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Monday, February 25, 2013

Esto - Clarity: Part 3

I didn't know how to answer that question.  The only thing I could think was that if He was in the cavern the, there could be an entire army lurking in the shadows.  After some time an answer came from MidnightSun.  “You said he had a tattoo over his face.”  Adelia nodded.

“When I placed the shell tattoo on Esto and myself it was in an effort to protect us from whatever malevolence had wracked Esto’s mind.  It’s possible His tattoo has power too.”

That thought worried me.  "You're telling me his tattoo allows him to link at will?"  I didn't want to believe it.  "Is such a thing even possible?"

"I saw him link into the apartment" said Adelia.  "I doubt he had a linking book to that location."

"Lets say he can link at will.  Why did he go to the apartment?  Why did the Bahro protect Esto?  And why did they link you away but leave Esto there?  If what you told us is true then this figure was looking for him and still I want to know why."

I had never heard MidnightSun be so verbose.  He was still angry.  I could hear it in the implications he was making.  He didn't trust her.  His mistrust in Adelia was unfounded.  He raised good points, but was leaping to all the wrong conclusions; or so I hoped.

“You said yourself you were protecting us from a malice,” I said to MidnightSun.  I needed to draw his attention to the real problem.  “I can think of few things more malevolent than these people; their leader doubly so.  My madness made me vulnerable.  If he came to the apartment then it would seem he knew where I was.  Perhaps he could feel my presence.”  I had his attention again.

MidnightSun got it.  “The Triple Shell,” he said.

“His Journey.  Yes,” I said.  “We saw the Takes throughout the journey.”  I thought back to the final moments of the Triple Shell; how I found myself in the star fissure and walked a spiraling path.  “He was there with us,” I said.  Each time I went over that moment I was more sure it was true.  It all made sense: the Takes; the Star Fissure; the false journey; and D’ni in the sky.  “Without realizing it we were helping him open a portal to D’ni.”

“But I thought you said the Venalash weren't in the cavern,” said Adelia.

“That’s right,” I said.  “Which means...”

“Which means the ‘journey’ failed,” said MidnightSun.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Laroon - Deciphering Kadish

"So you're telling me that Kadish was lying to everyone?" I stammered to Pantaleon. I couldn't believe that there was such foul play between such great figures in the D'ni community.

"Sure looks that way. I mean we saw what we saw, you know." We were back in Tokotah II, in the apartment, resting up from the long journey through Ahnonay.

"So why construct the age in different ways?"

"Well legend said that the Grower would be able to write impossible ages and travel through time. I guess he just wanted to be the leader of his people. Hold all the cards."

"Yeah but that's acting as a false prophet. Surely if anyone ever found out..."

"But they never did. The age has changed severely over the years. We were able to solve it due to a fluke in the system," he pursed his lips. "Kadish got away with it, Laroon. Plain and simple."

I paced the room for a few moments. "So what was his plan, then, if the Grower were to show up? I mean the real Grower would be able to write circles around this guy."

Pantaleon shook his head. "That's true, but we know that he didn't have to worry about that in his lifetime. He was the best that the D'ni had seen so far."

Pantaleon - Full Circle

We spent our time at home in Tokotah II looking through the books.  We didn't know what we were looking for, just that the answers were there.

"Laroon, check over the Section on Words.  I'll recheck The Watcher's Journal," I said skimming through the pages. 

"This passage is particularly odd.  Maybe it deals with what we have have been through," Laroon said while pointing to the passage on Words.

The passage stated this:

The Grower will take time.
The Grower will bring light.
The Grower will have ages.
Take time, and move it to and fro.
Give light and bring it to dark places.
Have ages, and link to them without bindings.

"So whoever this Grower person is they can do these things no one else could ever do?  That is absolutely fascinating find Laroon!  However, its meaning is grave.  That means Kadish has been implicated as an imposter.  He was lying to the D'ni civilization to fullfill a prophecy."

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Esto - Clarity: Part 2

I pointed to the strange beings beneath the chain symbol.  “The T’chuvahk had this same power and like the Bahro were enslaved.  Their fate was not so fortunate.”  I pointed back to the figures under the swords.  “The T’chuvahk were enslaved by the Venalash.”  I heard a bahro mutter behind me and soon realized there was a gathering behind me.  Certain I was on the right track I continued.

