2018-03-04: Fly Me To The Moon

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===============================<* Lost July *>================================

The Seed City of July was once one of the strongest of them. Built near the mountains, it was scenic and imposing (for the Badlands). Fifty years ago, though, a mysterious event destroyed it. Now, Lost July is shattered. A crater is carved through half of the city. The city's streets are a tangle of broken and collapsed buildings. The few souls who venture here are often dangerous, mad, or both. Some whisper that Lost July is a refuge for those who would rather not be caught in civilization.

BGM: None.
DC: Elhaym van Houten switches forms to Vierge!
DC: Hiro switches forms to Evil Lieutenant Hiro!
<Pose Tracker> Heldalf has posed.

A column of Malevolence reaches into the very heavens.

It leaves confusion and chaos in its wake. The central platform, linking the two now-broken towers, suddenly has a battlefield upon it. Dozens of confused soldiers collapse in a heap; their blue and red tabards torn, their armor broken, their clothing stained with blood. In their midst, though, is a figure of that one could not mistake for human: a massive, man, standing nearly ten feet in height. His body is clad in jet black armor, with white lining -- but past the armor is a churning voice of purple energy.

Smoke wafts away from his tail, his cloak, and his very movements. He is a being of energy as much as flesh, and it is only a mane and beard of lion-like hair that marks him as anything like a human. But he is no human.

He is the Lord of Calamity.

He looks around his new surroundings in confusion, for a moment -- and then a proud grin breaks across his face, as he turns. Many back away; a few heroic Drifters may rush in. Slowly, a grin spreads across his face. But he misses something behind him. Earlier, there was a /click/.

Behind him, a stone structure raises up.

<Pose Tracker> Lucia has posed.

Lucia only has eyes for that structure.

The blue-haired woman doesn't walk, she runs for it. Her crystal blue eyes are locked on it: a three-part, waist-high console of stone. There are numerous buttons on it, each engraved with Elw runes, and a crystal at the center of each. The console lifts into place and locks with another click. One could not say, precisely, how she came in--it was through one of the underlying passageways.

But now that she sees it, she gasps. She looks over her shoulder, and calls out. "Hiro!" she says. "This... this will be useful. I believe I can operate this. With it, I believe I can send this..."

She turns, and looks at Heldalf. Nevermind that he looks back at her.

She ignores him, in that calm, controlled, and not quite human way of hers. "...creature back to the Silver Star. You shall provide me the time necessary. I may also require assistance in this. I--"

<Pose Tracker> Heldalf has posed.

"I think not."

When Heldalf speaks, it is with an impossibly deep voice. Those who knew Georg Heldalf would not think this the same man: Malevolence has altered his voice as much as his body, giving it an unnatural deepness and reverb that nature could not provide. The Lord of Calamity raises an outstretched hand -- and red fire, tinged with black and purple, swirl about it. It coalesces, twisting until it forms a coherent shape. A bolt of red flame.

"I am the Lord of Calamity. I am the bringer of ruin and sorrow--of release and death, of the only salvation that exists for our kind. I knew not that life existed upon the Blue Star..."

The fire reflects in Lucia's eyes as it grows larger, and those eyes grow wider.

"...but wherever there is life, I claim it. It is mine! My dominion! MY DOMAIN!"

The blast of fire goes screaming towards Lucia, bright and true, as Heldalf screams his defiance to the world.

        MISSION OBJECTIVE:
        Activate the Elw teleporter and send Heldalf back to Lunar.

OOC: Up to six characters can join Lucia in the Digger to activate the Elw teleporter. The others must defend them from the Lord of Calamity! If a Digger is knocked out, they will be forced to leave the party, so you may want to heal and buff them -- they cannot take Gunslinger actions! Hiro, Jean, and Lemina get first pick on whether they Gunsling or Dig. After that, we will let people make their choice.

<Pose Tracker> Agatha Pyrelight has posed.

 A pool of darkness flows together ahead of and slightly to the side of Heldalf, and a moment later the Pyre Witch takes shape. Rising from the pool of darkness, Agatha gracefully decends to one knee, sweeping her broad brimmed witch's hat to one side as she genuflects before the massive leonoid Hellion.
 
 "My lord Heldalf," she states with a respectful tone of voice. "Allow me to be the first to welcome the Lord of Calamity to the Blue Star." Her black eyes rise slightly, an amused smile tracing itself across the Pyre Witch's face. "You have arrived at a most opportune moment - many of those who would oppose your dominion are already gathered, and all you must do is reap them as wheat before the scythe.
 
 "I believe of particular interest to you is that blue haired young woman - the one that the Church of Althena has proclaimed the 'Lord of Calamity'." The irony and amusement from that statement simply drips from Agatha's voice, even as the leonoid Hellion unleashes a huge blast of flame towards Lucia. In way of... suggestion, Agatha adds, "While she is not one of us, she has been touched by a considerable amount of malevolence. Rather than destroying her, I believe if you would work your will upon her, it would only be a matter of time until she turned to our side."

<Pose Tracker> Tzadkiel (Airship) has posed.

A few moments ago aboard the Tzadkiel, everything had been going according to plan.

"We've locked onto the guardian statue." One operator reported from a console glass-paneled console display, "All energy systems are nominal, approach is within 5 clicks..."

All of a sudden, an alarm begins to sound on all decks of the ship. The bridge is flooded with alternating hues of red light as all manner of previously normal environmental reading begin to go haywire. The chatter of operators grows increasingly panicked as the Tzadkiel's infallible sensor technology relays information that contradicts fundamental fact.

"What's happening?! Status report!" The Commander's voice demands.

"We're....detecting a spatial distortion in the battlefield below. The effect is localized, but the energy signature between those towers is....nearly identical to dimensional phase shifting!"

"Impossible! Only Etrenank possesses that technology, and the nearest gate is-"

"M-massive gravity fluctuations detected!" A female voice shouted in alarm, "We've lost our lock on the statue! Surface anomalies forming in space-time!"

 "But that defies all known laws of physics!" Said the Operator aside her, until he looked at the woman's screen with widening eyes. "The mass...these numbers are completely inconsistent!"

"Calculating phase telemetry....this must be a mistake, the distance is astronomical! We can't map it to any location on Filgaia!"

 "Whatever it is, the energy readings are off the chart! It's coming into physical space! Commander!"

A gloved hand curled into a fist. "It's a trap! Take immediate evasive maneuvers!"

The warning comes too late, as the lightning generated between two Elw ruins towers goes chaotic, lancing across the Tzadkiel's hull and forcing the massive airship to list to the side, smoking in the wake of energetic discharge. Damage reports fly in every direction, and critical engineering teams began to scatter as the bridge attempts to find a point of order to focus on around the chaos as that column of malevolence from below.

"All units, identify and pacify whatever that is! Do not allow it to escape!"

<Pose Tracker> Cyre H. Lorentz has posed.

Well, this sure went to hell in a handbasket really damn quick.

But hey, what are you gonna do? Honestly, things were already bad when giant robots and metal demons started rampaging all across the pristine landscape that was the Elw garden, but hey. Why not add a bit of Malevolence to the party? What's the problem with that?

Well.

There are a few.

Some people back away from the leonine Hellion. Some people turn and flee. But there are those in this world who have learned that the only way to truly deal with that awful purple muck is to turn your face to it, bare your teeth, steel your courage and--

Introduce it to how Filgaians solve their problems.

And so a gunshot rings out and a slug of high-velocity lead is slung halfway across the battlefield aimed right at the lion-man's midsection. Its source touches down, rolls, shoves a fresh clip into his rifle and immediately begins stirring the winds into a mighty gale.

"You're the Lord of Calamity?" Cyre asks, racking the bolt-action and discharging a spent round. "Well hell, I sure didn't vote for you. To think, I caught sight of a lion and thought the worst. Good thing though-- I won't feel any guilt about this."

"You're not welcome here, Hellion," Cyre snarls, the howling gale already beginning to surround him like a suit of armor, "Get back to your silvery ball and leave us the hell alone."

GS: Cyre H. Lorentz has attacked Heldalf with Single Slug Downrange!
GS: Cyre H. Lorentz has completed his action.
GS: CRITICAL! Heldalf guards a hit from Cyre H. Lorentz's Single Slug Downrange for 87 hit points!
GS: Mute! Statuses applied to Heldalf!
<Pose Tracker> White Knight Leo has posed.

        All hell is breaking loose. Ida Everstead-Rey does not have the luxury of relaxation, no matter how badly she wants to. Malevolence churns and roils around her. There are many Hellions here, many of them new-born, confused, weak. One of them seems to dominate all the rest, though, a presence that puts even Agatha's to shame. As she runs towards Garrett's prone form, Ida finds her eyes drawn to the space between the towers, to the massive leonine figure standing in the midst of the maelstrom as though it were a natural extension of himself--because that's exactly what it is. She sees Agatha materialize next to him, and speak to him.

        The Lord of Calamity proclaims his arrival, and his intentions. Ida bares teeth in a feral snarl as she looks at him,, her conscious mind recoiling from his proclamation. It's the snarl of an animal that is trapped, that knows it has no way of escaping the greater predator before it.

        Then Cyre shoots him with the gun she made. Ida feels just a tiny bit vindicated.

        "Come on, you bloody stupid bastard," Ida hisses, reaching Garrett and taking a knee beside the fallen Knight. She grabs one gauntlet, and one greave, and oh-so-gingerly hefts the armored man onto her shoulders in a fireman's carry. "You're not allowed to die on me. I did not give you permission to die on me!" She rises, adjusts her grip on Garrett, and turns to Rosaline.

        Ida remembers the hold of a ship. She remembers a tumbler of gin between her fingers, and Talise and Rosaline and Sephilia and Layna sitting with her at the table. She remembers a simple sphere, one that Talise was careful to avoid touching with bare skin--a gem. An orb of memory. She remembers taking off her riding glove, and placing her hand atop it, her fingers next to longer, clawed fingers covered in white fur.

        Ida remembers a memory that isn't hers. A memory that was preserved by that gem for posterity, as a warning--or a lesson.

        Ida remembers a man with a face like a lion's, twisted with contempt and scorn. She remembers the emptiness beneath those eyes, a soul-deep weariness. She remembers what it felt like to be alone and forgotten, but at a remove; the stranger's memories were not hers, but now, she's made memories to match his.

        Ida remembers the purpose the man found for himself, and turns to Rosaline. She had gin then, and she wishes she had gin now.

        Because Ida remembers. She remembers the man finding Hellions of all shapes and sizes, little more than raw material for his plans. She remembers the great stone pit where he dumps them, where they struggle and kill and eat each other in a grotesque parody of the way of the natural world. She remembers the lone survivor--the one Hellion that devoured all the others--emerging into sunlight, an abomination empowered by a pitful of Malevolence.

        "Rosa," Ida says. The Malevolent star in her heart thrums and churns, growing brighter in response to the man's presence--as if it were defying him. "I think we'd best get going."

        Ida turns, and runs like Hell itself is at her heels. She grips Garrett's unconscious body tightly, even as it weighs her down.

        No Fury left behind.

<Pose Tracker> Neriah Parringer has posed.

In the Tower of Ge Ramtos....

A vast explosion has blown out the wall of the tower. Dust billows in the air, mingling with the peculiar blacklight of dark power unleashed. And the world groans beneath the blasphemous pressure of a power utterly unrelated to Malevolence.

The Chains of Arius shatter beneath the power of one lifetime more than they were ever meant to bind.

Hanging above the tower, the shadowy entity that was once Neriah Parringer inhales - and the raw darkness sheathing her streams into her through her mouth and nose, through her eyes, through her hand. Rapidly, she consumes the darkness that has overwhelmed her so many times before. Blacklight gives way to expose human flesh behind it. Her hair fades back to its usual dark lustre. Her face comes back into view; her body is whole again after taking shot after shot from too many people. For a single, pristine, horrifying moment, she hangs in the air. Her eyes fly open again.

                        They shine a deep, ruddy red.

And then a shadow ripples around her, and recedes - and she seems to collapse in on herself, folding up like a crumpled sheet and vanishing in a whisp of black flame.

Valmar's Child may be Unbound... but right now, she's gone, and the Lord of Calamity is right in front of you. One unleashed evil gives way to the much, much more immediate danger.

<Pose Tracker> Sorey has posed.

 The ruins had been a bit more difficult to navigate for Sorey - as much as he had wanted to reach the Garden while the fighting was still going on, there had been... well a couple problems. Nothing that couldn't be overcome, but problems none the less. And thus he doesn't arrive on scene until the last of the struggle with the statues has been resolved...
 
 ...and then things go from bad to much, much worse.
 
 Lucia is here, which is not exactly a great thing - Sorey can feel the malevolence coming off of her still, and it is rather disconcerting given the amount of residual malevolence that is hanging about from the fighting earlier. But the appearance of the massive, dark Hellion that suddenly appears in the midst of the battle puts to shame any amount of malevolence that Sorey has encountered before.
 
 "What... is that?" Sorey asks. He only has one Seraph here to help him out at the moment - Lailah is assisting Alisha, Dezel is with Rose, and... well, Edna is off doing Edna things. Which means its just he and Mikleo right now.
 
 "I don't know - but that thing called itself the Lord of Calamity!" Mikelo replies, tightening his grip on this staff. "While things with Lucai were odd... I've never felt this much malevolence from a single being before!"
 
 "Yeah, I agree," Sorey states. And with that, he draws his lacquered wooden blade from its shealth and watches as others begin to take up positions to oppose this monster. He raises his voice, so others can hear as he calls out "I don't know everything about what's going on here, but this... we can't allow this thing to remain on this world! The raw strength of its malevolence will corrupt everything it comes close to, far worse than what we've seen so far!"
 
 It's like the leonoid Hellion is a walking plague of malevolence. And despite the fact that Sorey's having trouble even standing against this blast of raw evil coming from the creature, he and Lailah had spent the last week training to deal with a strong malevolent domain.
 
 He'd have to hope it was enough.

GS: Sorey has attacked Sorey with Getting Focused!
GS: Sorey has completed his action.
GS: Sorey takes a solid hit from Sorey's Getting Focused for 0 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Fei Fong Wong has posed.

MOMENTS EARLIER

Fei is told to tell Elly how great she is. He smiles, still in that weirdly serene but focused state. He walks towards her, smiling. Is it Fei? Or is it that FEI? Maybe even Fei isn't entirely sure.

"That was incredible." He tells her, wrapping the cloak around her one last time. "I know you've got to go back but..." He trails off for a moment before adding, "Good luck. You do what you have to do, okay? Sorry for punching your boss." Pause. "...And Loren. I didn't uh realize that was just you--saying what you had to say."

He is about to say more when suddenly, the Lord of Calamity.

THE ACTUAL Lord of Calamity. Or maybe... 'A' Lord of Calamity appears. Fei can feel the power even without trying. He takes a moment to look at Hedalf. Take his measure. He feels something inside of him...

...that's concerned.

But he is distracted by a woman with long blue hair. He looks at Lucia for a long moment. It's actually the first time he's actually seen the woman he gave Hiro a Holy Berry for. He says, "You've finally on your feet, huh?"

He punches his fist into his palm. "Arright! I owe Hiro, Ruby, and Jean a lot... I'll hold off on my bullshit...to help you guys out!"

Martial Artist Fei has forced himself into your party!"

"I guess," He asides to Ruby. "That the Guard's faces gotta be real red by now. Sounds like the 'goddess' Althena picked the wrong person for Lord of Calamity. Should we be gracious about it or gloat, y'think?"

It's nice, he thinks, that he can say this is helping Hiro and Lucia and not running away like a coward. He's already fairly beat up and right now, there's too much chaos to spare a thought for Neriah who just ported away. He believes in Neriah's good intentions, at least for the moment.

<Pose Tracker> Talise Gianfair has posed.

It's like a cold hand has closed around Talise Gianfair's heart and squeezed. She stares with her mouth open a bit, colour draining from her cheeks as she realizes just who she has laid eyes upon.

A piece of a memory.

        Werewolves, orcs, slavering apes, gelatinous monstrosities and so many more all struggle and slaughter each other within a massive, stone pit, bedecked by towering statues of dragons lording above them like kings. They kill and eat each other without relent, all while he watches above. Hints of features can be seen within the haze of memories: a face more lion then man curled into an ugly sneer, golden, leonine mane wreathing his scornful contempt, there is nothing within his terrible features but a tired, weary disdain. Emptiness.

Talise's lips pull back to expose pointed incisors. "So that's who you are," she hisses through that icy pall of a fear she doesn't normally experience. Within her gauntlets, her fingers tighten their grip, coiling around the hilt of Rastaban.

Somehow, during the fighting in the Garden, the binding she normally keeps around Rastaban's grip came loose. The meticulously-enameled and jeweled hilt has become visible, along with an inscription in some language she can't even begin to read.

That immense tor swells from the earth, and Heldalf makes his proclamation. He is the Lord of Calamity.

Talise clenches her teeth and forces her breath out through them in a low, cold growl. "Yeah," she spits. "And I'm the Queen of the Spider People. Shaggy motherfucker."

Lucia calls out to her friends; Talise clicks her teeth together and realizes what must be done. She reaches back, into her inventory, and draws something out.

It is, somehow, an entire shield. It's the one she stole from Amon Rau months ago, after Grahf had given him the Power. The enameling on the shield's scarred, battered face has been boiled away by the steaming blasts Talise blocked for Ida Everstead-Rey back in the Cursed Labyrinth.

Talise draws a little power from her gauntlets - and she shifts Rastaban to a rare one-handed grip, the huge sword wieldable this way only thanks to her prodigious strength. Scowling, she spits off to her right side and starts forward, swallowing her fear and remembering that she has a job to do. Protect Filgaia and its people. Leave Lunar's problems on Lunar.

"Go back where you came from," she snarls. "My name's Talise Gianfair and I am not letting more of you fucking Malevolence-spewing bastards leave the Silver Star! Not as long as I can do anything about it!"

With her left arm, she hoists the shield and begins to move forward, surging in to take a broad, arcing swing at Heldalf - trying to rip a chunk out of one of the Lord of Calamity's thighs.

"BACK TO HELL WITH YOU!" Talise roars as she swings.

GS: Talise Gianfair has attacked Heldalf with River Fork With One Dam!
GS: Talise Gianfair has completed her action.
GS: Heldalf takes a solid hit from Talise Gianfair's River Fork With One Dam for 123 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Sephilia Lampbright has posed.

Sephilia Lampbright, too, remembers. Sephilia too makes a decision, to protect her friends. It's not in her to do otherwise.

"It's that guy! I didn't know he was a Lord of Calamity!" she says, somewhat unhelpfully. "Chauncey, we gotta back Talise up! We gotta make sure that Lunar's problems aren't Filgaia's problems too!"

Chauncey, bursting into his hulking form--it's definitely noticably larger than he was when the girl and her doll first arrived on Filgaia--seems to agree with Sephy's assessment of the situation, for he rushes in to tag Heldalf with a plushie fist packing the force of a freight train.

GS: Sephilia Lampbright has attacked Heldalf with Foxington Pound!
GS: Sephilia Lampbright has completed her action.
<Pose Tracker> White Knight Leo has posed.

        By the time the Guard contingent arrives, the two towers are smoking rubble, exposed to the air. A massive flying ship hangs nearby, deploying strange metal giants that float in mid-air. Drifters of all stripes have fought against the Metal Demons, deciding the fates of two Statues--and the unthinkable has happened for the second time in a thousand years. A Quarter Knight has fallen.

        White Knight Leo leaps across the vast, yawning chasm, jumping between chunks of floating rubble that were parts of the Elw structure five minutes ago. Their sorcerous gravity fields still function, making a path of stepping-stones--and Leo is trying his best to kick them into position so his Guards can follow them. "UP AHEAD!" Leo roars, so everyone can hear him over the din. He sights figures. A young man in blue, and a young woman in red bathed in an impossible aura of Malevolence. A sorceress. The hideous, scraping distortion that kicked his adrenaline into overdrive finally resolves into Neriah Parringer.

        The sky tears itself open. Leo recognizes bits of the scene that fall out of it: soldiers from Rolance and Hyland, many of them clearly Hellions. And there, in the middle of them is...

        Is...

        Is something Leo has never seen before. His ears flatten back against his head as the leonine man makes his bold proclamation. Lord of Calamity. He must be mistaken, and yet--yet the power boiling off that man puts even the vile aura around Lucia to shame. Did--?

        No. There's no time for that. "Whatever it is, it needs to die," Leo decides. He doesn't make decisions like that lightly. "Garan! Thessaly! With me! Margaret, get as many of those soldiers out of there as you can! Monitor the Vile Fiends!" Leo lunges off the final platform, hanging in the air above Heldalf. His blade whips into his hands, and hangs above the self-proclaimed Lord of Calamity like a guillotine. "FACE ALTHENA'S JUDGMENT, VILE CREATURE!" Leo roars, his hair and cloak whipping about wildly. He drops down at the lion-man with sudden, overwhelming force.

        A textbook opener for Lion's Howl, developed by Georg Heldalf.

GS: White Knight Leo has attacked Heldalf with Flash Blade!
GS: White Knight Leo has completed his action.
<Pose Tracker> Tethelle Cirdian has posed.

Tethelle Cirdian, not that long ago, helped kill a Quarter Knight.

It was damn near mutual. She is still sore despite what healing she could get between then and now; some bandaging, some Potion Berries, some magical assistance that is a lot better than nothing. She's sore, and she still bears the marks of her struggle; there is a symbol scorched into the glove on her right hand, a simple pattern of crossing lines blackened along the length of her blade from crossguard to about two thirds of the way to the point.

But she's still moving. And she couldn't help but feel something like that as soon as it erupted.

Tethelle was in the Tower of Odoryuk's Statue, and that's the direction where she comes. A hint of silver - not magic this time, just the light reflecting off the metal of Tethelle's sword, which she bears before her; she's tired, but she is not letting mere exhaustion prevent her from wielding a blade. She's better than that.

From Heldalf's point of view, some jerk just came from behind him and to the left and started to swing. Tethelle's blade arcs through the air as she whirls it, a display as acrobatic as effective - but the whirling blade makes an effective parry defense against stray shots, which is why she is doing it despite her fatigue.

"You helped with Filgaia's problems," she says, not to Heldalf but to Talise. "Let us help with yours! GO!" That last was roared at the group preparing to work with the teleporter - certainly not Tethelle, because she'd probably break it.

GS: Tethelle Cirdian has attacked Heldalf with The Edge of the Sword!
GS: Tethelle Cirdian has completed her action.
<Pose Tracker> Layna Manydays has posed.

Layna's looking like a bit of a mess. Her coat is scorched and blackened, and has bloody rents all throughout - the only thing pristine is her hat. Her fight with the Pyre Witch had certainly taken its toll on her...but the day was not over yet.

She stands in the ruins of a broken tower, the remnants of a once-proud Guardian Statue littering the floor. She stares out in the distance with her telescope, her gaze focused on the man with the leonine form, the one she recognized from another's memory.

Man...was that even a proper term for what he was? He's a monster now, speaking in a deep voice that she can hear even from up here.

The Lord of Calamity. The Bringer of Ruin and Sorrow.

Layna takes a deep breath. She had been unsure about the things they said of the one called Lucia, but this one...this one, there's no doubt.

If he's allowed to run rampant, who knows what could happen.

She had to do something...and she can see, through her telescope, that friends are already assembled. Well, what kind of captain would she be if she abandoned her friends.

She places her telescope back at her waist and reaches into her coat, drawing out a bottle of alcohol. She drinks deep, and then...she leaps, and soars.

She guides herself with her wind Sorcery, landing somewhere behind Talise and Sephilia shortly after Tethelle appears to lash out at Heldalf.

"Sorry I'm late, ladies! Had a hot date with a witch. Need a hand?" She asks with a grin.

"Listen up, me hearties! We'll do what we can here! If you've got a plan, then hurry the hell up and do it, aye!?" She shouts, to Lucia and her party.

GS: Heldalf takes a solid hit from White Knight Leo's Flash Blade for 129 hit points!
GS: Layna Manydays has attacked Layna Manydays with Batten Down the Hatches!
GS: Layna Manydays has completed her action.
GS: Layna Manydays takes a solid hit from Layna Manydays's Batten Down the Hatches for 0 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Kahm Yugh has posed.

You have made her weak. That will be corrected.

Moments ago, Kahm Yugh spoke those words to Fei Fong Wong as leapt backwards from the Ge Ramtos statue into the waiting cockpit of his gear. Hauteclaire had been able to have most of it's armor damage patched during the downtime between the engagement with the Fereshe to now, and a new cockpit hatch installed as well. The gear's chest sealed hermetically as soon Kahm fell into his seat, the darkness immediately lighting up with HUDs and console diagnostics.

In the moment of privacy, the Major briefly leaned to his side, nursing the oozing wound in his side that Malfi had opened during their battle. Adrenaline and etheric enhancements were keeping him going, but he knew his operating window was short. Allowed himself a few moment to apply some basic medigel to the injury before securing his restraints and forcing the Hauteclaire to take flight, just as all hell broke loose.

Too much happened at once. The Tzadkiel took a hit from a sudden unexpected energy source, a column of 'malevolence' arose out of nowhere, and a strange new target has appeared before them. Did it have something to do with the Elw defense system they'd inadvertently triggered? Although the Hauteclaire was not equipped with nearly the amount of robust sensor technology the Gebler flagship had at it's disposal, even Kahm could tell things weren't adding up.

But it didn't matter. In the next moment command seemed to have control of the situation and their orders came in. "Copy that. Lieutenants, we're to neutralize that target at all costs." He said, the 'target' appearing to be a large Beastman-type infected with malevolence.

Hauteclaire hovered a few meters above the air at the moment. The fact that Elly and Loren were also in their gears meant there was no concern for friendly fire in his next action. The white gear pointed it's left arm-mounted cannon down, charging it with channeled etheric energy and firing a beam of searing blue light straight downwards to wear Hedalf stoof.

"What was the surface phrase? Like fish in a barrel." The Major absently commented.

GS: Kahm Yugh has attacked Heldalf with Anemo Beam!
GS: Kahm Yugh has completed his action.
GS: Layna Manydays has attacked Heldalf with Bash and Buckle!
GS: Layna Manydays has completed her action.
<Pose Tracker> Malfi has posed.

Malfi hangs back, watching. The lion-like imposing figure is as tall as Lady Harken, clearly not human, and the most obvious threat. A threat, however, she is in no shape to be tackling right now. She takes the prudent course of action, drawing on her batteries for healing. The Malevolence is so intense that even she can sense it, hovering around the edges of her consciousness like fluttering butterfly wings.

GS: You do not have enough Force to pay that attack's cost.
GS: You do not have any attacks from that person in queue.
GS: Malfi has attacked Malfi with Electrocutie!!
GS: Malfi has completed her action.
GS: Malfi heals Malfi! She gains 100 temporary hit points!
GS: Heldalf guards a hit from Tethelle Cirdian's The Edge of the Sword for 70 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Carina Wynne has posed.

ON THE ODORYUK PLATFORM

A blood-and-quicksilver-covered Rosaline is tending to Garrett's wounds, using her own purple miasma to knit him back together. It likely hurts like hell, but at least he's not conscious. She's grinning uncontrollably as she does this. She killed a Quarter Knight. She killed a Quarter Knight.

Her flames flicker violently as she feels the air shift even from where she is. She rises and runs over to join Ida in observing the exterior.

Her eyes widen in recognition and horror. Her fur bristles, her flames waving as if in a storm. She recognizes the monster. She looks down at her claws, flexing them, seeing unfortunate similarities. A part of her is urging her on to FIGHT, to either somehow establish dominance over the actual Lord of Calamity or bend the knee to him, but whatever self-control she can still manage knows this is beyond unwise.

She looks back at Ida, her expression sympathetic. "Yes. I agree."

And in the space of a blink, she's already out of sight.

ON THE GE RAMTOS PLATFORM

"Aw, cat farts 'n' big trouble!" Metal Digger Locus frets at the sight of the one Agatha proclaims the true Lord of Calamity. Lunata offers her a ride in her Gear, but she shakes her head.

"No, I gotta... I gotta fight this thing." She has a tiny laugh. "A Hero's job is never done, right? Y'all get Miss Jay to safety and rest up, you've deserved it."

And she breaks into a run, taking an impossible leap towards the central platform. She skids to a halt, gasping for breath. At the corner of her vision, what she recognizes as her armor's power indicator is blinking once again.

"ARGH, stupid armor!" Locus scuffs her feet, teeth clenched, as she points to her belt, "The world's not safe yet! If this ain't Go Time, nothing is! Gimme something, ANYTHING!"

                     SWITCHING TO EMERGENCY POWER SUPPLY_

For the third time today, light returns to Locus' eyes. Her armor shines once more, lesser cuts already disappearing and the largest gash left by Siegfried shrinking to a more manageable state. This is miraculous, especially to an armorer like Carina, but she isn't paying close attention, as she staggers back, feeling faint.

"How many backup power supplies has this thing GOT? --Aw, heck, head's spinning all of a sudden." She sets a palm to the side of her helmet. "Bed would be nice after this, if this guy doesn't take over the world. REAL nice." She blinks several times. Okay, she's still in the game.

BGM: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KqkHxzNUCOM

She points to Lucia and her party. "HEY, y'all ain't from this world, right? Well, fightin' so hard to help us out is the mightiest solid you could do us. So tell ya what, METAL DIGGER LOCUS has got your back! We'll distract this creep while you save the day, all right?"

She spins on her heel, her piece spoken, and she points to Heldalf, dramatically foreshortened.

"ALL RIGHT, KITTYBEARD, LET'S DANCE!"

And she breaks into a run, her fist engulfed in electricity. "LOOK AT ME, BIG THE CAT, I'M FLASHY AND COOL, NOT LIKE THOSE JERKS CLIMBIN' THE TOWER! LOCUS DISTRACTIN' DECOOOOOY PUNCH!!"

GS: Carina Wynne has attacked Heldalf with Courageous Explosion Punch!
GS: Carina Wynne has completed her action.
GS: Heldalf takes a solid hit from Kahm Yugh's Anemo Beam for 116 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Hiro has posed.

 
What did the /click/ earlier bring?
 
They'd thought it had been their own doom. And given what followed it indeed seems like it had. Because right there he's feeling the press of enough malevolence that it feels like the end of the world has come. The bloodied youth's eyes are fastened to him as he stands up to his full height in the midst of all of his victims. "What... is he?" Ruby on the other hand is freaking out some, "A sign that we really need to start running!"
 
The answer may be obvious. And yet he'd become so inured to Lucia's malevolence that he was for just a moment blind to it.
 
A stone structure rises. And then blue- and crimson enters into his vision. It's rare that he's ever seen Lucia run with such purpose. "Lucia!"
 
Right now the true Lord of Calamity stands right between them, and all he can think of doing is running to her. Fatigue burns like no other as he runs to her, skidding to a stop by her side . "You really think so Lucia- wait he's from our world!?" It all makes sense given the amount of malevolence he's feeling. And yet it wasn't immediately obvious.
 
She outlines her plan and Hiro - trusts her so completely. So much so that he can't help but grin, especially in the face of Fei's comment, "She always does." He says with pride.
 
Ruby has tinny laughter, that's a little nervous. Still she's Ruby so, she confides in Fei while she flies over to Lucia and Hiro's side, "After this is over I'm definitely gonna say to Leo - in your face - in your face - IN YOUR FACE!" Before adding in a nervous lower voice - "If we live through this... I'm a little scared Fei."
 
Only Lucia could turn a /click/ of doom into hope. He believes she has the solution so completely, "I'm with you all the way Lucia. I'll buy you all the time you n-"
 
And then Heldalf wipes the smile from his face, so completely with that deep reverberating confidence. Flinching, he turns to face him. "So you're the real Lord of Calamity..." Hiro has his sword out, but before that power, before that bolt of red flame he feels totally useless. "... well our lives aren't yours to claim. The Shepherd - the rest of us, not a single one of us are going to let you have your way!" Agatha however advises him to- "You-" He sputters, "HOW DARE YOU! I won't let that happen!"
 
And speak of the devil - and well the devil is here, but Sorey is too, "SOREY! LUCIA HAS A PLAN!" He knows he had no good reason to trust him after everything that's happened but - "I KNOW I'M ASKING A LOT BUT- CAN YOU BUY US-"
 
The flame comes screaming towards Lucia. "-time?"
 
It felt like they were out of it. And what can he do other than try to tackle her bodily out of the way before the oncoming wave of malevolent flame.
 

GS: Heldalf takes a solid hit from Layna Manydays's Bash and Buckle for 119 hit points!
GS: Layna Manydays takes Cover! She gains 50 temporary hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Riesenlied has posed.

        No rest for the wicked.

        Berserk had fallen into two distinct pieces off the broken tower of Life, not mere moments ago; and they already had more in their hands as a column of Malevolence tears away at Riesenlied's very soul, just as Odoryuk had left it and brought her to her last stransd of effort.

        No rest for the tainted, either.

        Riesenlied hurries out towards the central platform, her eyes shot wide as she cups her mouth. Her stomach is churning from her concern for Leon and Lily. The former took heavy damage from Lady Harken and Hammer had to help get him out; the latter...

        "That's..."

        She recalls it distinctly, her eyes widening further. The Earthen Historia. That visage.

        The last memory to be seen is the vision of a behemothic dragon landing with a quake that shakes the very mountain, flames bubbling from its maw. Tremendous. Powerful.

        Which makes the sight of it decimated with one billowing explosion of Malevolent will all the more harrowing as the monster that was once a man destroys the dragon in a single blow and takes its very Malevolence as his own just before the memory ends. Because all shall bend. And all shall end. In time.

        "The one that felled the dragon... t-the Lord of Calamity..."

        Her legs tremble softly, as she tucks her capelet in closer. She shakes her head and hurries towards the central pillar, out of breath. "Lucia! Hiro!"

        She looks to the young Drifter, as she plants her hand to her chest. She's bleeding from her head from where Berserk nearly crushed her skull, her horns warped and twisted more than they usually are; the rest of her seems lightly singed in--

        --in what was once Guardian flame.

        Odjn floats next to Riese, grinning at Ruby. "This is a real do-or-die moment, huh? Let's show 'em what a real Red Dragon can do, Ruby!!"

        "Ida..." Riese looks to the Hellion for a moment, as she turns to aid her own. She winces, and pushes her hesitation aside. Her attention is briefly drawn towards the air, where a woman far too familiar for her draws the darkness into her...

        "Neriah, no..."

        Fei's rushed by their side, and her eyes widen as Hiro throws himself in the path of Heldalf's fireball to save Lucia from incoming disaster. She takes a deep breath--

        Finally.

        Riesenlied's eyes narrow as she holds the Dragon's Tear to her chest, billowing feathers of light surrounding the group as she casts the nearest thing to a barrier she still can muster with her limited powers.

        "It is as Tethelle said. You helped us with our problems. In turn... I'll protect you with my life."

<Pose Tracker> Elhaym van Houten has posed.

 
ELLY's eyes turn to Fei for that moment as the ascent cable pulls her to the cockpit. She seems to be about to weep, but that may just be fatigue in action. She says something but without much force: the words can be made out from the motion of her lips, at least.

                                'thank you.'

And then she's swallowed up by the iron giant.

INSIDE THE COCKPIT, Elly slumps as all the lights come on. All of them! "They must have replaced the head component," Elly says to herself, reeling, as the battlescape unfolds in Vierge's booting systems. She is terribly tired, and it sets on her like a leaden apron. She wants to pass out, to just sleep. To give up.

But...

MARGARET, the BLACK PEARL of NEO-VANE would like to say something contemptuous and heroic right now, but she is, and would happily say if asked, terrified beyond the capacity for rational thought. She has a cloak on against the wind, but it does nothing for the spiritual tension of this much malevolence. What a cursed planet, she thinks.

"Understood," Margaret says to Leo with a certain bleakness. To herself, or probably the audience of the stage, Margaret says, "All of this and I end up a runner... But if this is my part, then I'll be the finest runner in any world." She whirls on one heel towards--

a smash cut back to ELLY.

They're all moving with such defiance, Elly thinks. They have almost nothing but they still struggle. Even in the face of something like this. Something that could vaporize so many of them. At least Fei is moving towards -- something; shelter? Elly can't make it out.

She blinks past tears.

Even, Elly thinks, if I'm a crybaby, I can do something they can't.

I can operate this Gear--!!

INSERT! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MQi7vk9Yzdk

From the perspective of Gebler operations, Elly took a probably-completely-understandable five seconds to get the Gear in... gear, and her response is straightforward and lucid. "Understood," she says.

Vierge rises up. The pink coloration of its highlights is rather patchy due to the abrupt replacement of most of the damaged armor sections with spares, but those can, surely, be replaced. The Gear launches upwards, glowing lights at its back guiding it forwards, verniers of hypertechnology that dreams a life in the sky.

She does not slam out an Ether effect.

No, Elly's self-hating courage has guided her into a different path.

"Disrupting the core organism--"

Vierge falls as fast as it rose, raising up that macuahuitl-ish battle rod and swinging the anti-Gear melee weapon down.

-- Xantia, I bet you'd approve --

To try and smash the gently curved tip right straight down into the head of the so-called Lord of Calamity. Shimmering techno-ether support fields make the weapon stout, but will it prevail against a creature like this? You may not know until you try, and Elly may, perhaps, not be making optimal tactical judgments anyway.

GS: Elhaym van Houten has attacked Heldalf with Hard Smash!
GS: Elhaym van Houten has completed her action.
<Pose Tracker> Seraph Ragnell has posed.

        When Ragnell forged on ahead alone in the Pleasing Gardens, where did she go?
        
        That's not really important. What's important is that, with a flap of her poncho and a tilt of her hat, she strides in now as Heldalf descends from the heavens, and Agatha welcomes him as the true Lord of Malevolence. Ragnell lifts her chin to take them both him with a low, contemplative, "Hmmmmm..." It might seem confident, but sweat trickles down the side of her face and down her neck. This Malevolence... really is on a completely other level, even compared to Lucia. And Lucia's banner was already bad enough.
        
        Then she looks towards Lucia and the Vile Fiends, then sprints on over their way. She sweeps to one side and skids to a halt, and her stopping point brings her together with Lucia and the others. She is, after all, a Fiend herself. Unofficially.
        
        "Sup, Lu. Long time no see. Calamity vs. Calamity, huh? Now this is a show I /can't/ miss," Ragnell drawls, half-smiling over her shoulder at Lucia and the other Fiends. She winks and adds, "An' since I can't miss it, guess I'll have to come along for the ride." She looks back around as Sorey and Mikleo arrive, then take in the immense Malevolence of the true Lord of Calamity. "No kiddin'," she calls over to the two. "We'll leave 'im to you two, then. Don't you go lettin' Lailah down!"
        
        And then she turns and jogs to join up Lucia and the others. "Got your color back, I see, Ru," she comments to Ruby, even as she nods in greeting to Hiro, Lemina, Fei, and Riesenlied. She snorts and grins at Fei's crack on the Guard, but doesn't remark on it directly. "Good seein' it. Let's get this done, eh?"
        
        But then Heldalf unleashes an attack towards Lucia. Hiro, being Hiro, is already jumping to tackle Lucia out of the way. The light and heat sears closer, and...!

<Pose Tracker> Loren Voss has posed.

        "You want to see it? Then here it is."

        Loren may have spoken those words to Kaguya, moments before ascending to the cockpit of Schiehallion. But it may as well have been a declaration to the world at large.
        You want to see what he can do? Here, this is it.

        Everything feels as if it's contracted to a single point. It's now pass, or fail.

        He breathes out as he settles into the seat, closing his eyes as the screens and displays blaze to life around him. It's pure habit -- running the diagnostics.
        All green. Clear. Good to go.

        This time, he doesn't even remind himself to be careful.

        There is in truth no room for such a thing. An explosion rocks the craft overhead and the panicked transmissions alone tell a particular tale.

        He doesn't remind himself to be careful, but he does think, fleetingly:
        Oh good.

        Exhaustion, CNS stimulants, stress and the rest of it or not, Loren is still Loren.

        "Understood, Major. Orders received. Proceeding to engage target."

        Schiehallion vaults off the platform with a roar of jets, drawing both sidearms as it takes flight.
        That's the target. That thing, awash in Malevolence. He banks left, keeping his distance from Hauteclaire.
        Targetting systems activated.
        Sinking ether into the sidearms, he delivers a burst of ether fire from the ARMs where the massive Hellion stands.

GS: Loren Voss has attacked Heldalf with SEG-V.Terra!
GS: Loren Voss has completed his action.
<Pose Tracker> Sorey has posed.

 The others are already closing in, and Sorey can't wait any longer. "We're going to have to go in as hard as we can - hopefully if we can distract him, we'll be able to weaken that Hellion enough that everyone will have a chance to disable him."
 
 "I can't disagree with that." MIkleo grips his staff, and looks at Sorey for a moment. "Let's go."
 
 Sorey raises one hand, concentrating for a moment as he calls out the true name of his oldest friend. "Luzrov Rulay!" he shouts, and Mikleo disappears into a flash of light, flowing into Sorey's body. The white hooded suit of the Armatus appears around Sorey, his hair turning blonde and flowing out behind him as he takes hold of the massive bow that has appeared in front of him.
 
 And he hears Hiro calling out to him, and Sorey turns to see Hiro tackling the blue haired young woman out of the way. And he nods once. "I'll do what I can Hiro! I'm not sure... no! I will give you enough time!" he calls out, pulling back on the string of his bow. An arrow of shining water appears set on that string, and Sorey runs forward, puling back his weapon and taking aim at Heldalf. "LORD OF CALAMITY!" he shouts. "I AM THE SHEPHERD! And you'll claim no more lives today! SAINT'S ARROW!!"
 
 And there is a flash of light, the arrow leaping from his bow and leaving a series of light blue circles of like in its wake as it lances straight at Heldalf.

DC: Sorey switches forms to Armatus Luzrov Rulay!
GS: Sorey has attacked Heldalf with Saint's Arrow!
GS: Sorey has completed his action.
<Pose Tracker> Thessaly has posed.

Their orders dispensed, Thessaly moves to the side and behind Garan's distinctive white plate, the crystal orb she wields as a weapon floating out of her sleeve as she moves. She doesn't move as fast, but their travels in Filgaia have given her enough exercise that she manages, at the very least, to keep up. Her heart is in her throat, and the call to battle plays over her bones like beats of a war drum - it isn't out of fear. After everything she has been through, she fears very little.
 
 It is anticipation, instead. Exhilaration. Hope.
 
 For she had heard the words of the Lady of Calamity and if she succeeds, they can go home.
 
 Away from this dead and dying world and back to Lunar. To return to Rolance and reunite her lord Dantear with the family waiting for him there.
 
 She skids to a stop, always one to keep her distance. Pale fingers tipped with black lacquer kiss on the crystal surface of her instrument, tendrils of black and purple swirling within, like looking deep within some unfathomable abyss. Those mystic eyes peer within, to seek out whatever weaknesses she could touch...
 
 ...and extends her considerable will into it.
 
 Entropy. She wields it like a scythe, to ravage through what passes for Heldalf's blood in an effort to weaken him while the rest of the more able-bodied strike. Whispers leave her in sibilant tones, wrought from old secrets scavenged from the more forgotten corners of the world...
 
 Her world.

GS: Thessaly has attacked Heldalf with Malevolent Curse!
GS: Thessaly has completed her action.
GS: Heldalf takes a solid hit from Carina Wynne's Courageous Explosion Punch for 107 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Garan Dantear has posed.

For some, duty is the highest virtue.
 
There's no hesitation from the Imperial Knight of Rolance as he follows behind Leo: Things the Guard had based their entire mission, their whole purpose for travelling to this benighted desert world might be false, but that didn't change what they needed to do, not really. That there were others from home, twisted into Hellions, didn't instill any hesitation in Garan Dantear either. He was a soldier, a warrior, and he learned a long time ago that hesitation on the field meant death. Maybe for you, maybe for those counting on you. At the moment, he could countenance neither.
 
So, despite the weight of arms and armor, the Imperial Knight is not far behind the White Knight, vaulting with half an eye turned back to make sure Thessaly was close behind. This was a dangerous situation to be bringing the witch into, to be sure... But not bringing her would probably be even more dangerous.
 
"No time for second guessing ourselves, Thessaly," he tells her, though he could just be speaking for himself. "Besides, the commander is probably going to get himself killed without backup, huh?" Sure, Leo's a badass, but c'mon.
 
C'mon.
 
So, trusting Thessaly to ply her talents with her typical mysteriousness and brutal efficiency, he of course does what he does best. Shield lifted, he charges full tilt into the fray, alongside Leo.

<Pose Tracker> Lemina Ausa has posed.

Almost in lock-step with Hiro as he moves ahead -- despite her shorter legs and mediocre stamina -- is Lemina Ausa, who has been Lucia's traveling companion ever since they ended up on the Blue Star. (... and for a couple hours beforehand, for that matter.) The mage has had the putative Lord of Calamity's back for a long time...

... and as tempting as it would be to cut and run now that the actual Lord of Calamity is here, Lemina's committed to this. She stays close, running as fast as her little legs will carry her, looking to Hiro. It's hard for her to completely suppress her fear in the face of the Lord of Calamity -- but she's trying. For now.

