After the long talk Qing and Natasha had, it was time to head to the castle to perform the round-about dream dive using spirit magic. Along the way, Natasha tries to fill Qing in on the basics of what was determined about Bravil. His estimated age is over two hundred years, he's likely of Chronotopian origin, and he used to have regular dealings with the cursed land of Bosch. Some sort of traumatic event in his past warped him physically and to some degree mentally. Recently, an unusual fluctuation in the spirit energies of Stonebarrow has seemingly caused Bravil to fall into a deep sleep and nothing seems to wake him. His aura is chaotic, as if he's fighting a battle in his mind. Or at least that's as far as Natasha is able to explain by the time they reach the castle door. After peering at the oddly oversized Eeee-shaped door knocker, the Khatta reaches out and uses it to rap loudly on the door.
The door cracks open and a pair of mismatched eyes peer out. "Oh, you mutht be Madame Natathththa," the doorkeeper says, and opens the door further to reveal a hunched over, patchwork Skreek. Well, mostly Skreek. The stitches are hidden by the fur and clothing, for the most part. "Pleathe come in. And it'th a pleathure to thee you again ath well, Mith Weaver."
Olivia smiles at the Skreek, although a bit nervously, if the truth be told. "Hello, Igor," she says, fidgeting with the strap of her pack that's slung over one shoulder.
Natasha arches her brow a bit at the odd creature and his butchering of her name. "Indeed," she replies with a small nod. "And this is Mage Qing, vho is helping us vith de investigation," the Khatta adds and motions towards the Naga.
"Would you like for me to carry that for you, Olivia?" Igor offers, before bowing to the pale Rokuga. "Mage Qing? Not Zhu Ye Qing, ith it?" he asks.
The Rokuga in question looks on impassively, but at the mention of his full name his head tilts slightly. "The same."
"Hehn hehn hehn hehn hehn," Igor 'chuckles'. "Pleathe do come in, I'm thure that Doctor Pike will want to meet you."
"Uh, that's all right, Igor, my pack isn't all that heavy. I can manage, thanks anyway!" Olivia says, refusing but trying to be polite about it.
The main hall of the castle is kept warm and dry by a fire blazing away in the huge hearth at the far end. While moderately sized, as far as castle halls go, it still seems a bit crowded. Racks and shelves cover the walls, stacked full of books and bottles filled with strange floating things. Stuffed animals (and not a few monsters) stand, crouch, and hang mid-pounce in various areas, apparently placed at random, while live animals chitter, squeal and hiss in stacks of sturdy cages. What furniture there is is mismatched, overstuffed, and draped in acres of pink taffeta.
Sitting on one of the overstuffed chairs is Amelia Blacktail, who clips short whatever it is she was talking to the skinny Eeee woman about. "Oh, you're here!" Amy says, waving to Olivia.
Natasha peers for a bit longer at the Skreek, then walks inside without another word. The assault of the decor on the feline's senses when she enters the main hall causes her to stop mid-step and blink. Regaining her composure, she shakes her head and nods to Amelia. "Miss Blacktail," she says as way of a greeting.
Olivia waves back to Amelia and goes over to her. "Hi, Amy. When did you arrive?"
"A little while ago, I was just over at the dam," the dark-furred Kadie says. She gets up and bows to Madame Natasha and Mage Qing.
Qing's usual air of disinterest seems to give way somewhat under the visual barrage. He cranes his long neck to peer at the spines of books or jarred bits and bobs, tongue flicking every so often. He keeps himself in check, however, staying close to the group and acknowledging Amelia's greeting with a glance and then taking in the Eeee.
"Visiting Zahn?" Olivia asks. "How is he these days? I haven't seen much of him lately."
The Eeee woman scurries over and bows as well, before holding her hand out to Natasha. "Dr. Floribunda Pike, but friends call me Bunny," she says. She's actually dressed in the style of a Sylvanian Scholar for her guests.
"He's okay, working on his… projects," Amy says. "I needed to sharpen my axe on his grinder."
