"Only a little?" she replies, eyebrow raising. "Hehe. I'll have to try harder." She smooths the journal page in front of her and you get the sense that she's staring blankly at the paper. "Divine powers exist whether you worship them or not," she says after a moment. "That's one of the first things we learned in the temple- never offend a god you don't plan on fighting."

"Sounds jolly sensible to me."

The harsh bark of her laugh echoes in the tall stone chamber. "Oh, yes. Very sensible," she agrees. "But not everyone is sensible, which is how we know that gods come in different sizes. Some are big, bad, and dangerous." She pauses and turns to look at you. "And others are powerful enough to squash the first kind like annoying bugs."

You swallow, rather glad that you've never really felt a particular religious calling. "And, uh, the fourteen in question?"

"The most powerful," the Lawkeeper says happily. "There's a few references to them as the Celestial and Infernal circles of Heaven, or as the Creator Gods. All heretical texts, of course."

"Of course," you echo. She laughs again, a sound like eggshells breaking.

"They are simply the strongest there is," she tells you. "You, me, Karkat, Gamzee, Kanaya... all of us with marks. We're chosen by the most powerful beings in existence."

A chill runs up your spine as she speaks. You can't say you exactly relish the thought of some god keeping watch on you while you go about your life.

"The one you mentioned for my mark..." you begin, shifting awkwardly beside her.

"The Page of Hope?" she says, looking up at you from her chair. "One of the Celestials. There's not much on them in these books..." she waves a hand across the gathered tomes and shrugs. "... but he doesn't seem too bad from what I can tell. There's a lot about irresponsibility and societal collapse in there, but as far as I can tell he just likes people to make their own decisions." You blink as the full force of her grin turns on you. "Sounds like a pretty fun guy to me."

"Uh, thanks," you say, taking a step back from what might well be a dangerous lunatic. "So, just the fourteen of us, then?"

That seems to put her out of sorts, because she frowns and pokes at the journal like it personally wronged her. "Perhaps. When I looked more closely I found another six names in the journal, but I couldn't match them to any of the gods in the books." She sighs, exhaling fiercely as if the air in her lungs has offended her somehow. "But this can wait. There is a more serious crime to investigate now!"

"There is?" You're having some trouble keeping up with this girl, but by gum is she a pistol!

"Well of course!" she says, getting out of her seat and picking up a long thin cane that had rested against the wall. "It is my job to protect Gamzee from assassins, regardless of who sends them." She turns to face you and although she's smiling you don't think she's anything but deadly serious. "Karkat was right; the temple might well be responsible for this. I need to investigate further, but in the meantime the three of you need to start planning to leave."

"But the collars," you say, gingerly poking at the cold metal around your neck. You may be reckless at times but you've no desire to find out exactly what enchantments are on this thing. "And I rather get the feeling that they'd prefer us to stay put anyway."

The Lawkeeper- Terezi- sighs. "Find a way to get the collars off and I'll think of the rest," she tells you. "If you can't get your hands on the key then a spell of Remove Curse should handle it; either way you'll have to steal something, but Karkles is a thief so he should have some ideas about that."

You nod slowly, seeing the sense in her words. The slave collars might not be cursed jewelry per se but the whole point of curse removal is to detach someone from a magical effect they don't want attached. Of course since you're not a wizard, you have no idea where you would get something like that, so the key is probably a better plan.

You start in surprise when your new co-conspirator grabs you by the wrist and starts dragging you towards the door. "Come on then, Jake Sunwalker," she cackles. "Let's get going! After all, we only have until sundown before Gamzee is a married man."

It takes you a moment to realize her meaning and when you do you stop dead for a moment before she drags you on. If the assassin's aim is to prevent or destroy the alliance between the houses, then you are all running out of time. The thought is sufficiently distracting that you don't even notice you're in the chapel again until the five guards are all jumping to their feet and saluting the Chosen Favourite of the Seer. She doesn't even acknowledge them save for a small nod, leading you past what was earlier a dreadful danger and out into the corridors of House Kutsanmis. Once again you wonder at the poor security- they don't even question that you have appeared seemingly from nowhere.

Once you're out of immediate earshot, Terezi lets go of your wrist and gives you a small shove towards a corridor that looks no different to the others around it.

"Good luck," she whispers, and you nod as you set back out into the depths of the House. Behind you there is a small cough and you turn to see the Lawkeeper wrinkling her nose at the drifting incense from the chapel. She looks thoughtful, as though contemplating her next course of action.

It occurs to you that femme fatale or not, you trust this dame a whole lot more now than you did half an hour ago.

Suggestions Used

unholygrunt – Karkat: Find a way to send a message to Terezi about assassins.

WhiteTiger1221 – Gamzee: Be ecstatic that you're back together with your bro. Know passing knowledge of Terezi due to knowing about Karkat's visions.

MASK – Karkat: Exposition time! (because naming his dreambuddies will likely strike a chord with jake, helping loop the group into more overarching plot shit).

WhiteTiger1221 – Karkat: Nothing much for you to do now, except trust that the insane law-keeper can figure something out. Explain about how Terezi can help and also protect Gamzee from assassinations.

jadescribe – Jake: get brought up on exactly what you've fallen (been kidnapped) into and wonder at the strangeness of drow politics, as explained by one who was high most of the time and one whose expletives make up a good part of his sentences.

WhiteTiger1221 – Jake: Continue to be extraordinarily competent, listen to exposition.

ttdOOOO – Terezi: Read diary, note similarities to other, non-godmarked people you know (unless you've decided against your NPC idea).

WhiteTiger1221 – Terezi: Use your cunning and guile to find out how to remove the collars.

LostSock – Terezi: Cough in comedic fashion from smoke and contemplate your next course of action.

Special Assignment (Ongoing):
unholygrunt - Everyone should fall in love with Jake and he promptly falls in love with a ghost.

ttdOOOO – Everybody that makes sense: Be attracted to [Jake] at first sight. I find that as hilarious a running gag as Roxy trying to get in [John's] pants.

System Notes

Sneaking around the edge of the chapel without being spotted: Opposed Stealth VS Perception Check
Jake's stealth check = 22 VS Lawkeeper perception checks = 5 (NATURAL 1)
Jake's stealth check = 22 VS Kutsanmis guard perception check = 8
Jake's stealth check = 22 VS Yetenekli guard perception check = 10
JAKE SNEAKS PAST ALL OF THE GUARDS IN THE CHAPEL SUCCESSFULLY.

Researching the significance of the information in the Karkat's Journal, with the help of various religious texts = DC10/15/20
Terezi's knowledge religion check = 15
TEREZI LEARNS THAT THERE ARE FOURTEEN "REAL" GODS WHOSE SYMBOLS CORRESPOND TO THE MAIN GODMARKS SHOWN IN THE JOURNAL, AND THAT THEY ARE DIVIDED INTO THE CELESTIAL AND INFERNAL DEITIES. SHE DOES NOT IDENTIFY THE OTHER SIX SYMBOLS OR NAMES.

Chapter Text

THE WITCH OF SPACE

Witch of Space God Symbol, For attachment to LODAD fic on AO3.
Green Lady, Nightbringer, the Gardener, the World Maker

ALIGNMENT: Neutral Good

PORTFOLIO: Nature, Night, Magic, Creation

DOMAINS: Magic (Divine), Travel (), Plant (), Dream*, Animal (Fur), Void (Stars)

FAVOURED WEAPON: Musket [Defaults to Longbow]

THE WITCH OF SPACE is a goddess of things that live and grow, trustee of a font of power deeper than mortal minds can conceive and mistress of all the wonders of the universe.

HISTORY
Sunny and cheerful one minute, full of vengeful fury the next, tales of the Witch paint her as changing and unpredictable as the weather. Although consistently benevolent to others, she is said to not tolerate the foolish and the rude. She is generally credited as the creator of the world, and as its most powerful protector.

PANTHEONS AND RELATIONSHIPS
The Witch of Space appears in the worship of three different pantheons as well as individually.

In the PANTHEON OF LIGHT, she is the sister of the HEIR OF BREATH, a close friend of both the SEER OF LIGHT and the KNIGHT OF TIME, and often works closely with the PAGE OF HOPE. She is the patron of farmers and woodsmen, and in tales of the pantheon she is usually the one to save the day by magical means. Her divine strength is often shown as being greater than that of the other gods, but restrained from harm by her kindly nature.

As one of the RULERS OF HEAVEN, she is again related to the HEIR OF BREATH and friends with the other two deities. In this pantheon she takes on the mantle of teacher and guide, and her connection to sleep and dreams is of greater import; although she is still the World Maker, her divine powers are not so all-encompassing.

Within the HOLY TRIAD, she is one of three equal deities along with the HEIR OF BREATH, who is once again her brother, and the KNIGHT OF TIME, who still smiles for her. In this pantheon she is the navigator of the heavens, the one who carries the world on her shoulders with a laugh and delivers travellers safely home.

Alone, she is generally considered to be the nature goddess in all the temperamental glory that implies. She is generally acknowledged- if not worshipped- by Druids the world over, and most farmers will know at least one of her names.

Rarely is she an antagonist to other pantheons or deities, but on the few occasions it happens she is depicted as irrational, unreliable, or scatterbrained in the extreme. Her relationship with the KNIGHT OF BLOOD is one of mutual caring irritation, with both of them making appearances as alternately obstacles and helpers for the other.

APPEARANCE AND EMISSARIES
The Witch of Space is most often depicted as a dark-haired aasimar or a Hodekin with brilliant green eyes, whose dress and hood are made from the night sky itself. Often images will show her either sleeping, or holding various planar spheres (including the prime material) floating in the palm of her hand. She is often either shown with a large white dog or wolf, or with slight canine characteristics- such as doglike ears, or a tail.

SERVANTS
Dogs, wolves, and other canines have the favour of the Witch of Space, although she remains fond of all animals born of nature. Frogs are also particularly sacred to her.

The White Hound
Some say this great white canine is a servant of the goddess; others, that it is she herself, transformed. Whatever the case may be, this mysterious being only appears to those who have the deity's favour, and protects them in their hour of greatest need.

The First Guardian
Deep in the heart of the Whispering Forest lives the leader of the Guardian Order, a Druid that some say has lived for millennia through regenerative magic- shedding their old form for a young, healthy body each time age creeps up. Perhaps because of this the exact nature of this Druid is unclear- species, age, even gender are different from story to story. The one constant is their animal companion, a pure white and eyeless owl, which is said to have strange and terrible powers of its own.

CHURCH
Temples of the Witch exist throughout the world, in the beating hearts of great cities and in the lost valleys of ancient forests. Those that follow a pantheon generally report to the primary temple of that pantheon- Porthaven for the PANTHEON OF LIGHT, Madianzi for the RULERS OF HEAVEN, and Hintta for the HOLY TRIAD. Her solo temples are usually maintained by lone druids or clerics, who consider their effort well spent if they can bring one apprentice to appreciate the beauty of their goddess and her creation.

WORSHIPPERS AND CLERGY
Clerics of the Witch of Space are Neutral Good, Lawful Good, Chaotic Good, or True Neutral.

Followers of the Witch are generally farmers, woodsmen, astrologers and scholars of nature- those who appreciate and learn about the world around them, and have a sense for the brutal harmony the goddess provides.

The clergy of the Witch are ordinarily Druids, Rangers and Clerics. She will occasionally choose an Oracle or Paladin in times of need, but in general those who study are more readily welcomed as her preachers than those who must be gifted with power.

TEMPLES AND SHRINES
Temples to the Witch of Space are usually round, domed, and filled with natural light filtered either through glass, stained glass, woven leafy branches, or whatever else the local builders can devise. They are usually filled with living plants and make for excellent observatories of the heavens, but everything else about them tends to vary depending on what the builders desired. Small shrines to her are also common, varying widely in construction but usually to be found in places of great natural beauty.

HOLY TEXTS
The holy books of the Church of Space are how-to manuals, ranging from the basics of animal husbandry and crop rotation to complex treatises on the movements of planets and the formation of continents. As a follower gains deeper understanding of their faith, so too do they gain a truer understanding of the world around them.

The Scientific Method
Required reading for all priests and most followers of the Witch, this book demonstrates a way of thinking and interacting with the world that will produce the most progress. Although it encourages development and understanding of natural law, it also cautions the reader not to get carried away and take too much from the world, as balance will always be redressed.

What Pumpkin?
Any farmer or smallholder who is literate has a copy of this book, which comes with an updated almanac every year and provides practical advice on a wide range of everyday matters. Except, for some unknown reason, pumpkins.

Astronomy and Astrology – A Study Of The Celestial Spheres
This book explains in detail the physical and mystical properties of every star, planet, moon and comet to ever appear in the skies. Universally popular as the “Book of Horoscopes”, it is from this text that the fourteen birth-signs are drawn, and most people the world over would be able to tell you their sigil even if they cannot calculate their exact cosmic influences. Fewer people spend time in study of the more physical and material information available, but those who do insist that the possibilities of such study are more than worthwhile.

HOLIDAYS
The church of the Witch marks the changing of the seasons, which usually leads to slightly different holiday seasons depending on the latitude and longitude of the worshippers. Even when a festival is not dedicated entirely to her, if it marks the changing year then she is always made welcome.

Skyfall
One of the few celebrations of the Witch not tied to the seasons, this festival is held to celebrate the yearly display of shooting stars that visit the world. For most it is an excuse to hold bonfires, let off spell-flares, and generally celebrate the gifts of the nature Goddess. For academics and artificers it is a more intellectual affair, associated with astrology and the rare minerals often found in the crashed meteors.

Summer’s End
Also known as Faire Season and Travelling Time, this is when apprentices are taken, hiring fairs are held, and all manner of tinkers, traders and roving entertainers ply their trade the world over. It is said that if you would change your life or move it, Summer’s End is the time to try.

Last Harvest
When the final harvest of the year is done and all the crops are in for the winter, it is traditional to hold a party lasting long into the night. This is a common time for betrothals and is considered an excellent time to reminisce about the past.

The Festival of Frost and Frogs
The day after the Winter Solstice, darkest day of the year, a great feast is held to celebrate the turning of the tide and the return of sunlight. Presents are given, and legends told of how the Goddess delivers them- either through portals, or by transporting herself across half the world in a single night.

Witch Of Space Portrait by proserpine-in-phases

--------------
* Third Party Domains, 4 Winds Fantasy Gaming

Chapter Text

==> Kanaya: Remember An Old Friend

As the chosen soul and devotee of a powerful goddess travelling with two instinctive arcane spellcasters, you are generally reluctant to describe every unlikely or unusual event as miraculous, but the possibility of divine intervention in the matter of your breakfast does not seem impossible given its unusual palatability. In the years since you left your home you have learned that while the different sentient races of the world may have many things in common, taste is not one of them, and what is acceptable to an elf may be utterly foul to dwarf, orc, aasimar or tiefling. You’ve often seen Aradia surreptitiously poking her food whenever you stop at inns, and you know from her many previous attempts to improve your rations that whatever she considers edible is likely to turn your stomach. Today, though, she has outdone herself, and your otherwise plain wandermeals are if not delicious then at least not dull.

Jade seems as delighted as you with the change, although you notice Sollux pulling faces whenever Aradia isn’t looking. You don’t think you’ve ever seen him really enjoy food that wasn’t sickeningly sweet; whenever you stop in Porthaven you always seem to end up bailing him out of lockup after too much mead and a subsequent series of drunken explosions. How in the name of the Sacred Mother he manages to cast effectively while intoxicated you have no conception whatsoever, but it has led to you all being on first-name terms with a number of members of the Watch and several individuals with such appellations as “Nine-Finger Joe” and “Masher Higgins”.

Since you have become effectively diurnal in the past few days it is early morning when you eat; Aradia is cheerier than usual after a full night of rest, and Sollux seems to have warmed to your new travelling companion somewhat since she became your employer. He is sitting next to you now, munching mechanically on a dried biscuit with that odd faraway look that you have come to learn means he’s probably thinking about complex arcane formulae. Across the fire from you, Bec is dozing by his mistress while Aradia and Jade pore over the map that your small group has been painstakingly drawing for the last few weeks.

“Do you know whereabouts in the mountains the Dwarf Hold is?”

Jade shrugs, chin almost resting on Aradia’s shoulder as she absently scratches at the fur on Bec’s back. “Not exactly? I mean, I had directions, but it was more compass points and landmarks and maybe a bit of magic. I knew I was a day or two out when I hit the old temple.”

Aradia draws a line along the parchment with her finger. “So, that means somewhere in this area. What landmarks? Maybe we saw some of them when we were exploring.”

Jade chews her lip. “Umm, after the temple? North to a big old hollow tree, large enough to camp in, and then north-north east to a clearing full of bluebells.” She grins. “Oh, and then it’s almost due east until we see a weathered statue of a smith working at an anvil.”

“A smith?” you blurt, and then blush as the two of them turn to face you.

“Kanaya?” asks Aradia, “Do you know where it is? Because I don’t remember a statue, but if you do then that would be perfect, because I do remember the bluebells and I’m pretty sure I can get us there but if we’ve been closer to the Hold…”

“I… I may have seen something like that once,” you admit, talking more slowly than usual as your mind whirls. “But it was not on this journey. It was a long time ago, when I first came to the surface.” The others all stare at you wordlessly, and you feel compelled to elaborate. “I was, at the time, entirely ignorant of the world and my surroundings. Everything was new to me, and as such the memories are still vivid. But I had no idea we were currently in the area of my emergence. If I had then I would have said something sooner, I didn’t know…”

“Okay, we get it, chill the fuck out already,” Sollux says, rolling his eyes. “Tho we’re near the point you came out from underground. Tho what? Unleth it helpth uth find the dwarveth, I don’t thee how thith ith at all relevant.”

“It is entirely relevant, because it means we are near Golgesi,” you tell him, perhaps a little more sharply than you intended. “Although… now I think of it, there are hardly many large drow cities in this region… oh, no, how silly of me, I should have thought of this sooner…” your voice trails off as you bury your head in your hands with embarrassment.

There is a long pause, and then you hear Jade’s voice, sounding unusually tentative. “So… I guess this means you can find my brother, right?”

You peek out from behind your fingers to see her leaning forwards, the ends of her hair in danger of igniting as they dangle close to the fire. “Not precisely,” you explain, dropping your hands a little but keeping them safely over your burning cheeks. “Golgesi is large and populous, and although it is likely that is where he has ended up there are any number of places he could have been taken within the city.”

“Again, then, I athk what the point of thith bullthit ith,” Sollux says.

“Oh, don’t be such a grumpy puss,” Aradia says, sticking her tongue out at him. “Isn’t it obvious? Kanaya comes from the city, so she’ll have friends there! Friends we can ask for help!”

You nod as Sollux huffs and slumps down to lie on the ground, ignoring you all. “One in particular,” you say, before pausing to carefully choose your next words. “I should warn you- I don’t know how much help she will be. We were friends, yes, but her nature is such that she has always been hard to read at the best of times. Until she helped me escape, I had no idea that she would be on my side in the matter that required my absence, and I have not spoken with her since. She could easily have changed a great deal in the time that has passed.”

Jade examines the sky for a moment, then beams at you. “It’s better than nothing, though!” she says. “And we can’t afford to turn down leads; who knows how much trouble Jake is in right now!” Her face falls as she says it, and you don’t want to upset her but you can’t help the way your eye twitches or your fingers tighten in the grass.

The other elf misses it, but Aradia knows you well enough to recognise your tells. “Kanaya?” she asks, a warning tone in her voice, and you can no longer hold in or deny the worry that has been eating at you ever since your new employer mentioned the most likely cause of her brother’s disappearance.

You avoid meeting Jade’s eyes, hands twisting in your lap as you speak the plain truth. “If your brother has been captured, then it is more than likely he is in grave danger,” you tell the fire, not daring to look at your companions. “My people are… not kind. Or perhaps it would be better to say that our society is not?” You hesitate, chewing on your lip as you think. “I, like my kin and perhaps my friend, wished to change things, but as it was concepts such as compassion, mercy, and altruism were not valued or considered virtues in my homeland. In fact, they were more often mocked and exploited as weaknesses.”

“But that’s awful!” Aradia exclaims at the same moment as Jade scowls and says, “So what in the hells have they done with Jake!?”

“Well,” you say, fiddling with the hair behind your ear and wondering how best to explain this to your surface-dwelling friends. “The thing you have to understand about my people is that it is generally accepted as fact- and really, Sollux, I have to assure you that I no longer feel this way and I in fact consider you to be a good friend and one of the most intelligent people I have ever met…”

"What the fuck are you thaying?”

“…but my people usually consider, that is to say, we- they- tend to believe, that men are not, ah, as mentally acute as women?"

Sollux pushes himself up on his bony elbows, eyes narrowing to glare at you. "What ith that thuppothed to mean, not ath mentally acute?" he hisses. You know full well he understands but from the way Jade's brow is furrowed you aren't so sure she does, so you try to swallow the lump in your throat and elaborate.

"The... general perception, I suppose, is that men are less cerebral, less capable of reason, and are more inclined to and best suited for purely physical tasks, particularly those involving violence or things similarly, ahm, primal?” Jade is still frowning, and you realise that putting this delicately is getting you nowhere. "If your brother has been captured by drow, which seems probable, then it was most likely to be slave traders. I understand that I don't know much about him as a person, and a sunwalker- that is, a surface elf- would be a rare and valuable commodity, but anyone paying for him would almost certainly be less interested in any education or skills he might have than in his, ah, baser qualities."

Jade tilts her head. “So… they might make him fight people? Or hurt people?” She scowls. “If he gets hurt then I am going to bring their whole stupid city down around their dumb snowy heads! Oh, no offence, Kanaya. Sorry.”

Realising that she isn't getting your rather too broad hints, you give up with a sigh. “As I already said, he would be valuable- too much so to expend casually or foolishly. He is most likely a bodyguard. Or something.” You shuffle about on the ground and brush some stray specks of dirt and leaf mould off your cloak. “Definitely something.”

“Oh, well, I guess that’s not so bad? Jake’s pretty tough, after all.” Jade says, but she still looks worried. Sollux growls.

“Yeah, thure,” he says, scrambling to his feet. “I feel tho much better about your dipthit brother now. Thankth, Kanaya, it wath great to hear all about how you think I’m a utheleth piethe of brainleth crap.”

You stare at him, small red and blue flames flickering and dying over his skin, your brain drawing a blank in the face of his sudden fury. “I… I beg your pardon?” you say after a moment, your voice running on baffled, uncomprehending automatic.

He bares his teeth, snarling at you like a cornered wolf. “Oh, I’m thorry, wath I thuppothed to be inthuffithiently therebral to underthtand? Or am I jutht dithplaying a lethher capathity for reathon by getting upthet about it?”

You wince as the problem dawns on you; perhaps you should have seen this coming, but you are so used to thinking of Sollux as, well, Sollux- rude and arrogant and utterly unconcerned with the opinions of the rest of the world- that you forgot entirely how sensitive he can be to criticism in areas that matter to him. Such as, for instance, his intellect. You know that you’re on dangerous ground, but you try anyway. “I never said you were stupid, Sollux,” you tell him slowly, keeping a close eye on the dangerous little sparks of magic that crackle around him. “In fact, I seem to have some recollection of mentioning how very much I admire your intelligence only a minute or so ago.”

