Comic 153 - Exercise area control

25th Jun 2018, 11:46 PM in High Roads, Low Roads, Threeroads
Average Rating: 5 (2 votes) Rate this comic
Exercise area control
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Author Notes:

Morgenstern 25th Jun 2018, 11:46 PM edit delete
You create another tornado, attempting to limit the number of directions the rabbits can attack from. You and Ranse back up to each other, Ranse continuing to spray random bursts of fire, and you keeping your shield up.

Emerald attempts to flatten out, as much as she can manage--which isn't much, and she can't seem to do much WHILE flattened out. Luckily, she doesn't have to--just by laying there, and secreting paralytic chemicals, she forms a trap for any rabbits attempting to land.

Lastly, you cast Poison... but you don't complete the spell. You hold off on the last step in an attempt to hold a "charge." It works, albeit shakily--you can feel mana slowly bleeding off as you hold the spell back.

You hold your shield high, and the hatless rabbit dives in out of nowhere, aiming low--under the shield.

Exactly where you thought it might. You only barely manage to brush your hand against it, but it's enough; you get the Poison spell off. The rabbit continues to blur and zip about, but you know the clock is ticking now.

The rabbit with the top hat continues throwing cards, but you can tell it's having trouble finding a good angle. You, Ranse, and your two tornadoes have a lot of the area covered--getting a clean shot is incredibly difficult.

After several more seconds of you and Ranse sustaining kicks from the hatless rabbit, the trap triggers--the other rabbit, attempting to get a clearer shot, is forced to land closer to you...

...right on top of the King Slime. Paralysis kicks in, the rabbit in the top hat stiffening abruptly.

You turn, wand ready, and Ranse immediately prepares to blast the rabbit. Emerald recoils, withdrawing out from under the bunny and pulling herself back together so she's not in the firing line.

"W-wait! You got me! You win!," the rabbit yells.

Everyone just... stops. And stares.

Including the other, hatless rabbit. It gawks, wide eyed... before the shock of seeing the other rabbit speak kills it.

Or more likely, it was the poison, but who can say? The last of the normal, non-vest-wearing, non-talking rabbits dies.

The paralysis wears off quickly, and the well dressed surviving rabbit puts its paws up. With a big poof of smoke, it reveals...

well, that it wasn't a rabbit at all, for starters.

You're not actually sure WHAT it is.


"Baby!," the creature begins, "when you cats walked in, I thought you HAD to be jokin'. But you? You're the real deal, baby, and me? I'm feelin' it. Ya feel me?"

"I do not understand your vernacular," Emerald states with some frustration, "but it does NOT sound like you are getting to the POINT!"

"Y-yeah," Ranse says simply, but through slightly gritted teeth. She keeps the pyrespewer fixed on the... floating fellow. "T-... talkorI'mlightingyouonfire."

"Whoa! Whoa, baby, alright!," the creature replies, holding one of its hands up. "Down to business, I can dig that! I'm Cardvärde! I'm a challenge elemental! I'm a force of raw, primordial gamesmanship! I'm--"

"B-bullshit," Ranse blurts out, her finger still firmly on the trigger. "Th-that... that's not even. REMOTELY real."

"Nor does it explain why you were pretending to be an animal!," huffs the King Slime. "You accosted us! We are well within our rights to execute you, here and now!"

"Geez! Tough crowd!," replies Cardvärde. "Look, I like to challenge adventurers--but I ain't got time for just any old rubes! I needed to know ya got the STUFF, and boy, do you ever! So now that that's all outta the way, we can get down to the goodness--Cardvärde's Challenge! You answer me one question, baby, and I'll give ya somethin' cool! Somethin' special! Somethin' rare!"

Ranse narrows her eyes.

Cardvärde clears his throat. "S-Somethin' that won't drop if ya kill me!"

Ranse sighs, takes her finger off the trigger, and lowers the pyrespewer.

"Right!," Cardvärde concludes, looking a little relieved. "So here's the question, baby! It's our first time meetin', so I'll make it an easy one. The question is this:

Which archmage do I idolize?"

"...How on earth can you define that question as EASY?!," Emerald retorts. "We have never met you prior to today! We don't know the first thing of you! Honestly, I don't think I care to!"

Ranse aims the pyrespewer again.

