January 28, 2019 at 7:53 am #15444
[Evening, Tuesday March 30, 2077; Field Camp 6, Jungles, Aztlan]
Dream studied Zen curiously
“You know as well as I do that the nature of the journey is as much a part of the test as the actual final act of placing the mirror. Whatever powers one believes watch over us, they universally seem to want us to toil to reach the goal. We must be tested to harden us for the travails to come. I am still not entirely sure what we will find in the fovae but I do know that the potential for metaphysical harm is great and if this wild spirit is as protective of her domain as you say she is as likely an astral bouncer as any other. It may well be that there is no other way to reach your city of gold and the gateway I seek.”
#25February 4, 2019 at 7:04 am #15657
Zen listens to Dream and then replies with a bit of surprise. “You see the journey is a test?”. He thinks ”Well, in a way I agree. Though, I am not sure that it is the way you describe. I do not think much of divinities, but there is the path to Nirvana and the four noble truths. In a way, anything that we do is a mean toward learning these truths and attaining Nirvana. The goals we set are just superficial… Humanity is suffering due to its own faults, and no mirror is going to change that.
Still, if we can prevent some grief from coming to this world it is best, but I cannot seem to make a link from these abstract principles about human nature to a concrete way of action. I find your resolve strangely inspiring. “February 10, 2019 at 11:52 pm #15797
Evening, Tuesday March 30, 2077; Field Camp 6, Jungles, Aztlan
Upon hearing from Zen and Dream that the plan had changed, Alyce brings her leadership group together to discus the new direction that the expedition would be taking. The change in intensity among those present could almost be felt. New orders were passed out and Alyce directed her subordinates to make sure that everyone knew that they were going to proceed into an area that seems to be the domain of a powerful spirit.
261March 12, 2019 at 1:41 am #16319
Morning, Wednesday March 31, 2077; Field Camp 6, Jungles, Aztlan
In the morning, the buzz throughout the camp was clearly favorable to the change in plans. The expedition was made up almost entirely of personnel trained to operate in the most hazardous terrain in the world and most of the people on the team had years of experience in such an environment. Many had experience dealing with spirits and awakened plants and animals, and being people of action, looked forward to the looming encounters. Alyce walks among the team, giving words of encouragement where she felt it to be necessary, her lieutenants doing the same for their respective sections.
After all the gear was packed, Alyce gives the signal to move out and the expedition heads for the danger zone.
262March 14, 2019 at 12:07 pm #16390
Evening, Wednesday March 31, 2077; Field Camp 7, Jungles, Aztlan
The tension of the day is increased a bit at night. The move to and into the zone controlled by the powerful free spirit was difficult, but the expedition had managed to pass several kilometers into the area before Alyce called a halt. The camp was set up and dinner was prepared and eaten under tight security as Rhea was taking no chances. Walking around after dinner, Alyce is pleased at the professionalism and confidence displayed by her team. She smiles grimly as she thinks of the following day’s trek.
Done with her walk about, Alyce approaches Dream and Zen to get a better idea of the direction to take in the morning.
263March 16, 2019 at 2:03 pm #16447
Evening, Sunday April 4 31, 2077; Field Camp 11, Jungles, Aztlan
Alyce walks through the camp after eating, nodding at her people and giving words of encouragement to to everyone she sees. She has determined that this will be a two day camp so as to give the expedition a good rest. She had considered that the day before, but had allowed her lieutenants to talk her into another day.
Morale is running high and Alyce is proud at how her team has performed so far. It is good to be working with professionals and everyone here is carrying his or her weight, even the three newbies. She looks over at the tent shared by Dream and Petal, wondering how they are making out. The trek so far has not been overly strenuous to either, but they do not have other chores around camp, but the expedition’s destination is approaching and that must be wearing.
She shakes her head and continues walking.
