6986/LI0: After The End

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LI0: After The End
Date of Scene: 08 January 2020
Location: Last Illusion
Synopsis: People visit the world of Last Illusion to get some idea of what they have to deal with.
Cast of Characters: Shyra, 7187, 6666, 7197, Staren, Arthur Lowell, John Rizzo, 7173, 6895, 7141, 7191, Rean Schwarzer
Tinyplot: Last Illusion
Tinyplot2: Loop Zero


Shyra has posed:
The Gate opens up onto a forested plain. The world of Shyra, Linehart, and Pazkar has a certain classic appeal to it. Wild forests, pastoral towns, great plains, ancient ruins, a wild sea... The land seems almost designed for adventure.

    Upon arrival, Shyra calls up their flying craft. It looks like some affixed a tower to an elongated ship. There is no sail, just two weblike wings on the side and a propeller on the front. Still, somehow it carries everyone willing to board, and it becomes a question of /where/ one wishes to go.

FINARIA is the land they are closest to, and where the journey began and ended. The town, at a distance, seems to have undergone some kind of problem... Nearby is a RUINED SHRINE that began the true quest to save the world, and where the battle came to an end.

To the north, the port town of BARTAL awaits, a town protected by the BLUR DRAGON Spirit in its SHRINE.

West of Bartal and across the raging sea is PRADIA, land of the Astomi, a land of people who do not need to eat or breathe, and possess ancient secrets of the world. However, they are highly isolationist with the exception of one renegade Sage. The WHITE TIGERS SHRINE is here.

In the far north, the land of YTALIS is now at peace after the defeat of the Yaksha. The BLACK WARRIOR SHRINE is here, guarded by a mighty Spirit that tested the Hero and their companions.

Floating high above the waves to the far south is the RED BIRD SHRINE, the centerpiece of an ancient civilization that had advanced technology that was used to seal away the Evil God Discordia. Tragedy befell the Hero and the party at this place.

Raphael Cousteau (7187) has posed:
Raphael Cousteau stands on the deck of the airship. He's wearing a navy blue long jacket, reading 'RCM' on the back in large letters. He's still got the same yellow pants on, and for some reason he's wearing a mesh t-shirt underneath the jacket. And despite the thick jacket, he still looks cold.

In fact, ignoring everyone else for the moment, he steps to the bow of the ship, as if in a dream. The jacket is popped open.
SHIVERS: Yes. Step to the front. Let me feel that.
SUGGESTION: This is a little weird, but that might be okay. I'll come up with a cover story. Do your thing.

There is a long moment while the ostensible police officer just looks like he's freezing to death, eyes closed and hands raised about at chest height. He continues to shiver, before eventually looking over to Pazkar.

"..I'd like to go to that port town, if that's alright."

Kupot (6666) has posed:
WHEN: Two Days Ago.
WHERE: The FANTASY COSTCO

"I need something, kupo, that looks normal on a world like this one."

A cloaked and hooded figure with only pinpoints of lights for eyes lets out a tired sigh. "I am Garfield The Deals Warlock, and I can make all your fantasies come true. Aisle Five, adul-" The eyelights glance down. "Aisle seven, kid's clothing." He lifts his eyes back up and tiredly waves his arms, "We've got a deal with you."
Kupot turns his head. He turns back. "Have you considered unionizing?"

WHEN: One Day Ago.
WHERE: Malo Mart
"If I say a word, will this entire establishment be burned to the ground, kupo?"

A man with a rictus grin and a phonograph trumpet on his head spinning around looks down, "What word sir?"

"Unioni-"

NOW:

Kupot steps out of the gate, wearing his normal trenchcoat. He holds to the side of the skycraft, looking over. "This is how our world looked, kupo, in the past."

For once, Kupot is calm, not quite so brooding, at peace.

Mordred (7197) has posed:
After being assaulted by a text box full of pink text, Mordred's decided that today's destination is... Wherever this Shyra person is calling for people to join her at! Might as well, considering that last night's pizza left her with a hankering for more strange new food and places to check out. She arrives decked out in her usual full set of armor, complete with the horned helmet that leaves her looking like a vaguely demonic knight. Climbing aboard the waiting airship, Mordred takes a bit to just inspect the ship itself, probably looking utterly confusde at how something shaped like that could even fly.

And yet, it does! It's kind of impressive, but the helmet keeps anyone from seeing how much Mordred is actually looking around. When it's her turn to choose/when she yells really loudly about her choice of destination, she opts for the BLACK WARRIOR SHRINE.

Of course Mordred's going to choose the BLACK WARRIOR SHRINE. So what if she doesn't actually know what's going on just yet? She just wants to see if that Spirit's still around to test people.

Staren has posed:
    Staren steps through the gate, dressed in his ALO replica armor so that he looks the part of a JRPG character. The main item is still a white coat, but with some lamellar added; mostly the difference is in all the layers and little extra armor bits here and there.

    Shyra gets a smile and a wave, and Staren boards the airship with interest.

    "As much as I'm sure I'd enjoy examining the ancient technology of the Red Bird Shrine..." Staren turns to face the Holy Healer. "You said your world has a problem, that it's stuck. I'd like to go wherever you think we can best see examples of this problem, and begin experimenting to learn more about it."

Arthur Lowell has posed:
    ARTHUR LOWELL is here. He gives SHYRA one of his classic handshakes, the kind that needs a complex array of rhythm minigames to get a SSS rating on, then boards. "WHAT UP, homie?" He speaks in friendly tones. "Let's SEE SOME SIGHTS, dawg." He drifts, weightlessly, like an astronaut, but still seems to want to board the ship and drift above its deck.

    He regards the weird old man shaking himself apart at the bow of the ship with a furrowed brow. "You, uh, DYIN' there, OLD-TIMER?" He squints. Well, tiny animal-things, weird knights, it's the usual so far otherwise.

    ARTHUR LOWELL examines the OVERWORLD MAP through which he considers his destinations, and decides on FINARIA -- mostly because of its indicators of having a problem. What sort? Arthur wants to see.

John Rizzo has posed:
     Rizzo is here. He looks like a mummy detective--gauze is wrapped tightly around every inch of exposed skin. His eyes are shielded by sunglasses. He hasn't bothered with a hat, which somehow makes him more unusual. As before, his clothes hang off of him. As before, (at least until his frenzy) he stands tall despite his apparent frailty.

     FINARIA is his destination of choice, should he have a say in the matter. The vampire feels as though something is wrong with the town, instinctively. "That's where I get off," says John after Raphael speaks. He points in the direction of FINARIA.

Tamamo (7173) has posed:
    For a little while now, Tamamo no Mae has been speaking to Shyra and Pazkar with some interest, some of which is for their world, in particular. It takes no more justification than that curiosity for the divine fox to accept the invitation of a tour, conveniently helped by Shyra's aircraft. She does have more justification; it just isn't necessary, nor overt.

    For once, she has the pleasure of visiting a place that is (probably) not beset by deepest winter, an assumption Tamamo has made upon seeing the way Shyra normally dresses. This means that she hasn't gone ahead in her recently acquired coat and boots, but instead in her own garb not entirely, totally unlike that of the Holy Healer, apart from the somber color palette. Idly, she considers advising others on contrasting tones and seasonal variation, but decides it would be an unnecessary distraction in the moment.

    All of that is to say that Tamamo is here, appearing as she may be expected to appear.

    "Shyra, how kind of you to give such a broadly-reaching offer. Pardon my intrusion, as I must depend upon your hospitality." That's her form of greeting, upon reaching the airship. "Though the turn of the year is past, a shrine visit is rarely remiss. Having so many to choose from, might you inform me as to the nearest at which we may encounter a caretaker? I expect we shall derive more insight from a kept shrine than from one that has since been abandoned." Meaning, she's not too picky about the destination, as long as someone can be expected to be there at the shrine. In case further direction is needed, she continues, "Hmm, a dragon... was it? That destination, in particular, must certainly be included." On to the BLUR DRAGON, if nowhere else.

Tamamo (7173) has posed:
    Oh, there's a face she's seen before. It's a very distinctive face, especially for that expression that is always, always upon it. Tamamo approaches, taking in the sights of a number of strangers, some armored, in the passing. A loud knight gets an extra glance, knights having been so prevalent upon her mind in recent days.

    "Mr. Cousteau, how good to finally see you up close." Tamamo always sounds sincere, and not as if she were merely being polite, which is likely some form of ascended politeness skill. "I must ask, however... are you not cold? Do you wish assistance?"

Shyra has posed:
CENTER CITY - FINARIA:

    At first glance, Finaria is the definition of a pastoral town. Houses are arranged in small clusters composed of a mix of wood and a beige stone that seems to blend together into a regular, easily repeated pattern. The paths of the town are dirt, a couple small patches of what look like what is supposed to be farmland nearby. The center of the town seems to be a large TAVERN. There is also an INN, MAGIC SHOP, WEAPON SHOP, ARMOR SHOP, and ITEM SHOP. It seems almost idyllic if, well...

    The place wasn't wrecked. Many of the houses are missing square-shaped chunks and are darkened by several levels of hue-tinting. The path is broken up by square chunks of ground, identical piles of rubble seem to litter the area, and several areas seem to have splatters of blood on them. It looks fresh. Two men are seen standing next to one of the houses facing it, a woman milling about randomly in the center of the town near the TAVERN. The rest of the town is deserted.

EAST CITY - BARTAL:

    The port town of Bartal looks lively compared to Finaria, but the streets seem a little empty for some reason. At least the streets are intact and paved. Actually, the place looks fairly well off despite the emptiness. The houses are large despite being made of completely identical materials and patterning. There are no ships in port, and about 8 or so men, women and two children go about their daily lives. By which we mean that the men and women somewhat aimlessly and randomly mill about while the two children face each other in the small grassy area near a fountain in the town. There is a magic shop, weapon shop, armor shop, item shop, and an inn present outside of the BLUE DRAGONS SHRINE entrance.

Staren has posed:
    Staren stares at the buildings for a moment. Something looks wrong... then he realizes they're tiled. Except they're not actually made of tiles, they're real stone, built such that every so many feet of space is an exactly-repeating pattern. It's a trip.

    Now he can examine the damage... and winces. He approaches the NPCs, stepping into the path of the woman. "Excuse me." If that doesn't count as pressing A, he prompts with "What happened here?"

Lilian Rook (6895) has posed:
    There are two evenly mixed reasons that Lilian 'bothers with this absurdity', as she puts it after seeing thr semi-generic classic fantasy videogame Da Vinci-but-not airship out of the gate. One is Shyra's and Pazkar's strange combined existential crisis and the breadcrumb trail of ominous hints therein. The other is that Tamamo really wanted to go and that's still her ~~problem~~ business.

    Granted, it is nice to be out of snow, but something about the countryside seems to attract frequent misgiving glances from her. She's still dressed a little warmer than she strictly needs to be. Milling about the ship seemingly aimlessly, she stops to say a few words at various points once she comes within prompt range.

