2018-02-10: An Unexpected Obstacle

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<Pose Tracker> Ida Everstead-Rey has posed.

Eastbridge University's campsite is rather large, consisting of a dozen tents of varying sizes, with attendant wagons, guards, and support personnel. Smaller shelters serve as the individual campsites, shared by undergraduates or the exclusive domain of participating faculty. The scent of wood smoke hangs in the air--people are starting campfires, and the expedition's cook-of-the-evening, Ms. Xing, is heating water for some sort of noodle dish over by the cluster of rocks people sit at to eat.

Ida sits by one of the fires, curled up and staring into the flames. She got here about an hour ago, but she's too late to do anything more than talk to people. A meeting earlier turned sour on her. She needed to get away. She needed to try and reconnect with the person she left behind.

"Ida," says Ms. Xing, looking up from the boiling pot with a gentle smile. "Would you measure out the rice noodles?" Ida tries to return the smile, to acknowledge that this is Emily's way of trying to help, to keep her occupied so she can't drown in her own thoughts. She gets up, walks over to the table, and starts partitioning out the noodles from their paper packet.

It's almost evening. As always, the camp is decently-guarded at this time of night, not counting Drifters who may be on hand--they do need deliveries and other errands done as well as field work. Now, though, everyone's got an eye out for the strange thing that's shown up every now and then. A relic of the Metal Demon War, possibly. Is tonight going to be the night?

<Pose Tracker> Ethius Hesiod has posed.

Ethius was all too happy - or at least all too accommodating - to the idea of being hired help for more field work. The mysterious encounter from that evening, some evenings ago, sticks out in his mind as something compelling. He doesn't have free reign to move about this stretch of land - his only way forward is, at present, to continue to cooperate.
  Cooperate he does, in that distant way. At present, he's been asked to assist alongside some of the other hired muscle as one of the lookouts to make sure the camp doesn't get flattened by this mysterious, dangerous evening presence. (After a landmine check, of course. Always with the landmines...)
  He takes a moment to inspect the Spectral Lens, that little eyeglass lens of his that serves him well in dungeon expeditions, to ensure that it has cooled down from his most recent sweep. The fogging upon its surface appears cleared... good.
  His gaze returns back to the surrounding field. If he sees something, he'll speak up. He should consider breaking away for food soon enough - sorcery is demanding on one's calorie intake - but he doesn't want to turn his back and leave an opening.

<Pose Tracker> Layna Manydays has posed.

Layna didn't really have any personal interest in this place, but the pay was decent. If it weren't for Ida having connections here, Layna probably wouldn't be here at all. It was a good way to keep herself busy, though, and she had no objections to putting her talents to use wherever they could be.

The fact that she's more than willing to share her drinks with those around the camp probably helps ease people's attitudes to some of her eccentricities...though there are also perhaps some less fond of this than others.

At the moment, she's sitting on one of the rocks, a bottle in one hand. She's probably engaging in some light conversation, and of course there's always a drink to be offered to someone who wants one...

But, she was still on guard. Keeping an eye and an ear out for any sign of trouble, just in case...

<Pose Tracker> Morgan Newkirk has posed.


A fire or two over from where Ida and Ms. Xing work is a slightly more boisterous gathering. This one involving several figures, an off color story, and a familiar beastman whose ears are a dead giveaway. Even if that familiar drawl wasn't already well known.

"And that is why you never gamble with someone from Kislev!" Comes the end of the story to the laughter of his audience as Morgan Newkirk smiles and carries on like he does. The people here are on edge. That energy needs to be bled off a bit. And laughter is a fine medicene, proven out by the smiles on the scholars around the Drifter as he finishes his story.

He was technicly here on guard duty. Technicly. The pay is good, the company is good, and he gets to keep a weather eye on Ida...which is also good with how she's seemed lately.

<Pose Tracker> Avril Vent Fleur has posed.

This isn't the first time that Avril has leant Ida a hand with fieldwork, and, hopefully, it won't be the last.

Truth be told, she's worried. She had learned from Dean what had happened with Rosaline.
There's a nagging sense, a coupling that's not quite joined, bothering here somewhere at the back of her mind. It's familiar, and yet...

And yet.

And then there are other matters. Leads for the statues have all but dried up. Avril has found herself at a bit of a loss, between both of the angles she's been attempting to follow...

So perhaps that's yet another reason why the young woman is here today, perched carefully on a rock nearby, her hands folded in her lap.

"Is there anything with which I would be able to assist?" she asks. "I am afraid I may not be much assistance with the cooking, however."

There are some areas where Avril's prodigious understanding of myriad things falls a little flat.

<Pose Tracker> Lydia Seren has posed.

Lydia Seren is watching Avril.

She has been watching Avril for a while actually. Why is she watching Avril?? Well let's see, she's smiling while she's watching her, has her head kind of half cocked to the right, and has a somewhat pensive look in her eyes but maybe it'd be best summed up in a thought balloon.

.oO(<3)

Hey she cut off a dude's arm to save her so she thinks admiring this mysterious ice queen lady is totally legit. Also she has like a laser sword whip or something? Totally cool.

<Pose Tracker> Gwen Whitlock has posed.

Did someone say deliveries? Well, alright, no one really *said* deliveries, but either way, that's why Gwen's here, doing the last of the deliveries to the campsite, checking over her load on a handy checkboard. "And that seems to be all of it. This'll be my last run for tonight, but I can stay overnight n' take any deliveries you need out towards November City n' any other places y'need." With the Krosse Border closed, that did limit their choices at bit.

Gwen's working on that. It's good to have connections! Now, if she can find any that are *willing*, well, that's another story.

Getting her pay from the assistant and a quick look over to the happily eating Gulliver, Gwen walks over to join the group by the campfire, inviting herself to a seat next to the fire. "Ahhh..." The smell and notion of noodles makes her stomach behind to rumble, prompting Gwen to look up. "Oh hey, y'got any extra noodles? I can also assist with any cookin', as needed."

<Pose Tracker> Zed has posed.

A shadow suddenly looms long and ominous before the setting sun, rapidly swallowing the little science-camp up with its full, voluminous darkness. There is a palpable sense of menace that suddenly pervades the air. Is it time? Has it come? What reason would anyone have to do anything untoward to a bunch of nerds sitting out in the middle of nowhere?

I mean, they're just minding their own business, right? Digging holes in the ground, staring at bugs, picking flowers, being massive eggheads, those are all perfectly normal and reasonable hobbies. But that's not why they've gathered here today; oh no! They're all here for a very specific reason-- and the time for that reason's arrival is fast approaching.

A terrible, keening noise rumbles like thunder across the wasteland.

It is something primal. Something whose origins can be traced back to the very cradle of this world's history. Something that ignites a peculiar notion that springs forth from the most primitive sector of the brain, silencing all so-called 'higher' functions by the pure primacy of its directive.

As the sun dips down below the horizon, it's obvious... That noise... Can only be one thing...!

A shadow falls across the camp.

And resolves into...

"HUUUUNGRYYYYY."

Oh.

That's... a Zed...!

"IIIIIDAAAAA," Zed yells across the wasteland, "I HAVEN'T EATEN IN DAAAAAAAAAAAAAYS!"

That noise rumbles out again.

It's...

Zed's... stomach.

"GIVE ME--" His sword is drawn. His expression is... Desperate, manic, predatory, hollow and sunken around the eyes, the face of a starving man. With one demand...! "GIVE ME-- ALL OF YOUR BEANS!!"

Well. This is going to be a day.

<Pose Tracker> Berserk has posed.

Dying bands of heat make the simmering skies warble as the sun slowly sets beyond the baking horizon. The fluctuations of that fading intensity make the twilight-smeared skies twist and shiver to the eyes in a way that could almost be beautiful if it didn't mean the cold encroach of night was swift approaching.

It is difficult to call any kind of time of day in Filgaia peaceful, especially in the current climate. But if any could be called that, it would be now. Meals being cooked. People hard at work -- not fighting, but discovering. The day slowly fading away into the quiet comforts of the night, ending the activity of the day. It's as close to tranquil as one can get.

Which means it is exactly when one ought to be the most on edge.

It's proven as Zed makes his horrifying appearance, dessicated like a zombie. The rumble of his stomach is truly mighty, truly intimidating. Listen to it. Listen to it rise like the beat of an angry drum, like the peel of thunder. Listen how it sounds like it's so far away and rising in intensity to unnatural degrees until either the Metal Demon has the world's loudest, angriest stomach--

                                ((BOOOOOM))

--or that is -not- his stomach rumbling, anymore.

Violence chases at Zed's heels just seconds after his roar for beans. There is a shining glint in the distance as that low, ominous rumbling matches and then exceeds that of the poor, green-haired Metal Demon's stomach. A shining glint that becomes larger, and larger, and larger...

... until the spiked broadside of a mace tears through the sunset-soaked skies, looking to demolish anything and anyone in its path.

The explosion is raucous. The tell-tale laugh that nips at its heels, unmistakeable.

"GA HA HA HA HA!"

For who else could have that laugh, that burning yellow glare, that thunderous stomp feet against earth, that terrible green hide, but...

"Eh?"

Zed's good* friend** Berserk?

"... What the hell are you doin', twerp?"

*NOTE: 'GOOD' is a matter of perspective.

**NOTE: 'FRIEND' is subject to extremely generous interpretation.

GS: Berserk has attacked Avril Vent Fleur with Centripetal Slaughter!
GS: Berserk has attacked Ethius Hesiod with Torment!
GS: Berserk has attacked Ida Everstead-Rey with Torment!
GS: Ethius Hesiod takes a solid hit from Berserk's Torment for 152 hit points!
DC: MISS! Ida Everstead-Rey completely evades Torment from Berserk!
GS: Avril Vent Fleur takes a solid hit from Berserk's Centripetal Slaughter for 119 hit points!
GS: Berserk has attacked Lydia Seren with Torment!
GS: Berserk has completed his action.
<Pose Tracker> Zed has posed.

Zed is hungry.

No, that's not accurate. Zed has not eaten in days. Zed is more than hungry. Zed could eat an iron mine. Zed has become the devourer. There is nothing he shall not consume.

Except maybe, you know, that guy who is basically a humanoid wrecking ball.

That snaps him right out of his starvation-induced reverie. Kind of. He goes lucid for the moment, at least. "Eh??" Zed gawps as BERSERK does as BERSERK will. "W-what!? Berserk!?! What are you doing here! DID YOU COME TO STEAL MY BEANS!?"

Oh no.

"WELL I WON'T HAVE THAT. Those are mine! I claimed them first! I must fill this aching void inside of me! NONE SHALL GET IN MY WAY!" Zed... Leaps boldly into the cataclysm of destruction that Berserk leaves in his wake, stampeding right on through anybody and everybody who happens to be between him and the campfire where that delicious concoction is sure to be brewing...!

Woe betide ye who do not give the hungry demon a wide berth.

GS: Lydia Seren takes a glancing hit from Berserk's Torment for 79 hit points!
GS: Zed has attacked Gwen Whitlock with Ravenous Rampage!
GS: Zed has attacked Morgan Newkirk with Ravenous Rampage!
GS: Morgan Newkirk critically Guards a hit from Zed's Ravenous Rampage for 19 hit points!
GS: Zed has attacked Layna Manydays with Ravenous Rampage!
GS: Zed has completed his action.
GS: Layna Manydays takes a glancing hit from Zed's Ravenous Rampage for 54 hit points!
GS: Gwen Whitlock takes a solid hit from Zed's Ravenous Rampage for 109 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Ethius Hesiod has posed.

