2018-01-09: Malicious Flight

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=============================<* Great Aveh Desert *>==============================

The heart of the Republic of Aveh is its great desert. The rolling dones and blistering heat here are infamous, and all but the most foolhardy would ever dare to cross it on foot. Most do so via the great rail lines running north to south, east to west, leading as far as Krosse and Adlehyde. The ones who do cross it on foot will find the heat isn't the only danger. Mirages can lead men astray, oases are few, and great and terrible beasts sink beneath the sands until they find their prey.

BGM: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5ddOSJ8571M
<Pose Tracker> Catenna has posed.

Most stops the CaraKin makes are peaceful and profitable. The seed settlement dotting the desert always seem to be receptive to the visit of the caravan full of people offering potions, food, herbs and a chance to scritch Cyre H. Lorentz behind the ears. (Perhaps not the latter.)

Today, however, the CaraKin pulls up to the isolated desert of Buckhorn - to find it silent and smouldering, with several houses simply shattered into flattened smears of masonry and scattered wooden chunks. Something in the village is burning. The smoke doesn't go far; the day's overcast as it is, but the smoke hangs low over the village like a murky cloud.

With a gasp, Catenna clambers down fron the CaraKin, setting down the couple of tiffins she was carrying. She raises a hand to her forehead, squinting as she tries to peer into the smouldering village. Her face has gone a little pale.

"What could have happened here," she murmurs. "We did not hear anything in the last town about attacks...."

Catenna wets her lips with consternation, then reaches for her belt and draws her sword. A deep frown crosses her face as she looks back towards the CaraKin, then begins to walk towards the ruined village - towards one of those felled houses.

The closer she gets, the more something tugs at the pit of her stomach. She slows in her approach and frowns, looking up towards the sky. "...What could have leveled a house like that?" she asks, her voice soft. "It looks like it has just been... compressed, somehow."

<Pose Tracker> Ethius Hesiod has posed.

With a flourish that can generally be described as 'sudden, not so much artful and smooth as it is invasive and forceful,' Ethius touches down in a kneel from Catenna's left with his quarterstaff already held in both hands. He probably should be resting for some time longer after nearly bleeding out from that... encounter... at Wehaca. Something's got him riled up, again.

From this left flank, he keeps watch for any signs of movement. Any signs of a waiting ambush. He tends not to be that welcoming a presence even at rest, but when they are faced with danger and uncertainty, he can at least be relied on to keep watch and detect prospective hostile movements.

"Of this, I am not certain, Miss Catenna." Ethius comments as he levels his gaze at some piece of debris as though expecting something to leap out from behind it at any moment.

<Pose Tracker> Jacqueline Barber has posed.

This sort of sight was unfortunately not an uncommon one. It wasn't unexpected for a settlement to to be destroyed, claimed either by nature, bandits, or a variety of other unpleasant happenstances. Usually, however, there was some warning about it. Some idea that it had happened.

But this...

Jacqueline stares on in shock for a moment, then takes a deep breath and adjusts her glasses.

"...It's still smoldering. I imagine it has not been like this for long...not enough time for word to reach the nearby villages." Jacqueline guesses, folding her arms in front of her with a pensive look.

"It's a slim chance, but we should search the town and see if we can't find any survivors...or, failing that, see if we can't see what caused it." She suggests as she follows Catenna and the others into the village.

Unlike Ethius, she had been resting after the events at Wehaca. The Lunies could be thanked for that, having seen to it that she not over-exhaust herself.

She looks upon the razed building, considering it with a frown.

"My first thought would be some manner of Gear, but...I don't see any of the other telltale signs of Gear combat i n the area..." She comments.

<Pose Tracker> Cyre H. Lorentz has posed.

Cyre is not for public scritchings. The privilege of petting the wonderfully soft kitty ears is reserved only for very special people. If they want to pet an animal, there are plenty of dogs and quite possibly an arbitrarily infinite number of cats available at the CaraKin.

The aftermath of Wehaca has left Cyre with... mixed emotions. On the one hand, they successfully defended the town of his birth from forces quite thoroughly beyond the ken of most. On the other, the amount of damage is staggering. It'll be generations before Wehaca recovers. Also, his brother is missing.

This is somewhat worrying, given certain circumstances surrounding his disappearance.

But the town got along just fine without Cyre around for a long while. It can survive without tottering him around like some kind of legendary savior-figure like it did to Leon. And so Cyre is again out on adventure.

Unfortunately, that usually means running into... terrible things.

"This is crazy," Cyre says of the absolutely pancaked houses. "The only thing I can think of is a massive downburst-- a huge wind that just smashed everything into the ground. I mean, that or some kind of weird invisible super-monster. If it's the latter, there should probably be some kind of sign."

<Pose Tracker> Carina Wynne has posed.

CaraKin ride! CaraKin ride! McDonald's! McDonald's! McDonald's!

Carina loves a chance to visit new places with her new friends. She's had few occasions to even leave the Badlands in the past, so just getting to travel around has been something she's relished so far.

Her enthusiasm is cut short, however, at the sight of such destruction.

"A-Aw, cheese, who DID that?"

She climbs down to follow the others, after some hesitation. Should she even be here? She promised, cross her heart, that Carina Wynne wouldn't get in any trouble. But... no, this doesn't seem like a Locus situation, she decides.

