Mana: And so it was written: Pokiehlember 1st, Year 1, Salamander's Day. And the rosy lights strung over the cavern down in Gnome set their warm glow through the windows and the cracks and over the white cloaks of fabric on the furniture in the way that means, well, it may be about time to get up.
Mana: The glow's always there, of course. But sometimes it means different things.
Mana: And now it means "Dawn" .
Mana: Also, there's a sproutling. Just putting that out there.
Rigo cracks open a bleary eye. Regards the sheets draped over the furniture. And the odd little plant thing on the sheets draped over the furniture. "Hmnrgh?"
Mana: And it says: "Hello!"
Rigo closes his eye, reaches out for his wine gourd, and takes a small sip. Which… is about all he's got left at the moment. He swishes the wine around to savor the last of the taste and swallows. "Hello. What are you, and why are we in my house?"
Mana: "I'm a sproutling!"
Rigo: "Ah-huh." He sloooowly sits up. One must be delicate when achieving the vertical at first. "Why are you in my house, sproutling?"
Mana: "Because you're in your house!"
Rigo: "Which is a mystery in its own right. So you're here becuase I'm here. What do you want with me?
Mana: "Did you know that those with pure hearts can go to a whole new world?"
Rigo runs a hand through his hair. "… Sorta? Wait. Is that… a requirement? A pure heart?"
Mana: "Yup!"
Rigo: "Ah. Well, that explains… a definite lack of results, I guess."
Rigo: "You want some breakfast?"
Mana: "Yup!"
Rigo: "Yeah, me too."
Rigo realizes the sproutling can't actually get get it. Chance of plans! He gets up off the couch and wobbles for a minute before heading for the door. "I don't think I've ever seen a sproutling before. Are there many of you around?
Mana: "Nope!" The sproutling says. "Also, you don't have any money."
Rigo: "Yeah, well. One hurdle at a time."
Mana: "Yup." The sproutling says, with a certain note of finality.
Rigo: "So what brings the sproutlings to Titania? I didnt think we were getting any new arrivals since the gate is sealed."
Rigo tucks his fan into his sash and heads for the door.
Mana: The sproutling remains infuriatingly stationary. "Possibly the end of the world! Or the beginning. Hard to tell."
Rigo leans against the doorframe. "Huh. Not much difference sometimes. Aren't you coming?"
Mana: "Nope." The sproutling says. "Sproutlings don't have hearts, so we get drowned out really easily. We're such drama queens!"
Rigo: "Ah. I can imagine not having a heart makes things complicated. Well, what else can you tell me while we're hanging out?"
Mana: The sproutling considers this, kicking its feet about. "I think… Titania is really weird! Cities shouldn't be this much like stories. Something's up!"
Rigo: "Well, if it wasn't like a story, nobody would care. It needs to be an interesting read, y'know? A good story has to really pull the reader in. I mean, have you ever read a book that was about somebodies problems, but it was really boring and you didn't really care? If you haven't, dont read great Expectations."
Mana: "That's the thing!" The sproutling says. "Why is it so important that everyone cares?"
Rigo: "Becuase if nobody cares, nothing happens. You need that connection to convince them to act as an agent of change." A moment of reflection. "Oh. Is that what you're doing here?"
Mana: "It's more of a ceremonial thing." The sproutling admits. "But why do people have to be agents of change? Why can't they just be?"
Rigo: "Most people do. And most of the time that's fine. But sometimes its not enough to just be. You have to… be more."
Mana: The sproutling snorts its best attempt at a derisive snort. (It's chirpy and high-pitched, in a certain monotone way.)
Rigo: "Hey I don't make the rules! Nobody likes a story where anything that is wrong gets miraculously fixed. They need an identifiable protagonist to root for. 'A visible agent of change as opposed to resolution through fortuitous happenstance.' - The Pope in the Dark."
Mana: "It's different if you're inside the story, though!"
Rigo: "Not as much as you might think. It's like a play. Except its all improv and you can't see the audience. But you know what you need to aim the scene at, and you work torward it."
Mana: The sproutling considers this. It looks unconvinced, but also, speechless.
