Tricky left for Bastok that same night, just as the sun was beginning to rise. He hadn't the courage to check in on Satorii, partially because he still wasn't sure what was going on, but also because of his shame in having abandoned her at a vulnerable moment. He had been more open with her than almost anyone else he had met during his travels, and she had given him a great deal of comfort during some rough times... He steeled himself and straightened his features. This was the only way he knew to repay that favor.
Tricky had held many jobs over his lifetime: shipwright, sailor, circus hand, Thief, and so on. But there were few jobs he had held that gave him more spiritual comfort than as a Tarutaru grade school teacher in Windurst. It was after he had escaped from his cell in the Sand'Orian Royal Prison that he came to settle in the lush green city, and the easy going nature of the people there made him feel that it was a safe place to call home. Tricky had always had an obsession with maps, and a fear of being lost, stemming from an incident in his childhood, which, as he grew, branched out into a greater general need for knowledge. Windurst was known worldwide for it's many magic schools, but also for their massive Library, which was housed in the Optistery, the school of visual learning. During the long, slow stretch of time in which he laid low, and tried to build some sort of stable life for himself, and those books had been a great comfort to him. They numbered in the thousands, and he had read almost every one, on almost every subject. But one day, his natural roguish instincts got the better of him, and he issued himself the task of obtaining and absorbing the information held in the deepest chambers of the Optistery: The Hall of Forbidden Texts. His curiosity, and indignance at being denied anything in his world, proved too strong to resist, and he invaded that inner sanctum to uncover the mysteries it held. Anciient History, forgotten history, and forbidden magic were all described in thse texts; information which now only he and a few select individuals knew existed at all. But, Tricky was caught reading during one of his transgressions, and brought to face a Tarutaru court. All the ministers of all the schools of Windurst presided, and debated what to do with the lawbreaker. Many of them had seen him, and even talked pleasantly to him, as he had sat in the common areas of the library in the past, and were eager for leniency. Doctor Shantotto, Minister of Black Magic and Curses, had less pleasant ideas for his punishment, which several other higher-ups seemed willing to go along with for the sheer novelty and entertainment value they might provide.
In the end, the verdict surprised Tricky. It was determined that someone posessing his particular set of skills, armed also with this forbidden knowledge, would be a great boon to the Federation, and as such, he was conscripted into the service of the great nation of Windurst. His first task, probably dictated by Shantotto in an effort to humble him, was to teach educational rhymes to young Taru-taru for an unspecified period of time. But even more surprising was that they also granted him, by way of payment, unrestricted access to the texts which were still held taboo to the majority of the world.
For both parts of his sentence, Tricky would be eternally grateful.
Particularly now. During his readings, he had stumbled across an ancient text concerning a magic called "Medical Science", a craft which used raw materials, alchemy, and even odd machines to heal wounds, insted of tapping the planet's manaforce. Since he had not been naturally gifted with magical aptitudes, he knew of no other path that might lead him to a cure for what ailed Satorii, which, having recalled other texts he had encountered, he was now more certain than ever was some sort of posession.
One of the texts was in storage with a friend in Bastok, an old Galka who refused to move on, who went by the name Zurumonde. Tricky met him at noon, and the two talked for the remainder of the evening about what might be done. The best result they came up with was from the chapter entitled "Correcting Biorythmic Impurities"; basically, exorcism. It detailed a process through which a certain combination of ingerdients could be entered into a certain machine to produce a circlet that would restore a person's natural mental state. The problem was, these machines were long lost to the world; their locations only hinted at in the texts, identifed only by geographic features which had long since eroded from the landscape. The best clue they had was the ancient name for the area now known as "Rolanberry" was listed as a "prospective" location; perhaps this book had originally been published prior to its construction.
The only problem was, the only place in Rolanberry that still held any mysteries was a deep, dark, practically unmappable network of twisting caves, affectionately referred to by adventurers as "Crawler's Nest".