Five seconds later, she finds herself wishing she could analyze the house for clues with the MATRIX EYE. Ugh!!

"Do you know if this place gets sandworms?" she chances, "These things can wreck a place right down if they put their minds to it. Though I guess they'd do it from below and maybe not set things on fire, huh...?"

She crouches down, tilting her head at the house before getting up at Jay's suggestion. Survivors! Right!!

"HEEEEY, ANYBODY HOME?" she calls out to the general area, not thinking this through very well.

<Pose Tracker> Catenna has posed.

Something is nagging at Catenna stubbornly, and she's not sure what it is. Only that it's familiar.

The debris pattern is curiously radial; what Ethius will notice soon enough as he inspects the debris is that nothing is actually smouldering in this particular ruined structure. Many of the beams which once made up the house are cracked in the middle and then blown outward. Most of what's been blown out to the edges of the collapse is mostly material from the bottom of the house.

"No... no, I don't see Gears, either," she murmurs, shaking her head towards Jacqueline and Ethius. "I don't really see..." Easing past the rubble of the house, she squints down the town's main street. "...I don't really see anyone," she admits.

Beyond the house, the sandy street is deserted. The damage to the town seems random; further down the street, what looks like a tavern has been pancaked in a fashion not unlike the first house, its lower floor exploded out behind it. Further down the way, another structure has collapsed inward more conventionally, along with one beside it; both seem to have been blasted with something and are belching a dark, odd-smelling smoke into the air. A few flickers of fire can be seen burning within.

The colour of the flames is just slightly wrong. The reds are a bit too rich.

Catenna winces as Carina calls out. The town itself would cringe if it could. In fact, there is the sudden sound of a couple of window shutters clapping shut, coming from a house a little ways down the street. Someone really doesn't want to be seen.

<Pose Tracker> Ethius Hesiod has posed.

"...I do not believe the damage was from the use of an explosive device." Ethius comments as he bends down and picks up a very small piece of the debris to... probably keep with some of the other small pile of random garbage he occasionally accumulates. Maybe it's because of the color of the paint, or something so minor and unnoteworthy that his desires are unable to be differentiated from that of a kleptomaniac hoarder. He holds the tiny piece of Former House within his hand contemplatively.

"Based on the patterns of the ruin, it appears as though pressure was applied from above. If it were a projectile from a catapult," or maybe a trebuchet, look, we're not even going to go there today, "it would appear someone went to great lengths to remove said ammunition."

That's a fancy way of saying 'it might not have been this idea, either.'

When Carina gets shouting, Ethius shoots his left arm outward out wide as if to say 'shh, hush,' and also 'grunt' because such a snap of movement is painful for what his left side suffered back in Wehaca. He takes several steps forward towards one of the flattened structures with rising smoke. His eyes narrow as he takes both arms back upon the quarterstaff and points it threateningly towards where he has a clear view of the flames.

His eyes shift towards the sound of something shutting, but he does not yet pursue.

<Pose Tracker> Jacqueline Barber has posed.

"That's...concerning." Jacqueline murmurs. What could have caused this...? She couldn't think of anything, but perhaps further investigation could shed some light on this mystery.

The rest of the place was destroyed in an indiscriminate fashion. She wasn't sure what to make of it...though she glances toward Ethius as she gives his opinion.

"From above...?" She considers with a frown.

And then, dear, precious Carina shouts. As silent as the town was, it might as well be a gunshot. Jacqueline flinches. She had wanted to look for survivors but...not quite like that. Still, it got some manner of results. Either a strong wind swept through here...

...Or there was someone in that house down the street.

Jacqueline glances toward the others, raising a finger to her lips, and then gestures toward a location to the side of the house, undercover. She, however, starts to approach it directly. As she moves, she subtly slips a Crest Graph up her sleeve, ready to invoke it if something were to happen.

By her estimation, they already knew Carina was there. It was possible that they had already seen the others, as well...they had to approach this carefully.

"Please, don't be alarmed. We are here on a mission of peace." Jacqueline says. Hopefully the others would be able to bail her out if something were to happen...

<Pose Tracker> Cyre H. Lorentz has posed.

Ethius might not yet be pursuing, but Cyre is. The shaman makes his way through town towards that strange noise, gesturing into the air to stir the great plumes of strange, foul-smelling smoke away from the party and his own path. They stink in a way that Cyre doesn't quite recognize. Maybe it's as a result of some kind of unknown chemical substance. Maybe the thing that came down here and blew everything up was some sort of fire-breathing sky-dragon?

Who knows?

Not Cyre. All Cyre knows is that he heard a door being slammed, and that means that there might still be people around who could answer questions-- and who might be in need of help. "Hey, come on out," the shaman calls as he approaches the source of the noise, his ears hinging to and fro like satellite dishes. "Don't worry, we won't hurt you. We're just merchants. We'd like to know what happened here, if you could tell us."

<Pose Tracker> Carina Wynne has posed.

As far as Carina is concerned, Ethius collects garbage as a hobby, even everybody's gotta have a hobby, right? She will no doubt have many more exciting reasons to be perplexed about the main in the future.

