Saturday, December 3, 2016

Journey ep08 : Ryuutama

11/24/2015
Journey

Episode Eight
"Dark Cliffs"

Ryuutama

They stand at the mountain top, surrounded by dark cliffs.

The group discover they are at a different world. Unfamiliar to them all. Even the camels are uneasy, huddled together and not wanting to move away.  Party leader, the monkey, turns to Piter, waiting for his instructions.  Aya admits she cannot find where they are on her maps.  Piter wonders why they trusted that Djinn.  Tristan admits they had no choice.   Aya tries to pinpoint where they are and yet despite being well-traveled, she has no idea where they are.

Outside the confines of the cliffs and the mountains, dark clouds are rolling in, like a heavy fog upon them.  They realize they aren't sure what weather this is.  Tristan admits it probably isn't safe to camp here.  Worse, the clouds seem to be so thick they can't see the sun.  Nor tell the time.  "It might be best we find a suitable place to camp until we get our bearings," Tristan admits.

Not too far, they see a spiral staircase.  Clearly not natural. But it does suggest others have been here before.  Aya worries if they can even guide their camels down the mountain.  A shriek suddenly erupts somewhere in the distance, echoing across the mountains.  A rumbling sound then drones overhead, from the eastern side all the way to the west.

"We should go," Tristan tries to state as calmly as possible.

Aya nods.  They make their way towards the spiral staircase, each of them guiding two camels to take the steps carefully.  Aya admits they can't leave the camels here being the cute things they are, and this unforgiving environment.  The camels, however, are so spooked, it takes some time before they start moving.  They see more signs of human craftsmanship as they descend the steps which has one half of the staircase exposed to the side, while the other half is against the mountain.  Piter reminds them all to be careful, given someone clearly made this path.  Every few meters, a metal cage with broken glass and signs of what could have been a lantern.  Further below, the clouds await them.  Aya grins, trying to remind them all to stay focused, "We can do it, guys!"  Piter offers to take lead, telling them that clouds must be like a fog.  Aya starts singing the Foggy Cha Cha to raise their spirits.

They soon chance upon an unexpected sight.  A Ryuuzoh stands along the stairway, but instead of a walking stick in its hands, a mirrored chalice sits.  The chalice is silver with red blood stones.  The group walks past it, bothered by its appearance, and uncomfortable with what it suggests.  They begin to realize they are no longer in the domain of the Ryuujin they are familiar with.  This is the land of the Black Ryuujin!

Thirty minutes further down the staircase, they finally come upon a wasteland.  The rocky terrain makes walking difficult. The cold winds have not ceased.  To their surprise, they find an old friend waiting for them.  Joshua Vane, the Weather Reader, is there and tells them he had fallen here after stepping through a portal in Meowtain.  He likes mountains, but didn't expect to see the group here.  He confirms their suspicions that this is the Southern Continent of Kuro,  When they ask him about heading back to their lands, he informs them of a 3-year journey across the sea to get back by regular ship.  And how there are Piranah storms and that they should find a way instead to search for a Waypoint that can lead them back to Ao, the Northern Continent.   Joshua admits knowing about the Waypoints because his family had created them in the past.

It doesn't take long before the group finds itself stalked by Earth Tigers, vicious massive cats of stone and mud.  The monsters attack them with a relish, and each hit depletes their supply of water as the things seemingly absorb the water they carry like a vampire would draw blood from its prey.

And worse, just as Aya is about to land a perfect blow to defeat one of the Tigers, a dark flash fills the sky and the perfect strike MISSES!   The dark Ryuujin celebrates in the mischief.  Seeing the miss, Piter realizes he needs to help out.  He closes the gap and tries to strike the beast down but misses.  Joshua is yelling at them, wondering what is happening. Tristan admits he does not like this place one bit.  With each Earth Tiger defeated, the tiger explodes into dust and vanishes.

To the least, the things leave a vial on the ground.  Tristan, however, is horrified that there are no remains for him to trap or use in his work.  The sounds of stomping feet begins to erupt, and close in at them.  From the house in the distance, people begin to hurry out and rush to them with chairs, weapons and other things in their hands!  All of them are dressed in dark piecemeal clothing, with mohawks and strange things.  They have come to help in the battle and tell them their "Party leader" rushes to them and asked them to help in exchange for gold.

