SUMMER

Angkar: Wet season. Precipitation is common during the late afternoon and evening hours. Vegetation grows significantly during the summer, but flooding is a danger due to the monsoons that ravage the country. The rainforest sees evenly distributed rainfall throughout the season.

Ashoka: Desert: Extremely hot and dry. Violent, heavy downpours following long dryspells. Jungle: Hot and humid with frequent, violent rainstorms.

Morrim: Relatively hot and dry, but with a chance of thunderstorms from time to time. The heat may cause forest fires.

Soto: Hot and humid, tree cover is dense while ground growth is restricted. Thunderstorms see the most amount of rainfall during the season, and it can be very windy. On occasion, there are flash floods that can destroy homes and farms built on flood plains.

ANNOUNCEMENTS

March 30th, 2018 As you might have noticed, Elenlond has changed hands and is now under new management! If you have any questions, please direct them to DaringRaven! As for the rest of the announcements, including a season change, you can find them over here at the following link!

January 16, 2018 As you might have noticed, Elenlond has a new skin, all thanks to Mel! Don't forget to check out the new OTMs as well!

December 2, 2017 Winter has settled on Elenlond, bringing sleep for some and new life for others.

September 26, 2017 With the belated arrival of autumn come some interesting developments: new OTMs, a Town Crier and the release of the Elly Awards winners!

July 14, 2017 After a bit of forum clean-up, Elly Awards season has arrived! Head on over to make your nominations!

May 31, 2017 Summer has arrived and so has activity check! That's not all though – we also have some new OTMs for you and some staff changes!


WHAT IS ELENLOND?

Elenlond is an original free-form medieval fantasy RPG set on the continent of Soare and the Scattered Isles, which are located to the south in the Sea of Diverging Waters. The four chief nations of the western side of the world—Ashoka in northern Soare, Soto in western Soare, Morrim in eastern Soare, and Angkar, the largest of the Scattered Isles—continue to experience growth and prosperity since the fall of the Mianorite gods, although power struggles within the countries—or outside of them—continue to ensue.


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    Ride the Sky; closed
    Topic Started: Sep 17 2017, 06:45 PM (352 Views)
    Shell
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    From Theon Greyjoy to Reek in under 3 seconds

    Some time after Ghost In The Shell


    Despite Mordecai's warnings, Shell had returned to Morrim, though she stayed well away from the cities and out of the public eye. She had taken the Kaadian Way down to Soto from Eldahar, intending to go the long way west around, but had stopped along the border, her gaze constantly drawn to the range of mountains she had left behind not so long ago. For many long, long minutes she deliberated on her feet -- then, she sat and deliberated for another part of an hour, watching the Do'suul range all the while, a slight furrow in her delicate brow.

    She had encountered it at the Mulciber: the very last thing in the universe she ever expected to see, in the very last place she would have thought to look. The bones had gone to Mordecai in thanks -- the rest, the magic and the spirit, had gone to Juran, leaving her feeling grounded, a little more whole, less likely to lose herself to her own rage.

    The balance had been broken when she Fell, Zhulong had said. Without one of the Rivers of Life, the Centre collapsed, and it had only been a matter of time before the rest followed. It had been heartbreaking news, and yet....

    ...and yet, now, none of them needed to be alone.

    It was with the memory of the Coiled Dragon's words that she had set Mordecai's aside for the time being, unsure what the pull to those mountains had meant, but having a strange suspicion, a feeling that dared to toe the dangerous line between fear and hope.

    Flee, She had said. Morrim was no longer safe for her, she had said, but hope was the greater of the feelings, and Shell had turned away from the Erth'netora to head east. She had no intention of heading back to the city, or of even stopping in a town, and the Kaadian Way was neutral territory anyway.

    That was her excuse, and she was sticking to it.

