2017-05-01: Deep Into Malevolence

From Dream Chasers
Jump to: navigation, search


DG: A party led by Ida Everstead-Rey is now entering Otherworldly Hollow.
DG: Party formation is now over. An Entry Challenge will now be drawn and displayed to the party.
========================<* CHALLENGE - Hellion Horde *>=========================
|Type: Entry       |Dungeon Ability: Combat    |Challenge Rating: 2          | 
---------------------------< Challenge Information: >---------------------------
 There can be little doubt you have found yourself at the right place if one   
 but looks at the creatures that call this place their home; congregating at   
 the yawning entrance of the Hollow, the animals wandering here are many and   
 varied but all have one thing in common: to the spiritual eye, they are       
 undoubtedly Hellions, warped in ugly and frightening ways and exuding a       
 sickening sensation to all with the spiritual presence to sense it. To get    
 inside, you'll have to clear them out, but you won't go entirely              
 empty-handed: scattered bits of armor, potions and other intact provisions    
 dot the landscape in front of the cavern; given the presence of blood smears  
 and bone fragments, it's probably best not to dwell too long on how these     
 boons got here.                                                               
=Dungeon Conditions: Treasure=================================================
<Pose Tracker> Ida Everstead-Rey has posed.

The King of Lacour is safe, and the bandits that kidnapped him have been dispersed--for now. Ida is under no illusions that they were dealt a crippling blow, but other, more pressing matters have presented themselves. The biggest matter is the Hellions, which showed up somewhere that Hellions have no business being. Sorey was very clear that Malevolence was from his world, not Filgaia, and while Ida is suspicious about the matter, she has also resolved to figure out what is behind it.

The grotto's entrance yawns wide--Malevolence has twisted the stones into something that look far too much like teeth, and stagnant, sludgy water doesn't so much drip as ooze down around them. A substantial herd of creatures has gathered in front of it, and even to those who can't see what's happened, the gathering is unnatural. A squirrel is over there, gnawing on what looks like a human femur. Its teeth are fangs, and its fur is coated in thick, violet tendrils. Over there, in plain sight, is an entire pack of wolves, pacing as if agitated, covered in similar mutations, and somehow more feral than even the most crazed wasteland predator.

Ida kneels behind a boulder, thankful that the stagnant air at least isn't blowing the group's scent right into the cave. "Count of three," she says. She draws Devil's Due from its holster. She doesn't need to unlock the safety--it unlocks itself. "One."

One of the wolves raises its head, and sniffs the air. Its eyes gleam violet.

"Two."

"Three!"

Ida rises, takes aim, and fires, sending a white-hot slug at the wolf. The Hellions displayed an unnatural level of coordination at the assault, and a coordinated ambush is needed to compensate--or so she put forth. She was open to feedback.

Zed may have had other plans.

DG: Ida Everstead-Rey has used her Tool Devil's Due toward her party's challenge, Hellion Horde.
<Pose Tracker> Claude C. Kenny has posed.

Fact 1: Claude C. Kenny needs money.

Fact 2: There are a mess of really weird monsters in the Batical Grotto.

Fact 3: The Adventurer's Guild is paying an arm and a leg for pieces of really weird monsters.

The blonde-haired swordsman tromps along toward the grotto at the head of Ida's little group, chatting idly with Zed about exactly how many monsters they're going to mess up (read: lots) and whistling whatever little tune strikes him (read; San Francisco). But then the group arrives, and the young man is all business, hand dropping to his sword as a bevy of otherworldly monsters gather for the attack. At which point two other facts take precedence.

Fact 4: Claude C. Kenny is from space.

Fact 5: Claude C. Kenny is less spiritually aware than most damp sponges.

Zed may have other plans, but Claude has them first; he leaps to the attack (literally so, clearing the twenty yards or so between them in a single bound) and lands atop what he thinks is a large wolf (actually a six-legged hellhound, burying his broadsword between its shoulders and letting his weight drive it into the ground. He ducks down to pull the sword free (never seeing a sinuous prehensile tail that takes a few strands from his hair) and then drives his right fist into a hundred-fanged mouth slavering ectoplasm made of hate) the face of another wolf leaping toward him.

Fact 6: Saiyan genes are apparently dominant.

DG: Claude C. Kenny has used his Tool Pocket Steak toward his party's challenge, Hellion Horde.
<Pose Tracker> Talise Gianfair has posed.

Talise just buckled down and shelled out the gella to buy Dragon from the horse merchant. She gave the burly blue dun gelding an apple and an affectionate pat on the snout before tethering him well away from the cave. No sense trying to ride a horse while underground.

Besides, she's not sure the horses wouldn't be perverted by... by whatever's causing this. Malevolence, or whatever bizarre crap Sorey and K.K. tracked in from Glenwood.

The visual taint of Malevolence is hard for her to see; she's not quite blind to these things thanks to Sorey's brief conduit action in the tavern, but neither is she fully attuned to it. All she sees are snarling wolves and a snarling squirrel - a snarling squirrel, for Althena's sake. That's a thing that Should Not Be.

Then Claude C. Kenny jumps out and attacks.

Hunkered down behind a rock not far from Ida, Talise presses one hand to her forehead and lets out a low groan.

"Let's do this and get out of here. I've got a bad feeling," she grumbles as she fishes out one of her storm knives. Rising from her hiding place, she snaps her right arm out to her side, then hurls the knife into the thick of the wolfpack, letting the enchantment bound to the knife unravel as it strikes either stone or flesh; lightning bolts erupt from it in a wave, aiming to shock and strike the twisted wolfpack.

The Beastwoman's not far behind. "Take 'em out!" she shouts to the group as she draws her sword, swinging with both hands and attempting to rip through one beast, then another.

DG: Talise Gianfair has used her Tool Bomb Knife toward her party's challenge, Hellion Horde.
<Pose Tracker> Zed has posed.

Zed's out on the count of th-.

The manic swordsman has a bone to pick with these rasaclly creatures. Not only did they interrupt an otherwise PERFECTLY NORMAL day of commerce and trade, but they also didn't even make for a good stage! Killing a bunch of animals, what good is that to the world? Who's going to watch? Not most people! But he had also engaged them in combat, and that means that he has to follow up on his promise to stab them all repeatedly in the face until they stop coming.

That's a very roundabout way of saying that Zed is here to kick butt and take names, and none of these animals really have names.

"Hahahaha! Come on, friends! Let us descend into this DEN OF EVIL!" An evil indeed! An evil worse than he! Worse than any demon! Zed whips one hand out, launching a series of powdery smokebombs into the horde. He grins like a maniac, descending into the wolf-pack with a flurry of swift sword blows!

DG: Zed has used his Tool Smoke Bombs toward his party's challenge, Hellion Horde.
<Pose Tracker> Rosaline Calice has posed.

Rosaline has taken a little time off since the group's attack on Descartes' base. There's probably some things regarding this her friends may want to chat with her about, but that can probably wait. She's recovered from her wounds, not to mention the mental toll of this overall very stressful weekend.

But most importantly, she's got new duds!! Rosaline is now wearing a slightly fancier habit than her previous, thanks to having only just now equipped her Etone-in-Training title. In other words, she is now artwork-accurate.

And now she and the group are finding themselves in just the place to get it torn and ruined by sharp-clawed critters. Alas.

She can't actually see Hellions for what they are, and as a matter of fact doesn't know much about them. At least her spiritual power is developed enough that she can differentiate them from run-of-the-mill creatures and feel sickened in the process. This is close to the worst of both worlds, but should at least be useful in picking out targets--

"Everyone, please be careful..." Rosaline says, while projecting healing energy towards one of her teammates and shrinking in the safety of the back row.

No, she's not in murder mode today. Why would she even have such a thing as a 'murder mode'?

<Pose Tracker> Lynnai Albrek has posed.

Despite not being on the attack that saved the King, Lynnai was part of the lead-up to it and provided maps (because she can't not map things) that probably came in handy. But as soon as one problem's dealt with, another pops up; isn't that always the way?

Lynnai is all in favour of a plan that ends up with her less dead than other plans. As a result she supported Ida's idea of a coordinated ambush, though she said she wanted to look at the monsters first to see if she could identify them.

She is increasingly thinking that that was a bad idea.

Being spiritually aware, Lynnai was able to see the Malevolent monsters for what they were, at least while they were trying to kill her. Unfortunately, she was unable to identify most of the... things. She got one mostly by mistake and she wasn't convinced she misidentified it, and she wanted to take notes about the others, but there's no time; they need to attack before they were found out, and Ida's already getting ready to count.

When the ambush starts, Lynnai pops up from her rock - and does not advance. She's doing something complicated with Symbology, because nothing at all happens for a long time; she gestures, channeling her power, forming rings of runes in the air around her as she reaches into the sky above -

It is probably a surprise to the Hellions when the air itself strikes at them, pressing downward with a sudden weight and force and shoving a running group into the ground with enough force to crack bones - and then blasting upward in a plume of mist and cloud, launching whatever remained into the air. Lynnai rests her hands against her cover for a moment afterwards, recovering from the display of Symbologic power.

DG: Lynnai Albrek has contributed a Combat Basic Action toward her party's challenge, Hellion Horde.
DG: Rosaline Calice has contributed a Combat Basic Action toward her party's challenge, Hellion Horde.
DG: The party led by Ida Everstead-Rey has passed this challenge! The party gained 31 exploration! If anyone needs to use party
management commands, do so now. Otherwise, the next round's GM may begin the next round with +dungeon/draw.
<Pose Tracker> Claude C. Kenny has posed.

Claude looks back at Ida as she blasts a totally normal wolf and not at all a hellspawned monster away from his face. "Thanks!" he calls back over his shoulder, then looks around and surveys the damage, which is...considerable! That's a lot of dead wolves. "So, uh, when are the monsters we're supposed to ambush gonna show up?" he asks as he pulls a steak out of his pocket.

Ectoplasm oozes across Claude's sneakers.

"Seriously, where are they?" he asks around half a steak,.

<Pose Tracker> Ida Everstead-Rey has posed.

The sudden assault is devastatingly effective. Claude dispatches one of the oddly-feral wolves, which immediately starts oozing brackish ectoplasm into the ground as he pins it on his blade. Talise's lightning knife erupts, scattering bolts of electricity at the other members of the tainted wolfpack. Lynnai's setup is worth it; the spell slams the collected forest critter assembly into the dirt, making them easy pickings for Zed.