The Khatta glances at the Kadie, then nods. "Vou bathed," she observes, then turns her attention to the Eeee and shakes her hand lightly in greeting. "It is a pleasure, ah, Bunny," she says slowly as if unsure of calling anyone 'Bunny', "Thank vou for allowing use of vour secluded home."
Olivia ahs and nods. "Well, as long as he's not up to the crashing stage on any of his new airship designs, I guess we're all safe enough," she says lightly.
"Yes, about that," Dr. Pike says, "the Ritual room has some unusual symbols that I'm trying to decipher. Your own ritual won't… disturb them, will it?"
Igor clears his throat, which is a sound best not described in detail. "Thith is Mage Zhu Ye Qing, Mithtreth," he says, introducing the Rokuga to the Eeee.
"Symbols?" Natasha inquires, her black ears perking. "Vhat kind? Mage Qing an' myself have experience in certain arcane symbols. If ve kin be of any help?" the Khatta offers. "And, vould vou haf a sheet dat ve kin use, den, to cover dem for protection?"
The mage touches the rim of his lacquered hat with thumb and forefinger as the introduction is made. "Doctor."
"Oh, certainly! Igor, fetch a sheet!" the Eeee says, causing Igor to frown slightly, as if he were expecting something different. "Yeth, Mithtreth," he says, and shuffles away down a hall. The Eeee turns to the Rokuga, and offers her hand again. Apparently whatever chemical smells the Mage emits have no effect on the Doctor. "A pleasure to meet you sir. Would you care for a snack?"
At the mention of 'snack', all of the caged lab animals go still and quiet, while an evil looking black Creen (with an eyepatch) dances back and forth on his perch. "Haha! Snack snack! The pain! The pain!"
Olivia winces a little and rubs her left ear at the Creen's screeching. "Gah, I forgot that bird was in the castle," she says irritably to Amelia. "At least he's not yelling about anyone's knickers… yet."
Natashamakes a sidelong glance towards the Creen. "Vho vill be quiet. Now," she says with a tone of finality to it.
"Shhh!" Amy hisses to Olivia, glancing back at the Creen. "Don't prompt him."
"No," says Qing, though a flick of his tongue seems to indicate the caged creatures don't go unnoticed and aren't found uninteresting. "I am ready to set to work. The symbols you have mentioned should be safe. As the Madame says, we may be able to learn something of them."
Olivia ducks her head in embarrassment. "Sorry, Amy."
Gaspode rears up and flicks his tongue several times, but amazingly does shut up. "How come he never shuts up for me?" the Doctor wonders. "Well… to work. Igor has Bravil… uh… secured, I think." She looks about for her servant, but fails to notice him standing right behind her, sheet in hand. "IGOR!" she calls out, then nearly jumps into Qing's arms when the Skreek clears his throat behind her. "Stop doing that!" she yells at him.
"It's a bit of a walk down to the basement," Amelia notes. "Is there anything else we need to bring down?"
Returning her attention to the Eeee, the Khatta asks, "Are vou or vour servant vishing to observe?" She shifts her own shoulder pouch back a bit. She flinches a bit when the doctor screams and hops about when Igor returns, then shakes her head slowly. "Vhere is he? An, haf either of vou examined him?"
Qing's hat shifts slightly as a brow ridge quirks at the doctor, but he doesn't comment, simply listening attentively.
"He ith in the guetht room, Madame," Igor offers. "The Doctor gave him a curthory phythical, though."
"Blood sample, check for scars and other anatomical issues," Pike explains, regaining her composure somewhat. "Haven't had a chance to actually do the blood work yet. Otherwise he seems… well, under a great deal of stress."
"Mmm, now there's the understatement of the century," Olivia mutters to herself.
"He's strapped down to the bed too," Amelia notes. "Big leather belt things."
"Mmm. The distance vill be a challenge, but acceptable," Natasha says after a moment of thought. "As for his condition, dere is more light dat kin be shed. He has had dealings vith Bosch. It may also be of some interest to note dat if de details are correct, he is at least tvo hundred years old."
"Really?" Pike squeaks, then pushes her thick glasses back up along her nose. "I've never heard of anyone surviving contamination for so long! But I suppose it does explain him having so many scars."
