Following the lead from their new tentative ally, the Valley Forge comes upon a pre-warp world in an all too familiar situation where a powerful entity becomes worshipped as a god by the locals.
Keliaya@anncaris | Activity is high on the VF bridge as the ship exits the wormhole towards the Sheemo system, where their next lead lies... Keliaya@anncaris | The ship emerges from the wormhole with the Observer's craft in front, and the star of the system visible as a brighter speck than the others ahead in the distance Keliaya@anncaris | The Observer's ship moves to dock with the VF as the bridge crew works away to analyze their new surroundings Keliaya@anncaris:"Long range sensors are picking up a small modern energy signature on the outward side of the ninth planet, matching the Arshai monitoring satellite." Keelah@crystyl nods, "Anything else out there of note?" Keliaya@anncaris | Lennie sees that the fourth planet of the system is indeed inhabitable, but it's not really the fourth planet. It is orbited by a smaller but certainly planet-sized satellite much larger than - Keliaya@anncaris - Earth's moon, a double-planet. Sheemo III, much like Earth's moon, is also completely uninhabitable Keelah@crystyl listens curiously to the report, "A rare configuration indeed. Environmental conditions on both planets must be quite extraordinary" Keliaya@anncaris:"No other technological signatures on sensors, including from the habitable planet." Keelah@crystyl:"Alright then. Let's make ourselves comfortable in orbit and get a proper look at the place" Keliaya@anncaris | Ann: "Aye Cap'n, movin' in to establish an orbital position now." Keliaya@anncaris | As the VF approaches, Lennie soon picks up the distinct radiation on the surface and it does look to be much more concentrated and recent here Keelah@crystyl:"Then let us focus our initial survey on the surrounding area" Keliaya@anncaris | Ann: "Should I set us into orbit above the centre o' the radiation?" Keelah@crystyl nods, "Geosync on those coordinates. Maximum initial range" Keliaya@anncaris | Ann nods and sets the ship into orbit Keliaya@anncaris taps on her console, "Technological level is as the Colonial Fleet data described. The radiation is coming from a large port city near the equatorial region. It seems to encompass the entire - Keliaya@anncaris:- city and surrounding land in non-lethal amounts. The epicentre is a massive structure in the centre of the city and radiation does reach dangerous levels within." Keelah@crystyl:"Can we get a look at the structure?" Keliaya@anncaris nods, "Magnifying now..." Keliaya@anncaris FX | The viewscreen zooms down until the buildings of the city are visible. A huge complex can clearly be seen in the centre which dwarfs the residences and other structures nearby Keliaya@anncaris | The image focuses on the large complex: https://discoveringegypt.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/07/luxorTemple1-871x495.jpg Keliaya@anncaris:"Radiation is too strong to get reliable readings, so I can't say if there's any advanced technology in there." Keelah@crystyl:"I think it is safe to say that they hold this place in quite high regard" she turns, "Does that mean it will interfere with our technology on the ground as well, transporters and communications?" Keliaya@anncaris nods, "We can't beam directly into that complex and comms will likely go out once any away team is past the walls, but we should be able to maintain communications through the rest of the city." Keelah@crystyl:"That's something at least. What about the radiation? Now that we can see it up close, where do we stand on protection?" Keliaya@anncaris:"The levels are low enough in most parts of the city that we should be fine, but we'll definitely want protection if we enter the complex that seems to be the source of the radiation. Which could - Keliaya@anncaris:- be a problem if the away team is going down disguised as the locals because EV suits will probably look very out of place..." Keelah@crystyl:"Lennie, take a look at the data with Kazra and see if you can come up with anything" Keelah@crystyl | Lennie nods, "We'll see wha' we can do!" Keliaya@anncaris:"I don't think there's anything else I can learn from shipboard sensors, We'll definitely have to send a team down to investigate further." Keelah@crystyl:"We'll begin cultural assimilation immediately and get feet on the ground as soon as we can" --- NPC@annpc#557 | Lennie enters sickbay to find Kazra and Zanah working on something in the office Lendaria@crystyl strolls in with a casual wave, "Ladies. Ain't interruptin' nothin' I hope?" NPC@annpc#557 | Kazra turns to Lennie as she enters, "Not at all. We're just working on analyzing the locals of the planet and developing adequate cosmetic disguises." Lendaria@crystyl:"Aah th'joys o'life for a starship doc, right?" NPC@annpc#557 | Kazra chuckles, "Fortunately this one's not hard at all. The only distinguishing feature of the species seems to be patterns on the earlobes. Other than that, the locals of the area we're - NPC@annpc#557:- looking at mostly have tan to darker skin." NPC@annpc#557 | Zanah nods, "I could blend in with just some ear prosthetic makeup." Lendaria@crystyl:"No fine shades o'green? Their loss" she grins. "Anyways, I'se got somethin' a lil' more interestin' for y'all t'figure" she hands over a PADD NPC@annpc#557 | Kazra takes the PADD, beginning to scroll through it, "What's this?" Lendaria@crystyl:"This's sensor data on th'radiation down there. Suits're out - thank th'Goddess - but tha' means we need medical protection. Think ya can rustle somethin' up?" NPC@annpc#557 | Kazra nods, "Standard radiation medicine should protect your DNA from damage, but we can cook up something specifically tailored to this type of radiation so it's more effective," she hands - NPC@annpc#557:- the PADD to Zanah, who begins reading through it as well NPC@annpc#557 | Zanah: "Is it just me, or does this look like highly concentrated background radiation?" Lendaria@crystyl:"Yeah, we've no idea how long minimum exposure'll be so th'better we can protect folks th'better" smiles over to Zanah, "I said th'same thing when we first saw th'data too" NPC@annpc#557 | Zanah: "It can't be a coincidence. Could it be...creation energy?" Lendaria@crystyl:"It's comin' from our artifact, so who knows!" NPC@annpc#557 | Kazra: "What do you mean, creation energy?" NPC@annpc#557 | Zanah: "It's not a recognized type of energy. It was theorized by Trill physicist Jarbin Sul in pre-Federation times; he believed the background radiation found through deep space are remnants - NPC@annpc#557:- of the Big Bang that created the universe, and the energy levels were much higher once. Sul thought it was connected to dark energy and the expansion of the universe in some way, but was - NPC@annpc#557:- never able to prove his work before Jarbin passed away and his next host pursued a different area of research." Lendaria@crystyl:"Wow, ya really know ya stuff wit' all this" NPC@annpc#557 | Kazra gives a surprised look as well, "The works of Sul aren't standard Academy reading. Even I'm not familiar with them outside the research of Vaussa Sul." NPC@annpc#557 | Zanah: "I never read them. Must be one of those lingering things from Professor Lycas...you know what he does for light reading." Lendaria@crystyl chuckles, "No arguments there" NPC@annpc#557 | Zanah: "I suppose an ancient artifact like this might've found some way to produce or harness creation energy, if anything can," she steps over to the console, "A few adjustments to the - NPC@annpc#557:- standard radiation hypos should be able to tune them to these specific wavelengths. We'll have it ready in an hour or two." Lendaria@crystyl:"Perfect!" NPC@annpc#557 | Kazra: "And we'll have everything you need for cosmetic disguises by then too, we'll just have to apply it to whoever's going on the away team." Lendaria@crystyl:"Sounds like all's in order then. I'll leave ya to it an' get back to th'cultural studies" NPC@annpc#557 | Kazra nods, "Good luck, Commander." --- T'Lana@anncaris FX | https://i.imgur.com/UMmKatg.jpg T'Lana@anncaris | Lennie, T'Lana, Sin and Zanah beam down to the outskirts of the large city... T'Lana@anncaris | Zanah looks around and seeing no one nearby, does a scan, "Radiation shouldn't be a problem here, so I recommend saving the hypos for later. One hypo should give us a few hours, maybe an hour - T'Lana@anncaris - in the very epicentre." Lendaria@crystyl nods, "You all know the drill, everyone remember who we are and why we're here if asked?" Lendaria@crystyl | Meanwhile, Sin's first instinct is not to blend in, but to snap her fingers to see if she can wield magic like the last time she faced such surroundings T'Lana@anncaris nods, "I do not anticipate many issues blending in. This is a large port city, which means foreign travellers must be common," she looks over to the distance, "Getting inside that complex may be - T'Lana@anncaris - another matter, however." T'Lana@anncaris | Sin does not appear to have access to more abilities than she normally does Lendaria@crystyl | Sin pouts at the revelation, regardless of how expected the outcome is. It would have been nice after all Lendaria@crystyl:"True enough. Even without knowing the science of it, I bet the locals know that they suffer if they get close in there" T'Lana@anncaris:"Perhaps that is why they built the complex, to cordon off the dangerous area. If that is the case, they will likely seek to prevent us from entering." Lendaria@crystyl:"Possible. But that wouldn't explain the elongated profile of it, unless there's more cultural significance" T'Lana@anncaris:"Given the development of most cultures during this stage of history, it would not be surprising for the locals to have attributed some spiritual connection to the source of the radiation. I - T'Lana@anncaris:- suggest we proceed into the city and see how close we can get to the structure. That should provide us more information as to what the locals think of it, and by what means we may gain entry." Lendaria@crystyl nods, "Agreed, let's check it out!" she glances to Sin, "You didn't really think that would work here did you...?" Lendaria@crystyl | Sin shrugs, "Was worth a shot!" Lendaria@crystyl chuckles, "Can't blame you for trying I suppose. Alright ladies, time to go sightseeing!" T'Lana@anncaris | The team proceeds to the gates of the city, where, much like Belyia, several guards stand, inspecting merchant caravans that pass through. They are forced to stand in the sun and wait, which - T'Lana@anncaris:- combined with the heat of the region is far from a pleasant experience Lendaria@crystyl enjoys the humidity, at least more than Sin. She falls in line, following the crowds T'Lana@anncaris | The guards on the city gates wear white robes and seem to have no armour at all, which is little surprise given the heat under the sun. They carry simple spears with wooden shafts and a metal - T'Lana@anncaris:- tip and a dagger and water flask on their belt T'Lana@anncaris | The team's universal translators quickly catch on to the language as the guards inspect the caravans ahead of them, and by their turn, they are easily able to understand the locals T'Lana@anncaris | Guard: "No wagon of goods? So what brings you to Kalduun?" Lendaria@crystyl:"Eh, another trip out from the port. Bosses; always want to be the first to find something new and exotic, you know how it is. Want want want, but when it comes to actually setting foot off land, oh- Lendaria@crystyl:- no, that's 'beneath' them. So back out we go!" T'Lana@anncaris | The guard chuckles, "Meanwhile they get to enjoy their stay in the taverns and theatres. Typical. Let's hope they don't send you out of the city too much now. It's a lot nicer in here than it - T'Lana@anncaris:- is out there. Especially once you get far enough from the coast and start to enter the deserts. Downright brutal terrain." Lendaria@crystyl shudders, "I hope not! Is it true what they say about the deserts then? Are they really that bad?" T'Lana@anncaris | Guard: "Every word. If the day's heat or night's chill doesn't get you, the beasts will. Only chance you have out there is if you run into one of the desert tribes, and that's a gamble because - T'Lana@anncaris:- they're just as likely to kill you as they are to help you. They're nice people if they like you, but they don't tend to trust outsiders." Lendaria@crystyl:"Well here's hoping the next ship out is going somewhere nicer then! But... we should move on, you've got your job to do too right!" T'Lana@anncaris | The guard nods and casually gestures for them to head on inside as he moves to the next group behind them Lendaria@crystyl gives a cheery wave to him in parting as they head in T'Lana@anncaris | Not far past the gates, they find a small market square filled with merchants peddling their goods at stalls. Here, the guards dress similarly to the ones at the gate, but seem to have - T'Lana@anncaris:- scimitars inside the city rather than spears T'Lana@anncaris | Now inside the city, Sin begins to feel a powerful presence deep inside the complex they are headed, something strong but at the same time dormant Lendaria@crystyl explores the market idly, taking it all in and finding something uniquely enjoyable about such a setting Lendaria@crystyl | Sin, "There is something here" T'Lana@anncaris | Whatever it is, it's much more powerful than even the Chlasi Exalted and is closer to Q's level of power, but where Q is like a burning star, this presence feels like a singularity core, - T'Lana@anncaris:- carefully contained T'Lana@anncaris looks to Sin, "What do you sense?" Lendaria@crystyl | Sin shakes her head, "I don't know yet. It feels kind of like