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Feb 27, 2024

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Reinventing the Lightbulb - Part 6


Previous - Reinventing the Lightbulb Part 5


It is early morning, and the sun has just begun to filter through the leaves of the Sastra Forest. The small clearing in which the group made camp is calm and quiet, though not as utterly silent as it was the day before. Birds can be heard chirping in the distance, and a even a few adventurous squirrels have returned to the area.

Raziel is still fast asleep, using his rather uncomfortable looking sack of tools as a pillow.

Zorro sits up, rubbing his ears, licking his paws, and smoothing the fur about them. He pokes his head out of the lean-to they constructed, and looks around. No Druj, right?

Viktor is snuggled up with one of his packs, using the other as a pillow, still quite sound asleep from the day before.

Raziel begins to stir; then, apparently thinking better of it, rolls around and lays his arm across his gun. The way he sleeps with it is fairly unsettling, though he claims that he does so frequently. In the wake of last nights events, it may almost be considered reasonable.

Zorro pads around the lean-to, and looks for some breakfast. The fennec upends a couple of rocks, and slurps down a couple of worms and the occasional beetle while the others are still asleep and can’t judge him for it.

Viktor stretches out some and curls again, yawning. He furrows his brow to try and focus on sleep,

Raziel hears the subtle noise of the shifting rocks outside, and after so many nights of sleeping in near wilderness alone, the first thought that pops into his head is ‘bandits.’ He sits bolt upright - or rather, he would, if the lean to was better adjusted to someone of his height. He bangs his head off of the structure, slightly rattling the entire thing, before he opens his eyes and realizes that there is no cause for alarm.

Zorro drops the rock, the tail of a worm sticking out of his muzzle as he meets Raziel’s gaze. He subtly sucks it in like a spaghetti noodle and gulps, trying to look casual.

Viktor stirs again, shifting and rolling from side to side, before giving up and laying on his back, opening his eyes to stare at the sky. “Aai haahte morninkz”

Raziel blinks a couple of times, then shrugs. He picks up his bag and rifle, before sliding out of the lean-to, rubbing his head as he does so. He grabs a handful of jerky from his bag and takes a few bites, then walks over to sit on one of the larger rocks near Zorro. Raziel just sits there quietly for a while, thinking.

Zorro looks over the forest pathway, “Should only be a few more minutes of walking, I think. The ruins should be thataway.” He gestures in some relevant direction. “Easy enough, right?”

Viktor sticks a finger in the air. “Yoo kaahn draahg me there, Aai don’t vaahnt to get up.”

Raziel speaks up. “I suppose now might be a good time to mention that I may have spotted the arch we’ve been looking for. There’s not much left, if it ever was an arch, though it was getting dark when I saw it. I didn’t mention it because Viktor needed sleep. And, apparently, still does,” he says with a smirk. “It’s actually somewhere that way. I think we may have gotten turned around when the Druj attacked.” He indicates the other end of the path, which winds around the bushes he dragged the bodies to.

Zorro ohs. The fox blinks a few times, “Well, how far is it? If it’s not far, we could probably leave him to sleep and just get focused on getting the thing. And then he can help drag it back. If it’s much further, we’d probably better shake that fox until his fur floomfs and he’s ready to go.”

Raziel shrugs. “The arch isn’t very far at all; less than a hundred feet. But I have no idea how far the ruins are beyond that.” He moves slightly closer to Zorro, and whispers, “I’d rather not have to drag Viktor all the way there, though. We’re already going to have to haul the statue back.”

Viktor sighs and sits up. “Aai heaahrd thaaht. Vine, Aai’m komink.” He stands slowly, shoulding his packs on the way, tiredly shuffling towards the direction indicated.

Zorro, once he sees Viktor on the way, starts padding in the direction Raziel indicates, flicking his tail back and forth, peeking and keeping his eye out for the arch.

Raziel cringes inwardly. Why did foxes always hear twice as much as they should, and see half of what they needed to? He picks himself back up, and walks ahead, retracing his steps to the arch.

Viktor starts to pick up his pace, going in some random direction of someway that Raziel pointed out, waiting till he either finds the arch, or someone points him a different direction.

Zorro looks up at the arch, and then back to Viktor, “So, we’re looking for some brass monkey or something? What was it?” His tail flicks back and forth.

Raziel continues onward, past the (somewhat concealed) Druj bodies, gesturing Viktor back in the right direction when he seems in danger of wandering off. There, at the crest of a small, wooded hill, are two curved stone pillars that appear to have once been part of a larger arch.

Viktor makes his way onto the path again, stopping to look at the rubble of the pillars. “Hey, Aai think Aai’ve zeen thiz zomevhere. Vhen it vaahz whole.”

