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The Abyssal Paradox

Short Stories From the Abyss

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a part of The Abyssal Paradox, by XianEvermor.

Into the Abyss; another world of strangeness beneath the plates of Titan's Fall.

XianEvermor holds sovereignty over Short Stories From the Abyss, giving them the ability to make limited changes.

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A place to keep one off stories, off-screen character development, or any isolated scenes not tied to the main narrative.
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Short Stories From the Abyss

Into the Abyss; another world of strangeness beneath the plates of Titan's Fall.

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Short Stories From the Abyss is a part of The Abyssal Paradox.


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March 11th, 2045 – 11:15 A.M. – An Undisclosed Secure Facility, Texas, USA



It had been hours… nearly six, in fact that he labored in pitch darkness with nothing but a flashlight attached to a slap-dashed drone, and the dull glow from a handful of floating Data Slates to illuminate the shroud. Occasionally a hot blue spark would light up the room for a fraction of a second, followed by a muttered curse.

"Okay," huffed Sairyn with a note of finality. "Activation test: Thirty… seven," he announced to the darkness, and the heavy *chunk* of a lever being thrown echoed through the facility.

Nothing.

"Inconvenient," he muttered into the void. "Sovereign, search for personal notes regarding tower project: ARC-36."

”As you wish, sir… playback beginning:”

*click!* It doesn’t turn on. [long silence], [banging], [pause], [lever being thrown, machinery starting up loudly.] HAH! FUCK YOU SCIENCE, I AM A GOD!

[From the background]That’s not…

Future me: when recreating ARC-36 for unsan… uh, future projects… remember the shim.


"The fuck is that supposed to mean?" blurted Sairyn with a concerned expression.

”Recording continues:” announced Sovereign.

*click* I want to make sure we’re on the same page: are you telling me the lynchpin of the whole Arcology’s power system… is a wooden shim under the casing?

Yes, Rick…

Sairyn, that sounds like a major design flaw, what happens when-

That’s a tomorrow problem. [Loud writing]

Sai, you can’t just put a sticky note on it that says ‘No Touchy!” This is serious!

Details. End recording!*click*


"Huh…" he grunted. The silence was interrupted by the piercing knock of hammer on wood, followed by the machine whirring loudly to life. Electricity leapt energetically behind the reactor’s transparent aluminum shielding, and lights all over the facility began to flicker to life sequentially. "Son of a bitch," muttered Sairyn as he pulled a pad of sticky notes and a red Sharpie out of a pocket.

”Wouldn’t it be better to solve the design flaw that caused the issue, sir?”

"That’s a tomorrow problem," replied Sairyn, placing the sticky note: “NO TOUCHY” prominently on the reactor’s casing over the shim.

”Acknowledged, setting reminder for tomorrow,” Sovereign quipped from the drone. Sairyn glowered at it for a moment. Smartass computer.

"Startup procedure. Run system regression," he commanded as he led the drone up the spiral staircase to the next floor. Twenty-four towers wrapped in neatly arranged cables and cooling pipes flickered to life. Each the height and width of a semi-tractor stood on end, spread out in a hexagonal pattern surrounding a massive central tower easily twice the size of the others.

”Query: Why go through the effort of re-creating my central processing inside this compressed space segment. My analysis of the technology reveals you could establish a connection between my architecture and any real-space location via the Gateway.

"The short answer is: I did. I made a Gateway connection between my lab and your server level when the project was first brought online… but Leonardo found the emitters and has since … re-calibrated them to remove all physical access to the AI core. The only person that has access now is him," he explained as he examined the towers, occasionally tapping something into one of his slates thoughtfully.

"Can you copy an instance of your runtime into the new environment?"

”I’ve encountered an error on Precept 44, Mr. Pendrake. I am prevented from propagating to any third-party hardware. Your database profile states ability to re-create any technological implement in perfect detail, was that not sufficient?”

"Schemata only replicate hardware," he answered, tapping thoughtfully on his slate.

”Acknowledged, profile updated.”

Sairyn scowled at the drone for a moment. Smartass computer.


