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Csl

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  1. Csl

    [Quest] En Passant

    "No, we are not going to fight," Mara snaps. "We are going to The Xer'Orians continue their assault. Mara backs away from the ledge. She sprints into the shadow of the waterfall, eyes searching the stone wall. Yes, she is certain of it - the narrow opening of a cavern lies behind the curtain of water, nearly-hidden by the pale mineral that comprises nearly the whole of the rock wall. Where once the chalky substance was only seen in streaks and strata lining the canyon, the entire cavern is white. The crevasse stretches vertically, wide enough to accommodate a human, but narrow enough to keep a Xer'Orian to follow. The Xer'Orians' screeching grows louder. "Come on! We'll be safe here!" Mara cries out. With companions' footsteps behind her, Mara activates a light on her armor's shoulders, then squeezes into the cavern. *** At first, they seem to be safe. To their relief, the Xer'Orians halt their assault, either unable - or unwilling - to follow them as they retreat further down the cavern. It is dark in here. The cave entrance is at a strange angle, and though the pale, opaque mineral reflects what sunlight finds its way inside, they are surrounded by solid rock. After maybe a few minutes of walking, Mara lights a flare. The smoke, illuminated by her armor lights, drifts up and away, vanishing somewhere further down the tunnel. "That means there's an exit, somewhere deeper into this cave," Mara explains. "Let's hurry along." They continue onward, her at the head of the party. All is silent, except for the sound of footsteps. Then, they begin to feel the effects of the mineral. It rendered a goatherd near-mad by simply shepherding his herds near it. With the white mineral now surrounding them on all sides, shining bright in the light of their torches, the party began to feel their thoughts slow. Memory went first. Mara found herself confused as to where they were going. Why were they in the dark? Why was she holding a burning stick in her hand? She turned to her companions to ask, then found the question gone from her lips. She knew she had to go somewhere, had to continue down the winding, cramped tunnel - but she didn't know why. Then, it was speech. Whatever attempts at conversation would fall short, tongues struggling to form words, sentences reduced to gibberish. Then, it was movement. Their limbs grew numb and heavy, disconnected from their bodies. Mara found her chest tight, her lungs refusing to expand and contract - it took a deliberate effort to draw breath now. Mara dropped the flare, watching the flickering red light as her eyes grew heavy. She dropped to her knees, slumping down on the ground - and was distantly aware the same was happening to the others. Then, it was consciousness. There was nothing left but darkness. Darkness, and the distinct sensation of something very old and very curious watching them fall asleep. *** The group awakens in darkness. Their prone bodies are pressed against what feels to be sand - powder fills their noses with every inhale, causing a sneeze or two from the more sensitive. awake awake awake awake. The voice slips into their heads like an echo, like a memory long-forgotten, now remembered. my guests you are. too many starspins to count, more than my tendrils, since i have had visitors. welcome welcome welcome welcome. Mara finds her mind clear and her memories intact. With a jolt of panic, she remembers what transpired before. Quickly, she activates her suit's searchlights. Blinding after the lengthy darkness, two beams of light illuminate the space, and the owner of the strange, silent voice. They are on a flat expanse of white sand ringed by massive, irregular rock columns. A monstrous creature, more than fifty feet long, clings to the ceiling of the gigantic cavern. One end of the creature, pointed at the explorers, is a writhing mess of tendrils. The other end tapers to a narrower point, and sports two delicate appendages lined with feathery protrusions. bright light bright light. many many starspins since i have felt such light. a glow a glow a glow. "It's sentient. Nobody attack it." Mara whispered to the other explorerers. The creature pulls itself along the cavern ceiling with several rows of stubby legs that lengthen and shorten without any apparent limit. It crawls down the cavern wall, its tendrils swaying inquisitively. who are you who are you who are you? why why why have you come? where where where have you come? It waits for an answer, standing perfectly still. Its two-pronged tail contracts and extends, the feathery extensions folding and unfolding much like a ahdn fan.
  2. Welcome to Valucre!

