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|Priscilla|| Though the situation has been well-explained to most prior, the sight of Lost Izalith, even after it was once largely quelled years ago by the destruction of the Bed of Chaos, is still one to drink in with hesitation.
As something described as 'a hell' in some capacity, it is perhaps natural that it be deep underground. Unlike one location previous, however, there the ancient earth simply spirals down forever and ever, swallowing all light and hope, a city must all be in one place, and the sheer size and scope of a cavern that could enable it is so unnatural that it seems as if a mountain had somehow simply grown tall over the caldera of a long-faded volcano. One could comfortably fly a small plane around the soaring, firelit vaults of red stone, without any fear of collision, and the thermals would most certainly make such very easy.
The style of the ancient kingdom itself is also unusual. Of course nothing of wood or clay could possibly survive here, or even be gathered, and as such, everything is hewn of immense amounts of dense, igneous stone. Tremendous ziggurats rise in radial spokes from tower-temples of harsh angles. Walkways are cut into the walls miles high, creating endless rows of pillar-marked and sheer-faced buildings in negative space. Queerly bent bridges connect many levels at once, and long roads of austere tiles rise to wildly unsafe heights. Stairs, steps, and tiered levels, rise seemingly needlessly from almost every broad and flat level, flanked with endlessly plinths that might have held anything from braziers to statues once upon a time. The stone everywhere is chiseled with worn markings of inscrutable design, like Aztec murals of slightly unwholesome things, with only faint suggestions of old decoration reduced to ashen smudges and blackened pools at their feet.
Not only is the entire city reduced to its stone bones, visibly fire damaged across miles of its barren faces, but it is, paradoxically, shot through with an endless briar of branches and roots, large enough in of themselves to form winding highways, which fork and diverge over and over, like the circulatory organs of a warm-blooded creature. Though there is no grand tree to go with them, at their mighty temple center, the dry, grey, stony wood has pervaded most places with ease, curling around darkened doorframes and choking proud pillared halls.
The heat is oppressive, but more like that of a sun-scorched desert than the searing hellhole it once was. It seems to stem from a literal river of brightly glowing --too brightly-- lava that pours from the foot of the tree-strangled temple and gushes from the top of a lofty cliff into a lake of fire beneath, but compared to the total size of the cavern, it is only a small faction of the area. The majority is covered in fields of smouldering obsidian and basalt, many of which have since either filled in with packed red sand or swamps of faintly steaming water from above and below, making for a significant variance in terrain.
|Priscilla||Lordsblade Ciaran, in her deep blue cowl, black light armour, and ivory mask, is perched at one such highway-bridge near the highest vertical level of the underground skyline, utilizing a pair of honest to god binoculars over the slits in her mask, where even her eyes won't quite suffice for the distance and harsh, red-orange glare. Pointing to the massive waterfall of lava, she informs arrivals immediately that "What we seek is well-hidden behind a ceaseless discharge of fire so hot that even I dare not traverse it."
Her extended finger traces the dense and thorny tangle of thick stone-wood that weaves in and out of it, especially concentrated at its midsection, saying "The roots of Chaos have sought it as if by instinct. It should be at their heart, but as you might realize by their immersion in fire, they are no simple matter to trim away." and "Beyond it lies an ancient strongbox room, within the stone, that should at least be guarded by one last surviving seal. By its looks of it, to do with the ancient stone idols the Witches favoured."
Rolling out a map, largely filled in painstakingly precise detail with a classical quill, and etched in parts with a more stylistic hand by what looks like charcoal, she points out three major locations. "If we are to simply attack such a visible location all at once with noise and force, no doubt all their kind at once shall feel it. To remove the roots, the smouldering lakes at this location host mainbranches that support several of the thicket's most dense portions, and being cut at the source should open a path from a distance. The river of fire is without end, borne from the embers of Chaos at the heart of Izalith, but it may be dammed or divided before it enters the great open air. And across it, at this pyramid, many rows of old idols remain intact. At least one amongst them should still host the necessary sympathy with the Witch's seal. Eliminate any creature of Chaos that menaces your holy work, but endeavour not to draw more aggression than necessary; even you would not fare so well if their thousand brothers feel their pain so greatly as to come flooding every stone and crevice."
|Yuuki Kuran||A challenge in engineering, of terrible flames and impassible barriers and flame-wreathed biomes that seems absolutely perfect for the greatest movers and reshapers of the Concord to be let loose upon to turn ravaged ruins once more into livable, claimed, belong-able land.
Unfortunately, they're led by Yuuki Kuran, short hair fluffy and frazzled in the scorching heat.
"Woah... So much stone construction, like it was hewn out from the entire earth!"
Yuuki squints at the impassible fire that Ciaran mentions, filing that under 'have the Flotilla place blocks over the lava blocks and produce infinite water cubes to solve problem'. It *may* not work, but then again, it might.
"It's nothing like the places I've been before, honestly. How did they make it without any wood?"
Cursed, Woodless Izalith looms hotly on the horizon as Yuuki asks the '''obvious question'''.
|Zero Kiryu||Zero Kiryu is present. As it is in fact rather hot even by his standards, he's currently dressed relatively lightly. This is mostly because he is usually wearing semiformal with an overcoat though, so most of what you get instead is a button-down with rolled up sleeves, no tie, slacks, and the usual black shoes. He's holding in his right hand one of those battery-powered fans connecting to a simple spritzer bottle like is used for cleaning chemicals. He presently has it angled into Yuuki's face.
"I would suggest that they didn't really 'make it' with stone, either," he remarks, dully.
|Kukuru||So much fire is not something that Kukuru would normally want to go near. Few people would, considering fire is... Well, fire, and her being alive would be considerably easier if she was not on fire. With her job being what it is, though, she's found herself tagging along for this expedition into this fiery (former?) hellhole, trudging along and trying not to complain too much about how hot and gross it is.
If nothing else, there's certainly a lot of interesting stuff to look at. She pokes and prods at the tiles with her giant metal claws, listening to how they might sound compared to the tiles she's scraped against in department stores. She gently scratches at roots and branches when she draws near, seeing if any of it sticks to the steel before wiping it off on her shirt.
She also passes out bottles of water, because someone has to make sure everyone's hydrated through this mess.
"Sounds like we'll have to be careful, yeah. If there's not too many defenders to worry about, I can slow them down with mind... Brain... Stuff." She suggests at first, pausing to scratch her cheek lightly as she weighs the other options and things to work on here. Roots to remove, seals to crack, creatures to methodically eliminate...
It's all rather complicated to try and comprehend all at once. "Maybe... If we can get a clear shot at it, that might also work. Or if things get real bad with the creatures and stuff..." Kukuru squats in place, peering out towards the temple again. She ponders long and hard, then shakes her head. ".. Nah. Last resort. We need to keep this place intact, right?"
|Tomoe||Tomoe had seen many things in her time in the multiverse, even in her time on this particular world but this was something new. It took her a moment to take in the whole scene the massive ziggurats, the towers, the temples all of it cut from stone. The bridges also catch her attention. Yet it strikes her this is just the stone bones of what was a shadow of what used to be. Yet even as that it's still impressive and speaks to the skill of those who made it.
"This is something..."
The heat is also an issue but somewhat expected, given how deep they are. The magma as well she'll make a note to not get near that. If she can help it that is.
She will bow to Lordsblade Ciaran and reply to her. She will wait until Lordsblade Ciaran finishes up what she has to say and she'll be looking over the map in the mean time if she's able to get a look at it.
"I think I get the basics of it, thank you this will give us something good to work with."
She makes note to not draw more attention than is needed but she'll pause and looks at Yuuki for a moment.
"It is something isn't it? I have never seen anything like this either."
She'll take a moment to look over at Kukutu for a moment.
"Oh heay good to see you again."
hough Tomoe looks far differne than she did when they went into the Gungeon the other day.
|Starbound Flotilla|| The Starbound Flotilla have a variety of important adaptive equipment here. Armor seals, nanoskin capsules, and even full suits of protective heat-management armor are on offer from an unfolding crate. The digging equipment, too, is available, everything from pickaxes to mining lasers, and some that mix the two. The gang can't afford to bring in an entire spacecraft down here, especially with the need for something *like* stealth. Instead, a little cart of sorts conveys their most critical equipment in more subtle ways, traversing the complex terrain of the layered deeps through care and precision on the part of the Flotilla.
"Floran dare not traverssse too! Too much hot! Floran burn to crissspy carbon." Biteblade strongly agrees. "Redirect isss bessst. Floran think, can help! Conssstruction here isss like greatessst Greenfinger-build." She even answers a bit of Yuuki here. "Floran think, had wood, then *no* wood, then *wood again*, except big big big-hot-tree thisss time! Isss very weird timeline of eventsss."
"And we shall also have much need of recovering the idol required to breach the seal, then. Will we approach that effort in this venture, or in the next? Our own specialty is certainly more terrain-inclined, if it comes to a split, though I rather doubt it shall."
