77. Limited Gravitas

Morning Bell, Celebdu, 17th of Gurthweni

There’s a sigh from the dwarves and they begin marching back to the main corridor “Don’t think they went down there Cynan. If they had, they’d have left a mark for us to follow.” He turns to Talo and shakes his head “Our job’s to find the king, not hunt down unknown evils. Good luck priest.” The dwarves don’t seem concerned if the party aren’t following them and when they get back to the main corridor they turn right without a look back.
The party are left standing around looking at one another in the semi-darkness.

At the dwarf’s rebuff Talo scoffs. Seeing them begin the march back toward the path toward the king, Talo ushers the party after them. “They do seem to have a point, fellows. Come along, let’s get us the king back. Gildor, any other observations or tracking help you can offer?”

Gildor back tracks with the dwarves and gathers the party with him whispering, “We need to stick together, come on.” Once he gets to the dwarves he gets their attention and whispers, “I understand your need to find the king. We want to find him too. We need to stay together in this strange place or we will all die. If you feel we are not going the correct way just let us know so we can discuss it in case there are other concerns. You could walk into a trap or vanish completely in this place and not have a way back. This is going to take some time to find your king.”
Gildor makes sure to mark their route they’ve taken so far as well and checks for traps along the way.

“We are here for the King. Anything else is another day and permission by fish people. We should follow them or get in a direction that they will follow.” Kradorn replies
“Wait” he barks at the dwarves.

Kalam waited for Cynan to respond to the dwarves’ decision and make one of his own for their party.

The party catch the dwarves quite quickly as they’ve stopped in the middle of the brightly lit T-junction. What the party first took for a window appears to be a sheet of white metal glowing with a bright, blue-white light. Ahead of them, against the northern wall, is a metre wide, slightly translucent face, although it is soon obvious that a plain, white mask would be a better description of what they see.
It eyes scan the those gathered before it, the lips part slightly and a deep but androgynous voice (that matches the indeterminate sex of the face) speaking in no language the party are familiar with, asks a question.
Munin turns to Gildor “Do you recognise that tongue?” When the elf shakes his head the dwarf turns back to the mask.
The face asks another question and then in front of it there appears a small black shiny rectangle, maybe 7 by 5 centimetres but only a few millimetres thick and perhaps made of black glass.

Kradorn looking behind him, notices an open archway just SW of where they’re standing. Through it he can see bookcase on the west wall. The bookcase is empty, the room looks clean and the floor polished.

Gildor cast comprehend Lang and tries to activate the voice again by backing up and approaching again. Translates anything said for the others. Looks for signs the king has gone this way also.

The face looks directly at Gildor “Hello, how can I help you?”

“Please show me a map or layout of the structure we are in”, asks Gildor. He tries the languages he knows if it does not recognize common and ask the others to try theirs as well if needed.~
He translates everything for the the group as well and asks their questions also.

“I’m sorry, I don’t understand what you are saying. Your language doesn’t appear to be one I am familiar with. Is there anyone amongst your group who speaks any United Systems language? From your facial expressions you seem to be able to understand me but I cannot understand you, which is strange. If you can understand me please nod your head.”

“I can understand this mask but I can’t talk to it in any languages I know. It is asking for a certain type of language, United Systems language. I am trying to convey our desire to find the king that looks like Talo and/or find some place that can help us converse better. Keep a watch for anything sneaking up on us too”, Gildor says.
Gildor nods his head at the mask unsure of how to proceed. He thinks for a bit and doesn’t know the Language the mask speaks of.

“Ah, so you do understand, that’s a start at least. Please nod or shake your head in reply to my questions and I’ll try to help you as best I can. I don’t sense any pass cards on you or your companions, are you visitors? (it waits for a reply).
“I must warn you that this vessel is under a class 2 quarantine and has been for some considerable time. I do not however still detect the presence of the agent responsible for the death of all the crew and passengers. I can provide accommodation and food should you require it and I have a wide variety of sight and sound resources and sporting facilities to keep you entertained and healthy while we wait for rescue. Unfortunately we are some distance off course and the nearest deep sky beacon I detected was 82,000 light years away. Given that, the soonest we can expect rescue is 260 years, I suggest you leave by whatever means you arrived.
Although most of the vessels mechanisms are working many are not, due to fatigue or damage and as such I cannot guarantee your safety should you move out of the specified safe areas.”
The voice seems intent on droning on, so Gildor interrupts it.
He points at Talo and using hand motions and gestures he signals to the mask. He points to the mask then his eyes then points at Talo and makes a crown with his hands over his head and makes walking motion towards the mask hoping the mask can understand he’s asking if the mask has seen a king looking individual similar to Talo.

