Midsummer 6, 6107 RTR (Nov 10, 2006) The group attempts to disarm the lair's self-destruct mechanism
(Morgan) (Madame Natasha) (Olivia) (Qing) (Stonebarrow) (Sylvania) (The Return of Valicross)
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    Underground Lab
    This room must be a mad scientist's dream home. Tables are everywhere, covered in beakers, snaking tubes of glass, and lots of little bubbly things. Jars of various powders are stacked along one wall. Along the other are four crates, each about five feet tall and two feet wide. Towards the glowing door in the back are the rows of potted plants. Each has a glowing crystal above it, providing what little light the plants may need. Many of the plants have a wilted and evil look to them. The worst of the plants look like a twisted corpse, in fact, with roots sticking out of the pot in all directions.

It's been a good five, perhaps ten minutes since the corrupted nymph supposedly went off to obtain some sort of crystal. For Morgan, time probably seems to go even slower. Bits of dust float and drift around as the group waits, occasionally sparking to life when they pass under a dimly lit crystal. From where Natasha leans against a worn table, she comments, "This does not bode well. I would have expected it to be back by now. Perhaps it either cannot find it … or it suspects the ploy that Master Qing is trying to use."

"We should be prepared to stop it, if it turns on us. We can stop it, can't we? We must stop it," Morgan insists. The squirrel has taken to pacing around, stopping only to examine this plant, or peer at that implement, always fidgeting while he does.

Qing gives the now inert door a hard look, then turns away, the tassel at the end of his tail flipping over. "I had hoped the creature was conditioned to obey without question, but I suppose we shall see. For now, it affords us time to secure the exits, and to disarm the explosive. Idleness will not help. Let us return to work."

Olivia thinks on this. "I suppose we can harm the wood nymph now if we have to, since we answered its riddle and it let us pass. Of course, if it decides to turn on us anyway, we're going to go up in a mighty spectacular explosion!"

"He obeys as well as anything insane may, I suppose. Who knows what the death of his Lord may have done to him mentally," Natasha notes as she lifts herself off the table she was leaning on and walks towards the door that radiates heat. "It promised to let us in, Olivia. It never promised to let us out. Bear that in mind," she comments as she crouches down and peers at the door intently. "And, I suspect this door is likely trapped, of course. It would … fit."

"I don't know if I want to harm it. Can't risk it. Would it even be right to? I don't know, but I won't risk the crystal or its existence, if it comes to that, over ours." Morgan turns on his heels and walks over to join Natasha, his tail twitching like a live wire all the while. "I didn't see any more traps, but I didn't look back at the door, either. Be careful. Very careful."

"I doubt the traps would be so obvious," Natasha comments as she rolls her head to the side a bit. "Hmm."

"Hmm," Natasha mutters as she traces her eyes along the seam of the door. When she's looking along the bottom, she pauses, then notes, "That shouldn't be there. Morgan, look here… " The Khatta gestures to a place in the middle of the doorway. There's a slight shadow, a break in the light. "That could be some sort of switch, perhaps."

Morgan leans forward to eye the seam, brows raising. "But, a switch for what? It could be the trap release, or it could be a trap in itself. I don't know," he remarks. As he leans back, he flicks his hair back over his shoulder and frowns. "I just don't know."

Olivia walks over to where the Khatta and the Kadie are inspecting the door and looks at the indicated shadow. "Well, if you want to try moving that switch, if switch it be, I can give it a go with one of my knife blades. Dunno what's going to give when I do, though!"

Qing glances over his shoulder. "If we wanted to set it off, we'd just open the door. Perhaps you can remove the wood from around the switch to prevent it from being thrown. I wouldn't doubt there's some powerful acid here somewhere."

"I would recommend holding the switch down," Natasha notes, "As the door is opened. My guess is that it releases when the door opens … but it's just a guess." The feline then reaches out and touches the door quickly, then adds, "And you can't be in front when it opens. With as hot as that door is … you may get burned by a rush of heat. We'll need something to hold the knife down." then then looks back to Qing and nods, "Or that is a possibility. It would depend on if it is a spring loaded switch of some sort, or it tilts when the door moves."