“Yeah, I remember,” said Sollux through gritted teeth. “How very fucking brilliant I am. Look at the puny little freak, he’th learned a few trickth, ithn’t that clever. Let’th pat him on the head and give him a treat.” The last word was spat out like a curse or a challenge, and you can feel your ire rising as you open your mouth to retort when suddenly Aradia is there, standing between the two of you and raising a finger to waggle it under Sollux’s nose.

“That is quite enough of that!” she says, and although you can’t really tell with his solid-coloured eyes you’re sure from the way his head is tilted that Sollux is following her fingertip. “If you’re just going to be upset whatever she says to you, then you can just take a time-out to cool off, mister!”

Sollux’s head turns to you, to Jade, and then back to Aradia. “Fuck thith,” he mutters, and with a dejected slump to his shoulders turns and slinks away to hide behind a tree. Aradia turns back to you and digs something out of a belt pouch.

“Here,” she says, crouching briefly to press something warm and round into your palm. “You get in touch with your friend, okay?” She smiles at Jade. “Don’t worry, it’s going to be fine. Let’s get camp packed up.”

As Jade agrees and the two of them stand, you look in your hand to see a wooden token carved with a small bird on one side and a lone feather on the other. It takes you a few seconds to recognise it, and as soon as you do you raise your head to tell Aradia that you cannot possibly accept such a valuable gift. Before you can even open your mouth your friend sees, and gives you a wink and a thumbs-up that negate any possibility of refusal. She knows exactly what she’s doing, and you accept with a silent promise to yourself that you will pay her back. Eventually. When you can afford to.

You aren’t quite sure how to use the Feather Token, so you hold it in your thumb and forefinger and study it closely. To your ordinary, untrained vision it looks like an ordinary piece of beautifully carved wood, but then that is the way of magical items- most of them don’t look like anything out of the ordinary. You check to be sure nobody’s watching then give it a surreptitious lick. It tastes surprisingly similar to unaltered wandermeals, but nothing magical happens.

You frown in thought, rubbing the token in your grip as you ponder its mysteries, until you realise that the growing warmth in your hand is down to more than just friction. When you look again you see a very faint glow around the token; as soon as you stop rubbing it begins to fade, and with a sense of burgeoning relief you resume the action. Soon the small piece of wood is not only emitting a pale pinkish light, but is also humming faintly, and you let go in surprise as it judders in your fingers. It hovers in the air for a moment before the light erupts into a brilliant crimson flame, the token flaring into a piece of yellowed parchment that hovers before you, enveloped in a golden aura.

You touch the parchment with one finger, and a jade-green mark appears on the spot; you pull back to consider your next action. There is every possibility that Terezi will turn you and your friends in rather than working with you, and an equally significant chance that your letter will be intercepted by hostile parties; it is thus imperative that your missive is composed with care.
Eventually, after prolonged and careful thought, you touch your finger to the magical parchment again and begin to write.

To My Oldest And I Hope Dearest Friend

I Can Only Pray That This Reaches You Although You Can Of Course Understand My Reluctance To Assume That Such Will Be The Case. I Will Not Insult You By Presuming To Pretend That I Had Intentions To Contact You Before This Or In Fact At All But Instead Offer Only My Regrets That Regular Correspondence Has Been And Remains A Dangerous Impracticality For Us Both. It Is My Hope That Your Memories Of Our Association Remain As Fond As My Own For Once Again I Find Myself In Need Of Your Aid And At Your Mercy Such As It Might Be For My Future Disposition.

I And Some Companions Of Mine With Whom I Regularly Travel Have Of Late Been Employed By A Lady Requiring Assistance In The Matter Of Her Brother Who Has Been Abducted From The Vicinity Of His Home. The Circumstances Would Seem To Indicate The Involvement Of Our People And Naturally When I Realised That Our Fair City Was The Nearest Settlement I Recalled Our Previous Alliance. It Should Take Us Only A Few Days To Arrive Within The Boundaries But Obviously The Less Time We Spend In The City The Better For All Concerned. Therefore If You Could Find Any Information Pertaining To A Male Sunwalker Captured Near Or In Dwarven Territory Within The Last Two Or Three Days I Would Be Most Grateful To Receive It.

I Understand That Circumstances May Be Different Now. If So I Would Hasten To Remind You That Information While Valuable Is Simple Enough To Impart And Urge You To Consider Helping Me Anyway In Remembrance Of Our Shared History.

Blessings Of The Goddesses Be With You

Your Sister

As soon as you finish the letter green flames start to consume the paper from the top, and you snatch your hands back as the parchment burns. The flames curl into a ball in the air and then spread, forming a vaguely avian shape before fading to reveal a small brown bird. Its beak and eyes look oddly wooden, its feathers paperish; you think you can even make out a few of your words on its wings before it chirps at you and takes to the air. You watch it pass above the treetops heading north-east until you can no longer see the tiny speck and your eyes water from staring at the bright blue sky.

"Oh, good, you're done!" says Jade, smiling as she and her wolf walk up beside you and passing you your pack. "Me and Aradia got everything stowed, so we should be good to go." She looks over to the treeline and you follow her gaze to see your tiefling friend sitting beside Sollux. They're holding hands and his head is resting on her shoulder. "So, um, yeah," Jade says, fiddling with her hair. "When we're all ready then, I suppose."

Bec pushes his cold canine nose against your leg and, glad for the distraction, you spend a few moments petting him. When you look over at your friends again, they are standing and Sollux is shouldering the pack that holds their tent. You give the large wolf one last pat and start towards them, trusting that Aradia will guide you safely to your destination.

The journey through the forest is strange; you’re no longer used to seeing the place by day, and although the occasional burst of bright sunshine in a clearing causes you to wince your dark eyeglasses and the leaves overhead block most of the light. You’d forgotten quite how bright the colours could get, how rich the green and gold and brown of the woodlands is, and once you’ve adjusted you find the change refreshing.

Jade leads your little group; you march behind her, trying not to worry about Aradia and Sollux bringing up the rear. They aren’t even whispering, not that you were hoping to listen in or anything- Aradia does chat to Jade, the pair of them sharing stories about various dangerous ruins and magical artefacts they’ve run into before now and occasionally pausing to consult Aradia’s map. The whole way, Bec runs ahead to scout then doubles back to check on you all, and you make sure to thank him each time. You don’t really know how intelligent a Druid’s companion is, but if it’s anything like a wizard’s familiar you want to stay on his good side. He seems to appreciate the praise at any rate; from the fond licks he gives your hand, you think you might be his new second-favourite person.

You pass the hollow tree at about midmorning and change course for the next landmark; buoyed by this success, Jade starts to sing a travelling song about being on the road. When she’s done Aradia contributes some songs she’s learned in taverns, and you recall a couple of good ones you picked up in your travels, and the three of you swap choruses until you grow hoarse. Even after that Jade keeps humming, and it’s a pleasant enough background noise although after a while it does grow a little tiresome.

A sharp bark from Bec alerts you all to the discovery of the bluebell clearing, and you walk out into a thick carpet of blue flowers with a sense of relief that you still aren’t lost after all. Noon has passed as you travel and the four of you agree that a meal break is in order; you settle down under the shade of the trees on the edge of the clearing and watch as Jade and Bec chase each other through the flowers.

A few minutes after you sit down, you feel a brush of air as Sollux settles in next to you. “I’m thorry,” he says quietly.

You don’t need to ask what for, but over the last few months you’ve heard enough contrition from him to be somewhat inured to its effects. “You wouldn’t need to apologise if you had made an effort to be more polite to begin with,” you say, still not facing him.

“Ith that a male thing too?” he asks, soft but with a hint of bitterness. “Being rude and over-thenthitive?”

“I don’t think you have poor social skills because you are a man. I think you have poor social skills because you are Sollux.” Even as the words leave your mouth you realise that they aren’t completely honest. While you truthfully don’t consider his gender to be the cause of his behaviour, you do find yourself wondering if you would have been this patient with his personality quirks if he was a woman. It is uncomfortable to consider that you might only have him as a friend because you instinctively lowered your expectations of him as a person.

“Bullthit,” he says, and you wonder if he really knows that or is just guessing. There is a long pause, during which you wrap your hands around your knees, before he speaks again. “I went for a thcolarthip.”

This time you do turn around; Sollux is sitting at right angles to you against the same tree, curled round on himself and staring at his knees. “When?”

“Latht time we were in Porthaven,” he says, not looking up. “You remember Mathter Areleyn?”

The name strikes a distant chord and you frown as you try to dredge up the information. “He was one of the spellcasters you met in the city library, correct?”

Sollux nods, a shallow little bob of his head. “Yeah, one of the dethent oneth. We kept looking for the thame bookth and he alwayth found thome time to thay hi. We talked a bunch of timeth; it wath really great, he’th got a degree in Evocation from the College Arcanum and he jutht- he knowth a lot.”

“That must have been interesting,” you say, keeping your tone as neutral as possible. You know that while he’ll settle for any university or high-grade apprenticeship, Sollux wants to study at the College Arcanum more than anything. No wonder you remember Areleyn’s name; it must have been mentioned around you a great deal in the past few weeks.

“It wath,” Sollux agrees, lip twitching in a tiny smile. “Tho anyway, the latht time I talked to him he’d jutht got an offer of tenure from Whithtling Rock, and he wath thaying how he wath going to uthe thome of hith family’th wealth to provide for thtudentth from leth able backgroundth…”

“You asked him to take you as a student,” you say as Sollux’s voice peters out. “And it didn’t go well.”

“He wath very polite, actually,” the sorcerer says, his voice utterly flat. “Thaid I wath a nithe kid but he wath looking for theriouth academicth.

“I’m sorry,” you tell him, and Sollux shrugs.

“It’th not your fault, and I thouldn’t have acted like it wath,” he says, and you wonder how hard it will be to find out where this Master Areleyn lives because you think you would quite like to introduce him personally to a touch of the Mother's wrath.

"If he was incapable of seeing how talented and dedicated you are, then that is his own problem," you tell Sollux, trying to substitute sympathy for murderous rage and just barely succeeding. "One day I am certain you will have the opportunity to rub his face in it, and I sincerely hope I am there to witness the event."

"I wrote a whole fucking application," Sollux mutters, cheeks turning a yellowish shade. "Athhole didn't even read it." He sighs, and you hesitantly reach over to pat his shoulder. The two of you sit in companionable quiet for a while, listening to the birds and the wind and Jade's humming, before Sollux speaks again.

"I don't care how much thee'th paying uth, if thee doethn't thtop making that godthawful noithe, I am going to kill her in her thleep."

You can't help the little titter that escapes you. "It is somewhat repetitive, isn't it," you agree, watching the other elf as she is bowled over into the bluebells by her animal companion. "I would even go so far as to say maddeningly so."

"I think my earth might actually thtart bleeding," Sollux says. There is another pause; you hear the twigs and stones shifting under him moments before he appears in your line of vision. "Tho that magic thtuff earlier- did Aradia really give you the Bird Feather Token?"

You nod. "It was the only means to contact my friend in Golgesi."

Sollux scowls. "Fuck! Do you know how much that thing wath worth? Unleth we get paid over the oddth Aradia ithn't even going to profit from thith!" He sighs and slumps back down. "I keep telling her thith ith why we don't have any money," he mutters.

You make a vaguely agreeable noise and diplomatically say nothing. Whilst Aradia's philanthropic habits may contribute to the problem, you have travelled with other adventurers before now and one thing you have learned from the experience is that there are exactly two ways that members of your profession make any money; by taking side jobs, or by taking bigger risks. Since anyone willing to go to a drow or tiefling for spellcasting is in your experience not the type of individual who plans on- or is indeed capable of- paying for the service, you are somewhat limited on the first option. As for the second, you are a little worried that this job might be a perfect example of just that. Professional adventurers usually deal in sums of money that most other people would give their right arms to possess, but what everyone forgets is that virtually all the profit ends up getting sunk into equipment to prevent exactly such a loss. It usually only takes one heart-stopping, blood-freezing near-death experience to convince anyone that it's worth losing the equivalent of a farm labourer’s lifetime's wages for a few potions, or better armour, or anything else that might make the difference between coming back to town and being buried under a makeshift cairn or left as a meal for the crows.

You are smart enough to realise that what you have is less a professional career and more a powerful addiction, one where eventually you either get lucky and rich, wise and retired, or overconfident and dead. You are however not cruel enough to enlighten Sollux on the matter, especially not when he is already dwelling on the latest frustration of his ambitions, so instead you sit in silence and contemplate whether it is worth getting in touch with Rose again; perhaps Roxy’s old tutor might be willing to accommodate your friend. The only problem is that you would then have to deal with the Church of Light, and although Rose is good enough at navigating Temple Politics to put a Matriarch to shame you are still wary of the High Priest and the uneasy sense you get from his inner council.

Across the clearing from where you are sat, Bec freezes mid-bound and stares fixedly into the forest; Jade and Aradia almost collide as they come to stop next to the wolf. He starts to bark at the shadows you scramble for your weapon as Sollux climbs to his feet, the two of you racing to stand next to your comrades.

“Who is it?” Jade yells, taking a step forwards and tilting her chin in a challenge. “We know you’re there, so there’s no point sneaking around!”

Your heart is pounding as you grip the hilt of your sabre, expecting wild animals or bandits or cultists or one of a hundred other deadly things you have run into before in these woods. Instead, you are surprised when a deep male voice calls out; “I say, old girl, keep your hat on! Be right out!”

From between the trees ahead of you step three short, squat figures, neither of them higher than your shoulder and both of them at least twice your breadth. Two are men who bristle with hair, their faces little more than a large brown nose and two twinkling black eyes swimming in a sea of curls. The woman with them has no beard but otherwise looks just the same, from her blunt, square face and auburn pleat to her worked leather armour to the stubby, sharp-edged shovel strapped to her back and the odd device on her hip.

“Hammer and Anvil!” the dwarven woman exclaims, staring straight at Jade as she steps into the sunlight. “Blow me down with a feather if you don’t look the spit and bloody image!”

“Language, Bryn,” says one of the other dwarves. The woman snorts.

“Oh, piffle,” she says, flapping a hand dismissively. “Like you wouldn’t say a damned sight worse if I didn’t pip you to it.”

“So sorry about this,” says the other dwarf, extending a hand in Jade’s direction. “Can’t do a bally thing about them, I’m afraid. You must be Jade and those adventurers of hers; jolly good to meet you!”

You swear that Jade’s scowl is even deeper than Sollux’s right now, although she takes the hand and shakes it once before dropping it again. “How do you know me? Are you friends of my brother? Did his clan send you?”

“Oh, I think you could say that,” says the spokesdwarf cheerily. “Dad thought you could use a friendly hand or three getting to us, so he sent us out to meet you halfway. Good show, eh?” He grins at the four of you, and to your surprise looks your way to give you a momentary wink. “Lars Quartzkin, at your service. This is my little brother Vidar and our sister Brynhild.” He pauses. “And your brother and sister too, I should suppose- that is assuming I’m understanding this gosh-darned adoption nonsense right. Leastways, Jake’s our brother as well as yours, and to my mind that jolly well makes us all kin, don’t you agree?”

“Oh! Yes!” Jade laughs, and suddenly Lars is the subject of an enthusiastic hug. “I can’t believe I didn’t recognise you! Jake mentions you all the time in his letters…”

You watch in astonishment as the three dwarves crowd around her, assuring her that really, it’s nothing to worry about, and that it’s just a damned fine show that they’re all meeting even if it is under such a bother of a circumstance. You catch Aradia’s eye and she shrugs; between you Sollux is slowly shaking his head in disbelief. Then the whirl of dwarves is on the move and before you can resist you have been pulled into a bone-crushing hug and given several slaps on the back of sufficient heartiness to bruise your muscles. Aradia receives a similar treatment and responds in kind to the Quartzkin, who promptly declare her a “jolly fine sort”, and Bec is more than keen to introduce himself to the boisterous trio. Sollux avoids manhandling by backpedalling so fast that he trips over his own feet and lands flat on the ground. The dwarves consider this greatly amusing but help the sorcerer back to his feet without even a hint of mockery, even if Bryn then undoes this good work by ruffling the halfblood’s hair and calling him a “fine sport.”

“So, then,” says Vidar, after all the introductions are done. “Seems that we’re done here. Anyone else got business in this delightful clearing?”

There is a chorus of negatives, your own still slightly dazed by the rather aggressively physical display of camaraderie.

“Well hurrah!” says Bryn, grinning. From ahead, Lars snorts.

“Come on, chaps and chappetes,” he calls back over one shoulder. “Keep a brisk pace going. At this rate, we should make to the Clanhold by nightfall!”

Vidar beams and starts to stride off towards the trees, Aradia and Jade close behind him. You spare a glance at Sollux, who shrugs; the pair of you fall in at the rear of the group to follow the dwarves to their mysterious underground home.

Suggestions Used

UDMonk – Jade and co.: Do summat!

Ms Arano – Aradia: Use cartography skills.

RandomGal - Jade: Alternate between being worried about Jake and pissed off at who stole him.

RandomGal - Kanaya: Figure out what you're going to do when you go back to down below. Remember Terezi; maybe she might be able to help you?

jadescribe - Kanaya: Maybe Terezi will help you out. Kidnapping isn't totally legal, right?

jadescribe – Jade, Kanaya and Aradia: be the competent ones

Silverkyo – Sollux: Kill the new girl for her horrible singing

solarVerdancy – Sollux: Trip on air.

ttd0000 – Jade: Arrive at dwarf village at the speed of plot.

System Notes

Navigate to Quartzkin Clanhold without getting lost on the way = DC15
Jade's survival check = 19 VS DC10
JADE SUCCESSFULLY AIDS ARADIA'S SURVIVAL CHECK (+2)
Aradia's survival check = 16
ARADIA AND JADE SUCCESSFULLY NAVIGATE A ROUTE TO THE QUARTZKIN CLANHOLD.

Bird Feather Token - A token that creates a small bird that can be used to deliver a small written message unerringly to a designated target. The token lasts as long as it takes to carry the message.

Chapter Text

==> Terezi: Advance The Plot The Only Way You Know How- W1TH GR34T JUST1C3!

You don’t waste much time standing around after the sunwalker boy leaves; after all, time is suddenly very much of the essence and you are perfectly capable of thinking on the move. The first thing you do is head back to the chapel. The guards are a bit surprised to see you return but you ignore it; answering their unspoken curiosity would be more suspicious than silence. Right now your life almost certainly depends on maintaining the illusion that you believe you are in control.

It is an illusion, of course. You always knew this day might come. You wonder if the Temple found out about your Reformist leanings or whether this is just ordinary power-grubbing treachery; either seems plausible. It is the Temple, too, and not just your mentor- only the full authority of the High Priestess would suffice to dispatch an assassin. You can already see the plan playing out in your mind; Gamzee is poisoned and dies either before or shortly after the wedding. The poison would be something subtle, but not so much that his new bride could fail to detect it, because who could use poison to thwart a master alchemist? The Temple is above suspicion, and so the accusations begin to fly between House Kutsanmis and House Yetenekli; breach of contract leads to a failed alliance, possibly even a brief and bloody feud. Meanwhile you, as the leader of the detail intended to protect the deceased, are reprimanded and placed under a tighter watch, until you can do nothing without the Temple’s intercession. Unless you let on that you know what really happened, in which case you are a threat to be eliminated and then mourned as a martyr.

It’s a good plan, with only one question remaining; why. Rumour has it that this alliance would be powerful, but you’ve never known your Temple to act on rumour, so they must know something more. You ponder the possibilities as you gather books from the side room and tuck Karkat’s journal safely back into your belongings; if someone catches wind of your research it could tip your hand too soon and the journal is far too valuable to let fall into the hands of the Temple.

You need to know more and you need the information fast. Your time limit is the wedding, only hours away, and even if you hadn’t promised to have an escape plan ready you would want to be gone by then. The Temple isn’t going to let you keep your freedom and your life for long, and you don’t intend to let them take either, which means running is your only option. Hopefully Karkat can manage to steal a way to open those collars; he struck you as more thug than pickpocket, but most Shanties residents are at least a little multi-talented.

You take a moment to wish you had more reliable allies as you head out of the chapel again. This time you get a little less attention, because a small group of Sylphite priestesses have arrived and are setting up the altar for the wedding rehearsal. As you pass, one of them puts four small stone bottles down behind the ceremonial contract, and you take care to let your gaze slip off them after only an instant. You know that in some marriage ceremonies the fortune toast between wife and husband is drunk with water, or Potions of Blessing, but given his hobbies if the Lady Kutsanmis hasn’t had her son cursed with infertility you will eat your boots. It seems likely that the bride has taken similar precautions with herself, but even if she hasn’t the richest and most powerful House in Golgesi won’t have skimped on the magic. The most probable conclusion is that all four bottles will be Potions of Remove Curse, as is traditional amongst the nobility, and if Karkat fails those vials are your only hope of getting out of here with your new allies intact. Assuming that they survive the next few hours, and that you can spirit the potions out from under the watchful noses of the guards, that is.

Nobody stops you as you enter the corridors, and you keep walking with purposeful strides even though you don’t yet have a destination in mind. Before you do anything else, you have to confirm that an assassination order came from the Temple of the Seer- this could still be a misunderstanding or an external threat. It wouldn’t do to overreact; paranoia and distrust have been the downfall of many of your contempories. Justice acts on proof, not suspicion.
The Sylphites may have claimed the chapel, but when you first arrived you took over one of the empty rooms in the old tower where Gamzee was housed. You’ve since migrated to the guardroom, but if there’s any leftover evidence it won’t be somewhere you frequent. The old River Tower was largely deserted and riddled with secret passages- plenty of spaces for treachery and skullduggery.

You find it odd to be retracing the steps of yesterday’s chaotic chase. The bustle in the main courtyard has not reduced in the least, but the banquet hall is quiet. A few scattered slaves are mopping the floors and scrubbing the tables, the place not yet being set for tonight’s planned feast. You can sense their eyes on you as you pass, but every time you turn to meet their gaze they are focusing diligently on their work. No servants jump out to challenge you on your way to the kitchens and you nod politely to the cook as you pass through his domain, weaving around the busy kitchen workers and grinning when he sends a death-glare back your way. You’ve made an enemy there, but not one that worries you overly much.

A loud and angry blur of brown charges as you step out into the back courtyard, only to be brought up short by a choke-chain. You stand a foot beyond its reach and stare at the furiously barking dog as it tries to reach you. Your stern glare has no effect on the creature and you leave it frantically throttling itself in its attempt to deter any and all passers-by from their course. Now that you’re travelling at a less break-neck pace, the disrepair of the back courtyard is obvious to you. The flagstones are broken and cracked and small patches of fungus are growing between them, clinging to the damp porous rock beneath. You take care to skirt some of the more virulently colourful patches until you reach the foot of the River Tower, the crooked structure within unfortunate smelling distance of its namesake.

The sharp alchemical whiff still hangs in the air as you enter the tower, now empty and unguarded, and navigate the crooked stairs with your darkvision. When you first arrived here you thought the place seemed empty but now you can feel the truth of it in your bones. The entire building is a repository for dust and forgotten days and you take care to tread softly as you walk down the abandoned corridor that was watched and guarded less than a full day ago. Footsteps in this place would be too loud.

