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Leaving the looted ruins of the city behind them, after one last sweep to ensure they had left nothing behind, Zahara and Cerin set off deeper into the ground, following a path beyond the city from where they entered, a path Cerin said they did not walk when he was here first. The path twists its way through the rocks, though it definately seems to be headed ...somewhere, the diversions merely to avoid especially hard patchs of rock.

  • Zahara follows along, absently dipping her fingers into her loot sack to finger the strange crystal's cool, smooth surface thoughtfully. It scares her a little, that it could steal the souls from people's bodies, yet it also excites her. She dwells on this as they walk through the darkness, illuminated by their connection to the Sun.

<Zahara> "Where does this go, do you think?" she asks, after a long silence broken only by their footfalls and a vaguely distant sound of dripping water.

  • Cerin walks along beside her, his feet falling lightly as he does, studying the tunnel as it loops and turns, leaving Zahara to her musings for the moment.

They walk along the passage for a long time, the sound of water occasionally receding when the path twists. Mostly, however, it seems to grow closer. The tunnels grow damp and chill, and the silence is replaced by a dark rumbling that seems to come from all around

Cerin begins to see evidence of Earth Essence imbuing the ceiling and walls of the tunnel, while Zahara focuses mostly on the stalactites and stalagmites that form jagged teeth and the occasional pillar. The Essence seems to be allowing the water through at certain points, where these form.

<Zahara> "I didn't know there were such colors beneath the earth not contained in gems." she comments, placing her hand on one of the stalactites, feeling it's cool wetness

  • Cerin shakes his head "Nor I. I wish you had my sight...the essence here is fascinating. It swirls around these pillars."
  • Zahara breaks off a smallish fang, and the tunnel seems to groan and grumble for a few moments before quieting. "You mean.. like this one?" she smiles ironically.

<Cerin> "It was, yes." he frowns a little "It doesnt swirl so well, now." he notes as the precise swirls start to break apart.

  • Zahara tucks the piece into her sack and moves forward, "Hopefully it will survive.. Did it fix itself?" she asks.

<Cerin> "It has....though it is not so harmonious now."

<Zahara> "Too bad... I was hoping to harvest a few more of these." she frowns, then perks up, "Well, maybe on the way out."

<Cerin> "Perhaps. They are fascinating structures." he smiles as they walk on through the strange grotto

  • Zahara shrugs a little and continues on. As they round a sharp turn, the floor gives way suddenly to a great chasm that yawns in the darkness. About 100 feet below, a river rushes, its waters dark beneath frothing swirls and eddies where jagged stalagmites jut through them.
  • Cerin peers up and down and around him from the edge, the filters in the helmet banishing the darkness.

<Zahara> The network of Essence seems to be much stronger over the chasm, and extends as far as you can see downriver, but seems to weaken upriver.

  • Cerin smiles "Can you walk me down river, love...the flows are ..most curious."

There is also a bridge that extends over the chasm, however... large chunks of the actual rock seem to be missing, It looks as if it were fashioned originally of large blocks of stone, and the bits that remain retain some decorative elements as they hover in the air, suspended only by the web of Essence that weaves down from the ceiling into it, forming a bridge of light to Cerin's eyes, but not his feet.

  • Zahara eyes the strange bridge, wondering why it's still..kind of there. "Downriver? That seems an odd place to go. Do you see something there?"

<Cerin> "The essence flows get stronger there. Stronger and more complex"

  • Zahara holds her arm out for him, "Interesting," she muses, and looks down at the eddying water below, "This river could not have been here for very long."
  • Cerin slips into her arms "Hmm?"
  • Zahara carries Cerin as she treads to the center of what's left of the bridge, and turns left, walking downstream, and also down closer to the river itself. "See those stalagmites on the bottom? They would never have formed if the river was there."
  • Cerin frowns breifly, then nods "Oh, of course" he looks out down the river as they make thier way down the tunnel.

<Zahara> "I wonder what was holding that bridge up back there. Some kind of spell, I'm sure."

  • Cerin nods "There was a web of essence stretching from the ceiling to the floor to hold it."
  • Zahara nods to herself, "That would do it, yes. Someday I'd like to augment my buildings like that." she walks on, steadily, hovering several feet above the water, because the view is more interesting. The essence in the ceiling does not seem to change at all.
  • Cerin nods "Then your building will be truely beautiful." he looks up at the ceiling "Hmm, the ceiling is not changing.."

<Zahara> "Was it supposed to?"

