Thirteen paces around Heron's vacated bed, Ikara sitting on the edge of it.
Zahara and Cerin enter the room where Thirteen is questioning Ikara, waiting until he is finished to interrupt.
Zahara "Ah I see you have finished."
Thirteen "Perhaps a conversation including the two of you would be more helpful."
Zahara "Possibly, but first we have a matter of security to attend to, if you would be so kind as to assist us." she smiles politely.
Thirteen "Of course. How can I be of service?" He proceeds towards the door.
Zahara looks up at Cerin and pastes a smile on her face. "Come with me." She returns back the way she came, to the hearthstone chamber but this time, does not open it.
Cerin "Try to open the door."
Thirteen reaches out and attempts to open the door.
Zahara "As you can see, it will not open. Nor with the thinnest blade can you pierce the seam."
Thirteen "It would appear so."
Cerin taps on the door. It swings inwards.
Thirteen "Ah. It opens only for those who are attuned to the stone?"
Zahara "As I told you before, only those attuned to the manse can alter it. There are certain rooms like this in which the doors are locked in this way." She sweeps past them and walks to the crystalline altar in the center of the room. It is narrow and spiralling, with a translucent chamber in the center. Power courses through the room, strong and focused.
Zahara seals the door after Cerin with a thought.
Thirteen listens to the songs of Essence around him as he walks softly towards the altar.
Zahara "You know what this room is."
Thirteen "This is the chamber in which the Hearthstone of the manse forms."
Zahara nods, "Yes indeed. And as you.. can feel, the flows of power are directed in a very specific manner, and that we two are tied to it. There is another that is tied so, and we must break the attunement before he uses it against us."
Thirteen "Yes, I believe I know who you speak of."
Zahara "Your part comes in thusly: We will take this flaw and turn it to our advantage. We have a singular chance to improve the defenses of the Manse when we rebuild it, and to alter my stone." She holds the glimmering blue stone in her palm.
Thirteen "Do tell."
Cerin "Since the attunement is broken, the Hearthstone will be rendered useless anyway, and so it is an ideal time to modify it for greater security and protection. Since if not done now, the manse would have to be broken again in a few months to make the alterations."
Zahara nods in agreement to Cerin. "With what you know about the defenses so far, and what I will tell you shortly, I would appreciate your input on how we can improve it, and then I will tell you if your suggestions are possible."
Thirteen "Sound thinking. Please proceed."
Zahara proceeds to list off everything but what's in the dungeon.
Thirteen listens attentively, slowly glowing brighter and brighter as he thinks. When Zahara finishes, he asks, "Please allow me to consider this briefly. I will meet you here again at sunset."
Zahara "Thank you." She smiles, and this time it is not forced.
Thirteen steps out of the hearthstone chamber. He wanders for five hours seemingly aimlessly around the endless corridors and passages of the Cascade. Viewed from above, though, his path traces a sharp symbol -- the Inner Tribespeak word for "fortress."
Thirteen returns to the chamber as the sky reddens in preparation for night, meeting Zahara and Cerin there, who have returned before him.
Thirteen speaks without greeting them. "In terms of protecting the manse from invasion, our most significant concern are, as always, the Exalts who can teleport."
Thirteen "Suppose that the rooms were constantly in motion, and that several more rooms similar to the White Room were scattered around the manse."
Zahara "They are, to some degree, always in motion. The maze changes at least once a day. However, the White Room requires a static location by its nature. If you intend for them to catch visitors unaware, it would have to undergo a serious modification.
Thirteen "They need not be White Rooms. I merely supposed that we would benefit from living prisoners."
Thirteen "Deathtraps of whatever nature would serve just as well."
Zahara "I have access to paralytic poisons, as well as demons to keep them put."
Zahara "We can certainly build in these sorts of traps. Ah! I can supply the teleporting demons with an assortment of the Other sort of collar, to keep exalts and various other Essence Channelers from escaping."
Thirteen grins suddenly. "That is an excellent idea."
Zahara "The other sort is either on, or off. No switch."
Thirteen "The teleporting Exalts arrive in the manse by making several different teleportation attempts, homing in on the safe areas. They are no more capable than anybody else to actually traverse the Labyrinth."
Thirteen "They bypass your teleportation wards because they are aware of them and can plan around them."
Thirteen "Suppose that you create a ward that activates only after a successful teleportation, and prevents further teleportation."
Thirteen "More than likely, the Exalts would be trapped whereever they arrive; either in a room already containing a demon, or lost in the maze."
Zahara "Hmmm I could base it on the ones I already have created, yes... that should be fairly easy."
Zahara "Cerin, you have seen triggering mechanisms like the ones he spoke of, yes?"
Thirteen "Judging from the raids they have previously organized, their tactics are not developed, presumably because they normally enjoy such a staggering mobility advantage."
Zahara "That and numerical."
Thirteen "It will take them at least several months to decide to send teams in parallel, which they will need to do to observe the ward before they are trapped within it."
Thirteen "Can the demons themselves be imbued with the tattoos that allow them to navigate the maze?"
Zahara tilts her head to one side thoughtfully, "I have not yet tried. I would worry about them returning to malfaes after their service with it still active though."
Zahara "I could make the wards not activate to things oathed to me though."
Zahara "Though that again would let Markuran through. He is oathed to the Circle, although he has broken it."
Thirteen "I expect that there may be those who owe you oaths but no love."
Thirteen "Him being foremost, yes."
