Hello, another chapter this week!
I have so much nothing to add to that.
Start Chapter 43
Whatever this place is, Jaune decides over the course of the next few minutes, it's undeniably impressive.
The buildings, if they can even be called that, either hang from the ceiling of stone above or jut out from the ground far, far below them. They seem to be made of some kind of limestone, and Jaune makes sure to be extra careful to step only on obviously solid ground. This place is old, at least twenty-thousand years old, if what Ozpin had told them is right. He doesn't really want to put his faith in something that ancient.
Of course, Nora jumps and flails around entirely carelessly, bouncing from one intriguing carving to another. She "oohs" at a nearby waterfall, "aahs" at a particularly intricate looking piece of metal that is, at this point, more rust than anything else, and just in general puts herself into harm's way far more often than any of the members of their team would like.
"Nora," Ren eventually pipes up. "Please calm down. You have to be more careful."
"Oh, careful, schmareful!" Nora responds, sticking out her tongue as she walks backwards, and somehow, Jaune can already see how the next few seconds are going to go. "It's fine, see? I'm not going to get–"
Nora then proceeds to take a step off of the platform they're all traversing.
For a moment, Jaune's heart stops.
In the next, Raven has Nora by the collar, growling under her breath.
"Hey, pinkie!?" Raven snarls, hauling her back up and shoving her in Ren's general direction. "I happen to know you have a brain in that head of yours, have you considered using it?"
Nora laughs a tad bit awkwardly, and only grows more awkward as she turns and sees Ren, obviously having briefly panicked, looking down at her quite sternly.
"Yes, Nora," Ren lets out a horrid sigh. "You'd better be."
The next few minutes go by in general silence. During that time, Jaune takes the time to send a message of some sort to Cinder. It's not much – given he can't exactly message her so much as let her know that he's alive, and that he's feeling good, which she can maybe use to interpret that they've found something.
After that, he busies himself taking in the sights and sounds of their surroundings. The entire place more resembles some of the temples he'd seen during their time in Mistral than anything else. The style is completely foreign – which make sense, given the roughly twenty-millennia gap between the two – but he can see religious iconography in certain places. A reverent carving here, a long-faded inscription there.
This place is ancient, as he'd said, and yet, just as surely, it's managed to hold up after all these years.
Jaune has a feeling the fact that this place has something to do with the God of Light himself likely lends itself to that.
There's just something mystical about this place. Jaune's never been as adept as Cinder is about seeing magic, but even he can feel it in the air around them, and that's without the sight that Salem had taught them active. He does just that, trying to attune himself to the magics around him, and finds himself briefly impressed with the amount of energy.
He briefly stops moving, just marveling at the way this entire place somehow still glows. It is similar to what he'd once seen when he'd looked upon Salem herself, how she'd filled the entirety of Evernight with her magic without so much as trying. Yet it is different here. Salem's magic had been strong because she'd been present, and actively adding to it. Here, it's clear that there hasn't even been human activity in a good few thousand years.
And yet magic persists.
It is an echo. Perhaps it is similar to what Cinder had felt within the bowels of Evernight, that which Raven had conjured by utilizing her semblance.
He decides to put that out of his mind for now. Considering the general nature of this place won't do much to aid them. Right now, they need more empirical evidence.
"I'm going to go and scout ahead," Blake says after a while, drawing Gambol Shroud into her offhand. "Just to see if there's anything obvious, we should investigate."
They all nod at that, and Raven herself echoes the notion, transforming into a bird and flying off in the opposite direction. That leaves just Team JNPR themselves journeying through the ancient… well…
"So, what is this place, do you think?" Jaune asks. "It seems like a collection of temples to me."
"It could be some form of ancient city?" Pyrrha chimes in. "It's not as if our architectural styles can be applied to people from so long ago."
"That's fair, I guess."
"I feel a strange energy about this place." Ren speaks, pausing a moment, closing his eyes, and humming. "It is as if, despite being long dead, there is still some life within it."
"Yeah, actually, I'm detecting magical echoes all about. Just like you said, it should be totally quiet, but… it's just not."
"Weird." Nora says, taking a moment to concentrate on getting her own magical sight working. After a moment, she gasps, seemingly seeing what Jaune had seen. "Really weird."
"That about sums it up, yeah."
Despite how interesting all of this is, Jaune can't help but begin to grow the smallest bit bored as they pass through the tenth chamber filled with rusted spears, or completely illegible, long-faded tablets. There's nothing actually… well, useful here. It's fascinating in an academic way, but in a real way, it's also very… well, samey.
"So, this is all well and good," Nora chimes in as well, echoing Jaune's thoughts. "But if we don't find anything that actually paints us a picture of just what these people were doing with the God of Light, or whatever other dragon with silver eyes they were worshipping, then aren't we just back to square one?"
As much as Jaune doesn't want to admit it, Nora's not exactly wrong.