To her credit, Carina does hush when the others indicate she should do so. "Oh, yeah..." she whispers. If whatever flattened these is still out there... Though it would have to be very big, right?

"I think there's someone over there," she points out to the others, towards the sound of closing shutters. To her credit, she has the good sense to draw her gunsmoke ARM as she looks towards the house in question. She lets the others take point on this, for probably obvious reasons.

<Pose Tracker> Catenna has posed.

"From above?" Catenna echoes, looking back to Ethius with a blink. "What could flatten a house from above in this way...? Surely a catapult would just put a large hole through it...." Frowning, she looks over to Cyre, moving to fall in beside the catman.

As if to try and find some reassurance to calm the tightness in her stomach, she reaches out to gently touch his elbow, looking up at him with unvoiced anxiety behind her eyes. This bothers her.

It bothers her in a way she can't explain.

When Jacqueline makes her way towards that window, Catenna follows along with she and Cyre, sheathing her sword to keep from appearing too hostile. "Yes, please... we are not here to hurt you," she offers up, though her voice is a little quieter than the others.

There's no answer from the house for several long, tense seconds. The entire street seems to hold its breath in anticipation.

Then the door opens just a crack. There's a chain and a bolt still hanging across the opening; the person behind it, a man in his thirties with a sparse black beard and wide brown eyes, doesn't seem in a hurry to take the bolt off.

He also seems unnaturally pale - and from the way those eyes dart from person to person, he's terrified. "Thank Granas you're humans," he breathes. "Do yourselves a favour and get off the street before the monster gets back. Otherwise you're as good as dead!"

<Pose Tracker> Ethius Hesiod has posed.

It is probably a good thing Ethius is still a bit further back staring at one of the fires from within one of the flattened buildings, circling around it like he might expect there to be something else in there. He catches some of the frantic words from over yonder about a monster 'getting back.' He rejoins the rest of the party by walking backward away from the wreck that previously (sort of, seems kind of current!!) holds his attention, edging backwards towards the rest of them.

"Why would this monster return?" He asks without looking anyone in the eye.

<Pose Tracker> Jacqueline Barber has posed.

Jacqueline makes sure to not venture too far from Carina. She was the one she was most concerned about, having the least combat experience. If something were to happen, she needed to be ready to intercept.

Besides, she'd make a promise, too.

Fortunately, it doesn't seem to be immediately necessary. She relaxes, but only somewhat, when the door finally opens. She looks into the crack in the door, spotting the terrified man shows himself, but only just.

Jacqueline glances toward Ethius for a moment as he speaks before returning her eyes to the man.

"Monster? What manner of monster? Is it the one responsible for the damage to the town?" She asks.

<Pose Tracker> Cyre H. Lorentz has posed.

Thank Granas?

Pffffft.

ll, whatever. It's not like Cyre can exactly expect every town he comes across to be civilized. The shaman rolls his shoulders in a mild shrug at the bearded man's warning. "A monster? I'm going to have to agree with my tattooed friend over there. There's... Not exactly much left out here for a monster to come back to," Cyre says, glancing about at the ruins of what used to be a town. "But..."

"This monster, it didn't happen to look like a lion, did it?"

Beat.

"Well. Regardless, is it just you? Or are the rest of the townsfolk holed up someplace safe nearby...? We do have supplies, and I'm sure our proprietess wouldn't object to assisting with an emergency evacuation if you all want to get someplace safer."

<Pose Tracker> Carina Wynne has posed.

Carina leans her head to look past the others and see the terrified man. Aw, cheese and bacon.

"Monster, huh..."

While the others are mostly paying attention to the man, she reaches into her bag to pull the Locus belt out and put it on. She isn't transforming right now, but should at least be ready to, her eyes darting around for hiding spots.

Yes, surely transforming in such a deserted place won't be suspicious at all.

"Yeah," she seconds Cyre, "we got food and couches and such, and it's a safe place to be, if you'd rather not stay in an unsafe place to be. Might be better not to stay in a house if a monster's gonna jump and butt-stomp it flat 'n such."

<Pose Tracker> Catenna has posed.

From the crack on the door, the bearded man nods tensely as Jay questions. Ethius, however, has a more painful inquiry; the frightened citizen sinks back a little, his body going tense. "...Because it's hungry," he hisses, before shooting Cyre a look. "There are enough of us left. It comes from the Titan's Roost looking for food. If it can't get our cattle, takes the children."

Then he blinks at Cyre, thrown by the question. "A lion? No. It... it comes from above. It's enormous, with eyes like the pit of Valmar."

Catenna frowns, folding her arms under her chest and leaning forward a little. "...What is the Titan's Roost? Is that somewhere near here?" she begins to ask, before a sound suddenly intrudes.

It's the distant clatter of a wagon wheel.

With a startled hiss, the man in the house abruptly pulls the door closed; there's the sound of a lock-bolt being turned. A few questions are left hanging, for the sound of the wagon wheel is going closer.

Turning a corner come two horses, one of them drawing a wagon loaded up with beer casks, furniture and what looks like a lot of jewelry. Both are moving surprisingly quickly. The horse not drawing the wagon is mounted by a rangy-looking man with a bandanna over his nose and mouth, carrying a revolver; another man is riding the cart-horse, while a third kneels in the cart, carrying a rifle.

