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|Priscilla|| The third and final piece of the remains of Ancient Oolacle, relating to the cryptic message of 'half-light', is the furthest from the original site. The longest shot of Gough's mighty greatarrows has landed with incredible precision once again, almost dead in the center of the last forest clearing, once again only navigable due to mountains of age-old stonework beneath the ground. The break from the pitch blackness of the Darkroot Garden only leads to the dim and bleary partial illumination of a cloudy sunset, hues of embers and ash causing the golden beige stones exposed to the air to glow as if smouldering.
It is by far the site in the greatest state of disrepair. Though the vast majority of the city that evidently used to be here, long, long ago, has collapsed or been buried, this specific section somehow seems worse than most. The bulk of it is barely more than rubble that has yet to be fully swallowed by meters of soil and moss, or which has fallen down before and crushed the green beneath it.
This time, there is almost nothing but one tower, square, broad, and tall. It's too large to be a simple watchtower or turret, more like something that could have been lived and worked in, but it shows no obvious indications of its original purpose on its outside. It's been badly scoured by weather and scarred by both plants growing in its cracks and the movements of some unknown beasts of the forest. The peak is still enclosed in an old, peaked roof, unusual amongst the others for it, and for being covered in tightly interlocked tiles, angled far more steeply than would ever be needed for snow, with the remnants of a ruined iron ornament at its tip.
It is surrounded by the skeletal remains of smaller towers that once existed at its cardinal sides, and the shattered bones of bridges that once spanned them, fallen away and scattered like half-ton pieces of broken pottery. There are small chunks of stairs that lead up to nowhere, hollow interiors to buildings exposed to the air and rain, and what look to be long, regular ditches carved into the ground thoroughly choked by aquatic plants after filling with brackish water. Ancient remnants of greened bronze, covered in decades of moss, are the most unusual aspect, half-buried in organic matter instead of the earth. Improbably large chunks of ceramic, embrittled with age and slow erosion by water, litter the same areas like broken eggshells.
Other than that, the most notable fact is the fact that the tree-sized arrow, wrapped in rough cloth about the giant iron head, is on the exact opposite side of the most complete tower, embedded in the ground at a shallow enough angle that it looks a little like it'd gone through it.
|Tomoe||There was one piece left to find and it has been an unsettling process to get here. There was one last arrow to check, and so off the party went. She would be keeping upfront with the mourning wall and Caliburn at the ready. Who knows what else might happen here, though she knows with how out of phase things seem to be? She might not be quite as effective in applying her standard tactics against such things as those in this place. So she's going to have to try something else.
She looks up at the tower. She started to look about it looking for signs of anything that might be of use, there'sd some older tower remains in worse condition than the last one.
She will start to run a sweep of the outer skeletal remains of the smaller towers. Maybe there would be something to be found there? Even if not? It still needed to be checked.
"Well our guide has been right on the money the first two times, let us see what's here."
|Eryl Fairfax|| It's a bit of a climb, but Eryl is up for it. Although once they're clambering on the ruins, he insists on letting everyone else go before him, least his weight cause a collapse.
Upon arrival, he stares out at the arrow. "Hmm..." The angle is odd, and has him concerned. Had Gough really pierced through the structure to make his shot? That seems unlike the giant, who is so transparently skilled that he could have avoided it with a higher angle. Could it be that he intended to strike the tower itself, but overestimated its integrity? Or...
And so he employs Original Face. Employing its suite of environmental scanners, he looks out in the direction where Gough is awaiting their return, up at the tower he might have shot through. Trying to calculate what happened.
|Starbound Flotilla||"So, is this a light thing? Or a space thing? Or..."
"Timelines. These are ruins."
"But ruinsss are built with thingy in mind. Isss old too."
"It's magic. Does it matter? Whatever power it is, find its levers."
"Concerned. Isn't magic its own unique, distinct thing here?"
"What it is, we are here to learn. What we will know at the end of this is what we came here for in the first place. Explore with caution and respect; that is the only universal understanding."
And the Flotilla stomp out of the treeline, regarding the towers critically. "Y'know furball, maybe you weren't wrong. Are my old-ass eyes decieving?" George mutters curiously, as he starts striding towards the towers. "Pavo, swoop down a bit here, girl. I want you to run some stellar analysis. Can you sundial this son of a bitch? Map this thing out all ancient-greek?"