Q but... opposite?" Lendaria@crystyl:"An anti-Q?! That doesn't sound good" T'Lana@anncaris | Zanah nods, "I don't like the sound of that either. This coming from the same place the radiation is?" Lendaria@crystyl | Sin: "If I had to guess, yeah. I felt it as soon as we entered the city, so maybe as we get closer it will get more pronounced" T'Lana@anncaris:"Let us proceed towards the complex, then." Lendaria@crystyl nods and keeps exploring T'Lana@anncaris | They pass through a number of smaller square and residential areas. It seems that the closer to the complex, the more affluent the city's residents are. They transition from small, rather - T'Lana@anncaris:- cramped houses of simple construction to larger ones belonging to individuals who dress in clothes made from what is clearly finer fabric, sometimes embroidered with patterns. As they near the - T'Lana@anncaris:- complex, Sin does sense whatever is inside it more and more. Though its power is closer to Q's level, it's unlike anything she's felt before, not even the Basilisk was like this T'Lana@anncaris | The closest thing was that being in a subspace pocket that the VF encountered which paralyzed the entire crew and gave the first field trial of the implants... Lendaria@crystyl | Sin is clearly uncomfortable by the unfamiliar presence. Most likely more frustration at the unknown nature of what she senses T'Lana@anncaris | Zanah notices Sin's discomfort, turning to her, "Everything alright? The heat's not too uncomfortable for you, is it?" Lendaria@crystyl | Sin: "It's not the heat. It's the competition..." T'Lana@anncaris | Zanah gazes to the complex, "Whatever's in there?" Lendaria@crystyl | Sin nods: "It's definitely getting stronger feeling the closer we get" T'Lana@anncaris | Zanah: "Any idea what it is? And if it's a danger to us?" Lendaria@crystyl | Sin shakes her head, "I only know it doesn't feel like any other presence I've felt before, so I can tell you it's not a Basilisk a Q or a... whatever that creepy witch thing was who keeps - Lendaria@crystyl:- showing up. If it's as strong as it feels though to be on that level, it's dangerous - as much as I am even, maybe a little more. All comes down to intent" Lendaria@crystyl chuckles to herself and eyerolls at the persistent insistence of her own supremacy T'Lana@anncaris | Zanah: "Maybe a little more? If you're willing to admit that, must be really powerful..." Lendaria@crystyl | Sin promptly recovers, "I only said /maybe/..." Lendaria@crystyl:"However powerful it is or isn't, sure as hells ain't got as big an ego. Right Sin?" Lendaria@crystyl | Sin hrmphs and nods firmly, "Damned straight". At least she's honest T'Lana@anncaris | Zanah chuckles as well and continues on T'Lana@anncaris | A bit more walking later, and they come across the largest square yet, a huge empty space with large buildings to either side and with the statue of a robed bearded figure holding an ornate - T'Lana@anncaris:- staff in the centre. At the end of the square is the first flight of stairs that leads up to the complex, but guards line the bottom of the staircase. These ones wear some sort of light leather - T'Lana@anncaris:- vests and hold spears and shields. On the flight above, several guards with quivers on their belts and bows in hand can also clearly be seen T'Lana@anncaris | Zanah: "If I had to guess, I'd say this is as far as we can go unimpeded." Lendaria@crystyl:"Alright T'Lana. Getting into places you shouldn't is more your thing than ours, so what do you think?" Lendaria@crystyl | Sin huffs, "Hey! Speak for yourself" Lendaria@crystyl sighs and corrects herself, "Getting into places you shouldn't - /quietly/ - is more your thing than ours". turns to Sin, "Better?" Lendaria@crystyl | Sin beams and gives a firm nod T'Lana@anncaris looks around, "I do not see any apparent way inside without having to pass by the guards. Perhaps we will see an opening if we observe their changes of guard or wait until nightfall. However, - T'Lana@anncaris:- since we are posing as foreign visitors, I do not see the harm in asking the guards what they know of this place. Such a grand structure would naturally attract the attention of those who come to - T'Lana@anncaris:- the city, so curiosity would not be out of place." T'Lana@anncaris:"Conversation is not likely to gain us entry directly, but it could provide valuable information for us." Lendaria@crystyl smiles and nods, "Alright, not like a little curiosity ever did any harm after all!" Lendaria@crystyl | Sin mumbles, "Tell that to the Caitian..." T'Lana@anncaris | Zanah chuckles, "Now this is your specialty, Commander.â€ Lendaria@crystyl beams, making her way over towards where the guards are, staring up and around - even circling as she moves - in awe T'Lana@anncaris | One of the guards looks over to her, "First time in Kalduun?" Lendaria@crystyl turns with a meek smile, "That obvious, huh? Sorry! It's just so... I don't know, what's the word... inspiring, dominating, impressive? All of the above!" she chuckles T'Lana@anncaris | The guard smiles back, "I've seen that reaction a thousand times. The temple's an impressive structure. I'm told it puts the temples of other cities to shame, and not just the architecture." Lendaria@crystyl:"Not /just/ the architecture? How so then?" T'Lana@anncaris | Guard: "Well, I've never been far from Kalduun myself, but plenty of my friends have fought in the expansionary campaigns. They say the priests of other cities are nothing more than glorified - T'Lana@anncaris:- scribes and herbalists. None of them have the powers that Ketkolep gives our priests." Lendaria@crystyl:"Wait wait wait. Ketkolep... empowers the priests at this temple? I bet that's just a line you're told to feed all the visitors isn't it!" she chuckles T'Lana@anncaris | Guard: "Not at all. I don't believe you for not believing me, you're an outsider, after all. You've never seen what they're capable of. Even those who don't believe in Ketkolep, they say many - T'Lana@anncaris:- cities surrendered to our Battle Priests personally upon seeing their power and converted on the spot. Of course, they don't gain powers unless they are chosen to come to the Kalduun Temple here." Lendaria@crystyl:"Chosen by Ketkolep, right?" T'Lana@anncaris | Guard: "Of course. Ketkolep tells the High Priest those who are devoted enough to be granted his favour, and the High Priest sends the Senior Priests to fetch them and bring them in as Acolytes. - T'Lana@anncaris:- They serve in the temple here until they pass the trials, when they become full priests and priestesses themselves with the powers of a true Priest of Ketkolep." Lendaria@crystyl:"Sounds like quite the spectacle! Is there some part of the temple open to visitors where we can learn more about all of that? I feel kind of bad disrupting you doing such a fine job of guarding the- Lendaria@crystyl:- place and keeping them safe..." T'Lana@anncaris | Guard: "I'm afraid not. The Temple Square is as far as people who are not members of the temple can go. Every first day of the week, Priests come out here from sunrise to when the sun is - T'Lana@anncaris:- highest to hear the ails of the people. They must pass through here when solving these problems during the rest of the week. You are welcome to wait and observe, but I would ask that you do not - T'Lana@anncaris:- disturb them. They are busy people." Lendaria@crystyl nods and smiles, "Of course, thanks for your time!" T'Lana@anncaris | The guard smiles back, "Enjoy your stay in our great city." Lendaria@crystyl gives another cheery wave, heading off to the side of the square where they can review their findings T'Lana@anncaris comments once they are far enough away, "Interesting. The guard implies that whatever Sin sensed in that temple may be giving the priests here power." Lendaria@crystyl:"It's not beyond the realm of possibility. The question remains; to what end" T'Lana@anncaris:"The guard mentioned expansionary campaigns. It is possible this Ketkolep is attempting to spread his influence across the planet by conquering more territory." Lendaria@crystyl:"Could be. So what do you think about our next move?" T'Lana@anncaris | Zanah: "But if it's really close to as strong as Q, why'd it need the locals to fight for it? Can't it just...show up in a city, snap away any disbelievers and force itself to be worshipped?" Lendaria@crystyl:"Maybe it's something like the old god race who need reverence to survive" T'Lana@anncaris | Zanah nods, "Good point. If the artifact is here, maybe Ketkolep is another member of their race. Could be the one that took the thunderbolt from out under the Horde." Lendaria@crystyl:"The name doesn't familiar to me, though our ancient mythology is one that doesn't align with those folks. We just got the Goddess" T'Lana@anncaris:"It does not clearly line up with any known name, but it is likely the language of the locals altered the name significantly, if not completely." T'Lana@anncaris | As they converse, the large doors at the top of the temple open, and several rows of guards begin filing out Lendaria@crystyl:"Maybe. But I'd still have expected some level of familiarity if it was one of them..." she trails off, turning to watch, "Ooh, we got a show!" T'Lana@anncaris | The guards at the bottom of the stairs make way as the new ones march down the stairs. In the middle of the group stands three figures with white robes, a woman with a purple - T'Lana@anncaris:- trim on her robes and a man and a woman behind her with red trim. The guards don't stop at the base of the stairs, instead beginning to march on across the square, seemingly in a hurry T'Lana@anncaris:"This does not seem to be a changing of the guard." T'Lana@anncaris | Sin can also sense that the three robed figures clearly have power, closer to that of Chlasi Esoterics than whatever is inside the temple Lendaria@crystyl:"Maybe someone's been summoned by this Ketkolep!" Lendaria@crystyl | Sin: "I hope not, for that someone's sake. Those priests do have power beyond the rest of the natives. More like the Chlasi Esoterics" T'Lana@anncaris | The group turn a corner and march down a street, with the people on the street scattering to both sides to make way. As their gazes follow, they notice smoke rising in the direction they are - T'Lana@anncaris:- marching off towards... T'Lana@anncaris | Zanah: "Looks more like they're responding to trouble..." Lendaria@crystyl:"Could be worth investigating" T'Lana@anncaris nods, "Agreed. Tailing them will give us a better idea of how they operate." Lendaria@crystyl:"Let's move then" T'Lana@anncaris | They follow the group to another one of the smaller market squares, but this one is a complete mess. The stalls are upturned, with the cloth torn and goods scattered all through the area. One - T'Lana@anncaris - of the buildings nearby seems to be on fire and smoke trails out from it. In the centre of the square stands an old man, dressed in the same purple-trimmed robes as the woman, but his robes - T'Lana@anncaris:- are also stained red with blood as he is surrounded by the bodies of civilians and guards alike. The new guards that have arrived have arranged themselves into three formations, with a robed - T'Lana@anncaris:- figure in the centre of each formation T'Lana@anncaris | The purple-robed man raises both hands and the sand suddenly forms into two huge, writhing tendrils which lash out at the guard formations. However, before the tendrils can hit, the three robed - T'Lana@anncaris:- figures at the centre of the formations raise their arms and the sand hits what seem like invisible barriers where they shatter into sand grains and drop onto the ground T'Lana@anncaris | Red Priest: "Harcheft, you cannot defeat the three of us!" T'Lana@anncaris | Purple Priestess: "He is beyond reason, Tarush! We have to put him down!" T'Lana@anncaris | The formations advance as the purple-robed man waves his arms again and the scimitars of the fallen guards fly towards them. The shield-wielding guards block them with their shields and as the - T'Lana@anncaris:- man moves his arms again, the three other robed figures reach out their arms and he seems to freeze in place. As he is immobilized, one of the guards breaks formation and rushes forward, plunging - T'Lana@anncaris:- his spear into the rogue priest's chest T'Lana@anncaris | The guard pulls the spear back out as the man drops to the ground. Though he looks to be dead... Lendaria@crystyl:rolls 59 (1-100) T'Lana@anncaris ...Lennie notices the sand in the square slowly shifting.. Lendaria@crystyl:"It isn't over..." Lendaria@crystyl | Sin picks up on the observation and calls out to the priests, "He's still casting!" Lendaria@crystyl scowls at the interference, but nothing to be done about it after the fact T'Lana@anncaris | The priests look over as the sand suddenly wraps around the fallen man. The three raise their arms again, but the man springs up, now completely encased by sand and twice the size he was before T'Lana@anncaris | The three priests stagger back as the sand-armoured man bolts up. He swings a huge fist, knocking through the first row of guards in the red priest's formation aside and sending sand flying - T'Lana@anncaris - through the air. The red priest, his vision clouded by the sand, is unable to react as the giant sand-armoured man raises his other fist to pound the other priest into the ground... Lendaria@crystyl | Sin doesn't do as well as Lennie with the whole non-interference thing. Closing her eyes, she reaches out with her mind; drawing a torrent up from nearby ocean into a rising whirlpool that sweeps- Lendaria@crystyl - high into the sky like a tornado before swooping down through the sandy raised arm and encircling the rogue