5757/Oh You Can Go Straight To Hell

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Oh You Can Go Straight To Hell
Date of Scene: 24 March 2018
Location: An-Teng, Creation-999
Synopsis: The Watch looks for a way into Malfeas and finds the best path is already blocked.
Cast of Characters: Empty Tidings, August Kohler, 385, 215, Yang Xiao Long, 513, 857, 1149, Atalanta

Empty Tidings has posed:
Empty Tidings wants to pay the Watch back for helping get her out of a bad spot. Her proposition: build a new, secure, terribly comfortable place for them to operate out of...

...in Hell.

Well, Malfeas. It's still technically Hell, but it's not the same /kind/ of Hell. That counts for something, right? She says it'll be just fine. Trust your allies, everyone, and you'll be A-OK!

The problem is that getting there is apparently a huge hassle. It involves going through an endless desert for nearly a week while dealing with all the problems one might expect from tromping around in there, then getting into the city itself, then traversing the apparently endless layers of the place to find the right spot... Basically, enough problems that another way in and out had to be found.

Which is why you're here. Apparently, she's found a way in.

Thousand Dragons Lake is an enormous body of water abutting the foothills and mountains that lie along the southeast of An-Teng, a coastal province in the South of Creation. It's fed by at least four major rivers coming out of the mountains, and empties to the west in the River of Queens, a wondrous lifeline through the heart of the province. During the day, it's a beautiful sight, with golden sunshine glittering off the wide, blue expanse.

There is a meeting place along the south shore of the lake. At this meeting place, there is a low table set out along a secluded stretch of beach. On this table, there is a full wine bottle marked in odd, flowing script and ringed with small cups. Kneeling behind it is a lean robed man with waist-length black hair and a cold, pallid complexion. A parasol keeps the sun off of him.

Empty Tidings is nowhere to be found. She's supposed to be handling things on the other side.

August Kohler has posed:
August Kohler is not in a good mood. He is in a very, very poor mood. The redhead's expression is cold instead of his usual neutral-kind of apathetic, and he's wearing a vest, a pistol on his side, a knife across from it, and a mirrored bracelet on his wrist, slightly cracked. His right hand is scarred, old burns having left a nasty impression that covers the entire hand but doesn't seem to hinder functionality much.

Having come from the warpgate, August heads towards the meeting place, stopping near the table and taking a glance at the man, a glance at the wine bottle, and then taking a seat across from him at one end of the table. "August Kohler. You must be a contact of Empty Tiding's. Tell us what we need to do." His voice is snappish, frustrated. It's definitely not normal for the redhead, who looks like he hasn't slept whatsoever. He keeps fidgeting with his bracelet, anxious. He's probably not the best diplomat for tonight.

Yuna Kagurazaka (385) has posed:
This is probably still a terrible idea. Particularly according to Elner.

But even the robo-faerie can't really argue the point that a hideout in Malfeas would be one of the best places for the Watch to set up a secret base; they might not have to be all that active locally (or maybe they would - that's one thing Yuna's not sure of), and it might not be the most convenient place, but seriously - who would go looking for the Watch in the depths of Creation's analog to Hell?

Yuna certainly wouldn't, which is a big chunk of why she's on board with this plan. She has her own discomfort with the idea, of course, but she *is* a member of the Watch, even if she's occasionally in disagreement with her fellows - which is actually another part of what brings her here: wanting to pitch in some support on the back end, so to speak.

Still, there isn't much sign of Yuna approaching ... at least not until an armored mermaid shape launches out of the lake, doing a lazy mid-air somersault before the mermaid's form seems to come apart. Yuna lands on her feet by the lake's edge, with Marina reassembling behind her; Elner, Jiina, and Erina are somewhat more subdued about emerging from the water, the robo-faerie taking up a spot by Yuna's shoulder and the three human-sized androids settling into place behind the battlesuited blonde, as Yuna walks over to the table, August, and the gentleman who's apparently here waiting for them.

... either that, or he picked one heck of a coincidental spot for a private picnic.

"Good day to you, sir," Yuna says politely to the robed man as she bows formally to him. Then, rather less formally, "Hey August," as she straightens up again. "We the first ones here?"

Iria (215) has posed:
For Iria, the need to be paid back doesn't always seem to matter for her. She may be a bounty hunter, yes, but it's not just about the bounty that she works hard for. Sometimes, she wants to be able to perform a task because she wants to do the right thing. The payment isn't always the only thing that matters. She wasn't directly involved with the whole thing that Empty Tidings was in, but she is part of the Watch and she figures she should come see what's giong on here. And who cares if it's in Hell? Iria's been through there and back many times.

Getting there might be difficult for some, but not for Iria. Her Deppendai, a glider which has an umbrella shaped device on top that acts as a propeller and can either be operated from a sitting position or with the operator in a prone position like a super-fast hang glider, allows her to get there quickly. Namely since she's using the glider mode, since she's rather intent on getting there as quickly as she can.

Not long after August comes out of the warpgate, Iria comes flying through as well, going at a rather fast rate of speed. When she finally arrives at the destination, Iria drops to the ground just as Yuna makes her splashing entrance, which results in a slight chuckle and a smile from Iria, before she turns to August and gives him a nod, then turns to face the robed man. Rendering a bounty hunter's salute, Iria says, "Good day." Surprisingly, there's no sarcasm or impatience in her voice, although once she turns the other way, a scowl forms on her face as she lowers her eyes as if thinking about something negative.