When you enter Gamzee’s old chambers the first thing that strikes you is how much is still here. Cushions are scattered across the floor where they had been used for sitting or lying on, and on a low dresser to the side is a decanter and a full cup of wine. An uncomfortable shiver goes along your spine as you look at it, then you grab both vessels and use your foot to push the door to the privy open. The liquid goes straight down the hole, and you consider throwing the containers after it but decide that if there is any lingering poison it will most likely be cleaned off before these things are used again. At least now it won’t be drunk by some opportunistic servant or slave.

The rope is also still dangling down the privy, and screwing your nose up at the smell you pull it up into the room. You don’t expect assassins by this route any more, but that’s no reason to leave an easy way in for thieves.

You wander back out into the main room, exactly as you left it the day before, and it strikes you that after a lifetime spent in these chambers Gamzee is never going to return here. You think of your own rooms at the Temple, the basic stone cell decorated over the years with small trinkets that you’ve found and mementoes of interesting cases, and you discover that your regrets are confined to a mild twinge at the thought of abandoning your slightly threadbare collection of cuddly toys. You’ve rescued plenty of them over the years, plush dragons and beetles and spiders that are missing eyes or have tears sewn clumsily closed. When you were younger you used to hold trials for them, sometimes even recruiting Kanaya to help you keep order in the courtroom. You don’t think she was ever as fond of the games as you were but she would play along anyway.

It would probably have been dramatic had you stopped playing with the toys when she left, but in truth you lost interest and shelved them all years earlier, even before you had real investigations and legal battles to occupy your mind. Now, with the slight ache in your chest, you suppose that you must have some vestigial fondness for your toys after all. It’s not enough to hold you up as you close your eyes and breathe deeply, forming a short prayer in your mind.
You don’t pray to the Seer, exactly, but instead to Justice. Another change from your childhood, this one to remind you that the corruption of the Temple is not the same as its ideal form. When you open your eyes the room floods your mind, and you know without having to look closer what is there and where everything is. None of it is useful for your investigation, although you do go over to the dresser in the corner and retrieve several potion vials. You don’t know what’s in them, but you can work that out later and any magic is good magic in your situation.

You repeat the search in the rest of Gamzee’s old suite, and find nothing more interesting than leftover drugs and stained clothes and cushions that you don’t want to question too deeply. Not that you were expecting anything in here, but you wanted to be thorough. You linger in the doorway for one last look at the room before you leave, the silent chamber waiting for the return of an occupant who is gone forever, then pull the door firmly closed and set your sights on the room down the hall.

This door creaks when you push it open, years of neglect taking their toll on the hinges, and dust puffs up from the floor in the antechamber beyond. You ignore the furniture swathed in protective white and follow the footprints in the dust through to the main room. In here the dust is scuffed and shuffled by the passing of feet, and the covered furniture has been shoved aside to make room for a few trance couches and a table with several chairs. You only used this room for a day or so, all told, and as you look around it now you can see that there’s nothing of interest left here save for a stray money-purse, which you grab. The same spell you used to search Gamzee’s quarters tells you the same thing; even the privy, where a spy might have some privacy, turns up nothing more than the mingled smells of dust and damp and alchemical sewage. It’s a good thing, you tell yourself. You weren’t expecting any evidence in these rooms and if you had found some, chances are it would have been a plant. Finding nothing means they don’t suspect you yet.

There’s one more place you want to check, but despite time being short you don’t hurry back down the uneven tower steps. Instead as you descend you contemplate the High Priestess. You’ve known her ever since you were a hatchling, your smiling adoptive aunt and attentive guide to the tangled path before you. When you were young you ran to her with every tale of misadventure and discovery, too small to realise that your easy access to her was privilege beyond belief. When you were older you met her in the evenings to debate and share drinks, swapping stories of days spent hunting criminals through the lower town for stories of political machination and the machinery of governance. She was a protector when suspicion fell on you after Kanaya left, a sympathetic ear when your mentor started working against you, a gentle supporter whenever you wondered what was becoming of your people.

You always knew she was going to betray you one day. It still stings. One way or another, her machinations are going to cost you your life, and with it your hopes of reforming the Temple from within. In one single power play she has doomed your people to civil war, the only undecided factor how it will begin. Part of you wants revenge, but it’s pointless now. Maybe once you get away from here you can meet up with some of the more active Reformist cabals, lend them some legitimacy with your presence and your mark… but then you remember the journal tucked safely away on your person, and the same sense of unease that drove you to research heretical faiths last night pangs at you.

The rooms you and your people laid claim to link into a different privy than Gamzee’s room, and as you step around the building into the shadowy shaft you are glad of the fact. Even relatively clean and unused the miasma of sewage remains heavy, and you breathe through your mouth to avoid the foul air as you close your eyes to summon the vision granted to you by Justice one more time.

Oh, look. That’s interesting.

Scattered across the hard stone of the midden floor are fragments of thick glass, as if a small but sturdy vessel had dropped from a great height to land on the stone. The pieces would fit together to form a small phial, and in the dim light from the courtyard you can just make out a few drops of a faintly green transparent fluid clinging to the mostly-intact base fragment.

Carefully, you sling your bag off your shoulder and pull out some clean cloth rags that you always carry with you in case of evidence. You pick up a piece with a tiny stopper in it and the base piece, careful not to spill any of the precious drops and even more careful not to let the glass prick your skin. If an ingested poison gets into your blood it could be a disaster.

You are just straightening up, bag in one hand and evidence in the other, when something shining with green light comes flying in from the courtyard straight towards you. You manage to retain the presence of mind to drop the bag and not the evidence when it tries to land on your palm, narrowly catching and then staring dumbstruck at the strange winged creature that seems to be made of parchment and alight with green flame. It looks at you with inky eyes and the fire suddenly erupts into brilliant blue, the entire creature folding into itself then unravelling in your hand.

There is a glimpse of jade-green ink and the form of a letter outlined in cerulean flames, when your attention is grabbed by a silhouette passing across the door of the privy shaft.

“I wondered who that was for,” says a familiar voice. Your eyes adjust to show you one of your Lawkeepers, the one with the bandaged head, as she steps closer. Her hand rests on her swordcane and she watches you warily. “I wasn’t expecting to see you all the way out here, Ma’am.”

You both look from the bundle of cloth padding and broken glass in your one hand to the clearly magical letter in the other. “I was looking for some privacy,” you say, raising your head so her gaze meets your tinted eyeglasses, daring her to challenge you as you race to calculate the possibilities.

She’s suspicious of you, that much is clear. If she’s the assassin, then she’ll be thinking about what you might know; if she’s innocent, then she’s wondering what you’re up to. Confront the assassin and you force her hand, surprise an innocent with that knowledge and she’ll think you’re lying to hide your own transgression. You cross honesty off the list of options and consider your chances if either of you were to attack the other. She’s in worse shape than you and wasn’t as proficient even before being hurt, but even though you’d win she’d leave injuries, and that would cause too many questions. It’s too risky.

Of course the same conclusions are true for her. You watch the small tells flicker across her face as she considers her options, and wait for her to realise that she can’t afford to trap you in a corner.

“There are more... comfortable places, to be alone,” she says and you realise the woman is an idiot. She can’t see you roll your eyes behind your shades, though, and you suppose that at least she’s still being cautious rather than outright hostile. Time to help her make the right decision.
“You’re right, there probably are,” you agree, taking a single step closer until you’re standing just inside her personal bubble of space. “Why don’t you step aside and let me go find one?” You let your lips stretch outwards into a humourless grin, showing every single one of your teeth to her as you move forward another step. After only a moment of hesitation she pulls back out of your space, and smelling victory you keep moving and pick up the pace. She moves to the side pretty quickly after that, bowing her head with the respect due a superior as you stride past, and you keep moving like your back isn’t prickling with the expectation of a crossbow bolt until you’ve crossed the courtyard and slipped through a side door into a disused cloister between the main kitchen block and the eastern guest quarters. Even then you don’t stop, deliberately losing yourself in a maze of corridors built over successive architectural generations until you finally find a quiet alcove where you can sit and take a few deep breaths.

When she starts thinking straight, it won’t matter if your little Lawkeeper is the assassin or not because she’ll go straight to the Temple with what she saw. The High Priestess will know that you know, and then she’ll make her decision based on whether she thinks you’ll cooperate or not. Either way it doesn’t matter, because by the time that decision is ready to implement you intend to be an open traitor and long gone, but it does mean that your life depends on this plan as immediately as Gamzee’s does. With a small sigh- you could have done without this complication- you settle your bundle of evidence down beside you and take a look at the letter which caused all this trouble by showing up at the worst possible time.

You read it three times, then spend the next ten minutes laughing.

It’s Kanaya, alright. From the way she writes capitals at the start of every word to the politely veiled threat at the end, it’s her, and she's alright and she's coming to find you. Usually you don't believe in luck or coincidence, and this time is no exception- what are the chances that she'd be hired by Jake's sister, who is almost certainly marked, just in time to help you rescue some more divinely marked people you just met? You sense some manner of destiny at work here, but if destiny is seeing fit to throw reliable allies your way you aren't going to complain.

You also aren't going to put all your faith in it. Kanaya says it will take her a few days to arrive, and although you don't know when she sent the letter you suspect you will have left long before then. Her assistance will be invaluable in caverns of the Dragonshards, and the idea that destiny wants you to reunite is promising, but ultimately it is still down to you to discover a means of escape. Good thing there's still one place you haven't looked.

The House Yetenekli guards are surprised to see you approach, although they try to hide it. You appraise them as you draw near; both women, so most likely higher-ranked. All of the rooms offered to the Lady Esin are watched by her guards now, of course, but this out-of-the-way outbuilding is of the most interest to you because of all the areas ceded to her and her household, this is the only one that has been forbidden even to her own people. You watch comings and goings, and nobody but the Yetenekli Matriarch has stepped through those doors since she arrived. Whatever it is that she's trading for Gamzee's hand, whatever it is that the Temple fears enough to start a civil war over, you're willing to bet it's in here.

Two slim swords cross as you approach the door. “No entry,” says the left-hand guard. You look at her and tilt your head.

“Says who?” you ask, smiling pleasantly.

“Orders of the Lady Yetenekli,” says the guard on the right. You nod, expecting nothing less. Under normal circumstances, you would thank them for their diligence and turn back. There are a hundred plans that could tell you what was in this room safely and without repercussion. You could bribe a servant to spy for you, or sneak back under cover of darkness. You could cosy up to Lady Yetenekli herself until she willingly showed you. You could even obtain a lawful warrant from the Temple, although that would be blunt and tactless. But the problem with all these plans is that they would simply take too long.

Oh, well. It isn't as if you need any of this to hold up more than a few hours. Instead of backing off, you take a step closer and look pointedly at the swords barring your way. “So does your mistress make a habit of defying the Temple of the Seer, or is this an isolated case?”

You love the way they share a glance, trying to work out how to answer that one without accidentally committing either heresy or treason. “Our mistress is a loyal servant of the Goddesses,” right-hand guard says slowly, after some thought.

You snort and fold your arms, the very picture of an unimpressed inquisitor. “Then am I to understand that you personally have a problem with me, guard?”

Both women pale impressively. “No, your holiness!”

“It's just...” the left-hand guard stammers. “Well, your holiness, I don't think our mistress thought you would be coming by, and we were given orders not to let anyone but our mistress in.”

You are impressed by her courage, but fix your glare on her anyway. “And do her orders take precedence over the will of the Seer?”

“Of course not, your Holiness,” the poor woman says, and you feel somewhat bad for her because to be caught between the fury of a God and a Matriarch is a terrible thing. “If, ah, you will just allow one of us to go and find our mistress, I am sure she will provide permission...”

You draw yourself up and put on your best affronted face. “Permission? Do you think I am some petty little acolyte, to be given leave to go where I will?” As they stammer, you turn and pull down your collar to show the mark on the back of your neck. They fall silent and you turn back, chin raised in pride. “I am the chosen soul of the Goddess herself, and I want to go through that door. What do you say?”

The two guards share another look, then with a scrape of metal their swords uncross and they stand aside. “This way, your radiance,” mutters the right-hand guard. You favour her with a smile and step through the door with every ounce of arrogance and swagger you've ever summoned in your life. Then, as the doors swing shut behind you, you see the room and the false smile becomes a genuine grin.

Spread out before you is a workshop; you recognise various pieces of alchemical equipment, but the rest of the tools seem more mechanical in nature. You even catch sight of what must be a small but functioning forge in one corner. Around you in vials and bottles and boxes and laid out in pieces on cloth are hundreds of small wonders, worth thousands upon thousands of gold pieces, but you only have eyes for the far end of the lab where a single creation dominates the room.

Elfin in shape and easily fifteen feet tall, the invention is a spindly thing held together by spars and joints that flash the same bright silver as the armour Jake wore. Between the joints, all along its elongated arms and odd, recurved legs are flexible tubes of virulent fluid; at one end they link into a circular chamber of brass within the filigree of its chest cavity. At the other end of the tubes, over its articulated fingers, are wickedly sharp needles that are all too easy to imagine sinking into delicate flesh. Its whole shape is slightly hunched and predatory, built for speed and durability despite its slenderness. You shudder as your eyes travel up to its head, where an armoured dome does nothing to conceal a pair of all-too organic eyeballs as they bob in a pool visceral fluid and stare blankly at nothing.

Your eyes stay fixed on the strange golem as you approach it, your mind already racing through the possibilities. A thing like this would be expensive and difficult to create, but if House Kutsanmis were to front the money then House Yetenekli clearly has the skill. A soldier of metal and poisons, perfectly obedient to its mistress and deadly to her foes; an army of these could topple any opposition, given the right orders. The Temple was right to fear it- and even more foolish than you thought to act how they have been. House Yetenekli could go to any other House, to every other House, and offer this without fear of refusal. Only House Canavar with their ancient Drider Pits- unimitated anywhere else- and undying piety would turn such an offer down. Your lip curls in distaste as you imagine the carnage that would result from Yetenekli's vengeance; there is no way she wouldn't make more of these to suit her designs. Even if you could work out how to destroy it, you would only be delaying the inevitable.

On the other hand, you don't want to destroy it just yet, because this abominable machine of death has given you exactly what you were looking for; a plan. You wink at the empty eyes of the construct, then very carefully set the fragments of the poison vial down on a nearby table. Fragments of parchment are all over the workshop and you quickly locate an inkpot and pen, writing a brief note to sit beside your recovered evidence.

LOOK 1N TH3 D3C4NT3R 4ND TH3 CUP 1N G4MZ33S OLD CH4MB3RS, TH3N 1N TH3 D1SUS3D PR1VY SH4FT 4T TH3 FOOT OF TH3 TOW3R.

JUST1C3 PR3V41LS

If she's half the alchemist she's meant to be, that will be enough evidence for the Lady Yetenekli to put two and two together. Once the truth is out, things will get messy, but you can't really bring yourself to care. Justice denied comes back vengeful, or so the saying goes.

You take one last glance at the waiting golem, then round the room at the scattered works of genius. Yes. This plan should serve perfectly.

You're still grinning when you leave the workshop to go and find your allies, and the Yetenekli guards on the door are too frightened to ask you why.

Suggestions Used

UDMonk – Terezi: Advance the plot the only way you know how. WITH GREAT JUSTICE.

Ephemeral_Dreamer – Terezi: Snoop around. Right now you're severely lacking Information and that kills people.

Marycontrary – I think Terezi would be disgusted by the sale and torture of Gamzee and curious to hear more about the god marks on Karkat. Let's have her investigate.

MASK – Terezi: Investigate the assassin, and check more into the Kutsanmis bride-to-be's dealings.

MASK – Terezi: discover a shocking truth.

LostSock - Terezi: Receive your old friend's message at a very inconvenient time. Attempt cover-up if needed.

RandomGal - Terezi: Receive a most unusual letter. Good fortune has been gifted to you! Now your sister is coming back to help you with this stuff!

Ephemeral_Dreamer – Terezi: Assess the situation

Unholygrunt – Terezi: Scheme

RandomGal - Terezi: Figure out how you're going to smuggle two slaves(one of which is elvish) and the groom out before the wedding. Pull awesome shenanigans.

System Notes

Chapter Text

==> Gamzee: Keep Some Motherfucking Promises

The priestess is saying something what is probably wicked important, but you can’t really be all up and listening to that shit because you’re too busy watching her lips move. They’re all kinda grey and cracked and maybe slightly stained green and you think maybe a sister’s been all partaking of some bitching sweet alchemical concoctions herself, which is some sort of miracle coincidence because right now you are higher than a motherfucking kite. You gotta be wondering how those little motherfuckers even know how to be all flying their shit up there, motherfucking magic and miracles is what it is, because kites are all up and being the highest thing what there ever is except maybe what your thinkpan is all busy being right now.

You giggle, because thinkpan is a funny word and you ain’t even got your wonder on to conceive of where all this miraculous vocabulatory shit is even up and coming from. Every last motherfucker in the room starts getting their glare on at you but you really don’t give a shit right now. Ain’t like it matters none anyhow. Your mother got you all up and rehearsing this wedding shit every motherfucking day for weeks now, you got it down so good you could be all doing it in your sleep. You think maybe one or two times you even did do it in your sleep, all getting your dream on as how you was getting your ass married only instead of a drow you was marrying like some massive beetle with razor jaws or some kinda heap of toxic ooze what was gonna get its mad slaughter on all over you unless you ran the fuck away or said no, only your feet was all up and glued to the spot and your voice was all being as how it wouldn’t say nothing but what the words you’d already been taught to say.

Hours in the past, but not many...

“Look, if this is going to work, you’re going to have to stay focused,” says Karkat, all getting his pace on along one side of your room only to turn and be all going back again when he’s reaching the wall. “This entire plan is a complete clusterfuck waiting to happen as it is, but given that it’s our only option I’d like to at least have a remote vanishing pinprick of a chance that this bad joke is actually going to work in our favour.”

“I agree,” Jakebro says, getting his lean on over the back of the seat what he’s up and stolen from you. “I mean, I’m no expert, but it hardly seems like a top-notch idea to be getting yourself into an altered mental state right now.”

You get to snarling at both of them, shit up in your head all tense with the first pangs of withdrawal and heart weary of getting your argue on with your main motherfuckers. “You motherfuckers know a brother’s up and being the best choice for getting myself on up over this beetleshit, but I am not gonna be all up and doing it with my ass sober. Ain’t like it’s no kind of miracles I ain’t all up and chased before, anyhow.”

“Yeah,” says Karkat, pausing to be all up and studying you from beneath close-drawn caterpillar eyebrows. “But this time all three of us are fucked if the wrong synapse fires in that hollow can you call a head.”

Nodding all solemn-like, you acknowledge his excellent and valid point. “Chill, best friend,” you tell him, all up and reaching for your very favourite of boxes to be pulling out a cube of sticky resin, dusted with sugar to sweeten that bitter motherfucker up, and a paper-wrapped lozenge that don’t need to be any kind of sweeter than what it already is. “Trust a motherfucker to know what he’s doing here.”

Now...

Your fiancée is looking bitchtits radiant, you think, although the pair of you ain’t even dressed in your wedding clothes yet. That’s where you’re all up and headed after this, while she’s getting her sign on for contracts with your mother. But then you reckon that maybe everyone in this room looks pretty motherfucking fine right now, which is probably because in addition to your usual wicked miracles you all up and swallowed yourself a little treat in order to be making you everyone’s favourite fucktoy. In all them whiles since you last took this shit you all up and got your forget on as to how your skin gets itself eyes after; it’s a miracle how it’s all up and knowing where it’s all being watched from, and how it’s always yelling at you how motherfucking beautiful it would be to get some hands up in this business, maybe some lips too. Ain’t really got no mind on as to who them bitchtits parts are all up and attached to so long as that motherfucker starts touching and don’t never ever stop. Makes it hard as all as is holy to be getting your concentrate on when your head’s all thinking how beautiful cool the stone of the altar would be on your bare skin, or how you could sink deep into one of them sweet-ass tapestries against the wall if only one of these smoking hot motherfuckers here would push you all up against it.

The priestess is all up and droning about how you’re gonna have to be getting your divine-witnessed oath on later about all kinds of loyalty and obedience and shit like that. Other half of the arrangement’s all about looking after you and keeping you kinda happy like you’re all up and being some sort of elf-shaped pet, which is patronising as all hells but shit, you ain’t never heard of a wedding what went some other way. Transfer of ownership from mother to wife, that’s all this shit is, and it ain’t gonna matter one bit if you can pull off the plans what your brother and lawsis all up and made for you.

He’s glaring at you all red-eyed and grouchy across the altar as the priestess is getting to showing you and your bride-to-be the ribbon and the dagger and them little miracle bottles that’ll make it so as you can have kids together later. Your best friend and Jakebro are gonna be at the ceremony mostly to look all decorative and shit, but apparently they still gotta be all practising the part where they stand real still and don’t do nothing for all the time what they’re there. They got to be getting all tired and shit because even as a summary this ceremony is a motherfucking drag. You didn’t even all up and dare take your shit before you came here- Pesh’ll last but your little miracle eyecandies are only good for a turn of the glass. Good for you that you’ve all up and got the knowing of how long this ceremony is being; when you got to the bit with the bread and the praying you had yourself a bit extra, and although you got a suspicion you was spotted it don’t really matter none. Ain’t a soul here expects better of you than that save maybe your brother and Jakebro. Maybe only the Goddesses are up and knowing why, though, because you sure as spiders got your agree on with the other motherfuckers round here that you don’t seem to be useful for all that much but a good time.

Priestess is all up and running her words through them last few prayers and the bit with the parchment, and unless you get your act all together now the next time you’re hearing them you’ll up and be a married man. As your bride turns to leave the altar you reach out and grab her sleeve, being sure to keep the grip wicked gentle. Don’t want to be all getting her wrathful on, not with what you’re thinking on doing.

She gets to turning to be looking at you, eyes narrowed and you ain’t even got the thoughts to know what that’s meaning except that you’re all up and on fire and she’s right there and you got to do this now, before it’s getting any later and the time runs out of the bottom of the glass. “Hey, sister,” you say, knowing that you ain’t saying shit right but finding it real motherfucking hard to care any, “I been getting my think on that while we’re up and practising there’s maybe some other shit we gotta try get our rehearse on for.”

Lady all up and opens her mouth like she’s gonna say something but you decide not to let it out in case it’s a refusal. She freezes a moment when you grab her and pull yourself close, all up and fitting your body flush with hers, locking your mouth to her lips and remembering year on year of kisses what you’ve had given to you and learned how to pass on. You’re a motherfucking artisan of sloppy makeouts and you give her your most bitchtits masterpiece, and all that shit what you’ve got up in your system screams “YES!” because if she was all up and telling you to get on your knees and perform in front of all the guards and the priestess and your bro you would be all over that shit and no helping it.

Hours in the past, but not many...

“Well unless she’s in the habit of leaving it lying around, which seems about as likely as me becoming the High Priestess of the Seer and showing the collected Conclave of Matriarchs my well-polished buttocks, I can only think of one way to even get close to that necklace.”

You absently get to petting one of your cushions, all that bitchtits velvety softness up and being a miracle at your fingertips. Your brother is up and pouring water out from your decanter, and you get to all focusing on his words so you ain’t got to be thinking about the nagging empty ache up in you from how you ain’t had no Pesh yet today. “Yeah?” you say, all showing some righteous attentive listening going on.