The group realizes the crowd are all Apes!  Which explains why Party Leader was able to speak with them.  "Where is our gold then? We were promised gold if we try to help?"  Tristan asks if the Party Leader promised "all the gold they have?"  The Ape admits yes.  Party Leader admits they have been paid then, since the group has no gold at all. So that is all the gold they have. The Apes, thankfully, do not hold it against him, and even acknowledge his superior intellect.

*

The group considers getting a room but they realize they have no money to spend to pay for it.  They consider just camping outside instead.  Piter speaks up, asking the Madam Ape if they can stay.  Joshua approaches and talks to the woman, pointing to Aya while he explains something.  The Madam Ape nods and then approaches to Aya and curtsies.  She addresses Aya as the daughter of the Wayfarers and thanks them for it is due to them that business is good for her.  Joshua supposedly had showed her the Wayfarer's seal of office.  They head up the stairs.

Madam Ape identifies them to the whole gathered, calling Aya as the daughter of the Wayfarers.  The Apes stand up, hand on chest, to show their respects.  Aya, being half noble, thanks them properly and bows.  One offers to pay for their food.  Another offers to watch over them during their stay.  Another calls out offering to sharpen their weapons.  More and more offers are made.   Aya smiles, all the while looking at Joshua worried for what he's claimed her to be.  They hurry to the room.

Aya asks Joshua what this Seal of Office is.  Joshua explains she doesn't need to know what that is all about.  Tristan growls they can stop their singsong nonsense.   And they all go to bed to rest and recover.

*

The next morning opens with them feeling a bit more rested.  Tristan wakes up early to gather herbs and look around. The fighters are seemingly gathered around the fireplace, singing of their deeds and accomplishments.  Tristanlooks around and finds Party Leader seated with an eyepatch over one eye, piles of coins and gems all around him.  A pair of cards is in his hands.  The other apes are losing the bets and surrendering more money.  Tristangrabs Party Leader's neck, but one of the warriors grabs Tristan's hand before he can grab Party Leader.  "A bodyguard!??!" Tristan gasps.   To his surprise, the Party Leader is called "The Captain" now by the others.  They learn how he with the assistance of the humans bested one of the Djinn.  The pile of coins and cash are supposedly rewards fairly won.  Tristan does not find any hidden cards tucked him his sleeves or clothes.  Tristan snags the eyepatch off and hands it back to its owner.  Party Leader however expresses through the body guard how he feels unappreciated by the team, especially given his accomplishments are rarely noticed by them.  Tristan announces to everyone that, "The Captain will return the things he won from them.  Since a Captain never steals from his subordinates."  With a motion from the Party Leader, the whole gathering cheers!  As it turns out, Party Leader had bet with them all that he could get Piter to call him "Captain" within an hour. Laughter and cheers spread out.  Tristan admits Party Leader was pretty impressive, and the two head out of the cabin to gather herbs.

Piter turns to see Joshua and Aya still asleep.  He heads down and learns more about the people being indebted to Aya's noble family. Piter gets drawn to the craftsmanship of a chest on the counter, and speaks of how civilized a culture must have created it.  Madame Ape thanks him, since most do not see them and praise them for being civilized.  Most, she explains see them as the slave race they used to be, especially the Neko Kingdoms.  Piter admits he views the world with a higher standard, "That with a fine chest."  They have risen from servitude and being merely meat and playthings for the Neko Kingdom.  "We are now a Pride. It was your Princess' family that first welcomed us and allowed us to serve in every waystation.  Allowed us to reunite our divided families."  They were once separated from family members to serve at the Nekomines and now the males were used as experiments by the Cats' magic, and how the Nekomatas would use them as testing grounds for their stranger incantations.  Piter sees a metal box, and asks if that is specifically to hold coasters.  Madame Ape hands it to him to look at it better.  Piter admits the exquisite craftsmanship is undeniable.  Pressing the side, a cigar comes out.  Piter wishes he could speak to the person who made it.  "A thing of magic, but it eventually runs out," Madame Ape admits.  Piter sees the screws and pops the release, and inside they see the five cigars left,  "You just have to reload it." Madame Ape admits its a magic box that they have to purchase from the Nekomata.  She admits they pay the Nekomatas yearly to re-enchant them.  Piter is starting to think the Nekomatas are conning the Ape people.  She shows another "magic box" the Nekomatas sell them, this time one that creates fire.  Piter explains one merely has to keep the whetstone dry for it to work, then replaced when worn down.  "There's no magic here.  Just..." he stops and wonders why the Nekomatas would do this. He sees more items sold to them, which when worn down, they pay the Nekomatas to re-enchant, which include a collar with a spring-loaded button, a clasp that has a twisting lock, and more.  All items that could be repaired but have been introduced to them as magic.