Then, the squirrel--which was still gnawing on that femur--leaps into the fray, trailing spittle as it launches itself right at Zed's head...

BLAM

It is now an ex-squirrel. Ida looks a little wide-eyed as she glances around. "Is everyone all right?"

She pauses a beat, and looks at Claude. "Those... were the monsters," she says, evenly.

DG: Talise Gianfair has drawn a new Challenge.
========================<* CHALLENGE - Phantasmagoria *>=========================
|Type: Exploration |Dungeon Ability: Wits      |Challenge Rating: 2          | 
---------------------------< Challenge Information: >----------------------------
 Moist, cavernous outcroppings make the perfect breeding ground for fungus     
 and bacteria and moss and all manner or disgusting things. Combine that with  
 the presence of Malevolence here, permeating the rocks and the fauna... and   
 even the flora. Spores riddled with Malevolence dot this narrow, rocky        
 passage, making it glitter with beautiful violet light... but beware          
 inhaling them, for they will settle into your very soul, and make you see     
 the worst things about yourself made manifest. Your fears, your guilt, your   
 regret... those deep, dark things that you would never wish to admit to       
 anyone was real. And all it will take is one... little... breath.             
=Dungeon Conditions: Stupify==================================================
<Pose Tracker> Talise Gianfair has posed.

Blinking twice, Talise moves to collect her knife. "That was... less of a problem than I expected it to be," she admits as she pauses to clean off both of her blades, then tucks the knife back into her belt. Stepping forward, she peers into the cavern.

The pall of Malevolence in the air is thick and pervasive, seeming to mingle with the lingering mist that drifts through the cavern. Subtle violet shimmers dance like demon fire through the haze. All around, the sound of something slowly dripping can be heard.

It's more than a physical mist, though - and more than the crops of fungi sprouting from moist places along the cavern walls and floor, distorted pale mushrooms like fingers of the dead, pale with a faint purple tinge like poison for the soul. Just breathing in the fog brings dire emotions to the fore. Dread, guilt, sorrow.

In most circumstances, Talise is brave enough to take on even things she dreads. This is something else. Thoughts ripple through her mind.

"Stop it," she hisses as she closes her eyes for a moment, not talking to anyone in the group so much as the little voice beginning to bubble in her mind. (i should have gone with them.)

Even breathing the fog hurts. (i failed them.) She reaches into her coat. (just like i always fail.)

"Just breathing this stuff is driving me nuts," she manages, voice tight as she covers her mouth and nose with a double layer of burlap cloth. "Let's hurry." (before i let them die.)

DG: Talise Gianfair has contributed a Wits Basic Action toward her party's challenge, Phantasmagoria.
<Pose Tracker> Lynnai Albrek has posed.

Lynnai doesn't stop to collect trophies from the monsters. They can get them on the way out. That's how this works, right? She does stop to look at a couple of them, though, with a frown on her face. They disturb her, and not for entirely physical reasons.

Either way, they need to move on. Lynnai doesn't lead the way (she's learned better) but she stays nearish the front so she can see problems before they become really bad problems. And that includes a strange mist - no, not mist. She squints, staying out of the cloud.

Then she pulls a book out of one of her coat's pockets. This takes a few moments of investigation.

"I think," she says, "that these are - were? - some of the cave mushrooms. They release airborne spores when disturbed. We should be safe if we don't breathe them in..." She doesn't want to guess what that does, but it seems unpleasant. The whole area feels greasy or oily to her spiritual senses, like something natural made faintly disgusting by some unnatural addition.

"Stay close," she suggests, and forms a shell of air around her. It's faint - much less 'hard' than when she uses this for battle magic, it won't deflect a bullet or an arrow, but that means she can spread it out a bit more. There's at least a small bubble of clean(er) air around Lynnai.

It's a strain to hold, though, and some begins to leak through around the edges. Lynnai gets the faint edge of a thought she doesn't want to dwell on, then another; only years of training in focus allows her to put them out of her mind, and she still has a constant sense of unease deep down where she can't do anything about it. Too much of this, and she will lose her focus.

DG: Lynnai Albrek has used her Tool Albrek Texts toward her party's challenge, Phantasmagoria.
<Pose Tracker> Claude C. Kenny has posed.

Claude C. Kenny looks down at the wolves, swallowing the other half of the steak in close to a single gulp. "Uh...then I think these reports were exaggerated," he says, prodding a wolk with a twisted jackal's hump, out of which fanged pustules are slowly fading away. "These are just some plain ol' dead dogs."

'MOVING ON'

Claude walks down the corridor with his hands shoved into his pockets, fiddling with his tricorder until he can pop open a small compartment. He waits until the others are absorbed with some apparently totally ordinary mushrooms (weeeeeeeeeeeird) and then discreetly pops the contact lens into place, waiting for the HUD to wirelessly connect. "So...those were totally normal wolves, right?" he asks, sotto voce.

UNIDENTIFIED ENERGY SIGNATURES PRESENT

Claude frowns. "Uh...run diagnostic?" he whispers.

RUNNING.......DIAGNOSTIC COMPLETE. UNIDENTIFIED ENERGY SIGNATURES PRESENT. CONSIDER UPDATING DEFINITION LIBRARY WITH CALNUS CENTRAL COMPUTER

"Stupid thing," Claude mutters, rubbing his eyes against a headache that's starting to build. "Stupid place. Stupid...glowing mushrooms..."

....GLOWING MUSHROOMS ARE PROBABLY BAD.

"Thanks for that, genius!" Claude snaps angrily. "Find a route!"

PLOTTING........DECREASED FUNGAL PARTICLE DENSITY AT NEXT LEFT TURN

"Broken-ass thing," Claude snarls. It's stuff like this that makes people call him the admiral's kid. Not his fault his stupid crap is broken on this stupid planet... "This way!" he barks, turning suddenly down one tunnel.

DG: Claude C. Kenny has used his Tool Tricorder toward his party's challenge, Phantasmagoria.
<Pose Tracker> Zed has posed.

Well.

This isn't the first time Zed's been around horrible hallucinogenic spores. It probably won't be the last time. These are a little more... Overtly malicious than the ones in Linga, but even so... Even so, what's a little plant-dust going to do, huh? Make you dizzy? Make you regret ever being born? Make you wish that Alhazred's poor intern never found your cryocapsule so that you could sleep away your own suffering and lack of meaning in life---

Wait, shit, these aren't just spores.

These are... Introspective spores.

"I DON'T HAVE TIME FOR NAVEL GAZING!" Zed roars and wraps his scarf around his face. "LET'S GOOOO!"

He sprints straight ahead of Claude.

The less he has to think about himself in a meaningful, critical way, the better everyone here will be!

DG: Zed has contributed a Wits Basic Action toward his party's challenge, Phantasmagoria.
<Pose Tracker> Ida Everstead-Rey has posed.

Ida has still been unable to reliably sense the stranger elements of Lunar's spiritual ecology. She caught glimpses of it during the fight with the Hellions, but she's chalking that one up to her being neck-deep in battle-focus while so much Malevolence was being thrown around. Therefore, to her this cave is merely dark and creepy--albeit creepy in a way that sets her on edge. Each step into the cave takes focus. Ida takes slow, deep, easy breaths, edging into a more meditative state.

Something catches Ida's eye, like the metaphysical equivalent of a heat-haze. Lynnai seems to see it too, and when she turns to look at the mushrooms, Ida does as well. To her, they look at least decently normal, though there's still not something right about them. She breaks out her own book to cross-reference--a cold, gnawing sense of guilt comes over her as she reads the notes she squirreled away on a paper in her mother's journal.

"Soporific puffcaps," Ida says. "I think?" Talise talks to no one, and that is all the incentive Ida needs to get the hell into Lynnai's bubble. "Claude, does your ARM recognize them?"

DG: Ida Everstead-Rey has used her Tool Flora's Notebook toward her party's challenge, Phantasmagoria.
<Pose Tracker> Rosaline Calice has posed.

"Aaaaaaa, oh no," Rosaline lets out as she loses a fight to a chipmunk, which is also some kind of wendigo, right at the moment Ida asks if everyone is all right.

This little snag is quickly taken care of, at least, and soon she's ready to move on, if a little shaken by the humiliation of it all.

She moves through the haze, already looking fragile enough without its help. She gladly moves into Lynnai's air bubble, where just a little seeps in...

I wish I had been the one to die.

Rosaline clutches her crucifix. Tears begin trickling down her cheeks. This is a little sudden, but... she always turns to a certain book when she's feeling lost, confused, or under the threat of crushing despair.

"From the Words of Granas," she announces, meekly, as she holds the mushroom-illuminated Extreme Teen Bible with a trembling hand. It steadies, as does her voice, as she speaks.

"Behold, thine brain. Behold, thine brain on The Drugs. Only through strong will, cooperation and the LORD's guidance can you overcome The Drugs. Any questions?"

It seems to be helping HER, at least. She looks between the group's members, trying her very best to look supportive as she also silently reaches out.

DG: Rosaline Calice has used her Tool Extreme Teen Bible toward her party's challenge, Phantasmagoria.
DG: The party led by Ida Everstead-Rey has passed this challenge! The party gained 26 exploration! If anyone needs to use party
management commands, do so now. Otherwise, the next round's GM may begin the next round with +dungeon/draw.
<Pose Tracker> Ida Everstead-Rey has posed.

"...What chapter is that?" Ida says, arching a brow. She seems appreciative, just confused.

<Pose Tracker> Lynnai Albrek has posed.

"I'm fairly certain it's not in my copy," Lynnai says, without looking around. She's still focusing!

<Pose Tracker> Claude C. Kenny has posed.

"No!" Claude answers Ida, because he's not thniking straight right now. He runs for a good fifteen more seconds before---

FUNGAL DENSITY BELOW 2.1 PARTS PER MILLION

He stops and starts breathing again, sucking in air. He doesn't look high, anyway....

<Pose Tracker> Rosaline Calice has posed.

"Seventeen," Rosaline lets out, with a tiny voice. "The version I have has been edited a bit, with a specific target audience in mind... It belonged to a friend."

<Pose Tracker> Talise Gianfair has posed.

"Oh, is that what it is," Talise asks Lynnai from behind her burlap rag, lurching forward as horrible doubts gnaw at her soul. (how can i save them if i couldn't even save--) She gives herself a vigorous shake. "Let's get away from them before we zonk out or something," she snarls, trying to bury the bitter old aches behind her more familiar take-charge mindset.

