Baiden Oor nodded to the scientists that had decided to join him, offering a hard stare to each arrival. As they got to work, he was suddenly sent back in time. A vision of younger Baiden, performing a similar set of field work with his own team of Illyrian scientists. Most of them started in the same place, with the same set of rules and techniques. With the same drive to learn something.
When they finished collecting their samples, he voiced a question, his deep voice echoing through the chasm.
"Your names?" he asked. "I assume you three know who I am but, to formalize things, my name is Baiden Oor. This expedition is going to be rushed, as I'm worried about the situation on the ship. In and out. Follow the scent of La'Ruta. And I get final say. You should know how chain of command works. It's not to stroke my ego. It's to maximize efficiency."
He stopped, casting a glance at the glowing specks as they danced around their heads. "Let's move."
With each step the scent of magic grew stronger. It was almost intoxicating, but Illyrian will was strong. Baiden kept himself centered and was able to lead his troupe with relative confidence. It was minutes later that the first tremor hit, a result of the Ancient One's shifting no doubt. A shower of debris hit the group soon after and, while Baiden stumbled, he quickly managed to shove a hand into the chasm wall and steady himself. His magitech hand broke through the stone with ease, allowing him to find leverage while the others couldn't.
"Is everyone okay?" he barked once the disturbance settled. The critters didn't seem affected by the quake. Their radiance stretched ahead, a promise of what was to come. He checked behind him and noted the scientists were getting up. Good. They would move once more.
Silence now, as the journey down the glowing path became less adventurous and more monotonous. Baiden's thoughts were a mess, but he managed to eject Luz from his mind for moments at a time, which he considered to be a win. The air became humid, signaling that they were making progress.
When the young man appeared in front of him, Baiden only blinked. "Move," he growled. He pushed past the foreigner, squeezing against the chasm wall. He didn't have time to stop. He needed to speed this up.
A heartbeat later, and Baiden realized that he should probably question the man. "Luz Yllende," he began, "she sent you here? How is she? How is she containing the attacker without your help?"
Another tremor shook through the space, this one shorter and less disruptive than the first. The creatures, however, reacted to this one, their light turning blue. Baiden halted, eyes widening as they left their places on the chasm walls and began to approach the group. A few of them latched onto his arms, which pulsed in response, then summarily flickered. What? AGH! There was pain now. He hadn't felt it in so long but, by the Light, it was back. Baiden grit his teeth and tried to shake them off, swinging his arms into the stone walls. The creatures remained.
More neared the group, undoubtedly doing something similar to their magitech equipment. Blue beacons, so innocent but so confusing. Breathe. Your arms still work. Just fight through it.
He groaned deeply, but tried to follow his own advice. His thoughts collected in his mind, a cooling presence that spread order though his body. Hunching over, he imagined that his troupe was frightened, and definitely concerned. What a sight. The Soldier, cowed by a few pests.
In an instant, he straightened, eyes cast forward, glasses centered, and arms covered in blue light. "I imagine these things don't particularly like the interface between science and technology. That means we're getting close to the end goal." His voice was clear, though the pain still shot through his nerves as his arms struggled to rebel against the assault. He could handle it. It just took some time.
Whatever creatures hadn't begun to swarm them had charted a path upward, clinging to the walls in an arcing path that led to the chasm opening, now a narrow crevice that could maybe fit a body with effort. He could hear running water if he concentrated hard enough. Were they near that lake? He recalled the location from before. Recalled the violet glow that seemed driven by pure magic. "If your gear is unusable, leave it here," he stated briskly. "We're climbing now. I'll try to make handholds, but just know that we're close to water. Prepare to get wet."
With that, he walked forward for some time until he could hardly squeeze through. From there, Baiden began to climb, now that the chasm walls were close enough to make the feat easier. It was quite the process, and the functionality of his arms had him concerned in many instances, but the height of chasm was lower than it had been when they'd entered. When he neared the top he launched himself to the opening of the chasm, grunting as he levered his body upward and into open air. When he was settled, he finally looked around. His breath caught.
He was on within a great basin, at the center of which was a collection of ocean water. This was what they'd seen. The underground path had allowed them to circumvent precarious territory, it seemed, the descent of which led them to an opening below the shell of the Ancient One, but still exposed to the sky. Baiden squinted at the sun, then back at the saltwater lake. Trees that probably weren't trees lined the basin in patchy forests. He wondered at what kind of plant life could manifest on the back of a primordial being, and thrive underwater.
A sniff told him that he was in the right place. This area stunk of La'Ruta and, when he eyed the center of the lake, his arms pulsed with pain. The creatures had turned purple now, and seemed to cling tighter to his magitech. He tried to flex his fingers and found that it took a lot of effort to do so. Damn. This isn't a good sign. He'd wait for the others to make their way up. I think the artifact is in the water.
A tremor caused the forests to shiver, and Baiden to stumble on the slope of the basin. He cursed, but maintained his footing. He was impatient. "Careful climbing up," he called into the chasm. "The Ancient One is a restless being, it seems."