2017-11-10: Racing the Wind

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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.

BGM: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4z_CxmE0AkA
DG: That's not a valid party leader.
DG: A party led by Cyre H. Lorentz is now entering Chase Sequence.
DG: Party formation is now over. An Entry Challenge will now be drawn and displayed to the party.
======================<* CHALLENGE - Cut To The Chase *>======================
|Type: Entry       |Dungeon Ability: Agility   |Challenge Rating: 3          | 
--------------------------< Challenge Information: >--------------------------
  Your party happens upon their objective. All seems to be going smoothly. A   
 mutual transaction, a successful search, or what have you... until a          
 startling freak development sees this objective on a course going far, far,   
 far away from you. Whatever the circumstance, the chase is on... and you      
 have no chance to get your bearings.                                          
=Dungeon Conditions: Fright, Suffer===========================================
<Pose Tracker> Yarobeleedt has posed.

The Badlands have been lively - and not just in terms of foot traffic, or for any of the skirmishes that have popped up between Aveh, Kislev, and any other (un)interested third parties. The wind has grown ever more violent as of late, which is unusual even for this time of year. Some would say it is just another sign of Filgaia's impending demise.

To the Shaman whom aligns himself closely to that of Fengalon, the Guardian of Wind, it is instead serving as something of a sign. A beacon. His statue has been lost to the ages for some time. From children's tales, it is rumored that it simply wanders the winds, accompanying the patron deity's element.

This involves a bunch of people agreeing that it's a wonderful idea to go exposing themselves to flesh-searing sandstorms as the hot Filgaia sun still yet bears down on them. It's not a wonderful idea at all.

...Until one or more see it in the distance. The majestic large stone sculpture of a tiger, currently at rest at a slouching angle within the sand. The urgency of the situation beckons one to come closer. Yes! This could be their chance to protect this piece of the seal upon Mother, so long as--

There is a horrible ear-rending screeching noise, as something yellowish bursts up from out of the sand. Something... wormy. Oh, let's just skip the unflattering adjectives and just confirm that yes, that's Yarobeleedt.

"At last!! It is tunnel!" It is 'mine,' they mean. Ugh. He's in the way of the statue!! He draws back his left arm, reforming its mass into a misshapen, uneven scythe--

The wind picks up. The statue dislodges itself from its rest in the sand, and bowls into Yarobeleedt with another scream as it tumbles and rolls past the party to the deafening howl of the desert winds.

...

On one hand, Yarobeleedt isn't standing between the party and the statue.

On the other, now it's flying away. After it!!

<Pose Tracker> Cyre H. Lorentz has posed.

To say that this task is... significant to Cyre is somewhat of an understatement. He is a man who has walked alongside Fengalon for as long as he has lived. The dust storms and howling winds that have ravaged the badlands might be interpreted by some as omens of ill portent and signs of the inevitable end, but to him, it's the opposite. Wind is the breath of the planet, and such strong winds can only mean one thing.

"Jackpot," Cyre whispers as he skids down one dune. His robes are in disarray, twisted this way and that by the vicious, skin-scouring, sand-blasting winds, but it seems to have done nothing to his ability to break into a run at a moment's notice. His slide transitions into a sprint, and his hand reaches into his robes to retrieve that all-important sealing rod, but then--

The sand bursts.

A demon.

His hand seizes around something else. Cyre's face twists into a terrible, furious snarl as the thing rears up with its wicked scythe to shatter that all-important statue. "Damnit," he spits, focusing his will upon the medium he keeps so close to is chest. "I'm not going to let you do that, you--"

Oh.

M...aybe he focused too hard on that medium.

The statue goes flying, it knocks Yaro right off into the horizon. Cyre follows his trajectory with an arched brow and then buckles as that tremendous gale slams into him next. He fights to keep his eyes open against the swirling sands as his parachute unfurls and catches in that tremendous wind. "After it," he says to the others. "We need to catch up to the statue before that monster can get his filthy hands on it!"

DG: Cyre H. Lorentz has used his Tool Reverse Parachute toward his party's challenge, Cut To The Chase.
<Pose Tracker> Catenna has posed.

Keeping close to Cyre, Catenna pulls a bolt of pale grey-blue cloth over her face and nose; a loop of it has already been wrapped over her head like a hood. She looks the part of a desert wanderer, for all the effort she's put in, even painting a touch of eyeblack beneath her eyes to reduce the glare. This is far from the first desert she has travelled. But it stands to be one of the most spiritually important.

There in the distance, she sees it. Her pale grey eyes widen. "Cyre," she breathes.

Jackpot.

Unraveling her hood, Catenna starts forward, her eyes bright as she makes ready to help Cyre with the ritual.

But it's not to be. The sand bursts, and something hideous and misshapen emerges. Catenna sucks in a breath and clenches her teeth. "Metal Demon," she growls s she reaches for her Mediums, eyes immediately hardening.

There goes the statue - and it takes the Metal Demon with it. The priestess gasps as the furious gale slams into her, recoiling a bit, but quickly starts into motion, sprinting across the sand after the statue. "Cyre, I'm right behind you," she calls out as she pulls out the length of rope she tends to carry with her. As the catman takes flight on his parachute, she reaches over.

And she boosts herself up. Her legs hook around Cyre's waist; blushing, she holds herself tight as the wind lifts them into the air. "I am sorry about this," she murmurs with a touch of embarrassment as she flies along with her companion. Her rope wheels through the air before she casts it out. The heavy grappling hook leads the rope through the air.

She's going to attempt to wrap the rope around one of the statue's limbs - to create a leash between the statue, and herself and Cyre. Only once the rope is away does she wrap her arms around Cyre's shoulders to better hold on.

DG: Catenna has used her Tool Grappling Hook toward her party's challenge, Cut To The Chase.
<Pose Tracker> Rose has posed.

Rose was always up for helping Cyre, given that he had helped her numerous times in the past. She owed him one! And by chance, she had been talking business with Iskandra when the Memory Cube message arrived, and told the alchemist she might have a job for her. Bring some of those potions along, we might need them!

She had no idea Iskandra and Cyre had a history, sadly.

The merchant would vouch for Iskandra, at least. Squire's word, Rose will deal with it herself if something goes awry. Something about treats, too?

It's okay, though, because Yarobeleedt is here. Unity against the Metal Demons should serve to prevent needless sparks. Or it'll help, surely.

"So that's what a Guardian Statue looks like. Even if they weren't magical and important I could see people looking for those just to have a great decoration in front of their mansion." Giant tiger statues are pretty awesome, and all that.

Oh, it just went flying. With the Demon.

"Is the wind always that strong out here?"

No time to wonder about that. The wind picks up under Rose's feet - is that sorcery? that's new - and she starts running, to grab ahold of Catenna's rope before it zooms right on ahead and out of reach.

DG: Rose has used her Tool Grappling Hook toward her party's challenge, Cut To The Chase.
<Pose Tracker> Rosaline Calice has posed.

Rosaline is here to help! Even though this all seems unpleasant and she's been running herself ragged helping people lately, but then, this IS part of said running to begin with. And in this case, it seems like it's going to be very literal.

She's brought a scarf to cover her face with, and made sure to tuck her hair into her headpiece extra hard today, especially since it seems to have a way of bursting out at dramatic moments a lot lately. With all that wind and sand, it would be a tad unpleasant if it did.

"Hm! Right!" she calls back, sounding slightly muffled. She looks at that rolling, familiar Metal Demon warily, reaching for her ARMs, but... no, no, priorities.

And she breaks into a run. This is something she's normally very good at, for obvious reasons, but today she has the extra challenge of trying to run with the wind instead of fighting it. "Wait for me!" she calls out, to no one in particular. Possibly the statue?

DG: Rosaline Calice has contributed a Agility Basic Action toward her party's challenge, Cut To The Chase.
<Pose Tracker> Iskandra Grendorre has posed.

Iskandra just makes one mental note: 'if we're helping the cat zealot, I probably should stay clear of using anything that even smells the slighest bit of malevolence' and then proceeds to rush along. She trusts Rose will make it up for her if something goes awry, and she eyes the guardian statue as they rush, deciding the best way to deal with this is to try to make it easier for others.

... she's not sure touching it is safe in any way whatsoever. So she hurries along, downing a swiftness draught and tossing another towards Rose, "Catch!"

DG: Iskandra Grendorre has contributed a Agility Basic Action toward her party's challenge, Cut To The Chase.
<Pose Tracker> Ryudo has posed.

Charity work is simply not something that Ryudo does, which makes his presence here a bit of an oddity. He all too readily offered to accompany Cyre after a chance encounter on the outskirts of town. Is Ryudo turning over a new leaf? Has he accepted that friendship and comradery has its place? Do catgirls the world over have to now contend with a surly human for the shaman's affections? These questions and others may abound, but details are hard to come by with traveling company as tight-lipped as he.

That, and one generally keeps their mouth closed in this area of the badlands unless they enjoy the taste of sand carried on the wind. Ryudo trudges on without complaint, his mouth covered by the red bandana usually tied to his neck. The hawk at his shoulder seems...strangely unpeturbed by the environmental conditions. A fact which will soon prove quite fortuitous.

The swordsman briefly allows his shoulders to relax once they arrive at their objective. This is perhaps the only expedition that has gone well these past two weeks -- and mere moments pass between that stray thought and the arrival of the demon.

Swearing into the bandana, Ryudo hastily points off into the distance. "Skye, after it!" He turns to his companies. "I knew I should have charged for this. Keep your eyes on the bird, and move swiftly if you don't want to be left behind." Whew, it's not Ryudo's doppleganger after all.

DG: Ryudo has contributed a Agility Basic Action toward his party's challenge, Cut To The Chase.
========================<* CHALLENGE - Cut To The Chase *>========================
|Type: Entry       |Dungeon Ability: Agility   |Challenge Rating: 3          | 
----------------------------< Challenge Information: >----------------------------
  Your party happens upon their objective. All seems to be going smoothly. A   
 mutual transaction, a successful search, or what have you... until a          
 startling freak development sees this objective on a course going far, far,   
 far away from you. Whatever the circumstance, the chase is on... and you      
 have no chance to get your bearings.                                          
=Dungeon Conditions: Fright, Suffer===========================================
<Pose Tracker> Matilda Whitehead has posed.

