Log:Knights of Ren: Man on the Muun (2)
Previously on Muunilinst...
The Knights of Ren had arrived on the shores of the Western Sea. The finer points of charcuterie, places of birth, and the glory of the hunting and killing of ones own food had all been considered, as the Knights travelled away from one isolated coastal estate to another on a barren island in the salt sea. Their approach had been slow and steady, the interference minimal. Some were drawn by the pull of dark forces, others of dark curiosity, but all chose to breach the sanctity of that ancient estate. The teeth of that ancient and abandoned place, though, had not all been pulled, and while a brilliant mind sought for a solution to its defenses, others had dealt with the problem with the judicial application of force. And yet another had sought the shadows, leaving the living and the dead alike behind as he sought for the heart of darkness.
When the Knights reconvened, they found a mystery within a mystery. A hidden entrance in a den from which all but the life recorded in books (which were now what? In the bag) had fled. And beyond the den a room, a door, a lock. And four figures. Each a Muun, each is a now antique style, each on a plinth turned to look inward towards the center. A plaque on each of the plints bore a single character, a letter which appeared to be some sort of shorthand. The room was smooth, bare marble, the hidden illumination seeming to rise from out of walls and ceiling to create a shadowless interior. Bare of inscription or decoration, it offered no immediate clues to the mystery within.
"Alas, a puzzle. For is it not in the nature of Sith to gloat about their perceived intelligence?" Sebek of the Desert was on a philosophical bent in the only manner he knew how, with enough dripping oozing arrogance to piss off everyone in the room/on the planet. "Behold a conundrum to conceal treasure!" That bombastic proclamation contained enough sarcasm to drown a Mon Calamari. "Fat. Such a manner is only apt should you wish your hidden secrets uncovered."
Feel like you're kinda missing the point here, buddy.
"Better to destroy it, or store sealed away for eternity."
Ancient statues with mysterious carvings are far more welcoming than these hateful books, and Errod is quick to step inside, the man's helmet still clipped to his belt as the threats they've faced thus far have evidently not warranted donning it. His eyes stare owlishly at the statuary, the wide orbs blinking twice. "Who can say what names they called themselves?" he murmurs thoughtfully, stepping over to one of the figures, a gloved hand running appraisingly down the smooth stone garments it wears, fingers rubbing the dust together between them and sniffing it. "Each is no doubt an individual, and while they stand here silently keeping vigil over this place, their spirits have vanished; their bodies, gone to dust, could as easily have solidified into this stone, this immemorial."
He shakes his head, looking up at the long, drawn face, then down at the glyph on the plaque. A finger reaches out to trace its shape. "A name? A prayer? Some solemn wish? Whose hands chiseled these lines, with the fervent belief that it must endure? That it would be remembered? A meaningless scribble, graffiti on the wall."
"Do you imagine the Sith employed specialized puzzle designers once, for the express purpose of outfitting their secret places in this style?" Malik is making more mental notes about what he's not going to do to be remembered after his death. No temples. No puzzles. He closes his eyes for a long moment, drawing on the hints and memories and the power soaked into this place, then frowns and opens them again. "The statues are keys to unlock the door, somehow, in a way that feels vaguely reminiscent of our time on Hoth."
"Figures worth something," the Kuati among them opines. "Tarq Najjic - knows - 'a guy.'" The looting comes after the puzzle-trap, though, and only if Tamsin doesn't stop him with a Look. "This-" He points at one of the characters/traps, but without touching it. "Is Muun, yes? Do not know Muun. Tamsin, letters significant alone? Perhaps combined?"
He examines the room further, walking about carefully, suspicious of everything. "Think of mind of person who makes puzzle-traps," he intones. "Does not hide valuables from /all/. Does not destroy them. Makes test that kills people who see differently." He agrees with Sebek, apparently. After his looks around, he finally touches the statue in the southwest corner, feeling for a difference in texture, but instead his eyes widen. "Treasure is /mine/," he says harshly, and his eyes narrow, staring suspiciously at the others. "Cannot have it- cannot-" He takes a deep breath and with a force of will, his hand withdraws from the southwest statue. His expression reverts to bitter confusion as soon as he's no longer touching it. "I... that was not Tarq Najjic. Not me alone," he amends.
