Explorations Continue

Julian straightens with a sigh after Aurora's kiss. "I considered just pushing you up against one of these remaining trees, but I didn't want to hurt any butterflies." He smiles slightly in return, and looks to see if there is a way to get back to the high ground. "I do not sense anything of Order here. How close to the center of Chaos are we? And do you think manipulating Shadow would help or hinder our task?"

She turns to regard him and then clears a spot on the ground with her boot while they wait on Avarya. Aurora drops down to sit on her heels and picks up a nearby stick. "I don't know what Chaos looked like before," she explains as she starts to draw in the dirt a web of circles connected by lines to their neighbors. "But Grandmere says it was not like it appears now. Presently, each of these circles represents a Ways. They are connected by a Trump powered web that is constantly destroyed and instantly rebuilt. The web - what's known as a Dyson's web - is surrounding the Logrus and containing it. We are in one of these circles. Right over the Logrus, but one of those further from the event horizon to avoid Logrus flares. When we left the Fury, the station was caught by the gravitational pull of the Logrus. It's not pulling them in, but they cannot reverse out of it. Grandmere was working on a Trump Drive to get us away, since Trumps seem to work fine." She glances upwards and around. "Though they cannot penetrate the black crystal that makes up everything here. Once the airlock into Mandorways closed, we lost all communication with the Fury. Pattern-wielders emanate zones of stability, but I just don't know enough to suggest you try and use it to manipulate shadow this close to the Logrus. Which means I would rather not risk it without further study, which we can only get on the Fury now that Ghost is damaged."

Though the butterflies that were once trees are long gone, the remaining fronds of blackery that surround the pool of water below the waterfall part, and a gryphon emerges to eye both Aurora and Julian (the appreciative way she eyes Julian is most un-gryphon-like). She is halfway between eagle and panther. A moment passes, she clicks her beak, then speaks in Thari with a clicking accent. "You kalled, mistress?" Is what she says. The silvery sphere that is the Ghostwheel remains inert.

Aurora looks up and gapes in surprise. "Avarya? That's… impressive." She straightens and gives Avarya a disapproving look when she notes how she is eyeing Julian. The redhead slips an arm around her husband's waist. "Avarya, this is Julian. My husband. I thought him lost to me forever until now." She can't help the smile that follows that statement. "Julian, this is Avarya. She is … one of my companions. I saved them from their former Master and now they serve me."

Julian is about to respond to Aurora's description of Chaos, when Avarya makes her appearance. His eyebrow rises at the way the griffin-form woman looks at him, and he glances to Aurora, managing to only smile slightly at her possessiveness. "Greetings, Avarya." He manages, before the two women get into the discussion of bonds and relationships.

Though her gryphon face is difficult to read, Avarya may appear confused. "But. I thought." She clicks, then decides not to finish her sentence. "Are we leaving now?"

"What?" Aurora asks curiously. "And no, not just yet."

"I thought mistress was bonded to the son of Benedikt." Avarya clicks out, her Thari words hampered by the shape of her beak. She sits as the cat sits and tilts her head sideways, birdlike.

"No," Aurora replies with a sigh. "Kieran, Sophia and I were not bonded. Julian and I were bonded heart and soul long ago."

Alien gryphon eyes regard them both. "I am happy for my mistress." Avarya clicks then.

Aurora smiles. "Thank you."

"Anyway, I need you to do something for me. Ghostwheel is damaged. We need you to take to the air and see if there is anything of interest here that you can see. Anymore crystal cocoons, or perhaps some surviving structure." She eyed the pool. "Or any other signs of life."

When Aurora outlines their needs, Julian adds, "And please keep an eye out for those — creatures. The one that fled was only wounded, however grievously, and I dislike leaving such on the loose."

"There is structure supporting the sun." Avarya clicks. "I will fly high and tell you what I see." She unfurls her wings, leaps skywards as the cat leaps, soars upward.

She watches the small gryphon take to the air before she turns to Julian. "I am certain you have a thousand questions…"

"Fiona uses an apt analogy. A Dyson's Sphere would have a star at its center, in this case we have the Logrus. I only know of it through some brief encounters with Merlin." Julian slips his arm about Aurora in turn. "Dyson's Web is as appropriate. Instead of the sphere it is the swarm variant." He turns to meet her eyes, "I have no idea what Chaos was like before, I never came this far South. It seems to me that its malleable nature would allow it to adapt and change as necessity required." Julian looks at the sky thoughtfully, "Is there some danger of the Logrus somehow escaping?"

