Jul. 9. Zoltan and Roho go on a "recon" mission.
(Paradys Lost) (Paradys) (Roho) (Wynona) (Zoltan)
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In the cool morning, the western sky is still dark as the sun breaks over the horizon below and the far edge of the floating island. Several sleeping forms on the deck stir about – bats and half-Vartans who got a little bit overboard in their celebrations and tapping into the ship's (now-meager) stores of ale and grog.

The other bats and "Vartans" who were up and about earlier must be off scouting and foraging, leaving their hung-over comrades to attempt to recuperate.

Zoltan quietly slips onto the deck, scanning around. He chuckles to himself at his inebriated brethren.

The black Vartan looks around to see who all is still here.

Wynona sits on the rear of the deck, amidst several candles, thick tomes, and assorted knick-knacks. As she sees Zoltan, she freezes and lets out a light "eep".

Zoltan's ears droop instantly at Wynona's reaction. He scratches his chin for a moment and goes to join her.

A white gryphon strides across the deck, inspecting the ship with keen interest. He seems particularly fascinated with the figurehead at the fore of the ship, on the far end away from the white bat and the black Vartan.

The bat looks up to Zoltan and squeaks quietly, "I'm not casting any spells or anything … I'm just doing some studying, trying to find out what is going on. Some … strange things are happening."

Zoltan waves to Kryago as he joins the bat. He crouches down at what he hopes is a comfortable distance away, but close enough to be heard. "I trust you. Hrr… what kind of strange thing happening?"

The bat looks to Zoltan, then squeaks even more quietly, "I don't know what to call them, other than 'anamolies'. Physical disturbances. They have been appearing randomly, and I pray that none of them will hit the ship. If you see anything materialize out of the air, or anything strange start to happen to your surroundings … by all means, get clear!" She eeps at herself at the rise in her voice, and bites her lip.

Zoltan scratches his chin. "You know of any of these affect magic use? And what maybe cause them?"

Wynona shakes her head. "No … but … it certainly makes me trust your warnings about magic use here a bit more." She winces a bit. "I had sort of suspected you were just being a paranoid Vartan."

The hippogryph chuckles. "I was being paranoid Vartan." He contemplates something, and then casts a glance at the ees behind him, hopefully they're too drunk to hear him… or bother to listen.

Given that none of the Eeees are groaning or demanding that the two be quiet on account of their hangovers, they must not be listening … or else they must not be as drunk as they appear. The former is probably more likely, considering the amounts of spirits consumed the previous night.

Zoltan scoots nearer to the bat, motioning for her to lean in closer.

The white bat looks both ways, then leans in closer to the Vartan. She wrinkles her nose a bit at his scent, and puts her finger to her nose, but manages not to sneeze.

"Something out there has powerful mind magic. Took control of me while in tower and attacked Savanite below deck. Is think it been giving me visions as well, but no sure." The Vartan whispers in the softest possible voice he can manage. "Slave that was with me could be in mage's power… need to know if you see her anytime and know where she maybe is. Is very important."

Wynona blinks wide at this. "Mind magic? Here?" She looks at the Vartan, then furrows her brow. "Now, what would YOU know about magic?"

The bat pauses just a moment, before gulping at her own question. "Never mind that."

The white bat shakes her head incredulously. "I … I don't know about your slaves. I think the male is still sick. I haven't seen your female slave about. She gives me the shivers anyway. I think she needs a good lashing or something. I don't like her attitude."

Zoltan nods. "Keep eye open. And let Zoltan know if you see anything that seem strange. With slaves on ship or magic on island. Even if you dream something strange, let me know. There big things happening here, and I no gots much time to find out what they is."

Wynona blinks several times, then nods. "Well … certainly. I'll let you know."

Zoltan rises back up to his feet and pats Wynona's shoulder. "Again, I sorry I scare you yesterday. Sometimes I forgets that not everyone is Vartan."

The bat just nods quietly, and seems intent on burying her sniffling nose back into her collection of books.

The Vartan begins making his way through the hung over Eees and half-vartans to join Kryago.

The white gryphon looks up from his admiration of the figure-head, and smiles in greeting to Zoltan.

"Hello Navigator," Zoltan scrawks in Vartanspeak. "Have you seen my Savanite anywhere?"

The Navigator shakes his head, replying in Vartanspeak as well, "No. Not since yesterday. You cannot find her?"

Zoltan squawks, "No. Could you keep an eye open and tell me if you see her? Spread the word around that I looking."

The gryphon nods. "Of course. But she is but a lander. She can't fly. She shouldn't be hard to find, unless she's done something fool and gotten herself eaten or fell off the edge of the island. In that case, you'd deserve a better one to replace her anyway."

Zoltan frowns. "Landers are trickier than you think. But… speaking of landers, could you tell me more about the cannibals of this island?"