The wisdom of the Extreme Teen Granas Bible - and the wisdom of the more intellectually-minded of the party members - pull the team through. The mist thins as the team ushers towards that turn in the cavern. Staggering a little, Talise steadies herself with a hand on the cave wall, but even moving herself forward is a challenge, and by the time the group passes the mushroom-filled cavern and emerges into a clearer room with less Malevolence hanging thick in the air, Talise is no longer bringing up the front. In fact she's a short distance behind.

Even moving forward is a challenge, but it's all she can do because she's absolutely sure that if she turns around, she'll see things she doesn't want to see. People she doesn't want to see. Finally she emerges into the cave. Her normally tan complexion has gone very pale, with a slight green tinge.

Setting her jaw, the tall woman squares herself and inhales the clearer air here. "...Let's go," she says, tightening her hands around Rastaban.

She doesn't look back, for although no one is there, she's sure the ghosts of a tall woman with huge feline ears, a small man with a long nose and a smirk, and a Beastwoman in brown and black and red armour are all back in that cave, sneering mockingly at her.

DG: Claude C. Kenny has drawn a new Challenge.
=======================<* CHALLENGE - Bestial Bearcat *>========================
|Type: Exploration |Dungeon Ability: Combat    |Challenge Rating: 2          | 
---------------------------< Challenge Information: >---------------------------
 Take a bear. Add a cat. Multiply by the fury of having an inexplicable blue   
 star gem on its chest. Square by the twisted process of being warped by       
 Malevolence into a howling berserker. Congratulations! You now have one (1)   
 Hellion Bearcat. May god help you.                                                
=Dungeon Conditions: Treasure=================================================
<Pose Tracker> Claude C. Kenny has posed.

Claude C. Kenny nods at Talise's instructions and takes the lead again, moving with one hand on his sword, eyes peeled for danger. This place looks pretty normal compared to the other caves around here, but the way everyone else is behaving... he's clearly got to keep it together, like a good team leader would. The passage opens into a larger cavern and Claude steps forward, doing a five-point room scan. He gets to three when

DODGE

"Wh---" is what the blonde swordsman manages to get out before a giant mass of fur, muscle and Malevolence roars out from the darkness, driving a dagger-clawed paw into the young man's unarmored belly and sending him flying into a stalagmite about a dozen yards away; he hits hard, bounces, and crashes into another outcropping. As for the monster, it turns toward the others and roars, eyes blazing violet as worm-thin tentacles erupt from its fur, shivering frenetically as spittle flies from its mouth, droplets spattering on the floor which smokes and sizzles where they fall. It rises atop its hind legs, bringing both paws down---

---where they are met by a horizontal block that drives (an astoundingly undisembowelled) Claude c. Kenny to one knee, his left palm against the flat of his sword as he digs in against the monster's brawn. He is clearly losing.


<Pose Tracker> Zed has posed.

What do you do when your name is Zed and you've inhaled a whole faceful of psychedelic, psyche-crushing shroom spores? The answer is simple. You take out your frustrations on the nearest easy target. That eliminates 'pretty much everyone in the party.' It does not eliminate horrible Malevolence-infested monsters.

Especially double plus so when said monster punches his friend.

"RIVAL!" Zed roars, filling the room with smoke and glitterdust. But smoke and glitterdust do not kill monsters except by asphyxiation. Zed has another tool to kill with. He surges into the smoke, leaping at an oblique angle to sweep up into the bear's arms with a swift, merciless chop. "What are you doing!? Do you want to be crushed by a bear!?"

Zed rebounds off a convenient rock outcropping, slicing at the other arm. Doombringer blazes with otherworldly Malevolence of its own. Not of the same brand. Certainly not of the same origin. But violence is its bread and butter, and Zed supplies it eagerly today.

DG: Zed has used his Tool Smoke Bombs toward his party's challenge, Bestial Bearcat.
DG: Claude C. Kenny has used his Tool Pocket Steak toward his party's challenge, Bestial Bearcat.
<Pose Tracker> Talise Gianfair has posed.

The farther she gets from the mushroom cave, the clearer Talise's thoughts become. Doubt lifts from her like a rising curtain.

Trying not to think about her own self-loathing, Talise pushes close to the front of the team again, falling in a couple of steps behind Claude. Her sword weaves in her hand, dropped into a defensive stance.

That readiness saves her - as does the fact that she's checking the five points in reverse. Something furry lunges in and she gasps. "Look out," she shouts, lunging to one side - just in time for the massive bearcat to savagely attack Claude.

Clenching her teeth, Talise drops back several metres, bunching her shoulders and checking briefly on whether Claude's still alive. He is, but he's not going to be at the rate he's going - the monster's too huge, and even with Talise having the spiritual awareness of a mud brick, she can see hints that the creature is even more wrong than it appears to the naked eye.

"Hang on, Claude," she calls out before lunging forward. Her gauntlets flicker with power as she rears back, drawing Rastaban and hurtling into close range --

"TIDAL BLOW!"

She delivers a massive slash aimed to tear into the bestial monster's flank.

Then she winds up for another. And inhales.

"TIDAL BLOW TIDAL BLOW TIDAL BLOW TIDAL BLOW TIDAL BLOW TIDAL BLOW TIDAL BLOW TIDAL BLOW TIDAL BLOW TIDAL BLOW TIDAL BLOW TIDAL BLOW TIDAL BLOW TIDAL BLOW TIDAL BLOW TIDAL BLOW TIDAL BLOW TIDAL BLOW TIDAL BLOW TIDAL BLOW TIDAL BLOW TIDAL BLOW TIDAL BLOW TIDAL BLOW"

The nice thing about being Talise is that you have no magic and all your sword skills are cheap and spammable.

<Pose Tracker> Rosaline Calice has posed.

"Are you all right?" Rosaline asks Talise in a whisper once she catches up to her. The beastwoman nun doesn't look any better, to tell the truth.

A Hellion Bearcat (thankfully?) interrupts their discussion. Rosaline is clearly in panic mode but at least acts quickly. "Let me help you!" she calls out, very quickly incanting a few choice verses she has memorized from the Ordinary General Public Granas Bible.

"Holy sword!" she calls out, empowering Claude's weapon with the power of light, which she figures is probably anathema to... well, everything in this cave. With this taken care of, she moves on to dispense the same buff to anyone who seems to want and/or need it.

<Pose Tracker> Rosaline Calice has posed.

"Are you all right?" Rosaline asks Talise in a whisper once she catches up to her. The beastwoman nun doesn't look any better, to tell the truth.

A Hellion Bearcat (thankfully?) interrupts their discussion. Rosaline is clearly in panic mode but at least acts quickly. "Let me help you!" she calls out, very quickly incanting a few choice verses she has memorized from the Ordinary General Public Granas Bible.

"Holy sword!" she calls out, empowering Claude's weapon with the power of light, which she figures is probably anathema to... well, everything in this cave. With this taken care of, she moves on to dispense the same buff to anyone who seems to want and/or need it.

<Pose Tracker> Lynnai Albrek has posed.

Lynnai keeps the bubble up, but it's a struggle, even with Rosaline's wise words and the assistance from everyone else. Some of it gets through; she, at the center, is largely insulated except for formless feelings of unease and dread, but others may not be so lucky. Still, it's better than running through without?

Either way, as soon as they get to clear air, she releases it with a shudder. She's starting to feel the strain from several larger-scale Symbologic effects, and that one wasn't precisely the way she's used to using it, which makes it harder. She's lucky she had the Symbols - or perhaps not lucky, because Lynnai is quite flexible within her specialty, but it's a good thing they exist.

"I'll need some time before we head back, but I think I can do a better job with some work," Lynnai says, dusting her hands together. They enter the bigger room - and Claude is already under attack!

Lynnai lets the fighters rush in. She's not one of them. She does her best work from back here. Which is why, a couple moments later, a spike made of faintly greenish compressed air angled diagonally down rockets straight toward the Hellion's back; Lynnai is the kind of mage that (thankfully) is not prone to party damage, because she has actual finesse, unlike some of the sorcerers she knows that use things like 'meteors' and 'fireballs' that get everywhere.

She follows it up with another air lance, because if one is good, two is better.

DG: Lynnai Albrek has contributed a Combat Basic Action toward her party's challenge, Bestial Bearcat.
<Pose Tracker> Ida Everstead-Rey has posed.

"Talise, are you--" Ida abruptly stops in mid-sentence, her face settling into a look of calm. You shouldn't have come here. Mother didn't want you to leave. Father didn't want you to leave, either. No one did. You are being a stubborn, willful child. You're accomplishing nothing, and will accomplish nothing without--

The bubble dissipates, and the air is clean again. Ida takes a deep breath, her public face still secure in spite of the fact that she wants to sit in a corner and cry. This is not the first time this has occurred. Fortunately, the bearcat has impeccable timing, and gives her something to focus on that isn't everyone's innermost inadequacies. Ida's eyes widen as the thing comes from nowhere, slamming Claude into the pillar--a revolver is in her hand in an instant, and her public face tightens into a look of annoyance. She empties all six chambers at the monster, because those things are bad enough when they're not tainted.

DG: Ida Everstead-Rey has contributed a Combat Basic Action toward her party's challenge, Bestial Bearcat.
DG: Talise Gianfair has contributed a Combat Basic Action toward her party's challenge, Bestial Bearcat.
DG: Rosaline Calice has contributed a Combat Basic Action toward her party's challenge, Bestial Bearcat.
DG: The party led by Ida Everstead-Rey has passed this challenge! The party gained 21 exploration! If anyone needs to use party
management commands, do so now. Otherwise, the next round's GM may begin the next round with +dungeon/draw.
DG: Lynnai Albrek has drawn a new Challenge.
========================<* CHALLENGE - Burnt Offering *>========================
|Type: Climax      |Dungeon Ability: Wits      |Challenge Rating: 1          | 
---------------------------< Challenge Information: >---------------------------
 Before you is an altar. Beyond it, a door, the only door to be found in the   
 entirety of this cave system. The door will not budge. Not for all the        
 greatest force in the world, not for all the most clever keys, not for all    
 the most dextrous devices. Besides the altar is flint and fuel for burning.   
 Upon the door, a simple message: OFFER UNTO THE PYRE. Flesh, possessions, it  
 matters not -- as long as it has meaning. As long as it takes something from  
 you. As long as it satisfies the whimsy of this altar's wards. What will you  
 give?                                                                         
=Dungeon Conditions: Wound====================================================
<Pose Tracker> Claude C. Kenny has posed.

