Sapphire Aquarium Room
The illumination in this room flickers and bobs, as light is reflected into the chamber through crystals dangling on zolken cords. The refracted light makes countless little rainbows that dance about, amongst fish and other water-dwellers sculpted from sapphire. The sapphire fish dangle about the room from zolken threads as well, slowly turning about this way and that. The resulting effect is quite surreal, though there's no evidence of anything obviously supernatural happening here, despite the many oddities elsewhere in the tower.
After dodging the traps in the lower levels the animal hunters have made it about halfway up the odd stone tree/tower formation. The chamber they presently rest in holds an odd assortment of fish and sea creatures that seem to have been cast from sapphire. Although they don't have as much of a "sculpted" look as the gargoyles a little farther down, they look impressively lifelike… enhanced all the more by the rippling lights cast about the room that seems to make everything appear as though it were underwater.
A little beyond this room is a plain looking stone corridor.
One furred brow rises, as Skye looks at the crystalline aquarium. "Fish." He doesn't touch, but he looks, a sparkle in his black eyes as bright as off the suspended sculptures. "I'd be careful Laks'mi. Wit' no water, if we wake one of t'ese up, well, we mite 'ave lunch, but it wouldn't be too 'ealthy for t'e fish."
Lakshmi blinks, looking around in fascination… then adds, "Goodness… a blue stone… a blue, water-related room? Er… perhaps we should be quite careful with the red stone? I don't think any of us care to get burned? Well… with all the stones… ?"
The Naga's fuzzy new pet continues to snooze on her arm. As an added bonus, the creature's body is pleasantly warm against the snake's cool scales.
Skye pauses, to look down the stone corridor. "An' t'ere was a stone of opal, wasn't t'ere?"
Lakshmi hms softly. "You know, Skye… it appeared to be sunshine that awoke this little creature… ," she smiles faintly, stroking a gentle finger along the back of the small freen snoozing and wrapped around her arm, "and he was gold. I… wonder… if water would awaken these? Not that we necessarily want to. And, I wonder what this room was for? Hm… how does it go? Air/turquoise, perhaps? Water/lapis… lovely color there… Would green be earth and red be fire? What would black and white be? Shadow and mind, perhaps?"
Lakshmi studies the room carefully as she speaks, trying to discern if it is merely decorative, or there are other secrets to be found here.
The tiny fish continue to refract the light as they pirouette on the ends of their strings. It seems that the blue statues are the room's only adornments, although most of the species are completely new. Some of them resemble land creatures with fish tails, the largest of which is a creature that looks a bit like a streamlined serendip with a powerful-looking porpoise tail.
Skye dryly chitters, "Day and nite, life and bein' dead? T'ough, when yi t'ink on it, if each also 'as a corridor, walking down t'e one of earth, if it's forest green, mite be wiser t'en walking into a reservoir?"
The stone corridor ahead looks to be quite plain compared to the rest of the castle. The floors are smooth, except for a few broken bits of bone and powder collected here and there, and for the seams between blocks that comprise the floor.
Lakshmi chuckles softly at Skye's words, then smiles. "Look, Skye, aren't these pretty? And you know… I'm not familiar with a lot of these. How odd. Do you suppose… could these rooms be like a ah… a museum perhaps, of creatures the mage had created? Or intended to create?" She reaches out towards the serendip statue, then sighs and reluctantly pulls back rather than touching. "They're so pretty… I envy him if he got to work with all these marvelous creatures."
A small crustacean with long appendages that makes it look almost like a glittering blue plant twirls over Lakshmi's head.
Lakshmi studies it, and breathes absently, "How marvelous!"
A foot or so away is six-inch sea-worm with two tufted antennae on its head. It glows slightly.
Crouching down, Skye's whiskers twitch back and forth. "T'ese are bits of bone here, boss'Laks'mi. Someone doesn't keep a clean 'ouse, yes? And ware t'e cricket-fish. If'n t'ese are some'ow trapped living t'ings, t'ey mite get annoyed at 'aving a leg snapped off." He stands, brushing off his breeches. "Maybe, t'is way leads to w'ere you might see t'em for real? To a place of water, per'aps."
Lakshmi studies the sea creatures with fascination… then tears her gaze from them reluctantly. "Er, what? Why would I snap a leg off? I'd be extremely careful… Um, what about a clean house?" She leans to look over Skye at the hallway. "Interesting… is there any pattern to the way the dusty bones have fallen? Could there be some trap in the hallway?"
Pointing down the hall, Skye nods. "See t'e big odd shaped blocks? Five s'ekels will get yi ten t'at t'ey smashed up like a mortar and pestle. T'e trick is figuring out w'at the trigger is."
