10 Candlemass, 6105 RTR (9 Mar 2001) Elise (aka "Missy") is given a tough choice about her part in the mission.
(Ashdod) (Babel) (Elise) (A Dream of Seven Sisters) (Spheres of Magic) (Ur)
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Warehouse in Babel
Located beside the airship docks, this tower-like structure has high ceilings on each of its many levels, most of them devoted to storage for various local merchants as they look for buyers for their foreign goods, or wait for ships to arrive to remove purchased items. On one particular level, behind the giant closed doors and a facade of crates laden with fabric and dry goods, most of the floor has been cleared of stock. In the cleared area, several runic circles have been scribed in the floor, and the air hangs thick with mingled scents of incense, blood, and arcane powders.

A brown and white Gallah in leather armor slides open the peephole on the man-sized door located just to the side of the massive loading doors. After a quick glance out, she nods and opens the door, stepping through with a similarly-armored Fnerf next to her. They exchange glances with the fox'taur and Naga currently standing to either side of the warehouse doors, then assume their places on guard, while the previous shift slips inside.

The brown and white Gallah guard shifts to lean herself against the wall, standing to the opposite side of the door as the Fnerf. She lifts a leg and plants a boot back against the wall as well, assuming a bored yet attentive posture better suited to a mercenary guard and far enough removed from the at-attention guard stance she normally might use. "Ah, it doesn't get more exciting than this, do you not think, ami?" she asks in Babelite made rough by a Gallisian accent, and the addition of an occasional Gallisian word.

"I sure hope not," her fellow offers, in the same language, though he speaks with the typical Fnerf accent – clear enough, though without the range of intonation that an Eeee would be capable of. "I'm a great fan of boredom." He shifts his four feet on the broad ledge overlooking a precipitous drop to the grounds far below. A row of rakhtors, tethered several yards down, caw to each other, pecking at their food.

After placing her left hand to rest upon her sword, the woman nods. "It's been some time since I was last in Babel. Never changes … day comes, day goes … and the conflict goes on. Good for the mercenary business, though," she offers in small talk. The Gallah glances at her fellow, then moves her gaze to stare thoughtfully into the distance.


After some deliberations, many of which Elise was not privy to, the roster for the mission was finalized, as was the cover story: they were to pose as a merchant's workers and guards, with an actual merchant operating as their nominal "leader". Accordingly, the staff was inflated well beyond the "minimal" levels Shadow Mage Lanthia recommended. The intention was to mix them with the regular crew and employees of the merchant, using the mages and guards of the secret mission to replace other normal workers.

With a bit of work the poodle manages to turn her head to regard the Khatta, looking somewhat uncomfortable as she seems to need to stand in place for the armor fitting. "Of course, Dean Fyiara," replies Elise. The Gallah woman shifts her head around to her tailor and nods to her. "It seems we need continue this another time. Would you excuse us?"

"This won't take long, sweetie," the feline assures the tailor, who started frowning at Elise's request. "Go grab a cup of mateh and you can have her back in a few minutes."

"Oh, all right," the man grumbles, releasing the straps and leaving the hardened overtunic dangling on the canine's frame. He steps outside, past the Khatta, whose tail swishes nervously as she watches him go.

"You have my word that you will be summoned at the earliest convenience to continue our work," Elise assures the tailor as he leaves. She then reaches and holds the tunic up some with one hand least it continue to dangle that way. Once the man has departed she turns to regard Fyiara expectantly.

The feline fumbles with a flap on a pouch at her waist. "Mmm, here," she says, taking out two small stoppered vials, with colored pins – one black, one white – pushed through their corked ends. Both are filled with clear fluid at identical levels. She holds them out to Elise, then realizes the poodle has nowhere to put them. "I need you to make a choice," she says, looking about for a moment before setting the vials on a nearby table. "Um. This is a little complicated." She runs one hand through her multi-colored hair.

Elise, known more often as Missy since she acquired the guise of a Gallah, turns around so she can face the dean more fully. Still holding part of her tunic up with one hand, she gestures the other at the bottles. "A choice? Yes, of course … But what is this regarding? Do explain if you would?" she inquires.