As he fixes them, the Apes start mumbling how he knows the magics of the Nekos.  But even more interestingly, as Piter studies them, he finds that the Nekos don't seem to even use each item to its full potential. He finds patches and switches that have not been used.  Have they been holding back? Or are those parts even the Nekos don't understand?

*

Joshua wakes up with Aya in the room. He doesn't seem to recognize Aya for a moment, even as Aya tries to tell him they are at Kuro.  She tells him that he convinced everyone that she is the Princess, yet he doesn't seem to recall any of it.  She even shows him the passes to the Library that he gave her before.  Slowly, he begins to recall, but he does seem bewildered to be in Kuro, especially since his family had hired people to protect this place and make safe areas... the same story Aya was told to have done.  She reminds him he came through a door from the sky.  Joshua looks startled to realize he IS in Kuro, and he mutters about needing to call his mother cause he's not supposed to be this far.  He even freaks out upon seeing blood stains on their clothes.

On the cot he was sleeping, a star shaped pendant is left on the pillow.  Aya picks it up and asks him if he dropped it. He asks for it back and when she tells him to calm down, she asks what is the last thing he remembers.  "I was never supposed to lose this... I remember at the mountain, we were-"  *click*  Joshua snaps the pendant on and sits up, looking at Aya with a smile, "Oh, is it morning."  Aya notices the distinct change in his personality, claiming Joshua admitted he is the Wayfarer's son, but no one knows the man has a son, however, and only a daughter.  He claims its a very story and asks her about her nobility as well.  "I'll answer if you answer."

*  

Outside, Tristan finds more roots and less herbs to collect.  Other Apes are studying a map.  He walks up to them with Party Leader, and after deftly parrying greetings to the "Captain," he takes a look of the map.  The map turns out to be a pop-up book showing the island of Kuro and how it changes with the season.  Kuro, it turns out, is a floating island.  "When does it get closest to Ao?"  He learns that the next time Kuro would be closest to Ao again would be three years from now.  When Tristan asks about getting an airship, how fast will it take to travel to it?  The Apes however are confused with the question, as they never traveled such distances before.  He learns the technology of Airships is something the Nekos keep to themselves.  Sqwaking birds above alert them to a coming Neko. The Apes hurry to the cabins and warn that one of the Nekos is coming.  Tristan admits he's curious to meet one, but the Apes warn him to never look up into its eyes.

*

Aya admits to Joshua that she was a noble of Artenia. The Prince of Artenia was impressed with her actions that she was given a noble title for her feats.  She asks Joshua about the Wayfarers and Joshua admits he is the one of the Wayfarers and his parents thought he was a woman all the way til his third year of birth. By then, they realized he wasn't but everyone else in the Kingdom knew he was by then.  They decided to keep the facade and he realizes he wanted to be free to travel.  Aya admits she is the Imperial Lady of Song.

He asks about her statement about him falling through a door in the sky, and she tells him about their encounter at Darkheart Evil Meowtain, and how afterwards, they encountered him again when they arrived here at Kuro.  He mumbles about "it" still happening, which she learns that his mother always warned him of having fleeting memories, of having days where he does not remember things

She noticed that he seems to recover the lost memories the moment he wears the pendant.  He insists it is merely a family heirloom.  They hear the applause from down people as the Apes cheer on Piter for understanding the magics of the Neko. There is some concern of what would happen if the Neko were to hear of this - and that's when the door slams open and one of the Apes with Tristan earlier warns them the Neko are coming!