"If vou have any knowledge on dealing vith contamination, it could be of use," Natasha says as she rubs her muzzle thoughtfully. "But, dat kin be discussed later. Please, let us head to de ritual room."
"I'll show 'em the way," Amelia volunteers, and heads down one of the side passages, while Igor seems to whisper something to Dr. Pike. "Really?" the Eeee replies, and then excuses herself and hurries off to her study.
Qing's head perks, tongue flicking again. "Boschian contamination? I've heard of the phenomenon as a matter of lore, the strange possession and physical changes, but I haven't witnessed such. Such afflicted are typically exterminated by Landsknects, are they not?"
Olivia hikes her pack further up on her shoulder and follows along after Amelia. She does, however, cast a curious glance at the the retreating Eeee, wondering what's going on.
With a quick glance towards Olivia, Natasha remarks, "An vou visit dese people regularly?" The feline then nods to Qing, answering, "Normally, ves. Perhaps ve vill learn more." And with that, the Khatta walks after Amelia.
Gaspode looks at Olivia, and shouts, "Knickers!" at her.
The hallway leads to one of the broken towers, where debris has been cleared away to reveal a large trap-door. Amy pulls it open to reveal a set of stairs.
"These go to the wine cellar," the Kadie explains. "Then there's another long flight that goes to the sub-basement."
The black Khatta nods as she looks over the cleared ruins. "Vell, at least it vill be quiet down dere," she notes, "A most peculiar pair, dose two. Please, lead on, Miss Blacktail."
One cellar walls opens to another set of stairs, which spiral down and down and down, seemingly for hundreds of feet, before finally emptying into a long hall.
The latest remodeling done to this former dungeon is apparent only to those who have visited it before. The door leading to the 'well room' has been further barricaded with the addition of sturdy wooden planks, and the open arch at the far end of the hall is being turned into a wall with bricks and masonry salvaged from ruined parts of the castle above, save for a door-sized opening in the center. Some of the rainbow-crystals that lit the hall have been removed, leaving it slightly dimmer than before.
Natasha walks quietly a short distance down the hallway. After a short look around, she asks, "Are dere any of dose crystals around dat are unbroken and unattached? It kin be helpful."
Amy opens the second door on the right, revealing a dim chamber with strange symbols and geometric patterns drawn on the floor and walls. "Well, we've been using them for lights down here, I think they're stored in the closet down by the do… oor. Down by the door," she says.
"Fetch me one, please," Natasha requests as she walks into the indicated room. The Khatta then immediately halts inside the room. "Gods," she says quietly as her accent falls away.
To the mages, the ambient magic level down here feels much higher than at the surface. And especially in the chamber, which has some odd resonances.
Qing's scales scrape and drag as his scutes cross the stones. He stops by Natasha's side, forked tongue waving again. "What is it, Madame? The power surrounding us? Yes, I feel it too."
Olivia is now right behind the Khatta and nearly runs into her when she suddenly stops. "What's wrong? Do you know what these symbols mean?" she asks.
"Not just that," Natasha says softly. "Look around us."
The room inside is dark, mainly because it's been painted black. Slightly fluorescent symbols cover the walls, ceiling and floor, along with a pentagram inscribed in a magic circle, with even more strange symbols within it. Bowls and jars full of colorful powders line the side of one wall, and tall candle holders stand at each corner.
Amy turns to go fetch a lamp, but Igor is right behind her, holding one out. "Thought you might be needing one of thethe," he says, folded sheet draped over one arm. "Err, thanks, Igor," the girl replies, and passes the crystal lamp to Natasha.
The serpent lifts his head, removing his spectacles in the dim chamber to study the sigils crawling along the walls. "Yessss, I see now… these are familiar to me. Some, not all."
Natasha absently takes the crystal lamp. "Please, wait on the sheet for a moment," she tells the odd Skreek. "These are not spirit magic, not entirely," the Khatta says. "Demonic, I believe. Not my area of expertise, though, Which do you recognize and where from?"
At the word 'demonic,' the Skeek shoots a glance at Amelia. "Boy, am I glad we didn't mess with any of these when we first came down here!" she mutters to her.
