The morning is cold, in more ways than one. During the night, Euphrosyne and her children took the warriors outside of the cave, one by one. There would follow brief sounds of combat, and then the Kerebos Warriors would return for the next. The others passed away quietly, warm in their Lapi-fur blankets and surrounded by young, healthy does and bucks, including Layth's own mother, Apolline. Aaron didn't have to prepare any special elixirs, but his words of the previous day rung true: they had all just been holding on for the right moment to die with some dignity.
Now, in the windy riverbed, on a slight rise, a dozen fresh graves joined many others. Both the wind and the Vykarins howled as Euphrosyne recited the eulogy. "We honor these fallen Warriors and others this morning. Let the wind carry their names and deeds to the Gods, and also to those that follow them, so that they may inspire in battle." There followed then a recitation of the names and deeds of the fallen, as had been told to Tasha the previous night, and along with those the last wishes of the elderly civilians. Apolline was included among the warriors, even though she had not died in battle.
Tasha stands looking at the graves, her back turned to the living as she tries to remember each name and story without resorting to writing them down. The faces burn bright in her head, even as she wishes she could forget them. But, she can't forget them, because she made a promise, and this is part of the deal. Abaddon has to know, and thus Tasha has to remember.
Layth assisted the others with the grim task of burying those that had fallen and those that finally let themselves leave the world. Except when it came to his mother … with her, he carried her out and buried her; accepting no aid from the others. The 'ritual of remembrance' ends with the buck kneeling before the grave of his mother. Whispering into the winds, he says, "May you find new plains to run in a world without cold and suffering. Find solace in knowing your line continues with your lost, and then found, son. I will not forget you." The buck then pushes himself slowly to his feet and walks away from the grave. The normally impassive male looks on some levels … weary … and yet on others as if a weight has left his shoulders. He goes to stand beside Aaron and Lucia without another word.
The younger warriors and guardians spend some time scavenging firewood from the surrounding area, and Aaron makes sure the old caretaker, Geryon, has enough supplies to keep him going for awhile. It was then time to mount up and move on, already late morning now.
The snow-and-gold buck continues his silence throughout the remainder of the morning, assisting where he can and staying out of the way where he cannot. Soon enough, he's mounted back on Albinka's back and waiting to move onward.
Lucia whispers to Tasha, "There is a place up ahead where the canyon wall has collapsed. We can leave the river there."
"Then we 'ead on," Tasha replies. The Vartan turns from the graves and, holding back her emotions, waves the others to mount up. "C'mon then, we 'ave places to go an' people to 'elp. Get mounted, we're leavin' the river bed."
The climb into the hills was slow going. Often it was necessary to dismount and guide the Vykarins by hand over slopes of loose talus or debris left from thawed ice and snow. It was tiring all around, but their progress was revealed when they reached the top of the hills and were rewarded by a rare vista: the great plains of Amazonia lay to the south and east before them, with the lights of Dianus and Valkyria both visible in the distance one to the south, and one to the east. The bulk of the Sinh Range lay ahead still, but the danger of encountering nomadic Amazonians was largely past.
"Have you thought much on what you will do the day your mother passes away?" Layth asks Aaron, finally breaking his silence. He slides from the back of Albinka, then draws out the tent materials to start setting up camp again for the night.
Aaron blinks at the question, pausing in his unpacking of the extra cold-weather clothing. "There will be a big political mess when that happens," the buck notes. "Roland's mother is next in line to lead the Clan, but if she dies too, then it will fall to whomever is strong enough to lay claim. I'll have to bring mom's armor back as well, and hope not to get killed or married."
"That isn't precisely what I meant. Not what your duty is, but what you would do," Layth notes with a small shrug. The buck then goes about constructing one of the tents.
"I don't know, Layth," Aaron admits quietly, maybe more to himself now that Layth is busy with something else.
Having dismounted, Tasha stands with one hand petting Eadwig's snout as she stares off at the view. "Oi, get a load 'o that," she tells no one in particular as she surveys the land. "Tha' must be Dianus, but, what's that one?" She points towards Valkyria, glancing to Lucia.
"Valkyria, where the Queen's throne sits," Lucia tells Tasha. "The official capital of Amazonia."
