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[ Himmelsfestung ] What Lies Beneath [ Test Quest ]

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"Gods all bless...you mean we might actually make it through this nightmare?" Vera was spooked, and rightfully so. It had become a thing to anticipate the wildly changing walls of the labyrinth. And so, when nothing happened--nothing at all--she felt a stab of relief--and wariness. Anxiety wore down on those nerves, the likes of which she had never known before. All along the wall, threads of eerie light began to etch themselves along the walls on their side, rearranging themselves into strings of pictographs that writhed along the stone walls.

For every step they took, the images--rudimentary, crude--seemed to evolve into harsh script. It was an amazing transformation as they drifted, and soon it would become clear they were rare onlookers of the history of Himmelsfestung. Generations upon generations of magic, a telling of a tale that was far older than they were was revealing itself to them. Vera wondered if this is what Raveena had been after. She had overheard the Countess meeting with a Scrivener specialist. Though the Outsider had been reluctant to have one of his best Librarians taken--he knew he could not deny Artamese Prewitt her latent talent with sorcery and ancient arcane. She had been on an expedition here before--long ago--and barely made it out alive and sane. But she was adamant about recording her findings before the information had been stolen. Working from memory, she relayed to Raveena that there were terrible secrets that lay beneath the surface, as they could hold a key to breaking the magical hold that Raz-Nogore had over the city and its people. On either side of the Questers, the script began the same, spidery scrawl they had become accustomed to reading.

 

 

In the time before time when Man was young and beasts roamed free in the sky. Man and their greed sought to conquer.

 

 

The First Lord, Ingrannus the Jackal led the war against beasts, driving them away. And so Himmelsfestung became.

 

 

Ingrannus, mad in his ways, made a pact with a Wild Witch to protect his people. So consumed with power and greed the price was his humanity.

 

 

The Wild Witch cursed Ingrannus and his people to become like the beasts they controlled and slaughtered.

 

Ingrannus and his people were accursed, neither fully man, nor fully beast.

 

It is said that Ingrannus the Jackal had become a great, horned beast.

 

In shirking his past life and humanity, he became Raz-Nogore, Lord of Beasts.

 

 

The soft glowing script slowly faded away, away and away until they were left in a darkness once more, with only the twinkling of starlight over their head. Before their very eyes they were met with the familiar paths before them. "This is..." Vera began to say, but was too distracted, too engrossed to properly form a response just then. She was in the rear, enthralled with the history that was evolving before her very eyes to read, drinking in as much of the detail as she could. She could not fathom how many generations of magic that soaked and permeated the Labyrinth. If the King was truly so old, she wondered if this is where he drew his power from. Was it the land? The witch? So many questions she had! So few answers she figured she'd get. The tips of her fingers skimmed along the stone--and she could feel that it was cool to the touch, with veins of impurities within it. It was prettier than she had first anticipated, and wondered what it was. "...Johari's going to be so upset he missed this, death be damned."

Vera perked up more, brushing her dark bangs from her eyes when Arashi detected fresher air, "You amazing little bugger!" She exclaimed, truly impressed that her senses were even working. Of course Arashi would be able to detect fresh air! Praise be! "I say, the nose knows. Jin?"

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Jinsoku had seen stuff like this before when he was still on Earth many years ago now. He had seen this time and time again in a movie, or a rad video game. While the story was impressive and most likely real as opposed to a fabricated game, this was usually an indication of making good progress. Inevitably, this would lead the party to a presumed boss fight though, he could almost promise. One did not simply traverse a dungeon without dispatching some big bad boss. But based on the story, was he to assume there was a particular boss from the story as a game would imply? Or was this simply the history of this particular chunk of land, with no real guess at what they would ultimately have to face. He would allow the words to burn into his mind, he would need to be sure to recall them later should they need to know the story for a riddle, or should they survive this whole ordeal and bring the story out with them to share. Surely the Commander, and Master James would love to hear about such a unique story with obvious historic value. He would snap out of his thoughts though when Arashi would make a comment about smelling fresh air, only for Vera to reply in kind to support that statement. Now in his mind, he would have assumed the fresh air source to lead them back to where they come from, respectively. However, so long he felt that the path was approximately in agreement with the directive Jin was following from the labyrinth itself at this point, then by all means...