  3. Anyway for the other things... I think "The crippled planes walker by his side. She sits, see by bl(ind) womb mate eyes." is a riddle? A name? I'll review obby lore if I have time later this week, maybe it's someone previously mentioned in either the elendeath thread or the news article stories or the journal entries The poem seems to be a separate puzzle, since it's listed separately in the problem nexus. A four-letter passcode? Googled some lines of the poem and here are possible answers off the top of my head Ache Stab (knife-edge, needle, sharpened stone) Hurt Pain (throbbing pain, blinding pain, dull pain) Hate Sick (from green-gilled, stomach, joints and skull) Ouch (lol idk)
  4. Also I think this does confirm Obby's drawing inspo from UAOS Steganography --> a method from an old friend Also the last post in the UAOS discussion has "all of this null and void." which Obby apparently fondly remembers. Between Obelus and GM playing off each other and Obelus now calling UAOS an old friend... my heart 🥺🥺🥺
  5. I swear I'm most productive when procrastinating on schoolwork Ampersand's comment about this current puzzle possibly inspired by UAOS made me think, so I went to the UAOS general discussion and looked at the past puzzles. Based on this one, and the fact that the first line of hidden text has dots, I tried to look for the specific name of that cipher. And failed (seriously what is it called) But THEN I tried a spiral cipher, the one with the cute bee gif Ampersand also posted. And check this out: "All of it null and void but fondly remembered and much enjoyed a method of an old friend" I think the IN-OUT S-E-N-W refers to the fact that the type of spiral it was was from inside to outside, counterclockwise.
  6. Csl

    Posting emergency AFV on vielle's behalf - she has irl stuff to take care of. She says to expect her back either before march or by the first week of march.

    If you need to get a message across to her, contact me.

  7. Csl

    Veluriyam Empire AMA

    I'm treating everything in Renovatio, in relation to Veluriyam, as quasi-canon for now (Schrodinger's canon, if you will) since I'm aware revamps are still in progress throughout the whole board, but I have little idea how this will affect Port Sun. Port Sun did, however, canonically get destroyed along with Nehalen. I'm undecided if I still want canonize it being rebuilt since it was an artifact of old times anyway, and I'm focusing on solidifying the nation's domain in southern Fracture. If you want to take on the rebuilding canonization project yourself, feel free to do so. Depending on how things pan out with revamped!Reno, it might just become a trading ally of Vel, but not under its authority.
  8. Csl

    Veluriyam Empire AMA

    Turns-into-one-kind-of-animal situation. Though I will note they were initially adapted from broken wings' original UM lore, so current canon info on them is vague. I'vebeen working with vielle on UM magic lore to give some background on UM elves, shifters, and pereds - when that gets updated, so will shifter and other nonhuman lore. @Samø is also working on a UM bestiary, which would flesh nonhuman races out more.
  9. Update to Taen Thread canonized: Argentspire II: Escort
  10. Csl