Yang Xiao Long has posed:
    Up in the sky! It's a bird! It's a plane! NO! It's... a blonde teen riding a series of explosions from the ends of her fists...

    Yang's coming in via a fine Beacon tradition, performing a recreation of the Initiation ceremony, complete with her aviators covering her eyes. She's whooping and giggling on the way down, dipping into the tree canopy, before bursting out. Much slower than the way in, before she rolls out and gets back on solid ground. "Nailed it!" she chirps merrily, taking off her sunglasses and slipping them into a pocket on her jacket. "Yo. I'm here."

Finna (513) has posed:
    Finna is not so sure about this! Making a Watchtower in a place that features in horror stories told to Creation-born children seems like a TERRIBLE IDEA.

    But maybe this person who claims to be able to handle it is worth getting a good sniff of. And if they end up pulling anything...

    Well. If that happens... perhaps she'll be able to help get her Watch allies to safety.

    Finna is, this day, in her human form, but her senses are sharpened and on the alert. She subtly but frequently scans the horizon and listens and sniffs for any signs that someone might've followed them or is watching.

    But she's dressed... quite differently today from her usual skimpy leathers. This time the outfit - still clearly Haslanti in origin - covers her up to the local standards and has a modest amount of styling and decoration, but adapted to the local climate. Clearly meant to be Foreigneter but Spiffy. The necklace of fangs and beads features prominently 'round her neck.

    "August, August." She vocally nips at him, walking up from behind and standing at his right. "Manners matter in Creation more than you realize."

    Wait wait what, who replaced Finna with some kind of impostor? Since when has she cared about manners?

Eve (857) has posed:
    Eve has no real opinion on Malfeas. Not out of ignorance really, so much as of an excess of information. By most accounts it's not a very nice place, but then by most accounts the various people in and around Creation tend to be a bit odd, and their opinions kind of suspect.

    Besides, Yuna's involved. That in itself would be reason enough for Eve to decide to participate, even if this wasn't a mission intended for the benefit of the Watch as a whole. One in which they don't have to be divisive. She tends to be wary when murder is on the table, but this seems innocuous enough. And if murder is on the table, well, she can declare herself a vegetarian. Or something. She's not actually one, but bad metaphors sometimes occur even to those well-versed in literature.

    Eve makes her way rather pedestrian-like from the warpgate, down the trail, to the meeting point. Once there she says nothing, acknowledges little. Instead she comes up towards Yuna, eyes flickering once to meet hers. Then, shyly, Eve assumes a position, watching Yuna's back. Acting remarkably similar to Yuna's androids, in demeanor if not in actual mechanical qualities.

Krusty (1149) has posed:
    The Round Table Alliance representative himself emerges from the wild onto the beach. Krusty brushes some leaves off his uniform, before turning his attention on his surroundings. A rather beautiful sight, which he admires for a few moments. However, that is not why they're here today. Krusty in particularly is just looking for an opportunity to assist the Watch, his new allies. Of course, a little exploring of other worlds is always fun.

    Glancing around as the others begin to arrive, Krusty briefly looks over them as he begins to walk up to join them at the table. Of course, the man waiting for them draws the most attention. Judging by the actions of the others, it's not someone they know. Which means some kind of intermediary. However, to those Watch members who are arriving, Krusty does give them a nod in greeting.

Atalanta has posed:
     A figure shows up in all her Servant glory. Bow slung across her back, clawed gloves on her hands, Atalanta is quietly behind the group, her gaze square on Augusts' back. Her gaze does not leave him, and her whole personality is tense, jumpy. She deliberately stays feet away from everyone, and her tail is swishing agitatedly behind her. August isn't in a good mood, and she isn't either. Oh dear.

Empty Tidings has posed:
Yang spots someone sitting on a branch high in the trees during her explosive entrance, very briefly. Upon seeing the seated man, she might get the impression that it's his brother up there or something: the same long hair, the same complexion, but watching from a distance. Finna spots another, apparently looking much the same but a bit older, lurking in the underbrush in a prime spot for ambushing anyone coming down the game trail... except he's unarmed, so it would be kind of a crappy ambush, and he let some of you go by without incident. Maybe they're sentries?

The man at the table bows to the collected Watch-folk. "That is correct, miss," he says, acknowledging Finna's commentary. "I am called No Man, bound in service to the one called Empty Tidings, and I offer a word of advice beyond what is needed: An-Teng is a place where respect is only offered to those who try to heed her ways."

He smiles widely. No Man leans forward. Sunlight crosses his pale features. His eyes are dull, not reflecting the light, standing out with eerie darkness. "Fortunately, I am not from An-Teng."

No Man sits upright. "My mistress has found a simpler, safer entrance to the Demon-City for your pleasure. However, the side that connects from Creation is presently... stuck. It is some distance below the surface of Thousand Dragons Lake. Something is preventing it from being moved somewhere more convenient."

