Ancestors Pyre

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Ancestor's Pyre was an adventure in four parts--the first part, being mostly setup, isn't included here. This doesn't mean that the setup wasn't important--it was. It does mean that the log is long enough anyway, and it was excluded for space reasons. What follows is a log of the party's journey through Am'shere, to return a dragon for burial among the sith'makar.

Part One

-=--=--=--=--=--=--=--=-<* Whirlpool's Room of Doom *>-=--=--=--=--=--=--=--=-

A floating, bald head says, "WELCOME TO YOUR DOOM!" 

Whirlpool flushes the Toilet of Doom and you are all swirled into the vortex.
-=--=--=--=--=--=--=--=--=--=--=-- Contents --=--=--=--=--=--=--=--=--=--=--=-

---------------  At a glance around Whirlpool's Room of Doom  ----------------

Serene           48s 6'2"     165 Lb     Aasimar/Charn     Female      

Tall, dark skinned woman. Armoured and cloaked.                          

Myrana           31s 5'0"     125 Lb                                 

Short young woman with coal-black braids.                                

Jareth            8s 6'2"     204 Lb                                  

 Tall young man with a strong build, wearing full plate armor.            

Usha              8s 5'8"     119 Lb     Shadow Elf        Female     

Shadow-elf dressed in white. Big hair.                                   

Tillianne         1m 5'8"     130 Lb                                   

Learning to chomp demons!                                                

Svarshan          0s 6'4"     274 Lb     Sith'makar        Male        

Be a paladin. Chomp a demon.                                             

Whirlpool         5s           Lb        Otyugh                       

I am stinky!                                                              


Well, then.

Each of you has received invitations from Svarshan to meet outside Alexandria. Some of you are more informed than others, of course, but all of you have the invitation and are en route to the chosen meeting destination.

Svarshan is, of course, waiting there. As is a very large wagon, covered, with a team of horses attached to it. ALong with numerous piles of supplies for the trip he's told at least *most* of you that you're going to need.

Tillianne shows up at the right time and place. She raises her hand in greeting as she steps towards the wagon. "Svarshan. Hail." She looks around. "Looks like this'll be quite the party."

Svarshan keeps checking beneath the wagon's covering. He pokes his head under, and steps back to pace. He goes back to the wagon. He walks out among the grounds. He goes back to the wagon. Tillianne's arrival gives him reason to pause, and he--nods--and stands there twitching a bit (must check the wagon!) as he responds. "I hope. I'm...really glad you can make it. I'll apologize for the bugs ahead of time."

Srassha watches him with wide, amused eyes. She preens there beneath the sunlight, a short distance away from the wagon itself. When Tillianne shows up, she pauses and turns sideways just-so. Look! Look at me!

A flicker of her head attempts to show off the bangles and beads attached to her saddle and reins. Someone got decked out for the funeral.

The clip-clop of heavy shoed hooves announces Serene's arrival as a her horse carries her from the city to the awaiting caravan. As usualy she is armoured and heavily armed, as if expecting to wade into battle the moment they reach Am'Shere. She lifts her hand to greet Svarshan, Tillianne and any others already arrived.

Myrana arrives a bit late, riding high in Erik's saddle as the big old warhorse plods along at his own pace. A barrel has been settled behind his saddle and its beaten metal banding gleams dully as they approach. The sorceress waves in greeting. "Hey! Hello! Sorry!" Myrana's satchel is fairly bulging, and a few cookery things clatter like weapons of war where they hang behind her.

A faint smell is coming from the wagons. Not the smell of death or decay, but rather, roses. Sweets. Incense.

A man in robes drops from the back of the wagon and walks towarsd Svarshan. He's Vardaman, of course, and he says, "The spells should last until you're in position to do with the body what you want to do. Good luck on the other side of the portal." And with that, he heads for his horse, mounts up, and proceeds to begin trotting away.

Usha has rented a horse, not owning one herself, she makes her way at the rear of the procession- frankly still surprised that she was invited. In addition to her usual outfit, she wears a small silver pendant- a pendant in the shape of the moon- around her neck.

Srassha shakes her reins. Shimmie-shimmie go the bangles. Shake-shake! go the spangles. She struts! She moves! She poses, pretending all the while to be disinterested in the arrivals. And yet, somehow--the sunlight glints off her beads and feathers. Somehow, they clink and jingle.

Svarshan bows deeply to the priest as the man leaves. He stays in the unfamiliar pose for a while, then straightens, and waves to Usha, Myrana, and Serene. "I'm glad you could make it. They'll likely remount us on swiftclaws on the other side of the portal," he says, and pauses. Pauses. Turns words over. "If the swift gives you trouble, act firmly. ...and...mrmmm. Stand strong within your faith, and your confidence," is what he decides to say.

Jareth arrives at the meeting place astride the same destrier he borrowed from the Daeusite temple for the King's arrival. Nodding his greeting to the others, he eyes the wagon, overhearing some of what the Vardaman priest shares with Svarshan. As the priest leaves, he rides up alongside the Sith and inquires, "What are we doing?"

Tillianne is standing there looking ready to go. With not much small talk to be had, she is pretty quiet. She looks at anything people are taking that is out in the open, taking note of how much she may have under prepared or over prepared.

"Nothing uncomplicated," Svarshan returns in a low tone, and with a grin. "We're returning the dragon to my people for his burial." A pause. "I'd like you to see that, and--Jareth..." he pauses, and lowers his voice. " would be good if the sith'makar saw this sort of effort." He sucks in his breath, then lets it out again even more quality.

Srassha continues to pose for a while longer before realizing, vaguely, that she is not being paid her tributes.

This results in some sulking.

Indeed, for anyone who wants to look in the very large wagon, there is indeed an equally very large (though not as large as one would expect a 'dragon' to be) dragon inside of it. It is quite dead -- its body bearing scorch marks and wounds a plenty that have been dressed. Indeed, the body looks very much like it has been seen to by a skilled hand that has done its best to make it look presentable, but its aslo clear that the presentation of a dragon's body is not something that they have a whole lot of experience working on.

At any rate, it smells of incense and does not appear to be at all rotted.

Serene glances only once at the wagon; she doesn't see inside, but certainly smells the results of the priests' labours. "Are we going to be expected, Ser Darshan?"

Jareth's brow furrows, "I can understand them appreciating the gesture, but wouldn't this be better suited for some more diplomatic, or silver-tongued fellows, friend?"

Myrana gives Jareth a acid look out of the corner of her eye.

"Should be," Svarshan says, as he hooks a foot into Srassha's stirrup. She sniffs, and nips at him for his efforts. And he swings up, with a creak of leather and cloth. "'ve not met Am'shere, Jareth," he says, and grins. He does it then in the human style--which shows briefly, alot of teeth.

"Everyone ready to--" he pauses. "Myrana, Serene? Would you mind watching the cart?'s..." it's the reason they're on this trip.

Usha frowns a bit, and she whispers to Myrana as she pulls up next to her. "I heard there are a lot of trees and bugs and stuff where we're going... I um- is it like the forest by Alexandria? Because... that place gives me the creeps..."

Myrana nods to Svarshan, then leans down over Erik's neck. "I suppose you are heading back home," she whispers, then reaches into her pocket. A tiny paper bird emerges, folded artfully and painted with, it must be said, rather stinky orange dye. Blowing on it, she lets go, and watches it fly off toward the city before dismounting with a rustle of skirts. "I dunno," she confides sotto voce to Usha. "Never been there, but.." and, with the optimism of the ignorant, she grins. "How bad could it be?"

A little while later, Erik is unloaded. Toby comes puffing up the path on a hardy little pony. Myrana's page of sorts. She ruffles his hair and the boy takes Erik by the reins back to the city. Myra climbs up onto the cart and offers a hand down to Usha, grinning encouragingly.

Serene makes a little face at Svarshan's suggestion, but nods her head in acceptance, moving her horse to the side of the wagon, prepared to keep pace with it. As she does she looks up skywards; a few moments pass, then a small black shape int he distance grows into that of her falcon familar who swoops down, circles around a few times, then spreads flies off again, presumably to range about and keep watch.

If you ran from your people, there's a strength in you. Hold onto that," Svar says, looking towards Usha. His shoulders are relaxed, he's relaxed...which could give the impression that they're off for a picnic. He reaches down to scratch Srassha's neck, and the swiftclaw preens.

With all of you present, it's only a matter of time before the trip gets underway. And it finally does.

The trip to the portal to Am'shere is not *that* long. It takes the better part of a couple days to get there. The first thing that tells you that you're nearing is the increasing number of Alexandrian patrols in the area. They appear to be accompanied by numerous Sith-Makar, actually, with each patrol having a member or two that looks like he belongs from the jungle land. They appear to be fairly well aquainted. The patrols do not stop you, but you are eyed with each passing. it would appear that they were alerted to your coming.

Eventually, the terrain begins to take on a blasted look -- with old trees that have been knocked over and land that has laid fallow for some time. While the land is beginning to recover, as it eventually would, it definitely bears the sign of something that is going to take many, many mroe years for its saplings to begin growing in place of the many knocked over trees that line the path you're following.

A fortress of stone rings a central point -- and that central point is what appears to be a great, swirling tear in the world itself. Hazy images of a jungle are occasionally flickeringly seen if you stare at it long enough. This point is heavily, *heavily* guarded. The walls of this newly finished and constructed fort are in tact and fresh and manned. Moreover, over this whole fortress is a great, bluish dome of force, indicating that the whole area around the portal is magically sealed. Just ahead of you at the gate are a group of human merchants, dressed -down- for the cold weather you're experiencing.

Usha becomes increasingly nervous as they approach the fortress- heavy guard has always made her nervous, ever since she discovered the extendt of the hatred for her people in most lands. She shrinks a little bit, pulling her cloak up around herself. She also stays close to Myrana.

Myrana sits at the reins all huddled within her coat and scarf, thick braids all fuzzy and messy from the wind. She peeks out from over her scarf at the heavy guard and the dome of force. In her lap, Rum is a rotund bump of green snoring. She glances at Usha, then at the guards, puffing up just the tiniest bit.

Svarshan slows his mount as they near. She looks up--she'd been eyeing a few of the other creatures there, the mounts and their passengers. And so near the portal her neck strains forward, and her nostrils flare. He scratches at the scales along his neck, and scowls. "That. Is more heavily guarded than the last time I..." he looks around, and then, calls out to one of the guards. "Greetings in the name of our ancestors! We travel to return one who was lost, and then fallen. We're expecting a guide--can you tell us where he is?"

Serene's breath comes out in puffs, but the chill doesn't appear to affect her as she keeps her eyes on the patrols and the fortifications. She shakes her head slowly... it has been, after all, quite some time since her last visit here. As the caravan approaches the first goal of the journey, she slows, her warhorse stamping a few times in impatience.

Pulling his horse's reins as the party rides into the fortress courtyard, Jareth's attention becomes riveted to the tear that is the portal. Craning his head towards Svarshan's address to the resident guards, the warrior never takes his eyes off the gateway, "Merciful Daeus..."

"It's more heavily guarded...we should speak with the guide," Svar says to Jareth, beneath his breath.

One of the guards hols a finger up to indicate that Svarshan needs to wait a moment more. The guards are presently dealing with the merchants who finally make their way through, chattering from the cold, but seemingly ready to go across to the other side. They step into what appears to be gatewy into the area where the portal is. The first portcullis lifts, letting them in one wagon at a time. A wave of magic washes over them, a blue light coming from the chamger, and then the second portcullis opens and they walk through. They give up their horses over to a stablemaster and these horses are replaced by bipedal lizards -- swiftclaws like Svarshan's -- that are hitched up. Then they go through the portal, vanishing with a 'pop'. This process is repeated until the three wagon caravan is done and it is your turn to come forward.

Svarshan nods, and turns to look over the fortress. "It's huge," he says in a quieter voice. "Just months ago this didn't exist," he stops after that a while, turning it over, turning /this/ over, and scratching Srassha's neck in the meanwhile.

Myrana shifts a bit on the board seat of the wagon, shivvering in her coat. "Portals," she mutters quietly. Unhappily.

Still looking at the gateway, Jareth asks in wonderment, "What...what caused this? How is this possible? I know...magic, but really?"

"Portals," Svar agrees. "Jareth, we need to talk with that guide." He pauses, and adds, "There was a Garmite fanatic called the Prophet some time ago who tried to stir up relations between the softskins and my people. I thought he would have killed himself by now." He shifts in the saddle, with a low groan of leather. A sudden, stark run of claws beneath his jaw. "Could be, that was wrong."

Tilly follows along, pausing just long enough to look down at her hands, which she turns over a few times as she stands in the blue light. She may be more easily impressed than the others, since the display of light and then portal vanishing seems to amaze her. And then she hesitates. She looks at Svar. "Have there even been any portal...accidents?"

Myrana leans down a little, though not too much, so that Jareth can hear her where he sits in the saddle. "Someone once told me it's like... pinching a bit of cloth together," she whispers. "Only instead of wrinkly cloth, it's wrinkly distance." She eyes the portal worriedly. "... But he was very very drunk at the time, and might only have been wearin' the pointy hat to look ridiculous."

Jareth nods a few times, "The guide, of course." and begins to follow Svarshan, eyes still lingering on the portal, "This Prophet created the portal, then? He must be an incredibly powerful wizard?"

"None that I know of," Svar says slowly, still eyeing the thing. Srassha scrapes the earth. "I've traveled it a few times, but. We should be careful." His frill folds, and he lowers his head, eyeing it. "The /Prophet/ was part of why I wanted to do this. Am'shere needs to see y--Alexandria's better sides." A longer pause. Somewhat awkward by the near 'your.' "He is a druid. Of stronger draconic blood than the...than most of the tribes," he says, low-voiced. "The Queen doesn't like his teachings."

"We've had a few," says the guard to answer Tillianne's question since they're in earshot. "We were told you were coming. You'll need to step inside and wait for the"

"Decontamination process," ventures another guard on the other side of the portcullis.

"Right. The Decontami.. Oh whatever! You need to be deloused. They don't want even so much as a bug getting across the portal. Druids orders. We can't close the damn thing, but they keep telling us how important it is that there isn't any cross poliwhatsits."

"Cross pollenation," says the other guard.

"Whatever!" He pulls a lever and yells to another guard, who pulls another lever and the portcullis raises.

"You'll need to trade your horses for swiftclaws. Horses don't fare so well on the other side. We've got stabling accomodations for them."

Serene dismounts, rubbing her horse's neck for a moment before she turns a faint scowl on the guards. "I do not have lice." On another note, "I am surprised this prophet still lives. Perhaps this trip can convince the Am'Shere queen that the two sides can work togeter to find him and eliminate him."

Usha blinks, "Deloused?" she asks then, and she peers between the guards and her friends. "We won't have to... uh...disrobe, for this process, will we?" She asks nervously then.

"I'm not taking my clothes off," Myrana grumbles darkly. "There will be blackened fingers."

Svar nods after a while, the corners of his eyes drawing up at Serene's comment. Falls quiet after that. And then... "What's the name of the druid who gave the orders?" he asks. "I wonder if I've heard of him." Srassha cranes her neck forward, curious and eager to see. He presses against her side, making room for the others. At Usha's and Myrana's comment, he slowly closes his muzzle. And fights back a grin. Paladins can have evil senses of humor. Right?

Myrana says, "It's bloody -cold-," she adds, realizing that... just maybe, threatening to murder people isn't nice."

Jareth purses his lips as the guards explain the Druid's requirements, "Well, if we're to arrive in Am'shere under the most auspicious of sentiments, then let us follow the proper rules. Now, I will insist that a separate area be set up for the ladies among us to undergo this procedure. Also, will be performed on them by fellow ladies among the guard detachment here. Under no other circumstances will it proceed any further. Understood?"

"I am NOT getting NAKED!" Myrana blurts in disbelief. Fortunately this is both muffled, and likely ignored.

Jareth adds, "Somewhere indoors, for the ladies, with a fireplace, and preferably a heated bath for them before we go through..."

Svar looks over at Jareth. And clears his throat. Solemnly, he nods. If his eyes are a little too bright with humor.

Usha scowls, "I'm with Myrana." she comments. "I'm no- Oooh, a bath?"

"WHY ISN'T ANYBODY LISTENING TO U--oh." Myrana shuts up. A bath.

Myrana coughs. Blushing hotly.

"I brought soap," Myra whispers to Usha. That wasn't me complaining just now. Oh no. In her lap, Rum snores.

With a sigh, Svarshan gravely translates the words for Jareth, into draconic. Although he substitutes 'hot bath' for 'cold.' Myrana and Usha are described as fierce warriors. Heat would insult them.

Tillianne frowns as this is explained in more detail. "What?! I'm done with this shit!" she says, throwing up her arms briefly.

The guardsman?

They are staring at the lot of you like you've all gone mad.

"Uh," he says, "You don't need to do anything except strip down to your skivvies. We won't look. It's all handled by magic -- and you're gonna wanna dress down *anyways*. It's hot on the other side of the portal. Extremely."

"I'm not going through the fargate portal with the chance of showing up in chopped up Tilly bits. Or get stuck or vaporize or something. And I'm definitely not taking my clothes off." She folds her arms over her chest. "This is totally absurd. I'm immune to diseases anyway."

Serene casts a slightly disapproving look at Tillianne, then starts leading her horse towards the stables. "We had best get this over with. While I may resent the implication that I might be... unclean... if that is the price of admission, so be it."

Jareth proceeds to dismount from his horse, removing his cloak, "Very well, but I will require aid in donning my armor again afterwards. As for the climate over there, I have brought precautions to deal with the heat while still able to wear my armaments." and then begins the process of having his plate armor removed, "Ladies, we only need to disrobe to our...undergarments. No further. I am assuming we are all wearing such considering the weather on our side?"

"Oh... no bath?" She asks then, and she actually seems... a little crestfallen. "Well, I suppose that a bath when we get back might be OK, instead..." she comments, mostly to herself. "I still want to go somewhere where, um, the men aren't, though."

Svarshan shifts in the saddle. He shifts again, and says in an even, bland tone. "One assures...softskins, by and large, are--we probably consider you as pretty as the reverse." Is the best way he can think to put it.