Lakshmi nods slowly, looking… then glances back into the room, a faintly wistful look on her face, "Skye… um… do you suppose it would be all right to… well, to pick the smallest and most harmless statue here, and carefully cut the zolken cord not touch it, of course and then try dipping it in the pool downstairs? Just… to see?"
The smallest statue looks to be a flattened fish about as big as a shekel coin. Its fins splay out from its body in a manner that suggest paddles on a boat.
Skye still looks down the corridor, his whiskers askew. "Laks'mi, 'ave any other fish been cut? Are t'ere any loose cords?"
Lakshmi checks carefully.
It looks like the threads have held fast over the years. Most of the statues are small: there's a decorative carp with shaggy whiskers, a thin fish with a raised pattern across its sides that resembles a map of some sort, several varieties of worms sporting bits of fuzz and fur, and even a few fish with fins that looks almost like butterfly wings, albeit a bit thicker.
Lakshmi hisses softly, "No cut cords, Skye. I don't think anyone's disturbed here for a long time… but you know, if the pool's a deep one, they might all maybe fit in it?"
Lakshmi straightens suddenly, with a faint hiss of surprise. "Skye! I think I think I get it! Ruby comes to life with blood, gold with sunshine… Lapis with water, perhaps?"
Lakshmi beams at Skye, "Let's try!"
Lakshmi hisses softly, "Er… rather, the statues are, um… Gosh, I don't know, what's a clearish, light blue stone?"
Crossing his arms, Skye tilts his head. "T'e wall behind us s'attered, didn't it, Laks'mi? I'd say, unless t'e crystal grows like leaves, t'at means we were t'e first folks into t'is room from t'e tree. Now, no li'l fishies 'ave been stolen, w'ich leads me to believe t'at t'ose powdered folks, t'ey were trying to get into 'ere from t'e ot'er side … and also didn't make it. So per'aps t'ere's a way to safe t'e stones from t'is side … and sapp'ire. Wort' a pretty s'ekel in t'e Bazaar."
Lakshmi tsks absently at Skye. "They're creatures, Skye we can't not wake them, surely? Wouldn't that be an unkindness? Here, this one, the one like a carp let's try it first. That way, if it does come to life, it can start eating the plant life in the pool, so there's more room and fresh water for the others!" She sounds excited as she adds, "Just think, Skye! All these wonderful creatures! Let's hope the Temple doesn't do something stupid and want to take them all out, or or cut them up or anything… Hm, we're going to have to be careful waking them, aren't we? After all, the little freen was quitehungry when it awoke. We should have some meat handy for the poor beasthound when he awakes… Isn't this exciting?!" As she speaks, she beams at Skye, then carefully and cautiously reaches for the zolken cord over the carp. "All right… I won't touch it 'til we're over water, in case my guess is wrong I'd hate to hurt the poor thing by waking it early, after all… I wonder if I can just untie this… "
Skye tuns his head fast. "Laks'mi! If yi are going to do t'at … 'old!"
Lakshmi pauses, looking over her shoulder at Skye before closing her hands on the cord. "Mmm?"
Nothing happens as Lakshmi touches the string.
Lakshmi guiltily glances at the cord, twitching her fingers aside, then looking innocently back at Skye. "What?"
Skye dryly chitters, "If'n yi must, let me do it, yes?"
Lakshmi looks up at the creature hanging over her head, then down at Skye… then smiles in puzzlement. "Well, all right, if you want. Here… " She offers a hand. "Need a lift up?"
Lakshmi adds happily, "It's the animals that are the most important here, after all… not who drops them into the water!"
Skye dryly chitters, "Probably, because it don't look like t'ey gave much of a t'ou't of furnishing t'is place. " The little Skreek scrambles up. But before 'e reaches for the cord, he looks back down to his boss. "Now before I do t'is, I want yi to t'ink exactly what yi' said. T'ey's spent years 'ere … safe. We do somet'ing wrong, an' we could not only 'urt us, we could 'urt t'em. So, before I take t'is critter, t'ink. Is t'is w'at's truly best, or s'ould we be trying to figure a way down t'e corridor, to maybe find t'e furr who did t'is … first?"
The whiskered carp slowly twirls at the end of the string tied around its middle.
Lakshmi glances over her shoulder at the doorway, then back at Skye. "Frankly, Skye, if the mage that did this is still alive, it's my guess he's frozen himself here somewhere too… and while it may sound terribly greedy of me, I would like to see at least a few more of these marvelous animals before we wake him?"
Lakshmi hisses softly, "And if he's dead… I'd far rather you and I wake the animals carefully and cautiously, rather than see them all sold for gems by someone who wouldn't care anyways."
Lakshmi hisses softly, "So yes, I think we should be slow and cautious… but at least so far, I think we're doing the right thing."