    ******************************

    The blue silks she normally wore had been destroyed long ago, before she had even reached Eldahar, and she had since replaced them with a dark Ashokan dress, one she had tailored with a slit in the skirt's side to allow for ease of movement. It had been a shame that she couldn't simply wear it as-is -- between this one and the one she had worn at Mordecai's estate, she was growing rather fond of dresses -- but she still liked the high collar and the long sleeves, and the blackness of it warmed pleasantly in the sun. She had let her hair down once she crossed the border, and hoped that the look was different enough from the one she'd sported last time for even casual passersby to not recognize her instantly.

    However, there were few people to encounter on the Way, and those she did see rarely spoke to her. Her hand went to her throat periodically, seeking reassurance from the pendant Qayin had placed there, occasionally gazing down upon it, remembering the words he'd spoken to her as he did so. When she did, she found her courage and her smile, knowing he was somewhere out there, perhaps thinking of her too. She hoped he was well.

    For three days she walked, resting only every so often and not bothering with sleep, following the increasing thrum within her chest until she stopped before a swath of dead land. Looking up, she saw that the sun had disappeared behind a blanket of cloud, and the air had chilled slightly.

    And, far above her, on a rocky outcropping overlooking the plains, rose the spires of a once-great cathedral.

    The thrumming in her chest picked up in rhythm and pace, feeling eerily like a heartbeat. Shell placed a hand over her chest -- both Pearls were reacting to something, but that of Zhulong seemed particularly excited. She lowered her gaze to the dead ground stretching out before her and closed her eyes, picking through faint, ancient memories of the wind howling through mountain passes, tossing the branches of trees and caressing the face of the stone, driving the her cleansing rains over the land and bringing them life...

    A sudden gust tore at her hair and dress, and she stumbled to regain her balance. Shell's eyes flew open in surprise, drawn back up to the cathedral on the cliffside. The wind died down quickly, so quickly she was forced to wonder whether or not it had even occurred.

    There was something else here. Returning her gaze to the ground, she settled on it almost immediately: a scruffy-looking red fox, sitting calmly a little ways away from her. Even from here she recognized the snaggled teeth, the tufts of fur missing from its form, the eyes which were not so much charming as they were foreboding.

    "...Dae-suk?" The mangy creature stood and padded over to her and she leaned down, holding her hand out for him to sniff. He did so with casual indifference and sat down in front of her, his ruff tossed about by a gentler breeze that belied the torrential gusts further up the mountainside. Shell was in disbelief. "What are you doing here?" She asked in Daroan.

    <Just doing fox stuff.> His voice answered in her mind, careless and slovenly of tone. She expected him to return the question, but he didn't.

    "Is Sara around, then?"

    <No,> He answered, surprising her. She blinked.

    "You're usually attached to her at the hip. Did something happen with you two?"

    Dae-suk bore his snaggled teeth, wrinkling his muzzle. <You make it sound like we broke up as friends. No, nothing happened. She's with Hari-Onna in Soto, still.>

    "Oh, I see -- I'm sorry to have assumed. Are you just wandering about, then?"

    <After a fashion. I was called here to...> There was a sigh of resignation, <...to be a proper messenger, and guide you. But it's only until we get back off the mountain, then I'm ditching you and going back to Prins. We're not friends, you and I.>

    Shell smiled. "That's a shame, I like you. What... are you guiding me for..?"

    <You'll see. Now come along before that building finally lets go of the side and falls on top of us.>

    Something in Dae-suk's manner was strange -- stranger than usual. Ordinarily the young huli-jing was sullen, bitter, somewhat sadistic. His jagged personality had been tempered by Sara's cheerfulness and compassion, but even so, there was an aura of purpose around him, and the way he had spoken of being a messenger, a guide....

    Perhaps there was more to this fox-boy than she had ever realized.

    "Okay." She agreed. He tipped his head, then stood and padded across the dead ground in the direction of the winding, narrow stone steps.

    The heart of Zhulong pounded in anticipation.
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    Nispa
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    The cathedral was exactly as she'd left it. The exterior was smooth from centuries of gales whipping up sand and buffeting the walls. The stones had long since been scorched black by the sun. Even the landscape, cold and cloudy and devoid of any life, hadn't changed. It was hardly surprising. It had been there for hundreds, maybe thousands of years; what was a month or so to it but the blink of an eye?