Rigo thinks. "Well OK, maybe you don't know what the scene is aimed at when it starts. But it'll show up. otherwise you just get a big meandering dialogue and eventually that gets boring."
Mana: "Yup. But… stories can be dangerous, too. You can force life into a story, and then life leaks out all over the place! It's no good."
Mana: "But people keep trying it."
Rigo: "Well, sometimes you have to give things a bit of a push. The problem is when you over-do it. Write with a light hand. You can always go back and add more, but it's hard to un-write something."
Mana: "Yup. But now there's a plague and creepy mana monsters and saran wrap and witches and the king of goblins and an homage to an Ursula LeGuin short story and fiends and angels and it is honestly TOO MUCH."
Rigo: "Well. I definitely didn't write all that. But I think… with a little bit of a nudge we can get it all resolved." A quiet pause. "What's a saran wrap?"
Mana: "It's… kind of like… a crackly fabric window? I don't really get what the big deal about it is."
Rigo: "Weird. You sure you don't want breakfast? I think I have a fair amount to do, and I definitely don't want to do it on an empty stomach."
Mana: "Well." The sproutling says. "Okay." And it hops off its perch and ambles after.
Rigo picks the sproutling up and sets it on his shoulder as he leaves his house and strolls through the streets. "There, now you can stay close to my ear so you don't get drowned out so fast. When did the king of goblins come to town?"
Mana: The sproutling considers, leaning against Rigo's head as he ambles into the streets. And the streets are alive in Gnome - with streethawkers and food carts, with reveling parties sitting on steps waiting for another of their number to show up, or discussing amongst themselves where to go next.
Mana: "Not yet! But soon. It's hard to be a king anywhere but Titania, you know."
Rigo blends in with a group around a food cart and scores a breakfast wrap on their tab. It's cool, he'll owe them one. "I didn't know, actually. But I guess the goblins need a king or everything just gets crazy."
Mana: "Well, it's not good to rule over monsters. It's better when they're just sitting around!"
Rigo: "Well if you don't rule over them, you can't make them sit around now can you?"
Rigo: "Besides, being king is possibly the second-worst job in the world. Right below being emperor."
Mana: "Yup." The sproutling says.
Rigo keeps walking, munching on his breakfast wrap. He pulls a piece off and offers it to the sproutling. "So do you have a name?"
Mana: "Yup." The sproutling says.
Rigo: "Will you tell me what it is?"
Rigo isn't dumb, not everything wants to part with a name.
Mana: The sproutling nods: "Yup."
Rigo smiles. "Thank you. What is your name?"
Mana: "Achrandias!"
Rigo: "That is a very interesting name! I do not think I have ever heard it before. So are there other sproutlings talking to other people in the city?"
Mana: "Yup!"
Rigo: "Ah, good. Good. I suspect we'll run into them in time. Or at least I will. You are welcome to hang out with me, of course."
Mana: "Yup!"
Rigo: "Hm. Well, I suppose I had better stop loafing around." His feet turn toward the waterfall spring library… and then past it. Upward through a cave, along a root, and through another cave. towards Dryad, and free beer.
Mana: And so it was - well, not yet. Not quite. But this ink is a bit older than the next.

Mana: And the ink, here, is newer: The Gnome District, if I recall, lamps and sprawling plazas and canopies of red cloth and baggage trains of jangling oxen laden with packs full of strange, jangling goods.
Mana: The morning is loud with jokes and whispers: "Heard they bagged Joch. Saw a bunch of the Dark Guard tromping through the Shade when I was on the way." "They stop ya?" "Didn't see me!"
Mana: From another pair: "Two-four-six-eight-ten?" "You should lock your luggage with something else." "It's easy to remember, though."
Mana: (where was Rigo off to, anyway?)
Rigo just chuckles and shakes his head, making his way through the crowd, headed for his private path into the booze cellars of Wallfast. There may or may not be a sproutling on his shoulder still.
Mana: There is for now. But sproutlings are awfully temporary. Waterfall Spring: The beautiful waterfall that pours down the northeast edge of Gnome, and the gleaming, gilded library built atop it. Vibrant lamps blaze in its gardens with pale green light, perhaps with the kind of light that keeps its blossom-trees glowing even underground. Students dressed in silks discuss matters (philosophy,
Mana: love, poisons, governance) as they walk its paths and play dice in the gardens.
