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  #76  
Old 12-03-2019, 03:29 AM
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The Light of Reason II
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The bottom of the pit, when it finally came into view, offered a gruesome sight, littered with dried-out corpses and rabble. There was no sign to be seen of anything animate, yet the breathing sound that emerged from the pit was still present, in fact it was all around her, as if coming from its walls itself. The sound, too, must have been part of the mechanism of deterrence, whether magically produced or mundanely.

Ashayet landed on a platform before a simple stone door that led into the wall. It was bare of any decorations and powders. A handle was affixed to it that must have been intended for pulling the door shut again once it had been pushed open. Satisfied with her finding, she floated upwards again.

The old elf sighed inwardly when she thought of the fallout of this situation - but that would have to be dealt with later. Philip was now the least of her worries - he might even have understood her intentions when she had advocated for Menalcas to leave and he had joined in her plea. Briaerys, on the other hand, was apparently growing increasingly... unstable, in a way that both concerned and confused Ashayet. She wondered if things would be easier or worse if Kassia were present.

Her head only just stuck out over the edge of the pit, now frowning. "Wiser people would take their time, cleanse this room, and explore this tomb over the course of days. We, however, will need to employ a rope to get the rest of you down here - take note of Briaerys' words. Aristides first, to push open the door. Then, the faster we get down here, the quicker our heads will be out of these noxious fumes." Sometimes - rarely - Ashayet hated being right, as in her initial suspicion that the braziers might not be safe to light. A hasty retreat into this room after Briaerys had lit them had decidedly not been the plan, but now, given the uncharacteristic impatience with which Matthaios had set out on this whole endeavour, there was only the way forward.

"However, falling is not advised", she warned.

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Last edited by Mairien; 12-03-2019 at 03:30 AM.
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Old 12-03-2019, 04:34 AM
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Into the Void
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Disappointment came upon Aristides as he knelt down and touched the plank beneath him. Just fancy lighting then, he thought, thinking about the blue and yellow flames of the braziers and the third color that they have produced in the middle of the room. He thought for sure that the green light would be solid, forming a bridge over the sand and the pit, allowing them to stand in front of the door and open it. Too much wishful thinking, perhaps. He wasn’t in one of his prized books, after all.

As it turned out, the door was nothing more than an ornate wall. That is if the Aurelian woman is correct. She hasn’t been wrong much in recent memory, so Aristides was inclined to believe her. Even more so now that she’s showcased the ability to conjure light and make herself float. Something about that just felt right to him. It was as if he had always assumed that she held magic.

Aristides stood up and walked to the edge of the pit. "One rope should suffice," he said to the others. "The nook that Lady Ashayet found is only thirty feet down. Maybe thirty-five feet. Best use two though to make our descent safer. Here." He turned to Evander. "Toss me that, will you?"

Using simple horseman’s knots, the former slave made a couple of lassos with Briaerys’ rope and his. He then tossed the looped ends towards the neck of the closest statue on the right. They landed precisely where he meant them to. He pulled at the ropes, tightening them around the neck of the stone animal. "That should be enough to hold our weight if we go one at a time," he said. "Those knots will get tighter the harder one pulls at them. I’ll go first. If these can hold my weight, then they can hold the rest of you. If you fall, stick your limbs out so that I'll have an easier way of catching you." Aristides pulled at the ropes again, testing them. Seemingly satisfied with his work, he nonchalantly began climbing down.


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  #78  
Old 12-04-2019, 05:27 PM
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Evander
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Evander visibly relaxed when he saw the flames of the braziers extinguished and Ashayet gracefully levitate herself out of the pit. The elder elf had apparently many facets that she avoided showing others, except when it would serve her purpose or when a dire situation forced her hand – which was currently the case. That said, Ashayet seemed to really have enjoyed deploying her supernatural powers and possibly to some extent even displaying them to Matthaios and the Hetairoi. The human prince seemed to either have known of his tutor‘s special skills or at the very least suspected them, in any case his expression was one of appreciation and relief rather than fear, concern or disgust. Despite not understanding how Ashayet‘s arcane powers were different from Briaerys‘ and why the first met with Matthaios‘ approval while the second had earned a rebuke of sorts, the hunter decided to remain silent. The issue would eventually have to be brought up, but now was certainly not the right time.

The „learned mistress’“ comments about the actions of wiser people and her suggestion that the Hetairoi shouldn‘t just fall to the pit brought a smile to Evander‘s lips. Just a few weeks ago he would have grown furious at the perceived insult and would have verbally attacked the scholar -only to prove himself inferior to her in every way. Now he had to fight hard to stop himself from laughing loudly. Even in this dark, traps-riddled tomb, Ashayet remained true to herself, which was strangely reassuring. Briaerys was once again ready to endanger herself so that the rest might safely descend -a habit that the Sylvan found concerning- and Aristides, always practical and a man of action, made certain that Matthaios and his companions wouldn‘t have to rely on secret arts or pray to the gods that they could survive a 30 feet fall without serious injury or loss of life. Now it was up to Evander to make sure the group would also be able to return without the shadow creatures attacking them as they climbed up the rope.

"Matthaios, could I borrow your shield for a while? You will need both your hands to climb down the rope after Aristides. Once you are down there I will throw it to you."

Using the prince‘s shield as a shovel, the Sylvan formed two small mounds of sand on the planks before the opening of the pit. Making certain that the sand didn‘t behave strangely, Evander carefully placed his last torch inside the mound of sand, making sure it would remain upright. He could enlist the help of the fire nymphs to have it lit as he climbed up the rope, hoping that its light would force the shadow beings to keep their distance. Pleased with his efforts, the hunter beckoned the chimera to approach.

"Briaerys, you could place your own torch there", pointing at the second mound of sand, "its light should be enough to allow us to climb down the shaft without worrying about fighting these mysterious shadows." Lowering his voice so that only the chimera would clearly listen to him, Evander continued. "Allow me to be the last one to descend, I am after all the group‘s rearguard. Not an especially heroic position, but necessary nonetheless." The hunter offered the girl a sly smile, which soon vanished. "Matthaios might have need of your, though not unique, certainly very useful skills. Your duty is first and foremost to him. Don‘t be disheartened by his reaction to your -how did you call it?- spell. Give him time." This time the smile was much more heartfelt and genuine.

Taking a step back the hunter now addressed the whole group. "All right, people, let‘s see what more deadly traps the tomb has in store for us. We had better not use all our torches at once. They only burn for about an hour. One or two lit ones should be sufficient at any time."


 


 
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Old 12-07-2019, 01:28 AM
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Friendship By Torchlight
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Briaerys watched Evander curiously scraping sand onto the planks. He made quick work of the project coaxing a reluctant smile from her. It would have been an easy task for her to do with an empowered command, but there would be no purpose in taking this from him. "Briaerys, you could place your own torch there" he added, a suggestion that aligned with her original intent. She nodded once, then proceeded to move around him. It was while she was so near him that he requested to remain the rearguard. His dismissal that it was not a "heroic" job puzzled her. He seemed to have a very specific idea of what was heroic. But it was his next words that fell like an unwelcome guest at her door.

"Matthaios might have need of your, though not unique, certainly very useful skills." Rys froze where she stood."...Give him time." Her professional demeanor turning rigid as stone with those words. The flickering light of the torch highlighting the twitching muscles along her neck. Rys closed her eyes, the dark lashes hiding the flicker of anger there, and pulled in a steadying breath through her nose.

'"...though not unique"...Assaia…" The innocently spoken words had a stronger effect than they were intended to. Releasing that first held breath, the guard kept her eyes shut. She continued taking slow, deep breaths to steady herself while he finished addressing the rest of their party.

