The storm's rage seems to be wearing out, cooling into a gentle cascade of water from shattered grey clouds. Soon the sunset might even be visible, as the day darkens to night. But the glowing green eyes of the Cart Dolls destroy and sense of safety or peace that might arise. While Anstice carries Mendhari in his arms, Kin has started circling around them, keeping watch on the Dolls. With all the commotion around the demons and the Synodics, they are fairly easy for Iron Horse, having finally torn himself away from his broken home, to find.
Anstice: "I'm not sure it would have helped... none of us are that good at defending others yet."
Anstice: "There's a room inside we're trying to get to... the wine chamber. It'll be safe for now. Scout ahead a bit? Please? Go to the right from the middle chamber..."
Iron Horse: "...well... I don't do stealth all that well, but I can outrun them... yeah, sure."
With a flutter of wet, metallic wings, a foot tall woman of lightning blue flies into view, circling over the group as if unsure. After a moment, the woman drops onto Anstice's shoulder. Standing there, posed like a table dancer in Nexus, she caresses his ear and neck as she whispers to him. With a puff of perfumed smoke, she disappears.
<Telgar> The Cart Dolls are unlikely to trouble Iron Horse for the moment, they did not offer any difficulty when he passed through their ring to find his friends.
Iron Horse: "... I'll be back, ok?"
Kin meets Iron Horse as the younger man starts moving ahead of his circuit
Iron Horse: "Pretty bad... I wonder if we should get her out of here..."
Kinqueduran: "I've moved past wondering on that subject."
Iron Horse: "Yeah?"
Iron Horse: "Hmm... well, Anstice said I should explore this wine chamber."
Kinqueduran: "If you believe you can do so safely, proceed. I'm going to check on the others."
Iron Horse: "Well, if anything else fails... I'll run away really fast. I'll see you in a bit."
Kin easily finds Anstice and the unconscious Mendhari
Kinqueduran: Slinging his shield back onto his shoulder, K finds a place near the others to slump on the floor. "On a scale of one to dead, how is she?"
Anstice: "Nine. There's also a traitor in heaven..."
Anstice: "A Deathlord’s side traitor."
Anstice: "I can't tell... I got a messenger a short bit ago..."
Kinqueduran: "Messenger? From who?"
Anstice: "Not sure. Distinct style, though."
Kinqueduran: "Sometimes, Anstice, you beat around the bush a bit too much. What style, what was the message?"
Anstice: "Someone we trust is a traitor, the messenger seemed patterned after a nexus table dancer...Not like I'd know about those, though."
Kinqueduran: "Well, who do -you- trust in Yu-Shan?"
Anstice: "I can't help but imagine it could be Febrisa, given my children are in danger, it seems."
Kinqueduran: "Well, she has been a rather convenient source of inconvenient information..."
Anstice: "I doubt she'd have let the knowledge of that far... And I only know the koi-god slightly, the two dragonesses, the sidereal, and Burgeron."
Kinqueduran: "My guess is still the Sidereal...for now. I'd visit Yu-Shan to investigate, but I think we both know how that would go."
Anstice: "I think I'm going to go."
Kinqueduran: "I'm not sure that's prudent. ...as though I'm the expert on prudence."
Anstice: "Fuck prudent, K. Bugger it up the ass with a pine cone. I've had it with the world turning against us, and I'm the best one for the job. I'm still a bloody green, and there may be a Synodic charm or two I can use."
Kinqueduran: "Yeah. Good luck with the two-dozen Celestial Lions."
Anstice: "There's the hidden gateway, remember? I do have one safe place I can work from..."
Kinqueduran: "Are you sure of that?"
Anstice: 'You think WAYANG has turned?"
Kinqueduran: "Let's not rule out all possibilities, eh?"
Anstice: "If Wayang's gone bad, we're all screwed anyway. I might as well go out in Yu-Shan. And Mendhari needs a safe place to heal."
Anstice: "I'm sure that the temple will oblige."
Kinqueduran: "Oh, I don't doubt it. But I'd really like to kill the traitor."
Anstice: "When I find out, I'll let you know."
Kinqueduran: "Think you can also arrange a safe way for me to get into Yu-Shan and move around?"
Anstice: “Not for a while.”
The shining green eyes of the Cart Dolls move back, retreating.
The glow of their green eyes vanishes completely and Iron Horse trots back, covered in wet dust.
Iron Horse: "... lust?"
Kinqueduran: "You heard him."
Anstice: "The dress, and when you came out here... let's just say I'm glad it didn't work that well on you."
Anstice: "Don't worry about it. Where near the room? The one down and to the right?"
Iron Horse: "Well... in the room where I found some blood... I opened one of the doors, and it was all covered in dust... and it just felt... wrong. And there was this depression in the wall. I think that was the wine room.”
Anstice: "Was it down and to the right from where you go into the temple?"
Kinqueduran: "The..." K mimics the motions. "...'right', you say?"
Anstice: "That's supposed to be the safe place. I don't like this at all."
Kinqueduran: "Neither do I."
Iron Horse: "The room didn't feel bad... what was after that depression did."
Kinqueduran: "Describe the depression."
Anstice: "We need to get to the depression, then."
Iron Horse: "... What about Mendhari?"
Anstice: "I won't be following into the depression, and I'll take her with me when I go."
Anstice: "There's trouble in Heaven. Specifically trouble that might get us killed. I'm the one to handle it, and she needs healing... I don't know if I can get her out once I enter the chamber."
Iron Horse: "... right... look, maybe you could try letting her rest in my village, ok?"
Anstice: "I could. But I don't know if I trust it. She'll die if she gets hit again, and can't defend herself...and your family doesn't need any more trouble."
Kinqueduran: "That too."
The three men begin moving back to the temple, walking quickly, even with Anstice burdened by Mendhari. As the rain washed Iron Horse, the effect lingering around him fades, eventually disappearing by the time they return to the dust-filled chamber where Iron Horse left off his exploration.
Anstice: "I don't know, but you two get to find out.'"
Iron Horse: "Hmm."
Iron Horse: ok...
The dust still resonates with uncertainty and malevolence. But Iron Horse sees...well. Lumps. Anstice and Kinqueduran see a flicker in the dust, movement under the surface, darting toward Iron Horse's feet as he steps into the room. The younger man sees nothing, his view obscured by the clouds raised by his footfalls
Anstice: "Iron Horse, come back! Now!"
Anstice: "There's something under the dust..."
Tiny wisps, several of them, appear from the dust. Translucent, grey, writhing forms.
Anstice: "Recognize them, K?"
The wisps move, writhing forward, toward the men in the door. They do not seem particularly dangerous, but Iron Horse's senses warned him of the danger.
Kinqueduran: "I don't recognize them. As usual, I advocate stabbing."
Anstice: "Think you two can leap past them? Make it to the depression?"
Iron Horse: "Prolly."
Kinqueduran: "You first, Iron Horse."
Landing in the midst of a virtual sandstorm of dust, Iron Horse finds himself facing the depression, calf-deep in the caked dust. Another explosion results as the heavier Kinqueduran lands, temporarily robbing both of vision.
As the dust clouds billow around the two, Anstice can see the wisps writhe in anger, then disappear. Something stirs in the clouds around the two men...and then they appear.
Creatures without physical form, the dust-cloud guardians take the form of miniature men, maybe three feet tall with grossly extended limbs and over-sized hands and feet. Leaping from the clouds, wreathing themselves in substance from the dust, they tackle Iron Horse and Kinqueduran. Hands scrabble for the men's mouths, prying them open and trying to force their bodies down into the warm, fleshy bodies.