Priat emerged from the healer's house, a slightly dishevelled expression haunting his face as he returned to join you and your Testament. "The healer says it will take some time, but the Adept will likely make a full recovery." You hum disinterestedly in acknowledgement as the three of you start move, "I'm impressed you managed to extract the location of where your friends were being held from him. I suppose my measure of the man's character was off." You hum again, this one coming out as a vaguely distracted grunt as buildings passed by and the gates of Carona began to loom into view once more.
"Perhaps the Wisp Adept isn't the only measure I've misjudged." He mused neutrally, waving aside the gate guards to allow the three of you to pass unharried, "I suppose I'm slipping these days." You're really not in the mood for playing with his implications, as you toyed around with the moderate regret you felt at having not left a more deeply seated impression on the Adept. You shake the idle thoughts from your head as the three of your pass through Carona's front gate, cobbled streets and the sounds of livelihood near instantly fading away in favor of packed dirt and the familiar rustle of the wind through distant leaves.
You reflect for a moment on the irony of you leaving through the gate you hadn't actually succeeded in entering, and then get back to the matter at hand.
You are a doppleganger of Irue Valen, the blood-heir to House Valen, and your recent past has been a bag of mixed fortune. On one hand, with the help of Kara, you had managed to turn the tide on an ambush and learn where your maid and local contact were being held! On the other hand however, you gained a disturbing realization about your shadow's current state of mind, and nearly died in the process. It had taken you almost an hour to really pull yourself together after that, and you're still not sure if you - or the real Irue Valen for that matter - are actually okay.
You hadn't really realized it, but Irue Valen's memories weren't actually your memories. You had, of course, known the difference between the two of them on an intellectual level, but they had been there for you to access ever since your 'birth'. After your near death experience with the Wisp Adept, those ever present memories only seemed to return a dull mental equivalent to white noise whenever you attempted to look into them. It was... Unsettling. Perhaps more so because of your experiences in the web earlier.
At first you had simply believed that the difficulty in recognizing people had been a side-effect of the web, something you would simply need to get used to as you toyed with the strange capabilities granted to you by the Ice Queen's Atelier, but that notion was painfully dispelled when you had attempted to withdraw yourself from the threads and realized that the 'web' had never been yours in the first place.
The web extending your senses through its threads, and it did so impressively... But if the web wasn't yours, then it wasn't your senses it was expanding. That black haze which had nearly made Kara indistinguishable from the people attempting to kill you was no fault of the web, but of the capacity of the web's owner.
In other words, you had unexpectedly just been given a chilling view of the world through your shadow's own 'eyes'.
Perhaps more worryingly, your attempts to rouse that unwanted voice from the back your mind had been met with that same fuzzy sense of white noise as trying to look through your shadow's memories. As an apparition of Shade, you knew intimately that being put into contact with Wisp Mana wasn't dissimilar to mutually erasing each other - It was a large part of why you had nearly died - But your shadow was... Even if it looked like the real apparition between the two of you, it was the real Irue Valen.
There was too much concerning the state of your shadow that you didn't understand.
Maybe Mim would know. Knowing things was literally the job of a Luna Adept.
Maybe Marchovic would know... Though you aren't sure if you really wanted to ask him.
Too many maybes. As it stood, you'd have to hope your shadow would be fine for a few more days. At least until you finished dealing with retrieving your Testament.
>Your shadow is no longer responsive.
>Releasing Irue as a berserker is no longer possible.
>Accessing Irue's memories is no longer possible.
>As a result of exposure to Wisp Mana, meditating has become more difficult.
You sigh, trying to decide what to do. The hideout that Asche and Jill were being held was evidently hidden away in a nearby graveyard.
>Go straight there, you'll blitz it with Kara and make Priat actually do work.
>You're outside Carona, may as well recruit your knights to this venture.
>Maybe bringing all of your knights isn't a good idea, but you could probably benefit from having Ari and the wood golem come.
>Too many knights will just make a mess, and Ari isn't necessarily cooperative. Dullem alone would be a strong addition to your squad.
Previous Threads: http://suptg.thisisnotatrueending.com/archive.html?searchall=valen+quest
Where things are said: https://twitter.com/Riz_QM
Where things are asked: http://ask.fm/RizQM
Current Abilities - http://pastebin.com/PchcdWpw
Basics of Mana - http://pastebin.com/V9b1DMrS
A List of Forgotten Things - http://pastebin.com/kPEscJ3h
Kara's Day Out - http://pastebin.com/8ZbiSKLs
Adventures with Asche - http://pastebin.com/RNviCBJu
The Reclaimed Doll - http://pastebin.com/n6miP1qT
In Your Shadow - http://pastebin.com/EfeeHFAE
That wasn't an hour. Had issues writing.
>Too many knights will just make a mess, and Ari isn't necessarily cooperative. Dullem alone would be a strong addition to your squad.
If Ari realizes actual-Irue isn't responsive, I think she'll kill us.
