2017-05-27: Operation Gungnir

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<Pose Tracker> Riesenlied has posed.

The Adlehyde fairgrounds has seen enormous amounts of abuse by this point in time.

Hours ago, the Exhibition was a fascinating festival of fun and learning. Children laughed and played at games while adults rub their chins in purview of the exhibitions and pretend to be cultured. But now, it is a literal battleground, enflamed with the din of explosives and gunfire carried clear through the air. In the midst of this, the Ebony Wings descend from above, Riesenlied's eyes narrow and her lips tremble, her expression silent but horrified. She hoped to get here earlier, before the fighting started. Cordon the area off. Let the bystanders filter out. Conduct a swift mission, without complication. But it was too late. Berserk had already touched down on the fairgrounds. The ARMs and other ancient artifacts she'd hoped to clear away have already done their damage, with enormous casualties on both sides of the field. She presses her hand to her throat microphone.

-=Command to Hymir, Sif, Vidarr. Full containment is not possible. Switch to Deployment Pattern: Edda. Maintain patrol perimeter in three altitudes around the mission zone and identify any situations pre-emptively. Operation: Gungnir will commence as planned.=-

The Ebony Wings' quintet of dragons descend onto the centrepiece of the Exhibition, the Golem display. They perch on the shoulders of the massive, ancient warmachines. On the right, a flame-patterned dragon with red wings -- Salamandra -- descends onto the equal-sized crimson-clad flame warrior, Golem Diablo. A heavyset white-haired demon in a sneaking suit hops off Salamandra's perch, armed with a huge sniper rifle; he stations himself, and winches down large lengths of industrial wire mounted onto his ride. "Jedan to Command, beginning airlift of Golem Diablo."

An ice-element dragon with frosted scales -- Icedrake -- and a fur-lined brown dragon with a stout boar-like body -- Thunderh -- descend to the centre Golem, the one excavated most recently just leagues away from the kingdom of Adlehyde, the heavily-armoured 'Ice Queen', Golem Lolithia. A mermaid-themed demon and curious maid-dressed demon both hop off, setting off towards the same duty of assembling a harness for the Golem for their own airlift. "Dva and Sedam, liftin' this Lolithia or whatever out!" she grins.

Finally, the most unusual dragons perch atop the final one on the left, the cylindrical-shaped land battle machine, Golem Barbados: a round smiley-face blob of a baby dragon -- Salthun -- and a rotund yellow dragon with an onion shape, Muni-Muni. Riesenlied and a metallic dog-shaped demon are riding on this last one. "Go, Riesenlied. I shall take care of this last one," states the canine demon. "Devet, enact the Forcefields and launch the Flares."

"Yes, Miss Cetiri!"

The pink-haired young demon riding on Salthun taps furiously away at her keyboard, her eyes gleaming with a measure of glee. The light of her screens are reflected on her glasses. "Forcefields, going up!"

Several mechanical orbs fly off in a scattered formation, creating shimmering emerald barriers that cordon off the paths from the Fairground to the City and Castle. Those with an eye for tactics can see that this might be a curious choice for the Demons -- right now, both the City and Castle are well under siege and inadvisable to enter lest they run into roaming Demon batallions. Similar forcefields are erected around the displays, affording the Ebony Wings some protection as they set up their airlifting harnesses.

Flares are launched -- bright blue and green, classic military choices for identifiable safety colours amidst the menacing red hue of flame and the greyness of soot and smoke. The Flares mark pathways out of the Fairgrounds proper, towards established evacuation zones and where the Yggdrasil Gears and Adlehyde Guard have already maintained a safety perimeter.

Riesenlied pulls up from Muni-Muni's back, and descends gently from the yellow, onion-shaped dragon.

There is no mistaking it.

It is Riesenlied. Riesenlied of Elru, the winged Beastwoman and Drifter, who has no doubt accompanied so many who are assembled here today on so many Digs into the Ruins. The same Riesenlied, possessed of an earnest and gentle nature, preferrnig diplomacy and negotiation over violent force, sparing even bandits and monsters.

The spread of her luminous wings is striking amidst the backdrop of flames, dark with a translucent orange gradient. She is cloaked in a multi-layered cloak with a tasseled hem, with a pattern evoking ancient tribes of Elru's Northern Steppes. Those with sorcerous senses can feel a faint aura of protection coming from within it. Atop the cloak is a large, metallic shield binder attached to her shoulder by virtue of a metallic harness linking with her left shoulderblade, largely covering her entire left flank. It is mainly white, with blue highlights, possessing a sharp and tapering form with most of its protective bulk around Riesenlied's shoulder.

"Addressing all bystanders, civilians, non-combatants."

Her voice is commanding and imperative, cutting clear amidst the backdrop of fire and violence. She raises her sword and points towards the Flares.

"I repeat: Addressing all bystanders, civilians, non-combatants!

We have marked all exits that lead to known evacuation zones.

Evacuate now in an orderly manner. Our forces shall not pursue you."

In the wake of her announcement, the din of gunfire slowly subsides; perplexed by this unusual turn of events, those that are still trapped -- suspiciously -- start to emerge from their hiding zones, quickly trickling down the footpaths and making a frenzied exit. Several children trip over and are bowled by adults; and there are those that are injured and incapable of moving quickly.

But true to her word, none of her forces appear to be pursuing. She stands firm, awaiting those with a desire to escape a chance to do so.

There is silence. It seems that those that would have fled... have done so. She opens her eyes, rising to full height once more, as the gaze of her eyes lower upon those that have stayed.

"Hear me, blessed children of Filgaia. My name is Riesenlied.

Today, I come before you not as the Drifter that you have known me by.

Instead, I come here today as Riesenlied -- a child of both Hyades and Filgaia, and commander of the Ebony Wings."

She pauses, and then holds her hand outward. "The Ebony Wings are an independent military group affiliated with no kingdom or country. Our main objective is to intervene against military acts that violate the Treaty of Iscariot, the accord that your own ancestors signed nearly four hundred and fifty years ago at the first Filgaian Summit. The Treaty of Iscariot bans the use of weapons responsible for bringing Filgaia to desolate state it is in today."

Riesenlied clutches at her hand, bringing it tight against her heart. "We of the Ebony Wings can only see the political situation of Ignas escalating towards an ever more horrifying form of war that very Treaty was written to prevent. More and more artifacts are dug up daily from Ruins and weapons caches discovered around the continent. A majority of these artifacts are in fact the remnants of our ancestors: The fossils of Dragon that many have shaped into Gear and machine parts, the ARMs crafted from Metal Demon remnants. The very Golems that you see in front of you are no less overwhelming and excessive in destructive power. Their inclusion would only make mutual destruction a foregone conclusion!"

"The Ebony Wings have chosen to make a stand for this reason. Territory, religion, artifacts, no matter what the reason or excuse: if there is ever an evident act of abuse of these artifacts being carried out, we will commence intervention with our forces. Those that promote and accelerate the means and acts of war shall also be valid targets for our intervention!"

<Pose Tracker> Noeline has posed.

* * *It's been a long day for Noeline... and yet, in so many ways, it hasn't even begun.

It was so easy to ignore the impending attack, back when she could laze around eating cake and catching up on the news. It was so easy to put it out of her mind and avoid thinking about it - avoid thinking about the day her loyalties would truly come into question, avoid thinking about the way she'd have to actually take a side and make a stand. Even on the eve of the battle, her discussions with Riese were still rooted in concilatory gestures, in wanting to straddle that line - in hopes of building a bridge between human and demon.

Perhaps, in her wildest of dreams, Arctica was a one-off. Perhaps, if only the Teardrop could be found quickly, her people would not take pleasure in destruction and rampage. Perhaps there could be an accord, however shaky, that would not leave her feeling like she was missing part of herself in its wake. Stood atop one of the few Adlehyde rooftops that is not aflame, watching the destruction already wrought in the city below, those hopes seem very far off.

Perhaps instead she could close off that part of herself - give up on what she's learned of the outisde world to be the good little metal demon, free of a couple of centuries of human influence and a Guardian's medium lodged inside of her, just doing her job and nothing more... but deep down, Noeline knows that would be the wildest dream of all. If there's one thing she has learned, out in the world, it's to embrace who 'she' is.

And 'Noeline Carver', right at this moment, has one overriding goal. She's bled for humans today. She will bleed for demons, as well. But there's one person she intends to protect no matter what.

* * *

A blur from above - from the rooftops? - signals yet another metal demon's entrance onto the battlefield, the smoke and ash around the winged commander whirling away from the impact of a figure in black landing just in front of her and to one side. A soldier - not a large beast like some of the demons that have assaulted the city, but an armored female with her face hidden from view behind a featureless helmet, knelt and clasping an enormous chunk of futuristic metal that is presumably meant to be an exaggeration of a sword, buried fast from her landing.

Her arm displays the same insignia worn by the demons now assaulting the stored Golems - the Ebony Wings. It is visible for just a moment before the demon stands up, the smooth motion wrenching the piece of metal from the ground with an improbable lack of effort. She pauses, performs the mental equivalent of a worried sigh in her head, and then firms her expression. Don't break the act now, Noeline.

"Ebon Zero, reporting in. I am your shield, commander."

DC: Noeline switches forms to Chevalier of the Dragon!
DC: Riesenlied switches forms to Tainted Dragon Riesenlied!
<Pose Tracker> Vorthuzahl has posed.


The sound of metal shearing against sky echoes from beyond the clouds, and moments later the ground cracks with the arrival of another. Dust kicks up as if a meteor had struck the surface, and the ground glows red and crystallizes, back lighting the bituminous cloud that begins to trail sidelong into the sky. First, it appears as little more than a shadow, but as it moves it takes form, breaking free of dust and ruin to emerge as seven feet of shining knight.

Perhaps a hero to counter this new threat? A shining knight brought from the heavens to save the day? It's motions carry with it a raw menace, one that countermands it's gleaming appearance, and as it closes the clear shift of eyes made of metal and burning with a a growing rage dispels the illusion that it might be a savior.

No, this is another fiend.

A great hand crosses his chest to take hold of the hilt at his upper arm, and as he draws the blade from it's resting point , the weapon begins to slide, to shift, and lock into place. Soon it is a great bastard sword, crossguard unfolding as it transforms from something almost broken into something more than formidable. A raging inferno rises inside the Metal Demon, a molten glow emanating from every seam in his armor, cascading outward from his chest and arms and down to his legs. The fire in it's eyes seems to double, and that energy passes into it's weapon until it's blade seem burning hot.

A shimmer cascades through the air around him as the weapon rises, pointed in the direction of those who might still stand opposed to their show of might. A voice like silk run through by gravel echoes forth from his faceplate, his head tilting back ever so to regard those who yet remain.

"Come then, children of this fitful waste. Come, and know power beyond measure!"


<Pose Tracker> White Knight Leo has posed.

What could anyone say to that? What could anyone possibly offer in response to such a reasoned, heartfelt plea?

"Spare me your lies, Demon."

A voice has answered Riesenlied. It's a man's voice, coming from somewhere in the remains of the fairgrounds. It is deep and strong and certain, the sort of voice you have when command comes naturally to you, and has for your entire adult life. It is the voice of a soldier, and a champion.

Its owner steps out from behind a ruined stand, glancing back over his shoulder as the two children that were hiding behind there as well flee. The man steps in front of them, interposing himself between them and the Demon horde; he's tall and strong, a Beastman of some stripe, with a horn in the middle of his forehead, and features that aren't quite feline. He wears a long red cape, and some sort of military uniform. After hours of fighting, it is no longer immaculate. It's covered with cuts and burns, and splattered with brilliant crimson and mercurial silver in roughly equal quantities. A bandage is tied around his right forearm, and the remains of a shallow cut linger on his cheek. Nevertheless, the White Knight remains an indomitable presence on the battlefield, especially when so many of his allies are in far worse shape. It's his duty. As the foremost of Althena's Chosen, he cannot be anything less than a beacon of hope, and a living symbol of her oath of protection.

"Your words say one thing--" Leo starts to walk forward, his boots crunching in the shattered earth. "But your actions say another! Your kind came here to decimate this city, to butcher its people! On my honor as White Knight, as Champion of the Goddes Althena--you shall go no further!"

In a flash, Leo's sword is in his hand. An aura of certainty surrounds him. He stares Riesenlied in the eye, and does not blink. "FACE JUDGMENT!" he bellows. His voice echoes far and wide.

"THE EARTH ITSELF REJECTS YOU, DEMON!" Leo thrusts a hand forward, and twists it upwards, flexing his fingers like claws. Riesenlied gets absolutely no warning aside from that--the earth beneath her rises up, rock and cobblestone flowing like water, twisting into fangs as hard as diamond and as sharp as obsidian. The raw force behind it flings stray rocks into the air, and sends cracks through the ground around the Demons' commander. Leo spreads his fingers, and the earth smoothes itself out again, as though someone took a giant rolling pin to it.

Leo allows himself a smile.

GS: White Knight Leo has attacked Riesenlied with Rock Viper!
GS: White Knight Leo has completed his action.
<Pose Tracker> Catenna has posed.

(But why do I feel like I have felt this uncertainty before...?)

Hours later, Catenna hasn't figured out why she's so unsure of all this. All she knows is that the creatures ravaging Adlehyde are abominations - different from the Strangers, but more profoundly wrong to her. The Metal Demons are not of this world, and her spirit recoils from them instinctively. She can't stand against them by herself; she's been attaching herself to various groups of Drifters, emerging here and there to support them with spells and gunfire. It's the most she can do.

She's back to her older-style ensemble; she made herself a new one using the silks given to her by a friend. The outfit's taken a bit of damage, mostly in the form of smudges and sootmarks, but for the most part she's fine, having stayed out of close-quarters combat. At this point she's simply going wherever battle is.

And right now it's descending on where the Golems are. They're monstrous machines; she knows nothing about them. But nevertheless she arrives in a hurry, rushing into the square as the Ebon Wings descend.

Along with someone else. She skids to a halt and opens her mouth, then closes it. And listens to a voice she was not expecting ever to hear again.

Catenna's eyes grow very wide.

"Riesenlied," she murmurs, bringing one hand up to her collar. Her voice is a small thing, laced with a quiet hurt. She can feel her eyes beginning to grow damp. Something clutches at her heart, fingers closing around it like a cold fist and threatening to tear it out of her chest.

The winged woman gives her speech. She's here to punish them for their own good. Talking down to them like they're mere children to be shepherded.

Catenna only hears about half of it. All she can do is lower her head and close her eyes. "You lied to me again," she whispers. "If this is what you are, then you have lied to me again."

She's entirely aware that there are dragons here sufficient to hoist a Golem - that there are other Metal Demons there. She can't count on anyone to support her. She feels very, very small right now.

It doesn't matter. Her right hand tightens up, closing into a fist. It's hard enough that her nails dig into her palm and draw blood. Her teeth grind together. Hot tears begin to run down her cheeks.

And then she flings her hair back with a snap of her head and glares up at Riesenlied without a word. She holds both hands out, gesturing broadly in a silent invocation. There is no visual cue as to what happens - only a foreign-looking woman moving her hands through the air in arcane patterns.

Riesenlied, however, will feel it. A sudden, incredible pull of divine gravity - and it's attempting to drag her violently down to the ground with an irresistable force.

It will put her, if it's successful, square in front of Catenna. Who is waiting to glare at her accusingly. Waiting, and silently demanding an explanation.

GS: Catenna has attacked Riesenlied with Grav!
GS: Catenna has completed her action.
GS: Catenna has canceled their attack on Riesenlied.
GS: White Knight Leo has canceled their attack on Riesenlied.
<Pose Tracker> Leon Albus has posed.

Leon was with Lily, in the end. He tried to follow the battle from Adlehyde Castle. The former Kislevi soldier could only guess at the Demons' goals -- and he fell into old habits. He talked to the soldiers, as best he could, to buoy the spirits of the Guard. He tried to understand the Metal Demon plan of attack. In the end, he made a decision: the goal was either extinction, by forcing everyone to the castle, then wiping them out...

Or it was the ARMs and armaments at the festival.

"Lily!" he calls out, as he runs down the street. "Come on! I think--if I'm right, they may make a move for the festival. For the weapons there. It's--it's the only target that makes sense. It's... I met a woman, named Riesenlied. She talked about war. If these things want a war..."

Then they needed weapons.

He bolts around a corner, coming to the overlook over the festival grounds. He spots a few things. The emerald green glow -- and a familiar figure on the horizon. His breath catches in his throat, as he sees the woman from Elru.

No, he realizes, as he listens to her speak, and he starts to realize what was happening. He hears what she says -- and his hand reaches down into his long grey coat. He pulls out his folded-up shotgun-like ARM -- and immediately snaps it out, a long, thin, double-edged sword appearing.

"RIESENLIED!" he shouts. "What--what are you doing!? This--this is much further than what we discussed...! This--this is--"

GS: Catenna has attacked Riesenlied with Grav!
GS: Catenna has completed her action.
GS: White Knight Leo has attacked Riesenlied with Rock Viper!
GS: White Knight Leo has completed his action.
<Pose Tracker> Fei Fong Wong has posed.

LAST TIME ON EVERYTHING IS ON FIRE FEI FONG BROWN

Fei Fong Wong successfully helped a team of adventurers reach the city gates only to discover---

CITAN: Hey Fei Look what I found!

FEI: Oh god

WELTALL: *sitting patiently*

ID: Don't worry blockhead! I promise I won't pull your psyche away from you at the last second and blow up the entire city.

FEI: WAUUUGH *runs back into the on fire city full of demons*

NOW

Fei Fong Wong stumbles into the fairgrounds, more or less by accident--just in time to hear Riesenlied's speech. Did he meet Riesenlied? He honestly can't remember between all the horror and pain of today. Fei is already injured, covered in scratches that look like they were carved into his body by a lion. Fei stalls to listen to the speech.

"weapons responsible for bringing Filgaia to--They can't mean Weltall can it?" He sinks to his knees. "I thought... I thought Kislev MADE that monster... no, they must have...dug it up and refurbished it? Is that what it was?" He grabs at his head, shaking it rapdily. "Agh...nagh...Pull yourself together, Fei!" He takes in a deep, steadying breath.

"You must be joking..." He stands himself up, unsteadily, shaking his head rapidly in an attempt to clear it. "You must be joking!" He stands up. "This isn't a military base. IT'S A CITY! People live here, innocent people and their children! They have nothing to do with the wars!! You should know that by now!" He punches the ground and his knuckles bleed in frustration.

That's when he catches sight of Lily and Leon. His eyes narrow and he rushes out towards Leon, grabbing hold of his collar.

"You! You're Leon! From Kislev!! I heard about you from the other pirates!!" He's practically growling. "Why did you build that monster?! They're attacking the city because of Weltall aren't they?? Why do we need that kind of power!? That's the one sensible thing she's saying! Don't you know what it can do!? And--and you knew about this!?"

<Pose Tracker> Zed has posed.

There is another here.

A silhouette cast boldly against a burning cityscape. Flames and cinders lick his shoulders with firelight and obscure his face in impenetrable shadow. But his shape is unmistakable. His scarf billows gently in the breeze. A head of moss-green hair set over a pair of brilliant, golden eyes. A sword, large and curved, like a wicked, angular falchion.

Yes. This is-- this can only be-- one person.

And he's...

...Busy helping children to their feet and punching bulldozing grown-ups in their face when they look like they're going to stomp all over them?

Huh.

Well, that's a thing. At least it's a good thing. It's also a thing that largely stops when the crowd manages to shuffle far enough away, allowing this unmistakably smiley swordsman to attend to... Other business. But until then, anyone who doesn't know any better would almost certainly see a METAL DEMON ACCOSTING INNOCENT YOUTHS AND PUNCHING PARENTS IN THE TEETH.

Everyone who does know better would realize it's just Zed being... Zed.

........

Well. Certainly everyone has to know that by now, right?

RIGHT???

GS: Riesenlied guards a hit from White Knight Leo's Rock Viper for 61 hit points!
GS: Riesenlied guards a hit from Catenna's Grav for 55 hit points!
GS: Poison! Statuses applied to Riesenlied!
<Pose Tracker> Jacqueline Barber has posed.

Her home burns, and she could have prevented it. Could have warned someone. These thoughts had been plaguing her, all throughout her ventures through the ruined Adlehyde to deliver supplies.

The only thing keeping Jacqueline standing now was the fact that she'd seen the people most important to her to safety. If she had lost them...

Then she would inevitably had been lost, herself.

But in a way...perhaps she already was. Here she was, joining a number of other Drifters in a charge against one of the people responsible.

She was no fighter.

She was just a merchant. An apothecary. She had Sorcery, but there were more powerful Crest Sorceresses.

She wanted to protect her home...but she failed that.

It seemed likely that the only thing driving her was a sense of betrayal and despair.

"Riese...Riesenlied!! Your words are pretty, but...look at what you've done!!" Jacqueline shouts, motioning to Adlehyde behind her.

"

"My home...people I liked...people I disliked...you've taken them all away from me!! You speak of 'abuse' and 'intervention'...but what gives you that right to decide!? Who'll stop you when you overstep your bounds!?" There are tears in her eyes as she shouts.

"I should've known...I could've known! But I did nothing to stop you!" As she speaks, she draws a Crest and invokes it towards Riesenlied.

It was, essentially, just a burst of raw energy...and emotion.

GS: Jacqueline Barber has attacked Riesenlied with Anguished Cry!
GS: Jacqueline Barber has completed her action.
<Pose Tracker> Rosaline Calice has posed.

So, what's been happening with poor Rosaline?

She's been running herself ragged, to say the least. So many people in need of healing and protection, and she's only one nun. The scene has been all too familiar. Fire and screams have been haunting her nightmares for months. Rosaline has been hanging on by a thread the entire time, but she couldn't let go, not with so much at stake. People needed the Etone Rosaline, not... the other one.

And now here she is, separated from her group amidst the chaos, but not out yet. At least it hasn't been too hard finding more Drifters to help. It was mainly a matter of finding the few people still out firing ARMs and also not actively trying to destroy the city. This has, inexorably, led her right back to the Fairgrounds.

Dragons descent. The Etone-in-Training watches the scene unfold, feeling small and helpless. But then comes their leader, here to gloat, no doubt.

"No," she lets out, clasping a bloodied, ARM-holding hand to her mouth. "Not you! Not you!"

Riesenlied explains her team's rationale for being here. She displays humanity amidst all the horror. The Ebony Wings are coming to take away dangerous technology, and Rosaline can understand this, but... at what cost? What comfort could this possibly be, amidst such a nightmare? And most importantly...

"Who gave you the right?" she wails out towards the winged Metal Demon. It's not the roar of rage some people here have heard coming out of her-- but it's edging dangerously close. She's still coherent right now, at least.

She raises her twin ARMs. Tears are already streaming down her face. They aren't the first she'd shed tonight. She's going to cry herself dry at this rate.

"I THOUGHT YOU MIGHT BE AN ANGEL WHEN I FIRST SAW YOU!" she shouts, her voice still barely audible through the sound of her own ARMs fire. "AN ANGEL!"

GS: Rosaline Calice has attacked Riesenlied with Esdras and Judith!
GS: Rosaline Calice has completed her action.
<Pose Tracker> Sephilia Lampbright has posed.

Sephilia's eyes widen as she looks up from where she's performing emergency repairs on Chauncey--repairs using the very threads that Riesenlied gave her as a gift. "Oh no. Oh no, not Riese too!" She gingerly looks over the work she's done on Chauncey, a frown creasing her face. "Sorry, buddy, I know I just patched you back up again," she says, tone mournful, "but it looks like we're not through just yet."

The girl steps out from the shelter and...points, dramatically, at the stranger attacking Riese. "HEY! HANDS OFF MY FRIEND! I HAVE TO ASK HER WHY SHE'S DOING THIS!"

O...kay. Maybe a bit unorthodox. Things...may be moving faster than Sephilia can keep up with! She shakes her head as she decides that the fighting has already started, and brings Chauncey forth. The big doll's looking pretty freshly patched--and the patches are pretty extensive, given the brutal treatment he took at the hands of Berserk. He doesn't seem to be hesitating about wading into the fray, though!

"I'm going to ask you the same thing I asked Zed, Riese--How could you do this?!"

<Pose Tracker> Corwynt has posed.

The Earth rejects the Metal Demons, but it isn't the only one.

From behind the gleaming figure of the White Knight, a short, dark-haired, thick-bodied man steps out. His lower body is swathed in black gi pants, tieed off with a yellow belt; his upper body is bare, and criss-crossed with old scars and newer bruises. A pair of metal vambraces are wrapped around the man's forearms, the only protection he seems to wear.

With the exception of his faith, of course.

"THE AIR ITSELF CASTS YOU OUT!" Corwynt roars, then thrusts his right hand forward, sending a rippling blast of green-white energy shrieking toward the Demons' commander. THat done, he steps forward, on Leo's guard side. "They're faster than they look," he advises in a low voice. "Far more durable. But we can strike them down."

GS: Sephilia Lampbright has attacked Riesenlied with Friendship Smash!
GS: Sephilia Lampbright has completed her action.
<Pose Tracker> Jude Moshe has posed.

"Well... this sure escalated quickly, huh?"

Jude Moshe: King of the Understatement.

It has been a restful twenty four hours since Jude, along with a handful of others, were arrested and incarcerated in Adlehyde Castle's prison wing for completely mundane misunderstandings some people might otherwise term as 'treason.'

It's all a matter of perspective.

Regardless, middle middle middle, some metal beasts and an unfortunate man named Cooter the Keymaster later, and here the erstwhile reporter is. Standing upon the heat-swept winds of a massacre.

Amber eyes focus upon the fairgrounds as he observers from a building top. There's nothing in that gaze -- no horror nor anger nor surprise, just... a placid level of acceptance that one gets when they have become wholly desensitized to atrocities such as this. The heat dries his skin unpleasantly, lips chapped and throat dry for reasons other than panic as he looks down. That standard frock coat is gone in favor of a white chef's coat (long story), its front stained dark with dried, caked blood and multiple compresses along what is doubtlessly an ugly wound beneath, equally stained.

His teeth grit, for reasons other than frustration. The tinny, mechanical bird at his side chirps once, a lovely tune, as he opens up its chest compartment, slipping in a little, bloodied roll of paper.

"Guess it's just about what we figured," he murmurs quietly to the bird. "You know where that needs to be. Go on, Jacob."

And with that, the avian automaton hops into flight, departing the limits of the city for the skies with surprising swiftness as Moshe turns his gaze onto the fairgrounds and the activities beyond -- and the very familiar faces congregating. A familiar face with blonde hair and a transforming, shotgun ARM.

For a rare moment, Jude's features transfix into an annoyed grimace as Leon calls out the commander of their forces, full of disbelief.

It lasts for all of a second before an exasperated smile forces itself to override it.

"Ugh. Kids, right?"

And with that, the gentleman reporter slides off to advance on the fairgrounds, not quite coming in gun's blazing yet. He's not suicidal, even if the people in his life try their hardest to make him out to be.

<Pose Tracker> Lily Keil has posed.

Lily Keil spent some of her time at the castle, discussing plans and patterns and war with Leon Albus. She spent some of it tending to the Princess of Adlehyde. ...But most of it she's spent roaming the city, trying to save those that she could, providing medical services to those she couldn't move. The woman from Kislev has been busy... And has been the worse for wear.

But she converged with Leon again as they kept planning to do, looking to Leon still dressed in her stealth gear as a Kislevi soldier. "Th weapons," she repeats. "I know Riesenlied as well," she says. "We'll give them war."

Lily emerges into the fairgrounds, and sees herself what's happening quickly, her eyes widening. Dragons. Of course it's dragons; the burns Lily has already healed ache in memory as she recalls her last encounter with the dragons of the Metal Demons. And she's...

Riesenlied. She's here. Lily stares, golden eyes wide, at the woman she'd called a kindred spirit. ...It doesn't stop feeling true, even though...

Of course she lets the civilians go. She has a generous heart. But Lily does not go. She looks to the other two demons assembled, and back to Risenlied, eyes finally narrowing. Unlike Leon, she draws no weapon.

Around her hands at her sides, however, crackles dark power in purples and blacks. "Blessed children of Filgaia," she murmurs. Commander of...

"What gives you the right!?" Lily shouts up at her. "Riesenlied! You told me you were... This is what you mean, isn't it? This monstrousness that's overtaken the city!?"

She shakes her head. "You have NO RIGHT! You claim to be preventing war by committing atrocity! Do you think you can eliminate it?"

She talks a lot, for her, and angrily.

"...It doesn't matter. You know that I can't accept this. You know that a war is not the place for such high and mighty ideals. How many noncombatants were butchered by your comrades before your kindness intervened?"

"...Trust is a mistake. I understand that. And you..."

Lily throws up her hands and there's a burst of orange-red as flames crash out tall and wide to Riesenlied's position.

"Get out, and I'll--"

Fei rushes up to them and Lily's words are thoroughly interrupted. "What? Get off of him!" She practically growls too. "NOW." ...That is not a growl.

GS: Lily Keil has attacked Riesenlied with Iceflash!
GS: Lily Keil has completed her action.
GS: Lily Keil has canceled their attack on Riesenlied.
GS: Lily Keil has attacked Riesenlied with Hearthblaze!
GS: Lily Keil has completed her action.
GS: Corwynt has attacked Zed with The Ladies Call Me Hadouken Because I'm Down Right Fierce!
GS: Corwynt has completed his action.
<Pose Tracker> Myyah Hawwa has posed.

The sky is filled with screams as more shapes flit overhead.

For those on the ground, it may seem like more of the Metal Demons' might: sleek, winged figures roaring in from the distant cloudline and sweeping toward Adlehyde. It is only when they grow nearer that the conflict becomes apparent. The sound of engines is joined by rocketry as dozens of missiles detach from the rapidly-approaching contingent.

The phalanx of deployed weapons speeds ahead, smokey contrails curling through the sky as they seek out aerial targets. The winged figures--hyper-advanced flying machines of some sort--shoot past at ridiculous speeds, breaking out of their formations to begin circling around. With how quickly they move, it will be a moment before they're back for another run.

This does not earn a reprieve. A larger craft breaks from the cloudcover, descending under the power of white-hot thrusters angled toward the ground. It is heavily armored with graceful but imposing curves, its silhouette suggestive of some kind of menacing aquatic life. Surrounding it are numerous triangular machines, each as big as a person, that float without visible support. Whenever Metal Demon forces stray too near, hatches on their sides open to spray hailstorms of bullets--or, in one dramatic case, an enormous and consuming laser that fills the area with a terrifying flash of light.

The large craft beelines toward Golem Barbados. Guns mounted on the craft's hardpoints offer further deterrent, though the angrily-buzzing triangle drones make their own case. The craft does not touch ground but comes close; its rear splits open to reveal a landing ramp. Soldiers leap from the back, their features hidden beneath the advanced full-coverage armor that hides their faces behind metallic masks.

They do not hesitate. They open fire on the demons, some with factory-line machineguns that spit armor-chewing rounds, some with tremendous bursts of elemental magic that springs inexplicably from their hands.

The armor is familiar to those who have fought in the Aveh and Kislev war. This is Gebler, the mysterious force that keeps Aveh from falling to the might of Kislev's war machines.

The craft begins to gain altitude again, peeling off. A stern man's voice comes out over the loudspeakers. His accent is difficult to place.

"By the authority of the government of Aveh, this situation is now under Gebler control. For your own safety, you are required to obey further commands from Gebler authorities. Your cooperation is appreciated."

WARNING! A Gebler engineering squad is preparing to evacuate the golems!

  • ROUTE ALPHA: Use the distraction to defeat the Metal Demons!
  • ROUTE BETA: Defeat Gebler agents to force the engineering squad to retreat!
  • ROUTE OMEGA: Follow your own destiny!
GS: Corwynt has canceled their attack on Zed.
GS: Riesenlied guards a hit from Jacqueline Barber's Anguished Cry for 56 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Ethius Hesiod has posed.

Ethius Hesiod, the mysterious stranger of some unexplainable obsessions and stranger sequences of movements, has found his way here at an opportune time.

His appearance should bring little warmth or relief. Certainly, he's been a help whenever he appeared at various Dig sites, but very little of this man has ever radiated warmth or compassion, beyond the token gestures of assistance. His overly verbose style of speech, when he does speak, tends to be of a stiff character. Even when assisting about the battleground that Adlehyde has become, Ethius seemed more intent to be a pair of hands for a task, and only this.

He's back in the Fairgrounds to investigate the remainder of what Berserk left untouched after his rampage, as if to try and deduce the full extent of aims of the invading forces through what was missing. His mind is already alight with theories and possibilities that number almost as much as the ruined artifacts around them. He hides behind an intact pillar's shade to watch the movements of the air. Dragons. Where are they going? What will they be doing?

As they attach to the Golems, Ethius considers his options of attack as a familiar voice comes from an even more familiar sight, as Riesenlied addresses promises of safety for those who cannot fight should they leave, of the nobility of their reasons.

It makes the words she told him all the more poignant... and also... emotional. He seems intent on keeping that much in check, as so many strange words and events swirl upon recollection following serious head trauma at the hands of Berserk earlier in the day.

He casts aside as many of the surrounding theatrics as he can - difficult to do as flames lick at his face. He watches as Jacqueline screams her tears of anguish, her fury, her feeling of betrayal and incredible loss.

He watches as Sephilia struggles to come to grips with the terrible reality of what's going on before her.

Ethius' face... does not reflect theirs. It is that same unnerving even keel he's always had. What is his stake, then? He's not from here. Very little should tether him here, but something deep within - some reflex - has already decided for him.

He takes off in a series of hops, running through burning rubble with only a narrow amount of clearance space for safe movement. He climbs up higher and higher, attempting to move in upon Riesenlied from what he perceives to be a blind spot. He must be decisive. He must be quick--

--however, Riesenlied has herself a shield, one that Ethius seems intent to discount on virtue of a surprise attack as he leaps in with an extended foot against her armored escort, twirling and swinging in with a lunging quarterstaff strike against the armored woman's side.

No pithy commentary, no requests to clarify the situation. His intents are not lacking in clarity.

He is here to fight.

GS: Ethius Hesiod has attacked Noeline with Combo Strike!
GS: Ethius Hesiod has completed his action.
<Pose Tracker> Matilda Whitehead has posed.

Today, Matilda's pack is heavy; strife -- and Strife -- has followed her to Adlehyde, and she's done... poorly, with it, to say the least. She looks haggard, and the fact that her pack weighs heavy on her isn't just because she's now carrying a friend of a friend within it.

Freischütz is worn openly; there's no point in hiding a weapon in an active war zone. Matilda is crouched beneath a fairground display when the flares are launched, taking stock of her equipment; the emerald barriers going up make her whole body tense up. She's not usually claustrophobic, but right now, she feels it in the worst way.

... and then she sees who it is that's speaking, hears that voice. Her eyes snap open wide, and her teeth grind against each other; the look on her face is one of sheer terror, and betrayal besides.

She considers the evacuation... and then shakes her head. No, she thinks -- an evacuation route offered by an invader is nothing more than an orderly path to the slaughter. The path out is the path through the enemy. Such is always true.

When she finally calls out, it's with five simple words: "This doesn't make any sense!"

Still huddled behind a fairground display, Matilda does pop her head up -- there's no way Riese could mistake her for anyone else, now. "You -- you don't have the right to just... decide who -- decide who... who's allowed to have the means to protect themselves!"

While one hand holds Freischütz, the other clenches into a fist. "So that was your game, though -- dangle the means to protect myself in front of me, and then kill me before I had the chance to..."

Matilda laughs bitterly, and ducks behind the booth again. "To think that once, I trusted one like you..." She fires off a cobblestone with Freischütz, bouncing it off a wall to strike Riese at an unusual angle. "I was once a fool," she murmurs, softly.

GS: Riesenlied guards a hit from Lily Keil's Hearthblaze for 46 hit points!
GS: Lily Keil takes Cover! She gains 50 temporary hit points!
GS: Matilda Whitehead has attacked Riesenlied with Bank Shot!
GS: Matilda Whitehead has completed her action.
GS: Noeline guards a hit from Ethius Hesiod's Combo Strike for 58 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> White Knight Leo has posed.

"I know," Leo says, to his subordinate. "We must do nothing less. Innocents depend on us!" As something breaks cloud cover, the White Knight looks up at the sky--something approaching confused terror dawns on his face as a man's voice rings out. It's quashed soon enough. Whatever this is, the Demons come first. The Demons picked this fight. The Demons are the ones who attacked innocents.

Something moves out of the corner of Leo's eye. He twists to face it in a single, smooth motion, raising his sword in anticipation of a blow, and sees--

Some green-haired monster (a Demon?!) clocking an innocent bystander in the face. Leo's lips pull back from his teeth, revealing pointed, fang-like canines, and he clenches his fist again. The rock beneath Zed's feet rises upwards in razor-sharp, impaling spines, which miraculously go nowhere near the civilians around him. This time, the gesture is more off-handed, as though Zed were nothing more than a nuisance to be dealt with before he becomes a significant problem.

GS: White Knight Leo has attacked Zed with Rock Viper!
GS: White Knight Leo has completed his action.
GS: Riesenlied critically Guards a hit from Sephilia Lampbright's Friendship Smash for 20 hit points!
GS: Riesenlied guards a hit from Rosaline Calice's Esdras and Judith for 54 hit points!
GS: Disrupt! Statuses applied to Riesenlied!
GS: Zed takes a solid hit from White Knight Leo's Rock Viper for 99 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> White Knight Leo has posed.

"Corwynt," Leo says. His voice rises to be heard over the din, but it sounds completely natural. "Deal with these intruders, please!"

GS: White Knight Leo has attacked Zed with Rock Viper!
GS: White Knight Leo has completed his action.
GS: Zed takes a solid hit from White Knight Leo's Rock Viper for 91 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Janus Cascade has posed.

For Janus Cascade, the Fairgrounds were an obvious pick for a few reasons; among them, he could maybe pocket some rare Cartridges if he found one that was interesting; and hey, maybe eh could even buy it from someone with minimal morals, and stimulate the economy! What a businessman.

Oh, no, then everything's on fire. Now the reason he's here is that maybe he can steal rare Cartridges, and maybe figure out how to make a Golem work and ride it off into the sunset. No dice on that one. It's also where the most people are, which means, in a way, it's the safest. And, handily, they apparently got a real flower child of an attacker, when the Demons turn up for the Golems.

"Boss!" Romero whines. "We should really get movin'...!"

Janus cuffs him. "Fool. Know what those are, don'cha!? Demons! Like from the fossils! We gun these fools down, we get first pick! Ain't been a first pick on Filgaia in a thousand years!"

"Sh, she pointed out the evacuation route and everything, boss...."

"She's talkin' about the golems like we're the ones doin' the attack, too," Janus mutters. "She's clearly kooky anyway."

His opinion thusly given, Janus slams his foot into a display ('Fabulous Coinage Of Proto-Zeboim') to steady his aim and lines up a shot on---

'Come, and know power beyond measure!'

"'zat a fact," Janus mutters, and grins. "Alright, boys! We got us a volunteer! Button up your fly, Dario! Quit shakin' in your boots, Romero! This is no time to doubt! We're HUNTIN'!"

Dario releases a holler, and an initial volley - as a blast from his gun rips through the air toward Vorthuzahl.

GS: Janus Cascade has attacked Vorthuzahl with Gillius TH12/23!
GS: Janus Cascade has completed his action.
GS: Riesenlied guards a hit from Matilda Whitehead's Bank Shot for 41 hit points!
GS: Matilda Whitehead takes Cover! She gains 50 temporary hit points!
GS: CRITICAL! Vorthuzahl critically Guards a hit from Janus Cascade's Gillius TH12/23 for 19 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Elhaym van Houten has posed.

