Ring 7, 6099 RTR (4 Oct 1999) Things go awry at the ritual at Master Zahirinee's pool.
(Ashdod) (Envoy) (Roho) (Skiree) (Spheres of Magic) (Ur) (Wynona)
Pool of Master Zahirinee
In the center of a large clearing in the forested hills of Ashdod, there is a placid pool shaded by overhanging branches. Although the waters are still, the air doesn't carry the moldy stench that typifies stagnant water. Every once in a while, a little silver form darts about just under the surface of the waters. Nestled under the trees nearby is a modestly large cottage, its windows affording a good view of the pool.

The ritual started … and hasn't stopped since. Water, Chaos, Shadow and Light Mages have been taking shifts, maintaining rituals taking place in a number of locations ringing the magic pool, while Air Mages have been taking turns keeping the rituals from getting rained out. It's all been going on continuously, around the clock.

Although there have been refreshments provided for the mages, and various types of food, it's been nothing like the Ring Day buffet/party that kicked off the whole operation. Still, Roho hasn't gone hungry.

So far, Scarlet hasn't shown any signs of ill health or instability, so Roho has been pretty much cast just in the role of observer, on hand "just in case". Envoy has come and gone, having more than enough strange things to distract her with.

Today is like much any other day. Scarlet's "shift" should be starting soon, as she will be joining several other Water Mages to take over for those currently engaged in rituals, in a staggered arrangement so that the ritual will never be short more than one Mage at a time.

Roho finishes tacking the last of his current gathering of fresh herbs to the top of the little temporary drying rack he made. With Scarlet in such good health, and the ritual proceeding smoothly, he's had ample time to enlarge his medicine cabinet with some Ur plants he doesn't always have on hand in Rephidim. And because of the lack of rain, he doesn't even need to worry about enclosing his drying rack.

Scarlet rushes over to the snack area, hunting for munchies, no doubt, before her shift starts. "Ohhhh! I should have gotten up earlier… "

Roho's ears perk up. He moves over the hill. "Scarlet? How are you feeling this morning?"

There's a surprised "squeak". "Oh! I am feeling fine, good sir doctor," she tells Roho.

Roho smiles. "That's good… About to start your shift?" He listens to the bat, trying to tell if her speaking seems strained, or her breath at all short, or any of the other signs of the onset of pain.

"Yes, I am about to begin my shift," the bat mage tells Doctor Roho. "I just wanted to get something to eat, first, since I slept in late and missed breakfast," she also tells the doctor fennec.

Roho nods. "Well, good luck to you today. I was just getting some medicinal plants dried." He tilts his head, "How is your magic holding up? I know it was slow in coming back to you… "

There is some loud crunching – the sound of Scarlet eating some munchies she must have procured. "Mifth domph jumph fife! Ifth cmph bph vwhy fpht, whcth iph vphy gphmph, I'ph tmph," she tells the fennec doctor.

Roho chuckles and nods. "Yes… yes… I couldn't understand a word you just said." He smiles at the bat. "I'll leave you to your breakfast; it sounds like you're doing fine."

Ah, the aroma of honeyed locusts and redberry juice.

Roho moves over to the table, feeling a little hungry himself. He selects a couple of bugs to munch on, crunching quietly.

Scarlet wipes her mouth. "I should be going now. These are delicious. I should take part in more major rituals, if they are to be catered like this all the time," she tells Roho, giggling.

Roho smiles. "Indeed, there's no lack of good food around. If I served this in my hospital, I think people would be breaking their legs just to get in." He grins. "Well, anyways. Glad you are doing well." He starts heading back over the hill towards his herbs.

A little bat skips past Roho, "tra-la-la"-ing to herself. Given how few little bats there are to be found in the area right now (really, only one), it's not hard to identify this as Skiree heading past.

Skiree squeaks, "Yummy! Honeyed locusts! Mineminemineminemine!"

Roho smiles. "Hello, Ski – " He is quickly drowned out by a flurry of crunching noises. "Breakfast time?"

The Water Mage giggles. "Oh yes! They've always been my favorite," she tells the little bat.

Skiree makes a jingling noise. She must be nodding, and wearing some sort of jewelry.

Skiree squeaks, "Oh! You're a Water Mage, aren't you? Can you make me a popsicle? Please, please, pretty please?"

Roho smiles, listening to Skiree latch on to poor Scarlet.

The Water Mage bows to Skiree. "I would love to, young lady, but I really must be going. It is time for me to be taking my place at the ritual. But maybe later?"

Skiree says, "AwwwwwwWWWWwwwww! But a popsicle is only a cantrip! See, you just get some redberry juice … Snowflake made one for me yesterday. It only took fifteen seconds! I counted."

Roho smiles at the little bat. "Skiree, you remember that Master Zahirinee told you not to keep the mages from their duties. Mage Scarlet needs to be fresh for the ritual!"

The Water Mage shakes her head. "I … I'm terribly sorry. I really must be going now. I think I may be late. Good bye," she tells Skiree, and she hurries off to the pool.

Skiree "awwwwws" again. Then there are more crunching noises. "She lefsht she resht osh her locushtsh! crunch crunch"

Roho chuckles. "Lucky you were here to take care of that for her!" He listens to the sounds of the ritual in the distance, a sound which has become rather familiar in recent days.

More munching takes place, until Skiree finishes up the plate, and washes it down with redberry juice. Skiree wipes her mouth on her sleeve, then cries out, "Snowflake!"

Roho lifts his head, trying to hear the approach of the other mage.

