2017-10-20: Let's Go Out For Ties

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<Pose Tracker> Margaret has posed.


"We'll simply find a bunch of these gangsters and pound them flat," said the Glamorous Houndsmistress, who is wearing a cheap mask and often veiling her mouth with a folding paper fan that someone, foolishly, sold her. "It's going to be absolutely brilliant. We could be heroes, if just for one day."

Margaret said something along those lines to people she interviewed. She *definitely* said the last line, because she thought it was clever, and she's that kind of a person.



"Scatter! Run! Cry to your mothers!" cackles the Glamorous Houndsmistress, who has had her mask slip partway off of her face. She is waving a naginata above her head with both hands. The air is thick with ozone, and the scene of the encounter - a shady grove of honey mesquite trees located near a small natural spring, not large enough to host a settlement but big enough to water a few horses or unpack a stage coach lunch - is flickering with residual shadows.

A dozen men in crisp, new-looking white shirts, now no doubt stained with residue and blood, are attempting to stagger off in the approximate direction of El Pazzo, which is not terribly far away.

Behind Margaret, the flimsy 'stagecoach' has fallen apart, as it contained everyone, and is also sort of on fire. A sign from it declaring it to be the GOLDIE & GOTROCKS ARMORED CARRIAGE sits leaned up against a rock, perfectly legible and neatly framed.

"Alright, everybody, let's all take a five minute break," Marg-- the G.M. says, clapping her hands once. "Once we've freshened up I'll be glad to go catch that horse."

Someone in a black vest had managed to steal one of the two broken-down nags that Margaret had obtained for this treachery, and is riding for leather towards El Pazzo.


WELCOME TO THE SCENE!! Feel free to assume you dunked on a Shirt or two to your heart's content. Surely this will just be a swaggering post-battle social interface.

(don't call me Shirley)

<Pose Tracker> Talise Gianfair has posed.

Talise wanted to keep an eye on the guard. Unfortunately, Talise has had some bad run-ins with the Guard over the past few years, enough that she might be flagged as a petty criminal and a robber if she showed her face.

This is why Talise is not here.

Someone else is, who is absolutely not Talise.

"Well, I'll give you credit for flamboyance," murmurs the woman in the green mask as she turns away from the fleeing group and towards Margaret, lowering her sword. It has some blood on it but nobody has actually died. Lady Chloe Alexandre was really, really trying not to cause any deaths, even though these are criminals.

With a last huff, the woman in the green and white longcoat turns, then flashes a broad smile back to the others, just broad enough to flash her fangs. "Right! A break well-earned. Those men didn't have anywhere near what it took to stand against the power of justice," she proclaims as she twirls her weapon, touching the point to the ground.

Then she blinks a time or two, and clears her throat before beginning to tend to the less flashy and heroic duty of wiping the blood off of Rastaban's blade.

She's not entirely comfortable rolling with the Guard, to tell the truth. But fighting banditry is a worthy cause, and she'd rather keep tabs on them.

<Pose Tracker> Claude C. Kenny has posed.

Claude C. Kenny! ...is totally not from space, you guys!

Claude C. Kenny! ...is one of Cecilia Lynn Adlehyde's bodyguards!

Claude C. Kenny! ...recently agreed to a really dumb plan to rescue Cecilia from the clutches of the evil Shaka Khan.

Claude C. Kenny! ...agreed to this plan even though it involved possibly riding a horse.

Claude C. Kenny! ...is riding at full gallop toward the scene of this fight atop a raging stallion.

Claude C. Kenny! ...is totally in control of this situation and not clinging to the horse for dear life.

Claude C. Kenny! ...is the worst Texan ever.

<Pose Tracker> White Knight Leo has posed.

"Expertly done," says one of the other Drifters the Glorious Houndsmistress gathered to her banner. He's a big, well-built Beastman of uncertain type (a smart-aleck might say 'unicorn')--wearing your stereotypical Drifter ensemble of 'hat, vest, shirt, boots'. All of it is brand new, aside from some dirt, which is also new. There is a curved sword strapped to his thigh instead of something more characteristic, like a gunsmoke revolver. It is totally not White Knight Leo in a paper-thin Drifter disguise.

"Someone may want to retrieve that horse, though," says Totally Not Leo, as he frowns at the retreating Ties. "Who knows what those miscreants will use it for?"

<Pose Tracker> Gwen Whitlock has posed.

Gwen Whitlock, Super Courier, is here, saddled on her trusty silver horse Gulliver. There's no wagon to be seen for her, as it's been left in the care of some helpful Drifters. No need for supplies here, as, well, it's because of the Black Ties that her courier business is currently being threatened.

This is also why Avril is riding with her on Gulliver, Avril having insisted (as much as someone like Avril could insist) on coming along.

Since Gwen's last encounter with the Black Ties was not exactly... fun, she didn't put up much of a fight.

"Nono, y'gotta hold the reins this way!" Gwen calls out over the shouts of the fleeing Black Tie members, making an earnest attempt to aid Claude in his rough introduction into the world of horse-riding. "That horse is a living being, y'can't force 'im to do things like a machine." Which... Claude may or may not be doing. Gwen's just assuming. Because only a city slicker would ride that way.

She thinks.

Then again, most city folk are able to get along with horses too.

There's also another matter: Not Leo, Random Beastman Drifter. Avril may see the coiling nervousness in the bend of Gwen's posture over Gulliver, her blue-grey eyes flickering just to beyond the horizon and back at them. "I heard the Black Ties got a Gear. Ms, uh, Houndmistress, y'got a plan for when that hap- A.... avril...?"

<Pose Tracker> Avril Vent Fleur has posed.

"It seems there are a quite a number of them," the young woman comments mildly, gazing across the battlefield. In one hand, she brandishes what looks vaguely like a sword hilt, vaguely like half of a firearm (if most of the important parts were missing, that is).

To make a long story really short, Gwen left one of her weapons with Dean et al for safekeeping, only to turn up to retrieve it from the orphanage in Little Twister while two-thirds of that trio were out.
And very abruptly, Avril had insisted on coming along with Gwen.

She had this strong abiding feeling that she must go with the courier.

So, back to the present moment:

"Hmm. It seems as if further conflict is inevitable, Gwen," Avril observes, shifting one leg across Gulliver's back to perch sidesaddle... and keep her balance while she's at it. Perhaps it might be best to call this one 'yet another thing that Avril Vent Fleur is mysteriously good at'. A flick of the wrist sees the object she has in hand tranformed to what it really is in a blink of an eye. It's a sword.

Who brings a sword to a gun fight?
...Apparently, Avril?

Her gaze flickers over a Gwen, as if reading the tension there in her shoulders. "..." Slightly, she tilts her head to one side. "...Would you get us in closer, please?"

<Pose Tracker> Kent Hauch has posed.

In the Adlehyde region, this would've basically been a day's work. Lure out a passel of Black Ties, beat the hell out of them, go have a meal and a nap and wait to bait out an attempt at exacting reparations.

These are the Badlands.

Worse yet, this is Kent Hauch's corner of the Badlands, and what he lacks in an incisive mind he makes up for in brutal cunning and an eye for infrastructure. The fleeing Vest doesn't have to get all the way to El Pazzo - he ducks into a Black Tie watchpost an hour ahead of schedule, which contains one of the gang's few precious radios.


The Glamorous Houndsmistress and her victorious if ersatz gang are on their way out of Black Tie territory well ahead of expected vengeance when they encounter the Buddha on the road.

This particular Buddha has taken the form of a hunched man, bobbing precariously on an old sway-backed horse that may have once been a glorious night black but now looks more like ash from an extinguished flame. The man's head is down, a bottle of clear liquid in his hand, wearing a filthily stained overcoat with a few buttoned-up slacks slung over him.

His voice, slurring and broken, washes out ahead of him along with a sharp, alcoholic aroma.

                          Bring me a bottle or two boy
                           Bring me a bottle or three
                            We've a long road to go
                       To where? The Guardians might know
                   And I'll need anoth'r stiff drink in me...

He's stopped dead in the middle of the road, horse nosing lazily in the dust, fiddling weakly with the cork in his bottle.

<Pose Tracker> Asteroid the Kid has posed.

Asteroid the Kid is here actually. she's even wearing Black Ties formalwear despite not, you know, being a Black Tie. Except of course she's wearing their colors so she's a Black Tie now, right? She is also wearing a bucket on her head that has holes cut into it for her glowing eyes to peek through. Her Asteroid-Head is pretty firmly covered by the bucket right now. If you ignore the bucket, she actually looks pretty damn snappy in the suit too, but let's face it--you're probably not ignoring the bucket. She just was here trying to learn more about arson but then a bunch of drifters had to come and ruin everything.

