Level 204.1
rating: +16+x

To All Maidens:

Many have asked me where the mirror in Level 939 labelled "Level 204.1" leads, and why it is permanently blocked off. I do not despair at these observations — in fact, I am enthralled by them, seeing such curious and explorative minds in action. It has since hurt me to turn away your inquiries with vague answers that dance around the truth, but now I have decided to trust you all with this sensitive information so that you may understand more about what goes on in the more discreet areas of management. After all, this organization is based on transparency and trust, the safety that none of us here will ever betray each other the way many of us have been betrayed. Thus, I present you with a document detailing Level 204.1 and its purpose and importance within the Masked Maidens.

HolmesSig

Yours truly,
Evangeline Holmes.


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Entrance to Level 204.1 in Level 204.

Overview:

Level 204.1 is a Sub-Level of Level 204, and the only known one as well. Among Sub-Levels, Level 204.1 is unique in that an instance of Object 24 is absolutely necessary for entry. Because of this, the Sub-Level remains completely undiscovered by the M.E.G., and we Masked Maidens are presumably the only people alive who are currently aware of its existence.

The entrance to level 204.1 is located at the base of Hazard Mountain in Level 204, in the cultivation zone. It can be found on the interior side of the circular river that surrounds the mountain. As the terrain begins to slope upwards, various strata of rock are exposed in places, revealing an elaborately carved tunnel entryway in the shape of a face. The eyes of said face have been reported to move and stare intensely at any passersby. While several M.E.G. volunteers have discovered such an entrance, none of them are able to enter the cave, as they have reported that the vigilant gaze of this carved visage paralyzes all who attempt to do so.

Utilizing the mirror in Level 939 that is labelled Level 204.1 will lead you straight to the entryway. However, usage of this mirror is prohibited because of the contents of the cave that the sublevel is comprised of. Level 204.1 is an ancient catacomb, built by the same archaic society that crafted the now-ruined temples strewn about the landscape of Level 204. The masks that we use ourselves were ubiquitous among the members of this ancient civilization, and thus saw everyday normalized use. Imbued with power unrivalled by the iterations we possess, these masks and their people lived in perfect synchronization — two halves of a whole. When a member of this society passed, their fragile bodies were prone to decomposition, and so this society had to engineer an alternative, more permanent way for each person's mask to follow their late wearer into the afterlife. Thus, the catacombs were constructed, with uncountable numbers of life-size stone statues in the likenesses of these deceased members, all wearing their masks.

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Masked statue.

You might be thinking to yourself, "Why, with so many powerful masks in such an easily accessible and secret place, why don't we take these masks and use them regularly?" The answer to this question is very simple: The catacombs are guarded with various safety measures that make exploring and procuring masks from this area extremely hazardous. Thus, access to this Sub-Level is strictly available to those who have proven themselves to be not only incredibly mentally resilient but outstandingly synchronized with their masks alongside with possessing great physical impetus. The masks of various sub-sector leaders were retrieved from this Sub-Level, which is why many of them exhibit much more potent powers than average. The number of people who are able to overcome this challenge is few and far between, and several of our organization have been lost to the promise of power. If you so desire to brave the catacombs and take a mask of your own, you are only to do so with express permission from me. Anyone caught trying to enter without authorization will be strictly and severely punished.


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Corridor in the first level of the catacombs.

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The Structure of the Catacombs:

From the main entryway, a long, winding set of stone stairs leads down into the catacombs. The catacombs as a whole are spread out across five different levels excavated into the soil. From the stairway, a main corridor leads onwards into the darkness for an unmeasurable distance. The main corridor of each level is intersected by several smaller branching passageways which lead deeper into the catacombs. The pattern of corridors in the catacombs can be likened to a tree, and at the end of every corridor is a small room housing ten to upwards of a thousand standing stone statues arranged together in rows.

Small enclaves are carved into the packed soil of the walls, housing ancient braziers embedded in the earth. While in ancient times, these braziers would have lit the corridors and provided a dim glowing pathway for the spirits of the masks and their wearers to abscond from this labyrinthian structure, today they are all but burned out completely. The only light present in these otherwise obnubilated ruins comes from the several lucernaria, or small surface apertures, from which the natural sunlight slithers down in small beams from holes on the ceilings and floors, cascading down from level to level. As a result, the first level of the catacombs is consequentially the most thoroughly illuminated, whilst the final fifth layer is nearly shrouded in abject darkness.

The catacombs are dry and dusty, and travel in the lower levels can become increasingly perilous due to the amount of stray sediment polluting the air. Navigation here is exceedingly difficult without a proper mask and artificial lighting. The temperature in the upper levels ranges from temperate to cool, while the lower levels are uncomfortably cold. Inside the statue-housing rooms, the temperature is significantly higher, but in no point in the catacombs is the temperature unbearably hot or cold.