You reflexively want to take a short detour to check on your knights and the others. It only takes you a moment of indecision over whether it was worth explaining to Priat before the desire to see if everyone is okay wins out by a small landslide.
"There's someone we need to go get before heading to the hideout."
"Shouldn't you have said that before we left?" Priat laughed.
"The person I'm after isn't in Carona." You reply, glancing out into the woodline. "Most of my friends can't actually get inside Carona due to the lockdown, so they've been making camp elsewhere." You motion for Kara to start putting her nose to work, as you doubted you could just... Call and have them appear. Could you? ... No, even if it did work like that, you'd probably just put Carona on edge.
Better if you just went to find them, instead.
"Hm..." Priat seemed unphased by your admission, "Well, I suppose your friends would be just as concerned in this manner as yourself. I don't mind taking a detour."
Luckily... Or rather, as expected of Kara, she seemed to catch a scent quickly. Priat and you set off after the tracking demihuman at a leisure pace, disappearing into the woodline adjacent to Carona not long after. You didn't think you'd actually grow to have missed the cool wind and rich smell of earth and plants around you, given how much time you had spent miserably trekking through it in the past month or so, but here you were taking a deep breath as if you had been starved for air this whole time.
The air in Carona just wasn't the same. Too many people, too many goods. You can only imagine how suffocating the place was for Kara, when even your relatively paltry sense of smell could easily discern the difference in quality. Kara's path through the woods was unhurried and confident, very rarely did she even stop to get her bearings, and you found yourself thankful that your experience marching through these woods with your knights let you keep up with her.
"Found 'em." Kara announced abruptly, coming to a complete stop in the middle of the woods. After a moment's silence, she seemed to shift her weight awkwardly as she rolled forward onto the balls of her feet. "...Maybe."
Oh, well if she found Ari then she found them- Wait. "...Just Ari?"
"Nah. Something else." Kara licked her lips apprehensively, "Something big."
You had exactly a moment's notice to contemplate that before roots erupted from the ground around you as if the forest itself had decided to take umbrage with your presence. Given what you had learned about the disappearing guards in Carona, you sort of expected Ari to have made the forest her territory with the wood golem's power so this wasn't a complete surprise to you... But you had also hoped you'd actually be able to get in and talk to them without having to deal with this.
Kara's quick movements easily kept her dancing out of reach of the coiling roots, but it would only last for so long. Priat was...
Priat was doing nothing. It seemed like any roots that came within a certain range of him simply incinerated to the point of becoming ash in the wind as he stood in a vigilant, if unconcerned, posture. "Is this 'Ari'?" He turned to you, and you distantly realize the reason you weren't being targeted by roots wasn't because of your Testament trying to spare you, but because they were similarly being warded away at a certain distance. "It doesn't seem as friendly as you led me to believe."
"She is." You correct him, "Er, this isn't Ari, but I think she's the one behind this. This is something else, though."
"Can you make it stop?"
Could you? They had listened to... Not you. They listened to Irue, your shadow. For that matter, could they even recognize you with the Diary of Reflections in effect?
"Not until we get close enough to talk to them." You hazard. If push came to shove, you'd have to hope Ari would just Kara's word for your identity, or there would be some awkward explanations about the identity changing Relic.
"She's here, 'Rue!"
Kara's call snapped your attention forward, watching slightly in awe as the very limbs of the forest began to sway apart to reveal Ari's descent. The familiar walking stick that made up the wood golem's form held in her hand, vines wrapping around the physically inept Testament like some haphazard cross between a hammock and a puppet strings. Her entry was distressingly dramatic, and part of you wondered if she had appeared to begin a villain's monologue, but...
"I remember you!"
The childish wonder in her voice as Ari was naively lowered towards Kara reminded you that this was the exact same Testament whose entire demand towards keeping your secret was to sleep cuddled up in your shadow. You sighed, thankful at least the the roots had stopped trying to harass the three of you as Kara and Ari began to talk easily.
>Just let them talk for now, maybe explain this to Priat.
>Interrupt them, you need to get Dullem and leave. You're on a schedule, here.
>Ari doesn't recognize you. Maybe you should introduce yourself as someone else...?
You open your mouth to intervene, but decide against it for now as you turn back to Priat. "That's Ari." You introduce your smallest and generally most timid Testament quietly, "The others are probably further inside. She's..." You roll around how to exactly explain Ari beckoning forth the forest at her whim to brutally assault people, "...Protecting them."
Yeah, that works.
"How is she doing this...?" Priat's eyes never left the small girl, "That staff in her hands, is it a Relic?"
"It's complicated." you reply vaguely. Saying it was a Relic was probably a safe way to just explain it away, but it'd lead to more questions about where you got it and what it even did, not to mention if it decided to take on the form of an Oakenrue later. "Anyway, Kara will calm her down. We won't be bringing her, I have someone else in mind."