Karkat closes his eyes in a way what seems wicked worried. “I can’t fucking believe I’m saying this, but one of us is going to have to seduce the creepy old hag.”

Jakebro makes a gagging noise. “I say, isn’t that asking a bit much of a chap?”

“She’s a fucking matriarch,” Karbro says, putting a hand up to cover his face and not opening his eyes none. “They spend their whole godsdamned lives on edge waiting for deception and betrayal; we need every edge we can get and this is still probably going to end with us on the breaking wheel.”

From the look what the surface elf is all up and getting on his face you don’t think he’s got the knowing of what a breaking wheel is, which is most like to be a real blessing of a miracle so you ain’t planning to enlighten him none. “Shit, bro, all sounds to me like I got me all the knowing I’m gonna up and need to be all getting that shit done,” you say, and Karkat gives you a Look as he sets his four little miracle bottles down by the water jug.

“First up, and I do acknowledge it’s an exercise in utter futility to tell you this again, ‘all’ has an actual fucking meaning; it’s not just there for you to use your voice up on, you vapid beetlebrained excuse for a waste of breath,” he snaps. “And second, you aren’t going after our illustrious mistress, may her tomb be desecrated by incontinent alchemical aberrations, because I’m doing that part myself.”

You shake your head vehemently and do your best to be ignoring how your brain does its rattling thing inside like it’s secretly being a lead weight. “No way, best friend. Sister’s a wicked nasty motherfucker and ain’t nobody going to give no kind of caring what she does to some slave what’s all up and being her own personal property anyhow. I can do it; she wouldn’t dare hurt me none, leastwise not before our asses are all married proper-like.”

“She’ll hurt me either way, idiot,” Karbro mutters, but you know you all up and made yourself an impression on the insides of his thinking from how he doesn’t up and meet your eyes.

“This is probably a very silly question,” Jake says slowly, looking between the two of you, “but how do we know this will work? After all, we’ll be in a spot of bother if she’s not interested in your, uh… masculine wiles?”

Karkat goes giving the surface elf a look what’s all furious and shit as he wanders aimless across the room. “Are you kidding me? Is there a joke here in of which I am both the butt and the audience, because if so I am not finding it funny in the slightest.” When Jakebro continues to look bemused he all goes throwing his hands up in the air. “For fuck’s sake, Quartzkin, did you not notice how she was ogling the pair of us earlier? Grabbing the rear end of every male guard and one or two of the female ones on the way up? Giving Gamzee a look like she was a starving cat and he was a joint of meat?”

Jakebro flushes red, which is in your head one hells of a colour to be all up and turning. “I was trying to give her the benefit of the doubt,” he says awkwardly. Karkat gets his eyes all rolling round like little red marbles in his face.

“There is no fucking doubt and she doesn’t need any more benefits,” he says, eyes narrowing as he stares at his fellow slave. “She’s a horny old coot and sex is going to sell this to her like nothing else.” He sighs and turns back to you, looking all regretful-like. “Just so you know, I hate to admit it, and I would rather have every tooth in my head yanked out by profiteering scumboots than ever have anyone else know I ever said this, but you’re right. Me or Jake’d do a shitty job of this, the absolute fucking worst job ever conceived, and you might not, which means you’re the best candidate of the three of us.” He scowls all deep. “Congratu-fucking-lations.”

You think about the idea of touching the Lady Yetenekli again- of letting her touch you- and a shiver runs through your whole body. You kind of want to back out, but you already told Karkat you could do this, so instead you grin broadly.

“No motherfucking problem, brother,” you say, all up and patting the box where you keep your wicked special supplies. “I got me some bitchtits miracles up in here to keep this shit all kinds of simple.”

Now...

The slap is unexpected and the small jolt of pain sets something inside you to bubbling, all the heat what was pooling at your centre getting to shift and swirl around something dark and purple. Before you can really get your understand on about that, though, you got a hand tugging up in your collar and your shit is all up and being yanked in for another kiss what, if you were having to find one word for it out of all the miracle words ever been thought of, you would be calling it “brutal”. Part of you is all up and scared stiff by what’s going down and that dark purple motherfucker is getting its giggle on which would be the most terrifying shit of all, except your body is pretty fucking keen on where this shit is headed and you figure it ain’t no kind of problem to just go along with that.

The Lady pulls back, guiding you after her with one hand what’s all resting on your arm. You obediently get to following, hands all up and resting on her hips as you’re moving, teeth nipping all gentle at the soft skin on her neck. She all up and smells like flowers and old lady perfume and something else underneath what you ain’t got the knowing of, sharp and acid, so what she’s really smelling of is lies. The thought makes you grin as you nuzzle into her shoulder and the dark purple bit howls with what you’re hoping is fucking laughter because otherwise shit is gonna get problematic. You catch sight of the glint of gold changing hands and it’s a real motherfucking relief, because it would’ve taken most of the money you got to bribe the guards into dropping all that chaperone shit and you’re gonna need that when you’re running later. You can all up and hear the priestess tutting as she gets her leave on, but you know that bitch don’t really care none about what you’re doing. You are the motherfucking expert on the shit people do what they ain’t supposed to, and neither you nor your betrothed are caring none what people think of you so long as you’re all up and getting what you want. You guess maybe that’s a thing you have in common but you ain’t wanting to be all getting your dwell on about it, so instead you kiss all up her neck and nibble on her ear so she gets to breathing a little heavier in yours.

You get your ass dragged over to a door in the side of the chapel, and you share one last look with your best friend before your fiancée is tugging you into someplace more private. Motherfucker don’t ever look happy but this time he looks even less happy than the usual, and you want to be telling him that shit’s gonna be fine, you got this, only you can’t on account of how your mouth’s busy with hers and you gotta be sure and close your eyes before she gets some kind of suspect on about your conspiring. Room you’re in is small and dark and there’s books what scatter on the floor as you scoot up onto a table and let your legs get themselves all wrapped around her waist. There’s a hand in the small of your back to hold you close and another one slipping all sneaky-like up inside your shirt and the touch is burning like motherfucking ice all the way down to the core of you. You want more, want to drink her in and climb all up inside her until you ain’t even two separate beings no more. You want to scream in her face and push her away and be sick all over the floor. You settle for bringing your own hands up to wrap around behind her neck and stroke the hair what’s growing there, capturing her mouth with yours and closing your eyes so you don’t gotta see what it is you’re doing.

Calloused fingers, rough with alchemical scarring, trace the bones under your skin and leave you shivering. You don’t want this, you really motherfucking don’t, but you took that motherfucking shit and it’s burning in you like a fire what pushes you on and on and on and it won’t. FUCKING. Stop. The dark purple part of you is laughing its motherfucking ass off at what you’re doing and you know what that motherfucker is now. The Bard likes to mock you any time he’s getting a chance, all up and calling you pathetic and weak and worthless for not being like him.

You ain’t worthless, though; you got a job to be doing. The knowledge sits all up in the front of your mind like a motherfucking shield and you make sure to be using it. You let your overstimulated body take care of keeping the Lady Yetenekli’s attention and get to putting all of your attention on your fingers, wandering them up and down her neck and sliding them all through her hair and slipping them all up under the chain of her pendant. You give it a few seconds after that, kissing and pressing and moaning when her hands wander all up over your fever-hot skin. She don’t seem to be getting her notice on to nothing, so you rub at her neck with one hand and use the other to fiddle with the catch.

Hours in the past, but not many...

Karkat gets his glare on at you. “Look, I’ve spent my whole life surviving by separating assholes from their possessions. The whole point here is misdirection.”

You roll onto your stomach, watching as your bro scans the floor and picks up discarded potion bottles. “What’s that all up and being?” you ask.

“I believe it’s another word for a distraction,” Jakebro says, piping up all helpful-like. You dig him; he’s a pretty cool motherfucker, real nice body and shit if that gung-ho innocence ain’t all up and kinda being a turn-on. You go all up putting a pin in them thoughts, though, on account of how this ain’t even close to being the right sort of time for them.

“If I’d meant distraction I’d have said distraction,” Karkat snaps. “Look, the idea is that you get the mark’s attention focused somewhere else, on something else, so they don’t realise they’re being ripped off. It’s basic, okay, a hatchling can do this shit in the Shanties. I’m sure that you two and your fancy-ass upbringings can cope.”

"But..." Jake begins. Karbro rolls his eyes and goes on up to him, holding out some crumpled-up tunic of yours what he just picked up off the floor.

"Hey, asshole, you see this?"

"Yes, it's a tunic," Jake says, glancing at it. Karbro leans in a whole bit closer.

"You see this stain here?"

"Yes?"

Karkat's other hand all up and comes round to be slapping Jakebro on the side of his head while he's looking away. "Misdirection, fuckass."

You frown as your thoughts all up and let you know something ain’t kosher. “But bro, ain’t a Matriarch gonna be all up and knowing that shit too?”

“That’s exactly why we go after the necklace,” your brother says, all up dropping the tunic and taking his collected bottles and getting his walk on over to the side where there’s being a decanter of water. Jakebro up and looked at it when it arrived and you’re all thinking it’s clean from poison, but ain’t a thing you’re in some hurry to test.

Jakebro looks between the two of you, his face getting all its bewilder on, and truth be told you kinda know the feeling on account of how you don’t really got your understand on of this plan just yet. “So… if it’s not too much of a bother, do you think you could explain how the devil-fucking dickens you’re going to do that?”

Now...

There is a pause all up in the hand what’s tracing your ass, and you feel her lips brush against your ear as she whispers; “Gamzee, darling?”

“Yeah?” you reply, still trying to get the catch all unlocked and rocking yourself against her in what’s all up and being the most distracting way you can be thinking of right now.

“You do realise I can’t let you take my pendant, don’t you?”

You freeze, an ice statue all locked up in her arms as she chuckles. You can be all feeling it as it’s spreading out of her chest, before it’s even hitting the air to be heard, and you ain’t so sure if you want to pull away or keep going but it don’t matter none because you don’t even dare fucking breathe right now.

“Oh, my precious boy,” she says, and steps back. Your arms part to let her out and then go dropping all loose and floppy by your sides. You didn’t tell them to do that, but that’s the motherfucking miracle of arms what got some sensible ideas in them. You get your stare on at your fiancée, who’s smiling in a way what should be gentle or understanding except it’s far too motherfucking cutting for that. “Let me guess, your little shanty friend put you up to this, didn’t he?”

You want to say no real bad, want to deny it and protect Karkat, but you can’t. Her smile grows all wider and thinner as you nod, and one of her hands comes up to cup your face. Inside you, the Bard gets to chuckling, and you keep your eyes all fixed on the Lady because elsewise you might get to seeing his knife-edged grinning all up on the inside of your head.

“Oh, my poor dear,” she says with a sigh that ain’t even close to sounding real. “It’s endearing, really, but this has to stop.” Your heart pounds away and you grip the edges of the table with your knuckles turning all white. Your body is pretty motherfucking certain that it ain’t interested in words right now and the Bard is laughing loud enough to be splitting your skull and spilling all that blood and brains you got in you out across the scattered books, and you know you gotta be all wicked strong for a change and say no to both.

“Do either of you even have a plan for what to do after running away?” your fiancée asks. Her voice is concerned and her eyes are all up and laughing and you hate her, you FUCKING HATE HER because you ain’t got a plan and she KNOWS IT, the EVIL BITCH. “Poor things, you don’t, do you?” She shakes her head and you watch it move, getting your imagine on to all the ways that pretty motherfucking neck could twist and bend (and break) to please you. “I know you adore him, pet, and I’m sure it seems ever so romantic and heroic to go to these lengths for your little friend, but in the end he’s nothing but a gutter thief. Were you really going to cut him loose, stay here all alone with little old me, just so he could go back to the slums to live on stolen scraps and discarded trash?”

Yes, if you had to. In a heartbeat.

IS THAT A PROBLEM, FUCKER?

“No, you were going to go with him, weren’t you?” She pats your face softly and for some reason the gentle touch is all up and feeling like the harshest violation, a motherfucking liberty worse than any what she’s taken with you so far or is planning all up in that sick old head of hers. Your insides go all still as the Bard stops his laughing, and motherFUCK you can see his grin now and it’s worse than what you thought you remembered because it ain’t happy, not even in the tiniest part (gonna kill some motherfuckers, gonna tear them apart for this, it ain’t her PLACE and you are gonna TEACH HER to be RIGHTEOUS AFRAID).

“So what was the idea?” she asks, hand dropping and all trailing up against your shoulder. “Heading for the surface, perhaps?” She leans and her breath is hot and seductive and maddening (you want her dead YOU WANT HER SCREAMING) as she whispers up in the shell of your ear. “Did you really think that two sickles and a bad temper would keep you safe from the monsters?”

No. (YES.)

“And even if you made it, what then?” This whole thing’s a motherfucking joke to her, a game where you ain’t even a player but a toy, and it don’t matter how hard you’re trying to be still because all that noise up inside you is getting you shivering like it’s cold in here. “Whatever world there is up there, do you honestly think it makes places for people like you to live happily ever after? They have Shanties there too, my darling, and if you and he run then that life is the best you can hope for.”

You don’t got an answer to that; fear (FURY) makes your voice vanish off someplace far away. You watch her instead, blue eyes (you HATE blue, can’t MOTHERFUCKING STAND it, it’s all full of THIEVES and LIARS and TRAITORS and WEAKNESS) narrowing as she drops that motherfucking pretence of giving a shit.

“How long do you think it would be before you had to choose between starvation and sobriety?” she all up and asks you, like Karbro wouldn’t hold you down to be forcing his food down your throat if it came to it. “How long before you didn’t even have that choice?”

You know you and your brother wouldn’t starve.

YOU WOULDN’T MOTHERFUCKING LET THAT SHIT HAPPEN.

“As long as he wears my collar, Karkat has a place to stay,” your fiancée says, cupping your head between both of them rough alchemist hands and all brushing your hair with her thumbs. “He has food, a bed, and you, which is far more than you can hope to offer him. You as my husband have the same, and of course you need only ask and I will happily provide you with any substance your heart desires.” She gets all smiley at you, a wicked sharp grin. “I am an alchemist, after all, and soon to be a rich one. Really, dear one, do you truly think I can’t keep you happy for the rest of your life if you please me?”

You wish you was smarter, because there ain’t a thing she’s saying what sounds false but when you add it all together up in your head it makes you so motherfucking afraid (SO FUCKING MAD). She’s wrong, she’s wrong in every motherfucking way, and you don’t know why or how to answer.

The Bard says, kill her and she’ll know why. YOU GOT TEETH, THERE’S HER FUCKING THROAT.

You don’t move. You don’t breathe. You hang your motherfucking head so your hair is all up in your face and she can’t see what expression you got while you’re shaking.

“So, are you ready to forget this silliness and behave?”

Nod. Nod. Your mind is so fucking loud right now, you can’t even get to believing all the noise up in there. You are scared shitless. You are wicked furious. You want to fuck her. You want to kill her. You’re pretty motherfucking certain you want to kill her then fuck her then spend the rest of the day finger-painting on the walls in pretty red blood, but you’re all up and being equally sure that Karbro wouldn’t like that none, so instead of cutting loose you lean forward and get your kiss on, one more time. Her lips are all up and being slimy like slugs. She sickens you and you can’t motherfucking help that you’re desperate enough to want her anyway.

“Best motherfucking behaviour,” you whisper, and ain’t your fault that BITCH don’t get to thinking to check what that best might be. Her hand on your arm guides you back to the door and out into the chapel, where you got all them guards and Karbro and Jakebro all staring at your mussed-up selves like they weren’t just listening at the door like the SNEAKY LITTLE MOTHERFUCKING RATS THEY ARE. You know for sure they was listening, because they all get to backing away from Karkat when the Lady’s walking up to him, and Jakebro even goes ducking behind the altar all pale like you ain’t even seen before.

Karkat don’t move none, though, not until your betrothed hooks a finger under that pretty little lying collar and tugs him close and whispers something what none of the rest of you can hear. He moves plenty after though, if dropping like a motherfucking stone and thrashing all about on the ground counts.

There’s a good few seconds of shallow gasps, all filled with small whimpers and cracked-up sobs, before your best friend starts screaming. You force yourself to watch, keep your eyes locked on him howling and thrashing and throwing in the occasional curse or ten, because you can’t look away. You can’t fucking risk what happens if you ain’t seen to be giving this little scene your full, undivided attention. Out the corners of your eyes you can tell you ain’t the only gawker but you ain’t gonna lift your head and see if the guards are scared or sympathetic or mocking of this shit.

You thought you might lose it, seeing this, but you don’t. All that rage what’s been growing up inside you just kinda blossoms, until there ain’t nothing but hatred and vengeance up in your mind, and it is sharp and cold and clear and, yeah, it’s a motherfucking miracle because the world just became a wicked simple place.

There is you. There is Karkat.

AND THERE IS EVERY LAST MOTHERFUCKER YOU ARE GONNA SLAUGHTER.

Feels like forever but it ain’t even more than a few seconds in truth before the Lady bends down and whispers some word you ain’t all hearing again. Karbro all up and stops and if it weren’t for a bit of shakiness and jagged breathing you wouldn’t even be thinking there was a thing wrong as he gets to his feet. You’re there in an instant, helping support him and watching your future wife all wary as she smiles and gets her triumphant on at the pair of you.

“Later, Gamzee darling,” she says, and you nod before limping towards the door and slipping out into the corridor. You’re halfway down it before your rage starts to run thin and then you get all clumsy and stumble, and then somehow Karkat’s the one supporting you. All the angry bleeds out of you at once and you are so motherfucking tired it ain’t even real, but you got enough left in you to tilt your head and grin at him.

“Hey, bro, shit motherfucking worked,” you say. He ain’t looking a whole lot better than you, all dark bags under his eyes and frazzled by the collar, but the rare smile you get back is worth every motherfucking moment of what you both just went through.

“No, really, you think? Come on, idiot,” he replies, guiding you back towards your rooms.

Hours in the past, but not many...

“We can’t get the pendant.”

Jakebro all up and looks at your brother dismayed-like. “But Terezi said…”

“Terezi is a Lawkeeper,” Karbro snaps, getting up from his position all snug and cosy in your arms to get his stalk on across the room. “She thinks all thieves are the same, but we’re not, okay? I’m not a burglar and I’m sure as spiders not a pickpocket. I can’t steal a piece of jewellery someone’s fucking wearing and expect them not to notice, so unless one of you two geniuses has been hiding a secret identity as a master thief then we’re shit out of luck with that idea.”

“So what alternative do you propose?” Jakebro says, all folding his arms and getting all commanding and shit. “We can hardly just leave the collars on if we’re planning to make a break for it!”

“I didn’t say that we would!” your best friend all up and yells back, shoving himself up in the corner of the room and getting his glower on at both of you. “She said Remove Curse would do it, right?” he asks, voice all up and quieter.

“Yes,” Jake confirms. “But I don’t know any magic! As you said, unless one of you is hiding a secret identity…”

Karbro shakes his head all impatient-like. “No, idiot, we’re not fucking wizards,” he says all scowling. You want to be hugging him and smoothing all them angry lines out from his face before they get to sinking in, but he’s all up and being way over there and you ain’t up and taken your miracle drug today. You don’t want your head to get to spinning if you stand. “We’re going to use potions.”

Takes you a full half a minute longer than what it should be doing to work that shit out, especially what with your brother looking at you all expectant-like, but when it clicks you beam at him. “Oh, yeah! Them Remove Curse potions what we got in for the wedding! They’ll all be up and on the altar soon!”

“Wait, what?”

You look at Jakebro, who’s seeming kind of adorable when he’s being confused and shit, and wave a hand lazily in the air. “Shit, bro, you think this motherfucker woulda been allowed all kinds of naked shenanigans up in here unless his Matriarch was well convinced she weren’t gonna be no kind of unplanned grandmother?”

“Pretty much all the noble houses curse their kids for safety,” Karkat says. “Plus any other unmarried family members. Which means that almost all noble weddings include multiple potions of Remove Curse. All we have to do is switch them with some lookalike bottles before the wedding and no asshole is any the wiser.” He nods towards one of the piles of debris on the floor, one what’s got one of your old potion bottles all up and lying on it. “Gamzee, you got many of those about?”

“Shit, bro, I get Cure Disease up in here like it ain’t even worth nothing,” you tell him, and grin as your bro gets to hunting through the piles of discarded clothes for bottles. You just had shit brought in piles from your old room, you ain't got the knowing on of what's up here yet. Hopefully you ain't gonna be here long enough to be having that chance, either.

“So that’s it?” Jakebro asks, starting to rummage through the nearest clothes pile and getting his stop on when he finds something what you know ain’t your own personal underwear. You… might have got yourself a tiny bit busy up in here yesterday, just to try and get some good feels on, before you were all up and knowing Karbro was really okay. “We just switch them and then everything’s fine and dandy?”

Karkat all up and snorts. “No,” he says. “Our beloved mistress knows we’re going to try something, I’d bet my last maggoty biscuit on it, and even if she doesn’t we can’t ‘just switch them’ when the damn altar is going to be watched and guarded the whole time.” He looks up at Jakebro and it’s scary, how serious a face what he’s wearing. “That’s why you’re going to switch the potions, and me and Gamzee are going to go after the pendant.”

Jake shakes his head, which is more or less what you’re thinking too. “Wait, I thought you said we couldn’t steal the pendant!”

“We can’t,” Karkat agrees. “The whole point is that we get caught. Then there’s a complete shit-slinging fuss, everyone looks at us, she gets to feel smug and self-satisfied, and by the time anyone works out what we really did we’re gone.”

Jakebro gets to nodding while you all up and think about the plan your best friend is suggesting. It sounds pretty wicked miraculous and all, but in your head you keep thinking how he ain’t said nothing about what kind of motherfucking fuss is going to up and happen when you cross her.

“You sure this is all up and being a good idea, bro?” you ask.

Now...

Jake is waiting for you on your couch, four stoppered potion bottles in front of him. He looks over as you come in and you are all up and seeing how he’s got worry and excitement all fighting over his face.

"I say, are you both alright? Because that was quite the hair-raising stunt back there and I..."

You're kind of finding it all wicked shit hard to be coming out with the words for that right now but you don't even got to because your bro just up and shoves him out the way with a hand all up in that sunwalker's face. You all up and keep watching Jakebro as you get all dragged up over to a pile of cushions and dumped on them, though; shit's a real motherfucking bitchtits view. There's a thump as Karbro settles in next to you and then you got your brother all up and curling into your side. You curl right back around him because, shit, you're way up for some sweet cuddling miracle action right now.

"We fucking did it," your best friend whispers, and you ain't seeing it what with how his head is all tucked down under yours but you can be up and feeling that little miracle smile what's growing on his face. "Shitting hells, Gamzee, we actually fucking did it."

Jake's all up and making some sort of noises but you ain't all having no time for that now. Shit in your head's getting its weary on, last flushes of your little harlot sweets working their way out, and you don't want to move just yet although you know you'll have to when they come to be all dressing you up for getting your marriage on.

Door gets to knocking like the thought summoned it, and you all up and cover your eyes and get your groan on. You cannot be dealing with this shit right now; your head is fuzzy as shit and it ain't doing nothing to keep the bard all up and quiet (like anything could THIS MOTHERFUCKER'S THE REAL DEAL). You'd be tempted to be taking some more pesh to deal with that only you're thinking as how that might all up and be a better plan later, like right before you're trying to leave later, so instead you reach out and hang onto your brother like he's a lifeline. Good Karkat. Best friend.

