2017-07-31: Dread Gift

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  • Log: Dread Gift
  • Cast: Ethius Hesiod, Neriah Parringer, Cyre H. Lorentz
  • Where: Outside Lacour
  • Date: July 31, 2017
  • Summary: Neriah looks to pay back Ethius Hesiod for past transgressions, with the help of Virginia Maxwell's special gift to her.


<Pose Tracker> Ethius Hesiod has posed.

SOME DAYS AFTER THE EXPLOSIVE END OF THE LACOUR TOURNAMENT OF ARMS...

Ethius has his reservations about there being merchandise of his appearance in the tournament. On the other hand, he has a need for a replacement poncho after Lily vaporized it in unfathomable darkness, and there is a surprisingly large unsold stock of faithful reproductions of it. The shopkeeper manning it was nowhere to be seen - as is the case for most of them, post-disaster. That's as good an act of petty larceny as any to get up to (and knowing him, probably arson).

A LITTLE WHILE LATER AFTER THAT

Ethius recognizes now that Lacour does not hold what he seeks. This is not to say it is completely devoid of interesting things. The answer for the way the arena transforms itself still eludes his full understanding. He may never get the entire picture, but it is clear that the mysterious, seemingly unstoppable armored warrior Grahf has destroyed it. All Ethius has to work with are a few suspect-looking pieces for clues, and he has no idea if it's even just regular, garden-variety rubble.

Couldn't he ask Shalune what she thinks of them, one asks? That is an excellent question. His answer, presently, appears to be 'no.'

The Spectral Lens casts a soft blue glow as he goes over a few of the thingamabobs and doo-hickeys that he possesses, the latest estimation being that some of the parts may still be 'active' in some form or another. He checks and inspects in the shadow of the city's walls outside, where the late evening sun looks ready to pack it in and go to bed. It leaves him alone in the flat, grassy plains surrounding the premier weapons manufacturing city of Ignas.

He should rejoin Jay and the rest soon. He only has so many plausible cover stories, and even he has to ask himself sometimes as to whether most of them are necessary to use. (Then he tells himself yes, they are. He asks himself why, and then he doesn't have an answer.)

<Pose Tracker> Neriah Parringer has posed.

After the battle with Grahf, Neriah had been buried under the rubble of the Lacour Coliseum and left for dead. All she remembers is the awe-inspiring power the Seeker brought to bear, and wishing she were more like him. Able to bring such awesome power to bear on anyone who did her wrong.

Nobody had come looking for her for a couple days afterwards, but somebody had found Fastred Furlong tied up in a basement somewhere, gasping something about a girl who keeps doing this to him.


NOW

Beyond the city walls, chunks of debris have been flung what seems like miles, evidence enough ot the sheer power and terror-inducing supremacy of the man known as Grahf. There seems to be nothing left alive out here. Some of the rocks and twisted beams are smeared with blood in places. Indeed, the Spectral Lens finds no signs of life.

Not yet. Quiet eyes watch the man moving through the debris. From behind a huge chunk of stone, a shadow moves, imperceptibly.

The silence hovering over the place is almost dreadful, in a way. As the mysterious symbologist inspects, nothing seems to move. And yet, with utmost care, something does. One gloved hand steadies a slender figure behind another chunk of debris. A delicate step descends to dampened and torn grass, carefully easing into a crevice between two massive fragments of stony rubble. She knows what needs to be done and all that matters is waiting for her opportunity.

Moments tick past. Off in the distance, a bird sings.

And then Ethius will feel something. The first sign of it is a soft sussurus of fabric; the feel of something that might be breasts pressed against his back. The second thing is a grip moving up to try to grab him by the hair and physically yank his head back.

The third thing is a sudden flash of steel as Neriah calmly reaches around the silent man and attempts to rake a knife blade across his throat.

GS: Neriah Parringer has attacked Ethius Hesiod with Throat Slash!
GS: Neriah Parringer has completed her action.
GS: Ethius Hesiod guards a hit from Neriah Parringer's Throat Slash for 54 hit points!

<Pose Tracker> Ethius Hesiod has posed.

None of the components are active or connected to any other piece here or there - if they ever were. This marks a dead end to the cursory investigation. There are no longer any further leads. Coming back within Lacour's city limits is now too dangerous.

