2018-05-18: The Heist at House Armagnac

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=======================<* Pendrago - Castle District *>=======================

The Imperial Castle is in the very north of the city. The district around it is the center of governance for the empire. While the castle towers over the rest of the city, its high towers standing imposingly over the rest, it does not dominate the skyline alone. Few citizens ever step foot into these high, gothic towers; instead, they tend to visit the colossal Pendrago Shrinechurch just to the east of the castle, or the smaller Knights' Tower in the western part. The castle itself is always secluded and heavily guarded.

A large central courtyard is in the center of the castle district. Here, the Church and Knights alike make proclamations before large crowds. The minority of the emperor means these powers are stronger, and their presence is felt here: many a knight and priest of Althena can be seen walking the streets here. Two large gateways lead to the business and port districts of Pendrago.

DC: Seraph Ragnell switches forms to The Loyal!
<Pose Tracker> Seraph Amaranth has posed.

        House Armagnac.

        Situated within a resplendent and neatly-trimmed courtyard within Pendrago's noble district, House Armagnac stands as one of the older of Rolance's families; more than a century ago, it was one of its leading families, with its scions the pinnacle of artificing and magical itemry. Every quarter-year, it invites nobility and even patrons from all over the world with its Antiques Gala, renowned through all Lunar for the curiosities that it attracts.

        That... was then.

        House Armagnac has come across harsh times lately, with the Rolance-Hyland war consuming a great number of its heirs; with whispers of its head being assassinated in his sleep, the control of the house has fallen upon one young heiress: Henriette d'Armagnac.

        Under no small amount of gossip and hearsay, some of the old guard have commented that this Gala seems more like an attempt for her to pawn off her house's riches while she still can. And if that is so... perhaps the excitement of one amaranth-scented Calling Card is more a boon than it is a curse:

    Tonight, I humbly request the attendance of your mind and time.
           I shall abscond with your most precious treasure.
               Discover me, with all your heart and soul!

                               Sincerely,
                           La Fille du Temps
                      The Phantom Thief -Amaranth-

The perfumed aroma of amaranth is synonymous with fear for the nobility. All eyes are upon the House tonight, even as the red-haired heiress steps about to wine and dine her guests... as much as she tries to keep a jovial and light tone, with an ensemble playing... one can't deny the heavy presence of armed guards upon the edges of the ballroom.

        When will the Phantom Thief strike? And just what is the Precious Treasure?

OOC: We will have a social round! Feel free to have been invited, or to have crashed the party or some other inventive reason! As is befitting Rolance, the dress code is formal, but there are servants, guards, handmaids and all kinds of other people intermixed.

<Pose Tracker> Matilda Whitehead has posed.

This would be a great occasion to have a dress! Matilda has yet to pick her new one up, though...

... which is really just as well, because she's working tonight. While she has no doubt she could have done her job in plain clothes, it's a little easier for her to broadcast that she's doing her job in the gleaming plate armor she's taken to since coming to Lunar.

She floats near one of the entrances -- in a metaphorical sense, mind you. Her job is to be unobtrusive, more than anything else -- at least, unless and until either there's something she, personally, wants to investigate further, or something goes very wrong.

<Pose Tracker> Neriah Parringer has posed.

"Interesting," murmurs Sister Domitia, one of the more unlikely guests at this lovely little gala.

The name and the scent of amaranth are far from unknown to the mysterious Priestess of Althena - and yet, she isn't here as a member of Althena's Guard. She comes from a slightly different world: Domitia is known at court to move in the circles of Cardinal Runette Forton herself. That is, within the circles of courtly power in Rolance. High enough to earn her a ticket into the perfumed corridors of power and wealth in these parts despite she herself seeming to have little by way of wealth in her own right.

The fact that she has her hood up even here - even if her underdress is a little more splendid than her usual one, albeit still primarily white - does set her apart from some of the others, though. The shadow of it leaves the lower part of her face visible. In spite of the rumours of a Phantom Thief, there's a tiny smile tugging at the Sister's lips.

In truth she's more curious than she is concerned - she positively radiates an unnatural calm, simply quietly stoking a bit of interest in seeing this fancy-sounding Phantom Thief for herself. It'll be up to the Guard to enforce the law; she's there to observe, and to act only if it becomes necessary.

Part of her hopes it will.

<Pose Tracker> Jacqueline Barber has posed.

An important part of being a merchant was obtaining connections. This was true, on Lunar or Filgaia. Networking was the name of the game, and Jacqueline had learned it well. Perhaps it was that that had earned her - and other members of the Caravan Kinship - invitations to House Armagnac's Antiques Gala.

She had heard the rumors, of course - rumors of foul play within the family...and, of course, rumors of the Phantom Thief.

...Admittedly, a part of her was a little excited. She had read more than one book about a dashing phantom thief, issuing challenges and committing crimes in the pursuit of justice. But, this was reality, and it was not unlikely that a true thief's intentions were much less noble. She had to be watchful, and if she could help out, she would.

Jacqueline is currently seated in a guest table that had been set aside for the Caravan Kinship(and perhaps others who choose to join them). She's dressed up for the occasion, too - in a sequined dress with bright, glamorous colors, a light, translucent shawl, purple and orange in gradiant, and a pair of chic frames that had been picked out just for this occasion. There was a distinctly...Jacqueline look to her outfit, but refined into something magnificent through the talent and keen eye of one Katherine Weaver.

It was a shame she wouldn't be here to see it. Because, really, why would she be anywhere near an event like this? She was probably very busy with something else at the moment!

She was a little nervous to go out in public like this at first...but as the night went on, Jacqueline relaxed into her new outfit, and is chatting amicably with the others present.

<Pose Tracker> Shalune Amira has posed.

        Shalune is trying, she really is. Her hair has been combed down as much as she can manage, and while it's not exactly tamed it's certainly a little more under control, less in the way of tufts and wayward strands and its volume all the more impressive for that fact. Courtesy of a certain dressmaker named Katherine, she's even got herself a formal dress; a very soft pink - almost white - it sets off the colour of her hair nicely.

        More importantly, the knee-length skirt and the relative lightness of the dress mean that she's not going to be tripping over herself every so often, which had kind of started out as one of her major concerns about going to this party. The other was, well... you can put Shalune in a fancy dress, working as a waitress at the Starfall Saloon proved that much. But even with a fancy little hat in her hair, even with a wine glass balanced awkwardly in her hands, she's still Shalune.

        Feeling a little out of place, the mechanic nudges towards Jacqueline's side as if looking for protection. "Feels kinda like I should be one of the servin' staff instead," she grumbles softly under her breath before taking a sip for courage. The Caravan Kinship were invited, certainly, but she hasn't quite got it through her head yet that they might actually count as significantly prestigious merchants, especially given the differences in technology that they're working with here on Lunar.

        "You really think that a Phantom Thief is gonna show?" she mumbles, remembering to keep her voice relatively low. "I thought that sorta thing was just in books. I mean, don't get me wrong, it sounds really cool, but-- it's kinda the first time I've been in a situation where it would actually suck for someone to get stolen from, I guess. In the books, the nobles are always kinda asses." She stiffens for a moment, and then looks guiltily around her in case a noble actually heard that.

<Pose Tracker> Margaret has posed.

 
"So," says Rex, "the Precious Thing."

Rex is one of the Hounds of Hell, but there seems to be a secret about him. Perhaps he's lying and exaggerating or putting on an act, but if so he is engaging in a dignified act rather than a farce. He is wearing a royal purple doublet and a cloak with an ermine ruff and long green feathers from a rare ground parrot. On his head is a twisted copper-and-gold circlet. Despite the grizzling of age, he could, at least, do a good turn as a king on stage.

If he is carrying his short bow it is not immediately apparent. Right now he is lingering near the punch bowl and regarding the group around them.

Margaret is the leader, perhaps founder (it's unclear) of the Hounds. Margaret is in a dress made of garish gold fabric and not a lot of it. It is cut down so low that if she turns left too fast it would be indecent, although it seems she has applied some sort of restraining jewelry. She has her hair up, and she is managing to drink punch and sneer in an affluent way at everyone. She definitely does not have a nine foot polearm with her.

"I'm going to skip the obvious joke," Margaret says with a sigh, sweeping out to gesture with the pipe in her non-punch-holding hand towards everyone. With her height she can survey the masses rather efficient. "These used to be more vibrant, didn't they?"

Rex considers matters, and then says, smoothly, "You know what they say: once you've tried it abroad, you can never really go home again."

Margaret snorts.

"Maybe this is performance," Margaret theorizes. "This phantom thief... now we're all thinking about her. Something about that feels right, doesn't it? Nostalgiac."

"Mm." Rex sips his punch. "... I know what you mean. I don't know if I like it."

Margaret's eyes turn immediately, directly, and specifically at Matilda for about two seconds, before they settle down. "At least Borgan didn't seize our building while we were gone," Margaret muses. "Anyway, do you recognize anyone here? Introduce me."

"It wasn't exactly a prominent place," Rex says. "But I suppose I can exercise the droit de seignur..."

<Pose Tracker> Josephine Lovelace has posed.

        A party, was it...

        And involving not only the artifacts trade -- a field she's rather less familiar with the ins and outs of, here on the moon -- but the swirling rumors of a thief... and the similarly swirling scent of a flower.

        Well, they had picked up business around these parts, so to speak. No one will blame her if she takes it upon herself to do a little intelligencing, as it were.
        Honestly, she's just curious.
        There's much to gain and little to lose, to her thinking.

        The fact that it also means she can help herself to the drinks is just a little added bonus.

        There's another fresh face in the room. The dress this one wears is new (in that Josie has (once again) 'borrowed' it from someone else) and at least reasonably within the bounds of the latest fashions (long skirt, long sleeves, black) if not very daring or exciting (in this case it suits Josie just fine). And the lady who wears it is friendly enough, though evasive (if one considers what she's actually saying (or not saying)) when asked about her family or where she's from.

        "Oh, do you? I've heard a thing or two about this thief. I admit I'm almost curious," the white-haired woman, identifying herself only as Josephine, says to the man she's currently having a little light chat with, gaze heavy-lidded as she lifts what is not her first or second glass of wine to her lips, "to see what this thief might be capable of. Don't you think it might be exciting~?"

        Outside, perched in the lee of the house atop a gate, a black and white pigeon perches, forlorn.

        Birds are not allowed.

<Pose Tracker> Carina Wynne has posed.

Carina Wynne is not a very refined lady at all, all things told, but she can at least look the part when she wants to. A simple but eye-catching crimson chiffon dress is doing most of the heavy lifting there. She made it herself, having not encountered this Katherine Weaver yet, and as usual sort of lowballed her usual flashiness on creations meant for herself. But despite its simplicity, the dress does the job.

She came with the CaraKin, and brought along a guest as well. She heard the rumors that there might be a SUPER CRIME happening tonight, and when there is super crime afoot, it's a job for the super sheriff. Or, since this is Lunar, the super knights. And guess who has two thumbs and is a super knight?? That's right!

"Dannnnng, I read stuff about these fancy parties, but I thought they were just makin' things up," Carina tells a hapless servant (and really, anyone else within earshot), while just loading up on hors-d'oeuvres in her paper plate. "I think I'm supposed to say mean things to debutantes but sort of leave plausible deniability or somethin'? ARE there any debutantes around here? I hope not, I don't wanna be mean to them. Yeesh, I hope that thief shows up soon."

The confused servant walks away without a word, and leaves Carina to ponder this important question. She spots Matilda in the distance. "Oh hey, she's here too. HEEEEY, ATIDA!"

