Beneath Gran’s there is a door and that door is locked. Getting to that door has required some creative moving of furniture and discovering a trap door that neither Slaine nor Gran knew about that runs down into a natural cave system. The door itself is a stone arch with an energy field in front of it which shimmers and flickers periodically. It is utterly impassable and impervious to every kind of charm and attack.
Miss Frizz spoke to the city rats a little while ago, and they were said to have the keys. Small bits of knowledge and story that allow those who use them to pass the barrier.
The keys had involved a long story about some place or somewhere called Nim. Or maybe N-Him. Unclear.
At present Aiden is sort of staring at the wall with his arms folded. He knows what is allegedly on the other side. And he’s a bit impatient to get there but he doesn’t want to rush Frizz. Or Slaine, or really anyone who might be working on the riddle. Which he is at present not.
Suss has been also staring at the wall, but from Aiden’s shoulder. Considering the rats were the ones with clues to how to open the door, she finally thinks maybe she should look it from their point of view.
<~ I’m going to try something, Mr. Aiden. ~> And she flings herself off of the Bigger’s shoulder and uses her abilities to land on the floor gently enough.
From her new, lower vantage point, she studies the doorway again and this time checks with her nose and ears as well as her eyes. Something about Nim. What was the story again?
Practically mirroring Aiden’s pose is Varos, although he leans against the wall, giving plenty of space for the others to work with as they study the mysterious door. It’s better for him this way, and although he may not look like he’s doing much, he’s studying the door and its field with as much intensity as the others, because they are his eyes.
Alongside of the visual perceptions of the others, he opens up with his other senses, mentally seeking any weaknesses to the energy field, fluctuations. Truthfully he’s growing a little bored of staring at the things, but like Aiden he doesn’t wish to press the others.
When the smallest of their present company speaks up he raises his head and turns it in the little mouse’s direction. “Hm.” He catches a hint of her thought process paired with her observations of the door and the clues she reflects upon. Perhaps she has a good point.
Slaine crouches on the ground inspecting the archway, looking at the way the energy flickers over the opening. “There are markin’s here, Aiden, Varos. I’m sure they’re part of the key to this.”
Varos might actually see the marks she’s talking about. He might also see something she’s missing.
“I jus’ can’ tell what the pattern is or how to use it…”
There’s a good reason that Slaine can’t tell what the pattern is. As low as she is to the ground, it’s a pattern that’s meant to be viewed from even lower. Once there it’s fairly obvious. Varos and Frizz can see that the patterns are actually representations of some kind of maze. And they seem to depict the movement of three objects into three different positions. One looks like a cat. The next looks like a bird cage and the last one looks like a… brink of some form.
That actually matches something Slaine can see. There are holes in the door frame. Two closely spaced ones that look out onto a stone table with three mice in it and a maze. It’s impossible to get to the table but someone with earth moving powers might be able to move the mice. If only they knew where to move them to.
“Slaine…” Aiden points out those holes. “Look here.”
Looking at the patterns, Miss Frizz snuffles at the briefly to see if there are any other clues. <~ Mr. Aiden, Miss Slaine. There are pictures here. This group of lines… ~> she has no personal reference for mazes. They weren’t a thing where she came from. <~… and a picture of a cat, and a jail? yes, a kind of jail, and a block, or a box. ~>
She can’t see the holes that the others are looking at, so she puts one little hand on the wall and peers up at them.
Slowly easing himself away from the wall, Varos still however remains behind the others even though he makes a show of trying to get a better look between them all. Force of habit, really.
“Cute,” he muses as he notes the diagrams. His head tilts as between Slaine and Frizz’s perspectives, he can see the mazelike pattern and what’s seen through the holes, overlapped. “Ah!” A grin touches his face. “That’s an…ingenius way of opening a lock. Although either someone thinks themselves funny to keep the key on the locked side or they very much cater to someone of specific abilities.”
He gestures with a hand. “From what I can make out between you two, it seems we need to maneuver little mice through a maze to the points that Miss Suss has mentioned in the little diagram there.”
Slaine can barely reach the holes in the door to peer through. That’s seems to happen a lot. Standing on tip toe, the mystic peers through.
“I can move the mice on the table, that’s sort easy but I’ll need to be told where…”
Someone is going to have to do that.
It’s almost easy the way her magic rises and takes hold of the mice. There’s no real effort required.