Actually, she knows one of them. She sees gwen and her eyes widen faintly behind her helmet. "The fuck why does Gwen give a shit about--"

Her eyes trail along and she swallows faintly and is about to flee when--

--There's a hunched guy drinking beer and singing along and--

"That guy..." Asteroid says. "That guy is cool."

She straightens out and flexes out her fingers as she smacks the side of her bucket with both hands and lurches out into the open.

"Can't look bad in front of cool guy." She reaches to her side and takes one medium out as she starts channeling its power.


And then she launches an asteroid rock towards White Knight Leo.

But Claude C. Kenny passes between her attack on his wild out of control horseride and might end up taking the hit for White Knight Leo instead.

GS: Asteroid the Kid has attacked Claude C. Kenny with Asteroid Ball!
GS: Asteroid the Kid has completed her action.
GS: Claude C. Kenny takes a glancing hit from Asteroid the Kid's Asteroid Ball for 45 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Margaret has posed.

Margaret's head moves back and forth. "Flamboyance, nothing. I put more effort going to the toilet in the morning than fighting these starched-shirt cherry boys! They're not so tough if you're not coated in kerosene, are they?"

"I just said," Margaret then tells Leo with a puffing-out of her cheeks which is barely visible behind her paper mask. "A horse can make twenty miles in an hour, thirty if you don't care about killing it. I can make forty-five, but I'm not a machine! I have to recuperate."

After this she tosses her hair. She answers Gwen: "We're going to do THAT one by ear, more of a fighting retreat, just as a matter of practicality, but we'll see them coming miles away! And if they bring the Gear - well, we'll spread out and move out. If you're worried about the pace, I'll help you out. Good hustle, both of you, I'm very proud to-"

Marg-- the G.H.M., that is -- is distracted by the approaching thunderous hooves of Claude C. Kenny, frontier pharmacist. "What the deuce?"

Then her attention goes towards a man staggering in the road. There's another horse coming. "Oh for the love of the Goddess," she complaints, before saying to the guy who is totally not Leo, "I'll go touch base. Ugh! Need to teach up some more --"

Margaret skips along the road. She does not use magic thus far. Soon enough she is directly in front of the drunken man, her naginata raised up as she says, "Whoa, there! You've had enough, haven't you? Come on and get out of the sun before you broil yourself like bourbon cucco on -"

'hey dillweeds'

Margaret's head turns towards the hurling of a rock at Leo, "rice."

<Pose Tracker> Claude C. Kenny has posed.

There is a moment when Claude C. Kenny sees White Knight Leo and thinks to himself 'oh this buttmunch.' But then he realizes that the person in question is not a move-stealing fartsniffer, but instead a totally normal drifter who just happens to also be a Beastman and also have a unicorn-ish horn. Claude assumes there are lots of people like that out there; he is not spacist.

"Look out!" the young man shouts as he vaults off the horse, where vault = the horse senses distraction and therefore weakness, and bucks him off its back and in the general direction of a space rock. Said stone smashes into the young man, sending him tumbling across the ground; Claude comes up spitting a mild expletive and also some split. "Hey COME ON what is the big---"

Claude trails off, staring at Asteroid's head. Because... it's a person. With an asteroid. For a head.


Federation training kicks in (don't be spacist DON'T BE SPACIST) and Claude grimaces, drawing his sword in a liquid hiss. "Hey!" he snaps. "Stop being a jerk, JERK!" Claude hauls back and kicks the asteroid at Asteroid, which is a confusing sentence but still physically possible when you have not-quite-super-strength and chi. He is following through with the quick when his face suddenly falls, because---

"Oh man that wasn't one of your people, was it?" Claude asks. "I mean, I don't think it was because you threw it at me but OH GOD I'M BEING SPACIST AREN'T I."

GS: Claude C. Kenny has attacked Asteroid the Kid with Keep On Rockin In The Free World!
GS: Claude C. Kenny has completed his action.
<Pose Tracker> White Knight Leo has posed.

"Understood, ah, Houndsmistress." Whatever she's hinting at, Leo seems to understand. "Rest. Wherever he's hiding, we'll find him." Leo adjusts his hatband, squinting into the sun as he tries to figure out where the fleeing Vest went. "I'm certain he went this way," Leo says, after a moment. "But we're clearly not the only ones using this trail. Hoofprints." There are, in fact, hoofprints--enough of them to indicate there are in fact people who take this route semi-regularly. "Stay alert, fellow Drifters! I have... a feeling we are not out of the woods quite yet."

There, suddenly, is an old drunk. Leo screws up his face, and approaches said old drunk, standing beside Margaret. "Afternoon, good sir!" Leo says, even though he could smell the liquor on him from ten paces away. "You haven't seen a man ride past here on a horse? Fancy suit--"

Someone shouts. Moments later, Leo is witness to Claude Kenny getting hit with a meteor. He sees the suit.

"AMBUSH!" Leo roars. He draws his blade with one hand, while the other grabs for the poor drunk who picked the wrong place to fall asleep.

Totally just a poor old drunk dude, right?

<Pose Tracker> Gwen Whitlock has posed.

"I don't think anythin' involving the Black Ties is gonna really end up without a bit of conflict in the mix, unless they're wantin' that." Gwen frowns. "Then again, they've surprised me quite a few times." Which, in a way, makes the Black Ties all the more... alarming? It's never quite clear what's happening, or if there's something one needed to look for, in the first place.

  At first, Gwen does Avril's bidding, riding Gulliver closer into the fray, before stopping her steed with an abrupt turn at the sight of the old man. Cautiously, she pulls Gulliver back, her eyes on the cork on his bottle. "I ain't no chemist," Gwen whispers to Avril, "but any sort of corked liquid 'round these parts just makes me nervous." Maybe it could just be alcohol.

Wait, isn't alcohol flammable too?

The oddly familiar voice calls Gwen's attention then, along with the... asteroid thrown at Claude. "H-hey, Ms. Asteroid, glad you could, uh, join us! We're here to give the Black Ties a good word or two about leavin' caravins and nice business people alone. So they can do their business!" Gwen's chipper introduction and explanation speeds as Claude worries about being spacist and Not Leo worries about ambushes. "So if you'd be nice enough t'maybe help us, it'd be *greatly* appreci- h-hey, what's with the grabby hands there, L- Drifter!"

At this point, maybe the threat of fees and having to deal with the Black Ties on a more routine basis may be preferable if things continue to go south.

GS: Gwen Whitlock has completed her action.
GS: Asteroid the Kid critically Guards a hit from Claude C. Kenny's Keep On Rockin In The Free World for 19 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Asteroid the Kid has posed.

Asteroid the Kid hesitates upon seeing Gwen. She doesn't actually want to fight Gwen. Gwen is one of the people who inspired her to become a drifter in the first place! But then she thinks, well, what exactly happened when I became a drifter? Did I become happier? Not really! And besides the point, it doesn't really matter. Today she is a Black Ties. She's not the kind of person who switches sides in the middle of a fight! She waits until after the fight like a reasonable person!!

"What, me? Asteroid? Ha ha ha, what makes you say that?? I am wearing the bucket, so today I am Bucket the Kid." She crosses her arms before squinting at Gwen when suddenly Claude kicks the asteroid she thrwe right back at him and starts shouting at her about being a spacist.

Asteroid blinks a few times and lifts the bucket up partially to get a better look at the guy before swinging it back down.

"Spacist?" Asteroid says. "My...people?" She cups her chin and thinks.

"...Wait a minute... you must be..." Her eyes widen. The guy is blonde.

Just like the aliens that experimented on her!!

"You..." She says, taking in a deep breath. "You ... you did this to me--!" She summons an asteroid and snap kicks it towards Gwen this time as this moment has successfully pushed away her positive feelings for Gwen, however strong they are. She shows of her many, many fanged teeth even through the bucket (there's holes for them).

"You're an alien, you're the kind of alien that abducted me... you're talking normally, but I recognize what you people look like! You can't dress like some kind of fancy homeless person and trick me! You have the hair...! You proved to me that aliens are real, it was you! So I'm still grateful, but I can't just let you do this shit to me and let you get away with it!! RIGDOBRITE!!! RAD RISER!"

The field around Claude becomes a bright green as a heat spreads up around him. He'll recognize it for what it is--radiation. Luckily it's magical not, like, nuclear.