Muttering a soft curse she moved forward, and buried the bottom of the torch into the mound he had indicated. She took that time to slough off the initial negative reaction to his statement. The Sylvan meant well. It was simply another kindness given without expectation. Sighing, Rys placed her hands on her knees, just above the tall greves, and pushed up to a standing position. Gently, she took back her traveling pack and secured it for the trip down. It allowed for more time in which to collect herself. Only after checking the straps of the pack and weapons first did she turn to face the wild elf. Her expression calm once more and her voice pitched low to match his.

"Evander, you do this position and yourself a disservice in dismissing its importance. Scout, vanguard, cavalry or rearguard, these and more are as honorable a position as the others. There have been many times that good men have been saved by the vigilance and bravery of the rearguard. I personally would not be here now if it were not for someone taking position as the rearguard. One day I might even tell you about it. I think you'd enjoy the story as short as it is." Briaerys paused, tilting her head as she thought about her next words.

Placing a hand on his forearm she spoke earnestly. "As for heroics, that is all about perception and the stories told by witnesses and survivors. It is too easy sometimes for a man to throw himself into battle, plunge his sword into the chest of a dying foe and then call himself a hero. I knew a man who saved people in secret, never seeking acknowledgement nor receiving it because it was the right thing to do, and still be a greater hero than the braggart. I've witnessed the work of such men many times. Being a hero is not about the accolades or glory. It is about doing the right things for the right reasons regardless of praise or outcome or glory. Evander, don't worry so much about trying to be what you think a 'hero' is. Just be a good man. That is more than enough. It is also far more honorable in my estimation. And so far, you seem to be succeeding very well in that." With a smile Rys let him her hand and stood at the lip of the pit watching the shadows while the others journeyed to reach the entrance below.

"And it isn't my spell use that he is upset about." Rys continued, surprising herself, " Trust me. He has no issue with my magic or any other kind. But...thank you for the encouraging words. They are appreciated." Sweat still dripped slowly down the back of her neck as she spoke. Her head threatened to swim as it had before. This was not a good sign. It would be dangerous to make the journey down without taking precautions of some sort. Of course there was a way she could make it down safely if she began to fall, but she did not think it would be wise to use so many spells so soon.

A wave of vertigo swept over the chimera. Dropping to a knee she waited for it to pass. Steadying herself, Rys curtly waved Evander off before he could say anything. "I'll be fine," But felt a rope tied around her might be wise. "Say nothing, Evander. This for me to tell." Soon her balance returned and she began the task of pulling one of the free ropes back up.
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Old 12-07-2019, 10:56 AM
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Philip Angelis
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The announcement of poison that sent an icy chill down his spine and tiny bumps across his exposed forearms. Dropping to one knee, he rummaged through his bag, digging out a small vial of anti-poison that he had brought with him. He swallowed it quickly and almost threw the empty vial away before looking to the sand. As much as he struggled to remain detached during this mission, he couldn't deny that he was curious. Avoiding being noticed, he carefully scooped a bit of sand into the vial, making sure not to touch it, and replaced the stopper. Perhaps it would be of use later, or perhaps he could use it to coax information out of Ashayet after this entire nightmare was over.

As he stood back up, his face still pale at the thought of the poison, he noticed Ashayet's shameless display. Philip's face twisted in shock and frustration at the sight.

'That pompous, self righteous, Aurelian...' he thought, his cheeks flushing red with anger at the change of events. 'How much of this could have been avoided had she not stopped me,' his thoughts continued, even as some part of him understood the elf's actions. Briarys was one thing. She was a wild-card, her impulsiveness true to the feral blood that flowed through her. This, however, this was different... and right after she chided him... A sense of betrayal washed over him and he attempted to push it away, feeling like a child.

His weight set on one leg with arms folded across his chest, he stood. He watched. He listened. Foot by foot, as Ashayet descended, so too did his trust in so many dissipate. By the time she reached the bottom, a serious holes had been burned into his view on his relationships with not only those within this room, but many of those elsewhere as well. Through it all, it was his resentment with his sister that grew the most.

"However, falling is not advised"

Philip chuckled smugly at the words of caution issued from the elder.

"Thank you for your wisdom, mistress," he said. His voice was light but the words themselves dripping with sarcasm. "It is truly fortunate that you are here, else I fear that many of us would have simply walked off the edge." The wide smile that he offered remained as he watched the others, one by one, descent the rope until it was just three of them left on the planks the seemed to offer much less safety than otherwise promised. In their brief moment, Rys and Evander seemed to once again forget about the noble himself. Unaccustomed to feeling invisible, he grit his teeth and made his way down to the others, a feat made easier by his required training - something that he'd never been especially grateful for before now. Out of the corner of his eye he saw the exchange continue between the hunter and bodyguard and his lips pursed. His sister and the hunter had been together less than a month before and there was something about the interaction that put Philip in a defensive posture. He would need to speak to Rys soon, it seemed.

He landed and spun to Aristides who dutifully watched the ropes. "I apologize for dashing your hopes. I too imagined how wonderful it would be for me to slip and swan dive into your arms. Alas, such theatrics will have to wait," he said before making his way back to the others.

Turning his back to the others so that none would be able to read his lips, Philip addressed Ashayet. "I'm having a hard time seeing your intervention earlier as such a noble act when you follow it up with something far more ostentatious," he whispered accusingly. "If anything, it is your student who is showing a lack of restraint. She is your student, is she not? Perhaps you could rein her in before she brings this entire crypt down on our heads?"

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Old 12-07-2019, 02:12 PM
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The Jackal and the Siren

The Jackal and the Siren
The Tomb of Nefertum, Evening of the 22nd of Sun Rule, Year 11 of the Fracture

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Ashayet's enchanted illumination did little to alleviate the muted sense of dread building in each of their stomachs. The descent into the pit and to the stone landing was more challenging than most anticipated. Maybe the poisoned air had sapped some of their strength, with the task requiring far more concentration and focus than would have been expected. Foot by foot, each of them descended, forced to face the unsettling gloom on their own. The shadows struggled against the ivory light of Ashayet's glowing crystal, held at bay for now, albeit temporarily. As they descended, the monstrous breathing could be more clearly heard, echoing from all around them. Despite the reassurance that it was a mere illusion, it was nonetheless difficult to push it from their minds. They were not welcome here.

Aristides was the first to join Ashayet on the landing, tasked by Matthaios to open the door so that the rest of the group could follow. Although the Zephyr saw no sign of any toxic powder or paint, he nonetheless took the same precautions as before, wrapping his hands and forearms in cloth. Expecting to have to put the same level of force into the door as the precious slabs of stone had required, Aristides found himself surprised when it took relatively little energy to push it open. With the stone door swinging inward, Aristides lit his second and final torch, illuminating the first few feet of what looked to be a small court. Yet, he paused, knowing that Luvon would be descending next and be the best candidate to enter first.

Helping the ambassador to the landing, Aristides watched as the half-elf slowly stepped into the court, surveying it for any immediate and obvious threats. When signaled that it was safe, Aristides followed, bringing the light of his torch with him. Although not as grand as the scarab chamber above, this room was remarkable in its own right. Caught off guard with its splendor, Aristides found his lips partially agape as he took several steps inside. Almost fifty feet long and over fifteen feet wide, twin lotus columns, beautifully decorated and preserved, held up a flat ceiling over ten feet high. Unlike the chambers on the upper level, the wall paintings here were untouched, having lost very little of their vibrancy, color, and brilliance. Stranger still, the floors were decorated with what looked to be intricate bronze and copper tiles, having turned a mesmerizing shade of green over the years. At the center of the chamber, a large stone altar rested in silence, the etching of a jackal seen within the stone surface, surrounded by several ancient embalming tools.