Rigo turns to eye the sproutling. "Do you play chess?"
Mana: "Nope." The sproutling says, with some certainty.
Mana: There's a point and a giggle from one pair as they spot Rigo climbing up the rocks that form a shaky path up to the waterfall cave.
Rigo: "I do. Not very well, though." He scoops up a handful of water for himself, and then one for the sproutling if it's thirsty. It looks like a plant, it might need watering. He turns to wave at the pointing couple below, mimics almost falling, and smoothly vanishes behind the waterfall.
Mana: The sproutling happily accepts a splash of water upon its brow.
Mana: There's a laugh at the showmanship from the pair. "Look! He slipped behind it! Secret paths, my friend." "Oh, they have those everywhere."
[OOC] Mana: The Waterfall Cave.] Huge, flat mushrooms act as disclike platforms, jutting out from the wall above a chasm that descends deep into the earth. Glowing beetles (and glowing cocoons) nest on the huge, weathered roots that sink down from the earth above, shedding a faint light on the precarious path forwards - and upwards.
Rigo strides from mushroom to mushroom, a familair path. "I like it in here. It's very peaceful."
Mana: "I like the sound of water." The sproutling offers.
Rigo: "Yeah, me too."
Mana: There's a monk up ahead, resting in the light of a particularly enormous cocoon. The beetle inside, mid-metamorphosis, is snoring gently.
Mana: The monk, however, is wounded. He looks up at Rigo's approach. Though not very far up.
Rigo is quiet, so as not to disturb the beetle. "Greetings, friend." He hunkers down by the injured man.
Mana: "And same to you." He's wrapped head to toe in cloth, with worrying red stains across his waist and near his brow. The light in his eyes is faint.
Rigo: "I'd offer you something for your injuries, but I haven't even a sip of wine left in my gourd. D'you have any money? I can always jog down to Strange Medicine, seeing as how you're in no shape to do it yourself…"
Mana: The cloth furrows as he forces a smile. "We're all on bad times lately, aren't we?"
Rigo: "And getting worse, I suspect. But really, is there anything I can do for you?"
Mana: "I'm a brother of Wallfast." The monk explains. "But my brother… not a brother brother, but merely a brother of a brother- grew up to be a knight. If you could tell him what happened to Wallfast - that we've been seized in the claws of Prince Hawk -"
Mana: "Then my soul would rest with ease in Paradise."
Rigo nods. "What's Prince Hawk like, anyway? I suspect I may need to deal with him if I want some of my- your beer."
Mana: "He's a six-armed warrior who found religion, and worries deeply for his immortal soul."
Mana: "So, the mind thinks, who can you get to write you new religion?"
Rigo: "Religion does have a habit of giving you that worry."
Mana: "So, the brothers write day and night, trying to lay the world out in a way that works for a hawk."
Rigo: "Aha."
Rigo: "And not being harks themselves, I suspect the results are never satisfactory."
Mana: "Mmm. And if somebody just tries to butter him up, he tosses the book out as insincere lies."
Mana: "…Maybe he just wants to eat monks."
Rigo: "That doesn't sound particularly spiritual. Filling, but not spiritual."
Rigo: "So which of your brothers brothers am I taking this message to? And where might I find him?"
Mana: "So, " When I nourish my stomach, my heart can catch up how it wishes. ". And… he's a solar knight, keeping stead in Wisp. Rugemont."
Rigo: "Wisp…" A puff of breath. "I'll need a pass. Alright." A contemplative pause. "Alright, yeah. Hey, any of his underlings in your beer cellar when you came down this way?"
Mana: "Nothing he rules. But a monster, or so. I'd be wary."
Rigo: "Yeah, I'll do that." Another pause. "Gonna deliver that message so your soul is fine, anything I can do for your mortal shell here?"
Mana: "We're both broke, and I'm not moving. But if you can get me any treatment at all, I'd appreciate it."