"Alright Arashi, lead the way. I can't imagine we have much more of a ways to go."

Still, Jinsoku would remain weary. Ready. He almost craved the inevitable battle to come, if for no other reason than to fulfill the life he had committed to. Judging by the story, this tyrant turned beast was the perfect example of what he fought to defend life against. What better way to use his skills than for what they were literally meant for. While previously, Jinsoku has been known to be particularly messed up with the thought and act of killing, it should be noted that after his experience with whispernight, the art of killing was something that came to him a bit easier now. Almost too easy. Fortunately he had failed to kill outside of actual necessity, ultimately, hopefully, saving his humanity.

@Deus Ex Aizen @Metty

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"Hey I only detected fresh air, don't look at me like I'm some sort of amazing leader!" The draconian scoffed, making through the way she had detected fresh air. She sniffed around for some more, trying to find the exit. "My senses should help us get the hell out of here. I hate being trapped in a shithole."

The draconian didn't seemed too pleased, angry as heck and wanting to get out of this hellhole that was some sort of system.

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"I will take fresh air over anything else. This place is starting to play tricks on my mind. I think we can all agree to let my Lady know never to set foot down here without some sort of magical compass or a very handy little Draconian--who should watch her language!"

Though Arashi was less than pleased, Vera was extremely pleased to know the Dragon woman was more than capable of finding a good enough path to lead them through safely. The walls rising and falling had been far too dizzying for her to want to participate in something that atrocious ever again. She wondered if there were corpses laid about in walls they couldn't see that had simply given up, laid down and died? Vera didn't nearly have the sense of smell that Arashi did, but she chose to place her faith in the woman as well as Jin's choice to follow through.

Yet again, nothing happened as they made their way, and slowly taking their time as they worried if they had taken the wrong turn. Still, nothing. It was only after several seemingly long seconds that Vera let out a very loud sigh of relief. Script begin to flicker to life, etching into the wall as though it were being scorched. It felt more powerful than before, and shown as much. The script--ever evolving through the various languages of the many cultures that evolved--seemed to grow its brightest, nearly blinding them all. Before long, Vera thought it was Daylight, and she gave out a startled cry as she began to shield her eyes from the sheer brightness. Had it been that long since someone had made it that far into the Labyrinth? There was no text she could make out this time, no continuation of the intriguing tale--which meant there would be nothing to report to Raveena if they made it out, and despite the choking fear of the blinding light, Vera felt disappointment.

The walls, the floor, the night sky of the ceiling was illuminated for several bright seconds before it died down to nothing. Vera--out of precaution(vainly, she thought, as surely they would be vaporized by the light)--had thrown herself on the ground to duck and cover. When she was certain she was still alive and in one piece, she exhaled a shaking breathe and glanced up, spots dancing in her vision. "A-are we all alive? In one piece?" Her voice reflected the fear she felt at the sudden assault of light. Slowly, she made her way to her feet. Her fingers were trembling, too. Every bone in her body was practically rattling.

She looked around but saw nothing. Gingerly, she reached out, her fingers twitching nervously until she felt the cold wall of the Labyrinth. Vera looked up and sucked in a gasp.

"The ceiling...the stars are gone!"

No longer were the twinkling star-like gems of silvery white there to give them some measure of comfort. Instead, they were left in the dark. "What do we do now?!" Panic set into her trembling voice. She could barely see three feet infront of her, their inky silhouettes barely visible against the dark.

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"I wouldn't quite call it being trapped if you entered of your own free will."