She waves like an idiot.

<Pose Tracker> Talia has posed.

Talia, being a hired knife from Pendrago, is here for the simplest of reasons.

She was hired as security. Her pedigree isn't impeccable, but it passes muster; a few other high houses in Pendrago could vouch for her skill. She stands apart as a partygoer; she doesn't try to dress up like a noblewoman, nor does she wear the shiny, polished armor expected of a good house guard. Instead, she has a fine jacket over her leather armor and usual outfit. She also made sure that jacket falls down past her hips.

It covers her weapons of choice.

She frowns, a little, as she leans back against a pillar. Her arms are crossed, and her head is turned up -- taking note of entrance points, of the layout of the room, and where their most expectedly unexpected guest might make her entrance from. She taps a foot, with pent-up energy.

She's feeling impatient.

<Pose Tracker> Hiro has posed.

 
"Hiro this is stupid."
 
"No. No. This will definitely work."
 
"NO IT'S JUST STUPID!"
 
"Shhhh."
 
A young man who is definitely just a servant - strolls up to the side entrance with a bird-cage. Inside of which is a very irate looking Ruby.
 
One of the guards gives him a long look - then double takes. "And just what is that?"
 
"Madame d'Armagnac asked me to bring up a last minute item for exhibition. 'The Wyrm Vizier.' A... creation of Ancient Avarost that answers questions with the wisdom of the ancients. She felt that it'd be a noteworthy addition to the gala."
 
The guard peered at it, "Doesn't look much like a wyrm to me - looks more like a cat with w-" A gout of flame singed the tip of his moustaches which he hastily pats out. "YOU KNOW HOW YOU'RE PROMISED HAZARD PAY BUDDY!? TRY CALLING ME A CAT AGAIN AND SEE IF YOU COLLECT!"
 
Hiro laughed awkwardly, "A-As you can see it is very sensitive about how it's perceived... I recommend not antagonizing it further." The guard begrudgingly let's them in. "Alright - you may pass. Be sure to put up a sign warning our guests about it's... preferences... I doubt Madame d'Armagnac would want one of her guests to be caught ablaze."
 
-=-=-
 
Now inside, Hiro tugs off the servant garb to reveal the layer beneath it. Something which makes him look decidedly he's a guest within proper formal dress code. http:'utena.wikia.comwikiFile:Seitokai_Design_22.jpg However the reality is that he got it from a theater troupe in the area.
 
Ruby who's now out of the birdcage whispers: "That really shouldn't have worked." "And yet - it absolutely did." "Okay whatever! But why are we here!? It's said that they're bringing in the Guard to handle this matter and shouldn't we want to be as far as possible away from them?"
 
"Sure... sure sure... but isn't it interesting that a thief is trying to antagonize them like that?" Hiro walks out onto the gala's main floor, picking an h'ordevres off a plate with none of the grace of an actual high class guest. Ruby clings to his shoulder with her pawsies mostly hanging down his back, hindlegs just past his shoulderblades, "You say interesting... I say suicidal." "But when we stop the thief..."
 
Ruby hisses at him to finish that sentence in her own way. "... they'll hate us as much as before and probably try to spin the story into us helping the thief or something you sword-brained idiot!"
 
Hiro just chows down on the finger food. "... Well... guess we'll see won't we?"
 

<Pose Tracker> Claude C. Kenny has posed.

As the son of one of the most famous people in two galaxies (though not, obviously, this part of this one), Claude C. Kenny has been dragged to a large number of formal dinners and fancy parties over his life. His role on these occasions was largely to be fawned andor giggled over andor totally ignored and spurned by the daughters of the local planetary nobility, the last of these because his hair was finer and more blonde than most of theirs.

As a result, Claude - or as he is known here, CLESS AL'VANE, bastard son of (mumble mumble noble name) and current leader of the mercenary company BRAVE PHANTASIA - is not as out of place as one might think. He is wearing a sort of purple doublet thing with a white poofy neck dooley, black piping and silver clasps over a tan set of leggings and undershirt, capped off with black gloves and ankle-high boots.

He also has a large black hat, with a large and fancy red feather. Or, as it is known here in olden time planet, a Redde Featherre.

Claude/Cless is propping up the closest available corner with a little plate stacked high with finger food. The stack is vanishing with commendable speed.

<Pose Tracker> Fei Fong Wong has posed.

Fei doesn't normally feel comfortable at fancy parties. The homes of the wealthy frequently make him feel out of place. He basically lived in the basement of the wealthiest house in his town and that's because it was the elder's home. And wouldn't you know it but the big thing that made that place the wealthiest home was that it had a basement AND a second floor.

This place has a flippin' courtyard. Fei can't imagine anybody needing enough cash to have a courtyard. It's enough to hope they do get robbed ... ... but doing simple work like this is good for the soul after being punched in the heart (metaphorically) by Ida again.

He is wearing the same suit he bought for the auction he had gone to. He also felt out of place that time but Elly and his friends were there, so it wasn't so bad. This time...

TRY CALLING ME A CAT AGAIN AND SEE IF YOU COLLECT!

Fei smiles to himself. Finally, he thinks, something that makes sense.

Fei waves a hand towards Hiro and Ruby, making his way towards them. "Hey Ruby!" He says. "Hey Hiro!" He pauses for a moment and then remembers the Guard is here and he grimaces, moving in closer.

"You guys..." Fei says. "You aren't The Phantom Thief Amaranth are you?" He looks at Hiro. "Nice digs."

Despite Fei's inner thoughts, he actually does pull off the suit well and looks like some kind of traveling noble with his hair pulled back like that but he certainly doesn't like it IN HIS HEAD.

<Pose Tracker> White Knight Leo has posed.

        Leo is aware, on some level, that his presence here is a political statement. House Armagnac was understandably worried about being robbed--and the thief is brazen enough to announce their intentions beforehand in the most unsubtle way possible. The presence of Althena's own White Knight lends the situation an element of divine protection. After all, what kind of crazy person would try and go forward with their plan with Leo and his people present?

        Leo is quietly, secretly hoping the answer to that is 'Amaranth, duh' because he really wants a showdown. If nothing else, this is the sort of thing people write stories about.

        And as Hiro's luck would have it, Ruby immediately jinxes everything.

        "Hiro," says White Knight Leo, who might as well have appeared between animation frames for how quickly he zeroed in on the young man's presence. He folds his arms, and looks down at the boy and his dragon with something approaching annoyance. There is a meaningful pause.

<Pose Tracker> Xantia has posed.

There's no way Xantia would normally be at an event like this. She'd be completely out of her element, knowing absolutely nothing about art and not understanding its appeal beyond its subjective level of prettiness. Most importantly, the food at these sorts of fancy dress parties tends to come in really small portions, so what's even the point?

And then there's the dress code involved. Xantia doesn't do dresses. In fact, she doesn't seem to do any other clothes than the one single ensemble that anybody who's ever seen her would be familiar with. And yet, to every rule there's an exception...

"I can hardly move in this thing," is just the most recent of her constant grumblings ever since she arrived. She would never have agreed to this normally, but Carina said this would be the easiest way to sneak in and keep an eye on the proceedings. That's the whole reason she's here, of course. Because this rumored Phantom Thief is obviously a job for a superhero... and their sidekick.

Though it's more of an outfit than a disguise, it may still be hard to recognize her like this, simply because... well, who'd ever expect Xantia to be wearing a chiffon dress? A light blue one even, which is not Xantia's color at all! It matches Carina's dress exactly other than the color, which is no coincidence. But she did not actually arrive along with Carina, because they could cover more ground if they were split up.

Being all by herself doesn't do anything for her level of comfort. She's mostly just pacing around, trying to stay out of people's way, trying not to make eye contact with anybody, strongly hoping not to run into anybody she knows. It just doesn't feel right going around in something like this, with her hair all neatly combed, rather than springing up all over the place.

With nothing to do but grumble to herself, she wonders out loud, "Is this heist even going to happen?" It's weird that anybody would actually announce one in advance. She can only hope it actually does happen, and soon.

Then she rounds a corner, and, having her gaze lowered, bumps into someone from behind. "Oh, sorry--" That someone is Fei. Because of course it is. Xantia freezes, not knowing what to say or do. Neither fight nor flight seems an option, so... tough situation. "There's... there's a reason for this," she begins, though she hasn't actually come up with that reason yet. Awkward...

<Pose Tracker> Hiro has posed.

 
"Fei!? Ruby says as she sizes him up in his suit then finally remarks, "Whoa - snazzy. You clean up pretty nicely." Whereas Hiro waves a hand his way in a way that isn't surreptitious at all. "Aha - nope. Not us. We're just here to check out what all the hubbub is about them given that they're attracting the attention of Althena's-"
 
'Hiro,' That particular voice. With that particular pitch hones right in on him.
 
His voice goes about an octave higher, "-GUARD!"
 
Hiro and Ruby look right in synch. Then left in synch. Then behind themselves in synch. Then up in synch.
 
And then upon sighting Leo - Ruby raises a pink pawsie and Hiro raises his fingers alongside him. They both start to wave it in synch - both giving the impression that they're cringing.
 
"Ahahaha..." Ruby titters. Whereas Hiro just says, "White Knight Leo - what a pleasant surprise... of course they'd send one of the four heroes themselves to catch... a thief that's so... brazen..."
 
Ruby leans towards Fei and murmurs... "I knew this was a bad idea um... get ready to cheese it... on... my... mark.."
 

<Pose Tracker> Seraph Amaranth has posed.

        A fluttering white and red-backed cape billows in the darkness outside.

        ~*~

        "Ladies and gentlemen..."

        The voice is slightly timorous, but speaks clear through the din of the revelry happening upon the grand ballroom of House Armagnac. Henriette has come to the fore, and expresses, "May I please have your attention. We of House Armagnac sincerely hope you are enjoying yourselves tonight. We would like to extend a round of applause and grateful appreciation for the Althenan Guard for hearing our plea tonight."

        The nobility present all clap towards the Guards' table, some of them bowing.

        "And we'd also like to make special mention to our trading partners -- the Caravan Kinship, for all the hard work that has made this event possible."

        They, too, give the Caravan Kinship's table a clap! Aww, isn't that nice? She would give thanks to the various adventurers who are attended here today, but she can't, given that would give them away... alas. But then:

        ~*~

        The figure descends softly onto the rooftop, between the pace of the guards looking around underneath upon the streets. There is a smile, as the figure descends down beside... Penelope.

        The figure stoops by her side, and holds out a little treat for the pigeon. "You're a sign of good luck, sweetie."

        ~*~

        "Soon, we shall start the main event that you are all looking for..."

        For one reason, or another.

        A number of servants bring a wheeled trolley up to bear. The red velvet is whipped off. "Our first item tonight, an antique vase dating back from the time of House Dragonia, dated roughly six hundred years ago..."

        There's a very tangible pause, and the tension in the air is so thick you could positively cut it.

        Nothing happens.

        The chatter filters back into the air; nobles are bidding. A rich couple from Meribus are quick on the draw.

        ...

        An hour later...

        Rather obviously, the noble patronage of the house aren't going to be on edge forever -- with more wine imbibed, with more hors d'ouevres consumed, the guests and patrons are more relaxed than ever, and by the sixteenth item, some of them are already whispering if the Phantom Thief was just all talk and no show.

        Those who are in the know understand that's just what the Thief wants.

        The seventeenth item is pushed upon the stage. The drapes are drawn.

