2018-08-18: Shooting Stars

From Dream Chasers
Jump to: navigation, search

========================<* Aifread's Hunting Ground *>========================

Aifread's Hunting Ground is named after the pirate Aifread, who terrorized these coastlands a thousand years ago. The landscape here is among the most dangerous fields in the world, but also among the most rewarding: very large monsters roam here, which were hunted by Aifread in ages past and by adventurers today. The beasts here include ferocious landstalker cats, enormous boars and buffalo, and land squid the size of a house. The creatures here are dangerous, but the sport is both difficult and pays well.

BGM: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nQK2PufIbzI
DG: A party led by Cyre H. Lorentz is now entering The Clockwork Observatory.
DG: Party formation is now over. An Entry Challenge will now be drawn and displayed to the party.
=======================<* The Clockwork Observatory *>========================
====================<* CHALLENGE - Gearwork Gatekeepers *>====================
|Type: Entry       |Dungeon Ability: Combat    |Challenge Rating: 2          | 
--------------------------< Challenge Information: >--------------------------
 Rain pours down in sheets, turning the rocky cliffs into nigh-on impassible,  
 rain-slicked hazards. Worse, the sole road leading up toward Withertallow's   
 uppermost structure is infested with strange, clockwork constructs.           
 Navigating the cliffs and bluffs is out of the question in this kind of       
 weather, so there is little choice but to carve a path through the claptrap   
 soldiers. They attack as soon as you come into range, menacing with           
 mechanical crossbows, whirling blades and bludgeons and pure, brute           
 strength. Their weaponry belies their most insidious advantage; knocking      
 them apart only causes their components to begin rolling back together,       
 seemingly driven by unidentifiable magic and powered by the Malevolent        
 energies permeating this place. You'll need to move quickly if you mean to    
 fight your way to the front door.                                             
=Dungeon Conditions: Wound====================================================
<Pose Tracker> Cyre H. Lorentz has posed.

What a miserable day to have a dig.

There must be something about Malevolent domains and attracting the worst kinds of weather. Cyre is fortunate that his favorite cloak has been modified to resist the kind of driving rain that so often accompanies those more spiritually dubious regions of the world. His relative dryness is of little consolation right now, though.

This isn't his first time in Withertallow Keep. What he has learned of the ancient research facility has sent chills down the shaman's spine. Against his better judgment, he's concluded that they need to figure out just what it is that's happening here, to determine if this is just another case of Hellions Gone Wild, or if there's something much more sinister afoot.

Personally, Cyre is thinking the latter.

But to get to the next section of the laboratory, they'll need to scale an intimidating road that switchbacks up the side of a nearby mountain. At the top is a tower that, with its exoskeleton of churning gears and pumping pistons, seems to be just as much a machine in its own right as it is a piece of architecture. That alone would be enough of a challenge, but...

This road, it's infested by robots.

Claptrap machines patrol the old road, covered in weapons that are at once primitive and highly effective at killing a man dead. Cyre clicks his tongue against his teeth and glances at the others he's brought/dragged along. "Looks like we'll need to fight our way up. Watch your step, you don't want these things knocking you off the mountain."

Cyre turns and starts moving toward the first group of patrolbots, unleashing a great blast of high-pressure wind into their formation. "Come on," the shaman yells back, "If we move quick, we can get inside and slam the door in their faces!"

DG: Cyre H. Lorentz has contributed a Combat Basic Action toward his party's challenge, Gearwork Gatekeepers.
<Pose Tracker> Loren Voss has posed.

        It's raining.

        Of course it's raining. Ruined jacket pulled tight against his chest (for all the good it does him) Loren makes haste through the storm, intent on their destination. Maybe he'll get a little lucky and there'll be a moment or two to dry off.
        ...Probably not, but neither is he so far gone as to lose all hope in the little events in life.

        Hair dyed black (the blond roots are showing) and without his usual glasses (probably for the best in this rain) 'Thomas Blackwell' (aka 'Thomas Voss' according to certain wanted posters) might look a little different. His clothes are a touch more on the worn side, too, as if he'd had to replace his usual wardrobe in a hurry.
        Even in this rain his coat still smells a little faintly of chocolate.

        "I thought you said it was a clean pass to the tower!" he shouts back, irritation at the weather and his most recent circumstances unburdening Cyre's way.

        Even this whole venture is a gamble, one last shot before he returns to camp and finds out for sure that he's getting that medical bay assignment he's so certain he's due for. Maybe if he can find one useful thing--

        With this set of circumstances, he thinks he's owed a victory. Just one. Just once.

        Fishing in his waterproofed satchel, Loren dredges out a handful of vials, hurling them overhead towards the assorted members of the group. "If you get injured, keep the wound clean! With machinery that old you could get an infection," he informs the lot, falling towards the back.
        Particularly in the mud and the raid.
        It's just too bad he doesn't have the equipment from that weird woman, Katherine Weaver, just yet.

DG: Loren Voss has used his Tool Solarian Medical Kit toward his party's challenge, Gearwork Gatekeepers.
<Pose Tracker> Jacqueline Barber has posed.

Jacqueline has been to this place before.

It did not go well.

She's a little nervous to be visiting again so soon after her last disastrous brush with this place, but...Cyre was heading there, and Jacqueline could not deny that her curiosity was getting the best of her. Besides, after her last visit to the Soul-Alchemy Lab, she had a bit of grudge toward whoever was responsible for this place.

"This is clear...the last time we were here, the pack was so thick we had to go around..." Jacqueline replies, glancing toward Loren.

The thick rainfall will make that impossible though...this time, they have to fight through it. Jacqueline isn't too keen on it...but she doesn't have much choice.

She does not, as it happens, bring out her book. She doesn't want it to get soaked in the rainfall, but that's okay - she already has some prior data on these things to work with.

"Be careful! Some of these things have weapons hidden within them, so don't get too close...and some of them can rebuild themselves if you don't destroy them thoroughly enough!" Jacqueline warns, then gestures with her right hand.

Fortunately, she can take advantage of the situations. With a gesture of her right hand she brings lightning down onto one of the soaked constructs, hoping it produces enough heat to simply fuse the pieces together.

DG: Jacqueline Barber has used her Tool The Lifeweaver's Codex toward her party's challenge, Gearwork Gatekeepers.
<Pose Tracker> Lydia Seren has posed.

Lydia Seren doesn't really look anything like Asteroid the Kid, but she has brightened upon seeing Thomas Blackwell whom she still thinks saved her life a while ago. She has no idea of his true identity but, to be fair, he might have a hard time believing Lydia's right now too what with being green haired and horned rather than a giant rock for a head.

She is not too eager to come back here, but it clearly has ASTRONOMY related shit in there, and that is her JAM. She is using an umbrella to avoid getting absolutely drenched and a raincoat to keep warm.

"No kidding--" Lydia mutters, always a little uneasy around killer robots.

She doesn't think she can drop a meteor without, uh, knocking all of them over to their doom but she can still launch laser blasts at the mechs to try and open up a way in.

But it's Lydia so she probably won't be too effective here. She likes to save her FP for player characters.

DG: Lydia Seren has contributed a Combat Basic Action toward her party's challenge, Gearwork Gatekeepers.
<Pose Tracker> Matilda Whitehead has posed.

While Matilda hadn't planned on going and doing much during her brief return to the CaraKin for research purposes... well... it's like that, sometimes. Sometimes one of your colleagues gets a bright idea and you think, 'maybe I should also get that bright idea.'

Or maybe 'I should keep my colleague from dying.' Hard to say.

Either way, Matilda's not far behind Cyre, sword and shield out and at the ready. Her advance is steady and even, even before Cyre warns them about the patrol constructs.

'Thomas' gets a glance. "I'd call this, mm, relatively clean," the bleached-blonde mercenary says, with a small shake of her head. The comment about an infection, however, prompts a raised eyebrow. "Not a lot of Drifters tend to worry about that sort of thing -- I'm glad to be in good company."

Her advance through the robots remains essentially the same as the one prior: slow and steady. She walks up with the shield up, then swings out with her blade; it's not... terribly complex offense. If anything it's restrained -- as if she's trying to pace herself for later fights.

DG: Matilda Whitehead has contributed a Combat Basic Action toward her party's challenge, Gearwork Gatekeepers.
=======================<* The Clockwork Observatory *>========================
====================<* CHALLENGE - Gearwork Gatekeepers *>====================
|Type: Entry       |Dungeon Ability: Combat    |Challenge Rating: 2          | 
--------------------------< Challenge Information: >--------------------------
 Rain pours down in sheets, turning the rocky cliffs into nigh-on impassible,  
 rain-slicked hazards. Worse, the sole road leading up toward Withertallow's   
 uppermost structure is infested with strange, clockwork constructs.           
 Navigating the cliffs and bluffs is out of the question in this kind of       
 weather, so there is little choice but to carve a path through the claptrap   
 soldiers. They attack as soon as you come into range, menacing with           
 mechanical crossbows, whirling blades and bludgeons and pure, brute           
 strength. Their weaponry belies their most insidious advantage; knocking      
 them apart only causes their components to begin rolling back together,       
 seemingly driven by unidentifiable magic and powered by the Malevolent        
 energies permeating this place. You'll need to move quickly if you mean to    
 fight your way to the front door.                                             
=Dungeon Conditions: Wound====================================================
==================<* The Clockwork Observatory - Round 1 *>===================
======================< Results - Gearwork Gatekeepers >======================
Player                               Exhaustion                      Pass/Fail
------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Cyre H. Lorentz                     0 --(20)--> 20                 Fail
Fight                               0   Combat  Effects: BASIC                
------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Lydia Seren                         0 --(20)--> 20                 Fail
Fight                               0   Combat  Effects: BASIC                
------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Loren Voss                          0 --(15)--> 15                 Pass
Solarian Medical Kit                1   Combat  Effects: Cleanse              
------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Matilda Whitehead                   0 --(15)--> 15                 Pass
Fight                               0   Combat  Effects: BASIC                
------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Jacqueline Barber                   0 --(15)--> 15                 Pass
The Lifeweaver's Codex              2   Combat  Effects: Embolden             
----------------------------------< Party >-----------------------------------
Leader: Cyre H. Lorentz             0 --(10)--> 10                 Fail
Conditions: Wound(2)
Effects: Cleanse|Embolden(1)
==============================< Dream Chasers >===============================
DG: The party led by Cyre H. Lorentz 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> Cyre H. Lorentz has posed.

Jay might be able to tell. It's probably going to be another one of those days.