"Whoa, whoa!," replies Cardvärde, "settle down cats and kittens! I wouldn't cheat at my own game, baby! You can answer this question, real easy-like--you just gotta dig deep! Think baaack, baby... you totally know this one! Do ya take notes? You gotta have a way to remember all those teeny weeny details, right baby?"

He looks at you, specifically. Or... tilts himself at you, he never really opens his eyes. You think he'd be looking at you, if he did, though.

"Think waaay back. Think about the first weapon you ever equipped, you'll find the answer somewhere around there baby! You might have to think outside the box a bit, though--I ain't much for walls, especially not fourth ones! If you can answer the question, lay it on me. If ya can't, that's cool too--you can head off, do your own thing, I'll be around! Just don't gimme a WRONG answer, or poof--I'm gone, man, solid gone!"

The first weapon... you ever equipped...?

You don't remember using any weapons before this adventure started, and it didn't really start in earnest until you got arrested. You met Valley in jail... and she's a minitaur, who were first made by Wargog. ...Really, Wargog and Neid are the only two archmages you've heard named... as far as you remember...?

His talk of thinking outside the box, and... walls...? Makes you second guess yourself, though. You feel like there has to be some kind of trick to finding this answer, maybe in a place you normally wouldn't look, though he DID say he wouldn't cheat.


GS 26th Jun 2018, 12:51 AM edit delete reply
We kind of weaponized our Je ne sais quoi and by extension Valley, tricking her into breaking our cell door.
So that would be Wargog, who made the minitaurs as living weapons.

But we grew up learning to fish, so our chronologically first battle might have been with the fish, using rod and reel.
Neid was archmage of the waters.

... I think it's Wargog, though. Cardvärde weaponized those bunnies, attacking us.
Middleageman 26th Jun 2018, 2:35 PM edit delete reply
Yeah he speaks adaut breaking and walls.. Minitaurs are a weapon and by riding it you are using it.. And what gave up? Bars? Or the wall.. +1 for this!
Krylo 26th Jun 2018, 12:52 AM edit delete reply
The answer is Alustra.

It was added to the description of the old iron sword in the lore pages.
GS 26th Jun 2018, 12:55 AM edit delete reply
Well-spotted! Eesh, I was trying to puzzle it out, looking in the wrong place... ^^;
Pseudophibian 26th Jun 2018, 1:02 AM edit delete reply
Nicely done! Incorporating entities that can interact beyond story is an interesting development. I wonder how many more of these there are, and whether they're all so...eccentric.
Also, on the subject of weapons, is there a reason we chose to keep the sword as a melee weapon of choice? I'd be interested in seeing us work with staves a little, which we're more attuned to, especially considering how quickly we've been blowing through mana recently.
Krylo 26th Jun 2018, 1:04 AM edit delete reply
We got one first. I think that's the only reason.

That said, swords are probably better weapons than staves, and we learned recently you can learn to use any weapon, not just the ones for your class.

We might as well stick to it as we're getting better at it.
Pseudosimian 26th Jun 2018, 1:15 AM edit delete reply
You're right about swords being more convenient (having a hand free is definitely a nice plus), but I think the implication was that we'll get better faster with class weapons, e.g. staves and daggers. Maybe we stick with that scaling knife for a while and see how it feels? It'd be nice to be a little more capable in melee sooner rather than later, regardless of the weapon.
Pseudophibian 26th Jun 2018, 1:16 AM edit delete reply
Whoops! Buggered up the name a bit. ^ that's still me.
ZincFingers 26th Jun 2018, 1:18 AM edit delete reply
HAHAHA, Morgenstern you mad bastard, if I had a hat I’d doff it.

Yeah, that’s a solid answer, it gets my vote.
Also props to Krylo for the quick catch.
TGWMoC 26th Jun 2018, 4:27 AM edit delete reply
+1 Alustra

The sad part is that's the first place I looked, but my mind filled in 'Alustra' as 'probably an Italian word I don't know. Something to do with thrusting maybe?' I didn't even notice the capitalization indicating a name because it was right after a period.I even took note of the 'baby', and wondered if that had been planed way back then, or just a really lucky coincidence. Never crossed my mind that it had been edited.

Also, as for Nast answering, I suggest a bit of style. No need to seem confused about how he knows the answer, (even if he is confused,) so I say play it up. maybe a piercing gaze before saying it, as if reading his mind, or perhaps a bit of "The winds, they're whispering a name!
Or, my personal favorite, Pulling a card out of one or our pocket with the name on it. I mean, if he gets to mess with our lore, maybe we can fudge reality a bit when answering.