priests sandy form T'Lana@anncaris | The water slowly washes away the sand, stripping the giant down to just the man inside. The three priests exchange gazes with one another, trying to figure out who is doing it. Soon, as they - T'Lana@anncaris:- realize the man inside is exposed, the purple priestess raises an arm, causing the spear of one of the guards to fly towards the rogue priest, this time running him through, the force impaling - T'Lana@anncaris:- him to a nearby wall. As he tries to move his hands, the red priest rubs the sand out of his eyes and raises his arms, immobilizing the rogue priest while the red priestess levitates a scimitar - T'Lana@anncaris:- and sends it spinning towards the man's neck, lopping his head off T'Lana@anncaris | The guards move in, surrounding the body carefully with shields raised, but this time, it doesn't recover Lendaria@crystyl notices their confusion at the action and realizes that /someone/ was interfering again. Promptly clips Sin around the back of her head in response Lendaria@crystyl | Sin recoils and frowns, rubbing her head, "Say what you will, I have no regrets" Lendaria@crystyl folds her arms, "I didn't even say anything" smirking a little T'Lana@anncaris | As the guards surround the body, the purple priestess looks across the square, her eyes settling on the group... Lendaria@crystyl grumbles T'Lana@anncaris | The priestess gestures to four of the guards, who follow her as she approaches the group. The two other priests look over too, following behind T'Lana@anncaris | Purple Priestess: "You. How did you summon that water?" Lendaria@crystyl | Sin shrugs: "I don't know really... I just sort of, um, decided that it was going to happen and - poof! - there it is. You know how it is" Lendaria@crystyl eyerolls at Sin's less than eloquent attempt at casual small talk like she did herself with all the guards earlier T'Lana@anncaris | Purple Priestess: "You do not wear the robes of a priestess, nor do I recognize you among our numbers." Lendaria@crystyl | Sin: "Yeah, well we're from out of town see. So no real reason I would be wearing one of your robes" T'Lana@anncaris | Purple Priestess: "A tribal witch!" T'Lana@anncaris | The guards raise their shields and lower their spears as Sin feels a telekinetic force gripping her... T'Lana@anncaris | Fortunately, Sin /is/ actually superior to these priests.. Lendaria@crystyl | Sin pulls a face, "Well I've been called worse... but you should really learn some manners" she wills the force aside, just enough to discard it - no backlash as punishment as she would have - Lendaria@crystyl - back on Belyia. Enjoying their expressions in response, "I don't know how you fancy city folk do things. But for us 'tribal witches' when you desire someone's company, you ask them. Politely" T'Lana@anncaris | The purple priestess scowls, "And a powerful one at that. We do not tolerate heretics here in Kalduun," she looks back at the other two priests, "We can take her together! Guards, seize the - T'Lana@anncaris:- others as well!" Lendaria@crystyl | Sin frowns, "Hey now, I helped you back there when I could have easily stood by and watch you all get cut down! What's so heretical about that?!" T'Lana@anncaris | The priests don't listen as they stand together and begin to raise their arms as the guards move in front of them to surround the group... --- T'Lana@anncaris | Sin feels stronger telekinetic force around her this time, but before she can react, the priestess with the red-trimmed robe is knocked backwards, falling onto the ground with an arrow - T'Lana@anncaris - protruding from her chest. The telekinetic grip disappears as the other two draw up invisible barriers among themselves. The guards react a little slower, pausing for a brief moment before - T'Lana@anncaris:- they decide to stop surrounding the group and instead form up around the priests, raising their shields to protect them. A second arrow flies at one of the guards who had joined the formation a - T'Lana@anncaris:- little late and his shield was still not fully raised. It finds its mark in the guard's neck and the man drops Sin@crystyl looks around for the source of the sudden cavalry T'Lana@anncaris | Sin spots a hooded figure on a nearby rooftop, notching a third arrow. However, the formation has closed up by then and the arrow embeds itself harmlessly in one of the shields. Meanwhile, the - T'Lana@anncaris:- scimitars of fallen guards in the market begin to levitate and the man promptly turns, leaps off the rooftop and disappears down another street as two scimitars fly towards him. Two others come - T'Lana@anncaris:- for the away team... Sin@crystyl reacts quickly to will them away T'Lana@anncaris | Sin sends the scimitars flying away, but with the mysterious archer gone, two guards break formation and come at the group with their spears. T'Lana sidesteps a jab and grabs on to the spear, - T'Lana@anncaris:- yanking it away from the guard's grasp with her Vulcan strength and swinging the other end of it across the man's head, knocking him out. The other guard meanwhile comes for Sin... Sin@crystyl 's dark side come closer to the surface at the attitude of their foes, and this time she actually reaches out to channel her focus towards him, having acted without anything more than a glance up- Sin@crystyl - to this point. She holds her hand out towards him, palm out, willing a telekinetic barrier to force him into a stationary position before pressing down and forcing him to a bent knee before her T'Lana@anncaris | The guard is frozen in place and forced to a knee, while ahead the formation closes as soon as the two guards leave, before they begin advancing together in unison towards the group, shields - T'Lana@anncaris:- raised in front and above them, protecting them from all directions T'Lana@anncaris:"I suggest we leave, there is nothing to gain from confronting all of them." Sin@crystyl tilts her head, willing the same barrier to encompass the group and force all them to their knees Sin@crystyl | Lennie nods, but sees that Sin seems to be almost zoned out T'Lana@anncaris | The group is frozen, but doesn't drop to their knees as she feels another force opposing her as the priests inside the formation protect the group Sin@crystyl stubbornly fights back, drawing on everything she can here to come out on top Sin@crystyl:rolls 47 (1-100) T'Lana@anncaris:rolls 60 (1-100) T'Lana@anncaris | The two priests working together seem to be just enough to hold Sin. The formation is still frozen in place, but she still isn't able to force them down... Sin@crystyl | Lennie scowls and grabs Sin's arm, yanking her back, "That's enough Sin! We need to follow that archer" Sin@crystyl growls under her breath, looking to the group, "Be thankful I am not in the blood boiling mood today" turning away to make a quick exit with the others before letting the group go T'Lana@anncaris | The team follows down the street where the archer went while behind them, the formation doesn't pursue. Instead, three guards break formation, dropping their shields and sprinting off while - T'Lana@anncaris - the rest holds position in the middle of the square Sin@crystyl tries to get a sense of where the mystery shooter went T'Lana@anncaris | Sin senses the mystery shooter down the side of a small alley nearby Sin@crystyl leads the way, "Down here" T'Lana@anncaris | Upon arriving at the alley, they find the hooded figure, who motions for them to follow before turning to lead Sin@crystyl shares a glance with the others before shrugging and following Sin@crystyl | Lennie sighs, "I guess we'll follow then..." T'Lana@anncaris | As they pass into a busier square, the figure lowers his hood and speaks, "Half the city will be looking for you soon. I know the secret ways in and out." Sin@crystyl | Lennie: "This is not going according to plan..." Sin@crystyl:"No, but it just got a lot more interesting" T'Lana@anncaris | Figure: "Was your plan always to make a demonstration in front of the sorcerers? Your power is impressive, but that was not a wise action." Sin@crystyl:"We were just curious to see what was going on. When that sandman thing started flailing around, innocent people could have been hurt. Since those sorcerers were clearly incompetent, I had to step in. Sin@crystyl:- Not my fault they're so ungrateful..." T'Lana@anncaris | Figure: "That 'sandman thing' /was/ one of them. The final form of their hubris. You're not from the tribes, are you?" Sin@crystyl:"Probably not the same tribes you're thinking of..." T'Lana@anncaris | The figure nods, "I expect you have as many questions as I do, but first let's get out of this city." He ducks into an alley again, making his way through various laundry draping down lines - T'Lana@anncaris - hung between the buildings Sin@crystyl continues to follow closely T'Lana@anncaris | At the end of the alley is a blanket, atop of which sits an elderly man dressed in ragged clothes. The mysterious archer gives the man a nod T'Lana@anncaris | Old Man: "The god is asleep." T'Lana@anncaris | Figure: "Let sleeping gods lie." T'Lana@anncaris | The old man nods back and stands, pulling away the blanket and revealing a trapdoor underneath, which he pulls open and the figure leaps down Sin@crystyl smiles at the simple ingenuity of the people as she hops down after him T'Lana@anncaris | The rest of the team follows down to an old stone passageway. The figure stays by the entrance a moment as he takes an unlit torch from the wall and sparks it aflame with some flint in his - T'Lana@anncaris - pocket. As the torch is lit, the trapdoor closes again above them and the figure continues leading the way. The path is very narrow, forcing the group to walk single file, and the tiles and - T'Lana@anncaris - stairs they walk along have clearly not been maintained for a long time, making the path extremely treacherous, especially in dim torchlight Sin@crystyl 's natural sixth sense affords her reasonable comfort in managing, though Lennie stumbles a few times T'Lana@anncaris manages well enough, but Zanah stumbles a little as they make their way through the passage as well T'Lana@anncaris | After travelling through the passageway for a while, they emerge from the side of a cliff, with the walls of the city looming behind them T'Lana@anncaris | Figure: "They will not send search parties out this quickly, but we are not safe yet. Better to cover as much distance as we can while the sun is up." Sin@crystyl | Lennie: "Thanks for the assist and all. But... who are you anyways, and where are we heading?" T'Lana@anncaris | Figure: "I am Sek-Rau of the Amarsis Tribe. We are headed to where my tribe has set camp." Sin@crystyl:"You are clearly no friend of the temple priests, but you weren't in the city just to conveniently step in with us" T'Lana@anncaris | Sek-Rau: "No, I was in the city on other business when I heard of another rampage. I went to observe at first, but when you displayed your power and were not one of their number, I decided to - T'Lana@anncaris:- intervene, knowing what they would do to you." Sin@crystyl:"Try. What they would /try/ to do" she corrects stubbornly T'Lana@anncaris | Sek-Rau: "Perhaps you may be able to overpower the two of them and their escort, but there are many more sorcerers in the city. The temple guard are only their defensive forces as well, they - T'Lana@anncaris:- have an entire army at their disposal. Trying to fight them all is impossible for one person." Sin@crystyl hrmphs, refusing to believe it T'Lana@anncaris meanwhile chimes in, "Why do you refer to them as sorcerers? Those within the city seem to call them priests." T'Lana@anncaris | Sek-Rau scoffs, "If they are priests, then I am a pacifist." Sin@crystyl:"There is definitely something unnatural about them. I'm curious as to your view" T'Lana@anncaris | Sek-Rau: "It is not their power that is unnatural, but how they use it. Their power comes from Ketkolep, the same as those of the true priests. The difference is that they exploit Ketkolep's - T'Lana@anncaris:- gifts for their own gain, use it to spread their own influence over the world." Sin@crystyl:"You make it sound like they're the ones in control, not Ketkolep..." T'Lana@anncaris | Sek-Rau: "That's precisely how it is. You do not know much of our ways, do you?" Sin@crystyl:"Let's pretend we don't. You have a most interesting perspective on things, and I'd like to hear more" T'Lana@anncaris | Sek-Rau nods, "I am no priest, but I will tell you our histories as well as I am able. Long ago, long before the city of Kalduun was erected, this entire land belonged to the tribes. That was - T'Lana@anncaris:- when Ketkolep came to us, an ancient being from before the birth of this universe. When the universe was young, he travelled the stars and wielded great power, for his power was drawn from the - T'Lana@anncaris:- remnants of creation itself." T'Lana@anncaris | Zanah: "Sounds a lot like Sul's creation energy...which might be what the radiation here is." Sin@crystyl feigns disbelief, "Travelled... the stars? You mean he sailed the seas and used them to navigate or something, right?" T'Lana@anncaris | Sek-Rau: "No, not the seas. The stars and sky above us. He visited distant worlds, met other beings and explored the blossoming universe. But as the universe grew older, his power waned. One - T'Lana@anncaris:- day, he was captured by beings of flesh like you and I, beings who had grown fearful of the Primordial things of the universe and turned against them. He remained trapped for eons until he was - T'Lana@anncaris:- finally freed, but by then there was very little of creation left in the universe. So he came here to sleep and to await the death of this universe and the birth of