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The Brittle King's Tragedy

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Umbral Historical Society Dig Site, The Velhatien Desert

The Rising West, Genesaris

The Year is 18,597

Heat. Heat, and dry, unforgiving desert air. The motionless air stifles the senses, making it easy to choke on dust, or your own saliva even. Yet, this will not be the state of things forever, nor will that be the state of things for even the rest of the day, if the rare, and incredibly ominous clouds on the fringes of the desert sky are any indication. It's far from a natural sight in the skies over the Velhatien, this looming storm on the horizon. Rain was coming, and with it, would come winds, sandstorms, and flash flooding.

In the span of a single storm, the foreman reflected quietly, looking towards the clouds, all of their work would be wiped away, and it would take quite some time before they could make another trip to begin their digging anew. It was disheartening, but more than anything it only pushed the sense of urgency that was so present around their dig site, and it only took one look back at their excavation to explain why.

The foreman walked across the dig site briskly, their grey scholar robes swishing about their ankles as they kicked up dust with each step. The air almost seemed to crackle with the tense atmosphere the digging crew held--the foreman couldn't fault anyone, either; they'd all shared that same electrified excitement ever since their great discovery. It loomed nearby now, and its massive shadow fell over the northernmost part of the camp.

The foreman stopped and stared. Ancient, crumbling and only recently exposed to the still, uncaring desert air, the ziggurat stood tall, proud and mysterious. There was a familiar sense of melancholy that bubbled up briefly in their stomach, as they realized how quickly the sands and winds would strip away the unique decorative stone they'd spent hours brushing clean in the last couple days. Worse still was how the storm would pummel the sand and dust down, before swirling it all together in the flash flooding that followed, ultimately burying--or even outright encasing--the unearthed temple in tens of thousands of pounds of sand. They wouldn't be seeing it again. Not in this lifetime, certainly.

However, they could not stay long to gawk. The foreman cast their gaze down again and hurried on, turning away from the solid, sealed stone doors of the ziggurat, and towards the open canvas flap of the biggest tent in the dig. 

Inside, the first two volunteers were waiting somewhat comfortably, not getting up to too much, and waiting rather patiently for their work to finally begin. They gave the foreman a glance as they entered, but the foreman only shook their head in response.

"Not yet," They answered the unspoken question. "We're still waiting on a few more."

The two travelers had been the first to respond to their request for 'mercenary assistance', as one of the archaeologists had put it, and in doing so had nearly scared off the entire party. 

How else were they to react, when a colossal entity made entirely of light burst from the earth a mere pebble's throw from the camp in the dead of night, raining silt and sand down on top of several of the tents upon its exit. The diggers were all unarmed scientists and historians, dedicated to the effort of digging around for artifacts and remains, and only recently massive stone structures. Having what could only be described as a light elemental, or perhaps some kind of giant erupt from the earth and start hunting around for crystals was, of course, a cause for alarm. The archaeologists started trying to pull up roots right away when it arrived, as is to be expected, and ran away with whatever findings they could get their hands on immediately. However, when the clumsy beast began hunting around almost silently for stones, and paid them no attention, they eventually stopped trying to flee, almost petrified by scientific curiosity. Not long after did the many-armed monster finish gathering its crystals and arranging them on the ground, and not much longer after that did the first two visitors to the camp arrived, and with their arrival the light creature was dismissed entirely, as if it'd never been there to begin with.

Silence had reigned after that, until the foreman eventually figured out who they were, and how they'd heard about their request so soon.

Since then, the foreman had spoken rather little with them, aside from giving them a place to stay (that they didn't really need, they explained) and offering what scarce supplies the camp could manage to them, should they require it. Beyond that, they kept to themselves, inspecting the ziggurat in silence, while one of the senior archaeologists did their best to make sure they didn't tamper with or damage the ruins.

When they'd first arrived, however, the skies had been clear. They had time to wait.

Now, the foreman worried they might be forced to go in alone, in an effort to at least recover something from the ziggurat. Without help, however, the foreman feared they would be woefully unprepared for whatever awaited them below. Such a fate had already fallen two senior archaeologists from the crew already, after all.

The sand crunched underfoot, and the foreman turned around as one of the junior diggers stuck their head inside the tent. 

"Foreman, so sorry to interrupt, but we just received a message from Home." They informed the foreman earnestly. "We're expecting at least a handful of arrivals by airship sometime soon."

Finally, some good news. The foreman gave a small prayer of thanks before nodding their acknowledgement.

"Excellent. Have someone keep an eye out for them. Get the rest of the camp ready to evacuate; we'll probably be leaving on board the airship once it gets close."

The junior disappeared, and the foreman turned their attention back to the two inhabitants of the tent.

"That's some excellent timing, I think. Once the airship arrives, we'll be escorting all of you to the ideal entrance to the ziggurat, quickly. We'll offload some extra gear, should you need anything, but then the crew and I need to pull out."