<Cerin> "I'm not sure."

  • Zahara looks up at the stalactite-studded rock
  • Cerin looks up too, wondering what Zahara is looking at
  • Zahara is looking at your basic rock ceiling, sans the essence fireworks Cerin is seeing.

<Zahara> "Do you think it goes anywhere?" she asks dubiously.

<Cerin> "It has to go somewhere.."

Upon due consideration of the ceiling, Cerin notices that it is too even, aside from the stalactites. The web of essence is very similar to that holding the bridge up, its strength has been even and precise everywhere except where Zee had broken the the piece off, and upriver, where it weakened. The ceiling seems to have been made deliberately.

<Cerin> "Could we climb higher...that ceiling. It is not natural. The flows are /far/ too precise."

  • Zahara hikes upward, seeming to barely feel the added weight of her companion. "What do you mean?

<Cerin> "All the flows. They are measured and perfect and precise. They have been shaped, I'm sure."

  • Zahara looks at the ceiling, "It does seem to have a rather... man-made appearance, now that I look closer. "
  • Cerin nods "Perhaps we should go back to the bridge, maybe beyond it we will go higher."

<Zahara> "There doesn't really seem to be anything interesting this way anyway." she sighs, "I wish we'd brought some food." she turns around and heads back for the bridge, perhaps a bit more quickly than they'd wandered down in the first place, since she's already seen that part already

  • Cerin sits happily in her arms, not bothered about the pace, until they return to the bridge "Could you hold me here, love. I want to draw for you what I see."
  • Zahara holds him up and waits while he draws, admiring his butt while she's at it.
  • Cerin finishes the sketch after a time, then lets her turn him around to show it to her.
  • Zahara finds the drawing almost as interesting, "Ohh I see what you're talking about now. It looks like it was... all part of the same spell, perhaps. The way it all flows together so seamlessly. I wonder what destroyed the bridge.."

<Cerin> "I dont know...perhaps it was Lai, after they looted the city...though I hope it was not."

<Zahara> "He is strong enough to do that?"

<Cerin> "I do not know. I dont think I have seen the fullest of his capabilities. It is possible he or someone he travelled with could have."

  • Zahara runs her fingers through her hair, frowning. "Well, we shall defeat him, nonetheless."
  • Cerin kisses her "We will." he turns "Shall we go down now?"

<Zahara> "which way?"

<Cerin> "To the far side of the bridge and deeper?"

  • Zahara nods, and continues on, upriver.
  • Cerin sits in her arms, looking about him, watching the essence, and rocks, and the river.

<Zahara> "Does it sound like it's getting louder to you?" she asks after a time. You notice that some of the Essence strands seem to have..unraveled from their straight paths, and become skewed. Some just seem to fade into nothing.

<Cerin> "It is yes...The spell is breaking apart, loosing its perfection too"

  • Zahara nods a bit, and continues forward, "I wish I knew what happened..." After several more minutes of walking at a fairly fast pace, they come upon the source of the noise. The spell had become increasingly less effective as they journeyed, and the water below more turbulent.

<Zahara> Ahead, there is a yards-long gap in the ceiling, below, chunks of tumbled rocks would choke the river if it hadn't been pouring like a torrent from above, in a thunderous, shimmering waterfall that glistens in the light of their Animas.

<Cerin> "Perhaps if we look up there we will see. The spell has all but gone now."

  • Zahara ascends the air, the spray from the waterfall drenching them both as it drives over the jagged edge of what you thought was the ceiling. Beyond, through a gap in the water where a boulder parts the flow, you can see that the passage does continue on, and the spell seems to resume past it.

<Cerin> "The spell, its gaining in strength again. Perhaps we should climb up the fall."

  • Zahara sets Cerin down on the far side of the 'ceiling' where it's dry. Above seems to be a rather better-made tunnel, with a smoothly arched ceiling. Across the gap, the underground river tumbles on. "I need to rest a bit."
  • Cerin nods "I think we can sit on that rock" he points to a jagged spur sticking up from near the hole "Or I can stand and you can sit in my arms."

<Zahara> "It's dry on this side, you know. But I wouldn't mind sitting in your arms." she smiles.

  • Cerin smiles "take us down then. We can sit wherever you like."
  • Zahara chooses a nice flat spot..which isn't hard once you get past the broken area. The stone floor is well-worn, smoothed by erosion, and cushioned with a bit of silt.

<Zahara> "This must be what the spell was for." she notes, watching the cascade.