the next one, when he will - T'Lana@anncaris:- once again take flight among new stars." Sin@crystyl:"Well I don't know about you, but I'm somewhat fond of this universe" T'Lana@anncaris | Sek-Rau: "It is our age now. Ketkolep knows this, and that is why he sleeps. His time in this universe has passed, as has that of all Primordial things in this universe. Come the next cycle of - T'Lana@anncaris:- existence he will be reborn, but he is vulnerable now. When he came to us, we made a pact- he would give us the power to protect our families, our tribes, our world, but in turn, we must protect - T'Lana@anncaris:- him. He spread out his power among us, as the universe belongs to us in its later days, and we were willing to take on the responsibility that came with his gifts." Sin@crystyl:"So what went wrong?" T'Lana@anncaris | Sek-Rau: "Generations passed as Ketkolep slumbered, and the original priests who made the pact had long passed out of the mortal world. In those generations, outsiders came at us, with spear - T'Lana@anncaris:- and sword, with slings and bows, with ships and steeds, but every time, Ketkolep's gifts allowed us to push them back. But we never gave chase, never killed those who turned away from trying to - T'Lana@anncaris:- kill us. Some of the priests thought our duty to protect Ketkolep was holding us back. That we were capable of doing so much more. They rallied their tribes and we fought a bloody war among - T'Lana@anncaris:- ourselves, both sides wielding the gifts of Ketkolep. However, their first act was to seize Ketkolep's resting place, and they did not pick only those who would be dutiful, but any who dared - T'Lana@anncaris:- brave the Trial. So in time, those among them with the gifts grew, while we had less and less of the gift among us. We found that the gift could be passed down, but many with the gift could not - T'Lana@anncaris:- have children, and those that had children with another who was not given the gift often resulted in descendants with lesser power." Sin@crystyl:"So Ketkolep no longer bestows the gift on any?" T'Lana@anncaris | Sek-Rau: "Ketkolep sleeps. What the sorcerers say about him personally choosing acolytes are lies. But those who enter the place where he sleeps, they are given the gift, if they can handle it - T'Lana@anncaris:- and survive the Trial. It is their 'High Priest' who chooses the acolytes and sends them into Ketkolep's resting place to renew the ranks of their order." T'Lana@anncaris | Zanah: "Let me guess, those who fail this Trial usually die?" T'Lana@anncaris | Sek-Rau nods, "Yes." T'Lana@anncaris | Zanah: "Sounds like some form of forced genetic reconstruction using radiation. The radiation must be designed to specifically restructure their genetics, practically rebuilding them and - T'Lana@anncaris:- giving them abilities that species like yours," she looks to Sin, "naturally have. Still a risky process, and if it goes wrong, it can end up just like old fashioned radiation damage." T'Lana@anncaris | Zanah: â€œAnd even when it goes right, it can have side effects like sterility because of the damage your DNA has taken.â€ Sin@crystyl:"If that's so, what would it do to me when Iâ€™m already built that way?" T'Lana@anncaris | Zanah: "I don't know, but I wouldn't recommend it. It'll probably kill you; Ketkolep probably tailored the radiation for maximum chances of success on the locals and it still kills them - T'Lana@anncaris:- sometime." Sin@crystyl:"But... it could also take me to my fullest potential too, right?" Sin@crystyl | Lennie eyerolls, "Give it up Princess, you're never clawing back another Belyia" Sin@crystyl grins, "Can't blame a girl for trying!" T'Lana@anncaris | Zanah: "Listen to the Commander. The radiation likely works by essentially augmenting the individual to add these abilities. It's like if we went into a human's DNA and added the sequence for - T'Lana@anncaris:- Vulcan ears. If you're already Vulcan, your ears won't get even longer and pointier. It just breaks you down and rebuilds you again as the same thing, with a chance of death." T'Lana@anncaris raises a brow, "A curious example, but the doctor's reasoning is sound." Sin@crystyl:"Yeah yeah, I get it. But we've got to get in there and wake Ketkolep anyway right? Doesn't hurt to have options while we're there!" T'Lana@anncaris | Sek-Rau looks back as he overhears the conversation, "You seek to wake Ketkolep?" Sin@crystyl:"Well sure. It's the only way to put the world right after all. We just have to wake Ketkolep and make him understand that the universe isn't already dead to him and his kind, and that there's still- Sin@crystyl:- a place in it for him. Then he'll get his lazy ass up, pull his holy finger out, and we can get things back on track!" Sin@crystyl somehow manages to sum up both their plan and the locals in one eloquent as ever sentence T'Lana@anncaris | Sek-Rau: "We have...considered seeking his aid personally. Ever since the sorcerers won the war, they have built the city and begun to use their powers for personal gain, raising armies and - T'Lana@anncaris:- conquering the surrounding lands. But their ways are flawed. The gifts of Ketkolep make us powerful but not invincible, and if we draw too much attention to him, the world may unite against us - T'Lana@anncaris:- and push back. That will put not only our lands, but Ketkolep himself at risk. And that is not even mentioning the problem of the mad sorcerers..." Sin@crystyl:"Exactly! So Ketkolep needs to know about the dangers to arise while he slumbers so then he can help us put it all straight before more people get hurt!" Sin@crystyl | Lennie grumbles, "Remind me to hit you over the head with a printed copy of the prime directive when we get back..." Sin@crystyl grins playfully T'Lana@anncaris | Sek-Rau: "I will take you to the High Priest of our tribe. He will decide whether such a drastic action can be done, and what the consequences may be. But first, let us make camp for the - T'Lana@anncaris - night. We should be far enough from the city, and their search parties will not venture far beyond their own walls. They have forgotten the ways of the deserts after generations in their great - T'Lana@anncaris - city and now fear the sands. It is as if they are outsiders in their own lands." Sin@crystyl:"Sounds like a plan" T'Lana@anncaris | Sek-Rau leads the way for a few more minutes before they arrive at a suitable campsite under the shade of a large rock overhead T'Lana@anncaris | Sek-Rau: "Wait here. I will fetch some kindling and water, and food if there is anything to hunt." Sin@crystyl:"Let us help with the foraging, it's the least we can do" T'Lana@anncaris | Sek-Rau nods, pointing ahead, "There is usually water there, and kindling you may find along the way. If you see any holes in the sand larger than your hand, stay away from them. Those are - T'Lana@anncaris - Burrower tunnels. And beware of insects with stingers, some of them are venomous. And snakes. All the other dangers are fairly easy to see from a distance in open terrain." Sin@crystyl:"We'll be sure to be careful" she nods Sin@crystyl | Lennie: "Maybe one of us should accompany you as well, just to be safe" she offers to Sek-Rau T'Lana@anncaris | Sek-Rau: "I have survived the desert alone many times, but if you wish to follow me, I do not forbid it. I can show you what to avoid and what is safe to eat, in case you need to survive on - T'Lana@anncaris - your own out here someday." Sin@crystyl | Lennie smiles, turning to the others, "You guys head that way. I'll accompany our host" T'Lana@anncaris nods, "I am familiar with desert environments and will ensure the rest of the team remains safe." Sin@crystyl follows TL as they head out T'Lana@anncaris proceeds in the direction that Sek-Rau indicated the water was at. Once Lennie and Sek-Rau are far enough away, she taps her hidden combadge T'Lana@anncaris:<C> T'Lana to Valley Forge. We have an update on the situation here Sin@crystyl | <C-Keelah> What's the situation? T'Lana@anncaris:<C> A powerful being is residing within that structure whom the locals refer to as Ketkolep. They at least somewhat revere this being as a deity, but also seem to be aware of its origins as an - T'Lana@anncaris:- ancient spacefaring entity. Dr. Amari surmised that the radiation is being used to augment locals who venture close to its source with telekinetic abilities Sin@crystyl | <C-Keelah> A disturbing twist to the situation. Have you made contact with this being - is it another of the mythological deity race?" T'Lana@anncaris:<C> We do not yet know. A complex political situation has arisen on the surface. The locals of the tribes claim that they once made a pact with Ketkolep and were given the abilities to guard the - T'Lana@anncaris:- being. However, some of them abused the power to build themselves into an expanding and conquering empire. As expected, they are guarding the source of their power rather jealously Sin@crystyl | <C-Keelah> Hmm. Such thoughtless manipulation of undeveloped civilizations is certainly within the remit of that species. I will have Mischa cross check this name for any potential references. - Sin@crystyl:- What is your plan in the meantime, should we bring you back to regroup? T'Lana@anncaris:<C> We are currently following a member of one of the tribes which inhabit the deserts outside the city. He claims their people follow Ketkolep more faithfully than those in the cities. If we are - T'Lana@anncaris:- to depart now, it would be suspicious. We will follow them to their camp first and speak with their leaders. They may have more information as well Sin@crystyl | <C-Keelah> Very well Commander, we stand by for your next update T'Lana@anncaris:<C> I will update you as soon as we are able once we have new information Sin@crystyl looks to TL once the comm ends, "So, now it's your turn to reprimand me, right?" T'Lana@anncaris:"This culture has clearly already been interfered with. From what Sek-Rau said, it is likely that at least the ones here are even aware of the existence of other life and civilizations elsewhere in - T'Lana@anncaris:- the universe. While stepping into the confrontation earlier was a rash decision, I do not believe we can cause more problems than what has already been caused here." Sin@crystyl:"Thanks. I think..." T'Lana@anncaris:"It is not how I would have acted and being forced to flee the city is a minor inconvenience, but without your action, we may not have attracted Sek-Rau's attention and heard his side of the story. - T'Lana@anncaris:- Our goal is ultimately to enter that temple, but it is better for us to collect all the information we can beforehand rather than rush inside at the earliest opportunity." Sin@crystyl:"Exactly, yeah! That was totally my plan all along" T'Lana@anncaris:"No one could have predicted such a turn of events, but it may work in our favour in the end. Besides, I am not your commanding officer. Once our reports are submitted, I suspect you will get - T'Lana@anncaris:- enough reprimand from Captain Keelah." Sin@crystyl:"Well, won't that be just peachy. So nice having things to look forward to" T'Lana@anncaris:"Perhaps if you perform well enough against these 'sorcerers' and with Ketkolep, the Captain may be more willing to overlook the rash action earlier." Sin@crystyl:"Well I wasn't exactly planning on failure against them" she beams, "So I'm sure it will all work out in the end!" T'Lana@anncaris:"I expect further confrontations with them given their attitude to keeping outsiders away from the temple. Do you believe they will cause a substantial obstacle for you?" Sin@crystyl:"Pfft, not even! I just had to get a feel for them for myself and now I know their potential, I can focus myself again like I once did before" T'Lana@anncaris:"Be careful with them. Their powers may not be as potent as yours, but some of them seem quite experienced. And we are operating on their territory." Sin@crystyl:"Believe it or not, it is a situation I am quite familiar with" T'Lana@anncaris:"Is this the situation on Belyia?" Sin@crystyl nods, "It started just like this. At least my time there did" T'Lana@anncaris:"I have read many of the reports your crew filed concerning that world. There was also a powerful being who was responsible for the powers you had there." Sin@crystyl:"It was more like... a symbiotic relationship between the people on the planet and the beings who surrounded the world. But yes, the basic situation is remarkably similar" T'Lana@anncaris:"It appears the relationship here may have initially been symbiotic as well, if Sek-Rau's account is to be believed. Of course, there is a possibility that he may be telling a very romanticized - T'Lana@anncaris:- variation of the truth." Sin@crystyl:"You can almost guarantee it. Doesn't change the fact whoever this being here is, they hold the lightning bolt and we need it" T'Lana@anncaris:"Agreed. I hope they are open to negotiation; a confrontation with the being will likely be problematic, even if it is truly in a weakened state. I suspect it is at least more powerful than any - T'Lana@anncaris:- individual sorcerer here, seeing how you were able to sense it from far away." Sin@crystyl nods, "Even I have to admit that a direct confrontation with such a being would at least be a challenge for me" T'Lana@anncaris:"Precisely. That is why it is beneficial to learn as much as we can about it before entering that temple. If we can be certain that it is a member of Poseidon and Aries' species, there may be - T'Lana@anncaris:- certain known approaches we can use, whether in negotiation or confrontation. While the general method of ruling over pre-warp species fits, the hibernation aspect is certainly unusual and has - T'Lana@anncaris:- never been attested before." Sin@crystyl:"I wouldn't know, not exactly stuff I'm familiar with beyond what we've experienced out here" T'Lana@anncaris:"I will endeavour to piece together the information we acquire as best I can for when we enter the temple, then," she nods, peering ahead at a small oasis, "That must be the water source." Sin@crystyl:"Perfect!" T'Lana@anncaris steps over to collect water while Zanah quietly muses behind them, "Wonder why we don't just set camp right next to the oasis..." Sin@crystyl:"It's an oasis in the desert. You can bet all those nasties our new friend warned us about will be staking it out" T'Lana@anncaris | Zanah: "Good point. Must be a point of competition, and camping near it would be more trouble than it's worth. Smarter to camp in walking distance and trek here when you need water. Guess - T'Lana@anncaris:- that's why he's the local expert." Sin@crystyl:"Chuckles, "That's my theory anyway. But hey, I'm not the one born and raised on a desert planet so what do I know" she looks to TL T'Lana@anncaris:"Vulcan is not by definition a desert world, and neither are the majority of worlds most commonly known as such. They are M-class worlds, simply with high temperature and dryer climates as the - T'Lana@anncaris:- predominant biomes. True 'desert world' classifications are typically marginally or entirely uninhabitable for Children species. But you are correct in your theory on desert oases." Sin@crystyl smiles, "Close enough then. I'll take that as I win!" T'Lana@anncaris looks over at the distance as the specks of a herd of animals can be seen, "I believe native fauna is headed here now, though judging by the size it is likely a herd of herbivores and not a - T'Lana@anncaris:- threat. However, such herbivores draw the attention of predators, who may choose to lurk in such locations." Sin@crystyl:"Yeah, best get our supplies and be gone. Don't want to get in the way of the natural way of things here after all now, do we!" T'Lana@anncaris nods, "Agreed. I have filled all our water containers. Let us return to the campsite." --- T'Lana@anncaris | After a night of rest in the camp, the team spends most of the next day travelling across the harsh desert, though with the experienced Sek-Rau with them, they manage to avoid any trouble and - T'Lana@anncaris - have only the heat to contend with. They take another rest at midday when the sun is highest before proceeding again when the temperature had cooled a little. By late afternoon, they begin to - T'Lana@anncaris - approach the collection of tents and alien herd and riding animals that make up the tribe's camp T'Lana@anncaris | Sek-Rau: "There it is, the camp of the Amarsis Tribe." Sin@crystyl groans wearily, "Oh thank the stars, my feet are killing me!" T'Lana@anncaris | Sek-Rau: "Travelling the desert is no easy feat. That is how we have remained safe from the city-dwellers and their sorcerers so far." Sin@crystyl:"Not exactly convenient for launching attacks on them either though, is it" T'Lana@anncaris | Sek-Rau shakes his head, "Especially not with their walls and defenses. We have paths into the city, as you have seen, but we fight best on the backs of our steeds in the open sands. We cannot - T'Lana@anncaris:- sneak our mounts into the city, and we do not have the equipment to attack them directly." Sin@crystyl:"All the more reason to find another solution" T'Lana@anncaris | Sek-Rau: "Exactly," He nods and waves greetings to various others as they make their way through the small village of tents. He leads them to a particularly large tent in the centre T'Lana@anncaris | Sek-Rau: "This is the Chieftess' tent. Please, wait here while I speak with her." Sin@crystyl | Lennie nods, "We'll await your word" T'Lana@anncaris | Sek-Rau opens the tent flap and disappears inside, leaving the team outside. Zanah looks around, observing the tribe as they go about their day-to-day business T'Lana@anncaris | Zanah: "Does remind you of the simplicity of Belyia, doesn't it? Just without the powers," she grins at Sin Sin@crystyl | Lennie does the same, curious to observe the culture. While Sin finds somewhere to sit down and rub her poor feet, "Eh, I prefer the simplicity of my palace there" T'Lana@anncaris | Zanah: "That's...not exactly simple. Not as simple as all this, at least." Sin@crystyl:"That's why it was preferable. I did spend time among my people as well, and their was a certain rustic charm I suppose" T'Lana@anncaris | Zanah smiles, "Exactly. Though I wouldn't want to live here all the time. All they have for medical tools are a couple of splints and bandages..." Sin@crystyl:"Yeah... though folks like this often have a remarkable insight into herbal remedies and such, right?" T'Lana@anncaris | Zanah nods, "And know about obscure local herbs that'd take a thorough botanical survey for us to find. Good for diseases and infections, but there's only so much herbs can do when you get run - T'Lana@anncaris:- through by a spear." Sin@crystyl chuckles, True enough" T'Lana@anncaris | As they converse, an old bearded man with a walking stick approaches the four. He leans on his stick, seemingly observing them Sin@crystyl | Lennie turns to him with a smile, "Hello there" T'Lana@anncaris | Old Man: "You are not of our people." Sin@crystyl | Lennie shakes her head, "No we're not, we're travellers. We just arrived here from the city with Sek-Rau" T'Lana@anncaris | Old Man: "No, not our tribe. Our people. You come from far away, much further than the sands and seas." Sin@crystyl | Lennie: "I suppose that's a matter of perspective..." T'Lana@anncaris | Old Man: "And I can see that you are different from our people. Very different." The man steps closer and Lennie notices that both of his eyes are a light shade of grey that would likely - T'Lana@anncaris:- indicate he is completely blind. Before she can speak again however, the tent flap opens again and Sek-Rau steps out T'Lana@anncaris | Sek-Rau: "Tes-Ai! I was just going to come look for you." T'Lana@anncaris | Tes-Ai: "Ah, you have returned. I take it you brought these outsiders here?" T'Lana@anncaris | Sek-Rau: "One of them demonstrates great power, and drew the attention of the sorcerers," he turns to the group, "This is Tes-Ai, the High Priest of our tribe." Sin@crystyl | Lennie looks back to Tes-Ai, "You are not without power, yourself" T'Lana@anncaris | Tes-Ai nods, "Yes, but I have never felt power as strong as hers," he points to Sin. "Save perhaps for Ketkolep himself, but it has been many generations since the sorcerers built their temple - T'Lana@anncaris:- and city, and I have never approached the slumbering god personally." Sin@crystyl looks confused, "But you have felt his power... before he slumbered?" T'Lana@anncaris | Tes-Ai: "No, but I know my power derives from it, and we have many stories. Those who have been inside the city say that his power can be felt even now as he sleeps." Sin@crystyl:"That much at least, I can confirm" T'Lana@anncaris | Tes-Ai: "Imagine the power when he is awake, not to mention what he must have been at the beginning of the universe. But enough chatter," he turns to Sek-Rau, "I expect the Chieftress is - T'Lana@anncaris:- waiting for us." T'Lana@anncaris | Sek-Rau nods and gestures into the tent Sin@crystyl | Lennie leads the way in T'Lana@anncaris | In the centre of the large tent sits a woman dressed in the same leathers as most of the tribe. She clearly has a very honed physique with visible muscles on her exposed arms, and a shield and - T'Lana@anncaris:- spear leans against her chair Sin@crystyl | Lennie bows her head respectfully, "Thank you for welcoming us into your home" T'Lana@anncaris | Chieftress: "I am Chieftress Naat-Shu of the Amarsis Tribe. Sek-Rau has told me what you have done and why he has brought you here, but I wish to hear from you who you are." Sin@crystyl | Lennie: "We are travellers from a distant land" T'Lana@anncaris | Tes-Ai: "You come here the same way that Ketkolep did, did you not?" Sin@crystyl | Lennie: "That would imply that we know the exact means by which Ketkolep came here, which we do not" T'Lana@anncaris | Tes-Ai: "But you come here, down from the blackness of the sky, the emptiness between the stars." Sin@crystyl:"Give it up Commander, it's already clear that these people are not naive to the galaxy around them" Sin@crystyl | Lennie grumbles, glancing to Sin briefly before looking Tes-Ai, "Apologies, we mean no disrespect through deception. But we have learned to exercise caution when revealing the nature of life - Sin@crystyl:- among the stars to those who do not travel them alongside us" T'Lana@anncaris | Naat-Shu nods, "I take no offense to your deception. I understand, for not all have the knowledge of Ketkolep at their disposal. But while we may be a simple people and do not sail the stars - T'Lana@anncaris:- in ships of steel, nor do battle with beams of deadly light, we are well aware of the universe beyond our humble world." Sin@crystyl:"Well. This should make things easier for a change" T'Lana@anncaris | Naat-Shu: "So tell me- do you come here for Ketkolep? I cannot imagine anything else that would bring you to this humble place." Sin@crystyl | Lennie nods, "More or less. We were actually searching for the spear of light which we believe Ketkolep brought here with him" T'Lana@anncaris | Tes-Ai: "Our stories tell of no such weapon, but there is much Ketkolep knows that we still do not, and some knowledge that has been lost to us over the ages. Why do you believe Ketkolep - T'Lana@anncaris:- possesses it?" Sin@crystyl:"The energy which Ketkolep wields; the power which embodies your people with his gifts, it is exactly the same as this spear is known to emit. And we followed it's trail here, where it is strongest" Sin@crystyl | Lennie: "Didn't that big statue we saw in the city depict Ketkolep holding it?" T'Lana@anncaris | Sek-Rau: "The statue in the Temple Square?" Sin@crystyl | Lennie nods, "Yeah, that's the one!" T'Lana@anncaris | Sek-Rau: "I believe that depicts San-Haab, or Sanshap as the city-folk know him now, the leader of the priests that first broke the pact. We do not depict Ketkolep in imagery, and that is - T'Lana@anncaris:- tradition which even the city-folk still follow. No art crafted by our hands can represent him adequately." Sin@crystyl:"Cute" Sin@crystyl | Lennie eyerolls, "So that 'San-Haab' or whatever, he's the one who broke the pact and seems to now wield the power of the weapon..." Sin@crystyl:"Assuming it is the same spear" T'Lana@anncaris | Naat-Shu: "San-Haab died many generations ago, and as Tes-Ai says, we have no record of the Sorcerers holding any weapon of great power." T'Lana@anncaris | Tes-Ai nods, "Their only power comes from the abuse of Ketkolep's gift, and that was how San-Haab and so many others fell." Sin@crystyl:"Given what we know of the weapon, that would be consistent. Who knows, maybe Ketkolep /is/ the lightning spear" T'Lana@anncaris looks to Sin, "That is an interesting possibility." Sin@crystyl:"So far it's the only thing that fits all the facts, especially if you factor in Zanah's theories about creation energy" T'Lana@anncaris | Zanah nods, "But in any case, we're going to have to get inside that temple." Sin@crystyl | Lennie, "That is where we hope to find common ground with your people's objectives of restoring balance to your society and removing the corruption which has affected them" T'Lana@anncaris | Tes-Ai: "Many tribes have considered slipping into the temple and waking Ketkolep, but it is a drastic action that borders on violating our pact. Perhaps, perhaps it may be justified as the - T'Lana@anncaris:- pact has already been broken by the sorcerers, and it is the only thing we can do to try and repair it. But even then, it takes great power to wake a god, and I am not sure any of us priests - T'Lana@anncaris:- remaining among the tribes still have such power. We have grown weaker over the years, cut off from the slumbering god from which our power comes." Sin@crystyl:"Lucky for you then that I'm here" T'Lana@anncaris | Tes-Ai nods, "Yes. You...you may have a chance." Sin@crystyl | Lennie: "/We/ have a chance, all of us together" T'Lana@anncaris | Naat-Shu: "You will still need some way into the temple. Sneaking into the city is one thing, it is large and chaotic and has many forgotten and secret passageways. But the temple is - T'Lana@anncaris:- watched and guarded. The temple guard never leave any point of entry unprotected." T'Lana@anncaris looks to Tes-Ai, "You were able to sense that we are not of your people earlier." T'Lana@anncaris | Tes-Ai nods, "Yes. You are different. Those who see with eyes may not tell the difference, but fortunately I do not rely on eyes to see." T'Lana@anncaris:"These 'sorcerers' we encountered in the city did not seem aware of our origins. They suspected Sin of being a 'tribal witch,' an accusation they would not have made if they could tell who we truly - T'Lana@anncaris:- are." T'Lana@anncaris | Tes-Ai: "The sorcerers have the power Ketkolep gives, but not the wisdom that he grants." T'Lana@anncaris:"If the sorcerers cannot see through our disguises, then we will be able to supplement these disguises- specifically with clothes of the sorcerers and the temple guard." T'Lana@anncaris | Sek-Rau: "The temple guard have their barracks on the outermost layers of the temple complex, but still within its walls. To acquire their armour, and the clothes of the priests, you would - T'Lana@anncaris:- have to first gain entrance." Sin@crystyl:"Couldn't we draw them out like we saw back in the city yesterday?" T'Lana@anncaris:"Yes, but that would require another confrontation, possibly with multiple sorcerers. They do not have