"Bandits," Catenna surmises with a blink as she turns and moves her hand to her sword.

Perhaps catching the movement, the lead horseman rears, his horse's hooves hitting the ground with a thump. He levels the revolver at the priestess. "'at'll be far enough there," he drawls, his tone rough but cool. "Hands to the sky, ladies."

He means you too, Cyre and Ethius. The rifleman is also bringing his weapon to bear.

<Pose Tracker> Cyre H. Lorentz has posed.

It takes the cattle? The children? A monster from the sky? Cyre's brow furrows thoughtfully as facts start to align. "Titan's Roost...? This is all feeling a little too familiar for comfort. But if so, then--"

Cyre is freezes at the sudden interjection of an unfamiliar sound.

Which is about when the wagon rolls in, full of bandits.

Cyre...

...Isn't looking at them. He isn't really paying them much attention at all. There's something else on his mind. The shaman's face is turned upwards, into the smokey sky. His ears pivot and twitch as something... Something--

A bandit tells him to put his hands in the air.

Cyre holds up a finger.

"Shut your trap, moron. There's something above us I'm trying to hear. If this damn smoke wasn't in the way..." The wind stirs as if on cue. Great vortices of air swirl into existence around the shaman, each swallowing vast volumes of smoke and soot and dust, all but obscuring him from view. But more importantly...

It opens up the sky for a pair of keen eyes to see.

Where is it... It had to be up there. Something... Huge...!

Happily, those vortices also extend cover to the rest of the party, while also making the bandits, still rather far off, all too visible from the sky...!

<Pose Tracker> Ethius Hesiod has posed.

"The children." Ethius says. There is a likeness between this incident and another already - that, and the matter of 'comes from above. It's enormous.' He might be compelled to discuss this once they all part company, but then comes...

Bandits. A revolver is already pointed towards Catenna. Ethius' eyes quickly dart between the visible bandits. He listens intently for any additional signs of ARM handling. There's the one with the revolver so far. The one with the rifle. There's a fair distance between where he stands and where Catenna does. If he moves too suddenly...

Nonetheless, he projects the same level of calm that he usually does - unsettling. He raises both arms up, in seeming compliance with the demand.

"Yes, I am familiar with this manner of business." He comments. "Miss Jay, I suppose you will want me to hand to them the valuables I am presently holding." He suggests aloud, trying to pull the ARMs towards his direction - maybe tease out any more that might be there. The very moment he is certain that the weapons are pointed at him, and no other...

A quick slurring of syllables and an arm bending inward sees to the cast of a Symbological spell that creates an electrical field invisible to the naked eye. A field that will neatly deflect any fired shots on him, in which to allow the others to fan out and deal with the problem with minimal risk of harm to them - he keeps his eyes too fixated on the very movements of the bandits to be able to address Cyre's even more grave concerns!

<Pose Tracker> Jacqueline Barber has posed.

Jacqueline nods to confirm Carina and Cyre's comments.

"Yes, we have access to a rather sturdy vehicle, and there's room for many people at once...if you would tell us everything that happened, I would certainly not object to evacuating you all to somewhere more safe." Jacqueline agrees.

...The Titan's Roost, was it? Jacqueline frowns, and considers this for a moment. But before she can consider this too much further, she hears a sound ahead of them.

Two horses, one bearing a wagon but both bearing...bandits. What unfortunate timing.

Obediently, Jacqueline raises her hands into the sky.

"Yes, please do. I would appreciate if this concluded peacefully..." Jacqueline says, stepping in front of Carina to shield her, just in case. Cyre, of course, isn't playing ball...and neither is Ethius. Cyre's working on a spell, and Ethius does...something, though she can't tell what.

Enough attention is off of her that she can make her move. One hand quickly reaches into her bags, drawing out a bottle of bright orange liquid. She hurls it into the sky, above the rather unfortunate bandits, and invokes the Crest she had slipped into her sleeve earlier. A single stone flies out at high speeds, slamming into the bottle, shattering it, and showering the bandits with her ARM-jamming Haywire Draught.

...And a bit of broken glass, though not enough to cause any real harm unless someone were to step on it with bare feet.

"It isn't safe here. You gentlemen should turn around and head back the way you came." Jacqueline warns.

She does glance upward, slightly. Cyre was listening for something...but what...?

<Pose Tracker> Carina Wynne has posed.

"The children?" Carina raises her voice again, without meaning to. Okay, she's decided, this monster has GOT TO GO.

But before they can go on a monster hunt in earnest, bandits appear. Oh, of course this place would attract looters, wouldn't it?

Carina, for one, does play along by holstering her ARM and raising her arms. The others may not be so impressed, but she's still for the most part a hapless bystander. Jay steps in front of her, once again. A-Aww, Miss Jay...

Dusty wind kicks up, and the team moves out to do a variety of cool things. Carina is briefly as surprised as the bandits are, but rolls with it.

"Gettin' to a safe place now!" she BRAZENLY LIES.

And amidst the whirling sand, there is a flash of light.

METAL DIGGER LOCUS appears where Carina was standing, just a second ago.

"Crime doesn't pay when Metal Digger Locus is here!" she announces, striking a pose before leaping and performing a flip over the bandit trio. She dispenses some relatively gentle flipkicks and punches to each, because frankly, this is all looking very one-sided.