Priat just blinked at you, visibly uncomfortable with the situation. "First the demihuman and now this girl... I suppose this other person you've in mind is just as strong as those two, as well?" You remain silent on that. It wasn't that Dullem was stronger, by any means. In fact, he was pretty weak compared to Kara, and that's to say nothing of the wood golem, but... "His skill set is more suited to what we're doing."
"Ah, after the way you chose to handle the ambush, I had assumed our trip to this hideout was going to be... Loud. I can appreciate an appeal to subtly, however."
Actually you had planned for it to be loud. You were going to have Kara kick in the front door and get your Maid and Jill back, and everyone inside could die for all you cared... Though now that you think about it, there's really no actual way to explain that Dullem was better suited for this than Ari if all you took into account was their capabilities. The real reason you didn't want to bring the timid Testament along was just...
"Ari's a child." You cross your arms, listening to Kara distantly relate to Ari her adventure with Asche, "She isn't someone I want to bring into a place like that."
"A child with an interesting power... Or a powerful Relic." Priat noted with a wary humour, but the strange look he gave you almost seemed as if something in him was relieved. "I understand, however. No matter how powerful she may be, children shouldn't be forced to lose their innocence so soon." He smiled at you, leaving an uncomfortable feeling to settle in your gut as you turned away to face your two Testament.
You're not actually sure if Ari qualified as 'innocent', but it was better than explaining the delicate relationship that you had with her.
"'Rue, Ari said she'd show us the way." Kara waved you and Priat forward, "Said she was looking for you."
"..." Ari's inquisitive stare burned into you as you approached, and you felt the hair on the back your neck begin to stand as she gripped her walking stick in her hand a little more intensely. "...Who are you?" Given that Ari had been able to figure out you weren't Irue, you had held your doubts about the Diary of Reflections being enough to throw her off... But it seemed to have done its job.
You're still curious how she figured that out in the first place, actually, but it wasn't something you could ask her right now.
"A... friend of Irue." Your answer isn't technically incorrect, so much as a healthy assumption of facts that can't necessarily be verified against you. "We're here to get Asche and another friend of your master's back, but we need Dullem's help."
The ensuing silence made you wonder if Ari actually believed you. Her eyes drooped, a confused frown working its way onto her face as she clutched the walking stick to her as if it were a reassurance. "Where's my master? You met them right? Master's okay? In Carona?"
What started as questions were rapidly beginning to devolve into desperate whimpers as the vine-bound Testament blinked back moist eyes and struggled to keep her voice from shaking. There were too many complications right now to try and clear this up... First and foremost, you needed to get Asche back.
"Yeah." You lie easily, and your stomach twists, "They're busy right now... They're trying to make sure everything turns out okay."
She didn't respond, merely curling in on herself as swallowed tightly and closed her eyes.
It didn't take long for you to locate the rest of your knights and acquire Dullem from the group. Ari's allowance of your presence, coupled with your subdued explanation of assisting Irue was all it took to roll him into your small party... And then you were off to the graveyard, eager to get away from the camp before the timid Testament's whimpers burned themselves any further into your guilt ridden mind.
The travel to the graveyard afterwards was uneventful, with little conversation between the four of you.
Finally you arrive, row upon row of tombstones standing in disrepair. The 'large rock' you remember Kara mentioning wasn't a rock so much as the sole mausoleum tucked away in the back of the graveyard, one which should have been locked... Instead, it housed the entry gate to the hideout where Asche and Jill were being kept.
"I wonder how long it has been since Carona used this ground..." Priat murmured as your group of four stared up at the mausoleum doors, "Bodies of the deceased are typically handled by the Shrine in this day and age."
"So this place predates the Shrine's presence in Carona?" You frown at that, recalling the Mayor's interest in returning the town to an independent settlement, "...Fitting, I suppose. I expected more tombstones, though."
>Send Kara in first, nothing's going to stop her.
>Send in Priat, he needs to do some work.
>Dullem enters first, he's the most unassuming.
>You go in first, you're probably the stealthiest.
Why yes, I did forget an entire post.
"Kara, take the lead." You motion towards your demihuman Testament as she slipped out of her hat and cloak to let her bestial features twitch free. Dullem stiffened at the sight of the easily swishing tail, one hand slipping towards the handle of his sword, but no further. He held his peace well away from Kara, eyeing both yourself and Priat with a deliberately neutral face.
"So... You're a friend of the kid, then?" He strikes up a conversation with you to try and mask the painfully obvious anxiety, "Didn't think that one had many connections." Unfortunately, your instinctive reaction to his choice in topics is just to frown. That was you, he was talking about. You really didn't appreciate being called a kid, even if that second part was true. "And you're..." Dullem looked Priat over, "From the Shrine? How did they get involved in all of this?"
"While I do have my own reasons for coming, the Shrine became involved on behalf of Rue here." Priat gestured towards you, parroting Kara's shorthand for your name. "They made an interesting contribution to the Shrine not long ago, and we are repaying a favour... And building friendly relations."
