After the Black Veil retreated from the room, her Wyld-tainted cultists vanished back into their hiding spots across the Chamber of Wine. Only the birds, adorably cute animals and the tinkling fountain kept the room alive with noise and color. Iron Horse started trotting around, searching for another way out and Glory went to join him, leaving Kinqueduran and Jaom standing near the doorway that Black Veil had exited by.
Jaom: "... seriously. Kinqueduran, right? Can I call you Kin? Kin, are you always this grumpy?"
The Chamber appears as it did prior to the appearance of Black Veil: serene, peaceful and surreally beautiful.
Kinqueduran: "No, I'm unusually optimistic and chipper today."
Kinqueduran: "Don't worry, I'll be back to normal soon."
Kin's glower quiets the birds and animals as he scours the Chamber with his grumpy visage. In the momentary silence faint and almost inaudible echoes of screams can be heard coming from the first terrace up. The one thing about the Chamber that appears puzzling is the lack of easy access to higher terraces.
Certainly, flowering vines and trees reach easily five terraces high, but no architectural feature offers access.
Kinqueduran: "...did you hear that?"
None of the vines look to be up to Kin's weight, or Jaom's. Some of the flowering trees could probably handle either, but not both.
The trees easily support the weight of the two Exalted and neither has any trouble getting up. There are numerous branches and knots to hold onto making the trip up fast and simple. Once on the terrace, no more then a shelf of extended gold stone, the source of the faintly echoing screams is apparent. A pool of water ripples gently back and forth. Through the blue-clear fluid, a thin blue-haired man writhes and twists.
His screams send bubbles to break the surface of the water. Though pale eyes stare upwards, he gives no sign he notices either Kinqueduran or Jaom.
The water gives no overt sign of threat, simply rippling and bubbling in response to the torments shown in its surface.
The butt dips into the water, sending ripples across the image. The man gives no sign of notice. Six inches deep, the butt of Kin's spear stops, having reached the bottom of the shallow pond.
Jaom: "Well... he's... do you know what in the world's happened to him?"
The bare flesh of the man's torso is faintly blue-tinged, a clear sign of frostbite. He howls over and over, only faint echoes emerging along with his bubbles of air rising from the shallow pond. His clothes hang on him in ragged tatters, but even almost nude his body gives no sign as to the cause of his torment. He is alone in the pool.
Kinqueduran: "Or, like, pull him out of the pool, maybe."
Kinqueduran: "...right. Dainty."
Jaom: ".... wait. Waitwaitwaitwait... don't touch him yet."
Even as his image goes all to splashes, the man remains unaware. Considering his inability to notice the two or their actions and the depth of the pond, it is unlikely he is actually inside the water.
Kinqueduran: Circling the pool, K frowns. "Splendid. What is it?"
Jaom: "Illusion. Some kind of illusion. And yet... the screams come from here. Odd."
Kinqueduran: "So now we decide between trying to ignore the screams and trying to figure this out, I suppose."
The butt of Kin's spear, when withdrawn from the pool, has a faint odor of rotting iron to it and no water drips from either the butt of the spear or Jaom's daiklave.
Kinqueduran: "....very, very bad sign."
Kinqueduran: "I'm tempted to just leave."
Kinqueduran: "But I highly recommend not touching the water."
Jaom: "You really do not have to tell me that twice. Dragons save whoever he is..."
Kinqueduran: "I'm not even sure it is a 'who'."
A heavy-bodied demon lumbers into sight in the pond. With the appearance of a thunderhead made flesh, the demon's body bulges with muscle in odd places, an ill-assorted construction ment for strength and little else. Its huffing breaths send sparks across the pond. In two massive hands, one with five fingers and the other with three, it carries a basin of ivory.
The hulking demon makes no sign of having noticed Kinqueduran or Jaom watching from above. It simply places the basin before the tortured young man and waits.
Jaom: "... ugh. I got a bad feeling..."