"Phew! Okay, sure! Mega-great plan. Probably. I mean, who knows where it's going to send him, but, uh..." That one gets away from her. "... okay yeah honestly this is probably the best idea we've got. I'll do anything you --"

The flame comes screaming toward Lucia. Lemina reflexively cuts herself off and hits the dirt. ... it's honestly kind of a cower.

<Pose Tracker> Xantia has posed.

Following the tremendous effort required to force Siegfried's withdrawal, Xantia had a sigh of relief in mind. She is not given the opportunity to do so, as another hostile presence announces itself in short order, proclaiming to be the Lord of Calamity. Of course that had to happen now, when she's already so tired that she can barely stand. Therefore, she is going to fight anyway.

Over the past few hours, she has fought the Demon of Elru, the leader of the Quarter Knights, and now she's going up against the Lord of Calamity? She doesn't frequently feel that what she's about to do is insane, even when it very obviously is, but this is... probably not something she should be doing, even she would have to agree. It's easier to take stock of things when you're going into them already exhausted.

Exhausted, and worse: starving. Thanks in large part to her friends, she doesn't commonly feel this hungry anymore, so hungry that it hurts. The last time was... after helping Lily. She didn't hesitate doing what she did that time, even if she had no idea what it would do to her. When she feels she can help, she simply has to try. Even now, when she feels she's already pushing her limits, there's no other choice than to push them further. Sitting idly by is not an option.

Xantia closes her eyes. She takes a deep breath, focusing inward. The flow of energy within her body. A flow which, she has come to realize, can be controlled. She used to only do this subconsciously. Stimulating the rapid healing of her wounds is almost second nature. Forcing her body to keep going, to ignore its natural warnings such as pain, fatigue, and hunger, is a frightfully easy step beyond. It's merely a matter of fooling herself into feeling as if she's in a better condition than she actually is. Simple, in theory. But how long can she keep that up? What will happen when she no longer can? She doesn't ask herself those questions. Right now, she has to fight. That's all that matters.

There is an outward effect as a result of Xantia's actions, her will manifesting in the form of a soft white glow surrounding her body. Though this aura is merely a byproduct of her power, it may yet cause Malevolence to take offense, as at the root of it is its very antithesis: powerful positive emotions. The fervent wish to protect others. Endless faith that anything one sets their mind to can be accomplished. A light of Hope.

This would be the perfect time for a dramatic declaration of sorts, but in the end, this is still Xantia. Of course this is all just going to end with her rushing headlong toward Heldalf, and throwing a punch in the general direction of him and his entourage, using the displacement of air to deliver a forceful strike while still at a distance, with the simple retort, "Claim THIS!"

GS: Xantia has attacked Heldalf with Massive Shockwave!
GS: Xantia has completed her action.
GS: Garan Dantear has attacked Heldalf with Knight's Charge!
GS: Garan Dantear has completed his action.
DG: A party led by Lucia is now entering Elw Teleporter Control.
==========================<* Elw Teleporter Control *>==========================
==================<* CHALLENGE - An Unknown Control Scheme *>===================
|Type: Entry       |Dungeon Ability: Wits      |Challenge Rating: 3          | 
---------------------------< Challenge Information: >---------------------------
 At the back of the platform between the two (now partially wrecked) towers,   
 a console made of intricate stonework has risen from the ground -- activated  
 by the depression of the Statue of Ge Ramtos into the ground. The console     
 has three parts; each has a complex series of buttons, carved into the        
 stone, and is centered around a globe that glows with a faint aquamarine      
 light even under the power of the Lord of Calamity's Domain.                  
                                                                               
 The rest of the console, however, is dim. If one looks, though -- and         
 really, with a creature like the Lord of Calamity nearby, spending the time   
 to look is hard -- lines of glass and gemstone can be seen. Most of this      
 console is not powered on, yet.                                               
                                                                               
 That is the first step.                                                       
=Dungeon Conditions: Reckless, Vault==========================================
<Pose Tracker> Janus Cascade has posed.

Cecilia Lynn Adlehyde fought with everything she had - exceeding her limits and defying death to finally silence a Quarter Knight. The Princess has been seen to enough that her battered body is merely bruised, swollen, and very unconscious, hanging back with presumably Emma and possibly Rudy. Fortunately, she had some potion berries on her for use by the party. Those things are surprisingly sturdy...

Sadly, the Princess, even if she were conscious, would need far too much attention to bring up to fighting trim. The Shaman is out of commission, here in this moment where the darkness from the sky reaches its apex.

Fortunately, potential apocalypse has a funny way of making for strange bedfellows. The first sign of him is the scream, actually; in Malevolence this thick, even Janus Cascade, noted nice guy who definitely doesn't have a socipathic hatred for all that dares to live in happiness, staggers back, clutching at his chest.

But then he kicks through the window of the building he stands in, whipping his ARM up and sighting in. People rush the lion man. "Dario. Romero. We're helpin' 'em out this time." "Man, why!? That guy's made of cats and hate!" Dario whines; Romero wails, "That's two kinds of hate, boss!"

"Because Janus Cascade is NOBODY'S property!" he seethes, and then the air is split by the thunder of his ARM.

GS: Janus Cascade has attacked Heldalf with Bolt Action!
GS: Janus Cascade has completed his action.
GS: Heldalf takes a solid hit from Elhaym van Houten's Hard Smash for 81 hit points!
GS: Break! Statuses applied to Heldalf!
<Pose Tracker> Arleph Ardan has posed.

Sometimes, Arleph really, really hates this solar system. Not as soon as they've been done with one thing, another one starts right away -- and that's a huge, huge pain. The Symbologist hardly had time to repair part of his clothing, shredded and tattered, that an LORD OF CALAMITY. calling itself that, at least. He can sense the malingnancy of the Malevolence, already stinking up the place from the last battle from Agatha. He'll have to invesigate more on that matter.
 
         That'd be very useful to know.
 
 Arleph limps along beyond the apparent swarm of Drifters that are filtering into the area to fight the Lord. He's not in a very good shape, his skin beneath his tattered jacket and shirt still caked with dried blood and closed up wounds, fizzling with opaque sealing foam.
 
         "Piss off, Lord of Calamity." Arleph mutters beneath his breath, lifting up a palmed glove and unleashing a pretty simple blast of energy to add into the welcomking barrage.

GS: Arleph Ardan has attacked Heldalf with Magic Missile!
GS: Arleph Ardan has completed his action.
GS: Heldalf takes a solid hit from Loren Voss's SEG-V.Terra for 118 hit points!
GS: Heldalf takes a solid hit from Sorey's Saint's Arrow for 156 hit points!
GS: Heldalf takes a solid hit from Thessaly's Malevolent Curse for 119 hit points!
GS: Disease! Statuses applied to Heldalf!
GS: Heldalf takes a solid hit from Garan Dantear's Knight's Charge for 124 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Lucia has posed.

Lucia is tackled out of the way by Hiro, knocked to the ground -- and then she looks to him. She rolls a few times, but comes up with him. Her arms cling to him for just a moment; then, they go slack, and she extricates herself from Hiro. "Yes," she says, caught on his earlier point. "I can feel that... power. Thank you, Hiro."

She stands up, and looks to those approaching her.

"Fei," Lucia says, her voice soft. "And Ragnell, Riesenlied... Yes. I have. Please, we must hurry."

The blue-haired woman steps to the back of the platform, and to the console. She looks down to it -- staring at the tiles and buttons for a moment. They reflect in her eyes as she regards them. Her eyes narrow. "Yes... we will need power. Lemina." She looks over her shoulder. "Please find us more power."

Lucia's pendant shines, and she begins to type. Can... she read this language?

DG: Lucia has used her Tool Lucia's Pendant toward her party's challenge, An Unknown Control Scheme.
GS: Heldalf takes a solid hit from Xantia's Massive Shockwave for 124 hit points!
GS: Disrupt! Statuses applied to Heldalf!
<Pose Tracker> Riesenlied has posed.

        We will need power. Please find us more power.

        Riesenlied cups her mouth and steps closer towards the six-sided device, watching as Lucia starts to type. Does she... understand this language? But before she can think of much more--

        Her head jerks back, and another mysterious waif's pendant starts glowing!! How many are there in one scene?!

        "... I can hear their voices..."

        She slumps her head down for a moment, then presses her hand to the device. Immediately, she channels a fragment of herself as she starts to redirect the power that's been disconnected within, using Lucia's power as a conduit to start subsuming herself into the machine.

        "... awaken ..."

DG: Riesenlied has used her Tool Dragon's Tear toward her party's challenge, An Unknown Control Scheme.
GS: Heldalf takes a solid hit from Janus Cascade's Bolt Action for 133 hit points!
GS: Heldalf takes a solid hit from Arleph Ardan's Magic Missile for 123 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Seraph Ragnell has posed.

        Lucia and Hiro go rolling out of the way of Heldalf's attack. Ragnell clucks her tongue as she breathes a little easier. "No arguments here," she tells Lucia, then backs up with the rest of the group towards the glowing-aquamarine console. She takes a look around--there are lines in glass in gemstone, dull and unlit--but Lucia beats her to the punch as far as observations go.
        
        More interesting to Ragnell is how Lucia seems to know what she's doing. That's actually kind of reassuring. That helps when they have the true-blue actual Lord of Calamity over on the other side of the room, which, even to Ragnell, is actually pretty nerve-wracking. As Riesenlied calls upon her own pendant and joins its power with Lucia's, Ragnell brings out her harmonica and begins to play a soothing, relaxing melody--the kind to bring calm to one's mind and sharpen one's ability to focus, so the others can do what they have to without worrying about, well, everything else.
        
        It's pretty important, at a time like this.

DG: Seraph Ragnell has used her Tool Tarnished Harmonica toward her party's challenge, An Unknown Control Scheme.
<Pose Tracker> Lucia has posed.

"Riesenlied," Lucia observes, apropos of nothing. The beam of light from Kahm bleeds at the edges of her vision. "I quite like your pendant."

<Pose Tracker> Fei Fong Wong has posed.

"Gloat it is." Fei says before saying, more quietly. "It'll...be fine, probably. I mean... so far every time we've been on the same team it worked out." Fei is, of course, frightened too but he doesn't want to make anybody else afraid because of it. Because he's totally oblivious to the true nature of Ragnell's relationship with Elly, he offers her a quiet fistbump. There isn't time for much beyond that.

'Thank you', Fei thinks. Despite all the pain of the day, despite all the death, despite all the people who allowed their darker sides prevail today...his heart is soaring.

"Xantia... I'm counting on you! Keep that guy off our back!" He tells her before looking back to Lucia with a blink. "You know my name? Guess Hiro must've..."

He turns a little red, embarrassed. It's possible she just overheard, too, come to think of it. Nevertheless, he is given a task. There's something he must help the others find. Deep in his heart, Fei is running at maximum capacity. 'Thank you' She said before the cockpit doors closed.

Yeah, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MQi7vk9Yzdk is playing here too.

Closing his eyes for a moment, a coward's voice whispers. It needs more power

A demon's voice whispers, Well if it's just power they need...

"Right...!" Fei says, reaching into his bag of tools and drawing out a small scalpel. He runs to a side of the console and literally just STABS it in.

And Fei channels his chi into the device, intending to deliver his own power. A chi whose nature can be ultimately associated with something not too disimilar with electrical power. Hopefully, he doesn't send in TOO MUCH chi. That could be bad.

"So," Fei says to Lucia. "Never got the chance to ask you. How you liking Filgaia so far?"

DG: Fei Fong Wong has used his Tool Artist's Toolkit toward his party's challenge, An Unknown Control Scheme.
<Pose Tracker> Lemina Ausa has posed.

After a few moments of cowering, Lemina turns her attention to the console -- conveniently, her low position makes it easier for her to look for the power hookups than many of the others. She practically crawls around it, seeing the lines.

"... HHhhuh," she says, before reaching into her pack, retrieving her glasses, and popping them on. "I think this is like... a path? Whatever powers everything else should be able to power --"

Riesenlied decides to skip that and just interface with the machine directly. Lemina boggles a little. "O -- or that," she offers, hesitantly. "Hey, uh, watch out -- I'm gonna try to get everything to connect right and if it jolts you, uh. Not my fault!" Riesenlied can buy them time, but Lemina feels it almost unfair to request indefinite power from Riesenlied.

She looks the gemstones over -- first for faults in the stone, then positional issues. "Okay -- the glass is definitely the conduit," she murmurs. "I think this one is cracked, but this one should be fine..." She moves to actually try to pop the stones out and swap them, providing a non-redundant path through the whole console. ... hopefully.

DG: Lemina Ausa has used her Tool Reading Glasses toward her party's challenge, An Unknown Control Scheme.
GS: Heldalf takes a solid hit from Sephilia Lampbright's Foxington Pound for 126 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Hiro has posed.

 
"Riese! Ragnell! You have no idea how relieved I am that you're both here!"
 
"You know it'd take way worse than that to keep me down Ragnell-!" Like this. That's what she must obviously be thinking. But Odjn inspires some courage in her again, "Odjn and Ruby - Dragonkind's best and greatest combination are together again!"
 
In the wake of the flameblast, the two only get one quiet moment of reverie. And the only question he asks is, "You okay?" He whispers, knowing real well how hard this must be on her. With her curse and the rest of this malevolence it must be like new levels of agony. Yet she's still hanging in there. He admired that strength. His eyes turn upon Sorey as he gets up just for a moment. It felt like he was watching something out of the storybooks. The Shepherd versus the Lord of Calamity. Any other scenario and he'd want to run right in there. But right now he knows his part to play. "I know you will... go get him Sorey."
 
Helping her up as best as he can, he hastily takes out his journal, flipping through the pages so fast that one can imagine a windstorm was blowing- "Come on there was something similar... back in the Ruins of... Memory. Something... I know there was..." And then he jams his thumb down on a page at a diagram from another Elw ruins, "Here!"
 
However Lucia is already navigating this like she knows what to do. And Hiro just can't help but smile at her navigating this. He holds it up as a reference, but otherwise doesn't get in her way.
 
"Voices-?" Hiro says to Riese, a little baffled until he remembers her powers. Maybe this is another form of it? Lucia likes it, so he trusts in it right away. "Oh yeah. I told her all about you." Hiro says to Fei, interested in his questions but too nervous given the intensity of the situation to actually add in that conversation.
 
"Lemina don't suppose you have any mega-bright ideas on how to defend ourselves from the definitely one hundred percent real Lord of Calamity!"
 
Whereas Ragnell's harmony brings back memories of him trying to learn to play the pipes. It's pretty soothing right about now... in that nostalgic kind of way. Like another spot of light in a storm of death.
 

<Pose Tracker> Gwen Whitlock has posed.

        "What is... that...?" Super Courier, Gwen Whitlock, looks on the Lord of Calamity. The actual, real Lord of Calamity. And beyond, a field of soldiers, their symbols and garments mostly unrecognizable. Some are Hellions, some aren't. And... the Malevolence. Like a hot spear plunged through the gut and then given a good twist. Gwen nearly falls over, gripping her chest, even if her heart, for better or worse, is physically fine.

        Also, there's Lucia there, too.

        But if there's a force that could throw a person out of such misery, it's the energizing surge of white blazing anger. Isiris managed to inspire this in her- the irritation and malice of a person who refuses to be-

        "I ain't yours t'claim!" Gwen shouts, at just about the same time as Janus shouts his own, similar statement, causing the redhead to blink. "... Janus?" Gwen peers through the dreary haze, then holds in her breath as Janus and his two lackies stroll on out of... somewhere.

        Oh, thank the Guardians, Janus is somehow not a Hellion. Unless he's one secretly. EITHER WAY, he's... on their side?

        "Janus! Wanna show 'im how we properly welcome uppity greenhorns like him?" Well, he already shot him, so he's kind of ahead of her, there.

        Without much time to prepare, Gwen slams some ammunition into her ARM, stretching it and her right shoulder out to fire. "N' it's only proper to give 'im a nice send-off, too!" She aims, taking a few moments to steady her arm, and fires, grunting from the recoil.

DG: Hiro has used his Tool Grandpa Gwyn's Notebook toward his party's challenge, An Unknown Control Scheme.
GS: Gwen Whitlock has attacked Heldalf with Crackshot!
GS: Gwen Whitlock has completed her action.
GS: Heldalf critically Guards a hit from Gwen Whitlock's Crackshot for 25 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Jean has posed.

A feminine hand claws up to the side of the platform, impeccable nails chipped in places.

Jean pulls herself, painstakingly, bit by bit, up from below, where she forces herself up and over the edge, heaving a moment for breath, and staring--upward. What she felt was real--Malevolence, more than anything. She looks immediately for--

"LUCIA!"

What Jean heard was enough. Her fans stowed, she bolts after her towards the strange machine, towards her friends where she can help them. All of those here. Power disconnected...

"Power," she huffs, lookiing around, "Power..."

Jean grits her teeth, and reaches out to something that looks important, trying to nudge it from where it looks wrong. "Sorry I'm late," she says.

EARLIER:

Jean totally falls off(?) the side of the platform. She'll be fine.

DG: Jean has contributed a Wits Basic Action toward her party's challenge, An Unknown Control Scheme.
==========================<* Elw Teleporter Control *>==========================
==================<* CHALLENGE - An Unknown Control Scheme *>===================
|Type: Entry       |Dungeon Ability: Wits      |Challenge Rating: 3          | 
---------------------------< Challenge Information: >---------------------------
 At the back of the platform between the two (now partially wrecked) towers,   
 a console made of intricate stonework has risen from the ground -- activated  
 by the depression of the Statue of Ge Ramtos into the ground. The console     
 has three parts; each has a complex series of buttons, carved into the        
 stone, and is centered around a globe that glows with a faint aquamarine      
 light even under the power of the Lord of Calamity's Domain.                  
                                                                               
 The rest of the console, however, is dim. If one looks, though -- and         
 really, with a creature like the Lord of Calamity nearby, spending the time   
 to look is hard -- lines of glass and gemstone can be seen. Most of this      
 console is not powered on, yet.                                               
                                                                               
 That is the first step.                                                       
=Dungeon Conditions: Reckless, Vault==========================================
=====================<* Elw Teleporter Control - Round 1 *>=====================
====================< Results - An Unknown Control Scheme >=====================
Player                               Exhaustion                      Pass/Fail
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Lucia                               0 --(5)--> 5                   Pass
Lucia's Pendant                     2   Wits    Effects: Enlighten            
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Lemina Ausa                         0 --(5)--> 5                   Pass
Reading Glasses                     2   Wits    Effects: Resilient            
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Hiro                                0 --(5)--> 5                   Pass
Grandpa Gwyn's Notebook             2   Wits    Effects: Enlighten            
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Fei Fong Wong                       0 --(5)--> 5                   Fail
Artist's Toolkit                    2   Wits    Effects: Enlighten            
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Riesenlied                          0 --(5)--> 5                   Pass
Dragon's Tear                       1   Wits    Effects: Cleanse              
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Seraph Ragnell                      0 --(5)--> 5                   Pass
Tarnished Harmonica                 2   Wits    Effects: Stalwart             
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Jean                                0 --(5)--> 5                   Fail
Investigate                         0   Wits    Effects: BASIC                
-----------------------------------< Party >------------------------------------
Leader: Lucia                       0 --(30)--> 30                 Pass
Conditions: Reckless(2)|Vault(1)
Effects: Cleanse|Enlighten(1)|Resilient(1)
===============================< Dream Chasers >================================
DG: The party led by Lucia has passed this challenge! The party gained 30 exploration! If anyone needs to use party management
commands, do so now. Otherwise, the next round's GM may begin the next round with +dungeon/draw.
DG: Lucia has drawn a new Challenge.
==========================<* Elw Teleporter Control *>==========================
===================<* CHALLENGE - Attack of the Lizardmen *>====================
|Type: Exploration |Dungeon Ability: Combat    |Challenge Rating: 2          | 
---------------------------< Challenge Information: >---------------------------
 The Lord of Calamity is the greatest threat here, but he is not the sole      
 enemy combatant. Scattered soldiers of Hyland and Rolance lay scattered       
 about the platform. While many are dead, injured, or too stunned to move...   
 a few lurch up. Their forms shift, turning into the lizard-like humanoid      
 Hellions. As you work at the console, and your comrades contend with the      
 Lord of Calamity, they rush in to attack.                                     
=Dungeon Conditions: Wound, Injure, Treasure==================================
<Pose Tracker> Heldalf has posed.

"So this one... would refer to herself as the Lord of Calamity? You have done well, Pyre Witch." Heldalf turns his head from Lucia, to regard Agatha briefly. "Now begone! Attend to any who linger -- so that I may finish this!"

Heldalf sees the firebolt not quite connect with Lucia. He frowns, but then a gunshot rings through the air. Cyre's bullet slams into Heldalf's stomach, hitting near where his navel should be... and flattens against the swirling gyre of violet energy there. The casing falls, pancaked, to the ground. The Lord of Calamity turns to stare at Cyre for a moment.

"Then let this be remembered as the day you lose any further choices you might make."

Rastaban bites down into his thigh. It finds shadowstuff; the ancient sword cleaves through something utterly unlike flesh, and there is a terrible sensation of ripping into something unnatural. Chauncey punches Heldalf, and the Lord of Calamity stands through it.

And then, a familiar face. Leo drops in -- blade coming down, and it slams into Heldalf's outstretched palm. It bites the flesh there, and it shifts and gives in that unnatural way. "That technique... irony lives upon this Blue Star!"

Tethelle finds the same, as her blade stabs in from behind him -- and he swings his arm up without looking at her to parry the strike. Then, he looks over his shoulder to her. His eyes narrow.

And then a beam from a Gear strikes him. Heldalf stumbles back, only to look up at Hauteclaire. Confusion registers, briefly, on his face. And then Locus distracts him, the way she said she would -- the fist of the Metal Digger slamming into him, with a crackle of electricity. "I see this world is full of surprises!"

Moreso when another Gear hits him in the face. The Vierge's rod slams into the nine-foot tall leonid, smashing him backward--and more when the Schiehallion fires, sidearms blazing, and rounds pepper near him. Yet, his otherworldly armor stands firm against it. He looks up, and he growls up at the Gears. "Such constructs...!"

Which is when that bright blue light slams into his side. It flashes and explodes, and yet he is as strong as before -- and turns to look at Sorey. Recognition enters his expression. "The Shepherd. I wondered where you had gotten off to. Allow me to show you the full depth of your helplessness."

Thessaly's curse strikes him -- but he has no blood. His Malevolence is, perhaps, the strongest known. It is more like stepping into bright sunlight for him -- pleasing yet right. Distracting, nonetheless, and that lets Garan score another strike on his too-strange flesh. He bellows, turning from the knight, to Xantia, as she sends an air punch into his armor. It barely bends.

Nor does it bend at Janus's shot. "Allow me to show all of you... the depths of your despair. I can feel your fear--your hatred. IT MAKES ME STRONGER!"

He raises an arm -- and Arleph's blast of energy slams off it, dispersing in an odd way. His hand then grips, squeezes, and crushes Gwen's bullet. Heldalf throws his head back, then, and roars.

The Tzadkiel's sensors scream, as reality churns and shifts. Those were in the depths of Krosse will recognize this. The sky churns black and violet, with threads of sickly gold in it. A storm of pure Malevolence appears -- the air becomes thick and heavy. Motes of black light rise from the ground, as it engulfs the whole of the Pleasing Gardens and then Lost July, burning out wide and feeding.

But through this, he strides up to Sorey... and backhands him with the force of a Gear's strike.

Reality recedes. The Guardians become faint. The hateful eyes of the Lord of Calamity look down at the Shepherd. "You will learn... only after you BREAK."

And yet, unlike Krosse, there is something. A distant voice is audible only two two people here. Cyre hears it first: "...we will not... permit this..."

Fengalon.

Then, Tethelle hears a voice: ...not in our garden.}"

Then, both hear the voices, faint, yet growing: "We are with you!"

OOC: Heldalf has activated his Malevolent Domain. The things to know:

1) You are completely disconnected from any sort of spiritual presence or sorcerous power. Sorcery attacks are disabled for this round only.

2) If you are a Shaman, your connection with the Guardians is completely cut off for this round only.

3) The Shepherd and his Squires cannot use Armatization for the rest of the scene, because of reasons that will become clear.

4) If you are a Seraphim, you are completely invisible to everyone around you as their spiritual presence has been completely cut off. You can still act, move, and talk so that you can still totally contribute to the scene! But normal people cannot see or here you, for the rest of the scene.

5) This is important!! Even if you are not spiritually inclined, even if you are not sorcery heavy or shamanistic or anything of the sort, being within a Malevolent Domain means your soul is both metaphorically and literally drowning. You are more sluggish, your body feels like it is failing, everything is terrible, and the longer you stay within its boundaries, the more compromised you become! This will be reduced next round.

GS: Heldalf has completed his action.
DC: Heldalf switches forms to The Lord of Calamity!
GS: Heldalf has attacked Sorey with Domain Oppression!
GS: Heldalf has attacked White Knight Leo with Domain Oppression!
GS: Heldalf has attacked Cyre H. Lorentz with Domain Oppression!
GS: Heldalf has attacked Talise Gianfair with Domain Oppression!
GS: Heldalf has attacked Sephilia Lampbright with Domain Oppression!
GS: Heldalf has attacked Tethelle Cirdian with Domain Oppression!
GS: Heldalf has attacked Layna Manydays with Domain Oppression!
GS: Heldalf has attacked Kahm Yugh with Domain Oppression!
GS: Heldalf has attacked Fei Fong Wong with Domain Oppression!
GS: Heldalf has attacked Garan Dantear with Domain Oppression!
GS: Heldalf has attacked Lucia with Domain Oppression!
GS: Heldalf has attacked Seraph Ragnell with Domain Oppression!
GS: Heldalf has attacked Riesenlied with Domain Oppression!
GS: Heldalf has attacked Arleph Ardan with Domain Oppression!
GS: Heldalf has attacked Janus Cascade with Domain Oppression!
GS: Heldalf has attacked Xantia with Domain Oppression!
GS: Heldalf has attacked Lemina Ausa with Domain Oppression!
GS: Heldalf has attacked Thessaly with Domain Oppression!
GS: Heldalf has attacked Loren Voss with Domain Oppression!
GS: Heldalf has attacked Kahm Yugh with Domain Oppression!
GS: Heldalf has attacked Hiro with Domain Oppression!
GS: Heldalf has attacked Malfi with Domain Oppression!
GS: Heldalf has attacked Carina Wynne with Domain Oppression!
GS: Heldalf has attacked Gwen Whitlock with Domain Oppression!
GS: Heldalf has been weakened by Disease! They take 0 hit points of damage, and burn off their temporary hit points!
GS: Heldalf has completed his action.
GS: Fei Fong Wong takes a glancing hit from Heldalf's Domain Oppression for 0 hit points!
GS: RUIN! All positive status effects and temporary hit points purged from Fei Fong Wong!
GS: Talise Gianfair takes a glancing hit from Heldalf's Domain Oppression for 0 hit points!
GS: RUIN! All positive status effects and temporary hit points purged from Talise Gianfair!
GS: Hiro takes a glancing hit from Heldalf's Domain Oppression for 0 hit points!
GS: RUIN! All positive status effects and temporary hit points purged from Hiro!
DC: 1 turn has elapsed in the battle against Heldalf! 4 turns remain!
GS: Heldalf has attacked Jean with Domain Oppression!
GS: Layna Manydays takes a solid hit from Heldalf's Domain Oppression for 0 hit points!
GS: RUIN! All positive status effects and temporary hit points purged from Layna Manydays!
GS: Sorey takes a solid hit from Heldalf's Domain Oppression for 0 hit points!
GS: RUIN! All positive status effects and temporary hit points purged from Sorey!
GS: Heldalf has attacked Sorey with Tremendous Backhand!
GS: Tethelle Cirdian guards a hit from Heldalf's Domain Oppression for 0 hit points!
GS: RUIN! All positive status effects and temporary hit points purged from Tethelle Cirdian!
GS: Lemina Ausa guards a hit from Heldalf's Domain Oppression for 0 hit points!
GS: RUIN! All positive status effects and temporary hit points purged from Lemina Ausa!
GS: Sorey takes a solid hit from Heldalf's Tremendous Backhand for 143 hit points!
GS: Sephilia Lampbright guards a hit from Heldalf's Domain Oppression for 0 hit points!
GS: RUIN! All positive status effects and temporary hit points purged from Sephilia Lampbright!
GS: Seraph Ragnell takes a glancing hit from Heldalf's Domain Oppression for 0 hit points!
GS: RUIN! All positive status effects and temporary hit points purged from Seraph Ragnell!
<Pose Tracker> Lucia has posed.

"The Blue Star..." Lucia replies, her voice distant, but she looks briefly at Fei. "...it is my home."

But she did not answer his question, did she?

She looks over their efforts. Lucia is calmed, for a moment, by Ragnell's playing. Between Fei providing power directly -- and the influence of her pendant and the Dragon Tear -- and Lemina moving and turning over stones, until she connects the conduit, they accomplish their task. But, it takes Jean -- plugging a stone into the side -- to make it all finally come to life. Each rune lights up.

Lucia studies them. "Then... this should expand the field," Lucia says. She glances at Hiro's notebook (Gwyn's, really). Then, she nods, and presses a button.

"I believe..."

The Lord of Calamity's Domain surges over her. She shudders, as she feels it -- dragging at her. A sickness, a rot; something of the spirit. Lucia's eyes squeeze shut, and then she keeps clicking. "More..."

But the lizardmen rise. Wearing the blue, red, and armor of Hyland and Rolance, they rush -- charging for her back, blades drawn. They hiss as they move forward!

DG: Lucia has contributed a Combat Basic Action toward her party's challenge, Attack of the Lizardmen.
GS: Loren Voss guards a hit from Heldalf's Domain Oppression for 0 hit points!
GS: RUIN! All positive status effects and temporary hit points purged from Loren Voss!
GS: CRITICAL! Garan Dantear critically Guards a hit from Heldalf's Domain Oppression for 0 hit points!
GS: RUIN! All positive status effects and temporary hit points purged from Garan Dantear!
DC: MISS! Arleph Ardan completely evades Domain Oppression from Heldalf!
DC: MISS! Cyre H. Lorentz completely evades Domain Oppression from Heldalf!
GS: Riesenlied takes a solid hit from Heldalf's Domain Oppression for 0 hit points!
GS: RUIN! All positive status effects and temporary hit points purged from Riesenlied!
GS: Malfi guards a hit from Heldalf's Domain Oppression for 0 hit points!
GS: RUIN! All positive status effects and temporary hit points purged from Malfi!
GS: CRITICAL! White Knight Leo critically Guards a hit from Heldalf's Domain Oppression for 0 hit points!
GS: RUIN! All positive status effects and temporary hit points purged from White Knight Leo!
GS: Heldalf has attacked Elhaym van Houten with Domain Oppression!
GS: Heldalf has attacked Jean with Domain Oppression!
GS: Elhaym van Houten guards a hit from Heldalf's Domain Oppression for 0 hit points!
GS: RUIN! All positive status effects and temporary hit points purged from Elhaym van Houten!
GS: Janus Cascade critically Guards a hit from Heldalf's Domain Oppression for 0 hit points!
GS: RUIN! All positive status effects and temporary hit points purged from Janus Cascade!
GS: Thessaly takes a glancing hit from Heldalf's Domain Oppression for 0 hit points!
GS: RUIN! All positive status effects and temporary hit points purged from Thessaly!
<Pose Tracker> Riesenlied has posed.

        There's a faint shyness from Riesenlied as Lucia comments on her pendant -- it's not something she expected, especially while they're in the midst of fighting for their life...

        She sucks a shaky breath, rather obviously and visually channeling power. "I can take it. I'll channel power to whatever you need energised, I t-thiiink I can feel how the leylines flow through this machine..." she offers encouragement to Lemina.

        With Fei's chi powering the rest of the way through, it's like she's being low-key electrified the entire time... but that's okay.

        She clarifies for Hiro, "T-the voice... of the machine." She'd explain more, but she probably doesn't mean it literally.

        She smiles weakly as Jean and answers, "I'm glad you could make it, Jean..."

        But that smile doesn't last long-- her face drops as she feels that Malevolent domain erupt into her, gasping as she feels her knees and elbows tugging down towards the ground. She nearly lets go of that power. "A-aah...!"

        Odjn jitters just for a moment to whimper, "R-Rieeese..." she stares towards the Lizardmen incoming to them. "I'm not gonna... Ruby!"

        She sucks in a breath and puffs herself up. "Let's show these lizards just how the best Dragonkind in Filgaia and Lunar do things downtown!!"

        She flings at the nearest Lizardman and glomps onto its face. "HYAAA--"

DG: Riesenlied has used her Tool Dragon's Claw toward her party's challenge, Attack of the Lizardmen.
GS: Carina Wynne takes a solid hit from Heldalf's Domain Oppression for 0 hit points!
GS: RUIN! All positive status effects and temporary hit points purged from Carina Wynne!
GS: Xantia takes a glancing hit from Heldalf's Domain Oppression for 0 hit points!
GS: RUIN! All positive status effects and temporary hit points purged from Xantia!
<Pose Tracker> Sephilia Lampbright has posed.

Sephilia lets out a scream as she clutches her head and drops, writhing--and perhaps more worryingly, Chauncey drops to the floor, returned to his natural doll form. "Chauncey!" she cries, pushing to all fours and scrambling over to grab her doll--her bestest buddy and bodyguard--from where he lies inert. She can't seem to breathe through the sobs as she's wrenched out of synchronization with the doll by the Malevolent domain.

Sephilia grabs Chauncey and rolls...and comes back up into a sitting position, holding Chauncey in one hand and the Foxtail, her ARM, in the other. Somehow, she's managed to load it. The merry tune it plays as she opens fire on Heldalf does nothing to help her morale. Again and again she fires, aim thrown off as her vision is blurred by tears.

"GIVE HIM BACK TO ME!" she sobs.

GS: Sephilia Lampbright has attacked Heldalf with Foxtail Fusillade!!
GS: Sephilia Lampbright has completed her action.
<Pose Tracker> Jean has posed.

Jean feels it. She feels, it as she works, the drowning of Malevolence, and forces herself--though she feels nauseous, though she feels the way it drains at her--to keep herself, to remember who she cares for. Lucia, Hiro, Lemina... Riesenlied, Fei, these are with her. She must retain herself, she cannot become what she was--

"Wouldn't.. miss it," Jean says to Riesenlied, offering her a thumbs-up after a moment. Lucia talks about expanding a field though, and then--the lizardmen rise. "...I'll cover you," Jean says quietly to Lucia. "Just hold on."

Jean pulls her fans; she does not adopt the stance of the Shadow Dragon, but instead a looser, dancer's stance... and hen she pauses, wavers on her feet thanks to the Malevolence, and puts away one fan. She pulls instead a battered silver flask, uncaps it, and downs a good few shots at once, feeling the burn through her, the life that opposes this despair all at once. She re-caps it, wipes her mouth, and stares.

"...That's better."

Jean pulls her second fan and hurls both at her enemies, whirling into a dance to confuse and weaken their foes before she follows up to help take them out. There is something strange about dancing in the midst of the Calamity, something strange about moving this way...

She does it.

DG: Jean has used her Tool Emergency Liquor toward her party's challenge, Attack of the Lizardmen.
<Pose Tracker> Malfi has posed.

Malfi gasps as her healing reverses itself, pewterescent (not putrescent) blood seeping once again from her injuries, several ribs becoming fractured once again. The Malevolence still tickles the edges of her consciousness, and she assumes it must be some form of magic, which her people can't grasp. She knows, however that sometimes magic can be countered, and so turns her attention to the lion entity, endeavoring to limit his magic as best she can. She jabs at him, though less capably than usual. Those cuts and bruises and cracks are taking a toll...

GS: Malfi has attacked Heldalf with Mage Buster!
GS: Malfi has completed her action.
<Pose Tracker> Seraph Ragnell has posed.

        Ragnell grins and fistbumps Fei back. Whether he's aware of her relationship with Elly or not doesn't really matter to her, but the longer he's ignorant, the funnier it becomes to her. She grins at Ruby and nods to her. "Heh, you know that's right!" To Hiro, she winks. "Awww, at this rate, you're gonna make me blush~."
        
        For someone whose pulse--as it were--is racing miles a minute, Ragnell does an /excellent/ job of sounding as flippant as ever. She half-smiles as Sorey and Hiro call their agreements to what is functionally a truce across the battlefield. Sorey didn't respond to her, but given what all's going on right now, she didn't really expect him to. Priorities.
        
        But it's go time, and she plays to keep everyone's nerves calm. Even Jean shows up, a little late but better late than never, while the others do their thing. Once the power lights up all the connections, Ragnell lifts her lips and puts her instrument away. "Excellent," she says briskly. "What next?"
        
        That question is answered swiftly. Some of the scattered soldiers around them stir. Ragnell shoots them a frowning look, taking in both the Rolancian and Hylandian uniforms, before several of them morph into lizardmen and -women. In an instant, her pistols are in her hands and she opens fire with lightning bullets upon the approaching Hellions, shifting her footwork to keep herself between them and Lucia.
        
        And then Heldalf's Domain, to put it lightly, asserts itself. To those around her, Ragnell vanishes in an instant; to Ragnell herself, the force of the Malevolence drops her to her knees. She chokes and sputters and coughs--this feeling is a g o n i z i n g, even to someone with defenses against the stuff--but still, she manages to keep herself together, teeth grit as she looks up and over at Ruby, Odjn, and Mikleo, the handful of those present who /might/ see her. "This is fine," she spits, "right, guys? I always /love/ a good challenge!!"
        
        The Hellions close in on her. Ever stubborn, Ragnell flips her pistols around, then wields them as bludgeons, along with any thrown elbows and gut-kicks she can manage.

DG: Seraph Ragnell has contributed a Combat Basic Action toward her party's challenge, Attack of the Lizardmen.
<Pose Tracker> Talise Gianfair has posed.

More than anything, it helps Talise to know that her friends are with her. Sephilia, Layna - and there, coming up beside her, Tethelle.

'You helped with Filgaia's problems. Let us help you with yours!'

In spite of the seemingly hopeless situation, Talise can't keep from throwing the shorter swordswoman a tight grin. "Thank you...!"

She is less grateful when Rastaban strikes home... and bites into something unnatural. Talise's eyes go wide.

AND REALITY SHIFTS.

The Malevolent Domain opens up. For the second time in as many weeks, that intense power washes over Talise. She hunkers down behind her shield in the hopes that mere steel can protect her from the horrific miasma that is Malevolence. Squeezing her eyes closed, she breathes out through her nose. Horrible thoughts bubble to the fore again.

        How can you ever expect to stop the Lord of Calamity when you were powerless to stop the Pyre Witch and the Trial Knight? Aren't you just punching above your weight again? Look - see how Tethelle believes in you?
        And you're going to fail her. You're going to fail Sephilia. You'll have to tell George and Ofelia Lampbright why their precious daughter is a dead Hellion in the Lord of Calamity's army of all your friends you couldn't save. Because you're weak. So weak that not even Althena loves you.
        Kill yourself, you worthless bitch.

From behind the tower shield, there comes a low, deep sound.

A chuckle. "Ohhhh, this is fucking rich," Talise rasps as she looks up over the edge of the shield.

A wide, fierce grin burns across her face, and white-hot defiance behind her eyes. "You think you're going to stop me from protecting Filgaia like this, Lord of Calamity? By drowning me in Malevolence? By reminding me how much I've hurt? How I'm the only one from Lunar who doesn't have Althena's Blessing? I can't deny that."

Talise's voice rises to a furious roar, a shining star against dread.

"YOU CAN'T TAKE AWAY WHAT I DON'T HAVE, HELDALF! If all you're going to leave me is my skill... THEN FACE MY SKILL!!"

The intensity of the Malevolence threatens to swamp Talise. Her body screams and strains as she forces her muscles to move against oppressive forces that will not allow them to--

Sephilia Lampbright is crying.

Something inside Talise snaps. Do not let your anger rule you.

"Sephilia," she whispers - and then she lunges at Heldalf.

Talise does not lunge with anger, nor with despair. Sephilia is crying. The sound of the girl's wail pumps through her like fuel and turns to steel in her veins. With a war cry, Talise lashes out at Heldalf with a hurricane of blows. The silvery, patterned blade of Rastaban sings in the air.

It physically slices through a wave of Malevolence with each swing as Talise fights the Lord of Calamity with nothing but skill and defiance - aiming to slash through him with all the skill forged of a lifetime of failure and loss and pain.

GS: Talise Gianfair has attacked Heldalf with Infinitely Rippling Stream!
GS: Talise Gianfair has completed her action.
<Pose Tracker> Talise Gianfair has posed.

More than anything, it helps Talise to know that her friends are with her. Sephilia, Layna - and there, coming up beside her, Tethelle.

'You helped with Filgaia's problems. Let us help you with yours!'

In spite of the seemingly hopeless situation, Talise can't keep from throwing the shorter swordswoman a tight grin. "Thank you...!"

She is less grateful when Rastaban strikes home... and bites into something unnatural. Talise's eyes go wide.

AND REALITY SHIFTS.

The Malevolent Domain opens up. For the second time in as many weeks, that intense power washes over Talise. She hunkers down behind her shield in the hopes that mere steel can protect her from the horrific miasma that is Malevolence. Squeezing her eyes closed, she breathes out through her nose. Horrible thoughts bubble to the fore again.

        How can you ever expect to stop the Lord of Calamity when you were powerless to stop the Pyre Witch and the Trial Knight? Aren't you just punching above your weight again? Look - see how Tethelle believes in you?
        And you're going to fail her. You're going to fail Sephilia. You'll have to tell George and Ofelia Lampbright why their precious daughter is a dead Hellion in the Lord of Calamity's army of all your friends you couldn't save. Because you're weak. So weak that not even Althena loves you.
        Kill yourself, you worthless bitch.

From behind the tower shield, there comes a low, deep sound.

A chuckle. "Ohhhh, this is fucking rich," Talise rasps as she looks up over the edge of the shield.

A wide, fierce grin burns across her face, and white-hot defiance behind her eyes. "You think you're going to stop me from protecting Filgaia like this, Lord of Calamity? By drowning me in Malevolence? By reminding me how much I've hurt? How I'm the only one from Lunar who doesn't have Althena's Blessing? I can't deny that."

Talise's voice rises to a furious roar, a shining star against dread.

"YOU CAN'T TAKE AWAY WHAT I DON'T HAVE! If all you're going to leave me is my skill... THEN FACE MY SKILL!!"

The intensity of the Malevolence threatens to swamp Talise. Her body screams and strains as she forces her muscles to move against oppressive forces that will not allow them to--

Sephilia Lampbright is crying.

Something inside Talise snaps. Do not let your anger rule you.

"Sephilia," she whispers - and then she lunges at Heldalf.

Talise does not lunge with anger, nor with despair. Sephilia is crying. The sound of the girl's wail pumps through her like fuel and turns to steel in her veins. With a war cry, Talise lashes out at Heldalf with a hurricane of blows. The silvery, patterned blade of Rastaban sings in the air.

It physically slices through a wave of Malevolence with each swing as Talise fights the Lord of Calamity with nothing but skill and defiance - aiming to slash through him with all the skill forged of a lifetime of failure and loss and pain.

GS: Heldalf guards a hit from Sephilia Lampbright's Foxtail Fusillade! for 55 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Jean has posed.

Jean feels it. She feels, it as she works, the drowning of Malevolence, and forces herself--though she feels nauseous, though she feels the way it drains at her--to keep herself, to remember who she cares for. Lucia, Hiro, Lemina... Riesenlied, Fei, these are with her. She must retain herself, she cannot become what she was--

"Wouldn't.. miss it," Jean says to Riesenlied, offering her a thumbs-up after a moment. Lucia talks about expanding a field though, and then--the lizardmen rise. "...I'll cover you," Jean says quietly to Lucia. "Just hold on."

Jean pulls her fans; she does not adopt the stance of the Shadow Dragon, but instead a looser, dancer's stance... and hen she pauses, wavers on her feet thanks to the Malevolence, and puts away one fan. She pulls instead a battered silver flask, uncaps it, and downs a good few shots at once, feeling the burn through her, the life that opposes this despair all at once. She re-caps it, wipes her mouth, and stares.

"...That's better."

Jean pulls her second fan and hurls both at her enemies, whirling into a dance to confuse and weaken their foes before she follows up to help take them out. There is something strange about dancing in the midst of the Calamity, something strange about moving this way...

She does it. But the dance does not bring its magic. It does not affect her foes.

Jean narrows her eyes, and throws herself into battle after all, wielding razor fans to try to beat the enemy back directly, trying to avoid relying on that Power she knows she can use in these states.

GS: Gwen Whitlock guards a hit from Heldalf's Domain Oppression for 0 hit points!
GS: RUIN! All positive status effects and temporary hit points purged from Gwen Whitlock!
GS: Heldalf guards a hit from Malfi's Mage Buster for 79 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> White Knight Leo has posed.

        The Lord of Calamity catches Leo's blade.

        The big Beastman puts all his strength into the swing, and the lion-man still stops it cold; gravity takes over from there, and Leo drops to the ground, dragging his blade out of his foe's hand. He didn't so much as scratch him. "I am WHITE KNIGHT LEO, wretch!" Leo roars, "And AS LONG AS I DRAW BREATH, THIS WORLD WILL NOT BE YOURS!"