The Navigator frowns, then squawks back, "What do you wish to know of them?"

"Well, surely they're not all viscious monsters, if some of the Vartans that came here took some as wives. I'm wondering if you know how they came to be here, and if there could be a possible non-violent way of dealing with them." zoltan scrawks.

Roho comes up from belowdecks, yawning and scritching the side of his nose. He wanders across the deck, and curls up in a nice, sunny spot, apparently intent on a severe nap…

The gryphon frowns. "Possibly. I am not eager for the taste of blood, but I cannot say the same of them. You have not seen the full extent of the atrocities they are capable of. Perhaps … perhaps their cubs could be saved."

"Yark! Roho!" The black Vartan scrawks to the zerda. "Is good to see you, can I talk to you for minute?"

Several Eeees and half-Vartans groan, growl, squeak and grumble in protest at Zoltan's call.

Roho opens one eye, "Eh? Oh, um. Yeah, right there!" He uncurls, and wanders over towards Zoltan, "What is it?"

Zoltan looks back to Kryago. "But you have no idea how they came to be here? And er… I read in the logbook that they could perform magic at one time. Do you know what kind of magic?"

Kryago pauses some time, then replies, again in Vartanspeak, "I can only postulate. They live in the airship graveyard, and I find it reasonable that they may have come here by one of the ships wrecked there. If so, they came long before Shokar and his crew. As for their magic … What kind? Magic is magic." The gryphon glances distastefully across the deck in Wynona's direction.

"Roho," Zoltan whispers to the fennec. "Is no can find Jezebel anywheres. Can you smell her on deck? Can tell if maybe she leave ship?"

Roho thinks for a moment… "No, Zoltan, I haven't smelled her yet. Haven't really been looking, really, either. Do you want me to keep a nose out?"

Zoltan squawks back to Kryago, "If you don't trust something… all the more reason why you should understand it better and find out how it can hurt you. If you want to fight against a sword, you learn to use a shield."

Kryago hmphs. "We have not had to deal with magic until now. No reason to learn about it."

Zoltan nods to the doctor… the catches himself. "Yes. Very quick, before… hrr… we gets too busy."

Roho nods, "It's going to be a long night, I think… " He puts his nose to the deck, and starts making tracking circles out along the surface.

The black Vartan pats the navigator on the shoulder. "I didn't mean to insult you. Just something I've learned in my experiences out on the mainland. But anyroad, tell me more about Shokar… I have not seen his colors in any of the other Vartans on the island. Was he lost when he came to the island? Did he take a wife as well? Or… did the trees drive him insane?"

Roho hrms, and follows the trail of the herbs.

The Navigator frowns. "Not all of Shokar's crew stayed together. My ancestors fought each other. Shokar tried to keep them together, but failed. He disappeared at some point in the jungle. I suspect the cannibals ambushed him."

( I wonder if the queen took him up? Perhaps my visions from the tower were of something he had seen. Or perhaps that skeleton with the smashed in skull I found belonged to him, ) Zoltan ponders.

Roho notes the spot where the herb-scent leaves the ship, then returns to Zoltan's side. "I think she's tried to hide her scent, and has left the ship… "

Zoltan looks back to Roho and… almost nods. "Hrrr. Okay. We gots enough time to go looks for her?"

Roho shrugs slightly, "Who knows? I can't tell how far she might have gotten, though the sooner we try to track her, the better."

Zoltan preens Kryago's neckfeathers for a brief moment and then steps back. "We're going to look for my slave. Keep an eye open for me; and if you see anything strange, let me know." he scrawks.

Kryago bows his head to Zoltan, and squawks back in Vartanspeak, "If anything happens, we will send out messengers to alert you. Be careful. And do not forget that you have the advantage – Your enemies cannot fly away."

The black Vartan waves a hand and begins to walk towards the edge of the deck.

Roho goes back to the spot on the deck where the scent leaves, and turns to Zoltan, "I think she went down here, perhaps on a rope. We can probably pick up the trail directly below, unless we've swung at anchor too much."

"I carry you down." Zoltan squawks. He kneels down and places his hands around the zerda's waist.

Roho eeps and goes all tense, "Okay, just don't drop!" He's glad he can't see, for once…

Zoltan scoops up Roho in his arms and jumps off the edge of the ship, not flying as much as gliding down, ocasionally flapping his wings to slow the descent.

No winds gust to send the Vartan off course, nor any other obstacle. He is perfectly in command of his descent as he touches down in the clearing beneath the tethered vessel.

Roho starts sniffing around, looking for the trail he left at the ship…

Zoltan sets his passenger down and begins scanning for footprints or broken branches, or any other signs of someone going into the jungle or such from here.

Roho calls Zoltan over, "I've got the trail!"

Zoltan quickly trots over to join Roho. Good, we get started then.