Myrana blinks. Then, though it should be impossible, turns even -redder- at the question. "..." she sort of shrinks down into the collar of her coat and her scarf. "..'s." she mumbles.

Jareth also comments to Tillianne, "You may be immune to diseases, but the natives of Am'shere are not necessarily so, and thus there is risk of our bringing infections over to them, if I am understanding this correctly."

Tillianne takes a good look around (not at the undressing people) and when she comes up with no immediate danger, she complies.

Usha makes her way to the end of the room far from from the men, and then she peers around. "I wish there was somewhere better to do this..." she murmurs, and drags Myrana over. To hide behind.

Eventually, everyone dresses down to their skivvies.

You step in through the front of the gate and are then trapped inside the confines of the chamber. The blue light you saw earlier washes over all of you and, yes, even though you *thought* you were clean, at least one dead bug falls off everyone. Clean or not, it's hard to be completely free of bugs travelling through the great out doors.

Once this is complete, you are able to walk through the otherside of the portcullis with your things in tact and into the central portion of the fort. HEre, stablehands come to claim your horses and bring out a matching number of swiftclaws. More swiftclaws are being brought in from the other side of the portals.

"These swiftclaws are well trained," says the stablehand, "and they're trained to respond to common commands. If you've any questions about them, ask your guide or your Sith here," he nods towards Svarshan, "the'll be able to help you out. They are dangerous," he adds, "so mind you don't get kicked by one. Same as a horse, except you're more likely to be disembwoled instead of just having your chest caved in. Do not strike, punch, or otherwise kick your swiftclaw." This speech has been given over, and over again. And over again.

Nearby, sits an old man in furs. A staff is laid across his lap. He appears to be in meditation beneath a singularly large, planted tree. That's almost certainly a druid -- it has to be. He opens one eye and then sits forward, stroking his scraggly beard as he leans forward. Inspecting one and all. Like he seems to do to every traveller that passes through the area.

The air here smells...stale almost.

"Oh -sure-" Myrana grouses at Usha as she's dragged over. "Just come out and say it, Usha. 'Myra, your butt is big and I will hide behind it's pasty expanses'. You know, this is why Altheans boss people around." But it's obvious that she's trying not to laugh as she says it, and goes about the business quickly. As they're eventually debriefed, she shifts anxiously from one foot to the other, hooking arms with Usha. In part to offer her friend some support, and also in a bit of nervousness. She hates portals.

Svarshan leans over, scenting the stale air around the old man. He nods as the stablehand gives direction, eyes going to the tree, and its odd placement in the middle of a--fortress. Srassha for her part appears to straighten--and eye the other swifts. She then makes a sound, and bobs her head. POSES.

  • TOTALLY* prettier. Totally!

And she has the beadlings to prove it.

Quint has arrived.

Tillianne makes it through the portal and if not incinerated in one of those rare accidents is quickly getting back into her gear, however she leaves her armor off. In the warmer climate, she just stays in her clothes and keeps one of her smaller weapons.

Usha blinks a little, and she peers at Myrana's behind a moment. "It's not THAT big." She comments. Of course, then they're all rushed through the whole delousing process and all. After the debriefing, Usha links arms with Myrana and then raises her hand after the speech is given, "Can we get dressed yet?" she asks. She's still half hiding behind Myrana.

Normally Myrana would look like she wanted to die. And, oh, she DOES. But for the moment she is rather more interested in looking potentially murderous which, she is quite certain, is a better way to look when in your skivvies.

"What? Oh yes, of course, though you may not want to. It's hot on the other side of the portal. You'll want to dress as comfortably as possible once you're over there. Just be aware of that," answers the stablehand as he finishes hitching up the last swiftclaw to the wagon.

THe druid is still watching you, all of you.

In the meantime, a Sith makes his way over to you from one of the buildings here and bows. He clicks his forked tongue a few times and says, in perfect common, "I am Runs with Spiders, your guide for the night." Runs with Spiders. That is, indeed, more fuel for nightmares for Myrana, no doubt.

Having been stripped down to basically just a loincloth, Jareth sniffs as he's finally given the all clear. Gathering up his things, he goes through the time-consuming process of getting the armor's padded undersuit back on, and then having the entire suit of plate armor put back on.

"A blessing to your ancestors. We're here to return a cousin that was lost, that he may be properly buried and returned to the Memory of Blood. We bring with us representatives of the Father Dragon." He pauses, as though he'd add more. Svarshan rubs at his jaw, then and doesn't.

Serene doesn't hestitate to put -everything- back on. Either she's nuts or she, like Jareth, has made preparations. After all, seeing Serene go without her armour is like seeing a comet. It rarely happens, and when it does it brings portents of doom. Thankfully, her armour is a little easier to put back on... she's able to do it herself in as much privacy as she can muster.

Usha peers at the mention of hot. She peers at her fur-lined cloak, and then at the portal. She leaves the cloak where it is, though she does hastily get her dress back on. She pats it down and frowns at the crinkles.

The druid rises to his feet and begins to thump his way over to the lot of you while you converse with your Guide, Runs with Spiders. He nods towards Svarshan, "Of course. And I see Sister Moon amongst them as well. Excellent. This journey will be blessed. How long has it been since you've been in Am'shere, brother? I sense the stink of the city on you and it'll do you some good to wash it off in the pools of Rahm-Sha. We will be passing by them en route." He turns towards the others and adds, "Hot Springs," by way of explanation.

He moves closer to the portal, but stops when he sees the druid's approach.

He squints at the lot of you with one eye and then adds, "Be cautious, children. I sense danger in your wake, darkness ahead of you, and disaster in your midst. Unsettled times. Take *great* care with your journey."

Myrana takes a few measured, calming breaths. Hot, huh? Her lips settle into a grim line. Resting her hands on her hips, Myrana steps into her tall, servicable boots and leaves her clothes in the care of the gate people. Even if she isn't looking at anyone, and she really is NOT LOOKING AT ANYONE, especially the men, she seems to be resolving herself to whatever clothes wait on the other side. She glances at the Druid and accepts this quietly, licking her lips in a bit of nervousness.

GAME: Myrana refreshes spells.

GAME: Svarshan refreshes spells.

Jareth's left eye twitches at the Druid's omen. He then looks at Myrana, carefully. He can't help himself. He clucks his tongue. He then looks to the Druid again, nodding slowly, "Of course."

GAME: Serene refreshes spells.

"Ooooooh, hot springs?" Usha asks then, but she catches herself, and remains quiet for the remainder of the debriefing. She casts a furtive glance at the still-half-naked Myrana at the mention of disaster.

GAME: Usha refreshes spells.

Serene frowns a little at the druid's statement. Not pleasantly. And as others start to glance towards Myrana, she does as well. Just for a moment.

Myrana turns red. "Why is everyone looking at me?" She whispers at Usha, nervously. Without quite losing the self-defense sorceress glare.

"Sister Moon, and the Mother as well," Svar says gravely. He looks between abashed and relieved. Something--he moves way for the elder druid on automatic, A habit borne from childhood. "They are here of their own free will. ...I would like them to see Rahm-Sha." A longer pause. "And receive the shamans' blessings. There are ties between our faith and theirs." He brings his hands together.

Usha leans towards Myrana, and she whispers, "Uuuuhm... I dunno. It must just be because you look that good." Usha says! She's totally not lieing. Totally!

Quint doesn't waste much time in pulling his own clothes back on, leaving the conversation with guide and druid to the others. His skin is decorated with echoes of a past life -- small, fading tattoos and old scars -- but he makes no effort to hide it. The attempt would be futile, anyway. His hands brush against the small, simple holy symbol hanging from a necklace when the druid shares his ill portents and then he's working at getting into his armor.

Runs with Spiders grimaces at the Druid's pronouncement. "I will be watchful, brother druid. Thank you for the omen. I will steer our friends clear of danger and disaster within the best of my ability."

"I know, Runs. Do not falter. While there is danger to be faced, all may yet be well."

Runs with Spiders advances on the portal, then, and says, "Come on, then, all of you through with me. While it may not look stable, that appearance is deceiving. Your wizards say that the portal has stabilized and will not be going anywhere anytime soon at all. That's why all your 'money' was poured into this structure of steel and stone."

And with that, he steps through the portal, vanishing with a 'pop'. All of you, at your own pace, may follow him.

GAME: Serene refreshes spells.

Myrana grimaces, and with eyes squeezed shut, steps through the portal, her boots crunching on the icy ground before it.

Svarshan reaches down to scratch Srassha's neck. And then, eyes wide and eager, Srassha takes her and her rider through.

Jareth takes a deep breath as he eyes the portal. Watching Runs go through, he straightens his shoulders and claps Svarshan's shoulder as he follows the guide through the tear, eliciting another *Pop!* from his passage.

Usha steps through alongside Myrana, arm still linked. Watched them end up horribly joined at the shoulder because of this decision.

Serene mounts up, doing her best to hide her misgivings about riding a saurian, and follows on through... though she hangs back until the last, intending to follow on the heels of the wagon.

GAME: Quint refreshes spells.

Quint eyes the swiftclaw suspiciously, hanging back with Serene as the wagon is pushed through. He lets her pull up the rear and heads in right before -- muttering a quiet prayer as he does so.

Stepping through the portal results in a brief feeling of weightlessness. It isn't quite a 'blackout'. It's more like the world *greys* out for a few split seconds as you magically cross a massive amount of distance within a few seconds.

A certain sense of falling fills you, followed by the accompanying tummy-twisting nausea that goes along with something about that. You find, yourselves, each of you, on the other side of the portal on a stone platform raised off the ground by a good three or four feet.

The first thing you feel is heat. *So* much heat. It is a warmth hotter than the hottest of summer days you experienced on the war front or here in Alexandria. Worse yet, the humidity that goes with it is intensely high as well.

There is less construction on this side of things. A simple wooden pallisde circles around this great stone platform and numerous Sith are in the area while you busily get your bearings. The canopy above you is alive, intensely so, with the sond of birds and the sound of insects. Indeed, a massive dragonfly goes *right* by all of you as you recover.

This clearing is deep within the jungle, but it *is* clearing. You can see numerous travellers waiting for a chance to come through this end of the Portal, though less of them given that despite the mana-lights in the area provided for the benefit of the human travellers to am'shere, there is a sense that it is *very* dark in this part of the world.

Oh, and wet. It's starting to rain. Almost immediatley. And that doesn't seem to help cool any of you off at all.

Runs with Spiders lets out a relieved sigh. "So good to be back," he says, "EH brother?"

Jareth has disconnected.

Srassha ducks her head to nip at her knees. It nearly tugs the reins out of the surprised rider's hands. Svarshan, in response--his mouth hangs open slightly and closing his eyes, he--leans back.

And inhales.

The humidity. The bugs.

The rain.

The rain.

The bugs.

"...sva ruiiar veiuk a. ...I'm home," he says, voice troubled.

He's missed even the bugs.

When usha comes through to the other side, she has decided that simply linking arms with Myrana is not safe enough. She's clinging to her and shreaking. It's a few moments before she realizes she's on solid ground again. She quickly releases Myrana, and clears her throat, looking around a bit awkwardly. And then it starts raining.

Usha says, "I hate this place already."

And there is Tillianne on the other side, already having recovered as she was the first one through. She helps up anyone who needs it, but one hand is now holding her short sword. She's looking around, already soaked with rain. "This is the shittiest place I have ever been," she states firmly.

"Ksst," says Runs with Spiders, "It is our home. It is a jungle. It has its own points of beauty as you will soon see... but the weather, heat, and bugs are, I am told, very unpleasent for softskins. You will see the beauty soon enough, however, and the hot sprigns, I think, you will find most pleasent when you see them." Yes, he did just say 'hot springs'.

Myrana is soaked. Just soaked. She stands there with Usha clinging to her and Rum with each tiny diamond claw set into her for dear kitty life. And she blinks water out of her eyes. And... and it's wet. "W-well...It's..." She sputters a bit. "It's very moist." Suddenly, and though she would never admit this to anyone, she is rather glad that she took off her pounds of dress and petticoats. But she's in her skivvies, Myra knows, and not even her bloomers. The /very bottom layer/. And this can't do. Disentangling herself gently, she sloshes over toward Svarshan, hair plastering to her and getting in her eyes. "Where are the clothes we brought?" She sputters.

"In the cart," Svar returns, half-there. The look of the jungle has him.

The bugs.

Its gorgeous trees. The thrill of the canopy.

The bugs.

The rushing, teeming wildlife and flowers as big as a man.

The bugs.

One of the plants opens up its flower, then lurches forward and *snaps* up one of the bugs that flew too close.

Yes, in Am'shere, even the plants are dangerous.

Myrana goes over to the cart and starts rummaging around. When she hears the SNAP of the plant though, she abandons all hope of being calm and reserved and scrambles up into it in a panic.

Quint seems to surprise even himself when he manages to land on his feet and keep from throwing up. He twists the ranseur over and stabs the business end into the ground, going about the business of adjusting his armor and backpack after jostling through the extradimensional fun ride. He doesn't even have time to marvel at how hot it is before he's sweating, the oppressive humidity making him regret his facial hair and layers of gear. Finally, as comfortable as he can manage to be (not at all), he jerks his polearm up out of the ground -- just in time to use it to bat aside what might've bene a small flying reptile, a hairless, gliding mammal, or a rather bulbous insect. He couldn't see it clearly through the sweat in his eyes.

Serene is the last through, shortly after Quint. She had the advantage of knowing what to expect.. having bracer herself, she allows no more than a brief expression of slight discomfort before she dismounts and leads the swiftclaw down off of the platform. She draws close to Quint; placing a hand on his shoulder, she utters a brief prayer, then repeats it for herself. "It will help with the heat.. but will not be as effective against the rain or the humidity."

GAME: Serene casts endure elements.

GAME: Serene casts endure elements.

Usha blinks, "Hot springs? That's almost as good as a bath..." she murmurs, "but in this weather?" She shakes her head a bit. "I think that's make it even worse. Maybe a waterfall would be better." she comments.

The heat is the single most dominant feature thus far for those not used to being here in the jungle, yes. That, plus the giant insects all over the place. The Sith guardsman on this side of the portal clear their throats and one of them says in somewhat acceented common, "Move on and get to your destination, softskins."

Runs with Spiders waits for everyone to be ready and then points towards one of the paths. "This way. It is important that you listen to me. If I say stop, we stop. You do not leave the path I have picked, at all. If you need to shit or piss, you will tell me and I will tell you a proper place to do that. Mark my words, if you do not listen, this jungle can and *will* kill you. There are creatures here that have thrived for centuries that can swallow any one of you ina single gulp and that's not even getting into the actual monsters." He then begins to step off the platform and walks out to the edghe of the trail. The Swiftclaws you brought with you bleat obediently and wait to be mounted. The wagon's drivers are ready too to move on, taking the ramp down to the path.

Just overhead, glimpsed through the trees, is a lizard nearly the size of the dragon in the back of your wagon.


It flies just over the camopy and lets out a massive *screech* before taking off again, its elongated, pointed skull and beak, clenching down on its new prey, what appears to be a small monkey-like creature that is rent nearly in two, as it takes off again.

Dangerous indeed.

Usha gulps, "...I wish I went before we came through." She admits to Myrana. Oh did I mention att hat screech she jumped up onto the wagon? Because she did.

Myrana nods to Usha, pushing her wet hair back out of her eyes. Back here, with the dragon... well. Guilt is nothing compaired to death. She sits with Usha and rummages through the things they brought, searching for clothes.

Svarshan looks up overhead--and watches as the creature flies off and away. "One hasn't--" and he closes his teeth on that, and nods to Spiders. "I'll do so." and he shifts on his saddle--and glances back at Usha. "You need to go?" he asks. "Some of the leaves are good to wipe with. Spiders can show you."

"No!" Usha says then, "No, I do not need to go!" She comments... and then under her breath, "Actually... now you mention it... a little." She admits, "B-but there is no way! No WAY!" She declares. A long, pregnant pause. "...How long are we going to be here?"

"Yeah, there are some vines that'll be okay to clean your bums with," replies Runs with Spiders with a sigh. Softskins always make everything so difficult.

"The last time I was here... a pack of demonic, four armed ape men tried to kill us," Serene offers up as her gaze goes to the jungle on either side of the path they head down. "No, I think you will stay close for now," she adds in a softer tone to her falcon, who has taken to remaining perched on the paladin's armoured shoulder.

Svarshan opens his mouth, and closes it slowly. "...perhaps you, Serene, and Myrana could go pee together. In groups?" he asks, and looks towards Spiders. The sith'makar clears his throat, a deep rumble. "The rest of us will sing so we cannot hear you. Tillianne has a very nice voice." She got tipsy the other day and was totally singing.

"Yeah, there are some vines that'll be okay to clean your bums with," replies Runs with Spiders with a sigh. Softskins always make everything so difficult. "Some are not, however. You'll want me to check or Svarshan to check, I suppose." He pauses for a moment, "Some are not okay. They cause you softskins to break out into strange, red patterns on your skin and flail wildly and scratch them until they bleed. I have a stockpile of some sort of ointment I was told helps, but I do not want to have to apply any of it. Ever." And with that, he begins to lead the process into the jungle.

The path ahead looks well travelled, like it's one of the central paths taken by the merchants from both sides of the portal. Occasionally, you catch glimpses of things in the corner of your eye. Frankly, there is always movement, and if not visible, the *sounds* of movement in the trees. The buzzing of bugs. Constantly.

"The firwst rest stop," he says, "is about three hours from here. The Boneyard is another two days out."

"And *off* path. We'll need to clear it for your wagon."

Usha looks glum. Very glum. "I hate this place." She sighs again then.

Quint pats the swiftclaw tentatively, eyeing the thing with a cocked head. "My thanks, lady. It's something, at least." Then, with a deep breath, he swings up into the saddle and gets a feel for the exotic mount. He rests the polearm across his lap and sets the thing to a slow trot until he's even with the cart. "... and I was worried this trip would be too pleasant." He comments dryly -- the only dry thing in this whole place.

"I deeply mourn for any creature that interrupts me with the food chain while I am relieving myself," Myrana mutters. There is a certain glint in those dark blue eyes. And a slight side-to-side shift. Now that it's dangerous to take a leak, of course she has to pee too.

Usha leans over, and she whispers quietly to Myrana. "...I don't think I can wait three hours."