"Rue... Huh." Dullem turned back to you, inspecting a little closer. "...My Lord's name is pretty close to that. Honestly you kinda remind me of the kid." Hey, he called you lord! "...Least I think it's a lord. To be honest, I can't really figure out whether they're a boy or girl."
"Ha, you even frown the same way. You aren't related to Lord Caylen and his cousin by any chance, are you?"
Your response is drowned out as the entrnace to the Mauseoleum all but explodes as Kara slams her fist against it, flinging the ancient stone doors clattering inward in a shower of debris and stone shards. You wince, barely avoiding Dullem's startled leap as you turn to see the demihuman casually walking through the wreckage and wrenching open some manner of cast iron gate to reveal a stone staircase leading into the ground.
"Door's open, 'Rue!" You had entertained the thought that maybe Kara would have been able to enter quietly and surprised the people inside, but... "Did you have to destroy it?"
"It was locked." She explained plainly, "So I opened it."
...Kara was a wrecking ball.
You sighed, stepping over the remains of the stone doors as Kara wandered down the stairs with a careless swagger and swishing tail. "Well, I suppose they know we're here." Priat laughed lightly as he followed behind you, leaving Dullem to finally unsheathe his sword and reluctantly join the rest of you.
"It's fascinating... These stairs, and the wall... They're quite old." Priat wondered aloud, his fingers snapping to produce a small orb of flame with which to shed light upon the surroundings. "This place... Or at least this stairway must have been constructed alongside the Mausoleum."
"I doubt the Mayor's plans have been around that long." You deadpan, "So he's probably just using this place, then."
"Most likely." Priat nodded, "But I can't help but wonder why something like this was built into a Mausoleum in the first place. Who did it? And why?"
The flicker of flamelight cast curving shadows as you all descended a relatively safe distance behind Kara, feeling the musty air grow staler as you went. The walls began to give way to small crevasses, many of which contained a variety of crude clay pots and jars; All of which lay in various states of disrepair.
...You feel like you're forgetting something important, and it's scratching at you with each subsequent step. Dullem remained more and more ill at ease, however, and you couldn't quite put your feeling on the disconcertingly comfortable feeling you were experiencing. In a few moments, it didn't matter anyway. Another loud crash informed you that Kara had 'opened' the gate at the bottom of the stairs, and the aggressive shouts of the people who had been inside echoed back up to your ears.
>Join the fray, time to get violent.
>Leave Kara as a distraction and try to sneak further in during the chaos.
>Start threading a web, it may take a while, but you can learn the whole layout of this place.
>Are you forgetting something...?
>>Leave Kara as a distraction and try to sneak further in during the chaos.
>Are you forgetting something...?
There was one Adept, may be more
What happened to Tiers
Comfortable feeling.. Does this place have something to do with the Atelier?
or with the fact that current-Irue is actually a shadow apparition and if it weren't for the fact Priat was there, we'd be very comfortably in the dark?
A mausoleum for the Tier family, since they lived outside Carona, maybe?
>Leave Kara as a distraction and try to sneak further in during the chaos.
Memories from before Caylen are white noise, currently... and Luna took the memories of the Ruins in the first place.
The Tier family originally lived inside Carona. they were only driven out recently, and only became prominent after the Valens took them in as beast tamers.
The history of Carona has it existing here before the nobility came around.
Zombies don't exist, anon.
But apparitions do.
"Let's go, Kara can handle herself." You shake your head as the sound of drawn steel rattled off the stairwell walls. In a few moments a full blown melee had broken out as you crept forward to the door. With any luck their attention would be focused on Kara while you-
"Give me a moment." Priat interrupts your thoughts as he brings his hands together in what nearly looked to be prayer, the earlier ball of flame hovering between his cupped palms. Given that this was the first time Priat had actually done anything of his own volition, you were admittedly curious as to what he was actually doing. After a moment's concentration, his hands pressed together, clasping together firmly as the fire winked out with a hiss of smoke...
...And with it, so too did the flames lighting up the room Kara had entered follow suit, leaving everyone within the ensuing darkness.
Darkness which, you should note, really meant nothing to you. Or Kara, if the following terrified scream meant anything. "There, shall we proceed?" Priat reached out blindly to pinch at your shirt, taking Dullem's hand in his own. "You've some manner of Shade's favour do you not? Lead us on."
The specifics of what just happened escaped you entirely. Was that just a normal thing Salamander Adepts could do? You knew Rinnier extinguished fires just by buying near them, but that many? That he couldn't even see?
"Is something the matter?"
"Let's talk about our feelings after we get out of here, okay?" Dullem complained anxiously from further back, his hand gripped tightly around his drawn sword. He was right, though. You had things to do, this could wait for later. You turned back and hurried led the two of your companions past the torn open room and into the large antechamber-like room. A low domed hanging domed ceiling caught Dullem on the scalp as he stumbled forward behind you, right before the man stumbled into Priat's back as you came to a stop.