But it was what waited on either side of the room that caught Aristides' eye. To his right, another obsidian statue of Jafri was seen, standing guard. Unlike the one from above, this one looked to be adorned with gold inlays along his chest, head, and legs in the form of clothes and headgear. Like before, a solid gold staff was held in his left hand. At his feet, a single boxed chest lay in wait, decorated with small, ornate paintings. To either side of the chest, a series of amphoras were seen of varying sizes. But perhaps most remarkable was their appearance. Rather than being constructed of clay, the six amphoras looked to be made of an intricate mix of bronze and silver, refusing to disclose their hidden contents.

To the left, a nearly identical scene. But rather than the jackal headed god Jafri, this was a statue with a man's body and the head of a falcon. He held a solid gold ankh in one hand, while an elaborate gold and copper nemes rested above his feathered head. As Jafri, a second ornate box rested at his feet, while six varying amphoras could be spotted on either of the statue. These amphoras, however, looked to be made of some kind of unknown red metal inlaid with veins of pure gold. Regardless of what each sealed amphora held or what treasures may have been hidden within those chests, the statues alone would likely be worth enough to turn a destitute slave into a wealthy noble.


Matthaios was the next to join the Zephyr, with Aristides returning the Prince's shield to him. Judging by the Prince's face, Aristides knew Matthaios too was taken aback by the beauty and wealth of the chamber. Imendjeref, Philip, Briaerys, Ashayet, and finally, Evander soon joined, with Matthaios ordering the door be closed behind them to ward off the enchanted gloom of the pit. Stepping closer to the falcon-headed statue, Matthaios studied its avian expression with a kind of enigmatic curiosity and wonder, whispering quietly to himself. "I wish my mother were here to see this…"

A quick word of warning came from Luvon then, who gathered the attention of the group swiftly. Pointing to an open archway on the opposite end of the room, he noted the long, dark corridor that extended beyond. While Aristide's lone torch was not sufficient to illuminate much beyond the archway, it looked as though the beautiful tiled floor continued on, as if beckoning the group forward...

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Old 12-09-2019, 01:58 AM
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Eyes of the Dark
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The climb down the rope was fairly uneventful. Briaerys managed to make it to the ledge where Aristides had stood, the sound of the phantom breathing all around them. Stone faced she saw Philip and Ashayet speaking while busy untying the rope from around herself. Not able to hear the conversation she paid it no mind. The two could discuss whatever they wished as long as they behaved. The Guard glanced briefly at the Learned Mistress again before ignoring her completely to room for Evander. Quietly following Philip into the room she was struck by its beauty and the magnificence of the near perfectly preserved artwork. The space was grand and the decadent of its decorations and left her breathless. Nearing the statue of Jafri, she eased passed Imendjeref and Philip with a soft "Excuse me," to each of them. Making her way around the room noticing the frown Kassia's brother gave her. She had more pressing concerns.

On her way around, admiring the statue's spectacular artistry, she glanced towards Matthaios. There she found him looking up at the god figure. Deciding to join him Rys approached him as he studied the new figure. The young woman stood next to her friend in silence before finding enough courage to address him. For him alone she said, "He’s beautifully crafted. This all is. The skills of the ancients are astounding. There is so much we have lost through time. Even their names are nearly forgotten to all but the most devout. My mother tried to teach me about the Aurelian gods once, but I never learned. I wonder who that is. I suppose Xi would know, wouldn’t he?" She didn’t turn to see Matthaios’ reaction nor did she give him the time to answer. Once again becoming the dedicated professional Rys bowed her head to him. "With your permission, Highness, I’m going to look around. Don’t do anything adventurous without me near and I won’t do anything foolish either. Again." The words that would normally be spoken in jest were now formal and proper.

Glancing around, she saw the same expression of awe and wonder the Prince had worn on the faces of everyone else. A frown marred her face, suddenly, as a thought occurred to her. Would these containers be trapped from within ready to cause more harm?

"Highness, touch nothing for now. In fact," Raising her voice, Briaerys addressed the entire room. "Would be best to assume nothing is safe, alright? Let's not have a repeat of my previous mistakes. Keep an eye open for traps, help each other out when you can and touch nothing until we are all sure there is no risk." Offering a polite smile to the room began admiring a nearby scene carved into the nearest wall.

As she neared the ambassador he hailed the Prince indicating a second doorway. Briaerys approached the corridor he had pointed out cautiously. Pulling her shield from her back, the guard donned it, while peering through the darkness with ease. "The corridor runs about 20 to 25 feet before it turns sharply to the right. A sarcophagus sits just before the turn. You see it too, Ambassador? Evander? Shall we explore?" With a parting nod first to Matthaios she then called over her shoulder.

"I'm entrusting you with his safety, Prince-Hierophant." It was the first time Briaerys had ever said such a thing. On the surface it could be seen as a routine statement by those still unfamiliar with who she really was. But she and the two Princes knew otherwise. The chimera had never trusted anyone outside the Royal Guards with her charge's life. Not once. "And if the rest of you would be so kind," she continued, looking over at Philip. "Keep an eye on Lord Philip as well. Kassia would kill me if anything happened to her brother." The corner of her mouth lifted the slightest as she spoke. The smile was meant to relate no ill intention behind her statement. If there were questions, she did not allow them a chance to be voiced.

Nodding to Luvon to proceed she followed a few feet behind. Narrating the entire way so all could hear as she watched while he meticulously inspected the space around them. Soon they were walking in the dark. The light of the staff and the torch left behind. Her eyes adjusted without trouble. Just as the ambassador's did, she guessed, since he seemed to have little trouble navigating. They walked fifteen, twenty, twenty-five feet without incident until they reached the sarcophagus they had seen earlier. Upon closer inspection they could see that it rested within an inlet carved into the wall. A wooden chest was placed at the foot of the sarcophagus. To their right an impressive sight greeted the chimera the moment she turned. A second corridor, at least 70 feet long, stretched out before them. Still giving a verbal detailing of what she saw along the north wall Rys leaned a few inches closer. "There are seven more sarcophagi recessed into the wall in an identical manner as the first. Each with its own wooden chest set before it. Half braziers are mounted on the stone walls between all eight inlets. It's incredible." Looking past Luvon she noted another sharp turn. Light could be seen coming from beyond it.

"My Prince! There's another corridor at the far end and light. Firefight. We're proceeding."

Rys began following behind Luvon again as they moved further into that section. "Mummies along the south wall. They're laid out in the open on slabs stacked by three. I count six stacks. Eighteen mummies in total." The dune blooded chimera stopped half-way down the room. "Jafri...I see another statue of Jafri midway along the southern wall." Careful not to stand too close, she noted the brazier at the statue's feet. Sharing a look with the astute Empyrean she was glad he could not see her blush. This was one fire she would not be lighting. "Highness, we are halfway down the corridor. Shall we continue on to the next turn?" Exchanging an excited look with Luvon they waited for Matthaios' answer.
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Old 12-09-2019, 02:49 AM
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Prince Imendjeref "Ximanteus" the HierophantImendjerefs ears had gradually stopped ringing on the climb down to the bottom of the pit and his hearing had finally returned to normal. His thoughts had been preoccupied by the few words he’d caught being shared between Ashayet and Phillip and who the student that had been mentioned was. The obvious answer was Kassia, as the two figures had little reason to be speaking with one another much less in such conspiratorial tones. Yet something in the back of his mind scratched at his thoughts – if they were referring to Kassia then her absence would be worth noting. Yet noting her absence seemed pointless unless there was as much kept secret about Kassia as evidently Briaerys had kept secret.