Rigo straightens up and adjusts his robe. "Alright, let me see what I can do. Try not to kick off while I'm gone, yeah?"
Mana: He nods, accepting it as his solemn duty.
Rigo turns and heads back towards Gnome, checking his shoulder for a sproutling passenger.
Mana: Yup, still there.
Mana: He holds on tightly as you skip down the rocks back to the District proper.
Rigo: "Oho, thought you mighta slipped away while I was talking. Glad you didn't, I enjoy the company." A puff of breath. "Poor guy. Hopefully I can get him a little charity." Back through the waterfall and down the rocks again.
Mana: There's a warmth deep in the earth in Gnome today, so it's not too unpleasant to be wet. Where to?
Rigo is taking a casually direct stroll to Strange Medicine! He ducks in the door and looks around.
Mana: The smell of tea, herbs, and smoke - a low-ceilinged cafe with low, round tables and vast seas of pillows. The hostess, who guards her name, smiles and bows to you as the bell over the door rings on the way in. She wears a porcelain bull-skull mask and a daring blue dress.
Mana: The other patrons - some are taking breakfast tea. Others are slung out around a bubbling glass pipe, their mortal shells here, their thoughts elsewhere.
Mana: Racks upon racks of bottles behind the front bar are filled with things bubbling, pickling, shining. The newt swimming about that jar of green fluid seems to be alive.
Rigo smiles at th hostess and takes a longing look at the pipe, but then shakes his head and moves over to the counter. A puff of breath. "Don't suppose you might indluge in some charity for a dying man?"
Mana: The hostess taps the snout of her mask. "Are you dying, Rigo, or is it another?"
Mana: A middle-aged man is lying atop one of the tables in the far corner, his shirt off as one of the Medicine's attendants delivers to him a massage with a tub of some sort of deep-red paste. It's dying his skin outrageously.
Rigo chuckles. "We're all dying, when you get down to it. But I'm taking the long way, and this gentleman is not. Found him up in a cave behind the waterfall. Blood here," a finger traces his brow, "and here," his thumb drags over the lowest expanse of stomach bared by his robe. "And the both of us broke, or I'd not be asking for a handout."
Mana: She lifts the snout of her mask, revealing a smile for a moment, as she grabs a jar and hands it to Rigo. [Poto Oil - Medicine: restores 20xWIL HP. Potos are endangered, so this better be worth it.]
Mana: "With my compliments. And now I know you to never refuse someone in need."
Mana: She lowers the mask once more.
Rigo smiles. "It's only right. One of these days it might be me lying there, spirits forbid. I owe you one." He offers her a courteous bow. "Doubly so if you ever actually need me."
Mana: She folds her arm across her waist and offers a deep bow in parody of Rigo's. (Which has a certain thrill.) "Of course. We look forward to seeing you again."
Rigo grins rakishly. "Likewise." And with that he turns and hustles back through the comforting chaos of Gnome. "That was nice of her, don't you think?"
Mana: The sproutling agrees with a quiet "Yup."
Rigo: "I like looking out for people, I guess. It's good to have friends. A lot of people would just do it for the favor, but… that seems kinda calculating. I mean, I definitely hope if it comes down to it, this guy will back me up if I'm in a corner. But I'm not gonna make him feel obligated, yeah? That's just rude."
Mana: "I think a lot of people do things for favors, but they like to be nice, too."
Rigo: "Yeah. It's handy to be owed favors. But it's not cool to expect them." He tucks the oil into his sash and starts climbing the rocks by the waterfall again. "So, saran wrap, goblins, spooky myth monsters, the plague… You're right, it really is just too much. And I can't expect you to hang out with me forever. You've probably got other stuff to do at some point."
Mana: "Yup." The sproutling says. "Maybe when you get to the top of the waterfall. Climbing it myself would be hard!"
Rigo: "That sounds like a plan. Glad I could help you!" A few more minutes and he's behind the waterfall again. He picks the sproutling up and sets him down on one of the giant mushrooms. "There you go, man. It was nice to meet you."
Mana: "Yup!" The sproutling says. "Goodbye!"
Rigo: "Goodbye!" And off he goes toward the injured monk.
Mana: He's, well, where you left him.
