2017-12-16: Velvet Glove

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=============================<* Nortune Grazelands *>=============================

The Grazelands are the last remaining fertile land in the northeast if the Ignas continent. Firmly under control of the nation of Kislev, they are covered end to end with highly regimented farms and ranches, each under strict orders to produce so much produce or livestock, with an eye to maximum possible efficiency. Agricultural experts frequently travel from the city of Nortune to assist landowners, as do so-called "engineers," a nascent profession of individuals devoted to the study and use of ARMs in the Empire.

The southern border of the Grazelands is heavily guarded, tapering off to a single pass through the mountains leading into the Great Aveh Desert. Kislev's forces are firmly entrenched in the area, and travel to the heart of the empire is strictly controlled.

BGM: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5ddOSJ8571M
DC: You switch forms to Dark Manifestation!
DC: Neriah Parringer switches forms to Dark Manifestation!
DC: You switch forms to Stained Excavator Neriah!
DC: Neriah Parringer switches forms to Stained Excavator Neriah!
<Pose Tracker> Neriah Parringer has posed.

Back at the Glove Day party in the heart of Nortune, a police cordon is searching for whoever set off those distracting explosives. They caught one young man.

There were more crooks out there, though - and they slipped the cordon and made their way to the home of Simon Osgoode, the statue enthusiast donating his collection to the city. Most of his statues were in the park, but a few remained behind in his garden. Getting into that garden isn't hard; you just climb the rope the White Gloved Bandits had slung over the wall.

Within, it's impossible to miss Osgoode's most recent prize. A towering statue of a bestial bipedal entity, half-man, half-monster of some kind. A statue radiating a subtle aura of spiritual resonance.

Aru Solato, Guardian of Ice.

A couple of security guards have been knocked out and left overturned in a rosebush. At the foot of the statue, the figures in white are dashing towards the statue. Four of them made it: A girl in a white newsboy hat, a blond young man in a toque, a redheaded girl in a ushanka and a very tall bald man, all in white gloves and blazers, white scarves pulled over their noses. A fifth bandit - wearing a white scarf and gloves along with a cowboy hat - is riding in from a shed nearby with a horse-drawn cart, throwing off a jacket which would indicate he's a member of the house's security.

"We've gotta hurry," Newsboy Bandit exhorts the others as she dashes over to the statue. "They already got Ray. If they figure out they didn't get us all--"

"I know, I know," grumbles Bald Bandit. "I just hope no one followed us."

"And that the statue's not too heavy," murmurs the blonde one, ducking his head.

Newsboy Bandit's eyes narrow above the edge of her scarf. "If it's too heavy, we smash it here and you can sell the pieces," she offers, trying hard to force down a sick feeling.

She promised she would do this. She has to do this - the Guardians deserve it.

Welcome home.

I wish I'd known this would feel so awful... Miss Riese....

<Pose Tracker> Riesenlied has posed.

Riesenlied has never been to Nortune -- and she fears that her reputation would have made her presence too overbearing... but some rumours needed to be searched out, and it was in the midst of this that her search for a Statue had dovetailed firmly with the news of the banditry. She grimaces as she arrives on the scene, launching herself over the walls of the garden as she flies into sight and draws her thin rapier.

She shouldn't be in combat, as is Miss Lily's wont and warning, but... it's hard to ignore something like this.

"Cease your actions this instant and surrender!" Riesenlied cries in warning. "This Statue has far more importance and value -- and it is in everyone's interests that it is not harmed...!"

She sincerely hopes no Metal Demons will appear to complicate matters -- it might just hasten Wayside's timetable even further, and there's plenty to do before they must face the music...

The winged Drifter in the gown and the capelet doesn't look... that threatening, with only a thin side-sword at her side, but the crooked nature of her horns and misshapen arm and leg certainly adds some unintentional menace.

<Pose Tracker> Rosaline Calice has posed.

Rosaline originally did intend to go to the Glove Day party. Statue-related rumors were worth following up on, and so she did...

Until she saw the size of the crowd.

It was silly, she would be the first to say it was a very silly thing for her to do, but she decided that maybe being at a party could wait just a little bit. She's come in, well. Eventually.

And then, much, much later, from a nearby rooftop, Rosaline's ears perk up at the sound of explosions. She uncurls from her resting position to look down, and... sees ruffians running, with Drifter friends and acquaintances in hot pursuit.

Long story short: Rosaline has joined the party!

She climbs over the wall without much need for that rope, lands right on her feet, and draws Esdras and Judith as she rises up. This would all be very cool if she weren't trembling.

"I am an Etone-in-Training, p-please move away from the statue and no one will have to be hurt!"

Yes, she reminds herself, tell them you're not a real Etone yet, it will be very intimidating.

<Pose Tracker> Ida Everstead-Rey has posed.

The problem with going for a color-coordinated theme for your criminal accomplices is that it makes them very easy to track. All Ida has to do is follow the woman dressed all in white, and since the thief is in a big hurry, she doesn't have to be very subtle about it. Nortune is a large, densely-packed industrial town, much like Guild Galad; it's not as populous, but there's an abundance of metal and stone, and wood is comparatively rare. A garden like Osgoode's is the mark of someone who is willing to devote a lot of money to aesthetics.

As she runs, Ida wonders if Lily grew up in one of these houses, or if she lived elsewhere in the city. The houses here remind Ida of her own. It brings everything into stark relief.

Oh my God, Ida thinks, as she sees the rope. She stares at it in a moment's disbelief, and then tugs on it to make sure it's not a trap. It's not. She hauls herself up, hand over hand, her still-sort-of-bad shoulder protesting at it. It does that sometimes, when she doesn't reinforce it with chi.

Ida kneels behind a decorative rosebush planter, trying to figure out the best way to go about this. Do they have a leader? The one in the newsboy seems to think that...

Neriah, Ida thinks. Her eyes narrow.

<Pose Tracker> Ethius Hesiod has posed.

Ethius Hesiod, still in dress attaire, mask, and hat, is in rapid pursuit (for being in dress attaire). Snatching up the weapon and miscellaneous goods he neatly hid away near the site of the gathering - it is providence that it was coincidentally along the way, let alone undiscovered in the newly urgent hunt for more potential explosives and other dangerous things - Ethius finds the left-behind rope convenient. Otherwise, he'd have had to have tried to drift inside from a reasonably elevated position. This saves time.

He hears Riese's voice just before he jumps right into the unfolding scene itself. She outlines, immediately, the importance of what lies before them. It's a Statue. A Statue of...

...

Ethius doesn't know which one it is. Should he? No, that much is not important at this time, as he pulls the Spectral Lens out and goes through the usual casting motions. There is a series of patterned lights that give away his presence, as he brings it up to the sight slit in the Rigdobrite mask.

There is also something else in his hand, as he steadily approaches.

...Within the vision of the Newsboy Bandit, she can see him coming up from behind Riesenlied. A soft glow comes from that lens he holds in one hand. He's holding something else in the other, but it is obscured by Riesenlied's form.

What if he's moving in to shank her...?

<Pose Tracker> Josephine Lovelace has posed.

It's as clear as day what's going on -- Josie had contemplated giving the house a little look-see, maybe a little potential robbery of her own if that was the only way to ensure things stayed safe.

It's sort of a necessity, given how she doesn't have a sealing rod.

Assuming, of course, that the statue is there in the first place. Now that one would be a shame to get caught doing.

On the bright side, Nortune is far enough away from 'home' that it might not matter.

So, strolling seemingly-idly through the streets of the city, hair down and clad in a long red sleeveless gown (with long gloves) the archaeologist might well seem as if she's had a few drinks. She hums to herself, a little tunelessly.

Until she finds the rope.

Hitching up her skirt, she doesn't waste time. She's up and over the wall with a perhaps startling speed for someone who spends so much time out of a dress and alights on the opposite side to land in the garden.

"Well, hello there," she greets the little gang with, tipping her halfmask up. "Sorry for crashing the party, but--"

She reaches under her skirts and draws from a thigh holster what looks a hell of a lot like a revolver.

"Well, needs must, I suppose. Bad luck."

Without further warning, she aims and fires at the tall bald bandit.

GS: Josephine Lovelace has attacked Neriah Parringer with Reaper's Hand!
GS: Josephine Lovelace has completed her action.
GS: CRITICAL! Neriah Parringer takes a solid hit from Josephine Lovelace's Reaper's Hand for 115 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Margaret has posed.

Margaret stares towards that explosion. She downs the last of her wine, and stalks towards the street, where, miracle of miracles, a guy pushing a street cart pulls out what you had thought was a broom but was ACTUALLY a naginata and throws it to her.

Margaret winks at him.

"Thunder Road," Margaret intones then, before thunder - well - rolls, and she starts to run. She has to accelerate carefully, being in a pair of party heels, but she is nonetheless running to beat the wind and shame the devil. A horse would have to work to keep up with her.

Margaret turns down that road, stabbing her naginata into the ground to let herself pivot inwards and hurl herself up into the sky. In the course of everything else, it would perhaps be easy to assume she just kind of vanished into the crush of people, but that would be deceitful, because in a purple-dressed storm of elf, she descends blade-first at the man in the toque!!

"Weapons down! Everybody is in trouble!!" Margaret shouts, which is not the finest battlecry in Filgaia but which will have to do.

GS: Margaret has attacked Neriah Parringer with Pearl Diver!
GS: Margaret has completed her action.
GS: Neriah Parringer takes a glancing hit from Margaret's Pearl Diver for 49 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Riesenlied has posed.

There is a quiet flinch from Riesenlied as she hears the first shot be fired, gritting her teeth as she instinctively ducks into cover now that the time for negotiations is perhaps over; she whips over to where she follows the bullet, and--

"Josie?!"

Hooray, she managed to drop the 'Miss' this time!

She glances towards Rosaline as well as she makes her announcement, but hasn't spotted Ida or Ethius. "Miss Rosaline, please take cover!" as she fully expects a firefight to break out at this exact moment.

The Tear shimmers, and a surrounding glow would surround the two closest to her -- Josephine and Rosaline -- as it starts to fill them with a calm that would help them focus in combat.

GS: Riesenlied has attacked Josephine Lovelace with Rising Heart - 'Empathic Burst'!
GS: Riesenlied has attacked Rosaline Calice with Rising Heart - 'Empathic Burst'!
GS: Riesenlied has completed her action.
GS: Rosaline Calice takes a solid hit from Riesenlied's Rising Heart - 'Empathic Burst' for 0 hit points!
GS: Reload! Rosaline Calice gains 15 extra FP from Riesenlied!
<Pose Tracker> Rose has posed.

One can assume Rose had continued selling nice-looking gloves and hats. In the chaos of the explosions, though... she'd vanished. Of course she had. The rest of the Sparrowfeathers hadn't; they'd taken to help evacuating folks and keeping things orderly. A panicked crowd is more dangerous to itself than anything.

Rose had, naturally, slipped into the direction of the explosions. She's climbed some walls, some decorative trees and streetlights, just to get a good vantage point on the gardens. Maybe, more importantly, so she could drop in from above unannounced.

"This one's as big as the other one," she comments to herself.

"That's not that surprising," her head ghost responds.

"At least there's no wind carrying this one off. Just a bunch of thugs... what business do they even have doing this?"

"Does it matter?"

"Kinda. Oh, there's everyone else! Let's say hi!"

Throwing knives are a WAY to say hi. Rose leaps off her perch, sending a volley of glowing yellow-pink energy knives towards the fifth bandit and his cart, trying to bash them up a bit (the knives don't stab so much as impact) while also trying to cut the ropes securing the horses to the cart.

Rose lands by Riesenlied, hands on her hips. "Hey, fancy seeing you here! How's that little girl from the ruins doing? I heard your village's been attracting a lot of attention, are you going to be needing any supplies?" It's always time for business.

GS: Rose has attacked Neriah Parringer with Glimmer Dragon!
GS: Rose has completed her action.
GS: CRITICAL! Neriah Parringer takes a glancing hit from Rose's Glimmer Dragon for 48 hit points!
GS: Cripple! Statuses applied to Neriah Parringer!
GS: Josephine Lovelace takes a solid hit from Riesenlied's Rising Heart - 'Empathic Burst' for 0 hit points!
GS: Reload! Josephine Lovelace gains 15 extra FP from Riesenlied!
<Pose Tracker> Matilda Whitehead has posed.

Matilda's feelings about this situation are... in a word, complicated. On the one hand, the noise and the explosions have her feeling like she should stay put -- but on the other, most of the people she'd actually trust are slipping the cordon and moving after something instead.

As a result, she ends up following right along with everyone else, black-gloved hands taking the rope and starting to climb not long after Josie. She looks... honestly, she looks nervous even as she climbs -- for the few precious seconds that lasts; like Josie, she's up and over really fast. ... landing, now, is harder, because Matilda's in heels and that's pretty rough.

Unlike many of the others present, Matilda does not immediately pull out a weapon; indeed, once she realizes this is going to turn into a full-on brawl, she elects to just...

... go in, moving in behind Rose's energy knives and attempting to throw the bandit she aimed at onto the ground.

GS: Matilda Whitehead has attacked Neriah Parringer with Step Up!
GS: Matilda Whitehead has completed her action.
DC: MISS! Neriah Parringer completely evades Step Up from Matilda Whitehead!
<Pose Tracker> Sephilia Lampbright has posed.

Sephilia's here! She's an urchin. She shows up in the most unexpected places! And...that's why Chauncey just comes stomping around the corner, with Sephy riding on his back. "Stop right there! I don't know what you think you're doing, but if my friends are trying to stop you it must be important! So, give up, or face FOXINGTON JUSTICE!" Annnnnnd just to demonstrate, Chauncey swats at one of the bandits!

