Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Chapter 71: Eternal Loop

Just a few days after receiving their orders from Fergus. Jillyan and Julian fly of to Champs les Sims, France, and once they arrive, head immediately to the old tomb site marked by a circle of standing stones.

"What are we looking for, exactly?" Jilly asks.

"MorcuCorp and Farrell Brannon both made multiple time travel trips to this village during the medieval era," Julian replies, "The things they did made changes to the time line. And if some theories of quantum physical are correct, they may have created numerous different universes just by altering the course of events in our universe. Normally the different versions of universe would remain separate and discrete from each other, but this particular place is a portal to the fae realm. Fae magic is chaotic and unpredictable in nature, and Fergus is concerned that we may have created a weak spot in the wall between the multiverses here by altering the time lines repeatedly, and that there might be some spill over, or contamination, between the univeres in this spot. So what we are looking for is anything that doesn't belong here. It might be obvious to the eyes, or it might not. Each universe will have it's own signature on the subatomic level, though, and I have a scanner that can read for anomalies."

"That sounds like the comic books Fergus would read," Jilly laughs, "Well, I understand my part at least; breaking and entering. I've always wanted to raid an ancient tomb."

"Have you really?" Julian asks.

Jilly shrugs, "Sure, why not? There are all kinds of cool treasures waiting to be unearthed here."

Jilly turns out to have a knack for finding hidden entrances.

"Well, it is a tomb," she says as she unseals a chamber to find a skeleton lying inside, "Ohh, nice opal he's got. I guess he won't be needing that anymore."

"Wait, don't touch it," Julian stops her before she snags the jewel as he starts scanning, "This is a tomb, but the ancient people did just toss their dead on the ground; they laid them in hollows they'd carve into the walls."

"So who's this guy, then?" Jill asks, pointy at the skeleton.

"Possibly just a tomb raider that got lost," Julian says. 

Jilly makes a disapproving snort, "How stupid could he be?" she wonders, "The entrance is right there."

"This may also be the type of anomaly we're looking for," Julian continues, scanning the area thoroughly, "I won't know for sure until I run through the data later." When he's done scanning, Julian turns of the device and heads out to look for more possible anomalies to scan. Jilly quickly pockets the opal before following him into the next chamber.

The next chamber contains some very obvious anomalies; a modern fireplace and a mission style chair are very out of place in a place supposedly not used since it was sealed in the neolithic era.

"Did the cavemen really carve chairs and coffee tables out of stone?" Jilly asks doubtfully as she inspects another set of improbable furniture across from the more obvious interlopers.

"I don't even need a scanner to see that there's some serious contamination here," Julian answers, scanning anyway, "Almost nothing in this room belongs here."

They go from chamber to chamber, Julian scanning and Jilly pillaging the treasures left behind. There were no more immediately obvious anomalies like the out of place fireplace and chair, but Julian scans everything thoroughly.

Not content with the just the treasures she's found on the ground, Jilly pries open an upright stone sarcophagus to see what might have been buried inside.

"Careful, Jill," Julian says, glancing over his shoulders as he collates some of his scanner data onto his laptop, "You might wake up a mummy."

"Really?" she asks, excited at the prospect of battling some ancient reanimated horror.

"No," Julian laughs.

They leave the tomb before nightfall and make camp nearby.

"So, if there is contamination from other universes into this one, how do we fix it?" Jilly asks as they roast their dinner over the campfire.

"That's the question, really," Julian murmurs, deep in thought, "I don't know the answer. Maybe Fergus has some ideas..."

"Our ancestors may have sat on this very spot," Jilly muses, snuggling up beside Julian, gazing up at the sky before they retire into their tent for the night. Julian wraps his arm around her waist, and stays quiet, preferring not to think too much about what his ancestors had done here.

In the morning, they return to the stone circle, hoping to find more hidden entrances to as yet undiscovered parts of the ancient tomb. Before they start exploring, Jilly takes a moment to sketch a building not far from their location.

"That's Chateau de Landgraab," Julian says.

"So, you own it?"

"It belongs to MorcuCorp. So, it's Fergus' now," Julian answers, rubbing his neck as he muses, "It was originally built by Admiral Langraab on the site of the ruins of the medieval castle the family had once lived in here. No one has lived in it now for generations; the Admiral was probably one of the worst Landgraabs, he even kidnapped the daughter of one of the local nectary families to try to steal their distillation secrets. The people here ran him out of town after that. Since then MorcuCorp has turned it into a storehouse."

"Maybe we should check it out."

"We could," Julian answers with a wry smile, "Breaking into that house is a time honored tradition for adventurers. Ewan McDermott, Sage Bowman and even Farrell Brannon all took a crack at it. But I doubt we'd find anything; MorcuCorp tended to use the location as bait, luring people to 'discover' information that MorcuCorp wanted them to find. All the real secrets are kept hidden in the more impenetrable vaults."

"You never know, we could uncover some long lost treasure," Jilly says.

"We can certainly look. The house as it is now never existed in the medieval era, but the castle that used to be here played a large role in the time travel events that caused the contamination, so there could be more evidence of it there, too, as well as in this tomb."

Before they try the chateau, there is still the matter of finding another entrance into unexplored parts of the tomb. After thoroughly searching the are, Jilly stops in front of a single huge boulder.