"We don't need to keep stuff intact so much as... keep a low profile, I think. I mean, you all are badass, but fighting an entire city's worth of demons is always a tough one." George answers Kukuru, shaking his head as he gear up with his own mining laser. He looks to eyeball the flow of the fire and the map on the table, to try to solve how to dry up that magma flow. Where could they cut it off, with the kind of digging tools they have to work with? Where could they do it kind-of-subtly?
Because Albert wants to hit the road. As soon as there's a proper direction to take, he's already leading the way.
|Captain Flint||NASSAU BAY
The planks of the Walrus, and its Flotilla-made plating, creak gently as the warm, clear blue Caribbean water slaps against the hull. The crew is gathered on the maindeck, while Captain Flint addresses them from the quarterdeck. John Silver leans on the rigging, as has become his custom, mingling among the crew and discretely listening for whispers of discontent--though those have been rare, of late.
"...and you'll wait there for either my signal, or Mr. Silver's. The vanguard, then--as soon as we're through the gate, secure your masks and seek out one of the Flotilla captains immediately. I'll not have us in this place without the best protection available. Any questions before we set sail?"
A dozen pirates come through the warpgate, each wearing an 18th century style breathing mask, each equipped with a full waterskin, thick insulated gloves and boots. There are no black powder weapons here, for fear that an errant ember would set it off. Instead, each man has either a modern firearm, a more traditional melee weapon, or both, in several cases. One of them stops to gawk, only to be clapped on the shoulder by John Silver.
"Gawk once you're suited up, Beauclerc," says the quartermaster.
There's a grunt from the aforementioned Mr. Beauclerc, who appears to be carrying two bags--one for his share of the equipment often brought along on these expeditions (tools and building materials) and another which the Flotilla captains, at least, if not Zero and Yuuki, would recognize as a carrying case for some sort of precision rifle. "I don't like the look of them pyramids, is all," says Beauclerc as he keeps moving.
"Ziggurats," corrects Flint, as they cross one of those unusual bridges and end up on a path of that stony, grey wood. Eventually, they run into Ciaran, fanning out so as not to hold up anyone on the bridge behind them.
The usuals are here: Flint, Silver. Billy Bones, the blonde, musclebound boatswain. Joji, the taciturn swordsman. A familiar voice, in Mr. Beauclerc, the sharpshooter. Some 'new' faces, too--at least, where the other Elites here are concerned. Flint introduces them, for anyone curious enough. Joshua, Mr. Carver (aka 'Old Jim'), Mr. Dooley, Mr. Paxton, 'Crisp,' Mr. Froom, and Mr. Vincent. All of these men appear to be boarders, or at least, none appear strangers to battle or hard work. Even the portly, aging 'Old Jim' holds himself as if ready to reach for his saber.
"We have something to cut away the wood. Potentially. Mr. Paxton, if you would..."
The pirate steps forward and produces a sack of saws, bound together to keep them from being a pain. "I was hoping our friends in the Flotilla might assist us in improving these, to assure they're able to cut the wood here. Perhaps teeth fashioned from the obsidian which seems abundant here?"
|Starbound Flotilla||"I shall be happy to assist, Captain. Our mechanisms shall make of your tools a grand work." Moonfin strides forward and nods, examining the saws. "Some local enhancements tend to be ideal, and these shall be compatible with vibro-weapon enhancement attachments as well. With the mining tools, acquire a volume of large-fragment obsidian. I will ensure my crafting options are well suited to having your equipment at its cutting edge quite soon." He says, nodding proudly at the prospect. And it's a service he'll be quickly providing, even mobile, as the obsidian is gathered by any party. "Be warned, such enhancements will surely decay swiftly under wear and tear beyond this operation, unless you can find any means of infusing the obsidian with the high-growth properties on display here."|
|Kukuru||"Maybe they planned it super hard and just cut the shapes out of the existing stuff? But..." Zero's theory has Kukuru furrowing her brow. "That sounds like way too much work, even if it might make sense. Then again, if they're demons, that might explain it?" She suggests with a light shrug, still not seeming completely convinced herself.
"Oh. He-llo, red girl." She greets Tomoe with a lazy wave, followed by covering her mouth/entire face with the claw to be a little more polite while yawning. It doesn't actually muffle the sound one bit, but at least nobody has to see her doing it.
"Yeah, fighting everything here would be... Uh. Rough. Too much work, anyway." She replies to George with a quick nod, looking him over briefly along with that mining laser. "In a pinch, though... Hm. Well, we can figure that out later if things go really bad. It'll probably be fine, though." She reassures him and everyone else afterwards, content to hang back in the rear guard while the bolder members of this group take the lead.
With the pirates handling so much gear and requesting the Flotilla's assistance, Kukuru 'oohs' and 'aahs' in what clearly isn't any sort of understanding so much as it's a general appreciation of what's going to be done with the tools. "I can help with getting the obsidian for that. Um... Also, what's obsidian?"
|Captain Flint|| "That's obsidian," says John Silver to Kukuru, pointing at a swath of black glass in the distance. "Volcanic glass."
Flint responds, too, but he's occupied with peering through an extended looking glass. "It's sharp and remarkably durable, which makes it suitable for tools and weapons alike." He and the rest of the crew have availed themselves of the Flotilla's protective gear, but the captain makes no explanation for what he's looking at.
"What are you doing?" asks Silver.
"Looking for a place the men--and Kukuru, if I'm not mistaken--can gather that obsidian safely. Preferably, some place where it's already been broken, and the tools won't be necessary."
"And if they are necessary?" Silver leans anxiously upon his crutch.
"Then it should be some place where they can gather it as quickly they can, doing so with all knowledge of the demons' movements which the landscape shall allow."
Click. The looking glass is collapsed, stowed away in Flint's pack. Neither he nor Silver have their coats--in this heat that'd be ill advised. "Billy," he says thereafter. "Take Crisp, Mr. Vincent, Mr. Paxton, Mr. Dooley and Mr. Froom." He points to the Flotilla's crate, then towards the obsidian, once he's seen enough patches to decide on a 'best.' "Accompany Kukuru there. If you hear movement, don't engage. Gather up however much you're able, and get back to Moonfin."
Billy nods, collecting digging equipment from the Flotilla, and heads with the other five mentioned crew members to the spot, where they begin employing old fashioned elbow grease and high-tech Flotilla gear to source obsidian for chaos-wood-cutting saws.
|Tomoe||Tomoe did expect the Starbounders to show up and would make use of the gear they offered the heat protection gear would get the Salamander's attention the most given how hot it was down here.
"Redirecting that does sound like an idea. If you need some muscle I can give that if you like for this."
She seems willing to help and she will take the water bottle from Kukuru and puts it safely into her inventory she'll doubtless make use of it at some point during this adventure they are to have.
"There are a lot of them and the danger to being overwhelmed is there so we should as you suggest avoid the fights where we can."
Tomoe seems set to aid the Starbounders with their plan to reoute the magma at least that's what she thinks they are up to at the moment.
|Priscilla|| "I wouldn't know." Ciaran replies honestly to Yuuki, seemingly considering the question in good faith. "It's possible that anything less fragile than stone has burned away; my time was long after the Gods no longer associated with the Witches. But I've heard much about their ancient Fire Arts that preceded Pyromancies. Despite their name, they were said to draw upon the earth, the water, and the flesh and blood as well, to some degree. A thing that resonated with the things that make up the material foundations of the world." She shakes her head slowly at Kukuru. "Intact has no meaning. There are too few Witches left to restore their culture, and all of those who once lived here now number amongst the beasts before you, wretched and strange."
The tiles are not like supermarket tiles; they are dense, heat-resistant stone. The tree is also not like a tree. Steel claws scrape and lightly rattle against the slightly rough texture of its bark-like appearance, without cutting into it at the slightest. If anything, it's more likely to dull the points like that. Flint's caution regarding hacksaws is indeed well-advised. The heat skins courtesy of the Flotilla are, thankfully, plenty sufficient, so long as someone doesn't try walking on lava-covered ground. Not that they'd want to. The glare from it is unbelievably awful. Lava ordinarily glows a little from its heat, but staring at this stuff is like gazing straight at an orange light bulb. One could dangle something three feet above the surface and never be able to find it.
Obsidian is hardly in short supply. This whole city used to be drenched in at least a foot of lava everywhere one looks. Exposed surfaces are still about a third of what one might have been streets. Or who knows, maybe even gardens or something. Finding a particular field that seems pretty broken up already is accomplished pretty quickly. Numerous fractures run throughout it, radiating from scores of sinkholes all across it. Where they cross up between closer holes, they form jagged diamonds that require only picks and grunting sweat to un-wedge from the ground.