“The Bahro are free.  The T’chuvahk are no more.  From these images it seems the Venalash murdered every one of them.  For what purpose?  I don’t know.  Perhaps they tried to rebel.”  
Adelia looked back at the bahroglyps and reached out towards the Venalash symbol.  “This one.  Is he their leader?” she asked.

“Your guess is as good as mine,” I responded.  “It seems the Venalash culture is one of conquest.  These images of bubbles with cities within remind me of something I saw in a notice from RAWA.  When RAWA came to Noloben he did so by using a Take - a strange linking mechanism of Bahro origin.  These images resemble them.”

MidnightSun spoke up.  “Then that could mean these people used the powers of the T’chuvahk to pillage other ages.”

“You may be right” I said.

“And they’re in D’ni now?” asked Adelia.  I could tell she was starting to worry.

“No.”  It was a valid concern.  “I think if they were in the cavern people would have noticed.”

“Esto.”  MidnightSun spoke again.  “We’ve seen these Takes before.”

“In the Triple Shell journey.  I remember.”  He was right.

“I still don’t understand” said Adelia.  “If they’re not in the cavern then how did I see Him!”

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Pantaleon - Ahnonay A Circulation Problem

We figured out a peculiar mechanic in Ahnonay but it caused more confusion for us. Something in Ahnonay changed which meant we had to alter our perspectives about this age. We made it to the maintenance section of this age and were baffled by everything we saw. Ahnonay took much experimentation, progression was slow and painful, and then we found a door. This was no ordinary door though, it was locked in time.

Laroon and I kept tinkering around Ahnonay. Hours and hours were poured into the age trying to figure the secret behind the door and what could possibly be on the other side. We racked our brains until we could think no more. We returned back to Tokotah II to recover and rest.

The next day we returned to Ahnonay. Refreshed and of sound mind. We tried something new & different upon the puzzle that stumped us. Everything we threw at it didn't cause the door to budge. Another day passed. We were exhausted of thinking and over thinking. On the third day our confidence had dwindled from a roaring fire to a flickering flame. Needlessly we pressed on spending most of our time thinking about what could be done instead of physically trying it. Failure loomed over us like a shadow and one we would not want to fall under indefinitely. To end the day we tried something we thought was clever but it too failed. We returned to Tokotah II again spending the whole night conceiving any possible solution. In the morning hours we finally slept due to exhaustion.

On the fourth day we were tired, weary, and unable to even to think correctly. Everything about this age was causing us to go insane. Did we finally find something too intricate to solve? Our flame of confidence was flickering out and soon we might lose the ability to even desire to continue exploring Ahnonay. We decided today we would delve through some more books and journals about Kadish and The Watcher and try again on the following day.

On the fifth day we had a little hope. We entered Ahnonay with a plan of aggressive testing. We ruled out everything we tried and documented the final possibilities. We tried something unique and new failed but we felt we were on the edge of an astounding discovery. We were running out of options and onto our last resort. It worked, the door opened.

Behind the door we found mechanism that took us across an area surrounded by waterfalls. The last journeycloth was also there. On a table rested a Bahro stone. We were relieved to have finished Ahnonay but decided to explore and experiment further. We found a gigantic statue of Guildmaster Kadish in a room. It was empty and damp, like a crypt. A statue that now represented everything of the ancient D'ni destructive ways.

"Laroon, we made it!" I exclaimed jumping for joy.

"Yes, we make a great team. At this rate I believe any challenging age could be explored with much success!" Laroon said.

"Indeed, now we must put these pieces together," I exclaimed.

"In time we will and maybe it will lead us to our missing friends." Laroon, explained.

Esto - Clarity: Part 1

During my Star Fissure vision I saw the depth of the Great Tree.  I felt the possibilities pass through me. That brief moment of prescience had left me with two words; one of which had incited the changes last night. The farther I get from that moment of prescience everything I saw and felt becomes more obscured; however, even in that moment I wasn’t clear of the meaning of these words.  MidnightSun has showed me the chains and suddenly I understand the meaning of the second word: T’chuvahk.