Did they just imagine it, or did neither of the mercenaries seem all that concerned with the prospect of being abandoned. Did the foreman hear shouts of excitement out front? Regardless, they went on to explain, ignoring the cries outside of the tent.

"We'll have lodestones, and perhaps some camping supplies left behind, should you be left without any alternatives. It will make your escape easier, once the work is done." They promised.

More crunching of sand, followed another interruption, and another junior peeked into the tent. Their face was flush, as if they'd run the full length of the camp to get here.

"Foreman, there's a," They paused, and tried again. "We've found skeletons near the far end of the camp."

"Skeletons?" A pity, really. Human remains, or otherwise, would have been a huge finding, if they had the time to excavate them before the storm hit. In this case, however, the foreman was still curious. They hadn't found too much in the area, aside from the ziggurat.

"Well, what kind of skeletons? Are they well-preserved?"

"They're, well...they're in fair shape." The junior replied, still baffled. "In fact, they're flying a ghost ship right this way."

The foreman's eyebrows flew up in surprise.

"Come again? Ghost Ship?"

 

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Although they were supposed to be organizing and packing up, this did not deter the archaeologists from crowding together to watch the ship close in on them. It was hard to spot earlier, where the blinding sun and endless sand made it difficult to identify properly. The translucent vessel might have been more easily identified later that day, when the shadows of the nearby dunes and cliffs would allow it to contrast a little better, and late at night, the ghostly ship might even have cast an unearthly green glow. The spirits on board, however, were much easier to spot, and the excavation crew gawped openly as the skeletons pulled the vessel closer and closer to the ground.

The foreman elbowed their way through the small gathering, barely aware of the two mercenaries that had followed them out of the tent towards the spectacle. They glanced up at the...flying...ship?

The foreman sighed, and cursed their misfortune. It was an airship, wasn't it?

They turned back towards the crowd, and waved them down.

"Back it up," The foreman called, pantomiming pushing their crew back. "Back up, people, give the ship some room to..." Their voice trailed off, as another shadow swept overhead, as a much more tangible shape appeared in the sky. The airship that arrived just now was far faster, and a lot easier to spot than the ghost ship, which was alarmingly close now, close enough that it almost appeared ready to land.

"Back it up!" The foreman cried again. "Get back!" They stumbled back. In fact, almost all of the archaeologists retreated further away than necessary, even. The foreman, and the two mercenaries were the closest to the descending ghost ship. It lingered overhead now, but instead of descending, with its sinister skeletal crew and uncertain magics, a singular figure was lowered down to the ground, via some sort of hammock, or perhaps a stretcher. The foreman looked on, visibly confused until the obviously amused, and giggling passenger touched down. She reached the ground, got to her feet, and the litter, and the ship, both rose back up and vanished from sight. Rather, it didn't really 'vanish' all at once, but rather it drifted away on a nonexistant breeze, or perhaps a ghostly wave.

The foreman didn't have much time to question that, however, when faced with the child before them. The girl was...underwhelming to say the least. However, riding in on a ghost vessel was not, and it suggested there was far more to this girl than the foreman could see. They sighed, and glanced at the mercenaries, and the clouds on the horizon. They could move at any moment now. They needed to get moving.

"I'll just assume that you're here for the ad, then." The foreman nodded at the girl, and glanced towards the two mercenaries next to them right now.

"Actually, actually!" The foreman turned around to see the speaker, another of the junior diggers, who led another trio this way. This group seemed a little easier to identify, however. One of them stood, almost totally silent, in a well-made suit of grey armor, while the other two were less heavily equipped. Their stance didn't suggest familiarity, which meant they were probably all solo contractors.

"More mercenaries?" The foreman asked, exasperated. This was beginning to get out of hand. With this many people arriving at once, there wouldn't be time to brief everyone on their thesis on the ziggurat, nor would they be able to give them a proper outfitting before they were dispatched. The foreman shook their head in annoyance, and waved at the mercenaries at large.

"Okay, enough of this. We don't have a lot of time to prepare anymore, and I need to get this camp packed up. Follow me, we'll get you some extra supplies, and show you to the ziggurat." The foreman turned towards one of the tents closest to the ziggurat, and started walking at that familiar brisk pace. Overhead, the clouds appeared to be closing in, only slightly faster than before.

The foreman passed into the tent before their tiny group of mercenaries had time to catch up, yet once they entered the tent they found the foreman still rifling through supplies. Much of their equipment had been stored away in small crates, already, but right now they rooted through a heavy-looking burlap sack.

"We dug up the Ziggurat roughly a week ago," They explained, pulling several items from the bag at a time. Much of it was set aside, or tossed away, based on its importance. Of note were a few small tins of kerosene, which appeared to belong to a rather shiny-looking brass lantern resting on a crate nearest the door. Several yards of rope rested in a grand coil on the floor, probably too much to carry all at once, for most people. Small knives, brushes, and even a lock pick set were tossed aside as the foreman finished emptying the bag.