"There's a throne? I'll 'ave to see that, some day," Tasha tells Lucia. "I be the city is somethin', do they 'ave temples too?"
Lucia nods, and says, "Many temples, and some to gods long forgotten. It is not as well-kept as Dianus. One does not visit Valkyria and think it anything other than the ancient home of a warrior people."
Done with his tent, Layth actually goes over and starts setting up Lucia's now, as well. He glances into the distance, towards the mountains, now and then. What he's thinking, though, is anyone's guess.
"Well, I'm the servant 'o a warrior god, am I no'? I ought an' see the 'eart of Amazonia some day," says Tasha. "I bet the throne's made o' spears or somethin' Maybe skulls? Probably uncomfortable, a warrior's seat should never be too comfortable, aye?"
"It's made from the shell of a Vykarin, actually," Lucia notes.
"A Vykarin? Was 'e some special Vykarin, like the Vykarin king or the first mount of the first Queen 'o Amazonia?" inquires Tasha, who glances over at Lucia with a curious perk to her ears.
The white-furred warrior doe admits, "I honestly do not know if the throne has a special origin. It must be replaced every few generations, I am sure."
"Gets a bit stinky, does it," Tasha asks, head tilting. "Well, stands to figure. I 'ope the shell isn't 'unted down, but knowin' Amazonia … " She shakes her head, turning back to look out at the expanse. "Is tha' snow? Oi, I've only ever seen snow from far away, up in the air."
"I see snow," Doreen says nearby Layth, looking up the mountains as well. "I've never seen it cover the landscape like that before."
"It's beautiful. When the sun hits it, the mountains light up like a diamond," Layth says to Doreen, then looks over to her. "But do not let its beauty mislead you; it is also deadly. It can freeze your limbs, or suffocate you should it avalanche."
"Especially now, in the Spring," Aaron adds as he hands out heavier cloaks.
"I lived in the mountains until I was … five or so. I remember much about it," Layth adds with a small shrug as he takes some of the cloaks from Aaron and helps drape them over the various members of the group, starting with Doreen. "It can also hide pits and fissures in the mountain. When we are in it, we must step lightly and carefully."
After helping Euphrosyne out of her armor, Eidothea joins the others in looking at the mountains. "They're so tall," the teenager notes. "From the city, they seemed smaller."
"Miles high. Some go so high that as you climb, it actually gets harder to breathe," Layth comments as he resumes setting up tents. since the others are occupied with looking to the mountains, well … he decides to just pitch all the tents.
"I had some snow shoes made for us," Aaron notes, his ears flapping in amusement at the pun, given Lucia and Layth's heritage.
"We can risk a fire tonight," Euphrosyne notes, but waits for Tasha to actually have the final say on whether or not to start one.
"If they were made from a relative of mine … I'll make sure to make you into a shoe in payback," Layth comments rather dryly to Aaron. He does afford a small grin to the other buck, at least.
"Tha's fine. I think we could all use a fire to warm us up," the Vartan agrees. She turns now, and begins heading for the center of camp. "I'll get to tha'."
The path into the mountains follows a river, and for much of the way it is necessary to go by foot to lead the Vykarins. By the end of the first day, they camp again just below the permanent snow line, and have to bundle up together in the tents for warmth, leaving the third tent packed away. The Vykarin complain at having to dig their sleeping pits in the semi-frozen ground, and wake up covered in frost.
Thin ice makes the going more treacherous, and the river itself is often covered over. As Layth warned, the snow hides obstacles that slow them further, but the Vykarin have stopped complaining now for fear of distracting their guides.
On the third day ascending the mountain, the river becomes visible again, and some of the snow has retreated. The world is covered in white mists, as if climbing through a cloud, but without the chill one might expect. Tremors in the ground hint at the reason, and Aaron says it out loud: "We're climbing a volcano, aren't we?"
"Yes," Lucia confirms. "The Gash of Fenris and the colony of the Skymetal Smiths are at the summit."
Layth frowns at this news. "People should not live on a volcano; to do so invites visits from the burning heart of the world," he comments grimly. He reaches over to pat Albinka absently, adding, "And if it erupts while we are on it … well, we have no place to flee. Let us hope it does not."