Another mage walks up, this one smelling of a bit of lupine intermingled with the heavy odor of incense and chalks. "Hello there, it'un," the mage whurfs.

Skiree squeaks, "A popsicle? Pretty pretty pretty please with sugarfir leaves on top?"

The mage laughs. "Certainly." The wolf mage walks over to the table, and the sound of juice being poured into a container can be heard, and then something being plunked into the liquid. A stirring stick, perhaps?

Roho smiles, listening curiously to the events…

Skiree counts out loud, "One … two … three … four," while in the background, the wolf mage chants some arcane words quietly.

"… eleven … twelve … thirteen … fourteen … FIFTEEN!" squeaks the bat, excitedly. "Gimmegimmegimme!"

There's a sound of something being pulled out of a cup with a bit of suction providing resistance … and then a pop! "Here you go, it'un."

Roho chuckles and applauds for a moment. "I think you just made a young bat very happy."

"Thankeethankeethankee! GLOMPH!" Skiree's chatter is quickly cut off as she sticks a redberry popsicle in her mouth.

The wolf laughs. "I hope so! It was one of my favorite cantrips when I was her age."

"You must be Doctor Roho?" queries the wolf mage. There's a tell-tale rustling of cloth. An educated guess might be that he's holding out a paw for a handshake. If so, either he's not quite thinking things through, or he hasn't quite been filled in on the fennec just yet.

Roho smiles and holds out his paw in the general direction of the wolf. "I am. And you must be the one whom Skiree calls 'Snowflake'?"

"Ah. That's 'Snowstorm'. But Skiree seems to like 'Snowflake' much better. I'll answer to either, for the sake of simplicity," the wolf explains, finding the fennec's paw and shaking it.

Skiree makes loud slorping noises on the popsicle, and flutters up to a tree branch with her prize.

Roho smiles and shakes back. "'Snowstorm' seems a little more fitting." He tilts his head. "You specialize in ice magic?"

"I'm of the Sphere of Water, but, yes, I tend to focus on the 'ice' sub-Sphere as my specialty," the wolf answers, taking his paw back at last. "There are many spells known within each Sphere, and it can take a lifetime to master them all. Many mages – such as myself – tend to focus on a particular aspect, trying to be better at a narrower band of effects, rather than to be mediocre at all of them."

Roho nods, listening with interest. "What is your role, then, in these proceedings? A friend was wondering why not just freeze the top of the water to keep it still for the ceremony."

The wolf laughs. "Ah! To keep it still. Yes, that makes sense, doesn't it? Well, you see, what we're doing isn't about physically stilling the water, entirely. This pool is not just a body of water, although the water is quite real. It is also a point of concentration of magical energies of Sinai. In a way … think of it as if there are two pools … one pool that you can physically see with your eyes … and another pool that exists in another 'plane', in the realm of magic. They coexist, but are not entirely the same."

Roho ahs, and smiles. "Well, I'm not very well versed in magic, so it seemed a valid question. How is the restoration proceeding?"

The wolf nods. "It is a very slow process, but it is proceeding as well as can be expected. There have been no major mishaps … only a few minor breaks in the rituals, but nothing beyond what we are prepared to deal with. That sort of thing is inevitable, really, with so many people involved. In any case, we are not only calming the physical pool, but the … magical one as well. That's the best I can do to explain it in layman's terms, I'm afraid. Suffice it to say that it's not all that easy. Freezing the pool would, I'm afraid, frustrate our efforts to deal with the 'other' pool, so to speak."

Roho nods. "Makes sense. I'm glad things are progressing well. What is the timeline on completion, roughly?"

"Another week is the best estimate," the wolf says, sounding a touch tired. "It's impossible to tell for certain, but that should be a pretty fair guess."

The wolf sniffs curiously at the air. Roho's own nose reports nothing unusual, per se. A hint of redberry popsicle and little bat in the tree above, but that's hardly a surprise.

Roho nods. "Is everyone holding up under the strain well? I'm only specifically supposed to be watching Mage Scarlet, but I would be more than happy to help any others who need it… "

Roho blinks as the wolf starts sniffing… He can't smell anything, despite taking a sniff too.

The wolf nods. "We've been very careful not to have anyone push themselves too far. As for Mage Scarlet … she seems to be doing wonderfully, especially considering her condition. I must say, I've gotten the most strange sensations from her whenever she is casting her rituals nearby. It could be because of the jumbled nature of her aura, being of one spirit but stuck inside the body of another species. It's a curious sensation."

Roho tilts his head. "Can you try to describe it to me? I can't sense such things, and I need to know as much as possible about her health."

The wolf makes a humming noise through his closed mouth, as he puts his thoughts together. "It's hard to put magical sensations into words. I rarely even bother. But … there's a strange sense of 'otherness' about her. It's … something like, if I were to bite into what I believe to be an apple, and I taste an onion instead. Or, I see a man, and hear a woman's voice. I am not the most finely attuned to such things, but spellcasting has a certain 'signature' to it, if you know to notice it. I was not greatly acquainted with Mage Scarlet back before her … adventure … but even so… "

The wolf says, "… it's as if, when she's casting spells, it's not really her. Not the Aelfin inside, not the Eeee without. It's as if there's something else providing her with the magic. And … I know that sounds like so much rubbish, but that's the best sense I can make of it right now. I suppose it's another side-effect of her unique situation. Perhaps the new combination of body and mind yields a totally new 'signature'."