"We're not quite sure what civilization or era it belongs to, but the stonework is in great condition. Almost all of the engraved script is still intact." The foreman stopped talking, and offered the party a fistful of small stones. Each appeared to be made of blown glass, but hummed almost like the edge of a wine glass when they were rubbed. These lodestones were commonplace in dangerous dig sites--if things went wrong, crushing the lodestone would return the bearer to their 'home.' Handy, if you were to be trapped in an ancient temple in the middle of a desert storm.

Having found what they were looking for, the foreman brought them back out, and around the tent, towards the looming, massive stone doors of the ziggurat. These ancient, stoic barriers looked as heavy as they did grand, and looking at the floor revealed that they hadn't been opened, even once.

"We haven't been able to get a good look at the interior, but we're hopeful, still. These massive doors suggest that the ziggurat was intended to be a mass grave. Perhaps a necropolis of some kind," The one on the heavy metal perked up at that, and a chill ran down the foreman's spine. Something about that character seemed unnerving. They hoped they'd never learn what it was that bothered them so. 

Instead of leading them to the doors, then, they walked them around the doorway, to a slant that lead on top of the dune that housed the ruins, where they quickly identified the little well they'd used earlier. The foreman walked around the little hole in the sand, and turned to face the party. An unexpected wind swept by, dragging their headwrap around for a second before they got it under control.

"We'll have you enter the ziggurat through this hole here, and from there you'll be on your own, I'm afraid." They explained, having to raise their voice as another wind wailed past. Somewhere not far off, thunder rumbled.

"This was most likely supposed to be a means of letting smoke from funeral pyres, or maybe from lamp oil escape, but it should be wide enough to fit all of you easily, one at a time. I also have a request, however." The foreman looked at them, and shrugged, helplessly.

"I'm missing two senior archaeologists down there. They went missing roughly three days ago, and we haven't heard from them since." They explained. "They had lodestones, so they might be at home, but we can't be sure because we never got any notes or letters. If you find them, or proof that they escaped--or if they didn't--I'll pay each of you. Beyond that, anything you find down there, it's yours." The foreman cranked the handle by the well until the rope dangling down into it had come up as high as it could. There were a number of knots in the rope, to act as handholds, but aside from that, there was no platform to stand on, or official rungs, or handholds. There also was no means of figuring out how deep the shaft went.

"I would let you ask a few questions, but we don't have time anymore." The foreman gestured to the rope. "All of you on, one at a time. We'll get you all down there, and then it's time to move."

Thunder split the heavens overhead. The foreman flinched.

"Hurry!" They pressed the party, who had already begun to follow their instructions. At a record pace, the party was lowered down, one at a time, until they all vanished beneath deep into the bowels of the ziggurat.

The party was alone, now, far enough down that the whistling winds could no longer be heard overhead.

It was time to explore.

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Azytzeen hated deserts, always hot and sand always found itself in the most uncomfortable places. Still, his curiosity got the best of him. It wouldn’t be the first time he would have to travel to a desert. Wouldn’t be the last either. Still, the heat was certainly a factor for his complaints. It wasn't just the armour that carried some of the blame. Azytzeen is a big man, a bigness of large, heavy bone, and ropey tendon rather than flesh. Broad shoulder and possessed of the stature noted to be carried in the natives of the Shawnee. He’d certainly rather this be in the Shawnee, alas beggars can’t be choosers.  Ever since they’ve arrived the camp has been in a buzz. Sandstorm obviously. He was not a native of Genesaris, but he could sense the very nature was different compared to Terrenus. The very air was saturated with the stuff. ‘I can only imagine the type of sandstorms this desert gets,’ he shrugged away the thoughts as he watched the forman intently. It seemed that there was a good amount of his fellow mercenaries or adventurers. Put a wrench into the time eh? He allowed himself a small smile to creep across his features.

It might have even been a handsome smile.

If not for the hideous scars that marred his face. An eyepatch covered the ruined flesh that was his left eye, sadly it did not cover the scars that wreathed his face. Like snakes those scars twisted themselves from his left eye to above and under his right. When he smiled, it caused those very scars to slither as if alive. He often blamed it on why he couldn’t get married. As he followed the forman his ruined eye began to itch. ‘It always itches when something fun is going to happen,’ he thought as he scratched at his eyepatch in futility.

Clouds are closing in.

Certainly as situation to be mindful of. This placed a lot of risk now that time was of the essence. The forman was certainly in a rush. As he entered the tent the first thing he noticed was the miscellaneous pile on the floor. All stuff anyone would need for exploring a place such as the Ziggurat. Having noticed the lantern on a crate nearest to where they entered, he decided to take advantage of the ‘free’ supplies laying on the floor. He knew what he could carry little so he decided to first cut him a length of rope from the coil on the floor. Kneeling down by the pile as he listened, he picked up one of the small knives and began to cut what he needed. “That should be long enough,” smiling to himself he picked up two of small tins of kerosene. He then made his way towards abandoned lantern, sliding the knife down his vambrace. Hopefully the others would pick up the rest.

