Magical Mystery Tour

Briefing

You have all been called to a meeting by messenger identifying themselves as being from Minos, and asked to come with them. The identification is reliable. You are taken to a parking garage in the UCAS sector and ushered into a van. The van is nondescript save for black-tinted windows, an outgoing electronics/communication jammer, and some astral wards on it…okay, so not necessarily nondescript, from the inside.

You're asked, very politely, to disable recording and tracking equipment as the van leaves. The people bringing you here provide you with enough identification and other nicey-nice to make you agreeable to complying. The van drives for a while, eventually stopping in a small underground garage whence the doors open. It's unclear where you are, exactly. A man in a white coat smiles nervously at you, and leads you down a corridor to a conference room where Minos is waiting.

Oh, and you're told to bring a "travel bag" with whatever you might need for a possibly dangerous extended trip.

Someone is being paranoid, here… But then again, Janie doesn't necessarily object to people being supremely cautious when they're trustworthy. That doesn't mean she feels like putting the nervous man at ease as she follows him into the conference room.
She nods at Minos. "I believe ye wanted t'see me?" she asks.

Weeko looks a bit subdued. All this is quite out of her league stuff. Though she's trying to keep her spirits up. He few belonging in matter of running gear easily fit in her belt pouch, her old and worn jacket not really fitting to the rest of her gear.

Katral is carrying his sportsbag, with all the essentials he usually needs if things go south. He somewhat trusts Minos, if mostly from Weeko's swearing by him, but the way things are going lately he can't help but bring a little backup. That doesn't include any sort of tracking equipment he's trying to hide, however. He pushes his sunglasses back, the archetypical runner in that regard, following without speaking up for the most part.

An extended, dangerous trip. The last time Kassandra heard that line, she ended up in Antarctica. The elf doesn't pack lightly, bringing a backpack and two military-issue duffle bags with her. The small elf will enlist help loading the gear up, otherwise riding in silence until they reach their appointed destination.


«Plot» Janie says, "'travel bag' contains:Four spare clips, two live, two APDS (with gel clips loaded). She'll inquire whether ammunition might be an issue - if so, she'll bring another thirty live rounds loose in a bag. Aside from that, both her taccom units, her goggles, and her Savalette Guardian loaded with AV rounds."
«Plot» Janie says, "This in addition to the shades she's wearing and her usual combo of lined coat over Zoe second skin."
«Plot» Janie says, "Focus is worn but not active. Guns are loaded with gel but holstered."
«Plot» Minos says, "Hokay"


Minos looks quite serious, an unusual condition for him…but he's been pretty tense lately regardless. "Thank you all for coming," he begins. "The first thing I'm going to ask is going to be a simple yes or no question. Aside from, perhaps, having heard the word once or twice bandied about, are any of you familiar with the term "Fourth World" or anything about it?"

«Plot» Katral is keeping his Uzi III, along with his deck (though he's been adviced against taking it along), in his bag. He's clad in the armor set up in his sheet, and wearing the special sunglasses in his inventory.

Janie nods. "Ehran th'Scribe refers to th'last time th'mana levels were high enough f'r magic t'exist that way - each 'World' beginnin' an' endin' when th'level hits th'treshold on th'way up or down."

Katral hums, scratching at his datajack. As a decker, he's not really privy to the magical discussions that usually go around, but as a frequent member of the Shadowlands and Denver's databases, he's heard… stuff. "Bits and pieces. I recall hearing about it back when I was visiting in Europe… something about.." He lets Janie finish as she pipes up. "Yeah, something 'bout old ways of life and conspiracies, nothing I could name exactly."

Kassandra raises an eyebrow. She doesn't respond directly, instead nodding to Janie's comment. The elf listens, eyes drinking in the scene, flicking to the other participants. She simply motions for Minos to continue, finding a place to lean.

Weeko shrugs, "Imma bin fugurin' dat iffen we live Inna 6th world, dere mus' have bin a 4th 'n 5th too…"

Minos nods to Weeko. "All right. The second thing…" he sighs. "is something which I don't think I have to say to you, but I want you to consider that given my personality, what I'm saying is pretty important and serious…and what is behind it is worth my saying it." He pauses. "What I am about to tell you, and what you are about to engage in, involves a secret that is very, very important to keep. You can't tell 'runner stories about this, and if you're going to even talk about it to each other in the future, you should do it in very private rooms with shielding and make sure that there are no astral forms that can listen. You can't paraphrase about it and you shouldn't post about it on Shadowland."

"There are a scant handful of people on the planet that know what you are about to learn, and most of them would kill you to keep it secret. Samuel and I speak of it only in a language that, we believe, only four people on the planet can speak or understand. If you believe, for whatever reason, that you cannot keep this secret, leaving is an option…well, for everyone except Weeko." He pauses. "I'm not going to threaten to kill you because I don't have to; if you speak about this in the wrong place, someone other than myself or the Draco Foundation, will almost certainly kill you. It's a heavy burden. You can leave if you wish and absolutely no stigma will be attached to your leaving."

Kassandra doesn't move. The elf watches Minos, quietly considering his words and the impact on the others. She seems content to stay for the whole show, regardless of what it might be.
Weeko blinks, feeling out of her league now for more than ever and in this case it shows openly. "Wha do ya mean…Imma jus' wantin' te git rid o' dis damn curse…", she complains.

Katral ponders this, and looks oddly torn. "I hate keeping important secrets…. I'd wanna post it the moment I got out of here, and spread the word, but…." He looks over to Weeko and gently places a hand on her arm. "But for her, I'll keep my mouth shut. And you have my word I won't spread it around."
Minos nods to Weeko. "I know, but it's a lot more complicated than that, Weeko, and I'm sorry to scare the Hell out of you, believe me I am." He turns on a powerpoint presentation in the background that has charts and graphs and stuff to highlight his briefing.

"A little background. The nature of time was puzzled out by the Mayans quite a long time ago, but they didn't have it all. The time we are currently living in is known colloquially as the Sixth World, but few people spend a lot of time wondering what that really means. Time, and existance, moves in cycles related to how much magic there is in the universe. We are currently at the very beginning of what is called the Sixth World. The Fifth World, the period that ended in 2011, was a time where there was no magic in the world worth mentioning; no elves, dwarves, trolls, or orks; no dragons or mages. Some say this was an ideal time." He snorts. "The fifth world began about five thousand years ago or so. Before that, in the Fourth World…things were a bit like the old fantasy novels you may have read."

"Swords and sorcery, no technology, everything powered by magic; people capable of amazing feats. It was in this time that the dragons were strong and numerous, and elves and orks and dwarves and trolls were everywhere. During the end of this time, elves and other metatypes (for the most part) magically "died out" but their…essential racial essences, if you would, were encoded in the human genome, and it was only possible for them to come out again - or express, as we call UGE, which is not exactly "Unexplained"-when magic was coming back into the world, as it did."

Kassandra narrows her eyes, letting her gaze fall on Weeko and Katral. The woman considers the pair for a long moment before Alexander starts the presentation. She frowns ever so slightly, watching the charts and graphs go by. Her fingers twitch for a moment, patting at her side for her secretary. Her frown deepens as she finds it absent, one of the items absconded when they asked for recording items.
Janie has disconnected.

Weeko frowns, wondering what all that has to do with her curse, fascinating as it may be.

Katral ponders this, but he doesn't seem as shocked as he may have. He's heard about the conspiracy theories regarding just why everyone goblinized tons of times, and this little tidbit was stuck in there. While it may be fun to find a theory to actually be truth, at least from this guy's perspective, it's not a worldchanger.

Minos says "The dragons went into a long slumber underground." He pauses. "Now…during the time of the Fourth World, there was a very bad thing that, in that time period, happened. In the center of the period of magic-when it was at the strongest; some…things…came through a dimensional barrier. For those of you who aren't mages…and who are…well, there's Astral Space; where the metaplanes are - where all the spirits come from. The place these things came from is beyond Astral Space, and it's only reachable, normally, when magic levels are very high. The things were called Horrors, and the time during which this occurred - lasting about 800 years in the center of the Fourth World period - was called the Scourge." He takes a glass of water from a group of them in the middle of the table, and takes a sip. "During this time, these Horrors manifested fully in the real world.

"They were, for lack of a better term, giant fragging monsters and small fragging monsters and things that were not like anything but the mad, dark nightmares of human and metahuman consciousness. They had motives and desires alien to anything we know, really, but one thing in common they had: they wanted to destroy, and rape, and plunder, and do inscrutable things to our sort of life. And they did. Vast populations were killed or driven insane, and no magic or power could really combat them at the time. What the world did in the Fourth World was to dig itself in, at least the portions that survived, underground, in places known mostly as Cairns. They rode it out like a nuclear shockwave.""

Minos says "It is due to this massive death and destruction caused by the Scourge that there are so few records of the Fourth World remaining."

Kassandra nods, accepting what she is told for the moment. The elf watches the display change, noting the various charts and displays. She keeps her own council for the moment, letting the minotaur spin the yarn.
Weeko blinks, shivering as she imagines a time like that. A good imagination not really being a nice thing at all times. Then some hesitation in her voice, she asks, "Ya don't wanna imply Imma cured by some kinda…horror…?", she asks her question trailing off as she realizes she might not really want to learn the truth about that.

Minos says "Now…to make a long story short, normally the Scourge shows up 800 years or so into a magcial cycle, which would normally give us til about 2811 before this even became relevant. But people have gotten a lot more creative since the time of the Fourth World, apparently, and when Howling Coyote called upon the magic of the Great Ghost Dance, he caused an early spike in the mana levels that drew the attention of the Horrors. While they haven't been powerful enough to invade the Sixth World en masse…they've been able to send agents through in small numbers to speed their arrival."

He pauses. "One of the things that the Horrors can do, that no one else we know of can do, is corrupt people. We don't know how, or what it really looks like, but we do know it can cause aural disruption and changes to people's spirits themselves; causing their personalities to change or marking them for something else the Horrors have in mind." He pauses and looks at Weeko and says, "And Weeko has a mark on her aura that no one that I know of has been able to identify, not in this World.""

Kassandra lets her gaze rest back on Weeko. It doesn't take a mind reader to see what the elf is thinking, the sentance she would lay down. She glances back to Minos, working to hold her tongue for the moment. Still, the elf's body language and poster shift, moving from a more relaxed stance into more of a 'fight or flight' mode.

Minos holds up a finger. "That does NOT mean we know for sure she is Horror-touched or tainted or has to die or is going to have horrible things happen. IF we knew that for certain, we wouldn't be having this conversation. It just means that right now, we haven't been able to explain what's wrong with her and we don't have the ability, in this world, with our resources, to know for sure whether the mark on her is a Horror-mark. Which is where you come in, and why we're having this meeting."

Katral clutches Weeko's hand as this is lain on them. Not for his own sake, but out of an immediate need to help steady her for what she's being told.

Weeko blanches, "Ya know…Imma not likin' da way dis 's goin…" Her body shivering a bit, but she still is showing some definite will to at least appear stern and then suddenly her jaws clench, "Ya don't wanna tell me some Horror is afta me children!", she asks now suddenly rage in her voice. "Cause if dem are, dem's gonna see some Ork motha kick some Horror butts…or wha'eva dem have fer dat…"

Minos closes his eyes. "The only people we know who can identify, or provide clues about, the nature of the Horrors are those who've lived in the Fourth World. Immortal elves, ancient dragons, and the like. For various and sundry reasons, the Draco Foundation does not wish to involve any of those in this situation, largely because the reaction of these folks, by and large, would be extremely negative.

"They put a great deal of energy and effort into making sure that humanity doesn't know drek about the Scourge, because they believe and possibly rightly so that there would be widespread panic, and no one would know what to do, and that it would hasten the arrival of the Scourge. So they sit and wait and plan and move to counter these things and sometimes they're extreme about their methods." He pauses. "And now for another story, and I promise I'll try to make this one shorter and get to the question-and-answer part of our presentation."

Katral cautions Weeko with another clutch of his hand. "Ya don't have to worry about that.. I'm sure it's made out of enough butt for all of us to kick."

Kassandra nods once as Minos continues. She lets her gaze drift back to the pair again, mouth a tight line.

Minos says "Near the end of the 20th century, a group of scientists who were part of an organization known as Majestic 12 found a large bronze…device in the caverns beneath the Caucasus Mountains in eastern Europe/western Asia. They somehow disappeared, and the machine was moved to an underground cave in Kentucky where it was studied for a while and then abandoned. In 2063, a group of shadowrunners including myself and Samuel were hired by a subsidiary of the Shiawase Corporation to investigate disturbances around the part of Kentucky that they were mining in.

"We found the Machine in an abandoned mineshaft at the center of the magical disturbance. It activated, and we disappeared from this World." He takes a breath. "The Machine is…a very powerful version of a Memory Crystal created by a Great Western Dragon who is now dead. A Memory Crystal is sort of like…well, think of it as the magical version of an Ultraviolet-level Matrix host. A completely absorbant virtual reality indistinguishable from our own, something like…I guess an artificially-created metaplane that can only be accessed by the Machine. In this metaplane is, in essence, the Fourth World near its nadir, at the end of the time of the Scourge.

"The dragon that created it, who was at the end of his life, hit upon this Machine as its way of surviving the way that other dragons survived; only in spirit inside the Machine; hoping that during the Sixth World someone would activate the Machine and he could come out in spirit form. This didn't happen, thanks to us, but the Machine still remains. And inside the Machine are living, breathing spirits of a sort who are dopplegangers of the real people and beings who were alive at that time, and some of them, from within the Machine, and with our help, have been brought up to date with what has been going on in this time period. And amongst those beings is Dunkelzahn, or a version of him.""

Minos says "You're going to enter the world of the Machine and take Weeko to visit Dunkelzahn's spirit, where he will examine her aura and see if what we suspect is true. Then you're going to find out from him what we might do about it. Because he knows how to deal with, and fight, Horrors. His life was spent in this world arguing with his peers about telling Humanity about the Scourge, and he believed that in this World, we were smart enough to stop them."

Minos says "The floor is now open for questions and discussion."

Open Questions

Kassandra stares at Minos as he explains about the Great Machine and the hidden world within. The elf looks on in mild disbelief, holding her questions until the end, "Excuse me, Mr. Michaels, but .. why?" The woman shrugs and asks, "Not to be uncaring, but why not end this threat right now instead of taking a possibly one way journey?" The elf pushes off the wall, her frown deepening, "And for that matter, shouldn't there be a contingent of magically-inclined individuals going on this journey? I am not quite sure what I would do in the .. what was it? .. 4th World?"

Weeko blinks. "We are going to visit a…copy? of Dunkelzahn? To visit a fraggin' dragon!? Ter tell us wha' Imma draggin' round wid me!?", she shurely is far from enjoying the prospect and it clearly shows. Kassandra simply demanding to eliminate the threat, gets an answer, "Killing thousands o' innocent children? Ya jokin'?"

Kassandra narrows her eyes, looking from Weeko to Minos, "Explain? What thousand innocent children?" The elf pinches the bridge of her nose, adding, "Not to be difficult, but these little surprises are problematic. Is there some sort of explaination?"

Minos replies to Kassandra, "Two reasons. First, because Weeko isn't the only one. There was an orphanage, with a bunch of other children; and that orphanage had been around for decades; and the children there *now* seem to have different taints. Second, because we don't just fragging kill things we don't understand."

Minos says "And believe me, I've had that argument about six times with other people who think that simply destroying everything around and connected to the Orphanage would be the best move. What I got was permission to send the Watchers into the Machine to talk to Dunkelzahn before they started unloading the heavy firepower."

Minos says "Oh, and the magically-inclined individuals will be joining you in the Machine. They're just not here yet; they've been held up for various reasons. It won't be a problem, because one of the unique properties of the Machine is time dilation. I spent 20 years or more, subjective, in it…and it was only two weeks in the Real World."

Katral hums as he listens to all this. Majestic 12? Naw… couldn't be. But whatever the case, he's seemingly willing to go through with it , as he soon speaks up. "What'll happen with our ware and stuff in there? Shortcircut, or just hold us down?"

Weeko blinks, "Ya … what!"

Minos simply nods to Weeko. "Yes, you'll be visiting Dunkelzahn." He looks to Katral, and smiles broadly. "Now there's an interesting question. Within the Machine, you'll apparently change. Your 'ware will…well…it'll essentially become the magical equivalent of whatever it actually is. You'll be sort of like physical adepts that can do whatever your 'ware can do. The Machine apparently translates your aura and its intent into whatever your idealized representation of yourself would be inside of it. Also, you'll be a shitload more powerful in there than you are out here."

Kassandra doesn't look particularly convinced, nor does she offer a counter-argument. The elf clicks her tongue, moving back to the wall. The woman listens, a frown still marring her otherwise attractive features.

Katral pokes at his head, sighing. "I'm more of a brain-guy than a clobbering-time kinda one… but if I can figure out a way to keep ourselves afloat in there, I guess I'm all for it. …. ya said idealized? I'd be some kinda giant robot?"

