2017-10-28: Sleep Tight

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============================<* Gunsmoke Desert *>=============================

The Gunsmoke Desert occupies the northwestern portion of Ignas. This desert is different from Aveh's. Instead of rolling dunes of sand, it has dry and cracked ground, and the mountains that rim it also intrude into the interior, forming stunning rock formations that can look as beautiful as they look impossible. The settlements here are hard-pressed to survive, consisting of countless small towns. The lucky few are connected by railways to the Seed Cities scattered about the Gunsmoke. Many are lost to the sands, which cover them and a tremendous concentration of ruins from Filgaia's past. This makes these badlands the heart of Drifter activity in Ignas.

<Pose Tracker> Iskandra Grendorre has posed.

Near the rails, there's a small, nameless town. More of a supply post for trains passing by that happens to have permanent inhabitants than a town in truth. Still, it's got its own community, and the locals aren't going anywhere unless they absolutely have to. With no natural supply of water nearby, the town is utterly reliant on their central water supply, which gets refilled by trains passing by every so often.

The wary may note that this makes their water supply a point of weakness, the naive may believe that nobody would take advantage of such a thing. The unscrupulous may be thinking about exactly how to take advantage of it. Iskandra is the latter, and so late at night, she's slipped the guy supposed to be keeping an eye on it a preview of what she's about to try to slip into the water supply.

And now she's climbin her way up. There's no way for her to do it without making some noise, but she's relying on the fact that this is a meaningless little town with next to no people for this to go unnoticed. Surely there won't be any stray drifters coming across her climbing up.


<Pose Tracker> Ethius Hesiod has posed.

        Certain preparations are being made. (The details are classified. There will be plenty of time to discuss them later, on a need-to-know basis.)
        The Caravan Kinship has stopped by this point for the evening. After a long day's worth of... certain tasks... now's the time to rest up and relax before a long journey the next day, followed by... another thing. The details are not important to the current situation, beyond these notes.
        The white-haired Symbologist, an enigmatic scoundrel unto himself, is not sleeping soundly. Underneath the moonlit night, Ethius has taken his leave of rest upon the CaraKin for... reasons that are vague, by his recollection. Uneasiness. Restlessness. He has a hand to his forehead as he traverses about the so-called town, skulking about the cover of night. He never sleeps that well near society. The Caravan Kinship is somewhat used to him just... failing to sleep, finding some other strange place to shut his eyes, and then return before long. It is a strange pattern with no clear key or answer. An accepted Ethius-ism, nowadays, although the circumstances may not render this behavior as welcome when tensions are about to ride sky high.
        From the corner of his eye mid-stride, a head turns as he makes notice of a mysterious silhouette. His head turns, the hand to his forehead lowers... and he stares.
        He squints.
        The matter shouldn't usually be of such concern, but the way the shadow is cast under the moonlight, the shape seems... familiar. A matter worth investigating, then? He wasn't getting any sleep, so far.
        The quarterstaff is silently drawn as he encroaches, circling around to get a better view of who, exactly, that is climbing up there. No, he has a good idea of who is up there. Curiosity strikes. He's not sure why the curiosity is so inherently strong within the heat of the moment, but it is.
        As far as he is aware, it is just himself, and this mysterious climber. That apparent fact gives him a level of comfort of action... but is he letting his guard down at a critical juncture?

<Pose Tracker> Jacqueline Barber has posed.

The Caravan Kinship had a habit of going places other caravans didn't frequent. They could get around more quickly and efficiently, after all, and their vehicle allowed them to do so safely as well. What might seem like a remote, insignificant village is the perfect destination for them.

Jacqueline was winding down for sleep...or trying to, as she found it wasn't coming easy, when she heard someone getting up and moving around.


It most likely was him, but...tonight, with what was to come, she had to wonder what exactly it was that would draw him away. And so, she decided to tail him. It is in doing so that the two of them stumble upon a familiar face. Ethius remains quiet, but Jacqueline...

"Miss Iskandra?" She questions. It does not occur to her that her fellow alchemist may be planning something...untoward. She had too much trust put in her for that.

<Pose Tracker> Margaret has posed.

Margaret, and a couple of her goons, came here for no clear reason, checked into the town flophouse, and immediately passed out for twelve hours.

Margaret woke up first because she's physically superior to her cronies.

She is walking around in sandals and a long cloth bathrobe. Her hair, which needs washing, has been loosely wrapped up in a bun. She hasn't taken a bath YET - and indeed she is wandering nearer to the tower, holding a pipe in one hand, as if to see if there IS a bathhouse or SOMETHING due to her close exposure to sand, which, as we all know, is harsh, coarse... and gets everywhere.

Her head lifts up and she sees someone clambering up the water tower. "Hm," she muses to herself. "Perhaps that's the plumber."

She fast-walks closer due to the sandals she's in. fwop fwop fwop fwop fwop

<Pose Tracker> Neriah Parringer has posed.

In her day job, Neriah Parringer is a humble excavator who's taken up residence in the village of Wayside. But there's not always a lot that needs excavating. For lack of much to dig lately, she picks up more than her share of odd jobs.

Odd jobs, and sometimes unscrupulous things.

In this case, unscrupulous things like stealing the town's water supply, then selling it back to them at outrageously inflated prices. It's why there are three barrels sitting beneath one of the legs of the water tower. There seems to be nothing remarkable about them. They're just empty barrels save for the one with a coiled length of hose in it.

The sound of Jacqueline calling out - and she recognizes Jacqueline, all right - lets her know that the jig is up. She won't be stealing the water tonight. Or at least, not until Jay and whoever this Iskandra is leaves. Neriah bites her bottom lip, then inches across the ground.

Outwardly, there's no sign of her. She simply does not appear to be there.

About twenty seconds later, suddenly Neriah's strolling up. Her chameleon cloak has taken on a simple black colour as she steps into the shadow of the water tower, looking over towards Jacqueline. Someone else is there with her but she can't tell who. "Is that you, Jay?" she asks. "What's goin' on?"

<Pose Tracker> Ida Everstead-Rey has posed.

        Ida is headed to rendezvous with some associates soon, and needs to get to the nearest train station. She is, after all, headed back to the more well-traveled parts of Gunsmoke from the Baskar Nation, and any settlements that aren't infested with horrible flesh-eating monstrosities are potential pitstops. This one is right next to the rail tracks that Ida's been following on horseback. It's nighttime, so when Ida first sights the town on the horizon, her reaction is equal parts relief and wariness. Then she spots the unmistakable silhouette of the Caravan Kinship's motor-coach, and hears what is probably Jacqueline's voice in the distance.

        Grey Lady trots closer. Ida starts scanning the town for suspicious activity.

<Pose Tracker> Asteroid the Kid has posed.

Asteroid the Kid does not have too much trust in Iskandra. She's heard some of the shit she's said before. Like, talking about eating seraphs and shit. She figured it was a joke, but... Either way...she's been hanging with the Caravin Kinship lately and she shows up shortly after Jaqueline Barber does.

She taps her foot thoughtfully, squinting at where Iskandra is climbing up from. She knows what it is. She's from a small town.

"Hey," She says. "What are you doing there? That's the water supply, you can't just go climbing in there. You might make some people suspicious."

Asteroid is wearing cute galaxy patterned pajamas.

<Pose Tracker> Iskandra Grendorre has posed.

Well that's a problem. Iskandra spots several people coming her way, and she's basically got three options. Either hurry and try to prevent people catching what she's up to, try to get it done through opposition and rely on the fact fresh water isn't coming any time soon, and give up on her plans entirely. She'd about to go for option one when she hears a familiar voice, and there's a moment of pause.

Then, hands behind her back, Iskandra smiles kind of awkwardly. "Hello miss Jay, mister Jay's friend." She looks towards the other faces, trying to figure out if she knows any of them, then goes back to climbing up, she's trying to go for the first option, and there's clearly some kind of large container she's carrying with her up to the water supply.

Asteroid is asking the important question, and Iskandra can't not answer when Jacqueline is there, and she doesn't really feel like lying to Jacqueline either. "I'm going to put something in the water supply to help people sleep."

<Pose Tracker> Ethius Hesiod has posed.

        Ethius' eyes imperceptibly widen at all the sound cues that surround him. His right hand parts from the grasp of the quarterstaff for one of the satchels at his belt as a just-in-case precaution. One voice makes his blood freeze, but his mind doesn't let him quite bridge the gap on how or why, as some very interesting words come out of the familiar shadow's - now familiar voice's - mouth.
        He exhales, but his body language is visibly tensing up. That's a tell he normally does not let on. Something has him on edge, as various people approach for a variety of reasons.
        "Relinquish your concotion to me at once." Ooh, is he a buyer? Hey, some might think so, he sure has problems sleeping some nights, but, nothing about his tone of voice - neutral as it is - suggests there is about to be a typical healthy merchant-customer transaction. The word choice says it all. It is a demand. (As if the fact he already has a quarterstaff drawn doesn't already clue such in.)
        He knows he wants it. This is clear to him. Of all the interesting people around him, this seems to captivate him the most. They only met in brief. He doesn't question the instinct.
        "I ask that you comply at once." Like... some kinda border guard inspector. A rough-lookin' bandit-like fellah, playing border guard inspector. There's no spoken threat behind it, but as if the words alone didn't make it clear enough...
        He's not taking 'no' for an answer.

<Pose Tracker> Jacqueline Barber has posed.

Jacqueline glances around, noting that other people were starting to filter onto the scene...for the most part, they were people she recognized. She glances toward Neriah for a moment, offering her a smile.

"Ah, yes, it's me...hello, Neriah." She greets, but her attention soon returns to Iskandra. She frowns slightly, when Iskandra tells her what it is she's doing. Asteroid was right, it definitely was suspicious...but Jacqueline was willing to give her the benefit of the doubt.