        "Ladies and gentlemen, this is an ancient Althenan cross. Dating back to approximately nine or even ten centuries ago, it is an exquisitely preserved specimen..."

        Compared to some of the other items of opulence -- jewelry, mirrors, vases and goblets of gold -- this cross is made out of... simple wood. It doesn't even gleam.

        The nobility look disinterested.

        "We shall start bids at--"

        ~*~

        The smile draws wide. "Go time."

DG: A party led by Neriah Parringer is now entering The Heist at House Armagnac.
DG: Party formation is now over. An Entry Challenge will now be drawn and displayed to the party.
========================<* The Heist at House Armagnac *>=========================
===================<* CHALLENGE - You'll Never See It Coming *>===================
|Type: Entry       |Dungeon Ability: Wits      |Challenge Rating: 2          | 
----------------------------< Challenge Information: >----------------------------
 Suddenly, darkness!                                                           
                                                                               
 Utterings. "Is this part of the auction?" "I can't see a thing..." "Could it  
 be--"                                                                         
                                                                               
 A nervous voice attempts control: "Ladies and gentlemen, please remain calm   
 and stay where you are, we will bring light back to the hall in short         
 order--"                                                                      
                                                                               
 Rose-pink lights flood a balcony at the top of the room. A figure emerges to  
 its centre, capturing all eyes in her white three-piece suit, top hat and     
 monocle. A lavish red-line cape coyly flutters behind her. The prize is on    
 her palm.                                                                     
                                                                               
 "What a wonderful audience we have here tonight! Ladies and gentlemen, I am   
 a lady of my word. I have upon my palm the precious treasure I seek -- the    
 Ankh of the Goddess Althena!"                                                 
                                                                               
 A seductive smile is on her lips.                                             
                                                                               
 "Stop me, with all your heart and soul!"                                      
                                                                               
 "I--it's the Phantom Thief, seize her! Don't let her escape with our          
 heirloom!" shouts a frantic voice in the darkness.                            
                                                                               
 Crossbow bolts pepper the air. A voice bellows, "You fools! Hold your fire!   
 You'll harm our guests!!"                                                     
                                                                               
 The bolts strike thin air, sailing through thief -- how quickly will you      
 notice the misdirection, as a Seraphic figure absconds from a nearby service  
 entrance deep into the halls of House Armagnac?                               
                                                                               
 (NOTE: In this Dig, the color yellow represents illusions that require the    
 ability to see Resonance. Feel free to play it up in creative ways if your    
 character does not have that ability!)                                        
=Dungeon Conditions: Fright, Stupify==========================================
<Pose Tracker> Fei Fong Wong has posed.

Fei laughs a little awkwardly, "Well, I had the suit cleaned before I came in since the digs were pretty generous up here. It's good to see you both. Did Lemina happen to mention what happened in--" GUARD!

Fei stalls for a moment, looking towards Leo. He looks tense before he frowns, and then he says, "You and that lion man I've been meaning to--"

He trails off, glancing back over to Ruby who seems to be just about as nervous. He's seen this guys' moves but--is he really that frightening? He doesn't seem to have a malevolent (lower case) aura or anything. If anything, he looks like someone who just caught a bunch of raccoons rifling through the garbage.

"We're not here to cause trouble." He says instead. "Uh. Nice to meet you though? Thanks for showing Lily kindness."

Xantia bumps into him! Fei turns to look and sees...

Fei blinks several times. Xantia is wearing a dress. Fei blinks again. Xantia is wearing a dress.

FEI PSYCHO UP

"I...uh..." He says, slowly. "You..." He glances to the side, beads of sweat forming along the side of his head. "You don't have to explain." He says. "You can wear what you want. If...you want to wear a pretty dress, that's fine."

"I uh." He adds, looking back to Leo as if he has to explain this situation to him because he's an authority figure. "I had no idea you had this side of you..."

<Pose Tracker> Josephine Lovelace has posed.

        "Hmph. It's only a rumor, now."

        It might be the wine that helps Josie out in the long run. That, and while the dress isn't entirely suited for her figure (approximately same height and build, but the other woman (now resting comfortably in a side room, sans clothing) was different in a few ways) it's hardly a bad fit... or too far away from what's properly in fashion. Her companion doesn't appear to notice that it's not exactly tailored, or that her attention isn't on him as much as he might prefer.

        Across the room, then, she spots a familiar face.

        "Excuse me~" she trills out, all smiles for the few seconds she maintains eye contact with her current partner before pulling away to apparently freshen up her drink.

        She drops the mask she wears metaphorically moments after, slipping out into the crowd and nudging Fei with her elbow ('by accident') as she passes him by. If he looks he'll just get a wink that is probably actually illegal.

        For tonight, she's playing the part to the hilt, it seems.

        -=-=-=

        Footsteps alight near where the bird perches, all alone. A questioning trill carries out in the air.

        Penelope's loyalty is tonight richly rewarded.

<Pose Tracker> Seraph Ragnell has posed.

        "She can't see you, you know. Unless that changed sometime recently," a second shadowy figure says, amused, when the first one stoops to feed Penelope the pigeon. "But I'm sure she appreciates the treat all the same. Now then, shall we? o/`"
        
        Within, a second grin spreads, sharp and white. "Show time~."
        
        Then the lights go out! People shout! Spotlights reappear, and Phantom Thief Amaranth mades her grand appearance, Ankh in hand...! And for those who can see--a second figure, identical to the first, dashes off to one side, down a service exit.
        
        But it's not as though the illusion that makes its grand entrance just vanishes once its misdirection is complete, and the other Seraphic figure dashes for the nearby service entrance. With a bold laugh, the Phantom Thief kisses the Ankh in her palm--itself an illusion--and then dashes away for a nearby but different service entrance, running parallel to the one the other figure had just used.
        
        They're both dressed the same way, and both highly suspicious, and there's no way of knowing for sure that the ostentatious one *isn't* holding the true Ankh--something that will be made more difficult when the one who'd made the grand entrance pockets the Ankh as she runs away. Which is the real Phantom Thief Amaranth? Only those who take up the chase will get the chance to tell!

<Pose Tracker> Neriah Parringer has posed.

A gala demands politeness, and hiding one's face at such an affair is anything but, after all. Sometime during the hour of fance-pantsery, Sister Domitia had sat down at a table and pushed her hood back. She's sitting far enough up at the front of the room that for the most part, what other visiting Drifters will get to see is the back of her head. A lot of long, dark, lustrous curls are involved; she has pretty nice hair for someone who hides under a hood most of the time.

The hour winds on. And then --

As the lights go down, Sister Domitia - seated surprisingly far up at the front of the room, with a few of the more pious rich sorts in the audience, raises her eyebrows shallowly. "She seems quite spectacular, doesn't she," she muses, folding her hands and looking up with a surprisingly calm interest at the supposed Phantom Thief up there.

The phantom cries out for the crowd to stop her with all their hearts and souls - and the crossbow bolts fly. Domitia doesn't sit up or even move to attack. She fishes into her dress and calmly pulls out what looks like a fancy monocle attached to a thin silver chain. She sets it to one eye and peers through the crowd.

"I see, then," she murmurs as she tucks the lens away and eases to her feet. The illusion earning the attention of the bowmen is clever - but Domitia's spotted something else. A phantom figure sneaking out through a side entrance. With aplomb, the priestess draws her hood up again and breezes through the crowd towards that service entrance, picking up her silver staff on the way. The snowy-robed shape moving against the flow of the audience is conspicuous enough that following her would be pretty simple for those so inclined; should others begin to pursue the phantom, Domitia will urge them along with a wave of her hand.

Theft or no theft, Domitia's smiling with charmed interest even as her hood shadow sinks over her eyes again and restores her preferred air of anonymity. Leaving aside the crime, she's got to admire the Phantom Thief's pizzazz.

DG: Neriah Parringer has used her Tool Excavator's Lens toward her party's challenge, You'll Never See It Coming.
<Pose Tracker> Carina Wynne has posed.

Carina, who has bumbled back to the CaraKin table, offers a little wave an a wide grin when nobles clap for them! Well, this is nice! But soon, the event begins, and...

Nothing happens.

Carina isn't the type to bid for vases and such. An hour has passed and she's practically falling asleep at her seat. She's actually threatening to topple into her plate when SUDDENLY, DARKNESS!

"Wh--"

Theatrics begin and suddenly Carina is well aware. She looks up, wide-eyed. "Whoaaaaaaaaa..." She feels like she should be taking notes. But wait, she can't just sit here gawking! This is the moment she was waiting for the whole time!

"Awright, Lunie, Miss Jay, this is my cue!" She pushes herself off the table, her chain honking loudly as she gets up and... Doesn't rush behind a curtain, or anything? She just stands there in the open, and poses? It's fine. It's fine. Everyone is confused, and Ethius ain't here besides.

"TRANSFORMATION PHRASE PENDING!"

She is engulfed in a ball of light, through which armor plate components can be glimpsed clicking on, ending with a pecularly-shaped bug head helmet, a fluttering cape and a sword. Before the light has completely faded, the figure leaps for the rafters, roughly opposite the point in the room where the phantom thief was sighted, and POSES DRAMATICALLY. There are a few multicolored smoke explosions.

"Halt, phantom thief! How dare you rob an innocent down-on-her-luck lady of her neat cross? It seems you've really done it this time, because not only have you cheesed off Althena's Guard, but also CRIMSON KNIGHT LOCUS! AND... introducing her loyal sidekick...!"

DC: Carina Wynne switches forms to Metal Digger Locus!
<Pose Tracker> Talia has posed.

ONE HOUR AGO

Talia tries, and fails, to stifle a yawn. "Oh, rich people," she says. "Hopefully this Phantom Thief comes soon.)]

NOW

Talia's eyebrow is twitching, her eyes locked onto the stage instead of looking up at the ceilings. She is getting impatient. She knows, intellectually, that this is a ridiculous and childish reaction. She should go talk to this 'Cless Al'vane,' after what Lydia told her. But, she has a job, and she should -- at least, ostensibly -- do it.

Darkness.

"There we are," she murmurs to herself. She turns her head, looking to the nervous voice in the dark -- but Talia can see nothing of the source in the pitch black surroundings. Which is why the flood of rose-colored light, and the outrageously and outrageously fancifully dressed phantom thief draws her eyes. Her head snaps towards her -- and then a smile splits her lips, despite herself.

Then, her 'game face' is on. Talia turns her head, her dark red eyes searching as the crossbow bolts sail through the air. For her, that Seraphic image is a flicker; a strong, but unpracticed Resonance, which renders the escaping figure something that looks like a mirage. It disappears, then reappears, and Talia is charging -- in time to see a third figure. She stares at that one, before she bolts after, running through the crowd.

She shoulder checks a duke. He falls flat, with a yelp, on the ground. She ends up sprinting ahead of Sister Domitia. "Pardon!"

DG: Talia has contributed a Wits Basic Action toward her party's challenge, You'll Never See It Coming.
<Pose Tracker> Jacqueline Barber has posed.

"It's okay, Shalune. You look great. Just take a deep breath and relax." Jacqueline says with a smile, glancing to the friend at her side. "If anyone tells you that, you let me know."

On the whole, Jacqueline was known to be a little...humble, when compliments were thrown her way. A little timid, even. But right now, at this moment, she's the picture of confidence. She must really be in the zone.

"I'd rather no one got stolen from, even if they were, well..." Jacqueline clears her throat. "...Still, this is a lot of trouble to go through for a hoax. I think it's possible. Just keep your eyes out."