"I'll take your secrets and escape this rock! I will go into space!! I will be an explorer!!!" Her eyes are wide with pain and rage.

GS: Asteroid the Kid has attacked Gwen Whitlock with Asteroid Ball!
GS: Asteroid the Kid has canceled their attack on Gwen Whitlock.
<Pose Tracker> Avril Vent Fleur has posed.

Oh, thinks Avril, approximately ten seconds later, as the figure on horseback draws close enough that she can get a look at the rider. She knows who that is --

--And she is reasonably certain that Claude is not the person they are apparently chasing down. She lowers her blade, as if in more of a 'stand down' position than she'd held previously. "Gwen, I do not think he is our--" she starts to say as Gulliver continues to trot along their path.

Blue eyes fly wide. Her free hand -- because of course she's somehow managed to keep her balance hands-free as if she's done this a million times -- lifts to hover over her mouth. "Oh! Is that man ill? It is dangerous to be out in the sun during this time of day... Ah?" She leans in, as if listening to what Gwen has to say, her gaze flickering off once again towards the apparent old man in the road.

All this, but a few seconds before asteroids go flying. Well, one, anyway.
An... ambush?

Gulliver may find himself one person lighter. Avril has apparently suddenly jettisoned herself off the back of the horse, crossing what is rapidly becoming a makeshift battlefield swiftly as she closes in on the would-be attacker (that is to say, Asteroid) and makes her presence known. ...Blade first, as it were.

Here. Something about this situation is horribly familiar. She doesn't so much think as act.

GS: Avril Vent Fleur has attacked Asteroid the Kid with Absolute Zero - Blade!
GS: Avril Vent Fleur has completed her action.
GS: Asteroid the Kid guards a hit from Avril Vent Fleur's Absolute Zero - Blade for 55 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Samuelh the Molotov has posed.

The old man sways when Leo grabs at him, and in fact tumbles right off his horse to crumble bonelessly onto the ground, glass rattling around him. The old horse shakes her head and, despite the loud combat happening on the other side of the gathering, lazily investigates Leo's head with her lips.

He lolls his head back to look blearily up at him. He's a little less old than his low tower of wiry grey hair would suggest, more weatherbeaten than aged. One eye manages to focus on him, while the other is still dilated and poking out into the middle distance. He grins, revealing enormous tombstone teeth failing to hold back breath like a chemical lab.

He weakly gropes up for Leo's arm, starting to drag himself heavily back up to his feet despite his rickety scarecrowesque frame. He rattles his way through a few more bars of his song.

                         Bring me a bottle or three boy
                           Bring me a bottle or four
                           It's a cruel night tonight
                            And I don't have a light
                  And I'm pretty sure your mother's a whore...

His bleary eye snaps into sudden, sharp focus as his hand whips up in an arc, smashing the bottle at the side of Leo's head. His folded legs straighten like springs, and he acrobatically launches himself onto the back of the horse. The horse seems accustomed to this, and dances away after he does another flip. While still in the air, two more bottles fly away from him, crashing into the main press of the G.H.'s allies.


Samuelh lands on top of a bent sign, a crest in between two fingers, smiling that graveyard smile. A few sparks crackle above the pools of liquor before flames spring out, roaring blue pillars that jump at Not Margaret and Gwen like spikes.

Slipping the crest away, the least classy Black Tie dips into a squat, eyes narrowed as he watches Asteroid carefully.

DC: Samuelh the Molotov switches forms to Drunken Samuelh the Molotov!
GS: Samuelh the Molotov has attacked White Knight Leo with Bottle Crash!
GS: Samuelh the Molotov has attacked Margaret with Ignition Spark!
GS: Samuelh the Molotov has attacked Gwen Whitlock with Ignition Spark!
GS: Samuelh the Molotov has completed his action.
GS: Margaret takes a glancing hit from Samuelh the Molotov's Ignition Spark for 47 hit points!
GS: Gwen Whitlock critically Guards a hit from Samuelh the Molotov's Ignition Spark for 19 hit points!
GS: White Knight Leo critically Guards a hit from Samuelh the Molotov's Bottle Crash for 19 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Asteroid the Kid has posed.

..AND AFTER THAT RANT, Asteroid finds herself stabbed in the shoulder by Avril and tumbles down to the floor, bleeding from the wound. She bleeds red. The rock might soak up damage, but Avril knew instinctively to not bother striking the head, it seems like. Maybe she fought someone like this before, you just can't be too sure now can you!

"Ghyaaahhh---! That hurt! That huuurt!" She wails in a panic before--yes!--launching another asteroid ball towards Avril! That's it! For now! "Owwww!!" She just doesn't have enough time to launch something heavier at her assailant.

GS: Asteroid the Kid has attacked Claude C. Kenny with Rad Riser!
GS: Asteroid the Kid has attacked Avril Vent Fleur with Asteroid Ball!
GS: Asteroid the Kid has completed her action.
GS: CRITICAL! Avril Vent Fleur takes a solid hit from Asteroid the Kid's Asteroid Ball for 123 hit points!
GS: Poison, Cripple, Jam, and Mute! Statuses applied to Avril Vent Fleur!
GS: Claude C. Kenny guards a hit from Asteroid the Kid's Rad Riser for 67 hit points!
GS: Disease! Statuses applied to Claude C. Kenny!
<Pose Tracker> Margaret has posed.

Margaret's extremely advanced brain perceives the arrival of Asteroid the Kid and Claude C. Kenny in the category of 'just another day in the wasteland,' until Claude kicks it back, and the two of them enter her register of 'street performers.'

She shouts back towards that nucleus of people, "Did one of you guppies summon STREET PERFORMERS for our REFRESHING BREAK in the DEFEAT OF CRIME??" Her voice is ragged and carries well, but it's not at all cultured or flirtatious!

Her voice shifts back to slightly cultured and moderately flirtatious when Leo pops up next to her. She laughs lightly. Then she looks at the gaunt man and says, with a sort of abstract interest, "Ye-es. Though, if you happen to be -"

He's singing. "Excuse - Ahem -"

There is a moment of pause.

Then the man moves with surreal grace and Margaret is suddenly coated in a gout of coolish blue flame, sending her diving to the side, away from the burst and rising up with fire in her eyes - no, that flame-sheathed mask is erupting, burning away in a trice as the twine that held it on falls behind her, her hair spilling loose as she bares her teeth.

"What - You - Leo! Nnnn, Leon," Margaret barely recuperates, even as her glorious visage (probably meaningless to anyone present... so far) is revealed. "That man. He's one of them --"

Then Samuelh's attention goes towards Asteroid. "Fool!" she snarls, before lunging forwards into a diving leap towards Samuelh's lower body, leading, of course, with the sword-long blade of her polearm. "Turn away from your opponent and die in the dirt!!"

It's totally non-lethal. She's going for the legs. Who needs legs?

GS: Margaret has attacked Samuelh the Molotov with The Guard United Can Never Be Ignited!
GS: Margaret has completed her action.
DC: MISS! Samuelh the Molotov completely evades The Guard United Can Never Be Ignited from Margaret!
<Pose Tracker> Claude C. Kenny has posed.

Claude C. Kenny's pants begin clicking rapidly when Asteroid unleashes her attack. Take that for what you will.

For his part, the young man from space takes it fairly poorly, because Asteroid is starting to talk about ALIENS from SPACE and that is something of a sensitive subject for Claude for reasons that are deep and mysterious (i.e., he is an alien from space). "I DID NOT!" he yelps in pain, diving away from the greenish aura, trying to keep it from clinging to him. "Also, what the hell, Rigdobro! I thought you liked me and stuff!"

The Medium of Rigdobrite, currently sitting wrapped in one of Claude C. Kenny's old socks back in his room in November City, has no reply.

Claude himself does, however, i.e., he whips his sword forward and channels chi along its length, sending a whistling blade of vacuum energy scything toward the evil bucketrockperson, roaring out the cry of his people, i.e.:


GS: Claude C. Kenny has attacked Asteroid the Kid with Air Slash!
GS: Claude C. Kenny has completed his action.
<Pose Tracker> White Knight Leo has posed.

Leo glances back over his shoulder at Asteroid, who is now ranting nonsense about Claude. Is that a Hellion? he thinks. No, can't be, he could sense the Malevolence if that were the case. Nevertheless, Asteroid is wearing the colors, and to Leo's eyes, that makes her a Tie. Leo does not get too complicated with things like that. The old drunk's horse leaves a trail of drool across Leo's lovely, princessy locks, and he grimaces; the grimace gets that much worse as he gets a whiff of the old man's breath.