264March 18, 2019 at 1:36 pm #16566
[Early, Monday April 5, 2077; Post Field Camp 11, Jungles, Aztlan]
In his sealed armour Dream was oblivious to the biting insects and the odd thorn that snaked its way across their path. Even the oppressive muggy heat was filtered through the suit leaving the internal environment comfortable enough albeit a little stale. Although Alyce and her security personnel were rigorous in keeping the marching formation tight it was inevitable that this many trekkers became strung out across the winding trails that they were pursing in to the depths of the spirit’s domain. Dream could taste the richness of the astral here, the pervasive sense of life that simply wasn’t present in the modern world and he luxuriated in the feeling of untamed natural power that emenated from the trees, the many water courses and the very air…
Suddenly up ahead screams cut through the air and the sporadic burst of tightly controlled gunfire… it would seem their peaceful journey was over…
#26March 18, 2019 at 6:21 pm #16606
Early, Monday April 5, 2077; Post Field Camp 11, Jungles, Aztlan
Alyce recognizes the screams for what they are not and for what they are. They are not the screams of terror and fear that some would assume, but instead are the controlled shouts of disciplined men and women moving into firing positions. She resists the urge to get on the comms and shout out her own directions, but leaves that to Rhea, who is calmly directing her security force to deal with the perceived threat to the front. She keeps some of her people out to the flanks and the rear to make sure that the team is not surprised. Suddenly, the measured automatic fire is punctuated by the loud booming of a heavy autocannon as the Troll’s massive weapon joins the fight, followed mere moments later by the staccato of drone mounted machine guns.
Almost as soon as things get loud, Rhea calls for a cease fire and the noise abates immediately as her well-trained soldiers obey her orders. The silence is almost loud as Rhea begins to get status reports in and passes them on to Alyce. Friendly casualties are non-existent but there are several creatures dead and four spirits have been dispatched. Rhea cautions her security team that this is just the opening contact of what is likely to be a prolonged engagement. Ammunition is passed out and the expedition reforms and begins to proceed to the objective.
265March 27, 2019 at 11:31 pm #16982
Early, Thursday April 8, 2077; Post Field Camp 14, Jungles, Aztlan
Alyce roams the camp in the early hours, trying to make sense of all that has happened in the past three days. Three soldiers dead and four injured, one quite badly, along with several drones, versus a large number of slain awakened animals and as many as nine spirits of varying power,although the count might be off by a couple of spirits. So far, that puts the ration in the expedition’s favor, but every one of her losses is someone that cannot be replaced while their enemy seems to have an unlimited source of combatants. Still, morale is high and there is no sign of any sort of dissatisfaction with the continued mission. She and Rhea are proud of what has been accomplished so far.
Even better, a recon drone sent out the night before showed that they were within a kilometer of their final goal. Both Zen and Dream have indicated that this should be the place and Alyce is hoping that it will be all over today. And then the team will begin the exfiltration, hopfully against a foe that will simply let them leave.
266March 28, 2019 at 1:31 pm #16990
[Early, Thursday April 8, 2077; Post Field Camp 14, 1km from the City, Jungles, Aztlan]
Dream was confident that they were almost on top of their destination, or at least the outskirts of the mythical city. The manasphere tasted different here, wild and dangerous certainly, but also tainted. Although they were deep in the jungle and away from where the war had taken place the damage to the collective astral of Aztlan could not be denied. It also meant that the conflict so far would be as nothing to what he anticipated was awaiting them now. The mirror felt heavy now, as if it too sensed its purpose approaching…he could feel it tugging at him…and was now less sure that he wanted Zen to be the one to take it within the fovae. Whether that was a genuine feeling that his was the right hand to place it or jealousy over its power and giving that up to a stranger he wasn’t yet prepared to admit.
Suddenly Petal looked up and then rushed forwards shouting a warning…as she ran her legs elongated as she assumed her treelike form. Her silverbirch bark looked both out of place against the verdant jungle foliage and also strangely at home. For her to assume it here in front of these folk meant that the threat was grave indeed.
Suddenly the ground heaved and split asunder along the flank of the marching order…rocks, trees, personnel, drones and supplies alike disappeared with shocking suddenness before the ground bucked once more slamming home with crushing finality. Wildlife fled screaming whilst Alyce’s remaining crew frantically tried to dig for their comrades…
#27March 28, 2019 at 6:05 pm #17004
Mid-morning, Thursday April 8, 2077, Jungles, Aztlan
The sudden attack had almost been a complete surprise. Petal’s warning had come not a moment too soon, allowing most of the people to at least prepare a bit. Training and discipline had allowed most of the team to slam helmets closed, allowing respirators to go active, feeding from internal sources. Even so, it had not been quite enough and a good portion of the expedition’s personnel and material had been engulfed by their foe. Surprisingly, the spirit had not sent a follow-on attack, perhaps so sure that the first would succeed.