    Argentspire II: Escort

    Minor Summary: Three scientists and four adventurers head up the Argentspire to set up an observation post at the origin of the strange worldrift waves. They reach an abandoned observatory built by an ancient, long-dead civilization, and learn that the mountain houses a machine that was designed to manipulate genius loci, whose malfunction caused the rift between Taen and Yh'mi. Major Summary: Erin Hale, Mathias Aurelius, and Tafili Zavar are recruited by the Taen Exploration Committee to escort scientists Dr. Lou Hansson, Dr. Rianne Ileto, and Dr. Endor Kripph up the Argentspire. The expedition is led by Mara Lorstrome, who takes them up Ascent Point Alaa. The group encounters a lost boy in a pine forest, who speaks about losing his mother, who was working on a machine. After some discussion, with some suspicious of the boy's true nature, the group decides to bring him along. Later, the group encounters a silver worldrift portal that resembles a window. While examining it, the lost boy appears to mimic another boy within the portal, on the other side of the window. The lost boy then reveals itself to be a Twistling, copying the four-eyed boy in the portal, and attacks the party. After defeating the Twistling, the party makes its way to an alpine meadow with red flowers whose landscape is dominated by a strange structure, where they set up camp. In the morning, they realize the flowers appear to be whispering; Mathias and Erin examine some flowers, and the part hears a deafening barrage of messages, which Dr. Kripph manages to record. Later on, they encounter five Xer'Orians blocking their path, moving in a strange loop of motions. Trying to attack the Xer'Orians results in the Wispereds within their exoskeletons escaping, though the party manages to create several torches to fend them off. Near the peak of the mountain, the party comes across a strange sentient structure that calls itself the Ordovic Blade. Ordovic tells them more about Iurisre, reveals to them the full transcript of the message Kripph recorded from the flowers, then telepathically shows them the way to Mnemos Observatory, the origin of the worldrift signals. Upon arriving, the party finds the place full of skeletons with four eye sockets, one of which is the boy they saw in the portal. They enter the control room of Mnemos Observatory, learning the true nature of Iurisre - it was a machine built into the mountain by the Uzurmaatre civilzation hundreds of years ago, intended to reshape Taen's loci, which their race found difficult to conquer. Taen's loci rejected the initial activation of Iurisre, destroying the entire race. Iurisre was only accidentally activated by the adventurers who visited the Argentspire two years prior, which made the machine activate its escape protocol. This failed, however, leading to the exchange of the Taen and Yh'mi mountains, with Iurisre remaining in Taen, within Yh'mi's mountain, and the Argentscar portal in the skies above both mountains. Only by using Ordovic to activate a failsafe on Taen's end, and another mechanism to do the same in Yh'mi. The scientists agree to stay in Mnemos to further study the Iurisre and Uzurmaatre's technology, while the explorers return to Taen's cities to gather reinforcements for the research outpost. Consequences: A new path up the Argentspire has been mapped out. A small research outpost is set up in the Mnemos Observatory in the Argentspire. Taen's scientists now have access to the Uzurmaatre civilization's knowledge. Opportunities Join the next expedition to take Ordovic to the "Lock" of the machine, to begin activating the failsafe to shut Iurisre down.
  11. We are: DONE! 5+ pages in two months - not bad for an S-class quest with an experimental GM style and brevity rules ; u ; Writing up the canonization post as we speak. Probably going to rest from GMing for a month or so while I prep Argentspire III. Thank you @danzilla3 @Tyler, and @מיכאל for participating (and accepting my thread offer lol). I'd love your thoughts on the thread as a whole - if you felt you had a hand in influencing the plot, if you wanted more/less opportunities to interact with the setting elements or other characters, or if the ending seemed to come out of nowhere, or made perfect sense. I'll also be giving your characters the option of being included in the Taen Exploration Committee's list of accredited explorers - which is notable person status. Let me know if you want to claim it and I'll add them to the list I will be making soon(ish)!
  12. Csl

    Argentspire II: Escort

    IX - Epilogue “What I still don’t understand,” Ileto said, as she watched the four explorers make their way down the mountain, “Is why only send four of us? Khartes has the resources to send an entire expedition.” Hansson shrugged. “Cutting corners with budget?” They were sitting in one of the lower rooms, one that had been cleared of skeletons. It had a beautiful view of the alpine tundra, and had thus been designated the Break Room. Kripph entered at that moment, two mugs of coffee in hand. He set them on the table between the two women. “Doesn’t make sense. Research is a priority in Taen. Why send three researchers and a bunch of freelance adventurers up the Argentspire?” Ileto paused. “Who ordered this mission, anyway?” “The prince, I think.” Hansson said. “You know. Because there was panic after that arson incident in Lunaris, a couple months ago. People were thinking it was the Argentspire monsters. I say they crammed it - gave us a half-assed mission and sent us up without expecting we find anything.” Kripph had been silent throughout the conversation. Ileto noticed. “Do you know anything about this, Kripph?” He set down his bagel, brows drawn together. “The prince handpicked everyone who went on this mission,” he said slowly. He slid a hand into his coat pocket, then withdrew a ring - translucent amber, a core of dark pinions trapped within. “We are here to establish a new Khartes site.” “But… why?” Ileto asked. “It’s dangerous here.” Kripph grimaced. “There’s something more dangerous in Site Coeus now, I’m afraid.”
  13. Csl