Svarshan looks towards their guide, and then leaning down, in low tones begins to explain some of the plants he remembers being told were okay to use as a child. "But some of these may not be as safe. ...use your best judgment, and hrmm, speak with Spiders." He nods towards Tillianne and Quint. "We will sing so no one can hear your tinkling."

"Be sure to bury it," mutters Runs with Spiders.

Serene watches Quint out of the corner of her eye for a moment. "There will be interesting things to see. It simply involves leaving behind what is comfortable. But our guid is not exaggerating the dangers here... best to be watchful. And when we encounter the natives... keep in mind that many of their beliefs are not our beliefs."

Myrana colours in embarrassment. She listens gravely to what everyone has to say, then very quietly leans over and whispers something to Usha. Then coughs. Gravely. "There is um. No place right now?"

Myrana scowls at something Usha whispers to her, and whispers back furiously.

Usha shakes her head at whatever Myrana whispers to her, and then murmurs back.

"Sitting there, muttering about it conspicuously is not likely to accomplish the task OR dismiss the urge, ladies." Quint offers helpfully, glancing down from his swiftclaw at the pair.

Myrana hisses something back at Usha, and glares up at Quint.

Myrana says, "WHERE IS IT OKAY TO PEE?"

Usha has reconnected.

Myrana looks at Spiders, huffing.

Svarshan nudges Quint, and clears his throat. "Do you know The Bilgeman?" he asks, in low tones. He hums a few bars in a rough, off-key. To Myrana, "We'll sing to cover up the noise," he offers, politely. "There could be gushing rivers, and it would not be heard." Solemn. Saintl--and then he breaks into a coughing fit.

Usha shakes her head rapidly at Myrana, and with a sudden burst of volume, "I will not pee in this forest!"

"Oh YES YOU WILL!" Myrana huffs back at Usha. "I AM NOT PEEING ALONE!"

Tillianne comes to a stop and looks at Myrana. " want me to pee with you or do you just want me to watch?"

Svarshan clears his throat, and begins: "Ah. A Bilgman clad in kilt left a bar one evening fair. ...hrm. One could tell by how he walked that he'd drunk more than his share..."

Quint returns Mryana's glare with an even, considering look devoid of malice. "I don't, sir. I never was much one for singing," he responds for Svarshan, moiture dripping from his neat beard. When the woman shouts he's already turned to look at the sith'makar while they speak. He quiets and listens while the lizard sings, adjusting the polearm laying across his lap.

After this, the sith'makar paladin rubs at the scales beneath his throat. He nods to Quint, after that. "I'm not sure I should sing the rest of the song," he says in low tones, and wracks his brain for others he might ah, produce.

When Usha realizes everyone is looking at her, she goes kind of... purple. And then stares resoluely onards down the path they will follow. And surrupticiously crosses her legs.

Myrana says, "Wh-- but--" She watches Usha hustle down the path, then swears and minces off after her. VERY WELL! It is to be a horrible test of wills! And Stamina! "Damnit!"

"Rain drops falling on my head..." Svar hums. He taps his claws along the scales of Srassha's neck. She bites her bridle, tossing her head as he continues, slowly, and after a few moments. "I'm just like a guy who's feet are too big for his bed...nothing seems to fit. Those raindrops are falling on my head they keep falling..." Raindrops. Falling.

Myrana goes OOC.

Myrana has left.

"Oh?" Quint wonders, sucking in a breath when the swiftclaw moves under him. He's not quite used to how the weight distributes on a bipedal mount -- it's quite a difference compared to horses. He glances at the two women, who've changed their mind, and then at Svarshan and Spiders, "We might want to go slowly at first, so that they might change their minds. Hopefully before we're in the deepest, darkest, unfriendliest regions."

Svarshan hums a few more bars. He looks like he's having a hard time trying to find what to say to Quint. Finally, he looks to Serene. "I really do not want to crush his hopes, or his dreams," he says in a too-solemn voice. Srassha kicks her head, making the beads and pieces clatter, jangle. Quietly, so quietly, she attempts to stand just a few inches taller than the other swiftclaws.

If they made high heels for swifts, she would so wear them.

Usha has partially disconnected.

Quint turns his mount in place expirementally, allowing for him nto glance back at Serene, then again at Svarshan. He's trying to suss out what exactly that exchange might have meant. "Excuse me?" He finally wonders aloud, narrowing his eyes a bit at Svarshan.

Serene shakes her head, just a little... neither a negating nod nor a dismissive one, just... a small bit of regret perhaps. "Quint is not so new to this as he would seem, Ser Darshan. Do not underestimate him."

Svarshan glances back, opens his mouth. Closes it slowly. "It does not get better," he says, at length. And rubs at the scales beneath his neck, eyes half-open quiet thought and humor. And lets out a breath. "What you see is what there is. What you don't see will be more dangerous. ...but Serene probably knows more about that. Would know it. From hrmmm...she would know what leaves to use," he finishes, lamely. It isn't much better than saying: she knows the softskin perspective better.

"You misunderstand me, sir." Quint offers, after considering whether or not it would be rude to correct the lizardman. "I meant that we should move slowly so as to allow the women a chance to go about their business before we get further away from this post. Further into the jungle. Where I would expect it to be less safe." He pulls the polearm from off of his lap, manipulating the pole until its base rests against his hip and the tip is high in the air above him. "The lady, you yourself, your brother, and the druid have all made it quite clear that this expedition is going to be dangerous. There was no subtlety or sugar-coating. Consider me informed, I will not be caught unawares for any lack of warning as to potential dangers."

Svarshan looks at Quint directly a while, and gradually, nods his head. In the softskin style. "He's a good one," he says to Serene, firmly, grinning. "I think we should keep him." Srassha, at not getting attention--reaches around and nips at her rider's knee.

Quint says, "He just can't get comfortable, I guess. We got back to the parking lot and he was in the rest stop restroom for a solid hour, though."

"She's done her best with what she has to work with." Quint tells Svarshan, humbly. "But I think we're lagging behind -- they're moving at quite a pace." He clicks his nudges the swiftclaw to moving, not wanting the hustling womenfolk to get all far ahead.

Part Two

Done by the PCs on their own.

It seems so easy.

Oh-oh-oh, so doggone easy.

Mmm-mmm-hmm, it seems so easy...

Far from the birds and past the edge of camp, Svarshan stands with Quint. A blazing fire tickles the sky, sparsely seen between the heavy canopy. The two of them are humming.

And then.



Am'shere teems with life, with lizards, reptiles, carniverous plants. Birds. Birds, who seem to twitter:

It seems so easy.

Oh-oh-oh, so doggone easy.

Mmm-mmm-hmm, it seems so easy...

They'd kept that up during the course of Usha's and Myrana's arguments. Sometime during the midst of it at their stop, Svar had gone to the cart and returned--with something resembling a set of waterskins. At the moment they look like a bundle of sad, upside-down balloons hanging from his shoulder.

"Nngnn. So," he says, solemnly, patting Tillianne's shoulder. "Have I told you about the Knife?"

As they plod along, Usha atop her Swiftclaw by now, she has become very, very quiet. She sits sideways (as is proper when wearing a dress) and her legs are crossed. Tightly. The sodden shadow elf plucks at the silken garments which cling to her like so much wet tissue paper, and she ineffectually pulls her rain-soaked hair out of her eyes every few minutes- what bounce and volume her hair had has been converted entirely into dead weight, now. Her eyebrow twitches, and she flicks some bug that had landed on her shoulder. A bug the size of a small bird. Her face is a picture of anxiety and tension- and concentration. No, she still has not peed.

The bug does not move. It doesn't even seem mildly perturbed.

Usha's eye twitches again.

Myrana has arrived.

Svarshan slows Srassha long enough to unhook one of the waterskins. He drops it to his hand, pauses in the middle of unscrewing it. "You'll fall off if you ride like that!" he yells back to Usha, heedless of the bug.

GAME: Usha rolls concentration: (17)+9: 26

Quint spends some time at the rear of the group, riding the swiftclaw alongside Serene as they discuss abstracts and hypotheticals quietly. He does his best to keep his attention turned out towards the wilds flanking the path but occasionally he'll offer an animated gesture with his free hand and glare at Serene. Maybe it's the damp getting to him, or maybe master and student aren't the perfect pairing they often appear to be -- but either way, after one such exchange, Quint just nods curtly and speeds his mount up, leaving Serene to rearguard alone and coming closer to the wagon and Svarshan.

Svarshan glances backwards at the flik-flik of Quint's swift's feet. Srassha stands up a little straighter, lifting her chin. GORGEOUS. She seems to say. PRINCESS. She declares herself. He swats at her shoulders, and watches the other paladin quietly. "You've looked happier," he says, solemnly.

Jareth has arrived.

"Mm? Oh, it's nothing." Quint says a little too curtly to be convincing. He takes a deep breath and hacks at a low-hanging vine awkwardly with his ranseur. This causes the cyclopean leaves above to shakes and generate a sudden torrential downpour. It ends as quickly as it began but it leaves the young man blinking and grimacing -- somehow more soaked than he was just a moment ago. "How long has it been since you were here, Sir Darshan?" He's changing the subject!

Serene has arrived.

Svarshan looks at Quint long and hard. He rides alongside the rest of them. And unhooks another waterskin, hands it over. "Water doesn't keep that well here," he says, solemn. "Not without something getting into it.'s been a long time. Too long. It feels like that every time I leave and come back. Your world's so different, Quint. It's..." he pauses here longer than he should. Srassha continues to prance somewhat. To lift her head. Princess. Gorgeous Princess.

Riding up from the rear of the procession, Jareth guides his swiftclaw alongside Srassha as he nods to Svarshan, "This place is incredible. I've never known such a sight, and I don't think I would ever be able to see it again anywhere else. It is unlike any place I've ever been. However, I would ask you the favor of making sure I am not careless here either. I would not want to take the beauty for granted."

Sometimes fate is kind, and it seems that Myrana did remember to bring clothes along. Riding on the wagon, she goes about the grumbly job of shoving her wet leg back into her tall boot. The clerk at Bringlebot's Discount Adventurer's Gear, when asked, was amazingly helpful in picking out jungle-appropriate clothes. He was -so- helpful, in fact, that Myrana found herself in a hurry to just buy the clothes and get the hell out of the store.

Now, of course, she is regretting this. A wrapping, sleeveless top of coarse blue hempen material is tied shut just below where her holy-symbol dangles on it's chain and she has found, much to her chagrin, a pair of what can be very accurrately described as 'shorts' of a similar brown weave that go with the shirt.

Myrana is not happy.

"If I ever see Bringlebot again," she mutters to herself as she shoves her foot deeper into the boot with rather more force than is neccessary. "I will have a word with his tailor." Next to her, Rum is purring happily in the damp, little folded green ears twitching contentedly at every fat drop of rain that patters down between them, whiskers quivvering appreciatively

Usha peers at Avarshan's advice, and then she looks down at her legs. "...One, if I were to ride properly, I would have to either tear my dress or hike it up to above my unmentionables, and that is NOT going to happen. Two... I have to sit like this." she informs the Sith. Hopefully he will assume it's some kind of strange shadow elf thign and inquire no more. She turns her attention over to Myrana, and seeing her grump in her new clothes is enough to break Usha's scowl- only for a moment. And then she leans over to say somethign to her in hushed tones.

Quint lets slack the reins and drops them into his lap, reaching up then and pushing his hair back -- a movement that's quickly becoming ritual as the water continues to fall. "Continue, sir. Some of us were more than willing to offer our opinions on your home, there's no reason for you to hold back." He glances at Jareth, nodding once to acknowledge him.

Despite being soaking wet from the rain and tropic humidity, Tillianne sits weakly on her swiftclaw from lack of drinking. Not being able to pee has reduced her water intake, so it is ironic she is dehydrated in the middle of so much water. It drips from her short blond hair and she wipes it from her eyes. She toughs out the trip without a single complaint, at least not verbal (there is eye rolling), but as the day wears on and comes closer to an end, she's not looking so good.

Svarshan pushes the wineskin into Quint's hands. "It is beautiful, just dangerous. Like a good ah--" Svarshan glances backwards, and ends the statement with tap of his claws against his leg, instead. "I'm glad to have you with me. But I worry Usha's going to fall off if she continues like that." And then, under his breath, "How long has it /been/?"

Myrana clears her throat delicately. "I had a potion," she replies to Usha, quietly. "But I only had one and it only lasts for an hour." More than that, she doesn't explain.

"I am having difficulty understanding why they are unwilling, they're obviously uncomfortable and this won't be a short trip." Quint agrees, lowering his own voice. He wipes at his mouth when a but lands in his beard, then takes a long drink from the waterskin. "And as much as we're all -- well, most of us are sweating it doesn't seem healthy not to drink." He offers the skin back.

Usha blinks, "A potion?" She wonders at Myrana... "But, won't that just mean it's... well... worse when it wears off?" She ponders, but then she whines a little and bounces in the saddle. Suddenly, she freezes "M-myrana, will you please come with me?"

Jareth shrugs, "Who knows?" and then grins, holding his hand out for a waterskin, "I'll help fill them. May as well take advantage where we can with the rain." and then purses his lips, "We should try and find a suitable place to make camp for the night though."

Myrana looks up. "Usha, are you-- oh dear." Finally getting her foot into the boot properly, she hops down off of the wagon-seat, heels splashing in the mud.

"I told you!" Myrana does not have a lizard to ride. Or at least, she is not riding it. Ever after the incident with Ssrasha, she has been somewhat nervous of the Swiftclaws.

Usha shakes her head but she hops down as well, and glances about. Where's that damn guide gone now? He was all too happy to terrify her earlier. "I know I know but- talk later!" Usha says, and then, being as there is no guide, she darts off the safe road. Like she was specifically told not to.

Wait for it.

Wait for it


"These are full," Svar says solemnly, a light mischief to his eyes. "But there are skins on the cart that are--" he breaks off there as Usha speaks up. "--maybe we should find a good place for them to go to the bathroom," he says, with all solemnity. "They--"

And then there is shrieking.

Quint coughs when the subtle warmth of the diluted beverage catches him by surprise. He covers his mouth with the inside of his elbow momentarily, then hands the skin to Jareth. "It's not water." He warns, then jerks his head around when there's screaming. "You two go, I'll stay with the wagon."

Having followed Usha as asked, Myra's shriek follows only half an instant later.

Tillianne looks to Svar. "Yes!" she answers in regards to finding a place to relieve oneself. "I think-" She turns her head in the direction of the scream. She quickly hops off her swiftclaw and draws her shortsword, that being the only weapon she has on her at the moment.

Svarshan stares ahead for the barest moment. He could be staring at anything. A blank canvas--of air. Of horror. And it's horror is what he imagines when he grabs Srassha's reins and wheels her around after the screaming. Sith kids get snatched from their mothers by predators. He doesn't respond to Quint. Srassha RUNS.

When the group pushes through the underbrush, they encounters Usha and Myrana. They're dangling in midair- apparently, some kind of vine had wrapped around their legs and yoinked them into the air. Usha is flailing- "Get me down from heeeeeeeere!" She cries out to the group.

Myrana dangles by one ankle several feet over the ground, arms windmilling and a look of panic on her face, thick braids swinging down like sodden black ropes. "Khh...!!" Inarticulate swearing just -bursts- out of her and she seems to be trying to curl up and grab the vine that's wrapped itself around her leg, kicking at it enthusedly. "FOR FUCK'S SAKES!" She shouts. "USHA!" Myrana twists dizzily. "DAMNIT USHA!!"

"Tillianne, if they--if they--!!" Svarshan snarls as Srassha picks her way through the brush. "...will you consider taking them BOTH over your knees? I am sure Serene is familiar with the procedure." Srassha rustle-rustles through the underbrush, poking her way through. On her back, Svarshan worries and fumes. There is so a black cloud floating over his head.

Myrana, he thinks, must have done this. She is always doing things like this. It is like the woman is a Natural Disaster.

"It's not my fault!" Complains Usha, "I had to pee!" she whines at Myrana. Past tense.

And with a full bladder indeed, Tillianne charges off in the direction of the screaching, her sword at the ready. Leaves and branches snap as she runs through them, almost tripping on a wet log in the process. When she gets into view of the dangling women, she comes to a stop and looks around for danger, only to find vines. She can only stare. "Are they anima...ted?" is the first question out of her mouth. She then turns around and holds her arms out the sides in the 'stop go no further' gesture for anyone following. "I'll...handle this. Do not look."

Quint's eyes dart to either side of the path, the wagon having slowed to a stop when half of the procession had to dart ahead and check on the screaming duo. He has the polearm held at midhaft, ready to poke and jab and spear anything that comes bursting through the brush at this inopportune moment. He glances back to Serene to make sure she's still nearby.

And, as if to answer Tilly's question, a vine that had been concealed in the underbrush suddenly snaps up, wrapping around her leg, and hoists her into the air enxt to Myrana and Usha.

Whirlpool has arrived.

Srassha crashes! through the jungle just as Tillianne utters that foreboding, 'do not look.' The swift lands on the underbrush, her head high, her nose quivering...

And her rider.


"...Jareth?" he asks. A long pause. "Did you bring an axe?"

Having chased after the others, Jareth blinks as he sees the predicament that's seized Usha and Myrana. Nodding a few times to Svarshan's query, the fighter produces a handaxe in his hand, which was hanging from his waist by a leather thong. Coming in closer, he starts hacking at the vine.

It is a good thing Tilliane wears pants instead of skirts, so dangling upside down is only humiliating in concept by itself. She screams when yanked off her feet just from the surprise of it but she manages to keep hold of her sword, which does a great job at decapitating a big jungle leaf, but not much else. She makes a high pitched girlish yelp until she realizes what happened. "I hate you BOTH!" she then shouts.

"Svarshan! Miss Tilly! Jareth! And-- and th'..." As she twists gently at the end of the vine, upside-down, Myrana starts to turn a bit blue. "I... am very dizzy." Spinning round, she eventually faces Tilly. "Tilly," she urps. "I think I might puke.."

Myrana ooogs.

Serene puts two fingers to her forhead... perhaps she's praying to her deity for strength. Or patience. With half of the group having rushed off to rescue Myrana and Usha, she feels in no rush to join them... after all, attacks on the path itself aren't unheard of, and she's more than confident that Svarshan and the others can handle whatever it is. She does angle towards the break in the flora, though, just in case there's a call for reinforcements.