Raphael: "Don't do that. You might literally die."

Kupot: "Are you sure? Or do romantic little picture books of your world's artistically interpreted past look like this?"

    Mordred: "Who the hell are you? You can get to your stop last."

Staren: "Where best to see examples, or where best to start experiment? Because there isn't one of the latter."

Arthur: "Why do you have to ride an airship? Can't you already-- you know what, never mind."

John Rizzo: "Who are you supposed to be either? You look ridiculous. Go home, or back to the hospital."

    She's like some kind of marauding scripted rival character today, doing laps of the ship and ambushing people with varying unsolicted dialogue. It's not 'being slightly condescending out of habit', but just being kind of restless and mean, stalking around like a tiger.

Tamamo: "That sounds fine, but don't get your hopes up."

Linehart (7141) has posed:
                            NORTH CITY - YTALIS                            

    The airship touches down just outside the walled city for MORDRED and KUPOT. A guard at the gate, dressed in simple armor with a feathered cap and holding a spear with a flag on it, waits silently, staring straight ahead. In the center of the city juts a large windmill, turning slowly in the complete lack of anything like wind. Cobblestone roads are laid out in a perfect grid amidst ten baked-brick houses, the huge windmill in the dead center. There are two women talking to each other in front of one of the houses. Behind one of the house is a man. There's one man sitting on a stoop, and another man walking through the city streets. There's a man in black standing in an alley behind two barrels. Exactly three children run in a loop around a big out-of-place crystal. There is a sign that reads I N N in big capital letters over one house. Over an indistinguishable house on the other side is a sign with a sword on it. Over another, exactly indistinguishable house, there is a sign with a bottle on it.

     Actually, all of the houses are indistinguishable.

     Come to think of it, so are the children. They're...slightly different, with different-colored hair. One has red hair, one has brown hair, one has white hair. Their clothes are slightly different, too; green, blue, and yellow. But on closer inspection they all have the same eye color - black. They all have the same skin tone - slightly tan. They all have the same clothing *style* - simple robes. They're all the same height. They're all the same face. They're all the same *everything*, just slight recolors.

     And all three of the men have the same face, except for the guard. And both of the women have the same face. And all the buildings are completely identical. And...

     ...and...

     And there's a quiet, soothing, relaxing theme playing in the background. It's coming from nowhere. It has pleasant flutey tones arranged in a calm and peaceful beat, the sort of thing you like to hear in a town, with a distinctly northern flavor from some deeper tones interspersed.

Raphael Cousteau (7187) has posed:
    "No. I'm alright. I just...needed to see something," Raphael conveniently explains to Arthur.
SUGGESTION: Now quickly, change the subject before he asks more.
"You're the god who died, correct?"
INLAND EMPIRE: I got this.
SUGGESTION: Oh, please, no, don't--
"I see the void. It's kind of my *jam*."
SUGGESTION: Why are you like this.
Raphael proceeds turns to Tamamo next. It's probably worth noticing that he's had an absolutely glorious grin on his face this entire time. It's not moving. It's on facial paralysis levels of not moving. "Oh! Yeah, no, I'm fine. Being cold and freezing is my thing. Thanks, though!"

Eventually, at any rate, he's dropped off at a port town. It doesn't take even Raphael long to realize something is wrong. He walks through the town, settling on talking to a single dockworker.
"Hello!" He says, waving and offering his trademark *Expression*. "I'm a police officer."

Pazkar (7191) has posed:
Pazkar nods towards Raphael. This is Shyra's airship. She will lead the way.

Staren mentions Red Birds Shrine. It's a lovely place. You should go when you get the chance.

But Pazkar will get off with Raphael, since Raphael asked him permission and it's best for everyone to have some sort of partner.

At BARTAL, Pazkar steps up to the dockworker with I do not recall what this one says. There are 82 people in this world.

Arthur Lowell has posed:
    Arthur answers Lilian pretty quickly. "It's the FAST-TRAVEL, dawg." He's also playing a gameboy advance, so you know, less to worry about flight-wise or space-wise.

    What's with the cop? "Oh, you're a DERSE DREAMER? Shit, YOU DO YOU, I guess. Keep that GOD SHIT on the DOWN LOW, tho', homie. I ain't even 'bout that THESE DAYS." Well, that resolved easily.

    He steps down in Fineria. He squints, and immediately grits his teeth a little. He approaches the two men, picking one at random. Suspecting the way this is, he INTERACTS with them by pressing the Y button... whatever that means. The indicator is, quite literally, simply a drifting (Y) that depresses. He suspects things are rather more complicated than they look here. A destructive event is bad, but what does the persisting freshness mean?

Kupot (6666) has posed:
Kupot turns his head slightly towards Lillian. Since you can't see his eyes, the insectile lens over them. He frowns, nods, "That is maybe true, kupo," he agrees, but then he shrugs, "but being so constantly cynical does not aid anything."

Brows knit over the lenses as he stands with Modred, walking slowly through the town. "These people are like... robots. I do not understand." He frowns deeper.

Kupot does not play RPGs in his world. He plays light gun shooters and rhythm games.

This is deeply unnerving to the moogle.

Shyra has posed:
CENTER CITY - FINARIA:

Staren approaches the woman and talks to her. She is in a red robe, with slightly tanned flesh and brown hair and dark eyes. She looks back and speaks: Please, Hero! Save our world from the evil Discordia! You are our only hope!

Arthur approaches the men at the building instead. The interaction button comes up as (A) instead of the one he expects. He interacts with one of them, which turns towards him. He in a white robe, with slightly tanned flesh, black hair, and dark eyes. The Evil Knight Linehart did so much damage... It will take a long time to rebuild. Please avenge us, Hero!

EAST CITY - BARTAL:

Raphael, meanwhile, immediately goes to the docks. The dockworker is dressed in a brown robe, with slightly tanned flesh and dark eyes. He says, I wonder when the next ship from Pradia will arrive...

Tamamo heads directly to the BLUE DRAGONS SHRINE. The SHRINE is a large angular structure that rises a couple stories. Water flows down the sides, creating an endless sound of rushing water. Within is a large statue of a serpentine Eastern-style dragon that is curled around a spire behind an altar. There seem to be a lot of pillars and a gratuitous water channel around the room. It's pretty obvious that there's some kind of elemental affinity thing going on here. There is a man and a woman standing next to the altar.

Mordred (7197) has posed:
There's a good number of weirdos around throughout the ride, but Mordred's pretty good at keeping her surprise hidden.

That helmet is so useful. She's not quite sure how to react to the strange child ball in the trenchcoat, although Kupot might notice that helmet turning his way a few times. Arthur would definitely notice Mordred staring at him from behind the helmet, though, especially with all that emphasis on seemingly random words.

He's probably okay. Raphael gets quite a few glances, too, perhaps because of that shivering and looking like someone that might just die on his feet on the way to wherever they're going. For a moment, it might even look like she's slouching when he does't.

Then there's Staren who doesn't get much of a look, either, until he speaks up and provides a familiar voice. Mordred utters an audible groan when he mentions going after ancient technology, but someone's bound to look into that sort of thing.

John's appearance gets a long look as well, largely because of the bandages. There's a strong temptation to yank one off just to see what happens, and Mordred's hand even rests on her sword for a moment, but that stops when Tamamo mentions a dragon.

Crap. She should have chosen that place. "... Maybe later." That's all she says without further elaboration, and Lilian gets a full on introduction when she asks along with a sneer.

EVENTUALLY

Upon reaching Ytalis, Mordred departs to check out the walled city. The guard doesn't even get a second glance as she strolls right on by, glancing around occasionally to look for something more important-looking.

"It's weird, yeah. This is even duller than the chaff back home." She doesn't find anything useful, only really having Kupot around to break up the monotony. It's actually kind of hard to find anything here, and Mordred's footsteps become more visibly agitated as she goes from strolling to fast-walking to that annoyed semi-stomping fast-walking as everything just looks too samey.

Eventually, she actually stops to confront these weird clone people. "Hey! What the hell is with this place? Ain't there supposed to be a Black Warrior Shrine around here?" She doesn't ask this of the guard right away, having stopped to ask the people in the bottle house first, then the inn, then basically anyone before finally getting to the guard.

If she hasn't heard anything useful by then, Mordred will sound ready to stab someone by the time she gets to the guard.

Rean Schwarzer has posed:
Rean zones out for a moment, missing his stop at Bartal. He turns to Lilian if she's still there, and sighs. "So...Uh...Where are you going?"

Raphael Cousteau (7187) has posed:
The docks just seemed like the right place to be.

Inspector Raphael Ambrosius Cousteau rubs his chin thoughtfully, looking the dockworker over.
PERCEPTION: Is there music playing?
SUGGESTION: Keep talking to him. Something's not right.

Raphael continues to grin. "PRADIA, eh? Can you tell me about it? Sounds like a real jammin' kinda locale."

John Rizzo has posed:
     Lilian receives a polite, if possibly confusing burst of slang. "John Rizzo, Private Dick." At the mention of his clothes, he shrugs. "This ain't a putup. Take a peek behind the Veil. You'll crab it." If she dares, peeking into possible timelines will offer some insight into his manner of dress.

     In the present, the Veil is exactly what he seeks to pierce. Raphael asks precisely the right question. 'How can we fix something if we don't know how it broke?'

     "That's it."

     John taps into the powers of his bloodline. His mind opens to impossible possibilities, bizarre truths and hidden knowledge. He paces back and forth, weaving around citizens trapped in their routines. Around Arthur, if necessary.

     How did this happen to Finaria?

Staren has posed:
    Staren stares at the ground as he thinks, holding his chin in his hand. Nonvocally, he converses with Arthur and the others using his cybercomms. Ideas are discussed. In the meantime, he talks to the last NPC. "Hey there. What do you have to say?"

    After the response, he adds, "Linehart has been dealt with. It's time to move on. Why don't you start rebuilding? I can help. I can provide labor and materials."

Arthur Lowell has posed:
    Arthur taps his chin, thinking about what was just said to him, and about the nature of LINEHART, the MIRROR KNIGHT who caused this. Months and months ago, right...? Well, he won't need to be woven around much longer. Arthur wants to look at something.

    He targets something particular. Specifically, he snaps, summons up his BROOM, and uses it to generate a high-power GATE to cast at a vast distance. Specifically, he's going /downwards/. He's looking for something in particular.

    He doesn't want to get people's hopes up much, but he suspects the nature of what's happening is similar to Scratched Sessions of Sburb, a very lesser-known phenomenon he's only broadly aware of due to the lore of various Seers. A temporal dead-end of a sort, with hope only found in a restart, but restarting will end the same way if something isn't dealt with: diverging the new timeline from the old, to re-adhere it to alpha timeline dynamics, to give it more plot flags, so to speak.