Roho follows the trail, towards the center of the island, moving quickly…

Zoltan follows quickly behind, scanning not only for signs of a trail, but for any traps that might be waiting.

The trail meanders a bit, avoiding natural obstacles, and, while it heads initially toward the Tower, turns off to one side to keep a fair distance from it. It makes a half-circle around the base of the Tower … and then straightens out again, turning toward the edge of the island directly opposite that which the Freedom's Dream is moored on. No traps, no trail, and, so far, no spotted cats.

Roho slows slightly, "I don't like this… it was in this area that I first ran into the cannibals… "

Amazing how quickly time flies. It is getting well to noon now, though there is still plenty of time left, and retracing the trail won't take but a fraction of the time it took to follow the trail in the first place.

Roho stops, "How important is it we find her?"

Zoltan rubs his neck. "Mind mage that control me in tower been speaking to her. I no likes walking right into danger either but… " He silences instantly and crouches down. "There someone in trees ahead of us." he whispers.

Roho drops into a crouch, whispering hoarsely, "Are you sure? I don't hear or smell anything… "

Zoltan continues watching the spot. "Vartans got best eyes on sinai. Hrrr, is gone… or no moving anymore."

"Should we try and get closer?" Zoltan whispers.

Roho nods, and starts stalking slowly, "But be careful… "

Zoltan keeps his eyes on the spot in the trees and follows after. He drops his glance down occasionally to make sure that the path is clear, the quickly affixes it back to the treetops.

Further ahead, there is indeed something standing in the trees, though at first it appears only a shadow. However, it is a shadow with an almost solid-seeming form, shaped like a female Savanite with tangled hair. However, it makes no move, no sound, and has no scent, and no trace has been left of its passage to reach this point at the base of a particularly large tree.

Roho shows no recognition of the Savanite, it not existing at all as far as he knows. He continues moving forward…

Zoltan reaches out and grabs Roho's ankle. "I no like this, I see Jezebel… but it no look real. Like shadow."

The head of the shadow-Jezebel turns toward the fennec and Vartan as the latter speaks. The hands begin to move, their features somehow visible even though the form is naught but black for all the Vartan can tell.

Zoltan looks closely at the shadow's hands.

The hands sign, "Turn away. Continue no further, or I shall be forced to hinder you."

Roho grabs Zoltan's wrist, "What's happening?"

Zoltan repeats the shadow's signs to Roho. Then he signs to the shadow, "What are you doing? Come back to ship where it safe."

The shadow-Jezebel just stands there, signing no more, showing no response to the Vartan's signs.

Roho whispers to Zoltan, "It's not Jezebel… I can't smell anything, and she makes no noise… "

Zoltan examines the area area around the shadow, mages need circles and other things for spells, right? "Hrrr… is like a shadow, but it look alove at same time." He hisses softly to himself.

Roho nods, "But the real trail continues on… " He starts following it silently again.

Zoltan follows cautiously behind Roho, he keeps his eyes glued to the shadow. ( Jezebel, you once boasted to me about your ability to manipulate people's minds. If only you knew that your own mind has become another's plaything now… )

Roho holds out an arm to stop Zoltan, whispering, "I think I smell where the spell came from… "

There is no sign of any magical circle set in the ground, or any real disturbance, except for the trail that Roho is following, skirting past the shadow. However, the shadow is no longer standing still … The shadow-Jezebel is slowly and deliberately walking toward Roho and Zoltan, passing effortlessly through the tangles, demonstrating its less-than-substantial nature quite plainly now.

Zoltan hisses! "It's coming! Mess up spot where spell come from, maybe that make it go away."

Roho nods, "There's candles burning this way… " He starts following a new scent.

Zoltan growls, "You sure? I not see or smell any candles… "

Roho hurries from the trail, "Right over here… it has to be!"

The shadow is moving more swiftly – and is within a mere moment of the two.

Roho sprints into where the candle scent is coming from, hoping to disrupt the spell before the shadow arrives…

Zoltan looks from Roho to the shadow. "This stinks of trap. I trust you though, Roho." He tenses. "She almost on us… HURRY!"

A shadowy hand reaches out for the Vartan…

Zoltan staggers back, hissing at the shadow!

As the Vartan staggers back, he fails to get out of the grasp of the shadow as it clutches at … his face. Everything goes black, and a cold chill runs through the Vartan's body.

The Vartan fights back the urge to scream, surely he'll alert the cannibals if he does. He just focuses himself on resisting, fighting. This is magic, it's evil… and its being used to attack him.

Roho tries to locate the source of the spell, any candles to snuff, markings to smear…

The candle remains right in front of Roho, settled on the ground.

Roho swipes the candle with his paw roughly

The candle is knocked over, and fizzles out as the wick comes into contact with the moist vegetation around it, dying out with a last burst of smoke.

For Zoltan, though, everything is still pitch black.

Roho runs back up to Zoltan, and crouches beside him, "Zoltan?"