Where there's one CaraKin, there's usually a whole lot more. Today, it would seem, is no different. On the one hand, Matilda holds no grand love for the Guardians -- she's almost Cyre's exact opposite on that front. The things she's seen... leave her feeling bitter and hurt, rather than filled with purpose.

On the other hand... the Metal Demons and their ilk cannot be allowed to win. It really is that simple. Serving the Guardians feels... coercive for Matilda, at best -- but allowing the Metal Demons to do as they please is repugnant.

She is, as always, clad in her long white coat, Freischütz at the ready -- just in case. When they stumble across Yarobeleedt, and by extension the statue, Matilda readies her weapon --

-- and then the statue starts rolling away. Matilda stares dully for a moment -- but she's sure got to make a run for it. She isn't really comfortable with the idea of hanging onto Cyre -- nor, honestly, is there that much space left to, given Catenna already takes that idea. She just drops into a dead sprint, trying to keep her balance -- and stay at least somewhat comfortable -- in the forceful wind.

DG: Matilda Whitehead has contributed a Agility Basic Action toward her party's challenge, Cut To The Chase.
======================<* CHALLENGE - Cut To The Chase *>======================
|Type: Entry       |Dungeon Ability: Agility   |Challenge Rating: 3          | 
--------------------------< Challenge Information: >--------------------------
  Your party happens upon their objective. All seems to be going smoothly. A   
 mutual transaction, a successful search, or what have you... until a          
 startling freak development sees this objective on a course going far, far,   
 far away from you. Whatever the circumstance, the chase is on... and you      
 have no chance to get your bearings.                                          
=Dungeon Conditions: Fright, Suffer===========================================
DG: The party led by Cyre H. Lorentz has passed this challenge! The party gained 20 exploration! If anyone needs to use party
management commands, do so now. Otherwise, the next round's GM may begin the next round with +dungeon/draw.
DG: Iskandra Grendorre has drawn a new Challenge.
=================<* CHALLENGE - Common Sense, A Dollar Short *>=================
|Type: Exploration |Dungeon Ability: Agility   |Challenge Rating: 2          | 
---------------------------< Challenge Information: >---------------------------
 The harsh desert environment takes a violent turn against you, whipping       
 about violent sandstorms that threaten to halt your progress entirely as it   
 surrounds the objective, your team, and pretty much everyone else. Cooler     
 heads might suggest it is not a great idea to chance the heavy winds. Common  
 sense, as it turns out, doesn't have the spending power for the uncommon      
 urgency in which you and your team have assigned to the objective in          
 question - brave the sandstorms for your prize, if you dare!                  
=Dungeon Conditions: Hesitate=================================================
<Pose Tracker> Yarobeleedt has posed.

With quick thinking and quicker footing, the lot of them each deploy their means in which to keep up, or to help keep everyone together. There is a Metal Demon here - the group separating at any point could mean the end of anyone isolated. The pragmatic may argue that this is a matter where sacrifices must be made.

They are nowhere near this point yet. Though Ryudo may fall behind the rest, Skye makes for an excellent beacon. Through the storms, even as it whips at their eyes, all they need to do is to follow it.

Catenna gets a hold of the statue. She is blessed with knowing that she will be able to keep pace, along with those who hold onto her by proxy (Rose, Cyre). The grappling hook riders will find themselves having to brave shortness of breath and heavy g-forces as they whip about the breeze. They narrowly avoid crashing into a rocky outcropping nearby.

Rosaline, Matilda, and Iskandra all follow along through the dunes, determined to not let the statue escape their sight as they chase ever forward.

Somewhere, Yarobeleedt flails and falls past the lot of them, and this is a good sign - they've got themselves an early lead, if he dares to give chase. With the Metal Demons hell bent on destroying the seal upon Mother... even the darkly amusing sight that Ryudo (on virtue of being in the back) gets of him tumbling and disappearing into the sandy dunes can't be enjoyed. The awful creature will still yet feature, and it's too bad Fengalon is not identified as female because there was an excellent rhyme attempt for the set of words, 'reach her.'

Before long, the stress on the grappling hook wire is too much, and it snaps - halting their present momentum. The statue continues to tumble forward, as the wailing wall of windy sand intensifies. It starts to push back against everyone.

If they are to keep pace with the statue, they must fight past it, by whatever means available.

<Pose Tracker> Catenna has posed.

Far be it for Catenna to complain about Rose latching on. There's plenty of rope hanging under Catenna.

Critically, though, the grappling wire has latched on for a key moment. Shoulders bunching, Catenna struggles to keep the line stable, but the roaring winds aren't doing all that much to help her. As Yarobeleedt goes garbling past, she clicks her teeth together and hisses out a breath. "I had truly hoped he would have been blown away," she mutters.

It's easy when they're monsters, isn't it?

Catenna shudders at that ugly little memory, shunting it aside - but her train of thought derails as her rope frays and breaks. With a gasp, Catenna tightens her hold on Cyre, grimacing as the heavy blast of the sand plows into her all the more urgently. Wind and particles buffet her, ripping off her scarf and blowing her dark hair back.

"If that Demon reaches the statue first--" Catenna begins, but cuts off with a click of her teeth. All she can do is try to struggle forward, through the wind. She keeps ahold of Cyre with one arm, ducking her head.

Her free hand reaches down to her belt, skirting over the medium of Celesdue. Fingertips dance over the second Medium there. In a soft voice, she whispers a few words.

Subtle glitters of light, blue and clear like the ocean, dance for a second around Catenna. A spell is building.

And with a sudden burst of speed, Catenna tightens her arm around Cyre and goes hurtling forward like a rocket. It's a great, magically-propelled leap into the wind. Were there a grid beneath them, Catenna would have just boosted herself and Cyre through the air, vaulting them several hexes closer to their goal!

DG: Catenna has contributed a Agility Basic Action toward her party's challenge, Common Sense, A Dollar Short.
<Pose Tracker> Rose has posed.

Rose catches the handy brew from Iskandra and pockets it, giving a nod. She won't need it while hanging from a rope, but you can't ever have too many speed potions in your pockets. She only has one right now, but the point stands.

With the rope snapping, Rose falls back down towards the sand, the winds cushioning her fall, though the execution is a bit clumsy and she ends up with her face in the sand regardless. Without a body, Dezel intones:

"Not bad, you're getting better at it. You're at about... .1 Shepherds right now. You might just get to .2 eventually."

"Just because you're lending me your powers doesn't mean you get to be a jerk about it!" Rose rumbles, seemingly to herself if people can't hear the Seraph.

"Sounds like you should learn to use them right then."

"Sounds like YOU should find a new body to squat in!!"

"Sandstorm. Keep your mouth closed."

"What?"

"LOOK."

A sudden gust of harsh, hot wind and sand causes Rose to rise back to her feet. She also caught a mouthful of sand. She grimaces and starts running forward, not opening her mouth again. The winds shield her, like a bubble of green air swirling about. People who get close enough might enjoy the benefits of the shield, too!

DG: Rose has contributed a Agility Basic Action toward her party's challenge, Common Sense, A Dollar Short.
<Pose Tracker> Cyre H. Lorentz has posed.

Cyre has been decidedly mum on the subject of Iskandria. Except for the small explosion at the very beginning of this whole thing, he's mostly tried to ignore the fact that she was even there. At least Rose is around to keep tabs on her. It's for the best, after all. Ryudo would understand. They're both That Guy when it comes to that kind of thing, it seems.

Besids, he has other things on his mind. Like chasing this statue.

And... thighs.

Cyre gives Catenna a look as they soar through the whipping, roaring winds. "I'm not exactly sure why you're apologizing for." Beat. He arches a brow down at her legs. "I mean, I'm certainly not complaining."

Yep.

Cushy thighs.

Look, Cyre likes all ladies. Not just cat ladies. Catenna has cat in her name, and Rosaline IS a cat, but he's not why they're here! Rose isn't even either of those, even if she acts like a cat sometimes.

Unfortunately, it seems that Fengalon is less than pleased by his priest's irrepressible flirtatiousness. The wind suddenly gives way to a tremendous downdraft. A wall of wind and sand blasts the group to the dunes, and Cyre is forced to turn his parachute into a makeshift windbreaker. "Yeah," he nods, "We can't let him get to it before we can. The ritual will take time, too. We need to get to that stat--"

MOON LEAP.

"--ue??!"

Well.

That was a thing.

DG: Cyre H. Lorentz has contributed a Agility Basic Action toward his party's challenge, Common Sense, A Dollar Short.
<Pose Tracker> Catenna has posed.

Technically it's a sea leap. Catenna's drawing on the power of Lucadia.

"Sorry," Catenna murmurs as she looks up at Cyre. "There was not time to discuss it in committee."

The cat committee, presumably.

<Pose Tracker> Rosaline Calice has posed.

Rosaline keeps her ears tucked low and her eyes squinted almost shut as she runs, fighting off the wind and sand. To risk sounding cliché, she hates sand.

Which is bad news because the wind is picking up even further, even cutting off her friends' grappling hook! Oh no!

Rosa conjures up a shield of wind, which is a clever idea. Rosaline didn't prepare such a thing, but she did bring a similar spell. "I'll protect you," she says, her generic voiceclip not specifying who she's referring to, "Holy Shield!"

And a moment later, a literal shield of light glows into being in front of her. She tries to position it near Rose's so the ground group can enjoy just a bit more breathing room as they pursue their mad dash.

<Pose Tracker> Matilda Whitehead has posed.

Matilda... rarely forayed this far into the desert before this year. Despite being from west Ignas, she's not really used to the harsh winds. She ducks her head low, murmuring, "... I really, really hope this proves to be worth it," with a wince.

... She's not going to say it, but she definitely will remember the risks taken here on behalf of Cyre and his ridiculous god.

She presses forward into the sandstorm despite her misgivings taking a breath before moving too much further forward into it; she scoots closer to Rose as she moves, perhaps thinking that her fellow merchant has some grand plan -- and sure enough, she makes a nice, big bubble of wind-shield.

It's nice to have your gut feelings pay off, sometimes.

DG: Matilda Whitehead has contributed a Agility Basic Action toward her party's challenge, Common Sense, A Dollar Short.
DG: Rosaline Calice has contributed a Agility Basic Action toward her party's challenge, Common Sense, A Dollar Short.
<Pose Tracker> Ryudo has posed.