“I understand the story on these walls.”  I remember  a look crossed MidnightSun’s face; if only for an instant.  Did he expect this?  Just how much does he know?  I looked to Adelia and saw her searching for answers.  I gestured toward the symbols near Adelia “The Venalash and the T’chuvahk.”  I pointed at the symbols MidnightSun had shown me.

I explained as best I could what I experienced after I had walked the Path of the Shell; that for a moment I was connected to everything.  The two words I explained had been revealed to me in that moment, but their meaning had been shrouded.  Only now, seeing these glyphs; knowing what the two had told me was I able to understand.  “The Bahro are not the only race of linking people” I said.  “There was another.”

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Midnightsun - Recognition

My concerns are twofold.  The images on the walls are troubling and something isn't right about Adelia.  Her story is that a mysterious figure linked into the apartment.  Am I to believe that was a chance occurrence?  The bahro brought her here.  That should be enough to prove her story but something still seems strange.

The changes to the bahroglyps last night need more study.  Some symbols I recognize, some symbols hold no meaning for me, and some I have never seen before yet their meaning is clear and foreboding.  Adelia keeps staring at a single image.  Esto has arrived.

He speaks to her.  Does he know something I do not?  Where did that word he spoke yesterday come from?  What was it?  Venalash?

Adelia points to a figure on the wall.  "Thats him" she says.  “He’s the one who appeared in Takotah.”  The figure is surrounded by many other figures with what appear to be swords.  They stand over the bodies of other strange beings.  His figure is set apart by the symbol of two large curved blades over his head.

It's time.  I call Esto over and point to another of the new symbols.  This one is understood.  Slavery.  This symbol hovers over a group of strange figures.  Atop this image is the crying eye of the Bahro.  He understands.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Laroon - Ahnonay and The Cathedral

We walked back to Takotah II.  Almost immediately Pantaleon began to make preparations for our next journey.  I started rummaging through drawers and shelves to find supplies.  I opened a dresser drawer.  A backpack fell from a higher shelf.  I'd never seen it before.  I didn't see it when it hit my head.

Somehow Pantaleon tricked me and despite my pain and interest, he took the backpack off my hands / head.

"So, Er'cana's done for now. You ready to tackle Ahnonay?"

Pantaleon tightened a strap on the backpack. "Yeah. Let's do it."

We linked to the watcher's pub, and I looked out at the tree once more through the glass.

I watched Panteleon link, and followed behind. We appeared in a small, bright, circular room. The depictions on the walls loomed over us with incredible detail. Very circular. There was nothing else interesting except the door. We approached it and it opened into a hallway. This cathedral was appropriately named. The long corridor was bordered by more decorated walls, heavy on the blues. The far end of the walkway brought us to a book on a pedestal. We looked around for a minute more, then looked at each other, and finally linked through.

This age was much more spacious than Er'cana. Talk about views! Though this was an island, we could see other islands in the distance, across the water. The water was a beautiful blue, and was warm to the touch. The current seemed strong, though, and wasn't exactly amicable for swimming.

The island was shaped in a horseshoe, with the current pushing water into the center, where a monolith protruded out from the center, with a clock face at the top. But it didn't look like any clock I'd seen before. Around the rim was a band of blue cells. I swear this edge was obsessed with the color blue and circular arrangements. The clock face must be measuring time some way that I couldn't figure out.
We looked around the island a bit more, and saw little creatures running around. Quabs, they were called. They were funny looking things, similar to crabs at the beaches back home. Pantaleon and I took turns teasing them and chasing them up and down the coast. After a couple hours of hanging around the island, we decided there was nothing left except for one more book at the end of the horseshoe, atop another pedestal. We linked.

I didn't get it. We were back in the same cathedral. Same designs on the wall, same pedestal and book at the other end. Same age when we linked through again. We scratched our heads. We decided to go hang out with the quays while we thought this over. After all, the sunshine in Ahnonay was better than the dank smell in the cathedral. While sitting on the sand, Pantaleon had his hands stretched out behind him, basking. I didn't notice when a curious quab came up and pinched his finger. But I was totally away of the result. He snatched his finger back and stood up, then ran after the scuttling quab. The quabs aren't very fast though, and Pantaleon was much quicker. He caught up with the quab and punted the boisterous little thing into the water. I couldn't help but laugh. I looked up.

The clock face caught my eye. One of the blue cells around the rim was no longer blue. Like the bulb had burned out. "Do that again!" I shouted to Panteleon.