Shoddily built wooden tables and benches filled the circular room, with recently extinguished torches hanging on thick chains from the ceiling. The pockets along the walls had widened, expanding to the point that a fully grown man could comfortably climb into one of them and stretch out along the length of the wall - Which was exactly what it seemed some of them had been used for. Bags served as cushions in the body sized shelves, often with various cheap blankets left in disarray.
The smell of ale and salted meats mixed with the musky air of the underground structure, and you realized upon stepping inside that it was like a part of you that had still been shaken since your brush against the Wisp Adept had begun to finally calm.
There were two ways to go from here, and both looked rather identical; Large stone containers lining the walls, some sealed shut by heavy stones while others seemed as if they had been pulled out and moved recently. You breathe out, concentrating on that feeling of incongruent comfort flickering at the edge of your awareness. Further down the left... Also, as if permeating beneath the ground you stood on, was something akin to a warm vein - One that had been ruptured, or burned away into the husk it became.
To the right, you felt nothing. Almost as if it had been scrubbed clean.
>Try to fix the vein
Rolled 1 (1d3)
Was this on purpose, or did we actually manage to make a 3-way roll with exactly 3 voters.
The tradition remains strong. Dice gods guide us.
The emptiness to your right bothered you. It wasn't so much that it felt uncomfortable to you, but that it was a stark emptiness compared to the comfortably pulsing vein that seemed to have been burned shut by something. The space it used to occupy... If you were correct, this vein should have encompassed everything in this place. It still COULD encompass everything in here, but it would be messy... At least at first.
No, you couldn't leave it like this. Something bad would happen if left like this, though probably not any time soon. A month from now, perhaps a year, but it would definitely be bad unless either the job was finished or the vein repaired. You closed your eyes and tried to block out the sound of Kara fighting, focusing instead on something more ephemeral; More Familiar. You let that comforting feeling immerse you, drinking in its injured presence as you tried to change your view on the world.
It was exhausting, to say the least. Meditation had never come this difficult to you, even if you hadn't quite been able to achieve the kind of Clarity you used to have. It was if your attempts to attune yourself to your core nature was actively slipping away from you.
>Exposure to Wisp Mana has made meditation more difficult.
>Roll to Meditate.
Your brows knit together, unable to grasp on to the essence of Shade that had been your inherent birthright. Too much of it was gone, neutralized by the Wisp Adept earlier, and what was left could only generously be described as tatters. It wasn't enough to even splash around in, much less become submerged in. Your mind felt almost as scrubbed clean as the right most hallway had...
...But you weren't going to give up. You were a Doppleganger, an apparition of Shade. This Mana, this frame of mind, these were your life blood. These were your everything, even if your life as a human had changed you into something else. If you could not draw out your own blood, then you would draw out the blood of another - A brother, a sister, or whatever manner of siblinglry even applied between apparitions of Mana.
You spared a moment to wonder if perhaps mortal notions of family didn't actually apply to Mana at all, but this moment was short lived as you managed to grasp onto the cauterized vein and tear past the half-heartedly healed wound to release what was pulsing within. All at once it was as if a damn had been broken, and you drunk in the myriad of feelings that had been trapped within as they swirled into your own dry veins.
It was like a breath of fresh air, surging into until you nearly felt ready to burst. Revitalizing you, empowering you, refreshing you.
Overwhelming you. Shade bless, this was a terrible idea, it's like you stuck your mouth around a hose. You rip yourself from the tear in the vein, physically doubling over as your stomach constricts and spasms in agony until you the burning sensation of your own sickly yellow stomach acid curdles up your throat and leaves its bitter sting along your tongue as you spit it hastily from your mouth. You could feel the pulse of the vein through your body, each throbbing beat gushing out its lukewarm presence aimlessly.
People were screaming, you distantly realize it, but you can't make out their words.
You need to fix this.
You put your hand against the wall, feeling claws at the edge of your fingers dig into it as you pulled yourself up. You had Clarity again, and it was nauseating to you; Not dissimilar to looking through a kaleidoscope with only a single eye. Still, you knew what you needed to do, and you turned your attention back to the ruptured vein. This was... Shade Mana. Like you, but not quite. Your Origin of Insecurity wasn't close enough to empathize, but you had been closer to this before - In the shafts of the mine, you had known Regret, had changed your own form to manifest it, and this was a step not so far from that.
You felt your Origin shudder, shifting from its natural identity to an assumed one as you imagined the core of a Revenant, a creature born purely of Regret. From there, this Mana's mystery began to clear and you recognized the vein for what it is was.
Vague recollections of a structure came to mind, a step removed from even the Regret that you had barely learned. The designs were difficult to understand, far further removed from the one aspect of Shade you were ever supposed to know.
>Leave it to bleed, you've done what you can.
>Try to understand it. You've come this far already.