"How would we have messed with them anyway?" Amy whispers back. "With soap?"
A bit of wheezing and huffing can be heard from the stairwell, as Dr. Pike emerges with a heavy looking book. "Ah… ho… I thought… your name… sounded… familiar… Mage Qing… " the Eeee gasps.
"They are demonic in nature, yes," replies a rapt Qing, reaching up to trace one of the symbols he recognizes without actually touching it. "I saw them in my studies of the old Chigai Cults that infested Nagai until the Empire obliterated all traces. Or so we thought." His pulls his hand away, glancing over his shoulder as Dr. Pike arrives, and he eyes her burden.
Pike makes it to the last step, and then sits down on the stairs with the tome in her lap, trying to catch her breath.
Natasha sets the lantern down in the center of the circle and goes to examine some of the other symbols. After selecting one, she holds a hand above it and closes her eyes.
The Khatta remains motionless for a moment, then says, "It hasn't been used in some time. A peculiar feeling in the residue. It's not entirely magic. I will have to study it further at a more appropriate time." It's then she realizes both Pike and Igor are back and abruptly draws back from the wall. "Ah, thank vou for brining de sheet," she tells the Skreek and heads towards him.
"If you would do the honorth, Madame," Igor says, holding out the sheet to the Khatta. "That room maketh my thkin itch thomething awful."
The feline takes the sheet. "It does? Curious. I vill haf to examine vou at a later date, too. Vou shoul' no be feeling de resonance in dis room unless vou are … vell, ve shall haf to see just vhat vou are, no?" Natasha tells the Skreek.
Qing likewise draws away from the wall, coiling himself and withdrawing supplies from the hidden compartments of his robe and mantle… the sand-filled skull, a few candles held between his fingers, a censer, and so on. He coils, patiently watching the breathless doctor.
Igor actually blushes (well, half of him does) and he shuffles one of his feet. "Goth… no lady hath offered to examine me in ageth," he says.
Pike finally gets up and comes over, holding the book out to whatever pair of limbs Qing has free at the moment.
Olivia tries hard to hide her smile. "Better you than me, Natasha," she murmurs, mostly to herself.
"Mmm," Natasha notes as she gives Igor a look. Turning away from the Skreek, she goes about covering the floor with the sheet.
The Rokuga still has a few free, a pair taking hold of the book and a third hand brushing off the cover whether it needs it or not, bringing the tome up to eye level to look it over in the low lantern light.
The title, in large letters, is Meta-Golem Physiology, with A biomagical case study in smaller letters underneath. The authors are listed as 'Markus the Gray M Life, Yesbeth Fellows M Chaos, Envoy Lothrhyn A Earth' and the publication date is 6102 RTR. Back when Qing was still teaching on Caroban. And sure enough, among the extensive credits listed on the first page, one entry jumps out: Spirit Probe - Gyro Slashtooth J Spirit, Makreb Silverscale J Spirit, Prof. Emeritus Zhu Ye Qing M Spirit advising. Two students who modified the probe Qing used on the Boomer weapon specifically for this study.
"Olivia, make sure vour clock is wound, please. An, kin it be set to ring at a particular time?" Natasha asks as she smooths out the wrinkles in the fabric.
"You've got a timer?" Amy asks Olivia, eyeing the Skeek's pack.
It's enough to raise the brow ridges on the reptile again, his black hat shying backwards. "Your library must be extensive, Doctor, and your attention to it close to have recalled my name from this study. I must admit that I had not had a chance to read all of it, but the journeymen who requested my aid were doing good work. You have an interest in the art, then?"
Olivia grins up at Amy as she puts her pack down on the floor and starts unfastening its flap. "I've got several things in here, but this is what Natasha wants right now," she remarks, pulling out a wooden clock with a carved wooden face and hands. Then she looks over at the Khatta. "It has a chime inside it which can be set to sound at any hour you wish."
"I have an interest in… ah, many things, Mage Qing," Pike says, twitching her ears. "If you have some spare time once your formal duties are complete, I would really like to talk to you about some of the more esoteric ramifications of this research."
"Is that the kind with the little dragon that pops out of a cave and sparks on the hour?" Amy asks, squatting down to get a closer look at the device.
