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Priscilla     When one is told they are to dig through the remains of a truly lost civilization, barely archived, never researched, never preserved, all but completely forgotten by time, they'd likely imagine ancient causeways and crumbling temples, dark catacombs and dilapidated walls. A true expedition through the stone ghosts of a bygone society, perhaps, if anything, lost to sands, or submerged beneath new waters.

    They would likely not expect it to be completely buried in the earth itself, and become the soil of a dark woods so ancient and vast itself, that it is as if nothing ever existed here.

    There's no way that anyone would come here to find even simple artifacts, never mind complex elder age clues. There'd be no reason to believe these woods have ever been touched by humanity since their birth. There's little reason anyone would come here at *all*; in mere minutes of walking, one is all but lost in an endless sea of near-blackness, lit by occasional glowing flora more than the sun, like lanterns standing out of the grass, or braziers budding off of trees.

    The sense of foreboding is palpable. There is such a thick, tangible sense of not just apathy, but active hostility to the human animal, under these boughs that primitive instincts nag and gnaw to turn around and leave before some nameless something happens. A mere hike through a rough and narrow trail -- as much as it can even be called one -- feels like the start of a horror sequence that only builds without ever paying off.

    But this is where you're told to go. This is, in fact, where you are *lead*. Deep through these woods that all but everyone in even Lordran is loath to go near. Squeezing through narrow gaps between trees. Edging along steep and treacherous cliffs overgrown with slippery green. Crossing over fast-flowing rivers barely above freezing, eager to shred the first sign of a watercraft against its jagged rocks in an instant. Occasionally, a thick shrub will disappear, or a new one will appear where it wasn't before. A tree will seemingly move while you aren't looking, though it's nearly impossible to tell with just how many there are, and how murky and misty the air is.

    On other occasions, a piece of tree will reveal itself to be some cleverly disguised twin-headed snake or quadrupedal frog-ray, lying in ambush to attack anything warm-blooded that passes by, but these are mere poisonous nuisances compared to the dark shapes, easily taken as terrain, that suddenly move away in the distance.
Priscilla     All you have to follow is a breadcrumb trail of tiny, smoothly worn pebbles, laid out for you across what is more or less the safest path that can be found nearby, each little stone glowing a soft, pastel hue, so as to be easily found in the dark. Even blind trust in these trail markers will eventually arrive at the last and only remaining signs of the architectural grave site you are to survey. Queerly designed stone bridges still connect sheer cliffs walls to each other, exposed to the air. The upper reaches of once-gigantic towers poke out of the earth as if submerged, lost to unknowable meters of loam and silt and limestone beneath. Here and there, the tips of unreasonably high walls poke through like fallen houses.

    There is, if one pays attention, a strange verticality to it, in that the terrain sometimes shifts elevations very suddenly, and yet the sparsely visible ruins only escape the ground by the same degree, as if the structure beneath were crazily built to many different heights. Portions of the ground in places have caved in and created lethal drops into pitch black caverns far below. The scope of what is still available to see above the ground is uncertain. The amount of 'closely' packed, ruined architecture, of the same, oddly designed, gold-beige stone, only extends for perhaps a few square miles, but then occurs again in little bits and pieces very far out, crossing bends in a mighty whitewater river, and even extending up and down a dizzying cliff with a tremendous waterfall that empties out into a small, freezing lake, with literal frost naturally built on its shores for lack of sunlight and travel through the air.

    The stones naturally lead you to who would be your guide, were it sensible in any way at all. The third Knight of Gwyn you were to meet. 'Hawkeye' Gough. Obviously a marksman or scout of some sort, given the name. Less obviously, a literal giant. A creature of such enormity that the tip of his head would brush the lower reaches of the soaring jungle canopy, thick-limbed, long-armed, with skin like rust-mottled stone.

    His armour is considerably less formal, mostly consisting of scattered pieces of metal that are too thick and massive to have been worked more than their basic shape and surface detailing, lashed together with chains over rough woven 'furs' of plant fibre, and filled in with enormous plates of what looks like solid wood. The pauldrons look to be singular, gigantic bones, whittled into shape with painstaking care.The only real common theme is, once again, a fully concealing helmet of arcane design. Some utterly ancient, worn down medallion is pinned to his chest.

    He's sat himself down, so as to be 'merely' thirty feet tall, and busied himself already with a felled tree, delicately manipulating a surfboard-sized whittling knife against an unshaped hunk of wood. A gnarled and knotted bow, literally as tall as he is, has been propped up against a thick redwood, and caused it to bend backwards.
Priscilla     When he greets you, it is in the most ridiculous basso profundo easily imaginable, distorting to such a low range of hearing that it couldn't be recognized as human by accident. "Good day. Though thou wouldst be hard-pressed to tell." he says, using the very old language, instead of the more 'readable' dialect adopted by the other two. "I am well pleased that thou hast found the way here without incident." This is, it seems, discounting probable mishaps on the treacherous trail as 'incidents'. "Gaze to the stone yonder, amidst the flowers orderly." he says, pausing with his knife to gesture a distance ahead, deeper into the dark, where a blob of indistinct, floral glow stands out. Likely, he isn't any closer because there simply isn't room.

    Following the light all the way there, taking some minutes, arrives at what could be called a garden, rough and overgrown as it might be. Tall, luminous flowers of many varieties have broken from the damp earth and spilled out in several directions like a wave, creating a waist high field of bright petals to wade through. At its very center is a triangular monument of the familiar shade of stone, sticking from the ground very much like an obelisk, placed as if it were once meant to catch the sun.

    Two faces are carved with elaborate, if nonsensical, mosaics. The third only has a small inscription carved right into the stone. The climbing plants have curled all the way around it, oddly avoiding the lettering.

        Only those bearing half-light may enter.
Guzma Guzma and the Goon Squad have come to town, beep beep. The four of them carefully follows the tracks through the forest, on high alert to the strange threats in the near pitch blackness. Green foliage, sharp stones, horrible snakes and frog things. They stick together, but this doesn't stop the Trio from chattering about inane things with anyone who'll listen. It's Guzma who's keeping eye on the pebbles, making sure no one gets separated.

When they reach the actual ruins, he's pulling out a water bottle and taking a sip, glancing at the various bridges and pathways, and then at their massive guide, mouth slightly agape. He's less taken back when Gough talks, but still shocked at the dialect, but he straightens himself out. "Yo, big guy. Big Bad Guzma, here to beat down them riddles and get us what we need." "Yo!" "Yo!" "Yo!" The trio echo out.

As they follow forward through the light, towards the luminous flowers and the apparently sundial, Guzma frowns. He has /no idea/ what to make of this inscription. Luckily, Rapp seems to, her voice excited!

"Yo, what if we like, cut a flashlight in half? While it was on? I'm the smartest, ain'tcha see?!"
Starbound Flotilla     Did someone say dead and *buried*? The Starbound Flotilla are the guys you call when you need to do a whole damn lot of *digging*! So they've come here, in their standard Durasteel equipment! Moonfin, the fishman, is in elaborate full-body durasteel armor that looks like a powered cross between a diving suit and a samurai's armor, glowing cyan at the faceplate. Biteblade, the humanoid plant, is in durasteel plating with elaborately carved wood and bone ornaments over glowing powered components that glow an intense green. Pavo the bird-girl wears a divine-aesthetic set of mesoamerican-style armor, with yellow runes and inscriptions lighting up on stylishly gleaming golden armor and robes. Albert the monkey-man is wearing what looks like lab technician gear with extensive sets of tools and chemical protection, which integrates thin, resilient plates of durasteel, and lines of bright white. George (just plain human) wears a futuristic combat EVA hardsuit that glows a gentle red at the flat faceplate. Seft, the robotic Flotilla member, is wearing full-on medieval knight armor with a soft energized blue glow below the plates on her body, and especially around the eyes. Each has a heavy industrial-yellow two-pronged plasma-cutter-like tool strapped to their side, a Matter Manipulator. They know how to deal with exactly this sort of thing, or at least they've dealt with it a whole lot before and can make a reasonably convincing argument that they're best-qualified.