Zed's attack slashes into the Bearcat's forearm and sticks there, Malevolence and Malevolence blazing against each other for a moment; the monster roars and hurls the Metal Demon away, Doombringer carving through the limb in the process. The monster hardly seems to notice, already turning back to the attack, holes peppering its massive chest as Ida's shots smash into it. It drives its wounded limb downward again, and Claude blocks with the empowered holy sword, staggering backward. The Hellion raises both arms again---

TIDAL BLOW TIDAL BLOW ALL OF THE TIDAL BLOWS

The creature roars in agony, battered by the assaults, then stumbles from Lynnai's air lance, falls backward, and impales itself upon one of the stalagmites.

THis doesn't mean stop shooting, though Claude munches on a steak to recover. "Thanks," he says genuinely, rubbing his right side and wincing. "That one hurt."

<Pose Tracker> Lynnai Albrek has posed.

Lynnai doesn't speak until she's absolutely sure the monster is dead.

"I would imagine," she says. "We'll move on when you feel you can." Lynnai isn't going to leave anyone down here while they're recovering, though fortunately he seems to be getting through that steak with enough speed; it suggests he's going to be better off than he looks right now.

It's not too much longer before they get to... a door. A door, with a flint and steel and a sign indicating OFFER UNTO THE PYRE. Lynnai's first instinct is, of course, the same as it is with anything else she doesn't recognize: Check it in a book.

"Hmm," she says, investigating the door. Lynnai looks at it for several long seconds, paging through part of the book. Then she winds up and kicks the door, which of course fails to do much (though, to be fair, it wouldn't have to be a particularly magical door to resist that kick). "Well, I've concluded one thing."

"That door wasn't here before."

Lynnai closes the book and puts it back in her pocket. Then she investigates the altar. She spends a few moments on that before she reaches out, lights the fire... but puts nothing in it. She's still considering, and also trying to get a feel for it spiritually. "Hmm."

DG: Lynnai Albrek has used her Tool Albrek Texts toward her party's challenge, Burnt Offering.
DG: Talise Gianfair has contributed a Wits Basic Action toward her party's challenge, Burnt Offering.
<Pose Tracker> Talise Gianfair has posed.

"TIDAL BLOW TIDAL BLOW TIDAL BLOW," Talise yells a few times more as she attempts to cleave through the bearcat. It lands a few hits on her; she grits her teeth and fights through it despite the clawmarks running along her cheek, bloodied.

Finally lunging backwards to catch her breath, she nods to Rosaline quickly. "I'll manage... 's disorienting," she murmurs, eyes flicking to Ida as well. "Let's go."

Indeed, the group moves on, and into a room with a flint and steel. Talise frowns for a moment as she glances to the door, then moves over to listen to Lynnai's observations. "No kidding," she murmurs, rubbing at the slashes across her cheek and succeeding mostly in getting blood on her gauntlet. "So they've magically added it somehow. I don't understand any of this... if that damn White Knight is doing this as some kind of test for us...."

Attention turning to the flame, she considers for a moment -

Her blood runs cold. With a growl, she fires up her gauntlets, reaching out with both hands for the pedestal upon which the pyre sits, as if she wants to tear it out of the ground and throw it.

She stops herself an inch before touching it.

"...No," she murmurs, stepping back with a haunted frown. "No, the Pyre Witch would be more subtle."

For a moment, she considers. Then, eyelids lowering, she reaches into her jacket, pulling out a scrap of paper and a piece of charcoal. Diligently, she scribbles something on it, then sets the paper before the pyre. She's written a message on it:

FUCK YOU, K.K.!

"There," she says, clapping her gauntlets together. "There's my offering."

<Pose Tracker> Zed has posed.

"Think nothing of it, chum!" Zed beams, his horrible introspective malaise all but forgotten. "Will you be alright? It looks like you took a pretty heavy blow there." He's... Concerned? Of course! They're in a pretty terrible place, after all. There's only so much good cheer, guts and courage will do to pull them through. You gotta have a little compassion in the face of... Malevolence.

But then... Then they find themselves facing...

A brazier.

A brazier that demands sacrifice. Offer onto the Pyre? Offer what onto the Pyre? Zed squints his brow. He ponders the significance of this fire.

...

..........

Nope. He's got nothing.

"Well. It's probably a trap," Zed murmurs, rubbing at his chin. "Probably best to destroy it so that the next group through doesn't have any trouble, eh?" Doombringer sparkles ominously. Zed's lips curl into a wicked smirk. "Come on then!" He whirls his blade. "Time's-a-wastin'!"

And then he starts smacking the thing.

With his horrible cursed sword.

Clearly this can lead to nothing bad.

DG: Zed has contributed a Wits Basic Action toward his party's challenge, Burnt Offering.
<Pose Tracker> Claude C. Kenny has posed.

People walking behind Claude C. Kenny (which is probably everybody but Zed) will notice he is limping a bit, and he's keeping his right arm a little closer to his side than normal. Those particularly attentive to body language (or who've had cracked ribs in the past) will prbably be able to make out the diagnosis for themselves. Claude himself is well aware, thanks to the bodily awareness that comes from many years of training in qigong. And also...

ENSIGN KENNY, SCANS REPORT YOU HAVE SUSTAINED CRACKS TO RIGHT RIBS 5 AND 6, AS WELL AS

"I know," he mutters.

TEARING TO SERRATUS ANTERIOR MUSCLES AND CONTU

"I know," he mutters again.

SIONS. PLEASE REPORT TO CALNUS MEDBAY OR AWAY TEAM MEDICAL PERSONNEL FOR TREATMENT.

Claude rubs his face with one hand. This is why he doesn't use the HUD. When he opens his eyes again, he's seeing a giant fire and call for a... sacrifice? What should he--

ENSIGN KENNY, PLEASE REPORT TO CALNUS MEDBAY OR AWAY TEAM MEDICAL PERSONNEL FOR TREATMENT.

Claude suppresses the urge to throw the tricorder in, because that would be extremely stupid. Instead he pulls a harmonica from his pocket. It's cheap (it's all he could afford here), but it's been a solace over these past several weeks when so little has gone right on Cow Patty Planet. He tosses it onto the fire with a wince.

ENSIGN KENNY, PLEASE REPORT TO CALNUS MEDBAY OR AWAY TEAM MEDICAL PERSONNEL FOR TREATMENT.

DG: Claude C. Kenny has used his Tool Tricorder toward his party's challenge, Burnt Offering.
<Pose Tracker> Rosaline Calice has posed.

"Gentle Heal," Rosaline says as she passes by the limping Claude, hopefully making his device stop complaining in the process. Because he's obviously in pain, she doesn't even give him a hard time for having strange technology that could doom their world at any moment now.

Rosaline is appropriately puzzled by the existence of a door and altar when the group stumbles upon it. She unfortunately (fortunately?) has not heard the Legend of the Pyre Witch. This seems sinister, but not enough to arouse specific suspicion. She looks at the obviously blasphemous altar apprehensively, then back at the door.

Right. It seems there really is no other way forward. Once again, like Lynnai, she pulls out her own book, and opens it to what seems like a relevant passage...

"And if thine eye offend thee, pluck it out: it is better for thee to enter into the kingdom of God with one eye, than having two eyes to be cast into hell fire: Where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched."

"For every one shall be salted with fire, and every sacrifice shall be salted with salt."

She closes her book. "I-I'm sorry, that one is a little dark."

She raises a hand close to her eye. It lingers there for a moment. She lowers her hand.

No, no... Of course she wasn't seriously considering it. Of course not.

It's hard to think of anything she can offer that would have any value, in part because she specifically tries to have as few material possessions as possible. Her Bible comes to mind, but that's unthinkable-- That would be the greatest blasphemy. Or maybe...

Very hesitantly, she begins tugging her gloves off. It's like someone up there (down there?) REALLY wants her to take them off repeatedly. She reveals under them a pair of furred hands, each with a set of crooked, wickedly sharp-looking claws. She fidgets and tries to hide them, looking ashamed if anyone so much as glances her way while they're in view.

She returns her attention to the group. "What does K.K. stand for...? Something Knight? As in, the one we saw watching us the other day?" Her gloves are still in her hands, waiting to be sacrificed. It seems more in the spirit of the thing than what... Talise and Zed are doing.

Ah! Claude breaks the ice. Right, then. Into the fire her gloves go. At least she has spares, but hopefully the fire doesn't know that.

DG: Rosaline Calice has used her Tool Extreme Teen Bible toward her party's challenge, Burnt Offering.
<Pose Tracker> Ida Everstead-Rey has posed.

Claude is gobbling down a steak, which is good, because that means he's probably going to be all right. Ida's eyes narrow at the sight of that inscription, and a cold shudder works its way down her spine. She nods to Lynnai--it's all too clear what they're expected to do, but whether or not doing so is a good idea is still up in the air. The whole thing carries the aura of some sort of heathen ritual to Ida, and she does not like it.

"You suspect this might be their work?" Ida says to Talise--she was suspecting Agatha as well, for no other reason than her moniker. "A test. What sick mind would think of this as a test?" Nevertheless, Talise makes her offering. It's probably for the best that Ida doesn't actually see the message, but the format seems... doable. "Granas forgive us," she murmurs, as she reaches into her pocket and extracts a small, rectangular case made out of brass, or some similar material chemically-tarnished to look like Dragon bone. She pops the latch, and takes out a single piece of cardstock, bearing the name:

Ida Everstead-Rey

Apprentice ARMs Meister

Everstead-Rey ARMs and Munitions

Foremost Tier, Guild Galad

It's not just that printing highly-customized things on cardstock is kind of expensive to do--these tiny little cards have a bit of symbolic cultural resonance to them. Calling cards are a reflection of their owner's identity and station. She drops hers into the fire, and tries not to ruminate on the implications.

<Pose Tracker> Zed has posed.

Zed pauses in his alter-whacking.

To stare at Rosaline's... Paws.

"Ah--" Zed says, moving over and opening his hands to reach at them. He squeezes... Just a little bit. "Ahahaha! These are awesome! Rosaline! Why do you hide them!?"