However, the reason for those holes becomes unfortunately apparent only a short ways in. The vibration of tools striking the earth draws attention, impossible to avoid at any juncture where work is done. Without warning, creatures reminiscent of truly gigantic caterpillars, mottled brown and black like the stone, burst from their sunken lairs, waving hundreds of vestigial spike-legs in the open air, and clacking together enormous pincer jaws that look as if they're made of solid, craggy obsidian, like the entirety of their spiked, rock-dome heads. Separating them from any conception of native megafauna, though, is the fact that those pincers lead only to a huge, freakishly human mouth, leathery stone-lipped and filled with giant snaggle teeth.
|Priscilla|| They appear to be blind, lunging at the sounds of work, snatching what they can and dragging it back to their holes to devour it. Where they're too far to do so, they refuse to exit their burrows, but spit balls of some mucous-like substance that bursts into clouds of sharp orange vapour where it lands. The liquid itself is no particular issue, but the gas is a horrendous type of acid, seemingly non-reactive with flesh if one feels like thanking god, but which rapidly dissolves everything else, including the tools that need to be used here.
Meanwhile, the flow of lava itself is considerable pain. Simply throwing blocks in it, assuming they survive, would quickly lead to the lava simply building up and pouring over the top again. Blocking the entrance itself --a low and wide, pitch black basement exposed to the air that radiates extremely ominous danger signals-- might result in a short reprieve until it bursts the blockage, but would be very, very obvious, as the flow of warmth cuts off all at once. Building right at the edge of the cliff could split it down the middle or divert it somewhat to either side, but diverting anything before that means forcing it to wind around miles of fire-scarred buildings, and making the new fall avoid the water, sure to create a massive explosion of steam.
As long as George is sticking to merely examining, he remains unaccosted, but he --and especially Moonfin, with his uncanny sense for environmental balance-- gets the uncanny sense that changes to 'fire and heat' here will easily be the most noticed by far.
|Kukuru||"That's.. Oh. That's pretty sad." Kukuru frowns slightly at Ciaran's reply regarding the Witches' lost culture, although she doesn't let it get her down too long as she quickly pivots into the brighter side of that response. "But at least it'll make fighting easier if things do go bad. so that's... Something."
She doesn't try particularly hard to find that bright side, busy as she is inspecting stuff with her claws. "These tiles are real tough. Whatever they made it with way back when must've been good stuff. A shame it's all here and not somewhere else. And these trees..."
She inspects the points of her claws. Still sharp, but definitely not worth the risk of screwing those up. "I wonder if there's such a thing as a stone tree... That'd be pretty neat. It might not hurt to keep an eye out for ancient seeds or something if they're around." She suggests, then gets to work with the pirate crew sans actual tools. Instead, she just starts grabbing obsidian with those claws, either gathering it up in larger-than-handfuls or prying it right out of the ground where it's stuck.
Alas, that noise draws interference, and Kukuru's not nearly as surprised by the caterpillars showing up as she is by their appearances. Namely, the human mouths inside their otherwise expectedly-freaky pincer faces. Her first instinct is to engage the creatures, but she stops to think when she partially blocks a blob aimed at her and comes away from it unscathed aside from one of her claws' digits dissolving along part of a sleeve.
"It's not dangerous to us, I think. Just our stuff. I'm gonna try a... Thingy." How odd. Strange as the creatures might be, there's something about them that stops Kukuru from just getting her bloodlust on. Instead, she starts probing at them mentally, trying to get into their heads.
We are not your enemy. We are your friends. Help us get this stuff. Help us find the idol. She starts trying to push that thought into whatever might resemble a mind in the creatures, trying to recruit them rather than just going right into wanton murder. If they show no sign of stopping with their stuff-breaking projectile vomit, though...
Then she picks up the sharpest stones she can find, tosses them up once to get a good feel for their aerodynamic-ness, then hurls them right at the creatures. It'll help with dislodging the obsidian for those much needed upgrades, anyway.
|Captain Flint|| "Oh, Jesus," says Billy, staring in shock as the work is interrupted by the arrival of freakish, unnatural-looking caterpillars. Having been to this world, if not necessarily Izalith, the pirates know well enough not to provoke the creatures here. "Get back," he cries, causing the crew to drop their equipment.
This time, no one dies, as they all back slowly, cautiously away from the burrows--but the sound of Billy's cry, and that of the equipment, does indeed draw that irritating mucus. Mr. Dooley, who narrowly escaped death at the hands of a pair of obsidian mandibles, is splashed directly.
His duffel bag is the first to go, and in that cloud, tools rapidly disintegrate. Half of the Walrus' supply of hacksaws is now mush--and a heavy iron mallet lands squarely on the pirate's foot with a sound of crunching bone and a barely suppressed howl of pain. Angrily, Dooley reaches for his pistol, but Billy is there to grip his wrist like a vice, shaking his head and pointing at the beasts.
They're blind. Hesitant to go far from their burrows. And they appear to track based on sound, which is most evident when one of the mining tools dropped, still vibrating away on the earth, is snatched up. Dooley can no longer walk without someone else's assistance or some sort of crutch--but he'll live.
Billy puts a finger to his lips, and points at Kukuru. 'Let her handle this," his blue eyes wordlessly convey to the rest of the crew.
In the event that the beasts can't be compelled, they'll help too--by using the tools rather differently than was likely intended, activating them and throwing them through the air to give false positives when they land.
Otherwise, they'll gather up those chunks, for what saws remain intact.
|Yuuki Kuran||"And *this* is why I love having people for things." Yuuki beams, as the team forms up. Even Zero! "I feel that the best course of action for this plan is to... Do what you were already doing, everyone. Good job!"
Two thumbs way up. Really. "Because we all know what to do, right? Oh, well, Tomoe, you're not quite there, but you've helped out so far. Sorry to not include you! And Kukuru, this is your first time here, right? So, basically -- It's my understanding that the natural law of Lordran and its related territories are as follows: You get what you give."
Yuuki taps her cheek. "So if we come at it to un-lost the place, a constructive presence is welcome, isn't it? Rather than some pillagers. If the way forward is so blocked Ciaran can't get through, we'll need to build bridges, and tunnels, and other useful things."
She loops an arm around Zero as Ciaran explains the reality of witchery. "Balance, then? Let's try that, and calm this place with a soothing aesthetic. Then, past the..."
She doesn't like the word. "...Discharge..."
"... we can bring that last piece back with us." Yuuki's hands clap. "Okay? If you have a better idea, please, try it too!" She chuckles. "James is more likely to be good at planning out a rebuild than I am."
|Zero Kiryu||"Much about this world is a sad story. Do not trouble yourself overmuch with it," Zero advises Kukuru, spritzing Yuuki with the water bottle. He seems inclined to simply stay back and be an extremely overpowered attendant, until Flint's crew and the Flotilla get to work and are subjected to some monstrous problems.
He surveys the beasts themselves with a sort of disaffected interest. The mouth is beyond strange, and if Zero knows this world at all, he supposes it's fairly plausible that what he's looking at is in fact Just A Human that has become unfathomably twisted. Or perhaps it is a god, or the offspring thereof. The difference is... he suppose, rather academic. It could also just be bizarre megafauna.
Doesn't matter. He casts a number of seeds out across the edges of the pits; some of them ar esurely snatched up, and some still land as they are intended. Plant matter grows out -- slowly, extremely slowly for Zero -- forming loose rings of ivory.
The twist of plant matter that's usually hidden somewhere on Yuuki's person grows suddenly, taking the spray-conditioner bottle from Zero as he flickers out of existence.
Zero walks to the fridge and checks what's inside. Plenty of pork for stir fry... he'd intended to make that for Yuuki later. Chicken too, but he had no particular plans for that. All of this is vestigal for them, of course. It's nice, and it does help a bit, but it won't keep them full. In all, he supposes that since the pork is something Yuuki prefers, that the chicken can be sacrificed to this cause first.
Which is why he starts chucking thin-cut chicken into a houseplant in the kitchen.
BACK NEAR THE CENTIPEOPLE...
Chicken starts cascading out of the thin rings of plants, tumbling into easy eating distance for the horrible monsters in their dens.
|Yuuki Kuran||Spritzed with water, Yuuki frowns. "What? Stoppppp!" Her tone takes a complaining pout as she holds a hand out to shield herself from the hazy mist of heat that spits forth from the bottle.
"Okay, I get it, I was just trying to get all my planning out at the start! I wanted to say it all before it became really dumb-sounding *obviously* but I wasn't fast enough! Because the Captains all work so fast!" She complains lightly.
"I don't want to respect the double under-hell of failed dead witches like I respected ancient Lordran architecture, because it's a society of people who did a wrong thing for the right reasons. I guess... Most failed societies are like that. Ughhh."
Yuuki punch-daps Zero in the arm, her annoyance growing to a physical pout. "Maybe we can just... Hose them all down with magma. Like birds."
|Zero Kiryu||"Is it already too hot? Sorry... I didn't bring that to annoy you into stopping things," Zero replies to Yuuki, sincerely.|
|Priscilla|| The advantage of dealing with the worms is indeed readily seized upon. Though the acid spit is a serious hazard to everyone's effectiveness and dignity at range, it at least, won't kill them; it is quite probably meant to burrow through rock and not melt people into sludge, as a change of pace. When the crew escapes their radius, like trapdoor spiders, they refuse to leave their holes, perhaps not being very adept at moving quickly over land, though they don't go back under.
