Thursday, April 28, 2016

Adventure: The Witch's Friend (update 7)

Introducing The Witch's Friend!

This adventure will be a bit of a different CYOA, focusing on probably one particular transformation rather than a bunch of branches and endings. It will also be run differently; rather than me coming up with a bunch of directions a particular page can go to, every page's comment section is a forum for suggestions on what should happen next.

I will basically pick my favorite suggestion(s) from those given, and branch off events from each. More than one mutually compatible suggestion may make it into the same page after the one in which they are suggested.

What's New? 
Update 0-It exists! Now seeking suggestions for moving forward from the beginning.
Update 1-Two branches begun! Fair warning, even events and facts prior to the story's beginning may differ from one branch to another until established somewhere along the branch.
Update 2-One step forward added to each of U1's branches.
Update 3-3 new bits, one of which has an image! I've amended the section above to reflect the reality that suggestions don't really just decide what the main character does next, but may dictate what other characters do and even events not connected to any character at all.
Update 4-4 new pieces (don't expect this pattern to continue though, honestly)!
Update 5-3 new pieces, one of which has an image!
Update 6-1 new piece; small update.
Update 7-3 new pieces, all three of which have an image! (Used to be 2 but I decided to add a 3rd the next day)

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

The "Best" RPG Ever-18

The trip back along the corridor was largely uneventful, especially since Zack had moved most of the debris directly in their way aside on the way in. The end of that trip was somewhat more eventful, as the group found a wall where the entrance to the theater had been.
"...Well. I can't say this was entirely unexpected." Katherine walked up to the wall and knocked on a few places. "Seems solid enough to me."
"Any sign of the thing we were chasing?" said Zack, looking to the elf girl.
Nora closed her eyes again, and sniffed a couple of times. "..No. Wh-whatever's going on here..that things not doing it. At least...not actively, right now."
"We should probably treat this as a separate problem," said the knight. "This is probably the kind of castle with secret passages all over the place that still work somehow despite being way too old to, so if there's a way for a wall to appear, there's a way to move it back to wherever it came from." He closed his eyes and sniffed the air a couple of times, turning slowly away from the wall and to one side.

"What do you smell, Lassie?" said Mika, which Zack responded to by opening his eyes to glare at her for a good few seconds.
Once it had been long enough (even though the witch hardly responded to the glaring at all), he said, "There's a different kind of air coming from over this way," and started toward a room off the corridor they hadn't checked before. The path inside was fairly clear, but the room had a bunch of fallen shelves and broken glass all over the place.
He turned back around, looking at his party members' feet for a second or two. "..Why am I the only one with good shoes?"
Nora started, "W-well--"
"I know about you."
"Hey, I'm wearing shoes," said Mika.
"Good shoes," he repeated, and then started his way through the room, the glass crunching under the metal boots of his armor. The shelves that were still standing had vials and bottles on them, the majority of which had jagged edges instead of top halves; after the first few steps, the knight pulled his tail around his waist carefully and held on to it with one arm, not trusting to keep itself out of trouble in this space.

"Hey, do you hear some armor clinking around?" said Katherine from outside.
"Yeah, I'm wearing it."
"Duh. I mean farther off!"
Zack paused, closed his eyes again and listening. He could feel his ears twitching around at something...there was a distant sound of metal against metal somewhere. He turned his head slowly in the direction the sound seemed to be coming from and opened them again. "Sounds like it's somewhere past our wall, getting closer. We won't have to deal with it until we've figured this out."
"Well, do you see anything in there?"
"Not yet, hang on." He tried to pick up the scent from earlier, and carefully followed it a little deeper in the room, going in the direction of the theater. After a moment it was too dark to see. "Mika, can your light get in here for a minute?"
"Sure!" The witch leaned her head partially into the doorway and the glowing orb sailed over to just above Zack's head, before starting a little figure-8 pattern. "Hey! Listen! Hey!"
"Just hold it still for a minute!"
"Okay, okay. I was just goin' for a little levity, you know? With a reference and stuff?"
"I get the reference. I'd appreciate it a lot more while not in a ghost castle, and not trying to do something."