    Argentspire II: Escort

    VIII - The End “It killed everyone?” Kriphh said, horrified. “Not Iurisre.” Ileto winced. “T-Taen. I think. The blue we saw… it was worldrift.” “Then how-” Ileto stumbled forward, out of the viewing deck. Kripph caught her as she collapsed, clutching her head. ”Ugh. There’s too much in there… archives. Records of their civilization. Books. I’ve only scratched the surface. Need to figure out how to… navigate…” Hansson and Kripph exchanged a look. Hansson helped Ileto sit down. ”Don’t worry, Rianne. We’ll check it the old-fashioned way.” She and Kripph entered the viewing deck, each activating a console on either side of the aperture. Mara, watching the whole scene with an expression of great concern, waved the other adventurers over to the door. ”Come on. Help me set up camp.” A few hours passed with both groups doing their jobs. Mara and the recruits unpacked the contents of the scientists’ cargo. They scoured the lower level of Mnemos, carrying up anything useful they found and clearing out one of the main rooms to serve as a living area. Luckily enough, Mnemos’ facilities appeared to be functional - there was plumbing, at the very least. With the door systems reactivated, the main entrance could finally be sealed, shutting out the cold. When night fell, they regrouped in the control room. Hansson explained their findings through a mouthful of pasta. ”The adventurers who came by two years back - they accidentally triggered Iurisre’s activation.” Kripph nodded. “It performed an escape protocol, one that was intended to uproot the entire Uzurmaatre city - and the mountain and transport it to a different place. But to do that, it had to create a bridge between two similar landmasses-” “Yh’mi and Taen’s mountains,” Hansson finished. “But Iurisre was damaged. It only half-succeeded, swapping the mountains but retaining its location within Taen. The bridge it created between the two loci remains intact. But it’s unstable.” “So how do we close it?” Mara asked. “Luckily, Iurisre has a failsafe. A ‘key’, to turn the lock, and disable it forever.” Ileto’s eyes widened. “Ordovic?” “Ordovic is half of it. The other half of the mechanism is in Yh’mi, unfortunately.” Hansson sighed. “Two sides of a door, two keys. We can get Ordovic to the ‘lock’ on this end of the portal, but another mission will have to be made on Yh’mi’s end.” Mara looked pensive. "All right then. Another expedition to lock the portal down on Taen's end. We'll ferry up more supplies over the next weeks, get more researchers up here. Will you be all right on your own?" Hansson nodded. "Mnemos is secure enough. We'll find a way to establish comms with Coeus. In the meantime, we'll try to find out more." Her face was shining as she spoke. "The Uzurmaatre were arrogant assholes, but there's so much to learn from them. Once we shut the gateway down, this could be a bigger site than Coeus." "It's decided, then." Mara nodded. "We'll set off first thing in the morning."
  14. Csl

    Argentspire II: Escort

    The Activation (Are you all right? Hansson asked. Ileto was looking pale.) (I’m fine, Ileto said. It’s taxing to tune into its frequency. But I need to… get all I can.) (This time, a scene from within the control room flashes on the screen. It was all the same, if less rundown. Seven people stood within the corridor. The walls were screening several views outside the Observatory. One screen panned over citizens gathered in the city, waiting for the machine’s activation. Another showed multiple views within the first level of Mnemos.) (Two figures stood at two consoles near the opening of the corridor. Two other people stood behind them, looking over their shoulders. A third man stood watching a display on the wall, one that showed the Moss Forest) (The two at the consoles raised their hands, pressing several displays on the screens.) “Preparing activation.” (the first said.) “Activation in motion.” (said another.) (The man at the display tapped the screen he was watching.) “Something…” (his voice was inaudible) “... voidfire storm.” (The two at the console began gesturing rapidly; one clutched their head. Meanwhile, the two onlookers hurried to the display on the wall of the corridor, pressing their hands to the screen.) (They’re doing the same thing as the Xers, Kripph realized. The motions they were mimicking.) (The hologram flickered, then went dark.) (Is that it? Hansson asked.) (A flare of bright, worldrift blue. The hologram refocused; all five of Iurisre’s operators lay limp on the floor. Blue fire burned outside the diamond aperture, bathing the corridor in sapphire light.) (The screens on the viewing deck’s walls still shone. Blue fire burned above the tangled bodies gathered in the city streets. Blue fire burned outside each one of Mnemos’ windows. Blue fire illuminated the people who had dropped dead where they had stood.) (This log, Ileto said, goes on for years. Presumably, it only stopped when Iurisre’s record space ran out.)
  15. Csl