... You tried to make heads or tales of the design that lay just out of reach. Maybe if you... No, then it... But... Where was the body supposed to be? How did it even operate? Was that supposed to be a limb? Was this even a body? You felt like you were looking at a map, or some kind of constellation. Your mind twisted as you turned the concept around in your head, but your ability to empathize with it was fading rapidly, and you disappointedly felt something just at the cusp of your understanding begin to melt back away into the formless Mana rupturing from the vein.
You frown, returning to your sense to realize that the room had become deathly silent during your focus. You had ruptured the vein, so you could only hope it would eventually fill itself back out in these passages, and that nothing came to corrupt what had been within.
"Why aren't we moving?" Dullem complained from somewhere behind you, "It's getting really creepy down here and I'm starting to remember things I really don't want to."
"Something has disturbed the ambient Mana." Priat muttered, a small ball of flame sparking to life with a snap of his fingers. It shed light on the bodies strewn about the antechamber, and on the grinning demihuman casually walking over them.
"Got 'em all." She raised one hand in an irreverent salute, "Some of 'em did the whole running 'an screaming thing though. I can go hunt 'em down if you want?"
"How about I go instead?" Dullem volunteered quickly, "I can make it back to the others real quick and we'll rally them up." You turn back to give a deadpan stare to Dullem as he very obviously wanted to find some excuse to leave. If you sent him they may have time to get away, but if they ran into the forest then Ari could probably catch them... Of course, Kara would get them without a doubt, and be quicker about it.
Did you even need to go after them, though? If they weren't in here, they couldn't stop you from getting Asche and Jill back.
Well, at least it felt comfortable in here now. That scrubbed clean hallway would be painted in the pulsing Shade Mana in due time.
>Get your men, Dullem.
>Leave it, we're pressing on. (Left or right?)
You thought it over briefly. The more mundane threats down here had already been taken care of, which meant that Dullem was probably not going to be much help against anything else down here. On top of that, if he managed to catch any of them, that'd just be one more piece of evidence you had against the Mayor. "Go get your men, I want you to track down and capture as many of them as possible." You nod towards the man who offers an awkward but heartfelt salute as he turned to hustle back up the stairs.
"While I'm not inclined to leave just yet," Priat spoke up as the lanterns relit themselves in the wake of a crisp snap of his fingers, "I share a similar sentiment to Dullem. I'm not particularly pleased to stay here any longer than necessary. This Mana is..." the Salamander Representative made a face as her grimaced, "I almost wish Lium had come to purge the place."
You frown at that, crossing your arms in pointed objection. That hall to your right had been 'purged' and it felt almost like your head after taking a ball of Wisp Mana to the face. You just 'fixed' this place being purged! "Let's find your friends and leave, quickly." Priat shook his head.
"Kara, can you sniff out Jill? She was the girl who owned that apartment."
"On it!" She gave you a lopsided smile and put her nose to the air. Less than a second later was pointing you down the right most hallway. Of course it couldn't be down the comfy hallway, no, it had to go down that sterilized Wisp-tainted place. "Alright, let's get moving then." You gave off your own grimace as you stepped away from the pulsing vein you had ripped open, "I don't think any of us want to stay down here long, now."
The hallways were empty, the air was sickening, and what few men you found down this way were completely overwhelmed by Kara. Perhaps what could have been a problem for you, had you tried to simply sneak through, was the myriad of twists and turns that the tunnels took as they branched off in direction after direction, leaving countless broken pieces of pottery and sealed stone containers laying within the shelves of the wall.
It was only after you had found a shattered stone container did you realize they weren't there for food, but to hold the long-deceased. Aged, brittle skeletons from people whose time had passed so long ago that even the inscriptions bearing their names was no longer legible. Each and every stone container was a coffin, and you got the uneasy feeling that the jars also contained remains of some kind. There was a special name for places like this that you feel like you'd heard someone tell you before, but the memory eludes you as you follow Kara through the expansive, twisting passages.
At times, you heard something scratching against the stone. A sharp staccato in short bursts, or tentative scratching that just barely echoed. Kara seemed to pause during those times, sniffing again and frowning as she would turn around and backtrack before choosing another route. It was disorienting, being turned around as often as you were, and the constant distant scratching was enough to keep you...
Not scared, exactly, but annoyed. You were an apparition of Shade, you were the closest thing to a ghost there actually was. You were what went bump in the night, so it's not as if there was anything in here that could elicit a superstitious reaction... But there was something troubling about the scratching all the same. It became louder in places with heavy mold and fungi beginning to ooze along the dilapidated stone. More persistent, accompanied by a maddening drip of water which echoed in the otherwise silent tunnels.
Several times you would come across an earthen wall which completely blocked off any path forward. It wasn't something that was supposed to be there, as evident by the way it had ruined the architecture along the walls and shunted solid stone from the ground in its rising. As it remained fresh, it likely couldn't have been raised very long ago... Perhaps a year or so at most, maybe less. These grew to be just as annoying as the scratching, as they seemed to almost perpetually block your way forward.