Ethius resigns himself to the idea that Grahf's intervention may have resolved a problem that only he, himself, ever considers one. He brings his left hand up to his forehead in thought. His forehead remains tender after Lily cut it open some days ago. It's not enough to dissuade him from that particular bit of habitual body language.

...

Something touches his back. He knows he should only be here alone. That is why he picked this place. He turns to his left with an awareness - a readiness - that doesn't seem like an ordinary traveler ought to have.

His assailant is technically faster on the draw to a first attack, assisted by the tug of his hair to bring him to his seat. The way he flexes his left arm to prepare an elbow strike saves his life right then and there, the knife finding purchase across the forearm to a fresh new cut. Painful and debilitating, but much more preferrable than taking it in the throat.

He thrusts his left elbow back into his would-be assassin's abdomen, hoping to loosen their grasp of his hair in time for him to twist up to a kneel and then try to shove them back against the ground with the same hand.

The darkness cast by the shadow of the town's walls works against Ethius here - the features of his assailant are obscured, but he finds that less important to discern within the moment as opposed to obtaining superior positioning.

GS: Ethius Hesiod has attacked Neriah Parringer with Shake Off!
GS: Ethius Hesiod has completed his action.
GS: Neriah Parringer takes a glancing hit from Ethius Hesiod's Shake Off for 50 hit points!

<Pose Tracker> Neriah Parringer has posed.

Neriah's been waiting for awhile. Her eyes have adjusted to the lower light in the shadow of the wall.

Her knife bites into flesh but there's no gurgle and there's an arm in the way, and her mouth fills with the hot taste of disappointment and frustration - and then that elbow comes back, just as she begins to pull away. The knife snakes away from Ethius's throat and she pivots to try and put herself properly on the defensive, but the man's elbow slams into her flank nevertheless. It hits with a meaty thud and knocks her back into a stumble, taking the air out of her lungs for a second. A couple chunks of debris give way beneath her feet as she staggers back and hits a twisted pice of steel rigging.

Neriah's forsaken her usual excavator's outfit. She's gone with her vest and a pair of black slacks, though she kept her scarf and hat - but otherwise she's made no effort to hide who she is, nor to conceal the way she glowers at Ethius with cold, unblinking eyes full of something incredibly indignant. Her knife dips; she tucks into her belt again and comes up with her pistol as she pushes off the piece of rubble and rolls across the ground. She's fast; before long she's coming out to Ethius's side, leveling her gun at him and setting her jaw.

"You didn't have to try and kill me the minute you saw what I could do," she hisses as she levels the pistol - the gun she calls Marilyn. Her long fingers curl around the grip of it; the trigger finger twitches. There's a crack of a piledriver-like mechanism as the girl fires off one shot towards Ethius's head, then one more, then a third. Steam hisses as it escapes through vents along the back of the gun.

The girl's eyes are flat and angry. "You're just like everyone else. You don't care. You don't listen."

GS: Neriah Parringer has attacked Ethius Hesiod with Marilyn Snapshot!
GS: Neriah Parringer has completed her action.

DC: MISS! Ethius Hesiod completely evades Marilyn Snapshot from Neriah Parringer!

<Pose Tracker> Ethius Hesiod has posed.

Ethius brings a hand behind his back to deploy the quarterstaff with the moment of distance he has - until something else dances within the very corners of his perception within the darkness. The shapes and contours of the details around the assailant's hip level sets forth something else he recognizes before she even draws it. It is further compounded by the speed in which she's on him.

It's her, he recognizes at last when she speaks. The one with the... SEVEN.

He stares down the barrel as she levels it at him. Is it fear in his eyes that he's got a bullet with his name on it? The eyes seem to scrutinize every tiny muscle movement. Every cue of her body language. Through the darkness that obscures some finer details, and the gnawing familiarity with something he can never truly recognize, a deeper instinct yet takes hold.

He moves at, physically speaking, the last possible moment he could move himself and remain without a bullet in his brain. Diving to his right, the first bullet grazes the left side of his face, a small cut left where the very edge nicks the flesh. The other two shots go far wider.

The quarterstaff is readied from its place on his back as he comes to a crouch atop a protruding flat stone. He exhales audibly as he soaks the surge of pain going through his ribs from when Lily nearly had his number. He maintains the course of action through lingering pain and a weighty accusation as he grips his weapon in both hands, swinging one tip upward towards the hand in which Marilyn is wielded - ostensibly to strike the wrist and release her grasp of the weapon.