GS: Sephilia Lampbright has attacked Neriah Parringer with Foxington Pound!
GS: Sephilia Lampbright has completed her action.
GS: Neriah Parringer takes a glancing hit from Sephilia Lampbright's Foxington Pound for 49 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Ida Everstead-Rey has posed.

A volley of throwing knives cut through the air. They are very impressive, and thus a good distraction. Ida rises to a crouch as the ushanka-wearing bandit backs towards the planter, and then explodes into a blur of motion. She rises, launches a left jab at the small of the woman's back, and then tries to grab her and drag her away from the rest, preferably with a hand over the mouth. This may involve the bandit getting pulled through part of the rosebush, but circumstances are dire. Rosebushes can be sacrificed.

GS: Ida Everstead-Rey has attacked Neriah Parringer with Body Blow!
GS: Ida Everstead-Rey has completed her action.
GS: Neriah Parringer takes a solid hit from Ida Everstead-Rey's Body Blow for 118 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Neriah Parringer has posed.

As if things couldn't get any worse for Newsboy White. Riesenlied drops in; behind her scarf, Neriah widens her eyes and visibly recoils away, her hand stopping halfway to her belt.

The last thing Neriah wants to do is fight Riesenlied - one of her only friends. One of the only people in her life who makes her feel cared about. She hesitates. Her eyes lock on Riese's, full of shame, then dart towards the ground.

Someone else interrupts her. One of the bandits with her - a curly-haired redhead in a fluffy white ushanka - suddenly pulls out a huge hunting rifle from within her jacket. "Get down!" the girl shouts in a thick accent before opening fire with a heavily-charged shot. The gun seems to have some manner of Dragon Fossils worked into it, for the gun bucks with an electrical discharge, launching a round towards Riese like a railgun, then blasting another towards Ethius.

"Svetlana," Neriah gasps, darting away in surprise.

The tallest and baldest of the bandits lets out a strangled growl as Josephine's bullet slams into his side and hurls him to the ground. Chauncey trundles in next to give him a good wallop, and he tumbles to the ground with a heavy thump. It doesn't stop him entirely; whirling back to his feet, he fixes her with a flat glare above the line of his scarf.

"Bad move," he rumbles, and shrugs off his jacket.

Patterns of symbols weave down the tall man's muscular arms. With a few sonorous words, the bald man lifts his arms above his head, then levels them. Streams of fire pour from his hands, coiling and twisting as he blasts towards Josephine and Sephilia with a flickering flame.

Glimmering darts smash into the man on the cart. With a surprised squawk, the man in the cowboy hat goes tumbling off. He narrowly manages to roll back in time to avoid Matilda getting ahold of him. When he comes up again, he's brandishing a pair of silver six-shooters, one in each hand.

"Ah reckon y'all gonna pay for that," he drawls before twirling both guns and beginning to fire at the ninja merchant, a couple of bullets at a time.

Margaret dives in in a blaze of glory. The young blond man in the toque gasps, the priestess's blade coming close enough to rip his scarf off - and it turns out he's actually quite handsome. He pivots away with startling grace, then reaches back with a hiss of steel to draw a well-made bastard sword.

"I'm sorry, miss," he apologizes with a blush. "I don't like to do bad things. But if it means helping my family--!"

The young man coils like a spring for a moment. Then he launches himself explosively at Margaret, sweeping his blade at her in a broad arc with a cry of, "Surging Storm!!"

Then Ida makes her move. Svetlana is suddenly dragged away, nearly dropping her rifle.

Neriah sets her jaw. "Svetlana!" she shouts. "Come on, I'm here for you!" Steeling herself, she darts forward, forcing her doubts to the side and focusing. She has to be there for her fellow bandits, even if it does mean fighting Riese.

She slips her silvery pistol out of her belt. Snapping off a shot towards Rosaline over in the corner, Neriah suddenly lunges forward and levels the gun at Ida - and she squeezes off a pair of shots, attempting to just shoot the woman in the head.

"I'm sorry," she growls. "I have to do this...!"

GS: Neriah Parringer has attacked Neriah Parringer with I Believe In You!
GS: Neriah Parringer heals Neriah Parringer! She gains 200 temporary hit points!
GS: Neriah Parringer has attacked Margaret with Cale Flyright - Hero of Another Story!
GS: Neriah Parringer has attacked Josephine Lovelace with Blaster!
GS: Neriah Parringer has attacked Sephilia Lampbright with Blaster!
GS: Neriah Parringer has attacked Matilda Whitehead with The Man With the Six-Shooters!
GS: Neriah Parringer has attacked Rose with The Man With the Six-Shooters!
GS: Neriah Parringer has attacked Ethius Hesiod with Svetlana - Railgun Love!
GS: Neriah Parringer has attacked Riesenlied with Svetlana - Railgun Love!
GS: Neriah Parringer has attacked Ida Everstead-Rey with Aim For The Dome!
GS: Neriah Parringer has attacked Rosaline Calice with Marilyn Snapshot!
GS: Neriah Parringer has completed her action.
DC: MISS! Margaret completely evades Cale Flyright - Hero of Another Story from Neriah Parringer!
GS: CRITICAL! Riesenlied takes a solid hit from Neriah Parringer's Svetlana - Railgun Love for 176 hit points!
GS: Rose takes a solid hit from Neriah Parringer's The Man With the Six-Shooters for 100 hit points!
GS: Ida Everstead-Rey takes a solid hit from Neriah Parringer's Aim For The Dome for 124 hit points!
GS: Josephine Lovelace takes a glancing hit from Neriah Parringer's Blaster for 34 hit points!
GS: Poison! Statuses applied to Josephine Lovelace!
GS: Matilda Whitehead takes a glancing hit from Neriah Parringer's The Man With the Six-Shooters for 50 hit points!
GS: Sephilia Lampbright guards a hit from Neriah Parringer's Blaster for 32 hit points!
GS: Poison! Statuses applied to Sephilia Lampbright!
GS: Ethius Hesiod critically Guards a hit from Neriah Parringer's Svetlana - Railgun Love for 17 hit points!
GS: CRITICAL! Rosaline Calice takes a solid hit from Neriah Parringer's Marilyn Snapshot for 192 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Riesenlied has posed.

Riesenlied's eyes shoot wide open as she senses the ARM before she sees it -- the whisper of the Dragon Fossil tells her beforehand, after all... yet it's for naught, as she stumbles and winces as she holds onto her shoulder, still so harried from her experience with Malevolence.

The railgun-like round slams onto the Hyadean and sends her flying, smashing against a rosebush as she rolls on the floor and comes to a dead stop. She doesn't move for a moment.

Your body can't take much punishment anymore.

She recalls her mother -- Cetiri's -- words as she grasps onto her shoulder and struggles through the pain, rising up as she looks onward where the fight is taking place.

She'll have to concentrate... and...

"Miss Rosaline!"

She emanates a more powerful shelter of light, in the hopes of protecting the Etone-in-training and herself, first and foremost. This is the most she can do right now...

GS: Riesenlied has attacked Riesenlied with Rising Heart - 'Seek the New World'!
GS: Riesenlied has attacked Rosaline Calice with Rising Heart - 'Seek the New World'!
GS: Riesenlied has completed her action.
GS: Riesenlied heals Riesenlied! She gains 200 temporary hit points!
GS: Riesenlied heals Rosaline Calice! She gains 200 temporary hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Ethius Hesiod has posed.

Ethius seems too far at ease, comparatively, compared to the rest. The way he seems to hang back, simply observing with that trademark eyeglass in one hand, and something or another in the other - does he not realize that he is now in the company of but one part of a pitched battle for the survival of humanity on Filgaia?

What is he even doing?

Somewhere around the time Riese produces visible waves of energy from her Dragon's Tear, Ethius flinches, drawing back and moving sharply to Riese's left... and out of what would've been cover from Svetlana's rifle.

He clutches the eyeglass tight as he bends his arm inward to the slurring of three or four syllables, as if thinking he can brace for the inevitable grievous railgun wound with his forearm.

The sudden discharge of something electrical from his forearm just as the round makes contatct suggests yes, yes he can. The round is bent and warped under the impact, sent popping into the air and off a ways into irrelevance as Ethius pockets the other thing he was holding, heedless of Riesenlied's nasty tumble and spill from taking that railgun shot head-on.

Ida's already moving to take Svetlana out of the fight. Ethius moves in, instead, on the next-closest - the man with the pair of silver six-shooters, drawing his quarterstaff. Why would a man dare to bring a polearm against a pair of fast guns?

A man who is supremely confident in his movement, pre-emptively juking and moving in such a way to goad and lead shots before swinging the tip of the quarterstaff upwards into the cowboy-hatted man's left wrist.

<Pose Tracker> Rose has posed.

Rose takes a bullet to the shoulder. It's a terrible start. She dives behind cover, what appears to be a very expensive vase containing even more expensive exotic plants from another continent. The gunshota steadily decrease the value of her cover. The owner would would probably be very displeased but there's a high chance the rest of the fight will make this pale by comparison.

"If you guys just care for money we can work a deal out, you know! Leave the Statue to us and I'll make it worth your while!" The Sparrowfeathers are pretty well-off. They might be able to afford paying these guys off, and they'd probably get some of it back from grateful heroes and shamans too. Probably. Either way, that Statue is worth more than several pouches of gella.

But she won't leave it to words.

"I'm borrowing your windstepping," she states to no one.

"Help yourself," her headghost replies.

Rose steps forward, not on the ground but on air currents. Her feet carefully select their next stride, stepping through the flows of wind like she's lighter than a feather. Within another moment only she's by the would-be cowboy, one of her two daggers drawn.

"Think about it, because the offer only lasts while it's worth it to avoid more pointless injuries!"

Her hand surges forward with a crack of thunder. Electricity guides her knife to one of the bandit's hands, trying to slice the six-shooter out of it.

GS: Rose has attacked Neriah Parringer with Lightning Tiger Blade!
GS: Rose has completed her action.
GS: Ethius Hesiod has attacked Neriah Parringer with Bringing A Stick To A Gunfight!
GS: Ethius Hesiod has completed his action.
GS: CRITICAL! Neriah Parringer takes a solid hit from Rose's Lightning Tiger Blade for 118 hit points!
GS: Disrupt and Cripple! Statuses applied to Neriah Parringer!
GS: Neriah Parringer takes a glancing hit from Ethius Hesiod's Bringing A Stick To A Gunfight for 53 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Margaret has posed.

Margaret lands on her feet, raising her naginata towards the young man. He's blushing, she thinks.

He comes towards her with the sword and Margaret leans to the side, crackling thunder from her calves as she twists and -- she's gotten her shoulder up into his armpit, face almost up to his, close enough that he can smell the wine on her breath as she purrs, "How noble of you. I suppose if you throw down your weapon, though, your friends will assume you betrayed them and one way or another harm will land on your kin, yes? I know how these things work."

Margaret leans forwards to breathe into the ear of Mr. Flywright, "Just go limp. I'll make it look good."

Then she reaches down to grab him, like she were an angel, on the inside of his thigh... and throw herself backwards to propel him toward a wall, a fence, a less magical statue, anything. "Orah!!"

As she leaps back upwards, Margaret raises her voice. "If I had a gella for every time I've heard one of you bandits whine that you were forced to murder and rapine and you're sorry BUT--!!!" Oh no she's picking on the bandits! "I'd be able to buy this statue myself!! Is there no courage left in the people of the Blue Star?! Come on!! Show me you've got something in you but the salty tears of impotent regret!!"

GS: Margaret has attacked Neriah Parringer with I'll Give You Something Flashy!!
GS: Margaret has completed her action.
GS: Neriah Parringer takes a solid hit from Margaret's I'll Give You Something Flashy! for 100 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Ida Everstead-Rey has posed.

Svetlana does not go down without a fight. Ida grabs for the woman's gun before she can shoot anyone else, forcing her into a struggle for control of the ARM--on one hand, no one else has to take a bullet from her, but on the other, Neriah decides to get Ida off her minion through the simple expediency of shooting her. Ida sees her raise the ARM out of the corner of her eye, and twists on a heel, trying to keep control of the grapple while dodging. She manages to not use Svetlana as a human shield, or get shot in the head. Instead, Neriah's first shot slams into Ida's left shoulder. Pain shoots down her arm, and she lets go of Svetlana with that hand, but the other still has a deathgrip on the gun. Ida pulls on it with all her strength, chi surging through her limb as she tries to divest Svetlana of her weapon.

Chi does other things, too. Ida breathes deeply, rerouting her internal flow around the injury. Life energy reinforces her skin, and coils within her muscles. It draws a little off what Kalve taught her, but most of it is from her other tutor. To withstand the fury of ARMs and Demons, one must make one's body like living iron.

GS: Ida Everstead-Rey has attacked Ida Everstead-Rey with Iron Body Cultivation!
GS: Ida Everstead-Rey has completed her action.
GS: Ida Everstead-Rey takes a solid hit from Ida Everstead-Rey's Iron Body Cultivation for 0 hit points!
GS: Shield! Statuses applied to Ida Everstead-Rey!
<Pose Tracker> Sephilia Lampbright has posed.

Sephy's got a big buddy to take most of the hit for her, but it still lands, and she's not entirely happy about it. "Ow! Chauncey, hit him again, he's gotta learn a lesson!" The girl manages to put a brave face on, but she's wincing still as the giant plush's arm rises and falls in a chop!

GS: Sephilia Lampbright has attacked Neriah Parringer with Chauncey Chop!!
GS: Sephilia Lampbright takes 6 damage from Poison!
GS: Sephilia Lampbright has completed her action.
GS: Neriah Parringer takes a glancing hit from Sephilia Lampbright's Chauncey Chop! for 72 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Rosaline Calice has posed.