He teased knowing they were indeed stuck in this shit hole as Arashi so colorfully put it. At least they had seemed to have good enough fortune to not misstep on their path more than once thus far. Jinoku would grow silent though as he began to get the feeling that indeed they were moving along amazingly good. Too good. A magic labyrinth would likely be in place to hide something, to protect it even. Despite the fact that it was helping them along to an extent with it's cryptic messages and what not was enough to raise more concern than he had prior. Before he could manage to verbalize his concerns though, it would seem there was no time for warning. Suddenly, the walls began to dance through several various languages, slow enough to identify some of the dialects, but much too fast to translate or read any of the insightful text. This gave way to what would be brilliant burning white light that would surely blind one gazing straight into it. He braced himself as he turned his head a close his eyes, his arm raising to provide extra shielding from said light. He did not fall to the ground like his companion though, such would not be wise, more importantly it did nothing to increase one's level of safety. 

Faster than it's arrival, the light would subsist, leaving them in a void of black in it's wake. It could've looked that way with the ridiculous dilation necessary to adjust to the rapidly changing light settings, though once his sight cleared he would witness the loss of the stars above as Vera would soon come to announce. This gave him a weird feeling in his gut. A feeling only explainable by comparison to having "cutieflies" in one's stomach, but these were more like bumble bees. The knots being tied would make him feel nauseous, though he refused to allow himself to vomit. He swallowed the growing lump in his throat as the Raiju would surely be on edge, growling profusely with it's ears perked and it's tail stiffened. It's stand unmistakable as it knew before Jin and the rest that they were in danger. His left hand came to place itself on his stomach as he reassured it he was weary. His right hand would fetch his spear and grasp it firmly, though it remained completely collapsed into it's smallest possible size of roughly a foot and a half.

"Everyone in one piece?"

He questioed as his hand would raise from his stomach and become hosted in the air. While he didn't need it, he wasn't so sure of his teammates, and so he provided the courtesy of making himself more of a human nightlight. His hand would become encased in azure streaks that would burn so bright they nearly appeared white. Illuminating their immediate area and stretching nearly eight feet from the source. Visually he would observe his party members and confirm their well being. By the time Arashi would respond to him. He knew Vera was fine, though obviously she was becoming scared shitless.

"You best prepare yourselves. I have a feeling that conflict is inevitable. Something isn't right, even the Raiju is uneasy."

Saying the Raiju out loud made him realize how shitty it was that he had been with the beast for roughly two years and yet hadn't managed to come up with a name for it. Man, he really should. Knowing they were life partners, it would be much easier to refer to it if it had an official name. Then again, if his theories and growing studies were correct as he assumed, it would be trivial to say the least. Eventually they would practically be one in the same. In which case, perhaps they would share a name as they technically already did. Shoving such thoughts away, Jinsoku kept attention to their surroundings as the group regathered their barrings. Soon as the ladies were ready to proceed, they would push on in hopes of escaping this hell before it was too late.

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"...I can curse all I want.  It ain't that bad." Arashi said as she replied back to the enforcer. She still wasn't shocked at all of this, as this was certainly something she saw in video games. "Wow, we're in some sort of magicial maze, what could possibly go wrong?" Arashi said with a saracastic tone as she looked around. She had started to ignore Jin at this point, not giving a fuck.

Arashi raised an eyebrow as something happened, not looking imtimidated a single bit. "...Wow. Someone used flash. That's just as bad as getting a flashlight pointed in your face." The draconian was being a smartass now, as she did she got fazed slightly when that light happened. "What next? Giant cutieflies?"

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“What is a Raiju?” Vera asked, momentarily curious. It was not the first time she had heard that word in association with Jin. Raveena mentioned in nearly every time she spoke of the young man. He wondered if he was like Raveena, and favored by a higher power in some way. Was he born with something special? Did everyone in Valucre have something special about them?

Even Arashi seemed different than most for her age, though it was harder to pin down. She supposed that if they were to face conflict like Jin suggested, having such abilities or bonds would be preferable. She was a mage like most Enforcers, but she was nothing compared to the Ironstride back in Genesaris. Touched by the gods and all of that, she was just a woman who enjoyed living her life and sorely missed her partner. “I just want to get back to the surface and some level of normalcy. This whole place just feels off to me. I’m not finely attuned to the arcane like some are. My abilities are limited and specialized—which is fine by me. I didn’t ask for my ability, I’ve simply learned to accept it and adapt my life to it.”

