2020-01-25: The Lifeweaver Beckons

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  • Log: The Lifeweaver Beckons
  • Cast: Cyre H. Lorentz, Talia, Catenna, Ethius Hesiod, Jacqueline Barber, Lydia Seren, Ivan
  • Where: The Cape of Breath
  • Date: January 25, 2020
  • Summary: The Caravan Kinship follows the map they found in the Lifeweaver's Codex to the Feywoods of Moore, which they find overrun with chimeric monstrosities. Will they able to reach the source of the plea for help they received...?

===========================<* The Cape of Breath *>===========================

Stretching from the edge of the slowly-spreading northern desert, the Cape of Breath is the lush southern region of Meria Boule. Farmland and livestock take up much of the hilly region, dotted with the estates and castles of Merian nobles, often at the height of elevation, but across temperate land to the west great forests begin, still part of the great resources of the Merian nation. In places the badlands of the north find mirrors here, hotter regions with accordingly sparser populations... where people could move. 

To the farthest south and east are the wide coastlines, each marked with large cities. Only the fortress nature of many estates at the hearts of settlements recalls much of Meria's more warlike history, after the great efforts of the late Queen to ensure peace for all Meria Boule, and the spread of knowledge. Nevertheless, the increasing spread of monsters can make travel without caravan or guards a perilous undertaking indeed.

BGM: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T_gmgvAz8Ks
DC: Talia switches forms to The Charming Sellsword!
DC: Cyre H. Lorentz switches forms to Wind Shaman Cyre!
DG: You have left Cyre H. Lorentz's party.
DG: A party led by Cyre H. Lorentz is now entering The Lifeweaver Beckons.
DG: Party formation is now over. An Entry Challenge will now be drawn and displayed to the party.
=========================<* The Lifeweaver Beckons *>=========================
====================<* CHALLENGE - A Call To Adventure *>=====================
|Type: Entry       |Dungeon Ability: Wits      |Challenge Rating: 3          | 
--------------------------< Challenge Information: >--------------------------
 You, the one who has traveled from afar. Come, find me. Please, do not let    
 everything be in vain...!                                                     
                                                                               
 The message appeared in the Lifeweaver's Codex suddenly one day. The tome     
 flew open, coming to a stop where the exhaustive encyclopedia ends and the    
 blank, unfinished pages begin. A map follows shortly thereafter, appearing    
 in faintly glowing lines. They point... Here. To a forbidding forest in a     
 remote corner of Meria. The fog is thick and impenetrable. Unfamiliar animal  
 noises echo in the distance, calling unprepared travelers to certain doom.    
 But you don't have that problem. You have a map- a guide. Follow it, and you  
 should find your way... Somewhere....A massive gate rises from the mists.     
 It's cracked open, ever so slightly, and a constant flood of fog billows out  
 from within. You can barely see the shadows of trees high up above, and a     
 familiar sensation probes at the spirit and the senses both. The map leads    
 inward, but to what end...?                                                   
                                                                               
 ((OOC Note: Welcome! The actual dungeon is split up into indoor and outdoor   
 challenges, each of which will be noted in the card itself. Each card will    
 also contain some commentary from someone who has clearly been here before    
 you. Feel free to find his half-eaten journal notes lying nearby, or perhaps  
 recorded on half-broken consoles, or if you have in your possession the       
 Lifeweavers Codex itself, you might find the words mysteriously appearing     
 upon the pages as if scrawled there by a ghostly hand...))                    
=Dungeon Conditions: Hesitate=================================================
<Pose Tracker> Cyre H. Lorentz has posed.

They really shouldn't be here. The locals of the region have all said the same thing, that they're headed towards certain doom. Each and every one have all worn the same downcast expression as they bid the travelling merchant caravan luck and safe travels. None were convinced that they would ever make it back alive-- but a Drifter's life is is linked hand-in-hand with danger and discovery alike. And so the Caravan Kinship continues onward, guided into the wilderness by the message in the Lifeweaver's Codex, further than any beaten path, toward their destination.

                         -=THE FEYWOODS OF MOORE=-
              BGM: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3_XFuwO8UyU

Merian folklore gives a handful of explanations for this place's troubling reputation. The general consensus is that it was once home to some kind of fairy king whose court was sealed away by some foreign wizard when it became a threat to the kingdom's welfare. Other stories suggest that there's some kind of great darkness in the forest, created by the ancient inhabitants of the place, who would ritualistically seal their sins and evils into a sacred tree.

More contemporarious and learned theories involve a strange magnetic field created by an unusual confluence of leyline energies. It would certainly explain why compasses no longer function in proximity to the fog-shrouded forest, and perhaps also the sense of misdirection and confusion that descends upon anyone who wanders too deep. It would not, however, explain the prolific numbers of monsters lurking under the canopy, nor why they seem loath to leave their forest home.

Or perhaps it's... That familiar thrum, the deep basso chord that resonates deep in the soul. It's just a subtle undertone, but... It's still there, undeniably, rumbling at the periphery of your mind.

One way or another, the map within the Codex leaves little room to question that their destination lies somewhere deep within the Feywoods.

Helpfully, the tome seems to have updated since their arrival, illustrating the party's location and the topography of the surrounding area. The map is guiding them further inwards, to where the fog is so thick that it's almost harder to see through than the dark of a moonless night. To make it safely to their destination, they'll need to be careful about interpreting what the map is telling them... And to keep an eye out for any unforseen obstacles in their way.

"This whole place is giving me the creeps," Cyre mutters from his position towards the middle of the party. He fights the urge to shiver, ears twitching hither and yon at distant sounds, muffled by the dense fog. "There're things all around us, but... I don't think they're getting closer. You think maybe they just haven't noticed us yet...?"

DG: Cyre H. Lorentz has contributed a Wits Basic Action toward his party's challenge, A Call To Adventure.
<Pose Tracker> Talia has posed.

Talia walks along, with the sort of spring in her step and cheer that one might think makes her a little detached. Maybe, in fact, taking this too lightly. That is, merely, a means of disguising the nervousness she felt after the warnings of the locals. But, they couldn't very well ignore what had appeared in the Lifeweaver's Codex.

She isn't looking at the map. She is sticking, instead, right by the side of Jacqueline Barber. She is the Caravan Kinship leader's bodyguard -- even if it was supposed to be against her brother, and that isn't a concern, Talia is intent on keeping her safe. One hand is at her side, fingers resting lightly but not idly on Mirage's hilt.

Her crimson eyes track, towards Cyre, and then she bobs her head in agreement. "I don't like it, no?" she says. "They might have. Let's be careful. If they haven't noticed us, good. But I would not assume this."

She isn't looking with the map, but someone is helping. Talia's new friend, the Earth Squirrel that she named Pryaniki, is on the ground ahead of them. The little grey and white squirrel scampers ahead, sniffing, and occasionally directing. He stops for a moment, looking back at them with those solid, glowing green eyes.

DG: Talia has used her Tool Pryaniki toward her party's challenge, A Call To Adventure.
<Pose Tracker> Catenna has posed.

It is not every day that a book cries out for help. It was a cry Catenna could not bring herself to tune out.

Even if it means delving into a corner of Aquvy where certain doom awaits them. That quiet worry hovers in the back of the Moon Shaman's consciousness as she begins to move through the bizarre fog, her bow in hand. The magnetic field isn't doing all that much to her. Virtually nothing Catenna wears is metal, beyond a few very light buttons and clasps without enough mass to be pulled much at all. Sometimes it helps to mostly wear silk these days.

"No... I think they are definitely aware of us. They may simply not see us as dangerous yet," Catenna murmurs towards Cyre, keeping close to him in the midst of the fog. "But it would be better if we kept together."

<Even if they are not aware of us... something is.> Saarda-Shanta's presence is quiet, but a little perturbed. The Owlet - she's actually not really an Owlet anymore, growing rapidly into a normal-sized adult snowy owl - leans forward on Catenna's shoulder, intent yellow eyes peering into the fog. <Can you feel it? The way it probes? The familiarity of it all>

Catenna presses her lips together and nods, looking towards Talia and her friend. "Yes, I feel it...."

Saarda-Shanta looks at Pryaniki intently, too. Then she looks away, quite deliberately and with visible signs of restraint.

DG: Catenna has used her Tool Saarda-Shanta toward her party's challenge, A Call To Adventure.
<Pose Tracker> Ethius Hesiod has posed.

        Ethius might be inclined to agree with the locales, but there's enough small curiosities surrounding that event as regards the Codex that he doesn't seem that inclined to dissuade Jay from the present course of action.
        He keeps a low profile - as he usually does - as most the rest take point into the strange woods where there comes that familiar sensation. He's here for sake of investigation, and if there's an undocumented Domain present here, that's investigation-worthy.
        He stares out to Pryaniki every time the little Earth Squirrel looks back. He was there when they came into their lives going into that strange shadowy shrine. But Ethius stares at everyone and everything so that is probably a form of acceptance.
        Every so often, the oddball Symbologist gets out the Spectral Lens and goes through the usual spellcasting motions to try and sweep for any traps or connected mechanisms, even when the fog gets thick - but if compasses alone are already proving useless, this may not avail much.

DG: Ethius Hesiod has used his Tool Spectral Lens toward his party's challenge, A Call To Adventure.
<Pose Tracker> Jacqueline Barber has posed.

Jacqueline was no stranger to certain doom. She's faced it before, each time she emerged on the other side - perhaps not unscathed, but in one piece. With her friends by her side, she could handle anything.

Besides - she couldn't ignore a call for help. She didn't know who or what was calling out to them, but she didn't need to.

But this place... she can't deny that the Feywoods of Moore give her a strange feeling, unlike anything she's encountered before. Perhaps it's the magnetic field that permeates the place, or that familiar 'thrum'. She does her best to shake it off as she pushes forward alongside the others.

"...Maybe." Jacqueline says, as Cyre wonders whether or not they've noticed them. Maybe they haven't, or maybe they're just waiting...

Either way, Jacqueline reaches into her bags and brings out the Lifeweaver's Codex. She consulted it before to get this far, and she consults it now to help pick their way through the forest.

And, quietly, she speaks to the Codex...

"...We're here. If there's anything you can tell us that might help us find you... please let us know." Jacqueline asks. She doesn't know if the mysterious individual that entreated them can hear her, but anything at all they can find out would be helpful.

At the very least, there's a map. But maps can be difficult to follow in a place like this.

DG: Jacqueline Barber has contributed a Wits Basic Action toward her party's challenge, A Call To Adventure.
<Pose Tracker> Lydia Seren has posed.

Guess who was able to make it! That's right, it's Lydia!

She met up with the Kinship earlier riding a giant wheel that she rode inside of? It's a pretty weird device. She called it the monowheel (monowheel! MONOWHEEL!) but she has left it in her wagon for the time being so she doesn't accidentally get it wrecked in the certainly dangerous and haunted territory she is heading towards.

She says, "I dunno." to Cyre in a chipper manner. Despite being chasing after ghosts she's just in a good mood because she gets to be with her friends.

She is getting to hold Schrodinger for the time being but she seems reluctant to let the cat go, so she just sort of looks around and heads on in wtih the group.

"Talia," She says to Talia. "Who is your super adorable pet who is wonderful and can I pet them letter and where did you find them?" She is not assuming the squirrel's gender.

"This is going to be a fun time. Yep. I've got a good feeling!"

DG: Lydia Seren has contributed a Wits Basic Action toward her party's challenge, A Call To Adventure.
<Pose Tracker> Ivan has posed.

Chances do indeed seem slim that Talia will have to be protecting Jacqueline Barber from her brother today; Ivan is far more interested in the stirrings and rustlings of the forest and what might await them within the fog. He's a little... eager for battle, perhaps, but trying to read the mood of the group and not go out of his way to attract any enemies to them. But he does seem ready and expectant for some kind of trouble, and keeps to the outside edges of the group in what seems to be a hope that if trouble does come finding them, he might be one of the first to meet it.

"Should we go on... not seeming dangerous?" he asks. "Or do we want whatever's out there to know we're not pushovers?"

A pause. "Talia, does your squirrel know how to talk or anything, or like...?"

It keeps looking at them with a strange intelligence and he's getting mixed signals about its sapience or lack thereof...