Tricky had a deep fear of uncharted areas, he had gotten lost in the jungles of Yuhtunga at a very young age and had nearly died. Today, he had developed an almost compulsive addiction to at least glancing at a map frequently, even when he walked through well known areas.
And here he was, faced with venturing into a dark, unmapped area, full of monsters more than capable of killing him, looking for an unspecified location that might not even exist. This didn't look good.. but the pursuit of this small hope was the only justification he had for abandoning Satorii that night, and he knew he couldn't stop now. He headed for Crawler's Nest.
Upon reaching the nest, he found a party that was hunting in the area, and asked if he could fight alonside them until they reached the deeper areas of the tunnels. After a brief demonstration of his skills, they were more than happy to take him aboard. They fought countless giant insect, from pulsating, ps-filled Crawlers, to gigantic, rage-addled scorpions, but Tricky saw nothing even resembling a machine of any sort, only the thick webbing and excrement that lined the walls. The party made their way to the deepest known levels, when the leader stoppped them.
"Crap" he said. "Exorays"
Exorays were a particularly nasty species of sentient, carnivorous fungus, and their almost cute appearande had caused the death of many an adventuring party. Here, there were whole groups of them, and they had clearly just had a taste of a previous group, but not a full meal. "We're going back" said the leader. "This is stupid. I'm not risking our lives on your wild goose chase." The party turned to leave, but a gigantic beetle, easily the size of a man, had burrowed up behind them. "OUT OF THE WAY!" the leader shouted as the beetle charged, but Tricky, who had been casting his eyes about the room to find some last hope of what he sought, was clipped in the side and sent flying toward the wall. He tucked in and braced for impact...
And then everything went bright.
He hit the ground hard, and skidded across a surface much smoother than the floor in the Nest could possibly have been. He opened his eyes slowly, adjusting them to the bright, white light that was definately NOT the sickly green luminosity of the lichens of the cave.
He was in a smooth white hall, which looked, impossibly, impeccably sterile. He looked back the way he had come, and saw a cave wall completely blocking the entrance. He went to touch it, see if it opened... and his hand passed right through. "HA!" he exclaimed, instantky regretting it as his voice echoed in the long chamber. He looked behing him, and his heart leapt.
At the far end of the hall, was a giant Cermet Door. Doors such as these were a trademark of ancient technology, and a sure sign to Tricky that he had found what he had been looking for. He ran to the door, hit the panel along its side, and it opened effortlessly. What he saw inside made his heart sink a little.
The room here was nowhere near as pristine as the hallway that had lead up to it. The mold of the cave had crept in here, possibly through a crack in the rear of the structure, and the lighting flickered intermittently, often going completely dark. The stench of old, but unchecked decay hung in the air. Something had, at some point, fed in this very room.
But that wasn't something he could worry about, because it was the item in the center of the room which held his focus. Tall, skeletal, and faintly glowing, was a machine, exactly like the one sketched in his books. The panels on the front were glowing and blinking patiently, a sure sign that they still worked. He stepped up and ran his finger along the blue panel on the front of the device. It was wet, and cold, but the water upon it was very pure. Suddenly, a crackling voice popped into his head.
"Ent.r.... gistration.. nmbr... if you ..r... Doctor... or..reg....st...number... 8 digit... now"
Tricky blanched. He obviously did not have a Doctor's registration number, and was unsure if anyone on the planet still would have one that wa recognized by the device... But he had heard the machine mention that the code was 8 digits... and he had cracked worse before. A numberpad had appeared on the blue screen, and he started his decoding, as he always did, with a random guess.
"Doc..r..ergistati...NOT approved... Appren..e..status ..anted."
"Crap" Tricky breathed, and set about his task. He had no idea where he was, or how to get back, so he may as well park himseflf here until he got some results.
"Doc..r..ergistati...NOT approved... Appren..e..status ..anted."
Tricky was too intently focused on the flickering blue panel to notice when the lights faltered, and darkness swirled around him.
The lights faltered and darkness swirled around him