Illyria - Illyria Act 2 - The Borders of Reality

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Description: Beneath what's left of Illyria Castle, various agents of the powers gathered in Albania to explore the ancient kingdom are searching the newfound Telluric Complex. Drawn by a chance encounter, Elise Harkness takes a detour into a discovery that finally puts the various elements of the puzzle in place... but she's not the only person to stumble on the answers this day.

It's funny how nobody has questioned her or bothered her, the entire time that Elise has been adjunct to the Sacred Order's crusade. Not that this fact bothers her; if anything, she is grateful for the latitude it has afforded her to pursue her own leads and handle her own problems. Perhaps Sir Undersn, who has been little in evidence in the camp itself, gave orders to that effect? Or perhaps the idea of a woman who can prophesy a future of doom is felt to be a thing best avoided rather than engaged. Which... again, fine by her.

The little jaunt into the grave of Illyria's last king proved enlightening, but unnerving in its own way. The dark and twisted woman she encountered aside, what the spectre of the king had to say gave her, at the very least, a clue. She'd suspected who the forces at work here were, but now she actually *knows*, if the dead king's rasping pronouncement is to be trusted... and what reason had he to lie? Perhaps he was dancing at the end of Eadni's strings, but then, why would the strange old woman ask Elise for the identity of the invaders' leader? No, he almost certainly spoke true.

She'd followed the Order investigative team into the complex below the castle for lack of much else to do, hoping that she might find some clue closer to the epicenter of things than staying back at the camp, waiting for some new prophetic dream to frustrate her. But as she walked at the back of the ragged column of investigators, her mind was elsewhere.

St. Elmo's Fire. A perfectly ordinary, if uncommon, phenomenon. Almost every major culture on Earth views it as a good omen or an indicator of luck. But to poets and playwrights it often takes a more negative connotation. Rather than the blessings of a goddess, it was seen as the souls of the damned or dead, a 'candle of souls'. But what the king discussed could not be that mere flame, not something that could simply be produced in a lab without much equipment. It had to be something else.

And as she had that thought, and looked up, that was when she saw it. A raven's feather, black as midnight, drifting through the air. Specifically, drifting through the air *underground*.

It could only be... her.

And so, without a word to anyone, she split off on her own. The feather itself was unremarkable, lying on the cold stone floor without any further impact or interest. But the floor itself... a side corridor. One barely noticeable in the underground complex's construction, easily overlooked by others, and very definitely *not* heading toward the power massing below. So why would the Order bother inspecting it? Elise, however... between the feather and some intuition, she knows this is where she must go.

The passages are like a featureless maze for most of the walk, though without the branches that would make it a true labyrinth. It's almost as if the weird angles and turns of the single path forward were built to create a shape around something, though it'd be impossible to tell what without a bird's eye view. And then, at the end, a door. A simple, unremarkable door, but inscribed with a crest that Elise remembers from the barrows: the royal seal of Illyria.

And beyond the door... nothing. Well, almost nothing.

The room itself feels ostentatiously empty, given the amount of space. The ceiling vaults so far overhead that it's almost impossible to see from here. The floor is an elaborate pattern of black and white tile, surrounding the room's only significant feature: a pillar, in the center, reaching up toward the more-or-less invisible ceiling. From various points on the edge of the room, the floor tile is interrupted by lines of granite, extending from the walls to the pillar, inscribed with unfamiliar runes.

For the moment, all Elise can do is take all this in, lips slightly parted.

Slowly pacing, circling through the area like a shark; ominously and a little curiouslu considering this prey and whether taking a cautious bite was wise. Amongst all this tumbled down stone and masonry, those age and use worn steps sat a single lightning rod in perfect condition. This strangely out of place artefact was on the ground level, even in appearance of its age and condition amongst these Castles ruins. It directed her attentions deeper, what lay below this very spot? To what purpose was it installed or was the castle built around or over it?

In the same manner as the doorway below opens to allow someone access. Nine hurriedly copies and throws together a rough sequence of magical formulae, hurriedly forcing her entry now she has grasped the inner workings of the lock. They can't be beaten to whatever lay below; this was a contest with the Sacred Order for the spoils and salvage. Acts of aggression toward what forces lived here, who were even now attempting to fight back against both NOL and Sacred Order. Sad really.

From the ceiling a minute blossoming of a purple light like a single firework, as Nine reconstitutes her body out of purple flame. Having used transition magic to flit through her forced entry through what mystic defences there were and feet of solid stone. Phantom glides down towards the floor in a gentle controlled fall. Circling the pillar clockwise, her eye at first transfixed on the pillar she eventually breaks her single-minded focus on the runes displayed and turns her head down to scan the room for guardians, security or whatever force had caused the breach. It didn't appear to be a large Scared Order force.