Something in Kin's newly-modified body alerts him to a time of power. The dark essence that has been making itself at home in his spirit and flesh stirs violently as the midnight of the final day of Calibration strikes. The rush is intense and momentary, a glimpse of a long-sought goal or a fleeting kiss from a lover thought long dead.
Kinqueduran: The sudden sensation stuns the Red, and he freezes, gritting his teeth, for a moment utterly detached from his surroundings.
Inside the body of the young Terrestrial, five lumps begin to move from their disperate locations, converging. From the center of his chest, they seperate. One remains. One moves down to his stomach, one for each thigh and the last climbs up, nestling in the hollow of his throat. The bubbles stop as the pulsing lump cuts off the young man's air. He struggles frantically.
Even confused, Kin recognizes the distinctive appearance of unbound Stomach Bottle Bugs attending to some purpose within the Terrestrial's body. As his mind registers this fact, his body acts on instinct, plunging his spear forward. With a sound like metal shearing through glass the spear drives through the pond, nearly sucking Kinqueduran along with it. But he stands firm.
Jaom: "---gyah! D-damn, Kin!"
Though the Nimbus demon's immense strength is just enough to drag Kinqueduran into the water, Jaom is far stronger then she appears. With a mighty effort she hauls back, pulling the grizzled Orange from the pond and dragging the demon itself halfway out of the water. It lays gasping, half in, half out of the pond.
A large soulsteel daiklave embeds itself on the terrace's edge, one young woman in a dress hurtling up after it on the attached chain. Glory rockets past the terrace's edge, spins in midair, and swings her second daiklave in a vertical cut at the nimbus-demon. The black-iron sword screams with delight as the path of the cut leads it right across the foul thing's neck.
Kinqueduran: "I'll have plenty of time to smile when I'm dead."
Jaom: "I dunno... I don't think you do much of anything then."
Even as the demon is hauled from its position, the Stomach Bottle Bugs perform their duty. Holes open in the man's flesh as the beetle-like demons begin emerging. In their delicate pincers they carry thick arteries. The man screams with all the air in his lungs before that is exhausted, then he simply makes a rasping, horrible rattle. With silent snips, the demons open his arteries and aim the flow of blood into the basin.
Jaom leaps out of the way of Kin's wildly swinging spear as the Orange overbalances and hurls himself into the pond. With a splash that soaks the two women, Kin sinks into the water and appears, very suddenly, sprawled on the floor next to the basin. As the blood flow from the young man's legs begin to wane, the demons tie off the arteries there with bits of his flesh and muscle and move on to other tasks.
Scuttling through the dying boy's flesh, they re-arrange his anatomy so that the rest of the liquid in his body is directed into the basin as well. Even the sweat pouring from his twitching form drips and flows towards the basin that seems to suck it all in.
Jaom: "Your grumpy friend lanced him a demon, and got a bit overeager about it."
Kinqueduran: "Piss off."
Iron Horse: "Eh?"
Kin's voice is lost to those above. In fact, Kin can't see the water at all. The ceiling overhead is just that, a black stone ceiling with no trace of any sight nor sound of the others.
The young man goes limp, the last twitches of life fleeing his body as Glory's second daiklave slices his neck, dropping his head and the stomach bottle bug in his throat to the ground. Her first daiklave strikes true, shattering the basin and spraying the blood and fluids of the young Terrestrial across the room. Not an unusual occurance for Kinqueduran, but he is now covered in gore.
The two remaining demons scuttle around, searching for flesh to inhabit. With his vision cleared of the gore-caked hair Kin can see clearly the room he stands in. A simple cube of black stone with only one entrance, that used by the demon. The chains that held the young Terrestrial in place and now support his headless and bloodless corpse groan softly. Soulsteel. Aside from them, no sound but the dripping of gore can be heard in the room. Faint light shimmers beyond the doorway.
Glory's two Daiklaves hang limply from the ceiling. Where the chain should continue up, it simply merges into the stone blocks.
Kinqueduran: The rattling chains draw his attention in an instant. The Sidereal stares up at them, not making the connection at first, initially believing them to be part of the macabre decorations.