"...That isn't a decision you should be making on your own. You can't always be certain how it will interact with people. If you really want to help, climb on down and we can think of something together." Jacqueline says. She's not taking the demanding approach, unlike Ethius. She glances toward him with a frown for a moment, but doesn't immediate comment on his word choice.

<Pose Tracker> Ida Everstead-Rey has posed.

        Ida rides down the main avenue, towards the large, conspicuous water tower with the lone figure clinging to it. Her eyes narrow as she spots the canister or container or something the woman has with her--and the mysterious, suspicious 'Ethius' person, who approaches her. Ida's lips tighten into a thin little line. She's feeling oddly clear-headed and decisive about this matter, thanks in no small part to the little trip she went on with Cyre, Catenna and Rosaline.

        Possibly also the ten or so minutes she spent crying after. That helped, too.

        Ida stops at the edge of the little gathering. To those who wouldn't recognize her, she's just an aristocratic-looking lady in trail clothes, a wide-brimmed hat, and a dust-grey poncho. She looks up at Iskandra, thoughtfully. Perhaps she's just putting more pressure on her.

<Pose Tracker> Neriah Parringer has posed.

Only when Neriah gets closer does she realize who's with Jacqueline.

Her blood temperature immediately drops several degrees. Tensing up, Neriah clenches her right hand at her side, her fingers curving stiffly until she's got them poised at her hip almost like eagle's talons. Only the fact that she's forcing herself not to raise her arm from her side keeps it from appearing threatening. "Jay, why are you hanging around with that man," she hisses as she takes a step back, bringing her left shoulder forward as though to defend herself with the arm she can afford to take a hit on. "He does nothing but hurt people."

Her eyes narrow as she focuses on Ethius intently for several seconds. Her eyes practically punch through him. It is, to put it lightly, not a friendly look at all.

Her hand begins to drift towards the pistol hanging at her belt. "Look, look at him right now!" she almost shouts. "I bet he's going to try and murder Iskandra if he doesn't do what he wants!"

<Pose Tracker> Margaret has posed.

People are all coming out. Hm. Margaret takes a drag off the pipe off the pipe, long and thoughtful, and exhales into the air.

She raises a hand to the side of her mouth. "EXCUSE ME!" she shouts towards Iskandra and company.


She... could probably hear what people are saying, with those long ears, but that would require a very important factor that is presently lacking, which is Margaret giving a crap.

A woman comes up nearby and looks fancy. "You, excuse me, miss," Margaret says to Ida. "Do you know where the -" Someone says a key word. "Murder?!" Margaret exclaims, looking back towards Neriah.

<Pose Tracker> Asteroid the Kid has posed.

"Woah." Asteroid says, eyes widening. "I didn't expect you to just admit that! Holy shit, Iskandra." She shakes her head, biting her lip. "I mean, it's pretty clever..." She looks towards Margaret, whom she mostly knows as someone who gave her a dirty look once (and bought shirts from her, but that's really out of mind at the moment), before looking to Neriah. "uh." She tells Neriah, whipping out a rag and polishing her head with it. "Well, I mean, if you're poisoning the waterhole, that's like...understandable?" Actually as Asteroid thinks about it, shooting someone who is trying to poison a town to make money off of them would be one of the things Ethius does she understands most.

Still, she glances over to Jay for a moment, holding off because, well, Jay usually finds solutions.

"But, uh, yeah, poisoning water people need to drink to survive in the wastelands is, like, bad. And shit."

<Pose Tracker> Iskandra Grendorre has posed.

"Sorry, mister Jay's friend. This is for the town, if you want some though, I can make some more later just for you." Iskandra answers Ethius with a tone in her voice of 'just let me do this.' Then she hears Jacqueline's logic and assuming the very best, and Iskandra sighs. "I'm sorry miss Jay, I didn't mean to give you the impression I'm a good person."

She's eyeing some other faces until Asteroid speaks up again, "Well, I wasn't going to lie to miss Jay." Then she gets back to climbing, trying to get this done before anyone decides that it's time to do more than talk and actually prevent her from doing what she's set out to do. Only taking a quick moment to chug down a flask of some liquid to help her out just in case someone, like Ethius for example, tries to do something about it.

<Pose Tracker> Ethius Hesiod has posed.

        Ethius, with his left hand, slams the butt of the quarterstaff against the sandy earth. The sand should dull the impact, disperse its force, and with it the sound created by a gesture that generally creates a defeaning crack across the area.
        Physics do not stop this. Loud, attention-grabbing, and might freak out Ida's horse.
        With his right hand, he sweeps an arm outward towards Jay behind him - ostensibly, towards all the chatter going on around him - as he faces upward towards Iskandra who is having herself a quick drink of something or another.
        "This is not a bath house." He replies, nonchalantly, without really confirming who's shouting that. "Please return to your lodgings."
        Neriah's anger- and terror-filled words fill his ears. He does not stand to refute them. Could she be correct? He tries to zone out all the extraneous sights and chatter, as the winged woman confirms probably the worst possible fears and intentions she could.
        Iskandra has a head start in preparing herself. Ethius would have to take time to come up there. He sticks his right hand out, palm facing her, as he starts to approach. He doesn't come to any ladders and/or stairs, whatever are applicable, just yet.
        "Miss Iskandra. You will surrender your possessions immediately." Those words sound exactly like that of... the kind of people that took her brother and fiance away from her. Neriah makes it clear that she knows what kind of man this guy is, to the uninitiated. He might truly mean to kill her on the spot.
        Iskandra may have to dispose of him first, as he stands to escalate the situation by words and gestures alone.

<Pose Tracker> Margaret has posed.

Margaret looks back at Asteroid the Kid, the stem of her fancy rich-woman pipe tugging down her lower lip. Her brow furrows. Something about the craters in that face.

"You, the shirt saleswoman," Margaret tells her. "Is that woman up there trying to poison the water I am in desperate need of bathing within?"

<Pose Tracker> Jacqueline Barber has posed.

There's a voice from the side. A voice Jacqueline recognizes. Jacqueline gives Margaret a confused glance before soon returning her attention to Iskandra. Neriah asks her a pointed question, though, at which point Jacqueline takes her eyes off her initial target again to glance toward Ethius.

"Ethius?" She asks for confirmation. "He's not the nicest person around, but-"

Jacqueline winces as Ethius slams the butt of his quarterstaff against the ground. This is a sound she's hard before, but it was always jarring to hear...and it only serves to lend Neriah's accusation a bit more credence.

"No, he won't. I won't let him." She replies, giving Ethius a pointed look. "No one has to get hurt here. We just need to calm down and-"

And that's when Iskandra decides to proceed with her plan regardless.

"No, wait! I don't know what you're after, but you don't have to do this! There's still time to talk this out! I don't want to have to alert the village about you!" Jacqueline calls after her, with a bit more urgency. She was a little confused and unsure of how to handle the situation, and Ethius wasn't helping things.

"Ethius, stand down!" Jacqueline says. She hasn't drawn a weapon yet, but her pouch of Crests is still there on her belt. Everyone who's traveled with her knows it doesn't take much time to draw one out...

<Pose Tracker> Neriah Parringer has posed.

"Yes, he's a horrible person and a murderer!" Neriah insists with a snap of a look towards Margaret, her eyes alight with intense sparks. "All he does is hurt people! Just like he tried to murder me!"

She glances towards Asteroid and clicks her teeth together. "Yes, I know it's bad, but so's he. Everyone's in danger so long as he's around."

Her right hand hangs near the grip of her gun as her gaze moves between Iskandra and Ethius, watching to see how both of them react. Iskandra keeps on going. In another lifetime, Neriah might've tried to stop her. She might've even agreed with Asteroid.

Jacqueline interrupts Neriah's train of thought.

The dark-haired girl glances at the alchemist, biting down firmly to her bottom lip. "If you can control him, then control him," she says in a quieter tone, though still one laced with anxiety and defensive tension. The sentiment is bolstered by something else.

A growing sense that intrudes itself upon the minds of the spiritually sensitive. Neriah's fingers twitch. Visually, nothing is manifesting itself, but that power of hers is building - what she calls a rare symbolist magic, which she seems to be gathering to prevent herself. The sense of it, to those prone to feeling such things, is heavy and dreadful.

It feels wrong. Like a curdled spirit.

<Pose Tracker> Ida Everstead-Rey has posed.

        The sharp bang of Ethius slamming his staff into the ground does indeed spook Grey Lady. She's normally as even-tempered as they come--some might go so far as to say she's not easily-impressed--but it's still a loud, sudden noise, and she's still a horse. She stands bolt upright, ears sticking straight up, and half-jumps, half-canters away from the man who made the scary sound. Ida does not panic. Instead, she gently digs in her heels, tightens her grip on the reins, and leads her mount over to the hitching post in front of the inn. She whispers something she hopes is soothing.

        Conveniently, this takes her away from the altercation--for now.

<Pose Tracker> Asteroid the Kid has posed.

Asteroid the Kid says, "Uh." to Iskandra. "It's... it's not okay to poison people just because you're honest about it, you know? I mean, I'm not like... a great person myself, but like--I'd prefer to do business with people who aren't, like, poisoning people? I don't know, that's just a line I'm not--okay with?"

She gives Ethius a confused look. Iskandra just admitting the whole thing is kind of throwing her off her game. And she's in her pajamas. She doesn't want to launch meteors at a water tower for mysterious reasons.

Okay maybe they aren't so mysterious.

"Just uh--be careful, Ethius." Asteroid tells him. "I mean, like, I know you're super badass but... if we damage the water tower, that's probably worse than poisoning it."

That'd mean no water at all after all.

She turns towards Margaret as she asks that question. "Yeah. You'd probably drown, I guess."

She shrugs.

<Pose Tracker> Iskandra Grendorre has posed.

