It had been an elegant, flower letter in appropriately spidery script that had summoned Kaji and Ardul to the Academy. An appropriately magical kind of thing that appeared blank at first but then revealed it’s contents with a shower of golden pixie sprks in a manner that was slmost that was almost Disney-like though likely only Kaji will think that. It also comes with helpful animated pictograms on the back, just on the off chance that neither Kaji nor Ardul read. And it is fairly likely that Kthzyx was around when the missive arrived.
The tower spires of the Academy really are a wonder and the Professor’s offices are high in them. They’re accessed by means of a pseudo teleporter like elevator that’s quite literally a rush to use.
The letter was probably the coolest thing he’d ever seen done with script in a place like this. It was like Disney magic taking a page from J.K. Rowling, and for a moment Kaji had been too engrossed in how neat a trick the whole thing was that he’d nearly forgotten to pay attention to the content.
By now Kthzyx had become more often than not, a regular tag-along, and Kaji vice-versa whenever they tended to get bored around Grans and the latter lacked in errands or chores to do. At least Kaji had been getting better at not taking wrong turns, but then with the Academy being one of the more prominent places in the city, it’s not that difficult getting back on track if they had gotten turned around.
He doubts that Professor Ingerhast might approve of any dawdling, but it’s hard not to gawk at things as they make their way to the offices. The lifts are an awesome experience even if they leave him slightly dizzy once they step off. Part of him half expects some super fancy decor like the upper levels of a certain Miyazaki movie bathhouse.
Ardul had been speaking with a friend when the missive arrived and she’d invited him to join her. After all, it’s possible they might encounter these problems when on patrol.
The summons really was quite creative and it did make her smile a little. Hopefully Ingerhast wouldn’t try to eat the young magi though.
As she arrives on the Professors floor, there’s a slight tightness around her eyes at the use of the magic, but she’s managed to keep her normally cool aplomb. At least for now.
“Ah, there you are Kaji. I see you got the invitation as well.” the blonde smiles a little and puts her helm under her arm. “Now, where is the good Professor?”Of course Kthzyx tags along with Kaji. Because. Especially as she was just completely GONE for two days and then appeared again looking tired and somehow diminished. If there were crystals for her to eat, she devoured them with an excessive amount of vigor and even now is still hungry and watching for something else she can claim and consume. The Professor’s office is dark. Neither Ardul nor Kaji have been in it before. It’s dark enough that neither the walls nor ceiling can be seen. What can be seen is a large circle of light wherein there is an office desk and some chairs.
“Come in, come in. Make yourselfs comfortable.” A chittering voice comes from the darkness above. “Give me a few moments. I’m just… wrapping up a project.”
Step into my lair said the spider to the flies.
If Kaji had any crystals in his pack he would have gladly offered them to Kthzyx. It’s not exactly one of the things he’s tended to keep available on him, however, but at the very least he’d tried to offer one of the other packets of sugar that he’d found, not sure if the crystal-being would find it as edible as he did.
“Heya Ardul,” he greets, stopping at Ingerhast’s door to do so before he glances at the office in question. “Guess we’ll find out.” It’s a bit unsettling once they do set foot inside, especially knowing Professor Ingerhast’s true form. Kaji’s pretty sure he doesn’t want to see what might make up her office decor, and he hopes his gulp isn’t as loud as it sounds to his own ears. Despite the darkness, he attempts to take a look around, and abruptly freezes at the familiar voice from above. “…eh-heh…” Forcing a smile at his companions, he shrugs a bit before starting carefully towards the more lit area of the room where the chairs and desk lie.
Ardul peers into the office and frowns. That she can’t see the walls or the cieling is concerning. She imagines though, given what’s she seen she imagines it’s covered with webs. Whether that’s for the spider-prof to cling to or … wrap up projects with, the blonde isn’t sure she wants to know.
