Orphic Phantasia

13: A Scientific Investigation

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Contributing to the Foundation’s study of this strange phenomenon, however, would. Their current data corroborated with his personal observations: there appeared to be two types of substance, identical in form but distinct in behaviour. The first was the ash that had settled, which appeared in higher quantities around the edges of the Scar. The second was the ash that moved through the air, seemingly with a mind of its own, and gathered in the tufts of cloud and a fog that stirred around their feet. As the fog grew in strength, Chris began to regret leaving the Lady outside. He would have felt a lot safer locked inside her, with a bevy of instruments at his command.

When a sudden scream cut through the silence, he almost doubled back on instinct.

“That’s totally Lizzie again,” said Lance. They had heard Elizabeth Canterbury shouting a few minutes earlier. “I’d, like, run to help and all, but you know those three would just string me up by my balls!”

Or worse. “Let’s hope she hasn’t run into any spooky ghosts,” said Chris, though he it thought it more likely that one of their fellow initiates had jumped out of the shadows to scare the poor woman. Probably Lysander. It was always Lysander.

Ignoring the scream, he turned his attention towards his planned destination. He had spotted the eight beacons of light when he first climbed into the Scar. Three of them were arranged around a plaza at the centre of the ruins, exposed on all sides, while the other five could be found hidden among the surrounding estates. Wary of the Sophist Aristocracy, Chris had decided to investigate the latter, and his path had brought them within range of a housing estate shrouded in purple light. As they approached from the south, Chris noticed how the fog, growing in strength the deeper they delved into the ruins, was content to leave these houses alone. It was almost as the ash itself was afraid of the light.

“You think anyone lives here?” asked Lance. “I could totally see Joel living in a place like this. Or, like, Shelley Yoghurt.” No matter how many times Chris had told him her surname was pronounced ‘Owen’, Lance still didn’t get it right. “This is totally her kinda kooky graveyard scene.”

Chris had to admit that the majority of buildings inside the Scar did indeed appear to be in habitable condition. That only deepened the mystery as to why the townsfolk had abandoned them, however. So far, Chris had spotted no signs of life inside the Scar’s walls. Not even the rats dared disturb it. And it wasn’t like there was no way inside—he and Lance had snuck through one of the many cracks, and there was a wide opening at the centre, large enough for a medium-sized drakonic. It seemed that fear was the only thing keeping people out: fear of the ghost stories that surrounded the place, and fear of the Sophist Aristocracy who guarded it. Not that there was much of a guard. If he didn’t know any better, Chris would have assumed the place riddled with radiation.

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The Foundation, meanwhile, would like to model themselves on that mythological group called, eh, the Foundation.