Roho nods, scratching his chin. "Perhaps. Others have noticed that she seems a little off kilter since her experience. I might speak with a friend of hers who knew her well before the change, to see what she thinks." He smiles. "Thank you for trying to put that into words. I know it must be difficult."

"Well, if it helps any, then it's worth a little trouble, eh? Not all that difficult, really. Just awkward. Though a popsicle cantrip is much easier. Right, Skiree?" the wolf whurfs.

Skiree responds with a giggle-slorp, kicking her legs from up in the tree branch.

Roho smiles at the tree-bat. "That's certainly seemed to make her a little happier. Where did you learn it?"

"In the College," answers the wolf. "It's very basic, really, just to freeze a small amount of water. Turning it into a popsicle is merely a specialized application with what materials are available."

Crunching and crackling noises, very faint, come from the direction of the pool.

Roho ahs and smiles. "I see. Perhaps my next intern at the hospital should be a Water Mage, so I can get ice-packs made."

Roho's ears perk up. "Did you hear that?"

The wolf laughs again. "Practical appli – Hear what?"

Roho shakes his head, to clear it, then listens very intently in the pool's direction, his ears fully swiveled that way. "Sounded like … something breaking."

"Breaking? I don't … BY THE FIRST ONES!" the wolf barks. "The pool! Someone! Stop it before it – " The wolf rushes off toward the pool.

Roho pauses a moment, then takes off in the direction of the wolf, a little slower thanks to his handicap, waving his staff before himself to find any trees or roots in his way.

There's a lot more noise now, as others are noticing … whatever is going on. The crackling noises are now loud enough that even those without benefit of Eeee or Zerda ears should be able to hear them plainly enough, despite the continued chanting.

Roho continues towards the pool, listening to see what the response is, trying to figure out if the sound is coming from the pool, or elsewhere.

"Water Group Prime! Get your Apprentices to help counteract the freezing, until we can – " "Risaldo! See if you can observe the dweomers of the pool, and determine – " Back and forth, mages are rushing about in a panic, while others are nervously keeping up their chanting … so that things won't get even worse if they suddenly break off.

Yes, it is most certainly coming from the pool, along with a strong sensation of coldness. Perhaps someone took Envoy's advice? The pool is freezing over, but irregularly, the ice cracking and shifting as it forms.

Roho stops in the area of the pool, far enough away that he's not underfoot. He tries to tell what's going on. Did Scarlet do this? She works in ice, and it was her shift…

"We're getting a resonance! We have to stop the ritual or we're risking a major incident!" "No, we can't afford to stop – We need to stabilize this!" More shouts, more confusion.

Roho leans on his staff, just trying to make some sense of the chaos, his ears swiveling to and fro.

It sounds like someone is barreling in Roho's direction. No telling if the somebody is looking where he's going or not…

Roho jumps back, landing on his bottom with a slight squeak. He scrambles backwards, listening to the chaos worsening.

Someone rushes past hastily … and quite likely would have bowled the fennec over if he hadn't moved. Yes, this is definitely not orderly.

Roho decides to make for Master Zahirinee's hut, keeping an ear out for any further mage juggernauts.

"Oh, by the First Ones! It's building up in the center of the pool! This can't be happening!" cries out another unidentified mage. "Move the Apprentices away! It's too unstable!"

Just outside the hut, a breeze causes the staff held by a bat seer to jangle briefly, and Roho's ears and nose tell him that Master Zahirinee is out there, watching this spectacle unfold.

Roho runs up to Master Zahirinee, panting slightly. "By the First Ones, this sounds like a mess… Master, do you know what is going on?"

Master Zahirinee, in his characteristically deep voice, says, "I would have never imagined something like this. For someone to stutter on a spell and to cause the pool to ripple, and to be disturbed again … that would be within the realm of belief … but this … this doesn't just happen… "

Roho looks lost, "What did happen? Did someone cast the wrong spell?"

The sounds of popping, stressing ice can be heard from within the pool. Several mages can be heard running and shouting in a panic.

Master Zahirinee says, "The wrong spell? That, my dear friend, would be quite an understatement."

Roho pauses, then asks, "Was … was it Scarlet?"

A grating, resonant shriek comes from the pool. It sounds like a monster … a spirit … something entirely unnatural.

"By the gods! Stop your rituals! It's too late!" the seer calls out, though there's no hope that anyone in the midst of the confusion can actually hear him.

Roho gently but firmly grabs Zahirinee's shoulder. "Master, do you know if Scarlet was responsible? This is very important."

Zahirinee turns back to Roho. "That would be impossible to tell for sure without a ritual, but … " His voice trails off.

Roho nods. "But … she was in on the ritual at the time, right? And ice is her specialty? Master, I think it's very important we find Wynona now… "

"Wynona is probably located where the Air Mages are stationed … just past that … Oh, confound it. My pointing isn't going to help you. On the opposite side of the pool, just beyond the rim of the clearing. I do believe they have yet to require her services," the seer says with a shake of his head that causes his robes to rustle audibly.

Roho nods, bowing slightly. "Thank you, Master Zahirinee… " He runs off in the direction he was told, perhaps a little quicker than a blind Zerda should run.

"Roho! Wait! It's too dangerous! You'll need some assistance!" And then Master Zahirinee's shout dissolves into chanting.

A couple of stampeding Rhian Apprentices narrowly miss running the fennec doctor down in their mad flight.

Roho seems too distracted by the immediate circumstances to notice the warning. He gives the pool a wide berth, not wanting to make things worse, but doesn't slow down.

