2018-07-27: Like A Crucible Of Light

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  • Log: Like A Crucible Of Light
  • Cast: Talia, Margaret, White Knight Leo, Loren Voss, Lan Lilac
  • Where: Uzda Il-jam
  • Date: July 27th 2018
  • Summary: A strange awkward crew is thrown together into an expedition of the Uzda Il-jam ruins. Margaret and Leo demonstrate the true power of Working Designs. Loren deals. Lan has a nice trip. Talia bestows the ancient wisdom. Within, is found--

DG: A party led by Talia is now entering Uzda Il-jam ~ Proving Grounds.
DG: Party formation is now over. An Entry Challenge will now be drawn and displayed to the party.
======================<* Uzda Il-jam ~ Proving Grounds *>=======================
======================<* CHALLENGE - The Cylindric Seal *>======================
|Type: Entry       |Dungeon Ability: Brute     |Challenge Rating: 2          |
---------------------------< Challenge Information: >---------------------------
 The entrance to Uzda Il-jam is one that brings a strange sense of serenity
 with it -- quiet, soft motes of sky blue light float through the vast
 antechamber of this place, two winding stairways leading up to a balcony and
 the large stone slabs of a double door, carved in an ostentatious seal
 across its front. As if acknowledging your presence, the seal lights up, and
 words more felt than heard or seen fill your senses:

                        WOULDST THOU BREAK THE SEAL?
                             THEN PROVE THYSELF

 And then the seal shifts towards an earthen yellow tone; just beneath it,
 the pristine stone of the wall shifts and parts away as a cylindrical,
 horizontal pillar emerges, its end emblazoned with the same seal as the
 door. One must push this large and unyielding artifact inward until it
 clicks into place through sheer, unrelenting force to undo the magical seal
 upon the door and make one's way forward. Pushing something? In a dungeon??
 My god!
=Dungeon Conditions: Overzealous==============================================
DG: Talia has contributed a Brute Basic Action toward her party's challenge, The Cylindric Seal.
<Pose Tracker> Talia has posed.

Once, Talia went into the Emrys Mire. She encountered Malevolence there -- she had encountered Malevolence a lot, lately, in fact -- and some of what she saw left her with questions. The source of most of those questions came from the strangest of discoveries: a pure, clean pond of water... in a place rife with misery and corruption.

Talia is curious. It is hard to balance that with a determination to pretend that these things don't affect her, that she can roll with them easily.

But, the discovery of Uzda il-Jam was one she could not ignore.

With Mirage in hand, she waits on the shore of the island -- the shore that should not be found. She doesn't know if it is tie, but the perfect serenity of the place feels so utterly at odds with what she found in places of darkness. It reminds her of the pond. She looks up, peering at the huge, yet natural ruin; soft edges, designwork that resembles trees, and something that seems natural and, yet, wonderful.

Her red eyes narrow, slightly, before she turns on a heel -- and looks back to the others who have come. "Well!" she says, with a false chipperness to her voice. "Let's see what we have."

She looks into the open room -- and feels, rather than sees, the words.

"Break the seal, eh...?" she murmurs, before she starts forward. She has a slight saunter, as she looks at the horizontal pillar that lifts upward. Talia reaches her hands out, cracks her knuckles, and then puts her hands upon it -- and gives it a good shove.

The seal in the distance lights up, too. Talia continues to shove, but after a moment...

"Ugh!" she groans. "This thing is heavy! Why is it like this!"

<Pose Tracker> Margaret has posed.

"Because you sin in the night," says REX, burly magus of Neo-Vane!

He then laughs uproariously, and says, "Sorry, sorry; here, I'll give you a hand, young miss." Rex is a man in his late forties (ish?) and has, in deference to the heat, stripped down to trews and a shoulder band to hold his hunter's bow and a capped quiver of arrows. He has graying hair and an elaborate if incomplete-looking tattoo on his arm and shoulder.

"All this weather is making everyone a little frisky, isn't it," says MARGARET, the BLACK PEARL of NEO VANE, who is in a black sling bikini with silk rope decorated with little jingly sparkly nonsense around the ribcage. She has also put on a classical witch's-type hat, with a rakishly bent tip, to keep the sun off. Her boots remain huge and imperious, and she, too, has a weapon strap on, with her magical treasure spear "Lamplighter" just... kind of sitting there.

"Ugh," she complains. "There's sand on my boots."

"Leo, darling, I think this one isn't exactly my gig," Margaret says. "Can I ask you to take position and give it a good, firm deep thrust? Thaaaaank you."

DG: Margaret has contributed a Brute Basic Action toward her party's challenge, The Cylindric Seal.
<Pose Tracker> White Knight Leo has posed.

    Needless to say, Althena's Guard has an interest in exploring mysterious locales that just so happened to appear on the map after remaining lost for centuries. In this case, it's also an opportunity to show off beachwear DLC. Leo strides into the chamber after Margaret, stopping just a moment as the words resonate within his mind. He puts his hands on his hips, and smiles a confident smile. "We'll do more than prove ourselves," Leo says. He turns to Margaret with more ceremony than strictly necessary, highlighting the fact that he just so happens to have no shirt on. ('To increase morale'.) "It would be my pleasure," Leo says. He strides right up to the pillar, sets his shoulder against it, and starts to push. "Nh," he grunts, after a few minutes of straining. "Is it even in yet?"

    (Oh, Working Designs.)

DG: White Knight Leo has contributed a Brute Basic Action toward his party's challenge, The Cylindric Seal.
<Pose Tracker> Loren Voss has posed.

    Because he paid off a pirate, Loren Voss no longer has any money.
    Because this is Lunar, and because a war seems about to break out, this is for the first time in his life -- well, the second time in his life -- actually a problem for him.

    This is the long and short of how his investigations into goings-on in the Meribia region had led a certain young 'medical student' (and certainly not a wanted escaped jailbird) to the island that holds the ruins of Uzda Il-jam -- after a rumor that had been among those he'd paid dearly for had suggested that the Church was 'persuading' sailors and captains for matters unknown, the whispers about an uncharted island were too much to ignore.

    So, he'd stowed away. Drifters have boats; Drifters chase leads. It was really just a matter of picking his particular poison.

    Suffice to say: it wasn't an enjoyable or comfortable trip.
    And the sun was too bright here, even if the presence of Malevolence seems to have lifted.

    His only intent was to chart the island.
    And the ruins.

    Which he gets all of three steps into before he sights the crowd, before his gaze settles on a pair of individuals in particular.
    And Loren makes... the bold tactical decision to take a careful step back. No, no no no, no. No, he's not dealing with this today--

    (fate, however, will make its own decision on the matter)

DG: Loren Voss has contributed a Brute Basic Action toward his party's challenge, The Cylindric Seal.
<Pose Tracker> Margaret has posed.

"Together," Rex says to Leo. "On three. Shall we do it?"

<Pose Tracker> Talia has posed.

"How I spend my evenings is my business, and maybe someone else, darling," Talia says sweetly to Rex, though she gives him a brief glower. Her smile flickers, though; she glances briefly at Margaret and Leo, before her expression screws up.

Are... are these two serious?

<Pose Tracker> White Knight Leo has posed.

    "Yes," Leo says. "Together!"

    He is completely, depressingly serious.

<Pose Tracker> Lan Lilac has posed.

    It was a really enjoyable, comfortable trip! Lan usually doesn't get to take boats anywhere, on account of the Badlands being ridiculously dry), but on the moon there's plenty of water! She may be getting spoiled by all the new experiences here...

    But new experiences mean new clothes, and if you're going to be in water you've got to have a bathing suit!

    It's stowed away safely in her bags; she's wearing a pink bandeau top over some very short shorts and slightly daintier sandals than normal since OVAs usually have an expanded animation budget. There are seam lines and everything!

    So while Some People were enduring grueling conditions belowdecks, Lan... was having a great trip, complete with refreshing non-acoholic fruit beverages. "It's even more beautiful in person," she beams, following the one pair of footsteps she's seen with her eyes firmly pointed anywhere BUT right in front of her. "Oof! Oh, hey, sorry," she apologizes, taking a step back from the person she'd bumped into. "I wasn't wat...tching... oh, Thomas! It's you!"

    To Loren's assured horror, Lan attempts to put an arm around him. "And look! There're people trying to get in, let's team up with them!"

    Lan comes trotting up behind eeeeveryone else, glances around, and... gives an experimental push of her own at the seal. "Hi! Mind if I help?"