Ryudo is swift to follow his tracking hawk, but while his mouth may be protected his eyes are not. The wind unleashes a scythe of its own, lashing against his vision and briefly blinding him. He knows better than to stop moving and become isolated by the demon, but for a brief period his trajectory veers off course and it seems like that might indeed be the fate in store for him. Fortunately, his feathered companion wasn't born yesterday -- it lets out a cry that can be barely heard over the strong winds. But it's enough. Ryudo rights his course in time to avoid becoming first party to Yarobeleedt's fumbling antics, but it's an early reminder of the dangers that await them should the adventurers falter.

And if Ryudo has reason to question his own abilties, he has even less reason to trust in those of his companions.

Picking up on the sound of a snapping wire, an idea quickly dawns on him...if they can't move fast enough to keep up with the statue, why not slow it down? "Skye! Grab the other end of the wire and PULL like your feathered ass depends on it!"

The hawk grimaces -- something that only Dezel is likely to notice -- but complies. Lowering his head against the resistance of the wind and minimizing his surface profile, Skye dives into the wake of the statue and successfully snatches the dangling end of the grappling hook and rises up with it. Now comes the hard part. Turning to face the statue's persuers, Skye begins to pump his powerful wings and haul back against it. Were this a simple trained hawk, there's no way this would work -- but Skye is a spirit of the winds given form, and is prepared to make a valiant attempt of it. His eyes meet those of Rose's "invisible" companion as he struggles against the burden. "...Care...to trade partners...?"

DG: Ryudo has used his Tool Skye toward his party's challenge, Common Sense, A Dollar Short.
<Pose Tracker> Iskandra Grendorre has posed.

Iskandra does not like sandstorms. Cleaning her wings afterwards is always a pain. She quickly puts on a large poncho to help shield her wings from the worst of it, while keeping on with the running. She's eager to not fall behind, but she doesn't mind being a little slow in this in order to ensure there doesn't end up being too much sand in her wings.

DG: Iskandra Grendorre has contributed a Agility Basic Action toward her party's challenge, Common Sense, A Dollar Short.
=================<* CHALLENGE - Common Sense, A Dollar Short *>=================
|Type: Exploration |Dungeon Ability: Agility   |Challenge Rating: 2          | 
---------------------------< Challenge Information: >---------------------------
 The harsh desert environment takes a violent turn against you, whipping       
 about violent sandstorms that threaten to halt your progress entirely as it   
 surrounds the objective, your team, and pretty much everyone else. Cooler     
 heads might suggest it is not a great idea to chance the heavy winds. Common  
 sense, as it turns out, doesn't have the spending power for the uncommon      
 urgency in which you and your team have assigned to the objective in          
 question - brave the sandstorms for your prize, if you dare!                  
=Dungeon Conditions: Hesitate=================================================
DG: The party led by Cyre H. Lorentz has passed this challenge! The party gained 20 exploration! If anyone needs to use party
management commands, do so now. Otherwise, the next round's GM may begin the next round with +dungeon/draw.
DG: Catenna has drawn a new Challenge.
==================<* CHALLENGE - It's Like That Computer Game *>==================
|Type: Exploration |Dungeon Ability: Agility   |Challenge Rating: 2          | 
----------------------------< Challenge Information: >----------------------------
 Both Kislev and Aveh are fond of the use of landmines, liberally applying     
 them throughout the desert in order to limit the movement of the other. Your  
 course takes you through one such set of dunes packed to the brim with them.  
 Your common sense will not listen - you cannot let your objective escape      
 your grasp!                                                                   
=Dungeon Conditions: Suffer===================================================
<Pose Tracker> Yarobeleedt has posed.

Catenna's jump allows an incredible amount of ground coverage, with Cyre in tow. The whipping winds throw a small wrench into the plan - the whipping winds here put up against her ability to manipulate gravity and momentum with the best of them, but she covers far more ground than what could normally be done.

Dezel's and Rosa's shields come with a minor drawback - the spraying sand piles upon it and completely destroys visibility, but it allows RoseRosatheoretical Rosus, Rosos, and Rosis - among others, like Matilda, Iskandra, and Ryudo - to proceed with minimal interference.

Dutifully, Skye takes a grip of the end of the wire and pulls... he pulls without regard or care for the difference in mass. Somehow, in some way, all three ends of the effort should be able to meet in the middle.

Then there is an unexpected explosion just as Skye starts to crest the final stretch to bring the statue to the team, and the statue flies. A cursory glance shows that nothing has fragmented, nothing is damaged, and thank the Guardians that their Statues seem reasonably sturdy enough that a single mere unexplained explosion from nowhere doesn't render the effort moot.

The sandstorms lighten up enough to show the way ahead. A wide, open field that has clearly seen military activity. Abandoned barricades, haphazardly-dug trenches in the sand...

A baby sandworm happens by ahead, raising its giant ugly sandworm face to the concussive noise. A landmine is perched on its face. It goes off, and the results are to be expected.

Landmines. There's landmines everywhere ahead.

The statue continues to roll through the dunes ahead. They're going to have to go through... and there seems to be another thing burrowing close to the surface ahead (another sandworm?).

There is only one clear answer, if that other figure is you-know-who.

<Pose Tracker> Catenna has posed.

Dragging Cyre around: Catenna's part-time job. The rest of the time, she ends up chasing him somewhere.

Jump's more a tide spell than anything; she hurtles through the wind, knowing that casting gravitic magic here wouldn't do much. She's closer now. Her heels hit the ground, kicking up little clouds of sand that whip around her in the wind. Dashing after the statue, she shields her eyes with one arm, waving sand away from her face. Letting it get out of sight would be absolutely unforgivable!

Before she can get closer, however, something erupts, hurling sand and fire into the air. Then something else explodes.

Mines. Grey eyes go very wide.

"Explosives!" she shouts shrilly over the wind, hoping the others can take warning and keep their eyes open - but for her part, Catenna's got no idea how to handle this but to keep running. And jumping. But how can she do that while both watching downwards to find the mines and up at the sky to ensure she doesn't lose sight of the icon of Fengalon?

With little time to belt out a spell, Catenna snaps her hand down to her belt and comes out with handful of heal berries. Losing them won't put her mind at ease - but neither will losing the statue. She flicks her wrist and begins hurling Heal Berries to the sand in front of her as she dashes along, throwing them fairly hard.

Something ahead of her blows up in a big fiery ball as a thrown berry sets it off. Diverting around the blast, Catenna shields herself from the fire and wind with one arm, continuing to hurl berries with the other like the stupidest form of minesweeping ever.

"Cyre," she calls up to him. "We need to get over these!" And she holds her free hand up.

She wants a pickup, Wind Cat.

DG: Catenna has contributed a Agility Basic Action toward her party's challenge, It's Like That Computer Game.
<Pose Tracker> Cyre H. Lorentz has posed.

Cyre has to take a moment to check that he is, in fact, on solid ground again by the time they land. Well. Reasonably solid ground. Sand dunes don't exactly make for very sure footing. But between the shields and the jump and Skye's noble sacrifice, it looks like they managed to close the distance and reach the statue. "Okay. Good. Committee or not, we--"

  • BLAM*

Cyre feels his heart sink into his stomach as the statue disappears into the explosion. He's only just a little bit better when the enormous statue seems relatively unharmed, but judging by that poor sandworm up ahead, chances are good that there are more of those things lying around here.

But these... These trenches. These bunkers...

If it wasn't for this stupid war, they would've already gotten their hands on the statue! Cyre shakes his head, scattering those distracting thoughts. He has to keep focused. "Right," Cyre nods at Catenna and takes her hand--

Moments before his parachute unfurls and he tugs her up into his chest. "Hold on tight! Guys, I'll clear a way! Follow the beams!"

Beams?

Yeah. Beams.

Columns of prismatic light blast down into the sand in their path. Mines burst and sand turns to glass as they pass, allowing the others to, hopefully, have a slightly clearer path forward. Or, you know, they might just hop onto the Cyre Train.

Just, you're going to have to bring your own grabby hands. And try not to tug him down into a mine.

DG: Cyre H. Lorentz has used his Tool Reverse Parachute toward his party's challenge, It's Like That Computer Game.
<Pose Tracker> Rosaline Calice has posed.

Rosaline can't see ahead very well, but at least feels better about opening her eyes. There is a form of irony in this, though it's not very deep.

The important thing is that they're still going, and they might well be able to catch up until there's...

An explosion?!

Rosaline's shield is starting to fade out of existence, and good timing too, because the amount of sand is getting more tolerable. She lowers her hands, drained, to look ahead and see the source of the explosion.

Oh.

She holds her hand up to her Ethos insignia, gathering power, and soon an inclined icicle bursts out of the sand at the bottom of a dune, forming a sort of impromptu ramp to sail off of after picking up some momentum!

And so, Rosaline goes first, skids down the dune, then onto the ice, and LEAPS in the general direction Cyre has cleared for them. She won't be able to sail through the entire field that way, so for the rest she'll just have to tread lightly.

DG: Rosaline Calice has contributed a Agility Basic Action toward her party's challenge, It's Like That Computer Game.
<Pose Tracker> Iskandra Grendorre has posed.

Mines. Mines everywhere. There are many sensible ways to deal with that problem. Iskandra doesn't have the luxury of time for any of them, and thus she is left with means that are not sensible. They may work, however. She gets out a few clay jars with short fuses and throws them forwards to ...

test her path for mines... And simultaneously clear it.

She keeps at it while she pursues, it's probably wise to not get too close to her high pace mine sweeping, and she may end up regretting this approach to the problem. It's a fairly high risk approach to the problem.

DG: Iskandra Grendorre has contributed a Agility Basic Action toward her party's challenge, It's Like That Computer Game.
<Pose Tracker> Matilda Whitehead has posed.

"... Explosives...?" Matilda murmurs, in response to Catenna's warning. She considers this for a few moments... and then gets an idea. She scoops up a handful of sand and loads it into Freischütz. "Ah -- don't stand directly ahead of me," she calls -- though she's not terribly loud, and sounds a little breathless. ... probably because she's only now taking her first breaths since the sandstorm.