Rigo is quiet, still mindful of the beetle. "You still with me, man?"
Mana: The beetle (Or the insect halfway between being a beetle and being something else.) snores softly.
Mana: "So I am." The monk says.
Rigo heaves a quiet sigh of relief. "Good stuff, good stuff." He dips into his sash and comes up with the bottle of Poto Oil. "Little bit of charity from a new friend. Stay still." Rigo sets about carefully parting wrappings and applying medicine. "Once we get you on your feet, maybe we can go see Rugemont."
Mana: The medicine sets in, and he rises to his feet. "…Surprising. But I don't mind."
Rigo: "Yeah well, it's like the song says. You get by with a little help from your friends. I'm Rigo, by the way."
Mana: He starts to bow, but then stops as he begins the motion. "Brother Lun."
Rigo steps in to get an arm under the monk's shoulders. "Easy, Brother Lun. Poto Oil is potent stuff, but it'll take some time to get you back all the way. Lets see about getting you to Wisp." And he begins leading the man towards Gnome proper. "Man, I definitely didn't expect all of this. I was just going for some beer."
Mana: Another thing Rigo likely didn't expect is a sudden clatter of flapping and a bat with a cork in its mouth to swoop down on you from somewhere in the cavern above.
Mana: Battle order: Rigo [F]:0 Corked Bat [F]:0.
Mana: Rigo?
Rigo responds with the calm cool collected grace of the professional drunk. "Ack!" And then he whips out his fan to smack the incoming beast!
Rigo rolled 1d100 and got 19 ( Total: 19 ) for 80 ACC, 32D
Mana: It's a hit!
Rigo rolled 1d6+60 and got 3 ( Total: 63.0 )
Mana: THWACK! [63]! The bat spins about and flaps a bit away, its swoop deflected. It's beginning to cast a spell! [Deprotect in CT10, now!]
Mana: Beams of blue energy lance through Rigo!
Mana rolled 1d100 and got 13 ( Total: 13 ) for C75
Mana: He's Deprotected, (5)!
Rigo snaps open his fan, some of that blue energy forming into a rune on the paper. [Esoterica]
[OOC] Mana: Esoterica is statuses you inflict or bestow, not ones inflicted on you. Though, whoah, why did I not write an essential that puts incoming statuses in your Esoterica as a passive? Remind me to add that, that's so cool.
Mana: That damn bat's fast! The bat puffs out its cheeks… [Cork Shot in CT25]
Mana: Battle order: Rigo [F]:0 Corked Bat [F]:24
Mana: Status for Corked Bat [F] : [==========]
Mana: Rigo!
[OOC] Mana: oh wait one sec
[OOC] Rigo: oh shit oops! Also I think Bullet Catch behind the Shade Lock I am doublechecking to be sure.
Mana: Status for Corked Bat [F] : [======= ]
[OOC] Mana: hmm yes synergy with Bullet Catch might be why. I'll ask Ice about it.
[OOC] Rigo: or no wait I was thinking of Quick Compliation which still doesn't actually work on enemies! Carrying on.
Rigo conjures up a small green mist around the bat. [Poison, CT10 now! And then 22D]
Rigo rolled 1d100 and got 63 ( Total: 63 ) for 70 CoD
[OOC] Rigo: Poison (5)!
Mana: It coughs! Or at least, it bumbles about in mid-air and its cheeks puff up a few times as its belly shudders. Poison (5)!
Mana: However, after one final cough it fires the cork in its mouth at Rigo!
Mana rolled 1d100 and got 53 ( Total: 53 ) for 80-Evasion
Rigo gets poppoed!
Mana rolled 1d10+84*1.25 and got 10 ( Total: 115.0 ) for boosted by deprotect
Mana: Hitting him in the brow for a whopping 115 physical damage! The bat suffers from poison!
Mana: Battle order: Rigo [F]:0 Corked Bat [F]:33
Mana: Status for Corked Bat [F] : [====== ]
[OOC] Rigo: [F] HP: 180/275 | MP: 227/275 | SoS: 68 | Deprotect (4)
Rigo wallops the bat with his fan again. [Normal Attack, 32D]
Rigo rolled 1d100 and got 43 ( Total: 43 ) for 80 ACC
Rigo rolled 1d6+60 and got 5 ( Total: 65.0 )
Mana: Hits for [65]! Rigo, again!