With George and Pavo working in tandem, they attempt to map this area as if the towers and central structure might respond to the passage of time in some unique way. Where is sunlight directed? Where is sunlight lacking? Are there times of the day when something has particular light on it or off it? Light affected the last one, right? Space affected the one before it. Or... no, George is shaking his head. That's not right. Maybe he can figure something out though...
|Yuuki Kuran||Yuuki doesn't so much 'wander the paths' as she does appear, a white handkerchief held in her hand that she fidgits and folds. Stepping in from the misty forest path at the edge of the arrow's clearing, her expression is apologetically hesitant.
"This always seems to be the way of things. Crumbled castles and forgotten ruins overtaken by new life. At least something lingers in the absent places... A quiet consolation."
Yuuki runs her hand along the ground, breathing out a sigh of emotional weariness.
"I'm just glad you're here, Eryl. When it comes to puzzles, I'm terrible, and that's what Priscilla needs the most right now. If only Jonathan were here, or even Hanabusa, I'm sure they'd have a brilliant deduction to make. Still."
The Flotilla brush past her as she rights herself, shaking the earth from her hand.
"Perhaps like the first forest, there's something in place that's actually out of place? Something alive, hiding just beyond sight?"
"If there is, Please, show yourselves." She 'requests', her words backed demanding power.
|Priscilla|| From Original Face's calculations, it absolutely looks like Gough's arrow should have ploughed right through the tower. The dirt is bunched up on the far side where the earth arresting the massive projectile's considerable momentum had ground it up into a pile, and it's too large and wedged too deep to have sagged since then. However, there is no sign of violent damage to the hollowed out building. There's more than plenty of it from age, but no sign it'd been obliterated by a projectile that should have knocked it clean in half by all rights. If anything, it seems as if the giant might have fired it with casual disregard for the tower. Did he know this would happen? Is it just an unimportant building? Did he actually intend to topple it? It's certainly intentional that he pinpointed it, and not another spot.
Still, it is entirely solid to the touch. No illusory nonsense happens here like the first site, nor any severe twisting of the fabric of space like the second. The vines climbing all over it attest to that, even without radar pinging it. Getting close and digging up an entrance would probably be enough to climb it just fine, if one were curious about its insides.
Sundating the place seems to be a safe bet immediately. The four pointed arrangement of flanking towers is aligned perfectly with the axis of the rising and setting sun, even given a thousand years of time; likely the stellar body doesn't exactly shift in relation to the earth here. Not only would the array of shadows cast at different angles keep perfect time, it would keep a strong date as well, as well as measuring how long the days and nights are at that point of the year. There are windows aligned to specifically allow light from one side of the tower to the other, at many vertical levels so that at specific points in time, sunlight will shoot a direct beam down to the ground several times a day, putting 'holes' in the tall shadows. The sheer mindfulness of the sun itself in its construction speaks to a type of cultural centrality on the level of, or exceeding, even ancient Egyptian and Mayan cultures, as well as the extreme attention paid to time.
Yuuki poking around in the dirt for signs of life has a strange result. Though the creatures of the forest (gods bless) avoid this site like the others, the thick, tangled knots of bramble and bracken below shift in response to her. Someone cynical would immediately blurt out 'swamp gas', but it feels as if she'd bothered something asleep, despite being purely vegetative matter as far as she can see and smell.
Tomoe has a barely-less-than-boring time herself. Climbing into the worst off of the flanking towers, she finds the insides a little more intact than she might have expected, seeing stone stairs that still leave to partial remains of surprisingly lavishly tiled floors above, with fine reliefs and embellishments still partially visible in the eroded walls. Surprisingly, there are remains of shattered pottery and broken furniture bits more duable than wood. The utterly destroyed bridges actually don't seem as wrecked as they seemed from outside, certainly not walkable, but on the order of jagged balconies at least. The ruins seem taller inside than they had from afar.
However, a recurring theme strikes. To everyone else, Tomoe looks to be poking around the squat and skeletal remains of completely empty husks, barely so much as the stub of a pillar emerging through the totally dirt-filled lowest floors.
|Eryl Fairfax|| The arrow should have passed through the tower.
The tower shows no signs of damage from a projectile.
The tower is real and occupies physical space.
All of these are true. What does that mean? Eryl actually takes a seat on the arrow to ponder this. Gough did say that he was firing at key points that he distantly remembered. Given how his shots had landed until now, it seemed unlikely that he would forget the tower being there. If it had been there during his time, he would have adjusted his angle to shoot over it.
Is that tower more complete because it was added later?