She aims to one side of where Cyre is, and fires blast after blast of wide-ranging sand into the mines, hoping to likewise set some off. ... It isn't nearly as impressive as a staggering display of light and color and sound, but it's practical, at least.

She has a bad feeling about this one, suddenly... or maybe that's just stress from the explosions. Honestly, even she's having a hard time telling as this chase drags on.

DG: Matilda Whitehead has contributed a Agility Basic Action toward her party's challenge, It's Like That Computer Game.
==================<* CHALLENGE - It's Like That Computer Game *>==================
|Type: Exploration |Dungeon Ability: Agility   |Challenge Rating: 2          | 
----------------------------< Challenge Information: >----------------------------
 Both Kislev and Aveh are fond of the use of landmines, liberally applying     
 them throughout the desert in order to limit the movement of the other. Your  
 course takes you through one such set of dunes packed to the brim with them.  
 Your common sense will not listen - you cannot let your objective escape      
 your grasp!                                                                   
=Dungeon Conditions: Suffer===================================================
<Pose Tracker> Rose has posed.

While Dezel lacks a body at the moment, being inside Rose, he still pays attention to Skye. There are two truths about the Wind Seraph: one, he's grumpy, and two, he likes animals. Animals, unlike humans, are generally good partners. Instincts are easier to trust and predict than people.

"You don't want her, trust me. She'd probably try eating you."

"I WOULD NOT!" Rose protests, because her ears are still ringing from the explosion. "ALSO WHO ARE YOU TALKING TO?!"

"The wind."

"I WOULD HIT YOU IF I COULD!"

After a few moments, she shakes her head and manages to make the ringing stop. "Okay, so, explosions. That's bad! Um... what if we just flew over the sand?" Armatizion? God no, she almost died last time, she's not going to risk it just for a brief stint in the air. "Stupid war," she grumbles.

Rose takes the handy swiftness potion Iskandra handed her earlier and downs it. She stretches her legs, and... runs towards the statue, having no other plans.

"THIS IS A TERRIBLE IDEA," her headghost complains.

"I KNOW, IT'S MY BEST ONE YET!"

DG: Rose has contributed a Agility Basic Action toward her party's challenge, It's Like That Computer Game.
<Pose Tracker> Ryudo has posed.

When the first explosion occurs, there's a terrible moment of uncertainty as to Skye's ultimate fate -- the statue rolls on, but the hawk is nowhere to be seen. Eventually the reason for concern is dispelled as he descends from the sky, having banked sharply upwards to avoid risking injury to himself. "Mines ahead! Tread carefully, everyone!" There's no point in pretending that he can't talk -- if that quip to the Seraph didn't make that pointless, doing his damnest to violate several laws of physics with his statue braking antics blew his "ordinary bird" cover wide open. "But keep moving! Mines or not, we lose if that freak beats us to the statue!"" ... "Come to think of it, I don't see him behind us anymore...?"

Ryudo did not need the sandworm's helpful reminder of what will happen if any of their tree hugging religious types hug a mine and try to talk it out of its warlike ways. Nor did he need to catch the worst of the gore rain, which to his credit he weathers with little more than a disgusted grimace -- someone is going to need a shower after this is all said and done. Unfortunately Ryudo is separated from Skye, and doesn't have any other helpful solutions for taking another casual stroll between one of Aveh and Kislev's latest block parties. Can't they just knock over each other's sand castles and get it over with already? He does his best to stay on the tail of Cyre -- adding another hint of evidence to the theory that he might get a thing for cat butt -- but due to the rest of the party having a lead on him, he's forced to make occasional course deviations in order to continue catching up. Not needing to focus on tracking so much at this point, Skye begins to double back in case Ryudo has the brilliant idea of disarming a mine with his foot.

The hawk offers a quip to Dezel as they pass each other, "I'm pretty sure I don't have good taste. ...At least if we consider who I'm traveling with." "SHUT IT BIRD"

DG: Ryudo has contributed a Agility Basic Action toward his party's challenge, It's Like That Computer Game.
==================<* CHALLENGE - It's Like That Computer Game *>==================
|Type: Exploration |Dungeon Ability: Agility   |Challenge Rating: 2          | 
----------------------------< Challenge Information: >----------------------------
 Both Kislev and Aveh are fond of the use of landmines, liberally applying     
 them throughout the desert in order to limit the movement of the other. Your  
 course takes you through one such set of dunes packed to the brim with them.  
 Your common sense will not listen - you cannot let your objective escape      
 your grasp!                                                                   
=Dungeon Conditions: Suffer===================================================
DG: The party led by Cyre H. Lorentz has passed this challenge! The party gained 20 exploration! If anyone needs to use party
management commands, do so now. Otherwise, the next round's GM may begin the next round with +dungeon/draw.
DG: Ryudo has drawn a new Challenge.
==================<* CHALLENGE - A Hairpin Turn Of Events *>==================
|Type: Exploration |Dungeon Ability: Agility   |Challenge Rating: 2          | 
--------------------------< Challenge Information: >--------------------------
 Just as your team gets close enough to reach out and grab the objective,      
 circumstances have seen it fit to move it right past you in the other         
 direction. Though disorienting, your team must now change direction and give  
 chase anew before the objective gets too far ahead a lead with this change    
 of direction and events.                                                      
=Dungeon Conditions: Slow=====================================================
<Pose Tracker> Yarobeleedt has posed.

Bang! Boom! Blast! Burst! Each explosion that happens is harrowing, a reminder of just how close all of them brush with their individual mortalities. Iskandra, Matilda, and Catenna take point on the minesweeping duties for those mostly stuck to the ground, allowing for a safe - if slow - route.

Cyre starts to call down beams to try and detonate some in the sky as Rosa leaps by and comes just shy of landing on a mine herself. (She'll want to check her life counter, that near-miss is probably worth at least three-tenths of a life.)

Rose puts the concoction - and her training - to use, moving swiftly through the parts of the field that have yet to be clared. Ryudo's route should seem pretty clear, though there's what looks like a sandworm starting to come close by--

A long, thin, narrow spike of a yellowish metal shoots out and nudges at a poorly-hidden mine, in an attempt to flip it over onto the taciturn Geohound. It doesn't get far enough, but there is a blast that slows his progress.

"Fufufu." Comes that awful, poorly-translated laugh from an unwelcome foe. "So silly! Think you out run? Think you could in run! Can not run in same physical space. It is a dumb!" The creature dives once more into the sand, effortlessly navigating the landmines and breaking ahead as they rear back another misshapen weapon-arm like some sort of sea shark closing in for the kill.

Another sandworm surfaces, larger, cutting off Yarobeleedt as it dives forward. It gets the statue lodged in its mouth. The statue is too big to fit. It's not able to go in deep enough for the acidic fluids to start getting to work.

It is just the right size for it to still get stuck and start to be dragged further into the dunes, going at a shap angle to everyone's left.

"Y" Screams Yarobeleedt, who is so taken aback by this that he has no punctuation for this period.

DC: Neriah Parringer switches forms to Dark Manifestation!
DC: Neriah Parringer switches forms to Dark Manifestation!
<Pose Tracker> Catenna has posed.

As she's pulled up, Catenna gasps, settling against Cyre even as the wind shaman pulls her tightly into him. She ends up pressed roughly chest-to-chest with him, her leg pulled up and her arms encircling his shoulders as she holds on for dear life.

With widened eyes, she looks up at the cat-eared Baskar, then down as those beams rip into the desert floor. The thunder of mines resonates beneath her. Blushing deeply, she keeps her arms tight around her companion.

Narrowing her eyes at the sound of that laughter, the priestess lets out a low sound in the back of her throat. "There he is again," she hisses, only to gasp as that sandworm comes surging up to grasp the statue.

"Is it trying to eat the Guardian?!" Catenna exclaims.

The worst fears aren't confirmed, at least - it can't seem to swallow the statue. But as it gets dragged along, Catenna shifts her weight a little, pushing her hips out and angling her body as if to try and shape herself against the gale of the winds - trying to help Cyre turn himself and his parachute in the air.

"He keeps getting closer to the statue. We may have to fight him," she cautions Cyre, raising her voice a little to be heard over the wind.

DG: Catenna has contributed a Agility Basic Action toward her party's challenge, A Hairpin Turn Of Events.
<Pose Tracker> Rosaline Calice has posed.

Rosaline just barely manages to avoid exploding. This isn't the first time this has happened, and likely won't be the last. That doesn't stop the color from draining from Rosaline's face, at least what little is visible of it right now, as she windmills her arms to keep from stepping on the mine.

But all right, NOW, surely they've reached their goal!!

Nature always finds a way, and that way is not the one they were going.

"Get BACK here!" Rosaline shouts again, more insistently, and wasting precious breath in doing so.

She skids to a halt, narrowly avoiding another mine and shaving off another fraction of her precious lives, and takes off right after the sandworm. In doing so, she raises her two SMGs and fires a spray of bullets into the monster's direction, presumably hoping to slow it down.

She has a bit of a history with thieving sandworms, you have to understand.

DG: Rosaline Calice has contributed a Agility Basic Action toward her party's challenge, A Hairpin Turn Of Events.
<Pose Tracker> Rose has posed.

"Makes two of us," Dezel answers Skye.

Rose still has no idea who he's talking to, and it doesn't help all those explosions have momentarily destroyed her ability to hear things. All she knows is that a sandworm has taken the statue just as the Metal Demon showed back up. And now he might be screaming?

This would be absolutely hilarious to someone watching. Poor Yaro.

"YEAH HE CAN MOVE IN THE SAND, IT'S PRETTY UNFAIR," Rose replies to Catenna, as she barely manages to make out that she's talking about how Yaro keeps getting ahead of them. "I WISH I HAD A SAND SERAPH TO HANG OUT WITH INSTEAD OF A WIND ONE."

Dezel grumbles something about disrespectful humans.

Still, Rose has a plan.

She produces rope and her own trusty grappling hook, and hurls it full-force towards the sandworm in an attempt to lodge it either in its skin or between armored plates. If it has those. It probably does, the wildlife on Filgaia is just awful.

And then they can try using that rope to keep up with it.

DG: Rose has used her Tool Grappling Hook toward her party's challenge, A Hairpin Turn Of Events.
<Pose Tracker> Cyre H. Lorentz has posed.