        Long ago, a five-year-old boy brings a bucket of water and a freshly-picked apple to a knight on pilgrimage. "My name is Leo," he says, looking up at the man with all the earnestness his young self can muster. He's wanted to be a knight ever since he can remember, and here one is, in his home.

        Leo does not know that the blight standing before him now was once the man he stood before as a child. Perhaps it's for the best.

        The Lord of Calamity invokes his Malevolent Domain. It staggers Leo now, just as it did in the Krosse Catacombs--it's like slamming into a physical wall, and it knocks the breath from him. The White Dragon Aura gutters and dies in his heart like a smothered fire; the Goddess' presence is no longer there. In their own, twisted way, perhaps the Trial Knight has prepared Leo for what the Lord of Calamity has just inflicted on him. All the horrible sensations return, but this time Leo knows what to expect. It's cold comfort. He forces himself to stand.

        "I still stand, beast!" Leo snarls. "I STILL STAND!" And so do Garan and Thessaly. Leo's gaze flicks over at the knight and his sorceress charge, settling into a defensive fighting stance. It's a feint. He surges towards the Lord of Calamity, his blade turning into a blur in his hands. It's suddenly coming at the gigantic Hellion from two, four, eight different directions at once--a wild-looking yet precisely-controlled flurry of attacks.

        General Heldalf always said he was good at this one.

GS: White Knight Leo has attacked Heldalf with Sword Rain!
GS: White Knight Leo has completed his action.
<Pose Tracker> Sorey has posed.

 IN REGARDS TO AGATHA
 
 "Your wish is my command, my lord," the Pyre Witch states with a polite bow. "I will scatter those too cowardly to face you like leaves before the firestorm." She rises to her feet, before vanishing into a puddle of shadow into the ground.
 
 Agatha thus has an amusing time making life difficult for those who have run from the battle, as well as cutting off access for most other Drifters who have not yet arrived to the battle. She notably does not actually /harm/ anyone, using walls of fire and other pyrotechnic effects to keep them running and off balance for the time being.
 
 IN REGARDS TO SOREY
 
 This isn't the first time that Sorey has met a malevolent domain, but this one makes even the one in Krosse feel like a vaguely unpleasant day in comparison. But at the same time... Sorey is not someone who is going to sit back and not work to improve himself. He has been training ever since they broke out of Krosse, working to improve his bond with his Seraphs to be able to maintain his connection with them even during times when the local domain is so strong that he can barely stand.
 
 And when the wave of malevolence hits him, Sorey drops to one knee... but he does not yield to the malevolence. The white Armatus around him twitches, bits of blue steam rising from it as the waves of malevolence hammer at him, but Sorey raises his bow defiantly as Heldalf strides towards him.
 
 "I'm not... going to break! Not while you're standing here threatening this world!" the Shepherd growls, throwing his defiance in the face of the Lord of Calamity. He uses Mikleo's bow to lever himself to his feet, clearly struggling in the midst of this terrifying domain to even move.
 
 But regardless, he creates another arrow and pulls back the bow, struggling to raise it to fire at Heldalf-
 
 And the massive Hellion backhands him contemptuously.
 
 The blow is of sufficient force that Sorey's body flashes, and both he and Mikleo go flying in two separate directions. The Seraph crashes to the ground, rolling several times before coming to a stop, unconscious. And Sorey flies backwards and crashes into a nearby wall, stones shattering from the force of the impact and leaving him lying in the rubble for a moment.
 
 A moment passes. Then another.
 
 And Sorey clenches his hand, and pushes himself to his feet. "It's not... over yet!" he growls, walking forward towards Heldalf. He concentrates for a moment, blue flame washing up his sword, although weaker and less focused than it normally appears. And with a flick of his wrist, the Shepherd launches his flames of purification at Heldalf. "As long as I'm standing, I won't give up!"

DC: Sorey switches forms to Shepherd Sorey!
GS: Sorey has attacked Heldalf with Cantering Flames!
GS: Sorey has completed his action.
<Pose Tracker> Hiro has posed.

 
"The voice of the what now?" Then Jean shows up and Hiro grins at her, "Good timing. Knew a little something like falling off the edge wouldn't keep you down."
 
"Leo!" Hiro swallows as he sees Leo engaging the Lord of Calamity. He has an urge to rush down there and back him up but - "We're counting on you!" Quietly though, he feels a little sorry that he has to leave it to him.
 
And the Shepherd engages, and for a moment Hiro dares to hope - until the malevolent domain activates and nearly bowls him over with the sheer oppressive power. "Not again...! This is just like Krosse!" Who was the Trial Knight that he could do something like what the Lord of Calamity just did?! As the Shepherd de-armatizes Hiro winces. "Just a little longer Sorey... we won't leave you hanging..." He says to himself like a mantra.
 
Ruby's mouth opens but she doesn't quite scream. Instead she starts to shiver. While she looks dazed like back in Krosse, and a shade paler - it's like this close to Lucia she's able to manage some sort of resistance. "No... not letting this... no..."
 
Ruby flaps her little wings with a sudden fury. "R-right Odjn!" Ruby doesn't so much swoop as list towards the one Odjn is attached to. And then unleashes a small puff of flame to the back of its head which seems to gutter out quickly. But hey - it's a dragon combination attack. Kind of?
 
Hiro's first instincts against the rush of Lizardmen would be to use his magic.
 
"Lucia. Keep doing what you have to do! We'll keep them busy!" Instead he stays right in front of Lucia - feet planted as the Lizardmen come at them. Some of the sigils on the armor remind him of Alisha's.
 
That's the thought he has as he holds his sword on high and cleaves it down at the first one, "DODGE THIS!" Pressed immediately without his magic, he defends as furiously as he possibly can. Slashing furiously as he follows Jean's lead, trying to remember his training so that he can survive even a while in this horde. Believing completely that if Lucia goes down... that they're all dead.
 
But even if he didn't, he'd still be doing what he's doing anyhow.
 
"This is... FINE!" Hiro echoes Ragnell's love of a challenge, "We're all getting out of this together!"
 

DG: Hiro has contributed a Combat Basic Action toward his party's challenge, Attack of the Lizardmen.
<Pose Tracker> Lemina Ausa has posed.

Ragnell's calming melody is quite the earworm -- Lemina finds it fairly charming, truthfully... which makes it extremely jarring when the Lord of Calamity cuts it off entirely with the raw force of his domain a moment later. The world feels like it lurches, and Lemina can tell in a moment that she's been cut off from the energy of the world.

She feels awful -- and even moreso as the lizardmen advance on their positions. She struggles back to her feet, scooting closer to Jean on reflex. "Jean -- I feel... kinda sick," Lemina admits, even as she reaches behind her for her bow, rather than one of her many, many staves. Ruby gets a, "... Nope, sorry -- this one's kind of... beyond my mega-genius brain." ... Can Ruby even hear her now?

She nocks an arrow and fires -- then again. Then again. And again. It's gotten easier since she made her way to the Blue Star -- what was once squarely hobby territory has, thanks to the magic of hunting and foraging for food, become fairly impressive archery in its own right.

It kind of looks... wrong, though. Even as she draws and fires, Lemina singularly like a frightened kid.

DG: Lemina Ausa has contributed a Combat Basic Action toward her party's challenge, Attack of the Lizardmen.
GS: Heldalf guards a hit from Talise Gianfair's Infinitely Rippling Stream for 120 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Carina Wynne has posed.

Carina's fist connects with the Lord of Calamity. She meets far more resistance than she expected, and to her credit she did expect a lot of resistance. At least she's distracting him, which is what counts, but a moment later she is washed away by the Malevolent Domain as it washes in.

"GHGGGGGHK" She skids and staggers back upon the ground, as her visor flashes sudden warning messages, enough to flood her vision. The lightning crackling around her disappears as she stumbles back to her feet, feeling even more faint than before. Her body is fine, for the most part, her armor not significantly compromised... but her soul is another story.

"I don't want to die," she whines out, apropros of nothing, as imaginary visions of Siegfried piercing through her assail her mind. Then, the image shifts, as she considers a new nightmare scenario-- This time her sister is the one wearing the Locus armor. "Melody, no..."

She can't... She can't think about that, right? This is a life-of-death situation, a bigger one than she can even imagine. A voice inside yells at her to stand up and fight.

She powers through the sluggishness she's feeling-- the one she was feeling even before the Malevolent Domain entered the equation --to charge back towards Heldalf with a series of blows from her fists, feet, elbows. The moves appear expert, but the way they're chained are not. This is a desperation attack in every sense.

GS: Carina Wynne has attacked Heldalf with Failure's Flailing - Carina is Just a Loser in a Cool Suit!
GS: Carina Wynne has completed her action.
<Pose Tracker> Thessaly has posed.

Around her, the world splits asunder, and takes a piece of it with him.
 
 It would have been an even more dangerous predicament for one such as her, when the ephemeral pieces of her are as fragmented as they are, corded off and buttressed for her safety and others. It would have been if she had been relying on her magic to keep perilous things at bay. But it is her will that ineffably binds the Other and so long as she has that...
 
 ...but occasionally that, too, fails.
 
 And when suffocated like this, it can very well do so.
 
 Thessaly, underneath black silks and her veils, has never been the most physically stalwart creature - in a previous life, she has been ensconced securely in a privileged upbringing. To be placed in a shell that is so spiritually oppressive, robbing her of her gifts, weakens her considerably and she sways once before she drops onto her knees, her crystal ball rolling helplessly away from her, woefully just out of reach, as if mocking her efforts. Wide eyes stare down upon the ground, cold sweat slipping down the side of her face and hidden by the translucent fabric that hides it from view.
 
 She isn't sure if she can bear it, this lack of something so fundamental to her sense of being.
 
 She tries to breathe, to stem the welling panic rising from her chest. Because she can't just feel it, the endless well of magic in which her sheer potential has been bathed...
 
 ....she can no longer feel Garan.
 
 The mark at the back of her neck is dead and gone, for now, suppressed by whatever it is that prevents sorcery from occurring here.
 
 And it feels closer, breathing against her ear. For it is no god, no external presence.
 
 It is part of her and now, at their most frantic hour...
 
 ...it senses her panic. Her weakness.
 
 She bites back a quiet sound and she closes her eyes, struggling with it. Oh seraphs, but she can't.
 
 She can't.

<Pose Tracker> Fei Fong Wong has posed.

"Oh yeah," Fei laughs a bit. "Sorry, you gel so well with your friends there, I kinda forgot." His laughter fades as he feels the domain. He feels that sensation again, like in Krosse, where he felt like he couldn't feel something that was connected deep within him. But it's there, he thinks, it's still there. It's just masked. Whatever it is. He takes in a deep breath to keep his cool as he turns around to face the lizardmen and assorted hellions that make their way towards them. A fate worse than death.

Let's pummel these cretins!

We can't let her fall.

"Lucia! Hang in there! We can handle these punks ourselves!" Fei doesn't comment on Lucia not answering the question. This is definitely not the time for that. It's hard to tell if he even noticed. He rushes forward to face the lizardmen. He doesn't recognize their armoring or anything of the sort. As far as he can tell, they're just monsters. He flips his RPS badge into the air before launching a guided shot into it. The spinning badge sends crackling chi spinning through the hellion ranks!

He is frankly touched that Hiro did tell Lucia about him, but he is channeling this emotion through violence right now. He will apologize to Riese later, probably. "Jean! Whomever takes down the least lizardmen pays for drinks!"

<Pose Tracker> Fei Fong Wong has posed.

"Oh yeah," Fei laughs a bit. "Sorry, you gel so well with your friends there, I kinda forgot." His laughter fades as he feels the domain. He feels that sensation again, like in Krosse, where he felt like he couldn't feel something that was connected deep within him. But it's there, he thinks, it's still there. It's just masked. Whatever it is. He takes in a deep breath to keep his cool as he turns around to face the lizardmen and assorted hellions that make their way towards them. A fate worse than death.

Let's pummel these cretins!

We can't let her fall.

"Lucia! Hang in there! We can handle these punks ourselves!" Fei doesn't comment on Lucia not answering the question. This is definitely not the time for that. It's hard to tell if he even noticed. He rushes forward to face the lizardmen. He doesn't recognize their armoring or anything of the sort. As far as he can tell, they're just monsters. He flips his RPS badge into the air before launching a guided shot into it. The spinning badge sends crackling chi spinning through the hellion ranks!

He is frankly touched that Hiro did tell Lucia about him, but he is channeling this emotion through violence right now. He will apologize to Riese later, probably. "Jean! Whomever takes down the least lizardmen pays for drinks!"

MEANWHILE

Hammer looks over towards the realm of absolute hate, evil, and badfeels, and then over towards Lily and Leon whom he is treating with potions and first aid.

"I'm really glad," Hammer says. "That you're out here, and not in there."

DG: Fei Fong Wong has used his Tool RPS Badge toward his party's challenge, Attack of the Lizardmen.
<Pose Tracker> Arleph Ardan has posed.

         Arleph is already not in a good shape. THe oppressive sensation of the MALEVOLENCE is something enough to let him let out a gasp of surprise, the scent, the sensation and the oppression as he staggers back, his tattoos slowly dimming beneath it. THere's some dim realisation on the moment of what it means. How horrific. Can he just do that, or is just how saturated he is actually causes this?
 
         No matter. At this point, he's mostly on Adrenaline.
 
         Arleph takes a step back from the frontlines. He can hear the sound of human -- or human enough -- misery around him, striking at his core. "Damnit." He curses, fumbling at his one remaining good pocket. He hates what this Solar System forced him to do with his skills. First, his magic, coming from a support, infrastructure helper, a discoverer. A man of science, to transform it all into combat magic. Oh, sure, it's fun it's in own way, using magic IS fun. Just... not like this.
 
         And now, he's forced to take another step: apply chemistry as a mean of fighting.
 
         "YAAAAAARH!" Arleph rises, seizing a vial between his fingers and flinging it overhead at the Lord of Calamity. Hopefully, even if a part of him wishes it didn't work, it will explode violently upon impact.

GS: Arleph Ardan has attacked Heldalf with Unstable Acids!
GS: Arleph Ardan has completed his action.
GS: Heldalf guards a hit from Sorey's Cantering Flames for 57 hit points!
==========================<* Elw Teleporter Control *>==========================
===================<* CHALLENGE - Attack of the Lizardmen *>====================
|Type: Exploration |Dungeon Ability: Combat    |Challenge Rating: 2          | 
---------------------------< Challenge Information: >---------------------------
 The Lord of Calamity is the greatest threat here, but he is not the sole      
 enemy combatant. Scattered soldiers of Hyland and Rolance lay scattered       
 about the platform. While many are dead, injured, or too stunned to move...   
 a few lurch up. Their forms shift, turning into the lizard-like humanoid      
 Hellions. As you work at the console, and your comrades contend with the      
 Lord of Calamity, they rush in to attack.                                     
=Dungeon Conditions: Wound, Injure, Treasure==================================
=====================<* Elw Teleporter Control - Round 2 *>=====================
=====================< Results - Attack of the Lizardmen >======================
Player                               Exhaustion                      Pass/Fail
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Lucia                               5 --(12)--> 17                 Fail
Fight                               0   Combat  Effects: BASIC                
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Lemina Ausa                         5 --(7)--> 12                  Pass
Fight                               0   Combat  Effects: BASIC                
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Hiro                                5 --(12)--> 17                 Fail
Fight                               0   Combat  Effects: BASIC                
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Fei Fong Wong                       5 --(7)--> 12                  Pass
RPS Badge                           3   Combat  Effects: Rally                
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Riesenlied                          5 --(7)--> 12                  Pass
Dragon's Claw                       1   Combat  Effects: Cleanse              
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Seraph Ragnell                      5 --(12)--> 17                 Fail
Fight                               0   Combat  Effects: BASIC                
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Jean                                5 --(12)--> 17                 Fail
Emergency Liquor                    3   Combat  Effects: Rally                
-----------------------------------< Party >------------------------------------
Leader: Lucia                       30 --(10)--> 40                Fail
Conditions: Injure(2)|Reckless(1)|Treasure(1)|Wound(2)
Effects: Cleanse
===============================< Dream Chasers >================================
DG: The party led by Lucia has failed this challenge! The party gained 10 exploration! If anyone needs to use party management
commands, do so now. Otherwise, the next round's GM may begin the next round with +dungeon/draw.
<Pose Tracker> Cyre H. Lorentz has posed.

        "Hah, you kinds of people are all the same. Always with this great idea that everyone will just kowtow to you just because you're strong. Shows what you know." Cyre bares his teeth in fierce defiance. His heart throbs frantically in his chest. "I'll die before I let your kind dictate to me. You'll have to kill me first."

"And one more thing," Cyre says, clearly fighting the encroaching terror with (mostly) false bravado and the ever-trustworthy art of deceiving oneself until the lies become truths. "The next words out of your mouth will be 'That can be arrange--'"

And suddenly it doesn't matter at all.

The shaman's eyes go wide when the Lord of Calamity reveals exactly why he deserves the title. The creature-- the Hellion King roars his conqeust into the world. Suddenly Cyre feels his voice catch in his throat as that terrible, awful, crushing atmosphere descends. The desecration is total, a black stain that swallows up the Garden of the Elw in a way not so unlike how Krosse was so utterly consumed, but...

Krosse... Krosse's corruption was fuelled by the Malevolence of an entire populace, the suffering of a village of priests, warriors and shamans-- and more. It was a carefully cultivated blight. But this... This--

This was the work... Of one man.

And one overwhelming Malevolence.

Again, Cyre feels his connection to the Guardians weaken and die. The Nahual staggers, gasping for breath only to choke on the miasma that fills the world.

And yet...

And yet...!

Distantly. Faintly. Weakly. He hears the voice of the breeze.

Cyre's hands tighten around his rifle-- around the weapon forged by one who was once a friend. He whispers a curse under his breath, green embers flickering in the pits of his eyes, the light smothered but not extinguished. "H-heh." He stares at an inoccuous component to his weapon. A toroidal disk, spinning on a delicate axel. It still churns, propelled by the aftershock of his last shot. "C-come on. Do you really think... We'll break so easily?"

"This is Filgaia," Cyre snarls, taking aim again. "This is the land blighted by war. Ruined by strife. Life is hard here! To prosper means to be strong! This... Compared to living on this planet... This much pressure isn't anything... special...! I... I walk with the rising wind. So long as the storm-gale howls through the world...!"

Cyre pulls the trigger, sending bolt after bolt downrange, his rifle screaming defiance with each shot. "I will never break!"

GS: Cyre H. Lorentz has attacked Heldalf with Defiant Burst!
GS: Cyre H. Lorentz has completed his action.
<Pose Tracker> Loren Voss has posed.

        In one instant, there is -- no, not joy.
        There is focus. There he is, going through the motions for once without thinking.

        In the next instant, that all ends.

        It's a shearing, jarring thing to be torn from your gift.
        But neither is it the first time he's felt this. Back in Krosse.

        His grip on the controls tightens; Loren grits his teeth and rises in his seat, against the force that's settled so heavily upon his psyche that it feels as if it woudld be far easier the option to give up and give in to it.

        But there's something he needs to do.

        "Major," he speaks, over the communication lines. "This is what I was trying to tell you about Krosse."
        It would be a lie, strictly speaking, to say that despite the moment and despite his intentions, he didn't get some small degree of satisfaction out of this 'I told you so' statement.

        "Ether won't work. It seems that no known sorcery will function from what I observed."

        There's more. His gaze flickers across the diagnostics coming in on-screen, reporting what he already knows to be truth: someone might as well have physically cut all the ether circuits, for how well they're functioning.

        He grimaces again, rallying to push at the sensation that's settled over him like a shroud. No. No. Don't. Don't. Not here!
        "...It's Malevolence, Lieutenant van Houten. Major Yugh," he speaks, a moment later, rallying every ounce of his psyche against the spiritual onslaught. "It's the same as in the Hollow. Remember that." He takes a breath. He swallows. His gaze settles on the screen before him, on his target.

        With a click, the ammunition loaded in the sidearms changes over. Schiehallion swoops in, ARMs blazing.

        "We're Solarian," he declares over the channel, finding his center and his means to mentally pivot. "It can't win against us!"

<Pose Tracker> Tethelle Cirdian has posed.

Tethelle actually grins at Heldalf when she hits him.

She doesn't feel amused by it, really. It's a defiant grin; despite everything Berserk slammed her with, and encountering the Lord of Calamity himself, she is still up, moving, fighting. It's a good feeling. "Come on," she says, in the face of his overwhelming power.

She probably should not have said that.

Tethelle was not in Krosse when its Domain established itself, so this is a feeling she has never experienced quite this way before. It doesn't wash over her so much as blast into her, driving her back a step or two physically in the face of the Malevolent storm. She feels it dig deep within her, an assault on her spirit as much as her body.

She does not drop her sword. If anything, Tethelle grips it tighter, her knuckles going white with the strain and intensity. She starts to mouth the words of a prayer she's used for years...

"..."

...but there is no response. She's on her own. Abandoned, the part of her that's been touched by the Malevolence corrects, and Tethelle struggles to push that down. Equites would not abandon her. (Or would she?)

Despite everything, Tethelle raises her sword again, holding it high and parallel to the ground, defensively. "You can stop me from hearing her," Tethelle growls, "but you cannot take her away. Do you hear me? The Metal Demons couldn't and you certainly cannot!"

"...not in our garden..."

Tethelle roars, her blade shimmering with silver energy shot through with ribbons of blue. This isn't Equites' energy - it is Tethelle's fighting spirit, the sword techniques she has practiced for much of a lifetime. Tethelle passes from one stance to another, moving smoothly; the high stance dedicated to Noua Shax to the sliding, constantly moving posture associated with Aru Solatu to the sweeping, arcing maneuvers dedicated to Fengalon.

There is no divine power here, no spark of the Guardians - nothing but martial skill, long-practiced - but Tethelle's actions and movements suggest them anyway, serving to focus her mind as she puts herself in the heightened, almost meditative state she is taught to achieve in combat.

"...we are with you!"

The Domain saps at her. It's like being buried in gritty sand, the constant movement and pressure causing one to slip and be buried - but that only means that every action, every movement, every thought has to be prepared to pull her out of it. "If I can't hear Equites, I will fight without her until I can, against you and what you stand for!"

GS: Tethelle Cirdian has attacked Heldalf with Six Stances!
GS: Tethelle Cirdian has completed her action.
GS: Loren Voss has attacked Heldalf with Cover Fire!
GS: Loren Voss has completed his action.
<Pose Tracker> Layna Manydays has posed.

The power of the Lord of Calamity is not to be trifled with. They throw everything they have at him, and he barely even flinches. Even when Gears appear on the scene, peppering him with blows...the merely push him back.

And then, reality churns and shifts.

It's a feeling she's become all too familiar with as she is plunged headfirst into Heldalf's Domain. It's activation forces her to her knees, stealing the very breath from her lungs.

For a moment, her mind is purged of conscious thought. The weight of his Domain was crushing, like she was subjected to to pressure of the very depths of the sea. The Domain in Krosse was nothing like this one.

Talise's challenge and the cry of Sephilia Lampbright both bring her back to reality. Layna reaches for her waist, drawing out her revolver. Her arm shakes violenty, but even on her knees she levels her revolver at the Lord of Calamity and fires, repeatedly.

"You..." Bang. "Damn..." Bang. "Monster..."

She then proceeds to empty the rest of her revolver at him. With each shot, she forces herself up to her feet further.

"This world...I won't surrender it so easily...and I...don't...break...easy!!"

Each breath seems more difficult to last...but she couldn't give up just yet.

GS: Layna Manydays has attacked Heldalf with Rapscallion's Revolver!
GS: Layna Manydays has completed her action.
GS: Heldalf guards a hit from Arleph Ardan's Unstable Acids for 46 hit points!
GS: Heldalf guards a hit from Cyre H. Lorentz's Defiant Burst for 70 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Janus Cascade has posed.

Janus Cascade has seen about ten kinds of shit in his time, but a lion man declaring his mastery of all that walks is sort of new, actually. The domain's manifestation is like an impossible wave, crashing across him and dragging him down. Even Janus, for all his pride, staggers back, clutching at his chest as if his soul itself were trying to fly away. Small mercy that he has all the sorcerous power of an onion, though the one Medium he's ever acquired suddenly goes entirely silent in his pocket. His hand feels for it, and his eyes narrow just a little. Trying to calculate the situation. "Guardians are out," he mutters. "So this is the kind of devil they have up there? Shit, man." He forces himself up from one knee. "I ain't...kneelin'," he spits, shakily putting a new foot down. He yanks back the bolt on his rifle, sliding in a new Cartridge. It pulses as he slides the bolt back home. "Romero! Go 'n'--" "HELL NO!"

Janus grimaces and takes a look at the utterly pulverized casings at the lion-man's feet. "...yeah, ok, fair, actually. Dario! Cover!"

"You got it!" Dario crows, and opens fire on the lion man from a position behind Janus, as the Cascade Gang leader starts fiddling with his ARM. "Gwen, you gota plan here?" he calls to be heard. "I feel like piss and vinegar ain't really a solid enough strategy for once!"

GS: Janus Cascade has attacked Heldalf with Gillius TH12/23 Magnum!
GS: Janus Cascade has completed his action.
<Pose Tracker> Garan Dantear has posed.

There comes a time in everyone's life when they stand in front of something simply overwhelming. It's inevitable, in whatever form it takes: There is always that proverbial bigger fish.
 
The sheer power of the Lord of Calamity is unlike anything Garan Dantear has faced before, in his travels on Lunar or on Filgaia. The overbearing weight of the Malevolent Domain, like a miasma that seeks to choke and suffocate the very soul, hammers down on the Imperial Knight in his armor of silver-chased white plate, seeking to make him bow, to make him give up, to make him lie down and die.
 
What hope could there be against something like that, for someone like him? He was no special creature, no being of preternatural skill. He was a man with a blade and a seemingly neverending litany of duties wearing him down, and...
 
He feels something else, something curious. An absence, a lack, the sudden disappearance of a thing which had become so familiar to him over the past few years that the suppression of the link connecting him to Thessaly suddenly seems a yawning chasm. And if the Lord of Calamity's aura was affecting him like this, then the witch...
 
"Thessaly!" he calls back over his shoulder to the young woman in her dark silks, backing up towards her as he barely keeps himself from collapsing under the weight of the Lord of Calamity's power. "Thessaly, you can't... We can't give up." The Imperial Knight's stance remains defensive; dropping his sword, for the moment, he stoops to pick up the witch's dropped crystal ball, offering it towards her, his shield and armored body poised to stay between the witch and danger. "We have to do this together."
 
He won't let the thing inside of Thessaly have her any more than he will the Lord of Calamity.

<Pose Tracker> Tzadkiel (Airship) has posed.


Things aren't actually getting any calmer on the Tzadkiel. Though the battleship appears to be stable for now, the brewing storm of malevolence is sending everything crazy and leaving the crew reeling to react. The metal demons were formidable, but knowable. This was something they had not even the vaguest sense of how to deal with.

"Perhaps we should utilize the atomic cannon." Suggests an officer, "That would clean up this entire mess."

"And completely destroy the Elw ruins in the process, not to mention the lives of our deployed men. There could still be valuable resources to recover there-I won't authorize it as anything but a last resort."

Instead, the ship issues a warning to Vierge, Hauteclaire, and Schiehallion:

"Readings indicate a huge anomaly incoming, be on you guard and prepared for anything!"

<Pose Tracker> Kahm Yugh has posed.


Kahm was prepared for anything as best he could be. That's why he didn't flinch when his gear's beam attack struck home and somehow Heldalf was left still standing. "Target seems to be protected by some sort of nullification field. Strong enough to stand up to gear armaments." He reports, re-routing a few power system with the tap of his fingers, "We'll have to test the limits of that."

What he hadn't prepared is to suddenly lose partial control of his gear. Hauteclaire's flight system used the pilot's own etheric response as the 'kick' to provide power for much of it's fine-tuned anti-gravity maneuvering through the flight sticks that extended from from four diagonal angle on the gears back. When Kahm's casual ether flow suddenly stopped'...well, cause and effect are fairly clear here.

The white gear drops out of the sky, falling to the ground with a terrific crash that strained it's internal impact dampeners and threw Kahm for a loop in his seat. "What....the hell?!" He demanded, finding half his systems suddenly responseless and, for the first time in his life, completely unable to call in the power that has always been with him like background radiation. "What did that thing just do?!"

Loren's voice chimes in, explaining the phenomenon as dark, pitiless rage gnawed at the Major's stomach. "Copy that, Lieutenant." He growled, knowing all too well the particular bit of this miasma since Krosse, "It's exactly as you say. We are the conditioned."

And that's why, even without ether available, Hauteclaire will move enough to left a single leg and bring it crashing down on Heldalf's head.

GS: Kahm Yugh has attacked Heldalf with Kahm Kick!
GS: Kahm Yugh has completed his action.
GS: Heldalf critically Guards a hit from Loren Voss's Cover Fire for 13 hit points!
GS: Loren Voss takes Cover! He gains 100 temporary hit points!
GS: Heldalf guards a hit from Tethelle Cirdian's Six Stances for 74 hit points!
GS: Heldalf guards a hit from Layna Manydays's Rapscallion's Revolver for 46 hit points!
GS: Heldalf guards a hit from Janus Cascade's Gillius TH12/23 Magnum for 66 hit points!
GS: Heldalf guards a hit from Kahm Yugh's Kahm Kick for 67 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Elhaym van Houten has posed.

 
Cold poison trickles into Elly's back as there are several loud alarms inside of the Vierge. Not least of which is FUEL GENERATOR DOWN, although may the emperor be praised, the motors don't stop moving.

But she feels lost in some obscure way. Small. Weak.

Loren knew this was coming. Elly closes her eyes for a moment. Maybe I deserve this, she thinks.

Loren attempts to switch into a positive mode. Elly doesn't feel it. He's acting on rote, she thinks. Her eyes open: So am I. She exhales with force and says aloud, "Copy, Tzadkiel." She swallows, and...

MARGARET had been running at forty miles per hour, and had linked up with Griz and Silf, two of her lieutenants. The spell that permitted them to do this abruptly ends. "Fuuu--" says Silf, mid-stride.

VIERGE strides forwards from where it had landed. The enemy is small, and so Vierge does not attempt to match that earlier swing. There are too many others nearby and the Drifters are, if not allies (of Gebler), certainly not their primary enemies, not right now. Unless that cannon has to speak.

As Hauteclaire makes its blow, Vierge does too, swinging one leg up in a snap and kicking off the ground with the other. Yes; it's a back-flip in the air, a casually impossible thing buoyed by the faltering-but-functional thrusters at undue Fuel expenditure before the femme Gear lands some hundred yards away. The landing is gentle enough to not send tremors through the surface of Filgaia, for once.

I'm sorry, Elly thinks. Otherwise, she says little on the comm link that sings with radio frequency waves between the Gears from the sky. Hey, that's probably not not good, at least.

<Pose Tracker> Xantia has posed.

The Lord of Calamity may be left unimpressed by an attack that she's used to bowling people right over, but Xantia is left undaunted. She would have expected the same from the other two opponents she faced today. Those who are this strong need more - from her as well as others. This is fine. As long as she's not alone, she has all the confidence in the world.

"Don't worry, Fei! He won't get away with... whatever he tries to do!" As usual, Xantia doesn't fully understand the magnitude of any given situation, but she's ready to do whatever she can regardless. And encouragement from Fei helps a great deal, especially when her strength of will is going to be the decisive factor in how long she can stay on her feet.

Which is exactly why the gathering of Malevolence is about the worst thing that can happen right now. It's far easier to fight others than it is to fight her own self-doubts, which are being brought to the fore once again. In the end, she is still no closer to knowing who she really is. She has still encountered nobody who knows of her past. Not even those who seem to know so much about so many, none of them know anything of her. All she can do is muddle through, just sort of hope that she's acting the way her old self - her real self - would have wanted. Without knowing the truth, she'll never be anything more than a hollow fake.

Xantia stumbles, hand grasping for her heart, feeling a pain deep within. Her aura of light wavers. She's losing it, losing the focus necessary to force herself to keep going. She grits her teeth, and shakes her head firmly. No, she can't let this happen. People are counting on her. Fei is counting on her. She has to keep going. She has to.

Strength returns to the light emanating from her body. She's managed to stabilize herself, for now. But it's abundantly clear that she can't afford this battle to go on for very long. She has to strike hard while she still has her focus. And so she does, bridging the rest of the distance between her and Heldalf. It may look like an ordinary punch that she delivers - in so far as a punch from Xantia can ever be called ordinary - but with it, she lays her strength of will bare. The Lord of Calamity will find no despair, no fear, no hatred from this girl. Her resolve is pure, though not devoid of weakness. Those doubts regarding her identity are extremely exploitable.

As she strikes, Xantia shouts in defiance, at least partially to convince herself: "No matter how strong you think you are, you can't beat all of us! You can't even beat me... Lucia!"

Yes, she really just said that. Xantia was told that the Lord of Calamity was named Lucia, but she never actually met Lucia, so, well... you can see how this ended up happening.

GS: Xantia has attacked Heldalf with Focus Punch!
GS: Xantia has completed her action.
GS: Elhaym van Houten has attacked Heldalf with T T in more ways than one!
GS: Elhaym van Houten has completed her action.
GS: Heldalf critically Guards a hit from Elhaym van Houten's T T in more ways than one for 10 hit points!
GS: Heldalf guards a hit from Xantia's Focus Punch for 81 hit points!
DG: Lucia has drawn a new Challenge.
==========================<* Elw Teleporter Control *>==========================
=======================<* CHALLENGE - Need More Pylons *>=======================
|Type: Exploration |Dungeon Ability: Brute     |Challenge Rating: 2          | 
---------------------------< Challenge Information: >---------------------------
 A teleportation of this magnitude requires immense amounts of power, which    
 the Elw teleporter lacks. Fortunately, a solution presents itself: six        
 slightly raised circles on each side of the platform, which have large stone  
 statues atop them. The statues are pressing down crystal pylons -- power      
 generators, in short -- which can be raised, to provide more energy to the    
 console and help get the Lord of Calamity out of here!                        
=Dungeon Conditions: Weaken, Tire, Secret=====================================
<Pose Tracker> Gwen Whitlock has posed.

        Heldalf crushes the bullet. Gwen finds herself whistling at the feat, in spite of the danger it foreshadows. "It's a damn good thing I didn't use anything fancy. Damn, that's gonna be nast-"

        Then, a wave of something dark cuts through her, cuts /into/ her, making her weak, making her sink in a malaise of spiritual toxins, seeping into her very soul. It's worse than a lot of things she's felt, really, and honestly, it could've felt a lot worse if...

        .... if the Trial Knight hadn't...

        If this was all new to her. This strength is new, but not the concept.

        There was a concept her Auntie Frea had tried to explain, once. Immunity. The sickness would always be terrible, and it would always /hurt/, but her body would be prepared for it.

        "K.K.... did you do this... to temper us?" Gwen whispers, to herself. "Even if you were cruel, even if you hurt people, even if you nearly killed me and my friends on more than one occasion..."

        Maybe the trial wasn't for something for their satisfaction. It was so they'd survive, here.

        Janus's proclamation draws Gwen back. "Wait, they are!?" Gwen blinks. "How the heck is that even possible? Damn, we're gonna have to really step up for the magic types."

        That's not all. Out of the corner of her eye, Gwen sees a familiar woman, veiled in black, drop to her knees. A cold prickle of fear runs up her neck, along with concern. "Keep your chin up, you two!" she shouts, "we got your back!" Gwen does, anyway. The Cascade gang probably doesn't.

        As for a plan, Gwen scratches her chin, trying to plaster that grin on her face, even if her insides feel like they're being twisted inside out. "Guess we gotta move on to stronger stuff. That or weaken the guy. Get 'im to get this... whatever to go away. Which is easier said than done." Rolling up her sleeve, the strawberry blonde takes out a larger piece of ammo and straightens her ARM completely, pressing the rounds into an opening on the side. "Until we figure that out, we'll just keep throwing things at him and see what hits."

        Gwen, best strategist ever. "By the way, Janus, you ain't... like... feelin' anything weird, are you? Like, some sorta... need to transform into some beast or anything like that, right? Just..." /BANG/ "... askin'."

GS: Gwen Whitlock has attacked Heldalf with Coil Cannon EX!
GS: Gwen Whitlock has completed her action.
GS: CRITICAL! Heldalf guards a hit from Gwen Whitlock's Coil Cannon EX for 106 hit points!
GS: Jam! Statuses applied to Heldalf!
<Pose Tracker> Thessaly has posed.

The world devolves into a dull roar and a mess of riotous color, like paint spilled on a blank canvas. Blood pounds in her ears as she stares at the ground, struggling to keep from losing herself further into the abyss. Every breath feels like fire, every gesture like knives cutting into her flesh and flaying her alive.
 
 She hears her name called, dimly - even from the courier who has seen something she should not have - but it is only when a gauntleted hand and its distinct white plate offers up the crystal ball that has left her reach that she looks up. With nerveless fingers, she reaches out to take her favored instrument from him, one hand decorated, still, by a pristine enamel slave ring set with a crimson stone, eyes moving to the sword he has placed on the ground in an effort to give what she has lost back to her. Guilt twists at her stomach, sick and bitter.
 
 "My lord, forgive me, but I am of no use to you, here. They are gone. My powers....I cannot..."
 
 It laughs and it fills her brain with the mocking, feminine sound of it. Thessaly squeezes her eyes shut again and tries to take another painful breath. Reaching out with one hand, she clutches the blade of his sword...
 
 And squeezes.
 
 The sharpened edge bites at her flesh, dark blood welling from the slash she has given herself. The blistering pain carries with it a lightning bolt into her senses, tearing at the cotton that threatens to pervade it. Even now, emptied and hollowed out by the lack of the thing that gives her purpose, her incredible will to do what is necessary remains, if not just to try.
 
 Finally, she looks up to meet his eyes.
 
 "You cannot drop your sword," she whispers. With bloodied fingers, she offers it back to him, live steel dripping with the crimson veins of her life.
 
 "Not for anyone."

<Pose Tracker> Heldalf has posed.

Heldalf looks down at Chauncey, and then at Sephilia. "You weep for a puppet. You will weep for more before I am through." The Foxtail fires -- and the round slams into Heldalf's armor, exploding apart... but not before he forms another firebolt, and sends it screaming down for the sobbing girl.
Heldalf roars, then, as Malfi shoots into him. The Mage Buster strikes -- but he swings a hand out regardless, and a huge blast of flame explodes up underneath her feet. Then, he turns, head looking down at Talise. "I will let you undo yourself!" he roars, as Rastaban cuts through his Malevolence. He rushes to meet her, as her blade slashes into his side -- and then his clawed hand rips down, slashing across the front of the woman's body with an expert movement. He spins, then, a moment later -- and comes face-to-face with White Knight Leo. Any comfort, any nostalgia at this meeting -- if it could be called a reunion -- is simply gone. "But not for long, knight." Then, he surges forward, and throws out his open palm.

It hits with enough force to throw Leo back -- even as his blades slash and strike, the Sword Rain leaving multiple gashes that bleed black smoke.

And he turns, that smoke wafting from him, to look down upon the Shepherd. "Your Armatization is shattered. Your Squires cower. What hope is there? What does your mission even mean?" He stalks forward, as the blue flames of purification hit... and wash over his body. He comes in close to Sorey, then slashes with both claws across the front of the Shepherd.

"BREAK!"

Carina hurls herself in, despite her desperation -- despite her fear. Before he can rip into the Shepherd again, she strikes, fist and feet actually knocking Heldalf back. He turns, leans down into her masked face, and roars defiance at Metal Digger Locus. Then, he lowers a hand -- and a bolt of flame explodes off it, shooting into her chest. He turns, then, as acid sprays across his arm. In other circumstances, it might be fascinating to Arleph -- the acid bubbles and dances, like it interacted with a solid in one moment and a liquid the next.

Heldalf rushes, though, and throws a hand out, trying to pitch Doctor Ardan across the platform with another palm strike. But then Cyre shoots, his rifle firing repeatedly. The rounds strike the armor and flatten, and Heldalf turns to look at him. "Your struggle is futile. Your fate is sealed by your very humanity!"

Schiehallion's rounds fire down on him -- but this time, Heldalf is more prepared. He swings an arm up, and a shield of roaring flame forms. The bullets strike into it, most intercepted -- and then he hurls the firestorm forward, sending it crashing towards the Gebler Gear. That distracts him, though, as Tethelle rushes in again. Her blade slashes, repeatedly striking with the style of the Guardians.

"I care not for your paltry beliefs! They are lies--I and my power are truth! They are before you! Where are your precious gods?"

He rushes forward, striking at Tethelle with a downward slash of his claw -- and bolts past to close in on Layna. Her bullet impacts, then flattens -- and Heldalf does an uppercut slash at her, trying to bat her away. He spins, then, hand held out -- and catches the gunshot from Dario's firearm, and crushes it. Then, the Lord of Calamity shoots another firebolt, as if throwing the bullet back at Dario.

And Hauteclaire descends, kicking hard into the Lord of Calamity's head. The Hellion stumbles, before he turns, and looks up at Hauteclaire. His eyes burn through. "A fine shell you have. Allow me to crack it, little egg."

He rakes both of his claws down the front of the Gear, trying to shred the armor open in an instance. Then he turns, crosses his arms, and parries Vierge's kick. A Gear limb twice his side is caught on crossed forearms, before he shoves forward, and slams his open palm at the front of the Gear. But Xantia comes in, and slams him away from Vierge -- so he turns, and looses another blast of flame for her.

"You know not my name!" he bellows to her. Which is when Gwen's strike slams into his armor... and cracks. Purple smoke and black energy seep out, so he turns, and throws a hand up -- and an explosion erupts under her. (It may get Dario, too.).

The trembling, shuddering Malevolence of Heldalf's domain is a frightful thing. The Trial Knight created something comparable with a prison filled with suffering people; this is generated by one being. And yet, there is a light in the dark.

Two ghostly forms appear -- one of Fengalon, one of Equites. A roaring tiger, and a bladed dragon-like creature. Both stand, noble yet spectral, and then power flashes out from them. It washes backward -- and the oppressive atmosphere becomes less oppressive. Fewer motes of darkness rise -- and the flood of sorcery can be felt, as the Guardians open a gap up...

...but their power only goes so far. The power of the Seraphim, still separate from them, seems to not return as strongly.

Heldalf stares at them as they fade -- and then concern registers on his face. He spins, facing the console -- and his palm opens. A firebolt forms, and fires into their midst. When it strikes, a massive explosion rips through the middle of them all at once!

OOC: Sorcery has been restored! Seraphim may be heard or seen, but not both (and can swap between the two). Armatization is not possible, but the Blessing of Althena has returned. However, sorcery does feel harder to use (in a non-coded way) -- as if it pours like molasses, rather than water from a faucet.