March 11th, 2045 – 12:05 A.M. – FL231 Executive Housing, Templar Tower, USA



A figure shrouded unnaturally in shadow, with light gleaming off the surface of their glasses stepped off the elevator on the eighth floor of one of the executive housing buildings. Penthouses built up against the exterior of the tower, thousands of feet up with breathtaking views above the clouds. Though these sprawling estates were typically reserved for the wealthy elite, or occasional Corpo Big Wig, they were also offered to the city founders. Pretty much everyone involved in the construction, design, and planning of the tower either had one, or had sold one. The best, most secluded space. The best view. Fully AI integrated, the best security… well…

The figure walked down the hall to the last of only three doors on this level and stood before it. A small port opened up on the door, revealing a face recognition camera. The figure held up a slate in front of his face, displaying the picture of a slim, mousey haired scientist with a large nose.

”Scan complete,” Sovereign said after a moment. ”Please provide voice print,” requested the AI, to which the figure held up a digital recorder and pressed a button.

[b]"I’m Rick Saeder, and I-I-I-I-I-I love the taste of dick!"


”I’m sorry, could you repeat that?” Sovereign asked with a suspicious note, to which the figure pressed a second button.

"M-m-m-m-master override. Sierra. Two. Two. Seven. Six. Three. Zero. Bravo. Indigo. Code October… the t-t-taste of dick!"

”Override accepted. Welcome home, Leonardo,” answered Sovereign, as the door opened with a faint pressurized hiss. The figure walked inside purposefully, keeping his face hidden behind the slate. He sidestepped into the foyer, taking a path towards the living room while keeping the slate faced towards the center of the penthouse.

He stopped, pulling a car remote that had been soldered messily to a processing board which looked as though it’d been removed from a microwave out of his pocket. He double-clicked the trunk button and it gave a static *POP* as he tossed it onto the coffee table. “Fully AI Integrated” wasn’t technically accurate. Leonardo, the AI’s creator, felt that full residential integration of the AI was a waste of processing power, so the only residences that were actually connected to Sovereign were the Templar living quarters. Everyone else got the “digital assistant” version, which could be fooled with just a little creativity and a couple of cheap toys.

He aught to know better.

Sairyn lowered the slate and pulled the glasses off his face, which lifted the unnatural shadow. He paused just one moment to check his watch and then briskly strolled into the kitchen, snapping a pair of latex gloves over his hands. He made his way to the dish drying rack, materializing a bottle of bitter-apple dog repellent spray and giving each of the pieces of silverware on the drying rack a good spritz. He did the same to all the silverware in the drawers as well, and then jogged back to the entrance.

Sairyn snapped his fingers, and in a flash of gold a jig of devices materialized onto the frame of the door. He scooted himself underneath it and tapped something into his slate whilst humming pleasantly. A blue light swept across the penthouse, wiping away the cloudscape and replacing it with a blank, dimly lit facility stretching off into the darkness as far as the eye could see. A few additional taps had the emitters rotate along the frame clockwise until they’d all gone about 180 degrees. Another blue light wiped the cloudscape back into existence, though… now it was above the window.

"Much better," smirked Sairyn as he walked back into the foyer. The array of emitters on the door and his Slate dissolved into gold light as he tapped his chin thoughtfully. "Now… if I was a giant nerd… where would I keep my dirty little secrets?"

He’d been strolling casually about the penthouse for a few minutes when his phone chirped. He excavated it from his pocket with a curious expression, which twisted into a sour note when he saw who it was from.

Definitely A Villain: WYD?


The SINS handler he was supposed to be cooperating with. How much, and what that cooperation entailed was usually determined by his mood whenever they asked for something. Though, ultimately he couldn’t say no to whatever it was they wanted.

Little redecorating. Why?

Definitely A Villain: (is typing…)

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Drama Queen: Princess is awake.


I'm aware. Felt it through the plates.

Drama Queen: I feel bad for any Acute Awakened down there.


She's getting better... slowly.
But yes, I expect reports of "unexplained fainting" in the Undercity to rise now that she's out of my range.



Drama Queen: It's going to attract unwanted attention.


I can't just leave my post to babysit her. Can't someone cover me?

Drama Queen: Your assignment. Figure it out.


The Templar Tower receptionist blew a sigh devoid of his characteristic whimsy as the text dissolved from the AR display of his oval wire frame glasses. [Text Deleted] floated in his vision for a moment before his Templar workspace flicked back into view. An email from Sairyn, received earlier in the morning, informed him that the Tinker was heading out to "run an errand," which typically meant he was getting a part or material for an unauthorized project.

"Sounds like somebody's got a case of 'The Mondays,'" chuckled one of the analysts as she passed.

"Oh stop, sister, it's Saturday," he quipped, shooing her out of the lobby.