There are a few things in this scenario that Cyre is quite alright with. There are a lot of things that he isn't okay with at all. Things like that weird yellow centipede asshole getting way too close to the Guardian Statue for anyone's comfort. Things like a whole bunch of landmines being left just kind of lying around like a child's forgotten toys.

The only difference, really, is that these legos are lethal.

But the thing that he's most concerned about right now is not centipede monsters or landmines or anything that his passenger may or may not doing or even the fact that Rosaline is maybe packing a little too much heat for most nuns to even think about carrying around, or that Rose has someone in her head she's talking to like some kind of crazy person. Especially not that last one. Cyre, whether he knows it or not, actually already knows that guy.

So, you know, bro resonance is there to help.

No, what he's worried about is... The giant sandworm.

The giant sandworm eating the statue. Okay, maybe not quite. Not yet. But it's a close thing. Maybe it's a blessing, in a way. It's keeping the statue from Yaro, at least. That still makes their job a little harder.

"Hey, no complaints here," Cyre says, banking a sharp turn after the fleeing worm. "I'll do whatever it takes. If it comes to that, all it means is that we get to work out some aggression, right?"

"...Though I really don't want to have to fight something that digs that fast in the middle of a desert. Let's hope we can make it in time."

DG: Cyre H. Lorentz has used his Tool Reverse Parachute toward his party's challenge, A Hairpin Turn Of Events.
<Pose Tracker> Iskandra Grendorre has posed.

"Stupid, bloody, sandworms. Why do you hate me so?!" Iskandra just had a horrible time in a sandworm infested hellhole the other day, she's not pleased to see another one. Yet, money is money, and so she gives chase regardless. She's somewhat intentionally picking a rearguard spot, however, preferring to keep her distance from the sandworm.

She hates sandworms.

DG: Iskandra Grendorre has contributed a Agility Basic Action toward her party's challenge, A Hairpin Turn Of Events.
<Pose Tracker> Matilda Whitehead has posed.

Yarobeleedt's sudden appearance prompts a yell and some seemingly-aimless firing from Matilda, though it seems like her plan is less to hit him and more to simply dissuade him from getting closer -- while she watches the statue promptly get run off with by a massive sandworm.

She boggles vacantly at these shenanigans for a moment, before offering an exasperated, "... *really*?" She pinches the bridge of her nose a little before turning to sprint after the statue... but then Rosaline shoots the sandworm, and Matilda decides this is likely the better plan, anyway.

She dumps the remaining sand out of Freischütz, loading it with proper bullets again; she then fires a few quick shots into the sandworm's side. ... honestly, she doesn't expect it to do much but *annoy* the creature? But it ought to at least, well, annoy it enough to slow it.

She calls to Catenna, "It's Filgaia! Everything eats everything!" This is a profound insight.

DG: Matilda Whitehead has contributed a Agility Basic Action toward her party's challenge, A Hairpin Turn Of Events.
<Pose Tracker> Ryudo has posed.

Ryudo is doing pretty well at the mine dodging business. Maybe he's been playing in these battlefields too long? Just when he's getting the feeling that he might make it out of this latest bit of nonsense unscathed (in ways other than odor), it seems that he's attracted a burrowing friend. "...That better not be its parent..." Fortunately, it's not! Unfortunately, it's not. A flicker of yellow on the edge of his vision is the only cue Ryudo gets before the Demon makes its move, but the attempt is as about as successful in ending him as its attempts to converse in Drifter tongue. "What the shit? Guys, the demon is trying to talk to me back here! Help!! BEFORE IT DISCOVERS ADVERBS." His plea ultimately proves unnecessary as the Demon adeptly cheats its way under the sands ahead of him, an act which forces the smarmy Drifter to grit his teeth and redouble his efforts to close the gap between him and the others.

Unfortunately, Ryudo's efforts ultimately backfire when an *actual* sandworm surfaces and starts hauling the statue in a completely different direction. Somewhere amidst the pants, he finds room to curse at it. Because Ryudo. "Hey!! Get...back here, you! I'm covered in...in...the guts of your grandkid or something! Get back...here and do something about it." Wasn't he just hoping the last "sandworm" wasn't related? Clearly he needs to make up his mind. "...You...sisssy...oh god my lungs why." Maybe it's just the lack of oxygen getting to him.

DG: Ryudo has contributed a Agility Basic Action toward his party's challenge, A Hairpin Turn Of Events.
====================<* CHALLENGE - A Hairpin Turn Of Events *>====================
|Type: Exploration |Dungeon Ability: Agility   |Challenge Rating: 2          | 
----------------------------< Challenge Information: >----------------------------
 Just as your team gets close enough to reach out and grab the objective,      
 circumstances have seen it fit to move it right past you in the other         
 direction. Though disorienting, your team must now change direction and give  
 chase anew before the objective gets too far ahead a lead with this change    
 of direction and events.                                                      
=Dungeon Conditions: Slow=====================================================
==================<* CHALLENGE - A Hairpin Turn Of Events *>==================
|Type: Exploration |Dungeon Ability: Agility   |Challenge Rating: 2          | 
--------------------------< Challenge Information: >--------------------------
 Just as your team gets close enough to reach out and grab the objective,      
 circumstances have seen it fit to move it right past you in the other         
 direction. Though disorienting, your team must now change direction and give  
 chase anew before the objective gets too far ahead a lead with this change    
 of direction and events.                                                      
=Dungeon Conditions: Slow=====================================================
DG: The party led by Cyre H. Lorentz has passed this challenge! The party gained 20 exploration! If anyone needs to use party
management commands, do so now. Otherwise, the next round's GM may begin the next round with +dungeon/draw.
DG: Rose has drawn a new Challenge.
====================<* CHALLENGE - Mean And Difficult, Now *>=====================
|Type: Climax      |Dungeon Ability: Combat    |Challenge Rating: 3          | 
----------------------------< Challenge Information: >----------------------------
 The object of your desire is within sight... but not yet within reach. The    
 objective is deposited behind something dangerous - a creature, a squad of    
 goons, maybe one of the two warring militaries, or your rival(s) for the      
 chase - and it doesn't appear that peaceful negotiation or rational           
 explanations are an option. It never was. You have to take what you've been   
 chasing after, at any cost... no matter how uncertain your odds are against   
 this threat!                                                                  
=Dungeon Conditions: Fright, Suffer===========================================
<Pose Tracker> Yarobeleedt has posed.

Rose gets on top of this situation immediately with a timely grappling hook shot. There's somewhere in the flesh in which a weakness can be found, and in doing so, she secures herself a bumpy, violent, breathtaking ride that will allow her to keep pace with the statue-stealing sandworm. Rosaline decides to just open fire, and she may be surprised to see splashes of ichor flying about with every impact. This must be a very old (and comparatively tiny, for age) sandworm, whose natural armor has eroded over the ears. Cyre gets himself a wonderful vantage point of a canyon ahead - beautiful! Catenna at least likely succeeds at keeping her grip, if not at least advancing the chase effort.

The canyon ahead holds some religious significance for followers of the proper faith, as the sand starts to give way to more solid rocky ground. There's nowhere for the sandworm to run...

It drops its grip of the statue as it bangs a part of itself against the rock, and decides to try and burrow back into the sandy dunes to avoid getting further shot up as it is peppered by Freischütz - now might be the time for Rose to disembark.

The wind rolls the statue up, up, up towards the very tip of a rocky outcropping... and halts, leaving the statue of the Guardian of Wind standing upright, looking hardly worse for the wear. Iskandra and Ryudo come up the rear, and all seven of the pursuers of this very statue are given a moment to regroup and approach.

...Seven? No, there was one more.

"Noooooo!" The eighth one arrives, snaking along up ahead of them after taking a moment to expunge excess sand from their lower biomass. It's as gross-looking as it sounds, so let's leave it at that. "A very time! Make fun! Tease! Statue keep skinning from Yarobeleedt!" Keeps hiding. Who was the copy editor for the localization, again? The creature throws something of a mix between a childish hissyfit and a blood-curdling anger, as eyes that never seem to be able to focus... find a way to lock onto the lot of them.

"No more! Mother wake soon. See Yarobeleedt. Not see human!" He draws back an arm, slicing into the air in front of them with a jagged-looking sword arm... and then flails it, as though in a panic rather than that of a position of power and threat. "At last, Yarobeleedt come in first!!"

Catenna was right. There is no escaping battle with him.

Bizarre as his speech patterns are, skittish his manner might be when challenged, the serpentine foe puts up more than a good fight. The melee fighters will face frustration not just with their blinding speed, but their ability to reconfigure the shape of their forearms into different melee weapons entirely. Some awful poison drips from these weapons, from their spittle, from pretty much anything that looks like it should (or shouldn't) be leaking or dripping anything.

-- INSERT BOSS FIGHT MUSIC HERE --

<Pose Tracker> Catenna has posed.

Steering Cyre is hard when Catenna has no ailerons.

The canyon looms ahead. The configuration of it is familiar; she can hear the way the wind rings through it, sounds layering atop sounds as the gusting breath of mother nature howls through the rocky turf. For a moment she bows her head, but she doesn't take her eyes off the sandworm.

As the statue is released, Catenna drops down from Cyre's grip, nodding to him before she lets go. Boots hit the sandy rock as she lands, hand coming down to support her in a three-point stance.

Only to find a snaky, slimy, skeezy creature sliming up ahead of her, throwing a temper tantrum. Pale grey eyes narrow as she watches Yarobeleedt venting his rage.

That sword takes shape. Steel rings out as Catenna snaps her hand to her belt and draws the short sword from her belt, twirling it and coming to her feet. With a quick pass of her tongue over her lips, she begins to circle the Metal Demon.

Perhaps the vision was right. It is a little easier for her to put aside her doubts, now. Because Yarobeleedt is not Riesenlied. He's a creature who seems to show no sign of humanity or sympathy, and right now he wants the statue of Fengalon for himself.

Catenna darts back. Her left hand traces over her Medium. "Talan diale!" she calls out, her voice echoing.

Poor, fast Yarobeleedt's blinding speed may not serve him nearly as well as he thinks: He'll find himself spending much of the fight struggling with the fact that an incredible gravitic force keeps trying to pin him to the ground. Just moving feels a lot like trying to lug a thousand pounds of masonry across the landscape. It's just not easy.