Zoltan rubs his eyes. "Roho… I no can see anything."

Roho offers Zoltan his paw, "Give it a few moments, maybe it'll come back… "

Zoltan reaches out with a trembling hand, trying to grasp Roho's. "I useless without eyes. We vunerable now… "

Roho shakes his head, clasping Zoltan's talon and (rather absurdly) helping him up, "Nonsense… though it might be better to head back now, unless you think you can keep going… "

Zoltan shakes his head. "I no can fight what I no can see. My ears and nose no as good as yours. And I no be able to understand handsign now.

Roho nods, and picks up the candle, turning it in his paws consideringly, "Let's wait a few more moments, see if your sight returns… "

Zoltan squawks, "No wait too long. Will probably take while to get back to ship now."

Roho takes the candle, and grinds the wick against the ground, his face scowling.

There's an audible hiss from the candle.

The Vartan continues rubbing his eyes and looking around, hoping to will his own sight back.

Zoltan rubs his eyes as they water. "What you do? Start burning stinky herbs?"

Roho shakes his head, "This candle's still smoking… "

Zoltan fans one of his wings, trying to clear the air.

The wing whips through the air, stirring it. Actually, this seems to be doing something about the smell, after all.

Roho takes the candle, "Should we bury this thing? Might help… "

Zoltan squawks, "You think Jezebel maybe put something in candle to make smoke harmful?"

The Vartan continues fanning with his wing, and wiping his eyes with his hand.

Roho buries the wick of the candle in the damp earth with a sharp jab, whispering to Zoltan, "Someone's nearby. Someone real."

Light begins to return to the Vartan's eyes. He can now see that he's in the clearing with the fennec, the latter holding a black candle that is sending up quite a bit of smoke.

In fact, the pillar of smoke is rising high above the trees, and should be visible for quite some distance so long as it's daylight.

Burying the candle, however, does much to stop further accumulation of the irritating smoke.

Zoltan rubs his eyes a bit more. "Can see again. Where is person?" he whispers. He begins looking to the smoke pillar to see where it's coming from.

Zoltan growls. "Candle just gave away where we are. We need to move away quickly."

Roho nods, indicating the direction of the noise, "The person's that way. You lead the way… "

Zoltan cautiously heads in the direction of the onlooker. "Can you smell, Roho? Is Savanite or cannabal or Vartan?"

Roho whispers, "Can't tell… but it just went up!"

Zoltan heads quickly towards the spot, his eyes following the path upwards.

With a loud roar, the branches above Zoltan come to life in a flurry of fangs and claws that leaps down toward him!

Zoltan braces himself, falling on his back to meet the attacker with hooved feet and his own talons.

The jaguar pounces upon Zoltan, but the Vartan's maneuver proves to be JUST quick enough, catching the attacker's gut with his own formidable hooves!

Zoltan leaps at the jaguar, he balls up his fist and punches at the cat, aiming for his head.

The Vartan's meaty fist comes crashing into the thick skull of the jaguar. However, there's a lot of muscle behind that punch…

The jaguar growls, momentarily thrown off balance, but unfazed by the well-delivered blow. He slashes back … and CONNECTS, making a savage slash across the Vartan's chest!

Zoltan snarls at the pain and slashes back.

The Vartan's slash goes wild, missing the jaguar, but it's fierce enough that it must have shaken the jaguar's nerve – The jaguar misses wildly as well, and the two combatants stumble past each other!

Zoltan calls to the zerda. "Roho, get ready. I going to have to get out of here quicks if kitty do more damage." He leaps at the jaguar, punching with his fist again.

The Vartan's punch comes in, bearing for the jaguar's head. The jaguar tries to block it … but he is evidently of inferior training in unarmed combat. *THWOCK* The jaguar goes reeling!

Zoltan snarls and goes in again with his fist, intent on knocking the cannibal out.

Roho stands quite still, grasping his walking stick tightly, looking unsure of whether to try and help, or whether he'd end up just doofing Zoltan on the head if he tried…

*THUMP* The jaguar hasn't even a chance to try to respond. He goes out, collapsing amongst the tangles, his tail flopping up into the air once before falling again.

Zoltan relaxes. "I got him. No kill, just knock out… I not like to kill." He puts a hand on his bleeding chest. "Cannibal get me on chest pretty good. You got something to stifle bleeding?" He begins to look around for some strong vines to tie the cat up with.

Roho pulls out a little pouch from his medicine bag, and sprinkles a little dry powder into his paw. "This should stop the bleeding… but it stings quite badly. You might want to find something to bite down on. Preferrably not my tail."

The treatment proves to be fairly effective as it is applied, especially when one considers the conditions under which it is administered. However, the Vartan still feels a bit woozy, even if the pain has subsided for the most part.