They arrive in massive armored forms. They walk almost comically, as the suits hinder their mobility, moving like wide armored forms that walk without knees.  The carriage towers over them, almost three stories tall. Piter is greatly impressed by their arrival. The Apes begin to celebrate the arrival of the Nekos. Tristan doesn't like the fruity grog, finding it strange.  Tristan reminds him to stop complaining though since it was given for free. Piter reminds the apes that they will help despite everything that has happened.  Aya admits their friendship is why she stays with them despite everything else that has happened.  She sees the approaching parade of Nekos, and even Joshua feels he should remember more about these Nekos.  The Ring on his finger pulses, and Aya notices it too.  Joshua mumbles a story about how his mother used to tell him if the Ring ever glowed, they should run.  Aya wonders if they should, but worries about their things as they have not packed up yet to leave.

The music has gone silent.  The Apes wait in silence.  The lights focus on the doorway, announcing the Nekos arrival.  Joshua and Aya see the scene from above, and wait by the door upstairs.  A thin fog crawls into the chamber, ankle high, filling the place.  Stepping into view, a figure stoops to walk inside.  Straightening, towering almost nine feet tall, a pure white figure yet almost neckless, with a silhouette reminiscent of a nun's habit.  The figure looks like a cat, yet the head reminds them of a skull.  Joshua mutters, "Nekos..."  The designs on the clothing would have been white against white, almost Egyptian in inspiration.  Gold trimmings enhance the overall look.  Tristan and Piter stay close to each other.  The head descends, and the figure is now only around five feet tall.  There are scented oils trailing in the air as the figure changes in height.  It turns to look at the two, its movements so perfect that Piter begins to suspect the suit is more technological than organic.  Tiny red dots mark the figure's eyes.  Cats eyes.


Tristan bows his head, showing respect.  Piter studies the thing from an Artisan's perspective while Tristan boldly greets the new arrival.  The thing does not reply.  Piter confirms the suit is a container. A highly enhanced container, to allow mobility and function. "It's a suit," Piter whispers to himself, then louder. "Similar to the cigar box!"  Tristan asks the thing to step out, as it would be rude to talk while inside a suit.  He tries to act confident and brave, but Aya definitely wishes they were still in some nicer place.  Piter notices a familiar button and walks up to the thing to reach for the switch he saw and push it.  But in response, something extends from the Nekos hand, a segmented metal thing wreathed in electricity - it wards Piter to step back.  "So they may not be that tall, after all," Piter muses. "You're not putting that down, are you?"  The thing responds with a whipping motion at Piter! Piter fails to dodge out of the way, and the shock strikes him! Piter's clothes start to ignite!  As he pats them off, he draws his polearm as he realizes the thing is not here to talk. Tristan raises his hand to begin casting a spell!

Aya sees a pair of glowing eyes from the window looking at her and Joshua from the outside!  She grabs him and they rush out the door, into the main area where the Apes and the others are.   Joshua sees Tristan casting and yells out a "No," as he reaches to cup Tristan's mouth closed.  "Don't show them..." he yells but he arrives too late.  Tristan casts Shooting Star and the energy flings the Neko out the door, the whip flailing as it flies.  The walls catch fire.  The Apes begin to howl. With Tristan's hand still outstretched, the Apes stare at him in fear.  "Don't show them you have magic..." Joshua gasps.  But it is too late.  The Apes stare at Tristan. Their eyes turn red in response to witnessing the magic.  Aya tells at them to run back upstairs!  The Apes turn to face Tristan, muttering, "Science" as they move with much more threatening moves.  Piter is confused at their sudden hostility.  They back up towards the stairs, staying defensive.   Joshua explains that the Apes were slaves under those who used magic, the Djinn.  All the Apes begin to draw weapons, and those without weapons draw chairs, or anything they can use as weapons.  The Neko at the doorway, sparks flying from it, points at Tristan and mutters, "Djinnborn."  The Apes begin to close in.

Aya screams, "The camels are packed!  Let's go!"  She sees a vase with water, and picks it up as she flings it at Tristan.  Piter lunges forward, while the Apes are distracted by Tristan, and stabs his polearm at the fallen Neko.  The weapon hits close to the switch he saw earlier!  With the vase in Tristan's hand, he uses another spell, one that creates a Rosefever Pollen cloud in front of him.  The petals scatter. Joshua begins to pull Tristan up with him.  "We have to get out, now that they know you are one of the Djinnborn!"  The Apes that leap at Tristan are forced to lunge through the cloud. Of the four that strike, only two are able to hit Tristan with their makeshift weapons.  The Apes tumble to the ground, the Rosefever swirling around them.  Joshua tells Tristan to go upstairs, as their violent natures are only because of him.