DG: Ivan has contributed a Wits Basic Action toward his party's challenge, A Call To Adventure.
=========================<* The Lifeweaver Beckons *>=========================
====================<* CHALLENGE - A Call To Adventure *>=====================
|Type: Entry       |Dungeon Ability: Wits      |Challenge Rating: 3          | 
--------------------------< Challenge Information: >--------------------------
 You, the one who has traveled from afar. Come, find me. Please, do not let    
 everything be in vain...!                                                     
                                                                               
 The message appeared in the Lifeweaver's Codex suddenly one day. The tome     
 flew open, coming to a stop where the exhaustive encyclopedia ends and the    
 blank, unfinished pages begin. A map follows shortly thereafter, appearing    
 in faintly glowing lines. They point... Here. To a forbidding forest in a     
 remote corner of Meria. The fog is thick and impenetrable. Unfamiliar animal  
 noises echo in the distance, calling unprepared travelers to certain doom.    
 But you don't have that problem. You have a map- a guide. Follow it, and you  
 should find your way... Somewhere....A massive gate rises from the mists.     
 It's cracked open, ever so slightly, and a constant flood of fog billows out  
 from within. You can barely see the shadows of trees high up above, and a     
 familiar sensation probes at the spirit and the senses both. The map leads    
 inward, but to what end...?                                                   
                                                                               
 ((OOC Note: Welcome! The actual dungeon is split up into indoor and outdoor   
 challenges, each of which will be noted in the card itself. Each card will    
 also contain some commentary from someone who has clearly been here before    
 you. Feel free to find his half-eaten journal notes lying nearby, or perhaps  
 recorded on half-broken consoles, or if you have in your possession the       
 Lifeweavers Codex itself, you might find the words mysteriously appearing     
 upon the pages as if scrawled there by a ghostly hand...))                    
=Dungeon Conditions: Hesitate=================================================
====================<* The Lifeweaver Beckons - Round 1 *>====================
======================< Results - A Call To Adventure >=======================
Player                               Exhaustion                      Pass/Fail
------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Cyre H. Lorentz                     0 --(0)--> 0                   Pass
Investigate                         0   Wits    Effects: BASIC                
------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Talia                               0 --(0)--> 0                   Pass
Pryaniki                            2   Wits    Effects: Stalwart             
------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Catenna                             0 --(0)--> 0                   Pass
Saarda-Shanta                       1   Wits    Effects: Cleanse              
------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Jacqueline Barber                   0 --(0)--> 0                   Pass
Investigate                         0   Wits    Effects: BASIC                
------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Ivan                                0 --(0)--> 0                   Fail
Investigate                         0   Wits    Effects: BASIC                
------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Ethius Hesiod                       0 --(0)--> 0                   Fail
Spectral Lens                       2   Wits    Effects: Enlighten            
------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Lydia Seren                         0 --(0)--> 0                   Pass
Investigate                         0   Wits    Effects: BASIC                
----------------------------------< Party >-----------------------------------
Leader: Cyre H. Lorentz             0 --(20)--> 20                 Pass
Conditions: Hesitate(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.
DG: Cyre H. Lorentz has drawn a new Challenge.
=========================<* The Lifeweaver Beckons *>=========================
=================<* CHALLENGE - Snaking Through the Grass *>==================
|Type: Exploration |Dungeon Ability: Wits      |Challenge Rating: 3          | 
--------------------------< Challenge Information: >--------------------------
 ...sensory capabilities must be maintained. While there are advantages to     
 eliminating unnecessary input to preserve mental integrity, too much          
 necessary functionality would be lost if...                                   
                                                                               
 INDOOR CHALLENGE: This facility must have been something amazing, once upon   
 a time. So many of the laboratories and greenhouses have been taken over by   
 runaway, unmitigated growth that several sections of the place are nothing    
 more than complex mazes of interconnected corridors. This would not normally  
 be a problem, but your party seems to have found itself in the middle of a    
 pack of hungry, chimerical organisms. The strange hybrid of plant and animal  
 stalk the hallways, seeking out the prey that they know are nearby. Sneaking  
 past the hunting pack will take ingenuity and a healthy amount of stealth     
 and misdirection. Use your head and you might just get to keep it.            
=Dungeon Conditions: Hesitate=================================================
<Pose Tracker> Cyre H. Lorentz has posed.

        "I don't know if I like our chances of getting away in one piece if we bring a whole forest down on our heads," Cyre answers Talia with unspoken agreement and Ivan with a very hard 'no' on the prospect of antagonizing the monsters. Her little grey squirrel seems to avoid being detected as well-- though that may largely be due to the fact that it's a squirrel in the middle of a forest. The only way it could be more suited for its enviroment would be if it were a fish in the sea.

Cyre's eyes dart toward Catenna, only just visible in the impenetrable fog. "You feel it too...? A Malevolent Domain-- but that would mean that a Hellion managed to find its way through here. Unless it rode here on the ley somehow...?" Fortunately the magnetic field is randomly oriented enough to only occasionally twitch at metal jewelry... And to throw compasses and similar navigation equipment completely off.

For instance, Ethius' lens. It was perhaps not the best idea to stare directly into the fog with the device. The mist itself seems to be carrying electrical charge, and appears as a haze of black-and-white static that hurts eye to stare too long into. Even through that, however, he manages to pick up on... Something. A network of energy running through the area, and the unmistakable taint of malevolence in the corner of his vision.

The field is not enough to, for example, tear Lydia's strange physiology to shreds or anything like that. Cyre just sort of shakes her head in his direction, just, a wordless 'are you actually serious right now' sort of gesture that says all that needs to be said.

He kind of wishes she brought that monowheel with her, though.

Jacqueline speaks to the codex. It... Doesn't respond. Not directly. Not, at least, until they spend several minutes meandering through the mist. The text within the Codex abruptly seems to spasm and swim as the fog begins to clear. Revealing... A building, hidden by the trees and the mist, surrounded on all sides by great canyon walls, as if the whole thing had risen from underground at some point and split the earth as it burst into the surface. In front of them is something that is less a doorway and more a gate, one surrounded by shattered glass structures that could at one point have been some kind of outdoor greenhouse. Cyre stares at the sight for a moment before something catches his attention. He whispers a curse and drags the nearest Carakinner with him behind a rock formation.

Something steps out of the mist. It could have been a bear at one point, but there's... something terribly wrong with it. Massive petals blossom from around a face stripped of fur and transformed into some kind of fleshy, plant-like texture. Thorny brambles coil around its body like a system of secondary muscle fibers, twining into and out of its heavy coat. The thing sniffs the air and stares meaningfully right at the party... Before silently resuming its patrol. "Careful," Cyre hisses a whisper, "I can hear more of them up ahead..."

The text in the Codex spells out a new message, as if extracted from someone's stream-of-consciousness note-taking.

  1. -1 ARGUMENT MUST BE POSITIVE INTEGER,76)]
<Pose Tracker> Cyre H. Lorentz has posed.

        "I don't know if I like our chances of getting away in one piece if we bring a whole forest down on our heads," Cyre answers Talia with unspoken agreement and Ivan with a very hard 'no' on the prospect of antagonizing the monsters. Her little grey squirrel seems to avoid being detected as well-- though that may largely be due to the fact that it's a squirrel in the middle of a forest. The only way it could be more suited for its enviroment would be if it were a fish in the sea.

Cyre's eyes dart toward Catenna, only just visible in the impenetrable fog. "You feel it too...? A Malevolent Domain-- but that would mean that a Hellion managed to find its way through here. Unless it rode here on the ley somehow...?" Fortunately the magnetic field is randomly oriented enough to only occasionally twitch at metal jewelry... And to throw compasses and similar navigation equipment completely off.

For instance, Ethius' lens. It was perhaps not the best idea to stare directly into the fog with the device. The mist itself seems to be carrying electrical charge, and appears as a haze of black-and-white static that hurts eye to stare too long into. Even through that, however, he manages to pick up on... Something. A network of energy running through the area, and the unmistakable taint of malevolence in the corner of his vision.

The field is not enough to, for example, tear Lydia's strange physiology to shreds or anything like that. Cyre just sort of shakes her head in his direction, just, a wordless 'are you actually serious right now' sort of gesture that says all that needs to be said.

He kind of wishes she brought that monowheel with her, though.

Jacqueline speaks to the codex. It... Doesn't respond. Not directly. Not, at least, until they spend several minutes meandering through the mist. The text within the Codex abruptly seems to spasm and swim as the fog begins to clear. Revealing... A building, hidden by the trees and the mist, surrounded on all sides by great canyon walls, as if the whole thing had risen from underground at some point and split the earth as it burst into the surface. In front of them is something that is less a doorway and more a gate, one surrounded by shattered glass structures that could at one point have been some kind of outdoor greenhouse. Cyre stares at the sight for a moment before something catches his attention. He whispers a curse and drags the nearest Carakinner with him behind a rock formation.

Something steps out of the mist. It could have been a bear at one point, but there's... something terribly wrong with it. Massive petals blossom from around a face stripped of fur and transformed into some kind of fleshy, plant-like texture. Thorny brambles coil around its body like a system of secondary muscle fibers, twining into and out of its heavy coat. The thing sniffs the air and stares meaningfully right at the party... Before silently resuming its patrol. "Careful," Cyre hisses a whisper, "I can hear more of them up ahead..."

The text in the Codex spells out a new message, as if extracted from someone's stream-of-consciousness note-taking.

...sensory capabilities must be maintained. While there are advantages to eliminating unnecessary input to preserve mental integrity, too much necessary functionality would be lost if...

DG: Cyre H. Lorentz has contributed a Wits Basic Action toward his party's challenge, Snaking Through the Grass.
<Pose Tracker> Catenna has posed.

A small frown plays at Catenna's lips as she nods back to Cyre. "I hope this isn't more of the Trial Knight's games. Unless some other Hellion got loose on Filgaia without our knowing about it...."

There is another possibility that occurs to Catenna. She doesn't want to consider it too heavily. Its implications are too mind-boggling.

<Be careful, child.> Saarda-Shanta's mental presence is pitched low, audible only to the little band.

Cyre grabs at her a second later. Without a sound, Catenna darts along behind the Nahual and takes cover, hand taking ahold of an arrow as she peers out past the rocks. The mist obscures any hint of her actually visible.

The creature that appears is huge and distorted, and Catenna bites down to her lower lip as she watches it pass. Her gaze darts towards Cyre, then towards Jay. "It's hunting by scent," she breathes, audible mainly to Cyre. "If we aren't careful...."

<Stay here a moment.> Saarda-Shanta suddenly vaults off of Catenna's shoulder and goes sailing off away from the gate, leaving Catenna holding her hand out and opening her mouth in surprise. The urge to call after the Great Owl dies on her lips, soundlessly.

"I... I think I know what she's doing," she finally murmurs. She lowers her head and closes her eyes, focusing.

The flight of an owl is a remarkable thing in how it can take place in utter silence. Saarda-Shanta vanishes into the fog, her white body simply swallowed by the mist and passing through without a sound. Even her wingbeats produce no noise. Circling slowly above, the white owl watches the ground below.

Then she tilts - and dives.

A few moments pass. And then, out of the mist, the owl ghost again, coming down to a perch on Catenna's arm.

"I'm surprised you found one," Catenna whispers.

Saarda-Shanta manages to sound smug. <I would have liked to eat it, but it was hardly ideal. They will smell the blood soon. I hope they enjoy eating my rabbit.>

DG: Catenna has used her Tool Saarda-Shanta toward her party's challenge, Snaking Through the Grass.
<Pose Tracker> Lydia Seren has posed.

Lydia smiles broadly at Ivan and gives him a thumbs up which totally doesn't answer his question. She also doesn't vocally answer his question either. All in all a lot of non-answers are being thrown around here.

She glances towards the book again, frowning faintly and she adds, "Those are the words I'd expect a Solarian to use." thoughtfully. "Or OS for that matter. Man, it'd be so weird if we were chasing after some kind of robot healer. Maybe they could give OS lessons on how to get out off my body and be their own person and make it so I don't have to listen to sky people anymore."

She sounds hopeful.

She looks towards Cyre for a bit as he gives a her a look. She tilts her head curiously, but is maintaining her optimism. She remains un-obliterated too, which means it's a god day so far, malevolent domain or no. There's no dragon either, and that's even better.

Fortunately, Lydia can at least bend light around her body to hide her from the bear.

Kuma... KUMA SHOCK..

"It'll be a bear if they catch us," Lydia whispers from..somewhere.

DG: Lydia Seren has contributed a Wits Basic Action toward her party's challenge, Snaking Through the Grass.
<Pose Tracker> Ethius Hesiod has posed.