Kukuru's mind control is a little off, but suitable enough. She gets the feeling that the horrid blind creatures don't understand the concept of 'friend' at all, but clearly understand 'not enemy'. They still don't want to seem to permit mining near their holes, as that's obviously sort of threatening, but Zero throwing out raw chicken distracts them readily enough. There's no way they can be obligate carnivores, given a lack of anything to eat here, but their gross snaggly human maws chew it up with nauseating relish all the same. There's a brief window to successfully snag that churned up obsidian and bail.
|Kukuru||To Yuuki, Kukuru lets out an affirmative noise. "That's right. I think this is my first real mission, too, isn't it? Ah... Don't worry, I'll try not to break anything too hard." She needs to think like a builder, not a destroyer. "Maybe if, instead of taking the obsidian, we're... Moving it? To do something buildy. To stabilize the... Places? For the... Face-caterpillars?"
Thinking in manager-speak is actually really hard. Zero's suggestion that she doesn't trouble herself too much with the world's sadness is taken completely the wrong way as Kukuru beams with a light chuckle. "Ah, yeah, that's easier. I'll leave the thinking of how to fix this stuff to someone smarter. I'm better at heavy lifting and-" She holds up her claws, making some airquotes with the ones that are left. "-'building' than thinking, anyway."
"I'm pretty sure I can't do anything about magma, though. I'd just melt, and that'd hurt a lot. Way more than getting bitten by the face-caterpillars." She comments while watching them devour that chicken, breathing a sigh of relief at what little they seem to have understood. "They.. I don't think they think we're threats anymore, so we might have a better chance at getting around undisturbed later." She takes advantage of that opportunity to just start grabbing as much of that obsidian as she can, pushing her claws together like she's a walking excavator or something to help get that stuff together for the Flotilla.
That still leaves the puzzle of the lava and heat displacement. Even with the hard-thinking furrow of her brow, it's pretty clear she's drawing huge blanks on this one. If nothing else, though, at least she can shuffle over to the distressed-looking Yuuki to offer her fresh bottle of water from her impossibly deep pocket!
... Except for the fact that the water bottle's already melting through her claw thanks to said claw being so close to the ground from all that obsidian hauling. Whoops.
|Starbound Flotilla|| Albert's cover in the form of airbursting stasis-fluid grenades, full of that awful fluid taken from the derelict fleet, try to give a little cover to the miners without disrupting the ground. It's George who starts settling ideas in his brain, and leading most of the Flotilla to actual, proper work. "Alright, way I see it, we've got all the pieces. Partially vibration-sensitive monsters, *mostly* heat-sensitive monsters, a river of lava -- non-newtonian -- and a couple folks who could make some big impacts."
He snaps his fingers. "Love this heist shit. So, we can do *wide* disruption at the lake, on account of that's standing heat, so no harm movin' it out. Then we can do small disruption at the falls, right? And there, we bring in the non-newtonian exploits. Tomoe, with her fire magic, and whoever else can literallty *hit* the lava into the right shape and keep it there, but that's a waterfall, vibrations ain't unusual." He gathers the rest of the Flotilla people. "Me, Moonie, and Pavo, we can get to the lake and shape open a gap. Albert, Bitey, Seft, you can split off to the falls and coordinate Tomoe, uhhh, whoever else is good at fire-plus-impact there. Get a lotta dudes on bug-guard, some on bug-shaping, and someone to get in and out for that objective. Easy peasy."
"Your answer is simply 'hit it'?"
"Sheepish. It could work. We have fire-aligned ranged attacks."
"Absolutely derranged. Let's give it a try."
"The one time you want 'just use martial force' as a solution and we're fighting lava."
"Floran ssstay away from big lava! Besst part of plan."
"Alright, we're settled!"
And they move to enact it. George hastily crafts some kind of heat-resistant platform to go over the lake on, and -- using a combination of rapid mining-beam displacement, actual piping, and plasteel walls -- starts crafting a lava-cleared central segment at the lake itself, something that Flint's men and others good at that labor could use to cut the branches therein. Moonfin's over there to upgrade those saws too!
And the others move to the falls. Seft's scanners being able to identify and scan rock applies to lava too, most likely, giving her an intimate understanding of all of the shape of this lava flow, thus letting the three coordinate to find exactly the right ways to literally get out their stasis grenades, fire pistols, or heavy flame arrows, and help literally beat a gate into the waterfall in a way that exclusively uses vibrations in the only area that vibrations are obfuscated and in a way that keeps the heat flowing on either side cleanly.
In George's mind: The perfect *heist*.
|Zero Kiryu||"There is nothing to 'fix'. Focus on future building. This is the First's world, so her preferences are what is guiding us," Zero replies to Kukuru, as he flickers back into being at Yuuki's side. The spraw bottle is unceremoniously taken from her Thorn Accessory, which is chucked 'through' it right before it shrinks back down to an ordinary size.
Reaching across to brush away some of the moisture he had caused with his attempts at cooling Yuuki off, he says, "Although I qualify for pressure exerted, I can't apply it to the depths of 'fire' as freely as you can. If you want to borrow my power, I will extend it. Otherwise, though, I think yours is more than adequate. I will remain on defense duty for the time being."
Until, that is, he ascertains some more specific value he can bring to the situation.
|Tomoe||Ciaran gives some more information when she replies to Yuuki. She did not know that about the witches. It seems the Witches are at their end for the few who remain and it's going to be time to get to work now she thinks. She'll look over to the Captains for a moment and will crack her knuckles. Local hostiles are coming and that's going to be a thing even if she ends up just guarding the Captains while they work that could be useful. She sees Kukuru do something. She'll leave her to it she needs to assist the Captains
She's just taking potshots for now. Not to say she doesn't take it seriously but she needs to get moving with the Starbounders in the end.
"All right yes I do have a wide array of fire spells what are you thinking. I can get behind this."
With that Tomoe will join the Captains to aid them with as much fire magic as she can muster to help keep the lava in shape, this is an insane plan but given what the Flotilla can do? It has good odds of working so she puts all the 'fire power' she can into her part of the plan.
|Captain Flint|| The chicken is a godsend. And Kukuru's compellment, too--though Billy would scarcely know it, had Kukuru not tipped him off. The blond boatswain claps her on the shoulder amiably in passing, and the five men with him (even the cranky Mr. Dooley) mutter their thanks and praise to her.
Wiping sweat from his brow, bail is exactly what Billy does, and the rest of his crewmen, too. Choose your battles, no? They'll make a beeline for Moonfin with what saws are left and what obsidian is gathered, arriving at the tail end of a discussion about fluid mechanics.
"Low profile would be preferable," opines Flint to George in his gravelly baritone. As Billy and the others pass over the saws and obsidian to Moonfin, Flint of course, notices the shortage of tools.
"What happened to the rest of them?"
"One of those fucking things broke half the saws *and* my foot," grouses Mr. Dooley, before Billy can explain.
"I see," says Flint, unfazed. "Stay off of it as much as you can. I want one man with Mr. Dooley at all times until we're back aboard the ship."
There's a chorus of affirmative grunts. Apparently, Old Jim is first up on babysitting duty.
"The rest of you," says the captain, "Split up. Four with me, and four with Mr. Silver. I don't care which--we're on 'bug-guard,' as George says."
Old Jim Carver clears his throat, approaching Zero and Yuuki with Dooley leaning on him for support. "Any chance you can do something with this, Mr. Kiryu, Ms. Kuran?" the aging man's voice sounds as sea-beaten as his skin. "Patch him up, or get him someplace he ain't gonna catch his death of bugs?"
"What, you're getting rid of me?"
Old Jim doesn't answer.
Meanwhile, the others have already split up. Flint's party is at the lake, Silver's at the lavafall. Flint and his party, which includes the marksman Beauchamp, are currently setting up sandbags, with metal stakes forming a crude palisade facing the most open area near the lake. The stakes, rather than being driven into the earth, are nestled tightly in between the heavy sandbags, so as to build with minimal vibration.
Meanwhile, Silver's party are lining the area around the falls with an eclectic array of crude, cruel traps, ranging from iron bear traps to improvised landmines made with bullets and tin cans.
|Priscilla|| The lake of lava at the bottom of the hell waterfall is easily one of the least comfortable places the Flotilla has had the displeasure of working, both for its heat, the massive amount of environmental damage ticks that start proccing the minute someone gets within a couple of feet of the lava itself, and the blinding light. More than that, the bubbling liquid death seems to behave strangely, lapping up against plasteel barricades and crawling a short distance up barricade walls, writhing outwards from where it'd been displaced for a short distance, as if an amoeba reaching out with grasping pseudopods.