Edit: Actually, the first place I looked was to see if he himself had a lore entry already, that would tell the answer. I assumed he was pointing us at the lore, I just didn't suspect he had changed it, I guess.
Guest 26th Jun 2018, 5:10 AM edit delete reply
Professor Cupcake 26th Jun 2018, 7:57 AM edit delete reply
Professor Cupcake
Ah shit, we got fourth wall breaking reality-benders now.
Guest 26th Jun 2018, 9:06 AM edit delete reply
Say, can we fuck this guy and take his 4th-wall-breaking powers?
MakePeaceAndLove 26th Jun 2018, 9:51 AM edit delete reply
You win this update, Krylo. Alustra it is then.

As for delivering the answer, I'd prefer if Nast thinks on it then suddenly blinks and speaks 'Alustra', surprised himself where that came from. I like that better than acting smug... and follow it up with more questions of Cardvärde, like 'What did you just do?'

As for our weapon of choice, I would love to practice a variety of weapons so Nast can switch as necessary for the various challenges we encounter. Right now I'm cool with Swords, Knifes, Wands and Staves, so our first weapon and the proficiency ones because those will come easiest, but I wouldn't mind adding something extra to that line up - we already have a shield that's almost a boomerang, so... another ranged weapon? One for when we can't get close but we can't afford to spend more mana?
1977 26th Jun 2018, 12:38 PM edit delete reply
I think Nast should give credit to Krylo with his answer.
Outright saying that Krylo read the lorepage and found out the answer is Alustra.
Rysonsynic 26th Jun 2018, 12:59 AM edit delete reply
I think we may want to wait on this one for a bit. Just like, the first weapon we equipped was an iron sword wasn't it? Or maybe the wind wand? Like, while we have some information it seems like we don't have enough.
Krylo 26th Jun 2018, 1:02 AM edit delete reply
Screen Cap

Old Iron Sword: As its name may suggest, this rough blade has seen better days. Most of the guards in Humblestart wield weapons like this. Alustra, baby! Mostly dealing with slimes and trying to scare away goblins, they don't see the need to upgrade their gear much.
Rysonsynic 26th Jun 2018, 1:04 AM edit delete reply
Ooh, hey yep, so looks like the answer is there. So yeah, Alustra or however it is spelled.
Guy Incognito 26th Jun 2018, 1:07 AM edit delete reply
Well done.
Eyebrows 26th Jun 2018, 1:06 AM edit delete reply
"Alustra, baby!"

Honestly changing the lore page? That's a dirty trick. It's not even an Archemage Nast's ever heard named before.
MakePeaceAndLove 26th Jun 2018, 9:52 AM edit delete reply
It really is a dirty trick, yeah.

This... challenge elemental. Cardvärde. He creeps me out... but I'm still curious. Let's answer and hope the reward is something good.
1977 26th Jun 2018, 1:06 AM edit delete reply
Well, my last comments were a bit late on the last page, so here's the important bits:

The next time Justice is near a watersource she should summon her elemental to see if it can grow by absorbing the water.
See if it stays a HOLY water elemental.
Is the asdditional water baptized by becoming a part of it?

Try consuming the water at the fountain in the temple.
If the water is still filled with rage that could become interesting.

Now to the matter at hand:

The weapons Nast itself equipped were in the following order: Sword, Wind Wand and nothing else? Did he equip the knife at some point? I think not.

He equipped the Old Iron Sword after breaking out of his cell by breaking the walls with the help of Valley.
Valley, more specifically minitaurs, were created by Wargog.

So, his clues?
First weapon? Old Iron Sword
Outside the box? Prisonbreak
So I say the answer is Wargog, though we can ask Valley about him a bit before.
Maybe Wargog had the same speechpattern as Cardvärde?