The exact size of the robot swarm is a little hard to quantify with so many of those switchbacks and blindspots leading up to the tower on the top of the cliff. Unfortunately for the team, it's... A little more than they probably bargained for. Jay is probably the most successful in dealing with these mechanical monstrosities, bombarding them with lightning that leaps from robot to robot. Matilda manages to fight through the horde relatively unscathed as well, while Loren's medical aid ensures that the rest of the party doesn't die of tetanus or anything like that.

But by the end of it, the party had fought through approximately two or three times as many machines as they might have initially thought they'd be up against. It's not a good start, being this worn out before you even reach the front door.

But hey, all those fights probably built up one hell of a bonus XP chain!

DG: Loren Voss has drawn a new Challenge.
========================<* The Clockwork Observatory *>=========================
======================<* CHALLENGE - Grease the Wheels *>=======================
|Type: Exploration |Dungeon Ability: Wits      |Challenge Rating: 2          | 
---------------------------< Challenge Information: >---------------------------
 Over the years, the scholars of Withertallow had developed a vast assortment  
 of useful machines to help take care of their day-to-day needs. The less      
 time wasted performing mundane tasks, the more time could be dedicated to     
 the pursuit of knowledge. Many of those machines now lie abandoned and in     
 various states of disrepair. You find one such device lying in ruin at the    
 base of some shaft-- an elevator, it seems? If you can repair the mechanism   
 and reconnect it to some of the perpetually churning clockwork that drives    
 nearly everything in this place, you should be able to make considerable      
 progress. It's strange though-- some of these components just don't seem to   
 do anything at all. But removing them from the mechanism renders it           
 inoperable. Maybe there's a significance in the runes scrawled across the     
 clockwork?                                                                    
=Dungeon Conditions: Secret===================================================
<Pose Tracker> Loren Voss has posed.

        At the moment, Lydia is just another Drifter to him, the individual known only as 'Asteroid the Kid' having several more... distinctive features than the girl currently possesses. It's probably just as well, all considering.
        He is under the impression that 'Asteroid' is probably some wayward project from research. It happens now and then, he understands.
        Sometimes research wants them back again, which is always a wonderful joy.

        Jay points out that this is clear. Comparatively. Loren makes the sort of face someone might pull if faced with some irritating foible from another person that they had sworn they'd stop... and then committed again nonetheless. "Great. Perfect," he utters, with all the withering disdain for the universe he can muster.

        "In the same way this road is 'relatively' clear?" he comments to Matilda, dryly. He sighs. "In any case, they're hardly sanitary, so please try not to get too many wounds."

        The contents of the vial will help with that part.
        But a little less with the sheer... volume of clockwork machines that continue to pour forth from the ruin. By the time they get in through the front gate, they'll (or at least Loren will) be soaked through and exhausted.

        Pointedly, Loren wrings out his coat, before slicking his bangs back and taking a look around. This probably wasn't the main entrance -- it's a little more cramped in here and devoid of the usual entryway adornments someone might expect from an institute (of sorts) for scholars.

        But there is one prominent alcove, and the machine within it.
        An elevator.
        "Hmm," Loren utters, prodding at what seems to be the mechanism that controls the unit.
        It doesn't want to work, it seems. "Looks like it's broken."

        He considers for a moment, the twisting narrow railing-less staircase to the left also leading upwards, then considers again the mechanism.

        "I say we see if we can fix it. I'd rather not deal with the stairs." And then extracts from his bag a squarish device. Now, let's see, if he were to analyze the vitals of a busted machine, from what point--
        Right.

        He fumbles with a few buttons on the device. Unorthdox, but an electromagnetic scan might help identify which sections of the mechanism are sending power to other sections... and hence should probably be hooked up.
        He ignores the runes.

DG: Loren Voss has used his Tool MediScan v7 toward his party's challenge, Grease the Wheels.
<Pose Tracker> Jacqueline Barber has posed.

Jacqueline is in fact feeling a rather worrisome sense of deja vu. It was already going not great, and it was only going to get worse from here. Usually she was pretty optimistic, but right now...she could probably be forgiven for her negativity.

"...An elevator?" Jacqueline questions, looking it over. Yet again, she finds herself thinking back to her last trip here, and what awaited them at the top of the last elevator she went up.

...It wouldn't be there waiting for them again, would it? No, of course no.

She laughs nervously to herself, and turns her attention to the parts. There's some strange runes scrawled across the clockwork. It attracts Jacqueline's interest.

She draws out her notebook and begins to copy them down before glancing toward Matilda.

"Have you come across any of these symbols before?" She asks curiously. It'd help if they had some prior knowledge to go on...

DG: Jacqueline Barber has contributed a Wits Basic Action toward her party's challenge, Grease the Wheels.
<Pose Tracker> Lydia Seren has posed.

Maybe, Lydia thinks, she should ask this guy out. He doesn't look THAT much older than her. It'd be nice to ask someone out who isn't a killer or criminal overlord, not that Lydia has really asked anybody out, but that's usually because she finds out her crushes are murderin' types and it's kind of awkward to start asking them out while they're dealing with that. Lydia isn't really great on murder herself.

"Shouldn't be too hard to figure osmething out from this--better just put on my thinking cat first."

She places Schrodinger the Cat on her head and starts fixing stuff together. What is she hoping to make? It's probably a mystery to herself as much as anyone since she's just kind of experimenting by jamming things into other things and seeing what it does. It's how she learns most things. She still needs test pilots.

"So, Thomas," Lydia asks."How'd you get up to Lunar? Haven't seen you around much." She looks over to Jacqueline and gives her a shake of her head before looking back to Loren.

"You seem like a guy who keeps to himself, but what is it you like to do? In your spare time? Or, like, on a date?"

Tinker, tinker.

DG: Lydia Seren has used her Tool Schrodinger the Cat toward her party's challenge, Grease the Wheels.
<Pose Tracker> Cyre H. Lorentz has posed.

Cyre is soaked.

...

There are jokes that can be made here, but they won't be. Because Cyre is not in the mood to make those jokes. Some asshole robot decided to shred part of his cloak, and then the rain got in and now he's soaked to the gills.

Cyre does not appreciate being a wet cat. He's so willing to get out of the rain that he doesn't even care that the observatory is quite possibly the most ominous structure he's set foot into in the past few weeks. He immediately regrets his decision, though. The clattering, incessant droning of machines all around him seem to drill a hole through his ears straight into the center of his brain.

It's... unpleasant.

He pulls his tattered cloak tighter over his ears to hopefully muffle some of the sound.

But while he's doing that, the others seem to have found themselves a way to maybe speed this trip up just a little bit. "An elevator?" Cyre asks, squelching his way over in his waterlogged boots. "Here, let me see--"

...

...

"Nope," Cyre admits, "I've got nothing. Looks like we should be able to just... puzzle the pieces back together, though. Maybe if we match the symbols on the gears...?"

The symbols are, in fact, a little more sinister than being Ikea furniture assembly markers. The exact functions are uncertain, but it seems as though they're made to... communicate with other nearby runes? These gears are somehow connected by a vast array of communication nodes, which means...

That someone, somewhere, might just be watching them...?

DG: Cyre H. Lorentz has contributed a Wits Basic Action toward his party's challenge, Grease the Wheels.
<Pose Tracker> Matilda Whitehead has posed.

"... yes, precisely," Matilda notes to Thomas, though by the time she has the opportunity to render comment, she's... pretty worn out. Relatively intact, though -- it turns out armor is good for you! Who knew.

Once they arrive at the elevator, Matilda immediately reaches into her pack and pulls out a book. While this book was *originally* about Filgaian Gear repair, Matilda's made extensive notes in the margins and cover on other sorts of machines -- pages to cross-reference, et cetera. It'd probably be unreadable to anyone else, and not just because of Matilda's doctor handwriting.

"Hmmm -- I think some of these," she reflects, "may be failsafes, or something similar -- not directly necessary, but because of the state of disrepair, necessary *now*...?" She frowns, starting to puzzle through. It's very slow, deliberate going, with occasional note-taking.

DG: Matilda Whitehead has used her Tool Portable Library toward her party's challenge, Grease the Wheels.
========================<* The Clockwork Observatory *>=========================
======================<* CHALLENGE - Grease the Wheels *>=======================
|Type: Exploration |Dungeon Ability: Wits      |Challenge Rating: 2          | 
---------------------------< Challenge Information: >---------------------------
 Over the years, the scholars of Withertallow had developed a vast assortment  
 of useful machines to help take care of their day-to-day needs. The less      
 time wasted performing mundane tasks, the more time could be dedicated to     
 the pursuit of knowledge. Many of those machines now lie abandoned and in     
 various states of disrepair. You find one such device lying in ruin at the    
 base of some shaft-- an elevator, it seems? If you can repair the mechanism   
 and reconnect it to some of the perpetually churning clockwork that drives    
 nearly everything in this place, you should be able to make considerable      
 progress. It's strange though-- some of these components just don't seem to   
 do anything at all. But removing them from the mechanism renders it           
 inoperable. Maybe there's a significance in the runes scrawled across the     
 clockwork?                                                                    
=Dungeon Conditions: Secret===================================================
===================<* The Clockwork Observatory - Round 2 *>====================
========================< Results - Grease the Wheels >=========================
Player                               Exhaustion                      Pass/Fail
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Cyre H. Lorentz                     20 --(0)--> 20                 Pass
Investigate                         0   Wits    Effects: BASIC                
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Lydia Seren                         20 --(0)--> 20                 Pass
Schrodinger the Cat                 2   Wits    Effects: Enlighten            
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Loren Voss                          15 --(0)--> 15                 Pass
MediScan v7                         3   Wits    Effects: Enlighten and Efficie
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Matilda Whitehead                   15 --(0)--> 15                 Pass
Portable Library                    1   Wits    Effects: Cleanse              
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Jacqueline Barber                   15 --(0)--> 15                 Pass
Investigate                         0   Wits    Effects: BASIC                
-----------------------------------< Party >------------------------------------
Leader: Cyre H. Lorentz             10 --(20)--> 30                Pass
Conditions: Secret(2)
Effects: Cleanse|Enlighten(1)
===============================< Dream Chasers >================================
DG: The party led by Cyre H. Lorentz 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.

        "Certainly, it looks like an elevator," Loren says, glancing over at Jacqueline. "I think it might be better than taking that staircase. See if you can figure anything out."

        Like, say, the runes, which as Cyre indicates, might suggest how the parts form a whole. The runes, by turns -- for Jay and for Matilda -- make a little more sense when written down. Lydia, meanwhile, sets herself down for the hands-on approach.

        "Your thinking what--"
        There's a pause. "Oh."

        How'd he get up to Lunar?