The rumbling sounds. Ethius holds an arm out to a nearby patrol as if to say 'wait.' He tends to have a better set of eyes and ears for... this sort of thing. The Spectral Lens is activated through the usual Symbological means, and he brings it up to one of his eyes. If something's connected to a power source, or other device, and it's moving... then that's it. It might be here--
  There's Zed's yelling voice, and Ethius lowers the Lens. He looks back to call out, but his voice gets shouted over by Zed's woes. He supposes there is no point in saying there's unwanted company when the unwanted company in question invites themselves. Though Zed is famished, wasting away by his hunger, even in a moment of weakness there should be no questioning what he is capable of doing with his blade if his desperation pushes him further in pursuit of sustenance.
  Ethius starts to take a few steps - very unwise steps - with a hand outstretched to take Zed by the forearm, when--
  Another booming, a glint at the corner of his vision. His head turns sharply--
  "Ngaraff!" An odd grunt of pain as the massive mace 'glances' past his right shoulder. 'Glances' is in quotation for a reason - for all intents and purposes it's a clean hit, seeing him spin off his sure footing of the ground below, complete two-and-a-half rotations, and hit the ground face-first. His left hand grabs at his right shoulder, clutching it. He can still feel and flex his right hand and its fingers. He hasn't lost the arm.
  That's a miracle.
  Campsite debris from where the mace mashes past takes to the air, showering Ethius further in debris and even someone's cooking pot. Stomaching the pain as well as he can, he rolls a hard left on the ground to avoid taking a cooking pot to the noggin, though hot water scalds and stings where it splashes. His sense of center is lost from the corkscrew spin he did prior to hitting the ground, but he acknowledges just above him is a length of chain.
  He's not sure which way leads to wherever it came from, but it's a length of chain and he can render that problem moot. With his less injured arm, he gesticulates the proper motions as he slurs through the syllables with pained grunts.
  "Recurrent... Current," he almost loses the spell on these last words, having to suck in breath in between as he points the healthier arm towards the chain. Through it, he attempts to send an electric shock through the length of the chain - in hopes to connect it with the wielder - and introduce them to a recurring electrical shocking sensation that might give himself precious seconds to stand back up, crawl to a better position, or be of the mind to make a decision to begin with.

GS: Ethius Hesiod has attacked Berserk with Recurrent Current!
GS: Ethius Hesiod has completed his action.
GS: Berserk takes a solid hit from Ethius Hesiod's Recurrent Current for 110 hit points!
GS: Poison! Statuses applied to Berserk!
<Pose Tracker> Morgan Newkirk has posed.


The laughter starts to fade as noises start in the distance. Morgan's ears prick up as he raises his eyes to the horizon. "Friends, I think y'all best get to cover. Things are 'bout ta get a might complicated." He drawls as he starts to stand, pacing towards the edge of the camp to peer at the single approaching figure.

"Layna!" He calls to the captain. "What do you think that is?" He asks as he flexes the fingers of his gauntlet. The blue energy powering the ARM bloosoming to the flowing runes etched in the armor piece.

He squints as the figure approaches. Frowning slightly as..."Wait...is that...Zed?"

GIVE ME ALL YOUR BEANNNNNNNNNNNNS

"...oh yeah. That's Zed. Easy there! Don't do anything foolish--"

Which is about when Berserk's mace crashes into the encampment.

"...and not Zed. CLEAR THE CAMP!" He shouts back towards the base as blue-white light heralds the arrival of one of his summoned weapons. Six barrels spinning up to fire in a rotary canon of some kind.

Which is when Zed screams something about bean theft and charges.

"I don't think he's here for your food!" He shouts at the crazed metal demon as he rushes forwards, hardly managing to get a shield up in time to prevent himself being run over by the starving man.

Which of course doesn't mean he's going to just let Zed trample over everything.

The weapon on his arm spins up peppering the metal demon's legs with rounds to try to get him to slow down. "Someone get this man some food so we aren't dealing with two of them at once!"

GS: Morgan Newkirk has attacked Zed with Rain Down!
GS: Morgan Newkirk has completed his action.
<Pose Tracker> Ida Everstead-Rey has posed.

Ida touches the tip of her thumb to her forefinger, and uses the circle she's made by doing so to partition the noodles. She sets three neat stacks on the table next to Ms. Xing, and nods to Gwen. "Certainly," Ida says. She doesn't look Gwen in the eye for long, though, and she hasn't made much in the way of conversation, only speaking when she's been spoken to. Something's eating at her. That seems to be the case more often than not. That growl. That horrible, thunderous noise. That's...

Not the sound the thing makes, but that doesn't much matter.

A small group of workers were getting a drink, but as Zed approaches, they drop their canteens. "Hey!" one of them cries, as the lot of them back away from the feral-looking man with the sword. "It's--"

"It's the crazy guy," one of the other workers continues.

Ida's lips thin into a little line, and her hands curl into fists. She has one nerve left, and now Zed is getting on it. "Mr. Newkirk," Ida says, managing the tone she tends to use when she is both very cross and pretending to be polite. "Please deal with this."

Another sound. Thunderous, but not the thunder of the approaching giant. Ida recognizes it. She heard it at Adlehyde, and the sound turns her blood to ice. "DOWN!" Ida cries. She throws herself at Ms. Xing, tackling the wide-eyed graduate student to the ground and shielding her with her body. The wrecking ball tears through the meeting tent, shredding canvas and reducing tentpoles to tiny splinters. One of the workers is clipped by the outer edge, and his arm breaks with an ugly crunch. He goes down screaming. Ida pushes herself up on an arm and looks up, but she already knows what she's going to see. "RED FLARE!" she cries. Someone on Zed's end of the camp seems to have the same idea--she raises some sort of ARM, and fires a single round into the sky, trailed by a plume of white smoke. It explodes in a brilliant red firework.

Emergency. Evacuate, immediately.

People scatter. Ida knows that this alone isn't enough to stop Berserk. A sense of grim resolution settles into her heart, edged with a sort of Good-God-how-can-this-day-get-worse-it's-so-funny mania. "Go," Ida says, to Ms. Xing. "We'll hold him off." Ms. Xing stares at Berserk a moment, wide-eyed, the blood completely gone from her face.

"Is--is that a--"

"Yes. Go!"

Ms. Xing runs. She can now count herself among the people of Guild Galad who have seen a Metal Demon in the flesh. Ida draws her striker, unhooks a flare grenade from her belt, and ignites it. The fuse burns, furiously racing towards the magnesium strip inside--Ida counts to two, and then throws it like a fastball at Berserk's face.

He's going to eat it. You realize he's just going to eat it.

GS: Ida Everstead-Rey has attacked Berserk with Flare Grenade!
GS: Ida Everstead-Rey has completed her action.
<Pose Tracker> Layna Manydays has posed.

Things pass in a pretty uneventful manner for a time. Until, eventually...there is a terrible noise, like the cry of an angry beast. A terrible noise, that culminates in an ancient warcry. For there is no call that strikes terror in one's heart more than the call of an uninvited guest seeking food...

Layna stands from her seat and turns to face Zed as he issues his demands.

But before she can say anything, another noise resounds...as a mace comes crashing through dangerously, smashing through anything and everything in its path. Layna frowns and looks toward the source.

Berserk.

It sounds like this little get together wasn't intentional. But even so...Zed starts charging in like a madman toward where the food is, mindless of everything else around him...

This wasn't good. The folks back there were probably already panicking...seeing a crazy Zed charging in might give the wrong idea and cause them to panic even more, so Layna moves in to intercept.

"It's noodles tonight, lad. If you want beans, you're out of luck..." She says. His blade goes through where she was just a moment ago. She manages to avoid taking the brunt of it, but she still earns a cut for her efforts.

"Oh, I'll give him some food, alright. If he really want something to chew on, then I'll give him..." She says in response to Morgan with a grin, and slams a fist in the direction of Zed's face.

GS: Layna Manydays has attacked Zed with ...A Knuckle Sandwich!!
GS: Layna Manydays has completed her action.
GS: CRITICAL! Berserk takes a glancing hit from Ida Everstead-Rey's Flare Grenade for 0 hit points!
GS: CRITICAL! Zed takes a glancing hit from Morgan Newkirk's Rain Down for 78 hit points!
GS: Cripple! Statuses applied to Zed!
GS: Zed takes a solid hit from Layna Manydays's ...A Knuckle Sandwich! for 101 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Avril Vent Fleur has posed.

It appears that Avril has a bit of an admirer from afar, though it doesn't seem as if she's noticed it (yet). As always, she appears to be focusing on the bustle of the camp directly in front of her.

And even that doesn't sustain her attention when Zed staggers into camp and makes a particular claim.

"Ah? You have not eaten in days? Have you been able to find water?" Concern etches its way across her features, as she studies Zed carefully, already rising from where she's seated. "We do have some spare water, do we not? I believe the upper threshold for dehydration is--"

The horrible rumbling sound has only pitched upwards.
The world might have to wait to hear how long someone can survive without water.

There, framed in slow motion, runs out the seconds as Avril settles upon a horrible twin set of realizations: that something terrible is about the happen, and that it's far far too late for her to evade.

It's a weapon with one purpose: destruction. A direct hit would destroy just about anyone it touched. But a thing of that size and mass doesn't need a direct hit to do serious damage: even the mace slamming into the earth nearby to her drives up shockwaves and waves of abused earth. Avril is sent rocketing off her feet to smash then roll across the length of the dusty shaking earth nearby, ultimately to lie at first still and unmoving.

It takes her a moment to rise, one eye shut in a wince. "Who..."

Her gaze lifts, as if to slowly take in the full extent of Berserk's height. Around her, she can hear shouts -- no one appears to have been gravely injured, the excavators are fleeing -- and can see out of the corner of her eye the damage inflicted upon the camp.
Her mouth sets in a grim line.
With a flourish, Avril produces from beneath her wrap a hilt-like object
or, no, a sword.

It might almost be comedic. She points the blade at him as if initiating a fencing match, not facing down a rampaging monster of a Metal Demon. "I believe we have not met," she informs Berserk. "Therefore, I cannot speak with authority to you or your designs. Nevertheless... certain things are quite clear to me already." She tilts the blade low, just for the moment.

"Desist this attack immediately. I will permit you to go no further."

As if to underscore this point, she darts forward towards the Metal Demon, apparently intent on trying to use the flashbang to cover the moment when she pivots hard to the right and circles Berserk to attempt to drive the edge of her blade into his side.

GS: Avril Vent Fleur has attacked Berserk with Seraphic Soul!
GS: Avril Vent Fleur has completed her action.
GS: Berserk takes a glancing hit from Avril Vent Fleur's Seraphic Soul for 126 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Gwen Whitlock has posed.

For Gwen, it's been a long day of traveling across the hot dusty lands of, uh, the Badlands, making deliveries, having nothing but a horse to talk to for the majority of the way, lifting cargo, filling deadlines, and having no chance to really sit down and eat that much beyond an emergency stash of jerky, which is hardly enough to keep up with her body's (specifically her ARM's) constant demands. Though, really, Gwen can't even blame her ARM for this. Anybody'd be hungry.

But she's *hungry*.

So when she sees the sad, desperate, ravenous face of Zed come in and demand food, Gwen's just reminded of how hungry she is.

And a hungry Gwen is a Gwen that does dumb things. "Nope." She stands up, plants her hands on her hips, and frowns. "You need t'do some work first, *then* you can-"

Oh hi, Berserk.

