7 Midsummer, 6107 RTR (Dec 23, 2005) After waking up in the apartment, the group decides to explore the southern tunnel next.
(Amelia) (Axel) (Blood From A Stone) (Olivia) (Stonebarrow) (Sylvania) (Zahnrad)

Time is somewhat relative when underground, which may be why the ancient Skeeks that built these subterranean apartments included a false horizon. While the other spelunkers are still in the bedrooms, Axel had set up his 'nest' in front of the mural in the main room. As the fake sun begins to appear over the glass mosaic horizon, he has the strangest urge to somehow announce it out loud.

Djivan is still quite asleep. He's on his back, head draped back and tongue hanging out of his mouth. Every now and then, he makes a gurgling, snoring, sound.

"I'm telling you," Zahnrad mumbles right into Amy's ear. He's apparently half asleep and apparently still dreaming, "The sprocket goes in the wonker-rocker, which feeds to garple-snap lever. Putting it the doozleburp box is just silly."

Olivia wakes up slowly, wondering what in the world is oozing onto her left ear… until she suddenly realizes Djivan is drooling on it! She icks and sits up, rubbing the offending ear. "G'morning to you too, slobber-breath," she mutters.

Axel rises, stretching. He lifts his arms to the heavens – or, at least, the rocks blocking out the heavens – stretches his wings, then leans his head back. "KAAW," he crows out in a raucous cry, "Kaa, kaa, KAW!"
Amelia jerks fully awake as Axel crows, and struggles to untangle herself from the bedroll – accidentally kicking Zahn a few times in the process. Once free she grabs her halberd and races out to see what the problem is…

At the sudden cawing, Djivan jerks upright and screams, "RAID! RAID! Hide de women and jewelry! Protect de croissants! Save de turnips! Er, wait. Dere no raid. What de heck is dat?"

"Ack, ow, jeez, what the, oof! Not there! Owwwwwwwww!" Zahnrad complains loudly as he's suddenly and rudely awakened by getting kicked in several sensitive areas. Instead of investigating the noise, he seems quite content to just lay on the floor and curled up into a ball.

Olivia scoots even further away from the Skreek in their shared bedroll. "Calm down, it's just Axel," she tells him. "He did this when he woke up at the Weavers', too, when Isolde said I had to look after him."

By the time Amy reaches Axel, he's gone from cawing to preening his feathers. He has a mouthful of one when she arrives, the man busily trying to straighten the fronds by pulling his feather through his lips. When he sees her he looks up and waves brightly.

Djivan wipes the slobber off the side of his face. "Did a ritual beating commence aftervard? I feel like a ritual beating right abou' now," he notes.

Naked and with fur alternately poofed out and matted, Amy spins around with her weapon and asks Axel, "What? What is it?"

Olivia stretches and yawns widely. "Nah, all the apprentices in the cabins near mine just started yelling at him and pounding on the walls. That scared him and got him to shut up. Had to drag him out from under the bed afterwards, though."

Axel gives Amy a blank stare, mouth still full of feather. "Mmh? Mmhrrhrmrhmm." His wings flutter a bit.

Stunned at the sight of Axel with a mouth full of feathers, Amy lowers her weapon and asks, "Uhh… are you hungry or something?"

"Buh. I don' know vhat time it is, but it gotta be too early," Djivan complains and yawns himself. "Can ve go back to be' now?" And then he tries to pull Olivia back down onto the bedroll.

Axel takes a moment to straighten the feather a bit more, still staring at Amy, and then he lets it drop. "Something," he answers, nodding. Then he flicks a wing forward and begins straighting another primary in the same way he did the first.

Olivia actually doesn't fight him and happily snuggles back down – now that Djivan has taken care of the slobber problem, that is. "Well, I guess we can snooze for a few more minutes, but I'm betting after all that noise, the others are awake now, too."

"Oh, well… okay then," Amy tells the bird man, then sets her weapon against the wall and shuffles into the kitchen to put the kettle on.

Djivan tickles Olivia's left ear. "I be' de great moohahmoohah on de other side of de world is awake after dat," he grumbles. "Vhich means ve prolly get back to explorin' deeper. Dere are other t'ings I rather explore… "

Olivia kisses Djivan's neck before resting her head against his chest. "What, last night wasn't enough… exploring for you?" she teases.

Axel goes about his morning preening ritual oblivious to the havoc or the noise. Curiously, he reaches over to prod Amy's halberd with a yellow-skinned foot. When the weapon suddenly slides several inches, the bird-man jumps back and hides behind his nest.

"Heck no!" Djivan notes, then sighs and sits up, taking Olivia with him. "But, ve vill haf a lot of annoying knockers on de doorers soon, so ve prolly shoul' get presentable."

Amelia does a check on what food they have, and wonders if Axel will eat oatmeal… or how safe it is to give him hot food in the first place, in case it makes him burst into flames or something. "What do you like for breakfast, Axel?" she asks, and wonders why Zahn isn't up yet.

Zahnrad finally wobbles out the doorway to his room, walking rather funny. He's wearing his pants, at least and shakes a fist at Axel, grumbling.

Olivia shrugs and kisses the gypsy again. "Suit yourself," she says, then slides out of the bedroll and gropes about the room for a clean change of clothes.

Djivan seems less worried about clean clothes. He just puts on exactly what he wore yesterday. Well, after a few minutes of beating his socks on the wall to soften them up.

Feeling more awake and a bit bouncy now that the adrenalin rush is dying down, Amy gives Zahn a kiss on the cheek and says, "Good morning, sleepy-head!"

Still hiding behind his nest, Axel gives Zahnrad a cheery wing-wave as he eyes the halberd suspiciously. In answer to Amy, he calls out, "BREAD! Bacon cheese carrots jerky meat … " The bird man wheezes, apparently forgetting to inhale during his rapid, breathy, response.