"Wow! Never seen a forest grow in the sentimental shape of a mouth about to snap shut, but hey, congrats to Lordran on the avant-garde ecosystem."
"Yeah, woodsss got a lot of feeling here."
"Loathe as I often am to agree with the weed, I must admit that balanced nature must bare fangs in order to preserve itself."
"Anxious. Well, it didn't hurt Gough, so it ought to be okay."
"Keep sensors sweeping anyway."
"You chump mortals can take the path, I'm going to keep above the trees to begin with."
Starbound Flotilla     When they arrive, Biteblade immediately ooohing and ahhhing at Gough. "Woahhh!! Isss like big, giant meat-Greenfinger! Can meat-perssson become Greenfinger by getting very very big?"

    "Moron." Moonfin mutters as he strides forward -- then gives attention to Gough. "Indeed, it is hard to note the sky under such circumstances, but it is not what is above that we seek, is it, but below?" He nods firmly. A Hylotl always wants to look at ordered flowers, it's part of their culture. He leads the way there, and George is the one who has to drag Biteblade along to keep her from fixating on the whittling.

    Albert considers the inscription for about half a second. "We need to find uranium--"
    "Oh fuck off, Bertie." George laughs. "It's not a *science* riddle. We gotta find light from something. See, that Guzma kid's got the street-smarts to cook a sensible idea."
    "Cutting a flashlight in half would break it."
    "Yes, comma, *but* he's right that we need to find something light-related around here, and find the half of it. That's gotta be half as hard as it is to get light around here."
    "Can you see the sun right now, George?"
    "Well, no."
    "Shut up."

    They continue the bickering, while Seft approaches, putting a gauntlet to her chin. Most artifacts in this world are shaped out of a select few minerals and elements. She brings out her scanner and tunes to the most valuable, exotic materials of Lordran that she can think of, and tunes even further to signs of solar or light energies emanating from those exotic metals and minerals. "Thoughtful. Maybe I can find us a lead. Or maybe Gough knows more, we should ask him what sort of local cultural meanings there were for light or half-light." She buzzes, synthetically.
Yuuki Kuran A dark and winding forest path...
Blinking, shimmering stones guide people down a path to the massive shape of Hawkeye Gough and a cryptic message. A place of predation and aggression. A forest that did not brook wanderers.

"Wow! It's really homey." Yuuki Kuran exclaims quietly, walking up to Hawkeye Gough and bowing, smiling at the banter between the Captains. "I'm very sorry to admit I'm terrible at riddles. But I'm happy to help all of Priscilla's friends!"

She the word like a sunbeam in a sentence, bright and cheerful. Subjects as they are, Priscilla must think fondly of them, and thus it was Yuuki's charge to suppord them.

The large riddle-tablet gets a curious look before...

Yuuki gets out her smartphone. "Definitely can't be this easy."

She swooshes her phone twice to turn on the auto-gesture for the cameral-flashlight, shining LED light against the tablet.
Eryl Fairfax     Eryl is not one for losing his way, but these dense woods make him come close. He leaves gouges on the sides of the massive trees, just in case the pebbles become disrupted before they can make their way back. Every now and again, he gets a snake attack for his trouble, which he resolves by grabbing it and twisting until the spine snaps.

    Thankfully, their guides trail leads them right to him eventually. Eryl bows slightly to the great looming figure, the absolute pinnacle of ranged strength builds, Hawkeye Gough. "Thank you for finding this place for us Sir Gough. I observed some places where the ground has caved in, revealing the cavern below. I ask you to watch your step. Someone of your size could cause a major collapse if you put your foot wrong."

    He finds the garden, and the monument. Kneeling, he records it entirely to memory. "Half-light? But that's..." He puts a thumb to his chin. Half light... but what is the other half? Can it be anything? Or only the opposite, dark?
Tomoe This is the third leg of this journey and Tomoe seems to intend to see this whole thing through to the end. She seems fairly calm as she arrives, she's is curious this is one heck of a thing they have to find. A lost civilization? That could be quite an adventure. What was not expecting just a sea of trees, very old trees.

"This would explain why it's been untouched I'd bet."

She tries to not think about the feeling she is getting from the place there is area instills a sense of foreboding in her. Yet? This is where they have to go.

She trusts Priscilla got the information right she has faith in that so into this place she'll go.

It takes a bit of time but it doesn't take too long to find the trail and follow it she stays on alert for trouble as she has not forgotten just how dangerous things can be in this world.

'Hawkeye' Gough was not what she was expecting but damn he was big. She will take a moment as she cranes her neck up to look at their guide.

"Greetings! I am Tomoe and I agree about the stat of the day here."

As she will progress with the rest of the group from time to she'll look at the Starbounders for a moment.

She thinks for a moment and thanks to Yuuki's smartphone light she can better make out the tablet.

"Thank you miss Kuran."

"Could it be related to the nature of mankind in this world, Eryl?"
Seifer Almasy      This place is larger-than-life, just like everything else in Priscilla's world. It's big and vibrant and loud in a way that very little else can be. Seifer Almasy is absolutely taking his time to enjoy it.

     He follows along behind others with far better direction sense than he. Every so often he'll snap out at a twin-headed snake or a frog-ray or some other motive horror, his blade snapping up faster than the creature can react - before it can even realize he knows it's there.

     It pays to have perfect radial supersense in a world that has a lot of surprise attacks.

     "I think it's a pretty nice day," Seifer says to Gough, "Sup."

     He gets pointed at the riddle.

     Seifer is not great at riddles. He's about to make Guzma's suggestion when Guzma beats him to it. Yuuki produces the light. Seft suggests it's a cultural euphemism.

     "Wouldn't Half-Light be Twilight?" Seifer asks Seft after a minute, tapping his blade on his shoulder. "Like this whole place is suns and shit, yeah? Isn't that the whole culture? So if it's Half The Light, isn't that Twilight?"

     "So we might need, what, some kinda Key of the Twilight or some shit?"
Priscilla     Gough 'chuckling' is like a small landslide, only without the feeling of immediate, paralyzing danger, for how strangely relaxed it somehow is. "There art precious few else who feel so." he replies to Yuuki, and implicitly to Eryl, "As vastly overgrown as it is, a wild and vengeful thing, I cannot help but see the old garden in it. Though the paths be long gone, these feet of mine remember each step." He doesn't elaborate, half-lost in whittling again. He does nod slowly, sagely, to Biteblade though, and add "One can becometh anything, should they grow sizable enough."

    The monument is much less worn than the rest of the ruins, no doubt for its simplicity, but also for some reluctance of weather and nature to aggrieve it. It is, very sadly, not so simple as waving a phone flashlight at it. In fact, focused scanning of its energy profile reveals . . .

    Literally nothing. As far as any machine can tell, it's a rock. A very old rock. More likely to be a simple written reference to some long-forgotten event or cultural maxim of legal entry to a building no longer there, than it is to be mystical in any sense. Yet, it's hard to shake the feeling of its intangible significance. Even the wild nature around it is arranged in an uncanny, meaningful fashion. It's weird that it'd be above ground in the first place, since something like this would naturally be at former ground level, where people could stand and read it.

    Further, high-initiative scanning reveals that the whole area is surprisingly mineral-poor. Though there should be mountains of architecture beneath the surface (and there is, along with many hollow spaces, vertical and crazily connected in a fair more airy and orderly way than the Burg's accidental sprawl), none of it registers as especially precious and valuable. It's almost downright primitive. Barely so much as a hint of iron registers, like they'd been content to build a city like a pyramid, without any of the ornamentation. Or, at least, anything else they used no longer exists.