The second interruption is more than enough to allow Zed to land a famished blow on the courier, knocking backwards to fall on her back.

No, she can't go down like this! THE FOOD MUST BE PROTECTED. "WHAT THE HECK, no, Zed, you don't get anything now! Your buddy's gonna destroy everything, and he's probably gonna smash all the food on top of it! " Since when was Gwen in charge of passing out food, nobody elected her

Casting a side glance at Ethius, Gwen states, "I'm gonna just trust you t'remember that I'm here, 'kay, Ethius?" She can't even wait for a proper answer. There's food that has to be saved.

"Get your friend to stand down n' maybe we got somethin' t'talk about!" Thing is, Zed will likely need some convincing. Food is one thing, and the need to be loyal to his brethren is another.

Well, time to make another delivery. Will this convince him? Probably not, but it'll make Gwen feel better.

GS: Gwen Whitlock has attacked Zed with Special Delivery!
GS: Gwen Whitlock has completed her action.
GS: Zed guards a hit from Gwen Whitlock's Special Delivery for 66 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Lydia Seren has posed.

Lydia Seren watches Avril even as Avril watches the camp. She clearly is in no rush to actually do anything about it though--especially since she seems to be handling her own business and Lydia, frankly, is rather bored besides this. She kind of hopes something would happen.

'Something' happens and Lydia looks up slowly when EThius fwips out his arm. When Ethius suddenly moves like that, that usually means he's going to chastize her for something or he's going to break something or something bad is coming. She isn't sure what it is until there is a giant flying mace flinging right into camp. Lydia is at the tail end of the strike and tumbles backwards and falls off her perch and thunks into the ground as the mace nearly rips off her entire upper body.

"What the hell!!" Lydia shouts before she looks towards Zed's good friend Berserk.

She blinks a few times.

She starts shivering in place. "H..hey... you can just...buy beans... you don't gotta... kill us all to get beans..."

But then Avril is being super cool. As is Ida, even, literally throwing a flashbang. Are these people nuts, that's a QUARTER KNIGHT. Lydia stumbles up to her feet and quickly runs away from the mace.

Towards her portal gun. She fires off a portal underneath the mace's location and it starts to sink on through in sudden freefall.

Then Lydia flings a large metal sheet with a portal embedded into it above Berserk's head, fully intent on dropping it on Berserk's skull if he's not careful--he might also just stumble at the sudden pull of gravity on the mace--or not! Lydia is kind of gambling here.

"Just give him the beans!" Lydia suggests because she is NOT dying over beans.

GS: Lydia Seren has attacked Berserk with Freefall!
GS: Lydia Seren has completed her action.
GS: CRITICAL! Berserk takes a glancing hit from Lydia Seren's Freefall for 55 hit points!
GS: Poison, Cripple, Jam, and Mute! Statuses applied to Berserk!
<Pose Tracker> Berserk has posed.

Beans. Zed is here for beans.

For a moment, amidst the wreckage he has wrought, Berserk bears the blandest of stares silently swiveled Zed's way. Slavering jaws set with the irritable grind of sharp teeth.

"... You're a god damn idiot, twerp."

Berserk: a caring commander.

"How the -hell- are you even still alive?! How the hell did you even get your sorry ass unfrozen?! Dumb luck?! HAH! Wouldn't that just figure? EVERYTHING about you is just a fluke, twerp!" This is the conversation the Quarter Knight chooses to engage in as he stomps his way carelessly across his own ruin, as if directly addressing anyone -- anyone else -- assembled here was, frankly, beneath him. As if talking to -Zed- was a more worthwhile and challenging endeavor than giving these people their due. His stride takes him past the fallen Ethius, merely snorting once as he passes the Symbologist by, gleaming yellow eyes focused on the expedition site beyond him.

"Hrnmf... mebbe I'll find somethin' useful for it here..." mutters the Quarter Knight, burning eyes narrowing, frown settling across reptilian lips. "Annoying. Alhazred oughta do his own dirty work." That irritable stare -snaps- towards one of the workers. He looms above them, leering, lips peeling back into an ugly and contemptible sneer.

"You. Got five seconds to tell me what you're diggin' up here before I eat you. One... two... three... four..." That maw starts to widen. His gaze, delighted.

"Five--"

The first electrical shock makes Berserk -jolt- upright from where he has begun to loom over the expedition proper. The current rides along the conductive metals of his chain all the way to the living metal of his hand, -shocking- through his alien systems in a way that first sends him into a doggedly hyper-alert state. "--Khh-- hah! What are you trying to do, juice me up--" he begins. And then another shock. And another. Riding, over and over, through the conduction of his weapon to make a practical circuit out of the Quarter Knight. Berserk sparks, smokes, spasms -- snarls. Yellow eyes widen.

And he responds, eloquently, by -hurling- that wrecking ball away from him...

... with every intention of clipping Ethius across the skull with it in a way suffused with carefully intent and disruptive violence he is doubtless familiar with.

"There. You got my attention. Happy, fleshbag? 'Cause it's about to get a whole HELLUVA lot worse from here."

He turns. Stalks towards Ethius with slow intent. -Deadly- intent. His head cocks. He looks as if he is about to speak further--

--when he catches something from the peripheries of his vision. A glint of metal. A flashing fuse. He turns...

... and -instantly- charges upon Ida like a runaway bison, drool slavering from his lips, maw opening wide.

Jaws -snapping- around that grenade with one hideous -=CHOMP=-.

FSSSHH

Because -of course- he's going to eat it.

Flaring magnesium bleeds from his jaws in vaporous, ghostly trails of blindingly bright blue as he -drives- himself forward, intent on -bowling- into Ida headfirst and -driving- her into the earth. If he does -- if he doesn't -- he'll follow after as far as it takes until he -smashes- in beside her. Looming over her. Glaring.

"I remember you," he snarls, belching phantasmal magnesium with every spiteful syllable. "Heh. The weak, prissy butcher who thought she was so strong because she knew how to use OTHER PEOPLE'S STRENGTH as a crutch. Where's your gun, girly? Lose it? Too bad, eh? Because without it, all I see is a SAD, PATHETIC little WEASEL."

And he laughs. A slobbery, spiteful, mocking laugh as the remaining vestments of that flare sputter within the depths of his throat.

"What're they diggin' up here, weasel? A new gun for you to pretend you're strong with? Tell me, eh? Maybe you won't end up like your silly little firework--"

I believe we have not met.

"Hrnf?"

Slowly, those glowing yellow eyes roll Avril's way. She threatens her. Those eyes squint.

"GA HA HA HA! What the hell is a slip of a thing like YOU gonna do--"

And DRIVES that blade's edge straight into his side in a blow strong enough to sunder armor and cleave a shallow wound into his hide. -Wound- him.

However minor, it stops that laughter flat.

"... okay, slip."

His unburdened hand clenches.

"DESIST ME."

And he -hooks- that massive, meaty fist right for her, to collide with her body with hellacious intent.

"Let's see just what you can permit when I BREAK EVERY BONE IN YOUR BODY."

And he apparently seems intent to do just that, -yanking- on his chain...

... only for nothing to follow. He blinks. He frowns. He tugs again. And again.

"... What the hell--" And then he notices his mace, falling into some sort of hole in space. His hairless brows screw together.

"Where did it--" WHAM.

That is the sound of Berserk's own mace hitting him square across the skull, the heavy thing colliding and then -rebounding- off of him in a way that makes him suddenly roar with irritation. His head snaps to the left. To the right. He -yanks- upon that heavy chain.

"I DON'T GIVE A SHIT ABOUT YOUR BEANS! GRAAAAAAAAAGH!"

And sends the whole thing driving down towards Lydia with every intent to give her a taste of her own medicine.

At least they've established he is not, in fact, a fan of beans.

GS: Berserk has attacked Ethius Hesiod with Concussive Carnage!
GS: Berserk has attacked Ida Everstead-Rey with Hellacious Headbutt!
GS: Berserk has attacked Lydia Seren with Flatten!
GS: Berserk has attacked Avril Vent Fleur with Torment!
GS: Berserk takes 5 damage from Poison!
GS: Berserk has completed his action.
GS: Ida Everstead-Rey takes a glancing hit from Berserk's Hellacious Headbutt for 74 hit points!
GS: Lydia Seren critically Guards a hit from Berserk's Flatten for 23 hit points!
GS: Avril Vent Fleur takes a solid hit from Berserk's Torment for 173 hit points!
GS: Ethius Hesiod critically Guards a hit from Berserk's Concussive Carnage for 13 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Zed has posed.

Let it not be said that Zed was ever anything but straightforward in his desires. Even the presence of his (incredibly hurtful bully of a) commanding officer isn't enough to dampen his zeal for life, his single-minded passion, his hunger...

...For beans.

"What do you know!?" Zed shouts back over his shoulder at the big green monster that is the ultimate Quarter Knight. "All you ever eat are grenades! Why would you put something that explodes in your mouth like that!? At least I eat things that do explosive things only AFTER my face is done with the--oop."

Something (Morgan) smashes into Zed's leg.

Zed's leg, consequently, smashes into Morgan.

Zed, with all his momentum, is helpless to stop himself from hurtling head-over-heels through the air. He somersaults once, twice, then lands...

And finally, he gets something he can eat...!

Too bad it's a knuckle sandwich.

Layna's fist has slammed right into Zed's forehead. His skull meets her fist with a decidedly meaty CRACK. It's hard to tell whether that means she actually broke Zed, or Zed broke her. Probably something in between. But no, there's something much more troubling about this situation. There were two hands that went to punch him in the face.

Where... Is the other...?

...

...

                                   *nom*

Oh no. That's Gwen's fist in Zed's mouth. Oh no, he seems to have turned into the metal devourer. How hungry is he? When was the last time he even had contact with anything resembling a human being or metal demon? How did he get so lost!?!?

                               --LAST WEEK--

"Hey," Zed murmurs, examining a strange, green orb. There's a big old crack running down the middle of it. "What's this thing? Looks like one of the Yburn Spheres-- oh hey it's glowing.

                                   *blip*

The cracked Teleport Sphere hits the ground with the soft tinkling of crystal.

                                  --NOW--

GWEN, ZED IS CHEWING YOUR METAL FIST. It's either that or he's trying to get his face off your limb. One or the other. Either way, it's NOT GOOD FOR THE JOINTS. Save yourself, quick! AND THEN DO WHAT MUST BE DONE.

FEED THE BEAST.

GS: Zed has attacked Morgan Newkirk with Zedder Kick!
GS: Zed has attacked Layna Manydays with Iron Zedbutt!
GS: Zed has attacked Gwen Whitlock with Om-nom-nom-nom!
GS: Zed has completed his action.
GS: Layna Manydays guards a hit from Zed's Iron Zedbutt for 57 hit points!
GS: Morgan Newkirk critically Guards a hit from Zed's Zedder Kick for 20 hit points!
GS: Gwen Whitlock guards a hit from Zed's Om-nom-nom-nom for 67 hit points!
GS: Zed has completed his action.
<Pose Tracker> Ethius Hesiod has posed.

