Lawrence stopped to wipe the sweat from his brow, planting his walking stick in the rocky earth for stability as he looked back on the path he'd just climbed. It spiralled down the mountainside, studded with trees and dry shrubs, and punctuated with boulders and smaller rocks. The evergreen woods were thinning out as they climbed past the tree-line, to be replaced by thin air and chill winds; grass, and some other hardy vegetation poked it's way through the crumbled rocks at his feet, but this was too high up for much more vibrant life to survive. Swallowing, Lawrence shifted his pack across his shoulder, and turned ahead to continue. A caped figure walked ahead of him, the hood long since knocked back from the wind; two extraordinarily thick, black braids, woven with coloured threads and beads, bounced across the figure's shoulders as she walked ahead. Once again the young traveller found himself marvelling at his luck. To think there was still a survivor of that ancient race; and that he should happen upon her, one of millions of people populating this world - the odds were incredible; the only explanation would be destiny. So, of course, he was skeptical. It had taken a long time to convince him she was the real deal. He was pretty sure she was starting to be offended by the time he agreed to let her guide him through the impassible mountains. "Hurry up, Gimp." Lawrence huffed, but picked up his pace. He didn't enjoy the term this girl used more often than his actual name, but from someone of her apparent heritage, it could be much worse. Using the Element was a skill handed down from her people over the millennia; to be a half-blood (well, probably more of a 1% blood from her standards; it was unlikely his father's family was exclusively Magus) as well as to be barely capable of even using the Element without help... Well, given what he knew of her ancient tribe he was probably lucky she agreed to help him at all. "Are we nearly there?" he asked, swiping his matted blond hair out of his head; the dampness was dying the usually dark blond tones more of a brown shade. His headband was basically useless at this point, he reached up and pulled it off, shoving it into the pocket of his long vest. "We're there." Surprised, Lawrence looked up just in time to see a soft-leather boot disappear over the next ledge. Rolling his eyes briefly, Lawrence tossed his walking stick up; the stones and feathers tied to it clanked on the smooth stone. Grunting, he reached up for a grip, and struggled up. For the hundredth time, he cursed the heat of the short fur and leather most of his clothes were made of; the sweat on his palms made it hard to get a grip, but after a couple minutes, he struggled up the side. The tableland on the summit was smooth as a mirror. In the center was a small, oblong pool. The mountain winds caused gray waves to slosh along the sides, and the mist blew into his face, cold. "All right, perhaps I should clarify" He said, trying to catch his breath - "By 'there', I did not mean the coldest, hardest place to possibly camp for the night, I was asking if we were near our final destination." Her face was stone, she didn't look amused. He was starting to wonder if the original Magi race were without a sense of humour. "Get over here." She said, pointing to the ground near where she stood. Lawrence sighed, picked up his walking stick, shaking it gently to make the ornaments fall straight, and walked forward. "Lawrence David's Son. Everyone has a purpose for being alive." he sighed, and set back on his heels to prepare for another speech of ancient wisdom. To look interested, he concentrated on her face. The tattoos were just as startling as they'd been when he first saw them. Blue and black triangles on her cheeks, chin, and forehead, all pointing to the centre of her face. Usually her hood and veil hid them, but they were far out of the reach of civilization here. "...and your purpose - " Lawrence snapped his focus back to her eyes; sounded like she was wrapping up. Honestly he would be far more interested in these monologues if they were more sense and less superstition; it made the man feel like a boy being scolded the way the words just blurred together. " - Is right here." With one half-gloved hand she gestured toward the pool. Lawrence blinked. "You said you would guide me to the Origin Tree." "I did" "You did say that or you did guide me there, because this doesn't look like a damn tree and frankly after two weeks travelling with you I'm getting a little sick from your vague words." "Then allow me to be clear" the woman assured, reaching up to place her hands on Lawrence's shoulders as he stepped forward. She leaned close, and her straight black eyes flashed as the first smile he'd seen ghosted across her face. "Every person, every... being, has certain needs. Humans need to eat. Fish need to swim, and for those who don't need to eat, don't need to exercise or swim or work... those kinds of beings just need something to DO." Lawrence gulped. If the woman six inches from his face - which had to be pulled downward from his shoulders to match her diminutive height - had been anyone but the last survivor of a centuries-old race who seemed to speak only in riddles and mysticisms, he would have found this situation unnerving in a good way. As it was, it only put a knot of lead worry in his stomach. "Um..." "And what do you think such a being would do?" she questioned, taking a step forward. On reflex, Lawrence stepped back, but she maintained her hold on his shoulders, sharp nails pressing into his back. "To keep themselves... oh how to put it in mortal terms - entertained?" She thought about it for a second, and seemed to decide it was a good enough word. "Do you like plays, Lawrence?" "P-plays?" "Plays, performances, acting, stories, oral and visual histories! Do you know what the best kind of play is?" Lawrence's mouth was dry, but he swallowed anyway. There was a flame of madness in her face. "The kind without a script" she whispered, and then smiled again. He decided he didn't like her smile. "The kind where the stage collapses beneath the player's feet; the kind where the audience takes part in the act; the kind where the theater is set afire!" Lawrence laughed, nervously "Th-that would be-" "Dangerous?!" She grinned. her teeth gleamed an eerie white in the dimming light. "Exactly. I thrive on danger; it's the only thing that fulfilled me. Now there are simpletons I can simply poke with a stick and watch them die, but that isn't much fun, is it?" That pout would be sinfully seductive on anyone he wasn't 90% certain was a psychopath. "I need players with brains, skills, guts. I need players, like you. "Oh it took a long time to get you here; you may be one of the hardest I've ever lured away; there are so precious few areas in this world I can make an effective portal from. most of the Element here is impure, nearly depleted, really. You've no idea how hard it was not to laugh when you said that pendant of yours was 'pure' Element." she giggled. "Oh you will be so much fun. Promise not to die, Lawrence dear, promise to live as long as you possibly can." "Th-that's the plan." he tried to step back; she stepped forward. He tried to remove her hands, weighing the dwindling odds of the Origin Tree against the likelihood that he had fallen in with a madwoman after all. They were like the grip of a bird of prey; but colder. The mountain wind seemed to chill him through, and he shivered. "Please let go of me." "Fine." He hardly had time to be surprised at her released group before he found himself falling backward. He put his hands behind him to catch himself, only to find his fingers and then his arms rushing through icy water instead. The same water rushed into his open mouth before a shout could be released, and he plummeted. When the blackness was driven from his vision, he was on the round, sprawled on his stomach. His walking stick still gripped in his hand, the feathers as bedraggled as his clothes. Gasping for breath, he grasped for the satchel pack at his side. Wet. "Damn damn damn damn" he quickly dumped the contents onto the turf where he sat, and began spreading the contents out to dry. Sitting back on his heels, he looked up first, expecting to see some kind of cave he must have fallen into. There was only open sky. Tall, stone buildings with black, yawning archways and windows towered around him, mostly crumbled and overgrown by vines and foliage. If people lived here, it was a long time ago. "There are way too many dead places today" He muttered, pulling his headband out of his pocket to wring out.