Aug 3. Zoltan shows the cabin in the jungle to Wynona.
(Paradys Lost) (Paradys) (Roho) (Spheres of Magic) (Wynona) (Zoltan)
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Another morning on Paradys: The Vartans and Eeee have been still excavating the wonders of the airship graveyard, and word has gotten in that they've found a few other wrecks elsewhere on the island. This may keep them busy for quite some time … though a number of the Eeee have made it clear that they'd very much like to get back to civilization at some time. At least none of them that joined the Prince in his exile have families back home in Babel to return to, and many are slowly breaking the language barrier between themselves and the half-Vartans … but this place still lacks in many creature comforts.

Storms have come and gone, heralding passage into and out of Forbidden Zones, large and small. Right now, Paradys is somewhere out over the ocean, though presumably still close to Lamu.

Roho's set up a temporary ward in the airship graveyard, and now spends most of his time there, patching up bats with splinters and mashed fingers. Just now, a bat leaves the tent, cradling one hand. A few moments later, Roho emerges, taking a short breather.

Zoltan carefully leads two small jaguar cubs over the wooden paths, just out for a breath of fresh air and a chance to give his 'family' some exercise.

A sneeze announces the approach of Wynona, the white bat air mage. She honks loudly, using a handkerchief, then waves at Roho. (She still never can get that straight.) "Oh! Doctor Roho! I have news!"

Roho smiles in the direction of the noseblast, "Hi, Wynona. What've you got?"

The Varian's ears perk at the mention of news. He scoops up the cubs and walks over to join the Eeee and the Zerda.

Wynona flaps her wings to get across one of the gaps between ship decks, and lands next to Roho. In a lower tone of voice, not noticing Zoltan's approach yet, she says, "It took me several tries, but I've established contact with some friends in my Sphere, using some air-messenger spells. Much has been happening in Rephidim."

Roho nods, and offers Wynona a seat in his 'office'. "War, still?"

The white bat adds, "Well, there's trouble like that, yes, but … one of the news items is that Lord Titus haut Mikide has died in his sleep. That means… " She turns, now noticing Zoltan. Her ears flush.

The littlest jaguar points at Wynona, then says, "ACHOO!"

Roho nods to Zoltan as he approaches, then turns back to Wynona, "So, the hunt is off?"

The Eeee swallows, then looks back to Roho and nods. "Nobody to pay any bounties."

Zoltan smiles and nuzzles Enos with the rounded part of his beak. He says nothing, although a weight seems to visibly lift itself away from him.

Enos giggles and hugs the big Vartan.

Roho listens to Wynona, "What about news on a larger scale? How are relations with Babel?"

( I'll have to tell Jezebel about this. She'll be dancing all night at the news no doubt. ) he thinks to himself. Giggling in spite of himself he hugs both of the cubs tightly, just wanting to share this small moment of joy – even if the receivers probably don't understand why.

Wynona sighs. "Babel is mounting actions against Rephidim airships. They're not taking to the air in a fully open war. I guess back in Rephidim, much of it is just being reported as heightened pirate activity. But it's getting worse. They're getting more bold. Without the Captain-Astromancer to lead, Rephidim is poorly situated to coordinate responses. So much … bureaucracy."

Roho nods, and then jumps slightly as his tail is pounced by little jaguar paws. "I guess we won't know if there's any real threat until we get back."

The white bat nods sadly. "But … I do hope we get back." She brightens a little. "With my pay and the share I've been given of booty, I'm almost halfway to repaying my tuition! … and … other incurred expenses." She wrenches her mouth, her wings drooping.

Zoltan sobers. "So skies no very safe right now. Would Boghaz be treated different by Babel ships since he from there?"

Wynona raises an eyebrow. "I think Roho would know something about that."

Zoltan sets the remaining cub down and looks to the doctor.

Roho shakes his head, "I wish I knew. I'd barely landed on Rephidim myself, before joining the expedition, I don't know the politics of either side much at all."

The white bat shrugs. "Well, anyway, I don't think Boghaz, since he's banished from Babel under penalty of death if he returns, is on good terms with Ashdod."

Zoltan sits down to view things at the cub's level, "Well, at least Rephidim maybe safer than was before, unless they thinks Captain still with Babel. But still maybe best to avoids for while." He looks to Wynona, "Any other news you hear?"

The white bat says, "Well, most of it is just of interest to me, being a mage and all. I mean, there were some deaths, a few more accidents in the Sphere of Fire that will really hurt the maintenance budget of the Collegia Esoterica … Hmm. Oh yes. Rephidim is currently north of Himar. We're … almost on the opposite side of the planet from it now!"