Weeko ponders, "Idda not change dat much den….I /am/ a physical adept, afta all. Wha's goin' ter happen wid me kids? Dere any danger fer dem?"

Minos chuckles. "I doubt it. You'll retain your metahuman form, but you'll probably lose a few pounds and look a bit more muscular. Your 'ware will likely appear, if it's visible, to be made of crystal." He looks to

Weeko and says, hesitantly, "We're not sure. We sent the doctors to you to examine you and make their best guesses as to the effect of being pregnant inside the Machine. They don't believe there's a risk; they feel that the physical nature of pregnancy won't change in the time-dilated Machine world…in other words, you won't give birth and for your fetuses, only the real-world time will pass out here. But we're not certain."

Weeko blinks, "Great…so's fully possible dat Imma goin' ter give birth In dere 'n Inna real world as well…"

It just keeps getting better. Kassandra glances between Minos and Weeko, shaking her head slowly. The elf looks to the floor, perhaps hoping to find some answers there.
Minos says very seriously, "It's also possible you'll miscarry."

Katral sighs, nodding sadly. "I… I sort of got that, yeah." He looks over towards Weeko , obviously concerned. "Maybe we should take some extra precautions?"

Weeko grits her teeth, "Imma guessin' dere's not many alternatives ter dat…still I mighta miscarry 'n real life too…'n wid dat curse…who knows wha will happen eventually…Imma not goin' ter raise an horror."
Minos says "It's just a possibility. We don't *know* anything for certain."

Weeko ponders, "So…wha's got use ter git wid us? Imma meanin' we're not gonna 'travel' da way we usually do…righ'?"

Minos says "Well, this is what's going to happen. You're going to go into the next room, where you'll be permitted to essentially borrow any gear you might possibly want that the Foundation can provide, which is a pretty extensive list. You'll be given time to…imprint it in your memory, as it were. Then you'll be taken to the Machine interface area, which is…well, a bunch of hospital beds built, essentially, to take care of comatose people, which you'll be while you're in the Machine. Then you'll be interfaced to the Machine.

Currently, the interface drops you off in a cavern underneath the Rocky Mountains, where we've set up a sort of…exploration base on that side. Then you'll travel to Dunkelzahn's lair in Lake Louise, up in the Algonkin-Manitou Council near Calgary…though of course it's not called that, there. The journey is about 1200 miles. I recommend you do it stealthily, because if Weeko *is* Horror-tainted and someone who recognizes that sees you, they'll likely try to kill all of you.""

Kassandra shakes her head slowly, "I don't know that I can do this. Given the state the city is in right now, I cannot be gone for two weeks. For that matter, I'm still not convinced that any would-be assassins wouldn't be correct in their actions, given the history you just told us."

Katral hums and looks the rest of the group over. "What sorta stuff would you recommend I grab? I'm not usually down with the whole imprinting magic business."

Janie has remained silent up to now, processing what Minos just revealed, then almost visibly forces her mind to switch gears. Gibber later. Consider practicalities first. She turns to Kassandra. "We're not killin' a whole bunch o'kids 'just t'be sure'. When it's clear, an'when we're certain there's no other option, then, yes - an' I'll be right next t'ye pullin' triggers. But not until then."

She turns to Minos. "Cyberware gets translated; what happens t'high tech equipment like guns an'comm gear?" she asks. Obviously they can take it with them somehow, but she wants to know how precisely.

Samuel steps in to the room on that note… "Guns, I can say as of my last visit?" He says, pulling out a cigarette. "Remain blissfully… guns."

Kassandra looks heavenward, then closes her eyes and counts heartbeats, waiting for her blood pressure to come down. The elf doesn't say anything; rather, she simply waits, unwilling to further argue with the others.

Samuel then glances to Minos. "unless, there was a shift in its matrix."

Weeko ponders, "So…wha's gonna change?"

Minos says "Well, there's this thing about technology and the Machine. Guns seem to work okay, but some of their higher-tech functions aren't always reliable; I wouldn't try to be a rigger, or set up a remote gun in these situations. There's no Matrix. There are no satellites, no long-range communications seem to work outside of radio and that's limited in distance. There's no Docwagon. You can't get more ammunition. The food is not soy, which is good. You'll see things you've never seen before. We have some local staff on the other side.""

Katral ponders all this for a moment, then asks "Would they be worried about us carrying guns, tho? I mean, it's not common-place.."

"I don't suppose th'base camp on th'inside has somethin' o'a supply o'bullets, or will we have t'bring all our own entirely?" Janie asks. She did come somewhat prepared, but…

Minos says "Well, there will be bullets at the base camp; but you're travelling 1200 miles away to the nearest place where there are more bullets; so pack heavy enough on ammo that you've got what you might need. The good news is, none of your oppo has guns; the bad news is, they do other things pretty damn well." He turns to Janie and says, "Don't bring any spirits into the Machine. It eats them.""

Samuel settles in to a seat with a cup of coffee. He so loves the look on their faces when they learn the scope of what the watchers actually -do-. "Have you told them about the higher scope of mana in DunksLunchbox?"

Kassandra opens her eyes, her gaze drifting to Mr. Finn (Samuel) and then to Minos. She simply listens at the moment, absorbing what information she can.

Minos looks at Samuel and says, "Sort of…though I was mostly of the impression that it's best to have them experience that for themselves…how would you explain it?"

Katral quirks an eyebrow. "It EATS spirits? What do those even taste like?" His joke somewhat inappropriate, he coughs, and goes back to being the silent type.

Minos grins. "Chicken."

Janie glares at Katral, clearly not amused.

Samuel purses his lips, thinking that over. "Well, best by example, I suppose. The last time myself and Minos jaunted about the mana-tronic universe, we needed transport. I was able, with a mages help, to construct an airship from local woods, geological coal and…" A pause…

"Sanura's panties… Magic behaves slightly differently, is the point. It's more powerful, more invasive in to everything. It's mana on a higher cycle."

Weeko keeps mostly silent, but listens intendly, "So we kinna trust medkits 'm stuff ter do rightly, but we kin use easy stuff, like swords or…powa's. No Athena, no tech toys 'side o' radio…soun's like Imma not ter bad off…" She blinks at that panty thingy. "Wha'?"

Kassandra raises a well-manicured eyebrow at the panties comment, apparently not equipped to believe that such a thing took place.

"1200 miles is a long way t'go on foot," Janie opines, dragging the conversation back on topic by its ears. "Do they have any kind o'travel arrangements on th'other side beyond walkin' ?"

Minos says "Yes, we have some airships. Samuel's original design, slightly refined, with actual cloth instead of super-enlaged panties."

Samuel smirks. "The panties were a stylish touch. AS to the airships, yes… I should brush up my commandering."

Katral raises a hand "Considering how these things usually go, is it too much to ask that those ships won't crash on us due to a random dragon attack?"

Weeko ponders, "Assumin' dere's gonna be dragon attacks…"

Minos says "Yes, that's a bit too much to ask. Fly low."

"Yes. It would be. Danger is a part of any travel, just ask the people on the flight downed by Surresh in 41." Says Samuel with no hint of sympathy. "Lets get something strait, Katral. You're in a world far above the warrens, the matrix or even nations at this point. Now is not the time for rash, uninformed action, but also.. now is not the time for -timidity-."

Katral shrugs pocketing his hands. "I wasn't about to start trying to go for some target-practice on the nearest big lizard. And don't worry…I'll do what has to be done to make sure we make it through this."

Weeko asks curiously, "Ya said da world might be kinda like a fantasy stuff…So I'll be 'n ork…dat any problem dere? Imma meanin' mostly orks' are da bad guys In dat kinda stuff…"

Samuel almost, literally thumps his head on the table. "I hate pop culture." (Ancient Ork)

Weeko blinks, "Ya speakin' da same shitty dialect as Minos does…"

Minos chuckles. "Orks in the Fourth World are powerful people. The language we speak is the language they spoke back then. It's to Or'zet as you know it what Latin is to Italian or English."

Minos says "Our first experience…when we first entered the Machine, we came upon a battle between elves and orks. We sided with the orks. The elves died. Guns are pretty powerful things in the Fourth World."
The lone elf keeps to herself, back against the wall as she leans, watching the others, listening to the conversation. She hasn't spoken in some time, and doesn't look to start now.

Samuel nods rubbing his temples. "WHat the Minotaur said. I speak the tongue of that age. We spent… a life time… with the tribes of the plains of Barsaive." He glances to Kassandra. "Sperenthiel is likewise drifted, but the same root tongue. Your immortals saw to its quick rebirth."

Weeko curses, "Great…dat means all da orzet Imma bin learin' is worth da fruck dere…'n Imma not even fluent 'n dat…"

Samuel nods. "I can walk you through the basic grammatical structures and once in the machine, we can build vocabulary."

Janie nods. "Works f'r me," she replies.

Katral hums and ponders this, thinking it over. "Any kinda language we'd build it from? Like, surviving bits of pieces in the daily tongues?"

Janie looks at Samuel. "How about an airship pilotin' course while we're there?"

Minos says "Well, Samuel, one thing we have on the other side now are translator crystals. Local magical technology. They'll be able to speak and understand with these necklaces we've got. And didn't that take a lot of time to get together!"

Weeko giggles, "Ya don' want me pilotin' 'n airship…'n less ya wanna learn how ter git airsick…"

Samuel raises an eyebrow. "YOu here this alex? They want to make me redundant." He says with mock incredulity in his voice. "For all the ha-hah of airships made from panties and from evertything else, I want to give a warning here." A pause as he leans forward, peeling back the real skin from his right arm. "I went in to that machine with -2- good arms. A dragon attacked us, I don't recall his name. I shot him. Killed him. But not before he took my arm. In the real world, my arm -withered- in the course of several minutes and auto-amputated."

"Not redundant," Janie replies. "But it'd be nice f'r all o'us not t'be completely hosed if somethin' were t'happen t'ye."

Kassandra stirs finally, asking, "Why not ground-based transportation, then? Seems less likely to fall to our deaths that way, or attract flying creatures."

Weeko nods, "I kinda figured our bodies woul' still be lined ter us…Dat's more soundin' like a kinda astral quest 'n a machine. 't least wha Imma bin hearin' 'bout it."

Katral blinks and looks uncertain, checking his arms… then simply shrugs. "I'm not about to let anything happen to either of us, no matter what kinda, errr, QUEST, it is."

Minos nods to Kassandra. "Ground-based transportation is a feasibility; you'd be pretty amazed what the animals of the time can do. But they'd be animals, not vehicles, not really."

Samuel smooths the real-skin back over his fingers, letting it form back in to its proper shape. "The USS Macon, an airship of 1930s design, could cross the United states in approximately 4 days of constant travel. On ground, without motorized transport, it would take us closer to a month. Maybe longer. It's a question of risk assessment. The likelyhood of what happens in the air in four days, or the accident potential on the ground in 30."

Kassandra nods to both men, settling back. She appears indifferent about the results of her question; instead, she simply launched it, perhaps fishing for more information.

Janie nods. "I think I'll take my chances with th'air travel," she replies. "C'n we summon spirits once we're inside, or will that have th'same effect as tryin' t'bring an Ally along?"

Weeko ponders, "Wha's Barsaive?"

"A province of the Theran Empire, circa 300 post Scourge, fourth world." Answers Sam to Weeko. "Roughly analogous to the Ukraine today."

Samuel doesn't answer the magic question, because thats not his forte.

Weeko nods, "Figures…dere's a lotta Ork's dere too nowaydays…"

Samuel raises an eyebrow. "YOu are unusually politically and linguistically aware for what has been described as a girl from the sprawl with no contacts beyond."

Weeko giggles, "Imma jus' knowin' abit 'bout Orks…fer obvious reasons."

Minos says "Are there any further questions before you go?"

"Did I miss the part about whether foci can be brought along?" Ally asks curiously, having been pretty quiet for… a good long time. Soaking it all in. Looking very excited.

Samuel leans forward. "I've been detached from the lunchbox protocols for a few months. Why havn't we moved the machine to Lake Louise in the first place, to cut down the amount of travel in the machine to get Mountain-shadow's advice?"

"Whether it's okay t'summon spirits inside th'machine," Janie asks, then nods at Aladriel. "An' whether foci work, too."

Minos says "You can bring foci." Looking to Samuel, he says, "Because, for various reasons related to the world of the Machine itself, we don't want anyone *in* it knowing where it is. Because it's tied to physical location here, if we put it in Mountainshadow's lair, that lair might get attacked from that side, and who knows what might come out of Lake Louise on our side of the world given enough time and effort from that side?""

Minos says "And, you can't summon spirits over there, either. There's no real astral travel there…it is a pocket metaplane. You can perceive the astral, and you can cast spells, but projection, at least for us visitors, doesn't work; and only the natives are able to summon the spirits of the place. It's peculiar, but seems to have been built into the Machine that way."

Ally looks glum about the news about spirits. "Hate to leave Sally here alone, but…don't want anything bad to happen to her, either," she murmurs, pretty much talking to herself. "You said the Foundation has gear for us to borrow. Can I have some? Lots, really. Useful stuff. Expendable foci…communication gear…weapons…weapon foci…that'd all be good."

Janie nods. "Somethin' o'a disadvantage, then," she comments.

Kassandra listens to the others ask questions, eyes drifting to each face as they speak. The elven woman has been unusually silent throughout the proceedings, her expression troubled.

Minos says "Come with me." He leads you into a big room with lockers and an inventory system. "Look for whatever you want. I recommend the following: first, that you be able to carry it; and second, that you account in what you're carrying weight and space for food, water, and other consumables.""


«Plot» Kassandra will be looking for the following: Food, Water, survival supplies. Local currency (although that can wait until we cross over). If there are skillsofts, I'd want to check those out. Otherwise, I'll use what of my gear will translate.
«OOC» Minos says, "ALl that stuff is available, Kass"
«Plot» Aladriel would look for any heavy/special ammo for heavy pistols (APDS or..dun-dun-dun, SpiritBusters), an extendable staff, medkits (which she'd break into her own special blend with extra stim and antidote slappatches), food bars, plenty of water, and expendable foci for Health, Combat and Manip.
«Plot» Aladriel says, "And dental dams. …. and a mime."
«Plot» Janie will bring some rations and survival gear despite being able to wing it magically - after all, while the nutrition spell takes care of nourishment it doesn't actually make you less hungry. Aside from that, a pair of heavy sticks to use as clubs - pistols work okay when improvising, but if she runs completely out of ammo she might as well use a real set. Aside from that, if they're going to take an airship most of the way a relatively small box of ammunition - say, 60 rounds regular, 60 rounds AV - won't take much room or load capacity.
«Plot» Minos says, "Well, there are 3,412 mimes, but only one is allowed per player. There are APDS rounds available, but they're contraindicated as there's nobody with Kevlar in the world (and in my plots, APDS doesn't halve magical armor). Spiritbusters are available. The other stuff is all available; but be reasonable on the expendable foci levels, say 3."


Katral rummages through the inventory, picking out particular kinds of ammunition he could need for his Uzi. "Any explosives ya know work? Aside from throwing hot water on cool rock?"

Samuel notes.. "OTher way around. cold water shatters hot rock. Anyway.. Yes. Explosives work."

Kassandra will sort through the two duffles and the backpack she brought as well, augmenting what little she has taken from the Foundation's supplies. The woman finds a place out of the way to go over whatever gear she is planning to take, checking and then rechecking the Foundation's toys to make sure they work.

Minos says "You don't actually need spiritbusters. Anything you can see in this world that is a spirit that you can shoot, will be affected normally by regular ammunition as the nature of the metaplane is such that you and your gear are already considered to be effectively dual-natured. You'll be on the same plane of existence, in other words."

Kassandra will check before they leave, "You said cybernetics systems magically translate. Should I slot anything I want to use now, or will I be able to use them in 'crystal' form as normal?

Janie nods. "One final question - c'n we take anythin' back from there?"

"No" Answers Samuel. "Only your memories."

Minos says "Well…" he says, then pauses and continues, "that, plus any damage you take while you're there.""

Minos glances at Kassandra and replies, "I think you'll be able to use them as normal; we've never had anyone with skillsofts wander around in the Machine."

Great. The elf slots what she thinks she'll need the most and carries the rest. What is the worse that can happen? She could die of a brain aneurysm 10 seconds into the quest?

Minos says "All right, then."

Samuel has, through experiance, answered the questions the others ask; and the others don't have the experiance to ask further questions.

To the Machine

Minos leads you through a series of airlocks which are, apparently, hardened against intrusion both internal and external…you never know what might come out of an unstable magical portal that no one understands to a dimension filled with spiritual inhabitants of uncertain provenance. Beyond the series of 'locks is a medical facility with a dozen beds containing the equivalent of those matrix coccoons: catheters, IVs, and the lot. There are three personnel; one is the guy who met you in the hangar. With a minimum of fuss, you are each asked to strip after making yourself thoroughly mentally familiar with the gear you are carrying. Minos supervises the project, calming you as you lay down and reassuring you things will be all right. Eventually, much like a giant MRI, your beds are slotted into holes in the wall and the world turns black.

