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|Priscilla|| Heading to the second, middle distance choice of the three sites marked by Gough's arrows of sheer muscle memory, kilometers away but nailed to within double digit meters, is exactly as Pavo had observed earlier. The thing that is spared a slow burial of centuries beneath the unnaturally aggressive colonization of flash-ancient forest is seemingly completely useless.
A block of surprisingly tall buildings, or perhaps more of a single, contiguous blob, escapes the improbably thick and dark green loam, barely managing to create a small clearing for its stone base defeating encroachment by millions of fine roots for some ages. It can be guessed immediately that there are no doors. No windows. No roof access or cellar doors. The buildings, sheer and rectangular, made of that pale beige-gold stone worn down by age, weld themselves together. Merge. Clip. Occlude one another. Sometimes they're bridged for no distinguishable purpose. Other times stairs lead up into solid walls. Or perhaps they're meant to lead down from them. It makes no difference.
The clearing is barely appreciable. The whole blot of pointless architectural artifacts has only the dimensions of, perhaps, a soccer field, and beyond its borders, the canopy crowds out the light and the faint breeze once again, forming a sea of shadow all around, punctuated only by the soft lights of myriad and scattered fluorescing flora. None of these seem to be about a white birch tree.
The only stand out piece of scenery is a simple one. Upon a solid wall atop the termination of a pointless staircase, there is a small inscription upon the stone, no larger than the words on the page of a book. A shared theme. It says: 'Let There Be Light'
|Guzma||Guzma is still in shock from the accidental ghost suicide-murder, so Tupp helps straighten him out and lead him to the next site. He's calm by the time he's there, though quiet. "How the heck do you enter these..." He mutters, and then, Zipp spots the inscription and calls out.
Guzma walks up, pulls out his phone, and flashes it on the inscription, as bright as it will go. "Man, that's an easy one." Probably not, but he can hope.
|Eryl Fairfax|| The second spot of interest; a tangle of buildings. Having learned what he had about the birch tree, Eryl immediately understands what has happened here. "Multiple buildings piled unto themselves. I can only imagine that what we did to the tree happened here, but with multiple shifted elements atop each other, leaving... well, this."
He finds the inscription and commits it to memory. "Let there be Light," he murmurs aloud, thumb to chin once more. The recurring element of motes of light associated with the magic of the place is troubling him. 'Light' means something, but never anything as simple as 'illumination.' In this culture, it relates to something else.
For now, he walks around the building, his ear against the stone as he sharply raps his fist against it. Listening for a terribly hollow point where an emergency entrance can be made.
|Starbound Flotilla|| The Starbound Flotilla are still here! In their usual arrangement. 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.
Seft helps guide the gang there, from below, while Pavo keeps overwatch from above. Her scanner has the spot marked, but there's not a lot of spot worth marking, is there? When they arrive... "Deciphering. This seems like the result of the same phenomenon that you caused, I think, yes. 'Let there be light'... maybe there is something related to light required to banish the structural segments we want out of our way? Or to create the ones we need?"
Biteblade is already setting up more tripwires, just to get clear and obvious alerts whenever any of the buildings move or change. The rest of the Flotilla are fanning out, using a combination of Seft's sensor work and their own physical hands to prod the structures for anything similar to that tree, something There But Not There.
|Tomoe||After the strange experience with the tree and the strange out of phase people. It takes a bit but they arrive at the next point to investigate this site she tale a moment to look around and see what might be the remnants of buildings that the forest isn't quite done with yet. There also seems to be no easy access to get in from her casual observation. She presses on and soon is with Guzuma for a moment looking over the inscription or a moment and she looks to Guzma.
Tomoe opens her menus for a moment and pops out her smartphone and after a moment she too is don ith it and pauses.
"Let there be light? Unexpectedly biblical. Huh there could be something to that."
|Priscilla|| Most of the architecture that Eryl scouts is, indeed, hollow. Despite how egregiously weird and useless it is on the outside, it clearly has been, or at least once was, put to use, if there are spaces to move around inside it. He can identify where there are supporting walls, and walls to divide rooms. Some stairwells, some pillars -- enough that the building must have some tremendous weight to support its concealed verticality. None of it is thin or vulnerable. It seems, if anything, unnecessarily thick. More work was put into building it than strictly or efficiently needed, by a significant margin. Even the bricks are very, very large. Still, they are only 'very dense, thick stone'.