“Looks new,” he said under his breath.

His ears perked at the mention of ancient script, he would have to make sure to detail all he sees in his memory. Those scholars at the Lorespire would temple in ecstasy at the thought of possible secrets. It made his ruined eye itch more. When he turned back around, he had already used one of the tins to fill the lantern, and the rope to tie it to the right side of his sword belt, along with the pouches of his trade and supplies. When he turned around he was ready to receive the lodestone. Taking one, he placed it inside his coin pouch. He would certainly have to examine it once he found the time. Once everyone received their lodestones and picked whatever supplies they wanted the Forman had them moving once again. The Forman certainly had the idea. No matter how you looked at it, the Ziggurat was certainly something else. It made him wonder why they didn’t seek help from any of the nearby cities.

Can’t blame them if they are afraid of others stealing their work,’ the scholars at the Lorespire mentioned Genesaris was rife with this sort of espionage. Shame really, who knows what this Ziggurat could hold?

Necropolis? Oh well what joy, if there was anything Azytzeen was not fond of it would certainly be that. This was a massive ruin, if what they thought was true then this could be one of the largest burial sites ever found. Not to mention rife with who knows how many undead. ‘Fun indeed,’ he gave a slight smile as he listened on. As they moved around the door Azytzeen prepared himself for the eventuality he may have to climb down a very deep, and uncomfortable hole. He was right of course.

As ever.

Next the events went quickly, Foreman told them they would be climbing down a hole, next they would obviously be on their own, and of course the storm over head made things worse. The worst thing about mercenary work is you will often find yourself climbing down a dark, stinking, hole with little to no information, and wondering where you went wrong with your life. Making sure the lantern, and his sword were secure he was the first one to begin climbing down the rope, he made it look easy while completely shod in steel, alas that isn’t how he felt. ‘I am certainly getting old, think his grace will let me rest?’ Azytzeen wished Titus was here, granted he was just a floating head now he still had his uses. Being rushed down a hole wasn’t going to be his fondest memory of the trip, but it would make an excellent story. He could feel others begin to climb down the rope after him, thunder still roaring above.

The storm certainly made him want to move quicker, and that he did. When he reached the bottom it was dark. He could tell the floor was certainly hard, stone perhaps? The sound of his steel-shod feet clicking against the ground certainly supported the idea. “Time to see what all the fuss is about.”

By the time the one who came after him arrived, Azytzeen had already lit the lantern.

It was dark no more.

At least it wouldn’t be pitch black when the others arrived.

Edited by Garion

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The armored man followed in an eerie silence, seeming unperturbed by the incoming storm or the haste with which they needed to move. He was a little above average height, with a lean frame and broad shoulders. He was unassuming compared to the others, his leather armor was a bit grungy, and the steel plates attached to specific areas were unpolished. His face was obscured by a full helm. He was armed simply, a bow, a large buckler, and a short sword of unimpressive--if decent--quality. He looked every bit the rookie adventurer.

He spoke little, save for the odd, “I see.” He was not particularly interested in the ziggurat itself. Though he silently noted that flooding and burring would not be an option. Though perhaps a collapse? He was drawn from his thoughts as the man began to rifle through a burlap sack, taking out a few items here and there as he conducted his search. He watched as the heavily armed knight took possession of the lamp and other items that might be useful.

That was a good idea.

Ghoul Slayer snatched a knife, almost a foot long, and strapped it--sheath and all-- to the outside of right boot. He snatched up the remaining tins of oil and placed them in the small bag attached to his belt. He also took the matches, figuring that the knight must not have seen them. “You all should do the same.” He said simply, gesturing with a nod to the items still remaining with a nod. His voice was interesting, a smooth and low tone, with a calm--almost serene--quality. Without another word he set his efforts to the crates around him.

He found two small bottles of a flammable substance, the label read that it was cooking fuel. Next he came across archaeologists’ robes. While not expensive the material was durable, clean, and breathable. It probably burned well, or could serve as a sterile bandage. He once more organized his bag so that four robes were neatly folded at the bottom of his bag, the tins of lamp fuel, along with the bottles on top, with his scroll sitting on top of them. The matches, lockpicks, and lodestones had been tucked tightly into his belt.

Ghoul Slayer once more followed the foreman further as he continued his explanation of events. “There might be ghouls then. They like the dark and ancient places.” He said with, surprisingly; more than just one or two words. He continued along with the foreman, finally coming upon the hole that led further down into the depths. The first down was the grey armored knight, the end of his descent was punctuated by the light of a lantern. “Hmm?” That was curious. He never took the matches. Magic? He filed the thought away as he made his way down.

Booted feet touched the stone floor and the sound of steel sliding bare echoed in the dim light. He turned his head, more to catch sounds at different angles than to look for shapes in the dark. Though he too searched for any odd movement in the shadows. Satisfied he sheathed his short sword and looked around. That was when he spotted footprints leading south, towards the wall. “There are two sets of footprints.” He would say once the rest of the party had descended. He then knelt down and began to poke and prod random tiles with his newly acquired knife. "No traps, yet."