A sensation of vertigo infuses your mind. For the magically active amongst you, it's highly reminiscent of the sense you get when astrally projecting; for those who haven't, well, it's kinda like an out of body experience. The world resolves itself into a cavern that starts off dark then, as your presence registers, several crystals set into the walls begin to glow with a soft white light. There is a large iron-bound door leading out of this chamber, but it is otherwise empty except for a side door marked "Restroom".

Janie sends one last mental directive to her Ally before the darkness claims her.
Athena, keep an eye on May while I'm gone.~

Katral runs his hands along the stacks of Uzi ammo he's gotten so attached to, as well as the bags of survival gear and small boxes of trade-goods and food which he hopes won't go bad in the transfer. He sighs as he notices the catheter, but he's been put under before. "Ok.. time to jump down whatever rabbithole is in store for us. " he says, just before being slotted in. Arriving in this new world, so to speak, he can't but help wonder just how real all this is.

Kassandra strips down, having already gone over here gear, fixing the images and thoughts in her mind. The naked elf preps herself for the trip, her doubts about the relative sanity of all this. She awakens in the cavern, eyes adjusting to the light as she attempts to push herself up, looking around at the surroundings.

Samuel moves with the precision of someone who's done this. Stripping down with no real modesty, he lets the techs rig in to him as need be, then sits down in his cocoon. "Alex." He says quietly. "I will kick your ass later for requiring this." His gear is accounted for, his mind read, he closes his eyes. Theres something perversely ironic about a man who fears his senses lie because they are electronic, going in to a world where every sense is in effect, a lie.

Welcome my son, to the machine.

«Plot» Minos says, "You are clothed in this realm; however you imagine yourself to be. Same thing with general alterations to physical appearance."
«Plot» Minos says, "The roleplaying and what you do from this point on is up to you; no more spam from me for now until we fast forward through boring bits :)"

«OOC» Janie needs to make a quick store run; no more than 30 minutes.

Kassandra rises from her induced slumber, growing accustomed to the light in the cavern. Her eyes adjust rapidly, a priviledge of her heritage. The small elven woman rises gracefully to her feet, the cavern floor cold beneath her bare feet. She is clothed in layers of what appears at first blush to be some sort of silk. The woman casts a furtive glance about, looking for her companions.

Janie appears much the same as she does outside; like most mages, she has a very strong self-image and has little difficulty asserting it. Besides, it's not as if this is her first time on the outer planes. Her skin is slightly bronzed, and her eyes have turned a silvery grey, but that's about as far extensive as the changes get.

Katral awakens to find himself in a tunic, quite green, but luckily not a floppy hat. Boots and some badly chafing pants are also his to bear. His gear lies neatly set at his side, but he's more interested in sitting up and touching his head gingerly. "Hmmm… odd."

Janie looks around, nodding at Kassandra, then remembers that Samuel kept mentioning something vauge about elevated magic levels and decides to take a cautious peek in the Astral.

«Auto-Judge[]» Janie (#4136) rolls Intelligence vs TN 4 for "Assensing the general surroundings.":
2 2 2 3 5 7 = 2 Successes

Samuel is different. Perhaps… 30. His features are a little harsher, his hair a little darker. His skin, weathered and rough from a lifetime outdoors and toned from a life of work. He steps in to the cavern, stripped to the waist, with a hand print tattoo over his right pectoral muscle and a pattern of dots running around each bicep. Local camouflage, if you will. His legs are covered in local leathers, a buck-skin sort of affair wiht pockets built in. "Welcome to the world that was." He says, cracking his neck and reaching for a cigarette currently held in his supplies.

Kassandra settles back down in a whisk of skirts, looking at the others, the cavern, the changes. She seems to marvel at the reality they have stepped into , her formerly dour expression more one of childish delight at what she sees. Absently, she reaches out towards the travelling boots near where she awoke, running fingers over them. She looks back to Samuel, "So he wasn't just spinning stories, then?"

Samuel shakes his head as he lights up. "Get your last anachronisms now, folks. Smoke if you got em, ect.. cause once we leave here, anachronisms need to be kept to the barest minimum. This is a -persistant- world and every move we make that reveals what does not exist or what comes next, corrupts the simulation as it stands. Are we -very- clear?"

Katral adjusts his new clothing , even as he hides away his Uzi, pondering if he should just get a sword to complete the look. "Maybe he's got us on some nasty drugs, or chip… seen crazy enough things like that happen 'fore." He pinches his arm just to be sure. "Well, what'd ya think I'd be able to use around here that'd work?" he asks of Samuel, as he starts preaching the truths of this place. "A crossbow, maybe?"

Kassandra nods soberly to Samuel, pulling on stockings and boots before working to secure her gear in what she imagined/dreamed/chose to be the local styles, based on conversations with Minos and his staff. The elf secures any non-'fantasy' gear out of sight inside bags and pouches, working to look more like a native. She will complete her ensemble with the cloak she has brought as well as a gossamer veil.

"Don't worry so much about guns and the like. They have equivilants, but its the little things that add up. Cultural drift, shit like that." He says, drawing a puff. "Course, like I said, I've been off the program directly for months. Not my realm of expertise anymore, the athropoligics of the situation."

Katral nods as he listens in to Samuel's expertise. "I'll try to shut my mouth for the most part, then. Or at least not try to step on anyone, or things, toes."

Kassandra considers, as she packs things and fusses with her gear. The woman reaches out for the mental 'switch' that allows her to access her encoded abilities. Indeed, she will fully test what works and what doesnt while they are in the relative safety of the entryway to this new world.

Samuel kneels down to check his gun case. The weapon he pulls is his ruger thunderbolt, the one that he recently used to cap Bear. Kassandra may recognize it. It's etched, molded and formed to look like a dragon's maw around the barrel. "Yeah. This is where she got her name." He says, sliding a clip home. "Not to get Racial, but General Tisahan of the Theran expeditionary force, certainly didn't appreciate our efforts on behalf of the Orks of Barsaive." With that, he draws out the crystline blade, 3 feet long and wickedly curved, the handle forged from some metal but ornate in its own filigree.

"Like I said. They have equivilents for most of what we have, at least close enough for culture."

-
«Auto-Judge[]» Kassandra (#9777) rolls Intelligence + 3 for "Say…isnt that the gun that other guy that isn't you used?":
1 1 2 3 3 3 3 3 5 9 9
-

Matter of fact, it is.

Kassandra eyes the weapon Samuel shows, eyebrows going up. She would expend more effort in finding out the whys and hows of how he came by it, except she is trying to activate various bits of hopefully functioning cyberware .. or what used to be cyberware.

Kassandra seems satisfied, after a few moments, with her well-being. The elf rises, the cloak flowing around her regally. The woman seems relatively unchanged, her image of herself seemingly in line with what she was elsewhen. The woman glances to the others, shrugging, "So. Now what."

Janie nods at Samuel's explanation, drawing and checking her own guns. The laser sights seem to have been replaced with some sort of crystal arrangement, and the etchings are new too, but the balance seems unchanged which is what matters. She holsters them under her long coat - which now resembles bleached hide rather than leather - and draws the pair of clubs. At least they're essentially unchanged - a solid length of hard material doesn't really need that much adaptation. She nods at Kassandra's comment. "Where to from here?"

There's a door to a restroom, and a door that's iron-barred heavy wood.

Samuel gestures to the Iron Barred Heavy Wood Door. "In any adventure game, you take the more interesting looking door." He slides the crystaline sword in to a sheath at his waist, hosting his pack of supplies on to his back. "We walk."

Katral blanches, but eventually shrugs. "I dunno, in any adventure game, the most interesting door tends to be trapped beyond belief, or need a special key … but ya the boss, for now."

Kassandra nods, hefting her gear and testing how it feels. The woman moves to follow the leader, seemingly interested in how her body is responding here, the different-but-same look of common objects, even how the light falls from the crystals.

"Actually, we're not out of the Draco Base-Camp yet, so no, this is just the entrance chamber." Says SAmuel, as he moves to open the door.

The door is locked and barred from the other side; but there's a note that says "Knock Here." next to a knocker.

Samuel gestures to the others. "One of you, do the honors."
Janie nods and picks up the knocker, then brings it down against the door.

Off to see the wizard

From the other side of the door you hear a high-pitched happy squealing sound muffled by its weight. A few moments later you hear a THUNK-CHUNK-THUD-click-click-ssshing-Ca-chunk sound, like a bunch of locks being opened in rapid succession; shortly thereafter, the door swings open. You are looking down a hallway but that view is rapidly ignored due to a distraction as a small, winged flying girl shoots into the room through the air babbling, "Wheeeeeeeeee! People!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Didjabring any chocolates? Anyone got any Syncoke? I want some foil! No foil? Wow you're pretty! Oh my God what a fabulous gun!"

matzecon_2005_windling.jpg.rZd.223114.jpg
Triskavenderelion, Our Guide in the 4th World

Samuel reaches up to rub his temples. "Welcome to the results of minor anachronisms." Says Samuel as he steps out the door to let the hyper wyndling annoy the others.

Kassandra blinks slowly, watching the hyperkinetic being flitter around. She asks of Samuel, "This because of the panties?"

Samuel doesn't answer, just leaving the room. Let them get the culture shock over and done with on their own terms.

Katral looks deeply disturbed. "You're right… we forgot the most important equipment! Chocolate!" After that shocked statement, he reverts to his normal stance of simply studying everything with almost as much interest as the flying thing.

The girl says, "Hel-LO! I'm right *HERE*!" She looks you over. "I'm Triskavenderelion, but you can call me Trisk. And you're Sammy, and Kassie, and Janie, and Katrie, and Allie, abd over there's Weeko. I'm the welcoming committee! Well, at least it's my TURN on the welcoming committee….and you didn't bring any chocolate? I TOLD them to tell you to bring chocolate but noooooooo, you're all busy with cities and trideo and all sorts of stupid stuff to think about the starving Wyndling children who are desperate over here for just a wee taste of the sweet sweet sin that is chocolate."

Kassandra hesitates and then jumps in, "Sorry, Trisk, Sammie was a little lax in telling us about the -important- things." She gives a mock scowl in the general direction of the exiting man, "I think I have some sugar with me .. no chocoalte, alas, but a little sugar, a little honey?"

Katral rummages through his pants, but all he finds is some lint and a couple of small gemstones of dubious value. "Sorry… but you should've sent us a letter, ya know? And who else is on the commitee?

Samuel shifts his pack as he heads on out, a slight amusement coming to him at their interactions with the wyndling.

Janie nods. "Well met, Trisk," she replies to the wyndling. "I'm sorry we didn't bring ye any chocolate; we're kind o'new to this place. C'n ye show us around a bit anyway? I promise I'll bring chocolate th'next time I come here…"

The little girl pouts a bit. "We have honey here, but sugar's not so common, that'll be great." She looks at Sam and says, "I don't know where you're going, chor'zo, but you might wanna wait for me. I'm your local guide!" To Katral she replies, "Well, it's a rotating assemblage of coruscating marketing and inventory personnelages with a council director board meeting run bimilennially using the Forcault protocols for conflict resolution." She sounds exactly like a corporate lackey. On crack. "Did I get that right? Are you feeling more comfortable like your home place?"

Katral holds himself back from patting the little thing on the head. "Probably. What's a Forcault? Is that sort of like what you are?"

Kassandra digs in her pack, coming up with a leather bag. The woman carefully rations out a good cupfull into, what else, a cup, and then secures the rest. The looks at Katral as Trisk launches into .. whatever that was, and interjects, "Here you go." She offers the camp cup, now translated into a nearly translucent crystal cup of approximately the same size, to the being.

Samuel sighs, one hand sweeping a stray hair back from his face. Here, his hair is longer, held back in a warriors-braid. "My head is not made of cheese, ken." He turns to the fluttering girl, an eyebrow raising. "Okay. Trisk. Brief us."

Trisk takes the cup gratefully, and while it's large, she can carry it with surprising ease. She flutters out towards the doorway saying, "Thank you. Let me take you to the place with the stuff and I'll give you your underwear there." She giggles. "I don't know what a Forcault is, but I'm a Wyndling. I don't know what happened to my people in your place but I think we're all probably just hiding until there's more magic." With that, she buzzes off down the hallway, urging you to follow her wordlessly.

Samuel does exactly that, shifting his pack to follow along. "Wyndlings. One of the more… annoying… of the things we've to look forward to as Mana rises."

Janie follows, subtly testing her muscles and reflexes to see if that aspect of her magic has been affected at all. "Actually, I think she's kind o'cute," she replies to Samuel.

"Wait until there's 300 of them." Says Sam.

Kassandra follows along, eyes flicking here and there as they travel. She adds, "Seems like they could be an interesting addition to the world." The elf moves along, adjusting her pack and other belongings as needs be to make them more balanced.

Katral hums as he watches Trisk flutter about, humming to himself. "Maybe… ya think ya have any genetic info stored in ya we could read?"

Katral says "I'm not a geneticist, but… it'd be neat."

Trisk replies, "What's a geneticist? Is that like a gymnast? I like gymnasts!"

Kassandra offers, "How do you plan to read it?"

Samuel explains to Trisk… "Genetics is the art of matchmaking, Trisk. You want a child with blond hair, so you lay with someone with blond hair, like a sheep-herder breeds his sheep."

Trisk looks at Samuel, nodding. "So, like, animal husbandry, but only with people…and he can read my geneticks? That's pretty weird. It sounds kinda naughty." The room you are led into is a cozy little place. It has signs of a small number of inhabitants, and it's got a number of pieces of furniture in it, including a table; they're all hand-made. She says, "Please have a seat. Would you like some tea? We've got some honey, and now we have some sugar too, if you want!"

Kassandra finds a seat, nodding, "I would love some tea, Trisk." She sets her pack down, looking around the new room.

Sam sits down in one of the chairs, setting his pack off to the side. "I'll take some Ou'Chaz, if you have it." Says Sam, looking around the room.

"Nothing for me, I'm afraid I'd get gas from whatever it was." Katral says, eyeing Trisk as he says that. "Anyhow, yes, it's naughty, very much so. But that's not important right now… let's get to the briefing." He settles into a seat.

Trisk busies herself by going to the corner where there's a keg mounted. What you see next is pretty amusing…she casually uses telekinesis to move a mug under the keg while at the same time using some other magical power to make a teapot boil; proceeding to telekinetically move the mug (filled with a beerlike substance) to Samuel while bringing the teapot over to the table physically along with some cups and fixing. "I really don't understand why you people like underwear so much, but I'll brief you."
"Some tea'd be nice," Janie replies, looking the wyndling over.

Samuel raises an eyebrow. "Ah… Trisk." Says Sam, taking his beer. "Brief, it means to make something small, like an idea, and relate it to us. Briefing us means, to tell us whats going on. Briefs are a STYLE of underwear, because they are -small-"

Kassandra muses, "Ah, English, making conversations difficult for ages."

Katral says "Also, yes, briefs tend to be delicious."

Trisk sticks her tongue out at Samuel and raspberries him. "Sure, I know that. But why is it the same word for both things? Do you think that maybe someone spent too many times listening to briefings that they peed their pants and needed a new pair of underwear and so they called it a "briefing" from then on to make sure that people had an extra pair of underpants when they went to one? That's what I think but Bilanaraian says it's just because you people are crazy, but ever since Bilanarian started eating the paste out of the bookbindings, we don't pay much attention to him these days."

Samuel just sighs, hiding his mental agony behind the stiff brew, Ou'Chaz. "So. Guide. Tell us how we're getting to Lake Louise."

Kassandra pours herself some tea, swirling in some of the local honey. The elf watches the interaction between Samuel and Trisk, filing this way. It is interestintg to see the man discomforted.

"Okay, the Lake Louise route." She draws herself up to be standing on the end of the table facing you all. "When you get out of here you'll find yourself in the middle of the Rocky Mountains. The trip itself is a pretty straight north-northwest line north-northwest along the edge of the mountains. There's not a lot of landmarks or towns on the way, though, until you get closer to Lake Louise of course. Mountainshadow's got a big honking tribe of orks and t'skrang living around his place." She pauses. "You won't find many peoples on your way, I was told you'd want to be calm and quiet and stay out of the area of normal peoples…."

"…So I've made a map for you that shows a good way to avoid what settlements there -are-. Of course, this also means you'll run into more critters. You've got lots of beasties in this part of the world, in the untamed wilderness, and some of 'em are scary. There're the normal problems like griffins and embracers and the like, and then there are the remnant hives of Invae that might be around, or might not; and then who knows what other normal things still carry Scourgetaint that you might run into. But no people, not following my route."

Samuel explains to the group… "MOuntainshadow is the name the dragon we call President Dunklezahn uses in this era."

Hm. About half of the words/phrases/descriptions the little creature uses are not familiar to Kassandra. She nods to Samuel's explanation, holding off other questions until a more appropriate time.