People come out from every which way, with Josephine officially opening the hostilities. A part of Rosaline figured it couldn't be so simple as them surrendering, but she had to ask. Then Riesenlied offers some of her strange power, helping Rosaline steady her hands. "Thank you!"

She didn't need to be told to find cover now that violence has begun, but it was sound advice. However, that familiar-sounding newsboy-hatted bandit is quicker on the draw, and a bullet tears its way into the nun's side.

She clutches it as she finds a waist-high wall to hide behind, and already blood is seeping out, staining her habit. She grits her teeth through the pain, knowing she could heal herself, but... she can take it, right?

Riesenlied continues to support her, emitting a shelter of light. That will do, as far as cover is concerned. "Thank you!" she says, stepping over by the kind Hyadean's side and laying down a burst of ARMsfire towards Neriah herself, as retaliation.

"You don't understand!" she cries out, perhaps futilely, between rounds, "our world will be in danger if it's destroyed."

Then more quietly, to Riesenlied: "Please don't let me get mad..." She doesn't explain further, but the Demon can likely take a good guess.

GS: Rosaline Calice has attacked Neriah Parringer with Spray and Pray!
GS: Rosaline Calice has completed her action.
GS: You do not have any attacks from that person in queue.
GS: Neriah Parringer guards a hit from Rosaline Calice's Spray and Pray for 19 hit points!
GS: Weaken! Statuses applied to Neriah Parringer!
<Pose Tracker> Matilda Whitehead has posed.

Ducking low, Matilda takes a graze to the cheek from a bullet; the flesh wound startles her, but also gets her adrenaline going. Being shot at, strangely, is one of the forms of violence she copes best with.

"... I 'reckon' you're going to regret that," Matilda says, her lips curling into an uncharacteristic sneer. A gloved hand comes up, and Matilda first moves to one side to make room for Rose's aggressive knife attack. Perfect, she thinks, as she steps in and moves toward that poor, damaged hand.

Her plan is achingly simple and straightforward; she starts with a quick, simple hip toss. It's not fancy -- but honestly, it doesn't need to be, because what's next is the important part.

Once the man in the cowboy hat is on the ground, Matilda just starts kicking him. It's... really unsubtle, if one's being honest. She gives the other arm -- the one Rose didn't attack -- a quick stomp with her heel, then just starts kicking kidneys. It might best be described as 'merciless.'

She does offer Rose a quick, "Thank you for the opening --" stomp "-- Miss Rose," as she continues to strike. That's just proper courtesy, after all.

GS: Matilda Whitehead has attacked Neriah Parringer with Planting a Seed!
GS: Matilda Whitehead has completed her action.
GS: CRITICAL! Neriah Parringer takes a solid hit from Matilda Whitehead's Planting a Seed for 163 hit points!
GS: Cripple and Jam! Statuses applied to Neriah Parringer!
<Pose Tracker> Josephine Lovelace has posed.

Josie pauses, only briefly, as she alights on top of the wall. "So, you're involved in this too, huh, Matilda? Hmm~"

Before leaping down over the side into the garden.

Energy sifts in, moments later. Josie glances to one side, dark eyes widening in muted surprise. "Sunshine! Didn't expect to see you here. Hmm, that's a surprise," she starts to say, looking down briefly to spot-check her ARM, "It makes me a little curious, actually! But I think--"

A lightning shot is loosed.

"It might be better to shoot them and ask questions first, right? We can chat afterwards--"

Which may have been a good choice as the bald man proves to have a particular talent Josie is somewhat familiar with. She twists out of the way of the incoming blast of flame, and while she can feel the bulk of that gout hiss its way past her flesh...

The skirt of her dress is not so lucky. In fact, it's on fire!

"Fengalon's balls," the archaeologist hisses, attempting to first shake out the licking flames before giving up, tucking the firearm under one arm, and drawing a knife from where it's holstered on her other leg.

She cuts a good section of the skirt right on off, scattering the burning cloth to the winds.

"You know, that was a nice dress," she laments, a frown on her lips.

Then simply whirls about, cracking off another shot at the Symbologist. "I'm actually a little mad, you know."

GS: Josephine Lovelace has attacked Neriah Parringer with Have a Blast!
GS: Josephine Lovelace takes 5 damage from Poison!
GS: Josephine Lovelace has completed her action.
GS: CRITICAL! Neriah Parringer takes a solid hit from Josephine Lovelace's Have a Blast for 163 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Neriah Parringer has posed.

Neriah truly, truly does not want to fight Riesenlied. She's privately glad Svetlana's taken that upon herself.

Or she would, if she weren't trying to wrestle her railgun away from Ida. The curly-haired redhead wrestles with the gun, steeling herself as she tries to wrench the gun from Ida's grip. Eventually, though, she has a better idea.

She lets Ida pull - but keeps her hands on the gun. The sudden shift in momentum results in her gun barrel being jerked until it points at Ida.

Then Svetlana pulls the trigger. A single round discharges at point-blank range.

Chauncey trundles in and chops away at the bald symbologist-bandit. The man growls as he's hurled backwards by the violence of the hit. "I didn't come here to play with little girls," he huffs as he begins to call up his magic again. Fire coils up his arms - at least until Josephine blasts him in the stomach and he lurches backwards, gagging and coughing blood into his scarf.

Somehow, he keeps going; the tatters of his tank top reveal a damaged steel plate beneath, deeply dented. Fire spills along his arms again as he musters up his magic and unleashes it in a devastating fusillade. Fireballs saturate the field, pouring towards Sephilia, Josephine and Ethius in a thunderous wave. Fireballs even roar towards Riesenlied.

Cale Flyright, the hero of another story, finds himself blushing brilliantly as a woman twice his age whispers suggestive things in his ear. "W-what," he manages to blurt, before Margeret chucks him bodily into another statue - one of a man wearing a fig leaf. Marble crumbles as he hurtles through it.

He comes up after a couple of seconds, blushing and scowling. "I've never murdered or raped anyone!" he shouts. "You can think whatever you want, but people are counting on me. That's all that matters!" As he speaks, lightning collects along the blade of his sword, arcing and shimmering.

Bursting forward, the blond swordsman-bandit springs himself on Margaret with a hard slash, aiming to take her across the midsection with a slash that explodes in an electric burst on impact. "THUNDERCLAP!" he shouts, voice echoing.

"What, really?" the man with the six-shooters says with a blink across the battlefield at Rose, canting his head to one side. "What'cha offerin', missy?"

Then Rose takes a swing at him. She doesn't get one of the guns. Instead she manages to stab him in the bicep; Ethius, in turn, manages to whack him in the other arm. With a yelp he jumps backwards, bleeding profusely and staggering away. He hits the ground, at which point Matilda starts stomping a mudhole in him, almost knocking a gun out of his hands. "Ow! Ow, ow, ow!" he yells as he rolls away with visible effort, bleeding from the arm.

He winces as he rolls back to a knee, favouring his left arm. "Hell, that ain't mucha'n offer! Granas, ow!" he shouts, firing a few shots from his other gun as if to try and keep Rose and Matilda out of his hair for awhile. "Dangit, this statcha thang could go fer a lot!"

As Rosaline opens fire on her, Neriah drops to a knee and bunkers down, wincing and shielding herself with one arm as bullets scatter around her. "I'm sorry," she manages from behind her scarf.

But then she remembers the way Rosaline looked at her during the boat ride in the aquifer. With fear.

Her eyes harden. Whipping her pistol forward, Neriah pushes her tongue into the pocket of her cheek, scowling as she levels Marilyn at the young Etone - and with a crack-hiss of a steam piston going off, she fires off a single well-aimed shot. The bullet spirals as it rips through the air. A lethal killshot, aimed to hit Rosaline centre-of-mass.

GS: You do not have that Force Action. [mercy]
GS: You do not have that Force Action. [neriah]
GS: Neriah Parringer used Mystic on Neriah Parringer! 100 Temporary HP gained! All statuses cleared!
GS: Neriah Parringer has activated a Force Action!
GS: Neriah Parringer has activated a Force Action!
GS: You have activated the Force Action Extend!
GS: Neriah Parringer has attacked Josephine Lovelace with Catastrophe!
GS: Neriah Parringer has attacked Ethius Hesiod with Catastrophe!
GS: Neriah Parringer has attacked Sephilia Lampbright with Catastrophe!
GS: Neriah Parringer has attacked Riesenlied with Catastrophe!
GS: Neriah Parringer has attacked Ida Everstead-Rey with Svetlana - Point Blank Killshot!
GS: Neriah Parringer has attacked Rosaline Calice with Sweet Lady Marilyn!
GS: Neriah Parringer has attacked Rose with bIj Truly Experienced!
GS: Neriah Parringer has attacked Matilda Whitehead with bIj Truly Experienced!
GS: Riesenlied takes a glancing hit from Neriah Parringer's Catastrophe for 74 hit points!
GS: Neriah Parringer has attacked Margaret with Cale Flyright - The Guy Someone Else Apped!
GS: Neriah Parringer has completed her action.
GS: Sephilia Lampbright guards a hit from Neriah Parringer's Catastrophe for 87 hit points!
GS: Josephine Lovelace critically Guards a hit from Neriah Parringer's Catastrophe for 28 hit points!
GS: Matilda Whitehead takes a glancing hit from Neriah Parringer's bIj Truly Experienced for 52 hit points!
GS: CRITICAL! Margaret takes a solid hit from Neriah Parringer's Cale Flyright - The Guy Someone Else Apped for 169 hit points!
GS: Ida Everstead-Rey takes a solid hit from Neriah Parringer's Svetlana - Point Blank Killshot for 91 hit points!
GS: Rose guards a hit from Neriah Parringer's bIj Truly Experienced for 57 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Riesenlied has posed.

Riesenlied spares a glance towards Rose as she murmurs, "Max...? She's-- I have not seen her since Adlehyde, but I am caring for other children--" A pause, as she holds onto her head. Wait, this isn't the time for that.

She can pick up on thoughts as she casts her eye about, staring towards Ethius for a moment-- what was his objective here? She fears, for a moment, but he did not do anything untowards in the fight for the Schturdark statue...

She can't be distracted by him, not while there are threats along the way. She gazes towards Rosaline, a little alarmed. "Don't tell me you're...?"

She remembers how feral she became back in Adlehyde, how menacing the meek and timid nun truly became... would she enter such a state again?

Riesenlied looses her breath, and closes her eyes. For a moment, she simply rises to full stature -- a truly foolish thing to do in a gunfight... yet when the flames come to scorch her, her silhouette simply explodes into thousands of shimmering particles, ebbing away into thin air--

--as she reappears behind Neriah on her other side. She is harmed -- the flecks of flame from her capelet say so, yet... that newscap was familiar... that voice was familiar-- could it be?

"You don't have to do this!" Riesenlied exclaims, as she flashes her blade and brandishes it for a subtle disarming manuever.

GS: Riesenlied has attacked Neriah Parringer with Rising Heart - 'Spiriting Away'!
GS: Riesenlied has completed her action.
GS: Neriah Parringer takes a solid hit from Riesenlied's Rising Heart - 'Spiriting Away' for 208 hit points!
GS: Ethius Hesiod guards a hit from Neriah Parringer's Catastrophe for 79 hit points!
GS: Rosaline Calice takes a glancing hit from Neriah Parringer's Sweet Lady Marilyn for 117 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Rose has posed.

"Hm. Hope she's fine," Rose idly shoots Riesenlied, although in the chaos it's a bit difficult to focus. Case in point, her opponent is shooting again. The winds kick up around Rose, bullets slowing to an almost crawl but still managing to graze her skin, cutting paths through her vest. Then glances at the man firing at her, grinning - not ominously.

"I'll pay you whatever you're being paid to make this mess happen to run off and pretend nothing happened instead and not take up this kind of work again. Last chance though, I think my friends here want to break your arms instead of paying you off."

It's a pretty good offer. He should consider it.

Not just because Matilda is mean (and she is), but because Rose nods to her and seems to be onboard breaking an arm today. Case in point, she's got her second dagger out.

And a quick step forward is all it takes for her to close the distance and start raining blows - slice after slice after slice, a flurry that can barely be counted. She's not going for any vitals though - she seems to be going for the poor bandit's clothes, actually, and that gun he's still shooting. That's not to say several slices might not find purchase, but it isn't her primary intent.

GS: Rose has attacked Neriah Parringer with Thousand Swords!
GS: Rose has completed her action.
DC: MISS! Neriah Parringer completely evades Thousand Swords from Rose!
<Pose Tracker> Ethius Hesiod has posed.

Ethius once again withdraws anew as Matilda gets to the act of stompin' the twin sixgun gunslinger something fierce, pointing one business end of the quarterstaff in their direction as he begins to circle in order to get himself a better, more cautious and measured view of the battle to determine his next move.

Try as Ethius might, he has a blind spot back and to his right, one where the bald-headed Symbologist exploits on virtue of his wide spray of fireballs - and owing to Ethius seeming to have a greater focus and awareness of very specific kinds of threats compared to the rest.

With a hissing sound as a fireball tags his right arm, blackening the costume sleeve (bye bye, security deposit), Ethius throws himself down into a roll to put out the fire before it can engulf him. The burnt-away sleeve reveals a series of Symbological crests on his part as he re-orients his view of the man with the damaged steel plate.

When Riesenlied takes her look at Ethius, he does seem to be a part of the battle in earnest - she'd be able to catch him preparing a Symbological spell - but it does seem some details don't quite add up - but that's a math problem for another time.