        "By being in the wrong place at the wrong time." And ain't that the truth.

        "Try that part. It's still got power to it," he suggests, scan complete. He points at a different section as Lydia crams her way in, taking a step back himself (and pocketing the device in the meanwhile). "Nothing's running to those sections here and there, so they can probably be disabled. But don't touch the red thing to the right, it's probably important." ...Given the amount of charge feeding into it, even though it looks like it's just a broken off piece.

        "And just why do you feel it's important right now? Are we expecting a surplus of spare time here shortly?" Lydia asks him her question, and he gives his reply. "If you really need to know, it's stargazing." Astronomy properly. Astrophysics, more properly. Astromathematics, to be highly specific.
        Also card games, but that one's not for free, it seems.

        He very deliberately ignores the question about 'a date'.

        "...A failsafe. That's what the red part probably is," he agrees, once Matilda points that part out.

        And indeed, once the right parts are reconnected:

        Ding~, chimes the elevator cheerfully, doors sliding open. Looks like it's working.

DG: Lydia Seren has drawn a new Challenge.
=======================<* The Clockwork Observatory *>========================
======================<* CHALLENGE - Gremlin Syndrome *>======================
|Type: Exploration |Dungeon Ability: Combat    |Challenge Rating: 2          | 
--------------------------< Challenge Information: >--------------------------
 For a short while now, there has been a palpable sense of danger-- or         
 rather, one relatively more intense than the usual feeling of dread and       
 discomfort that suffuses a Malevolent domain. There's a notion radiating      
 from that deepest, most primordial part of the brain that evolved first in    
 some primitive lizard aeons ago. Fear. Danger. You are the prey, and there    
 is a hunter. As you turn a corner, suddenly there's a sound like tearing      
 metal. An assembly of gears, springs and sprockets erupt from a nearby wall,  
 assembling on arcs of purple un-light into vaguely humanoid forms of          
 clattering metal and crackling, black electricity. Immediately they pounce    
 even as more clockwork creatures tear themselves out of the gearwork. Fight   
 and break through or you will surely be overwhelmed!                          
=Dungeon Conditions: Fright===================================================
<Pose Tracker> Lydia Seren has posed.

Schrodinger meows at Loren unhelpfully.

"Oh, yeah, makes sense." Lydia tells Loren before adding, "Just making conversation, really. I didn't really get to know you last time--" Well obviously who even is this girl? Lydia stands up and dusts herself off. "Wait--really? Stargazing?" Lydia smiles brightly. "Me too! I want to be an astronaut someday. I was going to visit the, uh, moon in a rocket but it sort of ended up getting there on foot first." She frowns thoughtfully, perhaps thinking that if you can just walk to Lunar why would you need a rocket? But she just shrugs off that thought and adds, "I was saving up to buy the materials for a test rocket back on Filgaia but kind of uh got sidetracked by ... ... being at the wrong place at the wrong time, I guess."

She steps into the elevator but then--as everybody starts going up the elevator....!!


A small group of gears and springs and sprockets burst out of the wall and assemble themselves into strange clockwork golems. It doesn't seem to stop the elevator from going up, however, but you're going to have to finish this fight!

Lydia is promptly concussed by a flying gear.

"Ow!" Lydia says, drawing out a strange ray gun and firing bolts at the golems maybe--it's working out? Maybe.

DG: Lydia Seren has contributed a Combat Basic Action toward her party's challenge, Gremlin Syndrome.
<Pose Tracker> Jacqueline Barber has posed.

Now this is what Jacqueline was hoping for. A problem she can just relax and think over, rather than something that demanded physical exertion. She nods to herself as she works with the runes as well as glancing toward Matilda everyone now and then and taking notes on what she says.

Communication runes...that was a disturbing thought. Therefore, it was probably the case.

Everyone's work pays off in the end. They get into the elevator, and Jacqueline listens to Lydia (trying to) make smalltalk with Loren.

At least until something erupts from the sides. And unfortunately, they're trapped in here - they don't have any choice but to deal with this problem. Jacqueline goes closer to the middle of the elevator than the outside, since she's seen how they erupt from the walls. This gives her plenty of space to draw a certain decorated book from her bags.

"These things...I've encountered them before. Be careful! The gears aren't their main body, so purely physical attacks won't be as effective! They have a strange affinity with machines so if you use ARMs, be aware of that as well!" She warns.

DG: Jacqueline Barber has used her Tool The Lifeweaver's Codex toward her party's challenge, Gremlin Syndrome.
<Pose Tracker> Cyre H. Lorentz has posed.

Cyre stares at Lydia and 'Thomas.' A grin sloooowly creeps up and over his face. "Eheh," the shaman chuckles, "That's cute."

Oh no, has a ship been born!?

That's a question that'll have to be allowed to loom way over everybody's heads for now. There's an elevator to ride! Cyre is thankful for the opportunity to just sit back and relax for a moment. He takes the time to dry off his- and everybody's- clothes with a gentle gust of hot air. It probably doesn't deal with all the moisture, but it's sure as hell better after he's done it than it was before-hand.

And then a gear flies off a wall and bonks Lydia on the head.

"Physical attacks won't do it, huh?" Cyre grunts, nodding at Jay's advice. He clasps his hands together, focusing for a moment as technicolor magic circles wink to life all around him. "Let's see how they like this, then. Solais Emsu, shatter this darkness!"

Solais Emsu responds in his usual fashion. The magic circles flicker, flash, and then erupt, disgorging brilliant beams of arcane energy into the assembly of gremlins.

Are these things weak to light!?

DG: Cyre H. Lorentz has contributed a Combat Basic Action toward his party's challenge, Gremlin Syndrome.
<Pose Tracker> Loren Voss has posed.

        He's never entirely sure what to do with cats.
        Or dogs, for that matter.

        His brow creases. "'Last time'? What do you mean, 'last time'?"
        Which is about as far as he gets before she informs him that it's definitely her side interest too. As if taken aback, he shuffles back a step, possibly alarmed. "W-wait a moment -- seriously? You seriously thought you could just build a rocket and travel to the moon?"
        Loren: not good at not trampling on other people's dreams.
        He certainly doesn't bring up his own childhood wish to someday travel to the moon, one that died on the vine due to Solaris neither having a space program or any plans to venture beyond the grip of Filgaia.

        "According to research, there was nothing to suggest there was even air here on the moon," and some books now certainly need to be rewritten, "so just what were you planning to do when you arrived--"

        It's a good thing Loren hasn't noticed Cyre's expression.
        It's also a good thing (?!) that the elevator starts to attack them, sending gears, sparks, and other assorted components freewheeling across the interior.

        "What in the-- are you kidding me!" he barks, narrowly evading a spray of sparks. "And this happened before!?"

        Brief unleashing of his sheer disbelief aside, he's already sprung into action, dragging out a handful of bandages with one hand and some sort of metal tool (a bonesnipper) with the other. The bandages are probably for everyone else in here.
        The bonesnipper is for beaning a rowdy gearwheel.

DG: Loren Voss has used his Tool Solarian Medical Kit toward his party's challenge, Gremlin Syndrome.
<Pose Tracker> Matilda Whitehead has posed.

Finally -- a moment to think. Despite her extremely rapidly growing talent for it, Matilda isn't really a fighter by nature -- she likes problems that she can sit and pick apart.

What she is presented with as the elevator ascends, unfortunately, is a problem that wants to sit and pick her apart. This is the opposite of good or fair!

Jay mentions the creature's strengths, which unfortunately correspond almost perfectly with literally the full spread of things Matilda does. She makes a face -- and then another, more insistent face as she realizes the role this forces her into.

Shield up, Matilda steps forward, banging a gauntleted hand on it once and trying to get the gearworks' attention. ... yeah, *someone* has to tank, and unfortunately Matilda -- being raised on a farm and carrying a shield -- is probably the best candidate.

The expression on her face indicates that she *hates* it.

DG: Matilda Whitehead has contributed a Combat Basic Action toward her party's challenge, Gremlin Syndrome.
=======================<* The Clockwork Observatory *>========================
======================<* CHALLENGE - Gremlin Syndrome *>======================
|Type: Exploration |Dungeon Ability: Combat    |Challenge Rating: 2          | 
--------------------------< Challenge Information: >--------------------------
 For a short while now, there has been a palpable sense of danger-- or         
 rather, one relatively more intense than the usual feeling of dread and       
 discomfort that suffuses a Malevolent domain. There's a notion radiating      
 from that deepest, most primordial part of the brain that evolved first in    
 some primitive lizard aeons ago. Fear. Danger. You are the prey, and there    
 is a hunter. As you turn a corner, suddenly there's a sound like tearing      
 metal. An assembly of gears, springs and sprockets erupt from a nearby wall,  
 assembling on arcs of purple un-light into vaguely humanoid forms of          
 clattering metal and crackling, black electricity. Immediately they pounce    
 even as more clockwork creatures tear themselves out of the gearwork. Fight   
 and break through or you will surely be overwhelmed!                          
=Dungeon Conditions: Fright===================================================
==================<* The Clockwork Observatory - Round 3 *>===================
========================< Results - Gremlin Syndrome >========================
Player                               Exhaustion                      Pass/Fail
------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Cyre H. Lorentz                     20 --(5)--> 25                 Fail
Fight                               0   Combat  Effects: BASIC                
------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Lydia Seren                         20 --(5)--> 25                 Fail
Fight                               0   Combat  Effects: BASIC                
------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Loren Voss                          15 --(0)--> 15                 Pass
Solarian Medical Kit                1   Combat  Effects: Cleanse              
------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Matilda Whitehead                   15 --(5)--> 20                 Fail
Fight                               0   Combat  Effects: BASIC                
------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Jacqueline Barber                   15 --(0)--> 15                 Pass
The Lifeweaver's Codex              2   Combat  Effects: Embolden             
----------------------------------< Party >-----------------------------------
Leader: Cyre H. Lorentz             30 --(30)--> 60                Pass
Conditions: Fright(2)|Secret(1)
Effects: Cleanse|Embolden(1)
==============================< Dream Chasers >===============================
DG: The party led by Cyre H. Lorentz has passed this challenge! The party gained 30 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> Lydia Seren has posed.

The fight is unfortunately a long fight, but thanks to Jay and Loren at least, they stay pretty healthy. Matilda's tanking no doubt plays a role in that even if she gets clobbered a few times. Lydia, naturally, is largely useless in the fight having failed to even ping a single one of the gears. What was she going to do? Drop a meteor in the elevator???

Regardless, Lydia gives Cyre an embarrassed but nondeadly push with her hand as her cheeks redden faintly.