Knock comes again and this time Jake moves, getting them little bottles what you spent all that effort on and tucking them out of sight before he gets himself up and to the door. You get to tightening your grip on Karbro, because you don't give a motherfucking SHIT what any Matriarch is all up and thinking on the matter, you ain't never letting him go. Only then you catch a glimpse of teal and look up and it ain't no Matriarch, it's some Lawkeeper all up and wearing pointy red eyeglasses and you know them from what Karkat all up and said before...

And something else, too, just deep down in you and on the edges, because the Bard's all up and falling silent the moment she walks in and you know, you motherfucking know, that he's got some knowing of her what keeps him being all quiet like a little squeaky mousey thing.

You share a look, you and the woman who is Terezi, and then there's all kinds of talking and planning and she's all up and happy as what you got them potions and Karkat gets to spluttering when she's all saying something nice about that and then everyone gets their quiet on when she's saying all about letters and golems and a plan what sounds pretty motherfucking dangerous and terrifying to you.

sounds good to me, says the Bard. WHERE THE FUCK DO I SIGN UP?

You wrap yourself a little tighter around Karbro and squeeze your eyes shut, fighting off the twisty backwards flipping what your belly all up and decided to do without telling you. You feel the Bard hold on too, feel all that wicked nasty rage twisted up in him even out and ebb away, because even though he motherfucking hates everything by some miracle he loves your brother as much as you do. Gives you some uneasy feelings sometimes, but at least you know you can always be counting on the Bard to be all up and looking out for Karkat, even when you ain't able to.

Ain't neither of you going to let your brother down.

Years in the past, but not many...

“What’s wrong?”

You open your eyes and look up from Marah’s lap to find her watching you with what’s probably concern. Her fingers don’t stop running through your hair, for which you’re wicked glad. In all your life of looking you ain’t yet found a single thing more comforting than Marah’s gentle fingers, except maybe how she can tell just by looking that you got your worry going on inside. It’s a whole kind of special miracles what are hers alone.

“You’re gonna leave soon,” you say, and she chuckles.

“I’ll come back,” she says, and you shake your head, burying your face into her knee like you’re a hatchling still.

“What if I pay you to stay?” you ask, voice muffled. Her fingers all pause in their work and you could kick yourself when you feel her go all tense.

“It’s not that simple,” she says, and you wait, fingers digging into her leg until the rest of the answer up and comes spilling out. “Gamzee, I can’t stay here. I have someone waiting for me.”

“Your lover,” you say.

“My son,” she replies, and that’s worse; your stomach’s all up and feeling like it just got punched because there ain’t no way she’ll ever love you more than him and you didn’t even know that was being a thing you wanted until it was already too late.

Her fingers all get to stroking again and after a while you feel like you at least gotta try, so you say; “Can’t you be all bringing your son up in here? Then you could both get your stay on, with me.” Did that sound whiny? Mother hates it when you whine, so you try not to.

Marah just chuckles. “My son wouldn’t want to stay here. He can be…” she pauses for a moment, then sighs. “He’s a little shit,” she says, and you grin into her leg at how she’s being all frank and fond at once. One of her hands moves out of your hair and gets to shifting along your arm, stopping over the twisted, cursed mark on your bicep and stroking it in a way what you’d really be up and calling loving. “I think you’d get along, though,” she says, so soft it ain’t even more than a whispered breath.

You roll over, turn your head up to face her. She ain’t so haughty nor so classical in beauty as what your sisters are like, but she’s small and fine like a little bird, and her eyes are the most beautiful miracle you ever saw. They’re red, a brilliant blood crimson, and you ain’t never seen a pair like them on anyone else. Sometimes when she gets her anger on they flash like fire and you don’t reckon that even Mother could get up and be standing against her; other times when she thinks ain’t nobody looking they all get to looking so tired that you don’t want nothing more than to wrap her up and keep her someplace where she don’t ever want for a thing ever again. Right now she looks kind, and sad, which is what she’s always looking like when she ain’t got some other look to be wearing.

“Can a brother get his meeting on?” you ask, because even though you ain’t sure about this whole business you guess you want to know who this person is what’s so important as to make her leave your side. Leave you all alone.

Her brow furrows and she chews her lip, just a little. “Promise me something, first,” she says, and you nod because you ain’t wanting her to be all worried like she’s sounding.

“Promise me that you’ll be good to him?” she asks, and it’s a scared sort of a question. “Fuck, this sounds so stupid… I’m sorry.”

“It ain’t stupid,” you say, reaching out and grabbing the hand what’s been caressing your mark and giving it a special squeeze. “Ain’t like a sister would up and ask if it weren’t for some reason.”

She nods and you reckon you ain’t never seen her look so young. “He’s not had the best life,” she says, not even up and meeting your gaze. “If he thinks, even for a second, that you’re trying to play him or use him…”

Suddenly it all comes clear to you how this woman knew enough to get past all the walls what you put up to keep all the hurt around you from getting in, and for the first time you think how maybe it might not be so bad to do this for yourself as much as for her. “I understand,” you say, watching your fingers get all mixed up with hers and wondering how you’re all up and going to get the right ones back again. “And I promise. I’ll be the best motherfucking friend your kid ever had, you’ll see.”

Her smile is all up and being pure relief. “Thank fuck for that. I swear, you boys…” she breaks off, bends down to plant a chaste kiss all up on your forehead. “If anyone ever needed a friend, it was you two.”

You all up and close your eyes as you get to snuggling on down in her lap again. “Hey, so what colour eyes has a brother got?” you ask, suddenly struck by a notion.

“Red like mine,” Marah says, and you grin, because that is your favourite motherfucking colour of them all.

Suggestions Used

RandomGal - Jake: Discuss the new developments and collar dilemma with your fellows. Figure out where the key might be kept.

unholygrunt – Jake: Talk to Karkat about finding key and removing the collars.

WhiteTiger1221 – Gamzee: Be ecstatic that you're back together with your bro. Know passing knowledge of Terezi due to knowing about Karkat's visions.

ttdOOOO – Gamzee: Get high... on life!... then the fantasy drug whose name escapes me.

Ephemeral_Dreamer – Gamzee: Contemplate Miracles

MASK – Gamzee: Follow fiancee to wedding rehearsal (you promised to be a good boy, after all).

RandomGal - Gamzee: Do recital [rehersal]. Be worried a lot, but try to gather information and be useful. Karkat needs you!

unholygrunt – Karkat: Be the Thief

RandomGal - Karkat: Steal key. Save using it until the last second, though; shouldn't she be able to tell or something?

Special Assignment (Ongoing)
unholygrunt - Everyone should fall in love with Jake and he promptly falls in love with a ghost.

ttdOOOO – Everybody that makes sense: Be attracted to [Jake] at first sight. I find that as hilarious a running gag as Roxy trying to get in [John's] pants.

System Notes

Chapter Text

Letter to the Waypoint Inn 01, For attachment to LODAD fic on AO3.

TRANSCRIPT

TO: proprietors
the waypoint inn
old rattlesheath street
outer ring
porthaven

dear mom and dad,

by the time you read this letter, jane and i will be far away on our first adventure! we're sorry we didn’t say goodbye or give you any warning that we were going to leave, but it’s kind of taken us by surprise as well. that's why we’re writing this letter- we don’t want you to worry about us. i mean, you’re probably going to worry anyway, but we thought we should write and let you know that we’re okay and doing something important and worthwhile and also we haven’t been kidnapped or mugged or anything like that (yet)! hehehe.

as for what we’re doing, i guess that’s a secret at the moment? but it’s really important! like, actual saving-the-world heroics. maybe there will be ballads about us to sing one day! i probably shouldn’t tell you this, but you’re smart enough to work it out anyway; we’re with the oracle and her sister, who’s actually a wizard (how amazing is that?) and they’re both really smart. there's a couple of other friends with us, too, and they’re good in a fight so you don’t have to worry about us getting hurt. we can all watch each other’s backs and it’ll be fine!

so anyway we’re off on a long journey now, and it will probably take months and months, so we thought we’d write and let you know how it’s going every so often? we can’t say where we’re headed yet but we’ll be sending another letter with some friends once we’re safely underway. when jade and jake arrive, can you let them know where we’re going and let them know that they can totally join us if they want? rose (that’s the oracle) says that they will probably be a great help to us, and we still really want to meet them! oh, jane wants to write something...

Hi Mom, Dad. I’m really sorry to leave you like this; I tried to get us out of it, but unfortunately it looks like we’ve already made some enemies that make it best if we stay on the move. I promise to look after John and make sure he doesn’t take any really stupid decisions, and we’ll both be careful and make sure we come home in one piece. We love you both and please, apologise to Commander Larkin for me about us missing our official swearing-in ceremony.

I have to admit that I’m a little scared about all this. It seems like an awful lot for just the six of us to handle, and although I can’t deny the visions of an Oracle I have my doubts that things could be as bad as she claims. But I can’t just stay behind and let everyone down! The whole reason I wanted to join the Watch was to protect people and John is right, they need our help. So I hope you can understand why we’re doing this.

so basically, we wanted to let you know that we’re okay, and safe- well, not really safe, but definitely protected- and that we love you and we’re going to write. say hi to everyone for us!

Your loving children,
John and Jane xxx


TO: John and Jane Warden
By Way Of Bird Feather Token

My darlings,

I hope this letter finds you well. Your father has been positively incandescent since you left- first with fury and then with pride. I won’t lie; it is frightening to hear that your children are off facing danger in the wilds of the world, but he and I both have every faith that you will triumph over whatever trials stand in your way. You are both adults and can make your own decisions about your lives, and we want to support that in any way that we can.

Just so you know, if that bloody Oracle, her sister, or those godsdamned aasimar reprobates you’re off with come lollygagging around my doorstep then they’re getting a taste of your grandpa’s falchion! And don’t pretend it isn’t those thieving Phooka bastards, because we aren’t so green as we’re cabbage-looking round here!

As you can tell, your father is still a little worked up. We’re both concerned, which is why we were racking our brains to think of ways to aid you. Then it occurred to us that some of our regulars might understand what you need right now far better than we could! So we asked around the taproom for advice.

General consensus is that you kids should’ve heard enough old treasure-divers yammering on to have a pretty clear idea of what to do. Ragnar says to remind you keep your magic users away from the front lines, and Karlok and Elavyn say to think tactically and remember where people are on a battlefield. Don’t wander into each others’ way, stay within quick dash of a healer, don’t give out easy hits and for the love of all the gods if there’s a hostile spellcaster about DON’T CLUSTER!

I hope that helps! We’re also packing up some kits for you with the help of the boys; we’ve made one for each of you, and one each for your brother and sister. Assuming we have your location by the time they get here, we will pass it on, although I do hope they decide to stay for a day or two before haring off after you. We’ve also decided to keep it a secret that you’re travelling with the Oracle. The whole city is all in an uproar looking for her, and no doubt they’ll find out where you’re all headed soon enough, but if she didn’t see fit to tell them I don’t see why we should poke our noses in.

We are so proud of you both, and we love you to bits. Go be heroes, and come home with stories to tell.

All our love,
Mom and Dad
XXX

PS: Now your mother can’t see it... give those bastards hell, kids.

Waypoint Picture 02

Chapter Text

==> Dave: Isn’t It Your Turn?

The thing about forests as compared to bustling urban centres is that they are long on trees and animals and bugs and really fucking short on people. While you are convinced that there are actually some crazies in the world who find all this greenery and mud and getting bitten by who the fuck even knows what to be in some way exhilarating, you have long since realised nature sucks ass- and not even tight, pert ass either; it has its tongue lodged firmly up gross sweaty ass, with skidmarks and pustules.

Basically there is nothing to do out here but smell the flowers, and unless they're the sort that bite back you’re one hundred per cent certain that they won't do anything interesting. You've been wandering past a variety of ever more treelike trees for one singular unending day and you already miss the admiring crowds of Porthaven. Squirrels, in addition to tasting like shit, are the absolute worst audience you have ever come across, although you're thinking that maybe that title needs transferring to one Rose, Oracle of Light. Not that she isn't fun to listen to as she coolly pulls apart everything she hears for the fun of it, but you figured out fast that it's fucking impossible to keep a line of patter going when you know that every word you say is going to get creatively misinterpreted as a deeply repressed desire for throbbing animal dong.

Dirk loves it, of course; finally, someone else who can keep up with his bullshit. He's been sparring with the oracle for hours. Last you listened in, she'd intimated that he had a tragically unrequited longing for horse cock and he had offered to throw a barnyard orgy and invite her. You pretty much stopped listening again at that point- not because your highly-developed irony skills weren't up to the job and you were getting nauseous or anything, but because your other fellow travellers are fucking hilarious and you’ve got a solemn duty to make time in your busy schedule for watching them accidentally clown about.

If you’re being brutally honest, like really beating the shit out of that truth, then Jane's a pretty sweet kid and you gotta respect that she won't buy most of your bullshit. Watching her chase round after John like she's his mother is still comedy gold, especially since he and Roxy are doing some kind of elaborate mating dance known only to drunken wizards and clueless pranksters. The Oracle’s sister has been following your friend around and draping herself over him and burbling sweet sexy nonsense in his ear while he laughs and helps her up when she trips over- which is about every thirty seconds, because it’s gloomy under the trees and there are roots everywhere and she is fucking hammered- and he is completely failing to notice that this shit is not platonic.

You've got to give Warden some credit, though- apart from a few sniggers and excessive shushing, you'd hardly know he'd been plotting with Roxy for the last ten minutes. If she was mute and you were blind, that is- girl can't stop looking at you and giggling, unless she's currently occupied with falling over or trying to nibble John's neck. It's like she's a fucking vampire or some shit, one that can only feed on the blood of derpy do-gooders and is starving, so he's like her one-man buffet and she just can't resist going for the appetiser...

It occurs to you that your metaphor has started getting kind of steamy, so you stop. Don't want to waste good fireside fantasy material you could use later; your thinking time is premium rate. Besides, John just peeled her off his shoulders and gave her a shove towards Dirk, so you’re pretty sure that whatever shit they were planning is about to go down. You shove your thumbs in your belt and keep up a casual swagger as your friend comes bounding over like he’s a happy puppy and you’re his doting master or some shit like that.

“Hey, Dave!” he says, grinning like a fucking moron. You give him a small nod of recognition.

“’Sup, Warden?” you reply, and hold back from tensing up as he slings a friendly arm around your shoulder. “Crazy cat lady offered to make an honest woman out of you yet? ‘Cos I’m down with planning that wedding, I got some seriously ill ideas for decorations…”

John laughs and hits you in the shoulder with his free hand. The kid is way stronger than a skinny little elf has any right to be. You fail to care on account of how you are still more badass than he could ever dream of being, even if he was super-strong. And could fly.

"Hehehe, we're not getting married, dumbass!" he says, eyes twinkling.

"So it's just hot monkey sex, then." You nod knowingly as he blushes. "Nice swag, dude."

"Dave! We're not..." he drops his voice, "... we're not having sex, either!"

A slight turn of the head is enough to show your theatrical disbelief. You might have to ham it up for the audiences back in Porthaven, but in real life a small gesture goes a long way. "Really? 'Cos it sure as fuck looked like it; she is into you in a big way and you weren't doing fuck all to discourage her cherry-popping slobbermonster ways just now."

"Daaave!" he hisses, and even his ears are fucking glowing now. His hand is still around your shoulder as he glances about then leans in a little closer. "Okay, honestly, I have no idea what I'm doing here!"

"Could've fooled me," you say, shrugging. You get your shoulder punched again for the trouble.

"Can you just quit being a massive booger for five minutes and listen?"

"Can you not call me a booger? Because that is a lame-ass insult..."

"I'm not used to this!" John whispers frantically, and from the way those baby blues have gone all wide it seems genuine. "I mean, a couple of the adventurer ladies back at the inn would sometimes flirt, but that was more in an aww, look how cute he is kind of way! And now there's Roxy, and Dirk, and I just don't know what I'm supposed to say or feel or think or do!"

"Don't worry about Dirk, dude," you tell him, casting a glance over at your brother who seems to be wrestling with a tearful Roxy. "I mean, you kind of are his type, but he pretty much knows to back off before he even advances at a time like this. Mostly he's just macking on you to mess with everyone."

John peeks around your shoulder. "Really?"

"Hand on my heart," you say, and take a moment to put your actual literal hand over your actual literal heart because shit like that deserves a Moment. "Now as for Roxy, never fear, because you happen to be talking to the Sultan of Swag, the King of Kink, the Oracle of Org..."

"Dave!"

"... and the question you gotta ask yourself is, are you into this girl?" You watch him open and close his mouth like a fish for a few seconds before you decide to give him the baby steps training wheels version. "Do you, Master John Warden of Porthaven, have a genuine desire to do the horizontal samba with that fine, fine piece of ass?”

You have seen people go that shade of red before, but they were Phooka and already pretty crimson to begin with. "I, uh, I..." John stammers as you snicker. He clears his throat with a cough and continues; "That's, um, a very good point, and I'll go away and think about it, but there was this one other... NOW!"

In the fraction of a second it takes for your brain to process that you knew he was planning something and you let him distract you, the arm around your shoulders becomes a vice holding you in place and his other hand is already on your mask, lifting it. Reflexes honed by a lifetime of training with your bro kick in and you grab the wrist in front of your face, keeping your mask safe as you kick backwards and scrap a boot-heel down the inside of your assailant's shin. John yelps and pulls his leg back, and you take advantage of his lack of balance to throw yourself into him and knock you both onto the ground, landing as hard on his midriff as you can manage from your awkward starting position.

You get back to your feet as he wheezes, straightening your mask. Behind you on the driver’s seat of the caravan, Dirk has Roxy in a headlock and is calmly making the same adjustment, while Jane squeaks and looks between the two of you in a panic as your whole party grinds to a halt on the dim forest road.

“Nice try, but you gotta do better than that to get our masks,” you say, as much to reassure Jane as to taunt John. You’re already taking care of the latter by resting a foot casually on your gasping friend’s ribs, and he’s struggling more because he’s trying to laugh. You poke him with your booted toes a little before turning your head to the side and raising your voice. “Right, bro?”

“I’d say full marks for a valiant effort, and shit all for the execution,” Dirk replies, giving Roxy a noogie and making her squeal. “Sorry, Rox, but the bro-code states that a truly awesome dude has to keep his mask on at all times, or ranks can be deducted. You understand.”

“Imp- hic! Impelhicitly,” Roxy slurs from somewhere around his armpit. “’S a very sent-sennis-sennable pol’cy.”

“Actually,” says Rose, not looking round or pausing in twining her fingers into Maplehoof’s mane, “if you don’t mind indulging my curiosity, why do the pair of you wear masks? In fact, I would go so far as to enquire as to the reasoning behind your entire outfits, given that they are somewhat inappropriate to the potential dangers of our mission.”

Jane glares sharply at her. “I would go so far as to enquire as to when you’re going to remove your boot from my brother! It was just a prank, and it didn’t even work!”

You decide to address the second problem first, by removing your foot from John’s ribs and holding out a hand to help him up. He springs back to his feet with a grin and you present him to Jane with a bow. “As you can see, my beautiful assistant is still all in one piece, m’lady.”

Jane walks right up and waggles a finger under your nose. “Don’t think I’m letting you get away with this, buster! Honestly, I’ve half a mind to turn this adventuring party right back around and go home to Porthaven, you see if I don’t!”

You’re about to reply when Rose does it for you, purple eyes narrowing as she looks over at Jane. “If you really are that dissatisfied with our progress, then I see no problem with you returning home,” the Oracle says, her tone beyond toxic and into corrosive. “I would of course not wish for anyone to be forced into a course of action to which they had not given their full and honest consent, be that staying or leaving.”

There is a long silence, during which Jane manages to turn bright pink. “I… that is… oh, flip, I just…”

“If you don’t think you’re capable of providing assistance then certainly, you should leave,” Rose adds, the entirely reasonable tone of her voice at odds with the whiteness of her knuckles in Maplehoof’s mane. “Please, don’t let a misplaced sense of duty prevent you from doing whatever it is you desire; it is of course a terrible imposition of me to co-opt you into this foolhardy world-saving venture, and no reasonable soul could possibly blame you or consider you in the least bit cowardly for wanting to back out of what was surely an impulsive and poorly-considered decision.”

I said I was going to help!” Jane yells, and for several long heartbeats the forest seems even quieter than before. “And I will,” she adds, jutting her chin out and putting her hands firmly on her hips. “So don’t even think about trying to talk me out of it, because when I make a commitment I damned well stick with it to the bitter end!”

John laughs and pulls his sister into a bear-hug; she makes some huffy noises but returns the embrace. You sidle up to the stunned Oracle, pausing only to give a slightly dazed Jane a bro fistbump because damn, you don’t think you would have rallied so well before such an assault of sarcasm even if she did fall into the obvious trap.

“It’s badass,” you say, leaning over to speak in Rose’s ear. She jumps a little.

“What?”

“The masks, the costumes. Totally fucking kick-ass awesome.”

She gathers herself a little to look at you like a particularly interesting specimen. “I see. The object is to leave a beautiful corpse.”

You let your lip twitch in a small smile. “Nah. We’re just trying to intimidate our foes- see, I’m the bandit king, and Dirk over there is the hero who kills me. Spread the story far enough and people are gonna take one look at us and go, ‘Shit, those guys are a fucking fireball of epic proportions, we are getting the fuck out of here!’ And then we won’t need to lift a finger ever again.”

She appears to consider your cunning bullshit strategy. “And if the individuals of which you speak in fact go; ‘My, it appears to be two actors, we can slay them with ease?’”

“Then I unleash my utterly sick fighting skills on them,” Dirk says, taking up the reins of the caravan once more. “And Dave breaks his sword and cries like a little girl until they take pity on him, because his swords are all cheap pieces of shit and he refuses to buy anything better despite the fact that everyone with any kind of sense has told him what a dumb-fuck move this is.”

You don’t even look back as you give your brother the finger. “Stage swords work fine if they’re sharpened,” you say. “Which mine are."

"The steel is shit," Dirk tells you, leaning forward to pat Maplehoof as she shifts restlessly. "The fucking things break and you can't get any self-respecting blacksmith to reforge them. Our whole caravan is full of your backup weapons; it's embarrassing and it's redundant. I can't even bring visitors home without apologising for your fucked-up obsession."

Your eyebrows twitch into a frown behind your mask. "Not just my backups, dude," you say, kind of sharper than you meant to. "I mean, at least I don't insist on using a style of sword from a continent nobody's even heard of. Blacksmiths don't even know how to fix that shit."

"If you want to criticise my fighting style, would you like further opportunity to study it up close?"

"Maybe I would!"

"Are you entirely satisfied with this exchange?" Rose asks, her voice strained at the edges. "Or would you like to go off and hammer at each other with bits of metal until you prove who the alpha male is?"

You and your bro look at each other, and share a small nod.

"Nah," you both say in tandem. Rose’s eyes narrow and you think you’re about to get another round of biting sarcasm when something else catches your attention.