    Nispa wasn't going to go back inside. If anything, she'd planned on passing the place entirely, but the wind was picking up and the air smelled of rain and the bluffs would be a good place to rest. This time, she climbed the sagging stone stairs. Whether they were weighted down with age or use, she couldn't tell. It was likely a combination of both. The surface was smooth and nearly slick. A light, misty drizzle began to fall, coating the stones with a slick layer of water and doing nothing to help her ascent. She paused at the top. A small part of her wanted to go inside. That part was small, and foolish; she dismissed it without much thought. Of course she wouldn't be going back inside.

    She sat on a dead tree branch a fair distance away from the door. That would be fine. The drizzly air soon seeped in through her cloak and stuck her clothes to her skin. It was cold. "Almost as cold and dead as the rest of this place," she said aloud. Amidst the silence, her voice was a thunderclap. She rested her spear against the dead tree's trunk. She plucked a twig off of a nearby branch and tossed it to the ground. It made a crispy sound as it landed. Sighing, she leaned back against the trunk and lost herself in thought.

    Her meandering thoughts splintered and scattered as a flash of movement caught her attention. This close to the cathedral, it could be anything. She reached one hand out to her spear but dared not move aside from that. She faded into the trees. If anything saw her, she would appear as yet another part of the bleak landscape.

    After a minute of absolute stillness, she heard them. The footsteps--for they most certainly were--grew closer. Her hand tightened on the spear, knuckles white. First came a fox; it crested the last few steps and came into view. It shook its ragged red coat, scattering little droplets that had formed from the drizzle. Next came a woman, clad in black. Her fair skin and raven hair matched the monochrome scene perfectly. Nispa hadn't seen anyone else like her. The word that came to mind first was unique, although she didn't have enough experience with humans to tell if she was foreign or simply different. Like many things, it was likely both.

    The woman turned her gaze to the cathedral. Nispa's heart hardened--why would she want to go in there? She hopped off the tree branch, likely startling the poor girl with her sudden appearance. The dead leaves and branches crackled loudly under her feet as she landed, and her sodden cloak made wet sounds as she moved. She took up her spear and made her way forwards.

    "You probably don't want to go in there," she warned. "The floor's out, and there's nothing much for you to find. The only things down there are likely to find you first, and let me tell you, they aren't friendly." Her voice was quiet, but it was still the only sound in the barren landscape. Ordinarily, she wouldn't be so direct, but when it came to the cathedral, things were different.
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    Shell
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    From Theon Greyjoy to Reek in under 3 seconds

    A light misting rain had picked up as they ascended, dampening her hair, skin and clothes gently. The feeling of the water weighing down her clothes was reassuring, and offset the sometimes-dizzying view that simply became more and more dizzying the further up she went. All ambient noise from terra firma faded out, replaced only by the steady, intermittent rushing of wind and the faint hiss of the rain.

    As Dae-suk crested another of the narrow, frightening landings, shaking out his fur, Shell's gaze was drawn way up high -- to the cathedral, then past it, to the weather-worn rocky spires behind and above it. If she tried to look up too far upon it she would lose her balance, but she thought she could feel something....

    The image before her overlapped with the ones from the Mulciber, with the knowledge of what lay coiled within the top of that old, sleeping giant...

    Her dead heart fluttered within her breast and she picked up the pace, only to have it stoppered by the sudden appearance of a most peculiar-looking young woman, much of her body hidden beneath a now-wet cloak, her form strange in a way that Shell could not quite place, for the most part. What she could see were those dark, shining eyes, a curious dainty mouth, a certain sureness of foot that went beyond the confident way she held the spear, or the seriousness of her gaze.

    How.... enchanting, She thought with all sincerity.

    "You probably don't want to go in there," The curious woman warned. "The floor's out, and there's nothing much for you to find. The only things down there are likely to find you first, and let me tell you, they aren't friendly."