"I'm sorry, miss Jay." Iskandra repeats when Ethius makes it quite clear that if she proceeds there will be escalation. And then she lets herself go, the malevolence unrestrained as she knows she needs to use everything she's got to win a fight like this. Neriah's support gets a quick flask thrown her way. "Drink this!" And the Hellion does the sensible thing and drops down, drinking a flask worth of liquid as she lands.

"Don't worry, Asteroid. I'm not letting him destroy the water supply." After all, Iskandra needs it for this plan to work out. Then, she flicks a flask towards the approaching Ethius, this one is far less kind than the others, filled with an unpleasant liquid left over from a failed experiment.

GS: Iskandra Grendorre has attacked Neriah Parringer with Regeneration Draught!
GS: Iskandra Grendorre has attacked Iskandra Grendorre with Regeneration Draught!
GS: Iskandra Grendorre heals Iskandra Grendorre! She gains 100 temporary hit points!
GS: Iskandra Grendorre heals Neriah Parringer! She gains 100 temporary hit points!
GS: Iskandra Grendorre has attacked Ethius Hesiod with Flask Toss!
GS: Iskandra Grendorre has completed her action.
GS: CRITICAL! Ethius Hesiod critically Guards a hit from Iskandra Grendorre's Flask Toss for 19 hit points!
GS: Poison! Statuses applied to Ethius Hesiod!
<Pose Tracker> Ethius Hesiod has posed.

        Ethius' eyes widen and narrow as a wave of something... exudes from her. His vision clouds, surrounded by implicit threats and strongly-worded suggestions he stand down at once.
        All the while, Iskandra uses her strong throwing arm to hurl something down at him. It is neatly deflected with the tip of the quarterstaff... directing it to strike into the side of the water tower and dislodge its contents, spraying a foul ichor in his face. With the bandanna over the lower half of his face, it would seem that anything that requires breathing something in for full effect will prove less effective.
        Just skin (and eye) contact of the foul mist seems to be enough to send a dull throbbing through the taciturn man's face. He exhales loudly again. His mind dances with stressing, overpowering phenomena. Patterns dance in front of his face, in colors that do not belong. Far behind him, a haze of warmth and sound that he can never look at...
        Ethius says nothing more. No words of defiance, no agreement with Jay - it has all completely escalated. He springs to action with the same certainty and decisiveness of movement that is rarely seen as he chants syllables a bit more loudly than usual. The lights of the tattoos visible from what can be seen of his forearms light up, followed by the sounds of sorcery, the cast lights of patterns surrounding him as the fingers of his free hand dance to specific patterns along with a few sweeping movements.
        "Dust Spray!" The spell name is called with an outward sweep of his free hand. A high-velocity spray of cloudy dust, like a shotgun burst, shoot upwards for Iskandra's position to try and cover his advance up towards the Hellion. He only has one way up there, barring outside intervention. It only has value as direct cover fire, rather than any hope of properly obscuring sight of him.

GS: Ethius Hesiod has attacked Iskandra Grendorre with Dust Spray!
GS: Ethius Hesiod takes 6 damage from Poison!
GS: Ethius Hesiod has completed his action.
<Pose Tracker> Margaret has posed.

"What??" Margaret says in response to Neriah raising the point that someone's a murderer. Who!? That other guy there?! The sore and tired Margaret attempts to find solace by smoking. It does not help much, especially in light of what Asteroid says about her drowning. And...

Especially when the woman who was talking her starts to throw off stink like a curdled piece of smoked meat left in a bottle of milk in the hot summer sun and then hurled against the doorway of the people in a minority group you dislike!!

"That does it," Margaret says, before taking a deep breath and declaring, "TO ME, MY BLADE!"


Margaret's head swivels towards the boarding house. "TO ME... MY BLADE." She makes a little grabby gesture with her free hand. The last dregs of the pipe's contents get sucked out and exhaled in frustration, before she raises her voice to really belt out, "RUSTY!! SPECK!! WAKE YOUR DEAD ARSES UP!! I'LL SELL YOU FOR SMALL JON IF YOU DON'T MIND THIS MOMENT!!"

This screaming leads to a window opening. Inside, two ragged-looking but-in-a-tired-way not-a-tormented-way men look out.

"TO ME - MY BLADE," Margaret repeats, making that duck-bill grabby gesture.

In that moment, Rusty throws a spear at Margaret, who snatches it out of the air and twists it around. It's not a spear, the sword-blade at the end is curved - it's a naginata! She turns her attention back towards Iskandra and declares, still in a loud voice, "Do you think for one blessed moment in your sinful little afterbirth of a life that you could escape the eyes of the Goddess? Fate itself is on my side!"

She stamps the naginata on the ground. Shadow bursts out of it, rippling violet light rising around her like lotus petals as she shrugs eloquently out of the bathrobe. Beneath it she is wearing little better than underclothes, but the ratings are preserved. The fabric is twisted up, wrapped round her pipe (which was expensive and also just got cashed out onto the dirty ground of Filgaia) and flung back towards that open window. (Rusty catches it, because he earns his pay.)

"You face the BLACK PEARL OF NEO-VANE! Weep to the Destroyer for your poor life decisions, and prepare your souls for the sufferings of hell!"

That man, Margaret thinks as her eyes cut towards Ethius. Again! Is this truly fate...?

But it is a momentary hesitation. A moment later, a darkling flashy swirl of violet and black velvety light, and Margaret erupts, aiming in a lunging dive towards Iskandra's torso! Her eyes are wide and wild, her teeth bared, ears flat against the sides of her head: she does not seem to be funning, despite being in smallclothes, by unfortunate necessity.

GS: Margaret has attacked Iskandra Grendorre with I'll Give You Something Flashy!!
GS: Margaret has completed her action.
<Pose Tracker> Jacqueline Barber has posed.

That assertion hits hard, and Jacqueline looks right at Ethius. For some reason, she doesn't question the possibility of whether or not he tried to kill Neriah. Somehow...it seems entirely possible to her.

"E-Ethius...did you really...?" Jacqueline says. She wants him to deny it, but...

Jacqueline recoils slightly as both Neriah and Iskandra let go, the sensations they both emanate - different, but both equally cloying to the sensitive...like Jacqueline. It's a sign that they're both fully intending to fight.

This is corroborated when Iskandra drops down from the water tower after drinking one flask and tossing Neriah another, before flinging one at Ethius. Ethius moves to create a powder cloud.

"Stop this! This is ridiculous!" Jacqueline pleads...and then Margaret joins in on the fight, too.

"Y-you're not helping! Please, stay out of this!" Jacqueline shouts, channeling her frustration at the situation toward the under-dressed elf-woman. She already wasn't a fan of her from the last time they met...

She looks between everyone gathered, her hand lowering toward the bag of Crests at her side. She doesn't draw one yet, but it's on her mind. It feels like they really might try to kill each other if she doesn't step in...

<Pose Tracker> Neriah Parringer has posed.

Again Neriah's head of steam is interrupted. "Huh?" she says with a blink as she catches the flask Iskandra tosses her way. She looks at it quizzically, as if not sure if she should trust it to be something other than poison.

And then, before her eyes, Iskandra transforms.

Neriah's right hand hurts. The spiritually sensitive can feel the aura she's giving off rippling in response. The sense pouring from Neriah is not Malevolence. It feels much different - something deep and eldritch, like a festering wound of the soul.

With a flick of her hand, Neriah unstops the potion, then downs the entire thing in one gulp. She tosses the bottle to one side, her earlier concerns vanishing behind a veil of something else.

"I'm sorry, you two," she says. Her eyes dart towards Asteroid, then towards Jacqueline. From the way she hangs her head, it seems like she's not being facetious about it.

As Margaret changes into her underwear, Neriah breathes in slowly, then lets the breath out. Her left hand slips into her coat. She watches, for a moment, as Ethius makes his move to strike back at Iskandra. She counts on Margaret's buoyant flashiness to distract some of the others.

In a flash, Neriah's moving towards him. Her left hand darts out of her coat. Her right grabs for his shoulder.

The left snakes around him. She's holding a small knife. As the dust spray streams around herself and him, she flicks the blade and attempts to rake it across his throat.

Her expression is as cold as stone.

GS: Neriah Parringer has attacked Ethius Hesiod with Neriah Slash Ethius!
GS: Neriah Parringer has completed her action.
GS: Ethius Hesiod critically Guards a hit from Neriah Parringer's Neriah Slash Ethius for 16 hit points!
GS: Iskandra Grendorre takes a glancing hit from Ethius Hesiod's Dust Spray for 47 hit points!
DC: MISS! Iskandra Grendorre completely evades I'll Give You Something Flashy! from Margaret!
<Pose Tracker> Ida Everstead-Rey has posed.

        Ida hitches Grey Lady's reins to the hitching post, trying her best to stay calm and collected in the face of everything that's happening. It works like a charm up until Neriah--and it is unquestionably Neriah, from Ida's past experience--does something that sets her teeth on edge. The thick, cloying stink of Malevolence joins it a moment later. Ida executes a calm about-face just in time to see Iskandra take a flying leap off the water tower, eyes blazing. Both Neriah and Iskandra seem focused on Ethius, and Margaret's flashy entrance gives Ida exactly what she needs.

        Ida moves. She rushes forwards, chi speeding and lightening her steps. She has not had many encounters with Hellions, but the ones she's had tell her to expect the unexpected, and to stay focused. Fortunately, her tentative, fragile truce with herself helps her do both of those things!

        If Iskandra is not paying attention, Ida is going to come out of absolutely nowhere--maybe she'll glimpse the naturalist behind her. The initial strike is decisive and forceful and honestly kind of a dirty move; Ida thrusts an open-palmed hand forwards, right at the base of one of Iskandra's wings.