And then, their host for the night moves to get everyone's attention. She notes Henriette's nervousness, and from afar offers her a reassuring smile.

She applauds for the Guard, of course, and when Henriette addresses the Caravan Kinship, Jacqueline offers a polite nod in response to the applause.

And from there...she sits back, and takes in the bidding wars that ensue.

This, too, was a fine example of Lunarian trade. She takes mental notes of everything that occurs, murmuring to herself and nodding. Things proceed...pretty much exactly as she expected...

...Until the seventeenth item is brought out, darkness falls...

...And the Phantom Thief makes her appearance.

...She had to admit, Jacqueline was somewhat entranced - it was just like out of the stories...!

...But, she was still a thief. Jacqueline adjusts something quickly - the potions and Crests she had brought with her, carried in a satchel that matches her outfit.

And then, she notices something - there are two Phantom Thieves. This...complicated things. Was one of them a fake? An illusion? ...Well, it wouldn't do to just sit here and be crushed by indecision.

Jacqueline gets to her feet and glances toward Shalune.

"Come on, let's follow her. We might be able to catch up..." Jacqueline says...and then nods toward Carina, who unleashes an impressive transformation!!.

"Right! I'll leave that one to you, Crimson Knight Locus! Take care!" Jacqueline says. This way, they had both their bases covered! With that, she takes off.

She moves surprisingly quickly, considering her fancy outfit that probably wasn't made with adventuring in mind. Fortunately, she has some experience with this.

"Sister Domitia, I hope you don't mind my assistance...!" She says, catching up to the totally legitimate Priestess of Althena.

DG: Jacqueline Barber has contributed a Wits Basic Action toward her party's challenge, You'll Never See It Coming.
GS: Claude C. Kenny has attacked Claude C. Kenny with Food Wars The Fifth Plate - Claude Eats Half A Cow!
GS: Claude C. Kenny has completed his action.
<Pose Tracker> Claude C. Kenny has posed.

"AND...introducing her loyal sidekick....!"

From directly under CRIMSON KNIGHT LOCUS, Claude C. Kenny looks up, cheeks puffed out like a chipmunk, the last crumbs of a beef pate cracker thing dropping out of his hands. He blinks owlishly.

He swallows. This takes a while.

"Uh....what?"

GS: Claude C. Kenny heals Claude C. Kenny! He gains 100 temporary hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Shalune Amira has posed.

        True to form, Shalune has spent her time alternately 'ooh'ing and 'aah'ing at the auction items on offer, stuffing her face with free food, or - as the evening wears on - looking increasingly ready to slide back towards the Caravan and curl up into a nap. She's not bored, per se, but there's only so much in the way of people-watching she can do in a single night, and the auction items are more focused on works of art rather than any interesting mechanical items or dig remnants that might grab her attention.

        Plus, it's been a while since she's had any kind of drink. She's not teetotal, she just doesn't really ever feel the need to drink, and nursing a glass of wine all evening is starting to affect her a little.

        So it's a bit of a shock when the lights suddenly cut out, but a welcome one that forces her up to her feet. "Wah!?" she blurts in astonishment, immediately looking around her - just in time to squint in the sudden glare of a sequence of rose-pink lights, and the figure that declares their presence in an incredibly grandiose fashion.

        The mechanic can't figure out whether to look awed at the Phantom Thief's appearance, or overjoyed that something so fairytale can play out right in front of her; she plays right into the illusion for a long moment, hopping up from her chair and from foot-to-foot as she bobbles in excited consternation. "She's here, Jay! Gooo, Locus!"

        Shalune has never been the greatest in the world at seeing through Resonance; still a novice, much of her ability to do so is rooted in how swept up into the situation she is at any given moment, and trying to force what she's seeing usually means she loses it like water through her fingers. For her, the figure up on the gantry might as well be completely real--

        --except she squints for a moment, something nagging at the back of her mind. The way the bolts are travelling through the figure reminds her of something she hasn't thought of in some time, and it takes her a couple of puzzled frowns to piece it together. Sat on her desk back at the Caravan, a projector stol--recovered from Old Petra has been set up to display a wavery image of a tree, and if she thinks of the way she's poked it with a pen before--

        "She's fake!" Shalune realizes, just in time for Jay to point the right way to go. "But they don't realize! Let's go, let's go!" she agrees, and powers off after the alchemist instead.

DG: Shalune Amira has used her Tool Bag of Tricks toward her party's challenge, You'll Never See It Coming.
<Pose Tracker> Margaret has posed.

 
At the mention of the Caravan Kinship, Margaret snaps the stem of her pipe with an accidental clenching of the hand. Fortunately the ground is durable and she has the presence of mind to grind out any lingering embers with one pointed boot toe. Rex is concerned, because that thing was metal.

SOON ENOUGH

They're lingering. Margaret has bid on four things and actually managed to get one of them. As she runs her thumb underneath the broad fat tip of her newly acquired spear, squeezing the leather-wrapped tip, she asks Rex for the umpteenth time, "It needs a cover... what do you think, leather?"

"sure," Rex says, not even bothering to care at this point. He hasn't sat down, and so it is he who spots one of the thieves. "Tch!" Rex says.

"Oh, no," Margaret gasps. "She's running away!"

"How will we ever catch up with her, so fleet of foot and swift?" Rex says.

The two of them look at each other with sly and ancient familiarity.

They don't even have to say the phrase, although Margaret takes a moment because she has to heave out of her chair. In a crackling ripple of electrical enthusiasm, the two mages of the Guard pursue one of the Phantom Thieves.

"I'm sure Leo can handle the other one," Margaret says, admiring her spear again.

"Are you going to put that in your mouth?" Rex asks, reaching beneath his parrotfeather cloak and producing his hunter's bow. "If it was a farm boy you'd have tricked it into marriage by now."

"Yes to both," Margaret says as they both end up banking up and running along a wall for the sake of maneuverability, before Margaret raises her voice to shout, "OI!" towards the Amaragnell.

"Stab her!" Rex urges.

"Not YET, this spear is too good for the likes of a phantom thief!!"

<Pose Tracker> Carina Wynne has posed.

"NOT YOU," Locus shouts in Claude's general direction.

<Pose Tracker> Hiro has posed.

 
Yep - yep no trouble. Trouble is the last... thing... we'd want." Hiro and Ruby sort of follow Fei along - as he bumps into Xantia. "Uh - whoa. Aren't you the girl who fought Jean? Uh... wow this sort of thing doesn't seem to suit you at all? You look so uncomfortable in that."
 
Fortunately utter darkness takes them before Ruby ever says anything to Fei. "Hey sweet! Luck is on our side! Later Leo! Sorry to cut this short!"
 
And then rose-pink lights come on with all the drama of showmanship. "Hiro why aren't we running!? That was like the perfect opportunity dangit!" But instead he's focused on what's happening with the Seraph on the stage. That confidence and the bearing alarms him a little. This certainly wasn't some amateur with a theatrical flair. "Hey Fei - what do you say about... going with this party's flow a little." "Dangit! This is way more than just going with the flow!"
 
Nudging his way through the guests - he makes his way for the stage when suddenly - crossbow bolts fly overhead - and he hits the deck. Ruby clinging onto him with all of her might. "We're just gonna get caught in the crossfire this way!"
 
Rolling to the side to avoid a foostep, he kips up, then uses a quick wind spell to launch himself overhead. And as he sails through the air - he notes how there are two Phantom Thieves - well three technically. The one who was on the stage that was like a ghost. One going for a service entrance.
 
And another going towards another.
 
Hitting the ground, he just goes with his gut and runs towards one service entrance- "Hey Leo we'll take this one! You go get the other!" - alongside Talia and Sister Domitia and Jay, "We're not just about to let you get away with that relic!" Okay fine - might as well get into it."
 
Ruby coughs twice, like she's working herself up to it, "I don't know if Althena even gives a dang about the sacrilege of stealing one of her musty old crosses..." Ruby pauses, "...Okay I've got nothing other than 'don't take people's things!' I'm still having a little trouble getting behind this one!"
 

DG: Hiro has contributed a Wits Basic Action toward his party's challenge, You'll Never See It Coming.
GS: Margaret has attacked Margaret with Thunder Road!
GS: Margaret has completed her action.
GS: Margaret takes a solid hit from Margaret's Thunder Road for 0 hit points!
GS: Quick! Statuses applied to Margaret!
<Pose Tracker> Matilda Whitehead has posed.

Matilda does not feel Margaret's gaze on her -- mostly because she's being more enthusiastically called to by Carina, who gets a small, hesitant wave back. "Ah -- hello," Matilda says, probably drowned out. It's about all she manages to get out before the lights go out.

Matilda's long, silver blade is out almost the instant the lights go down. She's here for a job, and... well, honestly, something going wrong is less nervewracking than the last little while of everything going right, in some ways? Her gaze turns up toward the phantom thief's appearance.

She takes the time to assess the room itself for a moment, as the figure heads into the halls through the service entrance. After a split second of weighing her options, she decides to move with Talia, as a fellow member of the security team.

Mid-movement, she pulls out a previously-issued map of the halls. It's only a quick check, though.

DG: Matilda Whitehead has used her Tool Portable Library toward her party's challenge, You'll Never See It Coming.
<Pose Tracker> White Knight Leo has posed.

        "I find it difficult to believe you were invited," Leo says, as Hiro and Ruby stammer and cringe and apologize and generally look for an easy exit. "What interest has the Destroyer in a common thief?" He glances at Fei, his lips narrowing to a little line. Lily? Leo meets Fei's eyes and holds his gaze a moment, all the while trying to remember--oh. "If she is your friend, she is in desperate need of proper moral guidance. Why, she displayed a shocking callousness towards innocents, perhaps even crimin--"

        Lights. Camera! AMARANTH!

        "My, my," Leo says, his cape swirling dramatically as he turns to the posing figure on stage. He flashes his brightest, most inspiring smile. "I was starting to think you weren't going to show. Well then, 'Phantom Thief'--if you desire all of my heart and soul, you be disappointed." Leo pauses, for effect. "I am sworn to my goddess alo--" Bolts fly. Leo glances to the side, mid-speech, and sees a second Amaranth bolting out a service entrance. Then, a third. The Beastman blinks, his face flashing through 'confusion' and 'surprise' before settling on 'comically intense aggravation'. "DON'T JUST STAND THERE!" Leo says, turning to Hiro and Ruby. Fortunately, they don't just stand there. As the boy and his cat-dragon-thing bolt after one Amaranth, Leo dashes after the other. He reaches out, gesturing--and the floor above the fleeing 'Amaranth' lurches upwards, ejecting thick stone pillars right in her path. Leo's trying to cut her off, but running into them could hurt.

GS: White Knight Leo has attacked Seraph Ragnell with Rock Viper!
GS: White Knight Leo has completed his action.
<Pose Tracker> Fei Fong Wong has posed.

"She's kind of going through a lot." Fei says. "I'm sure she won't actually do anything horrible." He seems to believe this. "We uh, about the other thing I'm not sure it's my place to say--"

But before he can do much else, there's DARKNESS. Fei is startled briefly before remembering--He draws out a small chemical light from his toolbag and flicks it on. He makes a note to thank Elly for it later. He shines the light about before settling it on the seraphic figure. Of course, the seraphic figure might very well look like nothing to some folks, but Fei narrows his eyes. He is about to ask Hiro and Ruby what to do when Leo CONSCRIPTS them by all appearances and has THEM go after the thief.