"Mmghpth," Zahnrad replies briefly and turns towards Amy. He then blinks repeatedly and says lamely, "You're naked."

"Well, I've got jerky, and Olivia brought some cheese and bread," Amelia notes, then Zahn's words sink in. "Oh, right… I should put something on before Djivan comes out," she says, and heads back towards the bedrooms. "Keep an eye on the kettle!"

Zahnrad raises his hand to protest, or something, then just drops it and wanders into the kitchen. "I wonder if there is some ice in that cold closet," he mumbles, still walking a bit funny.

After putting on a clean shirt (bright blue) and her third-best pair of work overalls (mostly purple with patches of orange and red), Olivia brushes out her hair and then braids it deftly, without the use of a mirror. She then puts her rose-hat on her head and finally looks ready to greet the others.

Deciding the halberd won't jump out and attack him, or at least just becoming bored with psychotic self-defense strategies, Axel flops over against his nest and begins pushing his head against a piece of wood. Maybe he's a bit itchy.

"Never fear, I be here!" Djivan declares to the living room as he marches out looking wrinkled and disheveled. "No bowing now, it make me blush!"

Amy brushes quickly past Djivan as she heads for her bedroom. "Morning!" she squeaks.

Djivan just barely misses pinching Amy's butt as she dashes by. "Hey, like de outfit, or lack dere of! Woo!" he calls after her. Now, that elicits a response from Zahn as his head pops out of the kitchen door. "Don't even think about it," he growls at the rat.

Olivia comes in just after Amy's mad dash back to her bedroom, blinking a few times in surprise. "Er, why didn't Amy have any clothes on?" she asks the world at large. Then looking at Zahn, she asks, "And why are you standing funny? Trip over something in the night?"

Next to Zahn, the kettle begins to boil.

Zahn's eyebrow just twitches at Olivia's comment and he disappears back into the kitchen to deal with the kettle. Olivia could swear she hears Zahn muttering something about crazy mice and rats.

Axel watches people move about, still rubbing the back of his head against the piece of wood he incorporated into his nest last night. When the kettle blows, he sits up suddenly, squawking.

Olivia shares a glance and a shrug with the gypsy. "I guess some guys are just sensitive about balance issues," she mutters to him.

"Or about not getting a… " Djivan starts to say, then glares at Axel! "Oh, don' vou start again or I make vou eat my socks!"

Zahnrad, left with the teapot, checks it to see if any tea was actually put in it yet. "Great. Left in the kitchen. Now, which tea did she say guys shouldn't have… " he wonders.

"And believe me, no one wants that fate," Olivia teases, then waves to the bird man. "How are you this morning, Axel? Did you sleep well?"

Amelia returns shortly, mostly fully dressed and with a brush in hand. "Use the tea in the brown jar, Zahn," she says as soon as she spots Zahnrad looking about. "Everyone sleep alright? I swear the sound of the ventilation fan doesn't compare to wind and the creaking of trees."

Zahn puts down the bag of tea he was about to use and switches to the jar instead. Not quite sure how much to use, he puts in a liberal amount and sets the pot aside to simmer and heads back out into the main room. He heads right over to Amy and offers to take the brush. "I'll brush your tail and hair out," he says.

To which Djivan coughs … and happens to oddly sounds like 'whipped'.

Olivia doesn't even look over at the Skreek – her arm just whips out and she lightly punches Djivan in the gut.

Djivan oofs! "What was dat for?" he asks her.

Axel leans away from Djivan, apparently with it enough to perceive the dire threat. After that, he looks to Olivia and answers, "It's morning," in a very cheery tone. It would seem Axel is well.

Amelia smiles and hands the brush to Zahn. "That's sweet, thanks!"

Zahnrad takes the brush and motions for Amy to sit down. He then glances over at Djivan and says, "And you can prepare breakfast for Olivia and pour the tea when it's ready you smarta… " He stops right there and finishes with, "Pardon me."

"Keep your comments to yourself or I'll tell Zahn how you massaged my sore feet for me last night," Olivia says into Djivan's ear.

Djivan ahems! and glares at Olivia. "Jus who side are vou on?" he asks.

Olivia grins in an evil way. "My side, of course."

"Den move vour side into de kitchen and let's finish de food," Djivan notes and playfully pushes Olivia towards the kitchen.

Standing up, Axel stretches again. His big, colorful wings brush the ceiling as he reaches up and up. Not a muscular man by any means, Axel's a bit on the thin side these days. In fact, he's also yellowing along his feet and hands, and he's got more feathers now than he did when Olivia first met him.

Olivia grabs the gypsy's hand and pulls her along with him. "Only if your side helps out," she says, dragging him into the kitchen.

Sitting down and trying not to swish her tail, Amelia asks Axel, "I guess you didn't sense any ghosts last night? We should all decide which direction we want to explore in next. There's the Saber-Toothed Rabbit passage that I'm pretty sure heads south, or the Two-Headed Skeek going east… "

"I be de moral support?" Djivan offers as they head into the kitchen.

"You'll be the moral support that makes the oatmeal," comes Olivia's reply.

Zahnrad plops himself down behind Amelia and eases her tail into his lap. As he starts brushing from the ends inward towards the bone, he asks, "Well, what is above us to the south and east? Are there ruins or buildings or whatnot that may be a second exit from here in those directions?"

"Yay! I wan a hammer so I can mash it up more!" Djivan says and rubs his hands together. The evil cackling is a bit worrisome too.

"Well, if my sense of direction is correct, I think the old Manor House could be over the eastern tunnel," Amy says. "South should go under the town and maybe even lead towards the Barrow itself out in the swamp."

After stretching a bit, Axel peers at Zahn and Amy. He tilts his head, squawks quietly, then walks over and sits down next to the squirrels. There, he picks up Amy's tail and puts it in his mouth.