She thought of the words on the wall, and the story it told—and the she shuddered. She couldn’t imagine being so greedy, wanting and craving more—and it turn her into a full-fledged monster. Running nervous fingers through her hair, she exhaled, “We’re back to our favorite unlucky number of paths. Where do we go from here, Arashi? Left, right, or straight ahead?”

She was curious as to what her nose would tell her.

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The full explanation of what a Raiju was would be best saved for another time, though he would give her a hint to the entirety of it. Hopefully it would be enough to quell her curiosity until they found themselves in a more suitable environment to hold such a heavy conversation. 

"Where I'm from, the world is shared with spirits, commonly referred to as Kami or Yokai. A Raiju is one of these types of spirits, most accurately depicted as a wolf of lightning."

Briefly he found himself mentally reeling about the more extreme portion of his symbiosis with the Yokai. The line between them thinned and blurred the longer they remained in tact. Even now he was certain he had met a non return point with their relationship. A Raiju in it's truest nature buried itself into the core of it's host's very soul, in which it would hollow out said core and replace it. Undoubtedly, depending on the causes of death, the Raiju in the right conditions would earn it's freedom with Jinsoku's inevitable passing. However, in the wrong conditions, the Raiju would find it's life snuffed out with it's unfortunate host. Perhaps that was why it was so hard to name the Raiju something unique to itself. It had been a part of him for so long, and it's roots were so deep that jinsoku perhaps had already subconsciously accepted it as a part of himself. Snapping out of his aloof nature, his gaze found Arashi again as he patiently waited for her directive. It should be noted that he too remained weary of their changed environment. He refused to drop the notion that conflict was coming, for whatever secrets these chambers held were assuredly old and valuable. 

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Arashi had taken a moments notice to think about where to go next, as her nose would likely point her in the right direction after all. Being part dragon sllowed her to have senses beyond normal, letting her sense little things such as small gaps of fresh air or poisoned produce, her sense of smell mainly was so great that she was able to track down a target from their scent, providing they don't mask it. As for the lack of light in the dark hallway, Arashi surrounded her left hand with electrical flames, the electricity and fire, giving off enough light to see slightly in the darkness.

With that done, the Draconian walked off straight down the corridor, not going left or right. She truly believed going straight was the right course of action.

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Vera sucked in air and followed Arashi, nearly excited and yet fearful. She was in the company of fearsome individuals, no matter how young they seemed. She herself, was quite useful when it came to torture, but she was otherwise quite a cheerful young woman--when they weren't cooped up in a maze of a labyrinth. A wolf of lightning, though. It sounded very much like something Vera would be thrilled about in theory! But she knew herself better than that.

"I'd settle for a lightning cat, or maybe a bird. A wolf sounds overdoing it for me." She smiled nervously--and it was her way of calming her own nerves. The walls did move, no magic runes revealed themselves. It was eerily quiet and dark, but still the Draconian seemed intent to move onward. Only when they had reached a dead end did Vera feel her nerves creep over the sensation of relief. The wall before them trembled, shuddering and rose into the air, revealing an illuminated room within. Even just leaning up, Dafina could see the ceiling was illuminated brightly by the stars that had previously vanished.

"I don't know that I like this...I think I liked the idea of a lightning wolf better."

Would they die if they moved forward? The wall did not move again, so clearly they would not be trapped there. Nervously, Vera moved ahead, the palms of her hands tingling with electricity.

