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----------------- This was going to be a drag. Or would, if no one actually showed up. Fabled Archives, scion of the House E'athr and one of the most prominent citizens of Maretonia, couldn't help but chuckle slightly as he thought about the ruins deep within the jungle, wondering what his parents might say if he keeled over and died from some trap or another while making his way through them. They'd probably shake their heads and talk about "that boy" of theirs, off on his wild chases and stuck in the past, rather than looking towards the present. The thought made him depressingly nostalgic. Still, despite his smarts, Arc couldn't just...leave. Even if no one answered his messages and showed up to help him through the ruins, he would just go by himself. The Legacy of Yemaja...finding the birthplace of her nation? Legend though it was, it was Abadan. And all legends were based on some truth. This legend of a legend could reveal new secrets to the Abada themselves, their civilization, their origin - their demise. It was simply too good an opportunity to pass up. "Though I can't say a spike through the skull is as exciting a prospect," Arc sighed to himself, tipping his chair back even more as he looked out towards the jungle from the hollowed out tree. It was one of the lesser meeting trees in Mti Nguvu, lower than the main council tree and easily accessible by the pulley system along its branches. The scrolls in front of him rustled in the soft breeze as the Unicorn gazed outward, waiting for even a hint of a newcomer. ----------------- Being the mediator of a nomadic tribe, she knew she could not call herself adverntrous, at least in the truest sense of the word. And unlike many other ponies in her tribe she never really explored outside of it, in fact she never really wanted to. She had found her place among her tribe. Then something strange happened... A message was received by her tribe about an expedition to find the Legacy of Nebaja. This piqued even Kutula's interest, every colt and filly has heard the story of the lost birthplace of the nation. She debated heavily on whether or not to go. And then some of the other tribes members, seeing her uncertainty told her she should go. As one who has not been away or seen the world on her own, she owed it to herself to have at least one adventure, as no one should feel tied down. It would almost like be a quest to discover herself. Most adults in the tribe had done so at least once in their life. Being thuroghly convinced, she agreed that it was time and decided to go. She asked her tribe the best way to go, and what to look for and feel from their position. The path was easy and so she set off. The trip was long but not difficult, and it took two days of travel, but she made it in Mti Nguvu. She quickly found the hollow tree that was to be the meeting place. There was but a single equine inside. "Greetings to you. Might you be Arc who called out to those for a search for Abadan, the supposed place of the birth of the nation? I am Kutula, a zebra of a northern nomadic tribe, and I would like to assist you on your quest." ----------------- Stormstride had been nearby. A depo between villages, only a day by flight. She was resupplying for her own journey into the jungles when the message came through. She began checking her notes. Yes. The name of the city had come up more than once in her research. IT was definitely worth her time to investigate. She had her own reasons, but this would at least prove a chance for the mare to get there with a safer means than just wandering aimlessly through jungle with nothing more than a map she had made off of visual reference notes from past explorers. And so as she sued her wing spell to take flight, she could not help but be enthused by this. By the time she arrived at the destination, which was thankfully well known to many zebra she asked, she was a bit tired. Landing softly she quickly operated the pulley system with her magic to pull herself up. Once she was there, she saw two ponies. Smiling she set her pack on the floor with a heavy thud. Her clothing was more robe than anything. But it was light and airy. "Hello. I was looking for a pony that sent out a message about Nebaja. I have an interest in this myself and was hoping I was not too late." She dismissed her wing spell, and came to a seat. She smiled sweetly, pulling her hood back some. Her robes were made for cold weather. The kind one would see far in the north. Fet Loch was the insignia her robe bore, But as she sat, the robes parted and revealed armor. She was prepared for something dangerous. ----------------- Being a pegasus had it's perks. Distances shrunk when jungles, winding roads, and mountains got out of the way. Though, flying over the jungle while carrying all his equipment was a task in and of itself. Especially to a part of the jungle the pegasus had never been before. Thankfully the locals knew where the meeting location was. A city hidden in the jungle, not even on the ground, in the trees. No pyramids though. Navigating through the city was a challenge too. His mind wasn;t so used to not being able to see where paths led, and every tree looked similar to the last. After enough wandering, though, the meeting place was found. Dunder dismounted the basket to further examine the 3 figures iside the room. 2 ponies, 1 zebra. Only other armored. All were probably armed. "Hello. Is this the meeting place for the expedition for Nebaja?" He said. The pony himself was armored, chest plate, shoulder pauldrons. Rapier at his side. ----------------- Well, that was about three more bodies than he had been hoping for, so he was counting it as a win. Arc couldn't help the pleased smile that lit up his face a Zebra first entered, seeming perfectly at home in the tree city. Lucky him - he'd been contemplating hiring some sort of guide to get through the jungle, but