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  2. Firanis shook her head in unfortunate reply. "Though our villages lay not that far apart, this is still largely unpopulated. Any manufactured shelter or outpost here has long been scavenged to other uses I think, or buried by the previous ages," the magenta-tressed woman admitted with a sigh and some regret as she glanced around quickly. "Any scavenging and tinkering will have to wait for another time, I am thinking. Come, though we are out in the open, we may still have time to find some better place to make camp, to keep our mounts safe and perhaps give us some meager shelter."
  3. Tessereah regarded the young woman with wonder, marveling at whatever senses allowed her to connect so easily to the universe. Noting this down for future reference, she turned to Firanis. "We myay be ayble to combine the yuseful with the plyeasurable if we can find some shyelter as well as spare parts. You know this place better - mayhaps, there is some form of outpyost, or other out-building where we might find some iotum and a workbench?"
  4. Sigil's eyes widen slightly as the information stream buckles in her consciousness. As if the universe itself had fallen away, leaving a ragged-edged hole in itself; an information sink from which nothing could escape. For a breathless instant she teetered on the edge of that abyss, staring into it and feeling it stare back into her. She found it in herself to wonder what would happen to the intelligence she served if she succumbed to that awful, seductive nothingness. Would it simply lose this appendage, or would it be infected through her, as if she was a limb turned gangrenous? Yet it made no move to sever her. So Sigil struggled, strained to hear the song of nuclear forces, the constant babble of electromagnetic radiation, the feel of wind on her face. Clawed her way back to the realm of sight and sound and movement and existence. And after an eternity compressed into a few seconds...she returned. "It...resists...my attempt to determine its nature at a distance," she reported softly, her voice almost trembling. "It is extremely dangerous to approach, but I see no other way to gather data." Was the fear she felt her own? Where did she end, and 'it' begin? There was something though, in the data from her scans. She had not returned from the edge empty handed. It would take time to decipher. She met Firanis' gaze. "We can wait until day."
  5. Firanis settled her farsight goggles over her eyes, the lenses sharpening her vision over distance, her lovely, mobile features turning down in a thoughtful frown. The disturbing darkness made details indistinct, but there was simply too much of it. She knew roughly how far the town should be and its skyline should not be so... bold at this distance. Fi shook her head, raising her goggles, which pushed vivid magenta hair from her face, then turned to look at her companions over her shoulder. "The Darkening, it has grown larger than last I witnessed it. Still, though it may cost us time and give the dark more time to grow, I think believe our investigation should wait til the full light of day. What say you all?"
  6. Sigil was puzzled her scan returned no real data except for the absence of wildlife. All of the radiation bands were within the norms as she understood them and there was nothing detected that was not in her banks. This in itself was a clue, in her travel her scans always detected something new even if it was simply a new type of insect or plant life, there was always something. But not here. With more caution the party remounted and keeping a watchful eye on the surrounding and occasional glances at Firanis. They rode in silence, alert weapons and abilities primed the day grew hotter as they covered the distance until those with good eyes could make out the dark smudge in the distance which marked where the city was. Again Sigil sent out her scans and this time she detected nothing, at first, except the same grasses, same normal radiations but no insect or animal life and no energy signatures, then suddenly nothing. The scan fed her void then a sound only she could hear, darkness reaching for her calling her inward, the noise only she could hear growing into a crescendo of breaking glass, a waterfall of silicon splinters falling toward her....
  7. Firanis slowly straightened up from her predatory crouch, looking down at the bolt-caster in her hands in surprise. She frowned, noticing her finger on the trigger, tensed and poised to pull it. She took a deep breath and removed her finger from her bolt-caster, then swung it back over her shoulder. "Forgive me, I... I don't know what came over me," Firanis said, her tone puzzled, magenta brows furrowed in thought. "I was for looking for any sign of the silent insects, but did not find any." The tall, slender woman rolled her shoulders than ran her fingers through her vibrant hair. "There was... something, a thrum, a hum, and then the next thing I knew, Gord was calling my name and you all seemed as though you expected to be attacked." She glanced at Nyr and her bared length of blade, at Tessereah and the strange rod in her hands, then back to where she'd been standing in the tall grass. "This may have nothing to do with the thing we are investigating, or it may be a precursor effect, but in any case, I think we should stick to clear areas as much as possible and be aware of any unexpected sounds. That hum, it was... heady." A faint pinkness rose on her pale cheeks, though her violet eyes remained focused and direct.