"But it's already in the water..." he retorted.

"No, with another one. Kick another quab in the water. I want to see something. Trust me."

He did, but as he turned back to see my reaction, he slipped and fell in the water himself. I watched the clock face as two more lights had gone out. So it wasn't just the quabs, but us too, Ι thought. Finally, thanks to my soaking, now swimming friend, we had a lead. I hoped that backpack was waterproof...

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Pantaleon - Light to the Darkness

Arrival.  I found myself on a small balcony in what appeared to be D’ni.  The walls of the building were lit by the orange glow of the cavern water below.  I noted a linking book in the corner.  The pellet rest on some sort of scanner which activated.  A blue light tested the pellet and then dropped it into the water below.  A glow; at first dim, grew and grew until the room was lit with a brilliant light.  The light faded and the orange glow of the cavern water returned to normal.  I returned to Ae'gura and to my relief found Laroon where he said he would be.

I excitedly told Laroon what had happened.  He nodded and asked "So, what do you think it's for?"

"It produced a light,"  I said considering the implications.  After sometime Laroon explained to me that the characteristic light of the cavern was the result of a particular algae that lived in the water.  That made sense to me as I had noticed how the light seemed to cycle between light and dark phases.  This was the result of the circadian rhythm of the lake algae, which in turn dictated the cycle of the cavern time.  The pellets were a mechanism to keep the algae alive.

"Apparently some explorers spend a considerable amount of time baking pellets to keep the cavern lit."

It made sense.  "Wait.  I thought you said you had never been to Er'cana."

"I never had a reason to go before, but it didn't take me long to connect what I was seeing there with what I had heard from other explorers."  He opened his KI and moments later my KI flashed.  It was a KI mail from Laroon titled Pellet Recipes.  I was glad to have someone as knowledgeable about the cavern helping me figure things out.  I thanked him thusly and we headed back to Takotah II.

Laroon was rummaging through the apartment for food and opened the dresser when it fell. A backpack ensemble came crashing down it must have been placed on the top of the dresser out of sight. Laroon groaned in pain.

"Are you okay there Laroon?" I inquired.

"Been better but thankfully its not too heavy. Whoa, this backpack is cool! I could really use this while going through the ages." Laroon said.

"But it matches my eyes, Laroon." I said jokingly. "Not to mention it would be a great place to store the journals to keep them when we need them."

"Bah! You can have it then." Laroon said sadly.

"Thanks, I promise the next thing we find you can have." I said trying to cheer up Laroon.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Pantaleon - Return to Er'cana: Part 2

We followed the tracks for a short ways until the track ended and there was a chasm in the canyon.

"Looks like this is a dead end. We should check the other direction. I believe that is where the harvesting machine is located when I came here before." I described.

"Sounds good, at least we can say we checked every pathway." Laroon mentioned enthusiastically.

We headed back along the path until we arrived at the collector. We climbed on the collector and drove it on the tracks inside the building. Below the collector we found a dark corridor which appeared to need repairs from the steam venting out of the pipes. I was glad I was not alone during this. We cautiously journeyed through the corridor and were relieved when we made it on the other side safely.

 To begin with we were lost even though I had visited here before. I never experimented with dials, knobs, or cranks due to the fact I could cause catastrophic results unknowingly  Neither of us were engineers or were capable of operating the equipment inside. Not to mention the downed bridges and other debris blocking our path from progressing deeper inside the harvesting building.

We worked together checking what each button did and its reaction and slowly figured our way through the mechanical maze.  Finally, we arrived at the furthest end of the building.  There we found what appeared to be an oven.  Laroon must have calibrated the machine while I was investigating the design because in after a short while he activated the machine and dusted off his hands saying "That should do the trick."  I was a a bit confused, but after some time, and a more detailed investigation of the other mechanisms I had passed, we were able to produce a series of what appeared to be pellets.  The purpose was unknown to me; as was why a linking book was within arm's reach.

“A Pellet?  Can we eat it?" I asked, confusedly

Laroon laughed.  I think I'd avoid using that method of testing for the time being.”  He walked up to the linking book and eyed me from the side.  "Now, it is odd that there is a linking book; not to mention the bahro stone.  Perhaps you should link with the pellet?" Laroon proposed.

