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Umbral and radiant, the polar opposite oddballs of the aetheric spectrum, have been known to interrupt lantern signals pretty easily. But that didn't occur to me when I lost contact with my team on our first expedition into the Umbral Deeps. In all these twisting, turning passages? The signals were bouncing, surely.

When I heard a voice, I assumed it was coming from my own lantern. Assumption, the killer of lateral thoughts, right? I soon realized it wasn't my lantern making the sound, but a purplish, faintly glowing obsidian sphere. The voice crackled through umbral static, speaking in a language like nothing I'd ever heard. And though they spoke on what sounded like a measured pace, there was an undercurrent something unsettling to it all.

Whoever was speaking these words was utterly terrified.

No sooner did I have that thought than the voice began to fade back into the umbral static. Then the static itself drifted away until it was indistinguishable from the background echoes and distant roar of storm winds that reminded me the Maelstrom was still not so far away.

I held the small, cold, inert sphere up to one eye. There was still the faintest violet glow within. Even after all this time, this ancient lantern core absorbed ambient aether from its environment. That has to be why the voice faded. It wasn't a call, it was a recording. The last words of some long-dead Void Runner, perhaps, who overstepped the laws of nature and conscience to release the Thrax into the world.

I thought about kicking that core into the pit, but I still have to. It's far too valuable to just toss aside, and I'm not talking about rams or marks. If we could interpret that language, we could learn so much! How they thought about aetheric power. What types of materials did they use in their technology, and where did they find those materials? How do their lanterns differ from ours at the fundamental level? Answering such questions would be a major step towards true understanding of The Void Runners, what they accomplished, and what they aspire to.

—Dr. Shaed Priyani