"I'm going to do a ritual to 'bless' our mission to Babel," Fyiara says, after a moment to gather her thoughts. "I don't know how familiar you are with Chaos rituals to invoke good luck, but, basically, I'm going to improve our chances of successfully stopping the dream realm ritual. That doesn't mean that I can guarantee we'll do it – Chaos magic of this sort doesn't work like that – but it will help." She looks to Elise expectantly, checking to make sure she's following so far.

In response the Gallah inclines her head in understanding. "I believe I understand, Dean Fyiara. Though I cannot fathom how those two bottles might be involved in such," says Elise.

Nodding, Fyiara continues. "Here's the thing. Chaos magic 'blessings' typically come with a truckload of restrictions that more or less amount to 'Do No Harm'. 'Cause, you see, we may want a desired result, but not necessarily at any price. Like, if I want to increase my chances of winning a race, I probably don't want to do it by killing all my competitors. Now, that's an highly unlikely result, anyway, and a Chaos spell won't normally make it much more likely – but it's the sort of thing we guard against."

"Admirable, and quite understandable," comments the Gallah. Her eyebrows raise slightly as she considers the possibilities involved in such rituals, having never needed to ponder them in such a light before. "I take it these vials are related to the restrictions then?"

Her tail swishes again. "Here's where the vials come in. This is a dangerous thing we're attempting. It's pretty likely that those us who're going – you, me, and everyone else – could get hurt or killed trying to stop the Royal mages. If I use my standard 'Do No Harm' boilerplate, that will minimize the personal risk to ourselves – which you'd think would be a good thing, right?" The Khatta glances to Elise. "Except that if I do that, I'm lowering the chances of all those results where, say, half of us die, but we successfully defeat the ritual. Do you follow where I'm going?"

"A measure of offense and defense? How much we are willing to endanger our own well-being for success?" ventures the leather-armored Gallah woman.

"Yeah. But it's a little more complicated than that. And, well, this is an important choice. I want you to understand what I mean by it. Let me try to simplify it with an example." Fyiara fumbles with her bag again, and produces a six-sided airship die. "Pretend for a moment that certain consequences are tied to this die. If it rolls a one, then we all live and beat the royal bats. If it rolls a two or a three, then we all die but we take the royal bats with us. Any other result, and we fail, but we survive that failure. Are you with me so far?"

The armored woman gives a nod. "Yes, Dean Fyiara," she answers.

"Great. Let's say I do a spell that increases the chances of us succeeding, and also of us surviving. Now the odds go to something like this: On a one or two, we take them out. On a three, we take them out and die doing so. On the other results, we fail but survive." She looks to Elise. "You can see that actually all I accomplished in practice was increasing the odds of us surviving – since increasing the odds of us surviving directly decreased one of the opportunities to stop the enemy."

The ex-poodle considers this for a moment, then nods once again. "So you have simply only increased our survival rate, without affecting possible success in the slightest.Whereas I imagine leaving out such failsafes as adding toour protection would increase our chance of success … and also our chance of success at any cost. Am I correct in my review?" Elise inquires.

Fyiara nods. "Exactly. Say I just try to increase the odds of us defeating the RBM at all. Now the odds go to something like: On a one or two we live and defeat them. On a three, four, V, or X, we die but defeat them. Except that my odds would never actually get that good – no matter how I cast it we will always have a chance of failure. But for the sake of example, you can see that the latter case gives us way better odds of stopping the dream ritual than the former. But it also actually increases our odds of dying – when I cast no spell at all, we live two-thirds of the time. When I work the latter spell, our survival rate drops to one-third." Fyiara blows out a breath, running her fingers through her hair again, then shaking her head.

"Now, I don't mean to imply that I know what our odds of success are now, or our odds of dying, or if the two are actually related like they are in my example. But it's likely that there is some kind of relationship like this one going on." She points to the vials. "I can't make this choice for you. I can't make it for anyone but myself. So I brought you those. I'm giving them to every one on the mission. If I use the vial marked by the white pin in my ritual, then you're included in the 'Do No Harm' boilerplate. If I use the black, you're left out – unprotected from harm the ritual might cause you. Don't choose one now," Fyiara adds, holding up her hand to forestall an immediate reply.