"Your task is thus: search the lake bed to the west of here for signs of the gateway." He gestures with one hand down the lake shore. "It will appear as part of a red bridge, disconnected from its other half. Once you have found it, free it from whatever keeps it here. If it is an entity that may be reasoned with, I recommend bargaining with it rather than attacking it. Anything capable of holding it where it rests will be puissant indeed."

No Man indicates the bottle and the cups. "My mistress indicated you may be unable to easily stay underwater for long enough to accomplish this. She has sent this, with her compliments, to alleviate this problem." He looks to the group, scanning faces with a gentle smile. "Are there any questions?"

Yang Xiao Long has posed:
    Yang watches No Man, head tilting curiously. "Yeah, I got one. Who's the guy that looks like you in the trees back there?" she asks, thumbing over her shoulder casually. "I'd guess he's a sentry, but he looks kinda like you." The blonde brawler than eyes the bottle and glasses. "Yeah, I'm not really able to do the whole holding breath thing... I knew a couple of faunus who have to live in water though."

August Kohler has posed:
"Whatever." August replies to Finna. He seriously does not seem to be in the mood, and probably isn't heeding her advice at all, though he certainly heard it. He listens to the mission, hand sweeping across his face, before he takes a drink. "What kind of thing could theoretically do this, and what would it be capable of if it came to combat?" August's only question, as he drinks the wine. He's not against diplomacy, but he's going to fight his way through this if any entity doesn't take the hint of why they're there.

Iria (215) has posed:
By the time No Man has spoken about respect, Iria has turned to face him again and her look is a bit more composed and calm again. What she was angry about is anyone's guess, but it's not like she's going to discuss it right now. There's a lot more important stuff at hand here, especially the mission that they've come here to take care of. And No Man seems to have some important information for them, in that they have to go into the lake to take care of whatever's causing this problem. Which means they're going to be getting their feet wet. The good news is that Iria's armor is waterproof and won't rust the moment she steps into the water. She's also a very capable swimmer. That's the good news.

The bad news is that, like most humans, she can't breathe underwater. Sure, she could hold her breath for a few minutes, but that's only if she's swimming close to the surface.

Fortunately, it seems No Man has some kind of drink that could alleviate the problem of not being able to breathe underwater. Which seems to bring some relief to Iria, although she's wondering how exactly something like that could even be possible. But now is not the time for questions like that. The only thing on Iria's mind right now is the issue of the mission itself.

Surprisingly, she has no questions whatsoever. Instead, she simply nods to No Man and says, "Don't worry, we're gonna take care of this!" A slight smile forms on her face.

Eve (857) has posed:
    Fortunately Eve has practiced the ways of water, or at least her own way of water. Travelling through water isn't a problem. Breathing however remains an issue. No matter what her nanomachine talent lets her mimic, she's a mammal not a fish. She's limited to little more than how long she can hold her breath.

    She eyes the drink dubiously. No Man's inhumanity doesn't bother her at all, but this drink... alcohol? A potion? It seems a little dubious, and she can't help but note that No Man isn't really giving all that thorough an explanation. Still she's a trusting sort even when intellect suggests she should be pragmatic.

    Her eyes narrow at Yang's words, and she looks around intently until she spots the sentry in the trees. Well, this is somewhat dubious. Family resemblance? Clones? Again, she's not in any position to criticize. She does, however, scowl.

    After some scowling, Eve gets in line behind August to try some of the wine. Yes she's underage. No she doesn't care. Eve's the littlest adult here, at least in her own opinion. Besides this is a potion, not wine. Probably.

Atalanta has posed:
     Well after August took his drink, and at the very end of it, does Atalanta partake of this wine. She doesn't keep her green gaze off of him - to be fair, she's not /glaring/ at him, she's just... watching him. Juuuust watching. Like she always does. Cattegrump.

Finna (513) has posed:
    "Demon." Finna clucks her tongue, realizing what sort of being she's working with here when No Man introduces himself. Nevertheless she acknowledges the creature's greeting with a hint of a nod.

    She listens carefully to the explanation as well, and her thoughts immediately jump to...

    "Likely a spirit. A God. Perhaps the God of the lake, or An-Teng. Little else would know of suhc things.. I think. Worth having a look!"

    Finna smiles at No Man, shaking her head. She doesn't even bother to undress and simply VAULTS high into the air and down into the lake...

    Well, she's not going to have problems underwater, because she mutates gills and shifts her lower body into a scaley fish-half, now strongly resembling a mermaid. Perhaps intentional, perhaps not.

    Down she goes, to seek the bridge!

Yuna Kagurazaka (385) has posed:
"So we're working underwater for this, huh," Yuna muses. "Marina, looks like you're up again. Elner, if something goes drastically wrong -"

"- then be ready to teleport you back to the surface before Marine Form breaks down and you wind up unable to escape," the robo-faerie finishes for Yuna. "And looking for half of a bridge ... about how big?" Elner asks No Man. "Big enough for a footpath, or for a large road?"