She should probably be looking up, but doesn't do so right away.

<Pose Tracker> Catenna has posed.

Catenna's hand stops at the hilt of her sword. Her other hangs at her opposite side, fingers curling a little, though she has no visible sidearm.

But then, she has no need to draw a sidearm. In a pinch, she could whisper out a spell and flip these fools and their wagon right over. She nevertheless watches the wagon-riding trio, narrowing her eyes slightly. "Are you the ones who did this to the town?" she asks shortly.

The bandit on the horse wags his pistol a little. "Yeah, this ain't twenty questions, ya dang savage--"

Catenna's eyes narrow immediately.

"--so shut your yap and do what y'all are told 'fore you get hurt," the very racist man on the horse continues.

The rifleman quickly swings his weapon to bear on Cyre as he and Ethius do something. "Cut that out!" he barks, raising the weapon and taking aim -

At which time Jacqueline acts. The bottle shatters in midair and sprays those three bandits; the riflemen swears and attempts to fire, but his trigger just clicks uselessly. The man with the pistol shakes his gun and tries the same thing. "Dang it, brat!" he shouts, before METAL DIGGER LOCUS kicks him out of his saddle. The rifleman goes next; then Wagon Man, who lands on his back.

"You're gonna pay for that," growls the man with the pistol as he reaches for a knife--

"Uh, boss?" the man who was the wagon horse says. He did look up when Cyre parted the clouds, mostly because he landed face up.

"What!" the pistol man says as he, too, looks up. Just in time for a large shadow to pass over him.

"Awwww, damn it," he says in a much smaller voice.

Something immense is swooping in from the other side of the smoke cloud. From afar, it looks a lot like a very large snowy owl.

Save for the fact that it's a couple of times the size of the CaraKin.

With an enormous boom of displaced wind, the immense avian descends into the square, wings flaring - and as it lets out a low, rolling shriek that rolls through the streets like an utterly inhuman skyquake, it becomes evident that it's not an owl anymore. Unfolding from under its wings, a second pair of enormous, talonious arms sweep out, each with claws like a reaper scythe. The man on the wagon shrieks and leaps to the side; Carina's kick saved his life, as the monstrous bird's talons slice right through where he was sitting a few seconds earlier, smashing the wagon to rubble. The other two bandits scramble, screaming incoherently. The other talon comes down, swinging for the pistolman but going wide and slashing through the front of a house. Rubble and dust rain down into the street.

Wings coming up, the enormous avian turns to look back beneath the shadow of one wing. It cocks its head almost 90 degrees in the process.

Owls do not normally have wide beaks that curl up at the corners, sweeping horns that arc up and back like demon's horns, and eyes that blaze in a near-solid black-violet light centred by a single tiny white pupil as they focus intently in on Cyre H. Lorentz. Nor do they have more of that malicious light steaming from those talons and from that brutally hooked bill.

It's not Malevolence. Even the spiritually blind can see it.

<Pose Tracker> Ethius Hesiod has posed.

Ethius finds his head turning to the sudden appearance of METAL DIGGER LOCUS with the same sort of attention he might be giving to another prospective bandit, but this surprise and development proves short-lived as... something... a very big something... appears.

Ethius' ears ring loudly to the low shriek as the displaced air violently whips about him - and some of the nearby debris - as he takes both hands back on the quarterstaff to stab down into the ground to stay standing.

He has never quite stood face-to-face with something this large. The by-and-large stoicism that he seems to have for a mathematical figure of things with a handful of nines in it does not apply any further as his right hand goes for one of the satchels at his belt.

He puts together the syllables and gestures like his life depends on it (maybe more than his!) and hurls it about as high up as he can muster to ensure it bursts as close to its black-violet lit eyes as he can manage, and start to get running for... well, there's not much cover to be had, is there... then distance is all he can hope for.

It's time to move.

<Pose Tracker> Jacqueline Barber has posed.

Jacqueline frowns. She didn't appreciate how they were talking to Catenna. Her desire to solve this peacefully fades just slightly...

But fortunately, thanks to everyone's efforts, and the timely intervention of one Metal Digger Locus it looks like things are going well.

They're down, but not done yet...

Or at least that's the way it seems at first, until it appears.

Jacqueline recoils back at the sheer force of wind emitted by the giant owl's descent, and backpedals away from it.

"Take cover, now! And don't even think about taking advantage of this situation!" Jacqueline shouts to the three bandits. It was practically an order.

The last thing she wanted was to have to keep an eye on them while this was here.

What even was it? It looked like an own, but...those horns, that light, and those eyes...

There was something about it that made her feel threatened.

Ethius probably had the right idea. They needed to make some distance. Jacqueline reaches into her bags, drawing out a bottle of her signature repellant and hurling it towards its feet.

"We need to get some distance...if it takes off again we might have trouble, now that it's seen us..." Jacqueline comments, backpedaling.

She doesn't take her eyes off it. Losing track of it for even a moment could be fatal.

<Pose Tracker> Cyre H. Lorentz has posed.

Honestly, what did those banditos expect when they tried to knock over four wizards and a superheroine? Of course, the appearance of Metal Digger Locus is entirely an unexpected happening-- where did she come from? Has she been following them the entire time? How mysterious...!