Both the bald-headed Symbologist and Ethius are men with significant leanings towards fire, though Ethius generally elects to express this through the sudden, rapid climbing ambient temperature. He aims to exploit the man's choice of armoring against him--

"Overheat." Ethius calls the name of the spell out as he finishes the requisite gestures (a lot of finger fluttering), attempting to severely raise the temperature about the enemy Symbologist to the point of discomfort, exhaustion and... yes... probably some degree of burns, if his own personal skill can exceed the man's innate, well-honed sorcerous defenses against the element they themselves practice.

GS: Ethius Hesiod has attacked Neriah Parringer with Overheat!
GS: Ethius Hesiod has completed his action.
GS: Neriah Parringer takes a glancing hit from Ethius Hesiod's Overheat for 47 hit points!
GS: Weaken! Statuses applied to Neriah Parringer!
<Pose Tracker> Ida Everstead-Rey has posed.

Ida realizes what Svetlana is trying to do as it actually happens. The gun barrel lowers, and she feels it press against her stomach for a split second. Adrenaline takes over. Ida twists on a heel, whirling out the way as Svetlana's finger tightens on the trigger. A shot goes off, but it's not the killshot the woman was hoping for. It glances off Ida's side, breaking her clothing and skin but not so much as touching anything underneath. The impact is still unpleasant--pain shoots through Ida's torso, and there is definitely going to be a horrific bruise there afterwards.

Ida retaliates with a fast punch at Svetlana's face, trying to drive her back--she advances, stepping forward and driving a heel down at the instep of the other woman's foot. Her hand grabs for Svetlana's coat, or scarf, or really anything she can.

If she can get that handhold, Ida tries to... drive the bandit's face into Mr. Osgoode's rosebush planter, several times.

GS: Ida Everstead-Rey has attacked Neriah Parringer with Unladylike Fisticuffs!
GS: Ida Everstead-Rey has completed her action.
GS: CRITICAL! Neriah Parringer takes a solid hit from Ida Everstead-Rey's Unladylike Fisticuffs for 177 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Josephine Lovelace has posed.

"But you are here to play?" Josie asks the bald Symbologist, mocking innocence woven into her voice. "You know, it's not too late to consider another line of work. Maybe one where you don't get shot in the gut so much," she continues brightly, before again glancing down at her ARM. Should be four more chambered bullets.

And then 'plus one', if she's lucky enough to use that.

He answers by once more beginning to work a spell. Fire, arguably the focus of his training, coils and pours from his arms. Is that where the tattoos are, Josie wonders, tensed as if ready to attempt another evasion.

As the flames begin to rain down, it becomes apparent that this is not an option even slightly available to her, lest she feel like testing just how much she's able to dance while caught aflame.

But there are other options open when you have had certain training.

"Idiot girl. What do you think you will do against another magician if you can't understand even THIS spell?"

Her expression hardens. Rolling her shoulders back, she passes the revolver from her left hand to her right. And then: she surges ahead through the fire and flames, electricity surging down her left arm in a makeshift shield as she punches through. Flames glide over, past her, not without a pinch of pain.

But she is through.

"Heads up," she tells the man.

Before taking a shot that can't possibly hit. Not at that angle. She's not even aiming at him. Did she just give a warning shot, or something?

...The bullet careens off the side of the house...

Then bounces off a side of the fence.

And then--

GS: Josephine Lovelace has attacked Neriah Parringer with Trick Shot!
GS: Josephine Lovelace takes 7 damage from Poison!
GS: Josephine Lovelace has completed her action.
GS: Sneak! The true nature of Josephine Lovelace's attack becomes clear!
GS: Neriah Parringer takes a glancing hit from Josephine Lovelace's Ace in the Hole for 89 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Margaret has posed.

"I wasn't talking to YOU!" Margaret rebuts Cale Flyright and it must be pretty weak, because she wheels about to try and block his stroke with the naginata. The block works in the sense that she does not get sworded; the arc of lightning affiliated with it DOES run through her, making her body seem to flouresce, mouth spasming open as her ears flatten back against the side of her head and she staggers back.

Her ears don't relax as she stumbles for a moment, coughing for breath. did my heart stop? again? she thinks, before she thumps herself in between the breasts once, twice - there -

"Well, Sparky, I suppose I've offended your pride," Margaret grinds out as gunfire is unleashed around her. Her eyes flick to the side, focusing on the others through the increasing haze of gunsmoke in the air. It smells weirdly good, she thinks, but then, she herself is weird. "I suppose your family will do wonderfully if you're all shot to death by Drifters, hmmmm? Listen, if you need work -"

Am I about to do this? Seriously? Margaret thinks.

"I don't understand why you're after this statue or all of your grudges here," Margaret tells the man, "but that means I can play -" gunfire, "THAT I CAN," more gunfire -

Margaret grimaces.

"Thunder Road," she mutters, renewing her spell-weaves and feeling her calves tighten as she stares the brave young man down.

"Why, exactly," she asks him, "ARE you here?"

GS: Margaret has attacked Margaret with Thunder Road!
GS: Margaret has completed her action.
GS: Margaret takes a solid hit from Margaret's Thunder Road for 0 hit points!
GS: Quick! Statuses applied to Margaret!
<Pose Tracker> Sephilia Lampbright has posed.

Sephilia shrieks and hides in Chauncey's backpack as her buddy takes the hit for her. She hates fire attacks! She's always afraid Chauncey's going to light up like a bonfire. Fortunately, he's made of sterner stuff, in no small part thanks to Sephy's own efforts, so he just takes some scorching, nothing Sephy can't repair. Then Sephy re-emerges.

"Surprise! FOXTAIL FUSILLADE!" She raises her arm over Chauncey's shoulder, holding the Foxtail, with which she opens fire upon the foolish bandit-symbologist! As always, it plays a merry little tune as it fires. Because ARMS get weird sometimes.

GS: Sephilia Lampbright has attacked Neriah Parringer with Foxtail Fusillade!!
GS: Sephilia Lampbright takes 6 damage from Poison!
GS: Sephilia Lampbright has completed her action.
DC: MISS! Neriah Parringer completely evades Foxtail Fusillade! from Sephilia Lampbright!
<Pose Tracker> Rosaline Calice has posed.

Apologies are offered across the battlefield, and while Rosaline is very well-versed in the art, she has fallen out of the habit of doing it in the middle of fights.

Rosaline does, however, offer Riesenlied an apologetic look.

But another deadly shot flies towards her. The shield seems sturdy, but Rosaline ducks and covers, a maneuver that proves wise. There's the sound of glass breaking, along with fabric violently tearing, as the shot bursts her habit's well-padded shoulder sleeve right open, along with most of the shield's magic.

Rosaline's breathing is hurried, her sweat cold. She could have died right here and now. Who is this woman? Why does she seem so focused on her, even shooting to kill?

Riesenlied... glimmers off, for lack of a better term, to confront their assailant. Rosaline is left to chide herself for putting the burden of keeping her fury in check on the other woman. But no, no, she can manage this. But before she can leave her casting range...

"Please let me help. Barrier of Balance!" And a moment later, Riesenlied finds herself shielded by an aura of golden light, joining the one already there. In the Etone's mind, the frail Metal Demon may need all the help she can get.

<Pose Tracker> Matilda Whitehead has posed.

"... Ah," Matilda spits, shortly before one of those bullets catches her along the side; it's another flesh wound, but that still doesn't feel particularly good. She hisses through her teeth for a moment before managing to pick up her train of thought. "So this is that sort of banditry..." Her gaze turns briefly to the guns, and she notes, "Those aren't the weapons of someone desperate for money, either..."

As something seems to click for the compounder, she moves in immediately behind Rose's raining slices again, just as before. She starts with a knee aimed for the conveniently well-placed chin of the kneeling gunslinger, then moves to pin and straddle him; her followup is -- well, honestly, pretty simple:

Black-gloved punches to the face. Just, a lot of them. For good measure, she gives him a couple of shots to the shoulder, too, just in case he was thinking of trying anything funny with those guns while she's right up in his grill.

GS: Rosaline Calice has attacked Riesenlied with Barrier of Balance!
GS: Rosaline Calice has completed her action.
GS: Matilda Whitehead has attacked Neriah Parringer with Weeding!
GS: Matilda Whitehead has completed her action.
DC: MISS! Neriah Parringer completely evades Weeding from Matilda Whitehead!
GS: Riesenlied takes a solid hit from Rosaline Calice's Barrier of Balance for 0 hit points!
GS: Shield! Statuses applied to Riesenlied!
<Pose Tracker> Neriah Parringer has posed.

Riesenlied suddenly materializes behind her. Neriah widens her eyes, whirling -

Before she can do anything, the horned woman makes her move. Her silver pistol goes flying from her grip and lands with a splash in the small koi pond at the foot of the statue. Neriah stumbles back and hits the ground on her bottom, staring up at Riese from behind her scarf. "I-I'm sorry. I didn't want to hurt you," she manages, but it comes out sounding small and thin to her own ears. "But I made a promise...."

As Ethius turns up the heat on the bald Symbologist, the man lunges to the side to try and break out of the other caster's temperature zone. He doesn't quite make it, withering heat searing at him before he can square himself to the next attack - which comes from an angle he wasn't expecting and hits him in the side again. With another gagging sound, he falls back into the same koi pond Neriah's pistol is in.

When he climbs back out, leaving a smudge of blood on the surface of the pond, he's got Neriah's pistol; he tosses it towards her before wheeling on Ethius, beginning to muster his mana. "You're sassy," he growls. "I hate sassy."

Sassy comes at him in the form of Sephy Lampbright. Narrowly, he manages to roll away from the girl's firepower, but can't quite get a spell together.

The man with the twin six-shooters has his eyes on Rose sharply enough that he can actually scout her this time. He lunges backwards, hitting his own cart and toppling over it to land in an awkward crouch. Rolling away from Matilda as fast as he can, he scrambles to his feet, hastily trying to bandage up his injured arm. "Hell, lady, you drive a hard-ass bargain!" he shouts past the cart. "You got a damn deal! Just get that girl outta my face, damn!"

Svetlana has rather less luck. Trying to bring her gun to bear on Ida again, she gasps as she suddenly finds herself driven face-first into a planter. A few muffled shrieks escape from the mess of thorns and dirt before she tumbles over it and scrambles to gain distance on the extremely violent naturalist. I hope you're proud of yourself, Ida.

As Margaret seems to stand down, so does Cale, for a moment. He sets his heels apart, his sword swinging into a defensive posture. "Because Simon Osgoode's an awful man," he says with a shake of his head. "The people who work in his mines are practically slaves. The money we could get selling this statue could go to people who need it more." His voice rises a little. "Saint Godfrey the Glover believed in giving to the poor and helpless. If I have to take something from an old monster who exploits those same people if it means I can help them, then I'll do it!"

He doesn't get the chance. From her spot at Riesenlied's feet, Neriah looks from side to side. She can see most of her errant band of ne'er-do-wells are completely in over their heads here.

"Riesenlied," she says, her voice quiet. "Please do me a favour.

"Please don't hate me," Neriah says.

She breathes in. Even the soul-dead can feel what is building. A horrible, blood-curdling power. It builds and builds. Coils of darkness pour out from Neriah's right hand. Her scarf billows; her hat slips off her head, her dark hair streaming.

The girl's pupils dilate down to tiny points. She draws in a breath and collects herself.

"STOOOOOOOOOOP IIIIIIIIIIIIIIIT," she roars in six voices at once - the sound almost drowned out by the impossible wave of darkness that comes exploding off of her. Darkness unspools from her in vast streamers that loop around her in a circle, then spill outwards in a vast hurricane. The coils take the shapes of immense talons, of howling faces, of vast maws that seem like they should be human but aren't. The force of it is utterly crushing. The earth itself groans with the sheer force of it.

"WHAT," the bald Symbologist exclaims as he leaps to hide behind a statue. Svetana and Sixshooter take cover in panic; Cale Flyright can only stare in horror.

At the centre of it all, there is a void, like the eye of a hurricane. Two people are untouched by it. Neriah obviously isn't hitting herself.

She also isn't hitting Riesenlied. That would be too much. It's the only thing that keeps her centred. Her breathing is hard and heavy.

Not Riese. Not Riese. I may be horrible, but she's my friend.

GS: Neriah Parringer has attacked Riesenlied with I Believe In You!
GS: Neriah Parringer has activated a Force Action!
GS: You have activated the Force Action Extend!
GS: Neriah Parringer has attacked Matilda Whitehead with Shadow Stigma!
GS: Neriah Parringer has attacked Ida Everstead-Rey with Shadow Stigma!
GS: Neriah Parringer has attacked Ethius Hesiod with Shadow Stigma!
GS: Neriah Parringer has attacked Rose with Shadow Stigma!
GS: Neriah Parringer has attacked Margaret with Shadow Stigma!
GS: Neriah Parringer has attacked Sephilia Lampbright with Shadow Stigma!
GS: Neriah Parringer has attacked Josephine Lovelace with Shadow Stigma!
GS: Neriah Parringer has attacked Rosaline Calice with Shadow Stigma!
GS: Neriah Parringer has completed her action.
GS: Matilda Whitehead takes a solid hit from Neriah Parringer's Shadow Stigma for 182 hit points!
GS: Josephine Lovelace guards a hit from Neriah Parringer's Shadow Stigma for 117 hit points!
GS: Ida Everstead-Rey takes a glancing hit from Neriah Parringer's Shadow Stigma for 92 hit points!
GS: Rosaline Calice takes a solid hit from Neriah Parringer's Shadow Stigma for 186 hit points!
GS: Neriah Parringer heals Riesenlied! She gains 200 temporary hit points!
GS: Margaret guards a hit from Neriah Parringer's Shadow Stigma for 111 hit points!
GS: Ethius Hesiod critically Guards a hit from Neriah Parringer's Shadow Stigma for 36 hit points!
GS: Rose takes a glancing hit from Neriah Parringer's Shadow Stigma for 93 hit points!
GS: Sephilia Lampbright critically Guards a hit from Neriah Parringer's Shadow Stigma for 35 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Riesenlied has posed.