DG: Lan Lilac has contributed a Brute Basic Action toward her party's challenge, The Cylindric Seal.
=====================<* Uzda Il-jam ~ Proving Grounds *>======================
=====================<* CHALLENGE - The Cylindric Seal *>=====================
|Type: Entry       |Dungeon Ability: Brute     |Challenge Rating: 2          |
--------------------------< Challenge Information: >--------------------------
 The entrance to Uzda Il-jam is one that brings a strange sense of serenity
 with it -- quiet, soft motes of sky blue light float through the vast
 antechamber of this place, two winding stairways leading up to a balcony and
 the large stone slabs of a double door, carved in an ostentatious seal
 across its front. As if acknowledging your presence, the seal lights up, and
 words more felt than heard or seen fill your senses:

                        WOULDST THOU BREAK THE SEAL?
                             THEN PROVE THYSELF

 And then the seal shifts towards an earthen yellow tone; just beneath it,
 the pristine stone of the wall shifts and parts away as a cylindrical,
 horizontal pillar emerges, its end emblazoned with the same seal as the
 door. One must push this large and unyielding artifact inward until it
 clicks into place through sheer, unrelenting force to undo the magical seal
 upon the door and make one's way forward. Pushing something? In a dungeon??
 My god!
=Dungeon Conditions: Overzealous==============================================
================<* Uzda Il-jam ~ Proving Grounds - Round 1 *>=================
=======================< Results - The Cylindric Seal >=======================
Player                               Exhaustion                      Pass/Fail
------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Talia                               0 --(20)--> 20                 Fail
Force                               0   Brute   Effects: BASIC
------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Loren Voss                          0 --(20)--> 20                 Fail
Force                               0   Brute   Effects: BASIC
------------------------------------------------------------------------------
White Knight Leo                    0 --(15)--> 15                 Pass
Force                               0   Brute   Effects: BASIC
------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Margaret                            0 --(20)--> 20                 Fail
Force                               0   Brute   Effects: BASIC
------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Lan Lilac                           0 --(20)--> 20                 Fail
Force                               0   Brute   Effects: BASIC
----------------------------------< Party >-----------------------------------
Leader: Talia                       0 --(10)--> 10                 Fail
Conditions: Overzealous(2)
Effects:
==============================< Dream Chasers >===============================
DG: The party led by Talia has failed this challenge! The party gained 10 exploration! If anyone needs to use party management
commands, do so now. Otherwise, the next round's GM may begin the next round with +dungeon/draw.
<Pose Tracker> Talia has posed.

Talia isn't wearing anything especially revealing: the usual, tanktop-like shirt and armor over it, with an armored skirt and pants. She stares for a moment longer, before she puts her back into pushing the thing. She shakes her head quickly, and then she glances sideways at Lan. She flashes a winning smile at her.

It is a little tired.

"Please!" she exclaims. "It would be good, no? Especially with that one--" She glances back at 'Thomas.' "--not helping, and these two... colorful... characters."

Unfortunately, it is hard to push the cylinder. It takes time -- it takes several more 'one, two, three'-s from the Guardsmen -- and finally, finally, they roll it against the ceil.

*click*

DG: Margaret has drawn a new Challenge.
=====================<* Uzda Il-jam ~ Proving Grounds *>======================
====================<* CHALLENGE - The Ordeal of Water *>=====================
|Type: Exploration |Dungeon Ability: Wits      |Challenge Rating: 1          |
--------------------------< Challenge Information: >--------------------------
 Water can take many forms, and the difference between controlling it and
 being controlled by it can often be nothing more than a matter of
 perspective. The sound of flowing water fills this place as you enter it,
 the pale blue glow illuminating furrows carved throughout the beautifully
 pristine walls and floor of this large, circular chamber. These furrows
 interconnect, separate, and form various branching dead ends, creating a
 room-wide circuit that eventually finds its way to the glowing, cerulean
 seal of elemental water that is set at the center of the chamber. At each
 wall rests stone altars with adjustable dials that, when used, start to make
 water flow down the winding pathways carved into the stone, shifting and
 moving in different ways as the dials are adjusted. To deactivate the seals
 and open the door further into this strange place, you must bring each
 current of water at the four points of the room to its elemental seal at the
 center of the chamber. Prove you know the secret to controlling this
 mercurial force, and the way forward is yours.
=Dungeon Conditions: Injure===================================================
<Pose Tracker> Margaret has posed.

Margaret's head swivels around when Talia looks.

Her eyes narrow.

Bitter cold lances out between her eyes and 'Thomas's'. She raises one hand and, with a stone-cold expression of barely-contained fury, waves him over. (From the side, it looks kind of cute, if in the slightly-embarrassing 'she's like ten years too old to do that' way.)

Rex meanwhile leans against Leo for a moment. "Ugh... it was too mch. But we got it loose... friend."

Then, inside.

The cooling sound of flowing water makes Margaret practically beam. How pleasant. "What a lovely change from wading through rooms full of the stench of sin, debauchery, malevolence and blood," she says, dipping one foot in the cool flowing water.

Rex dips his hands in the flow and pours the water over his extremely bara chest. "Ahhhh."

"So this looks like a puzzler, then," Margaret says.

Her voice raises. "If only we knew someone who had a certain degree of control over the flow of water."

Her head turns to give Loren another death glare as she reaches to her hip and pulls out a card to show him. No, two. Weird! One's 'The Devil' and it is crossed by 'The Tower'. What does THAT mean?

The cards are not shown in the American release.

DG: Margaret has used her Tool Traveler's Cards toward her party's challenge, The Ordeal of Water.
<Pose Tracker> Talia has posed.

"Well! Hopefully," Talia declares, "we do know someone who can bend water to their will. Until then..."

Loren may notice what the Lunarian mercenary withdraws from her belt: a Kislevi field manual. The cover is worn in places, the leather a little cracked, and the canvas covering it has spots where it has frayed through. However, it has a familiar name stenciled in small letters on the spine: "Lt. Keil."

"I have a book of ancient mysteries and secrets!" she declares.

She flips it open, idly moving through the pages. "Now... let's see if it has any advice on... er... plumbing. Half of this is written in an unreadable language," she adds, with a mutter.

DG: Talia has used her Tool Lt. Keil's Notebook toward her party's challenge, The Ordeal of Water.
<Pose Tracker> Loren Voss has posed.

    Maybe another day, another time, he might have been able to slip out undetected. That ends the moment Lan walks right into his back, and dies horribly the moment she (loudly) calls out his name.
    He might not immediately see the way Margaret raises the ambient temperature in the room by her gaze alone, but he sure can feel it. Lan will find her stuffy old friend 'Thomas' has gone rigid under her arm, not unlike a cat that's been swept up into an unwanted embrace.
    He remains as still as possible as if he were attempting to avoid detection-- but it's far too late for that.
    Particularly when Lan sort of... leads him along towards the seal.
    And he's forced to make eye contact with Margaret.

    His own expression is carefully neutral.

    Whether it's sheer defiance or not, though, no, he's definitely not helping with this one.
    But the chances of him escaping have vanished entirely between the group of those gathered here. So it's onwards, into the room with the seal at its heart.

    The pulse of water is strong in here. Lingering just inside the door, he fishes in his bag for a moment, dredging out a vial of some sort and downing its contents. So much for getting any decent rest, he figures.

    Margaret raises her voice.
    "What are you talking about," he replies, flatly, glancing sidelong towards Leo, Lan. Talia.
    Talia, who has a familiar-looking notebook in hand.
    He has for an instant the expression of a man asking the universe if this is really happening.
    "It's just a Kislevi army notebook," he can't help but mutter.

    Before his gaze turns towards those cards she flashes his way.
    That gets his attention.
    "What, are you a fortune-teller on the side?" He's drawn up a little stiffly, staring at the cards. Devil and... Tower? "Do you really believe in that garbage?"
    That hair standing on end on the back of his neck? Please, it's not anything at all.

    Silent afterwards, the weight of that implicit supernatural threat coupled with the pressure of being the one 'on the spot', he finally turns abruptly and stalks off towards one of the altars. He slams his hands onto it and... doesn't actually touch the dial.

    This is ridiculous. He can already see how it's supposed to work, but it's...
    Which is the point where he shunts his will into the water and attempts to circumvent the puzzle altogether, attempting to draw up an arc of the water up, out and towards the seal.

DG: Loren Voss has used his Tool Modafisol toward his party's challenge, The Ordeal of Water.
<Pose Tracker> Talia has posed.

"Yes, yes," Talia answers 'Thomas' idly. "Ancient civilization, very mysterious. Thank you, Mister Smartman."

<Pose Tracker> White Knight Leo has posed.

    Margaret turns, and glares. Leo, sweaty and artistically disheveled from pushing that damn pillar, turns to see what she's glaring at. A stony frown settles on his features. It lingers on 'Thomas' for a long moment, during which he watches the young man down the contents of that vial.

    "'Kislev' is a present-day nation on the Blue Star," Leo says, in response to Talia's appraisal. This is the total of his contribution to the puzzle.

DG: White Knight Leo has contributed a Wits Basic Action toward his party's challenge, The Ordeal of Water.
<Pose Tracker> Loren Voss has posed.

    "It's not ancient. --And can't you think of a better insult than that?" Loren grumbles, before taking a steadying breath and focusing.

<Pose Tracker> Margaret has posed.

Margaret gives Loren a look as if he had opened his mouth to say something but it was in fact a fart. This is not pure rhetorical insult, either; his premises are so far different from Margaret's that it takes even her inquistive mind several steps to even kind of make the connection.

"Yes? Because I have the blessing of the Goddess and can command magic?" she says to him, voice dripping with a gentle serving of contempt. "Even when you're dealing with the unblessed, the goddess's cards can reveal the ever-flowing matrix of the present and the future that ripens within it, like you ripened in the belly of your mother."

Loren prompts her and Margaret opens her mouth -- only for Rex to interject, with great force, "Thank you for your aid with the water, ser."

Rex mouths one word at an angle Margaret can't see. That word: 'sand'

<Pose Tracker> Lan Lilac has posed.