ZED HAS FOUND: BIGGER PRETTY PINK PAWSIES

<Pose Tracker> Rosaline Calice has posed.

"Gentle Heal," Rosaline says as she passes by the limping Claude, hopefully making him stop talking to himself. Or... is he? Because he's obviously in pain, she doesn't even give him a hard time for carrying around what is either a cute animal companion, or strange technology that could doom their world at any moment now.

Rosaline is appropriately puzzled by the existence of a door and altar when the group stumbles upon it. She unfortunately (fortunately?) has not heard the Legend of the Pyre Witch. This seems sinister, but not enough to arouse specific suspicion. She looks at the obviously blasphemous altar apprehensively, then back at the door.

Right. It seems there really is no other way forward. Once again, like Lynnai, she pulls out her own book, and opens it to what seems like a relevant passage...

"And if thine eye offend thee, pluck it out: it is better for thee to enter into the kingdom of God with one eye, than having two eyes to be cast into hell fire: Where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched."

"For every one shall be salted with fire, and every sacrifice shall be salted with salt."

She closes her book. "I-I'm sorry, that one is a little dark."

She raises a hand close to her eye. It lingers there for a moment. She lowers her hand.

No, no... Of course she wasn't seriously considering it. Of course not.

It's hard to think of anything she can offer that would have any value, in part because she specifically tries to have as few material possessions as possible. Her Bible comes to mind, but that's unthinkable-- That would be the greatest blasphemy. Or maybe...

Very hesitantly, she begins tugging her gloves off. It's like someone up there (down there?) REALLY wants her to take them off repeatedly. She reveals under them a pair of furred hands, each with a set of crooked, wickedly sharp-looking claws. She fidgets and tries to hide them, looking ashamed if anyone so much as glances her way while they're in view.

She returns her attention to the group. "What does K.K. stand for...? Something Knight? As in, the one we saw watching us the other day?" Her gloves are still in her hands, waiting to be sacrificed. It seems more in the spirit of the thing than what... Talise and Zed are doing.

Ah! Claude breaks the ice. Right, then. Into the fire her gloves go. At least she has spares, but hopefully the fire doesn't know that.

<Pose Tracker> Talise Gianfair has posed.

"I'm sure of it," Talise murmurs as she steps back towards Ida, hand coming to rest at her hip. "The White Knight was watching us during the battle in Port Timney, at least for a minute there. And Sorey seemed to know what this Malevolence stuff was. The Knight has to be involved somehow - K.K. has to be involved."

Her brows furrow slightly as she watches Rosaline move. "I... I don't know what K.K. stands for," she admits quietly.

DG: Ida Everstead-Rey has contributed a Wits Basic Action toward her party's challenge, Burnt Offering.
DG: The party led by Ida Everstead-Rey has passed this challenge! The party gained 0 exploration! If anyone needs to use party
management commands, do so now. Otherwise, the next round's GM may begin the next round with +dungeon/draw.
<Pose Tracker> Lynnai Albrek has posed.

Lynnai hasn't moved the whole time while she stared at the fire. Not when other people started burning things, either, aside from a slight frown. She's really deep in thought. "I don't think that will work," she does aside to Talise. Then actually rises at Zed. "Zed, offering it violence is not going to - "

Well, it might. The pyre seems pretty okay, anyway. It doesn't explode. Nor does it explode when Claude adds a harmonica, or anyone else dropping paper (or gloves) in.

Eventually she makes up her mind. Lynnai opens her book again. She starts to draw on an empty page at the back of the notebook, writing a complex Symbol in long form by memory. It's complex-looking, and a little archaic, but not completely unknown. It's a specialist's Symbol, one to form a cloud; you'd combine it with something else to actually do anything. It's not a spell on its own, but a tool, something to build up from to make an actual Symbological effect.

It takes her the best part of two minutes to complete, and when it's done she carefully tears it free of the book, folds it in half and tosses it into the fire. It burns almost immediately.

Lynnai's sacrifice is secrecy. That's one of the Symbols tattooed on her arms that she keeps hidden beneath her sleeves, not because it's completely unknown (it isn't) or because she wants to keep it all to herself (she doesn't, and indeed couldn't - it's known in Marze if you know who to ask, which is where she learned it), but only because it's rare and unusual enough that the average Symbologist who isn't in the same specialty as she is, air and wind and storm, might not have come across it - and she doesn't always want to advertise what she can do. Perhaps it's a little like Rosaline, but Lynnai isn't ashamed - she just really hates destroying knowledge.

Well, now whoever's reading the pyre knows, at least in part - if indeed anyone is. A minor problem, but one she can work around.

Between all of them - violence, sass, music, secrecy, secrecy again but differently, and self - it seems to be enough. The pyre flares; the door slides open at a touch, though grudgingly, as if it didn't much care for it. But that's just your imagination. Right?

<Pose Tracker> Claude C. Kenny has posed.

Claude blinks at Ida's card when she drops it in the fire, because hey - that's impressive cardstock for Cow Patty Planet. But then a lightbulb goes

  • ding*

"Wait, Everstead-Rey ARMs and Munitions?" he asks, eyes wide. "You're...one of the Guild Galad Everstead-Reys?" He draws his gunsmoke revolver. "Ida, why didn't you tell me? I bought one of your guns!"

(Yes, he literally just realized.)

<Pose Tracker> Rosaline Calice has posed.

These are actually white pawsies, Zed, but Rosaline isn't one to argue with a meme.

"A-Awesome?" Rosaline isn't sure what to think of Zed's comment, but then she quickly remembers that the man is out of his mind. "I don't know... Either way, they're really dangerous... I need to be very careful."

"Oh, it's open!" she says, her ears turning towards the door before the rest of her does, hopefully changing the subject.

DG: Zed has drawn a new Challenge.
=====================<* CHALLENGE - Hellionized Hydra *>======================
|Type: Final       |Dungeon Ability: Combat    |Challenge Rating: 2          | 
--------------------------< Challenge Information: >--------------------------
 Beyond is a large and empty cavern, beset by a spacious lake. The air is      
 still, uncomfortably so... and thick with choking Malevolence. And then       
 there is a roar, so violent it makes the ground rumble. From the lake bursts  
 forth a tremendous, scaled hydra; once the one who called this place its      
 home, now warped by the grotto's new denizens, this Malevolence-twisted       
 hydra is fueled by maddening rage and torturous corruption and wants nothing  
 more than to squash anything and everything in its path, and right now that   
 includes you. Perhaps you should try encouraging it not to. With violence.                                                   
=Dungeon Conditions: Tire=====================================================
+Vote: Zed has voted for you.
<Pose Tracker> Zed has posed.

"No, really! That's one of the reasons they're awesome! Aside from being so fluffy!" Zed grins like the happy little maniac that he is. "I mean, look at these, they look like they could go right through--"

Beat.

Ears.

"Door?" Zed cranes his head owlishly over his shoulder. He blinks slowly, eyes finding, sure enough, that the door they were standing before seems to have opened... OF ITS OWN VOLITION!? "Well that's strange. I signed up for monster-slaying, not for strange, picky doors," Zed huffs."

"At least this one didn't have a password, or anything like that."

"Well!" He turns, backflips, twirls and kicks the door open the rest of the way. "Time's-a-wasting! With any luck, we'll get to the root of this mess soon! And when we do..." Zed lands, clenching a fist. His scarf billows in nonexistent wind. "We'll finish this! In glorious battle! Come, friends!"

Zed...

Sprints down the corridor.

...

There's a scream. It sounds vaguely Zed-like.

The hallway terminates in a vast, vaulted chamber knee-deep in clingy, purple ooze. It seems to creep into every nook and cranny, pouring uncomfortably into boots and seeping into every pore in reach in a way that no natural fluid should manage. Of course, that's only if you fall into it. Islands and outcroppings of weakened stone still stand amidst the sea of Malevolence. You'll need them, because they aren't the only thing here.

There's also an enormous, six-headed serpent.

Zed is apparently caught in one of its mouths, holding the thing open with all four limbs to keep its terrible, overgrown fangs from sinking into his body. They drip and seep with foul-smelling, purple ichor. Upon noticing your arrival, three of the creature's remaining mouths distend grotesquely, disgorging vast jets of liquefied corruption at the mouth of the corridor.

The remaining two heads hiss and bob eagerly, a glimmer of bloodthirst sparkling in each of their six eyes.

The area near the shore is covered in a thick layer of glittering smoke.

WHAT DO.

DG: Zed has used his Tool Smoke Bombs toward his party's challenge, Hellionized Hydra.
<Pose Tracker> Talise Gianfair has posed.

Agatha didn't jump out and steal her soul. That's a win in Talise's book.

"Be alert. This isn't going to be pretty," she warns as she starts forward, holding Rastaban at the ready. The bleeding from her cheek has mostly stopped at this point, leaving behind only the sort of dull pain that she can bear.

Ahead, Zed squeals like a girl. Talise lowers her eyelids. "Goddess damn it, Zed," she sighs as she ducks through the door.

Only to find a six-headed hydra breathing Malevolence at her. Widening her eyes, Talise dives forward and rolls - and the worst of it rushes over her in a wave, slamming into either a wall or someone behind her. It's close. She can feel the hair on her neck standing up.

Coming out of her roll, the tall woman barrels forward, glancing down towards the layer of smoke. As the hydra's heads weave, she darts away from another jet of ichor, then lunges to her left, trying to get a clear shot through to a couple of the heads. "Damn it, Zed, this is why you wait for the team!" she scolds over the din of combat as she barrels forward -

Into Zed's smoke.

A moment passes. Then, with a power leap, Talise comes hurtling out of the smoke. The jump is almost impossibly high; she sails upwards, just above head level for the Hydra's maws. Violet light glints off of Rastaban's blade as she sweeps it back - joined by a glint of something subtly green.

"Althena's power!!" she shouts at the apex of her leap. "HUUUUAAAAAAAAHT!!!"

Descending towards the Hydra's back, Talise calls upon the power of her gauntlets. Strength pours through her, her muscles contracting. With a massive arc of Rastaban's long blade, she swings - and there is a horrible sound of steel physically decimating air.

Ideally, she'll drop to the Hydra's back. And ideally, she'll have severed a head or two off the damn thing.

And once she does, she'll leap away again - and hurl one of her storm knives at the stumps, aiming to deliver an electric blast straight through the damn thing's veins.