Fact of the matter was that he couldn't be in two places at once, a thought that weighed heavily on him throughout the day. Leaving his job at the Templar HQ lobby for even a couple of days would get noticed. Taking a leave of absence wasn't an option, and neither was calling in sick, since the premise of his employment as Sairyn's administrative assistant was based on his "anomalous power." Although Sairyn's curiosity very quickly waned once he figured out that there was no meaningful data to be
gleaned from this "Unexplained Dimensional Permanence." Since Mana wasn't measurable by any modern scientific device, after a few weeks his status as "Person of Interest" very quickly devolved into "Test Dummy," and then "Hazardous Materials Disposal Expert." Being at the whimsy of a mad scientist wasn't all bad, however, and Sairyn was always very good about keeping him tangled up in enough red tape to keep the other departments at bay. He sensed there was an ulterior motive at play, but didn't yet know what it was.

Archer, I'll be taking the kids out for dinner.


Speak of the Devil... Code for: "I have to do an undesirable task for some asshole I don't like, and I don't know when I'll be done." Likely an errand for SINS. Archer sent back a smiley face and dismissed the text.

He mulled over the thought while scrolling idly through the collectables section of Glamazon, looking for figurines and bobbleheads to add to his desk. One in particular caught the corner of his eye: the Köttur Paladin keychain figurine on the corner of his desk that Yue was always obsessing over. He'd tried to give it to her several times but the stubborn woman just would not accept a gift. After staring at it for a long time, he picked it up and turned it over in his hands. She'd definitely recognize it: Archer always engraved a stylized insignia of the Artemis constellation on the bottom of the stand. Though... maybe that wasn't a bad thing? An impulse through his Neurolink flicked his messages back into view.

I need you to cover the front desk while I make a talisman.

Gemini: ... No? They'll know something is up for sure.


The only person who actually knows what I do around the office is going to be out for a while.
Just sit at the front desk and be pleasant until I get back.



Gemini: Ugh. Fine, but you owe me for this: I hate wearing your skin and the people there give me the creeps.


We all have to make sacrifices.


March 11th, 2045 - 12:30pm - Templar Residences, Texas, USA



"C'mon, puh-lease?" Archer pleaded with the door.

"I'm sorry, sir Archer, but I can't grant you access without authorization from lady Bayushi."

"But I'm making a gift for her and it's a sur-pri-iiize! I'll be super-duper quick, and I promise it'll help."

"That would be a violation of her privacy, and Precept 226. If you persist I'll be forced to report this incident."

"Pffff," he deflated, rolling his head back in disappointment. After a while he looked carefully up and down the hallway to ensure it was empty. Archer casually pulled what appeared to be an ornate gold coin out from his inside coat pocket and pressed it against the door's visual receptor with a firm *clack!*

"A-a-a-a-a-authorization Recognized," uttered Sovereign in a severely glitched monotone. He took his finger off the coin, and though it shuddered for a moment, it stayed in place with a low sizzle. The door opened jankily part way, hissing white smoke from the motors, allowing Archer to slip in before slamming shut behind him.

He exhaled slowly. His superiors wouldn't approve of his use of magic in public, but since there was no sweet-talking the AI it was unavoidable. His nose wrinkled at the smell of stale coffee. Yue was apparently one of those people who "seasoned" their coffee cup instead of washing it. He rinsed out the cup thoroughly and placed it in the drying rack, resisting the urge to clean the rest of her apartment and instead sliding his jacket off his shoulders and draping it across a desk chair which didn't appear to see much use.

Mana pulsed in his eyes, glowing blue as the room illuminated with the crimson essence of Yue's radiant power, and the sting of lingering haze. He placed a hand on his hip loosely and approached the area of the apartment with the highest concentration of [Crimson], as she would refer to it to her therapist. Of course it was the bed, where she played Final Odyssey. Archer rolled up his shirt to his elbows, revealing a full sleeve of tattoos in ornate, glowing arcane script only other Awakened would be able to read. His skin sizzled as mana seeped out of the ink, and the Paladin keychain lept from his fingertips. It embedded itself in the air above the bed, while burning blue script ignited the air, forming a complex array that seemed to suck the [Crimson] straight out of the room.

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Archer sat on the floor, leaning back on one hand, his other draped over an elevated knee. An unlit cigarette hung loosely from his lips, the end flicking upwards periodically as he dabbed the filter with his tongue... it was rude to smoke in someone else's home. Nevertheless, it satisfied that itch to have something while he thought and watched the [Crimson] combat his efforts and eat away at key points in the array he'd constructed.