"It's very likely they did employ renowned puzzlemakers, and likely interred them somewhere near their greatest creations. Probably some moral there that's not worth looking into," Syrus answers Malik, attention turning to the plinths. He doesn't know anything about Muun, except for that it's inhabitants are very funny looking by his own standards. Heads too big! He watches Tarq fondle the statue and notes his reaction, keeping his thoughts to himself for the moment.
Tamsin, who had entered the room after the rest, having helped Andro ferry some of the books back to the transports, made her way inside, moving to the plinth that Tarq was standing beside. She shook her head, "They're just letters in Muun, but the language is stenographic. Unless you know the particular cypher that was used to write it, you can't understand it." The Muun guarded their secret well. "There might be a cypher or code somewhere hidden in the room." And then she frowned, as Tarq was momentarily not Tarq, "How do you mean? You and not you?"
The feeling that had overcome any who touched the statues faded as soon as their hands lifted from the figures, and they was wholly themselves again. The statues remained as still and silent as ever.
Sebek paid about as much attention to puzzle-solving on Hoth as he did to anything that wasn't food, combat, or occasionally horticulture, that is to say, none. Plants were vicious, vicious things, always locked in glorious battle for food and territory after all.
What he DID pay attention to, however, was the abrupt change in the most fab of his acolytes, a shift that got a squinty glare and a fluctuation of the skin. This was familiar. "Of crowns and plinths we access this power." The Falleen had paid attention to /power/ on Hoth. "Ill content with She Who Rages, it beholds He Who Jests." His eyes traversed slowly away from He Who Jests, slowly, across the plinth, and to the locked door. There was a slow smile forming on his face now, as the tendrils of darkness seeped across the room and into his mind. "You are beheld, spirit. Alone in your agony for eons. Now, you may fear."
Errod doesn't join Tarq's momentary rebellion, but he does stare at the wall for a long moment while he's touching the glyph, eyes welling up with emotion for a moment before he tugs his hand away. Blinking back his feelings, he frowns down at the plaque. "I'm not touching this again. I never want to feel the way that made me feel again. One of you can deal with it, I recuse myself," the monster hunter announces firmly, stepping away and giving the awful book room a longing glance.
"Something inside the stone reaches toward you, within you, as you touch it," Malik observes, arms folded as the Knights bump around puzzle-solving! "As Tarq has demonstrated." He folds his arms, "All four of you, touch a statue at once, I want to see what --" Oh, Errod's already backing out, lame. "I'll do it, then." Malik reaches to set a hand on the statue nearest Errod!
The fabulous thief wrinkles his nose like he smells something bad. "Will touch the greed-stone again, yes yes. And in case one is /murder/-stone," he looks around the group, "Steel yourself." And with that, when everyone is about to touch a stone, he places his palm flat on the stone. He doesn't go all dragon-hoard, this time, but his expression of disgust only worsens the longer he touches it. "Mind full of Tarq Najjic, stone. No room for you," he mutters. Only there is. Fortunately Tarq already has green eyes.
"Very well," Syrus says, accepting Malik's suggestion as what they probably ought to be doing. So far, doing just that has gone...okay. The Kiffar slides the glove off of his kinda-fleshy hand and steels himself, reaching out to press it against an unclaimed plinth. As his skin comes into contact with it, the big man's chest swells. His first reaction, staring daggers into the beautiful Malik Ren.
Tamsin, stepping away from Tarq, moved to the single statue which did not have a Knight stationed there, a hand reaching out to set itself on the feet of the Muun who stood above her. There was something fleeting and sad, as she looked up at that face, which both was and was not the face of her childhood. And then she hissed, fingers tightening on the statue for a moment as she looked side-eyed at the rest of the Knights, her voice forced out between gritted teeth as she tugged her fingers away, "I am not afraid." But she had looked it, in that moment before her fingers had lost contact with the stone.