In the mental rush to decide his eventual positioning - get up, or keep crawling - Ethius misses out on what might be a much, much more important clue to decode relative to his odds for survival and the actual severity of the trouble the people of this camp are in. (It's not clear if he heard Gwen's concerns - one just prays he did, in all that.)
  In that decision to send an electrical charge back through the chain after something heavy stomps by him, he only thinks 'chain, connected to weapon and wielder, won't need to know which way to look while I get bearings, I see chain, electricity will take care of rest.'
  If 'the rest' is 'get the attention of a Quarter Knight,' the enigmatic Symbologist's done a fine job. (He should look into finding a new line of work immediately.) His decision to try and stand up only sees him go so far as to a kneel as his left hand clutches his right shoulder anew. To take in the imposing bulk of a green-hued monster whose silhouette is familiar - first at Adlehyde, then incidentally at that dig site he was shadowing, as is that ball that's--
  His eyes widen as Berserk flings the ball again with that assurance he has his attention. For all the things the man can stoically encounter and endure, the way his eyes flash like that is an acknowledgement of mortal danger as he crouches lower and puts his left forearm in front of himself. That's a fruitless gesture. There is no stopping a Berserk ball in motion.
  It turns out Ethius is kneeling just low enough that the ball will miss his skull. His left forearm isn't as clear, but the angle and impact as such is that the worst it does is slap his wrist up against his forehead and knock him back over, flat on his back, as the ball makes a deafening, earth-shaking collision on the ground nearby.
  That was centimetres away from certain death. That fact does not seem lost on him, even as his mind swims and reels from yet another concussion to put on the tally. Ida's distraction saves his life. When he staggers up out of the dirt, he does so from the side opposite of where Avril is attacking from - hoping to make use of a blind spot to get some distance as he limps a ways further away. He doesn't stop to look at the sight of that ball slapping its wielder humorously. He needs distance.
  Finer details about the earlier encounter slip away from a moment of heightened emotion, and also because he just took a nasty hit to the head. He forgets that Berserk was able to pick out his position no matter how stealthy he made his casting attempts back at Adlehyde as he flutters the fingers of the injured arm to fulfill the requirements of a simpler heat-based Symbological spell.
  "Heat Flash," the man finishes that spell out with pained whispers. Lights flash from those visible tattoos down his forearms, the ground, and the air to preclude a wave of heat washing suddenly across the space that Berserk occupies as he himself nearly trips over a piece of snapped post.
  Positioning weighs heavy on his mind, but he has lost his grip on the shape of the surrounding terrain.

GS: Ethius Hesiod has attacked Berserk with Heat Flash!
GS: Ethius Hesiod has completed his action.
GS: CRITICAL! Berserk takes a glancing hit from Ethius Hesiod's Heat Flash for 85 hit points!
GS: Jam! Statuses applied to Berserk!
<Pose Tracker> Ida Everstead-Rey has posed.

Ethius gives Ida precisely the opening she needs. She darts behind the Symbologist, grabs the stunned worker by the hand, and drags him away from Berserk before he can make good on his threat. She gets about five steps before he snaps out of it, pulls his hand away with a faint, terrified 'thanks', and runs like the hounds of hell are baying at his heels. It's funny, Ida thinks, as she spins on a heel to face her enemy again. Terror does bring everything into focus.

He ate the grenade. Of course he ate the grenade.

Glowing magnesium leaves spots in Ida's vision. She spreads her feet, leaps to the side--Berserk's forehead clips her shoulder in mid-leap, and the momentum behind it angrily assumes control of where Ida's moving. She hits the ground, and spots fly before her eyes. She gasps for breath that she cannot seem to catch. The one saving grace is the pain isn't bad enough to mean broken bones.

Berserk leers down at her. Ida looks back at him, her lips pulled back, eyes alive with rage and terror. She can feel Berserk's verbal barbs, as juvenile as they are, finding holes in her armor. Ida forces her hand to make a fist.

Avril intervenes. Ida wastes no time. She scrambles to her feet, flexes the fingers of her right hand, feels brilliant, sun-like warmth fill her injured tissues. It's a patch, a temporary redirection--but it should hold. She looks back just in time to see Berserk hit himself in the face, somehow. A portal? There's no time to process it, though it does give Ida a brief glimmer of schadenfreude-laced satisfaction. She looks down at the ground beside her, at the wreckage that used to be the mess tent three minutes ago, and sees two metal tent stakes that are no longer anchored in the ground, much less attached to their mooring lines. Ida grips one in each hand, tucking them between her index and middle fingers.

As soon as the sudden heat-haze left by Ethius's spell recedes, Ida rushes in. She drives her right fist forward in a punch, trying to bury the tent stake in Berserk's right hamstring. She lets go, draws back her hand, and rakes the other stake across the small of his back.

GS: Ida Everstead-Rey has attacked Berserk with Unladylike Fisticuffs!
GS: Ida Everstead-Rey has completed her action.
GS: Berserk takes a glancing hit from Ida Everstead-Rey's Unladylike Fisticuffs for 64 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Lydia Seren has posed.

"WELL WE CAN'T GIVE YOU THE GUN WE NEED IT FOR SCIENCE!" Lydia shouts back.

Yeah she's definitely Lydia. Or Emma Hetfield but probably Lydia. She glances over to Ethius who seems to be having trouble, but it's a moment of distraction that might prove troublesome as suddenly a heavy spiked mace crushes Lydia into paste.

At least, that's what it seems like since her body vanishes underneath it and she certainly didn't dodge, no sir. Let's look at the slow motion replay to see how it goes down.

Okay we see the spiked mace flying out towards Lydia. She is caught off guard by it because her combat senses haven't really tuned in yet (and she doesn't really have strong combat senses besides). She brings up her metallic arm which certainly doesn't look big enough to block it and raises it above her head. The mace hits that arm first with such force it literally drives Lydia's body into the ground.

When the dust clears and the mace is pulled away, a mishapen mess of a metal arm sticks out of the ground like a tombstone, wibbling and wobbling as it does so before finally taking the form of--you guessed it--a mace of its own, the hand at the end forming the head of the mace.

Lydia's head pops out of the ground a moment after. "Gyaahhhhh...!" Lydia says. "I thought I was gonna die!" She pops back out of the hole and squints at her mace before looking over to Ethius.

"HEY ETHIUS!" She shouts. "Clear your head! I'm going in!!"

She runs right at Berserk, eyes wide. This is pretty dumb, Lydia thinks, but so are her friends so she needs to be at least as dumb as they are if she's going to face them properly.

She swings her mace-arm up in an uppercut for Berserk's chin!

I, I just wanted to crush on someone in peace, she thinks miserably.

GS: Lydia Seren has attacked Berserk with Metallurgy!
GS: Lydia Seren has completed her action.
GS: CRITICAL! Berserk takes a glancing hit from Lydia Seren's Metallurgy for 132 hit points!
GS: Poison, Cripple, Jam, and Mute! Statuses applied to Berserk!
<Pose Tracker> Layna Manydays has posed.

There are several substances in this world of mythical durability. The walls of a dungeon, for instance, which no matter how much punishment you threw at them, you could never puncture through.

One of these is, of course, the iron(maybe literally?) skull of Zed.

Another is the iron(not literally) fist of Captain Manydays.

What happens when these two forces collide...?

There's a meaty CRACK. Layna grins and backpedals, flexing her hand. There's definitely some damage there...but it still seems to be in one complete piece. That's an impressive feat in and of itself.

The fact that she's not immediately rushing in to deliver another punch is a testament to how durable that skull of his is, though.

"No chance we can convince you to help us fight off your 'friend' over there in return for food, aye?" Layna asks. She doesn't really expect him to agree, which is why it's primarily used as cover for an incantation. Blades of wind shoot off to slice at Zed and give him something to think about.

GS: Layna Manydays has attacked Zed with Cutlass Gale!
GS: Layna Manydays has completed her action.
<Pose Tracker> Morgan Newkirk has posed.


"Zed! Will you just calm the hell down! Why don't you go eat Beserk if you're so all fired hungry!" The beastman calls out in fustration as Zed kicks out at him and he kicks right back at the metal demon.

Normally in a situation like this, Morgan would try to hide just how strong he his but you know. Annoyance is a thing at this point though, and worry about Ida and everyone else facing Beserk. So he kicks back out at Zed, slamming his foot into the Metal Demon's leg as a block.

Of course though he doesn't stop there.

His ARM swings up, shifting form again into a white and gold mace. The wide head an intricate work of near-art but harder than steel as he swings it for Zed's legs. Trying to knock him off his feet.

"AND STOP CHEWING ON GWEN! Hasn't anyone taught you about manageable bites?!"

GS: CRITICAL! Zed guards a hit from Layna Manydays's Cutlass Gale for 92 hit points!
GS: Poison, Cripple, Jam, and Mute! Statuses applied to Zed!
GS: Morgan Newkirk has attacked Zed with Smokin' Fire!
GS: Morgan Newkirk has completed his action.
GS: Zed takes a solid hit from Morgan Newkirk's Smokin' Fire for 75 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Avril Vent Fleur has posed.

The overall impression, as Avril lays in a slash at Berserk's hide, may be, briefly, something akin to a bee attacking a bear.
But a bee can still do harm, it seems. She's scored a hit.

Already, she pivots back on her left foot, switching back in what may be an attempt to either dart out of melee, or set herself up for another strike. Whatever her intent was, it remains a mystery.

As Berserk issues that challenge and slams his free hand right for her.

It's a mercy that his followup was prevented, courtesy of Lydia in fact demonstrating with Berserk's own weapon the age-old question of why one is striking oneself. Even without it, the effect and result are immediate: a sicking crack echoes across this end of the field of pitched battle. Avril -- aptly named as 'slip' in some ways -- is quite handily knocked off her feet and sent flying a several feet back in a crumpled heap. Her ARM is lost to her grasp for the moment, blade winking out from sight shortly thereafter.

She does rise again, but it takes her considerably longer to do so, this time. One hand at a time. She exhales a breath, hangs her head, and forces herself back up.

"I am... alright," she murmurs, perhaps only audible by those closest to her position. "I... cannot. I shall not let you do as you please," she reiterates, as if drawing the strength to press on one step at a time with each word she speaks. They're arrayed on the field: Ethius, Ida, Lydia. The others, they're facing off against the starving Metal Demon. Somewhere, panicked excavators are fleeing. Buy them all time. Let them get out of here. And then, then--

"...she just kept pushing herself 'til she nearly died. I wonder if maybe that's how I look to Rebecca, sometimes..."

"If she were to become badly hurt, it would not with her end. The pain would proceed."

Blue eyes widen. Avril stops.

One thing at a time, a part of her resounds.

She stops there in the middle of the chaos, dust and smoke coiling across what had been a camp. And here, Avril draws out the Original Sea Medium, closes her eyes, and calls down Lucadia's blessing upon herself in a spray of seasalt.

"Please..."

The Medium shines bright.

GS: Avril Vent Fleur has attacked Avril Vent Fleur with Ocean's Blessing!
GS: Avril Vent Fleur has completed her action.
GS: Avril Vent Fleur heals Avril Vent Fleur! She gains 200 temporary hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Gwen Whitlock has posed.

This is a first, for Gwen. She's gotten many, many reactions to he ARM, especially when it's being shoved very forcefully into someone's face, but getting it nomm'ed on is... new.

Very new.

It takes Gwen a moment to even react, with the redhead just staring at Zed in complete wonder before the pain begins to kick in. "Ow, ow, OW! H-HEY, I NEED THAT HAND! That's Metal Dragon fossil stuff right there, it's not even human stuff! *C'mon*!!"

Desperate times call for equally desperate measures. Gwen reaches into her vest with her free left hand, her fingers numbly fumbling for something to offer to the hungry beast that is Zed.

