• Published 24th Sep 2016
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Ogres and Oubliettes: Roll The Dice - Bucking Nonsense



In a world where evil reigns supreme, a small band of warriors stands tall against the darkness. This is... Ogres & Oubliettes. For realsies

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Prologue: Rocks Fall, Everyone Dies

"As you can see, Antiquia still stands."

The armored knight, Golden Champion, stood beside his prisoner with a triumphant grin upon his handsome face, what little of himself was not covered in orichalcum armor, as they rode the waves on one of the grand city's fastest clippers. The stone walls and tall towers seemed to gleam in the distance, showcasing the strength and beauty of the mighty city-state of the earth ponies. It was a fine day, one of bright sun and clear skies, with a powerful wind to push them forward. Admittedly, the prisoner would not have much to be cheerful about, but after having been away for the better part of ten years, the knight had hoped that the sight might do him some good. He'd been a morose sort, even before his capture a week ago, all gloom and doom.

The prisoner in question, Sage Elder, was a grandfatherly stallion who had left the city ten years ago, after having made outlandish claims of some sort of doom beneath the city. A pity, that: He'd been a respected citizen, a member of the ruling council, and a decorated war veteran, at least before his fall from grace. Had his delusions been confined to simple declarations of impending destruction, he might have at least been able to retire with his reputation untarnished. However, given what he had been accused of doing...

Well, attempting to give away the secret of forging the alloy, orichalcum, was a serious crime. In fact, just trying to sell the stuff to outsiders without the proper authorization could result in a long sentence and a tremendous fine, if the courts were feeling merciful, but trying to reveal the process for producing the legendary metal itself?

The penalty was severe, to say the least. Of course, national secrets often were treated that seriously, even in nations not populated exclusively by earth ponies.

After all, the monopoly on that fantastic metal was what had allowed Antiquia to stand tall and proud, with an army outfitted with armor that was equal to the Starlight Silver of the ivory towered city of Arcanopolis, or the Avian Steel of Cloudtop, but far easier to produce as it required much simpler, non-magical materials, to the point that every soldier in the army, every guard, every knight of the realm, all could be clad in it. While the city's location made it impossible for sneak attacks by winged soldiers (Being more than two days travel by sea, even on the wing, meant that most avian armies would either collapse from exhaustion halfway, or be too weak to fight upon arrival), and deposits of a rare magic draining mineral made teleportation and long distance assault via magic impossible, even if the distance over which such an assault would have to pass were not a such daunting proposition. The mighty armada that Antiquia possessed made for a formidable target for any assaulting force, combined with those advantages of geology and geography.

Still, the possession of the secrets behind orichalcum was what truly made Anituqia a major power on the continent, in spite of being an offshore island and a latecomer in the conflicts that had divided the landmass into three seperate confederations, ruled by the city-states of Antiquia, Cloudtop, and Arcanopolis. The tentative peace between the three mighty city-states (and their respective vassal states) that ruled over the known world would not last forever, and when war finally broke out, Antiquia held the the upper hoof, at least for the time being. The most vital military advantage the island city had in the war to come would be lost if the secret of orichalcum's creation and forging were discovered by outsiders.

Still, the knight would speak well of the elderly stallion: Simply because he suffered from some illness of the brain was no reason for him to be executed. Whatever was wrong with him seemed to be punishment enough, given the terrible melancholy that afflicted him. He'd beg the judge to be merciful. After all, a lifetime of service to the city-state should mean something more than an executioner's axe...

The knight's train of thought was broken when the old pony stated, in a voice filled with sorrow, "I am uncertain if I should thank you for letting me see my home one last time before it is gone... or curse you for bringing me here to witness its destruction."

Deciding to humor him for once, the knight replied, asking, "Oh, and when do you expect that to happen, Sage Elder?"

Looking over at the knight with an expression with sorrow so profound that the knight's heart went out to him, the prisoner asked, "Are you in possession of a watch at the moment, by any chance?"

"I happen to have one," the knight said, pulling it out in good humor, and said, "It is three hours past noon, fifteen minutes, and.... twenty-five seconds as of the end of this sentence."