"Hm. Both could be interesting. We might find an old storage place for the manor and perhaps useful stuff. But, I would like to get into the Barrow. I've wanted to for a long time. At least this way I wont' have to use explosives," Zahn notes as he brushes away, having to slow down now and then to ease out the matting. "Hey, I'm brushing that!" he complains at Axel.

Olivia's grumbling can be heard all the way into the living room area. "I swear, you must be part Titanian… and sheesh, Zahn, how much tea did you put into the kettle?! This is way too strong, I'm going to have to thin it a bit with hot water… this could take a while!"

"Uh, I didn't measure how much … I don't usually make tea," Zahn admits and peers over Amy's shoulder.

Amelia hmms at the tug on her tail, but doesn't chide Axel. "Djivan, there should be some jerky in the cold-box. Why don't you bring some for Axel? I think he's hungry."

Axel drops the tail, blinking at Zahnrad. Instead, he picks up Zahnrad's tail and puts that in his mouth.

Finding no hammers, Djivan goes about making oatmeal and grumbling how dull it is without smashing stuff. "An, I no part Titanian. But, I hear dat Zahnny in there invited a Titanian over into his workshop from his brother," he says as he stops midway in the oatmeal and looks for the jerky in the cold-closet.

Zahnrad's eyebrow twitches again. "Why are you eating my tail?" he asks Axel.

If Axel's eating Zahnrad's tail, there isn't a lot of chewing involved. Instead, he seems to be sliding the tail through his teeth. It's the same motion he made when 'chewing' on his own wing. He gives Zahnrad a blank look.

"He's grooming it," Amelia explains. "He doesn't know about combs and brushes… "

"Did something eat your brain last night?" Zahn asks Axel then blinks and looks at Amelia. "Okay, but I an not kissing him or something." Djivan emerges from the kitchen carrying a bunch of dried meat and heads over to Axel. "Petrified flesh for you," he says and holds it out.

"I wouldn't mind looking south either," Amy says. "I'm worried that there could be ghouls to the east if it goes under the manor grounds."

Olivia calls from the kitchen, "All right, I think I have the tea sorted out! So are we just eating tea and oatmeal, or does anyone want something else with that?"

Axel drops Zahnrad's tail and grabs the 'petrified flesh' with both hands. Then the bird man commences gnawing on it, an action visibly different from what he had been doing to the squirrel tails.

"Hmm. Good point, that. After all the stories about previous manor owners, ick," Zahn notes with a shiver and moving to work on Amelia's hair with the brush now. "And you know, I bet we could ask Igor about what is under the manor, anyway… "

"All I know is those holes in the crypts have to lead someplace," Amelia says.

Food delivered, Djivan heads back into the kitchen to finish up the oatmeal.

"Well, those holes might have been old," Zahnrad notes.

"There might be critters to the south too," Amelia notes, her voice lowering. "Unless it really is just otters responsible for the Rootrunner's crop circles… "

"I bet it is just the otters. You know what Emmett is like. He has no shame, I hear he even hit on Natasha," Zahnrad says as he brushes carefully.

"I'd just expect the circles to be more suggestive if they were done by otters," Amelia says. "All that geometry… I used to figure you were the one who made them, Zahn."

"Well, there was … er," Zahnrad says hastily and goes back to brushing.

Axel looks back and forth as people talk, peering over the hunk of jerky he's gnawing on.

Olivia comes back into the living room with Djivan behind her, both of them loaded down with mugs of tea and bowls of oatmeal. "What's this about geometry?" she asks, quirking an eyebrow.

"How's the jerky, Axel? It's made from fish… and Rughrat… and some other stuff, like honey."

"Yeah, vhat dis geometry t'ing? Is it kinky?" Djivan adds and grins at Olivia.

"Mmmmmrrmrrmahhmm," Axel answers, sounding upbeat about the whole matter.

"It's circles and triangles and stuff," Amy says, waving her hand and turning her attention to the food. "I'm starving! I must have overworked myself last ni… yesterday."

"You were rather energe… " Zahnrad notes, then breaks into a fit of coughing. He just takes his tea and oatmeal, seemingly quite happy to stare at them.

Olivia sets down one of the larger bowls of oatmeal in front of the Kadie girl and grins hugely, but says nothing.

Amelia digs right in!

"So why are the circles and triangles and stuff in the crops, then?" Olivia asks.

Zahnrad addresses the others. "So, we're going south today, if no one has any objections?" he says.

Djivan nudges Olivia and says, "De crops are just tryin' to better demselves, maybe? Or maybe de crops are just 'nuts' and like to make funny shapes?" He grins.

Olivia sighs loudly at this and takes a large gulp of her tea, glaring at the Skreek.

Djivan looks pleased.

Olivia harrumphes in a disgruntled way, then says, "Going south is fine by me, although any particular reason why?"

"It goes towards the Barrow," Amy says.

"Well, hopefully less likely to run into monsters which want to suck the marrow from our bones and build instruments out of them. And yeah, that," Zahn says.

"Barrel?" Axel asks around his jerky.

"No, barrow," Amy tells Axel. "It's what you call a burial mound. Although nobody knows what it really is, and most of it is below the swamp now."

Olivia hmms. "Should be interesting if we can actually get close to it."

"The Wingnuts offered to drain the swamp around it once, many years ago. No one would go for it," Zahnrad notes.

Axel makes a deep-throated noise that sounds like a cross between a warble and a 'hmmm' before going back to his meal.

"We'd get in trouble if anyone knew we'd found a way into it," Amelia says. "The town gets a lot of money from explorers coming to try and get into it from above."

Olivia twitches her whiskers mischievously. "Well, there's no law that says we have to tell the way to get to it from the underground if we find out how… "

"It's only a matter of time before someone does, though. Whatever is inside belongs to the town, not some loony overly rich wannabes coming in from out of town," Zahnrad points out, then nods towards Olivia.

"Kaw!" contributes Axel.

"Mebbe it be a temple dedicated to de carnal pleasures, eh?" Djivan suggests and nudges Olivia again.