“I think I understand.” says the mask. “I do see the short, hairy person you indicate. Is there something wrong with him? I can see no injuries, but I do notice you and all your companions are carrying ceremonial weapons and that the short, hairy person you indicated to also has a personal fire weapon. While the ceremonial weapons are permissible I’m afraid the fire weapon must be returned. I will dispatch a security golem to collect it shortly.”

Gildor holds out a paper and draws on it like a map of the corridors and marks an X for where they are now and wonders if the Mask is able to give directions to some place they can cross the language barrier or find the king. Using the best gestures he knows and hopefully getting assistance from the others.

“That’s right. You are on level one just outside the central medical facility. Is there somewhere specific you are looking for?”

Just at that moment a very slim, tall and armoured figure, comes striding around the corner to the west.

“Talo, this thing has identified you as having a fire weapon. I can only assume that it means your heavy crossbow. I also think that all other melee weapons are considered ceremonial for some reason. I don’t know why it hasn’t said anything about the rest of us and our longbows and shortbows. I would suggest that you try to convince it that it is a ceremonial weapon for you, just as your axe. perhaps stand in front of it with both in your hands and trying to express that crossbow and axe are the same, that is ceremonial. I have no idea what this thing coming towards us can do, but this place is beyond my comprehension and that may be the case for the golem creature and its powers. I would suggest you surrender it if you don’t manage to convince the mask, cause otherwise we might have a fight against something we cannot deal with.”

“Cynan, this is my idea, but whatever you decide, surrender the fire weapon or resist and fight, I am with you.”

Talo blinks A few times with a look of confusion on his face. The dwarf looks back and forth from the golem to his fire weapon. With a look of shear disgust he says, “Well, if this was stolen I don’t mind returning it… Much. I wouldn’t mind playing security for this place as a reason to keep my blaster.” He stares at his favourite new thing with a forlorn gaze and holds it out for the golem to take.

The steel, glass and bone figure marches up to Talo and takes the blaster from his hand. It says ‘thank you’ in a deep and ominous voice then turns and walks back the way it came.

Munin shakes his head at all this and asks Gildor “Ask it where Thraim is!”

Gildor tells Munin, “It doesn’t understand any of the languages I know. Please each of you try talking to it in case one of your languages can be understood. I can translate what it says back to you.”

Gordon gladly obliges and runs through a greeting to the disembodied head/face/mask in all the various languages he knows, including ancient tongues as best he can, “Greetings my name is Gordon, may I ask what name you go by?”

“I’m sorry, I don’t understand what you are saying. Your language doesn’t appear to be one I am familiar with.” Repeats the mask.

Kradorn looks to the mask and as the others do. “….Hi… I am Kradorn. Where is the dwarven king?”

“I’m sorry, I don’t understand what you are saying. Your language doesn’t appear to be one I am familiar with.” Repeats the mask again.

“A couple could follow the being and see where the weapons are stored” Kradorn suggests.
Kradorn nods to Cynan, moving towards the SW peering into the room. Looking to see if its truly empty or if it has something of note. Hand resting on sword, shield at the ready.

The room is empty and looks like a storeroom. There’s nothing on the shelves and no other exits. The place is clean and dust free.

“Perhaps if we were to talk for a few hours I could become fluent in your language?” suggests the mask.

Munin gives a growl and stomps off to the east, closely followed by his three companions.

“I wouldn’t go wandering around the vessel, I can only monitor the central section of this level and parts of level six and I’m afraid I don’t have any spare security golems to escort you beyond these areas. I strongly recommend you return the way you came. It really isn’t safe here.”

Gordon is a little unsure how they should proceed with the talking mask, it seems to know a lot about the place they find themselves and, from what Gildor relays, it is warning them of some sort of danger in the place. The gnome thinks for a moment and talks to the mask all the while he is thinking, just general rambling and chit chat about who he is, where they have come from and what they are looking for. Then he decides that perhaps a mime of some sort might work to overcome the lack of a common language.

He begins by casting Comprehend language himself, aware Gildor’s might expire during his attempts to communicate. He first gets the masks attention then he mimes searching, looking beneath things, around corners, putting his open hand up to his brow and gazing from side to side.

