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The Brittle King's Tragedy

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She can’t quite explain the faint jab of relief that pierces through her once they’ve left the grand room and the Door behind, marching on in pursuit of the ghostly figure. The rooms all go by in a blur of dust and haze as Minerva pushes them forward through the halls; it’s a miracle she’s kept her tiger’s-eye lens up all this time to absentmindedly take note of the twisting and turning corners. She had wanted to record the glyphs the archaeologist had seen on one particular wall, but then the woman had kept moving, and so she had no choice but to trail after the group, taking point at the rear with her partner in case something comes up from behind the party.

They finally arrive at what appears to be a bathhouse, and Celestine takes the time spent taking in their surroundings to ascertain her partner’s thoughts on the matter at hand. “How are we doing,” she whispers to him through their comms, running light fingers across the wall by the doorway.

Anatase shrugs, all nonchalant ease, and really, why had she bothered asking again? "Was getting bored again ‘til we found the ghost."

Celestine rolls her eyes, but otherwise nods. “Can you follow Minerva, make sure at least one of us is with her at all times?” She needs not speak her worry for her partner to understand where this request is coming from. Everyone had observed what had happened in that room with the Door, and how the archaeologist and that other man had been drawn towards it, like moths to an irresistible flame. “We can take turns later. Don’t be a peeping Tom if she’s actually taking a bathroom break,” Celestine adds, arching an eyebrow, her lips twitching.

Anatase gives her a look of exaggerated offense. "How dare you. I'm a gentleman." Nevertheless, he trails after Minerva, keeping a comfortable distance between them. "Ma'am, I'm going with you in case any more monsters appear. It's a bad idea to wander around alone."

With that, Celestine pivots away and moves towards the structure that appears to be an altar, raising her eyebrows in mild confusion at the presence of feathers, the lingering scent of fragrance sweet and musty in the air. With an awakening hum, her gauntlets cast a welcoming beam of light, and she angles them to point down at the floors, trying to determine what sort of feathers are around and if possible, the sort of creature they could have been taken from.

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It seemed that the being in the tower of glass new next to nothing about the room, aside from the type of bird that the feather’s belonged to. A cruel yet magnificent looking thing, of blue and red, yet he was far from interested in such mundane information. It seemed to Azytzeen that he would have to find clues the old fashioned way. The room itself has all the hallmarks of a bath house, and quite the expensive looking one as well. He wondered if it was used for more than just bathing. Things in the tower were often more than what they appeared to be. Still, hopefully while he looked around he would at least find something to help them on their way. Not that his hopes were high to begin with. The first thing he did was move towards the altar, his mail-shod boots echoing off the floor with each step.

“How strange..”

Certainly the whole of the Ziggurat could be considered strange, unless one often explored such places. The altar, was untouched by time which did not give him any sense of relief, for not even the stone eating insects had managed to reach this room. Which meant one of two things, either they had merely missed this room, or something else had prevented them from getting this far. He hoped it was the former rather than the latter. Still it was an odd thing, slightly curved and elongated, longer than an ordinary human was tall. The only thing that came to mind was that it was for an elf or something larger. The most disturbing features were the shallow grooves which grew deeper the closer to the center the reached. 

That can’t be good.

Azytzeen has seen many altars in his time each one served a religious purpose, this one should not be any different. 

Knowing one thing, the grooves were not there for comfort, and he could only posit a guess that the altar served some nefarious intent. Sacrifice perhaps, this place as a whole did not engender a sense of comfort in him. Standing up with a grunt he looked around, the next thing to catch his eye was the pool. He could only hope he found something at least interesting.

As his hands touched the gossamer curtain he couldn’t help but remark at the fine make of it. Certainly the ones who built this place had money to spend. 

That thought faded away with the stink of the bloated corpse and foul water hit his senses. The corpse was taller than eve he was and could have been feminine you couldn’t tell with elves anyway, and the foul corpse was so bloated and ready to burst that he wasn’t too keen on fishing it out just to find what the cause of death was much less if it was female or male. He would hate to have the corpse burst, it's hard to get the smell of old waterlogged corpse out of his leather lining. Though he didn’t have extensive knowledge of corpses he had a feeling this corpse should have long been turned to bones, unless it was recent.

If it was recent then it certainly didn’t bode well for the group.

“You all might want to take a look at this.”