"I would think so. In theory," Aurora replies. "Should one of the webs or ways fail. There is no one here to work the bindings that once held it, which is apparently why they constructed the web. But it's held for 50,000 years, so I don't think we need to worry just yet." She falls silent a moment, laying her head against his chest. "Wait till you see it. It's a massive, boiling —thing. I don't see how one is supposed to be able to imprint on it, and I don't need to know more to know that if it does escape, this entire dimension is in serious trouble."

Julian's hand caresses the line of her spine, slowly following that familiar curve at the small of her back. It was something that he did not think he would ever get to do again. He leans his head down, and kisses her hair. "Unfortunately, Love, I would not know the anything about Imprinting the thing. I'm not at all certain how well that mixes with one's Pattern Imprint. Theories very on the matter." He nods, "I wonder if its containment has anything to do with the widespread plague you mentioned. I do no recall anything about the potential for Chaos to bowl out into the Shadows, but I would not have had reason to hear of it." Julian shrugs slightly, and gently pats her bottom, smiling slightly. "Shall we climb up and see what we can see?"

She looks up at him and smiles. "That sounds like a plan. But," she grins impishly and reaches up to stroke his cheek as she shifts to face him. "It will cost you a kiss and one of those real smiles I remember."

Julian kisses her soundly, deeply, just as he used to when they were first together. He would surprise her and leave her breathless. When his lips lift from hers, he smiles brightly for her alone, exercising muscles that have likely not smiled quite that way in centuries. He kisses her one more time, lightly, and takes her hand. "Come on then." Then he guides her towards a climbable side of the falls.

The dull black rocks are slippery with moisture and a strange kind of black moss which squeaks as it is walked upon. The climbable side Julian has chosen requires them to wade through the waters, but there is a place to their left where the warm water is shallow enough it will not reach their knees. The climb is difficult but manageable. At the top, they find that the five-hundred-foot-diameter lake is still bubbling and steaming away. There is as yet no sign of the beast save for the tracks it left in the mud that is beside the lake. High above, in the sky, a gryphon soars, higher and higher toward the glowing globe that looks like the sun. The silvery sphere of Ghostwheel remains inert.

A spell takes care of the water they picked up crossing the lake. Aurora would prefer to have that stuff on them as little as possible. From their vantage point, she looks over the lower ground and sighs. "I don't remember Mandorways," she says quietly. "I don't remember Grandmere or Grandpapa either. I do remember the house of my father; which should have been part of this. I think." She gestures vaguely. "I don't know what I was expecting to find. Especially when I knew before we left Amber it had been 6000 years since I had seen my father's house. Then to find out it had been 56,000? I don't even know how to find where it once stood in all this."

Julian pauses to run a hand over the moss, just once, before he continues on their way. He climbs well, taking some pleasure in it. It feels good to put in a little exertion, especially after several thousand years in a cocoon. Not that he was aware of the passage of time, but all the same. When he reaches the top, he turns to offer a hand to Aurora, smiling when they arrive there together. His hand rises to her back, and he slips his arm about her waist. "It has been a very long time. And, this place has changed drastically since you would have known it." He glances up and sees Avarya flying, "Is that — sun just a glowing object?" He shakes his head slightly, and turns back to Aurora.

Aurora leans against him and her own arms wraps around his middle as she looks up briefly at the sun. "Yes. I told you we are in an enclosed environment. Ghostwheel was going to investigate that before it was damaged. Hopefully Avarya will know what it is she is looking at when she gets there."

"Yes, I know. Now that she's flying towards it, it lends a bit of perspective." Julian replies, turning slightly, so she is within the circle of both of his arms. "Your device is still out of it. I've felt not even a small movement from the duffel. I do hope it can be repaired." He meets her eyes, and gently kisses her. "It is a very surreal experience. I will give it all more consideration when we are some place more safe." Julian smiles, "You make dealing with all this very easy."