"Oi, a volcano!" Tasha has since brought out all her cold weather clothes, wrapped in a fur cloak, Vykarin leg-warmers, and a fuzzy hat. "A volcano is close to Abaddon, quiet in peace, ragin' in conflict, warm in the coldest snows." She's even whispered that she might consider getting Vykarin-style horseshoes. After all, hooves haven't much grip on ice. "I'm lookin' forward to seein' this!"
The river has already broken into tributaries fed by snow melt and warmer water from hot springs and geysers. The geysers in particular form a formidable barrier, causing unpredictable rains of hot water and turning the ground into bubbling bogs of mud. Lucia seems to know the safest route, however, and eventually a shallow valley comes into view through the mists. There are patches of grass and lichens, and silent, heavily built wooden structures here and there. Looming on a rocky rise near the center of the valley is a low, long wooden fortress. "There is our destination," Lucia says, pointing to the structure. "Herriot Hall."
"You must have the patience of the Gods, given the places people seem to drag you," Layth comments absently to Aaron as he looks towards the structure ahead. To Lucia, he asks, "What clan holds the Hall?"
"Clan Sky," Lucia says, frowning a bit. "There is usually more activity than this," she notes. Indeed, there hasn't been any sign of movement or live in the valley yet. A warning horn sounds, at least showing that someone still lives here.
"If there is … " Layth starts to say, then frowns at the horn. "Yes, I suspect that they have been under siege lately. Something must be raiding their town and it is keeping them indoors. The warning horn may mean they think us raiders. We should treat carefully and stay out of bow range."
Now that it's warmer, Tasha removes her hat and stows it on Eadwig's head. "S'good to be 'ere finally," she breathes, letting her wings slip out from under her cloak and stretch in the humid air. "'Ow should we approach the leader, Lucia?"
"We go to the Hall," Lucia advises Tasha. There is a walled ramp that leads up and around the rocky rise, where a few defenders could easily fend off invaders from the walls. "The horn is always used when anyone arrives, but… I do not recall hearing of anyone raiding here before. It is too high up, too well defended, and has little to steal."
"Then why is no-one outside?" Layth points out. "During my travels, you always withdrew into a fortification when an attack came. But, I suppose there is an alternate possibility; disease."
"I guess they noticed us," Tasha says with a hint of levity. "Well," she turns to glance at Layth and Lucia, "aren't bows uncommon out 'ere? Anyway, I'm goin' ahead, to show we're not 'ostile. I don't even 'ave a weapon." Turning back again, Tasha leads Eadwig forward, moving towards the Hall. "Oi! Anyone 'ere!" She waves a hand at the fort, trying to get someone to come out.
Once Tasha is close enough for those on the walls to see her there's some commotion, and the horn begins to blare again only to cut off abruptly once the rest of the troupe is visible. Lapi drop from the walls and run out towards them then, waving their arms and cheering.
Tasha pauses once the Lapi start running out and cheering, looking a little dumbstruck. "We 'aven't even done anythin' yet? 'Ello? Can I talk to your leader?" She tries to intercept a Lapi to question.
Eadwig freezes in place, and goes "rurrrh?" to Tasha, uncertain how to proceed. The happy Lapis are soon surrounding them, talking all at once. They are all of the normal breed, however, with not a Warrior or Guardian among them. A few push to get Eadwig going again towards the fortress.
Layth looks rather confused, himself. His lop ears flick and move, trying to catch what the Lapis are saying as they surround Tasha and Eadwig. He glances to the others to see if they have any ideas, as well.
"I … Guess we're goin' this way, Eadwig," Tasha tells her Vykarin as they're urged forward. With a shrug, Tasha decides if she's going to be moved, she may as well do it with some authority, and strides forward towards the fortress. "I'm sure this'll all be clear in a moment," she assures Eadwig.
Most of the crowd seem to just be babbling, with the occasional 'They have come to save us!' and 'Abaddon has forgiven us!' sentiments breaking through. The travelers are ushered up the ramp to the gates of the hall, which are thrown open to them. The inside is vast for a structure made of timber: thirty feet wide and tall, and a hundred feet long. Fires blaze from stone hearths along the walls, filling the great hall with heat and darkening its ceiling with smoke. And at the far end is a throne, of sorts, with an elderly warrior seated upon it and flanked by equally old Guardians. And everywhere is the glint of silvery metal, from hanging shields to simple ornaments: skymetal.