Then the old drunk swings a bottle at him. Leo was not expecting it, but his reflexes pick up where his strategy left off. He uses his grip on Samuelh's arm to twist his arm as he swings the bottle. The improvised weapon glances off of Leo's horn, but does not break in his face. "Watch yourself, old man--!" Leo shouts, thinking this is nothing serious.

Then it gets serious. "Mar--Houndmistress!" Leo(n) shouts, as the Drifter who is totally not his subordinate is engulfed in a pillar of flame. She's on it, of course, but it's still not pleasant to watch. "Is he!? Well..."

"You're under arrest!" Leo(n) cries. "Hands up! Drop the bottles!" Leo gestures sharply towards the ground, a word of power on his lips. Two thin shards of obsidian launch from the dirt, aimed right at Samuelh's hands.

GS: White Knight Leo has attacked Samuelh the Molotov with Earth Edge!
GS: White Knight Leo has completed his action.
GS: Samuelh the Molotov takes a glancing hit from White Knight Leo's Earth Edge for 49 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Avril Vent Fleur has posed.

Absolute Zero cuts into the shoulder of the ambushing figure with the strange head.

What Gwen had just said about bottled liquids returns as if branded deep into her mind. The nature of heat, flame. What can ignite. She should have, or so runs the thought a moment too early--

The movements come easily, practiced as if each just one step more in a long dance. One step back. She pivots her body, facing Asteroid, blade lifted and nearly level with her eyes.

--She should have... already realized?
Realized what?
And dimly, beyond her, Avril is aware of the sudden onrush of flame. She turns her head as if stunned and shouts out, "Gwen!"

Moments before she has a larger problem on her hands as a large rock materializes as if across the vastness of space and time to rip through the air towards her.

There isn't even a second to readjust her pose into something more becoming of a parry against the space rock. It barrels straight into her, sending the young woman sprawling across the dust. Absolute Zero spins free from her grasp, sliding well out of hand's reach. Kneeling, one eye halfshut, Avril only rises to her feet slowly. "I see... these people are the ones we..." The world is spinning. Or so it seems.

But she's far from empty-handed as she does rise. "Please. Help us, Lucadia--" she beckons, light shining from the strange ancient -- artificial, mechanical -- disc she produces.

The faint impression of a rising tide can be seen conjured about Claude, and with it the brief scent of the sea.

Pressing the Sea Medium against her chest with her left hand, Avril hesitates no further and -- disorientation or not -- rushes to reclaim her blade.

GS: Avril Vent Fleur has attacked Claude C. Kenny with Tidal Wall!
GS: Avril Vent Fleur takes 8 damage from Poison!
GS: Avril Vent Fleur has completed her action.
GS: Claude C. Kenny takes a solid hit from Avril Vent Fleur's Tidal Wall for 0 hit points!
GS: Shield! Statuses applied to Claude C. Kenny!
GS: Asteroid the Kid guards a hit from Claude C. Kenny's Air Slash for 61 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Gwen Whitlock has posed.

"Bucket? Well, uh, I guess that's you're right, eheh..." Gwen rubs the side of her head at the sweat that's beginning to bead there. Hearing Avril's concern behind her, she leans back. "Old guys like him don't survive out here 'cause they're lucky," she quickly assures Avril. "Never underestimate the power of a drunk man in the Badlands!" It's not a motto. It's not a saying. It doesn't really even qualify as fact.

Because the reason the man is here is because he's Samuelth the goddamn Molotov, and if Gwen wasn't distracted by the asteroid flying at her and the fact that Gulliver feels one person lighter, she'd probably point this out. Likely not by name, as her mind is blank as far as names go, but just by 'that's a Black Tie and that's something to do with fire, let's panic'.

Instead, the distract Gwen looks aside to Claude. "Maybe Rigdobrite's havin' us here to have a nice reunion and to battle out our differences in a good ol' fashioned Badlands brawl!" That explains it.

Liquid crashes onto the courier and horse, and to Gwen's credit, she immediately reacts in favor of Gulliver's safety. Slipping off, she whistles and waves the horse away, just as the blue pillars rise up towards them. "Go, go, go!" Gwen calls out to Gulliver, the fire crashing onto her and singeing the blouse sleeve she puts forward. "Gh-!!" She flails, her new custom leather glove snapping back with a jerk of her other hand. "Damnitdamnitdamnitdamnit!!"

A shot rings out at Samuelh, not exactly expertly aimed, but at least Gwen's not fallen to panic mode entirely. _This was a thing that could happen. Fire in general is a thing that could happen._

So just keep shooting.

GS: Gwen Whitlock has attacked Samuelh the Molotov with Crackshot!
GS: Gwen Whitlock has completed her action.
GS: Samuelh the Molotov takes a solid hit from Gwen Whitlock's Crackshot for 103 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Samuelh the Molotov has posed.

Without looking at Margaret, Samuelh hooks one leg around the post of his sign and leans back, pulling the poorly-anchored sign along with him, his pouches swaying. "Whooo-woo-woo," he breathes, leaning back, touching the ground with his hands and flipping backwards onto his feet. "I'm always sayin' I'll be dyin' dirty, but thassa bit of a pointed interpertashin." He taps on his forehead, trying to pivot away when he sees Leo gesture at him.

But Leo's a cool guy, firing SPREAD SHOTS. Samuelh attempts the legendary double twist, but despite everything has a mortal's anatomy. One shard of obsidian passes between him and one of his laden sacks, rattling against the sides of glass bottles.

The drunken carnie grabs at his wound, staggering back in an exaggerated stumble. "Ossifer... y'got me..." He then complies, throwing his hands up in the air, along with the ripped bag.

Like a vision out of a nightmare, a dozen crudely plugged bottles spray out into the air. Most are filled with a clear liquid, but a few have some sludgy green goop wobbling within - and Samuelh still has that crest pinched between two fingers, ignoring the blood dripping down his filthy brown shirt. Sparks bloom within a few of the bottles, which pop off with blue-red chemical flames in a wide area, consuming their fuel rapidly.

Then Gwen's shot cracks off while the Suit is standing there smug. Samuelh's body twists as it takes him in the right shoulder, his crest hand dropping. "Guoh!" This stagger is no joke - he touches the wound and frowns. "Ooh, that's a prize-winner, girlie," he winces, looking up at Gwen, squinting one eye.


His foot sweeps up, catching one of the undetonated green bottles at his feet. The bottle spirals away, smacks into the sign, whips just over Avril's shoulder to hit Margaret's wagon, and comes buzzing at the back of Gwen's skull.

GS: Samuelh the Molotov has attacked White Knight Leo with Tipple Rain!
GS: Samuelh the Molotov has attacked Margaret with Tipple Rain!
GS: Samuelh the Molotov has attacked Gwen Whitlock with Ricochet Bottle!
GS: Samuelh the Molotov has completed his action.
GS: Margaret takes a solid hit from Samuelh the Molotov's Tipple Rain for 98 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Asteroid the Kid has posed.

Asteroid the Kid hesitates as Claude's pants start clicking. Clicking pants can mean many things, most of which are probably not good. This gives Claude time to retaliate, throwing an AIR SLASH into Asteroid and sends her flying up into the air, seemingly helplessly. She flails her arms about for a time, noticing Avril throwing some kind of--protection on Claude, but it's a protection she recognizes. The protection of the Guardian Lucadia. Fighting a shaman boss fight is pretty rough and luckily rare, but Asteroid knows what's going on.

"Lucadia... you too..."

She reaches to her OTHER Medium, the Sky Medium, and steadies herself in the air, hovering into place as she channels the power into her.

"Who are you??" She demands of Avril. "Why are you stopping me?? He tortured me!! I mean, not him PERSONALLY OKAY? But his people!" She jams a finger towards Claude. "Don't lie!! Speak your own language!" She then mimics 'Claude's language' which sounds vaguely germanic, hebrew-ish, but there's nothing to gauge from the words, she's just spouting random shit she heard, apparently.

Her eyes widen further as Claude mentions being Rigdobrite's Rigdobro. "What..."

There are many stars in the sky

Her shoulders slump. "You..." She manages. "You...Rigdobrite...Rigdobrite's your friend too? Why is he your friend? He's supposed to be MY friend," Her shoulders shake. "Why is he friends with the people who tore me apart, AGAIN AND AGAIN AND AGAIN! I FELT I WAS DYING!...but I didn't die..!! I'll show you... I'll show you Rigdobrite's true power!"

Asteroid starts chanting under her breath, lifting Rigdobrite out into her hands.