    There is precisely one large cave sequence, quite far away, that faintly registers as having anything significant about it. There is, somewhat closer than that, in the opposite direction entirely, something partially above ground that registers as having a (singular) unknown metal somewhere at its center. Lastly, much closer, in a third direction, is a small underground hollow that oozes a strange energy out above it, and hints of old metal bits and pieces from 'recent', but long-abandoned, construction.
Priscilla     Gough's voice has to come through the radio. How he found a piece that is plausible for him to manipulate -- well, it could only be a custom order from Priscilla, really. "I wouldst not take such an inscription so literally, nor too much with the intention of challenge to the brain. Long, long ago, those words would be clear to any who walked near, though their meaning is now lost to us along with the last of those peoples who remembered. It is, also, doubtlessly a bar of passage. A thing difficult to acquire, or to prove, or perhaps attain. Proof of worthiness. Else, the first to puzzle out such a riddle wouldst then open the doors to every man after. I hath tremendous doubts that there is aught of relation upon thy person as of now. Thou shalt hath to look afar."

    Slowly, laboriously, the giant gets to his feet, some small amount of dirt sliding from his form as a fine mist. There's a great big foresty gust when he takes a deep breath, like an old man anticipating strain on his back. He hefts his bow, and it too makes a sound for the air breaking on its surface.

    "I shall render what aid I can from old memory. Though the sight hath long since changed, this distance, elevation, tension, direction, art engraved all the way down to mine fingertips."

    What he means by this is only made apparent once you hear the tremendous creak of the drawn bow, and the crack-whoosh of an arrow the size of an entire tree being launched over the sound barrier, sailing high through the air over your heads. A full several seconds later, there's a distant boom, like an artillery shell. It's followed by a second and a third. They land very, very close to Seft's scanned coordinates, actually much easier to track now for the metals used in the arrowheads.

    "There. If memory avails me stil, thou should find something of use in these old places that stand out to me. Perhaps. If not, then we shall be well and truly at an impasse."
Eryl Fairfax     Gough warns them over the radio not to get too hung up on the engraving. This kind of thing he has experience with; ancient memes (the classical kind) becoming incomprehensible to later generations. Graffiti in Pompeii, that kind of thing.

    A sharp twang in the distance, and a whistling alike that of an incoming bomb. A whole tree sails overhead before impacting in the distance. Gough recommends they search in that area. "Very good. Thank you Sir Gough." That giant is obviously from here. How many ages have passed since then though? Enough that he can't recollect the meaning of the words.

    He heads to the nearest impact zone, over where Seft found something.
Tomoe Gough's chuckling is like a landslide but there at least no feeling of danger that an actual landslide might cause. He seems pretty relaxed when all things are said and done. The response to Biteblade is noted and she does think about that but there's not much time to worry about that.

The radio message from Gough is noted, it may very well save them a lot of time where they might get lost in thought over this one. "So just as language changes over time older meanings can be lost in those changes. Something simple today could be almost nonsensical to someone in the far future."

With that she watches in a bit of awe as the huge knight fires off his bow and she waits for a moment as Eryl takes off she'll follow to render what aid she can to Earl or anyone else like say Swft who might check it out. So off Tomow goes wondering what they may find next.
Starbound Flotilla     "Affirming. Twilight. Dusk or dawn." Seft mutters to Seifer. "Curious. Maybe something is called 'Twilight' here? Or perhaps it means the moon..."

    "*PING!* Alert. Well, anyway, I've found a site we can investigate. There are two others, but..." The arrow falls right then. "Astonished. I think *that* settles the matter." She says, blinking her big O_O expression before heading in that direction.

    "If it's got something to do with worthiness," Pavo caws. "I know for certain we'll get it! I'll go get a look at it!" she dives from above, holographic wings shimmering as she moves to dart into the mouth of the cave Seft detected and get a good look within -- or else, if it's closed, start on breaching the thing with her mining beams. If there's a test of worthiness, she's going to make sure she gets right in there and proves herself!

    "Floran isss going to be worthy too!" Biteblade shouts, taking off on a mad dash! Let's not forget we have two rambunctiously insecure Captains of the Flotilla now. Let's see what's behind door number one -- though the local tactical network is updated with the locations of all three spots, just to make sure they can come back to the others later.
Yuuki Kuran "Even if there's only a few of them, that's enough, isn't it?" Yuuki observes to Gough as he isses his landslide chuckle. She cheerily holds her phone-light up for Tomoe's reading until it is no longer necessarily.

"Well, Seft, doesn't Priscilla have that shiny sword? Somethinglight, she used it during Flamel's mind dive of her to help focus her mind, I thought. Would that be what we're looking for? If so, this is a pretty easy puzzle."

Reminder: Yuuki is terrible at puzzles.

"Oh! I want to be worthy too! Especially if it's a good kind of worthiness. Maybe we'll get magic swords!"

Yuuki chases after Pavo and Biteblade.
Seifer Almasy      "Dang right we'll get it," Seifer agrees with Pavo and Biteblade and Yuuki. He's pretty much just following the rest of the party at this point.

     "Maybe we gotta ram the magic sword into the wall?" He says to Yuuki, "Like, we stab it and turn it and then it opens?"

     "Like a key?"


     Shut up, Seifer.
Zero Kiryu Zero Kiryu flickers into existence at Yuuki Kuran's side, hands in his pockets. He points out, "But you already have a magic /staff/..."

A hand drifts from his pocket to wave at Seifer, Biteblade, and Pavo.

"Do you say that because you've used your gunblade as a key?" He asks Seifer, slightly puzzled. The only thing keeping it from being a /really/ insecure key is practically no one wanting to use the damn things, so there's only really two of them around. Neither in the same shape or style, either.
Seifer Almasy      "For security purposes I can neither confirm nor deny that," Seifer says at Zero.

     He totally has.

     It had nothing to do with security.

     He is actually that big of a nerd.
Yuuki Kuran "He totally has." Yuuki agrees with Zero's assessment, especially after Seifer's professional denial.

It had everything to do with his security-based answer.
Priscilla     Choosing the nearest impact site -- for calling it 'an arrowshot' feels grossly underwhelming, having caused about the same result as a small meteorite -- still entails a significant amount of travel; this time, without the glowing stones of an experienced huntsman to guide you. The only grace of the trip is that the end point is so clearly detectable. Otherwise, it'd be nearly impossible not to get lost in the constantly shifting maze of oppressive foliage, without even the rising and setting of the sun for direction. Simply choosing to break left, instead of right, around a particular tree can drop you into what seems like completely different terrain, cut off from sight of each other.

    The ground becomes wet and soggy beneath your feet, saturated in a way that makes water squish up from the pressure of each footstep against the soil and grass. The water deepens as you go, to the point it finally becomes what could be described as 'swampy', having an opaque, silty cast to it, and a slippery bottom, increasingly more taxing to wade through. For the first time in what may be 'ever', it is a normal kind of swampiness. There is no terrible poison in it, except maybe for the odd shape of something with the proportions of an anaconda gliding blindly past you, like massive sea predators that intrude into mangrove forests at the right time of year.

    The trees here, appropriately, rise up on their roots, elevating several feet above the ground on mounds of bundled and knotted networks of wood, hardened to the air and water, further impressing the feeling of being irrelevantly small. The lighten is often in the form of floating lily pads and bioluminescent algae. It's probably trickling in from some river runoff, because it's moving very, very slowly, and is less cold than 'should be frozen'.

    What stands out tremendously, then, is a sight visible from quite a distance. A slash of gentle white against all the blackness, standing out in the sea of bracken. A white birch tree. Against all odds. Something that certainly shouldn't grow here. Bare of leaves entirely, for having no sun to catch, but still somehow healthy and bright. It's entrenched itself into a mossy hill that rises out of the water, providing a small campsite's worth of (relatively) dry land.

    Both that exposed ground and the soothing landmark have been colonized, both by enormous quantities of unusual plants, and by the detritus of rough living. You can see the light of a small fire flickering dully against bits and pieces of barrel banding, old tent spikes, dusty and stained jars, and the last vestiges of varnish on decrepit crates alongside the finish on rough clay vases and urns. You can even see shadows moving against it at regular intervals. The sound of footsteps, and then of unintelligible chatter and laughter as you approach. The best way to describe the steady approach through the foresty swamp is 'magical', in the way of approaching a foreboding, abandoned cabin left to some ominous occult monument erected in its lawn.