Edited by Alexei

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Pollst was...careful? No, attentive. No, observant. All three, perhaps. He arrived punctually, he made no comments about the desert, he just watched, for a while. He smiled, and as the archaeologists explained everything, he noted them down on a scroll. Perhaps, one of his party was perceptive. Or perhaps they were a mind-reader, because maybe they knew the scroll was empty, and was beginning to be filled with descriptions. Of the party. Jotted notes. Descriptors.

"Armoured man - determined. Quiet. Scary! Anti-hero?"

"Armoured man - determined. Quiet. Scary! Anti-hero? Again! What? Who is first to die, then...?"

He glanced at the others, going to begin noting another thing down on the screen, however he was interrupted. Someone was requesting he take a match. "Oh." Pollst said. "Oh...no, I - I don't need one!" He said, smiling. "I don't need it - I can just cast Cone of Light or Minor Flame..." He said, brushing off the suggestion, before all of a sudden he was being ushured into the ziggurat.

Never one to falter when it came to adventure, Pollst descended, stepping into the first room with the others. He clicked his hand, and - not surprisingly - a cone of light burst out from his fingertip. He stepped back, beginning to shine it around the room. "Perhaps...a bit...redundant, since we have lanterns." He said, nodding to himself. "...but this is more...focused." It was so. Wherever he pointed at, it was brighter. Quite brighter. Useful for navigation. And even more useful for trapseeking, so when he heard the comment about 'no traps yet' all he said was.

"I'll shine ahead as we walk. Give us a better...chance of spying those traps."

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Ilyana kept to herself the entirety of the trip, crossing her legs behind her long and lustrous cloak that seemed to move all on its own. In fact, any time any other person came too close for her liking it seemed to ripple slightly before she made it a point to remove herself from the situation to contemplate elsewhere. She was a woman full of particulars that would likely be interpreted as haughty or high maintenance. These theories were likely proven in the way she regarded the others, letting them do anything that required physical labor or turning herself away as if she could not be bothered by any of them speaking. This treatment did not discriminate as was clear when the foreman spoke and she never acknowledged any speech that came from their guide.

 

Instead, she looked over the available items they were allowed to take into this uncovered ziggurat with visible displeasure at the quality. She grabbed a superfluous amount of knives, twirling them deftly before slipping them and whatever else she deemed useful into the dark abyss within her cloak that only briefly revealed supple flesh before retreating into the comfort her attire provided. Taking some tins for the lantern as well as the necessary lodestones, she joined the line that descended into the ziggurat, fully aware of their extra mission and what the foreman had said despite the fact it seemed she couldn’t be bothered. This was not a vacation plus the fact that this team was comprised of mostly men minus one or two others did not do her current temperament any favors.

 

With the room now well-lit thanks to Azytzeen and Pollst, she slunk into the rare shadows that were left in the area and just watched the men get to work, content with allowing them to trigger things or peruse their surroundings. She didn’t need to do any heavy lifting yet and much preferred not soiling her attire or turning her back to any of them. Silently moving from shadow to shadow initially, she suddenly emerged to look at the scripts laden all throughout this room. She stopped in front of one of the more recently brushed ones, particular enamored with it for some reason. Dainty hands emerged from her cloak to grab what looked like a brush before they retreated back into her cloak with the newly acquired item.

 

She walked rather seductively with a certain sway of her hips…a force of habit from a past she would sooner forget but was masked well by the cloak she held and investigated the vases for quite some time. Obtenebra urged her internally to steer clear of the vase that had not been tipped over causing her to shiver slightly before she turned her head eerily to the south, speaking perhaps for the first time to many here. Her tones held an alluring quality to them though it was clear she was attempting to sound authoritative here.

 

“We should find these archaelogists quickly. Better to have someone more familiar with our surroundings present than attempt to fish around for answers blindly and suffer for it. I recommend not touching this vase here unless you want to try your luck boys. In any case, I believe from what I have gathered thus far that they travelled south so let us head that direction first.”

 

She pointed toward the southern door, figuring the men would be eager to comply with her suggestion. No reason not to listen to the lady right?

Edited by Dolor Aeternum

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'You seem well behaved, lass? Why?'

Natalya frowned at the voice speaking in her mind. It was her legal guardian, the Mistress Blackhead and even now the woman still won't trust little Natalya. Sure, she let her go on her own in this expedition but a fragment Mistress' spirit is still on her back lounging about and was more interested in pestering her than actually doing anything useful. It was quite the test of patience, it took every ounce of her will not to snap at the Mistress lest the people would think she was talking to her invisible. But the Mistress spirit is not visible to the naked eye nor does peering at that spirit with magic would do anyone good. At best they would see something they can never unsee.