When she does descend far enough her feet might reach the floor her descent ceases and she continues to fold down into a seated posture, knees and ankles together where her cape settles down, no longer parachuting up behind her like cloth wings. She pinches the brim of her had with a finger and has her one eye fixed on the rooms only other occupant. Brim turned low and eye aglow in the dark.

"An interesting find! But I wonder whose it is now?"

Her look pointedly strays behind Elise, was there no-one else at all with the woman?

It's really very, very difficult to sneak up on a psychic. It's all the harder to sneak up on a psychic who's also a witch. When Nine floats to the floor, she will find Elise's gloved arm extended toward her landing spot, a silvered dagger in her hand, a pointed extension of that arm. You can't just gate into a room and have someone in that room not notice, especially someone with an aura like Nine's.

The question gets asked as to 'whose it is', and Elise raises one dark auburn eyebrow at the query. "It's a great bloody stonework, hen," the Scot says smoothly, almost assuredly referring to the stone pillar at the center of the room. "Fairly sure it doesn't belong to anybody. At least," she adds, quirking a faint smile at the memory of the dead Illyrian king, connections starting to form. "nobody still among the living."

In her heart, Elise knows she shouldn't have expected to be alone in this room, or at least not for long. And the whip-tense carriage of her body (not to mention *the dagger*) definitely says she was ready for trouble. But this woman.. well. Not the trouble she was expecting, that much is certain.

Of course that doesn't mean Nine wouldn't be trouble anyway.

"I'd ask who you are and what you're doing here," Elise says carefully, keeping the dagger out and her posture ready, "but past experience says you'll give me some winking, evasive answer. I wonder if I'm just fated to encounter eccentric women one after another in this godforsaken hinterland."

A sidelong look with a beat of silence. A missed opportnity, telepathy or surprise she might have thought to do that?

"Perhaps wise. Truthfully, I hadn't given it that much thought. Oh? Well then -- if you have no objection."

Crooking her finger Nine starts scrawling graffiti into the ground at a few feet distance. 'Property of NOL ' a date of claim, and signed. '-Me.' The runes she scratches out glow in the dark, surface scratches against the stone floor which glow with heat during and after formation. The oddity of a woman pays the dagger itself little or no mind but was still on her guard against worse.

"I'm afraid NOL views this as more a rush to claim property and artefacts. With time devoted to studying them at a later date."

The finger tracing in the air radiating a shower of faint sparks as she works; defacing the ancient tiles of black and white with notice of legal claim and a signature.

Phantom didn't have time to be sociable or worry about how her actions were perceived. She was working. The room, property and powers contained therein would belong to the Librarium and it was their wish that no powers that were to be found here escaped into the world.

"I suppose that would mean you are trespassing now though wouldn't it?"

Neither of these women looked suitably attired to be robbing and plundering tombs. Yet it seemed to be the mandated activity of the day. Propping her chin the palm of her free arm and nestled against her thigh Nine continues writing all while watching Elise out of the corner of her eye.

Red hair, a buxom figure with flattering blue and gold, attire that exposed entirely too much cleavage but was otherwise rather cute and elegant. That irritated Nine, Phantom could care less about her looks and more about however competent or much a threat the 'girl' was.

The scratching of a 'claim' onto the tile by the other woman... flashy. The kind of showy gesture one makes when they want to be intimidating, but if there's anything Elise refuses to be in this situation, it's intimidated. She brings her dagger-wielding arm down -- though the weapon stays in her hand -- and makes a derisive sound in the back of her throat at Nine's argument that she's 'trespassing'. "Well, lass, I got here first, and while I'm no scholar of history, one might think that Christopher Columbus isn't exactly a good model to be following in terms of behavior, now is he?"

The Novus Orbis Librarium. Elise knows about them largely by reputation, partly by Honoka's agreement to work with them, and partly by their presence in the joint base camp they share with the Order in this 'crusade'. She said nothing while still a member of the Twilight Star Circus, but the NOL -- or what she knows of it, anyway -- gets under her skin and then some. The idea of an organization that claims to be working for the public good while steadily and inexorably doing the exact thing Nine is doing right now sends all the wrong signals to Elise, a woman with a long career of both occult exploits and using social engineering to get what she wants. In short, a con artist knows another con artist when they see one.

Thus she has very little interest in recognizing anyone's 'stake' in terms of 'owning' Illyria Castle, or any of the parts of it that aren't exactly obvious above ground.