The gesture to pause catches Elise about to speak. As requested she abandons her question for the moment and closes her mouth, perking her ears to listen.

"Here." The Chaos mage drops two pins beside the vials, one green, the other red. "After I leave, pick which one you want me to use. Take the current pin out of it, and put the green one in instead. Then replace the pin in the other vial with the red one. I'll have Weeca come to pick them up tomorrow morning." The feline bites her lip, tail swishing. "Do you understand what I'm doing here? I won't know which choice you make. No one will. No one will ever know. Even if the boilerplate includes you, that doesn't guarantee you'll live. Even if it doesn't, that's not a death sentence. Do you understand? So it's okay. Whatever you pick." She folds her arms together, hugging her shoulders. "I hate this part," she mews softly. "Any questions?"

A frown crosses the canine's muzzle as she thinks about the possibilities. Having been handed two bottles that may well prove to be the that which pushes fate to preserve her, or that which dooms her, she finds the entire matter rather disturbing. Frown aside, she attempts to appear calm in the face of such a choice. For her own sake, and for Fyiara's. "No. I must however express my thanks in your concern for our welfare during this mission. It is … not often I am offered such a choice as to my future. Quite usually … " Her eyes move to regard the vials on the table. " … I am left to common, unmodified fate."

"Yeah," the cat mews, looking at the table herself. "And there's something to be said for that, too. I'm sorry, Elise," she mews, quickly, notwithstanding the other woman's thanks. Fyiara steps forward and pats the poodle's arm. "I – I'd best be going, now. I'll send the tailor back in." With feline grace, she spins on one heel and walks to the door.

Elise glances at her shoulder when it is patted, then watches the woman walk to the door. For a moment she simply stands there as her frown grows into a look of sadness, and when the dean is about to exit she offers, "This must be hard for you. I … am sorry you need be involved in this." The words come with a tone that matches her expression, saddened, for the ex-poodle cannot help but feel for the other woman. Having chosen the career of a soldier that she might some day protect those who cannot fight or who chose peaceful lives, and though her words cannot quite express her sorrow as she might like, it pains her to know someone like the dean need be involved in something that could be the end of her.

The other female pauses at the door, glancing back over her shoulder to Elise. "Yeah," she mews. "Me too." Ducking her head, the Dean of Chaos steps outside, closing the door with a quiet click behind her.

With the dean gone and the room empty, Elise turns and walks slowly over to the array of pins and the two unassuming vials. "To decide fate … " She just shakes her head, and then reaches for the bottles …


The trip from Caroban to Babel was curiously uneventful; in the back of her mind, Elise wondered if this was proof that Fyiara's spell was working, or proof that it was not. "Pure probability," Fyiara said once, during the trip. "Sometimes it's not very flashy." They had arrived in the city only yesterday, and after a busy day of unloading the ship's goods into this warehouse space, the mages slept, then awakened early that morning to begin their spells. The guards alternated shifts every few hours to keep alert, although there seemed to be nothing to fear so far. They had no idea how the mages were doing – except that no waves of Eeee attackers were swarming towards them from the Tower of Babel, so hopefully, not too badly.

The Gallah lifts her head as she stirs her attention from memories. Taking a deep breath the Gallah shifts, let's out a sigh intended to appear bored when in reality it's a reaction to a worrisome thought, and switches the leg braced against the wall. "I hope you're not afraid of heights," she comments, the tone hinting at a attempt at ribbing – something she picked up from observing soldiers under her command.

"I've faced scarier things," the fox'taur replies, his voice dry. "Nice view at least … Huh – here comes company." He points to a dark Korv gliding toward the ledge. The newcomer's garb identifies him as Lawrence Remington, the merchant Caroban hired to front for their team, and who had brought them this far.

"So he does … Be on your guard. I don't quite trust him yet," comments Missy quietly. With a push from the leg braced against the wall, the Gallah moves herself to stand fully and watches the Korv approach.