    Sometimes Lan runs people over with the sheer force of her personality. Other times, she completely misses them and any logical points they might be trying to make. And forget splashing around... she kind of wants to just wade right in, yet somehow miraculously restrains herself. "Oh, you know each other already?" she smiles uselessly at Margaret. Maybe she'd better just stick with Talia...

    "How are you at water puzzles?" she asks, ignored as Thomas Loren-stomps over to one of the altars. Huh. Well, he must be pretty good, right? He's a city person that likes games. He'll be fine! As for Lan...

    Well, Thomas has never believed in her fortune-telling either. Even when it was perfectly effective. She wanders over to another alter, slipping her hand into a pocket for a folded piece of paper. "So," she murmurs, eyes lidding as she carefully unflattens it. "Circle, circle, dot, dot..."

DG: Lan Lilac has used her Tool Paku-Paku toward her party's challenge, The Ordeal of Water.
=====================<* Uzda Il-jam ~ Proving Grounds *>======================
====================<* CHALLENGE - The Ordeal of Water *>=====================
|Type: Exploration |Dungeon Ability: Wits      |Challenge Rating: 1          |
--------------------------< Challenge Information: >--------------------------
 Water can take many forms, and the difference between controlling it and
 being controlled by it can often be nothing more than a matter of
 perspective. The sound of flowing water fills this place as you enter it,
 the pale blue glow illuminating furrows carved throughout the beautifully
 pristine walls and floor of this large, circular chamber. These furrows
 interconnect, separate, and form various branching dead ends, creating a
 room-wide circuit that eventually finds its way to the glowing, cerulean
 seal of elemental water that is set at the center of the chamber. At each
 wall rests stone altars with adjustable dials that, when used, start to make
 water flow down the winding pathways carved into the stone, shifting and
 moving in different ways as the dials are adjusted. To deactivate the seals
 and open the door further into this strange place, you must bring each
 current of water at the four points of the room to its elemental seal at the
 center of the chamber. Prove you know the secret to controlling this
 mercurial force, and the way forward is yours.
=Dungeon Conditions: Injure===================================================
================<* Uzda Il-jam ~ Proving Grounds - Round 2 *>=================
======================< Results - The Ordeal of Water >=======================
Player                               Exhaustion                      Pass/Fail
------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Talia                               20 --(5)--> 25                 Pass
Lt. Keil's Notebook                 2   Wits    Effects: Enlighten
------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Loren Voss                          20 --(5)--> 25                 Pass
Modafisol                           2   Wits    Effects: Stalwart
------------------------------------------------------------------------------
White Knight Leo                    15 --(5)--> 20                 Pass
Investigate                         0   Wits    Effects: BASIC
------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Margaret                            20 --(5)--> 25                 Pass
Traveler's Cards                    3   Wits    Effects: Fanfare
------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Lan Lilac                           20 --(5)--> 25                 Pass
Paku-Paku                           2   Wits    Effects: Enlighten
----------------------------------< Party >-----------------------------------
Leader: Talia                       10 --(20)--> 30                Pass
Conditions: Injure(2)|Overzealous(1)
Effects: Enlighten(1)
==============================< Dream Chasers >===============================
DG: The party led by Talia has passed this challenge! The party gained 20 exploration! If anyone needs to use party management
commands, do so now. Otherwise, the next round's GM may begin the next round with +dungeon/draw.
<Pose Tracker> Loren Voss has posed.

    "So you say," runs his response to Margaret. Why and how does Lan even put up with him??

    Fortunately, someone's here to keep this from devolving into possible actual violence. This would be Rex, whose thanks only earn him a glance--
    It's not just thanks though is it?
    'Sand'? Loren appears to mouth back, uncertain where the older man is going with this.

<Pose Tracker> Margaret has posed.

The group has been immunized against cooties.

Margaret glares over at Talia's magical book of tome and mystery and her lips curve into a rather scenic frown even as Loren, despite all of the terminal lack of appreciation he may be receiving, exerts his will. The water rises up, loops forwards...

Lan helpfully adjusts a control. It's not entirely fake. No cheat. You're the cheat.

The water falls down with a firm press, pouring down into the elemental seal with sufficient force to - if not gimmick the entire thing - make it function. The cerulean glow brightens, then fades, and the way is made clear, as Margaret looks ahead.

"Thank you," Margaret says, and then with a tone of saying one hell of a cuss, concludes, "'Thomas.'"

Rex nods twice to Loren, tilts his head towards Margaret meaningfully, and then turns towards the door. On some magisterial impulse, he nocks an arrow to his bow. Just in case.

DG: Loren Voss has drawn a new Challenge.
======================<* Uzda Il-jam ~ Proving Grounds *>=======================
=================<* CHALLENGE - Crucible ~ Wheel of Fortune *>==================
|Type: Exploration |Dungeon Ability: Combat    |Challenge Rating: 3          |
---------------------------< Challenge Information: >---------------------------
 Personal skill often isn't enough to confront and triumph over life's
 greatest challenges. The ability to rely on and coordinate with others is
 paramount. As if to exemplify this simple fact, this room you come to has
 been split clean in two by a pair of sigils carved into the floor on either
 side of the large, coliseum-like chamber, each one designed like a large,
 glowing wheel. It'll require two groups to activate both sigils; when they
 are, a boundary will separate out one group from the other and the wheels
 will spin. Wherever the arms of those wheels land will cause creatures to be
 summoned forth seemingly from the ether on either side of the room, some
 Hellions, some things strange and unsettling and bizarre enough that it'd
 make things easier to digest if they -were- Hellions. If you can eliminate
 them at roughly the same time, a secret passageway will open, cutting
 through a not-insignificant chunk of Uzda Il-jam's depths. If not... well.
 Probably not to wonder about that. Teamwork! Coordination! Companionship!
 Rapport! Blaming everyone else but you if things go wrong! Who could ask for
 more??

 (OOC INSTRUCTIONS: For this challenge card, split your party in two and
 +dice 1d8 twice. Whatever two numbers you get determine the two enemy types
 the two groups will have to deal with:

 1 - BACURA?? ( https://i.imgur.com/lzBPMBm.jpg?1 )
 2 - Leech ( https://gamefaqs.akamaized.net/faqs/57/72557-147.jpg )
 3 - Devil Fish ( https://gamefaqs.akamaized.net/faqs/57/72557-146.jpg )
 4 - Brutaur ( https://gamefaqs.akamaized.net/faqs/57/72557-91.jpg )
 5 - Armadillo ( https://gamefaqs.akamaized.net/faqs/57/72557-121.jpg )
 6 - Darken Eye ( https://gamefaqs.akamaized.net/faqs/57/72557-145.jpg )
 7 - Scaled Bird ( https://gamefaqs.akamaized.net/faqs/57/72557-204.jpg )
 8 - GENTLEMAN?? ( https://i.imgur.com/nCwZneK.jpg )

 Enjoy!!)
=Dungeon Conditions: Wound, Vault=============================================
<Pose Tracker> Loren Voss has posed.

    Somehow, for once, cheating at an ancient puzzle in a strange lost ruin works out in his favor. A portion of the water -- something's strange about the way it feels, maybe a more experienced ether-user would be able to tell more -- bends to his will and skips the hell right over to the seal, joining the other currents now flowing.

    Which leaves just Loren and Rex as they exchange words via eye contact and gesture alone.
    Sand? He glances over at Margaret, after Rex indicates her way a little more meaningfully.
    Light breaks over the horizon. One can see the moment it all clicks into place for him. 'Ah,' his expression more or less reads. 'It's like that'.

    The door obligingly opens.

    "Yes. That is my name," he says to Margaret. "Now come on," Loren says, perhaps resigning himself to this expedition. Look on the bright side, Loren, maybe it'll help counterbalance the fact that you have wanted posters with your name on them now.

    He and the group he's taken point on will get all of five feet past the door before they walk into a large, open coliseum of a room and...

    The sigils.

    This is the point where, perhaps as a result of the general current and mood flowing between the six of them (counting Rex), they end up roughly divided into two groups, one on each side.
    This is when they encounter the SIGILS.
    And shortly thereafter, when the barrier rises, neatly and completely cutting the groups off!
    Oh, and also, when the sigils begin to spin, each landing on a particular point of the eight-part glyph.

    For Talia, Margaret, and Leo, coalescing seemingly from the air around them are a group of pale, gangly and strangely dapper Gentlemen. They loom.
    For 'Thomas', Lan, and Rex, it's a pair of floating malevolent (small-m, though perhaps the reverse is also correct) Darken Eyes.

    "What?" Loren protests, shaking his head in disbelief as one of the Darken Eyes swoops for him. "Oh, for-- what is this?!" He draws his sword. In spite of practice, he's still clearly an amateur, as he drives in for the swooping (evading) eye.

DG: Loren Voss has contributed a Combat Basic Action toward his party's challenge, Crucible ~ Wheel of Fortune.
<Pose Tracker> Talia has posed.

Talia's eyes light up, playfully, at Loren. She flashes a grin at him, head tilted to the side -- even if she flinches a little at the way that Leo corrects her. Her fingers tighten, though, around the spine. She slides the notebook back into her belt, and then she stalks forward, walking after Loren. She slows, a little, upon spitting the sigils -- and the eight-part glyph. "Hm, that looks--"

It proves too late.

The barrier shoots up, separating the group in two. She finds herself looking up at the strange, bow-tied silhouettes waving and wobbling. Her eyes widen; she glances to the side, towards Leo and then Margaret. She considers the guardsmen for a moment, and then nods. "I'll help support you!"