"Rigdobrite...show us...show us whom you truly favor...! Show me this is a mistake!"

And strangely enough, Rigdobrite does respond. The giant asteroid, whose body looks not unlike Asteroid's own head, appears underneath her. In this case, at least, Claude might be able to realize she's no alien.

Her feet land on Rigdobrite and she goes crashing towards Claude, the shockwave threatening to crash into Avril as well.

GS: Asteroid the Kid has attacked Claude C. Kenny with Material - Rigdobrite!
GS: Claude C. Kenny critically Guards a hit from Asteroid the Kid's Material - Rigdobrite for 35 hit points!
GS: Asteroid the Kid has attacked Avril Vent Fleur with Space Rock Soccer!
GS: Gwen Whitlock takes a solid hit from Samuelh the Molotov's Ricochet Bottle for 93 hit points!
GS: Avril Vent Fleur takes a glancing hit from Asteroid the Kid's Space Rock Soccer for 68 hit points!
GS: White Knight Leo guards a hit from Samuelh the Molotov's Tipple Rain for 52 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Margaret has posed.

"Hounds," Margaret enunciates at Leon parenthetically.

"This isn't some standard-issue drunkard besozzled on the destroyer's piss, Gwendolyn!" Margaret shouts at her hotly, having decided this is the polite way to call her. "This is one of the Black Ties' leaders! We've got a big pig to put in our bag!"

"What the hell are you doing?" she shouts at Samuelh as she twists her naginata around. It trails weird lights. She starts shifting weight from one foot to the other, poised to avoid almost any melee attack imaginable and with a fair shot on arrows or aimed rounds.

Then he goes with an unholy storm of bottled fluids. The erupting bursts bring Margaret into a running dash to avoid trailing streaks of fire on the ground, with one particularly bad blowout sending her skidding on her side, weapon held up high --

Tink! Samuel's bottle bounces perfectly off the upheld blade. Margaret doesn't even notice.

Her lips draw slowly back from white teeth as she pushes herself upright, eyes wide and remorseless. "Well aren't you clever," she says, not parting her teeth as she does. "Leo-- n, box him in! Up high!" This makes more sense when Margaret takes three running steps forwards and slams her pole on the ground, vaulting upwards to hurl up into a high arc over the head of the BottlesMaster.

And at regular points in this twisting leap, she - freezes, and keeps going. The afterimages are clear as day and twice as crisp at first, although they degenerate rapidly, nonetheless clearly giving the impression of a half dozen elf women in purple dresses over his head. Each manifesting clone produces a strange chord.

Also at some point in that entire loop she threw five razor-edged paperback-sized metal plates with painted pictures and assorted colorful icons on them. The fortune reads something like this:

4 Cups - 5 Cups - 6 Cups - 7 Cups - 8 Cups

"Huh," Margaret says as she lands, the shadows vanishing behind her at a steady rate of one every 2.7 seconds.

GS: Margaret has attacked Samuelh the Molotov with Straight!!
GS: Margaret has completed her action.
DC: MISS! Samuelh the Molotov completely evades Straight! from Margaret!
<Pose Tracker> Claude C. Kenny has posed.

"I'm... 75 percent sure Rigdobro wouldn't do that!" Claude C. Kenny shouts, because in his (admittedly limited) experience with the Guardians of Filgaia, Rigdobrite is the only one who is not a jerk to people from space. Or people in general, really. It is possible that he is getting PEER PRESSURED by the OTHER, JERKIER GUARDIANS to abandon his friend from Earth! This will bear study later.

But then the surge of Avril's sorcery washes over the young blonde swordsman, and while Claude is approximately as magical as most wheels of cheese you can name, he is familiar (thanks to hanging with Cecilia) with what it means when a sudden rush of salt water smell swooshes around you. "Thanks, ma'am! And thanks to you too, Surfdark!" Claude adds, because it is only polite.

Thus empowered, Claude sheathes his sword in an effort to appear diplomatic, holding both hands up as he takes a step toward Asteroid. "Look, I'm sorry that some people hurt you," he says as comfortingly as he can manage. "But I'm not one of them. I'm just a guy who's... really, really far from home," Claude says, employing significant understatement. "I'm not going to hurt anyone. And I'm willing to help you i---oh god." he Claude takes a nervous step backward, eyes widening as Rigdobrite's mass looms overhead. The young man draws in a breath, licks his lips nervously, and tries to speak. "I... I'm not..." Asteroid lands, the stone decends, and Claude C. Kenny runs out of options.

He advances forward.

Claude drops into a wide bent-legged stance, drawing both hands back toward his body as he inhales sharply. Chi - for those who can feel that sort of thing - begins to roar up from the wellspring that is the young man from Earth. For those who can't sense chi, they have their own cues that something is up, in the form of a storm of blue-yellow energy that flickers in and out of the visual, setting his hair and clothing dancing. Claude isn't sure how much power this will take, but it stands to reason it'll take a lot of it, and so he pulls as much as he can to the fore, the ground under his feet quivering with the force he's gathered. He stops inhaling, lifts his eyes, and focuses his will.


Rigdobrite's material form is met by a flurry of punches, each accompanied by a blue-yellow flash of energy. The impact rocks Claude backward a step, but he digs in, his arms blurring and flickering in and out of sight, the impact noises blurring together into a cacophonous roar that rises with the tides. Stone cracks and splinters, and Claude continues punching. A breeze begins pushing out from his body as the force of each strike blows air away, and Claude continues punching. Debris gets hurtled back in Asteroid direction, jagged shards of shattered star, and Claude continues punching.

The stone stops falling, and Claude C. Kenny advances forward. He keeps on punching.


GS: Claude C. Kenny has attacked Asteroid the Kid with Meteor Palm!
GS: Claude C. Kenny has been weakened by Disease! They take 0 hit points of damage, and burn off their temporary hit points!
GS: Claude C. Kenny has completed his action.
GS: CRITICAL! Asteroid the Kid takes a solid hit from Claude C. Kenny's Meteor Palm for 168 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> White Knight Leo has posed.

"Hounds," says Leo(n). They have a mission here, after all! Kayfabe is important. Unfortunately, Leo(n) has underestimated the capacity of Samuelh the Molotov to make swift, accurate, calculated attacks even while drunk off his ass. This may cost him.

The Totally Not The White Knight's eyes widen as the air before him just turns into a curtain of fire. Flames catch the brim of his hat, coming uncomfortably close to his face before he pulls it off, throwing it into the dirt. The wall of fire just keeps coming, and Leo(n) slams the sole of his boot into the ground; the earth rises up in front of him in an improvised shield of sand and rock and dirt. The flame gutters out. Leo(n) is noticeably singed around the edges, but still in one piece. He steps out from behind his improvised cover as Margaret moves in, sweeping his blade in a wide, vertical arc. "DEMON FANG!" Energy jumps from the weapon's edge into the ground, and races at Samuelh in what is definitely not an Air Slash, shut up, Claude.

GS: White Knight Leo has attacked Samuelh the Molotov with Demon Fang!
GS: White Knight Leo has completed his action.
GS: Asteroid the Kid has completed her action.
GS: CRITICAL! Samuelh the Molotov takes a solid hit from White Knight Leo's Demon Fang for 201 hit points!
GS: Samuelh the Molotov enters CONDITION GREEN!!
<Pose Tracker> Avril Vent Fleur has posed.

"You are welcome, I-- Surfdark?" Briefly, confusion flits its way across Avril's face.

A bottle goes whirling across the battlefield.

Avril tilts her head a few degrees to the right moments after reclaiming her fallen blade, seemingly in unconscious reaction to the projectile that goes flying right past her head.

In silence, she lifts her blade, point directed up at the heavens, to gaze across its hilt at Asteroid.

She shakes her head. "Avril. Avril Vent Fleur. You... something terrible has happened to you, has it not?" she asks of Asteroid, as if they were not just squaring off against one another here in the desert. As if one of the Black Tie's leaders -- for all that she might look as if she dwells on her own plane of existence as placid as she seems now she does hear the shouts behind her -- were not engaging her compatriots in terrible fiery combat. She advances a step, blade still held level before her. "Whatever has been done, I am sorry."

Though her expression maintains its sober cast, she blinks once, twice. People (aliens?) have... experimented upon her?

"I feel as if there has been a grave misunderstanding," she says, as if to echo Claude's sentiment, blue eyes tracking between the definitely-not-alien and the alien-abductee.