This has been a pretty bad day for Elhaym van Houten, but

(Seeing a city burning from the fringes)

she knows

(Joining with a group of survivors as they struggled against an occupying army)

it can always

(washing her face in the house of a dead man; putting on shades to hide eyes that want to cry)

get

(ambushing a patrol for their maps, getting hugged by a woman who she told to forget about her)

Worse!

Fortunately for her she was able to link up and gear up. She ripped apart her native garb and the cool clean embrace of synthetic fabrics was a relief. So was a half-liter of distilled water, a snack bar, and two tablets of synthetic stimulant from Loren Voss's bag of tricks. A handful of sundry other medicaments were stuffed in a uniform pocket but after that everyone needs to GET READY.

Despite the terror of war, Elly had not wanted to make Loren any more anxious than he already was. So, she moved into another drop zone, wearing the armored mask/helmet and breathing the sterile air it provides while occasionally glancing over towards --

It's too late. Time to go. The opening of the deployment hatches sends Elly out with a bunch of engineers and the heat and the smell and the chaos of the battle are chillingly familiar. Oh, yes, she's seen this before, she thinks, but maybe the inferno is inside of me. Landing, she pauses, head snapping up.

Someone is giving a speech. Elly can't make most of it out, but - is that - Behind the mask, her eyes widen.

"Is that... Is she saying they did this because of--?!"

Her back stiffens. She's in a high place, so Elly knows which direction things go. Her hands spread out for a moment and as she exhales with enough force into the mask to briefly mist part of the lenses, energy flows - rippling through the chaos of the battlefield, rising upwards, and creating an induced electron imbalance in the general area of Riesenlied, compared to the clouds of smoke up in the area.

A moment later this resolves itself by a bolt of lightning coming down to strike her, as Elly exclaims "Hah!" with enthusiasm.

Of course at this exact point Noeline raises up a large metal object, so the incoming spike of lightning diverts slightly.

GS: Elhaym van Houten has attacked Noeline with Anemo Bolt!
GS: Elhaym van Houten has completed her action.
GS: Noeline guards a hit from Elhaym van Houten's Anemo Bolt for 61 hit points!
GS: Disrupt! Statuses applied to Noeline!
<Pose Tracker> Kahm Yugh has posed.

Kahm had been in the exhibit when the attack on Adlehyde began. Some quick thinking and assistance from the Black Ties had gotten him out of the area and into a rendezvous with the rest of the mobilizing Gebler squadron. It could not have been that long-an hour or two most-and in that time, the metal demons had turned the city into a hellscape the Captain had not seen since Elru.

Metal demons. Gwen Whitlock's strange warning had proved correct. They'd figure out where they went wrong and how they should've anticipated later-right now they would just need to be thankful that the enemy was transparent enough for the target of their attack to be obvious: The Golems discovered by Adlehyde.

Kahm is first among the troops deployed from dropship once it has landed, fully suited in the black tactical assault armor Gebler is known for, his commanding rank designated with a white and opaque faceplate.

"Mind the objectives." He commlinked over to the other operatives acting with him, "Prioritize recovery of the Golems at all costs-we can not let the demons escape with them. Minimize civilian casualties only insofar as they do not interfere with the objectives, and those goes double for drifters-if they interfere, put them down."

The Captain focuses his attack immediately on Vorthuzahl, either because the imposing the demon was the closest to the a Golem or because it appeared the most threatening. He lays down supressing fire with his assault rifle as he advances, squeezing the trigger just enough to fire short bursts as he advances carefully, testing to see if conventional weapons have any effect on the creature.

They'd had to do lot of digging through the archives after this.

GS: Kahm Yugh has attacked Vorthuzahl with Aimed Shot!
GS: Kahm Yugh has completed his action.
GS: Vorthuzahl guards a hit from Kahm Yugh's Aimed Shot for 20 hit points!

<Pose Tracker> Leon Albus has posed.

Leon's angry shout to Riesenlied is answered by an angry shout, but neither from the direction nor the person that he expected. The blonde-haired man has his collar grabbed, so he turns his head, to look at -- and stare at -- Fei Fong Wong. He looks familiar, somehow. That makes him stare for a moment, before his eyes narrow, and he realizes who this is. "The Weltall--"

The pilot of the Weltall. The pilot of the Gear that destroyed Lahan and left it in such a state.

His silver eyes widen. "I didn't build Weltall," he says. "If you want to blame me, then go right ahead--your blame is as wasted as the lives of the people that the Metal Demons killed here! I suggest that you focus on what's in front of you, Fei Fong Wong."

He brushes his hands away, roughly. "Because it isn't me."

His eyes dart to the side. He tries to take everything in -- the movement of Jude Moshe, and then the arrival of Gebler forces. He sucks a breath in, deep and shaking, and then he looks up. His silver eyes narrow. He doesn't say more -- and then he leaps, hurtling straight for Riesenlied.

But when that silver blade slashes out, it isn't her that it meets--

GS: Leon Albus has attacked Noeline with Raze Slash!
GS: Leon Albus has completed his action.
<Pose Tracker> Maya Schrodinger has posed.

Somewhere in the streets of Adlehhyde, Bledavik's Ace Drifter is herding an unending stream of refugees to-be towards the city's gates. Maya stands shoulder-to-shoulder with beleaguered and outmatched guardsmen, on this evening of flames and terror, swept away in the current of something far greater and far more terrifying than any hunt, any dig, any treasure.

"Go, get outta here! Head for the big ship outside town!" she hollers at a family of four, a hand on the mother's shoulder. Propelling her for the exit, one foot still atop the still body of an ex-metal-beast. The blonde's eyes dart sharply from alleyway to alleyway, the iron-sight of her weapon sweeping. Where's the next wave? Where are her next targets?

And then--emerald light rains upon the tortured city. A wash of radiance paving the path to safety, and all grows silent. Maya slowly cranes her head upwards.

"Addressing all bystanders, civilians, and non-combatants."

The lady in the orange dress stands perfectly still, dumbfounded, the revolver dangling by her side. The pallid glow of jade and the angry flickering of distant flames vie for supremacy on her silhouetted form, as Riesenlied draws the curtain on her deception.

"... the Treaty of Iscariot bans the use of weapons responsible for..."

The grinding of Maya's teeth soon grows in intensity such that the horned woman's words are lost on her, standing amidst the bloodied bodies of farmers, children, and other such easy prey for beasts and soldiers of living metal. She allows the revolver to drop from her hand, so as to better ball it into a fist, dramatically backdropped against Zed haymakering some asshole who wants to be first out the door.

"... those that promote and accelerate the means and acts of war shall also be

valid targets for our intervention!"

The roar of aircraft screeching overhead drowns out her Platoon-esque cry of frustrated anguish.

-=-

Ebon Zero can doubtless see and sense the approaching Schrodinger girl long before she joins battle proper. A black-cloaked figure with enormous and quite frankly villainous pauldrons, her hands aglow with some kind of terrible magical power. Not a gun in sight. Maya flies, flies through the air with a stylish trail of blue-white afterimages as she cuts a path directly for the horned leader of the Ebon Wings.

"You traitor--you liar! Get the hell out of my way!" she valorously roars her own challenge, her own threat, and doesn't even bother with the traditional spell chant. Her ire is too raised to bother, to care. A great whorl of sparks and flame gathers in the palm of the flying sorceress's palm, and she savagely hurls it like a fastball at Noeline, who she doesn't recognize as anything other than a faceless threat.

DC: Maya Schrodinger switches forms to Shrewd Sorceress!
GS: Maya Schrodinger has attacked Noeline with Fire Ball!!
GS: Maya Schrodinger has completed her action.
GS: Noeline takes a solid hit from Leon Albus's Raze Slash for 98 hit points!
GS: Noeline guards a hit from Maya Schrodinger's Fire Ball! for 52 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Zed has posed.

Zed clocks a man right in the face. He falls to the ground with a solid FOOMF of way-too-jolly butt meeting pavement. "Hrmph! So rude, thinking such a jowly face has the right of way just because it's bigger! I, Zed, will always be here to protect the children!"

He says. But the child he was protecting has already run off.

Probably for the best.

Still, this is getting bad. So many feelings bared for all to see. So much chaos. And now there's an airship from some Gebler goons coming in to take their hard-stolen golems? Wow, how rude.

Hm. Why is the ground--

A spike of earth erupts from below and smashes RIGHT INTO HIS FACE. Zed reels back, a big red mark right between his eyes. It should have shattered an ordinary man's skull, a blow like that...! Which means that this... Is not an ordinary man.

"Ow!" Zed yells. "That was rude!" His eyes scan the battlefield, only to find...

...Some... Dude in a really cool cape.

With ~magic~ around his hand!?

How is Zed able to see magic? Resonance, friends! That is, by vibrating the metallic crystalline structure of his eyes at a specific frequency, he is capable of seeing the unseeable. This lets him visualize magic and seraphim alike, unlike many Metal Demons! This is the secret of his... DEVIL GAZER technique!

"Hey!" Zed yells, leaping through the air with the greatest of ease. He pivots off a stand part-way through, transitioning into a swirling, eviscerating blender of cutting strikes and bludgeoning blows. "That was really rude! I was busy! Who do you think you are, interrupting a man hard at work!?"

"ALSO," Zed yells between slashes, "WHERE DID YOU GET YOUR CAPE? IS YOUR TAILOR LOCAL? I KIND OF WANT ONE!"

GS: Zed has attacked White Knight Leo with Dark Horse - Supreme Tornado!
GS: Zed has completed his action.
<Pose Tracker> Kent Hauch has posed.

There is a man walking through the battlefield who would be unremarkable if it weren't for the relaxation with which he carries himself. His clothing is untouched by blood, char, or dirt. Fargo Foobach is a Black Tie, but not one that is recognized by most. He doesn't raid, he doesn't recruit, he doesn't carouse around the town and he is never, ever in a random encounter table.

Fargo Foobach is the Man in White. He is the immune system of the Black Ties. He solves internal problems. He speaks with the voice of Kent Hauch with the truly powerful, a layer of insulation. Ribaldy, Samuelh, Parbody - these are the gang leader's right hand.

Fargo is his left, the agent sinister. The air radiates away from him as though from a flame - he carries no flamethrower, match, or molotov, because he is the flame.

Fargo had left the dropship in the shadow of Kahm Yugh, difficult to spot until he's standing next to him. He could be a disguised Gebler soldier. He could be a Drifter who happens to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. He carefully unbuttons the cuff at his right arm, folding the sleeve up with care, respecting the outfit.

He takes a deep breath, and steam begins to rise up from his right fist, the knuckles dully glowing. "Understood," he says into the commlink, hidden under hair spilling from his white bowler hat. "Until this is over, consider me under your... command."

Kahm fires, and that's when Fargo moves, quick as a match, blurring as he crosses the distance between himself and the Metal Demon he's targeted. He jumps the last several yards, tucking in the air, reeling back his right hand. Fires in the area lean toward the Man in White as he pulls on their heat, dragging it into his body, focusing it on his glowing knuckles as he punches down for Vorthuzal's armored breastplate.

"You remind me of someone who has been causing friction in our community. Forgive me if I project some of my irritation onto you."

DC: Kent Hauch switches forms to White Suit Fargo!
GS: Fargo Foobach has attacked Vorthuzahl with Red-Hot Fist!
GS: Fargo Foobach has completed his action.
<Pose Tracker> Corwynt has posed.

Corwynt's eyes narrow as the Gebler forces arrive; since Althena's Guard found itself on the Blue Star, they have been gathering information, trying to determine what the state of this broken world is. He's been receving reports from these agents, storing them in his mind, recalling them with the crystal of the Rememberizer to hold the strategic situation in his head. He recognizes 'Aveh.' He recognizes 'Gebler' - supposedly a new and mysterious force, displaying mastery over the ferromancy these people favour over other graces. Particularly in the form of these monstrous creatures called... Gears. They are said to be formidable.

So is the Destroyer.

"Understood," the little man says, then disappears in a flickering leap, the Blessing of wind powering him up to a nearby roof. He moves across the buildings and then leaps across the gap toward the battered statues honouring the Golems, landing atop the false Barbados and then surveying the area. Nothing more than debris and combatants near him. As good a place as any. Corwynt closes his eyes and draws in a breath.

For thirty seconds.

Afer fifteen, Gebler aerial forces will begin to notice air currents shifting, as the wind begins to pick up, moving into a swirling pattern spiraling in toward the Fairgrounds... in toward a little man in half a gi, standing tall and breathing in the wind, letting it full him. Even this far from the world of Lunar, the seat of the Goddess's power... even this far from Althena's presence, he can feel the power of the Blessing surging in his veins, giving him strength and power. Making him more than just a man - making him an instrument of his goddess's will.

He opens his eyes and shouts a signle word.

"GEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEBLEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEER!"

The scream echoes across half the city as Corwynt takes three strides and then leaps into the skies, hurtling toward the flying transport. "Hear me!" he roars in challenge, green-white power blazing from his body. "I reject your mortal claim to authority! I cast my defiance in your teeth! I am the Storm First, Corwynt, servant of Althena! And my cooperation..."

Corwynt fires a screaming blast of sorcerous fury, howling gales tearing at the metal craft.

"....YOU SHALL NOT HAVE!"

<Pose Tracker> Cardia Ortell has posed.

Cardia had not expected... this. She expected getting dragged-- or sent-- to a festival, she expected to be ordered to have fun, she expected having to pretend to be the poor mute girl in the desert again. She expected a lot-- just not the city in flames. The chaos, people fleeing, the violence, and... in a way, it makes her long for that quiet little recon post in the middle of the desert.

Pulling her helmet on as they reach the landing zone, she shifts the tactical holster strapped to her leg. Her attire is much like the other faceless grunts aboard the ship, whether by choice or coincidence is entirely in the air: The form-fit black suit, the white accents and foreign heraldry, and the helmet with crimson eyepieces.

As soon as she hits the ground, it's with more weight than the engineers, than Van Houten. She can hear Kahm through the earpiece in her helmet. When she speaks, there's something strange about her voice-- something wholly unnatural. "Understood. Moving to intercept hostile."

This brings Cardia to catch up with folks like Fargo, with Kahm. Rather than one of those stock standard rifles that many Gebler soldiers carry, the feminine form hefts an ARM-- a really, really big gun-- and advances on the massive knight of metal. When she squeezes the trigger, it's with a heavy, booming report-- shots born of an Ether-powered magnum, aiming to take shots at Vor's knees!

GS: Cardia Ortell has attacked Vorthuzahl with Ether Magnum Double Tap!
GS: Cardia Ortell has completed her action.
GS: Corwynt has attacked Elhaym van Houten with The Ladies Call Me Hadouken Because I'm Down Right Fierce!
GS: Corwynt has completed his action.
<Pose Tracker> Loren Voss has posed.

Final approach in ten.

Loren readjusts the tactical armor's helmet's faceplate, ensuring it's secured in place. He has enough time to close his eyes, take one long steadying breath.

Focus, now. It's only nerves. Everything is fine. Keep in mind what's important.

He'd heard enough about what happened. A destabilizing event in the Adlehyde region, an invasion -- one that rumors were already stating was approaching Elru. Was it that bad? Too early to tell.

They'd reunited with van Houten, though. Even her appearance alone when she'd checked in told him almost everything he needed to know. The status of the operation -- retrieve one of the Golems -- came first; he'd given her the basic supplies she might need in the field. He'll be backing up the Captain.

He wishes, and knows it's far too late to even contemplate it, to take a few of the tablets himself.

As support personnel, Loren comes in towards the back of the crew leaving the dropship. "...Understood, Captain. First priority to engineering crew and disrupting external forces," he confirms over commlink, falling in behind the ground team.

"Engaging the enemy."

Unfocusing his awareness briefly, Loren gestures with his right hand, as if to drag on something that isn't really there. Sand, dirt -- it pours steadily upwards, solidifying into a lance which promptly rips through the air at Vorthuzahl, the closest of the larger demons to the Golem.

GS: CRITICAL! Elhaym van Houten guards a hit from Corwynt's The Ladies Call Me Hadouken Because I'm Down Right Fierce for 106 hit points!
GS: Cripple! Statuses applied to Elhaym van Houten!
GS: Loren Voss has attacked Vorthuzahl with Terra Circuit!
GS: Loren Voss has completed his action.
GS: White Knight Leo guards a hit from Zed's Dark Horse - Supreme Tornado for 61 hit points!
GS: CRITICAL! Vorthuzahl critically Guards a hit from Fargo Foobach's Red-Hot Fist for 26 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Myyah Hawwa has posed.

ELSEWHERE

"Recovery team is on the ground," says Tech Sergeant Benzoma. He is a tall, gaunt man with sandy brown-blond hair neatly combed to the side and a permanent five-o'clock shadow. He is never without his cup of coffee, which is sometimes not only a cup of coffee. "I want that goofy thing off the golem and a reported ETA for the carryalls as fast our sweet Emperor can whisper it in someone's ear."

Benzoma stands on the command dais of the operations room in distant Bledavik. Views of the battle are piped through a holo-display and multiple attendant screens thanks to numerous drones in the air, as well as cameras in the Gebler soldiers' armor. Several men and women are scattered around him at various communications and monitoring stations, reading information from personal screens and speaking hurriedly and quietly into their headsets.

Beside Benzoma is Lieutenant Commander Myyah Hawwa, who represents Commander Kahran Ramses while he is busy with larger political matters. She clutches her tablet computer to her chest, radiating worry as Gebler--some of them her close friends--rush forward into danger.

"Nice invocation," she murmurs. "I'm sensing great piety."

"Just trying to lighten the mood," says Benzoma. He tags a swig of his coffee and exhales hard. "But what was I thinking? Metal Demons trying to capture warm machines and invoking the Treaty of Iscariot. We walked into a laugh riot."

"Judging from the actions of the rest of their forces, there may be some factionalism within their ranks," says Myyah. "I wonder what happened during all those years..."

"Maybe we'll get a chance to fill out some history books for the next batch of fresh-faced Jugend children."

Myyah's eyes gleam in the light of the hologram. "Maybe," she says."

<Pose Tracker> Cassidy Cain has posed.

In the moments before she's about to do yet another suicidal run through the burning streets of Adlehyde, while Jude has vanished up to the tops of the buildings to take care of business, Cassidy keeps an eye out below, an exasperated expression on her face.

Because in her mind, undoubtedly which complex webs of deception and deceit perpetually lie, is a mental map of the town, with a giant YOU ARE HERE arrow pointing to where she is, and a green circle marked WHERE YOU NEED TO BE around the Adventurer's Guildhall. And right in between two of those points are two obstacles, namely Dr. Lucas Maurier's office, which she still needs to check...

....and some very intimidating metal demon, whose name she probably can't pronounce, standing in the way between her Main Quest and her Main Side Quest.

She palms her face, and drags it slowly down her cheek.

"Fook me running," she sighs, before drawing out her engraved revolver. No other way but forward, God help her. What a mess.

<Pose Tracker> Riesenlied has posed.

"Ebon Zero? Who--"

The canine demon Cetiri, seated atop the onion dragon, stares silently at the Commander as battle comes to her. They are communicating on a subvocal channel, below human ears.

+c: I have arranged for an escort, Riesenlied. They will protect you.

@r: I--I see...

Riesenlied's eyes rise to the man at the stand -- White Knight Leo, the Beastman with the red cape and the immaculate white uniform. "The White Knight... the Champion of the Goddess?" Her eyes narrow slowly as she darts around -- she not so much evades as raises that cloak as she grapples against the incoming rocks, letting that shield withstand most of the Commander of Althena's magical assault on her. When the rocks subside, there are some shallow pockmarks on the shield.

+c: The LM Shield will hold for a brief while, but it will not last.

@r: I understand that...!

"You are right," Riesenlied whispers, in response to Leo. "Filgaia does reject me..." She clutches at the hem of her cloak as she gives herself space. "But it shall not prevent me from loving it nonetheless...!"

That thought is interrupted as Riesenlied suffers a pulling sensation -- a similar sensation that she's felt before. She grimaces as she whispers, "This magic..." Something deep and painful wrenches in her heart as she drapes the cloak around her closer. She grits her teeth. It's a nostalgic sensation that rends at her feelings. "It's the power of a Guardian..." She grimaces, and tosses her cloak about -- affording herself just a measure of defense to break free, though the cloak is visibly starting to corrupt as the anti-magic threads sewn into it start to unravel.

She looks towards Catenna and says, "I am sorry..." she lowers her head. "But this is the last time I must lie to you. My heart lays open now. My path is set."

Her eyes snap to Jacqueline as she spots the alchemist, and her cries do no less to pierce her heart. "I know, Miss Jacqueline. I know... and I can only apologise. I can only steer a hatred that predates both you and I so much... but..." Her will redoubles itself, as she girds up. "Miss Jacqueline, you of all people should know how important context is! If I cannot even lay down the roots of hatred that predate both you and I..."

There's no time. She gasps as Lily's flame charts a path and forces her on a banking evasive, close down to the ground as the LM Shield takes a second direct hit. The rupture of Lily's ether clashes against it, and it begins to whine with an unsatisfying hiss.

She casts her eyes towards both Leon and Lily, biting her lip. "Miss Lily, Mister Leon, you should know firsthand how poisonous even the presence of these Golems can be. Just how deeply seated has Kislevian culture been styled around the presence of weapons and Gears?! I can't simply sit and abide by this any longer... I know I have betrayed your trust, but...!"

Fei challenges him, her eyes widening. It was that painter that she met once upon a time... what was he talking about?

Her attention is next drawn as Chauncey saunters in and gives her a good ol' heapin' of the Friendship Smash. She grimaces as she draws her sword back -- she can't just put her blade to Chauncey, but she needs to give her space! She stares towards Sephilia to say, "If I do nothing, Sephy, would it have been the better...? You must understand that it is not as simple as I'd like it to be, either. My path is set..."

Rosaline's bullets -- coming in hot and fast from Esdras and Judith -- first whizz by her, whipping a trail around her hair, and she banks her course and parries the next two. Yes, parries. Her side-sword whines with a hiss and a crack as she realises what she's done, and deep fractures can be seen throughout the thin blade that's not designed to block bullets at all. "I am no angel, Miss Rosaline... and no one is granted the right -- but it is a path that I must undertake regardless!"

She feels a sharp pain, grimacing -- at some point while she was evading Rosaline's bullets, Matilda's bank shot had snuck underneath her. It struck at her armour, fortunately reducing the damage to a mere graze where it could have been fatal, but who knew that gun had such a strange power... or was this Matilda's own power?

"The power to protect one's self must come from within, Miss Matilda. At this point -- at this level -- you cannot say that a weapon of mass destruction is only for self-defense... you yourself must know how slippery that slope truly is! I cannot condone the path of deterrence for Filgaia!"

-=C-Command! This is Hymir, a dropship is approaching -- it's breached through the perimeter-- whoaa!!=-

Riesenlied casts her eyes up, and Hymir Squad, indeed, disappears under the military might of Gebler's lasers. This was a complication on a level she couldn't have anticipated. Their intelligence on Gebler was not great enough... but for them to have operated on the very same day? They had extraordinary measures indeed. They tipped their hand second, and could have won for it. She presses her microphone and announces:

-=Sif, Vidarr, regroup and cover Hymir's flank! Proceed to Defensive Formation: Hattatal!=-

-=Y-yes, ma'am!=-

Devet yelps as she sees the incoming Gebler soldiers and does what a proud Metal Demon ought to: hide underneath the cover of Barbados. Cetiri growls as she ducks underneath the weave of the Golem's armour, flinging in knives in response to the squad's combination of bullets and magic. Muni-Muni roars and recoils... and begins to roll, of all things -- the giant yellow dragon is rolling down a footpath and attempting to bowl over the Gebler soldiers coming in too close!

Jedan growls from the other Golem and pulls his sniper rifle, attempting to pick off several engineers and troops before they encroach on their position. "Things're getting hot, Command!"

"Just focus on the airlift! Diablo and Lolithia's positions are still secure!"

Riesenlied breathes and gasps as she faces against the Drifters. As expected, their assault is cohesive and mighty -- and even with the assistance of Ebon Zero sweeping in to protect her against some of them, she knows she'll eventually be outmatched here. Where bullets have already struck, and spells have grazed her, her blood -- red like a human's -- can be seen.

Here, then, is a demon that sweats, struggles and uses human weaponry. A demon that bleeds red, and professes to love Filgaia regardless of its hatred for her.

Can she even be said to be a demon?

She closes her eyes, and then clutches her hand to her heart once more.

-= OBJECTIVE =-

Now, everything has come to light.

should you deny your divine destiny

There is very little left to say.

no future for the distorted

Believe in yourself.

deny yourself, deny your faith

Believe in each other.

deny your friendships, deny your feelings

And...

denydenydenydenydenydenydenydeny

I'm sorry.

(BGM: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zphrWpK3fuc)

GS: Riesenlied has attacked Catenna with Resolute Belief!
GS: Riesenlied has attacked Lily Keil with Resolute Belief!
GS: Riesenlied has attacked Sephilia Lampbright with Resolute Belief!
GS: Riesenlied enters CONDITION GREEN!!
GS: Riesenlied has attacked Rosaline Calice with Resolute Belief!
GS: Riesenlied has attacked Jacqueline Barber with Resolute Belief!
GS: Vorthuzahl guards a hit from Cardia Ortell's Ether Magnum Double Tap for 45 hit points!
GS: Vorthuzahl critically Guards a hit from Loren Voss's Terra Circuit for 18 hit points!
GS: Riesenlied has attacked Noeline with Charismatic Presence!
GS: Catenna takes a glancing hit from Riesenlied's Resolute Belief for 69 hit points!
GS: Riesenlied has attacked White Knight Leo with Resolute Belief!
GS: Riesenlied has attacked Matilda Whitehead with Resolute Belief!
GS: Jacqueline Barber takes a glancing hit from Riesenlied's Resolute Belief for 69 hit points!
GS: Riesenlied has completed her action.
<Pose Tracker> Fei Fong Wong has posed.

Fei Fong Wong stares at Leon for a few precious moments. the town might as well be on fi--oh wait, it IS on fire--well it doesn't matter, because Fei has his priorities.

But Leon's words are logical and he has no choice but to listen. "You're right but... I want answers when this is over! I'll live THAT long!" He looks to Lily for a few moments but his hands are already brushed off by Leon before he can actually release him of his own accord. Leon's too cool for Fei to de-escalate of his own accord.

"Bart's right." He mutters. "I can't just stand back... and let this happen. But I hate it. I hate that this keeps happening!"

He charges after Leon, intent to help him apparently. Guess that brief moment of arguing is done with and he's ready to get down to business.

Fei doesn't recognize Neline but Noeline might recognize this lunatic. He's the guy who put paintbrushes in his ears after all. This doesn't stop him from charging at her, pausing only to glance at the Gebler agent fighting her--

can it be? Can it be her? He takes in a deep breath and swallows. It's better if it isn't her, isn't it?

But this does influence his path. Something about 'Her' just helps him make decisions. He lunges in in a flying jump kick.

MEANWHILE

A flying crablike robot floats along the streets. It's carrying a strange blue and red gear and looks pretty fancy. Who could that belong to?

GS: CRITICAL! Sephilia Lampbright takes a solid hit from Riesenlied's Resolute Belief for 198 hit points!
GS: Fei Fong Wong has attacked Noeline with Flying Entrance Kick!
GS: Fei Fong Wong has completed his action.
GS: Noeline critically Guards a hit from Fei Fong Wong's Flying Entrance Kick for 5 hit points!
GS: Riesenlied heals Noeline! She gains 200 temporary hit points!
GS: Lily Keil guards a hit from Riesenlied's Resolute Belief for 145 hit points!
GS: Rosaline Calice takes a solid hit from Riesenlied's Resolute Belief for 138 hit points!
GS: White Knight Leo guards a hit from Riesenlied's Resolute Belief for 80 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> White Knight Leo has posed.

The White Knight grits his teeth. It's galling to him, how this monster has the nerve to try and negotiate with such blood on her hands. It gets under his skin and sticks there like a splinter that won't come out.

The Lord of Calamity is paramount. As long as she remains at large, no one is safe. Nevertheless, it would be lax of him to not stand against whatever evil threatens the world.

"Some love," Leo snarls, his voice carrying across the courtyard to Riesenlied. "If you loved this world, you would not murder its people! You wouldn't have murdered them a thousand years ago! You speak of apologies and friendship, but I see only a monster who deluded the innocent into thinking she was a loyal, valued comrade! A fellow wanderer, seeking righteousness in the fragments of history! And LOOK AT YOU! LOOK ALL AROUND YOU!" Leo whips his blade out, as if to encompass the entirety of burning Adlehyde. "I am White Knight Leo of the Silver Star, guardian of all Althena's people! And as she looks down on this, today, she will see you face judgment for your sins!"

Leo was expecting the green-haired miscreant to crumple to the ground, legs shredded from the knees down by the righteousness of the nigh-immovable earth. The White Knight raises his blade as Zed comes rocketing at him, disappointingly un-shredded. His sword meets Doom Bringer, effortlessly parrying the first stoke, the second, and the third. The fourth one sneaks in--Leo takes a step back, his foot sliding a little on the uneven ground. Zed's speed outpaces his expectations in that instant, and the Demon sword leaves a long, bloody gash across the right side of his chest. It's not very deep, but it's a hit.

"You're less incompetent than you look, I see!" Leo says, looking at Zed as one might look at a puppy who didn't quite make outside before going potty. If that puppy had been punching civilians mere moments before, that is. "But I'm afraid I have a more pivotal engagement at hand!

Leo races across the distance between him and Zed, moving much like an avalanche--a little ponderous-looking, but in that dangerous, deceptive way that results in people dying. Mostly, he is implacable, crushing, and resolute. He draws his blade down across Zed's chest in a single swing, trying to lay the Metal Demon open from collarbone to hip!

GS: White Knight Leo has attacked Zed with Flash Blade!
GS: White Knight Leo has completed his action.
DC: MISS! Zed completely evades Flash Blade from White Knight Leo!
<Pose Tracker> Sephilia Lampbright has posed.

Sephilia and Chauncey stagger back, as much from the shock of the blow as from the attack itself. "Chauncey, fall back," she cries, terror filling her. She's already seen her buddy torn to pieces once today--she's not going to let it happen again.

She looks at Riese with tears in her eyes as the glow of her newfound healing magic infuses her, restoring some of her vitality. The fight carries on around her, chaos and flames engulfing everything.

GS: Sephilia Lampbright has attacked Sephilia Lampbright with Healing Glow!
GS: Sephilia Lampbright has completed her action.
GS: Sephilia Lampbright heals Sephilia Lampbright! She gains 100 temporary hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Catenna has posed.

Someone pulls up in a ship but it's completely lost on Catenna, who has no idea what Gebler is, where Aveh is or even all that much about Golems. She does grind her teeth a little as someone on the loudspeaker demands she obey them, though. It compounds her frustration. Her heart descends in her chest a little further.

Especially when she realizes that one of the women in Gebler uniforms is Elhaym, a woman she doesn't know well but whom she met at the tavern and had a nice conversation with. Bitter disappointment wells in her throat, no matter how hard she tries to swallow it.

More important is the fact that she can't get a solid hold on Riesenlied. Her teeth click together as she hears the woman speak. This is the last time I must lie to you.

Her eyes darken a shade or two, that bitterness flooding through her mouth as though she wants to retch it all up. A tear tracks down her cheek; she can feel it beading off her jawline. Catenna doesn't shed tears often.

Here she does. There are others here she knows, but whom she always feels a sense of distance from.

"I thought you were different," she says tightly, her heart sinking as Riesenlied's words settle into it.

She draws again on the power of Celesdue. Power floods through her, once more refusing to manifest itself as a flashy visual effect - merely as a persistent, dragging pressure which surrounds Riesenlied like the fist of the world itself attempting to grasp her and pull her into Filgaia's bosom. Every movement seems to grow more difficult; even clothing will seem heavier, cloth becoming as difficult to move as pure lead.

"If this is what you were going to do - if you were going to turn against the world in the end - I would have just as soon not placed my trust in you," she says, her voice growing more steady, a profound chord of pain underlying her level, accented delivery. "But I did place it in you. The compassion you showed to me...."

The force of gravity deepens, wrenching at Riese's muscles, attempting to pull her down - and Catenna raises her voice to a shout.

"...If it was not a lie, then show me that your care is genuine! Stop what you are doing!! Riesenlied, stop!!"

<Pose Tracker> Noeline has posed.

Inwardly, Noeline has to suck in a disheartened breath - what else did she expect? Riesenlied's declaration of non-aggression is instantly shattered, the commander instantly decreed as a member of the metal demons assaulting the city, as bloodthirsty as all the rest. Despite all her words, despite all her friendships, it all meant so very little in the end. If the spy's rueful smile is a little bitter, she could be forgiven for it - why are their team the ones, out of all the different third parties, to be instantly disbelieved?

Not that she can blame the humans, of course - not with the city in the state it's in. She and Riese can offer all the trust they like, but right at this moment that has to be weighted against the rest of the demon forces - and none of them have exactly fostered a situation in which diplomacy has any chance of success.

But those are worries for the future. Right now, she has a job to do. "Going in. Watch for Gebler," she reports into the short-range link between the members of the Ebony Wings, darting forwards to intercept the oncoming path of several of the Drifters. Her sword lifts, the enormous chunk of metal shifting with an improbable sort of speed; with no time for finesse she simply slams it against Ethius' incoming barrage of attacks with a grunt of effort, apparently heedless as a couple of them draw against her skin - whatever she's intending, her plan appears to be more to be a barrier than any actual opponent. She has to bite back the taunt - reacting to Ethius would be an excellent way to immediately break her disguise, as tempting as it is to call out the strange, silence man.

That impression of acting more as a roadblock than an opponent is borne out when she twists to one side in the aftermath, both hands bringing the slab upwards to catch the twin bolts of lightning and fire squarely on the blade. The elemental power of both washes over her, making her wince - but she holds her ground, her grip tightening on the hilt of her weapon as she suddenly flings out to one side. Leon's strike is swift - but she's swifter, right at that moment, catching Leon's blade and letting herself get thrown backwards by the force of it, landing with a skid...

... before an enormous wrench of her sword signals a repeat of the action. This time, the hurling motion of her swing manages to pick the strange and confusing painter out of the air - the strike looks like it should have hurt, but the urgency of the block takes most of the impact out of it. At least, it manages to prevent anyone else getting closer to Riesenlied.

"... I won't let you reach her," the metal demon declares with a quiet sort of confidence, raising her blade for a moment as if to gather attention to herself, as if to announce herself to the aircraft guns overhead and draw their ire. It's risky, but-- well, risk is all she's got right now, and if she were absolutely honest to herself, something about the chaotic and confusing mess is almost comforting. It's something to focus on other than the moral quandaries, other than the worry about Adlehyde itself. Right here, it's a fight, and she can kind of get behind that.

Maybe she's more Demon than she'd like to admit.

It helps that Riese's words wash over her at that moment, letting her breathe out and recentre herself. "You can do this," she mutters solemnly into her commlink, intending the comment for Riesenlied but addressing it to the Ebony Wings at large - kind of aware she's going to catch teasing for that later - and then she's swept forward into a dizzying array of rapid strikes. Where she doesn't rely on the weight of her blade, bringing it down in aerial strikes, she instead relies on its width, throwing huge lateral swings that almost seem to be aimed to bat opponents away from her and the rest of the Ebony Wings.

GS: Noeline has attacked Noeline with Tech Training!
GS: Noeline takes a solid hit from Noeline's Tech Training for 0 hit points!
GS: Shield! Statuses applied to Noeline!
GS: Noeline has attacked Fei Fong Wong with Drop Crush!
GS: Noeline has attacked Maya Schrodinger with Drop Crush!
GS: Maya Schrodinger takes a solid hit from Noeline's Drop Crush for 102 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Catenna has posed.

Someone pulls up in a ship but it's completely lost on Catenna, who has no idea what Gebler is, where Aveh is or even all that much about Golems. She does grind her teeth a little as someone on the loudspeaker demands she obey them, though. It compounds her frustration. Her heart descends in her chest a little further.

Especially when she realizes that one of the women in Gebler uniforms is Elhaym, a woman she doesn't know well but whom she met at the tavern and had a nice conversation with. Bitter disappointment wells in her throat, no matter how hard she tries to swallow it.

More important is the fact that she can't get a solid hold on Riesenlied. Her teeth click together as she hears the woman speak. This is the last time I must lie to you.

Her eyes darken a shade or two, that bitterness flooding through her mouth as though she wants to retch it all up. A tear tracks down her cheek; she can feel it beading off her jawline. Catenna doesn't shed tears often.

Here she does. There are others here she knows, but whom she always feels a sense of distance from.

"I thought you were different," she says tightly, her heart sinking as Riesenlied's words settle into it.

She draws again on the power of Celesdue. Power floods through her, once more refusing to manifest itself as a flashy visual effect - merely as a persistent, dragging pressure which surrounds Riesenlied like the fist of the world itself attempting to grasp her and pull her into Filgaia's bosom. Every movement seems to grow more difficult; even clothing will seem heavier, cloth becoming as difficult to move as pure lead.

"If this is what you were going to do - if you were going to turn against the world in the end - I would have just as soon not placed my trust in you," she says, her voice growing more steady, a profound chord of pain underlying her level, accented delivery. "But I did place it in you, and not just because you claimed you were of my part of the world. It was more. The care in your heart... the compassion you showed to me...."

The force of gravity deepens, wrenching at Riese's muscles, attempting to pull her down - and Catenna raises her voice to a shout.

"...If it was not a lie, then show me that your care is genuine! Stop what you are doing!! Riesenlied, stop!!"

GS: Noeline has attacked Ethius Hesiod with Tricolor Order!
GS: Catenna has attacked Riesenlied with Press!
GS: Catenna has completed her action.
GS: Noeline has attacked Noeline with Repair Systems!
GS: Noeline has attacked Riesenlied with Repair Systems!
GS: Noeline has completed her action.
GS: Noeline takes a solid hit from Noeline's Repair Systems for 0 hit points!
GS: Restore! Noeline clears debuffs from Noeline!
GS: Riesenlied takes a solid hit from Noeline's Repair Systems for 0 hit points!
GS: Restore! Noeline clears debuffs from Riesenlied!
<Pose Tracker> Vorthuzahl has posed.


It should not move this fast. Things so large are not meant to, but it is not limited by meager flesh. His body burns hot as the onslaught comes in, and the searing blade whirls, intercepting the energy that 'Janus' sends careening his way with a blur of motion that scatters energy towards the ground and sky. Where the energy lands on the great armored demon's body it burns through - only to seal over as liquid metal pours into the wounds, leaving behind only the barest damage. Most pointedly, Vorthuzahl looks to Janus then, not with any ego or admonishment, but a quick evaluation as the next round of fire comes his way.

Some of it is caught in the flourish from his block, the rest slams against a sudden shield of force that, though invisible, shows as 'Kahm's' assault rifle unleashes hell against the demon. Bullets cascade in a soft rain around him, though some tear into his legs and send liquid metal flying to solidify on the ground. Does it know pain? Does it know injury?

It is hard to say given the damage that has bled through, but it does know the introduction of another mean to dual with real poise, and when 'Fargo' flies in, fist blazing, something very much like respect fills those burning eyes as the fist impacts, a shockwave of power radiating over his armor even as a his free hand rises to push it sidelong, grazing it up along a shoulderplate as part of the follow through.