    He is trying to cast a portal deep underground -- 'out of bounds', in a sense. Depending on the physics of this world, this might let him get a fast, unique perspective on things, the world as viewed from below, where rooms are lined through odd and surreal passageways, where towns are spiderweb-like constructs of roads around buildings never entered, where geographic features turn areas into voids. He doesn't need to /map/ it.

    But he's looking for sealed-off areas. If they want to repeat this process, they'll need timeline material from lost, "un-used" regions. He hopes he can get a portal that deep, step through, look up, and see regions of the world blocked off. If so, there may be some hope for his intended solution: To explore the un-explorable regions in a new playthrough, and find what will trigger a chronological progression past the climactic moment.

Tamamo (7173) has posed:
    "Oh, is this so?" Brow raised. "Then I have said something unnecessary." With a precise incline of her head, Tamamo leaves Raphael to his detective work. She was, fortunately, not yet quite up to the two when Raphael had responded to Arthur.

    Walking again with Lilian, Tamamo assures her, "I shall restrain my expectations with suitable modesty. Still... we are in little danger here, no? Let us enjoy a shrine visit as we may, however belated." After a little while, she continues, low, "At worst, there will be not so much as a divine spirit."

Tamamo (7173) has posed:
    They arrive at the Blue Dragons Shrine. Tamamo examines the statue. Curiously, "Influenced by the mainland, is it not...?" She steps past the pleasant scenery, approaching the altar, then stops just outside of conversational distance, watching the man and woman. Waiting. Purposefully avoiding hitting any metaphorical 'interact' button, but staring from a distance at which one would, normally, take at least a step forward before beginning to speak. If necessary, she holds out an arm, palm down, to gesture Lilian to first wait a moment.

    Tamamo pulls out a paper talisman from somewhere (most likely those voluminous sleeves), traces a pattern over it with one finger, and tosses it at the man by the altar. The paper fizzles into light en route, discharging a strongly concentrated charm, of the literally charming variety. The usual result for a human hit by such a piece of magic would be to stare, approach, and attempt a tongue-tied greeting.

Linehart (7141) has posed:
                            NORTH CITY - YTALIS                            

    It's probably somewhat unsettling. The children run around and around and around and around with no sign of stopping. They're clearly breathing, and blinking; they look for all the world like perfectly normal organic children.

     Mordred enters the bottle shop. Inside is a man with a beard at the counter. He is the first unique-looking person besides the guard she's seen. He stares at her until she walks up and addresses him, at which point he says, Welcome to my shop! Take your time and look around.

     Another text window pops up in front of Mordred.

                                    BUY                                    
                                     SELL                                    

     The BUY menu has a bunch of standard items. POTION is the main one; there's also SANJEV, AUSAD, AMRIT. A currency window claims the main currency is JEE, whatever that is. Mordred has none of it.

     Going to the INN reveals a woman with white hair behind the counter. She says, Welcome to my Inn! Feel free to stay the night. Our beds are the best in town. The Inn apparently costs three hundred Jee to stay the night.

     The townsfolk all say different things. They turn to face Mordred. None of the things they say are helpful. I heard FINARIA was attacked by the Mirror Knight! You don't think he'll come here, do you? or Did you know you can buy AMRIT here? It's the only place in the world! If you buy it you can use it to bring somebody back from the brink of death! or Isn't this crystal cool? Our town's named after it!

     The guard yields slightly more useful information. Welcome to Ytalis! You can find the Black Warriors Shrine is underneath our famous Windmill.

     There's something else moving besides them. There are monsters all over the place outside, but more importantly is a masked figure riding a black chariot towards them. It has no horses - instead the chariot is drawn by a pair of massive cobras. The figure has a bow slung over its shoulder, and a chakram in its hand. It holds the reins. It is clearly moving *towards* them with purpose. When it gets close enough, it...speaks.

     Who are you? You aren't from this place. Where did you come from?

Kupot (6666) has posed:
Kupot follows Modred. Mostly to make sure that Modred doesn't murder anyone. Kupot isn't really familiar with this sort of game. He is getting an idea from what everyone is talking about, because Kupot DOES understand programs, though these aren't exactly like the lock programs he deals with. You think about programs differently when you are a security hacker. Still, he is getting the idea.

"They are...golems. Automatons." Kupot mentions to Mordred. "They have one thing they can do."

SUDDENLY THE BLACK KNIGHT.

This time, Kupot frowns. Then, experimentally. "Can you tell me what two plus two is, kupo?" Just to see if the rider doesn't have some sort scripted response.

Mordred (7197) has posed:
AMRIT. That's something that Mordred remembers seeing in the store! Not that she can afford any of it, and she doesn't care enough just yet to go back just to mug the bottle man for some of whatever it is.

"Back from the dead, eh? Heh... Like this place ain't already dead." She scoffs lightly and continues on her way, still getting ever more aggravated until the guard finally gives her the information she actually wants.

The Black Warriors Shrine. "Come on, shorty. Let's-" Just as Mordred is about to turn around after that insult, she hears something approaching. Facing the approaching chariot, the Knight of Treachery grins behind the helmet as she stares it down. Even as the chariot draws closer, she doesn't move, almost as if she's daring it to run her over.

Instead, the figure speaks. Or 'speaks' what with the strange text boxes and all. Leaving the odd test to Kupot without really getting the purpose for it, Mordred speaks loudly just to make sure it can hear her through all the text box.

"I am Mordred, Saber class, Tyrant of Brittany, and slayer of the King of Knights! Are you from that Black Warriors Shrine? 'cause I've been looking for ya!" And then Mordred holds her hand forward as a red and silver greatsword materializes in front of her before being snatched out of the air to rest on the white-armored knight's shoulder.

"You got a test, right?"

Shyra has posed:
CENTER CITY - FINARIA:

Staren approaches the last man outside any buildings. The man is in a green robe, with slightly tanned skin, red hair, and dark eyes. He turns when addressed and speaks to Staren, I can't find them... My family is gone... Curse that Evil Knight!

Staren then talks to him again, attempting to give more information. He has something to say about that! I can't find them... My family is gone... Curse that Evil Knight!

John taps into his powers, and he looks into the cause of the damage to Finaria. He is gifted with a vision.

John sees fire.

     In front of the flame is a giant of a man in black armor. A red-scar visor blazes on the helmet. Smoke rolls around him, some of it from the flames all across the town, some of it from his own cape. Over his shoulder is slung a spear with red runes dripping with blood. There are several dead NPCs scattered across the field around him. The music, the deep, imposing music, plays. Four people run towards him - one is Shyra, for certain. One of them is indistinct. One of them is a man with a beard and white hair, bare-handed and dressed in a jacket. One of them is a figure dressed in armor and a tunic, brandishing a sword.

     The massive giant in black armor laughs. It's a screen-filling, shaking textbox. The one in the tunic runs forward and is slapped backwards by the giant, hard enough to send them flying. They slump backwards. Shyra runs over to heal them, and the black giant turns around. The words, I am Linehart, the Mirror Knight. Look upon the fate of all who challenge my god. This city shall serve as a warning to the world - Discordia has risen, and the time of man is ended! I alone shall rule this world, and remake it in my image!

     And then he's gone, leaving them amidst the burning flames.

Shyra has posed:
EAST CITY - BARTAL:

Raphael talks to the man again. He tries to use the power of Keywords on the man, and the man, without missing a beat, replies again. I wonder when the next ship from Pradia will arrive...

The two people stand there basically forever, waiting for someone to interact with them. It's like they're glued there. The Buckingham Palace Guards have nothing on these two. Tamamo unleashes her divine charm magic! It takes hold on the man and a little bubble with a <3 in it appears over his head. He then responds, beginning to speak to Tamamo without moving towards her: wE appR3ciATE eVERYt#1nG YoU$vE DOn3 t0 rererereREstORE the Blur drAGOnS SpirrrRRRRIT to itS rIgh7FuL pLACE.!1!1 Pl3A5e Returnturnturnturnturn ANNNNNNNYTIME.

Pazkar (7191) has posed:
Ah, yes, that one. Pazkar says as the guy speaks. When he repeats, Pazkar takes a moment to take off his helmet and hold it under his arms. He's an exceptionally pretty young man. His mouth moves when he speaks, but no words come out.

They will not be useful to us, Raphael. Can your supra-natural powers tell us anything?

Staren has posed:
    Staren sighs when the man just says the same thing. Still it wasn't unexpected at this point.

    Staren gets out various scanning devices and sweeps them over the man... and the other NPCs, just to get more complete data. Verifying whether they at least seem to be made of flesh and blood and bone and all that.

Linehart (7141) has posed:
                            NORTH CITY - YTALIS                            

     The rider isn't dressed in armor. On the contrary, it's some indistinct black robe, with a green mask. The cobra chariot pulls it up to the pair of them, pulling up alongside them. Kupot asks it a question.

     Four.

     Mordred asks if it's from the Black Wariors Shrine.

     I am not the Black Warriors Spirit. I am THE YAKSHA.

     The Yaksha's green mask (actually it looks like brass, on closer inspection) turns towards the city. The Black Warriors Spirit is beneath the windmill, at the bottom of the shrine. If you're seeking it, I don't mind going with you. I've never seen the inside of it. But I have a question for you first.

     Do you know where MIRROR KNIGHT LINEHART is?

     I am going to kill him. But he seems to have left this world somehow. So if you know where he is...I'll give you the key to the Shrine.

Raphael Cousteau (7187) has posed:
Raphael stops for a moment.
SUGGESTION: Um.
VOLITION: What? What do you mean 'um'? This guy looks pretty simple. This is your wheelhouse.
SUGGESTION: No. There..there's nothing here. There's nothing here in the slightest. I have nothing to hook into. No facial cues. No speech quirks. There's nothing here in the slightest.

Raphael continues to sort of squint at the dockworker.
INTERFACING: Guys, um. I know I don't--I don't talk a lot, I'm not really that, uh, I'm not...anyway, listen, uh, I think I...I can't, but I should? I should be able to do this. I don't know why. Just, if I was stronger, I could...

Raphael turns to Pazkar. He's still grinning like nothing is wrong.
ELECTROCHEMISTRY: ALRIGHT, EVERYONE SHUT UP!
VOLITION: No. Shut up. We're not--whatever it is, shut up.
ELECTROCHEMISTRY: No. You shut up. This is it. This is my job, this is my wheelhouse. You need to be able to do something beyond your limits. That's where I come in. You are on the precipice of a major breakthrough here, and I'm taking over /right now/ to make sure you do your job properly. Bringing the party in three...two...

The police officer looks to Pazkar. "Get me a potion of haste. ...And a potion of speed, if that's a thing. Actually, if anything makes me faster or more dextrous, I'll take, like, three potions of it. That sounds great. Yeah. Do that. Okay? It's party time. Thanks."

ELECTROCHEMISTRY: Now sit tight, and wait for the golden armor guy to bring the party. We're cracking this case wiiide open, baby.
INTERFACING: ...while you're waiting, I need to understand this guy better. Please..walk like him. For a minute.)]