"But you are supposed to be friends," Svarshan mutters, beneath his breath. Sourly. He nods to Jareth as the man steps forward with the axe, and urges Srassha to pace along the edge of the vines and opposite of Serene, so that both areas are covered. The swiftclaw, unfortunately, appears to understand Myrana's words. And looks up at her rider: Nuh-UH that says. Without words, but somehow louder.

GAME: Usha rolls strength: (16)+2: 18

Jareth grabs hold first of the vine that looks to have tangled Usha, gripping it tightly as he starts to hack and chop at it. After a few minutes, the last of the thick fibers gives way, and the Daeusite grunts as he's now supporting the Shadow Elf's weight. Grunting, he tucks the axe back into the belt, and starts to slowly lower the Sorceress towards the ground.

I might step in poop and stomped-on, gooey bugs, but that? SO gross, Srassha seems to say. She gives a Princess toss of her head, and a sway of her hips in utter rejection of Myrana's plight.

"You should take them out after this." Quint advises Serene, also back and watching the cart. "If they haven't soiled themselves in surprise. If they're allowed to put it off any longer there's no telling what situation we might end up in. You can go with them, keep an eye on them, and make sure it's handled and out of the way. The elf looks ready to fall unconscious."

Usha flails a bit as she is lowered to the ground, and as soon as she is, she reaches for her ankle and yanks the vine off, throwing it aside. "Did I mention that I hate this place?" She asks then, and blinks at Myrana. "Ack! Don't puke! Just hang on!" She comments. She draws her rapier from her belt, and then moves to begin cutting Myrana down.

Srassha still has her muzzle turned away from the ick-covered Myrana as she's let down. Svarshan grits his teeth, muttering beneath his breath--but not so loud it can't be heard. A few words escape, and he nods to Quint, then...something from Srassha, as his bulky swiftclaw shudders delicately. "...I think they already did. ..." he lets go a heavy breath, and, "...could you...speak with Serene about clothing?"

GAME: Myrana rolls strength: (17)+0: 17

Tillianne sighs when Jareth comes to the rescue. She relaxes a little though and drops her sword to the ground as she waits for her turn. Assuming she is just not left there! "Usha. Myrana." Her voice sounds quite vexed. "We will have to talk."

Once Usha is down and chopping at Myrana's vine, Jareth grabs it with both hands, bracing a foot against a tree for when her weight is liberated from the entanglement. "I...I wish I could say this is a first for me...but that would be a lie."

A long, shuddering breath from the sith'makar paladin. "We may need to find a place for them to bathe," low voice. Surely there will not be leeches.

Myrana wriggles a little. She did not puke. Not yet. "I don'... I don' loke being upside dooown," she warbles, miserably.

"I only went to help Usha because she's -mean!-" Myrana almost sounds drunk. Upside-down is not the correct direction!

Usha eyes Svarshan, her eyes full of venom. "I did no- I wouldn't- I was already... done, when the vines!" she's blushign furiously at the insenuation.

GAME: Usha rolls bluff: (8)+11: 19

"One repeats, we will find a place for you to bathe," Svarshan says, firmly. He meets the venom with a glare. "And then you will talk with Serene about plants. And then you will pee." 'And Then You Will Pee' is said so firmly. AND THEN YOU WILL PEE.

Usha finally manages to cut the ropes to let Myrana down, and she lowers her slowly. "I'm not mean!" She complains as she lowers Myrana to the ground. "I'm so sorry you ended up stick in some vines..." she says. And then she blinks at Svarshan, "I already went. I already told you."

Tillianne continues to hang there upside down and she glares at any that are in view. "I did -nothing- wrong," she tells Svar. "Now I -really- need to pee but for right now I will settle for someone cutting me DOWN."

Usha winces at Tillianne and she says, "Ok, but this place isn't safe- the vines. We need to find Runs With Spiders." She insists, and then, along with Jareth, goes to finish hacking through the remainder of the vines to let Tilly down.

Svarshan rubs at his jaw. Then he rubs at his face. "Serene...will have some idea of clothing," he says, when he looks back up at length. "No, Tillianne. I was not speaking of you. One's apologies." And he drops his hands. "But I would like, very much, if this did not happen again. You're important to us, and you're important to this mission." The lack of pee jeopardizes the mission.

Myrana flops like a limp noodle when she meets the ground, groaning. The sorceress is just not meant for all this upside-down acrobatic crap. "Sorry," she mumbles, and "Thank you," at the others. "I'm just... gonna wait for the world to stop being hot and spinny."

GAME: Tillianne rolls strength: (19)+3: 22

Tillianne manages to land on her feet due to her twisting and athletic performance in the vines when being cut down. She does go down to a knee though as she gets her barings. Being upside down was very dissorientating. After a moment of collecting herself, she starts to look for where she dropped her sword. She reaches down to grab it but she shrieks loudly and somehow teleports several feet, she jerked back just that fast. She clears her throat after calming down. "Just a snake," she says casually, trying to sound cool.

Usha runs over to Myrana, and she helps the sorceress up. "I don't think I can stop it being hot." She informs her, and then she winces at the shriek from Tilly. To Svarshan, "Well, we'll be at the hot springs soon, yes?" She ventures. She does NOT want to bathe in some leech-invested jungle pool.

Serene continues listening... as the sounds of violence begin to fade she gives herself a satisfied nod. Then she looks to Quint. "I had intended to allow them to be defeated by their own stubbornness and foolishness. But it seems they were... far more stubborn than I gave them credit for. In the future, I will insist. We cannot afford delays like this at every turn."

Tillianne raises an eyebrow at Usha. "Hot springs?"

Svarshan reaches down to scratch at Srassha's neck. He looks flabbergasted. Angry. A mix of things all at once until he doesn't know how to sort them--and maybe there isn't, or maybe he's just bad at it. He rubs at his face again, and gives a sort of nod. "Let's...just get back to the caravan, and speak with Spiders. I'm sure Serene will have your clothing by now. And she means the--there are a set of hot springs on the way. We'd meant to visit them, but they're a ways off yet." And he does look up, he does, and he looks towards Tillianne and Jareth in a silent plea. 'Please help me get them back to the caravan in one piece.'

"They are like... Mmm... Baths, like you would have in the comfort of your own home or a good tavern, naturally springing from the earth." Usha informs Tilly. Still supporting Myrana, she adds. "I don't need a chan-" and then she realizes. This dress has been horrible and uncomfortable the whole time. She bows her head, defeated.

Quint has disconnected.

Tillianne continues to look at Usha. "I'm going to assume you are making that up so I don't get my hopes up. And if you're right, it'll be a nice surprise." She then inches towards her sword and kicks away the snake, then steps on the pomel and slides it towards her before picking it up and sheathing it. "I know this is getting tiresome for you all to hear but seriously...when and where can we safely stop so I can take a piss?"

Tilly then looks at Svar. "Clothes?"

"I think we'll be making camp pretty soon." Usha tells Tilly, on the subject of peeing. "I was going to go when we made camp. Honest." She tells Svarshan then. She stares at the ground guiltily.

Tucking his axe away, Jareth nods once in response to Svarshan's unspoken plea. Clearing his throat, he steps up behind the two spell-weavers and motions ahead, "After you, ladies. As much as I can empathize with your desire to maintain some comforts from home, it may be best to adjust your attire to something more appropriate for where we are, like Myrana has already done."

"One...when we get back, ask Serene to go with you," Svarshan says at length. "She's been here before, and--" he Usha this look. And suddenly, he understands the barest glimmer of Jareth's pain.

Tillianne just sighs and nods. "Okay," she says to no one in particular. She runs a hand through her now soaked hair and starts to make her way back to the caravan, but she sticks real close to the others on the way back.

Quint has connected.

Svarshan nods, and waits until the others head out or move forward. He intends to take the rear--and guard against any more of the vines that might come up. Or out.

As the group emerge back onto the road, the rain begins again. Usha scowls, "Well, I guess I don't need to bathe, now..."

"Yes, you do," Svarshan says. Srassha ducks beneath one of the branches, near-hitting her rider in the face. It cuts off anything else he might have said.

Myrana wanders along beside Usha, mortified but glad to be on the ground. Rain runs down the back of her neck and drips off of her nose. Having had a chance to 'go' while everyone was reorganizing, she at least looks relieved, if discontent. "How will we know that we are in the hotspring?" She asks. "It is like walking through a lake out here."

Serene edges her swiftclaw away from the approaching returnees, then pulls her cloak over her shoulders as the rain begins to pour. "You three are a mess," she declares once they're all within earshot. "If the caravan remains stopped for much longer, I am not sure we can reach the site that Runs With Spiders wished us to set camp tonight."

Svarshan swats at the overhanging branches, and arrives. Eventually. When he does, a leaf is plastered across his face and shoulder that he's having trouble getting off. His reply to Serene is muffled.

Tillianne -walks- the rest of the way, unable to sit upon a mount at this point. "Let's just hurry up and GO!" she says angrily. "I seriously can't wait much longer." She shakes her head and restricts her grumbling to herself after that.

Usha peers guiltily at Tilly, feeling the paladin's distress is partly... well, msotly her fault, and she walks alongside her. She doesn't try to talk to her, though. She knows that look. That look can take off fingers if you're not careful.

Svarshan grabs the leaf. It yanks away from his face with a sort of sucking sound--a plant-based face-hugger, and the sith lets go a heavy breath. "Gods...alright. Alright. Tillianne, you needed to use the bathroom. Usha and Myrana need a change of clothes. ...Tillianne, let's go speak with Spiders. After all this, now I've got to go, too." Silence. "And so does Srassha."

The swiftclaw nods her head, and her rider slides off. After a moment, she goes and paces over next to Tillianne. So the girls can totally go to the bathroom together.

Quint issues a drawn-out sigh and stands in his saddle -- just to give his hindquarters a moment's rest. He glances back over at Serene and turns the swiftclaw, to brush right alongside her before stopping. Facing back the way they came now, he mutters something lost to the continued sounds of water falling from the canopy.

Svarshan nods, and goes off to speak with Spiders. "One...we should talk about the ceremony before we get there. I'll be right back." And he jogs off to speak with Spiders. About finding a place that's well. Less dangerous.

Jareth has disconnected.

Tillianne frowns at Svarshan. "Oh, NOW we stop to go. It's okay to go when YOU finally have to go." She folds her arms over her chest and glares. "Hurry!" she yells when he goes off to find Spiders.

Serene nods once... briefly extending a gloved hand out of her cloak to rest on the bearded paladin's shoulder for a moment. "Peace, Quint." The tone is almost one of.. agrement. The hand withdraws, and then she wheels her swiftclaw around. "There are oilskin cloaks and clothing in the wagon. It would be wise to make use of them." She directs this at the vine victims, leaving it to them to decide if they need it or not. "Gather them up and when Runs With Spiders has a place for us to stop, I will come with you and ensure you are not disturbed while you change."

"Thank you, Miss Serene," Myrana says to her, meekly.

Svarshan pauses, and--a glance heavenward. A forgive me, Daeus.

Before he turns, and sticks his tongue out at Tillianne.

And jogs over to Spiders.

"Some of Navos' monks dedicate their entire lives striving for knowledge and inner peace. You council peace as if it is something to be achieved in a moment, in the depths of a foreign land, surrounded by..." Quint thinks better of continuing and just turns to look at Serene and smile softly instead. He either found a bit of humor in what she said or just enjoyed the opportunity to show that he's aware some monks follow Navos. His gloved hand wipes at his face again and he turns the swiftclaw around, facing the majority of the group again.

Svarshan comes back a few moments later and--nods to Tillianne. "There is a place," he says, solemn. "It's a little ways up the path, if we're willing to wait." A longer pause. "Are we ready to move on, then?"

Tillianne has disconnected.

Tillianne has connected.

Serene is riding up ahead again, having adjusted to the odd gait of the swiftclaw enough that she can settle into its saddle. The rain has stopped, so her cloak is flipped back over her shoulders. She does occasionally shift, as if trying to rub at some spot.. and is constantly foiled by her armour.

Usha glances back at Selene- its not like fidgeting in platemail is particularly subtle- "Are you ok?" She enquires of the Paladin. "You look uncomfortable."

Quint has strapped the ranseur to the side of his saddle, the hand that had been holding it for some time now resting against his leg. He doesn't lack for weapons easily made ready, however, with a longsword and two daggers hanging from his belt. "I imagine we all do," he answers quietly when Usha speaks, glancing back from the green on his side of the path. "Except for the liza-- sith'makar, of course."

Quint has reconnected.

One corner of Serene's mouth turns downwards momentarily. "This environment, as Ser Darshan has stated, is not friendly to 'softskins'." Serene, soft? "Some of the bugs have occasionally made their way... inside. A minor inconvenience."

Usha ahs and nods her head. "It must be a pain wearing heavy armor like that." She comments. "You need someone to help you get in and our of it, don't you?" She asks the Paladin. "I don't think I can do much to help, but offer to help you out of it once we make camp." a thought seems to occur to Usha, and she is about to speak, but thinks better of it.

Quint might have started to smile the barest of smiles there for a moment, or it might have just been a facial tick before he started coughing. He covers his face and turns away, politely, until he's recovered. "This type of armor doesn't require the aid of another to don properly like a set of full plate but it can speed the process." He wears a similar, far less fancy type of armor. The matte finish of the steel half-hidden under his tabard -- and likely suffering for all this moisture -- but still apparent because of the bulk. He reaches up and grades at the neckguard, pulling it down from in front of his chin as its shifted higher while he sits. "I cannot imagine suffering through this weather in a suit of proper plated armor."

Usha has disconnected.

Serene shakes her head slowly. "Thank you for the offer, but I am accustomed to handling it on my own," she says Usha's way. Serene may be straightforward, sometimes abrupt, but at least she maintains attempts at politeness. "I have found that I enjoy retaining mobility... and my armour is far more comfortable to wear while doing extensive travel than the heavier armours would be."

"Such a thing would be beyond my means." Quint states simply, watching Usha for a moment and then steering his mount back, behind the wagon, and then up to trot alongside Serene's. "This place. So we are... in another land? Another world? A plane? We have been too busy to ask and I would rather not reveal my ignorance in front of the others -- especially Darshan. He seems so happy with his selections but my studies have not properly prepared me for this."

She didn't care. Somewhere somehow Tillianne found a way to relieve herself half an hour ago so all that silliness and discomfort is done with and behind her. She rides in the back of the caravan for a while, enjoying new found comfort in the inhospitable jungle. But after a while of just riding along, she hurries her swiftclaw forwards until she is closing in on Serene and Quint. "May I ride with you?" asks the young Paladin.

Serene tilts her head, just slightly, downwards, then glances sidelong at Tillianne as she approaches. She nods her own assent to the younger paladin's request, then proceeds to offer answer to Quint. "Imagine.. the furthest place you have even been. Then imagine what lay beyond. Am'Shere is... I am told... still on our world, but it is so far away that it may as well be another. It would be possible to travel here by more mundane means," If one could call travelling by airship 'mundane', "but such a journey would be impractical."

"I see." Quint nods at Tillianne, maneuvering however he must to make sure she has a comfortable amount of space to ride on the path. "Mind the drinking skins Sir Darshan offers. The one he gave to me contained spirits. Weak and watered down... but I do not know what restrictions you or your order place upon yourself." He's looking ahead when he speaks, watching the path before them, so it's impossible to know exactly to whom he's speaking -- but considering that Serene is his mentor, it's likely to be Tilly. "He has a mischeviousness to him that I did not expect after our first meeting.. but I think his homecoming has improved his mood in spite of the grim task."

Tillianne looks over at Quint. "Oh?" She grins slightly. "I'm not drinking anything at all until we make camp. I'm starting to feel quite thirsty but I think I'll make it. It's better than what was going on before and all that nonsense." A beat. "I can handle strong spirits just fine," she boasts, quite possibly out of ignorance. She then looks to Selene. "I am told you are one of the strongest paladins in the land."

Serene shakes her slowly. "I would not suggest refraining from drinking. As awkward as relieving yourself may be, you do not want to dehydrate out here. And you will dehydrate in this heat. You have to keep your liquids up."

Quint tucks his chin behind the neckguard of his breastplate, listening to the exchange intently once Tillianne challenges Serene on her status. He nods his head once when it's ignored completely. "Many hold my lady in high regard... but I have nevern known her to even acknowledge such a claim. Likely, she thinks it too boastful to consider -- however true it might be." He doesn't ignore the advice Serene gave when artfully dodging Tilly's question, and lifts a waterskin from his saddlebag to drink from.

Tilly can take a hint. She nods to Serene. "Good point. Discomfort is a better price to pay than me being too weak to help defend the group if there is trouble." Without delay, she reaches for her water skin and begins to drink from it. Dehydrated as she is, she could drink quite a bit and not be in her earlier prediciment. Her body hangs onto every bit of it as she drinks deeply. "You are in her service then?" she asks Quint, looking towards him after capping her waterskin.

Serene tilts her head in approval. "Discomfort can be lived with," she comments, and as if to reinforce her statement she tries to get at that -spot- again.

"Aye." Quint confirms. "Since I came to Alexandria, some time before the war was officially joined. Then as our respective duties would permit at the Myrrish encampment during the conflict. I saw no fighting but mainly helped with the wounded. My lady is patient and experience -- a good teacher." He looks a bit old to be a squire but stranger things have been known to happen. He, again, keeps his attention towards the road, only rarely glancing at Tillianne when he speaks.

"I've always thought Alexandria cold," Svarshan says lightly. Srassha guides them both back through the underbrush, having been on a brief mission for--a set of long sprigs. The cut branches lie across his saddle, and he cracks one of them in two, arranging the bundle more tightly as he and Srassha move back towards the line. She complies, either through her own will, or the subtle touch of leg--and tail--is uncertain.

Tillianne nods to Serene. "I can handle discomfort. I never expected the path of the light to be an easy or comfortable one." She glances at Quint. "I envy you then. I have just been making things up as I go along, just trying to do the right thing and hope Daeus guides me. I've not found a mentor of sorts." She looks at Svarshan. "Cold? Hrm. I'm from further north so it's been pretty comfortable for me there on the cooler days."

