Comic 170 - Climb down the ladder

6th Jul 2018, 10:15 PM in High Roads, Low Roads, Threeroads
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Climb down the ladder
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Author Notes:

Morgenstern 6th Jul 2018, 10:15 PM edit delete
Valley grabs the hammer and pick out of the stone plate, adding them to the mason's toolset. Justice updates the journal, informing the other party of where this group is going. She also grabs the stone helmet from nearby, and places it on her elemental.

The party heads down the ladder. Valley has to carry the helmeted elemental, as it lacks arms dexterous enough to handle the ladder rungs AND the helmet makes it pretty heavy.

Once at the bottom, the group just... stares, for a moment.

"Okay, like, I'm starting to feel dumb? We keep running into things that I toootally don't--"

"I may be with you on this one," Lagrand states quickly. "I am... quite uncertain what we're looking at here."

"It's... a shrine," Justice finally says. "An altar, though I don't know to who." Justice steps forward, just a little, trying to get a closer look.

"The written script is foreign," Lagrand states with confidence, as though no one else could have deduced that much. "The stonework is high quality, which leads me to believe our mason did this... not happenstance and wild magic."

Justice, after reading over the foreign runes, gives a slight nod. "This is a shrine to a spirit."

"A spirit, like..." Valley raises an eyebrow, "like a ghost...?"

"If it is a spirit as I know them..." Lagrand begins, "it is assuredly not a ghost. Ghosts are undead--beings that were once alive, and now live on in a different form. Their incorporeal shapes could be mistaken for spirits, certainly--but a true spirit, a spirit as categorized by experts... they are raw magic, forces of nature made manifest. Dryads, sylphs, jinn... those are spirits."

Valley just looks MORE confused. "And those are totally different from elementals how...?"

Lagrand gives a faint smile, closing his eyes. "Elementals pull themselves from a realm of their specific being. Water elementals do not form from water on our plane; picture, if you will, a primordial reserve of infinite water, adjacent to our world and yet very separate. Water in OUR world does often bond with that arcane reservoir--you can find water elementals lurking in ancient lakes and on the high seas. But, that which constitutes the elemental... it is otherworldly."

"And spirits are... FROM here?," Justice asks.

"Yes," Lagrand replies. "They are the natural world, given form. Spirits of our trees, our water, our mountains and deserts."

"Okay, cool, but--" Valley throws her hands up, "those rock dudes upstairs were from rocks in OUR world, right? Like, were THEY spirits?"

"They lacked an awareness, a consciousness," answers Lagrand. "They were not people, in the deeper sense--merely a handful of rocks, animated, but not made an individual. Further, they were brought to life by the arcane energies in the air. A spirit... a spirit animates itself."

There's a long pause. Justice nods solemnly to herself, digesting all this information.

Valley just shakes her head. "That's... agh, it's so dumb?! You're telling me, like, we could fight a mountain and it could be like... a golem, or an elemental, OR a spirit? And they're all different somehow! That's totally lame, Lagrand."

"Think of it this way," Lagrand starts, "if it can speak, think, and feel, it is not a golem, nor an elemental. Also, you will never encounter a fire, water, or air golem--only elementals or spirits; I cannot imagine anyone building a water golem. Furthermore, an earth elemental is... substantially different from a stone golem. You will know the difference, should you have the misfortune of meeting one."

"What if it's a small one?," Justice asks. "Like Baby Blue Junior," she adds, motioning toward her elemental.

Lagrand grins. "An earth golem is more than stone, or dirt, or grass. It is earth. 'Tis difficult to explain, but... trust me."

"Still dumb," Valley replies. "Super bogus. What're we doing with this shrine?"

"That... is an excellent question," Lagrand replies. "I'm developing a suspicion that the forge upstairs was made by this spirit, perhaps in the absence of our mason. A spirit residing in this basement would also explain the high concentration of magic."

"So where IS the spirit?," Justice asks.

"...Out," is all Lagrand can offer. "Spirits are fickle, coming and going--sometimes existing without having a presence, if that makes any sense."

"It totally doesn't," Valley replies, frustrated.

Justice shushes her, and giggles, prompting a smile out of Valley. "If we light the candles on that altar... would that call the spirit here?"