GS: Ida Everstead-Rey has attacked Iskandra Grendorre with Open Palm!
GS: Ida Everstead-Rey has completed her action.
GS: Iskandra Grendorre takes a glancing hit from Ida Everstead-Rey's Open Palm for 47 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Asteroid the Kid has posed.

Asteroid the Kid stares at Margaret for the most part here because she's being very loud. She is not mad at her or anything, just distracted. "What's Neo-Vane?" She asks. Lemina might have mentioned but she totally forgot. Either way, Asteroid grumbles to herself, that name is so cool. She should have gone with Black Pearl of the Baskar. That would have been amazing.

"Don't poison it either!! GEEZE! This is the wasteland, not freaking Adelhyde!!" Asteroid flails her arms up and down but to no avail.

Asteroid looks towards Jacqueline. "Hey can't you like, you know, stop the poisoning first maybe?"

She stalls a little bit when Neriah says Ethius tried to murder her. That's news to her too. How does she feel about it? PRETTY SHITTY. "Hey hold on--that sucks but, like, I learned you can't just attack people until you're--"

She trails off. She goes quiet for a long moment. And then she says, "Oh fuck this."

She summons an asteroid into her hand and snapkicks it towards Neriah. "I know he's an asshole but he's sometimes pretty nice!! He has some kind of dumb thing going on where he doesn't make any sense! Give me time to figure out the pattern with...with SCIENCE!"

GS: Asteroid the Kid has attacked Neriah Parringer with Asteroid Ball!
GS: Asteroid the Kid has completed her action.
GS: Neriah Parringer takes a glancing hit from Asteroid the Kid's Asteroid Ball for 49 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Iskandra Grendorre has posed.

Iskandra sees the spell go off just in time to react, but she's not quick enough to completely get out of the way, and gets blasted on the side of her face. Fortunately this movement means she doesn't need much more speed to get out of the way of the naginata, twisting to the side and seeing Ida come just a moment too late, peddling back further but getting hit to the side of one of her wings. It hurts, but she could've been off way worse.

"Your friend is clearly intending to kill me, miss Jay. I can't die yet, so I have to. Sorry." Iskandra answers Jacqueline, "If he backs off, I will, too." She then proceeds to roll her eyes at Margaret, "Yeah, yeah. Die foul hellion and all that. Can't you zealots come up with something new sometime?" She throws a flask full of experimental leftovers towards Margaret.

"It won't kill them, it's just a sleeping draught, and in the water supply it'll be so diluted it will just make them drowsy. It's no big deal, and I already have the antidote ready." She answers Asteroid at the same time she draws her sword, immediately trying to stab Ida in the face with it using her sword arm, and the other hand throwing another flask of experimental leftovers towards Asteroid.

GS: Iskandra Grendorre has attacked Margaret with Flask Toss!
GS: Iskandra Grendorre has attacked Ida Everstead-Rey with Pacing Gambit!
GS: Iskandra Grendorre has attacked Asteroid the Kid with Flask Toss!
GS: Iskandra Grendorre has completed her action.
GS: Ida Everstead-Rey takes a glancing hit from Iskandra Grendorre's Pacing Gambit for 41 hit points!
DC: MISS! Margaret completely evades Mystery Liquid from Iskandra Grendorre!
<Pose Tracker> Ethius Hesiod has posed.

        Ethius' shoulder quakes underneath Neriah's right hand as she gets the jump on him.
        More overpowering phenomena - perhaps the most overwhelming of all, in the face of so much emotion, so much horror, so much uncertainty. Something anchors him enough in reality, if only just, that keeps him within control of his very senses.
        His free right hand shaking, he folds it inwardas he shoves it to the side against Neriah's slashing arm. The blade cuts against it awkwardly, drawing a fresh trickle of blood.
        He is a larger, more built man in comparison, but the save seems narrow. His shoulder quakes underneath Neriah's right hand. He staggers back one step, but never finds the physical strength to fully push Neriah off of him. She's got him held in place.
        It takes everything of his willpower to not buckle to SEVEN SEVEN SEVEN SEVEN SEVEN SEVEN SEVEN
        "This... does... not... concern...!" Each word is more strained than the last. Any word laced with emotion from Ethius is unnatural, in just how natural it sounds. Fury. Fear. He doesn't usually speak like an everyday person. There's always that detached character, with complicated-sounding words that tend to mean exactly what they do, and no more. Neriah's grasp threatens to bring him to heel, on all levels.
        Tactically, dealing with Neriah should be the first priority. It is not. His eyes remain fixated upon the unbound Hellion. What is it that drew him towards her? What drives him to move in to kill, should Neriah's words prove correct? He is gaining no ground against Neriah's knife-bearing hand. Unassisted, this tug of war will eventually go to her.
        Asteroid's interruption might, potentially, be what saves his life right then and there.
        The stinging, numbing sensation spread from his face through the rest of his body, sapping him of fighting strength with every passing moment. Margaret's elegant, righteous advance and Ida's sneaky opening are vaguely acknowledged as flourishes of motion. What colors and shapes can stay in focus, are entirely upon Iskandra.
        The focus is unwavering. He struggles for breath, but yet he can still whisper out the syllables coherently enough. The fingers of his left hand, still clutching the quarterstaff, flutter appropriately as the same signs of Symbological sorcery come up anew.
        For not making much sense, something about the whole picture seems to be making a lot more sense to him than it must normally do.
        "Surge Bolt!" Ethius calls at the completion of the spell, as a burst of electrical sorcery jumps from his left hand at a fast, hard, violent-looking arc to try and surge into Iskandra - her words should ring true.
        This man has it out for her. Right from the beginning, Jay might remember when he didn't stand down by her orders.

GS: Ethius Hesiod has attacked Iskandra Grendorre with Surge Bolt!
GS: Ethius Hesiod takes 7 damage from Poison!
GS: Ethius Hesiod has completed his action.
GS: CRITICAL! Iskandra Grendorre takes a solid hit from Ethius Hesiod's Surge Bolt for 145 hit points!
GS: Jam! Statuses applied to Iskandra Grendorre!
GS: Iskandra Grendorre enters CONDITION GREEN!!
GS: CRITICAL! Asteroid the Kid guards a hit from Iskandra Grendorre's Flask Toss for 66 hit points!
GS: Poison! Statuses applied to Asteroid the Kid!
<Pose Tracker> Margaret has posed.

"Kiss my entire ass!" Margaret shouts at Jacqueline on the way past. "If you people would slay evil when it arises, maybe your world wouldn't be a toilet!"


Her thrust doesn't work. "Sarcasm!? I've been sarcastic since you were a gleam in your daddy's eye, devil!" Margaret says to Iskandra even as she has to kill her momentum by backflipping off the strutting of the water tower, coming to a readied lance as a flask is thrown at her.

Margaret twists the naginata around to parry it, sending the flask sailing off in another random direction. This takes enough of her attention that she hears Iskandra's plan and is able to see the other one of these darkness-plagued hellions go for the man - they're struggling - good, he's a sorcerer -

"Oh, so you're not just a devil, you're an EXTORTIONIST!" Margaret says, with withering contempt in her voice. Her eyes then go towards that other one, who was concealing herself. She feints towards Iskandra but unless Iskandra takes efforts to throw herself onto Margaret's blade, the jab merely sends a message - i got you cornered, jerk! - as her attention goes to Neriah.

She's agile, Margaret thinks. Her free hand comes up to her lips, pressing there...

Then she blows a kiss. This is explicitly extremely clear to Ida, especially when a dark pink heart flies off of Margaret's palm, twirling with sparkles towards Neriah.

This gets much less silly when it erupts into a clinging swath of ropy, clawing quasi-living ink aimed to engulf Neriah's head in cold, judgmental shadow.

GS: Margaret has attacked Neriah Parringer with Illusion Kiss!
GS: Margaret has completed her action.
GS: CRITICAL! Neriah Parringer takes a glancing hit from Margaret's Illusion Kiss for 0 hit points!
GS: Poison, Disease, Weaken, Cripple, and Mute! Statuses applied to Neriah Parringer!
<Pose Tracker> Asteroid the Kid has posed.

"She's not wrong," Asteroid admits about Margaret, very grudgingly.

<Pose Tracker> Ida Everstead-Rey has posed.

        Ida sees Iskandra's hand move, sees it grip the hilt of her sword. The blade rushes at her, in a strike that could have easily killed someone else instantly. Ida sees it coming, twists on her heel, steps to the side; the Hellion's blade nicks the skin over her right cheekbone, raising a thin line of blood across her face. Even that was way too close for comfort. This Hellion is dangerous.

        "How cunning," Ida says, her voice too calm for her to be truly praising Iskandra. Malevolence hammers into her like pounding, corrosive surf. It twists her guts, and raises a bitter taste in the back of her throat. "Were you planning on--"

        'you're an EXTORTIONIST!' Margaret cries, finishing Ida's thought for her. Her brow furrows, ever-so-slightly, as the pink heart floats across the battlefield.

        "Perhaps you should explain your plan to the authorities at November," Ida suggests. Her hands are a blur for a moment--and when Iskandra can see them clearly, one is holding a spark-striker to a little cotton fuse sticking out of a metal canister with holes in it. Ida lights the fuse, and then throws the whatever-it-is at Iskandra's feet; she twists away, covers her ears, and closes her eyes.

        The flashbang goes off a moment later. It is very bright, and very loud, and hopefully the non-Neriah, non-Iskandra members of the scuffle got the idea.

GS: Ida Everstead-Rey has attacked Iskandra Grendorre with Flare Grenade!
GS: Ida Everstead-Rey has completed her action.
DC: MISS! Iskandra Grendorre completely evades Flare Grenade from Ida Everstead-Rey!
<Pose Tracker> Neriah Parringer has posed.

Neriah had really hoped that Astie would understand.