"Least he's not a freakin' bat," the Fnerf grumbles under his breath, a few moments before the Korv lands.

Remington gives a lackadaisical salute after slowing his descent, then scrawks in Rephidim Standard, "I hate this city."

"Oh, but isn't it charming?" says the Gallah in her rough, Gallisian flavored Babelite. She gestures to the city to punctuate her commentary before shaking her head. "What brings monsieur by?"

"Going to grab a bite to eat," the Korv answers, still speaking Standard. "Yeah, it's a charming city. At least, if you're charmed by murder, thievery, and abuse, it's charming. Bunch o' immoral thugs, Skreeks with wings, bah." He ruffles his feathers. "Wanna hear the latest gossip from 'em?"

Missy raises her brows at the Korv's description of the city, smiles slightly, and inclines her head. "I don't see why not," she answers. "Yes, deliver us from boredom, would you?"

The merchant flaps his wings. "Let's see. What's the best one to start with? Inala's temple got ransacked by priestesses of Blakat the other night. I think that one is my personal favorite," he scrawks. "I never get over how badly the Eeee get along with each other, but you know, I'm damned grateful for it. The only thing that keeps these people from running around stomping on other people is that they're too busy ripping each others' throats out."

"First Ones be praised for that, certainly; having unified Eeee would make my job a lot harder," says the Gallah. Her smile turns into a lopsided grin as she considers the priestesses fighting amongst themselves. "Wasn't aware that the priestesses engaged each other. News to me."

"They do, but not very often. Everyone in Babel fights everybody else, eventually," the bird adds, cynically. "But this is pretty unusual. And it looks like that Exile, Envoy, 's not dead, after all."

A nod from the Gallah, then a curious tilt of the head. "Not dead," she repeats, as if pondering the information out loud. "You'd think she would be, but Exiles have strange luck, oui? Have any idea what she's doing here then?"

"Word is, she was at Inala's temple during the Yodhblakat attack," the bird replies, shifting his wings again. "Depending on who you listen to, she was leading the Yodhblakat in the attack, or she was leading the Yodhinala in repelling them, or she was channeling Inala and killed the Yodhinala's head priestess in a fit of jealousy for her beauty, or … well, you get the idea. Not clear just where Envoy's at now. Some say she was kidnapped by the Yodhblakat, others say she's still at Inala's temple, and there's some rumors that she's fled the city or gone to the mage's Guild Hall. Take your pick."

"Rumors, as dependable as always. Interesting enough though." Missy casts a look towards the mountain range beyond the city, roughly gazing towards where she recalls the temples of Inala and Blakat to be before turning her attention back to the Korv. "Got anything else?"

"Lessee … " He rubs the back of his neck, then scrawks, "That air mage, wassahername, Windone? The bat. She's turned up, too. Supposedly she's got religion and is now a Yodhrephath."

"Wynona?" the Fnerf asks, his eyes following the merchant's movements.

The smirk wavers on the Gallah's face, as if she were uncertain how to regard the news. "Is that so? I believe her name is … Wyona? Wy … Wynona? Heard her reputation from an airship captain once. Cursed her name, indeed." A shrug from the Gallah woman and she reaches to adjust her girdle some, glancing over at the fox'taur. "Never seemed like the type for religion. You know her, ami?"

"Yeah. Met her once," the fox'taur says, exchanging a glance with the other guard. "She seemed like a nice li'l thing. Not the Rephath type."

"No," comments Missy. She finishes adjusting her girdle and drops herself against the wall, folding her arms. "Not at all. Too nice, can't picture her wanting revenge against anyone. Except maybe allergies."

"Just a rumor," the Korv scrawks. "I wouldn't put too much faith in it. There's still a lot of buzz going around about that shared dream all the squeakers had, the one where they put the kibosh on their favorite horsie." His eyes stray across the horizon, tracking reflexively to the dark, round scar in the land just on the other side of the Tower of Babel – a gaping, circular blot where no buildings stand.