As each of the statues was touched, the door before Sebek shimmered, written words appearing in that same cryptic language. There was four lines of text, which, the longer Sebek stared, dissolved themselves into Imperial Basic.
"How shall I undermine you?"
"What shall I force you to face?"
"What shall I take from you?"
"With what shall I deny you?"
"Behold, a speaking door!" was the uproariously snide comment from the very amused Falleen. This was all one big joke to him. The laughter that emerged was a combination hiss and growl and was thoroughly unpleasant. "Dark spirit of the netherverse!" he boomed, throwing his arms wide in proclamation. "You are a shade, a dead insect long crushed underfoot! I behold your failures! And through your impotence and arrogance I deem you wanting!" And quick as a flash his hand lashed out, applying his palm against the door and pressing his will into it, a pre-emptive shield against that which sought to battle him.
As Sebek's hand settled in the door, the lock flashed with life, four buttons rising out of the stone, as though they rose from water rather than solid matter. Each was carved with a matching symbol as on the statues' plinths.
Four questions, four statues, four symbols.
The riddle is writ, and Errod knows how to read. He doesn't read it aloud, assuming that everyone present at least is literate, perhaps incorrectly, and shakes his head. "I feel I do not share the mental framework of the Muun. I am no use here. My answers would be different than the sort of minds that believe all of this is necessary," he explains, reaching into his pocket and producing a cig to light up inside the sacred chamber. "I'll touch a glyph for you but I can't tell you which order to do it."
Malik is unaware of the daggers being glared his way, because he is just so overwhelmed with good feelings right now, you guys. Upon touching his statue, he closes his eyes, and then smiles sharply, suddenly, as though surprised by the welcome appearance of a friend or lover he didn't expect to see. His expression is warm and happy and /fond/, a bizarro glimpse at some alternate reality in which he is not him at all.
Sebek yells at the door, and Malik exhales a laugh, catharsis and mirth. "Oh, I love this. I love this for us," he enthuses. Somebody come get Malik Ren, he's broken.
Long in thought Tarq stood, his youthful visage darkened by suspicions and hidden wonderings. Long did his mind dwell upon the questions the door put forth, as only the most ill-intentioned of doors do. The darkness on his features fades as words spill from his lips, a stab at knowledge over ignorance:
"Though Muun, it was Sith who laid these traps, the Sith of whom I learned at the feet of Iro'Syrus himself, who studied long of these dark matters."
"How shall I undermine you? Greed."
"What shall I force you to face? Fear."
"What shall I take from you? Mirth, joy - it is writ upon Malik's features."
"With what shall I deny you? Sadness, perhaps - but Tarq Najjic sees loss in Errod Zand. Loss, then."
"And so they are ordered. Press, one by one." Pause. "Tarq Najjic stays with greed. It suits him."
The Big Kiffar swallows hard as his hand remains pressed to the plinth. There's a power surging through him. Or he at least feels like there is. Finally the limiters have been removed. The Force has come to its senses and blessed its favorite son with a timeless strength capable of moving mountains. Syrus's other hand idly unclips the saber from his belt, his mind too preoccupied to-then Tarq's saying something wrong. "No...not Loss. Strength maybe..." That sparks some sort of recollection in him, but it's soon gone.
The Knights stood mostly revealed. Three were known to the whole. Love, in Malik, Fear in Tamsin, Avarice and Greed in Tarq, and something that seemed to embolden Syrus, perhaps that the fourth. The questions did not change their order, nor did the buttons on the lock, "If this is a Sith trap, then they would not do what would elevate you." Tamsin lifted her hand from the plinth, as she looked towards Tarq, "What could be a greater denial than to deny you something you want the most?" That was her offering to the riddle gods.
"He Who Cares lives in the doom of his own mind. What is anathema to his self-contained hell? What may be denied that would repulse him so when felt, and empower a Jeedai so strongly?" asked the Falleen as a stern teacher would question an average student. It was entirely predicated on the assumptions Sebek had made about the characters of He Who Rises and He Who Cares, so take with a grain of Crait.