If this place was scrubbed clean by the Wisp Adept, it made sense that this would also be where they had planned on using the most... Given what you knew of Wisp though, they had nothing to do with these blockades of earth. There was no craftsmanship here, nor force of strength, just raw rock willed into place.
Priat and you agreed it was probably a Gnome Adept's work, though neither of you could say if they were still down here or not.
>Have Kara smash the walls and keep going. Shortest distance is a straight line!
>There's probably a reason for these walls, keep circumnavigating.
>You know the reason for these walls. (What is it?)
>>You know the reason for these walls. (What is it?)
More shade apparitions? A grave site would be a perfect breeding ground for those, and given how it was purged and blocked off...
Your logic apt here, but the right passage (the one you're in) was "scrubbed clean" by Wisp Mana, so there's no way a shade apparition could be born in this area.
Down the left passage, however...
The more you walked, the more walls you found. The more walls you found, the more scratching you endured, and more maddening those droplets of water became... Until you realized exactly what these walls were here for. It brought you screeching to halt as you turned a suspicious eye back towards the innocuous walls which you had honestly been considering having Kara tear down. As maddening as these walls were to you, they hadn't been erected purely to annoy and confuse you.
The staccato you had been hearing through the walls, the scratching against stone... You can't be certain how far away you were, but the dripping of water and mold let you know it wasn't as far as you wanted to be.
"Kara, do not break the walls." You caught your Testament's attention with a frown, "I don't want to deal with what's beyond them."
"You figured what lay beyond?" Priat perked up curiously as Kara hummed an agreement and continued to nose around. "I'm curious as to what would cause someone like you to baulk at confrontation."
"Atlach Nacha." You grumble unhappily, holding your hands out as your mind unwillingly drifts back to the Atelier you had forced yourself through. "apparitions of Undine that resemble a spider... They breed like spiders, too."
"...Are you quite certain they breed?" Priat's eyes gleamed in interest, "I was under the impression that apparitions couldn't actually reproduce at all." You made a face at that, but you honestly weren't sure if the Atlach Nacha could actually breed or not. There had been a nest of its spawn, however, and the horde of those spawn had been terrifyingly large. If they weren't breeding, you guess they were being manufactured... Possibly by the Atelier itself.
"Either way, there's far too many of them for my interest." You shake your head, feeling threads of consciousness begin to weave between your fingers.
You had spent a while following Kara's nose around, but if this place was just going to be a labyrinth of dead-ends, then maybe it would be better to front-load the rest of the time you spent in here and just map the place out. "Give me a moment..." You mutter, gradually beginning to expand the weave as threads carrying your awareness - YOUR awareness, a crystal clear extension of your own senses - began to spiral outward ethereally from you. Within seconds you had the small intersection mapped...
Minutes later, several beyond that...
Nearly a half hour later, it was still expanding with little sign of stopping. You felt Kara begin to rock back and forth as Priat alternated between examining the stone coffins, Kara and yourself.
After an hour.... It was still going. Shade bless.
"Not to interrupt, but may I ask what exactly you're doing?" Priat's patience finally seemed to wear thin, or perhaps his curiosity grew too strong. You tried to keep your focus on the web as you thought of how to explain this particular ability without just saying 'an Atelier did it'.
"Do you remember that web from the courtyard?" You mused rhetorically, "It has a lot of uses. I'm mapping this place out."
"I see." Priat hummed shortly, "Not quite unlike those apparitions yourself, are you?"
You cracked a baleful eye at the amusedly grinning Salamander representative and scowled back at him before refocusing on the web. "Will it take much longer?"
"...Probably. I might be able to speed it up, but..." This weave was still new to you, the threads unfamiliar. You'd risk your progress unfurling at the worst, which wasn't too much of a problem for you... But it would cost you the hour or so's work you had already put in.
>Keep it steady (Auto-succeed, but it will take quite a while...)
>Try to rush it. (Moderate)
You trail off, tentatively wrapping the threads around your finger tips a little tighter as you twitch and send threads twining along the network of awareness you had built. The web wasn't nearly as unfamiliar to you as it had been back in the courtyard, and with it firmly under your control, it was a far aight easier to manage. You can perhaps afford to hurry this to completion.
...That said, in the end, it still took you nearly five hours. Priat had gotten bored and decided to take a nap, leaving Kara to wander the halls in boredom. You would have been more concerned with her taking off if you couldn't acutely feel exactly where she was, and tracking her through the web gave you a distraction from the almost relaxing task of expanding this web even further. After a while, you had even managed to delegate your focus to the point of allowing a little introspection between finding Kara wandering through your web.
There was significantly less white noise in your mind now. Though you still found yourself unable to access Irue's memories, the presence of your shadow in the back of your mind at least seemed... More stable. You'd almost describe it as groggy, as if it was still caught in a deep slumber. You decided to respect that slumber - For the first four hours, and then finding Kara got old. You diligently went to work poking and prodding that shadowy presence as you rolled it around in your mind.