Gritting her teeth, Catenna fires the spell off, then fires it again. "Quickly!" she shouts to Cyre, to Rosaline and Matilda, to the others. "While he is encumbered!!"

DG: That Tool has no remaining uses. You'll have to use something else!
DG: Catenna has contributed a Combat Basic Action toward her party's challenge, Mean And Difficult, Now.
Yarobeleedt
        The creature named Yarobeleedt is predominantly yellow in coloration with metallic hues, whose body often seems like it's
in the process of melting. Though most of his upper body and head maintain sold form, his forearms and body from the waist down
seem unable to maintain a given shape.
        His head is proportionally narrow, with a sneer that can seem too wide for the head it is attached to - often drooling and
spitting a toxic-looking substance. Upon his head is some kind of a chrome-colored head decoration resembling a bowl with vertical
slits that run from the center of its mass down with no real pattern to it - it is hard to say if it is a cracked helmet or some
horrible mockery of hair. His eyes are pinpricks of black color upon white eyes that miraculously are able to narrow even further.
The (assumed) irises seem to have problems staying put, giving him the appearance of lazy googly eyes at all times. Two small,
easily-missed holes on his face give him the ability to pick up scents.
        His upper torso appears realtively well-armored, the ochre-colored plating maintaining a coherent shape. There are
pronounced shoulder pauldrons, and small stubby white bone-like spikes dotted throughout. Shoulders aside, the armoring appears
relatively form-fitting, suggesting that independent of the unstable biomass, he was once a very lean and lithe figure. The upper
back's features have been absorbed into the shifting mass that from all other angles starts from the waist down.
        The arms coming down from his shoulders are, proportionally, not too interesting of note until one gets to the elbows
down. The forearms may normally terminate in hands with overly long fingers. Said fingers tend to fluctuate in size, often
visually suggesting that they're trying to drip off of his body of their own accord. His forearms are capable of shifting shapes
into that resembling simple weapons - blades, sickles, bludgeons - often taking a lighter steel gray hue compared to the normal
yellowish hue of his body in the process. They often drip with an unpleasant-looking liquid that one's gut instincts would take to
be poisonous.
        Yarobeleedt's height is hard to gauge given that he is effectively a half-melted blob from the waist down. Said mass takes
a serpentine body plan out of practicality. If he tries to stand upright with this, he clocks in somewhere between seven and eight
feet in Imperial measurements, depending on how emboldened he feels at a given time. If laying flat to the ground, his length can
easily measure double this. The texture of his lower body can approximate scales, but is often pulsating and shifting to configure
for mass that will simply not settle. A gross and filthy film is sometimes left in his wake.
        He is prone to twitchy, sudden movements. By the time it takes one to read the description, he probably won't be where one
would have been from when they started. For the inhuman and dangerous appearance he has, it seems on some level he's about as
afraid of his own surroundings as one might be looking upon him.
<Pose Tracker> Matilda Whitehead has posed.

Despite everything that's ben put in front of them, the group's been making pretty great time! ... and the statue doesn't seem particularly hurt by the nice, long roll and carry, either. That's.. a relief, one would suppose.

Matilda once again swaps Freischütz's ammunition. (She really ought to get some additional magazines to slam into the slot, she reflects, as she loads it up; manually swapping ammunition is such a pain... maybe the next time she gets a sufficient payout or finds some Dragon Fossils, perhaps?) This time, though, what she loads into Freischütz is a flash full of mustard-yellow oil. It smells... alarming, uncapped.

She gives the weapon a brief shake, then shoulders it and pops the barrel extension out; this is markedly more expensive a combat-enhancer than she prefers to use, but... Yarobeleedt will make a great test subject.

Nodding to Catenna, Matilda declares, "Understood!" before firing a glob of yellow liquid at Yarobeleedt. Beyond the vile smell, it's -- not paralytic, exactly. It's more... sapping. It makes focusing hard, and moving muscles painful; for a Metal Demon, the reaction may be unusual, but not too far off from the baseline. As an added bonus, thanks to the particular ingredient list, it might also neutralize Yarobeleedt's poison temporarily!

"Now -- strike, quickly!" she calls, pointing the hand that isn't keeping Freischütz shouldered toward the Metal Demon. ... Then she starts working on getting conventional bullets back into Freischütz.

DG: Matilda Whitehead has used her Tool Shock Oil toward her party's challenge, Mean And Difficult, Now.
<Pose Tracker> Iskandra Grendorre has posed.

Iskandra has fought this creature before, and she knows how he fights. So rather than close in and expose herself too much, she stays near the back and opens up with throwing recovery draughts towards people, "Drink this if he gets his filth past your defenses." She instructs, and then still from the back she flings yet another flask, this one is aimed straight towards Yarobeleedt.

If it hits, it should cover him in something extremely attractive to monsters of all kinds, and may even draw the sandworm back. And not to be friends, no, this is the kind of attraction that makes monsters think 'food.' Such is the power of the mighty dark bottle.

DG: Iskandra Grendorre has contributed a Combat Basic Action toward her party's challenge, Mean And Difficult, Now.
<Pose Tracker> Rosaline Calice has posed.

Rosaline gives Matilda a grateful nod when ARMs fire ends up getting them rid of the sandworm. To ARMs! The cause-- and solution! --to all of Filgaia's problems.

But once again, Rosaline finds herself waving her hands in dismay at the sight of the statue slipping away from them and towards the edge of a cliff?! She puts her hands together...

Rosaline prayed from the bottom of her heart!

The statue stops. Praise be!

But of course it had to come to this. It's good that her ARMs are already drawn, which means she can take a few shots at this slippery foe right away. But quickly, she falls back into her usual, preferred support role, casting spells for to help her friends. But luckily, she kept an especially potent trick up her sleeve.

"HYDRO STORM!" she calls out. And soon, amidst the wind and sand, is something rare in the Badlands indeed...

Rain.

Luckily, it is very much magical rain, because regular rain in this situation would only create even more of a mess. Instead, this one washes over Rosaline and her friends and, for a shining moment, washes away not only the accumulated sand, but some of the accumulated pain and fatigue from this drawn-out chase.

And best of all, the rain makes the sand harder to borrow into, leaving the Metal Demon with few places to run.

DG: Rosaline Calice has used her Tool Holy Water toward her party's challenge, Mean And Difficult, Now.
<Pose Tracker> Rose has posed.

One unfortunate ride later, Rose is on the sand again. At least she didn't get eaten by a sandworm, so she'll take crashing into harmless, if hot, sand over that.

She hears some kind of screeching, her head popping out of the sand and shaking wildly to get it out of her hair.

She can't, because sand is coarse and gets everywhere.

And now she can see everyone piling onto poor Yaro.

"I... almost feel sorry for him," she admits.

"No you don't," Dezel interjects.

"I said ALMOST."

Considering the absolute mess that is being around Yarobeleedt right now, she opts for something safer. Her knives come out, both of them. "Dream Slasher!"

Both knives swing in the air, while Rose is still far from the Metal Demon. They trail a pink-yellow light, which forms up into a full row of half a dozen energy blades. And all of them launch for the Metal Demon amidst the chaos.

DG: Rose has used her Tool Brad's Knives toward her party's challenge, Mean And Difficult, Now.
<Pose Tracker> Cyre H. Lorentz has posed.

Cyre gets a little more than just a great view of that canyon. In some way, he gains an understanding of where it is that they are. He's heard of this place spoken in whispers by the elders. The legendary Valley of the Wind, where it is said that Fengalon's voice can be heard in the sounds of gales rushing through unique formations of rock and earth. He would have come here, had he... stayed.

But now, he has come not for ceremony or ritual, but with a sense of incredible urgency and the weariness of a long, desperate pusuit. Had Fengalon's statue, perched so meaningfully up above, been leading them here this whole time? Was this all just a test?

Or was it making sure that the creature that had been following it could not so easily escape into the hardened, canyon walls?

Cyre narrows his eyes at the... the monster pitching what can only be described as a temper tantrum in the midst of this most sacred of places. He grasps tightly around his mediums as he stares the abomination down. He almost doesn't notice as the clouds roll over the sky, block out the sun, and...

Rain?

In the middle of the desert...?

He turns his head, briefly, into the sudden storm of holy water. Is he thanking Granas? No, probably his heathen gods. The same ones that power Catenna's magic. The same ones... that are surging power through his limbs.

But Cyre isn't about to engage in melee range.

He has other tricks to use before he resorts to something like that.

Cyre gestures to the sky. An array of sigils carve themselves into the sky and begin pouring down tiny bolts of prismatic energy along with the driving raindrops, like little micro-missiles of holy energy.

He gestures at the beast. The wind suddenly howls, shrieking through the canyon as it drives down from above and funnels into the temple. Vortices form, tumbling, twisting, compressing into whirling disks of terrible, cutting winds that look to carve Yaro like some kind of grotesque turkey.

<Pose Tracker> Ryudo has posed.

In Ryudo's case, "regroup and assemble" is short for "recline against a rock and catch his breath". While no great harm has befallen him thus far, the effort to not be left behind has taken its toll and he's noticably more winded than the rest of the group. Skye, sitting on his shoulder, observes this with an obligatory barb. "Tired already? It's your turn to carry that statue next, you know." As a testament to Ryudo's need to conserve breath at this point, he has no response. That and the fact that the bird has him dead to rights on that one.

That does not, however, mean that Ryudo is too winded to remain standing there when the Demon from earlier expunges in his general direction. He's feeling gross enough for this adventure already, thanks.

After all this time, the swordsman finally has an opportunity to unsling the weapon of his profession that has been weighing him down all this time. Under normal circumstances, this would be the part where Ryudo revels in the relative simplicity of mortal combat, but at this point he'll be content if he keeps the fatigue from dragging him into sloppy form. "I can see why you would miss her. ...Only a mother could love a mug like yours. Let's dance, ugly." Choosing to focus more on defense while leaving the more daring blows to those with more stamina to spare, he takes note of the effects from Matilda's concoction and focuses his efforts on the xeno-appendages that seem least influenced by it.

As a precaution against his own liabilities, he places his hand against the medium at his chest and visualizes a defensive blessing in his mind. The fact that Schturdark chooses to share the benediction with his companions is more at the discretion of the Guardian than any will of Ryudo's, as the spirtualists among them will note that he certainly offer little supplication for the requested favor. A sorry shaman this one makes.