There was a rusty lion-faced knocker on the wall in front of him. "I'm gonna try something. If you're close to the wall get away from it." He reached out and tried pulling the knocker back and forth a few times, producing a few solid clacks against the wall behind it. Nothing really happened. "Hmm..."
The knocker felt loose when he pulled on it, though. Like it was able to move from side to side. He pulled the ring out toward him again and then tried shifting it to the right. It jiggled slightly but didn't move. Then he tried pulling it to the left. It started to move very slightly, and he let go of his tail to hold and pull it with both hands, trying to keep the excess appendage still while doing so.

There was a loud grinding sound of something moving across a rusty track. The knocker was only moving a little at a time, and now that he was moving it he could see a little track in this room's wall for it to move along,but it sounded like the wall was moving much more at a time. After a few seconds' pulling he let go, panting from the effort. "Is the wall open now?"
"Well, it certainly moved," said Katherine.
"Uh, there's an opening on the right side, I think I could squeeze through," added Nora.
"Tell me when there's enough room to just walk through. Hngh!" He started again, wondering how in the world they had managed to not hear this kind of movement whenever it had happened before.
"I can't see too well but I think this is enough," said Katherine.
"I got it!" Mika swung the light back through the door to the corridor. "Whoa! Uh-oh."



"Hmm..." Rayna had been half-joking about the bath, but now she found herself looking at the bathroom included with the bedroom she and Lynn had had rented for them by the guard, recalling the tub in there, and seriously considering it. After all, they'd been in this world more than long enough to need one by now, by usual standards. It was just...

She went ahead and got to work removing her furisode, placing it on the bed before going inside. Still in her underwear, she looked in the mirror..trying to get used to what was looking back. She'd put on a show of liking this form, this name, and all that, and well, she did like it. It was just a little hard to get used to actually being a woman now, and somehow wearing clothes had made it an easier issue to ignore. She didn't want to talk about this with Lynn after encouraging her to accept things as they were, and Aria, in addition to seemingly being a little insane even before the game and this demon-sword business, was not a long-time friend she could talk about this kind of thing with.

Rayna ran a hand over one of her big, fuzzy ears. The fur was soft, but had some rough spots and bits of plants and dirt stuck in it. It really did need a cleaning...and somehow rubbing the ear felt nice. Not extremely so, but in a calming, comforting sort of way. She took a deep breath, made sure the bathroom door was locked, and got on with the rest of disrobing. "No time like the present to face one's fears," she muttered to herself. She'd heard that in a game once.



If magic has one thing over science, it's healing. With science, an entire bruised side and possibly a cracked rib means being immobile for weeks and maybe never being back to full health at all, maybe even surgery if you're unlucky. With magic, well...Lynn was sitting up on the bed with some bandages wrapped around her midsection in relatively little pain and it was only half an hour or so since getting back to town.

The healer, a taller, older-looking woman and apparently an elf by the ears, was telling her to take it easy for the next few hours while the potion did the rest of its work—whatever that was—with occasional interjections to the tune of 'be more careful next time'. Lynn half-listened and nodded when appropriate, not having planned on leaving town for the entire remainder of the day and night if possible. Near what seemed like the third or fourth ending of the lecture came a knock on the door.

"Come in," said the healer. The door opened, and a familiar wolf-eared guard walked in, still out of his helmet for the moment.
"Hey Rast. Come to check up on me?" said Lynn faster than she could think about it. Whoa hold on was that—am I—?
"Er, uh," he stammered for a second or two before recovering. "Ah, Cap sent me to let you know the guard's handling your healer fees," he said.
I actually was I was flirting with him and he picked up on it too what am I doing!? "Ah—that's good," said the archer, eager to cut off the internal dialogue. "Thank you. I mean—thank the, thank her."
Rast nodded. "It's pretty standard for guard-request missions, 'slong as the budget holds out. Normal folk won't always have enough to cover healing, but we try to help with that when we can, too."

Turning to the healer (who had just stayed quiet up to this point, enough for Lynn to have mostly forgotten she was there), he said, "How's she holdin' up, Doc?"
"The potion took hold, no irregularities thus far. She should be fine by tomorrow morning," said the healer (was she also a doctor? wondered Lynn. Was there even a difference?).
"Good ta hear. I'll get outta your way, then."
"Oh, we were just finishing up anyway. You can take her with you if you want." The doctor's voice was exactly as even and level as always, making it very hard to tell if she was aware of how that sounded.