She chuckles. "I found that dealing only with what was in front of me made it doable the first few weeks. It was all otherwise to big to get a handle on." Aurora smiles. "Actually, I still have to do that. Otherwise I would never stop asking questions; like how in the name of all that is holy did the great love of my life end up stored in the Ways of my family? Not that I'm complaining, mind."

"I would like to know how anyone knew enough to put me in your path. I spoke of you to my Brothers, and they would not have spread the story around." Julian bends his knees, and then lifts her up, his clasped hands cradling her just beneath her bottom so that she is at eye level. "Not that I am complaining either." He smiles another of his old smiles, as he meets her eyes.

She cradles his face between her palms and rests her forehead against his. "There's my Julian," she smiles. Her thumbs caress over the ridge of his cheekbones. "If they found Alexander, they probably figured it out from his genetic makeup. I would like to think it was Grandmere's idea, but that may be attributing too much goodwill and forethought to her." She doesn't seem too fussed at the moment; she's much to busy kissing her husband.

"I have always been your Julian." He manages to say, before he is too occupied by her kiss to say anything more. Julian kisses her eagerly in return, hungrily, changing his grip to cup her bottom as he holds her up and against him. When it eventually breaks, he kisses along the side of her neck. He whispers softly, "No offense to you, Love, but I would not credit Fiona with an overabundance of sentimentality." His teeth graze her skin lightly. "Perhaps it was Merlin."

Head to one side and eyes closed, Aurora tangles her fingers in his hair and moans softly; "Who?"

"No one important." Julian replies softly, nibbling gently on her earlobe, before his lips graze along the side of her neck and down to her shoulder. "Your scent…I have missed it so."

"Mmmm…," is her only verbal reply. Aurora shifts in his hands to adjust the hold of her legs around his waist. There has been many times in her life when her petite stature had been a liability; this is not one of them. As his lips leave an inflamed path down her neck, Aurora drops her head forward and returns the favor. She groans slightly at the taste of him on the tip of her tongue.

Julian smiles slightly against her skin, and growls softly at the way her legs move around him. When her lips touch his skin, he sighs and leans his head to one side. "Aurora." He begins, remembering that this was where the creature had attacked her. "We really should -" As she continues to kiss his skin, he groans quietly, a low rumbling sound in his chest. "-stay alert."

She shivers when his chest rumbles. She had missed that, She continues her languid attentions, pausing only for a murmured "Quoi?" before nipping at his ear.

"Alert." Julian manages, he turns his head towards her and kisses her neck as well, nuzzling her chin up until he finds her lips and kisses her deeply. He kneads her bottom, and takes a few steps to put her back up against a tree. He continues to kiss her fervently, his hips rolling against hers.

She grunts lowly when she impacts the tree. Aurora drops one arm and shrugs her shoulderpack off to thud to the ground at their feet. Reluctantly, she unwraps one leg from around him so he has free access to his blade. "Alert," she breathes against his lips before kissing him again.

With his opposing hand he quickly pulls his blade free, and jabs it into the earth, where it stands close at hand. Then, before returning her leg to its place, buttons are undone, and cloth moved hastily aside or down. Julian rolls his hips against her again, kissing her with a muffled moan as he enters her, and makes certain her legs are around him. He lifts his lips from hers, and gasps, as he thrusts once more, pulling her to him tightly even as he presses her against the trunk of the tree. "Alert." he agrees in a breathless whisper, just before claiming her lips again.

She moans an agreement as one hand gestures to summon the dome around them as before. She opens an eye to make sure it's there and then returns to reminding her husband just how much she missed him….

Sometime later, while Julian keeps an eye on the landscape and his wife, Aurora experiments with the local physics by casting a variety of spells and studying their results. Unfortunately, she doesn't know enough about the local physics or the Logrus to do much more with any confidence.

One of those times when Julian is looking over the terrain and not her, Aurora plucks three hairs from her head and proceeds to braid them swiftly together. Then her concentration is totally on the project at hand. Any attempts to engage her in conversation are met with silence or absent minded grunts.

The gryphon that is Avarya lands on the lip of the waterfall at this point: there is still no sign of the wounded beast, nor any sign of 'life' from the Ghostwheel.

Aurora finally looks up. One hand massages her temple as she gives Avarya her attention. "What did you find?"