“When yer ready.”
Aiden gets down on the floor which might look odd to Frizz and/or Varos. “They’re directions. See. They show a progression of moves in sequence. I’ll bet the sequence is important. Slaine’s right, we need to talk her through this…” He pauses.
“And I don’t really have the body for this.”
Varos and Frizz do. And once they get the hang of it it’s not hard. It takes six or seven minutes to get all the mice in place and the barrier fades.
A breath of icy air flows out of the tunnel behind it. Which descends. From what they’ve heard, there’s a certain demon-thing imprisoned in a chamber somewhere down there. Something that has done something a bit personal to Varos… and Slaine.
“Well…” A deep voice comes from further down. It’s psychic and Frizz can feel the weight behind it. “It’s been a long time since I had a breath of fresh air. Or visitors. Please… come down…”
Coordinating with Varos was an odd but successful experience, and Suss is starting to get a better idea of what the visored man is capable of, beyond wearing odd things on his face.
When the barrier falls and the voice comes to them, she reacts much like any prey animal might. She freezes in startlement and fear as if not moving would make her harder to spot on the bare floor while wearing a bit of red fabric on her back.
Oh well. It was funny seeing Aiden down on the ground while it lasted, anyway. But with their game plan explained, there’s no time wasted. It’s a little easier to translate the directions between Frizz and Slaine after a few tries, and it leaves Varos with the slight sensation of going cross-eyed if only for a moment.
The difference in the atmosphere is almost instantaneous, and he barely suppresses a shiver for the chill air that expands from beyond.
But it’s the voice that speaks up that has him tense, the breath expelled from his lips producing a thin trail of vapor as it hits the cold air. The corners of his mouth twitch back in a tight, humorless smile. “Well. Since you asked so nicely…”
“But you do have a body ….” Slaine comments dryly, giving Aiden a glance before focusing on moving the mice as she’s directed. “I don’t mind seeing you on the floor at my feet.”
It does take concentration to move the little mice, more so as not to anticipate where she thinks they should be. The psychic voice has her shivering as moves to stand next to Aiden.
“Hello there. How may we call ye?”
It’s almost muscle memory for her to let her senses sweep out, seeing what she can detect about this ‘voice’ and the area.
“Allegedly.” Aiden says, murmuring as he scoops Frizz up in hand and steps forward into the darkness. The passage is roughly hewn and well worn and does not look natural. The angle of descent is not steep and there are torch braziers every fifty feet or so though none of them are lit. There is a cold breeze coming from whatever is in front of them. Like wind coming off the mountains in winter.
Frizz starts to get the feeling that there is a predator ahead. Same feeling she gets when there’s a cat about. And soon not only is it coming from ahead, but also from Aiden. From Slaine. From Varos. Like she’s surrounded by hungry cats.
//I am… the Baron. Nasher, if you like. And it has been so, so long since I spoke properly to anyone like this… Slaine McClellan. I see you’re here with Varos as well. Hello Varos. I’ve been keeping my eyes on you.//
Miss Frizz actually squeaks and panics for about a second in Aiden’s hand before recognizing the smell and feel of the man’s skin and settling back down. Mostly. She’s still panting from the fright, and just about the time her breathing settles back to something normalish she starts to get that ‘prey watching me’ feeling again. This time is so much worse, because AIDEN is giving off that sensation. Aiden, who is holding her life in his hand quite literally. And, by the Grains, Varos is increasingly scary too. And Slaine.
By this point, she’s panting and trembling in Aiden’s hand severely enough to perhaps be noticeable by feel if not by eye.
Cold as the air around them has become, the sometimes-clothier doesn’t move to pull his short cloak around him any tighter as they move deeper into the dark passage. The lack of any clear view of their surroundings doesn’t so much bother him, his other senses sharp as he listens, adjusting subtly for the slight slope that goes down, feeling the breeze. Is there an opening somewhere? He sniffs at the air, is it fresh or stale, or something else?
The voice speaks again, identifying itself with the name he’s so come to loathe. Was it the same as the one that spoke to him in the tunnels beneath St. Petersburg Bay? That had been so long ago, but sentiments have not dulled any.
Varos still smiles his unpleasant smile, and were he not distracted by the Von Nasher, he might have felt sorry for frightening Miss Suss were he aware of it.