"I guide," Serene says, not so much correcting Quint as.. clarifying. "Quint learns. The way of the paladin, as my own mentor often liked to tell me, is found within." She smiles slightly, as if recognizing how cliche that sounds... and not really caring. She looks sidelong at Tillianne again. "You are not a paladin by chance. You are a paladin because you are the kind of person who makes the choices a paladin makes. You will do Daeus proud. But try not to measure yourself up against others...." She looks ahead again. "Measure yourself against yourself. Trust in yourself." Then she glances at Svarshan. ">With all due respect, Ser Darshan, this climate makes me miserable."

Quint can't help but look a little sad when he considers Tillianne after she speaks. By the time Serene is done talking it's passed and that calm, neutral mask has returned. "Don't envy me, lady. Eluna brought me to Serene for a reason and I hope to not burden her with my questions for much longer. Should Daeus find you struggling, I am certain he would help you as well." He lifts his hand when Svarshan returns, greeting the sith'makar with a look of mild relief.

Srassha nips at the other swiftclaws as she nears. Not seriously, but she does act as who she is--a princess, a Jungle Princess, and makes her place nearer the front. Her rider reaches down to scratch her shoulders, then a smack. A light chiding, but one that also preserves the Princesses' dignity. "Alexandria IS cold," he counters, with quiet amusement. Slow amusement. A sith'makar's amusement. "Cold and the crowds sending me into temper. I started smokesticks because of the City, once. ...still do," he says after a time. "Still take it out, when there's too much. It isn't the smell so much as the messages everyone is sending at once."

Tillianne shrugs lightly. "Daeus will guide me where he likes and how he likes. I'll simply do the best I know how. I can't say for certain why he chose me, but I suspect it's because I've usually found my way to doing the right thing without instruction or encouragement from others. Granted...I've made my fair share of -trouble- and probably always will, but in the end I'm quite motivated to doing what's right." She looks at Svar again. "Pft. It is not THAT cold."

"It is an easier thing for some than others. Doing right." Quint comments evenly, an odd emphasis finding its way into the middle of the phrase when he jerks a hand up to smack and kill a sizable biting gnat -- and then frowns when he's left with the crushed remains and ichor of what could've been a small bird off of his neck. "We are lucky for that. It's not something I think I will ever be able to take for granted."

"Anger. Upset. Envy. Lust." Svarshan pauses, and looks towards Serene out of the corner of his eye. "Your roommate sends out enough anger to blanket the city. It radiates off her like a cloud, sometimes, but I'd prefer its simplicity to the cocktail thrown about." Interspecies smell, he means. The scentglands of skin are different than the drier scale. Smells, expectations--means of expression, will be vastly different, and his apparently are. "Serene rooms with the angry elf. She attempts to convert her soul every morning over breakfast," he says to Tillianne, with utter solemnity. But the eyes give him away. He would add something to it, and starts to. And starts to not. At length, he begins to wrap the half-branches in a cord. "I've made mistakes. When I was first Called, our people had no paladins that I knew. I thought humans knew everything. When I did...I forgot where I came from, and tried for an 'ideal.' And I nearly died." A longer pause. He closes his muzzle slowly over the words. He is done.

Serene takes a moment to fiddle her fingers... slowly the dampness in her clothing and armour born of humidity drains away. Perhaps a fruitless effort; the dampness will return in short order. But even a little respite is welcome in this weather. "Everyone makes mistakes. To espect not to is at best prideful thinking... at worst, it could lead you down a dark road. You make mistakes, you make amends. You do your best to avoid making the bad ones. And yes," she adds, "I live at the Manor Sandiel. She is not so angry as you describe, Ser Darshan. Just... expressive."

Tillianne listens to all that is said. For a while. She seems to be the easily distracted type, as she is soon seen looking out into the jungle, listening to all the sounds, and wiping rain water from her face. "Hm?" She looks at Svar. "Oh, but those are natural emotions. We all have primordial instincts. Even dark thoughts. But it is our choice -not- to act on them that makes one good or evil. Some are gifted with a meditative mind where they have no temptation or the distraction of terrible thoughts. In my case, such thoughts are just one of my constant motivators to do the right thing and to stop the people who don't have the control or the desire for decency that I do." Tillianne then rides on, looking really HOT doing it, because she could easily be a model. She was on the cover of Vogue Paladin Magazine last month.

Svarshan gives a slow smile, a touch of sadness to it. He yanks the strap into a tight knot over the branches. They rattle, and bits of berries, leaves float to the trail. "I need to talk to you about souls." The plural you. "And knives."

"There are no amends to be made for some mistakes," Quint opines with no hint of levity. "But even then we must try -- or help those who seek redemption. That is my lady's greatest gift, Sir Darshan. We cannot laud her efforts in one regard but scoff in another. This -- Sandiel? There must be something there." Yes. He's a bit of a suck-up. Or maybe he just has Faith. "But what of knives and souls?" He wonders.

"I asked the Mandaras once where the soul was--they told me 'all over.' Different cultures, hrmmm. They gave me different answers. The sith'makar believe it is in the heart." Svar ties off the knot. "When we bury...we take the heart of a beloved ancestor, and burn its ashes. The ashes are then scattered within a sacred place." A pause. "We believe this allows the ancestor to stay in a way. That if scattered, they will continue to watch over us. To be part of the tribes."

Tillianne looks to Svar. "As more die over time, does the tribe become ever stronger? With more spirits to guard and watch over them?" There is a quiet note of optimism there in her voice.

Quint considers Svarshan, running a gloved hand through his hair once more as he does. "Is this the ritual we should expect when the remains of your brother are delivered?" His question follows a more practical route than Tillianne's, but he's no less interested to hear the sith'makar answer the former.

"...when we arrive to the burial grounds, other ancestors will be present," Svarshan answers. His eyes glint with warmth at the thought. And pride. "While they watch, yes. Quint, we will take the Knife to my cousin's chest...And take his heart. This will free his spirit to do as it needs to do, and then he will be burned, and his ashes scattered according to ritual." A longer pause. "And then we will celebrate the Father Dragon in Am'shere's fashion." A longer one, and he drums his claws across the front of the saddle, the tic-tic-tic of claw against leather. And again, appears to have more to add, and does not.

Tillianne has grown quiet now. She's gone back to drinking deeply from her water skin, getting her fluids back up since she wasn't drinking until a couple minutes ago. She rides along and listens, drinking in regularly spaced sips about every minute.

Svarshan pauses, and adds, "When I pass the Gates for good, and when the Dragon has no use for me, I would be scattered. Here. When the Dragon is done, I would return to my people, and whisper stories in the ears of our hatchlings. I would tell them of strength, of faith. And I would tell them to trust in the Father Dragon, even when our steps stumble." A longer pause. "Because the world can be a bitch."

"I have no idea how many years your people can expect to live, Sir Darshan, but if I am alive when you find your final rest, I would be honored to repeat this journey for you." Quint agrees with a nod, glancing back at Serene. "I do hope it is many years from now and that Eluna has seen fit to unlock the mysteries of magics that can make the journey somewhat more comfortable."

"We call her the Sacred Moon, or Silver Moon," Svarshan says after a while. "The...for a long time, we forgot the gods. But they stayed, mixing with stories of ancestors or heroes. If you listen, there will be stories of Eluna." His eyes glitter, and he looks down at the saddle. Drums his claws.

And, "Thank you," to Quint. "I did not say so but--thank you." He retracts his claws from the leather, readjusts in the saddle.

"Perhaps. Who can say what the future will bring. When I was younger, never would I have imagined attending a religious pilgrimage with a Shadow Elf, for example," Serene says. "Well, not one of this nature anyways." She frowns a little after that. "I am going to ride ahead and discuss some of the... arrangements with Runs With Spiders. Perhaps there is something that can be done to accomodate Usha and Myrana a little more. Sometimes it is difficult to remember not to hold everyone up to the standards you hold yourself to."

"Lady." Quint acknowledges her statement with a nod, then offers Svarshan an awkward smile -- it's not an expression he has much occasion for. "The Prophetess or the Lady of Prophecy, the Dreaming Goddess, and the Silver Moon. One of the first thing I learned in my study are some of Her many names. I was even taught her proper name in the elven tongue but -- as the People are quite fond of pointing out -- my elvish is atrocious. Thankfully, most are inclined to speak the trade language with other races anyway... but I endeavor to learn."

Serene has disconnected.

"I heard a story of a young woman, once," Svarshan shifts in the saddle. "She was beautiful, with long fangs. A--" he looks towards Serene, and as the other paladin's back fades, he smiles, "A great, round tail. She would appear to hunters who lost themselves at night, and guide them home." A pause, a solemn, "But she was a trickster, too. She would ask them riddles, or tease them. The questions were to help them understand why they got lost to begin with." Another pause. "Elves. ...they either hug you, or punch you, I think."

Tillianne has disconnected.

Quint nods slowly, as if considering Svarshan's point even as he agrees to them. "That is more appropriate than you know, sir." He glances up, as if he hopes to see the heavans but finds only interlocking green patches of assorted hue. He doesn't so much as frown but the way his gaze is lowered does betray a mild disappointment. "I knew one of Daeus' men -- even before coming to Alexandria. An old crusader, ready to hang his sword above a mantle and return home. For a time I thought it might be my calling, like it was with Tillianne and yourself."

Quint has partially disconnected.

Part Three

So a couple days have passed. There have been rest stops. There have been plants. Horrible plants. You've heard the distant roars of terrible lizards, felt tremors when they moved, heard the falling of trees that they *knock over* to get to where they want to go.

But you've only caught glimpses of them, and with the help of some neutralism smelling salve, you've been able to prevent them from finding you. Yes, it does not smell bad.

"We're almost to the hot springs," says Runs with Spiders, "They're up this way." He pushes the way along a path.

... also, no butterflies were stepped on.

GAME: Serene casts endure elements.

GAME: Serene casts endure elements.

Usha has- gradually- gotten fairly used to the forsest. Well, used to is an exageration. Capable of tolerating, barely, is more accurate. This journey has answered various questions about Elves most elves would rather leave unanswered, not least of which is 'do elves sweat.' yes. Yes they do. "I really look forwards to reaching these hot springs."

Svarshan shakes his foot. He glances downward at a sad little wing--and clearing his throat, aims to walk to the right side of the party line. Where Myrana might not see his foot, or the sad, poor thing trapped beneath it. "Me too," he agrees. "Though I'm not sure lunch is sitting so well," he confesses.

Still shying away from mounting up and riding one of the Swiftclaws, Myrana has spent much of the trip up on the wagon-seat. Booted feet swing, too short to reach the footrest, heavy braids lifted up off of the back of her neck whenever she can manage it in a wieghty bun from which tendrils of hair fall messily. Rum, on the other hand, is more than content. The little green cat, still no larger than a very fat kitten due to some mutation or another, rides along with a near-constant purr. In his moss-green fur, tiny white mushrooms have begun to grow like spots down his back. There is actual moss now, growing amid the fur. Any hand that pets him comes away with the spores of it. Myrana is currently occupied with picking the tiny tiny mushrooms out, letting someone else drive.

"He looks like he's taking to the climate?" Svarshan looks over his shoulder. Srassha plunges her muzzle in among the greens, and with a loud SNUFF! yanks it backwards as she continues down the trail. He walks along with her now that they're close, the large swiftclaw pacing just a trace behind him. A belted, broken sword hilt is lashed to his side.

Usha peers back towards the cat as Myrana picks mushrooms out of the fur- She is sitting on her sowftclaw. Properly, now, since the clothes she borrwed allow a bit more mobility than her dress did. "It looks like it'll turn into a part of the scenery if you set it down."

"He's got a funghi." Myrana says, plucking out a mushroom no bigger than her pinky nail. "The worst I have to worry about in Alexandria is ivy sprouts and mold..." A pause. "...Which is bad enough really."

Myrana sniffs the mushroom suspiciously.

Serene's magics keep her from sweating; they don't keep the humidity from seeping in, however, and she is forced to use prestidigitation magic once in a while to dry things out. There's little she can do about the bugs, however, beyond stoicly suffering through them. Occasionally she manages to squitch one here and there.

As you begin getting closer to the Hot Springs, a distinct odour begins to permeate your nostrils.

Indeed, the closer you get, the stronger it gets. Runs with Spiders seems pleased. "We're almost there." He begins to lead more and more and you can hear the sounds of voices speaking in draconic, echoing. A couple of armed Sith pause as you draw closer, on the path, and then nod and wave you all past.

Indeed, you break into a large clearing with a wave of even *more* heat.

And the smell is at its most potent.

The Hot Springs? Are Sulfur Springs.

And there's a *lot* of springs spread out across this vale in the jungle, covered by the canopy and shade. The springs themselves look to being cleaned out by a handful of Sith, removing the vegetation off the surface.

Runs with Spiders lets out a pleased sigh. "Here we are. I am told soft-skins find the springs very pleasent."

But oh gods, the SMELL. SULFUR.

"You ah..." and the sith'makar closes his muzzle on whatever it was he'd been about to say to the woman-grooming-mushroom-cat. He walks along with the rest of them along a trail beneath the jungle's canopy. Srassha walks beside him, and--jerks! upwards when the scent hits.

Her rider slows.

And stops.

And the oddest expression crosses his face. The oddest.

"I'd forgotten about that," he muses.

Thaim has arrived.

Riding alongside and slightly ahead of the wagon, Jareth looks back as well and comments, "Have you ever considered shaving him? Perhaps rubbing him down with some sort of ointment afterwards to prevent this from happening again?"

Usha is just wafting at her nose, "Urk, I think some of the supplies have gone ba-" she is complaining as they emerge into the clearing. Stinky springs, oh great. "...will they make us stink if we bathe in them?" She asks the others then. "And wheres the divide? You know, for the womens section?"

Jareth wrinkles his nose at the awful smell, "Merciful Daeus, either a dragon is in there with the worst case of flatulence ever, or a a whole slew of eggs of whatever those massive lizards running around are called have gone bad."

"Ah..." and Svarshan, with his time among the Myrrish, looks back towards Usha. And no translation in the world really works right now. Except.

"The shamans hold that the springs are good for the skin. They're...'beauty baths'?" he looks towards Serene. Translation help!

Beauty baths that smell like rotten eggs. Srassha. Is taking large, lung-filled gulps.

Myrana blinks. "Shave my cat?" She looks horrified, and ignoring the little POOF! of green spores, she hugs Rum to her chest. The tiny cat wriggles round and blinks, waking up to being very nearly suffocated before quick squirming saves him of this terrible fate. "But he would be nake-- eh-- eh... Oh you horrible cat!" She gives Rum a dirty look, just an instant before Runs With Spiders announces the hotsprings.

Myrana coughs, covering her mouth with a hand. That smell is something else. Rum oozes into her lap, leaving a green streak down her wrapped top and midsection, purring ubequeously. It's wet and dark and warm and now STINKY. Rum is all but comatose with happiness.

Jareth blinks a few times, his eyes watering, "No offense, Svarshan, but I think I'd rather bury my nose in Srassha's backside for the whole ride back to the gateway than smell this."

"I want to be clean," Myrana chokes. "But-- ghchk!"

"But it's sacred," Svarshan replies, stubbornly!

"Did he say acrid?" Myrana chokes at Jareth.

"There are masks, aren't there?" Svarshan asks the guide, growing somewhat desperate. It is a SACRED experience. Damnit.

"Supposedly... they clean out the toxins from the skin and smooth out the wrinkles," Serene offers up when Svarshan's glance asks for help. Clearly she's not placing her own integrity at stake, however. She eyes the springs a little warily herself. Something that smells that bad can't be trusted. "

Tillianne has arrived.

Jareth eyes the Sith'makar Paladin and then asides to Myrana, "Sacred, but good question." and then back to Svarshan, "So, how many castings did the Vardaman priests have to do to keep that dragon from rotting, and this is where we're burying it?"

"The site isn't here," Svarshan replies in irritation. He takes a deep breath, and promptly wishes he hadn't. He turns his head to the side to hide the gagging.


Repeat that a few times. He may even believe it.

There's a cry of relief from the small group of dwarves accompanying the rest of the expedition, a particularly srtocky individual amongst them with a sweat-matted beard rushing forward into the spirngs and sloshing in. Thaim's by now stripped down to a yellowed white shirt and light, draw string trousers, his boots weighing him down heavily as he tries to escape the heat: in the shallow end, of course. Droplets drip steadily down his forehead, cheeks puffing out in exertion from being so unused to such warm, tropical weather. "Thank Reos!" he exclaims, ignoring the smell.

Jareth snaps his fingers a few times as he starts trying to piece some things together, looking from Serene as she explains to Svarshan, and back to Serene and then back to Svarshan (Sadly, Svarshan isn't Serene, and nobody will smell like her once this develops further, but I digress...), "Wait a second...we all have to bathe in these, don't we? It's part of the ritual, isn't it? To remove impurities of the flesh and spirit, before consecrating the fallen to the ancestor spirits, right? That means, they're now going to dowse the corpse with the water...I knew it!"

Several small lizard people run over to Usha.

These are very tiny lizard people. Babies, practically. They begin climbing up onto her. And into her hair.

They can't talk. Instead? They go, 'PEEP!' 'PEEP!'. "Divider?" says Runs with Spiders to USha, confused.

" You may all use the springs as you see fit. We'll be resting here for a few hours before we move on. I'd suggest taking advantage of it."

"...Thaim?" Svarshan asks in confusion. The sith'makar lizard, probably to the horror of those present, has begun to unstrap his armor. "What are you doing here?" he roars, laughing. Srassha of course, has begin to sidle away, slipping through the crowds.

Usha blinks a little bit as the creatures come over. She glances about a little and then she lifts a hand for a... somewhat feeble wave. "Um. Hi..." she says to them. And then she glances back at Spider, and her face drops. She peers back towards Myrana and Tilly, and then back to the springs, looking forlorn. Suddenly, she ligtens up a bit. "Aha! I know- I'll create an area of darkness, instead." She says then. "For privacy. Because... I really, really, really need a bath."

Jareth dismounts from the Swiftclaw he's been riding. Brow furrowed and lips pursed as he eyes Svarshan, the fighter also begins to remove his armor, "I'll do this, but only because it's an ancient tradition, and it means a lot to you." and then grumbles as he continues to unbuckle his cuirass and vambraces.