The Scots witch begins walking toward the pillar in the center of the room, examining it closely; occasionally her eyes flit to the lines of runes running from the edge of the room to the pillar's base, and then back at the pillar itself. "What are you for...?" Elise wonders aloud, putting an elbow in one hand and bringing the other to her chin thoughtfully. "And more importantly, what does she plan to do with you?"

The lowering of the dagger was a first step, that scoffing noise she had made in her throat; flouting NOL authority because she did not recognise or acknowledge it? The Phantom continues her scrawling without pause, seemingly unmoved but for the new sense of unease emanating from her. The NOL was no trifle as an organization and rotten at the core, to ignore that and stand up against it without allies nearby was ...suicidal.

"I'll consider passing that along to my superior."

She wouldn't. It would be waste of everyone's time to pass such witticisms slash critiques to the Imperator herself unless it came up in such a manner to amuse. Evidence of the physical claim was all the outside world would need. Her scribbles in both legalese and arcane glyphs were done, gyphs remarkably similar to those appearing on the pillar, walls and floor. Rudimentary in formation but maybe good enough for the locals: 'Here place mine -Me'

Elises considering posture vaguely mirrors Phantoms own while she contemplates the function or purpose of the pillar. She'd had the opportunity for a close inspection of the pillar as she coasted down to the floor; an advantageous perspective the other woman had not had a chance to view.

"Just don't neglect your warding and defences this close to it. You don't want to wind up poisoned or irradiated."

Common problems that had plagued NOL troopers working some sites of power. Seithr, and most recently radiation poisoning in certain places badly affected some sites and relating to the fallout at Mt Fuji. In response to Elise's pondering aloud Nine offers only smugness as though she has already worked out a few pieces to the puzzle. There was little in the way of safety features and barriers in this complex, no real sign of living inhabitants to feed or maintain the facility. It was cold as a tomb, unloved and forgotten.

So what power it had originated from elsewhere else, a site of power, perhaps a primitive kiln or some other connection to the boundary. The 'lightning rod' she had followed down could have been a rod built to collect something from above... more likely though it was a spigot tapping a resource that lay below.

"You're not being paid for your investigative efforts here but your life is your own to risk! An intruder in a dangerous site full of unknowns; informed of the risks and valiantly plunged into the depths anyway. Your contribution to science or archaeology might wind up being acknowledged. ...Just in case you trigger a trap and don't make it out alive."

She makes no move to advance herself towards the pillar, for all appearance sshe has done everything possible to advance NOL goals without unduely antagonizing the Sacred Order and their allies. The odd tension and fact she keeps her eye locked on Elise's back. A complex mix of emotions running through her as quick as a running river's water. Amusement and irritation in equal measure gives way to Envy, and then loathing ... to suddenly occuring thoughts of MuRDer and VioLeNCe --Regret-regret-regret. She /would/ kill Elise if it came to that in protecting NOL interests, but she didn't want to. Nothing of what seeps out of her hints at a stable mind.

At first, Elise is tempted to actually engage Nine in conversation. The first few things she says are eccentric, but reasonable enough. But within short order, all the Scots witch gets are death threats, and she knows them when she hears them. Thus, her final reaction is a weary sigh. There's no real time to deal with 'I'm here and I can kill you whenever I want', in the witch's eyes; the pillar is of a much more immediate concern. Child-like claims to the room, less so.

"Thanks for your concern," Elise says, flatly, at Nine's assertion that she should watch her defenses carefully, without turning back to acknowledge it. In truth, though, the pillar presents no real danger at all. The room, for all its mysterious markings, unusual construction, and location compared to the castle above, is effectively inert. The energy in the room flows no differently than anywhere else in the 'kingdom'.

Or at least, that WAS the case.

In her examination, Elise has been walking steadily toward the pillar, perhaps even unconsciously given the halting nature of her steps. But when she is but a few paces away, the energy in the room... shifts, accompanied by a low but audible hum. From below, a sense of power coming to life, of something sleeping being awakened. And, just as one might expect, in due time the various lines of ancient runes leading from the wall to the pillar flare to life in waves, the bright cyan glow flowing along them like a consistent, tidal ripple, blue pulsing to the base of the pillar steadily, where it gathers as a sky-blue haze of light.

Elise's eyebrows go up in surprise, and she turns to watch the flow of the energy along the runic lines, then back at the pillar. "That's..." After a pause, she kneels down and places a hand on the rune line nearest her, palm down, closing her eyes. Perhaps dangerous, when Nine is standing right there and has all but literally threatened to kill her, but she doesn't seem to be paying much attention there.