My answer now: Wargog
We could wait until later. That's fine too.
Eyebrows 26th Jun 2018, 1:34 AM edit delete reply
Check other comments. We have the answer already. It's Alustra
1977 26th Jun 2018, 3:26 AM edit delete reply
As I wrot this the other comments weren't there.
With the refresh came mine and all the other comments.
Still, my reasoning wasn't bad either, I think.
I didn't look anything up before writing, so it was all purely from memory concluded.
Harski 26th Jun 2018, 3:39 AM edit delete reply
I agree with you.. He speaks adaut walls and stuff Cleary refers to Valley and the outside of the box is not a sword. I say W. The A. Is just for diversion and made to fool us.
1977 26th Jun 2018, 4:24 AM edit delete reply
Actually no, like I said all my reasoning came before I even bothered to check anything.
Had I looked to the description of the sword I said Alustra too.
So yeah, Alustra is it.
After all checking the lorepage is breaking the fourth wall, just like Cardvärde said we should.
Even the thing with him looking at Nast.
Nast thinks he looks straight at him, in reality Cardvärde looks at us, the readers.
GS 26th Jun 2018, 2:02 PM edit delete reply
Don't feel bad, 1977, I thought the same thing you did.
Guest 26th Jun 2018, 2:40 PM edit delete reply
Because summoning a water rage elemental can't ever go wrong, right?
Twyll 26th Jun 2018, 1:06 AM edit delete reply
Sneaky sneaky, MM :P Yup, Alustra it is, then.

Don't suppose this creature feels like telling us *why* it idolizes Alustra? More lore is always helpful. I suspect the archmagi are only gonna become more relevant to the story, after all.
SolomontheLionheart 26th Jun 2018, 1:09 AM edit delete reply
+1 for asking why Alustra/along Ranse about Alustra. Curious to see the reasoning Nast gives for why he thinks Alustra...
Eyebrows 26th Jun 2018, 1:46 AM edit delete reply
+1 on asking why
Twelveseal 26th Jun 2018, 6:29 AM edit delete reply
Odds are because Alustra is charming. Alustra. Plot senses tingling~
MakePeaceAndLove 26th Jun 2018, 9:52 AM edit delete reply
+1 to asking why Alustra in particular, and for details on Alustra, and perhaps on the other archmages? Anything we can learn here would be awesome.
G. Sansa 26th Jun 2018, 1:12 AM edit delete reply
We could still knock it's hat off. It's probably valuable

Why not get greedy? Form a nearly-complete wind slice, like with the poison, then answer the question. When it gives us the reward, release the spell, aimed to knock off the hat.
Eyebrows 26th Jun 2018, 1:36 AM edit delete reply
A slice would destroy the hat, and the wand doesn't work the way spells do. The wand works via gestures. I'm all for blowing the hat of it's head though.
MakePeaceAndLove 26th Jun 2018, 9:55 AM edit delete reply
-1 to stealing/attacking him now. He might vanish for good and without giving us our reward.

That, or... things escalate. Somehow I feel like he's only pretending to surrender her, but holding back.

... I know what rubs me the wrong way here. Cardvärde feels like a genie. He kind of looks like one, and he can 'make our wish come true', but only after we pass his challenge.

And genies are sneaky, especially with words. We need to be super careful around this guy. O.O
G. Sansa 26th Jun 2018, 1:23 AM edit delete reply
It seems the archmages are themed for the seven deadly sins. Wargog=anger, Neid=envy in German, aLUSTra.

If the panty thief is archmage-related, it's greed or lust. It could also be challenge-related. So this situation might be a bigger clue than we realize.
GS 26th Jun 2018, 1:49 AM edit delete reply
Yup. I was just about to post that evidence for my theory is starting to increase.
Krylo 26th Jun 2018, 3:16 AM edit delete reply
I actually feel this hurts that theory: why would a lust based archmage be venerated by a challenge elemental?

Also Neid also sounds close to Naiad, which are water nymphs. And he flooded the world.