Thaim shifts in place, by now waist deep in the water. His eyes drift shut in relief, pleased sigh spilling past parched lips and matted beard. The man's wide nostrils don't flare open, though, and it's clear he struggles a little with the smell. Still, his companions don't seem to mind it and, sacred or not, they act as rowdy dwarves do: splashing and cursing at one another and generally making a lot of noise. Looking up at Svarshan, the resident bearded companion looks from left to right, warily. "Here to help, of course," the reply comes, ambiguous.

Svarshan unbuckles the armor, and tosses it along with the padding. He looks smaller without it--and compared to most of the sith there, he isn't that tall. In fact, he barely stands over the height of the females. And when done, he latches his hands unconcernedly behind his head. "We've to annoint the dragon's head." A pause. "If we can find a shaman, he can tell us of the history of Rahm-Sha, and why it's sacred."

Totally an old, decrepit man talking to you while you're trying to bathe.

Svarshan just grins at Jareth. Thaim gets a startled look, though.

Tillianne brings up her Swiftclaw and wrinkles her nose to the smell. "Oh for the love of..." She shakes her head, sighs, and turns away. "This is why I was smart and didn't get my hopes up. I warned the other girls it's not a spa..." she says to herself in some kind of self-therapy. She dismounts then, adjusts her belt, and walks over towards the others. "Sulfer monster," she deadpans while pointing at the 'baths'. "I see the eyes."

Myrana climbs down, the various copper bangles of her belt clamouring musically as her boots touch down on the sulphorous ground next to the cart, squelching in the mud. She reaches up and draws the beaten copper sticks out of her hair. Though spattered by mud and green spores and oxidized in the humidity, there is... rather a lot of copper on Myrana's person and it all whispers and clinks together as she goes about the proccess of stripping down in a business-like manner to... well. It's not like she was wearing that much anyway. But the under-layer that she came through the gate in. She's not about to go fully au natural around anybody! "Suit yourself," she says to Usha, in a sweet tone. "Just be careful that no horrible hot spring creatures bite your bare bottom." A wicked grin tugs at Myra's lips as she smacks the side of one leg, setting the bracelet she wears to clatter and sparks to jump between the bangles. "I hear they latch on and-- Thaim!" Myra scowls after him. "You were supposed to be watching my bar you sneaky dwarf!" And she strides in, grousing as she undoes her braids. "Ow! Hot! Hot!"

Rum follows suit, and splashes into the water. Clearly, that cat is a scion of stinky evil.

"Indeed," says runs With Spiders to Jareth. "The head of the beast ought to be annointed before it is taken to its final resting place," he says. "There's going to need some help. As many of you as possible will carry as much of the head and the neck into the springs," he adds, "and submerge the head. The Shaman," he nods towards said older Sith-Makar sitting over on the edge of the springs and watching the young, "will offer a blessing then. And if we're lucky, yes, he can tell us some history. I've heard the story before But I know all of you have not."

Usha peers at Myrana as she climbs into the water. "Are you sure you want to spend the rest of the journey with soggy underwar that smells like /this/" she gestures around.

Jareth, stripped down to...well, just himself, stretches his muscles in appreciation of having a break from wearing that heavy armor. Slowly, he approaches the edge of the springs. Finally, he just shrugs and takes a dive into the heated water.

Svarshan nudges his heap of belongings off below the cart. After some quiet argument, Srassha sulks back, her shoulders hunched, her scowl FIERCE. And of course.



And goes to guard the cart.

The Princess is Unhappy.

Thaim calls out tot he dark elf in a booming voice, his resonant tone rumbling forth an "Oi!". SLoshing forward from the water, pleased that he's at least somewhat cooler from the time in the water (for now) he complains, "Looks like we'll be crawling through the mud and trees anyhow! This is no place for dwarves," he scowls, and one or two of his friends seem to agree, resolute nods offered in compliance. "It's so damned hot here! Worse than me cousin's forge!"

Serene takes a bit of time securing her swiftclaw mount... last thing she wants is it wandering off. She spends some moments looking at the springs... there's a reason sulfur is associated with demons, after all... but in the end the bug bites decide it for her. She hears Runs with Spiders's explanation of what's to come, and decides to allow herself a little bit of relaxation before the work resumes. So she sidles off to a lesser used corner, strips off her armour and overclothes, then slips into the waters. Then, trusting that the waters are safe... after all, Runs with Spiders said other 'softskins' have used it.. she strips off the rest once the waters safely preserve her dignity.

Usha, meanwhile, dismounts. And tries to tiptoe around the apparently excited children towards the springs. She glances about a bit, and then she grabs ahold of an empty bag from the saddle of her Mount, and a little rock. She brings the rock up to level with her face, and then exhales deeply. Black mist pours from between her lips, from her nostrils, her eyes, even her ears, and it slinks towards the rock, flowing almost like a liquid caught in midair. A moment later, the rock begins shedding the dark mist itself, and is sinks to the ground, rolling along the floor like some kind of light-hungry dry ice smoke. She pops it into the bag, and then sets it down at her feet. The dark smoke continues to roil out of the bag until it completely surrounds her. And then it begins moving, leaving wispy trails, into the nearest spring.

A moment later, the smokes begin dissapating again. Usha's clothes are neatly folded up near the edge of the spring and, when the smoke clears entirely, Usha is submerged up to her neck in the water, it's rich mineral content happily making it opaque enough to afford a degree of privacy, her hair drifting about her. She lets out a heartfelt sigh as she leans back against the edge, visibly relaxing.

Svarshan rubs at his throat. He pauses as he eyes the springs, and the various sith'makar there. And odd look comes over his face, and he stands up straighter. someone on the verge of making a fool of himself. And then--well, then he looks back towards the cart and could sulk as much as Srassha is. "I'll unhook the ancestor," he says to Spiders. "Let them have their fun." To Thaim, "I hear it's good for the skin!" Then, "Come help me with this cart, you lazy dwarf!" To Tillie, he pauses. Then nods. "If I call you that, you'll hit me," he says solemnly, but there's some satisfaction to it.

As though, for once. That was the PROPER response.

"Between you and me, Usha I--" Myrana turns around to reply to the other sorceress. Then turns right back to face the other way again, sinking down to her nose in utter embarrassment, turning very red. Rum swims by, stubby legs churning the water in the most inneficient stroke ever. She seems to have the same idea as Serene though, even if she'd never admit it to anyone. Staying submerged, she washes the underclothes she went in on and sets them on a rock behind her head, sinking into a sitting position among the sandy stones with a sigh. "Waaaaaaaaarm." Myrana states finally, in a voice like bones turning to jello.

Thaim shied away from the smelly pool, the smell finally filling his nostrils and getting to him. As he edges away from the deeper ends, a look of panic, thinly veiled to preserve his dignity amongst the other dwarves, spreads across his features. There's some wild paddling, and the stout man surges from the water with heavy, gasping breaths. Happy to be away from the place, he lifts his chin to regard Svarshan and follow in tow. "Bugs! Everywhere!" he growls to himself, hand waving at the tiny attackers.

Tillianne folds her arms over her chest defiantly and watches. Until she realizes she is watching and then promptly turns around where she stares off into the jungle. When more people start to go in though, she looks over her shoulder and frowns. If this keeps up, -she'll- be the awkward one to look at since one is not like the other. She huffs in moodily, which also knocks a bit of her short hair out of her eyes from the expulsion of breath. Since she doesn't wear a ton of armor, taking it off is not all that difficult. She rests it where she secures her swiftclaw nearby, along with her weapons. She then walks over to the springs and starts to undo her clothing. She tries to find a place to be subtle about it but she doesn't go so far as to be invisible and be attacked by vines. Undergarments come off too and everything is neatly folded and then she slips into the water, somewhere near the 'ladies section'. So yes, people have a chance look for a moment there and she doesn't have much to be ashamed about. Though she doesn't linger in this state for more than a few seconds and she is in the water, quickly sinking to shoulder depth.

Jareth surfaces after a few strokes underwater. Letting out a contented sigh, the warrior lets himself float on his back in the spring, eyes closed. Thankfully, the steam helps keep covered parts that should be covered, "Svarshan, I take back every negative thing that I said."

"Softskin," Svarshan returns below his breath. The word has humor to it, though, and he lifts his chin to indicate the large, inert shape on top of the cart. "That. Is the ancestor," he says to the dwarf. "We're taking him to be--" and then he grins at Jareth. For a moment, he forgets. ...and then remembers to translate it, to mimic the human gesture.

"Jareth," Myrana mutters darkly, her eyes fixed in horror on the canopy over the springs. "You are the worst friend in the entire world." She is NOT looking down. No no! "Honestly!"

Usha can't help but look over Tilly's way, surprised that she's so brazen about it. She kind of expected it from the guys. And then he's swimming underwater, and she squeaks. She moves over to Myrana, and she murmurs, "...Do you think he can see anything, when he's underwater?" she murmurs. Quietly.

Thaim looks upa t Svarshan, the movement of his head slow and careful. His eyes dart then to this 'ancestor'. "A dragon." the dwarf states, tone flat and voice somewhat broken. He stares at the reptilian paladin, bushy brows lifting in shock even as his eyelids drift shut in a weighty blink. "We're burying a dragon?" the question seems rhetorical, and he curses aloud in Khazdul. "I should have known comign ehre would make me into the meal of some giant lizard!" he points an imperious, accusing finger at one of the other dwarves. "This is -your- fault!"

Well, then.

Everyone has some time to enjoy the hot springs. It's a good thing, as all of you probably needed it. The sulfur springs have a refreshing effect, no doubt easing any skin irritations tht you'd have after days spent in an unfamiliar jungle. Eventually, though, the shaman whistles and nods. "It is time," he rasps, "I am told," he says to Svarshan, "you've come to return one to its ancestors, to guide its spirit to the Land of Wings and Flame."

The other dwarf, so accused by Thaim, gets an aggrieved look. "*My* fault!"

Svarshan opens his mouth, and closes it. And opens it. And... ends up just slapping Thaim on the shoulder. "Runs with Spiders can explain it," he says severely, trying not to laugh. And nods towards the rest of the party. "Let's go join them?"

And that will be how the naked dwarf, and the naked lizard (with amazingly high charisma, you know) come to drop into the water on either side of Myrana.

Jareth blows a raspberry, "We are out on the trail, dear Myrana. Packed in my bag are two spare tunics, a pair of breeches, an extra cloak, an extra pair of boots and a shirt of mail should the worst happen to my heavier armor. I do not have the benefit of magic to make my clothes become cleaner or to change their appearance. I have been walking and riding that Swiftclaw for days, sweating worse than any of the Oxleys on the hottest day ever in Alexandria. I needed a bath. This spring will do splendidly." and proceeds to stroke away deeper into the steam on his back. Another contented sigh, and then an eruption of bubbles. Those were from the spring itself though. Really.

Tillianne looks to Usha and nods. "Absolutely. He's only doing it to see our natural hair color." She sounds real serious until she rolls her eyes and shows she is being quite sarcastic. "You think he would swim with his eyes OPEN in water like this? Geeze. It's not like people are going start fucking. Relax." She shakes her head and stares off into the distance, looking moody once again. She brings water up with her hands and runs it through her hair, slicking it back.

"W-- w... Well!" Myrana flusters. "There are just SOME THINGS I didn't need to have a visual index of! That's all!" Horribly embarrassed, she sinks deeper into the spring. And shakes her head at Usha. "The water's... it's like pasta water." As if this explains everything. When the shaman calls them though she reaches up and pulls on her underthings in a hurry before going to help. Tilly's comment sets her ears to burning. Really, it's a wonder that Myra managed to work with the Irregulars at all during the war.

Tillianne adds quietly, "I wish there were some of these up north where it's actually really cold."

Tillianne also slaps the water and splashes the nearest person.

Serene opens her eyes slowly to the Shaman's pronouncement, then leans back and sighs. Just for a moment. Before turning about so that her back is to everyone and climbing out of her corner of the pools. A quick cantrip dries her smallclothes, another one makes them smell nice... and then she's donning them, along with her armour and the rest of her gear.

When the Shaman gives the call, Svarshan all but sinks beneath the water. And there are other sith'makar here. Other sith'makar! He gives a long sigh before hoisting himself up onto the bank. And when Tilliane splashes--well. He grins. He starts to grin, as evilly as a paladin is allowed to do. And then it turns to an all-out smile as he hits the water, hard, with his tail.

Above, in the clouds, Daeus taps His foot.

Jareth suddenly surfaces again not to far from the Sorceress, "Is that a fact, now? Let's go over what parts of me you've seen to date, shall we? How many times have you seen my insides nearly spilled out of me? Or bones jutting out from my skin?" and then grins, "I would think that my current state would pale in comparison to those, wouldn't it?"

Usha blushes, "N-natural H- I don't even- Elves don-" and then she realizes that Tilly is joking. And she claps her hands on her mouth, her whole face going... well kind of purple, really. Realizing that she's only making things worse. Then she uses both hands to send a wave of water Tilly's way in revenge for her teasing.

Thaim blinks, a rush of breath causign a spray of tiny droplets after he's splashed right in the face by Tillianne. Grumbling gives way to a light laugh as he pulls himself from the pools, hairy body finally covered again by already drenched clothes. Securing his belt tightly, the dwarf runs his fingers through beard and hair, sighing unpleasantly at the thought of the task at hand.

Myrana elbows Jareth rather hard in the kidney. "That's different!" She insists, though it gets a laugh out of her that she does her best to stifle quickly. Mad! Remember? MAD! "Totally different when I am stuffing your intestines back in!"

"It's true. You hrmmm. ...*have* seen parts of his stomach," Svarshan says to Myrana, a slow mischief there. And then closes his mouth and walks a short ways away to begin picking up his clothes.

Rum floats by. Looking a little like a dead, mossy log. Faintly bubbling.

Tillianne looks at Usha and just grins ear to ear until Svar flicks his tail and Tillianne disapears. A moment later people can see her fist break the surface of the water and shake angrily.

Svarshan jumps, looking back over his shoulder. And then marches over to grab his shirt. "I'll see you on the practice field!" he shouts to Tillianne.

Quint has connected.

Thaim has disconnected.

Jareth winces as he's elbowed and is about to retort when the Sith'makar shaman appears. That's the end of that. Treading water, he makes his way to the edge of the spring and listens to the explanations for the ritual of consecration ahead.

Refreshed from the dip in the Sulfur Springs, all of you are feeling a whole lot better than you were before you got in. This is a place one would do well to remember in the future! Turns out, as the shaman explains, that the Springs are sacred because they were said to've been made in a place where a great, red dragon fell to Alumavoratrix, the great silver who saved the Sith-makar so many centuries ago and protected these jungles and whose domain many dragons still feel this is (according to the shaman) and that Sith who properly utilize them can sometimes be granted with visions. Well, that and the fact of the matter is that its -great- for itchy scales. Really.

At any rate, the Shaman lets out a call in draconic and many of the lizards vacate the pools, moving aside to watch. Naked. Because they're lizards, it doesn't really seem to matter much, thankfully.

"Gather the dragon. Bring the wagon you have to edge of the pool. From there, bring his head and neck into the pool and I will offer a blessing upon him," he rasps in stilted common, "and then you may continue your journey. Gather up on each side of the head."

GAME: Usha casts prestidigitation.

GAME: Serene casts prestidigitation.

Serene rolls her shoulders and stretches, shifting until her armour sits more comfortably upon her shoulders and hips, then turns about and approaches the wagon as per instructions. She waits for someone else to deal with moving the wagon... the honour belongs to someone else... and settles by the edge of the pool to await her part in helping carry the dead head.

Usha emerges from the hot spring, eventually, sneaking while she's sure no-one is watching (the bag of darkness she made wore off a while ago) and she re dresses hastily. She murmurs something, and wrings the water right out of her hair, leaving it dry and easy to style. She brushes herself down, cleaning her clothes, and leaving her scented vaguely of cinnamon. When tilly emerges and dresses, she taps her on the shoulder, affording her the same service as well, and she whispers. "You really should have a drink, Tilly. It's really not so bad if you stick to the spots Spiders tells you to..." she murmurs, and then she gestures to her pack. "And this plant definitely doesn't cause rashes, so I stocked up." she informs her then.

Svarshan looks up. Water runs over his scales, and he'll smell like eggs for days. Horrid, rotten eggs. The reptile rolls his shoulders and then walks towards the wagon. He doesn't try to climb aboard, but instead grasps one of the reins of the swiftclaws. "Honor to our ancestors, and the savior Alumavoratrix, blessed of Heaven, Wing, and Fire," he says to the shaman, and looks just the side of grinning like a fool. He waves Myrana over. "Think you're up to moving the wagon? You've done a great job so far."

"Sure," Myrana seems to feel a million times better after the soak. She nods to Svarshan. Climbing up the wagon's side, she gestures without looking at the pile of Jareth's clothes. The pair of briefs from the neatly folded pile explodes up, and rockets at Jareth's face as Myra gathers up the reins. Innocently.

Tillianne gets out of the water carefully and then begins to dress swiftly but not rushed. Nothing would be more embarrassing than to lose one's balance and start hopping around trying to get dressed with things bouncing and it'd just be awful. She then looks at Usha just as she finishes and shakes out her hair with a quick spray of water in every direction. "I was only joking. I'm drinking enough."

Usha peers at Tilly with some concern. "Are you sure?" She asks, and then adds, quietly. "They said that you didn't drink a thing for the first day... if we end up in a fight, you'll have to be at your best, right?" She asks her then.

Once Jareth and others are lined up, the dragon in the back of the wagon, which has been brought to the edge of the pool, is carefully lowered out and its head dipped into the water by one and by all. This is rather delicate given that dragons are big, even small dragons like this one, and they have long necks.

The head is carefully lowere into the water while Runs with Spiders helps and the Shaman stands over. Once the head is in, the Shaman begin to chant in draconic. It is an old chant, lengthy. This is a recitation that, perhaps, the Shaman has done once in his life time.

The other Sith-Makar all stare. One and all, they stare at the sight of the dragon. They too, it seems, have never seen on before. Never seen such a creature with their own eyes. They are awed, these Sith. Even their young stop with their infernal peeping.