The obsidian-toothed saws appear to have the requisite hardness to get through those unnatural roots. Gradually cracking them open reveals a blank, ash-white interior and partially hollow core that is more disconcerting than it really should be when the mind expects to see rings, almost more like chopping open bones. As expected, chunks of the structure further down the 'pipeline' crack and fall away once they're chopped at the base quite a distance away, splashing into the lava and sinking into its depths. "For stone trees-" Ciaran says to Kukuru, "One would seek the Archtrees of old. The ages long before the sun. The fact that these remains --the roots of the Bed of Chaos, birthing ground of demons-- resemble them in many ways, is disturbing in its implications, though they no longer truly matter."
This is not the land of rockworms, however. It's different. The disturbance, though greatly reduced by George's slightly bizarre plan, is still enough to draw attention, from the creatures that live --or happen to be-- closest to the falls. Chunks of terrain, covered in dust and soot and normally-sized root structures, shift and stand tall, and become the lumbering profiles of massive creatures, more than elephantine in dimensions, that are equally displeased. Deformed, scaled humanoids on stump legs with bloated bodies and thorn-crowned heads. Ram-horned overmuscled behemoths dragging huge improvised hammers. Wiry and cloven hoof-footed things too tall by far, skulls bared and armed with makeshift cleavers. All ash-blackened, smouldering with flickering embers from within.
Thankfully, there aren't too many at once. Flint's barricade is able to hold firm with ample help. There doesn't seem to be much rhyme or reason to their anatomy, shots drawing molten splatters of fire as often as they draw blood, blasts taking off entire limbs like crumbling statues, leaving them dragging themselves forward on grinding stumps. Their howls and roars are not something easily forgotten, and timely fire from the rest of the Flotilla would be more than welcome to slow the inexorable advance of so many massive HP bars.
|Priscilla|| Those that cross up to the front lines closely enough to leap through the air, or which find the energy to spring head on, are met with flashes of bright gold and silver, glowing in the lava light, and Ciaran springs from the bridge and lands her slight form on shoulders and backs, slashing flurries of deeply exsanguinating blows with the serrated golden blade and afflicting horrendous, melting poison with deep thrusts of the long silver blade, occasionally throwing fans of knives, catching a cleaver or hammer with well-timed cuts and leaping stomps, and chucking what can best be described as ninja bombs full of toxic smoke.
The plan to beat the lava until its shear thickening properties form a hole is, kind of ridiculous as it is, very sound. Splitting the red falls apart reveals a narrow tunnel just big enough to crouch and crawl through, pitch black, naturally bored into a cliff overhang, which the Flotilla can make a semi-permanent access to by just sticking a lava-proof 'straw' tunnel in there. At the end of it, one emerges into a larger, but still claustrophobic, cave of much older limestone, stalactites and all, beyond which a pair of enormous, baroquely engraved doors of unwholesome designs, block the way. Indeed, testing them with any amount of firepower reveals the flashes of fiery light that rest in the etchings, absorbing and resisting force brought to bear against them. There is no visible method of opening them at all. Just tangled depictions of tall and faceless figures in the stone.
|Yuuki Kuran||A masterfully executed plan begins at listening closely and asking critical questions. Yuuki listens closely to the whole plan, a masterful sort of Heat Heist that only a block-minded man could come up with.
Beaming with affection and pointedly trying not to think about the smell of burned plastic (it's hard), Yuuki raises a 'problem one' proclamatory finger. "I think there's only one problem with this:"
She points at herself. "I don't see how me throwing fire helps?"
FAST FORWARD ONE PRESS-NO-TO-AN-OWL re-explanation huddle...
Yuuki snaps her fingers. "I've got it! I don't need to think about it at all! I'll let Seft's big brain point me in the right direction." Yuuki decides, hovering besides Seft and entering an assist-synch with the captain in their fire-ministrations...
By applying horizontal boss pillars of creeping, gushing heat and magma-butterflies! She had a very unfortunate theme.
|Kukuru||Once a path is cleared through the lava and the group is able to get into that tunnel via lava-straw, Kukuru's eager to get in there and lead the way! Or at least, she heads on in readily enough, even if she barely looks like she's paying attention to anything beyond what's in front of her own feet.
"Those are some weird doors right there... What do you think we need to do to open them?" She asks groggily without focusing on either door in particular, just drawing one claw across the surface of each one carefully as though she was trying to figure out some kind of secret access scratching. It's not, but it keeps her hands busy.
"Cia-ran. Do you recognize these two? If they're.. Um. I dunno. If they have any stuff related to door-opening?" As she points at the imposing figures on the doors, she tries to brute force those doors open at first, going as far as slapping them with her claws and flinching at the fiery lights she gets in return. When it's clear that she can't just brute force those doors open, though...
"If I was smarter, maybe I could figure out the right way to get in, but... I have a plan. Maybe. Stand back just in case there's lava or something, though." She starts trying to bore a hole through the walls next to the doors instead, twisting and pushing her claws in at a single point. It's more focused than if she was trying to simply dig out a person-sized gap, though, as though she's trying to get just enough of a hole in there to actually see what's behind the door without actually being able to physically fit in there.
|Zero Kiryu||The issue of the strange, giant... what even are they? Not men, Zero would suppose. Regardless they are more-or-less handled by the efforts of the Flotilla and Captain Flint, and the vines that slither out into existence to support them are merely... reassurance. Shoring up. Something to fall back to if necessary rather than something taking the fore of the skirmish, and quickly withering away once they're no longer directly needed. There is something that draws his attention, however.
Blood of blood, and blood of magma. One runs into the other, and the body parts that distinguish the flow don't seem to bear any sort of logic at all. So once the fight itself has eased to a halt Zero walks out to where some of the blood -- specifically the blood, not the magma-blood -- fell and swipes some of it up on the end of his fingertip, sniffing at it a moment, then tasting it. He's looking for thoughts, memories, some suggestion of a mind that might be influenced if they should encounter more of the beasts.
He doesn't expect to find anything there, though, and when he's done he flickers out of existence. Yuuki will be aware, dimly, distantly, that he's gone back home to wash his mouth out. Nothing here has really ever tasted right; what little he imagines would, are things that do not need experimental tasting to begin with.
He returns looking crankier than before by far.
"Ciaran. Why doesn't it matter?" He wonders.
Zero ends up situating himself with Yuuki and Seft, since that's just what he does.
|Captain Flint|| The combat talent is evenly split, among the pirates--on Flint's end, at the barricade, there's Billy, Paxton, Joshua, and Vincent--Billy in particular seems used to firing from behind hasty battlefield fortifications. Not all of the men are accustomed to the more modern firearms, but the boatswain's familiarity with his own Russian assault rifle appears to be reassuring the others.
Both there, and at Silver's end, the shooting is concentrated on one target at a time, called out by the captain or the quartermaster, respectively. Brief streams of hot lead (punctuated by the crack of Mr. Beauclerc's rifle, over on Silver's end) fly through the sweltering air. Commands and callouts may be heard over the din.
"Legs on the stubby ones!"
"Beauclerc, get that horned one before it's on us!"
"Center of mass on the tall ones!"
This is not the crew that went to Archdragon Peak, even though some of these men were there. This is a well-oiled unit--as evidenced by what happens when one of the tall, spindly cloven-hoofed ones gets too close to Flint's position.
Mr. Vincent reaches for a shotgun as it lumbers closer. The lanky demon, with its cleaver raised for a vicious swing, attempts a leap, but is met midair not only by several slugs blasted in quick succession towards its center of mass, but by Ciaran.
Unfortunately, the rather chaotic way in which their enemies bleed has Mr. Vincent nearly splashed by burning, fiery lifeblood. Imagine his surprise, not to mention Billy's when the captain shoves Vincent out of harm's way with a shoulder-check, getting splashed on the chest and stifling a furious roar.
Flint hurriedly beats the flames that encroach his shirt, and after a moment's bewildered pause, Billy is there with an empty duffel bag, helping the captain snuff out those flames. A nasty-looking burn is visible on his chest, his breathable shirt blacked around it--but he's still standing, and so is his crewman.
"Let Ciaran handle the ones that breach the barricade," calls Flint, taking aim at another with a bolt action rifle. "Get behind Zero's vines if you need to! Don't fight them close-up."
Once the way is clear, a number of Silver's crude traps have gone off, and there's likely a great deal more demon remains here than earlier--but there's still an order given, for Silver and his squad, at least, to take up posting at Flint's barricade and guard the entrance to that straw tunnel.
Flint, meanwhile, follows in with his squad. They do indeed attempt to open it with force, using a battering ram and the well-loved cry of 'heave-ho' in rhythm--but to no avail. "You heard her," says Flint, waving away the four men after Kukuru makes her suggestion.
One or two of them voice their approval of her idea, grinning. The captain, however, is peering at those depictions of the faceless figures. Absent any obvious way to open the doors, they are the only clue. What are they doing? How are they dressed? This door was meant to be opened by someone who understood the significance of those figures--so that's what he's trying to glean, as Kukuru attempts to cut the gordian knot.
|Tomoe||So far so good the plan with the Starbrounders seems to be working as she keeps time with the Flotilla along with anyone else. The magma is put back they are making a way forward. She looks at the strange behaviour of the magma and chalks it up to the world they are on. She'll remain on guard as they press onwards she'll still watch with an impressed look as they will finally get through. She'll stop and will move to head through the tunnel when it's her turn. Still, she feels off put it's cramped in here and getting stuck could be a death sentence in the end, what she finds on the other side though is a cave it's still pretty small in here she'll take in the sigh of the statures and start to look around there has to be something that can be done here but she's not quite sure as to what.