Samuel exhales. "Invae.. Insect spirits. Precursors and leavings, depending on cycle-position, of the Horrors."

Katral raises his hand, chuckling to himself: "Can we eat the horses?" He settles down again, then says. "If we're voting, I'd go airship… if only cause we're not sure how long-term stuff affects Weeko around here."

Kassandra eyes Katral the way you might an interesting form of insect. The woman offers, "The airship does seem to be the most expedient method."

Weeko ponders, eyeing the small winged thing, "Trisk…wha's a …", she starts, but as Samuel explains she stops. "Damn…yer talkin' da same stuff we have bin trouble wid usin' da UB as cover?"

Samuel nods to Weeko. "Only more powerful, given that they should… well… thats a discussion for another time."

I can feel it, in the air tonight

"H'okay, you take-a de airship-a," Trisk says in a horrid, horrid Italian accent, then giggles. She leads you out and down the hallway to a hangar bay, whence you begin your travails…er, travels.

Samuel glances at Trisk, raising an eyebrow. Sam's going to have a VERY serious chat with the mission-leader here involving anthropological integrity.

Katral ponders just how alive this thing flying before them is. But after that, he simply trudges along after the others. "So, this is an armed airship, is it?"

images:3d:airship.jpg
The Windsprite

You are sailing across a vast, empty wilderness. At least it seems that way. You are, most definately, not in Kansas anymore…but it does, perhaps, look a BIT like Colorado. Except there's no sign of human inhabitants. At all. Or even metahuman inhabitants. Looks like a thriving bit of wildlife, and given Trisk's warning, perhaps that's for the best. The airship is smooth sailing; its pilot, a human named Fral, is a quiet person who answers questions only hesitantly. He seems somewhat scared by your weaponry, but dedicated to doing his job. The airship proceeds north-northwestwards, and eventually, you are floating over what might be Wyoming or Montana or some other godforsaken place in the middle of Injun territory. As yet, you've seen very few signs of human habitation, and the trip's been mostly boring. The airship is stopping for fuel, which consists of you cutting down some trees to burn, and it veers towards a copse of trees on the side of a mountain.

Kassandra finishes off her tea before gathering her belongings and following the others. The elf moves slowly, taking her time to fully enjoy the experience. Things here are cleaner than back home, even the dirt (if that is possible). The woman smirks at Trisk's accent.

Samuel takes a position near the front of the ship, sitting on the prow of the levitating vessel. He is quiet, watching the landscape as it flows by. His gear has been checked, double checked, rechecked and ultimately, quadruple checked before he stops fiddling with it. No electronics that require battery power are on, his guns are stowed for the time being (Save for a pistol strapped to his right leg, but covered by a leather flap to conceal it). He eyes the snowcapped peaks of the Rocky mountaints in the distance to the west, pulling his furred coat closer. "I hate the snow."

For her part, the elven woman will stand near the front of the airship, the hood of her cloak down. She has flown, of course, but nothing like this. The crisp winter air brings colour to her cheeks though she doesn't seem to mind. She has been mostly silent throughout the trip, answering questions if directly asked but otherwise not engaging if she doesn't have to. Instead, she seems to simply be reveling in this simpler time, away from the omnipresent telecommunications grid and the pressures of modern life. Her gear is safely stowed; she seems bereft of most things other than clothing and her cloak.

Weeko is just happy she took all that survival stuff with her. Luckily it included some winter clothes. Weeko wouldn't have thought about that herself, but a long coat and some pants to cover her up seem quite welcome now. But nonetheless she keeps close to fires that kep the baloon afloat, only risking a look around once she feels warm. "Damn…Idda not thought Idda miss electric heatin' one day…", she says with a shiver.

Katral watches with amazement , and every single living being he spots, be it an animal he'd recognize or magical wonder, he takes it all in with equal measures of interest. The snow seems to have a completely opposite effect on him than it has on Samuel, apparently cheering him up immensely. But after a few hours, he looks as if every newly discovered spot of interest starts making him depressed, standing by the starboard side of the airship and sighing as the trip trudges on.

Samuel watches the group, keeping an eye on Fral. After a while, Samuel will stand, moving to fral's position and offer to pilot the vessel for a while, spelling Fral.

Flight of the Valkyries

Kassandra will take Samuel's seat on the prow once he departs, watching the world pass beneath them. The clouds beckon on the horizon as the ship dips and heads towards trees, presumably to pick up fuel. The woman absently picks at the hem of her garmet, fingers rubbing the silks as if trying to verify their existance.

As the airship descends, you have your first combat: a flight of Thunderbirds stoops on the airship from the spires of the mountains. Storm lightning rages; the birds, with wingspans about the size of Cessnas, are a tough fight, but with your guns and rifles, not to mention spellslinging, the fight is short and to the point; the majestic birds falling from the skies. However, in the course of the initial attack, Fral gets fried and falls from the airship to his death. Poor Fral; he was kinda boring but he really shouldn't have chosen to wear that red tunic.

Fral should have taken a rest when Sam offered. Fuck Fral.

If Ally did anything during the fighting, it sure wasn't flashy, because her pistol stayed in its holster and she certainly didn't raise a hand to help. But then with magic she didn't really need to… if she did anything. Now as the airship sails along in Alberta, Ally goes up to Sam at the helm. "Are we almost there?" she asks, voice a little shakey from the cold, but the anticipation, nay, excitement in her voice is hard to miss. "Up there?" she asks, motioning towards the settlement thats just become visible.

Janie keeps her guns at hand and her eyes on the sky and ground, watching for threats even as she enjoys the view. Aside from one stunball at long range when the thunderbirds first showed up, she's relied entirely on her guns during the battle - but with her customary murderously lethal accuracy, she never even burned through the first clip of either gun.

Weeko examines the sword she broought with her, trying to get a feel for the unwieldy and heavy thing. As the birds attack she keeps to the background, preparing to defend the board of the airship should it be necessary, but then, the others are by far better shots than her.

Samuel fights conservatively, using blade where he can, using his Colt Manhunter when he cannot. Single shots, not random fire. Aimed carefully to do the most damage with the least amount of ammunition used. He only misses once.
Katral was nestled at the same starboard side he kept to when keeping an eye out, firing his Uzi and wondering just what kind of attention they've attracted. Steadying himself against the railing, he glances over towards Weeko as she stays in the back, obviously concerned for her wellbeing, despite her talents for beating on stuff.

Kassandra lets the others do the lion's share of the killing. She will retreat to the cabin's to recover her weapons as the attacks start, shooting only when necessary. The elf, thereafter, will not be on the deck of the ship unarmed.

Samuel calls Kassandra over, from his position now at the wheel of the sky ship.

Kassandra looks over, rising to see what Samuel is calling about. She carries the sniper rifle with her now, the crystal scope catching the light of the sun.

Samuel murmurs quietly to Kassandra, something not meant for other ears…

Samuel mutters to Kassandra, "I hate to ask, but I'm going to be stuck here a while. Can you do two things for me? Talk to Katral about that Uzi. It's a horrible waste of bullets and they are a finite commodity. He may not be taking this seriously. Second… and I hate to ask this… but can you clean my manhunter?"

Weeko frowns. "I feel like anythin' here 's tryin' ter snap at us…",she complains. Them birdies looked dat nice 'ntil dem bin commin' closa." She frowns at Samuel whispering to Kassandra. "Somethin' wrong?", she asks then.

Katral blinks, hearing his name spoken out of all the gibberish Samuel is murmuring… that's probably not a good idea to be listening in to, but his mind's open enough right now that he's taking in practically all he's seeing. He doesn't speak up though, perhaps shelving any kind of confrontation. Until Weeko steps up, that is.

Any other time the elf might have made a joke, or even asked a question of Samuel. Instead, Kassandra nods and moves towards Katral, cradling the rifle as she walks. The woman seems to have grown accustomed to the airship, her movements matching the swaying vessel with uncanny fluidity. The woman leans on the siderail, commenting in a low voice to Katral, "Do you have a pistol?" She either didn't hear or just flat out ignores Weeko's comment, perhaps letting Samuel field that.

Samuel shakes his head. "No, Weeko. Nothing's wrong. I'm just making sure nothing -goes- wrong. We're a long way from home, ken, and I'm going to be stuck up here at the wheel for a long while. Just getting Kassandra to do some stuff for me I would normally do myself."

Katral shakes his head at the question. "I was keeping myself strapped with just my Uzi, didn't figure we'd need to go even lighter, and I'd just drop it if we ran into anyplace we had to hide our stuff… I know how to handle one, just didn't think it was something I had to grab. Did you want to borrow one?"

Kassandra shakes her head, her voice calm, quiet, almost hard to hear over the wind, "No, not at all. I was merely going to suggest that a pistol might give you a better advantage in the fighting on the aircraft. Your Uzi is a very nice weapon, but its lack of a real barrel and its rate of fire aren't really fitting in the situation we are in." She smiles, her face lighting up as if the sun has risen. She lightly touches the man on the arm, reminding, "Not a lot of bullet stores out here, omae." She seems to leave it at that, nodding to the man before starting to move away again, her expression becoming more distant. If not stopped, she will head over to collect a small pouch before settling it at Samuel's feet, working to clean both their weapons.

Airship Lessons

Samuel gestures for Weeko to join him up on the aftcastle of the vessel.

Katral hums , watching his recently reloaded weapon. She may have a point. "I guess I'll have to be my old mooching self and see what I can scrounge up. Maybe trade myself something I could use if we ever get into that kinda scenario.." He thanks Kassandra with a smile as she turns.

Weeko grumbles a bit, as that requires her to leave the fire, but well, she's an ork. She'll not die through cold /that/ quick. So she truged over. "Wha's up?", she asks.

Samuel grins to Weeko, gesturing to the wheel. "We have some time to kill. I thought I might show you a few things that will be utterly useless in the real world, about how to pilot, maneuver and navigate an airship."

Weeko looks a bit uncertain, then answers with a chuckle, "Yer brave, I mus' say…Imma not even able ter pilot stuff at home…not even bikes. 'n ya want me ter pilot 'n airship…"

Samuel comments… "It's hard to crash. Easy to waste time on poor navigation, but hard to crash. Come on." He says, giving the wheel a spin. "Some basic terminology, so we can speak the same language. The Front of the boat, is called the Prow. The back of the boat is called the Stern. You can refer to them also, as Fore and Aft. Should be simple enough. Second, the sides. Port and starboard. Port is to the left, as you stand on the Aft and look to the fore, and Starboard is to the right. Do you understand that?"

Katral goes back to watching the nearby wildlife, whatever is left of it. His former smile seems to dissapear almost as soon as he starts taking it in, but he can't , or won't, stop looking.

Weeko nods, repeating, "Front's Brow, back's Aft, left 's Port, right's Starboard", she pauses shortly then adds, "Well iffen ya look ter da Brow…"

Samuel nods. "Prow. P, as in port. But yes, Exactly correct. Very nice." He says with a grin. "Now, theres some ropes here. It's not complex or mechanical, the operation of the ship. The hard part comes in knowing where to fly, not how to fly." He turns the wheel to starboard. "Now look off to starboard. See how I turned the wheel? The big sail under the boat, it folds in a bit. What that means, is wind is going to press on the left side, more than the right, and we're going to turn to the right. See how thats working?"

«Auto-Judge[]» Samuel (#799) rolls Lighter-than-Air Aircraft + Task Pool: 3:
1 1 3 3 4 5
Samuel doesn't crash the ship.

Kassandra listens to the various bits of chatter on the ship while she works, her hands moving with care and precision but almost no emotion. The woman seems fairly distracted, turning her head now and then as the ship's sails drag the wind in what appears to be a different direction, or when a new scent drifts by.

Weeko looks a bit curious, then asks the question that did bother her all the time it seems, "Well, why don' we just drift wid da wind? 's not as if we're sailin' wata…"

"What do you mean?" Asks Sam, before trying to answer the question he thinks she's asking. "Hot air balloons, drift with the wind, with the controller only controlling altitude. They have no direct control on velocity or direction, so they make poor transports. This vessel sails, with the wind as propulsion, and we direct that thrust in the direction we want to fly, with the sails around the vessel. We go almost as fast as the wind that way, in the direction we choose. We can travel most any direction, save directly in to the wind."

Janie drifts to the stern, listening in on Samuel's flying lessons.

Katral finally draws his eyes from whatever seems to be getting him down. He watches his comrades doing whatever they're up to, offering Weeko a reassuring smile as she goes about figuring out how they're flying, and Kassandra a wave of recognition when she looks in his direction.

Weeko nods, "Ya…but try dat inna real world 'n ja jus drift wid da wind…why kin we…cross da wind? Dis thing's got some magic ter do da part normally wata does ter … stabilize da ship. Ter allow da wind ter grip inta dem sails, righ'?"

Near enough to pay a bit of attention to the lesson that Sam's giving Weeko, Ally doesn't seem to be paying the slightest bit of attention to it. Her eyes, covered in glasses, are directed out ahead of them and she's perceiving, intrigued by the atmosphere of this place and pretty much ignoring all present for the time being.

It's really pretty, especially up in the sky. Tinkering around the boat, you discover something that Fral didn't mention. There are magical heaters throughout the boat to keep people warm up here.

Samuel hrms quietly. "Well, some levitation magic is used in this ship, bound to its hull, but not enough to float the vessel entirely. The rest of the lift is supplied by the overhead gasbags, for ease of control. I can vent hot air to go down, build up hot air to go up. And in the real world, zeppelins use the same theory I'm describing to move against the wind. They just divert some thrust to keeping position relative to the vector of the wind. It takes more power to move against the wind, but it can be done up until a tipping point is reached, where the energy it takes to move against the wind is more than the wind provides, which is why we can't fly in to a headwind, but must move diagonal to it, sort of tacking."

Kassandra may see Katral's wave but she reacts after the fact, perhaps even a minute. She seems to be heavily distracted by her own thoughts, or perhaps some sort of drug she managed to sneak aboard. She finishes her assigned tasks and works to put the tools away before heading back to the front of the ship (although not before bringing Samuel his weapon).

Samuel accepts his weapon with a nod of gratitude. "Thanks, Silk. I appreciate it."

Janie nods, listening to Samuel, then raises an eyebrow as Kassandra passes him his gun. "Expectin' trouble?" she asks.

Samuel nods to Janie. "Always. And a gun thats cleaned between firefights won't jam during the next one."

Janie nods, having cleaned her own guns shortly after the fight as well.

Katral rests against the railings, keeping his back to the safety-measure. He doesn't seem bothered by the cold, though the winds up here cause his cheeks to go blue, hence his hiding out from them behind cover.

Weeko frowns, "Imma not much offa shot…not even decent on dat kinda stufff. But let me use me hands 'n ya kin trust me…though's messy ter clean dem up afta usin' killin' hands."

Kassandra seats herself back in the position she has taken since they took off: the very front of the ship. She still cradles her rifle, absently stroking the weapon. She responded, should anyone have payed attention, to Samuel with a faint nod and no more. The woman watches the sky move before them, a flock of some sort of exotic bird heading off in the distance, hoping for warmer climates.

Samuel nods to Weeko. "Everyone has talents, Ken." He says with a smile. "Now. Here. This rope here, it vents gas out of the top of the sack. Pull it to vent. But remember, its much easier and faster to go DOWN, than it is to build up heat to go up. Be careful how much you vent, or we will fall faster than you want. The wind is built out of layers, each with different warmths and thicknesses, but also, directions and speeds. The job of a good navigator is to learn those layers, speeds, thickness and how they interact with the ship." He pauses, gesturing to the wheel.

"Now you know how to turn, how to go up, how to go down. Keep us on this course heading here.." he gestures to the compass embedded in the wheel's housing. "As best you can. I need a smoke." He says, giving her an encouraging pat to the shoulder.

Weeko mutters, "Nice…", as he keeps her to the wheel. She grabs it, a thing that immediately results in a more turbulent movement of the ship as she oversteers quite badly at first until she halfway gets the hang of it, muttering all the while.

-
«Auto-Judge[]» Kassandra (#9777) rolls Quickness for "please dont let me fall off the ship!":
1 2 2 3 5 8
«Auto-Judge[]» Weeko (#1957) rolls Quickness for "How bad is she doing?":
1 2 4 4 5 17
«OOC» Samuel says, "You stabilize your initial fright very quickly."
«OOC» Weeko says, "Oh…seems she halfway manages…"
«Auto-Judge[]» Janie (#4136) rolls Athletics for "Whoa!":
1 1 3 4 8
«OOC» Samuel nods.
«Auto-Judge[]» Samuel (#799) rolls Quickness for "+4 for foreknowledge":
1 2 2 2 2 3 4 4 5 11
«OOC» Samuel says, "We're good."
-

Samuel had been expecting a lurch, already having his air-legs and knowing how a new pilot overcorrects. He leans with it, one hand moving to a railing as though it were nothing. He reaches for, and lights a cigarette. "Very nice… good correction on the over correction."