“Hello Zyx.” she nods to the crystalline entity “Go ahead, Kaji.” She waits for the youth to enter and follows him in. “Good afternoon, Professor. You wanted to see us? I take it you have news on those artifacts?”Zyx is not limited to the squishy people’s range of visible light, so she looks around the room curiously. Whether or not she understands what she’s seeing is another matter entirely. She does, however pick up on both Kaji and Ardul’s unease and goes just a little bit spikey in reaction. To be clear Professor Ingerhast isn’t actually a giant orb spider. She’s an alien being so functionally similar to an orb spider that it almost makes no difference. Which isn’t likely to be comforting as she descends on a silken string changing mid drop from spider to woman and sort of twirling to the floor with a dancer’s skill and grace.
She smiles to the others, perhaps a bit sharply and takes a seat behind her desk. “Please. Sit. Can I get you a drink? A nice red, perhaps? I have a good twenty one year old.” That’s… also unlikely to be comforting.
“I’ve made some progress on your artifacts and I thought you might like to hear them.”
By now Kaji’s become accustomed to the reactions Kthzyx seems to pick up from others, even though he’s still not quite sure how she does so. He gestures with his hand to reassure her, giving her a careful pat. So far that he’s figured, the professor’s not bad, just a bit creepy, but that can’t be helped for what she is, and just so long as she doesn’t want to eat anyone, everything will be fine!
…he won’t ask what sort of project she was wrapping up.
Kaji sits down, watching with awe as the spider-woman elegantly makes her way down. Okay, that was kind of cool. Smiling politely, he shakes his head at the drink offer. “Um, I’m okay here,” he says.
Glancing briefly at Ardul, he looks back towards Ingerhast. “I guess that’s why we’re here, right? What did you find out?”
“A twenty one year old?” Ardul smirks just a little as Ingerhast drops and morphs at the same time. “Sounds delightful…” She’s amused at the spider-womans choice of words and hopes they’re just that. A choice of words. “I would love one, thank you.”
“Settle Zyx. We’re here for information, it’s fine.” she murmurs to the creature and then looks to the Professor. “As Kaji says, we’d love to know what you’ve found.” The youth gets a considering look from the Valkyr, she’s not forgotten how he reacted to the piece of fabric.Zyx does indeed settle when both Kaji and Ardul reassure her, and then claims a seat alongside the others. She watches the woman behind the desk with open curiosity, though she declines the offer or something red… wait. “Is the red a ruby or a spinel?” :Red wine.” Ingerhast chuckles as she opens a drawer in her desk and produces a decanter. One pour later Ardul has a glass. Then she pulls out another, smaller bottle filled with a mostly clear orangish liquid. “Ruby Juice, from living rubies deep in the elemental plain.” She says as she pours that and slides it over.
“Now, the artifacts. The sigil on it is written in a language called Latter Cthonic. It’s used extensively in certain circles of diabolism but quite rare in this part of the multiverse. It’s incomplete. A scrap. Possibly part of a codex or collection of such sigils. There’s a great deal of residual power in it it. I suspect it was either part of an enchanted artifact or used in a spell at some point in the recent past. It should probably be handled as little as possible…”
“Diabolism?” Kaji asks, tilting his head, just in case it might mean something completely different in a place like this. He’s pretty sure the only things he’d ever read on it were old case files at Roy’s office. “So does it go with the crystals we found? And…well, that’s weird that it’s just a scrap, unless someone dropped it. But it’s old, right?”
There’s a very plain frown that touches the teen’s face at the suggestion regarding its being handled. “I can believe that,” he mumbles. “…what’s it made of though? It’s just…some kind of cloth, right?”
“Thank you, Professor.” Ardul smirks just a little bit more. She’s enjoying the Professors seemingly dark humour. Or at least, that’s what she hopes it is.
“Ruby wine? That sounds interesting. ” she looks at the glass before paying attention to the information. “Interesting ….”
“You said Cthonic? And it’s rare in this part of the multiverse? Do you know where it might be more common?”