combadges or keycards or any other form of technological authentication. There is no need to - T'Lana@anncaris:- actually steal their armour when all we need is a visual disguise. We can simply reproduce it on the ship." Sin@crystyl:"Good point" T'Lana@anncaris:"I recommend we return to the ship, reconvene with the others and create our disguises while we are on board. When we are ready, we may return outside the city and use the disguises to gain - T'Lana@anncaris:- entry again. Sek-Rau said the temple guard would send out search parties beyond the city walls, so we can masquerade as one of these parties." Sin@crystyl | Lennie: "Sounds like a plan" T'Lana@anncaris looks to Sin, "You should disguise as one of those sorcerers. That way, you can utilize your abilities without drawing suspicion should you need to, not to mention that they seem to have more - T'Lana@anncaris:- authority, which could prove advantageous." Sin@crystyl nods, "Makes sense to me" T'Lana@anncaris | Naat-Shu: "I will lend you four of our tribe's mounts. The search parties outside the cities will have them, and it would be unusual if you were to return on foot. If there is anything else - T'Lana@anncaris:- we can do to aid you, just ask and we will provide." Sin@crystyl | Lennie: "Thank you, but we do not wish to impose any more on you than we already have. We do not know what we might face in there, only that the risk of danger is high. Too high to ask anyone - Sin@crystyl:- else to step in and help, even if it is for their own cause" T'Lana@anncaris | Naat-Shu nods, "Then I will set aside four mounts for you to take when you are ready. Good luck to you, outsiders. I hope your success can restore things here as they once were." Sin@crystyl | Lennie: "We will do everything we can" T'Lana@anncaris | Naat-Shu: "Thank you." --- T'Lana@anncaris | On the Valley Forge, Mischa is researching away when the door slides open and T'Lana steps in, still in her local disguise, "Commander." Mischa@crystyl looks up, unable to resist a smile, "Well now you've got me curious too. You sport a dark tone as naturally as you do the blonde, so which is it really I wonder..." T'Lana@anncaris:"My regular appearance is my natural one, save the brows, which I darken as the appearance is more personable. Many members of hairless species tattoo or paint on brows when they spend significant - T'Lana@anncaris:- time among species that have brows, and for similar purposes, darker brows work better than the light colour of my natural hair." Mischa@crystyl:"Well, now we know. Don't worry, your secret's safe with me" she winks and chuckles. "So are you going to stand on ceremony or come and tell me about all the fun I missed out on?" T'Lana@anncaris steps over and takes a seat, "You always do prefer fieldwork to research, don't you?" Mischa@crystyl:"I enjoy both, but fieldwork is always more my style" T'Lana@anncaris:"We have returned to replicate disguises to infiltrate the temple and attempt to awaken this Ketkolep. I assume Captain Keelah has filled you in on the rest?" Mischa@crystyl nods, "I've been trying to find references that could tell us who this Ketkolep might be" T'Lana@anncaris:"The more we learn of him, or at least the locals' understanding of him, the less he appears to be a member of Aries' species. The locals may be mistaken, but I doubt their beliefs of him are - T'Lana@anncaris:- complete fabrications, and given their general knowledge of the universe and spacefaring civilizations, I am inclined to believe them." Mischa@crystyl:"So based on your observations thus far, what is your current working theory?" T'Lana@anncaris:"The 'slumbering' was the first indication that this may be a different being. During the Enterprise- our Enterprise's encounter with Apollo, he described members of his species spreading themselves - T'Lana@anncaris:- thin upon losing power until they reached a state similar to death, a final point of no return. There is no mention of any form of hibernation." Mischa@crystyl:"Agreed. So if not a member of that species, then who do we think it is?" T'Lana@anncaris:"There are two prominent possibilities. Either this is simply a powerful primeval being who is capable of wielding the thunderbolt and seized it from the Horde for safekeeping, or more likely, we - T'Lana@anncaris:- are dealing with the creator of the artifact." Mischa@crystyl:"The creator of it? Interesting. Also not overly helpful as we have no idea who made it" T'Lana@anncaris:"The connection is not particularly strong, but Ketkolep does have some similarity to the name Cyclops if you examine the original Greek root name Kyklops, the name utilized by the earliest Earth - T'Lana@anncaris:- culture known to have referenced these beings. The name itself may be a coincidence, but recall that the myths state the artifacts used by the brothers Zeus, Poseidon and Hades were made by the - T'Lana@anncaris:- Cyclopes, not by their own hands. Moreso, in some versions of these legends, the weapons were made as rewards for freeing the Cyclopes from prison. The Amarsis tribe's account states that - T'Lana@anncaris:- Ketkolep was imprisoned for a time by Children species, likely as a result of the anti-Primeval sentiment brought on by the Progenitors hiding the fact that the Horde was created by their own." Mischa@crystyl:"It certainly fits the facts" T'Lana@anncaris:"There is no single particularly strong piece of evidence, but it is the best theory I have at the moment. In either case, whether this is a being capable of wielding the thunderbolt or the one who - T'Lana@anncaris:- created it or, as Ensign Sin proposed, that the thunderbolt itself has gained sentience in some way, I suspect it is a being of significant power, at least parallel to Aries' species if not even - T'Lana@anncaris:- beyond theirs. I do not believe removing it by force will be an option; perhaps we can convince it to leave, but it also seems to have developed a symbiotic relationship with the locals before a - T'Lana@anncaris:- group of them decided to exploit its power." Mischa@crystyl:"Yes, Keelah mentioned something about that. So now it seems - regardless of the benevolent intent - this entity's presence has now corrupted the development of things here to the point of driving - Mischa@crystyl:- holy wars and who knows what other atrocities" T'Lana@anncaris nods, "As interference with such an underdeveloped culture would be expected to produce. The ideal situation would be to persuade it to leave of its own accord." Mischa@crystyl:"Yes, convincing Keelah to take more drastic action would be... problematic" T'Lana@anncaris:"We will do all we can to attempt to resolve the situation peacefully. A violent confrontation with such a being will likely have consequences for the locals, and perhaps for us as well, if its - T'Lana@anncaris:- power is as significant as I suspect it may be." Mischa@crystyl:"Then we will make sure that we do not fail" T'Lana@anncaris:"The disguises should be ready now. We will proceed with our plan if there is nothing else." Mischa@crystyl:"I have nothing more to offer of assistance" --- T'Lana@anncaris FX | With the team in guard uniforms and Sin in a red-trimmed priest robe, they proceed back to the gates of Kalduun on the backs of the mounts lent to them by the Amarsis tribe T'Lana@anncaris | This time, they don't even have to wait in line as the traders and other travellers move aside, allowing the team to move through T'Lana@anncaris | Zanah: "Now this is much better." Sin@crystyl grins with superiority, "/Now/ it feels like my Belyia" T'Lana@anncaris | Zanah: "Let's hope getting into the temple is as easy as this." T'Lana@anncaris | One of the guards wave to Lennie as they enter, "No luck on the search?" Sin@crystyl:"We will assume it is until we find otherwise" Sin@crystyl | Lennie waves back in acknowledgement, "No fresh captures this time, but that means no tribals stalking the city either" T'Lana@anncaris | Guard: "Good. Well, I won't keep you from the temple. Anyone could use a nice long rest after patrolling the desert." Sin@crystyl | Lennie laughs, "You got that right. Damned sand gets everywhere!" T'Lana@anncaris | The guard laughs as well, "That it does! Well, enjoy your rest!" They proceed to inspecting the other arrivals Sin@crystyl continues towards the temple like she owns the place T'Lana@anncaris | They proceed to the Temple Square without trouble. Upon arriving, T'Lana leads their mounts to a stable on the side of the square, where other guards are currently saddling up their mounts T'Lana@anncaris | One of the guards comments passing by their group, "Nice mounts. Picked the good ones for your patrol, didn't you?" Sin@crystyl | Lennie: "We got luck of the draw" T'Lana@anncaris | Guard: "Oh well, hope we get those next time. They look better than anything else we have here in the temple stable." Sin@crystyl nods, "We had the same thought earlier. Figured they must be newly acquired stock" T'Lana@anncaris | Guard: "Must be. Look forward to getting to use them someday!" The guard walks off to see to his own mount Sin@crystyl finishes tying up her mount before heading in T'Lana@anncaris | The rest of the team finishes up with their mounts and steps off towards the temple... T'Lana@anncaris ...and as expected, none of the guards try to stop them, simply letting them step up the stairs! Sin@crystyl proceeds inside, gauging the movement of others in the area to get a sense of where to go T'Lana@anncaris | Sin notices that the outermost layer of the temple complex seem predominantly occupied by guards, and as they move about, it becomes clear that this is where the temple guard barracks are - T'Lana@anncaris - located. There do not seem to be many robed priests in the area, and most who are here seem to just be passing through to get to one of the exits Sin@crystyl continues to proceed through the area and makes for the inner temple T'Lana@anncaris observes, "Most of the guards in here are carrying smaller weapons. We should switch out our own." Sin@crystyl nods, "Good call" T'Lana@anncaris finds a weapon rack and sets down her spear, taking one of the scimitars instead Sin@crystyl | Lennie follows suit T'Lana@anncaris | Zanah also switches out her spear before looking around. Seeing the coast is clear, she takes out her hypos, "Radiation'll be strong enough to affect us once we go further in. Best to use - T'Lana@anncaris:- these now." Sin@crystyl & Lennie take theirs and quickly apply them T'Lana@anncaris and Zanah apply theirs as well T'Lana@anncaris:"We should be set to proceed." Sin@crystyl:"Let's move quickly then" T'Lana@anncaris | Proceeding into the next level of the temple complex, there are many more priests and priestesses, but still enough guards standing around or on patrol that their presence doesn't seem - T'Lana@anncaris:- suspicious. There is a significant amount of living quarters here; unlike the barracks where the guards store their equipment and rest, but seem to have their own homes in the city, the priests - T'Lana@anncaris:- appear to be living full-time in the temple. The living areas are more difficult to navigate through, as following the others usually leads to their rooms or communal dining areas Sin@crystyl focuses more on the presence as they draw closer and lets her instinct guide her T'Lana@anncaris | Focusing on the presence, which is stronger than ever in the middle of the temple, Sin is able to determine that it is located somewhere below them, rather than in a chamber on the surface of - T'Lana@anncaris:- the complex Sin@crystyl discretely relays this to the others and continues to find a way down T'Lana@anncaris takes out a tricorder and does a discreet scan in an empty passage, "The radiation is making scanning difficult, but I can confirm from here that there are tunnels running beneath us." Sin@crystyl:"I'm trying to find a way down" she nods T'Lana@anncaris | As they search around, a priestess wearing a robe with a green trim approaches Sin, "Hello! I don't think I've ever seen you around before." Sin@crystyl gives her a curious look in return, "I was about to say! You must be new here" T'Lana@anncaris | Priestess: "I've been around for some time already, but I've never seen you. You must be away a lot, judging by the red. Off on a lot of campaigns?" Sin@crystyl:"Very true, that would explain it! Actually just returned from another campaign outside the city" T'Lana@anncaris | The Priestess nods, "Heading back to your room for some rest? You Battle Priests that are often out on campaigns do keep rooms in the temple, right?" Sin@crystyl:"We do" she nods, "But as we are seldom here to use them, they are normally allocated further in so the rest of you who make more use of the temple have a more convenient home" T'Lana@anncaris | Priestess: "That makes sense. Don't let me keep you, then!" Sin@crystyl bows her head a little, "Nor I you" T'Lana@anncaris | The Priestess heads off, leaving them to explore T'Lana@anncaris looks to Sin, "Excellent work, Ensign. I can see how you were able to infiltrate the Valley Forge crew." Sin@crystyl:"Aah the good old days" T'Lana@anncaris | After a few more minutes of searching, they come across a large sealed gate guarde not by guards, but two priests wearing red-trimmed robes. The gate appears very ornate, with root-like - T'Lana@anncaris:- designs stretching out from the centre to the edges Sin@crystyl approaches T'Lana@anncaris | One of the priests looks to Sin, "Are you here to relieve us?" Sin@crystyl gives a slight nod, "Time to get some rest" T'Lana@anncaris | Priest 2: "Why is there only one of you? There's usually two guards on the door to the Depths." Sin@crystyl:"Yeah, that's why I have these guys with