"Just when you need a Kettenrad, they're not here," Morgan says with a sigh. He drops down, bending his knees, and eyes the door. "I agree about the door, though. I can feel the heat from here – I wouldn't want to be here when the door opens." And, with that, Morgan straightens and steps behind cover.

Olivia looks around the lab as she thinks. "Weeeelllll… I could drag a bench over here and rest one end of it on my knife to keep the switch down and the knife in place. Good thing the door opens inward or we wouldn't be able to do this without preventing the door from opening!"

"I can use my staff to open the door from an angle, I believe. Or, we could have the zombie open it," Natasha comments, then nods to Olivia. "Move the bench. It's as good as anything for a weight."

The Rokuga pauses. "If merely opening the door is going to sear someone, how do you intend to disarm the device inside?"

"I'll help," the Kadie offers. As Olivia well knows, Morgan isn't well suited to feats of brawn, but he looks ready to help anyway. "I'm a little nervous, I need to keep busy," he admits.

Olivia scurries off to the nearest bench and proceeds to drag it over to the door. Once there, she draws out her longest-bladed knife, ready to work the switch behind the door.

"We give the room time to air out and see if it can then be entered. Have you opened a door to a steam bath before, Mage Qing? There is always a rush of heat out," Natasha comments and shrugs slightly. "We do not have many options, so we shall have to see."

The snake nods slowly. "Very well."

"Do you wish to use your … pet, to open the door?" Natasha asks, "Or shall I try with my staff?"

"I haven't faced so much peril from a steam since the otter twins invaded the hot springs," says Morgan. After helping move the bench, he retakes cover from the door.

Qing ponders this for a moment. "Wedge it open with the staff. We may have need of the puppet's facade, for the time being."

"As you like. Olivia, try to wedge the switch," Natasha instructs as she lifts her staff, "Then get out of the way."

"Having the spirit's supposedly returned master incinerated may spoil the ruse," adds the Kadie.

Olivia looks to Natasha, then nods briskly. "All right. I'm going to give this a try. Someone needs to be ready to put the bench on my knife once it's in place. I won't be able to do the two tasks at once… or risk setting off whatever trap is in there." She quirks an eyebrow at Morgan, to see if he will lend his support.

Morgan's tail twitches when he's looked at. "It would be my pleasure," he replies to the unspoken question. He moves forward to be ready to support he Skeek.

Olivia puts one end of the bench into the Kadie's hands, saying, "Be ready to put this on the hilt of my knife when I give the word… carefully." Then with a brief smile, she gets down on her hands and knees and slowly extends the tip of the knife's blade underneath the door, just feeling for where the switch is at the moment.

The very end of the Skeek's blade taps the surface of the switch with a soft ting! She sighs a little in relief, since she found it successfully and did not set anything off! Then, with even more care, Olivia works more of the tip of her knife onto the switch and slowly presses it down and holds it there. "Okay, Morgan, bring the bench over here." She moves her fingers onto the flat of the blade so the bench can rest on the hilt.

Ever so carefully, Morgan lowers the bench on the indicated spot on the knife. He may be twitchy, but it seems he can focus when he really needs to. That, or maybe it's just luck.

"Good, now the two of you, away," Natasha instructs as she flattens herself against the wall near the door and goes about the careful process of trying to hook her staff into the door handle to turn it.

The Kadie quickly flees, taking Olivia's hand and helping her get away to cover.

Olivia gratefully accepts the Kadie's help and moves off with him.

Qing shields his eyes with an arm, even from where he stands across the lab.

With a bit of work, Natasha is able to hook her staff into the handle. Gently she brings it down and turns the handle. The door clicks and starts to move. When the door has moved enough for the latch to not slide back in, the Khatta eases her staff out, then shoves the door with the butt of it. There's a rush of heat … visible in the air as everything seems to distort in its wake. That certainly would have curled some fur if anyone had been in front of it. Blood red light streams into the room, making an already creepy room even worse. Natasha lets out a long breath and lowers her staff.