Finishing off her bowl, Amelia burps and then rubs her belly. "That hit the spot! Anyone want to use the shower before we head out?"

"Given we'll probably just get dirty soon anyway, I think I'll pass on the shower," Zahn notes and starts eating quickly to finish off his food.

Olivia begins gathering up the breakfast dishes and answers cryptically, "No, I'm fine. I had a very late bath last night."

Djivan whistles.

Amelia stands up and stretches, then says, "I'll go check on the boat and make sure there aren't any monsters at the door again."

"I'll pack up our stuff and shut the room down," Zahnrad says and stands now. He disappears into the hallway, probably to go into the bedrooms.

"I guess that leaves me with the dishes, then," Olivia says and goes back to the kitchen to give them a quick wash and dry.

"I'll go harass and distract de dish washer!" Djivan declares and slinks off into the kitchen. A few moments later there's a scream, then bang!. Someone just met Mister Cooking Pan.

The tunnel of the Saber-Toothed Rabbit goes on for quite a ways, and not in an entirely straight line. Unlike the other tunnels so far, it also has no side-passages – although there are spots along the smooth walls that look like passages or landings may have been covered up or sealed at some point. After awhile, a light finally appears ahead.

A wide area opens up from the tunnel, forming a sort of parking lot for many boats, although none are present at the moment. A set of large double doors made of the shiny metallic-glass material stand closed at the end of the dock, with a glowing crystal above them and a plaque with Olympian writing next to them.

Zahnrad leans forward in the boat, peering curiously at the docks, looking for signs of any recent activity. "We really need to find the source of that material; it's perfect for an engine," he notes absently.

"Oooo," Axel says almost immediately. The metallic-glass doors catch his attention like a siren's song, and he leans forward to peer at them, red eyes glinting in the dim light.

"Does he ever t'ink of antyhing else?" Djivan asks Olivia. "He got a girl with a big … tail, and he worried about engines."

Amy brings the boat to rest in one of the parking slips, and looks around as well. "Doesn't look dangerous," she says.

Olivia grins at the Skreek. "I'm afraid all thought of machinery sends him into a trance… Amy hasn't been able to break him of that yet! May never be able to, come to think of it… "

Axel's one of the first out of the boat. Though he stumbles on egress, his wings supporting him with sudden flapping. After that, well, he makes a beeline for the door.

Zahnrad slinks out of the boat, on all fours, even, and is peering at the ground as he's looking for any recent traffic here. "If he trips a trap and get s himself hurt, it's not my fault," he comments absently on Axel's flurry towards the door.

Like the other tunnels, the floor is surprisingly dust-free, as if someone had just swept it. The double doors are flat and blank, except for a small slot in the center of the one on the right.

Olivia gets out of the boat, too, casting a worried glance over at Axel. "I think I'd better keep an eye on him," she mutters to Djivan, then follows carefully after the bird man.

Zahnrad grumbles and gets up. "No noticeable activity here, but no dust, either. Drat," he says and looks to Amy. "Shall we head to the door, too? Looks like the only way out of here other than the water tunnels."

Amy secures the boat and takes up her halberd, just in case anything nasty pops out… then notices the lack of handles or hinges on the doors. "How do they open?"

Axel stops in front of the door, looking up, and up, until he spots the crystal light. Then, he just stands there transfixed.

Zahnrad digs in his pouch and pulls out the odd 'key' they found earlier. He holds it up and comments, "I have an idea on how." He heads towards the doors where Olivia, Djivan, and Axel stand now.

Olivia looks over her shoulder at the approaching Zahn. She sees the 'key' in his hand and exclaims, "Oh! I forgot that we found that! Good thinking, Zahn."

"Be careful!" Amy warns.

"Now, I want everyone to stand back before I use this. It's quite possible the door might explode, fall on me, snap forward and squick me, or a trapdoor open under me, when I use this," Zahn says in all seriousness.

"Shiny," Axel advises.

"Be really careful then!" Amy warns.

Olivia firmly takes Axel by the wrist and drags him backwards a few paces while Zahn goes for the door. "It won't be much fun to admire the shiny doors if they fall on you, Axel," she says with the ghost of a smile. "Let's stand back here for a minute… "

Djivan scoots – > that way.

Zahnrad sticks out his tongue and bites down on it. Carefully, he tries to slip the odd key into the slot in the door. His tail flicks in agitation.

Axel's expression turns pouty, with him frowning and looking at the door longingly. Apparently, shiny objects that crush him are just as good!

There is a loud 'click' sound once the key-card is fully inserted, and a slight hum goes through the door. But nothing else happens.

Zahn tentatively pushes on the door.

Again, nothing happens, although the hum is still present.

Grumbling, Zahn tries to push the door sideways in case it slides.

The Kadie's hands slide right across the super-smooth surface.

The humming is all well and good, but Axel's attention seems to require something more. Like shininess, or, well, motion. The bird man begins to idly look around, making birdlike noises.

Looking irritated now, Zahnrad removes the key from the slot. "I think it's broken," he announces.

As soon as the key is removed, the doors slide open, vanishing into the walls…

And beyond them is very large, very brightly lit chamber full of fantastic shapes…

Zahn turns and glares at the now missing doors. "Oh sure, open now right after… " he says, voice quickly trailing off.

Olivia jumps a little, but looks pleased. "Well, if it is, it's broken in just the right way," she announces, finally letting go of Axel's wrist.

There is a breeze that blows out of the newly opened chamber as well, and with it comes a flurry of dust. Apparently this place doesn't undergo the same self-cleaning that the tunnels do.

And, of course, Axel's attention is taken up by the moving doors. Once they vanish into the wall he frowns again, but Olivia's releasing him at least lets him walk forward. He 'bravely' proceeds forward, only to sputter and cough on the dust – then flee back behind Olivia.

Undeterred by dust, Djivan marches forward and right into the newly opened room. "Yay, stuff!" he declares.