She throws a hand out. A magical circle flashes under her feet; it shines a bright, white-blue color. Talia's voice cries out an incantation: "Blah blah, mist and cold, something something, windy stuff, snow and chilly, brrr, whee!" she calls out. "FREEZE LANCER!"

A solid spike of ice forms -- and then explodes off through the air, for one of the Gentlemen.

DG: Talia has contributed a Combat Basic Action toward her party's challenge, Crucible ~ Wheel of Fortune.
<Pose Tracker> Margaret has posed.

"Dear Goddess," Rex says as the Eyes have it. Fortunately, Rex has a solution to this problem. He raises his bow and immediately fires, starting to jog in a clockwise direction, calling out as he does: "Ware if it's got a gaze!"

Margaret is separated from her colleague. A sharp look in his direction - but then she unlimbers her spear, taking a moment to draw out the fire-crystal item, the match so to speak, which she has to use to light the head of the weapon. As it catches with a gentle 'woofsh,' she looks at Talia flatly.

"I should certainly hope so," she says, BEFORE

"Gh - you - Damn you, woman! Don't give away the ****ing hustle like that!! Leo, she's cheating with a magic item," Margaret says to the White Knight, with immediate and unquestionable force. Then she draws a hand up, raising her index and middle fingers up and sliding down the centerline of her body. "Starlight..." "Express!"

Margaret turns her attention towards the Gentlemen.

        zwing!

The fiery spear spins, whirls, twists and leaps like some sort of afterdark performance at a festival, stabbing and twisting. Somewhere, a combo count begins to rise.

<Pose Tracker> White Knight Leo has posed.

    Leo doesn't give 'Thomas' any more acknowledgment than a nod. He steps out into the strange chamber, paying absolutely no attention to the strange sigils on the floor. (Leo's magical senses are not keen enough to alert him if he's not paying attention, and for all he knows they're just decorative luxury squiggles imbued with cantrips.) He steps on one. Not a heartbeat later, the barrier rises.

    "What the--?!" Leo says. He whirls to look at the spinning wpokes, watching them intently as they slow, slow, slow...

    Leo stares. The Gentlemen stare back, which is odd and unsettling considering they have no visible eyes. Leo draws his blade, takes a moment to squint at Talia because dear Goddess is that what passes for an invocation among the laity these days? (A magical item, Margaret says. Oh!)

    "DEMON FANG!" That's Leo's answer to this whole situation, apparently. His blade traces out a brilliant arc, energy leaping from it to rush at one of the bowtied enemies.

DG: White Knight Leo has used his Tool Leo's Goods toward his party's challenge, Crucible ~ Wheel of Fortune.
<Pose Tracker> Lan Lilac has posed.

    "You can't help but make friends everywhere you go, can you," Lan sighs, looking out after Thomas. At least Margaret seems to be the only person that super hates him right now! That will probably change later, but for now Lan will accept her good fortune.

    The barrier comes up while she's busy staring. Oops.

    "Wait, hey-- what are these things?" She hops back a step or two, staring at the Darken Eyes with naked wariness. She doesn't like the way it's looking at her!

    One of them gets closer to her only to have Lan kick it away. "Shoo!!"

DG: Margaret has contributed a Combat Basic Action toward her party's challenge, Crucible ~ Wheel of Fortune.
DG: Lan Lilac has contributed a Combat Basic Action toward her party's challenge, Crucible ~ Wheel of Fortune.
======================<* Uzda Il-jam ~ Proving Grounds *>=======================
=================<* CHALLENGE - Crucible ~ Wheel of Fortune *>==================
|Type: Exploration |Dungeon Ability: Combat    |Challenge Rating: 3          |
---------------------------< Challenge Information: >---------------------------
 Personal skill often isn't enough to confront and triumph over life's
 greatest challenges. The ability to rely on and coordinate with others is
 paramount. As if to exemplify this simple fact, this room you come to has
 been split clean in two by a pair of sigils carved into the floor on either
 side of the large, coliseum-like chamber, each one designed like a large,
 glowing wheel. It'll require two groups to activate both sigils; when they
 are, a boundary will separate out one group from the other and the wheels
 will spin. Wherever the arms of those wheels land will cause creatures to be
 summoned forth seemingly from the ether on either side of the room, some
 Hellions, some things strange and unsettling and bizarre enough that it'd
 make things easier to digest if they -were- Hellions. If you can eliminate
 them at roughly the same time, a secret passageway will open, cutting
 through a not-insignificant chunk of Uzda Il-jam's depths. If not... well.
 Probably not to wonder about that. Teamwork! Coordination! Companionship!
 Rapport! Blaming everyone else but you if things go wrong! Who could ask for
 more??

 (OOC INSTRUCTIONS: For this challenge card, split your party in two and
 +dice 1d8 twice. Whatever two numbers you get determine the two enemy types
 the two groups will have to deal with:

 1 - BACURA?? ( https://i.imgur.com/lzBPMBm.jpg?1 )
 2 - Leech ( https://gamefaqs.akamaized.net/faqs/57/72557-147.jpg )
 3 - Devil Fish ( https://gamefaqs.akamaized.net/faqs/57/72557-146.jpg )
 4 - Brutaur ( https://gamefaqs.akamaized.net/faqs/57/72557-91.jpg )
 5 - Armadillo ( https://gamefaqs.akamaized.net/faqs/57/72557-121.jpg )
 6 - Darken Eye ( https://gamefaqs.akamaized.net/faqs/57/72557-145.jpg )
 7 - Scaled Bird ( https://gamefaqs.akamaized.net/faqs/57/72557-204.jpg )
 8 - GENTLEMAN?? ( https://i.imgur.com/nCwZneK.jpg )

 Enjoy!!)
=Dungeon Conditions: Wound, Vault=============================================
=================<* Uzda Il-jam ~ Proving Grounds - Round 3 *>==================
===================< Results - Crucible ~ Wheel of Fortune >====================
Player                               Exhaustion                      Pass/Fail
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Talia                               25 --(20)--> 45                Fail
Fight                               0   Combat  Effects: BASIC
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Loren Voss                          25 --(20)--> 45                Fail
Fight                               0   Combat  Effects: BASIC
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
White Knight Leo                    20 --(20)--> 40                Fail
Leo's Goods                         1   Combat  Effects: Cleanse
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Margaret                            25 --(20)--> 45                Fail
Fight                               0   Combat  Effects: BASIC
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Lan Lilac                           25 --(20)--> 45                Fail
Fight                               0   Combat  Effects: BASIC
-----------------------------------< Party >------------------------------------
Leader: Talia                       30 --(10)--> 40                Fail
Conditions: Injure(1)|Vault(1)|Wound(2)
Effects: Cleanse
===============================< Dream Chasers >================================
DG: The party led by Talia has failed this challenge! The party gained 10 exploration! If anyone needs to use party management
commands, do so now. Otherwise, the next round's GM may begin the next round with +dungeon/draw.
<Pose Tracker> Loren Voss has posed.

    Divided into separate sections of the room, the two parties face their respective challenges--

    Things do not, particularly, go very well.

    An arrow pierces one of the Darken Eyes clean through, neatly pinning it to the ceiling--

    And the remaining one immediately goes into a rage, beams of red-black light shooting from that terrible central eye. This is bad news for Lan, caught in close corners with the rampaging Eye.
    Things don't get much better when Loren manages to miraculously take advantage of that momentary gap to slice the thing in two and it... promptly regenerates into two more Darken Eyes from each half. They promptly also rage out.
    This is not good.

    It's not much better on the other half of the room as the Gentlemen wobble their way forward; ice streams past one and it stumbles but otherwise remains undeterred. Maybe... they're too rubbery for ice?
    Meanwhile, a thousand burning cuts another one to pieces -- or would have, if any of those countless slices actually drew... blood. It was cut, right? Do these things bleed? WHAT ARE THESE THINGS?

    Whether or not it was cut in the end may be answered in roundabout -- Demon Fang takes one right down the center...

    And it regenerates. Oh.

    It's not a good time for anyone.

    At least, after a while, the monsters simply dissipate away into the air once more, and the barrier comes down.

    There's still the door on the opposite side of the room, at least.

    "Well, that went incredibly well," Loren says, in the tone of voice that means anything but. "Great job."
    Some people just have a face that's made for punching...

DG: Lan Lilac has drawn a new Challenge.
=========================<* Uzda Il-jam ~ Proving Grounds *>=========================
=======================<* CHALLENGE - Crucible ~ The Tower *>========================
|Type: Exploration |Dungeon Ability: Agility   |Challenge Rating: 3          |
-----------------------------< Challenge Information: >------------------------------
 This room you come upon has been separated into two pathways: one broader
 than the other but otherwise not particularly noteworthy, the second bearing
 one of the telltale sigils of this ancient place's trials. When enough of
 your party occupy that path, the sigil activates and from the other pathway
 emerges a tower, monolithic and made of stone blocks that seem to shift and
 change form with every pulse of the pale blue lines that run through them.
 At the top is the panel that must be hit to complete the trial and open the
 doorways beyond; getting to it will require scaling the ever-shifting tower
 -- a tower that only stays up as long as there are others on that opposing
 platform. A platform with flooring that begins to slowly disappear, one tile
 at a time, the second that tower rises. So. Speed's probably a factor here.
 Maybe.
=Dungeon Conditions: Cripple, Tire============================================
<Pose Tracker> Lan Lilac has posed.