        It doesn't seem that any specific mechanisms are tripped, but Ethius can assert one thing to himself - this place is 'alive,' in so much that something seems to be running through the ground. An assertion to be made once he takes the lens away from his face and keeps that eye shut for a little while.
        That they find a mortal-made structure not long after seems to confirm his quiet assertion. He leans a ways behind Jay as she speaks to the book, which doesn't avail much other than jumpy gibberish letters. He gives a brief look over his shoulder to the exciteable Lydia but otherwise says nothing more.
        There is a sudden urgency to go take cover, and Ethius isn't far behind whoever gets pulled back, but he tries to orient himself so that he can see whether the odd letters on the book have settled in any meaningful capacity.
        Meaningful in terms of legible as words, yes. Meaningful in terms of immediately useful and relevant statements or information... Lydia's assertion seems to cut to the matter.
        "...That would be a strange statement to make following insistent pleas for help," Ethius remarks quietly as there starts being discussions/actions about what to do. To hunt by scent seems to be the big one. Saarda-Shanta goes and - by their testimony - freshly kills a rabbit in order to lure would-be predators to the easy meal. Once more, the Spectral Lens is out after another electrical spell to try and read the way the energies are flowing now that they are close to something resembling a proper facility.

DG: Ethius Hesiod has used his Tool Spectral Lens toward his party's challenge, Snaking Through the Grass.
<Pose Tracker> Jacqueline Barber has posed.

Jacqueline was surprised and impressed at Lydia's monowheel. She'd read about them, of course, but never had she seen them in person. They always sounded awkward and unwieldy to her... but Lydia seemed to manage it just fine.

"I agree..." Jacqueline murmurs with a nod at Cyre's comment. She'd prefer to avoid attracting as much attention as possible. Sure, the Caravan Kinship might be good at pulling themselves out of dangerous situations, but she didn't want to test the limits of that.

"A Malevolent Domain... I wonder. It wouldn't be the first time something crossed over through the ley." Jacqueline comments with a frown. "It's also possible they stumbled into an Elw teleporter at some point... There hasn't really been documented proof of others crossing between worlds, but if they've been stuck here then word wouldn't really be able to spread that far..."

For now, though, it was all just idle speculation. They wouldn't know the truth unless they encountered the source. The question was... what was causing it?

She looks toward Lydia briefly.

"I don't... think they're Solarian. If they're speaking through the Codex, then it's most likely they're from Lunar. The words make me think of a scientist, or researcher of some kind..." Jacqueline says, and then pauses. "Ah...but, that would be nice, though..."

For now, they could do nothing but move forward - and, move forward they do. As they make their way through the fog, something reveals itself in the mists - a build, shattered and worn with age. But before they can approach, chimeric beasts emerge.

Jacqueline quickly joins the others behind the rock. Hunting by scent... Well, Saarda-Shanta helps take care of that, in a slightly gruesome manner. But, owl's are going to be owls, even if they can talk telepathically.

"I really don't want to fight even one of those... let's try to give them a wide berth, if possible." Jacqueline suggests. Regular bears were dangerous enough, much less bizarre plant-bear hybrids.

DG: Jacqueline Barber has contributed a Wits Basic Action toward her party's challenge, Snaking Through the Grass.
<Pose Tracker> Talia has posed.

"His name is Pryaniki!" Talia explains to Lydia, cheerfully. "We found him when we had to go into the Shadow Vault. He is very mysterious, and--" She looks at Ivan. "--he understands words, I think, but chooses to not speak."

One might call this a Talia-ism, except that Pryaniki looks at Ivan, too, and nods.

Pryaniki skitters towards Talia, as the thing steps out of the mist -- and even a little before. It scampers up, then comes to a stop on her shoulder, and leans forward. His eyes narrow; Talia looks up, and her crimson eyes narrow. She steps into some underbrush, watching nervously. Her eyes watch the chimera, and then she looks at Jacqueline. She nods.

"It is probably best, no?" she says. She looks at Pryaniki, who nods.

The Earth Squirrel hops off her shoulder -- then scampers forward, looking left and right -- and spares a glance at the owl. Then, he continues to sniff ahead, to find a path around those monsters.

DG: Talia has used her Tool Pryaniki toward her party's challenge, Snaking Through the Grass.
<Pose Tracker> Ivan has posed.

Ivan gives Lydia a sympathetic look as some cold water is thrown on their enthusiasm for the adventure. He gets it, at least...!

Talia then explains her mysterious squirrel.

"Chooses not to speak..." Ivan echoes, warily. The squirrel nods at him, and he looks taken aback.

"Uhhh, Talia...! Talia, did you see that...?! Are you sure you want a pet like this...?!"

Danger is found!! In the form of strange beasts lurking around a mysterious structure. Left to his own devices, Ivan would probably try to fight them outright. But, alas, Cyre and the others pull quickly behind cover and generally want to avoid the notice of the forest creatures, so Ivan must heed that decision. He ducks behind the rock along with them, taking care to move quietly... though they seem to think the creatures are hunting by scent.

"I could try to cover us with some smoke, maybe..." he whispers. But first they should see if the existing lure of the rabbit does the trick.

DG: Ivan has contributed a Wits Basic Action toward his party's challenge, Snaking Through the Grass.
=========================<* The Lifeweaver Beckons *>=========================
=================<* CHALLENGE - Snaking Through the Grass *>==================
|Type: Exploration |Dungeon Ability: Wits      |Challenge Rating: 3          | 
--------------------------< Challenge Information: >--------------------------
 ...sensory capabilities must be maintained. While there are advantages to     
 eliminating unnecessary input to preserve mental integrity, too much          
 necessary functionality would be lost if...                                   
                                                                               
 INDOOR CHALLENGE: This facility must have been something amazing, once upon   
 a time. So many of the laboratories and greenhouses have been taken over by   
 runaway, unmitigated growth that several sections of the place are nothing    
 more than complex mazes of interconnected corridors. This would not normally  
 be a problem, but your party seems to have found itself in the middle of a    
 pack of hungry, chimerical organisms. The strange hybrid of plant and animal  
 stalk the hallways, seeking out the prey that they know are nearby. Sneaking  
 past the hunting pack will take ingenuity and a healthy amount of stealth     
 and misdirection. Use your head and you might just get to keep it.            
=Dungeon Conditions: Hesitate=================================================
====================<* The Lifeweaver Beckons - Round 2 *>====================
===================< Results - Snaking Through the Grass >====================
Player                               Exhaustion                      Pass/Fail
------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Cyre H. Lorentz                     0 --(0)--> 0                   Fail
Investigate                         0   Wits    Effects: BASIC                
------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Talia                               0 --(0)--> 0                   Pass
Pryaniki                            2   Wits    Effects: Stalwart             
------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Catenna                             0 --(0)--> 0                   Fail
Saarda-Shanta                       1   Wits    Effects: Cleanse              
------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Jacqueline Barber                   0 --(0)--> 0                   Pass
Investigate                         0   Wits    Effects: BASIC                
------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Ivan                                0 --(0)--> 0                   Fail
Investigate                         0   Wits    Effects: BASIC                
------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Ethius Hesiod                       0 --(0)--> 0                   Pass
Spectral Lens                       2   Wits    Effects: Enlighten            
------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Lydia Seren                         0 --(0)--> 0                   Pass
Investigate                         0   Wits    Effects: BASIC                
----------------------------------< Party >-----------------------------------
Leader: Cyre H. Lorentz             20 --(20)--> 40                Pass
Conditions: Hesitate(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.
DG: Cyre H. Lorentz has drawn a new Challenge.
=========================<* The Lifeweaver Beckons *>=========================
===================<* CHALLENGE - Run As Fast As You Can *>===================
|Type: Exploration |Dungeon Ability: Agility   |Challenge Rating: 4          | 
--------------------------< Challenge Information: >--------------------------
 ...Tests on local fauna have proven fruitful. Beasts injured beyond recovery  
 have been implanted with germinating samples, resulting in near-total         
 replacement of damaged tissue with...                                         
                                                                               
 INDOOR CHALLENGE: The lights flicker and die. It's not particularly           
 surprising; the fact that they were even on at all is a small miracle. Just   
 when you reach for your lamp, there's a sudden rush of air and a wet,         
 slopping noise. Behind you, the lights come back on--                         
                                                                               
 No.                                                                           
                                                                               
 No!                                                                           
                                                                               
 It's a chimerical monstrosity, a thing covered in bio-luminescent patches     
 that flicker to life along a massive, gaping maw. The thing screams as        
 tendrils surge out of its mouth like someone had replaced its tongue with a   
 rat's nest of vines. It charges with unnatural speed, eager to turn your      
 entire party into its next meal...! Run! Run as fast as you can!              
=Dungeon Conditions: Suffer===================================================
<Pose Tracker> Cyre H. Lorentz has posed.

"The Trial Knight... It could be," They hadn't seen hide nor tail of the Trial Knight since that fateful day in the Elw ruins high above Ignas. But it's... possible. Though... "I don't know. It doesn't seem to fit his usual style, does it...? Normally he'd be... I don't know, corrupting a city somewhere. Or something." But what does he know, really, about what goes on in the twisted mind of the Trial Knight?

Saarda-Shanta flies off before Cyre can say anything to stop her. Instead he turns to say something about Lydia's HORRIBLE PUNS only to find that she's... not there? Because she's... Invisible? The shaman blinks, slowly, and puts his hand out into the space he thinks her voice is coming from.

He might just give her a poke. Or a headpat. One of the two.

"Where'd... you learn that trick, exactly?" Solaris, obviously!

Discussion soon turns toward the messages appearing in the Codex. Cyre nods, "...They do seem a bit... Dry? I didn't know Lunar had proper scientists, but... Maybe? An Elw teleporter would explain a lot. Heck, maybe they just ended up here by complete accident?"

There's a sudden sound of bestial surprise in the distance-- a rumbling, ursine roar, followed by the noise of snapping teeth and crashing bodies. It looks like the bears found Saarda-Shanta's kill. Cyre looks to the owl apologetically, "We'll make it up to you, promise."

With the beasts out of the way, it isn't too difficult for Talia's new squirrelly companion to find them a safe path. It's perhaps a little more perilous than it aught to be; the sound of a disturbance has set the rest of the chimeras patrolling the area racing after it. The party has an opportunity to see what looks like a roiling sphere of bears mauling each other over a freshly murdered rabbit in the distance. But... They have a straight shot. "Come on," Cyre says, "Let's go before they catch on."

The facility's gate is wedged open by the time they get there. Vines winding out of the steel shutters have lodged the door permanently open. There are lights inside-- Ethius can tell immediately that the whole place is still powered. Or at least, there is power flowing to the electronics. Power, and... life. A network of living essence that taps into everything in this place.

More text is scrawled into the codex. The stream of consciousness continues as the party enters the first corridor.

...Tests on local fauna have proven fruitful. Beasts injured beyond recovery have been implanted with germinating samples, resulting in near-total replacement of damaged tissue with...

Looking through his lens, Ethius has a split second's warning before the lights abruptly flicker, fade and die. But in his eye, there's something else- something flaring with energy nearby. Behind them...! Cyre whispers a quiet curse as his eyes begin to adjust to the dark, when suddenly, there's a noise.

It's a sound like something moist and slimy and heavy falling onto the floor.

It's a sound that comes with the screeching of twisting metal.

Cyre turns about, his face catching the glow of electric light-- no! Bioluminescence flickers across a the surface of a massive, reptilian body, strobing an angry blue-white pattern--

They were noticed. They were followed.

"Shit," the shaman hisses as the beast roars. A wave of hot, damp air slams into them- as fleshy, vine-like tendrils erupt from its maw like a nest of thrashing serpents. "Run," he starts, conjuring a gale into his parachute, transforming it into a makeshift sail. The beast charges, its shoulders slamming against the corridor walls as it barrels through, undeterred. "Run!"

DG: Cyre H. Lorentz has used his Tool Reverse Parachute toward his party's challenge, Run As Fast As You Can.
<Pose Tracker> Lydia Seren has posed.

"I didn't mean they WERE Solarian just they sounded Solarian." Lydia retorts to Jay without heat. Still, when Ivan looks at her, Lydia adopts a bit of a sheepish look. She doesn't seem especially crushed.

Lydia worries a bit over the Trial Knight. "I hope they're okay..." She says this in spite of them literally trying to murder the world but, well, Lydia cares about Ragnell and K.K. Whether they meant to or not they helped her out. She remembers that.

Cyre headpats the air a few times before ultimately poking Lydia in the nose. She gives him a small flick in the forehead.

"Rigdobrite is a Guardian of stars remember?" Lydia says. "Stars are light. Hench, boom." It'd probably work better if it was the Guardian of LIGHT here but Lydia is nothing if not creative (sometimes) with her Guardians. You know, when she just relies on LASERS and COMETS the whole time.

Unfortunately the invisibility fades when there's now friggin' an ancient doom chimaera around. Lydia stares agape for a moment when Cyre says to run.

Activating her RAD SKATES Lydia does just that. "Ivan careful where you whip! The trees may not appreciate you using them to swing around!"