And then maybe less faintly as her whole face gets red as her DREAM OF GOING TO THE MOON is mocked! MOCKED!

"Well there's no air in space either, so obviously I'd have to figure out a way to breathe iif I was gonna go to the moon anyway, it wouldn't have mattered if there was air on the moon or not since I'd have something to deal with that! I figured once I got a test rocket working well enough I could get some sponsors and get some help. Going to space is a multi person gig!"

She then looks down for a moment and adds, "...And I don't know...I didn't really have a plan once I got here." She looks down, embarrassed. "I guess I figured if there weren't people up here, I'd just fly back?"

She kicks the elevator doors open once it stops and she is quiet for a little while before adding, "Why do you gaze at the stars, if you don't want to travel them?" after a moment. "You just like looking at lights or something?"

DG: Jacqueline Barber has drawn a new Challenge.
=======================<* The Clockwork Observatory *>========================
=======================<* CHALLENGE - Grinding Gears *>=======================
|Type: Exploration |Dungeon Ability: Brute     |Challenge Rating: 3          | 
--------------------------< Challenge Information: >--------------------------
 This place is full of all kinds of machines, it was only a matter of time     
 for one to make the road ahead utterly impassible. The head of an enormous    
 piston regularly pounds and hammers into the path forward, sending tremors    
 up and through your legs. The piston is much too big and swings much too      
 often to be outrun by anyone but the most quick-footed. It seems that in      
 order to progress, you will need to hold the massive machine at bay. But to   
 leverage your strength against the raw power of a machine at work is surely   
 futile-- there's a definite sense that the piston could easily smash your     
 bones to dust. Maybe, then, a more creative application of force is called    
 for? Maybe if the piston itself can't be so easily stopped, the key is in     
 the shaft and gears the device is tethered to...?                             
=Dungeon Conditions: Exhaust==================================================
<Pose Tracker> Jacqueline Barber has posed.

Jacqueline watches Loren very carefully as Lydia speaks with him. She doesn't say anything, instead just...taking mental notes. Particularly when Lydia goes rather red.

She stops for a moment, though, to assess everyone's condition.

"Is everyone alright?" She asks, distributing some healing potions. Matilda gets first priority, for taken the brunt of the aggression for them.

But eventually, the elevator comes to a stop. The door dings open...only for a massive piston to SLAM down right in front of them.

"Ah...it would seem this was something of a, uh, maintenance elevator..." Jacqueline comments, immediately backing away from the door.

That's what she assumes, at least, but whether or not it is, it seems to have taken them right into the path of one of the many machines.

"We could turn back around, but...does anyone have any ideas for how to get around this...?" Jacqueline asks. The piston itself would be difficult to stop...but maybe there's something else they could do...?

DG: Jacqueline Barber has contributed a Brute Basic Action toward her party's challenge, Grinding Gears.
<Pose Tracker> Cyre H. Lorentz has posed.

Aw, Lydia has her dreams trampled upon by a possible love interest. Cyre's heart aches for her. Also he gets shoved, because he's being a dork.

This is right and proper, and Cyre offers a concilliatory headpat in repayment of his terrible personhood.

Soon enough though, the elevator comes to a stop and leads them to...

A gigantic piston!

It slams the ground beneath it with distressing regularity. Cyre winces with every collision. "I... Really don't like the sound of that. You think maybe we could just... find a way around it? I'm not exactly built to lift against that kind of force." Not that Cyre's not built. He just... You know. He knows his limits.

The shaman makes a curious noise and ignites his favorite censer, spreading a haze of medicinal vapors across the party. But what he's really doing with it is shedding a bit of light-- just enough to get a better idea of what they might be able to do to slow the piston down. He wanders up to the machinery nearby and squints hard into the gears.

If only they had Ethius. He might have been able to figure this out.

...

It's a strange day when Cyre finds himself wishing Ethius was actually around.

Hm.

"I think," Cyre says, indicating at one set of whirring cogs in particular, "If we jam something into this one, it might stop the piston for a little while? We'll need to move fast, though. I can't imagine that we'll be able to keep it from moving for long."

DG: Cyre H. Lorentz has used his Tool Invigorating Vapors toward his party's challenge, Grinding Gears.
<Pose Tracker> Loren Voss has posed.

        Loren, in the manner of the highly rude individual, doesn't even seem to be listening to Lydia as she clarifies what she meant, instead turning himself to the task of repacking his medical equipment as if it were a task taking up his complete and utter attention.

        Then: "Well, good for you. You thought ahead," he deadpans, shifting the weight of the bag slung along one shoulder. "So what do you want from me, an applause?"

        This is just uncalled for.

        "Sure. It's good enough as a reason, isn't it? We can see what's out there even if we'll never get there. We can learn about the universe, little by little."

        He'd once thought it'd be exciting to go traveling to another star, see other planets.
        Well, they say that when you're a kid, your dreams aren't realistic. He'd learned that, found new dreams.
        Got to see them shatter, too.

        "I'm fine," he answers Jay, once he exits the elevator.
        It's the last thing that slips from his lips before a piston slams down right in front of him and nearly makes him jump out of his skin. As it is, he wheels back away from the safety hazard, a hand pressed against his heart as he takes a deep breath.
        "A maintenance elevator," he echoes distantly. A few choice words suggest themselves to him, but as they're in his native tongue, he keeps those to himself.

        The piston slams down again. And again.

        Loren reaches out for a nearby wall, as if to steady himself.

        Instead forcing his will into the workings of the device, rearranging matter on some level, and then--

        Well, it's magic, in the end: a rock manifesting itself out of, apparently, the wall to attempt to jam and stick into those cogs Cyre indicates.

DG: Loren Voss has contributed a Brute Basic Action toward his party's challenge, Grinding Gears.
<Pose Tracker> Matilda Whitehead has posed.

Matilda... honestly has no idea how to get around this. She offers Jay a sympathetic, but slightly helpless, look, at the question. Cyre offers a solution, though -- and while Loren seems to have a more immediate way to implement that solution, Matilda still ends up looking in her bag for something.

She finds a few different vials, but none of them seem to satisfy... whatever weird alien criteria she's looking for; eventually, she finds a viscous blue liquid. "... If jamming it *doesn't* work," Matilda notes, "the other option would be to sever something..."

She tosses it into the gears. "... Which this will do in a few short moments." She purposefully aims far away from Loren's rock, so they don't work at cross-purposes.

DG: Matilda Whitehead has used her Tool Bubble Lotion toward her party's challenge, Grinding Gears.
<Pose Tracker> Lydia Seren has posed.

Lydia curls her fingers into her fist, and then closes her eyes, and then she exhales a faint sigh instead of braining Thomas upside the head with a rock which is absolutely one hundred percent what Lydia would have done last act. This time, though, she just says, "Well, it's alright. I know it's a longshot dream totravel the stars one day, but I'm not going to be the loser who gives up just 'cause it's hard or it's unrealistic. If I do my best tand fail then the next person who comes along will have my work to jump off of. And even if they don't, at least I'll know I did my best instead of just sitting around and gettin' nothing down. Folks have come down here from the stars, so in theory it's still possible. First I'll make it to the moon just to prove it can be done, then I'll go even farther!"

She is smiling again, apparently wholly unperturbed despite the discouragement--well at least after taking a moment.

Then there's a new problem. An enormous piston.

"Easy peasy," Lydia says, drawing out her medium. "Rigdobrite will solve this problem!"

WAIT IS SHE REALLY CASTING METEOR!?

Well kind of. She is summoning Rigdobrite, but right under the piston and--

--and they're friends right? She said they were pals. This is what friends do, right? Use each other's heads to hold up a piston?

DG: Lydia Seren has used her Tool Asteroid Ball toward her party's challenge, Grinding Gears.
=======================<* The Clockwork Observatory *>========================
=======================<* CHALLENGE - Grinding Gears *>=======================
|Type: Exploration |Dungeon Ability: Brute     |Challenge Rating: 3          | 
--------------------------< Challenge Information: >--------------------------
 This place is full of all kinds of machines, it was only a matter of time     
 for one to make the road ahead utterly impassible. The head of an enormous    
 piston regularly pounds and hammers into the path forward, sending tremors    
 up and through your legs. The piston is much too big and swings much too      
 often to be outrun by anyone but the most quick-footed. It seems that in      
 order to progress, you will need to hold the massive machine at bay. But to   
 leverage your strength against the raw power of a machine at work is surely   
 futile-- there's a definite sense that the piston could easily smash your     
 bones to dust. Maybe, then, a more creative application of force is called    
 for? Maybe if the piston itself can't be so easily stopped, the key is in     
 the shaft and gears the device is tethered to...?                             
=Dungeon Conditions: Exhaust==================================================
==================<* The Clockwork Observatory - Round 4 *>===================
=========================< Results - Grinding Gears >=========================
Player                               Exhaustion                      Pass/Fail
------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Cyre H. Lorentz                     25 --(30)--> 55                Fail
Invigorating Vapors                 1   Brute   Effects: Cleanse              
------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Lydia Seren                         25 --(30)--> 55                Fail
Asteroid Ball                       3   Brute   Effects: Rally                
------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Loren Voss                          15 --(30)--> 45                Fail
Force                               0   Brute   Effects: BASIC                
------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Matilda Whitehead                   20 --(30)--> 50                Fail
Bubble Lotion                       2   Brute   Effects: Strengthen           
------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Jacqueline Barber                   15 --(30)--> 45                Fail
Force                               0   Brute   Effects: BASIC                
----------------------------------< Party >-----------------------------------
Leader: Cyre H. Lorentz             60 --(10)--> 70                Fail
Conditions: Exhaust(1)|Fright(1)
Effects: Cleanse|Strengthen(1)
==============================< Dream Chasers >===============================
DG: The party led by Cyre H. Lorentz 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> Lydia Seren has posed.

Rigdobrite is squished.

"Well," Lydia says. "If at first you don't succeed."

She tries again. SQUISH.

<Pose Tracker> Cyre H. Lorentz has posed.

"LYDIA," Cyre yells, aghast, "LYDIA NO"

<Pose Tracker> Cyre H. Lorentz has posed.

"THINK ABOUT POOR RIGDOBRITE," Cyre pleads, "GUARDIANS HAVE FEELINGS TOO!"

<Pose Tracker> Lydia Seren has posed.

"Rigdobrite wouldn't want me to give up!" Lydia says.

<Pose Tracker> Loren Voss has posed.

        ...

        ....Guardians really are hard to kill, Loren thinks.

<Pose Tracker> Cyre H. Lorentz has posed.

"Rigdobrite probably does not like being squished!!" Cyre answers.