Zorro blinks, looking at Victor, “Really? I thought this place was ancient. Or, did it just get hit with misfortune? When was this?” He looks around, “What was it?”

Raziel inspects the area more closely. It certainly seems old, but he has no way of gauging /how/ old. He doesn’t know enough of masonry, either, to tell if the damage is recent. It just looks…weathered.

Viktor shakes his head. “No, iz not like thaaht. Therez thiz paahintink in Cetaahyaahnti, iz very old. Zuppozed to be aahn eaahrly aahrtvork vrom the Ze’ev tribe, vhen they vere juzt aah zmaahll tribe. Or aah recreaahtion of vone.”

Zorro ohs. The fox blinks a few times, walking through into the ruins, “What was it like? Do you know anything about the place in the painting?” He digs around, looking for anything that might satisfy his anthropological curiousity.

Raziel nods, and runs a hand along one of the stones. “Well, that fits with what we were told about the ruins…I think we’re finally on the right track.” He stops and looks about the surrounding area. “Did Sovereign happen to mention how large these ruins were? Are we looking for something akin to an aboveground temple, or something…more complex?”

Zorro looks around, walking through the ruins, fingers running over the crumbling rock of an ancient arch. “Did the painting in Centanti look like a Svargan city, or just one of the earlier tribes. Think it was before the humans emerged?”

Viktor shakes his head. “No, it vaahz tribaahl, Aai’m zure. Aai don’t think Svaahrgenz maahde aahnythink out ov chizled ztone.”

Raziel walks around the area, investigating the fallen chunks of rock closely while he listens. He may no know anything about the history of these ruins, or their construction…but that doesn’t mean he’s not interested.

Zorro nods a little, “I guess not… but even they had their sculptures and works of art…” He hmms, “You’re right, though. I think these were actually dwelled in. And they didn’t live in stone dwellings.”

Viktor nods, walking up to the ruin. “It zhowez how old the paahintink iz, bekaahuze the aahrch vhaaz ztill whole in it.”

Raziel stands up straight and claps the dust off his hands. “Well, it certainly doesn’t look like any of the inhabitants were recent. Should make recovering the statue easier…at least we’re not about to anger a cult of tribals who revere the thing as a deity. That’s the best news I’ve had all day,” the tiger comments, smiling.

Viktor shrugs and moves past it, and into the forest more. “Aahre yoo komink? Zovereign never zpecivied aah return time, ve kaahn look aaht it more vhen ve kome baack through.”

Zorro nods, and follows along, “Right, right.” He pads along, leaving the ruins for now. He’ll have to come back and write more about them some time.

Raziel follows Viktor; there’s more to see here, and a mission to accomplish. Now that they’re this close…he really doesn’t know what to say.

Viktor shoulders his pack and moves along the path till he sees a large, crumbling stone-stepped pyramid, with what looks like a shrine on top. “Hey, look aaht thaaht.”

Zorro pads along, and then flicks his eyes upward, eyeing the thing, “Wow. That’s probably the place right there.” It’s quite an impressive structure, perfect for a plot device. Which is why Zorro starts scribbling up notes about all the natives the three had to sneak past to get into it. There’s nothing wrong with a bit of embellishment when you’re getting paid by the word.

Raziel stares at the pyramid. “That’s…large. Makes you wonder when people gave up building monuments, and decided to make due with ramshackle wooden buildings,” he says, clearly making a jab at settlements like Quark. He honestly is impressed, though.

Viktor slows his pace as the forest just suddenly clears away about two hundred feet from the massive structure, with the path turning into something similar to crumbling paved stone, and small stone pillar archways half disintegrated littering the edge all the way up to the stone steps of the pyramid. Behind the stone construct is a cliff, with the edge of the pyramid nearly flush with the edge of the cliff, and in the distance and probably very very far down is the vague sight of more forest. “Wow. Thiz iz inkredible. Aai vohnder vhy there izn’t aahny other ztrukturez.”

Zorro pauses, looking at the clearing. He freezes. “This is deliberate…” The fox squats down, pointing to some of the foliage that appears to have been cut. “It’s being maintained.” His giant ears lay back. “We may not be alone after all.” The fox’s face droops.

Raziel looks around, trying to find evidence to refute this. “I truly hope you’re overreacting.” But if th fox is not… “We may want to push on ahead. Hopefully, this will turn out to be the simple retrieval mission it was meant to be.” Even with the foreboding signs, Raziel can’t help but be excited about the discovery, and the promise of science at the end of this journey. He takes a few steps forward. “Are you coming?”

Viktor nods and takes a few steps as well, moving closer to the stone structure, till he hits the steps. “Aahre yoo guyz reaahdy?”

Zorro nods, and starts walking up the stairs, hiding behind Viktor a little so that he’s not the one to get shot by natives with arrows or something. “Y-yeah, just lead the way.”