A nod from the woman. She leans forward enough to be able to peer over the Korv's shoulder at the gaping concave slice into the city. "Ah … the wound that never quite heals. Glad to see they've calmed down, though. Oui, anything that can do that is a blessing from The Beyond," remarks Missy.

"The wound that never heals," the Korv echoes. "Yeah, that's one way to put it. Anyway, 'pparently everyone who had a hard time wakin' up on New Year's morn has finally recovered from it. I dunno if you heard about that part to begin with – heard there were some people who went to sleep and stayed that way, but there's no talk about that from people now. Couple of rumors of guys who died, though. No names to go with 'em."

"Died … ?" echoes the Gallah, frowning. Her eyes move to regard the floor and her head tilts to the side. "What a way to die. New Year's day, go to bed celebrating and … never wake up. How sad. Oui, though … at least some survived."

"Eh, worse ways to go. At least they'd've had a good time the night before and died in bed. Beats a knife in yer throat," Remington says. His claws click against the ledge. "Found a buyer for most of the zolk and all the linen, but he can't take delivery for another eight days, needs to clear some space for it first."

The canine woman looks up, eyeing the merchant for a moment, before she straightens her head and resumes her leaning against the wall. "Well!" she exclaims. "Monsieur is quite the salesman. Perhaps we'll be done with this place faster than I expected. Babel, amis, is a dangerous place for a low pay hireling. Better skies elsewhere, I say."

"I couldn't agree with you more, Missy," Remington scrawks, clapping her on the shoulder. "I'm gonna get that bite." He heads to the door, pausing with his hand on the knob, and glancing to the guards with an unspoken request in his eyes.

"Me too," the fox'taur agrees with an emphatic nod.

"Hold your feathers on, I'll tell the guys inside you're coming in. They don't like getting woken up suddenly and you can't sell in pieces," says the Gallah woman. She pushes herself off the wall again and walks over to the door, then raps on it gently with the back of her hand. "It's me."

A few moments later, the door slides open, and the bird steps in, leaving the two guards alone again on the broad ledge.

"Decent man," says Missy with a nod. She then steps back to her side of the door and resumes leaning against the wall, her muzzle again carrying that look boredom.


Later that night, as the Gallah sleeps on a pallet inside the warehouse, she is awakened by a touch on her shoulder.

The hand of the Gallah slowly begins to move for her dagger, which she has kept hidden under her pillow. Her eyelids part slightly to regard who wakes her with sleepy eyes.

A male Eeee with medium gray fur crouches next to her. "It's me," he murmurs. "We've got some news. C'mon, we'll brief you."

Missy, not fully awake, draws her dagger from under the pillow and seems to consider the Eeee for a moment. "Right you are, ami," she mutters tiredly. After sitting up, she sheathes the dagger and stows it in the loose space around her girdle once she puts that on. Her chitin blade is picked up and sheathed too, and she nods ready. "Lead on."

At the yawn, the Eeee stifles one of his own, remaining crouched on his haunches with eyes half-closed while he waits for her to finish her preparations. Though a little slow to respond to her signal, he at last stands and leads her to a space not far from runic circles. Three mages are still chanting, even at this hour, and the scent of incense feels stifling. Her fox'taur companion from earlier is waiting with a sleepy-looking black and white Khatta. She yawns hugely, then waves to Missy. "Hiya, sugar."

"Good … evening? Morning? Ah, I cannot tell, ami," greets Elise in turn. As the Gallah woman nears the group her ears perk and she asks through a stifled yawn, "What have we learned?"

"The most significant piece of the ritual is taking place in the Tower of Babel," Pearasin says. "Not that we found that out with our magic. That's according to a report from Mage Envoy, apparently some thing she learned in dreams. Our Korv friend was right – she's alive and, it turns out, presently at the Guild Hall in Babel. Or, at least, she was there as of yesterday morning, They relayed the news to Caroban, who relayed it to me. I wish I had a link with the scryer at the guild hall, but that'd probably make one distraction too many under the present circumstances. Enough things dividing my mind as it is."