However, there seems to be a new problem. This melee has not taken place far at all from the "smoke signals", and the time spent fighting and then treating wounds has apparently allowed others to approach. Cracking branches can be heard in several directions.

Zoltan shakes his head. "I think we better go back. Cannibals know we here now, and I no sure I can handle more than one at time. Two maybe… but I rather not try."

Roho nods, "Should we fly?"

Roho rasps, "Or, more to the point, are you well enough for a passenger?"

Roho shrinks against Zoltan as the sounds grow closer… lots of them.

Zoltan growls. "Was hoping to take cat prisoner… but I no sure I strong enough to now." He scoops up Roho in his arms and leaps into the air.

The Vartan whips up and away from the scene, bearing the fennec in his strong arms, leaving the jaguars below to curse and spit at their departing prey.

Zoltan looks at the jaguars below. ( Just remember, I didn't kill you. And how Jezebel is escaping your wrath is beyond me… )

As the Vartan clears the trees … he can see just how close he is now to the edge of the island, which wasn't immediately evident through the jungle.

Zoltan hovers in the air for a moment. "Roho… you think Jezebel might have gone to edge of island? We very close to edge right now."

If he were continuing his original course, just ahead would be a wide clearing in the jungle, where the ground has eroded away in several places to reveal exposed rock … and a clutter of wood and other materials that mark the remains of vessels which had previously visited this island and were unable to escape.

Roho rasps, "Her path didn't change much… if it stayed that course, then, yes… I think she would have."

Zoltan squints his eyes and scans the graveyard as well. So many ships, why was the bell spared?

Some of the ships are more or less intact, and planks and rope bridges have been set up, interconnecting them in a sort of village amongst the wreckage. Other jaguars can be seen in that "village", making it clear who resides there.

"I weak from fight. But I think I can manage flying to edge for closer look. If anything dangerous show up though, I going to have to get out fast." The Vartan scrawks.

Roho nods, "Worst comes to worst, drop me off, and get yourself back. I should be able to make it back in one piece, so long as you don't drop me in the middle of a clearing or something… "

A wide range of landing places present themselves. It would seem that the jaguars do not occupy the entirety of the maze of wrecked vessels.

Zoltan squawks, "You light. I can manage." He starts to circle towards the edge, looking closely at the ground below. "If I remember rights, there things on bottom of isnald that part of tower-machine. No can remember what they for though."

Roho rasps, "Well, if she's going to be spellcasting, she needs a relatively large, clean area, without a lot of wind, for any real major spells… "

Such large, clean areas are in abundance, in the forms of decks of various grounded vessels. One such area is on a black ship that has what looks like an altar on its deck, before a great, clay idol. Indeed, there is some sort of circle that can be seen on that deck from even this distance.

No jaguars are visible on the ship, but it is fairly toward the center of the graveyard.

Zoltan squawks, "Hrrr… there is place perfects for that in jaguar village in ship graveyard, but it in middle. I no sure if I can get there safely, and they see us easily."

the Vartan squints his eyes, trying to get a better look at the idol.

Roho nods, "Do you think we could sneak in from the edge?"

The idol is a truly hideous thing, depicting some sort of skeletal monster with tattered wings, four eyes on an elongated skull, and four legs that look as if they've been attached randomly.

Zoltan flies higher up to what he hopes is out of arrow or spearpoint range and tries to circle over the center ship. "I give it a try, Might be dangerous to land, but maybe we see if she there or nots."

It seems as if the jaguars visible haven't noticed Zoltan just yet. It seems that their attention is largely focused on the plume of smoke still rising from the jungle, some of them heading in that direction.

"They looking at candle. Thank Dagh for small favors." Zoltan scrawks as he continues towards the ship with the altar, intent on circling above it to examine the contents of the deck before getting any closer.

The airship is of a design unfamiliar to the Vartan. It is completely black, not apparently from painting, for there is no appearance of weathering away of the paint, but rather that it is made of a black wood entirely. Furthermore, the stylizations on the craft suggest skeletal forms that would seem to go along with that wretched idol, giving the craft an overall macabre appearance.

Zoltan describes the ship to Roho as he scans the deck for any signs of life or anything that might hint at someone preparing for a ritual on its deck.

Roho nods at the description, "Sounds promising… smells like blood, though. Sacrifices, maybe… "

There are no signs of life visible. As for any sign of any ritual, no more can be seen for certain from here, other than what the keen-eyed Vartan has spied already.

Zoltan flies in closer, he contemplates the image of the shadowy ship in his dream as he looks upon the black deck.

Roho rasps, "Zoltan, I dunno about this. There's something dead down there. I smell blood, and just… well… you know the smell of death. It's strong."

Flying closer, Zoltan can see better past the jumble of what was once some sort of mast or similar structure rising from the deck, for a better view of the altar. The source of the smell of blood is apparent now – A body lies sprawed across its surface.