The Skreek nods quietly, age-old habits hard to forget. Carefully he reaches out, to slip his fingers about the zolken cord. Skye then carefully lifts the suspended fish, slowly wrapping the cord about his paw, once, twice, then thrice. "Now, can yi cut t'e cord above my paw?"
The fish feels heavy. It is, after all, a large stone suspended by a string. Too much of this and the fish might turn the Skreek's fingers blue.
Lakshmi braces Skye with one hand, and with the other carefully reaches up with a small chitin knife, to saw gently through the cord…
Skye frowns at the fish's weight.
After a bit of sawing, the cord snaps and Skye's hand drops slightly under the weight of the fish. His fingers begin to sting.
Lakshmi notices and frowns thoughtfully… then holds her leather cloak out like an apron. "Here, drop it in here."
Lakshmi hisses softly, "Carefully, please… don't want to break any of the whiskers."
Skye nods quietly, and carefully rests the fish on the leather, not relaxing until Lakshmi is fully cognizant of the stone's weight.
Lakshmi's hands only dip slightly… then she's got it carefully supported. Not taking her eyes off it, for worry of accidentally harming it, she hisses softly, "Lead the way, Skye, please? I'll follow you… "
It's a bit like carrying a large stone (well, exactly like carrying a largestone, really), but Lakshmi is more than strong enough, especially since the weight is a bit better distributed now.
The Hekoye remains behind for now, content to "guard" the shiny fish, and watching the light dazzle across their scales.
Gracefully looping the zolk atop the stone, Skye steps away, and very very very carefully leads Lakshmi back through the crystal aquarium … "Mind tha' snapper" … to the pedestal room … "This way, keep yi tail close, don't touch… no, yi are 'eading to t'e black stone." … past the gargoyles, carefully leaving the door open … and then, finally step by step by step down the spiraling stairs.
Lakshmi slithers carefully along behind Skye, carrying the stone fish as if it were the crown jewels.
The garden below is much as it was left: overgrown plants and vegetation are everywhere, along with a few gold statues. In the center of the garden is a deep blue-green pool.
Once they're by the pool, Lakshmi carefully lays the cloak down on the grassy verge, then looks up at Skye with an excited grin. "Skye… could you let a little sunshine through those bushes there, so it would hit the carp? Let's see if my guess is right, and only the appropriate substance wakes the appropriate creatures!"
Lakshmi hisses softly, "But please be careful no sunlight on the golden creatures 'til we're ready for them!"
His ears perking a bit, Skye nods. He takes a step towards the vines, but then he stops. "Laks'mi, t'e light is a very inaccurate matter, yes? If'n yi want to test yi t'inking, try t'e water first."
Lakshmi hisses softly, "Mm… good point. Well then… let's try touch. I should untie the cord anyways I don't want it to abrade the poor carp." She unties the cord with delicate fingers, careful not to touch yet, and pulls it free of the fish statue…
Then, carefully, she touches a fingertip lightly and cautiously to the edge of the tail fin.
The fish feels cool to the touch… but nothing happens. It remains a sapphire sculpture.
Lakshmi looks relieved… then grins up at Skye. "Here we go!" She carefully gathers the fish up in her hands, then leans forward, holding the fish correctly for it to swim away from her… then slowly lowers her hands into the water.
The fish starts to tingle against the Naga's palms, and then it starts to feel soft and fleshy instead of like a stone statue… and then it begins to wriggle and swim.
Lakshmi releases it, sitting back and clapping her hands delightedly. "Yes! We were right, Skye Look, it's alive again!"
Lakshmi hastily pulls a small baked treat out of a pouch, and crumbles it gently on the water's surface for the carp.
Skye smiles quietly. "Ye are t'e smart one, boss. So we did discover fish."
Lakshmi beams at Skye, her face alight with excitement. "Isn't this a wonderful place, Skye?! Think of the possibilities we have here!"
The carp's scales start to shift from blue to bright red. It swims in a circle around the pool and then begins nibbling on some of the plants in the water. Considering how overgrown the garden is, it should have its work cut out for it. As it spies the Naga's offering, it swims back to the surface and brushes its whiskers against it for food. The little prehensile whiskers begin to curl around the treats and into the fish's mouth. It can apparently eat from the water's surface without sticking its head up.
Lakshmi lays on the grass and leans on her elbows to look out over the water, watching the carp happily. "Would you look at that… what a clever idea! Using the whiskers like little tentacles… " She trails a gentle finger in the water, over by the side so she doesn't disturb the carp. "I wonder how deep the pool is… can you tell, Skye? You have better eyes than I… ?"
After gobbling up the proffered food the carp goes back to nibbling on the plants. Its whiskers hold the plants in place while it nibbles delicately at the weeds.