  • Cerin nods as he seats himself next to her "I wonder why the made such a spell...and what smashed that hole..."
  • Zahara shakes her head, "I'm not sure, but they wanted the water to go that way." she points down the dry half of the tunnel and scooches into his lap. "and as they say, water leads to life"
  • Cerin wraps his arms around her "That they do. We can follow it in a while."
  • Zahara nods and leans up against him, "Something.. or someone.. very strong must have destroyed these rocks. Maybe more than one, though. I myself have never carved more than a few meters of rock out at a time."
  • Cerin nods "Marku could manage it, I'd wager though."
  • Zahara nods in agreement, "He has much strength in him. He seems to have tempered it a bit with thought lately, thank the Sun."

<Cerin> "He is much more agreeable to be around, too"

  • Zahara laughs "That is an understatement."
  • Cerin laughs too "That is the truth and no mistake."
  • Zahara cringes, "And he hasn't talked about eels quite as much."
  • Cerin nods, kissing her lightly "Thank the Sun for that, too."
  • Zahara kisses back, and proceeds to distract him from their quest for a good long while. Resting indeed!

Some time after the 'rest', Cerin and Zahara are walking down the now dry riverbed, nothing in sight to even Cerin's essence enhanced eyes.

  • Zahara makes little patterns in the silt with her feet between each step, "This exploring stuff is kind of boring."
  • Cerin laughs softly "Well, featureless magical tunnels are hardly the most interesting places to walk..It must lead somewhere though. And that somewhere is probably a lot more interesting."

<Zahara> "I hope so." she frowns a bit, then picks up her step... "I bet you I'll find it first!" she says over her shoulder, and then takes off running, her steps sending up little poufs of dust

  • Cerin laughs and sprints after her in his strange flowing stride
  • Zahara runs through the tunnels like a very slow wind, compared to Cerin.
  • Cerin scoops Zahara into his arms as he passes her, then accelerates.
  • Zahara gives a surprised squeak as she is scooped up, then wraps her arms around his neck and laughs, feeling the wind.
  • Cerin settles into an easy run, that none the less devours the distance in the tunnel, but somehow disturbs no dust as he does.

<Zahara> "I like this better." she chuckles, relaxing in his arms. Soon, though, she sits up straight, "Cerin! There it is!" she breathes, as before them opens up a cavern grander than they had seen before. The aqueduct they had been running in spills into a wide moat, which runs several miles around the edges of the corridor, as well as criss-crossing throughout the city into a series of canals that functioned as roads. Except dry.

  • Cerin 's eyes go wide. "What a place." he sets Zahara down with a kiss, looking about the city more.
  • Zahara looks upward, straining to see the top of the cavern, but it is too far beyond their small circle of light.
  • Zahara 's eyes cannot pierce the darkness, however Cerin's can, especially augmented with his Essence sight. The floor of the cavern carries the same pattern as the ceiling of the below had, as indeed the tunnel this far had as well. It being.. the same piece of rock and all.

<Cerin> "....This entire city was made by the same spell, I think. The floor shows the same essence patterns, always perfect and precise."

However, the cavern itself seems to be natural, not enhanced with Essence in a strong pattern. He can see several areas that seem to shine more than others, a spark of their Anima picked up and repeated along the walls in eight places.

Looking further up, he can see the shining spots in six places, then four, then one.

<Zahara> "Amazing... I did not think a spell could encompass such a large area... although the book I found in Rathess did hint at such things.

  • Cerin frowns "Could you carry me for a while?" he asks "There are some ..spots of essence on the wall..focus points of some kind. I'd like to take a closer look."

<Zahara> "Whatever would you do without me?" she chuckles, then embraces him, and lifts him, walking as he directs her.

  • Cerin directs her to the nearest such spot, studying the near blinding essence more closely.

Upon closer inspection, the shine is brighter to your mortal eyes than essence sight. You find a large parabolic mirror embedded into the rock, with some sort of Essence mechanism holding it in place.

<Zahara> "A Mirror?" she touches the surface, which is coated with dust. She brings out a cloth and dusts it off. The mirror takes her anima and amplifies it, brightening the room.

  • Cerin dusts off more of the mirror "We can light this place." he smiles "These people did not like the darkness, it seems."

<Zahara> "Well, I'm not going to stand here the whole time we need light, you know."