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Something was wrong here. Jinsoku found himself feeling a familiar emotion that he perhaps arguable had learned to love as much as he had learned to hate. Fear. A chill ran up his spine as goosebumps found his skin. He began to feel hot as his heart increased its rate, and his palms began to perspire. His chest grew a bit tight, and his breath slightly shortened. The final shifting of the wall before them revealing what was previously lost, and likely welcoming them to just about their destination. Still, something was off. He couldn't be sure, but by his guess, Jinsoku was almost certain that one of the star formations from over head before was in fact missing. Though without being keen on things of astronomy, he couldn't identify which one was missing, let alone confirm such a thing to begin with. Still, something was waiting beyond their final door, he was all but certain of it. Despite cottonmouth setting in, he swallowed hard before attempting to speak to Arashi, to convince her that she should take a step back and place him back in the lead. Whatever he felt, he couldn't outright sense it for whatever reason, but his gut told him something was indeed lurking in their company. 

"Arashi, come back. Get behind me!"

He exclaimed in excitement more than volume. He hoped Vera would too allowing him to maintain the lead, allowing them to watch each other's backs as well as Jinsoku, especially in a situation where they were certain the threat was somewhere ahead of them. 

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Beyond the walls, an ethereal swirling of light circled over their heads. To the Believers, it would have been celestial and heavenly in appearance. To skeptics, it was something foreboding. The soft starlight they had previously witnessed was brighter now that clustered together. It was almost as though they were witnessing a swarm of stars. The room was noticeably warmer, the heat stored in the stone walls slowly baking the interior over time. It was tolerable for now.

The arrival of the questers seemed to trigger something—a burst of light, a burst of heat, and suddenly the ethereal cloud was chaotic, swirling and shifting in its shape. The cluster had been excited—or angered. It began to stretch and pull itself out into a long, thin cord—or perhaps the coiling mass of something worse. Some of the star-like entities shown brighter than others, and it appeared as though a constellation had formed itself, writhing and coiling in the air over their heads, illuminating the room as though day had come deep underground.

Soaring through the air, the snake-like creature was defensive of the intrusion, and had taken on a form it felt worthy of destroying. If the adventurers spared a glance around, they would have seemed the bright illumination had cast shadows and revealed the bones of corpses cowering in the corners. They were not the first to venture here, nor were they the last.

If they didn't prepare themselves, their journey would end here.

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Arashi wouldn't let her fear consume her today for the sake of this. She was determined to see this through regardless of the choice she had to make today. Arashi continued forward even go far to point blank ignore Jin's wishes. She wasn't gonna let him get injured that easily by his arrogance. She knew fine that he didn't have the same potent healing factor she did.

"No, Jin, I will not. That's just recklessness. You forget that your just human. The both of you are. A possible fatal blow would kill you both because you don't have the regen I have. Do yourself a favor and at least let me be in charge to save you both from dying?"

Arashi sounded concerned to say the least. She was worried about her comrades. As she glanced around the room she noticed the dead corpses as she continued forward. This fear inside her was not a good thing.

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Jinsoku refused to bicker at a time like this. If Arashi wished to play the fool and remain sacrificial and rash, then so be it. While her claim was not false, it simply wasn't the whole truth. Jinsoku was in fact born a natural human, though his continued existence was much more than that thanks to the Raiju he hosted within him. While his regenerative abilities were not likely as up to par as Arashi's, his own advanced ability was nothing to scoff at. His condition simply required him to rest in order to heal the fastest he possibly could. Still, there was no time or point to explaining or arguing. She didn't have to follow his directive, even if he was the one leading this party on this very quest. Instead, as the luminescent beast formed in likeliness of a rather large serpent, Jinsoku released his own minute light in comparison. Now, he solely focused on assimilating his energy in preparation for offense and defense alike. His feet shifted shoulder width apart and his legs acquired a slight bend in them. He readied himself as his right hand brought his spear to his front, his left forming in tandem to shape a universal guard. His spear was still fully retracted, yet it was prepared for use regardless. In their final moment, he focused solely on preparing himself. He hoped his comrades did the same. Despite the macabre vision of skeletons by the mounds around the deepest corners of the room, Jinsoku failed to find himself intimidated. These sights were nothing in comparison to the horrors in which he had seen.

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