DG: Talise Gianfair has used her Tool Bomb Knife toward her party's challenge, Hellionized Hydra.
<Pose Tracker> Ida Everstead-Rey has posed.

Ida glances at Claude, her public face flickering for a moment. "I'm not here on family business, but yes, my grandfather is President, and my aunt is Chief of Operations." She manages a subtle smile. "Thank you for your patronage, but..." The public face wavers, like a flame in the rain. "to tell you the truth, it's almost refreshing, not being defined by the name." A tiny part of her feels very, very terrible for having said that, despite everything.

Zed goes sprinting off, which is totally normal. A scream comes echoing down the corridor, which is a little less normal, but still within operating tolerances--Ida draws Devil's Due, and follows him.

She is not ready for what lies beyond. The Malevolence is so thick that she can almost feel it, and the hydra--while certainly terrifying on its own--has the sort of strange heat-haze the mushrooms and bearcat did. Something horrific is right there, in the corner of her eye, and she can't quite make it out. She follows Talise's lead, ducking and combat-rolling to the side as horrible, horrible energy fills the air. It's thick and dense and feels like spiritual vomit. "BACK, DEVIL," Ida roars, as she comes up to a knee. She pulls the trigger, and Devil's Due roars. A burning plume of Dragon-fire roars at the neck of the head that's trying to eat Zed. Ida focuses again, shrugging off the weapon's formidable recoil. She fires again, this time at the creature's central body.

DG: Ida Everstead-Rey has used her Tool Devil's Due toward her party's challenge, Hellionized Hydra.
<Pose Tracker> Rosaline Calice has posed.

Wait, did Talise says 'Goddess?' At least Rosaline agrees with the general sentiment, but... In any case!! "W-We should probably not split up like this..." Rosaline says to no one in particular, once Zed is already well out of earshot. Well, nothing to do but to catch up, and...

A-A Hydra. Rosaline's eyes momentarily grow the size of saucerplates.

"I can do this..." she says to herself, bounding out of the way of the creature's Malevolence breath with more than a little obvious desperation, then begins incanting. "I can definitely do this!"

"Please let me help," Rosaline says, before she follows up with another "Holy Sword!"] This time, it's directed at Zed. This might be because he's leading the charge (well, sort of), or because he just complimented the last thing she ever expected herself to be complimented about. It is definitely a large factor, at least, that she 1- hasn't quite realized the very precarious position he's in, and 2- doesn't know his sword is named freaking Doombringer.

This will either work out excellently or terribly, which sounds like exactly the sort of situation Zed lives for.

But she's not done yet. She dives towards the cloud of smoke, placing it between the creature and herself. Luckily, her aim is so terrible that the lack of sight won't matter, and where she's going, she doesn't NEED aim.

"SUPPRESSIVE FIIIIIIIIRE!" Rosaline yells at what Talise, at least, knows for a fact isn't the actual top of her lungs. Bullets fly out every which way, intended to keep busy the heads her teammates aren't actively focusing on.

<Pose Tracker> Rosaline Calice has posed.

Wait, did Talise says 'Goddess?' At least Rosaline agrees with the general sentiment, but... In any case!! "W-We should probably not split up like this..." Rosaline says to no one in particular, once Zed is already well out of earshot. Well, nothing to do but to catch up, and...

A-A Hydra. Rosaline's eyes momentarily grow the size of saucerplates.

"I can do this..." she says to herself, bounding out of the way of the creature's Malevolence breath with more than a little obvious desperation, then begins incanting. "I can definitely do this!"

"Please let me help," Rosaline says, before she follows up with another "Holy Sword!" This time, it's directed at Zed. This might be because he's leading the charge (well, sort of), or because he just complimented the last thing she ever expected herself to be complimented about. It is definitely a large factor, at least, that she 1- hasn't quite realized the very precarious position he's in, and 2- doesn't know his sword is named freaking Doombringer.

This will either work out excellently or terribly, which sounds like exactly the sort of situation Zed lives for.

But she's not done yet. She dives towards the cloud of smoke, placing it between the creature and herself. Luckily, her aim is so terrible that the lack of sight won't matter, and where she's going, she doesn't NEED aim.

"SUPPRESSIVE FIIIIIIIIRE!" Rosaline yells at what Talise, at least, knows for a fact isn't the actual top of her lungs. Bullets fly out every which way, intended to keep busy the heads her teammates aren't actively focusing on.

<Pose Tracker> Lynnai Albrek has posed.

Lynnai moves in through the now-opened door. "Zed, wait," she calls, as the Metal Demon (not that she knows it) rushes ahead.

This isn't the first time. It won't be the last.

He has backup pretty shortly thereafter, at least. Talise bursts in, as does Lynnai; while Talise rushes toward the hydra, Lynnai doesn't. She bounds from rock to rock instead, her coat billowing with every leap as she tries to get as close to a high position as it's possible to get in here. The wash of Malevolence doesn't quite touch her, though her coat leaves interesting trails in it, billowing in a low heavy cloud as it's disturbed by the Zephyr Coat.

Lynnai touches down on one of the bigger outcroppings. It's big enough, in fact, to support her weight; she wouldn't want to get hit on it, but she balances on it, wind rippling around her feet. "Give me a moment!" she calls, hoping in fact that the others can distract it. This is going to be a big piece of sorcery...

The wind billowing around Lynnai gets more intense as she draws more power, some of it escaping as randomized currents in the air. She's building something in the middle of the room; it looks like a spherical bubble of greenish wind blades, a wireframe sphere where every one of the lines is sharp and spinning. It drops, starting to roll through the oozy Malevolence, kicking some of it up and remaining pristine - not a drop is allowed into the middle of the sphere.

Lynnai rolls it right into the turtle-like back of the hydra. Then she lets it gets a little bigger. Then she crunches it down again, clenching her fist which is surrounded by the Symbological casting rings, squeezing as she tries to carve into the Hydra. Come on....

DG: Lynnai Albrek has contributed a Combat Basic Action toward her party's challenge, Hellionized Hydra.
DG: Rosaline Calice has contributed a Combat Basic Action toward her party's challenge, Hellionized Hydra.
<Pose Tracker> Claude C. Kenny has posed.

Suddenly! Zed is trapped in the maw of a terrible Hydra! Claude C. Kenny draws his sword and---

GET UP ON THE HYDRA'S BACK

"Uh, I don't think that is going to---"

GET UP ON THE HYDRA'S BACK

"I---"

GET UP ON THE HYDRA'S BACK

"---you---"

GET UP ON THE HYDRA'S BACK

"--b--"

GET UP ON THE HYDRA'S BACK

"Oh my God, reboot already!" Claude screams as he draws his sword.

REBOOTING, STAND BY

"GAAAAAA!" Claude screams as he rushes toward the Hydra, feet splashing in liquid Malevolence he can't even see. He leaps upward - way too far upward, far over the hydra and toward one of the larger stalactites. Claude drives his sword into the rock formation and scarfs down a steak, waiting for the others to attack. He's pretty sure the others are going to go for the heads. But Claude, thanks to his SUPERIOR SPACE KNOWLEDGE, knows that there is another piece to the puzzle. And so he gathers his chi, pouring all his remaining energy into his fists, which begin to glow with (if you'll pardon me) a power that could be described as generating some awe.

After about twenty seconds of this Claude releases his sword and drops downward, fists extended with crimson flame. "BURST KNUCKLE!" he screams, after which things get really hard, because he forces his fingers to uncurl and separate, still struggling to maintain the blazing fire.

"AND"

Yellow-bluish fire joins the red, spreading to Claude's upper arms and shoulders as he lands atop (shut up, tricorder) the Hydra's back, where severed heads are twitching. "METEOR PALM!" he shouts, stepping forward, arms pulling back.

"INTO"

Claude springs off the Hydra's back (thankfully before Lynnai's wireframe hits) and begins delivering a series of blindingly fast punches at the severed heads, arms blurring, each strike exploding in a blast of raging fire.

"BURST METEOR KNUCKLE PALM!"

(Claude is not good at naming things)

DG: Claude C. Kenny has used his Tool Pocket Steak toward his party's challenge, Hellionized Hydra.
DG: You have overcome the dungeon's trials! This run is a success!
DG: The party led by Ida Everstead-Rey has successfully explored Otherworldly Hollow!
======================<* CHALLENGE - Corrupt Carcass *>=======================
|Type: Discovery   |Dungeon Ability: Discovery |Challenge Rating: 1          | 
--------------------------< Challenge Information: >--------------------------
 Scattered within this cavern within the depths of the Otherworldly Hollow     
 are countless corpses of beasts... and the occasional human. All of them, to  
 the spiritual eye, seem to be in various states of the malevolent             
 metamorphosis that have affected the rest of the beasts here, as if the       
 Malevolence in this place was being tested on them before the stress proved   
 too much to them. At first glance, there seems no rhyme or reason to them --  
 but those who know the regions of Ignas might recognize them. From the        
 wolves to the hobgobs, all of them seem to come from the areas surrounding    
 Lahan...                                                                      
=Dungeon Conditions: Treasure=================================================
<Pose Tracker> Zed has posed.

There are few things on Ignas that could match this creature in single combat. Perhaps the legendary Bugbear King, or the Ultra Roc. Or perhaps... Perhaps a gang of heroes...!

It still counts as single combat. There are six heads, there are six heroes. 6/6 = 1! It's just math!

Zed does not shriek like a little girl. He shrieks like a Zed. Whether one is approximately similar to the other is a matter of debate. What is not a matter of debate is the fact that sword to neck is still a valid method of slaying a hydra. The creature's head whips around to try and snatch Talise out of the air, but her blade eludes its grasp, cleaving down into the beast's many spines. She severs not one, but two heads. The putrid goo below sloshes and congeals like vile oobleck in the aftershocks, but to no small amount of horror, the thing's flesh seems to bubble at the severed necks, bone and fresh cells oozing out from within the creature moments before her daggers make contact, flash-frying the regenerative tissue and filling the air with the scent of rancid, barbecued crocodile.

As the thing howls, so too does Devil's Due. An enormous slug erupts from the weapon with more force than an ARM should be capable of producing. Perhaps something in the weapon senses that something that is kin to it is in grave danger. Whatever the case, the bolt smashes into the hydra's throat, severing and cauterizing the limb in one sudden impact. Zed yells as he falls out of the beast's limp jaw, backflipping from its bottom lip just in time to avoid a bath in the slop below.