    Argentspire II: Escort

    The Model (Here’s another one, said Ileto.) (A three-dimensional object appeared onscreen. A a series of abstract curves that reached up to the sky, numbers flickering into view to depict their measurements. The Aussicald.) (Then, a rounded, blocky building. Mnemos Observatory. Lines extend from its center, text scrolling as Ileto shifts her focus. Viewing deck. Control center. Foci. Evaluation.) (Another structure appeared - Ordovic. Then another. Then another. Then another. All linked together, all interconnected, depicted around a model of the Argentspire. Except, this time, something was different.) (Isn’t that the Taen mountain? The one that used to be in this place before the switch happened? Mara asked.) (Yes. Ileto’s voice trembled. Iurisre isn’t just Aussicald, Ordovic, and Mnemos. Not just a few structures they built on the mountain, Ileto whispered hoarsely. Iurisre lies within the entire mountain.)
  16. Csl

    Argentspire II: Escort

    The Mother (But I was right, she said. That was the boy we saw. I found him here too.) (The screen showed a woman and her son sitting on a couch. It was the boy, coat and all.) “Well-met, Uzurmaate.” (says the woman) “I, for one, look forward to Iurisre’s completion. Too long have we struggled to tame this land. I wish not a world with the eye-lacking ones with twisted bones on their skulls - no. I wish a world for my child free of the horrors of this stubborn world. I wish him to not be trapped in our cramped city, to not need to fret over the flying beasts. I wish a world that is ours, made by our own hand and mind. A world I am working to make a reality.” (The boy smiled up at her, proud. He spoke next, and his voice was the voice the group had heard in the forest.) “Mother is a mind working on Iurisre! I visit her when I can at Mnemos. One of her fellows gave me this!” (He tugged at his cloak) “It’s made of Uzurcol, it will never tear, not for a thousand years! What great things our minds have invented!”
  17. Csl

    Argentspire II: Escort

    The Aussicald, And Its Purpose (And the other one, Ileto said) (The screen showed a woman standing, staring at the spectators with a bright smile. Behind her stood the Aussicald, its curved columns reaching impossibly wide and impossibly high. The ground was barren, only dirt where the group had seen grass and red flowers.) "Here we see the Aussicald, the Vast Receiver." (said the woman.) "An ear to hear the will of gods and snag the dreams of a land. Without it, Iurisre’s operators would not behold the ontological laws of the world, and be blind in its function. The pylons of Aussicald are resonant. They extend into metaphysica, probe the realms immaterial. Aussicald snags the strings of existence, so that Iurisre may know which to unravel." (The woman smiled.) "Here next: the Respistratal Vents." (The feed cuts out. There's nothing more, Ileto said.)
  18. Csl

    Argentspire II: Escort

    The Announcement (Here’s the full record, Ileto said, of the message Ordovic showed us.) (The screen showed an almost familiar scene. A speaker stood on a balcony, behind a podium. Below was an admiring crowd, cheering and waving.) "Assembled today, we Uzurmaatre, are, for this day is a day of greatness. Wherefore we may see displayed the fruit of the labor of our best and brightest, the product of great minds’. Atop the world-forger, sculptor of realities, tamer of lands, we stand now. We shall remain in these peaks no longer. We are trapped behind our city walls by this savage, uninhabitable land no longer. Wherefore no longer will those primitive beasts ravage the lowlands. Wherefore the sun will shine on the ground, no longer swallowed by the shadow of those weeds. "Wherefore, Iurisre will prune this world at its roots, rewrite its laws, and redirect its intent. Wherefore, the forests shall become ashes, with our towers to take place of the trees. Wherefore our destiny, as it was when our starships first broke this sky, shall be fulfilled. "Today, we tame a Loci, and it beneath the Uzurmaatre’s heel, it shall bow."
  19. Csl

    Argentspire II: Escort

    The Anthem (It was a chant. A song, almost. A mantra, spoken by a thousand voices, sung with pride and fervor.) (A national anthem, I think, said Ileto) "We, the Uzurmaate, of four eyes and one mind, so arrive in this world. We, star-wanderers. We, who station our shining cities atop every landform to touch the skies from whence we were born. "We, here, hang our starships amongst these two suns, above the seas of sand. "We, here, will homeland in this great spine that splits this world as a scar, where the winds carry the scent of infinity and the blue fire of the void. "We, here, shall grow and spread, as we have, and as well shall forever more. To stretch the shadow of our highrises over every inch of this land not under the wings of the starships, over fetid swamp and wretched forest. "We are Uzurmaate."
  20. Csl