"Set it to ring five hours from now, please. It vill help alert us to the passage of time out here. Ve must be mindful of reality," Natasha instructs. Now that the sheet has covered the circle, she goes to the crystal lamp and extracts the crystal from it. "Mage Qing, how familiar are vou vith enchanting objects?" she asks. "Since Morgan vas unable to attend today due to de last minute issue wit some otter an' an embarrassing medical condition, I shall haf to adapt my plan."
"We have chloroform ready in the guetht room, Madame Natathththa," Igor says. "Thould Bravil become violently agitated, would you want me to anesthetize him?"
Olivia turns the clock over and winds a key in its back, then spins a small dial and flips a little wooden lever. After that, she hands the plain wooden clock to Amy so that she can examine it if she likes. "Nah, nothing that fancy. This is just one of the clocks we keep in the main weaving room to mark the hours. It's solely for the purpose of keeping all us apprentices on time," she says.
The cold-blooded mage nods thoughtfully. "I shall grant consultation, Doctor. I would be interested in seeing what else your library holds." He sweeps a candle-filled hand out to gesture at the chamber. "It's clear your abode has many things to catch the discerning eye." That said, he returns to the business at hand, nodding slightly at his colleague. "I have more often been called upon to remove enchantments than I have been to create them, but I have performed such a good many times. I cannot match the true legends for power, but the effects I endow are potent enough."
Amy stares at the clock-face for several moments, her lips moving as she counts the ticks. "I guess it works down here," she says, handing it back.
"Ves. Be careful, though. He is strong," Natasha warns the Skreek. "I vill be needing the gloves and de egg soon," she mentions to Olivia before returning her attention to Qing. "Ah, den I vill handle de enchantment, as I likely have more recent experience. I vill be marking dis crystal to act as a focus point to sustain de ritual so dat neither of us vill haf to focus our minds and energies into solely maintaining it. It vill be crude and temporary, but such is all dat vill be needed. Vhile I vork on dis, vould you please prepare de circle? Ve vill need focus rings for each of us. De intent ov de circle vill be to establish a link of all our spirits to dat of Bravil above. I am sure vou know dat ritual an vill not vaste your time on details of de circle. Just make sure to alter de effect duration sigils to denote dat de effect should be temporary."
Igor nods to Natasha, and starts back up the stairs in his odd gate. Amelia looks from the sheet to Qing, then looks into the room. "We might need to hold the sheet taut while Qing moves around," she whispers to Olivia.
Olivia takes the clock back and carefully sets it to one side. Then she rummages about in her pack again and produces a large pair of leather gloves and something wrapped in many layers of soft cloth.
Olivia nods to Amelia now. "Just let me know if we do and I'll help you," she says.
Amelia just waits to see if Qing will need help with the sheet, genuinely curious as to how the serpent will handle it.
Qing bobs his head. "Very well. I think for our purposes I will work an alteration of Silver Crown but use the Knight's Bridge rather than Royal Graft to bind the focus circles, as that should account better for our diversified techniques." He sets to moving about. Oddly, he doesn't upset the sheet very much. Rather than drag, his coils form bends that push off at different points, distributing the pull he exerts on the cloth fairly evenly.
The Kadie relaxes. She really didn't want to have to drag the boat over for Qing to climb on, after all.
Natasha nods at the suggestion of approach to the circle. She moves off the sheet and settles herself down on the floor with the items Olivia brought. The Khatta empties out her side-bag onto the floor. Selecting a small bowl, she sets it in front of herself and cracks the egg. She pours just the white into the bowl and sets the yolk aside, still inside the shell. She then starts mixing in a variety of powders from her own collection into the dish. "Are vou staying?" she asks Igor and Pike absently while she works.
"If you don't mind," Pike replies. She probably hasn't recovered enough strength yet to tackle the long climb back to the castle anyway.
"As long as vou don't interrupt, it is fine," the feline answers. She pulls the gloves on that Olivia provided and starts to work on the crystal in front of her. She carefully dips the tip of a wooden pick into the mixture in the bowl and starts to trace sigils onto the glowing crystalline surface.