Roho chuckles, "So much for getting back soon. Not that I'm in any rush, I prefer this to Rephidim for the most part."

Wynona giggles. "Don't all of us Eeee drive you crazy, though, Doctor Roho?"

"I wants to get back. Master Nicodemus probably thinks I long dead by now." Zoltan scrawks. "If we ever go gets back, Maybe I move to Faraon's Dome… hear it nice there for Vartans."

Wynona nods. "Yes, I've been there before. Only briefly. Not as a guest, of course. I could NEVER afford that."

Roho grins at Wynona, "No, of course not… only you!"

Roho coughs and pretends to be very busy with some herbs…

Wynona giggles, covering her mouth.

The two jaguars chase each other in circles behind Zoltan and occasionally around his hooves, sometimes using his tail as a hiding place of sorts.

Roho turns to Zoltan, "I haven't seen you much lately… found any good shinies in the dead ships?"

The Vartan shows Pouncer, the female jaguar cub, a pretty rock he found. "Could maybe gets a job there. Even with what I gets from airship… I always like to keep working. And after all that happen here, I think it time to end exile I put on self from own kind."

Pouncer squeals, "Shiny!" She blinks up to Zoltan, then scrawks in Vartanspeak, "Thank you!"

Wynona hmms. "Is that why you're wanting to move to Underside?"

Zoltan nods to Roho. "I find shack in forest, and finally went to bottom of island. There raktors there. And cabin have strange gas things in it, one gas make Zoltan's voice go all high."

Wynona blinks? "Makes your voice go high? Hmmm." She squints her eyes, and starts chanting some sort of gibberish.

The black hippogryph fuzzles Pouncer's head, a father is always proud when his child shows good manners afterall. "Yah… Vartans live there. I been out of touch with people for long time, think it time to get back in touch."

Pouncer clutches the "shiny" to her heart, only occasionally pulling it away to gaze at it and turn it over in her paws, looking at it with all the fascination a Vartan – or a child given a gift – should have.

Enos, meanwhile, has caught Pouncer's tail and seems quite disappointed that the older jaguar is so distracted by the shiny that she's not swatting at him for tugging on her tail. He sits down and sulks.

The white bat continues chanting, then finishes, holding the index finger of her right hand up in the air. "Okay. Zoltan, could you please hold your beak open for just a moment?"

Zoltan begins quietly flicking his tail back in forth… very slowly – he glances to Enos and then looks away suddenly with an 'I'm not paying attention to my tail' expression. He blinks at the Air Mage and obliges, opening his beak.

Enos catches on slowly, raising an eyebrow as he notices the flicking tail. He slowly lets go of Pouncer's tail, then drops to all fours, crouching, prowling over to his horsehaired prey…

The white bat takes her index finger right up to Zoltan's opened beak, then makes a squeaking noise as there's a *pop* sound from the vicinity of her finger. She jumps back and says, "Okay. Say something!"

"Something." Zoltan squeaks… his voice now sounding much like Pouncers. His feathers poof out a bit. "What you do?" he asks squeakily.

Wynona giggles! "Was the gas like this? Hey – Say 'I'm a BIG bird now!'"

Pouncer and Enos both drop what they're doing and stare up at Zoltan with eyes full of wonder.

Roho blinks at the new voice of Zoltan… "Umm, Wynona?"

"Boogaboogabooga!" Zoltan squeaks at the cubs!

The cubs both roll over, giggling hysterically!

Roho bites his lip trying not to snicker, "What happened to his voice?"

Wynona smiles. "Don't worry. It's already wearing off. It's just a cantrip. It's something called 'Helium'." Or, that is, she uses the Sinai equivalent of the word, probably just as alien to both Roho and Zoltan. "It's something every air mage learns. I'll not bore you with technicalities… "

Roho rasps, "Why do they keep it in a cabin?"

Zoltan nods to Wynona. "Yah, there other tanks as well. And some kind of sealed bubble that float when it heat up. I think Shokar live in cabin. He had tanks of gas and map of raktor roosts on bottom of island. I wondering if he trying to build another airship, or find other way of leaving island with it."

The white bat says, "It's like the gas we use in airships, only it doesn't blow up if you so much as think of something hot around it. Unfortunately, nobody has figured out how to make large quantities. With a cantrip, I can make a puff of it, but I just can't make any quantities to be worth the trouble."

Wynona adds with a wink, "Makes for a great party gag."