Mana: Battle order: Rigo [F]:0 Corked Bat [F]:2
Mana: Status for Corked Bat [F] : [== ]
Rigo has faith in his trusty fan! [Normal Attack, 32D]
Rigo rolled 1d100 and got 98 ( Total: 98 ) for 80 ACC
Rigo 's faith is MISPLACED.
Mana: The bat charges a spell, and blue light glows around it [Heal in CT15… now!]
Mana: Glowing light restores its health!
Mana rolled 1d12+84 and got 3 ( Total: 87.0 )
Mana: It suffers from poison!
Mana: Battle order: Rigo [F]:0 Corked Bat [F]:11
Mana: Status for Corked Bat [F] : [===== ]
Mana: Rigo!
Rigo: "That's a handy trick." Another swift blow from the folded fan.
Rigo rolled 1d100 and got 4 ( Total: 4 ) for 80 ACC
Rigo rolled 1d6+60 and got 2 ( Total: 62.0 )
Mana: Hits! [62]!
Mana: It swoops at Rigo!
Mana rolled 1d100 and got 54 ( Total: 54 ) for C80
Mana rolled d8+42*1.25 and got 2 ( Total: 54.5 )
Mana: Hitting into deprotect for 54 physical damage!
Mana: It suffers from Poison! Rigo!
Mana: Battle order: Rigo [F]:0 Corked Bat [F]:11
Mana: Status for Corked Bat [F] : [== ]
Rigo tries to swat the bat out of the air again. [Normal Attack, 32D]
Rigo rolled 1d100 and got 26 ( Total: 26 ) for 80 ACC
Rigo rolled 1d6+60 and got 3 ( Total: 63.0 )
Mana: Hits! [63]! It explodes into a puff of smoke and a clatter of bones.
[OOC] Mana: Got 150 EXP. Got 30 Lucre. Got 2 AP.
Mana rolled 1d100 and got 53 ( Total: 53 )
Rigo folds his fan and tucks it back into his sash. "Phew. Now, where were we?"
Mana: The monk turns to look at where it was. "Those are rather irritating, aren't they?"
Mana: The light leading out past the waterfall is just ahead.
Rigo: "Could have done without, yeah. You gonna be able to make the climb, or are you piggybackin'?" "
Mana: "Down's easier than up. I'll take it slow."
Rigo: "Alright. I'll go first in case I need to catch you." And he does.
Mana: The monk begins descending.
Mana: After quite some time, he reaches the bottom.
Mana: The sproutling waves to the two of you as you pass him.
Mana: "I will admit," the monk says. "I've never been to Gnome. And I have no idea how to navigate it."
Rigo: "Fortunately, I live here. And I do."
Mana: "So there is luck in the universe. Where to?"
Rigo: "Gonna have to go the long way, unfortunately. Into Shade and then up."
Rigo: "The short way would have been back the way I found you into Dryad, but I figured you've had more than anough of Prince hawk, yeah?"
Mana: The monk frowns. "Yes. So I have. So…."
Mana: "…how is living in Gnome? I've heard good things."
Rigo: "Well, I like it. The people are friendly. Roads are more than a little haphazard, but civic engineering is for suckers anyway."
Mana: "I might deign to stay a day. I don't fancy my chances traveling the Shade today."
Rigo: "Definitely not, yeah." A puff of air. "You can stay at my place."
Mana: "Ah, why thank you!"
Rigo: "No worries. It's a little run down, I don't spend much time there, but the furniture is comfy. And I figure since I'm the one that hauled you out of the cave, it'd be rude tio put you on someone elses couch."
Mana: "Likely in better shape than the Wallfast. Do lead the way."
Rigo does exactly that, leading the monk by the… least complicated path. Which isn't saying much but it's saying something. "Welcome to my humble abode. bedrooms are down the hall to the left and right on the end, bathroom on the right before that. Kitchen's through that door. There's… not much in the way of food. Like I said, I'm not home much."