Instead she gets a space rock hurled at her, even as she tries to take another swipe at Ethius. Before anything can come of it, Asteroid's hurled stone clips her shoulder and sends her spiralling away from the mysterious man, letting out a choked sound. Staggering, she hits the ground on one knee. Her knife tumbles out of her hand and lands in the turf; she doesn't go for it.

Lifting her head, Neriah shoots Asteroid a pained look, her teeth clicking together. "I'm sorry," she says again. "But if I let him live, he'll just try to hurt someone else. I don't like what Iskandra's doing either!"

Pulling off her hat, Neriah kips up and begins to dash to one side. The horrible sensation radiating from her only heightens. And yet her first move isn't magical: It's to pull a silvery Dragon Fossil-enhanced pistol from her belt and fire off a few piston-driven shots at Asteroid, seemingly aimed more to force her to duck and cover than to actually kill her.

It's Ethius who gets that special focus. Neriah levels her right hand. She pulls in a hard, rushing breath. Her chin comes up, a pained growl building behind her teeth. That hideous magical sensation swells and mounts.

At which point Margaret blows her a kiss. Neriah pauses in mid-buildup and blinks at her.

The kiss's power becomes clear as it blooms outward to enwreath Neriah in its judgmental, inky shadows. The dark magic wraps around her like a bad touch. Her magic builds as she struggles within the disgusting judgmental shadows, straining and arching. Her eyes squeeze closed. All she can think of is that someone is mocking her. Judging her. Again.

You shall never belong amongst their number, as you are now. Ever will you be upon the fringeshe, unaccepted and unacceptable. Because you hear their screams as music, and they see that melody twist within your heart.

Neriah's eyes open. Her pupils shrink down to tiny points.

The shadowy coils suddenly strain outward, stretching like rubber bands. The darkness within Neriah pushes out of her into a vast, writhing shell. Eldritch patterns, all spirals and etched lines, dance through it. Within, the girl throws her head back.

There is no sound. But one can see through the field that she's screaming an enraged scream.

The shield shatters, the shadowy coils breaking beneath its force. The fragments of the shield weave together and whirl around Neriah. A massive wave of rumbling unlight pours down Neriah's right arm, erupting towards Ethius in a mass of undulating black tendrils. They merge together, blobbing madly into an amorphous claw shape, then swell into a vast coil that rips towards Ethius, splitting to surge at Margaret as well. Dark magic whirls and rages with a bassy screech like the sound of something dying slowed down into a rolling, sickening drone. The sheer power packed into the spell is immense, sufficient to reduce a body to pulp if one lets it.

Neriah cocks her head to the left and breathes deeply.

GS: Neriah Parringer used Mystic on Neriah Parringer! 0 Temporary HP gained! All statuses cleared!
GS: Neriah Parringer has activated a Force Action!
GS: Neriah Parringer has attacked Asteroid the Kid with Marilyn Snapshot!
GS: Neriah Parringer has attacked Ethius Hesiod with 7eventh 7in!
GS: Neriah Parringer has attacked Margaret with 7eventh 7in!
GS: Asteroid the Kid critically Guards a hit from Neriah Parringer's Marilyn Snapshot for 19 hit points!
GS: Neriah Parringer has completed her action.
GS: Ethius Hesiod takes a glancing hit from Neriah Parringer's 7eventh 7in for 48 hit points!
GS: Margaret takes a glancing hit from Neriah Parringer's 7eventh 7in for 43 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Jacqueline Barber has posed.

Jacqueline glances toward Asteroid with a frown.

"That's what I was trying to do!" She replies. She's a little short with her, but this whole situation has her nerves shot. She had just wanted to try and solve things peacefully, but then everything went straight to violence. And then Margaret responds, and Jacqueline can't help but get angry.

"Well, that explains a lot about the way you people work! You can't just kill someone because you consider them 'evil'!" Jacqueline shouts. Neriah apologizes to her amongst all this, but Jacqueline doesn't realize what she means until it's too late.

"Neriah, wait!" Jacqueline shouts and reaches a hand out to her, as she sees the excavator charging toward Ethius with her knife drawn.

He thankfully does not get his throat slit...but then there's Ida of all people, launching a sneak attack on Iskandra.

"Miss Ida!?" Jacqueline shouts, surprised to see her here. "What are you-"

Her eyes focus on Iskandra, then.

"...Why? It's 'no big deal'? Listen, Iskandra, you can't do things like that! There's a better way to go about this!" Jacqueline says, backpedaling.

As much as she hates to admit it, this situation has gone far, far out of her hands...reached a tipping point that there might not be any recovering from. Ida's flash grenade doesn't help matters, and neither does Neriah unleashing everything she has. Jacqueline raises her hand to protect her eyes.

Everyone can see she has a Crest in her hand, and she's about to invoke it.

"Everyone...please, stop!" She cries out in regret and frustration, her voice going a bit high-pitched. There's a swelling of sorcerous power, the smell of ozone in the air. This is the only warning before a bolt of lightning crashes down in the midst of all of them.

It's not aimed at anyone in particular, just in an attempt to force them to separate.

<Pose Tracker> Asteroid the Kid has posed.

"That's what Jay's for!" Asteroid says. "Her like entire job is to keep Ethius from doing stupid shit! Sadly sometimes words just don't work and one of those times is when you're being hit by uh--leftovers? Ew--Asteroid lifts her shirt over where her nose would be but she manages to avoid the worst of it. She can feel the dark energy in Neriah. She doesn't really care about

<Pose Tracker> Asteroid the Kid has posed.

"That's what Jay's for!" Asteroid says. "Her like entire job is to keep Ethius from doing stupid shit! Sadly sometimes words just don't work and one of those times is when you're being hit by uh--leftovers? Ew--Asteroid lifts her shirt over where her nose would be but she manages to avoid the worst of it. She can feel the dark energy in Neriah. She doesn't really care about her being full of dark energy, of course, but it's pretty telling when she's about to get murdery. Of course when she's literally stabbing someone she likes, what can she do? Ethius is like the closest thing to an actual dad she has, or at least the closest thing to a dad that doesn't hate her for having horns, and instead hates her because ... uh ... she's still not sure on that, but until she figures him out, she isn't going to just let him get murdered at least.

She is shot in the head which does the least amount of damage to Asteroid. Indeed, as she bends her head backforward, Neriah can see the bullet pop out of her asteroid head and the head--repairs itself.

"Tch..." Asteroid says. "I'll stop when they stop, Ethius has the star medium, I have to protect him!"

That's the reason she's saying anyway. She grabs the Star Medium and starts chanting.

"Rigdobrite, bring your power upon me, fill this area with deadly solar radiation!!"

A green aura ripples around Neriah, threatening to engulf her!

GS: Asteroid the Kid has attacked Neriah Parringer with Rad Riser!
GS: Asteroid the Kid takes 6 damage from Poison!
GS: Asteroid the Kid has completed her action.
GS: Neriah Parringer takes a solid hit from Asteroid the Kid's Rad Riser for 133 hit points!
GS: Disease! Statuses applied to Neriah Parringer!
<Pose Tracker> Iskandra Grendorre has posed.

Iskandra gets hit hard by Ethius's lightning, it arcs over her wings and briefly brings her to her knees. She looks at him with clear fury, it's clear to her that Ethius hates her, and she doesn't even know why. And she, well... she can't stand that. The lightning already has her on her knees, and she recognzes the flashbang for what it is in time for her to look away. Then makes sure to steer clear from Margaret's attack.

She sees Neriah get afflicted by all kinds of horrible things, and thus tosses her partner of the moment another flask, then jumps back as Jay does her thing. Taking the opportunity to sip another flask for herself. "I'm sorry, miss Jay, but I need a lot of money. I can't just sit around and wait for it to trickle in, if you've a better suggestion, I'm all ears."

And then she just rushes towards Ethius, reaching out to grab him and wield him as a weapon, trying to smack him into Margaret, into Ida, and into Asteroid. She's not holding back for this, and uses the sword in her other hand to add some extra hurt to this.

GS: Iskandra Grendorre has attacked Neriah Parringer with Restoration Draught!
GS: CRITICAL! Neriah Parringer takes a solid hit from Iskandra Grendorre's Restoration Draught for 0 hit points!
GS: Poison! Statuses applied to Neriah Parringer!
GS: Restore! Iskandra Grendorre clears debuffs from Neriah Parringer!
GS: Iskandra Grendorre has attacked Iskandra Grendorre with Strong Draught!
GS: Iskandra Grendorre takes a solid hit from Iskandra Grendorre's Strong Draught for 0 hit points!
GS: Hyper! Statuses applied to Iskandra Grendorre!
GS: Iskandra Grendorre has activated a Force Action!
GS: Iskandra Grendorre has activated a Force Action!
GS: Iskandra Grendorre has attacked Ethius Hesiod with Empire Shatterer!
GS: Iskandra Grendorre has attacked Margaret with Empire Shatterer!
GS: Iskandra Grendorre has attacked Ida Everstead-Rey with Empire Shatterer!
GS: Iskandra Grendorre has attacked Asteroid the Kid with Empire Shatterer!
GS: Iskandra Grendorre has completed her action.
GS: CRITICAL! Ethius Hesiod critically Guards a hit from Iskandra Grendorre's Empire Shatterer for 38 hit points!
GS: Poison! Statuses applied to Ethius Hesiod!
GS: Ida Everstead-Rey takes a solid hit from Iskandra Grendorre's Empire Shatterer for 175 hit points!
GS: Margaret guards a hit from Iskandra Grendorre's Empire Shatterer for 104 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Ethius Hesiod has posed.