No justification. No pleading. No other explanations.

It will do nothing to assuge her grievances.

Just like everyone else...

GS: Ethius Hesiod has attacked Neriah Parringer with Slap On The Wrist!
GS: Ethius Hesiod has completed his action.
GS: CRITICAL! Neriah Parringer takes a solid hit from Ethius Hesiod's Slap On The Wrist for 122 hit points!
GS: Jam! Statuses applied to Neriah Parringer!

<Pose Tracker> Neriah Parringer has posed.

What is probably obvious right away is that Neriah Parringer is at best an average fighter.

The pistol goes off; Ethius quickly rounds on her with the quarterstaff, and Neriah widens her eyes as she realizes she doesn't have enough distance between herself and him to properly wage a gunfight. Before she can jerk out of range, though, Ethius pulls off a quick maneuver and brings that quarterstaff up under her wrist. She lets out a yelp as the weapon strikes home; her left wrist is snapped back painfully and her arm jerked upwards, her fingers twitching as she loses her grip on the pistol. It sails overhead, glinting with the brilliant chrome sheen of refined Dragon Fossils as it tumbles end over end and lands out of reach for the moment. Wincing, the girl shakes out her hand as she staggers backwards, nearly tripping over another warped beam of some sort, but catching herself and tumbling back to gain some distance on the man in front of her.

Neriah stoops and picks up her gun, but a quick glimpse tells her all she needs to know. The barrel's bent by a few degrees. Ethius hit it harder than she thought.

This isn't going as well as she thought and now she has nothing she can use against him.

"What's wrong," she asks, her voice very quiet. "No calling me a monster? No asking why I'd be stupid enough to fight someone like you?" As she speaks, she takes another couple of steps back, reaching across her body for her right glove.

Neriah undoes one of the buckles holding it in place. Then the next one. Her eyes lower for a moment.

"You travel with Lunie, don't you," she whispers. "I'm sorry for her, then. But Lunie deserves better friends than you. Friends who don't try to kill people because they don't understand a thing. And the irony is... I didn't understand either. Until I got a new friend."

Slowly, Neriah Parringer draws in her breath. Remembers the gift she was given. (Do you wish to become another sacrifice on the pyre, Neriah? Or will you become your own master?)

She drops her glove to the ground and levels her right hand towards Ethius - and she grimaces as something begins to etch itself into her palm. Red lines begin to draw out a shape in blood.

Unlight flares to life around Neriah. The girl lets out a pained gasp as a feeling of inexorable dread mounts and mounts against the spirit. Sheer oppressive dark power powers out from her body, rippling around her into a mounting aura strong enough to set her slacks and hair to fluttering upwards. It hurts her - that much is evident - and yet, it doesn't seem to hurt her like it did before, nor stop her. She holds that hand level. The blood beads from that shape.

And then, with a horrific vibration that rends at the spirit, a vortex of dark, talonious magic erupts from Neriah's palm, resolving into three tendrils of black unlight that reach for Ethius Hesiod and attempt to tear him asunder with a power that seems to curdle anything it touches.

GS: Neriah Parringer has attacked Ethius Hesiod with SEVENSEVENSEVEN!
GS: Neriah Parringer has completed her action.
GS: Ethius Hesiod takes a solid hit from Neriah Parringer's SEVENSEVENSEVEN for 115 hit points!

<Pose Tracker> Ethius Hesiod has posed.

There is a chilling efficiency to every action the Symbologist takes. When conflict erupts, usually it is the result of anger, fear, or some combination thereof. Heightened emotions. The man standing before Neriah appears as real a personification of the worst one could assume of those who have rejected or hurt her - people without a passionate bone in their bodies. The automatic decision - the numb comfort! - to simply eliminate what cannot be understood or contained.

Those eyes of his... those staring eyes of his... has he ever known anything other than a simple set of rules that fail to elevate the individual's complex situations above them? Not even any shred of joy for taking out her Plan A, to seemingly render her defenseless.

As Neriah steps back, he maintains his current positioning. Maybe he's afraid. As she levies the accusations, he keeps the quarterstaff pointed at her as to best gauge the distance between the two of them. The lower half of his face is hidden underneath a bloodied bandanna that could do with some washing - it's impossible to gauge if he wants to even say anything to her.