"Huh?" Fei says. "Are you friends or--agh, nevermind! She's getting away!"

He ends up chasing after Hiro and Ruby. "I think she wants to be chased," Fei tells Ruby. "If we humor her, maybe we'll find out why."

DG: Fei Fong Wong has used his Tool Artist's Toolkit toward his party's challenge, You'll Never See It Coming.
========================<* The Heist at House Armagnac *>=========================
===================<* CHALLENGE - You'll Never See It Coming *>===================
|Type: Entry       |Dungeon Ability: Wits      |Challenge Rating: 2          | 
----------------------------< Challenge Information: >----------------------------
 Suddenly, darkness!                                                           
                                                                               
 Utterings. "Is this part of the auction?" "I can't see a thing..." "Could it  
 be--"                                                                         
                                                                               
 A nervous voice attempts control: "Ladies and gentlemen, please remain calm   
 and stay where you are, we will bring light back to the hall in short         
 order--"                                                                      
                                                                               
 Rose-pink lights flood a balcony at the top of the room. A figure emerges to  
 its centre, capturing all eyes in her white three-piece suit, top hat and     
 monocle. A lavish red-line cape coyly flutters behind her. The prize is on    
 her palm.                                                                     
                                                                               
 "What a wonderful audience we have here tonight! Ladies and gentlemen, I am   
 a lady of my word. I have upon my palm the precious treasure I seek -- the    
 Ankh of the Goddess Althena!"                                                 
                                                                               
 A seductive smile is on her lips.                                             
                                                                               
 "Stop me, with all your heart and soul!"                                      
                                                                               
 "I--it's the Phantom Thief, seize her! Don't let her escape with our          
 heirloom!" shouts a frantic voice in the darkness.                            
                                                                               
 Crossbow bolts pepper the air. A voice bellows, "You fools! Hold your fire!   
 You'll harm our guests!!"                                                     
                                                                               
 The bolts strike thin air, sailing through thief -- how quickly will you      
 notice the misdirection, as a Seraphic figure absconds from a nearby service  
 entrance deep into the halls of House Armagnac?                               
                                                                               
 (NOTE: In this Dig, the color yellow represents illusions that require the    
 ability to see Resonance. Feel free to play it up in creative ways if your    
 character does not have that ability!)                                        
=Dungeon Conditions: Fright, Stupify==========================================
===================<* The Heist at House Armagnac - Round 1 *>====================
=====================< Results - You'll Never See It Coming >=====================
Player                               Exhaustion                      Pass/Fail
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Neriah Parringer                    0 --(5)--> 5                   Pass
Excavator's Lens                    2   Wits    Effects: Enlighten            
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Jacqueline Barber                   0 --(5)--> 5                   Pass
Investigate                         0   Wits    Effects: BASIC                
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Hiro                                0 --(10)--> 10                 Fail
Investigate                         0   Wits    Effects: BASIC                
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Fei Fong Wong                       0 --(5)--> 5                   Pass
Artist's Toolkit                    2   Wits    Effects: Enlighten            
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Shalune Amira                       0 --(10)--> 10                 Fail
Bag of Tricks                       2   Wits    Effects: Resilient            
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Talia                               0 --(10)--> 10                 Fail
Investigate                         0   Wits    Effects: BASIC                
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Matilda Whitehead                   0 --(5)--> 5                   Pass
Portable Library                    1   Wits    Effects: Cleanse              
------------------------------------< Party >-------------------------------------
Leader: Neriah Parringer            0 --(20)--> 20                 Pass
Conditions: Fright(2)|Stupify(2)
Effects: Cleanse|Enlighten(1)|Resilient(1)
================================< Dream Chasers >=================================
DG: The party led by Neriah Parringer 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: Seraph Ragnell takes a solid hit from White Knight Leo's Rock Viper for 115 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Xantia has posed.

Xantia falls silent for a moment as Fei says everything's fine, while looking like everything is anything but fine. And Ruby isn't helping matters, pointing out the obvious. When Xantia does find her voice, she's quick to adamantly refute, "No, no, it isn't like that, this wasn't my idea!" She wants to explain more, she really does, but for some reason the words won't come to her. She's actually turning red. One might not have thought it possible, but it seems even Xantia is capable of feeling embarrassed.

Saved by the bell, or rather abrupt darkness, Xantia takes the opportunity to quickly escape the awkwardness. Ugh, why did that have to happen? Now she's REALLY fired up to deal with this Phantom Thief, she'll feel a whole lot better after she gets to punch somebody!

Of course, with all this commotion, she completely misses her cue, only realizing this when Metal Digger-- no, Crimson Knight Locus appears and starts speaking. There is thus a moment of awkwardness, with only Claude being there where Xantia should have been. She needs a moment to get ready, having no flashy instant transformation sequence.

Instead, she has to get the stupid dress off the normal way - at least she came prepared by wearing her regular clothes underneath it. Which wasn't helping her comfort levels any. Leaving the fancy clothes behind in a pile, she also leaps for the rafters, now clad in her regular red sleeveless shirt with white X on it and denim shorts, unfortunately missing her gloves and still wearing a pair of fancy slippers instead of her normal boots. And, of course, the important addition of a domino mask covering her eyes.

"MYSTERY HERO X," she shouts at last, being far too late knowing that she'll need a cool line to cover it up. "Defender of the universe in-training, who always arrives exactly when needed, and not a moment earlier!" There, that went perfectly.

<Pose Tracker> Fei Fong Wong has posed.

Fei's entire face is promptly covered by sweat beads.

<Pose Tracker> Josephine Lovelace has posed.

        The hour more or less winds its way on from there, with Josie working the room (so to speak) as various pieces make their way up to auction.

        If these are the sorts of things that make their way into private collections, this could be leverage to use with the church. Or so more or less runs her consideration on the matter, her gaze appraising the items in a manner that claims to the world that she's as bored as the well-heeled often are at these functions, while more privately...
        ...Making significantly different assessments.

        The Ankh stands out, even at a glance. Compared to the other items on auction, it seems out of place.
        Which means it has a different sort of value, Josie realizes, moving closer slowly to get a better look.

        This is the moment when the lights go out.

        Josie's reaction is to immediately snap her fingers, a globe of light orbiting her lazily as brighter lights flare on overhead.

        "Ahaaa," she murmurs, one of the few people dressed as she is in the crowd not immediately falling into a panic.
        Indeed, a lopsided smile has found its way onto her lips.

        Now this is much more interesting.
        Though, perhaps, she could do without the crossbow bolts.

        Turning in the direction the thief moves, little jelly-like sphere of light rolling with her, she can see the figure flit off into--

        She can see multiple figures flit off into the dark, in fact.
        That actually prompts Josie to tilt her head slightly to one side as if considering this little fact for what it's worth.

        "Well, I suppose all's fair here in the dark," she murmurs, shoulders rolling in a shrug before her little glow-light winks out.

        Under the cover of shadow she hurriedly hikes up her skirt and draws out a sidearm from the holster hidden there.

        It's been a little bit since she's done a blind shot like this.

        When she fires, she fires suddenly... all in the direction she thinks one of those shadowy figures has fled.
        For anyone else near her, they're treated to the sudden sound of what sounds like a minor explosion in their midst as the until-now unfamiliar sound of an ARM discharging a round cracks off.

DG: Neriah Parringer has drawn a new Challenge.
========================<* The Heist at House Armagnac *>=========================
=====================<* CHALLENGE - Don't You Know My Art *>======================
|Type: Exploration |Dungeon Ability: Combat    |Challenge Rating: 2          | 
----------------------------< Challenge Information: >----------------------------
 An art gallery awaits you and the Phantom Thief here. She springs up and      
 clears the mezzanine railing, and raises her hands. "It would be terribly     
 rude to not stop and appreciate the art."                                     
                                                                               
 Several of the paintings fly off the walls, and hover around you!             
 Impressionist maidens tug at you to tempt you into dance, while the           
 landscape entices you to come have a sit for a while! And don't forget about  
 the Screaming guy!                                                            
=Dungeon Conditions: Exhaust, Fright==========================================
GS: Josephine Lovelace has attacked Seraph Ragnell with Just A Shot In The Dark!
GS: Josephine Lovelace has completed her action.
GS: Seraph Ragnell takes a solid hit from Josephine Lovelace's Just A Shot In The Dark for 100 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Claude C. Kenny has posed.

Now realizing that this is in fact some sort of stage show, Claude starts clapping politely as MYSTERY HERO X appears (also as a crossbow bolt buzzes spitefully past his shoulder). "Wow, this House Aflac sure knows how to throw a party!" he says excitedly. "I wonder if..." Claude turns to where Leo is shooting rock at... literally nothing at all. At all. Certainly not invisible people, nope.

"Well, if Sir Movestealer gets to play..." Claude grumbles, setting into a run.

<Pose Tracker> Carina Wynne has posed.

For what it's worth, Carina holds the pose the whole time. She believes in Xantia!

"That's right! You'll see that our minds are too fast for eyes!" she finishes, once Mystery Hero X has introduced herself.

And so, she leaps down, right next to Claude. "Hey, you can join the hero team if you want, but you'll want a made-up name 'n' a costume, it's a whole thing!" And with that, she TAKES OFF.

<Pose Tracker> Seraph Ragnell has posed.

        Quite a few people tell the Phantom Thief to stop. Amaragnell laughs at them all, with an *especially* smug smirk to Leo. Mystery Hero X gets a clucking of the tongue and a shake of the head for some reason. But then bolts fly and so does she, dashing down the hallway parallel to where Amaranth has escaped. "Oh my~, I'm *terribly* intimidated!" Amaragnell lilts back at 'Crimson Knight Locus.' There is no hint of Ragnell's usual drawling accent. Actually, this figure sounds rather posh and upper-crust. "But I'm afraid there's no thief in the world, phantom or otherwise, who'll stop simply because you tell them to!"
        
        As tempting as it is to make a dirty remark to Margaret and Rex and her oral fixation with that spear, Amaragnell refrains; the Phantom Thief is *supposed* to be a class act, after all. And anyway, she's a bit busy when Leo casts a stone arte to set rock pillars in her path. She deftly spins around the first, but that sets her right on top of the second one as it rises, and she has to roll into a forward dash to avoid getting smashed into the ceiling, which gets her a nasty clip by the third, one that sends her staggering, just in time for Josie's ARM discharge to explode at her back and send her flying. What becomes of her isn't immediately clear, due to the smoke that spreads in the attack's wake. It seems as though the group might catch up--but...
        
        "Tsk tsk tsk--such *violent* guards...!" Amaragnell's voice rings out as a silhouette appears in the smoke. "What *has* become of the world these days? Ahaha, that's my little joke; such responses are absolutely typical, no matter when the era. Well then, I don't *like* violence, but if you absolutely insist on a dance, who am I to refuse?!"
        
        Two round shadows appear in the smoke, and the shadow raises a long, thin stick--and then something remarkably like *bullets* sounds a split-second before the shattering of glass. In the wake of those noises, balls of fire and blades of water rush forward to smash into the Phantom Thief's pursuers--and they'll be very real and visible to everyone, including those who lack Resonance. The fireballs sear out towards Leo, Claude/Cless, and Margaret and Rex, since Margaret seems to have an interest in balls and things of that nature. Meanwhile, the watery blades sling parallel to the ground towards Mystery Hero X, Crimson Knight Locus, and Josie. As the artes rush out, that shadow turns again to keep running away, their footsteps echoing in the hallway in their wake.

<Pose Tracker> Seraph Amaranth has posed.

