Randidly came awake slowly. But then a strange sensation pulled him increasingly quickly back toward his body. He was swinging slightly, suspended in what felt to be a hammock. His eyelids flickered.
Just that short effort resulted in him feeling a strange sense of exhaustion fill his body. Stubbornly, Randidly forced his eyes open. It was dark. So dark that Randidly couldn’t see anything at all. Randidly made to scowl, but his face simply twitched. At that moment, the exhaustion was so strong that he couldn’t even finish an expression…?
Feeling within himself, Randidly’s mood soured further. He was unsure where he was, or how he got here, but his internal sense found that both his Stamina and Mana were very low. The Mana was understandable in a way if it hadn’t been long since… since the fight against the Propagator!?!
Randidly attempted to sit up, but of course, he barely twitched. The sea of exhaustion hit Randidly’s consciousness with wave after wave of greedy hunger. With a growing sense of annoyance, Randidly leaned back in the swinging hammock. In the dark, it was extremely easy to lose oneself in the strange sensation of bobbing.
Well, it seemed that the fight against the Propagator didn’t go well… The last thing that Randidly remembered was fighting against Darke, and there was this buzzing…
The Propagator, Randidly thought grimly. Based on the Wight family of Skills, maybe a variation on the Psychic Poison Skill?
But even with some idea of what afflicted him, Randidly felt a deep sense of frustration that he was incapacitated so easily. Now he could slowly understand why Aemont had developed a Skill like the Breath of the Spear Phantom in order to deal with the Propagator. If the things were so powerful that even Randidly’s 450 odd Resistance was made irrelevant, it made sense to strike at them with a different method.
Still, the problem at hand was that Randidly could feel that his regeneration, of both Mana and Stamina, was extremely slow. They were recovering at a fraction of what they should be. More than that…
I can’t look at my Status? Randidly thought with a frown. And it wasn’t a function of not being able to see due to the darkness. There was just an absence when Randidly reached for his Menu. He tried again, with similar results. Then Randidly opened his Aether Perception, he became even more confused.
Although Randidly hadn’t often looked directly at the Menu, he had used it enough to get a feel for the way that the energy was constituted. Now when he reached for his status that feeling was still there, although he was unable to truly know what the jumbled shapes of Aether meant. Then a thought occurred to Randidly.
If this room was capable of suppressing his regeneration… was it possible that the room also could skim off the overlay System that governed the world?
Randidly’s time in the Raid Dungeon had given him a few insights into the way the two Systems interacted, but Randidly had assumed that the insight into that area of knowledge had come from the Creature. The fact that Randidly was in this room that was able to split the two interrelated Systems was disturbing because it implied two very different and similarly disturbing things.
The first was that the Creature had a hand in this. Although Randidly always knew she might be looming beyond his sphere of influence, this was something of a surprise.
But the second option was even more volatile; someone on Tellus had such a deep understanding of the System that they were able to accomplish this on their own.
All the while, Randidly swayed back in forth, suspended in the darkness. He didn’t appear to be bound, but with his extremely lacking regeneration and the rapid expenditure of Stamina, his own body was quite enough of a prison.
So, extremely slowly, Randidly began to increase the frequency of the swings. It was such an extremely strange feeling to swing in the darkness. There was no real sense of grounding. It was… profoundly uncomfortable in a way that Randidly didn't expect.
Time stretched. Every time he gained a small sliver of Stamina, he shifted in the rough woven hammock. The slow swinging gradually increased in speed. The darkness remained implacable, becoming increasingly inky and liquid to Randidly’s Perception.
It sloshed around him, almost disgruntled when he moved it to the side as he sloshed his way through it. But even though the sensation there as an omnipresent liquid, there was only silence around Randidly. The darkness was thick and all-encompassing.
While swinging, Randidly had little to do but think about his situation. After a bit more reflection, it truly seemed unlikely that the Creature was involved in this room, for all that it seemed to possess mystical properties. There was no sense of pressure in the room. Randidly didn’t feel in danger. The room was clearly designed to keep Randidly here, but little else. It felt like this truly was a jail.