Meanwhile, Morgan's comment, even if it's pretty tame, does manage to make Gwen's cheeks grow slightly pink. "Morgan, you're not helpin' things here!!"

Ah. There. Gwen's left hand manages to snag around something in her vest. Her Medium? No, it's too small. A knife? No, not pointy enough. Money? No, she needs that too.

Moving her body close towards Zed, Gwen grits her teeth. "Okay, this is gonna really hurt the both of us!" Without another word, Gwen attempts to slam her knee into Zed's abdomen, trying to impart enough force to open the metal demon's mouth just enough for her to slip in that precious drawstring bag into Zed's mouth.

_Auntie Frea's Special Super Spice Mix_. A special blend of her spicest pepper specimens. Only a little bit is needed for an entire meal. Zed, well, just got an entire month's supply, and that's a lot, when done in Gwen measurements.

GS: Gwen Whitlock has attacked Zed with The Spicy Results of Frea's Research!
GS: Gwen Whitlock has completed her action.
GS: Zed takes a solid hit from Gwen Whitlock's The Spicy Results of Frea's Research for 116 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Berserk has posed.

"Who DOESN'T eat grenades?! You're a METAL DEMON, you scrawny little shit! Show some pride, show some SPINE, and EAT SOMETHING DANGEROUS OR I'LL MAKE YOU EAT IT."

Really, Berserk can't think of any other way to help Zed out of his bean fixation. He's trying to help. Probably.

"Beans... I swear to Mother I'm gonna find another tiny compartment to jam that idiot in when we're done here. Maybe another thousand years'll fix his stupid little brai--"

Heat swells. Heat -surges-. It washes over him like a tidal wave of ramping molecular acceleration. Heat frictoin sparks off his scaley hide, starting to melt painfully at his pauldrons and armor as he lets out a thick hiss of irritation. He is lost in the heat haze, in the dying light of the sun. It bubbles potently.

And -just- as Ethius trips, Berserk BURSTS out of the magical heatwave, skin glowing and stare furious as he flings himself high into the air...

... and comes crashing down towards Ethius with one massive, clawed foot.

Wholly intent to stomp him with his superheated heel like the man was a bug to be squashed.

Regardless of the outcome, Berserk -smashes- into the ground hard enough for it to crater beneath him, heat hissing off his back. "All you meatsacks ever do is get more irritating..." snarls the Quarter Knight, his mighty fingers curling taut around the wrecking ball in his grasp. "I'm gonna crush you slow, -mage-, so I can feel how each and every one of your organs sound squishing beneath my heel--"

And that is -precisely when he gets hit with a mace again-.

The blow blitzes past his defenses; the metal arm that Lydia brings to bear CRACKS across his jaw with enough force that the sound of metal clashing against metal is as audible as the boom of thunder. His head -snaps- up, spittle flying thick from that massive underbite. He staggers backwards a few, precious feet. And he snarls.

Seconds before that head -snaps- down to drive his thick, craggy forehead -straight- into the much smaller Lydia, wild white mane billowing violently behind him.

"YOU I'm gonna take my SWEET TIME TO BREAK."

And break Lydia he might very well attempt... if it weren't for the sensation -- the sight -- emanating from Avril. That ugly, foul sight. Nostrils flaring, he turns his foul stare the silver-haired Drifter's way. He watches the seasalt rise, the Medium glow. Not like any he's familiar with... but he knows a Medium when he sees one.

Please...

"No."

The answer comes, defiant and irrate, as Berserk -peels- off from Ethius and Lydia. He drag the massive hand holding his chained mace backwards.

And -just- as Avril's healing light shines at its zenith, he -lands- in front of her, with every intention of DRIVING that spiked mace straight down into her with a bodily, bone-crushing impact. He doesn't hold back. He is not gentle. He just wants to PUNISH her for daring to show that light in front of him.

"'Please,'" he mockingly whines, voice pitched higher as that mace draws back again, eyes wide and frenzied. "You think GUARDIANS are gonna save you?! Go on! Let's see how they save you! GA HA HA!"

That mace SWINGS again -- and the sharpened poles of those tent stakes -drive- into his hamstring and back with -just- enough force to swerve him bodily aside. That mace SMASHES into the ground violently beneath him. A hiss of annoyance looses from his lips.

A second later, he reacts, with every intention of attempting to -snatch- Ida up in his free hand, heft her high into the air...

... and DRIVE her, back-first, into the ground beneath him until he hears something -crack-.

"WHAT are they digging up here, weasel?! I'm gonna find out one way or another! Up to you how many of your friends I SMASH before that happens!"

GS: Berserk has attacked Ethius Hesiod with Flatten!
GS: Berserk has attacked Ida Everstead-Rey with Torment!
GS: Berserk enters CONDITION GREEN!!
GS: Berserk has attacked Lydia Seren with Hellacious Headbutt!
GS: Berserk enters CONDITION GREEN!!
GS: Berserk has attacked Avril Vent Fleur with No Kill Like Overkill!
GS: Berserk has completed his action.
GS: CRITICAL! Lydia Seren guards a hit from Berserk's Hellacious Headbutt for 159 hit points!
GS: Ida Everstead-Rey takes a glancing hit from Berserk's Torment for 86 hit points!
GS: CRITICAL! Avril Vent Fleur takes a glancing hit from Berserk's No Kill Like Overkill for 215 hit points!
GS: Ethius Hesiod takes a glancing hit from Berserk's Flatten for 53 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Ethius Hesiod has posed.

The Quarter Knight does not give quarter. When there is an opening to exploit, they take it - and Ethius has precious little time to react when the enormous brute takes to the air.
  Ethius' head struggles to put together stimuli. His senses are all assaulted by sights that were normalized in times of greater clarity, but to some deep recesses in his psyche, are stand-out. Things like the way Lydia's body changes and moves - he feels strongly about ither herit it's a her not an it her name is Lydia stay standing--
  Incoming. That thought survives the soupy mess of his mind, swinging his healthier arm back to try and yank his balance away from where that giant foot comes in, pivoting and turning over as Berserk crashes into the ailing Filgaia underneath him.
  Loose dirt and sand underneath Berserk's landing erupt as though he were a Kislevi mortar shell... or three. Four. Four Kislevi mortar shells. The Symbologist is carried away with the displaced dirt, incapable of controlling his freefall as he rolls past debris and overturned equipment. It ends with him bloodied, bruised, and covered in dirt, as Berserk's threats reverberate in his ears as his back is turned. His left hand goes to his forehead, his eyes narrowing.
  You are involved in this. Your involvement has meaning. You can't be--
  From the way Berserk's voice 'swings,' he can sorta figure out he's talking to someone else. Why are they switching targets? Coming back up, Ethius clutches his right shoulder, just in time to watch Berserk go about headbutting the young Beastwoman. He straightens his posture.
  He watches them mock the faith of that quiet woman over there. His eyes narrow again.
  He watches them move to pick up the brawling researcher, curious as to know what she's digging up, interfering upon...
  His injured arm fights against searing pain, daring to bend a shoulder that does not want to as he snaps that arm out, doing the proper gestures through that hand as he finishes the incantation with a clarity in his voice he's struggled to take back since he took that hit to his head again.
  "Grave Dust." The lights shine from on and around him, and particulate matter attempts to spontaneously generate itself in the area surrounding - and inside - Berserk. To infest him, to sicken him, with fine dust particles that should not be ever put inside a living body.
  Cruelty to inflict on anyone. Conduct unbefitting of a warrior, more befitting of a desperate, lowly coward.

<Pose Tracker> Zed has posed.

The answer is no. Zed definitely has not ever been taught about manageable bites. The closest thing he's gotten to an education about any appropriate use of his mouth has been...

...Agatha.

...

Morgan feels a solid, meaty THWACK as he so mightily kneecaps the metal demon munching on everyone's favorite courier. Blades of wind tear into him next, buffeting him clear of his metallic meal and spraying great gouts of quicksilver blood across the campsite. Zed growls as he staggers back, but lurches forward before she can properly knock him over. "Khhh. Me, fight Berserk? I don't like spendin' time stuffed in a box, you know? I just... want... FOOODMPH--"

Gwen.

Shoves a bag of... something into Zed's face.

He swallows without even tasting the contents.

...It... Doesn't help him.

He feels something hit his stomach acid.

Zed's eyes widen as he finally learns the true meaning of hell.

MEANWHILE ACROSS THE BATTLEFIELD.

"Who DOESN'T eat grenades?! You're a METAL DEMON, you scrawny little shit! Show some pride, show some SPINE, and EAT SOMETHING DANGEROUS OR I'LL MAKE YOU EAT IT."

Berserk has no idea how on the money he is.

Fortunately, Chapapanga does.

MEANWHILE, BACK IN ZED'S BRAIN.

A multitude of Zeds are scrambling around what appears to be the bridge of the Starship Zedterprise. Cheap pyrotechnics are going off everywhere. Redshirts with green hair throw themselves at flashing consoles as a klaxon blares. "Order!" Zed Prime demands as the screen suddenly shakes, "Order!! What happened!? Zeddy, give me a status report!"

"It's the warp core, cap'n!" A Zed with a distinctly scottish accent yells from... somewhere offscreen. "She cannae take anymore! We need tae dump the before--"

Sparks go off everywhere, the screen fades to white, oh no!!

Zoom out. A vaguely Zed-head-shaped thing sails through space, suspended on very obvious plastic wires.

And then it explodes.

MEANWHILE, IN THE REAL WORLD.

Zed has gone abruptly still. No, that's not quite right. Zed is twitching. There's a distinct wave of red creeping up his neck. "Hot," Zed wheezes as THE SPICE begins taking its toll. The battlefield suddenly seems... different. As if a new pressure were pushing back against the raw presence and personality of everyone's favorite quarter knight. "It's hot," Zed says, his face turning progressively more intense shades of red. "Hot. It's hot. It's so hot. Hot. Hot. Hot. Hothothothothothothot--"

There's... There's steam whistling out of his ears.

He's literally floating off the ground.

The air around him is... rippling. It's suddenly getting very, very, very warm. Zed is literally glowing...!

"Hothothothothothothothothothothothothothot--

Beams of pure ZEDDER RAYS erupt from Zed's mouth as he rises, screaming CULINARY AGONY into the sky...!!

"Hothothothothothothothothothothothothothothothothothothot--"

               IT'S TOO HOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOT!!!

The air around Zed... Explodes with power...!!

It's a big enough boom to swallow up most of the campsite. It's a heat like a newly forged star. It's... It's...

A ZEDDER NOVA!?

...Chiliuminaire?

Zedder Flare???

Well, whatever it is, it's a big boom.