At the same time, though, something about it feels . . . off. It's difficult to place. Uniquely so. The Flotilla's scans indicate that everything *seems* to be in order. There are no places where their penetrating waves pass through 'phased' matter. But the readings coming back are . . . confused. Slightly. Waves arriving back at millisecond staggers, where any delay would normally be imperceptible. The only particular exception seems to be the wall around the inscription, which could probably be construed as obvious enough.
Guzma flashing it with his phone has what could be optimistically called 'some effect'. The camera flash rebounds with a slightly beige-gold tint matching the stone, and then the wall bleaches slightly for a moment, blanching a half-shade and then subtly fading back to normal. The definition of its bricks, and the pencil line shadows between them, is extremely stark for that moment. The 'uncertain' readings of the wall very temporarily read it as extremely dense instead. Like pool water just after someone had belly flopped into it from the tallest diving board they could find.
|Eryl Fairfax|| A hypothesis begins to form.
Light was very clearly important to this civilisation. But Eryl did not see much of anything indicative of illumination as a sacred act, or even sun worship. Thus, he can only conclude that 'Light' is synonymous with something else. And he may know what it is, but he needs to test the idea.
He issues an experiment for the Flotilla to conduct. Place a timepiece within the building, and see if the time it shows differs from a synchronised timepiece that was kept outside. Repeat, but with a light trained on the interior timepiece.
As for him, he begins dashing for the third arrow Gough shot. Two exhibitions of time-distorted phenomena could be a coincidence. He needs three to establish a pattern.
|Starbound Flotilla|| "Star Six, needles in the cloth. Star Five, Star Three, lean your sundials, I want Three readied on an entry. Star Two, Star Four, sunrise it." Albert's terms are opaque but clearly tactical.
"If this explodes, I'm blaming you." George says, as he hefts a mining beam and trains it on one of the nearest walls with one of the rooms clearly indicated by the scans beyond it. Just gonna slice a door cleanly through the thing! That should do it. The others have prepared some timepieces! Specifically, Seft and Biteblade's fancy smart-armor features built-in holographic clock functionality, which they quickly sync up.
Seft will be the one who heads inside, armor powered and ready, and Biteblade will be the one who warily remains outside. Pavo and Moonfin are put on duty for setting up a fancy floodlight -- a task they take to easily, considering Moonfin's understanding of architectural lighting and Pavo's inclination towards divine lights.
Assuming nothing explodes when they slice through, they follow along with the current schemes. Take a timepiece in and then out. Then again, but with the avian gem-powered spotlight shining hard on the opening.
|Guzma||Eryl's taking the wheel, and Guzma's not sure he likes that, but this is too weird for him, so, he's gonna follow the Paladin's directions. When the others move to carve open a door, after Guzma's light leads to show that light works...
Guzma flashes it again, expecting the same reaction, to double confirm, and then moves back. If a door is successfully carved open, he'll be the first inside to investigate. Hopefully there's not space-time radiation in there!
|Tomoe||Tomoe stores away the information she translates it's good to have backups, she pauses at the result of Guzma devices flash. She takes a moment to observe what happens.
"Woah would you look at that..."
She looks at the whole change doesn't last long but she thinks.
"I wonder what sustained reaction would do."
There is talking on the radio as some people quicker of wit than she forms some ideas about what could be done with this. The experiment is hashed out and she'll move to follow Eryl so he does not go off alone she might be of more use assisting him than remaining here.
"I don't think you'll die Gorge I'm pretty sure ho hell wants you or heaven would let you in."
|Priscilla|| Firing mining beams at the exterior walls, for once, has the expected effect. Though the construction is abnormally sturdy, it's made of heavy stones mined from a quarry and put together by simple principles. Architecturally simple, at least. Getting a look around the inside, spartan and geometric as it is, gives a sense of it being 'primitivist'. As if the architects could have done something more advanced, but had consciously elected not to.
he inside also feels . . . wrong. It is, of course, dark, for the building-tumour having no windows to speak of. The light that spills in from the hole cut into the wall is meagre at best, the daylight outside having already been muted, foggy, and sunset-hued even at midday, until the dark overtakes it. Motes of dust undisturbed for centuries are aroused when boots tread the inside, starkly reflecting the light, but accomplishing nothing but being gritty and unpleasant to get in the mouth.