Olivia coughs at the outrushing of dust, then pulls a hanky from her overalls pocket and covers her mouth and nose with it. She gives the bird man an amused look. "Afraid of dust?" she asks in a muffled voice.

"Makes … throat … wheezy … sad," Axel complains, coughing. It also makes Axel dirty, and he seems to be able to feel it, because he shakes himself and scatters the dust further about the room.

Stuff indeed! Light comes not from filtered crystals, but from brightly glowing tubes that line the walls and ceiling. Worktables and racks are scattered around, and in the center of the room, held up on leg-like supports, is a partially disassembled cylindrical object of considerable size. The exposed regions are full of tubes and other objects, and some kind of dangerous looking series of metallic-glass pinwheels.

Covering her nose and mouth with one hand, Amy steps in and looks around warily, not recognizing anything beyond the tables and stools. The chamber seems to extend onward for hundreds of yards…

"He hates taking a bath. Dirt makes bath necessary," Zahnrad notes to Olivia. And then Zahnrad makes a beeline into the room as well. "It's a workshop! Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes," he says and scurries about as if he' just ingested thirty pounds of sugar. He makes a quick circular path towards the cylinder in the middle.

Olivia fishes around in her other pocket and finds a second hanky, which she gives to Axel. "Put this over your nose and mouth if the dust really bothers you," she instructs, then steps into the workshop. She gives a low whistle. "Far out,"she comments, going around the room and admiring.

Djivan is, of course, looking to see what sorts of objects he can steal. Er, rescue.

Axel peers over Olivia's now dustier shoulder, then takes the hanky. He wraps it around his face, making him look like the Bandit of Bosch, before he, too, rushes inside. Once in the room, he follows Zahnrad to the center device in order to stare at the pinwheels.

The cylinder is laying on its side, with ramps and scaffolds set up for easy access. There are sections that look torn, as if it was mounted on something larger at one point. A quick estimate would put it at twenty yards long and eight feet wide.

There are lots of boxes of bits laying about – nuts and bolts, screws and simple tools, many of them made of the strange shiny metal or else showing the rust of iron.

Zahnrad is going up the scaffolding and peering with rapt interest into the tube. "It's an engine! It has to be!" he declares. "I'm not sure how it works, but I recognize a few things, like propellers. Why does it have a series of them though? What does that do? I need paper! I need to work out how air would flow in this!" Okay, Zahnrad seems more excited than ever, really … a scary sort of excited.

On the opposite side of the artifact, Amelia pokes at some hoses with the blunt end of her weapon, and the ancient rubber immediately crumbles into yet more dust.

Axel, meanwhile, pushes a pinwheel to try and make it spin.

"Isn't it too big?" Amy points out, peering into a big nozzle at the rear of the thing. The blades of the 'pinwheel' turn easily at Axel's touch, and it isn't until he looks at his fingers that the bird-man realizes they've been shallowly cut.

"Quick! Someone check the workbenches! Look for transparent sheets with diagrams on them! There has to be some plans in here somewhere," Zahnrad calls out. "Too big? Depends on what it powered, doesn't it? I bet this could move something huge"

The bird-man wiggles his fingers, dripping strange misty-red blood on the ground. "Ow," he complains, though weakly, as if he were announcing his injury merely out of habit. Once personal injury loses its shine (a mere several seconds), Axel pushes the pinwheel again.

"There are more pieces further on," Amy points out. A few dozen yards away is another big hunk of broken machinery, and beyond that another…

Olivia sifts through some of the tools of iron and shiny metal, trying to figure out what they're used for. "Boy, if someone took the iron bits from these things and melted them down, they'd make a fortune," she observes softly. Then at Zahn's insistence, she looks around where she's standing for plans to the strange artifact.

The pinwheels turn again, but then grind to a stop. Something deep in the machine goes 'clunk'.

"Really?" Zahnrad says and scurries back down the scaffolding. He runs in circles, basically, apparently torn at just what he wants to look at next.

"Ow." Push. "Ow." Push. "Ow." The pinwheel turns and turns, scattering glittery light around the room – at least until it stops. "Aww." Axel's blood evaporates on the ground like morning dew in the light of the rising sun.

Amelia starts searching the tables and racks and boxes. "Iron… why aren't there any nails? Nails we could use… not these… fastener thingies."

Zahnrad really looks like his brain is going to overload. He darts down the length of the room, unable to resist trying to look at the other bits.

The chunks of machinery on display further on are in much worse shape than the supposed engine pod. Some are completely bare of any kind of outer skin, showing skeleton-like structures filled with crumbled tubing or strange shapes, including wires that look like they're made of glass. At the very end though, the chamber opens up into a large vertical shaft, circled by ramps that lead further down, where more workshop layers can be glimpsed. A hot breeze flows up from the bottom, which is shrouded in darkness (apparently the lighting isn't intact further down). The top of the shaft is covered with hanging cranes and gantries, although the cables are long gone.

"Hey, look!" Amelia declares, having found a table with wheels at the base. She pushes it around happily. "Now something like this is useful! Too bad it would sink the boat… "

Trailing a small line of blood that evaporates steadily, Axel abandons the now, apparently, broken pinwheel to wander around. Eventually he comes across the large vertical shaft, where he leans forward to enjoy the warm breeze.

Zahnrad spends some time looking around the far end, then scurries his way back. "There's more below! This was a factory," he declares, voice all high, squeaky, and excited. "The things we could learn in here!" he yells, grabbing Amelia's shoulders and shaking her lightly. "We can't tell anyone about it. I need time to catalog, to diagram and analyze!"

Amy's head snaps back and forth, either from nodding or from the shaking. "Sssure, but… you aren't gonna try and take anything out are you?" she finally asks

Olivia gives Zahnrad a very worried look over the top of her handkerchief. "Don't just stand there and get shaken, Amy, smack some sense back into Zahn's noggin before he explodes!" she calls.