Layth whispers to Aaron as they walk along, "If I were a teller of tales … this would lead me to think of a story where the Volcano that they view as home has been disquiet and erupting as of late … and the locals pray for the Gods to save them."
"I don't see any damage though from earthquakes or eruptions," Aaron notes, looking over the desperately happy Lapis.
Layth shrugs and looks towards the leader and her warriors ahead.
"Gagh," Tasha stammers, struck dumb by so much shiny metal. She nearly trips over Eadwig's feet, staggering a few steps before grabbing on to his head for balance. "It's so … so shiny!" She has to hold on to the male, just to keep from staring and tripping all over again.
"The Warriors are all gone," Lucia whispers to others. "There were a score here when I last visited." She waits for Tasha to collect herself before making any introductions.
Tasha has to squint, and really force herself to stop looking around. It's all so very, very shiny. "It's almost too shiny," she whispers to Eadwig. "If tha' were even possible. Got to focus. Shiny later, shiny," she pauses to goggle at a particularly shiny shield, " … No, shiny later!" Giving herself a hard smack across the muzzle, Tasha blinks, disoriented, and then squints at the elder warrior. "Oi, sorry abou' that. We're 'ere now, wha's the problem you all 'ave up here?"
Lucia clears her throat, glancing at Tasha, and addresses the seated Warrior. "Queen Herriot of the Sky, we have been sent by the Temple of Abaddon in Dianus and follow the Herald Aldara Tasha to this place, to give you what aid we can." She steps aside and gestures to the others next. "We are Warriors and Guardians of Clan Kerebos, and travelers who hold knowledge of the Outer World."
The old Warrior stands up with some difficulty, and says, "Welcome, Lucia of the Snowshoes, Aldara Tasha of Abaddon, and heroes of Clan Kerebos to my humble hall. We have prayed to the God of the Forge to deliver us from the demon which plagues us and which mocks Her."
"S'nice to meet you, Queen 'Erriot o' the Sky," Tasha says, smiling a little before she remembers she's not supposed to smile. She then cocks her head to the side, left wing flapping a little as she works out some soreness there. "You say you 'ave a demon problem?"
The old queen doesn't seem sure how to take Tasha yet, but she does nod. "Aye, Herald. The Fenris has awoken, and strikes at our faith and our heart each night," she says. "It has taken our Warriors, one each night, until I am the only one remaining. It's presence is fearsome, and strikes us to our bones and drives away our strength."
"What is the Fenris?" Layth whispers to those nearest him. He's heard of demons that steal people in the night, to be sure, but has never heard of this specific one. Another thought comes to him and he frowns; even if we win and defeat the demon … if the warriors are dead it may make little difference. Or, perhaps someone is using the legend of the Fenris to strike at these people.
"It mus' be formidable indeed," Tasha thinks aloud, figuring an old Warrior would appreciate the words. "Can you tell us abou' The Fenris? Its legend an' anythin' else you know abou' it? We're 'ere to deal wit' it, of tha' you can be certain."
"Queen Herriot," Layth says, finally speaking up. He bows deeply, then asks, "And can you tell us of how it takes the Warriors? Do they just vanish or are … things left behind?"
"The monster paralyzes us, and simply carries off its prey while we are powerless," Herriot says, her voice shaking with anger and frustration. "It does not issue challenge, it does not fight. It treats us as no more than berries to be picked at its leisure."
Tasha glances back at the others, having never heard of a monster who paralyzes people especially people as large and tough as a Warrior! "'Ave you ever 'eard anything like this," she asks the group behind her, hoping someone knows something. Even outside these lands, she's never heard of anything like what the Queen describes.
"Then there is hope that some live," Layth says quietly as he nods at that, thinking. He leans over and asks Aaron, "Start making a list of what plans and such in the area could paralyze someone if ingested or stabbed… "
Even Aaron can only shrug, and he collects old legends. "I've never heard of anything like it," he admits. "Ask her what it looks like."
Nodding, Tasha turns back and asks, "O Queen, can you describe the Fenris? Wha' does it look like an' does it paralyze your animals too?"