“Heads up,” whispers Dirk, and you nod, eyes flickering across the thickets of tangled undergrowth in an attempt to follow the rustling movements you spotted. You catch a flash of something red and scaly ahead and to the side, and as your eyes adapt to staring into shadow you see the mud-darkened silhouettes of four small, reptilian creatures lurking just off the path.

Dirk’s looking the same way as you, which you expected, but so is John; before you can tell him to hold back, the dumbass is already walking forwards towards the figure that lurks slightly apart from the rest. You see its head bob in alarm as he draws closer. Behind you, Roxy grabs her familiar and starts to wander up behind the two of you, still looking around dopily as if she can’t see a fucking thing. You hear more than see as Dirk and Jane draw weapons.

“Hi!” John calls. You hear a faint “nak!” and the figure up ahead dives into the undergrowth, which does make it a shitload harder to keep track of. You hear a thoughtful hum from Rose as the other three figures dive for cover and, drawing your own sword, start to move cautiously after John.

There is another quiet “nak!” and a small pellet flies out of the undergrowth to land at your feet. You look at it for exactly long enough to think oh crap before it explodes into a cloud of smoke. Everything becomes a secondary consideration to breathing really fucking fast as you double over coughing, your lungs making a serious effort to climb out up your throat the second the cloying, bitter fumes hit them. Next to you John and Roxy are also doubled over in greyish clouds of dust and air. Out of the corner of your eye you see Dirk and Jane start to move towards you and for a moment you’re hopeful, but then with a click, a swish and a yell a section of the forest floor shifts and your brother catapults upwards before coming to rest dangling upside down in a snare trap. The sound of mocking nakking fills the air.

Still coughing, John fumbles for his hammer and Roxy drops her cat; you double over again as your stomach lurches. You’ve lost track of your attackers and from behind you the sounds of Rose praying to her goddess mix with the sound of Jane and Dirk desperately trying to free his leg from the trap before suddenly degenerating into hacking coughs. Some dazed part of your brain notes that this shit is crazy, yo, the forest is suddenly a battleground and you aren’t even in the trenches, you’re in fucking no-man’s-land, flanked and under fire from all sides.

Something thumps ineffectually into your armour and you open your streaming eyes to see two little red lizards valiantly swinging at you with tiny saps that would be fucking adorable if the little shits weren’t trying to beat you down with them. Your attempt to swing a sword at them is aborted by a coughing fit and you spot more of the little fuckers sprinting out from the trees to batter at your travelling companions. A second pellet flies out and lands at your feet; in the instant before it pops you gasp down a breath of clean air and hold it, keeping that toxic shit out of your lungs. Based on the second round of hacking coughs from John and Roxy, they were less smart.

Your lizards swing at you again, and this time leave a couple of bruises. This time your breathing behaves itself as, pissed the fuck off by this bullshit, you swing your shitty but sharp stage sword towards the nearest of the little shits. The asshole ducks and you get stung from the other side by a sling stone.

Behind you there is a feminine yelp as Jane sets off another snare trap; John staggers aside as a lizard in slightly nicer ragged bits of leather than the rest swings at him with a sap. Then a brilliant flash of multi-coloured light shoots past you into the section of undergrowth where the smoke pellets and sling stones have been coming from; even from the corners of your vision, it’s eye-searing enough to make your head ache, and based on the high-pitched screams from the bush that are quickly cut off it’s even worse taken full frontal.

The attacks against you take on a slightly more frantic nature and you hiss in pain as one blow lands firmly in your solar plexus. Even through the armour you felt that. You swing at the moving mass of red scales and the blow goes wide; there are small flashes of divine light from where Rose is battling, and you grip your sword more firmly in hand.

“WAIT!”

Everyone hesitates; the lizards look around at John as the same time as the rest of you.

“Okay, look, we can keep doing this,” he says, addressing the lizard he’s been locked in mortal godsdamned combat with. “But you’ve run out of those smoke bullets, right? And you’re kind of small, and I think we can beat you, or at least make winning really hard and dangerous. But I thought, well, you’ve actually not been trying to kill us, so maybe this is something where we can talk about it instead of fighting?”

You look around at the snare traps and the saps and realise that he’s right. They could have dug pits, or used poison, and you’d all be dying by now. You’re no expert on the habits of small red forest nak-lizards, but you’re pretty sure that attacking well-armed and armoured groups of travellers without exploiting every possible advantage is not high on their list of survival traits.

There is a general nakking, which stops when the leader nak-naks at them all and nods, once, to John. Then he tilts a head to glance, narrow-eyed, at Dirk and Jane who are spinning gently in the breeze.

“Yeah, I think we’d appreciate being let the fuck down now,” Dirk says, with an upside-down shrug.

The lizard leader flares his nostrils. “You make promise not hurt kobolds?”

“Depends if you cut us down in, like, the next thirty seconds,” Dirk says.

“We promise,” John adds hastily. The kobold leader naks and a couple of his followers run over to cut your brother and Jane down with some fucking creepy subservience thrown in for good measure.

“If you don’t mind me asking, what was this all about?” Rose asks, sheathing a wand as she walks closer. A few of the kobolds who staggered out of the undergrowth still a bit cross-eyed flinch away as she gets near, but the kobold leader stands his ground even if his head drops.

“Need help,” he says, pushing at the dirt with a long reptilian toe. “The gold elf said, said they was coming. The tick-tock man and the skydancer, he said, find them on the road to save Nakkanak tribe and Glubbyglob tribe.”

“Save you? From what?” Dirk asks, sheathing his sword as he walks up. The kobold looks up and you can see the resentment warring with fear in his eyes.

“Time of the Hunters,” he says, as his followers nak nervously. “Save us from time when kobolds die.”

Suggestions Used

LostSock – Dave: Have a chapter in your POV because you haven't had a turn yet.

Antartique - Dave: Isn't it your turn?

WhiteTiger1221 - Dave: Get a chapter in your POV because after a quick look in the index you're the only one who hasn't

RandomGal - John: Prank someone! Your prankster gambit can never be full enough!

ttdOOOO – John: Ruminate on sudden explosion of sexual partners; does two count as an explosion?

LostSock - Roxy or John: Foolishly attempt to snatch Dirk and Dave's masks.

LostSock - Rose: Ask Dirk and Dave if their choice in clothing and masks are really all that practical for a world-saving adventure such as this.

Silverkyo – Jane: Get real tired of this adventure bullshit already

Silverkyo – Rose: Get real tired of Jane's bullshit

Ephemeral_Dreamer – Dave: Try to get a rise out of Rose

ttd0000 - John: Solve kobold problem without violence.

System Notes

Chapter Text

==> Sollux: Keep Being A Moody Asshole Forever

The sun is setting as you approach the cleft in the mountains, a long narrow crack in the stone surrounded by a high, crenellated wall of heavy blocks that each seem larger than the dwarves that must have moved them into place. A shout goes up from the shadowy figures on the wall, a challenge in an unfamiliar tongue; Lars shouts back and with a rattling of gears and chains a portcullis raises to allow your group access into the outer courtyard of the Clanhold. It falls behind you with an imposing clang, one that makes it clear that while the dangers of the world are out there you are also now very definitely and irrevocably in here.

You look surreptitiously about, shivering as you take note of all the stocky forms watching you from the walls. You've never liked reminders of being surrounded or trapped. No matter how friendly the dwarves are being at the moment it's not doing jack shit for those trust issues you've been nursing since- well, since forever really, but you know you've been worse since Jade burst into your lives with her stupid perky demeanour and her giant wolf monster and all these fucking annoying dwarf relatives that are somehow connected to Kanaya's asshole drow friends and you need to breathe, seriously, it's like someone's stealing all the air in here and you're not even underground yet.

Aradia's hand brushes against your arm and for a moment you're okay, shit together, you can handle this. Then Bryn says something that makes Aradia laugh and look away from you, and suddenly you're drowning in jealousy and bitter logic. It's been like this the whole way here, the two of them and Jade exchanging bawdy jokes and stories at the back with you while Kanaya and Bryn's brothers forge ahead and flush with mortification. You hate it but you know you don't have any right to stop Aradia from making friends; you can't expect her to nanny you the whole time. Just because you're too much of an asshole and a loser to actually bond with any other living creature than her, doesn't mean you have an exclusive claim on her attention. You trudge silently after the laughing trio, arms folded around yourself to ward off the discomfort as if it were a chill in the air, and you force yourself to silently recite Hollegard's Theory of Distributed Arcana to distract yourself from the simpler but infinitely longer internal litany of your every flaw and failing.

The mountain cave is clearly a natural formation but generations of dwarves have paved the path you follow and worked intricate, gem-studded carvings into the rock, now worn by time and the dripping of water. The oldest are little more than faint suggestions of shapes in the stone, casting odd shadows in the light of the lanterns that hang from thick metal hooks in the walls and roof. The effect is strange, a merging of the natural and the created that you've not encountered outside of ruined temples and forgotten cities in the forest. Aradia is already examining the carvings and babbling excited questions about the history and culture behind them, while Kanaya vocally appreciates the unfamiliar dwarven aesthetic. You don't really give a shit about dwarves yourself, seeing how as a species they aren't really known for their use of magic, but watching your friends get excited is pretty cool, you guess. You can understand Aradia's excitement more than Kanaya's, though. Not that you mind the drow, in fact she's basically the only remotely tolerable person you've ever picked up to work with, but seriously who even gives a shit about how different people think different varieties of useless shit are pretty?

The pathway through the cave becomes a winding stair into the mountain, narrow enough that you have to go in single file. You end up trapped between Aradia and Bec, walking slightly too slowly for comfort as you follow the huge beast. The damned thing has a massive canine grin plastered across its muzzle- you are certain that there is something weird about that wolf. Gritting your teeth you follow on, listening with half an ear to Aradia as she asks your escorts about their home. Kanaya chimes in with clarifications on points of dwelling underground that make eyewatering noontime sunlight sound downright attractive.

Then you step out of the tunnel onto a ledge overlooking the Quartzkin Clanhold, and for a few brief moments you forget to sulk because you were expecting a grim, dour fortress and the vast cavern beneath you is actually an upturned bowl of stars. Your eyes quickly adjust and you realise that the lights are lanterns and torches, the golden glow of the flames reflecting off intricate metal filigree on the architecture and vast bowl-like reflectors that hang from the roof of the cave. The buildings look almost normal- shorter and squatter than what you're used to, and every detail more carefully worked and shaped- and it takes you a long minute of staring to realise that every single one of them has been carved out of the side of the mountain. You almost feel humbled by the planning and effort it must have taken to create this place by hand. Almost.

"Nearly there now!" Lars says cheerily, setting off down another staircase that spirals around the pillar of rock into which is is hewn. It occurs to you that any invading force would have real trouble making it past even a single defender to reach the cavern floor, and follow with one hand resting safely against the stone.

From eye level the dwarf hold is no less impressive; you fix your eyes firmly on the paving slabs- quartz-veined granite, glittering in the light, of fucking course- and slouch along after your guides in an attempt to not show it. It's not the only thing you're ignoring, because passers-by are turning and staring at the group of you, as openly hostile to your presence as any surface-dwellers. It's typical; no-one ever looks at you and Aradia and Kanaya and sees anything but monsters. You're already starting to hate this Jake kid. He gets picked up by dwarves to live in a magical underground paradise. Fucking asshole probably doesn't even know how lucky he was to end up here...

Your train of thought is cut off as your group draws to a halt in front of one of the larger houses in the hold and, with a flourish, Lars gives a bow. It looks hilarious with his stocky little legs, and you snicker until Aradia elbows you in the ribs.

"Home sweet home," he says, as Vidar walks past him to knock sharply on the door. All three dwarves are grinning as it swings open to reveal another dwarf, who looks just like all the other shorty, stocky, hairy people down here except for the way he takes one look at Jade and grabs her into a bear-hug.

"Ah, excellent!" he booms, and fucking stars above you have no idea how he can be that loud and not damage his own hearing. "You must be Jade! It's an absolute delight to meet you, dear girl, completely bally brilliant even in these circumstances!" He turns, still clutching the elf girl to his barrel chest, and calls to someone in the house. "Thyri! Come see who’s on our doorstep!"

"Alright, alright, I'm coming! No need to bring the roof down..." Another chunky figure appears in the doorway, and judging by the lack of beard you'd guess that this one's a woman. "Well! Would you look at this! Has this dashed old fool been keeping you out here in the cold nattering when we've a fire inside?" She leans over to kiss Jade on the cheek and beckons to the rest of you. "Come on in, then, I'm sure you've had a long trip and you could all use a nice rest."

You only hesitate for a moment before Aradia's hand pushes at the small of your back and you stumble in after Jade and Kanaya. It's disconcerting how Thyri smiles at you, almost as fondly as she does her own children. Then you step through the narrow entrance hall into a room adorned with mounted weapons and bits of armour on shelves, and you realise that disconcerted is a relative term moments before a meaty hand slams into your back and nearly sends you flying across the room.

"Ah, I see you've noticed my collection, lad!" the older dwarf booms. "Used to be an adventurer myself in my younger days, not unlike like you kids! Made a bloody good showing of it for a while too, before me and my lot stumbled across a couple of lost little elflings." He strides past you and winks at Jade. "That'd be you and your brother, m'dear, and don't think I regret a minute of it at that. One more year of waiting for a proper wedding and I think Thyri would've used me for target practise anyway!"

"What, and waste a valuable cartridge?" Thyri said, chuckling as she tosses another sizeable log on the fire. "Nonsense, man, I'd beat you to death with the coal shovel first."

It's an impressive fireplace; Jade and her wolf are already curled up on the thick rug next to it, Kanaya hovering awkwardly nearby while Aradia explores the dark, shifting shadows in the corners of the room. You linger by the door, watching as introductions are made and the three younger dwarves silently negotiate- with some shoving- who gets which of the comfy chairs. It’s all very domestic; you scuff your feet on the floor, not really sure how you fit into this picture. It takes some effort to fight the insidious thought that should just leave already and stop messing up their home.

"So, Mister Quartzkin, you and Guardian Wolfsister were adventurers together?" Jade asks from her position lounging across that fucking wolf, glittering green eyes wide with interest.

The dwarf guffaws. "Why not call me Uncle Gunnar, my dear. We're family, after all!"

"Okay, Uncle Gunnar," Jade agrees, petting her animal companion absent-mindedly. "But I bet you have loads of good stories about your past, right?"

There is a chorus of groans from the other dwarves. "Oh, bloody hells, Dad, don't start!" Bryn groans, as Vidar flings a plump, padded cushion at Jade.

"Hah! You kids don't even know you're born!" Gunnar says with a snort. "Making fun of your old dad and his stories. You shall be the death of me, the lot of you!"

"Now, dear," says Thyri, patting her husband on the shoulder. "Let’s not start talking shop just yet. How about we offer our guests something to eat? I'm sure you must all be jolly well famished by now!"

Your stomach rumbles at the reminder, and you see Aradia look away from the odd little alcove she was examining to look hopefully at your hosts. Thyri smiles knowingly and vanishes past a heavy curtain into another room.

"Actually, I was hoping to consult with you, if I may,” Kanaya says to Gunnar once Thyri is gone; the drow looks and sounds as composed as ever, but she's folding her hands behind her back in a gesture you've seen every time she's trying hard to make a good impression. "It has been some years since I left Golgesi, and I am unaware of how the local landscape might have changed in the meantime."

"Oh, you're a local lass, eh?" Gunnar says, and although his tone is friendly you can pick up the hint of warning to it. "Well, in case you hadn't heard, things have been getting jolly troublesome of late. It's a bloody pain is what it is- me and the wife have been helping put together a militia, but there's been raiding bands all over and a good deal of traffic on the under-roads besides."

"Arik Hammerfist says that they're probably snooping about for slaves," Lars says, frowning.

"Arik Hammerfist says," Vidar says in a mocking sing-song, and gets a solid thump in the arm for his trouble.

"It sounds like a probable assessment," Kanaya agrees. "Although I must say it is unwelcome news." She sighs. "I always knew it would be difficult to get into the city without drawing attention. Aside from the proper entrances, which are guarded and monitored, the only way in would be through the underdark, and I had been hoping for some way to avoid that route."

"Rumours of some nasty critters down there," Gunnar comments.

"Those are not just rumours," Kanaya replies, taking a seat on what you think is probably a footstool and crossing her legs in a delicate fashion. "Certain of the noble families earned their status by... cultivating monsters, to serve in defence of Golgesi."

"What the blathering hells is wrong with a decent wall?" Vidar asks, eyes narrowing at Kanaya. The dark elf shrugs.

"It is not how my people do things."

"No, you just go around bloody kidnapping people and dragging them off to your godforsaken holes full of monsters..."

"Vidar!" snaps Gunnar, and you flinch back from the brittle sharpness in his voice even though it isn't aimed at you. "These people have kindly agreed to help us find Jake, and so long as they are our guests and our allies you will be civil to them or we shall have words, young man!”

You can hear your own breathing as loud as a storm wind in the silence that follows. For a few eternal seconds you can see it on all their faces- the grief, the fear, the anger- and you don’t know how the fuck they managed to ever hide it or what you’re supposed to do now it’s out in the open.

Then Jade reaches up and rests a hand gently on Vidar’s arm, and for the first time since you’ve met her seems perfectly serious when she says: “We’ll get him back, I promise. He’s my brother too.”

You feel rather than see Aradia’s hand slip into your own, and you squeeze it for all you’re worth as her head drops onto your shoulder. Across the room you see Kanaya fiddling with her fingers again; you guess this has to be even worse for her. It must be hard not to feel complicit when she might well know personally some of the people who took Jake.

“There may be some ways around the main tunnels,” says Bryn slowly, after a while. “Nothing I’d swear to, mind, but well, a few of us were exploring a couple of months back and there’s some small passages running down that way. Natural cracks in the rock, mostly, but it looks like some of them might be old mine works. Could get us where we need to go.”

Gunnar’s brow snaps into a frown. “Exploring, eh?”

The young dwarf holds her hands up in surrender. “It was Jake’s idea, Dad! I just thought it could be helpful- you know, for if we needed a way to get around unseen, like now!”

Lars makes a sound that is almost but not quite a growl. “Hammer and anvil, Bryn, it's shenanigans like that which got Jake into this mess! What have Mum and Dad always... we're not supposed to encourage him, damnit!”

“I didn't know he was going to bloody well get abducted, did I?” Bryn yelled, and then Gunnar leans out of his seat and pulls her close against his shoulder. You hear a few faint sobs and stare at the dark alcove in the corner, feeling as awkward as shit.

“I think that might be quite useful,” Kanaya says, when Bryn recovers enough to sit back from her father. “You have my thanks, all of you.”

Before anyone can respond, the curtain to the other room pushes aside again and Thyri comes back in with a heavily-laden tray. “Here we go, then!” she says, looking pointedly at Kanaya until she jumps off the stool and the tray is set down in her place. “Now, I haven’t had time to put together a proper meal, but if I remember from when Gunnar’s friends used to visit you lot should have quite the appetite, so this should tide you over.” She glances over at you and smiles. “Come on, young- Sollux, was it? No need to be shy. You look like you could use some meat on your bones.”

You glower at her as you draw closer and grab a thick slice of what looks like fruit cake. It smells incredible, by which you mean nothing like a wandermeal. “If I gave a thit about putting on weight, I’d eat lard,” you tell her, taking a bite of the cake as she chuckles. It’s… okay, you guess? You have a hard time finding food you like, probably because of your stupid mixed heritage if you judge by Aradia’s fucked-up tastes. Sure enough, as she grabs something from the tray her fingers wiggle and with a flash of deep red magic the slice of pie turns a sickly, virulent yellow-brown.

“Sorry,” she says, biting into the now hideous and pungent food with every sign of enjoyment. “I’m sure that what you made is lovely, but I don’t really taste things the same way, and, well…”

“Oh, don’t worry about it, love,” Thyri says with a smile. “One of Gunnar's old friends was a tiefling chap, and whenever he came down here the poor soul couldn't eat a crumb without either bringing it right back up or doing all that magical razzmatazz first.”

“Oh, old Serkan,” Gunnar says with a nod. “Yes, he was quite the card, wasn’t he? Haven’t heard from him since before I picked up Jake. Probably got himself eaten by a dragon or somesuch; silly fool would keep taking risks.” The old dwarf sighs, and looks at you thoughtfully. “You know, you remind me of him a little around the horns. Had less than you, of course...”

“Oh, give it a rest, Dad,” Vidar says, Bryn nodding agreement. The older dwarf huffs.

“Well, I'm sure I wouldn't want to bore you,” he mutters. From your place by the tray you cast a pleading glance at Aradia; if there's one turn you don't want this conversation to take, it's to the matter of your heritage and how like or unlike a tiefling you are.

“So who's the shrine in the alcove for?” she asks brightly. As changes of topic go, it's less a gentle guiding hand and more a violent mugging; everyone stares. Aradia smiles back and points to the corner she was investigating earlier. Now that you're looking closer, you can see that the small recess holds a table in the shape of an anvil and is backed by a mosaic of a hammer overlaid on a mountain.

“That is quite curious,” Kanaya says hesitantly, as if afraid to offend. “I admit my religious education has been, ah, biased- but I don’t recall that exact symbology from anywhere. Is it for the Heir?”

Before Gunnar or his children can reply, Jade bounces up and down in excitement. “Ooh, ooh, I know this one!” she squeaks. “Jake mentioned it in his letters. This is the Smith, right?”

“Yes!” says Thyri. “That’s right.” She inclines her head to the altar, and a moment later her children belatedly follow suit. “Do you know much about him?”

Jade frowns. “Um… he’s a blacksmith, and a creator of mechanical things… oh, and he likes good manners and social harmony, which means he’s kind of different to the Prince too.”

“Can’t say I know much about your elvish gods,” Lars says. Gunnar chuckles.

“It’s a family failing,” he admits. “But my understanding is that the Smith is what religious scholar types would call one of the Lunar Gods.”

Kanaya’s eyes grow wide. “Oh, my. I had no idea that dwarves followed one of the Planeslords.”

“The what?” Aradia asks, curious as she steps forwards to examine the small shrine.

“The Lords of the Six Lunar Planes,” Kanaya replies. “I’m afraid I cannot remember their names or titles, but each of them has their own plane of reality and is associated with one of the moons.” She pauses. “They are the subject of some dispute; some theologians believe they are divine, but lesser than the true gods, while others think they are simply powerful yet still mortal beings.”

You stare at the shrine, shadows flickering as the fire casting them shifts and crackles. “Maybe it’th both,” you say, suddenly struck by a strange and dark sense of premonition. “I mean, everyone athumeth godth are immortal. Hath anyone ever tried to kill one and check?”

From the looks everyone gives you, that was probably the wrong thing to say. You shift awkwardly and hiss as you scrape your shin on the cold stone floor. “Ow, thit! Who even maketh their houth by carving it out of the rock anyway?”

There is a moment of awkward silence, then Bryn giggles. A moment later Aradia ruffles your hair and you try to push her off, causing your audience to laugh even harder.

“Well!” says Thyri, chuckling as she offers you a conciliatory plate of cake. “The creators in their wisdom forged all of us different, and a dull old world it would be elsewise say I!” She winks as you grab a double handful of food. You will not apologise; food is a valuable resource. “That said, if you're not comfortable here, maybe a change of scenery while I make something a bit more substantial, hmm?”

Gunnar chuckles. “Yes, I think we could do with a trip to the baths. What do you say, chaps and chapettes?”

