It appears the sun has decided to become even more a nuisance than normal, it's intense heat becomes ever stronger as you begin to get your bearings on how to get to the proper castle to meet with Ascendant Knight Katia. Thankfully, it's at about this time that the sun does something very familiar to the children of Masharas- Though still high in the sky it sits at an angle just so that the surrounding hills cast a soft shadow in the city of Castle At The Hill, making the weather much more bearable.
Thus, the travel to the castle itself isn't difficult, not with clearly marked roads at least. You do observe one thing in particular: They seem to have implemented water piping here, and whatever main piping they're using seem to have suffered some form of malfunction- You observe a large repair crew gathered around an opening in the ground. But there's something definitely off about it- There's a terrible smell in the air akin to wet paint.
Harriet: "Oooh, I wonder what that's about."
Thankfully, the castle itself is sufficiently far from the repair site it's out of olfactory range. The castle itself, as Anton remarked earlier, feels familiar. It looks like a mixture of temple and fortress, adorned with beautiful blue glass- Although the walls seem cracked, they are not truly so, the disposition of the stones that build it merely gives off the impresison
Anton scrunches up his face sniffing a few times. "Should have brought an air freshener."
Serenity: "Duno but I'm sure as fuck not getting closer, acid's a bit too potent for me."
Hughbert: "There's a high chance that I'll know where to find you tinkering away, should you get bored of meeting with officials, eh Harriet?"
Harriet: "Oh yeah, absolutely. If I was scared of acidic shit I'd probably jump at half my explosives."
Harriet: "I don't do that, QED."
Serenity: "I mean it's one thing in a lab enviroment with proper containers and shit set up and gas masks and goggles, but. Street clothes? Fuck that."
Harriet: "Aw, come on, it's just gambling for smart people."
Anton: "Your odds are pretty good for what it's worth!" He smiles.
Harriet: "Besides, I always carry safety gloves."
Serenity: "Heh."
Once at the castle, it isn't difficult at all to request an audience with the Ascendant Knight. Just state why you're there to the front guards and they let you in (after all they're already aware of who you are)
You're guided to the throne room- Although it looks hardly like a throne room at all, as you step there it reminds you more of the design of the large classrooms of the academies back home, a slope wherein the chairs are so everyone has good view of the person down in the middle, a central area wherein the person of interest can say something- Therein lies a desk, sitting at it is a woman that seems having just hit her 20s, although her eyes and shoulders speak of more hardship someone that age should could have ever dealt with, sitting at the other side of the desk are three other people, they seem to be discussing something.
Guard: "Take a seat over there" he points to one of the chairs in the surrounding area "The Ascedant Knight will be with you in a moment"
Anton takes a seat before instinctively looking for a lollipop tray on the table.
Harriet: "Is it just me, or is this a lecture hall?"
Anton's hands quickly find a bowl, though there's only a couple
Serenity: "If we learned anything from Terchuan, it's that knights like to posture needlessly so… stands to reason."
Hughbert smiles at the guard. "Thank you," and takes a seat. He tries to listen in- but not too eagerly, of course. "I've spent enough hours in this setup to get that feeling, too."
You have a short glimpse of the conversation- Something about an update in filters, new acidity factors and money costs
After a moment the woman looks up as she notices your presence. She raises a hand and the other three finishe speaking, they nod at her and leave, heading off to wait at one of the higher sets of chairs. She then waves you over "The Masharas dignataries? Please, come on over" something feels a little wrong with her voice, a bit too hoarse for normal, even for a voice deep as hers
Serenity: "Yup that's us."
Hughbert stands up and salutes before walking closer and giving his name and rank. "A pleasure to meet you."
Harriet: "Harriet Babbage, Fatebreaker, solves problems, et cetera et cetera."
Katia stands up and salutes back once you're closer, and on sitting down again she looks you over "Good. If I understood correctly you're here about the succession matters, yes?"
Serenity: "More so about keeping you guys out of Akavir, but yeah."
Katia nods "Good, sounds like we have similar goals, then. I cannot in good conscience understand why my father would choose that route…" she sighs "Perhaps he believes fighting other people is easier than fighting the desert, I would have to disagree"
Harriet: "Desert's easy, it never invents new and interesting ways to kill you because it forced a bunch of people onto its dev team."
Serenity: "Also because he doesn't know we have a giant death laser."
Anton: "And there you went and spoiled the surprise."
Harriet: "It's way too awesome to keep secret."