    Her gaze swept back up to the cathedral, and Dae-suk sat several paces away, hunched, waiting patiently and casting some unfriendly canid looks the cloaked woman's way. Once again, Shell's eyes were drawn past the building, up the striated walls of cold, wet stone, and the wind hit her again.

    Empty, and become air.

    "Thank you for your warning," She said softly, with genuine gratitude, "My business isn't with the cathedral itself, but on the spires behind it. I understand I must go through the building to get there, and I believe you when you say it's dangerous, but... I must pass through the place." She shook her head.

    "I wish I could explain why, but I'm afraid you'd think I was nuts." She laughed a little, "Well, moreso than I am for coming all this way. I'm Shell; this is Dae-suk, my traveling buddy." Dae-suk, having clearly learned from Ylsa's pet iguana, stuck the end of his tongue out in greeting and did nothing else.

    Shell turned her attention back to the dark-eyed lady: in this rain, thin and blanketing as it was, she could feel out that the woman's energy was rather similar to that of the jorogumo Ylsa herself often asked for help, or invited to tea. This lady, however, had decidedly more manners, and Shell was quite sure she probably did not habitually lure men to her house and then eat them after sundown.

    "And you..? Do you guard this place?"
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    Nispa
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    The young woman took a moment to reply, letting her gaze linger on the cathedral and the mountaintop behind it. "Thank you for your warning," she said eventually. Nispa's heart dropped. She'd be going in anyway. Nispa was about to go on, to tell her about the monsters inside and the foolishness of the notion, but she could see that the woman was more determined to go in than Nispa was to stop her.

    "I wish I could explain why, but I'm afraid you'd think I was nuts." Not entirely ready to laugh yet, she settled with a half-smile. "Try me," she taunted, not unkindly. She was rather nuts herself (as evidenced by the things that she may or may not have a habit of doing with young men that she may or may not lure to her house after sundown). And besides, vagueness of that sort only awoke a dangerous kind of curiosity. She found herself wishing to go with the woman, not to protect her (for Nispa was not an especially skilled fighter) but just to see what she was going on about. You stop that, she told herself crossly. The whole point was to stay outside.

    She went on to introduce herself and her companion, Dae-suk the fox. Shell, she thought. Not a name you hear every day... What was even more interesting was the flicker of sorrow that Nispa caught as she said it. It wasn't visible, but it was there all the same. Clearly expecting a response, Shell let her have a few moments, but her thoughts were elsewhere. Her eyes lingered on the fox. Startled, she saw impatience. Foxes aren't generally impatient. This one must be special. She turned her eyes back to Shell, intending to reevaluate her, but the woman gave her a gentle prompt instead.

    "And you..? Do you guard this place?"

    "Not usually," she said, mildly amused, a faint laugh pulling her mouth into a smile. "I'm just a wary traveler. Nispa, is my name. I...I don't suppose there's any way to change your mind about going in there?" She glanced at the cathedral again, at the shattered windows and the aged stones. From outside, she could just see the cracked edge of the floorboards. She thought he saw a set of legs, black and shiny, not unlike her own...but they were figments of memory, and Shell had no reason to distrust this place. She shook her head, more to herself than to Shell. "No, I suppose not..."

    She stood up to her full height, steeling herself against her own mind. "I'd like to help you, then," she announced. If anyone knew the cathedral, it was her, and she'd at least be able to help when the monsters attacked again. Besides, she had her spear this time around, and she wouldn't be caught by surprise. She turned her gaze back to Shell. One of her hands came out from under her cloak; she offered it to Shell. "So long as you tell me just what it is you're here for that's so important to you."
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    Shell
    Member Avatar
    From Theon Greyjoy to Reek in under 3 seconds

    The stranger -- Nispa, it turned out her name was -- was congenial enough for someone she had bumped into at random on a mountainside, which made her wonder just what it was she was doing up there. Perhaps there was a reason just as strange as hers.