Riesenlied's face falls of colour and verve as she has her suspicions confirmed. "Neriah, why...?" she asks -- it isn't accusatory, but she can't help but challenge this situation. "What promise?" She casts her eyes towards the rest of the bandits--

--and she feels that sound before she can even hear it. She can feel that darkness before she can see it.

"N-no--"

The coils of darkness emerge outward, and she has to cover herself; if it weren't for Rosaline's barrier, she might not have been able to keep standing, injured as she is.

She wasn't truly awake for this the last time -- but she could still sense it beyond the veil of Malevolence that imprisoned her.

"You're stronger than this, Neriah! Don't let it control you!" comes Riesenlied's urging, faint and weak... but she has to try--

--and she'll do it from within.

Perhaps she isn't an exorcist, but she may very well be the closest thing onhand given Rosaline's training and... well, what she may be succumbing to very shortly. She concentrates upon her side sword and laces it with an effusion of radiance, drawing out towards several of the howling faces as she brandishes her blade of light forward.

"Return from whence you came! Trouble the soul of my friend no more!"

GS: Riesenlied has attacked Neriah Parringer with Rising Heart - 'Spirits Within'!
GS: Riesenlied has completed her action.
GS: Neriah Parringer takes a glancing hit from Riesenlied's Rising Heart - 'Spirits Within' for 71 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Ida Everstead-Rey has posed.

While Svetlana struggles to free herself from some rich asshole's rosebush, Ida picks up her gun, flicks on the safety, and checks the chamber. Empty, she thinks, with no small amount of disgust--and she throws it for distance. Ida straightens, pulls the mask off her face, and lets it fall to the ground. She puts the full scale of the battle together very quickly, and it takes her no time at all to decide on the next priority. Perhaps surprisingly, it is not the man screaming about how Simon Osgoode is a monster and how he wants to do a good thing by stealing a priceless statue that happens to be crucial to the fate of Filgaia. Perhaps unsurprisingly, it is Neriah.

'Riesenlied. Please do me a favor. Please don't hate me.'

<Pose Tracker> Sephilia Lampbright has posed.

Sephilia isn't done with pulling things out of the backpack.

Not now that things are getting serious, anyway.

Chauncey reaches back, over his shoulder, and when his arm descends, he's holding it.

The folding chair.

"CHAUNCEY! GOOOOOOOOOOO!" cries the girl, and Chauncey begins his charge, plush feet gaining traction somehow, increasing in velocity, chair held at a low angle.

The chair swings.

GS: Sephilia Lampbright has attacked Neriah Parringer with Foxington Folding Chair!
GS: Sephilia Lampbright takes 4 damage from Poison!
GS: Sephilia Lampbright has completed her action.
GS: CRITICAL! Neriah Parringer takes a glancing hit from Sephilia Lampbright's Foxington Folding Chair for 132 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Ida Everstead-Rey has posed.

While Svetlana struggles to free herself from some rich asshole's rosebush, Ida picks up her gun, flicks on the safety, and checks the chamber. Empty, she thinks, with no small amount of disgust--and she throws it for distance. Ida straightens, pulls the mask off her face, and lets it fall to the ground. She puts the full scale of the battle together very quickly, and it takes her no time at all to decide on the next priority. Perhaps surprisingly, it is not the man screaming about how Simon Osgoode is a monster and how he wants to do a good thing by stealing a priceless statue that happens to be crucial to the fate of Filgaia. Perhaps unsurprisingly, it is Neriah.

'Riesenlied. Please do me a favor. Please don't hate me.'

Ida's eyes narrow, the pupils constricting. Rage and disgust well up in her heart, but she has no words for Neriah. The world seems to shudder and convulse around the two of them as the other woman unleashes her power. Howling talons of darkness slash at Ida's forearm, and trace a bloody gash down her cheek. The sensation is sickening, disorienting, and wrong on a deep, visceral level. Ida is only able to withstand it as well as she does because she's endured it before. The storm ends. Ida looks back at where she knows Riesenlied is, blood dripping down her lips. The look on her face as Riesenlied attempts her exorcism is one of raw, wounded, helpless rage. It only stays there for a moment.

This is because Ida rushes Neriah, the chi she drew upon to withstand that horror repurposed to speed her movements. She's practically a blur as she strikes, her fist pulled back like the hammer of a pistol. Chi crackles between her knuckles as she swings for Neriah's jaw.

GS: Ida Everstead-Rey has attacked Neriah Parringer with Steel-Breaking Fist!
GS: Ida Everstead-Rey has completed her action.
GS: CRITICAL! Neriah Parringer takes a glancing hit from Ida Everstead-Rey's Steel-Breaking Fist for 102 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Rose has posed.

Something stirs.

Rose, in a hurry, throws her pouch of earnings from the sale of hats and gloves to the would-be cowboy upon his agreement. "Well, go on and get out, then! Come find the Sparrowfeathers after this is over, let's talk about what you need that money for and what better ways there are to get it!"

Bandit or not, Rose wasn't going to ignore the plight the lot of them have been claiming exists - that these people are kind enough to put their lives on the line to help others, even through such means, tells her there's something worth salvaging in there. But she'll have to worry about it another time.

Darkness floods the area.

"Wh... Malevolence?!" she stutters, surprised.

"No. Something else. Just as bad." Dezel grunts.

Winds shield Rose. Barely. The ground cracks under her feet and she struggles to fight the void off. "Then what IS it?!"

"Don't know."

"Can we purify it?"

"Don't think so."

"Still, we have to do something! Come on, Dezel!"

"Yeah."

Together, they yell: "LUKEIM YURLIN!"

Rose's form erupts with bright gold, white and green light. Her hair turns a pale blonde, her clothes are replaced by an outfit of white and gold, almost ceremonial in appearance. Long white skirts billow out like a cape behind her, a sort of white and gold leotard over her upper body, with shoulderless sleeves over her arms. Her hair reaches down to her feet, tied in a ponytail.

And there are wings behind her - a dozen green and gold blades, like swords without hilts, forming two half-circles and seemingly letting her float. Her voice has a strange duality to it, Dezel's voice overlapped perfectly.

"That's enough! Isn't it bad enough the Metal Demons are after these?!" Rose grits her teeth. Inwardly, Dezel asks:

<<You okay?>>

<<Yeah, I think so. It's a bit easier than last time.>>

<<Don't push your luck. Go.>>

<<Right!>>

Rose extends her hands forward, and her wings launch away. She heads straight for Neriah, and the wingblades start flying in wild circles, trying to clip the ominous, darkness-radiating girl repeatedly, trailing green winds behind them.

DC: Rose switches forms to Armatus Lukeim Yurlin!
<Pose Tracker> Ethius Hesiod has posed.

That sassy Ethius stares down the other Symbologist as they begin to cast. Ethius is already preparing his next, turning the exposed arm away as to hide any possible hint of what might come next out of his sleeve. A part of him knows, innately, he does not like feeling exposed in any way, shape, or form, in case of...

In case of...

...He's not sure if he's unable to complete his thoughts because of a blank in his memory, or because of the screams of six voices in discordant unison behind him that drowns out all sense of-- it is absolutely that one.

Ethius actually picks the same statue as his bald adversary to hide behind. Physical cover... helps? He doesn't dare look in the direction of the sound. He does his damndest to cover his ears, awkwardly keeping hold of his quarterstaff between elbows. He shuts his eyes. This... helps?

seven.

He may avoid the worst of the spiritual flaying, but there is no going unscathed. Ethius has been at the brunt of several volleys like this before. Even now, he feels as though he has no meaningful defense or comprehension of it.

That he's aware of this sense of vulnerability, this abyssal gap in the myriad of situations and things he does have answers - or at least ideas! - for, is not exactly an improvement. There is no 'getting used to' something like this.

He knows the bald Symbologist was nearby. Ethius does not face him. His breathing is irregular, as what was once a stoic and statuesque enigma of a man fights off primal fear.

...This doesn't belong here.

Once that thought comes by, his breathing steadies.

This doesn't belong here.

Ethius stops covering his ears. The voices continue to gnaw and rend, deafening.

This doesn't belong here!

Slowly, he peeks over his shoulder. He is met with a face-ful of cackling, gnashing evil.

Through it, he sees Riese, reasonably composed as she tries to reach through to her. He tightens the grip on his quarterstaff. He does not have it in hime to focus and chant syllables. The influence of this... evil... is too great.

He moves, decisively, darting between pieces of the environment as he tries to move in towards Riesenlied. Yes. He has his angle. Muscle memory takes over as he comes up behind her.

As Riese tries to impart calm and help her friend fight the evil within, Ethius ruthlessly outright exploits the presence of the one whom chose to accept Neriah, from one driving thought that seems so... simple.

This doesn't belong here!!

The words echo one last time as, under the mask, one can hear him grimacing. Emoting. Taking the quarterstaff tightly in both hands, he lunges forth at such an angle that the quarterstaff comes just shy of brushing against Riesenlied's left flank.

"Far Point!" Ethius calls the name of the technique out, lunging out as he fights the utmost of his resolve and courage in even trying to approach the epicenter of this hurricane of terror, to strike at Neriah's person at the very tip.

...

...

This doesn't belong here...

GS: Rose enters CONDITION GREEN!!
GS: Rose has attacked Neriah Parringer with Whirlwind Slash!
GS: Rose has completed her action.
DC: MISS! Neriah Parringer completely evades Whirlwind Slash from Rose!
GS: Ethius Hesiod has activated a Force Action!
GS: Ethius Hesiod has attacked Neriah Parringer with Far Point!
GS: Ethius Hesiod has completed his action.
GS: CRITICAL! Neriah Parringer takes a solid hit from Ethius Hesiod's Far Point for 146 hit points!
GS: Jam! Statuses applied to Neriah Parringer!
<Pose Tracker> Rosaline Calice has posed.

After casting her spell for Riesenlied, Rosaline leans back down under her cover, intending to finally heal herself a bit before the pain overwhelms her.

But darkness has other plans. Even without looking at Neriah, Rosaline feels that power building, sharpening the pain she's experiencing and making her vision swim.

And then it explodes. Rosaline's senses, her spiritual sensitivity included, have often been more of a curse than a blessing. In this case, the irony is especially keen, not only because of the power's very nature being anathema to the path Rosaline has chosen for herself...

But also because it comes, now unmistakably, from someone she had begun to trust.

Tendrils of darkness tear at her, spilling blood and purple fabric even further. Rosaline cries out in agonizing pain. She thought she could hold herself back, but how could she? Even with all her precautions, the world finds new ways to break her down.

And so, the bloodied, pale figure rises, her wordless roar making itself heard even amidst the storm.

"YOU ABOMINATION!" she articulates, "YOU LIVING SIN! YOU DON'T BELONG WITH HUMANS!" She raises her ARMs, even as claws of shadow tear at her, remaining steady in spite of it all. "LEAVE THIS WORLD AND RETURN TO VALMAR WHERE YOU BELONG!"

She opens fire as she rushes forward, not letting go of the triggers. When all is done, both ARMs' clips will be emptied, but this is fine-- If they don't finish the job, Rosaline has some extremely sharp claws.

"RABID BEASTS SHOULD DIE!" she shouts, through the shadows, gunsmoke and tears.

DC: Rosaline Calice switches forms to The Wrath!
GS: Rosaline Calice has attacked Neriah Parringer with One Woman Apocalypse!
GS: Rosaline Calice has completed her action.
<Pose Tracker> Margaret has posed.

Margaret sucks on her teeth when Cale brings up the mines. The reason for this is unclear, though she says, "Who is going to BUY it, though? Do you know what these things do? I barely understand it myself but this isn't something you can just smash up and give away. It's got ritual importance."

She sweeps towards the statue. "So expropriate the old fart all you want, but THIS PARTICULAR one - wait - no, I am actually going to ask what I said before more clearly, WHO--"

"Oh shit," Margaret says, because she recognizes that sudden surge in power. The young man she was addressing is shocked; Margaret, at least, is not. Because this isn't the first time that she's seen this manifestation before. Her ears haven't unfolded, though, which is looking like a blessing.

Margaret steps in front of the darkling radiance, her own shadowy force rising upwards as a glimmering sea of purple with flecks of shadowy silver seems to smash against those howling maws, and, for the most part, lose; but Margaret's magical defenses are enough that she doesn't get ripped apart, and nor does the boy behind her. She staggers a pace, leans on her naginata...

And tilts her head forwards even as the ties in her hair start to give way. "Idiots... having to clean up your messes AGAIN... and what thanks do I get...!!" Margaret mutters to herself, but grumbling and complaining about the misfortunes and unappreciating nature of the cosmos is just how she psychs herself up. Staring dead into that void, she can see green gold light strike against it; can see Ethius's blow...

Perhaps Ethius saw this coming, because Margaret rolls her shoulders and steps out from behind herself to the left and right. Another shrug of the shoulders and it happens again. Margaret, having split herself into seven identical forms, all glance back towards the terrified young man.

"Be not afraid," she tells him, and then the flying wedge of septifuricated elf women lunges ahead with a roaring steady hurrah of force, spreading outwards and leaping --

One of them is Margaret, aiming for a decisive stab into Neriah's abdomen.

But WHICH?

GS: Margaret has attacked Neriah Parringer with Seven Sisters!
GS: Margaret has completed her action.
GS: Sneak! The true nature of Margaret's attack becomes clear!
GS: Neriah Parringer takes a glancing hit from Margaret's Seven Sisters for 80 hit points!
DC: MISS! Neriah Parringer completely evades One Woman Apocalypse from Rosaline Calice!
<Pose Tracker> Matilda Whitehead has posed.