GS: Heldalf guards a hit from White Knight Leo's Sword Rain for 119 hit points!
GS: CRITICAL! Heldalf guards a hit from Carina Wynne's Failure's Flailing - Carina is Just a Loser in a Cool Suit for 34 hit
points!
GS: Heldalf has attacked Sephilia Lampbright with Firebolt!
GS: Heldalf has attacked Malfi with Eruption!
GS: Heldalf has attacked Talise Gianfair with Torn Asunder!
GS: Heldalf has attacked White Knight Leo with Palm Strike!
GS: Heldalf has attacked Sorey with Rending Claws!
GS: Heldalf has attacked Carina Wynne with Firebolt!
GS: Heldalf has attacked Arleph Ardan with Palm Strike!
GS: Heldalf has attacked Loren Voss with Eruption!
GS: Heldalf has attacked Janus Cascade with Firebolt!
GS: Heldalf has attacked Kahm Yugh with Rending Claws!
GS: Heldalf has attacked Elhaym van Houten with Palm Strike!
GS: Heldalf has attacked Xantia with Firebolt!
GS: Heldalf has attacked Gwen Whitlock with Eruption!
GS: Heldalf has attacked Tethelle Cirdian with Frightful Rampage!
GS: Heldalf has attacked Layna Manydays with Frightful Rampage!
GS: Talise Gianfair critically Guards a hit from Heldalf's Torn Asunder for 31 hit points!
GS: Arleph Ardan critically Guards a hit from Heldalf's Palm Strike for 34 hit points!
GS: Layna Manydays takes a glancing hit from Heldalf's Frightful Rampage for 87 hit points!
GS: Riesenlied has completed her action.
GS: Carina Wynne takes a glancing hit from Heldalf's Firebolt for 88 hit points!
GS: Seraph Ragnell has completed her action.
GS: Fei Fong Wong has completed his action.
GS: Xantia critically Guards a hit from Heldalf's Firebolt for 32 hit points!
GS: Lemina Ausa has completed her action.
GS: Sorey takes a solid hit from Heldalf's Rending Claws for 190 hit points!
GS: Loren Voss critically Guards a hit from Heldalf's Eruption for 90 hit points!
GS: CRITICAL! Malfi critically Guards a hit from Heldalf's Eruption for 44 hit points!
GS: Jean takes a solid hit from Heldalf's Domain Oppression for 0 hit points!
GS: RUIN! All positive status effects and temporary hit points purged from Jean!
GS: Gwen Whitlock guards a hit from Heldalf's Eruption for 102 hit points!
GS: Heldalf has completed his action.
DC: 2 turns have elapsed in the battle against Heldalf! 3 turns remain!
GS: Heldalf has attacked Cyre H. Lorentz with Firebolt!
GS: Cyre H. Lorentz takes a glancing hit from Heldalf's Firebolt for 88 hit points!
GS: Lucia takes a glancing hit from Heldalf's Domain Oppression for 0 hit points!
GS: RUIN! All positive status effects and temporary hit points purged from Lucia!
GS: Heldalf has attacked Lucia with Hellfire Release!
GS: Heldalf has attacked Hiro with Hellfire Release!
GS: Heldalf has attacked Jean with Hellfire Release!
GS: Heldalf has attacked Lemina Ausa with Hellfire Release!
GS: Heldalf has attacked Riesenlied with Hellfire Release!
GS: Heldalf has attacked Fei Fong Wong with Hellfire Release!
GS: Heldalf has attacked Seraph Ragnell with Hellfire Release!
GS: Talise Gianfair has activated a Force Action!
GS: Talise Gianfair used the Force Action Protect! She takes Heldalf's attack on Lucia on herself!
GS: Talise Gianfair has activated a Force Action!
GS: Talise Gianfair critically Guards a hit from Heldalf's Hellfire Release for 34 hit points!
GS: CRITICAL! Hiro critically Guards a hit from Heldalf's Hellfire Release for 43 hit points!
GS: Riesenlied takes a solid hit from Heldalf's Hellfire Release for 175 hit points!
GS: Elhaym van Houten critically Guards a hit from Heldalf's Palm Strike for 48 hit points!
GS: White Knight Leo takes a solid hit from Heldalf's Palm Strike for 175 hit points!
GS: Fei Fong Wong takes a solid hit from Heldalf's Hellfire Release for 172 hit points!
GS: Layna Manydays used the Force Action Protect! She takes Heldalf's attack on Lemina Ausa on herself!
GS: Layna Manydays has activated a Force Action!
GS: Jean takes a glancing hit from Heldalf's Hellfire Release for 86 hit points!
GS: Layna Manydays takes a glancing hit from Heldalf's Hellfire Release for 88 hit points!
GS: Seraph Ragnell takes a solid hit from Heldalf's Hellfire Release for 168 hit points!
GS: Sephilia Lampbright takes a solid hit from Heldalf's Firebolt for 165 hit points!
GS: Kahm Yugh critically Guards a hit from Heldalf's Rending Claws for 76 hit points!
Malfi /leaps/ as Heldalf's flames erupt around her feet painfully, using her momentum for her attack. She charges, aiming for what
she hopes will be a weak point in his armor. (You don't know armor until you can /be/ your own armor!). She wonders, as she
attacks, why her body feels so weak, so slow, so reluctant to respond! Why has her regeneration slowed to half speed or less? Why
does she suddenly feel so tempted to despair?
                /Give up. You cannot win./ the Malevolence hints to her. She does her best to ignore it.
GS: Malfi has attacked Heldalf with Improv Tango!
GS: Malfi has completed her action.
GS: Tethelle Cirdian takes a solid hit from Heldalf's Frightful Rampage for 169 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Malfi has posed.

Malfi leaps as Heldalf's flames erupt around her feet painfully, using her momentum for her attack. She charges, aiming for what she hopes will be a weak point in his armor. (You don't know armor until you can be your own armor!). She wonders, as she attacks, why her body feels so weak, so slow, so reluctant to respond! Why has her regeneration slowed to half speed or less? Why does she suddenly feel so tempted to despair?
                Give up. You cannot win. the Malevolence hints to her. She does her best to ignore it.

<Pose Tracker> Talise Gianfair has posed. Of all the Lunarians, Talise is the only one who has shown no sign of a spiritual connection to Althena. She cannot use magic. She can see Seraphim, but only because Sorey gave her the power.

Here and here alone, in a Malevolent Domain which silences the power of magic, Talise's emptiness is her strength. She loses nothing for a lack of spiritual power to draw upon. The tools she is left with are the tools she uses every day. The weapons she can choose are the weapons she always chooses. Her gauntlets have lost their charge but her natural strength is sufficient to hold Rastaban and swing it with defiance.

'I will let you undo yourself!'

The Lord of Calamity's immense, talonious blow descends upon her. Talise clenches her teeth and shoulders into the blow - and she presents the steel face of the tower shield she plucked from a fallen warrior months ago.

Horrific talons shriek across the face of that steel. They cannot punch through, but the force of the blow is a mighty thing, driving Talise back hard enough that her heels carve into the masonry beneath her. Her muscles strain with the challenge of withstanding so powerful a force.

The Lord of Calamity is nothing to be trifled with. /Weak bitch. Just kill yourself now. Undo yourself like you know you sh--/

The Light of the Guardians shines. A gap opens. Talise breathes a little easier - until Heldalf unlashes that fiery blast.

"NO!" Talise shouts as she begins to run - leaps -

And as hellfire and brimstone bloom madly towards Lucia, Talise hurls herself in front of the hellfire rampage.

Flame and thunder slam into the tower shield, and bloom around it. The light of the Lord of Calamity's magic casts Talise's shadow across Lucia, long and black. Flame bites around the steel face, burning away what faded enamel remains and beginning to melt the edges of the surface. A few splatters of liquid metal burn across Talise's cheeks and shoulders. "Ghh... Lucia!" Talise shouts over the calamitous noise of that immense fire. "Lucia, keep going! We'll cover you, just /don't break your focus!!/"

When the fire and flame finally pass, Talise breathes out a puff of smoke. Body aching with effort, she pulls herself back to her feet, but she keeps her body between Heldalf and Lucia. Planting her tower shield against the turf, she sheathes Rastaban and unholsters something else - her Everstead-Rey Model 492 shotgun.

Doing this one-handed is tough, but Talise has made up for her lack of Althena's Blessing by adopting Ida's blessing. She pounds a shot towards Heldalf, then tosses the gun in her hands, pumps it once, tosses it back, and unloads another round of buckshot at the Lord of Calamity.

"And here I thought your name was /Kittybeard!/" Talise shouts at the Lord of Calamity in defiance.


GS: Talise Gianfair has attacked Heldalf with Bluuuurp! Covering Lucia....! GS: Talise Gianfair has completed her action.


<Pose Tracker> Sephilia Lampbright has posed.

Sephilia looks up suddenly as the firebolt comes searing through the air towards her. She shields Chauncey with her own body.

"He's...he's NOT just a doll," the girl yells back, through gritted teeth, back burned badly by the attack. "H-he's my buddy, and my bodyguard, an'..." She straightens, holding the doll out in front of her as she senses the power of her magic--and Chauncey's--returning.

"AN' TOGETHER WE'RE GONNA CRUSH YOU FOR UNDERESTIMATING US! CHAUNCEY CRUSH!"

Chauncey's transformation is slow, but by the time he's back up to size--Sephy riding in his backpack--his arms are already raised to smash back at Heldalf.

Sephy's eyes are clear, her determination returning with her magic; she's still frightened, terrified, but she's back in the fight now!

GS: Sephilia Lampbright has attacked Heldalf with Chauncey Crush!!
GS: Sephilia Lampbright has completed her action.
<Pose Tracker> Lucia has posed.

One Lizardman has Odjn clawing at its face. He roars, yanking and tugging, but Odjn has proven a competent facehugger. Another lizardman rushes for Jean, and she moves with the power of alcohol -- and she slashes into a lizard with her fan. The lizardman before her lets out a roar, before he collapses down in a heap. Then, the one with Odjn on his face trips and falls flat on his back.

Heldalf may or may not look at that, and raise one massive eyebrow.

Ragnell shoots through the neck of another Hellion, dropping the lizardman. Hiro slashes through another. Arrows rain from Lemina -- and several tear through the neck, piercing into them, dropping them one at a time.

"Why would one of us owe the other a drink?" Lucia asks in the same deadpan as usual -- until she turns. She yelps, as a lizardman's blade cuts her. She throws a hand out, a blast of light exploding and throwing him back. Fei manages to slam a blast into it, with the RPS badge.

"We must... continue..." Lucia manages, weakly.

The fireball that explodes amidst them throws her to the side -- but only some of the shockwave, because of Talise's intervention. She slams into the console, rolling with it -- and she turns, breathing hard. Her eyes look to Talise.

She nods, once. It is the most that she can do.

Her robes are ragged, but she reaches into them. She pulls out a crystal and focuses -- and then light explodes from it, washing over all of them. That infuses the six statues with a bright glow.

She looks to the others. "We must destroy those," she says. "We require additional power. The pylons are underneath."

DG: Lucia has used her Tool Althena's Aura toward her party's challenge, Need More Pylons.
<Pose Tracker> Seraph Ragnell has posed.

        For a second, Ragnell's confused when Hiro echoes what she just said. When she realizes that it was sheer coincidence, she finds herself laughing raucously. "Great minds, right?" she drawls, getting back to her feet. However...
        
        That doesn't actually make the fight against the lizard Hellions any better. Or easier. Or less terrible. Still, the group manages to fend them off in the end, and in the moment that follows, Ragnell allows herself to check on those fending off an even more terrible Hellion.
        
        Heldalf backhands the Armatized Sorey, and Sorey and Mikleo /both/ go flying. Only one of them gets back up again, and Ragnell finds her eyes rooting onto the unconscious Water Seraph. Unconscious, and defenseless, in the midst of the strongest Malevolent Domain she's felt in her life. "Ah, shit," she mutters.
        
        That said, she's not in a position to be able to run over and help him right now. Instead, Ragnell keeps Mikleo in the corner of her eye while she scans the rest of the battlefield. Thessaly also stands out to her, in that she appears to have been quite thoroughly divested of everything that gives her power. Even with her veils and masks, her fear is palpable. And Garan reacts immediately as well, backing up over to her in an instant, even /putting down his blade/ to attend to her rather than the Lord of Calamity, to which Thessaly responds by giving it back to him--along with her own blood. Ragnell wonders just what will happen if she's left in this state. She has a feeling she might find out whether she wants to or not.
        
        But Heldalf isn't done yet--and neither, it would seem, are the Guardians. Fengalon and Equites appear in ghostly form, summoning their own power, and the oppressive atmosphere... doesn't vanish, but it does ease. It's easier to breathe, and Ragnell can feel her sorcery return to her, energizing her in the way a gasp of air does after being submerged underwater. It's not as good as it could be--and those around her will still only be able to see or hear her, not both--but that's something.
        
        It better be something, because Heldalf's dark flame then SLAMS into her, knocking her backwards through the circle around the terminal. She screams in pain, the sound raw and involuntary, ripped from her as her magic was a moment ago, and she rolls as if that might be able to extinguish the flames... but when they /do/ recede, she still manages to struggle to her feet. Her teeth grin, her eyes glare... and she stands up again.
        
        Lucia says they need more power. They need to destroy the statues. Ragnell, thoughts hazy, looks up and around to see what she means--and then she understands. The circles around the teleporter. They have crystal pylons, one which might supply more power to the teleporter, but they're blocked by the statues...
        
        "On it," she says brusquely. She pulls a lightning grenade from her poncho and shoves it on top of the nearest statue. If those things have got to go, then... "Y'all stand clear, y'hear?" ...the best thing to do is blow them the hell up. Hopefully the Domain hasn't rendered these grenades useless duds, but they'll find out approximately four seconds after she pulls the pin and dives away, won't they?

DG: Seraph Ragnell has used her Tool Lightning Grenade toward her party's challenge, Need More Pylons.
GS: Heldalf critically Guards a hit from Sephilia Lampbright's Chauncey Crush! for 23 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Jean has posed.

"It's okay," Jean says to Lemina when she pulls closer to her, keeping her voice even, reassuring. ...She can do it for her. "You'll be okay. We're with you."

She can't even see Ragnell anymore. ...But she can hear Fei's challenge, and she glances to him once. "You're on," she says. "Get ready for your wallet to hurt." It's desperate, sure--desperate, but she'll cling to what she needs to do get this done. Lucia's question gets a forced laugh, "I'll explain later!"

The lizardman before Jean roars and falls, and suddenly--suddnly she can hear, can feel the gentler shadow within--

And then the fireball comes, and Jean crosses her arms before herself and pirouettes into a jump, spinning with the blaze and letting it carry her rather than crush her--the heat still burns her, the flames still singe and hurt, but she lands on the floor again, on her feet, looking to the real Lord of Calamity. "..."

She doesn't say anything to him--she looks to Lucia instead, and nods. "Right!"

The Guardians, again, are trying to help. So Jean looks to one of the statues... And puts away her fan. She closes her eyes, attempts to find an island of calm amidst all of this chaos, amidst the awful sinking feeling of the Domain tugging at her.

Dark chi rushes about her body abrubtly. "Haaah--!" Jean swings forward with all her might with one punch for the statue, seeking to crack it in two with one blow.

DG: Jean has contributed a Brute Basic Action toward her party's challenge, Need More Pylons.
<Pose Tracker> Sorey has posed.

 There is something to be said for just having the will to stand up in front of this sort of nightmare. And Sorey is trying - despite the fact that it feels like he's wading through molasses. But that doesn't mean that he can't keep fighting. He has to try, because allowing the Lord of Calamity to remain here means that far too many people will be corrupted by malevolence on this world.
 
 Sorey barely gets his sword around in time as Heldalf slams into him. The cloak on his shoulders shreds just from the impact of the strike, and despite the fact that he was attempting to block he's thrown backwards byh the raw power that the Lord of Calamity throws at him. His guard isn't strong enough, and without his Seraphim reinforcing him, this sort of power is overwhelming. Thankfully Mikleo isn't touched by the malevolence - because Sorey still stands firm against the malevolence. And while the Shepherd stands, his Seraphs can resist the darkness pouring out around them.
 
 The blow pushes Sorey down to his knees, and he grunts, blood running down one arm and trickling down onto the ground around him from the cuts left in the wake of Heldalf's claws. The Shepherd staggers, and then readies his blade again, preparing to throw himself against this monster.
 
 "Keep pushing onwards, Hiro!" he calls out. "We'll do everything we can to draw his attention! Don't give up!" To Lemina, Fei, Jean, Lucia, and all the others who are working to activate the teleporter - the best he can do is try and buy some more time.
 
 Sorey brings his sword around, and rushes towards Heldalf. He can feel the sudden power of the malevolent domain lifting, but the power is still tremendous - and his only support lies unconscious behind him. Sorey isn't going to let Mikleo get hurt at this point, and he brings his sword up from a lowered stance, aiming the blow against Heldalf's chest. "NOW!" Sorey roars, leaping upwards-
 
 And reversing the blow to bring it right back down towards the Hellion's head.
 
 "TIGER BLADE!"

GS: Sorey has attacked Heldalf with Tiger Blade!
GS: Sorey has completed his action.
<Pose Tracker> White Knight Leo has posed.

        MEANWHILE

        Somewhere in the ruins, Ida Everstead-Rey stumbles to a halt, breathing heavily. Sweat beads on her forehead, flash-boiling instantly as she struggles to get her bearings. She feels dizzy and weak and awful--no, worse than awful. It's like she's sinking in thick, dense tar, like something is trying to drag her down and smother her. It takes all her energy not to drop Garrett--she sets him down as gently as she can, and curls up next to him. She looks over at Rosaline, her eyes wide with fear, yet dulled somehow. The Malevolent star in her chest is... slowly fading

         'Leo!' Hiro's voice carries over the din, somehow. 'We're counting on you!'

        Leo didn't catch much about what the Vile Fiends are up to, only that it was tremendously important. All he can do is trust that nagging little voice in the back of his head that pipes up at inconvenient moments--the one that says that mercy is in order, that Lucia does not deserve death out of hand, but purification.

        Leo hopes it's right. For the sake of two worlds, now, he hopes it's right. It's all he can do as Lucia and her companions try and make something function--something Leo can't even pretend to understand.

        The Lord of Calamity sneers. Leo barely has time to process what happens next. A palm the size of half his torso slams into his chest, knocking him back. As he flies, he sees Thessaly collapse, and Garan move in to protect her.

        They're your troops. They're your responsibility. And you're failing them.

        Leo hits the platform back-first, skids across twenty feet of broken ground that used to be a beautiful mosaic. He rolls, his blade flying free from his hand in a way that would've made his teacher shake his head and glare, disappointed. The thought skitters through Leo's mind as he tries to recover. He puts one palm to the floor, but it feels like he's being crushed. It feels like--

        Leo stares as spectral forms appear. Guardians. Unquestionably Guardians.

        ...Helping, here? Helping to fight this darkness?

        Leo is going to have thoughts about this later, but things are too dire for him to look a gift horse in the mouth. The pressure is letting up--he can breathe again, and he scrambles to his feet, grabbing his blade off the ground. "Guardswoman!" he cries, looking across the field to Thessaly. "Are you all right?!" Sorey goes in, and Leo can't help but admire the young man's bravery. As the Shepherd gets right up on the giant Hellion's face, Leo sweeps his blade through a wide, vicious arc. Energy leaps from it to the floor, and races at the Lord of Calamity!

        "WE'RE WITH YOU, SHEPHERD!" Leo bellows. "DEMON FANG!"

<Pose Tracker> Kahm Yugh has posed.


Trying to crush Heldalf in a gear a felt a bit like trying to step on ant who, paradoxically, could shove your foot back. "I've only ever once seen an instance of someone standing against a gear on foot like this." Kahm spoke over the radio. "We should consider this an SSS-class threat, and adapt accordingly."

The Lord of Calamity punches well above his weight class when he bring his claws down against the white gear's defenses, the blow striking as if Heldalf were twice his own sized. Hauteclaire's ether machine hums back to life at the right moment, and the gear automatically restores it's protective barrier field against the Malevolent Lord's attack. A shimmering blue light distorts the air as those claws manage to punch through all the same, carving gouges the reek of fell energy into the gear's legs and lower torso.

"You'll need more than that if you want to crack this shell." Kahm finally intones over the gear's interior speaker, confirming what Heldalf like already felt: Yes, there is a man somewhere in this steel titan.

"Now, let's see what it takes to crack yours."

Although he had access to ether again, something about it was sluggish, forced. Hauteclaire's lagged response time proved this was more than just a problem of perception for Kahm-likely it was an extended effect of the the problem Loren had spoken about. The gear steps back a pace, right arm reaching over it's back to grip the massive, mag-locked blade the was stowed on its back. There was a loud CHA-CHUNK as the locks released and the carbon sword swung free, directly overhead and slamming down where the lord of calamity stood, the whole length of the blade burning with etheric energy that would set the very groud aflame where it struck.

GS: Kahm Yugh has attacked Heldalf with Blade Ignition!
GS: Kahm Yugh has completed his action.
<Pose Tracker> White Knight Leo has posed.

        MEANWHILE

        Somewhere in the ruins, Ida Everstead-Rey stumbles to a halt, breathing heavily. Sweat beads on her forehead, flash-boiling instantly as she struggles to get her bearings. She feels dizzy and weak and awful--no, worse than awful. It's like she's sinking in thick, dense tar, like something is trying to drag her down and smother her. It takes all her energy not to drop Garrett--she sets him down as gently as she can, and curls up next to him. She looks over at Rosaline, her eyes wide with fear, yet dulled somehow. The Malevolent star in her chest is... slowly fading

        Then something happens. A wash of power, like something punctured a hole in the whatever-it-is; Ida raises her head, and starts to rise again. Every inch is agony, but that horrible, spiritual pressure is... fading.

        "As I said," Ida says, "Let's get going."

        OUTSIDE

        'Leo!' Hiro's voice carries over the din, somehow. 'We're counting on you!'

        Leo didn't catch much about what the Vile Fiends are up to, only that it was tremendously important. All he can do is trust that nagging little voice in the back of his head that pipes up at inconvenient moments--the one that says that mercy is in order, that Lucia does not deserve death out of hand, but purification.

        Leo hopes it's right. For the sake of two worlds, now, he hopes it's right. It's all he can do as Lucia and her companions try and make something function--something Leo can't even pretend to understand.

        The Lord of Calamity sneers. Leo barely has time to process what happens next. A palm the size of half his torso slams into his chest, knocking him back. As he flies, he sees Thessaly collapse, and Garan move in to protect her.

        They're your troops. They're your responsibility. And you're failing them.

        Leo hits the platform back-first, skids across twenty feet of broken ground that used to be a beautiful mosaic. He rolls, his blade flying free from his hand in a way that would've made his teacher shake his head and glare, disappointed. The thought skitters through Leo's mind as he tries to recover. He puts one palm to the floor, but it feels like he's being crushed. It feels like--

        Leo stares as spectral forms appear. Guardians. Unquestionably Guardians.

        ...Helping, here? Helping to fight this darkness?

        Leo is going to have thoughts about this later, but things are too dire for him to look a gift horse in the mouth. The pressure is letting up--he can breathe again, and he scrambles to his feet, grabbing his blade off the ground. "Guardswoman!" he cries, looking across the field to Thessaly. "Are you all right?!" Sorey goes in, and Leo can't help but admire the young man's bravery. As the Shepherd gets right up on the giant Hellion's face, Leo sweeps his blade through a wide, vicious arc. Energy leaps from it to the floor, and races at the Lord of Calamity!

        "WE'RE WITH YOU, SHEPHERD!" Leo bellows. "DEMON FANG!"

GS: White Knight Leo has attacked Heldalf with Demon Fang!
GS: White Knight Leo has completed his action.
<Pose Tracker> Arleph Ardan has posed.

         The fling is certainly powerful. Doctor Ardan lets out a cry. The reaction to his acid would've been facinating in different circumstances, but for now... well, it's going to be one hell of a problem just to SURVIVE this entire encounter to begin with.
 
         A part of him wonders if he should have went with the young folks to activate the Teleporters. Will they be able to figure out the technology that lies in theses ruins? It's hard to tell.
 
         Arleph sides accross the floor, a pixelated shield badly caving inside against his crossed arms. He gasps, his tattoos pulsing again with power. Good. That's one good news, at least.
 
         Ironically, the sight and hearing of Seraphim do not much change much to Arleph's current view point. It's always been there. It's just not something he's been very well introduced into actually being commented on. Not that his attention are really focused on the spiritual people lying around them. That'll be another question to ask later.
 
         For now, Arleph focuses on himself, a symbological circle appearing around him. Fissling foam start to spread all around his body, covering it completly in thousand of small resilient layers.

GS: Arleph Ardan has attacked Arleph Ardan with Multilayered Foam!
GS: Arleph Ardan has completed his action.
<Pose Tracker> Layna Manydays has posed.

Before the Lord of Calamity, her bullets are...as nothing. Layna curses to herself. Yeah, if the armament of a Gear couldn't make an impact, why did she think her tiny ARM would make a difference?

He closes in on her with a vicious uppercut of his claws. Layna tries to get out of the way, but he still manages to clip her...and for a man of his size and strength, a 'clip' is still substantial. It tears open the wound she had received fighting the Pyre Witch and sends her flying backwards, colliding with the side of the platform.

"Guh..." Layna mutters, a hand going to her wounds. This just wasn't her day, but...

She can see them, in the air - Fengalon and Equites, brimming with power. Power she can feel. She takes a deep breath and stands up. The intense pressure on her body and soul has lightened, if only a little. Just enough to keep her going. Just enough to keep her moving.

She sees a massive wave of flame heading toward Lucia and the others. She recites an incantation. The spell is...hard to grasp, like it was when she was first learning. But she manages it, even if it's slightly slurred, and rushes toward the wave of flame, dispersing some of it with a wind-infused backhand. Some of it blows back at her, the heat intense and overwhelming.

Again with the fire...she can't help but smirk a little at that.

She hadn't dispersed all of it...but her friends were here by her side, helping with it as well.

"Come on, we're countin' on you all. We haven't yet, so you can't either, aye?" She says. She forces a grin onto her face, glancing back at the others. They were all people she knew, with the exception of Lucia herself - friends that she'd counted on at one point or another.

And then she charges toward Heldalf, reaching behind her for her armblades. She moves to slam both shields into him roughly, before retreating back in a defensive position.

Normally she'd be hoping to knock him off-balance, but she really doubts she can do that to him.

GS: Arleph Ardan heals Arleph Ardan! He gains 200 temporary hit points!
GS: Layna Manydays has attacked Heldalf with Bash and Buckle!
GS: Layna Manydays has completed her action.
GS: Heldalf guards a hit from Sorey's Tiger Blade for 77 hit points!
GS: Janus Cascade takes a glancing hit from Heldalf's Firebolt for 87 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Tethelle Cirdian has posed.

Tethelle continues her almost dancelike steps. Her martial art is an art; with every movement she makes, she somehow suggests the Guardians even though there is no power that does not come from her. It's a master's expression, more complete than Tethelle has managed before, and she can't do it for long; even now her breath comes more ragged. The Malevolence saps her even as she tries to hold it at bay.

"The Guardians are in every breath we take, and with us in every step we walk," Tethelle shoots back at Heldalf. "They are a part of Filgaia even when they are unseen. A little fragment of Schturdark's essence can be felt in every drop of water; Rigdobrite and Celesdue and Solais Emsu's power is visible every time we look to the sky; Ione Paua guides us whenever we give of ourselves for another, whether we hear his words or are guided by his blessing! If you wish to see our gods, our Guardians, look at the life of Filgaia!"

"I wouldn't expect someone like you, who has clearly cut themselves off from the world, to understand!" Malevolence is a perversion, to Tethelle; the guidance of the Guardians ignored and twisted, the world but somehow wrong. No wonder it makes people feel the way it does. No wonder she hates it so, and wants to help those trapped by it.

Tethelle suddenly ends her steps because she doesn't think she can maintain it for much longer, but wants to end it on her terms. She spins the sword in her hand, driving it point-first perhaps an inch into the stone underfoot, gripping it tightly. It's good she does, because Heldalf's impact would drive her back if she wasn't anchored so firmly; as is it reopens a wound on her shoulder as Heldalf digs in. Energy, silver and blue, dances up around her feet as Equites reappears, though Tethelle's power has nothing to do with her patron Guardian.

But it doesn't do anything to Heldalf.

The energy rises up in a mirror around Riesenlied, of all people; a pulse of chi that rises from up the ground, refreshing her and making her feel more alive. Tethelle would never have done this even a day ago. She hates the Metal Demons, hates what they stand for.

And yet... she does it. "And they are with all of us - even when we do not expect them to be!"

GS: Tethelle Cirdian has attacked Riesenlied with Soul Pulse!
GS: Tethelle Cirdian has completed her action.
GS: Tethelle Cirdian heals Riesenlied! She gains 100 temporary hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Garan Dantear has posed.

"You're wrong," the Imperial Knight tells the witch, as she asks his forgiveness, as she tells him that she is of no use to him with her power suppressed. "Even without your powers, you can still stand up and fight--"
 
She has her own battle to fight, of course. Garan knows this. A battle that is raging inside of her even now, her defenses weakened by the Lord of Calamity's terrible presence. That pale hand of Thessaly's reaches for his sword, grabbing it by the sharp, bright steel of the blade, squeezing it to cut herself.
 
Pain is a useful thing sometimes, Garan knows this too. It can be a teacher, dispensing sharp lessons in what not to do. And, at times, it can be a way of finding clarity, of focus. The sharp edge, the spill of blood, can cut away unnecessary things, distractions.
 
"Never one to do things by halves, are you Tess?" Garan asks quietly of the pale young woman as she offers him his sword, her own blood clinging to the gleaming steel. But he can feel something, something else. As the Lord of Calamity lashes out, he can feel the light, faint and guttering, just outside of the field of his vision. He can sense the life in the brand on the back of his hand, the one that matches the eldritch marking on the back of Thessaly's neck. Faintly, so very faintly as it struggles against the oppressive weight of all that Malevolence. His gauntleted fingers close around the hilt of his sword, and he rises up to his feet.
 
"Summon whatever power you can, Thessaly. Leo needs our help, and, well... If we fail here, then we fail on our feet. If we die, we die fighting."
 
He pauses, the briefest hesitation.
 
"Of course, I'd prefer we didn't do either of those things."
 
But then he turns, and he lunges. He was no good at range, really; he was ever meant to be in the thick of things, face to face with whatever dangers there were to be dealt with, and so it is with the Lord of Calamity. The unwillingness to yield is what keeps him moving forward: His duty, his responsibilities may be fetters, but here they lend him strength, a sense of purpose.
 
"ROLANCE!" he cries. The Guard was an assignment, a political necessity. If he was going to die here, then it would be as an Imperial Knight. "ROLANCE, ROLANCE!"
 
His sword, stained already with the blood of one Hellion, seeks the flesh of another. Cleaving, cutting, rending, to leave a wound that won't be easily forgotten.

<Pose Tracker> Carina Wynne has posed.

THERE

Rosaline is not faring much better, as the flames she trails have all but faded, only remaining as white embers dancing amidst her natural mass of pink hair. She feels like she's going to throw up. This is Malevolence, isn't it? She should feel as a fish in water, shouldn't she? Then WHY--

She takes another breath as the pressure fades, and she feels her strength returning slowly. She sniffs at the air, trying to understand who or what saved the day this time. Maybe she feels a nuance in the spiritual air, or maybe this is just confirmation bias.

"I hate Guardians so much, you have no idea," she tells Ida with clenched teeth, as she resumes her run.

HERE

Locus' power once again surprises Carina, who actually manages to knock the Lord of Calamity back despite her REALLY NOT FEELING GREAT RIGHT NOW, GUYS.

She continues her assault even as the lion man points a deadly hand to her chest. Without feeling as if she had much input in doing so, for some reason, she leaps away a while dozen feet, the bolt of flame glancing off her arm and partially melting the armor plating there. She winces, but better that part than, well, center mass.

She then looks up to see the Guardians intervening, cleansing the air as best as they can. Some of the blinking red warnings in Carina's HUD disappear, and she feels herself just that bit lighter. "Oh, hey..." she raises a thumbs-up to the Guardian apparitions. "Somebody else is fightin' hard, looks like. Thanks, guys!"

She turns her attention back to Heldalf, as she feels the lightning coursing through her armor return, albeit... strained. Okay, she can work with this.

"HEY, NYANCAT," Carina calls out, invoking an ancient folkloric figure from her people's oral tradition, "HOW 'BOUT THIS?!" She throws up the horns, electricity arcing between her fingers as she leaps right back into the fray. "ONE-PUNCH LOCUS TASER FIST!" And she unloads a modest electrical discharge-- Though it's meant to shock in the literal sense, rather than hurt.

GS: Carina Wynne has attacked Heldalf with Absurd Martial Arts Maneuver!
GS: Carina Wynne has completed her action.
GS: Garan Dantear has attacked Heldalf with Rending Slash!
GS: Garan Dantear has completed his action.
<Pose Tracker> Loren Voss has posed.

        The power cuts, too. There's thus more than a few things to be concerned about now, unholy spiritual pressure aside.
        The landing isn't gentle; Schiehallion maintains all the difficulties born from a Gear of its weight class, and among those is trouble stopping even under ideal landing circumstances.
        It'd be more accurate to say that the heavy Gear sort of... lands into the platform, skidding and shredding a section of it before Loren's able to pull to a swerve of a stop.

        He's breathing hard, his center slipping away from him.
        His brother had died--
        He shakes his head furiously. No. Stop thinking. "Superficial damage sustained. ...Copy, Tzadkiel."

        SSS-Class Threat. The second in days.
        What can you hope to do against this save die? the thought chimes in, traitorously.

        "Understood, Major."

        The flames roar up in an arc, for an instant consuming all Loren can see.
        The shields flash into brilliant display seconds later, licks of the hellfire billowing over the wall of light. Small pinpoints of damage -- scorchmarks, where the very outer layers of the Gear's armoring were touched -- are left in the fire's wake.

        Against the muddy pour of the Domain, Loren breathes, still attempting to tether himself to that point. Remember. Remember who you are. You're first class--

        Lights come on in the cockpit. Not the welcome glow of green, as ether circuitry syncs back on. An amber hue -- still not working right.

        "...Could have told you that," he informs his Gear and shakes his head. It's like trying to swim.

        "Why did you do that?" The younger boy coughs, dripping as he hauls himself out of the reflecting pool. "That's not how you learn how to swim!"
        The older boy just smiles. "You've got to be prepared for anything, Ren. You're too soft."

        Loren's gaze hoods. With a sharp jolt, Schiehallion launches for the skies once more, bearing an intent to seize advantage wherever it can be found.

        What can he hope to do?
        You've got to be prepared for anything.

        He reaches out, sinking his will into the amplifiers in the machine.
        It's as easy as drowning, and about as comfortable.
        She's trying to kill you, you know.
        Yes.
        But they're still on the same side. In a war, you don't get to pick and choose--

        Raw ether burns through the amplifiers now, surging out in a wave for Van Houten's Gear, embuing her with a piece of that power.

GS: Loren Voss has attacked Elhaym van Houten with Vital Fraction!
GS: Loren Voss has completed his action.
GS: Heldalf critically Guards a hit from White Knight Leo's Demon Fang for 21 hit points!
GS: Heldalf takes a solid hit from Kahm Yugh's Blade Ignition for 109 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Riesenlied has posed.

        Riesenlied's face drops a little as she looks around and whispers, "R-Ragnell? Ragnell--" it seems like her ability to see her's been shattered with the field of the Domain encompassing her. To hear Ragnell's music stop was, much like Lemina, disconcerting. She has to be confident that she'll be safe...

        She nods gently towards Jean as she adopts the dancer's stance and protects them, turning back towards the machine.

        Odjn is kind of full of bluster, really -- like Ruby, she finds the Malevolence -- sorry, 'licorice' -- to be terrifying, but Fei's confidence and Hiro's assistance buoys her hopes. "Yeah, dodge that!" A pause, and corrects:

        "No, wait, don't dodge it! GET HIT BY IT! Hiro stop saying that!" Odjn whines.

        Riesenlied's eyes widen as the consuming flames spout towards all of them. "Ahh...!"

        She drops down onto her knees, Heldalf's hellfire washed over her and tainting her with a smattering of low-grade Malevolence as well, clinging at her soul and tearing away at her. "I--I must... hold on..."

        Her eyes cast towards the battle, and she thinks a little on what Ragnell has told her. Sorey, and the Squires... battling against the Lord of Calamity. So this was the true form of the struggle that Lunar holds...

        Where did Lucia fit into all this...?

        Flame drips from her melted, deformed wings-- but she suddenly finds inspiration and power rush through her as Tethelle's energy, chi, refreshes and gives her vitality.

        She looks back towards the swordswoman. She gazes towards the image of Equites for a moment, and-- lowers her head. "Thank you..." Her chest squeezes a little, as she promises to not disappoint her.

        She reaches back and pushes up towards the pylons, to provide energy to the console. Odjn suddenly seizes up to go, "Don't bother with that! Just focus on your connection to the machine!"

        "Thank you, Odjn..."

DG: Riesenlied has contributed a Brute Basic Action toward her party's challenge, Need More Pylons.
GS: Elhaym van Houten takes a solid hit from Loren Voss's Vital Fraction for 0 hit points!
GS: Reload! Elhaym van Houten gains 15 extra FP from Loren Voss!
<Pose Tracker> Hiro has posed.

 
"It's meant to be cool Odjn! Like a challenge- wait this is a REAL BAD TIME FOR ME TO EXPLAIN IT!"
 
"Aha - ha - ha... I always told him he needed to... stop saying that..." Ruby laughs, but it's like all she can do to stay aloft. Her flight dips like she passed out for a moment before flying back up.
 
It feels like the heavens tremble. And hope is dying more and more with every passing moment. He can feel the pulse of the battle behind him, the overwhelming power of the true Lord of Calamity. And right now he's getting torn apart by his minions. He can hear Lucia's yelp as a Lizard's blade presses her, "Dangit!" That's the closest Hiro has to a curse as he gets shredded by a Hellion's claws.
 
And then the Guardians manifest. Ethereal, Spectral, Noble. And - he can feel it again. Sluggish but there. The chant feels thick in his tongue, "FEROCIOUS WINDS!" A gale force slams into the Hellion grappling with him and it hits crumbling stonework with a wet thud.
 
He's up just in time for Heldalf's explosion to manifest. And the Blessing of Althena turns out to be his only shield. He runs her way - completely out of position from the battle. "Lucia - take cover - LUCIA!" The airburst strikes the explosion pressure wave of flame slamming into pressure wave of air. The latter can't stand up to it - as the wave of flames washes over him.
 
It washes into his shield, staggering him back a few paces, spinning him around - just in time to see Tal covering Lucia. "Tal!" He sounds so relieved, "... thank you." He says, with a sense of deep, weary gratitude.
 
He sees how Lucia is holding up under the strain. She looks well but he thinks he sees the cracks. He wishes he could tell her they could stop...
 
But he knows he can't. Her resolve and determination are something he won't betray with half-measures of his own. Especially with the Shepherd counting on them... everyone counting on them, "We won't fail you! KEEP IT UP SOREY! LEO! THIS IS GOING TO BE ONE FOR THE HISTORY BOOKS!"
 
He's about to shout out something about Lunar's best - but it's not just Lunar's best fighting. Gwen's over there, and Riese, and Fei... and so many others representing the brave people of Filgaia who had survived so many disaster, "EVERYONE! SHOW HIM THAT NEITHER OF OUR WORLDS BELONGS TO HIM!"
 
Lucia outlines what they need, and that snaps him out of it, "Power huh...?" As the blue light from Lucia's crystal washes over him, he keeps clear of Ragnell's grenades, beginning a longer chant than before, sweat beading on his brow as he tries to keep going. "If that's what you need..."
 
The winds twist around the edge of the arena into a chaotically shifting cyclone. A tornado whipping into the stonework. The battering/slicing winds whipping into the stonework in an attempt to pulverize it head on. He keeps it moving onwards to the next one, "... we'll make sure you have it!"
 
Ruby meanwhile under the blue light of Lucia's crystal seems to be doing better, slapping her cheeks with both pink pawsies like she's trying to snap herself out of it, shaking her head wildly. "Odjn - sometimes I really envy how well you hold up under pressure..." Before she turns to Fei, "Hey Fei you can totally just shatter a statue with your fists like Jean right? We need your Kung Fury!"
 

DG: Hiro has contributed a Brute Basic Action toward his party's challenge, Need More Pylons.
GS: Heldalf guards a hit from Layna Manydays's Bash and Buckle for 48 hit points!
GS: Layna Manydays takes Cover! She gains 50 temporary hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Cyre H. Lorentz has posed.

"Hahaha, you're not the first one to tell me that," Cyre laughs in spite of the despair crushing in on him from all sides. Faith is a powerful shield-- and one rarely reinforced by the voice of god directly. "Welcome to the party. Demons, Hellions, monsters from beyond the veil of history. Humanity... Has done a pretty good job of surviving so far."

"What..." He chuckles, squinting blearily through the malevolent haze. "What's one more tyrant... who thinks he can control the world...?"

Dull eyes vaguely recognize a roiling ball of flame hurtling towards him. Cyre whispers a curse and lunges out of the way-- but the sphere explodes where he once was, catching him hin the blastwave. Malevolent flames burn at his body, his spirit, his will-- and then...

And then...

The wind rises.

It's like a drowning man gasping a lungful of fresh air. Cyre turns his eyes up at the spiritual disturbance. What he finds is...

Heartening. Reassuring. Guardians of Wind and Sword have lent their aid.

But even their power isn't enough to shatter the darkness.

Not enough to shatter it... But...

"Fengalon..." Cyre murmurs. He laughs as Tethelle's words reach his ears and quietly slings his rifle back over his shoulder. "That's right. That's right, isn't it? Every moment spent marvelling in a gentle breeze is a prayer to Fengalon. Every flash of lightning is the fang of Noua Shax. The pulse of life itself, the calm of the grave, the very spirit that animates the body. Love. Courage. Hope. Desire! Time itself! Everything we are joins us to the world and to those who steward it!"

"You can't shatter a faith--" Cyre's voice rises to a din. To a roar. He throws himself into his Arcana, swearing his body, his spirit, to the winds. The power of the Guardians is focused in that too-familiar way, channeled through the material of his flesh, fueled by the flame of his life. Power is traded for power, treading an endless cycle. "--Which is proven every moment of our lives!"

"FENGALON! I WALK WITH YOU!" Cyre shouts into the storm, the wind gathering around his fist. He surges forward, throwing a straight that carries with it the force of an unstoppable gale. "Take of me whatever you need. With your mighty roar, shatter the miasma. Turn my life into a song that banishes the darkness!"

GS: Cyre H. Lorentz has attacked Heldalf with Grand Pressure!
GS: Cyre H. Lorentz has completed his action.
<Pose Tracker> Fei Fong Wong has posed.

"Shit...!" Fei says, as a lizardman manages to sneak by and slice into Lucia. He turns and channels his chi energy--is it...curving?--so that it punches through the lizard man, managing to turn it around so it doesn't follow through and push into Lucia herself.

Fei sinks to a knee after, panting for breath. It's then that Heldalf's flames crash into him before he can get back up and cover Lucia. Luckily, someone else has it covered.

He lays on the floor, his head throbbing, his spirit dizzied. He hears someone shouting. It's...Sorey of all people?...telling him to not give up. They can't give up. Fei is already weakened from fighting Siegfried but he stands himself up once more. He wobbles over to the pylon and leans against it, presses his hands against it...

"Looks like..." He says. "That for the moment... my wallet's safe."

He looks towards Lucia for a moment to confirm her safety, but shakes his head, reaching into his pocket. His eyes close.

More power They both whisper and Fei presses his hand against a statue and then lightly raps against it with his knuckle.

It crumbles instantly into dust. What the heck was that? "They're fighting for us, Riese. We can't hesitate now."

Fei then places his hand on the pylon and sends an unusually large burst of red-tinted chi into it, overcharging it. He looks towards Ruby, smiling at her. "Looks like you're doing better." He tells his friend. "I guess being a destroyer is useful sometimes." He pauses, glancing back towards Lucia, then back to Ruby.

"But I guess there isn't a Lord of Calamity around that could keep you down, eh?" He's trying to keep her spirits up all the same.

DG: Fei Fong Wong has used his Tool Mother's Cross toward his party's challenge, Need More Pylons.
<Pose Tracker> Janus Cascade has posed.

"How the hell should I know!" Janus barks back at Gwen's question of the Guardians. "Do I look like I ever open a damn book, Whitlock!?"

Romero, who is hiding behind a rock, yells, "Reading is very cool, boss!"

Janus grimaces, and then turns to look at the Guardians manifesting. "...they're fightin' back?" he scoffs. "They show up for this, huh?" His grin slips a little wider. "Nice to know. BOYS!" Whatever Janus just signalled has to contend with the fact that Heldalf decides everybody here needs to be on fire. Janus dares to charge; rushing into the middle of that heat, ARM buzzing with power as he dashes entirely through the inferno on a collision course with the Lord of Calamity. "DARIO!" he roars.

A barrel goes sailing over head, aimed to bash across Heldalf's head.

"ROMERO!"

The barrel's fracture reveals a man inside the thing, who leaps off an exploding plank and tosses waves of needles into the lion from right up close, before backflipping away.

All that chicanery may amount to little--

But Janus is hoping it serves to distracted the Lord of Calamity long enough for him to drive that bayonet into that malevolent aura, and then FIRE a blast from his ARM, an explosive shell hopefully digging through the monstrosity's defenses and then exploding with enough power to make even the Lord of Calamity stagger. Hopefully. Please.

GS: Heldalf guards a hit from Garan Dantear's Rending Slash for 44 hit points!
GS: Poison! Statuses applied to Heldalf!
GS: Janus Cascade has attacked Heldalf with Cascade Gang Cooperation!
GS: Janus Cascade has completed his action.
GS: Heldalf guards a hit from Carina Wynne's Absurd Martial Arts Maneuver for 38 hit points!
GS: Slow! Statuses applied to Heldalf!
<Pose Tracker> Thessaly has posed.

Never one to do by the halves, he says, and in spite of everything, she can still smile, more visible around the eyes and the silhouette of her mouth behind her veil. A shape that he knows well.
 
 "Would you recognize me otherwise?" she wonders, just as the man pushes up on his feet, marveling at his strength - the Malevolence Domain rages around them still, holding even with what little light has been punched through by the guardians, but it is heavy, still, and yet he manages to surge forward even weighed down by all the plate he carries. And then...
 
 ....She feels their bond return in increments, like honey slowly dripping from an upended jar. Rolance.
 
 It feels more like a distant memory than anything - white spires and fields of rolling green.
 
 Summon all the power that she can.
 
 Thessaly doesn't move from her kneeling position, still cradling the crystal orb that has been handed to her, cracked as it is now in the middle, by the way she dropped it and how the miasma around her continues to try and crush anything that is magical in nature. Letting it rest on her lap, she closes her eyes as blood drips from her hand, pooling into the ground underneath her feet, staining moss-caked stone. Dark motes flit around her like spores, but it might be enough, what the Guardians have done.
 
 There is magic here, still.
 
 Not just from what she could reach, from all around her also - this place is old, ancient, and the power its stones still carry is teeming with life. Otherwise, there would be no garden.
 