Cerin "It is perhaps a little worrying in that the creatures of malfaes seem less concerned my the muddling. Lucien is barely troubled by the muddling."
Cerin muddling, for example."*
Zahara "Yes, perhaps we need to instill it with demon-wards as well.
Cerin "Though that is possibly due to his nature. He is the master of treachery, and the effect is treachery of the senses."
Zahara "This is difficult, though, due to the fact that I DO wish some to be allowed in, but do not wish to bring that ability with them after their service is up."
Thirteen "Perhaps not all senses."
Thirteen "Are there demons, perhaps, that can infallibly track foes by scent?"
Zahara "I would have said so before Cerin arrived."
Cerin smiles softly, then nods "There are many good demonic trackers, though demons of the first circle are less than exalts, and with skill even second and third circle demons may be evaded."
Thirteen "However, the god-Exalts will not be able to effectively flee the demons while trapped in the maze, while the demons will be able to track effectively."
Thirteen "Suppose you lifted the influence of the labyrinth on scent?"
Thirteen "By placing a similar block within the main area of the manse, you may ensure that such demons would not be able to track us through the labyrinth."
Thirteen "Further, if possible, the labyrinth may be tuned such that your senses lead you in the direction exactly farthest away from your goal."
Thirteen "This ensures that the Exalts will not be able to flee the demons, and as a useful side effect, instantly divides any invading military units into their component men -- for each man wishes first and foremost to stick together with his unit."
Zahara "Surely there are dog-god Exalts, though, that can use scent as well."
Cerin "We also cannot rule out the possibility that they can and will duplicate the rings."
Thirteen "We need merely prevent scent from escaping the main portion of the manse. This does not prevent tracking within the labyrinth, but it means we cannot be used to maneuver through the maze while within the manse proper."
Cerin "We would need to stop the scent of the outside world entering the manse too, or one could simply head away from that."
Thirteen "At a later time we will debate whether one can move forever away from the outside world without getting any farther inside."
Thirteen "For the moment your proposal is sensible."
Zahara "The manse proper IS part of the maze, however."
Zahara "Just to a lesser degree."
Thirteen "Yes. A separation would need to be defined between the inner area, or keep, and the outer labyrinth, in order for this to work effectively."
Thirteen "On the subject of the rings, Cerin."
Zahara "It shifts more slowly, with a complete change happening approximately once a month, with minor changes leading up to it every week."
Thirteen "I have listened to the Essence flows emanating from the telepathy rings. Their operation is affected more or less strongly by other nearby Essence -- ley lines, hearthstones, and other such sources."
Thirteen "Remember the pool beneath the ruins in Rathess?"
Cerin nods in a 'go on' manner
Thirteen "If it were possible to create a similar reservoir of Essence-laden water, I speculate that it would very powerfully exert influence over teleportation rings in the vicinity."
Thirteen "By manipulating the currents in the water, we may be able to directly affect the rings."
Thirteen telepathy rings
Cerin "This would prevent our own communication too, were we to ring the Labyrinth in such pools."
Thirteen "The Essence effects in question operate in waves. There must be a configuration that would essentially cause the waves to cancel each other out, allowing normal use."
Thirteen "When the teleportation ward activates, the pools may simultaneously change shape, disabling the rings inside the area."
Zahara "Do you mean to interrupt ALL telepathy, or simply that of the rings I have made?"
Thirteen "I assert that telepathic effects of whatever nature operate on the same principles. This may not in fact be the case. It must be tested."
Cerin "I am not sure that one could interupt all telepathy. I am sure it works on a variety of different methods. Your conversations with Tantamount look nothing like the conversations from your ring."
Thirteen "In either case, however, they are most likely to gain access to telepathy through duplicating your rings -- either through capturing one, or via Markuran's ring."
Zahara "In that case, should the reforged rings be at a different...frequency?"
Thirteen "Perhaps the master ring should have the capability to change the makeup and thus the frequency of the other rings."
Zahara "Perhaps I can encrypt the speech that passes through them as well."
Zahara "I think having them have different levels of attunement will take too long, if I wish to make many of them however."
Thirteen "It is necessary in any case for us to be able to deactivate captured rings from a distance."
Thirteen "A shifting capability such as the one you suggest would serve that purpose as well as possibly allowing us to communicate while the Essence pools are active."
Zahara "Yes, this is true. It would be amusing to build the power into the master ring to turn one of the subject rings to molten slag."
Thirteen "Perhaps you could eavesdrop on the ring to determine when it falls into the hands of an officer or other important personage, before causing it to destroy itself and injure the wearer."
Zahara "The best I can do quickly will be to have one attunement level for each ring."
Thirteen "If it will serve, then I am satisfied."
Thirteen "It is possible that in the event of an attack we will need to resort to traditional methods of communication."
Thirteen "We will be prepared for this, at least."
Zahara nods. "Given the luxury of time, much more could be accomplished. But as I said before, time is short and we need MANY of these rings."
Zahara "And what of static defenses? I was considering tuning some of the extant Essence flow into a sort of focused beam weapon at strategic points."
Thirteen "An excellent plan, especially since we may now create chokepoints near the entrances to the keep with a reasonable expectation that they will not be bypassed by teleportation."
Thirteen "Where is the highest point in the Manse?"
Zahara "I will take you there. Beware not to fall behind." She heads off at a brisk pace, but makes no attempt to lose him.
Thirteen accompanies her, lost in thought. "I wonder...."
Cerin follows the pair silently.