“I’m entrusting you with his safety Prince-Hierophant.” Briaerys’ words were not what he had expected from her, yet despite himself his eyes narrowed in understanding and gave her a silent, almost imperceptible, nod in response. His arms still felt leaden and heavy but thinking it naught but a consequence of the unnatural thunderclap in the previous chamber, he ignored the feeling and kept his shield at the ready. As he quietly drew closer to the Prince, Imendejeref’s eyes naturally passed their gaze over the intact writings all over the walls of the room. Reading them without a second thought he became quickly draw into a consideration of what text he could read in the light of the room.

“I wish my mother were here to see this…”

Matthaios’ words however drew the Hierophant’s attention to the splendor around them: such edifices of Aurelian magnificence locked away even so shrouded in death and shadow. Even Imendjeref found himself silently moved by the indomitability of his people’s achievements. Forgotten for centuries, their beauty nonetheless shone through. Shoulders almost touching with his awestruck companion, Imendjeref smiled slightly as he thinks on what Halima’s reaction might be if she were to stand here with her son. “Such sweet memory, this shaded oasis of my radiant Aurelia; far from golden sea, ‘neath the gods’ watchful gaze eternal still…” His voice was soft but strong and richly tinted with pride.

Cocking his head curiously, Imendjeref took a short step back and away from Matthaios to more easily gaze up at the falcon headed god’s face. Swallowing before speaking again, there was a fresh harshness in the back of his throat that went ignored for the most part.“Here watches Khosep, the god of valour, the sunrise before battle and nobleness; watcher over the royal houses of Aurelia and protector of the crowns of our kingdom. It is said that so long as a dynasty has the favor of Khosep no ill shall befall them. Similarly, should the unworthy ever attempt to wear a crown of Aurelia, Khosep will curse not only the unworthy but their descendants too… There are several reasons he would be here but…”

"Mummies along the south wall. They're laid out in the open on slabs stacked by three. I count six stacks. Eighteen mummies in total. Jafri...I see another statue of Jafri midway along the southern wall." The chimera’s voice carried out of the darkness and confirmed for Imendjeref what he had already suspected. Raising his voice, he finished what he had been saying. “Best we do not disturb anything. Or anyone. Jafri on his own is worthy of great caution; Khosep with him is a sure sign of retribution should we do more than pass through this chamber…

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Old 12-11-2019, 05:10 AM
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The Inevitable
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Mummies? Aristides thought to himself. So this wasn’t the resting place of just Nefertum and those that dared rob him?

"Best we do not disturb anything. Or anyone," said Ximanteus, echoing Briaerys’ warning from earlier. "Jafri on his own is worthy of great caution; Khosep with him is a sure sign of retribution should we do more than pass through this chamber…"

"I wonder about that, Prince Imendjeref," said Aristides, as he walked to the other side of the room. "Those metallic amphoras, those obsidian statues, the ornate door from the room above and the treasures from the other rooms; so many temptations placed here to lure treasure hunters to their deaths. Why go through all the trouble of building such an extravagant tomb with as many defenses as this one, when they could have just buried Nefertum somewhere that is less likely to be disturbed, somewhere that called less attention to itself?"

"To me," he continued. "It seems like, sooner or later, individuals who possess a lot of information about Aurelian lore and skills suitable for grave robbing would be able to get past all of the traps that the tomb holds and eventually none would be able to prevent its treasures from being taken and its secrets from being uncovered. Even if we fall here, inevitably someone else would be able to conquer it."


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Old 12-11-2019, 07:41 PM
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Evander
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The climb down the rope had presented no real difficulty to the nimble hunter, who welcomed the chance for some physical exertion other that carrying and placing braziers to keep large stone doors from trapping them inside the tomb.

The first thing that caught the Sylvan’s attention were the bodies strewn at the bottom of the pit. He knew that among them rested Menalcas‘ father, having been denied a proper burial or funerary pyre. Evander approached the corpses, frowning at the sight of so many men deprived of the honors they were due. He had hoped to carry the bodies from the lotus chamber out of the tomb, but the people who had lost their lives inside this deadly mausoleum were too numerous, their bodies lying forgotten in the scarab chamber, the bottom of the shaft and even the now crumbled scorpion corridor. It was no longer realistic to hope that all these spirits would be offered a place in the afterlife, for Nekaon did not welcome the shades of the people who hadn’t been properly escorted to the underworld. Still, the hunter would have liked to offer Menalcas some peace of mind by returning to him the bodies of his father and brother. Perhaps the rest of the unfortunate souls could receive proper honors by proxy, it was possible that a cenotaph would soften the god’s stony heart. Despite his good intentions, the hunter was at a loss to recognize the elder elf’s parent. Kneeling among the bodies, Evander attempted to find even the smallest of details that would allow him to identify the proper corpse. At the same time, and despite lacking a deeper knowledge of elven and human anatomy, he also attempted to determine if the fall down the pit had ended the lives of these brave souls or rather if the bodies had been thrown inside it after their spirit had left their body.

Seeing that the rest of the group had moved on, the Sylvan entered the chamber as well, marveling at the skills of ancient Aurelian artisans. The statues of Jafri and Khosep, the first jackal-, the second falcon-headed, were the ones to immediately draw the hunter’s attention. Evander couldn’t understand why the Aurelians would choose to depict their gods as animal-headed people. There was a certain symbolism, certainly, but these bestial traits made the deities alien and unapproachable. The gods and goddesses of Helesa and the Sylvan lands to the north were always depicted as elves in their prime, the perfection of their body symbolizing their higher existence. In the days of yore it was not unusual for the gods to walk among the mortals, share a meal and sometimes even their host’s bed and fight next to or against heroes of flesh and blood. The eldest of Sylvan elves swore to have seen a deity roaming or hunting in the dark woods of the north, while most prominent Celestial families claimed at the very least a distant descent from a god or a goddess. Contrary to this, it seemed the Aurelian gods avoided mortal lands, more concerned with their duties like the judgement of the dead or the punishment of defilers of sacred places than with consorting with their worshippers. They lacked passion or at the very least this was the Sylvan’s impression of them. It was possible that he misunderstood them due to lack of knowledge. Perhaps this would be a good topic to discuss with Imendjeref…

Squinting his eyes, Evander turned his head first to the right, then to the left, having the impression of hearing a faint melody or song. Closing his eyes to more efficiently concentrate on the sound, the Sylvan was indeed better able to hear the music, though he was unable to pinpoint its origin. The words were strange and unknown to him, but the woman’s voice was so full of emotion and the melody so enchanting that he understood their meaning without difficulty. It was a call, an invitation of sorts, a cry born of loneliness and longing. The voice ethereal, coming from a pond, whose surface resembled that of a silver mirror, reflecting the face of the observer. The water was clear like crystal and yet Evander was unable to discern anything inside it, the reflected light blinding him. But then he finally saw her. A vision of a woman, a form more perfect than even the most magnificently sculpted statue, the tanned skin both delicate and supple, gleaming like bronze, each strand of raven-black hair having a life of ist own, dancing in the water and beckoning to be touched. The hunter was no stranger to beautiful women, having sought to experience life to the fullest. The women of his tribe had been like maple trees, tall and slender with an innate grace and a passionate heart. Kassia, the Sylvan had often teased her, resembled the dawn. She was young, rosy and sweet, full of vitality and promises of a better tomorrow. Queen Damaris on the other hand was like a mountain, standing stately and proud over the lowlands, its majesty, beauty and inaccessibility obvious to all. And yet this mysterious figure had a unique beauty that surpassed that of elven and human maidens and could not be easily defined. It was more than just a beauty of symmetry and form, elegance and manner, it resembled the divine, but also had a more earthy aspect, a certain magnetism that could not be resisted. It was the beauty of a siren, the passion of the beating heart, a song of salvation and destruction at the same time.