Katia: "So, let me sum up the situation for you. Grandpa's holed up in the Ancient Vaults, where we keep valuable things for later use, a very difficult to break into place and replica of a vault of the ancient kingdom. The trial me and dad have to go through is to acquire the Pact Blade from within. Obviously, it isn't just about muscling our way through an opposing fortress… He is certainly going to be there, presumably alongside whatever particular pineapple he figured we should deal with"
Katia: "As it is, both mine and dad's forces are trying to make our way in to begin with… But they are far too evenly matched, far too used to eachother to be able to make any advance. I think that might have been a lesson he needed us to learn… Just how much an impact an outside force can have on an internal conflict, we are blades to be wielded by others after all. You might as well be said outside force"
Katia: "Would you be willing to fly my banner as you make your way in and acquire the Pact Blade?"
Hughbert: "Of course. We're here to prevent the Knights from signing their own death warrant. We have learned on our travels that there is a very slight percentile of Akaviri nobles that have the power to grant your father's wish that are actually worth trusting."
Serenity: "Wow that was way easier than expected."
Anton: "You're tellin' me."
Harriet: "I guess we're just that good?"
Katia: "You are the Fatebreakers, you set up the Postal Service's Continental Radio, our forces that were working on Orsis and Terchuan speak of your feats"
Katia: "I know you're pretty damn capable, and I know you're getting yourselves involved in just about every internal dispute. Might as well use that"
Harriet: "Oh yeah. We can't solve problems by staying out of them!"
Serenity‘ laughs.
Serenity: "So where’s this hidden temple thing?"
Katia pulls out a set of blueprints from a drawer "Northeast of here, shouldn't be hard to spot due to the ongoing conflict. I'll be going with you, i'm taking an unit alongside with a mobile palisade, we're stalling the troops around while you make your way in. Not sure if you want to take your car with you, we can bring you along with the palisade if you want" she spreads the blueprint in the desk "Unfortunately this had to be reconstitued from memory, grandpa has the only actual blueprint of the Ancient Vault, but those are the traps I remember in the area"
Harriet: "Oooh, that's handy."
Serenity: "…It's big enough inside for a car?"
Serenity: "The fuck were the ancients smoking."
Katia: "It's… No I meant if you want to take the trip in our own vehicle or go with yours"
Katia: "It's certainly not big enough for a car inside"
Anton shakes his head. "This layout shouldn't be a problem. I have the place memorized already and I can use foresight to fill in the gaps."
Harriet: "Damn, you're good."
Anton: "It's just identical to the restricted areas of the Grand Chapel."
Serenity: "oh."
Hughbert: "Oh, that's quite helpful. You're officially promoted to Tour Guide, Anton! Amal can get the honors back once we're done in the vault, of course."
Anton scratches his head before grinning.
Serenity: "Wait what, Anton?"
Katia tilts her head to the side "Is that so… Hrm… That will be better, then. I'm certain would historians would love to hear that too"
Anton: "You've only seen the parts of the chapel available to the public, Serenity. Which you and Harriet quite thoroughly explored looking for the batcave!"
Serenity‘ frowns.
Harriet: "Man. You’d think we'd get full run of the place, given how we're basically saving the world and all."
Katia: "Hah… There's always secrets to be kept, not from a lack of trust, more often than not because you're just not trained to deal with the burden of carrying them"
Katia: "To be honest it's always best to not know such things, they're always problems"
Hughbert: "By the way, when all of this is over, if you'd like to see the resemblance for yourself, miss Katia, you'd be welcomed with open arms in Masharas, if you'd like to visit. It sounded like your curiosity was likely piqued."
Hughbert frowns at the mention of that, remembering something about secrets of higher dimensions that may have been best kept secret…
Katia: "I would certainly love to. We are the descendants of the guard order of the ancient empire, and more than once travellers have commented on certain similarities of our recreations of ancient structures and masharas. I would be delighted to see the similarities myself"
Katia: "Well, that said, I do want to seize the opportunity and strike as soon as possible. When do you think you'll be ready?"
Serenity: "Had a pretty big breakfast, I'm probably good to go now?"
Katia nods, she looks at the others we were waiting at the higher chairs. She waves at them, makes a hand motion and they start leaving "Very well. Then meet us at the Moat, i'm taking a unit of twelve with me and we're going on a mobile palisade, you should be able to identify the large metal vehicle with unusual angles" she stands up "See you soon" she starts heading out
Serenity: "…Harriet what's a palisade?"
Hughbert: "Are all of our supplies in order? This will be our first…ish… fight on Rissani soil, so we should have most of our tools and medicine still, I think…"
Harriet: "It's, like, a particular fortressy sort of wall."
Harriet: "You know the stakes they have out in front?"
Harriet: "Those things."
Serenity: "What a bunch of weirdos."
Serenity: "Anyway yeah we're good, I charged up the battery packs while we were at the manor."
[OOC] Serenity: refilled the batteries? either way
Hughbert: "Then please lead the way, in that case."
Serenity‘ heads on out!
Harriet follows Serenity thattaway.