        When the flashbang rolls down low, Ethius bows his head and bends his left arm inward, resting an ear awkwardly against his bicep, his forearm against his eyes, and his right hand plugging the respective ear as he turns his upper torso away from Iskandra for a moment, closing his eyes. A nearly flawless response before it goes off.
        Why does this otherwise small, trivial detail - its impact on the field and its target notwithstanding - pull his attention, otherwise so easy to miss in all the confusion?
        When his eyes open... no, he doesn't need to open his eyes to catch what's already dancing in the corners. Trespassing in the ears. Jumping in the mind. Stampeding in his very soul.
        His legs find strength to move. His movements are aimless. There isn't really much in the way of 'getting away' from the unlight when it touches you once. Only the psychology that he's getting away, somehow, seems to dull the impact. It might just be a placebo. There is nothing 'glancing' about the coil stabbing into his back, just below the heart. That might be red blood. The impact might be loosing something else, unless it's a trick of the unlight that something else is being shed. Ethius' movement slows, and he falls to a crouch as he comes to the very edge of the manifestation's reach.
        This doesn't conceSEVEN
        This doeSEVEN
        His mind does not usually go all caps at him. The sound of crashing lightning screams ever louder than this, completely unexpected. What rhythm he has going in the flow of battle is completely disrupted. It is the opening Iskandra needs in order to grab hold of him. He is larger, but in her emotionally-fueled hands, he is but a rag doll.
        He is a rag doll that puts up a fight, both hands on the quarterstaff. He tries to plunge it on the ground in order to rob Iskandra's swinging of momentum, to provide leverage in which to counterattack. Inadvertedly, she sets up one of his more familiar techniques then and there.
        Except he's dealing with sandy ground. Not only does the quarterstaff fail to completely slow his swing, it threatens to do a number to the people Iskandra swings Ethius into. He might be keeping himself level, stopping himself from bodily colliding with them.
        This isn't extending to the quarterstaff, as it seems to sweep the others - Margaret, Ida, and Asteroid. It's not completely in his hands. Asteroid renews her commitment to protecting this strange man whose alternating kindness and pragmatism seem to follow a pattern completely alien to their collective moralities and logic. Jacqueline wants everything to stop, for everything to come to complete calm.
        He is in no position to talk back as he finally gets the staff planted deeply enough in the ground to cease his swinging, using the leftover momentum as he flies free of Iskandra's grasp to... keep spinning and swinging from the staff, looking to strike her several times with his feet.
        "Tornado Strike!" He calls, even as his leg glances off her blade at least once. He, himself, seems to avoid the worst of what she has to offer, somehow finding his center to strike back anew as he fights back against physical dizziness and emotional confusion.
        Take the undefined substance from her.
        Take the undefined substance from her, for...
        ...His mind doesn't fully put it together. It is of utmost importance, in this confusion, that he secures it.

GS: Ethius Hesiod has attacked Iskandra Grendorre with Tornado Strike!
GS: Ethius Hesiod takes 7 damage from Poison!
GS: Ethius Hesiod has completed his action.
DC: MISS! Iskandra Grendorre completely evades Tornado Strike from Ethius Hesiod!
<Pose Tracker> Margaret has posed.

Neriah busts out her gun, like the legendary Arkeli, and then the shadows engulf her, and Margaret feels smug. It fades when Neriah proves to be more favored by her DARK PATRON than Margaret thought, leading the Guardswoman to take a single step back. Magic whirls towards her -

Margaret is able to command the shadow with in her to rise. Complicated nightshades and lotuses flare around her, taking the brunt of Neriah's burst but setting her back a step. Margaret opens her mouth to say something, probably rude, and then


Thunder crashes from the heavens! Margaret flinches, but, used to the lightning, she is not thrown off, nor by the burst of a grenade from Ida. "You simpering bint! Maybe you can negotiate her into coming back to do it next week! Once you pay off a bandit, YOU JUST BOUGHT YOURSELF A LORD!"

"ROB A BANK LIKE A NORMAL PERSON!" Margaret shouts at Iskandra moments before she has a second-hand quarterstaff slam her in the side hard enough that she loses her breath, staggering away. Propping herself up on her naginata, she looks up and sees--

Minions! Speck, not heavily described, is carrying three people's luggage. Margaret can see that Rusty is much less burdened. She coughs wetly, raises her voice - "I need the cards!" she shouts, raising a hand.

Rusty goes long. They land - with attached strap - in Margaret's hand moments later.

The strap is lashed around her waist with one hand. Margaret's secret weapon is not yet revealed, however; instead her arm works like a piston on a universal joint, aiming an alternating set of sharp jabs with full exploitation of the length of the shaft - first Iskandra, then Neriah, back to Iskandra -

As she does this, she says to Asteroid, clear and parenthetical, "Thank you."

GS: Margaret has attacked Iskandra Grendorre with Bivalve!
GS: Margaret has attacked Neriah Parringer with Bivalve!
GS: Margaret has completed her action.
GS: Neriah Parringer takes a solid hit from Margaret's Bivalve for 117 hit points!
GS: Neriah Parringer has Fallen! She is no longer able to fight!
GS: Iskandra Grendorre takes a solid hit from Margaret's Bivalve for 88 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Neriah Parringer has posed.

Whatever's happening to Neriah seems to be robbing her of her ability to think coherently. "She didn't stop him from trying to kill me!" she shouts, her voice intent and with an echo underlying it. "Or your cat friend from grabbing my ass! Or everyone from treating me like I'm a freak!"

The pistol in Neriah's hand falls to the ground. Dark magic churns around her, welling into a great field again, pushing outward.

The power of Rigdobrite engulfs Neriah. The girl pushes her hands out with a snarl, that field once again solidifying itself. But the power of the Guardians seems to be greater than even Neriah's darkness. The girl shrieks as green light infiltrates her field and slashes across her. Green star energy and black shadow surge down her arms. Her glove tears away beneath the sheer force of the magic roaring through it.

"I won't hold back anymore," she screams. "I WON'T!!"

She breathes in, and taps the darkness. It eddies and surges. Tatters of it stream through Rigdobrite's shining aura.

Neriah's pupils have nearly been swallowed by her irises. Their pale blue colour has faded - continues to fade.

Then Margaret makes her attack. The shaft of her weapon tears through the remnants of Neriah's shield. It rips through the Rigdobrite energy. Picks some of it up and drives it into her with each impact.

Neriah shrieks. Her magic swells up to try and push Margaret back. The darkness pulls in closer to her. Her pupils vanish completely.

(You have had time to feel your pain ease, to know of yourself and of others. So, Neriah Parringer... what is it that you seek?)

"it hurts," Neriah breathes. Her voice is small and layered. She breathes in. Her lips part as if to let a scream out:

                    " "

Asteroid can feel what happens as clear as day. For a moment, there is a thin surge of power. It feels like someone has invoked Ge Ramtos - but weakly. A flimsy thing. A trembling cord of death magic feels like it has clenched around Neriah.

There is a spiritual *SNAP* as the cord breaks.

The tatters of Neriah's magic eddy and swell around her. They almost seem to be feeding on the Malevolence radiating off of Iskandra - it stokes the darkness to a fever pitch. It swells and coils around Neriah, streaming upwards, then outwards. Tendrils of it tear into the earth, hurling chunks of rubble into the air.

Neriah's eyes go blank as the unlight swallows her. For a moment, in the centre of her forehead, appearing, then fading away, a number burns:


Then the darkness swallows her. The surge of it blooms outwards. Impossibly fierce waves of crushing unlight batter Asteroid, batter Margaret, batter even Ethius and Jacqueline. Ida is just far enough away to avoid it.

A vast cloud of dust is left behind. It billows for a moment.

And then, with a ripple, the dust parts. A pillar of black light streams up from the middle of it.

Neriah isn't there anymore. Or rather, the person there is not Neriah. What's left is vaguely humanoid, but seemingly composed of pure unlight, rippling and eddying like liquid darkness. Strands of glowing white hair float around its head, like ghostly celia.

There is no face. Just darkness, centred by a pair of eyes which are simply incredibly white, glowing white holes. The pall of negative energy radiating around the entity is stifling.

The shape levels its right hand. Etched into the shadows of its palm, a symbol glows in cold white.


DC: Number Eight switches forms to Dark Manifestation!
GS: Number Eight has attacked Margaret with Sin Reaver!
GS: Number Eight has attacked Asteroid the Kid with Sin Reaver!
GS: Number Eight has attacked Jacqueline Barber with Sin Reaver!
GS: Number Eight has attacked Ethius Hesiod with Sin Reaver!
GS: Number Eight has completed her action.
DC: MISS! Margaret completely evades Sin Reaver from Number Eight!
GS: You do not have any attacks from that person in queue.
GS: You do not have any attacks from that person in queue.
GS: Ethius Hesiod takes a solid hit from Number Eight's Sin Reaver for 121 hit points!
GS: Jacqueline Barber takes a solid hit from Number Eight's Sin Reaver for 91 hit points!
GS: Asteroid the Kid guards a hit from Iskandra Grendorre's Empire Shatterer for 102 hit points!
GS: Asteroid the Kid takes a solid hit from Number Eight's Sin Reaver for 105 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Ida Everstead-Rey has posed.

        No good, Ida thinks, as she looks up and sees Iskandra completely unaffected by the grenade. Moments later, Jay's lightning touches down frighteningly close; Grey Lady whinnies and bucks in alarm some distance away. She hasn't been terribly at ease for this entire fight, but between the thunder and the flashbang...

        Damnation, Ida thinks. Finish this quickly--

        Ida steps back into melee range, only for Iskandra to completely lose her shit. The Hellion swings Ethius at her like a blunt object; he manages to catch himself, but his quarterstaff goes flying, smashing into Ida's ribs. Her breath rushes from her lungs, and she staggers back, gasping. Nothing feels broken, though the Malevolence is making it harder than usual for her to catch her breath. It's like she's trying to catch her breath while standing above an open sewer.

        Neriah. Except that's not Neriah anymore, not really.

        The color drains from Ida's face. Part of her brain--already set on edge by the presence of a Hellion--immediately starts screaming that this is wrong, wrong, wrong. The symbol etches itself in her mind's eye, and stays there even after she forces herself to stop looking.