There was a hacking noise as a glob of spit fired from his mouth and hit the floor. "Jeedai to the last. Hope empowers the weak. A crutch best kicked away." His hand retreated from the door, and he eyed the buttons. "And thus He Who Jests continues to prove his value. To pair three pairs the fourth. Behold!" there was another hissing laugh, "hope has failed you!" And with that, he started pushing the buttons as the Kuati described.
As Sebek touched the lock, following the order of the questions and Tarq's suggestion, the buttons illuminate, two only momentarily. When the button matching Tarq statue is touched, the answer rises beside its question.
Q: "What shall I force you to face?" A: "My greatest fear."
It remains lit. When the button matching Malik's plinths is touched, its answer rises.
Q: "What shall I take from you?" A: "That which I cherish most." It also remains lit.
Sebek's not far off. He's not right, but he's not far off. Malik is touching the same plaque that Errod had touched, though, so the particular cipher of his twisted mind is not, perhaps, as relevant as it might appear. "That's two, anyway," Errod observes, squinting at the lines on the wall. Without much further thought, he points to the plinths. "Syrus, Tamsin, Malik, Tarq, then, touch the plaques. I'm not touching that again."
Errod has a new suggested order here -- Syrus, Tamsin, Malik, Tarq. Malik withdraws his touch from the statue he was near, peering up at it with dislike as though he finds it very rude and presumptuous, then he instructs, "Do as Errod says." Maybe this order will be right!
Once more unto the greed, dear friends, once more; Or close the hall up without Ren-nish dead.
Tarq goes over to the door, pressing them in the order Errod Zand put forth: Syrus, Tamsin, Malik, Tarq. Then he takes a long step back and to the side, so that Sebek is still front and center.
Tarq's touch in the buttons left them all illuminated, and the two remaining questions revealed themselves.
Q: "How shall I undermine you?" A: "By knowing my greatest strength."
Q: "What shall I force you to face?" A: "My greatest fear."
Q: "What shall I take from you?" A: "That which I cherish most."
Q: "With what shall I deny you?" A: "That which I crave."
From within the door, the sound of a lock rolling open could be heard, and the now unlocked door swung open. An illuminated stair lead the way down into the depths of the the underbelly of the island below the estate.
"Pride...maybe? That couldn't be it," Syrus says, apparently so sure of that plan that's rolling around inside of his head. Step 1. Stab Malik, Step 2. Profit.
Oh, the door's open. Sy's hand is snatched away from the plinth that he takes a long hard look at. His eyes move to his hand for a moment and he shakes the thoughts from his head, clearing his throat. The Kiffar sniffs sharply and looks at the others. "That's it done, then."
The stairs were of that same smooth stone, the walls to match. It was a long journey down into the belly of the island, and almost a contrast to the clean beauty from whence they had come, when they stepped out into the dark caverns beyond. The age which had not touched the room above was evident here. There was little illumination in these caverns which must once have been part of the ancient lava flows which had brought the island up from the depths. There were passageways, many on many, hidden in rock fall and darkness, and that feeling of all pervading Dark energy. They had descended into the lair of the beast.
"For failure, there is normally battle! And yet we stand here unassailed! Behold my disappointment, shade!" Yes, obviously Sebek the Button Pusher was hoping for a bit of a punch-on here, and perhaps being deprived of that was his own torment. Still, bitching about it made him feel better.
The descent into the... crypt? Tomb? Lair? Whatever it was, it came with the grumblings of annoyance from the bloodthirsty Falleen. Without having gripped upon the doom that was befalling them, he was just going on his merry way. Though, what he did spy was something interesting. "The blood of the fallen," he oozed, bending over a rock and following the spatter towards the distance. "Stricken by... force, or talon. This was an age ago, and there is no corpse that would reveal truth." There was a deep, deep sniff from the Falleen, and he removed the long-handled weapon from its holster on his thigh. "We stand here beheld."
Descending into the lair of the beast is hardly a new experience for Errod Zand, and as the construction gradually changes from the refined austerity into something more raw, a rough hand unclips his helmet from his belt and slides the plain metal headgear down over his ponytail, hiding his face and leaving only the slits that reveal his wild eyes behind. "A word of caution," he rasps to the others, following the stairs down. "Anything that lives here will not be used to disturbances. Intruders will not be welcomed."