        There's a luxurious chuckle from the Phantom Thief as she glances behind her, a delicate and vivacious smile as some people have actually followed her! My, that basically already counts as an absolute win for her. "My, so I've drawn the attention of a priestess. I am honoured!"

        Talia is quicker on the draw, and prompts her to push herself a little further -- with a flutter of her cape, she's leapt cleanly over a service tray as she flashes her a wink. "Aren't you a resplendent one...? You've true senses. What is your name, dear?" She's clearly no ingenue, with the way she moves!

        But-- ah <3! There, just behind Talia, Jacqueline and Shalune have come to chase her! This is just what her heart desires, when she heard that the Caravan Kinship were attending... Shalune seems rather the sort to cotton on quickly, and she isn't disappointed. And to see Jacqueline ask for permission from 'Sister Domitia'... well, that's just what makes her so very Jacqueline in the first place!

        "My beloved Kinship!" she expresses heartily, as she hops and steps over a railing and swans in a pirouette to land across the other side of the manor. "You do not disappoint, certainly -- you've kept up to me, even with the aid of my illusions!"

        She doesn't know that Matilda used to be part of the Kinship, but her presence -- as she wields that silver blade of hers -- causes her to whistle. "My lady knight. Would you bless me with your name? Truly you are as extravagant as they come, your hair billows resplendently as your courage shines...!"

        Is she... is she flirting?

        I'm still having a little trouble getting behind this one!

        By the time she hears and catches up to Hiro and Ruby, she's bust through another door -- into the art gallery. Just as planned. She leaps up to the top of the mezzanine railing as she turns towards her audience.

        "T'would be rude to not stop and appreciate..."

        She snaps her fingers, and lets several of the paintings hover around her. Impressionist, still-lifes, and warlike Avarost-era paintings gather... they lunge towards you, phantasmal weapons and limbs jutting out from their frames! And there's the Screaming guy too!

        She pauses, and looks to Ruby int he midst of this.

        "My! What a delightful little cat you have, sir, she's so very lovely!"

        it was nice knowing you, amaranth

GS: Seraph Ragnell has attacked White Knight Leo with Fire Ball!
GS: Seraph Ragnell has attacked Claude C. Kenny with Fire Ball!
GS: Seraph Ragnell has attacked Margaret with Fire Ball!
GS: Seraph Ragnell has attacked Josephine Lovelace with Aqua Edge!
GS: Seraph Ragnell has attacked Xantia with Aqua Edge!
GS: Seraph Ragnell has attacked Carina Wynne with Aqua Edge!
GS: Seraph Ragnell has completed her action.
GS: Claude C. Kenny guards a hit from Seraph Ragnell's Fire Ball for 104 hit points!
GS: Josephine Lovelace takes a solid hit from Seraph Ragnell's Aqua Edge for 109 hit points!
GS: Carina Wynne takes a glancing hit from Seraph Ragnell's Aqua Edge for 110 hit points!
GS: Margaret takes a solid hit from Seraph Ragnell's Fire Ball for 150 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Neriah Parringer has posed.

"Of course," Sister Domitia says with a polite nod for Talia, taking a quick step to one side so that the sprinting woman doesn't bump her. The priestess does not run; she keeps a brisk but graceful pace.

And yet, she somehow manages to keep up anyway. Goddess only knows how she's doing it. She falls in with Jacqueline, nodding her hooded head to the traveling alchemist. "It would be very welcome, Miss Barber."

The Priestess gives Hiro a longer glance. He is, after all, the consort of Lucia and a very wanted man.

She lets him go unchallenged; not so much his friend with the pretty pink pawsies. "She cares quite a bit, actually," she answers as they dash onward.

Into an art gallery beyond. Slowing, Sister Domitia looks up towards the mezzanine after the fleeing Phantom Thief. It's impossible to see her eyes beneath that hood, but that faint, amused smile continues to tug at her lips, as though this whole pursuit were more charming to her than stressful.

The Phantom Thief is honoured by her pursuit. Beneath that hood, Sister Domitia's smile draws a little more deeply, like a little Cupid's bow. "Is it not my duty to pursue a sinner, Phantom Thief? But then, is it not the thrill of the sinner to be pursued for her sin?"

Those hovering paintings float up around Amaranth. Sister Domitia holds up her right hand and clicks her tongue. "I think appreciation may indeed be in order," she remarks as she begins to draw her cloak closed.

The paintings lunge - and Domitia takes a step back.

And seems to melt into the wall.

There are six adventurers to bear the brunt of the painting now. For several seconds, there's no sign of a priestess.

Until the brickwork near the foot of the stairs ripples - and the brick pattern pours out of Sister Domitia's cloak as she begins to alight the stairs, climbing towards the Phantom Thief.

"You have a terribly splendid manner about you, for one who goes against the Goddess," she comments with another of those little smiles - before she sweeps her hand out towards the paintings. The feeling of some subtle force building can be felt before it's seen.

"Fly from the face of Althena," Sister Domitia intones. Her voice rings like a church bell.

A couple of those paintings may just freeze in place, then turn around and run away like yelping puppies. Abjuration is fun, kids!

DG: Neriah Parringer has used her Tool Chameleon Cloak toward her party's challenge, Don't You Know My Art.
GS: White Knight Leo guards a hit from Seraph Ragnell's Fire Ball for 87 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Carina Wynne has posed.

"Well," Locus yells back to Amaragnell, "that's fair!" And, more quietly, to Mystery Hero X, she offers a 'You're doin' great!' with a thumbs-up of encouragement.

It's not entirely clear whether Carina has heard Shalune's guess that one phantom thief was a fake, or even Jay's decision to go after one while Locus goes after the other, to cover all bases. It's probable the one she went after is simply the first one she laid eyes on. One who has already put some PRECIOUS DISTANCE between herself and Locus, who had been too busy posing, speechifying and waiting on her sidekick to actually... well, run.

And for, Locus runs into blades of water, which prompt some impromptu, high-speed limbo on her part. "Ghhhhhnk!!" There is an unpleasant, high-pitched noise as part of her armor is sheared off, but the person inside at least remains intact.

Carina breathes a sigh of relief.

"If I can't catch up to you, THIS should do the trick! #12 of the 26 Secrets of Locus! UNEXPECTED RETUUUUURN, BOOMERANG!"

A piece of V-shaped metal clicks out from one of her ornately-runed bracelets, and with a wide motion, she throws the boomerang towards the skedaddling, caped criminal!

It might not hit her. In fact, it will almost certainly miss. But... Heh, there is a SECRET, CLEVER TRICK to the Unexpected Return Boomerang. One that none could POSSIBLY GUESS.

<Pose Tracker> Talia has posed.

Talia glances sideways at Matilda. She hesitates, visibly, for a moment. Is that--

No, she reminds herself. She needs to focus on the job right now, not thoughts for later. The red-eyed woman nods once to her and glances down at her map. "Good idea," she says. "I wonder which route she'll take? I--hn. It seems like it might be out of date, no? These manor houses... they are old."

She knows from personal experience. She looks up -- and finds herself looking right at the thief that she is chasing. "Oh--well, since you asked so nicely! I'm Talia," she says. "One of the unwashed masses without a family name to her, tragically! Now--I'm afraid, at the risk of sounding cliche... that priceless artifact belongs to the rich and powerful!"

Her nose wrinkles a little.

She does a sharp turn -- guided by her glance into Matilda's map -- and then she breaks through the doors to the art gallery. "Come, Miss!" she says to Matilda. "There may be a short cut behind one of the paint--IT'S ATTACKING ME."

The painting swings down a phantasmal sword that proves quite real, and Talia draws her own weapon just barely in the nick of time. Her curved, eel-like single-edged short sword swings up. Mirage catches the blade, sparks flying as she just barely holds it back. Her free hand comes down to her side, and she yanks out a parrying dagger.

Which she tries to bury in the side of the painting. "If this comes out of our pay, I will be most cross, no?"

DG: Talia has contributed a Combat Basic Action toward her party's challenge, Don't You Know My Art.
GS: Carina Wynne enters a Counter stance!
GS: Carina Wynne has attacked Seraph Ragnell with Unexpected Return Boomerang!
GS: Carina Wynne has completed her action.
GS: Xantia takes a solid hit from Seraph Ragnell's Aqua Edge for 103 hit points!
GS: Seraph Ragnell takes a glancing hit from Carina Wynne's Unexpected Return Boomerang for 0 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Jacqueline Barber has posed.

Behind her, Jacqueline can hear that the chase in the other direction is getting a little...exciting, so to speak! She doesn't let it distract her she knows Carina and Xan - er, 'Crimson Knight Locus' and 'Mystery Hero X' will be alright. She leaves it in their hands, instead continuing forward with the others.

Even through the illusions, she pursues the Phantom Thief. Matilda gets a nod and a smile, and so does Sister Domitia as she accepts her help, but it's only a brief one - right now, her attention and focus is on the Phantom Thief. She figures theirs probably is, too...and attention seems to be what she wants! She makes it clear, even, that she knows them...

"You must be Miss Amaranth, the Phantom Thief. It's a shame we couldn't meet under better terms..." Jacqueline replies, managing to keep a steady voice even while ducking and weaving throughout the mansion in an attempt to catch up to the Phantom Thief and her agility.

There was something familiar about her...but she couldn't quite place it. Maybe the image she'd built up in her head was just that potent?

"I don't suppose we could ask you to stand down...?" She asks. For a brief moment, the Phantom Thief stops, leaping up to the mezzanine railing...but then she snaps her fingers, and the paintings in the area come to life.

"Th-they are nice paintings, but this may be a little personal!" Jacqueline comments. "If anyone gets hurt, I have curatives, but for now...!"

It's a little more rough than Jacqueline liked to get...but she lunges forward, grabs one of the aggressive artworks, and then...

...very gently tries to put it back on the wall where it belongs?

Whatever works!

DG: Jacqueline Barber has contributed a Combat Basic Action toward her party's challenge, Don't You Know My Art.
<Pose Tracker> Margaret has posed.

 
Rex steals a glance up at the Mystery X and gives her a passing thumbs up, forfeiting any initative bonus from his speed magic.

"Hah! Your words are as empty as your soul! And if you think you're going to get away with whatever asinine point, I assure you that I'll pay any toll to breach the thief's soul -" Margaret begins, before she too is abruptly struck by

you've been struck by
you've been struck by
a smooth criminal

's fireball, which bursts against her and makes her leap off to the side and smash sideways into Rex, to Rex's disadvantage. Fortunately his cloak is not ignited, which is perhaps cold comfort, but comfort nonetheless!

Margaret turns her head to look at the head of the spear.

It's on fire. But, like, reliably so.

"huh," she says, before twisting it round and aiming to stab it at the leg of the fleeing thief! "Althena's justice hobbles the wretched! BURY!"

GS: Margaret has attacked Seraph Ragnell with Shellcracker!
GS: Margaret has completed her action.
DC: MISS! Seraph Ragnell completely evades Shellcracker from Margaret!
<Pose Tracker> Matilda Whitehead has posed.

Mid-stride, Matilda -- gets... flirted... with? Almost immediately, she flushes an exquisite shade of crimson and ends up stammering. "I -- erm -- Matilda Whitehead," she manages, now completely off her game. "It's -- ah -- mrm." She grips her sword a little tighter on reflex, trying to get herself -- stable. Focused. ... something.

Fortunately, Talia gets her attention somewhere besides the retreating phantom thief before too long, and snaps her out of it a bit. "Ah -- quite," she says, shortly before the painting attempts to go blade-to-blade with Talia.