With all the discarded ritual preparations, upended tables, and dashing bodies (plus a few who were still sitting before a fennec collided with them), it's slow going. The air gets exceptionally cold the closer the Zerda gets to where the pool presumably must be. Well … at least that gives a certain point of reference.

Roho shivers, drawing his cloak around himself as he nears Wynona's encampment. He refrains from calling out her name, however, remembering how her very presence here was disagreeable to some.

Suddenly, the fennec's mad dash ends as he runs into something soft and winged.

Roho tries to identify who he's just hit, by scent…

"Ooof!" comes a familiar voice. "Roho! I'm glad I found you before you ran into a tree!"

The whatever-it-is in the center of the pool makes another grating shriek, the air filling with the sounds of crackling and popping ice.

Roho grabs hold of Envoy, arresting his forward motion by swinging around her a little. "Envoy! Am I glad to find you! We need to find Wynona now."

Envoy looks around through the chaos. "I see a bunch of Air Mages… There she is, through the trees." Gripping the Zerda's hand, she leads him towards the gathering, if at a slower pace than he was going on his own.

Roho follows Envoy, grateful for the escort. Probably would've knocked himself out before reaching the windbat.

As they approach the gathered Air Mages, Roho's keen ears pick up the sounds of frantic chanting. And then, there's a distinctive Eeee voice. "Roho! Envoy! It wasn't me! Honest! They wouldn't let me help with the rituals at all!"

Roho nods and runs towards Wynona. "I know! But I need your help!"

Wynona sounds quite surprised. "My help? Are you sure? How?"

"It doesn't sing very well," Envoy comments, being dragged by Roho. "Did Scarlet conjure it up?"

Wynona squeaks, "I'm pretty certain that conjuring up ice monsters is not part of the plan."

Roho pants, leaning over with his paws on his knees. He gasps out, "I think Scarlet may have done this. I was just talking with Snowstorm before this happened, and he mentioned that Scarlet didn't seem like the same person as before her death." He gulps some air. "He wasn't the first to mention that. I know they can't tell who did this yet, but you knew Scarlet before she changed. Can you help me to tell if it's still Scarlet on the inside? She may still be casting."

Wynona gasps. "Me? Know Scarlet? Hardly! I've never met her before! That was the reason she was gushing so! Or so I thought. You mean she did this on purpose? Or is this an accident?"

Envoy looks Wynona in the eyes, and asks, "What about the original person in that body? You knew her, didn't you? You let the name slip out partially the other day."

Roho shakes his head, still panting, but closer to having his wind back. "I don't know if she did or not, but this seems pretty large for a simple accident. I thought she knew you from before … Do you know anyone who would be able to recognize her clearly by her casting signature?"

Wynona stammers, "I … I … " She looks away from Envoy. "Scarlet supposedly knows me because of my time in Aelfhem, though I don't know her. But … the body she's in … That's Cyrona. Cyrona … Windcaller."

Roho gasps softly. "Wynona … I'm sorry, I didn't know."

"Was she really a pirate?" the Exile asks, looking concerned. Still, she keeps one ear turned towards the monster.

Wynona sniffles, then covers her muzzle, shaking her head. "No! No! I … I … Oh! Please! Don't start bawling, Wynona! You can't afford it now! Get a hold of yourself!" She winces. "We … Someone's got to do something… "

Envoy nods, and suggests, "Can you evacuate the air from around the creature?"

Roho nods. "Wynona, do you know of anyone who would know Scarlet well enough from before her incident?"

Wynona looks to Envoy. "I … I could try that. If we have enough time. But … what would that do?" To Roho, she says, "I … Well … Envoy here knew her… Didn't you, Envoy?"

"I knew her on Rephidim. We were supposed to explore Ashtoreth together," Envoy says. "If you create a vacuum, the ice will dry out and become brittle."

Roho nods. "But Envoy isn't a mage. I need someone who will be able to tell for certain if the person in that body now, the person casting the spells, is the same Scarlet from Aelfhem."

Wynona squeaks, "I … I don't know! I … here … maybe if I can get some help … Gusty! Did you hear what Envoy said? Can we do something to help? If we work together, maybe we can actually cast a spell before the monster is finished rampaging!"

Gusty, evidently another wolf, growls, "With that thing moving around? Look! It's already coming out of the pool! If it isn't going to stay still, I don't see how we'll manage to target it… but … fine … might as well get started… "

Roho turns to Envoy. "Do you see Scarlet anywhere?"

Wynona turns to Roho. "Maybe … maybe a Life Mage could help. Or a Spirit Mage? Or maybe a seer?"

Roho nods. "A seer? Perhaps Master Zahirinee … if we can find Scarlet."

Wynona squeaks, "I haven't spent much time with her … maybe there's some other way of locating Scarlet? Oh … Envoy, should I get started on the ritual, or will you be needing me? It could be dangerous for me to start a spell like this and then drop out right in the middle!"

Envoy says, "I haven't seen Scarlet since they began the ritual. Can you amplify sound?"

Wynona says, "Perhaps … but don't we have enough of that already? And I can't go casting more than one spell at once."

Mages run this way and that, scattering for dear life. Those with wings take to the air, since that seems the more obvious way to get clear of the ice-monster.

Roho nods. "Well, if someone can get me to where Scarlet would've been at the start of the ritual, I stand a pretty good chance of tracking her down." His ears flatten at the din caused by the ice monster, his hackles rising a little…

Wynona squeaks, "She would have been right next to the edge of the pool. Beyond that … I'm not really certain. If you could grab a Water Mage, maybe someone can tell you."