"Depends on if I can find any plans or not! I need a secret place to house anything I take from here so no one else can find it," Zahnrad says and finally quits shaking her.

Rubbing her neck, Amy glances towards Olivia and gives a helpless shrug. "I guess… but I don't see anything like the big machines you have in your workshop, Zahn. Just these little hand tools."

Leaning back, Axel peers down the shaft for a moment. Then, snapping his wings out, he takes a step back … and then jumps down the shaft!

"The larger machines are probably down lower in the chamber. It goes a long way down," Zahnrad says and goes to the workbenches and starts searching around, looking for plans similar to those the Titanian left in his care.

Olivia catches Axel's movement out of the corner of her eye and gasps. "Axel!" she screeches, running to the entrance of the shaft. "What are you doing?!"

The warm updraft is almost enough to keep Axel from having to flap to stay airborne, but not quite. After dropping two levels, it gets noticeably darker in the shaft, and down below he catches glimpses of paired pinpricks of light. Maybe from shiny things, or maybe from blinking eyes.

"It's warm down here," Axel calls back, sounding his most coherent since, well, a … it's been a while. "Warm, warm, warm … " he chants, circling slowly as he uses the updraft to maintain a steady descent.

Olivia leans heavily against the wall and mutters, "At least he has wings to keep him afloat… " Then she calls down to Axel, "Well, can you see anything interesting down there? How well can you see in the dark, anyway?"

"It's probably a hot spring down there!" Amy warns when she gets to the rail. "You'll get wet!"

"It's dark down here," Axel answers, which also answers how well he can see in the dark. "Shiny lights! One … two … Two shiny lights!" The bird-man descends, aiming for the 'shiny lights.' At the 'get wet' part Axel air-brakes, slowing his descent as the allure of shiny meets the terror that is water.

Zahnrad gets more agitated and frantic as he scours the workshop and finds no plans or any sort of writing. He's actually even cursing under his breath. Whatever is going on with Axel, he's completely oblivious to it.

The lights go out, or move off, it's hard to tell when you're moving as well. A large cloud of steam also bursts up under Axel, and he can dimly hear a sort of rhythmic thumping further down.

"Well, keep telling us what you see down there, so we know you're all right!" Olivia calls back. "And when you land, see if you can find a way to turn on some more lights there!"

"Yes!" Axel calls back. He also squawks indignantly at the steam, being wet. At least it wet and hot, anyway. "Lights moving!" Being the lights are the only thing he can actually see well, Axel tries to glide down towards one while clumsily trying to dodge any further steamings.

Going after the lights in the darkness may not be the best of ideas, as Axel suddenly collides with the unseen ramp railing before he can avoid it.

Zahnrad, not to leave completely empty handed tries to grab and stuff whatever tools he can take with himself into his pouches, pockets, and pack.

None of the tools are immediately recognizable, but there'll probably be time to work that out later.

Axel makes a resounding thunk that echoes off the shaft's walls. He also squawks, though that's cut short by having the breath knocked out of him. As it is, he ends up hanging askew, tangled in the railing. "Awrk," he wheezes, looking around. "Found wall!"

"Uh, maybe you should try to walk back up?" Amy calls down, not liking the darkness below. "Back up to where you can see!"

Djivan has been swiping stuff too, apparently as he's now waddling around the workshop looking like he's crapped his pants, or something. Zahnrad points at him and shouts, "Those are mine!"

Before Axel can go anywhere, he first has to struggle to pull himself up – and decide which way is up, and which is down. Turns out he ended up hanging by one foot and a wing, nearly upside-down. The struggle to get himself on solid ground would be comical, and if he had any ego to speak of, he'd be glad for the darkness.

"Head for the light, Axel," Amy calls down.

And, a ways off and lying on the floor, is a glowing red orb that Axel can see. It doesn't illuminate much beyond the floor immediately around it though.

Axel, once up, nods in the darkness – then starts stumbling down the steps towards the red orb. The echo of him descending is clearly audible.

As Axel gets closer, the red orb scoots away, until it's thumping up some stairs towards the next level of the ramp.

Axel pauses, not used to lights fleeing from him. He peers at the light, then suddenly chases after it – albeit more carefully than he flew after it earlier.

Olivia looks askance at Amy and then calls down, "Axel, I thought you were coming back up? Why does it sound like you're heading down again?"

"Heading towards the light," Axel calls back, in hot pursuit.

"Why doesn't he just set himself on fire again?" Amy whispers to Olivia, not wanting Axel to actually hear the suggestion.

The bouncing red ball keeps leading Axel upwards now, and the ambient light is increasing. He can see some sort of cable attached to the light now, and what might be a shadowy figure pulling it further ahead, but whenever he might be able to make it out more clearly, a cloud of steam obscures everything.

Olivia errs to Amelia. "Well, uh, he'd actually need a 'starter flame' to do that, I think… unless he spontaneously combusts now and I just wasn't aware?"

The sound of hot pursuit can be heard as Axel chases after the red ball of light. In fact, it may even be visible. Axel's chasing the light upstairs, after all, though he pauses every time steam gets too close to him.

After listening to all the running and panting coming from Axel way down the shaft, Olivia wrinkles her nose and says, "This is worrisome… how far away is that light he's trying to reach? If he doesn't get to it soon, I say we lower down a lit lantern on a rope and try to see what's going on… if we have a long enough piece, that is."

Finally, Axel catches up to the light! But then it goes out, leaving him him a level or deep into the dim area of the shaft, but there's certainly enough light for him to see his way further now. There's no sign of the mysterious light dragger though.

"We have enough cable, I think," Amy says. "Or I can carry the lamp down by just following the stairs, and guide him back up." She doesn't sound very certain about the latter suggestion though.

Axel prods the once light producing … whatever it is. After his prodding doesn't cause it to light up, he shrugs, then picks it up and carries it off upstairs.