    There are certainly people, which is a shock in of itself. Hard to tell without getting really up close, but perhaps ten, all roughly the same age, wearing extremely simple, probably hand-spun clothing, draped over with shawls and having a grand old heathen time around a little bonfire and the birch tree in place of a paypole or wicker man. The way their laughter carries in the sheer density of the wood is no less than eerie.
Seifer Almasy      The place is big. Uncomfortably big. George is right - it is Fey as hell. It gives Seifer unpleasant tingles up the back of his spine, reminders of things he only barely remembers, training beaten into him during his time at Magic Child Super-Soldier Academy. The forest's ancient, well-worn, well-lived existence; the laughing people in their hand-spun clothes and shawls; the movement of old predators too big and too blind to notice them or care. The white birch is the cap on the Fey crown, a thing that is distinctly not supposed to be there and yet is, an Obvious Faerie Circle, Trap, or Other Excess.

     Still. Seifer has training dealing with this kind of thing. So he volunteers to go first.

     He walks up. He is open and obvious about it. Hyperion has vanished into his coat (so that's where it goes when he's not using it...). His hands are open and free and held up. He is universally making himself nonthreatening. The last thing you want to do with Faeries is make them go aggro instantly - that gets you in Trouble.

     "Hey," Seifer says carefully, "Hey, guys."

     "Listen, we're not gonna bother you. We're gonna go right past and get out of your way. Thought we'd make sure you knew we were here. You want something to eat, we probably got some honey." Faeries fucking love honey. "We might be willing to give you some sweets if you'll tell us some stuff, but otherwise, we're gonna just get out of your way and go about our business, and you go about yours, okay?"

     This will obviously work out. Seifer is the Protagonist. It will be fine.

Starbound Flotilla "Floran hear lotsss of ssstory about thisss kind of thing."
"Ah, yes, please tell us all about forest spirits."
"Trusting. There's no more isolated place to survive than somewhere like this. I'm sure they just want distance."
"Let's give it to them. Move."
"Yeah, you take point, furball."
"Before I take it from ya!"

    The Flotilla advances. Albert and Pavo are in the lead, close behind Seifer. He knows what he's doing, right? They'll just trust him as they bicker among themselves and approach the seriously unnerving site.
Eryl Fairfax     Eryl does his best to keep his feet dry, but there's only so much possible when the ground is this sodden. He walks on the exposed roots and makes some bold leaps from time to time, but the hems of his pants are inevitably soaked, much to his chagrin.

    As they arrive, the initiative for diplomacy is initiated not by him, but by Seifer. Eryl hangs back and lets the man do it. Too many voices at once may spook them. He takes the time just watching them without looking like he's watching them. It's a very particular skill, but useful. No one likes feeling like they're being eyes by a stranger like a piece of meat.

    He's not looking for anything in particular. Just a general idea of who or what these people are, how they live here.
Tomoe As Tomoe arrives at the nearest impact site she'll see it appears to be like a small meteorite hit the area when she thought about it for a moment. The forest is a new challenge for her to get through she attempt to avoid using her sword to hack and slash. Who knows what she might piss off here if she did /that/. Better to not risk waking up some tree spirit or something of that ilk. As she presses on she'll find the ground gets soggier and soggier and soon she ends up into more and more watery terrain there' something that slides past her. Yet? The seemingly snake-like thing has noped out on trying to bite her? She's going to leave that thing be.

The trees become more interesting as she sees them rising up from the ground on their roots.

She notices something in the distance a very healthy birch tree? That is pretty strange Tomoe thinks he is curious about the tree and she sees a fire ahead what looks like what was camp sight of some sort? Wait the then sees there are people there around the fire and Tomoe just pauses at this.

Seiger goes in to greet these people and that spurs Tomoe to act and start to join him as well.

"Good day to you."

She says cautiously her weapons are not out as she approaches not wanting to seem hostile.
Zero Kiryu Zero Kiryu isn't the one to initiate diplomacy, and really isn't the person you /want/ initiating diplomacy. What he is, however, is the one who can teleport in and out thanks to his MOBILE NODE on Yuuki, and the fact that he keeps a houseplant of 'himself' back home. His form flickers again, carrying him away. He strolls down the hallway to the kitchen, opens the fridge, and pilfers a pile of parfaits.

He knows that he'll need to replace them, though. Those are Yuuki's school memories treat.

His form flickers back into view, and a series of vines wind their way away from him bearing a bunch of parfaits in needlessly fancy glasses, which are held up around Seifer in a neat row.

<< Sorry. I'll make you some more when we head home. >> He asides to Yuuki, with a faint shrug. It's not the food that matters for them, anyway.
Yuuki Kuran Bickering among the Flotilla brings a big, stupid grin to Yuuki's face as Seifer advances as the PROTAGONIST DIPLOMAT DESIGNATE to be a BIG MAN and be VERY CONVINCING.

He does a passable job, too.

"But sour candies sound great, George. Isn't it fun, the way you can't help yourself as you work through them? My favorite are these sour plum hard candy balls."

Zero lays out BETRAYAL PARFAITS, causing Yuuki to cross her arms and harrumph. "You better get the nice ones when you do. And have them made fresh, not the ones in the cooler. That's your penalty game."
Priscilla     In this situation, tense and strange, there are a hundred different ways that it could break on first contact. A hundred different things that could happen the instant the sight is spoken to. The illusion is touched. The bubble is burst.

    Perhaps for lack of ready weapons and for easy tones and awkward stances, for once the universal language of Lordran is not that response.

    The minute the celebration of uncertain meaning -- perhaps there never was one -- is interrupted, the small gathering turns towards the words that disturb them all at once. Their laughter is snuffed out like a candle flame. Turned to a handful of sibilant gasps, easily mistaken as the wind. You don't get a real look at any of their faces, because the moment next, they all blow away in a stormy drift of bright golden particles, rolling through like a bank of glittering fog, and disappearing just as quickly with a sound like an echoing bell.

    It's mostly as if they never were; but not quite. The fire still burns in their absence, hot and crackling, if now morose, tense, in its abandonment. The detritus is still littered around where it had been before. Examining it finds no real trace of actual foodstuffs or drinks, and all basic supplies like ropes and axes and coverings are heavily stained and possibly disused. There seems to be more of it than at first glance. Or less? More vegetation, perhaps, having overgrown spots that had been clearly littered before.

    The birch tree looks a sight sadder. It looks dry and bare as winter now, the slender ends of its branches crackled and embrittled, littering the ground around it with many white twigs like bleached bones, taking the exact places of the dancers, half-buried in mud. The feeling of an uncanny energy about the whole thing is even more intense now. The reading is much less, but the whole area tingles in a way that is unspecifically Wrong. Like at any minute, you'll find some error or artifact of the scene by poking around.

    For one, the massive arrow used by Gough, its bark still on, wrapped with red cloth, is several feet deep in the swamp only a stone's throw away. That landing hadn't interrupted anything.
Starbound Flotilla     Seft's eye-visor displays a worried sort of "6_6" expression on it, anxious and stressed. "Fearful. I'm not sure we saw ghosts, or entities. That seemed to me more like... a memory. Maybe something around here remembers that." She synths in a soft mutter. "Anxious. The forest? Or... well, if I'm right, I hope we won't have to antagonize whatever remembered that. My readings have gone down, though. Can we look around to see what changed?"

    The Flotilla move up, all but Albert and Pavo giving a wide berth to the camp. The two who don't are the most insolent and disrespectful of the lot, seeming to insist on double-checking the camp's nature and examining its contents to make sure nothing of importance is there. The rest start at the massive fucking javelin that Gough launched like it was nothing, making a search pattern with ultra-short-range high-intensity scanners. They sweep them like flashlights with x-ray power, looking for any disruption in the natural swamp and going in a spiral pattern that starts at the arrow and moves out.
Eryl Fairfax     "Of all the things I was expecting, that was not one of them," Eryl remarks as the curious group of people simply fade into motes of light. He steps into their ramshackle little living space, and approaches the key point of interest; the limp white birch tree.