Something in the air shifts. She sucks in a sharp breath, memory skittering back to that moment in the Guardian Temple. Just a touch, the tip of Absolute Zero's blade wavers. Dips downwards. "A..." And Avril's gaze tilts skywards, the ghostly shape of what can only be a Guardian -- Avril's spiritual sense practically screaming an alarm as Rigdobrite forces a brief entry into this plane. "A Guardian's power..."

The Sea Medium, still held against her chest, shines brilliantly. Light touches down briefly in a circle about Avril's feet and she leaps, catapulting herself skywards with the Sea Guardian's power--

--just not quickly enough to escape the trailing end of the shockwave that shudders outwards, discharging its concussive force and rain of rock, staggering her initial flight--

--but still she twists throught the air, evading perhaps some of the worst the onslaught brings to bear as Guardian lends strength against Guardian.

Absolute Zero arcs once through the air as she seemingly hangs there for one long moment.
There are, it seems, more than a few sword styles capable of rendering pressurized air into a cutting force as sharp as a blade. This is another one.

Avril lands moments later, skirt fluttering about her legs.

GS: Avril Vent Fleur has attacked Asteroid the Kid with Spirit Saber!
GS: Avril Vent Fleur takes 6 damage from Poison!
GS: Avril Vent Fleur has completed her action.
GS: Asteroid the Kid takes a solid hit from Avril Vent Fleur's Spirit Saber for 143 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Gwen Whitlock has posed.

"M-my name's not Gwendolyn! It's Gwen!" the courier objects shakily to the... Hounds Mistress? Houndsmith? She doesn't know, she's on fire.

There's the idea of attacking Asteroid, but something twists in Gwen's gut at the very thought of it. Even if Asteroid attacked her, she just can't justify going after the young woman directly.

Especially when there's this spry drunk gentleman throwing bottles about.

And just what is that man doin- oh. Ow. That hurt.

Frantically whipping her hat and scarf at at evidence of fire or goop, Gwen *glares* at the man before reaching into her jacket for a few choice metal pellets.

"That's my friggin' hair, you mauled coot!" she yells, loading the pellets into her shoulder and aiming. "Y'know how hard I worked to get my hair lookin' halfway decent in THIS climate?!"

She fires, pure vanity fueling her brave counterattack.

GS: Gwen Whitlock has activated a Force Action!
GS: Gwen Whitlock has attacked Samuelh the Molotov with Coil Cannon EX!
GS: Gwen Whitlock has completed her action.
GS: Samuelh the Molotov takes a glancing hit from Gwen Whitlock's Coil Cannon EX for 64 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Asteroid the Kid has posed.

Asteroid the Kid's faith flickers as Claude tries to reason with her. She doesn't seem to recognize Avril's name, but Avril's attempts to reason don't help her bloodlust either. She forces herself forward, she thinks, this will settle it. If Rigdobrite crushes him it means I was right. That's all there is to it. Rigdobrite will, if nothing else, not lie to her. Avril blasts Asteroid over as she tumbles along the Rigdobrite, nearly tumbling off entirely, but she catches rigdobrite by the tail and clambers back on, panting for breath.

She peers over the edge of the Guardian to look down at Claude. It's clear, at the very least, that she is pretty damn good at using Guardian power but using it wisely is another matter. Claude starts clobbering the Guardian with his fists. Rigdobrite's image shimmers and cracks under Claude's assault. It looks like Rigdobrite, but it's not nearly as powerful as a summon as it would be from a Silver Medium even with Asteroid's Baskar Score backing it up. She grits her teeth. "There's...there's no way he can just... punch through this...!"

But as it turns out, Claude kind of can. The debris throughout it slams into ASteroid repeatedly through Rigdobrite's assault as she simply REFUSES to leave Rigdobrite's side even though she could easily hop off to avoid getting hit by her own attack. Claude keeps striking and Rigdobrite stops moving.

And then the vision shimmers, and then fades away.

Would you watch the sky if there was only one star?

Dust billows upwards around Asteroid as she tumbles to the ground. She hits the floor roughly and stares up at Claude, mouth agape.

Rigdobrite, she realizes, even without a medium by his side...Rigdobrite was on his side.

"He....he was with you...?" Asteroid says, her bucket shattered, her eyes watering, her mouth bloody.

There is no dream with one star, you must reach out to the other stars

"You didn't do it." She says. "You...you aren't lying. You just look like them."

She starts bawling hysterically. "WAAAUUUGH!!!" She wails. "I'M SORRY! I'M SORRY!!" She covers her eyes with her hands. "He told me I was supposed to reach out to the other stars and I...I just..." Her shoulders shake. "I just want to go away... I hate this place, I hate this place, I want to go somewhere else...Please take me... I'm going crazy here... I hate this place..."

<Pose Tracker> Samuelh the Molotov has posed.

Samuelh the Molotov is dissatisfied with this encounter. He doesn't like being in shootouts in big open areas which limit his ability to do walljumps, bounces, and very good flame traps.

After kicking the bottle, Samuelh fell over, dropping onto his back and rolling away in a pre-emptive evasive motion, popping up and swaying. He shakes his finger, clicking his tongue. "Thassounds like a whole lotta panicking for just a little warning, ladies, leo-------n, and other lady." He pauses to squint at Asteroid the Kid, but decides this isn't... really addressed to her.

That's something worth bringing up to the boss, but right now, she's fighting the people acting out of line, so... later.

"Y'all knew this was Black Ties territory, right? I mean you can danged well see El Pazzo from 'ere. Consider alla this one of them polite rebyukes," Samuelh continues, using a word he saw Ribaldy write down once. "Keep on messin' with our business, an' we just might-" DEMON FANG oh Christ Leo skipped the cutscene.

The fang hits, Samuel gritting his huge teeth as the energy stands out as a diagonal slash along his body, picking him up and depositing him sliding along his back across the dirt road, knocking him a little sober.

While he's there on his back, Margaret duplicates himself above him. Samuelh holds his arms out wide. "Gorgeous angels from heaven!" His eyes become sharply focused when the plates buzz in toward him and he flips up onto his shoulders, spinning onto his feet. He's somehow moved through the cards unharmed, and has one of them in between his fingers along with his crest.

Just after Gwen fires, his crest sparks again. Bottles filled with green fluid have 'happened' to roll around the battlefield as Samuelh darts and rolls around the place, coming to rest upon Leo and Margaret with gentle tinking noises. While the drunk Suit ducks and covers as Gwen's pellets scatter on him, there are several bright flashes within the Tipple bottles - igniting them is a little more work.

The Tipple explodes in spherical blue-green flames, lasting only for an instant as they burn wildly hot. Samuelh stays crouched, looking blearily at the card.

"'zis thing telling me to take six drinks?"

"Sounds good to me!"

He rolls again, reaching into a very special pouch, producing a large jug with XXX printed on it. He pulls the cork free, a shockingly pleasant fruity aroma exploding out as he splashes some of the contents onto his wounds before taking a deep pull, red color rising in his cheeks.

GS: Samuelh the Molotov has attacked White Knight Leo with Narrow Ignition Tipple!
GS: Samuelh the Molotov has attacked Margaret with Narrow Ignition Tipple!
GS: Samuelh the Molotov has attacked Samuelh the Molotov with Special Blend - XXX Jug!
GS: Samuelh the Molotov has completed his action.
GS: Lock and State! Statuses applied to Samuelh the Molotov!
GS: Samuelh the Molotov heals Samuelh the Molotov! He gains 200 temporary hit points!
GS: White Knight Leo guards a hit from Samuelh the Molotov's Narrow Ignition Tipple for 70 hit points!
GS: Margaret guards a hit from Samuelh the Molotov's Narrow Ignition Tipple for 74 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Claude C. Kenny has posed.

Claude C. Kenny punches through a meteor, and what pisses him off is that a tiny part of him really wishes that Zed was here to see this. Finally, however, the assault ends, and Claude just sort of sags forward, chest and shouders rising and falling rapidly as he sucks in lungsful of air as fast as he can manage. Anaerobic exercise is a real pain.

"I... told you I... didn't..." he manages to get out, and then... and then... she starts crying.



"Uh..." Claude says, rubbing theback of his head. "I..."


Random Barrel Dude: Hey! What're you gonna do about these dragons on my back! You better take responsibility!
Claude: ...gotta go!


"God, Rena still hasn't let me forget about that guy, let alone a crying girl," Claude whines, rubbing his eyes with one hand. He has QUITE ENOUGH FRIEND GIRLS IN HIS LIFE RIGHT NOW, THANK YOU, which is a statement he never thought he would make. He sighs and steps forward. "Uh... look, it's... fine," he says comfortingly. "You don't have to apologize. I'm okay, and Rigdobro will forgive us... probably," he asides. Claude looks around at the ongoing violence and mayhem. "I'll, uh..."