"It's..tingly," she says.

"How so?"

"I feel, I dunno, kind of tingly when I stand near it. The stones up there do the same thing," she answers, gesturing at the stone circle on the mound above, "I guess it's the magic?"

"You Brannons are sensitive to fae magic," Julian replies, "But that's not one of  the standing stones. It's too big, and it's not been cut like the others."

"Hey, when I went to China with my mother, I was initiated into the Brotherhood of the Fist. They sent me into this old temple to find some old documents...I remember reading about a magical axe that could smash boulders. The guys in the stories used it to smash boulders that were blocking secret entrances..." Jilly says.

"Well, this isn't China, but I suppose that boulder could be blocking a secret entrance."

"It must be," Jilly insists confidently, and then deflates, "But we don't have the magic axe."

"We aren't going to be able to move this boulder without one," Julian laughs, "I don't think the locals would appreciate us hauling a lot of heavy equipment up here and disturbing their national monuments."

After spending another hour searching for any other way into the tomb that won't require a magic axe, the couple gives up and starts walking to the Landgraab chateau. At the midpoint between the tomb and the Landgraab house, Jilly stops to excavate a pile of relics half-buried beneath the ground.

While she's busy digging, Julian decides to take some readings of the area. Though the fluctuations are not as strong as they are in the tomb itself, the time contamination does seem to have spread this far. Or maybe there's a line of energy bridging from the Landgraab house to the tomb, a cord of magic tying the Brannons to the Landgraabs, the past to the present, binding them all together in an eternal loop.

"Eeew, trash," Jilly mutters as she tosses the broken remains of an old nectar bottle aside.

Maybe he's being overly romantic about eternal bonds, Julian decides, and keeps his musings on the deeper connection between his line and hers to himself.

"I can't believing they put the disabling mechanism for the traps out in the open like this," Jilly says as she thrusts her arm into the very easily discovered hole and pulls on the trigger.

"As I said, this house was used mostly as a lure. The traps would only keep out tourists and other hapless visitors; any adventuring type could break in with ease."

"And that doesn't make them suspicious?" Jillyan asks doubtfully.

Once they are inside, Jillyan takes a deep breath and then gasps with laughter. "You Landgraabs do love beige, don't you?"

The beige ends once they get further into the house, and seeing the horrible mix of colors and patterns in the study upstairs, Jilly makes a laughing Julian swear that he'll never try to have a say in the decorating of their home.

"Color blindness runs in the family," Julian explains.

While Jill starts poking through old chests, looking for some long forgotten treasure, Julian takes some readings with his scanner. "There are definite fluctuations registering here," he notes, saving all his data for later more thorough investigation.

"Well, you were right," Jilly mutters, "This place is picked clean. Nothing here but some sad hunks of plain quartz."

While they were browsing in the market later that afternoon, they overheard a conversation about a nearby house that had just come up for sale. The sellers, a couple going through a bitter divorce, were keen to sell as quickly as possible, and Jill and Julian decided to take advantage of the sudden opportunity and made an offer.

"So did we get everything Fergus wanted?" Jill asks as they dine on the lasagna they brought home from the cantina next door to their new vacation home.

Julian nods, "I don't think there's any more useful data to find in that tomb, at least not without the magic axe to get us past that boulder. If there even is an entrance buried beneath it..."

"Oh, there is," Jilly assures him, "I can feel it. We should get the axe and come back here."

"Do you know where the axe is?

Jill shrugs, "Not exactly. Well, not even a clue, really. But we can ask the guys at the Brotherhood of the Fist, since I'm kind of a member. And I am kind of itching to get into a competition at the academy. I can't spar by myself. We still have a few days on our visa here, though," Jill continues, "What should we do tomorrow?"

"Whatever we want. It's a vacation."

"Camping was fun, but it's nice having a bed to sleep in," Jilly sighs as she snuggles into Julian's embrace.

"I hope you weren't planning on sleeping just yet," Julian answers, making her giggle.

After breakfast the next morning, the couple decide to do some windsurfing in the river.

But even while they are just trying to have some fun, an ancient ruins on a tiny island in the river beckons, and Jill and Julian point their boards towards its shore.

"What do you think it is? Or, was, anyway?" Jilly asks

"I don't know," Julian answers, pulling out his scanner, "But I'm getting the same kinds of fluctuations in the readings that I got at the tomb. The whole structure might a spill over from another universe."

"Oooh, look, I've never scene a butterfly like this one," Jilly enthuses as the sparkling, pink winged creature lights on her outstretched hand.

"He wants to come home with us," Jill says.

"Did it actually speak to you?" Julian asks, his eyes on his scanner.

"No, silly," Jilly laughs, "But I can feel it. He likes me."

The couple climb to what is left of the second story of the crumbling structure.

"There may be other sites like this scattered around the village," Julian says.

"We're leaving tomorrow," Jill says, "I think after we report to Fergus, we should go to Shang Simla to find that axe, and then come back here."


For those who haven't dabbled in the Science skill, Julian's scanner is part of a science skill interaction, 'Analyze'. It requires a rock/gem/metal, insect, fish or harvestable to analyze, which luckily there are a lot of in tombs and adventure locations.