    He doesn't want to start poking at it just yet, but a hypothesis is forming. He picks up one of the twigs that is littering the ground around it, and begins approaching the landing site of Gough's arrow.

    Its landing did not interrupt them. They didn't even seem to notice it. Is this effect proximity based?
Tomoe Tomoe is hoping it somehow doesn't come to a fight, and there is no fighting. Something else happens the party goes suddenly just vanish. The laugher snuffed out, there are gaps or it might be the wind she doesn't know. What she does know is she never gets a look at the partiers' faces? They vanish in a burst of golden particles. She looks and sees the various bit of supplies they are looking worn, there's no food or drink. It looks like the camp has not had anyone here in a long time.

The tree looks very sad to her now it looks dead, and she wonders if they broke some memory of the last people who lived here? She does not know and she looks uneasy about it. She takes note of Gough's arrow through and wonders.

"The arrow didn't interrupt the party, it looks like. I wonder could it be living beings or being addressed directly caused it to vanish?"
Seifer Almasy      "Yeah, you and me both," Seifer says in Eryl's direction. "Wonder what stirred that up."

     Seifer walks alongside Eryl, Hyperion back in his hand and over his shoulder. He, also, is giving wide berth to the camp. "So whaddya think we're looking for?"
Zero Kiryu "Yuuki."

Zero banishes the BETRAYAL PARFAITS back to the refrigerator when it turns out that the things they're trying to diplomacy at are some sort of time distortion or ghosts. He's looking at her quite seriously, though.

"I do not 'have parfaits made', I 'make parfaits'. Neither being a vampire or journeying through the worlds has soured my taste." He says, matter-of-factly.

Then he strides forward into the camp, kneeling down to place his hand near to -- and after a moment, directly on -- the fire to test its properties. It looks and sounds and smells like it should just be fire, but everything about this place seems anomalous.

Maybe something will happen if he messes with it like this.
Yuuki Kuran "Half-light... half-light..." Yuuki repeats, considering. The disappearing act of the fae-like creatures gives her quite a startle, but it's Seft's words that give her a rock to grip onto. "Maybe half-light... is memory? The past? That feels closer. Not something literal, but a figurative?"

Because the fairies did not consume PARFAIT, Yuuki quickly steps up to retrieve one from their offering table, raking back her own precious memories-- Or would, if Zero didn't banish them.

His chiding of her makes her pout, stamping her foot onto the forest floor with a dull 'whumpfh'. "Well, *I* have parfaits made. Part of why parfait is a perfect food is because someone else makes it, which just increases how refreshing they are!"

Zero gets real intimate with the fire, while Yuuki turns her back on him to follow Seft back to the original temple to observe changes. "Don't fall in, Zero. You're equally not allowed to die."
Seifer Almasy      "Wait, really?" Seifer asks Yuuki over his shoulder, "Is that true? Parfait actually tastes better if somebody else makes it?"
Eryl Fairfax     "At this point? I do not 'presume' anything when it comes to Lordran. Especially when it comes to the mysticism. It is so far out of my wheelhouse that I cannot make an educated guess. So I judge based on physical evidence. They occupied this small space, and scattered when someone intruded on it. Ergo, there is a possibility that this phenomena is localised. So I take something from within it, and carry it out."

    It's a bit of a long explanation, and Eryl sounds like an absolute teacher as he delivers it. But that cool kind of teacher who actually educates well and doesn't treat you like shit for not comprehending something on first explanation.
Priscilla     The twig in Eryl's hand feels impossibly light. Despite being fairly firm and flexible, it also feels like it could snap any time, like a mere thought would shatter it in half. It tingles a little in his hand, like fuzzy static electricity. The birch tree itself radiates that sort of uncanny, unnatural tingle as well.

    The fire is, by all accounts, an ordinary fire. It burns. It also uses precisely zero birch wood, despite all the fallen kindling available, having been laboriously carved and dried out of the very large, very hard, very damp trees at a considerable distance. It never occurred to anyone, or they refused to, or couldn't use, all the sticks there are to pick up.

    Poking around the arrow confirms that it is not much more than a wooden projectile three times as tall as anyone present, with the interesting detail that the wood seems actually petrified, or fossilized. The head is enormous, has four edges, and is slightly barbed. It's sunk pretty deep into the muddy bottom, but has absorbed no water. It has also, perhaps by some coincidence, impaled an extremely large, broad, half-buried creature with a mottled green carapace, wedged in the silt like a predatory stonefish. It is very, very faintly magical, in an 'incidentally magical material' kind of way.

    Examining the camp refuse is an odd experience. It's all junk, old and repeatedly waterlogged then dried. But each time one turns around, they could *absolutely swear* some of it is in a different place. If anything, it appears to be getting more spread out. Sliding downhill. Steadily displacing towards the water. Counterintuitively, the little glimpses of motion that one catches, with their own subtle sounds, come from the treeline all around, rather than anywhere as close as the little island.

    After a few minutes, one very egregious detail sticks out: there is a second arrow, identical in every way, a few dozen meters out, hard to see when standing within the firelight.
Zero Kiryu Zero frowns at the sensation of the fire. He makes a vague affirmative noise towards Yuuki, drawing away from the flames as a scorched palm seals back up-- though it wasn't that badly hurt to begin with. In some ways, his skin is closer to stone than it is to flesh of any kind.

Soon afterwards he joins Yuuki and Seft again, coming up on Yuuki's heels in short order. As he does so, he replies to Seifer, "I suppose there's a certain pleasantness is someone doing something nice for you. But it's a bit diluted if it's just servants."

He's unlikely to notice the second arrow first, since he exited the firelight behind most everyone else.
Starbound Flotilla     "...!!!" Biteblade suddenly stands up straight, looking around in a kind of intense focus. Suddenly, and with quick speed, she DARTS around the area. She has her fair share of rope on her person, plus high-tension mag-bow wire. She rushes between fixtures of the camp, between pieces of shrubbery -- and particularly between the two massive arrows. "Hold ssstill hold ssstill hold ssstill jussst moment, jussst sssecond!" She has tied off a huge number of tripwires! Dangling from them... all kinds of metal junk. Canteens, weird wallet things, knives, that sort of stuff. Just whatever will clang when it moves and slams against other metal things.

    She skids to a sudden stop, and draws Lush Burial, a heavy divine bow, notching a thick tungsten bolt and sweeping it around slowly, ready to fire the minute she hears...
Eryl Fairfax     Upon carrying the stick to the arrow, Eryl realises it is no mere effect of proximity, so he instead turns his attention to the wood itself. It feels far lighter than it should, and the fact that the fire over there was not kindled with any birch wood seems significant.

    He wanders back towards the tree and the branches and examines them. Some are whole, but others are broken in half, as if deliberately. With a nod, he considers his own. "Some of these are broken. Hence, it should be safe to do this."

    And with that, he breaks the branch over his knee.
Tomoe Tomoe takes a moment to check out some of the things at the camp she looks at the refuse hoping she can find something but she turns up nothing new. However the sounds of movement the sound of something coming from the treeline. She halts will grip the hilt of her sword and look round for any sign of something. She's waiting, watching for the sudden sign of movement that might hint to the attack.
Seifer Almasy      "I guess that makes sense," Seifer says to Zero, "If it's somebody you care about doin' somethin' for you it'll taste better no matter the food, huh?"

     Seifer scratches the back of his head as he watches Eryl break the branch. "You sure? Well, alright."

     Seifer is now 50% sure that Eryl is the one who will get cursed.
Yuuki Kuran It's odd, waiting among the branches as Biteblade engages with the intense Instant Tripwire Hell Technique, prepared for the literal absolute worst with a tension that she had never seen before.

No, perhaps just once before. "Biteblade, what's wrong?" Yuuki wonders, rather boxed in by the lines. "Is there--" What a stupid question. Of course there was something out there. Something beyond sight. Biteblade was rarely ever wrong about matters of the hunt.

And so, while she reaches out mentally to feel out any presences - fellows or foes - just past sight's boundaries.