Julian stands nearby, his bow in hand. He had tried to see what Aurora was doing, but had been 'tsked' at often enough to make him stop. He nods when the gryphon returns, accepting Avarya's arrival so casually, it might seem that he greeted or dealt with mythical beasts all the time. He walks over to Aurora, and offers her his hand. "All done, Love?"

"Maybe," she mumbles as he pulls her to her feet. She stays close and rests her head against his chest. "But now I have a headache. Remind me later to talk to Grandmere about this. It's annoying."

"There are ruins everywhere, mistress, covered with growth. There are massive herbivores. I saw many of the predator beasts gathering two miles downstream." The Gryphon that is Avarya clicks out with her beak. "The sun is a konstrukt. It is held at the top of the tower. It is.. fifty miles that way." She points with one of her claws.

Aurora wrinkles her nose and ponders a moment. "This is too big for just the three of us," she decides after a moment. "I think we should return to the Fury now and return an away team of at least six. Fiona is probably none too happy with us being out of contact this long as it is."

She take a breath and addresses Avarya directly. "I know you don't like it, but for the return to the shuttle, I am going to have to ask you to take that form you had before I killed your old Master. That can survive in space. Julian will have to use your encounter suit."

"As my mistress kommands." Avarya clicks in answer, her Gryphonic eyes briefly glancing to Julian before returning to her mistress.

Julian stands quietly by, eying the construct that is the sun. "Even with more feet on the ground, if that tower is roughly at the center of things, even if we're standing at the edge, and I'm not certain we are, that approaches nearly eight thousand square miles to explore. We would need animals or vehicles." He pats the duffel, "Even with your Ghostwheel, it would take a lot of time to cover that area." Julian runs his fingers through his hair, "You are more familiar with this new technology, but is there no way to somehow relay your vessel's scanners into the interior of the sphere?"

Aurora shook her head. "They won't read through this black crystal. That's why I needed Ghostwheel for this. Once we're on the Fury, we'll see what we can come up with. Maybe there's even something already there."

A faint sound of roaring occurs on the wind as Aurora says this. "Mistress, I fear the kreature wounded here has sought reinforcements." Avarya clicks out from her beak.

Aurora hefts her pack and machete and looks in the direction of the noise. "I fear you are correct. Time to head home." She gives Julian a playful smile. "Let's go thank Grandmere."

She takes her husband's hand. "If you'll fly, Avarya, you can be our lookout."

"As you kommand, my mistress." The Gryphon clicks from her beak, even as her wings unfurl, and she leaps skyward.. The waters continue burbling over the rocks.

"C'mon," Aurora smiles to Julian once more then starts leading him towards the exit as fast as the terrain will allow.

"Gathering a pack shows unusual intelligence." Julian comments as he moves to follow Aurora towards the exit. "We should hurry, before they flank us. It had a carapace, I'm concerned that they might be able to fly."

Aurora looks up at the flying form of Avarya above them. "That's a cheery thought. But keep in mind that some of what we come across in our explorations of these places are shape shifters that went mad. At least that's what Avarya said that giant spider we fought in the shuttle bay was."

Julian scowls very slightly. "Lovely. So they can adapt and overcome a wide variety of obstacles, and cobble together group strategies and tactics." He draws out an arrow from his quiver, with one of the smaller crystal arrow heads. The arrow drawn forth by Julian has a crystal arrowhead which is barely there, twinkling in the 'sunlight'. There are 19 arrows left in his quiver. "I'm not sure what these will do in a vacuum." He raises his eyebrows, "Would it be a lot of trouble to conjure standard arrows? Or shall I test Shadow Shifting?"

"Well," she frowns as she pushes aside a stand of broadleaved ferns so they can pass. "I don't suppose they have to last terribly long… How many do you want?"

Julian considers that for a moment, "A dozen, perhaps. I will happily use the crystal arrows at range, but as they draw closer, I'd rather not knock us off our feet." He looks ahead for a moment, "If we are forced to fight, that is. I would much rather escape." Julian shook his head, "Would that this were Arden, and that my horse and hounds were with us."

She nods. Aurora pauses to let her eyes scan the terrain ahead of them. "We can't stop while I do them all now. But…" She closes her eyes and focuses before three shimmer into existence in her hand. They are like the arrows he used in Huntingdon. She smiles as she hands them to him. "I was sure of the length of those," she says by way of explanation as she hands them to him.