DG: Matilda Whitehead has drawn a new Challenge.
========================<* The Clockwork Observatory *>=========================
=======================<* CHALLENGE - Lunatic Lunagate *>=======================
|Type: Exploration |Dungeon Ability: Combat    |Challenge Rating: 3          | 
---------------------------< Challenge Information: >---------------------------
 Withertallow's astronomers spent a considerable amount of their time staring  
 into the void of space, hoping that they might glean some knowledge that      
 would aid them in their work. It seems that, on at least one occasion, one    
 of them had managed to succeed- or perhaps they were struck by a fit of       
 madness that led them to making a truly disconcerting discovery. The          
 patterns and symbols etched on so much of the clockwork suddenly seem to      
 take a dark turn. The sense of wrongness intensifies as you go along,         
 finally reaching a crescendoing as you come a complex network of gears        
 surrounding a strange, dark portal. As you approach, it begins disgorging a   
 vast number of skeletal spectres aglow with unliving moonshadow. They howl    
 with the voices of the dead and forgotten, their touch saps strength and      
 eats away at the mind, and slaying one only sees another emerge from the      
 gate. The only way through is to destroy the machine powering the portal--    
 but that means making it through the horde. Can you achieve victory with      
 your bodies and minds intact?                                                 
=Dungeon Conditions: Injure===================================================
<Pose Tracker> Jacqueline Barber has posed.

Jacqueline sends Lydia a beaming smile. She's proud of how far she's come!

"If anyone can do it, it's Lydia. She has a unique way of thinking that I believe will work in her favor." Jacqueline says.

Of course, right now, the big problem is...the piston. They come up with some clever solutions to the problem. Cyre points out a weakspot, Louren wedges a spike of earth in there, and Matilda splashes some of her Bubble Lotion onto a portion of the gears, aiming to melt it completely.

It does manage to hold the piston up...

...Kind of.

It isn't going to last long. Not at all long enough for them to go underneath it. And then, Lydia decides to call upon her pal Rigdobrite for aid. She summons him...

Right beneath the piston.

The expected happen. Lydia, of course, tries again. Jacqueline stares, aghast...

...And presses the 'down' button before they witness Rigdobrite's gruesome demise(again).

<Pose Tracker> Matilda Whitehead has posed.

... Well, it looks like it's time to take another route. Matilda winces at poor Rigdobrite, though perhaps not... for too long, or thinking about it too much. She certainly doesn't share Cyre's concern for the Guardian. She turns, and begins to backtrack, looking for another route entirely.

The good news is that she finds one. The bad news is that it's... well, there's a reason it would've been quite desirable to be able to progress in the 'normal' way. The symbols start to feel -- wrong, somehow, like the curves and point sare never quite in the right places...

... and then they emerge into a horde of skeletons -- in turn being endlessly renewed from the portal. She closes her eyes for just a moment, letting out a long sigh. "... Well -- it looks like there's only one substantive solution to *this*," she murmurs in noticeable irritation, as she starts forward, shield up.

DG: Matilda Whitehead has contributed a Combat Basic Action toward her party's challenge, Lunatic Lunagate.
<Pose Tracker> Cyre H. Lorentz has posed.

Cyre is still aghast at the dire suffering inflicted upon the Guardian of the stars. How could anyone be so cruel to such a nice Guardian? Rigdobrite might be a bit... weird, whimsical even, but...

Oh Lydie, where did you go wroooong?

He's still looking a little green around the gills when the hairs on the back of his neck stick straight up. The ambient atmosphere takes a turn for the worse, danger thickening in the air. "Something's not right," Cyre mutters as they continue onwards, "This feels... Wrong. Somehow."

He's right! Because soon... Skeletons! Countless skeletons all marching out of a great, glowing portal at the far end of the room! The shaman grunts, unleashing another barrage of those brilliant, technicolor beams. "We need to break through. If we can't disable that portal, we're done for...!"

At least Cyre knows for a fact that skeletons hate lasers. Hopefully that'll help...!

DG: Cyre H. Lorentz has contributed a Combat Basic Action toward his party's challenge, Lunatic Lunagate.
<Pose Tracker> Jacqueline Barber has posed.

Jacqueline starts to wonder whether the piston route would actually be preferable to...this.

"I don't...like this." Jacqueline mutters with a hint of growing concern. This doesn't feel right. There's something very...off about this that causes her no small amount of distress.

These feelings are justified when they happen upon the machine itself.

"...Wh-what is that? Why is that? I don't understand..." Jacqueline says, shaking her head. What possible purpose does that serve...? A part of her feels that perhaps its a good thing she can't comprehend it. With a frown she draws out the book again and pages through it...before staring at it with a frown.

"I can't make heads or tails of this... Anyway, yes, try not to expend too much effort on the wraiths...it looks like it'll only create more of them! Don't let them touch you, if you can help it!" Jacqueline says, then draws a bottle from her bags. She deposits the book once more, and then hurls the bottle at the machine, where it splashes orange liquid all over it.

It's a familiar brew meant to disable machines...but this machine was already beyond normal understanding. She had no idea if it would even work.

DG: Jacqueline Barber has used her Tool The Lifeweaver's Codex toward her party's challenge, Lunatic Lunagate.
<Pose Tracker> Lydia Seren has posed.

Lydia Seren wasn't trying to be cruel! She was trying to be helpful! She loves Rigdobrite! SNIFF!!!

Of course that's when the skeletons show up and Lydia plants one foot to the side, steels herself, and raises her medium in the air.

"MATERIAL - RIGDOBRITE!" She shouts.

INSUFFICIENT FP

Lydia frowns. "Cyre, I'm out of ideas!"

DG: Lydia Seren has contributed a Combat Basic Action toward her party's challenge, Lunatic Lunagate.
<Pose Tracker> Loren Voss has posed.

        "Well," Loren says to Lydia, as she proclaims she's not giving up on her dreams no matter how hard or impossible they are, "Good luck with that."
        He even appends the most deadpan, sarcastic thumbs-up possible to the statement, which is just rude.

        Then he turns his attentions to the matter of the mechanism controlling the piston.
        It... doesn't turn out very well. Particularly not for the Guardian involved. How much pain can one of them feel?
        Loren just watches, what else can you do?

        "Good idea," he asides to Jay.

        Some backtracking is involved after that, pitching them out into a chamber lined with patterns. Loren pauses, reaching up to trace his fingertips along one of the glyphs.

        "...angular momentum..."

        His lips move; he's for the moment dead to the world around him, buried deep in untangling math involved in the diagrams here.

        "...of course, three body problem..."

        Then he stops, as if listening to the sound of a voice only he can hear. Something's

        wrong.

        The headache nearly makes him double over; as it is, he grips his head with both hands, stumbling as he impacts a nearby wall.

        It isn't right, is it? When the world twists and bends--

        He straightens against the wall, using it to steady himself, and stares at the howling apparitions pouring as if through a hole in reality with an unfocused gaze.

        "Oh. Is that it," he says, wincing before he reaches into his bag to retrieve a trio of scalpels.

        He hurls them as one past the horde, for the gate beyond.
        (No, this is not a part of the Jugend medical program).

        "Sounds like good a plan as any," he utters, through gritted teeth.

DG: Loren Voss has used his Tool Solarian Medical Kit toward his party's challenge, Lunatic Lunagate.
========================<* The Clockwork Observatory *>=========================
=======================<* CHALLENGE - Lunatic Lunagate *>=======================
|Type: Exploration |Dungeon Ability: Combat    |Challenge Rating: 3          | 
---------------------------< Challenge Information: >---------------------------
 Withertallow's astronomers spent a considerable amount of their time staring  
 into the void of space, hoping that they might glean some knowledge that      
 would aid them in their work. It seems that, on at least one occasion, one    
 of them had managed to succeed- or perhaps they were struck by a fit of       
 madness that led them to making a truly disconcerting discovery. The          
 patterns and symbols etched on so much of the clockwork suddenly seem to      
 take a dark turn. The sense of wrongness intensifies as you go along,         
 finally reaching a crescendoing as you come a complex network of gears        
 surrounding a strange, dark portal. As you approach, it begins disgorging a   
 vast number of skeletal spectres aglow with unliving moonshadow. They howl    
 with the voices of the dead and forgotten, their touch saps strength and      
 eats away at the mind, and slaying one only sees another emerge from the      
 gate. The only way through is to destroy the machine powering the portal--    
 but that means making it through the horde. Can you achieve victory with      
 your bodies and minds intact?                                                 
=Dungeon Conditions: Injure===================================================
===================<* The Clockwork Observatory - Round 5 *>====================
=========================< Results - Lunatic Lunagate >=========================
Player                               Exhaustion                      Pass/Fail
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Cyre H. Lorentz                     55 --(5)--> 60                 Fail
Fight                               0   Combat  Effects: BASIC                
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Lydia Seren                         55 --(5)--> 60                 Fail
Fight                               0   Combat  Effects: BASIC                
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Loren Voss                          45 --(0)--> 45                 Pass
Solarian Medical Kit                1   Combat  Effects: Cleanse              
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Matilda Whitehead                   50 --(5)--> 55                 Fail
Fight                               0   Combat  Effects: BASIC                
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Jacqueline Barber                   45 --(0)--> 45                 Pass
The Lifeweaver's Codex              2   Combat  Effects: Embolden             
-----------------------------------< Party >------------------------------------
Leader: Cyre H. Lorentz             70 --(20)--> 90                Pass
Conditions: Injure(2)
Effects: Cleanse|Embolden(1)
===============================< Dream Chasers >================================
DG: The party led by Cyre H. Lorentz 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> Cyre H. Lorentz has posed.

"LYDIA THIS IS WHY WE DON'T ABUSE OUR GUARDIAN FRIENDS," Cyre yells moments before a skeleton punches him in the face.

<Pose Tracker> Matilda Whitehead has posed.

For the *most* part, the advance through the horde goes poorly. Matilda positions herself to take the meat of the assault -- and, well, does. Even with her shield and armor, she looks pretty worn down -- and eventually ends up letting some past her to Lydia and Cyre, the shamans facing the next-worst of the onslaught. The real MVPs, of course... are those who can throw things.

Both Jay and Loren's tosses strike true, and within moments, the machine itself is disabled; at the very least, there are no *new* skeletons -- and that means Cyre is mostly free to clean up as he pleases, while Matilda... continues to get beaten on.

She looks absolutely miserable by the time everything is down.