Qing's normally pallid scales take on a bloody cast, and the snake guardedly takes his hand away from his eyes as heat washes past, peering at the doorway.

"It may not be the gate to hell," Morgan remarks as he peeks around from his cover, " … but it could fit the description." In a low murmur, which Olivia can hear due to her proximity, he whispers, "I hope we're not too late," to no one in particular.

Olivia cringes and covers her face with her hands when the blast of heat comes from behind the door, but once things have settled, she tries to peer into the next room, through the red light. "I wonder what's making that red light, anyway?" she asks aloud.

The Macabre Machine
Inside the hot room resides a monstrous machine which stretches out around the room. It looks like something right out of a nightmare. Three odd vats are positioned around the room, each having a funnel leading to a vat in the center of the room. Beneath the vat is a glowing red pool of molten rock … the source of the heat and light. The vats are currently held closed … by twisted flesh. Mutilated arms attached to rotting corpses on each of the vats grip a lever that holds it shut. For those magic sensitive, the dull glow from the dismembered body parts indicate magic is what empowers the  parts to keep it held. It wouldn't be surprising, either, if other parts of the machine were made from hewn bone. And to make matters even more pleasant, the stench of sulfur assaults the noses of those present.

"A lovely smell we have discovered," Natasha mutters as she steps away from the wall so she can see into the room.

"The man was truly mad. Truly. How could he have enjoyed eternal life, when he clearly held life in so little regard?" Morgan edges out of hiding, shielding his eyes from the heat as he steps forward. When he nears the door, he looks up, trying to spot what he's searching for.

"He valued his life, and it alone, Morgan," Natasha comments as she eyes the machine critically. "Others … he did not care for. They were just tools. Power for power's sake, Morgan. A lesson to bear in mind … for any practitioner of magic. You could just as easily start down the path he did if you are not careful."

Olivia also steps out of her hiding place and approaches the doorway, considering the dismembered limbs with horror in her eyes. "Oh yes, I can just see the nightmares I'm going to have tonight… " she mutters.

Qing slithers to the inferno door, shadowed by the simulacrum of the man who made the horrid place. "Life for him was a means to attain what he truly wanted, power." He flicks his tongue. "At least it is more comfortably warm in here."

At the very top of the room glimmers another light, glowing in a rainbow of colors.

"Power for power's sake. It's like harvesting herbs, just to have them," the Kadie murmurs. Shielding his eyes against the glare of the heat, the man searches the roof – and spots the crystal. "I'm coming," he murmurs. "Wait just a little longer."

Can a rock hear you speak? Who knows? Morgan certainly may not … as the crystal suddenly disappears from the roof of the room, as if it was sucked into the ceiling.

"So, I believe people wished to disarm this … thing," Natasha notes. Her brow then furrows and she grumbles, "He truly had a sick sense of humor. Disarming it would … trigger it. Break it, yes, break it."

The Rokuga cranes his head back, looking up at the ceiling. "What did you say that crystal was, again? A dampener?"

Olivia moves back as Qing and the imitation of the necromancer approach, giving the latter in particular a wide berth. "To render this thing ineffective, should we try to remove the three ingredients that would cause the explosion?" she asks the room in general. "Would we be able to do that?"

Morgan's tail shoots up, poofing, as his fists clench. "Oh NOW he gets it." He whirls around, searching for Qing and the simulacrum, where he expects the corrupted nymph to return. "I didn't say," he replies to the mage. "But if that's true … " He glances back over his shoulder, frowning. "We would need to prevent a mixture that would be catastrophic, at least. We may be able to manage a lesser explosion."

"It would depend on what he did with crystals … but yes, that would be a common application. You can work an enchantment that allows it to absorb the ambient magic and convert it to light, or for other uses. It may have been acting as a way to keep the level of magic in here at a stable level," Natasha answers, "Without it, the fluctuations might make things less … stable."

The hard lines of Qing's face crease even further. "Then we've been given a time limit." He looks to the central vat, eyeing it thoughtfully.