Envoy says, "If you can't dry it out while it's moving, we can try cracking it apart with sound waves. If you can amplify sounds passing through a specific spot, I can try multiple frequencies against the monster – or at least get it angry enough to chase us instead of stomping on people."

Roho closes his eyes. Great … right next to the pool, where that thing is. And she's a bat now; she may have flown away. He turns to Envoy. "Do you want to help me try to find Scarlet?"

Wynona nods. "That sounds more flexible … Gusty, did you hear that? Ah … I'll take that head nod as a 'yes'. All right … Well … now or never. He's got his circle drawn up. Do we go with this plan?"

"Someone needs to help Roho find Scarlet," Envoy says. "Can you and Gusty make lots of low and high pitches while maintaining the spell?"

"Uhm," ponders Wynona. "I guess so. And … the purpose of that is … ?" She stoops down, arranging her own magical circle while the deliberations continue.

Roho looks curiously at Envoy?

Envoy says, "Well, if you can make the sounds, I can go with Roho."

Roho rasps, "I can go myself… It's dangerous, but I don't know how much good one extra person would be against that thing, anyways."

Wynona nods. "Oh! Yes, we could do that. Gusty can do the low notes, and I can do the high notes!" She giggles, then clears her throat, remembering the seriousness of the situation at hand. "Well … I'll get started … and … and we'll keep eyes and ears out for you, in case you have new instructions for us, okay?"

Envoy nods. "I'll keep Roho out of the water. Do you just need the monster kept away from you, Roho?"

Wynona looks between Envoy and Roho. "You two … you be careful, okay?"

Roho nods at Wynona, looking more than a little nervous. "You too. Good luck… " He turns to Envoy. "Lead the way?"

Envoy guides Roho to edge of the pool farthest from the rampaging ice cube. "Can you scent her yet?" she whispers.

"Help!" squeaks a Skeek mage. "It's got me! Help!" If it weren't for the high pitch of his voice, he probably wouldn't be heard over most of the tumult.

Roho shakes his head. "No, I can't smell her… Can smell the other ice mage, though. Snowstorm." He keeps sniffing around the pool.

"Oh drat," Envoy says. "It's got a mouse. I'll be right back, Roho. If you hear a horrible crunching sound, run into the woods again, okay?"

Roho blinks, and nods. He gets down on all fours, snuffing around, and feeling the tracks delicately with his fingers. He tries to reconstruct what happened with Snowstorm, and where Scarlet may have been.

A delicate examination of the site is difficult, given the amount of trampling that has been going on … but evidently when the disturbance started, everyone was running away from the pool, and so therefore it seems that the site of Snowstorm's spellcasting was relatively undisturbed in the chaos, except for some splashing from the pool, and bits of broken ice that have been showered upon it, slowly melting.

The distinctive scents of Snowstorm, intermingled with the scents of his particular choice of incense and chalk – scented not very long before – help Roho pinpoint the place where Snowstorm did his spellcasting before the shift change. And, it so happens, Roho can pick up a faint scent of redberries and honeyed locusts … and Eeee. It would seem that Scarlet took up her place where Snowstorm had been, but didn't spend as long there, naturally, before this chaos broke loose.

Roho tries following the trail of Scarlet from when she left the spot, though things are quite chaotic…

At first, it's not really clear whether Roho's senses might be fooling him … but after some more careful investigation (a remarkable feat of concentration, given the close proximity of a rampaging ice monster) Roho is able to determine that the trail leads … toward the pool.

Envoy flies up over the water, and angles down towards the monster's head. Getting a closer look, she sees that it's made up of multiple sheets of ice, instead of a solid mass. "Are you okay?" she calls down to the Skeek.

Roho follows the trail down to the water with some trepidation…

The path takes Roho further than he might have originally anticipated … as the pool's water has receded considerably … considering that the bulk of it now comprises the form of an ice monster. At last, however, Roho reaches ice.

There's a shrieking roar that pierces the air again.

Roho reaches out a paw, and touches it against the ice right where Scarlet's trail vanishes…

"Aieeeeeeee!" shrieks the Skeek! "Heeeeeeeelp!"

Envoy jerks around in mid-air, as the giant drops the Skeek and notices Roho! "Roho! It sees you! Run back towards shore!" She makes a dive at the back of the monster's head.

Roho turns and makes a dash for the shore, trying not to slip on the ice!

Fortunately, Roho was just at the edge of the ice, so he doesn't encounter any further patches during his retreat. However, he can feel a distinct drop in the temperature … and an increase in volume of the crackling and popping of the monster's movements. It's coming this way…

Roho grits his teeth, and makes for the edge of the pool, hoping to make it to the trees before he's grabbed by the living ice.

The fennec's path of retreat is so far not blocked … but he's not to those trees just yet

"Aieeeeee-oof!" goes the Skeek. At least there wasn't a crunch noise at the end of his fall.

Roho finds a most welcome adrenaline rush keeps his legs from collapsing immediately under the extreme stress. However, a distant part of his mind warns him that he's going to regret this later, should he manage to survive.

Envoy's shoulder muscles burn from the late catch, the Skeek being a little heavier than she anticipated. "Are you okay?" she quickly asks, not bothering to refold her wings just yet.

There's a popping noise from the monster … and then Roho's ears pick up a whistling in the air, as if something were hurtling through the air … coming in his general direction.

Roho makes a sudden swerve in the opposite direction of the oncoming noise, now heading slightly tangential to his original course.

The Skeek gasps. "You saved me! The First Ones be praised!"

"Hey!" Envoy yells at the monster, "That's not fair!"