"Uh—oh, uh, no, we uh, got a report from a teammate already." Still visibly flustered, Rast hurried out the door.
"Do you have any further questions?" said the healer.
"Um..no." Lynn had already asked all the questions she'd wanted to about how the potion worked, what could go wrong and how to know if something was, besides which she really wanted to talk to someone before they got away. She stood up and offered the healer-doctor a handshake. "Thank you."
"Pleasure," she responded flatly with a curt, single up-down shake.

Lynn made it outside the building in time to be just a few steps behind her quarry. "Hey, wait up," she said, hurrying to get beside him.
"Oh, uh..hi 'gain," he said. "You forget somethin'?"
"Well, no, it's just, uh..." Lynn had asked people out before. As a guy, asking a girl out. This still felt remarkably awkward. "I was wondering if—I mean, when, what kind of shifts do you have?"
"Er..it changes pretty often, this month I'm free after sunset. Cap don't want to stick anyone with the night shift for too long. How come?"
"W-well...I'm not sure how—I mean, maybe, how would you like to. Do you know any good places to eat in this town?" she said, abruptly changing course. "Since I just got here, uh, maybe you could show me somewhere you like and I could buy you a meal there?"
"Aww, you don't have to do that. I could just tell you about some of my favorite places if you'd like.
"Yeah but I want to—. I mean, I'd like it if we could talk over supper sometime, and the best way I can think of to guarantee you'd be there is to offer you a free meal," she said finally.

Rast cocked his head a little to the side. "You sure? Your party's just gettin' started. I'd hate to burden ya when you're just getting on your feet."
"Well, don't pick an expensive place then. And the next one could be your treat if you really want."
After thinking for a moment, the wolf-guy nodded. "Alright. How's tomorrow night sound? Meet you in front of the Broken Dragon?"
"That'd be fine. Just, whenever you're off. I'll try and be there around sunset."
"Okay. See you then. Try an' get some rest so you heal up tonight, hear?" Lynn nodded, and stopped. As the guard walked away, she noticed that his tail was wagging...and that was..kind of cute? Not the kind of thing she ever would have thought before.



"What? Is the next room caved in or something?" Zack turned around, trying to figure out if he could navigate back through this room without a light and still avoid the broken glass. His eyes did seem to adjust to the dark fairly well...
"Uh, no, there's a..suit of armor in there that wasn't there before," answered Katherine. "Holding a huge spear. With a glowy eye."
"Is it the thing we saw before?"
"I, uh, I don't think so," said Nora. "I can't tell much at this distance but it feels like a lot of metal."
"It's kinda creepy 'cause it's just standing there, but it feels like it's staring at us," said Mika.
"Well, get me a light so I can come back and look at it."
"Oh! Yeah, sure."

Back outside, Zack looked at the armor for himself. As soon as he saw the bit of glowing red on the left side of its visor, he felt all of his fur standing on end, and his heart moving a little faster. Something about it woke up his fight-or-flight response, and he had to take a deep breath and look away to calm down.
"Okay, well, it's not attacking us right now. Does it have a mind?"
"Nothing I can feel," said the psion.
"So...so, it'll probably just keep standing there unless we do something it doesn't want us to. I'm gonna try going out there and keeping my distance...be ready for a fight."

The instant the knight was past the floor that had been a wall before, the armor raised its spear and with what seemed like a flick of its gauntlet-wrist, threw it full-force at him. Zack had been watching it as best he could without looking at its eye, and managed to bring up his shield just in time. "Gah!" The spear hit with enough force to make a visible spiderweb of cracks in whatever clear magical stuff the shield was made of and bruise the arm behind it.

As soon as the spear was loose, the armor had drawn a sword about the size of Zack's and started to rush toward him with it. He jumped to one side out of its downward swipe, and rolled under a follow-up swipe at his midsection. The recovery time from that attack was just long enough for him to stand up and hold his own blade in both hands, catching the next shot with it. The impact hurt, and the armor kept pressing on his sword, trying to force it out of his hand.
"Nngh...It's way too strong! Get out of here, I'll try to distract it!"

Zack heard the rest of the party coming out, and the thought he heard them leaving. He managed to slide his blade up and around his opponent's sword and duck under another swing, backing away. It raised its weapon again. It was about to take a diagonal swing but he couldn't tell which way; he felt the tip of his tail touching a wall, so he was positioned wrong to back up again. Before it could attack, though, there was a loud, hollow ting of a knife hitting the armor in the back.