“Okay, so you’re all looking for something, is that right?” asks the mask.

Gordon nods, gives a thumbs up and smiles which are the only ways he can think of confirming/answering the question.

“Munin how many came through the portal with Thraim?” Gordon calls to the dwarven warrior.

Munin shrugs “There was Thraim and four body guards as far as I know.” answers the dwarf.

When he has an answer Gordon holds up that many fingers for the mask to see so that it, hopefully has an idea of the number of things it is looking for. Then he casts Change Self to try and mimic Thraim himself, and he wanders around trying to look overly lost.

“Oh, that’s clever, how did you do that? Ah, are you perhaps looking for this short, hairy person?”

Once again the gnome nods, smiles and gives a thumbs up.

“On another point, the language you used to perform your transformation and to now I review them again the words you used to translate my words in your mind, are similar to the ‘thought runes’ used by our engineering minds to translate our vessel through space.”

Then the mask speaks again in a language both Gordon and Gildor understand, though it is easier for Gildor, due to his knowledge of spellcraft. It is the language of magic, much more subtle and expressive than any other language and tied into the very essence of the world itself.

“Understand?”

Gordon and Gildor do indeed understand and though the other members of the party don’t understand the word itself they do understand its meaning clearly enough.

Gordon responds, “We do,” with a large grin on his face. “I am named Gordon, what do we name you,” asks the gnome?

“I am part of the United Systems exploration and contact vessel Limited Gravitas. Please just call me ‘LG'” says the mask.

“We seek the one who’s image I transformed in to, he is named Thraim and is leader of these dwarven folk,” he gestures at Muni and his comrades.

“Ah, that person has been here with four of her companions, unfortunately they were unwilling to converse and they wandered away again, towards the east.”

“He foolishly came to this place through a portal we little understand, by the way what is this place, you call it a vessel but it is unlike any vessel I have seen before?” There are a thousand questions going through the gnomes head and he is struggling to decide what to ask, but decides to focus on Thraim and returning home.

“What you see is only the crew quarters and recreation section of the Limited Gravitas. It was a vessel for travel and exploration between stars and their planets, such as the one around which we are circling now. The Limited Gravitas was dispersed across a number of star systems in an attempt to limit the spread of a fatal agent that was being transmitted by an unknown means and killing the passengers and crew. We believe it was brought aboard with a specimen from one of the worlds we visited. The specimen subsequently escaped and disappeared.”

Gildor says to Munin,”Please remain with the group. There are many danger here we do not know of but this sentry does. We need time to communicate with the mask so it can understand our language. Then we can ask it where the king went. It can see parts of this place and might have see or may see now where the king is or has been.”

Munin stops at the bend in the corridor, just to see how Gordon gets on.

“Gordon, speak in common so everyone will understand the mask once it learns that language.”

“We should start tracking our time here. We will need to rest from time to time. Gildor will make small notches in a piece of wax to denote how long (Bells) they have been here since the last time they slept.”

“It’s nearly mid-morning Bell.” rumbles Munin.

“Excellent we can talk to it” Kradorn surmises from how the two are chatting now.
“Ask it how we can get into the rooms.”

Kradorn looks to watch which way the golem went. Following it for 30-40yds and checking doors. Keeping the party in line of sight, if possible.

Kradorn heads west and pokes his head into the small room at the end of the east-west corridor. The room looks empty and clean, nothing much for Kradorn to investigate.

Looking north he can see a 6m wide corridor with a junction halfway down and a golem stood against the east wall opposite. The golem’s head swivels to look at Kradorn and watches him silently.

Gildor says, “Well, we can’t communicate very effectively just yet Kradorn but I think we can get something going by mid morning bell we should be doing better.” Gildor looks at the mask and says (Common) in between Gordon’s chat with it.” ABCDEFGHIJKLMNOPQRSTUVWXYZ, 123456789,10 as he points to his fingers on his right hand one at a time through the sequence of numbers. He points to his hand and says Hand, same for his foot. He points to each member of the party and identifies them by race.” Between Gordon’s communication and Gildor’s hopefully it progresses even faster.

When Gordon is chatting Gildor says, “Can the rest of you act as sentries for the group but don’t wander off too far?” Gildor also tests using magic language if understood by the mask to communicate or improve the rate of understanding.