"Parfaits are a relaxtion food. It's more relaxing to have them surprise you - and you can't be surprised by your own work, can you?"

"That's the most refreshing way to eat a parfait."
Priscilla     Biteblade running around in a frenzy, stringing up the rugged and simple DIY warning systems that woodsmen are known for, is left unmolested. It feels odd -- uncomfortable, even -- racing around the place like this, in the quiet and the dark, attaching wires and cans to every point she can find. But she can.

    Though the little branch in Eryl's hand had previously felt like a perfectly firm and supple wand of birch wood, a few centimeters thick, the instant he *intends* to break it, it snaps with all the ease of a wafer when brought down on his knee, wood dust puffing up all around him when it cracks open to expose its heartwood -- no, not wood dust, little golden motes, like glowing pollen. A half-heard shimmering sound rings in his ears.

    And then nothing happens. Eryl is just holding two halves of a white birch branch.

    Except for everyone else, Eryl is gone. There's just a dark, thorny bush in the place he was fiddling about.

    A minute later, there's a delicate rattle on one of Biteblade's lines. The kind that happens when something nudges up against it very, very slowly, but then strains its limit. Looking at the source, one of the wires is caught slightly on the corner of one of the brittle old empty crates.
Eryl Fairfax     SNAP!

    Motes of light drift out as Eryl hears a ringing in his ears. "I knew it. The birch is magical!" But... nothing happens. He's just holding a broken branch. "Hm... how bizarre. Could the motes be some form of pollen perhaps? But why would those people dissolve into the same thing? Unless they /were/ fey, some kind of tree spirits. Hmm..."

    All of these words are now just coming from a prickly bush that slides back and forward as Eryl paces, caught up in trying to figure out this puzzle.
Seifer Almasy      Something in trees.

     Seifer steps back. He steps back away from where Eryl was, into the closest he can to a tight circular formation with the rest of the party. Hyperion snaps outwards in front of him, in his usual stance.

     He shuts his eyes. The feel of Hyperion in his hand. The subtle changes in the wind along the blade, in the way the blade moves. He knows the blade as he knows himself, and around the blade is the area he rules absolutely.

     What's out there?

     -Eryl is a bush.

     Seifer almost drops Hyperion when the bush starts talking. But that doesn't mean that-


     His grip tightens on the gunblade. Biteblade is probably right.
Zero Kiryu << More relaxing... >> Zero echoes Yuuki's words back into her thoughts, largely because enough communication has occurred that suggests they need to quiet down and Listen.

So he does listen.

His attention shifts onto his Mind's Eye, his special senses unfurling outwards towards the trees-- particularly, in the broad direction where Eryl vanished. Biteblade's judgment is the best he can follow along with right now, and he has no ideas of his own.

Failing any sort of blip there, Zero sweeps his attention around, feeling for Power.

The fact that the bush-that-was-Eryl is now talking in Eryl's voice and shuffling around offers a suggestion that this /might/ be the right track, if not necessarily for the reasons that were first anticipated.
Tomoe Tomoe holds watch but what happens is not what she expected, Eryl unknown to her snaps a branch and then the next thing she does notice? He's not there anymore. The Grand Master of the Paladins is just freaking /gone/. She takes heed of the treeline and the bush where Eryl was. Eyes dart about, Tomoe's on edge something is out there the urge to try to flush whatever it is out, grows stronger. This is an idea she rejects, it might draw even more trouble.

She has her blade in hand and then the bush starts talking.

"Wait ... what?"

Tomoe looks around getting more concerned with every passing second.

Yuuki Kuran "OH NO!" Yuuki exclaims, looking at the leafman that Eryl has been transmuted into.

"It really was a fairy thing!"

Yuuki staggers, hand to her mouth. "What am I going to tell to *Stephen*? That I let the Grandmaster get turned into a bush?"

The fact that Eryl is still pacing around and talking is utterly lost on the Kuran princess.
Seifer Almasy      "I'd probably tell 'em exactly that," Seifer says offhandedly, "'Hey I let this guy get turned into a bush, you got a fix or somethin'?'"


     "*Can* you fix being turned into a bush, or is it, like, some kinda...curse thing."
Eryl Fairfax     "A bush? What on earth are you talking about?" They perceive him as something else... as a test, Eryl begins to juggle those broken pieces of wood, tossing them high above his head. "Can you see this? I assure you I still have hands, feet, everything. I don't think this is a transfiguration effect. Perhaps an illusion?"
Starbound Flotilla     Biteblade trembles slightly, but keeps the bow swinging. No movement? No footsteps, no motion? No entities to identify and shoot? Well, not exactly, it turns out.

    KA-CHUNK! Albert has had enough of this runaround fae haunting bullshit. He is now hoisting not one, but two high-tech napalm grenade launchers, one in each hand. "You can tell him you avenged the Grandmaster." He says, with a tensely serious tone. Oh good god, someone advise that this stop, and decide on a more traditional solution, before he starts blasting -- probably starting with the birch. "Getting sick of the runaround. The birch shouldn't be able to grow -- so it's growing because of something supernatural."

    "I mean, I was thinking, why don't *we* have that party the birch seemed so happy about instead of getting illusion-fucked like E-Boy over there for breaking it, but whatever." George mutters, stepping aside and lighting up a cigarette.
Priscilla     Feeling around for that peripheral motion, Seifer feels what may be the strangest sensation he has ever experienced through the miniscule vibrations of Hyperion's blade.

    There are people moving out there. Definitely people. But . . . a third of people. Not as if a bottom or top third or anything, or a person of one third the size. It's as if a third of person were there. Or rather, if a person were only one third there. He recognizes every part of it as human motion -- it's unmistakable -- but everything about it is off in that way. There's a third of the air displacement, a third of the vibration in the ground, a third of the noise.

    Hell, when Zero tunes himself in, he can only sense the barest flicker of a blip every so often when something moves suddenly, and even then, not all the time. Very, very weak. A third of the frequency.

    When Eryl goes chucking pieces of wood around, the broken bits of white wood do indeed fly up out of the bush and vanish back into its lush, foreboding boughs. If he gets too vigorous with it though, the visage of the bush melts away completely, jostled too hard and disintegrating into a swarm of fireflies. Motes of solid light. A shimmering warp in the air and the subtle displacement around it.

    Zero senses nothing from the random junk, but at this point, it could just because they aren't notable enough to matter.
Eryl Fairfax     Eryl, within his illusion, considers the situation. There are likely individuals out there using this very same technique to hide from them. They may intend harm. They need to be drawn out. Their technique relies on the white birch tree.

    A little bush walks over to the base of the tree. When in reality, Eryl walks up to the tree, wraps his arms around the trunk, and pushes his legs against the wet forest floor to start trying, or threatening to try uprooting it.
Tomoe Tomoe sees what Eryl is doing seems to get in mind what he's up to and will move in to lend him some measure of assistance, she'll aim to star pushing seeming like she too has the same intent. Whatever Eryl's plans she seems to trust him in what he's trying to do, and should something try to go after him? She'll be in prime position to try to protect him.
Starbound Flotilla     Albert grunts heavily. The radio chatter has convinced him to hold, *for a moment* at least. So he will; he flicks the safeties on his grenade launchers and heaves them back into his matter manipulator. "Star Three, I want omens on the area and the three flocks detected."

    "Affirming. Understood, scanners active, focusing the trio of sites." Seft calls out, as she kneels down and focuses on her scanner, tuning it to those three signals to see how all three react to what Eryl does. "Focused. Link established, local tactical network should receive the feed."

    George seems satisfied with this turn of events, and after a long drag from his cigarette, flicks it near the base of the tree that Eryl is wrestling with.
Yuuki Kuran "I've got it!" Yuuki decides, pounding fist against tabled hand, smiling.

Her body occludes sight badly from a second Yuuki placing a hot, brass kettle on the central table-dias area, waving, and disappearing in a pouf of smoke.

"Wow! How nice that there's fresh tea. So, George, we're supposed to... recreate the party... Do you want tea?"