"We'll find something." He assures her, but maybe he's assuring himself. "We found this place, after all. That can't be a coincidence."
"Do you believe it to be destiny?" Pyrrha asks.
"I'm not sure if I'd go that far, but… maybe something like that." He admits, scratching the back of his head, before moving towards his chin, which he itches rather profusely. "Ugh… the second we're out of here, I'm shaving."
"I don't know." Nora hums, leaning towards him. "I think you could rock a beard."
"Hah, yeah, sure." Jaune rolls his eyes. "Maybe when I'm in my thirties, Nora."
"Perhaps that's closer than you think, Jaune." Ren teases.
They spend the next twenty minutes dicking around, accomplishing nothing. Blake and Raven both return with little to add to their search, and so they take a seat in a rather centralized room and give themselves a moment to ponder their next move.
"Okay, so…" Jaune opens. "Do we just have nothing, then?"
"I wouldn't necessarily say nothing," Blake counters, although she takes quite a while to formulate her next thoughts. "There's a central pillar that seems to go down to ground level, I would say that's a good bet for finding something down here."
"I saw the same, although I wasn't able to find an entrance." Raven adds. "It seemed to me that the entire passage – if it's even a passage at all – is somehow sealed."
Jaune hums. "Huh… I wonder if we could interact with it magically."
Raven's eyes widen somewhat. "Hell, I've certainly heard worse ideas in the last few days, including coming out here in the first place, so what the hell, let's give it a shot."
They follow Raven and Blake for a good ten or so minutes through winding halls and twisting passageways. By the time they emerge into another central room, Jaune is well and truly turned around, almost completely lost.
Still, what they find is promising. There's a large, circular pillar, just as Raven and Blake described, that takes up a good majority of the space. It leads downwards, and if Jaune backs out of the room, he can see that it goes far, far below, deep into the dark.
"That's a bit disconcerting." He comments absently, shivering. "Right, well… here goes nothing."
He steps up towards the pillar and activates his magical sight. It takes him a moment, but when he does, he sees quite the large swath of it in one particular location.
All of it is centered around a single brick.
Jaune has seen enough movies to know how this goes.
He steps towards it, silently hopes this is going to do what he thinks it's going to do, and not, y'know, unleash a horrid monstrosity to kill them all, and then pushes that brick inwards.
It slides backwards, and he hears something behind the wall click.
A piece of what had once seemed to be a solid wall along the pillar slides back, and begins a long and arduous process of sliding out of the way, revealing a cramped, but very much real passage downwards through the pillar.
The smell hits him rather immediately. It smells of mildew and mold; it smells a bit like his great grandfather when he'd been on his last legs, his body breaking down with him still in it.
It smells of death, and decay.
He gets the feeling that, while the rest of this cave still has some access to the outside air given the gap in the cave wall they'd taken to get in here, whatever's below them hasn't been exposed to the elements in a good few thousand years, at least.
"…Alright, someone else is going in there before me this time." Jaune states.
"I suppose that's only fair." Blake says, sighing. "Fine, I'll take point."
"I'll take the rear, then." Raven speaks. "The rest of you, file in in whatever order you want. Not like I care."
Jaune rolls his eyes, but follows along regardless. Blake moves in first, then Jaune, then Nora, Ren, Pyrrha, and Raven. Their group is slow going, mostly because the stairwell leading down is old, dark, and probably hadn't been built to last twenty-thousand years when it had been created.
Plus, it doesn't have hand rails.
Jaune knows that several workplace safety regulators would have a field day with this place.
It feels like an eternity of travel before Blake eventually calls out, "I see an exit!" to them all, but when it happens, Jaune lets out a sigh of relief.
They empty out into the next room with trepidation haunting their steps. Jaune feels this is fair. They have no idea what they're going to find down here – if they're going to find anything at all.
Jaune has seen enough horror movies, however, to know that unsealing a long-since sealed chamber in an ancient temple often doesn't end well.
So, when Blake accidentally kicks a rock, Jaune will admit that he briefly feels the fear of God fill his chest, before he lets out a horrible, aching breath.
"You alright?" Blake asks, eyeing him.
"Fine. Toootally fine." He lies for the second time that day.
They push their way through this room and enter into another, then another after that. It seems like whatever had once been here had been more important, or perhaps a higher security area, but that doesn't mean all of what's down here has survived. Being unexposed to the elements, however, has kept certain tablets and papers legible.
The problem, however, is that they're legible… and written in a language that none of them actually know.
"I speak the smallest bit of modern Vacuoan," Blake tells them as she gingerly handles a single papyrus scroll. "But in the sense that I knew two guys in the Fang that were Vacuoan, and picked up some of it. I'm far from fluent. Old Vacuoan, which I suspect these are, I know a lot less of. I'm talking a smattering of words, and even then, I'm not entirely confident on it."