The Gallah frowns noticeably at the mention of the location of the ritual. "So, Mage Envoy is alive. A relief, and one well received. Though … hearing the location of the ritual gives me no comfort. The Tower of Babel … the very seat of power for the High Princess, and location of the palace. A daunting location," says Missy in something of a habitual tactical review. After the commentary she bends her knees and kneels down by the others, placing herself near Fyiara.

"It gets better," Pearasin says, holding up one hand. "The ritual isn't centralized. At least, that's our guess at the moment. We pulled up hints of magic on two of the mountains – Mount Zakaro and Mount Rephath – in odd locations. The priestesses here all work magic and we expect them to show some signs of magical use at any given time. The bursts we found on Mounts Zakaro and Rephath, however, weren't actually in the temples, were definitely dream magic, and didn't follow a "cantrip" pattern – not a quick build of power then fade, like you'd sense with a cantrip. Instead, a brief but sustained burst that was promptly snuffed. I spoke with Lanthia and she agrees with me that it's the same signature you'd get if you had a short-lived weak point in a shadow spell hiding it."

"Then, they are pillars supporting the whole, perhaps? Given the nature of the two temples we may be able to discern the nature of their intent, at least vaguely. Zakaro is simple enough. They are mages. However … Rephath … that is a piece of the puzzle that I believe offers a small clue. Vengeance. Certainly the Eeee have many to claim vengeance against, but the inclusion of that temple has me consider a great vengeance … greater still than the revenge against Captain Rockmore. That, worries me considerably," says Missy. She looks between those assembled for a moment and then continues. "This presents a problem of strategy. To go after the parts, of the head … But, do go on?"

"We didn't get the bursts at the same time, incidentally," Pearasin continues, warming to his subject. "Assuming we're right about them being the signature of the sustained dream ritual, that suggests different shadow spells were concealing each one. My personal suspicion is that they've got separate dream rituals on each of the Sister's mountains, backing the main one. We haven't got any landmarks to associate with the location we got on Zakaro's, but the place on Mount Rephath is at least near, if not on, an abandoned shrine to Diphath – an old Eeee goddess whose mythology is somewhat similar to Rephath's. Diphath isn't much worshipped anymore … she's actually an even less pleasant character than Rephath, if you can believe that."

Missy looks faintly surprised. "That is rather hard to imagine, ami," she concedes. Again she shakes her head, pondering the thought of a goddess worse than Rephath. "But given this information, I wonder what can be done. We have potentially seven supporting rituals strengthening the central ritual on, or perhaps even in, the Tower of Babel. We cannot very well strike against them all."

"Well." Fyiara rubs at her head, then stops, as if worried about removing the black "dye" in her fur, despite its permanent and magical nature. "I've been considering that. If all the rituals are really the same, I should be able to use the same disruption spell on all of them. In theory, if I do one disruption ritual, and place it on seven objects with a trigger, and then we planted the objects at the ritual site, they'd all trigger at the same time – and all the rituals would be destroyed simultaneously, even though none of us 're on-site for the blow."

The gray-furred scryer looks skeptically at the feline at this. "Are you sure?"

"We would need more detailed information as to the nature of the supporting, and center, rituals then to make certain such a plan will succeed." The Gallah turns her gaze to Fyiara, whom she seems to focus her attention on for the moment. "Also, would these objects need be placed at each site … or centered somewhere?"

"In theory," the Khatta repeats, emphasizing the word. "Yeah, I'd need a lot more to go on than 'We got a whiff of something over here, and there,' just to devise a counter. If I can get a good picture of what the rituals 're like, then I might be able to do trigger objects to kill them. It depends on how many mages are working on each support. And how good they are. And how good I am," she mews. "We'd definitely need to plant the objects at the site of the ritual. You can't cancel a spell from a distance – you've got to be at the source, or at the target. In this case, the 'target' is most of the planet, it seems, and that's just too broad to be useful for our purposes."

A nod from the leather-armored woman. "Then we need further information. What would provide you with sufficient information that you could, with reasonable certainty, devise a counter? Given the information now we have located a single ritual site that might allow us to get a better look at the ritual. However, the site is conspicuous, and rather dangerous to approach. Thankfully the mountains are holy ground and few walk them save priestesses but … I still have some reservations about violating holy ground, even Eeee holy ground," Missy reviews. She shifts her arms to wrap loosely around her knees and watches the others for their suggestions.