She won’t try to console Kaji, not yet. “Kaji here has already handled the cloth…” she explains to the woman.Zyx ooooohs at the ruby juice. She served it to the Prince once on a very important occasion, but she’s never tasted it herself. While Kaji and Ardul ask about the artifact that apparently Ingerhast examined for them, she takes a sip of the juice and flushes completely red for a moment. Oh, this is tasty… “Diabolism is a branch of magical study mostly concerned with runes, circles, pentagrams, wards… pretty much any kind of written or more permanent magic.” Ingerhast answers Kaji. “And the material that sigil is written on is made of… tanned hide of some form. I wouldn’t speculate what //kind// of tan hide, but it’s definitely animal based.” It really is best not to speculate on it too much. Kaji in particular might not like how it goes.
“If you’ve handled it already I advise not handling it anymore. One of the several translations of that sigal roughly runs ‘ill-omened’. I couldn’t be more precise without seeing what else it went with but…” Yes.
“Latter Cthonic, yes. It’s been observed on a number of dead worlds and deep places. It’s not spoken by any living race that I’m familiar with. I couldn’t exactly tell you how widepread it is here except that the places that I know of where you can find writings like this are all not easy to get to from here.” Spatial relationships in the Multiverse are not always clear. Metaphysical ones are usually clearer.
“Do you like that, Miss? You can have some more if you’d like.”
Not even Zyx’s brief color change can completely distract him from Ingerhast’s words. Kaji finds his hands grasping each other tightly as he listens, and with his expression already set into a frown, there’s nowhere further for his lips to go. He holds back a sigh, nodding his agreement. “Nooo problem there,” he says. After what had happened the first time, he’s not too crazy about trying it again.
He looks between the professor and Ardul as the winged one’s questions are addressed. The name that Ingerhast had mentioned earlier wasn’t at all familiar to him either. “…but it’s been seen before?” he prompts. “I mean, it’d have to, otherwise you wouldn’t have anything to refer to…”
Ardul raises a brow as Zyx flushes ruby and watches the crystalline entity for a moment. When she’s sure that Zyx is alright, she turns back to Ingerhast. “We found the scrap discarded near, what we believe is a ritual site. Kaji had a rather strong vision when he touched it. ‘Ill Omened’ would certainly seem about right.”
Kaji asks a good question and she frowns as considers the Professor “We have reason to think that the ritual was trying to open a portal. Perhaps did. Do you think the scrap could have come through then? Or perhaps you know of who might be studying it?” If it’s not spoken by any living race that Ingerhast is familiar with, perhaps it’s a source of intrigue for scholars.A second sip produces the same results, Zyx flushing red for a moment. And this time, her extremities hold the faintest blush of red to them, like feeding a carnation colored water. “No, but thank you. I really needed this,” she tells Ingerhast. She glances at the scrap. “What would someone gain from using something with that much … badness in it?” “Oh yes. We have several books in the library that are written in Latter Cthonic. There aren’t many people in the multiverse who read it but we have one or two experts here. I consulted one when I was analyzing your scrap.”
The woman-spider pours herself a drink of wine of his own and sips it.
“Well that’s an interesting set of questions Ardul and Kthzyx. It relates to your crystaline artifact. That was most certainly used in a very powerful ritual. So powerful that some of the magic seems to have imprinted itself on the structure of the icon. It wasn’t a summoning ritual so much as a communion one and that’s much worse. Summoners generally call beings that they command. Communion spells are for gaining the attention of beings much more powerful than the summoner. That… doesn’t have to be bad. One might commune with a god of light as much as a lord of hell but given that it was found at the same site as Latter Cthonic writing my bet is more on the latter than the former. As to what someone might gain… that depends on what they contacted. I think that the spell itself could be reconstructed but I’m not sure I recommend that.”
Kthzyx now in particuler gets Ingerhast’s attention. “It’s rather the other way around. Most magic – not all but most – is neither inherantly good nor inherantly evil. The badness comes from the intent behind the use. So the question is not in this case what someone gains by using an item that is so tainted but rather what someone gains by using magic that taints the things it touches so.”
That makes sense, although it still doesn’t clear up many questions. So it goes with lots of things, Kaji reflects. They’d found only bits and pieces to a puzzle, and a potentially dangerous one at that, given what Ingerhast shares. “…Ser Mercier did mention something about a demon lord, didn’t he, Ardul?” the teenager asks as he glances over at the other woman.