Then comes horror in energy form, as 'Cardia's' blast slams home, the great beast of a creature forced backwards and into a crouch, forced to disengage from Fargo due to the power it just absorbed. It does not understand the followup, as a lance made of sand and debris rockets towards it, sword set to carve and redirect, mitigating no small amount of the damage, but the gleaming, smooth surface of it's armor is now more like steel sandpaper.

It does not notice 'Cassidy' readying her weapon, and so she may get the drop on him yet. What it does notice is the Five who have chosen to face him, rather than retreat.

His retaliation is a furious storm.

First it focuses on that which has inspired him, that which has made this all worthwhile, the man who would stand in front of him and trade blows. 'Fargo' will know a flurry of tactful cuts, meant to draw him from his center before bringing to bear the full power of his swings. For 'Janus' and 'Kahm', their weapon fire rebounds, a distraction it seems, until the creature quite simply leaps in a terrible blur, closing distance with those who have attacked it from afar. It is the arrival of a charging bull, made of fire and death, lashing his burning hot blade this way and that between Janus and Kahm, before turning to shoulder-check 'Cardia' and follow it up with a slashing uppercut! It all leads to a twisting, downward swing towards 'Loren', one more distracting than anything else.

Then, it leaps again, resetting past some measure of cover, and landing very near 'Jude'.

But what was that sound? Bones crunching? Flesh smearing? Oh. That was the sound of a small brother and sister hiding somewhere they should not have been, little more now than a terrible stain that brings Vorthuzahl to a slow halt in front of Jude.


GS: Vorthuzahl has attacked Janus Cascade with Searing Riposte!
GS: Vorthuzahl has attacked Kahm Yugh with Searing Riposte!
GS: Vorthuzahl has attacked Fargo Foobach with Relentless Assault!
GS: Vorthuzahl has attacked Cardia Ortell with Feinting Slash!
GS: Vorthuzahl has attacked Loren Voss with Feinting Slash!
GS: Fei Fong Wong guards a hit from Noeline's Drop Crush for 60 hit points!
GS: Riesenlied takes a glancing hit from Catenna's Press for 0 hit points!
GS: Slow! Statuses applied to Riesenlied!
GS: Janus Cascade takes a glancing hit from Vorthuzahl's Searing Riposte for 51 hit points!
GS: Vorthuzahl takes Cover! He gains 50 temporary hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Elhaym van Houten has posed.

Elly frowns as she senses a disruption in the etheric meshwork in the area. Her invocation went awry, yes, but that's not what she's feeling - a mistargetting at this range, that's not what she's sensing. What -

The wind smashes into her like it's been smashed by a piston. The blow strikes Elly sidelong and it is a blessing to the extent that it is wrapped around her body, which buffers much of it. Also, she's wearing a helmet. The helmet cracks violently and Elly ragdoll-twists in the air, landing sprawled in the dust for a moment as the world swims.

no, she tells herself

i can't

And so she kips up briskly enough, even as the cracked tactical polymers of the helmet give way enough for some of her bunched-up hair to spill out. The chemical enthusiasm she swallowed several minutes ago makes her heart pound. Part of her wants to quail and run but it doesn't come right away. Corwynt comes nearer and Elly mutters, perhaps mostly to herself, "I don't care who you are..."

She crouches slightly, toes curling in her boots and then LEAPING forwards, a telescoping rod drawn from her side and jabbed abruptly towards the midsection of the Storm Fist! (see, riesenlied? you called it!)

This aim at a solar plexus turns into a furious slashing/smashing combination as Elly finishes her thought. "You aren't getting past me!! Whatever your problem is, take it elsewhere!! If you're so angry, kill the demons!!"

For emphasis she twists up into a rotating double kick and, yes, an actual mid-air tumble, landing afterwards and snapping back upright, rod held out like a conductor's baton and probably adding physical peril to the implicit magical threat she wielded. Part of the cracked material gives way, revealing one eye, which stares dead at him even as Noeline sends out her blows.

"Go!!" Elly tries to command. The rod points, as if to suggest where Corwynt can depart from.

GS: Matilda Whitehead takes a glancing hit from Riesenlied's Resolute Belief for 72 hit points!
GS: Elhaym van Houten has attacked Corwynt with Cyclone!
GS: Elhaym van Houten has completed her action.
GS: Corwynt takes a glancing hit from Elhaym van Houten's Cyclone for 41 hit points!
GS: CRITICAL! Ethius Hesiod takes a solid hit from Noeline's Tricolor Order for 152 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Rosaline Calice has posed.

Riesenlied winces and bleeds, bares her heart out to the assembled Drifters. On a kinder day, Rosaline would have absolutely heard her out. But tonight? Much too little, much too late. The Metal Demon has chosen her path, and those assembled here will stand in her way. How could they not?

Rosaline's ears perk up at the sound of a man's voice. Gebler. Are they friend or foe? They call for obedience, they swoop in like vultures, they don't help anyone...

Knives fly for the Etone-in-Training. She coils her entire body in answer to them, so she can evade the brunt of the volley, but the woman is exhausted. Much too little, much too late. The blades cut into her habit, sink into her flesh. To nun collapses.

Rosaline, sprawled out on the ground, twitches. None of the people who normally anchors Rosaline is here (sorry, Matilda). Her blood is boiling, her vision red. Her rage won't let her sleep at last. The nightmare can't end. Not now. Not so long as she still draws breath.

All she can do is abandon herself. "Forgive me, Granas..." she breathes out, before slowly, shakily getting back up.

"You chose your path," she says, her voice hoarse, as she pulls out the few knives still stuck in her body, heedless of the pain. "So I have nothing left to say to you, except..."

"DIE, DEMON!"

Like a bullet, the catwoman pounces straight for Risenlied, wielding more bloodied knives than she has hands.

DC: MISS! Fargo Foobach completely evades Relentless Assault from Vorthuzahl!
DC: Rosaline Calice switches forms to The Wrath!
GS: Rosaline Calice has attacked Riesenlied with Be Just or Be Dead!
GS: Rosaline Calice has completed her action.
GS: Loren Voss guards a hit from Vorthuzahl's Feinting Slash for 60 hit points!
GS: Cardia Ortell takes a solid hit from Vorthuzahl's Feinting Slash for 93 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Jacqueline Barber has posed.

Jacqueline doesn't notice anything else around her. She hears cries, familiar voices, but right now...

Right now her focus is on only one person. A person she had considered a close and respected friend.

A person who had saved her life in the past.

A person who had now condemned her home to the flames.

Riesenlied's response does cause her to hesitate a moment...but she steels herself and prepares her next Crest, trying to push down the complicated emotions that Riesenlied's response provoked in her.

"This isn't about the past, Riesenlied! Beastwoman, 'Demon'...! I don't care what you are, you should know that already! This is about what you're doing now! People are dying - yours and ours! Why!? Is this really to enforce peace!? What do you plan to tell the families that've been torn apart!?" She shouts, invoking the Crest.

Ordinarily, it would tear earth and stone out of the ground - but right now, there was plenty of debris around that that is no longer necessary.

Nearby stone shifts, for a moment, serving as the only warning before it then flies right towards Riesenlied.

GS: Jacqueline Barber has attacked Riesenlied with Rubble-Rouser!
GS: Jacqueline Barber has completed her action.
<Pose Tracker> Lily Keil has posed.

"I told you that already, Riesenlied! War is ingrained in my people. Whether it should be or not, whether you want to change or not..." A shake of her head. "You're not the first to betray my trust. It's my own fault."

The anger has largely drained out of her; the fatigue is still present in her eyes, and a deeper hurt that remains whenever she looks at Riesenlied.

Fei and Leon have the rest of their confrontation, Fei insisting on answers when this is all over and looking to both of them. "...You'll get your answers. But you may not like them."

Lily feels lethargic; she feels a sense of dread as Gebler arrives, announces itself, stares in that direction. They're here. Aveh...

But that's not her problem anymore, is it? Like it or not...

Even Jude Moshe is here. Even Cassidy, as Lily's eyes flicker around. And her Captain is moving to fight the guardian of Riesenlied, this Ebon Zero. Maybe, then...

Lily glares, and starts forward, following quickly after Leon, keeping to cover in the process. "Riesenlied! ...I don't expect you to give up. I know you better than that already."

She latches her gaze onto Ebon Zero then, and rushes from cover, throwing out a hand beside her that with a crackle of violet energy erupts into a great sword like a hole in the world, utterly black and painful to look closely upon.

She's there. "Captain!" Lily shouts, running past him, and coordinates her movements--

A hacking blow across Noeline's front will crash in at just the same time as...

GS: Lily Keil has attacked Noeline with Black Wolf's Claw!
GS: Lily Keil has completed her action.
DC: MISS! Kahm Yugh completely evades Searing Riposte from Vorthuzahl!
GS: Vorthuzahl has completed his action.
GS: Noeline takes a solid hit from Lily Keil's Black Wolf's Claw for 105 hit points!
GS: Disease! Statuses applied to Noeline!
<Pose Tracker> Zed has posed.

'Less incompetent than you look?' Man, what a rude guy! He didn't even answer Zed's question. So terrible, this cat-person.

Zed idly wonders if he's vulnerable to catnip.

That's how that works, right? Hm. Is Talise?

And Rosaline?

And Catenna?

This is a thing to test. Later, not now. Now he has to deal with a sword.

"Hah! You technique is so slow that my grandmother could catch it!" Zed laughs as he backsteps away from the blade, only for Leo to swing at speeds beyond what an ordinary swordsman could manage. Zed hisses a whispered curse and snaps his own blade up to deflect it. Doom Bringer meets the Flash Blade head-on. Sparks fly, evolving into a tremendous, magnificent explosion of concussive force. Zed is flung back...

No worse for wear?

"Hm. Not a bad swing," Zed observes. He raises his sword to the firelight. Its surface is continous, lustrous, with nary a single blemish. To absorb that strike without even chipping-- it is a demonic blade indeed.

Or... Is it?

"Well! Let's see how you deal with--" Doom Bringer seems to grow even more ominous. A surge of ill-fortuned energies pours up into the blade. Zed's lips curl into a jolly grin. "This Unlucky Star!"

"INSTANT!" The demon roars, swinging a tremendous overhead slice. "HELL!" That wave of maleficent energies surges outward, blasting downrange at the so-called White Knight of Althena. "SWOOOOOOOOOORD!"

Sealed Blade - Demon Breaker

"ALSO!" Zed yells over the sound of PURE MISFORTUNE roiling across the world. "YOU STILL DIDN'T ANSWER MY QUESTION! WHERE CAN I GET A CAPE LIKE THAT!?"

GS: Zed has attacked White Knight Leo with Sealed Blade - Demon Breaker!
GS: Zed has completed his action.
GS: White Knight Leo critically Guards a hit from Zed's Sealed Blade - Demon Breaker for 23 hit points!
GS: CRITICAL! Riesenlied guards a hit from Rosaline Calice's Be Just or Be Dead for 67 hit points!
GS: Break and Cripple! Statuses applied to Riesenlied!
GS: Riesenlied takes a solid hit from Jacqueline Barber's Rubble-Rouser for 94 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Leon Albus has posed.

Leon stares at Fei, and he waits for the answer to come. Then, he nods. "I don't know what answers I have for you," he says, before he leaps in.

And then Leon's sword slams into Noeline's, with a shower of sparks. She slams him backward, and then he gets struck into hard by the blade. Her sword bites into his side and draws blood -- and the former Captain of the Black Wolves slams down into the earth, boots scraping the ground. "You're... if you insist on standing in my way," he says, snapping his sword to the side. "Then I'll hold nothing back!"

His eyes dart to Lily. She cries out his rank -- and he nods. "Right beside you, Lieutenant."

And then he leaps, rushing in towards Noeline. His slender long sword is held out to the side, and red light -- channeled ki, rather than ARM-made devastation -- shoots up the length of the sword. With long practice, he moves at the same time as Lily Keil, and swings his sword out hard.

He shoots past Noeline, standing parallel to Lily. A shuddering red afterimage hangs in his wake -- and crosses from a matching black one from Lily. They cross together, like an X.

GS: Leon Albus has attacked Noeline with Black Wolf's Fang!
GS: Leon Albus has completed his action.
GS: Noeline guards a hit from Leon Albus's Black Wolf's Fang for 55 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Myyah Hawwa has posed.

HERE

Overhead, the Gebler aircraft circle around engage again. They are merciless lancers against the slower Metal Demon targets, but they play a dangerous game--each time they get in close enough to unleash another barrage of missiles and gunfire, they briefly open themselves for reprisal. The skies are not safe.

The Gebler engineering team bunkers down on the space it managed to claim during the first push. One of the soldiers removes two stakes from their backpack and slams them into the ground--a blue energy field springs up between them, allowing cover in the open. This proves handy, as several of the engineers are forced to take hurried evasive action against the hail of knives flung by Cetiri.

Gebler is armored very well for how maneuverable they are. Knives won't always work, but when a Metal Demon chooses to throw knives at you they probably know what they're doing. One of the engineers goes down as a blade finds purchase in the lighter armor-weave between plates; another engineer drags them to the impromptu bunker, removes the knife, and applies some kind of aerosol spray to the wound.

When the dragon comes rolling down, it buys time by forcing the advancing engineers further back--several of them dive for cover, and no one wants to be prone in a battlefield.

The engineers seem to be moving with coordination despite not audibly speaking to each other. At one point, they come to a group decision--or are given orders--and one of them raises their hands. The gloves of their armor glow with a neon light at a windstorm is spontaneously conjured--and then two other engineers throw grenades into it. The conjuring engineer shoves their hands forward, and then jetstreams hurtle forward to guide grenades into the golem's defenders. The jetstreams even seek out Devet's hiding place, because mercy is for those without orders.

Meanwhile, Muni-Muni gets stuck in and finds itself surrounded by angry triangle drones. They circle in the air, harassing the dragon with armor-piercing rounds while two more engineers begin to summon up a fireball that is steadily increasing in size. This is not great for people (and dragons) who do not enjoy being melted to death by fireballs.

ELSEWHERE

"Alright, squad is reporting that target alpha is locked down," says Benzoma. He watches the data roll in from the side-screens. "They'll be hooking it up for the carryall once they're clear--?!"

"Sir," Myyah interjects. She clutches Benzoma's arm, giving him a start. Myyah gestures with her other hand toward the side screen. "The drone watching N3, switch priority."

The holo-display shifts to another view. A crablike robot carries a Gear through the streets. Positive identification comes through the data streams a moment later, but it is unnecessary. Everyone here knows what they're looking at.

Benzoma opens his mouth. An airy sound comes out and nothing more. He looks wide-eyed at Myyah, who is already looking back at him.

"Alert the hangar," she says. Her voice is calm and pleasant. He wants to listen to her. "Prepare the Gears. No launch orders yet. We should await further orders."

Benzoma doesn't answer immediately. Finally: "...Right. Right." He turns his gaze to the operators. "Send an alert request to the cruiser. Gears should be ready to deploy on the commander's orders."

Myyah lets go of Benzoma's arm.

<Pose Tracker> Corwynt has posed.

Corwynt drops down toward the ground, winds flaring just before he lands, stealing away his momentum and allowing him to touch down lightly. He is already half-turning to look for a new target when he sees that flash of bright red hair leak out of the Gebler soldier's helmet; the Guardsman blinks in surprise and turns back to face her. He wasn't expecting someone so formidable off the bat... but so much the better. If he can strike her down, then his path to the others will be clear.

"I cannot," he says, bringing both arms up in a guard. There is no more time for talking, because Elly is on the move. Corwynt backpedals as she charges, swaying to his right to avoid the solar plexus thrust, Elly's rod smacking against a raised vambrace. As she brings the rod up into a combination, her first strike connects hard with the little man's right shoulder, the second glancing off his left cheek. Corwynt sways a little, feigning injury, eyes open as he studies her technique. She's good, whoever this is. Fast and well-trained. No hesitation in her style. But as Elly leaps up for the spin-kick, Corwynt rolls backward under the strike, coming up onto his feet--

  • splurch*

The little Guardsman blinks as he looks down, where his right foot has landed in, of all things, a cat's litter box. Corwynt stares for a moment and then laughs. "The oddest moments of peace in such a tempest," he says, then shakes his head and returns his attention to Elly, who is ordering him to leave. "I will not!" he snaps, surging forward, trying to shake the obstruction free from his foot, green-white power surging as the Blessing summons the winds. "You will claim NOTHING from this city! Not while I draw breath!" Corwynt closes, crouches, and then leaps upward, like Elly, turning the movement into a two-footed whirlwind kick.

Unlike Elly, his spawns actual miniature cyclones. Also, he still has that stupid litter box on his foot.

<Pose Tracker> Kahm Yugh has posed.

<Codec - ALL BAND> Confirming previously noted POI 'Riesenlied' as a Metal Demons or demon-affiliated ally, it appears she infiltrated Ignas under the guise of a demi-human. Also confirming the presence of self-identified 'Lunarian' cultist members. Appearing to manifest paranormal abilities similar to ether.

<Codec - Elly> Lieutenant, engage your target (Corwnt) carefully. He is previously undocumented.

Kahm continues press the assault on Vorthuzahl, watching carefully as each of the units under his command-and some who are not-all leverage their own attack against the creature with varying measures of effectiveness. As he suspected, his assault rifle was going to be limited use. "This is Yugh." He sends again over the comm, "Conventional weapons are of limited effectiveness against the target. Recommend prioritizing ether or high-capacity energy attacks where possible!"

That's about as much as he has time to comment on before the beast moves with a speed undaunted for himself and others. Fast! He thinks, dropping his rifle for what was effectively dead weight and rolling to the side, managing to completely avoid the metal demon's murderous surge by the the skin of his teeth. He stands with his opaque visor intact, quietly noting the blood and remains that caked the demon's foot.

Behind his helm, Kahm frowned. Not for the tragedy, but for the senseless waste. These creatures did nothing but waste.

"Engaging target in close combat. Lieutenant Voss, watch my six."

Kahm advances, his hand grasping his personal weapon, the Anemo Blade, he speeds towards Vorthuzahl in a dead sprint. The beast faces Jude, with his back to the Captain. He capitalizes on this, pushing forward with his blade angled at the demon's back-where he assesses something like a spine to be-directing all his fury for their cause into electric will, coruscating down the length of blade and, hopefully, into the beast itself-if he can penetrate that iron hide.

GS: Corwynt has attacked Elhaym van Houten with Cat's Poo Masking Scent Flew At You!
GS: Corwynt has completed his action.
GS: A targeted player wasn't found. [#-1]
GS: Kahm Yugh has attacked Vorthuzahl with Anemo Shock!
GS: Kahm Yugh has completed his action.
GS: Elhaym van Houten takes a glancing hit from Corwynt's Cat's Poo Masking Scent Flew At You for 41 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Ethius Hesiod has posed.

With alarming speed, the blade crashes against Ethius' chest just as he thinks to take a small hop back to allow greater clearance space from some of the other incoming combatants moving upon Ebon Zero. By giving up momentary traction of the ground, this works especially well in No-- Ebon Zero's favor as he finds himself hurled off his current vantage point, and down into the nearby rubble.

It seemed as solid a strike as anything. He can't be that well-armored, on observation. There might be blood on that blade even now. With luck, that is just one less problem to deal with. Maybe this mysterious man's story will end as just a curiosity, as sorcerous artillery and masterful hand-to-hand combat descend upon their person.

Meanwhile, Ethius grasps at his chest with his free hand. It's warm. The blade should have cut him in two, for his misread cues. Eyes look all about. To the forces of... in those uniforms... what is this? What is--

He shakes his head, moving the blooded right hand up against his forehead. I cannot be distracted.

He so cannot be distracted, he can't even allow himself to be reminded to not be distracted. Muscle memory goes on autopilot, as he slinks around a staircase that has yet to fully collapse. Eyes take note of potential artillery fire upon that position - all the better to take in future positioning.

His wound should convince him to lie down and stay low, like he did when Berserk gave him more than a few headbutts. He doesn't allow it to, grip on the quarterstaff with his left hand tightening as he uses it for stability while climbing back up.

He looks, soon, to weave through the residual violet energy cast off from Lily's sorcerous blade, and the red haze of Leon's movements. He comes to a kneel roughly at about Ebon Zero's five o'clock position, maybe a good twenty feet (Imperial) away.

Riesenlied holds a resolute belief in the nobility of her cause, giving her utmost trust to Ebon Zero to stand tall against the hordes against them. If that is the absolute power that will move the world, then what does this man - this strange, dangerous man, one Ethius Hesiod - have to stand against a sincerity and passion?

His eyes speak of no heightened emotion. No greater drive, on the surface, beyond his immediate interests. This, as people move to punish Riesenlied for her deception, to try and save Adlehyde from the invasion of a people they believed evil, and destroyed.

If Ebon Zero looks, she can cast him going through the motions of chanting and casting - maybe from the light coming from his tattoos, thrusting his bloodied right hand outward as a trail of sparks streak through the air in a coiling loop towards their position, threatening to stab itself through the shield of faith and resolve that empowers her metaphorically.

Is he that determined to be in the way, even after so serious a wound?

<Pose Tracker> Matilda Whitehead has posed.

"... there's no other path," Matilda hisses under her breath, twirling Freischütz and popping it open to reload it yet again... and then she sees Rosaline go in. She nods -- mostly to herself -- and continues to hide, for the most part. Her smart use of cover protects her from the worst of the Demons' assault, though she does wince in pain.

Rosaline goes in screaming, and Matilda decides on a plan. She'll support the nun -- it's better than going in herself. Less risky... especially since Freischütz can only put out what it's given, and right now, Matilda doesn't have much to give it.

She pours something into the ARM's reservoir, and seals it up. Taking a knee and aiming carefully, she fires it at Rosaline; a sparkling stream of pink and white issues forth, and Rosaline's vigor should drastically increase accordingly. She takes a moment to assess the exits, in the meanwhile... though she does note Riesenlied's red blood.

GS: Matilda Whitehead has attacked Rosaline Calice with Fairy Bullet!
GS: Matilda Whitehead has completed her action.
GS: Ethius Hesiod has attacked Noeline with Surge Bolt!
GS: Ethius Hesiod has completed his action.
GS: Matilda Whitehead heals Rosaline Calice! She gains 100 temporary hit points!
GS: Noeline has activated a Force Action!
GS: Noeline takes a solid hit from Ethius Hesiod's Surge Bolt for 163 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Maya Schrodinger has posed.

It's not that Maya trusts the forces of Gebler, it's that they haven't personally rankled her ire and clawed at her, shot at her, burned and pillaged before her. They're special forces, doing what they do best--getting in and getting out again in a hurry. Maybe if the Schrodinger girl were some kind of tactical genius, she'd be a little more alarmed about the situation.

As it is, she's an empassioned girl full of the headstrong fury of the fantasies she projects for strength. Beyond the roar of strange machines and the resuming chatter of gunfire, it's hard to notice them. It's also hard to notice them because the sorceress's concentration is focused on the rapidly-complicating battle before her. Maya flits to and fro in the air like an annoying, lethal gnat--no intentions of joining Noeline on the ground, where that sword can get to her.

Her blue eyes narrow briefly--that voice sounds familiar, even amidst the din of war. If Riesenlied is here--and betraying everyone, then who else would come to her side but...?

This moment's lapse in concentration, and the presumption of being safe in the air from someone wielding a sword, is Maya's undoing. She drifts to a halt for just a moment, which is all the time Noeline needs to lash out with a titanic slab of iron that seems to stretch and bridge the gap between them in a heartbeat's moment in time. That the blonde wielder of magic can prevent herself from being bisected entirely is a miracle in itself: a hexagonal shield of shimmering light erupts by her side where the blade sweeps, and--shatters into a thousand fragments of glowing, magical glass. Maya is hurled into the ground a few feet away from Noeline's side, narrowly missing both Lily and Ethius like some kind of idiotic human missile.

"That's why all of you were so buddy-buddy, huh? So you could torch this place and loot it a little easier? The great--nnnh--Maya Schrodinger is gonna... oof."

Her vision swims, everything is aching. Maya rolls onto her back from her little crater in the paving and loosely gestures with a gloved hand, but her magical shield re-forms around ... Lily, instead.

<Pose Tracker> Fargo Foobach has posed.

Fargo's fist impacts the Metal Demon, but not cleanly - and with very little effect. He is diverted, his fist mostly parried aside, and one foot lashes out. He pushes off of Vorthuzahl with his leg to land on his own terms, reaching over to pluck the other cuff link from his left sleeve.

He doesn't get to push his sleeve up before the Metal Demon has focused on him. "Alright," he whispers to himself, "let's make sure I still deserve my position."

Fargo is an exceptionally trained man. His suit is made to his specifications, and doesn't hinder his movement at all as he backs up, shifting away from the Demon's blows. Occasionally his fingertips touch the flat of the blade, but rather than guiding it away from him, he uses it to guide his own movements, darting around like a flickering candle. He refuses to be pulled from his center.

"Tch." A moment after he was aligned for a countering strike, the Vorthuzal moved. An amateur with the technology, he lifts his hand near the commlink hidden by his hair. "The opponent is unnaturally agile." It may be a bit obvious, but Fargo is accustomed to having to state the obvious. "I will remain cautious of firing lines."

Shortly after Vorthuzal landed in front of Jude, the Man in White appeared at his side, fingertips glowing as he struck upward for the armpit under the Metal Demon's sword arm, trying to just melt his way through to something vulnerable. He gives Jude a brief glance.

GS: Maya Schrodinger has attacked Lily Keil with Vas Gurudo!!
GS: Maya Schrodinger has completed her action.
GS: Vorthuzahl takes a solid hit from Kahm Yugh's Anemo Shock for 77 hit points!
GS: Fargo Foobach has attacked Vorthuzahl with Thermal Lance Pinpoint Strike!
GS: Fargo Foobach has completed his action.
GS: Maya Schrodinger heals Lily Keil! She gains 200 temporary hit points!
GS: Vorthuzahl guards a hit from Fargo Foobach's Thermal Lance Pinpoint Strike for 55 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Fei Fong Wong has posed.

"I don't expect to like them! Oh god is that Sephilia?? Why is she fighting metal demons??" He pauses. "Well she has Lord Chauncey but... even so!" He is surprised to see that the metal demons are more powerful than they look. He is thrown back and clobbered by a large swing from Noeline's blade and he flies back like Timothy with blood spraying from the wound. He lands on his head and rolls backwards before sliding to a stop.

"Ugh..." He groans. He presses his hand against his forehead.

And then suddenly matters are made a little bit worse.

"FEI!" A voice shouts from within the flying crabbot as it floats into the fairgrounds carrying the Gear that's familiar to some people present. "Why'd you run off like that? Don't you think Weltall would be useful in this situation?"

Now that people can actually see the dang thing. The Gear is a humanoid dark blue gear with some red and blue coloring along the forehead and other bits here and there, but it's mostly dark blue. It is very spiky and it even has a mohawk which is pretty weird. What's weirder is that the crabbot drops it down next to Fei. It lands in a crouched position and Fei turns to look at it.

Come on, get in the robot. You know you want to. You're still mad aren't you?

Fei approaches it despite of his instincts. There's nowhere to run. It's a warzone. His body knows what to do, his head knows what to do, and no matter how he's resisting it. He can't stop. The one thing that tips Fei over the edge isn't actually the metal demons.

It's Corwynt. It's Corwynt attacking the woman he suspects is Elly with poonados.

That's the straw that breaks the camel's back.

"They're too strong but..." He looks back to Weltall. "...But you can take them...can't you?"

Maybe we'll get to slay a dragon, won't that be fun?

Fei stumbles and rests his hands on the knee for a moment before saying, "They're right. It doesn't matter. I can't run. It'll come to me." His eyes narrow. "I can't run even if I want to!"

And with that he leaps into the cockpit. The hatch closes shut on him and the robot.He trots towards Noeline, denting the lovely stonework as it approaches her.

"This is what you are after isn't it?" Fei is screaming, but levelly. "THIS IS WHY YOU'RE KILLING ALL THESE PEOPLE!? YOU CAN HAVE IT!"

Fei doesn't seem to mind he's now the bigger guy either because the fists of the Weltall come down rapidly for Noeline.

<Pose Tracker> Janus Cascade has posed.

Dario's bullet slams into the thing, its hide shattering but swiftly regenerating. Janus' eyes narrow. "Demon or monster, it's got a hell of a guard, huh?" he mutters.

"It's so DAMN FAST!" Romero yelps.

Janus tries to hide the shudder in his breath. "Sure is," he whispers back. "Ain't a thing o' nature that can move like that. And that hide's tough, too..."

"Boss! I can't...punch that thing!" Romero yelps. "I'll, uhm, I'll!"

"Get your fool head DOWN, first!" Janus yells, and physically windmills around to slam the stock of his gun into Romero's gut; the blond doubles over, which handily means he's too low to get hit by the stunning blow swung at him by the burning heat of the horrible...thing. Janus takes it square; slammed in the chest and sent rolling back, he tumbles a ways before he comes back up. Drifter gear is tough; he's not cut in half even by that blade, though he is bruised and breathing rough. But he's also grinning - and holding up a cartridge, which sparks and fizzles with an internal power.

He palms it; swings the bolt back on his rifle ARM and slams the cartridge in. The whole frame sparks. Then he slams the bolt in and locks it, and the weapon pulses with some internal energy as Janus brings it up. Aims...

The blast screams like lightning as a flickering bolt races downrange to slam into Vorthuzahl - and rather than hurt much, it sends electric cracks racing along his hide, destabilizing the powers keeping him together on an atomic level.

Or something. Janus knows it makes his bullets hit better.

GS: Janus Cascade has attacked Vorthuzahl with Shattershell!
GS: Janus Cascade has completed his action.
<Pose Tracker> Jude Moshe has posed.

He approaches carefully. Cautiously. Assesses the situation. The players. Unknowns aplenty, but based on things he's read, he knows he can make an at least vaguely accurate assessment of the enemies' fighting capacities, that being 'way out of his league with what he has on hand.' And yet, he has a plan.

And then Gebler shows up, and all Jude Moshe can do is stare on with the blank-faced look of exasperation one only gets when they've come to bleak recognition of 'shit hitting the fan.'

"Man," he grouses, sighing in defeat. "My luck really -is- that bad. And here I always thought I was just being cute--"

Whatever thoughts might actually be going through the reporter's head are stowed away the second something large and metal -lands- in front of him with a horrifying crunch of bone and flesh. His gaze snaps up to the very silver, very -dangerous- creature in front of him. A Metal Demon. A real Metal Demon. Not a beast, like they saw in the prison. Not a mindless peon. Something straight out of legend--

--And it's standing right in front of him.

A second passes, perhaps as those sounds register for what they are. And then--

"Hey there, big guy. Don't mind me, just passing through--"

--Jude offers the demon, the creature that children were told horror stories about to get them to behave, a jaunty, two fingered salute before he swivels that shotgun ARM around and points it right at the thing's helmeted head. Runes on it glow bright, chilling blue and white--

--and a round of magical frost is fired off with a BOOM to collide with the heinous creature and freeze anything it touches along the way as Jude starts to dart past with a passing, "Keep him distracted for me? Thanks!" for Fargo as he wades deeper into the fair -- trying to gain distance on the metal monstrosity as he looks for--

"KID!" Jude shouts, Leon's way. "You and Ms. Keil are WAY OVER YOUR HEADS HERE. Get out, now!"

It's probably the most urgent he's ever sounded.

And all things considered, that's saying something.

DC: Fei Fong Wong switches forms to Weltall!
GS: Jude Moshe has attacked Vorthuzahl with Boogie Chillen!
GS: Jude Moshe has completed his action.
<Pose Tracker> Loren Voss has posed.

What, Loren thinks to himself as he has a moment to properly gauge Vorthuzahl, to really look at it, are these things? Of course he'd read the preliminary briefings -- what they had -- but the way it moves, the way it approaches like some sort of juggernaut is absolutely unreal to see for himself.

The gauntlet isn't just for show. A standby for their shock troops and a modernized approach on the personal-armor mainstay, all it takes is a sudden twist of the forearm to cause the whole contraption to unfold into its shield state.

Loren has enough time to thrust the shield forward, leveling his body behind it as he plants his feet firmly against the damaged cobblestones. The demon's arm comes downward in a powerful swing and the medic holds his ground.

He can feel the impact of the strike roll down his arm. The heels of his feet slide backwards. And just like that, it's departed, moving quickly to another corner of the battlefield.

Blue eyes track its progress behind the cover of the mask.

<Codec - ALL BAND> It's moving quickly. Watch your positions. Notify me for ether support if needed.

Shifting into a ready guard stance, Loren draws his sidearm. Better to conserve ether, there could be an emergency shortly. "Understood, Captain. Providing backup fire support."

Moments before Kahm closes in, Loren opens fire on Vorthuzahl. Not to damage, but to distract. His focus has narrowed, world for now consisting of the reports coming in over the commlink, his captain's status, and the position of the enemy. He tenses his body, as if in preparation to intercede at a moment's notice.

GS: Loren Voss has attacked Vorthuzahl with ILR-764 Standard ARM!
GS: Loren Voss has completed his action.
<Pose Tracker> White Knight Leo has posed.

The blades clash in a ringing cry of steel. Zed goes flying back, and Leo whirls on Riesenlied, expecting the Demon swordsman to just kind of keel over, bleeding. This does not happen.

The White Knight's ears twitch as rubble shifts, and Zed's boots skid on the rock. He whirls back to face him, now significantly incensed. His eyes narrow. He sees Zed racing at him, the blade glowing with what is undoubtedly eldritch energies. Leo's tangled with those often enough to know he doesn't want to get hit by it. Zed gets two steps before the earth itself rises up to intecept him, the ground breaking into uneven, treacherous terrain. Zed's swing goes wide, and Leo assists it with his blade, shoving Zed away.

Some of it gets on him. Leo's lips curl in disgust, and he shakes his arm, as if he could get rid of the sensation. "Was that supposed to be an insult?" the White Knight says. "Very well. Your technique is flawed and amateurish, your taste in technique names is horrible, and your scarf is a ridiculous tripping hazard. You are asking me about my cape while your vile comrades are fighting and dying around you, indicating you are either easily-distracted or of below-average intelligence. And--"

Somewhere, Corwynt kicks a cat's litter box at a trained military operative.

"Your fangs look dumb." Leo smirks. "Now excuse me, I really must deal with your commander, the other brave defenders seem to be having trouble."

"DEMON FANG! Leo bellows, whipping his sword in an arc. Energy crests from the tip, sinking into the ground, and racing towards Zed. The earth beneath him rises up in a lightning-fast explosion of energy.

GS: White Knight Leo has attacked Zed with Demon Fang!
GS: White Knight Leo has completed his action.
<Pose Tracker> Cardia Ortell has posed.

Cardia's eyes tilt from side to side, flitting between persons of interest. Janus, Kahm, Cassidy, Fargo, Jude-- all are currently tagged in her vision as 'friendly,' given something of an iconic, friendly green tint in her eyesight to make sure she's able to keep track of them in her line of sight. The knightly form, however..

... the massive swordsman makes his opening gambit at Fargo before the powerful slashes at Janus and Kahm. Eventually, his attention comes to Cardia. Her forearms lift, crossing in a classic 'X' posture as the impact of the shoulder crushes her arms to her chest, followed up with the powerful upward swing of the blade!

Lifted off her feet from the force-- a feat that in and of itself causes Cardia's eyes to open up a bit wide-- the blade curiously does not generate a blast of blood or great cries of pain... but the suit does seem to give way, hints of metal hidden away under tattered sleeves and gloves.

"Understood. Charging my weaponry."

Already on the move, hurrying low as her thumb eases against the back of the Ether Magnum's assembly. Move in close, take advantage, strike. While Kahm moves in ahead, while Fargo moves to attack from one side, Cardia advances from the opposite. She starts low, trying to attack Vor's knee again with a thrusting kick, then jumping, twisting in the air, and lashing out with a powerful kick at the invader's side!

GS: Cardia Ortell has attacked Vorthuzahl with Solarian Cybernetic Combat!
GS: Cardia Ortell has completed her action.
GS: Fei Fong Wong has attacked Noeline with Oh Shit It's Weltall!
GS: Fei Fong Wong has completed his action.
GS: Vorthuzahl guards a hit from Jude Moshe's Boogie Chillen for 56 hit points!
GS: Vorthuzahl enters CONDITION GREEN!!
GS: CRITICAL! Vorthuzahl takes a solid hit from Loren Voss's ILR-764 Standard ARM for 138 hit points!
GS: Noeline guards a hit from Fei Fong Wong's Oh Shit It's Weltall for 57 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Elhaym van Houten has posed.

Elly gets a hot tip: the man's undocumented. Of course, that means he's of extra concern, but...

Her head is swimming. She pushes through it. She signals back to Kahm: >>"I understand," but no more. There's a war on. She exhales with force.

"... I don't want to do this," she begins, but then unfortunately Corwynt is expressing himself in an extremely rude way. Elly is, thank -god-, not completely blindsided by this and leaps back, only the ammonia-scented cyclones ripping forwards. One of them intersects her torso and she lets out a noise halfway between "guh!!" and a pained squeak. The visible eye in the cracked helmet tightens in pain.

But she doesn't scream even if she feels something separate inside of her side. Fatigue laps up her calves, an enervating desire to pitch forwards, but it's brief. It passes.

At this point Elly realizes what's on Corwynt's foot. He's making fun of me, some part of Elly crumples: and I'm going to die like this and I -

Chemicals or inspiring words kick her in the brainstem. I'm not dead yet, she tells herself, even as she draws up in a firm stance and lets out a breath that manages to mist over in the air as the rising tone of her exclamation of wordless effort ripples outwards, a sudden frost-chilling snap moving towards Corwynt. As it passes objects they erupt in rime and icicles from the ambient moisture that is no doubt radiating from everyone in this sweat-laden fiery hellscape. The plunge of temperature may almost be refreshing.

Elly then looks towards Noeline and -

"oh no," Elly says, because in looking that way she sees the looming form of Weltall. This might be an excellent opening for her opponent, although given the aghast look on her face he might think twice about the situation.

"Fei... how - why--?!"

The thought never enters Elly's mind that it's someone else in there. She doesn't have time to question this certainty.

GS: Elhaym van Houten has attacked Corwynt with Aqua Ice!
GS: Elhaym van Houten has completed her action.
GS: Corwynt takes a solid hit from Elhaym van Houten's Aqua Ice for 119 hit points!
GS: Vorthuzahl takes a solid hit from Janus Cascade's Shattershell for 36 hit points!
GS: Shieldbreak! Statuses applied to Vorthuzahl!
GS: CRITICAL! Zed takes a glancing hit from White Knight Leo's Demon Fang for 87 hit points!
GS: Vorthuzahl takes a glancing hit from Cardia Ortell's Solarian Cybernetic Combat for 42 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Kahm Yugh has posed.


"SLIDE-1!" Kahm shouts, yes, shouts into his comm when Weltall raises over their heads, "Confirming the presence of SLIDE-1 in the field! Command, your orders?!"

Damn it, he needed his gear and he needed it now.

<Pose Tracker> Zed has posed.

What?

WHAT???

INSULTS!?

Zed stares agog as this RUDE, CRUDE DUDE casually denounces his sense of style, his style of swordsmanship, and even his awesome demon fangs! How... How cruel! How terrible! And then, to make matters worse, he...

Throws a shockwave at him?

Zed growls, leaping up off the ground as the blast passes below. Even with such a wide dodge, it doesn't get him out of the way of the various rocks and bits of raw earth converted into deadly projectiles. Flagstones hammer his body, pummel his face, send him flying into the air...!