The window shatters upstairs.  Aya sees another Neko at the broken portal, and she draws her rapier as quickly as possible.  She howls how much she hates this place as the Neko draws its own claws.  Piter hits the switch he saw earlier, and it opens the Neko's suit, revealing an almost hairless looking cat inside the suit.  The thing is making hacking sounds as it emerges.  The whole suit folds into some kind of backpack on the cat!  Joshua tries to buy the others time by blocking the Apes.  Remembering the chandelier earlier, Tristan wonders if he can leap at it and jump out but he remembers the people here are all Apes. They are bound to out-jump him!  Joshua stabs the closest Ape that nearly grabs hold of Tristan, and the knife cleaves into the thing's face!  The whole group reels in shock at the violence of the combat.  This... place seems to celebrate viciousness and death.

Tristan grabs his crossbow in the room, taking time to load it.  Aya stares at the other Neko by the window and hopes her quickness and weapon grace helps her swing.  The blade is easily parried by the Neko, but its talons are parried as well.  Piter closes in, grabbing the downed Neko, and he sees the old scars all over the cat's face.  It hisses in anger, "Djinnborn!  This is our lands now!"  Piter counters that it does not give them the right to lie to the apes.  "This is your Neko?" The Apes turn to him, with their red glowing eyes.  The Neko held by Piter (from the back of its neck) tells the Apes that those who return the heads of the Djinnborn will be given freedom.  Tristan trains the crossbow at the Neko Aya is fighting.  The bolt flies... but then, somewhere, a woman laughs.  The bolt suddenly bounces off the armor and strikes Aya instead!  Aya shrieks in pain, wishing their Ryuujin was still with them - realizing the land's own dark Ryuujin might be relishing in their misfortune.  She sees another Ape heading up the stairs.  She decides to throw a stab at using her false title once more.  She yells at the Apes to stop what they are doing, and she reminds them all she is Nobility.  The Neko hisses about never ever being slaves again to the Djinnborn.  The Apes, however, have stopped in response to Aya's words.  Piter pulls the Neko close, asking why they are manipulating the Apes. "Do you think you're better? You are just cats in boxes!"  It responds with failed attempts to claw at Piter, but he drags the Neko behind the bar.  Aya sees Joshua bloodied and injured from the assault of the Apes, and she rushes to him.  The Apes pull back.  Joshua thanks her, and he doesn't seem to recognize her again.  Aya searches the ground for any signs of his special pendant.

Upstairs, the battle continues however.   Tristan raises his hand at the Neko by the window once more and begins to cast another Shooting Star spell.  The Neko panics! As the Shooting Star flies, it strikes the Neko but the wounds it causes are miniscule, the Neko rakes at him in response.  "Now they will all find you."

Piter tells the Neko to open the chest.  He shoves the cat into the chest to "cool off" and shuts it closed.  The Apes, no longer red eyes, are watching now, calmer and quieter.  Aya asks for her crest, telling the others that she had lost her crest.  She asks for a healer.  Another Ape comes close, handing her the chain it had found.  As Aya clasps it around Joshua's neck, Joshua suddenly shifts once more in attitude and nearly attacks the closest Ape!  Aya holds him down, calming him down and telling him things are under control.

Tristan realizes he cannot fight the Neko alone.  He Shooting Star's the door to tear it open.  But the Neko leaps out the window once more to escape.  Tristan stumbles out the door to see the battle outside has stopped.


*

An hour had passed.  The Apes have left, most undecided on what had happened.  Most don't seem to even recall the reasons they leapt into battle.  Or that there was a battle.  They are stunned at the realization many of them are suddenly injured.  And one of them is dead.   The Ape go through some ritual with the dead one, each speaking how they fought alongside the ape when they faced different things.   The sadness is palpable.  Piter sits on the chest, keeping the Neko trapped inside.  Joshua hates he cannot recall things clearly, and is wondering who killed the Ape.  Tristan tends to his wounds.  Though he witnessed Joshua killing the Ape, he does not admit or state it.  Madame Ape and the bartender stare at Aya, but admit it is not their place to speak any ill words towards the Wayfarer.    She asks if they blame them for this.  Madame Ape admits it is not blame... but there is no denying the ill wind the Djinnborn brings with them.  Aya explains she owns the Djinnborn her life.