    Lan rolls her eyes at Loren and gently brushes past him as they all file into the next chamber. "It did go well! We're alive, and the things disappeared on their own. I'd call that lucky, wouldn't you?"

    In the room beyond they find some kind of weirdo tile puzzle. The two paths diverge, but only one leads to a weird platform, so... "I don't get it, what's so special about this? There's nothing here," she complains, standing on the platform and looking down at her feet.

    It's not until a few other people join her on that path that the tower hidden in the other path begins to emerge. "Hey-- is anybody good at climbing?" She glances back the way they came, frowning as tiles begin to drop into darkness behind them. "Like, really good?"

DG: Lan Lilac has contributed a Agility Basic Action toward her party's challenge, Crucible ~ The Tower.
<Pose Tracker> Margaret has posed.

Margaret gazes with deadened eyes at Loren. She lifts up Lamplighter--

But they're moving on.

As the tower begins to climb, Margaret looks up. "By the Goddess," she exclaims, "who BUILT this! This is something suitable for Vane back before it became the Ausa rabble's open-air toilet."

Rex does not say something vulgar or evil about women thirty years younger than him, which is why he's the guy who calls shots when Margaret is around. Somehow, he meets that benchmark, high though it is. "I don't know about climbing," he answers Lan, before he takes out an arrow, clenches it in his teeth, and then turns his head to look at the White Knight.

There may be a sparkle or two in the air.

"Tie the rope, sir - tight, if you please. And when it's ready... I'll fire!!"

Margaret turns away slightly from this.

ANYWAY: One way or another, Rex shoots an arrow up real high with a rope attached to it. Rex is good at shootin' arrows, so wherever it is embedded, it is at least a grasp point for people without advanced speed magicks.

DG: Margaret has used her Tool Hounds of Hell Represent toward her party's challenge, Crucible ~ The Tower.
<Pose Tracker> Talia has posed.

Talia opens her mouth, ready to respond to Loren; Lan, however, beats her to the punch. She blinks, before she turns her head, and grins. "I like your attitude, no? You should listen to her, Mister Smartman. She has a good head on her shoulders!"

She turns , then, and pauses -- as she looks up at the pathway that lifts upward. The tiles move, and her eyes widen slowly, and she bites her lip. She nods, once, at the question. "Let me see..."

She pulls her shortsword out. The weapon is single edged, blue-grey with whorls in the steel, and has a slight curve, like an eel. She tosses it lightly in her hand, and then she looks up at the topmost tile. Then, she spins, and sends the weapon flying. It throws straight and true -- and hits a part of the wall.

Talia's body splits apart, then. She vanishes into a dozen strands of shadow; they come linking back together, crashing to reform into Talia. She lands, crouching, before she throws the weapon again up high -- and teleports again.

DG: Talia has used her Tool Mirage toward her party's challenge, Crucible ~ The Tower.
<Pose Tracker> Margaret has posed.

"See? Items," Margaret tells Leo, pointing after Talia.

<Pose Tracker> Loren Voss has posed.

    "I guess," 'Thomas' responds, in the manner of all put-upon teenagers across the eons. He just gives Margaret a look. One can probably guess the kind.

    Talia's commentary on the other hand just evokes a weary groan. "Ugh."

    Two roads diverged in a ruin, and I--

    Well, he's certainly opted for the one that looks less worn, which puts him sidelong with Lan once again as they find that platform and its sigil.

    For those on the other path, there's a tower. Shading his eyes, Loren glances upwards at its heights. "What's going on with this place? It's as if it's testing... huh." He might have just realized something about the nature of the ruins.

    "The floor's disappearing," he observes, then slowly takes a glance over the edge into the darkness below.
    The fact that he manages to pale -- yes, even with his complexion -- might just speak volumes alone.

    He fishes a length of cord from his bag, clipping one end of it to his belt. No time to try to find the harness, wherever's it's gotten to in there.

    "So. How lucky is everyone feeling?" he asks, before looping the opposing end of the cord into a sort of lasso, tossed for the first outcropping he can get with it.

DG: Loren Voss has used his Tool Rapid Evac Kit toward his party's challenge, Crucible ~ The Tower.
<Pose Tracker> White Knight Leo has posed.

    Leo answers Loren's sass with another of those stony looks. He has no idea when this man decided to tag along, merely that he has made a very poor choice in doing so. (Leo doesn't recognize the woman with him. Does she speak the same heretical devil-language?)

    Leo, of course, ends up on the path with Rex. He looks up at the ever-shifting tower, eyes widening in something resembling awe, even as Margaret uses the opportunity to dunk on Vane. Then he turns to Rex, nods once, and pulls out one end of the rope ladder. He makes a nice, firm knot around the shaft of Rex's arrow. "That tight enough?" Leo says.

DG: White Knight Leo has used his Tool Rope Ladder toward his party's challenge, Crucible ~ The Tower.
=========================<* Uzda Il-jam ~ Proving Grounds *>=========================
=======================<* CHALLENGE - Crucible ~ The Tower *>========================
|Type: Exploration |Dungeon Ability: Agility   |Challenge Rating: 3          |
-----------------------------< Challenge Information: >------------------------------
 This room you come upon has been separated into two pathways: one broader
 than the other but otherwise not particularly noteworthy, the second bearing
 one of the telltale sigils of this ancient place's trials. When enough of
 your party occupy that path, the sigil activates and from the other pathway
 emerges a tower, monolithic and made of stone blocks that seem to shift and
 change form with every pulse of the pale blue lines that run through them.
 At the top is the panel that must be hit to complete the trial and open the
 doorways beyond; getting to it will require scaling the ever-shifting tower
 -- a tower that only stays up as long as there are others on that opposing
 platform. A platform with flooring that begins to slowly disappear, one tile
 at a time, the second that tower rises. So. Speed's probably a factor here.
 Maybe.
=Dungeon Conditions: Cripple, Tire============================================
====================<* Uzda Il-jam ~ Proving Grounds - Round 4 *>====================
=========================< Results - Crucible ~ The Tower >==========================
Player                               Exhaustion                      Pass/Fail
-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Talia                               45 --(8)--> 53                 Pass
Mirage                              3   Agility Effects: Fanfare
-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Loren Voss                          45 --(13)--> 58                Fail
Rapid Evac Kit                      3   Agility Effects: Rally
-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
White Knight Leo                    40 --(8)--> 48                 Pass
Rope Ladder                         2   Agility Effects: Quicken
-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Margaret                            45 --(8)--> 53                 Pass
Hounds of Hell Represent            3   Agility Effects: Rally
-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Lan Lilac                           45 --(13)--> 58                Fail
Rush                                0   Agility Effects: BASIC
--------------------------------------< Party >--------------------------------------
Leader: Talia                       40 --(20)--> 60                Pass
Conditions: Cripple|Tire(2)
Effects: Quicken(1)
==================================< Dream Chasers >==================================
DG: The party led by Talia has passed this challenge! The party gained 20 exploration! If anyone needs to use party management
commands, do so now. Otherwise, the next round's GM may begin the next round with +dungeon/draw.
<Pose Tracker> Lan Lilac has posed.

    One way or another, they all manage to get to safety - some a bit more gracefully than others. Lan's starting to regret not using her ribbon, but everybody else is moving forward in wonderful style! Eventually she manages it, but the landing's not quite as elegant as she'd like. A mad scramble for the button, and thus the exit, ensues.

    Afterwards, Lan brushes imaginary dust off the seat of her pants. "Pretty lucky, really," she decides.

DG: Talia has drawn a new Challenge.
======================<* Uzda Il-jam ~ Proving Grounds *>=======================
=====================<* CHALLENGE - The Ordeal of Light *>======================
|Type: Exploration |Dungeon Ability: Wits      |Challenge Rating: 2          |
---------------------------< Challenge Information: >---------------------------
 Light illuminates this place in a radiant splendor that veils as much as the
 dark might; shards of light, like rays of the sun, stream in from a port at
 the southernmost wall of this chamber this chamber, casting everything in
 this place with an otherworldly gleam. The light is spread through several
 large prisms lodged in the metal framework of a cube situated in several
 places throughout the room, refracting those rays in countless different
 directions. Beyond, the doorway forward is sealed with a shining, elemental
 seal of light; to open it, you'll have to move those prisms until they can
 bend the light streaming into this room to several unlit symbols throughout
 the room. It's definitely not a block puzzle. It's totally different. See
 the lights? Block puzzles don't have lights. So start moving those blocks
 already.
=Dungeon Conditions: Reckless, Secret=========================================
<Pose Tracker> Talia has posed.

Talia dusts herself off, upon rising to the heights of the tower. She lets out a sigh, kicking out a leg -- and trying to not twist, where she has a growing bruise from a blow from one of the Gentlemen. Her eyes wince, though, at the way that sunlight pours in from a hole in the southern wall of the chamber.

She looks about -- and eyes eyes widen as she gets a good look at the prisms. She looks about the room, and notes a few of the symbols on the ground. Her lips curl down, into a slow frown.

"Tricky," she says. She pulls out and flips open her pilfered notebook. "Let's see if this has anything on that--and--hm." She points at the furthest prism. "If we turn that, it might split the beam?"