Only to land on an amusement stand some distance away.

It's... The Wall Chicken game.

There are, notably, several dozen Zed-shaped indentations on the wall.

"Hah!" Zed laughs. He laughs! "You think your words can harm me? You think they can cut? They are not swords, you becaped kitty cat of a man! I've heard all you have to say and more from the people I call brothers and sisters! If they get a little roughed up, that's just the call of justice from across the ages!"

"In other words." Zed leaps from his perch. He lands not far from his foe.

Doom Bringer gleams menacingly in the murk.

"Sticks and stones may break my bones--" He launches forward, exploding into yet another orgiastic typhoon of ultraviolence. "BUT WORDS! WILL NEVER! HURT MEEEEEEE!"

GS: Zed has attacked White Knight Leo with Dark Horse - Supreme Tornado!
GS: Zed has completed his action.

<Pose Tracker> Corwynt has posed.

Corwynt finally gets the stupid box off his foot around the third hurricane kick in the series; he lands with a faint sigh of relief that immediately turns to an expression of sheer horror as

S O M E T H I N G

sends chills shooting up his spine. It's like the feeling of Althena's Blessing but not, so very much not, it's something far colder and darker. It's the pristine and antiseptic tang of recycled air in an internsive care unit, compared to a warm spring breeze, bringing with it the tender hint of honeysuckle and the promise of life returning to the world. It is wrong, so wrong.

And it crashes into the martial artist, battering him downward, blood spattering along the ground as he staggers downward. "No," he breathes, his teeth lined with pink, blood spreading from a split lip. "NO!" he roars, eyes blazing with hate and fury. "What monstrous demon do you call on for your power?" Corwynt asks, stepping forward. "Not enough of an insult to turn from the face of the Goddess, you clutch to your breast the tainted essence of some lurching beast? Drink deep of its blackened soul? You taint her essence with every breath you take!" he snaps. "YOU ARE UNWORTHY OF IT!"

Corwynt breathes inward, green-white tendrils snaking out from his body... toward Elly, who will suddenly find that as the Guardsman of Althena breathes in, it is the air in her very lungs his sorcery is trying to draw outward.

GS: Corwynt has attacked Elhaym van Houten with Steal Breath!
GS: Corwynt has completed his action.
<Pose Tracker> Cassidy Cain has posed.

There's a bried accounting of a variety of faces as well as a few unfamiliar ones - she doesn't see Leon through the mess, but Lily's black and red dress is unmistakeable and their eyes meet briefly before the blonde is off again. There's a rush of red hair as the reporter leaps further into the fairgrounds, but she doesn't follow.

The Metal Demon lands way too close to him for her to be comfortable with it and she's forced to act, nevermind that she needs to be someplace else and the state of the city's heart is becoming more and more unmanageable by the second. Cassidy takes a careful bead from where she stands, from somewhere to the back and side of Vor - his blind side, though that could be a coincidence, or even if there is such a thing where Metal Demons are concerned. There's also a glimpse of glaring white somewhere in front of it - hard to miss in a swirl of red dust and fire.

There appear to be other people engaging it, so she does something she normally does not do, because the last thing she wants is to accidentally shoot someone trying to kill something she's trying to kill:

She aims high.

A finger squeezes the trigger and the sound joins the rest of the murderous cacophony surrounding her, to unload a bolt of hot lead straight towards Vor's temple.

"So this power you're talking about...that come from a battery or sommat, luv?" Her lips pull up in a reckless smile.

"Because if you're willing tae dispense that information, well, it'd really help me out. I'm in a hurry, y'ken."

DC: MISS! Elhaym van Houten completely evades Steal Breath from Corwynt!
GS: Cassidy Cain has attacked Vorthuzahl with The Long Game!
GS: Cassidy Cain has completed her action.
GS: Vorthuzahl takes a solid hit from Cassidy Cain's The Long Game for 22 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Noeline has posed.

Under her mask, Noeline has to grit her teeth; for all that she promised to protect Riese, this is too much. She can't take on the entirety of this mass of Drifters alone, and nor can Riesenlied or the rest of the Ebony Wings, especially when they're facing an aerial bombardment for good measure. In some respects, this only confirms something she's been sure of for some time - when pressed against the wall, when massed against the heaviest odds, humans are certainly capable of being a match for Metal Demons.

For a moment, she considers letting the rest of the Ebony Wings know to hurry - but as much as she might dance around the issue, there's a lot of trust there. They already know what they're doing, probably even better than she does. Instead, she simply frowns, her expression a far cry from the gleeful Crimson Noble she pretends to be.

"... listen to her," she suggests for a single, solemn moment, the flow of the battle ceasing around her to give her the dramatic space to do so. "She is not lying. She is not your enemy, and nor am I--"

A twist of her body allows her to reposition her enormous sword, catching Lily's strike on the blade; it doesn't quite take the impact in full, and only a quick and hurried shift of the female demon's weight allows the majority of the strike to catch air rather than dig too deeply into the synthetic skin. Fortunately, Noeline's the observant sort - and a yell for cooperation leaves her tensed for the second attack, slipping under it as it scrapes against one draconic wing of her helmet and glances away.

The sudden rocketing wave of sorcery is the first thing to actually pick her off her feet - the demon does her best to intercept it with her sword, but there's only so much she can do, and the sheer force of it picks her up off her feel to send her rolling across the ground in a scattered and uncoordinated mess. She clings to her blade, at least - never let go of your weapon at a time like this - and with a grunt of effort pushes back up to her feet in time to--

--in time to--

That is just not fair, thinks the Crimson Noble part of her mind for a moment. The rest of her is too combat-trained to actually register that much in the way of conscious thought, bringing up her blade in both hands to desperately try to block the downward swing. Somehow, she manages, a shower of sparks big enough to raise a moment's flame signifying the wild and unfocused sideways roll that sends her rocketing out of the immediate danger zone.

"... you see? To resort so quickly to something as dangerous as that..." she points out, her voice still somehow held steady as she momentarily clutches at one arm and gathers her breath.

The pause has provided time to concentrate, time to catch her breath and let the auto-repair functions in her armor kick in; keep your patience, she tells herself as she swallows, and then raises her blade up high once more. This time, is different - this time, it is beginning to glow white-hot. "... we will stop you. From yourselves, if necessary!"

The pair of enormous swings almost seem to tear against the air, press against it and resist the atoms and molecules making it up; there is a weight to them beyond the heft of her blade, beyond the tensing of her muscles. The white lines they carve in midair and leave in their wake hesitate, shimmering in an array of rainbow colours, and then rocket forwards across the intervening space. One of them goes high - an almost hopeful attempt to deal any sort of damage to the gigantic Gear taking up the battlefield - and the other seeks to scatter the Drifters on the ground in its wake.

GS: Noeline has attacked Noeline with Nanomachine Paste!
GS: DISEASE! Noeline tries to heal Noeline, but it doesn't work!
GS: Noeline has attacked Noeline with Repair Systems!
GS: Noeline takes a solid hit from Noeline's Repair Systems for 0 hit points!
GS: Restore! Noeline clears debuffs from Noeline!
GS: Noeline has attacked Noeline with Nanomachine Paste!
GS: White Knight Leo has activated a Force Action!
<Pose Tracker> Riesenlied has posed.

It is true.

She can only speak for so many of them, in the wake of the demons' aggression on Adlehyde. It isn't the greatest position to be speaking from. Yet, all the same... all the same! "While I cannot deny your words, you cannot seek to know the depths of the misery that has happened here on the Blue Star as you are right now, White Knight Leo! And neither can I, fully! For the sake of exposing that sordid past for all to see... that is the reason I must prevent these Golems from seeing use!"

Riesenlied comes across Catenna as they face against each other on the battlefield. Their eyes glance. "I--" Her eyes widen, as she starts to feel a huge force of gravity, wrenching at her systems, the entirety ofÉ}Bò?<È'ñÉÃ|?hålòè

Ù?ClÏ!¶÷?éfinds herself on one knee, some automatic balancing system and the LM Shield both preventing her from collapsing outright. Her eyes are wide as she clutches at her heart, staring towards Catenna once more. "The world does not operate on such dichotomies, Miss Catenna. I cannot place myself upon such a paradigm -- that if I am not with you, then I am against you! I cannot...!!"

+c: The LM Shield and Anti-Magic Cloak are insufficient defense, Riesenlied. You have no choice but to purge memory and increase your Regenerative capabilities. Accessing:

|0x63BF0D436> "The future is never certain, Riesenlied... but I will hope that our paths cross again. I will not forget you." Tears stand unshed in Catenna's eyes, threatening to brim over as she steps back from the doorway. Clasping her hands, she bows deeply. "Be well, Riesenlied," she urges. "I hope you find what you seek."

@r: Denied! How could you-- how could you tell me to abort such memories?! Cetiri...

Rosaline emerges before she can even get to her feet, calling for her death. Demon. She is a Demon... there is nothing she could be, other than a Demon...

She raises her sword weakly -- along her off-hand, even, and even with all of her skill, she can't entirely avoid Rosaline's mass as the cat nun savages past her, shredding at her cloak. She parries, one, two, takes a step and twists onto her side and brings those knives to the ricasso of her blade... which hisses once more, before collapsing into a pile of spent metal. She is disarmed.

+c: Listen to them! You are in no position to reach out to them. They are angry. The actions of our kin have cast the die for our lot!

"I refuse to so think that the rift of hatred cannot be eventually overcome...!" Riesenlied grimaces, as her cheek continues to bleed, throwing herself to one side as the LM Shield up rises once more from Jacqueline's attack. The stones shatter with a reverberation more powerful than it ought to, and the cracks have become deep at this point in time. "The most I can do at this point, Miss Jacqueline... is to ensure these weapons do not fall into the wrong hands..."

|0x6F590179DF7AA> "I've been...glad to count you as a friend, Riese. There were some rough times, but...I would never give them up." Jacqueline says. As she speaks she removes one of the bags from her person and empties its contents, before filling it with a small assortment of potions.

@r: Denied.

+c: Riesenlied, you are being irrational--

@r: How could I just erase the memory of Jacqueline's fervour for helping others...?

It is a weak counter. She has no good words for her. She has become part of that which has taken home and family and friends from her. This... is how the cycle asserts itself, onward, further and further.

She hears Lily's words, shifting her thoughts and memories--

|0xF5176> It's all one can really do about some things. Lily glances down as she realizes Riesenlied was looking at her through that moment, but only glances; she finds herself watching to watch Riese as she speaks. "...I see. That's an extraordinary commitment. I wish those in your care well."

...

When she makes her request, the answer comes quickly. "Consider yourself my patient once you're back. Go get your sword."

@r: Denied.

+c: You will die at this rate, Riesenlied.

@r: Focus on repelling the Gebler squad advancing on you. I shall deploy it.

She trembles as she stares towards Sephilia, who backs away from the fight.

|0x206549CD262> Sephilia's eyes well up with tears. "Y-you're going away? But...I'll miss you! Will you be coming back? Chauncey will miss you too!" Sephilia takes the thread and clings to it almost as though it's Riese herself. "I...I'll treasure this, Riese, I promise! But...promise me we'll meet again! I don't wanna never see you again!"

She gazes as Leon and Ebon Zero continue to clash, exchanging blows as their swords shower in a spark of flame.

|0xF3D97> "It's not a bad world," Leon muses. "It would be nice to see it. A world without those things." But, it would be a hard world to make -- and he doesn't know that he can fit into that world. After all, he is a soldier.

Her glance takes her to where Ethius charges a spell, in his battle against her shield.

|0x3568AEB4> "I believe both you, and Miss Odjn, acted in our best interests that day. There is little you could do in order to convince me otherwise." He remains unflinching. Unmoving. However many years this human has had of life, he is less than a tenth of her age. Yet, here he dares stand, as though one who might believe himself in a position to speak so candidly...! "What you did saved our lives. How you did... I believe we were not meant to bear witness. My gratitude remains, Miss Riese..."

She even sees Miss Elly -- just what was she doing here? She possessed a sorcerous power of some kind as well...

||0x349B7EBE> "So you came all this way," Elly says with a slight laugh, "just to watch the people...? But there are people everywhere..." Almost everywhere. "But... I agree, though. I don't like to think about what those Golems were fighting."

And she sees Miss Schrodinger, who fights on despite the pain that she bears in her heart.

|0xFE0F2> "You know, she has all of these really zen sounding tidbits... which I'm growing used to, but I've never seen Miss Riese falling over so much like this." Maya observes dutifully, careful about not trying to sound too amused. "We have guest rooms, if you need a short rest before you continue on your way home. You are in quite a state."

"These soldiers are cohesive," Jedan comments appreciatively -- his eye is over the reticle of his rifle now, as he seeks to snipe off the drones squaring away against Muni-Muni -- several of the fireballs still shower through, but Metal Dragons aren't just for show; even the ridiculous onion-shaped dragon appears to be made of a material tougher, and perhaps true to the vegetable it's named after, the drones' blasts peel off against its skin, showing an ablative quality to its guard.

Dva shouts, "Devet, you idiot, get Saelthun and get over here!" with an angry holler, firing off beams from what looks like a trident weapon to get them off Devet's back as the jetstreams and grenades fly their course. Devet's busy typing away at her keyboard, which -- affords her some kind of barrier to protect her from the attack. "I'm SCAAAAAARED!"

The airlift harness on Lolithia is more or less complete -- Sedam, who has been working on the rigging without word and without care of assault -- tugs experimentally on the wire.

"Salamandra, go!" Jedan hollers, and the Gebler engineers have a new kind of issue -- the flame dragon from before has craned its bird-like neck and is joining the fireball game, attempting to shower the soldiers away with a red-hot dragon breath. It can only protect its own turf, however, and Gebler is definitely finding purchase around Barbados.

"I can't trample on any of their memories. They are all too precious to me. Thusly..."

Riesenlied's body rises softly into the air, her arms spread to either side of her. Slowly, her posture curves her into a gentle arch, aloft with wings that shimmer with a defiant bright light. Effulgent motes of light coalesce at her chest, an ever-growing shimmer that radiantly erupts into a ringed pommel. Slowly, with pained effort, she takes hold of the ebony hilt that emerges, drawing forth a twisting, braided blade discolored with the mottled patina of her wings. The tip of the twisted blade taints the open air with flecks of her blood coursing from her self-opened wound. The gleam incandescently seeps within the weapon, which exudes an indefatigable aura.

This is no ordinary sword. It is poor to even call it a sword. Its blade is unevenly coiled, branching off into pointless ends and haphazard shapes, freshly bathed in her own rusted, tainted blood. It looks fragile. It looks worthless. An embarrassing twist of metal no one should deign to call a proper weapon.

But this was her ARM. The only ARM she could synchronize with. For it is made of her.

A weapon of the heart.

"To my side... my Pinions."

Riesenlied twists in midair as she issues the command -- visibly, the gleaming orange remiges at the tips of her wings fall from her body, moulting in a feathery flourish. But they do not descend softly -- aloft on a bed of shimmering photon particles, the pinions join her side, arraying themselves into circular formation.

She thrusts her hand forward, and the remote weapons dart forth in an erratic pattern, seeking their targets out. With no particular crude form of propulsion, their flight is relatively silent, possessing only the ebbing chime of light as they chart their path and seek vulnerable points!


GS: White Knight Leo guards a hit from Zed's Dark Horse - Supreme Tornado for 64 hit points!
GS: Noeline heals Noeline! She gains 200 temporary hit points!
GS: Noeline has attacked Fei Fong Wong with Tricolor Order!
GS: Noeline has attacked Lily Keil with Infinite Slash!
GS: Noeline has attacked Ethius Hesiod with Infinite Slash!
GS: Noeline has attacked Leon Albus with Infinite Slash!
GS: Noeline has attacked Maya Schrodinger with Infinite Slash!
GS: Noeline has completed her action.
GS: Maya Schrodinger takes a solid hit from Noeline's Infinite Slash for 177 hit points!
GS: Fei Fong Wong critically Guards a hit from Noeline's Tricolor Order for 28 hit points!
GS: Ethius Hesiod critically Guards a hit from Noeline's Infinite Slash for 30 hit points!
DC: Riesenlied switches forms to Dark Angel Riesenlied!
GS: Riesenlied has attacked Fei Fong Wong with Fallen Sword - 'Silent Nirvana'!
GS: Lily Keil critically Guards a hit from Noeline's Infinite Slash for 32 hit points!
GS: Riesenlied has attacked Catenna with Fallen Sword - 'Silent Nirvana'!
GS: Riesenlied has attacked Rosaline Calice with Fallen Sword - 'Silent Nirvana'!
GS: Leon Albus takes a glancing hit from Noeline's Infinite Slash for 80 hit points!
GS: CRITICAL! Catenna takes a solid hit from Riesenlied's Fallen Sword - 'Silent Nirvana' for 269 hit points!
GS: Jam! Statuses applied to Catenna!
GS: CRITICAL! Fei Fong Wong takes a solid hit from Riesenlied's Fallen Sword - 'Silent Nirvana' for 276 hit points!
GS: Jam! Statuses applied to Fei Fong Wong!
GS: Rosaline Calice takes a solid hit from Riesenlied's Fallen Sword - 'Silent Nirvana' for 163 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Elhaym van Houten has posed.

Elly steps forwards a pace, breaking the hypnotic point of contact with that looming demon giant of iron. She looks towards Corwynt then, and now she reaches up to fumble with the helmet, because it's scraping her cheek and it's already been broken.

Most of it comes off, leaving only a loose plastic face mask with respirator filters (and, unknown to the -Lambs-, the comm link). Tossing it aside, Elly feels -- something -- even as she hears his words.

Her hair spills down her back as she looks at the guard of Althena and says to him, even as the green wisps flow outwards and completely ignore the respirator's plastic, "I'm not calling on any demon. You don't understand anything -"

They draw outwards but they're touching SOMETHING which doesn't seem to have a bottom. Elly feels marginally breathless but it doesn't actually impinge on her consciousness due to a mixture of amphetamines and the soul-crushing awareness that Weltall is right THERE and Fei might find the button that ends Adelhyde and all of them in the bargain on accident.

And yet she feels a burst of gentleness...

... and she tamps it down, vague memories of the words of others coming to her. Nonetheless she sounds sad when she tells Corwynt, "You shouldn't judge people so hastily. I'm sorry about this."

Elly sweeps her rod down like a conductor and the ground itself ripples. Ribs of stone erupt upwards, forming metamorphic inclusions with cobblestones, stray scraps of destroyed ARMs, and in one particularly striking case a swirl of a ruptured colorful balloon. They arch around, aiming to contract and bind Corwynt to the ground.

He'll probably be killed by someone, Elly thinks, with grief, but then, with less conviction: He shouldn't have tried to interfere.

Lights flash. Elly's head snaps up, and her eyes widen. "What-- those weapons...!"

She recognizes them (at least generally). "No - If they drive him into a corner, he'll--!!"

GS: Elhaym van Houten has attacked Corwynt with Terra Lance!
GS: Elhaym van Houten has completed her action.
<Pose Tracker> Riesenlied has posed.

The Pinions cascade in a stream of motion and light, but they do not seek vital, lethal targets. Instead, towards Rosaline, towards Catenna, they're seeking non-lethal strike points -- they aim to disable the Drifters, their blades of light having more of a stunning quality that seeks to overwhelm their senses rather than destroy them outright.

Not so much against Weltall -- towards the giant whose menace can only be seen too plainly by all, it seeks the components vital to its operations, striking at its eye cameras, at its thrusters and its hydraulic joints.

Several of the Pinions also afford the Ebony Wings some cover, aiming towards the Gebler soldiers as they attempt to encroach on the Ice Queen -- by this point, Cetiri and Devet have abandoned their indefensible position on Barbados, but...

GS: Riesenlied has attacked Sephilia Lampbright with Fallen Sword - 'Silent Nirvana'!
GS: Riesenlied has attacked Lily Keil with Fallen Sword - 'Silent Nirvana'!
GS: Riesenlied has attacked Elhaym van Houten with Fallen Sword - 'Silent Nirvana'!
GS: Corwynt has activated a Force Action!
GS: Elhaym van Houten takes a solid hit from Riesenlied's Fallen Sword - 'Silent Nirvana' for 162 hit points!
GS: Corwynt takes a solid hit from Elhaym van Houten's Terra Lance for 122 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Leon Albus has posed.

The way that Noeline turns his strike aside surprises Leon. he nods to her, with a slightly respectful look -- before his eyes narrow at her. Until, of course, he hears someone call out next to him.

Leon's eyes turn towards Jude and he shoots him a sharp look. "Moshe!" he shouts. "You're one to talk! I don't think anyone alive is familiar with this!"

His words come out -- and then Weltall slams down into the middle of the battlefield. The Gear's arrival sends a shockwave rushing through the city. It almost knocks Leon off his feet, and he turns to stare up at the Gear. He stumbles backward for a moment, before he calls out: "Fei! I don't know what you're doing, but... be careful in there!"

He grits his teeth, and then he looks back at the winged woman in the masked armor. Leon gasps, softly, as he sees the sword slash out and send white lines carving through air and space alike. He leaps -- but the blade still catches his hip, leaving a gash in his leg. He stumbles when he lands.

"This is--what do you think this will do!?" he shouts at Noeline. "This... this would only provoke them more!"

He snaps Argent Divider. The sword flips up into the shotgun, as the square and round barrel flip out again. He aims it at Noeline. The lower barrel gleams, and then he pulls the trigger. A shell explodes from the barrel -- and then explodes again, sending out a wave of flechettes that slash at the armored suit.

GS: Leon Albus has attacked Noeline with Shellbreak Round!
GS: Leon Albus has completed his action.
GS: Sephilia Lampbright takes a solid hit from Riesenlied's Fallen Sword - 'Silent Nirvana' for 151 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> White Knight Leo has posed.

A sinister giant rises over the fairgrounds. Leo watches it descend, barely noticing the human form that climbs into its cockpit. He's seen things like that, but only glimpses--thing like it have been tailing the Destiny since its arrival, and vanishing the moment someone gets eyes on them. Some of his people still think the Steel Giants are just a rumor, but now... Now, Leo knows better.

Good. He made the right call in not risking his flagship here. As usual. Hopefully Corwynt will bring back some intelligence, because he's growing tired of not knowing what those Althena-damned things are.

"Another lie," Leo says, to Riesenlied. He practically spits the word. "Those giants will march to war under the Demons' banner! You must think us fools, to believe a DEMON would want to protect ANYONE!"

Leo doesn't know Riesenlied from Eve. He doesn't know anything about her inner turmoil, or the lengths she's gone to here today. He looks at her, and he sees a demon, a monster, something that must be carved out of the world in order for it to survive.

Leo turns his attention back to Zed, having seen him go flying out of the corner of his eye. He snarls at the sight of the Demon just kind of perched atop the wall, and--

kitty cat

"I will see to it that's carved on your tombstone, whelp!" Leo cries. Who the hell is this creature, and where does it get off putting up this much resistance? Are these Demons mighty enough to stand against the--

No. No, banish those thoughts. People need you.

Zed comes racing at him. Riesenlied unleashes hell at the same time, and Leo cannot adequately pay attention to both. Zed's blade cuts open the swordsman's forearm, and more blood stains Leo's uniform. It drips onto the soil, where it is in good company. Leo's blade catches up with the rest of him a moment later, clashing with Zed's in a display of shining, ringing steel. It occurs to him, partway through, that this incompetent may be even less incompetent than the generous, amended estimation. Damnation. "Then they are your kin, Demon," Leo says, over crossed blades, as if Zed's words were confirmation of his need to be punished. "THEN I HOPE THEY'RE WATCHING!" Leo roars, "WATCHING AS I BEND YOU OVER MY KNEE, SINFUL CREATURE!"

wait what

Leo leaps back, skidding a little on the uneven, dusty ground. Light gleams on the edge of his sword. He whips the weapon through a series of strikes, each one too far away to actually hit Zed, but that's not the point; the point is the long, lightning-fast energy blades that race out at Zed with every swing, trying to impale him from a dozen different angles!

<Pose Tracker> Catenna has posed.

As another Gear shows up, Catenna's mind whirls in overwhelmed circles as she tries to keep all of this straight. The only thing she's sure about is that Riesenlied is here, and so long as Riesenlied is here, she has something to focus on.

At least Lily's here too. Her gaze snaps to the other woman, and towards Leon, teeth closing momentarily around her bottom lip. "Please be careful," she calls out to the pair of them.

And then Riesenlied comes crashing to the ground, finding herself on a knee. The priestess widens her eyes and draws a breath in. She keeps her hand leveled, the force of gravity persistent - but her arm trembles a little. So does her lower lip.

She swallows a lump in her throat - but, finally, lets her hand fall away. Lets Riesenlied go. Takes a single step back. She can't find words right away; she can only watch as the winged demon-woman rises into the sky and draws forth that blade, so much like her wings.

And then the demon she once and still calls friend does something, and it turns out Catenna should've kept up the gravity after all. Dancing feathers and blades slash past her in a whirlwind of something Catenna can barely see. She tries to hurl herself backwards but can't get more than a few inches before another whirling weapon shreds past her face, another past her shoulder. Thin streaks of blood rip through the air as the racing pinions rake past her again and again. With a choked, stunned sound in the back of her throat, she lurches backwards, another pinion slash knocking her to one side and slicing away a long lock of her hair, leaving an angry slash across her shoulder and up to her cheek.

She hits the ground with a heavy thud, sprawled out and dazed. She doesn't so much as move. It's hard to tell from up above if she's even breathing.

GS: Catenna has attacked Riesenlied with I wonder if Metal Demons have a subroutine or an algorithm for what happens when you kill your friends!
GS: Catenna has completed her action.
GS: Riesenlied takes a solid hit from Catenna's I wonder if Metal Demons have a subroutine or an algorithm for what happens when you kill your friends for 0 hit points!
GS: White Knight Leo has attacked Zed with Buzz Blade!
GS: White Knight Leo has completed his action.
<Pose Tracker> Vorthuzahl has posed.


It looms, staring down at 'Jude' with all the ire of a species that must suffer lesser beings on this world that it should belong to the Metal Demons alone. Ancient hatred, tempered only by experience and a martial patience keep it from lashing out, and when the icy blast impacts it's face, it will appear as a weakness has been found. Ice cascades downward, frost searing across it's armored frame so that it appears completely frozen.

Fargo and Kahm and Cardia close ranks, and just when it appears their quarry might be vulnerable the ice cracks, shatters, a frostburn turning gleaming metal black across it's entire body, wearing it down to something that almost looks cast iron. 'Kahm' strikes first, blade digging deep into metal, punching through the creature's lower torso and out his front. There is no grunt, no sound of pain, just the sound of a creature rocked and ringed through, as a twist of one hip allows the blade to slice sidelong and send mercurial blood across the remains of the children he had used as a landing pad, across Cardia and Fargo, and of course, Jude.

It's about then that 'Janus' sends a bolt of ARM lightning that may have began as a bullet into the hulking frame of Commander Vorthuzahl, his stagger rocking him in the opposite direction of Kahm's blade, and his armor runs like a weeping glass of cold beer on a hot summer's day, more of his armor peeling and dropping to the sand at his feet.

It lets 'Fargo's' punch slam home and nearly dislodge the entirety of his arm, that burning fist spreading heat over his body, forming cracks on his armor, and rocking him right into the flurry of blows from 'Cardia', which weaken one knee, and bring him staggering to a kneel. Finally a groan, as it reckons with an onslaught from all sides, mechanical fists and feet pummeling it into a hulked guard.

It is then that 'Cassidy's' bullet sails in, her aim high, but her target having dropped low.

It shears off one of his beautiful helmet spines and sends it whirling through the air to land, pointedly, at her feet. Another inch or two and it might have gotten a toe!

It rises, struggling, just as 'Loren' draws his sidearm, takes aim, and lets lose a round that must have been taken from the wrong pile, because when it hits him, either from combination of heat and cold and Janus' machinations, it seems to bore a hole right through him, revealing a horrible truth: There is no vital portion to him, a mass of solid, twisted metal that has somehow been given terrible life.

Parts of his armor explode from his back, and he staggers again, almost backing over Jude in the process. There is a moment then, of surreal calm, and then it's blade rises high, both hands finally finding the hilt.

"Impressive, for creatures meant only to die."

The blade burns, and so does it's body, and then a whirlwind of blows is unleashed, channeling his inner power to lash out at those who have closed with him - Kahm, Fargo, Cardia, and poor Jude, who made the mistake of being, you know, near his first landing spot. The blade sings with power, but not in the way it had before, almost an inverse, pulling, searing, as if it were meant to suck the very energy - electrical, mechanical, biochemical, all the same - from their bodies. As it does, it's body seems to reform. Gleaming metal settling back into place.

Like a lion shaking hyenas from it's neck, it roars, the sound echoing through the field of battle before it charges past Cassidy, dipping it's blade with an intent to spear her through. It will not stop, successful or not, drawing into a slide as it passes Janus, offering him a twisting, energy-dripping thrust of his blade before finally he stands before Loren, body twisting up to unleash a series of blows that is like no other he has put on display - he does not mean to test his foe, to shake them off, to distract.

For Loren, the Metal Demon has only one intention

To Kill.


GS: Noeline guards a hit from Leon Albus's Shellbreak Round for 33 hit points!
GS: Break! Statuses applied to Noeline!
GS: Vorthuzahl has activated a Force Action!
GS: Vorthuzahl has attacked Kahm Yugh with Invigorating Ruin!
GS: Vorthuzahl has attacked Fargo Foobach with Invigorating Ruin!
GS: Vorthuzahl has attacked Jude Moshe with Invigorating Ruin!
GS: Vorthuzahl has attacked Cardia Ortell with Invigorating Ruin!
GS: Vorthuzahl has attacked Cassidy Cain with Feinting Slash!
GS: Jude Moshe critically Guards a hit from Vorthuzahl's Invigorating Ruin for 32 hit points!
GS: Vorthuzahl drains Jude Moshe! Vorthuzahl gains 32 temporary hit points!
GS: Vorthuzahl enters CONDITION GREEN!!
GS: Vorthuzahl has attacked Janus Cascade with Insidious Cut!
GS: Fargo Foobach takes a solid hit from Vorthuzahl's Invigorating Ruin for 164 hit points!
GS: Vorthuzahl drains Fargo Foobach! Vorthuzahl gains 180 temporary hit points!
GS: Zed has activated a Force Action!
GS: Zed takes a glancing hit from White Knight Leo's Buzz Blade for 82 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Ethius Hesiod has posed.

Ethius does not flinch from the close landing of the now Sorceress-Form Maya. Does he recognize her, in passing, from that time in the Ruins of Lahan? It might be a bit chilling how little he flinches at the near miss while fragments of magical glass flits past his gaze... tunnel vision, or a solid grasp of who's moving where?

There are far more pressing questions, at present, like... how little he even seems to regard the descending great fist of a most terrifying Gear - the one that razed Lahan, right there! - striking not too far from where he stands! This deserves at least two paragraphs' worth of elaboration on just how mortifying this is!

His bloodied right hand raises anew at the sight, holding it steady as he considers the new arrival that the hairs of his neck must have felt before the rest of him. That he doesn't just find a rush of adrenaline and back off...

Ebon Zero brings back attention to the introductory words of Riesenlied, the reason for their attack. The reason they brought such collective tragedy upon the people of Adlehyde. Weltall is a fine, upstanding example of the senselessness of the escalation of arms.

Ethius' eyes narrow ever-so-slightly, as he uses his quarterstaff to stand all the way back up.

The most that happens is that his bloody right hand points towards the Gear in brief, as though a consideration as to whether it, too, is an obstacle - something that deserves as much attention. The twisted interplay of allegiances at play all seem to come to, roughly, the same conclusion - the bigger problem is the Metal Demon hordes.

Maybe the degree of injury he has suffered from that first strike is so severe that he has come to peace with his mortality...? No, it must be whatever crazed, secretive obsession keeps this man going the way he does...

Riesenlied calls upon that sword of hers. The sword that set a series of events in motion for himself, and Jacqueline... it grabs his gaze, distracting him, as an infinite array of disembodied sword slices look to swallow him up, along with others--

His weapon is taken in both hands, swinging it upwards into the distorted air and neatly deflects a blow with nary more than a scratch and some flying splinters, even without looking directly at Ebon Zero in that given moment. He is injured, but he is not defeated.

What's even more insane is what he does next - in an attempt to throw off Riesenlied's shield's sense of enemy positioning, Ethius dares to jog UNDERNEATH WELTALL. Where an errant movement of the Gear's leg could render him as nothing more than a mashed pile of meat and blood, where even the ventilation of whatever energies course through it could have disastrous effects to his well being.

His eyes remain disturbingly level, without heightened sense of excitement, or anger, or fear. His actual ability to effect Ebon Zero through her renewed protections is immaterial - he appears without any support from any advanced technology. He is just a Symbologist with a long stick, and a few other odds and ends, who does not, and should not, stand a chance against anything better equipped than himself.

And now, he swings the quarterstaff upwards, to go for the armored warrior's chin to try and push her back from a perceived moment of imbalance and weakness.

Evidently, there is no changing his course even in the face of extreme, convincing circumstances.

GS: Ethius Hesiod has attacked Noeline with Risky Repositioning!
GS: Ethius Hesiod has completed his action.
<Pose Tracker> Lily Keil has posed.

Maya flies past Lily after she makes it past Ebon Zero, and her eyes widen briefly in alarm as her blade winks out in wisps of purple magic. ...But Maya is able to talk again quickly. More to the point, the black-haired sorceress feels the sense of magic forming, and sees for a moment a hexagonal shield of shimmering light before her; her steps feel lighter, her wounds from this battle already and the battles recently less pressing.

"Thank you," Lily says to Maya, and steps backward, moving to shield the blonde with her body in return for her gift... And because she frankly looks like she needs it.

In that moment looking up, she meets eyes with Cassidy Cain, and then the other woman is off. At least she's staying alive.

What she doesn't expect is Jude's voice above the din, meant for Leon but reaching her too. She's never heard him sound that way, not like this. In way over their heads? ...What? She glances at him in confusion, glances to Gebler as if that might be why. "We can't just leave!" she calls back. "...Come here, I can protect you--"

She doesn't like Jude. She knows she doesn't like Jude. But the things he said, the things that might be true...

As Weltall rises, Lily startles, taking a step back and drawing in a sharp breath. "God," she whispers, staring up at the Gear with her heart in her throat and a hand to her collarbone. She saw for herself what it was capable of, what it could do, and its pilot seemed to her to be... unstable, at best. What might be do now? But it's not as if they can simply leave, either. If he's still on their side, will it be enough...?

And Gebler, still, is there. Gebler, who could look over at her at any time, recognize... Any number of things about her. If Bart is correct...

But Ebon Zero is still moving. Lily already felt her move away and the look away might have been the terrible moment that's that much more dangerous, with that sharp blade. This strange demon woman says so much...

And suddenly she feels the need to defend it, "You dare to talk about danger?" The white-hot blade is there. "You are welcome to try to stop us."

She lifts her hands as Ebon Zero crashes her way, watching her with the others and then seeing the wake of the blade; violet power crakles along her hands and coalesces into a haze of rippling darkness that saps the color and power from that strike, that lets her catch and block as she stares at her opponent.

Blood runs down her hands as a result, but she was able to get rid of the worst.

She sees then... What Riese does with herself. But she can't focus there. Leon is still moving--Catenna has looked her way--and Lily squares her stance.

"The plan is overwhelming force. Crush all resistance. It's one way to make peace. Am I right?"

Lily shoves outward with her hands, blue circles of strange runes surrounding both, and a faint, icy mist starts to chill the area around her... before it crashes together and explodes in jagged ice in all directions sharp enough to punch through steel.

GS: Vorthuzahl has attacked Loren Voss with Relentless Assault!
GS: Cassidy Cain critically Guards a hit from Vorthuzahl's Feinting Slash for 18 hit points!
GS: CRITICAL! Lily Keil takes a solid hit from Riesenlied's Fallen Sword - 'Silent Nirvana' for 290 hit points!
GS: Jam! Statuses applied to Lily Keil!
GS: CRITICAL! Noeline guards a hit from Ethius Hesiod's Risky Repositioning for 74 hit points!
GS: Jam! Statuses applied to Noeline!
GS: Loren Voss critically Guards a hit from Vorthuzahl's Relentless Assault for 29 hit points!
GS: Loren Voss used the Force Action Protect! He takes Vorthuzahl's attack on Kahm Yugh on himself!
GS: Loren Voss has activated a Force Action!
GS: You do not have any attacks from that person in queue.
GS: Cardia Ortell takes a solid hit from Vorthuzahl's Invigorating Ruin for 163 hit points!
GS: Vorthuzahl drains Cardia Ortell! Vorthuzahl gains 260 temporary hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Sephilia Lampbright has posed.

Sephilia can't handle everything going on--she knows she can't. She's just one girl with a doll. So all of this--the airship, the Gears--that's what they look like when they're moving?!--and everything, she decides to tune out. She has no ability to solve all of these problems, so instead of letting them distract her, she focuses on what she CAN.

Which is Riesenlied, who is transformed into...something. And hitting her, and Chauncey, again. So much for staying out of it.

"All right," she says, wincing in pain. She's not looking to see how bad she's bleeding. No time for that, either. "Chauncey, we hafta take this seriously after all...I'm so sorry, Riese!" Tears streaming down her cheeks, Sephilia points Chauncey towards her friend. "Chauncey, it's time for the Chauncey Crush!"

GS: Sephilia Lampbright has attacked Riesenlied with Chauncey Crush!!
GS: Sephilia Lampbright has completed her action.
GS: Riesenlied takes a solid hit from Sephilia Lampbright's Chauncey Crush! for 137 hit points!
GS: Loren Voss guards a hit from Vorthuzahl's Invigorating Ruin for 97 hit points!
GS: Vorthuzahl drains Loren Voss! Vorthuzahl gains 275 temporary hit points!
GS: Vorthuzahl has completed his action.
<Pose Tracker> Corwynt has posed.

For a moment, it looks as though Elly's strategem has succeeded; her Ether-forged stone bindings writhe around the martial artist she's facing, drive him down to the ground, constricting him ever more tightly. The brown-haired man grits his teeth against the pain, closing his eyes, focusing. For a few seconds, Elly is free to look up at Weltall in wonder. For a few seconds, she is free to react to actions going on offscreen with a few words and a bunch of ellipsis. For a few seconds, she is truly a Xenogears protagonist.

Those seconds end.

"And you should not take your eyes from your opponent," Corwynt answers, then roars as wind explodes out from his body, shattering stone and earth, green-white power wreathing his body as he draws deeply on the Blessing of Althena, silently praying to his Goddess to clear the pain from his mind. He can suffer later. For now, he has to strike, to be the fist the goddess needs. He draws his right hand backward, power gathering in his palm, glowing mist leaking from his eyes and mouth as he prepares to fire---

---correction---

---as he surges forward in a rush of violent wind, sliding in toward Elly's feet in a crouch, then leaping upward, trying to place an uppercut on the point of her chin. Do you think you can avoid it, Elly?

GS: Corwynt has attacked Elhaym van Houten with Sure You Can!
GS: Corwynt has completed his action.
GS: Janus Cascade takes a solid hit from Vorthuzahl's Insidious Cut for 102 hit points!
GS: Poison! Statuses applied to Janus Cascade!
GS: Elhaym van Houten takes a glancing hit from Corwynt's Sure You Can for 53 hit points!
GS: Riesenlied has completed her action.
<Pose Tracker> Matilda Whitehead has posed.

Matilda stays non-aggressive and doesn't draw any fire. This is for the best, she thinks -- if she just supports everyone else, then no matter what happens...!