Olivia looks between Qing and Natasha with growing alarm. "Wait a second… d'you mean to say that now that the crystal in the ceiling has been removed, we only have a certain amount of time before those… stoppers give way and release the ingredients?"

"Well, without the crystal, the level of magic will rise in this room if it was acting as a dampener. Things will grow steadily more unstable and likely to just … go off, as it were," Natasha notes grimly.

"Whatever the case may be, we should focus on the work ahead of us. We are all … in a hurry, but we mustn't forget the danger in front of us, or what we must do. Mustn't forget," Morgan says. He seems to force himself to turn around, pointing at one vat in particular. "If I remember right, we needn't disarm … ugh … the whole trap. We must disarm the fire catalyst. Without which, it is merely a macabre incense burner. The salt petter, that is the one."

The reptile looks away from the vat to study the machine's framework, trying to decide how navigable it is. "Then we'd best get to work. We've still got some more of the simulacrum bodies left. They should be well enough crafted to climb to a spout and divert the catalyst away from the central vat and into the magma."

Each of the vats are suspended a fair ways up into the air. Though with a ladder, or perhaps standing on someone's shoulders, one of the group could reach one. Natasha rubs her chin in thought at the suggestion of diverting the catalyst into the fire, then offers, "Or would it be more practical to empty the catalyst into something else and just carry it out of here?"

"Then I suppose the next question is: how do we empty the vat of salt peter without setting off some other trap? I could see Valicross doing that to the individual vats," Olivia replies, just as grimly.

Qing tilts his head. "If we have the means and something to do that with. Mm… one of the cadaver crates, emptied of salt?"

"The salt petter is unstable, by itself. There may or may not be an explosion, if it is released to flame. It may be better to divert it elsewhere. Of the others, the sulfur is merely noxious, while the charcoal is less so," the Kadie explains, nodding to Natasha. Then, glancing towards Olivia, he adds with a tight smile, "You do learn something, when you're always patching up mechanics."

"Drill a hole in the bottom of one of the vats with one of Olivia's knives and let it pour down into the crate, perhaps. Like half of an hourglass," Natasha suggests.

Olivia gives the Kadie a sombre half-smile of her own at his joke, then nods to Natasha. "If you can get me up to the vat, I'd be willing to try that," she says, a bit more bravely than she actually feels.

The reptile's neck cranes up, as if straining to see one of the containers. "Are the vat walls thin enough, and will it be quick enough? If so, by all means."

"Mage Qing, perhaps you should lift Olivia. You are the most stable of us all, by your anatomy," Morgan suggests. "And, if someone could help me, I'll go empty the crate and return it here. Time is of the essence." He casts a longing look at the roof, then departs for the crates.

"I'll help Morgan with the crate. He's right, you would be most stable," Natasha notes, the follows after the Kadie.

Olivia clears her throat nervously at this prospect, then gives the Naga a weak smile. "I hope you'll be able to lift me," she says. "I know I'm not the, er, easiest burden to bear. A bit unwieldy, perhaps."

After crossing the room, Morgan prepares to lift the crate and simply turn it on its side to dump the contents entirely. "A shame I don't know more about the properties of salt, it may be it could be used here, to counter the others," he says, speaking to Natasha as she approaches.

"I am unused to such labor, but very well," says the pallid mage, eyeing the Skeek. His long body gathers about under the vat's brace, and coils into a broad loop. Though not especially strong, Qing does look the heaviest of those present, and the multitude of arms he holds out are practically a ladder in themselves, and able to support one another. "This is the least of our troubles anyway, Weaver. Let's get on with it, then."

"I am no alchemist either," Natasha notes as she looks around for something. Deciding on an empty beaker, she starts shoveling out the caked and nasty salt. "Though, I doubt this would me of much use to us."

After straining to topple the crate, Morgan gives up and grabs a measuring cup. "Would that Pike was here, I'm sure she could inform us. Ah, so much knowledge in our friends – another piece of wisdom the necromancer lacked," he says.

"I imagine he would say he had no need for friends, Morgan," Natasha notes and she tosses the salt into a pile on the floor, "There are many ways to see the world. His was just one of many extremes."