Your web crawled to a halt, snapping taunt to your fingertips as you stood up and roused Priat from his nap.
"Ah... You seem pleased." He yawned, "Are you finished mapping this place?"
"Not even close." You replied, feeling exhausted at the thought of it. It had taken you nearly five hours for what you DID have, and it didn't seem like there was even a remote stopping point to be had from there. "But I found Asche and Jill, let's go."
You kept yourself tethered to the web as the two of you moved, tracking down Kara quickly as you began to navigate the halls. It meant little to describe this place as 'the largest web you'd ever made' with your track record in mind, but it so unwieldy large that you felt it would unravel the moment you actually let go of it. The web itself wasn't in any shape to sustain itself, meaning that unless you personally kept it suspended, the entire thing would simply collapse under its own expanse.
Even knowing the most direct route, it still took you nearly an hour's walk to traverse the musty twisting tunnels to find where they were being kept; trapped in cages of earthen spires which had no doubt been pulled up from the ground on demand. It didn't matter though, you finally found them!
"Asche! Jill!" Your pace picked up, and you heard Jill's call back as she moved up towards the bars excitedly. It was a reunion that was cut painfully short as Asche's arm deftly reached through the bars and wrapped around your shirt before slamming you face first into the jagged rocky spires that created their cage.
The impact sent stars through your eyes, but it was the near luminescent sea-green eyes and fixed scowl directed at you from the inside that sent a shiver of survival instinct directly down your spine.
This was bad, very bad, you could feel an oppressive weight begin to clamp down on your left wrist, mirrored by a pressure in your chest as if your heart was trying to burst free from your sternum. "What are you..." The grip on your shirt tightened as Asche's eyes narrowed.
Two words that reverberated through to your core, seizing it in an iron grip like the Voice of the Goddess.
You couldn't pull away, you couldn't lift your arms. You stared into Absolute Dominion and crumpled.
All at once that command was shattered, as the combined efforts of Jill and Kara finally succeeded in prying you from the Maid's grip and separating the two of you. Awareness came rushing back to you, of the hot, salty streaks down your face, and the painful dryness of your throat. The way your every bone creaked against your will just now, and the molten led that flowed through your veins as your heart alternated between valiant attempts to implode upon itself and explode within your body.
Right... In an agonizingly late response, your body remembered it still needed to breathe, and you sucked the stale air greedily into your lungs as Kara held you back and away from the cage containing Jill and the terrifying maid.
"I will not lose another."
And we are archived.
I'll lurk the thread for a bit to try and answer some questions if I can.
Apologies to all anons who participated in Valen Quest but died at their keyboards wondering when QM would finally stop.
To those who did not make it to the end, we will never forget your sacrifice.
I had some issues writing this thread, sorry for all the abnormally long update times!
She has the blessing of that particular mans or affinities for it? I mean she's hyper competent shows little emotion and knew what shadowrun was immediately belying an identification ability. I wouldn't be surprised if she could make an atelier.
Asche is a very impressive Maid/Secretary and trends towards being subdued emotionally, yes.
http://pastebin.com/RNviCBJu Here's her write-up though, if you wanted to maybe learn more about her. There's a lot I can't really explain without spoiling too much - Though rest assured, if Act II doesn't become a reality, I'll write out an explanation for this and quite a few other things so as to not leave anyone hanging.
I keep thinking to launch it earlier. Honestly my aim is 8pm EST each time, but somehow it always starts at 10pm.
Today I tried to start at 10pm and it ended up at 12am. At this point I think I would get better results just moving all of my plans back 2 hours so I can pretend to be on-time.
But yes, I know staying up with this can be pretty brutal, not to mention having to read and parse clues, or remember months old threads. I really cherish all my anons, and have been thinking about ways I can maybe streamline things a bit.
I'd love to know what parts of Valen my players enjoy the most, so I have some idea of what parts I might be able to alter or trim when I get to work fixing the (long) list of issues I've been making note of. I'd hate to break something important when I was trying to make it better.
This is actually an interesting statement, since I've been rereading older threads recently. Irue does start out really ill-fortuned and unknowledgeable, which has been something of a bane to the players through much of the quest (though the many lost Forgettings are their own curse).
I say it's interesting though, because of the perspective I've gotten rereading the earliest threads while writing the most recent ones. It has been a very gradual thing, but the transition is amazing. I wonder if many anons really realize how far they've come since the early days.
The build up has been so gradual, that I never really noticed Irue change from being a sheltered and naive child-heir to someone who had rallied their own corp of knights, managed to acquire political friends in the Shrine, and actually gained the dedication of at least two Testament.
The road to the end of Act I has been one long "Coming of Age" story.
Which is odd, because I always considered those to be a little trite and boring, but I've had a lot of fun.