Cyre, however, has been and is still significantly more occupied with... That terrible, horrible thing that dropped out of the sky. It's something that could only be described loosely as 'an owl.' In more poetic terms, it was like something had taken a giant owl, spooned out everything good and proper that was inside it, and replaced the lot of it with something... Else.

Something... Purple?

It didn't feel like Malevolence though. Cyre of all people should know what that stuff looks like by now, and it's not this. That didn't make it any less dangerous though. One of the major downsides to having such sensitive ears is that the horrible, strix shriek briefly has Cyre wincing and covering his head with his hood. While this does give him plenty of protection against Ethius' flashbang, he's still disoriented for long enough for the... the thing to fix its eyes on him.

There's something not quite right about a cat being prey to a bird.

Cyre takes grave offense. He stares it right in the eye, the wind stirring to the shaman's whispered prayers. Suddenly, an enormous gust smashes into the thing's huge wingspan from above- a tremendous downburst which aims to slam the beast into the ground and keep it pinned there-- at least long enough for Cyre to stagger away, his ears still ringing.

<Pose Tracker> Carina Wynne has posed.

Carina inadvertantly ends up saving a man's life, which is good even though he's a jerk, a robber and potentially a big racist like his friend.

"W-Whoa, what the..." Locus looks up at the giant, monstrous bird with her arms hanging in dismay. She definitely did not expect to see something like this today when she woke up this morning.

She punches her fists together, making them both crackle with copious amounts of electricity.

"So you're the jerk bird that's been stealing children!" she shouts, as if it could understand her. "You're messin' with the wrong people!" Her voice is loud but trembling a bit. Special superhero armor or not, she is honestly not sure about that one.

But Jay urges the bandits to take cover, and the rest of the group seems to have elected to hoof it. Locus turns around, but not enough not to be partially blinded by that flashbang.

"Ow, jeez, ow..." she kicks herself into a run with the rest, holding up a hand to one of the oversized, multifaceted eyes on her helmet.

"Okay, so, what's the plan?!"

<Pose Tracker> Catenna has posed.

"How," Catenna shouts, stumbling backwards from shock and surprise as much as from the buffeting winds the enormous monster owl's wings are kicking up. For several seconds she just stares at the gigantic creature.

She scrambles back to her feet, face pale as she begins to rush away about as Ethius does. She can't even muster a spell, she's so startled by what she's seeing.

The avian fiend snaps its wings forward as Ethius hurls that ball of destruction up towards its face. One of its long forelimbs swings upwards, sickle claws smashing through the eruption of force. The spell detonates; the creature shoulders through it with a hideous gurgle, a long tongue lashing out of its bill as it begins to prowl forward on both its birdlike hindlimbs and its immense forelimbs.

Jay doesn't have to tell the bandits twice; they scamper, scuttling out of the way as fast as they possibly can. The owlbeast, however, keeps on coming even as the repellent hits the ground. It does step around it, hissing an ugly-sounding hiss. The dark fumes wafting from its bill begin to mount.

Cyre H. Lorentz, big damn dummy, stands his ground and blasts back at the creature with divine wind. The bird's wings snap upwards, bracing against the heavy wind. Beneath its white feathers, the monster strains, lowering its shoulders and letting out a deep, intense rumble that might have been a hoot in a former life but seems much, much more malevolent now.

With everyone else smart enough to run for their life, Cyre will get the brunt of what happens next. Malicious light dances behind the bird's eyes, brightening and brightening -

And the Nahual will find himself suddenly struggling to move. An immense force pulls at him; it's like his entire body has suddenly grown heavier component by component. His arms rapidly begin to feel like thousand-pound lead weights and the weight of his head begins to increase to the point that holding it up will feel like holding up a boulder.

He of all people may find it familiar, though not the twisted malice fuelling the spell.

The owl beast is cranking up the gravity on him, and trying to compress him into a Cyrecube.

Whirling, Catenna gasps as the creature attacks. "Cyre!!" she cries with alarm. Quickly mustering up her own arcana, she holds her hands out and shouts into the groan of gravitic pressure.

Another force begins to push back against the owl monster's; this one is much more familiar. Catenna's gravity spell is tangibly, substantially weaker; rocks vibrate nevertheless as the two gravity wells interact. Light itself distorts around Cyre as the sheer force of gravity bends light rays into ludicrous shapes, destroying and recreating them in absurd patterns impossible to nature.

Until, suddenly it stops. The bird twitches visibly and recoils; it shifts its gaze to the Moon priestess and just stares at her.

Catenna doesn't move, mostly because her jaw is dropping half an inch as if she'd just been struck by something utterly horrifying. If nothing else, the bird's stopped moving.

Now might be a good time to make good your escape, smarter members of CaraKin than Cyre and Catenna.

<Pose Tracker> Ethius Hesiod has posed.

Ethius has no idea as to the (in)effectiveness of the Powder Grenade as to being any sort of viable means of delay or dissuasion to a creature so immense. For a man that has proven willing to stand his ground against much of the more incredible threats the CaraKin have faced, he seems to know - instinctually - that he is well out of his depth.

His quarterstaff is held solely in his left hand as he tries to traverse the flattened, ruinous landscape. He reaches out with his right to try and gesture Jay closer - or if she dares stop and turn around, to keep her moving.