The white bat belatedly reacts to Zoltan's report. "Tanks? Big tanks? Oh my! This could be … worth something! But … how? Vartans don't use magic."

Roho gets that look he gets when finding a new herb… "Would you mind giving me a little? If I turned a bowl upside-down, could I store it for a short time?"

Zoltan rubs his chin. "Good question. All his notes and books crumbled… hrrr. Vartans on island tell me he leave and never come back to tower, maybe he went on own to study. But why?"

Wynona hmms. "Well … really, with air currents and all… " She ponders. "If you've got TANKS of it, though … and this has been here so long… "

Wynona's ears vibrate just a bit. She has a certain look on her face, too. "Wow. Just think … " She doesn't say, however, what she wants everyone to think.

The Vartan pulls himself back to his hooves. "I can show you cabin if you wants. Maybe you can tell me what other gasses in tank are."

Pouncer, meanwhile, tugs on Zoltan's tail, squealing in Vartanspeak, "AGAIN!"

Wynona JUMPS at Zoltan's suggestion, squeaking, "I'D LOVE TO!" She blinks, then lowers her voice to a more audible frequency. "Oops. I mean … I'd love to!" She can hardly contain her excitement.

Zoltan spins around and tickletickletickles Pouncer! "I need moment to drop cubs off with Jezebel. There lots things there that might hurt cubs. Nasty fence surrounding cabin." He holds out a hooves foot, indicating the marks the fence left when he kicked it.

Wynona blinks at the marks, putting a hand to her mouth. "Oh!"

Pouncer SQUEALS in surprise!

Sometime later, after taking the cubs to Jezebel to look after, Zoltan and Wynona make their way to the cabin out in the jungle. Zoltan points out the "fence", but wings solve the problem nicely.

The cabin has been built from scraps from the airship graveyard, or else perhaps some of the other wrecks the Eeee and Vartans have reported during their more free scouts of the area (not having strong winds or cannibal jaguars to hinder the exploration).

Wynona gasps and looks like she's a little kid in a candy shop, where every piece of candy has a crunchy bug in the middle. That is, a kid who happens to be an Eeee. "Oh my!" she squeaks. "Oh MY!"

Light filters in through a hole in the ceiling, and through the open door, though most of the interior is still quite dark. Wynona, however, seems to be getting around just fine. Amidst the broken and decaying furnishings are a jumble of tubes and equipment of arcane purpose, a wealth if they were simply melted down for raw materials … but probably worth far more than that in other respects.

Zoltan pulls down the globe from the 'lamp' so it won't fly away, and then lights it to get a better look at the things inside. "What you think all this for, Wynona? Maybe trying to build new airship?"

Wynona eeps at the sight of the burner, then moves in to look at it more closely. "Amazing! Uhm … We shouldn't burn all this. We may want to examine the gas this torch is using. I don't think it's meant to be used as a light source."

"Did anybody bring a lantern?" she says, looking to Zoltan.

Zoltan nods and quickly snuffs the burner, turning the gasflow back down. "I still gots tinderbox. But I no want to burn shack down."

Wynona pouts. "Well … pooh! I'm … Hmph. Well, we can use one of my candles, I guess. But THEY aren't meant for light sources, either." Her wings droop a bit as she digs through her satchel, pulling out a candle. "I don't have a proper holder for it, though."

She pulls out a dish for setting the candle down on a flat surface, and catching the wax.

The Vartan helps in lighting the candle, and then shows the globe to Wynona. "This fly away when it under flame, there some kind of liquid inside. You know what it maybe is?"

Wynona hmms, reaching for the orb. "This is … strange!"

"It's a liquid. A liquid that could float in air? That's … unheard of," Wynona muses.

The white bat scans the room, looking at some of the other contraptions and tanks as well. "Ooo. Ahh! Wow! Oh my … Oh!" Her voice keeps rising in frequency with each exclamation, and she frequently bounces on her toes or else flaps her wings for no apparent reason.

Zoltan busies himself with digging through the bookshelves, hoping to find something he may have overlooked previously. "Just a little, after I catch it on way down. It fly pretty high up."

Most of the books are little more than covers with rotted, wasted-away remains of what were once pages. The jungle is not kind on books. However, while going through the debris, Zoltan discovers a small object – It's a little model, made out of bits of scrimshaw and other scraps. It looks something like an airship.

Wynona wiggles her nose as Zoltan's explorations knock up bits of dust, formerly pages … "Ah … AHHHH … Urngh!" She holds her finger to her nose. "Gngh!"