It made a full 180 faster than seemed possible and advanced on Katherine, who had been behind it. "What are y—"
"I think you forgot that—" She danced around a series of three or four strikes that ended with the armor's blade half-stuck in the ground. "—I am way better at dodging than you are."
The catgirl tried sticking a knife straight into the visor's hole, but it slid through and didn't actually hit anything. She hopped back from another couple of attacks. "Are we seriously just fighting a suit of armor here?"
"We're not fighting it, we're trying to get away from it!" Having moved to a better position, Zack tapped the armor's side with the tip of his sword and jumped well out of its range, accurately predicting that its response would begin with a few blind strikes in his general direction.
"Well, I'm not really a fan of this thing following us all the way to town."

"We'll worry about that if it follows us out into the open." When the armor came at him again, the knight decided to try shifting forms: His shield wasn't doing much good anyway, and the problem seemed to be one of raw strength. He put up his main sword in its attack path and automatically held out his other hand to catch the slimmer second blade as it appeared, his clothes rapidly shifting back to the brighter colors they had started with. He swung the second blade at the tip of his opponent's weapon, hoping to leverage it out of its grip. It didn't work, but the armor did have to back away for once.
So the plan is to run from it? Katherine said, using mental communication.
Zack nodded. He moved as if to make an X-shaped strike at the armor's center, and when it put up its sword to block, he ran straight around it, in the direction of the entrance to the theater chamber.

The armor gave chase to both of them, and was getting back into sword-range about the time they made it to the mouth of the corridor they'd come in through. They went in opposite directions around a vertical chop, and Zack swung his own sword at its middle. The armor's sword went up in more than enough time to block, and their blades locked again. He smacked the flat of the blade with the thin sword and then pulled away the wider one, pushing the armor's sword gauntlet into an awkward position, and then tried a straight kick to its leg.
This didn't accomplish much; it felt like he was just kicking a statue, and he had to awkwardly hop back out of another swing from it.
Katherine got its attention again, flinging both of her knives at its back. It reacted as if she had been physically holding them and swung itself visibly off-balance. Zack tried to knock it over again, this time hitting its side full-force with both blades in the direction it was already leaning toward, and this time he managed to make it stumble slightly. It still didn't go down, but that bought enough time for both of them to run into the hall and several yards through.

The hallway was wide enough for two but not for three, and both of them realized that whenever the armor caught up they wouldn't be able to maneuver around it nearly as easily. What are we gonna do about that? said Katherine, using more mental communication since both of them were using all of their breath to run.
You keep running and I'll have room to dodge. It's okay if it pushes me back since that's where we're trying to go anyway.
I'm not leaving you to this thing alone! Zack, you are not the only one who can defend people in this party.
Fine! There wasn't enough time to argue about this. We'll take turns.

Once the clanking of metal got loud enough to indicate it was close, Zack turned around and held up his weapons, catching the armor's horizontal swing with the smaller blade and hitting as much of the flat of the blade as he could manage downward with the bigger one. He jumped backwards while it recovered, and then feinted another swing at it, which it responded to in exactly the same way as before, giving him time to turn around and start running.
The knight ran past the Psion, who swung her knives up, over, and behind the armor before leaping over its first swing, onto a wall, and then across to the opposite wall while it swung at the first one. It hit the wall hard enough to break through the old construction and knock a huge hole in it, which required it to take time to get it back out. Katherine took as many steps backwards as she could while keeping her knives behind it. Just when the armor seemed ready to start coming at her again she knocked on the back of its head with the knives before recalling them. Again, it turned around and swung wildly a few times before realizing there was nothing there.

I don't think this thing is too bright. It keeps falling for the same tricks, said Katherine as she caught up with the knight.
We'll have to put that in the report when we get out of here.
Not thinking of sticking around to make sure I get away, are ya?
No.

