<ST`> The morning rolls in as a tide of fog that obscures vision badly. Iron Horse remains behind, feeling it unwise to leave his father at this point. Ruby Doe seems sad to see Anstice go and packs a lunch for the three Sidereals on their way to the pyramid, putting in an extra sweet for Anstice. Somehow, she forgot to give Mendhari one.
<Mendhari> "I might ask if something bit YOU."
<Anstice> "Not recently, no."
<Mendhari> "Good. Keep it that way. You can die from some bites."
<Mendhari> "And I've heard that some bites can cause looooong.... angonizing.... tormenting deaths."
<Anstice> "I'll try to avoid poisonous things, yes."
<Anstice> "i do have plans for the near future, after all.
<ST`> Iron Horse made a map that is included in the picnic basket, showing clearly the way to the haunted Temple where Deimos indicated you must all visit.
<Kinqueduran> "Yes, actually. We are."
<ST`> Anstice remembers something very odd as Mendhari's heel impacts his temple..very odd indeed.
<ST`> …in the battle with Besvanda the Waste Maker there was a single hero who lead his hordes of Dragon-Blooded against the demon fearlessly. Blazing bright as Sol Invictus, the Playwright lead a brilliant charge that will be forever remembered.
<ST`> Marionettes, Cart dolls, karakuri and others of his minions raced forward to battle the Hopping Puppeteers and spawn of Besvanda. The eemsayz and vess battled fiercly, but the Playwright overcame them all and won his way past the Copper Circle Demon Mishu to attack Besvanda herself.
<ST`> As his prophecy had foretold, he was victorious. The battle lasted for hours and cost many of his troops, but the Playwright himself was not wounded once. His techniques deserve detailed description….
<Mendhari> "Ow ow ow!" She sighs. "I'm a Princess of the Delzhan Empire, thank you very much!"
<ST`> at that point, Anstice had started skimming and can’t quite recall how Besvanda was destroyed.
<Kinqueduran> "A princess who acts like a jealous she-dog."
<Mendhari> ".... I... am not a jealous she-dog!"
<Kinqueduran> "I know you're not, that's why I'm encouraging you not to act like one. Do I still have to drag you, or can you straighten up and take care of business?"
<Anstice> "Oh. A shame. He'd be useful."
<Kinqueduran> "I agree. But do -you- want to infuriate someone as insufferable as Deimos?"
<Anstice> "He'd forget eventually anyway."
<Kinqueduran> "....well, I do too, but that's another matter."
<Anstice> "In short order, I've pissed off all the maidens, two deathlords, and two yozis."
<Anstice> "What's a Dark Brother in all that?"
<Kinqueduran> "Well, my aim is to get Mars to at least stop hating me."
<Anstice> "I think we should make them all get along. At least Mendhari and I have excuses for the occasional petty bickering."
<Kinqueduran> "I wonder if a suffeciently nice dinner, followed by an evening of dancing would make Mars hate me less?"
<ST`> The Temple looms suddenly before you, a massive steppe pyramid of dark green-black stone.
<Mendhari> "Why can't they ever be nice happy places?"
<Anstice> "Those are creepier."
<Kinqueduran> "Because nice, happy places don't exist."
<Anstice> "I was at a haunted carnival once."
<Anstice> "It's so much less disturbing when things are obviously out to kill you."
<Kinqueduran> "Mhm. I'm in favor of obvious foes."
<Mendhari> "I'm not."|
<Mendhari> "I just want them to die quickly."
<Kinqueduran> "Now, to business. My information indicates that our foes are demons and ... Mendhari, are you alright?"
<Mendhari> "... I'... I meant to say get married and live a happy, happy, happy long life together."
<Kinqueduran> "I think we all know that storybook endings like that only happen to peasants."
<Mendhari> "No... No... That's what I actually said."
<Mendhari> "... Don't say Endings!"
<Kinqueduran> "Peasants in distant, remote places, that no-one cares about."
<Mendhari> "Those losers.... impersonators!" Her eyes go wide again.
<ST`> The temple's doors are wide open, welcoming any to enter.
<Kinqueduran> "I shouldn't say endings? You're the one wishing swift death to befall all that you encounter."
<Mendhari> "Shuuuut uuuup!"
<Kinqueduran> "Anstice, back me up on this."
<Anstice> "Why don't you scout, and I'll try to handle this?"
<Anstice> "Or not. I'll scout, you two have fun."
<Anstice> "K, can you see if the temple is doing something strange to us?"
<Kinqueduran> "Sure. Let me see..." He mimics performing some arcane ritual, complete with nonsensical mumblings. "Yes. It is."
<Mendhari> "that's not funny in the least."
<ST`> Despite all the rumors of pain and death associated with this temple, the only flows of Essence are faint traces of once-strong wardings. No darkness taints the outside of the structure. It may once have even been a blessed place.
<Kinqueduran> "The weirdness is on our part, I guess."
<Anstice> "Stress? See if anyone's home, K..."
<Anstice> "Shout if you need us."
<ST`> The interior hall of the temple is dark, but Kinqueduran's eyes have long since adapted to a lack of light. He can see a single long hallway leading out the chamber that is echoingly empty but for broken chests and smashed banquet tables.
<Mendhari> "... it feels like it's more than taht."
<Anstice> "It could be."
<Anstice> "But we don't know, and what good is dwelling on bad possibilities?"