That's her warning at least!

DG: Lydia Seren has used her Tool Radical Skates toward her party's challenge, Run As Fast As You Can.
<Pose Tracker> Catenna has posed.

Shrugging one shoulder, Catenna glances back at Cyre. "We can speculate, but I suppose we may find out when we press deeper."

More messages begin to appear in the Codex. Leaning over to Jacqueline, Catenna furrows her brows a little. "It is a little strange, isn't it. But then, I do not particularly understand science...."

The lights flicker. Catenna looks up with a sudden catching of breath.

Metal twists. Something unspeakably moist makes its descent.

As the abomination looms over them, Catenna grabs ahold of Cyre's arm and turns at the same moment he does. Saarda-Shanta immediately vaults off of her shoulder and into flight, with the Moon Shaman sprinting along behind her.

Saarda-Shanta has no problem with the lights being out. It's a little harder for Catenna. There's a thump and a lance of pain racing up her left leg as she hits an upturned floor plate toe-first and staggers, gasping - and it gives the pursuing monstrosity the second it needs. Tendrils launch out to consume her.

And then there's a blur of sudden colour - and a pair of tentacles hit the ground.

Catenna spirals through the air, a pair of huge dancer's fans held out at her sides as she leaps. The fans aren't bladed - but she swung them fast enough for the steel struts that support their inner structure to tear through the soft flesh of a slimy tentacle or two.

When she descends, Catenna lands with her legs up, both fans striking the ground. She flips backwards, bounding after Cyre, before whirling the fans out to balance herself in a spin back towards him, giving her a burst of speed to catch up with he and Saarda-Shanta again.

Her breathing's quickening. "Lydia," she manages, "Ha- have I ever told you that your skates are rad?"

DG: Catenna has used her Tool Feather Fans toward her party's challenge, Run As Fast As You Can.
<Pose Tracker> Lydia Seren has posed.

"Everybody knows the skates are rad " Lydia grins briefly ar Catenna in the middle of her super terror. But she doesn't seem to mind being terrified

<Pose Tracker> Ethius Hesiod has posed.

        "Left flank," Ethius wastes zero time saying those words the moment he sees something surge, something wrong. The lights flicker and cut off exactly as he finishes saying that as he straight up dive-rolls away from something slimy that slaps down on the floor right where he once was. Tearing metal wrecks the ears - one's hearing - but they don't need sound to take notice of the bioluminescence as if it were doing a courtesy to show its prey what they are about to deliver all their proteins to.
        He has zero time to reflect on what the shifted words might have meant if they're shared, let alone keep careful track of (until a few seconds prior) where an invisible Lydia might have gone off to. The ground underneath his feet is too uneven and chaotic to trust even a straight run in the near-total darkness.
        Ethius doesn't flinch as he draws forth a gnarled, ancient staff on his person as its jingly and jangly bits flare as if they were selectively adhering to gravity, ineria, and the effective noise it should be making at all times as he SLAMS the butt of that staff down against the ground.
 
        * SLAM! *
                SHING Shing Shing shing shing s h i n g s h i n g ...
 
        It compels much of the surrounding environs to simply stop. The flow of energy, any stray moving things, all of it... to stop and listen to whatever it is the bearer of this staff has to say.
        Ethius says: (nothing, now taking off jogging into a run after the fact)

DG: Ethius Hesiod has used his Tool Staff of Audience toward his party's challenge, Run As Fast As You Can.
<Pose Tracker> Talia has posed.

"He is absolutely trustworthy!" Talia answers her brother, giving him a brief look. To this, Pryaniki nods again.

Her expression falls a little at the mention of the Trial Knight. They may not have seen K.K., but they have seen Ragnell. There are a lot of questions unanswered. Her expression flickers, thoughtful and concenred for a moment; then her eyes look up, at the flicker of the lights. "What is--"

She feels her breath catch at Cyre's warning. Instinct comes next; Pryaniki knows, at this point, to scurry under her cloak. She spares the briefest glance at the terrifying reptilian creature, before she steps forward. Mirage is drawn, and she throws it. It flies through the darkened room, then slams into the trunk a tree. The short sword sinks in partway.

Talia's body breaks apart into smoky strands of shadowstuff. They whip out, criss-crossing and moving faster than smoke should, before recombining down the way -- and Talia's gloved hand tears Mirage from the tree's trunk.

"Let's move!" she calls back.

DG: Talia has used her Tool Mirage toward her party's challenge, Run As Fast As You Can.
<Pose Tracker> Ivan has posed.

"...We will never know what he's thinking!" Ivan protests, of the squirrel. He's already concerned that it's judging him...

They manage to dodge the prowling chimeras, and enter the strange facility. As the others are discussing Trial Knights and other things Ivan is not quite familiar with... the lights flick out, and another chimeric creature descends, twisted and strange and glowing. It's horrifying, but otherwise a sight to behold, really. He can't wait to fi-

Run!

Ah... dammit!

Ivan calls up his whip to assist in his flight, when Lydia shouts her warning not to anger the trees. He takes her point, and instead lashes it toward the creature, hoping to catch round and immobilize some of its grasping tendrils-- or better yet, its legs.

He then releases the whip's handle, turning to race after the others; he can call the weapon back into his ring once they've put some distance between themselves and the creature.

DG: Ivan has used his Tool Whip toward his party's challenge, Run As Fast As You Can.
<Pose Tracker> Jacqueline Barber has posed.

"He was very useful! It would've been much more difficult without him helping us." Jacqueline chimes in with a nod, as Talia's new friend is brought up.

"Ah, my mistake, sorry..." Jacqueline says apologetically to Lydia.

And then, they make their move to bypass the bears. Thankfully, there's an opening, now that they're busy fighting over Saarda-Shanta's bait, and they can finally make it into the building proper. There's lights, and electricity...

...and, as Jacqueline notices, more text in the codex. She can't help but shudder a little. The prospect the Codex brings up isn't something she likes thinking about. She can put the dots together.

If anything else is written in the Codex after that, she doesn't see it - the lights soon flicker. She can feel a sensation of energy...and then, there's a noise.

A horrible, horrible noise. The light soon returns...but, not the electrical light of the facility. The light comes from the thing behind them, a chimeric mostrosity that is pursuing them aggressively. How long had it been following them...?

...That doesn't matter anymore. What matters now is that they run.

"Is...that smoke still on the table?" Jacqueline asides to Ivan. They need all the help they can get right now.

For her part, Jacqueline holds the Codex tightly under her right arm and with her left she gestures back.

Pillars of earth begin to spring up, seeking to impede its progress. She doesn't expect them to hold it back - no doubt it'll be able to break through. But, if she can at least slow it down, their chances will be much better...

DG: Jacqueline Barber has used her Tool Rapid Remedy toward her party's challenge, Run As Fast As You Can.
=========================<* The Lifeweaver Beckons *>=========================
===================<* CHALLENGE - Run As Fast As You Can *>===================
|Type: Exploration |Dungeon Ability: Agility   |Challenge Rating: 4          | 
--------------------------< Challenge Information: >--------------------------
 ...Tests on local fauna have proven fruitful. Beasts injured beyond recovery  
 have been implanted with germinating samples, resulting in near-total         
 replacement of damaged tissue with...                                         
                                                                               
 INDOOR CHALLENGE: The lights flicker and die. It's not particularly           
 surprising; the fact that they were even on at all is a small miracle. Just   
 when you reach for your lamp, there's a sudden rush of air and a wet,         
 slopping noise. Behind you, the lights come back on--                         
                                                                               
 No.                                                                           
                                                                               
 No!                                                                           
                                                                               
 It's a chimerical monstrosity, a thing covered in bio-luminescent patches     
 that flicker to life along a massive, gaping maw. The thing screams as        
 tendrils surge out of its mouth like someone had replaced its tongue with a   
 rat's nest of vines. It charges with unnatural speed, eager to turn your      
 entire party into its next meal...! Run! Run as fast as you can!              
=Dungeon Conditions: Suffer===================================================
====================<* The Lifeweaver Beckons - Round 3 *>====================
=====================< Results - Run As Fast As You Can >=====================
Player                               Exhaustion                      Pass/Fail
------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Cyre H. Lorentz                     0 --(0)--> 0                   Pass
Reverse Parachute                   1   Agility Effects: Rally and Quicken    
------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Talia                               0 --(0)--> 0                   Pass
Mirage                              3   Agility Effects: Fanfare              
------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Catenna                             0 --(0)--> 0                   Pass
Feather Fans                        3   Agility Effects: Fanfare              
------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Jacqueline Barber                   0 --(0)--> 0                   Pass
Rapid Remedy                        1   Agility Effects: Cleanse              
------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Ivan                                0 --(0)--> 0                   Pass
Whip                                2   Agility Effects: Quicken              
------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Ethius Hesiod                       0 --(0)--> 0                   Pass
Staff of Audience                   4   Agility Effects: nothing              
------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Lydia Seren                         0 --(0)--> 0                   Pass
Radical Skates                      2   Agility Effects: Quicken              
----------------------------------< Party >-----------------------------------
Leader: Cyre H. Lorentz             40 --(20)--> 60                Pass
Conditions: Hesitate(1)|Suffer(1)
Effects: Cleanse|Quicken(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.
DG: Cyre H. Lorentz has drawn a new Challenge.
=========================<* The Lifeweaver Beckons *>=========================
========================<* CHALLENGE - Tryptophobia *>========================
|Type: Exploration |Dungeon Ability: Combat    |Challenge Rating: 2          | 
--------------------------< Challenge Information: >--------------------------
 ...to ensure adequate cross-genomic data transfer, appropriate vectors are    
 necessary. Perhaps by re-engineering one of the local species of pollinating  
 insects, a relatively safe medium might be created...                         
                                                                               
 INDOOR CHALLENGE: Walls shouldn't look like that. This entire room-- its      
 walls, its floor, its ceiling, they're covered in bulbous, organic growths.   
 Each one, bulging from the concrete and steel like ripe sores, is covered in  
 clusters of black dots... No. They're holes. They're holes that swell and     
 stretch as strange multi-winged insects pull their way out from within to     
 defend their hive from intruders. The whole room begins swarming with         
 crawling, buzzing, stinging bugs who are all uniformly offended at your       
 presence in their domain.                                                     
=Dungeon Conditions: Fright===================================================
<Pose Tracker> Cyre H. Lorentz has posed.

                  --==BEFORE THIS PARTICULAR NIGHTMARE==--

"Ow!" Cyre flinches! Lydia flicked him in the forehead like the RUDE DUDE that she is. "Ugh, that doesn't make it any less surprising! I just didn't know you'd picked up how to go invisible, is all...!" It's too bad they don't have any mediums of Stare Roe lying around-- but those tended to be relatively rare to begin with...

               --==NOW - IN THE MIDDLE OF SAID NIGHTMARE==--

"Run run run run run--" Cyre chants, beating feet as quickly as his legs can carry him, interspersed with bursts of high-speed wind that launch him dozens of feet with every rush. Or rather, he'd really like to be doing that, but a sudden gasp from Catenna has him stop in his tracks. "--Cat, hold on--"

The beast screams as several of its tentacle-tongues are severed, lying in a twitching heap on the ground. Cyre looks on mystified as Catenna catches up. He gives her a smile and grabs her hand before turning to catch up with the others.

Lydia and Talia already have a considerable head-start, dashing and warping through the corridor at speeds that the monster can't possibly hope to match. But that's fine. A hungry beast is interested mostly in the slowest prey it can get its maw around. The creature soon recovers, pushing through the pain of its injury to continue its pursuit. Tentacles lash out, nearly snagging Cyre's neck, only to suddenly recoil back. Ivan whips the tendrils away, giving them Jacqueline just enough time to summon columns of earth to slow the beast's inexorable advance. And even so, it doesn't stop, instead tearing through stone and concrete like they were little more than piles of dry mud.

It nearly has them in its grasp. Almost. Almost...!

                                   SHING

The beast freezes. It's as if someone just... flipped a switch. Ethius can feel all twelve of its eyes swivel to stare at him. Somehow, they seem incredulous, as if asking him 'WHAT' with their accusatory gaze. With the world stopped all around it, the beast is helpless against any further application of earth-shaping sorcery. The corridor behind the party is safely blocked off, and they have a moment to catch their breaths.

"I," Cyre gasps, "I really, really, really do not want to be anywhere near that many tentacles ever again." Nevermind the teeth and the certain doom waiting in the gullet of the beast's belly. The shaman sighs as he leans back against a corridor wall. It's... unusually bulbous. He attributes it to leftover side-effects from Jacqueline's earth sorcery, but...