DG: Cyre H. Lorentz has drawn a new Challenge.
=======================<* The Clockwork Observatory *>========================
======================<* CHALLENGE - The Dawn Machine *>======================
|Type: Climax      |Dungeon Ability: Combat    |Challenge Rating: 3          | 
--------------------------< Challenge Information: >--------------------------
 It's been a long, hard-fought trek, but the uppermost reaches of the          
 Clockwork Observatory is within reach. You climb the last stairs and open     
 the doors into a vast, opulent chamber heaped high with books and texts of    
 all kinds. Some sort of private laboratory beneath the mechanisms of the      
 great telescope... and it is occupied.                                        
                                                                               
 Four figures are in debate around a large and cluttered table. When you       
 enter the sounds of clockwork hide their voices, but the muting of that       
 mechanical clamor comes at the same time that the four notice you... and you  
 notice the Malevolence. A council of Hellions!                                
                                                                               
 "It seems our visitors have arrived sooner than projected." The first figure  
 sounds eerily like the whirring of far too many gears. It's only then that    
 you realize that its source is not a woman of flesh and blood but an angel    
 of brass and oil.                                                             
                                                                               
 Before she can speak more, a second voice chimes in, his voice dripping with  
 sarcasm, confidence and pride. "What a blunder, allowing these interlopers    
 to come so far. So much for your impenetrable security."                      
                                                                               
 "Don't be so hard on poor Orty. It's not her fault that her current state     
 has left her a little... inflexible." A third voice. Her tones are dulcet     
 and cloying, lazy and almost lackadaisical. If not for the gravitas of the    
 situation, she'd seem almost approachable.                                    
                                                                               
 "It is what it is." The fourth, less a human being and more of a prismatic    
 hole punched into the fabric of space, seems to speak in countless voices at  
 once. "My apologies. We would normally extend to you our warmest welcome,     
 but I'm afraid we're on a tight schedule. Ortia, kindly deal with them."      
                                                                               
 The clockwork woman vanishes in a burst of coppery light and reappears        
 nearby. Her eyes flash as she extends a hand, mechanical mouth chanting with  
 inhuman speed. The tower responds to her will, the floor surging upward into  
 a bulky humanoid form which she soon fills with the light of a newborn sun.   
                                                                               
 "Attack, Solis Ortus."                                                        
                                                                               
 Its mistress vanishes in a flash of light as the giant awakens, the           
 temperature suddenly skyrocketing. The machine lumbers forward, laying into   
 your party with blasts of protomatter and swings of its massive limbs. Its    
 mere presence unleashes tremendous heat and its sun-heart releases waves of   
 scalding flame with every pulse. Each strike and fireburst leaves             
 hemispheres of boiling star-stuff in its wake. As you're occupied with        
 defeating the colossus, the others remaining at the table take the time to    
 retreat as well, but one still remains behind...                              
=Dungeon Conditions: Injure===================================================
<Pose Tracker> Cyre H. Lorentz has posed.

Cyre might have been punched right in the face, but by completely bypassing the undead horde and sniping the portal in just the right spot, the party manages to drive the dead back. However, something still seems off. The sense of wrongness pervading the air does not abate with the destruction of the portal and its spawn. As the party moves up a nearby staircase, the sensation of tension only seems to grow more pronounced.

Soon, they come to a doorway-- and hear muffled voices arguing within. Cyre frowns, steeling himself, and presses into the chamber.

The first thing that the party notices is the silence. The room seems to be insulated from the roaring machines outside, and it's only by their absence that Cyre realizes how much noise he's had to endure until this point.

The second thing is the Malevolence.

Oh boy, is there a lot of Malevolence.

Four figures are seated around a table at the far end of the chamber. The first turns her head owlishly, speaking with a modulated, mechanical voice. "It seems our visitors have arrived sooner than projected."

"Damnit," Cyre hisses, reaching for the mediums hidden under his cloak.

"What a blunder, allowing these interlopers to come so far. So much for your impenetrable security."

The wind whips up, whirling to an almost deafening roar. "Everyone, get ready. These are--!"

"Don't be so hard on poor Orty. It's not her fault that her current state has left her a little... inflexible."

"Hellions!!"

"It is what it is. My apologies. We would normally extend to you our warmest welcome, but I'm afraid we're on a tight schedule. Ortia, kindly deal with them."

There's a flash of orange light as the first figure teleports nearby. Behind her, two of the others retreat as well, while the third busies itself collecting the material left behind. The clockwork woman's eyes flare like two, tiny suns set in her perfect, coppery face. Her mouth moves at speeds no human could possibly match, incanting a spell- a code. The tower answers her will, churning upwards into something that can only be described as a golem made from an artificial star.

"Attack, Solis Ortus."

The monster awakens, unleashing a wave of terrible, scalding heat. The temperature climbs dozens of degrees at a time as the burning sphere that comprises so much of its body glows brighter and brighter. Cyre fights back a scream as he feels his skin begin to burn, shielding his eyes from the blinding light.

"Damnit, we need to take this thing down! Go! I'll try and keep us all from going up in smoke!" Cyre calls to the winds to churn at hurricane speeds, rapidly cycling the superheated air out and replacing it with fresher, cooler air from elsewhere. The golem lumbers forward, going on the attack as its mistress teleports away to safety.

How does the party deal with a walking star!?

DG: Cyre H. Lorentz has contributed a Combat Basic Action toward his party's challenge, The Dawn Machine.
<Pose Tracker> Jacqueline Barber has posed.

Jacqueline watches Matilda with a slight frown. They've mostly been hiding behind her this entire trip... Jacqueline makes a mental note to procure some more pastries for her as an apology. But that can come later - right now, they need to get out of this place alive.

But not, of course, before finding out what's actually at the end of all of this.

And yet...a part of her feels like maybe they would be better off if they just turned back. She still feels uneasy...

The sheer amount of Malevolence doesn't help. And neither does the silence...but what comes next is perhaps even worse.

Voices. People - or at least, beings that were once people. But now they were...Hellions. Hellions who, by all appearances, had left the vestiges of their humanity behind long ago. And what's worse, they have a guardian.

Jacqueline takes a moment to draw out the Codex, but...she doesn't see anything in there about this construct. She stores it away quickly, before reaching out toward the construct with her left hand. With a swift gesture she begins rapidly invoking ice sorcery, trying to combat the heat by rapidly cooling the air around it.

But there is a monstrous amount of heat there - it's like trying to quench the sun. And what's worse, the heat made concentrating difficult. Just being near it sapped her energy.

"W-we might need to find a way around this..." She murmurs.

DG: Jacqueline Barber has contributed a Combat Basic Action toward her party's challenge, The Dawn Machine.
<Pose Tracker> Loren Voss has posed.

        He can feel it before it becomes apparent what's shedding the sense of Malevolence. It's thick in the air.

        But he knows somehow -- that encounter in Uzda Il-jam left its mark in his soul, or something like that. It's pressure can't be denied, but it can't rot him from the inside unless he lets it.

        "We've got a problem," he says, moments before Cyre steps into the chamber.
        And once inside, well.

        ...Well.

        Loren takes a few slow steps backwards. Not to run, though someone could certainly make that assumption. No, he's falling behind the others simply to invoke a brief working of ether as a barrier about himself, exhaling as he exerts his will.

        His left hand rests on the bag at his side, apparently just waiting, ready for the correct moment.

        "Understood," he answers Cyre, strangely formal.
        He might be medical, but he's still a soldier.

        How would the Major handle this?

        ...Probably, by striking before...
        Yeah, definitely by striking before one of them summons down what might just be a minor star. Lifting one arm to shield himself against the scorching heat, he reaches into his bag and shouts out, "Get ready!"

        Which is followed by: "Incoming!"

        As a whole series of medical supplies (of the vial-enclosed kind) come raining down.

        After that, Loren ducks into a run, apparently aiming to circle the monster and search for...
        Something. Some sort of weakpoint, something he can exploit.

DG: Loren Voss has used his Tool Solarian Medical Kit toward his party's challenge, The Dawn Machine.
<Pose Tracker> Matilda Whitehead has posed.

Well, *someone* has to stand in front -- and Matilda, in spite of herself, has made herself the best-suited to doing just that. She doesn't seem to be coping that well with the Malevolence, either -- really, at this point, it's just kind of squarely a bad gig.

"I don't think we have a path 'around' this," Matilda says -- and once Cyre starts trying to cool the area down, she's *quite* certain that this is now the path they have to take. If nothing else, it's better than being pursued...

Much like Loren, her strategy is to reach into her pack and start throwing vials; unlike Loren, however, she has exactly zero follow-up. She's a little hesitant to actually rush in, after spending so long getting beaten on...

DG: Matilda Whitehead has contributed a Combat Basic Action toward her party's challenge, The Dawn Machine.
<Pose Tracker> Lydia Seren has posed.

"I didn't abuse him!! We help each other out, and just because it didn't work out that time, doesn't mean it's abuse! It's wrong to give up immediately after one attempt, Cyre!! Not everybody can afford to be a lazy!"

Lydia pauses for a moment before wincing as the heat is unleashed upon everyone--including herself!

Lydia sinks to a crouch, grimacing as the golem attacks. "Gahh.... But if we destroy the golem, don't tell Dean okay?? I don't want to get grief over it!"

How does the party deal with a walking star?

...Well don't look at Lydia, heck if she knows? Usually it's the job of OTHER PEOPLE to figure out how to deal with star power, Lydia just throws it at OTHER people. Even Ragnell didn't aim FOR her with the meteors!

"Wagghhh...." She tries firing SOlais lasers. It's about what she's got.