Yuna's already moving back towards the water's edge, but she's listening as closely as she can, Marina sticking close to her - mostly because Yuna will need to transform *back* into her mermaid-like Marine Form. Yuna doesn't actually start their combination until all questions have been answered, and anyone who needs a drink of 'Wine of Underwater Breathing' has gotten it. Once those two things *have* happened, though, Yuna actually jumps out towards the water, Marina going translucent and 'phasing' over her form -

And for a brief moment, Yuna's form is suspended in mid-air, initially surrounded by a wireframe of light after Marina's image vanishes. Pieces of armor materialize and begin attaching around Yuna, interlocking with each other and with the Light Suit itself, filling out the wireframe and reconstructing the mermaid-shaped armor which Yuna was in when she first got here.

Then gravity reasserts itself, and Yuna splashes into the water, leading the group out and deeper into the lake. Elner flits back out to dive alongside Yuna; Jiina and Erina take to the air, flying out but for now, staying above the surface.

Krusty (1149) has posed:
    Well, it could be poison. Though if so, Krusty does have some antidote potions on hand. Looking at the offered drink for a moment, he concludes that there's probably a low risk that it's meant to hurt them. So as the others begin to drink, Krusty follows suit, taking his own glass and downing the concoction. It won't be his first time underwater, having been on a few diving trips in his past. But it will be his first while as an Adventurer. And without diving equipment. It should be an interesting experience.

Krusty sticks around on the shore briefly to listen to the results of August's questions. Additionally he makes some modifications to his equipment, swipping his finger a few times at an invisible menu. Light briefly glows around him, manifesting into the suit of heavy armour that he usually wears in combat. Though with a few more swipes, Krusty customises the appearance slightly to remove the cape and tunic.

    Once their line of questioning is complete, Krusty moves to enter the water. He casually walks through the sand towards the water's edge, beginning to head in. Without hesitation he finds himself completely submerged, the weight of his armour easily outdoing any buoyancy he might have.

    Thus, Krusty begins to stroll across the lakebed. First objective: Find the bridge half.

Empty Tidings has posed:
The wine, once poured, has an iridescent sheen to it and is surprisingly bubbly. It's cool to the touch, warm in your mouth, and burns a little going down. It's sweet, but not overpoweringly. Strangely, it also instills an extremely distinct feeling of calm in the imbiber. It brings to life vivid memories and imaginings of being held by a loved one on a peaceful night. It seems like whatever it's made of gets people daydreaming and placid rather than drunk.

It's hard to say if it'll work at first... until Krusty gets a buff on his HUD:

<Kimbery's Embrace: Waterbreathing (3h59m)>

"He is one of mine," No Man assures Yang. "He and others like him are keeping watch. There are demon hunters in the region who have been aggressive about pursuing any trace of perceived darkness, regardless of intention. It's been very..." He looks strained. "...inconvenient. I wish someone would /do/ something about them."

No Man turns to August. "That is a very broad question, unfortunately. A god, perhaps," he says, nodding at Finna's similar assessment, "though one much stronger than the likes of myself. One of the Exalted perhaps, though there have been no signs of someone coming and going like that. Their capabilities would vary wildly. If they are underwater, I would assume they would be some sort of sea creature in physical form, but even that is not guaranteed."

"A footbridge," he tells Elner. "Nine feet wide and forty-five long. It is very distinct; the craftsmanship is exquisite. You will certainly know it when you see it."

No Man smiles back at Iria. "I'm glad. I leave it in your capable hands."


It turns out that the wine does in fact let you breathe underwater. That warm and fuzzy feeling stays the whole time, too. Palpable warmth, it feels like, to go with it. It could be cold down there.

The shallows to the west aren't much to speak of. There's some wooden debris stuck in the mud, and plenty of fish in the not-quite-a-sea to catch the attention of the divers. The slope away from shore becomes less gradual, dropping away into the depths. A lack of light is going to become a problem soon, and the wine doesn't do anything about night vision.

Below, distantly, there are what looks like shipwrecks down at the bottom, clutched in the old growths of green weeds, with gaps punched in the hulls that lead into darkened interiors. Nearby, a section of ground falls away into a crevasse, with breaks closer to the bottom leading beneath the lake bed. Massive boulders make up something of a forest of toppled stones around the crevasse, a maze to navigate on foot but not too difficult to swim past.

Eve (857) has posed:
    After drinking, Eve plods over to the water in a thoughtful silence. She watches Yuna transform, pausing to take it all in. Only after does she act. With a sudden short exhalation, almost a battlecry, Eve leaps into the air. She's agile and a lot stronger than she looks. That, combined with her small size, makes her seem to soar.

    Then, in a transformation that's slightly reminiscent of the one she just saw, Eve readies herself for the water. The flash of light from her transformation is much subtler than Yuna's, and more due to reflections of light on metal than actual energy being generated, but there is a faint blue electric glow coming from her skin as she pushes her transformation powers to the limit. Almost too fast to see the change, she becomes a mermaid. Not just growing a fish's tail like Finna does... Eve becomes a full mermaid, her clothes disappearing, leaving her covered only in scales below the waist and a bikini top.

    A flip, a splash, and mermaid-Eve is in the water. The confidence-inspiring wine leads her to trust that she can breathe, so she quickly acclimates to the water. And yeah, she's fast. In the water she can swim like ... a mermaid. So it's not difficult for her to flit about and peek at the various things below the surface. Mostly the shipwrecks for now, as she waits for the slower people to arrive. She doesn't want to get too far ahead.