Then Ethius' staff wears off. the lights come back on. All around them, this entire corridor, it's... Twisted. The walls, the floor, the ceiling, they're all covered in strange, bulging growths, each covered in countless little black spots. Cyre frowns severely, his ears twitching, "Hey... Hey, does anyone else hear... Buzzing?"

More text is scrawled into the Codex. Cyre bolts upright as the buzzing grows louder, and the growths on the walls begin to shake and tremble. ...to ensure adequate cross-genomic data transfer, appropriate vectors are necessary. Perhaps by re-engineering one of the local species of pollinating insects, a relatively safe medium might be created...

The little black spots are not little black spots. Spindly, barbed legs blossom out of each one, causing them to widen and swell and burst with some kind of oozing, sweet-smelling fluid. A veritable swarm of buzzing, crawling insects emerges, taking to the air with angry wingbeats, barbed stingers and razor-sharp mandibles to defend their hive.

Cyre...

Is making a high-pitched sound that is probably only mostly audible to canines. The wind stirs around him, forming whirling vortexes to shield the party from the first wave of swarming bugs. "What!?" Cyre asks, "Why!? Who would make WALL TERMITES!?"

Presumably, the same person who made the rose-bears and the brambledile...?

DG: Cyre H. Lorentz has used his Tool Gale Claw toward his party's challenge, Tryptophobia.
<Pose Tracker> Talia has posed.

Talia's feet slow to a stop, and she takes a few deep breaths. Her eyes are back on everyone else. She watches them run -- looks relieved at that -- and then she looks back at the hall ahead of them for longer. When she does, her stomach twists; she feels that flash of sheer panic at seeing the way that it's been altered.

And it's producing countless biting, stinging termites. She takes a step back, her expression alarmed. "That--this place has something very wrong with it!" she yells, her disgust apparent.

She reaches into her bag, producing a bomb. The smooth iron orb has a little green leaf atop it. She takes it, underhanded, and tosses it.

It might crush a few of the termites underneath.

But what does much more is the explosion. A fiery blast erupts, imbued with rainbow sparkles, that tear into the ranks of the termites.

DG: Talia has used her Tool Royal Bomb toward her party's challenge, Tryptophobia.
<Pose Tracker> Catenna has posed.

Catenna flashes a smile back at Cyre and hangs a fan at her hip, taking the catman's hand as she sprints on.

Soon enough, they've found their way into the clear. Without a sound, Saarda-Shanta descends back to Catenna's shoulder, leaning forward with wings slightly raised. <I hear it as well, Cyre. It's coming from all around us.>

Soon enough, the reason becomes clear. Those innocuous little black spots sprout legs and burst with a flood of insects. They buzz and whirl, mandibles flashing and stingers jutting as if to punish the Kinship for daring to intrude.

Catenna sweeps her other fan through the air a couple times before dropping into a crouch, eyes wide. Saarda-Shanta doesn't risk flight in traffic this dense, just hopping to the ground and fanning her wings out aggressively. As one of the bugs zips by, she hops with a flutter and comes down to rip through it with heavy talons.

"There are much too many of them." Catenna grimaces as she glances to one side to try and keep track of Ivan. Her teeth close around her lower lip. Not that she doubts her erstwhile understudy and performance partner's ability to handle himself, but the instinct to protect is hard to overcome. She reaches to her side and glides her fingers over the silvery face of her Medium as she turns her eyes from Ivan back towards the bugs.

"Watch," she says as she holds a hand out, fingers splayed.

Power begins to build in the centre of the room as gravity begins to play tricks. It flips, beginning to pull stinging insects out of the air and drag them towards the ceiling. Catenna snaps her fingers upwards and cranks the spell up, attempting to just splatter the insects onto the roof en masse.

DG: Catenna has used her Tool Celesdue Medium toward her party's challenge, Tryptophobia.
<Pose Tracker> Jacqueline Barber has posed.

It feels very narrow, their escape from that...thing. If Ethius hadn't been able to stop it, she's not sure what would've happened. Thankfully, they finally manage to reach somewhere they can catch their breath.

"I can... fully agree with the decision to bar people from this place." She decides. She takes a moment to gather herself... but pales a little as she looks up and sees the state of the room around her. Jacqueline goes a little pale.

"...Oh. Oh no. I don't like this." She decides, shaking her head. And if that's not bad enough, something coming out of the wall makes it even worse. Jacqueline quickly buries her face in the book.

"Ivan, Ethius - either one of you, really - please burn everything." She requests. She'd give some helpful advice from the Codex, but this place is really distracting right now and it's hard to focus.

At least she catches the newest entry.

DG: Jacqueline Barber has used her Tool The Lifeweaver's Codex toward her party's challenge, Tryptophobia.
<Pose Tracker> Ethius Hesiod has posed.

        Even with the time afforded, that was one hell of a mad dash for one's life - but Ethius seems a lot less winded than he ought to be. One wouldn't call it comfort or familiarity in the sense of one feeling 'all right' enough to do something like that, or move about these environs, but some sort of sense of... acceptance?
        Ethius turns his head as Cyre mentions hearing buzzing. Cyre doesn't identify where it's coming from, so the Symbologist already gets a satchel off his belt and starts the Symbological spellcasting ritual to activate its contents as sight (for the majority of them) points out the rest. Cavities in the wall expanding, opening up, revealing openings for---
        Ethius puts his back to Talia's as she produces an explosive. He hurls his own smoke bomb into an uncovered side, hoping the dust cover will at least prevent further attacks from that side as they carry forth - or smother those that get shoved to the ceiling through gravity magicks underneath it.
        "That would explain why our recent pursuer has yet to follow," Ethius remarks.

DG: Ethius Hesiod has used his Tool Powder Grenade toward his party's challenge, Tryptophobia.
<Pose Tracker> Ivan has posed.

As the group slows and pauses to catch their breath, Ivan doubles forward a bit, finding himself frustratingly dizzy and lightheaded, but the spell soon passes. In time for them to discover that the chamber around them is... buzzing...?

Then, the air erupts with stinging insects!

For a moment, Ivan panics with the sheer suddenness and overwhelming numbers, calling his giant warhammer into his hands and swinging it round like an oversized fly swatter. But that's not going to get them anywhere...!

"Get back!" he calls, before summoning a whirl of fire around himself shaped like the funnel of a tornado, trying to roast as many insects as he can catch in the blaze.

DG: Ivan has used his Tool Memory toward his party's challenge, Tryptophobia.
DG: Lydia Seren has contributed a Combat Basic Action toward her party's challenge, Tryptophobia.
=========================<* The Lifeweaver Beckons *>=========================
========================<* CHALLENGE - Tryptophobia *>========================
|Type: Exploration |Dungeon Ability: Combat    |Challenge Rating: 2          | 
--------------------------< Challenge Information: >--------------------------
 ...to ensure adequate cross-genomic data transfer, appropriate vectors are    
 necessary. Perhaps by re-engineering one of the local species of pollinating  
 insects, a relatively safe medium might be created...                         
                                                                               
 INDOOR CHALLENGE: Walls shouldn't look like that. This entire room-- its      
 walls, its floor, its ceiling, they're covered in bulbous, organic growths.   
 Each one, bulging from the concrete and steel like ripe sores, is covered in  
 clusters of black dots... No. They're holes. They're holes that swell and     
 stretch as strange multi-winged insects pull their way out from within to     
 defend their hive from intruders. The whole room begins swarming with         
 crawling, buzzing, stinging bugs who are all uniformly offended at your       
 presence in their domain.                                                     
=Dungeon Conditions: Fright===================================================
====================<* The Lifeweaver Beckons - Round 4 *>====================
==========================< Results - Tryptophobia >==========================
Player                               Exhaustion                      Pass/Fail
------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Cyre H. Lorentz                     0 --(10)--> 10                 Pass
Gale Claw                           3   Combat  Effects: Sacrifice and Embolde
------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Talia                               0 --(10)--> 10                 Pass
Royal Bomb                          3   Combat  Effects: Rally                
------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Catenna                             0 --(10)--> 10                 Pass
Celesdue Medium                     2   Combat  Effects: Embolden             
------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Jacqueline Barber                   0 --(10)--> 10                 Pass
The Lifeweaver's Codex              2   Combat  Effects: Embolden             
------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Ivan                                0 --(10)--> 10                 Pass
Memory                              3   Combat  Effects: Fanfare              
------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Ethius Hesiod                       0 --(10)--> 10                 Pass
Powder Grenade                      3   Combat  Effects: Fanfare              
------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Lydia Seren                         0 --(10)--> 10                 Pass
Fight                               0   Combat  Effects: BASIC                
----------------------------------< Party >-----------------------------------
Leader: Cyre H. Lorentz             60 --(20)--> 80                Pass
Conditions: Fright(2)
Effects: 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.
DG: Lydia Seren has left your party.
DG: Cyre H. Lorentz has drawn a new Challenge.
=========================<* The Lifeweaver Beckons *>=========================
=================<* CHALLENGE - Benediction of Archgenesis *>=================
|Type: Climax      |Dungeon Ability: Brute     |Challenge Rating: 4          | 
--------------------------< Challenge Information: >--------------------------
 ...all that I can do. And yet, the truth I have been running from for so      
 long is so painfully obvious. Even if I find my answer, someday, who will     
 bring it to those who need it most? I will die here, so far from home... or   
 else I will be bound to this place, never to see them again. When it is       
 done, will I even remember what I did all this for?                           
                                                                               
 INDOOR CHALLENGE: You've finally drawn near to the heart of this place. The   
 vines creeping across the facility walls pulse with light and energy, and     
 grow so thick that it's impossible to tell that you're in an artificial       
 structure at all. Whatever is going on in here, whatever treasures might be   
 hidden here, they're very close by.                                           
                                                                               
 The problem is, you're not the only ones who realize it.                      
                                                                               
 The corridor suddenly shudders as a cascade of roots and vines erupt from     
 the walls to bar your path. Saplings shoot up from the floor, expand into     
 fully grown tree trunks, and then rapidly die and petrify to bar your way.    
 The life-force filling this place surges to keep you at bay. Whatever lies    
 in wait knows that you are coming, and it's doing all that it can to stop     
 you.                                                                          
=Dungeon Conditions: Overwhelm================================================
<Pose Tracker> Cyre H. Lorentz has posed.

For as terrifying as the experience is, the fact remains that a swarm of insects is still just a swarm of insects. Cyre's hurricane barrier gives ample time for the rest of the Carakin to do what they...

Well. No. It's not what they do best. OSTENSIBLY what they do best is being a travelling merchant caravan that aims to bring smiles to all they meet. One that is armed with an... unusual amount of firepower.

While a hammer and fan are perfectly servicable bug-smashing tools, the swarm is simply too numerous for melee weapons to be a viable solution. A sudden and violent inversion of gravity, however, is something else entirely. The air clears as a vast number of bugs are summarily smashed against the ceiling. The ones that remain are those which are both small enough and powerful enough to resist Catenna's spell.

They are not, however, strong enough to survive being caught in a technicolor supernova of sparkling lights. Talia's bomb cooks off, blasting a vast chunk of the swarm into oblivion. There are still more crawling out of the walls, but the blast has reduced the number of open hives as well. The swarm continues to diminish...

As Ivan discovers something that the more veteran members of Carakin have known for quite some time.

That is: Adding fire to a dispersed cloud of Ethius-particules produces... rather explosive results.

The ensuing dust explosion rocks the hallway, scorching the hive-walls and obliterating the swarm. What few insects remain rapidly retreat, fleeing into the safety of their porous homes.

Jacqueline's nightmare... seems to have come to an end. For now.

But, with her nose in the tome, she is the first to notice that yet another message has appeared.

...all that I can do. And yet, the truth I have been running from for so long is so painfully obvious. Even if I find my answer, someday, who will bring it to those who need it most? I will die here, so far from home... or else I will be bound to this place, never to see them again. When it is done, will I even remember what I did all this for?

"...Is everyone alright?" Cyre asks, staggering out from under his parachute. He'd thrown the sheet up to abosrb some of the many blast-waves tearing through the room, and the thing looks like it's seen better days. Cyre himself seems a little shaken, but whole. He sighs in relief and rests a hand on a hiveless section of wall, only... Only for it to crumble away at his touch. He recoils, fully expecting there to be more insects, but...

There's only a vine there. Or a root? A thick root. One that pulses with living, vital energies. Cyre frowns, following the growth deeper into the halls. More vines converge, emerging from walls and vents and light fixtures, each throbbing with warm, strobing, light...