Simply going along with it, Raphael stands next to the dockworker..and starts walking in place. In time with him. When the dockworker moves, he moves. He is mimicking the NPC as neatly as he can.

Shyra has posed:
CENTER CITY - FINARIA:

Arthur uses his incredible powers and metaknowledge to plunge himself OUT OF BOUNDS. Despite the world clearly wrapping around the borders. he's not trying to travel on an axis the game acknowledges.

He creates a portal beyond the conceptual borders of the world and plunges through, confident.

He finds himself staring upwards at the map from below in a classic OUT OF BOUNDS GLITCH. It connects almost exactly how he expects it to. He can see the way the world is laid out, how the multitude of rooms and dungeons seem to all exist on the same plane but out of sight. He begins tracing the connections to various areas... But more importantly, areas that aren't connected.

    One of them jumps out immediately. At the bottom of a CAVE OF DARKNESS there is a portal that seems to have no connection. It's DUMMIED OUT. Near it conceptually is what looks like a large INVERTED TEMPLE of some kind. There is a definite feeling of HIGH LEVEL CONTENT coming from it, as well as a sense of LACK OF COMPLETION.

This might have potential.

Pazkar (7191) has posed:
As Raphael asks for drugs, Pazkar shakes his head. We do not have potions such as that. However...

He pulls a gauntlet off, and removes a ring off his slender hands below. He hands it over to Raphael. This ring gives a bonus to your EVD. Please, keep it.

The ring fits snugly onto the hand.

It does nothing, but Electrochemistry might like the placebo.

Kupot (6666) has posed:
Kupot lifts his eyebrows over his lenses. Someone can think. Perhaps they are like the others. "I apologize, kupo, I thought you were like the others."

The moogle takes a brief introductory bow, "I am Kupot. Lineheart has left the world to a place where people like me exist, kupo. I have come back. I don't know where he is right this moment, and I'd really rather you not kill him. He is doing his best to do good for all he has done, kupo, and I would be forced to stop you."

He starts to head towards the windmill. "To prevent the Knight Modred from going mad, we may have to go to the windmill, kupo."

Mordred (7197) has posed:
"Yaksha... Hm. Good name. I like it." Mordred chuckles lightly from underneath her helmet, sounding considerably less aggravated than she did moments earlier. Kupot's question and the followup answer, though, has her raising an eyebrow and even tilting her head slightly while trying to figure the trench coated puffball out.

"What kind of question was that, anyway? You got some of those Jees or somethin' burning a hole in your pocket?"

She'll figure it out sooner or later. Probably later, since her attention is still firmly on the Yaksha. There's a brief pause as she recalls others mentioning the name several times, then a shrug. "Heard of him, but hell if I know where he is now. Anyway. You can give us the key, or we'll break the doors down. Either works."

and with that, Mordred follows after Kupot, her sword still held against her shoulder. IT's clear she's not giving Linehart's location, although she's not lying about knowing where he is.

It didn't sound like she cares.

Kupot (6666) has posed:
Kupot is a mystery wrapped in an enigma smothered in ramen with a katana.

Linehart (7141) has posed:
                            NORTH CITY - YTALIS                            

     The Yaksha stares at him for a moment. Then, The Mirror Knight destroyed all the yakshas. He burned our city, KUBERA, to the ground. He killed all those like me. I do not especially care that he is good now. A blood debt is owed. I will not return to life until I have taken it.

     The Yaksha turns to look at Mordred.

     Very well. I'll give you the key if it's that important to you. No, I don't have any Jee. My Sphere, if you can call it that, is Monster King. I don't have an inventory or any money to offer you. Only the key.

     With that, the Yaksha hands over...nothing.

     But when it completes the animation of handing it over, a key drops into Mordred's hands. It's an odd key. It has a black turtle on the end of it.

Shyra has posed:
CENTER CITY - FINARIA:

Staren begins scanning things. The NPCs he scans come back as /people/, They're flesh and blood. They seem to have all the necessary components present to be people. So why do they act like this?

EAST CITY - BARTAL:

Raphael's musing appears to be completely on target. There's no change in expression. The words are delivered exactly and directly the same way every time. The dockworker, not having been interacted with again, goes back into a default action loop. Occasionally, he moves in a random direction that would undoubtedly be annoying as hell to someone navigating the city if they had a reason to be in that area. But for now, it looks like a particularly weird conga line, moving about to some invisible beat.

John Rizzo has posed:
     "Linehart..." John pauses, pacing back and forth. THe muttering follows the barest possible hint of an outline. "The Mirror Knight. A shadowy night..." His fists clench instinctively at the memory of the flames. "Shadows. Shadows dancing on the wall." After the incident with the dragon, he's still a little shaken. John reaches out and grabs the side of the nearest building, stumbling towards it. His nails dig tiny scores into the wall. "The wall. Back... against the... wall," he struggles aloud, as he witnesses the Mirror Knight swat his adversary away. The gauze upon Rizzo's fingers would be wet with blood, were it not for the gloves which were shredded in its place.

     As the vision fades, he sighs with relief--but also with resignation. "...no going back."

     He stands up straight. These people... they're like him, like Shyra, like Linehart. But their fate is worse. Do they know they're scripted? Are they aware, and simply trapped in these routines? Or are they blissfully ignorant of this lifeless, disturbing charade? He has to know.

     Rizzo wanders around town, gazing at the aura of NPCs to gauge their emotional states. Staren is checking their vitals, but John is peering into their minds. He isn't just checking their emotions, but peering into their minds, searching for any sign of higher thought besides this routine.

Kupot (6666) has posed:
Kupot listens intently as they go. "That is understandable, kupo." He turns his head back towards the windmill. "Killing him will not bring them back. Nor will killing him prevent any future deaths. It will not even end your pain, kupo." He frowns to himself as he goes forward. "I've killed many people when I was younger. All of them, kupo, were innocent. Their brothers, their sons, their wives, may wish to kill me. I don't think I would want to stop them."

Thoughtful pause.

"Meet him. And watch him. And wait to see if your mind changes, kupo, before you continue this blood debt."

Arthur Lowell has posed:
    Arthur returns to the surface. He has determined the starting point with which he may be able to achieve a SCRATCH for this "session" of sorts. By reorienting the timeline towards a specific intent rather than allowing it to progress freely, he /might/ be able to get the gang to assist in the way a Time player might... despite the fact that his own Classpect is Space, not Time!

    He is going to run some thoughts. For now, he steps back out of his Gate, and seals it back up tight -- don't want to let too much of the void in here. He's got his intent and his solution. Now... anywhere around here that looks like a repository of lore? He needs to look up caves. Early-game writing tends to speak to the original intent, before budget cuts. Which is to say, early-region writing often speaks most broadly of roles, ideas, and legends that get pared down later, but could reference alternate timelines more thoroughly. The original TEWER VILLAGE, after all, had plenty of references to demigods that never made their full potential contribution.

    First, finding a LORE REPOSITORY of some sort, and reading the one (1) readable passage from the one (1) book per bookshelf, and, he hopes, finding some info on relevant cave systems. That'll likely be the last of his fruitful investigation for the excursion, one cannot and should not monopolize these things after all.

Lilian Rook (6895) has posed:
    Already seeming aggravated by something or other, Lilian pinches the bridge of her nose when Rizzo starts going off with the slang. She'd probably look like an extremely annoyed teacher if she were actually taller than him. "Couldn't you have tried a little harder than bandages? This is . . . you look . . ." She eventually gives up and shakes her head. "Fine. Fine. Whatever. This is technically sort of your job, right? That's more than I can say for the lookie loos." she says, not letting on whether that word choice is intentional.

    "The Blue Dragon Shrine" Lilian replies to Rean, just barely. Blandly. Almost defeatedly. "As of just now. Why does it matter?"

    Falling in with Tamamo when the ship makes its rounds, Lilian starts to look about ten percent more resigned, but fifty percent less frustrated and tired. "Danger? Quite probably none. I suppose if you go by that metric, it's fine; I just don't quite know what you expect out of this place. Well, if it's interesting to you, I guess that's most of what matters." she relents, before stopping behind Tamamo's outstretched arm. Having seen her drawing those talismans back in the shop, she is, in fact, quite interested in seeing one in action, though she already assumes it won't have any impact on creatures she has already written off entirely as pure constructs of some semi-convincing theatre of mind.

    They do not do nothing. Lilian only blinks off-tempo when the little heart appears, then almost jumps back when he starts 'talking'. Lilian does not play videogames. This is not her wheelhouse. She yells "Christ almighty god!", draws, and points her handgun from under her coat in the same moment, her hand twitching on the grip as reflex fights with conscious restraint. Something about a random old guy bugging the *fuck* out when he opens his mouth is especially bad juju for her.

    "This place is hell. I'm sure it is. This must be what King Gilgamesh sees every day."

Staren has posed:
    Hmm. "Would you mind coming with me?" Staren tries to pull on the man's hand, while calling his ship to orbit above to get it into teleport range. It's time for more invasive scanning.

    If the man will LET him, it's time for a brainscan. Staren's no psychosurgeon, but there might be differences between this NPC's scan and a normal one even he can see. Maybe if he transfers the man's mind into something else it will be able to change and grow. Wouldn't that be nice? Probably too easy, though...

    And if the man doesn't want to come with Staren, well, Staren can learn something from his reaction all the same.

Raphael Cousteau (7187) has posed:
Raphael continues to mimic the NPC for a long moment, before Pazkar returns.
He puts on the ring, and waits.
ELECTROCHEMISTRY: This ring is--
INTERFACING: Did it work? I think it's working! I think I can do this!
ELECTROCHEMISTRY: Yeaaaah, it's..a ring of speed. You're going faster. I can feel it. It's...it's glorious. Yeah. That's it. Perfect. Listen, could you--

Harry starts to shudder again, as the cool wind blows from the sea. He stares up at the sky, looking distant. He almost looks like he's catching hypothermia, shivering and making quiet noises. He seems absent, even with that grin still on his face. There's a long moment, before he shakes his head.

And then he digs into his pocket. Something he pocketed from the airship, because it was inside a container, and one of the first rules of being a cop from the Jamrock precinct is that you ABSOLUTELY prioritize containers.

Raphael hands the SOUVENIR over to the dockworker, and awaits what everyone inside of him says is inexplicably an incredibly good idea.

"Here. You were waiting for this to arrive."

Linehart (7141) has posed:
                            NORTH CITY - YTALIS                            

     The Yaksha thumps its chest. Taking his life will restore mine. I will be a proper yaksha again, rather than this twisted ghost. I will restore the others from their own deaths. The debt will not be forgotten. It will not be postponed. I must reap his karma to restore their own. I will wring it from his corpse and use it to feed my dead.

     I do not care that he is good. I do not care that he is kind. He is not - he is a monster to the core, and monsters cannot change - but even if he was it would not matter. The blood debt will be paid. His karma will be reaped. Now stop talking of this. If you wish to go to the Shrine you have your key.