GS: Ethius Hesiod has activated a Force Action!
GS: Ethius Hesiod has attacked Berserk with Grave Dust!
GS: Ethius Hesiod has completed his action.
GS: Zed has attacked Zed with Shocking Twist - Last Revival!
GS: Zed heals Zed! He gains 100 temporary hit points!
GS: CRITICAL! Berserk takes a solid hit from Ethius Hesiod's Grave Dust for 137 hit points!
GS: Disease and Jam! Statuses applied to Berserk!
GS: Zed takes 8 damage from Poison!
GS: Zed has completed his action.
GS: Zed takes 6 damage from Poison!
GS: Zed has completed his action.
GS: Zed has activated a Force Action!
GS: Zed has activated a Force Action!
GS: Zed has attacked Ethius Hesiod with Inner Secret - Heaven's Howl!
GS: Zed has attacked Ida Everstead-Rey with Inner Secret - Heaven's Howl!
GS: Zed has attacked Layna Manydays with Inner Secret - Heaven's Howl!
GS: Zed has attacked Lydia Seren with Inner Secret - Heaven's Howl!
GS: Zed has attacked Avril Vent Fleur with Inner Secret - Heaven's Howl!
GS: Zed has attacked Berserk with Inner Secret - Heaven's Howl!
GS: Zed has attacked Morgan Newkirk with Inner Secret - Heaven's Howl!
GS: Zed has attacked Gwen Whitlock with Inner Secret - Heaven's Howl!
GS: Zed has attacked Zed with Inner Secret - Heaven's Howl!
GS: CRITICAL! Layna Manydays takes a glancing hit from Zed's Inner Secret - Heaven's Howl for 98 hit points!
GS: Zed takes a solid hit from Zed's Inner Secret - Heaven's Howl for 122 hit points!
GS: Berserk takes a solid hit from Zed's Inner Secret - Heaven's Howl for 82 hit points!
DC: MISS! Ida Everstead-Rey completely evades Inner Secret - Heaven's Howl from Zed!
GS: Ethius Hesiod critically Guards a hit from Zed's Inner Secret - Heaven's Howl for 19 hit points!
GS: Lydia Seren critically Guards a hit from Zed's Inner Secret - Heaven's Howl for 19 hit points!
GS: Morgan Newkirk critically Guards a hit from Zed's Inner Secret - Heaven's Howl for 18 hit points!
GS: Gwen Whitlock guards a hit from Zed's Inner Secret - Heaven's Howl for 67 hit points!
GS: CRITICAL! Avril Vent Fleur takes a solid hit from Zed's Inner Secret - Heaven's Howl for 171 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Ida Everstead-Rey has posed.

Not quite five hours earlier, Ida had a talk with Lily, and she did not leave the meeting in high spirits. She went back to her room, got dressed for the trail, and rode out into the wastes, headed to this very camp. She has had entirely too much time to think about what Lily told her while she was drunk--while she was being honest, Ida has reminded herself, over and over.

Berserk grabs her. He's big enough that his hand can close around most of her upper body, and he plucks her off the ground with no effort at all. That massive arm drives her forwards into the dirt. Dust and dry earth spray into the air. The flame caused by Zed's close encounter with Aunt Frea's special recipe washes over both of them, but Berserk--in his infinite generosity--takes the hit for her on account of being much larger, and also pressing her into the dirt.

There is no crack. Ida lies still a moment, eyes closed tightly as she focuses on the sun-warmth suffusing her body, reinforcing her skin, bone, and muscle. Then Berserk turns away to deal with Ethius, and Ida rises from the crater he put her in, somehow still in one piece. A thought strikes her.

"You're not taking it," Ida says, her lips pulling tight. "You rusty old war relic!" She suddenly surges forwards, going from stillness to motion in a heartbeat. Her right arm lashes forwards, striking like the business end of a pile-driver, sending her fist on a collision course with Berserk's gut. Golden motes dance around her clenched fingers, a visible indication of the chi behind it.

This is the strike that killed Brother Mathias. What can it do against Berserk?

GS: Ida Everstead-Rey has attacked Berserk with Steel-Breaking Fist!
GS: Ida Everstead-Rey has completed her action.
GS: CRITICAL! Berserk takes a glancing hit from Ida Everstead-Rey's Steel-Breaking Fist for 77 hit points!
GS: Lydia Seren has attacked Berserk with Meteor Crash!
GS: Lydia Seren has attacked Zed with Meteor Crash!
GS: Lydia Seren has completed her action.
<Pose Tracker> Lydia Seren has posed.

Dangerous like...like beans? Peppers? Apparently... judging from what Zed does a moment later.

But that's a moment later. In the now, Lydia fails to protect her skull. It's not something she needed to do before since her head was nearly indestructable. Now her head is considerably more destructable since it's made out off flesh and bone rather than hardened rock though really, even Rock-head Lydia would have had a hard time resisting the rock-headedness of Berserk. Her head snaps back on impact, Beserk shattering off one of her horns halfway on impact and sending her crashing to the ground, clutching her wounded horn in agony, screaming and sobbing. It was just a headbutt from this guy. Imagine if she had gotten hit by the mace. It's still a devastating blow, though.

Lydia curls up into a ball and sobs at the pain, allowing Berserk to just bounce away and clobber Avril too while he's at it. Howling in agony, Lydia doesn't contribute much to the battle while Zed unleashes waves of lasers around the battlefield. The lasers don't hit her directly but do send more dust slamming into her while she's down, slowing her recovery further.

Panting for breath, Lydia grabs for her medium. The medium of Rigdobrite. "You think you're so tough..." She wheezes, too hurt, upset, and angry to care about taunting a Quarter Knight. "Looking down on the Guardians. I'll show you their power....just a taste of it!"

A swarm of meteors shortly join the Zed lasers in the sky but--

--Oh, actually, their course seems to be very directly focused on Berserk and Zed. Lydia doesn't know much abuot Zed but does know that thanks to him showing up here, Berserk is here too. That's enough for her.

GS: Berserk takes a glancing hit from Lydia Seren's Meteor Crash for 80 hit points!
GS: Zed takes a glancing hit from Lydia Seren's Meteor Crash for 91 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Layna Manydays has posed.

"Well, lad, look at it this way - I bet a lot of folks here don't want that either, but if no one stops 'im, that's what they'll get. And unlike you, they won't be gettin' out of it." Layna says shaking her head...

...Just as Gwen stuffs a supply of something into Zed's mouth. There's a reaction. Did it make him more powerful...?

No, it's just the heat.

And what a heat it is. It engulfs the entire campsite. It engulfs Layna. She looks like she's just walked through a burning building - she's singed all over, and there's a little fire burning steadily away at the tip of the feather in her hat.

She blinks once. Blinks again.

And then, charges at Zed. And then, right as she's right in front of him...she disappears, leaving a puff of flame in her wake.

And suddenly she's behind him, a powerful punch aimed right at his back.

In actuality she's trying to drive the peppers right out of him. Little does she know it's far too late for that, but the gesture is a nice one, at least.

Or at least it would be, if she wasn't also partially trying to knock him out.

GS: Layna Manydays has attacked Zed with Dead Men Tell No Tales!
GS: Layna Manydays has completed her action.
GS: Zed takes a glancing hit from Layna Manydays's Dead Men Tell No Tales for 82 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Avril Vent Fleur has posed.

The plea may have been meant for another being to answer. But while Lucadia does indeed answer the call--

Lucadia -- presence receding like the tide -- is not the only thing that answers Avril's invocation. A haze of sea mist still lingers in the air as Avril lowers the Medium.
As Berserk comes crashing down before her.
Followed swiftly by the mace. Unarmed save for a strange metal disc, Avril has little option in the split-second that follows but to dart sidelong, an attempt to get away from the heavy crushing weapon.

It even almost works. But, as they say, close is only good in horseshoes. The edge of the swinging weapon clips her proverbial wings, drags her under into the pocket of shockwave crushing steel.

There is a scream. It gets cut off quickly.

For most people, this would be it. But as much as the invocation of Lucadia's blessing had dragged Berserk's full terrible attention to her, it also shields Avril from a portion of his wrath.
But this also means there's none of it left by the time the dust rises from the impact site. Avril, who has clearly seen better days, crawls free -- still alive, still breathing -- as Ida buys her time, rips Berserk's attention from her just long enough.

Enough time to finally reach Absolute Zero and cradle it in her hand. Enough time to consider the battle as it continues to rage. Enough time to consider her own state.

"I think... I may be reckless, too, Dean," she murmurs, rising to her feet after tucking both items she holds safely away. "But I cannot retreat. Not yet."

She should be terrified. And yet.

"I do not think," she speaks, raising her voice, "that the Guardians will save me. We are allies for the sake of this world, not my saviors!"

The battered, bleeding young woman produces with almost-too-well-timed flourish an entirely different and far more rough-hewn make.

"Aru Solato," she intones simply, the heat of the battlefield dampening precipitously around her. "Please, lend me your aid."

There are parts of the world that have never -- not in hundreds, thousands of years -- known anything but the cold. It reaches deep, wraps swathes of land in its embrace.

The eruption of the Guardian of Ice into this realm, however fleeting, drags with it the abiding chill of this aspect of Filgaia, its beastly maw wide with puffs of frosting fog. With one swipe of a taloned paw, a series of columns of ancient ice erupt from the ground below.
All around Berserk.

Breathing hard, a streak of blood wicking down one side of her face as the Guardian fades, Avril wavers for a moment on her feet.

Zed rises in the air, glowing with a terrible power.

Light.
Heat.

Any chill the Guardian might leave behind won't last long. Avril herself sways like someone who has overimbibed as roll of lasers pass, before something in her quits and she collapses to her knees there in the field.

GS: Avril Vent Fleur has attacked Berserk with Material - Primeval Frost!
GS: Avril Vent Fleur has completed her action.
GS: Berserk takes a glancing hit from Avril Vent Fleur's Material - Primeval Frost for 84 hit points!
GS: Poison! Statuses applied to Berserk!
<Pose Tracker> Morgan Newkirk has posed.


"Gwen what are you---Gwen...what is in the pouc---GWEN WHAT DID YOU FEED HIM?!"

Because hovering and blasting light and heat everywhere is not a normal responce to food. He should know. He has been around long enough to see a lot of responces to food. BUT NO. THIS IS A NEW ONE ON MORGAN.

So he takes a step back, he reinforces his shield to combat the waves rolling off the metal demon. But he doesn't back down. Instead he reaches over and detaches the mace from the back of his ARM.

...which is a new one on anyone looking.

As he does so the weapon shifts, into something more axe like. The metal of the ARM on his...arm...shifting into the form of a shield. Energy fields spreading out from its center as he raises the weapon and...brings the flat down in an arc towards the head of the spiced up metal demon.

"Go to sleep Zed!"

GS: Morgan Newkirk has attacked Zed with Hell to Pay!
GS: Morgan Newkirk has completed his action.
GS: Zed takes a solid hit from Morgan Newkirk's Hell to Pay for 163 hit points!
GS: Morgan Newkirk drains Zed! Morgan Newkirk gains 162 temporary hit points!
GS: Zed has Fallen! He is no longer able to fight!
<Pose Tracker> Gwen Whitlock has posed.

The moment Gwen is able to pull back her precious right hand from out of Zed's mouth, she quickly does so, shaking the feel of his TEETH from her knuckles. Thank goodness her gloves are thick. Those fangs of his aren't just to make him look cheeky.

Pacing away in those precious innocent moments before the Zedpocalypse begins, Gwen blinks. "Hey, uh... Zed... you okay?"

Did she overdo i-

--MEANWHILE--

Frea looks up from her studies, and squints at the sky.

Nothing is there, of course, as she's not that close by, but still, she can't help but feel the need to make a small, coy smile as she looks upon the strains of pepper plants in the garden just outside her window.

--BACK TO GWEN--

PAIN. The courier goes flying back, her eyesight showing a negative afterimage of Zed just before the blast erupts. Falling on her back, Gwen blindly looks towards in the direction of Morgan's voice. "It's Auntie's spice mix! She likes things to be spicy!" This is yelled at the top of her voice as Zed screams and lasers shoot overhead.

  Guardians, she didn't know that stuff was this powerful.

And she *still* can't see.