Eryl's hunch is some kind of correct. The clocks from the outside, versus those outside, eventually begin to diverge by -- given the advanced sci-fi timepieces involved -- microseconds. One at a time. It'd take a while of standing around for it to reach even a single milisecond, but when it comes to precisely measured time, even the slightest difference is extremely notable.
Flashing the inscription with bright light causes it to 'react' on a subtle level like water punched extremely hard. Chasing down the new tree Gough had planted in the Earth finds that there's nothing really wrong with it, or at all unusual compared to the first, save that it's considerably more off-the-mark than it'd looked from the air. It's a bit strange considering how incredibly precise the first one is, and how much easier everything would be if Gough had just smashed a hole through the ceiling exactly where they're meant to go.
|Starbound Flotilla|| With the interior now open, the Flotilla convene briefly.
"No ideas here. It said light, we tried light."
"Floran think, maybe we wait for sssun? But, people know sssun not reliable."
"Of course they'd know that. The sun here is a political fixture."
"Mmmh. So this isn't going to be solved with waiting, or sunlight."
"Pondering. Well, maybe we haven't seen everything there is to see yet."
"Mh. Move out, search the structure. Sunrise the whole thing."
The Flotilla are at a loss for anything further that can be done with this, at least. Best approach is to search for more potential clues. In spite of the profound wrongness of the building, all six converge at the opening that was carved, get flashlights on, and spread out through the structure to see if anything in the interior can give a hint about anything else. Or has this site simply been exhausted of all its insight?
|Priscilla|| Spreading out into the structure turns out to be exactly the disaster one would expect it to be.
Well, actually as far as Lordran goes, it's remarkably tame.
Wandering around the dark and dusty insides takes the Flotilla up and down nearly identical staircases, around bleakly bare corridors and unfurnished, square rooms of uncertain purpose, winding around over and over and over again in the shadow, until eventually they all end up arriving at the same spot, regardless of where they actually go. The hallways are like a whirlpool in reverse, pushing them outwards. Running upcurrent is difficult. Any one of them who spends a while exploring, or slows their progress, ends back up at the entrance once or twice, but eventually . . .
Let There Be Light
They find the same inscription again. This time inside the building. On another bare wall. The writing is no bigger than before. Though their instruments are now heinously unreliable, they can get the fix that they're directly behind the first one, in the sense that bypassing it would naturally lead here.
Having six flashlights in the dark, nothing much seems to happen with just one member around, but when two inevitably shine their lights on it at once, necessary to examine it at all, the wall itself begins to weaken on their scanners, losing density. Shining a third light on it, to the point that it's slightly better illuminated than the inscription outside, causes it to begin to unmistakably phase, like the strange and apparently dangerous magics they'd seen before. A fourth direct light, however, causes it to snap back and and harden considerably, becoming the one wall that isn't so easily bypassed by the matter manipulator. Taking the fourth away causes it to partially phase again, albeit still feeling fairly solid to the touch; enough that one can slightly see through it, but not pass through.
The corridor behind it is straight, arriving at one more dead end wall. A sequence of gates, probably, requiring some fine tuning to get through. Probably meant for three different specific key items, to keep it very secure.
|Eryl Fairfax|| How did Gough miss?
Eryl wonders that as he paces around the arrow in the middle of nowhere. Everywhere else was dead-on, everywhere else had a landmark or a place to investigate. Here? Nothing.
Eryl monitors the radio, and the discoveries made by the Flotilla. Shining multiple sources of light seems to have an effect. To that end, he produces his own and begins shining it around. Maybe something was here, and no longer is.
|Tomoe||Tomoe keeps up with Eryl as things continue, nothing disastrous happens to them which is the good news but they still are talking on the radio with everyone else. It seems the Flotilla found something useful out with the function of light and whatever the magic or tech here works on.