"I don't see a DRC stamp on that book.  How do we know it's safe?"
Laroon shrugged.  "I'm sure it'll be fine."

I was surprised.  "But the buddy system?!"  Laroon closed his eyes in silent laughter; afterwards he kept gesturing for me to take the link.  I agreed to take the link.  Laroon said he would wait for me at the Ferry Terminal in Ae'gura.

Laroon waved me off before reltoing out.  "Good luck," he smirked.

I couldn't believe he was abandoning the buddy system but I grabbed a pellet, took a deep breath, and linked.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Laroon - Return to Er’cana: Part I

     I packed up what few belongings I had and and tidied up his notes while waiting for Pantaleon to do the same. I always get this anxious feeling before linking to a new age. Er'cana was a new place for me. I had heard mild stories about it, but never actually had reason to go. Now, I had a purpose - to to find answers to the whereabouts of my fellow friends.

     We linked to the Watcher's hub and stopped a click fore we linked to Er'cana. Through the glass window that bubbled out from the nook with the linking books, I could see the tree looming in the darkness. I remember thinking hard about the secrets the tree held, and wondered if we'd ever find the answers we were looking for. We linked through.

     The sun shone brightly down from the clear blue sky. The air was chilled and crisp despite the sunlight. It was lovely in the sunshine, but I hardly felt comfortable in the shade. We walked along the sand rock floor through a canyon path.

     "What do you suppose those are for?" Pantaleon asked while we came to a clearing. He was pointing at some looming tracks of metal going off in the distance and around the bend of the canyon walls in either direction.

     I shrugged quickly. "Not a clue. Shall we head left or right?"


     "Mmkay." I picked up a flat rock and studied it for a moment on both sides. "Heads right?"


     I flipped it and it landed heads. Off we went, following the track.

Esto - In the Morning

Today I was awoken by shouts.  Apparently MidnightSun had accused Adelia of being irresponsible in Ae'gura for leaving me unguarded.  I hadn't realized he would accuse Adelia of such a thing.  He was with me when she told her story.  He must have heard that her leaving was no choice of hers.  It could be he feels some sort of guilt for not being present when these events occurred.  Whatever the case it's not important now.

My mind goes back to the previous night.  The bahro were acting very strange.  MidnightSun and I had rushed back to see Adelia only to find the bahro blinking in and out of the blue cavern.  They were obviously upset about something.  Adelia asked what happened and I repeated what I had said to MidnightSun: “Venalash.”

Just as I repeated that strange word a bahro appeared in the center of the room; stood to full height; and gave a cry.  The glyphs on the wall began to glow and new symbols appeared over the heads of some of the figures.  The bahro hunched down on all fours and linked away leaving three of us to take in what we saw before us and the cavern.  MidnightSun turned and walked out.  Adelia kept repeating “I’ve seen him” staring transfixed at the bahroglyphs on the wall.

I can’t remember the last time I slept ‘outside.’  The weather here on Noloben has been a good deal warmer than D’ni. Comfortable, but still warmer than I’ve gotten used to.  The d’ni cavern has always been a home to me.  That fact has only increased since this past summer.  I haven’t seen my home on the surface in some time.  When this is all finished I’ll have to return there.  No need to worry about that yet.  I need to get everyone back to the cavern first.  I wasn’t able to get any answers last night.  Today it will be different.  I’ll need to head to the main cavern to get some answers.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Pantaleon - Of Things Yet to Come

Back at the apartment in Tokotah II I have stored all the journals in the safe place . This was the only place that I could go back to and still remember everything clearly, as if they vanished yesterday. "This is all I have Laroon, its just pieces to puzzle that might not even connect but it is all I have to know that they are out there somewhere. Also, before they vanished they implied that I needed to complete Yeesha's Journey to understand them. Here.  You can take a look at these" I said handing Laroon a rather large pile of journals and books.

Laroon flipped through the pages and pages of the journals. "These journals are very interesting and bit confusing. What is up with the similar symbols throughout the Path of the Shell?"

"That, I have yet to discover but I feel like I am on the brink of finding out. Then there are the Words of the Watcher and my biggest unknown question: who this Grower person? Do you know anything about the Grower Laroon?"