The elf up front must have a patron spirit watching out for her. She shakes her head, some of the spaciness leaving her as one hand reaches out with surprising speed to hold onto whatever of the ship she can. She manages not to fall off into the air, and not to leave her rifle. Kassandra looks around to see if something happened that she missed before her gaze goes absent again.

Arriving at Lake Louise

Your airship, the Windsprite, is a hardy thing and eventually, it takes you to the all-too-pleasant air above Alberta. Which it really isn't. Calgary in winter is a bitch and a half, but it serves to make people a lot less curious (and bad guys a lot less likely to attack, natch). You make your way towards the area where your maps say that Mountainshadow lairs, and in the distance you see a small settlement around a mountain. This must be it; you're about five miles away.

Samuel wasn't stuck up here all that long after all. Four days flashes by in a fast. Damn, he's good.

Janie can't quite help herself as she spots the destination. She grins hugely and yells out "Land, ho!"

Katral hums as he notices the oncoming mountains as well. He zooms in on them, poking at his sunglasses to get a better view. "It sure is. Wait, what did you just call it? Some kinda nasty gal?"

Samuel, from the Helm, eyes Janie. "You've been waiting to say that, havn't you?"

Janie grins back at Samuel. "Ever since I saw th'crow's nest below th'deck," she cheerfully admits.

Kassandra stirs, absently looking towards the settlement. She manages to rouse herself into movement, a bit more spry after four days in the air, four days in this magical realm. The woman sniffs the air before heading to one side of the ship, eyes scanning the horizon for … well, only she knows what.

Weeko looks at the settlement, "Wha' kinda people do live dere?", she asks Samuel.

Ally likewise seems pretty excited to see the settlement coming up. It must be their destination. "Can I get out and fly yet?" she asks, about as excited to get off the airship as she is to be close to meeting *Dunklezahn*

At the mention of Dunkelzahn's name, Katral grows possibly even more despondent. Odd kind of reaction to have to meeting one of the greatest minds of any timeperiod.

Samuel hrms quietly. With Fral dead, and no Trisk, they may take poorly to having a skyship just land in the middle of town. Thats what Sky-pirates do. "Alright. No flying. No overtly hostile or anachronistic equipment. Look normal. I'm going to put the ship down about a mile outside of town and we walk in. I want a ring around Weeko, Kass to the front, Janie to the rear, Katral and Ally to either side. Make it clear from your postures, that you are guarding her." He glances to Weeko. "Nows the hard part. You need to remember, that your life is very much in danger if this goes wrong."

Weeko blinks, "Ya think dem's gonna attack me fer da…curse?"

No anachronistic equipment. Kassandra breaks down the rifle and stores it in the fur-lined box that resides in her back. That done, she surveys her period equipment, eyes falling on the small crystal knife. The elf shrugs, belting on her various bits of gear, trying to focus her mind for the task ahead. She takes her time, being methodical, but will eventually be ready.

Samuel nods. "It's possible, Weeko. To those who have lived through the horror, you're not something to cure. You're something to eradicate."

Weeko tilts her head, "Why don' I jus' keep outa sight…Imma good 't dat…"

"Because we are not here to deal with the people, but with Mountainshadow." He says simply. "And keeping you out of sight just looks like we're hiding you. If we approach with you guarded, and we seek an audience with Mountainshadow, we look more honest and we are clearly deferring judgment to the Dragon, making them reconsider their actions."

"Ring around the rosey of the maybe-doomed ork," Ally muses, a small smirk tugging at the corners of her mouth. "And if they decide that she should die before she becomes something terrible…how are we going to handle it?" Ally asks. "You going to do your talkign stuff? Shoot someone? Something magically flashy?"

Katral stuffs his Uzi into his tunic, clearly not the best of places to put it, but he's lacking options. "I knew I shoulda brought some kinda medieval weaponry… ya think they'd be interested in trading the stuff I brought?"

Samuel eyes Katral for a moment, then shakes his head. "Don't trade your gear. Remember the winged girl with the affection for chocolate?"

Janie nods, holstering her guns and pulling out her clubs. "I'll keep an eye out," she promises.

Kassandra draws up the hood of her cloak as well as setting her veil. The elf looks questioningly at the others and then the encampment below. She keeps her thoughts to herself, instead waiting near one of the rails for the craft to land, the wind tugging at her clothing.

Weeko glares at Ally at that comment. "'s not me fault…fuckin' Roobins iffen Imma eva get ya ass in me hands…", she makes a fist her knuckles going white in her angry grip.

Janie nods at Weeko. "Life c'n be unfair sometimes," she agrees.

Samuel answers Ally. "If things turn hostile, try to keep it non-lethal, but a decided show of strength and power. We may face a series of challenges, or we may be invited directly in, theres no way to know." He pauses, putting a hand on Weeko's shoulder. "We all have crosses to bear, Weeko. Some leave marks that are not our fault. Trust me, I know. Now, put your anger and hurt aside, because trust me… they arn't helping you overcome it. I'm no guru, but healing has to start with letting -go-."

Groundside

Samuel then, lands the ship without much fanfair. The mast at the bottom swings up, tucking the sails in to the side of the ship as it comes to rest on the ground.

Not reacting to the glare thrown her way, Ally does add quickly, "Didn't say it was your fault, I'm sure it wasn't," she murmurs. "But um…who's Roobins?" she wonders.

Not reacting to the glare thrown her way, Ally does add quickly, "Didn't say it was your fault, I'm sure it wasn't," she murmurs. "But um…who's Roobins?" she wonders.

Weeko mumbles to Ally, "Da fucker who did it…" Then breathes the way she learned from her Master and later Janie, trying to calm herself.

Katral holds a somewhat large bag up, shaking it about. You can hear it jingle and make odd sounds. "I've got some stuff we can trade. Odd crystals, some of the magic crap noone wanted to bring along.. should net us a penny or two, or buy us out of a bad situation."

Kassandra finally turns to look towards the others, the sounds of angry voices and random commentary finally drawing her back to the here and now. She remarks in a quiet voice, "We are landing soon, might want to look prepared."

Samuel did land. We have landed. Natives are probably gathering at the edge of town.

Samuel did land. We have landed. Natives are probably gathering at the edge of town.

The elf is out of it. She may still think they are in the clouds.

Ah. She'll ask more about that later. Slipping past people, Ally isn't shy about being the first to disembark the ship where she can get her first look at the locals who are looking right back at them. Denizens of this world are, of course, assensed to see if they look like normal people or 'special'.

Weeko gets her backpack, then nods, "'kay lets git it ova…Imma not really lokin' forward ter meet a dragon, but den…Imma not havin' much ova choice."

Samuel removes his jacket then, at the lower altitude the cold not affecting him so much, letting his markings and scars show to the outside world. He's cold, but between the dermal sheath and his naturally high body temperature, he has a few hours before he has a worry of hypothermia or frostbite. He unsheathes the crystline sword, looking it over once, then twice, before resheathing it. "Alright. Lets disembark."

As you land, you hear some noises in the clearing around which you've rested the airship, as if people are moving away from you. Some birdcalls can be heard as well. A path leads from the clearing to the settlement.

The elf shrugs, moving to where Samuel assigned her; inexplicably the veiled woman is at the front of the 'guard Weeko' group.

Janie nods at Katral. "Good thinkin'," she comments. "Settin' up a more or less regular tradin' route ought t'be a good cover if we'll be doin' this more often…"

Weeko blinks, "Ya think we need ter come here more…often!?" She doesn't seem to be looking forward to that very much.

Samuel steps on to the ground, swaying a little bit as his balance compensator resets for hard, not-moving ground. "It's all in the outcome, Weeko. If you are not tainted, or are cured of the taint if you are.. this may be a much more fun experiance for you." Says he, moving to take the lead on the trail, the others following up behind. "Now. Chatter less. we are being observed. Everyone of us."

"I certainly hope we will," Ally calls back to the group, energy almost radiating from her now that they are on solid ground. First one off the ship, she's thusly at the front of the group and most certainly not where she was 'assigned' to be. Looking around at those that are curiously observing them, Ally searches out the most friendly looking and gives a little wave to see what sort of reaction will be earned.

Katral shrugs, then decides to keep his mouth shut. But you can almost imagine the imaginary cash he's raking in with these imaginary dream-trades they'll be doing.

Kassandra moves quietly, apparently more in the here and now once they are on the ground and have something solid to do. The elf watches the native population as the contingent moves forward, her hands visible and in plain sight. She is likely the least armed (visibly and other) of the group, the small knife on her belt barely more than a eating utensil.

Samuel glances to Ally… then points with his chin and eyes, to where he told her to be. He doesn't say anything, he simply waits for her to comply.

Aladriel is, naturally, not looking at Samuel or the group, for they are the least interesting people present at the moment.

Samuel grits his teeth. "Ms. Cindel." He says simply, his tone cutting the distance between them. "If you would take your place as part of the -team-, it would be very beneficial to actually looking like something to be respected and feared when we come in contact with the natives. A risk has been made in inviting you along on this excursion, please do not disappoint.

Trisk has given you translator crystals that you wear around your neck, which is a remarkably good thing given the fact that the language you hear coming from the party that is sent out to meet you down the cleared path is speaking in a strange and gutteral language that none of you, not even Samuel, speaks. They're also playing some music. They're not here yet, but they're certainly on their way.

Weeko feels foolish and it shows to stand in the middle of plain sight. Her eyes permanently scanning the surrounding for potential hideout in case stuff gets wierd. She tries to hide it, but her general nervousness in this situation makes it hard to truly make it unnoticeable.

Samuel speaks many languages. But he's only been in the machine twice before. Mind you, once was for twenty years, but it was twenty years with orks. He turns back to the front, facing the group that approaches, his hands in plain sight on his hips. "Hands where they can be seen, not on, but near visible weapons. We are not looking for a fight, but we are not unprepared for one."

The Meeting

Kassandra keeps her eyes open as the natives and the party begin to approach each other. Beginnings are the most important of times, after all. The elf concentrates on the task at hand, putting whatever has been distracting her at arm's length for the time being. Her hand are already visible, but her eyes and ears are on the other beings, looking for key cultural and situational responses and signals that will be her guide.

Hearing Samuel brings Ally's attention back to the group, which is an effort because she seems quite intrigued by the welcoming party that is en route to them. She hmms and ahhhs, a moment later realizing where she should be. "Oops, sorry," she says with a little shrug before heading back to to her place at Weeko's side. Under her breath she mutters something about showing Sam a risk, but then is silent.

Katral seems more worried about the state of the group. He's not used to this large an amount of bickering, but that might be attributed to his being the loner of the team. He looks around the place, seemingly scanning for anything of interest. Or worry.

Weeko left the sword in the air ship, her hands are her weapons, no need to drag pounds of steel around which she cannot use anyway. So she just shows her empty hands. "Dat's my weapons, chummer…"

Much to Kassandra's chagrin, the first people you see as you come to a pass heading towards you are going to be a bit of a problem to read facial-expression and body-language wise inasmuch as they appear to be tall bipedal lizards with snouts, scales, and a crest above their heads. Samuel would recognize them as t'skrang, a race he's only seen in passing. There's a small party of them, some with swords (sheathed), a few with bows, and about four or five with what must be…arequebuses? Something like that; primitive firearms to be sure. Their leader is dressed in orange and green, and has blue-tinted skin.

Skrang_Blue.jpg
The T'Skrang

Samuel exhales, letting his worry, frustration and other concerns fall away, leaving only his confidence. When he sees the ones coming, he grunts. "The T'skrang. I've never met many, only a few in passing… they are an interesting people, the Orks say." Samuel does not step forward, letting them make the first move, diplomatic-wise. He doesnt have Etiquette.T'skrang

Kassandra would be dismayed, but she lives in Denver. These ancient lizard beings have nothing on the fuck-toy catgirls that populate its streets. She nods simply to what Samuel says, keeping her eyes on the newcommers. Despite any biological difference, they are intelligent bipeds who have likely dealt with other beings of this world; thus, there has to be some common ground.

Janie's clubs are crossed behind her back, held in place by a simple harness. She keeps her hands out from her body - although at her reaction speed, she can have weapons in them before anyone else can move if need be. She keeps her eyes forward at the approaching group, and her combat sense behind.

Katral coughs, speaking under his breath, hoping only his comrades will hear him. "Ya see the guys in the trees, then? With their beads on us?" He isn't reaching for his weapon, however.

Samuel nods slowly. "If they want to fight, we are in trouble, yes. Fact of life." Says he, watching the other party get closer.

The lead T'Skrang says in a fair-to-middling version of English with a very distinct accent you can't place but which is very sibilant, "Greetings, travellers. You come from the place-that-is-afar? Either that, or you are pirates who have stolen Mountainshadow's airship; but if you were, I doubt you would come here. Unless you are foolish, which you would have to be to steal Mountainshadow's airship. But then you might not have known it was Mountainshadow's airship." He pauses. "I am G'ssa'sass S'ral, but you may call me Gary." He holds his hands up to show peaceful intent.

"Isn't anyone going to say the simple fact that these guys are really cool looking?" Ally asks as the welcoming party approaches. She hears things about people in trees. She sees weapons, but she's more caught up by the fact that she's never seen a T'Skrang before! "Hi, Gary," Aladriel responds to the greeting before she can stop herself, caught offguard by the start of what sounds like a very normal conversation. "I'm Ally," she adds, to complete the introduction.

Kassandra holds up her hands, showing they are empty and of peaceful intent. She starts to speak and then stops as Aladriel does. The elf closes her eyes, her head bowing.

Samuel holds up his own hands, palms outward. "I am Johan-The-Wolf of the Red Plains People. We have come from the-place-that-is-afar and Pirates, we are not. Servants of MountainShadow, we are, given this airship to travel by. Our pilot, Fral, was struck by Thunderbirds 2 days sail to the south." He does not pause. "Forgive her. Windlding brain, human body." he explains. "We bring to Mountianshadow a conundrum for his understanding."

Weeko starts a bit as Sam mentions the word 'conundrum' just realizing it means her but not really getting the meaning.

Janie does her part staying silent and professional like a proper bodyguard, making no obvious aggressive moves but cataloging every possible threat.

Katral examines the strange new being Samuel is speaking to, humming to himself and adopting that strange, sad look once more. Beyond that, he's no longer as tense as he was when first confronted.

Gary says, "Hello, Ally. Hello, Johan the Wolf. We have heard your name in tales of our ancestors and in Mountainshadow's words. You match the description we have had." He pauses, then continues, "We know Fral. He will not be missed; he was boring." He smiles, "I suppose you wish to be brought to the cave?" As he's speaking to you, one of his party whispers in his ear; he tenses slightly and the group appears more alert.

Samuel nods slowly. "With -all- haste, Gary. We bring, as we said, a conundrum we require guidence upon. This one is very important." Says he, gesturing back to weeko. "And the prudent measures one might normally take are… inopportune. Please, to Mountain Shadow."

"Windldng brain?" Ally repeats, mostly to herself, perplexed at what she's just been called. She's not immediately aware that everyone else in the party is being silent besides Samuel. But on intuition she doesn't say anything more. Besides murmuring to herself, "We are much more interesting…least I am."

Kassandra stays quiet, letting Samuel and the other being chat this one out. The elf keeps her head bowed, only watching the group in the most superficial way.

Gary says, hesitantly, looking at Weeko, "She has something wrong with her. Is she diseased? We do not want disease amongst our people."

Sam exhales, stepping closer, hands still visible. "Let us talk, Gary. I will explain." He says simply. He lowers his voice then, not secretive, but seeming to be more intimate. "In the Place-that-is-far-away, she is of Mountain-Shadows servants. She was harmed, here." He says, touching his chest, where the handprint over his heart is. "And now this shows. We lack many of the lores we once had, since the scourges passing, and so we come now, to MountainShadow for his wisdom. We do not bring any disease or sickness that would affect your people. We would not bring sickeness to your camp."

Janie makes no aggressive moves like tensing up or going for a weapon - but something in her body language suggests she is ready to meet violence with violence, should it come to that. She lets Samuel do the talking, however.

Katral is brougth out of his studies of the strange creature, as it brings up the topic of the tainted one with them. He's about to angrily tell the lizard to mind it's own business, by the look of his face, but after a few seconds of restraining himself and clenching his fists, he's calmed quite a bit. Though he's obviously not happy with the situation.

Kassandra doesn't overly react to Gary's words or Samuel's explanation. This is what they have talked about, after all. The woman doesn't change her posture of body language, seemingly content to wait until the 8th World if needs be.

Gary says, "I see. You will offer yourself as a hostage to fortune, Johan-the-Wolf. If she brings disease or badness to our people, you will be slain slowly and with great pain. Your party may pass, however."

The Parting

Samuel thinks that over, offering a nod. He steps back, with his off hand drawing the crystilin blade from it scabbard. He places it across the palms of both hands, offering it forward. "I give you my Shak'aro, G'ssa'sass S'ral. I shall be as your hostage to ensure the safe passage of my people, and yours."