George chimes in over the radio, and stock in that theory plummets. If this whole structure was intended to be a sundial (once again interplay of light and time) then they would not add a new one. However, the question remains; why is the tower not damaged?
"If we can," he calls out. "Someone should orbit this structure with a powerful light, to see if it changes in showing different times. It would be better than waiting for time to pass naturally."
In the meantime, he jumps down from the arrow and begins examining it. During its journey to this spot, it would have experienced intense air turbulence. If it has been sitting here for a while, the ground around it would have settled after the massive disturbance.
How long has the arrow been sitting here?
|Tomoe||With Eryl working check out more of the site? Tomoe will keep on her own even as the Flotilla gets to work alongside Miss Kuran calling out politely for whatever beings who are here come out. She doesn't expect excitement and not that she finds anything that is exciting she does however find a few things of note. The broken pottery and furniture bits. As she explores she gets an idea, as she makes note that the insides of the ruins are taller inside? She hmms at this.
She will go try to get a look at the pillar that seems to be coming out of the floor and will try to get some of the dirt away to get a better look at it.
|Starbound Flotilla|| "You want a blessing of light?" Pavo smirks, and her holo-wings flare bright. "I've got one for ya. Hey, tin can!"
"Disgusted. I have a name, you psychotic gremlin."
"I doooon't care! Because I can ask the other one! Maybe that Tomoe girl can get me some fire." You know what Pavo DOES have? Mirrors, plenty of them for an egomaniac. She can rig up enough of them to hold them up and direct a singular flow of light along the towers using a good source of something approaching solar fire!
Seft DOES know how to cast up some solar fires, though who knows if anyone else has any such options. Pavo's mirror-array, carried below her on grappling lines, should suffice for guiding the light exactly as Eryl conjectures. The Flotilla will help with any of that!
George regards the work with a satisfied expression, but winds up frowning at where Tomoe is. "What're you doin' in there? Place is a dump, doesn't even look like there's walls left." He calls over, wandering towards it... Waiiiit, her traversal here, based on her location signal, seems to not make sense. Can he see where Tomoe went from the outside? Or-- wait, which tower is this? Eastmost, or westmost? He has suspicions about how this one works -- and is already pondering the process of heading through the eastmost and westmost towers to try to adjust relative time.
|Yuuki Kuran||A feeling of waking, of 'speaking' to something old and asleep rather than commanding the Studio Ghibli On Krokodil spirits of Lordran out from their hiding-spots, and Yuuki turns her head sharply - first left and then right - as Eryl moves towards the tower.
"Ah, if it's light you need, perhaps Pavo is uniquely suited to bring brightness to this situation, as an aspect of the sun?" She encourages, as her eyes fall. "Did... anyone else hear that?"
"Did anyone else smell that? Like the forest sighed?" She clears her throat coveringly, fist to her mouth. "Erm. Hear that. Not smell. Well, it's a smell too. Ah, um... Pavo, speaking of... Do you have any experience speaking with, um..."
Yuuki smiles, the shoujo sweatdrop implied. "... maybe Moonfin does, I've never spoken to a forest before."
With the equivalant of mentally clearing her throat to focus herself, Yuuki begins voicing her thoughts out into the air. <"I'm sorry if I woke you. We're searching for a hidden thing among the ruins. May we have your blessing?">
|Priscilla|| Eryl's intuition is on to something alright. As far as he can reconstruct the arrowfall, it's been there *less* time than they have.
Tomoe cannot examine a broken pillar stub sticking out of the dirt. There isn't all that much dirt here, and the pillar is mostly intact, if cracked through the middle too badly to do more than aesthetically bridge the partial floor above her. It looks like she's examining pretty much nothing to George, until he draws closer and sees the same incongruity himself.
Shining intense lights all over the area brings that discrepancy out into the open by degrees. Even far away from the center of the clearing, the half-crumbled, still-recognizable shape of ancient architecture and the bits and pieces of its adornments come to the fore, as if revealed from the dark. The dark green growth seems to shrink away by half, still wild and rough, but somewhat more tame. Yuuki could swear the water level in the ditches has gone down.
More importantly, the mossy thing that twitches at her words becomes more recognizable, layers of tangled fibres thinning away and bright lichens coming to the fore, revealing small glimpses of wood and stone beneath.
Then it stands up. A figure a good deal taller than her, more 'scarecrow' than 'skeletal', largely unidentifiable for being smothered in colonizing flora, but shambling to its rickety legs all the same. Back bent, arms half-slack, it drags what is unmistakably an oversized, corroded plough blade on a long pole out of the muck, and begins trudging towards the rows of brackish furrows.