Ready as you are, having not been in a conflict recently, it doesn’t take long to get going. You bring the car up to the Moat, the same way out as you made in, and you spot what is definitely a very, very unusual vehicle. It's wide and with threads, it looks more like a pile of walls and scattered guns pointing at nonsensical directions all tightly packed on top of a flat bed than anything else, although it does have a long barrelled smoothbore cannon poking out of the front. Should you inspect closer you'll notice, however, under that whole mess what looks like a lot of manipulator arms
Hughbert follows, peeping at the architecture on the way out. Totally didn't have any ultierior motives for not taking the lead.
Serenity: "That's… even dumber looking than I thought it would be."
Outside the vehicle is Katia in her battle armor, made of a glistening silvery metal with glowing ragnite lines, her boots in particular look like modified flight boots integrated into battle armor. A long sword made of diaragnite is at her waist and she is looking out. She looks in your direction when you approach, just in time to hear Serenity "Looks pretty silly while packed, indeed"
Katia: "It's very useful when deployed, however. Ready?"
Hughbert: "We are. What do you think now that we've seen it, would it be cramped if we all packed in?"
Serenity: "It doesn't look especially stable, like it's gunna tip over from a mild impact or… eh, whatever."
Harriet: "I'd be interested to see the maths behind it, for sure."
Katia: "There's space for twenty soldiers inside of each, we're not bringing it packed so there's enough space"
Hughbert: "Let's leave the car here, then. This spot's got a much lower likelihood of experiencing shelling."
Katia: "Ah, one note of the rules of engagement with Silvarant internal disputes. No killing or permanently crippling blows. Also don't force your opponent into making that choice. Expect our knights to follow those rules, however should you find outsider on my father's side you're only obliged to follow those rules if they offer you the same courtesy"
Harriet: "Oh, sure, we can avoid vaporising them."
Harriet: "I guess."
Harriet: "(Even though repurposing some of those traps would be really cool…)"
Serenity: "Alright."
Katia waves you inside- You couldn't actually see a way in until some of the manipulator arms move the stacked plates around to show the inner casing with a door inside "In case of emergency we jettison the bottom, there's enough space under the vehicle to crawl so be ready just in case" she says, climbing in
Harriet: "Oh, that's reassuring." The way she says it, it's difficult to tell whether that's sarcasm or not.
Serenity‘ gives hughbert a ’we're really doing this' look before climbing inside.
Hughbert nods in return and gets in.
Inside it's quite spartan, actually, there' lights of course and there's twenty seats, plus the driver's. Katia isn't driving, someone else is. There's already twelve others in there, armors are bulky in general, particular those wearing shields, but there's sufficient spacing for everyone plus a place to put their gear.
Perhaps of interest is at the far end what looks like a place for animals- It's quite clearly it's for dogs, there's five of them in there, well behaved and all of them equipped with force gear jackets, their handler is checking their equipment at the moment*
A moment after you get inside the vehicle starts and you start to rumble away
Katia: "I know the mobile palisade looks daunting but it's quite useful, you'll see"
Anton: "Always up for trying different things!"
It takes a long while of rumbling until you start hearing something of interest outside. You hear the sound engines, the sound of metal crashing against metal and, a moment after you first hear the noise, the sound of cannon fire
Serenity‘ blinks, glancing around for a window to make sure they’re actually moving.
JayM: Indeed you are moving
Serenity: "Huh."
Katia: "We're approaching. Get ready to move." she says to her soldiers, then looks at Hughbert "We're going to be a bit bold here, we're setting ourselves close to the entrance with our backs towards it, you're taking the chance and making a break for it while we hold the rest of the forces. Expect someone to be inside, not sure who could be at this point but better safe than sorry"
Hughbert nods. "A solid plan. I can appreciate not being the only experienced tactician, for once. We'll go for it on your signal."
You hear the sound of gunfire hitting the side of the car, but it doesn't even shakes. After a moment, however, something impacts the side of the car with tremendous force- Followed by seven more impacts, feels like the car might want to tip to the side, but it instead accelerates further and regains stability "Dammit, Crusaders" Katia yells. She stands up and pulls a set of stairs from the ceiling, they lead to another exit "On three" she points to the back of the car "That exit" she takes a deep breath "One, two, three!" she jumps up and hits against the trapdoor, swinging it open and leaving i na single smooth motion, you notice the other soldiers perform similarly on another three trapdoors on the ceiling of the car, the door on the back slams open
Serenity: "…This thing is so fucking weird."
The moment you run outside you have a chance to look back and see what's going on- All the plates have moved into place and set themselves on the ground and on top of each other having formed a large wall of metal, the top exits from the car lead to vantage points and firing ports in the wall "Now, my dragon, roar!" there's a moment of anticipation- And the main cannon fires. It cannot be an actual cannon shell because the noise is uneathly, the impact shockwave is terrifying and but the noise, by the goddess the noise is enough to make the entire battlefield flinch and drop to their knees
Hughbert slams the door open and charges! "Let's move! Go, quickly!" He kicks his force gear into effect to cover the group from stray fire!