  8. Sigil was not normally receptive to interpersonal cues, or empathic awareness. She was much more in tune with cosmological forces; the play of energy and matter, the dance of particles large and small. It was for that task that she was...optimized. But even unoptimized awareness was not zero. Firanis was reacting to something. She was the only one confirmed to have encountered the phenomenon before, so that reaction was relevant. She focused her senses in the direction Firanis had come from, peeling back the layers of information that defined reality in search of anomalies that were not registered in the prodigious encyclopedia she had access to. (using Scan esotery!)
  9. Tesserah's eyebrows darted up and down as she turned her gaze around the party's caravan. Firanis' movement had been quick and quiet, but she had moved like a flash. Now she stood ready as if she expected an attack. Tessereah slid the arm-length focusing array for her iotum ray from its sheath underneath her robes, and its triangular muzzle extended from her sleeve. She was aware that the pink-haired woman was more experienced and had seen stranger things than she had. It'd pay to be attentive if there was trouble.
  10. Firanis searched and could find nothing no insects of an sort, even worms in the earth eluded her investigation. But as she dug she became aware of a vibration, a hum which permeated the soil. It was hypnotic, felt more than heard, seductive. Firanis sprung to her feet grew dizzy with the sudden change in orientation. She looked back at the party tending the animals and preparing to resume their journey. First Gord became aware of her, then Nyr, followed by the Sigil and Tessareah, Grod pulled his weapon, the white haired woman hand on hilt an inch of blade showing. Both Sigil and Tessareah readied themselvs. "Firanis," Gord questioned? At the sound of his voice Firanis became aware that she was bearing arms and in a combat stance, that she had covered over half the distance from where she had glanced back at them and to where they were. She didn't remember moving or drawing her weapons. Or why.
  11. Fi expressed interest in some day visiting Nyr's village, if the opportunity ever arose, if only to see a place with such history. And in turn, Firanis offered to teach the white-haired warrior what she knew of the Cosmologist movement, having practiced it since she was a child, taught by Camila Boyett herself. Firanis was stretching her exceedingly long legs during their peaksun break when she noted the eerie silence. "It's too quiet," Firanis mentioned to her companions, her voice pitched to just carry over the sound of rustling grass. "There should be the drone of digiflies and chiggs and other insects. It could be they sense the threat of some other dangerous beast in proximity, or..." Firanis glanced around, mainly to the north, looking to see if she could notice more subtle hints of the encroaching Darkening. Then she crept into the tall grass, crouching low as she brushed the grass aside, looking for any insects at all, alive or not alive.
  12. After the mounts, swift espron, were gather and some food and water supplied, the party Led by Firanis Flux, left the settlement of Broley on the north road to Rell. Even with the mounts it would take most of the remaining day to cover the distance between the settlements. The five rode loosely with Firanis out front. Nyr and Gord rode at the rear alternatively falling back out of training and habit to watch their trail even though there was no suspected threat. The other two Tessareah and Sigil rode together in the middle. As they traveled they spoke casually among themselves in an effort to get to know one another. Nyr when it was her turn, told of how she was raised in a mountain top town that was older than many of the rest of the places in the world. It had stood on the mountain for thousands of years and been home to many peoples. Today it was home to her people a group of introspective warrior who sought enlightenment through inner growth. This Monastic lifestyle had grown wearisome so Nyr had chosen to take a pilgrimage to see the world. She had been in Broley after learning of the Cosmologists from Traders. It had piqued her curiosity. The others gave similar biographies as the day and journey passed. They stopped briefly after the sun reached its peak to feed and water the espron and to eat their own ration. Firanis was uncomfortable, it took her many minutes before she was able to place what was wrong in her mind. The silence was only broken by the soft wind blowing through the tall grass, grass which should have been alive with the buzz of insects.