"Perhaps," Lagrand states, "though whether we truly desire that is a different issue. Spirits are much like us--they can be confused, depressed... or even vengeful. I am perplexed as to why the mason was in touch with a spirit from overseas, but... I don't think my curiosity burns intensely enough to justify requesting said spirit's presence."

"Maybe the mason was from another country?," Justice speculates. "Maybe he brought the spirit with him."

Valley points. "Thaaat totally makes sense. Maybe he was like, getting masonry tips from the spirit before he came over here."

"A spirit of craft..." Lagrand ponders. "A foreign spirit of craft. ...No, I don't much like it."

"Okay, well, we gotta do SOMETHING," huffs Valley. "Like... we have a forge, and an altar. We could shove the zwei in the forge, we could light the candles, we could like... I dunno, start a forest fire, but we can't just LEAVE! That'd be like, the lamest."


Tech 6th Jul 2018, 11:00 PM edit delete reply
I think the mason and the spirit had an understanding, and the spirit's upset because their mortal "friend" is gone away.
Krylo 6th Jul 2018, 11:05 PM edit delete reply
I don't know that the spirit is necessarily upset. The things outside were created INCIDENTALLY by the strong magic in the area (the forge) being left unchecked.

There's nothing to suggest the spirit is of any particular emotion, currently.
Krylo 6th Jul 2018, 11:02 PM edit delete reply
I say we light the Candles. Justice can talk to the spirit, and Lagrand knows about spirits, while Valley is tuff.

This is really the best group to summon the spirit, and we didn't come here just to turn around and go home.

Plus, the spirit likely knows what's going on here.

We might want to make any defensive preparations we feel are necessary first, though.

I'm not sure WHAT this party can do in that regard, but if someone else can think of something that won't make us look immediately aggressive--good idea.

We do not want to look immediately aggressive, however. This spirit is likely our key to upgrading the zweihander--or maybe can be recruited as a craftsman member to help make all kinds of gear. We wanna try to befriend it.
ZincFingers 6th Jul 2018, 11:05 PM edit delete reply
I'm on board with this.
Of defensive measures the only thing that comes to mind is to maybe set up a stone shield as a fallback position.

Further idea: Ask Lagrand what the spirit might like so we have an offering on hand for when it arrives.
1977 7th Jul 2018, 12:54 AM edit delete reply
+1 Let us become friends with the spirit.
MakePeaceAndLove 7th Jul 2018, 6:14 AM edit delete reply
Light the candles and start talking. We didn't come all this way just to leave empty-handed.

Though now it hits me that, rather than this place being abandoned without the stonemason, the spirit could be angry that we looted all the tools. At the very least we should be ready to return it... though not just make a pile of them in plain sight, cause seeing that could anger it - but if it already knows upon arrival, then we start pulling them out... or not, I guess, it depends on how negotiations go, but if the spirit agrees to help us but needs those tools to work then they'll be best in its hands anyway.
ZincFingers 7th Jul 2018, 7:30 AM edit delete reply
If it is a spirit of craft, I'm sure knowing that the tools will be handed over to an engineer, who is already decent but shows massive potential, will be enough to sooth any sore feelings toward us taking them.
G. Sansa 7th Jul 2018, 1:59 PM edit delete reply
Remove the helmet from LB before we light the candles. This use of the helmet could be seen as disrespectful. Put it in our inventory — we have to assume that the spirit can't see our inventory.

Note, I don't think we should be carrying around the rock piles while we have the rock heart. So let's unload those next chance we get. If Inzo needs rocks, we can get him some.
Hellbovine 7th Jul 2018, 8:13 AM edit delete reply
lil Joshu 7th Jul 2018, 1:44 PM edit delete reply
lil Joshu
+1 to summoning the spirit WITH our resident goblin engineer there.
Twyll 6th Jul 2018, 11:02 PM edit delete reply
Hmmm we might need to give that golem core we took back as an offering in apology for smashing what were apparently this spirit's minions. It would be *really* cool to have a spirit on our side, as long as it's not hostile... Maybe we need to come back later with Nast to do some negotiating?
MakePeaceAndLove 7th Jul 2018, 6:15 AM edit delete reply
The stone heart, and perhaps all those mason's tools we looted. >.>

I say we prepare to give them back but don't just put them in plain sight, in case that sight would anger it upon arrival... but if it knows we took them then no point hiding it anymore.
Antarean 6th Jul 2018, 11:21 PM edit delete reply
Search the area, maybe we can find more information about the spirit before we do anything.