... and lord, something sure is happening. Riesenlied withdraws that vile weapon from herself and strikes out with her pinions, and Matilda ducks and covers. At one point, she even screams -- even though the pinions don't attack her.

Frantically, she looks for someone hurting -- someone who she can keep alive and in the fight, someone she can help. Ultimately, her gaze lands on Catenna. She's had the pleasure of working with Catenna before, and while they don't share views on a variety of topics, Matilda knows her to be dependable and strong.

So, naturally, Matilda dumps something into Freischütz's reservoir and shoots her in the back.

It's fine! The heavy, mixed syrup hits its mark and sinks in almost immediately, providing a warm, invigorating sensation that should keep the wounded Catenna on her feet.

GS: Matilda Whitehead has attacked Catenna with Syrup Bullet!
GS: Matilda Whitehead has completed her action.
GS: Matilda Whitehead heals Catenna! She gains 200 temporary hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Rosaline Calice has posed.

Rosaline takes a fairy bullet to the back. BETRAYAL. Or not? She's never been in much of a position to examine the situation whenever Matilda shoots her. Luckily, in this state, the nun rarely ever bothers with dodging.

She roars when the glowing stream hits her. It dulls the pain and fuels her rage. GOOD. Unfortunately for Matilda, Rosaline's thankful emotes are all disabled right now.

Weltall gets involved, adding to the terrible chaos surrounding them. Rosaline skids past Riesenlied, feeling something resembling satisfaction at having successfully disarmed her. She isn't having fun with this. This battle isn't a game to her.

And then, soon after claiming she's no angel, the Metal Demon rises on wings of light. Rosaline grits her teeth. The Demon pulls out... another sword. "ARE YOU MOCKING ME?" Of course not, but she's past being reasoned with.

Rosaline leaps right up, trying to catch Riesenlied. To make a very on-the-nose metaphor, it seems not unlike a cat trying to snag a bird mid-flight.

The Pinions intercept her, blasting her out of the air but not shooting to kill. Rosaline may not be able to appreciate the kindness, but even in her blind rage, a small part of her recognizes it for what it is.

Does it throw her off? Yes and no.

"NO ESCAPE!" she shouts, rolling away from the Pinions' fire, but only so she can get a clean shot as she draws Esdras and Judith-- and aims right for Riesenlied's wings.

GS: Rosaline Calice has attacked Riesenlied with Nowhere to Run!
GS: Rosaline Calice has completed her action.
GS: Riesenlied takes a solid hit from Rosaline Calice's Nowhere to Run for 62 hit points!
GS: Slow! Statuses applied to Riesenlied!
<Pose Tracker> Myyah Hawwa has posed.

Kahm receives answers from the heavens.

<CODEC> LtC. Myyah Hawwa transmits, "Kahm, Operations is busy so I'm helping out."

<CODEC> LtC. Myyah Hawwa transmits, "Listen--Command wants at least one of those golems. That Gear could start a rampage at any moment, just like in Lahan..."

<CODEC> LtC. Myyah Hawwa transmits, "But you need to ignore it for now. If your team secures the first golem, I'll work on convincing Command to withdraw early."

<CODEC> LtC. Myyah Hawwa transmits, "I'm counting on you, Kahm. Please keep everyone safe."

HERE

The engineers have advanced far enough to begin work on Barbados thanks to the combination of murderous helper drones, advanced riflery, and enormous fireballs. They shoot grappling hooks from pressurized guns onto the tall weapon, zipping upwards as the lines re-coil. From there, they use handheld stamping guns to begin hooking carry points into strategic locations.

The rest of the squad comes under the aggression of a flame dragon, as fireballs must always be answered with fireballs due to an ancient magician's pact. Their pop-up forcefield cover is incinerated by the initial burst, leaving the burning and wounded in its wake. The next flame-fall will be the last for several of them--but the Gebler soldiers continue proof of their frustrating adaptability while one lone soldier dashes in and thrusts their hands upward. Water condenses from the air, forming a shining barrier that throws up huge plumes of steam whenever the flame tries to pass it.

Behind them, the engineers try to drag their wounded toward Barbados, which is now cover for them. The shielding soldier buckles under the weight, weaving more water into the barrier--

ELSEWHERE

"Carryall is en route," says one of the operators.

Benzoma answers affirmative by chugging the rest of his coffee. This is going to be a seven-pot day, he can feel it. He'll need to run by medical later for a chem-sweep. "Alright, can we divert any gunpods to strafe SLIDE-1?"

"I wouldn't advise it," says Myyah.

Benzoma looks askance at her. She returns his look, raises her brows. "Do you want to kick the explosives, or just look at them?"

"Look at them," he says.

"Me too," says Myyah, returning her gaze to the screen.

<Pose Tracker> Lily Keil has posed.

Maya flies past Lily after she makes it past Ebon Zero, and her eyes widen briefly in alarm as her blade winks out in wisps of purple magic. ...But Maya is able to talk again quickly. More to the point, the black-haired sorceress feels the sense of magic forming, and sees for a moment a hexagonal shield of shimmering light before her; her steps feel lighter, her wounds from this battle already and the battles recently less pressing.

"Thank you," Lily says to Maya, and steps backward, moving to shield the blonde with her body in return for her gift... And because she frankly looks like she needs it.

In that moment looking up, she meets eyes with Cassidy Cain, and then the other woman is off. At least she's staying alive.

What she doesn't expect is Jude's voice above the din, meant for Leon but reaching her too. She's never heard him sound that way, not like this. In way over their heads? ...What? She glances at him in confusion, glances to Gebler as if that might be why. "We can't just leave!" she calls back. "...Come here, I can protect you--"

She doesn't like Jude. She knows she doesn't like Jude. But the things he said, the things that might be true...

As Weltall rises, Lily startles, taking a step back and drawing in a sharp breath. "God," she whispers, staring up at the Gear with her heart in her throat and a hand to her collarbone. She saw for herself what it was capable of, what it could do, and its pilot seemed to her to be... unstable, at best. What might be do now? But it's not as if they can simply leave, either. If he's still on their side, will it be enough...?

And Gebler, still, is there. Gebler, who could look over at her at any time, recognize... Any number of things about her. If Bart is correct...

But Ebon Zero is still moving. Lily already felt her move away and the look away might have been the terrible moment that's that much more dangerous, with that sharp blade. This strange demon woman says so much...

And suddenly she feels the need to defend it, "You dare to talk about danger?" The white-hot blade is there. "You are welcome to try to stop us."

She lifts her hands as Ebon Zero crashes her way, watching her with the others and then seeing the wake of the blade; violet power crakles along her hands and coalesces into a haze of rippling darkness that saps the color and power from that strike, that lets her catch and block as she stares at her opponent.

Blood runs down her hands as a result, but she was able to get rid of the worst.

She sees then... What Riese does with herself. But she can't focus there. Leon is still moving--Catenna has looked her way--and Lily squares her stance.

"The plan is overwhelming force. Crush all resistance. It's one way to make peace. Am I right?"

She has long enough to say that before to her, it's demonstrated fully. Riesenlied's pinions do come to her, and when they explode they crash into Lily, knocking her from her feed and sending her against a bunch of displays at once, leaving a cloud of destruction in their wake that leaves her burned and coughing to get her breath. She can't talk for a few moments, can't even move until she takes hold of a timber with her bloodied hand. She pulls herself out as the rubble crumbles, boot on the ground, standing up. There's blood on her lip, and dust all over her.

"I'm... not... finished," she says, not ignoring the pain but channeling it. The more it hurts, the more she can do. Does that make sense? It doesn't matter. It lights up in her arms, underneath her sleeves, as she extends her hands and brings out violet cirles of power. "Heh..."

A sword bursts into being in her right hand once again, black and crackling with violet energy. It hurts to look upon, but is sized for a greatsword, easily Lily's height, but she wields it without effort. She starts forward once. "Heh." Again.

Her blood drips onto the hilt. Lily charges suddenly, ducking downward to avoid a projectile and making it back to--

"Riesenlied!"

Lily calls out... and thrusts with her weapon straight for the Metal Demon's center mass, seeking to stab and then hack.

With clouded black eyes she says, "I always liked your wings."

GS: Lily Keil has attacked Riesenlied with Black Wolf's Claw!
GS: Lily Keil has completed her action.
<Pose Tracker> Fei Fong Wong has posed.

"Did you think I wanted to get in here?!" Fei shouts back at Noeline. "Everybody tells me I need to fight! If I don't listen, you bring the fight to me! I don't want to get in this thing!! But I can't... I can't help it..." Fei sobs like a child. "I can't help it... I can't just turn around and ignore this. No matter how much I want to... He was right. I just don't have it in me to turn away..."

For your average drifter, this might sound like a pre-asskicking one liner, but for Fei it's more like an admission of defeat.

Too much of a coward to fight. Too much of a coward to run away. You're a hanged man unable to smile

Noeline's swings are largely deflected by the armoring, but it seems the repairs on Weltall weren't exactly military grade. Her weapon manages to pierce through the armoring--if only just. "I don't want to hear about anyone unhappily burning down a city to tell me about what's responsible!" Fei shouts back. "I bet this isn't even the first city you HAVE destroyed! Maybe we'll get lucky... Maybe you and I--this will be the last one we destroy!"

But then his sensors catch something.

He looks towards her.

"Elly." He pauses, distracted. "It is you. Doc, get--"

He looks but 'Doc' is gone. He absconded ages ago with straggling evacuees.

"--shit." He says and in that moment Riesenlied's blade RIPS into Weltall's sensor array and nearly punches all the way through the cockpit.

In fact, Fei is now looking at the twisted metal ripping through his machine personally, with his own eyes. His heart pounds, it pounds harder than his mind.

You can't smile.... but I can

But Fei resists. He screams, "NOOOOO!!!" and presses his hand against the Silent Nirvana hard enough that it draws blood and then uses it as a lubricant to push his machine back as well as a shock to his system to get his mind in gear.

He pants for breath. His sensors are down but there's enough of a hole through Weltall that he can just look right out to Corwynt.

"You're lucky," He manages. "That demons are attacking the city. Elly, please just---just get out while you can."

And then he charges towards Riesenlied. Weltall throws several rapid punches at her in a sudden display of aggression before--YES--

--it jumps into the air and kicks at her head rapidly too. This probably won't be pleasant but it can get worse.

It can always get worse.

GS: Fei Fong Wong has attacked Riesenlied with Hazen!
GS: Fei Fong Wong has completed his action.
Kaspar Grossekatze has left.
GS: Riesenlied takes a solid hit from Lily Keil's Black Wolf's Claw for 94 hit points!
GS: Disease! Statuses applied to Riesenlied!
GS: Riesenlied takes a solid hit from Fei Fong Wong's Hazen for 136 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Jacqueline Barber has posed.

The sudden arrival of a certain giant robot onto the scene shakes Jacqueline out of her trance. She stares up at it, a look of surprise...and then she sees Riesenlied lift into the air. If the robot hadn't pulled her out of it, then this would have.

This is something she's seen before.

She had never expected to see that blade again...and certainly not like this.

"Riesenlied, no...!" Jacqueline says. She is unable to find the words. It is hard to tell if it is out of concern for Riesenlied, or out of concern for everyone else.

But before she can find the words, the sight of blades of light streaking out towards people she considered allies, friends, silences her. They fly past her, but none attack her directly...and she sees Catenna drop to the ground.

Having not experienced the attack directly, she doesn't know that the attacks, though overwhelming, are non-fatal. She emits a gasp of surprise and draws out a healing potion...but it seems someone else has her covered. So, she tosses the bottle to another one of her close friends.

"Sephy! Catch!" She shouts, and hurls it towards the girl riding the plush doll.

Jacqueline was still feeling a little overwhelmed...but she had to put her feelings aside for now.


GS: Jacqueline Barber has attacked Sephilia Lampbright with Trusty Tonic!
GS: Jacqueline Barber has completed her action.
GS: Jacqueline Barber heals Sephilia Lampbright! She gains 200 temporary hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Fargo Foobach has posed.

Fargo recoils away from Jude's ice with the sort of violent sharpness that speaks to something deeper than fear. His blow is briefly interrupted as he pulls away, looking at it, waiting that instant he needs to see that he isn't going to collide with it before driving in again, the heat travelling down his fingers.

He watches the reaction. He's certain he didn't find a proper weakness, but Vorthuzahl's apparent pain... he reevaluates what he knows about this opponent's anatomy. He has to discard the notion that, even against a humanoid form, he can rely on human pressure points - but perhaps he won't need to.

Man's forge has long bent metal to his will.

Fargo miscalculates. His fingers hook inside the Metal Demon, and he prepares to drive further in, but the monster suddenly begins his assault. The sword slices into the Man in White, cutting his skin - more importantly, his suit - and even more importantly pulling a rush of heat from him. He gasps and his skin pales, staggering away. In random chance, he ends up stumbling toward Cassidy, hat slipping off his head. The Asiatic (not that there's an Asia here) man's black hair falls loose.

"I need a moment," he gasps toward her. He is shivering.

Fargo staggers toward one of the many fires in the fairgrounds caused by the chaos and battle of the invasion. He looks like he's about to tumble right into it - but comes to a stop, turning to keep Vorthuzahl in his line of sight. He's dangerously close to the fire. He should be getting burned.

He legs shift outward in a martial artist's stance and he moves his hands in a circular pass, appearing to focus something toward his own chest. The fire pulls toward him, diminishing as the Man in White begins to consume its heat, his skin reddening, waves of heat rolling off of him. It's getting hard to even look at him.

GS: Fargo Foobach has attacked Fargo Foobach with Heat Haze Stance!
GS: Fargo Foobach has completed his action.
GS: Fargo Foobach takes a solid hit from Fargo Foobach's Heat Haze Stance for 0 hit points!
GS: Hyper and Quick! Statuses applied to Fargo Foobach!
<Pose Tracker> Zed has posed.

That's right. KITTY CAT. Zed clearly has no sense of morality, not a speck of righteousness in his jet-black soul. How else could he fight with such a grin, how else could he dance through the devastation without so much as a single care in all the world!?

Well. That's a bit of an exaggeration.

Because right now, the giant energy blades chasing after him are a pretty significant thing to care about.

"Tch--" Zed clicks his tongue. His opponent's sword isn't the only danger. Scythes of cutting energy sail through the air-- the first is intercepted, Doom Bringer shattering it into a hundred howling gusts. The second and third are dodged, barely sailing through the space Zed USED to be. The fourth hits...

In the middle of a combat roll I-Frame.

The fifth isn't so off-target. It hews into Zed's chest. The demon roars in pain as a trickle of quicksilver blood leaks from the wound. It stinks of raw mercury and old iron, and coagulates far too quickly, like silver contact spread across a circuitboard. "Bend me... Over your leg? Do..." Zed squints. "...You have some REALLY WEIRD KINKS."

"Sorry," Zed wheels his blade back. His eyes flash, his muscles tense... And explode. One moment, he's there, standing in front of a now hewn to shreds Wall Chicken wall. The moment, he's... On the other side of Leo's position.

A split second earlier-- or perhaps prior. The movement is too quick to follow. A line of raw, terrible electricity and pure cutting power is traced from his origin point to his terminus. "I DON'T SWING THAT WAY, MISTER!"

"YOU MIGHT HAVE LUCK WITH A GUY CALLED BERSERK, THOUGH."

Zed turns and cuts, again, for good measure. "HE'LL PROBABLY REALLY LIKE IT IF YOU SAY THAT TO HIM."

GS: Zed has attacked White Knight Leo with Secret Sword - Lightning Flash!
GS: Zed has completed his action.
<Pose Tracker> Elhaym van Houten has posed.

As the pinions fly towards her, Elly thinks, in order:

Oh, yes, that's definitely a similar weapon system. I wonder if Ms Hawwa is seeing it.

It's so pretty!

Wait...

Oh no.

YAAAAH

That last escapes from her lips as hot rays to Metal Demon Hell erupt, even if they may not have been aimed to transfix her innocent brainpan which they might well have been - probably for the best. It throws her attention off of Corwynt, which he efficiently capitalizes upon: for all of her profound witchcraft, Elly is not a tightly trained martial artist.

But she has enough wit, or luck, or extra-sensory perception to leap away from that incoming sweep despite everything. This is luck in a sense. In another sense it's not, because that uppercut doesn't hit Elly's chin, but rather her midsection, right below the ribcage. The rising force dimples in her flesh, the resilient material of her uniform spreading out the blow -- but that mostly just means the skin isn't broken. It does PRESS inwards.

Far enough that she vomits and bleeds, crumpling around Corwynt's fist and then rolling off of it like a hundred pounds of rice. She lands, heavily. This may not be pleasant for Fei to watch. As she falls the yard or so from Corwynt's fist to the battered plaza, she thinks in a sick cold swoon: I suppose I did better than

than

The impact comes. Elly gurgles. She tenses up and tightens up and cold sickly sweat pours out of her body into the synthetic cocoon of the Gebler uniform. She tries to speak but, for the most part, fails.

She sucks in one huge breath and then rolls onto her back. The rod falls out of her hand with a little clank and she reaches up towards Corwynt. Maybe she's giving up. Her hair's partly in her face so it isn't clear what's going on in her face.


"no," Elly croaks:

For a fleeting moment Corwynt would have the sensation of a hamster that's been stuck in a microwave by a malicious child, and a moment or two after that, if he doesn't get snappy, he gets to experience the REST of that in a screaming burst of incendiary explosion.

During the crackling aftermath of the explosion Elly tries, heroically, to sit up. You have to start somewhere.

<Pose Tracker> Maya Schrodinger has posed.

Let it be a lesson to you.

Maya's torturously slow movements betray whatever spirited will to fight brought her here, her vision swimming. The artful wielder of spells whose form she assumes is not a back-alley brawler, and it shows: one hit from that sword swung by metal-cord muscles has all but removed her from the fight. But something worse throbs in her mind--not her skull, even as Lily pauses by her side to make sure she's okay.

Against true conviction,

Maya isn't terribly okay. "I'm okay." she mutters, a lie, as the terrifying form of the dread giant Weltall rises in the background. "Just--get everyone out of here before this city burns down."

Your whims are insignificant and weak.

Ah, how sad, that this is the best the 'Ace' Drifter, the self-styled noble pinnacle of adventuring prowess, has to offer. Maya swats dazedly at Lily, who departs from her side with a heart full of tumultous emotions. What is left to beat in the Schrodinger girl's breast, so sapped from the rescue efforts and weary of the never-ending flow of tragedy?

It certainly isn't the passion and the will to struggle that carried her so valiantly a few days ago. The Sorceress's sluggish movements are ill-fitted to an in-fight against so inhumanly strong a foe. "You talk a lot about saving us from ourselves, for someone who just made so many orphans!"

This dialogue, too, is cut short by the oppressive beat of the dance Ebon Zero leads her on. That sword and the blazing trails it leaves are upon Maya before she can erect any meaningful counterattack, and so it bites deep into the pallid, hazy shield of light that springs to the girl's side. On the other hand--

--it means she likely won't miss this desperate little gambit.

"So--forgive me if I don't believe a damn word you say!"

Maya's form is briefly glowing with a nimbus of rose brilliance, as she steps-in to Noeline's attack and loses her second shield of the day. But when that shield crumbles, and her aura flares with it, a magical hex of dampening falls on the Masked Swordswoman.

GS: Elhaym van Houten has attacked Corwynt with Thermo Cube!
GS: Elhaym van Houten has completed her action.
GS: Maya Schrodinger has attacked Noeline with Rune Breaker!!
GS: Maya Schrodinger has completed her action.
GS: Corwynt takes a solid hit from Elhaym van Houten's Thermo Cube for 187 hit points!
GS: Noeline takes a solid hit from Maya Schrodinger's Rune Breaker! for 0 hit points!
GS: Mute! Statuses applied to Noeline!
GS: White Knight Leo guards a hit from Zed's Secret Sword - Lightning Flash for 36 hit points!
GS: Shieldbreak! Statuses applied to White Knight Leo!
<Pose Tracker> Janus Cascade has posed.

Janus' eyes widen as Vorthuzahl is bored right through. "Nothin'," he croaks. "Barely...even slowed it down..."

"Boss!" Romero shrieks. "We gotta jet!! We'll...we'll end up like Lucio if we stay for this!!"

Janus forcefully keeps his breathing steady. He's a marksman. He knows the trick. "I said CALM YOUR FOOL ASS DOWN!" he screams, instead, and lashes at Romero with a decidedly unfriendly kick. He glares down at the blond. "We're not gettin' done, you hear me!? Cascade Gang's got too much to do!"

'Impressive, for creatures meant only to die!'

Janus' whole face twists. "'zat a FACT, MATE!?" he screams, suddenly furious; Janus turns to respond, but Vorthuzahl is already right on him, and tries to throw himself aside; but too slow, and that awful blade sinks into his shoulder. He hisses, spit through his teeth, holding the wound. "Romero!" Janus snaps. "Go...bash 'im or somethin'!"

Romero...sits there, shaking. Janus spits, and then forces himself up. He grits his teeth and grips his gun - and then he charges right at the horrible burning atrocity that is Vorhuzahl, and just

Runs his god damn bayonet into the demon, stabbing hard. "JANUS CASCADE DOESN'T DIE HERE!" he screams, defiant.

GS: Janus Cascade has attacked Vorthuzahl with Unrighteous Sheer!
GS: Janus Cascade takes 6 damage from Poison!
GS: Janus Cascade has completed his action.
<Pose Tracker> Cassidy Cain has posed.

There's a wink for Lily before Cassidy disappears in the crowd. Yes, alive - if not just to cross paths with her again eventually.

Whoever or whatever this thing is has attracted enough attention that emerald eyes hop and skip through the faces that have currently congregated to engage it - and really, who wouldn't? Vor displays himself as a very beguiling target, if not for the fact that he seems to want to kill everything that's around him, and naturally said people around him would take umbrage to the fact. To her, it's a very human thing, to want to kill something before it can kill you.

And this something is fast.

The Metal Demon is a blur of motion and it's only Cassidy's own quick reflexes that saves her from being skewered. The sword - with all the trappings of an armament that belongs to a Royal Guard, what the hell, how did she get that? - she pilfered from a long and unwanted slog from Castle Adlehyde to here is up, though she doesn't draw the blade and keeps it in its scabbard, a lifetime's worth of experiences with a blade suddenly rushing up as unwanted muscle memory. For a moment, time slows to a crawl when that streak of silver aims to make purchase into her body....and finds the breadth of the sheathed sword instead.

Not to say it doesn't do anything. It certainly prevents her from dying, but the strike and the rush that follows does lift her off her feet and send her into the wall of a nearby building and into a pile of crates, splinters flying as she sprawls across it with a whuff of breath.

"...ow....bloody fookin he-- "

The white streak from earlier is actually a man. As Fargo's shadow stumbles over her, she looks up from where she's lying like a puppet with her strings cut.

I'll need a moment.

"Makes two of us, luv."

She grunts, kicking a crate off her and getting up, knuckling the small of her back. Brows lift when 'a moment' for Fargo is actually just two seconds. Maybe three.

Until he consumes the heat around him in a way that makes her take several quick steps back, feeling the aura nearly burn her face and singe her hair. A hand lifts to squint through fingers. What the hell is happening?!

"Oh, ay, I get it. A moment for the sun tae bloody burn my eyelashes off! Fancy trick, luv, thanks for the warning, what's the range on that? Two feet? Three? Just for future reference, y'ken, I dinnae want a sunburn."

She turns away, because she has to - standing near Fargo at the moment feels like walking through the desert for days with no water, but she's able to hold her ground, because this is preferrable to getting within striking distance of Vor and his blade. Taking careful aim, she fires another shot when he ends his homicidal run by facing Loren.

GS: Cassidy Cain has attacked Vorthuzahl with Bullet Blitz!
GS: Cassidy Cain has completed her action.
<Pose Tracker> Kahm Yugh has posed.


Kahm instinctively leapt back from the demon when its plating exploded off, lifting an arm to shield himself from any residual debris. Even though it seemed to struggle under their attack, it wasn't ended by them. The Captain was still being confounded by this struggle when realization dawned on him, seeing the holes shot through Vorthuzahl refilling as if they were nothing. "Target has no vital components." He observes over the comm line, "We'll need to destroy him utterly in order to put him down."

Kahm had a feeling they lacked the ordinance for the particular feat.

Myyah radios him, and her words are both reassuring and frustrating. Kahm doesn't have the time to hesitate when he confirms her recommendation, "...Acknowledged. My forces will get them a golem, if not more." He bit his lips, "But if you can get them to deploy the Hauteclaire, I'll bring you SLIDE-1 too. I promise that."

The murderous, draining spin of the hulking demon's next attack come for him....until it doesn't, courtesy of Loren Voss. "My thanks, Lieutenant." The Captain declares, heralding his blade forward and assuming a particularly stance.

"Everyone, listen up." He speaks to all Gebler operatives in the area, "The targets are a distraction. I repeat, the targets are a distraction. The enemy has almost succeeded in airlifting Lolithia. Regroup and center your defense on the golem Barbados-prioritize its recovery!"

He fixed his gaze on the sword-bearing demon, his eyes a calm blue.

"I'll try to occupy his attention for a moment or two. Use that time to positions yourselves accordingly."

Kahm bent his knees slightly, blade fixed to an unknown points on the demon's body. He then bursts forward in a blaze of momentum, furious peals of lightning streaking off the blade of his sword as it barreled towards the center of the demon's chest. When-and if-the two meet, the sky splits with a thunderous peal of force, a column of lightning rising from the point of impact and dissipating just as quickly.

GS: You do not have that Force Action. [Lock-On]
GS: Kahm Yugh has activated a Force Action!
GS: You have activated the Force Action Lock On!
<Pose Tracker> Jude Moshe has posed.

A Black Gear. Landing right in the middle of the chaos. Jude stares, for a moment, recognition in that gaze.

"Am I seriously that unluck--"

It's a thought that's punctuated by the sweet of the Metal Demon's burning blade, cooked to a superheated temperature as he whirls it like a tempest. The blade shrieks an sings its discordant song, meant to suck away the spirit; and Jude's response is to fire rounds from his shotgun DIRECTLY into the earth, creating wall after wall of pure, bristling ice that the blade just -melts- through like butter over and over and over.

"C'mon, c'mon, c'mon--!"

By the time that last round of ammunition empties, the blade reaches him, its momentum severely dampened. It's through sheer kismet that his ploy manages to work before that devilishly powerful blow can land, knicking a much more shallow wound across his neck, just an inch away from his carotid.

"... god damn," he breathes, because what else can he say to that?

It's then that both Leon and Lily's words register; his teeth grit, but on the surface he's still all hapless smiles and helplessly exasperated sighs, hands lifting as if to gesture emphatically around him. "It doesn't take a genius to see when shit's hit the fan, kid! This isn't the time for you to be playing hero!" he shouts back, maybe more biting than he would like. And then Lily. Offering to help.

"Ms. Keil, I appreciate the offer, but you need to speak some sense into your boyfriend and get out of here right n--"

And that is when Riesenlied sweeps upon them, and Jude can't do much more than watch as they tear through.

"Dammit--!"

He whirls. It's impulsive, but in the heat of battle, with so many people distracted by their own problems, he takes a calculated risk.

He points that ARM straight at Lily.

The revolver starts to spin. But the runes don't glow. He doesn't say a word.

He just pulls the trigger as a burst of healing power a real symbologist rightly ought not to be capable of fires from the barrel, glittering green as it beads onto its target to infuse Lily with as much healing and protective power as it can.

Which leaves his back turned to Vorthuzahl, exactly when he can least afford it.

GS: You do not meet the minimum Force required for that attack.
GS: Jude Moshe has attacked Lily Keil with Sinner's Prayer!
GS: Jude Moshe has completed his action.
GS: Shield! Statuses applied to Lily Keil!
GS: Jude Moshe heals Lily Keil! She gains 100 temporary hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Riesenlied has posed.

Riesenlied's eyes widen as she squints, the fresh wound that the Fallen Sword has drawn from her chest still bleeding. Yet Catenna let go of her, when she had her in her grasp. She... she could have just crushed her. But she didn't do so -- and she paid for it. Why? Why did she do that? She trembles, a lump in her throat--

--and then she finally releases the LM Shield, which detaches from her in an unsatisfying click -- and it launches and slams onto the ground next to Catenna, along with her cloak, providing the fallen priestess cover in the wake of further, future attacks.

With her shield now gone, it's visible to all.

Riesenlied's left arm and shoulder is visibly bleeding, as Lily and Matilda and so many other people have seen -- it's not usable. She's down to just her right arm, not even her primary hand for combat-use.

This comes in at a bad time -- when Sephilia comes back in with Chauncey, and just about overwhelms and smashes her back; there's a pained cough from the winged woman, already feeling rather fragile and without additional defenses -- it is only a quartet of Pinions that have held her back and propped her up that she does not simply roll onto her side and collapse. "That's right, Lord Chauncey of Foxington... you've got to protect Sephy..."

It isn't to say that she gets a breather to collapse, even -- the Tainted flies on a bed of light as she sees Rosaline come after her, zooming up to her and outmatching her speed. "Indeed... there is no running..." She twists and furls herself inwards. Rosaline's choice to clip her wings is a sound plan, but at the same time... these wings are a part of her, and they seek to protect her.

Things get worse for Riesenlied, very quickly -- as Fei, on Weltall, emerges from out of the background and throws down approximately several tons more metal than she can cope with. Her systems go haywire as she's not so much pushed back as thrown clear off and slams painfully against a display, crumbling it as more of her blood starts flowing freely.

"Riesenlied!!"

Riese hears Lily's ardent cry, and her eyes widen as the Black Wolf Lieutenant comes in on a sharp and awkward attack angle for her. Off-balanced from Rosaline's attack, and being thrown off by Weltall, Riese is not so much defending as she is sideways as the Lieutenant of the Black Wolves comes in with her black greatsword, seeking to encroach her wings of light with her darkness.

Her eyes widen, her pupils dilate. She can't dodge...!

The greatsword plunges onto the centre of her chest. Blood is drawn, where the Fallen Sword has already left its mark.

I'm... going to die.

I'm...

~*~

"Decoherence?"

"Living metal is a substance that has both liquid and solid properties. Normally, living metal obeys classical rules due to the interaction between the target body and its environment. Entanglement causes the body to delocalise its phase coherence to the environment, rendering the interference pattern unobservable. This is what R&D call decoherence -- the strong coupling of the metal with the energy state of its environment."

"But if the target body was instead weakly coupled..."

"... Indeed. The metal in your body is highly unstable... it is responsible for your weakness and intolerance to the stresses of rapid transformation sequences. But at the same time, there are... theoretical advantages to this, Riesenlied. If you isolate your phase coherence entirely from the environment, at an elementary level... then..."

~*~

"I...

I must... I must survive!!"

Riesenlied's eyes shimmer ever brighter as her entire body begins to coalesce into effulgent motes of light. Finally, Lily's greatsword has a 'give' -- as it thrusts straight through her, goring her on the spot straight through her heart.

Or... it would.

It would, if Riesenlied has not so much disappeared as disintegrated into light. Four Pinions coalesce into a circular formation behind the Lieutenant, and a shimmering, ebbing circle of light rapidly reconstructs the Tainted demon as she emerges through it, flagrantly defying fundamental laws as she reins back her elementary particles into the world. "Lily...!!!"

She brings her blade of light down desperately upon Lily -- it isn't a lethal blow, aimed for the off centre of the mass of her torso. But regardless of the results of her strike, she's thrown by the sheer momentum of her emergency teleportation manuever, and falters onto her knees, awkwardly.

Jedan grimaces with a slow grin and says, "All right, it's up to me to try to 'fend this one off then...!"

The heavyset man -- the veteran of so many campaigns -- reloads. Unlike his other comrade, unlike the positively baffling show of light their commander is utilising -- his tactics seem grounded and simple, and he can appreciate the Gebler soldiers for what they do. He aims for the soldiers homing in on Diablo's position, sniping away with rifle shots as Dva growls and yells, "Icedrake, get outta here!"

The Gebler squad have Barbados, and the Demons have secured Lolithia. Only one Golem ultimately remains contested, and the Demons are redoubling on their defensive position.

GS: Kahm Yugh has attacked Vorthuzahl with Shock Thrust!
GS: Kahm Yugh has completed his action.
GS: Riesenlied has attacked Riesenlied with Teleport Backlash!
GS: Riesenlied takes a solid hit from Riesenlied's Teleport Backlash for 184 hit points!
GS: Riesenlied has attacked Lily Keil with Fallen Sword - 'Vestigial Dream'!
GS: Riesenlied has attacked Catenna with Charismatic Presence!
GS: Lily Keil guards a hit from Riesenlied's Fallen Sword - 'Vestigial Dream' for 135 hit points!
GS: Riesenlied heals Catenna! She gains 200 temporary hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Noeline has posed.

Noeline doesn't need to look back to know what's happened; she doesn't need to pay attention to her commlink, and the chatter within it, to realize that - as far as this fight is concerned - Reisenlied has decided to display herself in her entirety. Even hidden behind armour, her posture visibly tenses as the weight of her injuries ceases to matter; she takes a deep breath, for real this time and filled all the weight of her worries, and brings one hand to her ear in the classic Codec pose. "Get those Gears out of here! Now!" is her call. "I'll provide cover to you, and her! Just get going as soon as you can!"

It's a lie, but a hopeful one - and it isn't as if she is devoid of strength either, at a critical juncture like this. The grip on the hilt of her sword tightens as she doesn't so much face down Leon's sword as face it head on; she seems almost to be expecting the shotgunned round, deflecting most of it off the lump of metal - though there's a painful noise of metal as half a gauntlet shears away in its wake, leaving the girl hissing with pain. "Do you think she has a choice? Are humans the only ones bound by duty?" she challenges for a moment.

The moment comes at a cost; Ethius' strike impacts with her, sending her reeling back further in an almost dazed motion. She might be a pure Metal Demon, but she's never exactly been a true combatant, at least not one of the monstrous sorts able to hold her ground against so many opponents - and her trying to replicate that is not without cost as she has to give up some position in the wake of the attack. It's a data point, at least as far as Ethius is concerned - the man is clearly not human.

The tang of sorcery in the air extends to Maya's attack, and for a moment Noeline feels her senses drift; the cloying, suppressing nature of it feels like a sudden wash against her senses, and not just her physical ones. She jerks momentarily, feeling the voice of the Guardian within her cut out for a moment - and what a strange and forgotten feeling it is, and somehow also... lonely. Perhaps this was how Riese felt, when faced with Malevolence? It's something that Noeline had never even considered before, and she's recoiling at the thought of it for a moment before sensation comes back to her. "We--" she tries, her voice thick and unfamiliar for a moment. "--we-- have not caused orphans. Others, but not us. We let them leave."

In any other situation, she would have broken off by now - cut and run, to protect herself. But right now, she has a duty to perservere, and take as much in the way of heat as she can off of Riesenlied. A shake of one arm lets the last of the ruined armor on her arm fall away, leaving only the weave of a long black glove with a long, silver-bleeding gash through it. The roaring chorus of yells in the winged angel's direction makes her wince more than any injury; she's let too many strikes past her, left Riese too open, and immediately she starts juking back in an attempt to join the other demon's side.

But still that blade raises up, and this time she feels a genuine ire start to build within her. Escalations - always, escalations, on either side. It's a hypocritical sort of anger, right now, unfamiliar and leaving an unpleasant taste in her mouth - but it's an anger she can harness and use. Again, that shimmer makes itself known, but this time she pours herself into it.

"--leave her! I'm your enemy!" she yells, the first of the glowing crescent lines cleaving the air just in front of Riesenlied in an attempt to ward the wayward Drifters away from her; she is carried along with it, letting the effort and momentum of it send her in the same direction as she twists. The second swing - delivered in mid-air if only because of the way the vertical motion levers her upwards as it soars through a cloud of thrown-up stone and dust in its wake.

GS: Noeline has attacked Noeline with Repair Systems!
GS: Noeline takes a solid hit from Noeline's Repair Systems for 0 hit points!
GS: Restore! Noeline clears debuffs from Noeline!
GS: Noeline enters CONDITION GREEN!!
GS: Noeline has attacked Maya Schrodinger with Drop Crush!
GS: Noeline has attacked Leon Albus with Tricolor Order!
GS: Noeline has activated a Force Action!
<Pose Tracker> Riesenlied has posed.

The rest of the Pinions continue to go about with their work -- once more, they round in on Rosaline to try to entrap the cat nun in her berserker rage to try to pin her down, while... Sephilia gets a bit of a different arrangement -- rather than a direct strike, four of the Pinions have formed a barrier to attempt to box her in and prevent Chauncey from getting through. This... might be the best that she can do at the moment. And a final sixtet of Pinions continue to harrangue the Weltall, trying hard to disable it before it can conduct anything resembling a large-scale attack: they don't touch the cockpit so much as attempt to completely isolate the cockpit from the world at large.

GS: Noeline has attacked Fei Fong Wong with Infinite Slash!
GS: Noeline has attacked Ethius Hesiod with Infinite Slash!
GS: Maya Schrodinger takes a solid hit from Noeline's Drop Crush for 112 hit points!
GS: Riesenlied has attacked Sephilia Lampbright with Fallen Sword - 'Condemnation'!
GS: Riesenlied has attacked Rosaline Calice with Fallen Sword - 'Silent Nirvana'!
GS: CRITICAL! Leon Albus takes a glancing hit from Noeline's Tricolor Order for 172 hit points!
GS: Sephilia Lampbright takes a solid hit from Riesenlied's Fallen Sword - 'Condemnation' for 111 hit points!
GS: Disease! Statuses applied to Sephilia Lampbright!
GS: Riesenlied has attacked Fei Fong Wong with Fallen Sword - 'Silent Nirvana'!
GS: Rosaline Calice takes a solid hit from Riesenlied's Fallen Sword - 'Silent Nirvana' for 159 hit points!
GS: Riesenlied has completed her action.
GS: Noeline has completed her action.
GS: Ethius Hesiod critically Guards a hit from Noeline's Infinite Slash for 33 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> White Knight Leo has posed.

Leo's cape flutters a little in the aftermath of his attack. It's kind of dramatic, really.

What is less dramatic (from Leo's perspective, though from the camera's it is certainly exciting) is Zed deflecting his shots, as though all of his finely-honed technique were... oh, there. Leo smiles grimly as he sees quicksilver blood spotting Zed's chest, and he keeps his sword up to guard, anticipating a reprisal.

Zed opens his mouth. Leo's eyebrow arches. "What are you yammering about, Demon?" the White Knight says. "Face your death with dignity!"

That's a joke too, right

"Oh," Leo realizes a moment later, "this is the part where you, the villain, take my words out of context to mock me, and my ideals, isn't it?" He sounds deadly serious. Zed speeds in, and it takes every bit of the White Knight's skill just to track him. This monster is fast. "As if by perverting my words, you could--" Leo's blade catches Zed's, and the two weapons grind against each other. Leo presses with all his strength, testing organic muscle against weird, organo-metallic flesh. The blades keep on grinding. Electricity lances into Leo's body, flickering across his teeth and raising his hair on end. He trembles visibly, joints nearly locking up, but somehow he stands his ground. Barely.

"Is that your best, Demon?" Leo grins at Zed across their blades. "I've taken far harder than that!"

Leo suddenly skips backwards. Zed might notice his stance shifting ever-so-subtly--up until this point Leo's had a very strong guard game, standing back and letting Zed come to him. Now, though, he shifts his tactics. Leo springs into the air, drifing downward and forwards in a single, violent motion--with far more forward momentum than a normal jump might suggest. The air around him twists with streamers of energy, focused on the point of his blade, as he focuses everything on a single, mighty, thrust! The end goal, of course, is to drive his blade into Zed's head, or torso, or really any part of Zed's anatomy that he can reach.