Skye dryly chitters, "It's deep and wet. And unless we 'ave a winch an' pulleys an' a block an' tackle, we are nae ever going to get t'at serendip 'ere … an' it will be cramped in such a small pool! Besides weighing a ton, it's a big fish." He starts then, his eyes growing a bit wise. "It must weigh a ton and is being suspended by a strand of zolk? W'at type of zolk is t'at?"
Lakshmi hisses softly, "Um… " She holds up the string she untied from the carp and grins at Skye, "This kind?"
Lakshmi thinks about it, then adds, "Actually there were several strands on the serendip, Skye."
Reaching out, Skye snares the strand and examines it, testing it. "Still, it's very strong."
Lakshmi looks around at the land-side garden thoughtfully. "It would probably be smart to wake an herbivore here too… " Her voice trails off thoughtfully as she studies the golden statues nearby. She murmurs, "I… wonder… ," and slithers over to the beasthound statue, and runs a hand gently over its head, then down its neck. "Skye… how do you suppose he controlled them? … kept them from fighting? I don't see a golden collar on this one… Let's see if there are any old remains of a leather collar, or anything similar, nearby… " Her voice trails off as she bends to closely examine the vegetation under the beasthound's neck.
There doesn't appear to be any sort of collar on the ground, and none of the animals have any sort of adornments.
Lakshmi murmurs absently, "Interesting… so how did he do it… ?"
Skye stands and straightens his muzzle. "Laks'mi, w'at type of creatures might be in t'e other rooms?"
Lakshmi straightens, considering. "Um… fire… classically salamanders, undines, some of the multi-limbed reptiles, like the traditional dragons… Earth would be, ahh… here, perhaps? Air would be birds, avians… " She pauses, then adds curiously, "I wonder what black and white would be? What's a creature of the mind? And where would you wake it?"
Lakshmi looks around curiously. "I… hm. Gooshurms are desert, really… Fuff'nars… more from Lamu, I think? There were some crystal birds in the stairwell, also… I'm not really sure what the squirrel bug thingie is representative of, but beasthounds are from um… hm, they're more reptilian, really… Interesting. I'm not really sure, Skye, but we may have animal representatives from across the globe here?"
Smiling, Skye ducks his muzzle. It's good to know how to distract one's over-eager employer. "Actually, Laks'mi, t'e question is, if t'ey are related, but different, t'en w'ere did t'ey come from? If not our globe, w'ose globe, Laks'mi? I t'ink t'e answer is on t'e other end of t'e powdered corridor. As for w'at sort of creatures are black, t'en all yi 'ave to do is tag t'e black stone, yes?"
Lakshmi hisses softly, "As far as herbivores… goodness, I'm not really sure we have any here, except for this little freen… maybe the little squirrellish thing? The Gooshurm thing is more likely to burrow underground, I'd think?"
Lakshmi looks around happily. "Just think, Skye… we have all the time we need to work on this, too! Hm… we should start from the bottom and work our way up methodically, don't you think? So we don't miss anything?"
The Freen continues to snore on Lakshmi's shoulder.
Skye dryly chitters, "So be fore yi wake any more, boss'Laks'mi, just remember, t'ey both woke up … 'ungry."
Lakshmi giggles softly at the little creature, then nods to Skye. "Precisely, which is why I'd love to try an herbivore next, like we did with the carp in the pool There's plenty for it to eat here. Umm… " She looks around again, then nods slowly. "Let's try… the little squirrel bug, shall we? I'd suggest the Gooshurm, but it's a little larger, and I don't know if plants are good for it."
Lakshmi hisses softly, "Then we can leave the pool and the land herbivore to munch out some clear oh!" She straightens. "The birds! I wonder if they're the plant eating type, or the bug eating kind?"
Skye dryly chitters, "Maybe t'at's w'at's in t'e black room. Eeees."
Lakshmi shakes her head slowly, "No, my guess would be that they won't be sentient creatures… unless that's where the mage is?"
Skye considers, "Laks'mi, before yi start to wake critters piecemeal, maybe we ought to open each of t'e rooms. It's like being in a 'ouse w'ere ye don't know what's in each room. An' by being distracted in one, yi miss t'e real treasure in t'e ot'er."
Lakshmi hisses softly, "Do you think so? I'd thought to give the herbivores a head start on clearing some space here, while we opened rooms?"
Skye dryly chitters, "We can always wake them as we wish. It's nae like another day will 'arm t'em any, yes?"
Lakshmi looks a little wistfully around the room… then sighs and turns to Skye with a smile, "All right. So… which room is next then?"
Skye starts back up the stairs. "T'e one we know first, black and w'ite last."
Lakshmi collects up her leather cloak, and follows Skye back up the stairs… although she lingers for a last glance back at the garden first.