    Argentspire II: Escort

    “This… seems to be the control room.” Kripph noted. Unlike the rest of the building, there was only one window -- diamond-shaped, located opposite the doorway. It was more an opening than a window, located at the end of an angular corridor lined with vents, opaque monitors, and strange control mechanisms. A handful of skeletons lay dead at the end of the corridor, near the window. ”One, two, three … five.” Kripph counted. He frowned. The room was large. Mara inspected the area near the doorway, far from the corridor, and gestured for the adventurers to lay their bags down. ”This’ll do as a place to set up camp, for now.” Kripph began examining the strange structure at the center of the room. Ileto approached it, a glassy look in her eyes. ”Ordovic was functioning through some psionic means. Maybe this one works the same…” She reached out, brushing her fingers against the rim of the corridor. A soft thrum echoed through the structure. Lights flickered on in the ceiling. A door slid up from the floor with a grating sound, shutting the exit to the control room. Ileto’s eyes were wide. ”It’s the console. The brain of Iurisre.” She stepped into the corridor, hands held out for balance. ”I can understand it. Navigate it.” The walls of the corridor flickered. Suddenly, on the dusty stone walls shone a perfect vista of the scenery around Ordovic. It was the same sight they had witnessed when rounding the outer wall of the second level - the surrounding mountains, the forests, Aussicald, the Steppe - all in perfect view, as if the walls had faded away. ”This is the viewing deck.” Ileto’s voice sounded distant. ”I think… here, they’ve kept an archive. I’ll show you what I’ve found so far.” She stepped backwards. The lights within the viewing deck coalesced, forming a singular, three-dimensional screen.
  21. Csl

    Argentspire II: Escort

    At the top of the stairs was a curved hall that wound around the inside of the Observatory’s perimeter. The eyes - no, the windows of the Observatory were wide and bright. Outside was a clear view of the snow and the mountain. Mnemos’ second level was a perfect vantage point, they would soon realize as they passed window after window, from which one could view nearly the entirety of the mountain. There it was, spread out below them: the misty forest, the Aussicald, even Ordovic was in sight. It was looking at them. Hansson waved at it.Soon, they found a doorway that led into the Observatory’s innermost chamber. Mara led the three adventurers to scope the interior, then waved the scientists inside.
  22. Csl

    Argentspire II: Escort

    The dead were everywhere. Skeletons upon skeletons, each in varying states of disintegration. Lying in the hallways, as if they’d fallen while walking someplace. Hunched over desks. Slumped against pillars, over each other. No flesh, no blood - just bones and discolored cloth. Every skull bore not two, but four eye sockets. Kripph averted his eyes. Hansson winced. Ileto gasped, then pointed to one of the windows. ”I-It’s him. It’s t-the boy.” It was the window from the portal, set in the side of a hallway. It looked into what seemed to be an office building, slits in the walls serving as shelves. Slumped against the window, one hand still dangling on the ledge, was a skeleton smaller than the others. Though it was worn and frayed, It wore the same robe as the boy they’d seen in the portal. Mara shuddered. “Let’s move on.” They walked the circumference of the first level, finding nothing noteworthy in the empty rooms, before they came upon a set of stairs.
  23. Csl

    Argentspire II: Escort

    VII. Mnemos Observatory Mara led the way, once more, urging the group to hurry. The cold pressed into them, and though the wind subsided as they walked, the silence was equally unnerving. With snow below and silver portal above, the world gained a pale, washed-out quality. The fog was gone, at least, and as they ascended up a rock face, their final destination came into view. Mnemos Observatory was a brutalist block positioned on an alpine plateau. Here, the snow was untouched, almost pristine in its stillness. A wide stretch of flat stone slabs provided a path that led directly into the building’s entrance. Pillars stood beneath the bulging overhang, looking like narrow, spiny teeth. Several windows gaped in its perimeter, at times looking too much like a skull’s eye sockets. These were strange comparisons to draw, perhaps, as the building didn’t remotely resemble a skull. Yet there was an air about the structure, one of things long dead. After trudging over uneven terrain for so long, it was a relief to walk on the pavement. The group closed the distance quickly. There was some measure of shelter under the observatory’s overhang, within its shadow. As they climbed the steps, though, they would immediately notice there were no doors. Mara gestured for the three adventurers to go with her, entering the Observatory first as the scientists waited anxiously on its doorstep. “Despite everything,” Hansson murmured, gazing up at the ceiling. “It’s beautiful.” “I still don’t understand why they only sent us three.” Ileto wrapped her arms around herself. ”Something of this scope… hell, the whole of Khartes should be assigned to this project.” Hansson scoffed. ”Perhaps that’s why. It’s not something they want to get out yet.” Mara and the others returned quickly. The explorer’s face was grim. “Nobody inside, as Ordovic said. But… try to brace yourself.”
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    Argentspire II: Escort