"It's a good thing Igor isn't here," Pike comments quietly. "He'd have a fit seeing an egg broken and not being dropped into a pan of boiling oil… "
"You should eat in town more often, Doctor," Amy suggests.
Natasha pauses in her work on the crystal and again closes her eyes for a bit. Nodding once she seems satisfied, she resumes her work on the enchantment. "Do you know how to undo corruption in any form, Doctor?" she asks Pike while she works.
"Undo it?" Pike asks, adjusting her glasses again. "I've been studying ways of using it constructively, but to reverse the process… well, it would be like putting that egg back together and still having it hatch."
"Are you saying you do not feel vourself up to the challenge?" Natasha asks next. She never really pauses in her delicate inscribing on the crystal.
"Now, suppressing the corruption, that might be possible," the Eeee adds next, after a moment of thought. "Quite a few of my… colleagues… have been researching into that area."
"Vith success?" Natasha asks.
The witchdoctor ticks the sheet beneath him with strikes from a bone-handled brush, a tooth at one end and bristles at the other. Bits of silica sparkle in the paste, sparse but present enough to cast a glint here and there with the paint. He turns again and again, his body eventually forming a spiral and the Silver Crowns begin to take shape. His motion is ceaseless, very nearly a sort of dance, arms darting in and out to change brushes or add a mark, the outline of the circle more suggested than implicit, so that wrinkles in the cloth seem to make little difference to the structure as a whole.
"Errr," Pike says, rubbing at her throat. "I do believe one of the zombies did not explode, but that was seen more as a step in the proper direction than as a proof of concept… "
"If vou are dealing vith zombies," Natasha says in a low and nearly threatening tone, "I vill haf … vords vith you later." She finally then sets aside the wooden scribe and blows lightly on the crystal to get the material to dry faster.
"Oh, no, not ME!" Pike says, waving her palms back and forth. "Doctor Grimm is just certain that it should be possible to… well… cure undeath."
"Or at the very least, suppress the nastier side effects of it," the bat adds in a softer voice.
"Death cannot be reversed. Such is the nature of the spirit," Natasha says with finality.
There is a hiss from Qing. "There is no cure for death, and no such thing as undeath. There are spirits."
"Yeesss," Pike says, combing a claw through her hair. "But… well, it's part of some larger work on the nature of spirits. And an attempt to turn a problem into… something useful. I mean, if the undead didn't need to feed on the flesh and spirits of the living, and didn't rot and such… well, they wouldn't quite be people, but could be safely used for simple tasks, like housekeeping or fighting off poodles… "
"I'm better at fighting Gallees than any stinkin' corpse would be," Amelia protests.
"Some haf tried to learn the art to find a way to reverse or cheat death. Vhen the truth is revealed, it is sometimes a bitter medicine," Natasha adds as she inspects her work on the crystal now that its dry. "That vhich remains after death is a reflection, an echo of vhat vas. And … " she pauses to look directly at Pike, "meddling in such matters is the road of corruption and necromancy."
"Oh, of course, Amy, but… well, there's only one of you, you see?" Pike says. "You aren't expendable like a monster would be." The bat suddenly stiffens at the mention of necromancy. "There is no danger of that, Madame Natasha," she says, a bit stiffly. "We don't use magery or sorcery. We are scientists."
"I bet Gunther could build a mechanical zombie," Amy whispers to Olivia. "One that explodes or shoots arrows out of its mouth."
"Heh. At least it wouldn't try to feed on the spirits of the living… although I might still be nervous about having one around," Olivia whispers back.
"Vhatever vou vish to call vourself, it does not matter. Meddling is such acts would be ill advised. Vou could find vourself dealing vith a far more dangerous foe den poodles," Natasha remarks. Then with a shake of her head, she resumes what she was working on. She sets the crystal down before her and holds her hands over it. In a melodic and tone, she starts chanting. After a bit, with each word she says, a ripple of blue courses and curls through the sigils painted on the surface of the crystal."
"Don't worry, I'd just go kill it anyway," Amy says.
Rather than argue further, Pike opens her heavy book and reads in silence.