  13. Tessereah accepted Firanis' nod gladly. She had spent way too long away from the company of people, and it felt good - no, correct - to once again be part of something greater. Sigil's comment of not being a woman triggered a piqued rise of her left eyebrow. She kept silent, but behind her eyes her brain started running. Her actions did seem a little...reserved...before, perhaps a sign of a synthetically enhanced intelligence? Was Sigil's comment an indication of her being like a cross-dressing Shaman, whose magical powers relied on defying settled norms? Or was she even younger than she appeared and she corrected Firanis on being a girl, rather than a woman? In silence she pondered the meanings, while she kept close to the coalescing group of foolhardy adventures she was now associated with.
  14. Firanis pursed her lips, considering Tessereah, wondering again where she might be from. She opened her mouth to mention the relic she carried in her pack in regards to her concern about Entropy Zero, then closed it. Help though she might, Firanis didn't know the woman at all and didn't know how she'd react presented with the heart of Entropy Zero. Firanis nodded her thanks for her and Sigil's help, and as well that of the white haired Nas Kyr. Her lips curved into a wry smirk, amused at herself. Once, she had been proud to be a lone wanderer, exploring the mysteries and wonders of the Ninth World on her own. And now, she found herself stumbling into groups and bands almost an inevitable as the wheeling of the stars in the night. "I don't know what we'll find, if there'll be anything your blades can repel Nas Kyr, but I'm as grateful for your company as the others," the leggy young woman declared with grin. After slouching slightly to give Camila a one-armed hug, thanking her for the loan of mounts, she let out a bark of laughter. "Alas, I think Gord will find himself in fell company, the only man in a band of women."
  15. Gord had respect for Ceeball even more. He had a sensible head on his shoulders. "Certainly, if you keep a safe enough distance from the Blackening the fifth of the way. I'm not going with you though. Firanis is an old friend, and I'm going to be helping her investigate. Take care, and don't let an abhuman fall on you." Without waiting for a response, Gord turned and walked away, not interested in any pleas or bigger offers.
  16. Gord entered the hostel where the merchants had taken rooms and saw that most of them, six in total with two being absent, were gathered at a table being served by several servants and exorbitant amount of food, enough to feed twice their number or more. Gord waited, perhaps ten seconds to be noticed before stepping up and taking the bottle of wine that a servant was filling a glasses with. That got their attention. "How dare you you big..." began Sattas, but his voice trailed off to nothing when Gord fixed him with a baleful eye. Sattas like all but one of the merchants was rich and fat, and he was also the one who had organized this particular caravan. He had also hired Gord after seeing him rip the arms off a bandit once then use them as clubs on the dying bandits companions. It had greatly impressed Sattas. And scared him. "We have a problem you need to decide what you want to do." Said Gord who then explained about what Firanis had said about the settlement of Rell, the next destination for the caravan. The merchants all started speaking at once excitedly, shrilly as fear entered their hearst at the thought of the unknown. All but one of them who sat silent looking intently at Gord. Ceeball was a tall thin merchant with a long beard and no mustaches, his head was balled and unlike the others he did not robe himself in finery instead electing to wear functional clothing albeit of exquisite and expensive tailoring. "Master Gord," the others fell silent at this calm quiet yet forceful voice cut through the gibbering of his fellows. "It seems from this Firanis's tale that Rell is no longer going to be profitable. The next settlement I believe was, Docsis , wasn't it, can we go around Rell avoiding the unpleasantness?"
  17. Firanis nods at the women who have offered to join her, "Yes as soon as Gord returns we will depart. We need to travel light so we can go fast." Camila puts an hand on Fi's arm, "I can get you some mounts that will make the journey swifter, don't worry it won't impact us if we have to evacuate." Nyr, the pale haired woman with weapons had been silent through all of this and now spoke addressing Firanis. "I am Nyr Kas, a .... pilgrim come to study. If you think you may have need of a glaive I am willing to Acompany"
  18. Sigil's golden-irised eyes focused on Tessereah. "I am a Sigil. I'm here to learn more. I must observe this withering blackness." Now she looked at Firanis. "You will lead me to its edge?"