He tenses as she removes the buckles. He doesn't know what could possibly be under there, as she expresses pity for how Lunie associates with people like him. To use a supporting, infamous example... a cold-blooded murderer who has seen it fit to outright execute a surrendering bandit before a horrified Jay and a disquieted Riesenlied.

He still says nothing for himself. Is she right?

It imght be on the tip of his tongue. 'Who?' He watches as the red lines form around her palm - the crest itself might have some resemblance to Symbology when it forms... but to see a crest form in real time upon flesh, that is beyond--

What follows next is beyond a lot of things, rendering the need to finish that sentence moot. Beyond the reach of light, beyond the ears of man, beyond comprehension. Calling it mere 'darkness' is a disservice. It's something... other, to one so unacquainted.

Ethius is rooted to where he is as the air vibrates, robbing him of his confidence and ability to discern where he is, one eye shut and the other widening. Emotion! The tendrils reach out to him through irregular paths in the air. Two find hold on his right elbow and shoulder, the other around his neck.

Smoke rises from where the unlight makes contact with flesh and blood that cannot possibly coexist in the same space this all originates. They twist. They erode. His yells of pain are blood-curdling, the unlight stabbing past whatever walls of his psyche enable him to be the awful man that he is to do harm without so much as pause or regret.

SEVEN repeats with intensities only loosely able to be perceived as colors, through his mind.

His left hand drops hold of the quarterstaff, providing himself the only means in which he can escape with an intact enough corpse for an open-casket funeral as the wafting foul smoke begins to obscure sight of his head and right arm.

The left hand begins to gesticulate - casting gestures. It takes every ounce of his willpower to hold it steady enough to make the physical parts of the incantation coherent enough for effect. The screams and gasps turn to forceful shouting, finding more recognizable form as syllables of one attempting to speak and not just a throat making whatever noise it is made to under physical, emotional, and spiritual duress.

Three syllables are shouted, but are almost unintelligible. The only sign that anything happens at all is when the air around Neriah starts to grow hotter, hotter, and hotter - a race to try and fatigue her focus before she completely tears him apart.

GS: Ethius Hesiod has attacked Neriah Parringer with Overheat!
GS: Ethius Hesiod has completed his action.

DC: MISS! Neriah Parringer completely evades Overheat from Ethius Hesiod!

<Pose Tracker> Neriah Parringer has posed.

She can't read him. Many of the Drifters Neriah has met have been open with their emotions. Some of them have been afraid of her - Rose is, and Layna.

Ethius is different. The moment she tried to use her powers to help, he turned on her, and only the intervention of Virginia Maxwell kept her alive. And he kept turning on her. He always seems to want to hurt her, or treat her like a monstrous creature. Every time she's near him, she's sure his eyes are on her, watching. Judging.

If what Neriah calls forth is Symbology, it's one completely unlike conventional symbology - and the symbol seems to be cut into her palm, judging from the way the blood trickles from it. Neriah breathes in through the pain shooting through her body. Something clutches at her heart, but it's in vain. A faint power that feels a little bit like what Lunata's ghostly apparition summons up. There's a trace of Guardian light in what Ethius can feel - yet it feels faint, haggard, like it can barely hold back the torrent of wrongness that rages around her.

She advances forward; Ethius's screaming fills her ears. The air around her begins to heat up. Her muscles tense, and she gasps in pain - yet it's something more than pain.

The halo of unlight around her compresses for a moment, resolving into a sphere. Bizarre patterns dance across its face, twisted geometries defying human cognition as they fold and writhe into themselves and unwind like coiling tendrils. The girl steps through that superheated air; it seems to melt against that eldritch shell and go no further. Yet soon enough, the magic folds in on itself and sucks back into her body; she shudders, groaning again. It hurts her to do this - to channel the power she barely understands.

She lifts her head. Her eyes are wide - and yet, there's something else there.

A growing euphoria. A high. And a hint of a cold white light that radiates from behind the pale blue of her eyes, subtle, but mounting.

Virginia, she thinks as her mind swims with throbbing pain and soaring elation. I'm doing it... I'm becoming my own master. I'm not letting anyone tell me I'm wrong anymore. I wish you were here... because... because it feels so....

It feels so good...!!