"It ignores all but us," the Queen says, "and it mocks us with its form. We have not committed murder, yet it appears to us as the one who avenges such. It appears as you do, Herald, but in monstrous form."
Layth's ears twitch as more and more thoughts come to him. "This seems … wrong, somehow," he whispers to no-one in particular.
"Oi, what, as me?" Tasha blinks at that, wings ruffling as she looks down at herself. Not expecting to have to fight herself, having already argued with herself at length already, Tasha seems momentarily stunned. "So, it's like … " she holds a hand up to indicate large height, " … big, an' toothy, an' wit' 'ooves like I 'ave an' a whip? Does it say anythin'?"
"It speaks a strange tongue," Herriot says. "And bears unknown symbols upon its armor, which covers it from head to toe. It wields a whip of lightning that strikes down a Warrior in an instant."
"Tha's somethin'," Tasha admits, sounding both impressed and a little intimidated. She reaches up and runs her right hand through her long blond hair, then frowns in thought. After a moment, her ears shoot up and her eyes widen. "A whip 'o lightning, you say? Is it like this?" She reaches for her whip, and extends it, before glancing back and urging her party to say, "Cover your ears, aye?"
Aaron does so, even though he's heard the whip before.
Layth does so as well.
Once she's satisfied that her party has protected themselves, Tasha turns back to the Queen, raises her whip, and strikes the ground! The leather whip cracks when it hits the cold floor, causing a sonic boom as the energy of the whip is expended across the tip. The confines only amplify the effect, making it echo.
Lapi who didn't cover their ears drop to their knees from the thunderclap, and Lucia staggers a bit despite having her ears protected. The Queen and her Guardians are shaken as well, and some of the Vykarin begin to howl.
Tasha raises a hand, urging the Vykarins to silence. She lets some time pass for the gathered Lapi to regain their hearing, and then asks in a loud voice just in case, "Is tha' the whip of lightning?"
Layth winces and shakes his head, ears flapping. "I hate that," he mutters.
"Thunder," the Queen says, recovering. "The demon's makes no such clap, but flashes lightning that dances and strikes like vipers."
"Mm, mage, perhaps," Layth mutters to himself.
"Really," Tasha says, not expecting the whip to be actual lightning. She recalls her conversation with the acolyte, who thought her whip might shoot lighting, and has to wonder. "Thunder versus lightning, is it? Well, that'll be somethin'." She coils her whip before securing it, then asks, "Can you draw these symbols on its armor, O Queen? We might 'ave seen 'em."
"Draw the markings of a devil?" the Queen asks, shocked at the notion. Lucia whispers to Tasha, "That me be seen as summoning the thing. Ask if she knows where it comes and goes from."
"Really?" Tasha whispers back, not having thought of that either. "Alrigh'." Returning her gaze to the Queen, Tasha insists, "Surely we would no' fear it now, for we are 'ere. But no matter, aye? Do you know where it comes an' goes from, tha' we may go to it?"
"That much we do know," Herriot says. "It comes from deep within the mine itself. I will not let the miners work it further so long as the demon is active."
"So it is," Tasha says before nodding. "Giant an' monstrous, like me, wearin' armor … with a whip 'o lightnin' … covered in strange symbols an' kidnappin' Lapi. Is there anythin' else abou' it? Can it fly, like I can? Oi, an' we'll need to know abou' the mine. Might be some sort 'o … guardian, aye? The Gash was formed when somethin' fell from the sky, wasn' it?"
"It has wings, but we have not seen it fly," Herriot notes. "And yes, the Gash was struck out by the claw of a mighty god, before time began. Pieces of the claw are in the rock, and we mine them to make the armor of the Valkyrians."
"I see." Tasha closes her eyes as she thinks a moment, then glances back to say, "If any 'o you 'ave any questions, now's the time to ask. Layth, Aaron, you're smart, you 'ave any ideas? To me, it sounds like some kind o' foreigner, bu' I've never 'eard of a whip that shoots lightning."
"Did it only start appearing once you reached a certain depth in the mine? Had you opened a new shaft or found a natural cavern recently?" Layth asks, finally speaking up.
"The miners had discovered an open space, but the creature appeared before any could explore it," the Queen says.