me. Guess you didn't hear yet - being stuck all the way down here - but one of our brothers lost control in the city and caused quite the mayhem. Everyone - Sin@crystyl:- else went out to give chase and restore order. You know what civilians are like" T'Lana@anncaris | Priest 1: "Another one? That is troubling. I suppose regular guards will have to do." T'Lana@anncaris | The two priests make their way down the hall, leaving the door to Sin and the others... T'Lana@anncaris | Zanah: "Seems we got lucky choosing red for you." Sin@crystyl takes up position where one of the guards does until they're out of sight. She turns a smile to Zanah, "What can I say, it's my colour!" T'Lana@anncaris:"It was one of only two colours we had seen prior to entering the temple. Purple seemed to be of higher authority, and while that may have had more benefits, it was also riskier as I assumed the - T'Lana@anncaris:- purples would be more well-known. Thus, I chose red. Which simply happened to fit the Ensign's regular department colour as well." Sin@crystyl:"We can enjoy good fortune once this is over. It will not be long before someone comes through and sees the door unguarded. Now we are on the clock" T'Lana@anncaris nods and scans the door, "There is some form of mechanism to opening it, but I detect no powered elements or any triggers such as levers." Sin@crystyl closes her eyes, reaching out with her mind to get a feel for what's at play T'Lana@anncaris | Sin senses several triggers located inside the door which she can maneuver telekinetically Sin@crystyl focuses in on them, working the mechanisms to open the door T'Lana@anncaris | The 'root' like extensions slide back as the mechanisms are hit, soon leaving the door unlocked... Sin@crystyl opens her eyes, willing the door open, "There" Sin@crystyl | Lennie: "Showoff..." Sin@crystyl grins, poking her tongue out T'Lana@anncaris:"Actually, I believe the door was intended to be opened with telekinesis, as a way to guard against just anyone being able to access these Depths." Sin@crystyl | Lennie: "Yeah, but she's still way too smug for her own good!" teasing Sin Sin@crystyl laughs, heading in T'Lana@anncaris:"That is true," she follows inside. The passageway beyond has two large lit braziers and a number of torches T'Lana@anncaris takes a torch and lights it on a brazier before proceeding ahead Sin@crystyl | Lennie takes another one to help T'Lana@anncaris | The team head down a wide and well-maintained staircase, almost the exact opposite of the tunnel they used to flee the city the day before. The path winds down for some time, before they reach - T'Lana@anncaris:- a hall lined with a few rooms to the side T'Lana@anncaris | Zanah takes out her tricorder and scans, "The radiation has spiked significantly here. This may be where they come to gain their abilities." Sin@crystyl:"Sounds about right" T'Lana@anncaris | Zanah: "Only reason I can think for someone building rooms down here. The transformation isn't immediate, so they're going to have to stay here until their augmentation is complete." Sin@crystyl | Lennie: "That just means we must be mindful as others could be down here with us" T'Lana@anncaris | Zanah: "Unless they just got here, I doubt they'll be a problem. Augmentation through radiation must be a gruelling process. Even if they got their powers, they'll be in no state to use them." Sin@crystyl continues quietly, focusing on the presence T'Lana@anncaris | Sin does indeed sense a presence in one of the side rooms as they pass by as well... Sin@crystyl points out to the others, "There is one in there" T'Lana@anncaris | Zanah takes a scan from just outside the room, "Elevated body temperature, minimum movement, seems to be on a bed...I don't think she'll be a problem. Probably suffering from radiation sickness.â€ Sin@crystyl | Lennie, "Can you tell if this one will survive?" T'Lana@anncaris | Zanah: "I'll have to get a closer scan," she looks to Lennie for approval Sin@crystyl | Lennie nods, raising a pre-emptive hand to Sin's protests before she can voice them T'Lana@anncaris | Zanah quietly steps inside, doing a more detailed medical scan before exiting the room, "Her DNA's still resequencing, but from the way it's going so far I think she's only got a 30-40% chance - T'Lana@anncaris:- of survival. It's a barbaric form of genetic augmentation. If I give her a dose of our medication now, I can raise the chances to around 90%, but she's going to come out with little to no - T'Lana@anncaris:- ability, since it'll block the rest of the procedure. And I don't know if that'll save her, or just get her killed another way if it turns out she didn't get powers." Sin@crystyl | Lennie: "At your own medical discretion then, I won't order you one way or the other" T'Lana@anncaris | Zanah nods, "We have enough medication to spare. I'll give her a dose, better to do something than nothing. Plus, if we talk Ketkolep into leaving or dismantle their organization here, might - T'Lana@anncaris:- not matter what the other priests think." Sin@crystyl | Lennie smiles with approval and nods T'Lana@anncaris | Zanah steps back inside, applying a hypo to the woman before stepping back out, "There. Let's keep going." Sin@crystyl | Lennie pats her on the shoulder, "You did a good thing" as they proceed T'Lana@anncaris | Zanah smiles, "I'm glad you approve, Commander." Sin@crystyl eyerolls as she listens to all the Starfleet fluffiness T'Lana@anncaris | As they move further in from the rooms, the passageways get rougher and rougher quickly, and very soon it feels like they are in an ancient ruin rather than the well-maintained underground - T'Lana@anncaris - tunnels they ere in just a few minutes ago Sin@crystyl | Lennie: "Now I'm getting flashbacks of Belyia..." T'Lana@anncaris | Zanah: "Yeah, I remember ruins like this there too..." T'Lana@anncaris | Sin feels the presence grow stronger and stronger.. Sin@crystyl:"We are almost there" T'Lana@anncaris | A few minutes later, they reach a large central chamber which look like a mix of natural cave and ancient stone structure. The source of the energy is definitely in this room, even though - T'Lana@anncaris - their torchlight doesn't detect anything except rocks and ruins T'Lana@anncaris scans, "No lifesigns, but this is no doubt the epicentre of the radiation." T'Lana@anncaris | Sin can sense the powerful presence all through the room. As before, it seems strangely inactive, but maybe by trying to link with it, she can jostle it awake... Sin@crystyl:"Well it is supposedly sleeping. I will try to make my presence known to it. Be ready, I don't know how this will play out..." she closes her eyes again in focus T'Lana@anncaris | Sin gets flashes of images, not unlike when she was communicating with the Basilisk, many of them unfamiliar to her. But reaching out doesn't seem to be enough to wake the being. She - T'Lana@anncaris - may need to jostle it awake with a stronger application of her power... Sin@crystyl:"I can see it's dreams, but nothing of sense" turning to the others, "This is almost as heavy a sleeper as I am. I fear nothing less than a colossal alarm clock will work. I can play this part, but - Sin@crystyl:- can't guarantee that the rest of the temple won't become aware of it" Sin@crystyl | Lennie - taken aback by Sin actually asking permission - looks to TL, "What do you think?" T'Lana@anncaris:"I am not sure if we have another option. It is not responsive while it is sleeping, is it?" Sin@crystyl shakes her head, "I am unable to wake it that way" T'Lana@anncaris nods, "Then we will have to wake it to achieve what we came here for." Sin@crystyl:"Very well. I suggest you stand back by the entrance" T'Lana@anncaris and Zanah head back to the chamber entrance, letting Sin do her thing Sin@crystyl takes a deep breath and closes her eyes once more. Building her focus and awareness she draws on everything around her to build her effort; sensing the structure of the room around them, the - Sin@crystyl:- moisture in the air and the very rocks, the breaths of the others behind her, their heartbeats echoing and filling her ears. She reaches further, slowly outstretching her arms and reaching deeper - Sin@crystyl:- still beyond the visible as she learned to do long ago now; filling her awareness with the microscopic chaos of the serene facade around her. She reaches out to that force, bending it to her will - Sin@crystyl:- in drawing every electron from every atom she can reach, unwilling to give nature a choice in the matter. The cave around them would begin to rumble and crumble in falling clouds of dust as she - Sin@crystyl:- unwittingly tears apart it's very base chemicals before the building electricity in the air begins to crackle all around the room. Everyone feels the tingle of static as it continues to build - Sin@crystyl:- until starting to manifest - first subtly - but with increasing violence as electrical energy begins to streak all around the room. Blinding chaos ensues as it flashes all around the room. But - Sin@crystyl:- through the flashes it can be seen channeling through Sin's outstretching fingertips. Larger debris begins to fall from the ceiling as the internal storm rages. If this doesn't wake the slumbering- Sin@crystyl:- god, nothing will T'Lana@anncaris | As Sin's storm crackles across the chamber, there is a sudden burst of force that sends everyone stumbling back a few steps, knocking out the torches and leaving the area in pitch darkness - T'Lana@anncaris - save for the streaks of lightning. Through the flashes, a huge, dark void can be seen forming in the centre of the room. In the centre of the void blinks open a single eye larger than a - T'Lana@anncaris - person's head, with tendrils of energy stretching out from the void around it. Though the 'void' seems to be pitch dark, it gives off an aura of bright light around it, looking almost like a - T'Lana@anncaris - micro black hole T'Lana@anncaris FX | https://i.imgur.com/Vf1rKFd.png T'Lana@anncaris | Ketkolep: "Why...do you wake me?" Sin@crystyl holds her storm until it speaks so she knows it is fully with her. She lowers her arms, panting a little from exhaustion but at least with enough energy left in her to be able to feign a lack of - Sin@crystyl:- exhaustion for the most part. She smiles cheerily, "Good morning sleepyhead! It's time to quit moping and rejoin the galaxy!" T'Lana@anncaris | Ketkolep: "You are not of this world. Have my guardians let you past...or have they failed their duty?" Sin@crystyl:"They have failed their duty, but not in the manner you suspect. In a way, one might say it is the way you failed them even" Sin@crystyl | Lennie facepalms at Sin's lack of decorum T'Lana@anncaris | Ketkolep: "I cannot touch your mind, and do not know of what you speak." Sin@crystyl:"It's simple really, like the old saying goes 'absolute power corrupts. absolutely'. You entrusted your Guardians to wield your power responsibly so that they may defend you while you sleep and wait- Sin@crystyl:- for the universe to die like a colossal sloth. But your Guardians are immature - evolutionarily speaking - and have used it to wage war on each other. Those wielding it directly verging now on - Sin@crystyl:- taking your place as the absolute power who is worshipped among these Children" T'Lana@anncaris | Ketkolep: "That is unfortunate. I do not seek worship, only protection. Their wars will draw attention to my presence. That was not our pact." Sin@crystyl:"Exactly, they have failed you in breaking that pact. But the fault is not with them for they are but Children who know no better. You however do not share that excuse. In short, you should have - Sin@crystyl:- known better than to put them in this situation to begin with" T'Lana@anncaris | Ketkolep: "I had no choice. I underestimated the energies I had left, and no others here were capable of protecting me. It was a gamble I had to take, to hide among Children not yet developed." Sin@crystyl nods her head slightly, "I understand the desperation of necessity. Ironically, that nature of the situation which led to your slumbering is the same as that which now leads to your awakening" T'Lana@anncaris | Ketkolep: "And what do you seek of me? To stop the wars here on this world?" Sin@crystyl:"Since we came here and learned of them, yes. But that is not the goal which brought us here, hopefully it will be a welcome side effect of our true purpose. Eons ago you created a weapon for Zeus. - Sin@crystyl:- One his son later wielded in defense of the galaxy against the Progenitors Horde. One which I believe you retrieved from that battlefield before finding yourself here to slumber" T'Lana@anncaris | Ketkolep: "Zeus..." A cloud forms in front of the void which soon takes the shape of a muscular, bearded man wielding a thunderbolt, "Is this the one whom you refer to?" Sin@crystyl:"That is consistent with the mythological imagery associated with him. And that is indeed the weapon I speak of" T'Lana@anncaris | Ketkolep: "That was my creation, yes. But you are mistaken on one thing...I do not have it in my possession." Sin@crystyl:"That... is unfortunate, but does not devalue our presence here. A powerful enemy is seeking it, which is why we came here to protect it from their use. We believed it present here because of the - Sin@crystyl:- energy you - and it - emanate. If we can find that, so can they. Which means they would eventually arrive here and seek you by force" T'Lana@anncaris | Ketkolep: "This enemy you speak of, it is the Fallen and their Horde?" Sin@crystyl nods, "It is" T'Lana@anncaris | Ketkolep: "Then it is no longer safe here. If they come to this world, I will not be able to shield the Children here for long." Sin@crystyl:"Then come with us and stand at our sides against them" T'Lana@anncaris | Ketkolep: "The energies of creation are too faded. I have not the strength to fight such an enemy. But there is one way I can aid you. I do not have the weapon you seek, but you have not come - T'Lana@anncaris:- here in vain." Sin@crystyl:"You do not have to fight as you perhaps once did. Your mere presence and knowledge will a great boon to us, even if just for a short time until we find you a new place to slumber if you so choose" T'Lana@anncaris | Ketkolep: "Very well. I will come with you until you find the weapon- on one condition." Sin@crystyl:"And what would that be?" T'Lana@anncaris | Ketkolep: "You will give me the thunderbolt. You know you cannot wield it. I have felt your power. It is raw, uncontrolled. The weapon will consume you. Return it to me, and I will destroy it. - T'Lana@anncaris:- From it, I shall forge you something you can wield against your enemy, and I will use the remainder of the energy within to find safe haven.