DG: Talia has used her Tool Lt. Keil's Notebook toward her party's challenge, The Ordeal of Light.
<Pose Tracker> Margaret has posed.

"Mmm... tighter," Rex had said.

Be that as it may.

Upon reaching these high vaults, Margaret sweeps her hair back, grimacing a little at some unseen twinge in her arm, perhaps from the battle with the -Gentlemen-. At this point Lamplighter has also gone out, since she hasn't kept her combo up sufficiently. RIP fire.

"... It just might could," she answers Talia. "Let me check up on this."

She crouches, gets out her entire freaking deck of magic smut cards, shuffles several times, and consults some kind of arcane spread. Rex steps forwards, loyally standing in the way of errant gusts of wind.

"You've got quite a selection of tricks, Mr... Voss," Rex says to Loren, not unkindly. In fact, amiably! He seems to be a good-natured guy. One might fairly ask how he got this job.

DG: Margaret has used her Tool Traveler's Cards toward her party's challenge, The Ordeal of Light.
<Pose Tracker> White Knight Leo has posed.

    Leo retrieves the rope ladder from Rex's arrow, and takes the lead as the group files into the next chamber. A ray of brilliant light shines right into his eyes, and he immediately shuts them, scrunching up his face and rubbing at them. "What is this infernal place?" Leo grumbles, to no one in particular. "How does being blinded involve me proving myself?" Once the spots fade, Leo opens his eyes, and is careful not to look directly at the prisms afterwards. He stands back, letting Margaret and Talia do their thing, while he supervises. It's delegating. He's being smart!

DG: White Knight Leo has contributed a Wits Basic Action toward his party's challenge, The Ordeal of Light.
<Pose Tracker> Lan Lilac has posed.

    Out of sheer curiosity, Lan tries to peek at Talia's notebook. She can't help it, she's curious! And while she's peeking at stuff, she gives Margaret's cards a once-over. Those, at least, she's seen before. "Cool! Do you have to carry your around all the time? It looks like it'd be pretty time-consuming to make new ones."

    Reaching into her pocket, she slips her fingers into the familiar wells of the paku-paku. "I can just make a new one, but I need paper and pen. Oh, but yours probably get less vague answers." She's nodding to herself in time with the words, in time with the gentle 'clap clap' motions of her fingers.

    Whatever nebulous source of advice she's trying to contact seems to come through, because she reaches out and moves on prism... exactly two degrees counter-clockwise, THEN pushes it into what looks like a completely random spot. "I don't think you're supposed to look into them, exactly..."

DG: Lan Lilac has used her Tool Paku-Paku toward her party's challenge, The Ordeal of Light.
<Pose Tracker> Loren Voss has posed.

    For Loren's part, the attempt to not... fall a long distance doesn't go as well as he'd have liked.
    He ends up ultimately missing what he'd been aiming for and once the last of the tiles vanishes shortly thereafter, taking a short spill--
    Though, huh, there seems to be some sort of rocky outcropping down below. Funny, that. Lucky, too.

    Whether or not he gets a hand, he does eventually manage to climb back up onto the path and push on through the door that's opened. He's a bit worse the wear for it. The cord is shoved back into his bag.

    ...It's too damn bright in here. He shies away from the brilliance with a wince, holding a hand up in front of his face. His headache's back.

    "...Are you kidding me."

    He glances first one way, then the other, as if to take in the contents of the puzzle laid out before them. For a moment, he bows his head, as if in contemplation.
    "I suppose this is going to take some thinking," he says, pulling out another vial of that substance again and squinting at it in the light, and...
    Glances over at Rex.
    "I could say the same about you... and her."

    He jerks his head over Margaret's way, possibly meaningfully.

    Then tosses that vial Talia and Lan's way, before fishing other two out of his bag and similarly handing one other to Leo and Rex before downing the last himself.

DG: Loren Voss has used his Tool Modafisol toward his party's challenge, The Ordeal of Light.
======================<* Uzda Il-jam ~ Proving Grounds *>=======================
=====================<* CHALLENGE - The Ordeal of Light *>======================
|Type: Exploration |Dungeon Ability: Wits      |Challenge Rating: 2          |
---------------------------< Challenge Information: >---------------------------
 Light illuminates this place in a radiant splendor that veils as much as the
 dark might; shards of light, like rays of the sun, stream in from a port at
 the southernmost wall of this chamber this chamber, casting everything in
 this place with an otherworldly gleam. The light is spread through several
 large prisms lodged in the metal framework of a cube situated in several
 places throughout the room, refracting those rays in countless different
 directions. Beyond, the doorway forward is sealed with a shining, elemental
 seal of light; to open it, you'll have to move those prisms until they can
 bend the light streaming into this room to several unlit symbols throughout
 the room. It's definitely not a block puzzle. It's totally different. See
 the lights? Block puzzles don't have lights. So start moving those blocks
 already.
=Dungeon Conditions: Reckless, Secret=========================================
=================<* Uzda Il-jam ~ Proving Grounds - Round 5 *>==================
=======================< Results - The Ordeal of Light >========================
Player                               Exhaustion                      Pass/Fail
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Talia                               53 --(5)--> 58                 Pass
Lt. Keil's Notebook                 2   Wits    Effects: Enlighten
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Loren Voss                          58 --(5)--> 63                 Pass
Modafisol                           2   Wits    Effects: Stalwart
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
White Knight Leo                    48 --(8)--> 56                 Fail
Investigate                         0   Wits    Effects: BASIC
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Margaret                            53 --(5)--> 58                 Pass
Traveler's Cards                    3   Wits    Effects: Fanfare
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Lan Lilac                           58 --(8)--> 66                 Fail
Paku-Paku                           2   Wits    Effects: Enlighten
-----------------------------------< Party >------------------------------------
Leader: Talia                       60 --(20)--> 80                Pass
Conditions: Cripple|Reckless(2)|Secret(2)|Tire(1)
Effects: Enlighten(1)
===============================< Dream Chasers >================================
DG: The party led by Talia has passed this challenge! The party gained 20 exploration! If anyone needs to use party management
commands, do so now. Otherwise, the next round's GM may begin the next round with +dungeon/draw.
<Pose Tracker> Talia has posed.

Guided by a pilfered guidebook and informative smut trading cards, along with some medicine... Lan is able to make a critical turn -- and a few others, too. In time, the beams are made to shine. One by one, the symbols are lit by pure white sunlight. Talia watches, as light rolls over the last one.

Then, she sighs. "Maybe it--"

*click*

"Spoke too soon!"

The door begins to raise, slowly, into the wall.

DG: Margaret has drawn a new Challenge.
=====================<* Uzda Il-jam ~ Proving Grounds *>======================
=====================<* CHALLENGE - Shade of the Beast *>=====================
|Type: Climax      |Dungeon Ability: Combat    |Challenge Rating: 3          |
--------------------------< Challenge Information: >--------------------------
 Motes of soft blue light hang in the air, stream in serenely vaporous
 patterns before you as you enter what seems to be the penultimate chamber of
 Uzda Il-jam's upper grounds. This place is quiet, without the typical
 symbols, sigils, and more obvious trials that dotted the areas that have
 come before. Large, and almost perfectly cube-shaped, one can hear their own
 footfalls echoing against the slabs of stone, archaic symbols of a time long
 gone carved into the walls on either side of you.

 But it's a quiet that is not to last, especially not all that long: as you
 get midway through this peaceful hall, it seems to react to your presence.
 The vaporous blue light shifts and twines, spooling together in like strands
 of spiritual thread before you to build something wholecloth into existence.
 Blue light takes semi-translucent shape in the form of an immense beast with
 brightly glowing eyes and a wild mane, beating on its chest with its two
 large, front claws, still composed of that faint, ephemeral blue light. Like
 a phantasm, or an echo of something else. A fact that does not make that
 echo any less real as it bears down upon you, letting out a deafening roar
 as it swings its mighty claws.

 (OOC: It's highly recommended that you pull the Final card before posing the
 resolution of this one!)
=Dungeon Conditions: Hesitate, Fright, Reckless, Exhaust======================
<Pose Tracker> Margaret has posed.

Rex takes the vial when it's offered. He looks at it, and doesn't take it.

His attention turns back to Loren and Rex raises his other hand to tap his nose.

Margaret, on the other hand, gathers up her extremely authentic and real divinatory cards, even the ones that have boobies and no-nos on them, and sticks them all back in her belt pouch. The door rises and the invitation is a sort of soft blue vapor. "I keep waiting for the other shoe to drop," Margaret remarks to Talia as she steps forwards.

(Rex glances at Lan, quietly hands her a stub of a graphite pencil, and says to Loren, "We'll speak again. Then he keeps on keepin' on.)

"Perhaps we're at the end," Margaret says, slinging her spear over one shoulder. "Well, now, this could have been much worse, couldn't it, Leo! Nothing's dropping horrid slime on us, we're not being drenched with Malevolence, nobody's -"

The light spirals around and forms a titanic creature, bellowing in shadowed form directly behind Margaret. Her head whirls around and she gawps, shocked, astonished, and no doubt infuriated that she was interrupted mid-sentence-- but that part will come later.

For now, though...

        FIGHT FOR YOUR LIFE

DG: Margaret has contributed a Combat Basic Action toward her party's challenge, Shade of the Beast.
<Pose Tracker> Talia has posed.