Evander could sense the presence of the Lady of the lotus pond beside him, or rather inside him? He could smell the fragrance of her skin, feel the cool water dripping from her hair and the warmth of her breath, see the ripples formed on the pond’s surface as the woman slowly emerged. He attempted to touch her, but his hand recoiled as a serpentine beast appeared next to her, its teeth eager to taste the flesh of anyone foolish enough to come closer, daring the Sylvan to forget all reservations and be brave, be a hero, be her hero. Evander may very well have heeded the serpent’s advice, had the Lady not opened her eyes to look directly into the hunter’s own. His eyes met hers for only an instant, but the surge of blurred images and pent up emotion proved enough to break his reverie and bring him back to reality. His mortal mind was unable to process so many information at once, the only thing that remained, like the aftertaste of an especially rich wine, was a feeling of comfort and warmth, a gentle energy that revived and rejuvenated him. No matter how hard he tried however, he was unable to recall the color of her eyes. Every time he attempted to bring the memory to the surface he saw only his reflection staring back at him from her shining eyes.

Still feeling dizzy from the experience, Evander looked around confused, hoping to catch a glimpse of the mysterious woman. And then he saw her, on the wall of the tomb, among the depictions of the many servants of Prince Nefertum, greater than any of them: the high priestess with the lotus wraith around her graceful neck.

"You see it too, Ambassador? Evander? Shall we explore?"

Briaerys‘ voice reminded the hunter that he was not alone in the chamber. Turning his head to gaze at the chimera, his look that of a Sylvan entering the forest only to find himself surrounded by dunes of sand under the eye of the hot Aurelian sun, Evander managed to silently nod. He followed Briaerys, but his eyes were blind to the statues of gods, metal containers, mummies and possible traps. They only saw her before him, his ears only heard her magical song, a song he just couldn‘t stop humming.


 


 
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Old 12-12-2019, 04:49 PM
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Philip and the Scholar - A Fairy TaleAshayet’s eyes narrowed and she scrutinised Philip for a short moment before answering him.

"No, she did not learn magic from me", she stated reservedly. "And as for the judiciousness of her use if it - it is well known that youngsters of your age often do not heed and do not see the wisdom in their elders’ advice. However, I am sure that you see how the present situation is preferable to you being the first to cast a spell and before Menalcas’ eyes." She did not know Philip well and was not sure which one was the right manner of speaking to him - but she gave it her best guess and would adapt.

Gritting his teeth, Philip took a moment before responding, though the expression on his face revealed his frustration and the further betrayal that he felt. "Oh yes," he answered, sarcasm dripping, "so much the better that the widely known private tutor and close councilor of the prince be the first. No one would dare conjecture that you passed on that knowledge as well. Tell me, how much of that line of reasoning is wisdom and how much is hubris?" As he spoke, his arms folded defensively against his chest.

"It seems the only thing beyond you perceived capabilities is admitting to a mistake," he argued stubbornly. "Though, I assume I should believe that you haven’t had a hand in her training. Surely a student of yours wouldn’t be so ill cautioned as to bring temples crashing down and releasing a poisonous gas that would infect the prince, now would she? I wonder which will kill us first, her recklessness or your ego." He had rarely dared address the elder at all in the past, nevermind in such a way, and as he vented his frustration his irritation died just enough for discomfort to set in.

"Look here, young man", said Ashayet icily. "It is all very understandable for one with your upbringing to be upset by these disorderly events, but you would do well to steel your reason and keep your composure." There was no anger in her voice, nor was she visibly upset - but her manner had acquired a new hardness.

"For what it's worth", she added rather dryly, "now that foreign eyes no longer observe us, you are free to indulge in the use of your magic in whatever way you judge responsible."

With that, she turned around to follow the others into the room they had discovered at the end of the short tunnel.

Forward in Space and TimeAshayet looked around in the light of her shining staff with a certain satisfaction. Finally things looked, essentially, normal, the way that a tomb was supposed to be. Given that there was a clear path forward and time was considered a limited resource in this endeavour, it seemed appropriate not to tally, and indeed Luvon and Briaerys were quick to explore the way.

Ashayet hesitated to follow them, and her decision was interrupted by Aristides' remarks.

"My dear Zephyr, I don't think a millennium is such a bad track record. And I daresay not many possess what, evidently, it takes to reach this place. Not everyone has such exacting standards as eternity, and we're rather fortunate for it", she retorted quizzically.

Then came Briaerys' voice from the corridor ahead. Ashayet did not contemplate her words or attempt to imagine what was being described, but wished to see for herself. She strode forward and as she entered it, her staff once again brightly illuminated the corridor. She inspected the sarcophagi, leaning down to better see what might be inscribed or depicted on them, then the mummies - and eventually her gaze was attracted by the unexpected light at the end of the corridor. She looked pensively in its direction for some moments, silent.

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Last edited by Mairien; 12-13-2019 at 03:50 PM.
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Old 12-13-2019, 12:39 PM
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Philip Angelis
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Philip clenched his chiseled jaw as Assaia chided him. Few people ever had the audacity to speak to him in such a way. Everyone here dismissed him as an afterthought, and here this was no different. The all-knowing, all-wonderful Assaia clearly saw him as nothing but a nuisance even though, as far as he could tell, he was one of the few with any claim to common sense stuck in this gods forsaken crypt. Then again, he was still in this crypt along with the rest of them. Maybe Kass was the only one smart enough to avoid such a fate. The thought infuriated and pleased him all the same and he stared daggers into Assaia’s back as she walked away.

For a moment, he considered his options. He was half inclined to climb back up the rope and leave… but he wasn’t entirely sure what was left of the antichamber now that Rys had brought the temple collapsing down around them.

‘How am I the only one concerned by this?’ He silently questioned. ‘They’re all insane. What has Kass gotten herself into? What has she gotten me into?’

All he wanted was to go home. Not back to Hestis or some tent on the beach, but to Heliandria itself. The thought of a nice hot bath, fruit and cheese, and the warm flesh of a woman pressed up against him as he lounged on his silk sheets felt like a far away dream. He closed his eyes for a moment, trying to strengthen his resolve before pushing forward into the next room - only because it seemed that he had no other choice.

As he entered, awe took place of angst. He stood in the doorway for a moment, his mouth slightly agape in wonder as he took in all the splendor of the room. Everywhere he looked, the deep black of obsidian, the bright reflections of gold, and the shining of faceted gems called to him. It was then that Rys, in an attempt to push past him, almost sent him straight onto the altar. He caught himself only a hand’s length away from it and froze in panic. If breathing in air could poison you, he could only imagine what falling upon a sacrificial altar in a crypt would do. He stood there frozen, trying to calm his racing heart until he was finally able to breathe again.

‘That woman is going to get us all killed. If not us all… then definitely me…’

As he recovered, his gaze swept the room once more. Matthaios and the priest were crowded on one side, but to the other…

The statue of Jafri stood alone against the other wall. Philip felt his feet carrying himself towards it. The stonework was exquisite, carved with the skill of a master artisan, one that would be famous had his work not been hidden in a death trap. There had been statues like it above, but here, trapped and feeling alone, this one called out to him. Though, nothing called out to him like the chest at its feet. He crouched down to get a closer look, inspecting all of the scenes, looking for some insight on what they portrayer or, perhaps, what they could tell him about that which lay inside.