Several more rise out of the ground, in various states of disrepair, sluggish and unsteady, running on the fumes of their animating magic. Lethargically, they begin cutting and grinding away at the overgrowth. The one in front of Yuuki feels like it's staring at her for several moments, then meanders around her, allowing her on its fields.
It's like the whole place has 'un-decayed' by many years, albeit it's still nowhere near enough to restore it to its former shape. The effect is most pronounced where Tomoe and George have gone closer to the main tower, as they occupy one of its wings. The tiles appear still-polished, if scratched and pitted. The reliefs have bits and pieces of glassy mosaic on them, depicting tattered patches of a man with a crown, and human shapes reaching up from below. Segmented pillars support enough floor to reach the jutting bridge with a high jump. Looking at the most central and tallest tower, the rusted iron ornament atop its steeple is recognizable now -- somewhat. A sort of gnarled and thorned cross, stretched vertically, surrounded with an iron halo. It looks a little out of place, for all the sunny stone and colourful glass around.
|Starbound Flotilla|| "If you wish to commune with nature?" Moonfin speaks up as he strides towards Yuuki, regarding the strange scarecrow-like being. "The most important thing is to recognize that nature is *slow*. Often one cannot simply say one thing and await their answer. Leave your message for their consideration over time. They are already speaking, in words too slow to hear. Perhaps your answer is *already* in what it says. Many times, communication is as simple as ceasing to ignore the messages you are already being sent."
George regards the place, observes the changes, and comes to a conclusion. "Huuuuhhhhh... some kind of time-layering thing? I can't tell *exactly* what's going on, but I'm thinkin' this kudzu-ass growth is either coming out of the weird time-decay, or it's causing it. Can we start tearing some of it down? Whatever shit you just woke up is trying to do the same thing, Director, so maybe we can strip it off and get something good outta all this."
He stops to regard the relief. A king. He frowns, and flicks a smoking cigarette butt at the thing disrespectfully while he checks closer for more culture clues. Oh you, George.
Pavo regards the gnarled, thorned cross from her heights. Can she see anything here about it that looks like any other plant life nearby? Maybe there's more for Yuuki to wake up!
|Tomoe||At first it seems like this might be a dead-end and she's just getting ready to leave when it happens and she'll stare for a moment. The place restores itself partially, decades if not centuries of decay reverse, it's not a full restoration but it reveals much more about the place. She'll take a moment to look it over the patches of the mosaic are intact enough for her to make out a few things the picture of a man with a crown, people like shapes reaching up from bellow. The pillars seem intact enough she could make run of it now.
So that's just what she's going to do, attempt to run the bridge jump using her experience parkouring to hopefully make her way to the bridge and continue exploring what she can now.
"This certainly changes things doesn't it?"
|Eryl Fairfax|| The arrow has... landed very recently, based on Eryl's calculations. In fact, by all accounts it should have landed after they arrived. As artificial light shines down on the area, it seems to... come back together. The standing water drains, the crumbling architecture repairs. "That explains it," he says aloud. Light cast on this place turns back time within the area. The arrow was here first, but time flowed backwards, making its landing seem more recent than it was.
He looks up at the ornament, and rubs his chin. The light-colored stone, the glass mural... something of black iron certainly stands out. But he's more interested in the stained glass. As time flows backwards, he begins looking at the ground around them. Picking up shards and pressing them against the stone to try and restore them more quickly.
One depicts a king. Is it Gwyn? Could this be the clue they seek?
|Yuuki Kuran||"Oh! It wasn't a hillside burping at all!" Yuuki pumps a fist, smiling triumphantly. "Nice!"
Moonfin lays down some radical wisdom about diplomacy, and while she's looked at by the treant-people with the fields for their muck-driving, a memory stirs. "Back in university-" The word is closer to 'school', but she went to a very anime boarding school. "-I knew someone that I kept trying to get closer to, but it seemed like I didn't exist to them. It was only much later that my feelings started to be returned."
Yuuki smiles, her hand tightening over her heart brieftly. "This is why it's nice to be able to turn to others for advice, Moonfin. Thanks!"
Following the figures into the mucky fields, as she passes over them she pricks her finger and presses it into the corner of a field, lifting the dirtied hand to wave and smile back before entering the main tower area.
"Do you think... this is it?" Yuuki asks, wiping off her dirty thumb before touching the iron halo and cross to indicate the subject.