The darkness engulfing Neriah begins to mount again. Unlight gutters and ripples, twisting and writhing itself into horrifying talonious shapes as it blossoms along her right arm, ripping out of her palm and winding itself into a thousand coils. The unlight arcs, whirling towards Ethius in a maelstrom of little blasts, slashing, reaving, seeming to try and rip through him and slice through flesh to try and prey on something more metaphysical.

Neriah's eyes are growing wider. She holds her head cocked at an angle. A vein pulses in her neck. "You were... scared of me," she utters over the dull, horror-inducing bass shriek that accompanies the black magic. "Of my skills. But it's not. Scary. No. No, it's. A gift. My. Gift."

GS: Neriah Parringer has attacked Ethius Hesiod with Harvest!
GS: Neriah Parringer has completed her action.
GS: Ethius Hesiod takes a solid hit from Neriah Parringer's Harvest for 110 hit points!

<Pose Tracker> Ethius Hesiod has posed.

His eyes seem like they've been on everyone, in some form. Watching. Judging. By what law does he enact any justice? By what right does he act, to kill and destroy by an inscrutible pattern? Is it just a brand of insanity unique to himself, twisted by an experience in his formative years that has transformed him into the usually emotionless husk of eloquent words and dangerous means that show virtually little regard for the well-being of others on the field?

Between these two, which of them deserves less to be among polite society - among the face of Filgaia as a whole?

Ethius' hope of escape through attrition fizzles with the eldritch shield of energy that forms to protect her. That shell whose touch gave him a... thorough... primer on the matter of what he dares intrude upon. Something that reaches far, far beyond his scope - of virtually anyone's.

There is no release. Neriah effortlessly transitions from merely holding him in place by her very gift, seamlessly, into running him through. The reversal of their situations is staggering. Only moments before, he disarmed her of what seemed her only weapon. Now, he is the one who seems utterly helpless and defenseless - a victim, just as he tried to make her.

Ethius is shoved back further and further by the thousand of unlight coils that, on touch with the flesh, feel as though they splinter into a thousand themselves. One might forgive themselves for believing they fail to draw blood even as it goes through him. His blood appears sucked into the nothingness for as long as the coils remain lodged within his body.

The city wall terminates his increasing distance from her, offering him no further relief from the pressure. His abdomen feels as though it were being churned and mixed into paste. The rest of his body feels crushed as he is pressed further and further into it, arms splaying out wide as his vision SEVEN SEVEN SEVEN SEVEN SEVEN SEVEN SEVEN SEVEN SEVEN

Only her words can make it through the maelstrom of sensory input humans - or whatever Ethius is, can a human really be as cold as he is? - are never supposed to experience. It is not out of willpower on his part, for his mind knows not how to interact with this. It is her judgment of him. Her declaration of the truth of the relationship between them, of would-be victim and would-be executioner.

Somewhere in all this, as his grasp of the world around him wanes, Ethius speaks.

"So... all along, this was yours, then?" Ethius says, finding the strength to speak - or the fear in his heart - that he has to force words out. Words that do not adhere to his usual near-emotionless tone and even pace. Each one strains as though any one of those words could be his very last gasp. The transcription lacing them together as a full sentence is simply for the sake of the reader.

GS: Ethius Hesiod has completed his action.

<Pose Tracker> Neriah Parringer has posed.

Neriah has come to a different conclusion about Ethius's silence. His inexplicable mannerisms have made him a cipher. His actions have allowed her to interpret him in the most uncharitable way. He's the villagers who tried to kill her and drove her into the wilderness - he's the common folk who would try to crucify her any time they felt what she could do. He's the supposed wise men who saw her in utter agony trying to call upon the magic, and responded only with terror. All the rejection and fear she's experienced, all the anguish and pain she's suffered at the hands of her own power - all of it, she projects onto him, urged on by the wishes of a girl twisted by a darkness of her own.

Ethius arcs away from her and crashes into the wall. The tendrils of magic coil back into Neriah's palm. The girl twitches violently for a moment, a low 'urk' choked off in her throat. Staggering forward, she steadies herself, beginning a slow, inexorable advance. Her right hand remains leveled, that symbol into it continuing to bead a flow of blood down across her palm and along her arm, the shape itself still brilliantly clear.

"I was born this way," she utters as she holds out that hand, her voice huskier with pain and elation. "I never knew why. Only that it hurt. That people feared me. Robbed me of a life. People just. Like. You."