"I think we're getting close," he says, taking another careful step. "I hope we're getting close. This place... Hasn't been very kind to us. I--"

Another noise. The roots suddenly writhe, the pulses of light quickening. Cyre leaps back as what looks like a bamboo shoot lances up out of the ground underfoot. Grasses and trees and vines of all kinds surge up and out, their explosive growth forming thick, knotted walls... But just as suddenly as they were made, they are unmade, life bleeding rapidly away from each new growth. In an instant, it's as if a hundred years pass, the wood and grass hardening into petrified husks.

"...I think it's trying to keep us out," Cyre observes, drawing a bottle full of murky, swirling clouds from his side. "This is going to be a bit loud. Might wanna cover your ears."

'Opening a bottled tornado' does tend to be... loud...

<Pose Tracker> Jacqueline Barber has posed.

The message catches Jacqueline's eye.

"...This one...it's a bit different in tone than the others." She notes with a slight frown. The laments of the one writing into the Codex... what was it they sought to do? Who were they hoping to help?

...Maybe she'll find out.

But for now, now that there's a way forward, they have to press on. Now that they're out of that awful, awful room they can move forward... but then, suddenly, the plants themselves begin to fight against them, looking to bar their path.

"Wh-what in the world...? They're...reacting to us. Is this instinctual, or...is something controlling them...?" Jacqueline breathes out, backpedaling as the plants rapidly petrify themselves.

As Cyre brings out his bottled tornado Jacqueline draws a Crest Graph from her deck, slotting it into her left gauntlet. She invokes the spell on the Crest Graph, looking to exert control over the earth itself - to shape an opening through the floral fortress.

"If it doesn't want us to get through... then I think we have to see what it's trying to hide." She decides.

DG: Jacqueline Barber has used her Tool Landscaper Crest toward her party's challenge, Benediction of Archgenesis.
<Pose Tracker> Catenna has posed.

Catenna can't help but think that Lydia's smarter than the rest of them right now.

She also can't help but stare at Jay in amazement for a few seconds.

<Goodness. She's turning into a lump.> Saarda-Shanta buries her head in one wing in consternation.

"Tch," is all Catenna can say as she draws her bow and follows off after Cyre. But as she moves, there's more in the Codex to see, and she leans in with wide eyes to read what's there for them.

"...I'm all right. Though I hope we're a little closer to solving this," she says with a blush. "But--"

Whatever else Catenna had to say vanishes with a snapping sound. Thick vines lance up from the ground, followed by the crack and groan of rapidly-swelling roots. They twist up into Catenna's path, and she yelps and jerks away, nearly separated from Cyre but managing to keep close to him by expedient of boosting over the first knot of roots. She brings one heel down to it. "Cyre--"

More roots sprout around that root. They rapidly ensnare Catenna's leg. Vines snap down to entwine her left arm. With a gasp, she whips her fan out with her free hand and slashes it through the vines. Plant fiber tears away under the impact.

More vines replace it. A thick knot of roots sprouts around her. Those below her are already petrifying into rock-like grips. As she tries to bring her other arm up to brace herself, more roots come tangling up, wedging her arm between them.

"Gh-- I'm-- I'm stuck," she manages. Gritting her teeth, she bunches her shoulder, wrenching her arm free of the branches with a violent effort that sends chunks of bark splintering away. With a metallic glint, she produces a knife and begins to hack at the vines around her. Once again, plant fiber tears wetly, and she jerks her arm out of the mess before trying to get her leg free.

The wood's already mostly petrified around the lower part of her calf. Wincing, Catenna struggles to free herself, eventually resorting to pressing her Medium against the root and chanting intently. Gravity around her eases a little for a second as she attempts to dispel the magic around her just long enough to slip through.

DG: Catenna has contributed a Brute Basic Action toward her party's challenge, Benediction of Archgenesis.
<Pose Tracker> Ethius Hesiod has posed.

        Jay's wish is fulfilled, and even after all's said and done Ethius is patting himself down to make sure none of the insects have gotten on or inside his person. The close proximity to the explosion doesn't overly bother him as much as it ought to, even with the faint sensation of lingering heat exposure passes into numbness.
        Enough to quietly loom just by Jay's shoulder to look into the latest message that words have formed.
        Ethius moves ahead of Cyre and tries to place down his (regular, fighty-time) quarterstaff down as if to prepare a means to hold something up as Cyre finds a wall crumbling. A fast thought towards the possible structural integrity issues a place this long since neglected may have, but there's no collapse that comes. Only a root - a thick root that seems something of a path marker. Come this way, that pulsing vine might suggest.
        Only for the spearing shoots of some bamboo-like plant matter forming barred gates, thickening and hardening into knotted, hardened husks.
        "If I may voice concerns before commencing detonation, Mister Cyre," Ethius remarks, "I do not hold much faith in the support structures for this location being fully intact." He says this as he is already preparing to stretch and flutter his fingers. "Miss Jay, if it is your desire to use as much destructive force as is available to us, I would ensure a solid foundation be provided first and foremost with your present Crest arrangements." That wouldn't be so hard, though, as Jay just about always packs a good, solid landscaping spell.
        With that in mind, he looks to prepare to do the part where he applies enormous amounts of sorcerous heat to specified places in order to start clearing away the growth that threatens to dissuade them from further travel inward.

DG: Ethius Hesiod has contributed a Brute Basic Action toward his party's challenge, Benediction of Archgenesis.
<Pose Tracker> Talia has posed.

Talia grimaces down at the seared, burnt remains of the bugs. Her nose wrinkles as she looks at them -- and then she bobs her head once at Cyre. "Mm-hm," she says. "I'm fine. Damned things... that is disgusting, no?"

She turns -- and she gives Ivan a brief glance. She smiles at her brother, before her eyes dart to Cyre again. The bamboo shoot tears up, then she sees how the foliage that rises begins to petrify. Her eyes narrow, lips pursing with thought. "I think it has to be a little deliberate, Jay," she opines. "No? It is well-planned. Though... maybe something that someone else made."

She grimaces, and then holds a hand up. A wall of now-stone vines before her has a javelin of ice rammed into it. Then, another; then, another.

"We must be close, whatever it means!" she determines.

DG: Talia has contributed a Brute Basic Action toward her party's challenge, Benediction of Archgenesis.
<Pose Tracker> Ivan has posed.

Ivan was not expecting things to explode with such force when fire is applied, but he likes the results...! Maybe eventually he will make the connection with Ethius's dust grenade.

As they move on, they soon find themselves dealing with foliage barring their path by growing at an alarming rate and then turning to stone!

We must be close, whatever it means!

"They do seem like guardian plants, don't they?" He wonders if all of this plant splicing might be related somehow not to Solaris, but the Veruni...?

At any rate, they won't find out what it's all about unless they can smash their way through. He calls his warhammer again, and hefts it up, taking aim at stony branches and trunks. Several of them have also tangled up Catenna, and he tries to smash near the places they're holding onto her to weaken them, if she hasn't freed herself already by the time he arrives.

DG: Ivan has used his Tool Warhammer toward his party's challenge, Benediction of Archgenesis.
DG: Cyre H. Lorentz has used his Tool Bottled Tornado toward his party's challenge, Benediction of Archgenesis.
=========================<* The Lifeweaver Beckons *>=========================
=================<* CHALLENGE - Benediction of Archgenesis *>=================
|Type: Climax      |Dungeon Ability: Brute     |Challenge Rating: 4          | 
--------------------------< Challenge Information: >--------------------------
 ...all that I can do. And yet, the truth I have been running from for so      
 long is so painfully obvious. Even if I find my answer, someday, who will     
 bring it to those who need it most? I will die here, so far from home... or   
 else I will be bound to this place, never to see them again. When it is       
 done, will I even remember what I did all this for?                           
                                                                               
 INDOOR CHALLENGE: You've finally drawn near to the heart of this place. The   
 vines creeping across the facility walls pulse with light and energy, and     
 grow so thick that it's impossible to tell that you're in an artificial       
 structure at all. Whatever is going on in here, whatever treasures might be   
 hidden here, they're very close by.                                           
                                                                               
 The problem is, you're not the only ones who realize it.                      
                                                                               
 The corridor suddenly shudders as a cascade of roots and vines erupt from     
 the walls to bar your path. Saplings shoot up from the floor, expand into     
 fully grown tree trunks, and then rapidly die and petrify to bar your way.    
 The life-force filling this place surges to keep you at bay. Whatever lies    
 in wait knows that you are coming, and it's doing all that it can to stop     
 you.                                                                          
=Dungeon Conditions: Overwhelm================================================
====================<* The Lifeweaver Beckons - Round 5 *>====================
===================< Results - Benediction of Archgenesis >===================
Player                               Exhaustion                      Pass/Fail
------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Ethius Hesiod                       10 --(20)--> 30                Fail
Force                               0   Brute   Effects: BASIC                
------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Jacqueline Barber                   10 --(15)--> 25                Pass
Landscaper Crest                    3   Brute   Effects: Fanfare              
------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Catenna                             10 --(20)--> 30                Fail
Force                               0   Brute   Effects: BASIC                
------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Cyre H. Lorentz                     10 --(15)--> 25                Pass
Bottled Tornado                     3   Brute   Effects: Sacrifice and Strengt
------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Talia                               10 --(20)--> 30                Fail
Force                               0   Brute   Effects: BASIC                
------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Ivan                                10 --(15)--> 25                Pass
Warhammer                           3   Brute   Effects: Rally                
----------------------------------< Party >-----------------------------------
Leader: Cyre H. Lorentz             80 --(0)--> 80                 Pass
Conditions: Fright(1)|Overwhelm
Effects: Strengthen(1)
==============================< Dream Chasers >===============================
DG: The party led by Cyre H. Lorentz has passed 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.
<Pose Tracker> Cyre H. Lorentz has posed.

There should be an earth-shattering ka-fwoosh.

There is no earth-shattering ka-fwoosh.

"Catenna!" Cyre yells, abruptly aborting his intended tornado-based solution... Too late. The tornado is loosed, and the wind surges outward like a torrent. Even as Ethius reinforces the underlying foundations, the twister is already beginning to spiral out of control. But...

Cyre... shoves his arm right up in there.

In a flash of emerald light and an immense exertion of will, the High Priest of Fengalon gathers the howling winds around his arm. The vortex draws inward, spiralling faster and faster like a drill of high-pressure air around Cyre's hand. The shaman growls as he brings it into some of those petrified vines twining around Catenna's limbs... Before he's forced to drive his fist into the tangled nest of plants still in their way. The tornado explodes, launching Talia's ice-lances at frankly inadvisable velocities. Wind and frost smash into the verdant wall like winter into the darkening days of autumn. The wall fails, the growths coming undone...

As Ethius' prediction comes to fruition and the surrounding corridor begins to crumble. Cyre moves, his hand shredded to ribbons by the force of his own winds. The corridor collapses, and he rushes to shield Catenna...

But Jacqueline's earth-moving magic comes through. Slabs of fresh, reinforced concrete mend the damaged structure, leaving only the task of liberating Catenna (if she isn't free already) and bandaging Cyre's ruined hand between the party and their goal.

...But those, and what few petrified plants still try to get in their way, are easily taken care of by a few swings of Ivan's hammer. Cyre winces as he offers Catenna a (good) hand up. "You... You okay? Didn't break anything...?"

...But... something is wrong.

The Codex... thrums.

DG: Cyre H. Lorentz has drawn a new Challenge.
=========================<* The Lifeweaver Beckons *>=========================
====================<* CHALLENGE - The One Beyond Death *>====================
|Type: Final       |Dungeon Ability: Combat    |Challenge Rating: 3          | 
--------------------------< Challenge Information: >--------------------------
 The project must continue. Death is merely an illusion to be conquered- a     
 means to recycle nutrients. There is no natural law that states the soul      
 must fade with death-- no! Such thing must be an artifice of life! If the     
 erasure of the soul is mandated by the laws of the living world, then it is   
 our right-- our obligation-- to overturn the world and its laws! To be given  
 a soul-- to be given a mind-- only to someday lose them both is not natural,  
 it is abhorrent! There is no justice in it! No kindness! I deny this fate.    
 My soul is mine and mine alone!                                               
                                                                               
 FINAL CHALLENGE: You push through the crush of rampant growth to find         
 yourselves standing at the boughs of a truly massive tree. Its branches       
 stretch to occlude sky entirely, and yet there is still an abundance of       
 light. Colonies of luminescent lichens and mosses shine brilliantly in the    
 dark. Mushrooms the size of pine trees and bulbous flowers as wide as dinner  
 tables release glowing spores and seeds that flit through the air and fill    
 the chamber with their glow. Life flourishes here in uncountable abundance,   
 thriving at the base of this enormous tree.                                   
                                                                               
 But just as you take a moment to take in the beauty, things... change. All    
 at once, the light dims-- and then flares in that dreadfully malevolent       
 color. A feeling of spiritual wrongness presses in from all sides as the      
 land begins to shake. Roots and vines surge up from the ground, forming into  
 a grotesque, humanoid face whose eyes burn with malice and whose maw drips    
 spiritual poison. A symbol of a ringed, nine-rayed star burns in violet       
 light upon its brow. Its voice shakes the air, felt more than heard,          
 "Interlopers! Come to steal my secrets, have you!?" Thorny vines burst out    
 of the walls, each one exploding into terrifying, fractal growth to cut off   
 your means of escape. "Your bodies shall fertilize my roots! The project      
 must continue! I will reach beyond death!"                                    
=Dungeon Conditions: Collapse=================================================
<Pose Tracker> Cyre H. Lorentz has posed.