I'm not saying you're wrong, necessarily, but I do feel like if they are related to the sins Alustra is likely not lust. Maybe pride.
Anonymous 26th Jun 2018, 4:00 AM edit delete reply
Yup yup, pride sounds right. Alustra reminds me of Lustre anyway. More pride than actual lust, most likely, if they're based on the sins at all.
Twelveseal 26th Jun 2018, 6:39 AM edit delete reply
Challenge of romantic conquest? Love conquers all? A couple of reasons this guy might like Alustra, assuming we're right on naming convention. Or, you know, maybe Alusta summoned him somehow.
GS 26th Jun 2018, 10:36 AM edit delete reply
Maybe he's just a big fan of Alustra's contributions to old copies of Playmage. *shrug*
Brb 26th Jun 2018, 2:18 AM edit delete reply
Stealstealsteal rob this guy who knows what he's got... After giving the right answer, of course!
ZincFingers 26th Jun 2018, 2:38 AM edit delete reply
Yeah... No, let’s not piss off the magic creature with the ability to break the fourth wall.
V.V.V. 26th Jun 2018, 3:40 AM edit delete reply
I'm kind of wanting to call him Oogie Page, and I definitely think that what he's got could help us with the Entertainer's Guild.
Croaker 26th Jun 2018, 5:36 AM edit delete reply
The guy says this is our first question, so he’ll make it an easy one. He will be a slot machine moving forward, let’s not piss him off and lose future benefits.
MakePeaceAndLove 26th Jun 2018, 9:56 AM edit delete reply
I agree with ZincFingers and Croaker here. Let's not mess with someone that can break the fourth wall so easily.
Brb 26th Jun 2018, 11:51 AM edit delete reply
Yeah, but think about the payoff if we manage to rob such an anomalous creature from who knows what plane :)
Anonymous 26th Jun 2018, 3:58 AM edit delete reply
So the answer's Alustra? Alright. Good to know.
Now we need to answer correctly- He might try to rip us off if we say it wrong. "You idolize the archmage Alustra, baby!" might be best for buttering him up, if nothing else.
I'm thinking of Jeopardy, in which how you answered was as important as your answer.
Also, Nast: Receive divine knowledge of the answer, because you wouldn't have known it otherwise.
Anonymous 26th Jun 2018, 4:02 AM edit delete reply
Also don't do anything to piss it off. It tried to fight us, but consider its actions- it never tried to really kill us. It could have, I suspect, and making it angry could end badly, whereas keeping its favor could result in future payoffs.
MakePeaceAndLove 26th Jun 2018, 9:58 AM edit delete reply
You might be right about phrasing it correctly... even if I feel 'Alustra' alone will work fine here, but, on the off chance.

... also, to me it's clear that he's been testing us until now. And this is the real challenge, even if the first question is easy. He's holding back and it would be really unwise to attack or steal right now.
Anonymous 26th Jun 2018, 4:08 AM edit delete reply
The Old Iron Sword mentions Alustra in its Lore description, so it's probably that.
Korsha 26th Jun 2018, 4:26 AM edit delete reply
Thanks to some smart readers, we now know the answer is Alustra. Since it's not likely Nast can break the fourth wall, he should cast Identify on the Old Iron Sword, hopefully he get's the answer.
ZincFingers 26th Jun 2018, 5:52 AM edit delete reply
If Cardvärde can break the fourth wall for his questions, it’s only fair we can break it to answer... or chalk it up to magical presence / inspiration.
1977 26th Jun 2018, 8:27 AM edit delete reply
I wouldn't call it inspiration, though.
Or did you fuck Nast to give him the answer?
ZincFingers 26th Jun 2018, 8:38 AM edit delete reply
Must all inspiration now come from copulation?
If I must rephrase, a moment of clarity and insight brought about by being confronted with a creature that can somehow manipulate information that exists outside of our world; a creature that is aware the answer is only truely obtainable to entities that do not inhabit the same reality as Nast and Co.
To rephrase again, one may say this entire situation is fucked.
1977 26th Jun 2018, 9:00 AM edit delete reply
I have thought it more than once before: This comment section needs a thumbs up function for the comments.
MakePeaceAndLove 26th Jun 2018, 10:02 AM edit delete reply
I fully agree with ZincFingers here. Let it be a moment of sudden clarity... and maybe even let Nast himself be surprised that he suddenly knows the name.

He could guess it wrong too, like, rather than realizing that there's a fourth wall here, he could suspect that Cardvärde can read his mind and send thoughts to him, and simply told him the answer outright, to make this an easy question... which, again, provokes more question - why did he hand us a freebie? What are those strange powers and how did he get them? And what does he really want from us?

..... I totally feel like this update is the most confusing one in the story so far. And we've had some weird ones alright, but nothing quite as strange as this one.
CruntKnockler 26th Jun 2018, 2:46 PM edit delete reply
Can we not keep casting Identify on EVERYTHING? Carrying on like that's what made us run out of mana before the fight with Grandpa, which was kind of dumb.
Antarean 26th Jun 2018, 10:43 AM edit delete reply
Points to Krylo for figuring that out so quickly. :)

Cardvarde seems interesting, I like the question mark on his tail. :P

And I think having Nast cast Identify on the old iron sword is the most in-character way to get the answer. And with Ranse there she can verify it.