The unlight wreathing her body eddies and fluctuates, spilling around her in shimmering waves - but behind it, Ethius can see her face clearly enough. Her chin begins to rise. Her eyes remain wide and horrifyingly fixed on him. As she breathes, she cocks her head from the right and back to the left, holding it at an unnerving angle that seems like it's close to 45 degrees but not quite there. "But there's a difference now," she whispers as her lips begin to pull back.

They part. Shey stretch into an unnaturally wide grin that seems to swallow up her face. "Now I'm the master," she whispers, and there's a hint of an echo underlying her voice. "Now I don't have to be scared of you anymore. Now I don't have to be scared of anyone."

As she makes that statement, her body undulates, twitching spasmodically. Her grin breaks, her head snapping back, then rolling stiffly forward. Her fingers splay.

The magic that poured out of her before was powerful. What comes next is almost overwhelming. It's the maelstrom of power she unleashed in the Rujm el-Hiri - a tornadic hellpyre of unlight that saturates the senses. Arcing streams of it lance out, to try and rend through Ethius and slash into him, tearing and reaming and jamming, attempting to lift him bodily off the wall and high into the air.

"Say something," Neriah screams up at him, that grin widening and widening. "Cry! Wail! Suffer like you made me suffer!"

GS: Neriah Parringer has attacked Ethius Hesiod with Shadow Stigma!
GS: Neriah Parringer has completed her action.
GS: Ethius Hesiod takes a solid hit from Neriah Parringer's Shadow Stigma for 195 hit points!

<Pose Tracker> Ethius Hesiod has posed.

Without the tendrils running him through, it would seem that gravity should take hold of his body, that the collected wounds of his person would take all strength out from under his legs and see him to a kneel. To some kind of kneel like someone that would beg for forgiveness, or for mercy.

Instead, there is an Ethius-shaped impression within the wall that sees fit to hold him there, as his body undergoes shock. Blood flows again, as though previously afraid to leave the wound while being probed by the unlight.

Whether he (or she!) wants it or not, Neriah has a captive audience whose head can't slump over. It allows the eyes to meet. The ecstacy of one whose frustrations are both validated and ventilated. The... blank look in his eyes that might make one wonder if he's already dead. The movement of his chest as he struggles to take in breath breaks the illusion.

She no longer has to be scared of him. She no longer has to be scared of anyone. Ethius rests there, pressed into the wall, like a toy waiting to be picked up and played with. The fingers of his left hand clutch around the wall, but it is a gesture that signifies nothing useful. He has little strength for words. His sorcery, if he even could, couldn't pierce her barrier. He knows what would happen if he tries to touch it should it reappear.

That's predicated upon the idea he even can approach her.

She gestures at him as though the movement of his fingers were the invitation to draw in a duel under the afternoon sun, and her draw is quicker - like a gunslinger not drawing one gun, but... SEVEN, and firing them all at once in that single hand.

There is no doing the ensuing chaos justice in written word. Every sensation could use its own paragraph or two in description of their flesh-rending, heart-stopping, bone-chilling, spirit-crushing assault. The laws of physics seem to comply with Neriah's power out of sheer fear, as Ethius finds himself dragged about the outer layer of the wall to lengthen his imprint. To drag him across whatever surface his body falls limp to - to simply toss him into the air.

Though his body escapes the shadow of the town's walls, it does not look as though the evening sunset's rays can touch it. The unlight seems to say, 'no, this one is mine. It is not yours to touch any more.'

Ethius lands face-down at Neriah's feet with a bone-cracking 'thud.' If she were so willing, she could spitefully kick at his face. Pick him up by his hair and stare into him. Maybe even stab him a couple more times.

His left elbow bends upwards. A pressing of his palm against the earth confirms this is not just a post-mortem twitch... but he's not saying anything.

Won't?

Can't?

He can still cry, wail, and suffer some more, then.

GS: Ethius Hesiod has completed his action.

<Pose Tracker> Neriah Parringer has posed.

There is a part of Neriah that is absolutely horrified by all of this.

It's being washed away right now. As the power of darkness roils through her, it floods her senses like a drug. The pain racing through her is offset by the feeling of being drunk on a power she could never fully exercise before. And yet it still feels like something is being held back. Her chest tightens up; her limbs ache, and she struggles to hold them up.