Nodding a little, Tasha suggests, "Sounds like a place to look."
Aaron grinds his teeth in thought, and finally says, "Volcanoes are places of high magic. It comes up with the magma. But on the other side of this peak is the long drop into Bosch. The flow might have brought up something from that place as well."
"My first thought was … to be honest, that a foreign power is seeking control of the mines and using legends to aid it. It might be useful if Aaron looks at the local plant life to see if any can be used to make sedatives to identify what it is using on the Warriors," Layth says to Tasha. "It isn't uncommon an action for an unscrupulous trader. I've … seen such behaviors in my life on the road. But this … either sounds like the work of a mage or that they did open something that had been sealed away, perhaps. Like you said, a guardian."
"Or a demon, aye," Tasha agrees with her friends. "If it's jus' an outsider power, then there'll be an' airship or some-such aroun' ere. They're no' goin' to just send one man all up 'ere alone, an' 'e'd 'ave to 'ave some way to get out again, as well as to transport the ore. Since airships get shot down out 'ere, it might be a caravan or other land-travelin' sort. Bu', I doubt tha's the case 'ere. Or at leas', it's unlikely." She licks her lips, then suggests, "It could be an' actual demon, or a mage. Don' know anythin' about either except they're rare an' dangerous. Could be whatever it is came with the metal, too, like some kind o' abandoned god-bit or servant, too. We may jus' 'ave to look for ourselves."
"In two hours, the sun will sink below the peaks," Herriot says. "You will see for yourselves soon after. It always comes at midnight."
"I could do some scouting to look for signs of a caravan," Layth volunteers, "I know their markings well enough. I recommend that we eliminate options as fast as possible. Eliminating an outside influence should not take long. We move to the more dangerous options once the mundane have been eliminated, perhaps."
"I'll look at the flora, as Layth suggests," Aaron says.
"Then do it, Layth. Take 'o you need an' scout the area for signs of foreigners. Aaron, I want you to look for the plants Layth suggested, bu' also to look in to legends and history abou' the cave, the metal, and the Fenris. The remainin' Warriors an' Guardians will 'elp me 'ere as I look for tracks an' try an' set up some kind o' ambush, while protectin' the village. I don' wan' any of you out past dark, an no one's to go anywhere alone," Tasha urges. A pause, and then she asks, "You all ready then?"
"We can position the Vykarin as lookouts around the valley," Euphrosyne suggests. "If this thing only seeks Warriors, it should pay them little heed."
"If I am to not go alone, then who should go with me?" Layth asks. "Just Albinka?"
"I'll go with you," Gyes volunteers.
Tasha nods to Euphrosyne, agreeing. "Oi, yes. I'm goin' to meet this thing 'ead on when it comes, an' 'ope it ignores me, too." She glances to Layth and nods again. "Bring 'o you need, an' your mounts. If you're stunned, your mounts may be all tha' can save you. May no' want to bother wit' Warriors, since it seems like somethin' we don' wan' to fight directly."
Layth nods to Gyes. "As you wish," he says. "We must move quickly, then. Two hours is not much time." To the Queen, he asks, "How many entrances are there to the mines and how many shafts to allow air in? Those are likely the ways an external force would have entered and would be the point to search from."
"There are many mine entries and ventilation shafts," Herriot notes. "We have been here for centuries, and are careful miners. There are no cave-ins or pockets of dead air."
"Do you have a map of their locations?" Layth asks next.
"I suppose that leaves out trying to ambush the thing when it leaves the mine then," Lucia comments.
An older Lapi approaches Layth, and says, "I am the second foreman, I know all of the entrances and vents. It is my duty to maintain them."
Grimacing, Tasha glances at Lucia and nods. "I 'ad a plan to ambush it at a mine entrance an' just drop somethin' 'eavy on it, seein' as it's wearin' armor an' probably too tough to arrow to death. As it is, we'll 'ave to plot its exit from observation or meet it 'ere."
"Then I would be honored if you would come with us," Layth tells the Lapi and then pats his shoulder. To Lucia, Layth notes, "An ambush without knowing more would be foolish. I am certain the strong warriors of Clan Sky already tried such. I do not think direct force will help us here. We must know the enemy before engaging it."