Mana: "I'm a monk." Brother Lun says. "Feeding ourselves is our way in the world."
Rigo: "Mm. My way is the food cart a couple blocks back. I'd be a terrible monk."
Mana: "If it works." He says, taking a seat upon the couch. "It works."
Rigo: "It has so far." he putters around for a minute. "Man I don't even have the stuff to offer you a drink. Here, you lay up and just be comfy. I'm gonna head out, see what I can dig up."
Mana: "Yes. Good travels."
Rigo: "Rest well."
Rigo closes the door behind him and heads back out into the familiar chaos of Gnome.
Rigo ponders for a minute, then realizes he should… probably make sure he actually knows where he is going tomorrow. And heads for Shade.
Mana: There's a squabble between the woman at the gates into Gnome and a member of the Imperial Guard.
Mana: "You'll have to let me into the city. we're looking for someone."
Mana: She crosses her legs atop her perch. "What city? I don't see any city."
Mana: "It's right behind you! Someone just came out of it!" "Pardon?"
Rigo turns and looks over his shoulder.
Rigo: "I don't see anybody."
Mana: "He's right." The gatekeeper says. "Neither do I. You're being ridiculous."
Rigo: "Who are they looking for, anyway?"
Mana: "I heard Joch got bagged." The gatekeeper says. "But they're still looking for him."
Rigo: "Oh huh. Well, presuming there was such a place as a secret city, and further presuming I knew the people there pretty well, I could hypothetically tell them he aint there. In theory."
Mana: The guard angrily shakes his head. "Which means… he is there! And there is a city!"
Mana: "Wrong on both points." The gatekeeper says.
Rigo: "Man you suck at this game."
Mana: The guard turns around and walks off in a huff.
Rigo: "So hang on, if they already arrested him, why're they still looking for him? One would assume the simple act of throwing someone in jail leaves you with relatively solid evidence of where they are."
Mana: "Something…" The gatekeeper it says, taking out a cigarette and lighting it. "…silly… is happening. Is my guess."
Rigo: "Sounds about right." A moment's pause as he considers the strange man in his house. Nah. "So what's the latest Shade report? I've gotta be heading upside tomorrow with a friend."
Mana: "Bad. The Black Caravan's out of commission. If I was going to suggest a road…" She stops to think.
Rigo whistles. "No caravan? I'm definitely all ears now."
Mana: "They ran into something bad last night. I think they're holed up on West Pipe, but I've heard it's crawling with monsters."
Rigo: "Mmph. It would be."
Mana: "…Might be able to get you through to Undine, but even that's risky."
Rigo: "That would work. He's got family in Wisp he needs to get ahold of."
Mana: "Yeah. Once you get into Undine, the hunk of junk tending bar at Monkey Do should be able to get you two through."
Rigo nods. "Been a while since I've been upstairs. Good to know that place is still there."
Mana: "Okay, so-" She points. "Head out from here, break left onto Whisper Causeway. When you pass the waterfall, scale it up into the Vertical Market. That's runoff from the cooling pipeline that runs out from Salamander to Undine."
Rigo nods. "Sounds simple enough to follow." A puff of air. "Imperial Guards at the gate to Gnome. Something silly is definitely happening."
Rigo: "No need to get up, I'll let myself out."
Rigo slips out into Shade. He's got a path to doublecheck.
Mana: Whisper Causeway - ancient, forgotten bridges, arcing from one spire of ruined rock to another through the darkness.
Mana: Pools of glowing silver liquid rest in stone basins, and a strangely warm wind blows through the long corridor. There's almost no light, and the ground makes shifting noises underneath the occasional step.
Rigo quietly mourns his empty gourd. A little booze would have made this walk much more tolerable. Ah well. He keeps his eyes peeled just in case.
Mana: You carefully evade the notice of a monster - a green-colored bubble of slime with a leering, toothy grin - on the way to the waterfall. (Unless you decide to engage. But it's not too alert, right now.)
Rigo is still a little sore after the bat. Discretion is definitely the better part of valor.