Olivia approaches the mage slowly, looking for the best way to "scale" him without putting a foot or a hand on something tender… or falling gracelessly from his arms. She carefully begins her ascent, taking cues from Qing on where to shift her weight next.

Valicross returns to the lab. No, wait, it's not Valicross. The necromancer-alike returns to the lab, reaching down to grip his own coffin to help empty it out.

"Many ways – but not all can live together," Morgan agrees. He makes a sudden "eeee" noise as a dessicated hand reaches past to scoop out some salt, then glares at the undead creature. "I am going to need a hot cup of tea, after all this."

The suddenness of the zombie reappearing is enough to get Natasha to lurch backwards and raise her staff back as if to strike. For a moment, the feline's calm demeanor shifts to one of anger and hatred as she glares at the recreation. But, realization returns quickly enough for her and the staff lowers. "Some wounds still burn," she mutters to herself and resumes removing salt … and keeping distance from the zombie.

Qing grunts, and his hat is briefly knocked askew, but he offers footholds with his shoulders, the crooks of his elbows, and even his head, his long neck fairly muscular compared to the rest of his body. With the Skeek carefully balanced, the coils beneath him shift to raise his body higher.

Once the Skeek reaches her final perch, she takes a few calming breaths, apologizes for the hat incident, and calls to Natasha and Morgan, "Okay, we're almost ready here!"

"We're almost done here, too," Morgan calls back. He resumes scooping, then asks Natasha, "Have you … Have you see where the crystal has gotten to? Can you sense it? I need it, you see. I … I can't leave without it."

"I think we could tip the rest out now," Natasha says as she sets her beaker out of the way. As she gets to the side of the box, she glances over to the Kadie and says, "If I stopped concentrating on the task at hand, I might be able to. I could try once we get this box over to them."

"Valicross" silently takes a corner of the crate, lifting it to help pour the fouled salt.

"That's fine. I'm sorry to burden you, Natasha, but … " As the Kadie's words trail off, he leans down to take up the crate to help the woman topple it. "No, we have to focus. There'll be time." In a quieter voice, he adds, "I hope there's time." His tail flickers, and he hefts.

The remains of the salt pour out onto the stone floor in a sickly yellow pile. The empty crate is thankfully not too heavy and the two carry it back into the inferno room and position it beside Qing. "All right, Olivia, see if you can dig a hole. Go as quickly as you can," she says.

Olivia nods to Natasha, then looks down at Qing. "Going up?" she asks, taking out another knife that has a heavier blade on it.

Qing nods, and with a boost of his lower coils, the snake lifts Olivia higher, a good half of his length held off the floor, and his many arms spread out to hold the mouse up. Like this, he looks something like very grotesque tree.

With little left to do but wait, Morgan paces at the doorway, looking this way and that as if trying to find something. After a bit of this, he stops and asks, "Madam Natasha, could you show me how you sense its presence? I may, well, be able to help you. I am, … I may be attuned to the crystal."

Now near the bottom of the vat, Olivia pokes the end of her blade into it and pushes the knife upward while turning it in a corkscrew motion. The going is slower than everyone would like, since the vat is made of a thicker chitin, but they can see that progress is being made. Eventually, a small hole is formed and a thin stream of salt peter drains out. The Skeek tries to make the hole even larger still, so that more of the stuff will come out of the vat more quickly.

"Well, it is hard to explain quickly. You can feel a breeze, yes? Or smell when a storm is in the air? It is … something like that. A familiarity You have to close out all your regular senses and feel the magic around you. For that crystal … well, I would try to feel the movement of that nymph and any odd ripples in the magic near him. Now, if you know what it feels like, then you may have a chance, even being inexperienced. So … are you going to try?" Natasha asks the Kadie.

"I am," Morgan replies without a moment's hesitation. "Here I go." He closes his eyes, lowering his head slightly. To help, he also reaches up and covers his ears, effectively plugging them. The breeze he searches for isn't that of the nymph, but of the crystal. He feels his own current, trying to match them, through affinity, to the crystal.