"Your bond is accepted. You may proceed this way, these others, who you have been most rude not to introduce, may accompany my people to Mountainshadow's home." He pauses. "Meanwhile, Johan-the-Wolf, we will ply you with liquor and hope you have brought trade goods for my people! There will be a feast!"

Samuel grins slightly, gesturing to Kassandra and the others to come forward and relax, the formalities done now. "Now, Ally… you can ply your questions…" Then to gary.. "I apologize for my rudeness, I know little of the ways of the Ts'krang."

Katral hands his pouch over to Samuel. "See if they're interested in any of that. That's why I brought it, after all."

Kassandra moves forward with the others, letting her hands fall to her side. She stays towards the rear of the party, however, as her guard duties seem to be done, at least for the moment.

Samuel takes the bag from Katral. He reaches in, pulling out a few objects of this and that, to put in his own pack before handing it back to Katral. "You may need some for yourself. I have some back on the ship, a few things here and there."

With that, one of Gary's entourage leads Johan away from this place. Gary, on the other hand, leads Janie, Weeko, Aladriel, Kassandra, and Katral up the mountain. Those who are familiar with the area would recognize this location as Lake Louise (the location of one of President Dunkelzahn's lairs). They are led into a vast cavern complex…

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You are in a cave system unlike any other you've seen before (yes, this means you too, Samuel). It is a remarkable combination of softly-glowing crystals, brass pipes, metal floors and carpets of fungal growth. It's lit by glowing crystals, and the hallways and side rooms, which appear to be naturally formed (but couldn't possibly be!), are large enough that 18 wheelers could drive through them side by side. The expanse is filled with all sorts of beings scurrying to and fro, many carrying books and others carrying small metal plates.

Johan, meanwhile, is led to the same cavern complex, only the portion that is the "village" of the T'Skrang. However, the rest of you are ushered past rooms filled with strange creatures and strange devices: floating spirits; men made out of what is apparently rock; more Wyndlings; Sasquatches, and many others. They tend to be garbed strangely, and are working at tasks that are difficult to ascertain but seem to involve lots of little brassy-metal cards, steam, and steam organs; as well as magical research.

Weeko frowns and stares at once, all this being so overwhelming and intimidating at once. She's got a bad feel in her stomach, or is that due to her pregnancy, hard to tell. Though she's fascinated by all the bustling around her, she's all to aware for what purpose they are here and quite unshure if the dragon might not simply order her killed.

Samuel is there for that exact eventuality.

Janie walks with Weeko, slightly behind and at her flank. Yes, they were given passage, and she thinks the T'Skrang's word is good, but still, she promised to do all she could to keep Weeko safe.

… Besides, if it turns out that that's not an option, the least and last she can to is make sure it'll be swift and painless.

Weeko follows the leader they have been given, looking shyly around. Her instinct more and more yelling at her to hide. This is not her kid of game, walkig openly to potential doom, as it show in her slightly jerky movement, a stance the shows how much she aches to disapear into a dark corner of this /huge/ place. Still, having the others around her this is no option.

Samuel elsewhere, is probably eating lots of good food, exchanging stories, drinking food and having some local female debating the possibilities of a genetically improbably liaison.

The farther you go in, the more that it becomes noticable that there are spirits hovering around you on the edges of your perception. They don't seem to be doing anything to you, but as you proceed, you notice that people are clearing a wide berth around you except for a small entourage that keeps growing. Essentially, the "normal" people are being cleared out of your way and a select few other folks (who would be considered in our time as "dudes in lab coats" but are in this time men in robes, with little notepads and clockwork/crystal devices instead of laptops and remote cyber scanners, shadowing you at a distance.

Weeko finally stops. Tension becoming too much to bear for a moment. Finding an appropriate rock/chair/bench/crate (whatever come first) she sits down shivering a bit, taking a few deep breaths. It feels as if she was walkign for ages now, and taking out some bottle from her backback she drinks a few drops all meant to calm her down, while watching the crowd around. After a few minutes she feeels ready to go on, standing up she turns to follow their impatient guide

Janie rests a hand on Weeko's shoulder. "Ye okay?" she asks.

Weeko nods solemnly. "I kin manage…", is all she replies. "Lets git dis ova wid.", she then says, asking their guide, "How much longa do we need ter go?"

"Not much longer," answers Gary. "Not much longer at all." In fact, you are shortly thereafter ushered into a room that seems to be a vestibule or a waiting room, similar to those you imagine would be to the side of throne rooms. Gary says, "Well, friends, here is where we must part. Beyond that door lies Mountainshadow. He is a Dragon, the Lorekeeper, the being you have come to see. We all serve him here, in return for his protection. What he is to you, I cannot say." He pauses, as one of those on the side come to speak to him. He nods. "I should warn you to make no sudden moves nor approach him closely when you enter. The Lady Weeko's condition is a dangerous one in this place and this time, and until he is certain he will not want you close." He smiles, and says, "Good luck."'

A small door (adjacent to a MUCH larger door) is ahead of you.

Hall of the Mountain Shadow

Weeko mutters silently, "As if I'd been dat eager ter git close ter a freakin' dragon…" Luckily she says it silently enough, that only Janie can hear it.

Janie grins, appreciating Weeko's point. On the other hand, this is Dunkelzahn - or will be. It may be irrational of her, but she's wanted to meet him and thank him ever since… But this isn't the time to dwell on bad memories. "Time t'get it over with, then?" she suggests to Weeko.

Weeko nods, then asks, "We enter one atta time or all tergetha, Mista Gary? I dun want ter anger da dragon jus' by jumpin' 'im wit a band o' people he dun want in dere…", she explains.

Gary replies, "It would likely be best that Lady Weeko and her escort Lady Janie enter first."

Janie nods, then looks at Weeko. "Shall we, then?"

Weeko nods then walks on towards that door. She doesn't look back, assuming that Janie will follow her. Before corssing she again hesitates for a second, then pulls herself together and slowly walks in.

"And so then, as I slew the dragon, that very dragon, He bit down, biting my arm -right off-. Oh, I tell you. I learned a lesson that day." A pause to drink more of the Oro'Zo. "That lesson? I am not immortal."

Janie follows behind Weeko, her weapons worn at her side but not held in her hands, as befits a Warrior.

The two of you open the doors and step into a VAST chamber. It's not quite as big as an indoor professional football stadium, but maybe one on a collegiate scale. There are odd brass pipes and fittings along many of the walls that exude steam, but there are no human-sized people here. The first thing you notice here is a very large Great Western Dragon. It-he-is a melange of dark blue and silver glittering scales. He's very large; your best guess is that he's at least 60m (about 200 feet) from nose to tail, but it's hard to tell as he's curled up on a large cushioned pedestal in the center of the room, and anyway about a third of that is tail and neck. He is watching the doorway intently with glowing golden eyes…and he would be a lot frickin' scarier if it weren't for the fact that he appears to be wearing…small (well, large for a human, but small for him) gold-wire-rimmed spectacles near the tip of his snout. They make him look somewhat like an old professor. Well, sort of.

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Weeko looks at the strange sight, she's not sure what she expected, but a dragon wearing /glasses/ it makes her nearly chuckle. Nearly. 60m of dragon don't really need to be aroused, so she's just standing at the door, not shure of how to proceed from here.

"Lord Mountain Shadow, Loremaster," Janie speaks up in a soft yet clearly audible voice. "We have come from afar t'seek y'r counsel. Will ye hear us?"

Weeko stands there looking uncertain if she should to a likewise siltedly speech, then just adds, "Oh, yeah, right…we bin lookin' fer help, yes if yer dragonship woul' wanna hear 'bout da problem dat is…", not as nicely as Janie's speech , but then Weeko's not that smooth in her demeanors.

Inside of your minds-no sound is made, but you get the impression of a deep and rumbling though not unpleasantly loud "voice"-you hear, *Greetings, Janie, Weeko. You've travelled far to come here. I would say I welcome you, but I sense your trek here is not one of peaceful sightseeing…so yes, I will hear you out.*

Janie nods and lets Weeko present her case first. She's the reason this trek happened, after all.

Weeko ponders that sentence, then whispers, "Peacefull sight seein'? Imma not bin knowin' dragons had a sense a humor…" Louder she says, well, Imm anot shrue how much yer bin told 'bout me problem…seem Imma bin touched by somethin' /real/ bad. 'n our…Loremasters?…seem ter be a tad helpless about wha' it means…'n more importantly how 't kin be removed." More silently again, "If it can."

"It seems intend on me kids, as Imma preggers as even ya drongship woul' recognize, Imma guessin'. 'n honestly, Idda like ter git normal, healthy kids free o' dark magic o' wahteva kind.", she continues. "I apologize ter be dat bluntly, but 's not bin me idea ter git Inita dat, 'n yer kinda mighty intimidatin' fer a simple ork gal as me…"

The great dragon's head inclines slightly and his neck snakes out to look at you carefully, but still from a distance. His gaze bores into Weeko's. It's like he's studying her carefully. You have what appears to be the mark of the Enemy upon you, Weeko. It is, however, unlike any of the marks of this type I have seen before. Which is unusual, but not all that unusual. He paues. How did you obtain this Mark? He makes no real effort to put you at ease, but his words are still gentle.

Weeko squirms a bit as she again is peered at that intendly, this time from an even more powerfull being than those researcher at home. "Well, I've got no idea iffen ya got orphanages here…'s houses fer kids withou' parents, fer whaeva reasons. 't seems da man leadin' da orphanage Imma bin in 's bin some kinda dark mage o' sorts impregnatin' kids unda his lead wid dis kinda shit. Imma jus' bin lucky ter run away early on…so he did'na finish wha'eva he's bin up ter…Ya might omagine our people usually don' do dis kinda magic…so we're not even shure wha' 's meant ter do. All we know dat it kinda makes da victims willin' ter follow da guys orda's."

The dragon's left eyeridge arches and he looks at you curiously. You say a human did this? He looks at both of you. Did this being appear to be a human astrally?

Janie shakes her head. "He wasn't present when we sought out an' destroyed his Lodge," she replies.

Weeko blinks, "Umm…ya konw, I guess Imma da only one o' da present ter meet 'im 'fore…'n Imma run away 'fore Imma even bin knowin' Imma adept. 'sides Imma not doin' spirit watchin'." She mumbles, "Still workin' on learnin' dat…"

The dragon pulls back from you and you hear a mental sigh of resignation. It would have been useful to know whether the being you claimed to have done this to you was human. Or other. Or even if he bore any sort of similar mark. But that is not possible, apparently. He continues, You know you have a black mark on your aura. You do not know from what source it comes, but you suspect it comes from this man who leads an orphanage. You mentioned a Lodge. What is the Lodge? Why do you believe it comes from him?

Weekoshrugs, "Well, Imma not bin meetin' /dat/ many magic types at home…Masta Wu, Roobins da director, Janie, May…but da only guy dat's been havin' dat eerie feelin' was Roobins…'n Imma not shure wha ya mean by lodge…we found dis hideout onna roof offa orphanage. Dat wha' ya think 'bout?"

Janie speaks up again. "I was th'first t'spot th'Mark, when she called on me after a panic attack o'some kind in which she saw th'face o'th'man who abused her at th'orphanage. This prompted us t'go back there an'investigate; we found that many o'th'children still in th'orphanage bore similar marks…" She pauses for a moment to gather her thoughts before continuing.

The dragon Mountainshadow rests back on his haunches as you speak. He looks *exactly* like the dead President of the UCAS, Dunkelzahn.

Janie continues. "There was a hidden door in th'ceiling o'th'room that belonged to th'Director; it contained a blood-stained altar an'th'skeletal remains o'murdered children - an' on th'Astral, it reeked with death an'sufferin' an'their dyin' screams."

"If he wasn't th'one who did it personally, I believe he's at least in close cooperation with whoever or whatever did."

Dunkelzahn says in your head, Mm. Weeko, what was done to you as a child that you can recall?

Weeko shrugs, "Nothin' ter much dat I kin rememba. Da guy was a fuckin' pedophile 'n sadist, iffen yer kind knows wha dat means, 'n started ter do 'is stuff 'n me…I bin runnin' 'way 'fore da real nasty stuff happened…Some o' it was nice, but 't started ter make me feel startled really quick…"

"Imma bin jus' five years old at dat time afta all…", she adds.

The dragon muses. Clever. He strikes before you are capable of forming lasting memories. He moulds those who are already harmed by the natural state of the orphan child-those without parents to guide the formation of the early psyche. He plants the seeds of darkness in you. A sigh. The Enemy has had millenia to come up with new tricks; it would seem they have learned another. Are all the children in the orphanage magically active?

Weeko shakes her head, "I kinda doubt 't…he's jus' known ter be kinda successfull ter git 'is kids ter influential parents…spreadin' 'em 'round da continent…maybe even da world…"

Janie shakes her head. "I couldn't tell," she replies. "Most o'them were still very young - in our time, Awakenin' happens somewhere around adolescense an'th'onset o'puberty. Most kids in th'orphanage were younger'n that."

She shrugs. "If there are ways t'tell potential in a child's aura, they're lost knowlege to us."

Let us move back to your case, Weeko. You did not display this dark hole in your aura until you were pregnant? No signs of it whatsoever? And yet some of the children you saw had the same mark?

Weeko nods, "Well, Janie's bin tellin' about it fadin' inter dere auras when they grew up…I kinna tel if dat's true 'n mine may be kinda small ter begin wid…Guess not many people were lookin' fer it."

Janie nods. "She did not - I'd assensed her before, an'never saw anythin' out o'th'ordinary," Janie replies. "An' th'marks on th'other children were fainter with th'older kids."

The dragon drums its claws against the floor of the cavern like a human might in passing time while thinking-index-middle-ring-pinky, up and down in rows as he considers. When was the last time you laughed, Weeko?

Weeko blinks ot having expected /that/ question, "Imma doin' dat alot…jus' bin a bit tense while on my way 'ere…so guess some time 'fore dat… Ya could ask Katral…he's 'endless reason fer laughs…"
"Do giggles count?", she asks then.

Yes. They do. He pauses. Can you sing, Weeko? Perform any artistic abilities?

Weeko shrugs, "Imma neva bin one fer singin' but Imma doin' a tad o' dancin'…but…iffen I may be dat bold ter ask. Wha's dat gotta do wid me problem?"

I will tell you later. Can you draw? Sketch? Write poetry? Code…software?

Weeko ponders, "I started takin' lessons 'n da tronics 'n computer science wid Katral 'n a friend…does dat count? But dat far Imma not really good at it…Imma martial arts gal'n did learn a lot 'bout how ter be avoid bein' seen. Da las' a result o' growin' up inna streets. Da firs' o' tutorship by a monk."

The dragon looks at Weeko very carefully and says in your mind, It is very important that you display to me the ability to do something creative.

Weeko@emit She mumbles silently. "Maybe I shoulds written down me life 'fore I came 'ere…woulda saves us lotsa talkin'…" Then as the dragon asks for something creative, she asks, "Dancing good fer dat or do ya need somethin' ya kin put ya hand on?"

She mumbles silently. "Maybe I shoulds written down me life 'fore I came 'ere…woulda saves us lotsa talkin'…" Then as the dragon asks for something creative, she asks, "Dancing good fer dat or do ya need somethin' ya kin put ya hand on?"

A dance would be acceptable. Please perform one now. The dragon waits.
Katral has arrived.

Weeko starts to move inher quite unique acrobatic way of dancing, considering she's under quite some tension and stress doing this under the watchfull eye of a great dragon, she manages quite admirably, in fact going through those motions seems to /quite/ calm her down.

In your mind, Mountainshadow says, That is enough. He continues, These children at the orphanage that you saw who were marked as Weeko is, he turns to Janie, Are they still alive?

"Th'last I saw, yes," Janie replies. "We arranged t'evacuate th'buildin' before I had her beloved blow up th'lodge."

Weekoponders, "Them's prolly bin spread aroudn da remainin' orphanages 'round da place…dat or taken inter examination by da govvies…"

Dunkelzahn nods. Then I suppose it is time I told you what you need to know. He takes a deep breath and his form *SHIMMERS*. It shrinks in on itself in a wash of magical energy, and appears to disappear in a bright white light, and then-from the center of where he once was-you see a man. He is human, stands about 6'4" tall, and bears a striking resemblance to Michaelangelo's David statue, with blue-tinted silver hair and wearing a blue-and-silver embroidered tunic. The man approaches you but remains at a distance; he is still wearing those glasses, although they're smaller. He speaks, now in a human male's voice, but somehow it resonates with what you heard in your mind telepathically. "What you are dealing with is different from, but has a great deal of similarity to, what we have had to deal with here in the past. It should have come further in your future but things have changed up there in ways that I am still attempting to divine, beyond the technological areas."

It should be noted that this individual resembles the former President when he wore a human guise.