 The hungry ground soaks up her crimson offering, crimson bands webbing around her, sigils etched into the dirt and in the very center, it shapes a single eye. Closing her eyes, she whispers yet another incantation, reaching deep into the roots of this place in an attempt to siphon its magic for her own.
 
 She does not do this forcibly. True to her gentle nature, she asks for permission.
 
 Please...
 
 Please.
 
 From her lips, it may as well be a song. Bands of light burn through the splashes of her own blood that she has left behind, and streaks towards Heldalf, twisting into one another to form a single, jagged spike of energy that wraps around Garan's sword and lets it gleam with white-gold flame while he launches himself at the Lord of Calamity.

GS: Thessaly has attacked Heldalf with Devil's Trill!
GS: Thessaly has completed her action.
<Pose Tracker> Lemina Ausa has posed.

The worst of the Domain starts to lift -- just in time for Lemina to be assaulted with hellfire. She ducks and screams -- but before it can reach her, Layna buys her time and space to move with that spell, and she lets out a tremendous sigh of relief after a moment of continuing to scream. She slowly draws back to her feet -- and while she doesn't take the time to thank Layna, she does give her a thumbs up.

She's tunnel-visioning in the worst way -- Lemina's only real asset, at least in her mind, is her magic, and even as the oppression lifts, she's still, frankly, scared out of her wits, having a hard time staying aware of much save the most immediate threat. ... but Jean's voice is soothing, and the moment is passing. She can do this.

More immediately relevant -- she has to do this. As Lucia says, they must continue. Hiro begins to move, and to shout. Lemina doesn't join him -- mostly because, even in a situation like this, she's too cool for school. Maybe even so cool she runs the school.

The statues need to be moved or destroyed to help power the teleporter; Lemina nods firmly, saying, "Okay -- let's see if I can..." She starts to conjure one of her usual explosions, but it's -- slow. Heavy. Ironically, this is the sort of thing Lemina has never learned to cope with -- while apprentices often face this sort of difficulty early on, Lemina has neer had difficulty pulling magic from the air.

She looks to Fei briefly, forcing a grin as she continues to slowly work up her magic. Something about his remarkably easygoing nature buoys her spirits, at least. She thrusts her hands out, finishing her chant, and finally disgorging a massive ball of explosion in the general direction of one of the statues.

DG: Lemina Ausa has contributed a Brute Basic Action toward her party's challenge, Need More Pylons.
GS: CRITICAL! Heldalf guards a hit from Cyre H. Lorentz's Grand Pressure for 88 hit points!
GS: Mute! Statuses applied to Heldalf!
<Pose Tracker> Elhaym van Houten has posed.

 
Vierge had moved away from the Lord of Calamity to avoid this. When Elly sees the being, entity, the SSS-rank threat fly towards her, her gut clenches. Vierge tenses as well -

SPANG!!! The blow leaves a dimple a meter deep in the freshly replaced torso glacis plating, although the simplicity of Heldalf's blow means that the damage is, at least, localized. There is a crack there, but, Elly thinks, it's not like -

Some part of her spirals for a moment as if wanting to giggle. It's not like the fight I was in this morning!

The delirious feeling claws at her, but there is then a trickle of something. That strange cut off fades at the same time that Vierge's damage error indicators for the Ether amplifier start to fade. The Major is still striking, Elly thinks, dizzily - but Vierge isn't built like that. I can't wade in against an enemy that strong and expect to last.

They're in danger down there, Elly thinks. Her fingers tighten around the controls. Fei's with them.

I can last a little while, Elly resolves. If I have to, I could -- grab him - hold him to Vierge's chest - he'd have to destroy his way free. But...

Vierge makes a pleasant rising musical scale. (The soundscape of Gear operation was developed over generations. Even in a place as sterile as Solaris, there are those who dream and who make the world better.)

Elly's eyes flick towards - "Loren?" she says, her voice soft and strained. "Ah--"

No, she thinks. Even as that absurd melted softness rises inside of her. I can't just let it come out aloud right now. He's projecting that energy into me instead of moving to save himself. Maybe I can't be his ally any more, Elly thinks further as her eyes shut: But I am still, for this moment, his comrade.

I have to activate them, Elly thinks, and her thoughts, her mind, perhaps her spirit sink backwards into the cushioning cradle of the Etheric circuitry of Vierge. Despair clings at her as she feels something not dissimilar to swimming. She stops breathing for a few moments.

Deeper. Please, she thinks, as the cockpit dutifully plays a soft but audible version of what Heldalf is saying. Please. For Fei and for everyone out there.

p l e a s e

And you know what they say: The second time is always easier.

Vierge's arms raise and there are a half-dozen blooms behind it, the Gear rising up in the air as if in sheer reaction to the deployment of the objects. Much as they were not so terribly long ago, they are probably meaningless in the sight of Heldalf - escape pods? - They rise upwards, as the clinging, clawing lead film of the Domain rests on Elly's mind.

She feels like she's being pushed through a mesh grating. No, that she's pushing herself through a mesh grating. Come on, she thinks. Forward. Just enough...

The AERODS gleam in the light of the Guardians. They strafe with a shrieking bombardment of rays of pure light. The horrid Malevolence no doubt weakens them, but they have a driving heart behind them. They can make one great loop and - here, perhaps, is the true miracle - return to base, returning on their precise and gracious arc into the back of Vierge.

Which continues to stand there.

I have to remember to breathe, Elly thinks.

GS: Heldalf guards a hit from Janus Cascade's Cascade Gang Cooperation for 52 hit points!
GS: Janus Cascade takes Cover! He gains 50 temporary hit points!
GS: Elhaym van Houten has attacked Heldalf with AERODS - Focused Fire!
GS: Elhaym van Houten has completed her action.
<Pose Tracker> Xantia has posed.

In a reflex, Xantia crosses her arms in front of her as her punch is answered with fire. The magical blast impacts her bracer, which seems to provide some measure of protection, reducing the intensity of the flames upon impact enough for them to not do a greal deal of damage. Of course, one aspect of fire won't go away entirely...

"Ow ow ow hot hot hot!" Xantia shakes her right arm to try and dispel the heat more quickly, grasping at her superheated armguard in a reflex... which of course only hurts her left hand, too. "OW!" Fortunately the lingering effect dissipates rapidly afterwards, leaving this ultimately only a short moment of discomfort.

And a bit longer of a moment of confusion, Xantia stopping to argue the claim of not knowing the name of the Lord of Calamity. "Uh, yes I do, everybody I talked to says your name is Lucia." She shakes her head, deciding, "Wait, that's not important! What's important is stopping you!"

But before she can do anything, Heldalf turns on the console, causing a moment of panic. Though she doesn't understand the importance of the machine, there's people over there, and among those people is Fei. She needs to keep them safe, keep Fei safe-- but despite feeling like she should rush over there, to bodily intercept the flames if need be... she just stands there, and watches it happen.

This isn't the first time it's happened. Like her body just won't obey her impulses, as if something is holding her back from acting the way she wants. It doesn't make any sense. Things were okay this time - for a relative definition of 'okay', Fei may disagree - but one day lives could be lost because of it. She seriously needs to figure out what's causing this.

Either that, or just accept what she already feels is true most of the time. That she isn't good for anything but fighting. That the only way she can keep people safe is by hurting others. And that this is something she feels comfortable with. That's not... normal, is it?

Xantia almost loses her footing. She's doing it again. Sabotaging herself with her own doubts. That can't happen, not right now, not in the middle of a fight with so much at stake. Today, under these circumstances, it's okay if all she can do is fight. It's the best thing she can do to help everyone. She has to keep believing that.

No more words, this time. Though using her Ether abilities in other ways than she's already doing just to keep herself standing may be risky, Xantia throws caution to the wind as she moves to attack the Lord of Calamity once again. She is nothing if not consistent, once again focusing her power into a single strike. This time, in addition to the soft light surrounding her, sparks begin to dance across her form, adding the power of lightning to the punch she aims for the solar plexus, culminating in a thundering burst of force.

GS: Xantia has attacked Heldalf with Exploding Fist!
GS: Xantia has completed her action.
GS: Heldalf guards a hit from Thessaly's Devil's Trill for 69 hit points!
==========================<* Elw Teleporter Control *>==========================
=======================<* CHALLENGE - Need More Pylons *>=======================
|Type: Exploration |Dungeon Ability: Brute     |Challenge Rating: 2          | 
---------------------------< Challenge Information: >---------------------------
 A teleportation of this magnitude requires immense amounts of power, which    
 the Elw teleporter lacks. Fortunately, a solution presents itself: six        
 slightly raised circles on each side of the platform, which have large stone  
 statues atop them. The statues are pressing down crystal pylons -- power      
 generators, in short -- which can be raised, to provide more energy to the    
 console and help get the Lord of Calamity out of here!                        
=Dungeon Conditions: Weaken, Tire, Secret=====================================
=====================<* Elw Teleporter Control - Round 3 *>=====================
=========================< Results - Need More Pylons >=========================
Player                               Exhaustion                      Pass/Fail
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Lucia                               17 --(10)--> 27                Fail
Althena's Aura                      1   Brute   Effects: Cleanse              
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Lemina Ausa                         12 --(10)--> 22                Fail
Force                               0   Brute   Effects: BASIC                
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Hiro                                17 --(5)--> 22                 Pass
Force                               0   Brute   Effects: BASIC                
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Fei Fong Wong                       12 --(5)--> 17                 Pass
Mother's Cross                      4   Brute   Effects: None                 
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Riesenlied                          12 --(10)--> 22                Fail
Force                               0   Brute   Effects: BASIC                
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Seraph Ragnell                      17 --(5)--> 22                 Pass
Lightning Grenade                   2   Brute   Effects: Strengthen           
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Jean                                17 --(10)--> 27                Fail
Force                               0   Brute   Effects: BASIC                
-----------------------------------< Party >------------------------------------
Leader: Lucia                       40 --(20)--> 60                Pass
Conditions: Secret(2)|Tire(2)|Weaken(2)
Effects: Cleanse|Strengthen(1)
===============================< Dream Chasers >================================
DG: The party led by Lucia has passed this challenge! The party gained 20 exploration! If anyone needs to use party management
commands, do so now. Otherwise, the next round's GM may begin the next round with +dungeon/draw.
GS: Heldalf guards a hit from Elhaym van Houten's AERODS - Focused Fire for 77 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Gwen Whitlock has posed.

        "Maybe you'd climb up the food chain a little faster if ya did, Janus!" Gwen's lips curl in a lopsided grin, even as her sight remains locked on the Lord of Calamity. "I mean, I read a lotta books when I was a kid, n' look at me no- oh hey!"

        Focused on that spot where she tried to aim for, Gwen's face lights up even further when she sees the shot register, leaving that leaking crack of black energy and violet smoke. She lets out a whoop. "His armor's cracked! Aim for that opening if ya can!"

        Her joy doesn't last.

        Just because he may be a distance away, and she has the advantage of standing back, it doesn't mean he can't fling the very elements at her. Or /under/ her.

        She screams, blasted into the air by the eruption of fiery heat, cast through the air as thoughtlessly as a stone flung across a lake, air stinging the courier's terrified face as past trauma threatens to overtake whatever calm she tried to establish through her earlier antics.

        Gravity reinserts itself, and Gwen finds herself arcing far too close to Heldalf for her own liking and general well-being.

        Well. When life gives you... well, screw lemons. When life gives you burning pain and undue misery, you make lemonade.

        She supposes she still needs lemons in order to make the whole thing flow together.

        Awkwardly, Gwen tries to extend her ARM into a fist. In her mind, she imagines her descending on the leonine lord, fist help out straight and true, the full extent of her momentum slamming it against the being's proud face.

        In reality, it'd probably look like a graceless mess of a courier pinwheeling out of nowhere and just falling on the man as if it was something /intentional/.

         She just knows she's going to regret it, either way.

GS: Gwen Whitlock has attacked Heldalf with Special Delivery!
GS: Gwen Whitlock has completed her action.
GS: Heldalf guards a hit from Xantia's Exploding Fist for 126 hit points!
GS: Heldalf guards a hit from Gwen Whitlock's Special Delivery for 58 hit points!
GS: Heldalf critically Guards a hit from Talise Gianfair's Bluuuurp! Covering Lucia.... for 16 hit points!
GS: Heldalf guards a hit from Malfi's Improv Tango for 24 hit points!
DG: Lucia has drawn a new Challenge.
==========================<* Elw Teleporter Control *>==========================
======================<* CHALLENGE - The Key Uncovered *>=======================
|Type: Exploration |Dungeon Ability: Agility   |Challenge Rating: 2          | 
---------------------------< Challenge Information: >---------------------------
 Your actions cause a circle to simply open up in the stone, in the middle of  
 the platform. A large stone pillar extends upward -- and something at the     
 top shines brightly. It is a small crystal -- which is shaped like a          
 four-pointed star, which conveniently matches a slot in the main console.     
 However, you will need to somehow retrieve it -- and that is a good thirty    
 feet in the air above you.                                                    
=Dungeon Conditions: Slow, Injure, Treasure===================================
<Pose Tracker> Heldalf has posed.

"You dare interfere!? You are not worthy of my name--and I will not suffer you to exist for any longer!" Heldalf bellows at Talise, even as her shield smokes with the flame and ash of his strike. Lucia, though, is safe -- a moment bought, however precious. It infuriates the Lord of Calamity, and so he holds up a hand. Light gathers and glows about it.

"DIVINE LASER!"

A beam of white light explodes from his outstretched hand, screaming through the air across the platform. It is as wide as Talise is tall. More. And it leaves burning after images as it hurtles towards Talise. Then he turns, and his claw catches Chauncey's impact. He growls -- his anger at his Domain being diminished is considerable -- and rakes down across Chauncey with his claws. Just in time for Sorey's blade to slam down into Heldalf's head. It cuts into it, and black smoke and violet light erupt out, before the head seals back together.

"I will destroy them next. This is the weight of a Shepherd--to witness others and know they will FALL!" the Lord of Calamity roars, before he strikes out for Sorey's midsection with another blow of his palm. The Demon Fang from Leo slams into him a moment later, and Heldalf turns.

"Conviction is nothing without MIGHT!" Heldalf roars, as he leaps into the air and comes crashing down at Leo. Leo may not realize what he is doing, at first. The way that hand comes back -- the way light gathers off it -- may seem like another fireball. The light, though, is tinged blue and white.

It is familiar.

It takes the shape of a roaring lion, backed with force and power, that threatens to blow Leo off his feet -- and even off the platform, if he is unlucky. As Heldalf hurls the attack, he screams: "LION'S HOWL!"

And then Hauteclaire strikes.

The full force of the mag-lock blade slams into Heldalf. He goes hurtling down to the platform and leaves a crater in it. When he rises, the elevation around him is a good half foot deeper.

"Then I shall cease with your shell."

He vanishes. Heldalf disappears into a thick, purple and black mist -- and reappears inside of the Hauteclaire. He stands over Kahm for a moment, and roars in his face: "SHATTER AND DIE!" before he slams his clawed foot downward, and tries to kick him and his cockpit chair off the servos holding it in place. Then, he vanishes into mist and reappears outside.

He breathes a little harder. He can't do that kind of teleportation easily.

When he lands, he throws a hand out -- Arleph finds himself under threat, as a fireball explodes under his feet even as he prepares. Layna's shields strike him a moment later, and he turns. "You should give up! DIE!"

He rips down with his claws, slashing into both her shields with all his might. Then, he looks to Tethelle. "They are a lie. Your Guardians are a corruption--for I am the truth. Malevolence is the truth. I reflect the nature of man... and what makes him best: his own darkness made manifest!

Then he fixes Tethelle with a gaze. A burning, terrible, fiery gaze. Within it is a life of misery and suffering; a promise of a shattered future. She can feel it, in that moment.

'ROLANCE!' That makes Heldalf turn, eyebrow raised -- then both eyes narrowed. A blade that drank Hellion blood slashes into him, and finds no blood; just more mist, more shadowstuff, solid but wrong. Yet, Thessaly's power makes it bite deeper. Heldalf roars, then throws a hand out. A point-blank shockwave of flame erupts off it, flying towards Garan with an unusual brutality. "Your kingdom means nothing! You will discover that!"

Carina slams into him, electricity dancing between her fingers, and the charge strikes him. He grunts, knocked backward, and snarls at her -- then rushes, bladed claws slashing up in a mighty uppercut meant to hurl her away from him... and back, into Schiehallion. He can put some serious force into those blows.

So can Cyre. Fengalon's wind is lended to him -- and it blasts into the massive Hellion. He is driven backward, shoved across the battlefield. So he throws a hand out, and another powerful explosion blasts from around Cyre. Then, Heldalf looks up.

A barrel?

Janus flies in, and stabs him in the neck with his massive bayonet. There is a 'hrrk!' sound -- and then he slams at him with the back of his hand. "Fool! What is trickery before power!?"

The AERODS answer for him. Bright white light bombards the Lord of Calamity -- and he vanishes beneath it, until he throws his arms back, and sends it scurrying away. He turns,then, a hand outstretched.

A firebolt flies for Vierge -- and then explodes in a colossal fireball, the same as the one he hurled towards Lucia and her friends but a moment before. He sturns, then, and Xantia's single strike slams into his arm. It... ripples, distends, and shifts in a most unnatural way.

Before his other hand tries to backhand her across the field.

And then Gwen punches him, too. There is a satisfying movement of his head, hair whipping about -- before he turns and rakes down with his claws yet again.

At the same time, he focuses -- and bursts of purple energy begin raining down on the console area, just as the statues begin to collapse!

GS: Heldalf has attacked Talise Gianfair with Divine Laser!
GS: Heldalf has attacked Sephilia Lampbright with Rending Claws!
GS: Heldalf has attacked Sorey with Palm Strike!
GS: Heldalf has attacked White Knight Leo with Lion's Howl!
GS: Heldalf has attacked Kahm Yugh with Torn Asunder!
GS: Heldalf has attacked Arleph Ardan with Eruption!
GS: Heldalf has attacked Layna Manydays with Rending Claws!
GS: Heldalf has attacked Tethelle Cirdian with Hateful Gaze!
GS: Heldalf has attacked Garan Dantear with Eruption!
GS: Heldalf has attacked Carina Wynne with Frightful Rampage!
GS: Heldalf has attacked Loren Voss with Frightful Rampage!
GS: Heldalf has attacked Cyre H. Lorentz with Eruption!
GS: Heldalf has attacked Janus Cascade with Tremendous Backhand!
GS: Heldalf has attacked Elhaym van Houten with Hellfire Release!
GS: Heldalf has attacked Xantia with Tremendous Backhand!
GS: Heldalf has attacked Gwen Whitlock with Torn Asunder!
GS: Heldalf has attacked Hiro with Domain Shock!
GS: Heldalf has attacked Lucia with Domain Shock!
GS: Heldalf has attacked Fei Fong Wong with Domain Shock!
GS: Heldalf has attacked Riesenlied with Domain Shock!
GS: Heldalf has attacked Jean with Domain Shock!
GS: Heldalf has attacked Lemina Ausa with Domain Shock!
GS: Heldalf takes 7 damage from Poison!
GS: Heldalf has completed his action.
DC: 3 turns have elapsed in the battle against Heldalf! 2 turns remain!
GS: Talise Gianfair critically Guards a hit from Heldalf's Divine Laser for 48 hit points!
GS: Layna Manydays takes a solid hit from Heldalf's Rending Claws for 200 hit points!
GS: Lemina Ausa takes a solid hit from Heldalf's Domain Shock for 200 hit points!
GS: Lucia guards a hit from Heldalf's Domain Shock for 150 hit points!
GS: CRITICAL! Riesenlied takes a glancing hit from Heldalf's Domain Shock for 113 hit points!
GS: Hiro critically Guards a hit from Heldalf's Domain Shock for 91 hit points!
GS: Elhaym van Houten takes a glancing hit from Heldalf's Hellfire Release for 175 hit points!
GS: Seraph Ragnell has completed her action.
GS: Sephilia Lampbright critically Guards a hit from Heldalf's Rending Claws for 38 hit points!
GS: Garan Dantear critically Guards a hit from Heldalf's Eruption for 37 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Lucia has posed.

The grenades click against a statue. There is a tense moment, before they explode in a blast of lightning, and bring the statue down with them. Then, Jean rams into one with her shoulder and chi alike -- and it cracks, before it splits down the middle. Jean's drive is something to behold.

Lucia looks at them -- and then she glances sideways at Riesenlied. Her eyes peer down to her hand on the console. For a moment, Lucia hesitates. The question that plagues her -- the question that she shouldn't be able to ask -- rings in her ears. She squeezes her eyes shut, but it comes anyways:

        'Is this right?'

"I do not know," she whispers softly.

She turns to look back at Hiro, thankful she is fine; thankful to Talise. She hesitates for a moment more as she sees him there, and then she looks down at the console. Wind tears at another statue. fei's cross swings, and chi blasts clean through another statue. Lucia turns, to look at him.

Eyes uncomprehending, but she smiles.

There is something infinitely sad to that smile. She turns, slowly, looking at Lemina. "Thank you," she says. She hesitates, then presses another button. A large column rises up in the center; something glimmers on it. "We need that."

She pauses, then. "Hiro... you once said..."

A blast of purple energy slams into her, shoving her down. She stumbles, then looks up, and her eyes -- so clear -- meet Hiro's. "...That you will follow me anywhere. Whatever happens. Even now, you believe this?"

DG: Lucia has contributed a Agility Basic Action toward her party's challenge, The Key Uncovered.
GS: Tethelle Cirdian guards a hit from Heldalf's Hateful Gaze for 71 hit points!
GS: RUIN! All positive status effects and temporary hit points purged from Tethelle Cirdian!
DC: MISS! Xantia completely evades Tremendous Backhand from Heldalf!
GS: Gwen Whitlock guards a hit from Heldalf's Torn Asunder for 91 hit points!
GS: Kahm Yugh takes a solid hit from Heldalf's Torn Asunder for 310 hit points!
GS: Talise Gianfair used the Force Action Protect! She takes Heldalf's attack on Jean on herself!
GS: Talise Gianfair has activated a Force Action!
GS: Talise Gianfair guards a hit from Heldalf's Domain Shock for 116 hit points!
GS: Carina Wynne guards a hit from Heldalf's Frightful Rampage for 101 hit points!
GS: CRITICAL! Cyre H. Lorentz takes a solid hit from Heldalf's Eruption for 279 hit points!
GS: White Knight Leo critically Guards a hit from Heldalf's Lion's Howl for 43 hit points!
GS: Fei Fong Wong critically Guards a hit from Heldalf's Domain Shock for 65 hit points!
GS: Arleph Ardan takes a glancing hit from Heldalf's Eruption for 137 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Riesenlied has posed.

        Riesenlied tucks her detached sleeves against her face and coughs as Ragnell's grenade explode. Her eyes perk up softly as she smiles and says, "R-Ragnell!" when she realises that she's there again...

        She looks to Lucia's hesitation, and encourages her: "It's okay. We're doing fine. We're not on the wrong track."

        She doesn't know that intellectually. She hasn't ever messed with Elw devices, and she's so technologically inept that every time she had to schedule an e-meeting back at the Photosphere she'd have to hand her datapad back to Devet to erase all the Alhazred spyware on it.

        But she can sense the energy within the machine.

        And it tells her: It's all right.

        A blast of purple energy swipes at her, as Heldalf's energies continue to afflict upon her as she coughs and holds strong. Tethelle's energies have sustained her, allowing her to stand strong through it.

        She looks to the column, then Odjn goes, "Ruby! Let's go!" as the littlest dragon flies up to it. Riesenlied looks to Fei with a tired nod as she says, "I won't hesitate. For our sake... I won't let Odoryuk's sacrifice go to waste!"

DG: Riesenlied has contributed a Agility Basic Action toward her party's challenge, The Key Uncovered.
<Pose Tracker> Sephilia Lampbright has posed.

This isn't the first time a foe has tried to rend Chauncey apart. Fortunately for Chauncey, Sephy's learned quite a lot since facing Berserk all those months ago, and manages to get Chauncey to twist to avoid the worst of the tearing. But for the moment, rather than retaliate directly, Sephy has noticed that her friends in the Fiends have been struggling and taking some damage--including her buddy Lemina, without whom Sephy's membership in the Magic Guild of Vane, paid up well in advance, will be questioned!

Plus Sephy's her friend.

So Chauncey lumbers back as Sephy extends a hand, a soft glow emanating from it, surrounding Lemina, and filling her with warmth and energy.

"We've all got your back!" she calls out.

GS: Sephilia Lampbright has attacked Lemina Ausa with Healing Glow!
GS: Sephilia Lampbright has completed her action.
GS: Loren Voss guards a hit from Heldalf's Frightful Rampage for 235 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Malfi has posed.

Malfi presses her attack on the lion-man, savage, relentless, inexorable, aiming a lance-thrust right for his unprotected face and augmenting her weapon with a generous charge from her batteries. This was risky, but she was pushed to the wall.
                 /Mother grant me glory!/ .
There was a very real chance she would die here. She just hoped her corpse wouldn't wind up as part of somebody's ARM or worse, powering a Seed City somewhere...

GS: Malfi has attacked Heldalf with Assault with Batteries!
GS: Malfi has completed her action.
GS: Riesenlied has completed her action.
<Pose Tracker> Seraph Edna has posed.

         As Heldaf goes on his rampage, giving our would-be heroes a run for their money, and their lives, but mostly their money.... A voice speaks up in Cyre's head.

         "Hey. Hey you. Catman" Edna speaks lowly. "Do me a favor and try /not/ to die. Or at the very least, do it after I'm not using you as a vessel."

         .........

         ......

         ...

         There's a moment's pause, and then she sounds contemplative.

         "...Have you tried using a mouse toy on Kittybeard? It might work."

         Edna please.

GS: Sorey used Mystic on Sorey! 100 Temporary HP gained! All statuses cleared!
GS: Sorey has activated a Force Action!
DC: MISS! Sorey completely evades Palm Strike from Heldalf!
<Pose Tracker> Seraph Ragnell has posed.

        Ragnell chuckles a little as Hiro, Sorey, and Leo all roar their defiance against the Lord of Calamity. "All cut from the same cloth, aren't ya?" she murmurs. "Not that that's a bad thing. It's the will to defy that carries you through overwhelmin' odds... An' y'all have defied everything you could up 'til now, haven't ya?" She glances back towards Mikleo. He seems to be doing well so far... Perhaps it's because of the superior purity of his vessel? Ragnell smirks a bit, but still keeps the unconscious Water Seraph in the corner of her eye. They aren't close, nor are they particularly friendly even, but they /are/ fellow Seraphim. To Ragnell, that matters.
        
        Statues crumble, one after another, as the six of them surrounding Lucia smash a statue each. It's deeply satisfying. She grins, then looks around at her teleporter-fixing companions. The Domain has lifted enough that they should hopefully at least be able to hear her, so...
        
        "Don't freak out on me now, Riese," she calls to the Hyadean, having heard her stammering call when first the Malevolent Domain vanishes Ragnell from sight. Riese's joyful response gets her a grin and a wink, before she looks around at the others. "Goes for the rest of y'all, too. Whether you can see an' hear me or not, you know I'm still here." She snorts and adds, because emotional sincerity is the enemy, "Where the hell else would I go?"
        
        A good question indeed, considering the chaos that continues to reign around them. She hisses through her teeth when she sees Heldalf rake his claws through various opponents, including Gwen--but they're all still hanging in there. Goddess, could this go any slower... Wait. Wait, no, no time to complain, incoming attack, INCOMING ATTACK. Ragnell dives to the floor, and though she can /feel/ the energy impact the ground all around her, she somehow manages to evade any direct hits. She pokes her head up to peer around herself. ...Well. That was a lucky break.
        
        With the statues broken, a pillar rises up from the center of the platform, a glittering crystal at its top. Ragnell looks up at it as Lucia states that they need it. She's sure she could shimmy up that pillar, but quite frankly, Odjn and Ruby will get there on their wings way faster than she could. The best she could and /should/ do is cover them so they can make it up there and back unharmed. Thus, out come her pistols again, aiming to shoot down any attacks, errant or otherwise, that may stray their way.
        
        "Honestly," she murmurs with some wry humor, glancing over at Lucia and Hiro, "of all the times to have a touchin' moment..."

DG: Seraph Ragnell has contributed a Agility Basic Action toward her party's challenge, The Key Uncovered.
<Pose Tracker> Hiro has posed.

 
Up above, a large column is rising up - and atop it is- 'We need that!' "Ruby! Odjn!" Newly invigorated by the light of Lucia's crystal Ruby squints as she looks upwards - "With you Odjn!" Her flight is perilous in this battle, and she's not as strong as she usually is, but the little dragoncat flaps furiously to make it up there - where she'd begin to try to work it out with her pawsies and mouth besides, "Mmmm nnnn!"
 
Lucia is saying his name. And he finds himself looking, smiling at her in anticipation of whatever she has to say.
 
Bursts of purple energy slam down upon them, explosions within his malevolent domain. One falls straight down upon Hiro and he's blasted backwards against crumbled rumble of one of the statues. For a moment he looks a little punch drunk under the swell of malevolence, as he stands up. And stumbles over to her. After a moment, he puts his hand in hers. Gripping her for support even as he offers his own support in that grip.
 
As he swallows once, struggling to find the words... but they come to him, "Already followed you to the Blue Star didn't I? One place after another, on the greatest adventure of my life."
 
And then a moment later he adds with a sense of resolve as strong as her own in her mission. In this at least. There's a sense of warmth that words feel inadequate to articulate, but he tries, "I'll go with you anywhere, Lucia. So long you'll have me."
 

GS: Heldalf critically Guards a hit from Malfi's Assault with Batteries for 16 hit points!
DG: Hiro has used his Tool Ruby Being Helpful toward his party's challenge, The Key Uncovered.
GS: Janus Cascade takes a glancing hit from Heldalf's Tremendous Backhand for 77 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Talise Gianfair has posed.

For just a moment, Talise locks eyes with Lucia, and nods back to her shortly.

Lucia - a girl she ran into seldom. One she spoke with by the light of a fire, and heard a story she believed was true even if her own companion did not. And now, it's been shown true - that Lucia is not the Lord of Calamity, but an ally.

One Talise must protect at all costs. Her, and her friends.

The Lord of Calamity is bellowing at her about her lack of worthiness - promising to cause her to vanish from existence. Dreadful light streams from that hand.

'DIVINE LASER!'

White light explodes forth - and Talise squares herself to it, dropping down to her knee and planting her other hand on the back of Amon Rau's shield. Please.

The dreadful light collides with cold steel - and the surface of the shield begins to soften and slump beneath the impact. A corner of it buckles ansd splinters off, dancing across the ground. Light sloughs around the shield's boundaries, tearing at Talise's body wherever it bleeds through. The force of it is incredible, driving Talise ever backwards. The ground beneath her feet crackles.

The white light widens - and consumes her completely. She vanishes from view, and then something explodes in a calamity of blinding light. The offensive stench of boiled steel blooms through the air. Smoke belches across the platform, streaming out from the point where that malevolent laser struck.





                Lady Chloe wouldn't give up.
                Maybe I can never be Dragonmaster.
        But I can change the world right here.

Malevolent power begins to erupt through the console area. Blasts pour down like water - but as the incredible force of the Lord of Calamity tears through ancient masonry, there is a thump-thump of feet, and a sudden eddying in the smoke - and a jingle of chain.

"JEAN, GET DOWN!!!" Talise screams as she hurls herself into the air. Her shield has been obliterated but she throws herself at the dancer anyway. She's the nearest one to her. The energy falls --

And a lance of Malice meant for Jean descends, and plows through Talise's back with radiant force. Chain and fabric give way, and then bone. Jean will get a close-up look at Talise's eyes momentarily going blank as she gags and lurches forward, staggering, blood running down her chin as the magic tears through her and out her stomach to punch a crater in the ground. The concussion of it hurls her off her feet.

Talise lands bodily to one side of Jean, groaning as she struggles to pull herself to her feet. Against the power of the Lord of Calamity, even her skill won't be enough. Her body resists her. She's in too much pain.

She smiles roughly at Jean anyway, her eyes hard with intent. "Don't worry," she urges. "Keep focused. We'll... we'll try to keep him off you."

Talise's coat jingles around her as she pushes a fold of it aside, the chain layer within it clanking as she struggles back to her feet. Again her sword finds her hands, Rastaban's blade gleaming with purpose.

"What's wrong, Lord of Calamity?!" she shouts with defiance as she strides forward. "I thought I wasn't supposed to exist any longer, huh?! What kind of calamity is that, that you can't get rid of one chick with a big knife?!"

Talise moves in, clicking her teeth together and focusing her emotions like a laser. Rastaban sweeps forward; Talise lashes out with both hands, whirling in with a constant barrage of short, debilitating strokes. Individually, each slash is not a devastating thing - but they lash out at the arms and chest of the Lord of Calamity like whipstrokes, a dizzying combination aimed at keeping him busy.

"If you can't even put me down," she bites out through the attack, "then you have to say your name!

"COME ON!" Talise roars as she strikes, hard and fast. "SAY YOUR NAME!"

GS: Talise Gianfair has attacked Heldalf with Ten Thousand Relentless Streams!
GS: Talise Gianfair has completed her action.
GS: Talise Gianfair has canceled their attack on Heldalf.
GS: Talise Gianfair has attacked Heldalf with Infinitely Rippling Stream!
GS: Talise Gianfair has completed her action.
<Pose Tracker> Jean has posed.

"Guess so," Jean says to Fei. Hiro is calling out, being the inspiring person Jean knows he is--Riesenlied is still working, doing something Jean doesn't understand. ..But Heldalf...

"..." The talk of strength, of power, of might--she shakes her head at it, trying to put it and the Domain still out of her mind, to focus on the tasks ahead of her. She has to rely on the others for this, and Jean is no stranger to benefitting from the kindness and strength of others.

"Great work, Lemina," Jean says instead, as she watches the statue break before her when she pulls back, glances to Fei and his own approach. But she hears Ragnell... She hears her, and she nods. "Good you're still with us!" Jean says to her, and then looks back to Lucia again--just in time for the blasts to come. She hears a roar to duck, and Jean drops to the ground instantly, turning around as she looks to Talise, sees her go blank, sees her looking at her. "...Thanks," she says. "I will. Good luck out there. Whatever Lucia's doing... I know it'll help."

She believes in that. She believes in her.

But then, Lucia asks Hiro that question, and Jean takes just enough time to watch them, rather than the pillar. She watches... and then her tesolution sets. "You'll get the chance," she says, and turns to look up at the pillar. She stands up and sets her stance--and throws her fans, straight at points on the pillar, trying to break herself handholds. After that she runs for the pillar and leaps upward, starting to climb. The direct approach works sometimes.

DG: Jean has used her Tool Twin Fans toward her party's challenge, The Key Uncovered.
GS: CRITICAL! Heldalf takes a solid hit from Talise Gianfair's Infinitely Rippling Stream for 172 hit points!
GS: Cripple! Statuses applied to Heldalf!
<Pose Tracker> Lemina Ausa has posed.

As the platform extends into the sky, Lemina watches in awe -- this far outstrips even the wonders of the stories of Vane, and she is here for it. There's only a moment to appreciate it, though, as the force of Heldalf's domain asserts itself again, this time quite literally raining down. Lemina, somewhat helplessly, puts up her umbrella, but it's pretty bad protection and she knows it; it gets shredded, and with it, so does Lemina.

... not to death, though, thankfully. She pries herself up yet again, resisting the urge to tease the lovebirds in a situation like this -- actually, no, totally failing to resist that. "Hiro! Cute later! Now! Like! Climbing! Or some... wait Ruby's got it, do whatever."

She calls up to Ruby and Odjn, instead. "Hey! Drop it down here! Jean and I can catch it -- there's no time to carry it down the nice way!" The magess wonders, for a moment, if she can actually catch it -- but then she remembers she's wearing her running sandals, so the answer is most likely yes.

Jean starts climbing, too, and Lemina adds, "Uh -- if you get it, just, uh. Jump back down. Yeah, that works."

DG: Lemina Ausa has used her Tool Chiro Sandals toward her party's challenge, The Key Uncovered.
<Pose Tracker> Cyre H. Lorentz has posed.

"Our Guardians are a corruption? Have you taken a look around at yourself lately?" Cyre snarls as he draws back to prepare for another strike. "I dunno, buddy. I don't think someone who drags this much evil around gets to call anyone else corr--"

Whatever Cyre was going to say is ruthlessly cut off by a sudden and catastrophic explosion. His words die in his throat as the malevolent force ruptures the world around him. His body hurtles through the air and hits the ground once, twice, and then slowly rolls to a stop.

For a long moment, the shaman is silent.

His body is charred, his robes a mess of tattered cloth. The only thing that saved him was the fury of Fengalon's winds howling like armor around his body. But one arm is twisted in a way it should never be twisted. The light is gone from his eyes--

And then a Seraph metaphorically gives his brain a boot.

"Khhh, everything... Hurts," Cyre groans, struggling to stand on half-broken limbs. "What the hell were you doing... Sleeping at a time like this, shortie?"

There's a beat. He shakes his head to disturb the stars still swirling in his vision more than out of any disagreement. Even so. "I don't think that'll do much. But if you could maybe make my body a little less... fucked?"

He winces, turning to review the battlefield. Soon, he finds what he's looking for. "Need a sec, but... For now..."

Cyre lifts a hand and focuses. The wind answers, the Breath of the World cuts through the miasma, swirling through the choking darkness... And into the Shepherd in the distance. "Shepherd, I don't know how to fight this thing properly, but you... Take it. As much power as I can channel right now. The wind is with you...!"

GS: Cyre H. Lorentz has attacked Sorey with Natural Infusion - Fengalon!
GS: Cyre H. Lorentz has completed his action.
<Pose Tracker> Fei Fong Wong has posed.

Fei seems a little nervous. Maybe it's because of the very powerful fiend unleashing his power against not just all his friends, but he himself. Honestly, it seems like even Gebler isn't having an easy time of it.

He takes a moment to catch a breather, he turns to look at Heldaff, eyes narrowing. More angry men screeching about power, he thinks.

He raises his hand up as the purple rain comes down. It slams into his hand and Fei grimaces, nearly kneeling before its might, but he swings his hand to the side and sends the purple blast punching the ground. He shakes out his hand as if he just touched something slimy.

"What is the power of Malevolence to a heart that won't give in?"

He can already feel that presence returning. Whatever it is. Regardless, he nods to Lucia once, forcing his hands steady. He's calm now. If he dies...

...it's not like it's the end, is it?

In his current condition, Fei doubts that he can get up to that star, though he laughs a little. "It's a star... because this is the Blue Star?? I guess we're running with this theme, huh?"

He cups his mouth and provides the help that he can. "RUBY! ODJN! You've got this!"

He gives Jean and Lemina a thumbsup too.

DG: Fei Fong Wong has contributed a Agility Basic Action toward his party's challenge, The Key Uncovered.
<Pose Tracker> Carina Wynne has posed.

Carina's taser fist strikes true, but invites disproportionate retribution. She braces herself for the impact, protecting herself with her armored gauntlets, yet is sent flying into the air and towards Schiehallion.

"Aw frick aw frick aw frick," Carina lets out as she moves her body to suggest a mid-flight readjustment, and the armor does the rest. She has performed a complete 180-degree rotation by the time she impacts the Gear. Her legs are strong, inhumanly so, and absorb the impact, coiling up...

She turns towards the general direction of its camera, and Loren is treated to the view of some sort of karate bugwoman giving him a two-finger salute.

"Sorry 'bout that, pilot friend!"

And she springs right off, likely throwing the Schiehallion's balance off for a moment while she rockets down, holding her fist forward with Superman. Lightning builds around her, crackling tentatively amidst the Malevolent haze, but manages to build up to a single point of light--

"LOCUS SAVE-THE-WORLD FINAL PUUUUUUUUNCH!"

Silly Carina, you haven't looked at the turn counter, have you?

GS: Carina Wynne has attacked Heldalf with Final Punch!
GS: Carina Wynne has completed her action.
<Pose Tracker> White Knight Leo has posed.

        Leo has honestly been trying to keep the Gears out of mind. Bad enough that these metal giants can fly, but the fact that they are basically flitting in and around a field filled with smaller combatants is kind of terrifying. When Vierge comes in with its AERODS, though, he can't do so any longer. Leo throws himself away from the Lord of Calamity, trying to tumble but ending up in more of a skid. He looks back, jaw tight as the Solarian machine and its pilot get to work. What the devil, Leo thinks, because Malevolence makes sense and this is something he hasn't seen since Adlehyde.

        'ROLANCE! ROLANCE!' Leo can't help but smile as Thessaly and Garan get back in there, but Heldalf is doing something..

        Something familiar. Leo recognizes this technique, the glow, the energy that is not Malevolence. His heart skips a beat, but his body is already moving. He knows this. He knows how to counter this, because his teacher drilled him on it--and he's seen his enemies do the same, time and time again. Leo's eyes narrow. He bares fangs as he stares down the howling phantasm--and he swings.

        Leo's blade seems to cut the very air. A thin, precisely-placed ripple of force snaps off his sword, aimed dead-center at that roaring, ethereal lion. It flies between those phantasmal jaws, and there is a moment where it looks like it just faded, swallowed up. Then, the Lord of Calamity's precisely-engineered chi construct explodes, losing cohesion about twenty feet from Leo's face. It erupts in a colossal fireball, enough to knock Leo back a few paces and scorch his clothes, but not to kill him. He stands, bruised and battered and gasping for breath, but alive. "That technique--!" Leo says. "Where did you..." He doesn't finish the sentence. He knows the man who made that style. He went to his funeral with the Strelka brothers. Seeing it used by this monstrosity makes his blood boil, warps his sense of judgment. "WHAT ARE YOU?!" Leo's blade turns into a blur again, sweeping through another series of strikes. Each one sends another of those vacuum crescents flying right at the Lord of Calamity.

        "ANSWER ME, CREATURE!"

GS: White Knight Leo has attacked Heldalf with Buzz Blade!
GS: White Knight Leo has completed his action.
GS: Heldalf guards a hit from Carina Wynne's Final Punch for 135 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Layna Manydays has posed.

Heldalf...disappears. Layna finds this incredibly startling. If he was not here, where was he? She didn't know where she should be defending from...

...and there he is, right in front of her.

She has only a second to react, to hunker down in her defensive stance. Those terrible claws rend right through her shields, right through her. If it weren't for them, she would be dead right now - or at least, down a couple of arms, and those were in short supply as it was.

She stumbles back, as her weapons clatter to the floor in pieces on the ground below her.

Those weapons...they had belonged to 'him'. She feels a spike of anger, but crushes it down shortly after.

When had clinging to 'his' legacy ever been beneficial? No...things were better this way. A grin crosses her face.

"Sorry, buddy. I'm not the type to give up. Why don't you?" She replies with a shrug. Even when she's on her last legs, she's still trying to keep up her bravado.

Yeah, he probably wouldn't. Worth a shot. But...

"Keep it up, me hearties! Show this Lord of Calamity that we're not just gonna sit down and let him have his way!" She calls out.

<Pose Tracker> Arleph Ardan has posed.

         "The only thing I see here are anomalities." Arleph shouts, the foam over his body starting to peel off rather heavily, gritting his teeth as he slides back. HIs own role into this battle is falling more into a support one, his own abilities starting to wane after yesterday's efforts. Void, he's going to need a long napping break by the end of it all, seriously. "You're a malingnancy that make no sense, an insolation!"
 
         The Symbologist is still covered in the foam, his eyes scanning the area. Cyre is in trouble. Alright, then. Arleph slams his palms together, another circle spreading out of his hands, his visible tattoos pulsing, power flowing through them like tubes as he swing, flicking his wrist at the man.
 
         It might be a little perturbing for Cyre to have a coat of foam spreading all over his body. It's a little fizzy, a little ticking, but at least, it should seal up some of the wounds he already have on him. "Cyre! Hold on!"

GS: Arleph Ardan has attacked Cyre H. Lorentz with Multilayered Foam!
GS: Arleph Ardan has completed his action.
<Pose Tracker> Seraph Edna has posed.

         "It was less a voluntary nap, and more a forced one." Edna replies ever so casually. "And sorry, I'm not going out there right now with all that Malevolence mucking up the place. I'll heal you afterwards. Probably."

<Pose Tracker> Tethelle Cirdian has posed.

Tethelle still has reservations about Riesenlied, what and who she is and her position on Filgaia - but she has far fewer reservations, now, about her than she does about the Lord of Calamity. Sometimes, the battlefield is a place to encounter the truly unexpected...

Tethelle meets Heldalf's gaze because she is not the sort of person to shy away from it. She expects more spells, more claws; maybe some kind of eye ray at the outside, but how many people have one of those? She is not expecting what she gets.

The fiery gaze doesn't, physically, do anything to Tethelle for a moment. She meets it without blinking - for about two seconds.

Then she shrieks, hunkering down as the psychic assault washes over her. She yanks her sword from the ground, holding it up in front of her to parry a blow that doesn't come, but her hand is shaking; her other hand reaches for the Medium on her belt. She holds it in front of her, and that hand is shaking too.

But a faint glow spreads from it, surrounding Tethelle almost like a silver shield, a hemisphere of intangible energy with the Medium as a centerpoint. Her breathing is ragged, but she pushes herself to rise, looking at Heldalf once again. The energy fades; Tethelle does not sink down this time.