Talia downs the last of Loren's medicine, before she pockets the vial. She looks sideways at Margaret, head tilted to the side for a moment -- and then she nods her head once to her. "Mm," she murmurs. "I see what you mean, no? This place is... different than many. It doesn't feel gripped by... whatever that force is."

She knows the name of Malevolence. She just doesn't want to say it aloud.

She slows, though, as Margaret says nothing could be much worse. Something tingles in the back of her brain; something about the dance of the shadows in front of her makes her hesitate. She whirls just after Margaret, and stares up at a creature made of pure light. Her jaw hangs open, and her red eyes look up.

Then a claw slams down into the ground.

Talia barely leaps to the side in time. She stumbles as she does, but she throws Mirage. The weapon flies, spinning, and strikes for the arm. Her body unravels into strands of shadow, then snaps back together. Talia swings a bootclad foot for the creature's head.

"Gh...! What is this thing!?"

DG: Talia has contributed a Combat Basic Action toward her party's challenge, Shade of the Beast.
<Pose Tracker> White Knight Leo has posed.

    Leo does not take Loren's heathen brain drugs. He inspects the vial with narrowed eyes, looking at it as though it contained an insidious poison, but when Loren looks at him again, he isn't holding it. It's not on the floor. Where could it be? (It's in a pocket, awaiting a trip to the people Leo keeps around to tell him more about mysterious things like heathen potion vials.)

    'Well, now, this could have been much worse, couldn't it, Leo!'

    Leo, who is already moving to take point, turns to look at Margaret. His gaze immediately leaves her face, fixing on the shadowy thing taking shape behind her. His hand darts down to his blade, drawing it with an audible shing of steel on leather. "Behind you!" he shouts, though Margaret is already turning around (and possibly also preparing a tirade). Leo swings; an arc of blazing white light shoots up, over Margaret's shoulder, towards the monster taking shape. It howls, swings at Leo with a massive, clawed paw; the Beastman steps forwards, catching the strike with the flat of his blade.

    'Gh...! What is this thing?!'

    "Dangerous!" Leo grunts.

DG: White Knight Leo has used his Tool Leo's Goods toward his party's challenge, Shade of the Beast.
<Pose Tracker> Loren Voss has posed.

    He had realized, once ashore, that he'd actually gotten used to the presence of Malevolence. It's nearly everywhere in this world -- all the more unfortunate that he's able to feel it, and that nearly none of his countrymen appear to be able to do similarly. But here, it's gone. It almost makes him feel like he's managed to be transported back to Filgaia. Back home.
    That thought -- of Filgaia -- is sobering, far more than the medication he's just downed.

    'We'll speak again,' Rex promises, and for an instant, Loren looks as if he's about to protest this statement.
    Before something occurs to him. He looks, for the moment, almost contemplative.

    "Fine," is his response.

    This? He can use this. It might even make up for previous failures.

    But that's for another time. For later. In the here and now, they make their ascent.

    Up here, it's almost serene.

    It doesn't last.

    "--Shit!" he barks as the thing looms down for Margaret. Perhaps he has no fondness for the woman, particularly after recent events, but--

    Light springs up in a barrier around her, from 'mysterious' points of origin.
    There are limits to pettiness.

    And in the next moment, he's drawn his blade.

    He's a novice, at best.
    But at least now he has bruises to show for it.

DG: Loren Voss has contributed a Combat Basic Action toward his party's challenge, Shade of the Beast.
<Pose Tracker> Lan Lilac has posed.

    "Huh? Oh, thank you!" Lan beams at Rex, using the pencil to carefully reinforce a line on one of the facets of her creation. Maybe it had been made in haste. (It absolutely was, two digs ago. It's been in her pocket this whole time.)

    She just accepts Loren's vial wordlessly, downing it and bracing herself for whatever weird city drug he's been taking all this time. "So when does this stuff kick i

    Lan, having never taken Solarian drugs before, feels her heart skip sideways before settling back into a normal, if faster, rhythm.

    n? --You know what, nevermind I thinkI'vegotthehangofit!" Turning her head towards the sound of LIGHT! approaching them, she bursts into motion towards it.

    It's a dashing lunge, the shaman suddenly unfolding like some goofy preying mantis to drop-kick the creature away. "HAAAAAAAAAAAAAA!"

DG: Lan Lilac has contributed a Combat Basic Action toward her party's challenge, Shade of the Beast.
=====================<* Uzda Il-jam ~ Proving Grounds *>======================
=====================<* CHALLENGE - Shade of the Beast *>=====================
|Type: Climax      |Dungeon Ability: Combat    |Challenge Rating: 3          |
--------------------------< Challenge Information: >--------------------------
 Motes of soft blue light hang in the air, stream in serenely vaporous
 patterns before you as you enter what seems to be the penultimate chamber of
 Uzda Il-jam's upper grounds. This place is quiet, without the typical
 symbols, sigils, and more obvious trials that dotted the areas that have
 come before. Large, and almost perfectly cube-shaped, one can hear their own
 footfalls echoing against the slabs of stone, archaic symbols of a time long
 gone carved into the walls on either side of you.

 But it's a quiet that is not to last, especially not all that long: as you
 get midway through this peaceful hall, it seems to react to your presence.
 The vaporous blue light shifts and twines, spooling together in like strands
 of spiritual thread before you to build something wholecloth into existence.
 Blue light takes semi-translucent shape in the form of an immense beast with
 brightly glowing eyes and a wild mane, beating on its chest with its two
 large, front claws, still composed of that faint, ephemeral blue light. Like
 a phantasm, or an echo of something else. A fact that does not make that
 echo any less real as it bears down upon you, letting out a deafening roar
 as it swings its mighty claws.

 (OOC: It's highly recommended that you pull the Final card before posing the
 resolution of this one!)
=Dungeon Conditions: Hesitate, Fright, Reckless, Exhaust======================
================<* Uzda Il-jam ~ Proving Grounds - Round 6 *>=================
=======================< Results - Shade of the Beast >=======================
Player                               Exhaustion                      Pass/Fail
------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Talia                               58 --(30)--> 88                Fail
Fight                               0   Combat  Effects: BASIC
------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Loren Voss                          63 --(30)--> 93                Fail
Fight                               0   Combat  Effects: BASIC
------------------------------------------------------------------------------
White Knight Leo                    56 --(30)--> 86                Fail
Leo's Goods                         1   Combat  Effects: Cleanse
------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Margaret                            58 --(30)--> 88                Fail
Fight                               0   Combat  Effects: BASIC
------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Lan Lilac                           66 --(30)--> 96                Fail
Fight                               0   Combat  Effects: BASIC
----------------------------------< Party >-----------------------------------
Leader: Talia                       80 --(0)--> 80                 Fail
Conditions: Cripple|Exhaust(1)|Fright(2)|Hesitate(2)|Reckless(2)|Secret(1)
Effects: Cleanse
==============================< Dream Chasers >===============================
DG: The party led by Talia has failed this challenge! The party gained 0 exploration! If anyone needs to use party management
commands, do so now. Otherwise, the next round's GM may begin the next round with +dungeon/draw.
DG: Margaret has drawn a new Challenge.
=====================<* Uzda Il-jam ~ Proving Grounds *>======================
==============<* CHALLENGE - Ordeal of the Beast ~ The World *>===============
|Type: Final       |Dungeon Ability: Wits      |Challenge Rating: 3          |
--------------------------< Challenge Information: >--------------------------
 The shade of the beast falls under your onslaught; and yet, the body does
 not fade. It lingers there for a time... until its entire body shifts
 towards prismatic hues, and the echo of the beast starts to literally -melt-
 into the foundation of the chamber. Stones shift, extend, alter. That
 prismatic light grows in intensity until it becomes blinding...

 ... and by the time your sight returns to you, you have been stranded from
 the rest of your companions in the bizarre, ever-shifting maze this chamber
 has become. To be able to find your way out of here, you will each have to
 navigate your way through this ever-moving maze to find the glowing seals at
 the ends of each of your paths, each a different hue of light. Each one must
 be found, each one must be activated to complete this puzzle. And, given how
 a low rumble and soft red light both seem to be growing with slowly-mounting
 but dangerous intensity, it might be a good idea to solve it sooner than
 later.
=Dungeon Conditions: Suffer===================================================
<Pose Tracker> Margaret has posed.

"I don't know!" Margaret shouts, even as Rex shoots an arrow into -

White Knight Leo swings his blade and sends a vast surge of white into the blue, storming like the tides on a sunny beach that is mere moments from the shore.

Rex shoots another arrow. Yup, that's his thing. He has magic but it ain't helping him right now.

Margaret's spear reignites and she twists and stabs and twirls and thrusts and is then summarily struck--

-- but the blow smashes against the mysterious barrier, staggering her but not sending her flying to a mutilating death. She hisses, her ears flattened back against her head as she tries to gore the thing in the side...

Lan kicks. And perhaps that kick touched a single precious mote within the creature, the epicenter of things. Perhaps it was the interlacing of Talia's passage through Shadow in the background. Whatever happens is not clear, because

everything kind
of
                SHINES

As the world seems to melt away. There are screams, a normal one from Rex and that weird high pitched 'Ai!' that seems to come out of elves who are in great dismay, before the light fades and the world is revealed again.