It continued like this for what seemed like a long time, but must have only been a minute or two, before they finally made it back out to the ruined antechamber. But now there was a new problem: The way was blocked by a pile of rubble that was going to take way too long to climb over.
Gasping for breath after the sprint, both of them turned around to see how far off the knight was. Katherine's knives were wavering slightly in the air despite being close by, in the easiest-to-control part of her range. Zack had sheathed his weapons and his arms felt like they would have trouble holding up a couple of stick at this point. The suit of armor, whatever it really was, was still a ways off, but it was running at them with no signs of tiring or stopping.
Now what?
I don't know!
"Whassup, you need a lift?" Both of them looked up and slightly to the right at the source of the voice, that being the witch. Both of them having briefly forgotten that she could literally fly on her broom. "We weren't really sure how far to run away, so I just flew Nora outta the gate."
"Ca—hhhh," Zack tried to say something but was still too out of breath to do so.
Can you do two people at once? said Katherine for him, and the witch nodded.
"Not far, but far enough! Just hold onto the handle for a minute."

The psion and knight grabbed onto different parts of the handle and Mika floated upward just quickly enough to get them out of the way of another swing by the armor. Its visor swung around, left and right, as they flew around some of the rubble toward the gate.
It's not looking up, said Katherine. Get us on the other side of a wall from it, and I don't even think it'll know we're there.
"Uh, I-I'll try," said Mika, straining her powers to keep the broom afloat against the weight and poor balance of its current load. As soon as they were on the other side of the wall she directed it downward, but not very well. "Let go, quick! Aaah!" They let go, but too late to avoid all three of them crash-landing on top of each other, unharmed but in a decidedly awkward position.

Mika was sitting on Katherine, who had landed face-down over an upward-facing Zack, their sizable breasts pressed against each other and their faces about two or three inches away. "Agh, get off!" he yelled. The witch hopped up and away in a second, and Katherine pushed herself up and rolled to one side.
Zack could feel his face turning red as he sat up; the feeling of his body's chest pressed against someone else's was...very strange, for sure. But he tried to ignore it, dusting himself off and listening for the animated armor in case all of the noise had attracted it. He didn't hear anything, though.
"Phew, that was uh, that was close," said Katherine, sitting up next to him.
"Yeah." Her face was kind of red, too, which he chose to ignore.
"We make a good team when we're motivated by super-strong, indestructible killer armor, huh?" she said, winking.
"Heheh..yeah."

"Was that a laugh?" said Mika from the other side. "You can laugh?!"
"Yes. Duh." Zack stood up and looked around. "Where did you say Nora was?"
"Well, she's right—" Mika pointed in one direction, looked that way, and then pointed and looked around a few more of the available directions. "Uh, well she was right over, um..there?"
The knight frowned again. "Great."

Monday, April 18, 2016

N.H. Tour


A long-awaited(?) addition to the Neko House series.

In other news:
Still alive...
Life's been busy...
One or two stories closer to having a next part written than they were for a couple months...

(EDIT: Linked image was originally too small to read easily. Hopefully fixed now.)

Friday, November 27, 2015

The "Best" RPG Ever-17

The castle was really starting to show its age now: The corridor the party of four was trying to follow their target through was full of rubble, requiring all of them to climb around carefully, and take the occasional pause so Zack could push some of it around to make more room.

"So, theories. What do you think this thing is?" said Katherine.
"You're the one who said 'boggart' earlier," Mika chimed in.
"Well yes, but..that doesn't quite make sense. I didn't feel particularly afraid of what I saw, and neither did Zack. Or, did you?"
"No," he said flatly.

The psion thought a little more. "Was it acting in self-defense? Does it think this place belongs to it and we're intruding?"
"It was taunting me to attack it," said the knight.
"It was taunting you to attack me. If it doesn't like all of us being here, killing off one or two like that would be a quick way to get the rest to run away. In theory, at least."
"Are you..sure it was really taunting you?" said Nora.
"Yes."
"Well, I mean, w-what did it say?"
"None of your business."

Katherine sighed. "Let me put it this way. It looked like you. Did it say something you could imagine yourself saying?"
"No. Never."
"So, it said something you'd hate yourself if you said."
"Why is this about me all of a sudden?"
"It's not about you, it's about the monster! Or whatever we're dealing with. We can't get a clear picture of how it works without more information about what it did to make you so angry."

Zack dropped the rock he'd been moving, and sighed. "It looked like me in a wedding gown."
"So?" said Mika. "You'd look pretty good in a gown."
"It implied I was marrying someone. A guy."
Katherine nodded. "Mhm..And you think of yourself as a guy. You might not be afraid exactly of acting like a girl so much you decide to marry a man, but the idea is at least very upsetting. Right?"
He shrugged. "I guess so."