It's a good thing the fennec chose to swerve … because a giant shard of ice comes crashing down into the ground in just the spot Roho would have been at, had he not made the sudden change of course! Furthermore, the shard explodes into icy shrapnel … but Roho is sufficiently clear of the blast radius that all he feels is a cloud of icy particles bouncing off of his fur and clothes.

Roho yelps softly, ducking the spray of ice and swerving back towards the trees again.

"Thank me later," Envoy tells the mouse, and starts to run around the monster towards Roho.

"Someone is controlling that monster," the Skeek squeaks. "There's no way that something autonomous could have come out of – off!" He breaks off his magical jargon as Envoy rushes off.

"Where?" Envoy calls back over her shoulder. "Where is the controller or the power source?" The Aeolun wishes her magic sense was a bit keener.

The fennec manages to make the mad dash to the trees … another spray of powder hinting at a more poorly aimed icy projectile that missed him yet again, hitting the trees instead. The cover these trees provide could be a good thing indeed.

The Skeek, sprawled on the ground, gets up, brushing himself up … then goes stock still as he looks up at the big ice monster, instinctively freezing in panic.

Roho calls out from the trees to Envoy, "Envoy! I think the controller may be under the ice in the pool! There was a trail leading there."

Envoy stops in her tracks, and looks back towards the pool … which she was just running away from, inconveniently. "Will you be okay if I try to find it, Roho?" she calls, getting ready to run back.

Roho nods, calling out, "Don't worry about me! But it seemed to sense I was near there, and that's when it attacked. Be careful!"

The ice creature continues to rampage about, bellowing and shrieking, and generally encouraging the mages to continue to get as far away from the pool as possible.

Envoy runs back the way she came, hoping that by keeping low the monster won't notice her right away, and using her wings to hide her darker clothing, so she presents as much white as possible towards the creature.

Whether it's due to Envoy's attempt at camouflage and keeping a low profile, or just sheer luck, it looks like she hasn't been noticed yet. She makes it within reach of the edge of the icy pool without any interference.

The Aeolun catches her breath at the edge of the ice, and tries to feel out the general location of the magic source before going further.

Alas, Envoy's newly-realized magical sense only lets her know that, yes, there is an awful lot of magic in this general area … pretty much not a thing more than her other senses already report to her.

Envoy turns to the Skeek Mage, and calls, "Can you pinpoint the magic source under the ice for me?"

"I … beh … duh … I … " The Skeek Mage shakes his head, snapping out of it for the time being. "Certainly! Ahem… " He closes his eyes and chants under his breath, forming weird wiggle-patterns with his hands.

As always, Envoy watches closely. At least, when she's not checking on the monster…

The Skeek opens one eye at Envoy, and hastily makes a "come here" motion with one hand.

Envoy runs over to the Skeek. "You've found it?" she whispers.

Roho gets ready to run at this point, figuring he may need to be a distraction…

The Skeek suddenly reaches out and tags Envoy with one paw. She's immediately struck with an odd sensation … as if her 'sensitivity' is being focused somehow…

Namely, she is able to sense a concentration now … "lines" of magic running through the body of the ice monster like a skeleton or a framework … or maybe vessels … running downward to a point in its base, where it touches the pool.

Envoy blinks, then quickly turns towards the pond while the effect lasts.

Yes, there, at the base of the monster, where it rises from the pool, there's a concentration there, deep within the shelves of ice.

Frowning, Envoy fixes the spot in her mind and spreads her wings. "Any suggestions on how to disrupt that flow?"

The Skeek seems to be a bit exhausted by his effort, as quick as it may have been. "Ah … the … the flows of magic … breaking them might … disrupt parts of the creature … but only reaching the heart … will stop it outright."

The Skeek puts his hands to his head. "Ah … something of … something magical, not part of the creature … something enchanted might disrupt the flow."

Meanwhile, over in the trees, something wet, cold and sticky, smelling of redberries, drops on Roho's muzzle.

Roho blinks upwards! He hisses, "Skiree! You shouldn't be so close!"

"SHHHH!" hisses the little bat. "It doesn't notice me! Don't give away my hiding spot!"

Envoy tells the Skeek, "I don't have anything like that, unless I count as a magical artifact myself." She starts pumping her wings, calculating how much glide she can get if she cups them for ground-effect flight across the ice…

Roho whispers up to Skiree, "Do you or Master Zahirinee keep any magical artifacts in the hut?"

Skiree looks down at Roho. *plink* Another drop of the redberry popsicle drops on Roho's nose. "Artifacts? Master Zahirinee is a seer, not a … a … an archaeologist."

Roho nods. "Well, then… May I borrow your popsicle? I'll get you another later, I promise… "

Skiree squeaks. "My popsicle? Uhm … Oh, all right! It's getting drippy anyway… Catch!"

Roho aughs! "Skiree, I can't see – " He hears the popsicle drop, and makes a fruitless grab for it.

Well, not entirely fruitless. Redberry, to be precise. The popsicle impacts Roho's arm … and sticks there. Boy, it's cold! And sticky. But that's hardly a surprise.

Roho peels the treat from his arm, and heads out towards Envoy and the Skeek, trying to stay inconspicuous.

"You'd better cover your ears," Envoy warns the Mage. "Once I get to the base of the creature, I'm going to make a really, really, annoying sound." She then jogs towards the pool and leaps into a glide that will take her across to the monster's base.

"Oh?" squeaks the Skeek … and he starts scampering away from the scene, covering his large ears as he goes.