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Ilyana moved along with the group, practically shadowing Minerva the entire time whether the woman liked it or not. When Ilyana felt this type of way about someone, it never really mattered whether they enjoyed the attention or not. The smells that assaulted her as they continued on made her sneeze just once, the brief high pitched noise that was caused by her trying to contain it echoing throughout the chambers present. Her following reaction to her inability to contain it would not be seen, however, as she remained guarded and only allowed a glimpse of her face to show through the hood that she wore. None of those around her deserved the kind of trust she reserved for family and friends just yet.


As Natalya poked around at bodies and anything that tickled her young curiosity, Ilyana knew it would be the catalyst to something else almost immediately but she did not stop the young girl at all. Better for her to learn firsthand then to be coddled by all of the older individuals around her. Instead, she continued to monitor Minerva, occasionally letting the other woman within this group do so for a few moments despite not really trusting any of them to do it the way that she would. Just at boredom had begun affecting her, the messy sound of the carrion bursting through the bloody corpse and the arrival of another bird caused her to ready herself once again. A dagger appeared seemingly out of nowhere as she watched Minerva react to what was going on and noticed the bird’s fixation on the woman.


“It’s ok just stay behind me.”


Becoming an obstacle to the bird’s sight provoked the creature to action and caused it to lunge at her. She lifted her arm and allowed Obtenebra to spring into action and create a makeshift shield that withstood the attack, the talons scraping along the amorphous companion’s surface while she thrusted her dagger forward, Obtenebra taking hold of the hilt and extending itself from her arm in an attempt to pierce the bird’s flesh. The dagger did indeed pierce through but she felt it pierce through which did little to hinder the bird’s flurry. Eyes widened as she saw the bird attempt to push itself off of her shield and claw at her again. Determined to maintain her position in front of Minerva, she used the anger she felt from her annoyance to grab at the bird by the throat and slam it hard to the ground, its beak gnashing in the air wildly even as she attempted to subdue the threat. Pressing her knees hard on to the creatures legs to make sure it doesn’t swipe at her feet, she prepares to continually stab it in hopes it will eventually cease moving.


In doing so, the creature’s talons slice at her knees, noticeably tearing through some of the fabric of her cloak and piercing flesh which only made her stabs that much more feverish. Successfully severing the creature’s head brought her no joy however as the creature still moved around and tried to do damage. It would have significant trouble doing so now, however, so she made sure to kick the creature away enough and continue guarding Minerva.


“I’ll protect her. You all can handle the rest…”

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Perhaps she should’ve tried harder to rein in the more adventurous members of the group, if it would help in any way to stop the impending disaster that is set to dawn upon them.

From the corner of her eye, Celestine watches Natalya poke and prod at rotting flesh as she examines the corpse in the pool. This would be fine, really—if the corpse hadn’t started bubbling like champagne. A strange murder bird emerges from its flesh cocoon, and Celestine cringes as the combined shrieks and yelps of both girl and giant bird echo through the room and the halls beyond; those would definitely bring unwanted attention to the group. Sure enough, another appears, stalking towards Minerva, but then the other woman strides forward, engages the monster in combat.

Safe in the knowledge that the archaeologist is flanked by both her partner and Ilyana, Celestine turns her attention to the rabid creature trying to make the little girl its awakening snack. Her gauntlets hum to life, a bright flash of hardlight stark against the dimness of the room as she breathes deep, takes a few careful shots at the creature attacking Natalya, hopefully knocking it off the girl and into a wall. Her efforts only cause it to shift its attention towards her, talons outstretched to rip her face off.

Not today, my sickening bird friend.

Celestine pivots and grabs its ankles mid-pounce, and then brings her weight down on it by hurling it overhead and then slamming its body onto the rock floor. Multiple times.

She is faintly aware of her partner’s presence in the room, from the edges of her periphery: Anatase gets three lodepoints, manifests a hardlight chain between them to create a bola, then throws it at the murder bird's legs, trying to at least tie it down. Their monster goes down, but Celestine is still stuck with her own enemy. All the aggressive physical coercion doesn’t seem to be doing anything, for some reason the gods only know.

“Why aren’t you dying,” she growls at it, finally tossing it away towards a wall and snarling at it when it manages to pop back up like nobody’s business. To hell with it. The Reavers shambling into the room become the more urgent priority, in her case.

Sidling up to her partner just as he summons the lodepoints back to himself, Celestine takes one glance at Minerva then says to everyone, “perhaps we should get going now? Please?”

Anatase prepares his scythe, that wicked edge promising a taste of violence if they don’t try to leave anytime soon. Celestine prepares to fling the archaeologist over her shoulder and break out into a run—any moment now.