After an hour or so of walking and resting, Aria said, "So hey, you know, what this party really needs is a healer. Like, a dedicated healer to keep everyone else alive and stuff."
"No, ya think?" said Rayna.
"Mnghf," grunted Lynn. "No argument here."
"Any idea how far off we are now?"
Rayna looked up, turned around in a circle, then looked down at the ground, then forward again. "I'd say..we're a little more than halfway there."



Katherine said, "Saaay, you looked really worried about me getting hurt. I didn't know you liked me that much!"
He stopped, turned around to face her, crossed his arms, glared. "I don't like you. I dislike you. There's a slight chance I hate you. But I dislike seeing people get hurt more." And then turned back around and continued, ears folded completely back against his head.
"Uh.." Nora said, "..A-are you sure your mind hasn't been rewritten some to match the 'knight' class when it changed your body?"
"Hmph. Not unless it rewrote most of my memories, too. And I don't wanna even think about that."

Mika stopped in her tracks, her head forming an idea too rapidly to concentrate on anything else. And then she had to scramble over some of the rocks saying, "Hey! Heey!" to catch up.
The others turned around, and Katherine said, "What?"
"I think I get it. It's a troll."
"A troll." said Zack. "Last time I checked, trolls don't do anything this thing does."
"No no," she said, shaking her head, "not a fantasy troll. Like, a person who's a troll? It doesn't care what happens as long as it gets a reaction out of people. It didn't do anything but look like a spider for a second to Nora because she screamed at that right away, and I think it tried to scare me with an angel because I look kinda like a demon to it? It kept looking like you in a wedding dress when you reacted to that," she said, turning to Zack, "and got a reaction out of her" (here pointing at the cat-girl) "by getting you to attack her!"

Katherine scratched her head. "That...makes sense. It didn't kill anyone based on the report we got. But why make the guards not remember it before sending them back? And more concerningly, how?"
"If it sent back guards with some clue of what was here, there wouldn't be any reason for more people to come around other than to try and get rid of it," said Zack. "A mystery means people would keep coming here to figure out what it is, without a clear idea on how to get rid of it.

"..I'm as worried about how as you are. Why don't you write down what we've figured out so far, in case that happens?" He got out the notebook and handed it to Katherine.
"Why don't I? Why don't you?"
"I have to move rocks," he said flatly, and started on the way forward again.



"Hey, could you open your mouth for a sec?" said Lynn at another rest.
Aria did as requested. "Aaaah. How come?"
"Well, when you first showed up, your teeth were huge and sharp-looking, like you were some kinda horror-movie monster or something."
"That's weird. They've never been sharp before. Maybe it's a demon sword thing?"
"Hmm..I dunno," said Rayna, staring at her. "Your race isn't listed as human. It's..I'm not sure how to pronounce that row of letters. Maybe you're some kind of shapeshifter?"
"Well, how would I be able to tell?"
The fox-girl shrugged. "Try to have sharp teeth?"
"I'll try, I guess. Hnngh." Aria had closed her eyes and clenched her mouth, expecting it to be difficult, but as soon as she thought about her teeth growing big and sharp, she could feel them moving around. She opened her eyes again, halfway opened her mouth and probed with her tongue a bit to find they had changed just as imagined. "Well, lookit that," she said with a bit of difficulty thanks to the altered shape of her mouth, and then shifted them back. "I wonder what else I can change?"

"What if you can turn back into a guy?" suggested Lynn.
"Yeah, I'll try that!" Aria stood up and tried to turn back to how she'd looked before entering the game. She could feel her hair sliding up her back as it shortened, her chest pulling in slightly, and her figure becoming steadily less pronounced, but the change stopped at just a more androgynous female, well short of a truly male appearance, much less actually turning her into a man.
"Wow. That's..a pretty dramatic change," said Rayna, noticing her hair and eye colors had even shifted around. "Does it feel like you're straining anything to stay like that?"
"No," said Aria, and paused to note that her voice had deepened somewhat, almost enough to mistake for a man's. "It didn't take any more effort than the teeth did, either. But it does feel...I dunno, unnatural? Like I don't think I could get used to this very quickly." She quickly shifted back to her earlier appearance: long white hair, green eyes, bigger chest, so on. She was now exactly as she had started, despite not really having thought of what she was shifting to in any more detail than 'turn back'.