The remaining three heads move to counter-attack, only for a harrowing barrage of gunfire stuns them for just long enough for their corrupt torrents to go wide, smashing into the distant rocks where the stuff congeals into a strange, violet amber. Zed growls as he pulls himself up to his feet, only to notice that something is... amiss.

...But what?

No time to worry about that. There are still three heads, and the ones that have been removed seem to be... Stirring. Reanimating. But there's a solution. G*nd*m Fight Regulations state that if the head is destroyed, the competitor is disqualified from the tournament. Fusing two powers into one, Claude channels the full might of his admittedly questionable though undeniably puissant heritage into a single blow. A flurry of burning red energy surges out like a machinegun tidal wave. The severed heads are reduced to a fine red mist, and the energy carries on to destroy a fourth!

It's enough carnage to afford Lynnai the opportunity to close the distance. Her sorcery, without peer (because nobody's copied it yet. Better patent that quick), weaves a sphere of cutting wind into the hydra's tortoise-shell back. The creature screams as foul blood spills outward and upward into the terrible cyclone force ripping it to shreds. But it still has two heads.

Zed...

Has finally realized what is wrong.

His sword! It's glowing. Not glowing in a nice way. It's glowing in a... admittedly kind of worrying way. "Uh." Zed says at his sword, which seems to vibrate like an overexcited toddler. "Uhhhhh." He looks at the hydra's last two heads.

Zed squints.

And sort of... swings his sword into one of their throats.

It explodes.

Everything explodes.

The hydra explodes. Zed's sword explodes. The ooze below, it explodes too. The stone, the air. All briefly goes boom.

When the smoke clears, the hydra, left with but a single head, wiggles and writhes in an empty stone pool before Lynnai punches through its center with some finality, and the thing goes silent.

Zed is...

Upside down, upper-body hip-deep in a pile of rubble.

Vic...tory?

<Pose Tracker> Claude C. Kenny has posed.

REBOOT COMPLETE

"AAAAAATATATATATATATTATATATATATATA--"

DODGE

"ATATA-wha"

The Hydra explodes, sending Claude C. Kenny blasting off again; by the time the smoke clears, he is sort of slumped against a wall blinking owlishly.

ENSIGN KENNY, SCANS INDICATE YOU HAVE SUSTAINED A MILD CONCUSSION

"That's nice," he says, sounding dazed.

<Pose Tracker> Lynnai Albrek has posed.

Things Lynnai was not expecting her spell to do: explode.

Wait, that wasn't her spell. So that's a plus? At least, it means she didn't do anything catastrophically wrong.

Regardless, the scale of the explosion is enough to dislodge her entire rock from where it balances. She slides on it, coat billowing as she spreads her arms, kicking up dust and rubble as she literally surfs down a pile of pebbles and dirt.

Eventually, the rock comes to a stop. Lynnai steps off it, almost delicately. She has a strange urge to say 'ta-da', which she does not - because she's ended up by some bodies. "Is everyone okay down there?" she calls, while she looks them over with a frown. Out comes the book again. She can be called back by someone saying they need help, but honestly Rosaline is better at medical treatment than she ever was, and this is...

"I think we found somebody's laboratory," she adds, sounding slightly disturbed.

<Pose Tracker> Talise Gianfair has posed.

It's not often that Talise shows off. But as she leaps away from the Hydra and sticks the landing, she adeptly twirls Rastaban out to her right side, then above her head, before bringing the blade back down into a ready stance and preparing for her next move. The extravagant flourish helps push away the last lingering feelings of doubt the malevolent miasma of the place had driven into her senses.

Then the hydra explodes. Talise drops to a knee and gasps, shielding herself with her sword and a fold of her coat.

The good news is, she's far enough from the explosion to avoid the worst of it. Lifting her head, she winces at the sight of Lynnai polishing it off - then has to suppress a laugh at the sight of Zed's legs sticking out of the rubble pile. The short 'heh' trails off into a soft groan as she gingerly presses a hand against her shoulder, then down to her side. It's been a tough fight; she's more hurt than she thought she'd be.

With a sigh, she wipes her sword and starts towards Zed. "Alright, big guy. Out you come," she says as she claps her hands together, letting the power of her gauntlets flow.

Then she attempts to grab Zed by the leg and casually lift him out of the rubble.

She'll just dangle him there for a moment. "Y'alright, bud?" she asks.

Then Lynnai calls from off in the distance, and Talise looks over from the direction she just went. "A lab? What ki-"

She spots bodies. Her expression falls.

"...Oh."

<Pose Tracker> Ida Everstead-Rey has posed.

Ida can't help but recoil from that explosion, shielding her face with her arms. The rock she's on is still solidly-attached to the wall, and while it shakes unnervingly, it does not crumble. After one last, violent-sounding squelch, there is only the sound of dripping goo, crumbling rock, and people recovering. Ida rises, blows soot out of her ARM's ejection port, and holsters it. She takes quick visual stock of everyone--

"Claude," Ida says. "Hold still. Sister Calice, if you could see to him--?" Ida clambers across the broken floor and starts picking rocks off the pile Zed is trapped in. Talise has it covered, but it's the thought that counts.

When Zed is retrieved, Lynnai finds something. Ida starts off after her, peers into the room, and--

"Granas," she says. Her face pales at the sight of what to her is an unquestionably human hand, attached to (most of) an unquestionably human body, surrounded by more of that sick feeling. "Are these specimens?" Ida whispers, "or subjects?"

<Pose Tracker> Lynnai Albrek has posed.

"I don't know." Lynnai is frowning. "It's just... they don't seem to have been dissected or anything of the sort," or vivisected, which would be even worse, "but some of them are - the monsters, like before. Different." Spiritually altered, she thinks, though she doesn't have the proper academic grounding to explain further - she has never seen Malevolence before, or at least not like it exists on Lunar.

"I think I need to look for a point of commonality between them. This might take a while. Some of us are hurt, and should retreat - but I wouldn't mind at least a little time to look at this and take notes, myself. I'm fine." Lynnai is more tired than injured; she never really got badly hurt because she stayed well away from the combat. The worst she has is bruises from debris hitting her and trying to surf down a hill of stone debris.

<Pose Tracker> Rosaline Calice has posed.

Everything explodes!! Rosaline conjures up a shield, at the last moment, to prevent herself from being blown into (unbeknownst to her) super evil goop.

"Um. UM." Rosaline isn't sure, but she thinks she might have just destroyed Zed's weapon. "Oh no... Oh no."

She rushes over to give Zed a quick healing spell as Talise pulls him out then. "By the way--" she begins to ask her, before being interrupted. Ida points out Claude's predicament, prompting the nun to gasp and rush over to him for more of the same. A healer's job is never done.

"A lab?..." she asks, apprehensively, once the two men are at least back on their feet. She looks over and approaches.

She covers her mouth, horrorstruck.

Lynnai speaks of finding a point of commonality. Rosaline has to think on it. She's studied monsters before. She should know this. "I think..." she offers, "I don't think these are from here. B-But, actually, that's probably not important. Never mind." She looks away, because the sight of corpses is one of her top 10 least favorite things.

<Pose Tracker> Zed has posed.

Like the world's most inept mandrake, Zed is yanked out of the earth. He looks... Dizzy. His eyes are little swirly things. "Ahahahahaaaa~ that was fun~" Doombringer sort of flops around, still held tight in one of his hands. Looks like the sword is still in one piece! It'll take way more than that to undo THIS unspeakable evil!

"Thaaaanks~" Zed chimes to those KIND HEARTED SOULS who helped him out of his mess. "Just give me a second, friends~"

<Pose Tracker> Claude C. Kenny has posed.

"I'm okay," Claude says in a sort of dazed tone that strongly suggests he is not, in fact, okay. "Just some cracked ribs. And a concussion, apparently." He pauses. "I should probably just sit here for a minute, though, until the walls stop moving."

He suffers the tingling and itching of Rosaline's healing with good grace, because hey - he's not used to this sort of thing being a thing. He should probably be more curious about why their magic can do things Symbology can't, but right now it's less important than...oh.

Claude pushes himself upward, smiling faintly at Rosaline. "Thanks. Uh...that's a lot of..." He grimaces, then forces himself to look. He's a soldier, for one, and any reservations training had left him vanished that first night after three bandits tried to jump him outside of Arlia. He can deal with bodies. But this... even though he can't see Malevolence, the effects on these bodies tell him something is up.

"I've seen one of these before," he finally says, prodding a hobgob corpse with his left foot. Most of the flora and fauna of Filgaia are still new to him, so when he sees something for a second time, it sticks. "Uh, near that deserted town. Where Marshal Smythe blew open that Gear with his Blastemol!® Homestead." Claude glances at Ida. "What was it called again?"

<Pose Tracker> Ida Everstead-Rey has posed.

"Agreed," Ida says, to Lynnai. "I'd... like to take notes, myself." She looks a little green, despite herself--the rotting Reaper carcass was one grotesque thing, but this speaks of experimentation, and focused intent. Someone did this to these living things, perhaps for no other reason than to see if it was possible, and that is more viscerally upsetting. Rosaline might have something, and Ida turns to her. "No, speak," she says. "If you noticed something..." Claude did, too! Ida turns to Claude. "...Deserted down?" she says. Kind of telling that she can't tell which one. "Where was it located?"

<Pose Tracker> Talise Gianfair has posed.

"Zed, you are a piece of work," Talise says with a sigh as she delicately deposits the man somewhere off to her right.

Then she bites her bottom lip and ushers her way back towards Lynnai, Ida and Rosaline. Her expression grows increasingly grim. "Althena's sake," she murmurs, folding her arms tightly as she regards the bodies - even humans, she realizes immediately, a sick feeling rising in the pit of her stomach.

The story of Lahan isn't one Talise knows. She scratches her head, frowning deeply; her cheeks are rather more pale than usual, as one might expect for someone surrounded by the stench of death in a way entirely unrelated to battle for one's life.

As if the horror on Ida's face draws her, she reaches out to rest one gauntleted hand on the naturalist's shoulder. Blessedly she isn't using the more magical elements of those gloves; it's just a reassuring touch, at least a metal one.

"What would monsters like this want with a deserted town," she murmurs, glancing away.

<Pose Tracker> Lynnai Albrek has posed.