"Then we have five minutes, give or take," Sage Elder stated bluntly. "Not much more. I admit, my calculations are an estimate, but given the size of the entity at work, the volume of stone it reduced to sand during the hour I observed it, the amount of stone it had already converted, and the amount of stone I estimated still remained, it won't be much longer. Antiquia has seen its last sunrise."

In spite of himself, the certainty of Sage Elder's statement rattled the knight a little. With a glance over to the prisoner, he asked, "Really thought this out, huh?"

With a nod, the older stallion admitted, "Indeed. As did my friends from Cloudtop and Arcanopolis, when they estimated when the great cloud city in the sky and the city of ivory towers would fall, respectively. All three are expected to fall simultaneously. I suspect that whoever or whatever is truly behind this wanted to ensure that there would be no chance of evacuation before all three of the cities died."

With a regretful sigh, he added, "I gave the council a detailed map of the route that would bring anypony they sent directly to where they could safely observe the creature at work, and confirmed that the route was so safe that a five-year-old colt with a lantern could traverse it without encountering any danger. If anypony had listened, and gone to look, they could have confirmed the creature's presence with their own eyes. However, I was laughed out of the council chambers, and no one could be bothered to even look to see the truth. I am uncertain if the mastermind behind this has bought enough of the current ruling council to silence and censure me, or if we are truly so prideful, so arrogant, so foolish, that we cannot believe in any threat that does not involve other ponies, but in either case, our graves have been dug for us, and today, we shall be inhumed."

Golden Champion fell silent. The news that the elder had given such detailed maps was new to him, along with the fact that the elder claimed to have seen and studied the creature with his own eyes over an extended period. The knight had been told that it was simply a delusion of the mind, a flight of purest fancy, and the story still sounded unbelievable... but perhaps it might be wise for Goldento pay these tunnels a visit, and see what might have led Sage Elder to the conclusion that the city was doomed...

Any thoughts or plans for the future were interrupted when, as his watch hit three hours, twenty minutes, and twenty-five seconds, and suddenly, all of the birds in the distant city of stone towers and tall, unbreachable walls... flew away in a seeming panic.

"It begins," Sage Elder stated bluntly.

The fall of the great city started with a thundrous noise, something not so much heard as felt down to the marrow of the bones, a sound that was loud indeed, if it could be heard so clearly from nearly seven miles away. It was the sort of sound that one might hear at the bottom of a mine, when the thousands of tons of stone above one's head have decided that they are tired of being held up by supports made of such a flimsy material as wood. It was the sound of gravity deciding that it was time to enforce its will upon all that was above itself. It was the very crunch of doom itself... and it went on and on and on.

A massive cloud of dust began to rise, and even from here, the two could see the walls cracking, breaking, and falling. The other sailors aboard the ship ceased their work, and stared in growing horror at the spectacle before them. The stone towers toppled, raining down upon the city like the fists of some vengeful deity, no doubt slaying all within and many more beneath.

'An earthquake,' Golden Champion thought to himself. 'A terrible one, to be certain, but we can rebuild. It doesn't mean that Sage Elder was right. After all, it isn't possible for an island to sink into the sea...'

The sound, impossibly, became even louder, and then a massive plume of something reddish-orange, liquid, and horrible, shot up and then began to fall as it rained down upon the city. Magma. A molten barrage of liquid stone now added its two bits to the ensuing destruction of the fabled city-state.

"The geothermal springs beneath the city, the ones that provided us with heat in the winter, and hot water all year round" the elder muttered, in an oddly detached voice. "Their presence always did imply that there was volcanic activity locked deep beneath the island. I expected that a breech might occur as the island sank. A finishing blow, if you will."

As the island began to both drown and burn at the same time, the knight saw the ocean around the island begin to stir, gently at first, and then wildly...

Turning towards Golden Champion with a sorrowful expression, Sage Elder said, "If you wish to live, I recommend shedding your armor now. I doubt that it would offer you any protection from the seismic sea wave to come, and if you survive the impact, I doubt you will wish for the weight of it to drown you."

The wave began to rise from about the island, almost as if on cue. It was starting small, but anyone experienced with the ocean could testify that these waves were like oak trees: They might start tiny, but they grew quickly, and they most certainly grew profoundly...