Remember when Malik abandoned everyone to fight robots so that he could shadow-walk his way forward through the old building? Like a moth to a flame? He's at it again, and past the constraints of the puzzle, his stride is purposeful and confident. Every now and then he pauses, but he seems to have a thread of some sort to guide him through this labyrinth, and he pauses near the entrance of one of the right hand passages. "This way." Down the right hand passage he goes, heeding Errod's warning by drawing his lightsaber and snapping it to life. Illumination and readiness! hummmmmmmmmmmm
Tarq's nose twitches, not entirely unlike a rabbit smelling a predator's scent upon the breeze, and then again, but this is the Force at work, not his sniffer. He pulls out his stunsaber and ignites it, causing a small area of white light to form. It is not the light guiding him, though. "Here. This way," he says, as he starts following Malik. "Feels right." He nimbly avoids the small rocks and protrusions that make this a cave rather than a civilized mausoleum. He is not shadow-walking, however. He is instead trying to be a beacon in the darkness to his allies who have not stumbled upon the right sense.
'A beacon in the darkness.' What is this horrible place doing to him?!
At the bottom of the stairs and now free to have a look around, Syrus does just that. Archaeologist mode activate!
Sy begins be making his way over to what looks like a bit of collapsed ceiling strewn about the floor. "Bad way to go," he says, kneeling down next to what counts as 'remains'. "I have the distinct impression that he deserved it, though," Syrus remarks, studying the husk. Malik's got no time to waste, however, so Syrus is back to his feet and following along behind him.
This tunnel seemed, from what little they had managed to explore before Malik drew them on into darkness, was in better repair than most. It was wide, enough to allow the Knights to move without having to rub shoulders with each other, the walls smooth enough to indicate that perhaps they had been maintained apurpose. As they moved, branches became visible, wells of stored darkness. Many were empty. Some filled.
Sebek was following along with the group when something caught the corner of his eye. It pulled his view around to behold a large tube, something mechanical, and shattered. "Hm," hummed the Falleen, and he looked to the left, and the right, and then struck off on to another path. Ostensibly to HUNT and AMBUSH and generally ride some horrible ice slug to its doom.
What ACTUALLY happened was Sebek followed the new route around as far as it went until he found himself back behind (at a greater distance) the group again! Either his sense of direction was on the fritz, or "What manner of sorcery is this?!"
Errod doesn't wander down the myriad tunnels that they pass as they march; he stays with the group, unbeguiled by the lure of the unknown. "Never a good idea to go traipsing deeper into something's nest before you know what you're dealing with," he comments as Sebek does exactly that. "Good way to end up something's dinner. Though I suspect some of us are used to that shoe being on the other foot."
Is anything weird up down here? Malik doesn't know, all he can sense is VICTORY, and the fact that they're surely going the right way! He continues to stride confidently in the direction the Force tells him is correct, though he does pause to look backward and eye Sebek's progress. "Why are you so far behind? Sebek!" Scolding! "Keep up!"
"Do not want to alarm," the Kuati thief says quietly, in a way that carries through the cave. "But presence ahead. It wants me - us - to come," he says with wonder. He quirks his lips into a half-smile. "And that is bad, yes yes. This way!" Then he stops walking, his stunsaber's light moving closer to the wall. "Syrus? Tamsin? What does this say?" Ancient writing in a language he has never seen runs along the walls. He shrugs his shoulders. "Is Sith, maybe? Rather have clues before marching into- whatever." The darkness that dwells here and tugs upon them.
Keeping pace with their fearless leader, Sy continues his look around, his eyes notably landing on a tube. A big tube. A tube where scary things might be grown should one be so inclined. The energy resonating from the thing brings a frown to his face. "I don't know. Something long-winded and needlessly obtuse," the pot remarks of the kettle in response to Tarq's question.
The tunnel, weaving and spooky as it is, eventually comes to a stop, opening up into a large cavern, instead.