If we do decide to summon the spirt, it would probably be best to use the green fire from the forge as opposed to regular fire or the blue flames from the phantom candles. I'm not sure what the best method of transporting it would be though. The lantern might not survive being exposed to the forge's flames. Lagrand could use his brambling hand, assuming it's flammable, but it probably wouldn't be a pleasant experience. I guess we could just make a rudimentary torch using a tree branch and grasses from the forest.
Twelveseal 7th Jul 2018, 3:01 AM edit delete reply
+1 Let's light these things, but with the forge fire. Risk the lantern or go pick up a branch from the woods if we have to. Or even just a Treant Needle.
MakePeaceAndLove 7th Jul 2018, 6:16 AM edit delete reply
+1 to lighting them with forgefire. Grab a branch from the woods to keep it simple.
G. Sansa 6th Jul 2018, 11:40 PM edit delete reply
The craftsperson in our party is Inzo. But Valley deserves to be part of this and the other two are key.

I say just do it.
Sanityfaerie 6th Jul 2018, 11:56 PM edit delete reply
First thing we do is we investigate. There are two pillar-like things... we have *no idea* wht they are. there are three hanging prayer strips or something. There are two candles. There is stuff to *know* here.
Krylo 7th Jul 2018, 12:12 AM edit delete reply
Those are pretty clearly shrine lanterns.

They COULD be something else but look up Japanese shrine lanterns. They look about the same, and this is clearly a Japanese styled shrine.
Guest 7th Jul 2018, 12:49 AM edit delete reply
And yet the stone soldiers don't resemble any Japanese style armor I've seen, but something closer to a European design.
MakePeaceAndLove 7th Jul 2018, 6:18 AM edit delete reply
I think Krylo is light, might first thought upon seeing them was also that they're a shrine and lanterns. The paper tags were usually put there by people that wrote their prayers/wishes on them.

... you know, for those tags to be hanging around there, either they were put there pretty recently or this place conserved the paper in excellent condition.
Gandalf 7th Jul 2018, 1:42 AM edit delete reply
Just a few pages ago we realised we were being overcautious, and I think we should learn from that.

Obvious options here seem to be to light the candles, or light the lanterns if that's what they are, or both. I think we should just try it without overthinking.

If we want to prepare for combat first though (without looking too aggressive about it) then fine I guess.
JiggilyJoe 7th Jul 2018, 1:42 AM edit delete reply
We're adventurers! Let's light this candle!
Hambone 7th Jul 2018, 2:03 AM edit delete reply
Hey guys, remember, these things might not even communicate like we do. I think our best bet might be to come back with Inzo. A kindred engineer may find more common ground with it.
Hambone 7th Jul 2018, 3:28 AM edit delete reply
Then again, that's probably too careful. We're winging this lol
Green Visitor 7th Jul 2018, 4:59 AM edit delete reply
Justice is a communicator. She will make it. Inzo -- Would have to leave his mecha to climb the ladder. If this is dangerous, he isn't the right party member to have in this particular location.
MakePeaceAndLove 7th Jul 2018, 6:19 AM edit delete reply
+1 to what Green Visitor said. Let's just wing it, this party is fine for this encounter.
Guest 7th Jul 2018, 4:26 AM edit delete reply
“If it can speak, think, and feel, it is not a golem, nor an elemental”

Does this mean Cardvardë, everyone’s favourite challenge elemental, is actually a challenge SPIRIT?! Come to think of it, that name does sound pretty foreign... anyone notice any 4th wall breaks?
MakePeaceAndLove 7th Jul 2018, 6:24 AM edit delete reply
Good question. I love that Lagrand went on to explain these subtle differences between them, it's stuff like this that makes it so worth it.

But, remember - he said that spirits come from our world, whereas elementals come from outside worlds. Considering his ability to break the fourth wall, I'd assume that Cardvardë really is an outsider, and so, an elemental instead of a spirit.
ZincFingers 7th Jul 2018, 7:26 AM edit delete reply
So he came from the elemental plane of challenge?
Makes sense.
Green Visitor 7th Jul 2018, 5:40 AM edit delete reply
If we summon a earth/fire/forge spirit I hope it's the D&D Dao, not the mythological Shaitan ..