As he stared, the box whispered promises of a life lost only to be regained. So much of what he had loved was now a distant memory. His future uncertain - even more so after being thrown into this dark pit. His marriage was being arranged, probably even as he crouched here, poison seeping through his veins. His house was nothing but a name now, and even then, what? Kassia had taken it upon herself to manage everything. There was nothing left for him here. Heir to the throne? He could count a dozen people who would likely kill him before letting that happen.

A terrible, paranoid thought came to him at that moment, that perhaps that was the true reason that he and Matthaios were stuck here while Melas was not. Still, even in his self pity that thought didn’t stick. Melas was one of the few who he would never imagine doing such a thing.

Philip let out a sigh. What he wouldn’t do to get away. He looked to the box again, its hinged lid looking almost weightless and so tempting. Curiosity clawed at him, but, even more so, did the opportunities that could lie within. The box itself could guarantee him a life of luxury, far from here. Perhaps he could even convince Kass to go as well. No one else saw the changes in her, the toll that the disaster and the new role were taking, but he did. She could take the child and marry some nobleman, live in luxury. He could find himself a wife with a nice dowry and never have another care in the world.

His fingers hesitantly reached forward towards the box, his focus almost trance-like.

"Keep an eye on Lord Philip as well. Kassia would kill me if anything happened to her brother."

His head snapped towards Rys as she spoke, irritation bubbling within him.

‘Keep an eye on me? Kassia will kill you? Not if I do so first...,’ he thought, the anger fueling his desire to escape even further.

Perhaps he would just leave Kass behind.

It was Xi’s words, along with the increased attention in his direction, that caused him to draw his hand back. The Hierophant was right, of course, and Philip himself had just criticized Rys’ impetuousness. He stood and brushed off his hands on his clothing before moving along.


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Last edited by DaysUntold; 12-14-2019 at 01:49 PM.
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Old 12-14-2019, 12:46 PM
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Gold Shadows
The Tomb of Nefertum, Evening of the 22nd of Sun Rule, Year 11 of the Fracture

Scene Soundtrack

"My Prince!" Came Rys' voice from within the shadows of the narrow corridor, catching Matthaios' attention. "There's another corridor at the far end and light. Firelight." The Prince narrowed his eyes at that report, momentarily looking at Imendjeref for a reaction. Their thoughts were one of the same -- firelight here? There was no evidence tomb raiders had ever made it this far. Without Fracture magic to ward off the cursed darkness of the pit, no ordinary thief would have dared the descent into the pit as they had. And even if such thieves had, never would a daring raider have left behind the valuables in this initial chamber alone. No, they were the first here since the tomb had been sealed. For there to be firelight now…

Taking the few quick steps it required for the Prince to close the gap between himself and the edge of the long corridor entrance, he looked back to Imendjeref. "And what of Nefertum and his family? Did they have the favor of Khosep?" He asked, responding to what the hierophant had explained earlier about the falcon-headed statue.

Catching Aristides' attention, Matthaios motioned him over with a purposeful flick of his fingers that otherwise held his spear. Setting his shield and spear down to rest against the wall, Matthaios slid his pack from his shoulders, quickly pulling free one of his last torches while extracting a clear vial of yellow liquid that had been given to him previously. As the Zephyr reached the Prince, he looked to his lone human companion, holding out the vial. "You're too pale, Aristides, even in this light," he said softly. There was no command in his voice nor a request. Just a simple offering. Matthaios respected his childhood friend too greatly to do otherwise. He then motioned to the torch that he carried while holding out his.

"Mummies along the south wall. They're laid out in the open on slabs stacked by three..." Rys called out from the dark.

As the second torch slowly caught fire, Matthaios shook his head. "The slave crypt," he muttered to himself, only to look between Aristides and Imendjeref. "We're close."

Torch in hand, he hoisted his heavy shield and pack onto his shoulders and back, quickly looking to the others who had remained in the room.

"Best we do not disturb anything. Or anyone," came the cryptic warning from the Aurelian hierophant. "Jafri on his own is worthy of great caution; Khosep with him is a sure sign of retribution should we do more than pass through this chamber…"

Matthaios nodded his head in agreement. "Then let us pass through," he suggested, his words lacking the usual command that would have otherwise been expected.

"Highness, we are halfway down the corridor. Shall we continue on to the next turn?" Came the question from Rys and her silent partner Luvon.

"No," he quickly responded, his voice loud enough to carry through the gloom. "Wait for us. We are coming." He looked then to Ashayet, Philip, and Evander, surveying their expressions before nodding once, not declaring his intentions to leave the room. Instead, his gaze settled on Aristides, his expression notably soft. "Stay close to me," he said, his concern evident in his tone.

Stepping into the narrow hallway first, Matthaios' torch illuminated the immediate path forward, highlighting as Rys had described earlier. A large, stone sarcophagus rested within a tight stone inlet, with a crumbling wooden chest seen at its foot. Having decayed slowly over the centuries, bits of the wood had broken away, revealing a preview of what looked to be the personal belongings of perhaps a freeman, possibly a guard or priest. Old cotton wraps, bronze trinkets, and copper jewelry could be seen through the cracks and holes as Matthaios approached. The sarcophagus itself was unmarked, with no visible glyphs denoting who rested beneath the stone slab. Even the surrounding walls, while beautifully decorated with brilliant paintings, only showed familiar scenes of the Warrior Prince Nefertum slaying monstrosities.


But as that corner was finally rounded, the mummified remains of half a dozen corpses came into view. As Rys had described, several stacks of stone slabs rested above one another, holding three mummies per column. Each were tightly wrapped, though it was clear there had been no meticulous care taken. Rather than their individual extremities wrapped, it looked as though their entire body had been swaddled by oiled fabric. Over time, decay and desiccation had shrunk the corpses, forcing them to adopt strange and unnatural poses and positions, almost appearing as if they had been cocooned by some monstrous spider. Three, six, nine…

Spotting Rys and Luvon up ahead, Matthaios slowly moved forward to where they waited. At their side, another imposing, if not impressive, statue of the jackal-headed god. Much like those in the previous chamber, this obsidian statue was inlaid with gold and silver, likely worth a small fortune in its own right. Beyond him, another three stacks of mummified remains rested in their eternal slumber. "Slaves," Matthaios said as he looked over the corpses and then to Ashayet, who confirmed his inference with a nod. "Likely executed when the Prince died, so that they may join and continue serving him in the afterlife," he said as an audible trace of disapproval, if not disgust, darkened his voice. Shaking his head, he looked past Rys and Luvon to the end of the long corridor, spotting the flickering firelight emanating from the next sharp turn. Taking in a heavy, determined breath, Matthaios slowly reached up to his helmet, pulling it purposefully down to cover his face. He looked to Luvon and Rys then, nodding his head once. Proceed.
Scene Soundtrack

Each step forward felt eternal; each sound louder than the last. Each of them had seen the schematic procured by Ashayet and Luvon. There was only so much of the tomb left to explore, to uncover. Eventually...

Breathe. It started at their core, buried deep in their chest. A quick beat of their heart, followed by another. The gap between each drum shrunk with every successive pulse. Faster and faster. A rhythm, a cadence. Breathe. Another step. A crackle of fire from the torches. A pop of tiny embers. Faster and faster. The light from ahead grew brighter, larger. Breathe. The air was stale, empty, dry. Lips were parched. Their throats dry. Faster and faster. They stepped in unison. Shadows danced. A quick beat of their hearts. A pop of tiny embers. Breathe.

The sharp edge of the corridor was rounded. Another short corridor. Four flames burned ahead. Four beacons in the dark.

Breathe.