He quietly nods to himself as the spider professor answers Kthzyx’s question. There had been a similar discussion between him and Slaine, and not too long ago. “…given what I saw, I don’t think whoever had made use of it was intending anything very good…”
“Just so, Professor.” Ardul murmurs. “The same can be said of many things. I’ve seen atrocities commmited by soldiers with energy weapons. And I’ve seen amazing acts of good. Though I must say, the use of magic still leaves me cold…” The soldier takes a sip from her wine and considers the information given.
Kaji addressing her directly has her looking at the youth “Well, yes, he did…” she says carefully “… but that was based on what you said you saw. None of saw that, Kaji, so it’s hard to tell. But he did seem to think it was, yes.” She believes the youth saw what he did. She just doesn’t know what to make of it.
“Given we tracked what was left of a horde demons to that site, Professor, I’m inclined to believe you.” the blonde frowns again “So someone has been communing with a power, elsewhere in the Multiverse, using this latter Cthonic. Surely there can’t be that many who could do that?” It’s magic and Arduls understanding is next to nothing.
Zyx gets a thoughtful look. She needed the ruby wine?Ingerhast nods again. “The mage in question would be highly educated and well traveled. Latter Cthonic is not something one simply stumbles upon as a rule of thumb. The spell was sufficiently powerful that it was likely cast as a ritual and likely had other participants. In case you were not aware, one of the primary ways to harvest the magical energies needed for large rituals – other than sitting atop a ley line while doign it – is to gather either willing help or sacrifices. May I ask where exactly this place was?”
The spider professor leans back and steeples her fingers. She really does look every inch the spider in the center of her web.
“It was…? I thought he sensed something else while Zyx and I were looking at the crystals…” Then again, even Kaji isn’t too sure since a lot of details save certain ones from that day are rather fuzzy. The sound he makes isn’t quite a groan, but nor is it quite a whimper. “Sure looked like some kinda sacrifice from what I saw with that crystal,” he says quietly, scrunching up his face.
Again he glances at Ardul. She’d know the specifics of the location better. “It was up in Appalachians,” he does offer.
“It’s possible.” The blonde allows to Kaji “My concern was mostly for you though. You can follow up with Ser Mercier later and check that though.” She nods slowly to his next observation, turning her attention to Ingerhast “Out of Clearwater, up into the foothills of the Appalacians. Near the end of a service road. We found patches of what we believe to be blood and when Kaji touched the crystal, he saw … what he said was slaughtered bodies at the feet of robed beings. And before you ask, Professor, we didn’t find any trace of the bodies he said he saw.”
Which matches, for the most part, with what the Spider-Prof is saying.
“Is it possible then, we’re dealing with more than one mage?”“The only people who live up in the Appalachians in any numbers are Psi Stalkers and Psi Stalkers do not practice magic. It’s against their nature and they don’t have the talent. Otherwise, the constant rift activity and D-Shifting make it nearly impossible to inhabit the area long term.”
That’s fairly common knowledge but as none of the three people in her office are from this area Ingerhast mentions it anyway. “Given all that, yes. It’s more than simply possible that you’re dealing with more than one mage. I’d say either a Brotherhood, a Coven or a Cult. Organized, goal oriented and capable of long term effort and action. These are not people to be trifled with. And they’re probably not happy that you took their things.”
There’s a nod at Ardul, but he can’t help but feel a little of that familiar guilt surface. Pushing back the thought, the teenager nods as Ardul recounts where they had gone and briefly, what had happened.
“Ergh.” He probably doesn’t mean to, but he makes a face anyway. Did whoever was responsible know who took their stuff? Kaji supposes if they didn’t right away, they’d be able to find out. “Well, maybe at least it’ll keep them from doing…whatever they were trying to do.”
“Don’t do that…” Ardul sees that flash of guilt across the youths face and smiles at him, resisting the urge to ruffle his hair. “It’s my responsibility to look after my troops. And you’re one of them. Or you were.” Something the woman takes very seriously.