    Perhaps she seeks the very same thing.

    The idea sent a jolt of fear through her. She had lived so incredibly long, thousands of years, so long that her brain would deliberately shut off certain time periods and memories to make room for new ones, but she remembered, would always remember, being backed against the wall of her own temple, her chest cracking open as her Pearl was torn from her, the feeling of complete existential shattering just before her sight faded, the awful Nothingness between death and undeath...

    She couldn't allow such a thing to happen to Shenlong.

    All the same, this woman, strange-looking though she was, didn't appear to be the type of person who would have the desire or means to slay a dragon in such a fashion; the link set up by the rain seemed to support this idea, and Dae-suk was calm enough himself. She touched the pendant at her throat and the fear abated, and she felt rather silly for being that suspicious at all.

    "I don't suppose there's any way to change your mind about going in there?"

    Shell smiled apologetically and shook her head, but felt surprised when Nispa offered to help. An offer was made, and Shell wrestled internally for a few moments, fiddling absently with the pendant while the rain soaked the three of them. Her fingers were slow and sluggish in the cold, and she knew that the colder she got, the less capable she would be in combat -- which seemed rather assured in this case. Not wishing to waste any more time, and feeling that it was a fair enough tradeoff, she answered: "There is a powerful, magical being living at the summit of this mountain behind the cathedral, one who I have had past connections with. I believe he is dying, and I wish to see him before that happens."

    It wasn't the whole truth, but she hoped it would be truth enough. In preparation to go inside, with or without the young woman to help her, she shifted her bag and tied it off so it would be secure in a sticky situation, bringing her jian into a more accessible position on her back. Between the weapons, Khana's fire and her martial ability, she hoped it would be enough in any event.
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    Nispa
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    Shell considered her offer, fidgeting with a midnight pendant around her neck. Nispa wasn't even sure if she wanted her to say yes; she didn't want to go in, no, not really...but she wouldn't go back on her word, and Shell looked like she'd need the assistance. She didn't look like a fighter. She was noticeably shorter than Nispa, and her dress bespoke elegance, not power. Still, as she shifted the pack on her back, a faint glimmer caught Nispa's eye. Is she armed? Nispa glanced back up at her face again. Her lithe features hid it well, but upon closer inspection, Nispa could see an apologetic sort of ferocity etched around her eyes. She almost dismissed it--humans were rarely more than they seemed, especially to Nispa's trained eye--but the girl was just unusual enough for her to keep her mind open. Perhaps Shell didn't need Nispa's help; perhaps she should turn back and never set foot in the cathedral again. Then again, if she was wrong, and something happened to the strange girl with her strange fox, Nispa wouldn't help but feel responsible. She shifted her grip on her spear and waited for Shell's response.

    "There is a powerful, magical being living at the summit of this mountain behind the cathedral, one who I have had past connections with. I believe he is dying, and I wish to see him before that happens." Well, that settled it. She'd be going in after all. Shell didn't seem to be lying. At least, Nispa didn't think so. Her first reaction was resignation; she'd hoped to avoid the cathedral, but fate had other plans for her that day. Then, when she fully processed Shell's words, something didn't add up right. The creature was behind the cathedral? The creature was underneath them last time she'd been here, and it certainly didn't seem to be 'dying'. "He's not alone, then," she mused aloud. If Shell's...friend?...was through the cathedral, did she even know what lay between them? Did she know about the centipede, and lady serpent, and beetles, and who knows what else? No wonder he's dying, she thought to herself, casting a wary glance into the chapel. She couldn't draw any conclusions from her web of thoughts, and so she let them unravel, settling the matter with a simple We'll have to wait and see how this plays out. If anything, it just made her even more curious. Getting to the bottom of the cathedral's mystery would at least be incredibly satisfying.

    Her mind made up, she turned to the door. A shiver ran up her spine, though she knew not if it was from the cathedral or the chilling rain. At the very least, she stepped inside to avoid further soaking.