1. ...buy you a cake?
2. ...buy you a Steak?
3. ...gotta go!


(vaguely irritated psychic elf noises)

"...buy you a cake... i guess?"

<Pose Tracker> Margaret has posed.

The prospect that one of the Drifters they're with will die crosses Margaret's mind. A non-trivial part - if a minority - thinks: That WOULD save on the payout, wouldn't it? But then -

The enemy's morale is breaking!! Yes, that's right; a savage grin crosses the face of the already-kind-of-scary-faced lady as she hears Asteroid's bawling. "That's right," she half-purrs. "Be sorry, buckethead." It's low key - she is not shouting it at Ms. The Kid.

Then her gaze turns to Samuelh. "Just might what? Burn things down and prey on the weak?" Margaret's free hand comes up flippantly as she does that head-sway back and forth thing again, which is about forty percent of why she has this hairstyle. "Terrified. No, my friend, this -"

Margaret falters for a moment in the face of bursting fire. She has, thus far, largely been bulling past injury and explosion on sheer grit and the genetic superiority inherent to the Firstborn of Iluvatar, which means she is getting scraped and singed but not deeply HARMED. This changes in the face of that; she throws up an arm but she can feel skin blistering. The hot wind of that detonation throws her hair back. Margaret lowers her arm.

To see...

He's just poundin' it down.

"You... little... UNDERSIZED CODFISH!" Margaret says, her dudgeon visibly rising. "Don't you have a MURDEROUS ALCOHOL PROBLEM at me when you're talking like you deserve this town! You're a band of criminals and thugs, and nobody deserves to live in the dark smoky shadow of your treachery!"

Her head tilts back. "And they won't have to," Margaret says, as the light dims around her. It is actually a very clear effect with Filgaia's sun in the sky; there is a vast corona of vaguely shimmering interfered-with light that expands out over most of the battlefield in a faintly menacing way, tightening down to a cold layer of absolute shadow that falls on Margaret herself, wisping tendrils of ink seeming to rise from the sere earth itself.

Then she erupts like a violet flower in slow motion. There are three Margarets, then nine, then twenty-seven, although at that point the trailing edge of the shadow fades. The entire northwest quadrant of Samuel's vision fills with vaulting pissed-off elf women, as the wave rises to wash over him.

Within this hell of shadowed flesh there is a sharp vicious combination strike - an asterisk-strike, a follow-up strike, an effort to DIG and TEAR - but fortunately, Althena can't see it, not until the shadow-wave passes and leaves Margaret on the far side of Samuelh.

He better not have dodged that, she thinks as she glances over her shoulder, hoping to see several large chunks of criminal falling apart in a spray of blood. Maybe there'll be a blood rainbow, Margaret thinks a little further.

GS: Margaret has attacked Samuelh the Molotov with Seven Sisters!
GS: Margaret has completed her action.
GS: Sneak! The true nature of Margaret's attack becomes clear!
GS: CRITICAL! Samuelh the Molotov takes a glancing hit from Margaret's Seven Sisters for 100 hit points!
GS: Poison, Cripple, and Mute! Statuses applied to Samuelh the Molotov!
GS: Samuelh the Molotov enters CONDITION GREEN!!
<Pose Tracker> White Knight Leo has posed.

Leo(n) does not watch a cutscene if he can absolutely help it. Especially when it's stopping him from punching bandits. "Our mission is just!" His face is absolutely straight as he says this. "We have nothing to f--" The bottles come to rest in a nice, orderly pattern around the battlefield. Leo(n) has no time to wonder how in Althena's name that happened, because the bottles touch off, igniting like a string of fireworks. Leo jumps back just in time to avoid getting hit dead-on by a blast of blue-green fire, but it catches his coat anyway. This happened once, while fighting Riesenlied and her Demon minions--and Leo(n) responds now as he did then--

By grabbing a fistful of shirt and just tearing the flaming garment loose from his body before it can, you know, burn him some more.

Samuelh takes a big, long pull. Leo(n) looks visibly disgusted by the whole display, but Margaret has better words for it, so he leaves it to her. (Margaret is pretty good with words.)

"TASTE JUSTICE, CRIMINAL SCUM!" Leo(n) cries, his blade flashing through the air. A wave of vacuum force tears free from the weapon's edge, and flies up and around the Margarets before arcing down at Samuelh. He swings again, and another flies in from the right, zipping in between two Margarets as they move to strike.

<Pose Tracker> Avril Vent Fleur has posed.

Blade out to one side as she makes that landing and still-glittering Medium held against her chest, Avril glances back over her right shoulder at the tableau behind her.

Samuelh of the Black Ties, holding his own against Gwen and the ones who hired them on -- and the bottles that detonate in an array just outside the little corner of space that she, Claude, and Asteroid have carved for themselves amidst a battlefield that is still very much going south, as they say.

Blue eyes widen a touch. Her mouth twists in a faint frown. "Claude," she voices urgently, a moment later...

...Though this might... be a little bit delayed.

As Asteroid begins to out and out bawl.

Avril's fingers tighten around the Medium, and her lips press thin. One worried glance tilts back towards the others, still fighting, before Avril makes her decision.
A flick of the wrist and Absolute Zero's blade vanishes. One slight of hand more and it's vanished, somewhere into the depths of her gown.

She approaches Asteroid perhaps in the same instant Claude does, still bearing the Medium and the Medium alone.

And extends to the woman her right hand, as if they were not right in the only calm section of an otherwise raging battle. But isn't kindness important in this world? "Here. It will be alright."

There might even be cake.

GS: White Knight Leo has attacked Samuelh the Molotov with Buzz Blade!
GS: White Knight Leo has completed his action.
<Pose Tracker> Asteroid the Kid has posed.

Asteroid's wounds are primarily Avril's stab wound in her shoulder and Claude critically punching her spirit. She has some bruises from being knocked about by winds and falling places and her mouth is kinda bloody but she's hardly mauled. Well, except for that stab wound in her shoulder. She realizes she's going to have to stitch the damn thing up and clean off the blood somehow and it's setting back her funds a tremendous amount and she has nobody to blame but herself. She could have just engaged in normal crime and would probably have far fewer stab wounds.

But it makes her wonder how the Black Ties wear such sweet digs without getting it destroyed every time they run into a spot of trouble.

She seems confused, at first, by the people reaching out to her. SHE wouldn't reach out to someone who, for example, stabbed her in the shoulder even if they did cry later?

Or would she? It's a strange feeling since, for once, she isn't entirely sure she wouldn't. Just mostly sure. She is kind of hesitant to reach out to Avril because, as mentioned, she did sort of stab her in the shoulder and this was BEFORE she started shooting at her, but Asteroid is able to make the connection she probably got stabbed in the arm because she was trying to hit people with space rocks. These two things are connected sometimes.

She looks back to Claude, rubbing at her eyes a few more times. "....I'm sorry," She says, more calmly. "Um." She is offered cake.

+3 PRIVATE ACTION POINTS Maybe you'll get the Asteroid the Kid ending!

She cracks a small toothy smile. It's funny, she thinks, because you're the dork that tried to kill a perfectly nice guy for no reason and he's the one offering cake.

"Okay. But I think... I think I should get you the cake." She rubs at her eyes again and then finally takes Avril's hand up.

"Um. I'm Lydia, but I go by Asteroid the Kid now because, well, it's easier." She huffs up her shoulders. "Are you from space too?" She looks at Avril. "Sorry I know some nice aliens so I shouldn't... I shouldn't assume, but I just get so angry..."

She shakes her head. "...Well nice folks like you wouldn't get it but...thanks for stopping me." She mumbles something else under her breath as the adrenaline runs out and she remembers she's actually just kind of a shy dork without a lot of outside world experience and these are two super cool drifters and ahhhhhhhh!

GS: Samuelh the Molotov takes a glancing hit from White Knight Leo's Buzz Blade for 79 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Gwen Whitlock has posed.

It's just a polite rebuke. That's the phrase used, followed by... well, what else? Explosions. "Hell yeah, I know this is Black Ties territory! It's why I'm high-strung as all get out!" Gwen yells, her voice cracking at the second to last syllable. "However, I got a business I intend to try n' run, n'-" Whatever dramatic speech is interrupted by Leo(n) just ripping his flaming shirt right off in her field of view, causing Gwen's last few words to hang dry on her tongue. "n.."