A twisting, shifting puzzlebox of chaos. There are gleams of seals between the cracks of smoothed stone, perspective itself wrapping around in odd and twisted ways. Everyone, for this moment, is alone.

Margaret looks at this chaos, reaches for her hip -

Her entire belt is gone. "What!"

MEANWHILE

Loren Voss will find a black leather belt with several pouches around his waist. The leather smells like it's had too much scented oil spilled on it over the course of years. It's definitely a personal item.

In one pouch... The travelling set of the Goddess's Tarot, complete with occult symbolism aplenty. Perhaps he could keep it. It WOULD be reasonable. No one need ever know - nobody would even see!

DG: Margaret has contributed a Wits Basic Action toward her party's challenge, Ordeal of the Beast ~ The World.
<Pose Tracker> Talia has posed.

"Clearly!" Talia shouts back to Leo.

She falls down, hard, slamming into the ground with a loud crackl. She rolls, turning to look at the monster as it shrines brightly -- a brilliant blast of light that shoots up around her. She stands up, eyes widening. Her fingers clutch Mirage tightly. She looks at the walls of blue light about her, and realizes that she has been cut off from the others.

No answers, she thinks; only more mysteries. She blinks her eyes, trying to clear the afterimages. She grits her teeth, then she pulls out the notebook; she flips a few pages open.

"Come on," she mutters. "Have some answers for me, damn it."

She starts walking -- but the notebook provides precious little about these. Talia frowns, before she flips open to a page blank on one side -- and starts to sketch a map out.

DG: Talia has contributed a Wits Basic Action toward her party's challenge, Ordeal of the Beast ~ The World.
<Pose Tracker> Lan Lilac has posed.

    All she knows is that for a second there she was kicking better than anybody else in the entire universe. A perfect, ten-point explosion of iron will and spacefuture drugs.

    ("I should never ever take that again," Lan decides a few hours from now, scrubbing grass stains out of her hair.)

    But now there's a maze, and after a few minutes of fruitless searching, she gives up and resorts to the paku-paku again. "I'm really going to owe you guys after this," she sighs to the air. "Let's see. Left, right, left, right..."

DG: Lan Lilac has used her Tool Paku-Paku toward her party's challenge, Ordeal of the Beast ~ The World.
<Pose Tracker> White Knight Leo has posed.

    For the second time today, Leo's vision dissolves into light. He feels himself tumbling, or maybe the floor is shifting beneath him, or maybe both--he has discipline enough to keep his blade at the ready, but that's about all he can manage. When his vision clears, the White Knight finds himself alone, at the top of a staircase made of strange tiles. He starts to walk, looking around for any sign of Margaret or Rex, or any of the others. He doesn't find any. The staircase wraps around itself like the coiled shell of a nautilus. Leo looks up, and sees his starting point through distorted space.

    "Damnation," Leo murmurs. The low rumble starts growing louder, and Leo's ears twitch. It is definitely not a trick of the imagination. "Margaret!" Leo shouts. He can't hear anyone else. Can anyone else hear him. "What in Althena's name is going on!?" He reaches a cross-junction even though there's no logical way it should exist within this space. Leo keeps going straight ahead.

DG: White Knight Leo has contributed a Wits Basic Action toward his party's challenge, Ordeal of the Beast ~ The World.
<Pose Tracker> Loren Voss has posed.

    "A few minutes. Wh--"

    Lan, for a moment, seems to be more of a blur than an actual living human person.

    "y," Loren completes the syllable, heavily belated as he stares at her as she bodily assaults a glimmering beast of light empty-handed.

    ...Maybe she's one of the sensitive cohort, he thinks a little distantly, for this moment lingering unhelpfully by the sidelines.

    A heartbeat later, he takes one lurching step forward--

    And the world goes white.

    When he's able to blink the motes of light from his eyes, he's standing alone and isolated, cut off from the world by translucent barriers -- as a prod with one finger, followed by the forcelike crackle that follows appears to demonstrate.

    "..."

    He'd realized it a while ago. He has to stand on his feet, advance under his own strength. Don't think for a second that anyone will help you up.

    The red light in the distance appears to hint at urgency.

    Reaching for his kit and fishing out one last vial, he takes a breath, then downs the contents in one shot. He needs focus, now.
    And has then the realization that there's a strange weight at his hip.
    Glances down then, and has the stunning realization that this isn't his belt, and he's now in possession of...

    ...of...

    ...well.

    He shoves the handful of cards back into the familiarly-scented pouch hastily, glances towards the red horizon, and takes off running, trying to route his way through the corridors of the maze. First thing first, he'd like not to die today.

DG: Loren Voss has used his Tool Modafisol toward his party's challenge, Ordeal of the Beast ~ The World.
=====================<* Uzda Il-jam ~ Proving Grounds *>======================
==============<* CHALLENGE - Ordeal of the Beast ~ The World *>===============
|Type: Final       |Dungeon Ability: Wits      |Challenge Rating: 3          |
--------------------------< Challenge Information: >--------------------------
 The shade of the beast falls under your onslaught; and yet, the body does
 not fade. It lingers there for a time... until its entire body shifts
 towards prismatic hues, and the echo of the beast starts to literally -melt-
 into the foundation of the chamber. Stones shift, extend, alter. That
 prismatic light grows in intensity until it becomes blinding...

 ... and by the time your sight returns to you, you have been stranded from
 the rest of your companions in the bizarre, ever-shifting maze this chamber
 has become. To be able to find your way out of here, you will each have to
 navigate your way through this ever-moving maze to find the glowing seals at
 the ends of each of your paths, each a different hue of light. Each one must
 be found, each one must be activated to complete this puzzle. And, given how
 a low rumble and soft red light both seem to be growing with slowly-mounting
 but dangerous intensity, it might be a good idea to solve it sooner than
 later.
=Dungeon Conditions: Suffer===================================================
================<* Uzda Il-jam ~ Proving Grounds - Round 7 *>=================
================< Results - Ordeal of the Beast ~ The World >=================
Player                               Exhaustion                      Pass/Fail
------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Talia                               88 --(100)--> 188              Fail
Investigate                         0   Wits    Effects: BASIC
------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Loren Voss                          93 --(100)--> 193              Pass
Modafisol                           2   Wits    Effects: Stalwart
------------------------------------------------------------------------------
White Knight Leo                    86 --(100)--> 186              Fail
Investigate                         0   Wits    Effects: BASIC
------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Margaret                            88 --(100)--> 188              Pass
Investigate                         0   Wits    Effects: BASIC
------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Lan Lilac                           96 --(100)--> 196              Fail
Paku-Paku                           2   Wits    Effects: Enlighten
----------------------------------< Party >-----------------------------------
Leader: Talia                       80 --(10)--> 90                Fail
Conditions: Fright(1)|Hesitate(1)|Reckless(1)|Suffer(1)
Effects: Enlighten(1)
==============================< Dream Chasers >===============================
DG: Talia is too exhausted to continue!
DG: Loren Voss is too exhausted to continue!
DG: White Knight Leo is too exhausted to continue!
DG: Margaret is too exhausted to continue!
DG: Lan Lilac is too exhausted to continue!
DG: The party has failed this challenge! All party members are now Exhausted. This attempt is over.
DG: The party led by Talia has been fully Exhausted by Uzda Il-jam ~ Proving Grounds!
DG: The party will now draw a conclusion.
=====================<* Uzda Il-jam ~ Proving Grounds *>======================
=====================<* CHALLENGE - Roar of the Beast *>======================
|Type: Landmark    |Dungeon Ability: Conclusion|Challenge Rating: 1          |
--------------------------< Challenge Information: >--------------------------
 A red light surges through your senses, filling them all. Sight turns
 crimson; taste and touch and smell fill with strange, distinct sense of
 heat. And a roar pierces the air, clawing its way into your very spirit,
 digging its rattling ferocity in to tear down your defenses until...

 ... you arrive.

 This room you come upon as the light fades is not like the others. There is
 something strange here, something off, that twinges at the senses the second
 that you step within, something that cannot quite be placed. As if you had
 stepped into another world entirely. Beyond feeling, even the architecture
 is different; smooth, eloquently gilded, this chamber is large and circular,
 with pillars composed of an unknown blue crystal that seems to flow like
 water supporting this vast structure. A series of seven immaculate gates
 line this place, numbered from I to VII in order, each of them sealed
 utterly, all of them inactive...

 ... save for the door marked 'I', shining with a soft radiance.

 A light that begins to shine ever-brighter as if heralding the imminent
 arrival of something beyond it, as those words once more echo through the
 senses:

                        WOULDST THOU BREAK THE SEAL?

 (OOC: This leads directly into the Gunslinger scene on Saturday, July 28th!
 If you are sending an alt or otherwise not coming, you can assume the
 gateway into this room shuttled you back out of Uzda Il-jam, or whatever
 else you might like! Please report the results of this Dig to Dispellado in
 the form of an @mail!)

                                     ---

 In addition, you receive:

                Proof of Spiritual Power: Proving Grounds!

                  Spiritual power, earned from challenging
               the trial of Uzda Il-jam's proving grounds!

             You can now resist moderately powerful Domains!

 (OOC: This is a bonus achievement and represents a spiritual empowerment
 rather than a concrete reward! Consider this strong enough to resist the
 Domain in Krosse Castle come Act 4!)
=Dungeon Conditions: Bad Luck=================================================