The knight began stripping his armor off with all speed. He managed to get the last bit of armor off while the wave was still halfway between them and the island and began bracing himself for the inevitable impact. Sage Elder, rather than trying to ready himself like the rest of the crew, instead climbed onto the railing, standing upon his hind legs, with his forelegs spread wide, almost as if welcoming his oncoming annihilation.

"Every day of our lives, we make choices, and roll the dice, hoping for a favorable outcome," the elderly pony proclaimed. "Our great kingdom, and the other great kingdoms of our time, have rolled ones, and now we reap the results of those poor rolls." He laughed aloud, and then added, "I have rolled the dice myself. Will it turn out any better? When the future of our kind is in the balance, I pray that it will be. Regardless, the die is cast. Let us see how it lands..."

And then, with a cataclysmic impact, the wave struck the ship, and for the knight, everything went dark...
-------------------------------------

The centuries to follow would not be pleasant for the equines remaining. The mysterious structures known as Oubliettes would appear, some of them taking over currently existing structures, some forming in caves, in cemeteries, in the ruins of cities that one by one fell to evil, and others just mysteriously spawning without rhyme, reason, or expectation. From them emerged swarms of monsters, from goblins, to trolls, and even the most terrible and feared of all... the mighty Ogres.

Ogres: Wreckers, ravagers, destroyers, beasts with incredibly tough hides, unthinkable endurance, and overwhelming strength. These nightmarish abominations considered all things as food, and equines as food that gave the extra benefit of serenading the ogres with the sounds of screaming while being consumed. A single ogre could wipe out an army. A dozen ogres could lay waste to even the most well defended city.

Battles would be fought, legends would rise from the ranks of the common ponies, and great kings would struggle to fight back against the oncoming legions of foul fiends. Bit by bit, land was lost, both from marauding monsters and infighting between the remaining nations who could not, would not, put aside old grudges until it was far too late. Finally, only one city remained, a city of refuges, one containing all of the equine races, and a dozen others besides. A single city, a final light of civilization at risk of being snuffed out.

This was Spiketopia...
--------------------------------
One thousand years later...

'In a world where evil reigns supreme, a small band of warriors stands tall against the darkness. This is... Ogres & Oubliettes.'

In the royal council chambers, the truth behind the meaning of those words hit the ruler of Spiketopia like a leaden mace upside the head.

"We are so rutted," Princess Schmerity muttered sadly as she stood before her council of advisors.

At the shocked expressions of the mares and stallions surrounding her, the regal unicorn sighed, and begged, "Please don't tell me that I'm the only one who has realized this?! Equines used to run this continent unopposed! Since the fall of Antiquia, Arcanopolis, and Cloudtop, cities have fallen like dominoes. We're reduced to fighting for our continued existence in a single city now, and have been since I was six! We have newer, more terrible threats coming at us EVERY WEEK!!!" She pounded her hooves on the table before her, disrupting the figurines present upon a map that represented the locations of monsters and oubliettes that were stationed about the city.

"Our soldiers are barely up to the task of keeping the peace inside the city and dealing with any monsters that come up from the sewers and the ruins that lie deeper down, nevermind trying to reclaim any new territory! And all we have against the dark forces aligned against us are just two, no, wait, so sorry, I forgot there were three new recruits last week, FIVE WHOLE ADVENTURERS WHO ARE ACTUALLY COMPETENT ENOUGH TO DO ANYTHING ABOUT THE THINGS THAT WANT TO STORM INTO OUR CITY, DEVOUR OUR FLESH, SUCK THE MARROW FROM OUR BONES, DRINK OUR SOULS TO WASH IT ALL DOWN, WITH OUR OFFSPRING THROWN IN FOR DESSERT!!! EQUINEKIND AS A WHOLE IS MORE RUTTED THAN A CHEAP DOCKSIDE WHORSE WHEN THE SAILORS COME HOME, AND I'M THE ONLY ONE WHO REALIZES IT?!" The princess had not realized that she was screaming at the end, until her voice went hoarse, and paused to take a drink of water from a glass nearby.