"We could portal a few scrolls out? Try and get them translated?" Jaune asks, shrugging.
"I doubt these would survive any serious journey," Blake says, and, as if on cue, the scroll she's holding quite literally falls apart, splitting down a seam. "They're tens of thousands of years old. The only thing holding these ones together is the fact that they weren't exposed to the outside air. Even the warmth of my hands is enough to begin unravelling them. The heat and the wind of the desert would destroy them."
As much as Jaune doesn't want to admit that Blake's right, Blake's right.
"I guess we look for something more permanent, then." Jaune says. "If we can find a tablet like the ones that we kept seeing upstairs, but one that's actually legible, we might be able to bring it someone who could translate."
Raven hums. "It's not the worst idea. Keep a lookout."
They all nod, and set to work.
Clearly, whoever – or whatever – thing that had once spent its time in this place had done quite a bit of writing. Scrolls litter the ground; most rolled up and stashed away. Some are in better shape than others, but whenever Jaune goes to investigate them, they crumple, just as the one that Blake had possessed had done.
Still, it's as he's pouring over one particular shelf that he accidentally stumbles upon another room. He hums to himself as he steps inside, holding up his scroll so as to provide light for himself. He doesn't immediately see anything of note, but then, suddenly, he feels his head pulse.
Immediately, he turns in the opposite direction, towards the other end of the room, and sees, atop a plinth holding it up, a tablet.
It's been completely desecrated, cracked in multiple places. Only a small piece of it remains, and what's on it shows a person kneeling on an altar, a similar picture to what had been on the first tablet they'd come across, far above, at the very entrance to the cave.
This one, however, is different. The man kneeling has a blade in his hands, and seems to be preparing for a battle. As much as Jaune would like to extrapolate more from the picture, however, he can't.
The rest of the tablet is gone.
In front of it, however, atop a stone dais, is another tablet. This one has only words upon it, although Jaune doesn't exactly speak – let alone read – ancient Vacuoan. He's content to take the tablet, and bring it with them when they exit out of the cave, but then…
Another pulse. He reaches up and grabs at his head, groaning in pain. It's growing stronger, stronger, until it reaches a fever pitch, and suddenly, when Jaune opens his eyes…
He can read the writing on the tablet.
It stuns him, momentarily, even as he hears one of the others calling out to him, asking him if he's alright. He calls back that he is, and begins to make his way back to the others, reading and rereading the message. When he finally reaches the others, he does so with a confused, if not completely distracted expression, one which they all call him on immediately.
"Jaune?" Pyrrha steps forward. "What's wrong? You look out of it. And… what's that you're holding."
"It's a tablet, one I found in a room back there, in front of a big mural, I… I can read it."
"What!?" Raven steps towards him. "What do you mean you can read it!?"
"I just… something magical is granting me the ability. I don't know how or why."
"Great, another mystery." Raven sighs. "Fine. We'll deal with that later. For now, what does it say?"
Jaune nods his head, and then, clearing his throat, orates the message that had been left behind.
"The image upon the altar before me contains the origin and mission of my people. I cannot allow it to fall into the hands of our sworn enemy. With it, they might gain power beyond reckoning. The powers of both Light and Dark. I shall destroy it, for I know that if I do not, there is a chance our quarry could catch on to our intentions. He of Grandest Light has made it clear this cannot happen. My brother, Enkidu, has already paid the price for this power he has given us. His mission has been passed to us, and it is one which we must fulfill. We shall abandon this place, and seek another haven. I pray that we succeed."
"In his name,"
Jaune expects the next few minutes to be those of quiet contemplation. He expects for them to all sit around and think about what that might mean.
Instead, he is met with a gasp from Blake of all people.
They all look towards her at that. Her face is white as a sheet, and Jaune thinks at first that something's wrong.
"No, nothing's wrong," Blake calms them all. "It's… it was something on the tablet, specifically the name, it's… it's ancient Vacuoan, just like I thought. Siduri, I don't know, that's probably just a surname, but Girin… that's… that can't…"
Blake isn't exactly panicking, but it's pretty damn close in Jaune's opinion. She seems well and truly flummoxed, as if she can't at all believe what they've found.
Jaune has to know why.
"What, does Girin mean something?"
"It does." Blake says, laughing and shaking her head, sounding completely flabbergasted. "Her name was Siduri Girin. Girin is a word I've heard a few times. If you were to ask someone to translate that into modern Vacuoan…"
"…They would probably say her name was Siduri Rose."
End Chapter 43
Not much to report this week, other than that I'm about 5k words deep into my next fic, a Pokemon story starring gen 5's Bianca! I hope anyone who's interested in Pokemon fics will check that out. I've had this idea on the backburner for a long ass time - 2+ years - so it's had quite a long time to ferment. It will release at... well, at some point. Proooobably next week. But I have Calculus coming up as my next class, and that might kick my ass, so we'll see.
Anyways, see you all next week!