Natasha reaches over and places her hand on his forehead and starts chanting to herself. At this point, she is merely assisting, trying to help give a firmer direction to the Kadie's more raw skills and experience. While this goes on, the white powder is flowing freely down into the crate below. At the rate it's flowing and the size of the vat … it'll take a few minutes to empty out, maybe up to ten or so.

After concentrating a moment, Morgan shakes his head. "I feel the flow of this place, but it is murky. I can't … find what I'm looking for. I'm sorry." He opens his eyes, then blinks at the pile of salt peter in the crate. "Olivia has done a good job, I see."

Natasha pulls her hand away and frowns. "Giving up so easily?" she asks, then shakes her head. The feline closes her eyes and concentrates now.

Olivia appraises the hole she has made in the bottom of the vat, then slides her knife back into its sheath. "I guess that's the best I can do, my knife's blade is getting dull now, anyway. You can lower yourself back down if you like, Mage Qing," Olivia says.

For a moment, Morgan glares at Natasha. It's a rare day that Morgan allows his frustrations out, especially at a woman, and he looks sorely guilty for it after a moment. Laying his ears back, he bites his lip and closes his eyes, trying again without a word.

Qing's broad hat allows a stray bit of the powder to be diverted away. He begins letting himself down, hissing as he does so. "There is much power flowing through this place," he says, reaching up to help Olivia keep her balance as he brings her closer to the floor. "Sometimes it takes a different state of mind to pick out specifics. Try not to focus on the single object of your search, but to 'look' at the place as a whole, and notice 'brighter' spots, like you would see something out of the corner of your eye."

"Though, I can understand the difficulty," Natasha says after a bit, "The saturation of this place does much to mask off the more subtle flows as Qing says. I can say that there is movement and it is heading this way. I cannot answer if it is what you seek. Look at it as if you were watching fish swim in a pond. Lots of small ripples and try to watch where they go. Perhaps your affinity may tell you more."

"Look at the whole, fish in a pond … " The Kadie inhales, trying to calm his fraying nerves and focus, repeating, "The whole. Fish in a pond," like a mantra.

Once she is within jumping distance of the ground, Olivia begins her slow descent from Qing's shoulders, managing not to embarrass herself too greatly as she does so. Finally, her feet on the floor, she curtsies to the mage and says lightly, "Thank you for the, ah, uplifting experience!"

"I … I see it, there. Not a bright spot … but a shadow, and a flicker, and … It is headed this way," the Kadie says suddenly. Opening his eyes to squint, he looks in the direction he sensed the approach. "From there," he points, "that direction. We may not have much time."

Qing simply flicks his tongue. He begins murmuring to himself.

"I knew I should have taken the left turn at … " the group can hear the raspy voice of the nymph say from the other room. "Hey, where did they go? Great, just great. Go get the crystal … then up and leave on me. Well fine. See if I empty your chamberpot again."

The simulacrum immediately begins striding back toward the lab. "I don't even need a chamber pot now, fool. It's a good thing I can't die of old age anymore, either," it rasps. "Give it here, and then get out of the way. I'm turning this place upside down, there's much work for me to do with this crystal. You'd better not have damaged it."

The nymph holds the crystal protectively. It glares at the corpse, then growls, "No, I don't think so. I knew you 'smelled' wrong! You're a FAKE! FAKEFAKEFAKE! Well, I think I know what I will do with this." And with that, the nymph makes a mad dash for the room with the machine … and the rest of the group.

"No you don't!" Morgan doesn't even pause – he dashes for the the nymph in an attempt to intercept him before he can reach the room!

As if things couldn't get any more chaotic … they always manage to. The nymph skids to a halt as he sees a rather puffed up (and yet still girly) squirrel making a mad dash right towards him. It's right about that time Mage Qing releases the spirit bound within the corpse of the necromancer …

"More than real enough to deal with YOU!" rasps the cadaver of Valicross, its voice distorting. Its mouth gapes open and black bile pours from it… but so does something else. Dark vapors burst forth, curling and tumbling, red eyes and long arms emerging from the mass. The wraith flies at the nymph with an unearthly screech.