"CUT IT OUT, DAMN IT!" Charging up her ARM, Gwen presses the crackling, shaking hand outwards, aiming it towards... man, she can't really tell. She assumes he was over here. "OUTTA THE WAY, GUYS!" she yells, pointing her charging laser ARM...

... towards Berserk. She fires, letting loose a beam of horizontal lightning straight at the *other* Quarter Knight present.

Close enough.

GS: Gwen Whitlock has activated a Force Action!
GS: Gwen Whitlock has attacked Berserk with Corona Discharge!
GS: Gwen Whitlock has completed her action.
GS: CRITICAL! Berserk takes a glancing hit from Gwen Whitlock's Corona Discharge for 77 hit points!
GS: Disrupt and Jam! Statuses applied to Berserk!
<Pose Tracker> Berserk has posed.

It's hot.

"Shut it, twerp. Some of us are doing important work."

It's so hot. Hot. Hot. Hothothothothothothot--

"Shut the hell up! You ate it, now STOMACH IT, you little shit!"

Hothothothothothothothothothothothothothot--

"I swear to Mother--"

Hothothothothothothothothothothothothothothothothothothot--

"--okay, that is IT, you noisy runt! It's TOO HOT?! THEN I'LL RIP OUT YOUR SAD LITTLE DIGESTIVE TRACT, HOW DOES THAT SOU--"

Three things happen in shockingly short order. The first, Berserk's attention swerves from Ida towards Zed just as his irritation reaches its zenith, hand pawing at his wrecking ball with intent to clobber.

The second, the feeling of matter -generating itself- inside of his body, the tiny particles of entropy in action spontaneously existing within him just as they corrode outside of him. The Quarter Knight lets out a choking sound amidst his hollar of rage, cut off with a spit of hazy gray into the air to blot the air around him with dust. He draws clawed hands at his throat, fury stoking in his smoldering gaze.

And then the third.

                             BOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOM

The Zedder Nova, of course.

The explosion, combined with the unsettling deterioration of dust within his body, is enough to consume and -unseat- Berserk, launching him off of Ida Everstead-Rey and into the air with a furious howl as light and heat and pain laps at him from within and without. The explosion envelopes him, makes it so difficult to see him -- but those meteorites know exactly where to hit.

They burn, crackling through the air. And amidst the blistering white shockwave, just as it begins to dissipate --

--they COLLIDE with the shine of heat in one impressive explosion that, combined with the sudden blistering arc of plasmic lightning CRACKLING from Gwen Whitlock's ARM, builds off the rising crescendo of heat building off the Metal Demon's body...

... which makes the combination strike of Guardians' power all the more effective as the sharp contrast of ice rakes itself across the superheated space that Berserk finds himself hidden within.

Metal, heated, finds that heat swiftly robbed in a rapid exchange of temperatures that causes armor to warp, crack and shatter, only heard but not seen within the mass of dust and dirt in the wake of the meteors' explosions. There is nothing. Nothing but silence.

And within the debris field, as dust settles around concaved earth, blasted and cracked -- there kneels Berserk, frost clinging to his horns and scaley metal flesh, armor broken and sundered.

A thin crackline forming along his wrecking ball like a scar.

A scar that has never been worn on Berserk's weapon in all its thousands of years of life.

He remains there, kneeling, his head bowed as Ida shouts after him. You're not taking it! she hollars as she surges forward towards him, that golden-danced fist driving forward with the power of life itself fueling its momentum. He does not try to budge. He does not try to move. This is a strike that killed Brother Mathias. What can it do against Berserk?

CRACK

"... Where is it."

Lesser.

The blow BOOMS across the battlefield, shockwaves -ripping- from the impact point. Berserk's body bends forward with the blow; even kneeled as he is, he is larger than the human from Guild Galad, and the lurch of his body is more like a loom as the remnants of his chilled armor splinter and snap away. The exhale of his breath comes frosty and laced with bile. His words, dripping colder than the winter chill surrounding him. Ida's fist, buried in his gut, gets some visceral satisfaction from striking metal flesh with enough of an impact to make it bent.

"Where. Is. It."

Before the wrecking ball comes down.

Ida is dead center for the first blow. For the second. None of them aimed at her, but close enough that the titanic strength behind it will hit her full bore if she does not move. And he SMASHES that mace, again and again, into the earth.

And everything. Everything. Quakes around his fury.

"WHERE IS IT! WHERE! GIVE IT TO ME!"

Every SMASH blows a shockwave throughout the grounds. Every smash makes earth sunder. Every smash threatens to engulf anyone too close within Berserk's fury as he roars out.

It is a tantrum.

But it is a tantrum that is making the earth literally quake beneath him.

GS: Berserk has activated a Force Action!
GS: Berserk has activated a Force Action!
GS: Berserk has activated a Force Action!
GS: Berserk has attacked Avril Vent Fleur with I'm Gonna Wreck It!
GS: Berserk has attacked Ethius Hesiod with I'm Gonna Wreck It!
GS: Berserk has attacked Gwen Whitlock with I'm Gonna Wreck It!
GS: Berserk has attacked Ida Everstead-Rey with I'm Gonna Wreck It!
GS: Berserk has attacked Layna Manydays with I'm Gonna Wreck It!
GS: Berserk has attacked Lydia Seren with I'm Gonna Wreck It!
GS: Berserk has attacked Morgan Newkirk with I'm Gonna Wreck It!
GS: Layna Manydays has activated a Force Action!
GS: Layna Manydays takes a glancing hit from Berserk's I'm Gonna Wreck It for 119 hit points!
GS: Gwen Whitlock guards a hit from Berserk's I'm Gonna Wreck It for 139 hit points!
DC: MISS! Avril Vent Fleur completely evades I'm Gonna Wreck It from Berserk!
GS: CRITICAL! Ida Everstead-Rey takes a glancing hit from Berserk's I'm Gonna Wreck It for 205 hit points!
GS: CRITICAL! Morgan Newkirk guards a hit from Berserk's I'm Gonna Wreck It for 244 hit points!
GS: CRITICAL! Ethius Hesiod guards a hit from Berserk's I'm Gonna Wreck It for 205 hit points!
GS: Lydia Seren critically Guards a hit from Berserk's I'm Gonna Wreck It for 48 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Zed has posed.

The good thing is that Zed doesn't, in fact, respond to Berserk's horrible mean and hurtful words.

The bad news is that this is entirely because he just got clonked on the head.

No, not just by a big ol' metal shield or a suckerpunch from behind. There was a falling rock involved, too. A great, big boulder from on high that just kind of smashed into his noggin. By the time the dust clears, Zed is still standing...

Except there's a rock that seems to have lodged itself clear over his head and face and... everything above his shoulders, basically!! Lydia might just feel a distinct sense of nostalgia and maybe just a bit of deja vu.

Regardless, it seems that between the damage Zed has already taken, the wear and tear that wandering the wilderness and starving all the way can inflict on a body, and the fact that his stomach has basically just self-destructed, Zed...

Is mercifully unconscious when Berserk decides to temper-tantrum into the ground.

But somewhere, deep in our hearts, we know... We know that somehow, this is all Zed's fault...!

Even if it's not, he's just a convenient scapegoat like that.

<Pose Tracker> Ida Everstead-Rey has posed.

Suffice it to say, Berserk's armor is not in pristine shape after Avril and Zed unintentionally subjected it to extreme stress via thermal expansion. Nevertheless, there's something viscerally satisfying about feeling it crunch beneath one's knuckles, and feeling the flesh beneath give. Is this what drives Berserk? Ida's going to think on that later, but first she needs to survive the next five minutes.

'Where is it.'

"As though I'd tell you," Ida says, but that's all she gets out. Berserk lashes out with force that would be shockingly excessive coming from just about anyone else, and she's dead-center. Ida crosses her arms across her chest, steps to the side, tries to twist her body with the blow. She breathes, and all but forces her chi flow into overdrive. Energy boils up into her skin again, strengthening it--and it is enough to keep her from being crushed. It sends her flying anyway. Ida goes tumbling across the sand like an errant cricket ball, sailing a good ten or so yards before hitting the ground and skidding. She lies there a moment, a distinctly unpleasant pain alerting her to bruised ribs. She can breathe, but it hurts.

The world spins and trembles as Ida rises, and takes stock of her surroundings--lots of broken wood, torn canvas that used to be the supply tent, a fire that's still going--

And a perfectly normal-seeming unmarked crate. Ida looks back at Berserk, then at the crate, then at Berserk again. She stumbles over to it, grabs one of the side-handles, and hefts it off the ground. Her shoulder immediately starts protesting, but Ida works through it. Carrying the crate, she starts running after the fleeing researchers.

<Pose Tracker> Ethius Hesiod has posed.

The Zedder Nova unleashes a great wave of fire and light across the campsite that is now a fresh new scar upon Filgaia in the ongoing war between the Metal Demons and all the people that live upon the planet. Ethius makes no noticeable defense against the scorching air that washes around him. He casts something of a nefarious silhouette as he withstands the swirling dust and smoldering heat that surrounds him. A sense that this kind of element - surrounded by fiery, smoky ruin - were the sort of picture he was meant to be painted into as his poncho sways in the displaced air of the explosion.
  Ethius stands and watches the collision of many powers. Meteors, electrical beams, ice, shockwaves from an impact that pops Ethius' ears. Nothing short of everyone's best, to repel the unstoppable force that is Berserk. With a moment to recollect himself, the Symbologist considers the next move, the next spell--
  Berserk hefts that ball again, and a man who might have enjoyed a moment of temporary superiority finds that no such thing exists. The mace-wielding warrior has lived across the span of many, many human generations. All it takes is that first slam against the ground - well a ways away - to remind them.
  The shockwave from that first blow throws Ethius off of his feet, and once more colliding bodily against the ground. Again. And again. And again. It is a ceaseless scenario.
  His right fist clenches. Another surge of pain goes up his shoulder. The quarterstaff that dropped off of his person from when he was glanced by that ball pops into his grip. Taking it in the left hand, he is flipped once more into the air by one of the shockwaves...
  He forces his right hand to grip the shaft, and stabs it into the ground as his knees take the brunt of the fall. He stabs it down as deep as he can manage. Under the gloves, his knuckles are ready to pop right out of their skin. The shockwave rattles his very bones to try and keep a grip, as blood pours down his forehead. He has to hold on tight to survive the onslaught.
  Ethius tests the fingers of his left hand, gauging whether he can get in the gestures with his fingers without compromising the grip he has on the thing that's largely keeping him tethered to the ground. He decides yes, leading with his left hand as he chants through what sounds like clenched teeth and gasping air. Each syllable stings to recite, but at the end of it, he breaks his hand off for just long enough to finish the incantation...
  "Overheat." He finishes the spell, to the same lights that surround him, as he turns up the heat once more upon Berserk - intending to once more try and sap some of that endless wellspring of strength, fury, and anger by attempting to physically exhaust him through this raised temperature - but risking being cast off into the air by shockwaves again by sacrificing that grip, should they persist in being made.

GS: Ethius Hesiod has activated a Force Action!
GS: Ethius Hesiod has attacked Berserk with Overheat!
GS: Ethius Hesiod has completed his action.
GS: CRITICAL! Berserk takes a solid hit from Ethius Hesiod's Overheat for 93 hit points!
GS: Weaken and Jam! Statuses applied to Berserk!
<Pose Tracker> Lydia Seren has posed.

THe thing about relying on your anger and hurt is that the adrenaline rush is very temporary. Still, Lydia has one last trick up her sleeve. She gets two mediums, after all--And she does tend to use them back to back.