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There was always at least one who had to touch the weird dead bodies often discovered during an adventure. Did Azytzeen know it was a trap? Of course not. Alas there was naught he could do to fix past mistakes. If he had been more attentive to the strange body he might have been able to keep Natalya from poking it, which seemed to be an odd thing kids these days do. “Back in my day we usually left the corpses be,” he said with a sigh. The stench from the burst corpse was still pungent, and cloying much like what he was used to when he fought on fields of battle the world over. If one thing had to be different, it could almost be said to be an old, ancient smell. He knew better than to assume the body was left here recently, no this strange place was filled with all manners of horrors and oddities that would have to be pondered later.   

That was of course if they made it out alive. 

“Alright girl up we go.”

Much like before he unceremoniously flung the wounded girl over his shoulder, regardless of the pain she was in, or his rough handling he wouldn’t be able to live with himself if he simply left her there. “Next time you shouldn’t go poking corpses.” He had thought of healing her but he doubted she would appreciate his ministrations. After all the warp was not as gentle as what the other might be able to do. 

His single blue eye peered over the room, so far he had been lucky to go unnoticed though he knew it would not last for long. With his new cargo, and thanking the gods she wasn’t fat he began to pick his way across the room towards the others. Keeping a mind that the creatures filling the room were not the most dire things they would have to face. Whatever was coming filled him with dread, much of it thanks to the being in the glass tower. The memories it shared were useful other times merely an annoyance. “No grit your teeth and bear it, if you hadn’t gone on poking the dumb corpse you wouldn’t be in this mess.” 

Keeping his free hand and accompanying sword at the ready he quickly, and with surprising grace whilst in full plate made his way over the archaeologist. He made sure to keep the other birds presence in his thoughts. “Oi, we better hurry those heavy footsteps belong to worse than a few undead critters.” he yelled out.

Regardless if he caught the creatures’ attention it didn’t matter. They had to leave and do it quickly while they still had the chance to do so.  

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Undead chickens strewn about. Behind them: the ominous thumping of heavy footsteps. Ahead: three angry corpses step out of the doorway.

"Here we go again," Anatase sighs. He snaps out his scythe, the staff unfolding quick as a blink. "Better through those skeletons than another rock-cat-person. C'mon, Minerva."

With his other hand, he guides the archaeologist forward, keeping himself between her and the Reavers.

One leaps forward. Anatase steps back with a jolt. Almost forgot how fast they were. He shifts his grip on his weapon, realizing (too late) that the enemy is now within his blade's reach.

Celestine is quicker to respond; the woman's fists flash, burning with the white-hot flares of her projectiles. The creature is knocked back. Anatase feels relief wash over him.

He releases Minerva, both hands on the handle of his weapon. With ample space between him and the reaver, the blade comes down in a flash.

Much to the artifact-hunter's satisfaction, the undead collapses.

Two more.

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Ilyana leaves Anatase to protect Minerva, figuring someone who so easily takes a liking to a woman would be competent enough to protect her for now. Already on alert, she notices one of the reavers jump and move to attack Natalya which prompts her to attempt to intercept the creature. Slicing horizontally with her sword and placing a considerable amount of strength into it, she assumed she’d be able to knock the creature off balance to continue the assault but instead was met with some surprising acrobatics along with a clever feint which distracted her enough to make her vulnerable to the sudden retaliatory kick from the creature that managed to hit her ribs.


Obtenebra undulated within her, urging her to let it loose here but she continued to maintain restraint this time, pivoting back and then pushing off of the floor to continue her engagement. Executing her own feint, she finally unshackled her gift, letting it grip one of the many daggers along her clothing while she swung at the reaver again with her shortsword. The creature was ill prepared for the surprise appendage which extended itself with enough force to impale the creature before receding back to the haven of its host. Pressing the advantage, she continues her advance and attempts to slice the creature’s legs clean off but it manages to deflect the blow yet again. The defensive maneuvers these creatures had annoyed her to no end and her rage almost made her want to follow the reaver as it started to flee thanks to the coordination of Celestine and Anatase.


Heeding the grave warning that Azytzeen provided earlier, however, she elects to grab Natalya and urge everyone else to rush out of this room.


“We shouldn’t stay here any longer. Lets move!”

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Anatase clicks his tongue disapprovingly as the blade-wielding reaver rushes at him. Sloppy.