And after a few moments of that apparent communion, the Scot's eyes fly open and she surges to her feet, staring at the pillar. " No! She wouldn't!"

The pillar, despite being shouted at by Elise, says nothing. In fact, despite the flow of energy to its base, the pillar itself is still inert beyond the blue glow. If the machine in the distance got turned on, apparently turning this *pillar* on wasn't its goal.

A typical child who did not like being reminded of things or told what to do. Not a cute quality in a grown woman!

"Someone has certainly tripped something."

With the assortment of people stumbling around in these ruins who exactly had triggered what, or was deliberately responsible for this? It all took a backseat to working out what was happening. Nine turns in the air, a pivot from where she had been sitting to face the pillar but rather than focusing on the it she takes glance at the energy beginning to light up the room and instead turns her attention to a gesture created holographic screen, much harsher and whiter than the light pervading the dark room. Projected and held steady and open form the inside of her long sleeved arms. Her palm turned upwards and supporting the screen it illuminated her face with a harsh neon light.

It offers a broader picture of what was happening throughout the compound as the various teams began to report in and began diagnostic and scanning rituals; as was mandated by circumstances like this, one of the perks of working with people who had military training. Their Standardized use of NOL styled Magical Formulae wasn't ideal, simple tests and broad spectrum scans and power readings being fed to her from a half-dozen sources in close proximity; interference beginning to affect the results sent by some of the teams who had gone deeper.

The screen was transparent enough she could keep an eye on Elise and what she was up to. Digging deeper into the stream of power directly seemed a little haphazard and reckless, but you worked with what you had so she couldn't fault the girl for trying it.

The exclamation form Elise brings Nines work to a stop mid gesture. Staring at the Elise's back for the duration Nine changes her mind and sweeps her hand over to press a different selection of buttons. Abruptly severing the connection completely with the teams at the deepest points their next course of action should be to ascend levels until they re-establish communication. Nine had a bad feeling about this all of a sudden but had powered through some pretty awful situations before. It was too soon to panic or panic and withdraw, she was simply recalling and consolidating NOL forces that they might better fight, defend themselves or be extracted.

"You know more of what is going on than would first appear to react like that. Care to share? Some might say that a problem shared is a problem halved."

Still seated in mid-air, face harshly illuminated by the screen her attention is still somewhat divided as she continues working and at least attempting to negotiate where she sees an obvious need and a chance to gain from it

Under Elise's fingers, the stone of the pillar is cool and smooth to the touch. Her face continues to betray her shock and surprise at whatever revelation it is that made her exclaim so, even as she lets her awareness follow the lines and paths of power in the room. The runic lines, the shape of the room, the fact that whatever well of force is connnected to this room is *below* it... all of it creates the illusion that the pillar is being reinforced with energy. But she can feel them, the dams and eddies in the flow, the redirecting and channeling of power.

The blue glow surrounding the base of the pillar is not a charge, or an accumulation of energy. No, it's more like... grasping, hungry hands. Waiting to pull something down deeper below, to send it racing through the veins of the complex, and when it's done...

Despite herself, perhaps forgetting (or not caring) that Nine is nearby, the Scot starts to mutter verse under her breath:

"Among the stones, the faeries dance, their world but steps away.
And in their realms two queens doth rule, apart as night and day."

"The sun, it loves the Summer Queen, whose court in mischief play.
But the Queen of Air and Darkness? On fools, her subjects prey."

"On their thrones, each queen, they dream; and thus, the seasons flow.
In winter dark, the seeds doth sleep; in summer sun, they grow."

"This wheel of time eternal turns, the world in balance kept.
And in their own demenses, the faeries danced and leapt."

"But 'ware thee, when the lightning comes; the storm of heaven's wrath.
For then the borders turn to mist, make to our world a path."

"The balance, like to fragile glass; one slip is all it takes.
If one Queen were to break it, disaster's what that makes."

"So keep the sun in summer skies, the moon in winter cold.
And guard the turning of the wheel as we have done of old."

Her voice is faint, airy; nostalgic. The poem clearly comes from some deep place of rote remembrance, learned ages ago and only now, with all the pieces slotting cleanly together, does the full meaning make sense in her mind.

That voice -- is much too faint for Nine to have made much of it out. From where she had been seated the tone and volume of voice made it quite clear the words were not intended for her ears. Flowery enough it clearly was intended for an audience, and just ambiguous enough to be typically old world-sy and vaguely prophetic. How much of that stuff was down to interpretation after the fact?

"If lightning was something you are worried about. We happen to be standing right below a quite functional lightning rod. That no longer has a castle shaped cap over it."