Qing hisses, "And the remains of the living are not playthings. The Empire has sometimes seen fit to do things considered… controversial. But soldiers pledged to serve the Emperor, and so it was done. It is a disservice to their memory to use them for the menial." The reptile lifts himself higher on his coils to survey his handiwork. The circles have shaped from hundreds of carefully placed slashes of paint, interspersed with figures, strange characters, and the occasional bowl with candles floating in them. They're connected with thick links of a slightly different technique, stylized figures interacting between the circles rather than directly binding them.
Natasha continues her chanting for several long minutes. The crystal beneath her hands grows brighter, bathing the room in blue. The sigils on the crystal flicker and flare in time with her words, as if echoing the spell back to the woman. And then … the woman stops chanting, but the glowing symbols remain. "This room is most conducive to enchantment," she notes as she picks up the crystal, then gets up herself so she can see Qing's work as well.
Pike looks up at that comment. "Interesting. I wonder why?" she asks.
"This place is thick with magic. Humming with power. I expect your enchantment will hold strongly." Qing daubs at one of the knight's bridges one last time, then sets his brushes to soak in a clay jar.
"The resonance in here assists it as well as helps power it," Natasha says in agreement with Qing. "Hm, styles have changed much. Interesting use of … ah, ve kin discuss the techniques used later. Thank you, Mage Qing," she says to the Rokuga. "Olivia, Amelia," she says and looks to the two. "It is time."
Amy stands up at attention, then asks, "Do my weapons need to be enchanted so I can… take them with me?"
Qing murmurs, "There is nothing physical where we are going, constable. Your manifestation will likely be represented with it."
"Okay, as long as I have something," Amelia says.
"To try and clarify vhat Mage Qing said, you will have vhat you believe you have, Miss Blacktail," Natasha answers and motions for Amelia to sit within one of the circles Qing had drawn. "Valking within someone's soul and dream, remember that not all may make sense. Not all will mean what it first appears. Much symbolism lives vithin the vay spirits can take shape."
"We all need our focuses," Amelia says quietly.
Olivia gets to her feet and looks to Natasha for direction on where to sit, as well.
Natasha motions to the circle next to the one she had indicated for Amelia. The feline then walks into the center of all of it and sets down the enchanted crystal.
Amy sits down where shown, curls her tail into her lap, and does some calming breath exercises.
Olivia walks over and settles herself within her own circle, with her legs crossed and her hands resting lightly on her knees. She looks a little nervous, but determined.
The pale serpent has already occupied one of the larger and more elaborate circles, with some supplies set nearby.
"Miss Blacktail, Olivia, focus your mind on the clock ticking," Natasha suggests, "It is one of de reasons I had Olivia bring it. Do not focus so much on what is happening around vou. Try to time vour breathes vith each three ticks of the clock." Qing may recognize the approach of using a clock, or a metronome, or even the timed dripping of water often used for people learning to do spells for the first time at the proper speed, an aide to calm and slow the mind. Natasha takes up residence in one of the other elaborate circles and kneels down.
Closing her eyes, Amelia tries to match her breathing as suggested.
Olivia nods and tries to attune herself to the clock already, listening for its ticking. It also helps that this particular clock is one she's very familiar with, and the thought eases her nerves somewhat.
"Mage Qing, how do vou vish to approach this part? Do vou vish me to initiate and vou assist, or do vou vish to divide de linking, where I link Olivia and myself to Bravil, and vou take Amelia, vourself and link to Bravil?" Natasha inquires of the Rokuga.
Qing thinks a moment, then hisses, "Let us divide the spell. If it should fail for some reason, only two of us will be removed and the others can carry on. I believe we both have the ability for what may lie ahead."
Amelia opens one eye to glance at her 'link partner', and wonders just what will be involved.
The Rokuga raises the hand bearing his guild ring, and gives the ring several twists. When he stops fiddling with it again, the band has a small, sharp-looking spur pointing out of it.
The Kadie quickly closes her eye again and focuses on her breathing. She's still in sync with the clock, but taking noticeably deeper breaths.