And the spirit connects … hard into the back of the nymph. With a shriek, the nymph goes down. Unfortunately, this timed it such that the dispel Natasha lets loose at the creature rips through the doorway and completely misses. The bolt of blue tears through the darker room beyond, leaving an echo of emptiness in its wake. The nymph lands on the floor … but as his arms hit, the crystal he was carrying goes flying up and through the air. Time for Morgan slows down as it arcs … right towards the pool of molten rock. Not that the squirrel in frenzy even notices the danger. He launches himself upwards and backwards in a flip that would make even Gunther proud. His hands close around the crystal. The floor comes up all too fast for him, though, as time seems to resume to normal and he lands with a loud thud on the floor … mere inches from the pool. And his final lesson for the day seems to be … what it means to be called 'hotpants'… Because right now his butt is uncomfortably close to that heat source. Ow.

"Thank the spirits," Morgan breathes, sorely. Then his nose twitches, his tail jerks, and his eyes widen. With surprising speed, he lurches up and cries, "Ow, fire on – ow, OW," before running around, using his free hand to wave his tail like a fuzzy fan against his rear.

Olivia arrrghs! and jumps to Morgan's rescue, taking him firmly by the shoulders and holding on so that he doesn't run around anymore. "Keep that up and you're just going to be hot all over and make things worse!" she gasps. She also takes off her flowered hat and fans Morgan a little, too – trying all the while not to laugh, as dangerous as their predicament is.

The smoky wraith clings and squeezes, wrapping around the fallen nymph and babbling curses and threats in different tones of the necromancer's voice as Qing slithers closer to re-exert his control, grim face staring down at the wooden creature.

"You meddling little … " the nymph growls as it pushes its rotting form up from the floor, its once socket less eyes glowing blood red all the while the spirit on its back assaults it. "You will all burn for that!" it howls and spreads its spindly arms apart before Qing. It's maw contorts into a sadistic grin. As its fingers then start to close with creaking and snapping sounds … the machine in the room lurches to life!

Olivia gasps as the machine is set in motion and looks over at the vat of salt peter, trying to see if it has emptied out completely yet!

Morgan, who finally stopped running around and began helping Olivia put him out, suddenly freezes at the rogue spirit's declaration. He mirrors the turn, looking vatward. "We'd better run," he tells the woman, holding the crystal close to his heart, and offering her his free hand.

Fortunes at least smile on that. The flow from the vat has indeed stopped. There's a sickening thud, and the remaining two vats start dumping its contents into the central vessel. Even without the third ingredient … there's a rather ominous hissing and popping sound.

"Time to go," Natasha says quietly as Morgan makes the statement about running. The Khatta then heads to the door. She, however, doesn't exit, but instead stands beside it. "All of you, out," she shouts.

"I heard that – forget the personal items in the temple, we need to get out of here!" Olivia agrees with the Kadie, taking his hand. She does look askance at Natasha, saying, "What about you?"

Qing slithers on his way, glancing down at the nymph again as he goes past, pausing just long enough to make sure the wraith holds on. "You shall stay," he murmurs. "And be cleansed by your master's machine."
Hurrying for the exit, Morgan pauses at the door to look back and frown at the nymph. He opens his mouth, as if to say something, then just shakes his head and departs. All the while, he holds that odd crystal close, with a grasp that makes the skin under his hand turn white.

As Morgan pulls her away, Olivia shouts to Natasha, "I don't know what your planning, but don't you dare let it get you killed!"

When the last of the group is out, Natasha turns to glare at the cackling nymph. It now stands before the machine, arms raised wide. "Let them feel your wrath, my master. Let them know what worms they are!" it shrieks over and over.

With grim finality, Natasha tells the wraith, "It's over." The feline then turns and also exit through the door … only she pulls it closed behind her … slamming it into its frame. Mere moments later, there's a rumble, then a muffled boom. The closed door them blows outward, slamming into the feline and sending her backwards and onto the floor with a thump. Black smoke billows from the glowing red room.