<ST`> From the ceiling a strange contrapation hangs, something like a Haslanti air ship. With the hull of a schooner and the outstreched wings of a Strix, the ungainly craft is made from thin bamboo and rotting silk. An ancient Grave Good?
<Mendhari> "... what if it's the pact I made with that bastard, Hades?"
<Anstice> "Then you're going to need to find a handle on it."
<Kinqueduran> "Seems clear, at least a little ways in. Follow. Also, Mendhari. Relax."
<Mendhari> "I'll relax... I'll relax..."
<Anstice> "Good girl. Let's go."
<Mendhari> "... I hate you so much."
<Kinqueduran> "Oh, I expect far worse to befall me soon enough. Now, shall we proceed?"
<Mendhari> "... sure."
<Kinqueduran> "Where are you going?"
<Mendhari> "We should turn right."
<ST`> The only exit from the entry hall is the long corridor straight ahead. Though at its end another room is visible.
<Anstice> "Down and to the right."
<Anstice> "I've got a hunch."
<Kinqueduran> "Fine. Lead on."
<ST`> The corridor once bore hangings or portraits, for their stonework supports are still in place. But long generations of bandits and scavengers have cleared all decoration and illumination from the temple's easy-to-reach regions. The circular room at the end of the corridor has a solid table, made from part of the floor. Other then that, only doorways remain.
<Kinqueduran> "I think I've decided to dislike this place."
<ST`> Four doorways, three leading further onward. One in the ceiling, with no clear way to reach it. The other three are normally-placed, left, center and right.
<Anstice> "We go right for now. But I imagine up is important."
<Kinqueduran> "Of course it's important. It's inaccessible."
<Mendhari> "We could throw you."
<Kinqueduran> "I might not mind it. But do consider how you'll handle the guards."
<ST`> Bits of dust fall from the ceiling doorway.
<Mendhari> "..... great."
<Anstice> "You shouldn't have told it you dislike the place."
<ST`> There is no immediate movement, but something far up in the darkness is moving, regularly and without alteration. Swinging gently back and forth.
<Kinqueduran> "I'm sure the temple would have noticed, Anstice."
<Anstice> "Is there somewhere we can buy a good tablecloth for Ruby Doe?"
<ST`> A few more bits that may once have been fine silk fall from the doorway, onto Anstice.
<Anstice> "I'd hate to just set it on fire without replacing it."
<ST`> As if in protest to the light and the magic, a shower of dust falls from above. Then there is a strange fluttering noise.
<Mendhari> "... Oh, great."
<ST`> A pale blue gown falls to the ground at Mendhari's feet. The sort of elaborate designs often seen adorning Goddesses in Heaven are stitched into the Jade fabric with thin threads of Moonsilver and Orichalcum. Around the neck and arms scrolls of Starmetal twine in chain-like patterns that also wrap around the breasts and stomach, drawing attention subtly and with dignity.
<Anstice> "Careful with that, Mendhari... It may be tainted."
<Mendhari> ".... but..."
<Kinqueduran> "But doom."
<Kinqueduran> "Doomy-doom doom."
<Kraken> It is then that Anistice hears the whistling of claws in the cool underworld air, a twisted monstrosity in white robes, holding a quill in one clawed hand, then other trying to take his head off. Then it howls.
<Kraken> The ghost howls in rage as the needle stabs into it, looming over Mendhari.
<Kraken> The ghost smiles a horrible smile down at Mendhari, then it's claws blur and it's quill whirls, drawing a graceless picture on her skin as the claws rake her stomach
<Kraken> The ghost ignores the spears and swords of the two men, focusing still on Mendhari before it, the claws raking over her skin again.
<Kraken> It howls a wicked howl as she falls, flicking her blood through the air in celebration.
<Kraken> The spear does not reach it's chest, the ghost already falling appart to dust, blown aside by Kin's strike.
<ST> Many hours later, Mendhari regains conciousness, wrapped in the blood-stained dress.
<Anstice> "The dress is made of jade, Mendhari."
<Anstice> "Jade doesn't get bloodstained."
<Mendhari> "... it's got blood all over it! It's stained!"
<Mendhari> Not exactly being reasonable here.
<Kinqueduran> "Shut up."
<Anstice> "It'll rinse. You'd prefer I strip you and use the other dress to bind your wounds?"
<Mendhari> ".... Yes."
<Kinqueduran> "She probably would."
<Kinqueduran> "But we're not doing that."
<Mendhari> "TURN AROUND!"
<Mendhari> "... now Anstice."
<Kinqueduran> "I don't think we should let her."
<Kinqueduran> "I suppose."
<Mendhari> "... I should have another dress in my pack..." She sqeezes her new dress.
<Kinqueduran> "I'm going to rest. You two keep your 'activities' quiet."
<Anstice> "A good point."
<Anstice> "What do you mean?"
<Mendhari> "... Hades. I think he did something to me."
<Anstice> "Why would he do that?"
<Mendhari> "I don't know. Part of the deal.... I wish I never made it..."
<Mendhari> "... what is it?"
<Anstice> "What is what?"
<Mendhari> "The dress."
<Anstice> "And quite simply, you're not going to wear it whle wounded. Some sort of rather big power, but the demands might be too dangerous for you yet."
<Anstice> "I do."
<ST> Even covered in blood, the dress still calls. Wounded, Mendhari is more vulnerable to its call but too weak to put it on by herself. With Anstice refusing to help, she can not don the beautiful object. Not yet..