Faster and faster. Their thoughts raced. Images of horror. Images of prestige. Flash after flash. Some glittered gold, others bubbled crimson. But the worst were the shadows. Glimpses of figures. Faceless men. Just at the edge. Torchlight. Faster and faster. Breathe. The beat quickened. A mountain of fire. Ships upon a gray sea. Arks. Eyes filled with hope. Cries of deafening despair. Flash after flash. Poison. Decoys. Jafri. Obsidian and gold. Eternal death, legendary life. Breathe. Faster and faster. Drums, battle drums, deafening drums.

Silence.

Stillness.

Shadows.

Gold.

The flames grew in intensity. They brightened, pushing back the gloom, illuminating the room. Statues of gold. Magnificent falcons upon the bodies of lions. Four columns, tall, towering. Four obsidian guardians. Four jackal-headed statues. A single sarcophagus of gilded marble. A lone jackal. Watching. Waiting.

One by one, their lips parted and eyes widened. At the center of the room, four large braziers, held by four falcon sphinxes, illuminated the room. As the group stepped deeper into the chamber, each of the enchanted flames brightened, as if in a strange welcome. The space before them was massive. And every corner of it gleamed in pride.

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Each of the four falcon-headed sphinxes, even under a thin coating of dust, looked to be made of gold. The surrounding four lotus columns that held up a fifteen-foot ceiling, were encased in circular electrum plates, with veins of both silver and gold running through them. Each was meticulously and beautifully etched with glyphs and imagery, reflecting the firelight in an illustrious coruscation. Even the walls of the room looked to have a thin layer of gold leafing and plates, each sharing their own story and legend.

But the most commanding element of the room rested directly opposite of them on the far wall. There, a large marble altar rested in the quiet. Two series of stairs, no more than six or seven stone steps, ran parallel on either side of the tomb's prized possession: a gilded marble sarcophagus. But even more imposing was the single statue of gold that attentively laid upon the lid, a large jackal with sharply elongated ears, forever vigilant.

As the realization of their discovery slowly became more apparent, the wondrous gazes of the mortals dared to try and take in more of what they saw. To their left, a table of gleaming weapons, blades, axes, and daggers. An anvil, untarnished by time, sat closeby, flanked by several dozen burlap sacks. The frayed and fractured edges of several of the sacks hinted at their contents, looking to contain rolls of silk and linen. Several gilded chests, each stacked atop one another, were found nearby, partially obscuring a bronze statue of a scaled-down chariot with four horses. Silver amphoras of varying sizes surrounded the chariot, each appearing like those seen earlier -- a mix of silver and copper, ornately crafted and decorated. In fact, there were amphoras everywhere, filling in the empty spaces of the chamber's edges, failing to even give a hint of what was contained within.

Slowly, they each fanned out, searching the treasure chamber.

Some first traveled to the far left edge of the room, having spotted a cart filled with additional items of war -- spears, shields, cuirasses, helmets, and curved blades. However, it was upon the large alter that they noticed the strange sight of an ancient wooden boat, appearing as if it had cracked over the centuries from decay. At its center, a pile of parchment tomes and books, bound in leather, copper, and even gold. Surrounding it, woven baskets and mottled obsidian urns. There was even a gilded birdcage resting just adjacent to a smaller glass orb, held up by four gold cobras, their mouths agape and fangs gleaming.

Others found their attention drifting over the jackal guarded sarcophagus and to the far right corner. There, a wooden chariot rested, held up by a pair of large brass chests. Beneath the chariot, four clay urns rested, sealed just like their more impressive, metallic brethren. Surrounding the chariot upon the extended alter, several golden plates and figurines could be seen, including a cat and a figure of Jafri. The lone silver item looked to be a small box, with its exterior decorated beautifully with imagery of crocodiles and storks within a river.

Of all the corners of the chamber, though, it was the far right one just before the altar that appeared the most cluttered. Stacks of painted chests, a collection of amphoras, and a reinforced wooden table holding up a gilded box and black, metallic chest. Nearby, a gold box waited in silence, depicting a woman harvesting grain from a riverbank. There were two additional brass chests tucked away between the pair of gold falcon-sphinxes to the right, with another silver box resting on top.

But the strangest assortment of treasures appeared to be in the right corner closest to the entrance, where a robust wooden shelving unit contained all manner of contraptions and items. There were small black chests, urns filled with ash, tiny lockboxes, and even a human skull beset with gleaming red gems. Closeby, two wooden tables were seen. The first looked to be covered in a decaying, spotted leopard pelt. Four items of note could be seen. The first, a small, bronze statue of the legendary Celestial hydra. The second, a small decorated box, with a thin layer of obsidian outlined with tiny gemstones. Third, a gold mortar and pestle, otherwise empty. But strangest of all, the fourth, a silver cauldron filled with a black and orange substance that gleamed like liquid metal.

The second table, pushed up against the nearby lotus column, held another array of unexpected objects. There was a stone sphinx, winged like those seen at the entrance of the tomb. A small, gold jewelry box and an open book with faded ink on parchment. A single, large, brass bowl, filled with three stranges glass orbs -- each colored curiously. One a russet red, the second a dark blue and purple, and the last, a speckled green. But strangest of all was the nest made from a combination of silver and bronze strips, with three egg-like stones contained within -- one blue, one bronze, and the last gold.

Although mesmerized by the surrounding treasure, Matthaios found his gaze fixated on the lone sarcophagus in the room. Advancing into the center of the chamber, he stared ahead at it. Slowly, as if in disbelief, he pulled his helmet up to rest atop his head once more, allowing him to stare at the magnificent display in awe. "This is…" He shook his head. "...not possible…" He said to anyone willing to listen. "The riches in this room… my father's tomb would not have had even a quarter of what is here…" The statement was significant, considering Heliandria was understood to be one of the wealthiest of all the city-states in Helesa, second only to Empyrea itself.

"Nefertum would have had to squeeze every bit of wealth from his people for decades," Matthaios said aloud. "To achieve this."


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Old 12-14-2019, 02:54 PM
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The Eternal Flame
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Ashayet stepped up to Matthaios' side and surveyed the surroundings. The sight was mesmerising. Only after a moment did she notice that the brazier next to her did not give off warmth. She frowned and stepped closer to it to investigate, extended her hand - there was no heat gradient. Closer and closer did she bring it, until the flames curled and danced around her fingers. She felt nothing. She withdrew her hand and looked at it in fascination. There were no signs of damage or harm.

Flames, a thousand years old. Eternal flames that did not heat, did not burn, did not smoke, and forever gave light. The realisation positively exploded in Ashayet's mind. Her heart jumped. She had always suspected that such a thing must be possible, and now she had proof. And then there was that other potential implication of everything she had seen until here... "Eternal flames that do not burn. Hem-netjer, would any of the priestly profession have been able to bring forth such a thing?" she asked, marvelling.

If the ancients really had had Fracture Magic, if this was not the result of some priestly ritual she did not know of, then why did nobody know, why was there no trace of it left? A thousand years were not that long, not even twice her own lifetime - why did this knowledge die? Why had it not transformed the world then, why were not all streets of the world now flooded with perennial light? It was just like Aurelians to consider any such frivolous and hide the discovery. What madness - and what luck that the world would have another chance.

"Matthaios", she said almost dreamily, forgetting any formalities, "do you see what this could mean? For humanity... not to be bound by darkness any longer?"

By chance she caught sight of a series of strange lines nearby along the floor. Upon a closer look, it turned out that the floor space directly between the pair of gold falcon-sphinxes had a strange pattern etched subtly into the copper tiles. It failed to match anything else in the room. Stepping closer, she recognised what it depicted: a lotus. The same symbol that had been seen throughout the tumb, but most notably on the floor outside the false tomb they had first explored.