He says nothing more - the natural flight or fight response having won over whatever sort of experience or methods he has practiced to suppress such emotional extremes in the past.

<Pose Tracker> Jacqueline Barber has posed.

The owl - no, the abomination - before them proves relentless. Ethius's Powder Grenade, her repellant, or even Cyre's wind do little more than temporarily stall it.

Jacqueline starts to run.

But as she does...she hears Catenna shouting in concern. There's sorcery in the air...until it stops.

Jacqueline ducks behind an empty building, frantically looking through her Crests.

"There...there has to be something..." She murmurs to herself. She sees Ethius gesturing to her...but she wasn't the sort of person to leave her friends behind. He may very well have to try and drag her away, though it was likely that she would resist.

<Pose Tracker> Cyre H. Lorentz has posed.

Look, is it really Cyre's fault that his adorable kitty ears are both a blessing and a curse? They're sensitive! That means he can hear things very well-- and also that loud, shrill noises really do a number on his concentration. He's about to turn and run when that horrible sinking feeling seizes at his limbs. It's a familiar force, but one he's only ever seen turned against others.

Since when in the hell did owls learn how to control gravity?

It's a rare and unhappy few who can claim to experience gravitational distortions and near-spaghettification and survive. Cyre screams as his body strains against the utter madness gripping the fabric of space itself. It's a losing battle, the only recourse is that he's smashing it into the ground just as much as it's trying to crush him.

And then... lightness.

He thinks for a moment that it's because his limbs have popped out of their sockets-- but, no. Catenna's magic buoys him, however much more powerful the enormous bird may be. Soon, its power cuts out as well-- the creature is... distracted?

No time to think about that. The thing is looking at Catenna now. Cyre digs his feet into the ground and kicks into a run, suddenly sweeping Catenna up into a bridal carry. The wind howls as his parachute unfurls, sending them hurtling rapidly towards the others.

Gotta go fast...!

<Pose Tracker> Carina Wynne has posed.

Locus keeps glancing over her shoulder, to see Cyre try to make a stand and getting squished in a very painful-looking way by dark owl magic(?!?), while Catenna... uses her own magic to save him, until she doesn't?

"We can't just leave 'em behind, can we?" she agrees with Jay, though what they've already thrown at it hasn't done much at all to even slow it down, has it?

Carina isn't sure she can solve this situation with ANY amount of electric karate.

"Nope, nope, nope--"

Despite her heroic inclinations, she's still just a beginner-- A CHEATING beginner, even. And to tell the truth? She's scared, very scared. And so, Locus runs through a cloud of the dust still flying in the wind...

...and out comes Carina Wynne, not running quite as fast but at least close enough to the caravan.

"Dammit, dammit, dammit!"

And in she goes, though her face is pressed into a window looking outside just five seconds later.

"Come on, everyone, come onnnn!"

<Pose Tracker> Catenna has posed.

It's a good thing Cyre knows how to scoop. Catenna seems like she's fixed on the spot.

She only snaps out of it once Cyre scoops her up like a princess. Gasping, she curls into him without thinking even as he lets that parachute fly. Her eyes are wide and her face has gone pale.

The immense owl doesn't pursue the group of friends. For a moment more, it looks after them... until, with a massive wingbeat that shakes the buildings in the village, the so-called Great White Bird lifts off. Those long foreclaws curl back in, and it kicks off the roof of a house before hurling itself back into the air. Heavy wingbeats carry it back above the clouds.

A long, rumbling hoooo-oo-oooh trails behind it. It sounds like a roll of thunder.

As Cyre hauls her to safety, presumably with the rest of the CaraKin, Catenna's beginning to stir herself back into focus. "That's impossible," she manages. "I could... feel the essence of the Moon in it! I could feel it, Cyre!"

<Pose Tracker> Ethius Hesiod has posed.

Ethius doesn't take any chance. He's thrown the second Powder Grenade behind him at some point during the escape, uncertain if it's anywhere in the proper direction of the giant owl as he comes inside the vehicle in a dive and tumble that reminds him that his left side still has yet to fully heal and it's probably broken open again. His free hand rests against one of the inner walls as he sucks in wheezing breath.

"Drive." Ethius calls, moving towards the front for whomever is within the CaraKin at this point. "Drive." He repeats. He's not sure if anyone's up near the front - he's not sure he cares who among them will comply. "Drive."

He's so out of breath that he can't really shout it.

<Pose Tracker> Cyre H. Lorentz has posed.

"Yeah," Cyre says as he hauls Catenna back up and into the Carakin like he was trying to escape from some kind of horrible space-manipulating murderbird. "I know. I could feel it too."

"You know. When it was trying to squeeze the life from my bones."

Beat.

"That wasn't the... weird dark stuff though, was it? That was... I don't know how to describe it but--"

Wait.

Cyre stares at Ethius for a moment.

Who is driving?

(Probably Shallune, or Jay)

<Pose Tracker> Jacqueline Barber has posed.

When she hears Cyre starting to move along with Catenna, Jacqueline breaks into a run. She can see the Carakin already ahead, with Carina back inside.

Good, she was worried about that.

She immediately moves to the front seat, though she doesn't start the vehicle until everyone is confirmed to be inside.