GS: White Knight Leo has attacked Zed with Rising Falcon!
GS: White Knight Leo has completed his action.
GS: CRITICAL! Fei Fong Wong takes a solid hit from Noeline's Infinite Slash for 195 hit points!
GS: Fei Fong Wong has Fallen! He is no longer able to fight!
GS: Fei Fong Wong guards a hit from Riesenlied's Fallen Sword - 'Silent Nirvana' for 89 hit points!
GS: Fei Fong Wong has Fallen! He is no longer able to fight!
<Pose Tracker> Loren Voss has posed.

It had been meant to be a mere distraction -- to allow Kahm to deliver an undefended hit, or to drag the demon's attention away from the captain immediately after.

It bore right through the being instead. Metal Demons isn't just a name, he reflects, lowering his sidearm. It's a wholly accurate statement. Behind the obscurity of the mask, Loren's eyes widen a touch before training reasserts itself. "No anatomical weaknesses detected--" he announces over the communications line.

And immediately falls dead silent.

The alerts come in immediately, in waves over the codec.

Loren's gaze flicks upwards.

The alerts are entirely unnecessary at this point, honestly, he thinks at an entirely muted distance. The images from the Lahan incident report -- unwantedly -- flash across his mind, one after the next. Crumbling remains of buildings. Scars dug deep into the landscape. Charred corpses of trees. Ashes. The outline of a body, as if baked into the dirt.

His heartbeat accelerates. He knew he should have taken those pills when he had the chance.

"Additional confirmation! SLIDE-1 is present in Adlehyde!" Loren adds into the comm, all attention returning to Vorthuzahl. Until they receive word otherwise, he assumes despite its presence that the operation should commence as determined -- they have no way to handle something of that magnitude on foot anyway. "Awaiting further orders!"

It is, as it happens, the last coherent statement the young lieutenant will get out for several moments. Vorthuzahl roars, as much a declaration of intent as anything else. Loren, on high alert, launches himself forward. There is no thought that comes with it, only the purity of physics, biomechanics. Action, reaction. He's aware, barely, oddly, of the uneven texture of the cobblestones beneath his boots.

As the blade arcs in towards there, Loren intercedes, shield raised high. The impact is fierce, he can feel it rattle his body all the way down towards the earth. He can feel the unnatural leech of its touch as it screeches its way across the reinforced shield, ripping a portion of his essence away.

All Loren is aware of is the blade rising again. He shifts his stance, reallocating weight from one foot to the other. Ether burns, barely held back, crackling around him. His mind is blank as he raises the shield up. He's only aware of his pounding heart.

His position and stance hold. His ears are ringing. His arm aches.

That should have killed him. Thought finally pipes in again, bringing familiar anxiety along with it.

He takes a step back, lowering the tactical shield. He just nods as Kahm acknowledges him, still a little dazed.

Regroup. That's the order. That's something he can focus on. "Understood. Regrouping by target Barbados." He sweeps his gaze around the immediate combat zone, spotting Cardia. His gaze lingers on her for a moment. "Post-support for Lt. Ortell," he adds through the communcations line.

Loren works quickly, drawing off the ambient edge of ether still clinging to him. He only has to unhing his psyche for a moment, dropping his focus to the damage lent to Cardia's body. Cybernetics, wasn't it?

He can bring the connections together with ether, flesh or whatever.

He can make it better than before.

There's a flash of light, green lines run along the length of her body from the point on her back where he plants his hand. And then he breaks off at once for the team working on Barbados.

GS: Loren Voss has attacked Cardia Ortell with Restorative Axiom!
GS: Loren Voss has completed his action.
GS: Hyper! Statuses applied to Cardia Ortell!
GS: Loren Voss heals Cardia Ortell! She gains 200 temporary hit points!
GS: Zed takes a glancing hit from White Knight Leo's Rising Falcon for 56 hit points!
GS: CRITICAL! Vorthuzahl critically Guards a hit from Janus Cascade's Unrighteous Sheer for 25 hit points!
GS: Vorthuzahl critically Guards a hit from Cassidy Cain's Bullet Blitz for 16 hit points!
GS: Vorthuzahl takes a solid hit from Kahm Yugh's Shock Thrust for 115 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Catenna has posed.

The LM Shield hits the ground beside her but she's barely aware of it. Catenna's lying there in a daze right now and not in much of a position to respond to anyone.

Imagine her surprise when Matilda Whitehead shoots her in the back and she gets better.

She twitches. Her eyes fly open and she sucks in a breath. Startled, she manages to look over her shoulder at the woman, eyes a little wide. "...Thank you," she murmurs. She remembers the woman's face well enough - remembers her rolling with Ambrosius the disgusting inhuman monstrosity, but Matilda herself being a nice woman with different ideas.

With obvious difficulty, Catenna begins to pull herself to her feet. Grasping to one side, she takes ahold of --

Of Riesenlied's shield and cloak. For a moment, she just stares at them. Her eyes begin to tear up again. She showed Riesenlied mercy and the woman made her pay for it... and yet, left these things to her. A lump of emotion builds and builds in the back of her throat. All she wants to do is vomit it up.

Unsteadily, she breathes in. She doesn't want to do what she has to do. Not to Riesenlied.

is this what riesenlied is feeling right now...?

this uncertainty...?

Tears trickle down her face in twin streams as she draws herself up with as much quiet dignity as she can bear. Her right hand comes out before her, fingers curled around the stone tablet that is her Medium. Her left hand hesitates over it... but she forces herself. Long fingers move in slow patterns as she begins to chant, low and sonorous, in her own language. "Nibalan saodan, Celesdu' saodan, chadani chadan...." It goes on, her voice only holding a slight tremor. She must be resolved.

She must be resolved to hurt her friend. To try and bring this to an end.

Catenna's magic usually does not create visual disturbances, but now, the air around her begins to brighten. Streams of silvery light shimmer around her. They build and build into a nimbus that hovers to her right. Even those who cannot feel magic can feel what is happening - a sense of something, someone, incredibly serene, incredibly PRESENT, in a way that no human can be.

The air around Riesenlied ripples. The power of gravity grips her. Suddenly, the sky itself reverses. An invisible hand attempts to drag her down to the ground to slam her massively into the cobbles. The invisible hand attempts to drag her into the sky again.

Except the sky is now the ground again. Again and again, gravity flips and reverses itself in ways that contrive to end in forces that would slam Riesenlied into the ground again and again and again.

For just a second or two, a figure can be seen floating in the nimbus of light beside Catenna. A woman with coffee-cream-brown skin, silvery hair, an elegant silver and gold gown, sitting within the arc of an engraved silver crescent moon, manifesting for just a moment and lifting one slender hand as if to control where Riesenlied flies. To look upon her is to see her for only a second.

But the sense of PRESENCE, while lasting only a second or two, is profound.

GS: Catenna has attacked Riesenlied with Material - Merciless Queen!
GS: Catenna has completed her action.
GS: Riesenlied takes a solid hit from Catenna's Material - Merciless Queen for 153 hit points!
GS: Poison! Statuses applied to Riesenlied!
<Pose Tracker> Sephilia Lampbright has posed.

Sephilia catches Jacqueline's gift with gratitude, uncorking it and quaffing it with practiced ease - her Dad clearly taught her his potion quaffing technique! Sitting up a little straighter in Chauncey's backpack, she is nevertheless shocked at the revelation of Riesenlied's true form...and then boxed in by the Pinions.

"Okay Chauncey..." she says, nervously eyeing the Pinions. "We...gotta break through this. Let's give it everything we've got." She takes a deep breath.

"LORDLY LARIAT!"

Chauncey lumbers to obey with the full force of the Foxington Style Wrestling Ultimate Attack.

GS: Sephilia Lampbright has attacked Riesenlied with Lordly Lariat!!
GS: Sephilia Lampbright has completed her action.
<Pose Tracker> Jacqueline Barber has posed.

Jacqueline doesn't understand what happened. Riesenlied...turned into light, and went to attack Lily. But at the same time, she dropped cover for Catenna. Or was this completely incidental?

She doesn't understand. While the feeling of despair and betrayal still runs deep, its fog has been cleared from her mind. Right now, her main concern here is to ensure that everyone survives.

Is this why Riesenlied was sparing her so far? So that she could provide aid?

...If that was the case, then she would not disappoint her.

Rosaline's fierce anger is a little...concerning for her...but she sees it as just another reason why she has to help. She is unsure whether or not she's in control of her actions, or under the same fog she was.

"Miss Rosaline, if you can hear me...catch!" She shouts, hurling another bottle, this time towards the nun. The potion would have the same effect whether or not Rosaline caught it and drank it or it simply splashed on her, but the latter would leave just a bit of a bruise...

GS: Jacqueline Barber has attacked Rosaline Calice with Trusty Tonic!
GS: Jacqueline Barber has completed her action.
<Pose Tracker> Corwynt has posed.

Corwynt's fist is still shivering with the impact as he lands, winds swirling faintly around him. He looks up and to the left as a voice addresses him from above, freezing again as

S O M E T H I N G

crawls up his spine as he takes in the... Gear, they call them? Supposedly just a manifestation of ferromancy, but this one is dark as night, with red highlights, looking as though it was forged from the depths of hell itself. If Elly's power was the antiseptic tang of recycled air, this... this is the yawning maw of a brimstone spring, belching rotten fumes and water so hot it can scald. "Lucky," he says, disbelieving. "I am lucky that monsters are attacking the city? Do you hear yourself, boy?" Corwynt asks. "Thousands die, and you threaten me over one? What fool are you? A fool in ---"

Whatever else the martial artist thinks is unknown and irrelevant, as he suffers from the very foolishness he warned Elehaym against: taking his eyes off his opponent. There is smoke and then there is heat and then there is fire, enveloping the little man, settling him alight. He burns, and he screams. And then he freezes, as a single word, spoken in a pure bell tone, rings out in his soul. The word of his Goddess.

WIN

Winds rip around Corwynt, feeding the fury of the flame, but then they suddenly surge outward, leaving a vacuum for the briefest of instants that snuffs out the flame. A crack of sonic fury echoes out, shattering what few windows remain unbroken in the immediate vicinity. And Corwynt - his face blackened, his chest burned - rises to his feet. And then he lifts off the rooftops, rising higher still.

"This world is broken," Corwynt says, his saddened voice echoing out, carried on the winds swirling out across the city. "Even now, as monsters rush across this land, snuffing out the lives of the innocent, others come to pick at the corpse of a city that has not yet beld out." He extends a hand toward the Gebler soldiers, still crawling along Barbados, working to free the Golem from its restraints. "And when I step forth to stop those who would plunder the tombs of the dead to wield their bones in the wars to come, you threaten. You bluster." His eyes turn toward Weltall. "You threaten. It is enough to make me weep." He lifts his hand up, and winds howl ever stronger. "I weep," both Corwynts speak. "For if you but knew how the Goddess loved even you who would break the bone to get at the marrow, even you... you would prostrate yourselves in gratitude eternal. But you do not believe. You need a sign." His eyes narrow. "A sign you shall have."

Green-white power surges, an image of himself sliding out of his body to manifest in a sudden burst of wind, until two martial artists are hovering in the air, preaching. "When the injustice is great enough, she will lend us the strength needed to correct it!" both Corwynts roar, gleaming with light until they split off again. "None may stand against her! She will shatter every barrier, sunder any shield, tear through any enchantment, and lend me the power to bring her judgement down upon you!" Four Corwynts shimmer again, and then there are eight. "KNOW THIS!" they roar. "This city and all who are in it, the monuments of the past they have claimed from the earth and hold for their protection, THESE THINGS ARE NOT YOURS TO TAKE!" Eight martial artists turn back to back, gather their power, then surge downward; weven streak off toward the rushing Gebler soldiers, an eighth to the not-forgotten Elly.

ANd where they hit, they explode into a magical storm.

GS: Corwynt has attacked Elhaym van Houten with Wind God's Fury!
GS: Corwynt has completed his action.
<Pose Tracker> Ethius Hesiod has posed.

Ethius is lucky he didn't get stomped, shot, or have his sorcery suppressed by the sealing hex. He just risked being killed in two distinctly different ways.

Ebon Zero can see this man bleeding from where he was struck in the chest before. The blood is red, like a human's. He is injured. He must be in pain. It's a serious wound. Left untreated, he stands to bleed out. Is he that numb to his own well-being?

He is numb to Fei's emotional tirade about his willingness to partake in battle, as Weltall moves to bring its ruinous power against the Tainted Commander. How can a man be so distant, being a part of one of the most heart-rending chapters of Filgaian history as it unfolds right around him? Ethius is living it. He is being surrounded by it. In some small way, he is helping make it. There is that emotional distance that stands out, most of all, something about him that appears... unattached, to all of this, even though he is right smack dab in the middle of ALL OF IT.

Ebon Zero has spent far more years than humans have to master themselves, their emotional cues, their habits, their behaviors. Ebon Zero may understand humans far more than the human race, themselves, ever could, and this man... and the distance he seems to be able to put, emotionally, between his fellow man and even his mortal enemy...

In his own way - independent of having earth-shattering power or millennia-guarded knowledge, neither of which seem probable for him to have - he could be seen as a horror, like some of the prowling Metal Beasts, for being able to close his heart off from the world around him as tightly as he does.

The Infinite Slash races anew across where they battle. Wood frames erupt into stabbing splinters, steel rends, paper and other craft shear apart in the wake of Ebon Zero's signature maneuver.

Calmly, the quarterstaff is gripped and swung in parrying blows to deflect a series of them, although the third glances down behind his right shoulder, and down his lower back. Red starts to seep from the fresh wound.

...

...

...His eyes move off to the side, to where Gears have been in the middle of being removed from the battlefield. He does not raise a further finger against Ebon Zero, holding the quarterstaff in the defensive position.

What has his attention, in so much that he is willing to spare a superior enemy a moment of peace without taking any extra added effort to back himself into a safer range? He is, primarily, a sorcerer. This should be a moment of vulnerability for him, easy enough to capitalize in order to take him off of advancing onto Riesenlied as she struggles to fend off both her friends, and her own heart.

...

GS: Elhaym van Houten takes a solid hit from Corwynt's Wind God's Fury for 158 hit points!
GS: Elhaym van Houten has Fallen! She is no longer able to fight!
GS: Ethius Hesiod has attacked Ethius Hesiod with No Action!
GS: Ethius Hesiod has completed his action.
GS: Ethius Hesiod takes a solid hit from Ethius Hesiod's No Action for 0 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Leon Albus has posed.

The lines of white light explode out again. One slams into Leon, slamming him backward with another slash -- and he hits the ground, rolling backward a few times. He takes a few shaky breaths. He sees Weltall, coming under such terrific firepower. He sees Lily, rushing in towards Riesenlied, with a black blade of disaster in her hands. And, he hears Jude Moshe, shouting to him.

"That--that is a risk that I intend to take, Moshe," he says. "Maybe you've forgotten. I was a Black Wolf. This isn't the first time that I've fought a Gebler soldier."

And it's the first time in centuries that anyone has fought a Metal Demon.

He snaps Argent Divider up. The barrels of the ARM flip back upward, the long slender blade snaps out, and Leon grabs it with both hands. He starts running forward. The ex-soldier leaps as he gets in closer. He jumps at Weltall as he goes airborne, then he kicks off the armor, and shoots up into the air. Noeline flies up.

Leon can't fly. He makes due by leaping off the Weltall's leg, and then comes shooting through the sky at Noeline. He slashes, hard, for her waist with both hands -- and then comes crashing down.

Crashing down, as it happens, closer to Diablo.

GS: Leon Albus has attacked Noeline with Riot Crash!
GS: Leon Albus has completed his action.
<Pose Tracker> Zed has posed.

"What?" Zed blinks. Is... Is this guy serious? Could it be... Could it be that he's finally found someone... More delusional than he is...!?!? "No, I'm serious! You should really, really tell Berserk that. It'll be great! I mean, if your ideals involve bending people over your knee, then... I guess... Good... for you?" This is a very strange situation to be in. Zed is not sure that he likes it. In fact, he is pretty sure that he does not in fact like it.

And then Leo disengages.

And then Leo... re-engages.

Zed's eyes sharpen as the knight lunges in at greater speeds than one would normally expect. But Leo misjudged something. This moment, right this moment, is the point at which the villain would launch into a devastating single sure-kill attack after insulting the hero's prowess and dismissing him as insignificant.

This is the moment where the Hero boldly takes just enough of the blow---

The blade slides across Zed's left shoulder. Quicksilver drips down the length of Leo's blade. The Metal Demon's eyes tighten.

--To lock eyes with his opponent, and then launch into a heroic speech--

"Do you think... Do you think it would be so easy to kill me? I've got too much to protect. Not one, but two worlds. Not one, but two peoples!" Zed's eyes ignite. They burn with the light of the TRUE HERO. "Even if you defeat me here, I will never give up! MY SOUL!" He grips the blade, his hand bleeding further as he pushes it back. "IS!" Leo's sword comes loose. Zed grasps his own with both hands. "INVINCIBLE!"

--And launch into a counterattack of his own. Win or lose, do or die, he will show his mettle and prove himself worthy... For the next confrontation...!

Zed disappears from sight. No. There he is-- or is that a mirage?

There, on the left. No, another image.

On the right? There, too...! No! These aren't images. This is speed, pure speed! The myriad Zeds manifest in a dome all around the vile White Tyrant of Althena! "Here we go!" Zed roars. "I am! NO!" They move. All as one, all rushing in, from every direction simultaneously...! "WE ARE!"

They cut. A dozen times. Two dozen times.

"ZEEEEEEEDDDDD!!!"

Forbidden Move - Astral Dance

GS: Zed has attacked White Knight Leo with Forbidden Move - Astral Dance!
GS: Zed has completed his action.
<Pose Tracker> Maya Schrodinger has posed.

"Both of you--all of you are my enemy!"

It does not sound like the Swordswoman who is absolutely not Noeline, the powerful knight Ebon Zero, is making much headway with the blonde sorceress tarrying her. But her desperation and her anguish do not make her strong, Maya possesses no such dramatically clutch inherent abilities. It's tiredly that she spits this last mote of ire, robbed of her celerity by the throbbing doubt in her mind and her sapped magical reserves. To be fair, her strategy of trying to ward off the oncoming blows with nothing more than raw magical might is foolish; maybe a good strategy for some kind of symbological archmagus, the pinnacle of arcane prowess, but she is not so accomplished.

Has she bought time? For escape, for retribution, for anything? Perhaps. That will have to do, after all, as the kneeling Drifter's last line of defenses shatters before the freight-train force of Ebon Zero's sweeping blows. Most impressive is the arc of flight Maya achieves--this keeps happening, somehow--from the blow. She spirals free of the melee, sent flying through the broken brick wall of a burning house, in a cloud of shattered stone and vaporized mortar.

Yet, defiant to the last, there's a pause for dramatics. And without much fanfare or warning, a shrieking bolt of ruby-scarlet hellfire the size of a thrown spear rockets from that cloud where a house once stood, the billowing plumes of white quickly scattering away from the magical projectile's path. Clearly in critical condition because she's only got one eye open, it seems the Drifter intends to make her stand here, rather than flee for safety.

Noble, but stupid.

<Pose Tracker> Lily Keil has posed.

Lily isn't talking sense into Leon and getting out of here at the moment. She's already done that... But the time isn't yet. There's no time to say as much to Jude, though. She just looks his way before the attack comes with a serious expression... but not a sharp one.

Soon enough she's running, moving across the battlefield as best she can, and along the way there is a sense of magic again, a sense of the familiar. Green energy from behind her crashes forward... and she feels stronger again. Tougher.

She'll need it. She doesn't expect this to be bloodless.

There is none of that feeling she has in Jude's direction in the moment; she has no room for it in her heart as she prepares her strike. Her teeth grit; she takes in the sight of Riese's widened eyes, dilated pupils, the way she looks when blood is drawn from the wound, the way a sword looks there in her chest.

Kindred spirits...

Riese says she must survive, and in that moment Lily almost stumbles forward in the face of no new resistance, as light bursts into being against her darkness. It hurts her darkened eyes, but she knows when she hears the voice from behind her that she won't be able to move in time from whatever it is. The blade of light crashes down regardless, and Lily stumbles forward and hits her knees when it does. It may not be lethal, but it bleeds more than well enough, down her back and over her belt. "Hah..." It's a panted breath as she shifts around, turning bafore she stands, and sees Riesenlied there on her knees, just like Lily is on one of her own.

"You..."

Her gaze might be unsettling.. but might not, for a Metal Demon. "There's so much I could say." She starts up to her feet. "I should be angrier at you." She closes her eyes long enough to put out her hands. Maybe Riese has started to move by now.

"...I don't like talking anyway."

Before her strange runes, a tiny ball of darkness bursts into being in front of Riesenlied, a wave of violet crashing down in a spear around it, and another, until after a number more of those bursts the entire thing explodes into what looks like a rift in the world, sounding like gunshot.

Lily doesn't move.

But Leon... the others...

Her teeth grit as she waits to see the result of her destruction.

GS: Lily Keil has attacked Riesenlied with Gloomhammer!
GS: Lily Keil has completed her action.
GS: Noeline has activated a Force Action!
GS: Noeline guards a hit from Leon Albus's Riot Crash for 81 hit points!
GS: Maya Schrodinger has attacked Noeline with Icicle Lance!!
GS: Maya Schrodinger has completed her action.
GS: Riesenlied takes a solid hit from Lily Keil's Gloomhammer for 200 hit points!
GS: Noeline critically Guards a hit from Maya Schrodinger's Icicle Lance! for 27 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Myyah Hawwa has posed.

The gunpods fighting overhead break off to cover the entrance of another aerial craft: a wide, skeletal-looking ship that appears to have its ribs all spread open. It circles the area, protected by its own complement of triangular defense drones in addition to the close air support from the gunpods.

The implication is easy to follow: It has cables, Barbados now has attachment points, it can fly away. This is advanced military science.

The engineering team is now fighting from Barbados to target beta--Diablo. The engineers who were wounded by knives and dragon-flame still contribute, revived by the bizarrely fast-acting healing sprays and injections that Gebler carries. The wounded hang back, working on Barbados, or providing covering fire.

The rest trade pop-shots with Jedan, their firefight occasionally becoming an actual firefight--or waterfight, or windfight, or--as magic is slung from glowing, armored hands. Jedan's rifle fire is enough to pin them down from advancing too much, as they can't risk over-committing and losing Barbados again.

This is especially true as Corwynt sends over preaching wind-clones to harass people, which requires a desperate response from magical countermeasures. As the engineers' flame, water, and wind turn to this new threat, Jedan is given more room to fire on them. The situation worsens.

ELSEWHERE

Myyah watches the Weltall struggle. Its pilot was already harmed before he entered the cockpit. Are his injuries troubling him, or is it something else?

Myyah's eyes briefly catch the light of a nearby screen, illuminating them strangely. It's only a moment. She looks back to her tablet.

<Pose Tracker> Elhaym van Houten has posed.

Elly has managed to get to a seated position and is shaking as she tries to recenter herself again. Part of her wonders in a dim way - those things Loren gave her - was there an injector? Not 'that' injector, but -

He's speaking. Preaching, almost.

No, he's speaking to Fei?

Elly pulls herself into a hunch that slowly becomes a standing up until she can perceive that he's bifuricated himself - quadrifuricated himself - oh no, she thinks, the outline of his gathered force coming to her awareness like a spread-out net of jewels that she can't articulate aloud.

She gasps in breath, and reaches up to fumble loose the respirator mask to get a proper breath as Corwynt finishes his pronouncement. The squadron spreads out. One is coming towards her, but the others are moving in the distance. No, Elly thinks with a certain moment of glory, I can feel them! I did it -

Elly throws herself at the flying martial artist. She doesn't know what she's doing. For a moment she glows blue, fleeting and hard to see over all the fire and horror, except that it crackles out like frozen electricity.

She halts a neat quarter-inch away from the Corwynt that's come for her as this moment of blue light arches out towards six of the seven who have flown towards Barbados. It is not a perfect alignment, because the seventh fork is lancing instead towards the wreckage inside of Weltall, but as the thunderous CRACK says: This was electrical air-type Ether: it's probably all the loose metal.

Elly is thrown back and lands, skids, and comes to a halt against brickwork, limp and insensible for a moment. Six of those storm-heralds erupt prematurely, though the seventh may yet be a problem.

And something else just zapped straight into Weltall. Possibly right into its ether condenser.

<Pose Tracker> Cardia Ortell has posed.

If you were to ask Cardia if she believed in 'killing intent' as a concept, she would likely laugh in your face. Here, however, she is confronted with it directly, as clear as day: This is a creature born from it, molded by it. From the mercurial blood to the way he can twist and writhe, the way he moves and carries himself in a manner that is increasingly inhuman-- it causes even the cyborg's brow to crease.

Then, the blade. She attempts to defend herself again with an arm thrown up to try to stop the strike, but the blade slashes straight through the suit and tears a lengthy gash through her metallic arm-- complete with a spray of sparks and light-- as well as a lash of blood as the blade catches her across the ribs. Cardia falls back, feeling that burning, painful sting as she stumbles and staggers backwards.

"Hits hard," she rasps with her metallic reverb.

Regroup, reorganize. As others turn their attention to the Golem, Cardia feels the pain and tension ease up out of her system-- the pain in her natural parts wanes, the resistance and strain her cybernetic limbs seems to ease. Her masked face, hidden behind the scarlet optics of the Gebler tactical helmet, looks a bit surprised-- then she shoots a glance at Loren. "Thanks."

Easing back a few steps more, glancing over her shoulder to check her distances to the Golem and the Captain while he fights with the Metallic Demon Knight, Cardia levels her gun on Vorthuzahl's chest, taking careful aim at joints before trying to break up those weaker spots-- hopefully, with each powerful shot from the Ether Magnum, she can disrupt his movements, give him something painful to think about!

GS: Cardia Ortell has attacked Vorthuzahl with Shoot to Wound!
GS: Cardia Ortell has completed her action.
GS: CRITICAL! Vorthuzahl takes a solid hit from Cardia Ortell's Shoot to Wound for 181 hit points!
GS: Riesenlied takes a solid hit from Sephilia Lampbright's Lordly Lariat! for 182 hit points!
GS: Jacqueline Barber heals Rosaline Calice! She gains 200 temporary hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Rosaline Calice has posed.

Rosaline's features contort in frustration as Riesenlied's wings bear her attack, and then she... turns to light? What does this even MEAN? Why would one of the city's destroyers be capable of such a miracle?

Regardless, the Pinions continue to harass her. Rosaline has virtually no self-preservation instinct right now, but with Riesenlied having temporarily shed her physical form, they have become the bearers of her entire aggro.

She doesn't even notice the potion flung in her direction, as is becoming her unfortunate habit (no pun intended). It flies right into her body, and the impact bruises but the math ends up working out in her favor. Jacqueline becomes another unsung hero of this battle where Rosaline is concerned, and all too fortuitously, too, considering what comes just A SECOND LATER--

The Pinions blast Rosaline right off her feet, and crashing into the smoking remains of the Ethos' ARMs exhibition area. The Etone-in-Training, despite her now extensive list of wounds, still absolutely refuses to call herself down for the count.

She twitches and sits up, her vision hazy. She momentarily forgets where she even is-- Then remembers. That would be too easy. This nightmare will never end because it's not a nightmare. It's Hell on Filgaia. What have they done to deserve this? She needs a sign. Anything.

And her eyes land on it. Amidst the thoroughly pillaged ruins, tucked away in a corner, its case still unopened...

Praise be.

"DEMONS!" she roars, "EAT MY WHOLE &%$# ?&$# #%*& AND #@&* IT UP YOUR $£#&ING *&%$ CHUTE! #@&%!"

And she rises to her full height, an oversized ARM propped over her shoulder. She fires its payload mainly towards Jedan-- But she's not overly concerned about who else gets caught in the blast radius, so long as they're Demonic.

WARNING! WARNING! WARNING!

ROSALINE HAS MIRACULOUSLY ACQUIRED: 'ROCKET LAUNCHER'!!

WARNING! WARNING! WARNING!

GS: Rosaline Calice has attacked Riesenlied with One Woman Apocalypse!
GS: Rosaline Calice has completed her action.
<Pose Tracker> Fei Fong Wong has posed.

Nobody should be able to survive this.

Riesenlied's funnels tear through Weltall. It shuts down its mobility actuators, what remains of its sensors, is eradicated, the joints in the arms are barely able to move after Riesen's work is complete. That was survivable in of itself. Fei could have lived to fight another day. Not that good, awful really, but survivable.

But then Noeline comes in with the blade, tearing large swaths out of the Weltall with her blade. They are really devoted to each other, Fei thinks and he can't help but laugh. Isn't this the perfect way to die? He could die like this and he wouldn't be running anymore. He slowed them down, at least, maybe some people got out. He didn't destroy the city. If he's dead he can't hurt anybody.

Weltall can't hold itself up. Its engine is surely busted by now. It'd be a miracle if it ever moves again and between all those slices, a few surely have ripped through into the no longer shielded cockpit. It fumbles back, and then falls right on its back.

Fei stares at Corwynt as the mech collapses. He isn't blinking. Maybe he's dead. There's certainly plenty of blood dripping from his forehead and his throat is cut. It looks bad. It could have been worse, but the Metal Demons have saved the day...?

'I'm sorry Elly', Fei thinks in what must be his last thoughts. 'Guess I can't protect anybody--'

And that's when another voice enters his head.

Finally. Let's turn this city into a fucking crater

There is a faint flickering around Fei's body--but it sputters out as Fei hears a new voice. Another layer of his own madness? A cross flickers into his line of sight.

Fei... you need to wake up. You have to save her.

Fei straightens as the child backs away from his psyche in full retreat. He stands up and then thwumps back down into his seat. "Who..." He mutters. "Who is this? Why won't you let me...gnahh...." He grasps at the controls but he's out of power. He can't do anything. He pushes at them until his palms are ripped from the frenzy.

You have the power to save her.

Fei screams once more though that might be the electricity now conducting through his ether condensor and, well, into his body somewhat, but it's actually more helpful than it is harmful. Fei's weakening senses sharpen intensely in that moment.

He can't think of what that voice was. A helpful voice? Certainly more helpful than the OTHER one. Weltall stands itself up. The voice in his head restores his strength of will. Elly's magic restores Weltall's systems.

"Okay." He tells the Metal Demons, and turns away to face them entirely. Instead everything is looking at Corwynt. The Corwynt who very helpfully reminded Fei of his priorities in life.

"You're out of it." He says, eyes blazing. "YOU HURT ELLY!"

And then Weltall comes down on Corwyn. Looks like with thousands dead, Fei's priority, at the end of the day, really is one person.

GS: Fei Fong Wong has attacked Corwynt with Oh Shit It's Weltall!
GS: Fei Fong Wong has completed his action.
GS: CRITICAL! Corwynt takes a glancing hit from Fei Fong Wong's Oh Shit It's Weltall for 72 hit points!
GS: Corwynt has Fallen! He is no longer able to fight!
<Pose Tracker> Matilda Whitehead has posed.

As always, keeping a low profile proves to be the best idea. Matilda's hiding place is, thus far, unmolested, and that's just the way she likes it; someone like her -- someone whose best contribution, more often than not, is to help others rather than to fire herself -- is best hidden away.

On the other hand, one can't remain totally passive forever. She kneels down again amid the debris and frantically gathers some of it, once again dumping, just, 'whatever's handy' into Freischütz's magazine slot-slash-reservoir. She also finally leaves cover; her movements take her a few steps further away from Lily after she sees that dark assault.

Already looking for her next spot of cover, Matilda opens up with a rat-tat-tat of fire toward Riesenlied. Once again, she lets loose with rocks... though now it's less to attack from cover and more to overwhelm while Riesenlied is on her knees.

Her expression is one of wordless, white-hot anger -- not the frothing madness of someone like Rosaline, but a cold, bitter feeling that Matilda intends to remember forever.

GS: Matilda Whitehead has attacked Riesenlied with Automatic Fire - Rocks!
GS: Matilda Whitehead has completed her action.
GS: Riesenlied guards a hit from Matilda Whitehead's Automatic Fire - Rocks for 64 hit points!
GS: White Knight Leo guards a hit from Zed's Forbidden Move - Astral Dance for 94 hit points!
GS: Vorthuzahl has attacked Vorthuzahl with Mercurial Regeneration!
GS: Vorthuzahl heals Vorthuzahl! He gains 200 temporary hit points!
GS: Riesenlied takes a solid hit from Rosaline Calice's One Woman Apocalypse for 177 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Noeline has posed.

Noeline isn't done after throwing her wide sweeps of energy towards the Drifters around them - she suddenly dances across the battlefield, a darting motion in the very rough direction of the dropships attempting to disrupt her team's recovery of the Golems. It doesn't cover much in the way of distance, but it does allow her the momentum to bring her enormous blade up again; the strike is wild, and by the time it has climbed to that height the wave of energy is unfocused and ineffective, but as far as she's concerned, that's fine; Noeline's doing it more for the distraction than anything else, her own attempt to hamper the Gebler efforts.

Dimly, she realizes that Ethius has stopped attacking. His blood certainly looks human enough - but what an odd human he must be, to be quite so implacable. Were it any other situation she might press the attack, with a taunting little smile - right now, she simply accepts it for what it is, too busy fending off other attacks to really think on the matter too much. Certainly, Riese would never forgive her if she did - after all, did the commander not call for non-combatants to leave? So - no combat, no trouble. It's a literal interpretation, and perhaps a childish one, but it'll do for now.

Also, Leon is landing on her like right at this moment, so there's that. Again, the enormous blade seeks to interfere with the strike by virtue of simply being there and enormous and in the way; again, the metal demon attempts to catch the majority of the attack upon it, twisting to one side with another hiss of pain as she realizes her block is less than total. Her suit is unnaturally protective - but it isn't infallible, and the slash of silver that erupts from her side looks bizarre until it becomes obvious that it's whatever counts for their blood.

Her teeth grit as she stumbles, the unfocused motion reminding her that she isn't indefatigable; the only answer she can muster towards Maya is a rueful chuckle as a spitting bolt of flame suddenly washes over her. Fortunately, it's right at that moment when Duras Drum's voice rushes back to her; the feel of it almost leaves her breathless, the majority of the flames licking past and around her as her armor, custom-made from Filgaian metals rather than Hyadean ones, allows an instinctive defence against it.

Attacking isn't working, she thinks to herself, the line of thought almost automatic. Too many targets - too much in the way of chaos. That can be fixed, at least in part. "Help me," she mutters to herself, entreating the Guardian within her for another moment; entirely unfamiliar with this sort of magic, she takes a hold of the feeling in her mind, grabs onto it, and lets it build in her hands. When she leaps upwards, it isn't in any specific direction but upwards - when she impacts sword-first, the air around her seems to explode in a sightless sensation that spreads, further and further outwards, enveloping the air in a heavy sensation.

In its wake comes only grim acceptance that she's just done something a Metal Demon likely should never ever be able to do - contact and harness a Guardian's power. There's no time to celebrate the success, or worry over the repercussions - at the very least, the melee is so confused that no-one important is likely to pin it on her.

<Pose Tracker> Corwynt has posed.

The Storm Fist, Corwynt, lands atop a rooftop, breathing heavily, but his eyes are full of joy. He has struck down the enemies of his goddess, Althena. He has shown the people of the Blue Star a sign of her power, to take them onto the true path. It has truly been a glorious day.

And it gets even better, because he has the chance to do it again.

The dark shadow of Weltall looms over the martial artist, who leaps out of the way of the strike, hovering in the air at around the gear's eye level, still blazing with power. "AND STILL THEY COME!" he roars, drawing his right fist back, even as Weltall does the same, the Gear swinging a beautiful right hook. "COME FORTH, DARK TITAN! COME FORTH AND TASTE THE FURY OF ALTHENA!"

Weltall's fist collides with that of Corwynt.

Weltall's weight is 22.7 kahns. Corwynt's is much less so.

The Storm Fist of Althena cuts a brilliant green comet across the sky as Weltall punches him into next Tuesday. He's...probably dead? Maybe?

GS: Noeline has attacked Maya Schrodinger with Impulse Edge!
GS: Noeline has attacked Rosaline Calice with Impulse Edge!
GS: Noeline has attacked Catenna with Impulse Edge!
GS: Noeline has attacked Lily Keil with Impulse Edge!
GS: Noeline has attacked Leon Albus with Impulse Edge!
GS: Noeline has attacked Jacqueline Barber with Impulse Edge!
GS: Lily Keil critically Guards a hit from Noeline's Impulse Edge for 0 hit points!
DC: MISS! Catenna completely evades Impulse Edge from Noeline!
GS: Jacqueline Barber takes a solid hit from Noeline's Impulse Edge for 0 hit points!
GS: Slow! Statuses applied to Jacqueline Barber!
GS: Leon Albus takes a glancing hit from Noeline's Impulse Edge for 0 hit points!
GS: Slow! Statuses applied to Leon Albus!
GS: CRITICAL! Rosaline Calice takes a solid hit from Noeline's Impulse Edge for 0 hit points!
GS: Slow! Statuses applied to Rosaline Calice!
GS: Noeline has attacked Noeline with Tech Training!
GS: Noeline takes a solid hit from Noeline's Tech Training for 0 hit points!
GS: Shield! Statuses applied to Noeline!
GS: Noeline has completed her action.
GS: Maya Schrodinger takes a solid hit from Noeline's Impulse Edge for 0 hit points!
GS: Slow! Statuses applied to Maya Schrodinger!
<Pose Tracker> Myyah Hawwa has posed.

ELSEWHERE

Benzoma points at the screen, the Weltall looming large and active. It is an accusing gesture, but also one of disbelief.

"How is it still moving? Its core block was ripped through, and nothing that size has redundant actuators--"

"Sir," says Myyah. Her voice is ever the calm that stifles angry words. "There's no use in arguing rules with technology we know nothing about."

Benzoma is mollified. Myyah looks up to the screen once more, watching Weltall recover. The lines of its ruined armor. The bizarre flares of energy. The cockpit where the pilot hides.

It's enough to make a woman smile. She doesn't.

<Pose Tracker> Vorthuzahl has posed.


The charge is finished, and he leaves them sprawling, but the most important quarry remain afoot, and this slows the pace, if only for a moment. For all the rage on display, Commander Vorthuzahl tracks the motions of his enemies with a keen awareness, watching how they interact with one another, watching who comes to who's aide. For all of his theatrics, and the sanctity of this mission, his thoughts turn to strategy - this will not be the only time he faces these creatures after all. He watches 'Loren' tend to Cardia, and watches the strange ritual of fire that 'Fargo' engages in from afar, and he sees to the shot from 'Jude', healing an ally far away.

"How very interesting."

It is in these moments that the astute will see his mind whirling, churning against their plotting and planning in the heat of the moment. He did not lie to them before. It is impressive that none of them have died yet.

Time for that to change.

'Janus' shows a bravery that most have given up on, closing distance and engaging in melee with a creature that revels in it. Vorthuzahl's sword sweeps in, meeting the blade head on to drive it inward and upward with a parry that a creature enraged could not make, driving it home in it's shoulder guard, far away from some place needed for function. It digs deep in metal, and then is pushed through, the Commander whirling about as if a bullfighter that had just let a horned beast go by.