The darkness recedes back into Neriah's body again. She jerks, and Ethius tumbles to her feet, collapsing there with a sickening thud. And there, he earns the smallest respite: Neriah doesn't do anything to him right away. She stands there breathing heavily, clutching her left hand to her chest, her face frozen into that horrifying rictus grin, but with less force behind it. The unlight rippling around her begins to ebb, flickering sickeningly as some ragged power works upon her.

The darkness may be great, but it's betrayed not only by that strange, tenuous limiting force, but by Neriah's body. The girl simply can't channel much more. She wilts, dropping to one knee over Ethius. The pain in her palm stops; the bloody lines begin to withdraw themselves again, leaving a gruesome red smear behind that beads down her arm.

That bloody hand reaches out, shaking a little. Attempting to curl her fingers beneath Ethius's chin, she moves to try and seize it in as firm a grip as she can manage. It isn't much of one - but there's still some steel in her, even with that darkness withdrawn for now.

As she stares at Ethius, something behind her eyes burns. Her lips hang apart, heavy breaths rushing through them. Slowly, she dips her left hand to her belt.

Neriah comes up with her knife. She begins to guide it forward.

"Maybe I'll... never understand what Lunie sees in you," she whispers, her voice a complex layer of emotions, equal parts hate and anger and frustration and elation and shame and something else. "But if I let you live, you might hurt her just like you tried to hurt me. I can't allow that. I can't."

DG: The party led by Avril Vent Fleur has been fully Exhausted by !

GS: You do not have any attacks from that person in queue.
GS: Neriah Parringer has completed her action.

<Pose Tracker> Cyre H. Lorentz has posed.

You can't throw that much dark magic around without someone taking notice. Most would have run- the shear wrongness of the power surging through the air is a palpable thing. It claws at the light of the soul even from a great distance away, tickling that little part of the brain that screams the fight or flight response into every available neuron to get away.

But there is at least one person in town familiar with that sense of wrongness-- who knows it well enough to have acquired some level of resistance to the terror it inspires. Or perhaps, just maybe, the presence that fills his very soul shields him from it in some small but incalculably vital way.

Cyre rounds the corner, motes of green light flickering in his eyes. What he finds waiting is a sight that turns his veins to ice. A familiar woman, standing over a familiar man. Dark magic bleeding from the former, life from the latter, and only a precious few moments to make a meaningful difference.

Cyre acts quickly.

He moves with the speed of the wind.

One fishes for something in his cloak.

The other wields a... Lit match!?

He... straight up tries to shove a handful of fragrant, soothing, smoldering herbs right up into her face in anticipation of a gasp.

Can the power she has left fight off... Concentrated Baskar Relaxation Incense?

<Pose Tracker> Ethius Hesiod has posed.

It is a respite Ethius does not make good on. Devoid of any other idea or plan, he's trying - in vain - to push himself up with his left hand. It is not clear what he intends to achieve, if much even can be on his part. He grunts a pained gasp as he attempts to come to terms with the idea that he still has lungs that require oxygen. The front of his bandanna, what is visible from a head that tries to rise from the ground, is blackened with blood.

Another vocalization of similar nature rings out as she gets her hand under his chin. The one arm that looks like it could be in position to grab back against it... doesn't.

If she doesn't do this, she rationalizes, someone she cares for might come to harm - and may not have the strength to ward him off. If what is known about his character is anything to go by, he would think nothing of doing that to anyone on the face of Filgaia. If these are his final moments in which he befouls the land, he should be offering words for his tombstone - any defense he could make may well be inadmissible.

He either lacks the strength to speak...

Or he simply cannot guarantee to the contrary.

...

Another shadow looms over him. His head turns meekly in the direction of the source of this new shadow - no, to these flickering motes of green light.

He can't tell who it is.

GS: Ethius Hesiod has completed his action.

<Pose Tracker> Neriah Parringer has posed.

So drained and in pain is Neriah by the sheer exertion and suffering required to draw upon the darkness for so long, and in so sustained a way, that she has no idea anyone else has come upon the battle.

Truthfully, Neriah has no idea what is going on in Ethius's head. Something about him simply defies her imagination - the way he never seems to say anything or reveal anything. He's a classic faceless enemy to her and she can't even conceive of him being one of the CaraKin. Easing closer to the wounded man, the girl bites down to her lower lip. A tiny voice in the back of her mind wails that she shouldn't do this.