Zoltan growls, he looks closer at the body, trying to make out who or what it is.

Roho sniffs strongly downwards…

It was once a spotted cat, but has been torn to shreds.

Zoltan hovers in the air. "Roho… can you smell Jezebel anywhere?"

Roho sniffs more, "I'm trying… "

Roho sighs, "You'll have to land for that… I can't smell her."

The Vartan growls again (He's been doing a lot of that lately) and flies down to the deck of the ship. His eyes wildly look about for any approaching jaguars.

Zoltan continues his descent, trying to land gently in case the wood is rotten or in case something decides to jump out.

The deck of the ship proves to be quite solid, even though its black color might suggest something darkened by fire.

It would seem that events are on the Vartan's side presently. He cannot see a single jaguar amidst the jumble of grounded ships that wall in the deck.

Roho pads around a little nervously, not moving far from his ride, "This is pretty far from abandoned… smells like a lot of cannibals use this."

Zoltan stares at the idol, wondering if this was the entity questioning him from his dreams.

The idol is quite hideous and ominous, but, even as vague as the Dark One was in Zoltan's dream, this could not possibly be the same image. This monstrosity is something else entirely.

Roho carefully moves over to the cheetah bits, and sniffs gingerly…

The bits on the altar smell of something once feline … something of the same type of creature as the cannibals that have been plaguing the Zerda and Vartan.

Zoltan closes his eyes as he tries to recall an image, then begins scanning the deck for the map room with the charts he saw for an instant in his dream. Or perhaps a spiked music box.

Roho sighs in relief, and whispers to Zoltan, "It's not Jezebel… "

Zoltan scrawks to the fennec as he looks around. "Can you smell here here anywheres?"

Roho shakes his head, "No, she hasn't been here… "

The deck of the ship is deserted, save for a magic circle that has been permanently etched into the deck of the ship, the altar, the clay idol, and a set of stairs leading down belowdecks, on the opposite side of the circle from the idol.

Zoltan starts to head towards the opening leading below the ship. "If you hear anybody coming, tell me. I come out quickly."

The Zerda keeps watch over the deck, while the Vartan's exploration takes him belowdecks. It's dark down here.

Zoltan pauses and feels around slowly. ( Dagh… going blind again. )

As the Vartan feels around, his hand hits something standing upright – some sort of rod – and it falls back, clattering to the floor, and sending something skidding across the wood.

Zoltan bends down and tries to retrieve the rod.

The rod is part of some sort of stand. Perhaps a torch-holder … and whatever it held must have been that which skidded across the floor and clattered against something else along the way.

The Vartan goes down on his hands and knees and traces the path of the sound, hoping to find out what fell from the stand and what it bumped into.

There's another bump … and another. Two more stands fall to the floor, sending two more little somethings skittering across the floor and banging against the wall.

Zoltan growls. Shame he didn't get a Eee to join him, they never seem to bump into things in the dark. He rises to his feet and continues onward, walking much slower and more cautiously now, just in case the floor suddenly drops down into a stairway or somesuch.

The Vartan encounters another stand, this time not knocking it over.

Zoltan gingerly slides his hand up the stand, reaching for whatever it at the top and making sure to hold the thing stable.

On top of the stand is something cold, hard, and faceted. It feels like … a large gem … or crystal.

Zoltan quickly takes up the crystal and begind hunting for the ones that fell to the floor.

In the dark, the Vartan's searches cause him to … bump into more stands. *clatter* *clatter* *crash* *skitterskitterskitter* He manages to find a few more of the crystals in the process, and also bumps into a fairly thick and solid trunk of some sort, near one wall.

Zoltan stuffs the crystals into his pack and kneels at the chest, feeling for a seam or a way to open it.

The chest is actually made of stone, coming up to Zoltan's waist, and has an appropriately heavy lid. By the feel, there are many engravings and runes carved on the surfaces.

The hippogryph grips the edge of the lid and tries to lift it, slowly.

The lid would be impossible to lift for most, and would have been even too hard for the Vartan to lift not all that long ago, except that all this adventuring has put quite a bit more muscle on his frame. With a scraping noise, the stone lifts and then slides to one side. A dusty smell intermixed with a perfumed fragrance reaches the Vartan's nose.

Abovedecks, there's a shout – the voice of the Zerda keeping watch!

Zoltan wrinkles his nose at the scent and then drops down on all fours. "Trouble coming?" He shouts out, feeling his way towards the door and sweeping his hands out in the hopes of swiping up another crystal.

Another stand falls … and another crystal falls, but bounces past.

Up the stairs, a sound of something cracking and rending can be heard … followed by a loud, bestial roar.

Zoltan rushes up the stairs. His questions answered.

Up on the deck, the Vartan finds several fragments of clay scattered about. The clay idol has shattered … revealing a skeletal monster that apparently was contained therein. Fortunately, the fennec is still in one piece, and keeping clear of the monster's grasp.