Olivia turns just in time to see the mage's form fly across the room, slam into the floor and skid to a halt. With a strangled cry, she shakes off Morgan's hand and runs back to the Khatta. "N-natasha?" she stammers, trying to roll her over and peer into her face.

Morgan staggers when he tries to keep running after Olivia stops. Hearing her cry, he skids to a stop, whirling around to see what happened. "Natasha!" he cries, following after Olivia.

Qing hunkers low as the door is blasted off its hinges. He looks up again as the smoke clears, dusting at his mantle and winding his way back toward the others, shading his eyes against the doorway's fierce glow.

Natasha is a bit battered, but not much worse for wear from being hit with the door really. "Ow," she mutters as she struggles to sit up next to Olivia. "I wanted to use the door to absorb some of the blast and keep any shards of that thing or that machine from hitting us," she tries to explain.

Olivia breathes a very audible sigh of relief as she helps Natasha into a sitting position. "Good plan, but next time, try just using the door and not your body to absorb the impact, okay?" she asks shakily.

"As an added benefit, no appreciable damage to the lab," hisses Qing, looking around thoughtfully. "Well done." Deciding that the other mage has enough people to help her up, he simply rests back in his coils. "And your prize, Nightshade… ?"

"Even his door was malevolent, in the end," Morgan says with distaste. He glances off towards Qing after seeing Natasha is largely unharmed, and answers, "I've yet to check it. As much as I want it, our lives come first." He drops himself to sit near Natasha, now, lowering the crystal onto his lap. Looking down, he peers into its depths. "I've wanted this for a long time, and now it may be here, right in front of me."

"I wasn't expecting it to blow that quickly," Natasha admits with a sidelong glance to Olivia, "But such serves me right for trying to guess the arts of alchemy and the like." As she looks around the lab, though, she frowns, noting, "I would prefer to see this place destroyed, if I have any say on the matter."

Qing folds his arms behind his back, clasping all three sets of hands together. "All in due time. The library at least is worth preserving."

Olivia now stands up and offers her hand to Natasha, so that she can rise, too. "Well, thank goodness you're all right – if anything terrible had happened to you, I don't think Bravil would ever forgive the rest of us!"

"I don't think you would forgive the rest of us," Natasha comments dryly and arches her brow. The feline then pushes herself to her feet with a groan, adding, "I'm getting too old for this."

"Too true," Morgan agrees with Olivia, sounding distracted. He continues to stare into the crystal, until, taking a deep breath, he lifts it up. "Are you there," he asks, turning it slowly, " … father?" And with that, he closes his eyes and touches the crystal to his forehead.

The crystal in Morgan's hands is a rainbow of chaos and colors. Something flickers and moves in its core … but it's nigh impossible to tell exactly what. There is just … something.

Seeing that the Khatta is getting up without her help, the Skeek's attention turns back to Morgan – especially at his last words. "Father?" she repeats in surprise.

"Now is not the time or place, Morgan," Natasha comments as she glances to the Kadie. "We should finish our work here and then dispel the entire complex to remove any remaining traces of that creature. Save your examination of that item for when you return home and have more privacy."

"Very well," Morgan replies, without argument. He lowers the crystal, opening his eyes. "Well, let's get to work then." Olivia gets a brief - yet mysterious for its lack of an answer – smile, before the Kadie returns to looking sombre and intent.

Qing reaches for the wisp that shies out from under his bowl hat. "I'm glad this didn't go to waste, then."

Olivia starts as the Khatta finishes her speech about privacy, then stammers, "W-well, I didn't m-mean to pry… but I guess I am just a little curious, and… oh, never mind!" Then she turns, the insides of her ears flushing red in embarrassment, and hurries off towards the upper reaches of the temple and its pile of crates and books.

"And one more item we should attend to … burials or cremations for the remains here. We should lay to rest his last victims," Natasha says and leans heavily on her staff. She looks around the grim lab and draws in a breath, adding "We will be here for a while. Yes, let's get to work."


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GMed by Jared

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