The aurea of unease conveniently stops Matilda from pursuing her current quarry; he gets to get away, while she starts to reel back from Neriah. The reeling turns to pain as the unease turns into a storm, Matilda getting shredded by the talons of darkness that emanate outward from Neriah.

When all is said and done, she's left kneeling and wounded, clutching at her shoulder and looking up toward Neriah, toward the source of that mighty storm. Rose tears off at it in a way Matilda can't quite comprehend -- but which emboldens her own approach. She springs toward Neriah, looking a little disappointed -- she has... not unfond memories, at least, of working with the mysterious young lady -- but...

... well, right now it's life or death, isn't it?

Matilda sprints in, and does, frankly, much the same she did with Sixshooter. She starts by gripping Neriah and trying to hurl her to the ground; she then starts -- stomping. Unlike Ida, she doesn't bring any chi to bear; she isn't even particularly strong, really. She just has good technique.

GS: Matilda Whitehead has attacked Neriah Parringer with Planting a Seed!
GS: Matilda Whitehead has completed her action.
GS: Neriah Parringer takes a glancing hit from Matilda Whitehead's Planting a Seed for 66 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Josephine Lovelace has posed.

Grimacing, Josie passes the ARM back to her left hand, shaking out her right with a seething hiss through her teeth. Damn, damn, she should have thought that one through a little better.

At least the gloves aren't white, or she's sure she would have an interestingly visible problem right now.

But the man's dropped, and the rest of the group here don't seem as if they're entirely doing all right either. Approaching the downed Symbologist, Josie keeps the revolver trained on his head.

Thank the Guardians Shalune dampened this ARM's kick sufficiently. She's pretty sure that otherwise she'd be in worse shape with that hand right now.

"Hey," Josie says, finger resting on the trigger. "Cut it out. I don't need a reason to shoot you, you know? So. Don't give me one."

Something gives.

And darkness rolls out.

"What--"

As she had done before, electrical power pours down Josie's arm -- her right, this time. And she leans in, pushing against and through the howling force that seeks to knock her down with ever bit of willpower she can muster.

this isn't the first time she thinks, releasing a wordless shout as she pushes through the soul-sapping shadow.

And she sights, there, the eye of the hurricane.

"Got you," says Josie.

Around her lights flare.

Rosaline goes completely nuts.

Matilda charges in.

Josie... frowns.

And lowers her gun.

Instead, with her right arm, she releases that electric charge that's still there crackling, hurling it overhand at the girl at the center of all this like a javelin.

GS: Josephine Lovelace has attacked Neriah Parringer with Bolt Lance!
GS: Josephine Lovelace takes 6 damage from Poison!
GS: Josephine Lovelace has completed her action.
GS: Neriah Parringer takes a glancing hit from Josephine Lovelace's Bolt Lance for 39 hit points!
GS: Disrupt! Statuses applied to Neriah Parringer!
<Pose Tracker> Neriah Parringer has posed.

Riesenlied's shining radiance penetrates into the darkness. Much of it seems to melt away, waves of it driven away from Neriah; but soon, more darkness surges in to swallow up the light. Even the holiness of the kind Metal Demon can't drive it away. She opens herself to it; she can feel Neriah's fear embedded within it, a muddle of confusion and half-hearted resolve and conflict --

And something else.

In the chambers of her mind, there is the smell of something unpleasant burning. A sacrificial fire. A pair of deeply-sunken eyes staring up at her from within the lined face of a middle-aged man, his hair shot with silver.

The eyes are as pale and blue as Neriah's. Yet more hollow. A thousand fires burn behind them. They threaten to consume the Metal Demon. Screaming faces roil behind them. Inhuman. Faces with five mouths. With twenty eyes. With the features of a toad or an insect. With a thousand tongues and a million voices.

A number, burning between those eyes as if to pour its endless malice into her.


O N E

The contact is cut off when Ida suddenly rushes through the hatestorm and punches Neriah right in the goddamned face. The girl lurches backwards, blood streaming from her mouth. Her eyes momentarily blank out. Then Sephilia hits her in the head and she staggers back the other way. She nearly lands across Ida.

At which point Ethius Hesiod slams his quarterstaff into her and hurls her bodily across the statue garden. She plows through another statue, disintegrating it into marble chunks. Her little gang begins to scatter; the bald Symbologist lugs Svetlana onto his shoulders and jumps onto Sixgun's wagon, the three of them seemingly bailing on the mission. Only Cale Flyright remains behind, staring as this all goes down.

Margaret and Matilda strike at the same time; there's a loud crack as Neriah is sandwiched between them, Margaret's weapon punching into her even as Matilda hits her in the front. Blood fountains from her mouth as she slouches forward. Her pupils dilate. Josephine follows it up; she tries to roll away from that lance of lightning, but it nevertheless comes close enough to jolt her. She shudders, gurgling with emotion.

She can hear someone screaming.

They're right. I am an abomination. I don't belong with humans.

I don't belong with anyone.

"It's funny," Neriah utters as Rosaline comes howling into battle. The mad Etone fires away -

And Neriah levels her right hand. The bullets slam into a shell of eldritch magick that springs to life around her. Hideous patterns ripple across it, then melt away.

"Every time I run into other Drifters," she says surprisingly calmly, her chin coming up and her eyes widening. Power builds down her arm. "You're willing to embrace Metal Demons. Hellions," she says as she gathers the power.

She lets it go; it explodes down her arm in a vast wave. Tendrils of it screech towards Matilda and Margaret, threatening to sweep them away with ludicrous force. Another wave of it pours towards Sephilia, threatening to trash her stuffed fox friend.

"You hang around with Ethius who hurts everyone he comes across," she shouts as she gathers her magic again. "Cyre the sex predator! You make friends with all these bad people but nobody ever tried to be my friend! YOU CHARGED, TRIED AND CONVICTED ME WITHOUT EVEN BOTHERING TO ASK WHY!!" Her voice rises to a scream, layered by more voices as more magic spools out of her in an earthshattering scream. Tendrils of darkness warp into the shapes of eldritch faces; one, six-mawed, attempts to swallow Ida, while two more meld into vast talonious shapes to rip at Josephine, at Ethius. Another swells, attempting to descend upon Rose like a lightning bolt.

It is for Rosaline whom the worst of her wrath is spared: She levels her hand. Unlight shines through her white glove. Blood pours from her palm. From that blood, more darkness congeals. It extrudes outward in a vast, screaming wave, threatening to swallow her up in an endless wave of dread.

Only one person goes untouched by it. Neriah's voice breaks as she screams out, "WHY IS RIESE THE ONLY ONE WHO CARES?! WHY SHOULD I WANT TO SAVE THIS WORLD WHEN EVERYONE HATES ME?!"

"YOU ALL DESERVE TO DIE," she shrieks, her eyes squeezing closed as she lets the magic fly.

GS: Neriah Parringer has attacked Neriah Parringer with I Believe In You!
GS: Neriah Parringer heals Neriah Parringer! She gains 200 temporary hit points!
GS: Neriah Parringer has attacked Ethius Hesiod with Catastrophe!
GS: Neriah Parringer has attacked Ida Everstead-Rey with Catastrophe!
GS: Neriah Parringer has attacked Rose with Catastrophe!
GS: Neriah Parringer has attacked Josephine Lovelace with Catastrophe!
GS: Neriah Parringer has attacked Margaret with Dark Page!
GS: Neriah Parringer has attacked Matilda Whitehead with Dark Page!
GS: Neriah Parringer has attacked Sephilia Lampbright with Dark Page!
GS: Neriah Parringer has attacked Rosaline Calice with Catastrophe!
GS: Neriah Parringer has completed her action.
GS: Rose critically Guards a hit from Neriah Parringer's Catastrophe for 28 hit points!
GS: Matilda Whitehead takes a glancing hit from Neriah Parringer's Dark Page for 54 hit points!
GS: Ethius Hesiod takes a solid hit from Neriah Parringer's Catastrophe for 166 hit points!
GS: Margaret takes a glancing hit from Neriah Parringer's Dark Page for 51 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Neriah Parringer has posed.

Meanwhile, while Neriah is ranting, Cale Flyright is trying to inch his way towards the statue of Aru Solato, standing impassively as it is and watching all of this. The young man has bitten down to his bottom lip.

"Sweet Granas am I in over my head," he mutters to himself, eyes wide.

GS: Ida Everstead-Rey guards a hit from Neriah Parringer's Catastrophe for 84 hit points!
GS: Josephine Lovelace guards a hit from Neriah Parringer's Catastrophe for 82 hit points!
GS: Rosaline Calice takes a solid hit from Neriah Parringer's Catastrophe for 150 hit points!
GS: Rosaline Calice has Fallen! She is no longer able to fight!
GS: Sephilia Lampbright guards a hit from Neriah Parringer's Dark Page for 60 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Sephilia Lampbright has posed.

Sephilia...though buffeted by the dark magic...stops. "N-Neriah?" she asks, in surprise. "Is...I didn't recognize...I..."

Chauncey stands stock still as the girl hesitates.

GS: Sephilia Lampbright has completed her action.
<Pose Tracker> Margaret has posed.

Shrieking black force buffets Margaret again as she twists away, facing away from Neriah in her howling void, as her pain is given voice into the world. She can see that young man, Cale, trying to make his way towards the statue as she ends up sagging against her weapon -

And with a streak of lightning she dashes over, throwing herself atop him. (Shocking!) As Neriah's words continue, she asks him in that same low right-in-your-ear this-isn't-the-time voice, "You know, what she's saying, this is what I'm getting at. Nobody wins when we just compare whose gash is bloodier."

GS: Margaret has completed her action.
<Pose Tracker> Rose has posed.

Darkness coils again.

"STRATASHIELD!" Rose screams. The winds gather, forming a thick sphere around her. The darkness pounds against it, the Squire's light unable to keep it at bay. The shield is broken, the winds dissipating, and Rose is knocked back, send recoiling several meters in the air - yet she remains airborne, as her wings, those blades, return to her back and reform those half circles.

"Damnit... -I- don't care who or what you are! You stop lashing out at everyone right now and I'll give you a hug and some warm blankets! But if you're going to hurt people, put all of Filgaia in peril by targetting one of the Guardian Statues, I'll act!"

Rose hadn't interacted with Neriah much. Certainly hadn't gotten to know her very well. But she meant it when she said that she didn't care who or what she was.

Rose was friends with at least one Hellion.

It doesn't bother her so long as the Hellion behaved.

And what was that about Cyre? They're going to have Words apparently.

Whatever Neriah is, now... it doesn't bother Rose. It's this entire situation that does. But no matter how much she presses her words and tries to reach out, it won't matter: Rose isn't close to Neriah. She can't have the impact others can.

"Last chance!" she says, trying to convince herself she can do something about this. Neriah's darkness is far more potent than her own light. Squire powers are great, but... whatever Neriah's fueling on? Evidently, greater.

"Dezel... come on."

<<Don't overdo it.>>

"I won't! And if she won't listen to ME then I'll just knock her down so she listens to her friends instead!"

Rose's form blurs, shining a brighter white and gold than before. This power, if Hellions were present, would probably be terrifying for them. Purifying light shines out, their bane. Malevolence is warded off by her presence alone. To Neriah, it probably tickles at best.

Rose comes in, flying at full spead. She tries to ram into Neriah, all of her wingblades lashing out in tandem, trailing green energy behind. Her voice reverberates, echoing both her words and Dezel's.

"DIVINE -" She turns, she strikes again, the winds picking up a terrible slicing gust. "- TIGER -" She flies, zooming to Neriah's opposite side again, coming down with an overhead strike. The blades rain down like lightning bolts. "- TEMPEST!"

GS: Rose has attacked Neriah Parringer with Divine Tiger Tempest!
GS: Rose has completed her action.
GS: Neriah Parringer takes a glancing hit from Rose's Divine Tiger Tempest for 140 hit points!
DC: Rose switches forms to Armatus Fethmus Mioma!
DC: Rose switches forms to Armatus Lukeim Yurlin!
<Pose Tracker> Riesenlied has posed.

Riesenlied's breath is clipped short as she barely notices Ethius coming up behind her, and the quarterstaff almost feels like a gun pointed on her back. "E-Ethius--?!"

Her eyes whip along with the announcement of his Symbology, and she can't help but scan him as he charges ahead with a grimace...

Not to mention Ida's approach towards her. The way in which the martial artist moves rattles her, as she recalls the Raye Clan's techniques. Her stomach lurches for a moment in the wan sensation of the darkness, one that she still scarce understands--

--but once upon a time, she scarce understood Malevolence. This will be no different. She will not fear. She will learn... and understand.

She watches Rose as she-- seems to merge with... something, gaining a powerful outfit with wings the likes she's never seen before. Her power is awe-inspiring... and Rosaline-- much to her fear for her safety, succumbs to that state she'd seen before.

Riesenlied shakes her head as the darkness opens up against her, and she can't push it away; her power is just not there. Her light is infantile, barely understood, and there's no way she can push this back all on her lonesome.

And in the wake of her sensation, she gazes into that fire-- her eyes shooting wide open as her pupils dilate, staring back towards those sunken eyes. "Gh-- hh-- aaah!!"

Riesenlied thrashes as she reels from that mind, holding at her face for a moment as she struggles against that malice. The malice of the One.

She clenches her teeth and tries to shake the feeling off, and regain her footing. She hears Neriah's lament towards the others, and gazes back towards that darkness as it encroaches once more. She has to... she has to...

"I won't bow down to your malice...!"