As delicately as one would handle a bubble or some paper thin glass orb, Zoltan examines the model. He jumps at Wynona and quickly holds out a wing to protect his prize. "No sneeze on model! Sneeze outside!"

Wynona says, "Snee – EEE EEE… " … She rushes to the door. "WACHOO!!!!"

The bat flutters through the air, tripping over some broken furniture, squeaking in panic!

Zoltan urks! "Calm down! You breaks something!" he hisses.

Fortunately, the model has survived Wynona's little incident. "Break something? You bet! I might break ME!" Wynona sniffles, brushing herself off.

"Sorry for stirring up dust." He resumes examining the model. Perhaps Shokar WAS working on a new airship, but why all the experiments with strange gasses and raktors? Hmmm.

Wynona sniffles, then says, "You can't have an airship without something to hold it aloft … and to move it."

"And, you know … the envelope on the Freedom's Dream is still fully inflated. As you're probably familiar with, any airship has to have its hydrogen supply replenished at each stop, and some carry glass bulbs of compressed hydrogen for 'refills'. We haven't needed anything like that since we left Rephidim," Wynona says. "Maybe … maybe Shokar was really on to something!"

Zoltan scrawks, "Yah… but would think that hydrogen they use now would be easiest to make. I wonder how he manage to get all others. Hrr." He looks wistfully at the model. "I wonder if he ever get ship to fly off island, but if he did… I wonder why he no take other Vartans with him.

Wynona frowns. "Yes, hydrogen would be much easier. I mean … helium … You just can't do that."

The white bat goes about the room, examining some of the bits of furniture that are still in enough of one piece to be recognizable in some respect. "My. So many things from so many different lands, I imagine. It would be something just to know where everything came from… "

Zoltan taps the tank proudly. "Shokar did. Knew he was good airship captain, but all this! Maybe he part scientist too."

Wynona sighs loudly, looking over the contraptions. "If he could do THIS, by HIMSELF … he had to be a genius." She shakes her head. "I'll never look at Vartans in quite the same way after this."

Zoltan's smiles fades a bit at the Air Mage's words. Maybe the knowledge was given to him… ( Please Dagh, don't let Shokar have been just another one of Necropolis' toys to get something she wanted… )

The model that Zoltan has looks unlike any airship design he's seen before … except that certain elements seem faintly familiar. Upon further inspection, it looks like a ship that has been put together from parts of other ships, of different origins … as if it represented an airship being built from the wreckage of several others from all sorts of different lands. In fact … some of the design looks reminiscent of that of the black ship that was destroyed in the fire.

Zoltan goes outside and fetches a few more leaves. He yanks out another wingfeather for a makeshift pen, spits in the inkwell again and begins to slowly sketch the ship out. He examines the model carefully, looking for some means or propulsion. Was it pulled by an airbag? Raktors? Maybe even both…

Wynona watches Zoltan. "Uhm … would you like something better to write with? I AM a mage, you know. I come prepared." She digs around in her satchel, producing a parchment and writing tools.

The model does not have an attached airbag, but based on its structure, it would seem that it should be supported by one. Perhaps whomever built the model fashioned one of cloth or some other less long-lived material, which has since decayed away. A framework on the front is possibly a representation of a shock-absorbing arrangement common on airships drawn by raktors, pteras or other large flying beasts. The model isn't THAT detailed, though, to tell for certain.

With a sheepish look on his face, the hippogryph discards his makeshift tools and accepts Wynona's. He goes back to his copying. "Would gas like helium be stronger that hydrogen? Maybe strong enough to lift airship out of winds island had when we first get here."

Wynona hmms. "I don't think that would have much bearing on it, really. Lighter or not, you'd still have the winds to contend with. If you can't fly off with your own wings, no airship is going to help you."

Wynona looks over Zoltan's shoulder. "Hmm. That's pretty good. And you know your stuff. I guess you've picked up a lot about airships, haven't you?"

Zoltan frowns. Where was Shokar planning to go then with this airship? "Picked up little bit, had lots of time on hands. Maybe Zoltan become airship designer when we gets back to Rephidim." He winks at the Eeee.

Wynona smirks … then wiggles her nose and dashes out of the cabin.

After blowing on the parchment a bit to allow it to dry, Zoltan rolls it up and tucks it away. ( Maybe that's it, Shokar. You just got bored and worked on an airship that would never fly. Or maybe there's more pieces that I haven't found yet. Don't worry though, I will find them if luck stays on my side. )

From outside, there's a muffled, "CHOO!"