After the initial confusion and devastation, Rhea and Alyce were moving through the remaining people, setting rescue operations in motion. Each member of the team had a tracking device that allowed the survivors to home in on their locations and most of the buried team was recovered before their air source was consumed. Sadly, all was not a success story and another five people were dead, including two of Alyce’s valuable technicians. In itself, this could have been a disaster if Alyce had not insisted on getting people who were cross-trained in other disciplines. Besides the dead, seven team members were injured, two of them quite seriously.
Three hours after the attack, the team was still digging out the last of the buried equipment and supplies. Again, tracking devices were quite helpful, but few drones are able to take the damage that the full body armor of the people could take and most of them were a complete loss. Vasily, the drone tech swore that he could cannibalize some to get others working and he did have a few spares that had not been crushed. Alyce was seeing to the injured, grateful for her training and her advanced medical supplies and Sonja, her assistant, was more than capable in the use of magical healing. If any team could have survived this type of attack, it was this one. Rhea had put security teams out, but she has fewer people at her disposal than she would like to have. Still, she, too, is proud at how well the team has come through.
With the remaining mule drones overtaxed to carry the salvaged supplies and the badly injured, Alyce directs that the team personnel take up a share of the load and backpacks are filled and passed out. Alyce walks over to where Dream is standing with Petal. ”Thank you, Petal, for the warning. Even as slight as it was, the loss of life and equipment would have been greater without it. Dream, I think that we are within a couple hundred meters of the outskirts of the city. Can you pinpoint where we need to go from here?”
267March 28, 2019 at 9:56 pm #17017
Mid-morning, Thursday April 8, 2077, Field Camp 15, Jungles, Aztlan
The trek over the last two hundred meters to the city site was not marred by any further attacks. Reasons ran from thinking that the great spirit had expended so much power that it could not do much more to believing that the spirit had hurt them enough that it no longer considered them a threat to the idea that the expedition had proven itself a courageous foe and the spirit now respected them. Each idea, and more, circulated widely before being rejected. The truth was simply that no one could know why the spirit did not continue its attacks.
The team remained vigilant and passed into a large open area in the jungle to a somewhat anticlimactic scene. Ancient ruins circled a vast hole in the ground, but the various buildings left much to desire in what the team, or anyone else, would regard as a major city. There are no large pyramids or, indeed, any building that might be considered civic or administrative in purpose.
Two rivers bisected the ruins, both reaching the hole and coursing over fifty meters along ancient aqueducts before pouring over the edge into the abyss below. A quick run-by with some of the remaining recon drones indicated that the hole was deeper than the sensors could reach. Alyce directed that three of the drones be sent into the hole to see how deep it was as the rest of the team emerged from the jungle and began to set up a rough camp. Other drones were sent out to get a better look at the visible ruins.
268March 30, 2019 at 4:46 pm #17084
Early Afternoon, Thursday April 8, 2077, Field Camp 15, Jungles, Aztlan
The drones Alyce had sent into the abyss had returned with information that the open pit was just over two hundred meters deep, ending in a vast lake fed by the two rivers pouring water from the aqueducts. There is a large river leading from the lake. A very cursory look at the river reveals that there is a stone bridge across the river and wide paths on each side, heading away from the lake. The circumference of the lake is dotted by additional ruins, although there again seems no real obvious sign that this was a great city. A broken causeway from the side of the lake directly opposite from where the river empties out leads to an island that seems to be man made. A large pyramid sits on the island and the initial drone feeds are disturbing in that they send images back of piles of skulls adorning the pyramid and the ground beneath if.
At first blush, it would seem that the only way down to the lake is descending the side of the pit and Alyce is not immediately supportive of that means. She does set her techs on coming up with a solution when another is found. One of her small search teams finds a building that serves as the entrance to a gentle sloping ramp descending into the darkness. Alyce sends her drones into the descending tunnel that the ramp’s builders had constructed and orders Rhea to come up with a plan to provide a security team for an exploratory group as well as one to remain behind with the wounded in camp.
269March 31, 2019 at 6:48 pm #17137
Mid-Afternoon, Thursday April 8, 2077, Field Camp 15, Jungles, Aztlan
By mid-afternoon, everything is set. Rhea had directed the disposition of the remaining stationary firing platforms, along with the security drones that were being left behind. Just after 1300, a the foliage outside the relative clear area surrounding the city was violently disturbed, causing the camp to go to full alert. The attack, if it was indeed one, did not break into the clearing and the team mage felt that there is likely something keeping the spirit at bay, something that begged the question about something powerful enough to do that.