The strange abilities of the room were only to keep Randidly in check, not to truly threaten him. Although he would be a pretty easy target if someone else could strike at him while he was in here…
His thoughts wandered to the words of Darke before Randidly’s unconsciousness. They wanted something from Randidly, some information. However, Darke had mentioned that he had sent away his inquisitor associate for other business, assuming Randidly would be busy for several more weeks with the tournament.
Which meant, if Randidly were to escape, it would likely need to be during that time frame. Of course, at the moment, he had no idea what he needed to think about in terms of escaping from this situation. For now, getting out of this damn hammock-
There was a moment where the hammock ties went slack because it had sung so far upwards that gravity began to overcome centripetal force. At that point, Randidly twisted his body sideways. It consumed the tiny chunk of Stamina that he had, but the force of the twist put him outside of the gentle cupping of the hammock.
With a dull grunt, Randidly’s face met the solid rock of the ground. Notwithstanding the pain, he was mostly stunned by the strange sense of motion sickness he felt as the constant swaying was brought to an abrupt halt. Several grains of tinier minerals rubbed against his face as Randidly shifted. Immediately, his Stamina was gone and all power left his limbs.
But the real realization that came with hitting the ground was that Sulfur was gone. And as Randidly checked, his expression grew increasingly grim. Not only Sulfur, but Acri was also gone. Perhaps most importantly, his interspatial ring was gone. To add insult to injury, the small leather necklace that held the strange grain seeds had been left to him. Perhaps it was deemed useless? His only tools to escape were seeds he could barely grow without being destroyed by his image. Still, with his Grasp of the World Seed, perhaps that would end up being enough…
Randidly let those thoughts go as he gathered more Stamina to shift out of his face down position. The cold of the stone underneath him did a lot to clear his mind of all the nagging worries. For all that this room was a pain in the ass, it was somewhat genius. It didn’t weigh down on the person, it multiplied their expenditures.
For Randidly, the sort of weighted room would be a hassle, but he could overcome it. In fact, that extra weight would be pressure to gain quite a few Skill Levels. But based upon their ability to remove the overlay portion of the System, Randidly suspected that this particular way of operating was purposeful. Perhaps the underlying System didn’t consider the change in expenditures to be a true challenge that he was facing, and therefore it would do little to change his ability to gain Skill Levels.
Randidly also sensed that Aether was restricted in the room, but that was worthless against him. Much more annoying was the drastic reduction in capability. Relatively speaking, Aether Deprivation and lack of outside resources to grow were the exact problems that Randidly had skipped over to get where he was today.
After what seemed like an eternity, Randidly moved his face marginally so his nose was no longer smashed against a rather large pebble. He let out a light breath. His Stamina was once more depleted, but he could make contact with the ground in a more healthy manner. Instantly, Randidly could feel golden roots spiraling downward from himself into the depths of Tellus. The strange repression around the room limited Randidly’s Aether Perception, but with the roots, he got a rough sense of the larger area.
It seemed that he was in an underground complex. Which was progress in a way, but hardly helpful to realize. Even if he strained his senses, the feedback that came from the amorphous roots was slight. In addition, Randidly had no real way of controlling them. He could only draw deeper from them, slowly gathering his strength.
It did, however, confirm that it was possible to use Skills within the room. That was somewhat of a relief. If the room could somehow completely get rid of all Skills… well, Randidly was confident in his physical fitness, but not when he couldn’t even stand…
It took about a minute of stillness in the room to gather enough Stamina to move around. So slowly, Randidly began crawling at the speed of an ancient turtle to explore the strange prison in which he found himself. The darkness around him seemed brooding, silently circling him in slow ripples as Randidly dragged himself through it.
Honestly, pulling himself along the ground was an extremely inefficient method of moving. But it would probably impossible to get up onto his feet at this rate, and therefore there was no helping it.
Time was extremely strange in the inky darkness, so much so that Randidly was reminded of his brief stay in the Patron of Ashes world. At that time, the Patron had kept him waiting to test his patience and returned him to a mortal body. It was a strange day that Randidly felt a pang of regret that he wasn’t once more being tortured by the Patron of Ash.
But that thought made Randidly smile bitterly. After all, wasn’t the Ashen Image continuing to torture him…?