"No," she says, flatly. "I deny it." Bolstered by her faith - she was using the Medium almost like a holy symbol - she once again meets Heldalf's gaze if he wants to look at her. "Your nature is not the truth. It is a distortion of what is right. They are not corrupted - they inspire us to be better than we are!"

Tethelle lowers her Medium, grips her sword with both hands - and leaps. She takes to the air, performing a single forward somersault before she descends in a colossal two-handed strike to split Heldalf straight down the middle. It's risky, but she does it anyway.

Tethelle expects to be blocked, and when she is, she pushes against the deflection, springing off. She touches down, whirling, using the momentum of her heavy sword to simply batter through, striking again and again with a wordless roar.

GS: Tethelle Cirdian has activated a Force Action!
GS: Tethelle Cirdian has attacked Heldalf with Whirling Juggernaut!
GS: Tethelle Cirdian has completed her action.
GS: Heldalf guards a hit from White Knight Leo's Buzz Blade for 91 hit points!
GS: Layna Manydays has attacked Talise Gianfair with Captain's Orders!!
GS: Layna Manydays has attacked Tethelle Cirdian with Captain's Orders!!
GS: Layna Manydays has attacked Sephilia Lampbright with Captain's Orders!!
GS: Layna Manydays has attacked Carina Wynne with Captain's Orders!!
GS: Layna Manydays has attacked Malfi with Captain's Orders!!
GS: Layna Manydays has completed her action.
GS: Sephilia Lampbright heals Lemina Ausa! She gains 100 temporary hit points!
GS: Talise Gianfair takes a solid hit from Layna Manydays's Captain's Orders! for 0 hit points!
GS: Reload! Talise Gianfair gains 15 extra FP from Layna Manydays!
GS: Malfi takes a solid hit from Layna Manydays's Captain's Orders! for 0 hit points!
GS: Reload! Malfi gains 15 extra FP from Layna Manydays!
GS: CRITICAL! Heldalf critically Guards a hit from Tethelle Cirdian's Whirling Juggernaut for 41 hit points!
GS: Carina Wynne takes a solid hit from Layna Manydays's Captain's Orders! for 0 hit points!
GS: Reload! Carina Wynne gains 15 extra FP from Layna Manydays!
GS: Sorey takes a solid hit from Cyre H. Lorentz's Natural Infusion - Fengalon for 0 hit points!
GS: Hyper! Statuses applied to Sorey!
GS: Tethelle Cirdian takes a solid hit from Layna Manydays's Captain's Orders! for 0 hit points!
GS: Reload! Tethelle Cirdian gains 15 extra FP from Layna Manydays!
GS: Sephilia Lampbright takes a solid hit from Layna Manydays's Captain's Orders! for 0 hit points!
GS: Reload! Sephilia Lampbright gains 15 extra FP from Layna Manydays!
<Pose Tracker> Thessaly has posed.

Garan's defenses hold from where she can glimpse him and while apprehension nearly overwhelms her at seeing him so close to the Lord of Calamity, Thessaly would rather place her faith where it ought than not.
 
 Now that she has managed to find a magical anchor in this place, she keeps her hold upon it with every ounce of determination she possesses, and it is not easy. The Malevolent Domain continues to be an oppressive field that attempts to make every effort to draw power from her usual sources as difficult as it can be and her body sinks lower, still, at the strain, clutching at her cracked crystal ball and whispering her incantations. Sweat beads on her pallor like ice drops, cold and devoid of warmth, trickling down to the delicate line of her jaw.
 
 The cut in her hand throbs painfully, but it helps her focus, enabling her to ignore everything extraneous.
 
 Shot after shot of light lances through the ether, in an effort not to pummel Heldalf's body, but to seek out the gashes and cuts warriors' blades have inflicted on his physical form, to attempt to rip them open even further and plunge into his body. White-gold filaments wreathe her fingers, spool into fine threads, and she attempts to pluck her will right into the Lord of Calamity. She has no hope of destroying him, she is no Shepherd, but that was never the object anyway, was it? Her hopes remain on those who have taken it upon themselves to jimmy-rig ancient devices and take them all home.
 
 This is but a distraction, and while not accustomed to being a nuisance, she does her best to be an annoyance.
 
 Your kingdom means nothing, he had said to Garan.
 
 And so she strikes. Over and over, again and again, missiles of magic and light thrown towards Heldalf with shaky, but impeccable precision. She strains, she feels so weak, the lingering miasma is suffocating, but she must endure. They are so close.
 
 So close to going home.
 
 And putting this fight where it belongs.

GS: Thessaly has attacked Heldalf with Devil's Trill!
GS: Thessaly has completed her action.
GS: Heldalf guards a hit from Thessaly's Devil's Trill for 109 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Sorey has posed.

 Even as battered as he is, Sorey isn't out of this fight just yet.
 
 he manages to land something of a blow on the Lord of Calamity, but he can tell that his strikes are not doing enough damage to truly push the monster back. The raw strength that the Hellion possesses - the Shepherd can't tell if it is the result of all this malevolence, or if it is something innate to the creature itself.
 
 As Heldalf lashes out, Sorey uses a maneuver that his sword instructor told him was crazy and that he should never try in a real battle. But instead of trying to dodge back or away, Sorey instead lashes up and plants a kick in Heldalf's chest to push himself downwards - crouching low and allowing the claws to pass over his head without harm.
 
 But then the Hellion vanishes - literally, amidst the swirl of combat, as opposed to simply being carried away. It takes Sorey a moment to spot Heldalf on the move as he lashes out at more people, and the Shepherd pushes himself to charge after the Hellion as fast as he can. And it's slow going. Sorey feels like he's charging through mud, thanks to the remaining power of this domain.
 
 Cyre unleashes a burst of empowering energy, and Sorey shouts, "Thank you Cyre!" as he rushes towards Heldalf. A barrage of air slashes from Leo help to give him an opening, and Sorey slams his sword into its scabbard as he closes the last bit of distance. This draw technique was the strongest attack he had at the moment, and he needed to make sure it was effective. "LORD OF CALAMITY!"
 
 And Sorey channels his inner power into one hand, grasping the hit of his sword. "I'm not going to let you win! No matter what - we're going to stop you!"
 
 And Sorey's sword comes out of the scabbard like a thunderbolt, leaving a glowing electric arc in the air that bisects the area where Heldalf was standing.
 
 "Divine Wrath!"

GS: Sorey has attacked Heldalf with Divine Wrath!
GS: Sorey has completed his action.
<Pose Tracker> Kahm Yugh has posed.


YEARS AGO

It had be some time since Kahm had graduated from wooden swords to real steel, and with it a new level of brutality from his teacher. Where once he dealt with bruises, welts, and reddened knuckles, the cost of failure was paid in blood.

"Had it ever occurred you to ask..." Elricht Sophard spoke within jabs and parries that Kahm could barely match. "Why we bother so much with blades and training when you're likely to face most of your enemies from the safety of a gear cockpit?"

"I'd considered it....once or twice..." The boy said in a haggard breath, taking an opening when he saw it (it wasn't actually an opening) and suddenly finding his blade struck out of his hands, the tip of Elricht's blade at his throat even as the lost sword's clatter on the floor registered to Kahm's ears. A typical outcome.

"A gear is only a reflection of the man inside it." He spoke, pressing the point forward against Kahm's throat until the youth stepped back. "An enormous reflection. All your flaws, doubts, and shortcomings....if we do not improve these here, they will only be magnified when you sit in that chair."

The gray-bearded man did not let up. His good eye flare with unspoken demand as Kahm stared back wincingly, "This world holds threats even a gear cannot match. Ask yourself: What sort of man will you be when that power is stripped away from you? Will the enemy find an unborn chick, unable to breathe the air outside it's shell?"

That golden hued eye of his matched the smirk spreading over Elricht's face as the tip of the blade gracefully left Kahm's throat and pointed at the fallen sword.

"Or will they wish you had stayed in there?"

NOW

There was an instant where Kahm's blade made contact with the Lord of Calamity, only for the target to well and truly disappear. Nothing on the scanners, nothing on visual, it was if he'd actually ceased to be.

"What on-" The Major said just as much before the fell, ominous presence of the enormous being flooded his cockpit. Blue eyes flashed up defiantly-the exchange would be decided in a margin measured by nanites. Kahm's right hand instantly reached for his holstered sidearm,

Heldalf's leg descended.

Outside, the Hauteclaire seemed to stumble forward as something like a fuse blew inside it's cockpit core. The recently-installed hatch blew right out from underneath it's chest block, and with it fell Major Kahm Yugh, still half-tied into his cockpit chair (which was also distressingly no longer part of the gear). Both fell to the ground unforgivingly, and Kahm tore himself out of the chair in a fit of adrenaline, staggering to his feet as the dim awareness of the Vierge's AERODs soared above him, dealing out etheric fury in his stead.

He was bleeding somewhere else, it felt like everywhere. Vision blurred, feet stumbling. He tried to rise twice, and only got to his knee.

Focus. Something within him cried out. You will not kneel for anything that was born on the soil.

"This is Major Yugh." He dimly spoke through the commlink that had miraculously stayed tucked in his collar, "I've been ejected from my gear. Cracked ribs, probably worse. I'll be a moment."

He turned to face down all twelve feet of Heldalf's malevolent form, finding the anemo blade was already in his hand. Huh.

"Engaging the target on foot." He said, and then rushed for the fell lord with all due haste, his blade singing with charge electron. He was hardly the only one to join this melee, and he dimly recognized Garan as the knight who'd fought in that surface-dweller tournament, along with his compatriots as known Althena Cultists. He didn't try to fight alongside any of them, instead waiting for their attacks to throw Heldalf's attention away from him, seizing a moment of opportunity to strike hard-and deep-with the blade into Heldalf's side as Tethelle strikes him from above. He'll then summon all the power he can and channel it through the blade, aiming to turn the leonine beastman into a walking lightning rod!

DC: Kahm Yugh switches forms to Kahm E Yugh!
GS: Kahm Yugh has attacked Heldalf with Helldriver!
GS: Kahm Yugh has completed his action.
<Pose Tracker> Janus Cascade has posed.

Janus might have something smart to say to Gwen, except he's too busy grinning at his minor victory over Heldalf - before that hand starts coming at him. It slams him across the front, sending him whipping away. But Janus is in control; his feet slam, spread wide for stability, into the fragile standing framework of a pair of buildings, and Janus' teeth grit as the pain shoots through his entire skeleton. "Gonna be feelin' that one later," he groans, and then kicks off the wall, flipping forward to land hard on the ground. "Ngh, or right now," he hisses out, and then whips up his weapon, sighted up toward the Lord of Calamity. This man would kill him. Would tear Filgaia out from under him. "Dunno, mate." he seethes, sights up.

"Let's find out!"

The ARM roars, the muzzle flares, and a shell screams into that Malevolent aura sighted to rip through Heldalf's throat.

GS: Janus Cascade has attacked Heldalf with Sniper Shark R!
GS: Janus Cascade has completed his action.
GS: Heldalf guards a hit from Sorey's Divine Wrath for 163 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Garan Dantear has posed.

The sword is, of course, only part of the equation when dealing with Garan Dantear.
 
The other is the shield.
 
The Lord of Calamity might not bleed like mortals, but the edge still cuts, bolstered by the power of the witch Thessaly, her blood mingling with the wispy essence that escapes Heldalf's injuries, like shadow given nearly-solid form. But the momentum behind the strike is carefully applied: There's little in the way of recklessness in Garan's form, no matter that he's fighting an opponent who outclasses him so completely. Lessons that were drilled into him when he was a boy until they became second nature guide his movements, turning to keep his shield in play... Which, here and now, as it has so many times in the past, saves his life.
 
That slab of steel, enameled in white and edged in silver, intercepts the sheer brutal force of the blast of fire from the Lord of Calamity, the force of it still enough to stagger the Imperial Knight, send him stumbling back a few steps. The power in play is incredible. Honestly, he's extremely glad there's plenty of backup around.
 
Assuming even that will be enough.
 
"And yet here stands an Imperial Knight of Rolance, defying you! Here is the steel of Rolance, to vex you!" Sometimes, all you can do is bare your teeth in defiance, and Garan does: A wide, wolfish grin, bravery on the very edge of terror, of oblivion. One wrong move and he faces annihilation. So really, what else is there to do?
 
The blade, still stained with Thessaly's blood, dances and glitters as he slashes at the Lord of Calamity, hoping to keep up enough pressure that Leo, that Thessaly, that even the self-proclaimed Shepherd can do something against the terrible might of the Lord of Calamity.

GS: Garan Dantear has attacked Heldalf with Blade Flourish!
GS: Garan Dantear has completed his action.
<Pose Tracker> Xantia has posed.

Xantia just sort of... stares at the result of striking against the Lord of Calamity with everything she has. All it's doing is cause some weird distortions, and he doesn't seem very bothered by that at all. What's this guy made of? Are her punches even hurting him?

She can't wonder about this for very long, however, as a counterstrike comes her way. This, too, probably doesn't have the outcome that was expected. Unless Heldalf was expecting a girl of about half his size to be capable of stopping his strike, through the simple act of reaching out and catching his much larger hand with hers, then pushing back against it, overpowering and deflecting the strike with seemingly nothing but pure physical strength. Absurd, is probably the correct term. But it's clear that a casual backhand isn't going to be enough to get rid of Xantia. "How's that for power? I'm a little stronger than most people," she clarifies with a grin, as if that wasn't obvious.

Xantia, meanwhile, realizes that her punches may not be enough to get rid of Heldalf. And that he's going to keep targetting the console area for as long as he's able. She's only got one other thing on her - that bracer of hers, which may looks like just a protective accessory wrapped around her right wrist, but is actually an ARM. She hasn't used it thus far. Hopefully it'll be an unexpected element, if she times it right.

For the first time, she launches into a combo, using quick alternating strikes to try and force her opponent on the defensive. The true aim of this is an attempt to unbalance, and drive her right fist for the first opening she sees. Not to strike with her hand, but with the red energy blade that emerges from her forearm area, materializing from the ARM in an attempt to pierce through that massive armor.

And of course, she simply has to offer clarification for those who demand to know the name of the Lord of Calamity. "His name's Lucia!" And he's going to stay Lucia in her eyes until she's corrected. Perhaps THAT will be sufficient motivation to do so?

GS: Xantia has attacked Heldalf with Crimson Flash!
GS: Xantia has completed her action.
GS: Heldalf guards a hit from Kahm Yugh's Helldriver for 81 hit points!
GS: Poison! Statuses applied to Heldalf!
=========================<* Elw Teleporter Control *>=========================
=====================<* CHALLENGE - The Key Uncovered *>======================
|Type: Exploration |Dungeon Ability: Agility   |Challenge Rating: 2          | 
--------------------------< Challenge Information: >--------------------------
 Your actions cause a circle to simply open up in the stone, in the middle of  
 the platform. A large stone pillar extends upward -- and something at the     
 top shines brightly. It is a small crystal -- which is shaped like a          
 four-pointed star, which conveniently matches a slot in the main console.     
 However, you will need to somehow retrieve it -- and that is a good thirty    
 feet in the air above you.                                                    
=Dungeon Conditions: Slow, Injure, Treasure===================================
====================<* Elw Teleporter Control - Round 4 *>====================
=======================< Results - The Key Uncovered >========================
Player                               Exhaustion                      Pass/Fail
------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Lucia                               27 --(10)--> 37                Fail
Rush                                0   Agility Effects: BASIC                
------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Lemina Ausa                         22 --(10)--> 32                Fail
Chiro Sandals                       1   Agility Effects: Cleanse              
------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Hiro                                22 --(5)--> 27                 Pass
Ruby Being Helpful                  2   Agility Effects: Resilient            
------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Fei Fong Wong                       17 --(10)--> 27                Fail
Rush                                0   Agility Effects: BASIC                
------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Riesenlied                          22 --(10)--> 32                Fail
Rush                                0   Agility Effects: BASIC                
------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Seraph Ragnell                      22 --(5)--> 27                 Pass
Rush                                0   Agility Effects: BASIC                
------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Jean                                27 --(5)--> 32                 Pass
Twin Fans                           2   Agility Effects: Quicken              
----------------------------------< Party >-----------------------------------
Leader: Lucia                       60 --(35)--> 95                Pass
Conditions: Injure(2)|Secret(1)|Slow(2)|Treasure(1)
Effects: Cleanse|Quicken(1)|Resilient(1)
==============================< Dream Chasers >===============================
DG: The party led by Lucia has passed this challenge! The party gained 35 exploration! If anyone needs to use party management
commands, do so now. Otherwise, the next round's GM may begin the next round with +dungeon/draw.
GS: Heldalf guards a hit from Janus Cascade's Sniper Shark R for 45 hit points!
GS: Heldalf guards a hit from Garan Dantear's Blade Flourish for 53 hit points!
GS: Heldalf guards a hit from Xantia's Crimson Flash for 58 hit points!
DG: Lucia has drawn a new Challenge.
==========================<* Elw Teleporter Control *>==========================
====================<* CHALLENGE - Load-Bearing Platform *>=====================
|Type: Final       |Dungeon Ability: Agility   |Challenge Rating: 3          | 
---------------------------< Challenge Information: >---------------------------
 You press the final buttons, make the final connections, and complete the     
 teleportation mechanism. A faint light blue glow begins to shine through the  
 surroundings -- begins to illuminate the whole of the Pleasing Garden, and    
 extend even further outward, over all of Lost July. It shines, pulses, and    
 brightens slowly.                                                             
                                                                               
 But, the back half of the platform suddenly begins to fall away. Chunks of    
 it separate -- huge blocks descending rapidly, hurtling downward. You will    
 need to move quickly, unless you want to be pulled down into the depths of    
 the Pleasing Garden once more.                                                
=Dungeon Conditions: Hesitate, Injure=========================================
<Pose Tracker> Cyre H. Lorentz has posed.

        "Can't you heal me from in there or something?" Cyre says as he tries very hard to keep his arm from flopping around painfully. "Ugh. Fine, but don't blame me if I can't fight so well with one arm."

<Pose Tracker> Seraph Edna has posed.

         "Fighting with one arm builds character. You can do it."

         Edna is the most helpful, okay?

<Pose Tracker> Elhaym van Houten has posed.

 
If you asked Elly van Houten whether or not the Gear's cockpit only magnifies your shortcomings, she would agree wholeheartedly. But she isn't in the best place right now. The miraculous flight of the AERODs and their return are balanced out by the incoming burst of that shrieking artillery-scale fireball. The Vierge rocks back, its defensive screening of Ether from the pilot almost wholly absent. The paint smokes; the steel giant sways.

And yet, it's luckier than Kahm! Isn't it great, Elly?!

The words of the Lord of Calamity, though, stir something in Elly. A meter, often ignored and usually petering around 4 or 5 percent off to the fringes of Vierge's flight telemetry, quietly ticks up. It is around 26 percent now.

It's against discipline, but perhaps Elly isn't in a place to care.

"You all sound the same!!" Elly cries out. "You worship power as if it makes you the best - you take an accident of your position to mean that you're ordained to be superior... You think your raw strength justifies all of your actions! You're not even acting like a child, you're acting like - like a BULLY! Incomprehensible horror, all these horrible things you've done -- for this --!?"

The meter quietly registers a position around 31 percent now. Nothin' to see there.

Then it jumps to 34! "Major!" Elly cries out. (Did her words travel outside of Vierge at all? Perhaps so, through the power of the heart.)

If he's out there, if he's challenging the enemy on foot, he's a hero, Elly thinks with a desperate confusion that shines over stormy sincerity. But it means I can't use the Ether amplifier... not unless there's no other choice...

And yet, Elly thinks, with a blank sort of realization: The AERODs are functioning. They work! There's no problems! The fuel resupply is complete! And the third time that the spiralling diamonds of holy technology fly forth, it's even easier. Elly even thinks she can retain control of the Vierge rather than engaging the metaphorical parking brake.

Which is good, because they fly down shockingly low. Kahm may be able to feel the crackling Ether inside of them but until one of them fires its eerily near-silent ray of refulgent force from less than four meters over his head, the only sign that he's getting support is Elly's statement of, "I'll cover you, sir-"

There is a strange feeling in Elly; like she can see where the AERODs are, but it's hard to define, nebulous. It's more the familiar patterns of Kahm Yugh than anything else. Some of the flexibility of an all direction assault is lost, of course, by having them fly in this linear bombardier formation, but you can't have everything.

And it probably does add a certain je ne sais quoi to his blows when his opponent has to deal with rays of Etheric force as well.

GS: Elhaym van Houten has attacked Heldalf with AERODS - Wide Field!
GS: Elhaym van Houten has completed her action.
GS: Heldalf guards a hit from Elhaym van Houten's AERODS - Wide Field for 95 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Loren Voss has posed.

        This is approximately when a small armored bug-like figure slams right into Schiehallion. This, in turn, causes some immediate issues for the Gear's balance and general well-being; it banks hard to the right in a correction.
        A notable crack is visible in spidering lines where Carina had landed.

        Impossibly (?) the bug-armored woman stays perched atop the Gear the entire time.

        'Sorry!' she essentially informs him, salute and all.
        In spite of the battle unfolding below, there is that one moment where Loren sort of gapes at Locus, within the safety of the Gear's cockpit.
        What in the--
        And there she goes, destabilizing Schiehallion's precarious balance once more as she departs.

        It was a distraction, presented at the worst possible moment.

        The Hellion's leg descends--

        Time, it seems, to Loren's perspective, slows to a graceless crawl. Too far to do anything except watch on as the scene plays out before him.
        The Hauteclaire stumbles. The hatch blows outwards and--
        Time resumes its normal pacing.

        "Major!" the medical officer shouts across the communications line.
        He swallows. He can't see anything down there. Did he just...

        When the radioed contact comes it's...
        A relief?

        He takes a breath, an attempt to steady his nerves. "...Understood, Major. Providing aerial assistance. We'll try to pull his attention up here. Van Houten, get ready."

        Do your part. You know she's more effective with this than you are.
        The thought is an ugly one, a hard sentiment to swallow regardless of its objective truth. Even examinations would see it through, regardless of their shared birthright.
        The mission's more important than that, he forces down, as if he could shove the thought into oblivion by focusing his attention elsewhere. Give her what she needs to finish the job.

        It clings in ragged tatters to him even as he shunts his will into the circuits of the machine, drives the raging force of the rapids outwards to imbue into Vierge.
        You don't have power, it whispers.

GS: Loren Voss has attacked Elhaym van Houten with Haste Factor!
GS: Loren Voss has completed his action.
GS: Elhaym van Houten takes a solid hit from Loren Voss's Haste Factor for 0 hit points!
GS: Quick! Statuses applied to Elhaym van Houten!
<Pose Tracker> Gwen Whitlock has posed.

        It was satisfying, yes. But such foolhardy, crazy tactics can't stand forever under the weight of Gwen's inability to absorb all the attention and damage they invite. Gwen's ARM reacts instinctively to the raking of Heldalf claws, blood flowing where her ARM's plates are unable to take the brunt. Crashing to the ground, she sees Kahm recovering from a similar looking blow, looking far more worse for wear as he tears from his pilot's seat. "You can do it, Mar-" She stops at the name, then simply nods, showing a shred of admiration at the fact that he's still moving- not only that, moving /towards/ Heldalf.

        'ANSWER ME, CREATURE!'

        Flashes of Jack and Harken flash against through Gwen's mind for the second time these last few days. "White Knight Leo!" Perhaps using Leo's full title will secure his attention more, as she tries to gather the growing force within her into a finer, more concentrated point. "Listen t'me!" she cries out. "Those friends of mine that became Hellions- every time they were tryin' to deal with things that were-" Sad? Things that made them angry? "Things they couldn't..." Things that made no sense to them. Things they couldn't react to well. Trauma?

        What is it? Think about it, don't ignore it.

        It's happened to her far too many times to let her willful ignorance of the negative obscure the potentially bleak outcomes, if her gut feeling, which she woefully let go ignored for so long, is right.

        The answer comes from her gut. "Remember you're you, no matter what answer you're able to get! And that's..." The glow in her ARM grows brighter, as she tries to narrow her focus. Draw it into her ARM, all that heat, and force. "... That's okay!"

        As if that could stem the tide of despair the potential answer, if the Lord of Calamity chose to grant Leo one, could bring.

        But is it terrible to let herself think she's just being overdramatic?

        "If you get to go home after this, sir, it was... good to meet you. You n' everyone, from Lunar." Tears stream from her eyes. There's light everywhere. Maybe, they'll have a chance to go back.

        Go back home. She remembers the image of Hiro, gazing up at the sky, relating his worry about his own family, of Gwyn. How her heart twisted when she realized she could sympathize.

        Plasma energy flows from her extended palm, the pressure held within her entire self forcing itself against it. "Please, Althena..." Her breath hitches. "If they're this close, let 'em come home too..."

        It's been too long.

GS: Gwen Whitlock has activated a Force Action!
GS: Gwen Whitlock has attacked Heldalf with Corona Discharge!
GS: Gwen Whitlock has completed her action.
GS: CRITICAL! Heldalf guards a hit from Gwen Whitlock's Corona Discharge for 143 hit points!
GS: Jam! Statuses applied to Heldalf!
<Pose Tracker> Heldalf has posed.

"Your intervention will not suffered!" Heldalf roars at Sephilia. He hurls a ball of flame at her, which explodes into a shockwave of fire. It tears at Sephy, roars onward for Malfi, sending rubble and debris every which way.

Then, Talise rushes in from the side. He turns, and he meets many of the blows, at first. But, then, Rastaban gets through -- slashing deep into his side. He growls, and then he grabs her by the neck.

"My name is the scream of a mother as she looks upon her slaughtered babes. My name is the wracking sob of a grandfather who is the last of his line. My name is the smile of the butcher on the battlefield. My name is the destruction of civilization -- the sundering of morality -- the succumbing to what we are."

And then he hurls Talise away with a mighty, rending slash of his claws. "I AM THE LORD OF CALAMITY!"

Then he whips towards Cyre. "Purity is the corruption. Nobility is the corruption. Mankind claims such things... THEY ARE LIES! I WILL BURN YOUR GUARDIANS FROM THIS LAND!"

He fires another of those massive beams, scouring the ground, and rushing towards Cyre even as he offers Sorey his support. And then Carina's punch slams into him so he turns around -- and slams his fist forward. He meets her fist; they collide. And then a roaring lion's head of energy explodes backward, throwing him away.

"Lion's Howl!"

Fitting, then, that he turns towards Leo. He stares down at him, eyes narrowing. "The Lord of Calamity. The bringer of destruction."

Calmer than before, but when he holds his hand into the air, a massive explosion of flame erupts -- even as the vacuum crescents assail him. Then, he rushes forward. Layna calls out aid -- and his claws rake for her, before he rushes towards Arleph, and slams down at his side, trying to throw him to the ground. Finally, he strikes out with a single, hard blow for Tethelle's midsection -- even as she slashes through his jaw.

It explodes into shadowstuff--then reforms. Shots of light from Thessaly slam into him; a bombardment that he stalks through, casually, before he locks his eyes with her. He lifts a hand -- and a firebolt erupts from it, hurtling off towards her. Which, unfortunately, leaves him ignoring the Shepherd. A mistake of Lords of Calamity have made, in their eternities-long dance. He pays for it, as a glowing electric arc slashes through Heldalf. Shadowstuff explodes outward, and he whirls to face him. "Your existence lets me win! We are part of a system, Shepherd!" Heldalf roars.

"Your existence furthers mine--and mine gives yours meaning!"

He holds a hand out -- and an enormous ray of light explodes off it, threatening to engulf and drown Sorey in the ferocious devastation.

And then Kahm lands in front of him.

"You live," he says. He sounds surprised. Kahm's blade bites into him, hard -- drawing shadow, but he whirls, and tries to backhand Kahm across the battlefield. He raises an arm, then, and deflects Janus's next shot. He turns, and hurls a firebolt towards him.

"And will that steel be brittle?" Heldalf asks Garan, turning to look down at him -- and then at the blade that rips into his armor. It strikes, ringing off it, and he swings his hand back -- trying to backhand Garan across the field. Xantia comes a momnet later, combining kicks and punches. He snarls, then throws a hand out -- and a fiery shockwave explodes off it, hurtling at her.

He does not correct her, though.


And the Vierge's AERODS unleash hell upon him. Elly condemns him, and the Lord of Calamity explodes in fire. He vanishes in a shocking wave of Ether, as explosions climb high. And then he rises upward, fist drawn back. "Why? To break you. To turn you into something like me. That is why I exist! That is what the Lord of Calamity strives to be!"

Then he punches -- and the massive lion's head of energy explodes off his fist, slamming up for Vierge's chest, and threatens to engulf it. He comes crashing downward, then, and descends -- but he shifts his movement, to come crashing down at Schiehallion's head. He swings out his fist -- and tries to slash through its neck, and rip the head of the Schiehallion off with one stroke.

Which is well-timed -- for he smashes the Schiehallion's shorn head (or a suspiciously sized boulder, if the code decrees it) down for Gwen.

And then her plasma rips through it and slams into Heldalf's chest. The piece of rubble hurtles down straight towards Gwen, screaming down for her like a meteor. At the same time, he gets thrown back to the edge of the platform. He strikes there -- and then slams a fist down into the ground.

A massive magical circle appears under him. The clothing of nearby corpses, Rolance and Hyland, Gebler and Drifter, begin to catch flame. A wave of heat rolls off -- so strong it makes everyone here break into an instant sweat.

The spell has not even been cast yet.

GS: Heldalf has activated a Force Action!
GS: Heldalf has activated a Force Action!
GS: Heldalf has attacked Sephilia Lampbright with Hellfire Release!
GS: Heldalf has attacked Malfi with Hellfire Release!
GS: Heldalf has attacked Talise Gianfair with Rending Claws!
GS: Heldalf has attacked Cyre H. Lorentz with Divine Laser!
GS: Heldalf has attacked Carina Wynne with Lion's Howl!
GS: Heldalf has attacked White Knight Leo with Rending Claws!
GS: Heldalf has attacked Layna Manydays with Frightful Rampage!
GS: Heldalf has attacked Arleph Ardan with Frightful Rampage!
GS: Heldalf has attacked Tethelle Cirdian with Frightful Rampage!
GS: Heldalf has attacked Thessaly with Firebolt!
GS: Heldalf has attacked Sorey with Divine Laser!
GS: Heldalf has attacked Kahm Yugh with Tremendous Backhand!
GS: Heldalf has attacked Janus Cascade with Firebolt!
GS: Heldalf has attacked Garan Dantear with Tremendous Backhand!
GS: Heldalf has attacked Xantia with Eruption!
GS: Heldalf has attacked Loren Voss with Rending Claws!
GS: Heldalf has attacked Gwen Whitlock with Rubble Toss!
GS: Heldalf takes 8 damage from Poison!
GS: Heldalf has completed his action.
DC: 4 turns have elapsed in the battle against Heldalf! 1 turns remain!
<Pose Tracker> Lucia has posed.

"Yes... we will succeed in our mission," Lucia answers quietly, as Odjn and Ruby up to the column. She looks up at him for a moment, and considers, before she looks back down at the console below. She listens to Ragnell's words, and she closes her eyes for a moment. A touching moment?

Is this one? Should she ask?

She wonders for a moment whether that would be weird. Then, she realizes, that she could care less about whether something is weird. She looks up at Hiro, when he answers -- and she sees him walk closer. She blinks, and looks down at his hand. What, she thinks, is she supposed to do?

Her fingers squeeze back. She doesn't know why.

"I never said thank you," she finishes. Then, she slides her hands from his and looks down at the console. She presses a few more of the buttons on it. She tries to ignore the tremble in her fingers. Jean leaps up for it, and starts climbing. Lemina calls out excellent advice, supported by Fei.

And they're all, in their own way, supporting her.

Odjn misses -- but Ruby kicks the crystal down. It goes left, then right, and ultimately Jean catches it. She tosses it to Ragnell... and Lucia takes it from Ragnell. She slots the key in and twists.

A faint blue light erupts over the surroundings. Lucia stares down at it, as a hum begins to build up. She looks down at the console. The Elw runes light up, but she can read them. She can understand them. <<Wide-area teleportation engaged. Target: Silver Star.>>

She is the only one who can. No one else need know her sin.

Lucia closes her eyes, then turns. She looks back at Hiro. It is a storm of emotion inside of her; she is someone who is used to calm waters. It is something gripping, and touching, and pulling at her. It drags her heart downward, filling her with ice. A new question comes to mind:

'Is this... guilt?'

She blinks her eyes. She finds something slightly wet to them. It isn't sweat from the heat roiling from Heldalf's spell. Her lips tremble, slightly, as she speaks three words, very quietly: "...I'm sorry, Hiro."

The ground begins to give way and collapse under their feet. Sections fall away -- huge blocks begin to collapse and fall away into nothing, and drop into the void below. Lucia runs forward -- but stumbles, instantly, and falls flat. Her eyes widen with fear, even as the crystals on the platform begin to pulse.

And glow.

GS: Talise Gianfair takes a solid hit from Heldalf's Rending Claws for 189 hit points!
DG: Lucia has contributed a Agility Basic Action toward her party's challenge, Load-Bearing Platform.
GS: Arleph Ardan guards a hit from Heldalf's Frightful Rampage for 104 hit points!
GS: White Knight Leo guards a hit from Heldalf's Rending Claws for 115 hit points!
GS: Malfi takes a solid hit from Heldalf's Hellfire Release for 160 hit points!
GS: Garan Dantear guards a hit from Heldalf's Tremendous Backhand for 94 hit points!
GS: Layna Manydays takes a glancing hit from Heldalf's Frightful Rampage for 89 hit points!
GS: Arleph Ardan heals Cyre H. Lorentz! He gains 200 temporary hit points!
GS: Tethelle Cirdian guards a hit from Heldalf's Frightful Rampage for 167 hit points!
GS: Cyre H. Lorentz used Mystic on Cyre H. Lorentz! 100 Temporary HP gained! All statuses cleared!
GS: Cyre H. Lorentz has activated a Force Action!
GS: Cyre H. Lorentz has activated a Force Action!
GS: CRITICAL! Cyre H. Lorentz takes a glancing hit from Heldalf's Divine Laser for 273 hit points!
GS: Sorey takes a glancing hit from Heldalf's Divine Laser for 177 hit points!
GS: Janus Cascade takes a solid hit from Heldalf's Firebolt for 175 hit points!
DC: MISS! Thessaly completely evades Firebolt from Heldalf!
GS: Loren Voss guards a hit from Heldalf's Rending Claws for 271 hit points!
GS: Sephilia Lampbright guards a hit from Heldalf's Hellfire Release for 100 hit points!
GS: Sephilia Lampbright enters CONDITION GREEN!!
GS: Xantia takes a glancing hit from Heldalf's Eruption for 88 hit points!
GS: Carina Wynne takes a solid hit from Heldalf's Lion's Howl for 212 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Malfi has posed.

Malfi stumbles as the lion-man swats away her devastating attack like so much flimsy paper. His counterattack is horrible, a ball of fire that makes her SCREAM as it engulfs her. "What are you?" she somehow manages to breathe through the agony. He has the advantage in size, in weight, in power. He must be, she thinks, some kind of biological creature, and they had weaknesses. In desperation she reaches out, trying to siphon off some of his life force, a means to at least some healing -- if it worked.

GS: Malfi has attacked Heldalf with Power Surge!
GS: Malfi has completed her action.
GS: CRITICAL! Kahm Yugh guards a hit from Heldalf's Tremendous Backhand for 117 hit points!
GS: Heldalf guards a hit from Malfi's Power Surge for 118 hit points!
GS: Malfi takes Cover! She gains 50 temporary hit points!
GS: Malfi drains Heldalf! Malfi gains 168 temporary hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Jean has posed.

"I got it!" Jean calls down to Lemina. She'll keep working. Fei calls back... and he does say something kinda funny. There is that. The moment of levity helps in all this. Jean climbs, and climbs. It was a good moment--but they have time for only moments. And Jean can hear, see, feel the way the blue light is erupting, the way it changes. She does not know what Lucia is doing, not really. She does not know the apology. Having caught the key, she leaps back down, rolling to catch herself... Which is when the ground keeps falling away.

"LUCIA!" Jean calls. This woman, who was so strange at first, who she helped without thinking--...who's become her friend. Who healed her, when she may have never otherwise recovered. Who--

Jean sprints. "Hiro, I've got her, run!" she says as she bends down to scoop Lucia up in a bridal carry and leap off of a crumbling platform. Her fans have already been thrown to knock away debris; she'll need new ones, most likely.

She runs. "It'll be all right," Jean says. "You did great. I don't know what's happening, but..."

Jean looks down a moment to Lucia's face, "I trust you."

DG: Jean has used her Tool Twin Fans toward her party's challenge, Load-Bearing Platform.
GS: Gwen Whitlock critically Guards a hit from Heldalf's Rubble Toss for 26 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Riesenlied has posed.

        Riesenlied couldn't help but smile for a moment at Hiro's dramatic proclamation to Lucia. To follow her from one Star to another... it reminds her of what Noeline has told her, time and time again.

        She glances back to the tower of Life, trusting that Noeline has everything under control there.

        She smiles quietly towards Jean and Lemina as the former climbs, and the latter readies to catch it.

        Odjn grumbles, but yells in victory as Ruby gets it. "Yeah, go you, Ruby!" as she sweeps down after her and watches as Lucia activates the terminal.

        Riese looks to Ragnell as she encourages her, nodding very slowly. "... I believe that. I believe in you, Ragnell." Riese, fortunate for Ragnell, is a trusting and naive soul, so she totally has no idea that as of this plotline Ragnell has ditched at least one Digger party. "I'll be strong... I'll..."

        Heldalf starts to create a powerful spell of flame, such that the fabrics of the deceased start to catch fire. Hers does as well -- and she shrieks a little as she drops to one side.

        "A-aah--"

        Riesenlied's eyes widen as the glow surrounds them all. Lucia is crying... why? She can sense her emotion, quietly--

        But she stumbles and is the first to fall, as the block she's standing on just starts to drop into freefall and send her flailing as she tries to grasp onto the next and finds her hold failing.

        "N-no!"

        Odjn's heart jumps out of her mouth as she watches the Hyadean fall down to the depths of Lost July. "RIESE!"

        "RIESEMAMA!"

        A rope with a hook on the end is tossed over the ledge, and two familiar heads look over as the other shouts: "Hang on!!"

        They're not the only ones to just have arrived...

DG: Mikaia and Janey have used their tool, Surprise Rope, toward their party's challenge, Load-Bearing Platform.
DG: Riesenlied has contributed a Agility Basic Action toward her party's challenge, Load-Bearing Platform.
<Pose Tracker> Sephilia Lampbright has posed.

Sephilia Lampbright is not about to let Chauncey burn. So, again, the doll shrinks, and again, Sephilia takes the hit of the burning hellfire on her own body.

It hurts.

The girl falls to her hands and knees, jaw clenched against the pain, sobbing again. Tears of pain streak her face, but Sephilia is not finished.

 Neither is Chauncey--once the hellfire has been shielded, the giant fox returns to his battle form, gently scooping Sephy into his backpack before turning, once more, to face Heldalf.

Chauncey cannot speak, of course, and his button eyes are incapable of expressing emotion, but something in his stance indicates his fury at what has been done to his friend Sephilia, and it is a fury to match Chauncey's size.

In a word, it is towering.

Sephilia passes him up the folding chair, grunting and gritting her teeth against the pain caused by the movement, and Chauncey hefts it experimentally.

Then the fox begins to run.

"You can't STOP me! No matter how much you try, I will ALWAYS be there to fight for what's right and good and help my friends! Chauncey!"

The fox has built up momentum and force, and swings the chair in a broad, whistling arc.

"FOXINGTON FOLDING CHAIR!"

GS: Sephilia Lampbright has attacked Heldalf with Foxington Folding Chair!
GS: Sephilia Lampbright has completed her action.
GS: CRITICAL! Heldalf guards a hit from Sephilia Lampbright's Foxington Folding Chair for 120 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Noeline has posed.

        The Fereshte is safe - about as safe as it's going to get for the time being, at least, with the fires put out and the wounded safely on some of the more stable platforms. Noeline is-- well, she's felt better, but she's alive and kicking, which is much more than anyone can usually say after an encounter with a Quarter Knight. Using her blade of living metal to help fell Berserk isn't something she's particularly proud of right at the moment, but it is an accomplishment - an important and significant step in their journey to seek the new world.

        She'd stayed behind with the wrecked ship, needing a long rest to reconstitute herself and to pull her metal back towards her, to watch and take strength from the bustle of Tainted still facing down the odds. But as the vivid blue light begins to sear the sky in front of her, she realizes: seeking the new world is all well and good, but right now perhaps it's best to look closer to home.

        / / /

        She skids to a halt next to Mikaia and Janey; her hands burn against the rope as she slides along it and prepares to take its weight, but she ignores the sensation as she drops to brace her feet against the ornamental lip of the platform they're on. "--RIESE!" she yells, still a little hoarse; Trouble and Strife are too far behind her, or she'd simply dive over the edge.

<Pose Tracker> Lemina Ausa has posed.

Sephilia bolsters Lemina's resistance for a blow that never comes -- but boy howdy is Lemina happy to have it just the same. She breathes, having forgotten to for... a while, and offers Sephilia a hasty, "Hey thanks!"

... That's exactly the amount of time Lemina has to react before the platform starts to crumble, though. It's a good thing she's still got her running sandals on because this is rapidly becoming the Most a problem that anything has been in quite some time.

She practically scrambles after Jean, hearing Riesenlied start to fall -- for an instant, she panics... but she has to suppress that or it'll be her, too, falling. She stumbles, staggers, and sprints at spots (say that three times fast!) as she tries desperately to move past the falling stones.

The mage knows full well she's going to be downright exhausted when -- not if, but when, she reminds herself -- she escapes this, and probably miserable for days to boot, but... better that than the alternative.

Honestly, she feels pretty miserable right now. Heldalf's domain makes her feel like... well, nothing, honestly. And for someone a heart like Lemina's, that's a big drop.

DG: Lemina Ausa has used her Tool Chiro Sandals toward her party's challenge, Load-Bearing Platform.
<Pose Tracker> Seraph Ragnell has posed.

        Ragnell smiles at the Hyadean. It might even be somewhat fond. "Ah, Riese. You really are a good gal." That smile fades as she hears the exchange between Heldalf and Sorey, as Heldalf claims that the two of them are part of a system and one feeds the other. Heldalf echoes this to Elly, to whom he claims he does what he does to break others, to make them like himself. ".....tch."
        
        The crystal comes down. Ruby to Jean, Jean to Ragnell, Ragnell to Lucia. Her part of the mission complete, at least for now, Ragnell flicks her red eyes towards the fallen soldiers on the floor, Hylandian and Rolancian both. "The steel of Rolance, huh," she mutters. Then she turns her gaze towards Gwen as she speaks from the heart. Ahh. Ragnell's never had a great love for humans in general, but there are a select few that have earned her favor. One in particular loved humanity with all her heart, both their ugliness and their beauty, their struggles and their successes. Ragnell could never really relate to that part of her--not fully, not in anything more than the occasional moment--but... listening to Gwen... a moment comes again when she thinks she understands.
        
        She ducks her head away and pulls the brim of her hat down to shade her eyes. Then, as Lucia takes the crystal and finishes the last of the fixes and the teleporter comes to life, spreading aquamarine light in all directions--she looks sharply up. That crumbling sound is /awfully/ familiar, and she can tell without even looking that the platform is falling apart. Again. One would think that if the Elw technology is so great, they would've come up with a way to not have all their platforms /constantly reducing to rubble/.
        
        But that's an unimportant complain, in the grand scheme of things. Hearing that, Ragnell beelines towards Mikleo, still laid out unconscious on the platform. "Jean! I'm leavin' Lucia to you!" she calls over her shoulder without looking back, hearing Jean claim she's got her. Not knowing what Lucia knows, Ragnell considers her to be... Well. In her eyes, Lucia exudes a certain haplessnes, despite her wisdom and the hidden depths of her power, but she's at least awake. Mikleo... not so much. Ragnell dives into a kneel next to him.
        
        "No time t' sleep on the job, Meebo, up an' at 'em!" she barks, even as she starts to pull Mikleo half-upright so she can drape one of his arms around her shoulders and pull him upright. Her intent: to carry him bodily so he doesn't fall with the rest of the platform as it comes apart. Of course, something might prevent her from actually accomplishing this, such as the platform coming apart beneath her own feet before she can escape with or without the other Seraph, but she'll be damned if she doesn't at least /try/.
        
        But hey, at least they've got Noeline and the kidlets coming in to help out. Ragnell looks up and over at them, then--hefting Mikleo's weight against her own--attempts to drag them both over to re-join the others in their group escape.

<Pose Tracker> Fei Fong Wong has posed.

Fei grimly starts platforming even though he knows that because this is also a timed sequence, he can't just wait until the random encounters stop or the game disc to stop whirring warnings at him. He'll just have to hope he can adjust.