Lynnai Albrek agrees with Rosaline, "I think you're right. But I need to check my notes. And take some notes. I think this is a little bigger than a monster attack." She turns to look at Talise, who seems to have a better idea of the... people? responsible. If, indeed, they are people.

She adds to Claude, "Lahan. It's called Lahan." Surprisingly, she actually knows of it. "...though I'd only know because of the hobgobs." Or maybe she came to the conclusion the same way independently. She seems surprisingly non-green. Maybe she's one of those people who can put off disgust until later.

(She is. She'll throw up when she has time. In here, she doesn't have time.)

<Pose Tracker> Claude C. Kenny has posed.

Claude frowns, searching his memory. "The one that was destroyed a couple months ago," he says. "Right after I---"

DON'T SAY LANDED ON THE PLANET, CLAUDE

"---left Arlia for Adlehyde. Rena and I passed by it, and it was still..." Claude snaps his fingers (or tries, because gloves make that hard) and points at Lynnai. "Lahan, that's it," he confirms. "We fought a couple of these. They weren't a huge challenge. Dropped beef jerky, too, for some reason," he adds, because the food monsters drop is important.

<Pose Tracker> Zed has posed.

Zed giggles vacantly as he's set down, staring into the ceiling and desperately hoping that it stops wiggling and wobbling and swirling at him. "Thaaaaaaaaaaaat was a thiiiiing," Zed whines long and tired and vaguely... Satisfied? He sounds happy. Maybe it was just being point blank ontop of that explosion that did it.

Beat.

"Maybe it's 'cause the town got blown up?" Zed pauses for another second as his brain winds through the weird and uncertain and unfamiliar boulevards of thought. "I mean... This stuff! Seems pretty evil! So maybe it's like... They're looking for places with a lot of evil energy too! You know. Testing for... For..."

"...s'... an A word..."

....

"Affinity!"

"For evil!"

"Like, maybe Lahan, being all blown up... Is haunted!" He waves his arms! "BY GHOSTS! AAANGRY GHOOOOSTS!"

<Pose Tracker> Rosaline Calice has posed.

Claude has more pieces of the puzzle. Rosaline keeps thinking. It's at the tip of her tongue. She knows some monsters, but towns not so much, let alone deserted ones.

Talise says something that makes her ears twitch, but the catwoman is lost in concentration. Then Lynnai pronounces 'Lahan', and it all clicks together.

"That's it! I-I mean, that sounds about right. We should double-check, but... I think that might be it." She nods to Lynnai.

Zed says something that... well, it makes more sense than he usually does. "Maybe that's it... Though I hope not. I'm not even good at a normal exorcism..."

<Pose Tracker> Claude C. Kenny has posed.

"Dude, there's no such thing as ghosts," Claude says tolerantly and absolutely incorrectly to Zed. "Stop trying to scare the girls."

<Pose Tracker> Ida Everstead-Rey has posed.

Ida's lips tighten into a thin little line. She sets a hand atop Talise's and grips it firmly, as if to reassure her that she is still present and thinking. She looks at Zed, then at Talise. "This K.K.," Ida says. "You felt that they might be behind it." She is uncertain as to if the Trial Knight has a preferred pronoun, and the figure she briefly glimpsed was heavily-armored. "I don't think Sorey mentioned her at all." Which is a problem, because if they're behind this, and the one person who can purify Malevolence doesn't know how they operate, things get complicated.

"Are you certain? And if so, how does this K.K. operate?"

<Pose Tracker> Zed has posed.

"There are totally such thing as ghosts!" Zed protests with a surprising amount of energy, given his present state of being. "They're... They're spooky! And haunt things! I mean... There are Guardians and spirits and stuff! So why not ghosts???"

<Pose Tracker> Rosaline Calice has posed.

Rosaline doesn't try to correct Claude, merely looking away, uneasy. To be fair, she's never SEEN a ghost for herself.

<Pose Tracker> Talise Gianfair has posed.

"Lahan, huh," Talise murmurs. "I feel like I've heard of that place."

Looking away from the bodies with a low rush of breath, the tall woman tightens her grip on Ida's shoulder for a moment. "Whoever's behind this, anyway," she murmurs.

Ida asks the million-dollar question. Talise's eyes lower, and she closes her eyes, cheeks growing slightly pale. "I don't know for sure, but I saw the White Knight watching us from on top of the wall during the fighting at Timney," she says, voice quiet and haunted. "And... a little while before that, K.K. confronted me personally, on the road back to Adlehyde. Challenged me. It... seems to want me to suffer."

Quiet for a moment, she finally lets out a breath and admits, "A lot of the K.K. stories came from Glenwood... I'm not from there. But the legends say the White Knight - or the Trial Knight sometimes - goes around putting people through a crucible of misfortune and trauma. But only people the Knight deems worthy. What they're really all about, or why the Knight does this... nobody ever knows."

Eyes hardening, she finishes, "All I know is that the Knight's here. With the Pyre Witch. All the old ghost stories I grew up with are turning out to be true."

<Pose Tracker> Claude C. Kenny has posed.

"Because if there were invisible ghost people just sort of walking around and going 'ooooooo' I'd have totally met one by now, because that is how my life works," Claude says, in complete ignorance of the fact that at least one Seraphim has called him a goober to his face. "Besides, it doesn't matter, even if there was such a thing as ghosts, which there isn't, we'll be fine," he says confidently. "Because I have my ghost-punching gloves."

<Pose Tracker> Talise Gianfair has posed.

Talise lowers her eyelids ever so slightly.

"If what Sorey says is true, these guys came from Lunar - where I'm from," she says to Claude. "A lot of people from there ended up here. The same rules don't seem to apply - I think there's more magic on Lunar, somehow. It's why we have a Witch who steals your soul who's really, actually out to do that to us as we speak."

<Pose Tracker> Zed has posed.

"Those exist!" Zed says, sticking a finger out into the air! "I've met... Three? Three. Probably three. Maaaybe four?" Zed scratches his head. "They exist. Really. One threw lightning at me, the other tried to kill me with gravity."

<Pose Tracker> Ida Everstead-Rey has posed.

Ida's severe look somehow gets even more severe. "I see," she says, which is upper-class Guild Galad merchant-noble-speak for 'I acknowledge this poor situation, and am making plans to eventually deal with it, perhaps violently.'

<Pose Tracker> Claude C. Kenny has posed.

Claude looks back and forth between Zed and Talise. Just...back and forth.

He opens his mouth. He closes his mouth.

He looks down at his gloves.

He looks back up. "Can you punch witches with regular fists?" he asks. "Because I don't have witch-punching gloves."

<Pose Tracker> Lynnai Albrek has posed.

"I don't see why not," Lynnai says, while kneeling next to a body and comparing it with some notes in her book.

It's OK, it's not a human body.

<Pose Tracker> Rosaline Calice has posed.

"The Glenwood?" Rosaline repeats in a whispered voice. She's never heard of that place.

"Hold on!" she lets out, actually raising her voice(?!?) and taking a step forward. Her tail is standing on end, and her furry fists balled up.

"I-- I apologize for interrupting, but please, please tell me, what is the Glenwood, what is Lunar, and..." She takes a deep breath. This one seems important.

"Who the heck is Althena?"

<Pose Tracker> Zed has posed.

"Rosaline!" Zed shouts.

<Pose Tracker> Rosaline Calice has posed.

"I apologize for cussing," Rosaline immediately whispers.

<Pose Tracker> Zed has posed.

"IT WAS WRONG! You are a nun. Be more careful!" Zed huffs! "Now. Lunar. It's the moon! Talise... Talise there. She's from the moon." He waves over at Talise. "So she's from Lunar. There are some other people from there too. Althena is a big fat jerk lady who outlaws singing and dancing and drinking and having fun, and her church is full of... of..." Zed makes a fist. "NEEEERRRRRRDS!"

<Pose Tracker> Claude C. Kenny has posed.

"You...didn't....curse," Claude notes, then looks at Talise. "Uh, I don't know much about Lunar, except half the people I meet seem to be from there, and Althena is some lady who has a Guard who oe-quarter of the people I meet seem to think are jerks, and the other quarter seem to think are awesome."

Zed fills him in. Claude frowns. "Wait, outlawing singing?" he asks. "WHo does she think she is, goddess of the world?"

<Pose Tracker> Talise Gianfair has posed.

"I actually don't know if you can punch the Witch. I tried and she turned into a shadow," Talise says with a crinkle of her nose and a shake of her head.

As Rosaline recoils, Talise flashes her a faint smile, bringing her hand up to rest at her collar. "I'll tell you what, Ros'," she says. "And Claude. First order of business is us getting out of here. I promise I'll tell you all about Lunar and Althena when we're somewhere that isn't full of purple mist and dead bodies. Deal?"

<Pose Tracker> Zed has posed.

"More r' less," Zed nods. "She's lame. Anyway. I have a plan!" Zed grins. "I! Am going to get her! To outlaw..." Zed's eyes narrow. "Toilet necessities."

Beat.

"Don't worry how. I have a plan."

<Pose Tracker> Rosaline Calice has posed.

"What?" Rosaline asks, merely looking confused. This is coming from Zed, so she isn't sure how much stock to put in it.

"WHAT?" Claude corroborates. She's only just met him, but he... Well. He seems more sensible.

Talise confirms. Rosaline has a lot to process all of a sudden. "Okay. Okay, thank you."

What is Zed talking about actually never mind she doesn't want to know.

<Pose Tracker> Ida Everstead-Rey has posed.

"...Zed," Ida says, the very picture of patience and calm. She's moved to kneel next to another (non-human) body, perhaps trying to work herself up to one of the human ones.

"I think that's a very good idea, Talise. Very good plan." Her expression turns apologetic as she turns to Sister Calice. "I apologize, Sister, if this is a bit much to take in all at once. Things have been quite busy of late!"

<Pose Tracker> Claude C. Kenny has posed.

Claude is only staring at Zed now, because....why?

Eventually, he nods. "Uh....yeah, that'd be good," Claude says. "Don't worry about me. I'm good at keeping secrets."

ENSIGN KENNY, SCANS INDICATE YOU HAVE SUSTAINED A MILD CONCUSSION

"Yes, thank you," he says, closing his eyes and sighing exaspertedly. Unfortunately, he can still see the HUD because it's on a frigging contact lens. Stupid broke-ass thing.

<Pose Tracker> Rosaline Calice has posed.

Rosaline slumps forward. "It's true, they have been. It's all right, it's all right... What a week."