You flush in anger and embarrassment. “Hey, I’m clean,” you snap. Your humiliation grows hotter as the dwarves seem to find this statement amusing.

“They’re not that sort of baths,” Lars manages, grinning at you. You fold your arms and hunch up defensively, while Aradia pats your arm.

“What are they like?” Jade asks, looking up eagerly. Traitorous bitch.

The dwarves share a look and you really don't want to know what that little smirk is about.

“Tell you what,” Lars says, with a lopsided grin. “How about we just show you?”

Suggestions Used

solarVerdancy - Jade and Crew: Arrive.

Ephemeral_Dreamer – Kanaya: Be confused (Dwarfs sure are weird)

LostSock - Jade: Explain to your friends how the Dwarves' culture has different gods and beliefs, incite discussion about plot-related gods and/or godmarks.

ttdOOOO – Kanaya: Have a philosophical debate.

WhiteTiger1221 - Jade: Gossip with your brother's family and see if they have anything that can help you in the trip to the drow city.

APOP994312 - Jade: Find a way to sneak into Golgesi so Kanaya can meet with her ally.

Ephemeral_Dreamer – Jade: Be happy (but also very worried)

ttdOOOO – Sollux: Complain bitterly about terrible dwarf accommodations (they are not terrible, you are a grump).

unholygrunt – Sollux: Keep being a moody asshole forever.

Chapter Text

==> Karkat: Accidentally Set Something On Fire

You greet the return of Terezi with almost no fucks whatsoever, busy as you are playing cuddlebuddies with Gamzee. He's subsided into a sort of floppy, clingy doze since you got back to his chambers and you're not sure he even realises he's gripping your arm hard enough to leave finger-marks. Not that you begrudge him- taking a full-force blast of whatever the fuck spell they put on these slave collars was no hatchday celebration, but you'd still rather blow your own head off than do what he did. Even if he was completely out of what little mind he's got left at the time.

Terezi cackles when she sees the two of you bundled up together on the cushion pile. "So, I take it the mission was a success?"

You respond with the traditional greeting of a Shanties brat to a Lawkeeper. Unperturbed by the rude gesture she drops onto the couch next to Jake and in an act of brazen flirtation spreads herself out all over it and him. The sunwalker immediately and obviously flushes red; you smirk and bury your face back into Gamzee's neck. Your brother's breath hitches as your nose pokes against his skin and you shush him gently, petting his hair with one hand and using the other to pull him in to rest against you. You know from observational experience that he’s probably painfully horny right about now, and there’s something dark lurking behind his half-closed eyes that you wish to all the deepest heavens you didn’t recognise. You would also wish you’d never had to deal with the fallout from another person’s drug binge before, but given how painfully awkward this is likely to get you’re glad for the experience- even if it is entirely and without exception humiliating to remember.

As if thinking about it acted as a summons, Gamzee snuggles up closer against you and lets out a needy little whimper. Something you don't want to consider too closely presses against your leg. You respond by sticking your hand in the middle of his forehead and shoving him away.

"Not a chance, fuckass," you say, as gently as possible. He groans and rolls onto his front; you wrap an arm around him, politely and with great restraint refraining from noticing as one of his hands vanishes completely from view. Jake watches the whole exchange from the couch with a look of mixed confusion and horror, which is completely normal for people who’ve just been exposed to the sheer unplumbed depths of shameless beetleshit that Gamzee will do while on unholy cocktails of intoxicants.

"I say, are you chaps doing okay?" the sunwalker asks. Terezi bursts into peals of laughter and you roll your eyes.

"Oh, yeah, everything is just peachy over here," you say, glaring at both of them. "I am always rapturous with delight when my hordes of close friends and family decide to hump my leg like a dog in heat; it's the highlight of my entire fucking existence." Gamzee nuzzles at your shoulder and you gently but firmly tug his head away by the hair. "I said no, dipshit. I know you're off in Candyland right now but try and get it through the toxic ooze in your skull that we would both be nauseous with regret in the morning."

Terezi raises an eyebrow sharply. "Candyland? Karkles, have you been feeding this poor boy Harlot Sweets?"

"He fed them to himself," you reply, maybe a little sharper than the question warranted but, fuck, Gamzee was right. There was no way you could ask him to do what he did stone cold sober.

She picks up on it, of course. "And why would he do a thing like that?" she asks, pulling herself over a blushing Jake to stare at you more intently. You can feel a flush rising on your own face, more to do with anger than embarrassment- although Gamzee is hardly helping with the latter.

"You mean apart from the fact that alchemically altering his brain functions is his favourite hobby besides fucking around like a gutter whore?” you say, keeping a protective arm around your brother who is peeking back over his shoulder in the general direction of Jake. The look on his face falls somewhere between sultry and lustful, neither of which is making the sunwalker look any more comfortable with the situation.

You decide that as long as you’re not drawing the attention of Gamzee’s drugged-up libido, you don’t give a shit who else might be. "You were the one who told us to steal a way to get the collars off and that’s what we fucking well did,” you tell Terezi. “I came up with the only plan that actually had a flame in a downdraft’s chance of working, and Gamzee let that evil bitch put her nasty claws all over him to convince her we were trying to steal her stupid shitty necklace and throw her off the scent.” You stroke a soothing hand across Gamzee’s hair again, trying not to shake as you invite the memories back in. “She fucking tortured me and I screamed like a stuck hog just so everyone would watch me make a complete ass of myself and feel all smug and superior and not notice that complete fucking shit-for-brains you’re using as a comfy seat ripping them off. So if you think I’m going to meekly listen like a good little slave-boy while you sit there in your pretty teal armour and your douchebag eyeglasses and start passing judgements on us then you can go and fuck yourself."

There is a long moment of silence, broken only by some ragged breathing from Gamzee don’t check what he’s doing don’t check what he’s doing oh gods above and below you do not want to know what he’s doing right now.

"I’m sorry,” says Terezi, and she actually sounds regretful. You watch her warily because even if she’s helping you she’s a Lawkeeper and her kind don’t apologise to people like you. She has to want something- only you don’t know what, and something about the small quirk on her lips seems more open and genuine than anything you’ve seen there before. You’d even call it attractive if you didn’t know what a massive pain in the ass she is most of the time.

"I’m impressed,” she adds, pulling her feet off Jake’s lap altogether and sitting next to him on the couch like an actual sane adult person, which you hadn’t even realised she could do. “Really, I am.” Her nose wrinkles as she grins, the cuteness immediately mitigated by her downright evil snickering. “I knew Cherry Red was the most delicious colour.”

"Fuck you!” you snarl, grabbing a cushion and hurling it in her direction to hide the fact that you are now definitely blushing. She snatches it out of the air and crushes it close to her chest, taking a big theatrical sniff of the fabric where you were lying on it a moment ago. The woman is pure evil; you are now utterly convinced of it.

"Okay, look, we held up our end of the deal,” you say, refusing to play her ridiculous game a moment longer. “Against great and perilous fucking odds, no less. So do you have an escape plan for us or are you just full of hot air?”

Her grin is anything but reassuring, especially since she’s still cradling the cushion like it’s her godsdamned hatchling. “Oh, I have a plan,” she says, cackling. “And it is the best plan. Trust me, you’re going to love it.”

"Yeah, I’ll believe that when I hear it.”

"I’m pretty sure you’ll like it,” Terezi says, petting the cushion with her fingertips like it’s a fluffy mammalian pet, what the actual fuck. “Don’t you have any faith in me, Karkles? After everything you wrote about me in your diary?”

You scowl at her and raise a hand to count off points on your fingers. “One, I didn’t write about you in my journal, I wrote under protest about an imaginary dream girl who happens to have the same name and annoying personal habits as you, so don’t be too godsdamn smug about it. Two, give me my fucking journal back, you thieving shit. Three, if your plan is half so good as you’re talking it up to be I won’t just have faith and believe, I will get on my knees in silent reverent worship of the holy light shining out of your ass. I will be the messianic fucking prophet of your half-cocked pissant plan just so long as it gets us all out of here in one piece!”

Terezi holds her hands up. “Okay, Karkles, you got it.” She taps the end of her white-sheathed swordcane on the floor and as she does you notice that it isn’t the same as the one she was carrying yesterday. “For the first part of the plan, I’m going to require some assistance from you and Mister Minty-Fresh here.”

You’re about raise an objection- there is not a chance in the hells that you’re leaving Gamzee alone in this state to fall prey to assassins- but Jake beats you to the punch. “Now, hold on just a minute here,” he says, frowning as he pulls himself up almost into a crouch. “I thought you said that you would handle the whole escaping dealie!”

Terezi snickers. “What, you thought I was just going to carry you out of here? Sorry, Mister Minty, but you’re going to have to help rescue yourself.”

"It’s not that! It’s…” Jake says, and then hesitates briefly before ploughing ahead. “Look, when she captured me, that- that woman took something of mine. My weapon, actually, which in addition to being a bloody useful gizmo and quite a nifty feat of dwarven engineering also happens to be a family heirloom, and I’d jolly well appreciate not leaving without it!” He shifts in the seat and scratches behind one ear. “I was rather hoping that, well, I’d have the time to pick it up before we scarpered.”

"Hmm.” Terezi studies him thoughtfully. “This weapon- I assume it is a complex work of artifice?” Jake nods, and she beams triumphantly. “Then there is no need for concern; I think I know exactly where it is, and in order to carry out the next step in my plan we have to go right to it.”

"What the fuck…” you begin, before a smart rap on the door cuts you off. Jake freezes, but you and Terezi don’t. She carefully pulls her cane up, ready to draw, and you let the fingers of your free hand close around the hilt of one of your sickles. Not that you think an assassin would bother to knock- actually, you’re amazed that anyone who’s allowed past the guards would bother to knock- but you don’t plan on taking any chances.

The door opens without any need for permission to reveal a group of drow wearing plain white tunics and silver collars, all of whom seem far twitchier than you would expect. Then the group of slaves parts to let a man in a golden collar, not entirely unlike your own, walk through into the room. His lips and nails are painted gold, and he’s almost completely naked except for a pair of pants made from shifting, translucent purple cloth. Jake blushes almost florescent as the man strides into the chambers like he owns the place and stands glaring down at you, arms folded across his- admittedly muscular- chest. You do not let go of the hilt of your sickle for an instant.

"I am here to ensure that the young Lord Kutsanmis is suitably attired for his wedding,” the man says flatly. His eyes flicker towards Gamzee, lying sweaty next to you. "My Lady suggested that my presence might be... helpful."

He says it like he's picking up some rotten scraps of meat from an open sewer, and you narrow your eyes at him. "What's the matter, Mohan, don't like your orders?" you ask him, not even bothering to try and control your smirk. "And here I thought you were overjoyed to do anything that got you lodged further up her glorious highness' ass..."

Fingers fist in your collar and you pull the sickle before he can move you any further; the rest of the room freezes as the pair of you glare at each other over an edged weapon.

"I am happy to do whatever my Lady commands," Mohan says. A sharp-edged, vicious smile spreads across his face. "I should hope you can say the same about yours, gutter-rat."

You have to physically hold your breath to avoid the retort that jumps to your lips; telling this fucker about your escape plans would be a complete disaster. After a moment of silence he snorts in derision and drops you. Your fingers twitch, but you offer no resistance as he crouches down and rolls Gamzee over. Your brother's chest heaves as he glances across at you and you tilt your head slightly- you sure you want to go with this asshole?

Gamzee nods his head unevenly. "'S cool, best friend," he mutters. "You got... you got shit to do." He reaches up and wraps his arms around Mohan's neck, legs coming up to wrap around the other drow's waist. Mohan straightens with Gamzee draped over the front of him like a sleepy child, easily supporting the weight as he takes a couple of steps back towards the doorway. Then he pauses and turns back.

"Ah, I nearly forgot," he says, letting one hand slip from supporting Gamzee to fumble for something in the folds of his pants. "A gift, gutter-rat, to celebrate the start of your new life."

He tosses something at you and you reflexively catch it; looking down you see a vial of golden body paint in your hand, and recoil. Mohan chuckles at your furious glare and heads for the door but as he reaches it, Gamzee bites him hard in the shoulder. Mohan stiffens briefly then keeps on walking, the blood starting to ooze from his flesh as your brother wriggles against him and laps at the wound.

The three of you wait in silence until the door closes and the sound of footsteps has died away, then Jake asks; “I don’t mean to be a bother, but that fellow didn’t really seem to like either of you much. Are you sure Gamzee’s safe with him?”

"That was the Lady Kutsanmis’ favourite assassin,” you say blankly, still staring at the small bottle in your hand. “He pretty much thinks Gamzee’s a useless piece of shit on his heel and I’m a few orders of magnitude worse, but she wouldn’t like him so much if he wasn’t completely competent and loyal.”

"Oh,” says Jake, sounding no less uneasy. “Well. I feel a bit of a fool now. What with the, uh, clothes and everything, I’d rather assumed he was…”

"That too,” you say, turning the paint vial over and over in your fingers. “She loves sending him to all her important houseguests; turn him away, it’s an insult to her hospitality. Let him in, you might be found dead in the morning.”

Terezi cackles and you hear Jake hem and haw; suddenly sickened, you hurl the vial at the wall opposite with every ounce of strength you can gather. It shatters on impact, leaving a burst stain on the plaster and the edge of a tapestry, and you feel a sense of vicious satisfaction as thick golden fluid runs slowly down the wall.

"Let’s go,” you say, getting out of the cushion pile and reaching behind the dresser to grab one of the backpacks you loaded down with supplies earlier. You toss the other one to Jake and lead the way into the slave passages, letting Terezi bringing up the rear so that she can steer the parblind dumbass in the right direction. After years of visits, illicit or otherwise, you’re used to navigating the narrow corridors behind the walls and when she whispers your destination you set off without hesitation. Behind you, Jake stumbles and shuffles and collides with you every time you pause; his litany of apology is almost as constant as the curses you hiss back at him.

There isn’t an opening in the tunnels close to your destination, so the final part of your journey takes place in the open. As soon as you reach the last corner you stop, grabbing Jake by the arm and pushing him back against the wall before he can wander out and get spotted by the guards outside the temporary lab.

"Now what?” you whisper to Terezi. She leans around you- getting much too close inside your personal space as she does- and peeks briefly at the door before pulling back with a grin.

"Just wait,” she tells you, and rather than argue like you want to and make noise you fume quietly instead. Jake looks between the two of you uncertainly then flattens himself against the wall without making a peep. You guess maybe he’s not a completely hopeless moron after all.

Fortunately, lurking is a skill that you’ve spent a good portion of your life developing, and you manage to stay alert and cautious rather than fidgeting like there are fleas having the party of the decade in your tunic. Terezi seems to have a similar ability- probably from long hours of lying in wait for perfectly honest thieves who were just trying to make a living- and the two of you manage to keep Jake from giving the game away with a mixture of deadly glaring from you and sharp pinches from Terezi.

After a while, which is about as accurate a measurement as you can summon under the circumstances, you hear footsteps approaching the lab from the opposite direction. You glance around the corner and quickly pull your head back when you see Lady Yetenekli approaching. Terezi responds to your scowl with a grin and a wait for it gesture, so you settle back against the wall. You aren’t waiting long before you hear the door to the lab burst open.

"Who has been in here?” snaps your glorious mistress, long may she rot in the hells. The response, babbled as it is by two different voices, is somewhat indistinct before she interrupts again. “No! You, silence. You, explain.”

"A... a woman from the Temple came by,” the unfortunate guard stammers. “She was marked, Lady! The sign of the Seer herself! We could not refuse her-”

"Enough,” says the Matriarch, and her words are still too clipped and too chilly to be anything but furious. “Both of you, with me.”

"Yes, Lady!” both guards reply, one a half-beat behind the other. There’s another echoing clunk as the door closes and a click as it locks; Terezi barely waits for the footsteps to recede before she jumps out and runs to the door. You follow and nearly collide with her as she stops to poke at the lock.

"What the fuck did you do?” you hiss as Jake jogs up behind you. She grins and taps her fingers on the top of her sword cane.

"I helped justice along,” she says. You continue to glare, and her smile fades. Eyes rolling, she adds; “I provided her with evidence of the plot to assassinate Gamzee.”

"Shit!” Your eyes widen. “You... you complete fucking lunatic! What the bile-spewing everburning hellbats were you even thinking? Are there actual living maggots in your brain? Is the matter with which you attempt to think currently riddled with fungal spores and flesh-eating mould or did they take over your thought patterns years ago?”

She tilts her head and leans against the closed door. “It got her and her guards away from the lab, didn't it?”

"Yeah, straight to where Gamzee is!” you hiss, too angry to whisper and too afraid of drawing attention to shout. “We're supposed to be with him, you bluebellied fuckhead- she'll know we're up to something!”

"I didn't leave them that much. They'll have to investigate further first.”

"Great, so instead of having no time, we have fuck all time instead!”

Terezi steps back and gestures to the locked door. “Then I suggest you open this fast.”

You glare at her, then at the locked door. “Open the door, Karkat,” you mutter under your breath. “Sure, no fucking problem...”

It's made of wood. Expensive, but more importantly, fragile. You take a step back and grin evilly because you fucking know this isn't what she meant.

"Like this?” you ask, lifting your foot and giving the door the most almighty kick you have ever delivered to an inanimate object. The result is less impressive than you hoped for, but the splintering sound and loud clatter as the entire locking mechanism falls to the floor is more than enough to justify how smug you feel right now. Jake stares incredulously at the mess, and you shrug. “Well, what were you expecting? This works.”

"... have you considered learning to pick locks?” Jake asks. Terezi starts to chuckle, and for once you smile with her.

"Fuck that shit, I'm badass,” you tell him, pushing the door open and stepping through into the weirdest room you have ever seen in your life.

"Drider shitpits,” you mutter, as you slowly turn to take in all the gadgets and gizmos and strangely coloured bottles scattered across every surface. You don’t know whether to laugh at the enormity of the treasure trove or freak the fuck out because this is an alchemist’s lab, an actual fucking alchemist’s lab, and there is never any good reason for setting foot in one of those.

"Aha!”

You look around to see Jake dart forward and grab something off one of the benches; it looks sort of like a metal tube on a crossbow stock, and sort of like something that you don’t have any fucking clue what it is. He seems to know, though, because he runs through a rapid series of weapon checks that give you new respect for him as a person. Maybe you were too hasty judging him to be completely fucking useless; after all, he’s managed to be at least marginally helpful, and that’s in an unfamiliar place surrounded by strangers. Then again, on the other hand, he's still an empty-headed fuckwit, so maybe not.

"Over there, Minty,” Terezi says, walking up behind Jake to point past him. You look into the shadowy corner she's indicating, and fear freezes your entire cardiovascular system for a few precious seconds before you notice that the hideous, elfin monstrosity dangling from the ceiling isn’t moving. You back slowly away as Jake approaches it, a grossly elongated thing of bronze and silver struts and bubbling fluids. There are eyes floating in the dome on top, open and staring, and you can’t help but wonder what poor fucker they belonged to before the Lady who put a collar around your neck ripped them out for her alchemy experiments.

Jake runs a hand along the thing’s chestplate, his expression almost admiring. “Golly, I’ve never seen a golem like this before,” he says, eyes flickering to take in every detail. “Actually, I’ve only seen the one golem, and that was years ago- but I’ve read a lot about them since, and none of the descriptions were of something like this!”

"I think it’s a new invention,” Terezi says softly, walking up behind Jake and eyeing the golem almost as cautiously as you. “And a very dangerous one at that.” She turns to the sunwalker, her mouth twisting into a warped grin. “Think you can reprogram it?”

Jake gives the twisted heap of metal and glass an appraising look. “I can certainly give it a shot,” he says, approaching the thing. “Hmm. Do you know if there's some sort of access panel?”

Deciding there are better uses of your time than making yourself ill by watching some bastard offspring of alchemy and artifice in the making, you start to wander around the room and poke through the piles in search of something that looks useful, valuable, or at least complete. It doesn’t take you long to identify a pile of slim rods as identical to the one your exalted mistress used to create light, and with a glance over at Jake you scoop as many as possible into a stained leather satchel that you find dumped in a corner. Under the satchel you find a baggy vest full of pockets, and with a shrug you ball it up and shove it in beside the rods. It’ll probably be useful for keeping you warm in the caves, even if only by use as firelighters. Various gemstones and scraps of shiny metal go in after it; you don’t know what sunwalkers use for currency, but if they won’t accept rare shiny rocks as barter goods then the world is so utterly fucking retarded that you might as well just sit down and beat your head against a wall until the roof caves in and puts you out of your misery.

You hesitate when you reach a table that holds row after row of glass phials. You are one hundred per cent certain that they’d be insanely useful in your goal of continued survival, but without labels you have no fucking clue what they do or how. You chance a look back at the other two, but they’re still involved with the golem.

"HEY!” you yell, and they look around. You are about to ask them about the bottles, when you feel something catch against the satchel strap; you turn just in time to see one of the bottles drop off the table, and then all hell breaks loose.

A flicker of heat and light is the only warning you get, but it's enough. You dive aside as the whole table goes up in flames, pressing your face to the ground and wrapping your arms over your head to protect yourself from the shards of broken glass that patter to the ground all around you. You can smell smoke and hear things cracking and shattering in flames; venturing to raise your head, you see that there is a pile of blackened rubble where the table was only moments ago, and that the surrounding surfaces are now host to a dozen small fires which are greedily spreading across a film of some clear substance that you don't recognise.

"Come on!” yells a voice, and someone grabs your arm; you stumble after Terezi as she drags you to the door. The pair of you are overtaken by Jake, still wielding some strange alchemical tool in one hand as he charges past you with a carefree laugh and crashes against the far wall of the corridor. You stagger out just as a secondary explosion rocks the lab, and the three of you stumble like drunkards around the corner, out the way of the destruction.

For what seems like an age, you say nothing. Then Jake snorts with laughter, hand resting on the wall to support him as he leans over almost double. Terezi leans next to him and starts giggling, and you stare at them like they both lost their minds.

"Did it somehow skip your notice that the lab just fucking exploded?” you demand. “Or am I just hallucinating wildly? Fuck, at this point that might actually be a better option. I would this to all be imaginary now, please, and fuck my own brain so much for trying to kill me with fire!

Terezi pats you gently on the shoulder. “Relax, Karkles. The golem is going to be fine.”

"Well, then, everything's just sugar and oranges, isn't it! We are going to get drawn and fucking quartered but that's fine, just so long as the unnatural abomination of everything good and wholesome about this hellish craphole world survived okay!

Terezi raises an eyebrow. “If you run, you two can make it to Gamzee in time for an alibi.”

You glare at her. “What the fuck kind of alibi are we supposed to have for not guarding the person we were specifically told to guard? Because you can bet that fuckbag Mohan isn't going to keep his mouth shut!”

Terezi leans over and, with a smile, ruffles your hair. Then before you can stop her, she grabs your collar with one hand and shoves the other up under your tunic. You yelp and jump backwards, but she's already turned her attention to Jake. He yells and tries to beat her off with his hands as she tugs his tunic up and disarranges his clothing; she finishes off with a firm pinch to his rear.

"There,” she says, standing back to admire her handiwork. “You two show up looking like that and out of breath, and I guarantee nobody will suspect a thing.”