Dunkelzahn says, "In the time that this universe," he gestures around him as if to encompass everything, "was created, the world was filled with magic. I have since discovered that this place was originally created at the peak of mana flow in the universe. Did Sir Murphy tell you about the Scourge, or the Horrors, or as we call them here, the Enemy?"

Janie nods quietly.

Weeko looks quite awed, "Wow…dat's a neat trick…" She was quite young when Dunkelzahn went for presidency, so she prolly never cared much about that then. Still, she appreciates a good looking male if she sees one, now. She nods in reply to his question, "Ya, he did, though he said we betta keep shut 'bout it…fer several good reasons."

Dunkelzahn says, "Good. This will be easier then." He closes his eyes. "When the world has the most mana in the center of the cycle, the Enemy comes in force. Their coming is heralded by the arrival of the Invae, what you call bug spirits. It is usually several hundred years between the Invae's arrival and that of the Horrors' full manifestation but in your time, for some reason, it is different." He pauses, opening his eyes. "The Enemy feeds on pain and suffering and has motivations beyond our ken, but they all seem to involve bad things for us." He chuckles humorlessly. "One thing they do is Mark people to use them for later purposes. When someone is Marked, or Horror-Tainted, in our time, they are incapable of creating anything new; they have no creative spark-thus the most basic test is to see if they can do something artistic. This is because sometimes, the taint is undetectable on the astral plane." He looks at Weeko and says, "You are tainted by the touch of a Horror. It is visible on the astral plane. Yet you can dance. And dance well, I might add. It would seem the Horrors have changed in your time."

Weeko shudders, "Great, now ya really make me nervous…"

"Th'Ghost Dance," Janie says. "Samuel mentioned it caused some kind o'spike…"

Dunkelzahn nods. "It did, and the problem with that is that we don't really know what that did." He continues, "Weeko is actively seeking to remove the taint from herself and seems to have no knowledge of what exactly it is doing to her, or what it can do to her." He turns to Weeko. "And you say the childrens' taints disappear as they get older-and yours was gone-but now that you're pregnant it's back. I cannot tell you how you were Marked. I cannot tell you what it means, exactly, or whether you will be controlled or puppetted in the future by this Horror. I can, I believe, show Janie a means of removing the Mark from you."

Janie nods. "I'm willin' t'learn," she replies, putting the question what to do about the dozens, possibly hundreds, of other kids with the same mark aside for now.

Dunkelzahn says, "I will give you a list which you will take back with you to the Draco Foundation when you leave the Machine. This list will give them access to several files that I left for them which to this point they have been unaware of. Amongst those files will be data that can assist you with Weeko." He pauses. "The cost for this assistance will be that you find all of the orphans who are still children in that orphanage and bring them to the Foundation; they will provide a place to keep them. From all of those with visible marks, you will test them for artistic ability. Those who have such ability may live; and you can attempt to cleanse them with what the Draco Foundation provides." He pauses. "The ones who don't shall be killed and their bodies cremated. Whatever religious services you wish to provide for them may be performed."

Janie can't help but flinch visibly at that, but by the time she brings herself to nod her gaze is steady again. "… I understand."

Weeko ponders the answer she got, then looks at the dragons human form, a certain uncertainty in her voice, "Well, dat may be a life-long task 'n Imma not shure if kin eva find 'em all….not dat Idda not be willin' ter do it. 's jus dat Imma hard pressed ter accept a task Imma prolly not able ter finish…Imma ork afta all 'n our kind's not dat well poised at our time 'n place…"

"Anyway I kinna expect Jane ter be bound fer a thing she's jus' doin' fer helpin' me….", she adds. "'s not fair dat a friend has ter suffer fer me misfortune…"

Dunkelzahn shakes his head. "I do not expect you to find all of the children immediately; merely the small ones who were most recently at the orphanage. Those are the ones who may have a chance to be saved." He pauses. "The rest of it is work for all of the Foundation…all of the Watchers. We must trace down everyone who has ever been in these orphanages, determine which ones are Horror-marked, and kill those. It will be much harder and take much longer, as the children apparently haven't been…taken over fully, at least, not most of them and not yet."

"What's 'fair' have t'do with anythin'?" Janie asks Weeko quietly. "It's about what needs be done, not about what's fair an' what isn't."

Weeko blinks at Janie, then whispers back, "Idda feel fuckin' bad iffen /ya/'d be /forced/ ter do it jus fer helpin' me. Iffen yer doin' it on ya own free will…", she shrugs,then turns to the dragon. "I guess I can try dat…though Immanot really lookin' forward ter killin' mostly innocent kids…"

Dunkelzahn frowns. "With all that your kind know of me, do you really think that I favor the deaths of children?" He shakes his head. "You need to understand, perhaps this will be easier for you if you do understand: those who are marked by the Horrors, and who have not overcome those marks-through force of will, magic, or through unknown means such as your own…they have no souls. Children are the most vulnerable, though this is new…using them over the long-term. They may even retain some artistic creativity that way, and that is what worries me the most."

"Nobody forced me t'help ye, Weeko," Janie replies. "I chose t'accept th'consequences when I chose t'help ye."

"Besides," she comments. "Knowin' what ye know now, realizin' they'd have t'die - how's refusin' t'do it myself any better? I'd be a hypocrite, stickin' my fingers in my ears while knowin' someone else is doin' th'bloody work I had no stomach for."

She looks to Dunkelzahn again. "Does it worry ye because it means th'standard test t'detect Horror infestation may no longer work, or do ye worry this might mean th'Horrors could make some sort o'use out of victims who retain their artistic ability?" she asks, forcing herself to look at the problem in strategic and tactical terms for now, rather than in terms of killing children in cold blood.

Dunkelzahn replies, "Both. I expect that for children, it will be easy to tell. They will either be creative or they won't; even under the influence of a Horror they have likely not had enough time to learn to convincingly lie." He pauses. "Adults, on the other hand…if you cannot tell that someone is tainted by artistic means, which I still suggest you try…and you cannot tell via visual means, which is often the only other way to do so, you have to use magic that has not been used in entirely too long a time. I have it; I will teach it to you-and to others-who come here, and it should show you who is Horror-touched and who is not."

Weeko shivers, this kind of discussion too coldblooded for the emotional girl.

Weeko nods though to the dragon, "I understand dat it's neccessary…I just don't like it, da more as I started dis jus' ter free me kids of a curse I coul' na understand. Still I hope I kin do my part ter allow dem ter live 'n maybe live inna betta world…"

Janie nods, both at Weeko and Dunkelzahn.

The dragon says, "Exactly. It might be easier if you remember that despite their outward forms, the souls these children-or others-might have once had are either being tortured somewhere beyond the realm of your imagination, or have been devoured, but in either case are beyond help." He pauses. "Come with me. I will teach you what you need to know, Janie, and Weeko."

He pauses. "But before we begin…do you have any other questions?"

Weeko shrugs, "Nah, not really…Imma bit overawed by all dis though…"

Janie nods. "Ever since I learned we'd be comin' here, there's another thing I knew I needed t'ask ye. My beloved - May - is a Shaman o'th'Seductress, but I think somethin' went wrong because o'what was happenin' to her when she Awakened. Her Totem's showin' signs o'bein' toxic, but she herself doesn't behave that way. It's gotten to th'point where her totem sometimes tries t'/force/ her t'act against her conscience, an' I've exhausted every line o'research I've been able t'do…"

Weeko blinks, at that question. But she refrains from commenting or asking something to that revelation. Though it's quite obvious she's having to bite her tongue to do that.

Dunkelzahn pauses to consider. "I do not know much of your totems beyond what I have read. Our world is different from yours…one person who came here, Jude, was a Dragonslayer follower, much to my amusement." WIth that he adds, "However, what you're describing…I would recommend you have her travel, or perhaps you travel, to the Well of Souls. At least that's what it is called in our time. That is where the patterns form…where the possibilities lie. For such a thing. It would be located in what is Thailand or Indonesia in your world…I will get that information to you. If her Pass…her Totem is being affected by darkness, or she is, then it is something you should attend to." He pauses. "Anything else?"

"Only that…" Janie trails off briefly, suddenly less certain of her words. "In our time, by y'r will there is a price placed on th'head o'any blood mage. If it hadn't been f'r that bounty, I wouldn't be alive now. I wanted t'thank ye f'r that…'

Dunkelzahn says, "Blood mages…" he shakes his head. "I knew that blood magic was a bad idea, but the elves would never listen, and for that I think they have aided the appearance of the Horrors in your time. But enough of that. You're welcome. It is time to learn…."

Weeko blinks, another revelation to puzzle her. Then asks, "Hmmm, dere's questions occurein' ter me…will dat treatment be done in 'ere? 'n will it affect me babies?"

«OOC» Minos says, "All right, now it's Training Montage Time for you guys."
«OOC» Minos says, "Here's what he teaches you:"
«OOC» Weeko says, "Guess I inadvertently made a nice transscript for the learning…"
«OOC» Minos says, *"Janie, you learn a spell, Detect Horror Mark.* I don't think you'll be charged karma for it-just assume it's on your sheet in a +pcnote or maybe the GM who reads this will add it to your sheet for free. You learn it at up to force 4. Dunkelzahn has some poor unfortunates brought in from within the Machine who are Marked and you learn how to use the spell to tell people who are marked from those who aren't. It's an exclusive complex action to cast this spell."
«OOC» Janie gets two bonus dice from her Passen-I mean, Totem, for detection spells, both to learn and to cast. :)
«OOC» Minos says, "*Weeko, you learn…well, it's hard to describe exactly what it is. But it's a meditation technique that will allow you to separate the Horror mark from your aura by putting it in…another part of your aura.* Sort of. Think of it as the equivalent of: you have cancer in your stomach. You move the cancer to the tip of your left pinkie finger. You cut off the tip of your pinkie finger."

«OOC» Weeko says, "Oh…so I kinda remove a part of my aura…"
«OOC» Minos says, "…only you preserve the pinkie finger so at some point in the future if someone REALLY wanted to and tried hard they could put it back in."
«OOC» Minos says, "sorta. It doesn't translate straight out and you can't just "do" it. What it needs in order to be done will happen later, when you get the data from the Foundation."
«OOC» Janie says, "What's the drain on that spell, by the way?"
«OOC» Minos says, "And whatever that is, is going to be a run that Janie'll run; we've decided (at least I think she's agreed!) to run plots for you Euro type folks so I don't have to be awake til 7AM running this. :) :)"
«OOC» Janie nods.
«OOC» Minos says, "Janie: I don't know."
«OOC» Minos still has yet to design that one. :)
«OOC» Minos says, "Anyway, that's what you guys learn."
«OOC» Weeko says, "I could do runs too…I know a few things to run SR after all. But then you might want to have it in one hand…"
«OOC» Minos says, "Well, the beauty of this plot is this:"
«OOC» Janie says, "Lessee. Force 4 spell would have a learning TN of 8, modified by Exclusive gives -2, so…"
«OOC» Minos says, "I know What's Really Going On. Who the Main Big Bad Guy is and what he's doing. BUT. He has a whole crapload of minions and they are in all sorts of interesting positions in the world that you are gonna have to find and destroy and undo the works of.
«OOC» Minos says, "So basically, anyone can run a plot with one of the "sleeper agents" in it for whatever reason, mundane or otherwise, and all they gotta do is tell me what's going on."
«OOC» Weeko says, "Nods. My crazy idea with the orphanage, yes…"
«Auto-Judge[]» Janie (#4136) rolls Sorcery + 2 (Totem dice) vs TN 6 for "Learning attempt.":
1 1 2 2 3 4 5 5 5 = 0 Successes
«OOC» Minos says, "You rock. :)"
«Auto-Judge[]» Janie (#4136) rolls Sorcery + 2 (Totem dice) vs TN 6 for "Learning attempt. (KP 1/30)":
1 2 2 3 4 8 10 11 11 = 4 Successes
«OOC» Weeko says, "That way they can be pretty anywhere…this plot can run for…ages!"
«OOC» Weeko looks somewhat depressed, "What did I do…I let a maniac take over /this/ run." ;)
«OOC» Katral takes over, and makes everyone dance for him. DANCE!
«OOC» Minos says, "Well, I hope you guys had fun. :)"
«OOC» Janie did.
«OOC» Weeko says, "Shure did…"
«OOC» Minos says, "Now you know what's going on (at least what I'm telling you up to this point) and future plots can be ACTION ACTION ACTION!"
«OOC» Weeko says, "I assume the follwoign plots will be out of the machine?"
«OOC» Janie says, "Some out, some in, as the needs of the plot dictate."
«OOC» Weeko says, "Nice…"
«OOC» Janie says, "Most out, probably, given that it's not exactly supposed to be a tourist trap."
«OOC» Weeko says, "Heh…I'd love to take one of those pixies with me… ;)"
«OOC» Minos says, "Yeah well"
«OOC» Minos says, "GIven the current state of the mana pattern"
«OOC» Minos says, "the world can't support flying, intelligent, foot-tall magical fairie namegiver races for a few hundred years yet."

Return to Game, Dunk's audience.

As the three of you are waiting in the antechamber, lost in your own thoughts, eventually a strain of music can be heard coming from crystals in the walls. It's a really OLD song, and it goes: "Welcome, my son…welcome to the Machine…" After the refrain to that song is over, another crystal atop the doorway into the antechamber lights up.

The three of you open the doors and step into a VAST chamber. It's not quite as big as an indoor professional football stadium, but maybe one on a collegiate scale. There are odd brass pipes and fittings along many of the walls that exude steam, but there are no human-sized people here. The first thing you notice here is a very large Great Western Dragon. It-he-is a melange of dark blue and silver glittering scales.

He's very large; your best guess is that he's at least 60m (about 200 feet) from nose to tail, but it's hard to tell as he's curled up on a large cushioned pedestal in the center of the room, and anyway about a third of that is tail and neck. He is watching the doorway intently with glowing golden eyesand he would be a lot frickin' scarier if it weren't for the fact that he appears to be wearing small (well, large for a human, but small for him) gold-wire-rimmed spectacles near the tip of his snout. They make him look somewhat like an old professor. Well, sort of.

Ally paces incessantly at the waiting, not even thinking of sitting. She's too wired to. Meeting Dunkelzahn. Not a chance that she's going to sit and be still. The moment the doorway opens up Ally pushes through the doors and her eyes go wide at taking in the chamber. It takes her time to realize she's looking at the dragon's tail, and her eyes have to travel the long line of the dragon's body untils he reaches his head. Barely restrained is the 'eep' at being before her first dragon. Which is of course the most important dragon there ever was as far as the young mage is concerned. "Hi," she squeaks in greeting.

Johan doesn't speak as he escorts the woman in to the room. Younger looking still, perhaps only 30 now, Johan stands quietly behind Aladriel. Bare to the waist save for the tribal markings along both bicepts and the facial painting, he looks like any other member of the Red Plains Tribe. Only, well, Johan's not an Ork.

Not that this matters much to the Red Plains Tribe.

Kassandra waits. It is all you can do, after all, and she has had tons of practice. The elven woman enters the giant room with the other two, eyes scanning the chamber out of practice for exits and other people. She stares at the dragon, eyes travelling the length of the being from one side to the other, The hooded and veiled woman curtseys deeply, keeping her silence.

Inside your minds, a stentorian voicedeep, rumbling, accompanied by the vague mental scent of pipe smoke and old leatherresonates. *Greetings, Aladriel Cindel, Kassandra DePaiva, Samuel Thayer. Thank you for coming. Would you like some tea?*

Ally doesn't quite jump, but definitely flinches when the voice comes within her head and the dragon's mouth hasn't moved the slightest bit. A big goofy sort of grin spreads briefly across her face and she nods her head quickly, tongue lost for a moment.

Johan speaks, and when his voice comes, it is lacking any of the arrogance, coolness or aloofness that people have come to expect from Samuel Clemens, Johan-the-wolf, or as the Dragon nows says, Samuel Thayer. His voice contains within itself a reverence, an understanding, a certain level of worship one might reserve for a priest or a messiah. "Your hospitality, Great Mountain-Shadow, is as always, without exception. I will take as you offer, in all things."

Dunkelzahn, sensing the unease of at least one of you present, suddenly *SHIMMERS*. The air around him takes on the rippling appearance of a tar road on a hot and sunny day and without any particular sound or other showiness, he suddenly isn't there anymore—replaced by a 6'3" tall man bearing a remarkable resemblance to Michaelangelo's David. He isn't wearing the glasses, but is wearing a blue set of robes with silver threaded lining. He steps forward off the pedestal, and rings a small crystal bell; some wyndlings arrive shortly thereafter with a tea set. He says, "Please, come and have a seat;" and now that you're not focused on DRAGON you can see that the place actually has a small niche with a table and comfortable chairs just off to the side of the pedestal. "Be at ease, let's chat."

Ally's blue eyes blink rapidly as dragon turns to mad, and momentarily she looks disappointed. She's not making bets that she's ever going to see a dragon again, so her time in the presence of one in full-on dragon form was decidedly brief. Alas. Is there any wonder? She approaches the pedestal and takes the seat that's closest to it. Idol worship? Yes. "Thank you, sir, er, D..Mountain-Shadow sir," she says quickly. Having to work hard to get some volume to her voice.