When the recitation is complete, the Shaman orders the lot of you to lift the dragon's head back up into the wagon.

"it is time for you to be on your way," he says. "You know what to do, son of the jungle," he tells Svarshan, "and what must be done to send this spirit home."

Thaim has connected.

Svarshan looks startled and then closes his eyes. He makes a gesture with his hand over his chest, and replies in the same old tongue. For once, he stands naturally, not imitating another race, not wearing a mask. Not grimacing from the noise and grime of the City. He lowers his head to the shaman, then steps back to the company of friends. "We will send him home, we will preserve his heart, and send his spirit back to the tribes that he become part of the Memory of Blood, and that he fly free among Wing and Flame once more." He pauses, and then, looks back, "Wagon, hooooooo-ooo!"

Myrana has disconnected.

Thaim vigorously shakes his head, freeeing himself from unspoken, lofty thoughts that passed his mind during the anointing ritual. "Big old lizards give me the heebie jeebies," he mumbles beneath his breath, concerned glance cast in the direction of the great big corpse. With his hands sufficiently dry (or at least as dry as they'll get in this humidity) the thief slips his leather gloves back on. Looking first to his traveling companions, then his fellow dwarves, the bearded man asks the latter in a gruff, low tone, "Seen any signs yet?"

Myrana has connected.

Usha seems to grow... solemn, as they dip the dragon's head in the waters. She bows her head and remains silent throughout the process- and remains silent when it's time to get back on the road. She makes her way towards the Swiftclaw she had been assigned to, and mounts back up again once the group is ready to leave.

Serene remains as solemn as ever; considering that falls within her normal, and limited, range of expression, it comes quite naturally to her, even if she doesn't understand a word of what the shaman says. Or Svarshan, for that matter. She just does her best, following along with visual cues, remaining respectful of what is obviously a unique experience for most of the Sith'makar present./

Once they remount, Svarshan begins translating the ritual. His words for a while are slow and sluggish, like dredging up muck from the bottom of a pond. He gradually picks up speed, as does Srassha, as the story goes along. "It's an old ritual. Not...many of the people have seen the ancestors, though." He pauses, and looks over. "Though I've never heard--did humans have ancestors?" Another pause. "None of our stories tell where they came from. There are theories--about as many as there seeds in a hummingpod."

Myrana says, "What is a hummingpod?"

Quint is there by the wagon when the others return, having passed on the opportunity to bathe in the odiferous springs. He helps with the dragon's head as needed and then mounts when the time has come to move on. He may not feel as refreshed as some right now, but at least he doesn't smell!

"No sign yet," mutters the dwarf to Thaim to answer him, "but we'll keep looking. Maybe we'll see more signs soon. I heard the same thing you did, after all." It's a quiet, exchanged set of words.

In the meantime, the dragon is loaded up in the wagon again and things are set to go.

Runs with Spiders gives a nod, "Come on, then. We've got more to go. Let's move." And with that, he's going to begin leading the way out of the vale. Time to move back into the desner jungles once again.

Denser in the 'you're going to need to start hacking' way.

"There are many theories among humans, Ser Darshan, but perhaps not quite so many..." Serene replies to the Sith'makar paladin. "The truth... is a matter of faith." She moves her swiftclaw closer to Quint's, and she doesn't smell bad herself thank you very much.

"A plant," pause, then wry. "Birds lay their eggs in its core during the fall. During the cold months," really? "the plant closes, but keeps the eggs warm." Svarshan drops from Srassha when they get to the Place of Hacking Leaves, and rolls the reins in his fist. "Faith," he muses, and nods then. And takes out an axe. "We're going to have to start cutting."

Thaim cautiously eyes the swiftclaw mounts nearby, bushy eyebrows descending into a furrowed state as he simply shakes his head. "Better on the ground, says I." he harrumphs, slogging alongside his newfound traveling companions on foot. He and his dwarven compatriots seem to center themselves on Svarhsan, perhaps trusting the big paladin to keep them out of the dangers ever present in these wild, untamed lands. "Never seen trees these thick, not even in the valley below my family's mountain home." the thief muses, a somewhat solemn smile pulling at his lips for a time. He pushes roughly past tree and vine, spitting occasionally when tiny bugs start to buzz about his face. The sweating's started again, the stout man's neck and face literally drenched in rivulets of perspiration. Ranging out slightly, Thaim allows curiousity to get the best of him as he stares out into the overgrown distance.

Tillianne is back on her swiftclaw and rides in the middle of the group. She keeps an eye on the look out on the flanks if others are watching the front and rear, though lacking the insight of Spiders, she probably isn't making the best of her time by trying to be a look out.

"Keep on the trail!" Svarshan snaps, yelling out towards the dwarf as he settles a machete in hand. "If you need to take one, talk to our guide!" Because things grab you when you pee. And then, back to Usha. He doesn't say a thing? But this is somehow all her fault.

Quint looks away from the green walls flanking the path to Darshan, nodding once and drawing his sword. The blade isn't designed for chopping through thick tropical flora but it's better fit for the role than his polearm or daggers. He also takes a moment to slip one of the sunrods out of his pack -- should the need arise. He slides the latter into a loop on his belt and holds the former at the ready, his other hand busy with the swiftclaw's reins. "Careful," he adds his own voice to the warnings tossed Thaim's direction, though his tone is milder than the sith'makar's.

Usha rides up alongside Tilly then, and she glances over at her. She's really worried about the paladin, it seems! "So, are you /really/ drinking properly?" She asks her after a while of silent travel.

And so the trail you stay on, for the time being. It's good, though.

But it's part of the journey. Another day passes of travel through a hot, humid jungle. You at one point have to stop becasue you find the half-eaten corpse of a rather large dinosaur sitting in the middle of your pathway. It's a huge, four legged lizard with large armor plates on its body and a heavey, mace like tail. And you have to more or less use your strength and the strength of the swiftclaws, more importantly, to get it moved JUST enough to get around it.

Which si not easy. The signs of the violence of the jungle surround you, but the party of this size is more or less left alone...especially as you close in on your destination.

The first sign are the bits of bone that poke out through the vegetation -- bone that begins to become more apparent. Indeed, at some point in your passage along the trail, you realize that you're passing through what can only be described as a -giant ribcage-. Circular bones ring around you, vines hanging from them. A dragon's rib cage.

And you come out just through the other end into a *field* of more bones.

Yes, you are now in a dragon's boneyard.

The resident dwarf jumps with a start at Svarshan's loud warning, blinking a bit as he looks about his surroundings, unusual and beautifully exotic as they are. "Aye, alright, alright." he calls back, winding his way through the brush back to the group. One hand rises, scratching idly at the wet mass that was once well-kempt hair. His fellow Khazad-Aul scowl miserably at him then, worry etched into their stony faces despite attempts to hide it. The rogue grins sheepishly at them, eyes drifitng to the treetops before he falls back in line.

Myrana drives the cart. Silently.

Serene has little to offer... she absorbs the explanation about the ritual, then sets about doing her part of clearing the trail. It may not be the most honourable use to put Loffwyn to, but the flaming sword is sharp enough. And silence is appropriate when the bone graveyard is reached.

Svarshan grasps the front of the saddle and swings down from it. The leather creaks, and Srassha sidles as his feet hit the ground. "Everyone okay?" he asks, calling out. "We're at the end of the line," he says then, suddenly solemn. "This is it. The end. This...thank you for making this journey with me. You can't know how much it means."

Thaim looks up at the massive bones sprouting forth from the ground, standing tall like trees in their own right. His mouth agape, no words are found to describe the macabre sight before his steely eyes. His fellow dwavres, too, quiet down, staring about in wonder. Stepping ahead of the others, the dwarf strides slowly into the boneyard. Finally, his silence is broken as upturned palms gesture outward, "Just look at them all!" he exclaims, voice hoarse. Suddenly, he continues, nervously, "We shouldn't be here.."

The cyclopean remains are indeed awe inspiring and while Quint hadn't been speaking previously it's likely he would've stopped if he had. He dismounts and walks, pace permitting, out of reverance for the great beasts that made this place their final resting place. He also cleans and sheathes the sword. "This was the goal, sir." He tells Thaim, glancing over at the dwarf, "To lay Sir Darshan's cousin to rest properly. We cannot complete the task if we leave now -- before it's done."

"With us stands the Sons and Daughters of the Moon, the Daughter of the Gentle Dragon, and the Sons and Daughters of the Great Father. We /should/ be here." Svarshan pauses, and a quiet smile grows over his features. Warmth. And by-the-gods contentment. "By our own faith and your own hearts, be welcome in the place of my ancestors. Tillianne, Jareth, be welcome to the warmth of the Father Dragon."

Usha goes quiet again as they emerge into the boneyard, and she looks all around, carefully. She nods her head as Svarshan speaks, and a hand absently moves towards necklace she wears.

Myrana's eyes flutter closed briefly and she sits quite still up on the wagon board. Quietly, she draws a long breath, her lips parting slightly, fingers clasped about the reins. When she opens them again, her eyes have shifted ever so slightly from their normal blue to a deep violet. But it's only for an instant, and when they clear again, she shakes her head as if to banish pins and needles.

"Tillianne. You and Quint have shown yourselves on this journey to be strong, and valiant warriors. You've stood by our sides--held our heads up when the food did not work," wry, eyes suddenly light. "You are the Father's and the Daughter's newest winglings," Svarshan says warmly. He reaches into the bags at Srassha's side, and pulls out a long, wicked blade. Silver. He turns this over in his hand, and hands her the hilt. "That is why I would like the two of you to cut out the heart of my cousin."

Still looking afraid, Thaim hesitantly winds his way into the boneyard, clambering over the remains of once great dragons that have been given final peace in this monolithic, grim place. He pays little heed to his fellows, almost digging through the area in search of something. The dwarf stumbles and falls as he trips over what may have once been a great beast's tail, landing in the ground with a strong *thud!*. Cursing quietly to himself, the words echoign through the quiet area of the jungle, he goes about his explorations.

Tillianne looks around with a slight frown on her face but when she gets such a warm welcome, she tries to put on as polite a face as possible. Though something Svar says makes her squint at him. "Wait. What? No we didn't!"

Svarshan continues to offer the hilt. "Your arm grow weak all the sudden?" he teases. He must feel really good. So he harasses her. And his chin lifts in challenge. With a grin.

"It is a great honor," says Runs with Spiders in agreement with Svarshan. His lips peel back from his teeth and a sly glance is directed at Svarshan. "I thought these were *strong* humans. Who did not wilt."

The sounds of... digging? Can be heard through the solemn graveyard of Svarshan's ancestors, Thaim having attempted (and failed) to find a secluded spot in which to nose around for treasure or some memento to take back home for when he tells tales of his journey through the jungles of Am'Shere. Hunched over and grunting, the bearded fellow begins pulling at what appears to be a great big tooth within some fallen dragon's imposing maw.

Myrana's dark eyes loft and her chin shifts. Looking toward the sound of digging. Then very quickly away, cheeks colouring. Decidedly /not/ having heard or seen anything.

Tilly frowns and gets off her swiftclaw and snatches the offered hilt rather testily. "I don't have weak arms. I'm just saying give credit where credit is due and I didn't get to fight anything to prove my warrior spirit." She eyes Svarshan critically and then turns to the dead dragon. She tilts her head to the side until her whole body is craning so her ear faces the ground. She points the blade it, untilts her head, mumbles something to herself and then points the blade somewhere else on the dragon. She clears her throat, looks to Svar, and whispers "Where is the heart?"

Usha smiles a bit at the speech... and then there's a scraping noise. She peers towards Thaim, and her eyes go a little wide. She slips off her swiftclaw and heads over to Thaim. She smacks him on the back of the head and whispers urgently, "Put that back! You'll get us all cursed or something!"

Svarshan closes his muzzle, slowly. "You know. I've only seen this done once before." And he grins at her, just slightly. And then he steps back so Quint can move forward. And then.

Then there is digging. And a sudden, fierce grin. "Hit him harder, Usha!" He seems proud of the shadow elf, in that moment.

Myrana climbs down from the wagon, copper bangles rustling metallically. She goes to stand in polite reverence near the dragon and the service. One hand is in her pocket. Myra seems... distracted. But quietly thus.

Thaim looks up from his ministrations, the back of his arm running slowly acorss his forehead to wipe away the sweat, when suddenly: smack! He's struck in the back of the head by a shadow elf in a hurry. "Oi! It'll... it'll grow back!" he insists, gesturing towards Svarshan. "They have plenty of teeth to spare!" defensively, the man tries to protect his (relatively small for a dragon, but big for him) newfound tooth.

Usha blinks. "Grow back!?" She asks then, barely managing to keep her voice down. "Listen, burial places like this are ALWAYS cursed. Do you really want to be haunted by angry ghostS? Angry DRAGON ghosts?" She asks Svarshan then, "No! No you really don't, so put it back!"

Thaim groans loudly, and all the while the other dwarves accompanying the group can only hide their faces in shame or simply shake their heads in disbelief at what the rogue in the boneyard might be getting them into. One makes a particularly rude getsure before pointing at the ground by him, demanding Thaim put the tooth back and get his hairy ass out of trouble. An exasperated sigh spills past the man's lips, and he relents at last. "Fine! But when people don't beleive we've been here, you have yourself to blame!" he sticks the tooth in what used to be the nasal cavity of the dragon, glancing up at Usha now. "Let's bury this frightening thing and be done with it then!"

GAME: Thaim rolls sleight of hand: (12)+8: 20

Serene steps back away from Quint, abandoning him to his fate perhaps... or just giving him room to be himself. Because she completely agrees with Svarshan's choices. In the meantime, she starts wandering by Usha and Thaim. Maybe the elf woman needs a little help dealing with the dwarf.

GAME: Usha rolls spot: (8)+2: 10

Svarshan looks up to Myrana, and asks her to do something very, very dangerous. "Could you give us a fire, Daughter of the Gentle One? Once Tillianne and Quint have the heart, we will return it to the Fire." And then, well. There's the part about its spirit returning to the earth and tribes. And the buildup of dragon and ancestral spirits here. And so on. He's just talked about that along the way. Endlessly.

Quint looks between Svarshan, Tillianne, the dagger and the dragon while everyone is preoccupied with Thaim. Finally, he does speak up; "As you will, but... it does not seem to be a two-person job. If you wish for us to take turns...?" he looks skeptically at the two sith'makar -- there is only one dagger, after all.

Usha eyes Thaim, seems not to notice where he puts the tooth. She reaches out and grabs the dwarf's ear and, with surprising strength for her small frame, she begins to drag him back towards the main group. "Now behave yourself!" she hisses.

Lacking dragon anatomy and having no instruction on where the heart is, Tilly takes her best guess towards the center of mass and just starts...stabbing. And cutting. Trying to find it. "I need a bigger knife."

"She's going to need help. One of you need to stab. The other needs to lift the scales. Then both of you will need to reach in to remove the heart. It will be heavy. And connected, of course, so you'll need to cut *those* as well," says Runs with Spiders, casually. "It's no different than the innards of any other creature that lives.. merely much larger. And heavier. The heart will be *very* large."

Tilly sticks the dagger into the body to free both hands and she just takes out her sword. "Fuck it."

GAME: Usha rolls knowledge/arcana: (20)+7: 27

Quint stops Tillianne with a hand on her wrist, giving her a Look. "The dagger is part of the ritual..." he releases her and takes out the dagger. "I will try."

Usha, almost as an aside to the people trying to cut out the heart, says, "There's a trick to it. You have to come at it from, sorta just underneath. The scales are softer just below the ribcage." She states. She is still dragging the dwarf if he hasn't pulled free yet.

Svarshan grins at Tillianne and Quint. Even when the blade comes out. He just takes a step back, and nods to Myrana. "One will help you find something that burns."

Thaim harumphs in Usha's direction, lifting his chin in a mock gesture of wounded pride. Despite it all, he rejoins the others and shuffles forward to offer aide where he can, backing away a bit out of instinct when Tillianne begins to cut into the great beast's body. He winces with each cut, perhaps the fear in the back of his mind telling him it might wake up and cook them all for their transgressions at any moment.

Myrana swallows. "M-most things -do-," she murmurs, but doesn't argue, and goes with Svarshan to collect combustibles.

Svarshan lets go a sigh over his shoulder. "Use the da--" a look at the bones, a more moderated look from the paladin. "--dagger," he finishes, wryly. It IS his ancestor, after all.

Tillianne frowns at Quint. "We will still USE the dagger. If we use ONLY the dagger, it's going to take forever." She then stabs her greatsword into the dragon but tries not to go all the way so she doesn't hit the heart. Wherever that may be. She then proceeds to cut the thing open so they can at least look inside. "I -know- what I'm doing."

Myrana returns in a little while with some things from the back of the cart. Bundles of fragrant apple-wood, cones of incense. Setting them down, she waits for the heart to be out.

Svarshan helps carry items from the cart, likely with Jareth. They return with stacks of wood--probably from a pile someplace onsite. These get tossed into the center of the ribcage, where there's plenty of room to burn. And with effort, gradually, the pile grows higher.

Thaim leans over towards Myrana, whispering in her direction, "I, uh, have a bit of a confession when this is all said and done." a gloved hand motions towards the solemn ritual taking place, a sheepish look spreading across the dwarf's features. Nearby, one of the other dwarves does nothign but stare Thaim down and shake his head, as if to call him off.

"I was not aware that religious rituals were meant to be quick and easy. I could understand why the slow, meticulous approach with the assigned tools could be troublesome." Quint resists the urge to raise his voice, forcing himself to remain calm. He sets the knife down and shakes his head.

Serene helps with the wood, as well, though mostly for a chance to speak with Svarshan. Her expression is slightly troubled, something easily missed by those not looking for it. "I understand the significance... and honour granted the two by offering them the role of retrieving the heart..." She glances over at Tillianne and Quint. "But we may wish to intercede before anger diminishes the sancity of this ritual."

Svarshan tilts his head, and nods. He looks to Serene, "Let's go together, then." And a slow grin. "Young winglings. Lots of anger."

"Thaim..." Myrana starts to say more, but then nearly trips over a large bone in her path. The wooden bundle crashes down onto the pile and she swears, rubbing a scraped knee. "Tell me later mate," she mutters, biting down on her tongue. OW!