     The Yaksha bristles. If you wish for my help then ask. Otherwise I am going to leave. I will continue my search.

Kupot (6666) has posed:
Kupot frowns. That is... troublesome. "Very well. Then that is his choice." Kupot nods. And has to sit there and think of if he would do it. Would he sacrifice himself to save the people he killed? It is not something he has to do, but Linehart.

The moogle shakes his head, then rubs slowly through the fur, making his bob shift. Perhaps, he does not have such a bad life.

"Yes. There is nothing in the shrine that can truly aid us, I believe. We are simply exploring."

He stares up at The Yaksha, weighing his options, before, "Can you aid us? You know that Linehart has left this world. We are moving to set the world right. Have you noticed anything strange, kupo?"

Linehart (7141) has posed:
                            NORTH CITY - YTALIS                            

     The Yaksha stares at Kupot for a long moment. Then, words pop up in front of Kupot's face.

           T^^^^##h##e&&& Ya!!!k&*&sha&&&?!?! Has Joined The Party          

Tamamo (7173) has posed:
    "Well, now!" Tamamo claps her hands together, looking between the glitching-out man and Lilian. "That went better than expected." She raises her hand, and makes a cutting gesture to the side, removing the connection between herself and the Charm effect. It would have run out in short order, regardless, but it served its purpose. "I had thought there might be no response, at all, but--Lilian, are you feeling well?" Suddenly concerned, but easing at her last comment.

    Tamamo continues, as if nothing much just happened. "We can now be certain that they are not mannequins gifted with speech. I cannot say that charming the wind, the rain, and the mountain itself is beyond me, but I did not do so here. They have minds that can be touched. As to whether those minds are merely cursed with shackles of simplicity, I cannot yet say."

    Without actually responding to the man, as such, Tamamo walks up to the altar, glancing around toward the flowing water. "Hm, no bell, no offerings, no... ah, there." She spots the important item that is A LADLE, and goes over to make use of it. Without hesitation, as if rehearsed, she scoops water out of the nearest flow, pours a little of it into her cupped hand, appears to drink it, then turns and spits it onto the ground, scattering the remaining fluid in the ladle, likewise. Only when this is done does she approach the altar, ignoring both the people near it, bow just slightly, and clap her hands twice, loudly. With the second clap, she unleashes her restraint.

    Tamamo glows, dimly from exposed, brightly from her eyes and three tails, and as blatantly, obviously Present to anything with an inkling of sense for the mystical as any sight could be. She is contacting whatever spirits there may be of this shrine, and identifying herself as a divine being in the process.

Shyra has posed:
CENTER CITY - FINARIA:

Rizzo experiences something punishing and traumatic. But the truth hurts. And he is uniquely suited to force his way through the burning truth to find what lies beyond, perhaps.

No one seems to react to his agonized response to seeing an important, perhaps defining point in the history of Finaria. It is what has resulted in the town becoming like this. It is why it is broken. But what about the world? He begins examining the people there. Looking into their aura, their minds. Their aura is disturbingly blank and even. There is no inflection, no emotion except when someone interacts with them, which creates a precise shift in the aura commensurate with their words... And it returns immediately back to a bland neutrality. Their thoughts are similar, only dwelling on a single concept, a single thought that they express. At least, these here do. They don't seem to be quest NPCs.

Arthur takes a look around the town and finds the local bookshelves speak of a nearby RUINED TEMPLE that is very dangerous, and has some REFERNECES TO THE SPIRITS, but it's clear that this place isn't THE LORE DUMP. That would likely be PRADIA, that whole realm of sage-types and nerds. Thankfully, Arthur is spoiled for options on making inquiries over there if he wants to move.

Staren kidnaps an NPC. The man doesn't resist per se, but he does seem to stop moving every so often on a semi-random timer before he is pulled along another specific and defined distance.

Scanning the man's brain finds the same results as Rizzo. The man is capable of thought, just... apparently only /one/ thought. If he wants to do anything else to the guy he's going to need to decide to commit on a course of action.

Rean Schwarzer has posed:
"Y-yeah, same. Asked for no reason." Rean says, clumsily dodging the fact that he missed his stop. He gets off at the shrine with the others, wandering off at some point to investigate on his own. Indeed this place was stuck in a loop. He goes over to the docks and peers into the water to see if it's beind weird. He leans foward just a bit, probably enough to fall over if he leans too much.

Mordred (7197) has posed:
"It ain't, but it's somethin' worth looking into in this dump." Mordred scoffs lightly while gesturing at the town, noting the inhabitants and making a few grabbing motions at the nothing the Yaksha hands over. The timing is just right that when she stops to look at the nothing, she's just about to say something (probably foul-mouthed) that the key drops onto her hand.

It's a good thing that helmet is staying on. She turns it around a few times, taking note of the turtle, before starting to move again with Kupot and the Yaksha. If they aren't already headed towards something, then she'll take the lead and head towards the place she's been fixated on this whole time: The Black Warriors Shrine.

Or the Windmill, what with proximity and all.

"You know anyone else that's done this... Thing they're all yappin' about? Seeing outside this world or whatever?" She pauses, then adds. ".... Thinking? Not being a golem on a rail?"

Staren has posed:
    There doesn't seem to be much of a mind. But is that a trait of the body, or the mind, or both? If he moved the mind to another body, could it grow? Could it then continue to grow when put back? This is really reaching, and verging on creating life.

    Then again, Shyra and now Arthur are working to bring ALL the NPCs to life. So if anything actually happens, it was going to happen anyway.

    Staren stares at the console. Well, there isn't a physical screen, it's an AR projection. Still. Looking at the blinking cursor, he ponders the ethics of this. What if it goes wrong? Wasn't he just telling off heroes yesterday for doing things, taking action when it wasn't needed?

    ...But that was different. Lezard had the emperor in hand and they fucked it up, directly and clearly. Arthur's plan is much more distant and incomplete and not even clearly going to work, and there's also no clear evidence that experimenting on this NPC will ruin it.

    In his mind's ear, the echoes on the radio of people asking when he's ever DONE anything play over and over again. He has helped save worlds, but the Multiverse has a short memory.

    He presses the AR-projected button to start the brainscan up as an emulated mind running on a computer, experiencing a VR space. Staren joins in through his implants.

    In an endless white space, their avatars stand on opposite sides of a simple folding table; folding chairs wait for them to take a seat.

    "So. I don't suppose you have anything else to say now?"

    Man, he's going to feel kind of silly if this makes no change.

Lilian Rook (6895) has posed:
    There's a fairly long bit of explanation and exposition from Arthur as to the nature of his Scratch theory over the radio between the groups, which Lilian tunes in on. She grows slowly more and more tense, less and less patient and content, hearing it, until finally she activates her radio, presses her fingers to her temples in vexation, and finally says what all comes to mind at the end of it. Partly to tell off Staren (her time honoured hobby of choice when frustrated), but largely embodied by her last choice of words.

    "For all we know, the entire intent of this place might have been to generate self-awareness, like Pazkar and Shyra and supposedly Linehart. This whole rigamarole exist to create people to specification, by doing little more than writing their backstory and acting out trite roles as a sort of ritual to develop them. If it'd worked, it'd certainly have been much more efficient than just about any alternative method. A world where you can write and act anyone or anything into existence."

    "Obviously, the Hero must have had a sense of what was going on when he got here. Through his actions, a few entities became aware, and when he left, the whole process stopped. This video game business is something the rest of you are taking far too literally. A failed timeline sounds quite plausible."

    There's a long pause. A fairly meaningful one, given Arthur, and only Arthur, knows about the implicit content.

    "I can find out. But it won't be easy or pleasant."

    At the shrine itself though, Lilian is glad to be distracted by Tamamo. "Charming the rain is something I'd certainly like to see." she says, only just then remembering to lower her weapon. "Apologies. I'm used to . . . when people do things like that, they . . ." Lilian quickly shakes her head while hurriedly stuffing the gun away. "It doesn't matter. I just didn't expect it here. Not like that, anyways."

    With divinity on divinity action (ostensibly) about to happen, Lilian backs away from the shrine at that point, with some measure of relief. Given the probability that the couple won't even react to Tamamo at all in the process, she tiredly and half-heartedly prompts them for their correctly exposited lines.

Shyra has posed:
EAST CITY - BARTAL:

Lilian gets freaked out by the semi-corrupted behavior of the man and points a gun at him. He doesn't even seem to notice. The white-robed man is slightly tanned and has red hair with dark eyes. He stares at her with a little smile, not seeming to care or comprehend that he's on the verge of being deleted.

Thankfully, Lilian is talking to herself and not the man, else she might accidentally trigger him to speak again!

Raphael/Harry produces a PRADIA SOUVENEIR and provides it to the dockworker. The man takes it, the object tucked away into his robe before he pulls out a large potion bottle and holds it out to Raphael for him to take. Oh! You have brought me the delivery I was waiting for! Please accept this rare VITTA POTION in payment. The VITTA POTION seems to be filled with some kind of nondescript fluid. Somehow, he it promises to provide additional SPEED.

Tamamo cuts the Charm spell. The heart bubble vanishes, and she finds a ladle that is undoubtedly used in some kind of WATER-BASED RITUALS at this location. Tamamo also undergoes a RITUAL herself, making use of it to symbolically cleanse before presenting herself at the altar as one divnity to another.

There is a flash in the eyes of the statue, and it addresses Tamamo. You have my deepest thanks, brave ones, for your valor. I have been sealed away for quite some time by that False Dragon Spirit. But your work is not done. A great evil rises in the West, and with your power, you may be the only ones who can stop it. Raise your Relic aloft, Hero, and receive my blessing!

Rean investigates the docks. He leans over to look into the water. It looks normal. Exceptionally normal. There's a sense of safety that seems to pervade the area. There's no sign of trash or smell of dead fish like one normally expects in a place like this.

    There is a sense that if he goes too far from the docks, however, it won't be so safe.

Linehart (7141) has posed:
                            NORTH CITY - YTALIS                            

     The Yaksha shakes its head as it follows Mordred. It doesn't seem to know anyone else. Notably it doesn't dismount its snake-drawn chariot as it enters town. Though the area looks too small for it to enter it just sort of...clips through the parts it can't fit in.

     Nobody reacts. Nobody stops it. It's in the Party now, after all. It can talk to them on the Party Chat. It can enter the city. It's a Player Character, now.

     The party can even look at its extremely glitchy character sheet. The Sphere listed is MONSTER KING; it has no attacks. Instead it has a list of what are probably monsters - things like BHUTA and NAGA and DAKINI and ALEYA. There is the sense that these are not at all attacks but the ability to just pull monsters out of thin air. Maybe it really is some kind of nightmare thing.

     As the impromptu party makes their way to the windmill, nobody stops them. Nobody even reacts to the massive chariot-drawn monster riding through the town.