"Okay, let me see what the situation is," Olivia tells Amy, then calls down again to Axel. "Did you reach the light yet?"

"I see movement," Amy says, holding her halberd ready. "Maybe it's him… "

Axel holds the light device above his head to show Olivia, but of course it's out and he's shrouded in shadows. He continues upstairs, though, and becomes easier and easier to see.

Olivia squints as she tries to get a good look at the figure advancing back up the shaft. "Yeah, it appears to be Axel," she says, sounding relieved. "Although if that's the light he was chasing, it doesn't seem all that… well, shiny to me!"

"It looks like an eel that tried to swallow an apple," Amelia comments, once Axel gets closer. The 'light' is little more than a glass ball with a few feet of dark hose attached to it, from her vantage.

Axel brings it up as if he had won a trophy. He holds the object aloft, above his head, bringing it into the light.

Olivia scratches her cheek idly. "Well, maybe Zahn can figure out how it works. Give him something else to do besides steal tools, I guess. He can put the tools to good use, instead!"

"Did you break it off of something?" Amy calls to Axel once he's close enough.

The bird-man lowers the object and peers at it, then rattles it some to try and make it work. "It was red before," he complains, shaking it more. "The shadow-man left it, and it stopped being red." He looks up, then around. "Zahnrad! Thingy!" Axel holds it up, so Zahnrad can see it over the others.

"Shadow… " Amy starts to ask, then looks over the railing again. "I think we'd better leave now," she says.

"Who's this shadow man you're talking about?" Olivia says, her brow creasing. "Looks like we're not alone down here," she notes to Amy, then looks pointedly at her halberd.

Zahn's still way back at the other end, near the supposed engine. He's scribbling on some paper he probably got from his pouch. Probably notes on the machinery and the like. He's apparently oblivious on anything that has been going on, only know looking up after hearing his name. "Eh?" he calls back.

Axel shakes the ex-light over the heads of the two women. "THINGY," he yells to Zahn.

Zahnrad folds up his papers and pushes them back into his pack. He finally heads over to the others, dragging Djivan in tow so he can't swipe anything else. "It's a piece of glass stuck on a tube," he comments when he gets closer.

"It's a nice thingy," Amy says to Axel, then starts gently pushing him back towards the entrance to the chamber. "Let's go look at it back in the apartment, okay?"

The tube part if full of glass threads, all neatly cut.

"Well, Axel says it used to glow with a red light… we thought you might be able to fix it. It would be useful down here… uh, if we explore any further here, that is," she says, exchanging looks with Amelia, who is now hustling Axel out the doors.

The bird-man lowers the object and peers at it some once Zahnrad has identified it. "Should I give it back?" As he's pushed along, the bird man idly twirls the tube portion, which seems to entertain him with its sparkle and motion.

"Well, I don't see how it could glow on its own," Zahnrad points out to Olivia. "It's just glass. Something had to be on the other end, lighting it. Probably like how glass bottles can reflect and redirect light." 

"Yeah, and then something snipped it right off," Amelia points out. "Let's get out of here before something decides to snip off other things, like our tails."

"Um, yeah… anyway, Axel also mentioned some sort of 'shadow man' moving it around down in the shaft, so I think we'd better get going," Olivia finishes lamely, starting to move in the direction of the doors herself.

"Well, I can't leave yet. I have a ton to diagram and catalog," Zahnrad notes with a shrug. "You actually believe him? He's crazy. For all we know, he saw steam moving around in the air."

"I saw steam too!" Axel announces. Then, more quietly, and much more bitterly, he adds, "Wicked steam."

"Well, you can come back later!" Amelia snaps. "You can't do it all at once anyway. You need more… paper and stuff, right?"

Olivia turns to Amelia. "Here, give Axel to me. You take care of the gear-head over there," she says, jerking her thumb in Zahn's direction. "You'd be able to get him out of here better than I would."

"I haven't used what I brought yet," Zahnrad counters and actually sits on the floor. "I can stay the night here."

"I can stay too," Axel insists.

Amelia just twitches in place for a moment. "Zahn, I don't think we're the only ones here. The light was moving when Axel was following it. Get it? I think we should leave for a little while at least."

"And you believe him?" Zahnrad asks. "Forgive my skepticism here, but he's not exactly coherent most of the time."

"I like the red lights," Axel adds.

"Olivia and I both saw it move too," Amy notes.

Zahnrad pushes back to his feet and extends his hand. "Give me the tube," he says.

"Well, you see as well as I do how the glass tubes in that thing are all neatly cut short," Olivia points out. "If it were still working, as Amy and I saw, those tubes would still be intact. So what cut them?"

"Not necessarily. Hand me the tube and let me try something," Zahnrad says, hand still extended.

Axel looks hesitant to relinquish his prize, but he hands it to Zahnrad after a moment.

Zahnrad heads back up the passage and looks to the walls, trying to find a close tube-light. Finding one, Zahn carefully puts the cut end up against the light and looks at the ball end.

Now somewhat nervous, Olivia keeps looking back over her shoulder at the entrance to the shaft, as if something big and nasty were about to pop out of it at any moment.

Axel just frowns, undoubtedly sad to have given up his broken light. It may not have been red, but it was pretty shiny, after all.

The ball end lights up with the same color as the tube light.

"Yep, figured. It transfers light," Zahnrad notes, then removes it from the wall light and tries to look through the cut end on a lark.

"Okay, so it could have been connected to a red light," Amelia says. "But someone was still dragging it and providing the light."

From the cut end… it's just a bundle of glass fibers. Their tips glow a bit from the light collected by the ball though.

Axel points at the now glowing light, face lighting up like the ball.

"Correct. Now, if the person wished harm, which way would the person have lead Axel?" Zahnrad asks next, clawtips tapping lightly on the tube.

"Because they want us to leave peacefully?" Amy says.

Olivia hmms at this. "Well, um, further down the shaft, I suppose," she says slowly. "It's darker there."