    "Watch your step," she told Shell over her shoulder. Outside, the rain had muted her voice; inside, it echoed around the cavernous space and off the stone walls. Two hands gripped her spear; two others removed her sodden cloak and hung it on a candle sconce. It was wet, and it would only cling to her, slow her down, and get colder. Her skirt was only mildly damp, and she brushed it off half-heartedly. At least the interior of the church was dry. She stepped sideways, the cracked edges of the floorboards offering a precarious path around the outer border of the sanctuary. She offered Shell a hand for balance.

    Without really meaning to, she found herself thinking of Shell as a sort of royalty. It was her high-collared dress, she concluded, and the way she wore it. She had the posture of someone who knew what they were about. She wasn't a worker or a toiler; she didn't have any sort of tan, and her pure complexion and silky hair offered a vibe of luxury. Beyond that, it was in the way she moved--with grace and sureness, and the poise of a feline--that seemed far more regal than Nispa's scuttles and clomping.

    "You ever been in creepy places like this before?" she asked Shell, preferring awkward conversation to such deadly silence. "If I met you anywhere else, I'd guess no...but out here, I have to wonder."
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    Shell
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    From Theon Greyjoy to Reek in under 3 seconds

    Nispa said something, but in the hissing rain and gusting wind, Shell did not catch it. She waited patiently as the faintest trace of a dubious grimace pass over the young woman's pretty features, knowing that Shenlong wouldn't allow himself to die until he knew she had arrived -- he had been waiting this long, he could surely wait another few moments. When Nispa turned towards the building and made her way inside, hunched slightly with begrudging determination, Shell's heart jumped up a little and the corners of her mouth tugged up slightly, encouraged by this apparent assent.

    As she passed from the outside, she gazed up at the peak stretching up into the clouds above them, and her head swam with the dizzying spectacle. Then, it was replaced by ancient beams, darkness, and a smell like old, wet, crawling earth.

    Like a grave.

    She repressed a shiver of her own, and then she knew that it was not determination that had hunched Nispa's shoulders.

    Beside her, Dae-suk bristled, but kept pace with them, not even bothering to shake the rain from his mangy fur. The smell hit his nostrils and he bared his teeth, giving a single small growl of disapproval and nervousness.

    "Watch your step," Nispa warned. Shell had just turned her attention to her feet, noting with some surprise the precariousness of the footing, and reaffirmed her centre of balance; her companion offered a hand, and she raised her eyebrows, taken aback by the uncommon courtesy. Not sure what the correct response was, as she was alright balancing, she accepted it, and figured that she could help the girl balance as well if need be.

    The slick of rainwater on her hand formed a bond as their skin touched, and Shell began to see her with new eyes, ideas and impressions bobbing up in the back of her mind like objects at the bottom of a lake, and suddenly those black things at the outer edges of Nispa's eyes, the odd stiffness of her hand skin, the peculiar but steady gait, all started making a bit more sense. The feeling was not specific, but denoted a form of existence somewhere beside humans -- neither above nor below them, but unheard of, a little alien, and strangely compelling.

    "You ever been in creepy places like this before?"

    Her thoughts immediately turned to the tight, winding passages of Katharine Besschentyil's house, the sewers beneath Kinaldi, the harvesting room below Orl'kabbar, Cheng Wei's laboratory...

    "Euch," She wrinkled her nose, and the humor of the sound did not escape her, and it felt garish and out of place here, "A few... but this is a whole new experience, I think, it tends to change from time to time. I think the gods like to try and keep me on my toes."

    The walls of the ancient cathedral groaned, but whether with their own life or just the wind, she couldn't tell. Behind them, Dae-suk moved slowly, head bowed in suspicion.