“I doubt it will stop them, Kaji. It might slow them down, though.” She frowns over to Ingerhast “Is it safe to leave the artifacts here? I’m assuming there’s some way to contain them so they can’t be tracked?” She doesn’t comment on the fact that they might have upset this group of magi.
Whilst they didn’t see anyone out there, it’s possible they were seen. Or they left sufficient traces to be tracked. “Seems we might have a cult to track down.” She had rather been hoping to move on from this.“As safe as it gets around here yes.” In the middle of Vesper in one of the highest concentrations of magical power outside the Thirty in the entire city? If it’s not safe here, it’s not safe anywhere.
“If they really are communing with the kind of power that approves of powering rituals with sacrificial victims it is imperitive that their plans be disrupted. You may be able to pull resources from the City… //if// you can convince them of the threat.” Ingerhast smiles thinly. “Which may take some doing. In either case, I’d say you need to find more answers. Who are they? What do they want? What power are they serving or hoping to serve? But be careful. People like this are often fanatical, bloodthirsty and ruthless… and you can’t always tell it until they’re ready to show you.”
At Ardul’s admonition, Kaji ducks his head. She’s said it before and she’ll likely say it again so long as he keeps letting that sentiment bubble up. Murmuring a sorry, he tries to straighten up again, fixating on the real problem- that’s what it’s been, hasn’t it?- at hand.
“Well, that’s at least one thing we don’t have to worry too much about,” he says. “Although I guess the next best thing would be to destroy them if they weren’t safe to have.” He wonders how well that suggestion would be taken. The things are artifacts after all, and some people can be weird about those sorts of things.
“…figures. It’s going to be like those typical rpg quests,” he sighs. But clearly this matter can’t be left alone, and quite frankly, it is technically up his alley, having been interning with a paranormal investigator. The thought almost makes him want to laugh. He knows this is hardly a laughing matter, however. After what he’d glimpsed, Kaji really doesn’t want to mess with these guys. “…so…I guess we’ll need to do some sniffing around for info, then…” He pulls out a small notepad from an inner jacket pocket, a fountain pen from another so he can jot down what the professor had shared with them.
Ardul does ruffle the youths hair as he ducks his head and smiles slightly before looking back to the Professor. “If you can keep them, we’ll see what we can do about tracking this down. I lodged a report with the Guardsman on my return from the patrol.” But really, what’s one more demon attack in the scheme of things. Maybe, when they’ve gathered more evidence, they’ll get more support.
“RPG Quest?” she looks at Kaji and shakes her head. The boy really does say the darndest things. “Thank you for your help, Professor. If theres nothing else I think we should be on our way, we’ve taken enough of your time, I think.” beat “If you think of anything more, please let us know?”
If there’s nothing else, the blonde will try to leave this spiders lair and head back … to whatever she was doing.“Of course. Good luck, you’re going to need it.” Ingerhast says as she rises and sees the two to the door. “And do try to take care Kaji. You have such… promise…”
It’s a nice thing to say. So what does it sound ever so predatory when she says it…
His hair’s already a mess half the time anyway, but that doesn’t keep him from trying to fix it after Ardul’s treatment. Pocketing his things, Kaji glances towards Ardul with a weary smile. It’d be complicated to explain, but he should have guessed by now. Maybe he’ll try explaining later. If they go wandering out towards the mountains again any time soon, they’d at least have the time for it.
Getting to his feet, Kaji offers Professor Ingerhast a bow before patting Kthzyx’s shoulder. “Come on, Zyx. Let’s head back to Gran’s.” He’s the last one out of the room, but he pauses at the doorway at the spider woman’s parting words, glancing over his shoulder at her. “…erm. I’ll try my best, ma’am,” he promises, giving her an awkward smile and a final nod before he slips out, trying not to hurry his pace after the other two. Brrrr…
Professor Ingerghast summons Kaji and Ardul to her office with disturbing news. (Emits by Hunter).
February 21, 2410