SHe looks to Eryl for a moment she looks around and pauses for a moment then pulls out her smartphone, sets it to flashlight mode and shines it about to see if anything happens.
"Maybe this will do something or it could be buried."
|Guzma||Guzma immediately gets out of that building as soon as he realizes how weird it feels, alerting the others. When the light opens a passage, Rapp shouts about half a flashlight, while Guzma hms. "Good work, yo."
When Seft asks for birch branches for a torch, Guzma and Zipp split up, heading back to the big birch tree. They'll use tools, perhaps borrowed from the Flotilla if possible, to carve off or snap off a branch and bring it straight to Seft!
|Starbound Flotilla|| Let's find some key motherfucking items.
First stop is that birch branch. Guzma's grabbing that one, while Seft sets up a proper medieval torchcraft station. I'm talking the *works* here. Fancy pitch, stylish wrappings, the whole nine yards. Once Guzma gets back with that branch, they're going to whip up a real proper torch out of it real quick. Time to see -- and urgently hope -- that this temporally-displaced tree has something to offer for temporally-displacing the wall itself, since flashlights couldn't do it. But just because they're trying that doesn't mean they can't combine it with some side-lockpicking. One of those, and then some flashlights elsewhere, maybe? Can that modulate up to a passable time-matter-state?
|Priscilla|| Checking out the inside, Eryl, too, ends up wandering in a remarkable number of circles, no corridor seeming to connect in any odd way, despite the look of the building(s?) outside, but all being so incredibly samey that it's never quite clear where the disjointment is. He finds, in a few places, dusty steel fixtures on the walls where something would have hung, similar to dangling lanterns, save there is no place whatsoever for a candle, and it's far too open to hold oil; only an inert, lifeless grey stone in each. Other than that, it's only the withered ashes of something wooden here and there, and a couple of empty bowls, save some scatter of dead, grey pebbles.
Squadding up to fashion a torch out of one of those increasingly auspicious White Birch Tree branches taken from earlier, the boys and girls find the effort to be a little strange. Despite being dry wood, it certainly doesn't burn easily. It takes an incredible amount of heat to get it to ignite -- the kind that would usually just obliterate wood and turn it into carbon dust.
The inscription just recently read, while they're busy, is successfully forced with a ton of trial and error and multiple lights of different intensities being shone upon it at various angles and bounced off of walls. The level of light is quite conspicuously too faint for any mundane fire to produce, as getting close enough to the inscription would immediately overdo it, but too bright for anything perhaps some very specific luminous flora from the ubiquitous, strange plants outside. Notably, the outside inscription would be too faint for even that. Once exactly the right amount of light is focused on it, the solid stone dissipates into so many flecks of gold, and leaves behind an empty door arch.
The whole thing is capped off by the fact that the combined lights of the group aren't enough to cause the last dead end and its still-slightly larger inscription to do more than marginally fade. Only the preposterously bright glare of the white birch torch, similar to staring into a stick of burning magnesium or an arc welder, does the trick. There might have been some other possibility, but this seems to have worked as a perfect emergency measure. The constant fact is that all three light-levels would be completely impossible for a society without modern technology to exactly reproduce; obviously, the makers would never have been aware of a Multiverse existing, though even then it'd take some precise tools to get it even with the advantage of electricity.
The final corridor feels like it stretches on forever. Not that the space itself grows larger, but that there is some magnetic polarity that subtly pushes you back nineteen steps for every twenty, growing more intense near to the end, though it is impossible to directly observe; nobody physically slides against the scenery, since their relation in space itself must be moving. The very end appears to lead into a vault room, which has unfortunately been stripped bare of almost every single thing within it, save for one item.
Sitting at the center of the room is a globe-shaped sphere of that gold-coloured light again, extremely bright compared to the scattered motes before, twisted up contours almost like a candle flame. Inside of it is a shortbow resting on a stone pedestal, made of two limbs of White Birch intricately twisted, if not *grown*, together. It looks unstrung, but the limbs are tensed as if it is. A collection of arrows, whittled of the same material, is sat near it, four in all all of it protected behind the light screen. It is clearly the source of the intense distortion. The distortion is clearly not normally supposed to be here, or if it was, it's far out of its former level of control, like a leaky reactor.
|Tomoe||Tomoe follows along with Eryl and in much the same thing as he does she looks at the bowls and ponders for a moment as she looks over the bowls and thinks for a moment.