  19. "A shyadow, shyarply drawn," Tessereah repeated after Firanis, almost as if tasting the words. For a fraction of a second her eyes seemed distant, as if she was processing something internally. Then, as quick as it went, the gleam in her eyes returned. "Too many variabels, but still potentially orgyanic in nature." Her mind was racing at the opportunities. If it had no discernable thickness it might be an energy pattern radiating from a central source, or maybe a transdimensional shadow cast by a disaster in some coterminous existence. If it did, it might still be some form of living nonsapient entity, consuming all around it in order to expand its size. Did its blackening indicate heat, cold, or acid? Was its spread linear or exponential, focused on one location consecutively or simultaneous among its borders? Did it consume biological or also mineral material? Too many questions, too many exciting possibilities. She raised her hand enthusiastically. "I volyunteer as well to investigate. I can contribute." She lowered her arm, pointing down at Cheslet Street. "For the science of Numenera, but also becyause if that shyadow reaches Entropy Zero, the results would be inconceivable." Catching sight of Sigil she craned towards the pale young woman. She had noticed her when Firanis pointed her out as 'this one' before, but only now her mental checklist seemed to have caught up sufficiently to process her. "Ow, hyello. And you are?"
  20. When Camila asked after the people of Rell, Firanis shook her head sadly. "The people, perhaps they -- but no, I couldn't see them, nor if the Blackening had already taken them." Firanis pursed her lips as she regarded the petite, brass-hair woman peering up at her with a cocked head. Her accent was one Firanis wasn't familiar with. "No, it is more like a sharply drawn shadow moving across the land, swiftly enough to be seen."
  21. As Firanis' story mounted, Tessereah's eyes seemed to stare into the horizon, where - according to the tall woman's gesturing - Rell was. Or, had been, to be more exact. In thought she bit on her thumb nail, etching every word into her brain. At the end of the story, she turned back to the women at the heart of this, and stepped forward. "Excyuse me," she said in Firanis' direction in what she was sure would be her best skilled-and-confident voice, "but when hyou said it moved, did hyou mean it spread along the ground, or did it reach outward, like a psyeudopod?" She leaned her five-foot nothing in towards Firanis a bit, her head cocked slightly to the right and up while awaiting a response.
  22. Camila's smile faded as Fi's words registered, she looked past the slender woman whose arms she held, off into the distance where the neighboring village of Rell lay to the north. It was to far to see the village itself a good day and a hall's march on foot. "The People," she asks softly. Behind her Faber gasped at what Fi said and the woman to only person other than the caravan guards who was armed shifted almost imperceptible from the casual observant stance to one which was decidedly more lethal in bearing. Fi was sure that only one with her own experience and training would have even been able to discern the change.
  23. Firanis gave Sigil a wry grin. "You sound like a Mechanical Man I know --" Whatever she was going to say was left unsaid as she caught sight of Camila, her smile widening. Fi stiffened for a moment, then melted into the embrace, bending slightly and hugging Camila tight. She was much taller than the last time she'd been to Broley - among other changes - but Fi wasn't surprised Camila recognized her on sight. There was the Time-Maker hanging about her neck, that Camila had given to her on her mother's behalf after she'd died. And having been trained by Camila herself in the Dance of the Cosmos since she was a child, Camila could recognize her from how she moved alone. Firanis realized she had missed Camila - like a favoured Aunt or a second mother - more than Broley itself. After a moment, Camila and Firanis stepped apart. Camila arched a brow at her dear friend's daughter as she gave her a bemused once-over. "You haven't been back to Broley in some time, Fi. You've changed so much." A snort of laughter. "Again." There was just a hint of a blush to Firanis' pale cheeks, her smile growing somber and wistful as she glanced at the statue of her mother. Once, she had shared a familial resemblance with the savior of Broley, but she hadn't in a long time, save occasionally in expression. Taking her eyes from the still likeness of her mother, Fi looked around the village, realizing the Revelry of Wonder was almost at hand. She should have known, just by the position of the stars when she gotten into the area. "Yes, well..." Firanis ran her hand through her vivid hair, then shrugged and gestured down at herself. "This is better than the sharp scales I used to have, wouldn't you say? You on the other hand, have barely changed at all." True, there was more grey in Camila's hair, more lines at the corner of her eyes, but she still looked fit and vital. And I look barely older than the day I first left Broley to explore the Ninth World. "I wish I could say I came back to Broley for a long overdue visit, Aunt Ila, but it's not so." Firanis nodded a greeting at the woman beyond Camila's shoulder, tall, if still more than half a head shorter than herself, her gaze lingering for a moment on the remarkable symmetry of the white-hair woman's face and a taut figure displayed in form fitting synth or leather of some kind with unabashed interest. If Camila was comfortable with her presence, there was no need to be circumspect. Fi straightened her shoulders, her expression growing more serious. "I was in the area on another matter and I witnessed something very... troubling. The next village North of here has been... consumed by a withering blackness." Firanis tried to explain what she had seen as concisely and well as she could. "It seems unsparing and uncaring in what it infects and it comes this way, Aunt Ila. I'm going to investigate of course - two others have agreed to accompany me as well. One I have worked with before and this one." She nodded down at Sigil. "But if we cannot find out how to stop it, I believe the people of Broley need to be prepared to get out of its ways, regardless of what they may have to leave behind."