Neriah's knife blade weaves in front of Ethius's face, like the head of a cobra preparing to strike. Past the shape of the blade, the curve of her hand, the girl's eyes are ungodly steady, pale blue, tinged with uncertainty, yet cold with intent. She begins to steer the knife forward. The point of it hovers near Ethius's chin. All it will take is a small movement and Neriah will finish him.

Which is when Cyre H. Lorentz sneaks in with a handful of herbal essences.

Cyre reaches around and stuffs her face full of herbs just as she tries to breathe in. A hot blush rises to her cheeks.

Neriah wilts backwards after a few seconds and hits the ground on her side. A line of drool runs from her mouth, her eyes lidded and unfocused.

Hopefully Cyre is proud of himself.

<Pose Tracker> Cyre H. Lorentz has posed.

H-hey, look, desperate times call for desperate and admittedly KIND OF CREEPY measures. And it's not like Cyre is particularly interested in hurting anyone today. So, maybe, shoving a handful of catdrugs into someone's face is a better alternative, eh? Eh??

"Easy does it now," Cyre doesn't quite let Neriah hit the ground. He's still behind her, after all, and a gentleman doesn't let a girl fall like some kind of sack of potatos. Instead, he catches her! And... Drapes her over a shoulder like some kind of sack of potatos.

...

"Whatever's gotten into you, just relax and breathe deep," he says, setting those fragrant herbs into his handy dandy censer and looping it into his belt. Hopefully the smoke will keep her placated until he can get her a room or something.

As for Ethius...

Cyre frowns down at the man and folds his hands in an occult gesture. Some kind of... Particularly windy Elder Sign, perhaps. The wind answers his summons, breathing a soothing, healing breeze over his fellow caravaneer. The power of Fengalon, Guardian God of the Wind should surely be enough to restore his friend to some manner of wakefulness. Hopefully.

"What," Cyre says, then, "The hell did you do to piss her off, huh?"

YEP, HE THINKS IT'S HIS FAULT.

To be fair, it might just be his fault.

<Pose Tracker> Ethius Hesiod has posed.

"Gnf!" As Neriah recoils from a most uninvited assault, her grasp of his chin jerks his skull in a way that a very painful cramp in his neck - somehow painful above and beyond the trauma received throughout this encounter - earns a few more prolonged gasps and groans that probably mean 'thank you, Cyre, you're so swell, you're my hero' in some obscure gasp-and-groan language that doesn't exist.

He pushes with his left arm to shift his body weight off to the right, and on his back which brings more challenges because the ground isn't soft and level enough for a panicked, sudden roll onto one's back to be comfortable. His breathing doesn't stabilize to anything that could resemble 'calm' as the fading daylight washes over Cyre's form prior to the healing winds that wash through him. It's a jump from 'probably dead within next five minutes' to 'in excruciating pain' that comes when the body knits itself in ways it is not prepared in full to be - the help of a friend, to another that they see as a friend.

How does Ethius, in turn, see Cyre? The eyes of his betray little - no 'omgthankyouthankyouthankyou.' The same look that seems intent to just suck all details, all colors, all shapes into it and give back nothing. Eyes that just simply take, take, take, and keep his mouth shut for it.

"Your assistance is... appreciated," Ethius coughs. Okay, so he knows how to say 'thank you' in life-or-death, that's good, as he pushes himself up to a sitting position. His left hand clutches his abdomen, which by far suffered the worst of it (physically - mentally and spiritually, whoooole different ballgame).

He at last has the room to speak, where he doesn't have - at present - to worry about the delirium of someone he has greatly wronged by virtually every possible perception of what has happened between them. Ethius closes his eyes, one hand to his forehead.

"I'm afraid... it is no simple matter."

<Pose Tracker> Neriah Parringer has posed.

Neriah's knife lies on the ground at her side; she let it go when she slid to the ground.

For now, the girl lies there, a trickle of blood still running from her palm. She doesn't seem all that injured - at least, the physical wounds she's sustained are pretty minor, aside from a welt on her left hand and the injury to her right palm.

The herbs did their work well, though. She remains sprawled there, dazed and basically insensate, powerless to do anything more than swim in an unconsciousness full of terrifying dreams and an awful sense of violation.

It's safe to say that Neriah isn't a danger anymore. For now.