Iria (215) has posed:
Iria's not one to tie one on, so having a drink of wine might seem strange for her, especially given she's only seventeen years old, but then again this isn't your typical wine, now is it?

The cool-to-warm transition doesn't bother Iria too much, but when it starts going down her throat, she gags a little, feeling the burn almost like she just had a sip of acid or something. Fortunately, it only lasts a minute and then Iria starts to feel a LOT better. She smiles a little, almost like she feels like she's about to fall asleep, until she shakes her head and remembers there's work to be done here. Apparently, this must be what it's like to be able to breathe underwater.

"Leave it to us!" Iria says with a grin, before she heads towards the water. Unlike the others who simply choose to walk into the water slowly, Iria gets a running start and then does a forwards somersault into the air, calling out, "CANNONBALL!" Before hitting the water with a splash. Once she's underwater, she gets a feel for just how potent this stuff truly is.

Not only is she breathing underwater, but she's still feeling rather warm as well, instead of being chilled to the bone by what should be cold water. Still, she knows that she can't get too cocky right now, as she has a mission to do and is not here for fun and games. She decides to wait for the others to get together and then will plan things from there.

Yang Xiao Long has posed:
    Yang takes a drink, frowning a bit at the overall 'thing' it does... but she doesn't appear to be dying, and her Aura isn't draining, so there's that. "Right... 'kay. Lets do this I guess." She follows the others into the water, taking a few loping strides before leaping and diving in, her hair flowing behind her like a comet tail.

Finna (513) has posed:
    SHIPWRECKS! Finna knows they're down here for the bridge, but upon seeing SUNKEN SHIPS she hazards a guess there might be some treasure down there! So she makes a point of swooshing down to them and peering into portholes or through holes in hulls or whatever else she can do to get quick peeks inside to see what might be laying around.

Krusty (1149) has posed:
    Krusty may not be the fastest of them underwater, considering he's walking his way across the lakebed rather than swimming through the water like a mermaid. However, there is something to be said for slow and steady when doing a search. Plus there are numerous other reasons for why his approach has benefits, but let's not get into that right now.

    Krusty passes by the odd sunken wreck here and there, giving them a cursory look but otherwise not paying them much attention. They currently have no reason to believe the bridge they're searching for is connected to the ships in any way.

    Of course, as Krusty gets deeper and deeper, light starts to become a bit of an issue. Thankfully he does have something to help with that, drawing a small bottle out from his inventory. And while it takes some interesting maneuvering to apply it underwater, Krusty is able to apply the eyedrops. A fairly common item, it applies another buff to him, granting him better sight within the darkness.

    Eventually Krusty reaches the edge of the 'forest' of stones. From his position he can't see what's beyond but it does appear that trying to navigate through would take quite some time. He could probably reduce that with some leaps and bounds to take him over-or simply unequip his armor temporarily to swim-but it probably isn't necessary. Surely the better swimmers can handle that to perform the search. For now Krusty simply walks the edge of the 'forest', continuing to search for any smaller clues that a faster swimmer might miss.

Atalanta has posed:
     You know who enters the water last, like she doesn't trust it and this misson worth a damn? If your guess was the 'lion in the livi-- in Creation', you'd be correct! Atalanta's tail is still going agitatedly, her leonine ears flat against her head. She gets up to her knees before there's a low growl that escapes her throat - but there goes August, and, you know... August can't die on her. So she has to watch him. She wades in further to her hips, before abruptly sitting down.

     The grumpy lion noises stop.

     Then immediately start again.

     She sits there, on the floor, arms crossed across her chest. The glower intensifies. Then she starts flailing through the water. (She's not a swimmer. AT all.)

August Kohler has posed:
"That's good enough for me." August's irritation eases slightly as he drinks. Huh, this stuff is calming. But it doesn't go away entirely, not when he's this angry at himself. As they head into the water, August moves for the best place to dive in, doing so, and realizing he can both breathe and sort of talk down there. Waiting only briefly for the others to group up, he moves to swim towards the forest of toppled stones, joining up with Krusty, who has a light as they get deeper. There's a thumbs up to the warrior, as August moves to swim nearby the maze, trying to see if there seems to be anything around it or more likely inside it, moving to actually swim inside if it seems big enough to hold the bridge or an anchor for the bridge.

Yuna Kagurazaka (385) has posed:
A bit of discussion on the Watch's tactical band leads to Yuna tapping Eve and Finna to team up with her. Besides, between Yuna's armor and the other two girls' shapeshifting, they pretty much *are* able to mermaids as far as maneuverability goes. The relative lack of light will still be a bit of a problem, although Elner's sensors aren't limited to visible light; the robo-faerie is already scanning with a mix of sonar and more exotic sensors, probably relying more on the latter - they don't want to stir anything up with repeated audible pings, after all. (Or even inaudible ones.)

The bridge they're looking for probably isn't going to be among the shipwrecks, although Yuna cruises alongside a few of them just in case there's anything eye-catching. Even if there *is*, though, she'll just make a note of the location with Elner, and see if they can go hunting for it another time. That bridge comes first, and she doesn't want to be laden down with shinies if (or given what No Man said, 'when') they have a fight on their hands.