DG: Lydia Seren has contributed a Combat Basic Action toward her party's challenge, The Dawn Machine.
=======================<* The Clockwork Observatory *>========================
======================<* CHALLENGE - The Dawn Machine *>======================
|Type: Climax      |Dungeon Ability: Combat    |Challenge Rating: 3          | 
--------------------------< Challenge Information: >--------------------------
 It's been a long, hard-fought trek, but the uppermost reaches of the          
 Clockwork Observatory is within reach. You climb the last stairs and open     
 the doors into a vast, opulent chamber heaped high with books and texts of    
 all kinds. Some sort of private laboratory beneath the mechanisms of the      
 great telescope... and it is occupied.                                        
                                                                               
 Four figures are in debate around a large and cluttered table. When you       
 enter the sounds of clockwork hide their voices, but the muting of that       
 mechanical clamor comes at the same time that the four notice you... and you  
 notice the Malevolence. A council of Hellions!                                
                                                                               
 "It seems our visitors have arrived sooner than projected." The first figure  
 sounds eerily like the whirring of far too many gears. It's only then that    
 you realize that its source is not a woman of flesh and blood but an angel    
 of brass and oil.                                                             
                                                                               
 Before she can speak more, a second voice chimes in, his voice dripping with  
 sarcasm, confidence and pride. "What a blunder, allowing these interlopers    
 to come so far. So much for your impenetrable security."                      
                                                                               
 "Don't be so hard on poor Orty. It's not her fault that her current state     
 has left her a little... inflexible." A third voice. Her tones are dulcet     
 and cloying, lazy and almost lackadaisical. If not for the gravitas of the    
 situation, she'd seem almost approachable.                                    
                                                                               
 "It is what it is." The fourth, less a human being and more of a prismatic    
 hole punched into the fabric of space, seems to speak in countless voices at  
 once. "My apologies. We would normally extend to you our warmest welcome,     
 but I'm afraid we're on a tight schedule. Ortia, kindly deal with them."      
                                                                               
 The clockwork woman vanishes in a burst of coppery light and reappears        
 nearby. Her eyes flash as she extends a hand, mechanical mouth chanting with  
 inhuman speed. The tower responds to her will, the floor surging upward into  
 a bulky humanoid form which she soon fills with the light of a newborn sun.   
                                                                               
 "Attack, Solis Ortus."                                                        
                                                                               
 Its mistress vanishes in a flash of light as the giant awakens, the           
 temperature suddenly skyrocketing. The machine lumbers forward, laying into   
 your party with blasts of protomatter and swings of its massive limbs. Its    
 mere presence unleashes tremendous heat and its sun-heart releases waves of   
 scalding flame with every pulse. Each strike and fireburst leaves             
 hemispheres of boiling star-stuff in its wake. As you're occupied with        
 defeating the colossus, the others remaining at the table take the time to    
 retreat as well, but one still remains behind...                              
=Dungeon Conditions: Injure===================================================
==================<* The Clockwork Observatory - Round 6 *>===================
========================< Results - The Dawn Machine >========================
Player                               Exhaustion                      Pass/Fail
------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Cyre H. Lorentz                     60 --(20)--> 80                Fail
Fight                               0   Combat  Effects: BASIC                
------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Lydia Seren                         60 --(20)--> 80                Fail
Fight                               0   Combat  Effects: BASIC                
------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Loren Voss                          45 --(15)--> 60                Pass
Solarian Medical Kit                1   Combat  Effects: Cleanse              
------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Matilda Whitehead                   55 --(20)--> 75                Fail
Fight                               0   Combat  Effects: BASIC                
------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Jacqueline Barber                   45 --(20)--> 65                Fail
Fight                               0   Combat  Effects: BASIC                
----------------------------------< Party >-----------------------------------
Leader: Cyre H. Lorentz             90 --(0)--> 90                 Fail
Conditions: Injure(2)
Effects: Cleanse
==============================< Dream Chasers >===============================
DG: The party led by Cyre H. Lorentz 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: Cyre H. Lorentz has drawn a new Challenge.
=======================<* The Clockwork Observatory *>========================
========================<* CHALLENGE - Mystic Cage *>=========================
|Type: Final       |Dungeon Ability: Wits      |Challenge Rating: 3          | 
--------------------------< Challenge Information: >--------------------------
 As the massive solar golem falls inert, you notice that something is still    
 dreadfully amiss. Specifically, the amount of light surrounding you has not   
 dimmed at all. On the contrary, it's only grown brighter! There, on the       
 floor, someone has woven a vast symbological array in the time you've been    
 occupied with the Solis Ortus. "Remarkable. I'm impressed." Only one member   
 of the quartet is left at the table: the third speaker, a proud man whose     
 pallid skin is covered in glowing arcane tattoos which seem to churn and      
 writhe across his flesh. "Not only overcoming the observatory, but Ortia's    
 magic alike. Truly remarkable. I'd love to stay and chat, but I've been       
 tasked with ensuring you do not interfere further with our business."         
                                                                               
 The array surrounding you flares again, a sphere of light materializing to    
 trap you within. "Instead, entertain yourselves with this. Behold the Mystic  
 Cage, one of my first masterpieces. Using a complicated array of symbols, it  
 seals and then compresses its victims within a sphere of crushing force.      
 There are a few flaws, of course. Among the symbols around you, there are a   
 few which, if erased, will break the spell. As for which ones do that...      
                                                                               
 The pallid man winks and brings a finger to his lips. Well! That's a          
 secret." There's a flash of light, and the man is gone. The sphere is         
 already beginning to close in. Who knows what might happen if you run out of  
 time! Maybe it'll explode! Maybe it'll spit you out somewhere else! Best not  
 to find out.                                                                  
=Dungeon Conditions: Tire=====================================================
<Pose Tracker> Cyre H. Lorentz has posed.

How does the party deal with a walking star!?

With wind and ice and lasers and various potions of various effects. The lone figure still at the table stands and watches keenly as the golem does its terrible work. In spite of the punishment the party heaps upon it, the monster doesn't seem to slow in the slightest. It soldiers on, enduring the constant bombardment of magic and chemistry smashing into it.

And then Loren... sees something.

A glimmering gemstone that seems to be acting as... some kind of conduit, maybe? Maybe it's just a shiny weakpoint? Regardless, he chucks another piece of medical technology right at it. The scalpel/syringe/caliper/catheter lands with a solid THUNK and... for a moment doesn't seem to be having an effect.

But soon, the star's light begins to bleed away. The magic animating it flickers and fails, and after a prolonged battle, the monster finally falls over, the star at its heart dying as it succumbs to its accumulated damage.

For a moment, it seems they've won.

Except... For some reason, it's still just as bright in here as it was when the golem was up and active!? Except now it's... coming from the floor! A massive symbol, etched right under their feet!

The figure pushes away from the table, clapping slowly as the symbol activates. Cyre growls and rushes the man in the cloak, but ends up running face-first into a wall of solid force.

"Remarkable. I'm impressed," the man says, tucking his hands back into his robe. He's a pallid sort, his skin covered in churning, writhing tattoos that glow in unsettling and unnatural colors. "Not only overcoming the observatory, but Ortia's magic alike. Truly remarkable. I'd love to stay and chat, but I've been tasked with ensuring you do not interfere further with our business."

The man gestures at the array, "Instead, entertain yourselves with this. Behold the Mystic Cage, one of my first masterpieces. Using a complicated array of symbols, it seals and then compresses its victims within a sphere of crushing force. There are a few flaws, of course. Among the symbols around you, there are a few which, if erased, will break the spell. As for which ones do that...

The man performs a gesture that is universally considered... Infuriating. "Well! That's a secret."

And then he... Teleports away.

"Damnit," Cyre yells, "Get back here! I need to give you bastards one hell of a talking to and I--" He's... forced back. The barrier begins to constrict, and Cyre leaps back as the light only grows more intense. "D-damnit. Come on, we need to move quick! Matilda, you do Symbology things! Which one of these do we break!?"

The floor is positively covered in complex arrays of Symbols. It'll be difficult to determine exactly which ones they need to disable, but...

Maybe... that pale guy was lying, and there's something else to this?

Maybe the real answer is just to blow up the entire floor!?

DG: Cyre H. Lorentz has contributed a Wits Basic Action toward his party's challenge, Mystic Cage.
<Pose Tracker> Jacqueline Barber has posed.

No matter how much she tries to cast, nothing seems to work. Jacqueline's starting to get a little exhausted...but finally, something seems to find purchase.

...And yet, they're still stuck here, and it's still bright. Cyre finds out first hand that they're trapped here within this 'Mystic Cage'.

...Jacqueline frowns intensely. This is somehow worse than the last time she came here.

Jacqueline exhales, trying to calm herself.

"...We need to think clearly about this." She says, taking the time study the symbols. "He said that erasing certain symbols will break the spell...but I don't think he would've told us that unless he was confident that we wouldn't find them. ...Unless there are symbols that trigger a failsafe when erased. Try not to erase things mindlessly..."

Jacqueline isn't sure about any of this, but that's how she'd do it if she were constructing a horrible sorcerous deathtrip.

She's no Symbologist by any means, but she does still know a thing or two about it. For now, she turns her efforts to attempting to mentally picking apart the construction of this 'Mystic Cage' before she gets to actually picking it apart.

DG: Jacqueline Barber has contributed a Wits Basic Action toward her party's challenge, Mystic Cage.
<Pose Tracker> Loren Voss has posed.

        It looks bad.
        It looks incredibly bad. Circling behind the monstrosity, Loren looks for something he can use against it. He's not the Major. He doesn't have van Houten's raw destructive talent. Nor does he have deVriesse's particular set of skills. Water ether, he's sure -- his water ether -- won't be enough. Not even using earth would help much here. And the tablet resting in his bag... out of the question.
        If the others can't even scratch this thing, there's not a lot of good his talents will do here bolstering them.

        And then he sees it.

        His hand dives into his bag and he grabs the first thing he can find and hurls it at the gemstone.

        This is the story about how a pulse oximeter sacrificed its life to save the day.

        The creature collapses. Loren allows himself space to exhale a breath.
        And then looks down.

        "...Well, shit," he comments, deadpan as he sighs and lifts his gaze to the man clapping at the table. "So this was your plan? Distract us with the monster, then trap us here? This is a roundabout way of doing things, you understand. If I were in your place, I would just kill us now and be done with it."
        loren don't give them ideas

        or maybe just stop talking altogether

        (this doesn't happen)

        "...Oh, so it's delayed." He glances over at the rest of the group, gaze lingering somewhere in the spectrum of 'done with this'. "It looks like our host is the sort who likes to pull wings off flies. I don't suppose any of you are familiar with," and he makes finger quotes, "'magical symbols'? ...Oh, look, he's left us already." He exhales a sharp breath through his nose.

        "...Idiot. If you can't stomach watching, just make it quick to start."

        He once again digs in his bag, pulling out a device from earlier. Temperature scan...? No, wait.
        The light meter. The symbols are putting off light, so perhaps the false one will shine differently.

        "...Of course, this is assuming he wasn't lying," Loren comments, ever helpful.

        They could all be about to die today! That's... great.

DG: Loren Voss has used his Tool MediScan v7 toward his party's challenge, Mystic Cage.
<Pose Tracker> Lydia Seren has posed.

"Oh my god shut uuuuuup--" Lydia says but is presumably pretty ignored. Jay says they should think clearly, so Lydia reaches up and takes off her thinking cat and places Schrodinger on the floor to let the cat solve the problem. Schrodinger promptly starts rolling around on the floor and pawing at runes. Maybe he'll pick the correct ones, maybe he won't. It's a mystery.

"At times like this," Lydia asides to Loren. "I like to let cat decide."

She leans back against one of the crushing walls while Schrodinger works. This is really not her field.