        In a way, Neriah upping the stakes is a relief--it means she can now focus completely on what is at hand, because the other option is dying. Iskandra first.

        Ida rushes the Hellion, blurring across the distance between them. She leads with a straight punch at Iskandra's jaw, steps to the side, and unloads with a 1-2 combination: a low jab with her offhand, and a high cross with her dominant hand. She keeps right on going, pressing Iskandra with punch after punch. She might be a Hellion, but she has to weaken, sometime.

GS: Ida Everstead-Rey has attacked Iskandra Grendorre with Unladylike Fisticuffs!
GS: Ida Everstead-Rey has completed her action.
DC: MISS! Iskandra Grendorre completely evades Unladylike Fisticuffs from Ida Everstead-Rey!
<Pose Tracker> Jacqueline Barber has posed.

"A small village like this won't even get you that much gella! They can barely support themselves! I'm sorry, Iskandra, but there's no way to make money that quickly! Rose and I already agreed to help you spread the word about your wares, so please, until then, don't do anything rash! And if you really need help before then, you can ask me! You don't need to do this! Why do you even need money so quickly anyway?" Jacqueline calls out to Iskandra. Her arms lower to her sides, the air around her still crackling faintly. She winces as Iskandra rushes towards Ethius and uses him as a weapon, battering her friends, people she cares about.

Also Margaret, but Jacqueline can't really bring herself to care about her.

"Who's talking about paying off anyone? I just want her to stop what she's doing! This isn't your problem, so back off! You're just escalating the situation!" Jacqueline shouts back. She deposits the Crest back into her pouch and draws out another. She's about to invoke it at Margaret, when suddenly, Neriah loses control...or...maybe, frightfully, she was perfectly in control.

"I...I-I'm sorry, if I knew sooner-"

And then, Neriah shrieks and transforms. It's like she's shouting something, but Jacqueline can't understand it. That foul sensation intensifies, and then...something attacks Jacqueline.

She wasn't prepared for it. There's no way she could've been. The crushing unlight strikes her forcefully, knocking the Crest from her grip and slamming her into the ground.

With a grunt of pain Jacqueline lifts herself up, staring into the twin voids that served as "Neriah"'s eyes from the ground.

"Oh, Neriah...I'm so, so, sorry..." Jacqueline murmurs.

She doesn't retaliate.

<Pose Tracker> Asteroid the Kid has posed.

"You shot me in the head!! That was holding back??" Asteroid shouts back. She doesn't really have any malevolence (lower case) for Neriah, she's just kind of--like Jay--sick of the nonsense that has been plaguing this day. She has little idea of what's going on with Neriah. She can't read minds. She can only feel what's happening and what's happening is, well, not good.

Asteroid sees the symbol. Does she recognize it? She takes in a deep breath. But there's one important thing to remember about Asteroid the Kid, one that takes center stage no matter how spoopy the situation is, or how incredible the power displayed before her is.

Asteroid finds malevolence hot as shit.

"Woah.." She says. "That's so cool..." Ethius crashes her into the doom energy which rips at her face. She screams and grabs onto it with her hand but it just keeps regenerating even as it keeps getting blasted apart, over nad over and over again. The energy that washes over her body is less painful but more effective as she's burned and bleeding from wounds that just seem to materialize.

But that's really not what makes her angry. Whatever is going on with Neriah is half her fault at most. Iskandra, who keeps throwing garbage at her and hitting her with Ethiuses is who is REALLY pissing her off.

Asteroid murmurs, "Rigdobrite, Guardian of the Stars, Guardian of the Travelers, They who travels the Star Ocean... I call upon you!"

A portal, not from the pistols, attempts to swallow Iskandra up--

--and redeposit her infront of Neriah's anti-light waves.

Asteroid promptly runs for Ethius, mildly turned on but mostly terrified. It's like 20 to 80 percent here.

GS: Asteroid the Kid has attacked Iskandra Grendorre with Walk Into the Empty!
GS: Asteroid the Kid takes 8 damage from Poison!
GS: Asteroid the Kid has completed her action.
GS: Iskandra Grendorre takes a glancing hit from Asteroid the Kid's Walk Into the Empty for 76 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Iskandra Grendorre has posed.

Iskandra is pretty focused on Ethius at this point, treating him as the most serious threat. For some reason, it seems to be personal for him, the others are just trying to stop her doing her plans. Plans which she knows full well people may disagree with. So the counterattack is deftly evaded, though Margaret has more success, the polearm digging deep.

And then... Neriah ... is gone, and what's there is ... something else. Something terrifying, she takes a deep breath, and in her fear she decides to change her plan. She tries to wrest her malevolence back under control, though she doesn't quite manage to, not in this environment. It's too much, "Stop it. Please." She yells at whatever has replaced Neriah, right as she's deposited within the light waves, managing to dive behind cover in time to avoid the worst of it.

An aside glance to Ethius, "If you want this, take it. I'm done with this stupid idea of mine." And then she throws the casket full of sleeping draught towards Ethius, following it up by throwing a flask at that strange thing.

Jacqueline is hurt, there's others hurt, and Iskandra is afraid. She feels like someone is going to die if she does nothing, and so she calls upon the mightiests sorceries she has, breaking apart a flask of purified water and having the essence of it flow across the battlefield, trying to ensure everyone who hasn't pissed her off too much lives. "We'll talk about this later, miss Jay, ok?"

GS: Iskandra Grendorre has attacked Ethius Hesiod with Casket Toss!
GS: Iskandra Grendorre has attacked Number Eight with Flask Toss!
GS: Iskandra Grendorre has activated a Force Action!
GS: Sneak! The true nature of Iskandra Grendorre's attack becomes clear!
GS: Number Eight takes a glancing hit from Iskandra Grendorre's Mystery Liquid for 67 hit points!
GS: Ethius Hesiod takes a solid hit from Iskandra Grendorre's Casket Toss for 107 hit points!
GS: Iskandra Grendorre has attacked Iskandra Grendorre with True Recovery!
GS: Iskandra Grendorre has attacked Jacqueline Barber with True Recovery!
GS: Iskandra Grendorre has attacked Ida Everstead-Rey with True Recovery!
GS: Iskandra Grendorre has attacked Asteroid the Kid with True Recovery!
GS: Iskandra Grendorre has completed her action.
GS: Lock and State! Statuses applied to Iskandra Grendorre!
GS: Iskandra Grendorre heals Iskandra Grendorre! She gains 200 temporary hit points!
GS: Lock and State! Statuses applied to Jacqueline Barber!
GS: Iskandra Grendorre heals Jacqueline Barber! She gains 200 temporary hit points!
GS: Lock and State! Statuses applied to Asteroid the Kid!
GS: Iskandra Grendorre heals Asteroid the Kid! She gains 200 temporary hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Ethius Hesiod has posed.

        Ethius' spinning ceases, and he falls to a crouch. His back ends up faced to the raging Hellion. This is not by chance. A primal magnetism punctures past layers of logic, doubt, and murky memories. Air rushes out of his lungs. Until now, he kept the fight squarely on the Hellion even as the incomprehensible nipped at him. The hatred. Whatever emboldened this man today seems to have allowed him, if maybe not in whole, keep to that cause. This cause he can only sometimes crest hold of must be a matter of most grave importance, if it can fight to stay afloat under the onslaught of SEVEN in unlight.
        If it's just as simple as stopping a bandit from poisoning a well and holding a people ransom for it, maybe the full character of his lost memories aren't as far off as it may appear.
        What's coming is nothing simple.
        His eyes cannot look away from the power coiling around the young excavator... as Filgaia itself finds tiny, miniscule chunks of itself torun asunder by the unlight that encases her. For his seeming ignorance to some elements of what dance beyond the sensory perceptions of most, this yanks at his eyeballs (metaphorically).
        He no longer even hears Iskandra's jeers. The prize he has been seeking, the casket, is hurled upon him. The contents all pour over, but the fatiguing feeling is secondary to the sheer weight of the container that shatters upon him.
        Neriah's transformation takes center stage.
        What is left after the power fades...
        He doesn't know what that is.
        He doesn't know what that is and his reaction to not knowing what that is, in itself, beyond foreign.
        It was completely beyond him before. What is beyond beyond?
        His psyche cannot count that high.
        There is no differentiation of sensation between laying eyes upon... that... and what comes next. They all flow together. Time ceases to be a thing. Cause and effect break down. Pain is... is this pain? It's something no human body should experience.
        Ethius writhes, suspended in the air moentarily as the waves don't seem to crush him so much as grasp him, carry him, twist him, and throw him into nothingness like he were absolutely nothing in comparison to it.
        There is no meaningful frame of reference for him to comprehend what is going on. Though face-down in the dust, his eyes are wild, fully widened, observant of nothing. His body cannot move. His mind may no longer be one - an empty husk, completely overwhelmed by the count of 8.
        He is out of the fight - no, this is no longer a fight.
        This is an aberration.

GS: Ethius Hesiod takes 10 damage from Poison!
GS: Ethius Hesiod has completed his action.
<Pose Tracker> Margaret has posed.

The blade bites.

"I'm sorry," Margaret tells Neriah with a stern tone that is, perhaps surprisingly, without sarcasm. Her weapon draws back -

She's releasing a spell, Margaret thinks. Nothing too unusual there.

The earth starts to shudder. That's unusual. "What deviltry--"

The magic erupts around Margaret. She has, of course, more than her share of sins, but what she also has is a power that can contend with even a society of mages - her dream, though ambitious, is not impossible. Her naginata is swung purely for focus but the light is cleaved by flowers and sparkling tubes and curlicues that crack and burst and wither and -- and the storm is past, and Margaret is sweating like a pig in church.