He can hear Elly fighting over there, in her gear. He can hear her telling the Lord of Calamity off. He worries for her, but he's proud too. It's hard to think that this is the same woman who couldn't get out of a forest without getting kidnapped by a dinosaur. She's really gotten strong and yet--

--Kahm says he made her weak. It's strange, as people bellow about being ultimate power, about how similar it all feels. It's honestly difficult, trying to keep track of all the little individualized differences when they all press the same buttons, spout the same lines. But in this moment he hears the stories of those without hope and it's true. Malevolence is a poison of their of making.

He wonders what tragedy befell this lion man. It must have been something truly awful

He looks towards Lucia. He can't hear the words that she's saying, but he can recognize the expression of guilt. He's seen a similar expression on Elly many times in the past. He didn't understand it then, and he doesn't understand it on Lucia either, but Hiro said he'd follow her anywhere. All the symbolism of the star and the moon through his investigations into the Pleasing Garden, some of him understands what is to come. Perhaps it will be safe and we need not feel guilt anymore, perhaps we can truly live.

Live. What a funny curse. Somehow, he suspects the lion man understands why it's a curse. He looks at his hands for a moment. Then he looks towards his friends in the Vile Fiends, he looks to Riesenlied, and then ultimately back at Hiro. This strange man who fought to help his hometown before he even knew him. Who gave him warning. Who informed him of the shephard. He can see his devotion to Lucia for what it is.

"But it doesn't have to be a curse, huh...?" He says, aloud--and to Hiro, but mostly to himself." He lowers his head. "Maybe that's why she..."

He is quiet for a moment before adding, "Whatever happens, I won't regret this." He looks back to Elly one last time, reflecting on Kahm's words one last time.

"...and I'll never apologize or feel guilty...for how I feel about her either."

DG: Seraph Ragnell has contributed a Agility Basic Action toward her party's challenge, Load-Bearing Platform.
DG: Fei Fong Wong has contributed a Agility Basic Action toward his party's challenge, Load-Bearing Platform.
<Pose Tracker> Arleph Ardan has posed.

         "What do I look like, a healer!?" Arleph shouts from his position, spinning his arms to slam his hands together again, directing his energy at Talise over here. "The best I can do from here is some triage, you'll have your bloody bubbles and you'll bloody well damn like it!"
 
         Arleph is interrupted by the shockwave of the starting spell, gritting his teeth. It's a good thing he's still recording things, even if he is worried about the state of his actual recording machines on him. "TALISE! HANG ON!"
 
         Just like Cyre, the woman will have a coat of fizzy, ticklish bubbles spreading all over her body and breathing like a second skin. A layer of ablative armor that will, at least, let things hang on for a little while longer.

GS: Arleph Ardan has attacked Talise Gianfair with Multilayered Foam!
GS: Arleph Ardan has completed his action.
GS: Arleph Ardan heals Talise Gianfair! She gains 200 temporary hit points!
GS: Talise Gianfair enters CONDITION GREEN!!
<Pose Tracker> Kahm Yugh has posed.

Up close, Kahm get some impression of Heldalf's MO. The words of dictators, strongmen, and power-seekers that Filgaia was littered with. Few among them, however, had power of this sort to actually back up their talk. Was this the 'Lord of Calamity' the Althenian Guard had so feared that they'd placed title on the shoulders of that strange woman, whom the Major had believed merely led of sect of cultists with opposing beliefs?

Unlike the drifters, the Major had never once believe in the idea of verdant Lunar as anything but a delusion held in the minds of those thralled to a desperate religion. He still maintains that, even as his blade tears free of Heldalf's shadowy essence. But he had grant that they were something. Something that Filgaia had not seen before. Something that could not be so easily dismissed.

Just like that flying backhand the enormous creature gave to his face.

Kahm manages to get his blade and a shield wall of air ether up in time to protect his body from the blow, but there was nothing he could to negate the force behind it. The Major shot off his feet like Heldalf had just taken a line drive, but even this had a fortuitous effect: Kahm was flying back in the general direction of his gear.

Despite aches, blood loss, and what he was multiple lacerations beneath his flight suit, Kahm managed to land shakily on his legs, remaining on ground only temporarily before he ether-boosted his way back up into Hauteclaire's open cockpit. Not having a seat in there anymore made the prospect of piloting challenging, but not impossible. Kahm wedged his feet behind two consoles and eschewed the flight sticks for the control orbs on either side. Ether surged from Kahm to machine as the Major bypassed most of the gear's safety restrictions to force it back into movement, feeling the cockpit shift abruptly as the titan took flight into the air.

With the cockpit exposed to the outside, the temperature felt like an oven as Heldalf prepared for what seemed to be an unknown spell.

"Lieutenants, join at my position and begin telemetry synchronization! We have to neutralize that thing before it finishes whatever it's casting!" He shouted, splitting Hauteclaire's video feed and beaming it directly to Schiehallion when he saw what happened to it. It would be a bit awkward, since Loren would have to pilot based on a third-party visual feed, but Kahm had no doubt he was up to task.

They'd need more than gears for this. It was time to call in 'the big guns', so to speak.

Hauteclaire rose directly above Heldalf's position on the platform and emitted a particular frequency that was in tune only to other Gebler gears, transmitting it's position and targeting telemetry to the Tzadkiel. It couldn't do it fast enough on it's own-it would need to processing power of Vierge and Schiehallion's combat computers as well to complete the relay before the Lord of Calamity did whatever he was planning.

DC: Kahm Yugh switches forms to Hauteclaire!
<Pose Tracker> White Knight Leo has posed.

"No," Leo growls. Heldalf brings horrible claws down at him, and it's all he can do to keep himself from being sliced to ribbons right then and there. His sword flashes up, catching on Heldalf's palm; Leo shoves, and it takes all his strength to turn that sundering slash into a few blood-colored stripes on his uniform. It wasn't in good shape to begin with, but it's steadily becoming more red than white. He stumbles back, trembling, his breath hissing between his teeth. Out of the corner of his eye, he sees a blue glow shining from the other end of the platform, and thinks--

        Did they do it? Was he right to have faith in them?

        Then...

        'White Knight Leo! Listen t'me!'

        One of Leo's ears swivels in Gwen's direction, and he glances towards her--mostly because that's all the attention she can spare. Friends who became Hellions? He shouldn't let himself become distracted, but as Gwen speaks, he hears a young woman pouring her heart out.

        'You 'n everyone, from Lunar.'

        Leo knows he probably shouldn't, but he raises his blade in salute anyway. Then Heldalf starts casting a spell the likes of which Leo has never seen. The ground heats up beneath his bootheels, and sweat drips from his brow with renewed force. "Damnation!" Leo cries. "Thessaly!" He's no sorcerer, but he can tell this is just the wind-up. If Heldalf manages to cast this... "Garan!" Leo lets out a breath. His throat feels raw. "Strike with everything you have! We must disrupt that, or everyone here is dead!" Leo surges into motion, racing over to where his two subordinates are fighting for their lives. He glares up at the Lord of Calamity, baring pointed canines in a snarl. "Let me show you how it's done, creature," Leo says. Chi boils off him in waves, condensing around the edge of his blade as he charges at the enormous Hellion.

        "LION'S--"

        Leo swings with all of his might. The wave of chi surges from the blade, forming fangs, eyes, a leonine mane. The visage of a roaring lion races at the decidedly leonine Lord of Calamity, taking with it all of Leo's formidable skill. Leo, meanwhile, keeps right on running, moving past the Lord of Calamity as soon as he hits the ground. He's trying to clear a path to the portal? Of course he is. They have to get back to Lunar, after all. Althena must know what happened here.

<Pose Tracker> White Knight Leo has posed.

"No," Leo growls. Heldalf brings horrible claws down at him, and it's all he can do to keep himself from being sliced to ribbons right then and there. His sword flashes up, catching on Heldalf's palm; Leo shoves, and it takes all his strength to turn that sundering slash into a few blood-colored stripes on his uniform. It wasn't in good shape to begin with, but it's steadily becoming more red than white. He stumbles back, trembling, his breath hissing between his teeth. Out of the corner of his eye, he sees a blue glow shining from the other end of the platform, and thinks--

        Did they do it? Was he right to have faith in them?

        Then...

        'White Knight Leo! Listen t'me!'

        One of Leo's ears swivels in Gwen's direction, and he glances towards her--mostly because that's all the attention she can spare. Friends who became Hellions? He shouldn't let himself become distracted, but as Gwen speaks, he hears a young woman pouring her heart out.

        'You 'n everyone, from Lunar.'

        Leo knows he probably shouldn't, but he raises his blade in salute anyway. Then Heldalf starts casting a spell the likes of which Leo has never seen. The ground heats up beneath his bootheels, and sweat drips from his brow with renewed force. "Damnation!" Leo cries. "Thessaly!" He's no sorcerer, but he can tell this is just the wind-up. If Heldalf manages to cast this... "Garan!" Leo lets out a breath. His throat feels raw. "Strike with everything you have! We must disrupt that, or everyone here is dead!" Leo surges into motion, racing over to where his two subordinates are fighting for their lives. He glares up at the Lord of Calamity, baring pointed canines in a snarl. "Let me show you how it's done, creature," Leo says. Chi boils off him in waves, condensing around the edge of his blade as he charges at the enormous Hellion.

        "LION'S--"

        Leo swings with all of his might. The wave of chi surges from the blade, forming fangs, eyes, a leonine mane. The visage of a roaring lion races at the decidedly leonine Lord of Calamity, taking with it all of Leo's formidable skill.

        "HOWL!

        Leo, meanwhile, keeps right on running, moving past the Lord of Calamity as soon as he hits the ground. He's trying to clear a path to the portal? Of course he is. They have to get back to Lunar, after all. Althena must know what happened here.

<Pose Tracker> Thessaly has posed.

From a distance, she meets the Lord Calamity's eyes and finds within him the almost insultingly casual intent to annihilate her upon where she kneels. Straining, weakened, violet irises reflect the growing ball of red-gold flame that promises her utter destruction. She doesn't move and remains on her spot, because she finds, within a split-second after, the dangerous ritual circle underneath his feet, and while she does not know what it will actually do, she knows that they will have to somehow stop it. The very air sings their funeral dirge, once it appears.
 
 She has to prepare now. Otherwise...
 
 The flames slam into her, engulfs her - were she a normal human being, there would be nothing left of her, but her eyes remain focused on the Lord of Calamity, however pained and suffocating at his presence, even when the explosion of ill intent erupts around her, scorching the earth. And at the exact moment when the fires leap upwards and intensify, those wide, almost-innocent eyes burn purple and silver.
 
 The Lord of Calamity's firebolt does not destroy her. At least, not yet.
 
 And when he turns to Garan and says what he does....the utter slander of it...
 
 She can suffer insults from the poorest and most ill-mannered ne'erdowells in the world, but that?
 
 It cannot be borne.
 
 Red-gold flames change color, turning into a rush of roaring amethyst and argent, crackles of pure-white lightning threading through the licking flames. She does not rise, still, kneeling as if to make herself supplicant. But she cannot afford to expend her strength in physical endeavors, not when this entire ordeal is so trying to her senses already.
 
 Blood drips from her nose, but within her veil, lips part to bare her teeth.
 
 Brittle steel, indeed.
 
 "Your face," she hisses. "Is growing tiresome."
 
 And with that, she sends the transfigured flames rocketing in a purple streak towards Heldalf's face. Not just to expend her anger on her lord's behalf, but also to blind him for when Leo and Garan move...
 
 ....while she pours the rest of her efforts into disrupting the growing circle underneath his feet with the devastating rain of lightning and fire heralded by her strike.
Well, try a comma

GS: Thessaly has attacked Heldalf with Black Sabbath!
GS: Thessaly has completed her action.
GS: White Knight Leo has activated a Force Action!
GS: White Knight Leo has attacked Heldalf with Lion's Howl!
GS: White Knight Leo has completed his action.
<Pose Tracker> Sorey has posed.

 Sorey is well aware that if you piss off something like Heldalf, he's going to have a response rather quickly. And he finally landed a solid blow - not one as strong as he would have liked, but one that at least has done SOME damage to the Hellion. There is something to be said for that. But as Heldalf shouts at him, Sorey is struck by the words the Lord of Calamity uses.
 
 And he rejects the latter part, at least.
 
 "No! My goal is not to crush Hellions, but to find a way for humans and Seraphim to live together in peace! You might have fought Shepherds who are only concerned with purifying Hellions, but if you think that is my entire purpose then you are badly underestimating me!"
 
 He won't accept that the Shepherd and Lord of Calamity are some existence that are destined to destroy each other. He became the Shepherd to stop this nightmare, but Lunar had already been afflicted by malevolence long before he had decided to take up that burden.
 
 He wasn't going to accept that it was inevitable.
 
 The massive beam of energy roars out, and Sorey throws himself out of the way. Even the passage of that blast is enough to inflict incredible damage - part of his skin smokes from the backwash, and the left side of his Shepherd's mantle is burned away by the blazing beam of energy. Landing heavily on one knee, the Shepherd grunts, wincing in pain as he tries to stand.
 
 Mikleo groans as Ragnell hefts him on one shoulder, but the silver haired Seraph is barely responsive. Being on the outside when Heldalf smashed the two of them meant that he had taken the brunt of the damage - and that is the main reason why Sorey is able to still fight at this point. Ragnell will find him to be a rather unwieldy dead weight. For a ghostly spirit, at least.
 
 Sorey catches a glimpse of this out of one eye, and smiles slightly. At least Mikleo is out of harms way. Now he just needs to make sure Heldalf doesn't try and escape. "We're got to keep him here, so whatever Lucia is doing can succeed!" he shouts at the top of his lungs. He only has a bit of strength left - and he needs to focus it as best he can. With one heavy step in front of another, Sorey closes in on Heldalf as quickly as he can. It isn't much - more of a fast walk, rather than a charge.
 
 Part of him wishes the other Seraphim were here to help. Part of him wishes that his Squires were here to stand with him against this most terrible of foes.
 
 A larger part of him is glad he's standing alone, that his friends are safely elsewhere. That Mikleo is being pulled away, and that Edna is away from the center of the fighting.
 
 He wants them to live.
 
 "The storm is coming..." Sorey whispers, and then lashes out with several blows at Heldalf, pushing as much of his inner spirit into his sword in the last, powerful upward slash - timed to arrive as soon as Leo's own blow connects, a surge of thunder erupting from his blade as he does so.
 
 "BOLT TEMPEST!"

GS: Sorey has attacked Heldalf with Bolt Tempest!
GS: Sorey has completed his action.
GS: Heldalf guards a hit from White Knight Leo's Lion's Howl for 149 hit points!
GS: Heldalf guards a hit from Thessaly's Black Sabbath for 153 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Layna Manydays has posed.

Fell claws rake for her once more. Layna leaps back, and once more they shear through her. She stumbles back. It takes all her willpower to keep from standing. She was still battered and wounded from fighting the Pyre Witch, who was by no means a weak opponent - and to then go right up against the Lord of Calamity right after that?

It's a miracle she's still standing.

But not for long.

Layna smirks to herself as she stumbles back a few steps, her body barely holding itself together.

"Sorry, Dahlia...you're gonna have to forgive your reckless Captain..." She mutters to herself, and recites an incantation.

Within Heldalf's Doman, the green aura sort of flickers momentarily before solidfying. For a brief, frightening moment, it seems like it won't hold at all. ...But it does, and it's enough.

Layna charges at Heldalf, the wind roaring about her. She slams a fist toward his midsection...and then the wind shifts her diagonally, to his side, and she strikes again, and again.

The heat, the pure, raw energy he was invoking was overwhelming...but whatever he was doing, she had to stop it. She couldn't let this monster, this Lord of Calamity have his way.

This pattern repeats, until the last gust of wind sees her pushed back, away from him.

...Around her, in the distance, the platform they're on seems to be disintegrating, falling apart in large blocks. Unless something miraculous happens, she probably won't have the energy to get out of here under her own power...especially if he has something to say about it.

She just hopes she was able to buy everyone enough time...

GS: Layna Manydays has attacked Heldalf with Scuttle the Prey!
GS: Layna Manydays has completed her action.
GS: Talise Gianfair has activated a Force Action!
<Pose Tracker> Talise Gianfair has posed.

Talise's heart thuds in her chest as she hears Layna calling out. Her friends are still standing. She hasn't failed them.

They're together. Her heart sings with defiance, against all the impossible pressure of Malevolence rolling from the Lord of Calamity. She will never be Dragonmaster, but she can make a difference here.

Rastaban bites in and makes its mark - but before Talise can land another blow, the Lord of Calamity reaches out and grabs her by the throat. Talise sucks in her breath and moves her weapon up to try and bat the hand out of the way.

She can't even begin to. That immense grip encircles her neck and just about swallows her mouth and chin in the process. Clenching her teeth, Talise thrashes in that crushing grip, trying to tuck her chin and force the Lord of Calamity's grip away from her windpipe.

It doesn't do her any good. Her face gradually turns blue. She can hear those words; she parses them and knows the true terror of this creature.

"gkh" is all she can manage in response, before the Lord of Calamity lobs her across the Garden.

Talise hits solid stone at a velocity she didn't think it was possible for anyone to hurl her at. Only luck prevents her from hitting it on her face. She rolls in the air; her shoulder hits it first, and she screams as bone snaps beneath her chainmail, sending a riot of pain blazing through the limb as something fractures. More pain explodes across one side of her chest as ribs snap and break under the immense force. Gagging wetly, Talise skids several metres before stopping in a crumpled heap, not too far from the group near the pylon.

"Then... then you're Kittybeard to me," rasps Talise, her voice shaky but with a spark of resistance still burning behind it. Her arms tremble, the left one struggling to bear her weight as she pushes herself laboriously to her feet. She can feel the back half of the platform beginning to crumble, far too close to her for comfort.

Arleph Ardan of all people - one of the first people she met in Filgaia, one fateful day in the back of a caravan heading for Adlehyde - rushes to help. That bubbly foam spreads across Talise; she breathes a little easier as the power of the man's effort seems to hold in her pain. "Thank you," Talise offers him, her smile rough but fond. "It's... been a long fucking journey, huh? Hang in there."

Pain screams through Talise's shoulder and ribs, but she bears it. I've lived with pain before. I know what it's like to be beaten. To stare into the eyes of an enemy I can't beat.

She rises; lets the wind whistle through her hair and tug at her battered longcoat. Closing her eyes, she breathes in that fiery air. And I've always come back. Every failure has carved a lesson into my heart. Every loss has brought with it a promise.

That I won't fail again.

Talise opens her eyes. Rastaban glints. The blade is no magical thing - simply a piece of incredibly finely-wrought hardware, wrought by the hands of who knows whom, in the hands of a swordswoman tempered by pain and blood and sweat and loss and despair, by friendships and kindness and love and sex and adventure and triumph and laughter. The potential of the blade comes not through divine blessing, for Althena, to Talise's knowledge, has forsaken her.

All she has is skill. Experience.

They will have to be enough. Talise starts forward. She heads for a column that has been blown over in the fighting, to perch at a steep angle.

She charges up it. Her coat jingles behind her - and then, she leaps into the air, high above Heldalf.

Talise's shadow falls over the Lord of Calamity - and as she descends, she grasps Rastaban in both hands and raises it high, her voice rising in utter defiance.

                      "RUUUUUOOOOOAAAAAAAAAAAAHT!!!!"

She swings a devastating vertical blow - and there is a sound like a single, clean, vibrating note. Steel slices through air molecules themselves. Talise seems to hang there.

She touches down behind the Lord of Calamity, on one knee, and rests Rastaban over her shoulder.

"My name is trial," Talise whispers.

Only then will whatever she struck manifest a single, brutal slash mark.

Horizontally.

GS: Talise Gianfair has attacked Heldalf with Savior's Storm!
GS: Talise Gianfair has completed her action.
GS: Heldalf guards a hit from Layna Manydays's Scuttle the Prey for 67 hit points!
GS: CRITICAL! Heldalf guards a hit from Talise Gianfair's Savior's Storm for 226 hit points!
GS: Cripple! Statuses applied to Heldalf!
<Pose Tracker> Hiro has posed.

 
His breath catches. As if he's in the midst of a transcendent moment where it seems like Lucia offers her thanks. She's always so detached usually, that the mere implication that she might offer it causes him to feel... elated. Despite how dire this is. The battle with the Lord of Calamity rages and his eyes are only for her. And yet he doesn't feel like she should be thanking him. When it comes to gratitude... "Honestly Lucia..."
 
His smile is warm, "...I feel like I should be thanking you. You came all the way to try to save our world... and you've never stopped. If it weren't for you I'd still be sitting at home, not knowing about the threat at all. Instead I'm here helping you - I'm able to do... something... important. Something worth doing. I wouldn't have it any other way than being here with you. So..."
 
Hiro looks puppy dog eager as Lucia catches the key. "...thank you. For everything."
 
The key slots in, and a blue light shines. As Ruby flies down. "We did it right? It's over?"
 
Blue. Blue. Blue. Eternal blue. Lucia looks back at him and their eyes meet and he's still smiling at her, thinking that they actually did. That they scored a victory that...
 
'... I'm sorry Hiro.'
 
He's not even certain if he heard her right. Even up this close. Like his mind is playing tricks on him. The fact is, he doesn't understand her feelings at all. Try as he might. He didn't see the droplets of water gathering, he has no sense of her guilt. Her sorrow.
 
He almost laughs it off, almost asks why she's apologizing. Almost.
 
It's Fei that interrupts that thought. Like he has this sudden insight. Hiro finds himself giving him a curious look... "... is something..." He has this distinct sense of being lost now as he hears what he has to say. As if tormented by his own ignorance, "... am I missing something ...?"
 
And then the platform moves. The ground cracks. Lucia runs forward - Hiro loses that thought in that blur of motion - "Lucia!" She falls flat. He starts running forward and the ground cracks beneath him - giving away far faster than it has any right to. He knows he can't get to her. He knows he can't.
 
"RUBY!" In one quick motion he throws up his grappling hook, keeping the coil wrapped in a hand.
 
It feels like it'd be far too heavy far too much for the dragoncat to catch. And yet she's done this a thousand times. The two of them were an adventuring team after all. Catching the hook out of mid-air with her teeth, she flies suddenly with the adrenaline rush of knowing that if it goes taut before she can hook it on something that won't collapse - Hiro is doomed. Just as he starts to plunge.
 
She crests over the floating column where the key once stood the moment he does. Eyes wide as it starts to yank her down, one of the hooks just barely catches on the side.
 
Hiro holds onto the rope over the abyss. As Ruby laughs in relief. "....saffeeee..."
 
Dangling over it as rubble falls all around him, he calls up. "Jean! I'm okay!" He clings harder as his legs flail to try to get locked around the rope, "Just keep Lucia safe!" But from his position he can distinctly see the peril of others and he very much sees that happening - "Riese!" - but is totally helpless to affect anything.
 
"Odjn I'm coming!" Ruby flies down after Riese. She has absolutely no idea what she's going to do. None whatsoever. It's more instinct than actual rational thought at this point. The tiny dragoncat can't bear her weight - and then. "Mikaia!? Janey!? THIS IS THE LAST PLACE YOU SHOULD BE! I AM SO MAD..." She sounds like she's actually going to scold them but then she deflates like a pink balloon, "...that I'm actually relieved you're here."
 
Meanwhile - Hiro starts to climb... Lucia's up there, he definitely won't allow himself to be left behind.
 

DG: Hiro has used his Tool Ruby Being Helpful toward his party's challenge, Load-Bearing Platform.
<Pose Tracker> Cyre H. Lorentz has posed.

"I am really pretty sure that does not at all work that way," Cyre answers his only kind of consensual headmate. "Like, I'm actually pretty sure that broken bones are one of the leading causes of characters being unbuilt. Because they die."

Well, at least Arleph is around to help make sure he doesn't die. Cyre throws the symbologist a weak thumbs-up before turning his attention back to... More immediate matters.

More immediate, lion-shaped matters.

And the various horrible laser beams being produced thereby.

"You... Are really backwards. All of you Hellions are. What is it, you chug some purple shit and all of a sudden there's no point in trying to be something better? SomeONE better?" Cyre staggers as he stares down the blast of corrupt, yet divine energies tearing towards him. He chuckles weakly and raises a hand in defiance.

The blast washes into him. He feels it boiling through Arleph's enchantment, ripping the ablative armor away layer-by-layer until nothing is left but a faint sheen of moisture-- and even that boils away. But it buys him time. His skin singes ever so slightly as the last of Arleph's protection is overcome, and then...

And then...

There is Light.

"You abandon everything worth protecting... worth fighting for... To sate your own gluttony for power and dominance and revenge. I've seen it a half-dozen times now... What about you, Hellion King?" Cyre murmurs as a series of cocentric, arcane circles materialize, pushing aside the lingering power of Heldalf's energy strike. "Well... I don't think I buy it. I'll never buy it...! I walk with the Guardians-- and as long as I live, I will always stand with them! Solais Emsu, give me the power to tear through this evil shine with the light of dawn. Celestial Lore--"

The circles surge with power. Seven-colored light blasts through the brilliant holocaust. The power of the Sky pushes inward, washing into the distant Lord of Calamity...!

 "Valkyrie!"

GS: Cyre H. Lorentz has attacked Heldalf with Valkyrie!
GS: Cyre H. Lorentz has completed his action.
<Pose Tracker> Carina Wynne has posed.

Locus' mighty fist of justice meets the Lord of Calamity's colossal fist of justice. A massive lion's head roars into being, and Carina knows not to overstay her welcome. She shifts to the side, aborting her attack just in time to save her skin... and is sent flying by the massive force unleashed nonetheless. She's certain that, had she tried to lean into her punch further, she would have been crushed inside her armor, invincible or not.

She flies and crashes into the platform, rolling over a dozen feet as she slows down, only coming to a stop precariously close to the edge. She shrinks back, stumbling away as mortal fear grips her.

But Layna-- whom Carina doesn't know, but she understands her whole pirate deal at a glance --calls out encouragement. "...Yeah!!" Locus calls back, pumping a trembling fist. "Yeah, we can definitely do this!"

She turns around to face Heldalf, taking a martial artist's stance. "I mean, I just survived this guy's special move!!" It's bravado and she knows it, but if that's what it takes to even keep standing...

But blue light is starting to engulf the platform, and unbearable heat spreads across the battlefield. "W-Wait, did they do it? We're gettin' away now, right?!"

But it's no good if that monster follows them. And so, this seems like a good time to use her secret weapon.

"Locusaber!" Locus calls out, and strange, red-hilted scimitar appears in her hand, its blade translucent like glass. Lightning surges from her hand, giving the weapon definition as electricity surges through it.

"I ain't got a speech prepared, and to tell the truth I don't even understand half of what's happenin'," she says, mainly for her benefit as the weapon's power builds. "But I know I'm supposed to distract you to protect this world and I'm gonna do JUST THAT! TRY THIS ON FOR SIZE!"

"ELEMENTAL CLIMACTIC LOCUSABER SLASH!!"

And she slashes the air, sending a wave of intense electricity, focused across a single line, sailing across the battlefield towards Heldalf. Clearly, this is the sort of attack that would slice most monsters into two instantly, but the Lord of Calamity is no run-of-the-mill monster.

It should, however, hopefully give him pause while the others get out of dodge... and hopefully she can do that too!!

GS: Carina Wynne has activated a Force Action!
GS: Carina Wynne has attacked Heldalf with Dramatic First Appearance!! - Locusaber!!
GS: Carina Wynne has completed her action.
<Pose Tracker> Elhaym van Houten has posed.

 

He's shaping something. Something titanic. Elly is perhaps among the strongest Ether users of her generation and she is in a Gear that is primarily a support vessel for that Ether use. Even as the AERODs dutifully trundle back and dock, that gut-tension comes back to her.

Vierge's head turns. Does it see Fei, or Riesenlied, or Hiro, or the others Elly has met? Or does she only see a herd from this vaunted position.

Loren's words reach her. Vierge absorbs the energy channeled from Schiehallion. Elly feels a guilt that she can't explain; this could be the last time she ever speaks to Loren, but if she tried to express herself--

I'll write him a letter, Elly resolves, and the worry is pushed aside, at least for now. Vierge leaps from the ground as the telemetry link with Hauteclaire begins. Vierge, of course, is damnably intact, probably from fell sorceries and witchcrafts. "Establishing link," Elly reports to him, her voice shaking slightly. "Sir, you're open to the air -"

But that won't deter him, Elly thinks. She feels an obscure pride, poisoned by something else. Why does she want to -

Elly thinks of that image in her head, of Janey and Mikaia in the third class cells.

Then her focus rests firmly on the moment. Vierge reaches its vertice on this polygon of destruction, the intact head camera popping up to give Loren more options for steering. "Ready for wave-guide synchronization, sir!" Elly responds.

GS: Heldalf guards a hit from Cyre H. Lorentz's Valkyrie for 125 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Janus Cascade has posed.

Heldalf just sort of off-hand parries a literal bullet, and Janus' grin creases down toward a sneer. "That's power, alright," he mutters, something deep in him flaring, a knowing greed. But he has his own path. And he will bend to no one. Heldalf screaming that his only goal is to turn men into people like himself...

He doesn't even notice his fingers finding the small silver ring hung from a chain around his neck. "Little fuckin' late on that one, ," he spits, and rips open the bolt on his ARM. "Gwen, stop consolin' the man who's in CQC with a demigod, you daft woman! There's a time 'n' a place!"

He pulls out a Cartridge - shining and sparking with some unseen internal power. "CLEAR OUT!" he hollers, and slams the bolt in. The whole frame of the ARM flashes once, and then Janus sets into a kneel, sighting along his ARM to Heldalf. He feels the heat from here, already. Like hell he's getting any closer.

And then Janus' ARM releases a thin bolt of light - a wide, shining ray that pierces through all foolish enough to touch it.

<Pose Tracker> Riesenlied has posed.

        Janey's grin is manic as she wears her adrenaline straight on her face to bottle the terrifying fear of being in a Malevolent Domain up. She answers Ruby: "I couldn't miss this for the world... 'cause..." she yanks on the rope to keep hoisting Riesenlied up, with Mikaia and Noeline.

        She casts a look at Heldalf.

        "I'm the Lord of Calamity, dagnabbit!!"

GS: Janus Cascade has attacked Heldalf with Rising Nova!
GS: Janus Cascade has completed his action.
GS: Heldalf guards a hit from Carina Wynne's Dramatic First Appearance!! - Locusaber! for 41 hit points!
GS: Heldalf guards a hit from Janus Cascade's Rising Nova for 104 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Garan Dantear has posed.

The strike is thunderous.
 
But the steel of Rolance is still there, still in the way: Garan's shield intercepts the brunt of the backhand from the Lord of Calamity, the impact like the ringing of a tremendous, ear-splitting gong. The force of it drives the knight back, nearly hurls him out of the field entirely and off to certain death. Instead, he catches himself with his blade, the edge of the sword digging a long furrow until he comes to a stop, still on his feet, still standing.
 
And with a sharp sound, his shield splits in half, the steel simply cracking in twain, small shards breaking away as the two large halves fall to the ground.
 
The Imperial Knight coughs: Blood, his own now, spatters on his lips.
 
But...
 
He still stands.
 
Gathering himself, the white-armored Knight of Rolance rushes forward again at the Lord of Calamity, sparks striking against the ground as he half-drags his sword, picking up momentum step by step. Everyone is hitting the Lord of Calamity with everything they have... After all, what choice do they have now? To allow Heldalf to complete his spell, the heat of which they can already feel...
 
If nothing else, they face death on their feet. They face it with whatever dignity they can muster. Leo, trying to clear a path to the portal, back to Lunar. Thessaly, unleashing her mystical might, and...
 
With one last push, Garan Dantear leaps up, bringing his sword down, to drive the steel of Rolance into the Lord of Calamity, seeking to pierce through armor, to simply bury that soldier's blade to the hilt in the Hellion's unnatural flesh.
 
It might not be much, but well, that's not really the point, is it?

GS: Garan Dantear has attacked Heldalf with Breaking the Unbreakable!
GS: Garan Dantear has completed his action.
GS: Heldalf takes a solid hit from Garan Dantear's Breaking the Unbreakable for 155 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Tethelle Cirdian has posed.

Tethelle is struck by Heldalf's blow, and literally thrown away from him as the claws dig into her side.

It's too much. Berserk nearly killed her; now the Lord of Calamity is trying very hard to do the same thing. She's bleeding; she can feel it, and even her determination is starting to fade - mostly because her consciousness is doing a pretty good job at fading out too.

She lands, hitting the stone and literally bouncing with a heavy, meaty sound, hitting the ground several yards further on and rolling. Tethelle is dizzy; she can't see straight. She comes dangerously close to a falling block herself, but drives her sword into the stone to catch herself; the only reason she doesn't keep going is sheer arm strength. That and the fact that she's got a death grip on her sword, of course. She's not letting go of that, no matter what.

The heat washes over her. Tethelle thought she could stand heat; she's from a sunny part of the desert, where it rarely gets cool during the day. But the fire is intense, even at a distance. Sweat beads on her brow - though some of that is from holding back the pain, too.

"You may be the Lord of Calamity." Tethelle struggles to her feet; her voice is hoarse, her throat sore. (Everything is sore, except for the parts that are acutely painful instead; it's not getting special treatment.) "But I serve a different lord. I am Tethelle Cirdian, priestess of Equites - and what she commands me to do is to cut away the darkness! BE GONE!"

In the distance, she is vaguely aware that Lucia and her crew have done... something. She can see the glow, though she doesn't know exactly what it portends; she assumes it will get rid of him. Tethelle raises her sword again as she walks steadily toward Heldalf - and strikes, a vertical slash.

Heldalf is not there to hit. She's about ten feet away. It whistles through empty space and impacts the stone in front of her.

A crack spreads from the impact point, racing toward Heldalf. Under the force of the blow, the ground quakes, the crack splitting and splitting again - and underfoot Heldalf's feet, the stone trembles, geysering small rocks and sharp stalagmites upwards under the sheer focused force from Tethelle's blow. Tethelle herself groans, feeling something strained inside - but she repeats it, sending another spray of rocks and cracked ground under Heldalf!

GS: Tethelle Cirdian has activated a Force Action!
GS: Tethelle Cirdian has activated a Force Action!
GS: Tethelle Cirdian has attacked Heldalf with Great Divide!
GS: Tethelle Cirdian has completed her action.
<Pose Tracker> Fei Fong Wong has posed.

"You can't prove she isn't," Fei says immediately after Janey's line.

WHY DID HE DO THAT??

MEANWHILE

Hammer hears about a second lord of calamity outside where he's treating Lily and Leon and also petting a dog.

"I'm really glad I'm out here." He says, with more conviction.

<Pose Tracker> Loren Voss has posed.

        Not high enough.

        The force slams down into him, slams into the Gear. Schiehallion hits the platform with a bone-rattling crash, the shock-absorbers perhaps all that prevent Loren from meeting a messy end within. From within, he gets a good long look as the Hellion's hand drops down
        covers the sensors in the Gear's head in darkness
        rips.

        Steel shrieks hideously.

        Off the Gear's head comes, as easily as a child might similarly rip the head from a doll.

        This is how it happens is not precisely the thought, word for word, that floods across Loren's mind, but it's close enough to it.
        Pain is what he expects, the inevitability that occurs when flesh meets metal, but then after that--

        It doesn't come. Beheaded, Schiehallion still functions, the screams of every single diagnostics and emergency alert system echoing throughout the cockpit.

        "Serious damage sustained," he reports, though, really, he's just staring at the output in shock.
        /Obviously. They can see that, you idiot," he thinks.

        He shakes his head, gripping the controls. It's still flying. The damage will catch up to it eventually but right now he can still fly it.

        "Major!" Schiehallion isn't the only one so viciously damaged. If the Major has the will to press on, then he should follow suit.
        "--Understood! Opening link, effective immediately!" His left hand flies across the keyboard, splitting the feed.

        This is going to make things very awkward, between the visual feed issue, between the already tricky-to-fly Gear's decidedly unbalancing with its head gone...

        With his mind afire.

        Damn you, just make it count--

        Schiehallion lifts, jetting into aerial position.
        If anything counts, this does.

        "Ready, sir."

GS: Heldalf guards a hit from Tethelle Cirdian's Great Divide for 78 hit points!
GS: Disrupt! Statuses applied to Heldalf!
<Pose Tracker> Tzadkiel (Airship) has posed.

The response from the Tzadkiel is delayed by only a fraction as the ship's processing computer takes a few extra cycles to evaluate the received targeting data from the three Gebler gears before arming and preparing countermeasures.

On the bridge, the situation has continued to develop. Metal Demon forces have continued to engage the Tzadkiel in a fire fight while the battle below raged, and the ship was showing some of the scars of battle.

"Targeting data from Hauteclaire, Vierge, and Schiehallion confirmed!" Shouted a female Operator, "The starboard wave phase cannon is armed and ready to fire at the Commander's pleasure!"

A glove hand flicked open a control console on the arm of the commander's chair, and punched in an authorization code.

"Confirming identity via verbal recognition." A voice spoke crisply, "Fire."

Within a heartbeats, a pillar of light of shot down from the skies, straight through center of the triangle the three gears formed above Heldalf. It was something like the light that had enveloped the Ge Ramtos stature earlier, and yet not like it. More intense, more blazing, more everything. When it struck, the force would shake the platform so hard one might wonder if it was about to call come apart, blackening the ground and searing away all that stood below.

Under normal circumstance, it would burn a hole straight through the platform and keep going, but these were hardly normal circumstances, were they...?

GS: Kahm Yugh has attacked Heldalf with ECM Drive!
GS: Kahm Yugh has completed his action.
GS: Heldalf guards a hit from Kahm Yugh's ECM Drive for 91 hit points!
GS: Kahm Yugh drains Heldalf! Kahm Yugh gains 182 temporary hit points!
<Pose Tracker> K.K. has posed.

The Pleasing Garden was once a wonderous place. A place of the Guardians, a place that was once a tribute to the beauty of this world.

Perhaps it is only appropriate, then, that it now finds itself crumbling within its dying throes.

Dissonance rings through this place. Worms its way into the foundations. Cracks and crumbles at architecture that has sat aloft in the skies for centuries. And still, people fight. Still they fight, after being dragged through the rigors of this place's challenges, after being subjected to the ordeals of creatures that would want nothing more than to wipe them out.

Still, they subject themselves to this trial, for the sake of everything.

And as if this very act were some sort of clarion call...

"This entity is beyond any of you."

The voice comes, metal-wrung and distinctive in how indistinct it is. In how it cuts through the chaos and madness that besets what was once a garden dedicated to the serenity of this planet's wards. And there they stand, upon a crumbling platform of the Pleasing Gardens, tall and unrelenting in the midst of the Malevolence that crushes down on this place like the gravitic pull of a dissonant, celestial body. The Trial Knight's stance is unbowed, horned helm gleaming purple within the reflection of the oppressive Domain. Motes of black rise in the air around them. But their attention is focused solely on the leonine, Malevolent god that levies his wrath upon all. Within their right hand, they grip the haft of their blue, white and gold spear. Blood drips fresh off the edge of its blade, cast towards a darker shade within the Malevolent light that the heavens have become.

It is best not to ask, or to wonder, whose blood that may be.

"And yet still you fight. So be it."

The Trial Knight shifts, slightly, as they feel the very ground crumble beneath their feet. The power of the Lord of Calamity bends entropy and causality to his whims like putty. This structure will not last. This place will not last. The seeming indifference of their unseen stare falls upon those gathered. The Shepherd, the one they once deemed the Lord of Calamity, the members of Althena's Guard, those of Lunar stranded in this place, still fighting for its fate... and those from Filgaia struggling against a foe that exists well beyond them. But still they fight. Still they try. That eyeless gaze falls, briefly, upon Thessaly. Their head tilts.

And then their attention turns towards the Lord of Calamity anew.

Within the wellspring of overflowing Malevolence, K.K.'s fingers spasm. That spear begins to glow, the blood upon it burning away as they point the tip of it towards that creature of myth. The heat of a spell not yet even cast cooks at white armor. Like bearing witness to the birth of a star.

"Lord of Calamity." That spear shifts, changes, grows itself anew into something else within the sharding plethora of light that encompasses it. It curves elegantly, grows larger until it is as tall as the knight themself. The white gleam of light solidifies into a tremendous greatbow of whites, golds and blues, ornate and powerful...

"Never shall this hand extend towards the benefit of man's get. If they fall here, so be it. It means naught else than that they had not the mettle."

... with a massive lance nocked against its arrow's rest.

"... But I would bid you yet begone from this star."

And the lance looses, like an arrow in flight, piercing through the dark morass of dissonance as it ignites into a radiant gold -- until the maw of a dragon flares to life, open and roaring at its sharpened tip. To hold a demigod at bay. For a few, precious seconds.

GS: K.K. has attacked Heldalf with Dragon Ascendant!
==========================<* Elw Teleporter Control *>==========================
====================<* CHALLENGE - Load-Bearing Platform *>=====================
|Type: Final       |Dungeon Ability: Agility   |Challenge Rating: 3          | 
---------------------------< Challenge Information: >---------------------------
 You press the final buttons, make the final connections, and complete the     
 teleportation mechanism. A faint light blue glow begins to shine through the  
 surroundings -- begins to illuminate the whole of the Pleasing Garden, and    
 extend even further outward, over all of Lost July. It shines, pulses, and    
 brightens slowly.                                                             
                                                                               
 But, the back half of the platform suddenly begins to fall away. Chunks of    
 it separate -- huge blocks descending rapidly, hurtling downward. You will    
 need to move quickly, unless you want to be pulled down into the depths of    
 the Pleasing Garden once more.                                                
=Dungeon Conditions: Hesitate, Injure=========================================
=====================<* Elw Teleporter Control - Round 5 *>=====================
======================< Results - Load-Bearing Platform >=======================
Player                               Exhaustion                      Pass/Fail
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Lucia                               37 --(100)--> 137              Fail
Rush                                0   Agility Effects: BASIC                
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Lemina Ausa                         32 --(100)--> 132              Fail
Chiro Sandals                       1   Agility Effects: Cleanse              
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Hiro                                27 --(100)--> 127              Fail
Ruby Being Helpful                  2   Agility Effects: Resilient            
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Fei Fong Wong                       27 --(100)--> 127              Fail
Rush                                0   Agility Effects: BASIC                
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Riesenlied                          32 --(100)--> 132              Pass
Rush                                0   Agility Effects: BASIC                
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Seraph Ragnell                      27 --(100)--> 127              Fail
Rush                                0   Agility Effects: BASIC                
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Jean                                32 --(100)--> 132              Pass
Twin Fans                           2   Agility Effects: Quicken              
-----------------------------------< Party >------------------------------------
Leader: Lucia                       95 --(10)--> 105               Fail
Conditions: Hesitate(2)|Injure(2)
Effects: Cleanse|Quicken(1)|Resilient(1)
===============================< Dream Chasers >================================
DG: Lucia is too exhausted to continue!
DG: Lemina Ausa is too exhausted to continue!
DG: Hiro is too exhausted to continue!
DG: Fei Fong Wong is too exhausted to continue!
DG: Riesenlied is too exhausted to continue!
DG: Seraph Ragnell is too exhausted to continue!
DG: Jean is too exhausted to continue!
DG: The party led by Lucia has successfully explored Elw Teleporter Control!
==========================<* Elw Teleporter Control *>==========================
=======================<* CHALLENGE - Need More Pylons *>=======================
|Type: Exploration |Dungeon Ability: Brute     |Challenge Rating: 2          | 
---------------------------< Challenge Information: >---------------------------
 A teleportation of this magnitude requires immense amounts of power, which    
 the Elw teleporter lacks. Fortunately, a solution presents itself: six        
 slightly raised circles on each side of the platform, which have large stone  
 statues atop them. The statues are pressing down crystal pylons -- power      
 generators, in short -- which can be raised, to provide more energy to the    
 console and help get the Lord of Calamity out of here!                        
=Dungeon Conditions: Weaken, Tire, Secret=====================================
GS: Loren Voss has attacked Heldalf with Terra Limit!
GS: Loren Voss has completed his action.
GS: Elhaym van Houten has attacked Heldalf with Thermo Cube!
GS: Elhaym van Houten has completed her action.
<Pose Tracker> Cecilia Adlehyde has posed.

</poem>

=========================<* Elw Teleporter Control *>=========================
=====================<* CHALLENGE - The Ring of Light *>======================
|Type: Landmark    |Dungeon Ability: Conclusion|Challenge Rating: 1          |
--------------------------< Challenge Information: >--------------------------
 The final buttons are entered and a ring of light shoots through the
 surroundings.

 It washes over individuals -- and when it touches them, there is a brilliant
 white flash. A precious couple of seconds remain as the gentle shockwave
 passes. They can see those struck in advance disappear, turning into so many
 photons and motes light -- before they are, too. They can also see the
 console... which shudders, and then explodes apart into fragments of broken
 stone and crystal.

 There is not long to look, though, before they all vanish, whisked away to
 the Silver Star.
=Dungeon Conditions: Treasure=================================================
GS: Heldalf guards a hit from K.K.'s Dragon Ascendant for 58 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Xantia has posed.

Frustrating though it is, even mixing her ARM into things doesn't appear to make a difference, Xantia is forced to conclude. There's got to be a way to make this guy at least stagger!

While she thinks this, though, it is she who suddenly staggers. Uh-oh. This is bad. She was feeling so good that she'd actually forgotten that she was actively forcing herself to feel that way. Now, renewed fatigue from her previous battles hits her like a ton of a bricks. It's all she can to bodily hurl herself aside to try and avoid the incoming shockwave, which is only partially successful, getting knocked aside by it rather than engulfed outright.