'Cassidy will see her shots penetrate, see them dig into armor, and stop there, just inches deep, but the force rocks him sidelong, distracting him a moment, but drawing his resolve as the bullets leave smoking holes in his armored hide.

His burning gaze turns.

The Metal Demon looks at Cassidy, for her words have drawn it's attention.

It wants to remember her.

It's attention is recaptured by the sudden impaling shock of a blade that sears through armor, again, twisting part of it from him an engulfing him in a column of pure electrical power. It forces him right into the line of fire of Cardia's blast, which catches him full in the face, peeling away his faceplate, utterly destroying one eye and leaving behind something that looks very much like a horrific, metal skull with no real mouth, though the dripping, mercurial-blooded ruin of it's lower jaw looks much like the top of a maw.

This is the kind of blow that would leave a human alive for mere moments to suffer, leave someone to watch in horror as they die. This is the kind of blow that brings a Metal Demon from a shocked staggering ruin to a sudden, resurging terror.

For all his theatrics. For everything vested in this mission, his roaring and carrying on, meant to keep them engaged and embattled, he had not yet unleashed his full fury. They had not seen him angry, until now.

It begins with a hand lifting to shove in 'Cassidy's' direction, intent on throwing another ranged attacker off balance, then comes retribution.

The world blurs around he metal monster, sending a sharp kick at 'Janus' meant to send the man flying before turning on 'Kahm' to bring him his ruin.

The blade falls with a resounding, soulcrushing rush, weighted with the force of momentum from some place far away, past the place where stars go to die, it is a technique this teacher does not teach.

It is The Hour of Devastation.

From there, it cascades, and Vorthuzahl is in motion. He rushes, charging in one direction towards 'Cardia', it's blade swinging in with a soulcrushing force meant to rend from her her very life. Kahm and Cardia both have awareness on their side.

The soldiers and bystanders between Vorthuzahl and his final, unaware quarry, do not. Jude's first understanding of what is about to happen comes in the form of flying body parts as soldiers and bystanders break under the ricocheting charge that simply obliterates anything in his path. The next will be the shadow that falls.

Right before the burning sword cleaves in.

"KNOW YOUR END, FLESHLINGS! KNOW YOUR RUIN!"

GS: Vorthuzahl has attacked Cassidy Cain with Repulsor Blast!
<Pose Tracker> Riesenlied has posed.

"... there is much that we should talk of, but now is not the time..." Riesenlied whispers at Lily as she darts to one side -- and there's an awful, crunching noise as the dark spear (but not to be mistaken with the Dark Spear Glumzambor) pins down onto that shoulder of hers, that Lily has so bandaged for her in the past. If there was any doubt about whether it was disabled, there shouldn't be now.

But forget about that for a moment!! Here in the local Adlehyde circuit, downtown, Loooooooooord Chaunceeeeeeeeeey! Against... Riesenlied's Pinions! The enormous stuffy rears back with a power reserved only for babyfaces of the blessed ring, and the Pinions, jobbers all, scatter in the wake of his might!!

Jedan grimaces as Rosaline's bullets start to encroach on his territory -- Salamandra roars once more as she launches a gout of flame that erupts most of the critical-path rocket launchers, but even the elder demon is forced to seek refuge and stop firing at the Gebler soldiers as several errant explosions come his way. "Darn!" he cusses. "It's gettin' pretty hot over here!"

Riesenlied gasps in pain, twisting as she stares towards the air, that wrenching sensation wringing deep within her heart... or what passes for a heart. She stares, as she gazes for just a moment, trapped in the gravity well of... no, this is not just Catenna's power. This sensation... this awful sensation that she has only sensed once before...

She gasps as her world is intertwined -- she's slammed against the ground, and thrown against the cobblestone and raked against the street, and then flung into an opposing stand, again, and again, and again.

This is just like that time...

She closes her eyes. Her eyes are in tears. A Guardian... the Guardian of the Moon, Celesdue. It is not the same...

Why...

Why must you hate us so...?

She gasps as she wrests control for just a moment-- and gazes up towards the very visage of Celesdue. For a moment, their eyes meet.

The message is clear.

Humans do not welcome you.

Demons do not welcome you.

The Guardians do not welcome you.

No one welcomes you.

But it does not matter.

She rises slowly, still operating despite the damages that have been inflicted upon her. Her left arm is non-functional, Lily's dark spear impaled upon it, and her other is not doing much better. Her head is cloudy, her face is bleeding, her armor and clothes are tattered and show the signs of her damage. Matilda's shots strike at her, plunging into her side, drawing more red blood.

It does not matter.

"To the Guardians that oversee this world, we are but convicts, ever struggling for acceptance.

Their champions cast scorn upon us, and think us anathema.

We say to them:

This is our torch in the dark!

A stand against the winds of your hatred!

Even if a harsh fate awaits us, our hope shall shine everlasting!

For this Fallen Sword shall carve through all barriers and open the gates to the new world!"

Riesenlied holds the twisted coil of a sword up, indefatigable streams of light coalescing along the entire length of its misshapen blade. The Pinions that have scattered throughout the battlefield have now gathered at their source, re-arming themselves back into its base as a tangible whole. It can be seen from afar, casting a pillar of gleaming light that threatens to pierce through the dark clouds and shatter the heavens themselves, in defiance of the divine.

The Ebony Wings have to stop for a moment, as they gaze upon the pillar of light. Dva stares down at Devet, as the girl stops tying frantically and stare at the sight. It is their torch in this darkness. Jedan, in the midst of his sniping, couldn't help but crack a grin.

Cetiri lowers her head. "It is a torch of remembrance for those who have fallen. A torch of guidance to those who are lost. A torch of vigil to those who have strayed. A torch of unity, to those who are alone. A torch, to hold the hope of a miracle of unity desired by all Tainted everywhere..."

Jedan nods slowly as he intones: "And its name is..."

Riesenlied lets out a low shout, draping the sword hilt tightly against her working hand. The sword's weight is insignificant compared to the pure light that now swelters before her. She casts her eyes, crimson and tainted, towards her opponent.

"Laevateiiiiinnnn!"

Laevateinn descends.

Like the Pinions before them, the light -- if one were unlucky enough to get in its way -- is stunning, not lethal. It is a light that seeks to disrupt and disable, yet ultimately gentle in its touch... it seeks to do this by overwhelming sight, sensation, hearing... the din of battle completely fades away. The tension and overwhelming force of combat seems naught but an afterthought.

And within that light, there is the sight of something beautiful.

A damaged little twig, upon which sprouts a white little flower within the light, so fragile. So daring, to attempt to blossom amidst the arid, desolate wasteland it takes root upon. Something unreal, something clearly an illusion, something that, for now, remains a dream...

But what is the worth of a Dream, if it is never Chased?

GS: Riesenlied has activated a Force Action!
GS: Riesenlied has attacked Lily Keil with Fallen Sword - 'Laevateinn'!
GS: Riesenlied has attacked Matilda Whitehead with Fallen Sword - 'Laevateinn'!
GS: Riesenlied has attacked Sephilia Lampbright with Fallen Sword - 'Laevateinn'!
GS: Riesenlied has attacked Rosaline Calice with Fallen Sword - 'Laevateinn'!
GS: Riesenlied has attacked Catenna with Fallen Sword - 'Laevateinn'!
GS: Vorthuzahl has attacked Janus Cascade with Relentless Assault!
GS: CRITICAL! Catenna takes a glancing hit from Riesenlied's Fallen Sword - 'Laevateinn' for 223 hit points!
GS: Jam! Statuses applied to Catenna!
GS: Vorthuzahl has activated a Force Action!
GS: Sephilia Lampbright takes a solid hit from Riesenlied's Fallen Sword - 'Laevateinn' for 260 hit points!
GS: Vorthuzahl has attacked Kahm Yugh with Hour of Devastation!
GS: Vorthuzahl has attacked Cardia Ortell with Hour of Devastation!
GS: Vorthuzahl has attacked Jude Moshe with Hour of Devastation!
GS: Vorthuzahl has completed his action.
GS: Janus Cascade critically Guards a hit from Vorthuzahl's Relentless Assault for 27 hit points!
GS: Lily Keil guards a hit from Riesenlied's Fallen Sword - 'Laevateinn' for 156 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Riesenlied has posed.

Moments after the light subside, however -- Riesenlied's wings erupt into fire.

Flames catch onto her back as she lowers the Fallen Sword. To evoke its name, to try to dare to reach upon the unattainable dream... it is too much for her at the moment...

It not so much breaks apart as fragments and returns into herself, affirming itself as part of her once more.

GS: Riesenlied has attacked Riesenlied with Fallen End - Overheat !
GS: Riesenlied takes a solid hit from Riesenlied's Fallen End - Overheat  for 0 hit points!
GS: Break and Cripple! Statuses applied to Riesenlied!
DC: Riesenlied switches forms to Tainted Dragon Riesenlied!
DC: MISS! Cassidy Cain completely evades Repulsor Blast from Vorthuzahl!
GS: Cardia Ortell guards a hit from Vorthuzahl's Hour of Devastation for 146 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> White Knight Leo has posed.

Leo feels his blade connect. Flesh gives with a low, metallic scrape. Quicksilver droplets arc into the air. But something's wrong. Zed anticipated this. Their eyes meet across their blades, and for a moment, the two warriors seem to be staring into each others' souls. Leo's own eyes are tight with resolve--resolve that he wears like steel armor, invincible and gleaming. There is also anger there, anger that this Demon, who he thought would be easily-slain, is putting up far more of a fight than Leo ever anticipated. Leo grits his teeth. He lands in the dirt, skidding past Zed, kicking up trails of dust and grit behind him. He whirls around, brings up his blade just like Hedalf taught him years ago. Without skill and perception, crushing power is inefficient, crude and brutish.

Zed comes at him from a dozen different angles. Leo's back on the defensive instantly, catching the first Zed's blade and twisting out of the way of the second. The third one comes at him from the side, and he all but wills his blade into position to block. The fourth glances off as well in a flash of ringing steel, but the fifth tears into Leo's back. The White Knight's eyes narrow in pain and rage. He can feel SOMETHING emanating off the red giant that just awakened, something that sets his nerves on edge. He has to win this. He has to deal with this fool, and then try and salvage what he can. He has to ensure no one else dies today.

Leo's foot stomps into the ground and grinds the dirt. Blood drips down his back, spotting the earth--and the earth responds. Pillars rise up around him, intercepting three Zeds before they can land their strikes. By the time the onslaught is over, Leo is still up, but his wounds are mounting. Even a mountain can be worn away, if the assault is fierce enough, and that's obviously what this demon was trying to do.

"That's your game," Leo snarls, as if something clicked into place in his head. "Pretend to be a common fool, then reveal you were a warrior!" It makes sense. It squares with what the Demons' commander was talking about. "YOUR TREACHERY ENDS HERE, VILLAIN! I, WHITE KNIGHT LEO, will deliver you to an ingominous end!"

That horrible feeling spikes in the back of his mind. He looks up just in time to see the RED GIANT punch Corwynt across the city. His entire face tightens.

Leo surges forwards, springs into the air, and slams his blade down with a shockwave of force, peeling dirt and stone and shattered cobbles up and sending them flying. Leo goes flying as well, rising into the air--he grabs his subordinate's insensate body, and lands in a crouch in what was once a second-floor living room. Leo sets the young man down, and with practiced motions, pulls a flask from his belt. He tips Corwynt's head up, and ever-so-carefully pours a little potion into his mouth. Enough to ensure he'll live.

"Zed, is it?" Leo says. He rises, and steps forwards, putting himself between Corwynt and the Demon. "I'll remember that name. And you, remember this."

Leo leaps into the air again, tracing out a long arc over the battlefield. Halfway to Zed, Leo draws back his blade, energy gathering in his hands, and along his blade. All of his killing intent focuses on a single point, on the Demon on the ground below him. "MY MASTER'S ULTIMATE TECHNIQUE!" Leo bellows. Chi leaves his lungs, coalescing into the great shockwave that's forming ahead of him. The center of the vortex is the tip of his blade, but it starts to take shape, forming... a sphere, at first. The sphere grows a fuzzy outer edge, which condenses into a mane--brilliant points become eyes, and a mouth full of razor-sharp teeth. Zed is staring down a lion.

"LION'S HOWL!" Leo roars. It's almost lost in the catastrophic shockwave of the blast's detonation. The noise from that drowns out everything else.

GS: White Knight Leo has attacked Zed with Lion's Howl!
GS: White Knight Leo has completed his action.
GS: CRITICAL! Rosaline Calice takes a solid hit from Riesenlied's Fallen Sword - 'Laevateinn' for 451 hit points!
GS: Jam! Statuses applied to Rosaline Calice!
GS: Rosaline Calice has Fallen! She is no longer able to fight!
<Pose Tracker> Ethius Hesiod has posed.

Both Ebon Zero and the Technology Hunter, even as the two slowly part from melee range, appear to both have found something or another that they have deemed more important than having each other's attention.

Ethius' eyes sweep across the battlefield. The bone-chilling rage of Weltall's pilot losing it. A cleric's divorce from all reason to break out greater armaments. A duel of two incredible swordsmen of conviction. Movements of competing forces attempting to secure the Gears in question. A bloodthirsty Metal Demon commander moves to put an end to the pests that surround them.

Riesenlied yet still clings to conviction, calling forth her dream into power to chase away doubts and weaker convictions.

There is plenty to do. There are many angles in which Ethius could press his attack upon the occupied Ebon Zero, or to leap down. He might even have the weakened Riesenlied dead to rights, if he leaps off and goes for her upper back.

He does not pursue any of these opportunities, as the wind billows smoke and dust against him. His bloodied, torn poncho sways gently in the breeze of war and tragedy. His eyes are unclouded.

What is he thinking? What is he planning? His right hand, blood-stained as it is, rises on up high.

...

GS: Ethius Hesiod has attacked Ethius Hesiod with No Action!
GS: Ethius Hesiod has completed his action.
GS: Ethius Hesiod takes a solid hit from Ethius Hesiod's No Action for 0 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Noeline has posed.

"--Riesenlied!" roars the girl with the shield - and all her fatigue disappears in an instant as she suddenly explodes forwards. Her muscles burn, however that works for Metal Demons, as she pushes forwards to cover the fallen Fallen Angel.

DC: Riesenlied switches forms to Dark Angel Riesenlied!
GS: Riesenlied has attacked Maya Schrodinger with Fallen Sword - 'Laevateinn'!
DC: Riesenlied switches forms to Tainted Dragon Riesenlied!
GS: Maya Schrodinger takes a solid hit from Riesenlied's Fallen Sword - 'Laevateinn' for 270 hit points!
GS: Maya Schrodinger has Fallen! She is no longer able to fight!
GS: Matilda Whitehead takes a solid hit from Riesenlied's Fallen Sword - 'Laevateinn' for 254 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Leon Albus has posed.

Leon's slash tears away silver blood -- yes, and many a spark, too, from the block -- which makes his eyes widen. Truly, he thinks, these things are inhuman. The fact that Riesenlied is one disquiets him. She certainly seemed more human than not to him. And yet...

The evidence is in front of him.

And then the air explodes and blasts Leon forward. He grunts, then slams into the ground roughly. He comes down in a three-point stance, but then looks up -- at the Golem, Diablo, and the current target of both Gebler and the Metal Demons. Against such a force, he is a lone Drifter. A blonde-haired, silver-eyed man in a grey coat, with a single ARM.

Or, perhaps, two ARMs. He pulls out a fat, black flare gun and lifts it into the air. "Sigurd," he mutters to himself, "I hope you got the message."

FOUR HOURS AGO -- ADLEHYDE CASTLE

Leon frowned, as he looked up from the map. The sand pirate behind him was watching, with the slight twitch to his posture that said he wanted to stand a little straighter -- but the former Captain Albus wasn't his commander. He was a contact and ally of Bart's. He wasn't one of their soldiers.

"I need you to run a message," Leon said. "To the Yggdrasill. Who's in charge?"

"Sigurd," the pirate answered. "Bart's off the ship--er, but, you knew that, didn't you?"

"Yeah," Leon agreed. He let out a long breath. "I may need covering fire at some point. If I do--I want you to deliver him a message. A white flare means we need extraction. A green flare means we're coming back. A red flare..."

"Captain Albus?"

Leon turned around from the map, then looked at him. "...A red flare means we need fire support. You understand?"

NOW -- THE FESTIVAL GROUNDS

Leon pulls the trigger on the flare gun. It shoots up, snaking up into the sky, and explodes amidst flying Gebler craft and the Ebon Wings. It shines with a bright, brilliant red. At first, there is nothing but the terrifying descent of Laevateinn.

And then, the sky lights up. Missiles streak through the air, leaving trails of vapor that carve across the sky in their wake, before the explode with concussive blasts among the midair forces around the Golem Diablo. Leon cracks a smile, as the explosions send concussive waves that shake him in his boots.

Then, he looks at Weltall, and he shouts: "FEI!" he calls out. "This thing--this is what they're after! If you want to stop this... then we need to get this thing out of here!"

GS: Leon Albus has attacked Fei Fong Wong with Deployment Tactics!
GS: Leon Albus has completed his action.
DC: MISS! Zed completely evades Lion's Howl from White Knight Leo!
GS: Jude Moshe takes a solid hit from Vorthuzahl's Hour of Devastation for 374 hit points!
GS: Kahm Yugh takes a solid hit from Vorthuzahl's Hour of Devastation for 800 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Sephilia Lampbright has posed.

Sephilia cries out, squinting, then closing her eyes against the light--but it's not enough. She covers her eyes with one hand, gasping.

"Riese, I...I'm still your friend...even though...you're standing against us today..."

Chauncey staggers forward, guided only by what Sephilia thinks the lay of the battlefield is. "Chauncey...we gotta do this...we gotta put this to a stop..." Sephy's voice is distant, distracted...pained. "Chauncey...Friendship Smash!"

With the little energy they have left, girl and doll rush towards where they last saw Riesenlied.

GS: Sephilia Lampbright has attacked Riesenlied with Friendship Smash!
GS: Sephilia Lampbright has been weakened by Disease! They take 0 hit points of damage, and burn off their temporary hit points!
GS: Sephilia Lampbright has completed her action.
GS: Noeline used the Force Action Protect! She takes Sephilia Lampbright's attack on Riesenlied on herself!
GS: Noeline has activated a Force Action!
GS: Noeline takes a solid hit from Sephilia Lampbright's Friendship Smash for 100 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Catenna has posed.

It's hard to harness a Guardian's power against someone who's already harnessing it, apparently - but Noeline does her best. Catenna recognizes the feel of it - the ripple in the air has a distinct feel to it. Widening her eyes in utter shock, she barely manages to hurl herself backwards, hitting the ground and rolling away as best she can from the armoured figure she cannot possibly recognize as Noeline.

Celesdue was there for only a moment; now it's just Catenna herself. The sense of overpowering presence is gone. She watches, bottom lip bitten, as Riese stands, battered and bloodied and impaled, and the knowledge that much of this was her handiwork does not escape her. And yet, it is all she can do. The other woman's kid are anathema upon this world. They are things that can never live upon Filgaia.

And one of them is the woman she came to trust. Someone she actually kissed, when she never kisses people, much less opening up to them at all.

She inhales, then recoils away as Laevateinn descends on her. The light washes over her and wipes away her senses. For a moment she's lost in it. A little white flower blooms. A little edelweiss in the mountains.

The woman's eyes go distant and hazy as she seems to float there, lost.

i'm sorry, Riesenlied, her heart whispers in the echoes of its own silence. all i wanted was a friend. then you came along and i felt like for once, i was not alone. but this is how things are now. i'm going to die fighting someone i...

...like... love...?

i wish i had never felt.

Light fades away. Time seems to slow down. Wilting forward, the woman seems about to collapse again - but, staggering forward, she catches herself, panting for breath, body aching as she shakes off that momentary blinding stun. The tears flow freely now. They stain the front of her garment.

"Of all the ones to come against the world," she says in a small, broken voice, "why... why did it have to be you...?"

She begins to raise her hand, but Riesenlied doesn't seem to be moving. Her lips part, then close again in a tight line.

And slowly, her arm falls to her side.

She can't do it. Not when Riesenlied is slouched there, so wounded and so pitiful.

"I'm sorry," is all she can say, squeezing her eyes closed and looking away.

GS: Catenna has attacked Riesenlied with Encumber!
GS: Catenna has completed her action.
GS: Catenna has canceled their attack on Riesenlied.
<Pose Tracker> Noeline has posed.


here isn't time to think, now. Everything is impulse, even through the angry and guilty spike in her mind. Riese is injured - Riese is aflame and suddenly vulnerable, and protecting her was supposed to be her job. She's the one who promised this wouldn't come to this, and then wasn't able to do anything to help. Any thought in her head about continuing the assault further flees, as a sick feeling she doesn't feel often grips her.

"--we need to take what we can and go," she finds herself stating urgently into her communications link, far more evenly than the rest of her feels right at this moment. "Leave the last Golem to Gebler if we have to. At least we'll know who has it. We'll recover it in time," she adds at a mutter, not exactly feeling a lot of belief in the words right at this moment.

Sighting Riesenlied through the smoke and fire is a faint relief, at least; she skids to a halt in front of the metal demon commander, her blade drawn up in a full defence. The doll's assault is almost unheeded, the metal demon taking the impact with a grunt; she nearly staggers, feeling the injury far too deeply for a moment before a whirlwind rotation of her sword slams both girl and doll away. "Get away from her!"

<Pose Tracker> Fargo Foobach has posed.

"I apologize," Fargo says to Cassidy. The wiry muscles of his forearms tense and he reins the heat in, cycling it through himself before it can radiate outward, closing his eyes briefly in concentration. He has no symbols, is holding no Crests, but it's different from the mysterious Ether the Gebler forces are using. Fargo Foobach is using chi techniques passed down through generations of his family he has never even heard of, reaching back before the Night of Falling Stars.

Steam rises out of the wound on his chest as he steps forward, kneeling to reclaim his hat. He stiffens as he observes from afar the drama of Elly and the Black Gear. The boss has taken a particular, almost paternal shine to the officer in recent days - something about a fire afraid to stoke itself.

But the Black Gear is acting in her defense, as far as he can tell. It's a risk to leave her alone, but he has a feeling there won't be a senseless tragedy. He rises, gathering hair out of his eyes and locking it down under the white bowler hat. Granted, it's a bit difficult to figure out that's what he's doing form outside - the heat haze is radically distorting his form. You can get a rough idea of the man's location, and you certainly won't miss his presence. "Don't check your fire," he says to Cassidy. "You won't hit me."

The white gleam of heat flickers, steam flowing in his wake as he sprints to intercept Vorthuzahl's route of destruction. They were told to regroup - they won't have an easy time doing that as long as this monster is rampaging. "Mr. Yugh," he says into his comm, "I am aproaching from your left."

He isn't in time. Fargo shows up shortly after the Metal Demon bears down on him, expensive white shoes sliding across the bloody stone, dropping into position already in stance - upper body twisted to the side, palms forward, like he's trying to tear a stubborn door off its hinges. "Damn," he says, heat billowing around him as he swings his arms forward - projecting.

Fargo's stolen heat gathers in front of his hands until he flings it out at Vorthuzahl in a wide, spiralling blue distortion, at the point he'd struck with his fingertips earlier. Ragged cloths near them burst into sudden flame, the wildly shifting temperatures causing a shockwave of air away from him.

He lets out a shuddering breath, feeling a brief, profound cold until his Heat Haze's circuit restores.

GS: Fargo Foobach has attacked Vorthuzahl with Blue Heat Wave!
GS: Fargo Foobach has completed his action.
<Pose Tracker> Elhaym van Houten has posed.

Elly, possibly, saves much of Adelhyde by rolling over under her own power. And then sliding a hand into her uniform, reaching for something. That's conscious activity and that means she didn't get killed! Hurray!

Fortunately Fei probably can't see the blood coming out of her mouth. Elly tries not to think about it so much, thinking on some bleak interior level that she probably has it coming, but, she tells herself, you have to try.

Several packets and circular things roll aside but Elly seems to find one she wants. This is it, right, she thinks, even as she fumbles off the cover and then sticks it into her leg.

After this she spends several seconds fooling around with her face mask, which had landed near her. For reasons she would have a really hard time articulating, this is important to her. Only a stray squawk on the bud that has, improbably, remained in her ear startles her enough. Enough to kind of get up and stagger in the direction of Barbados.

This does mean that some brave soul can get free drugs, at least!

Her head turns, mid-stagger, towards Weltall. It's shining, Elly thinks: Isn't it? Or is it on fire? Someone's singing somewhere.

<Pose Tracker> Matilda Whitehead has posed.

The light sears and overwhelms Matilda. They say there's no better disinfectant than sunlight -- but whatever sunlight grew this twig is one in which Matilda can't grow. When it passes, she's sagging, exhausted. The dream of a brand new start.

"... This..." she murmurs. "... what is it you've shown me?" comes her question after a moment, small and almost plaintive. Is this -- a simple trick of the light? A meaningless illusion? Or how she sees herself?

Matilda decides that aggression in the face of Laevateinn, in all its twisted glory... isn't worth it. She puts Freischütz back in her coat and begins a steady, even retreat from the battle, doing her best to move from cover to cover as safely as she can toward one of the designated exits.

... She'll take her chances.

<Pose Tracker> Rosaline Calice has posed.

Rosaline causes explosions to happen. This is good, but not enough. Nothing will ever be enough. She lowers the ARM and grits her teeth. What next?

The Ebony Wings answer this question for her. They chant their sorrow, their hope. Rosaline barely processes the moving display, as she remains drowned in her own in rage.

Her instinct, as usual, is to charge headlong into the light. This would absolutely prove her undoing, were it not for Matilda and Jacqueline's earlier interventions and the strangely kind nature of the attack.

Finally, the nightmare is overwhelmed in her mind. It makes way for a peaceful dream, a hope for the future. Isn't this what she was seeking to begin with? How did she allow herself to become... this?

She reaches out towards the single flower, tears beading in her eyes. It's still far out of her grasp, but its sight rekindles something within her, while dousing the inferno that was raging just a moment ago. Finally, she remembers who she is. She remembers her wounds, her exhaustion. She lets go of her weapon, finally collapsing to the ground for good.

"I'm sorry," she lets out, softly, to no one in particular.

And a moment later, she's curled up amidst the wreckage of the Ethos ARMs Meister kiosk, snoozing peacefully, her tail swaying from time to time.

<Pose Tracker> Jude Moshe has posed.

"And I'll give you a gold for your years of brave service! There's a time to be a good soldier and there's a time to cut your--"

For a brief second, Jude Moshe's attention diverts. To heal Lily. To try to ward off her and Leon.

And it costs him.

He realizes it, the second he hears the sound of metal in the distance, yet frustrated as he'd never admit to being, he doesn't hear it until it is far, far too late.

Until there is a shadow looming large and cold in start contrast to the heat he feels rippling across his back. He turns--

--And doesn't stop until he feels a blade cut deeper across his torso than he's felt in a long time -- maybe ever. After all--

--he has never faced anything like what he is facing now. And he learns face-first just what that threat entails.

He'd pat himself on the back for his expert ability to assess a threat, but right now his lungs are too busy feeling like they're filling with fire to say much of anything.

He looks down. Stares at his injuries. His amber eyes look dull as he lifts a shaking hand to press against that cauterized, scarred wound where it bisects with the one that had been gifted to him by that Metal Beast. And in those moments where he doesn't have the strength anymore to pretend, Jude just looks...

... empty.

"... Heh. Oops. Sorry, Jacob..."

Those vacant eyes roll to the back of his head, and Jude Moshe falls into the ground with an unceremoniously meaty thud. There is a shallow rise and fall of his chest to just barely indicate life...

... but he does not get back up.

GS: Jude Moshe has completed his action.
<Pose Tracker> Janus Cascade has posed.

Maybe it's bravery; maybe it's madness? Regardless, his arms sting from the reverberations of that conflict, and Janus whips around, watching the beast move as he considers his own play. Dario's still up but Romero's useless. Not unexpected, really. He watches, his whole body tingling, every inch of him alive with awareness and terror.

And then he's RIGHT THERE. But instead of Janus going tumbling, he hears a loud "BOSS!!"

And suddenly someone else arrives in a different blur; Romero, the terrified blond ninja, standing there with arms crossed, when he was half the fairgrounds away previously. The would-be ninja takes that hard kick and goes tumbling, slammed to the side and rolling with the blow easily. Janus looks at him with a strange, inscrutable feeling.

And nods at him. "Romero!" he hollers. "...good work!"

And that's all he can do before he sets back up with his gun, watching the Horrible Thing with a glare. "I'm gonna SKIN you, you molten freak! You know what that is!?"

He slams a cartridge home, the bolt vibrating throughout the frame. He raises his gun up and fires; and it releases a single, beeping ball.

"It's when I KILL YOU and TAKE EVERYTHING ABOUT YOU!"

The ball bursts - and rains an endless barrage of tiny shots across Vorthuzahl's hide.

GS: Janus Cascade has attacked Vorthuzahl with Multiblast!
GS: Janus Cascade takes 10 damage from Poison!
GS: Janus Cascade has completed his action.
<Pose Tracker> Kahm Yugh has posed.

Kahm's eyes blazed behind his visor as the black gear, SLIDE-1, seemed to collapse under the combined assault of the Metal Demons. Surely, it couldn't be brought down so easily...

And, is it turns out, it isn't. The gear rises again despite all every physical fact suggesting that it shouldn't, propelled and powered by some power unknown to them. The Captain took a good look at it, burned it into his memory, but remembered the Lieutenant Commander's order.

Not right now.

Kahm thinks, turning instead to the problem at hand: A rather large problem, actually, as Vorthuzahl brought his weapon upon him with all of its terrifying might.

Kahm's action was grim, quick, and utterly without choice: There was nothing for it but to fight power with power. He raised his blade to meet the demon's, attempting to either contest him directly with ether-amplified force or direct the blade away with the same.

He failed to do either.

The Captain's guard is smashed through utterly, the blade cleaving down his side in a blinding hot, rending torment that opened up Kahm's left flank and cauterized it at once with heat. Agony gripped him at the same time as the smell of himself on fire, the impact of the blade itself dealing another blow.

The ground craters, the wind blasts, and Kahm is thrown clear across to slam into Barbados's body, falling back to the ground with a dull thud.

Miraculously, he staggers to his feet. Still alive, still conscious, but wounded badly. One hand clutches his side, blade held limply at the ready. His helmet was compromised, shards of the shattered faceplate falling away. Kahm stifles a curse and tossed the useless thing off rather than try to work with it.

"Keep doing your goddamned jobs!" He'll shout to any other operatives in the vicinity, clutching his fist and letting lightning fly between him and Vorthazuhl.

"I'm still alive!" He shouts, perhaps as much to his enemy as his allies.

GS: Kahm Yugh has attacked Vorthuzahl with Anemo Lance!
GS: Kahm Yugh has completed his action.
<Pose Tracker> Fei Fong Wong has posed.

Fei Fong Wong pants for breath. He just barely avoided having it happen again. He knows that somehow. That other voice was to thank. He is jarred from his anger by Leon. Fei looks to Leon and his eyes widen with understanding.

"That's why doc brought Weltall here..." He realizes. He laughs. "He really is a smart guy! Hahahaha...that hadn't even occured to me." The laughter is mixed with despair, but its milder now and there's some mirth behind it. "Alright, Leon, let me just make sure she's ok." Priorities people.

Fei looks towards the most beautiful woman in all of time. That's how Fei sees it, truly, though he does also think 'all of time? where'd that come from?'. True, though, he thinks. It feels like an honest thought.

He misses the blood of mouth and he's a bit dizzy so he misses the DRUGS too. He smiles, for just a moment, peacefully on this battlefield.

If he follows Elly might get caught in crossfire. Its better for both of them right now that he listens to Leon.

"okay! Going!"

He flies towards Diablo. Somehow he can still move Weltall. His hesitation may prove costly, however, as he sees something planning, uh, something. He races to try and beat Ethius to the punch.

<Pose Tracker> Lily Keil has posed.

There is a feeling of weight suddenly as Lily stands, and her eyes snap up as she detects the unfamiliar magic assaulting her. It's not precisely concentration so much as will that turns back this particular kind of assault, the air no longer troubling her but for all the smoke as she looks to Riesenlied again.

Who was it? She doesn't know.

Riesenlied whispers to her, as Lily looks to the wound that she bandaged herself before, more than once. The one that she worried over. It's certainly terrible. Lily herself seems divorced from herself somehow, looking back to Riesenlied's face. "Will there ever be a time? It doesn't seem that way."

Her darkness pulses again, as the other assaults come in, and Lily steps backward, watching Riesenlied suffer. She keeps the concentration to leave her spear there for now. She waits, still bleeding from her hands, from her back, from the many places Ebon Zero wounded her. And there's... words. Lily can hear them, though she is wary as the light starts to shine.

She knows little of the Guardians. But she knows a foe before her; she knows the devastation these Metal Demons have wrought as they've stepped into reality from legend. Even Riesenlied's squadron has no right...

Lily steps back, lifting an arm, her solid black eyes squinting against the pain of this level of light. It reminds her of the awful feeling in her stomach.

This light crashes before her, and it disrupts to be sure; battle temporarily seems to fade away, everything fades away but light. Light where Lily does not belong, that her mind tries to move against. A little flower...

"Nn...No! I won't..."

She doesn't notice that her hands are over her head, doesn't notice the exhaustion of struggling as her own magic fights against it. She feels fire close by, manages to open her eyes and try to straihten herself, stares at Riesenlied falling. What... "What just..."

Ebon Zero is there before Riesenlied, and the flare lights up; Lily looks to the sky, sees the missiles there, and lets out a quick breath and almost a laugh, "Heh. So it's finally time..."

Lily, wrecked body and spirit, looks down at Riesenlied and her protector. She watches just how effective that protector is for a moment, catching her breath.

"...You get a reprieve from me today, Riesenlied." Her inhuman gaze flickers to Noeline. "I'm not going to try anymore to kill your charge today, is what that means. ...Tell her to get that damned shoulder looked at by someone who knows how her body functions."

It's bravado; she's almost dead on her feet, she probably couldn't take both of them even if she weren't. But she's not alone, either.

"Riesenlied... Goodbye. I still mean everything I've said to you. Everything."

She takes a step back, looking to the Golems, and takes in a breath, closing her eyes and crossin her hands over herself. They glow, erupting in strange magical circles, until a faint crimson light surrounds her--and then bursts into greater brightness.

She glances back once, and then starts jogging for Golem Diablo, preparing herself to lay down serious fire for making sure they get this thing out, not anyone else.

She'd frankly rather be fighting Gebler anyway.

GS: Lily Keil used Mystic on Lily Keil! 100 Temporary HP gained! All statuses cleared!
GS: Lily Keil has activated a Force Action!
GS: Lily Keil has attacked Lily Keil with Red Light!
GS: Lily Keil has completed her action.
GS: Lily Keil heals Lily Keil! She gains 100 temporary hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Jacqueline Barber has posed.

Rosaline's outburst is...definitely a bit of a surprise to Jacqueline! For a second she's afraid that the potion made her angry, but the fact that her attack isn't directed at her is a bit of a relief.

Maybe her act of doing so is the only thing saving her...

However, it is as this moment that she feels a sudden force weighing her down. Where was this coming from...? She casts her gaze about, her eyes eventually landing on Riesenlied's masked soldier. Was it them?

Before she can contemplate further, the battlefield is wreathed in light. She sees it sear through her allies.

And yet again, she is untouched.

But Riesenlied...

Riesenlied drops, wings aflame.

"Riesenlied!" Jacqueline shouts, surprised.

But soon after...there's a flash of red in the sky, and missiles rock the battlefield somewhere nearby.

Jacqueline glances in that direction.

What was going on...?

For now, she turns her attention to Rosaline, who falls...and curls up!?

Well, she...didn't look dead, so she was probably fine...

But what of the others...?

GS: Fei Fong Wong takes a solid hit from Leon Albus's Deployment Tactics for 0 hit points!
GS: Reload! Fei Fong Wong gains 15 extra FP from Leon Albus!
<Pose Tracker> Zed has posed.

Their eyes lock. Two warriors stare into one another's eyes-- into the very gates of the soul itself. It can be said that the Metal Demons lack a soul. Some have said this. They do not have magic, after all. They cannot call upon sorcery. But in this moment, in this singular sliver of time, the brilliance of either warrior cannot be denied. Leo sees it; a fire that blazes beyond its means. A star that blasts across the sky in a journey of glorious self-destruction. And yet, even when it should have winked out years, decades, centuries ago, that fire is still going.

Zed's soul is invincible.

His dervish-dance is executed flawlessly, but Leo's defense is equally incredible. Blade meets blade meets blade meets flesh. Somewhere out there, a vessel of the slayer of god awakens and unleashes its terrible power. A brave but foolish man is broken and sent flying. Leo... Deflects the last of his blows.

A series of pillars rise out of the ground. When he looks, Zed is not amongst them.

He is on top of them.

"I've never pretended to be anything except for what I am!" Zed roars in reply, his voice as strong as ever, in spite of his own mounting injuries. Is it simply his demonic physique, or is it that light that Leo saw in his eyes? "I am Zed!" Invincible. "The Ultimate Macho Man!" Indomitable...! "The Grim Reaper's Pen Pal!" Irrepressible!!! "THE DARK HERO! He who fights in the dark so you don't have to! And now..."

Leo... Catches someone. Leaps into the air several storeys and snatches a body out of the sky. Zed recognizes it. He fought that man before. That amazing, tremendously powerful, but tremendously reckless man. "...And now," Zed's expression hardens as Leo winds up his ultimate attack. The final technique taught to him by his master. His hair is blown back by the raw force of this man's spirit. His lips curl into a grin as that power gathers. He can SEE it gather. "I am... The one who would be the Sword of Hyades...!"

A vast, leonine head stares him down in reply. A tremendous construct of wind and spirit. This is Leo, huh? He reminds him a little bit of Hiro. But.

"I'll receive your master's ultimate technique..." Zed grasps at his sword, hands tightening around the hilt. A cool wind blows, even as a Giant Robot rampages not so far away. "But let me show you... What this world-- what Filgaia has taught me!" Zed takes a step. He braces himself as a gale, violet and gold and green gathers around his blade. Doom Bringer drinks in the light, but it cannot swallow it completely. Zed roars as he swings, "GO!"

--==Trusted Storm - Air Slash==--

A crescent-shaped shockwave of compressed atmosphere bisects the great lion. Two forces meet, and the gale explodes from the event horizon of their juncture. Zed's voice is a deafening roar as Leo's chi blasts through the world around him, a great torrent of bone-shattering golden power. But still, the Air Slash powers through. It withstands, it endures, it cuts...!

Until finally, the lion is consumed and the crescent dies away.

Zed is left panting, grinning, his blade flashing in the firelight. The other two pillars are nothing but dust. But Zed... Is still there. His perch is intact, as is his form, and his spirit. "...That was really good," Zed says, then. He looks like he's about ready to continue, but...!

No.

"...Take him to safety," Zed says at the body in Leo's arms. "He's a good fighter. A strong warrior. I'm not about to keep fighting the guy trying to keep him alive."

"You're Leo, right?" Zed nods, smiling. "I'll remember that. But if you'll excuse me! I still have a job to do!"

"ZED--" Zed turns and leaps, aiming to go assist the forces securing Diablo, "--AWAAAAAY!"

...Well. Looks like he's heading off to another part of the battlefield. "REMEMBER!" Zed yells, "I STILL WANT TO KNOW WHERE YOU GET YOUR CAPES! ALSO DON'T SAY THAT THING TO BERSERK, HE WILL PROBABLY RIP OUT YOUR SPINE IF YOU DOOOOOoooooo...!"