She does pull her phone out of her inventory to record this, in the event, this is needed for research or just by the local scholars.
She'll looks to the captains.
|Starbound Flotilla|| "Alright, alright, this is, I mean, *within bounds* for heist fuckery." George mutters, as he loads up stasis-toxin grenades. "There's always gonna be a lil' rumble on the road." The three of the Flotilla have managed to keep the outer walls mostly intact, but that's arduous work. Boiling away the structure makes dangerous potential leaks, and sealing those means exposing oneself to actively hostile area hazards. It also means letting Flint's men handle essentially all the defense, beyond some spare attention given to chemical warfare. By the end of it, much of the fancy heat-diffusing armor the Flotilla has is thoroughly warped, flesh beneath overheated. But the task is complete.
"Focused. Striking here... and here... and there..." Seft provides direction and coordination for the tunnel-beating to those like Yuuki, and it's Albert who crafts the big tungsten "straw" that becomes the tunnel to get inside. Once they're in, though, they're not done. "Thinking. Hmmm... Record all the info about the door you can, then we need to find a matching idol in the pyramid." Seft's eyes display a loading screen as she determines the details of this. "Hopeful. Can some of you go there and find the right idol? I don't think I'd be able to figure out which is which, I have to admit..."
|Starbound Flotilla|| "How tough can it be? We got Ciaran and not any guards. Let's just run the stone things back and forth until we figure it out. We're looking for big, tall, faceless, and full of key-magic. It's not rocket theology, it's just picking out the right idol." Pavo calls out, derisively. Her holo-wing flare dramatically, and she takes off with a rocket-blast towards the pyramid that had those idols.
Seft, disgusted with Pavo's mannerisms and exhausted by the work, offers some of Pavo's partially-automated flight gear out of a crate to those who want to join her. An easy ride over to the pyramid for those who want to try to lug an entire stone idol back. No guarantee they're small enough for hands!
|Priscilla|| Attempting to bully the doors open with her claws doesn't get Kukuru anywhere. No doubt anyone who built anything in this world would consider 'plausible to break open by big strong claws' laughably far from secure. The idea that it should cave to men with battering rams wouldn't have even been a thought entertained, unfortunately for Flint's men's best efforts. Carving through the rock to the sides, though cheeky, avails them no better. The more Kukuru scrapes sideways, the more 'door' she reveals. More of that parched and chalky red-gold engraving. She finds a corner, and can surmise that there is a significantly sized, perfectly cubic room behind those doors, and buried completely inside the lava cliff, having clearly preceded even the rock itself.
For reasons unknowable, some of Yuuki's shoujo magma butterflies begin to greatly outlive their initial practical purpose. Fluttering and swirling up the currents, a handful of them make it all the way to those doors, and flock to it like the inverse of moths to a flame, dancing about the cramped and dark quarters without her input or power. Ciaran watches one warily for a few seconds, before snuffing it out with a swift and unerring, two-fingered pinch and a burnt-smelling sizzling pop. "Best not to play with living fire, I think." she says.
Zero plying his talents at blood sampling comes across the feeling that even the dull red, thick and oily blood that he mops up is excruciatingly hot to the tongue. It doesn't actually burn him in any way, but the taste of it is, itself, a memory of being scorched by fire, recreating the feeling of the tip of his tongue being carbonized without damage. Despite that, however, it tastes very ordinary. Warm, metallic, slightly salty. However, there's a certain kind of sweetness as well, which is at very first, pleasant, but gradually becomes an unpleasant, artificial aftertaste.
What little character he can grasp of it is, at once, familiar and harrowing. Like he understands it much, much better than any other non-human thing, but it is hositle and unwelcoming of being understood. More than that, it brings to minds a mishmash of dim and different thoughts and concepts all layered over each other like smears of dry and damp paints. Rather than getting a dull or animalistic impression from the wordless feelings, though, a thought comes to him in a gestalt of burning shades, quickly fading away before his head fully completes making sense of it.
. . . Birthed from a common Chaos, demons share almost everything between them, even the pride of their prince, and . . .
"The Bed of Chaos is perished." Ciaran replies to him. "The catalyst that fueled the Flame of Chaos, in its disastrous conception, was after all one of the primal Lordsouls, wrested from its bosom to rekindle the First Flame years ago. Though you see its roots and branches, they are but bleached bones. Veins and arteries dried up and bereft of any beating heart. Dead of cold."
"There could be grave reason to consider why such a sadly failed, yet hauntingly close attempt to create a new First Flame, as the Witch Izalith sought, grew in such a way to resemble the Archtrees that predate even the original by eternity --that is, if it had continued to grow. But the Great Lord Gwyn sealed it long ago, and the new Lord Priscilla had since wrenched that incubating fire from the twisted cradle of demonkind. If we are fortunate, then one day demons may eventually dwindle into nothing. As our world nearly once did."
|Priscilla|| Flint's examinations of the figures himself is difficult for the advanced age of what he's looking at, the artist's madcap hand and inability to convey his or her cubism-tier ideas through time, and the sheer amount of ash and lava dust caked into the cracks. It eventually comes to him that the focal figures are not lacking faces, but are intended to be depicted as wearing hoods, or veils, or maybe long hair, that renders them symbolically identical. Seven in total, one thrice as tall as the others and split down the seam of the doors. There are no depictions of anything that looks remotely like a demon anywhere on it at all, though numerous ranks of humanoid squiggles --whorls, really-- are rendered small.
Ciaran shakes her head at Kukuru. "The work of Izalith predates even my time, and their culture was strange and alien to the people of Gwyn's kingdom even during the early days of the Age of Fire. The Great Lord Gwyn would have fractured and shared this dire knowledge with his fellow Lords long before it ever saw the light of day; before demons. What there is to know has likely been burned to ash. At least we can be thankful that so have most of its enchantments."
Pavo takes off to the temple-pyramid marked on the map, which occupies a large portion of one of the giant cavern's border walls. Even from the air, she can see that its excessively spartan stone construction isn't entirely intentional. Though there is no sign that the structure ever relied upon or incorporated non-stone support, with her extensive religious knowledge, she can see myriad places where banners and braziers, bowls and tapestries, statues and pyres might have gone, now lucky to be remembered by a light smudge or a tiny puddle of slag.
There are seemingly endless rows of plinths, pedestals, alcoves and dias for any number of idols, carvings, and obelisks to go, but the vast majority are completely empty. She recognizes a short, overly tall hallway flanked with knight carvings identical to Anor Londo, a much smaller hub space with walls once-mosaiced like Oolacile's ruins, and a twisted corridor that looks very much like one of the gap-walled royal mausoleums of her home culture, but the only signs of the original, native faith, takes the form of a vaulted chamber near the apex, intentionally built open to the sky, where hideously detailed carved stone statues of fanged and legless creatures have been set on every plinth, and a hulking behemoth of antlers and eyes has been carved atop what looks similar to a throne setting.
|Captain Flint|| "Captain Pavo--" She's gone. Flint's brow furrows as he turns around and discovers this. He sighs through his nose, glancing towards Seft with something that might be sympathy.
"Ain't there gonna be some spike what shoots up yer asshole, or a big rock what rolls out and smashes you flat??" Asks Mr. Paxton. "Or a snake pit?"
"That was a movie," says Billy dismissively. But there's still a concern that it might, in fact, be rocket theology after all, as evidenced by the nervous glance the boatswain makes around the cramped room.
"Mr. Paxton's colorfully worded concerns are well founded," opines Flint. "Which is why we're going to avail ourselves of the Flotilla's flying machines, and get the correct idol." There's a nod towards the crate.
"Flying?" asks Joshua excitedly, grinning wide. "Fuck yeah. Might as well get some practice!" The Congolese pirate is the first of them to line up. Billy is the last.
"What exactly are we gonna be looking for, then?" asks the boatswain.
Flint points towards the door, which has thus far stubbornly resisted attempts to simply unga it open. Towards the largest figure. "Something like that. I'd suspect, based on the size of those figures, relative to the smaller ones--"
"Are those *people?!*" Interrupts Mr. Vincent. "Jesus. These bastards were huge."
Flint's eyes narrow slightly in annoyance, but he nods, all the same. "Entirely," he says. "So I'm expecting it to be fairly large. Let's be off."
Billy is also the first to land, and he seems quite relieved to be on solid ground--though given Pavo's eagerness to figuratively scoop up and mash random combinations of religious gubbins against the door, he'd likely be more relieved to be quit of this place.
Flint and his men are without Pavo's religious knowledge, but Flint is nothing if not methodical. As he searches through the winding cloisters of a temple apparently claimed several times over by different orders over the centuries, there is a clear goal in mind.