    "What brought you here, the last time..? And what brought you back again? From what you told me before, I can only assume you didn't find whatever you were looking for..."
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    Nispa
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    She watched Shell's response out of the corner of her eye. She wrinkled her nose, responding first with a simple "euch," and it was clear that the answer was yes. Nispa immediately wondered what business a noblewoman would have in creepy places. She had to remind herself that she didn't know Shell was highborn--that was just a hunch--but it was hard for her to distrust her instincts. She listened intently as Shell went on, hoping for tales of past adventures, but Shell merely reminisced about the gods, and Nispa had to feel disappointed. She was full ready to tune her out if she started preaching, but Shell turned the conversation instead to the cathedral.

    "What brought you here, the last time..? And what brought you back again? From what you told me before, I can only assume you didn't find whatever you were looking for..."

    Now it was Nispa's turn to wrinkle her nose. Remembering the earlier comment, she repeated, "Euch. Just a spot to stay the night, that's what I was looking for." She paused a moment to indicate the empty expanse where the floor had once been. "As you can see, that didn't turn out so well. Didn't get much sleep that night, let's just say. As for coming back...." She paused again, puffing up her cheeks and letting the air go in a steady stream. Why did she return? "Dunno, really. Place drew me in. I didn't intend to go inside, mind you, but at least I'm ready for it this time around."

    She stopped talking a few moments to manoeuver across a particularly rickety section of flooring. She shimmied nearly sideways to keep her balance, another of her hands coming up to hold onto the wall. One of the boards groaned underfoot. She hurried to cross before the remains of the floor decided that they, too, would give way to nothing.

    "I still don't know what you think you're gonna find out here. Either your friend's turned evil and tried to kill us, or he's dead already. There's too much else in this church for him to be alive elseways." As if to prove her point, a low clicking sound echoed up from the chasm below. Nispa recognized it as one of the beetles. It was soon joined by a dozen others, a clattering cacophony that made Nispa's skin crawl.

    She glanced down into the darkness. "They know we're here. They can't climb the walls, but they'll be coming all the same. Shit, sounds like there's more of 'em since last time. Coulda sworn we got 'em all...."
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    Shell
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    From Theon Greyjoy to Reek in under 3 seconds

    Nispa's story was simple, but it answered her question well enough. Shell chewed her lip lightly, feeling badly for being the reason that this young woman was venturing back into potentially frightening territory, but calming herself by the notion that she had volunteered to accompany her. Helplessly, her mind filled in the blanks, imagining all kinds of horrible things that might have been the reason behind Nispa's lack of sleep the first time, but none of her ideas hit the mark of reality.

    She had to wait until she had spoken for that to happen. She followed the agile woman across a precarious piece of floorboarding, sliding herself across on the flats of her feet to avoid breaking the beam; nimbly and without trouble, Dae-suk trailed them, still silent as a shroud.

    "Well, I'm glad you ended up getting out of it alright. I hope I don't end up putting you in danger this way," She confessed. Then, with a surprising amount of sureness that she had learned to expect only from Ylsa, "No; my friend would not have done such a thing. He waits patiently for me at the top of the mountain, where no one surely goes."

    But the idea of the trouble coming from some kind of morally ambiguous, human-shaped figure disappeared instantly when the clacking reached them. It picked up pace, compounding quickly into an entire orchestra, and in spite of herself, Shell couldn't repress the chill the ran up her spine. With one hand for balance, she kept the other free in case Khana's sacred flame was needed.

    "Do they venture outside, ever?" She asked quickly, "Maybe if we hurry we can get out of here and up the peak before they reach us."

    Her gaze fell to the chasm below them, and she swore she could see the massive dark shapes milling about in the blackness. Dae-suk bared his teeth and cast a snarl down at them; Shell's free hand filled with flame, and while it didn't illuminate the depths completely it threw reflections off of the carapaces, the short stubby heads and the many pairs of flailing, grasping legs.

    "Oh." She said simply, unable to come up with anything better to describe her astonishment. Her eyes drifted through the large open space, seeing the many beams and crannies that the creatures could potentially grasp onto and climb up -- one of them gripped onto such a beam just a little ways below the three adventurers, and, automatically, Shell flung a fireball in its direction.