Once Finna and Eve have gotten their fill of looking through the shipwrecks, Yuna leads them towards the labyrinth of fallen stones. By this point, she's conjured the Matrix Divider, and is channeling enough power into her weapon for the blade/barrel to glow fairly brightly, helping to illuminate her surroundings. She's a little worried about the other groups, but most of her attention (what's not devoted to the actual search, at least) is on Eve and Finna as her immediate teammates.

Empty Tidings has posed:
Sensor pings pick up some interesting stuff, but it's hard to make out if you're not used to operating in an environment like this. Identifying what's fish and what's not is a bit of an art. It does tell Elner that the shipwrecks have... /something/ in them that isn't consistent with broken stuff. Peeking inside actually reveals...

...shiny things! Faint shafts of sunlight that come through the broken hull make something glitter inside one of the bigger wrecks. It's hard to make out from outside, but the glittering is pretty treasure-y. There's shapes like the edges of boxes inside, but there's a lot of wreckage, too. It'd take a little effort to look, and a lot more to sift through it all.

August and Krusty take the slower route. Approaching the stone slab forest finds two strange things that stand out: first, Krusty spots what looks like a paw print in the mud from a huge creature. If he didn't know better, being underwater and all, he'd think it was some kind of massive dog. Second, August spots marks on the stones that look like uncountable parallel scratches, like dozens of nails had scraped across the surface of the stones all at once. It seems to only be on some of them, leading deeper into the mess of fallen stones.

Atalanta is wet and miserable. This hasn't changed, but it seemed like it should be reiterated.

Eve (857) has posed:
    Though Eve has many flaws, avarice isn't one of them. She's incessantly curious and the gleam of treasure intrigues her, but they're on a mission. Besides, Yuna indicated the labyrinth of fallen stones. That, in fact, was always more intriguing to the little blonde. She'd just been peering into and around the shipwrecks as an initial step; something she could do without getting out of sight of anyone.

    Besides, Yuna has light. Light is good. While Eve can swim like the mermaid she resembles, light is still very much appreciated. Even if her best friend weren't actually directly associated with light, that is.

    They don't need to navigate the labyrinth, of course. They're just swimming above it, most likely. Still, Eve studies the course of the thing, mind automatically trying to plot out a route, trying to see if the labyrinth has a significant center or if its destination is something on the other side.

Krusty (1149) has posed:
    Krusty actually would not discount the possibility of some kind of huge underwater dog type creature, considering how little information he has on the types of animals that might be in this world. Still, the fact that he hasn't seen any yet in his search suggests the find might be something of importance.

    Krusty kneels down to take a closer look at the find, his hair slowly drifting in the water. He muffles onto their tactical channel, "Hmmm. A large animal pawprint. Not something you typically see on a lakebed... Perhaps a sign of whatever form the so-called god has taken."

    Krusty looks up again as August reports some claw marks found. Visibility is quite difficult at the moment, but Krusty is able to make out August at the edge of the stones. A pawprint... Claw marks... "It might be a lead worth following."

    Krusty walks over to join August at the edge of the labyrinth. Briefly examining the claw marks, Krusty nods to August. They're both obviously in agreement that there is now a need to enter the stone maze.

Yuna Kagurazaka (385) has posed:
With the crevasse below the fallen stones, Yuna has a pretty strong suspicion that they'll need to head further down to investigate its depths - and she isn't especially looking forward to that, but she's here to do what she can, or what she needs to, in order to assist her allies.

Still, when August mentions finding those claw marks, Yuna breaks off and swims up so she can get a look at them for herself. Maybe she can get a vague sense of how big the creature that made themt is ... or whether it might be too big to have dived down as far as the crevasse goes?

Elner examines them too - not just evaluating how long the claws might have been, but how sharp they might be, how deeply the stone was gouged.

Just in case they might need to know. Either way, Yuna's got a much tighter grip on the Matrix Divider now, and is ready to call for her shield as well if she thinks she needs it.

August Kohler has posed:
Well, that's strange. Nail marks? "Hey, found something!" Shouting out, though muffled by the water, August moves to put his fingers to the nails, trying to get an idea of how long they'd have to be. "I'm going in deeper. We might be able to find something, since something's definitely been here." August waits a few moments for the message to take, taking a picture of the marks with his phone (which is luckily waterproof because he adventured in Tellus and couldn't trust anything) before swimming towards the maze, moving to follow the nail strikes. He fidgets with his reflective bracelet, because he's probably going to need it. Krusty backing him up is appreciated, as he moved to finally enter.

Atalanta has posed:
     Immediately behind August and Krusty, Atalanta pops up. She's wet, upset, and grumpy.

     "I don't trust this." She remarks, before swimming slowly after August as he and Krusty deeper in.

Iria (215) has posed:
Iria's already not feeling it about this whole thing. It's not the fact that she's actually seeing the fish and aquatic plants up close and personal, hell she'd kill to be able do something like that in her free time without having to worry about resurfacing for air. No, there's something else that's nagging at Iria's sixth sense. Something that tells her they should not be here, even though they have a job to do. Of course, a lack of knowledge of how things work underwater makes it a bit difficult for her, until she hears that August has found something.

With Yuna leading, Iria follows close behind. She figures with Yuna having a light, Iria will let her take point and she'll follow close behind. Once she gets there, Iria also takes a good look at the claw marks. "Whatever put those marks there," Iria comments, "I doubt they're friendly."