     The Windmill still turns at its lazy, constant pace in the windless area. The door swings open, and inside is a trapdoor. The key fits perfectly.

     Click.

     There's no creaking sound. Instead there's a triumphant tone as the door pops open.

     The Yaksha should not be able to fit in this tiny room, but somehow, it does. It doesn't even rub up against Kupot and Mordred even though it should be bigger than the place by itself.

     Down the trap door is a descending set of stairs. As soon as Mordred and Kupot set their feet on the stone stairs (and, somehow, the Yaksha following, though again it could not possibly fit through that tiny little door), a different, more ominous music starts playing.

     Oh fuck this is a dungeon.

     Indeed the minute they set foot down there a bunch of tortoise statues suddenly light up with a dim blue glow. A text box pops up in front of them.

Brave Heroes, do not falter. You have earned yourself my power. Hold aloft the relic and walk proud - few can face the Black Warriors Spirit Shrine and survive.

Raphael Cousteau (7187) has posed:
    Raphael takes the potion. He looks at it. The lid is popped off. He takes a sniff.
ELECTROCHEMISTRY: That guy said potions weren't real, but this one's real, baby. This one's completely real. This is the good stuff. You are going to move like the wind that other guys loves so much. Drink that shit.
INTERFACING: ...Please. I'm on the cusp. Just do it.

Raphael Cousteau looks at the potion. He takes a breath.

LEGENDARY: Interfacing: 16% - Understand the Machine.

He quaffs back the potion in one gulp. There is nothing remotely responsible about this, in the slightest. It's a man who knows how to drink copious amounts of liquid in the shortest time possible. It's a man who knows how to party, and he's just gotten onto a new wagon.

LEGENDARY: Interfacing: 97% - Understand the Machine
+1 Lived as the people do
+3 Wearing a glitched ring
+3 Drank a dummied potion
+3 Seen the pixels
+1 It's a program

Raphael allows his consciousness to expand, and drift, as he puts his shoulder on the hand of the NPC in front of him. What is he? Is he a person? Is he part of something greater? What IS this world?

Rean Schwarzer has posed:
...Well, at least the water isn't glitching out like it was in Haseo's world. He briefly considers going for a swim, in case something would change, but that sense of impending doom if he does so warns him off it. He goes over to the Weapons Shop, and peers in. "Hello?" Rean asks the shopkeep. He's fully expecting an infinite loop of things.

Arthur Lowell has posed:
    Arthur listens close to Lilian as he walks out of his failed loresite. "Yeah, the videogame shit is wack. This is /reality/, much as it matters. The timeline shit, it's--..." He grits his teeth as he gets ready to fast-travel. "I know that shit ain't pleasant. I remember my last friend had... corpses. From failed ways. Fucked up. But..." He thinks, furrowing his brow. Airship, or gate? Probably Gate, if he can manage it. Given the isolationism... A fast-travel node there is probably at a healthy distance. But can he get there? Would he be attacked, or something like that? He should at least stop at PRADIA and see if there's barriers to investigating a local LOREDUMP for information about CAVES.

    As he does, he speaks to Lilian. "Look, I want to know. You think you can figure it out? Any chance you can put that unpleasant on me, lady? 'Cause I ain't 'boutta see some time-corpses if I can avoid it." He sounds pretty genuine in the offer to help. He's willing to put the chips down for his idea, too, if Lilian truly does intend to help make it work.

Lilian Rook (6895) has posed:
    Tamamo informs Lilian that the voice in the dragon statue is, in fact, a god. At least, a local equivalent so close that it cleanly passes for one. This mostly strikes Lilian in surprise and a moderate measure of disbelief, who checks to confirm again with Tamamo, until . . ."

    "--Wait, I have this." she says. It's as if she's snapped awake all of a sudden. Eyes open, back straight, stride full of purpose, she pushes right into the intersection of awakened divine powers, even hurrying a little as she goes. Not *quite* sure of why, she makes her way to the center of the arrangement before the coiled dragon spire and bell and stands exactly where she feels she is supposed to. Equally not sure *why*, but very much convinced it'll work, she reaches up to where her hair is pinned back and withdraws the baroquely shaped, elongated silver-black needle ornament from it, letting her hair fall down to her lower back, and holding up the queerly shaped pin, now balanced perfectly on needletip atop her opened palm.

    Yeah. This'll work.

John Rizzo has posed:
     John extends a hand, as a villager passes by locked in their return. What if... hm.

     "On, off. On, off. They're the finger and the lights. ...where's the switch? Who's there?" A villager answers John, saying their bit, and resuming their routine as soon as their text box closes.

     He shakes his head. "More copy," he says. "Copy... print." This place has an Author, too. "Neatly printed." Everyone keeps calling it a video game, but he can see the writing. They all can. Every book has a spine, a place where you can see the name of the author. This world has a spine, too, he imagines. It's hard for people to see it, from the inside of the book, and so they believe it isn't there. But it is--it just looks different from the inside.

     Rizzo returns to the AIRSHIP, wherever it may be, and boards it. He peers unflinchingly at the wall. "Gotta find the spine. Spine's a straight line... main line..." he says, thinking of Raphael. "Brain line. Line right up, win a prize," he utters, still standing perfectly still and gazing at the wall. He can't see the Blurred Man--the figure who fought with Shyra and her allies. But perhaps he can still find him.

Kupot (6666) has posed:
Kupot is... freaking out slightly.

Mostly because his HUD assures him there is a LARGE CHARIOT INTERSECTING WITH HIM but he is also fine.

Also, Kupot teleports down stairs. There is a stair climbing noise, but no actual stairs.

One ear twitches. He might be having a stroke. This is not illusion magic, as Arthur Lowell said. This is REAL. These are how the LAWS OF PHYSICS work here. How MATTER INTERACTS.

Kupot puts one hand on the wall to steady himself, while offhandedly noting to Mordred, "I believe, kupo, this place has been removed of its challenge."

Mordred (7197) has posed:
Mordred shrugs when the Yaksha responds in the negative. "So there's.. What, four of you, then? Could be more... Yeesh. What a pain." She groans while heading down the path in the windmill, letting her curiosity get the better of her to take a look at that character sheet.

"This world's really screwed up, ain't it? And the hell is a... Da-kee-nee? Boota? " She's not used to reading these kinds of names, and it shows. She's asking, at least, instead of just whacking the sheet or something like that. She does halt briefly when the Yaksha jsut starts clipping through everything including themselves, even reaching out to shove it away before realizingt hat she's fine.

Physically. Mentally...

And then they wind up in a weird dungeon of sorts. The knight stares at the statues that glow before the trio, and she glances over at Kupot after the blue text boxes fade. "Did you bring a relic, kid?" She looks from him to the Yaksha, then scowls when she starts putting things together.

'Have earned'. 'Few can face'. Kupot spells it out for her, and Mordred's grip on the great sword tightens as she resists the urge to smash it against the statues right there.

"... So what was the power, anyway? Did it go to that Hero that ain't even around now?" She asks of the statues and the Yaksha simultaneously, glancing back and forth to see who can answer her first.

Shyra has posed:
CENTER CITY - FINARIA:

Staren DOES A SCIENCE. The NPC sits there while he's implanted with cybernetics to allow him to be connected to the virtual reality link, emulating his mind in that space. The man stands there. He doesn't bother sitting. When Staren talks to him... It's not a textbox that appears.

onInteract(
    print(blue, "I can't find them... My family is gone... Curse that Evil Knight!")
    );
return;

That's different.

Shyra watches Rizzo as he gets back on the airship. Are you... all right? she asks, a CONCERN look on her face despite having no voice to show it. Is there anything I can do to help?

Arthur Gates his way across the entire map to land near PRADIA. There's a couple monsters that appear on the way but Arthur can easily blow them up or escape from them or use space magic to just drop his encounter rate to 0 somehow. He stops in at PRADIA and despite the place being isolationist it mostly seems to mean the local Sages are more or less full of sass instead of lore. The bookshelves, however, are a bit more useful since they're not QUEST-LOCKED. The one that seems to have the highest Relevance Index to Arthur is the following:

THE KINDEVA

The great ancients were known as the Kindeva. They mastered the five elements of the world - Tree, Fire, Metal, Water, and Earth. They broached the domain of the Spirits in their pursuit of wisdom. This angered the Yellow Emperor, who set a curse upon them, blighting their land and their bloodlines. In retaliation the Kindeva built a great machine god, Ayudha Raksha, to challenge it. The Yellow Emperor was wounded in the clash, and the Kindeva escaped into the sky on their flying city. No one knows what happened to them afterwards.

Linehart (7141) has posed:
                            NORTH CITY - YTALIS                            

     Monsters. The Yaksha shrugs. They are monsters. Bhuta are ghosts. It snaps its fingers.

     Suddenly there's a weird-looking person standing next to them. It has no face; its face is mostly covered by a white mask with a strange bird-ish image. It's wearing white, tattered robes. Its flesh is miscolored. It has a strange-looking hooked sword in one hand and a shield in the other. It looks sort of like a ghost of a hero, but not in the sense of Mordred - in the sense of a hero who *failed* and *died*.

     The Yaksha snaps its fingers again.

     A sexy female demoness appears. She has wings down her arms, she's wearing as much as an 8-bit game would let her get away with not wearing in the late 80s/early 90s.

     A Dakini is a demoness.

     The two monsters just sort of mill about before disappearing. The Yaksha does not appear to have caused the disappearance.

     I don't know what the power of the Spirits is. I wasn't ever given that blessing.

     The dungeon appears to continue quite a ways in. The music is appropriately eerie, but in a...kind of positive way? The monsters milling about are all tortoise-y, not sword-y. It's like a training ground or something.

Kupot (6666) has posed:
Slowly, Kupot lowers himself to the floor. He sits up against the wall with a sigh. He takes out a NicStick and puts it up to his mouth.

Click, whirr, COOOOTTTON.

Then he pulls it down, frowning. "This is...hard. There are many things here I don't understand." He breathes out an unhappy sigh. "I wish to help. I truly do. But there is... I do not understand how this world works. I am not even sure my sword would work here. I feel powerless to help you and yours."

John Rizzo has posed:
     Rizzo turns and faces Shyra. Her concerned expression is reflected in his sunglasses. With that gauze on his face, and the glasses covering his eyes, he looks expressionless and cold. But his voice is quite the opposite. "I'm fine," he says reassuringly. "There was a blurred man with you, when Linehart came to Finaria. No matter how bright the fire burned, it couldn't reveal him." Rizzo falls silent, then points towards Finaria. "He's not there anymore."

     "If you wouldn't mind swinging by the last place you saw him, I need to case the joint."shoves his hands in his pockets and looks thoughtfully over the bow of the ship.

Shyra has posed:
EAST CITY - BARTAL:

Rapahel expands his consciousness with the power of STACKING MODIFIERS. He uses that consciousness to investigate the nature of the man beside him... And he receives some potentially disturbing answers. The man, for his part, simply says, Thank you for the delivery. I hope the potion was useful! Kim probably would not have approved.