    Kriphh heaved a loud sigh. “Yes, Mathias. You assume correctly. It’s… a machine, that much we know, though we don’t know what counts as a “machine” to whatever civilization built it.” Ileto nodded. “It’s common knowledge Taen is an old world. We are preceded by many civilizations, many of them more advanced than we.”. She looked up at Ordovic. ”This may well be the remnants of one of them. I only hope we can avoid whatever end they came to.” Ordovic seemed to process Mathias’ question. It showed him the same structure it had showed Mara, pinning the location of the building deep into his mind. MNEMOS OBSERVATORY. To Erin’s questions, Ordovic first said nothing. Then: EMPTY. Mara stirred. “It’s uninhabited, then. Good enough for me. Let’s go.” This time, there was no hesitation. The group moved onward, leaving behind the strange, sentient structure. Though it continued to say nothing, each member of the group was keenly aware it was watching them leave.
  25. Pallas laid the shades of her reputation down in a neat line like strips of soiled cloth. Victim and fool. Grateful slave and unhappy master. Pawn and queen. Prized possession and plaything. It humiliated her. Pallas watched her blush and pushed down the wave of guilt that rose in his throat like bile. He kept his expression steady. Impassive. This had to be done. Better to clear the air first, to carve into the festering scab and bring what lay beneath into open air. Let her hate him if she would, but Pallas tired of lies and illusions. He took no pleasure in whatever pain his words brought. So he spoke, and watched her carefully, and saw her go still when he paused for breath. And then the moment passed. Another silence stretched between them. The prince could only wonder what lay behind that pensive gaze, even as Gabriela put forward another explanation. She’d put her importance to her old associates in doubt; yet now confirmed it. What did she truly want? To escape her past, yet to continue what she had not been able to do in her old life? So many questions, yet only one answer he sought: ”I am set upon this path.” Pallas cocked his head. “Good. Now--” He rapped his knuckles on the table. The threads of sunlight streaming in through the windows wove themselves into a tapestry; a map of Taen silhouetted in the sunbeams. “Two years ago, a silver portal split the sky above Sierra Ossa. One of Yh’mi’s mountains replaced one of Taen’s, bringing with it hordes of dangerous creatures. We’ve done what we can to undo the Argentspire on Taen’s end.” With a wave, the map was replaced with Yh’mi’s. “But to fully shut down the portal, a group has to travel to the Taen mountain beyond Yh’mi’s charted territories. To say travelling in Yh’mi is difficult is… an understatement. As I’m sure you’re aware, if you’ve visited it once or twice.” “Here’s my proposition. I intend to provide Yh’mi military aid, in order that a group can be sent to the Taen mountain. As you’re travelling to Yh’mi as well, you may accompany the initial reinforcements I’ll be sending - a group of thirty experienced in spending hours I’ll be sending more in the future, but it should serve your purposes.” Two birds, one stone. And yet it was a trivial victory - one task crossed off a mile-long list. For the Argentspire alone, there were a thousand issues to check and recheck, a thousand worries to gnaw at his peace of mind. The balancing act of limiting access to Site Mnemos without raising suspicion about its true purpose. Keeping Site Coeus and Arcturon under his watchful eye. Identifying which citizens were compromised. Keeping Athnolcithandriss placated. Monitoring the activities of the cult of the Coiled Beast, and the phantom rain of the city. Waiting for the Empress to return from wherever she’d gone off to. The weight of it all suddenly came down. Pallas dropped his gaze, biting the inside of his cheek. Gabriela had her worries. He had his own- and perhaps they did not span centuries, did not stem from spiteful lovers, but they were his to carry, all the same. A single misstep, and the delicate equilibrium between the cities and the land could unravel. He knew this. He'd watched it play out in past and future, seen glimpses of time's infinite, unending sphere. Each day could nudge Taen either towards preservation or ruin. But today… perhaps today he'd allow himself space to breathe. Pallas waved his hand, and the map disappeared. “Do you have any concerns, or can we be done with this?”
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