DG: Cyre H. Lorentz has contributed a Combat Basic Action toward his party's challenge, Mean And Difficult, Now.
DG: Ryudo has used his Tool Schturdark Medium toward his party's challenge, Mean And Difficult, Now.
==================<* CHALLENGE - Mean And Difficult, Now *>===================
|Type: Climax      |Dungeon Ability: Combat    |Challenge Rating: 3          | 
--------------------------< Challenge Information: >--------------------------
 The object of your desire is within sight... but not yet within reach. The    
 objective is deposited behind something dangerous - a creature, a squad of    
 goons, maybe one of the two warring militaries, or your rival(s) for the      
 chase - and it doesn't appear that peaceful negotiation or rational           
 explanations are an option. It never was. You have to take what you've been   
 chasing after, at any cost... no matter how uncertain your odds are against   
 this threat!                                                                  
=Dungeon Conditions: Fright, Suffer===========================================
DG: The party led by Cyre H. Lorentz has failed this challenge! The party gained 0 exploration! If anyone needs to use party
management commands, do so now. Otherwise, the next round's GM may begin the next round with +dungeon/draw.
DG: Matilda Whitehead has drawn a new Challenge.
======================<* CHALLENGE - The Final Stretch *>=======================
|Type: Final       |Dungeon Ability: Agility   |Challenge Rating: 4          | 
---------------------------< Challenge Information: >---------------------------
 You've come this close, now. Nothing else remains in the way to delay the     
 end of this game of cat and mouse. Your objective is in reach... you've gone  
 through so much just to get to this point, but now comes a final pitched      
 race to claim the prize before an enemy (or enemies) grab hold of it.         
=Dungeon Conditions: Bad Luck=================================================
DG: Iskandra Grendorre has contributed a Agility Basic Action toward her party's challenge, The Final Stretch.
+Vote: Iskandra Grendorre has voted for you.
<Pose Tracker> Yarobeleedt has posed.

There is not much good anyone can say about this abhorrent creature, but whatever emboldens them this day to stand against seven skilled warriors of variable levels of emotional investment (at least, beyond the more unified idea of the desire for survival)... they hold their own.

There is no shortage of effort on behalf of the Drifters. Catenna puts forth a crushing force to squeeze him down in place, free of the doubts that plague her concerning the more peaceful among the Metal Demons - the distant outlier. Iskandra tosses an attractively foul concoction onto his form, glistening him in an inky black.

The lower half of Yarobeleedt pulsates disgustingly, an outer shell hardening around it... and then being expunged, shedding a layer of icky Dark Bottle goo and somehow squeezing out of the hold.

Rosaline invigiorates her team with a refreshing light rain, which might be what they need to stay in the fight for as long as they do. Cyre calls forth gale force winds, and Yarobeleedt stays put by stabbing an arm into the rock for stability as he twists, contorts, and turns through the more focused of it. His tongue lolls out mockingly, as more of his poison flicks through the air.

The other arm is used to neatly deflect any advances by Ryudo, reconfiguring shape and form to best offset and abuse any weakness in the form of movement or shape of his weapon, madly cackling all the while.

Ryudo does help give Rose an opening, since one arm's too busy holding himself in place, and energy blades carve through newly-formed yellowish metal flesh, splashing quicksilver everywhere (thanks to the wind, it might even splatter on people and it's YUCK). He writhes.

Matilda takes this moment to fire off her concoction, and with it, she gets that glob right through his maw. He gags, he wretches, as he recoils in a break in the windstorm. The other arm still flails around a bit, every so often.

They can't destroy him here - it would take a bit more than this.

The wind picks up again, blowing against everyone - Yarobeleedt, the entire party, as he turns his back to them.

"No...! Not blow back! Not go back. No more hide and seek! Seek and seeeeek...!" Yarobeleedt stabs another arm into the ground, as he tries to crawl up to the statue. Bit by bit, stab by stab, Matilda's brew weakening his speed... but not his desire.

The statue remains there, at the very edge. The wind now works against everyone. Whoever is going to get to exert their will had better do so against the full might of the desert winds themselves. Everyone is in danger of losing their footing and being expelled at any given moment.

"Not... not die by human! No. Nonono. Not before! Not be zerooo!" He sounds panicked. Afraid, even when he may have 'won' a fight through attrition. Could... this be used against him?

<Pose Tracker> Rose has posed.

Well, he IS a Metal Demon after all. Yaro might act quirky but he's from a warrior race. Rose shouldn't be so surprised he's still standing - worse, still able to act, move, and crawl towards the statue. The wind blows again, to make things worse. Everything is awful right now.

The winds pick up, green swirls of it coating Rose, but this time, only her. She takes a few steps back, towards where the sandworm withdraw. Picks her rope and hook back up, and considers.

"You know I can't hold this for long, right?"

"I won't need long! Hey, Geohound!" She knows his face, not his name. There's nothing rude in Rose's tone, she just didn't want to yell HEY YOU. "Gimme a hand, I can tell you're stronger than you're fast!"

Rose's rope twirls, and swings. For Yaro.

Her plan isn't to outrace the Metal Demon, it's to hold him back so Cyre can. And she's not especially strong, hence asking for Ryudo's help. And probably Iskandra's. "CYRE, GO FOR THE STATUE!"

DG: Rose has used her Tool Grappling Hook toward her party's challenge, The Final Stretch.
<Pose Tracker> Cyre H. Lorentz has posed.

This is just ridiculous. No matter how many times they stab and smash and cast at this... creature, it just does not give way. It does not give up and it does not give in. Cyre cusses softly as blades and quicksilver and other terrible things carve into the sacred site-- it's only because of the torrential downpour of holy rain that Cyre isn't having some kind of fit right now.

But they can't keep this up. The trek to get all the way out here wasn't just a statue-chase. How long had they been searching the desert for it to begin with? Add that onto the wind-wall, the minefield, the sandworm chase and now this. He feels spent, his strength wanes and that thing just does not give up.

Neither, it seems, does Fengalon.

Tt's only by navigating the air-currents with his parachute to try and approach the statue does Cyre keep his footing against those tremendous gales. Even then, it's more 'standing his ground' than 'making progress. But the Guardian's wrath does more than just push everyone back-- that beast is... Scared. Of dying? Or... worse?

That... gives him an idea.

"You afraid to die, monster? Afraid of disappearing? Well, you're in luck. I can make sure you never feel scared again." Cyre reaches into his cloak and draws... a strange rod. It's ringed along the far end, and crowned with a golden starburst. "With this... I'm going to make sure you never feel anything again. Come. I call upon the power of the Guardian Spirit of Judgment and Torment. Smite my foe! By your name...!

"La-Mu-La-Na," Cyre chants at the creature, willing the wind to howl ominously among the rocks. "La-Mu-La-Na-La-Mu-La-Na-La-Mu-La-Na--"

What...

What is he even saying!?

WHAT IS THIS STRANGE GUARDIAN!?

(*Cyre made it up just now.)

DG: Cyre H. Lorentz has used his Tool Reverse Parachute toward his party's challenge, The Final Stretch.
<Pose Tracker> Catenna has posed.

Part of Catenna half-expected Yarobeleedt to compress into some sort of disgusting oozing sponge once she started laying the gravity on.

She can only do so much, though. She's beginning to get tired by the time Yarobeleedt starts to claw his way towards the statue. Hard breaths leave her struggling to get on after him, at first. He's enough distance ahead of her that she's not sure she could beat him - she might overshoot the statue, which would give the Metal Demon a clean run at it.

Cyre, however, does something utterly ridiculous. Even as she begins to dash towards the statue, she can't help but stare at Cyre, momentarily astounded by the man's sheer pluck.

Sometimes I realize why he is so attractive to me, Catenna realizes as her heartbeat quickens with utter appreciation.

While Cyre begins to chant, Catenna slides her rope from her belt and whips it towards the distant statue, beginning to reel herself in with a few long, sailing jumps. Affixing herself to the statue makes it a little easier. Her heels click against the rock, then kick off again, strong legs propelling her towards the likeness of Fengalon. Bright-eyed, she reaches to her belt.

She, too, is carrying a rod, not unlike Cyre's own. Please, please, distract him! she pleads in her mind as she lunges towards the statue, intent on trying to get there first and complete the ritual before Yarobeleedt can figure out what Cyre is up to!

DG: Catenna has used her Tool Grappling Hook toward her party's challenge, The Final Stretch.
<Pose Tracker> Rosaline Calice has posed.

Rosaline is really just glad that she's mostly able to keep her distances from that creature. Despite her profession and everything it involves, she still finds it in her to be a bit particular about her hygiene.

The rain subsides all too soon, but it did what it had to. And yet, they don't manage to gain a decisive upper hand on their foe, and it instead comes down to one final race.

And so, after only a moment's hesitation, she leans forward and breaks into a run with that catlike stance she assumes when she needs to sprint, aided by her hands. Her tail trails behind, accompanied by a cloud of abundant pink hair, as the wind finally wins its battle over the nun's precaution.

She isn't making a beeline for the statue-- Only one of them needs to get to it, after all. Instead, she first concentrates on getting ahead of Yaro, so she can position herself cast that spell from earlier, and make another impromptu ice ramp appears, potentially allowing the Metal Demon to perform a SICK JUMP... in the completely wrong direction.

DG: Rosaline Calice has contributed a Agility Basic Action toward her party's challenge, The Final Stretch.
<Pose Tracker> Matilda Whitehead has posed.

Matilda's whole body sags after spending quite some time maintaining her distance from Yarobeleedt. Even if he didn't strike her, he's managed to force herself to get worn down in this damned sandstorm; she spots the weakness in his speed, though, and decides that now would be a good time to try to cut him off from the statue itself.

Fortunately, everyone else seems to have the same idea, to varying extents -- either slowing Yarobeleedt down or getting Cyre ahead of him. Far be it from her, of course, to set out too far on her own.

She positions herself between the shamans and Yarobeleedt as best she can, once again loading her weapon with sand. It's more of an annoyance against a hard target like Yarobeleedt than anything else -- but an annoyance would, in fact, be the best result here, as it might just keep him from moving forward at all.