Rean backs out on the water, choosing to get his feet wet another time, and goes to the weapon shop. The shop is a dark room with a number of generic-looking swords hanging on the wall behind a man with a moustache, brown hair, apron, slightly tanned skin, and dark eyes. Upon interacting, he is greeted with: Welcome to the Weapon Shop!

    BUY
    SELL

If the man is offended that Lilian almost plugged him for potentially having been corrupted by Antegent activity or similar, he doesn't seem to show it. When she prompts the man, he says, this time clearly: We appreciate everything you've done to restore the Blue Dragons Spirit to its rightful place! Please return anytime.

And then the woman says, Thank goodness! We no longer have to make sacrifices to the Dragon Spirit! Who knew that it was False this entire time!

Lilian takes her place and chooses to Be The Hero, presenting an ancient relic won through strife and deep suffering to the Blue Dragon Spirit. In response, there is a sparkling flash of blue light, and the Grief Seed fills with lambent azure. The mage can now draw upon the power of the relic to use TREE element attacks! Somehow, this manifests with blue and watery special effects.

Mordred (7197) has posed:
Some kind of summoner, then. Might be useful if you ever need target practice, I guess." Mordred utters dismissively, still obviously agitated about the true prize of the dungeon already being gone. Still, since they're already here, she's not going to just /not/ go through this place to see if there's anything else worth checking out.

Too bad smacking those monsters isn't as satisfying as it could be. She'll take a few swings, sure, but eventually she just starts walking past them entirely. "So you don't know about this... Spirit power stuff, either. Great." Mordred starts rubbing the front of her helmet, digging in hard to just sort of rub her head through her helmet as she picks up the pace. "So aside from your village... Town.. Whatever, do you know /anything/ else about this Hero? Hell, you ever seen this guy in the first place?"

Raphael Cousteau (7187) has posed:
Raphael considers. This world is a dream. There are pieces of code--this must be like how radiocomputers work, and some of the code is broken and corrupted. That's not a dream. Which means...

[:::] [:.:]

LOGIC: So, you're kidding me, right? You're looking at this situation, and you think now of all times I'm going to put that together? After that potion you just drank? I don't even think a carton of cigarettes is gonna solve this one, buddy. Go find someone else to solve it for you.

There's a grumble, as the detective steps away. Alright. So he's not going to piece together whatever's going on here. But there's a lot of pieces, at least. He can gather more. What else to do, what else to do..

For now, Raphael decides to go back to the airship. Maybe there'll be some insights within the vehicle. He's got nothing further to do in this town, without currency.

Staren has posed:
    So their minds really are that simple. They're just code. There isn't a person here locked in time, waiting to grow, there's just code. Any awakening has to be the planting of something external... or a modification by something that could make ANYTHING aware.

    Staren considers trying to alter the code just to prove his point. But... he suspects Shyra would rather more respect was shown to the NPCs, even if they aren't people. Well, time to put him back--

    Wait a minute. That can't be the dude's entire code. What's he say when Linehart hadn't messed up the town yet? There should be an if in there, or something checking event flags.

    Staren paces around the NPC's avatar in the interrogation room.

    In a moment of desperation, he tries to grab the code that appeared in the air and drag it up or down to scroll it.

    "Come on, you have more secrets in you yet. Uhh. Debug mode? Edit? Guh, there isn't a..."

    If that didn't work, he goes into a fugue state for some time. When he comes to, random machines in his lab and manufactory have had parts ripped out of them, and on a workbench is a new creation: A helmet with all sorts of bits and bobs on it, connected to a device like a dot matrix printer. Notes are scribbled on nearby pieces of paper and also the walls, but the purpose is clear enough: It scans the brain of an NPC and prints out their code. At least, that's what it's SUPPOSED to do. Who knows if it will; even Staren doesn't know how it's supposed to actually work. That's mad science for you.

    He has his ego bridge write the NPC's mind back into their brain, decants them, and tries the helmet, to see if they have any code that's currently dormant. If the thing even works...

Linehart (7141) has posed:
                            NORTH CITY - YTALIS                            

     Yes. I fought the Hero and their Party. They repelled me. I don't know why I didn't die when they won, but I ran, and fled back towards Kubera. Which, as I have said, doesn't exist.

     Killing the monsters gets little pop-ups all over the place about Mordred gaining EXP and JEE in various amounts. It's probably a lot but it probably doesn't mean anything - although every time she kills something she and Kupot get a lump of coins in their pocket. The coins are weird flat gold disks with GI written on them.

     The Yaksha shrugs at Kupot. A sword has been good enough before. I am sure it will be fine. I appreciate you trying to help.

     The group of them - the red-clad knight, the cybernetic moogle, and the huge charioteer - get through the dungeon. It's kind of a slog. The encounter rate is really high. But finally they come upon a floating untextured blue orb, and a cave. The orb does nothing but make them feel nice. The cave...

     Inside the cave is a massive black turtle.

     It just...takes up the whole place. It's massive. It fills the whole area except for the dais in front of it. To Mordred it has the feeling of something Very Powerful, something Divine. To Kupot it looks like a wise ancient thing. The Yaksha lowers its head in respect.

     The turtle says, Brave Heroes, do not falter. You have earned yourself my power. Hold aloft the Relic and walk proud - few can face the Black Warriors Spirit Shrine and survive.

     The turtle stares at them. It's surrounded by little turtle flame statues. There's an offering plate in front of it.

Mordred (7197) has posed:
"Heh... Right. Well, better not lose next time. If there's a next time." Mordred's not really subtle about that jab at the Yaksha, but it could just as easily be a well intentioned and badly stated warning.

Once she realizes she can get some sweet sweet JEEs from killing the monsters, she promptly starts going on a rampage. Why not? It'd be a waste not to get some of that stuff from the weird shop on the way back later. Who knows when the party might need a boatload of AMRITs?

Plus, there's a turtle. A powerful turtle. Something that might be worth stabbing unless she can fool it somehow. Mordred looks towards Kupot, then the Yaksha, then steps forward while dropping a couple of JEEs in that plate. Has she already figured out the Warrior to Turtle thing?

"You never gave us your power. Did you forget already? You told us to... Get some of these first." She drops a few more JEEs in, but her grip on her sword stays firm as she twists it slowly, ready to bring it up quickly at a moment's notice. It's not really subtle what she might be planning if the ploy doesn't work.

She probably didn't figure out the turtle thing.

Shyra has posed:
CENTER CITY - FINARIA:

Shyra nods. Yes. She says simply, and points back to Finaria. There is a profound sadness in her expression as she leads Rizzo through the village and takes him to the Tavern in the center of the room. She opens the door and steps inside. Within...

    Is a celebration. There's jaunty, triumphant music, villagers eating food and drinking ale. The bartender hoists a pair of tankards in jubilation, sliding them down the bar towards villagers farther down.

    But the food never seems to actually get eaten. The drinks never end. The tankards vanish on the bar after the villagers there drink. There is a table with four empty chairs. A leg of turkey floats and moves in the air, losing a chunk of itself before it suddenly is restored. A tankard rises and falls. One of the chairs leans back and comes back to flat. Shyra actively looks away from it.

    And above the table, in big bold font:

                               T H E   E N D                                

At that table. Shyra points at the one that looks haunted-ish, with an equally haunted expression.

Meanwhile, Staren continues Serial Experiments NPC. Sadly, his words don't seem to invoke any kind of debug mode. Staren's in depth examination seems to produce some general behavior information involving movement and such (which explains the way he moved when Staren grabbed the NPC), but there's literally nothing else.

    Does he only exist to say this thing and stare depressively at a ruined house? DID he even exist before that time?

Staren has posed:
    It worked! Thank Morg.

    It didn't give the results Staren was expecting, but that means he's learned something. Which fits in with this talk about the NPCs being 'fingers'.

    For the time being, Staren beams back down to Finaria and puts the man back where he was, then walks into the tavern.

    "Geeze." He's a little taken aback. There's just something messed up about this kind of scene being here, forever. Well, the rest of the world is messed up too, but seeing this he can picture that final moment, when their quest was over, they celebrated, and then...

    The party stood up from that bar, and nothing ever changed again. He can see why Shyra's looking at it that way.


Linehart (7141) has posed:
                            NORTH CITY - YTALIS                            

     The Hero is gone. I'm certain of that.

     The Yaksha doesn't seem to notice or care that Mordred might be insulting it. It just shrugs from atop its giant snake-drawn carriage. It seems agreeable enough.

     Mordred drops a JEE into the shrine offering.

     The first JEE that hits it glows.

     It disappears.

     It reappears in Mordred's hand, with a string around it. She can probably equip it. She gets the strong sense that if she wore it, she could call on WATER element attacks. They manifest with blue and watery special effects, just like TREE. Huh.

     The Yaksha turns to look at her. I take it you didn't find what you were looking for. Only an interesting trinket.

Shyra has posed:
THE AIRSHIP:

    Raphael gets back to it. No one's there. He could probably pilot it if he really wanted to, but at the moment, it's comfy despite the ridiculous design.

Mordred (7197) has posed:
Mordred eyes that decorated JEE curiously, and she picks it up. "That's... Different. Why the hell not."

And then she slips it on over her helmet. Hopefully, the string's long enough to actually fit over it and the horns. Whatever the case is, though, she doesn't stab the turtle!

"It's somethin', I guess. Better than nothing, anyway." She shrugs, then starts heading back out the way she came, still giving the Yaksha's chariot some space out of habit. "If you got any o' those JEEs, drop one in the bowl. Might as well get something worthwhile out of this Black Warrior hole."

She definitely didn't get the translation thing. She sounds disappointed, but she does give that WATER trinket a try during any random encounters on her way back out.

Mordred (7197) has posed:
At the Yaksha's revelation of his lack of JEE, the white knight pauses to fish one of those weirdly flat coins. She flicks it over at the Yaksha, pausing just long enough to see if he can actually catch the thing before continuing on her way out.

Linehart (7141) has posed:
     The Yaksha cannot catch it. In fact, it simply returns to Mordred's hand.

Raphael Cousteau (7187) has posed:
Raphael steps to the bow of the airship again. He stands there again, taking a breath. "Show me. Show me the mosaic of light." He says to noone.
There's a pause.
SHIVERS: Colder. It needs to be colder.

There's a breath. The man looks to the controls on the airship.
INTERFACING: Y'know, normally I'd say no, but today I'm feeling kinda spicy. Might still be the potion.
VOLITION: Please don't hijack the airship. Just take off your pants or--actually, please don't take off your pants either. Just--please stop this entire line of questioning. You don't know what you're looking for. You don't know what you're looking at.
SHIVERS: This world has a voice. I can almost hear it. I can show you. Bring us higher.
VOLITION: Listen. I've got it. Only the Hero and his party can use the airship, right? It probably wouldn't work anyway. Just leave it alone, and relax, and wait.)]