a Zebra would undoubtedly be all the assistance he needed on that front. The Unicorn didn't have time to the do much but nod in return, however, as she was closely followed by another Unicorn, then a Pegasus fellow, both of which looked like the adventuring sort that was used to traipsing through dangerous ruins and jungles. Doubly lucky! Though something the last two said struck him as odd, causing him to shake his head in some self-deprecation. "My messages must have gotten a little lost in translation," Arc said nonchalantly, a wry grin on his face, "but yes, this is undoubtedly the meeting place. Thank you all for coming - please, take a seat." This was said with a wave at the chairs situated around his table, before the tan stallion leant backwards in his own chair, critically appraising the other three. "So, introductions are in order," he began, careless grin tilting up one side of his mouth. "I am Fabled Archives of House E'athr, for whatever that's worth in these lands. Please, call me Arc. Now tell me - what are your names, and what have you heard about the Legacy of Yemaja?" ----------------- Kutula nodded at the go ahead to take a seat. She tapped the floor with her hoof revealing the locations of the seats and proceeded towards one. The call for introductions... Kutula looked forward, not directing her muzzle at any pony in particular. "I am known as Kutula, of the northern nomadic tribe." Kutula paused "As for the Legend of Yemaja, every colt and filly in an Unyasi tribe knows of the legend. If that is the goal than it is an elusive goal at that, but might lead to other things worth our while." ----------------- Storm nodded softly, taking that in and then taking out her notebook. making notes as she listened. her magic held the quill. Then he spoke. "I am Stromstride the Lesser, Cloud family. Decended from the ancient weather mages of Maretonia. I hail from Fet Loch. I know very little of the legend itself, or the culture surrounding it. My interest is more close to home. There are rumors of shamen that controlled weather using the power of an artifact I found in my research. That artifact is something I am interested in. I have bee gathering the artifacts of my ancestors. I have been lucky enough to recover two so far. I came, thinking that there might be another here in the jungles." She took a moment to catch her breath. "I am well versed in magic, and combat. If you would have me, I would offer my sword in exchange for this artifact. I mean no disrespect to your ancient kin, my good zebra. But that artifact belongs with my family. And I intend to have it back and protected from those that may misuse it, or destroy it to prevent it from even being misused. As valuable as it is for history and culture, I can not allow it to be misused by those that do not understand what such an artifact is capable of. That said, if the rumors prove false, all finds are not my concern. You can do with them as you please and I will have no worry in that matter." ----------------- Dunder listened and examined from the portal.The unicorn stallion, Arc, was certainly the ringleader of the operation, calling the shots as he asked for introductions and knowledge on the Legend of Yemaja. The zebra acted bizzare, tapping the floor with her hoof, navigating to a seat after doing so. A nervous twitch? Or something more? She introduced herself as a zebra from the north. She was leading herself on to be nothing special, which made Dunder all the more suspicious. The unicorn mare, Storm, was the most outwardly suspicious. Demanding already dibs on an artifact that may or may not be in a place that is already in itself a legend. "You claim that you need this artifact to keep us safe, how will we know you won't use it for bad yourself?" Dunder butted in. "Anyway, I am Dunder Blust. Professional sword. and I have read of the legend, and heard it in passing. Always seemed more of a tall tale than anything real. Certain details changing each time I heard it..." ----------------- Well this was certainly an...interesting mix. Still, Arc couldn't very well complain now could he. What was that saying? Dock workers can't be choosers? He certainly wasn't a dock worker, but he from his position facing the carved out entrance of the tree, there certainly weren't any more adventurers clambering to join in on a deadly deadly expedition. The other Unicorn was the most surprising however, causing one of Arc's eyebrows to raise mildly even as he nodded in acknowledgement of Kutula's knowledge of the legend. No surprises there - Abadan though it may be, the Legacy of Yemaja was as highly recognized amongst the Zebra themselves, though whether or not the majority actually believed it was something Arc couldn't hazard to guess. "You'll all be paid for your services, of course," the tan Unicorn spoke up again, still leaning backwards against his chair, "but any artifacts we happen to come across will be staying with me - at least until I can discern their relativity to my current areas of interest," he added, with a half-apologetic smile towards Stormstride. They were going to be on his time after all, not their own. "But!" he continued abruptly, slamming the legs of his chair back onto the tree trunk, "no use counting our chickens before they hatch, eh? Plenty of time to do that after we catch the chickens...or the eggs. Whichever comes first." Arc rummaged around his prepared travel pack, before pulling out four sheets of paper. "For now, assuming you're all still interested...familiarize yourselves with this." One paper was given over towards each individual, the last placed in front of himself, as Arc looked over each of his companions' faces. "What you're holding is a copy of the complete Legacy of Yemaja," he explained, indicating the paper each pony now held, "transcribed by the best linguists and historians to date. Tell me," Arc said, turning his pale blue gaze onto the Zebra, "what