The hallway leads deeper. For several minutes, the party is surrounded by nothing but those constant pulses of living energy... Until finally, the corridor opens up like the mouth of a cave. They emerge at the base of a truly massive tree, one whose height could rival even the most massive of gears. Its boughs are massive. Swollen fruits hang from them, dangling amidst colonies of glowing lichen that have colonized the undersides of the wooden arches. Enormous mushrooms rise from soft, loamy ground, stretching as tall as ordinary trees. They emit a faint, warm light. Massive flowers cover the ground in explosions of living color and overpoweringly sweet scents. This place... is positively overflowing with life.

"This..." Cyre says, breathless, "This is incredible... So much life... here on Filgaia? Impossible. Such a thing shouldn't be-- Wait." He freezes, the living light dimming. A chill settles in the air. The world seems to throb with a terrifyingly familiar malice. In a flash, the light comes flooding back wrong. Words scrawl themselves across the codex. Motes of too-familiar malevolence flicker thicker in the air with each new word. 'The project must continue. Death is merely an illusion to be conquered- a means to recycle nutrients. There is no natural law that states the soul must fade with death-- no! Such a thing is nothing but an artifice of life!'

Roots burst from the ground, covered in glowing nodules. They weave together, folding into thicker strands that in turn merge with their neighbours, forming structure and shape. A jawline. The ridge of a brow. A nose... No. No nose. Just a gaping, yawning maw. More words burn into the tome:

'If the erasure of the soul is mandated by the laws of the living world, then it is our right-- our obligation-- to overturn the world and its laws! To be given a soul-- to be given a mind-- only to someday lose them both is not natural, it is abhorrent!' The growth resolves, hardening into the visage of a decrepit, human face trapped in a rictus sccream. Black-violet flames ignite in the pits of its eyes. 'There is no justice in it! No kindness! I deny this fate. My soul is mine and mine alone!'

"Catenna! Jay!" Cyre calls, reaching for the two as the earth erupts, tainted energies bursting in a geyser of violet light. A voice shakes the air like too-near thunder, felt rather than heard. "Interlopers! Come to steal my secrets, have you!?" It booms in the ears, even as gnarled vines covered in toxic brambles erupt from the ground to choke the life from any who stand upon it. "Your bodies shall fertilize my roots! The project must continue! I will reach beyond death!"

Pulses of tainted light shoot up towards those ripened fruits, infecting them with the vileness of man. Each one undergoes sudden and grotesque growth, unfolding into teratomas of gnarled flesh and plantmatter... That rain downward like living, predatory bombs...! Cyre grits his teeth as he grips his silver medium with his wounded hand. "A Hellion... Damnit, it's... I can feel it everywhere. This whole place is its body...!"

A symbol burns into being upon the face's gnarled forehead. A nine-rayed star, surrounding a single lidless eye. The creature roars, beams of corrupt light scything out of its maw...

A message appears in the tome. One more sentence, one more plea:

Just a little more... Please... Help me...!

<Pose Tracker> Talia has posed.

"This is... not normal, no?" Talia says, after Cyre. She hesitates -- shivers, even, as the air begins to swirl. Her eyes drift to Jay's book, and then she takes a step backward. The roots rise up, and she sucks in a deep breath; the black-violet fire is a real shock.

"A Hellion! You mean--one person made up... this entire place!?" Talia yells. "But--how is that possible?"

She looks up at the face -- and then leaps. Talia dives to the side, the beam of light coming from the strange face slashing to the ground where she was. Her hand darts to her side; a bomb comes out, tossed up in her palm, and then hurled the moment it lands.

It explodes -- and then Talia leaps, jumping to try to slam Mirage, hilt-first, into the creature. "Hyurgh!"

DG: Talia has used her Tool Royal Bomb toward her party's challenge, The One Beyond Death.
<Pose Tracker> Catenna has posed.

"Gch, Ivan--" Catenna manages amidst her struggles. Nothing she has on her is good at smashing. Her specialties are more sleek and occasionally subtle.

Ivan's are more extravagantly destructive. Roots crumple away, and Catenna pulls her leg out of the wreckage with a grateful smile.

Continuing on behind Cyre, she can only stare with amazement at the sight of so much life pulsing through the facility. And yet, that stare soon gives way to a sad look towards the white owl on her shoulder.

Saarda-Shanta lowers her head and closes her eyes. <This is not the life you would choose, dear heart.>

It becomes clear enough at the words etch themselves into the Codex. Catenna reaches for her Medium as the tenor of the ambient energy changes to a maleficent violet - and as those roots etch themselves into a hideously distorted face, she clicks her teeth together.

Cyre reaches out for her. Darting forward, Catenna reaches out to clasp his hands - but as the earth erupts, she's forced to roll forward to a spot not too far from Cyre, vines shooting through the space she once occupied. She comes up in a crouch, drawing her bow and firing a couple of arrows into a twisted pseudopod of plant matter and malice, managing to pin it to a huge stalk of roots long enough to buy herself some breathing room.

"That icon," Catenna murmurs with an intent frown. "Something about this feels wrong in ways that have nothing to do with the obvious."

More roots come writhing at her, crisscrossing into a lethal mesh, but Catenna's able to slip through them and boost herself into the air. Saarda-Shanta swoops after her, talons slashing through a tangle of vines. The Moon Shaman flips in the air and manages to fire off a few arrows before her feet hit the ground. Her hand darts to her hip - but not to her quiver. Clutching her Medium, she barks a few words of power and lets gravity begin to work.

The force of the spell she unleashes is massive. Light distorts unnaturally as the fabric of reality itself opens up into a yawning black rift a couple of feet wide. Vines whip towards the singularity, tearing themselves out of the earth. Roots and branches splinter off, drawn by the inexorable force - and yet the black hole does not suck up any of the Kinship's members. Its gravity is for this sickened place alone.

Dark hair billowing out around her head like a halo, Catenna sweeps her hands and limbs through a few ritual steps, letting the grand singularity rage even as she gathers the spell she really wants. Silver light glitters between her fingers, weaving around her, tracing shapes behind her like butterfly wings.

"There are no secrets here," she says, her voice soft and unexpectedly kind - and tinged with pity. "All that continues is a shell of malice. The project is over. It has been for a long time... for you are already dead."

The silver light grows, streaming out from around her and beginning to flood through those vines and roots nearest to her first. It flows out in little rivers and trails, tracing contours where it finds them, outlining shapes - and where it goes, it begins to push against Malevolence. The weaker the dark force gets, the brighter the silver light shines - and as that dark force ebbs at its lowest, it fades into the silver as Catenna begins to try and cleanse the creature altogether.

DG: Catenna has used her Tool Celesdue Medium toward her party's challenge, The One Beyond Death.
<Pose Tracker> Ethius Hesiod has posed.

        The way opens, but not without at least grievous injury on Cyre's part. For Ethius, he finds it difficult to keep his spellcasting going at the pace it does in his attempt to probe for and burn away the weakness in these new petrified plant structures. As everything stabilizes over the next few minutes, Ethius stops and turns away to pop a unit of Gooey Stuff underneath his bandann--
 
        *CENSORED - too gross, skipping to the confrontation*
 
        The words are felt in the air. The protests of one facing down mortality, as the surrounding environs grow more aggressive... coalescing together in one form. The calls to overcome death as a need. Something about it seems... familiar.
        For how much of his natural body tics he can suppress when he is in the zone, there are times where Ethius may look less like a living person. His steps are measured at a consistent tempo through throbbing, twisting, contorting roots and descending, exploding bioweapons of plant and animal flesh.
 
        ...WHEN WAS THIS...?
 
        It is sweltering hot. The flames behind him are all the illumination left to this hallway, but he is in no great hurry. He knows what time he has.
        "Do you know what you've done?!" Shouts an older... male? Voice. It's difficult to put the voice on that binary human spectrum, but it leans closer to what might be thought of as male on the onset.
        He - Ethius - didn't answer. He kept walking.
        "They wanted this... they needed this! I've done nothing wrong!" The silhouette is hard to make out, but it's the only one moving. They're the only one left. Their shape did not matter to his sight.
        He says nothing to the cornered.
        "Life! This is in pursuit of life! Life for its sake! What will come before will no longer matter! What comes after--"
        He draws closer. He could make out the features now. A set of slimy tentacles intertwined with cables, pumping through unidentifiable fluids alongside their body. They look frail, stringy, as if barely propped up by what was attached.
        "Do you not fear...?" They asked of him, as flames raced down the right-hand side of the chamber. The liquids within the plastic bubbled and boiled, fit to burst.
        He lays his left hand, gloved, against the side of their head--
 
        NOW
 
        Ethius lays his left hand, gloved, against the side of a much larger, malformed hybrid creature as his free hand flexes in arcane patterns to well-practiced chants whispered to comfort as soul-eroding miasma pulsates and thickens around him.
        For how much of his natural body tics he can suppress when he is in the zone, there are times where Ethius may look less like a living person. That he strides and acts with no wasted movement, without underlying hesitation or remorse, to move in with unambiguously harmful intention make him look a lot more like he is some sort of agent of what is generally agreed upon as an inevitability for most.
        The thing that confronts him is tossed aside, combusted all but point blank as flame licks him. He doesn't focus on the pain. The continued predation through the question of death and the need to transcend the purported disappearance of one's soul after the fact does not seem to register. None of the purple clouds appear to seep into him.
        He casts the spell to activate the Powder Grenade and throws it right up towards the master of the Domain. He still has nothing to say. He just stares, unflinchingly, as if expecting a series of events previously performed earlier in the expedition to repeat themselves anew.

DG: Ethius Hesiod has used his Tool Powder Grenade toward his party's challenge, The One Beyond Death.
<Pose Tracker> Jacqueline Barber has posed.

"I'm keeping it in mind, don't worry." Jacqueline replies with a nod toward Ethius. She always tried to be careful with her earth-shaping spells - structure and form was important in making sure that you didn't collapse the ground - or anything else - when you were working with it.

Together, they're able to force their way through.

"...It's gone." She says with a sigh of relief. "Let's keep going."

As they proceed down the hallway, she notes those pulses of life energy. What is it all leading too? And, at the end, there's a tree.

A tree, more massive than perhaps any she's sign, possibly rivaling even some of Lunar's greatest.

"...It's...impressive, but - ah!" Jacqueline's words are interrupted by a throb of Malevolence that causes her to wince. She feels it...and then, something from the Codex. She's torn between reading it and watching as the roots burst from the ground. A part of her... honestly, a part of her can sympathise with it. Lunata... Jacqueline wanted little more than to have her back, and whole again. And all of the people of Adlehyde, lost to the Metal Demons...

She can sympathise with it. But...

Jacqueline leaps back at Cyre's urging as the earth erupts with geysers of tainted light.

This whole place is its body, huh...? Then those plants before - they must have been a part of it. She looks, briefly, toward the symbol on the face's forehead.

"...I kind of get it. It's...sad, and awful. But... you can't just lash out at us like this! We don't even know who you are." Jacqueline shakes her head. "We didn't come here to hurt you. Please, compose yourself! What were you trying to do? Is a life built on the corpses of others really worth living?"

...But, they already seem too far gone to be reasoned with. Jacqueline draws a sharp breath and slots a Crest Graph into her right gauntlet.

"...Sorry. I can't die here, either. If you calm down, maybe we can talk. If not..."

With a gesture of her right hand a spike of flame shoots out of the ground, looking to pierce right into one of the columns of plant-matter raining down on them. "...And besides. Living beyond death... it's not as great as it sounds. I know a few folks who can vouch for that.

And besides, she couldn't stop here. They still had a mission to take care of - someone who needed help. The Lifeweaver's Codex itself reminds her, as one more plea appears within its page.

"...I know." She murmurs.