For a moment, she stays where she falls, her previously bright aura flickering like a failing lightbulb as she struggles to keep herself going. She looks up in wonder, suddenly bathed in a blue light. What is happening? The console, she realizes a moment later, casting her gaze in its direction. Things are falling apart over there. There's not much she can do about it from where she is, but... she needs to be over there. Even if she's just going to get herself in the same amount of trouble that those who are already there are in, she still feels compelled to go there. Because it's where Fei is. She needs to know that he's okay.

Yet, at the same time, the Lord of Calamity starts to do... something. Something obviously dangerous, something that feels decidedly uncomfortable. Before anything else, it must be dealt with first. Xantia takes a deep breath. Come on. Move. Stand up. This is important. Nothing could be more important.

The light surrounding her brightens. Getting up is easy now. Deceptively so. She can't depend on this lasting. Whatever she's going to do, it'll have to be fast. She speeds toward Heldalf before figuring out what she'll do once she gets to him. It can't just be fast, it'll also have to be big, considering how little everything else accomplished.

Of all things, she ends up thinking 'if only I had my hammer'. It's not like that would've even helped. It's too heavy, striking quickly with that would have been impossible. When every second counts like this, what she would need is a hammer that doesn't weigh anything. ...That's it! But can she even do that? No, there's no time for doubts. She has to do it, that's all there is to it.

Arcs of lightning once again burst forth from Xantia's body, seemingly spontaneously, rapidly flowing towards and concentrating in her hands. Then extending beyond, elongating, molding itself into a rough shape. And by the time she's ready to strike, it has fully formed: a replica of Xantia's massive metal hammer, constructed entirely out of electricity. Swinging this improvised 'weapon' for Heldalf's head, her exact thoughts are 'I hope this works', though her words are spoken with more confidence: "You'll never have this world! Get out of Filgaia!"

It's a bit less eloquent than K.K.'s version moments later. Not that she'll be very likely to worry about it, as odds are good that this is the very last thing she'll be able to manage before her condition catches up with her.

GS: Xantia has attacked Heldalf with Thunderstruck!
GS: Xantia has completed her action.
GS: Heldalf takes a solid hit from Xantia's Thunderstruck for 139 hit points!
GS: Heldalf guards a hit from Loren Voss's Terra Limit for 138 hit points!
GS: Heldalf guards a hit from Sorey's Bolt Tempest for 105 hit points!
GS: Heldalf takes a solid hit from Elhaym van Houten's Thermo Cube for 155 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Gwen Whitlock has posed.

        When Leo holds his sword in a salute, Gwen tilts her head in surprise, breaking her gaze momentarily with Heldalf, then grins.

        Well, if it's a final battle with them all before they all go (maybe?), it's not a bad memory to have.

        "Eh?" The courier cocks her head towards Janus at the mention of her name. "C'mon, Janus, they might be gettin' home after all this!" As if that gave her all the reasons she needed to distract that poor demihuman trying to face down a demigod.

        That's when the head of Schiehallion is torn off, hurtling at Gwen at impossible speeds as she, the person who was distracting someone, is distracted herself.

        A laser cuts through the head, Gwen flinching as shards of metal and debris scatter from the blast. Her right hand is still warm, and shaking. Quivering, from Gwen's own body betraying its nervousness and fear.

        The fear that she won't be able to go home herself.

        Sweat begins to bead up on Gwen's forehead, her neck. Her left hand touches the pearls, secured on the leather cord around her neck.

        She can feel her new heart beating in her chest.

        She feels too alive, to die now. It's the same feeling she had before, when...

        White light flashes over them all. Gwen has a scant few moments to see people begin to disappear into motes of light, closer, and closer, and-

        "Wait, this is-!!" Her yell doesn't even have a chance to finish before she, too, vanishes.

GS: Gwen Whitlock has attacked Heldalf with Corona Discharge!
GS: Gwen Whitlock has completed her action.
GS: Heldalf guards a hit from Gwen Whitlock's Corona Discharge for 124 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Heldalf has posed.

Blasts and strikes rain down upon Heldalf.

Malfi drains some of his life force. Chauncey smashes a chair over him; it explodes into splinters. Thessaly's flame responds to her command; it strikes into his armor and roils him, and yet he knees -- unmoving as stone, as his spell gathers and grows. Even the Shepherd strikes, ceremonial sword crashing down with blasts of thunder.

And the lion does not break. "You say you will not crush Hellions... and yet what of times when death is the only release?"

Lion's Howl, Heldalf's own technique, slams into him. He stays kneeling; he lets the power roll over him, the leonine visage slamming into his own. He still does not break. He still stands there, kneeling, power building around him. The magical circle underneath his feet begins to glow brilliantly at his command.

Layna is shifted by the wind, slamming fists into him, repeatedly. His body stays strong underneath it; his body stays strong when Talise crashes down -- and her blade splits his shoulder. And still, he kneels, and remains. The ground begins to burn and boil under him after she strikes. A Guardian's spell, pure light, rips into him at Cyre's wish.

And he remains.

A Metal Digger's saber, wrought with electricity, strikes into him and catches -- it refuses to tear through. His body refuses to shatter. He refuses to break under it, and lightning refuses to smite him.

And so, he remains.

Janey tells him what's up.

And yet, he remains.

The might of Rolance stabs down, a blade burying through black armor and into a body of gyre and shadow. Inky smoke erupts. The Lord of Calamity grunts -- even as Garan's sword begins to heat up. And yet, he is still.

So he remains.

A crack slams into him, under his form -- and stalagmites and rocks slam into him. He shapes the ground under him; Malevolence and sorcery combine to keep it in place, even as he is assailed by the land itself, from Tethelle.

But he remains.

The might of Gebler pours down from above, every arsenal that can be mustered striking down around him. As the smoke clears, he kneels on his shaped stone. His magical circle glows -- as the dust of artillery fire itself rolls away from him.

And so, he remains.

K.K. throws their spear, issuing their decree -- the Trial Knight sends the arrow through, and it spears through Heldalf's chest. It slams into the ground, falling behind a body riddled, burnt, and smoking. "A lord does not deign to obey a knight. Observe my will or pay for your insolence with death!"

And thus, he remains.

Xantia's hammer swings down and smashes into his head. His hair snaps to the side, billowing outward. But the ground grows so hot that flames leap from some rocks; others shift, crumbling lightly. Smoke is rising from the platform, as more and more of it begins to burn.

With the fire, he remains.

He remains even when Gwen's blast strikes him. Heldalf looks up, then, and suddenly fire screams up into the sky. Lances of it streak out; streamers rise up. A firestorm rolls towards all of them, as he stands up. The Lord of Calamity remains.

DC: 5 turns have elapsed in the battle against Heldalf! No turns remain! Time has expired! The battle is over!
<Pose Tracker> Lucia has posed.

'...thank you. For everything.'

Lucia stares at Hiro for a long moment, then. Her eyes don't leave his -- not until they fall, and that sad smile becomes a gasp of shock, then of terror.

Lucia grips onto Jean when the dancer grabs her, holding her in a bridal carry. She blinks at her -- she looks more confused than anything, by it -- but her arms move to wrap around her and hold on carefully. "Jean..."

Her head bows. She did what her mission demanded. Why, then, does it feel like she failed?

She looks up, as Jean carries her. Her expression shifts -- and she finds her breath caught as she sees Riesenlied stumble, and start to fall. She looks -- and then gasps, as a rope goes flying out. Two children, pulling on a rope, which Riesenlied grabs onto. She stares at them both.

She stares after Lemina, too, as she runs. Her heart feels heavy, and not only because of Heldalf's Domain. Why does she feel like this? What happened to her? She blinks her eyes, a few tears clearing. She reaches up; her arm wipes at her eyes. She dries the tears on her sleeve -- and she looks down from Fei's gaze a little too deliberately.

He has an understanding...

...but it is not one she can share.

The heat rolling away from Heldalf is enormous. A fire, hotter than hell -- or maybe just as hot. She closes her eyes, tears in them, and now from the stinging heat. But it helps, too, when the ring of light comes. Her eyes are closed, her head tucked against Jean, when that light washes over her. She vanishes after a moment in a burst of light.

The light slams into the roaring flames that Heldalf summoned. They wink out; they rush past, as ancient Elw technology whisks them into nothingness, and then strikes the Lord of Calamity. He roars his defiance -- as he, too, vanishes in so much light.

The ring expands outward. It shoots through the Pleasing Garden -- over Hammer, kneeling over his charges; over hurt Hellions, hiding from the world; over a cowering slug; over a Shaman, new to her power; over a princess that lay bleeding; over the wayward souls of a crashed airship; over a battered Solarian ship.

It whips through Lost July. Drifters, eager for lucre, vanish in a burst of light. Gears are left behind, as the light seeps through the cracks and pours -- but some larger vehicles are yanked away. The Tzadkiel vanishes out of midair. A certain caravan shudders, then flashes. The light discriminates only to draw away as many as it could.

To the Silver Star.

Lucia feels the tears rolling down her cheeks, now. Her hand covers her mouth, as a sea breeze whips by her. The cry of children in Meribia can be heard. The sun shines down on her.

But, she finds, there is no comfort.

<Pose Tracker> Seraph Ragnell has posed.

        Barely responsive, maybe, but at least some of Mikleo is there. Ragnell finds that reassuring. She's not a healer by profession but she's got artes enough to patch Mikleo up later. Still, god, for a ghostly spirit, he sure is heavy--not so heavy that she can't move with /some/ speed, but heavy enough that it would be a lot easier and safer if she ditched him.
        
        She does not ditch him.
        
        "Maybe you oughtta stop bakin' so many cookies, Meebo," she jokes dryly as she continues to pull him along. Still, focusing as she is on Mikleo and the Fiends & Friends, she doesn't notice Sorey noticing her. Shepherd or not, she isn't doing this for /his/ sake. Perhaps that makes it easier for Sorey, given the opponent he still faces.
        
        Speaking of the Fiends & Friends, Janey's proclamation that SHE'S the Lord of Calamity, dagnabbit!!, gets Ragnell to roar with laughter. "Always did like a kid with spirit," she says cheerfully.
        
        And a familiar voice calls that this entity is beyond any of them... Ragnell looks at K.K., visibly startled. When their spear transforms into a greatbow and they make their position clear, she grins toothily, then laughs again. It doesn't last, for a variety of reasons.
        
        The biggest one is how, nearby, the console explodes. Aqua light begins to burst forward.
        
        "Well, Mickey, guess it's you an' me for now," Ragnell remarks to the semi-conscious Mikleo. Then the aquamarine line swallows them both up and renders them unto stardust, to travel through space until they reach the Silver Star.

<Pose Tracker> Lemina Ausa has posed.

The console they worked so hard to repair detonates. Lemina looks positively terrified -- at least, until she sees people start winking out. ... it isn't limited to the Lord of Calamity, though... which Lemina, of course, chalks up to the detonation and not the true reason.

Before she can think it out terribly far, though, she -- like everyone else -- winks out of existence, and back in somewhere far, far away.

<Pose Tracker> Riesenlied has posed.

        Riesenlied is clinging on for dear life, looking terribly unsteady even with the rope that she's hanging onto. Any other day, she might've been able to use her wings to pull herself up, but her fatigue and exhaustion prevents her from really doing anything other than dangling on by a single thread.

        "Please... I don't want you two to be..."

        Odjn is the first to sweep down and grab Riesenlied by the capelet in a vain attempt to attempt to pull her up. "You DUMMY! Still sayin' big self-sacrificin' things!"

        She hears Ragnell call for Jean to take care of Lucia. Good... and she sees her-- take Mikleo into her hands too. She's glad he's safe, after what Heldalf'd done to the Shepherd.

        She shivers, however, as she feels a connection she can't mistake--

        She gazes up towards the voice as it approaches. It is the Trial Knight. She winces and-- tries to pull herself up further--

        RIESE!

        That voice comes to her like a weave of comfort, a soothing balm through her woes. She smiles faintly as the roiling waves of flame erupt through them--

        --and the block that they're all on crumbles as everyone goes into freefall.

        She reaches forward, her arms spread out like a welcoming mother's.

        Mikaia falls into her embrace first.
        Janey soon follows as she clings onto her cape.
        Odjn clings onto her shoulder to go: "RUBY YOU BETTER MAKE IT!"

        And Noeline?

        In the sweeping blue light that chases them, the heat roiling just scant miliseconds before it...

        Their fingers lace together.

        Their hands hold tight.

        And the family of four disappear into the light.

        Into a new world... but is it the one she seeks?

<Pose Tracker> Thessaly has posed.

She senses K.K. before they appear.
 
 It rips through her leaden senses like the bolt of white light that they personify once they decide to take up arms to banish the Lord of Calamity from Filgaia, but not before the eyeless helm sweeps its hidden stare among those collected only to fall on her in the end and linger there with a tilt of their head. While Thessaly's own visage is mostly hidden by the veil, those visible, violet eyes widen slightly, reading upon their body language the intent to...
 
 ...intervene...?
 
 But why, though? This isn't...
 
 I do not understand, those eyes seem to say.
 
 Questions to ponder later, but neither does she address the Trial Knight, nor does she bring those diplomatic skills to bear and entreat for their aid, because she is familiar with the vague shape of this one's motivations, and she has her pride.
 
 And she has enough, at least, to push shakily on her feet, fighting upon every step against the miasma threatening to consume every ounce of her strength. Her breathing is labored, every inhalation like arcs of lightning cooking her from the inside. But she has to be ready and she refuses to be a burden.
 
 But after all their attacks, the Lord of Calamity remains, and as the heavens open up to spite fire, her eyes widen.
 
 No.
 
 No!
 
 She shoves her heavy body forward, to take up a dead run towards Garan. Pins and needles climb up her legs, causing her to stumble. It is a body that is operating on pure will alone, physical strength utterly spent. She manages to reach his side once he's planted enough of a distance between himself and his quarry, an incantation on her lips, to try and shield...
 
 ...and light consumes her environs.
 
 Along with the details of her surroundings, her own apprehensions wash away as she starts to collapse on her knees.
 
 This was it.
 
 Dark lashes fall and kiss her cheeks.
 
 Home.
 
 They were going home.

<Pose Tracker> Jean has posed.

Lucia is confused, but that doesn't surprise Jean; she accepts her as she is. ...But there are tears in her eyes, and that Jean doesn't understand. She doesn't say anything; she doesn't intrude on that feeling. ...She knows Lucia has her secrets, and will tell, if she needs to, and if she doesn't...

Jean intends to be there. Jean watches as Heldalf remains in the face of all of thsoe attacks, but she, too, remains, because she has faith. She has faith, in an Althena that is not so petty as to outlaw song, in an Althena that has enough for the whole world. She has faith in Lucia, of the Blue Star. ...She has faith in the others.

And here she is. The heat rolls over them, and Jean's eyes are not closed. She stares out at Heldalf, resolute, despite the Domain. She has Lucia. ...And now, she disappears in an instant, with the girl in her arms crying. ...The sea breeze, once again...

---

Lily Keil, in battered, ruined armored clothes, is motionless under Hammer's ministrations, bandaged now in places, with Dog standing vigil over her--and allowing Hammer to pet her and calm down. They, too, fade.

Kaguya, peering from the wreckage of a tower, hiding, the small Veruni who showed up here today to battle... Is watching, when it happens. She looks to K.K., thoughtfully, looks to the creature; she is nauseous, from the Domain. And suddenly--they just--

Jean looks up at the sky, towards the Blue Star there, feels the familiar air of Lunar about her. ...And finally, she starts to let Lucia down, but keeps an arm around here. "Hey..." She glances up, looks for Hiro once, and then just tries to soothe Lucia, not asking what it is that has affected her so powerfully.

Some things don't need words yet.

<Pose Tracker> Jean has posed.

Lucia is confused, but that doesn't surprise Jean; she accepts her as she is. ...But there are tears in her eyes, and that Jean doesn't understand. She doesn't say anything; she doesn't intrude on that feeling. ...She knows Lucia has her secrets, and will tell, if she needs to, and if she doesn't...

Jean intends to be there. Jean watches as Heldalf remains in the face of all of thsoe attacks, but she, too, remains, because she has faith. She has faith, in an Althena that is not so petty as to outlaw song, in an Althena that has enough for the whole world. She has faith in Lucia, of the Blue Star. ...She has faith in the others.

And here she is. The heat rolls over them, and Jean's eyes are not closed. She stares out at Heldalf, resolute, despite the Domain. She has Lucia. ...And now, she disappears in an instant, with the girl in her arms crying. ...The sea breeze, once again...

---

Lily Keil, in battered, ruined armored clothes, is motionless under Hammer's ministrations, bandaged now in places, with Dog standing vigil over her--and allowing Hammer to pet her and calm down. They, too, fade.

Kaguya, peering from the wreckage of a tower, hiding, the small Veruni who showed up here today to battle... Is watching, when it happens. She looks to K.K., thoughtfully, looks to the creature; she is nauseous, from the Domain. And suddenly--they just--

---

Jean looks up at the sky, towards the Blue Star there, feels the familiar air of Lunar about her. ...And finally, she starts to let Lucia down, but keeps an arm around here. "Hey..." She glances up, looks for Hiro once, and then just tries to soothe Lucia, not asking what it is that has affected her so powerfully.

Some things don't need words yet.

<Pose Tracker> Kahm Yugh has posed.

As Elly said, Kahm's cockpit was open to the air. It was dangerous, maybe even fatal.

It also didn't matter. "This is the job." He quietly stated, "Whatever happens, the two of you must live."

The beam comes, and the air superheat to excruciating levels. Kahm feels it in his cockpit as if he were being held over a roasting fire, feel the cloth on his right shoulder actually 'ignite' and begin to burn with an angry flame as a portion of the Tzadkiel's might passed down between them to lay the Lord of Calamity below.

Whether it does or not, Kahm is not sure. There is too much happening, too much debris kicked up by the blast and everyone below letting loose with their own significant attacks. Amidst it all, the Tzadkiel detects another spatial distortion phenomena. The orders are instant: Return to the hangar and prepare for whatever comes next.

Kahm felt his breath slowly, felt his extremities move. He was still alive (somehow) and able. That meant he could still follow orders.

"Retreat..." Kahm croaked, "With all due haste."

The Hauteclaire jettisoned away, presumably moving at full thrust with the Vierge and Schiehallion as they raced beyond the periphery of that mysterious photonic light from below. The last thing Kahm knew for sure was the familiar sensation of his gear skidding to a halt along the Tzadkiel's hangar, barely able to stick a landing.

It'd probably take another week to figure out what the hell happened after that.

<Pose Tracker> Cyre H. Lorentz has posed.

Even the light of Solais Emsu isn't enough to overwhelm the Lord of Calamity. Cyre growls, his lips drawing back into a predatory snarl. "Well. Damn. That's kind of a bummer, isn't it? I guess I'd better hope these ears come with eight extra lives."

And then the Trial Knight appears. Cyre stares for a long moment as the heat of Heldalf's spell begins consuming the Garden of the Elw. His hands tremble in fury as he nearly turns his arcana on the silvery knight. Whatever the outcome might have been, the possibility is never allowed to materialize.

Cyre begins dissolving into light. His eyes go wide, as the unfamiliar sensation of being flung across time and space overcomes him. The last thing he sees is the spectre of Fengalon as he turns to find his god, and then...

...

Catenna, and the others... He hopes... They'll be okay without him...?

...

...

...............?

<Pose Tracker> Thessaly has posed.

Somewhere in a convenient overlook are three figures, and they appear to be drinking.
 
 "The bloody hell's going on down there?"
 "Dunno, but there ain't no way in hell I'm going in there."
 "Think I see Gwen, though. Wonder where the fook she gets her energy, wasn't she just where we are?"
 "Well, she's a super courier, isn't she?"
 "Ay. That she is."
 
 Cassidy Cain takes the flask passed to her by Morgan Newkirk, taking a sip from it. Slowly, all eyes turn upwards as the heavens open up, and Hell falls out of it.
 
 "....nae. Nae. This is fine. It's just--"
 
 And then, all encompassing light starts pouring from the ruins below, bleeding into everything, and climbing up...
 
 ...towards them.
 
 The cigarette dangles limp from her lips.
 
 "....ah, shite."

<Pose Tracker> Lemina Ausa has posed.

Matilda Whitehead, bruised and battered and bloody, lies near-still near the Fereshte. She's been trying to staple herself back together since Lady Harken visited violence upon her -- really, she hasn't even had that much time to recuperate. She's blown through almost all of her curatives, and even some of her analgesics, just to keep the pain manageable, and of course the armor is a wash...

She doesn't expect it at all when she's whisked away.




Nimue... has actually retreated down from the Pleasing Garden, back to her Gear, to her Vessel. Heldalf's presence is oppressive to say the least, and even from down there it's something she can feel twisting inside her stomach like a parasite. It hurts her to focus, to think, even on the best days -- this, honestly, is debilitating.

She's extremely aware when the light comes for her -- she even has a few moments to react. As it starts to envelop her but leave Sundowner entirely untouched, she has time for exactly one and a half syllables:

"Oh sh --"

<Pose Tracker> Elhaym van Houten has posed.

 
ELLY feels like she should cry again. She doesn't fight it. Let her cheeks be wet. If they want to dress her down for it later, they can. For now she's alive. Everybody, Elly thinks, two dozen faces pouring through her mind as she slams Vierge back towards the Tzadkiel, lingering only to see if she has to provide manual assistance with her less-battered Gear for boarders -

Live! She thinks, before entering the hangar. A moment later the distortion rises. Her fate will be disclosed later.

MARGARET looks round at the assembled company. Eighty-six, she thinks, and the beast wranglers are bringing their animals over there, so that's ninety-seven. Only three lost in all this time, she thinks, even as Rex looks up from his stretcher and risks aggravating a gash on his thigh to say, "What in the hells -"

The Hounds of Hell all look towards the fire, and the light. "Wh--"

EMMA HETFIELD, inside of Lost July, says aloud, "I may have broken my arm something good, and my Gear's probably a wreck, but at least this sounds like it's nearly over, and soon enough we can get to rebuilding things, with the lessons of war firmly behind"

LINVIDIA DIARGENTO, some time later and distinctly on Filgaia, says to a news agent, "They did WHAT in Lost July."

<Pose Tracker> Neriah Parringer has posed.

Within a silver place, a place inconceivable to any maker of maps, far from the shimmering arrival of new and old entities upon a circling silver diamond in the sky...

                ... something stirs.

                Red eyes open upon a silver world.






                                  awaken...



DC: Neriah Parringer switches forms to Neriah Unbound!
<Pose Tracker> Carina Wynne has posed.

Carina's new, incredible finishing move meets resistance. Well. The others are probably fine, she hopes? She turns ponytail to escape the destruction, but even with her armor, the light catches up to her.

And so does fatigue, for that matter. A harrowing trek through this cursed place, two life-or-death battles against formidable opponents... Not to mention the Domain's assault on her very soul. And then, there's... whatever emergency power supply her armor was running on. She had a bad feeling about it the whole time!

But now...

Now...

"Nap tiiiime~" she lets out, groggily, as she lets herself lose consciousness and her body dissolves into light.

<Pose Tracker> Loren Voss has posed.

        "Whatever happens, the two of you must live."

        That damn near stops him in his mental tracks.
        It's how it ought to be, as dictated by society. And yet, and yet--

        The beam tracks down with a dull roar, and it's not his or Van Houten's safety he's found himself worrying after. But he says nothing, closes his eyes, and exhales his own stress.

        Which is, naturally, interrupted. Emergency orders.
        Retreat. Now.

        "Understood. Returning to the Tzadkiel."
        Was... there something else he wanted to say? To either of them?

        He lets the moment slide. Broken and battered, Schiehallion still flies, landing unsteady as it completes the final run and skids into the depths of the hanger. The first thing, he thinks distantly, that he's going to do, the instant he gets the chance, is collapse into his bunk.

        Everything bleeds into light.

        ----

        Avril walks slowly with Dean, Rebecca helping the both of them along as they tread through the ruins of the Pleasing Garden. They vanish in light.

        ----

        Josie muzzily lifting her head from her sickbed in the depths of the Fereshte, as if harkening to a sound only she can hear. Atop the bedpost, Penelope readjusts her perch. They vanish in light.

        ---

        A new world awaits.

<Pose Tracker> Cyre H. Lorentz has posed.

MEANWHILE, ELSEWHERE IN THE GARDEN

A certain dark hero is sitting next to a pile of twisted metal that to anyone else would be utterly unremarkable except maybe for its size and mass. And even then, considering how many Gears have been tearing across the sky recently, it's not that surprising for something this big to end up buried half-way in the rubble of a broken temple. But...

To the hero, it's something else.

It's... Something familiar.

"..." The man in the scarf traces his fingers across the shattered steel. For some reason-- there's a tightness in his chest. An unidentifiable ache that he just cannot for the life of him place. It's a vague feeling of unease in the gut. A weight hanging on the inside of his chest. His heart feels heavy, he realizes.

What is this?

What do the humans call this?

"I... can't believe you're actually gone," the says, placing a hand on the cold, twisted steel. "I... Heh. I didn't think that you'd go and die, and I wouldn't even be involved. What a joke. After everything you did... After everything you did, you go and die and deny me my payback...?"

The hero laughs. He laughs as fires rage in the distance and a ring of light slowly expands to consume the world... And smashes a fist into the mauled, once-living metal. "Damnit, Berserk! Why did you have to go and die before I could get my licks in!? After all the shit you gave me... Damnit... Damnit!" His fingers dig deep into the metal finding their way into the broken crevasse of the shattered weapon. "I never got to tell you--"

"That your legacy-- the one thing you'd be leaving behind in the world-- is the one demon who was asleep for too long to catch any of your shitty hatred and rage!"

"I wanted to see the look on your face when I told you, damnit! And now--"

The wave washes over him. Zed laughs one more time as he disappears into a haze of photons.

'I never got to see your face when I thanked you for throwing me in that locker...!'

<Pose Tracker> Yarobeleedt has posed.


 
        A STRANGE WHITE-HARIED MAN's eyes open, in the company of faces... familiar. Welcome? Just... familiar. The sky is of a color he notices is not consistent with any view of Filgaia's own. He aches all over. This includes his head. He knows it's not new for his head to ache, nor for it to contain a number of questions he feels he dare not voice aloud.
        Someone among the familiar faces, as though prescient, is quick to answer one of them.
        He is even quicker to rise up, against the wishes of the rest of his body, and ask one of his own. His eyes say more than they ever have prior, in that moment.
 



 
        A SEMI-SOLID SLUG shudders as several small children laugh and play around them. Trapped inside complex netting, their only recourse is to flinch and fidget.
        "It's Arma Dylan!" A young girl laughs. "Look at how he currrrrrls!"
        "Arma Dylan!!"
        "mother"

<Pose Tracker> Hiro has posed.

 
"... You know for once kiddo. I'll allow it."
 
Perhaps they stand no chance. And yet Hiro believes until the end that it will work out. That this is a come behind victory. It feels like it ought to be in now - their darkest hour. With the victory of the blue light permeating the Pleasing Gardens. But as he swings helpless on a rope, as he climbs frantically as it feels like there's more and more give...
 
And all he sees is the futility. Heldalf is a force of nature and he doesn't abate simply because of Hiro's naive wish that it works out like the stories are supposed to. Their victory in what Lucia had planned. It's so dire that - it only sinks in when K.K. shows up. The Trial Knight in an act of... not assisting them, but simply delaying the Lord of Calamity with the shining light of the fired lance.
 
The console explodes. They all vanish. The light envelops them. He has a sensation of falling - it's only an instantaneous one.
 
When the light clears from his senses he can hear the laughter of children. He can hear the waves gently lapping from the harbor.
 
And a blue sky. The same blue sky he remembered. So like Filgaia's. A consistency between the two worlds. And yet there's something different about ti today.
 
Picking himself up from the wreckage, the youth is a wreck. He limps over to Jean and Lucia and Lemina and the others besides as Jean lets Lucia down. And she's crying.
 
And he finds there are tears in his eyes too. His vision blurring. He doesn't know why she's crying but he knows why he is. Because Lucia is. He's never seen her so sad before. Some things can just be simple like that. He seems like he's at a loss though for a moment, but stepping forward, he reaches up with a hand to pat her back since Jean is hugging her right now and he's not going to get in the middle of that. She's taller than him so he has to reach just slightly.
 
"Hey Lucia..." He may not know what affected her so. But he knows their triumph. They may not have witnessed the Shepherd beating the Lord of Calamity today, but she saved them all. She brought them back to Lunar. Maybe they even cleared her name.
 
And he tries to soothe those tears with that knowledge.
 
"... we made it..."
 
He's never been to Meribia before, but he just knows. It's something in the air of this place. From every story he's ever read of every hero who's ever dwelled here.
 
"... we're back."
 
He gives his best shot to comfort her, as he glances away, keeping her in his periphery. Tasting the tang of salt on his tongue, his eyes drifting upwards, "Just look at that sky. Doesn't it seem even more beautiful today? It feels like it's welcoming us back."
 
He allows himself a smile as he wipes his eyes with his opposite hand, "Feels like something to be happy about, if you ask me."
 

<Pose Tracker> Riesenlied has posed.

        NOT TERRIBLY FAR FROM HERE:

        The Rephaim is having a hell of a time -- weaving to-and-fro the Solarian knight gears that have beset upon it, as Lunata holds onto her flightsticks with a desperation unlike any other. She slams a knee and shoves a beam saber into the shoulder socket of an incoming gear.

        "Move, move...! We have to-- we have to get..." A pause. "Yeah, I hear you, Cap'n Maitreya! I'm trying to get to the rest of the Deurmods!"

        The ex-waitress' eyes frantically flit from one panel to another as she channels more power into the Leyline Converters, the Gear's Pulse Shift coating shimmering even as it gets slammed by a stray Solarian missile. Jacqueline is with them, the cockpit crowded, still unconscious.

        There's a deep singe upon its pearlescent white surface, but no more than that.

        "I can't--"

        And then Heldalf's Aura happens. Sorcery, for a very brief but ultimately too long moment, is disabled. Everyone's connections to the Guardians is severed...

        ...

        And Medically Identifiable as a Corpse if not for Guardian Magic Lunata Croze is not exempt from that.

        The Rephaim suddenly kips over, as if its pilot just disconnected entirely from it.

        "Lunata? Lunata! Come on, Lunata!" echoes the rasping voice of Maitreya from the Rephaim's cockpit.

        The cockpit tips open...

<Pose Tracker> Layna Manydays has posed.

...Layna's on her last legs. That last barrage took everything she had. She doesn't have the energy to move anymore. She's been through so much - fighting her way through the Pleasing Gardens, surviving a fight with the Pyre Witch and two Quarter Knights, and finally facing off against the Lord of Calamity, in the shadowy flesh.

She can't move...and the platform crumbles beneath her.

Layna Manydays begins to fall, down, down, down.

"Hah...take that, ya scurvy feline blaggard...you didn't kill me..." She says as she falls. She laughs. She laughs, and laughs, and laughs, almost maniacally.

She doesn't feel the collision...

Not because she hit the ground, but because, before long she vanishes into motes of light.




In the far distance, a man in a bright red poncho stands high atop a floating Elw structure. His arms are folded behind him as he stares out, a silent, unseen witness to the struggle for survival against the Lord of Calamity.

It was very interesting. He had a feeling that his superiors would be very interested in learning about what transpired here.

He turns away from the scene of the battle as it is engulfed and flame and light...and before long, he, too, is swept away in motes of light.

<Pose Tracker> Fei Fong Wong has posed.

Fei looks away from Lucia after she does. He doesn't understand. This is what she wanted, isn't it? Perhaps she is feeling homesick. Part of him understands.

He closes his eyes. This isn't the end, Fei thinks. And it isn't the beginning.

But it is 'A' Beginning. When he looks over to the Lord of Calamity, he sees a strange sight--K.K, of all people, striking at the Hellion...

...But perhaps it's not so strange. K.K's own objectives must conflict with that lion man.

"Lily... Leon..." He presses his hand on his heart. "...I'll see you soon." And then he laughs. "...Even you, Hammer. Heh."

They vanish in a burst of light.

In A Theater

The coward slides in a new film wheel, unbeknownst to anybody else in the collective. There is a crackling and a whirring as the countdown rolls in new footage. It's old, even for all of them.

This, was the beginning.

10 SD

"...Hey...Hey..." A little boy presses his hand on some transparent glass. "What's that? What's that? Is that where we're going?"

A man in a strange uniform places a hand on the boy's shoulder. "Well maybe someday we'll have a colony there. But no, that's the moon. Now this--hold on..." He taps at the window and a screen appears. With a few swipes of his fingers, an image of a larger planet appears. "Now there, that's a world we're considering."

The world shone so brightly it looked like a marvelous blue star. He couldn't help but gasp in awe. The coward and the boy smiled at the same time, thinking of this memory. The coward scooched forward to get a better look. It seemed so hopeful but then...

"Anyway... you sure you should be here alone?" The man in uniform said. "Surely your mother is looking for you."

The memory cuts out. The coming memories belonged to him.

ELSWHERE

Hammer says, "...That light... is getting a little close to--ahhh...AHH!!" He stops his work for the moment, duck and covering because he's not sure--this might be it, this might be the end...! It isn't, but he doesn't know that.

Lunar

Fei opens his eyes once more. He feels the sea breeze. He hears the cries of children. He feels the sun, less an oppressive force bearing down harshly upon him, and more a blessing.

Fei lifts his head, and stares into the sky. It's beautiful, he thinks. It's so beautiful. Weltall isn't here, he knows, and part of him is excited by that fact, like it's finally free and part of him ... isn't sure how to feel about that. Fei isn't sure how he feels about not being sure how to feel about that either.

"So this is...this is the Silver Star...!" Fei says, laughing and crying. Some might think he's lost it entirely, but truth be told, Fei doesn't know why this is his reaction either.

"I can't believe it... All this time... I mean I believed you, I believed all of you but--but to see it..."

Fei isn't sure why, but he feels something long lost to him was finally regained. He doesn't know it but it is the spirit of Lightspeed Kenny, curse his name. He's an explorer once more. He soaks in the joy of the Lunarians who have finally made it back home. It's not a feeling he truly has yet either, but perhaps one day he too could return there. Wherever it is, whatever it chooses to be. And It's such a wonderful feeling, so far deep into his core, he can't help but feel like he's experienced an awakening.

Well, an awakening of perhaps 25 percent or so.

<Pose Tracker> Sorey has posed.

 Sorey remains locked in combat with Heldalf, even as the world seems to explode around the two of them. But the Shepherd looks back at the Lord of Calamity for a long moment, even as his foe withstands considerable punishment from all sides.
 
 Part of him wonders how they are going to be able to defeat this menace.
 
 The rest... knows that there is only one answer that he can give.
 
 "I'm not going to accept that there are those who are beyond my power to help. Even you must have been human at one point - and I won't give up on anyone until the very end. People need to choose their own path," Sorey states, although he drops to one knee a moment later. It's hardly the most forceful pose he can make as he speaks, as he fights against the outpouring of darkness from Heldalf.
 
 "No one... deserves to be corrupted like this. Not even you, Lord of Calamity...!"
 
 And then the expanding wall of light comes, even as the platform below explodes from the onslaught of attacks that are thrown against Heldalf. Sorey is thrown backwards, the light washing over him as another explosion goes off quite nearby...
 
 ...
 
 When the light fades, the Shepherd is left lying on the ground in a sun dappled glade. The wind rustles through the leaves, birds calling in the distance. Part of him stirs slightly, laying somewhat burned and battered on the ground.
 
 Sorey can't feel anyone. Not Mikleo, or Lailah, whom he has the closest bond with. Not Edna or Dezel. And there is no connection to either of his Squires. He has no idea where they are... or where he is.
 
 It was possible he might have lost his bond with Lailah, fighting against the Lord of Calamity at such close quarters. He doesn't know for sure. But for now... it seems that he is safe.
 
 Sorey lets his head fall back to the soft grass, and allows unconsciousness to take him.

<Pose Tracker> White Knight Leo has posed.

        Leo runs towards the Vile Fiends. Ordinarily, this would be a cause of great concern for them, but the anger and desperate hope on his face is not related to them. He turns back, gesturing furiously towards Garan and Thessaly, and hoping that Margaret--wherever she is--can see it, too. He doesn't know where Corwynt is, and he can only hope the young man is safe. Whatever the Vile Fiends are doing is the only way they're going to get out of here alive, since the Lord of Calamity is still channeling every drop of power he can into his spell. It's like his will is unbreakable.

        And then--a knight. A figure Leo recognizes from the Catacombs, and his lips pull back reflexively in scorn. K.K. makes their pronouncement, and Leo suddenly feels like he understood them less than he did before.

        The light engulfs him. Leo tries to say something, but the world is already warping around him. Reality seems to peel back, unraveling into its component bits, or maybe that's what's happening to him.

        Below, in Lost July, the shockwave hits the Dragonship Destiny. The Gears it was engaged in combat with mere moments ago fall silent, their pilots plucked from their cockpits by Elw technology. The Destiny meets a different fate.

        "BRACE!" the captain screams, and the crew comply. The light washes over it, too, and when it fades, all that is left are a half-dozen Solarian Gears, and a set of strange tracks where the Destiny once was.

        MEANwhile

        The Pleasing Garden is coming apart. The ground shudders and quakes beneath the three Hellions that have taken cover in what was once a meditation garden ensconced in crystalline walls. That crystal shatters, all at once, as platform containing it starts losing stability. "No," Ida says. "You're not killing us that easily!" She looks up, and sees the Lord of Calamity casting his spell--and realizes, with a dull, sinking sensation, that she's not nearly far enough.

        A knight. A lance. Ida is too far away to hear what K.K. says, but their visage is unmistakable, as are their actions. She watches, frozen to the spot, the Malevolent star in her chest roiling--and then she reaches down to grab Garrett Stampede, preparing to shoulder-carry him for distance the second time today. "Come on--!" Ida cries, but then the light washes out, and the three of them--

        The three of them are gone, whisked away as stardust before Ida can even realize the meaning of what she just saw. That comes later.

<Pose Tracker> Lucia has posed.

Lucia tries to wipe at her eyes. Crying is a new experience for her -- it is the first time that she ever has. The embarrassment at her tears, too, is new. She doesn't know why that is. She looks up slowly, and peers to the side. The blue sky stretches overhead -- and there is the familiar sensation of the Blue Star. Filgaia. It hangs there, looking down on them; a world of swirling clouds, visible against the sky.

Beautiful, beautiful home.

She puts a hand over her mouth. Then, she looks up -- peering at the person that she brought with them. Fei Fong Wong; a mysterious man, but a kind man. A man who never wanted to be involved in any of this.

She looks down at that.

"Yes, Hiro," she says, softly. He is crying too -- and that makes it where she has to bite her lip. She tries so hard to choke back a sob, and she only half succeeds. Her composure is slow to return. "We... we have returned. We can continue our quest. We can..."

She doesn't rise to stand. She stays sitting down, how she appeared, and looks up at the sky. "...We still have to find Althena..."

But there is a melancholy, now, in how she says it.

<Pose Tracker> K.K. has posed.

"There is but one thing in this world I answer to."

Golden light crackles at the Trial Knight's wrists, coils like serpents around their arms. Why intervene?

The reason, ultimately, is a simple one.

"And that allegiance is not yours to call upon so audaciously."

Whatever it might be, the light grows. Bow and lance alike dissolve into so many fragments of light as their faceless helm tilts upwards, their radiance lost within a growing splendor that overwhelms them so completely. The heat intensifies, growing to a fever pitch that should rightly roast whatever is within that armor. But they have delayed, even for a few, precious seconds.

Delayed, just long enough, for the ring of light to collide with the broiling, ancient spell that Heldalf attempts to conjure to cataclsymic life. There is a roar.

But K.K. does little but stand within the basking splendor of Elw technology sprung back towards life, whispering its song across the boundaries of space and time as it embraces them.

"... I see. 'Tis time, then."

And when the light dissipates...

... they, too, are gone. Back, to the Silver Star.

Back, to inflict themselves once more upon the land they came from.

<Pose Tracker> Sorey has posed.

 IN THE CASE OF BART - LORD OF THE PIRATES
 
 With all of the fighting going on around here, Bart was doing his best to call in fire support. But the Yggdrasil was way the hell out of the way, and there was no way he was going to be able to get his Gear here in time, despite it proceeding at full speed. The sand cruiser was proceeding towards Lost July at top speed when the flash of light suddenly expands from the Garden.
 
 Sigurd slams the wheel over to the side, the ship turning as the wall of light rushes towards them. The expanding light washes over part of the ship - but unable to capture the entire cruiser, it ultimately fades, leaving the ship to slowly coast to a stop in the sands.
 
 Several of the crew look around, shocked at the sudden loss of control. But the light had passed through the bridge and the crew quarters... and they are remarkably barren of people.
 
 "God damnit is there ANYONE LEFT we can raise on the radio?" Maitreya shouts from the cockpit of his Gear, pulling up to a stop next to the now drifting sand cruiser. "Young Master, just what nonsense have you gotten yourself into this time...?"
 
 IN THE CASE OF THE PYRE WITCH
 
 Agatha is well familiar with the expanding wall of light - she has seen the like before, as she had not arrived from Lunar via the strange teleportation phenomena that had brought so many from the Silver Star to Filgaia. She has never SEEN a teleporter that large before, however - and when the light fades, leaving her on the wind-swept plains of the Silver Star, she looks around for a long moment with bemusement.
 
 "Always when you're in the middle of something important," the witch states with a pouting expression. She raises her hands, making a rise up gesture... and in response, a number of ravens, rates, beasts, and several dusky human figures rise from the ground, each with burning red eyes set against their shadow tinged skin.
 
 "You know the drill. Spread out - I want to catch up on the local news, and see just who else has turned up here. I'm sure that some of our friends were swept up in that light, and it would be good to know where we can start working. If you can locate Heldalf... even better. I'd like to find out what his next move is."
 
 Agatha makes a shoo-shoo gesture, and her shadowy servants scatter to the four winds. Alone once more, she leans back on her cloak, floating in the air.
 
 There were no setbacks. Just new and interesting opportunities.

<Pose Tracker> Noeline has posed.

        "--Lunie? Lunie!?" yelps an astonished and disbelieving voice; Shalune's eyes are wide with fear and terror, adrenaline pushing her forwards as she instinctively recognizes both the acrid tang in the air and the telltale signs of what just happened to the waitress sat between her and Jacqueline. Lunata's gone too limp and too cold, and all the consoles on the Rephaim have simply-- powered down, retreating back into a little black box that turns utterly alert. "S-stay with us! Don't-- don't-- you s-stupid--!"

        She knows it's no use - you can't bring back a dead person just by yelling - but she yells her throat dry anyway, hoping despite herself for some tiny little speck of recognition.

        And then the world spins. The Rephaim lands too suddenly and too heavily, the feet of the now powerless Gear crashing into and almost through the platform that was just a little too far beneath them. Inside the cockpit, the pink-haired mechanic desperately tries to brace, pulling the prone alchemist towards her and shielding Jacqueline as the impact slams her back against the wall of the spherical space.

        Her head swims around her, but she still reaches up to pull the emergency hatch, running on sheer willpower as a panel at the base of the cockpit slides away. She grabs onto Jacqueline, hoisting her over one shoulder with difficulty and a spike of pain, then clasping Lunata to her.

        Maybe-- maybe they can find a place to hide until the field's turned off. Maybe she can drag an unconscious person and a literal dead weight to another Gear, take it for herself, learn how to pilot it, and get out of range of whatever's caused it.

        Don't think about death, her mind adds unbidden, and her stomach heaves unpleasantly.

        And that's the last thing she thinks, for a while, because all of a sudden a vivid ring of force passes straight through the inert cockpit, washing over all three of them and the still form of Ge Ramda, dissipating all of the Rephaim's contents into motes of white light.

<Pose Tracker> Lemina Ausa has posed.

Like a rocket -- Lemina Ausa is here!

... well, no. Less like a rocket and more like a blink of an eye. She allows herself to sit down for a few moments, just... appreciating everything. With Krosse effectively locked off lately, Lemina's been... like... really missing grass, you guys. Like, a lot. It's nice to have regular, soft dirt to sit on again.

She's a little misty, but once again: Lemina is too cool for school. She takes a moment to just... walk in a circle, like a cat finding a nice place to take a nap, and looks around once. "... I," she offers, interrupting Lucia and Hiro's tender, delicate moment, "... want to go home." There's a pause, before she adds, practically stammering, "Not, like, forever! Just. You know. To say hi."

<Pose Tracker> Layna Manydays has posed.

Somewhere in the skies, a white Gear flies, containing three young women from Adlehyde, thrust into a wide world beyond want any of them had expected.

And then it stops.

The eldest of the three is unaware of the pilot's plight, as the Malevolent Domain of the Lord of Calamity cuts off the source of what allows her to function.

She is unaware of the plight of the pink-haired one, as she suddenly finds herself alone, with both of her closest friends out of commission, one way or another.

She is unaware, as all three of them, plus the pilot's companion, vanish into white light.

She's certainly going to be in for a shock when she awakens.