"Look at the bowls Eryl maybe if we're able to light fires in them that might do something? Could the stone react to the light somehow?"
She's thrown out thinking about things like being on earth given all the strange stuff here trying to think like it's back home is a hindrance really when you get down to it. Want me to go try and fetch some fuel?"
|Starbound Flotilla|| "Holy shit, this treadmill bullshit is *horribly* fucking annoying. I haven't had to fight Space Wind like this in years." George mutters as they surge through the warped hallway, moving 'uphill' in space far too arduously. "We're getting in here though. Kinda jimmied the lock, but I don't think we can find the old real keys." The careful jimmying of the lock with lights and torch has worked out so far, and yet... By the time they exhaustedly make it to the end of the halls, they're pretty sure something is wrong
"!!!" Biteblade emits a surging surprise when she sights the bow. "Isss leaking! Floran... hhhhh... Floran hasss idea!!" She surges forward! The limbs are un-strung but it looks as though it is -- and that means likely the string is phased! Perhaps sealing the leak across time and space would mean using Eryl's temporal yanking method to bring the proper bowstring into this time?
But that means getting through the gold sphere. God, here's hoping that it'll be safe. Is this like time cherenkov radiation? Let's home we don't get fifty-year-aged Biteblade out of this when she tries to approach with one of her own bowstrings and string the bow.
|Guzma||Once they have the lights, have opened the doors, and see the giant ball of golden time radiation, Guzma grimaces. He kinda wants to just grab the bow and be done with it, but...
Well, Biteblade has special armor. They're probably better off. Guzma and trio instead stand aside, moving to catch Biteblade if she collapses out of the sphere, and adding commentary.
"Any of your sensors reading anything on these rads?" Guzma says, grunting.
|Priscilla|| Biteblade going ham and doing the most ridiculous thing possible turns out about as well as could possibly be hoped. Her hands can't get into the bubble at all. The distortion is so warped that they can't even touch the golden sphere. It's no longer like a magnetic force, but as if her hands had a ton of mass without weighing anything. Like the air is as thick as stone. Like they're arbitrarily slowed to near nothing.
The Mechanic appears to be completely skipped by the burning birch, though it isn't long for this world. The unconventional solution used earlier comes in handy. Standing around with the glaring makeshift torch up close causes the golden globe to flare. Moving closer to help Biteblade, thus bringing it with the Goonzmas, causes the reaction to even coruscate, causing what feel like stinging, electrical jolts. The minute anyone has the bright idea to poke it (because trying to get Biteblade's hands free is also like fighting arbitrary stasis), uniting the two causes both to flare out and die down for several seconds.
Stringing the bow, going off of previous clues, turns out to work perfectly. A tangible string intersecting the string that should be there of course splits the replacement string down the middle, but reveals the gleaming hair fine string in its place, nearly invisible even under the best lighting. When the weapon and its ammunition are removed, the globe, and its associated distortion, die immediately.
|Guzma||The Goonzmas lighting the torch to the globe saves the day. Once the bow is back together, they hover over Biteblade, Guzma turning towards her. "Is the bow anything special, or just a distortion?"
Once they're done in this room, Guzma's ready to head out. He'll split his group into two - he'll head with Zipp towards the original spot with Gough to see if anything's changed there, while the other two will stick with the Flotilla and, well, go wherever they go.
If nothing's changed with Gough, they'll return to the group. If it has changed, they'll send an alert to gather everyone over. If they see anything else different in the distance in the meantime, they'll head there instead of Gough, since presumably, he can just yell at them or fire another arrow with a giant note attached or something.
|Tomoe||Well, things don't go much further with where she and Eryl are investigating her idea? It doesn't seem needed at the moment as the Starbounders and Guzma finish up on their end. She's going to go back to join up with the rest of the party to see what else might be up before they head on again. She will however take a recording of the bowls and other related items with her phone before she does go join up with the Starbounders.|