“The infamous Rift Herald, is it? So we meet at last. Not that previous encounters with your minions have made me so eager to do so. But yes, so I’ve noticed. Seems to be you have plenty enough eyes that surely you don’t need mine.”
“Just Slaine …” the Mystic corrects quietly as the Baron introduces himself. She moves towards that cool breeze, further into the chamber, not letting her fear overcome her.
Or perhaps, its the Crown pushing at her, that makes the fear seem that much less.
“And I did, yes. What can I do for ye?”
“Frizz, are you alright?” Aiden says quietly. He can feel her shaking and she’s never, ever felt like that before. He looks down at the little mouse as they trudge on.
Not too much further they enter a large chamber. There’s light coming in from above that looks like sunlight but isn’t. It’s… magical somehow. In the center of the room is an octagonal plinth with a large, black box sitting on top that seems to be carved out of some dark, dark stone. The icy blasts, and the mental voice, are coming from that.
When Aiden talks to Frizz the feeling just gets worse. Has the Baron picked up that she’s vulnerable… and powerful? Capable of tossing the other three around like ragdolls? Possibly he has.
//The sight of the unseeing. That is what I require. One of the keys to get out of this box. You could give it to me, instead of me having to take it. I reward those who help me… greatly.//
Aiden kneels down and starts to read something on the edge of the plinth.
“Slaine… it says that this thing is a voidspawn. It came from nothing and it can only be returned ‘to nothing’.”
It might not be possible to kill it then. But returning it to nothing. Banishing it… that might be possible. On the far end of the room there’s a ring as tall as a man, marked with symbols, symbols that are scattered across this room as well. The key is in here somewhere. It has to be.
“The sight of the unseen…” Aiden murmurs, tapping one of the sigils. That of a mask with both eyes sewn shut.
“What can you do for me, Just Slaine? Well… I don’t suppose you’d like to open that box and invite me into your heart… Your little mouse friend seems troubled by the way. Are you sure she’s okay?”
That question is… mocking.
It’s mind tricks. It’s mind tricks. Her friends aren’t trying to her her. It’s mind tricks. Suss is still almost overwhelmed by the sensation that everyone and everything is angling to turn her into a crunchy little snack, but she’s not a seedbrain shrew. She’s a MOUSE. She’s smarter than mind tricks.
Trying her level best to narrow her mindspeak to only Aiden, she offers in as close as she can manage to a telepathic whisper, <~ The Baron’s trying to scare me into attacking you. It’s scary. But I won’t. Tell me when, I’ll throw things. ~>
Varos laughs. “I’m sorry, you seem to think that for some reason we want to help you out of there. I’m sure there’s a perfectly good reason you’re locked up to begin with.”
His head turns slightly in Aiden’s direction, frowning. That doesn’t seem to make much sense, although these ancient sorts did seem to love their mystery and riddles. “If it were that easy then one would assume this wouldn’t still be here in the first place,” he mutters.
“‘The eyes of a blind man, the heart of the loveless, the strength of the riven, the grace of a cripple, the brilliance of a fool, and the fire of the gods-blooded’,” Varos recites, calling up the list from memory after a moment. “Trying to make something for nothing, Baron?”
“There’s only room for one man in my heart.” Slaine answers quietly, looking at Frizz and then Aiden. Taking a walk around the room, Frizz gets another glance. “Vargr, can ye shield her mind till we need her?” Those bright green eyes fix on that ring, making out the symbols on it.
“Frizz, focus. It’s another puzzle. Help me find the matching symbols and activate this. Eyes, heart, strength, grace, brilliance and fire…. ” Symbols representing all of those things must be there.
Aiden taps the the eyes once more and it starts to glow much to the psychic’s surprise. Over by the portal the ring starts spinning and something locks in the symbol with the eyes on the ring. Which also starts glowing.
“Let me see what I can do for her. Find the others.” Aiden says.
“Frizz, pick up that box and when I say now… chuck it at that ring over there…” He mutters.
There’s fire… that there must be grace… there’s heart… there’s strength.
Where is brilliance?
As they move around the room and activate sigils the Baron laughs.
//Oh, do you really think you’re going to be able to get out of here before I can overcome ONE of your minds. The Mouse is proving surprisingly resilient but there are others. You, tailor… for example. You speak of reasons I am locked up. But if they knew half of what you do when they’re not looking how long do you think you’d be free?//
What IS the Baron talking about?