Raziel starts moving as if to take the lead, but seeing Zorro’s apprehension, decides to stick to the back. It takes a considerable amount to stifle the tiger’s curiosity, but if someone’s going to be stabbed in the back by natives, it may as well be the big guy, right?

Viktor moves up the stairs slowly, and when nothing happens, picks up the pace. About five hundred steps later, he crests the edge, panting and putting his hands to his knees. “Ugh, aai reaahly didn’t need the vorkout.”

Zorro practically has to climb them at his height. The little fennec pants and wheezes at the top, “Why would you invent Pyramids before you invent airships?”

Raziel reaches the top shortly after, not as badly winded as the other two, but just barely. “Oh, come on…it wasn’t…that terrible…” He pauses to knuckle his back, and a loud crack ensues. “AAHH! Ok…maybe it was…”

Viktor chuckles and looks over to the shrine, and on top is a small statue of a human lady with wings and a ring on her head, in a praying position. It is stained with rust and water lines, some even making it look like the incredibly detailed face of the thing is crying. Oh and the detail, the thing is barely a foot tall, but it is so detailed that there are individual strands of hair in the sculpture, and each finger looks like it was carved out one at a time, and there is even eyelashes on its closed eyes. “Vell, my guezz iz thaaht’z vhaaht vere aahvter. Pretty aahmaahzink too, aai don’t think it vaahz maahde by aah tribe.”

Zorro looks around, a little nervous, “Shit, man. Do you see anyone?” He bites his lip, looking the piece over, “We’re going to destroy this work of art for science?” He looks uneasy. The fox thought it was going to be something crude.

Raziel approaches the statue to inspect the details more closely. “I think that’s a safe assumption, Viktor.” He looks over his shoulder at Zorro. “Well…yes. That’s what we came here to do. It is a shame to destroy something so finely crafted, but…who knows where another sufficient supply of the metal can be found? It is necessary for Sovereign’s research to progress.”

Viktor looks between the two of them. “Erm, zo do yoo vaahnt to graahb it aahnd taahlk aahbout it on the vaahy baahck, or staahy here aahnd look aahround, or you know, aahrgue aahbout it here.”

Zorro’s ears lower, “Let’s grab it before any natives show up to sacrifice us to it.” He bites his lip. It belongs in a museum!

Raziel nods. “Now that, I can agree with. Viktor, do you mind giving me a hand? I don’t know how heavy this thing will be.” He walks all around the statue and inspects the shrine thoroughly, before he even thinks of touching it. It has been said that Svargan ruins contain some of the most devious traps ever known; and though these ruins aren’t Svargan…a little paranoia never hurts.

Viktor nods and moves to the other side of the statue and moves to grab it, but then of course a loud stomping sound is heard and a set of three tribal guards with spears and a bonesword at their hips crests the top of the pyramid on all four sides, totaling nine and surrounding them. And these guys don’t even look winded. Or sweaty either. Geez, these guys must work out.

Zorro’s ears lower, “Ah, good evening, Gentlemen. I hope we’ve not disturbed you. We’re here with the Academy of Knowledge and advancement. We heard that your statue has a terrible layer of corrosion…” He points to it, “And we were hoping to assess this so we could restore it to its former glory.”

Raziel gawks. How? How is his luck so terrible? Walk between two cities, get attacked by bandits. Take a short trip to Muon, get shot in the leg by pirates and see Leviathan. Take an easy job retrieving a statue, and get set upon by tribal worshipers. IS NOTHING EVER SIMPLE?!? The tiger is still debating whether to draw his gun or charge down the stairs when he hears Zorro speak. Yes…this could work! There’s a good chance they know nothing of the academy, or even speak the same language, but it’s worth a shot. And if it doesn’t pan out…well, bullets are still an option. The tiger fumbles for something to say. “Uh…yes, what my colleague here said. We were looking to perform a restoration.” Raziel digs through his pockets for a moment, before procuring a *genuine* AKA membership card, and presenting it.

The guards just look as steely faced as ever, and only one bothers to look at the card, curiously at that, so it’s probably a good chance that they have no idea what it is.

Viktor looks around and backs off from the statue, bad poker-facing the entire time, nodding rapidly. “Yez yez, thaaht’z it.”

Zorro continues speaking, “So, good sirs. Do you know what material this statue is made of? What methods are you currently using to clean it? Do you have a polishing regimen for the statue?” He tilts his head, “Or are there specific rituals on how it is to be handled that preclude most cleaning?”

Raziel realizes that this is a horrible situation for him to be in as he puts the card away. He’s terrible at expressing himself, and convincing people. Perhaps he should let Zorro do the talking. The tiger does his best to put on a disarming smile, and /not/ look like he’s ready to abruptly begin shooting people.