"Say...your clothes changed to fit you, too," said Lynn.
"I didn't tell them to do that. I mean, not the way I told my body to change. Maybe they're enchanted to do that or something?"
"If you buy some more clothes and shift in them we'll find out," said Rayna. "What about fuzzy parts? Like, I grew this tail and furry ears when I picked a class.."
"Let's see!" said Aria excitedly, and tried to give herself fox parts like the illusionist's. Her ears visibly grew in size, became covered in fuzz that progressed into fur, and soon began wiggling around; at the same time, a thick-furred tail slowly pushed its way out from her back. Her fur was white like her hair, except at the tips, where it was black. "Wow, this is neat!" she said, pulling the tail around to her front and hugging it.
"Does that feel unnatural?" said Rayna.
"Kinda? A lot less so." She let go of the tail and tried walking around a bit. "I'm not having any trouble balancing with this. Hey, I wonder if I can change my stats like this!" She tried changing again, focusing specifically on making her muscles stronger, but it just felt like she was tensing all of them normally, and she relaxed after a few seconds.
"I'm not seeing any difference," said Rayna.
"Aww."



"H-hold on!" Nora stopped at a door, and the others stopped to turn and look at what she was doing. She closed her eyes and walked forward a couple of steps, then back to the door, turning to face it. "It..doesn't go past here. And it's a-a lot stronger through this door than most of the trail was."
"So, you think the troll-ghost-whatever is through there?" said Katherine.
"It's..l-likely. Should we go in?"
"The door opens out, and there's too much junk in the way. I'd have to break it," said Zack, "so no element of surprise if we do."

"Wait-wait-wait, I thought we already figured out what is," said Mika, "shouldn't we just leave?"
"Correction: We figured out what it wants," said Katherine, "or at least we think we did. We still don't understand its nature well enough for someone to get rid of it, or decide whether they should."
"Can you tell there's something in there?" said Zack, looking at the psion.
She closed her eyes as if to think for a few seconds, and then opened them. "No. I'm sure I could sense it if it had a physical brain, so it must not."
"Then..neither of us can do anything to it, if it isn't physical. So I'll break the door, and you two start throwing fire in," he said, waving the witch and weaver closer.
"I'm not sure I can throw fire.." said Nora.
"Well, do some kind of magic attack. We need to know if it can be hit by those."

After giving them a moment to get ready, Zack smashed in the door with his sword, and pointedly stepped back, not looking inside. Mika stepped forward and threw a fireball in, lighting up what seemed to be a storage room for banners with a big barrel labelled 'TNT' in the middle. Nora held off while the witch made her fire float above the ground and circle around the room. "Where is it?" she said.
"I-it's, uh--" Nora closed her eyes, reaching out to pinpoint the location of the thing, and pointed straight at the barrel. "It's either inside of that or it is that," she said.
"Hang on!" Zack quickly switched to Dark Form and held up his magic-shield between the doorway and the rest of the party. "Okay, try it."
Mika nodded and waved the fire right toward the barrel, which hopped sideways away from it; the fire continued on its course toward the doorway and hit the knight's shield before he could get out of the way, which put it out.
"Hmmnp!" Nora tried pulling some of the stone bricks out of the wall next to the thing with enough force to hit it, and they passed straight through it. There was a giggling sound, and the barrel seemed to fall straight down through the floor.

"Where'd it go?" said Katherine, looking around.
"I..I think it's still below us. But it's leaving..that way?" said Nora, pointing at a nearby wall. "I'm sorry, I don't think I can track it.."
"It's okay," said the psion. "At least now we know it doesn't like magic demon fire. And it's definitely immune to physical attacks."
"So, should we go report about it now?" said Mika.
Zack thought about it for a moment and then nodded. "We should at least try and head toward the exit, see if it does anything to stop us."



Rayna looked ahead at the town's walls and gates, the guards standing outside of them. "Ah, finally, civilization!"
"Mmh, yeah." Lynn nodded. "For as medieval-looking as it does, it's surpisingly comforting to see."