Finna (513) has posed:
    After spending some time translating Claw Speak for her allies, Finna decides to MAKE GOOD on why she checked out the shipwrecks at all! She squeezes through the porthole and goes swoosh-kicking her way down the passage. Despite the gloom she knows exactly where she's going, due to excellent nightvision! ... And underwater, for that matter.


Yang Xiao Long has posed:
    Yang kindof loses sight of everyone else, she makes for the one person she's managed to keep track of. Following after Finna is a bit slow for the blonde, she's not exactly hydrodynamic, but she's not a flaily mess of limbs like a certain miserable, wet lion further down. Yang approaches the porthole Finna used, but ends up nearly stuck trying to get through. <Find another way around, there's gotta be a hatch or hull breach somewhere> she thinks to herself, kicking off the hull and tracing along the starboard side, looking for a door or said hull breach.

Empty Tidings has posed:
Examining the labyrinth from above finds that the stones are not laid out in a random pattern at all. The slabs look like they came from some massive stone edifice, dragged or dumped into the lake here. They've been laid out, leaned against one another, to display a sigil from above that resembles a beast's head in profile. The easiest way into the labyrinth from the bottom seems to be where it's 'mouth' is; the crevasse is a dark slit left in place of an eye. Other than the wrecks, there's nothing else around it.

The marks look like they've been made by numerous sharp bits dragged across the stone. The gouges are shallow, but they're also in parallel. Close examination makes it look like a lot of narrow, sharp edges had all been raked across it, back and forth, all at once. If it's a beast's, it's massive. If it goes with the paw print... well, there's no plausible way for that to be the case, but if it /does/ it's definitely gigantic. 'Swallow you with one bite' gigantic.

Moving deeper into the labyrinth finds it isn't much of a maze at all. The scratches lead down a path that could fit two people shoulder to shoulder, with the occasional branch without scratches leading out of the covered interior. It winds its way around and around...

...to the crevasse.

The drop down into it isn't too far. It bends near the bottom, curving. From the very edge, though, something glints in the light: red metalwork, with a finely-wrought face of a grinning demon looking up and out of the crevasse and sticking out of deep silt at the very bottom.

Then, a voice comes from below, sounding like innumerable quivering stringed instruments building to a deep, growling harmony:



The glimmering is definitely treasure.

Finna finds the porthole leads her inside the wreck, and Yang spots a place where the hull is cracked that she can pull herself inside. Both leads to the sideways underbelly of the ship, where toppled, rotted chests are strewn all around. The source of the glimmering is a metallic glint buried in sand. Silver, maybe? There's definitely markings on a couple of sealed containers that look official enough to be carrying loot.

Finna gets inside just in time to go for the loot. Yang gets inside just in time to see Finna go for the loot... and to see the enormous crab claw rise silently out of the flotsam, glinting pearlescently in the light as it reaches out to try and crush the Lunar!

Yang Xiao Long has posed:
    Yang slides in through the broken hull, only to find Finna going for shinies, and a giant Crab Claw raising up to try and crush her! She sends a warning over radio, then opens fire with her weapon. The normal reports of the shotguns are muted in the water, but instead of fiery bolts or pulses of kinetic force, these shells launch literal bolts of ice! They fly like torpedoes to strike into the crab's outer chitinous shell, hoping to distract the monster so Finna can react.

August Kohler has posed:
"Whatever, it probably is." August responds to Atalanta, grumbling as they follow the labyrinth. When it reaches the creavsse, he sighs, before moving to submerge. And then, they spot it. "The bridge. There it is."

And then the voice speaks up. August listens to it, carefully, as he continues to move downwards. "We're here to free the bridge. If what you want is a toll, I'll trade you for it, but we're freeing it one way or another." August doesn't sound like he's open to negotiation, as he reaches down...and pulls out twenty dollars from his wallet, as well as a large amount of coins, dropping them into the crevasse below. He waits, slowly. If he doesn't get a response after a few moments, August straight swims down there, even with the monster.

If it's not going to give him something for his money, he's going to get it back, and he's also freeing the bridge one way or another.

Finna (513) has posed:
    Finna detects that Yang's following her but her eyes are on the prize!

    All up until a second before the GIANT CRAB starts to move!

    Finna TWISTS through the waters in a freakish way, leaving only her dorsal fin to get snagged by the pincer! Which leaves the rest of her body free!

    A half-second of panic transforms into a bubbly snarl through the waters.

    She's giving the animal just ONE CHANCE to back off, making it clear through her connection with them in that snarl and bubble stream... and brandishing a hand that's gleaming with silver fingernails sharpened like claws!

Krusty (1149) has posed:
    Krusty works his way through the labyrinth along with some of the others. Judging by how some paths are marked and others aren't, it seems like they're being led. And considering the path eventually comes out at the crevase, clearly accessible from above, it's obvious that it wasn't really intended as a defense mechanism. Regardless, it seems they have reached their goal.

    As the voice calls out to them, Krusty instinctively goes straight. He's defeated a few demonic beings before, at least back when his world was still a game. He's yet to face one in person. It's a rather sombering experience... That's completely ruined when August proceeds to throw chump change at it. Krusty looks doubtful as he expresses his concern, "... Really? That's the toll you're paying?" He would expect a demon to have a slightly higher price than that... But he guesses they'll see.