"I feel as though this can't possibly be blamed on us, but... I suppose it is a concern," Matilda replies to Talia, as she takes a few steps in and drives her arming sword toward another of the paintings. The scream puts her off-balance for a second -- but she quickly reaches down to her belt, drawing a knife and throwing it in the general direction while still keeping her attention forward.

DG: Matilda Whitehead has contributed a Combat Basic Action toward her party's challenge, Don't You Know My Art.
<Pose Tracker> Claude C. Kenny has posed.

"Oh hey, that does sound fun," says Claude/Cless to the Crimson Knight Locus. "I mean, I'm already sort of in a costume, but I guess I could think of a name. Maybe... uh..." Claude vaults over a fallen guardsman without breaking stride, still musing about the names. "I mean, I could always go classic, like John Smith, but you want, like, a hero name. Like... the Lone Ranger... or Struyr'ak*... or Schtotleheim Reinbach XI..."

....

"Duodecim Do---"

Claude's musing is suddenly interrupted by giant balls of fire flying out of ABSOLUTELY PROBABLY NOWHERE and arcing toward his precious face. "What the HECK?!" the boy from Earth sputters, but the blast is so quick that he has no time to do anything other than lift both arms in front of his face, absorbing the worst of the burning damage on his arms and chest, grunting with the impact. The expensive purple doublet starts to char away, revealing...

...a tan jacket underneath? How bizarre!

Claude emerges from the fireball trailing smoke and ash, the redde feather litte aflayme, motes of red dancing in his wake. "That's a little serious for a game, y'know!" Claude snaps angrily at the... whoever it is down the hall, because he can't see anyone through the smoke. The space man angles slightly toward the wall, then runs two steps up it, snapping his foot out to kick a rather large oil and undoubtedly expensive oil painting in the general direction of where the fire came from. Probably.

Maybe.

* - A folk hero from the planet Zrout'unsua in the Beta Sector, Struyr'ak was sort of like Robin Hood, if Robin Hood was a 17-tonne quadriped alien whose species communicated entirely through farts, and if Sherwood Forest was a towering spire of twisting lightning ribbons singing the echoing last words of the damned through all eternity.

GS: Claude C. Kenny has attacked Seraph Ragnell with Property Damage no Jutsu!
GS: Claude C. Kenny has completed his action.
<Pose Tracker> White Knight Leo has posed.

        Leo allows himself a smile as the would-be thief goes ping-ponging off his stone columns. She recovers quickly, though, and he has to give her credit for it--it only buys the White Knight ten seconds, at most. A loud bang splits the air, and Leo flinches. He knows that sound by now, and glances in Josie's direction just to be sure it didn't come from--

        Amaranth pulls out a 'stick' and starts shooting with it. At the very least, she does something that looks an awful lot like shooting to someone who knows what to look for. Leo draws his blade in a flash of steel, settling back on his heels as the thief aims the strange magic stick in his direction. A ball of flame races towards him--Leo strikes, and the fireball goes spang off the edge of his blade. It's an imperfect deflection. The sphere passes close enough to his shoulder to singe his uniform and raise burns on his skin, hits the stone wall behind him, and dies.

        Leo flows effortlessly from defense to offense, rushing the dapper woman before she can reload. He strikes for the back of her hand, his blade sweeping out in a careful, precise arc. At the same time, the old Waning Crescent instincts kick in. Even as he strikes, Leo studies Amaranth's footwork, tries to get a feel for how she moves.

        Then Claude kicks an incredibly expensive painting off the wall, and Leo makes this face: D8<

GS: White Knight Leo has attacked Seraph Ragnell with Flash Blade!
GS: White Knight Leo has entered a Reflect stance!
GS: White Knight Leo has completed his action.
GS: Seraph Ragnell critically Guards a hit from Claude C. Kenny's Property Damage no Jutsu for 15 hit points!
GS: Seraph Ragnell takes a glancing hit from White Knight Leo's Flash Blade for 63 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Josephine Lovelace has posed.

        She's hit someone, that much Josie can tell in the wake of her shot; the smoke, combined with the wide assortment of chaos unfolding in here makes it difficult to tell what the outcome of that strike was at first.

        "Sorry, but I'm hardly a guard," she replies sweetly enough to Amaragnell, punctuating that comment with the off-hand twirl of her ARM in her left hand. Such a strange weapon to have, in this world. She strides forward, skirts swishing around her long legs. "Call it a sort of, hmm, violently academic interest?" She shrugs, a helpless 'what can you do' smile on her lips. ...Is she still acting the part she's been playing all evening? Is this even acting? "Why the ankh, of all the things here?"

        An answer may not be immediately forthcoming. Violence begets violence -- such is the way of the world. The skirt, while appropriately concealing for things like 'hidden sidearms' has a certain downside in just how much movement it afford her. The bulletlike blast of water catches the displaced archaeologist straight on, both sending her sprawling from the impact and costing her a few inches of long skirts (and then some).

        This is the point where Josie then picks herself up, plucks at the ruined skirts, makes a brief face--

        remembers that this isn't really her dress

        --and then replaces that look with a lopsided grin.

        "Well, then. Let's see how--"

        Her gaze lifts as a painting from the wall goes flying for the flames. She watches for a moment.

        Which is the point after which where she then shrugs, gets back up onto her feet, and as if to suggest that old saying, 'when in Kislev, do as the Kislevi', takes a potshot at the fleeing phantom thief. Why not.
        She also takes the moment to properly hike up her ruined skirts. Practicality, for once, from Miss Lovelace.

GS: Josephine Lovelace has attacked Seraph Ragnell with Shoot the Breeze!
GS: Josephine Lovelace has completed her action.
<Pose Tracker> Shalune Amira has posed.

        Running in a dress is something of a new experience, but at least Shalune's wearing flats; full of excitable and nervous energy, she's quick to barrel along after Jacqueline, registering that Hiro and Matilda have joined in the chase along with some of the other Drifters around. For a moment, she has the sense of mind to glance at the various directions people are streaming out of the room in several distinct groups, and winces to herself. "A-aww, man, people fell for it super hard, huh?" she blurts, realizing the sheer extent of the misdirection.

        Vaulting a velvet rope, Shalune hurdles her way over the barrier that would normally tastefully restrict their movement around the manor, and winces as she barges through the next door shoulder-first. Maybe don't do that when you're not wearing three layers, she reminds herself, but pushes past the flare of pain to continue the chase, only skidding to a halt when their thief suddenly leaps up a storey to beam down at them.

        "B-Beloved?" she blurts back in astonishment and more than a little awe when the woman speaks, not really sure whether to be flattered or upset. "You lured us out here just to get us to chase you?"

        She's about to say something more when the paintings around the gallery suddenly animate and swoop down towards her; a horseman's charge with a spectral lance stretching out of the canvas in a burst of blue smoke, flanked by a landscape watercolour whose paint seems to shower from the frame in a flooding storm, threatening to wash her away.

        * * *

        Shalune has never been the greatest in the world at seeing through Resonance; still a novice, much of her ability to do so is rooted in how swept up into the situation she is at any given moment, and trying to force what she's seeing usually means she loses it like water through her fingers.

        * * *

        And so, right in this instant, she does try to force it, closing her eyes and driving forward and straight through the illusion rather than offering it any sort of credence. "They're not real! Keep going!" she calls, more for her own benefit than anyone else's. Dimly, she's aware that Resonance sight is something that's trained over time, and a little part of her in the back of her mind fervently hopes that she's actually really bad at it.

DG: Shalune Amira has contributed a Combat Basic Action toward her party's challenge, Don't You Know My Art.
<Pose Tracker> Fei Fong Wong has posed.

Fei murmurs, "One day I'll hear what Althena has to say about Althena." under his breath. He glances over to Jay as it's revealed this lady seems to know of them. He looks back to Amaranth and adds, "Hey is this some sort of game to--"

My. What a delightful little cat you have, sir.

Fei's face grows very pale and very serious. "She's obviously a dragon. Am... Am I the only one who realizes cats don't have wings?" Despair! The degradation of the <s>Filgaian</s> Lunar educational system has left Fei in despair! "Also most...all?...cats don't talk." Pause. "Or breathe fire." Pause. "Or say they're dragons."

"Or...are...pink." Fei says.

Suddenly there are paintings attacking, of course. Fei finds himself drawn to THE SCREAM. Fei is drawn to it. He feels sympathy for the screaming painting. Something about the look in its eyes.

He holds out his RPS Badge. "Would you like to play Rock Paper Scissors?"

"AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHH!!!"

"What you do is--" Fei shakes out his fist. "Rock paper scissors! Like so."

"AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHH!!!"

"We'll do best two out of three."

"AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHH!!!"

Fei exhales slowly and just kicks the poor thing. His foot probably goes right through it. Sorry Leo.

"You wouldn't happen to know why you're doing this?" Fei asks Amaranth, feeling guilty.

DG: Fei Fong Wong has used his Tool RPS Badge toward his party's challenge, Don't You Know My Art.
<Pose Tracker> Xantia has posed.

Mystery Hero X misses the subtle reaction at her appearance. She also misses that there's another Amaranth entirely, not having had the luxury of paying much attention to what was going on around her. Not to mention not being able to see the other one in the first place. Only this one, for some reason. But... something is odd about this, that she can immediately tell. Since she doesn't perceive Seraphs in the same way those with Resonance would, this has the unexpected side-effect of making it obvious to her that something's off when she sees one. But she may not put two and two together right away, and Ragnell knows how Xantia's unique perception of things works better than she herself does, so... that could get interesting.

For the time being, there is not much of a chance to think about things too deeply. This is time for action! Hero action! Which means that she has to pay close attention to what Locus is doing. The reassurance that she did good with her entrance helps her motivation, so she makes doubly sure that she follows in Locus's exact footsteps.

Which means she blunders right into the water blades as they pass by Locus. "Owww!!" That felt sharp! How can water be sharp? Though the pain in her legs doesn't go unnoticed, the streaks of red appearing there are disregarded. Lucky her, she was partially shielded from the attack by her mentor, which was probably totally the plan all along.

Of course, then the moment comes to counterattack, so she's quickly capable of smiling again. She's been waiting to use her made-up attack names. "Don't worry, Locus, I'll catch up to her! CRIMSOOOOON FLASH!" ...wait, she's not even the one who has Crimson in her name!

In any case, having made her intentions clear, Mystery Hero X follows suit by leaping ahead with sudden burst of speed, a blur of motion lashing out towards the purported Phantom Thief. A flash of red light extends a bit further than the hero-in-training herself does - an energy blade generated from the bangle on her arm lashes out in an attempt to catch the thief off guard. Of course she wouldn't go anywhere without her ARM, even if it clashed a bit with the dress.

The red energy blade remains visible even after the strike, Xantia fully expecting a counterattack to follow. "You might as well give up, you can't escape!" So she says, but even she's not naive enough to expect that to actually happen.

GS: Xantia has attacked Seraph Ragnell with Crimson Flash!
GS: Xantia has completed her action.
<Pose Tracker> Hiro has posed.

 
Invited depends on one's definition of the word. But does it matter when they're conscripted by the Guard to go after the thief? Hiro only gets time to salute to Leo one last time before he vanishes down the service entrance.
 
A darkened art gallery is what awaits them past the thick doors of the portal.
 
And above he sees the thief vaulting up to the Mezzanine. "I'm sure the art won't mind us..." "I AM NO LONGER CONFLICTED!"
 