Iron Horse: "... um... how do we get K out?"
Glory: "I'm working on it."
The ceiling is firm and unyielding.
Iron Horse: "Try lowering them to the floor?"
Iron Horse: "Need a hand pulling him up?"
Once the chains stop jiggling, Kin's keen senses detect the faint splatter of liquid hitting something solid and filling a vessel. The way the sound repeats indicates not only distance down acoustic tunnels but several sources. Many sources.
The sound comes from outside the room, down the faintly illuminated hallway.
A hundred or so feet beyond the room he'd fallen into, Kinqueduran finds another doorway into an identical black-walled room. An elderly man hangs from Soulsteel chains, his last drops of blood collecting in a basin. Another of the stormcloud demons stands patiently, stupidly, waiting to take the basin away.
Jaom: "I think your friend's well past crazy. My kinda guy."
Iron Horse: "Sure. Couldn't find another exit anyway."
With a sweep of its massive black-grey arm the Nimbus Demon deflects Kin's spearthrust. Turning in a flash of lightning the beast jumps for Kin, claws of blue light reaching for his soft throat.
As Iron Horse's feet hit the blood-soaked floor of the torture cell, he drops to his knees in the puddles of spilt gore. His hands ache with a deep, bone-shattering cold and his skin feels as if it is trying to fall off in chunks. Brittle black ice spreads over his arms, cracking open his skin and searing the muscle below.
Preparing himself for a strike at the nimbus demon and the basin it guards, Kinqueduran staggers. His vision grows cloudy then stains red as invisible razors stab deep into his skull and eyes. Fingers made of broken glass claw at the back of his eyes, at the inside of his chest and skull. Blood flows from his eye sockets.
The Nimbus demon, a very stupid breed of laborer born from Adjoran's lowest Brass Soul, is confused by the sudden screaming and profusion of blood issuing from its target. It hesitates, totally uncertain of what to do. It is very sure it has yet to pummel the intruding man...
Jaom: "... lemme go ahead and see what's happening. You stay put, alright?"
Kinqueduran: Infuriated, Kin hurls himself forward. His free hand lights on Glory's shoulder as he vaults over her, bringing his shield down onto the demon's face, tucking his body behind the starmetal targe to compress his full weight into the impact.
The demon staggers slightly as its lightning-fast flurry of blows knocks away the worst of the Abyssal's and the Synodic's wrath. It howls, no longer confused at all!
Iron Horse: ".. oh, you too?"
Crippled by the dark essence flung by Glory, the nimbus demon is ripped to shreds by Kinqueduran's attack. With a clap of thunder, it vanishes into mist. All that remains in the black-walled room are four Exalted, a dead Terrestrial and a basin of blood and gore.
Iron Horse: "... Are... these the prisioners we have to save?"
Jaom: "I think the saving part's not an option anymore."
Iron Horse: "I think we should hurry and find others before they do -that-"
Jaom: "... heh. That could've been me... funny how fate works, eh?"
Kinqueduran: "Yeah. Real funny."
Iron Horse: "I think we should hurry nontheless."
Jaom: "Likewise. Let's go..."
Kinqueduran: Retrieving his shield and spear, Kin groans, obviously still in pain.
Behind the four Exalted, the basin swirls ominously, silently and with growing speed. With limited time to work, the unseen forces manipulating its contents take to their job at a fever pitch
Though Glory's destruction of the basin brings no further damage to either Iron Horse's arms or Kinqueduran's eyes both men feel their wounds re-open. Kin's eyes start bleeding anew and Iron Horse's skin cracks wider and grows colder. Mental rumbles of displeasure and anger emanate from the back of their minds where the whispers of their patrons originate.
Jaom: "... ah, hell, Kin! Dammit, where's my blade cloth..."
Iron Horse: "--AGH!"
Iron Horse: "I don't... -think- that's going to stop this... PLEASE... don't... shatter more of those things... ok?"