Yuna Kagurazaka (385) has posed:
The whole point of working out teams was for each team to *stick together*, Yuna grouses to herself as she doubles back. She didn't even realize Finna had gotten sidetracked with treasure-hunting - and while normally, Yuna would be upset about putting treasure over the mission (at least outside of Alfheim Online or something), the fact that whatever's guarding the depths of the crevasse explicitly wants a toll means that the treasure from the ships MIGHT actually be useful for that purpose.

Especially if it doesn't take modern currency such as August's offering.

Still, the 'labyrinth' has already been solved thanks to Eve getting the right perspective on things - and if anything, it occurs to Yuna that maybe the stones were arranged that way on purpose so that any divers would realize what was hiding down there.

Rather than trying to enter the ship through that porthole, Yuna gets Elner to extrapolate where in the ship the crab's (or lobster's, or whatever) main body might be, building up the charge in the Matrix Divider while the robo-faerie scans and analyzes ... and once Elner's figured out where the likely center of mass is, Yuna fires - not so much a bolt as a short-lived concussive *beam* of hard light, aimed to punch right through the ship's *hull* to shoot the giant crustacean that just took a swing at her ally and teammate.

Eve (857) has posed:
    Fortunately for Yuna, Eve's sticking fairly close to her. Or perhaps not so fortunately, depending on if Yuna thinks Eve's a worthy companion or if she just needs defending.

    Eve glowers at mention of a toll, and watches as August tries a reasonable if modern solution. If this doesn't work, she might have options. "What is the toll?" she asks, then mutters, "And why can't you ask riddles or something?" under her breath.

Iria (215) has posed:
Unfortunately, Iria's weapons might not work too well underwater. Wet bullets will misfire, and Iria doesn't want to take that risk. In desparation, she goes for her chain-sword and prepares to attack if need be. Which it looks it might be necessary. Iria attempts to swim towards the crab and stab at it with her solidified sword's blade in hopes of doing at least a little damage.

Empty Tidings has posed:

It turns out ice is a good play while fighting a sea monster.

The crab gets frozen. Parts of it, anyway; it's truly colossal, and it looks like the Ice Dust shots aren't enough to totally encase it. The joint in its claw gets caught, and Finna is left with just enough wiggle room to get away. The ice block starts to crack...

A beam of hard light punches through the hull and hits it. Iria follows through the gap, jabbing at the revealed spot and cracking the carapace. The crab staggers, and the giant claw hits the dirt, kicking up a big mass of murky silt and sand. Finna's growl seems to be the last straw, though; it rises out of the muck... and rises... and rises, filling the interior of the shipwreck with its massive, armored form.

Then, it starts to very slowly walk away. It lifts the entire upside-down ship up, dragging it along with it. The whole shipwreck up and starts to ploddingly walk away. The treasure, it seems, is going to get swept along with it -- like the ones inside of the wreck. Better get swimming!

Empty Tidings has posed:

August tosses money down the hole. Something like a black metal claw comes out and grabs it. It's easily big enough to encompass his whole body. It pulls it back in, and there's a sound that sounds like massive underwater sniffing.

He gets down lower... and then August sees it.

The demon fills the undersea cave, a mass of blacked wires forged into the shape of a great, vaguely canine head. Four eye-sockets look out at him, two to a side; three are filled with great orbs of brass, while the fourth is conspicuously empty. It grinds jagged wire-teeth together, generating gouts of bubbles from what must be flashes of heat.

The wire effigy comes apart beyond its neck and forelegs, spreading out and filling the cave in a lattice of criss-crossed metal. It sinks into the walls and spreads towards the cave mouth, and he can see now that he's inside that he's surrounded on all sides by tiny filaments that jut out of the crevasse's sides and are connected to the demon. If those are what made those marks, then they must be very, very sharp.


"I AM KINVAT, THE THRESHOLD'S TOIL, HOGO-SHA SA JACINT, THE PRINCE UPON THE TOWER, SA ADORJAN, THE SILENT WIND." The wires in the walls start to snake out. They weave a net underneath August, a dense barrier blocking his reaching the bridge. It builds upwards, forcing him to swim up or face the razor-sharp wire. "THIS EDIFICE IS MY CHARGE. I WILL NOT ALLOW YOU TO REMOVE IT WHILE I AWAIT THE PROPER TOLL TO BE PAID BY ALL WHO WOULD WALK ITS LENGTH AND BREADTH."


The wire-wall reaches the top, covering the crevasse completely in a cap of blackened metal. It's going to take some serious firepower to get in there... or a clever solution.

Maybe you should come back after thinking the problem over.

August Kohler has posed:
August pulls back as the wire comes underneath him. "He starts to rise quickly as it builds upwards, cursing. "Well, fuck you too!" August almost pulls his bracelet up to his eye, but decides to pull back. They need an idea on this toll, or at the least, a way to actually set the giant horrible wire dog on fire. Maybe lure it out of the sea so he can do that. "Alright, guys, we're retreating for now. We need to coordinate with Empty Tidings on this and how best to fight this thing if it comes down to it."