"So," she said, as a ruse to keep the focus away from her unprofessional outburst, "please explain to me why our adventurers aren't meeting with any success, asides from Garbunkle and his associates."

"Adventuring is a calling with a high mortality rate," her military advisor, a buff earth pony named General Advance, admitted sadly, as the princess slowly regained her composure. "From what I've been told by the guildmaster, the mortality rate is between fifty and sixty-five percent on the first mission that new recruits accept, and while it does decrease over time, it never drops below forty percent. Even with the best training possible, battlefield experience plays a factor. That can't be taught anywhere outside of combat, and when the teacher giving your final exam is a monster that considers steel armor as a minor annoyance, you don't pass that test very often. Garbunkle and his comrades have done great work defending the city, but they are the exception, not the rule."

Her minister of the interior, a richly dressed unicorn named Finest Fashion, added, "Actually, good steel armor is able to fend off most monsters, but most adventurers don't know the difference between good steel, and steel that only looks good. I've received numerous complaints from adventurers who were promised that their armor was of the highest quality steel, but was less effective than tin foil in the field. And those are just the survivors: I'm certain that there are dozens more who died before they could register a complaint about their gear being inferior to what the merchant selling it promised." She gave a regretful sigh, and added, "I've tried to crack down on such things, but there are limits to what we can do. Currently, only one smith in Spiketopia offers weapons and armor that are triple-proofed and crown certified for quality, and while he and his apprentice work hard, there's a limit to how much they can produce in a given week... and they do have to charge what their equipment is worth to stay in business, so most rookie adventurers cannot afford it anyways."

Sad to say, even in a city that was the last bastion against the extinction of their respective races, ponies still needed to be paid to do work. To be fair, many would likely have worked for free, save that the merchants who currently controlled the city's food supply would not part with their goods without recompense, and it took all of Princess Schmerity's political capital to maintain the price cap on food, otherwise the merchants would likely raise the cost of grain so high that there would be food riots within a week, and then equinekind would save the monsters of the world the trouble, and wipe itself out.

'A crisis like this should be bringing out the best in us,' the princess thought, with a mixture of furious anger and terrible sorrow, 'so why is it that I am barely able to keep my fellow ponies from destroying themselves out of sheer cupidity and stupidity? Do we even deserve to keep existing when we become like this when pressed? If all we are capable of is greed and ignorance, maybe I should just throw the gates open and invite the Squizzard to finish the job...'

"We need a gamechanger," the minister of morale, Happy Day, stated bluntly, disrupting her thoughts before they became any darker. "We need something that can at least give us the appearance of a chance of victory, if not a real one. Our current problems stem from the fact that anypony with any sense can see that, as the princess so eloquently put it, 'we are rutted', and we have no means of un-rutting ourselves. Those who see that, and understand that our current position cannot be maintained forever, are out to get what they can while the city is still standing, so they have a chance of getting away with something of value when the walls crumble down and the monsters flood in. Cities have fallen left and right, and we currently have nothing to prove that Spiketopia won't be the same, and the only reason that we've not been abandoned by our citizens yet is the fact that there is no place left to run to when the end comes. If we can give our ponies something to pin their hopes on, we might be able to curb this kind of short-sighted, destructive avarice, and maybe, just maybe, we can start seeing ponies willing to help others, rather than take advantage of them."

"What kind of gamechanger?" Princess Schmerity asked, hopeful.

"Rutted if I know," the minister admitted, unhappily.
----------------------------------------

Imagine, for a moment, a fixed perspective that looks out over a calm ocean. Nothing to be seen for miles. Peaceful, serene, and perfectly calm.

And then, a noise is heard.

"AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAADDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDD-"

Something comes into view, a saurian, bipedal creature, clad head to toe in steel armor, on a rowboat. He is working a pair of oars with such speed that he is shooting across the ocean with ludicrous speed, shouting joyously at the top of his lungs.

"-VEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEENNNNNNNNNNNNNN-"

As quickly as he appears, he vanishes from sight, his exultant cry trailing behind him.

"-TUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUURRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRREEEEEEEEEEEEE!!!!"

What was that, anyway?