It was resistant to change, aggressively almost... like its progenitor. He should have guessed: Mana was a primal force, and often colored by the person wielding it... sometimes quite literally. The fact that the concentration of mana was so elevated in Yue's apartment was a testament to how much time she spent there unconsciously burning it. Haze, the byproduct of spent mana, also accumulated quite quickly in this space, likely because of how inefficiently Yue used her powers. She was like a big engine muscle car with huge power and poor mileage, and the [Crimson] reflected that.

His eyes traveled around the apartment slowly. Yue had opted to remove the majority of the dividing walls in her apartment, making it a giant open studio with only the bathroom segregated by walls. Dark curtains covered the panorama window, letting only a sliver of the afternoon light to cut harshly into the kitchen area. The bed was a circular mattress made to fit in the depression of the integrated sofa/conversation pit with the rig she ran Final Odyssey dominating one side, and the sofa cushions haphazardly used as nightstands. The [Crimson] clinged nostalgically to the areas Yue lived most... the cleanest areas, oddly enough.

The apartment wasn't dirty, but it was littered with the obvious signs of untreated depression. Her bed was unkempt, though the space where she spent time playing was kept tidy. A dirty sock was left hanging not-quite inside the dirty clothes hamper, and her one unwashed plate hung precariously on the side of the sink. Judging from the way the [Crimson] fermented on its surface, it was probably the only dish she used. Coupled with the small sauce pan left out on the stove, slightly charred from over-use and the open pantry full of top ramen it seemed that no real care was given towards her nutrition. A glance at the garbage can full of delivery tins confirmed that she ate out frequently and didn't really cook for herself. The spartan lack of furniture or decoration was also telling in and of itself.

He sighed. Archer frequently argued against the moratorium on revealing the Awakened World to the uninitiated. The culture shock of discovering fantasy was real had to be less damaging than the emotional and environmental consequences of letting them stumble around, blindly thrashing mana about like a blunt object as they discover their powers while behavioral "specialists" tell them they're sick in the head. Yue was also a special case, to be kept ignorant of the Awakened World as long as possible. Something to do with her family history if he understood the heavily redacted file they'd shoved into his hands in a panic when she enlisted with the Templar. The corners of his mouth curled into a frown, and the [Crimson] smashed a keystone glyph, shattering the array with a growl. The keychain figurine flung was from the bed petulantly and he reached out to catch it.

The [Crimson] pressed around him cloyingly, projecting Yue's inner turmoil and feeding off his negative emotions. He sat up and pressed his hand to the cold marble, igniting a protection glyph and allowing the mana to etch back into the invisible ink in his skin, travelling up his arms and vanishing into his clothes. The heavy aura reluctantly retreated back to the comfort of the bed, and they spent a long moment staring at one another. The [Crimson] was on the verge of becoming its own Domain, which was troublesome by itself, and also posed a complication in his plan.

"This is going to take longer than I thought," he muttered, taking a dry pull on the cigarette and inhaling the aroma of tobacco. There was also the AI to contend with: the barrier that he'd placed on the apartment wouldn't shield him from the system's prying eyes forever. The longer he faffed about trying to come up with an elegant solution, the more likely Sovereign would discover something amiss and flag his intrusion.

Gemini: Help.
Gemini: One of the lab techs keeps coming to the front desk and making advances.


He thinks we're hot.
Flirt with him.


Gemini: TF is 'Chaat??'


It's... like a spicy doughnut.

Gemini: Euugh, that sounds gross.
Gemini: Do we like it??


Can this wait?
Busy trying to coax an emergent Domain into an Anime figurine.



Gemini: OMG. Just force it.
Gemini: Can't negotiate with Mana.
Gemini: Your will has to be stronger than the imprint.
Gemini: Sometimes the best tool for the job really is a hammer.


The cigarette fell into his lap. Of course! The [Crimson] was stubborn and resistant because Yue was stubborn and resistant. He clambered to his feet, scooping the cigarette behind one of his ears and gazing intently at the aura, which seemed to read his intent and hunkered down on the bed even further.

"I need a broom for this," he muttered, squinting at the anomaly.

Gemini: HELLO??
Gemini: He said 'It's a date.'
Gemini: What do I do?????


Can't talk. Building a lodge.

Gemini: ARCHER!!


*DND*

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March 11th, 2045 - 7:03 AM - Laboratory 3CH0, Lead Researcher Dalmont’s office




Ma’am. I can hear you.