DG: Jacqueline Barber has used her Tool The Lifeweaver's Codex toward her party's challenge, The One Beyond Death.
<Pose Tracker> Ivan has posed.

Ivan hasn't felt this kind of aura of malevolence before. As the air grows thick with the ominous feeling, he looks around at the others with alarm to see if they can sense it too.

"Something is very wrong!"

The shape of a screaming human face emerges from roots shooting upward from the ground, as light erupts around them its fruits distort and dive down hungrily toward the group.

Ivan blasts upward on jets of fire, and calls a sword into his hand. He brings it down on his descent and tries to drive it deep into the distorted being, using the blade as a conduit to pour heat and flame into the creature. But it's hard to know what to strike -- if the thing's body really extends to everything all around them...

At the sound of Catenna's reassurances toward the monstrous tree, he gapes at her in disbelief.

"Is this the one we came here to save?!"

DG: Ivan has used his Tool Memory toward his party's challenge, The One Beyond Death.
<Pose Tracker> Lydia Seren has posed.

LYDIA: WONDERING WHAT IS THIS THING'S DEAL. Sure, she knows there's malevolence going on here but it's honestly a little crazier than even she's used to right now. She also has totally been with the party the whole time and has just been slightly off screen while the camera focused on you because honestly she's kind of a pain to animate let's be real here. She's probably why the character art is taking forever too. Ivan is well suited for cartoons but Lydia is just like 'what is this mess' sometimes. That's what happens when you are tricky to animate, friends, you get put slightly off screen a lot so you can save on your animation budget!

She listens to the malevolent nonsense for a while. It honestly mostly goes through one Lydi-ear and out the other until she gets called an interloper out to steal this dude's secrets.

"Nah." Lydia says. "Someone just called for help. Also, kinda gross saying you're going to turn us into fertilizer. Also, does it really need to continue? Like really?"

There is a call for help, though, still from the tome--so it's probably not the same as this thing.

"Who are you hurting as part of your experiment?" Lydia asks quietly, voice not...full of fury, but strangely cold. "Why do you think it's okay to use other people for your own experiment? Did you ask them if they wanted to help? Maybe if you asked them they would have agreed to it, but you didn't did you?"

She grits her teeth as she hovers briefly into the air, crackling green auras shimmering out from the 'gems' that have formed from her mediums.

"We're gonna wipe out all your illusions, until only truth is left. And if all you all is illusion, then well... I'd say sorry, but, I'm not that kind."

When your super evil nature is building sized, it turns out this is the EXACT SCENARIO where giant death beams from the sky that hardly ever hit their target are a suitable course of action. Yep! For once, calling upon the overpriced mana spell may very well be the correct choice!

And in the distance, Rigdobrite shines as Lydia raises both hands--

--and extends two middle fingers.

DG: Cyre H. Lorentz has used his Tool Gale Claw toward his party's challenge, The One Beyond Death.
=========================<* The Lifeweaver Beckons *>=========================
====================<* CHALLENGE - The One Beyond Death *>====================
|Type: Final       |Dungeon Ability: Combat    |Challenge Rating: 3          | 
--------------------------< Challenge Information: >--------------------------
 The project must continue. Death is merely an illusion to be conquered- a     
 means to recycle nutrients. There is no natural law that states the soul      
 must fade with death-- no! Such thing must be an artifice of life! If the     
 erasure of the soul is mandated by the laws of the living world, then it is   
 our right-- our obligation-- to overturn the world and its laws! To be given  
 a soul-- to be given a mind-- only to someday lose them both is not natural,  
 it is abhorrent! There is no justice in it! No kindness! I deny this fate.    
 My soul is mine and mine alone!                                               
                                                                               
 FINAL CHALLENGE: You push through the crush of rampant growth to find         
 yourselves standing at the boughs of a truly massive tree. Its branches       
 stretch to occlude sky entirely, and yet there is still an abundance of       
 light. Colonies of luminescent lichens and mosses shine brilliantly in the    
 dark. Mushrooms the size of pine trees and bulbous flowers as wide as dinner  
 tables release glowing spores and seeds that flit through the air and fill    
 the chamber with their glow. Life flourishes here in uncountable abundance,   
 thriving at the base of this enormous tree.                                   
                                                                               
 But just as you take a moment to take in the beauty, things... change. All    
 at once, the light dims-- and then flares in that dreadfully malevolent       
 color. A feeling of spiritual wrongness presses in from all sides as the      
 land begins to shake. Roots and vines surge up from the ground, forming into  
 a grotesque, humanoid face whose eyes burn with malice and whose maw drips    
 spiritual poison. A symbol of a ringed, nine-rayed star burns in violet       
 light upon its brow. Its voice shakes the air, felt more than heard,          
 "Interlopers! Come to steal my secrets, have you!?" Thorny vines burst out    
 of the walls, each one exploding into terrifying, fractal growth to cut off   
 your means of escape. "Your bodies shall fertilize my roots! The project      
 must continue! I will reach beyond death!"                                    
=Dungeon Conditions: Collapse=================================================
====================<* The Lifeweaver Beckons - Round 6 *>====================
======================< Results - The One Beyond Death >======================
Player                               Exhaustion                      Pass/Fail
------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Ethius Hesiod                       30 --(15)--> 45                Pass
Powder Grenade                      3   Combat  Effects: Fanfare              
------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Jacqueline Barber                   25 --(15)--> 40                Pass
The Lifeweaver's Codex              2   Combat  Effects: Embolden             
------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Catenna                             30 --(15)--> 45                Pass
Celesdue Medium                     2   Combat  Effects: Embolden             
------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Cyre H. Lorentz                     25 --(15)--> 40                Pass
Gale Claw                           3   Combat  Effects: Sacrifice and Embolde
------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Talia                               30 --(15)--> 45                Pass
Royal Bomb                          3   Combat  Effects: Rally                
------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Ivan                                25 --(15)--> 40                Pass
Memory                              3   Combat  Effects: Fanfare              
----------------------------------< Party >-----------------------------------
Leader: Cyre H. Lorentz             80 --(35)--> 115               Pass
Conditions: Collapse|Overwhelm
Effects: Embolden(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 Lifeweaver Beckons!
=========================<* The Lifeweaver Beckons *>=========================
=======================<* CHALLENGE - The Lifeweaver *>=======================
|Type: Discovery   |Dungeon Ability: Conclusion|Challenge Rating: 1          | 
--------------------------< Challenge Information: >--------------------------
 With a final, agonized scream, the Hellion dissolves, disintegrating into a   
 rapidly dissipating haze of malevolence and decaying vegetation. Ordinarily,  
 this would be when the monster collapses into its original form, but...       
                                                                               
 No such thing happens now. Nothing is left of the monster as it dissolves.    
 Nothing, and yet...                                                           
                                                                               
 There's a creaking, pained groan from somewhere nearby. There! At the base    
 of the tree, there is... calling it a 'man' would be generous. It's nothing   
 more than a torso and head, joined at the arms and waist to the tree by       
 twining vines. His flesh is wooden, closer to bark than human skin, and yet   
 his face is undeniably human, even with the leaves and branches sprouting     
 from the rest of his body. "You... You came..." He sighs, relieved, a gentle  
 light in his eyes. "My friends... You've come a long way from home. From      
 Lunar..."                                                                     
                                                                               
 It seems that there might be a bit of a misunderstanding, but the person who  
 called you all this way seems to have been found. Now the question            
 becomes... What is he doing attached to a tree?                               
=Dungeon Conditions: Treasure=================================================
<Pose Tracker> Cyre H. Lorentz has posed.

        "I have spent countless seasons in pursuit of my goals," The Hellion thunders as Talia's bomb bursts at its base. The plant-matter that makes up its body fraying and spraying the spiritual poison that is its essence in aerosol jets. "Years! Decades! A failure rate of even a fraction of a percent is impermissible--gragh!" Mirage lances through the sigil upon the creature's forehead. The rune flashes, erupting in a burst of violet flame, blasting Talia back and away even as cracks begin to radiate from the point of impact.

The very air shakes as the creature screams, its head thrashing viciously as a cloud of dense dust bursts upon its forehead. "A parlor trick-- do you think to blind me? I can feel your footsteps! Hear your heartbeat! Feel the spores in the air you breathe! I--" *KABOOM*

Jacqueline's magic and Ivan's fiery assault land in the same instant. Fire, as it turns out, is deadly anathema even to supernaturally infused evil tree monsters, especially as it ignites Ethius' dustcloud. The smoke clears around a lingering pillar of flame, revealing the burning outline of the creature's forehead-crest still shining atop its now-missing brow. "Dust explosion... Clever... But you... You do not understand. This... To reach beyond death... To reach beyond life. To claim the soul from the void-- I cannot afford to fail in this! I cannot! I--"

A black hole yawns open. Space-time twist in ways that confound the mind. Light and flame spiral into the event horizon ahead of mutant flora, corrupt earth and tainted vines. The Hellion's manifest face contorts with pain as it struggles to hold itself together... Not only against the pull of gravity, but... "No... No, not dead. I have gone... Beyond life. Beyond death. You... What are you doing? This light... This light... Feels so... Familiar...?" The Hellion's voice wanes as the silvery essence gnaws at the malice that sustains it. For as powerful as this thing is... There's something wrong with it, it's like a bonfire that has run out of fuel to consume. A rushing flood whose source has already been long cut-off upstream. The thing's power might have been great, once, but... Now...

Now it's nothing but a huge target.

"I... You dare... Ask me who I have HURT, child? Who... Who has suffered...? Hah-- hahahaha! The test subjects. Yes... Yes, I was the first--" The Hellion's physical form scrambles to reassemble itself. It begins to form, a humanoid shape coalescing out of the rapidly dispersing clouds of malevolent energies. The sigil flickers in the air as its new form rises to consume it...

Only for a tornado to manifest around it, holding it in place as a beam of starlight abruptly lances out of the heavens and smashes like the angry fist of asteroid-God into the Hellion's core. The creature explodes in a burst of corruption that rapidly fades into shades of starlight and moonlight. With one final sigh, the corruption sags and fades... And the angry, violet glow slowly gives way again to the colors of nature.

<Pose Tracker> Cyre H. Lorentz has posed.

Cyre breathes a long, tired sigh as the last of the Hellion's essence disperses, draining away into the land at the purifying touch of the Guardians' power. "That... You know, for something that came on so dramatically, it actually wasn't as bad as I thought it'd be...?" He shakes his head, best not to dwell on it. The thing is dead now, after all. Unless it's secretly hiding underground or something again... "Is everyone alright?" He asks, nursing his own still-sore hand. "Nobody got a lungful of Malevolence-gas or anything? I-- wait." He frowns, ears pivoting. "I hear something."

There's a pained groan from somewhere nearby. The voice sounds... stiff, as if coming from the creaking of an old, well-loved piece of furniture rather than an animal voice box. Cyre frowns and follows it towards the base of the massive tree overlooking the grove. Again, another groan. Cyre digs his good hand into a mesh of vines and roots, pulling layer upon layer aside. "Jay, Cat-- everyone!" Cyre calls over his shoulder, "I've found something--" His movements grow more frantic as he catches sight of something that shouldn't be there, pulling more growth aside until...

"You... You came..." There's... It's not possible to call what they find a 'man.' It's a torso and a head, joined at the shoulders and waist and back to the roots of the tree that seems to have grown around it. His flesh has turned to something closer to bark than skin, and yet... The face there is human, gentle and wrinkled with age. "My friends... You've come a long way from home. From lunar..."

...There seems to be a bit of a misunderstanding here...

<Pose Tracker> Catenna has posed.

The violet miasma recedes, leaving behind nature - and the traces of silver light. Lunar purity fades into the landscape, no Malevolence there to impede it any longer. Exhaling slowly, Catenna sags to one knee, supporting herself with her bow.

As Saarda-Shanta descends beside her, Celesdue's High Priestess looks up towards Cyre. Her smile is wearied, but satisfied.

Another blight on Filgaia done away with. Questions left, certainly. But the worst of it is over.

When Cyre calls out, Catenna blinks, then starts towards him, the Owl ghosting along behind her. "What is it, Cyre?" she calls out.

The answer becomes clear soon enough. Startled, the Moon Shaman stops to Cyre's right, unconsciously sliding her hand into his as she looks up at the figure grown into the tree before them. "Ah, yes, it would appear she did," she says with a dip of her head.

Truthfully, it's not the first tree entity Catenna's seen. The Zortroa tame monsters. The concept of an ent is not alien to her by any means. She pushes her hair back with her free hand, bow resting over her shoulder now. "Most of us, ah, are not from Lunar... but as Celesdue's present High Priestess, I suppose I may be a moon person. Nevertheless, we saw your call and came as best we could."