Which of the many alcoves and halls here bear trappings that most closely resemble the cubist shapes of the seven hooded figures on that door, if any? "Look for murals, reliefs, that sort of thing," says the captain.
"I thought we was looking for an idol," confusedly replies Paxton.
"We are. But there are likely many here--it looks as though the place has changed hands a number of times. We need to narrow our search."
|Zero Kiryu||"I see. It is disturbing because it reflects fundamental truths about the origin of all the rest of this," Zero observes towards Ciaran. He sounds distant, distracted. That's because he is. The heated blood is lively, the thoughts within it obnoxiously energetic. He's not certain if it could be described as a hive mind, although it would be a reasonable enough comparison to make that were he forced to describe it he would use the term.
"If that's the case," he surveys Ciaran herself with some interest now, "can you be sure it was a complete failure, since it did produce a form of 'life' in its own right? And if such a thing is possible with any sufficient density of souls..."
He allows the thought to drift on the air, not completing it, and makes a face. It's definitely the taste.
An echo of his voice hums in the back of Billy's mind-- as well as anyone proximal to him, << Gruesome boulder traps are adjacent to reasonable reality in this place, and a few others. The things that kill you here are more likely to be lively... after a fashion. >>
<< Don't trust sketchy merchants. >> A mental image flashes past of a non-local iteration of a man who could be Patches's brother, or perhaps cousin-- insofar as that means anything to anyone.
The image of a grenade trap flickers past, quick as blinking.
|Kukuru||"Darn. That didn't work, but at least now we know the door's super... All around it, I think." Kukuru comments as she takes her claws off the excessively long door, wiping some of the stone dust off with her skirt to try and figure out her next angle to get this door open. Pavo did mention the idols, so that's as good of a plan as any if she gets something useful from Ciaran!
Alas, it sounds like Ciaran's not going to be as good of a source of info on these things compared to everyone that's already dead, leaving Kukuru with... Actually, it's a good bit of information to have, although none of it is particularly helpful to her at this point.
Still, that leaves trying to actually figure out where to look next for the idols. Recalling the map, she squints her eyes to get a good-enough look at where Pavo and Flint's men are headed, then holds her arms out to her sides. "If anyone wants to get there, grab on."
Once everyone that wants to head over is grabbing an arm or whatever, Kukuru and co. just disappear in swirl of darkness before appearing in a second swirl right over at the pyramids. It's not a particularly glamorous or shiny effect, but it works!
Without actually recognizing any of these figures, though, trying to identify the right one to try bringing back is an exercise in frustration. She tries looking for ones that look considerably older or shinier, as though that might actually help her figure out which one could be worth bringing back. ALternatively, if someone identifies a potential match?
She'll just try teleporting back to the doors with the person identifying it and the object itself.
|Tomoe||Tomoe is keeping with the Starbounders for now and she looks over to Seft for a moment then humms.
"I admit sometimes I'd like to blast my way through but this is not a world where that would even be remotely wise to do so."
She looks back then will take the flight gear as she can't fly for more than a few seconds underground like this and away she goes after Pavo. She's not so proud as to take help to fly in a situation like this. So she keeps up with Pavo for the most part and will come in for a landing a bit after her as she starts to look down.
"Not much left is there I suspect all we'll find down here is the thing we were sent to get."
She will come in for a landing now and she'll ready her weapons.
"I'll keep the locals busy while you put your skills to use right?"
Tomoe will do her best to engage the monster should Pavo need it, she'll put Dawnbreaker to work if it's needed.
|Yuuki Kuran||A sheepish look sinks into Yuuki's face as the firestuff butterflies take on lives of their own from the chaotic fire. "It's always impressive how oddly hostile some of the deep places can be, but Priscilla's world really wears the colors of an intense place, rather than playing at being soft and gentle and welcoming, doesn't it?"
Asks the five foot something shoujo to the gigachad knight lady. "Still, the smell here is better. That bog was terrible, while this is..."
"Well, it's not the worst. Is this some other sort of life, that has continued? It's terrible to think that there is so much decline."
"Still, I suppose that's our job here. To help stop that. And even if they're in incredibly inconvenient places, we'll find them!"
She drops an accusatory-informative finger. "Oh, and yes, we're here for the mission. No shady deals!"
|Starbound Flotilla|| Pavo regards the environment critically, but regarding it critically is just the preface to regarding it positively. The knightly carvings draw her footsteps, of course, because anywhere like that ought to honor the collaboration between Gwyn and the Witch, but she adores seeing these carvings. "Seems they had a few inklings of what was coming." She mutters, a grin cracking wide over her beak. "Or... had the good sense to make their divinity look a little *non-traditional*, at least. Guess demons and gods weren't too different for them. Game recognize game, maybe she fucked up bad, but at least she delivered on the atmosphere."
Anything in that hallway styled after Anor Londo? "Only other option besides *here* is that throne. Only one who was ever gonna get through that ward was gonna be top dog of *something*." She rambles, stroking her chin. "We're looking for anything about Anor Londo and anything about the kind of boss of things who'd be the one to walk through those doors. Watch the footing, too; lot of missing wood. Missing... metal, too? What the hell kinda fire... Must have been one real big magnum opus to get that done."
|Priscilla|| Ciaran regards Zero in a way that comes across as intensely thoughtful despite wearing a full-face mask. "With many things, there can only be victory or failure, without degrees between them. In most matters, coming close to grasping success, but falling short, still yields rewards of its own; one walks away not empty handed. But in some, coming close only results in something worse; one would best attain everything they hope for, or do nothing at all."
"It is something, I imagine, Izalith herself must have thought long about. One could call it an achievement regardless, but I don't think she was the kind to see it that way. She surely knew the scale of the forces of creation she manipulated, and that if she could not recreate the First Flame exactly, it would mean the end of the world. Timber feeds a fire, but fire does not spring spontaneous from 'enough timber'. Only the Witches could know what it is that she attempted, but no one could fault her for anything but attempting the impossible."
She adds to Yuuki as well, "Of course there is no mistake that it is alive. It is a testament to her brilliance that the Chaos would resemble the Flame of our world so closely. But in reality, it became only blight upon everything else, rather than our salvation. The demonic incursion was the last, great war that the Knights of Gwyn fought. And I say that a flame that bears only destruction and produces only stunted and twisted monsters cannot a world sustain."
Walking around the temple on foot turns out to be the kind of mistake called 'entering a Dark Souls' level, with the modifier 'didn't read the item text'. Entering the hall of Gwyn-acknowleging architecture is a perfectly safe approach for Pavo; it strikes her as a sort of minority district in an ancient city's main religious area, though it may have also served the purpose of visitation. However, the statues that *aren't* of knights turn out to be exactly as Ciaran said: all of this was made a long time before demons. So the statues of demons, aren't.
Sure, they look exactly like the same vaguely unpleasant, fire-warped stone that makes up the surroundings. Sure, they're perfectly still and silent. Sure, they're . . . floating an inch off the plinths, actually, looking up close. That doesn't mean they won't immediately vomit streamers of writhing fire on everyone's backs the moment they turn around, from churning rocky guts full of lava. They certainly aren't inhibited from slowly hovering out of place and sneaking silently up behind the inattentive to try and pick someone up and cram them into their snagglefanged maws with both spindly t-rex arms. There's no rule that they can't bleed magma and dissolve into molten sludge when defeated, albeit they appear to not suffer for any poison this time.
There are no direct matches to the figures on the doors; of course it wouldn't be that simple. There are numerous places where such an effigy might have stood, but does no longer. Burnt, moved, destroyed, who knows. There are matching carvings on the walls in many places, but the six plus one appears to be a very common motif, repeated in everything up to and including weird seven-sided rooms. Murals and reliefs, as Flint seeks instead, are plentiful, and guide him to where Pavo intends to explore as a matter of seeking authority.
There's no real telling what was originally kept in that room; it certainly wasn't actually a throne by any indication. However, the deep etchings arrange six faceless figures in a crescent facing the knight passage entrance, such that the extra giant and hideous demon-on-a-pedestal is oriented between them in the right configuration to be the 'plus one'. Except, subversively, this one doesn't actually seem to be a demon. Or, maybe it was a very long time ago, but all that's left is a cold, stone husk. There are contradictory signs, on close examination, that there was originally something underneath it, like it had grown over the remains of the plinth somehow.
|Captain Flint|| "I suspect you're quite right," says Captain Flint to Pavo. He arrives in the same place as her, and he and his men look worse for wear. Billy's arm bears the signs of a hidden demon's toothy maw, the wound hastily tied over with a bloodied rag. Mr. Paxton appears to have had his back badly burned, evident when he cautiously circles around upon entering the room, his shirt hanging off of him in rags. So that would be the source of the screams and sporadic gunfire from earlier, then.
"Why're they hiding where the statues were, anyway?" asks Joshua, his face sporting an unsightly gash that wasn't present in the tunnel Albert made. Though it's already plenty hot here, the exertion of fighting off an ambush by demons in wait sees all of the pirates present clearly fatigued. Sweat holds their clothes to their bodies, and breaths are, for a moment, labored, as everyone catches theirs.