Suspicious, she carefully extracted the map schematic she and Luvon had acquired and unrolled it. Studying it, she looked back and forth between the schematic, then the lotus design, back to the schematic, and then to the rest of the room. There should have been a column there, rather than an empty floor space. Looking to the opposite side of the pathway, she noted the same lotus design on the floor, also where a column should have been. Suddenly, she realised that they were not market on the map like the other, actually present columns: they were not darkened in, but merely outlined.

Ashayet put the map away and, intrigued, set upon inspecting the lines of the lotus engraving. They had likely been added after the tiles had already been laid down. She was wary of touching them and carefully examined them visually for any signs of powder or some kind of trigger, but after an exhaustive search found no trace of such.

She began to examine the tiles directly by touching them, pressing them with her hand, and eventually tapping on them. They seemed to be different in no discernible way from the other tiles around them that did not bear any markings. Eventually, she placed her right foot on the symbol and put her weight on it. Curiously enough, the tiles appeared to give in the slightest bit. As the put her entire weight on the them, they gave in a tiny bit more, very subtly, but enough to conclude that there was not the same hard stone beneath them as beneath the others.

It stood to reason that the schematic did not mark a column here at all, but rather a doorway of some sort. The tiles were likely covering some kind of wooden entry to a room beneath the treasure chamber - very possibly the last remaining chamber that was indicated in the schematic without any clear access.

"We haven't reached the end just yet", she announced, surprisingly upbeat. "Look at these lotus symbols etched into the tiles. I think there are doorways underneath that must lead into the last chamber."

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Last edited by Mairien; 12-14-2019 at 02:55 PM.
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Old 12-14-2019, 04:57 PM
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Philip Angelis
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Philip had never abhored the idea of slavery like his sister had, yet, here in this buried chamber the bodies surrounding him felt of… waste… Perhaps it was his recent thoughts on where his life would take him, on having a family and reestablishing his household elsewhere, on the potential of what he might yet experience. Whatever it was, seeing these mummified remains of what were undoubtedly young, healthy slaves cut down in their prime reached him in a way that living with slaves never had. For a moment, he wondered about their lives. What experiences were denied them? How many mourned their pointless passing?

He walked by each of the bodies, studying each one as if his witness of their sacrifice could somehow bring more value to it. His general aire of irreverence faded briefly, just long enough to form an almost imperceptible crack in his view of his world. Yet a crack there was.

As his gaze settled upon the statue, he found himself silently contemplating it. The craftsmanship was truly remarkable. The more he saw of it the more he struggled to remember even one that was so exquisite back home. He didn’t sculpt, but he knew enough of commissioning one to know that the length of time needed to create something of this quality was quite substantial. If these were all done by one artisan… it was quite possible that the man or woman had spent a good bit of their best years working on these statues that would never be appreciated, never venerated, would never inspire the work of another. More waste.

The longer he walked around the tomb, the more quiet he became. Alone, forgotten, wasted, unappreciated… a quiet depression had been burning low since Belos and this place spoke to those feelings, fanning the embers, threatening to turn them into something more. He found himself staring into the endless void that the well polished obsidian slowly became.

It was in this quiet reflection that he began to notice the eeriness about the figure that he was studying so intently. The statue of the god had not captured him solely due the beauty or skill of the artisan. It was more than that. It felt almost… supernatural.

Something about the eyes of the statue caught him. A smirk reappeared on his face as he noticed, with amusement, that they seemed to be staring back at him with the same intensity he had been staring at them. Only, there were no pupils, simply an eternal darkness. He moved to the side, keeping his eyes on the statue only to notice how the eyes seemed to follow him. He was about to remark to the others when he heard it.

A sound. A faint whisper on the edge of his consciousness. Like the kiss of a lily against a full, red lip. The voice sounded otherworldly, beautiful.

A chill ran down his spine and his jaw dropped. He glanced feverishly from one to another of his companions, expecting to see his own expression reflected in theirs. Only - he didn’t. They all seemed to be carrying on, paying various degrees of attention to the corpses and the paintings opposite them. The corpses, could that be where the voice came from? Or more shadows like the ones in the chamber above? He looked, unable to come up with an explanation, but the voice came to him again, calling him with its melodic cadence, soft as the beating of a dragonfly wing.

As the song she sang enveloped him, the flickering embers of anger and resentment within him quieted, changing instead to a calming warmth that spread through his body, easing his worries and lending him a strength that he had thought lost. The relaxation was intoxicating, lulling him into an almost trance-like state and he felt his eyelids growing heavier until finally they closed.

The noises the others made faded from his awareness. His body felt as if it had been submerged in a warm bath and his limbs began to feel weightless. The song, her voice, grew louder as he focused on it, letting the rest of the world dissolve until there was nothing left but her. A dot the size of a coin expanded in his mind’s eye, turning slowly into a lake of silver, like pure mercury, its surface rippling against some unpresent wind until it was disturbed by the most delicate of fingers breaking free from below. His breath caught in his lungs as fragile curves and precise angles emerged from the depths. Tight, curly locks of jet black hair broached next before revealing an impossibly perfect face of a woman that felt familiar and alien all the same. His lungs tightened. He couldn’t breathe, but he didn’t need to. He felt himself falling into her presence. Never had he seen a woman so beautiful, so exquisitely perfect that even the most brilliant of painters could never have imagined someone such as she.

A new sound joined the ethereal voice, undercutting the gentleness with a soft, yet ominous drumbeat. A warning. A large figure emerged nearby, circling, guarding as if to prevent him from answering her call. Its yellow-green eyes beckoned, not as the woman did, but in a mocking challenge. Sharp, white teeth poked free from the reptilian snout that was forever frozen in a mocking sneer.

Near, she floated, her tanned skin glistening and crimson lips parted seductively. The silver liquid ran from her like the gentle fingers of an expectant lover. Her hair danced on the surface of the water, never straying too far lest they be unable to find their way back to her beauty.

Still, the creature circled.

The wind in his lungs burned, desperate to call out to her. To warn her. To save her. Still, the words wouldn’t come, no matter what he tried. Inwardly he screamed and her eyes flashed open, sending a surge of warmth and strength through him.

As his eyes opened, one last drumbeat sent a shiver down his spine.

Blinking rapidly, he felt like he had just woken up from a long sleep. The Empyrean looked around, unsure what to expect, but found the others milling around as they had been before. He tensed and loosed his hands, trying to feel a part of the world once more, and finally let out the breath he had been holding. Slowly, as if letting it go would be letting her go.

But, he wouldn’t. He couldn’t. He was hers now.

In his mind, a lingering image of a silver pond with a lotus sitting upon it remained.




Philip’s footsteps felt lighter as he followed the others into the other room. In fact, all of him did, as if a great weight had been lifted from him.

The opulence of the next chamber left him speechless, leaving the other rooms to pale in comparison. Gold and jewels glistened everywhere, letting the flames dance off of their surface. Silver and copper swam together in a way that reminded him of her graceful form and the silver lake that encapsulated her. What should have been unattainable riches surrounded him, but all thoughts of running away had vanished. All he wanted to do was find her, let his eyes rest upon her face, his hand upon her soft curves... One thing pushed past all of that into his awareness.

The lotus. It was her.

Philip pushed through to Assaia’s side, crouching next to her as he ran his fingers across the carvings in the doorway.

" Who…" he started, his voice dry as if it hadn’t been used in days, "A woman, dark black hair and an impossible beauty, surrounded by lotus. Does… does she sound familiar to you?" His question dripped with sincerity and concern, his blue eyes searching those of the teacher as she revealed her findings.

Last edited by DaysUntold; 12-14-2019 at 04:58 PM.
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