Tillianne frowns at Quint. "Are you saying they're supposed to be long and difficult? What the hell for? It is what it is. We're supposed to cut the heart with that, so we are. I'm just trying to -get- to the heart." She continues to cut the thing open until she is thoroughly covered in blood. "Oh. Here it is. Lots of bones in the way though."

"When your mother dies are you going to cut her into dripping, gorey pieces with your graceless hacking so it's easier to pile her into a sack and drop her into a shallow hole in the ground?" Quint wonders -- maybe he's a little angry.

Myrana turns slightly green.

Serene tilts her head to the draconic paladin, then, leaving her armload of wood with the rest, she turns about and approaches the pair of human paladins who are doing their best to locate the heart of the beast. "Just a moment, Quint, Tillianne. Stay your sword and dagger... remind yourselves of why we are here. This is not a task we are racing to be done with. Imagine if it were human? Would it be respectful to simply put the body in a sack and toss it into a hole? Would it be proper to squabble over the dead body? You have been assigned a special task for something you are likely never to see repeated... and you natter at each other like spoiled children."

Svarshan moves with Serene, and as they near, the sith's stride gets more purposeful. So when he does get there, he drops a hand on Tillianne's shoulder. And reaches around to grasp the hilt of the weapon. "Anger, wingling. You will bite soon enough." He squeezes the shoulder. "But treat my ancestor more gently."

Tillianne takes the sword out and puts it to the ground, obviously no longer needing it. She stops looking at how to get to the hear and turns to Quint. "Are you going to stop being passive aggressive and suggestive and finally tell me you don't like the way I'm doing this and maybe do something about it?" Now it is she who sounds angry. "Go for it." She steps away from the dragon and pulls her shoulder away when Svarshan touches it. "Do not give me a task that I don't know how to do and then chide me for doing it wrong. I've never even seen a dragon before."

Usha peers to Myrana, and she leans over to whisper, "Are you alright?" She wonders, quietly.

Myrana looks at Thaim, leaning on the woodpile to catch her breath. " So how was th' Ox? How did you get here?"

Myrana turns to Usha. She starts to say something, then licks her lips. "I uh... it's just the air," she says, lamely.

"I expected you to treat my ancestor with respect," the sith'makar returns heavily. "Tillianne, if you cannot do that, then step aside. /Are/ you ready to assume a task for the Father?"

Jareth has disconnected.

Thaim shifts his weight uncomfortably from one foot to another, a nervous cough erupting from his chest as Myrana mentions the Ox. He doesn't really make a motion to respond, instead murmuring softly to himself, "I don't suppose drinking songs would really lighten the mood.." Confusion sets in, somehow, and the bearded man works his way (away from Myrana) over to those aurrounding the heart. "Let's do this and be merry, aye?" he smiles forcibly, though his demanor seems cheery enough. "Something of a celebration, yeah?" he looks to Svarshan, question lingering.

Runs with Spiders seems sympathetic to Tillianne's words, "The truth is, you've got about as good an idea as I do where the heart is," he adds, quietly. "First body of a dragon I've seen. Some of them come here to lay down and die, when the time comes, if they've lost their lairs. That's what I hear, anyways.." He looks down towards the body, saddened. "Dark, though its spirit might've been."

Usha nods her head a bit, and she helps Myrana gather up the wood. "This all reminds me a little too much of home..." she murmurs to her then, "of course, the person having their heart removed was usually still alive..."

Quint deflates when he's reproached by the senior paladins. He's still clearly frustrated but it's a safe bet he's upset with himself for being such an idiot. He forces his hands to unfold from the fists he's made them into, "My apologies. I just need... a moment to collect myself and then we can continue." He turns and walks a few steps away, murmuring quietly to himself and setting about the process of shedding his tabard and breastplate.

Myrana is silent for a moment. Then, quiety, she leans over to bump her shoulder into Usha's. It's a companionable, comforting sort of gesture, or it means to be.

Tillianne frowns. "I wouldn't have come if I wasn't. And I meant no disrespect. But you -are- asking me to take the heart out of something I've never seen before. I am doing the best I know how. I don't want to desecrate the body. I've just never removed a heart." She then looks at Quint, who obviously is far more disciplined than she is since she doesn't look any less mad. She looks back to Svarshan. "I'll be very upset and ashamed if I do this wrong and disrespect your ancestor. So tell me how to do this correctly." She takes a breath. "Please."

Usha peers to the others there and she fidgets a bit, nervously. She glances at Myrana and smiles softly at the companionable gesture. "I can help." She says after a deep breath. "I know a little about dragons, and about hearts."

"Warrior," Svarshan says, eyes glittering with sudden pride. He moves to Tillianne's side. "We will do this together. ALL Of us. Quint, and Serene, and you and I. And Usha," he adds, when the shadow elf comes forward. "Tillie..." he says then, slowly, an attempt to find words he isn't good with, "...I am a poor teacher. But, even when we do not know a thing--work with respect. And move with honor. Even when we do not know the ground we walk on, keep with these." And under his breath. "I understand anger very well."

Serene watches the pair, Tillianne and Quint, step away and come to terms, in their own way, with the task. Watches and listens and then, satisfied, nods her head. "As the heart has been exposed, perhaps it is time to see about removing it." She looks, then, to the.. mess.. and grimaces, faintly. Not enjoying the prospect of getting blood on her hands. Or the rest of her for that matter. Still, she steps over to the dead dragon and reaches to pull away some scale and flesh and perhaps bone, attempting to make the heart more accessable.

Quint makes a neat pile at the opposite end of the wagon, drawing a deep breath and letting out long and slow before he turns back. His tunic is worse for their time on the road, heavy with sweat and dotted with crushed black bugs that managed to find their way under his armor's padding. "I am ready," he says, taking up the dagger and turning it in his hand -- offering the hilt to Tillianne. "You have done the hard work. I will hold the fallen open so you can get to the heart and cut it free."

Thaim stands by, preferring to remain out of the gore and blood unless he absolutely must assist. He remains close, meandering about with the rest of the dwarves, though he's keen enough to keep out of paladin business and the solemn duty they bring with them. In almsot abject horror, he looks on as the heart is exposed to the wet jungle air.

Tillianne keeps her stern blue eyes on Svarshan. "We have that in common." And then she cools down a notch. "I understand." If allowed, she goes back to the dragon, looks at Quint, nods to him and takes the offered knife. "I apologize." Perhaps any mishaps in the ritual are worth it if a young paladin learns something from it. She looks to the hear then and instead of just cutting away, she takes the time to study it. To find the best way to take it out while causing the least amount of damage.

Since it seems her help isn't needed, Usha is MORE than happy to just stand next to Myrana for now, watching on quietly as the paladins do the grizzly work.

"Most of the scars on my hide aren't from demons. ...they're from a young male's pride. Trying to impress someone. Someones," Svarshan confides, wryly, though he matches Tillianne look for look, with an almost alienness to his side of it--the sith'makar's natural nature. To challenge. He gives a look to Serene, suspecting she wouldn't approve. But, different culture. "I wasn't very good at it," he admits, after a silent, interior struggle. "Just too short. ...over there, I think," he says. He reaches in and lifts part of the ribcage opposite Quint to give them better access, and to work with the other man. Contrasts. Where the blood cries, running away from Serene, it soaks almost naturally into his scale.

"The mistake was mine." Quint counters with a nod. He rests a hand on the fallen dragon and carefully climbs into the back of the wagon. Gingerly, he stradles the corpse and reaches deep into the wound. When Tillianne is ready to begin he recites a quiet prayer and strains to lift the mass up high enough to allow for cutting inside of the chest cavity. It's not long before he's showing signs of the effort -- it's a heavy piece of meat! For his part, he doesn't seem to mind the gore coating his arms up to his elbows.

With the help of the others, Tillianne manages to get in there and manipulate the knife to cut away the heart. She then throws the knife aside in order to quickly get both hands on the heart and pull. She manages to get it out, covering herself in even more blood in the process. "Wow."

"This, our ancestor. His soul is in his heart, his heart will join the Fire, the smoke to the spirits, the ash to our earth," Svarshan says, leaning back on his knees. And rises. With a pause, and some warmth, he repeats the words in draconic before, "Let's go, then."

Usha has reconnected.

Quint eases the flank back down with a heavy exhalation of breath. The muscles of his forearm twitch as they relax and he offers another brief prayer and then walks carefully back to the edge of the wagon and jumps down. As per Svarshan's request, he helps Tillianne with her burden but only if she looks to be struggling -- otherwise he hangs back and to one side, not far off.

Drawing her hands away from her chest, Myrana opens them up. Delicately. A flame blossoms there, cupped in her white hands. White at its apex, the flames lick purple and black, pouring down in droplets of fire from her fingers like a cup overflowing with burning oil. With closed eyes, she grits her teeth, pale face composed in fierce concentration. Slowly, the flames billow and flux, rippling in her hands. Slowly, the purple and black grows-- then extinguishes. White flames sing with a joyous voice, surrounding a core of crystalline blue. Sweat touches the sorceress' temples and her eyes remain closed.

Gently, she opens her hands further apart. The flame pours downward and falls into the heart of the fragrant wood and incense. In a few seconds, the funeral pyre is aflame.

"Place the heart onto the pyre. Let it release the dragon's spirit. Then, we leave its body, its spirit freed, and we may we return home, knowing that we have fufilled our ancient oaths and obligations and returned its spirits to the Lands of Wings and Flame, where it may join with its brotheres in the eternal flight the dragons," says Runs with Spiders.

Usha reaches out, fingertips touchign Myrana's arm in a gfesture of supprt, as she makes the fire. She's unable to do it herself, so it's the least she can do.

Thaim gazes onwards, staring into the great pyre Myrana has given crackling life in silence. Greed and fear relent in the face of an overwhelming solemnity, the dripping heart of the beast and the sacred nature of the ritual compelling enough to be beautiful in its own way even to the dwarves' eyes. Something about funeral pyres and a return to ashes seems to resonate with the man, and he keeps out of the way as best he can.

Serene hangs back... a quick incantation deals with the blood on her person before it has a chance to set and stain.. then she folds her arms and settles back on to her heels to watch.

Tillianne manages to get the heart in her grasp with Quint's help. The blood makes it slippery but once she has it in her arms she seems to be okay. She wastes no time making her way over to the pyre. She then places it into the flames the best she can without burning her hands. And then she quickly backs away, her hands dripping with blood.

Svarshan walks with the rest towards the fire. He takes a breath, and then a deeper one--inhaling the Smoke of Ancestors as the heart sizzles on the flames. The fire sizzles there, and his eyes close, near-drift shut in peace. And then: "Sraaur va virrukiarrr rrhun iaaarr... Cousin, though you have taken the path into the arms of Shadow, may you once again find the Sun. May you remember your brothers and your sisters, your children and your grandchildren. May you watch over them from this, holy place. May you lend us your strength as we give you the gift of Memory and accept your spirit into our land."

"Rhurrr va iaurss va... cousin, sister, brother, ancestor. May we one day be One again as the great fire of our Sun Father roves across this the sky. May He look down and watch over us. May we bring pride to Him, and may He bless our families, our eggs, our tribes. May we hear His words through the words of the Silver Dragon, His messenger, and our Deliverer. ...may our children be as plentiful as the stars."

"...varrrurk va rhuuhr vakurn sraaur va iaruuhr...!"

Svarshan lets go a breath, and stands there swaying, and looking into the flame. For a while. Just a little while.

The heart? It burns.

And it burns *brightly*. The smoke and flames grow brighter for a time.

Runs with Spiders let out a sigh of relief. "It is done. and no angry dragon spirits have come out of nowhere to eat us. I'd call that a win, wouldn't you?"

"Aye," returns Thaim in a gruff tone, the revelation of the ritual wearing off to be replaced by caution once more. He edges away from the fire, sticking to the edge of the boneyard.

Usha has partially disconnected.

Svarshan steps back, and then clasps a hand on Serene's shoulder. "Sister-in-Faith," he starts to say, and then takes out something--something else--and tosses it in the flame. It's the remains of a sword. A demon hunter's sword.

"Varruurk va sraaur iaruuuhar. Thank you for coming. There are drinks. Food. In the wagon, that Myrana has prepared for us for when we get to the campsite."

Quint has no fancy speeches or prayers -- he's no priest. He just stands and watches and listens, the dark blood of the deep insides no longer dripping, but far from drying on his arms and hands. He considers those hands once Svarshan is done speaking and smiles a brief, faint smile.

There's a sudden cheer that breaks the silence, though it's source is somewhat farther from the burning heart of the beast lain to rest. The dwarves of the grave caravan seem excited by the prospect of food and drink in this wretched, humid place.

Serene tilts her head to Svarshan... even offers a ghost of a smile... before her attention returns to the bright blaze of a fire. She stands there and watches, the flame reflected in her eyes for a shor time before she turns away for the wagon. She pauses on her way by Quint, however, murmuring something to him before continuing on.

After a moment of quiet contemplation, Usha finally speaks to Tilly and Myrana. "Im, Uh... sorry about the Vines. By the way." She murmurs quietly.

Myrana opens her eyes with a blink. "R...right." She says, and sniffs. Into her pocket one faintly smoking hand goes, and draws something out. A pair of small black objects are drawn out, and tossed into the fire, where they dissapear with little bursts of black like inverse fireworks. Patting Usha's hand, she smiles wrily, and tiredly. And heads toward the cart.

Svarshan grins back, almost. He nudges Tillianne with his shoulder. "We used to hunt, after these ceremonies," he tells her. Then, looks to Myrana and Usha, and lifts his chin, with a warm sort of laughter. "Come on, then. ...and bring that ragged dwarf, with you."

Thaim and his dwarven contingent march out of the boneyard with the others in an almost militaristic unison, their heavy, booted feet leading the bearded company from the resting place of the dragons. "What a sight that was, aye?" the rogue rmeakrs cheerfully, failign to hide the darting nature of his eyes. "I'll be glad to be out of this jungle." there's a few grunts of appreciation and agreement, though some amongst them look unsatisfied.

As you get ready to depart, the way out to you seems clear.

The way out, that is, for everyone but Svarshan.

Who trips and goes face first over something.

Myrana goes to the cart and, because this is something she's familiar with, and good at, starts serving out a dark, espresso stout of her own brewing. The barrel had been hidden, and hidden WELL. This might have something to do with the words 'RATTE POISUN' marked out in green paint on the side.

Quint waits a little longer at the bonfire, looking where the heart has been before it was completely consumed and reduced to ash. Finally, he turns and follows after the others, hands still soaked with lifeblood. Though he doesn't seem to mind at the moment.

Svarshan lays there in the moss and grime for a while. When he gets up, he may look like Rum. He may RESEMBLE Rum, if Rum were much larger, with horrid scales instead of cute kittenpaws. He makes it to his tail before the first pangs of 'I fell down' hit, and wincing, he bends to look over at his tail.

Thaim is almost too busy downing half the tankard of stout Myrana hands to him to notice Svarshan fall. However, when the big paladin lands with a loud crash he looks back, alcohol spilling past his chin and down the front of his tunic. "Oi! You alright?" he asks, a bit of concern in his tone evena s he wipes his booze-stained beard.

What Svar tripped over apparently seems to be the haft of a weapon sticking up out of the ground -- how anyone missed that coming in is beyond you, but there it is, just sticking up out of the ground.

"Yeaaaaaaa--" and the words end in a strangled hiss as Svarshan rights himself. His tail sticks out at an awkward angle as he puts palms to ground and makes to get up. More carefully? Than he'd fallen down. "Yeah, one thinks..." and the tail's still at an awkward angle. "...the ancestors just kicked me in the tail." Quite. Literally.

Atop the barrel, Rum sneezes. Myra is too busy handing out tankards to notice anything. There's an enormous dry salami of spicy lamb and sharp cheese and loaves of bread. A jar of garlicy pickles can be seen. Dried apple rings and spiced dry apricots. All trail food, but a far cry from what one finds in the Adventurer's Outlets.

"What is it?" Quint wonders. Having been the last to leave the pyre, he's not far behind Svarshan when the sith'makar falls. He moves closer and offers a hand should he want the help.

Svarshan reaches down and grasps the handle--an old, very old thing with chips and warped leathers. "I'm not...sure." Crap, his butt hurts. And, he puts both hands on the handle, and gives a hard tug. When that doesn't work, he stops, and braces his feet, shoulders. "It's stuck. ..." a glance towards Myrana. The food. Smells delicious.

He gives another, hard yank and--nearly falls. Nearly breaks his tail again as an old, half-rusted axe comes out from the earth. It doesn't look like much. At all.

Tillianne leaves the fire as well. She got really super quiet after throwing the heart in. The fire reflected in her eyes all real intense like. When the others start to go though, she turns to follow only to find a tripping Svar. That sight puzzles her for certain.

Serene doesn't partake of the festivities... which shouldn't be surprising. No one here can lay claim to having ever seen her eat. She does turn her gaze to the fallen Sith'makar, however, watching him.

GAME: Whirlpool gave you his Axe of Klutzyness.

Thaim seems content witht he fact that the Sith'makar is alright, though a rumbling laugh ushers forth from his chest when he nearly falls a second time. He returns his attention then to the carvan and festivities, eying that wonderful food with a hungry, needful gleam in his eyes.

"...if it was here, it was meant to keep." Svarshan stares at the axe a while. Whatever he's thinking, he doesn't say, but his hand closes over it possessively. A makar, or just this makar, marking its territory, that primitive MINE, despite its rusty, torn appearance. He takes a breath, and then a second, shuddering one. Coming up for air. "...I think those are Veyshan spices," to Quint, in low, not-quite-focused tones. And, in a not-quite warning. A friend's warning about the spices. And, because he can't help it, can't help but be who and what he is, it's also that underlying MINE. Laying possession to something. HIS axe. But, not forcefully. It just kind of IS.

Myrana goes OOC.

Myrana has left.

Quint watches Svarshan for a moment, then simply nods and walks past him towards the cart. He glances at Serene and gives a shallow shrug, a look of mild confusion on his face. He doesn't eat -- at least not right away -- but walks past the cart instead and sits down on what he hopes is a rock to just look at the hollowed-out dragon corpse for awhile.

Serene goes OOC.

Serene has left.