Zoltan rushes towards Roho, intent on scooping him up and heading off the ship as fast as his wings can carry.

The Vartan manages to snatch up the fox and leap into the air, the adrenaline pumping fast enough for him to overcome his weariness at least for the time being.

The monster looks like a hodge-podge of bones and bits of tendon and dried muscle and other parts lashed together and animated somehow … most certainly by magic. Its leathery wings are tattered … but they beat strongly, and manage to lift the creature off of the deck as well, in pursuit of the Vartan!

Zoltan folds his wings and allows himself to drop like a rock. ( It can fly… now we'll see how well it can fly ) He clutches his zerda passenger tightly.

The monster roars, its lower jaw splitting and moving out sideways like mandibles. It plunges after Zoltan, diving toward the Vartan and the jumble of broken airships below.

Zoltan swoops under a bridge and snaps back into level flight, then with a flap of his wings he careens around the side of an airship's hull.

The monster bellows, following suit … and not quite fitting through the same squeeze.

*CRUNCH* *CRASH* … *creeeeeak* *CRACK*

Zoltan shoots upwards again, glancing down at his pursuer.

A tangle of bones, tendons and less recognizeable body components is twitching and writhing about in the wreckage below, bellowing and roaring as it tries to pull free … managing to tear itself apart even more in the process.

The Zerda, for his part, keeps holding onto Zoltan, trusting the Vartan's flying abilities.

Zoltan continues rising up, he looks to the black ship and then outward towards the jungle.

Spotted feline figures can be seen racing amongst the ships. It would seem that the aerial battle – short though it was – has been noticed, and the felines are dashing toward the struggling … thing … below.

Zoltan rises higher and begins flying back towards the airship. ( At least I know where to get more crystals now if they're needed… but hopefully we have enough including the spares. ) He looks to the spot on the edge of the island again where Jezebel may have dissapeared off to, idly pondering if he has enough time to search there as well.

The jaguars have no chance of catching up with the airborne Vartan. His path takes him above the trees, away from the airship graveyard … and back to the relative safety of the Freedom's Dream.

Zoltan sets Roho down… and then collapses on the deck, grateful for a few moment's rest.

Several half-Vartans and Eeees rush over at the sight of the wounded hippogryph, while the fennec hurriedly begins more proper ministrations for his wounds, now that he's able to send some of the bats to his office for additional supplies.

Zoltan looks around for Kryago.

The white gryphon is among those approaching. "Zoltan!" he scrawks in Vartanspeak. "What happened?"

Zoltan wrestles the pack from his back and opens it, showing the crystals to the gryphon. "Are… are these what the machine in the tower needs to work?" He hoarsely scrawks back.

The gryphon's eyes go wide, and he scrawks, grabbing up the shiny crystals. He nods his head. "Yes! Yes yes yes!"

The black Vartan pulls himself back into a sitting position. "Then fix it, quickly. I… I think you have to tell the computer to… hrrr… " Hr rubs his head. "Run a dia-gno-stick on the 'vanes'. With crystals, they work right… I hopes."

The gryphon pauses, then nods. "Yes, I will do that immediately. With the spares … I think we have enough!" He spreads his wings and takes flight, calling several of the winged cats to accompany him to the Tower.

Zoltan looks out after Kryago. ( Hopefully he knows more about the machine than I do… Dagh… please work! )

The half-Vartans disappear as they reach the Tower. As for the success or failure of their attempt … that will remain to be seen.

Zoltan looks around at the remaining people on the ship, perhaps the air-mage has found something more out?

Wynona is still at the back of the ship, amongst her books, and a few Eeee and half-Vartans remain, looking confused and worried.

Zoltan shakily rises to his feet and walks to join the bat again. "Hello," he squawks softly.

Wynona squeaks in alarm, sending a few papers scattering … and going into a barrage of violent sneezes.

The Vartan quickly tries to catch the papers before they fly away. "You excite easy… you know thats?"

Wynona stops sneezing, and sniffles a bit, before nodding. "Well … uhm … things have been terribly exciting lately."

In the distance, music can be heard, like a whole chorus of singers.

Zoltan gulps. "The vanes… " he whispers, and shrinks down.

The bat blinks. "The vanes? What … what's that singing?"

Everyone on the deck – Half-Vartan, Eeee or Savanite – has dropped dead silent, ears perked at the haunting, meandering song.

"PLUG YOUR EARS!" Zoltan shrieks as loud as he can. He covers his own ears, if the song is harmless… then he'll simply be a fool who was paranoid… but if he was wrong…

The bats look at each other, but Boghaz looks at the Vartan, then shouts, "Do as he says! Someone … get some wax?" He promptly covers his own sizeable ears.

Zoltan looks around wildly, almost crushing his head. He hums loudly to block the sound out even more.