  24. Tessereah was sure that when it came to figuring out the unusual, one must simply follow the unusual people that surrounded it. And this town seemed to have a gathering of the most unusual people yet. She tried to keep as close as possible without being overtly intruding. That would be rude. But she wasn't going to let any opportunity to waste to learn more of the events in this town and how that marvelous singularity was contained. All she needed to do was keep a close ear, and wait for an opportunity to open itself up...
  25. Faber burst into Camila's work-center breathless, the door banging against the outer wall before slamming closed behind him “Mistress Camila...,” his voice faltered as he became aware that the Cosmicologist priestess and ipso facto Village leader was not alone. Camila, a handsome woman in her mid fifties fit but with gray showing in her braided brown hair, was sitting at her work desk and before her was a tall woman with short very pale, almost white, hair, the woman wore tight-fitting clothes that resembled leather but was shiny, and she had two swords at her right side, her face the skin tanned to a medium brown was unblemished and unnaturally beautiful. Faber stared. “Don't be rude Faber, what is it?” Camila's voice broke Faber's reverie and shaking his head and pulling his eyes from the unknown woman he faced his leader. “A woman,” he glanced back at the pale haired girl, “has come into the village from the mountains. I heard the name Firanis spoke by a caravan guard.” “Firanis Fluxx?” “That was the name but I did not recognize the woman. She is very tall and slight at the same time and her hair is a strange magenta,” he looks again at the woman before Camila's desk, “and short, cut oddly.” Camila pushes her chair back and stands excitedly a broad smile on her face. “Firanis has returned praise the universe. Come Nyr I want you to meet her she is an incredible woman in her own right daughter of Holeon who was my very best friend and the savior of this very village.” She comes around the desk and grasps the woman named Nyr on her upper arm. “Come we must welcome her home. Faber lead us please.” Tessereah slowly walked around the monument for the umpteenth time. The singularity itself was fascinating and the field which surrounded it and blocked it from influencing the surroundings...remarkable. And still she could not discern the mechanism by which it was created and this both baffled and annoyed her Such things do not simply exist. She had come to Broley to see the monument and to participate in the Revelry of Wonder, a festival and contest a few days off. She liked this place the people all worked together in a harmony seldom seen. And their leader Camila a self appointed priestess of something called Cosmicology, was charismatic and strong yet fair and just. Since her arrival she had taken an interest in this strange non religion. A good portion of the town gather in the main square not far from the monument and in orderly line perform a ritual exercise part martial kata part dance. After the silent ritual which lasts about an hour the group of about 600 or so will break into smaller groups for a communal midday meal. Tessereah came around the monument and looked at the sculpted face of the woman who vanquished the threat off to her left she caught movement and saw the woman who led the village, and another woman of striking looks who were following a man toward where the caravans gathered. Looking that way she caught sight of another woman she of the magenta hair. On a whim Tessereah fell in behind them and went to see what the commotion was about. Firanis saw Camila approaching as he was talking with the girl called Sigil. A smile broke as her old friend called to her. “Firanis!” Camila ran the last few yards and took the daughter she never had into her embrace. “Praise the Cosmos! Welcome home Fi.”
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