"Unfortunately I have not heard about this Grower. But we can search for clues together. That way we can ensure no one else vanishes. Now what about this book?" Laroon mentioned while holding a linking book with a Triple Shell symbol on it.

"Ah! That book, I had nearly forgotten. I found that in the Vahmen district shortly before I met back up with MidnightSun. It was a rather memorable experience though because when I found that book the there was a pretty strong earthquake in the cavern. It was at that time Adelia sent me the KI message and I was unable to respond. It is something I still feel guilty and responsible about. I only wish I could have reached her before she vanished."

"That is terrible." Laroon said kindly. "Should we not use this linking book?" he inquired.

"No, I don't think it's safe. Esto took that journey and came back insane. There is no telling what dangers rest on the other side."

"Fair enough." Laroon said dishearteningly. "So, then is there anything I can possibly do to help? I am certain you should not go alone anymore. I am surprised we haven't lost you."

"Excellent plan, Laroon! Come explore Er'cana with me first then we can head to Ahnonay together." I said happily.

"Awesome! Now this sounds like an adventure I have been missing out on."

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Laroon - Kirel Connections

     Today I walked into the city. I took a path and cut through the tree tunnel, running my hand along the inside wall side. Standing atop the main staircase, I descended down to the dock. And there I saw him. I rubbed my eyes; I wasn't sure they were being honest. Was this Pantaleon? In the flesh? Skipping rocks out across the water? I thought I had seen him at the meeting in Kirel but he left before I had a chance to speak to him. Our only connection was Adelia, but she's still missing and no one I've talked to has found any sign of her. Some people almost seem to not remember her. I walked up to him. ".Shorah"

     He turned to me and looked at me, squinted for half a moment, then recognized me. "Laroon! How have you been?"

    "I've been well. It's been a while since I've been to the city. You know, I just can't get enough of Negilahn. I love studying the wildlife there. I even built a little hut there! Have you been there yet?"

"No, but it's on my to do list. I've been running through Yeesha's journey. I'm discovering so much about the history down here. The D'ni were incredible!"

    I smiled, remembering when I completed her quest myself. "Yeah. It's good to see you again though, my friend. What's new around here? Have you found any trace of Adelia?"

    Pantaleon pursed his lips and shook his head. "I'm afraid she's still missing. In fact, she's not the only one missing these days."

    "Oh? Who else?" my eyebrows raised.

    "Yeah, Dean and Esto are all I know of. I mean they haven't been around for a while. But perhaps there are others. The other explorers here, we don't know how many there are, perhaps a couple hundred? But it might be useful to take a tally of them so we can keep tabs on one another easier."

    "Buddy system, eh?" I replied.

    "Exactly," he got more serious. "People go off, and we don't know if they're still well, taking a vacation, or if they're in trouble."

    "Yeah, maybe we should bring that up sometime."

    "Look. I'd love to chat but we should really be talking elsewhere. I have my notes back at the apartment. Let's go there to catch up."

Pantaleon - Confusion in Er'cana

Er'cana is a unique age that appears like it was used to produce something for the D'ni; for example, there is a huge machine at this end of the canyon that appears to be some sort of harvesting device. Then there are gigantic mill stones and also what appear to be huge mixers. It might be used for processing grain or produce?

When I went exploring in a nearby cavern I found something quite astonishing. There is a new and vastly different journey cloth here, however, its not like the ones from the prior ages. It is a Shell Symbol and it matches the symbol Yeesha showed me when I completed her journey at the Cleft.

There is an issue though. I can't seem to find out where to go in this age. Even with a closer inspection at the machines I can't seem to find out what is being created or what this new path is designated for? Is there a correlation between this path and Yeesha's?

Not knowing how long I had been in Er'cana I checked my KI for the time. I spent more time than expected I have another meeting about the on-going search for Adelia in Kirel.


I just finished the meeting in Kirel.  It was relieving to finally talk to other human beings.  I forgot how easy it is to immerse yourself in d'ni and lose yourself in a crowd. I managed to tell a few explorers that the reason I had been absent was that I had been following Yeesha's journey because I believed it relevant to understanding what happened to Adelia. Unfortunately, during my absence both Esto and MidnightSun have been missing as well. At first I thought perhaps they had gone to the surface, but their absence has been longer than expected.  I fear something may have happened to them.