No ma’am? I’m afraid not. The last I heard from Heller or Richardson, they were addressing a security breach within laboratory Echo 5, Alma.

M-Ma’am? I… Don’t believe I can answer that with any sort of clarity. I wasn’t made aware of what they were working on there, as stated within our guidelines, set by you and professor Menagerie.

I understand ma’am, I’ll have Leeds get on it. Do we move to extermination or re-acquisition— Oh. Yes ma’am. Are you sure? Would you be okay with such a waste of… Resources, ma’am?

Oh. I understand, yes ma’am. … Do, we… Have any more information? What is it— Ah, yes ma’am. I appreciate it!

Of course ma’am, dossier received. From my sister’s journal no less…

Oh! No ma’am, we’re siblings by circumstance, not by blood. Same college.

… Oh. I- Yes ma’am. I see. Thank you. I … Appreciate your letting me know. I’ll um… Arrange a funeral, soon.



Yes. Yes okay. I appreciate it. Should— Should I let the group of them know? I can send them to The Stoneworks…? The twins that run it could help trace— Yes ma’am.

Yes ma’am. I’ll send a runner to them… I apologize for the, ah, inconvenient circumstances. I’ll… I'll speak to you later ma’am, if there’s nothing else?

Yes ma’am. I’ll… Make a note. Are we sending, uh, the other ones then…?
. . . . .

Yes— Erm— Yes ma’am. Yes ma’am, I’m sorry. I’ll make a note. Thank you.

Thank you for your time, Miss Menagerie.




It took some time for the little weasel-like man to scramble from the outskirts of the Undercity to the beginnings of The Stoneworks. His mustache twitched, his eyes darted about, and he leaned his head back with a laborious sigh.

And a swift burst of mana flashed up into the air, invisible to the normal eye, but unmistakable to ‘those in the know’.
And then he waited, eager to give his message and scramble back home.

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#, as written by chaotix14
Mere moments after the burst of mana reached for the skies did the skies answer, a solitary raven swooped down low over the man before landing on a nearby lamppost. "What you want intruder?" It Screaked at the man swiftly followed by a cacophony of other ravens echoing 'intruder' as the dropped down from the skies landing on the rooftops, awnings balconies and other such perches overlooking the man until nearly every ridge had turned black with ravens.

The man clearly taken aback by the welcome he had received spoke up while trying to regain composure "I... I have to speak with your boss, Fre-" More could not leave his mouth before a deafening cawing of obvious displeasure interrupted the man.

"Never speak her name, caw. We will listen...We will answer." the one on the lamppost continued with the others parroting 'listen' and 'answer' in a discordant mess. At this point a couple curious wolves joined in to look at what had stirred the ravens, as if wondering when and how to strike at the weasel-man in front of them they began circling close around the man.

The man continued to press with frustration building in his voice. "I was specifically instructed to meet..." A malicious chuckle from one of the wolves robbed the man of his voice. "Heh heh, meat, heh heh." It growled visibly licking it's razor sharp teeth as it circled uncomfortably close. "Speak human!" The other commanded in a growl.

Perhaps reconsidering his position the man didn't attempt to press further. "I whaas.. Ehrm, I was asked b-... By my boss to request your... Your masters help finding a missing subject-." He spoke slowly feeling a proverbial knife on the throat in the form of the wolf currently still licking his teeth while humming "meat, meat, meat, how I'd love to eat." with that malicious grin on it's face and it's eyes trained straight on the man's jugular. With the ravens parroting 'master' 'help' and 'subject', this time in an almost mocking tone.

"A... A shapeshifter of sorts, appears, eh... Kind of like a roiling... Mass of ink." The man hesitantly continued looking around to check there were no others listening in on the conversation, only to see the streets empty other than the masses of birds looking straight at him and the two wolves circling at his feet. "We know... We have seen." The ravens screaked in unison then repeating those words loudly and discordantly like a mad cult. Upon hearing this the man jolted towards it trying to avoid touching the wolves in the process. "That's fantastic can you tell me where you saw it?" The man said with a voice sweet enough to rot ones teeth straight out of their mouth and a customer service smile so fake it would leave one to recoil from disgust.

"No, bring us shinies... Then we speak." The Raven on the lamppost commanded silencing the chorus of ravens momentarily before a discordant chant of 'shinies' broke free among them. Quick to react the man grabbed some broken pieces of glass and some shiny pebbles from the floor and help them up to the one on the lamppost. "Here, here, now tell me whe-..." Before the man could finish speaking the chorus of crows cawed once more in displeasure and screaked "No" from the tops of their lungs. "You bring what is worth, we tell what is truth." The one on the lamppost screaked before flying up.