do each of you make of it?" ----------------- With a smile the zebra listened intently to the introductions. The first was Stormstride the Lesser, from Maretonia... She had heard of this place from travelers whom have passed through her village before. She didn't know much about it, but she did know this. No one could lay claim to any artifact. They were artifacts because they were ancient. The lineages were wrought with complexity, and the danger or safety of these were not up to just anyone, nor did that matter much. The pony sounded confident though, very sure of themselves and their abilities, however many have seemed this way and have fallen short. "No disrespect was had, just misunderstanding. No one can truely lay claims to anything so old. The lineages of family are like a spiders web, Starting at a point and branching endlessly. I can say this for certain, the owner might be of your lineage, but it is certainly might also be that of another. The power of that artifact is a troublesome one, but its place is in its ancesteral home of Unyasi, if it truly does exist" The zebra responded to the direct words of the 'researcher'. The next was a selfproclaimed "professional sword" named Dunder, who seemed to have similar concerns as herself regarding the artifact. Hmph payment. Kutula was not so sure what payment would do for a nomad like herself, living off the land. Sure if she decided to leave Unyasi one day to travel outside it would be useful, but really she was not here for material possessions, but to see if the legend was true for herself and to perhaps find herself through the hardships of being out on her own for the first time. She nodded at his declaration and subsequent. "I am not so sure removing such an artifact would be wise Mr Arc, however, we can discuss that if we find the legends to be true. Such matters are not to be settled lightly, and surely a mutually beneficial solution can be found for all." And then he produced four sheets of paper, and asked what they all thought... Had he not noticed? Kutula knew she hid it well with her movements and her ability to see without seeing, but still, most ponies when they saw her eyes knew almost immediately... Still she smirked, she was not without a sense of humor. He explained that it was a transcription of the legend itself. "It sounds like a sheet of paper. And it feels like it is a very nice piece of parchment at that. However, what is contained upon it, I cannot say." Kutula was not going to spell it out, but was rather interested in what everyone's reaction would be after they realized. And she had said what she did after feeling the paper and returning Arc's gaze back towards him. ----------------- Stormstride lifted her helm off. Setting it down gently as she looked at the pony. "I doubt she would need the papers." she said softly. "The blind often see more than we with sight ever shall. My own daughter is deaf, and she hears far more than I." Looking over the papers she flipped open her notebook. Adding information as she went. Her pen moved without her looking at it. Though her eyes roved the pages. After a moment she set them down. "All in all, this is not some fairy tale. Many times I have come across similar legends about places my own ancestors once inhabited. Though I doubted them, I found them truthful." As she set her notbook aside she looked at Arc. "Keep your coin. I have no use for it. My interests are purely academic, and if the artifact I seek is there, protecting ponies from what it can do. Too many times I have seen power corrupt. I think not that any pony should possess it. My intent was to disenchant it. Let it remain just as it is. An artifact.... assuming it even exists." Her tone hinted at something. Something she knew and wasn't sharing just yet. SHe shed her cloak. The armor was that of Fet Loch design. It was made for cold climate. But this armor was adorned. Like it was for ceremony, not combat. Gems dotted some spots. Others had intricate carvings. As she sat again, she spoke. "I believe... There may be something in this. We should proceed with caution. Slow and steady as we go. Trusting not our notes, but our instincts. These types of ruins were often protected, even after they were no longer inhabited. Could be common animals. Could be ghosts. I would rather all four of us make it there and return intact rather than in wooden boxes to be placed on funeral pyres." Storm opened her notes. Looking them over, she made notations and footnotes. Her writing was quick as she spoke. "As well, we are likely to face environmental hazards. Water supply I can handle easily enough. Though we will need help knowing if foods we find are safe to eat. I an not familiar with jungle vegetation. My own travels have taken me from my home in Fet Loch to Maretania and back. Across mountains, through caves and into deep forests. But never desert nor jungle." ----------------- Dunder leaned on the wall by the entrance, listening to them all talk. He was amzed at how much ponies and a zebra could get excited about something that might not even be there. Then again, he could understand getting excited about ending a search. But he knew none of these characters, they all were equally untrustworthy. But Storm's confidence in aquiring this artifact demanded attention. And it would not be in vain if this artifact was as powerful as she claimed. When Arc summed the four parchments from his bag, Dunder got up from the wall and slowly cantered over and snatched one up in his wing. While he trotted over, he examined Storm's armor and instantly recognized it as Fet Loch. But it also appeared to be ceremonial, encrusted with jewels. Maybe this pony didn't know hat they were doing. Or maybe it was specialized mage armor. When he heard the zebra mare's comment, the pegasus chuckled. "Can't read Equestrian? I understand, it's pretty confusing, actually. I could read it aloud to you, if you