And so he stops for a moment, before something..something finally clicks.

THOUGHT INTERNALIZED -- PLAYER OF THE GAME

A player is someone who has a dream. A real, precise dream, one he can lock down and know for sure. Your world has a void, an antithesis. You oppose that, more than any crime. Many worlds in the Multiverse seem to have a similar void. You exist as an antithesis and nemesis to that which actively doesn't exist. You will strip existence of non-existence. You have a purpose. You have a dream. You are not just a law enforcement officer. You are a Player.
Interfacing: +1 Using the controls
Authority +1 The one in charge
Electrochemistry -1 Should be more responsible

And with that newfound confidence, he grips the airship controls.

Schhk. He's lifted it upwards. Thank god it's operable by random non-mechanically inclined heroes.

Once it's up in the air, he stands to the bow again. He lets himself feel the cold. He lets himself start to shiver. It starts to feel, for a moment, as if hypothermia is about to set in..

And then his vision is taken. It drifts from the airship. It drifts upwards, ever upwards, until he can see the airship. Massive, really, unconscionably so. It almost appears the same size as the town.

That can't be right, but it is. He knows it, in his bones. And then, as his vision lifts away...there it is. The mosaic of light. The endless squares of colour. He has no idea what this means..

But someone else will.

John Rizzo has posed:
     John doesn't immediately move to investigate the table, nor the floating food. He stays put, and faces Shyra. He doesn't have to use his gifts to spot her expression. Gently, he offers her an out. "If this is hard for you, you don't have to stay."

     He turns and steps further into the tavern. Edging away from the artificial sunlight, he peels off one shredded glove. Slowly, he unwinds the gauze, until a bare finger is revealed.

     "/That./" He points at T H E E N D. "I know that." He sounds more certain of this than of anything he's said so far.

     In search of the Blurred Man, he has found something better. Not the Spine, but the last page. The End. But also, in a way, the beginning. Behind the gauze, Rizzo inhales. This could be dangerous... but it is necessary. He presses his palms against one another, laces his fingers, and kneels. Between his hands, there is his small, silver medallion of St. Jude. After a moment of quiet, he stands, and extends his hand once more.

     Rizzo tries to touch The End.

     He tries to use his gifts to observe its history. How did it get here? Was it touched before? If so, by who?

Arthur Lowell has posed:
    Arthur never backs down from a good opportunity to FIGHT. He tests the general baseline combat threat of these monsters! It's always good to. And then he gets into LOREDUMPS.

    Arthur examines the KINDEVA lore. This... okay. The YAKSHA were made by, or at least served them -- and are gone, except for just one. They also made the Machine God. Machine god... Okay. That's relevant. He locks onto that. Not just because he still, to this day, is a huge nerd about robotics. It's also because he suspects there might be a... link, somewhere. Between code and a machine god. Between the state of things, and the divinities.

    Skaia was a mechanism of both fate and physical presence, tied directly to the systems Arthur interacts with. Any chance this machine god might serve a similar role? He needs to keep it in mind. Seemingly connected to the cave, dummied out, un-interacted-with, potentially... He resolves, now, to explore these two points. The Cave and the God. Could one lead him to the source of these outflowing updates? Maybe connect him in some way to knowing the right outcomes?

    Arthur will see. For now, nothing further to be known.

Rean Schwarzer has posed:
Rean looks at the shop keeper for a moment, and then holds up his own sword - a slightly-ornate tachi, with a violet sheath. "Do you have a sword that matches this one?"

Shyra has posed:
CENTER CITY - FINARIA:

Shyra smiles in appreciation at Rizzo's offer of an out... But she shakes her head. I'll stay... Here with you. She says, seeming to draw some form of strength from the vampire's presence. But her presence isn't what matters.

It is the presence of The End. Rizzo prays to St. Jude, drawing meaning from faith, from knowledge of his past and the history that stretches behind him... In search of the future before him. He reaches out, using his powers to plumb the nature of The End. The words grow larger, darker, looming around him, swallowing him. Blotting out all light and life, destroying knowledge as everything spirals into an abyss...

And replaces one reality with another. Men in cheap suits arranged around a table, discussing current events. Talking about technology. Brainstorming. Creating something out of nothing. There is a stylized image of a circle.

Hours pass. Days. Weeks. Months. Drawings are made and rejected, the sifting of consciousness. Lines on a screen. Pens on paper. Strange, arcane words of light. Will and logic merged with art and passion. Tears are shed. Laughter, too. Hopes and dreams are poured into it.

And then the room was empty. The building silent. A shadow looks at a screen in the middle of the night, deep sorrow, as the light dies, and endless night reigns. A poorly labelled rectangle of plastic is carried out with him. In the darkness, the dreams lived. The hope lived.

The hope that someday someone would see it.

That they would see The End. It was touched by many, and no one.

Arthur smashes through the combat threat of the monsters in the area. As far as DIFFICULTY is concenred, it hangs around 50-60 percent on a graduated power curve assuming reasonable advancement. This is a solidly MID-LEVEL area. But he comes up with a Plan and marshalls people behind it. What will happen...? Who knows? He'll just have to enact it. And that's the fun part, right?

Shyra has posed:
EAST CITY - BARTAL:

Rean asks if the man has a sword like the one he has. The weapons shopkeeper shows off his selection of wares.

He seems to have a collection of somewhat weak melee weapons and a bow for sale. He expects prices in Jee, the local currency. Bartal seems to be a Second Town kind of place, and has weapons that seem to hand around the 'bronze-silver' kind of RPG tiering that tends to manifest.

Staren has posed:
    Staren waits just inside the door of the tavern, leaning against the wall and folding his arms as he thinks and discusses.

    Eventually he is given reason to move again. He nods to Shyra and Rizzo and heads back to the airship, now taking it to RED BIRD SHRINE. It's time to take a look around there. Firstly to get a feel for the aesthetic for Arthur's proposed COMBAT ROBOT NPC. Secondly to see if it looks like there's anything to gain by studying and reverse-engineering the ancients' creations.

Lilian Rook (6895) has posed:
    With the power of TREE, Lilian puts away her now-much-prettier-honestly ornament, then gets into another protracted discussion about the potential ramifications of poking and pulling at this place's various rough and half-finished ends. She doesn't pay much mind to what the couple says, except noting downt he mention of SACRIFICES to enquire about later.

    It seems she's settled on 'failed timeline' theory and plans to look into that later.

John Rizzo has posed:
     "The dream," says Rizzo, slowly retracting his finger. He winds the gauze back around his revealed digit. Rizzo steps away from the table. He doesn't need to trace the spine anymore. He's found the brain.

     "I saw it. I saw the dreamer. I found the brain," says Rizzo to Shyra, as if she's supposed to understand what that means. "We might've just blown this case wide open. But... I gotta warn you. If I'm right, it might be scary for you and Pazkar." Linehart... that's a different story. He seems to Know. Or maybe he suspects it. They'll need to talk more.

     "But I've been through the same thing.. and I'm not gonna ditch you guys."

Linehart (7141) has posed:
                       SOUTH CITY? - RED BIRDS SHRINE                      

     Even on approach Staren can tell that this 'shrine' is a city. It hovers amidst the clouds, high above the land. It is a massive thing, an island in the sky, of towers of blocks that start wide and go smaller and smaller. Lines of light run down them, pulsing with a comfortable blue glow. The music here is not the cheerful town music but the deep and ominous music of Linehart, which Staren has already heard before. Except unlike last time it's /dark/, and *dangerous*, and it feels like he might pop out at any moment. There are monsters here but they're strange machines that don't *look* quite like machines, more like monsters that happen to also be mechanical. Staren's HUD calls them Dvarpala. They attack with laser beams if Staren tries to fight them. Occasionally missiles. Sometimes flamethrowers.

     When Staren arrives, though, the ominousness kicks up twice as hard. There's a doorway with a bird over it. Lights lead into it, like landing lights. Linehart's music does not change. There's a huge bloodstain to the side, on what looks like grass. The buildings beyond the doorway don't open. The doorway with the bird on it opens with a BEEP.

     Down, into the shrine itself. It's full of Dvarpala. They attack relentlessly and in droves. Eight at a time. Twelve at a time.

     And then he comes to the end of it.

     It is a bird. A great, red phoenix. Once upon a time it must have been a beautiful guardian god, a great and powerful beast. It must have bristled with glorious flames. Maybe it was designed to be beautiful and terrible as the sun.

     It is pinned to the wall by seven black spears that look uncomfortably similar to another one Staren has recently seen.

     The offering bowl is full of flaming blood.

     The god is dead. And Linehart killed it. The lights wrapped around it are dim and flickering. All the lights are flickering now that he's hit this point. Linehart's music has become somehow more ominous, more...creepy. More eerie.

     There's something...odd...about all the technology, too. It's...advanced, but it's not? It makes no sense. It makes NO sense. Staren peering into it is liable to drive Staren up the wall. It's not magical - it just doesn't obey any rules Staren can understand. It's like...elemental? But also not? But also...it is? Like it works on rules entirely coherent *within the world* but they're not...science, not science Staren can understand. They're...nonsense. Something that was concocted to look cool.

     The robots are the same. They have inner workings but they're all bizarre and nonsense. They can't be put back together once smashed. There seems to be an endless supply of them but it's impossible to tell where they come from.

     What *is* this?

Pazkar (7191) has posed:
Pazkar approaches with Staren, having left back to the airship after Raphael and heading to Red Birds Shrine. As they investigate, he looks at the technology, his helmet back on hiding his expression. Pazkar looks up, and then avoids the shrine with the Red Bird entirely.

He looks at the technology. His posture seems...sad. You will not be able to figure out how this works. Do not worry.

I never could.

Staren has posed:
    Staren lasers the Dvarpala right back with his pistol. After they bring out missiles, though, he tries to avoid them. It's not worth the trouble.

    He takes a sample of the bloodstain. It seems like it might be important. He looks at Pazkar, but doesn't say anything. But the look on his face says 'we'll just see about that.'

    And then he enters the shrine. He has to fight dirty to deal with the swarm -- flying past, luring things into narrow areas and using vines and foam to restrain them. Using grenades and missiles on groups.

    At last he finds the red bird. Perhaps it will be one of those gods Tamamo and Lilian were talking about...

    ...oh.

    In another context the machinery here WOULD drive Staren up the wall, but here at least, Staren suspects he's not looking at the whole picture. There's that central computer, that central brain, controlling the logic of things. There are still questions about that to answer, but he can easily imagine that what he sees here is a facade, while the true force that makes things happen here is elsewhere.

    He takes a sample of the blood offering, just because. He packs up the parts of one or two fallen Dvarpala and any stray artifacts. He tries placing his new mad science invention on a fallen Dvarpala's head, and on the Phoenix's.

    And then he drinks a potion of speed, activates his wings, and high-tails it out of the shrine, trying to RUN from all random encounters on the way out!