As she was lowered down the dark hole, the little girl recalled the events that lead her here. The briefer that the foreman gave them was quite informative. The problem was with what she had to take. She did bring her own burlap sack but a brief look at whatever her employers could offer made her face contort in disgust. They look uncouth and rather uncivilized for a proud woman like her but also a necessity 

Grumbling, she followed her guardian's advise, and stuffed her pack with anything she found useful. A tin of kerosene, a lodestone, the brushes and even a few yards of rope which she cut one of the knives. Once can never have enough rope. She barely gave the knives any glance. She was already carrying a couple in her person, with various shape and sizes, all hidden within her clothing. She did give up on the lock pick set though, as the armored man seemed to have laid claim on it. Like taking candy from a baby. So the all of that went into her personal sack which she had slung over her shoulder. Other than her newly acquired items, she was careful enough to prepare some rations like dried meat, biscuits and the likes. Oh and the other stuff a girl needs. No one can tell what might happen down there. Better safe than sorry.

Stop daydreaming, lass. A lot of queer stuff happen in dark places.

Shaking herself from her thought, Natalya's eyes had adjusted well enough in the darkness that the sudden flare of light had actually been more painful than helpful. Dainty hands rubbed the blurriness from her eyes as the little girl inwardly curse those men who came before her. The could at least warn her. A young lady's eyes were quite delicate. She would have to give them a piece of her mind later. For now she would have to actually focus on the task at hand.

Natalya liked the room. Aside from all the dust that threatened to make her sneeze, the markings on the wall were more than enough to keep her interested. Young as she maybe, this wasn't the first time she had been in an old dusty place like this. She had been in similar sites like this one and with all the stuff the cartel was able to cram into her immature head, she did learn a thing or two. With a disgusted look on her face, Natalya run her hands across the script. She tried to ignore all the grime and dust for the greater good.

'Interesting isn't it?'

The little girl nodded in assent at the Mistress' words but did not bother to answer the ghost. Better yet, she should just ignore the spirit out of spite. Still, the scripts were quite the find and if she had time later she would like to study all these with the archaeologists. If they ever found the missing two. Just as she practiced, Natalya would store whatever characters she can make out into her young mind in case she would have need of them later. 

Prompted by the other lady's words, Natalya would take the lead towards the southern door. Of course, she would not miss the opportunity to sneer at the men behind her, "It is always nice to let little girls take point. Especially in cold dark places several feet below ground. Ohohohoh!"

But her obnoxious noblewoman's laugh would be cut off as she encountered this particular column. It was quite the strange column as they show different marking than the other columns. Natalya once more tucked that information into her head. It might be useful later. Passing through the spacious doorway, Natalya would notice something that made her mumble, "Quite fascinating. Is the ziggurat circular inside or are the rooms laid out in a circle? Meh! Most probably the halls are just curved."

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The pair stands together, standing apart from the group.

Anatase lightly touches his single black pearl earring - requisite communication devices for all Czirqonian hunters - to activate it. Any sounds - even subvocalizations - will be transmitted to his partner. Partner is not the appropriate word, though. If anything, the royals get a kick out of constantly assigning them on missions together.

Celestine has already activated hers. “What do you make of them?

Anatase scrutinizes the other members of their party as they drift away from their entrance, exploring the small room they find themselves in. “Old man, armored man, small man with the magic finger, cloaked woman, and a child.” His gaze lingers on the cloaked woman for a moment longer than the others. His appreciative look does not go unnoticed by Celestine.

Celestine rolls her eyes. “Eyes on the prize, Mafic.

Anatase glances at her and smirks. “Sweep? I’ll take south, you take north.” He slips a hand inside his coat and produces a crystal lens, rimmed with the swirling umber tones of tiger’s eye. He holds it up, and the shadows are gone from sight. Celestine nods wordlessly and mirrors his actions, activating her right gauntlet to emit a beam of ultraviolet light.

With practiced efficiency, the pair part ways- Anatase heading South and Celestine North, both turning right as they reach the walls. Each line of script is carefully passed through each lens’ view, recorded for future reference.

Anatase made a thoughtful hmm. He let his lens’ focus linger on one symbol. “This one keeps appearing. Fire?”

Celestine hums, sparing a moment from her appraisal of the wall to answer him. “Funeral pyre.” She pauses. “Still, best take note of it.”

At that moment, the cloaked woman speaks. 

On 11/9/2018 at 2:56 AM, Dolor Aeternum said:

“We should find these archaelogists quickly. Better to have someone more familiar with our surroundings present than attempt to fish around for answers blindly and suffer for it. I recommend not touching this vase here unless you want to try your luck boys. In any case, I believe from what I have gathered thus far that they travelled south so let us head that direction first.”

Anatase gives her an amused look as he passes the upright vase. “Where there’s danger, there’s treasure,” he says glibly. He takes a long look at the vase’s exterior through the lens, fighting back the unease that grows the nearer he gets. Next, he takes a quick look inside, then steps back.

Cel, try shining UV into this one.”