DG: Lydia Seren has used her Tool Schrodinger the Cat toward her party's challenge, Mystic Cage.
<Pose Tracker> Cyre H. Lorentz has posed.

"Who said I'm not watching?" The man's voice comes from... somewhere. "It wouldn't be fun if there wasn't some degree of risk, no? If you like, I could speed things up a little bit--"

LOREN NO.

<Pose Tracker> Lydia Seren has posed.

"Can you see this?" Lydia asks while showing off both middle fingers.

<Pose Tracker> Matilda Whitehead has posed.

Matilda is, frankly, too exhausted after a series of increasingly pitched battles to actually be much help with this next step. Even as the starlight bleeds away into nothingness, she just... slumps. There's no exultation in victory -- just sheer exhaustion.

This isn't exactly helped by the fact that Matilda doesn't know that much about Symbols -- she understands the theory at a basic level and recognizes introductory Symbols, but she's no symbologist and certainly doesn't know enough to recognize meaningful faults at the level of subtlety implied here.

... buuut she still has to help. Pulling out another book, Matilda starts looking instead at... the composition of the floor itself. She chews at her lip a little, eventually noting, "If you can find what we should erase, I can probably do it much -- faster, than just... chipping it away. Likely more safely, too." She starts cross-referencing a few things -- this will *probably* require her to make something on the spot...

DG: Matilda Whitehead has used her Tool Portable Library toward her party's challenge, Mystic Cage.
<Pose Tracker> Loren Voss has posed.

        For once, Loren doesn't have a smart response to that.

<Pose Tracker> Cyre H. Lorentz has posed.

"Yes." There's a beat. "Did you know that long middle fingers are a sign of certain mental disorders? You should have that checked."

=======================<* The Clockwork Observatory *>========================
========================<* CHALLENGE - Mystic Cage *>=========================
|Type: Final       |Dungeon Ability: Wits      |Challenge Rating: 3          | 
--------------------------< Challenge Information: >--------------------------
 As the massive solar golem falls inert, you notice that something is still    
 dreadfully amiss. Specifically, the amount of light surrounding you has not   
 dimmed at all. On the contrary, it's only grown brighter! There, on the       
 floor, someone has woven a vast symbological array in the time you've been    
 occupied with the Solis Ortus. "Remarkable. I'm impressed." Only one member   
 of the quartet is left at the table: the third speaker, a proud man whose     
 pallid skin is covered in glowing arcane tattoos which seem to churn and      
 writhe across his flesh. "Not only overcoming the observatory, but Ortia's    
 magic alike. Truly remarkable. I'd love to stay and chat, but I've been       
 tasked with ensuring you do not interfere further with our business."         
                                                                               
 The array surrounding you flares again, a sphere of light materializing to    
 trap you within. "Instead, entertain yourselves with this. Behold the Mystic  
 Cage, one of my first masterpieces. Using a complicated array of symbols, it  
 seals and then compresses its victims within a sphere of crushing force.      
 There are a few flaws, of course. Among the symbols around you, there are a   
 few which, if erased, will break the spell. As for which ones do that...      
                                                                               
 The pallid man winks and brings a finger to his lips. Well! That's a          
 secret." There's a flash of light, and the man is gone. The sphere is         
 already beginning to close in. Who knows what might happen if you run out of  
 time! Maybe it'll explode! Maybe it'll spit you out somewhere else! Best not  
 to find out.                                                                  
=Dungeon Conditions: Tire=====================================================
==================<* The Clockwork Observatory - Round 7 *>===================
==========================< Results - Mystic Cage >===========================
Player                               Exhaustion                      Pass/Fail
------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Cyre H. Lorentz                     80 --(0)--> 80                 Pass
Investigate                         0   Wits    Effects: BASIC                
------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Lydia Seren                         80 --(0)--> 80                 Pass
Schrodinger the Cat                 2   Wits    Effects: Enlighten            
------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Loren Voss                          60 --(0)--> 60                 Pass
MediScan v7                         3   Wits    Effects: Enlighten and Efficie
------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Matilda Whitehead                   75 --(0)--> 75                 Pass
Portable Library                    1   Wits    Effects: Cleanse              
------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Jacqueline Barber                   65 --(0)--> 65                 Pass
Investigate                         0   Wits    Effects: BASIC                
----------------------------------< Party >-----------------------------------
Leader: Cyre H. Lorentz             90 --(30)--> 120               Pass
Conditions: Tire(2)
Effects: Cleanse|Enlighten(1)
==============================< Dream Chasers >===============================
DG: You have overcome the dungeon's trials! This run is a success!
DG: The party led by Cyre H. Lorentz has successfully explored The Clockwork Observatory!
=======================<* The Clockwork Observatory *>========================
===================<* CHALLENGE - Pulling Aside the Veil *>===================
|Type: Discovery   |Dungeon Ability: Conclusion|Challenge Rating: 1          | 
--------------------------< Challenge Information: >--------------------------
 Triumphant over the sorcery of the magi, or maybe just in somewhat better     
 shape than they were expecting, your party manages to emerge back into the    
 laboratory to find it... Not exactly as neat and tidy as it really aught to   
 be. Your victory forced a more hasty retreat than the quartet would have      
 preferred, and they've left the lab in quite a messy state. While most of     
 what you find is relatively innocuous stuff there is one thing that stands    
 out. There on the table is an envelope radiating a strange energy...          
                                                                               
 The envelope contains a note that must have been penned relatively recently.  
 The text is, while not wet, much darker and more vivid than you might expect  
 a time-worn tome or script to sport. However, reading it is not going to be   
 so simple. The ink itself seems to churn and writhe when observed, making     
 the determination of its contents difficult. What more, the thing stinks of   
 Malevolence, as if someone had used a liqid form of the stuff as ink. If you  
 want to make out what it says, you'll need to find a way to undo whatever     
 enchantment is keeping it unreadable.                                         
                                                                               
 One thing does stand out, however. It is stamped and sealed by the sigil of   
 a ringed star with nine rays.                                                 
                                                                               
 (You've found a mysterious note written in mysterious malevolent ink! You'll  
 need to figure out a way to either purify it or work out how the magic        
 keeping the text fluid works to read it. You should send a +request in about  
 this discovery and make mention of how you intend to tackle deciphering it!)  
=Dungeon Conditions: Treasure=================================================
<Pose Tracker> Lydia Seren has posed.

"I don't think I'm gonna take notes on that from a sociopath!" Lydia shouts. She always has a 'smart' response.

<Pose Tracker> Cyre H. Lorentz has posed.

"Excuse me," the voice sniffs, apparently genuinely offended. "I will have you know that I am a psychopath, NOT a sociopath. There is a diff- oh bother."

You know, maybe there's something about putting Schrodinger in a rapidly shrinking box that has the cat acquire some kind of meaningful insight into how to escape. The feline wanders over to one rune in particular which upon inspection seems to act as a node to all the others around it. A point of failure, but just one isn't enough.

Loren, as it happens, manages to find another.

A second symbol, placed inoccuously in a completely different part of the array, seems to be built at first to supply power to the rest of the circle. But it turns out that it's the exact opposite-- it's drawing excess power in and focusing it. Breaking it would almost certainly overload the network if enough junctures were broken. Or so Jay's analysis reveals.

And with Matilda's mixture and Cyre contributing... probably lasers of some kind, honestly, the party manages to work together like a well-oiled machine, picking out just the right symbols to cause the entire array to collapse! There's a flash of light, a muffled FREEM and the sound of a hellion whispering a curse, as the mystic cage falls apart.

Which leaves the party... In a very cluttered laboratory.

Huh. It looks like that blue guy spent too much time bantering and not enough time cleaning up the place. There's stuff scattered all over! Most of it is pretty unremarkable, but considering how many people here are sensitive to Malevolence, it doesn't take the party long to find something that stands out in a big way.

An envelope is wedged inside an annotated astrology text. Cyre carefully plucks it from the pages and slowly unfolds it, revealing...

Uh.

Hm.

Cyre furrows his brow at the words on the page as they dance and twist in ways that make interpreting their meaning impossible. "Well, I'm still sane at least," Cyre mutters, rubbing at his eyes. "Maybe we could purify it or something. That might do it."

<Pose Tracker> Jacqueline Barber has posed.

A part of Jacqueline was sure this was all going to collapse on them in the worst way possible, but...they actually manage to get through! Jacqueline breathes a sigh of relief.

She has no doubt that he'll have fixed whatever weaknesses they've found by the next time she or anyone else comes here again, but one victory is good to have, at least.

She follows Cyre into the laboratory and raises an eyebrow at the place.

"Does he...normally work like this, or was he trying to hide something...? I would never be able to focus with a laboratory this cluttered..." Jacqueline mutters, disapproval emanating from her voice.

While her searches don't turn up anything, Cyre seems to have found something interesting. Jacqueline takes a look over his shoulder at it...squints, takes her glasses off to clean them, then looks at it again.

...Nope. Still incomprehensible.

"...I agree. If they've gone through so much trouble to obscure it, then I kind of want to know what it's about..." Jacqueline says with a nod.

<Pose Tracker> Loren Voss has posed.

        "This one's fake," Loren says, comparing the light emissions given off from the one he's investigating versus another closer at hand. It's a simple matter to wipe out the mark after that and--

        Here they are, in a familiar lab, once again. "Hmph. Serves him right," Loren comments, brushing off his jacket needlessly.

        Even he can't help but crack a self-satisfied smile, what with the last he heard of that Hellion sorceror some very frustrated sounds.

        "I wonder if this was his study. It figures, he seems the disorganized type," he says, lifting a few sheets of paper in an attempt to see what could be included in the piles and piles of scholarly mess. "After all, if he had planned that out better, we would be dead. Instead, he had to play stupid games."

        Always remember that the other side can win if you make it possible, even if it's only a slight chance.
        Where had he heard that one again...?

        Cyre pulls out some sort of letter.

        "What did you find?"

        He joins the crowd, taking his turn to squint at the piece of paper.

        The headache's back.

        "...Forget it," he says, turning away and rubbing at his temples.

<Pose Tracker> Matilda Whitehead has posed.

Matilda peeks at the note for only a moment -- and then decides not to peek at it further, getting a headache almost instantly. "... Ngh. Of course it'd be something like this," she practically spits, as if the situation itself were just -- bile in her throat. "... I'll leave this to you -- I would like to hear what you learn, but... I'm afraid this is extremely far from my area of expertise."

When 'Thomas' *also* turns away, Matilda can't help but smile a little. "I can't help but feel, if the result of playing stupid games is winning stupid prizes, that *we* were the ones who played a stupid game... but I suppose he set it up in the first place, so..."