You and Jake share a look which says this never happened, and you sling your backpack and satchel towards Terezi with more force than is strictly necessary before grabbing Jake's hand and charging back into the hidden corridors of the House.

Suggestions Used

unholygrunt - Everyone should fall in love with Jake and he promptly falls in love with a ghost.

ttdOOOO – Everybody that makes sense: Be attracted to [Jake] at first sight. I find that as hilarious a running gag as Roxy trying to get in [John's] pants.

MASK - Jake: keep getting hit on by strange (drow) women. and men.

WhiteTiger1221 – Terezi: Get into contact with your shanty friend. Even with your limited level of influence you should be able to speak to some new recruits. Then think of an escape plan, it will be challenging, Perfect.

WhiteTiger1221 - Karkat: Explain to Terezi what you had to do to get these potions and how she should be fucking grateful that the 3 of you even managed to pull it off. (I know this kind of happened this chapter, but it wasn't in detail, so maybe it'll be elaborated on.)

WhiteTiger1221 - Terezi: This shanty thief, who should by all odds not even be able to read, just outsmarted an incredibly intelligent, incredibly paranoid and incredibly crafty Drow noble. Looks like Mister Cherry Red is far smarter than he appears. Be honestly impressed by the accomplishments of the 3.

WhiteTiger1221 - Terezi: Say/do something to make Karkat flustered.

WhiteTiger1221 - Karkat: Get flustered.

Ryo Hoshi – Gamzee: Enjoy(?) the side effects of the blend until it finally wears off.

WhiteTiger1221 - Gamzee: Get a prize or something, seriously you deserve it. Drown out the noise of the Bard, he doesn't know what he's talking about, you and your bro did it and the Bard can't do anything to stop the high you're on now.

MASK - Lady Yetenekli: find note; skip the rehearsal

WhiteTiger1221 - Jake: Begin contemplating ways to retrieve your firearms, they would surely give you an edge in the upcoming escape.

LostSock - Jake: Be reluctant to make your daring escape with your father's pistol still in Lady Yetenekli's hands.

td0000 - Jake: Get gun(s?) back, there's no telling what that evil matron will do with them.

Antartique - Jake: Your precious weapons are being held hostage, you could try to recover them.

ttdoooo - Jake: Convince Karkat to steal or destroy your pistol rather than leave it in enemy hands.

ttdoooo - Karkat: If you're going to be the goto guy for theft, you might want to take levels of rogue, just saying.

MASK - Karkat: acquire an Incredibly Useful Thing

MASK - Karkat: accidentally set something on fire during your daring escape.

Stalker – Terezi: grab Jake’s butt!
System Notes

Chapter Text

THE KNIGHT OF BLOOD

Knight of Blood God Symbol, For attachment to LODAD fic on AO3.

Hellscourge, the Sufferer, General of the Lost, He Who Never Forgets

ALIGNMENT: True Neutral

PORTFOLIO: Survival, Conflict, Ambition, Loyalty

DOMAINS: Nobility (Martyr & Leadership), Knowledge (Memory), War (Blood), Strength (Resolve), Community (Home), Law (Loyalty)

FAVOURED WEAPON: Sickle

THE KNIGHT OF BLOOD is a god called on in determination and desperation; he stands not for those who choose to fight, but those who must, and is the final recourse when surrender is not an option.

HISTORY
Those who tell tales of the Knight know better than to look to him for valiant stands and better days ahead; he is the god who deals with pain, loss and suffering, and the only gift he has to give is the strength to keep forging onwards long after hope has fled. At best his attitude to the world seems to be one of benevolent frustration; at worst, his snarling, hate-filled fury is the poison that leads men to prey upon one another.

PANTHEONS AND RELATIONSHIPS
The Knight of Blood appears in the worship of two different pantheons as well as individually.

In the PANTHEON OF BLOOD, he is the leader of the gods- albeit an aggressively ambitious leader whose authority is uncertain and oft-ignored. His ability to bind the quarrelsome pantheon together springs from the fact that most of them are fond of him, save for the MAID OF TIME whose acquiescence is drawn from her close ties to the MAGE OF DOOM. In this pantheon the SEER OF MIND is his consort and guide, but also his manipulator, and their tempestuous relationship is indicative of the pantheon as a whole.

Within the STARWALKERS, a pantheon whose worship has faded in all but a few lands, he is not leader but instead a follower of the SEER OF LIGHT, a guardian and defender alongside the KNIGHT OF TIME with whom he has a rivalry that goes from bitter to brotherhood by tale. In opposition to his fellow Knight he is the more aggressive but less focused warrior; in some tales it is his often antagonistic behaviour that costs him the love of the SEER OF MIND. He is sometimes said to be close to and beloved of the BARD OF RAGE, and has protected the other deity from the wrath of the SYPLH OF SPACE through his close kinship with her.

Alone, he is the deity of ambition and of lost causes; the motto of many of his scattered, disparate followers is "never give in". He often frequents the legends of other gods, and despite his uniformly hostile attitude can be surprisingly helpful. Older legends paint him as having a virulent yet affectionate relationship with the WITCH OF SPACE, for example, and his exchanges with the MAID OF LIFE are often loud but ultimately friendly. His kinship with the BARD OF RAGE is sometimes present even in solo worship, with various legends speaking of a quest or journey in which he travels the worlds alone in search of his wayward brother.

As an antagonist to other pantheons or deities, he is often present as the force of unchecked ambition and bloody violence. He is said to hold a deep enmity for the HEIR OF BREATH and the KNIGHT OF TIME, for different reasons, and appears often in the tales of these gods to insult, attack or oppose them. Since the fall of his church, more and more tales painting him as the villain have arisen. The generally angry and unrepentantly ruthless nature of his followers, who are all too often outcasts and outlaws, has done little to dispel the idea that he is a dangerous and volatile enemy of all decent souls.

APPEARANCE AND EMISSARIES
The Knight of Blood is commonly depicted as a tiefling, a merrow or a drow; his eyes are blood-red and he is always dressed entirely in grey. Sometimes he is shown robed, sometimes in armour, and most common depictions of him are either alone or else surrounded by only the dead. Mostly his depictions seem angry or at least suspicious, but there is a significant minority of images in which he attempts to hide his face as he weeps blood.

SERVANTS
Creatures thought of as vermin, strays and mongrels are, if not chosen of the Knight of Blood, at least tolerated by him more than other creatures would be. Curiously, crabs and other crustaceans are sacred to him, and one apocryphal test for whether a suspect is in his service is to offer them a lobster dinner and see if they attempt to shove a claw in their benefactor's eye.

The Wandering Warrior
Legend has it that this Aelfen was a Paladin of the Knight at the time the Church of Blood fell; although he survived the war, he lost all that he cared for in the carnage. Tales speak of him travelling the world, offering his aid to those in need and seeking vengeance on whatever force of heaven or earth decreed the destruction of all he loved. According to the myths, The Knight favoured him so much that he never died, and still walks the world to this day- although those who see him rarely know who it is that they have encountered.

Scarlock
This mysterious, grey-shrouded figure has been sighted throughout history, and is said to appear to followers of the Knight who have won their god's contempt or disfavour. These victims are passed a slip of paper, on which are written inventive and colourful curses- which inevitably come to pass.

Hoems
The Knight has little use for a blade when he gets a better weapon, and many heroes and villains have claimed to wield one of his discarded sickles. Hoems is the most famed of these, a blade glittering with magic which appears again and again throughout history- usually in time to slay a person of fame and power.

CHURCH
Temples of the Knight are rarely permanent things, these days; most worshippers maintain a small, easily portable shrine or else simply pray wherever they find themselves. Older ruins and converted buildings show that once his temples lay at the beating heart of the great cities of the past.

WORSHIPPERS AND CLERGY
Clerics of the Knight of Blood are True Neutral, Neutral Good, Neutral Evil, Lawful Neutral, or Chaotic Neutral.

Followers of the Knight are bandits and beggars, orphans and outcasts. Any desperado who stands outside society and relies on their own strength and wits for survival has reason to seek his counsel.

The clergy of the Knight are in general Paladins, Knights and Battle Oracles, albeit not ones that would be easily recognised as such. His devout followers are often rebels or revolutionaries of one kind or another, and for good or ill they refuse to see their ambitions thwarted.

TEMPLES AND SHRINES
In recent times, the worship of the Knight of Blood has fallen from favour. His old temples, once grand and spacious buildings decorated with carvings, paint, and extremely large statues of the god, have fallen to ruin or been repurposed. Now his shrines are small, often to the point of non-existence. Nevertheless, most of his worshippers still carry an emblem of the Sacred Sickle about their person.

HOLY TEXTS
The holy texts of the Temple of Blood that survived the Purging are invariably long, furious rants about everything that the Knight and his chosen prophets have ever considered to be at fault with the world. Reading between the lines, however, many of them can be seen as guides for improvement.

Fuck My Life, Seriously, I Have To Do This?
The oldest known book, supposedly either written or dictated by the god himself, it consists of stories in which he explains the apparent reasons for his deep, undying hatred for every other god, demigod, planar lord and minor spirit in existence. Since most of these beings appear as allies or even friends in other stories, the accuracy of any timeline is hotly debated, although some past scholars have noted that the earlier tales fit extremely well into the Skaian Mythos.

The Soldier In Grey
A series of stories, linked in the form of a journey, in which the Knight travels the world and the planes in search of the BARD OF RAGE. Most of the stories appear to be based on the ones from Fuck My Life, but with poetic license adding plot and structure and removing as many extended rage-filled tangents as possible while retaining the character of the deity.

Cants And Signs
A helpful reference book, written by some long-dead thief who was presumably a worshipper, to various thieves' dialects and secret sign languages. All versions of the book currently in common circulation are hopelessly outdated, but authorities have noted that a new edition seems to crop up every few decades courtesy of an author unknown. The back contains a helpful summary of ways to say “Fuck you, asshole,” in every language in the known world.

HOLIDAYS
Cults and temples of the Knight consider holidays to be an opportunity to lament your faults and failings, of which there are assuredly many. Combined with the fact that most dedicated followers of the Knight are too busy trying to survive or protect something or someone to take a break, this means that there have never been any official festivities or holy days associated with the god.

Knight Of Blood Portrait by proserpine-in-phases

Chapter Text

==> John: Befriend A Kobold. Name Her Casey.

“...going to be heroes, just like in the stories, and then they'll make stories about us and they'll be awesome!” You grin at Dave, marching on the other side of the caravan to you because Dirk refused point-blank to leave it behind just to follow some nakking lizards. You think his face might be a little stonier than usual, but that's probably just because he's jealous of how amazing your sagas are going to be compared to his. “Don't worry, buddy, I'll make sure they mention your undead-slaying in between the bits about how brilliant I was!”

Roxy laughs aloud, inches from your ear. She's been clinging to your arm ever since the kobolds guiding your way cut Dirk and Jane down from the trees; she seems a bit wobbly from all the booze, but you think that really she just wants an excuse to get closer to you. The thought makes your innards go all hot and wobbly as you ponder Dave's question again. Do you like Roxy in that way?

“Where- nope, we're- the heroes,” she hoots, throwing her head back and not incidentally nearly tumbling over again. You stop her falling easily enough but as she straightens you get a pretty good view of her ample cleavage, and the hot wobbly feeling steps up a notch. You are suddenly very, very aware of the hand you have around her waist and how close it is to her butt. Your cheeks flush a little redder as you realise this pretty much answers that question.

Of course, that still leaves the possibility that Dave misread the situation. Roxy has been pretty drunk all day. And most of yesterday. And actually, now you think of it, most of the time ever. But you were raised to be a gentleman, and that means not taking advantage of drunken wizards who might just be looking for a young fellow full of mangrit to help them not fall over. Plus it could be a prank. She seemed pretty keen to try snatching masks with you earlier, and she seems pretty close to Dirk who was apparently flirting with you as a joke and oh, fuck, if this is all some big ploy to make fun of you Dave is not going to live out the night, that fuck.

Fortunately, you do have a reliable source to ask about Roxy's behaviour. You gently prod her until she flops over onto Rose. The Oracle accepts her with a stern look in your direction that says: I hope you don't expect me to deal with this ridiculousness on a permanent basis.

"I just need to talk to my sis,” you tell her, and she waves you off with a put-upon look that you ignore in favour of dropping your pace to walk beside Jane.

Your sister looks at you suspiciously. “This had better not be the start of a prank.”

"What? No!” You hold your hands up in declaration of innocence. “Come on, Jane, you know I wouldn't!”

“You would,” Jane replies. A small smile quirks at the corners of her mouth. “And you'd be a very silly sausage too, because you know I clean the floor with your amateur ass!”

You grin back. “Is that a challenge?”

She hesitates for a moment. “I'm hardly sure this is the time for a prank war. As Miss Rose took pains to point out to me, this is a serious business we're about.”

You make a clucking noise and flap your arms like a chicken. Your sister narrows her eyes, then spits on her hand and holds it out to you. You perform the same gesture and shake on it.

"We'll see who's the better prankster,” she says. “Just you wait and see what I've got in mind for you! Hoo hoo hoo!”

You're about to answer when it strikes you what you've done. “Oh, crap!” Jane tilts her head quizzically and you nod towards Rose and Roxy, staggering about ahead of you. “I was going to ask about whether Roxy really likes me, but now you'll just try and make me look an idiot!”

Jane shakes her head and tuts sadly. “John, I'm shocked you could think of me that way. Roxy is a friend and you're my brother. I wouldn't play with your hearts, that would just be cruel!”

You consider this for a few yards. Jane has a point; like you and your mother she's a trickster and can pull pranks with the best, but she's never been malicious.

"Okay, then, so what do you think?” you ask her, lowering your voice so that Dave won't overhear and mock you later. “You know her better than I do, I mean you spent all that time with her, so really you should do...”

A finger across your lips cuts you off and Jane smiles. “She likes you, doofus.”

"Really?” you ask, voice muffled slightly by the finger.

“Yes.” Jane pulls her hand away from your face and beams at you. “And she's also utterly toasted, so don't even think about making a move on her or I'll see you hogtied, buster!”

You stick your tongue out at her. “Pfft, like you'd dare, when we're on world-saving duty!”

"Remember the time on scout patrol when I hid your breeches before morning parade?” Jane asks, voice mild. “As I recall, you had to turn out in your breechcloth, and got latrines for a month.”

You laugh. “Oh, yeah, you got me good that time! But I got you back. Ink in the clothes boiler, remember?”

"I do hope that the pair of you are not planning to enmesh the rest of us in your schemes,” said Rose, dropping back with Roxy leaning across her shoulder. “Otherwise I would also be forced to participate, and I can assure you that I am rarely matched in games of wits. Especially when given access to my tormentors boots and a variety of small but toothsome animals.”

You share a look with Jane. “We'll be good,” you promise, fingers crossed behind your back. Rose snorts in disbelief and levers her chuckling sister back towards you.

"I believe this is yours,” she says with a small smile, turning back. You look at Roxy, draped at your side. She grins at you.

“Hiya, handsome,” she says. “Miss me?”

You glance back at Jane, who stabs two fingers towards her eyes and then at you. Watching you, Mister.

"Sure,” you tell Roxy. “So, I was thinking, I haven't told you about my other brother and sister, have I?”

“You got a broth'r?” Roxy slurs. She leans in and her wine-smelling breath tickles your neck. “Ish he ass hawt as you?”

“Well, I've never really met him,” you say, a little uncomfortable with the direction this is headed. “Or Jade, either. But we might meet them sort of soon, and I bet they'll be really jealous, since we've been having all these neat adventures and they've just been hanging out in boring old caves and forests and stuff!”

“Wish I could be that optimistic,” Dirk says from up on the caravan seat. He looks at the kobolds up ahead with suspicion. “Of course, the problem with real adventures is the better than even chance that someone ends up dead or maimed.”

You wave your free hand dismissively in the air. “That's nowhere near as common as people say! There were loads of adventurers at my parents' inn and hardly any of them even lost limbs!”

Dirk leans around in his seat to look at you. “Uh-huh. And how many of them were trying to save the entire world from destruction?”

"So we're on a big quest of destiny!” you say, refusing to let him get you down. “We've even got the Oracle of Light on our side. Fate will protect us, you'll see.”

The look you get is inscrutable. “Having a destiny isn't the same as being fated to win.”

"Chill it, bro,” says Dave. “Not the time, not the person and besides-” he points to the path ahead- “we're here.”

You look up to see a rough row of sharpened stakes guarding the mouth of a cave, the dark maw lit by the dim glow of torches and swallowed by the trees all around. Small shadows move across the flames and you see the silhouettes of drawn weapons, slings and bows. You wonder when it got quite so dark, and cast another glance at Roxy leaning on your shoulder when it occurs to you that for a while now she, Rose, Dave and Dirk have been practically blind.

The leader of the kobolds you're with steps out and starts nakking; the kobolds behind the barricade reply, and then he turns to Dirk.

"You leave cart,” he says.

“It's a caravan,” Dirk replies. “And also, fuck no.”

The kobold folds his arms. “Cannot take caravan. No space, many traps. Bad thing, very bad.” You can see him grin toothily. “Is okay. Will not eat horse.”

"Well, this is just peachy,” Dirk says, jumping down from the seat and feeling his way over to Maplehoof's head. He pats her gently while passing the reins to a nervous-looking kobold. The tiny lizard-man jumps when Dirk points an accusing finger at him. “If anything happens to my precious and beautiful pony, I am going to kill every single last one of you scaly little shits, starting with you.”

The kobold naks nervously, and cowers away from Dirk as he strides into the darkness ahead. You shrug and follow on after, helping Roxy pick her way across the rocky and uneven ground underfoot. You don't know how Dave is managing, although you do spot Rose stumble before reaching the mouth of the cave.

The kobolds manning the defences turn out to be yellow, with short and rounded snouts that you find kind of endearing. They glub and blow sticky spit-bubbles as you pass. You catch Jane's eye and she smiles; you're not the only one who thinks the little guys are kind of cute.

As you travel deeper into the cave you start to see more kobolds, red and yellow, watching you from the shadows. They look sort of hungry, and some of them are holding what look like babies. You remember the stories that some of your parents' customers used to tell, about killing kobolds and clearing out their nests. At the time you thought it sounded heroic; now it makes you feel ill.

"Here it is; central chamber!” Your guide throws his arms up as you step into a large, round cave lit by the fire in a pit at the centre. The air is thick with smoke, not thick enough to make you cough but enough to cover the ground like a heavy fog and make everything smell of burning wood.

“So, has anyone else noticed that we're now surrounded and trapped in the lair of a bunch of nakking lizards?” Dave stage-whispers as you are led closer to the central fire. “I mean, no pressure, but I was thinking of running a book on the chances of us getting eaten here.”

You look around the cave at the staring eyes, glittering in firelight. There are more little ones in here, and although all of the adults seem to be armed only the ones escorting you have weapons that look like they're not about to fall apart. You guess they could be planning to eat you, but somehow you think they really are looking for some help.

Your guide stops in front of a red-scaled kobold who is almost bent double under the weight of an extraordinary headdress. The thing is covered in feathers and bone and glittery things that might be gems or might be glass, and it's easily as tall as the kobold itself. The headdress-kobold looks at the group of you and starts nakking with your guide. You notice that his- or her- gums are toothless, and wonder if the kobold might be stooping with more than the weight of their very fine hat.

"I wonder what they're saying,” Jane says quietly.

“Oh, th' war leader's sayin' how he found the ones the golden elf forsh... foretolled, and brought them here.”

You all stare at Roxy, who beams muzzily at you all. “What? You can't unnerstand?”

"What else are they saying?” Dirk asks. Roxy furrows her brow in concentration.

“Umm... sayin' that he foun' the promished onesis, so now ev'rythin's gon' be okay-dokey!”

“Wait, how the fuck are you understanding this?” Dave asks, waving a hand to the two nakking kobolds. “Is this some sort of magic shit? Are we getting unformed ether up in our hair? Because had that once and it didn't wash out, like even when I used lemon and vinegar.”

“There is no magic involved,” Rose says absently, her attention focused on the nakking. “My sister and I are simply conversant in the draconic language. Now if you don't mind, I would like to listen; I believe there is about to be a speech and I would like to comprehend it.”

Roxy grins at your stunned expression and nearly falls over. “'S oblivious,” she says.

"Obvious?” Jane asks, and Roxy nods.

“Tha' too.”

Silence falls across the cave as the old kobold- and you're sure now that he or she is old, because a young kobold surely wouldn't move so slowly- gets to their feet and taps the ground with a gnarled stave.

"NAK!” it proclaims in a gravelly voice. “Naknak! Nak nak naknak nak nak naknaknak!”

“Okay...” Roxy says, narrowing her eyes. “She's sayin'... that the time of the hunt is here... an' how the glud- the golden elfy person promised that the Skydancer and the Tick-Tock Man would come... oh, fucks!”

“What? What is it?” you ask, helping her over to a rock as she starts to slide down.

“They're the prey,” she whispers, eyes wide and startlingly pink. “For some little fleshies and the tree-men, I d'know what, but somethin' 'bout the green moon bein' full means they're gonna get hunted and slaughtered and...” she breaks off to sniffle. “They're scarred. I mean scared. Really scared, and they wan' us to save them.”

“Well then, we have to do something,” Jane says. “We can't just let them all die.”

“Why not?” Dirk asks, a single eyebrow shifting behind his mask. “I would have thought a good city-dweller like you wouldn't mind a few less kobolds in the world.”

Jane scowls and waves a hand across the cave. “There are babies in here!” she says, hissing her words to avoid shouting. “And okay, maybe some kobolds are pesky, but that doesn't mean they all are, and we can't just walk away from mass murder!”

"She's right,” you say, surprising yourself with how strongly you feel about it. “This isn't right; there has to be something we can do!”

You think you see Dirk's mouth quirk upwards a little, but any further talk is interrupted by the uproar around the cave. You whirl to see kobolds jumping to their feet to nak and glub in noisy unison; you reach for your hammer, but then a small yellow kobold attaches itself to your leg and glubs happily at you and you realise that this isn't an attack or protest, it's a celebration. You look imploringly at Rose, who sighs.

"Very well. I concur that we may have a moral duty to aid these beings.” She frowns. “I would still advise caution. Kobolds are not known for their friendliness to other races, and we cannot be sure whether they may have mistaken us for some other travellers.”

“Do you really think they have?” Jane asks. Rose shakes her head.

“I confess that I do not think it likely, but that raises more questions than it answers. While it seems likely that 'Skydancer' and 'Tick-Tock Man' are references to some pre-existing cultural heroes, this golden elf bothers me. I would like to know what his business was here, and how he knew of our approach.”

“So what do we do?” Jane asks.

“We could look for evidence,” Dirk says. “Maybe ask one of the kobolds to tell us about these heroes of theirs.”

There is a faint glub from around your knees and you look down to see the little kobold tugging on your breeches. She definitely looks like a girl, and you immediately decide that you can't just keep thinking of her as 'that little kobold'.

"Hey, Casey, what's up?” you ask her. She glubs again and starts tugging you towards the wall. All around you kobolds step respectfully aside, but there is a general mood of expectancy as your group passes.

“Casey?” Rose asks, raising an eyebrow as she comes up beside you. You shrug.

“She looks like a Casey,” you say, unable to put into words the ease with which the name came to mind.

Rose looks critically at your little girl. “I