A now blushing Gwen just aborts her course of action and resorts to something a bit more stable: her ARM. Asteroid's words, overheard nearby, further dampen Gwen's righteous (at least, to her) anger. At least Claude and Avril are going over to her for support; Gwen will just make sure Samuelh doesn't do anything just yet.

*ting* That's the sound of her next few bullets falling to the sand, her left hand fumbling to catch them. "Goddamnit! I *knew* this was gonna be a wash..." But at least Asteroid will be fine.


... Time for plan B.

"Consider this a draft fer what's t'come!" Gwen finally manages, suddenly rushing forward, her ARM held back and then thrust forward to Samuelh's face, electricity crackling through the curled fingers.

Wait, Draft means alcohol, right? Holy cow, she made a joke!


GS: Gwen Whitlock has attacked Samuelh the Molotov with Special Delivery!
GS: Gwen Whitlock has completed her action.
GS: Samuelh the Molotov takes a solid hit from Gwen Whitlock's Special Delivery for 125 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Samuelh the Molotov has posed.

Well, the Black Ties manage it by not using flammable materials. They're a very self-aware pile of assholes.

Samuelh finishes taking his medicine, wiping something orange off the back of his hand. Hmm... the roasted nuts he tipped in there while filching some beef from a high-class restaurant really brought out a strong woody note. He lets out a low, rumbly belch as he reholsters his jug.

Asteroid the Kid starts crying, and it derives absolutely no reaction from Samuelh. It's not that he's ignoring it - it's that it just doesn't seem to land on any of his emotions, like he couldn't possibly worry about another person. It becomes background for his expression as he looks directly at her and smiles.

Not his big goof-ass carnie smile which shows his oversized teeth for comedic effect. His lips strain into a narrow upturn slash, eyes narrowing, sallow skin tightening until veins can be traced along his cheeks through the blush of drunk blooming across his nose. His eyes are small and hollow.

"Deserve ain't enter into it, girlie. Maybe you ain't noticed, but we live in somethin' of a dried out pit around these parts." He reaches into his coat, drawing out three tiny bottles with varicolored liquid. "We're all just smoke and ash that ain't blown away yet. Anyone who ain't takin' what they can is just foolin' themselves."

Drink seems to have made him louder than usual. "Keepin' these roads moving like they should is my job. I ain't like that idealist Fargo, or dear sweetums Ribaldy!" He can't get away from the wave of elf women (who would want to!!), and instead leans into the shadowy onslaught. Some parts of his brain are off now - others are redlining. It looks like he's staggering, being pummelled and ripped apart, but his moves are intentional. His coat is ripped, blood is running more quickly down his shot arm, and he's been cut over his temple - but it should've been a hell of a lot worse. Even if he had gotten away from Margaret's onslaught, Leo's vacuum blades should've ripped him in half. He has a broad X cut into his back, one of his molotov bags dangling.

"Samuelh the Molotov's one of Jack's boys, y'all hear me? I shoulda been a Gung Ho Gun! All's I want is to eat what I want, drink what I want, and lay wi' who I want, an' anything in the way of that can just melt!"

He spins around suddenly as Gwen charges in. The effect his twisted expression might have is somewhat ruined by her electric hand blasting into his body. His hair is... well, unchanged. Maybe a little wider. He staggers back, smoke rising off of his face and body, vials clenched in one fist, glass sticking out between his fingers.

Samuelh shakes out his head. He's clearly hurt - a wicked blister is rising along one cheek - but he can barely feel it. "There ain't no justice out here'n the Badlands, boy." He's responding to Leo, but staring dead in Gwen's eyes. Memorizing. "Jes' whoever wants it more."

The old man's arm flicks, throwing the vials onto the ground. The chemicals mix and hiss, turning into an ugly grey. They react. They bubble. They explode into a billowing cloud of sharp-smelling chemical smoke, a whirling pillar rising up into the air.

Samuelh's gone by the time the smoke clears, a blood trail leading in the direction of El Pazzo, vanishing down a cliff into a dried riverbed, eventually vanishing at a fork.

<Pose Tracker> Margaret has posed.

He is not dead! By the Goddess, Margaret thinks, even as she is driven by her inner nature to snipe back. "I've noticed your miserable sandbox, yes!" she says, but then he's speaking with great force and Margaret's ears twitch.

Because he's saying things. Key things. Perhaps.

The others receive their words in turn and then comes the benediction of screaming chemical smoke, something hot and artificial and stinking. A perfect summary of this miserable planet, Margaret thinks as she tilts her head back, the wind picking up and moving the smoke away to reveal to her -

Asteroid the Kid.

And Avril, reaching towards her. A hand coming to comfort a weeping young woman on the battlefield.

An expression crosses Margaret's face. First dawning comprehension of a baffling thing and then shading into something black and ugly. Her cheeks get red. Her eyes tighten to slits. She does not scowl or grimace in effort, but for a fleeting moment her neck tenses and Leo or Gwen might think if they looked right at her that she was on the verge of lunging for Asteroid the Kid's throat.

"Smoke and ash," Margaret says, as she tilts her head forwards, swallows on a dry mouth once, and - by main effort - relaxes. Somewhat.

There is no joy in her voice when she looks to Gwen, none of the half-veiled merriment she had had before. "I suppose that settles that. You all fought valiantly against... the Black Ties. You have my... thanks."

Margaret reaches to the pouch where her Traveler Cards are (mysteriously, the ones that struck Samuelh have returned... save for the Six of Cups) and draws out a small pouch made of scrap leather. "Leo....n and I must make haste. Here's your compensation. Share it out among your peers. I'm sure we'll see each other again."

Margaret looks at Asteroid the Kid and hisses breath in through her teeth again.

"Try not to get murdered," she tells Gwen, before whirling around and looking at Leo(n), to whom she greets by reaching onto her neck and pulling off a gold necklace that she then drapes over his neck, like a gold chain.

To him she says - though Gwen, or the sharp-eared generally, might hear - "May the Goddess give this place a seaside address. Let's blow this scene." Then, more emphatically, "Thunder Road!" Lightning crackles up her boots, and harmlessly around Leo's new necklace.

A few moments later she slips her arm in Leo's and starts to run.



<Pose Tracker> Gwen Whitlock has posed.

There have been times a punch has felt satisfying. A clear, justifiable act of force, enacting Gwen's will onto the world in a language the Badlands understands the best.

She really doesn't feel that here. The developing blister on Samuelh's cheek, the cracked glass in one hand, the way his eyes connect with hers with vague intent.

It's only due to the deeply etched anxiety over the consequences of looking away, courtesy of a Badlands upbringing, that Gwen doesn't simply turn tail and run from the implications of whatever consequences may happen in the future. So she watches, quiet, her anger spent, only snapping out of her brief fugue as Samuelh makes his explosive escape.

"Ow!" Landing back on her bottom, Gwen rubs her back, then becomes immediately aware of the singed blouse and the exposed skin of the base of her neck. "Ghh!!"

Moving with the speed of one who feels her modesty somehow compromised, Gwen scrambles to the side towards the discarded handkerchief, cringing at the smell of the chemicals on it before gingerly using it to cover her neck. "Oh guardians, that move's gonna have some serious consequences for me..." she laments, turning to the tensing Margaret.

Not even the threat of Samuelh or the vague threat of someone seeing some hint of scar could quite compare with the shiver that falls down Gwen's spine at the sight. So, when Margaret gives Gwen their compensation, Gwen finds her mouth dry again, if for a different reason than when she saw Leo ripping his shirt off moments earlier.

Try not to get murdered, she says. Gwen bunches up her face to do her best impression of a smile, nodding. "I'll do my best not t'be!"

And then, Leo and Margaret make their electric departure, leaving Gwen standing there, awkwardly, holding the bag of money. "... I really liked my hat," she laments, as she tries to calculate how to split the money.

<Pose Tracker> White Knight Leo has posed.

Leo(n) is still amazed that Samuelh is upright, functional, and able to fight. Ronfar couldn't hold down that much liquor, and he's a committed drunkard. Leo(n) chases the annoyingly persistent thought away, and snarls back at Samuelh after he articulates his thoughts. It is, more or less, similar to what he's heard out of other bandits back on the Silver Star. He raises his blade--

An explosion. Leo(n) coughs, covers his eyes, and gives chase, only to find that Samuelh has vanished. That is more than a little disconcerting.

"Yes! Yes. You've done well, thank you. All of you!" He gives Gwen a friendly grin, links arms with Margaret, and then--