"An eye on the ground would probably do it. If we can get me … or even someone else with a good magic sense and then have the scryer replay what they see … a good view of the ritual as it's ongoing for, say, twenty or thirty minutes, that'd probably be enough. If I can't devise a counter based on that level of exposure, then it'd be too tricky for a trigger object, anyway," the disguised Chaos Dean mews. She adds, "I'm almost one hundred percent sure that I wouldn't be able to knock out the one in the Tower with a trigger. With all that Sifran crystal around, I'm not even sure a trigger would still work properly, and in any case, that's where the ritual should be most complex and have the best mages on it. They'll just be too tough to make a cookie-cutter cure for."

"I would volunteer myself to go and inspect the ritual, but I have neither the magical sense, nor wings to reach the location," explains the canine. She waxes thoughtful and reaches a hand down to run a finger along the floor, as if drawing a invisible strategy map for her planning benefit. "If the central ritual cannot be disrupted by a trigger … then what would be necessary? In the best of circumstances we are looking at a good many Eeee guards, with other species in lesser supply, and an array of powerful mages. Though I imagine many will be busy with the ritual itself there may still be free mages to oppose us."

"If I were there in person, I might be able to do it, especially if the dream mages were there to back me." Fyiara rubs her chin. "I'll be using them to help do the trigger objects, too. But … right. Getting into the tower. Whee, fun. And with half a tower's worth of Sifran crystal there to play havoc with any shadow spells we might use to conceal ourselves. Ick."

Missy shakes her head. "Quite a military challenge, even for a true army. Magic might be difficult … and given the Tower of Babel survived the 'boomer' weapon unscathed, I wonder if the tower is even affected by paranormal abilities at all. Or even mundane ones," says the canine woman. Her finger traces what appears to be a tower, and her muzzle quirks as she thinks. "Amis, approaching the tower on foot even at night would be impossible. There are two methods I can think of for an indirect approach. One is hiding ourselves in supply runs and hope for the best, the other is traversing the inner tower by accessing it from a portal somewhere on its surface. Provided one exists. I am aware at least one of large size must exist for the Plaguebringers to exit from."

"Mage Lanthia or even … Stalker should be able to get the information on the outlying rituals for you, Dean,"Pearasin says, considering. "I'd think that slipping into the Tower itself would be too risky. Maybe just one shadow mage could … but how much good would that do? I suppose sneaking in with a supply run might work. But the Tower is huge and we don't even know where in it the ritual is being conducted."

"Uh … I realize I don't know diddly about all this magic stuff," Nyff, the fox'taur, begins, hesitantly, "but if this Sifran crystal stuff is so hard on magic, how are they managing to get this ritual to reach across the world from inside of it?"

Missy continues to arrange her mental diagram, tracing things here and there as her brow narrows all the more. "We could capture a member of the ritual shortly before we act, get the information necessary, and move before anyone suspects the absence of that person," suggests the Gallah. She listens to the Fnerf's question and shortly after he finishes, looks up. "Morpheus, I would imagine. The foci of their power … the crystalline sentient artifact. I believe it is located on the planet of the same name, but somehow they control it, and perhaps through it the ability it seems to carry to shape Sifran crystal – or control it."

"Can we strike at the crystal itself?" Nyff suggests.

The two mages listening consider the matter, though Pearasin frowns and shakes his head at the fox'taur's next question. "I don't think so. It could be the Morpheus connection that enables them to influence the world at large despite the barrier. Or … " He glances to Fyiara.