    The sudden burst of light and heat smacked into its face, but did not burn it as she had hoped. Instead, the fireball vanished on contact and the beetle's face, eyes and antennae were scorched: it let go of the beam, falling comically backwards onto its back, legs scraping at its injured head. Another one replaced it only moments after, followed by a second, then a third, and while they didn't seem good at climbing they seemed wholly agitated now, and Shell turned sagely to Nispa.

    "You know what, I've made a lot of mistakes in my time: I have a feeling that was another one. Let's hurry."
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    Nispa
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    Nispa twisted her spear around and bapped at one of the beetles. It snapped its mandibles at her spear, but she pulled it back before stabbing at it again. Her spear wormed between two of the beetle's armoured plates, and it let go of its perch on the wall, legs wiggling in a futile struggle. She pulled her spear out and let it tumble down.

    As soon as Shell's hand lit with fire, Nispa jumped and skittered a few paces away from her. "What--don't just do that!" she scolded, her heart already pounding. She peered down over the edge, wondering despite herself what had become of the beetle. Legs flailed skyward; antennae wiggled about in an attempt to right itself. Had the situation been less dire, Nispa would have burst into laughter. As it was, she simply straightened and pressed on. "Maybe if we hurry we can get out of here and up the peak before they reach us." Hiking up her skirt, she clambered across the broken edges of the floor and made for the door at the back of the sanctuary.

    "I don't think we can lose 'em but we can probably outrun 'em!" Instantly she realized that was perhaps not any better. They were walking into a dead end. Anything that followed them in would have to be dealt with, all at once, upon the exit. "I mean, maybe that's not the best idea either."

    She reached the doorway, then skidded to a stop. The door led to a short hall, several other doors on each side, but the path that they would need to take was the curving stairway at the end of the hall. In the stairway was the shadowy form of a woman, her long hair billowing in a dramatic but seemingly sourceless breeze. She reached an arm out towards Nispa, then another, then another and another. She slithered forwards and into the light, revealing the centpiede's body that connected just below her waist. The sounds of her many feet could be heard from the staircase behind her as her length caught up to her front.

    Nispa ducked out of the doorway and pressed her back against the wall. "Shell?" Her voice wavered and cracked. "Shell, there's a really scary lady in there and I don't wanna go."
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    Shell
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    From Theon Greyjoy to Reek in under 3 seconds

    Shell jumped herself when scolded, and offered Nispa a timid "I'm sorry!", and hurried after her when directed to do so, keeping an eye out behind them as Dae-suk followed. When she heard Nispa's feet skid to a stop, she also stopped, watching the place from which they came in case the beetles were actually smart and decided to come after them.

    Before she knew it, her spelunking buddy zipped back into her peripheral vision and she glanced over at her, noting the nervousness in her strange, enchanting face.

    "Shell, there's a really scary lady in there and I don't wanna go."

    At first she thought that maybe it was another adventurer or something, but that didn't make sense: this wasn't exactly a place that you stumbled across in random wanderings. Her brow furrowed and she frowned in puzzlement, creeping forward and peeking around the corner to see the anatomical atrocity that stalked i their direction.

    With a little gasp, Shell also ducked out of the doorway and pressed her back against the wall beside Nispa.

    "What the shit?!" Came her desperately quiet whisper. After a moment she held her hands in front of her, palms facing one another, feeling the heat rise between them. Inside, the Sun Pearl thrummed encouragingly.

    Kill it with fire! Khana piped cheerfully. Shell smiled.

    "Okey dokey. Nispa.... if I accidentally light myself up, please put me out."

    Hoping against hope that she possessed enough power to actually help, she stepped out from behind the corner to find the ladypede much closer than she had been only a few moments before, and held both hands out, channeling all the qi she had into as big a funnel of flames as she could: it torched the walls and floor of the hallway, and the ladypede's form was partially obscured for about half a minute before Shell's more firey reserves ran out and she did a quick backpedal, panting, in case the monstrosity was only angered by her efforts.

    Nispa was right, this place sucked.
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