Yuuki starts pouring the MYSTERY KETTLE's contents into a teacup, blowing on the tea gently before sampling.
Guzma Guzma and the Trio reappear after a bit, having slowed down much behind the others because Rapp had to tie her shoes and forgot which way you loop, causing a small debate.

Now back to the others, right as a bush turns into Eryl, Guzma squints. He had overheard the others talking about the people and the party, so he has an idea of what happened. His immediate thing, as the others get into defensive position, is to grab a Pokeball.


The red spider is sent out, and prepares to start spewing webs across the trees, out of the way of the main group where possible. If there's an ambush or something appears to attack, it'll get slowed by the webs being sent out, and the paralytics in them aren't friendlym though Albert putting away his grenade launcher means Ariados holds.

"Yo, what flavor tea is that, Director?" Zipp asks Yuuki. He seems interested!
Yuuki Kuran Yuuki tilts her head at Guzma. "What... flavor?"

As if she didn't just drop it on the table, she lifts the kettle and pops off the top gingerly, her face being shrouded by steam. "Ah... it's...?"


Hanabusa Aido rubs his eyes, yawning. "Where did the time go? It's already light out. Didn't I have tea on?"

He heads downstairs to check his kettle -- which is nowhere to be found.

Bleary-eyed, the blond haired man blinks at the burner still on but the kettle totally gone.

"... What?"


Yuuki beams, poking her head through the curtain of steam. "Tea flavored? Like, normal tea. Black?"
Zero Kiryu "We have a lot of tea. Hanabusa prefers something that turns sweet easily... of the kinds that we have readily available to us in our part of the world, chamomile is the most common that he leans towards. There are a few others, though." Zero interjects towards Yuuki and Zipp. How did he know what was going on? Well, he can't be physically multiple places at once in the same way Yuuki can, but most of the plants in her residences -- even the ones they don't share actively -- are at least laced with a little bit of his thorns.

In other words, he's spying on most of the common areas around her.
Priscilla     Perhaps Eryl is right to focus his attention on the clearly unnatural tree that is clearly the locus of this increasingly eerie commotion. Questions and surrealities mount when his arms fade into the white bark of the ghostly birch on the hill. Like trying to grasp thick and soupy fog, he finds no true purchase in the tree, though he'd broken one of its fallen branches without effort just minutes prior. Its form doesn't seem to waver in the slightest. He can slightly see his arms inside of it, faded and obscured. His sensors tell him nothing of there being an illusion. For all intents and purposes, it seems to be a real tree, but one that is, somehow, only partially there. A strange transposition, or perhaps intrusion, on the fabric of space. Even George's cigarette simply vanishes into its roots.

    Firing webs into the trees all around fills the dark gaps between them with relative ease, though there is a lot of space to cover. Any sense of the moving things behind them is further occluded. However, despite those themselves also seeming only partially 'there', little twangs and disturbances in the webbing allude to very physical form. If one is able to focus on the slight shake of a web quickly enough, they'll even see the silhouette of a human form, but . . . faded. Transparent. Barely there. Almost completely desaturated of all colour. Eerily quiet. But substantial in a way that a ghost or spirit or illusion wouldn't be. They are strangely Less in a way that seems as if it shouldn't quite be possible, even to the scanners, their waves penetrating them almost completely.

    It doesn't prevent one of them from falling over and getting stuck. It seems as if they're trying to find a way around the webs and over to the island.

    All that focus on the treeline detracts from attention on the immediate area. One of Biteblade's tripwires rustles again. The area around the table is thick with random clutter. Probably more than it was before. Maybe? It's hard to remember. It's all so generic, and it's dark and crowded.
Yuuki Kuran A cluttered table makes putting the teapot back down after serving a lot harder.

"This stuff... wasn't there before? Huh. Maybe I'm just misremembering." Yuuki decides, clearing off a spot with her sleeve and a few loud puffs of air.

Re-arranging the detritus on the table into a more pleasing arrangement to someone who went to anime highschool, Yuuki carefully catalogs and sorts the added clutter with the aim of someone...

Who organizes holistically, sorting first and then finding spots to put everything after.
Tomoe Tomoe keeps assisting Eryl for the moment and the tree is a lot tougher than she thought it would be she's keeping up her efforts with Eryl's own? She can't seem to get a grip on the tee at all. It seems to be pretty damn hard too. Tomoe makes a frustrated noise as she just can't get ahold of it.

"Maybe we need to rethink how we want to do this Eryl?"

She aks she's still trying but he's not sure if she's going to be able to do anything right now with physically trying to do anything to the tree.

"It is like it's there but not there."
Starbound Flotilla     "Not my usual drug, but hey! When in Rome." George says, meandering back over to Yuuki with a big shitty grin and plopping down into one of the chairs that are interposing. "So, if this is one of three -- and it's one third -- then we're looking at a clear way of dividing something. We can get a One-Third Something, but it wants a Half Light. We know you can divide in fractions. Now it's just a matter of," He raises a finger as he sips with the other hand.

    "One, finding the operations and where they're happening." He raises another finger. "Two, taking control so we can get half instead of a third, and," The third finger. "Three, finding the light we can bring to where it needs bein' brought. And not all getting brain-jellied by illusions. That's my thought. Maybe the other sites will have something like that? Hey, bird's-eye-view, can you check for a prayer?"

    "Aye, I'll bless you with that little bit of wisdom if you're craving it." Pavo calls over the radio, circling above in flight. She wants to check the exterior of those sites, swooping low to just above the tree-line and perching there to see if she can spot, from a distance, any additional Weird Birches. Perhaps acting on more than one at once will solve this? Because the Starbound Flotilla sadly can't do much when it comes to solving this weird metaphysics stuff so far.
Yuuki Kuran "But George!" Yuuki complains.

"I'm terrible at math. Fractions..." Her brow furrows. "Are dangerous..."
Eryl Fairfax     "Irksome. I had hoped that threatening something clearly of use and import to them would draw them out, but it's never that easy, is it?" Eryl wonders aloud as his hands go right through the birch. It's clearly not that it's not 'real,' the branches are proof of that. The tree is 'real' but not 'here.' And the branches that come off are very clearly 'here.'

    So what does this mean? Earnestly, he hasn't a clue. But at the back of his mind, Original Face is ticking away. The soupy mist, and the feedback he gets from it...




    "I have it," Eryl says, pounding a fist against his palm. "This tree, and perhaps these 'one-third' figures. They are being displaced from another place and another time, akin to the summoned phantoms we have encountered."

    With this comprehended, he takes a seat and begins to think. Taking all the hints he's had thus far, he and Original Face attempt to figure out how they can interact with these entities, and perhaps either pull them further back into this timeline, or join them in theirs momentarily.
Guzma As the webs are fired and snap something up, one of the 'ghosts' gets tangled and trapped in them. Right as Zipp is about to ask for a taste of tea, he gets grabbed by the arm by Guzma, and is dragged over to the ghostly thing stuck in the webs, which they can't even see very well, just pointing at it. "A silhouette of sorts? Something's in there. Hey! You! Can you hear us? You need a hand getting up or something, eh? Speak up!"

Guzma kicks dust in the direction of the tangled ghost, as the webs are made tighter, like a net. Can they feel it? Do they react, how do they react, can anyone notice it?
Eryl Fairfax     Eryl snaps his fingers. "They exist, at least partially, in our space. But simply physics state that no two objects can occupy the same place. So what would happen if we were to try?"

    he points to the nearest Flotilla member. "Fill the tree with something, anything. Leave no inch behind. Then we'll see."
Priscilla     Pavo taking to the air has a ways to travel. Gough's arrows are easier to find than the sites themselves, for the small sections of forest they've absolutely flattened. Off in the distance, she finds a block of tall buildings that have miraculously half-escaped the piling up of ages, but oddly without a single door or window to be seen, ostensibly completely useless for being made of solid walls upon walls intersecting with walls, but tingling with an odd sense of being Incorrect all the same. The third sight closer to the eastern horizon looks to be . . . a completely ordinary section of forest. There is some kind of completely unremarkable, broken down statue sticking out of it, but there seems to be nothing special about it. Strange.