Viktor keeps on fake-grinning, putting his hands into the air. Doesn’t do any good anyway cause the big burley guards decide to just rush them from a complete standstill and swarm the group with numbers.

Zorro’s ears lower ever-so-slightly. At least they aren’t immediately stabbed by the guards. So, that’s a good sign. There’s still a chance that they can talk their way out of this. “ah, um…” The fox gives a nice smile, “My apologies, gentlemen. I see you’re not interested in our restoration services. If you’ll allow us, we’ll be happy to depart and leave you to your lives.”

Raziel frowns. Damnit. Never simple. He backs up as far towards the center of the pyramid as he can, and prepares to fight. Then, he has an idea. “Viktor! The boom you showed us! Disorient them!” He unshoulders his rifle and folds his ears back. This probably won’t end well…

Viktor nods and goes through the movements, bringing his paws behind his back, but before he could bring them forward to clap, he’s struck on the back of the head and knocked to the ground, groaning.

Zorro glares at Raziel. Well! No talking their way out of this now. He tries to slip between one of the big guy’s legs, and roll down the steps. This is going to be incredibly unpleasant, even if he succeeds!

Raziel glances around nervously. Viktor unconscious, and Zorro fleeing. Well, that plan fell apart quickly. So…seven against one. Raziel honestly can’t say he’s faced worse odds. With them all advancing, he doubts he could slip through like the diminutive fox, and he’d rather not be knocked unconscious. Well…if these tribals have no knowledge of the Academy, hopefully they have some good old-fashioned fear of technology in them. He points his rifle into the air, pulls the trigger, and roars, “STOP!”

The bullet ricochets of the stone roof and bounces around, causing everyone to duck, and well the bullet grazes one of the guards arms, causing them to grow really really mad and to rush Raziel from all sides, moving to hand to hand combat.

Zorro falls over onto the ground. His escape is thwarted by the loud banging sounds attacking those huge fennec ears of his. He tries to claw his way around, and escape, tears running down his cheeks. If he survives this, the character of Raziel will not be written in his novel with any bit of flattery.

Raziel sighs. Everything falls apart. Well, time for a last-last ditch effort. He makes a break for the slightly weaker spot in the circle of guards that Zorro is dealing with Zorro, and attempts to charge through.

Raziel sets his shoulder, and barrels through the guards standing over Zorro. Being big has its perks. As he passes Zorro, he grabs the fennec by the scruff of the neck, barely breaking stride. “Let’s go!” The tiger bounds down the stairs - trying to find the correct balance of protecting the fox, and moving fast enough to not be impaled by the guards.

The guards make due with their spears, tossing them down at the pair, but it seems they’re lousy shots and all the spears kind of just, miss or something. Anyway, no one gets impaled and the two make it off into the woods. The guards don’t go past the clearing though, just kind of standing there at the edge of the woods for a moment before turning around and running back to the pyramid.

Zorro’s paws grip his ears, the fennec lost in a ringing world of pain. When he’s snatched up, he curls up in a defensive ball, thinking he’s about the be gutted. But he opens his eyes eventually, and realizes the tiger has grabbed hold of him, and is pulling him out of that terrible situation. Ok, maybe he won’t write that scene he had in mind where the tribal guards turn out to be cannibals and eat the stripeycat.

Raziel doesn’t stop running until he reaches the camp the group made the night before. When he does, he sets the fox down, then drops to his hands an knees himself, panting. “We…we have to go back for Viktor…”

Zorro slumps against a tree. He blinks a few times, looking up at Raziel, “WHAT? WHAT DID YOU SAY? SPEAK UP!”

Raziel sighs, and rolls over to lie on his back, exhausted from the escape. “WE HAVE TO GO BACK FOR VIKTOR!” He can’t believe the fennec’s ears can be that sensitive. If his own were, he would have been deaf less than 15 minutes into his career.

Zorro sits down, gripping his head. “GIVE ME A MINUTE. I NEED TO THINK…” After several minutes, the fennec seems to be hearing again, “Y-yes… we need to get him, but how?” The fennec stands up, and thinks, “Maybe I should scout around. I’m little so I can hide. If we can figure out where they’re staying, we can find where they’ve taken Viktor.”

Raziel nods, still lying on the ground, looking up at the canopy. “That…may be wise. But…be careful. I…I think I need to rest for a while.” The tiger closes his eyes, and lays there on the ground, before quietly mumbling, “…I’m sorry.”

Zorro hugs his knees. For all the internal fury he had earlier, seeing the stripeycat curl up and apologize makes his ears droop and feel bad for the thoughts he had. “D-don’t worry. We’ll get him back.” Apology accepted, apparently.


Next - Reinventing the Lightbulb Part 7

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