Wynona comes back in, putting away another handkerchief. "Well … hmm … I wish we could just pack up this entire cabin and take it back to the Collegia Esoterica."

"Watch out for fence!" Zoltan squawks. "Very nasty." He steps back a bit and gives the cabin's contents a look-over. "Hrr… maybe. But I not know how delicate things in here are."

The bat looks around. "Hmph. It looks like so much is missing. Someone must have gotten through here since the occupant left and before any of us got here. It looks like things are missing that can't have just rotted away."

The Eeee walks over to a large contraption that looks like a great big glass dome with tubes and other apparati inside, on a solid base, with tubes running out from nozzles, though they end where the tubes have rotted away. "There is just no WAY this could have been manufactured here. But for someone to even figure out how this thing WORKS to make any use of it… "

Wynona crosses her arms. "I wish time travel were possible. I want to MEET this Shokar of yours."

Zoltan laughs heartily. "Not as much as I wants to meet him. Kryago say that there maybe others on island at one time, maybe then help Shokar… or make things here. Strange that he never tell any of other Vartans about it. Maybe if I look through graveyard with others I find something. I know more ofwhat's I looking for… and I gots good eyes." He taps he cheek with a talon asif emphasizing this.

Wynona nods. "Perhaps. Do you want me to keep this cabin a secret? I don't know if the others might see it as just more 'booty'."

"Good point." Zoltan nods. "We keep it secrets for now, but maybe I tell captain abouts it. I sure he be happy to hear news that bounty hunter no after me anymore. I think about it for bits… meantime I gots some good news to tell someone."

Wynona nods. "Do you mind if I stay here for a while longer? I'd like to take more notes, and see if I can make any sense of anything. I know I sneeze a lot, but I'll be careful. I've dealt with artifacts before."

Zoltan squawks, "Stay as long as you likes. I think you know more abouts gasses here and things. Just tell Zoltan if you find anything more that look interesting."

Wynona nods, smiling. "Certainly!"

Some time later, Zoltan returns to the airship graveyard, and the camp therein. Even with all his exploration in the cabin, it's still daylight. He finds Jezebel with the jaguars and leftovers from dinner, as she's teaching them some more hand signs.

Zoltan closes the door behind him. "Hello Teacher." he signs with a grin.

Jezebel nods her head to Zoltan, smiling, then pats the cubs on their shoulders as they turn around to see Zoltan. They both hold up their hands in signs that vaguely look like "Hello!" Actually, Enos is signing something closer to "Flower", but it's the thought that counts.

"Hello!" Zoltan signs in response. He moves to sit next to Jezebel. "The air mage gots news from Rephidim today. Good news and Bad News. Which you want to hear first?"

Jezebel frowns. "Many prefer the bad news first. I'll take the good news first. Then I'll decide whether I want to hear the bad news."

Pouncer and Enos, sensing that their lessons are over, are already dashing about the room, hiding from and chasing each other.

"Titus is dead. Died in his sleep. That means bounty on us is cancelled," the Vartan signs slowly.

Jezebel pauses, blinking. She looks back up to Zoltan, signing, "And the bad news is that I don't get to kill him myself?" She smirks, her tail twitching.

Zoltan grins, "I had bone to pick with him too. But no, bad news is that war with Babel coming. They attacking ships near Rephidim. Skies not very safe right now."

Jezebel frowns and sighs. "That's good for bad news." She shakes her head. Then, she jumps up and throws her arms around the big Vartan, hugging her cheek to his chest, ears wiggling.

Zoltan stiffens a bit, then relaxes and hugs the Savanite back. He squawks absently, "So, ever hear of Faraon's Dome? was thinking that when we gets back home we could move there. Lots Vartans, and is very pretty place to live."

Jezebel looks up, pulling back away so she can sign. "Perhaps. I do not think I would like being in a place without far to walk … but it would be safer than the city, I think." She looks to the cubs. "What about them, though? They can't fly. And they can speak. How will you explain them?"

Zoltan rubs his chin. "Maybe we could dye they fur, like Janus did."

Jezebel frowns. "Perhaps." She looks thoughtful, then signs, "We will come up with something."

The Vartan nods. "So, tell me abouts what cubs do today… and I tell you abouts shack I find in woods."

So, Jezebel proceeds to tell in hand-sign about all of her adventures tending to the cubs, and listens and watches Zoltan's recounting about the cabin, as another day passes on Paradys.

---

GMed by Greywolf

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Today is 21 days before Candlemass, Year 25 of the Reign of Archelaus the First (6124)