    When Yuuki goes fucking with the clutter though, the weird situation goes from tense to an active kerfuffle. The moment she starts pushing aside junk, her hand phases right through the corner of a shitty broken barrel, and the thing dissipates into a swarm of golden firefly lights, just like with Eryl. This leaves one of the figures that had so obviously looked to be ghosts or fae visible crawling on her hands and knees, frozen like a deer in the headlights.

    She turns and bolts. Absolutely books it towards the trees. A pile of other random bushes, tents, and wooden detritus starts sliding away at high speed, gliding across the ground like so many fleeing roombas.

    The situation gets even more chaotic when Guzma approaches his semi-accidental captive. The dust reacts as he would basically expect when he kicks it on them, not doing anything exotic, or even interesting, save making the mostly-invisible person cough and sputter due to getting shitty swamp dirt in their mouth. When he gets close enough to talk to them, they begin panicking, thrashing in the webbed net, and only getting themselves more and more stuck, starting to wheeze in inexplicable, hyperventilating terror, staring at him bug-eyed as if he were the spider coming to liquefy their organs and slurp them through a straw.

    Their struggles eventually allow them to produce one of those birch branches. Not so much a twig, but like an actual wand, or short staff, with all of its forking twigs still on it. Muttering something unintelligible at extremely high speed, they wiggle it through the air, where it begins exuding golden light like a mist. They begin turning more invisible. More silent. Fading even further off the radar.

    Guzma hears the silence break. Someone from the forest yells "Don't--!". It doesn't seem to be meant for him. It's for the person he caught. As they approach complete invisibility, the wand falls out of their hands, due to them starting to disintegrate from the fingers inward. He can briefly hear the sound of their panicked screaming, tearing at the net in a fit of survival adrenaline, but their voice quickly fades to nothing. They're doomed. Their hands and feet dissipate like morning mist, then their arms and legs, then everything up to the head, and finally even their face, leaving nothing behind. Whatever last ditch effort it was, it was either botched, or impossible from the start. They no longer *exist*. Scattered into the fabric of reality.
Starbound Flotilla     Biteblade's nearest. Sweeping her bow's still-notched tungsten bolt over the landscape, she's tense and anxious, but when demanded by Eryl, she frowns, narrows her eyes, and nods. "Floran can try. Isss not powerful treeshaper like Greenfinger, though!" Unlike a genuine Greenfinger or other highly advanced Floran, she can't control fast growth of plants. But she *can* use pre-programmed seeds. Like forming a mold and pouring in molten metal, she shapes up a ceramic shell, carving it swiftly and elegantly, and plants a fast-growing seed in the phased matter, one she can keep building around as it goes.

    This might be interrupted as something happens here. "Ahhh! Woah! Hey!! What isss happen?!" She reaches first for the bow, but then realizes that the growing is still happening. "Floran should go chassse, or continue?!" She shouts in a stressed tone, seeking some direction.
Tomoe Eryl comes up with a pretty good thought on what's going on with the tree and possibly the people. She nods once to her former Union comrade.

"I get it."

The Starbounders are far better at dealing with this sort of thing she's going to stand back to get out of the way. She doesn't think too much of it and then with what Guzma says over the radio.

"Wait does that mean..."

She trails off as for the first time she can think of? Biteblade hesitates about something that alone is notable.

Given the situation she will pause for a moment and then look to Biteblade.

"Can you stop it? Do it, if we need to you can start again right?"

Just something from Guzma's reaction on the comm has made Tomoe hesitate as well.
Eryl Fairfax     "Continue," Eryl says to Biteblade as he watches the former objects scatter. "We're the trespassers here, and the fact they chose flight means they don't have much cause or means to harm us. They'll probably just hide until we find what we came for and leave. If needs be, we'll grab one and ask some questions."
Yuuki Kuran Yuuki stops, midway through fucking with every little piece of trash on the table, as all the bushes and forest detritus pick up and start fucking off.

"Uh... Hmm. Erm... George?" Yuuki pours George a cup of tea and looks at the right mess of the table, and the 'wrong' mess she had made of it.

"I don't think anyone sensed them at all. Maybe they're invisible like Priscilla is? Otherwise, why wouldn't Eryl or Zero be able to find them? That's..."

Yuuki frowns. "Wwwwweird. Oh well! If Eryl thinks it's fine, then it's probably for the best."

She smiles at the Grandmaster. "That's what you meant, right?"
Guzma As the invisible ghost person starts freaking out, panicking, and then CEASES TO EXIST, Guzma falls backwards, losing his footing as he falls on his rear. He's in shock. After a moment, he steps back up, shakes himself off, and moves over to where they were trapped in the webbing. Despite being futile, he looks for any signs of a person being there. Any at all. Blood, sweat in the dirt, tears, dirt on the white webbing they clawed at.

Did he just kill them, by trying to help? Hopefully the others are right, but, holy shit, is Guzma kinda freaked out by all of this. He'll be useless for a bit.
Starbound Flotilla     "Hmh." Biteblade frowns again, creasing a soft-bark face with pensive and critical moods. But barring any other interference, she's just gonna keep up with her efforts with the ceramic and the fast-growing tree. It IS pretty on-concept for them to do architecture, even if it's organice micro-architecture.
Priscilla     Forming a contoured shell around the supernatural birch tree isn't difficult. Rather, it doesn't exactly need to be a perfect contour anyways. Little happens as the pre-programmed seed grows inside of it, filling its lattice, pushing against the walls, then growing upward in the intended way, and spreading into its branches. When it reaches a point of majority saturation, the creaking and groaning of wood can be heard.

    When it reaches the point of total occlusion, the creaking turns into high-pitched groaning stress, then cracking, splintering, fraying apart, and then the wood and ceramic lattice bursts apart under the inexorable force of what may as well be called a telefrag.

    True to Eryl's projections, the birch is now fully and completely present. In this place. 'In this time'. All of it. One can knock on wood if they please. There's plenty of time to examine it, or more likely, come back to it for its special properties once more understanding of the other sites has been gained.

    Sadly, there are no signs of a person that Guzma can find. The hail mary suicide is complete. They've dissipated on what could be said to be 'an atomic level'. Their body was unable to take the stress of whatever they did, or rather, whatever they tried it was never possible to begin with; even their otherwise silent and reluctant companions, scattering into the wilderness, had known what was about to happen when toying with magic of Light.
Eryl Fairfax     Eryl does indeed knock on wood with satisfaction. "So when objects displaced in time are filled in, they will snap back to our time, destroying whatever is occupying the same space." He certainly seems pleased about this, even as he digs out ceramic splinters from his face.

    "I think between the natives and this tree, we've glenned everything we can from here. Let's consider the other sites Gough pinpointed with what we've learned."
Tomoe Tomoe looks top Eryl for a moment an humus she seems a bit ashamed of her hesitation earlier she looks to Eryl for a moment. She takes a moment to look over the tree and then thinks for a moment "Hopefully we can find something else to help us figure out just what is going on here. Biteblade you okay?"
Starbound Flotilla     Biteblade launches back, in the way that a cat might when they suddenly recognize something snake-like in the room. It is a launch from every limb like it's a coiled spring. There's splinters everywhere, but she was wearing armor so the worst is dealt with. Besides, what are splinters for a plant-person? It's like being covered in blood!

    It's *exactly* like being covered in blood!!!

    She hisses in a hostile way, until calming down, pacing around the birch like it's a hostile territorial invader. "Rrrrrrrrr..." She rumbles, until settling. "Don't worry, shield friend. Floran isss okay. Tree isss weird though. Weird weird weird. Ssso what about weird bush-thing? What about weird illusssion, transssformation, thingy? How isss that happen?" She frowns, but there seem to be no other hints. "Alright. Floran agreessss, can go to where bird-friend isss ssscouting next ssspot."

    Seft, for her part, makes sure to double-check: Is this solved? Are there any changes to that... weird energy that was here?