Brilliance has to be around here somewhere. But where? The other five other symbols are arranged evenly around the room. So… where is the sixth. Not on the walls clearly. Where else might it be hidden?
Still trembling and panting fitfully, Suss bobs her head in a nod to Aiden, her somewhat prehensile tail wrapping around one of his fingers as if to anchor herself. And she starts hissing to prove she’s still defying the fears that the Baron is trying to drown her in.
Aiden didn’t say when to pick up the box, only when to throw it. So, she pulls the box up off of its resting place, and perhaps in a bit of extra defiance, she SHAKES it in the air like a child trying to get the last berry out of a lidded basket. Take THAT, meanie!
“…are you sure that’s a good idea?” Varos addresses the others as they start poking about for things relating to the list of things he’d mentioned earlier. With them doing the looking there’s not much help he can offer since he’d only be seeing what they would.
The laughter from the Baron has him grimace in annoyance, and he turns himself back towards the box where the voice and presence originate.
“I’m too useful to be locked up, for whatever reasons you might think I should be,” he replies with a grin. If he can’t make himself useful in finding clues, perhaps he can just play at distraction. He only turns his head when Frizz goes and shakes about the box Aiden had pointed out, still a bit concerned but hoping that the others know what they’re doing.
Brilliance. Slaine frowns as she thinks. She might not be educated but she’s not dumb. She looks up. There on the roof, the image of a sun – that has to be it. She can’t reach it, but she might be able to fly.
Blue energy glows around her as she mutters the words of a spell – a blessing. With a jump, she’s airborn, aimed right at that symbol.
Oops. Too fast, she crashes right into it and then plummets back down to the floor.
Varos is a good distraction as it turns out. “I think that many people would agree with my reasons. But I have room in this box if you’d like to share it with me. Save everyone else the trouble, what do you say?”
That’s an unusual method of activating a rune but it does work. The sigil starts to glow, the last one on the ring locks and a great black portal opens. And immediately starts sucking everything in the room toward it.
“NOW FRIZZ! EVERYONE, HOLD ON!”
When he’s launched into the portal, the Baron is laughing madly. Seconds after his box hits it, it vanishes, and then the portal thunders shut.
The Baron is gone.
Just as he’d asked, the instant Aiden says ‘now’, Miss Frizz flings the box toward the portal as forcefully as she can, and she HOPES that means that Von Nasher has a NOT AT ALL gentle landing on the other side. Good riddance.
That horrid sensation of fear, it’s gone with the insane laughing. Suss flops near-bonelessly in the palm of Aiden’s hand, trying to calm her breathing back to normal. At least the trembling has stopped.
“No thanks,” Varos says conversationally, waving a hand even as he tries not to wince at Slaine’s sudden launch into space. Er, towards the ceiling. “I like having leg room. And being able to travel. And just not being in a box, period.”
And then suddenly a vortex is activated, which just makes him all the more certain that whoever made this confounded death trap really just wanted someone else to risk their neck to get rid of the damned thing.
“Rgh,” Varos grunts as he nearly gets pulled off his feet, and he swings an arm down as he calls up his psi-blade, red energy snaking around his arm before extruding into a curve that he plunges, point down, into the ground. It at least slows him from being dragged any closer to the portal, although when he ducks in reflex as Frizz flings the Baron’s box into the gaping hole, he nearly gets pulled in a few more inches.
Suddenly the room silences, and he falls more or less onto his belly for the abrupt lack of tension, his psi-blade going out as he collapses onto the floor. “…tch. Well that shut him up,” he says as he shoves himself up with a groan. No, he’s not going to admit being worried about the mad laughter of a voidspawn in its departure.
Slaine is dragged towards that portal as she careens. She’s no purchase or balance to cling to. The portal closes as she smacks against it.
“Ngggggghhhh.” that’s all anyone’s going to get out of her for a bit.
Aiden slumps down against the plinth next to Slaine and actually sets the somewhat boneless frizz on the stone near his head. He leans back and pants. That had been… trying.
“I think it’s gone.” He says finally. “Why don’t we… just rest here for a few. And then get back to Grans. I’m gonna need a drink…”
Venturing down into the secret depths beneath Vesper, Aiden, Miss Suss, Slaine and Varos finally encounter the Rift Herald who has been a source of trouble for them in the past and yet poses a present threat.
May 21, 2412
Secret Tunnels Beneath Vesper