Aurora faces forward again. They still had to get around the body of black water. She frowns at it. "I'm going to try and teleport us across. If it works, I can teleport us in jumps to the airlock. I hope. It would get us closer to our goal, anyway."

Julian takes the arrows from her hand, leaning in quickly to give her a quick kiss. "Thank you. I will make them count." He runs his fingers over the fletchings, so he is familiar with them by feel, and slides them carefully into the quiver. "These are perfect." He adds quietly, raising an eyebrow as Aurora explains her plans. "Teleport." His expression does not change much, but the breath he takes is a sure sign that he's not entirely comfortable with the idea of instant transit. "Were anyone else to make that offer, I would firmly refuse. I will take the risk with you."

Aurora gives him a heart melting smile as she wraps an arm around his middle. "You always did."

Julian reaches up to slip his fingers through her hair for a moment, and then leans in to give her a kiss. When it parts, he smiled slightly, "You were always worth the Hunt." He meets her eyes, "I confess a certain - wonder- that you are a Sorcress of this magnitude, but considering what you were doing when we met, I really am not terribly surprised. You were always a bit mystical. I trusted your herbs back then, surely I can trust you to take me from one place to another." He smiles, a bit more brightly, and thus a more familiar expression than his currently more reserved manner.

"I am so going to show you how much I appreciate you later," she purrs happily.

Then she turns her attention to the task at hand and teleporting Self and Other across the lake.

Aurora finds that her headache does not improve as she gathers the local energies, slippery, like trying to herd slimy eels. The teleportation spell functions as it did before, and they find themselves standing on the other side of the massive lake. The black plants there still weep red-and-purple fluids from where Aurora hacked her way through.


Aurora sways and she closes her eyes against the light and the increasing pain in her temples. She unwraps her arm from around Julian and massages her temple as she lets out a slow breath. She was really going to have to do something to build up her tolerance. There has to be a better way then pushing herself past her limits until she passes out time and time again.

She opens her eyes and points with her blade towards the trail. "That way," she says lowly. "I might better save my reserves for trouble, otherwise I will be no help to you at all."

Julian holds her up when she sways, scowling slightly at the impact the spell-work had on her. "I have you." He whispers, as he holds her until she has her balance again. Julian nods, "It is this place. We do not know all the rules, so we are bending them in the only way that we know. That's the strain. I feel certain I can work with Shadow, but I don't know what the consequences would be." He nods when she gives him direction, and keeps his crystal arrow ready. "Stay behind me then. If the insectoids have gotten in front of us, I will handle them."

"Just follow the trail of creepy blood colored sap," Aurora replies. She tucks the blade under her arm and massages the pressure point between her thumb and forefinger to relieve her headache. "With the Dyson construction containing the Logrus, we're just too close for me to be comfortable with invoking Pattern for shifting." Her smile was faint, but confident. "We can handle this, you and I. Together you and I can handle anything."

Julian nods, the trail was very clear. He does not like it, but with the closeness of the foliage, he shoulders his bow, puts the arrow away, and draws his sword to continue. He nods at her explanation, "I understand your hesitation." He stops a moment at her last, and looks over his shoulder. "That was always the case." Julian smiled slightly in return, and turns back to the trail, leading the way along the previously hacked out path.

Aurora follows steadily behind; keeping the occasional eye on Avarya above them while continuing to massage the pressure point in an effort to alleviate at least part of her headache. She also keeps a look out for trouble. Not everything crashes through the underbrush or flies.

The headache subsides, though there are mosquitos, and leeches, and once what might be a snake in the distance through the foliage. On the other side of the broken trail, they find double doors of midnight crystal, standing open and as high as two men. Inside there is nothing save another set of double doors, set into the wall on the far side. Avarya lands on the bank of the lake behind them, folds her wings, follows them. "The beasts are heading this way." She clicks as her form begins to shift, flow, change.

"Not surprised," Aurora replies as she drops her pack. She immediately begins slipping her encounter suit on over her clothes. "Give Julian your encounter suit. You're going to be the only one with a blaster. Mine's in the bottom of the base of the falls."

"I left my suit here, mistress." Avarya says, indicating with one dark and leathery paw, the neatly folded wafer-thin crystaline packet lodged inside one of the double doors.

TOCReturn to the Mother Ship

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