She snags out the Solais Emsu tablet this time--and Solais Emsu responds.

Lydia leaps through the air with sudden aerodynamic capability--calling upon the Sky Guardian to get up and largely out of the way of the tantrum. And that's not all--The Guardian itself appears in the sky, a large man in a turban wearing wing-like capes fanning out a pattern of several white penta-gram like sgils in the sky before beams coalesces from each sigil into a single point that THEN bursts down upon Berserk from above in a large white death beam.

Lydia's squints her eyes. Regenerate, regenerate it. You've done dumber shit before, you weird ass silver blood.

But for the moment it doesn't. She's already pushing herself to the max just to stay on her feet.

GS: Lydia Seren has attacked Berserk with Material - Solais Emsu!
GS: Lydia Seren has completed her action.
GS: CRITICAL! Berserk takes a glancing hit from Lydia Seren's Material - Solais Emsu for 78 hit points!
GS: Poison, Cripple, Jam, and Mute! Statuses applied to Berserk!
<Pose Tracker> Morgan Newkirk has posed.


Well. That worked better than he hoped. Though Morgan did not expect his blow to be followed by a rock like that. In fact he is a little bit worried for Zed. As heads are not supposed to do that. I mean really he doesn't know how Metal Demons work but that just seems wrong it does...

Unfortunately his pondering on the working of Metal Demon heads and shoulders distracts him at just the wrong moment.

That moment would be when Berserk throws a tantrum.

The ground buckles in ways that he just not right as the piece of the once stable earth under Morgan shift dramatically upward...catapulting the fox into the sky to crash down. Headfirst into a tangle of tents, boxes, artifacts, and other heavy things that don't ever need to be smashed into headfirst.

"...well. This is awkward." Is the last thing he says before he smashes groundwards, and then? Then he doesn't remember the rest. Because he is out of it.

Moral of the story. Berserk tantrums hurt.

<Pose Tracker> Layna Manydays has posed.

It looks like that was enough to take Zed out of the equation...but Layna can't rest easily just yet, as Berserk decides to do what his name implies.

That gigantic mace slams down repeatedly into the ground. Over and over again it slams. Being hit by it would be a death sentence, but even being somewhere in the vicinity isn't enough to save anyone. Earth and stone is torn apart as quakes rock through the land, sent flying. Layna jumps into the air to try to avoid it, but even so some of it still manages to collide with her, knocking her to the ground once more.

But while she was up there, she spotted something - Ida was trying to get away with...something, along with some of the other researchers.

Layna doesn't know what's in the box. She just figures that Berserk is probably going to try and go after it. She recites an incantation quickly, sending out blades of wind that seek Berserk as she starts to move.

Actually blocking the path would be a dangerous, potentially fatal move. But she can sure still try to act as a distraction.

GS: Layna Manydays has attacked Berserk with Cutlass Gale!
GS: Layna Manydays has completed her action.
GS: Berserk takes a glancing hit from Layna Manydays's Cutlass Gale for 65 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Avril Vent Fleur has posed.

She barely has time to gasp as she impacts the ground, heavy-lidded eyes opening a touch blearily as she focuses herself forward and into alertness.

One thing has become the center of her attention. Berserk, as he begins to vent his frustrations -- make his demands -- in the most violent means possible.
Again and again, the weapon impacts the earth, setting her bones and teeth arattle.
Even under the best of conditions this is the sort of attack that could have grievously wounded, if not killed, her. Right now, runs the mental calculus in her mind, it will just take one strike to...

Avril rises to her feet amidst the continuous insults against the camp, the earth. One Medium is traded for another.

It's said that necessity is the mother of invention. On her knees in what had been the lively campground of an expedition team just an hour ago, bearing serious wounds, Avril could perhaps agree with that statement.
That, or necessity is the mother of desperate maneuvers.

The hammer falls, seconds extending their way into hours.

Like a dolphin arcing above the waves, Avril rises, a brief denial of gravity and weight granted by the blessing of the Sea Medium in her hands.
Briefly, she can feel the rush of the weapon as it swings right past her in its descent, a rip of force that sends her hair billowing out behind her.

For an instant, Avril has a different vantage point of the battlefield. She sees Ida running--

It takes a second of calculation as she passes the shallow apex of her enhanced leap to realize what's happening. One second more to rip Absolute Zero out, and still another to pull the trigger.

Light bursts from the ARM, arcing out at Berserk as she completes her descent.

GS: Avril Vent Fleur has attacked Berserk with Absolute Zero - Plasma Arc!
GS: Avril Vent Fleur has completed her action.
GS: Berserk takes a glancing hit from Avril Vent Fleur's Absolute Zero - Plasma Arc for 145 hit points!
GS: Berserk enters CONDITION GREEN!!
<Pose Tracker> Gwen Whitlock has posed.

"Did I hit anybody I shouldn't have?!" This is not a good thing to yell right after you've just fired your giant 'screw off' plasma laser ultra beam, but Gwen's eyesight is slowly coming back. Slowly. "Is Zed down yet? I tried to aim for nothin' too bad! Kinda! I think! Zed's lasers blinded me!"

'Where. Is. It.'

Gwen's ultimate answer comes in the rumbling ground as Berserk throws his tantrum, her recovering sight being treated to a potentially vertigo-inducing rumbling of the ground, the campsite being thrown about like wooden toys at the thrashing of a four year old.

That, and the graceful arc of Avril, as she manages to *dodge* the worst of Berserk's onslaught, as well as take out her ARM, aim, and shoot. "... Whoah..."

And beyond that, an unconscious Morgan, a wind-slinging Layna, and a Guardian-slinging(?) Lydia.

And ultimately, the detail that seals it all- the fleeing Ida, important crate in tow.

A far less artful and much more disheveled Gwen then blunders to her feet. Well. Yeah, it's just going to be a rough night.

It's suicide to get this close to an angry Berserk, but Gwen's going to try anyway, running up to the (hopefully) distracted Berserk with a careful, strategic strike that will leave him unable to pursue after Ida.

However, this being the woman who shoved a hot pepper spice mix into Zed's mouth, it's really none of those things.

"Surprise!" Gwen attempts to shove her open right hand into Berserk's face, almost as if she was trying to lightly slap him.

Instead, she just tries to fire a bright pulse of light right against his eyes.

A light slap, really.

GS: Gwen Whitlock has attacked Berserk with Blinded By the Light!
GS: Gwen Whitlock has completed her action.
GS: CRITICAL! Berserk takes a glancing hit from Gwen Whitlock's Blinded By the Light for 86 hit points!
GS: Jam! Statuses applied to Berserk!
<Pose Tracker> Berserk has posed.

Fissures line the earth, hissing dust and dirt and heat into the air as the Quarter Knight known as Berserk slowly drags himself up onto his feet. He looks calmer -- but calm means very little in the face of the many forms of rage Berserk is capable of expressing.

For a moment, he stares at the long scar running down his mace, his expression unreadable and impassive. His fingers tighten along the circular surface of alien metal until they tremble.

"... This better have what he needs to get the Rod running, or I swear someone's gonna hurt."

Glowing yellow eyes burn through the haze of dust as Berserk turns that baleful stare of his onto Ida. He pivots, slowly, upon his head, one brow hefting as she grabs that crate off the earth. His head tilts. He snorts.

And Berserk starts to move.

He does not stop. Not when the symbological charge of heat washes over him, attempting to sap him of strength through the fluctuations of magically-charged molecules through the air.

He does not stop. Not even as Gwen Whitlock rushes into his defenses with that flash of light, briefly blinding him; he snarls, furious, but seeks to do nothing less than -swat- her aside like a furious horse swatting at a fly. Light blisters and blinks at his yellow gaze. He focuses on the sound. And he keeps -charging-.

He does not stop. Not when blades of wind slice at his magically-cooked flesh, not when they try to deter and distract him. He -runs- right into them, accepting the damage, shouldering the pain, with the monomaniacal focus of a creature OBSESSED, a creature DEDICATED. The focus of a zealot.

And he does not stop, not even when that detestable Sky Guardian makes itself known, raining magical power from above in a searing white beam that SCARS the land in an angry shriek. Joined with the searing light of Avril's unusual, impossible ARM, it -blazes- through him in a perfectly unrelenting tandem, burning at his scaled flesh, searing scorch marks at his body, engulfing him in two shining pillars of dueling light...

And as he bursts through the burning radiance with a blood-curdling roar, he keeps charging.

He does. Not. -Stop-.

Not until he is upon Ida. Not until he is seeking to -grab- that crate with one hand and knock her -violently- aside with the other. Not until he is -lunging- away to full, impossible heights, soaring through the air with one mighty leap...

... which provides just the amount of clearance needed for no one else to get caught in the blast radius as a crate full of rigged TNT goes off in a fantastic fireball of blisteringly kinetic proportions.

A smoking body goes flying from the heated, fiery depths in the sky.

BOOM

"GRAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA--"

SMASH

It would be best to evacuate now.

Because if one thought Berserk was mad before, when he recovers from -this- kind of mockery, well.

There are no words for his fury.

<Pose Tracker> Ethius Hesiod has posed.

The hard poudning of the ground by the mace may have stopped - but Berserk's pacing does not. There is a certain weight to those steps that makes one's bones shiver as much as an earthquake-force mace slam itself might. Ethius clutches the planted quarterstaff tightly in anticipation of another tantrum as the unstoppable Quarter Knight goes on the move. He can't take his safety for granted even when Berserk's heading is at a trajectory going away from him.
  There yet remains the matter that it is sundown, and that the lot of them could be beset by any manner of large, strange, deadly constructs... or maybe that there could be more waiting in the wings.
  "Fall back." From where he stands relative to most everyone else - somewhat far away - it's questionable that these words can even be heard. Ears must be ringing among everyone. He's got a bandanna over the lower half of his face. His breath is labored. He would rather not find out what injuries he's been toughing out through sheer adrenaline and whatever circumstance in his past has seen him become so hardened against (most) forms of physical and mental hardship while he's out on the field, exposed.
  His left hand hangs onto one of the satchels for three seconds longer than he would usually take to decide to take it in hand and cast the proper incantations and gestures to activate a Powder Grenade. He's not sure he could take himself away fast enough to make the smoke screen count, or what - exactly - he would hope to distract or disorient with the smoke cloud, but such are among his basic instincts.
  One last Symbological cast later, the satchel erupts in a cloud of dust, smoke, and other nastiness that's awful to the eyes, nose, lungs, and sensitive electronic equipment as he takes off somewhere that's not quite jogging, but not quite limping.
  It's no time to stand around and ask how everyone's doing, or to lick their wounds - they need to get out of here, now.

<Pose Tracker> Layna Manydays has posed.

<poem>"Damn, can anything put down this blaggard...?" Layna hisses through her teeth. Nothing seems to stop Berserk when he's set on his goal. Her earlier assessment was right - if she had tried to get in his way, she probably would've been run right over.

Probably a good thing that she decided to go with her magic, then.

He gets to Ida, and Layna grits her teeth as he shoves her aside and steals the crate. It wasn't the worst thing that could have happened, but whatever it was...

Oh.

Berserk grabs the crate, and jumps into the air before becoming an impromptu firework. Layna smirks, but she doesn't stop. No, after seeing the kind of punishment he could take, she would be surprised if that put him down. No, she has a feeling he's going to be very angry once he's worked himself out of whatever crater he's ended up in. She decides it's best to get out of here as quickly as possible.