"That could be why the outlying rituals are positioned so. They might be used as the outer foci, allowing the inner ritual's power to get past the crystal," the Chaos Dean offers, then shrugs. "We just don't have enough information yet. If we study the outlying rituals … "

Returning her gaze to her diagram, the Gallah shakes her head, looking doubtful. "I am not certain. Sifran crystal can be mined … and thus broken with mundane tools, but it cannot be reshaped with magic. I would offer that perhaps I could attempt to contact Morpheus before the final plans are set into motion, and hope that he is of sufficient freedom to act and assist us … but that is not an option we should count upon," she answers. A nod is given to Fyiara's words. "Information is paramount at this point. I suggest we dispatch either shadow mage, though if Stalker is of sufficient ability I would suggest him, being he is an Eeee. If not, the other suggested shadow mage may be utilized. Either choice should employ the spell-strengthening Fyiara employed earlier to bolster their stealth."

"Stalker's the better choice," Fyiara agrees. She stretches her arms over her head, yawning. "Didn't he even get some sleep already?" She turns to look at the remaining casting mages. "Right, we've just got Dracon and Lanthia doing cover for Kyven now. D'ya know when Stalker sacked out, Pear?" she inquires.

Missy just shakes her head. "I have no idea who has what sleeping times now. I should be asleep myself, ami," she comments idly.

"I think Dracon spelled him, er, three or four hours ago. I suppose that's what counts as a good night's sleep now,"the scryer says, suppressing a yawn.

"By all means. If you wanna consult anyone else, Pear, be my guest. Otherwise I'm gonna wake Stalker and we can get him out there while it's still dark," the feline mews, mouth stretching in a yawn. "And stop yawning. It's contagious."

"He should depart before dawn, and be given sufficient time to return before the sun rises. I am uncertain how long preparation spells would require but we must be certain he has all the planning an operational time he needs," suggests the armored canine. "If we have time now, he should be sent. There is no time to waste."

"Sorry," Pearasin apologizes. "I'm done on consultations. Kyven'll be another hour and Lanthia and Dracon won't be available until he is, so I'm not waiting on that. Wake 'im up, Fyia, do your thing. The rest of us will go back to sleep, eh? It's not much past midnight; he should have plenty of time. Praise the spirits we're on the surface: I'd hate to be doing this kind of work from six miles high."

With a confirming nod, Missy shows her approval to the plan. She then abandons her chart work and moves to sit down on the floor where she is, watching the others once down. "Do we have any charts of the Tower of Babel itself? Or of the palace? I could study those until we get further information."

"Yes, we do." Pearasin rifles through a pile of scroll cases in a box at his side, then hands three to her. "This is what we have. The one in the chitin case is about eight years old and incomplete. The one in this ivory case," he taps a finger on it, "was complete a century ago, when the map was done. The last is a copy of an original that we believe was over a thousand years old."

Missy holds out her hands to accept the scrollcases. "And these offer a look at the inside of the Tower of Babel?" she inquires. Once the scrolls her in her possession she begins to remove the scroll in the chitin case to see for herself.

The scrying mage nods. "Not sure how useful they'll be, but we brought along pretty much everything we had that might be handy regarding Babel – at least in terms of maps. There were some books that might have been useful, conceivably … but there were some space considerations, of course."

"I can only imagine the library that could have accompanied us were it not for space," remarks Missy as she reviews the paper. She begins searching for access ways and paths that a group might climb on foot within the tower to reach the summit. "If the tower does indeed have accesses on the ground, and foot paths within, it may provide a much safer means of entrance … I can only speculate the inner tower is far less guarded than the outer paths."

The Gallah wrinkles her nose. "Rather complicated … and I will likely require more light. No matter, I will study these later," she comments. The scroll is soon replaced and put with the others and she resumes looking to the others. "Are we any more aware of the potential effect this ritual may have? The intent?"

Fyiara slipped away to fetch Stalker while Elise examined the map, and the fox'taur half-drowses where he sits. Pearasin shakes his head at the Gallah. "No, nothing new on that front." He stretches his arms over his head, then snaps his wings out to stretch them, too. "Fyia's right. We should get some sleep. In the morning we'll know more."

"A splendid plan, ami. Well monsieur … I bid you good night. Again," says the Gallah, seemingly quite ready to dismiss herself at this point. As she stands she yawns widely, partially cover her muzzle with one hand as she does. The scrolls are then picked up and carried off by the tired ex-Gallee to be studied later – when she has had some sleep.

---

GMed by Rowan

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