"Agreed," Natasha says with a nod. "Now, all of vou, relax. It may feel a bit … odd," she adds. The feline then lifts her hands and starts chanting in the melodic voice. "Light which flows and binds, spirit which exists within all living things, obey the call we make," she intones as she paints runes in the air with her fingers. "Bravil, wanderer, warrior, friend, and lost soul, come to me. Let your essence and mine touch. Let your essence and Olivia's intertwine." The crystal at the center of the group flares brightly, the sigils glowing with fire. Somehow through the glare of the crystal, the form of the large wolf takes shape in the light being cast. Strands twirl and twist out from it. They whip and curl through the air like a vine growing along an old stone wall. When they reach the circles surrounding the two, the lines and patterns in the circle start to glow in a myriad of colors. Olivia can feel it, a wash of heat and energy … as if she could run forever. A swirl of images and sounds burst in and out of Olivia's mind. Sounds of clashing weapons, a roar of voices. It's then that Natasha nods to Qing to begin his part of the ritual.
Amid the strange new sounds floating to her ears, Olivia tries harder to focus on the ticking of the clock, to always have its sound in the background of her mind. It is becoming a reliable anchor to the real world, she realizes.
At the go ahead from Natasha, the Rokuga draws himself up and contorts his arms, myriad limbs forming a frame around him nearly as elaborate as the circle he rests in. The hand wearing his guild ring clenches into a fist, and a tiny trickle of red begins creeping down his arm, transferring to another, moving steadily in a rather unnatural way. "Bone and blood, ash and earth, by the Old Realm I command you to release the bonds of the transcendent. Shackle spirit to spirit, will to will, Bravil the column, Blacktail the glaive, Qing the eye. Manifest."
The focus crystal thrums with a hum now as the trickle of blood flows down the Rokuga's arm. More tendrils split from the crystal and creep across the symbols drawn by Qing. Like Olivia and Natasha before them, when the tendrils reach their respective circles, they too flare to life. Amelia can now hear the sounds that Olivia had been hearing. For fleeting moments the Kadie can even smell the metallic scent of blood. "May that which was separate and now one share in the experiences of the center. Take us to his place of imprisonment. Show us that which still haunts you," Natasha incants firmly. "BIND!" That word echoes loudly in the ears and minds of all those present. Everything disappears in a brilliant burst of white light. And for a moment, each can see nothing, hear nothing. They exist in a state of limbo.
Thankfully for the two which are not familiar to sensations of non-existence, it doesn't last long. The white starts fragmenting into a spectrum of colors. At first there is no shape. But slowly out of the chaos figures form. Then … outlines of buildings? Beneath their feet they can fell the soft touch of grass and dirt. Smells return, the scent of something cooking over a campfire. And then something seems to snap and a new world seems to form around the four. They're standing on a grassy hilltop. Above them is a bright blue sky. The air is pleasant and sweet. Around them, though, is a camp of soldiers. It looks like the group appeared just when they were sitting down for lunch. A myriad of humans, Korvs, and feline faces peer at them in curiosity and wonderment.
Amelia immediately brings her halberd up and takes a defensive stance, a little surprised at the size of the encampment (and the size of the soldiers as well). At least this time she's not red all over only a few streaks of crimson run through her hair. "Can they see us?" she asks Natasha.
Olivia looks between the soldiers and her companions for a few moments. "Well, this is not quite what I was expecting," she murmurs to Natasha. "I thought we might end up in the middle of something more… violent. Not that I'm complaining!"
Qing simply stands there, orienting himself and standing tall to get a look around. He seems a little different here, not bothering to wear his smoked spectacles.
With amazing precision, the soldiers around the group surge up from their meals. Weapons are drawn and in unison, all lowered and pointed at the group. Much like the others, even Natasha appears a bit differently here; the feline appearing less worn, fur cleaner and better kept. Maybe in some small way, more dignified as well. "I believe they have answered your question, Miss Blacktail," she says quietly. The soldiers directly in front of them step aside. A burly human steps forward clad in full metal armor and wielding a huge two-handed sword that he currently rest on his shoulder. "So, the lands of Bosch have learned how to send their emissaries straight in to our camps now," he says, voice as cold and solid as iron. "Kill the abominations."