like." ----------------- Arc was out of the loop. Arc hated being out of the loop. After all, being in the loop, especially concerning old legends, mythologies, and ancient history, was sort of his thing. And even more especially, his current thing was pertained to the Legacy of Yemaja. What in Equestria sort of artifact were they all going on about, that Stormstride seemed so certain she would be able to find on this venture? It was going to get very old very fast, if she needed to be constantly reminded that they were being hired for his operation, not her own. "So long as everyone remembers why we're here," the tan Unicorn said mildly, with another nod towards the Zebra's admittedly wise caution against removing artifacts from deadly ruins. "I'm after the supposed birthplace of Unyasan kind - we won't be taking any detours." Kutula spoke up again however, momentarily diverting Arc's attention as his ears swiveled in surprise. The Zebra was blind? Buck, he'd completely missed that. The grey Pegasus Dunder Blust apparently had as well, or at least confused it for something else. "Please, allow me," Arc spoke up with a toothy smile that the Zebra could not see, and levitated his own parchment upward to begin reading. When he was done, Arc set it back down to look back over the other three ponies once more. "So, now that everyone's heard it, one more time - what do you all make of the legend? The legend mind, not our future venture," he clarified, with a pointed look towards Stormstride. She'd given some sound advice on how to proceed, but not on the actual words on the paper. "It's a tall tell, true, but the Abada from this particular region of the Brakenweald were notorious for encoding their legends with cryptic advice, hints, and otherwise nuggets of truth." ----------------- 'Read Equestrian?' That was a silly inquiry. If it was not yet clear that Kutula was not of the 'seeing' sort, then this would be a very interesting trip indeed. This did not bother her and before she could reply to the offer the leader of the expedition took the initiative and read it aloud. "The legend is just that... legend. In fact in our tribe it is a story we tell foals." The zebra paused trying to recall all the details, truth be told each adult of the tribe seemed to have their own variation, but it was more or less the same. "Your legend seems to be a combination of the tellings. I cannot say if it is true or not, but it is in the experience of the zebra tribes that all stories have some grain of truth to them." The idea of traps and other dangers were brought up. "While the Abada have been said to set up traps, it is something that we can help to avoid, or even set off before we are in danger. Ghosts and the supernatural are things to be weary of, especially for those whom wish to disturb their slumber. If the intent of this endeavor is pure, than I am sure we will be granted safe passage." ----------------- Stormstride kept quiet for a bit. Her eyes were moving across the group. Sizing each up. Though she finally spoke. "I hope you are right my dear zebra. I hope so." She ran a hoov across her chest plate. Tapping it softly. The look on her face changed. She was remembering something unpleasant. After a moment she looked at her notes again. moving her hoof over the page she kept silent. "Aside from what you said, I have to agree with her. The legend is just that, but there is a bit of truth to every story told." She sighed as she closed the notebook. Tucking it away again she sat still. Brushing some of her mane from her face, she revealed a large scar running the length of her cheek. It ran almost to her eye. "That said...." her eyes locked on Arc's. That stare. That was a battle stare. "You are the brains. I will let you have my notes as you need them. But I am not here for coin....if it were about coin I could have made plenty in Fet Loch at my guard post. Plenty of coin to be made for custom weather and spell lessons. I am merely some brute force when needed." Her gaze left a few unsaid things, but she kept quiet and softened her look. She turned her eyes toward the Pegasus. She was sizing him up. He was physically stronger than she. large wingspan. Decent looking as far as proportion of muscle went. He was a seasoned fighter at least. Trained in some form of combat. And he looked like he was able to take care of himself. He would be reliable in a fight. Then she looked at the Zebra. No way to figure out a zebra without asking directly. They were always good ponies though. She had never met a bad one. As she looked back at the papers Arc passed around, she kept her thoughts to herself about what may be found there. Hopefully, nothing. She had come of her own accord to find this place herself anyway. Traveling with them was just helping ensure she would get there faster and safer. And she was not intent on causing any trouble. But she was not going to allow the artifact she was looking for to be in the hooves of another pony. She would destroy it first. ----------------- Dunder tried not to show it, but he was mildly upset that Arc would steal his thunder. But, it was Arc's expedition and writing after all. Instead of protesting, Dunder trotted around and grabbed a seat, between the zebra and Fet Loch mare. He pulled his buckler off his sword belt and laid it on the table, boss down, idily spinning it while Arc read the passage. When he was done speaking, Storm spoke up again. When Dunder turned his head to look at the speaker, he saw the scar in it's breif moment in the light. Maybe this mare was more seasoned than Dunder initially thought. In almost the same breath, she expressed no interest in coin. "If she won't have her cut, I'll take it. Or we could split it." Dunder said and motioned to the zebra. "And I'm going to handle the cooking. I've been in enough jungle to know what will be needed initially and then what we could take from the jungle." ----------------- [[ TBC ]]