Mana: Underneath the waterfall, within the gleaming fog of the Shade, is a giant. His eyes are bound with an iron band, and his feet are bare. A red bandanna is wrapped around his neck and chin - it's embroidered with a big, white grin.
Rigo regards the giant. That's definitely a friendly enough smile. And it probably has many a tale to tell, if its inclined. On the other hand, he doesn't have much to offer it in return. So rather than strike up a conversation, he just prepares himself for some more climbing.
Mana: It'll be a Climbing / Jumping 70 check.
Mana: It asks, in a low voice, as you get closer: "Who is it?"
Rigo pauses, hand on a rock. "Rigo Seres. Just passing through, didn't mean to disturb you."
Mana: "I don't know who that is." The giant says.
Rigo: "Yeah, we've never met. I live in Gnome. On my way up to the market."
Mana: "That's not a good place. You should be careful."
Rigo: "That is the plan. Just passing through there too."
Mana: "Yes." The giant says. "See you later."
Mana: (It then laughs, twice.)
Rigo chuckles. "If we're both lucky. Maybe next time I pass buy I'll have a drink to share."
Rigo then digs into the rock and starts climbing.
Rigo rolled 1d100 and got 32 ( Total: 32 ) for 70 CoS
Mana: You ascend through cold water up into the Vertical Market -
Mana: A long, ancient city promenade, at a steep, almost 60 degree slant. Its tiles are immaculate, stores with glass display windows lining either side.
Mana: A flood of water runs down the middle of its arcade, pooling in some of a fountain halfway up, and spilling out of it on the far side.
Rigo strolls along, content to take in the sights and follow the water up.
Mana: It's slow going. And the ground doesn't offer good purchase for your wet feet. And-
Mana: About a quarter way up, there's a low, deep rumbling, the sound of air, and you can feel the ground shiiift beneath your feet as the far end of the market rises.
Rigo: "Oop!" He sidesteps into a convenient doorway to brace against the frame.
Mana: All the clothing racks in the store you duck into go rolllling down to one end of the store as the market tilts.
Mana: And then, after a moment, there's a distant noise like thunder, and the market slowly lowers back to what it was.
Rigo looks at the shopkeeper. "What's that all about?"
Mana: The market's long abandoned. The stores, all empty. (But it did seem like there was someone in here with you, didn't there?)
Rigo shrugs. Funny way to run a business. And off he goes again.
Mana: Something rises up from the pile of clothes with a clatter as you slip out the door of the clothing store.
Mana: It's following slowly, but you see it crawl out the door as you pass a row of bolted-on benches and a lamp-post near the fountain.
Mana: It's a mummy with a black rotary telephone for a head.
Rigo definitely spares it a backward glance, but only casually. As long as it stays back there, things are fine.
Mana: It does not seem to be staying back there, no. Climbing 70 if you continue the ascent in a straightforward fashion?
Rigo tsks. "Right right."
Rigo rolled 1d100 and got 11 ( Total: 11 ) for 70 CoS
Mana: You make it up to the far side, the jagged wall of exposed pipes from which the waterfall is pouring, just as the market heaves and tilts and falls to a straight drop beneath you.
Mana: But you're out of it, now. So you don't care, as the mummy slides away from you, far below.
Rigo: "Whoop!"
Rigo grabs a broken pipe, reaches over to hang from a weld, and then starts looking for something a little more stable to head up.
Mana: And from there it's a quick scramble up onto the Cooling Pipeline. The water falling on you for this ascent is warmer.
Mana: You can walk downflow from here to Undine, or upflow to Salamander.
Rigo heads downflow for now, he needs to see a man about a horse. Or at least, a bartender about some papers.
Mana: A strange creature, vaguely translucent, almost made of fog crosses your path, heading the other way. It has a round head, and it walks with its body arched over, two front legs like spires, two back legs like thick trunks. Its buttocks are bare.
Rigo arches an eyebrow. But lets it go in peace.
Mana: It swivels its head over at you and smiles noiselessly for a moment, then continues onwards.
Rigo hikes onward, suddenly cheered at the prospect of being able to buy something to drink at the Monkey Do.
Mana: You can see the morning-colored light up ahead.
Mana: And so it was written.

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