  • Cerin shakes his head "I think if we cleaned enough of them, the reflections would light the cavern. There are a lot of these things in here."
  • Zahara squints, looking across the cavern, now dimly lit instead of black. "Oh, I see them now." she smiles, "Clever people." She carries him around the lower circle of 8 mirrors, cleaning them off in turn. With each one they clean, the room brightens while they are in front of it, even more. In between them, it dims, but the light that reaches the mirrors is still amplified.
  • Cerin smiles "It's working." he considers "Could your demons help?"

<Zahara> "My demons? They're all at home except the Sesseljae and Perronelle"

  • Cerin nods "Its the sesselje I was thinking of. They are quite delicate when they have need to be, and they can fly."

<Zahara> "Hmmm they might even consider this dust to be tasty, you never know." She sends them out, each one to a different mirror, and they industriously clean the mirrors off, leaving behind a sparkling shine that Zee's mother would have been proud of.

  • Cerin watches as the cavern slowly brightens with each mirror that is cleaned, letting Zee see the vista he saw before.

<Zahara> "It IS beautiful," she says, staying near one of the mirrors, which sends the light to the others in the same level, but not so much to those above. They seem to be angled slightly down, which helps to illuminate the city. "It must have been beautiful with the rivers." she frowns for a second, then snaps her fingers, "Of course.. the river!" she says, excitedly.

<Zahara> "The river formed a second protection spell on top of the structural spell. Do you see the runes it forms, interlocked?" she traces them out with her finger, imagining them full of living water. "This city was well-protected indeed. It's no wonder they diverted the river."

  • Cerin looks at her, then at the canals. Then his eyes widens as he sees the truth. "...that is amazing." he traces his eyes along all the canals "No wonder at all. Protection on such a scale...it staggers the mind."
  • Zahara shivers a little, "Someday I want to protect the Sunlands like that."

<Zahara> "I wonder if we can put the river back..." she muses

  • Cerin nods "You will do." he tilts his head "I'm sure we could. Somehow."

<Zahara> "The spell would have to be re-made, though... or perhaps a we could sort of build a bridge that we can place over the gap... yes, that might work better.

<Cerin> "A bridge would be easier for certain. We could always work on repairing the spell later."

<Zahara> "Yes, we should bring Marku here, he would be able to help with the bridge."

  • Cerin nods "I'm sure your puppeteers could too."

<Zahara> "True.. it could be our secret city." she smiles a bit, "An island, a city, soon we'll have a secret world."

  • Cerin laughs and kisses her "Our own world...that would be something to behold."
  • Zahara grins, and walks upward as the sesseljae finish cleaning the mirrors. with each level they reach, the room grows brighter, more shadows are banished, until they reach the top. There is a small octagonal block suspended in front of the top mirror, which is as large as them.

<Cerin> "...I wonder what that is?" Cerin says as he notices the octagon. "Some kind of light perhaps?"

  • Zahara reaches out to touch it, feeding essence into it as she runs her fingers across its eight sides. Upon the touch of her Essence, it flares to life, nearly blinding Zahara as she withdraws her hand, throwing it across her eyes. It flickers from red to blue, then holds steady. The room is lit as bright as noon in the desert. But blue.

<Zahara> Below them, the city starts to hum lightly.

<Zahara> "Well... That's bright." she squints, looking away from the mirror. Cerin noticed that the light flickered from red to blue as her fingers touched different sides of the octagon.

  • Cerin carefully covers her hands with his, further protecting her eyes as he studies the light.

It shines steadily blue.

  • Cerin tries to touch another side.

<Zahara> Below them, a building starts to rotate. It starts out slowly, and then seems to find its speed until Cerin touches the other side. the light turns to yellow, and the building grinds to a halt. However, in another part of the city - corresponding to the mirror closest to the side he touched - another building starts to move.

<Cerin> "How facinating." Cerin plays with the octagon until he figures out what it does. and how to make it a nice sunlight colour. that isnt blindingly bright.

<Zahara> There seem to be blue, red, yellow, orange, purple, green, sun, and moon sides, the last of which sends out a diffuse light much like a moonlit night. Sun and Moon are at South and North points, and correspond to the grandest buildings.

  • Cerin smiles as he sets it to sunlight "We can go down now, sorry for taking so long to figure it out.."

<Zahara> "It's okay.. I have TWO eyes." she says, and walks generally downward with her eyes closed.

  • Cerin warns her of the one building she might have hit, leaping off her when she is very close the ground, and guideing her back to solid earth, right outside the Sun building.
  • Zahara finds herself able to open her eyes once she is down on the ground, although spots float in front of her eyes.

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