Celestine paused in her examination of the other vase. “What's that?” She angles her gauntlet to shine light into the vase. A few quiet moments pass, enough for the two to share an uneasy look, before the darkness spills out of the vase with shrieking chatter.

At the noise, Anatase grabs the scythe blade on his back, manifesting a short hardlight handle for the weapon.

Celestine’s gauntlets hum with aggression, a spark of hardlight entwined amongst the metal fingers. She raises them, ready to fire, but the pair can only watch as the dark cloud screams around the room before disappearing down a hallway.

Anatase breaks the silence that follows. “That was not an entirely wise decision.”

Celestine gives him an accusing sideways glance, as if to stress that the event had been solely his fault.

“What?” he says defensively. “At now least we can infer-” he points at the first vase, “-that one of the researchers tipped the creature vase over and something like that thing spilled out, scaring them off.” He returns his blade to his back, the hardlight handle disappearing. “Still remains to be seen whether it was the same thing, since those vases look so different.” He nods, tapping his chin. “I think we’ve learned all we can from this room.”

Celestine shrugs and sighs, her gauntlets dimming in the lowlight. “Well, further in it is then. I’ll take point.” She stalks forward without another word.

Edited by Csl

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Despite the shock of the prior event, Celestine is calm and determined, strolling over to the southern door without much fanfare, gently but firmly pushing aside the little girl on her way out into the darkened hall. The gloom crawls over her, menacing lightless fingers curling over every inch of rock, and it takes a great deal of control not to break composure, not to fall to her knees and scream into her fist.

She’s always hated the dark.

After a few breathless seconds, the haze clears, and it takes a few moments for Celestine to realign herself, even her breathing into something resembling normality.

“Wait,” Anatase’s voice thrums through the pearl in her ear. “I’ll take the vases.”

He’s out of sight, but she knows, can see him as clear as day in her mind’s eye, that he’s quickly arranging the chrysalis gems around both vases. When exposed to light, the crystal arrangement refracts light in an intricate, circular geometric pattern. Each vase will fade in a flash, magically contained in a pocket space accessible only when the chrysalis is activated.

“Noted.” She does not tell him be careful, but it is very much implied. He already knows how this works; there is no need to baby him through it, as much as she’d like to. Anatase mutters something indiscernible in reply about the necessity of poking bears and disturbing dangerous things in the business of treasure-hunting.

Celestine has spent far too much time with the idiot, clearly, when she merely provides a cushion, an accompaniment of sorts, a low drum beat against Anatase’s nervous thrumming violin instead of telling him to shut up right now or else.

She still doesn’t like him, though. It’s in her training not to.

Gazing out through the putlogs and around the general surroundings, Celestine observes the interior of the ziggurat with mild curiosity, raising the lens to her eyes to record the visual environment for future recall.

The sight of the tower sends shivers down her spine.

“It’s dark.” Anatase says suddenly from behind her shoulder.

“I’m glad your eyes are still functional,” she snorts, gaze still fixed on that disconcerting tower in the distance.

“I mean,” Anatase says with a trace of irritation, “something’s blocking the lenses.”

She gives him a wary look, nodding once before striding forward into the next room, taking in the massive structures that resemble a water system, the yawning chasm around the platform with a critical eye. She raises the crystal lens to her eyes when a low groan reaches her ears, and when Celestine sees the mummified figure with that wicked blade in its grasp, she holds out a hand to block Anatase and rest of the party behind her. “There’s something there,” she murmurs, low and measured, as her gauntlets purr with attention. “A mummy of sorts, with a weapon.”

Edited by ourlachesism

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“No traps,”  he said thoughtfully as he looked about the room. as more and more people descended. The group was certainly diverse, and seemed to have quite a few experienced hands, albeit that is how it often goes. The man who had begun to search for traps, was quite well armoured. Azytzeen know that the man was well armed to face threats in small spaces. Azytzeen peered down at his own sheathed blade. Ten pounds of metal weighted reassuringly on his hip. His one eye peered around the room trying to make out anything important when a cone of light flared brightly.    

“Well more light can’t hurt, though you might want to save your magic for something…life threatening.”


While the rest began to enter the room one by one, Azytzeen continued to simply stare about the room. With a pondering gaze, his single eye traced first over the tipped vase, then the script along the surface of the walls, and lastly the foot prints. It was certainly visited, but the most important thing is what happened. He took note of the vase, cleaned yet tipped over as though all the work to it meant nothing. Researchers are a studious bunch, if anything can be learned at the Lorespire, it is that all researches are meticulous in their field. At least the good ones. The ashy foot prints also left a bit of doubt that this places was simply an empty ruin. Turning his one-eyed gaze from the vase he began to watch the two latest entrants go about their work.

Experienced.