Serenity‘ rubs at one of her ears while trailing behind Hughbert.
Hughbert: Once a bit of ground has been covered: "…She wasn’t kidding about it being a dragon. The cannon seems to think so, too."
Serenity: "Very noisy yes."
There is a surprisingly low amount of gunfire- Although you do have to dodge one incoming cannon shell. Ahead of you is a structure made of stone, a great plateu of carved sandstone, a set of stairs leading inside- It'd look like proper ancient ruins of the stairs didn't have hand rails, thankfully they're there to make running down them easier
Once you're inside, however, the hallways are lit by the blue glow of ragnite… Veins of flowing ragnite glow in the walls giving everything an azure glow. Somehow, the noise from outside is completely blocked out once inside
Serenity‘ lightly drags a hand across the wall.
Hughbert: "Alright, I think we can lower from a sprint down to a stroll for now. I believe we’re past the worst of it, at least until we find the Crusaders' leader."
Anton: "That was exciting. We should do this more often!"
Serenity: "Screw that, if I wanted to run all over the place I wouldn't have built a magic gun for my weapon."
Serenity: "Apparently we just need to follow the spine?"
Harriet: "I'd love to get a look at that cannon at some point… but yeah, okay, let's get going."
Anton: "A good a guess as any. I was just going to walk around until I sensed the Pact Blade as far as I know… we don't know where they are."
Serenity: "Not really a guess, I asked the walls."
Hughbert: "I'll keep an eye out for guests, then. Let's move on."
Anton nods before leading them down the main corridor.
Anton is quite capable of guiding you further down, specifically to a long central corridor. If this was a story this would be the perfect place to describe a series of deadly traps going off as the main characters run across them as a huge boulder chases them
Either way, it's a long corridor, with other smaller ones branching off the sides.
Harriet: "Oooh, this looks promising."
Serenity: "Surprisingly quiet."
JayM: It is, indeed, strangely quiet
JayM: Wonder if there's a way to figure out where to search fisrt, or if you're just going to do the careful combing throgh sequence
Harriet: "What're the walls saying, Serenity?"
Serenity: "Nothing anymore."
Serenity: "She just said to follow the spine to the heart."
Harriet: "Well, there goes that cheat."
Hughbert: "Let's head down to the end of this hall, then. If we come to a dead end before we find it, then we'll trace our way through these side halls. Sound good?"
Harriet: "Sure, let's do it."
Anton: "Or… you could just keep following me. I know where I'm going!"
Anton: "Do I not instill any confidence at all?" He pouts.
JayM: Isn't it exciting to follow an oracle that knows where he's going?
Serenity: "Also fine."
Hughbert nods. "I'll follow."
Harriet: "I mean, I was kinda curious about all these traps, but I guess oracle spoilers work too."
Serenity: "My favorite traps are the ones we don't set off."
Anton: "Well I mean, if you want to set off the electrified net or the giant swinging hammer…" He glances at Harriet.
Anton: "Most of the traps actually react to force gear useage here."
Harriet: "Honestly, I just wanna poke at 'em and see how they work."
Harriet: "But, yeah, okay, let's take the quick route."
Hughbert: "Planning on studying the traps later for your future private laboratory?"
Serenity: "That seems…. less than useful."
Harriet: "It would be a really kickass way to prevent academic subterfuge, though."
It's not hard to avoid the traps following Anton's guidance. The first one takes a bit of work, as you need to deactivate your force gears for a while and nothing happens, the second one has you stopping for a moment- And you see a giant hammer swinging towards the wall- IT hits with a bizarrely soft pomf noise, but still hard enough to be kind of scary, it takes it's sweet time to reset which you use to move past.
The last, right at the entryway to what looks like a small shrine is however the most interesting… Whatever it was, the walls are encased in a thick layer of ice
Serenity: "Maaan. How petty would you have to be to design traps specifically for that, though? Takes a special kind of mustache twirler to start cackling at the idea of traps going off when people kick up a machine to get some measurements or whatever."
Harriet: "Oh, come on, like you've never thought of getting petty revenge on assholes in your class stealing your work."
Serenity: "Can't say it ever really came up…"
Serenity‘ lightly taps at the ice with her knuckles.
JayM: Ice’s covering what seems like holes in the walls
You make your way inside the shrine, and there you find an old man in silvery armor, holding a sword that seems to be made of white enamel rather than metal, it's terrifyingly large. He's accompanied by an incredibly pretty man, golden hair the length of his shoulders, dressed in all white and carrying a rapier
Said younger one's most interesting part however is the outfit… It's quite clearly of akaviri design…
JayM: But that, sadly, we'll have to finish next week
JayM: As I need to be in bed twenty minutes ago because I go to work early

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