Because what is before her is beyond her experience. Beyond time or dimension. Margaret, for all her boasting and the degree in which that boasting has roots and foundations, has never seen anything like this being before her. There is fear in her face, but also determination.

The only way out is through, she thinks.

Even the bandit's turning her coat, she thinks with a certain grim satisfaction. Stepping back another pace, Margaret declares to the creature as she reaches for the enchanted cards in that pouch on a belt, "In Althena's name I abjure thee - in Althena's name I command thee - in Althena's name I bind thee - in Althena's name --"

Out come five cards. In this moment they do not move 'naturally.' They streak ahead, one after another, aiming to carve into the negative material before looping back to her pouch.

8 of Cups - 8 of Swords - 8 of Disks - 8 of Wands - Arcana VIII "Adjustment"

"I'm not dying in my bloody underpants," Margaret breathes coldly through her teeth. "I'm not dying with sand--"

GS: Margaret has attacked Number Eight with Straight!!
GS: Margaret has completed her action.
GS: Number Eight takes a glancing hit from Margaret's Straight! for 67 hit points!
GS: Lock and State! Statuses applied to Ida Everstead-Rey!
GS: Iskandra Grendorre heals Ida Everstead-Rey! She gains 200 temporary hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Number Eight has posed.

If Neriah can make sense of what she's hearing around her anymore - the sympathy of Jacqueline Barber, the awe of Asteroid the Kid - she shows no sign of it. She just tilts back her head --

                    " "

She doesn't even seem to care that her magic has injured Iskandra. The woman hurls a flask at her; with a sweep of her arm, the dark figure smashes it into a thousand fragments. Debris scatters across her and vanishes into the shadow of her being. With a rumble of bass, the entity - hovering a foot or so above the ground - begins to rotate to face Iskandra. But her gaze moves on after several seconds and focuses on Ethius.

The former Neriah begins to float towards him. Darkness coils down her hand. It wells from the lines of that symbol that radiates from her palm - the mark of Valmar.

The man is face down in the dust. At some level, though, she can feel his life force.


Again the entity shrieks soundlessly. It vibrates against the senses maddeningly, like it's just a little too quiet to hear.

And then Margaret makes her move. It saves Ethius's life.
        he whirling cards slash through the entity that once was Neriah. They whirl and strike and harass. The entity roars soundlessly and pushes out its eldritch field again. The cards slam into the dark energy and deflect away, the shell of it even pushing Ethius's body away physically. But as the field pushes outward, its surface begins to waver and shudder.

It's too much. It's far too much. She didn't hold back and it's cost her body. The shield shatters. Fragments of overpowering darkness rip through the air. One of them slams into one of the legs of the water tower.

What's left begins to contract. Dark energy pinches inward, shrinking and folding in on itself, until it all seems to suck itself back into Neriah's body. She hangs in the air for several seconds, her eyes blank and blood running from her palm in a stream.

The dark pall in the air breaks, and she slumps to the ground and lands near Ethius's feet in an unconscious heap, exhausted beyond her body's ability to comprehend.

DC: Neriah Parringer switches forms to Stained Excavator Neriah!
<Pose Tracker> Ida Everstead-Rey has posed.

        A flask of water breaks. Ida feels something cool and cleansing wash over her, and is resentful that it came from the Hellion she was trying to subdue. Ineffectively. She is also resentful that Jay seems to be both a better human being than her and completely unaware of the immense danger everyone is in. Everyone in the town is in danger, now. Ida stares at the thing Neriah has become, and feels her resolve wavering. Perhaps it's noteworthy that she managed to make it this far, but it still wasn't good enough. Still--

        Ida tears her eyes away as Neriah's form begins to contract, and only looks once the young woman is herself again, lying on the ground.

        She does not stick around. She runs back to her horse--who is spooked as hell, but somehow holding it together, much like her owner--and unties the reins. Ida climbs into the saddle faster than she ever thought she could. She's not sticking around to see what comes of this. She needs to tell Elena, and Sorey, about what happened here.

<Pose Tracker> Jacqueline Barber has posed.

Jacqueline's attention is focused mostly on thing that Neriah became, feeling too injured to appropriately stand. And then she feels something wash over her, cool, healing, and pleasant. It gives her enough energy to stand, just in enough time to see Margaret intercept Neriah with a series of whirling cards.

She doesn't say anything about this. Instead she looks toward Iskandra and nods. She's quiet, a little overwhelmed by everything that just happened.

She looks over to the collapsed Ethius, the crumped Neriah, and shook her head. Things were just...awful.

She starts to make her way toward them, rummaging through her bags for some potions.

Not that she's sure she has any potion that will do anything for...


<Pose Tracker> Asteroid the Kid has posed.

"Don't heal me when I'm mad at you!!" Asteroid shouts as she fumbles with the portal guns. She fires one down near Ethius and Neriah, and another shot goes far off into the distance. She doesn't want to stick around. This gives Jay time to catch up.

"Hey," She tells Jay. "Come along. This is nonsense and we're not sticking around."

She unceremoniously kicks Ethius into the portal. Then she looks at Neriah.

She looks at her for an extra long moment.

Then she punts Neriah in too, a little less gently and come to think of it, he wasn't gentle with Ethius either.

Asteroid hops in afterwards. Jay has a few moments to similarly abscond before the portals fade. Or she can choose not to!

Up to her! But Asteroid doesn't want to stick around for when the police come. Or the angry mob for that matter.

<Pose Tracker> Iskandra Grendorre has posed.

Neriah returns to some semblance and normal, and Iskandra sighs a breath of relief, looking around warily. "By Athena's oversized stick up the arse, I do what I damn well please." She answers Asteroid, clearly still quite tense, but at this point at least she's gotten back to suppressing her malevolence enough to be mostly normal, and looks towards Jay. "Can I stay the night with your people? I'm exhausted, and we'll talk over my stupid idea and why when we've rested some."

<Pose Tracker> Asteroid the Kid has posed.

Asteroid skips pose order like a cheater to extend two middle fingers and a tongue out as Iskandra mid portal jump.

Okay but that was probably a good description for Althena though. Damn it!

<Pose Tracker> Neriah Parringer has posed.

Neriah is in no position to resist the Power of the Punt.

Asteroid gives her a good kick. Neriah groans faintly but gives way with little effort, though she's mostly dead weight. She leaves behind a smear of blood on the ground from where her hand had come to rest. There's no sign of the sigil of the dark one on her hand anymore; merely a few shapeless cuts that seem to be closing rapidly.

The nudge pushes Neriah through the portal, and she slips through and disappears with little further fanfare, swallowed up along with the man she hates and the best bud of her dreamy butterfly pal.

So much for Neriah's epic crime wave.

<Pose Tracker> Margaret has posed.

The demon - it's dying? Imploding? Ida lurches backwards, and though she does not know her, Margaret looks towards her --

Ida flees. Reasonably.

Asteroid flees, to Margaret's evident and emphatic consternation. "Are you on their side?!" she says to her before --

They're gone.

Margaret twitches a little on the much emptier streets. She breathes in. She breathes out. In the distance, Ida rides for leather. Margaret's head turns to look towards the back of Iskandra. Towards Jay. She is still faintly luminous, though where the light is coming from is hard to say.

Margaret raises her naginata and points it towards the two women.

"Repent your sins. You," a slight shift to indicate Jay, "this is your responsibility." Then the naginata goes over her shoulder.

"Well, I suppose the town isn't being demolished," Margaret says to Rusty and Speck on her way back inside.

More faintly, if still very clearly due to Margaret's way of speaking, she says; "I've saved your water supply from devils. Draw me a bath."

A few seconds later, she says, "YES I expect it for free! This is the least you can do! By the Goddess, I'm not asking you for your livestock! I want to wash the sand out of -"

The wind shifts, and the rest of the discourse is lost in time.

<Pose Tracker> Jacqueline Barber has posed.

Ethius and Neriah are punted into a portal before Jacqueline can provide them with any potions, and Asteroid soon follows them. Jacqueline does not take the opportunity to follow them, as Iskandra addresses her.

Jacqueline frowns slightly. While she had tried to talk it out with Iskandra, she can't help but admit this situation has made her look at her in a...different light. She seems more wary of Iskandra, that's for sure. It takes her a moment to come up with an answer, a moment spent picking up the Crest she had dropped earlier and returning it to her pouch - and to consider Margaret's comment.

"'My' responsibility?" Jacqueline repeats, stunned and insulted. She considers a response, then shakes her head with a sound of disgust before turning her attention back to Iskandra.

"I...I don't know. If Ethius comes back and finds you there in the morning, I don't know if it would be safe for either of you..."

This was true, but on her tongue it felt like an excuse and she hated herself for it. And then there was the concern of whether or not her would come back...whatever that was, it seemed to have affected him far more than anyone else. She wasn't even sure if he'd even wake up, but she didn't want to drive off and leave him if he did.

She has to wrestle with her desire to help out and her newfound realization of what Iskandra is capable of.

"I...I'm sorry, Miss Iskandra. We can get together some other time. I can give you some money for a room somewhere, but..." Jacqueline trails off. ...But she couldn't, in good conscience, let Iskandra in so close to where the people most important to her were resting, unaware of what was going on. She wanted to trust that she wouldn't do anything...but the doubt was there, firmly entrenched in her mind.

<Pose Tracker> Iskandra Grendorre has posed.

"I thought you were a friend." Iskandra hangs her head and turns around, walking off without another word.

<Pose Tracker> Jacqueline Barber has posed.

Those words hit her, sharper and deadlier than any knife or unnatural magic.

"M-miss Iskandra-" Jacqueline reaches out to her, but there are no words. What can she possibly say? She had tried to defend her, and then to turn her away like that...

She deserved it.

Jacqueline's arm falls limply to her side. No words come to her. Doubtlessly, they would only make things worse.

She stays there for a time, horrified, before turning and walking slowly away.