It takes a brush of his thumb on his scythe's handle. There's a flash of light as the shaft retracts, and the reaver's swing goes wild.

Celestine, dependable as always, steps in. Her gauntlets flash too fast for him to avert his gaze. Wincing, Anatase blinks the spots from his vision. He glances at Ilyana, confirms she's dealt with her reaver, and nods, anxiously running a hand through his hair.

The footsteps grow louder. "Right." 

"We shouldn’t stay here any longer. Lets move!”

"Right," Anatase repeats.

They move. Forward, onward, deeper into the confusing, cavernous space full of dozens of disparate clues that he wonders they'd ever string together into something that made sense. He has plenty of time to wonder, hurrying deeper into the ziggurat. He also has plenty of time to consider the implications that they are heading deeper, lower into the ziggurat.

In pursuit, the footsteps follow. Anatase scowls at the thought of facing another rock-cat-person; another thorn to the growing frustration of not knowing what the reasons were for any of the things they'd witnessed.

All things considered, he and Celestine weren't doing too badly. A fairly regular day at work for a C'zirqonian artifact-hunter, really. Not that there was a standard for the errands the Matriarch sent them on. Lethality-wise, things were fairly normal: nobody had died (yet), injuries were minimal, and all weapons were intact.

In time, the footsteps fade. The group slows. Stops. 

Anatase takes a deep breath, stretching his arms above his head. He exhales loudly, dropping his arms. His silver gaze drifts across the room.

"Cel. Isn't this the ghost place?"

His partner nods, hums in recognition. "Sweep?"

Anatase taps his tiger's-eye lens, activating the recording figure. Adverse as he is to the monotony of procedure, there's some comfort in having a process to follow. Once again, he and Celestine sweep the area: he heads to look into the window, she heads to the railing.

"Definitely the ghost place," Anatase mutters. "If this place wasn't so dark, this spot could've been a nice deck to view all the... all the darkness."

"It's good to know you like dark," says Celestine, her eyes pinched around the corners almost imperceptibly.

"Don't worry," Anatase says, making a grand gesture with his sickle. "I'll protect you."

Celestine's eyebrows climb to her hairline. "Assuring."

He reaches the window and immediately bites back a curse.

What looks to be hundreds of reavers are gathered below. Anatase shudders. It's eerie to see them like this: so still, so silent. For now, the reavers seemed unaware of the party. These creatures can climb walls, Anatase remembered. He almost turned, warned the group that they needed keep moving. The new arrivals caught his eye.

"Ahh," Anatase whispers, eyeing the reavers' new armor. "Now that's something the Matriarch would like."

"Care to steal some for her?"

"If we have time. Whatever's in that vault's probably more valuable." After a pause, he adds, "We are not letting those metal-eating bugs anywhere near C'zirqonia."

The waiting reavers fall silent as the last figure stops before the doors. Is he going to speak? Anatase leaned forward, almost eager, hoping for an answer, an explanation, an anything.

His face falls as he heard nothing but gibberish. "Aw shucks,"

Still, his fingers brush against the rim of the tiger's-eye lens, recording everything. This motion helps quell the unease building in his stomach. It is all more than a bit unnerving: the chattering of the insects, the undead figure's sweeping motions, the reaction of the reavers.

Behind him, he hears Celestine talking quietly to Azyteen. Perhaps the man does know something.

Anatase turns to Minerva. "Do you know what they're saying?"

The chittering noise swells into a crescendo, a hundred voices joining the chorus. Anatase grips his sickle tighter, his jaw tightening.

Just a regular day at work.

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Results: The party successfully navigated an ancient Ziggurat, fought against an ancient race of mysterious insects and their puppets and slayed a powerful lightning elemental masquerading as a God of War. By investigating the ruins, they also managed to rescue, and retrieve both archaeologists who had been lost within the Ziggurat, both of whom returned to work with their dig crew, after joint writing a book on their findings--and getting married. The ziggurat itself will never be found again, yet through their action, the party was able to retrieve several jars of molten glass--a rarity supposedly not found anywhere else in Valucre. How they'll choose to use their jar of molten glass is unclear yet.

Consequences: The ancient Ziggurat has, perhaps forever, been buried following a fierce wind and rainstorm, erasing its location perhaps permanently. The raging storm persisted for nearly a month, completely wiping away any traces of the interior designs, architecture, or any evidence that there was ever a dig site close by. In addition, the strange insects likely returned to their slumber, and the molten glass forge likely remains active somewhere, buried deep in the sand.

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