It doesn't work. Somehow, the Vartan can still feel the music reverberating through his skull. The bats look even more agitated.

Wynona has begun to cry.

Zoltan growls and removes his hands, useless. He rushes to the edge of the deck and looks to the tower.

The Tower can be seen from here … but what is going on inside is anyone's guess.

Zoltan jumps into the air and heads towards the tower.

The Vartan reaches the Tower, finding several cringing half-Vartans here and there, on his way inside. No one and nothing stands in his way, but nobody is in much condition to help, either.

The Vartan begins growling curses and makes his way to the navigator's chamber.

Inside the chamber, several half-Vartans are in full panic, while the white gryphon is collapsed underneath one of the golden helmets. All the shiny gems are back in their proper places, at least.

Zoltan gasps. "WHAT HAS HAPPENED?" he squawks loudly.

Several screams and shouts answer the Vartan. In short … they really haven't a clue, but figure something went terribly wrong.

Zoltan looks around and grabs one of the crystals up.

Pulling the crystal out takes a bit of tugging, but it comes loose … causing an explosion of energy that sends the Vartan flying across the room!

Zoltan slams into the wall, crying out painfully as he impacts.

The lights in the room flicker, and bolts of energy shoot out from the receptacle that previously held the gem. One of the half-Vartans cries out as she is struck, and her body shakes and jolts violently before she finally collapses to the floor.

Zoltan staggers to his feet and looks to one of the helmets.

There are as many helmets – and thrones – about the room as there are gems.

Zoltan looks at the gem in his hand. Then goes to one of the helmets and sits in the seat. ( We're all dead anyhow… I've got to try. )

A bolt of energy shoots across the room, impacting a panel dangerously close to Zoltan, but he is still unscathed. The helmet hovers above him, suspended by a multitude of cables and some sort of framework.

The Vartan examines the panel that once contained the gem… could he possibly put it back?

Cramming the gem back into the receptacle is probably possible … but doing so is likely to get the Vartan another dose of that wild energy again.

Zoltan mentally checks his energy… he's weak and hurt… but… he rushes back to the receptacle and tries to shove the gem back into place.

*FRATZ* There's another explosion of energy.

Some time later, the Vartan comes to, dangling from a tangle of cables. It takes him a while to realize that he's upside down.

Zoltan weakly looks around.

There are no more sparks dancing around the room. That much is good, perhaps. But, Zoltan is also apparently the only person conscious in the chamber as well.

The black Vartan tries to wiggle himself free and drop to the floor.

That much the Vartan succeeds in. *thud* The pain is nothing compared to his previous adventure with the bolts of energy, however.

With a lump in his throat, Zoltan examines the room to see what condition everything and everyone is in.

Things are not looking too good. Everyone is unconscious … except for that one female half-Vartan who is apparently dead. There are scorch marks here and there, but the lighting is still functional, and perhaps the machines.

Zoltan rushes to Kryago and tries to revive him.

Once the Vartan removes the helmet, he can see that the gryphon is still alive … but doesn't look like he's going to be chipper and hopping about for a while.

Zoltan gently pats the gryphon's cheek. "Kryago… Kryago… you alrights?"

Kryago stirs weakly, moving his beak, but nothing comes out.

Zoltan gently lifts the gryphon from his chair and sets him on the floor.

Zoltan walks out of the room and looks out. "There been an accident!" He yells up the shaft. "Kryago and others is hurt!" His ears perk for any kind of sound in responce.

It would seem the Vartan is on his own down here.

Zoltan drags himself back into the room and seats himself in one of the chairs. Grimly he sets his jaw and pulls the helmet down over his head.

Darkness. That "voice" from the machine asking him to state the nature of the emergency…

… and those dire warnings about psychical imbalances and lack of a neural matrice…

"Turn off stabalizing vanes." Zoltan scrawks to the darkness.

"Stabilizing vanes retracted," comes the voice in reply.

Zoltan attempts to pull the helmet from his head… then pauses. "Is everything on the island working correctly?"

The voice answers, "Proper functions are not established. Stabilizing vanes are inactive, and have not been recalibrated. Thaumaturgic imbalances are predicted, with increasing intensity."

"Recalibrate stabalizing vanes." Zoltan says.

The voice answers, "Processing request."

The hippogryph waits… feeling a tightness in his chest.

"Warning: User is recommended to end session immediately. Fatigue is at a dangerous level for operation of this device without a recognized neural matrice."

"Recalibration successful."

"End sesson," Zoltan says.

*blip*

The Vartan is now lying on the throne, a helmet rising from his head. At least he doesn't have that strange "music" buzzing in his skull anymore.

Zoltan sinks back in the chair. Too tired to even attempt to move. He just waits.

---

GMed by Greywolf

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Today is 13 days after Harvest Tide, Year 25 of the Reign of Archelaus the First (6124)