And there he goes.

<Pose Tracker> Riesenlied has posed.

"Miss Catenna..." Riesenlied whispers, as she gazes towards the priestess, in a way just as broken as she is. "... you are your own woman as well... you must find the path that is right for you. And if our paths still oppose... then..."

She swallows, as she gazes at Lily as she says her own goodbye. "... I won't say goodbye, Miss Lily. ... you still hold that book of mine..." she shakes her head. "I know that there will be a time when we can peacefully exchange it..."

Riesenlied groggily squints as, in the distance, the menacing roar of a lion echoes through the field. Her systems are rapidly attempting to keep the damage under control. She reaches to her microphone -- do what she can--

Jedan's eyes widen as he watches the missiles streak through the air -- and he yells, "Salamandra, we're out of here!" He hops onto his dragon with a deft leap, and climbs onto the red dragon and cuts the wire. With a deft rise through the air, both the flame dragon and the sniper demon are gone, rejoining Lolithia and serving as a flank. "Sorry, Commander. Too much heat..."

He narrows his eyes, looking to where the Ebony Wings commander has gone and overdone it again.

-=Leave Golem Diablo, Jedan. We must content ourselves with the retrieval of the Ice Queen.

To all extant squads -- Hymir, Sif, Vidarr survivors, regroup and retreat.

Ullr and Ydallir squad, you are to cover our retreat.=-

The red dragon descends and swiftly perches down, to afford Noeline and Riesenlied with a path out of the battlefield. The winged angel slowly rises and -- falters once more, needing Noeline's assistance to bring her up to the dragon.

She has no more words for her. Riesenlied gazes down towards the Fairgrounds, and to the destruction they've collectively wrought. No matter how much she desires it, she can't realise this dream just on sentiment alone. And she knows that, all too well.

She reaches to her pack and pulls out a familiar pack of potions, calling out, "Miss Jacqueline!" She tosses the potion bag gingerly, hoping the alchemist will catch it. "... I cannot use this after all. I am not fit to use the passion that you have distilled into these potions... and you will need it."

The Commander looks towards Diablo as Weltall moves towards it for pick-up. Good. In a way, it is not as crushing a defeat as if Gebler picked both of them up. Lessons were learnt today.

She reaches towards her chest, wincing at where Laevateinn has torn a fresh wound in it. But it is nothing, compared to the wound that experiencing conflict against the Drifters that have gathered here to oppose her inflicted. It hurt... it hurt a lot.

The new world is still..... so far away.....

<Pose Tracker> Cassidy Cain has posed.

The apology and the note not to check her fire is surprising at the very least, but nothing about the words temper the smile that suddenly blossoms from the woman's lips, cutting and sharp. "Dinnae need tae apologize tae me, luv." She flashes Fargo a wink. "Especially in days like this, it's good tae embrace everything about yourself that's capable of doing damage-- "

Her eyes lock with Vor's from a distance - it's nothing he does, but Luck has a twisted hold on the woman in question and it diverts her attention to the Metal Demon as it works to remember her, until it comes.

It's coming right for her.

The dodge itself is not graceful by any stretch of the imagination, but when given enough impetus to move, the blonde conwoman can move, and she does this by diving away, hitting the dirt and curling up into a tight ball, as small as she can manage, just as the repulsor blast blows chunk of the wall right behind her and a few inches off the top of her head. Slowly, once she realizes she's managed to keep her head, gritting her teeth as she pulls herself back up.

"Who the bloody hell is checking his fi-- "

Her eyes were moving, at that, to follow the trajectory the murderous metal beast is heading. Good, she thinks. It's getting out of the way. She can go to where she needs to be. She just needs to make sure Jude managed to do whatever the hell he had to do and--

There's red. His hair is red. His jacket is red. The garish color stains the earth, bleeds through his skin, all the dust until it takes over the rest of her vision.

She's moving before she knows it. There is no scream, not yet, no cry of anguish. No lamentation that it is happening again, all these reminders that the way she lives her life often comes at the cost of those who choose to be around her. Instead the walls come down and black fury surges in her veins like a tempest. She moves like greased lightning, pouring every fiber of her being into a single act, and acts that would follow from this moment after having reached it. The point. The point where she doesn't care about anything but The Thing. The point where nothing else matters but The Thing. The point where every hesitation and survival instinct goes out of the window, because she is never more alive than when she's about to die, and if she does this, she may very well do so.

But not without a fight.

Fargo unleashes his attack, blue, blinding and beautiful in the devastation it promises and she uses that in an effort to position herself within striking distance, hopefully unnoticed. The sword she carries unsheathes in a streak of silver, all of it coming back from the shadows of her detested memories and singing back to life...however brief it would be.

THAT is when she screams.

"WHERE THE FOOK ARE YOU GOING?!"

She pivots. She twists. Her arm swings a deadly arc, the blade slamming forward point first and tipped with green mist.

Aiming right for Vor's left eye.

"WAS IT SOMETHING I SAID?!!!!!"

GS: Cassidy Cain has activated a Force Action!
GS: Cassidy Cain has attacked Vorthuzahl with Trickster's Thorn!
GS: Cassidy Cain has completed her action.
<Pose Tracker> Riesenlied has posed.
GS: Riesenlied has retreated from the battlefield! If only you shot her down and got that Cucco item part......
<Pose Tracker> Ethius Hesiod has posed.

Ethius is surrounded by impossible powers and strange circumstances beyond the grasp of much of anyone.

In the heat of the moment, Ethius stands truly separated from all of it as it all goes on around him. Laevateinn's immense light. Ebon Zero's seemingly impossible ability to align themselves with a Guardian's power. The manpower being brought to bear...

The mysterious white-haired Symbologist closes his eyes, as a light starts to glow from the tattoos visible upon his forearms.

His mind blanks. He understands he has thought of a course of action. He does not know when he decided on it. Was it just now, or earlier? It's a foreign idea, a thought that does not occur as naturally as it ought to, but he recognizes it is his. That is both his clarity, and his confusion.

A sorcerous pattern forms on the ground, a sphere of mathematically perfect shapes that slowly extends. Around him, it feels as though time starts to slow to a crawl. Perhaps a delusion, born of the stresses that mount upon him.

His eyes open up, as he swings the right hand up on high again in a forceful gesture. Sorcerous power exudes from him, washing out a great distance as he himself lights up like a beacon as the great Dragon takes flight away from its perch...!

FORCE ACTION: Fury Shot

GS: Ethius Hesiod has activated a Force Action!
<Pose Tracker> Ethius Hesiod has posed.

"I call to a star that enables the patterns of life itself, its existence itself an unstable, unsustainable chaos..."

These are the first words he has clearly spoken throughout this entire ordeal. In some fashion, the battlefield itself dims a few shades as his words rise above the bedlam surrounding him. The light of the Symbological runes grows in its intensity. Intensity starts to stop looking like a word, describing it.

"Relieve your ceaseless pressure at my call, and bathe them in the unrestrained maelstrom of your prominence...!"

Ethius' voice grows louder as he swings the hand down towards the earth in a crouch, his fingers spread out as far as they possibly can be, to a final shout that seals off the ritual required for this exotic spell.

"S O L A R - - - S T O R M ! !"

Those are the first two words he's ever spoken since anyone's come in contact with him where multiple exclamation marks are a necessity to convey the intensity of what he shouts, at the tail end of a complicated Symbological chant signals the arrival of a tremendous sorcerous force.

A tongue of flame lashes out from the sky. Individually, in so far as raw firepower goes, on the surface little differentiates this from a higher-end fire-elemental spell as it splashes down upon Diablo like a torrent of built-up pressure that may well have been summoned from the sun itself.

It becomes far more noticeable to anyone wielding ARMs and other advanced technology - if anyone is standing too close to it, it's going haywire... if it doesn't cease function entirely. Cosmic rays of all kinds ride upon the coattails of the great flame from the sky, doing all sorts of awful things to anyone's complicated toys.

At the very epicenter of it, Diablo.

Its frame warps under the immense heat. Diablo, clasically aligned to the element of fire, finds its plating start to fuse, to melt. Sparks fly out of it in places. The Golems were just rediscovered, and not yet reactivated - if they even can be - and just being at the center of all of this puts a serious damper on its chances of waking up to see the world of Filgaia of today. The priceless artifact of immense power, a weapon that helped turn the tide of battle against the menace they're fighting now.

Conventional wisdom would state that this is counter-productive, if they are to mount a new counteroffense against this new enemy...

...But something, to this man's judgment, seems to have decided that if enemy forces are going to attempt to make off with this, Diablo would be better off destroyed. It yet withstands the attempt, by appearances, but not unscathed.

If Diablo can be recovered, it... will require much in the way of TLC.

As blood loss starts to mount, Ethius' hold of the quarterstaff weakens, and it clatters onto the ground. His newly freed hand goes back over his chest.

<Pose Tracker> Loren Voss has posed.

Loren doesn't respond to Cardia, save to nod, once, when she thanks him.

He retreats to the engineering crew, taking up an observational role near the feet of the inert golem Barbados. There's an open moment; he scans the chaos of the battlefield to watch for any incoming trouble.

"Status report?" he asks, over the comm. "What is the time to the golem's evacuation?"

It just means he has the perfect vantage point -- back here with the engineers -- to watch as SLIDE-1 receives a bevvy of strikes from the Metal Demons on the other side of the field. "--Damage report: SLIDE-1 appears incapacitated. Next command requested."

Did... something happen to van Houten? He'd thought he'd just heard--

His gaze flickers, involuntarily, to the black giant looming above the wreckage of Adlehyde. "SLIDE-1 is... moving," he says into the comm. Behind the protection of the helmet's faceplate, he's gaping.

He doesn't have much time to waste with that.

KNOW YOUR RUIN! comes the roar. Loren takes all of two steps before planting his booted feet firmly. He had orders to hold the line back here.

So, in the end, he watches as Kahm is flung back, striking the golem with enough force to prompt the medic to wince behind his faceplate. "--Captain!"

Even before Loren can so much as offer Kahm a hand up, the Captain manages to stand.

Keep doing his job. Loren puts his eyes forward, where they belong. Gathering ether, Loren curls his hand into a fist, raising it briefly to chest height. In one short sharp motion the medic shoves his hand forward, streamers of green light burning through the air at right angles.

Just two targets, this time: Captain Kahm Yugh and the only person other than Cardia currently directly engaging the Metal Demon -- one of Kent's men, the smart one.

GS: Loren Voss has attacked Kahm Yugh with Healing Order!
GS: Loren Voss has attacked Fargo Foobach with Healing Order!
GS: Loren Voss has completed his action.
GS: Loren Voss heals Fargo Foobach! He gains 100 temporary hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Myyah Hawwa has posed.

ELSWHERE

The final throes of violence--and violence against violence--cast a rainbow of competing, needful explosions against each other. The sky is filled with light and darkness, the dueling shapes of Gebler aircraft and Metal Demons rendered shadows by the hideous display below.

Benzoma and Myyah watch it all from dozens of angles in high-definition streaming video. They watch in silence. What can be said? What do angels say when they watch men struggle?

"I need more coffee to watch this shit," says Benzoma. He turns away to check if any of the carafes at the refreshment table are still full.

Myyah's gaze never leaves. She hugs her tablet to her chest, silent as the situation spirals ever downward toward its sorrowful denouement. One of the operators turns to look at the command dais, finds only Myyah, and then considers her options. Finally, she says:

"Ma'am, engineering is ready to evac target alpha."

Myyah gives the operator a melancholy look. "Give them the go-ahead. Abandon the other targets. Evacuate everyone."

Her orders inspire a fresh wave of urgent murmuring among the operators. Myyah lowers her gaze to her tablet as she ceases hugging it and turns the screen back on.

HERE

The engineers are beaten back to the Barbados by the sheer frenzy of the battle's climatic moments. They hide using the golem's enormous, stern silhouette, augmented by more of their deployable cover forcefields and magical barriers. They cannot reach the Diablo. This proves a boon as Diablo erupts into unapproachable, sorcerous flame. More violence for the night.

The skeletal craft--a carryall--descends from the sky. Its attendant drones form a vigilant perimeter, blocking stray shots with hexagonal energy fields and sending off their own laser barrages in reprisal. Atop the Barbados, the engineers quickly work to secure the hook-points.

As the Barbados begins to lift off, the carryall moving tentatively at first, the earlier landing craft joins in also. It comes in from a favorable angle, depending that no one will still have enough vigor or motive to fight their way through the various battle lines just to say hello. It comes in fast and rough, tearing up the ground with its armored belly as it lands and drops its loading ramp. Fresh soldiers hustle out to provide additional defense and help drag engineering's wounded back into the ship.

ELSEWHERE

Myyah opens up her messenger. She types a short message.

<myyah> kahr

<myyah> i have bad news

GS: Loren Voss heals Kahm Yugh! He gains 100 temporary hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Sephilia Lampbright has posed.

Sephiia backs away at the furious defense of Riesenlied's bodyguard. Then she bursts into tears. The girl hasn't got much of a fight left in her at this point anyway.

Today has been a bad day for Sephilia and having to face her friends in battle, and she's an emotional wreck.

Chauncey shrinks, Sephy hugging to him tightly as she just bawls in the middle of the carnage.

<Pose Tracker> Noeline has posed.

In the wake of Riesenlied's attack, the hostilities stop. Even Noeline has to hold her breath for a moment, the edge of her sword wavering, and wonder: is it out of fear? Is it out of the camaraderie she so desperately wished to keep alive? Is it out of the bonds she's made, still there if frayed after today's events? She's not sentimental - quite the opposite - but even she's not immune to Riesenlied's ability to inspire at the direst of times. It's why she's here, after all, stuck with one foot on either side of this line that's only gotten thicker after today.

But, for whatever reason, there's a cessation in the fight. It's a chance, to put it mildly - their work is done here, as best it can be, and even if they cannot escape with all of their objectives, some things are more important as far as Noeline is concerned - especially as the call goes up for yet more in the way of bombardment.

"... ... we arrived today in peace. We let the old, the infirm, leave safely. And we are met by bombardments," she intones, the enormous sword falling from her hands to dissipate into motes of light that crawl back into her armor in an almost unnatural fashion. Reaching down, she carefully picks Riesenlied up in both arms, in the fabled princess carry - and for all that she was just a fearsome soldier, the hold is all too careful and tender. "I will not say that we are innocent... ... but it was not our choice to escalate this further."

There's anger buried beneath the words, actual genuine anger - but the demon does not seem to have anything with which to follow the accusation up with, not now when Riese is injured and in her arms. A single leap carries her to the dragon's back, the bodyguard not looking back as the dragon takes off.

<Pose Tracker> Elhaym van Houten has posed.

The most beautiful woman in all of time sees Kahm land and appear in front of her and attempts a salute, but when it becomes clear that he's a. busy and b. still in a god damn fight she double-times it to get on the far side of the Golem, with the rest of the crew. Or at least, not away from them.

Where is that beautiful music coming from, Elly thinks. Why is it so cold despite all the fire?

Someone from the dropship pulls her along, blood and all. Elly doesn't clearly notice.

"-I wish I'd brought his sketch book; I could have given it back,-" she says to a corpsman, followed by a nasty cough.

<Pose Tracker> Catenna has posed.

Through it all, Riesenlied still has kind, sweet words for her. That more than anything cuts Catenna straight to the quick. "Riesenlied," is all she can say, her voice taking on a bit of a tremor.

The dragon swoops down and retrieves the wounded woman. Catenna makes no effort to pursue her. Right hand rising to her collar, she curls her fingers, staring after the woman as she's whisked away.

She's aware that Lily's there - another woman like herself, who doesn't let her emotions show. Part of her is profoundly aware of how embarrassingly needy she must look. The rest of her can't dwell on it right now. Her lower lip trembles as Riesenlied casts those potions aside and makes good her escape. She doesn't even try to cast anything after her. She could, but she can't.

"The only path I can walk is my own, Riesenlied," she murmurs, her voice barely able to be heard save by one standing right beside her.

Finally she inhales, then lets the breath out in a slow, heavy rush, her heart sinking in her chest. As Noeline loads up the dragon, the priestess again makes no move, merely shaking her head.

She has no idea what to say anymore. She feels, somehow, profoundly evil.


<Pose Tracker> Riesenlied has posed.

Riesenlied shivers and twitches as they sail away from the epicentre of the Fairgrounds -- but her eyes widen as she stares towards the veritable corona of solar power being afforded before them. Was this That Man's true power? She narrows her eyes.

She blearily gazes towards Ebon Zero, as she's picked up and carried so gently. She closes her eyes, and sighs as she finally takes off her microphone, which has just about nearly melted onto her skin. "... thank you, unknown one. We shall have to speak after this..."

Riesenlied how are you this daft as to not know it's Noeline under that helmet


<Pose Tracker> Fei Fong Wong has posed.

Fei has to stop for a moment when Ethius sets everything on fire. Most of Weltall's armoring is shredded. He isn't running into that.

Instead he is reminded of a dream he had. Fire. Fire everywhere. Fei can't remember anything besides the fire. He listens for the violent voice within him...

but it doesn't answer back. Not now.

Instead he waits. He waits for the flames to subdue just enough before Weltall's jumpstarted arms (thanks Elly!) reach out and push through the fire to touch Diablo. Its not Fei's arms so he doesn't die horribly. Weltall crouches and verrrrry carefully lifts the golem up and then?

Fei runs off with it to rendevous with the Yggdrasil crew. He thinks this will discourage EVERYBODY IN THE WORLD from sacking Adelhyde again so a little bit of piracy today is not beneath him.

He always feels profoundly evil but he does look over to Elly one last time before absconding full speed.

<Pose Tracker> Maya Schrodinger has posed.

The radiance from Laevateinn's descent soaks Maya Schrodinger, slumped onto the mound of bricks and shattered furniture in the remains of what was once a family's home. She raises a hand--in vain--to try and block it, but it clings to her. It seeps around her fingertips and bathes her in a sensory overload, her vision fading to white; senses filling with static, and she figures: this is it. The end.

-=-

...the girl in the glasses looks up from her book, as if woken from her daydream. Yet it's into the dream she has awoken, perched upon thin air in a sea of midnight black. Her friends are waiting here with her--or rather, they were. But the bespectacled girl can only watch forlornly as first, the shadowy form of Virginia Maxwell glows faintly with the spark of royal purple, and then fades away. The silhouettes of Lemina, Jean, Hiro, and Lucia all shake their heads sadly and begin to recede into the shadows. The indistinct form of Riesenlied and her curious, flighty friend Noeline, faceless and without expression, are all that remain with her in this quiet prison of the mind. And then, the horned woman draws her sword--scarlet with the blood of Adlehyde's citizenry and Noeline's featureless shadowy face is split in half by awicked fanged grin...

-=-

Hopefully unnoticed amidst the chaos of the Golem Theft, the dramatics of exploding robots and betrayals, an unfamiliar bystander lies in the ruins of what must be her family home. She looks an awful lot like the sorceress who flew through the wall moments ago, before that strange light blinded everyone, except she's wearing a muted green blazer instead of that strange and dynamic cloaked outfit, and she has enormous round spectacles. They're mostly cracked and smashed.

Luckily, Maya Schrodinger is sleeping soundly instead of dying in battle. That's an improvement on her day thus far.

<Pose Tracker> Jacqueline Barber has posed.

A red dragon descends, to lift Riesenlied and her guard out of the battlefield. Jacqueline does not try to stop them. Instead, in a bit of a daze, she reaches up to catch the bag that is thrown towards her.

She opens her mouth to speak...but...yet again, she is unable to find the words.

She hugs the bag close to herself, then looks over the battlefield. There's still people injured here. People who need help.

But first...

She affixes the bag among her others ones.

As Diablo burns, Jacqueline walks over towards where a girl cries and hugs tightly to her plush doll.

She kneels down next to her, and pulls her into a hug.

"Come on, Sephilia. Let's get you out of here." She whispers gently, then, if allowed, she will pick her up and carry her over to where Rosaline is napping.

Away from the battle still potentially raging. She sets her down and sets a bottle of healing liquid nearby before straightening up, and moving onto the next person in need of aid.

GS: Riesenlied has attacked Jacqueline Barber with You'll Need This!
GS: Jacqueline Barber takes a solid hit from Riesenlied's You'll Need This for 0 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> White Knight Leo has posed.

The enemy commander... collapses. Her adjutant(?) moves in to secure her, and Leo can't help but note what appears to be some vague semblance of loyalty among these things. Zed gives Leo a similar demonstration--the White Knight looks at the Demon, his gaze all but unreadable. He says nothing, turns on a heel, and leaps back up to where he left Corwynt's unconscious body.

Something reaches his ear at about the same time. He'd mistake it for yet another gust of wind if he hadn't established it as part of the Guard's protocol--he leans into it, lets it whisper into his ear.

"The Destiny is en route, sir! Thirty minutes and we'll be there! Black Mage Porthos reports that the Guard has broken through the monsters' line, and is advancing on key points throughout the city. They're meeting stiff resistance, but the Goddess is with us!"

"Indeed," Leo says, even though the spell's originator, Black Mage Muriel, cannot hear him. "She is with us."

The adjutant spits more lies.

"LIE ALL YOU WANT, DEMON," Leo snarls. He feels deeply, personally incensed, and he's not sure why. "JUSTICE WILL FIND YOU, NO MATTER WHERE YOU RUN! THE GODDESS WILL SEE YOUR SELF-RIGHTEOUS LIES UNRAVELED!"

He's clenching his fist in front of him. Blood is dripping onto ruined wood.

A signal flare goes up. It bursts into a kalediscopic display of colors, and at its signal, people start streaming into the fairgrounds. They move in regimented precision, with swordsmen first, then pikemen, then archers and spellcasters. They are clearly a military unit of some kind, and at their rear is a banner with a holy symbol some might recognize.

The symbol of the Goddess Althena.

Leo looks down, and finds the unit's commander standing at attention. "Search and rescue," Leo orders. "Stay clear of the confrontation, for now."

<Pose Tracker> Leon Albus has posed.

Leon jumps, when the huge conflagration erupts around the Diablo. He stares at it, confused for a moment -- if not particularly incensed. He can see why it happened. he can see what happened. The silver-eyed man turns, staring briefly in awe at Ethius.

Except, of course, Weltall manages to grab onto the slackened, still form of Diablo. With the damage done, it will take considerable repair work to be made operational -- but it wasn't operational as-is. He lets out a sigh of relief, then he rotates his shoulders.

His eyes turn, to glance at Lily -- and at Riesenlied, being pulled out by the woman he fought. He watches the retreat, and then he hesitates -- as soldiers begin to pour into the site of the battle. He opens his mouth -- then closes it again. "The hell...?"

GS: Vorthuzahl critically Guards a hit from Fargo Foobach's Blue Heat Wave for 27 hit points!
GS: Vorthuzahl critically Guards a hit from Janus Cascade's Multiblast for 18 hit points!
GS: Vorthuzahl critically Guards a hit from Kahm Yugh's Anemo Lance for 13 hit points!
GS: Vorthuzahl critically Guards a hit from Cassidy Cain's Trickster's Thorn for 22 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Cardia Ortell has posed.

Cardia ... realizes she's on her ass, her back smashed into the crumbling mess of what was probably once a house. What happened?

Vorthuzahl happened, apparently.

The strike, incredibly vicious, carries enough force that the cyborg is sent straight back off her feet, her cybernetics only able to mitigate the damage so much. The rest is ... violent. It's messy. It's painful.

With a crack formed in the outer ablative shell of her helmet, dizzy, and body aching from the damage of the Metal Demon's blade starting to pile up on her, Cardia extends her arm out to the side to drive it straight into the masonry, fingers crunching against the bricks as she starts rising up to her feet.

Limbs sparking, blood running free, Cardia sucks in a deep breath. Her voice rumbles, the reverb deeper, more aggressive-- more metallic than before. They're supposed to retreat, and the cybernetic gunslinger does start moving herself back, but then her thumb tweaks a setting on her gun.

"Parting gift for you," Cardia says, the muzzle sizzling with Ether. A targeting reticle flicks into her vision-- aiming not for his head or his chest or either of his arms, but right in the gaps of his armor. Her arm snaps up at ridiculous speeds, and one high-powered shot cracks from the Ether Magnum with the sound of lightning-- the single shot aiming to punch straight into Vorthuzahl's neck and to make the mercurial mass within a little more goopy, soupy, and splatter everywhere but inside him.

GS: Cardia Ortell has attacked Vorthuzahl with Ether Deadeye!
GS: Cardia Ortell has completed her action.
GS: Vorthuzahl guards a hit from Cardia Ortell's Ether Deadeye for 135 hit points!
GS: Break! Statuses applied to Vorthuzahl!
GS: Vorthuzahl enters CONDITION GREEN!!
<Pose Tracker> Lily Keil has posed.

Lily doesn't allow her eyes to linger on the dragon that comes for Riesenlied and her protector; she is busy already approaching Diablo, already looking for the perfect points to strike.

She has to leap backward at the sudden flames overtop of it, though. "What...?"

It's a wholly unfamiliar magic to her. But it's certainly working. Lily stare at Ethius too, but it isn't in awe. With Gebler escaping with one, and the Metal Demons with another...

Weltall takes it anyway, and the black-haired woman, in somewhat better shape than she was but still not at her best. The soldiers come--the soldiers of an unfamiliar unit. Lily looks immediately to Leon.

"...I think it's time to get out of here."

Lily looks back over the devastation, but only for a few moments. "...Past time. We've done all we can."

Waiting for Leon, Lily is quick to walk beside him to get to their destination. Bart... probably won't be surprised to see them.

<Pose Tracker> Ethius Hesiod has posed.

As Ethius lay kneeling, clutching at his wounds, the same sensations gnaw at his mind. Ahead of him, patterns overlaid across reality in a color that does not belong against the scenery. Behind him, the wispy colors that will always remain at the back of his gaze, unable to be looked upon directly.

Underneath him, a landscape of ash that-- well, come to think of it, that's not inaccurate compared to reality.

The stares seem to bore that much harder, as though the eyes were the most defining thing about those he beholds beholding himself. His coughs are muffled behind the yellow-hued bandanna wrapped around the lower half of his face.

<Pose Tracker> Vorthuzahl has posed.


Ruin spreads, and the anger falls away. The mission is at the forefront again, and the order to retreat has been called. He will not know the measure of their success until later, but he does know he does not wish to leave. The invasion has been nothing like the other battles, small engagements, and building a legend on the burning sands of a knight terror that leaves ruin in his wake. This has been his birthright, and though they are his enemies, he wishes to know them in his own way. To tear them down blow by blow until he understands them.

They wish to understand him too, it seems.

'Fargo's' energy blast sears in, billowing over the entirety of Vorthuzahl's massive frame, making him a shadow against the ruined structures he stands by and fully obliterating those frames to ruin. When the full force of that melting assault dissipates the shield that he has summoned, but as he rises, smoke wafting off of him, it is clear that he is unbroken. Like a horror from a dream that cannot be killed he strides forth - right into the sudden air-burst fire of 'Janus' rending round. It explodes around him, through him, pock-marking armor and leaving a new trail of smoke that simmers around him like streamers.

'Kahm's' lighting surges in behind like artillery, and Vorthuzahl's sword rises to meet it. Conflicting energy surges and sputters and refracts, lancing into the ground around him as he becomes a living lightning rod and channels the energy through him.

"And what, exactly, will you skin me with?" There is no question it is a reply to Janus, an insult at the fury the three threw at him, and yet he still stands.

Cassidy is there, just as the smoke begins to clear, her outrage from her fallen friend fueling her words, and Vorthuzahl's blunted retort comes as he once more shows something other than a bruiser, his expert, flicking parry knocking her blade into a scratching crawl against his armor, just beside the eye she had aimed for.

"Where am I going? Away from this place. Your undisciplined defense has been broken. Our mission is complete. Pity, about the fallen. Next time I shall ensure you join your fri-"

That is when it happens, 'Cardia's' blast searing through the other battle damage the four of them had just heaped on to explode through his back and out his chest. A distorted groan splits the air and he drops again, to one knee, his sword pinning the ground like an old man's cane.

Mercurial blood oozes from every crevice, and his grip tightens.

"So be it."

Energy washes through him, and one hand joins the other on his sword, lifting and slamming it back into the ground with a fury the sends waves of cutting, draining force in a physical affront in all directions, meant to give him space... and allow for the arrival of another.

As the rejuvenation wave rebounds from his attack, once more his body seems to reform, gleaming, just like the great, ten foot tall metal steed that bounds onto the field of battle.

Silvermane has arrived, to see it's master from the field.

Fire streaks from it's nose and mouth, and Vorthuzahl swings up and onto it without hesitation. He may have used Jude to step up onto the beast. Poor, poor Jude the Footstool.

"You will know my fury again, Fleshlings. And you will DIE SCREAMING!"

With a sudden pull of the reins, fire spouts to the sky as Silvermane rears up, and then kicks forward into a locomotive sprint, trailing heat and destruction in it's wake.


GS: Vorthuzahl has activated a Force Action!
GS: Vorthuzahl has attacked Cassidy Cain with Invigorating Ruin!
GS: Vorthuzahl has attacked Cardia Ortell with Invigorating Ruin!
GS: Vorthuzahl has attacked Kahm Yugh with Invigorating Ruin!
GS: Vorthuzahl has attacked Janus Cascade with Invigorating Ruin!
GS: Vorthuzahl has attacked Fargo Foobach with Invigorating Ruin!
GS: Vorthuzahl has attacked Loren Voss with Invigorating Ruin!
GS: Janus Cascade takes a glancing hit from Vorthuzahl's Invigorating Ruin for 82 hit points!
GS: Vorthuzahl drains Janus Cascade! Vorthuzahl gains 82 temporary hit points!
GS: Fargo Foobach takes a glancing hit from Vorthuzahl's Invigorating Ruin for 79 hit points!
GS: Vorthuzahl drains Fargo Foobach! Vorthuzahl gains 119 temporary hit points!
GS: Loren Voss critically Guards a hit from Vorthuzahl's Invigorating Ruin for 34 hit points!
GS: Vorthuzahl drains Loren Voss! Vorthuzahl gains 114 temporary hit points!
GS: Cassidy Cain guards a hit from Vorthuzahl's Invigorating Ruin for 93 hit points!
GS: Vorthuzahl drains Cassidy Cain! Vorthuzahl gains 189 temporary hit points!
GS: Cardia Ortell has activated a Force Action!
GS: Cardia Ortell guards a hit from Vorthuzahl's Invigorating Ruin for 91 hit points!
GS: Vorthuzahl drains Cardia Ortell! Vorthuzahl gains 233 temporary hit points!
DC: MISS! Kahm Yugh completely evades Invigorating Ruin from Vorthuzahl!
<Pose Tracker> Kahm Yugh has posed.


Kahm pours as much power as he can into his attack, exchanging lightning and fury with Vorthuzahl's blade in a pitched contest while others do their share. One potent shot rings out and the titan suddenly buckles, just as the order for evacuation (and the attending evacuation craft) arrive, with news of as much victory as they could hope for in this situation: The capture of Barbados.

Kahm is fortunate enough to be protected by the vanguard of fresh troops that arrive from the craft, their shield aegises diffusing and deflecting the demon's parting shot before it can reach him. He watches with cold defiance as the enemy mounts his terrifying steed and lectures them with bravado, watching him bear down on them with one eye while the other observes SLIDE-1 getting away with the last of the golems.

"Be seeing both of you again." The Captain solemnly swears, then fixes his eyes on Elly, Loren, Cardia, and Fargo in turn. "Fall back to the ship! We're getting out of here." He snaps, finally yielding enough under his wound for another solder to help prop him up.

When Cardia passes him, he'll give her a knock on the shoulder.

"Good shot, Lieutenant." He commends.

DC: Noeline switches forms to The Capricious Crimson Noble??!
<Pose Tracker> Loren Voss has posed.

'Retreat,' comes the order, over communications.

Not a moment too soon. Loren glances up at the engineering team atop Barbados, lingering there as he watches them finalize pre-retrieval procedure and begin the process of evacuating the golem. The rest of the team just needs to hold that demon off. Just a little more, he just needs to make sure...

This is about as well as he'll be able to assist with the evacuation crew, he decides, once the golem begins to lift off.

...Definitely not a moment too soon, as one of the other golems -- far enough from Barbados and the rest of the team -- bursts into flames.

As the team at the base of the golem begins to retreat, Loren nearly goes with, distracted only by the sudden appearance of a familiar face.

"...Van Houten?"

Elly has seen better days.

Loren looks her over. "...How large a dose did you take?" he asks aloud in Solarian, his voice slightly muffled through the faceplate.

Perhaps she has a bad reaction to dissociatives. He should have cross-referenced her file. --No, there wouldn't have been time for that.

Distantly, he notes that one of the other golems is still sort of on fire. Hesitating, he reaches out for Elly's hand after a moment. "Here. We're leaving now."

And as his hand closes around her forearm, he slowly turns his attention back to the battlefield.

"Oh, no," he says, flatly, staring from behind his faceplate at the demon and his steed. As they charge. No chance of running for it,

He hauls on Elly's arm, dragging her in close as he bears up his shield and braces himself for impact, teeth grit.

He's going to feel this tomorrow. Probably for the rest of the week. Cobblestones slide underfoot, and even through the mask he can feel the burst of heat, rushing past where the shield doesn't block it.

He doesn't waste time. The second he's clear he breaks for the dropship.

"Evacuating!"

<Pose Tracker> Cardia Ortell has posed.

Again, Cardia finds herself tumbling across the ground-- but this time, the blade of Vorthuzahl does not actually find her in the same way. Her arms cross, but a wave of pressure forms in front of her, a swirling mass of wind-elemental ether that creates a defense to help slow the blow before the sword actually bites in to the outer casings of her arms.

It's that strange feeling that makes it all the worse.

At the very least, the blow was enough to push her relatively clear of the Metal Demon and his rampaging steed, almost in the actual direction she had intended on withdrawing to. Feeling the crack in her helmet -- on the inside, this time-- she scrambles to get her footing, feeling the hand on her shoulder as she moves to withdraw back to the landing craft.

The knock on the shoulder jolts her from the dull haze in the back of her head, standing on the ramp and making sure that everyone is back on board before actually putting the Ether Magnum back into the holster on her leg and withdrawing into the ship.

The knock on the shoulder-- the compliment. "Thank you, sir," she rumbles. Tonight, though-- tonight, she'll ache. Then, she'll try to figure out what the hell that metal bastard is made of.

<Pose Tracker> Cassidy Cain has posed.

Her blade has immediately slid into a defensive cross in front of her - a barrier too flimsy, perhaps, to ward off the attacks of a Metal Demon for long, but Cassidy is long past caring. Gold-flecked eyes darken into bitter evergreen, though the smile remains, brilliant and cutting, but distressingly empty of her typical bon vivance. Her pupils are dilated, lithe muscles braided with ice and lightning, tension roping through her bones. That usual wild energy that she exudes vibrates with something else, potent and emanating in waves. The blackest of all homicidal intentions and the utter, unrepentant Not-Giving-a-Shit-No-F***s-Given to whether she dies in the attempt.

He speaks. The fact that he is surprisingly eloquent falls into that Zero-F***s-Given pile when her lips part in a retort...

...only for that searing blast of Cardia's to rent his chest open and cleave into open air. Her eyes glitter watching it. She enjoys what she sees.

"Your chest is broken," she says instead, that smile growing. "Now come closer. I'll nae bite, I promise..."

"....just want tae indulge my curiosity, y'ken, at the look on your face when I put my fingers around what passes for a heart in that mass of filth you call a body and tear it out for you tae count your own bloody heartbeats."

He attacks. The blade swings to guard against it, but no mortal can conceivably withstand a direct onslaught, especially not someone shorter and lighter. She bleeds for it - crimson blossoms over her jacket, down her arm. Her body hurts. It blows her back, her body bouncing off the ground, rolling uncontrollably, but quick footwork enables her to prevent herself from being down for long and she gets up on both feet. She has not let go of her blade.

And when he moves to leave, those pupils shrink further. She pulls out the gun as he retreats, shooting repeatedly. Over and over and over until the clip empties. Impotent fury shudders down her spine, at the fact that after all of that she has failed to take his eye, stubbornly fixating on the fact because it is the safest thing, at the moment, to do so.

She spits sideways, seething still, disgust momentarily twisting her features - but like everything most telling about her, it is gone in a flash.

She pivots sharply, pushing down that bubbling black mood, to a place in which she will undoubtedly tend to later with a bottle of alcohol and other mentally obliviating substances. She gets down on one knee next to Jude, taking in the ravages of ill fortune. A normally expressive face is expressionless.

Tilting her head back, she exhales from deep within. He's too heavy to carry, but she knows some of Morgan's people are around, and she can send a message to them.

<Pose Tracker> Janus Cascade has posed.

Janus' blast doesn't really do a whole hell of a lot to him, actually, which is...not. Particularly comforting. Actually.

Janus snarls. He can do little else. His anger overflowing. Threatening him. Menacing him. Scaring him.

In the back of his mind, the same five seconds play over and over; a night a long time ago, yet relived with every moment.

"I'll FIND A WAY, MATE!" Janus screams back, hoarse and rabid. The blast swings at him and Janus leans into it; juking to one side so that the worst merely snags his jacket, he rifles around his belt, finding just the right cart. "I think I know the trick, though!"

He swings a hand up, releasing the bolt. He drops to his knee, a firing stance.

...he watches the demonic knight dance away into the flames, its purpose fulfilled.

His eyes set hard, as the Nova cartridge in his hands throbs with unspent homicide. Slowly, it goes back in its pocket.

"Yeah," he spits; and turns to find Romero. "Yeah, you run."

<Pose Tracker> Fargo Foobach has posed.

The Ether doesn't slam into Fargo's back - it enfolds it, finding him within the Haze. His training has left him hyper-aware of his own body. He calmly places a hand on the wound on his chest, steam still bleeding out of it, feeling the magic - the pure magic - accellerating his body's recovery. It is new, fascinating, and he has no time to focus on it.

The furious waves from the Metal Demon slice directly where Fargo appears to be, but then the heat shifts, the refracting air moves, and he is a few steps to the left, one hand on his hat. It still passes close, dangerously close, ripping more of his heat away and shattering a great deal of his aura.

...and they're all leaving, and Fargo is still standing. He's proved what he needed to to himself - he tends to spend most of his time punching down when Black Ties go rogue, and doesn't often have the opportunity to swing at something on his level. He crouches down, squeezes his eyes shut, inhales, and presses his hands together.

He pushes. His excess heat, making him stand out like a pennant, explodes upward out of him like a flare with a flash of brilliant light. Fargo uses the distraction and the violent wind to hurl himself to the Gebler landing craft, hoping as few people see him do it as possible.

The Man in White tucks himself into a corner away from the door, taking off his hat, head down as he exhales and rebalances himself. Red blushes and pale blue blotches move about his skin as he irons out hot spots and cold spots. Steam stops flowing from the cut in his chest once he's gotten himself back to normal.

When he sees Loren, he nods to him. "Thank you." For healing? For Elly? Perhaps for both. He looks at her, and then back out the dropship, his face hardening. "Will she be alright?"

<Pose Tracker> Loren Voss has posed.


The first thing Loren does once on board is make sure Elly sits down. Between her, and the Captain, and everyone else, it's going to be a busy flight.

'Thank you,' Fargo says. Loren straightens, turning his head the white-clad man's way. Even if the faceplate weren't in the way, the medic's current expression wouldn't be of much help.

"Once it wears off." Loren pauses. "And once she's stabilized."