Alyce and the exploratory team departed the field camp at 1430, heading to the building that served as the entrance to the descending ramp. The skills of the camp had been divided as evenly as possible, with the assistant physician remaining behind to care for the seriously injured that would be staying behind. Alyce had not wanted to leave her team second at the camp, but that was her job in a situation like this and the experience would do her good. Rhea gave last-minute instructions to her senior shift leader, who was staying behind as well.
The trip into the depths of the abyss started out easily enough. The slope of the ramp was gentle as it circled the pit and some slits in the stone wall provided a bit of light during the descent, which aided the lights carried by the team. Recon drones sped ahead of the team, providing real-time information of the route ahead. The noise of the falling water was nearly deafening and only got worse as the team exited the ramp at the level of the lake.
After some consideration and advice from both Zen and Dream, it was decided that the island pyramid was of secondary interest and that the group should travel along the river leading from the lake. If possible, the pyramid would be examined on the return trip. With some trepidation, the team entered the tunnel, walking along the right side pathway with drones leading the way.
270March 31, 2019 at 11:23 pm #17139
Late Afternoon, Thursday April 8, 2077, Field Camp 15, Jungles, Aztlan
The walkway is fairly clear of debris, although there are a few places where the expedition is forced to delay while some large rocks have to be cleared. Alyce is pleased at the rate of travel, but is aware that Dream and Petal seem to be affected more than the others. She calls for frequent rest halts as her friends tire easily the further the team travels from the lake.
The recon drones send back continuous feeds of the path ahead and the team is alerted about the end of the tunnel well before they arrive there. The tunnel ends at a vast underground cavern and the feeds show what appears to be a very large ruined city. A feeling of despair and isolation falls upon the team, even a half mile away from the end of the tunnel and seems to get worse the closer they get.
The expedition fights through the dread and pushes forward to the cavern, finally standing at the opening. An unidentified source of dim red light suffuses the cavern, highlighting the massive city in front of the team. The remains of large buildings and even larger pyramids fills the cavern. Skulls can be seen everywhere; as decorations on building facades, in piles at every avenue corner, and loose on the ground. The larger buildings have piles of skulls on every wide step. There is an almost palpable sense of dread permeating the area, possibly due to the thousands of sacrifices performed here every year for many years, despite the fact that the sacrifices are very old.
Alyce shakes a bit and focuses her attention on the largest pyramid in the city and turns to Dream. ”Do you think it is that one, or did they put this thing somewhere else down here?”
271April 2, 2019 at 7:47 am #17219
[Friday April 9, 2077; Post Field Camp 15, The City, Under the Jungles, Aztlan]
Dream looked out at the abandoned megastructures, feeling the dread of the place seep in to what was left of his soul. Turning to Petal he took both her hands in his, sensing his mood she assumed the form of a young girl and hugged him hard. Whispering in to her hair he said “You can’t go any further my sweet, the aspect of this place, ancient as it is will only hurt you. Go back to the surface and watch for our return, protect the injured… I love you…” with tears in her eyes she placed her hand on his cheek, and then with a sniff and a cheeky grin she said “See you soon old man, look after yourself…” more seriously she turned to Alyce and said “Look after him please…” and then disappeared in to the astral in a faint waft of blossom.
Dream sighed once and then straightened himself up before responding to Alyce’s query “The fovae we seek is a phenomenon rather than something that can be actively controlled, at least as far as we understand aetherology. Granted it is most likely to form where the astral corruption is at its greatest but I have a feeling that the main pyramid is a distraction…that one to the east of it, the one with the obsidian panels…that feels like it might be our goal. And Alyce, this place may look like it has been abandoned for centuries…but I can smell blood, fresh blood, and I should know! We are not alone down here…”
#28April 2, 2019 at 11:55 am #17225
Friday April 9, 2077; Post Field Camp 15, The City, Under the Jungles, Aztlan
Alyce nods at Dream. ” I can smell it, too, my friend. No one is letting their guard down. Please excuse me while I look to my people for a few minutes.”
She smiles then goes off to talk to Rhea Kynn, who is busy making sure that the two Mules with them are armed and ready, along with the three remaining combat drones. She reports that her section is ready. The techs llok up as Alyce passes them and tell her that they are as ready as they can be. Alyce returns to Dream, accompanied by Rhea. ”Dream, we are ready to move. Our objective will be the smaller pyramid that you have indicated.”