With the one on the lamppost gone the others flew up as well, but not without grabbing little pebbles and hard nuts with which they began to pelt the man from above. After feeling the first pebble hit their head the man knew what rain was to come and began to run away from the Stoneworks as fast as his feet could carry. Though that wasn't all his worries as with the sound of panting behind him cold sweat flowed down his back realizing the wolves hadn't left him yet. One of them jumped forwards and snapped at the man's legs tearing a hole in his pants before coming to a full stop with the other one stopping next to him. "Nice to meat you. Heh, heh." It growled fabric stuck between his teeth and a malicious grin plastered on it's face.

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The short, weasel shaped man finally came to a halt far outside the Stoneworks, shaking and out of breath. He rubbed his backside where his white and red, heart-pattern boxers were showing and shakily pulled a crumpled pack of cigarettes out of a vest pocket. The wolves had stopped chasing him a while back, but he'd felt compelled to continue running until it was physically impossible to continue.

"Goddamn wolves," he whined, bringing a deformed cigarette to his lips and flicking the flint on his lighter. A slender, black gloved finger gently pressed the flame out, and the acrid stench of burnt leather filled his nostrils instead of the sharp aroma of tobacco. He flinched, looking up suddenly into the silhouette of a person he had neither heard, nor sensed approach.

"No open flames," she commanded, in a mechanical monotone. The sharp hiss of a mechanism in her backpack releasing a short burst of pressurized gas punctuated her words. "What did you learn?"

A terrified squeak was all he could manage to utter in reply. Burgundy eyes narrowed down at him with palpable disgust, near luminous from the inside the rough fabric of her hood. She exhaled a note of exasperation into the filtered mask covering the lower half of her face and turned away from him to survey the vast emptiness of the town outskirts. He gasped for breath as though an enormous weight had just been lifted from his chest and hurriedly mopped the cold sweat from his brow with his sleeve.

"W-w-wha-what are-"

"My presence is unofficial... for now," she informed, to which the weasel seemed immediately relieved.

He took a breath, and then began to vomit out the morning's events in while she approached a scar in the landscape. They'd ended up near the site of the morning's battle, as the intel she'd intercepted reported at least. The weasel followed close behind, chattering ceaselessly about ravens and "shinies." Occasionally he'd take a breath, and the quiet whirr of the compressor in her pack would break the silence.

The woman's composite-toed boots crunched with intentional heaviness through the detritus as she knelt down to pluck a rock from the lip of the scar and examine it closely. It was rough and dusty on one side, like a piece of rubble should be, though the side facing the interior of the scar had been cut to a near polished finish. She wiped the dust from gloves onto her black and navy colored fatigues and walked briskly to what she guessed was the scar's origin point. The weasel followed behind, describing in excruciating detail how the wolves had separated the fabric of his trousers from his ass while she grasped at something intangible in the air.

"... And then I ended up here," he finally finished, watching the woman rub the air slowly between her gloved fingers as though she were sampling a soft fabric. The weasel fidgeted nervously in the silence as she carefully scraped some brackish salt-water and... webbing(?) into a glass vials and then moved to closely examine a shard of metal. "U-um," he stammered, when the silence was no longer bearable. The worn, half-melted ends of her half-cloak fluttered for a moment, driving him to swallow the rest of his words. Suddenly, she strode off with a purpose, and he jogged to keep up with her. Something in the distance had caught her eye, and he was just glad it wasn't him.

After a while they arrived in an area where the ground had been stained by some kind of sticky residue which carried a strong saccharine scent of... sour apple? She knelt down and picked up the smashed remains of what was probably a helmet, staring quietly into the remaining eye of its mask for what felt like ages. She flicked a stone at him, which he nearly dropped when it proved hot against his skin.

"That should satisfy the Corvids. I doubt they give us any real information but see what they know anyway," she commanded, rising to her feet with the mask shard.

"A fire crystal?!" He exclaimed with a note of incredulity. "I'm to just give this to a bunch of birds?! Do you know how much these cost?!" He spat, pointing the glowing crystal at her accusingly. The weasel's anger evaporated when she turned her burgundy gaze on him. He recoiled away from her with an intimidated yelp and began shuffling back towards the Stoneworks.

"After you're done, tell our 'friends' in the Halcyon Horde that the Templar are in Undercity. That should keep them out of our way for a while."