Roho hears Envoy's takeoff. "Envoy, wait! I may have something!"

Mid-glide, Envoy can't abort now without hitting the pond-ice. "What is it, Roho?" she calls.

Roho calls back, now that it's too late for stealth, "A magically-created popsicle… Would that work?"

High and low notes reverberate through the air, and the ice monster flails about, as if batting at unseen adversaries. So far, its thrashing doesn't bring it to hit Envoy, at least.

Roho makes a run for the base of the creature…

Envoy back-beats her wings for a moment before reaching the base of the monster's back. "If I can find an opening between the plates, it might! It's slippery; be careful!"

So far, the fennec's mad dash isn't interrupted by ice bombs, running mages, or any other obstacles … but he has a bit of distance to cover yet before he reaches the edge of the frozen pool.

The monster's back is comprised of a multitude of sheaves of ice, continually being broken, shed, and reformed with every movement by the creature.

Envoy spreads her wings to keep her balance on the ice, and tries to spot any stable chink in the frozen armor. "It's buried so deep in there," she worries out loud.

The creature shifts again, and the ice under Envoy cracks and begins to move.

Meanwhile, Roho reaches the edge of the pond, as demonstrated by the sudden presence of ice under his feet.

"Yeep!" the Exile exclaims, trying to dance from foot to foot on the shifting ice.

Roho calls to Envoy, "Where are you?" He heads for the base of the creature, determined to jam the popsicle through the ice into that magic nexus, if possible. Fortunately, it's fairly easy to tell where the creature is by the cold gradient in the air. Unfortunately, he's now heading towards it on his bottom, as his legs slide out from under him when he reaches the pond.

The monster shifts its attentions again … and for the moment, the ice stops crackling under Envoy. Who knows how long the momentary stability will last, though?

"Here!" Envoy calls to Roho, as she takes advantage of the momentary calm. "I hope this doesn't mean Wynona and Gusty have run out of breath… "

So far, the Zerda's skidding is not met with any resistance. Boy, this ice is cold!

Roho thinks warm thoughts about hot toddies and thick blankets, as he skids towards the monster.

Roho holds both paws out in front of him, with the popsicle too, as he skids along.

The ice monster shrieks some more … and then quiets. Popping and crackling noises still fill the air with every motion of its arms and its neck, though.

Envoy moves to intercept the fennec, squatting down and spreading her wings across the ice. A quick glance over her shoulder brings another yelp, though! "It sees us, Roho!"

The fennec's forward skid is brought to a relatively soft stop as he bumps into the Exile. The popsicle sticks to her feathers.

Roho nods. "I know!" He hands the popsicle to Envoy. "How close are we to the base? Do you think you can jam that in?"

Envoy pulls off the popsicle, and wraps her other wing around Roho to keep him close. "If it were six feet longer. Hold on." She makes a stab at the nearest sheet of ice-monster.

The sheet shatters at the impact of Envoy's jab with the popsicle … but it immediately starts reforming.

"It's having an effect!" Envoy beams. "But we have to break through more of the ice. Roho, please forgive me in advance for the headache you're about to get."

Roho flattens his ears, afraid he knows what comes next…

Envoy fills her lungs, and screams the same high-low frequency outrage that worked against the crystal poodle-zombie years ago.

The sounds reverberate and build in intensity … Perhaps that amplification spell is still in effect! Sheaves of ice begin to shatter and break away … and the surface of the pool itself begins to convulse…

The ice monster lets out an angry roar … and reaches downward…

… and grabs Roho, lifting him high into the air!

Eyes closed against debris, Envoy tries to move forward by hammering with the popsicle.

Roho squirms in the icy grasp, gasping for breath as the strong elemental hangs on to him!

The strange magical sense given to Envoy by the Skeek shines even more brightly, even though she can't see … the "flow" is right before her! Just one more sheaf of ice… It breaks away …

Envoy stabs into the flow with the popsicle!

The ice creature hauls back, making as if winding up to pitch Roho to the horizon – and then –

The ice creature lets out a horrible wail, filled with crackling and popping noises … as its whole form starts falling apart!

Envoy opens an eye. "Uh… " She realizes she's half-way into a now collapsing tower of ice.

Roho just kind of squints his eyes shut, still encircled by a band of ice that was the creature's hand. He braces for impact…

And it all comes crashing down… Envoy catches the sound of a high-pitched Eeee scream … and then …

Reality slowly and achingly reasserts itself, as the Exile finds herself lying on the bank of the pool, staring up at the sky … the view of which is partly blotted out by the badly banged-up and scratched-up (and quite soggy) form of a blind fennec healer tending to her. She seems to be quite drenched and cold herself.

Roho finishes first aid on the Exile. "Ah, you're awake… Can you speak?"

"Do you forgive me for the headache?" Envoy asks hoarsely.

Roho chuckles softly, still dripping water. "I think that since it saved both our lives, I may be able to forgive you. Do you hurt anywhere in particular? I'm not sure exactly how to treat your kind."

Envoy tries wiggling her fingers and toes, checking for broken bones or missing digits. "You've always treated me with compassion, Roho."

Nothing broken except for the skin here and there … and that can heal.

Roho nods. "Well, when all else fails, sometimes that's the best medicine." He stands, giving the Exile some space. "If there was someone controlling that beast from the inside, they didn't make it out… "

Envoy pulls herself into a sitting position, so she can see the pond. "I lost the popsicle in the collapse. Do you think it will mess up the water for scrying?"