She gambles, and relies upon that forbidden weapon that Ethius has seen the one time, so long ago... the weapon that she had to deploy in Adlehyde, regardless of the way it directly drains and debilitates her health.

It could be a gamble she could never come back from, given how deteriorated she is. But right now... as everyone is suffering...

The hilt of a sword emerges from Riesenlied's chest, as it ever has. With a pained gasp, she grabs hold of it and draws the blade out; unlike before, it is not a twisted and tainted thing, a poor jest of a sword. No, it is crystalline like how the Tear is, pure in its forging. A sword of emotion.

"... I don't know who you are right now ... but I intend to find out. Because I don't believe in excluding others. I don't believe in an inquisition. I don't believe in this witch hunt!"

She raises the blade to the air, and like in Adlehyde once more, the others can see the eruption of light soar into the sky as she forms the pure blade of the once-Fallen Sword. But a sword fallen no more.

"I know how angry and frustrated you are, Neriah, but you must have patience...! I know how kind you can be... I will help you strengthen yourself against this malice... this Thing which has gripped you for so long--"

Her eyes flash with certainty.

"This is my torch in the darkness!

It stands against the winds of hatred!

By its light our hope shines everlasting...

...for this Rising Sword shall carve through -all- barriers..."

She draws it down, heavy with a weight that pure light does not -- should not -- have.

"... and open the doors to the New World! Its name is..."

The blade roars against the darkness as she pulls it to strike towards the darkness, towards the maws that threaten the Drifters.

"Laevaaaaateiiiiiiinnn--!!"

Its true name evoked, Laevateinn is a blade that cannot harm, as Rosaline once found out, but seeks to pacify and calm those that are caught in its wake. Once, a poor jest of a weapon, a Tainted Metal Demon's desire for something new... now, perhaps, awakened in full form in the realisation of its resolve.

DC: Riesenlied switches forms to Fallen Sword Riesenlied!
GS: Riesenlied has attacked Neriah Parringer with Rising Sword - 'Laevateinn Full Burst'!
GS: Riesenlied has completed her action.
<Pose Tracker> Ethius Hesiod has posed.

Even seeing Neriah's body tumble about the garden, even in a perfectly executed maneuver. It's easy to glance over the pragmatic cruelty of his actions as all are desperate to keep their wits and/or souls intact through that maelstrom. The man had it in him to try and use Riesenlied's and Neriah's friendship - both outcasts - as a means of finding a flawless, even masterful opening to strike.

With so much raw emotion overflowing, Ethius takes a grasp at a mental center of focus even if he physically seems... spent. Even guided by what drive he could grasp, to approach the center of Neriah's fury is utterly draining. His body shakes anew as he plants the quarterstaff for balance, finding himself in a kneel.

As a curious detail for Josephine, it did seem her electrical sorcery bent a bit harshly in his direction on the way to Neriah. It might have affected its effect.

Ethius doesn't motion for anyone nearby to help him, those staring eyes watching where Neriah goes, where everyone follows.

When she speaks, Neriah can be heard - even above gunfire. Screaming. It's like a part of that... wants to be sure he hears it.

They would all hear it. Ethius, who hurts everyone he comes across. That strange man who, for a while, seemed to see it fit to just invite himself into passing-by adventuring parties for nebulous purposes. Who seems to think nothing of moving to destroy priceless history. Who just used Risenlied's empathic powers as a cover for his own attack. Even Riese would have 'heard' the aggressive intent - she would know that he saw her as an opportunity for this.

Ethius stands up straighter as the ranting continues. He tries to find the strength to slam the butt of the quarterstaff onto the ground to break focus, call for attention. He doesn't manage it.

"That is enough." No, Ethius. Ethius, you will not be the judge of what is 'enough.' His words are coincidentally timed right before the release of the talons of darkness headed towards him.

They claw. They rip. They shred. There is blood on the ground, as the darkness seems to have the physical mass to carry him up and away. The darkness twists and turns about and through Ethius, as if to ensure it will not release him from its fell grasp.

There is no meaningful defense he can muster against it. He cannot maneuver against it. What familiarity he has with Symbology has zero overlap with what any of this is. As though helpless, as though now feeling the reflection of the victimhood Neriah believes he inflicted upon her.

No, knowing him as well as anyone could dare to, there shouldn't be reason to doubt her word. He continues to be flayed, his contorting, pained flailing obscured under a manifested taloned darkness that just might be a pack of wolves.

Visceral, and unrelenting - ensuring Neriah her pound of flesh while keeping him from joining the effort to fight her off.

GS: Ethius Hesiod has completed his action.
<Pose Tracker> Josephine Lovelace has posed.

That's funny. Something happened to her Symbological spell just then...

And the thought becomes secondary a moment later. She can see it coming this time -- the black tide as it rises and swells, attempts to rip her apart. She holds her ground, settles into a guard, and once more attempts to roll through the surge as it comes. Her body -- arms, legs, one long cut down the side of her face, bleed in the wake of each lashing talon -- each earning their own grunt or flinch -- but Josie remains standing as the shadowy force subsides.

For a moment, Josie just watches as Rose delivers a strike upon the girl with the heart full of darkness. "Last chance, huh?" she murmurs, gaze hooded.

Watches as others say enough. As others entreat Neriah's kind heart. She glances down at herself, and shakes her head.

"Kiddo?"

Josie advances on Neriah, her pace slow and measured in spite of her battered body, her torn dress. Her hair, caught by a breeze, briefly flutters in the wind.

"Maybe stuff's been tough for you. Hey, it happens! Everyone's got their problems, right?" She rolls her shoulders, experimentally tests her right hand. Opens and closes it. "People are cruel. People are rude. People are just people."

She passes the ARM over, from left to right, once again testing how it sits, the feel of it in her hand.

"I don't know what you've tried."

And she smiles over at Neriah as she lifts the lightweight revolver, the hybrid ARM that was the results of weeks and weeks of work. "But let me tell you something important, okay? So listen up good."

She takes aim at Neriah, the very center of her mass, and she pulls the trigger.

"It's not all about you. So cut it out."

GS: Josephine Lovelace has attacked Neriah Parringer with I'm Not Left-Handed!
GS: Josephine Lovelace has completed her action.
GS: Neriah Parringer takes a glancing hit from Josephine Lovelace's I'm Not Left-Handed for 114 hit points!
GS: Neriah Parringer takes a solid hit from Riesenlied's Rising Sword - 'Laevateinn Full Burst' for 201 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Rosaline Calice has posed.

Rosaline's blind fury is only enkindled further. Why? She is throwing herself, mind, body and soul, into sheer intent to hurt the woman in front of her, and yet it is denied so easily.

Yet more irony, what does hit the mark is her words. The nun screamed her rage, and Neriah screams right back. She voices deep-felt pain, some of which Rosaline knows well. This gives her a hint of pause, even in this state.

This moment's hesitation proves nearly fatal.

Darkness, blood, hatred swallow her whole. Rosaline doesn't care. What did she say about rabid beasts, again? In the end, she may just be in her element.

She remains inside for some time, consumed by pain. But at some point, a kindness-- She falls unconscious.

When the surge finally ends, she collapses to the ground like a ragdoll, very pale. She's still alive, her friends will soon find-- but hurt, sick and racked with nightmares.

<Pose Tracker> Matilda Whitehead has posed.

Matilda weaves back from the tendrils this time, rather than taking them on the chin; she can't quit outpace all of them, but she manages to stay safe -- and then move in toward Neriah again.

"Why should you want to save this world?" Matilda asks, the usual gentleness and nervousness burned out of her tone. "Why would anyone? Frankly -- there's but one reason I'm doing this." Her heels clack along the ground as she moves in with clear, vicious intent.

"I'm alive. Your complaint is petty and childish, and your friends selfish brats. ... But who isn't, with Filgaia the way it is...?" Her fist curls up into a ball as she nears. "I came here to try to have a nice time, but it seems on a dying world like this, even that is impossible."

She raises that fist and swings it with shocking speed. "Anyone who did this would get the same treatment," she says, coldly. "In the end, we all must protect ourselves from any enemy. It is the way of Filgaia. Hellion, Metal Demon, apparently Cyre..."

She aims another punch for Neriah's gut, and finishes, "... You."

Matilda's daddy didn't raise a girl who couldn't throw a punch. Matilda's strikes aim for weak points -- the nose, the gut, the neck. At one point, she stomps the instep. "If you want to throw a tantrum, don't do it with bullets, gangs, and Symbols if you aren't prepared for summary execution. 'Why' holds no purchase here and now."

Every muscle in Matilda's body seems impossibly tense, even as she keeps punching. Her muscles seem like they could simply pull themselves apart at any moment... and yet somehow, her tone remains singularly controlled.

GS: Matilda Whitehead has attacked Neriah Parringer with Weeding!
GS: Matilda Whitehead has completed her action.
GS: Neriah Parringer takes a solid hit from Matilda Whitehead's Weeding for 128 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Ida Everstead-Rey has posed.

A dull glimmer of satisfaction flickers in Ida's eyes as Neriah stumbles back, bleeding and glassy-eyed. Sephy comes in with a folding chair, and Ida steps back, lest she take the hit as well. Ethius--Goddamned Ethius--sends Neriah flying with the kind of physical force Ida didn't think he was capable of. It's testament to how horrible this fight has been that it results in nothing more than a sense of muted surprise. Almost down, Ida thinks, without bothering to think too deeply about what 'down' means. Rosaline closes in for the kill. Ida sees Neriah's hand move, and tries to shout out a warning, but she's too slow and Rosaline wouldn't listen anyway.

And then Neriah goes and does it. Ida sinks back and raises clenched fists as Neriah gathers power for another strike; the force around her feels wrong on every conceivable level. It seems dissonant, when compared with what Neriah is saying. What Neriah is saying--

"Sephilia, get back!" Ida shouts, as the girl hesitates. Even with Chauncey there, Ida doesn't want her to endure this. Doesn't want her to see this, even if part of her sort of does, because this is how the world works and she'd better get used to it. Neriah's words sink into the morass of rage and terror that is Ida's current mental state. She can barely muster up a few tattered shreds of empathy in response.

A wave of congealed horror washes over her. Ida closes her eyes, shifts her stance, and stands fast. She raises her left arm, channeling chi into her flesh for a few precious seconds as the devil-magic tears at her. Needle-sharp teeth sink into her skin, leaving agonizing, bloody trails in their wake. It takes all of Ida's remaining discipline not to scream.

When she opens her eyes, there's a light in front of her. Rose, Ida thinks, recognizing the voice--and then, the woman speaking. For a few moments, she's silent, staring at the newly-minted Squire's transformed state, wondering when and how this happened. It is a tiny point of light in the horror unfolding around her, and some part of Ida's psyche just latches on to it.

Riesenlied.

Ida's lips curl. Blood surges into her face, even as more of it leaves her body via the dozen or so wounds she's suffered. Terror. Guilt. Shame. She should just leave now that Riesenlied is--

Rosaline collapses. She's pale as a sheet, and the way she hits the ground makes Ida wonder, immediately, if she's dead--if Neriah has killed one of the few people she trusts, now. One of the few people who...

"Because she's an idiot," Ida hisses. If she processed the actual content of Neriah's speech, she was too busy trying not to die to work up a response to it. "Because she has no idea she's only helping you wallow in this pathetic self-pity and the curse of the Lord of Darkness."

Ida stands bolt upright, raises both fists. It may remind Riesenlied, again, of those trained by House Raye. "Do you even know what's been inflicted on you?"

'... and open the doors to the New World! Its name is...'

Ida falls on Neriah like lightning the moment Matilda opts to stop punching her. Despite her injuries--or perhaps because of them--she moves with a sort of spare, fluid grace, flowing from one punch to the next. She pounds out a drumroll on Neriah's chest, her fists blurring for a few seconds--and then and uppercut, one with enough force to send Neriah sprawling.

Ida doesn't give her the chance to recover. She raises a clenched, bloody fist and drops it on Neriah like a hammerblow. Blood splatters the cobblestones beneath them.

GS: Ida Everstead-Rey has activated a Force Action!
GS: Ida Everstead-Rey has attacked Neriah Parringer with School of the Demon Fist!
GS: Ida Everstead-Rey has completed her action.
GS: Neriah Parringer takes a solid hit from Ida Everstead-Rey's School of the Demon Fist for 183 hit points!
GS: Neriah Parringer has Fallen! She is no longer able to fight!
<Pose Tracker> Neriah Parringer has posed.

All of a sudden, poor Cale finds himself tumbling to the ground beneath a priestess who's old enough to be his mom yet whispering to him like she could be his girlfriend. He widens his eyes and squirms a little, not sure if he should be terrified or grateful or something else. "I- I didn't realize she could even do this. I thought she was just a normal girl," he manages weakly.

She's not. Neriah's power is a terrible thing, and it pours out of her without any sign of stopping.

But she is only one girl, in the end. The power of Rose's Tiger Tempest, on its own, may be less than whatever terror dwells in Neriah's heart, but it is enough here. Blades rain down like light, punching through the eldritch field Neriah calls up around herself. The girl lurches as several of them slam into her.

She jerks forward, bringing her hand towards Josephine and beginning to call up her magic - only for a bullet to hit her centre-of-mass. It punches through the shield and hits her like a blunt force; it doesn't penetrate, but it does double her over. The magical storm of darkness around her abates for a moment.

She breathes in in several voices at once. "You're pretty sassy," Neriah rumbles. Her voice is barely recognizable as hers. "But I'm done being told to be silent. Not any more. Not by condescending smart-asses who want to lecture."