"They didn't say hello," Axel informs everyone. "And they were very dark. Awrk."

Zahnrad points to Olivia and says, "Reasonable deduction. So, the indication that they led him up, to a place he could see and was safer for him, implies they do not wish us direct harm. Now, it is not concrete proof, but it is suggestive of their intentions. Most likely, they just want to be left alone. That person could have been a vampire bat, you know. Red eye to the end would make it glow. We should send a bat down there to search."

Olivia starts a little. "You mean, bring Dr. Pike down here to fly around the shaft?" she asks.

"I should have made a fire," Axel announce, as if he had just thought of it. Then he suddenly backs away from Zahnrad, holding his hands up. "No bath! No bath, no fire – please?"

Amelia rubs her forehead, and tries a different tactic. "Okay, they didn't want to hurt Axel. But… if this was your workshop, Zahn, how many warnings would you give to intruders that snuck around and kept touching all your stuff?"

"Her, Liliana's cousin, Liliana, Liliana's mother. We do have a selection of bats to choose from," Zahnrad notes with a shrug. He then looks to Amelia and notes, "Given the dust we encountered upon entering, it is unlikely anyone comes up here. Also, given the crumbling of the tube you touched, no one has moved anything up here in a very long time." He then just turns and starts walking towards the entrance, saying, "But, I really have no desire to sit here and argue logic over it. Nor get clubbed over the head and dragged out eventually. I'll find a way to close the main doors on the way out."

Amy sighs with relief, and hurries along after Zahn. "I'm sorry for being all paranoid and stuff, honest! But I'd just like to be better prepared when we come back," she says.

Axel begins following after Zahnrad, too, but pauses beside the shaft. There, he gives the shadows a big wave before running off.

After a last glance at the shaft's opening, Olivia calls to Djivan, "Let's go! And lose some of those tools, you'll sink the boat!"

"Better prepared how?" Zahnrad asks and glances toward Amelia. "Given the complexity of the stuff in here, even our best gear pales in comparison. If they wanted us dead, we'd have been dead a long time ago."

"Better prepared to respond," Amelia says. "The point is, I don't feel prepared right now, and eventually you're going to want to go down lower."

Olivia talks softly to herself as she walks to the doors. "Hmmm… if Zahn is right, then there's nothing up in this room that we can't poke around in – it's just what's down the shaft that appears to be 'off limits.' So I wonder what's down there? Have to ask Axel more about what he saw and heard… "

"There's steam! Wicked steam." Axel shakes his feathers out, as if shaking off the memory of so much sudden wetness.

Djivan waddles along after Olivia. He does shed some of the tools, though. Particularly the sharp pointy ones which keep sticking him in the butt.

"At the very least, we should bring along some cleaning supplies," Amy says, and sneezes from the dust.

Olivia rolls her eyes heavenward. "You're still going to sink us," she notes to the gypsy, then turns suddenly to Axel. "Steam? Really? Any sort of noises down there, also? Any noises that might have sounded like something was producing the steam?"

"It'll take me years to catalog what is up here. Going lower is a long way off," Zahnrad notes with a shrug as they finally reach the door. He waves the group to go through as he looks for a way to close the door.

"No steam noises," Axel answers, "just steam."

There is a key slot on the inside wall next to the door, but no indication of whether it will close as soon as the key is taken out or not.

"Go through, everyone," Zahn says. "I have to close it from this side. Which means I may, or may not, make it out."

"There was a heart though. A living heart," Axel adds, as an afterthought.

Djivan loses a few more tools to where he's walking normally now, at least, and steps through the door. "All righ' all righ', I'm going," he grumbles.

Stepping through, Amy asks, "Are you sure it was a living heart?"

"That's weird," Olivia muses. "You'd think there would be something down there producing the steam, considering all the machines down here anyway… but could it be a natural source, then? Like the hot springs Amy was talking about? Hmm." At Zahn's call, though, she hurries outside the room.

Axel follows Amy. "It went thump thump! Thump thump, thump thump. A living heart." He reaches over and takes Amy's hand, then pushes it against his own chest.

Zahnrad inserts the key card into the slot and looks through the doorway at the others. His fingers remain on the base of the keycard and he seems to be considering something.

"Thump thump thump," Amy repeats, looking a bit distant, before taking her hand away from Axel's chest. "Don't do anything stupid, Zahn."

Zahnrad glances back at the equipment in the room, then back through the doorway at the others. "Sorry, Amelia," he says with a sigh. The Kadie then pulls the key from the slot … and against every instinct he has, he makes a run for the doorway out in case it tries to close immediately.

The doors hum, but after Zahn removes the key, a ticking can be heard. At the fifteenth tick, well after Zahn is outside, the doors begin to slide closed.

Amy glares suspiciously at Zahn for a moment. "You were thinking of shutting us out while you stayed inside, weren't you?" she asks.

Zahnrad puts the key safely away. "Yes," he answers quietly.

Olivia smiles a little when Zahn runs out of the room and leans over to whisper to Djivan, "You know, I actually expected him to stay. Guess Amy's got some influence over him after all!"

Again, Djivan coughs, sounding strangely like 'whipped'.

And again, Olivia bops Djivan lightly in his gut. "Careful, Foot-Rub Boy," she hisses.

Amy eyes Djivan next, and says, "At least Zahn knows how to wash his socks."

"I want a foot rub," Axel requests, looking at Djivan.

Olivia snerks loudly, then nearly doubles over with laughter!

Zahnrad actually leans over and kisses Amy's cheek. "As tempting as it was, I realized something was on the other side I valued more," he notes simply, then walks towards the boat.

Djivan grumbles and calls out after Zahn. "Hey, open de door again, I vant to shove dis one back in dere," he says and points at Axel. "Hurry!"


GMed by BoingDragon

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Today is 10 days after Unity Day, Year 25 of the Reign of Archelaus the First (6124)