That they certainly are, they moved with purpose holding their baubles and devices of their trade. He himself wasn’t sure exactly what they were doing, but no doubt they were recording and gathering as much information as possible. They looked like treasure hunters to him though. They all had the same kind of feeling coming off them. Switching the Lantern to his left hand he eyed them at their work. He was not disappointed, no sooner had the woman shined light on the upright vase something something came bubbling and rising. Of course, always after a glib comment. His sword, Laevateinn, already a blur of silver, ten pounds of sharpened metal ready to slay. Likewise by the time his blade had been drawn he could only stare quizzically at the thing as the black shapeless mass, along with its incessant angry chattering, disappeared down the hall.

“Well, did you find any treasure?” Azytzeen gave a boyish grin as he looked over at Anatase.

 The blue flickering around his sword, though dull to begin with faded as he rest the flat of the blade against his shoulder. Watching the two with a bemused smile he gave the vase one last glance before turning his attention to the rest of the group and following Celestine It was then that he got the feeling of being watched. It’s not the feverish paranoia madmen have, he’s felt it before the tell tale sign was as familiar as the hilt of his sword.    


I hate being watched.

Throughout his life as a Psyker he had always lived with the feeling of being maliciously watched. His mind open to the vast space that is called the Immaterium, the Aether. The beings that reside there are not shaped by nature, completely formed by pure emotion and thought. Not a single one could be considered benevolent. Regardless of this entity’s true purpose, the one reason Azytzeen refused to ignore it was purely based on it’s incessant and perverse peeping. It irked him, the bastard hiding in its tower watching them like some amused god. He despised that way it made his skin crawl. He never liked the feeling when as a child he tasted what it was like to have his mind invaded. He certainly doesn’t like the tower. Grey hues peered out at the tower, as he and the party moves forward. With each ticking second his patience for the entity was already at its lowest point from the start. Now what little that had been left vanished.

Fine you cheeky bastard let’s see what you look like.

Stopping he took in a deep breath, invisibly his psychic presence expanded, searching over every surface as it stretched towards the Tower of Glass. His psychic influence is like the thousands of eyes and hands searching and looking. As the seconds passed by nothing seemed to happen, not any glowing nor even a simple ripple against his psychic influence. He was debating about simply ignoring the tower when the vile presence finally made itself known. When a pair of eyes appeared staring straight at him his stomach turned cold. 

Uh-oh.

No sooner was he about to step through the doorway he stopped dead. The first two seconds would be that small feeling of dread everyone gets. They know the feeling, like a sixth sense that tells you to cover your arse, ‘cause you are in for a ride. When the eyes came he could feel it. Its mind held a terrible power, the  first of his psychic wards crumbled beneath the strain. His entire body goes stiff. Due to both the invasive entity, but also now he has to concentrate. He would have laughed at the entity feasting on his memories, if he wasn’t busy focusing every ounce of his will to push the creature back, and feed it some of his most hated ones. The air around his body became cold, hoarfrost began to slowly spread out from his feat. There is the smell of burnt sugar and weird dreams, not in anyway identifiable. The now cold air rippled like water, as if matter was beginning to squirm.

He began to push back. Trained by Preceptor Fellgrave, tempered by the knowledge of the Lorespire he gathered his will. The being was by far the most powerful he had come across. Regardless, he would still escape. He has no other choice. His psychic self smiled mischievously as he began to feed it some of his worst memories. He showed it the first time he ever used his cursed eye. The first time he peered into the Empyrean. It would see the horror, the mass of raw thought taking hideous form. A memory he was fine with forgetting, he certainly had plenty of those to share. Still the creature kept digging, stripping, endlessly feeding and searching.

Blood began to leak from his left eye.

It throbbed, hidden behind the Artificer’s eye-patch his cursed eye throbbed painfully. Its pale malevolently light though hidden glowed furiously under the entity’s mental onslaught. Suddenly before the entity’s presence a flaming blue eye wreathed by snakes flared between Azytzeen and the it. Shit. It looked at the psychic presence of the entity with almost an amused glance. The ward specific to Azytzeen began to burn furiously at the presence with psychic fire, more to push the being away that truly harm it. He wasn’t certain if he could fully kill the entity, but he knew he wouldn’t be able to keep up. He may be a high Delta by the Lorespire’s rankings, alas Azytzeen knew he would be outmatched. The creature seemed more than simply malicious, it gave a trade with each memory it took it gave one in return. 

Not that any of it helped. Much of it made little to no sense, jumbled more or less. Not that it out weighed the vile feeling of being mentally invaded. Just like he remembered, his physical body feels as though its at the bottom of the ocean forced to hold a heavy boulder. While trying to swim up. Though powerful, there is a price to shift through someone’s mind. The entity is in his mind. What is seconds out side feels like hours in the mental struggle. “Someone give me a shake,” hoarsely and with difficulty he managed to get the words out.  He has managed to slow the creature down, the ward, to his chagrin is working fine, though he will have a talk with the artificer when he can even worry about it.

He needed an anchor to the material world.

He hoped by whatever gods are in fashion, that someone give him a shake. Even a bump, he’d be eternally grateful.    

Edited by Garion

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