"Kuro trusts only in the magic of the Nekos," Madame Ape explains, "The Science of the Djinnborn can never be trusted."

Aya explains that just as her father and her people welcome the Apes, they welcome the good Djinnborns.  "There are good Djinnborns."  She catches Joshua looking at her.  They both realizes she is lying and they stay silent.  Piter and Tristan wonder if it was the dark Ryuujin that caused that dagger to kill the Ape.  They ask Aya if the Wayfarer can find elsewhere to sleep.  She accepts they will.   One Ape growls, "At least you can still leave."


*

They gather their things. Joshua wonders if they should go to the next Wayfarer point.  Aya wants to find a place the Nekos cannot go.  But Joshua admits there is no place to do so, as the Nekos rule the land.  Tristan suggests they find instead a way to leave this place.  This land.  "The Nekos know I am here."  Aya wonders if they should stick to the wilderness.  Joshua wonders if they can find an airship or some flying steed.  Piter asks what they should do to their captive.  Aya admits it would help to have a hostage.  All of them hate that feeling.

*

A woman in the mirror smiles. She whispers how they can kill the hostage.  To let go of their concerns and to just do what they should do.   Get rid of the threat.  Be safe.

*


"We will stick to the wilderness. Try to get away from any Neko," Aya sighs.  They talk about how Kuro is a floating island, and they had just missed the chance to leave yesterday when it was closest to the other islands.  They consider finding a Djinn, or one of those doors Joshua took.  Joshua offers to bring them to his family, and though the guards might not recognize him, they might have to have Aya keep up the lie that she's the Wayfarer until they meet the parents.  Decided on their plan, they realize they have to now decide on what to do with the Neko in the box.  With one less camel than before, they can't quite bring the Neko with them and feed him too.  

With his polearm drawn, Piter opens the box and they watch in surprise as the Neko comes out gasping for air, beginning to never be placed in a box again.  Unlike other Nekos from their island, this one seems to have been terrified the whole time to be in a box!  Piter asks it for its name, and it replies, "Seven Six One Four One."  Aya gasps that its name is a number!  The Neko admits it has no other name.  Tristan calls it Fluffy instead, which Aya agrees is a better name.  They talk to it, admitting the place seems morose and depressing to the point they seem to act in such a way.  "If you continue to let your past dominate you," Piter explains to the Neko, "You're still slaves."  The Neko admits the only way to free themselves is to make sure they can never happen again.  Piter tells it they have to stop manipulating the Apes, and to stop confusing Magic and Science.   The Neko insists their Magic is well earned, and that they charge the Apes what is fair.  Aya  whispers to the others this is not winning their confidence.  The Neko growls at them, calling them uneducated buffoons.  Piter shoves him back into the box and tells him if he's so educated he can get out on his own.  Tristan tells Piter to let the cat go.  He rather be marred as a Djinnborn than be evil enough to mistreat others.  "We're just reinforcing what they believe."

The Apes prepared something for the Princess.  They give the group water and food rations to take with them.  They hope it will at least sustain them for their journey.  Aya admits she understands.  Piter tips the box over to let the Neko get out.  The Neko, gasping for breath, is weak and unmoving on the floor.  Feeling sorry, Aya decides to toss to the Neko the fishbone earring that she got from Ifa. 76141 stares at the earring and looks shocked.    They are shown out of the Tavern.   Joshua claims to have gotten directions and knows which way to head to... their family.


*

The group heads back into the wind and cold.  With the camels, the group preps to leave.  They notice another camel has gone missing, and the group realizes a dragon must have taken it the other camel once more.

*

76141 hold the fishbone earring up to its eyes.  It stares at it and tears well in its eyes.  "They made it... they made it...."


*

In a dark room.

A fireball explodes.  The fire hovers and grows.  The dark woman stares at the flames.  She shows her long nails and mutters, "We can make a deal." The other dragon stares.  She motions at the glass and the image of four travelers can be seen.  The two dragons stare at each other.  She pulls out a dagger and offers it to the other dragon.

The dragon takes it.
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