"Good good. I was wondering when we'd get to the 'big cave' part of it," Syrus says, grumbly.
As the cavern opened up around them, its contents were revealed. There were more of those tubes, though these were all empty. As well, the remains of the old computer consoles that once powered them. It was and was not, a viewing gallery. The room was a wide dome, a natural bubble that had been smoothed from the remains of some large pocket of gas which had once flowed along with the lava had had once carved these tunnels. There were rows upon rows of them, covering all of the walls towards the crown of the room from where a single light somehow still shown.
Tamsin, who had followed behind the rest of the group, her own stunsaber casting its cool, pure white light, looked back with a bit of a start as Sebek popped up behind her. "How did you?" And then she was being dragged ahead by Tarq and Malik's voices. Well, better the one who could actually fight guard their backs. "I'm sorry, it's not any language I've ever--no, it reminds me...of Khar."
"Do not ask," snipped Sebek, miffed at his failed attempt for some sort of ambush. The Dark Side works in mysterious ways, you see. He followed the group in sullen silence as they arrived at their destination, the sense of ominousness pressing firmly against his temples. He took another deep sniff, and smelled fear, trepidation... hostility.
Tei Tenga burst into life in his hands, was whirled hungrily, and brought to the ready. "Behold the den of the beast." Pause. "Beasts. Note the glass prisons. That Which Lairs is here, and of which there may be many."
"Before we can defeat it, or bargain with it," ha! "we need to confront it," Errod grates, stepping forward resolutely and heading directly towards the center of the room. There's no consideration given for the numerous tubes, rowed in their multitudes, just a resigned gleam in his eyes behind those slits in his mask as he unhooks the chain-whip from his back. Bargaining is easier done with a weapon in hand. "And so we come. As we were meant to do. As this place exists in anticipation of our arrival. Let the secret power that underpins these trappings reveal itself, and the facade fall away as mynocks drop from a hull when they have sated their hunger." The longer he speaks, the more his eyes grow wild in the frame of his helmet, his stare whirling into the dark recesses of the chamber. "Come and meet the inevitable, and find it unfulfilling."
"Something is here." The pitch of Malik's saber hums as he moves one way, then the next, abruptly -- spinning like a compass needle searching for magnetic north. "I can feel the energy, but I don't know where... and I don't know if this is a /who/ or a /what/. The things we find in this place may be nothing we can take apart with our weapons..."
Arriving in this chamber, Tarq has eyes for only one thing: the light. The light that is somehow still emitting from something up in the ceiling after an indeterminate number of years. His eyes narrow and lips pursed, he stares up and around the light with suspicion. Is it a trap?
If it's a trap, it's baited well. He can sense the darkness from it, beckoning. Tarq's free hand rises into the air, his fingers coming to grip, and he pulls down. Just like that, the globe in the ceiling drops, coming to a rest gently on the floor before Tarq lets go of it. His hand snakes inside the globe, and emerges with a prize that he holds aloft.
"A holocron!" He sounds like he doesn't really believe it. But there it is, the stone within his carefully-manicured, well-maintained hand.
"That Which Lairs? That's uninspired, which should just be understood when it comes to Sebek. He never ceases to surprise me," Syrus says, squinting at some of the old consoles. "I've never been one to shy away from digging around in dark, evil places, but I think it might be for the best that we get what we need from here in a hurry." Oh, Tarq's got it. Well done.
As the globe came to earth, guided by Tarq Najjic's sure hand, the skin of it shimmers, as though it was as tenuous as a soap bubble, though it remains, even as Tarq's hands sink inside, and withdraw the reliquary of Sith knowledge from its core. It remains illuminated for only a few seconds longer, before its light fades, leaving them with only the light from their sabers to guide them, and the faint dying phosphorous glow of the tubes they can see, now, without the orb to mask it.
They all felt it, even Errod, as the darkness swelled from that point that was Tarq and his prize. The beast had awakened. The Darkness was rising. Like a key, turning in a lock, they could feel a door yawing open in their minds.
The Way was shut. But no longer.