With no fanfare, the team moves away from the edge of the city, making its way to the pyramid.
272April 8, 2019 at 7:51 am #17449
[Friday April 9, 2077; Post Field Camp 15, The City, Under the Jungles, Aztlan]
The attack when it came made any pervious altercations look like a playground scrap…spells lashed out from unseen casters and turned several of the company in to red mist. With the aspected background count so high spell wards failed and they were woefully vulnerable to attack. What followed was a nightmare pursuit through the ruins of the might city, although Rhea valiantly tried to keep the crew together they scattered as they tried to find cover from the barrage of hostile magics. And then to make matters worse their fallen began to fuel blood spirits as they coalesced back in to grim apparitions of violent death. Shadowy warriors sprang from doorways and although their tech was ancient and they were swiftly cut down this was a war of attrition that could not be won. The trap was cunning and they were cut off from retreat…there was little hope but to fight forwards and attempt to reach the obsidian pyramid and fulfil their mission.
Dream became separated from the main party and with comms somehow affected by blistering static, led three of Alyce’s soldiers with him towards their goal, desperately trying to stay out of sight from the many dark windows and doorways that might conceal the foe…
#29April 8, 2019 at 8:10 am #17454
Zen survived the onslaught, somehow. His augmentations proved useful, while none of his adept powers worked. Technology wins, but he mainly fights with arrows, electrical arrows that proved useful against most of the beasts. They were a limited resource, he did not prepare for war – more for self-defense. The beasts were not limited. His reflex and agility were sharp and supernatural and with him in Yoga, completely aware of his surrounding few things were fast enough to hurt the man. Still, it was a hopeless fight, and the torment only escaped, he tried to save as many as he could- but he is very low on arrows and without a way to harm the opposition there was little point of trying.
On the last onslaught, he runs, not backward but forward toward the pyramid and diving behind a rock to defend himself. Most run the other way, and most of the terrible spirits run after them. Zen calmed his mind, and controlled his breathing and movement, he almost dances as he silently sneaks from one rock to another making sure never to establish a line of sight with the terrible opposition. The situation is desperate, but he is not giving up hope to reach the pyramid or at least connect with one of the other members of the team.April 8, 2019 at 10:08 am #17461
Friday April 9, 2077; Post Field Camp 15, The City, Under the Jungles, Aztlan
The team had been expecting some sort of resistance, but the level and ferocity caught them by surprise. A bare warning from the expedition’s mage was enough to give everyone a chance, small as it was. The initial magics overwhelmed all defensive wards and the mage died a horrible death, her screams seeming to echo through the city. Alyce’s drone tech was the third person to die and Alyce took control of the drones long enough to set basic orders to follow and support before releasing them to their internal pilot and combat programs. Not for the first time was she thankful that she had had the control rig implanted.
Rhea did what she could to maintain discipline, and for the most part was successful. Then comms started to go out and she was forced to use voice commands and hand signals to guide the soldiers near her. The ones farther away were on their own, but these were some of the best of their profession and they did what they could. And died. Alyce, who had lots of tech at her disposal to cut through noise, was able to hear the strangled screams of her dying men. She spared a moment to mourn them, but only a moment, knowing that she would have more time to mourn later…………………..if she survived.
Somehow, even though they had been close at one point, Dream managed to get himself separated from the others and Alyce lost touch with him. Knowing that he would continue to try to complete his mission, Alyce pushed in the direction of the pyramid that was their goal. Even though cut off from most of her men, Alyce could hear the almost rhythmic thumping of at least two heavy autocannons and the staccato rumble of the heavy machine gun, along with the somewhat lighter chatter of the three drone-mounted medium machineguns.
Alyce deployed her whip, using it to cut down minor spirits and the ancient warriors that sprang out of hiding to assault them. She was glad of the improvements she had made to the deadly weapon, as it allowed her to affect even some of the more powerful spirits. The biggest problem would be ammunition. She and the men with her could draw from the Mule that had managed to stay near, but some of the others, even with good fire maintenance, would soon run out of ammo. Alyce tried, and was partially successful to get her location out to any of her scattered men and some straggled in to get fresh magazines. Grenades were quickly in very short supply, but Rhea’s command to target windows and doors had paid off in the deaths of several enemy mages, or had at least chased them away from where they had LOS to her or her people.
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