Joshua's question just gets a shrug from Billy. "Fuck if I know. Maybe Zero would. But let's focus on the idol."
Flint frowns, and nods at Billy. His cutlass is still out, steam rising off of it from where it kissed the molten blood of a demonic foe. Engaging them in close combat... isn't ideal. But he hardly had much of a choice. After hurling a sharp stone in the direction of the 'plus one' which stands between the faceles figures, Flint, and his crew, are satisfied that this one really is just a statue.
Stepping closer to inspect it, cutlass still drawn, Flint peers towards the base of the plinth. "This wasn't always here. Unless you've got a better idea, we can remove it and see what lies beneath." With a beckoning gesture from a flame-touched hand, Mr. Vincent is called forward. He procures five lengths of rope. Assuming there's no objection from Pavo, they'll tie up the stony figure, and, working in tandem, pull it from its plinth to see what lies beneath. There's enough for Pavo to join in, too, and given the rather fantastical feats those from this world are known to do, the captain wouldn't at all be surprised if her strength were necessary.
|Kukuru||The first time a statue comes to life behind Kukuru, she doesn't even notice until it's already within grabbing range with those shitty little arms. She even gets some fire belched on her for good measure, and the... Whatever she is screams bloody murder as the closest thing she has to an early warning alarm system. That, of course, is followed by digging her claws into that first one and mashing it into a sludgy paste, but at least she can heal herself.
Physically, anyway. The mental hit is another story, as it's going to become a little more difficult to relax until she calms herself down and rips apart a few more similar fire-breathing not-statues for good measure.
At the very least, it narrows down how many statues might have to be brought back to brute-force that door. She's even particularly careful about going after those types of statues from that point forward! At the rate things are going, however, Kukuru looks a little more anxious. Is going through all these things really going to open the door at all? How much door even is there if that last attempt just showed it stretching all the way to the other wall that might also be more door?
"All of these... Uh. What're these called?" She taps on a plinth while reaching into her pocket with her other hand, somehow fitting the claw inside and stepping back as Flint has Vincent and some rope brought out. "It looks weird, yeah. Like... Yeah, that thing you said. Hopefully, it's not too far down, or we'd have to do even more digging and maybe risking those outside-demons again. But if that's the case, we'll figure it out later."
Instead of getting her hands on the plinth to start digging it out herself, Kukuru's content to leave that task to Flint. She does, however, channel some of her energy at Pavo and the crew, giving them an inhuman strength boost to make the removal process that much easier.
|Tomoe||Tomoe should have known better than to do this but couldn't leave part of the team like this. So she would keep alert and let Pavo do sniffing out what they are needed for. She gets the fun bit of fighting horrible monsters that this world is very well known for. She has no ice or water magic which will complicate things a bit for her but she's able to keep on her toes, moving and not sitting still. Even with her endurance and ability to take damage? She's getting more than a little roughed up and she's having to play dodge the magma blood too when they go down.
"Anything good so far Pavo?"
She'll fall into a pattern in the room to let Pavo get to work, while she gets a chance to take a short breather and recover a little from the fighting.
"Must have been some crazy fire, then again how long has it been down here with all the magma blooded thing crawling about too? Either way, it's something I won't be able to forget..."
|Zero Kiryu||"I understand. The magnitude of what she needed to do was existential to this place... and although it was successful from a certain point of view, it simply caused problems for the people that needed a grand solution to begin with," Zero says to Ciaran, fishing a packet out of his pocket and popping tablets into his mouth. It is absolutely to get the HOT and GROSS taste out.
"Given what you know the result is, would you say this is the only possible outcome, or was the attempt a feasible one?"
Meanwhile, somebody expresses a thought about him. Zero directs his thoughts back to Flint's group: << That is the way of this world. It is a faded, guttering thing. Secrets are guarded most jealously, and some things are unthinkably old. The foundations of some of the cities drive down so deep into the earth that I would characterize them as the floor of all things, here. >>
<< Which is not to say that I understand the cause in this particular case. Time erodes all things that have not somehow made themselves eternal. And I think, perhaps, those beings that were wise of the ways of this cosmos did not truly wish to share that knowledge, for fear that someone less able would push here, or tug there, and undo it all. >>
Zero pauses in his steps, noticing something. His senses swivel this way and that, feeling out... irregularities.
A pulse of thought races outward towards the demon "statues": << Survive. >>
It is more complex than that. Zero expects both that they have a survival instinct, and that they share a consciousness based on what happened with the demon he tasted. He can't hop to offer more complex commands, but the notion of, 'This is an unwise fight to pick.' is one he thinks he can push on them.
|Starbound Flotilla|| "HELL!" Pavo roars as fire falls over her shoulders, bubbling the reactive surface of her armor and filling her vision with holographic, elegantly religious warnings. Whipping around, the three orbs that compose her ranged weapon are already looking to obliterate offensive religious iconography. The sword in the hand not busy directing them is held defensively, intent on slicing any others that approach. But zipping around as she hover-dashes away gets her enough distance to not suffer more, at least, and she's aware enough of the layout of a religious construction to know where to go to avoid turning her back on the statues.
Getting back to the Anor Londo Hall, she links back up with Flint's men. "Good an idea as any. Pray for my salvation and I'm always happy to give it." She speaks up, squawking smugly through the pain. She joins in, setting her wing pack to high thrust and add some *significant* strength to the pull, trying to uncover what's below. It couples with Kukuru's energies, which route through the psionic subsystems Seft's built into all this. "Only one thing good so far!" She's called out to Tomoe. "And it might be lost. Might been stolen by one of these damn demons."
|Priscilla|| After a few rounds of hot, claustrophobic, dangerous, and extremely scuffed room to room combat, Zero's command propagates throughout the immediate area. A strange combination of 'every single demon in the vicinity picks up on it at once' and 'not all of them act the same way' without any strong pattern sets in. The bulk of the slowl, floating ambush predators go still or retreat back to their original positions. Many more simply don't aggro. Some continue to attack regardless, and must be dealt with either way. A handful go wandering and aren't seen again.
Ciaran, after cutting down a couple of foes herself, goes as far as to say "You do. As far as it matters." to Zero claiming to understand. "Not many people who say so are correct. In matters of Fire . . . no, matters of anything so ancient at all, I cannot say though. Gwyn, Izalith, Nito, Seath. The Lords were beings far older and far more learned than I. They may have guarded what they knew for many reasons, but Lord Gwyn surely knew most, and protected it best."
"My thoughts of whether it could have been possible have no meaning, nor any weight. However, if Izalith, the originator of the Fire Arts herself, was unable to do so, then I believe it must be, at least, very close to impossible. I believe that Lord Gwyn would not have left everything behind if he believed there were any alternative. The fact that he permitted it to be tried regardless . . . the best I can assume is that, under certain conditions, the idea may have long ago once been plausible, but by the time it was attempted, unachievable. That perhaps the potential for things that 'could be' was subtly different than it once was."
"Ultimately, I cannot say. I am a Knight of Gwyn. I am no Witch, no God, no Dragon, and no Lord."
Flint's men in conjunction with Kukuru and Pavo succeed at uprooting the statue completely. Pieces of it crumble away in the attempt, requiring more physical strength put towards the task than the relatively more delicate horns and protrusions can stand. In places the various twists and extrusions break off, the outline of a very different sort of sculpture can be guessed at below it, since warped in a very strange way.
|Priscilla|| It isn't simply attached to the plinth by the feet, though. The deadwood roots that pervade the entire underground city have wound tight and opaque around something that once occupied a 'flipside' to it, vertically inverted into a chamber beneath the floor. Though they've since pried apart and destroyed it, they've then formed a kind of wicker cage, dead and brittle, around a glowing orb of what looks like flame blown out like glass, and apparently exactly as fragile, as it breaks quite suddenly in the move.
Doing so, fortunately, is what cuts off the last remaining seal on that door, extinguishing the similarly coloured lights in its grooves and carvings. Returning to the sealed, buried, cubic chamber, the inside truly turns out to be nothing but a bare floor, a raised central portion, four stone torches in the corners that suddenly blaze to life as soon as someone enters, and a tablet --a slab really-- propped up on a carved lectern of sorts.
A hefty chunk of what appears to be solid, rough-textured metal, oddly cold to the touch, and slightly irregular around the edges, like it'd been broken off something. Horizontally oriented, it's been covered in very finely engraved and measured runes, in a script that is 'actually, genuinely unreadable, and not in any databases', on the left side, and what appears to be a local star chart painstakingly depicted on the right side.
The center is split through with a neat, perfectly circular hole, somehow punched through four inches of solid metal. Or melted, rather, because its edges still glow with a ring of red hot light, collected like a liquid that 'drips' down from its bottom edge, and terminates at the edge of the tablet, as if still freshly superheated. Only that part bears script that translates to the most archaic runes of Anor Londo, to the phrase:
"Seal of Fire"
It looks very familiar.