"If it uses the same path, it should leave marks," Aaron suggests. "Even in this hard earth, something fully armored and carrying a warrior should leave an impression. Or else we can spread soil around the mine entries to see which it uses next."
"Good idea Aaron. In fact, I'm goin' to 'elp set up somethin' like that in the village. Now," she looks between her companions with a hard loot to her face, muzzle pulled in a grimace. "We 'ave two hours to stop it, or we're like to lose someone. We 'ave to decide if we wan' to confront it when it arrives or no', an' 'ow. Me, I'm for meetin' it directly an' alone, wit' some of the Vykarins to 'elp. Maybe get some ropes an' 'ave the Vykarins try an' trip it up, while I try an' talk to it or otherwise work out somethin'."
"We have plenty of rope," Aaron notes. "And wherever it comes out, it still probably uses the main ramp to get here since nobody has seen it fly."
"Keep in mind that we have not heard that it kills the Warriors; only that it takes them. They may yet live, just imprisoned below," Layth says to Tasha, "But you are right, there is a chance we lose one of the Warriors." He pauses, then looks to the queen, and asks, "Does it only take those of pure Amazonian descent, or is it pure Amazonian women only. You have said Warriors … but what of Guardians?"
"Thing is, Layth, I know it's likely tough an' we don' 'ave much to go on. It may no' kill 'em, bu' then again, maybe it does, aye? So, know or no', like it or no', I 'ave to try an' do somethin' while I'm 'ere. I'm no' askin' anyone else to 'elp, bu' I must try," she warns. Patting her whip, she adds, "It's no' like I wan' to rush in to this, bu' if that's all tha's left in a few hours, I 'ave to."
"It took one of the Guardians, during an ambush attempt, and killed the rest," Herriot says. "Their armor was burnt into their flesh. After that, it began to use it's paralyzing power so that none could attack it."
"So, it is not trying to kill, then," Layth observes. "It wants them alive."
"Burnt in to their flesh?" Tasha blinks at that, having just a moment ago suggested an ambush. "Oi. Well, we'll go wit' diplomacy an' observation then, at leas' until we're out o' options. Maybe we can try an' get its weapon away from it."
"Not enough time for the Vykarins to dig a big pit trap, but if we can hold it off for a night… " Aaron muses.
"Anyway, I will go scout the surrounding area," Layth says … then pauses and looks to Aaron, then to Tasha. "It uses lightning, the Queen said? Then an option to delay it might be as simple as using water on it. I have seen how lightning will travel through water before. Maybe it could be used to drain its power. A thought, perhaps," he offers with a small shrug. "It may be pointless."
"Lightning rods would be better," Aaron notes. "We don't have iron poles though, and I don't know if bronze is a good conductor."
"Might be worth a shot. I know also tha' docks in Chronotopia use 'rods' to attract lightnin', so the airships are safer. Might be I could do somethin' like tha' 'ere," Tasha agrees. She glances at Aaron, then up at the walls, "'Ow bout this skymetal?"
Layth points to the shields on the wall and looks to Aaron. "Will that metal do?" he asks.
"Lightning strikes the mountain often," Herriot notes.
"It might!" Aaron notes. "If the lightning heated up the Guardian's armor enough to burn flesh… uh… well, I don't know if that means it conducts or resists, actually. But it could be a distraction."
"Then it actually may be advised to not wear armor," Layth offers as he starts towards the door to go scouting. "I need as much daylight as I can get, I shall return in a bit."
Euphrosyne says to Tasha, "We can set up a simple trap: rope nooses buried under a thin layer of soil. Get the enemy to stand in them, and then signal for the Vykarin to run off with the ends of the ropes in their mouths."
"I'm going' to see about a lightnin' rod. Aaron, you better get to work. The res' o' you who aren't 'elpin' Aaron or Layth come wit' me, and we'll see abou' a trap as well." She lifts a hand and waves everyone off, before giving the Queen a smile. "We'll 'and;e this, don' you worry. Tell your people to stay back an' see abou' protectin' yourself. The village needs you! The res' o' us we'll see about this 'Fenris.'" She then strides off, heading for the exit. "An' we'll see abou' this makin' fun 'o 'ow I look, we will!"