One of the guards ran up to the three girls as they got closer. "Are you hurt?" she said to the archer.
"Yeah. Big brute clubbed me in the side. They're not, though."
"Well, I could use a nice bath after all this," said the fox-girl; the guard ignored her and yelled for some more to come over.
"It'll have to wait. Tell the captain what we found." The guards were getting ready to outright carry her inside. "And you—" She pointed to Aria. "—No murdering in town."
"What about out of town?" asked the shifter just as Lynn was about to be out of earshot.
"Probably not!" she shouted back.


They had to wait outside the captain's office for a few minutes. Rayna had an attentive look, her ears turned partially toward the door.
"What? Can you hear what's going on in there?" asked Aria.
"Not with you talking two inches away."
"Well, I expect you to tell me."
"Why don't you just get your own ears?"
"I can't—oh, wait."

She went with cat ears this time. It wasn't entirely clear how she knew the difference, but it worked well enough. It seemed the captain was scolding a guard who had been in a drunken brawl the night before. Her voice was very quiet but not pleasant, instead sounding like there was such an overload of rage that it wrapped back around to seeming calm. This, Aria decided, would not be a smart person to provoke.

After a while, the guard walked out of the office looking nearly distraught, and the captain stuck her head out the door, looking at the illusionist. "Good, you're back. Where's your partner?"
"She's getting a wound fixed. Also, this is Aria, she's..well, we'd better explain in private."
The captain nodded. "Come in."

Rayna handed over the sketchbook and went through an explaination of her findings, ending with the tear and explaining that Aria had come out of it. The captain occasionally asked for clarification, and turned to the white-haired girl at this last point. "So where did you come from?"
"Um..I can't exactly remember," said Aria. "I mean, I remember being somewhere with a sword stuck in the ground and pulling it out, and then cutting a hole and jumping through it, but most of before that is a blur."
"You still have this sword? Show it to me."
"Okay." She brought out the sword, still in its sheath, and leaned it against the captain's desk. "I, uh, it wouldn't be a good idea to unsheathe it."

The captain picked up the sword and examined it, and Aria found herself having to push back against an urge to punch the small woman and take it back immediately. After a moment, though, it was handed back, the captain giving a face somehow even more serious than usual.
"This is a demon blade. For a while, dangerously powerful demons were sealed into physical forms like this one and bound to their masters. The problem is that the demon influences whoever owns the blade, and tends to drive the master insane. The loophole for keeping the problem truly at bay was to kill the masters and seal them in a way that made it very difficult for anyone to claim it, so that it had no master to influence. Do you remember why you took this out?"
Aria put the sword back in her 'inventory' once it was in her hands. "Not really? I'm sure I knew it was powerful, and wanted it for something, but I can't remember what."
"It may be an effect of the wards on the blade. If you went to all the trouble of finding it you would've known it had them, and been willing to pay the price. What does the blade want?"
"Blood." And then, realizing how sudden and blunt the answer had been: "Err, I mean it seems like it does.."

The captain nodded. "The blade answered before you could even think about it. That's..not the worst appetite you could have ended up with. If you intend to work here and feed it the blood of monsters, I have no objections. But if I even think you're sating its hunger with innocent people, I will kill you."
Aria blinked a couple of times, and nodded. "Yeah. Okay. I'll keep that in mind."

Rayna decided to try and change the subject. "So, uh, if you don't mind me asking, and since we're both sworn to secrecy on it anyway, do you know what the stuff I looked at is, exactly?"
"Demon summoning ritual," said the captain. "Tears a hole for one to come through, then closes it right away. The space will heal with time, but it was very fresh to be weak enough for her sword to cut through it."
"Demon? Like what's in my sword?"
"Same category of beast, but much weaker. If something like what's in your sword came through we would know about it."
"You think someone's trying to make a demon army and attack the town or something?" asked Rayna.

She shook her head. "It's a much more difficult ritual to seal it after just one comes through. This is classic witch or warlock work. To the end of becoming an archdemon—which, despite the name, are not necessarily hostile—a witch or a warlock summons, kills, and eats demons to take their power. One at a time is usually the way, since being stronger attracts stronger demons and it's much easier to kill just one at a time."
"So, is this a danger to the town or not?" said Aria.
"I don't know yet. I need to talk with some people first.

"At any rate, your job is done. I'll make sure your compensation is taken care of."

Saturday, October 31, 2015