If this is a summon we must act with some purpose, know what we want. Don't open Pandoras box out of sheer curiosity. I say we are prepared to offer some gifts in exchange for information about this forge, the mason and the archmage Neid. We also want weapon enchantments, and if this is a demon we want something ancient for the alchemist.

I don't want us to give away the stone heart, so our offerings could be information, services or company.

If it's a powerful and arrogant spirit that threatens us we should go for the trickery option of every folktale. Challenge it to do something that lets us trap it, like an inforced potion bottle.

If alle else fails, we offer it rum and riches :-)
Green Visitor 7th Jul 2018, 5:47 AM edit delete reply
*entering* a potion bottle. Although doing a potion bottle would fit the NSFW theme well. Actually, to claim we summoned it because we want to sex it is a believable explanation in this world, and is another option if it's not rum and riches oriented.
MakePeaceAndLove 7th Jul 2018, 6:30 AM edit delete reply
+1 from me to figuring out what we actually want before we summon this shrine's, presumably spirit. Upgrading the stone zwei is obvious since that's what we came here for, information about the mason and archmage Neid sounds perfect too. And also, the sex route is always a valid option.

Rum, riches and sex all sound good, or even information. How likely is it that this spirit is just lonely and hoping for some company? Maybe it loves riddles or jokes and we just have to solve/tell a few?

I do hope it ain't hostile, though, that stone golem fight was already really tough... oh, but we didn't level up from it. I wonder when's the next one, maybe after this entire branching plot wraps up so we get the quest reward EXP, rather than after individual events? Sort of like, you know, taking a moment to think over things and realize what this adventure taught us?
Caydenite 7th Jul 2018, 8:58 AM edit delete reply
+1 to Team Let's Just Do It!
Our purpose, if we need one, is to try and repair the Zwei and shield. For diplomacy's sake, that could probably be phrased as 'continue/finish the work of the mason'. So yeah, grab branch, green fire, light candles. It's hard to plan beyond that, as the Spirit itself presents so many unknowns.

I assume Justice has no problems with being part of a pagan ritual, or she'd have said by now, right?
MakePeaceAndLove 7th Jul 2018, 10:47 AM edit delete reply
Do people even have the concept of 'pagan' here as we do? Considering that the clerics can perform miracles to prove they hold power, but there's plenty of other spellcasters around too, shouldn't it be more of a pantheon of gods, if anything?
1977 7th Jul 2018, 11:57 AM edit delete reply
In a way there is a pantheon of the gods the clerics believe in.
They just decided to dedicate themselves to the highest of all goddesses.

Justice explained everything in the beginning:

You ask the blue-haired cleric who this church worships.

"Why, the One Holy Goddess! The existence of demons has been well established--and they have a hierarchy, with demons following the command of devils, who each have ranks of their own. Above them all is one ultimate devil. Knowing that, and that there are a variety of gods and goddesses and angels... it's easy to see that the gods themselves would have an order, a kind of mirror." The cleric is always smiling, but she smiles a little wider. "So of course there is a goddess above all other gods. While many pray to the gods under her rule, we pray instead to her directly, and leave the rest in her hands."

So, yeah, no paganism here I would say.
Caydenite 7th Jul 2018, 6:32 PM edit delete reply
No one's gonna read this, seeing as there's been an update, but I was referring to worshipping a mere spirit, rather than a deity. I guess 'animism' might have been more accurate than 'pagan'.
JiggilyJoe 7th Jul 2018, 10:30 AM edit delete reply
Just thought of something, would the stone Mason hammer be a better weapon for Justice? Is it a better quality or would it be too heavy?
Some Random Guy 7th Jul 2018, 1:11 PM edit delete reply
Some Random Guy
Her current hammer is made for mining, and is SMALL. This new hammer is made for working with masonry, and was visibly larger on the tool rack in the last room. From these details, it can be assumed that the tool is stronger.
Some Random Guy 7th Jul 2018, 1:13 PM edit delete reply
Some Random Guy
We should quickly check out what all of the mason's tools are, besides the already used hammer and pickaxe. It wouldn't be that long of a thing to do, and will be helpful just in case we need the tools later.
GS 7th Jul 2018, 1:40 PM edit delete reply
Is it just me, or does that shrine look a little bit like a face?