The power of Laevateinn radiates forth - and for a moment, the darkness seems to recoil from the purity of Riesenlied's intention. Midnight itself recoils, then ebbs out again. It surges around Riesenlied, but only around. It doesn't touch her. But the woman can feel that malice underlying it. That set of darkened eyes that aren't Neriah's, somewhere within the horrible cesspool of malice that is her magical presence.

It gives Matilda an opening to break through the field and punch Neriah in the gut a few times. The girl skids backwards several metres, coughing up a mouthful of blood. Her field soon shimmers back to life; a few more Matilda punches slam into it, and Neriah lifts her head, eyes blazing angrily. "It must be pretty easy for you," she growls. "I bet all your friends are gonna pat you on the back for that little speech, huh?"

Ida cuts her off by punching her in the face again. She staggers backward and drops to the ground. Dazed, she begins to pull herself up with obvious effort, bleeding from the nose and mouth.

Which is about when someone else jumps into things. From beneath Margaret, Cale lunges forward and sweeps up Neriah, tossing her over one shoulder.

"I'm sorry!" he shouts as he turns to sprint towards the exit, carrying the girl with him. She seems far, far too dazed to fight back.

The statue of Aru Solato stands there in the garden, none the wiser.

<Pose Tracker> Riesenlied has posed.

Riesenlied soon finds the consequence of her actions--

--and her wings catch fire as the excess heat exuded from the very emanation of her own power envelops her; the already fragile wings start to burn as the membrane between her wing's fingers shred away, and she drops to one knee, exhausted and exacerbated.

"Wait-- wait...!" she exhales towards Cale as he picks Neriah up and runs away with her. She clenches her fist for a moment, as the Rising Sword shatters around her, subsumed into emanations of photons that absorb back into her being.

Her eyes widened, she hurries towards where she last saw Rosaline fall, concerned for the Etone disciple's wellbeing.

She checks for a pulse -- and finds it; immediately, she takes initiative as she says, "Matilda! Your medicine, please!"

<Pose Tracker> Ethius Hesiod has posed.

There is... it's not quite release, for Ethius, when Neriah's strength leaves her. Color fades back in, his ears are ringing, his mind is swimming in basic eldritch arithmetic but something... something above all that, seems to chill him. His rental suit is torn to shreds. He is made of bleeding wounds, ripped fabric, an ajar mask that he immediately corrects with his right hand as though it were the most important thing.

The darkness is all-encompassing, overwhelming, and yet... he heard Ida's words.

"She... she knows what that was?" Ethius mutters, almost inaudible, as the hand on the mask rests against his forehead. Through what he can see under that mask, with just how close several of them have managed to get, even through all of that. A sense of... familiarity? Comfort. No. That's... that means...

That means what? That it... it is...

The Statue. It's still there.

"Wait." Ethius says, as he rises anew. Wait for what? Kislevi forces might show up and arrest everyone the very moment they arrive. They are all technically trespassing. They could all be thieves.

Taking in a deep breath, he casts another Symbological spell again. That little bit of electricity, jumping from one finger... into the Spectral Lens, which has gotten very foggy from repeated use. One more time.

He looks at the statue, as he takes out something from the ruins of a coat pocket... someone would have to come closer to him to see what it is, but he sure doesn't seem to be hurrying to grab a Sealing Rod from someone to perform the ritual while they have a chance.

Why? What the hell is he doing?! Whatever it is, it's important enough to him that he fight through the pain of his everything towards this one, specific, stupid end...!

<Pose Tracker> Rose has posed.

"-- hold on, you can't just...!" Leave. You can't just leave.

Rose looks ready to pursue. Her form flickers. Her light wanes. She trips in unseen winds. <<Idiot! I told you not to overdo it!>>

Rose slams into the Statue. Her flight ends right there, and her new form goes with it. The brilliant gold and white clothes dissapear, her hair reverts to its normal, short state. She freefalls to the ground, and a green wisp of magic and wind shoots out of her body. Dezel materializes like an errant gust of wind, the black-clothed Seraph catching the merchant in his arms.

He rumbles, grunts, and adjusts his hat, eyes unseen behind those curtains of hair and sharp teeth showing annoyance.

"I think my soul hurts," Rose whines.

"S'what you get," Dezel grumbles.

The Seraph turns to look at Ethius, head perked up as to indicate curiosity, since his eyes aren't visible. "You know how to make the Statue do its thing?"

<Pose Tracker> Sephilia Lampbright has posed.

Sephilia is now holding doll-size Chauncey, looking...unhappy. She's not quite on the verge of tears, but she's visibly upset. "I...that..."

Full sentences seem beyond her.

<Pose Tracker> Ida Everstead-Rey has posed.

Ida watches as Cale makes off with Neriah, her shoulders sagging. It's like whatever was animating her just up and left, leaving her to handle the aftermath on her own. Ida's face twists in a pained grimace, and she reaches into a pocket for the just-in-case aquasol she got from the druggist on the way in. "Sephilia," Ida says, her voice a dry creak. "See to Rosaline. I'll be well, I just need to--"

Rose slams into the statue. Ida's eyes widen in terror, and she reaches for the Sealing Rod she keeps in the holster where Devil's Due used to sit. "Rose, are you--!" She's fine. The statue's fine. Ida stops being terrified about the horrible things happening around her and starts being terrified that something horrible is going to happen. She doesn't take her eyes off the statue for a moment, not even when she hears a man's voice coming from somewhere near Rose. She doesn't recognize him, but she does see an odd sort of blur in the air, vaguely greenish...

"I have this," Ida says. She holds up the rod. She looks like she's about to come apart at the seams, even as she tries to recall the ritual. "Sephilia, are you seeing to Rosaline?"

<Pose Tracker> Margaret has posed.

Hearts pour out. Hearts beat. Hearts break. Margaret ends up toppling off of Cale when he wriggles loose and goes to save that girl who became a monster or something close to it. Perhaps her soul was dirty inside of her all along, Margaret thinks, even as she straightens upright hard enough to make the ripped-up remains of that purple silk dress work hard.

It is really cold out here, Margaret realizes abruptly. She feels her age as the naginata gets used to prop her back up to her feet.

Ethius - whose lightning she has felt in passing, who has been haunting the strange paths she has had to walk on this miserable catbox of a planet - tells people to Wait.

"And why," Margaret says, eyebrow twitching even as Cale absconds with the woman who was lashing them with evil shadows a few moments before: "WHY, exactly, SHOULD we 'wait'?"

"HMMMM?" Margaret continues, kicking aside the blasted-away remnants of her fashion pumps into high arcs, one of which lands on the spear of some other statue of great aesthetic but less occult value. "Are you going to do whatever heathen ritus is going to address this problem? Are you INVOLVED with this entire Guardian 'thing'? Do you have one of those cute little tablets? Eh?"

Margaret advances on Ethius. She twists her naginata around above her head like the Goddess's own parade major, in order to - without much force, to be fair - jab the blunt end towards Ethius's side.

"Speak up! My ears are spasming, so I can't HEAR YOU very well!" Margaret continues, gratuitously.

<Pose Tracker> Sephilia Lampbright has posed.

Ida manages to snap Sephy out of her shock. "Y-yes. Rosaline!" The girl hurries over and starts working first aid, followed up with some of her healing magic, on her fallen friend.

<Pose Tracker> Matilda Whitehead has posed.

It's at the mention of Matilda's friends that the compounder seems taken aback, suddenly; she discontinues her assault in short order, pulling her fists back and taking a moment to simply breathe. Ida seems to have things in hand, fortunately --

-- and she's being called for, at any rate. "I -- I only have a modest amount -- with me," she says, the tension still in her legs as she moves toward Riesenlied, reaching under her skirt. She hasn't left home totally unprepared, even if Freischütz is presently still situated on the Carakin.

She kneels down next to Rosaline, her whole body still shaking a little as she carefully reaches into Rosaline's mouth, neatly planting a blueberry in her cheek. "This would be -- ugh, it would be so much easier, if..." she murmurs, before applying a medicated compress next. "... This is all I have," she says, to Riesenlied, a little helplessly. The Statue goes totally ignored for the moment.

<Pose Tracker> Ethius Hesiod has posed.

Ethius seems content to ignore Margaret's yelling - anyone's protests - verbally. He seems deeply ingrained When she gets physical with the butt end of her spear aginst his side, he yelps loudly. To see him seem to struggle to keep hold of the mysterious Other Thing In The Hand Not With The Lens(tm) borders on the comical, for what little of this man lends one to laughter, or comfort, or anything good at all ever. He pathetically stumbles off a few steps away from Margaret as she lays her demands bare.

He coughs once, clearing his throat. The pause is poignant. Hesitation?

"A matter of... curiosity." He meekly replies, when THIS IS LIFE AND DEATH AND THE ABILITY FOR FILGAIAN LIFE TO CONTINUE EXISTING BEFORE THE HORDE OF THE METAL DEMONS TIME IS REALLY NOT ON THEIR SIDE!! He stuffs the Other Thing deep within the tattered remains of his rental suit, clutching his fingers around the expended Spectral Lens as its faint blue glow fades.

"But... yes, I am... involved in the matter of the Guardian Statues." Saying it in a roundabout way, as though he wants to sidestep the matter entirely, his posture slouching as his quarterstaff has to make due as a walking stick to stay standing.

"You may proceed." As if anyone would ever ask Ethius for permission to do something SO INTEGRAL TO EVERYONE'S CONTINUED WELL BEING. He is a sorcerer. He was present for the lessons in which to cast the proper incantation - but could he be trusted with a Sealing Rod? (Would he even be in the shape to cast the spell in question?)

<Pose Tracker> Josephine Lovelace has posed.

In the seconds after she shoots at Neriah, another pained wince flickers its way across her face. Damn, but this is going to cost her later. Well, fair's fair, she'll just have to have Lily look at it.

And even in spite of that pain, Josie shifts as if she were about to open fire on the young man as he flees with Neriah's unconscious form.

Only to sigh, shake her head, and holster the ARM.

She glances up at the statue of Aru Solatu. "Don't suppose anyone has one of those sealing rods or a spare vehicle?"

She pauses, then gestures vaguely with her left hand. "Or a light and a cigarette."

Then tilts her head to one side as the debate ensues. Stepping over to one of the nearby statues, she leans back against its base. "Or a drink. I could go for a drink..."

<Pose Tracker> Rosaline Calice has posed.

Sephilia and Matilda attend to Rosaline, patching up her worst wounds with good old-fashioned medicine, kicking her metabolism back into gear with blueberries and putting some life back into her cheeks with magic.

She opens her eyes, squinting despite the relative obscurity, and manages a tiny, very pained smile at the two attending to her. "T-Thank you, I'm sorry I, um..." She trails off.

She sits up, perhaps ill-advisedly, and sees people preparing to seal the statue, but seeming hesitant at best. "Please let me help," she lets out, meekly.

"Please let me help!" she says, more loudly, and with a tiny bit of desperation in her voice. She stands up and winces as she pulls out her own sealing rod, making for Ida's side.

<Pose Tracker> Ethius Hesiod has posed.

(addendum to above pose)

The Seraph will find, looking towards Ethius... Ethius doesn't seem to acknowledge their presence. If the question is directed towards him, there is no answer. He appears to be one of the ones that still yet wallow in the murkier reaches of spiritual comprhension.

<Pose Tracker> Ida Everstead-Rey has posed.

Ida stops watching Ethius out of the corner of her eye, and focuses on him. Somehow, she manages to give the strange, dangerous man a look that lasts for a full five seconds--a look much like the one she gave to Neriah before decking her that last time. "If it comes to harm, things will go poorly for you," she says.

Rosaline speaks. Ida straightens, turns to face her, chokes on her emotions. "Come on, then," Ida says, offering Rosaline her (comparatively uninjured) shoulder to lean on. She pulls the Medium out of her pocket with one hand, while the other raises the rod. "Blessings of earth," Ida begins. The wand begins to resonate in her hand. "Blessings of life."

<Pose Tracker> Neriah Parringer has posed.

Between Ida and Rosaline, and the magic granted unto our heroes and heroines by Elder Halle, its enough. The wand in Ida's hand resonates with the statue of Aru Solato, the vast thing looming over the group at its feet. Magic streams from the wand as the two chant. An aura coalesces around the statue, soft and brilliantly white.

It shimmers, before the light fades away, seemingly sucked into the statue.

The only thing different is that the statue seems to shine just a little bit brighter - the only sign that it stands free of threat. Sealed against anything that might cause it harm.

It has not been fired from its comfy plode job.

<Pose Tracker> Rosaline Calice has posed.

Rosaline leans on the offered shoulder, looking exhausted (among many things) but grateful. She doesn't pull out her own rod (only one is needed) but she does take her own Medium out. She closes her eyes, letting Ida perform the gestures, while she gathers power from the Medium and the scraps of her own strength alike. She is no shaman, far from it, but she can at least manage this.

"Blessings of Zephyr," she incants, gently. "Blessings of the sky." The Solaid Emsu medium glows faintly.

And just like that... It is done.

"Blessings of Granas," Rosaline adds weakly, for the benefit of herself, Ida and Granas. Surely the Guardians won't mind some extra blessings.

<Pose Tracker> Margaret has posed.

"'A matter of.... curiosity,'" Margaret says in a cruel and mocking tone of voice. "'I am... involved, you may proceed,' WHO THE HELLS ARE YOU? Are you some sort of, of, I don't know, CRAB STICK ANGEL? Some other fresh demonolatry sent to test our faith? Eh?" poke "Eh??" poke poke

Then -

"That's all?" Margaret asks, nonplussed. Her attention has left Ethius for the moment, which may give him an opportunity to sneak away enigmatically. "Is that the entire spell?" she asks Rosaline.

Her expression gets even flatter when she gets into the deeper layers of blessings.