The Ancient Statues:

Each of the rooms in the catacombs is filled with ancient statues carved out of marble and limestone. While they are estimated to be over four hundred years old, many of them are in very solid condition. There has never been a reported sighting a statue that has crumbled or collapsed due to natural causes. However, about a third of the statues found in the catacombs have indeed been reduced to piles of rubble. Why is this, you may ask? The reason is due to the masks that adorn each of the statues' stone visages.

The statues were crafted by the ancient society that dwelled in Level 204 in the shape of deceased person that wore that statue's mask. The reason for this is thought to be that the act of planting the mask on a stone likeness of a person, preserved in an underground catacomb, would be much more sustainable than planting it on the actual corpse of that person, which would eventually decay and leave the mask without a face. This way, a mask can remain connected to the wearer's face through the stone, even in the afterlife. As the connection between mask and the stone is the only thing linking the spirit of the lost individual to said mask, removing the mask from the statue will cause it to instantly collapse.

Because of the fact that these ancient masks are still connected to the spirits of their wearers, in addition to them being sentient in some way, removing a mask becomes very dangerous. Every mask in the catacombs is actively hostile towards members of the Masked Maidens and resists attempts to remove them from their statues. Applying too much force or using a tool such as a pickaxe causes both the mask and statue to destroy themselves. Trying to retrieve the mask gently never ends well, either. Without being assertive and confident, the mask will begin to take control of the Maiden instead and enact harm upon the wearer's body in self-defense. These masks are incredibly potent, and thus the "will" of the masks is much stronger than that of our own, and they are not to be underestimated or taken lightly.

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Collected fragments of several statues' bases.

The statues themselves range from five to twelve feet (1.5 to 3.6 meters) tall on average, with realistic proportions and painted clothes. The paint has since worn off, leaving most of the statues completely grey. All of them take the form of adults. While many of them are impossibly tall for humans, it is thought that these statues are exact replicas of the lost members of the ancient society, given that the masks that would fit the deceased wearer are also perfectly molded to the statues' faces.

The statues are always arranged in rows in the center of the room, and every instance of these statues holds the same position: a tall, straight posture with both arms at the sides, palms open and feet together. The clothes range from elaborate to simple, and it appears that people from all walks of life were placed equally among each other in these rows. The amount of statues in each row, as well as the number of rows themselves, vary depending on the size of the room. Each statue is situated on a small pedestal, rising about one foot off the ground. Coming in contact with the pedestal will cause the nearby mask of that pedestal's statue to awaken and become aware of your presence. From there, it will most likely begin to exert a sort of invisible pressure on you to expel you away from it. Once again, and I cannot stress this enough, do not go looking for these masks, for even if you manage to secure one, it will continue to torment you to the best of its ability for stealing it away from its previous wearer. This entire article is only to clear up confusion and questions as to why this Sub-Level remains prohibited, not to encourage you to test your luck.

The Obsidian Guardians:

At the corners of each of the statue rooms are four Obsidian Guardians. The Obsidian Guardians are unique statues made out of an unknown black mineral, likened to obsidian. They vaguely resemble humanoids, but are much more similar in shape to a chess piece — namely, a rook. They are faceless and bear no masks, and are approximately fifteen feet (4.5 meters) tall. Because of their towering height, many of the ceilings of the statue rooms are raised to accommodate them. When anyone enters the statue rooms, the Obsidian Guardians will remain still and silent in their corners of the room. The instant that one touches a mask that belongs to one of the statues, however, the Obsidian Guardians will spring to life, sliding across the floor at alarming speeds. Upon coming in contact with a statue, the Obsidian Guardians will smash through them, obliterating both any statues and masks that stand in between an intruder and itself.

The Obsidian Guardians will attempt to ram into intruders at high speeds, and move with enough force to have the equivalent impetus of a semi-truck driving at over 60mph. Needless to say, colliding with an Obsidian Guardian is lethal. As a result of many failed attempts to retrieve these masks, several of the statue rooms have four Obsidian Guardians resting in their corners around piles of rubble. These statue rooms have had all their statues decimated, and their remains lay strewn about with the skeletons of those with the misfortune of being unable to escape.

Entering and Exiting the Level:

The catacombs have one constant and distinct entry point, which also doubles as the exit point. The aforementioned doorway in the shape of a stone face is the only known way to currently exit and enter the level. Attempts have been made to no-clip in and out of the catacombs, but they have all been unsuccessful. The doorway is located on the first level of the catacombs, in the north side of the structure, above an ascending staircase.

As stated before, entry is only possible into the level if one is currently donning a mask. The mask will ask as a cover against the petrifying glare of the stone face's eyes. Regardless, whether or not you are in possession of a mask, this Sub-Level is not to be entered, both for the preservation of these ancient relics, and your own safety.


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