She does drive for a short distance, but...

"...We have to go back. We can't abandon those people to the mercy of that creature." She says.

But...she also considers Catenna's words. The essence of the Moon...there was something worrying about that. What could it mean...?

<Pose Tracker> Carina Wynne has posed.

Carina was already at the wheel before it became clear that she doesn't know how to drive, or start the engine or anything, really.

A moment later...

Jay doesn't want to abandon the town's people. Carina thinks on it for a while, still looking outside.

"I think it flew away, Miss Jay... For now. Maybe we need a plan."

Catenna speaks of the essence of the moon, or at least enough people repeat it that she catches it. "Huh. That's really weird. Not that I know much about how Guardian stuff works or anythin'..."

Having nothing more useful to add, she slumps back on the nearest couch, feeling truly out of her depth for the first time since she became Locus.

<Pose Tracker> Catenna has posed.

"Yes, we... we do have to go back," Catenna admits, her voice tight.

The priestess's usual composure has broken; she's visibly shaken as she sits up from where Cyre put her, wrapping her arms around herself as if to try and hug the horrible feelings out of herself. As Jacqueline drives alone, Catenna says nothing for a couple of moments, just feeling the caravan jostle beneath her.

She's not really looking at anyone. Her gaze is leveled blankly at a spot on the floor.

"...The darkness was something else," she murmurs. "I did not think it... would happen in Ignas. It is something that... but if the creature has some connection to the Guardian... I am not sure how it--"

Trailing off, Catenna collects her thoughts with difficulty, aided only by her taking the Medium from her waist and cupping it in both hands. She presses the tablet to her heart as if to try and suck insight from it. Lifting her eyes to Carina, she smiles tightly. "...I will try to explain it. There is... a power the Zortroa know of," she murmurs. "It is said to be a curse left by a dead tyrant from ages past... it twists the hatred in the hearts of beasts until they go mad and become monsters. But to see the Demon King's Malice here...."

<Pose Tracker> Ethius Hesiod has posed.

Ethius returns back to staring blankly as mention comes up about the idea of going back. (That's how people know he's okay! When he's back to staring like that.) He might be just shy of voicing an eloquent disagreement when Catenna ultimately agrees with Jay's assessment that they have to.

That stare comes back towards the Moon Priestess. He exhales loudly, not having quite finding his center as he keeps one hand up against one of the inner walls.

As she begins to describe the legends of her people in regards to whatever that was, he quietly excuses himself to go grab a few satchels and stored handfuls of indeterminate particle matter to go prepare another set of powder grenades.

He leaves the relevant door(s) open so he may continue to listen.

<Pose Tracker> Jacqueline Barber has posed.

"A plan...yeah, a plan. I'm sure we'll think of something. Maybe if we use the Carakin or our Gears for cover..." Jacqueline considers. Catenna agrees, as well, that they need to go back.

Catenna...it was rare, to see her like this. Jacqueline's concerned, but she needs to be at the wheel right now. She doesn't glance back, but she does listen as Catenna begins to explain.

"The Demon King..." Jacqueline repeats. That was...certainly rather ominous. "Is there anything that can be done about it? It isn't Malevolence, but...can it be purified, as well...?"

Perhaps it was a matter of simply knowing how. It was...awful to think about, being twisted and cursed like that.

<Pose Tracker> Cyre H. Lorentz has posed.

Cyre frowns and curls up alongside the shaken shaman, one arm wrapping around her shoulders. It's rare for her to act this way. Even with the Malevolence, it didn't shake her as much as this has. But... Perhaps it's because of the nature of the revelation.

"The Demon King's Malice...?" he repeats, his expression turning to a thoughtful frown. "Old legends seem to have a habit of coming true out here, don't they?" He shakes his head, partly to clear his head, partly to work the dull ache of exertion out of his muscles.

"It's not one I'm familiar with, I'm afraid. Is that why that creature has become so aggressive so suddenly...?"

<Pose Tracker> Catenna has posed.

"It is... it is not Malevolence. I think Malevolence is of Lunar," Catenna murmurs, lowering her head. Her hair brushes across her cheeks to veil her face. "We know little of it... only that it was borne of a tyrant who passed long ago, and that those beasts who are touched by the curse have their rage and hatred amplified until they become monsters."

Closing her eyes, Catenna clasps her Medium in her lap, finally beginning to let her muscles relax. It takes a conscious effort.

"...Owls are said to be sacred to Celesdue," she muses. "Perhaps it was once like that... but has become maddened. Either way... we must find it again.

"Perhaps there is a way to get through to it...."

<Pose Tracker> Carina Wynne has posed.

Carina sits up at Catenna's attempt at an explanation, which makes sense to her, at least. "Oh yeah? Ugh. Friggin' demon king curses. Like you guys don't have enough stuff to deal with right now. Every dark space wizard is just poppin' out of the woodwork."

She gets up and stretches, pacing around. "We actually got a shipment of magic-dampenin' materials back home. Nothing spectacular or anything, but every bit helps when it comes to not gettin' squished into a cube, you know?"

She holds up a finger. "So you know where to find me if you want your armor repaired or upgraded n', you know, if you just wanna chat." She glances at Catenna, probably thinking she's being subtle.