DG: Matilda Whitehead has contributed a Agility Basic Action toward her party's challenge, The Final Stretch.
=======================<* CHALLENGE - The Final Stretch *>========================
|Type: Final       |Dungeon Ability: Agility   |Challenge Rating: 4          | 
----------------------------< Challenge Information: >----------------------------
 You've come this close, now. Nothing else remains in the way to delay the     
 end of this game of cat and mouse. Your objective is in reach... you've gone  
 through so much just to get to this point, but now comes a final pitched      
 race to claim the prize before an enemy (or enemies) grab hold of it.         
=Dungeon Conditions: Bad Luck=================================================
<Pose Tracker> Ryudo has posed.

Ryudo struggles to gain any ground against the babbling monstrosity, but achieves his goal of holding the line well enough for some choice blows of Rose to slip through. "Nice moves, Red!", he offers with a grin. "Do not forget to thank the one who stands with her." "...Huh?" The bird chooses to not clarify further. It is enough for him that the Seraph receives at least one acknowledgement.

But despite the small victories, this battle is rapidly going nowhere. Something is needed to break the stalemate, or the Demon may very well prove able to outlast them in a test of endurance. That moment of opportunity finally arrives in the form of an ever persistent gale.

Most importantly, the Demon is struggling to fight against the wind more than those who stand against him -- doubtlessly due to the wind resistance of his body mass. A fact that Rose invites him to help capitalize on. "Got it." Picking up on her plan quickly, Ryudo ducks low to take advantage of the pocket of calmer air that Yarobeleedt's mass provides. He wraps both arms around the rope and HAULS with all his might. "Skye, go help Cyre! I'm counting on you two!"

Bobbing his head, the hawk Skye launches himself towards the statue...and grins. "I've got a better idea." Swooping low, his talons sink into her shoulder as he settles into the new perch. "This will probably hurt, but it looks like you're going to need both of those hands. Here we go...!" Trusting that the shaman isn't afraid of a little drawn blood in pursuit of their mutual goal, Skye uses his beating wings to enhance her efforts in closing the distance.

DG: Ryudo has used his Tool Skye toward his party's challenge, The Final Stretch.
=====================<* CHALLENGE - The Final Stretch *>======================
|Type: Final       |Dungeon Ability: Agility   |Challenge Rating: 4          | 
--------------------------< Challenge Information: >--------------------------
 You've come this close, now. Nothing else remains in the way to delay the     
 end of this game of cat and mouse. Your objective is in reach... you've gone  
 through so much just to get to this point, but now comes a final pitched      
 race to claim the prize before an enemy (or enemies) grab hold of it.         
=Dungeon Conditions: Bad Luck=================================================
DG: You have overcome the dungeon's trials! This run is a success!
DG: The party led by Cyre H. Lorentz has successfully explored Chase Sequence!
=====================<* CHALLENGE - A Loser Is Not You *>=====================
|Type: Discovery   |Dungeon Ability: Conclusion|Challenge Rating: 1          | 
--------------------------< Challenge Information: >--------------------------
 You've done it! Your team has safely taken hold of the objective after a      
 long chase through the Badlands! All that's left to do is to return to        
 civilization with your hard-won prize... er, if you can find your way back.   
 Your team was so focused on the chase that this could be something of a       
 problem... but you won, and that is presently all that matters. Go you!       
=Dungeon Conditions: Treasure=================================================
<Pose Tracker> Yarobeleedt has posed.

There is a final, pitched effort to stop Yarobeleedt from getting there. Thanks to Dezel's assistance, Rose gets a clean enough shot to grab a hold of the Metal Demon by their lower body. He responds by stretching it out about as much as he can, but it is with immense effort.

An ice ramp appears underneath him, courtesy of Rosaline, as she closes in. She makes excellent headway forward, if not quite fully surpass him, as he threatens to slip up and lose what distance he's gaining as he crawls forward.

Matilda keeps firing sand at him. Annoying, super itchy sand! The sand he hates, and has had to continue hating, in this entire region just to find one. Lousy. Statue. He writhes a bit more.

Ryudo makes the going even worse as he pulls, pulls, and pulls, stretching what of Yarobeleedt's form is malleable towards the extreme end of its elasticity, empowered by all the frustrations and setbacks he's followed... and the wind is with him. Even if Ryudo let the wind blow him back, that would just help him tug.

Iskandra probably called him hurtful names or something.

"Fufufu. Two day, this one day," Yarobeleedt fights through the heightened emotion and stress, "I! BREAK! WIND!"

He rears back one arm, trying to turn it into the longest needle he can... when Cyre calls out to him. "Cl-close uuuuup!" It's hard to focus. He's being pulled apart. HE can't stay stable underneath himself. Sand!! The wind!!! And the winged one. But fear overtakes him. He has no idea what it is that Cyre is holding.

"No!! No! Stay for Mother," Yarobeleedt... whimpers? "All for Mother! All of iiiit..."

The corner of his eye catches Catenna pulling the same out. A feint! He sees it. He sees what's going on. It's a distraction so that she... she...!

"WILL NOT RET HAPPEN!!" oh no

All Yarobeleedt had to do - and this was trivial - is just sweep an arm into Catenna as she closes in. That would have been the end of it. Cyre wouldn't have had the real ritual ready before he could stab. It would be game over.

He cowers. He throws himself low, to avoid a blast he believes, in full, is for him.

Catenna's able to complete the ritual and cast the spell of protection on the statue.

The wind lightens up. All goes calm and quiet, as the statue takes on a shining hue.

"...Fufufu." Why is he laughing?

"So silly full! You shoot statue for Yarobeleedt!" The Metal Demon goes upright, cackling before the now-shining statue. "Soon! It will no longer plode."

Nothing happens.

"...Be fired from comfy plode job."

Nothing happens.

"Plode, formerly!"

Nothing happens.

"Still plode?! But! What is the nepotism behind plode?! Plode for life?? No! Make no sense. No. Nonononono."

Yarobeleedt flails an arm into the statue, flicking a forearm out into a long, thin needle. A bright flash of light resonates from it, deflecting the force and knocking the slug-thing flat on its... slug-thinginess.

"WHY NOT EXPLODE?!" He screams and shrieks, to a now-clear sky.

<Pose Tracker> Catenna has posed.

Catenna winces as Skye's talons bite into her shoulder hard enough to draw blood, but she bears it with a short nod and closes the distance. Her eyes flicker with intent. "Thank you," she murmurs.

Soon enough, with Skye's aid, she touches down. Despite the blood oozing from the marks on her shoulders, she doesn't hesitate: Kicking her rope away, she brings her wand to bear and begins to chant sonorously in her own language.

"Umhrai chadani... Zephyr chadani... droatan chadani... iruakhan chadani... umhrai chadani... Zephyr chadani...."

It goes on like that. Her voice rings out; the wand resonates. With a shimmer, the power of the Guardian of Hope pours into the statue. Bit by bit, the tempestuous winds fade away. She can feel the magic of the Guardian at work as it flows into the image of Fengalon before her.

Soon, she trails off - and it's over. The statue gleams before her gaze. Her legs giving way, Catenna falls to her knees, her hands grasping the haft of the wand as she gazes up at the statue. Reverence fills her eyes. Reserve has given way; she can't hide her joy as she stares up at the image of the Guardian, shining with the glow of hope. Four hundred and forty-four days' worth of it.

Slavering smugness behind her alerts her to the fact that the game is up and the Metal Demon has become aware of the deception - perhaps too late. Breathing in a slow breath, Catenna turns and looks away from the statue, watching with utter calm as Yarobeleedt absolutely loses his shit and starts screaming at the sky.

"You cannot harm it now," she states as she stands once again. Her left hand drops to touch her Mediums. "Leave. Leave, or I shall ask the Guardian of the Moon to escort you from here. Personally."

For a moment, Catenna's eyes flit towards Cyre. Harsh words or not, she lets a bit of that joy slip through her gaze for him.

<Pose Tracker> Rosaline Calice has posed.

Rosaline reaches the statue, helped at the end by the winds' dying down. Of course, this is moot, as Catenna has done it. The world has been bought a bit more time. The statue is safe. It does not plode.

...explode.

"Praise be," she says, weakly, as she breathes out a sigh of relief. But oh, wait, there is still the small matter of...

Slowly, she turns around, her ARMs pointed at Yarobeleedt. Catenna tells him to leave. Rosaline nods along, vigorously.

<Pose Tracker> Cyre H. Lorentz has posed.

Let it never be said that Cyre did not know how to use his brain. This cat is smarter than your average bear by far.

Catenna makes it to the statue, she chants the chant, the rod fires, and...

And this thing just has no idea, does it?

Cyre just sort of stares at Yaro as Nothing continues to Happen. The plode is not terminated from employment. The position of plode is permanently filled-- at least, for a period of four-hundred-and-forty-days.

"Well isn't that obvious?" Cyre smirks, waving his own rod vaguely in the direction of the Metal Demon. "This magic only makes Metal Demons explode."

"I think I have enough juice left for one more spell, too."

<Pose Tracker> Matilda Whitehead has posed.

As Catenna demands Yarobeleedt leave, Matilda... just nods. This aspect of the situation remains well beyond her, unfortunately; she just... doesn't 'get' magic. It's a whole element of the world that she just -- doesn't understand.

As Cyre mentions his special Metal Demon-exploding magic... she can't quite stifle a laugh.

<Pose Tracker> Ryudo has posed.

Once the deed is done and the winds ebb, all of the tension exits Skye and the hawk allows his body to sag in a brief moment of respite. ...Against the side of Catena's head. "...Apologies. Just for a moment." The hawk may be strong, but these repeated sustained loads are asking just a bit much from him. A price well worth it for today's accomplishment, however. "Forever 'plode', you cretin. Begone from my realm." The order is delivered imperiously as if the bird owns the damn place. As a creature of wind, perhaps that's not so far away from the truth.

For his part, Ryudo simply leans back against a rock, sword still in hand in case the Demon doesn't back down from Cyre's bluff. Very low, so that only those with the finest of hearing can pick it up, he mutters to himself. "...You owe me one, bird..."

Standing once more, the bird turns towards the youth...and bows his head low as a show of respect.

...And then proceeds to fall off of Catenna's shoulder, but he covers for this by gliding a short distance to perch on a rock. Yes, totally intentional.