Roho shakes his head. "At this point, I don't think that matters… "

The pond has lost a great deal of water – much of it dispersed across the surrounding area. Chunks of ice are still floating in the pond, slowly melting. There's also a bat body bobbing in the water that Envoy can see from her vantage point.

She can also see that it looks like a few ice projectiles got hurled in the direction of the spot where the Air Mages were camping out. One of the trees is knocked over, and several branches are broken.

"You were right, Roho," Envoy says, morosely. "It looks like the pilot didn't make it out alive. Wynona and Gusty got attacked by those ice-spears. We should go see if they're okay. Can you walk that far?"

Roho nods. "I think I can make it… Do you want to get the bat out of the water while I check them out?"

Envoy blinks. "Okay. I'll try not to… ruin it." Since she's already wet, the Exile wades back into the pool.

Roho turns and hurries towards the Air Mages' area.

While Roho rushes off, Envoy wades to the floating bat body. It's Scarlet, a bit slashed up here and there, and quite definitely out.

Envoy starts pushing the ice-boulder the unconscious Eeee is collapsed on, hoping to float her as far possible towards shore before risking having to pick her up.

The Eeee brushes against cold ground, as Envoy reaches the edge of what's left of the water.

Leaning in close, the Exile listens for breathing, and also feels the back of the neck for bruises or another of those nasty necroplasmic control blobs.

Bruises are everywhere. Breathing is not. And there are no gashes in the back of the neck or icky black pasty things oozing out.

Envoy tilts back the Eeee's head and pinches the nostrils closed before locking muzzles and blowing into the body. Maybe it's not too late, she figures.

It takes some time … and effort … but at last, the Eeee coughs up water, then sounds as if she's choking.

Envoy releases the Eeee's nostrils and helps roll her so that she won't choke on the water.

Water spills out of the Eeee's mouth, and her body convulses as she coughs up a couple of lungs-full of the pool.

The Exile watches with mixed emotions in her expression, but keeps ready in case the bat should collapse or start choking again.

Roho returns around now with a rather dazed but overall unharmed bat and wolf in tow. "Are they alive, Envoy?" The loud cough a moment later answers his question.

Envoy blinks and turns to the others. "Oh… ah, yes. Getting there. I'm glad to see you two weren't hurt."

"Cyrona!" A white bat rushes past Envoy, stumbling to the ground next to Envoy and her rescue. "Cyrona, you … how could you … ?"

Gusty stumbles over as well, collapsing on a rock that he uses for a makeshift stool. "Ungh. Ohhh … my head. The backlash… Ow."

Roho moves over by Envoy and Wynona, crouching down and putting an ear to Scarlet's chest.

Envoy sidles up to Gusty, and whispers, "This body transfer thing was done in Babel. I've heard about the politics there. Do you think someone may have programmed Scarlet to do this?"

Yes, there's a heartbeat, all right … and Scarlet hacks and coughs, her body shaking with each effort.

Gusty growls at this. "Sabotage, eh? Well, doesn't that take all!"

Roho lifts his head. "Okay, she's going to live." He turns to Envoy. "I'm still unsure if it's really her. I've had at least three people tell me that she didn't seem herself anymore. We all wrote it off as the result of being dead … but could they have used the transfer to mask the addition of another person to the body?"

Wynona looks around. "Wow. You really did it! You stopped the monster!"

"A Mage helped us," Envoy says, and looks around for the Skeek. "I guess he ran off when I warned him about the attack. And I don't know where Roho got the magic popsicle from."

Wynona blinks at Envoy. "Magic … popsicle?"

Roho chuckles softly. "A popsicle that Snowstorm made for Skiree… It was created with magic, so it apparently worked to disrupt the magic of the golem."

Wynona says, "Oh! I … guess that makes sense … if you think about it like that." She slowly gets up. "I'd better go find where everyone ran off to. Let them know that the monster is gone."

Scarlet hacks again, and wheezes, "I … I didn't mean … I would never hurt … " She looks up at Wynona. "I'm so sorry… " She then breaks into another coughing and wheezing fit.

Envoy watches the recovering Cyrona-Scarlet. "The monster … right. I never saw Scarlet really work magic before, but from her stories of Sylvania, and what I've been told about her return to Aelfhem, I don't see how she could have had the power to raise that thing."

Wynona just shakes her head and backs away from Scarlet. She then picks up her pace, and, in an uneven voice, squeaks, "I … I'll be back soon! Got to … find the others!" And then she takes flight, putting distance quickly between herself and the scene.

Roho listens to Scarlet's recovery. "Envoy, would you mind turning her upside down? She needs to get that water out. If you want her to live. I'm sure many others do not, but I think answers are going to be important in the near future."

"You'd better lay back," Envoy says to the Eeee. "It will be easier to lift your legs up that way."

Roho acks, "No, not upside down like that! Just … have her face the ground, and tilt her head down."

Gusty snorts. "So, this is the one who did all this, eh? Figures." He slowly gets to his feet, shaking his head. "I'm going to go see what's left of my stuff. If you need anything, just howl."

Roho nods to Gusty. "Thank you for your assistance."

Envoy ohs, and after waving to the lupine, she just helps the Eeee get into a more penitent position.

Scarlet just obligingly ends up in whatever position she's rolled to.

Roho makes sure Envoy has Scarlet draining properly, then just kind of flops backwards. "Why do things always end up like this, Envoy?"

Envoy shrugs, and suggests, "Because we keep surviving?"


GMed by Greywolf

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Today is 15 days after Candlemass, Year 28 of the Reign of Archelaus the First (6127)