She was a lot closer, only so close as to have picked out the latter half of the poem and form the dismissive wave of her palm the mention of lightning and gesture toward the pillar, with its crown emerging above ground.

She was focusing entirely on the very practical and tangible elements within the poem, those that were strangely appropriate to the setting. She couldn't dispute or confirm its validity. For whatever reasons or outside knowledge the other women had, it /had/ led her to this spot and pieces of the poem seemed immediately applicable. --A verse or two.

A steady look upwards toward the ceiling and impulse to just sever that connection now, the problem now was that this was ostensibly NOL property she was obligated and bound to attempt to preserve, not damage.

A sudden break form her silent contemplation as she explodes back into movement. She was a woman of action and sitting on her hands doing nothing bothered her. Informed or not."In either case, if it worries you greatly enough you might want to break it yourself or head back above ground. You have an opportunity to do so while I'm otherwise engaged."

Smartly turning on her heel Nine begins to saunter away with a purpose in mind. Swinging her hips in an alluring fashion while strutting away with a measure pace and long strides, as though she had all the time in the world and no reason to hurry. The catwalk like strut wasn't even intentional on her part, she was walking here.

"Do what you want! I'm going to go play Hero."

A joke. A monster like this could never be a hero. Evil witch, seductress or most likely fetish Halloween Costume shop sexy witch done in bad taste. Those all could be perfectly viable descriptors. When Nine open her fist a foot tall flame springs to life, tightly controlled in her hand she lets it dance for a moment and then closes her hand around it increasing the pressure as she disappears in a gout of purple flame.

A group of NOL soldiers backing into a tight formation around their two injured members, caught in a T-juction and surrounded on the two sides they might actually retreat using.

Startled back to life and out of their panic as a purple clad and cloaked figure explodes into being in the midst of them, and before there is time to react a modest fireball is hurled in one direction and one of the nearly insubstantial and glowing figures that had emerged and reached out to grab at and fall upon them was skipping down the corridor at a speed it pinballed from floor! to-wall! to-ceiling!! to-opposing-wall!!! to-flooooo-ooor--or. Left crumpled halfway down the corridor after a particularly nasty boot from their suddenly savior.


The cloaked figure in a witches hat, with her inhumanly distorted voice was a creature of few words. The still shivering and quaking troopers gathering their courage and together bracing themselves for what was to come, expecting her to lead a charge to break through the enemy and run in a particular direction. Not to suddenly be standing two floors up next to a defensive line of their collegues and peers, already sturdily defensive, well organized and reforming around another two existing similar groups of exploration teams reinforcing them.


That had been the Imperators Hand! Personally rescuing troops from bad situations! So long as she was here and watching over them, NOL had everything in hand! A roar rises up; it spreads through the troops assembled. Nothing could interfere with how quickly they could reposition and adapt with the Hand here. It was like the Imperator herself was watching over them and this battle directly.

It's impossible not to turn and notice when someone 1.) speaks loudly, 2.) summons a gout of fire, and then 3.) teleports out. Even through the distraction of her not-exactly-a-fugue state, Elise could send the brief but sharp build up of power involved in Nine's sudden, dramatic departure. In truth, though, once it's clear the flamboyant witch is gone, Elise feels herself relax a bit, releasing a tension she hadn't really known she'd been holding the entire time Nine was here. "Can't say I'm sorry to see you go, lass," she murmurs, looking at where the NOL provocateur once stood. Elise had enough on her mental plate without a stranger waltzing in and delivering a battery of threats and intimidation.

The suggestion that if she wanted to stop what was coming she could simply break the pillar causes Elise to turn and stare at it, then shake her head. No... if it were that easy, things wouldn't have come to this. Either the pillar is likely enchanted or protected -- believable, given its true purpose -- or the ritual itself has less to do with the pillar than it does with the setup of which the pillar is merely one moving piece. No... there is probably only one way to truly stop this.

A brief pause, and some internal voice of Elise's says: there are actually two ways. The expression that crosses her face as she has that thought says everything about what she thinks of the second option, however.

And then there was the feather that led her here. It COULD be coincidence, could be random... but probably wasn't.

With nothing left to do here, the Scottish witch takes one last, long look at the pillar, and then heads out of the room, tracing the winding path she took here in reverse and then heading for the surface. As much as she'd rather not, it was time to tell the higher ups in the Sacred Order the whole story. Without them, there wouldn't be much chance of stopping what's about to come to pass before it's too late for everyone involved. And, if things go wrong...

...Elise would need someone who'd have no qualms about killing her.

Log created on 21:11:43 04/08/2018 by Elise, and last modified on 17:11:50 04/14/2018.