â€ Sin@crystyl:"As far as I'm concerned, it's your toy anyway. We do not specifically seek that weapon, only to stop the Horde from consuming this galaxy" she bows her head, "We will graciously accept any - Sin@crystyl:- assistance you see fit to lend. In return we will help you find your safe haven" she looks back up with a slight smirk, "But we also have a condition" T'Lana@anncaris | Ketkolep: "Once the weapon is gone, the Horde will not be able to make use of it. I will give you in return something you are able to wield against your enemy, as my thanks. What is your - T'Lana@anncaris:- condition?" Sin@crystyl:"That we don't just disappear from this world and leave these people to the fate you have crafted for them. Speak to them one last time, withdraw your gifts, and set them back on a path where they - Sin@crystyl:- might once again find their own way without destroying themselves in your wake" T'Lana@anncaris | Ketkolep: "I cannot withdraw the gifts. Those who have been changed have their abilities written into the fabric of their being. But over time, these abilities will fade and become - T'Lana@anncaris:- insignificant, until they are ready to ascend. The rest, I will do." Sin@crystyl bows her head, "Those were mere suggestions for what may be done. All I care is that we do what damage control we can to help the people here" Sin@crystyl | Lennie steps forward, still a little speechless at Sin's sudden Starfleetyness, "Hi, hello there! Sorry to interrupt but... they are likely in all states of panic up there now. Also, how... - Sin@crystyl:- exactly will you accompany us? I'm not sure we can even get a transporter lock on your present form. Plus the radiation you emanate is still lethal to us" T'Lana@anncaris | Ketkolep: "I can contain the energies. I have simply allowed it to permeate here so the Children here can obtain the abilities needed to protect me. As for transportation, my powers are weak, - T'Lana@anncaris:- but I am more than capable of travelling to your ship." Sin@crystyl | Lennie: "Right. Of course, sorry I just had to be sure we weren't missing something" Sin@crystyl chuckles, looking between the pair, "I may not yet match your power and control Ketkolep, but I am the closest you are likely to find among the Children. If I can do anything to help accommodate you- Sin@crystyl:- as you walk among us, then I will gladly do so" T'Lana@anncaris | Ketkolep: "Do not worry. I am familiar with your kind. I was one of you once, in a different universe. Long ago, in your words, though time has little meaning when referring to such things." Sin@crystyl:"Very good. I hope during our time together we have the opportunity to learn more of that universe before it is completely forgotten. We will follow your lead from here in dealing with the - Sin@crystyl:- inhabitants of this world" T'Lana@anncaris:"There are others coming." T'Lana@anncaris | Sure enough, the footsteps soon come close enough for everyone to hear... Sin@crystyl glances back, then again to Ketkolep, "The time is upon us" T'Lana@anncaris | An old man with the first gold-trimmed robe they have seen comes into view, flanked by six wearing purple robes T'Lana@anncaris | Gold Priest: "Intruders! In the very sanctum of our temple!" T'Lana@anncaris | Ketkolep: "They do not intrude. I have permitted their presence here." T'Lana@anncaris | Purple Priestess: "Is that..." T'Lana@anncaris | Gold Priest: "But you were supposed to be asleep..." Sin@crystyl turns, "Damned straight it is! So be respectful, will you" T'Lana@anncaris | Ketkolep: "These travellers have woken me and informed me of your deeds." T'Lana@anncaris | Gold Priest: "We thought you would not wake..." T'Lana@anncaris | Ketkolep: "And that gives you the right to abuse my gifts?" T'Lana@anncaris | Gold Priest: "Other tribes and kingdoms- they were the ones who attacked first. And we thought- with all this power, why should we be on the defensive all the time? We can ensure they never - T'Lana@anncaris:- attack us again." T'Lana@anncaris | Ketkolep: "Perhaps that was how it began. But there are always other tribes. Other kingdoms. Other empires. The greater you become, the more attention you attract from even greater foes, until - T'Lana@anncaris:- one day you will face a threat that these gifts are not strong enough to overcome." T'Lana@anncaris | Gold Priest: "But that does not mean we should always keep to ourselves, be forced to fend off attack from every-" T'Lana@anncaris | Ketkolep: "Your actions are no longer merely about protecting yourselves. You know your transgressions. You do not need me to inform you of them. You are only afraid, because I have awoken and - T'Lana@anncaris:- learned of them." T'Lana@anncaris | The priests fall silent, sharing uncertain glances with each other T'Lana@anncaris | Ketkolep: "I will not punish you, for soon I shall depart this world. You shall no longer receive the gift, and what remains of it will fade over the ages." T'Lana@anncaris | Gold Priest: "But we will be powerless to defend ourselves!" T'Lana@anncaris | Ketkolep: "You have your walls and your armies and your weapons of war. You can protect yourselves, but you can no longer afford to attack others, to draw the ire of those around you. Remember - T'Lana@anncaris:- that, and your people will survive." Sin@crystyl:"You will find new ways to flourish. Instead of persecuting those who are different, try embracing them; find strength in unity. Might just surprise yourselves" Sin@crystyl | Lennie blink blinks, her face a picture of 'who are you and what have you done with Sin' T'Lana@anncaris | The gold priest nods, "I...I will heed your words, Ketkolep." T'Lana@anncaris | Ketkolep: "I must speak to the others who know of me, those in the cities who are not of the priesthood and the tribes who have remained faithful to our old pact. Return to your ship and await - T'Lana@anncaris:- me there. I will come to you once I have done as you asked on the surface." Sin@crystyl bows her head, "We will do as you ask and await your presence" turning to the priests, "Hey goldie, mind scooching over a little there? We'd like to be on our way now" Sin@crystyl | Lennie eyerolls and smiles a little with 'there's our Sin' T'Lana@anncaris | The priests step aside, letting the group exit T'Lana@anncaris | As the team proceeds up through the passageways, Zanah takes out her tricorder and comments, "The radiation levels are dropping already." Sin@crystyl | Lennie: "That's a good sign" T'Lana@anncaris | Zanah nods, "Shows he can keep the radiation in check. Best to still find a spot for him on the ship. Maybe one of the cargo bays, like the Zytomin AI." Sin@crystyl | Lennie: "I'll secure one in the aft section. Shielding is strongest there for the warp core and nacelles so it should help" T'Lana@anncaris:"Excellent idea, Commander." T'Lana@anncaris | Zanah: "I'll have some more of these hypos produced, just in case." Sin@crystyl | Lennie: "Another excellent idea" --- T'Lana@anncaris | After returning to the ship and changing out of her disguise, T'Lana and Mischa goes to debrief with Keelah... T'Lana@anncaris rings the doorbell Keelah@crystyl:"Come in" T'Lana@anncaris steps in, "Captain. I assume Commander Lendaria has already informed you that you will be expecting a guest?" Keelah@crystyl nods, "Ladies, please come in. And yes she has, preparations are already in place" T'Lana@anncaris steps over and takes a seat, "Ketkolep needs to speak with the locals first and ensure the situation is stable on the surface. I expect it will be a few days before he is ready to travel with us." Keelah@crystyl:"Hopefully that will give Sin time to recover as she has serious work ahead of her now, with this new arrival" T'Lana@anncaris:"Indeed. Have you been informed of the specifics of our arrangement with Ketkolep yet?" Keelah@crystyl:"I'm not sure 'specifics' is the word I would use. Lendaria has provided me the basics of this quid-pro-quo arrangements, but I am equally interested to hear your view on it all" T'Lana@anncaris:"Ketkolep intends to destroy the thunderbolt and create something we are capable of utilizing, while keeping the remainder of the power for himself to find safe haven. I believe that is an amenable - T'Lana@anncaris:- arrangement, as our efforts to find a way to move the thunderbolt have been fruitless so far. If the neither the Horde nor Guardians can find a means to do so with decades of research, I - T'Lana@anncaris:- do not think our chances of doing so in a few weeks are particularly high." Keelah@crystyl:"Agreed. This of course still assume we are able to find the thunderbolt, does this Ketkolep have additional leads on its location?" T'Lana@anncaris:"I do not yet know for certain, but he mentioned that while he did not have the thunderbolt, our journey here is also not in vain, suggesting that he may have some information on its whereabouts, - T'Lana@anncaris:- though he may simply be referring to his ability to transport and utilize the artifact. From what he has said, I am inclined to believe that he does have something of use for us in the search as well.â€ Keelah@crystyl:"Let us hope so. What about this search of his for a safe haven; do we have any inclination as to the criteria for it?" T'Lana@anncaris:"Not directly from him, but as I understand it, he simply requires a quiet place to lay low, but somewhere that could provide adequate protection should danger still find him. There are no short - T'Lana@anncaris:- supply of barren worlds and multiple spacefaring civilizations can be found nearby, such as Corporate colonies, the Lodzki or the Colonial Fleet. The latter may not have existed when he first - T'Lana@anncaris:- arrived here, but there were other spacefaring civilizations he could have chosen from in the area then. They likely draw too much attention to him, but he still wished for protectors of some - T'Lana@anncaris:- sort, hence settling on a pre-warp world. I do have two potential sites in mind which Ketkolep may find amenable." Keelah@crystyl smiles, "I had a feeling you might. What are your ideas?" T'Lana@anncaris:"The first is of course Zihil. It has its own protectors and is similarly a Primeval being. However, Zihil's protection is not absolute, and its involvement in the Coalition could make it higher - T'Lana@anncaris:- profile than what Ketkolep desires. The second possibility, I am less certain about, as it is one you are more familiar with." Keelah@crystyl perks a brow, "Belyia" T'Lana@anncaris nods, "Precisely. It prevents the functioning of advanced technology, a defensive measure that can neutralize even fleets. Most who venture there do not leave, which has led to it being - T'Lana@anncaris:- essentially unknown to other civilizations. And there is a being present who also maintains and is interested in protecting the world." Keelah@crystyl:"I am inclined to agree, though we do not know if his presence there would affect the people or the protector beings so we would have to do some investigating" T'Lana@anncaris:"That was my concern as well." Keelah@crystyl:"We will explore all options, of course. Well it is not the result we set out for, but perhaps in some ways it is a brighter one" T'Lana@anncaris:"The foreign presence on the planet is departing peacefully, a decision which will benefit all involved." Keelah@crystyl:"Yes, that was an impressive job done in reaching that outcome". she smiles, "It has spared me another Prime Dilemma" T'Lana@anncaris nods, "Anything other than a peaceful solution would have been problematic. A significant amount of credit must be assigned to Ensign Sin for the success of our mission. We would not have - T'Lana@anncaris:- achieved this outcome without her contribution." Keelah@crystyl:"I am told she demonstrated... alarming levels of power down there. I am also told that her recklessness endangered the mission. As one from outside our direct crew, but there for all of these - Keelah@crystyl:- events I would be most grateful for your unbiased perspective" T'Lana@anncaris:"She is no doubt powerful and has a tendency for reckless behaviour, but she has also performed admirably as a Starfleet officer, especially in her communication with Ketkolep. She is, as you would - T'Lana@anncaris:- say, rough around the edges, but has the makings of an excellent officer at her core. After all, most others with power like hers would have easily been corrupted, like those priests on the - T'Lana@anncaris:- surface who were given Ketkolep's gifts." Keelah@crystyl smiles, "'Rough around the edges' is putting it lightly with our troubled young stowaway. Thank you Commander, I appreciate your insights" T'Lana@anncaris:"I am pleased my insights on her are of use to you, Captain."