Johan moves quietly, booted feet echoing only faintly in the cavern. He takes his seat, waiting for the women to be seated first. He is silent, leaning back in his chair, letting the dragon take the lead.

Kassandra watches the dragon shift his form, relaxing and returning to her full and upright position. She follows the others towards the table, keeping an eye on Mountainshadow, hands clasped beneath her voluminous sleeves. The woman is quiet, much as she has been throughout the trip, waiting to see what is to transpire. Weeko, Katral, and Janie are not here; they were, as far as she knows, the emphasis for this trip. She takes a seat, waiting as well to see what the creature has to say.

Mountain-shadow pours you all tea, in this simple action trying to set you at ease. "I've spoken with Janie and Weeko and Katral, albeit briefly. I am assuming you are all aware of what they were brought here for; the results of the test were positive—Miss Weeko was in fact touched by a Horror, but I've taught her how to…how can I put this? Hide the taint away in a manner that it is seperated from her aura. Her children will be fine." He pauses a beat. "It is the rest of your world that I am concerned for."

Johan glances to Kassandra, as, given how long this plot has taken, she has seen first hand the most minor of horrors interacting with our world even in the most indirect way. He says nothing still, listening to the Dragon, and observing the others.

Kassandra frowns beneath her veil, shaking her head slightly. She holds her tongue, however, listening to Mountainshadow. She schools herself, keeping her own council on Weeko, her children, the orphans, and other subjects.

Johan lifts his features to Mountainshadow now, canting his eyes and features as if to ask a question, but waits to be acknowledged first.

Ally takes up her teacup and her hand shakes badly enough to start sloshing it all over the place. It takes her a moment to realize it and she has to stare to get it under control. A few deep, calming breaths get her back in order and she listens to the Dragon's words, obvious relief on her face at the news of Weeko. But that relief is short-lived, and talk of the Horrors kills a bit of her happy-time, meeting-her-childhood-hero buzz. "Can you show us how to destroy a Horror?" she asks softly, a flick of her eyes towards the others. She sees Johan's look and winces then, fearing she's misspoke.

Dunkelzahn looks at Aladriel and says, "I cannot; by and large because the method differs between Horrors. Each is unique, each has its own proclivites and while general prophylaxis is possible in some ways, specific Horrors have different aspects to them that can be defeated in different ways."

Dunkelzahn whispers "In your mind, Dunkelzahn asks, *How much do you trust these two? Can I share deep secrets with them?*"

Johan knew that answer already, and is unphased by the answer that Aladriel receives. He raises an eyebrow to Dunklezhan, then looks to the women, First to Aladriel, then to Kassandra. He seems to regard them for a moment before looking back to the dragon.

Johan whispers "The elf, she is grounded in the world of science. She mirrors me in her skepticism and 'real world'. Not idealistic, she serves the coin, but I think she would follow an ideal if it were real to her. I would trust her. The younger… she is far to much magic and not enough understanding. The classic child with a toy that can destroy lives. I trust her, but I fear her lack of tempering." to Dunkelzahn.

Ally looks contemplative at that answer and looks down at her lap for a few moments. She murmurs lightly, "Aren't immortal," to herself. She keeps her eyes downcast for a few more moments, taking the time to seal up some painful memories so she can better focus.

Dunkelzahn says "I presume Alexander told you about the Great Ghost Dance spike that increased mana to the level where the Horrors entered the Sixth World long before they should have. That spike created a bridge between the place where the Scourge come from, and your world. That Bridge was closed once by Caimbeuel Har'lea'Quinn and a band of shadowrunners." He pauses. "That should have prevented the Horrors from entering your world, but then there were the machinations of a man named Oscuro, otherwise known as Darke, and the Blood Mage Gestalt. These blood mages combined their power to open another link to the Horrors." He pauses. "And it is only recently that I have learned exactly what it is that happened to myself in your world.""
Dunkelzahn continues…

Johan nods. "Darkes disposition continues to be unknown, and despite our similarities, The Clown continues to deny my requests for a meeting."

Dunkelzahn says "On the night of my inauguration, I had discovered that Darke and the Blood Mage Gestalt were about to force open a much larger rift than even the Great Ghost Dance's spike had caused. It required my sacrifice to empower a very powerful artifact that would enable your people to close the rift he would open. Ryanthusar, Nadja Daviar, and others worked with that artifact to defeat Darke and the artifact is now in the metaplanes with its guardians, protecting against the establishment of further rifts and the incursion of Horrors. It was believed that this was the end of the threat against your planes; that the Dragonheart and its guardians could stop the Horrors from continuing their incursions…" he looks at the three of you, "but while everyone was watching Darke and the blood mages, and the threat from elsewhere…it would seem that at least one, if not more, Horrors have already infiltrated your world and are at work attempting to open up bridges from *your* side. The Dragonheart and its guardians should suffice to provide a line of defense against new incursions from that direction. But it is up to the Watchers, now, to discover and eliminate what is happening on your side."

Ally's eyes get big. Huge. Mouth open even as well, tons of questions get answered about a huge event of the world. And its everything of her to stop herself from turning this into a Q&A about the Dragon himself. Stay on purpose! Taking a breath when there is a pause, she asks a question that she wants an answer to, not even thinking that Samuel might already know the answer, "How do we find them? Are there things to look for? Is there…I've seen one and felt one, is there magic to be learned that can find them? Or even better fight against them?"

Johan smirks, reaching in to a pocket to pull out a pack of cigarettes. He glances to Dunklezahn, to see if the Dragon minds if he smokes. He finds the irony amusing.

Fuck. Kassandra closes her eyes, working very hard to keep her thoughts to herself, her mouth closed. She opens her eyes and glances to Aladriel, letting the other woman ask the questions that someone should probably ask.

Dunkelzahn gestures towards Johan, commenting, "You may as well; at least here they will not give you coughing disease." Looking to Aladriel he replies, "I can teach you a spell which will allow you to detect horror marks on people. It is not a simple spell, but I will teach it to you as I have taught it to Janie. It wasn't…necessary." He pauses. "In the Fourth World, one could detect those marked by Horrors by virtue of the fact that they could notthey were not capableof artistic or creative acts. Judging from Weeko, at least, this appears to no longer be the case. The magick I will teach you is very old, dating back to the Second Age."

Johan flicks the cigarette out and in to his hand. He offers one to Kassandra, then lights his cigarette. "Boss?" Asks Johan. "I don't want to cut you off or be disrespectful. But I really need to know something."

Learn ancient magic? From Dunkelzahn? If her daughter was raised and independent, Ally could happily die on the spot. Her chin jumps up and down as she nods, truly trying to bite her tongue, but its hard. "I want to learn, and I'm really good with spells. Anything will help… it seems like the one we found was just by luck, other than,.." she stops as Johan starts talking and she goes silent.

Kassandra shakes her head, waving off the cigarette. She watches Johan, waiting to see what he will ask the shapechanged dragon.

Dunkelzahn looks to Johan and says, "Yes?"

Johan purses his lips, trying to phrase this. "I won't… deny who or what I am. Alexander can be the guy who gets to save the women, be on the trid and pet the kittens, but thats not me. I want to know one thing. Why have I listened to Alexander and not simply -killed- Weeko, her child and everyone who ever thought about so much as loaning her money?"

Kassandra nods once, apparently very much in agreement with Johan.

Ally looks from Dunkelzahn to Johan and her face is very hard to read. It is a very careful blank as she waits and listens along with Kassandra, though definitely not in obvious agreement.

Dunkelzahn replies, "Because, quite simply, until you brought her here I was entirely unaware of the situation as it stood. The Foundation was unaware of the situation as it stood. After all, if Dunkelzahn sacrifices himself in order to stop the Horrors from encroaching on the world and Darke and the Blood Mage Gestalt are stopped, what worry should there be about the Horrors?" he asks. "Sometimes, people get too complacent. Examining Weeko and interviewing her has led us to understand that there is a systematic plan out there being headed not by some insane cultists from Aztlan who believe they have found the key to ultimate power and the tzitzimine but by what appears to have all the hallmarks of an actual Named Horror itself—or perhaps more than one. Does that answer your question?"

Johan thinks that over, puffing on the cigarette to think it over. He blows out a jet of smoke from his nostrils… "Alexander and myself formed the watchers at the request of the Draco Foundation to investigate those exact matters, so I don't think everyhing was complacent. But that does answer the question. But it brings the second stage of that question, which I anticipate you will already know; Why am I not killing her -now-?"
Kassandra says nothing, but instead thinks a Concrete Dreams song loudly in her head.

Ally likewise remains silent and hard to read. But there's not much of a point in being that way. Won't be hard to guess her position.

Dunkelzahn looks at Johan and replies, "Currently, with the Mark suppressed due to the ritual which I taught her, she poses no threat. Even the Horror itself cannot reactivate the Mark; if it does, the ritual I taught her will kill her." He pauses. "However, the primary reason you aren't killing her is because there is a possibility it will return to claim her. If it does, then it may leave clues."

Johan nods. "Bait." He says simply, thinking that over. He crushes out the cigarette on his boot heel, before lighting another. "I can accept that. Ally, Kassandra.. why don't you relate to the Boss the events out at the farm. Maybe he can offer you some insight."

"Clues like we could've found on Meg's body. Find out something about who or what did it all to her," Ally murmurs, just a twinge of hostility thrown Johan's way. It lasts just a moment. Then she looks to Kassandra, and makes no move to start telling the story.

Kassandra shrugs slightly, not as moved by Meg's untimely death as Aladriel it seems. "A house that seemed to appear and disappear. A being that called itself Suukethet-He-Between-Tears existed there, being fed children as near as we could tell. We are pursuing leads as to who was assisting him." Concise, to the point, her voice quiet.

Dunkelzahn looks at the three of you in turn, his gaze resting the longest on Kassandra, before saying, "And who or what is Suukethet-He-Between-Tears? I presume you believe it to be a Horror."

In Kassandra's mind, a voice says, *Why are you so reticent to speak? I will not read your mind.*

Johan nods to Dunk. "That would seem to be the case. IF not a horror, a very powerful extra planar spirit or being that desired access to our plain."

A touch of surprise registers on Aladriel's face at Dunkelzahn's reaction to that. The spirit wasn't known to him? Whats that mean? The answer's in the waiting to hear what he says.

Kassandra nods to what Johan has said, responding to the telepathic voice, "I mean you no disrespect, Mountainshadow. But I've been dealing with forces that are, quite frankly, well beyond what someone such as myself, let alone someone mundane, should be playing with. You'll have to forgive me for not being more chatty." The elf sinks back at that.

Dunkelzahn lets out a sigh. "I was afraid that something like this might happen." He stands up and begins pacing, his arms behind his back. "The main reason you don't know about any of this- the reason it is so…mysterious, is so powerful, is sodangerous…is because most of the others who are of an age to know about it -immortal elves, great dragons, some free spirits- do not believe your people are ready for it. They believe that you will panic and act irrationally if you are made aware- as Ares did with the nuclear detonation in Chicago in reaction to the Invae hives there, or worse. They have merit in their points- while blood magic was once used for good purposes…or at least neutral purposes, in the Fourth World…in your time it has become a means by which the insane undertake acts nigh-guaranteed to bring forth the Scourge."

"What they neglect to consider- or perhaps willfully ignore- is that with the Enemy already amongst you, and with people amongst you who do things like the Great Ghost Dance, that there must be those amongst you who NEED to know these things to carry the fight on. The paralysis of argument between the Orange Queen and Harlequin and their allies on one side, and the rest who believe that only those who lived through it should know and do anything about it, causes reactions like yours, Kassandra: a feeling that you are overwhelmed. And you may well be," he pauses, "but you have to suck it up and soldier. Because for whatever reason, Alexander Michaels and Samuel Thayer believe that you are one of the few who can know these things and maintain enough sanity to fight the Enemy effectively and logically."

Kassandra stares at Mountainshadow for several long moments. She doesn't answer the comment at first, and then an almost incredulous laugh issues forth from the woman, "Suck it up? I see. All right." The woman shakes her head and sits back in her seat.

Johan looks to Kassandra. "If I may. He is trying to set you at ease, to use terms from your own vernacular. Put simply, we are are the ones who can, by our training, our up bringing, our ability, affect and change the world by our own hands. For better, through action, for worse, through inaction. If you do not belive in duty, belive in enlightened self interest. It would be very bad if extra planar creatures ate the earth. You keep your stuff there."

Wise words. Ally listens to it all and if she'd ever taken a journalism class she'd want to start writing a book. She offers a weak smile towards Kassandra after the pep talk from Dunkelzahn. "You did really good at the house…you saw more symbols like the ones I showed you and really helped us," she adds her own little bit.

Kassandra simply stares at Johan, remarking quietly, "When we get back, we are going to have a very, very long talk. You, me, and Alexander. This was NOT what he spoke about, at all." She nods simply to Aladriel, letting out a long breath. The woman does /not/ seem happy at all.

Johan nods to Kassandra. "I don't know the nature of any conversations you had with him. I think I have been straight foward enough, in my aims."

Dunkelzahn chuckles at Johan's remarks and adds, "The point is, fighting these things is a dangerous task. Magic is effective against them, yes—but they are also creatures of magic. Their primary danger isn't that they're spirits or can cast spells. Their primary danger is that they feed off of the suffering and pain and negativity of living beings and they're experts at manipulating and moving behind the scenes to cause metahumanity to harm itself. For this, what is necessary are not just powerful mages…in fact I should say the biggest problem with the fight against the Horrors as it stood was that the only ones who WERE fighting them were powerful mages, looking for powerful magic." He looks at Kassandra and says, "Ah, I wish I could be a fly on the wall for that little conversation," with a grin.

Kassandra simply nods, apparently done with speaking for the moment. It is the most the woman has spoken in days.

him is that he's "to some extent unbalanced"?"

Dunkelzahn looks between the three of you and asks, "Are there any other questions you have for me before I take Aladriel away and train her and send you back on your journey home?"

Johan thinks that over. "Yes." He says simply. "The GPS coordinates for your Caucasus' Lair, or one preferable full of gold, jewels and other easily transferable forms of wealth. You -did- leave it to whomever finds it, in your will."

Kassandra shakes her head, though she does smile a bit behind the veil at Johan's comment.
Dunkelzahn looks at Johan and replies, chuckling, "Well, there are two problems with that: first, the layout of the physical world has changed so much that I could not pick it out for you on a map, much less interface with a GPS; and second, someone already claimed it."

Johan raises an eyebrow. "I was unaware." He shrugs then, exhaling… "Lord Mountainshadow, Your hospitality has been boundless. I will exit myself to let you train the young mage."

Kassandra stays quiet, waiting to be dismissed.

Dunkelzahn stands and takes Johan's hand in a friendly grip, shaking it firmly; then extends his hand to Kassandra.

Kassandra rises, extending her hand to Mountainshadow.

Johan shakes firmly in return, bowing his head. WIth that, he takes two steps back, before turning to leave the chamber.

Dunkelzahn shakes Kassandra's hand and says, "Good bye and good luck, both of you." He then turns to Aladriel and says, "All right, let us begin…"

«OOC» Dunkelzahn says, "Insert training montage, then Aladriel gets to leave. :)"

Johan looks to Kassandra as they leave the chamber. "Care to tell me what Alex's recruitment speech was about? I never listen to half of what he -says-. I focus on what we -do-."

Kassandra moves out of the chamber with Johan, remarking quietly, "He left out the whole part about sucking it up and fighting Horrors from beyond with bubblegum and spit. It was more of what you hear about when they recruit people into the military? "See the world! Go skiing or sail on a yacht!" They leave out all the other interesting facts about what you will really be doing. I was expecting more along the lines of what we did in Antarctica from the conversation, not reliving every nightmare I've had for the last thirty-odd years every time I leave the house on a mission."

Johan nods to Kassandra. "In fairness, I expect most of our missions will be along the lines of the Kaltenstine Firebase, yes. I know you feel like you've been thrown in to the deep end, and I sympathize. I'm only a slightly better swimmer, because I have a slightly better view of the pool. I won't ever blow smoke up your ass." He says, crushing out his second cigarette. "I leave that to people who talk. Like Alex. If you want out, you say so. No questions or excuses from either side. This isn't a road thats for everyone. I think you can, I think it might even be interesting to you."

Minos pages: Noting how Johan leaves out the "but if you do leave, we're going to cram you so full of Laes you won't remember the address where you grew up. I'd shoot you in the head but Alex is a pussy like that."

Kassandra walks in silence for a moment. "We'll see. Once we get back, I am going to take a few days and think on this, perhaps shoot Alexander. I haven't worked out all the details yet." The woman scowls, looking around, "This place muddles with my head."

Your eventual trip back to the Rocky Mountains in Denver is uneventful, and you all wake up in the compound. Only a few hours have actually passed.

«OOC» Minos says, "the end :)"

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