And that's when an impressionist maiden tries to take him by the arm - tugging him one way, "... waiting." He squeaks. "S-Sorry Miss... I'm... not really interested in dancing... because..."
 
The truth is there's only one person he's interested in dancing with like that. Not that he can say that. All the while the end of that parasol sure has a sharp looking edge.
 
"BECAUSE HE'S TAKEN! AND HEY - SEE? FEI HAS IT!"
 
That maiden gets a pink pawsie right to the eye causing her to let go.
 
Ruby doesn't miss a beat as she flies through the air - grasping a long-stemmed rose from a pot as she flies on by.
 
A pink blur that passes by Amaranth "Heyyyy - soooo... your mistake was calling Calamity Ruby-"
 
There's a SHRIP of claws as Ruby passes by a drape and rips it off it's window. Then a gout of flame and- "-BLAZE TYRANT OF THE SILVER STAR- A FREAKING CAT!"
 
Yeah she's dropping a drape that's just a little too flammable right in Amaranth's direction.
 
Meanwhile Hiro is fencing a Phantasmal axe off with his sword as he winces as he starts hearing the screaming. Thankfully Fei kicks the thing, causing the screaming to stop - but leaving a ringing in his ear - "Oh dangit... I just wanted her enthusiasm to catch her up to about an eight and... instead she took her straight up to eleven." That's what he remarks as he tries to catch up quickly.
 

DG: Hiro has contributed a Combat Basic Action toward his party's challenge, Don't You Know My Art.
========================<* The Heist at House Armagnac *>=========================
=====================<* CHALLENGE - Don't You Know My Art *>======================
|Type: Exploration |Dungeon Ability: Combat    |Challenge Rating: 2          | 
----------------------------< Challenge Information: >----------------------------
 An art gallery awaits you and the Phantom Thief here. She springs up and      
 clears the mezzanine railing, and raises her hands. "It would be terribly     
 rude to not stop and appreciate the art."                                     
                                                                               
 Several of the paintings fly off the walls, and hover around you!             
 Impressionist maidens tug at you to tempt you into dance, while the           
 landscape entices you to come have a sit for a while! And don't forget about  
 the Screaming guy!                                                            
=Dungeon Conditions: Exhaust, Fright==========================================
===================<* The Heist at House Armagnac - Round 2 *>====================
=======================< Results - Don't You Know My Art >========================
Player                               Exhaustion                      Pass/Fail
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Neriah Parringer                    5 --(12)--> 17                 Fail
Chameleon Cloak                     1   Combat  Effects: Cleanse              
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Jacqueline Barber                   5 --(12)--> 17                 Fail
Fight                               0   Combat  Effects: BASIC                
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Hiro                                10 --(5)--> 15                 Pass
Fight                               0   Combat  Effects: BASIC                
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Fei Fong Wong                       5 --(5)--> 10                  Pass
RPS Badge                           3   Combat  Effects: Rally                
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Shalune Amira                       10 --(12)--> 22                Fail
Fight                               0   Combat  Effects: BASIC                
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Talia                               10 --(12)--> 22                Fail
Fight                               0   Combat  Effects: BASIC                
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Matilda Whitehead                   5 --(5)--> 10                  Pass
Fight                               0   Combat  Effects: BASIC                
------------------------------------< Party >-------------------------------------
Leader: Neriah Parringer            20 --(20)--> 40                Pass
Conditions: Exhaust(1)|Fright(2)
Effects: Cleanse
================================< Dream Chasers >=================================
DG: The party led by Neriah Parringer has passed this challenge! The party gained 20 exploration! If anyone needs to use party
management commands, do so now. Otherwise, the next round's GM may begin the next round with +dungeon/draw.
DG: Neriah Parringer has drawn a new Challenge.
========================<* The Heist at House Armagnac *>=========================
===================<* CHALLENGE - Got Your Game Planned Out *>====================
|Type: Exploration |Dungeon Ability: Combat    |Challenge Rating: 2          | 
----------------------------< Challenge Information: >----------------------------
 A twist and a turn, and you've finally got a lead on the chase! You and your  
 ilk have trapped the Phantom Thief in a pincer attack in this corridor.       
                                                                               
 "Ara ara..." she seems genteel and curious as she plants a finger to her      
 lip, curious as to what you've got in store. At the same time, she clicks     
 her fingers, doves emerging from her cuffs that obscure her form. Even with   
 these distractions, now's your best chance to strike!                         
=Dungeon Conditions: Wound, Secret============================================
GS: Seraph Ragnell takes a glancing hit from Josephine Lovelace's Shoot the Breeze for 72 hit points!
GS: Seraph Ragnell takes a glancing hit from Xantia's Crimson Flash for 60 hit points!
GS: Riposte! Statuses applied to Xantia!
<Pose Tracker> Seraph Ragnell has posed.

        "My, aren't *you* easygoing for a superhero! I might just want you to catch me after all~!" Amaragnell teases Locus, winking as she waggles a finger at her over her shoulder. "Though I wonder, between you and your sidekick, who might be the more easygoing? <3" Now just what is she implying...?
        
        But then Margaret trash-talks her, claiming her words are as empty as her soul. Amaragnell only laughs. "Oh no, and now you've gone and hurt my feelings. Boo hoo! Boo hoo hoo!" This is underscored when Margaret thrusts the blazing spear out at her, which the illusion-covered Seraph barely needs to dodge; she gets the impression that perhaps Margaret is used to a weapon with more reach. "Oh, my! I don't think you can use the excuse that it's too cold out for your lack of length, either..."
        
        Was she going to refrain from dirty jokes? Oh well. Meanwhile, Cress/Claude chastises her for making this 'game' too serious, and Amaragnell, not understanding that he thinks this is all an act, laughs gaily. "Oh~? Surely you weren't thinking there wouldn't be *some* danger in chasing after a Phantom Thief?" Then again, it's Claude, who is... just, incredibly dumb. Ragnell is reminded of this when he kicks a painting off the wall towards her. She spins, illusory cape billowing, and *catches* the oil painting before it can hit the flames, though its weight means it's not precisely easy; then, with a wink to Leo, she *hurls* it his way, sending it off with a kick of her own when he attempts to strike her hand. Perhaps his affront at the way Claude had used that art will twist his blow some.
        
        Meanwhile, Locus throws a boomerang her way. As anticipated, Amarangell simply moves her head to one side to avoid it, then clucks her tongue at the attack. She pays for this when X suddenly charges at lightning speed up towards her with a red energy blade in hand, and Amaragnell needs to backflip to avoid a direct hit. However, it still tears at her, while Josie's potshot scores a line across her arm.
        
        Two things of note when she returns to her feet: despite the fact that she was definitely struck, she doesn't *appear* to be any worse for the wear. Two: she is completely unfazed by the presence of ARMs.
        
        "Violently academic interest, hmm? Well, I suppose I can applaud you for your *honesty*. But..." Another wink and a wide grin. "If you wish to know why *this* was the Precious Treasure--I'm afraid you'll simply have to catch me first, *ma cherie*!"
        
        She blows Josie a kiss, then kicks a piece of antique furniture her way in an attempt to create a more physical barrier/stumbling point for Josie and the others. She follows this up by leaping backwards towards a corner, raising her cane, and firing--at the ceiling? Which might seem strange in the instant before a thunderhead forms over everyone's heads ("everyone" being, more specifically, Margaret, Rex, X, Locus, and Claude, since Leo is dealing with flying art and Josie with errant furniture) and starts thundering down sheets of rain and lightning for a brief but intense moment. While the others are dealing with *that*, she turns and dashes around the corner at her back.

GS: Seraph Ragnell has attacked Josephine Lovelace with Pummel Kick!
GS: Seraph Ragnell has attacked White Knight Leo with Pummel Kick!
GS: Seraph Ragnell has attacked Margaret with Storm Shot!
GS: Seraph Ragnell has attacked Xantia with Storm Shot!
GS: Seraph Ragnell has attacked Claude C. Kenny with Storm Shot!
GS: Seraph Ragnell has attacked Carina Wynne with Storm Shot!
GS: Seraph Ragnell has completed her action.
<Pose Tracker> Seraph Amaranth has posed.

        "A most exquisite sin it is, is it not? These nobles do not understand the true history of this Ankh..." Amaranth expresses with verve, as she lets the cross loom suspended in the air above her palm.

        She presses her finger to her lip -- and gasps laughingly as she does her best to hop, step, and climb up the brick pattern being leveraged against her with surprising adroitness.

        Domitia's force shoos away some of the paintings, as she expresses, "Now, I never professed to blaspheme against dear Althena."

        There's a look of appreciation at Talia, as she makes a gesture and bows richly as she lets one of the floating bricks carry her across the room. "'Tis true this artifact holds no price. Thus I cannot return it to those who would name a price upon it, Lady Talia!"

        Talia's blade catches against the phantasmal knight coming out of the Avarost painting; there's a whistle of appreciation at the fancy short sword she's using.

        "La Fille du Temps, the one and only... or am I?" Amaranth sweetly responds to Jacqueline, appreciating the way the dress she made for her moves and performs. She didn't know Jacqueline would be chasing her in it, but there's something very fateful about it...

        "Unfortunately, I cannot, my dear Jacqueline. Not while such injustice to an important piece of history is occurring!"

        Matilda looks incredibly flustered, ah, that's too cute~! "Matilda Whitehead..." she makes sure to emphasize and push the air out as she smiles and lets her work the art out with Talia, chuckling as she expresses, "I'm very much looking forward to this."

        She drops down towards another railing when Shalune asks her question. She answers her and Fei at the same time: "Araa... there is the thrill of the chase... and that you've come to chase me... is a reward in and out of itself to me, fufu..."

        She winks again as she-- pauses, when Fei engages the Screaming guy as she genuinely asks: "What is Rock Paper Scissors? What a fascinating game! I want to play too!"

        She vaults over the Screaming painting and throws out an open hand. Paper!

        This... lands her in clear sight of everyone, as she realises the rest of the paintings have been dealt with. She smirks and expresses, "Time to go--"

        Your mistake was calling Calamity Ruby-

        She looks up. Sweatdrop. "Oh..."

        -BLAZE TYRANT OF THE SILVER STAR- A FREAKING CAT!

        There's a genuine yelp of surprise as Amaranth not so terribly gracefully dives out of the way, flailing and batting at her cape -- even if it's part of her -- to go, "Ara ara... you are terribly, terribly..."

        She listens in on Fei, on how Ruby is a Dragon and not a Cat. Her eyes are... um, lit with excitement...

        "Adorable...! Aaaaaah, I'm in awe! Ruby-chan, beloved Dragon, you're simply perfecto!"

        ... the suave Phantom Thief Amaranth persona definitely just... ...slipped... there...

        At least, she seems to realise it. She clears her throat, as she remarks, "Ah, but you have me at a disadvantage now..." She raises her arm, and doves suddenly emerge from her cuffs, granting her cover as she begins her escape.

        Now's your best chance to strike!

GS: Claude C. Kenny guards a hit from Seraph Ragnell's Storm Shot for 64 hit points!
GS: Mighty! Statuses applied to Seraph Ragnell!
GS: CRITICAL! Josephine Lovelace takes a glancing hit from Seraph Ragnell's Pummel Kick for 67 hit points!
GS: Hyper! Statuses applied to Seraph Ragnell!
GS: CRITICAL! Xantia takes a glancing hit from Seraph Ragnell's Storm Shot for 52 hit points!
GS: Hyper and Mighty! Statuses applied to Seraph Ragnell!
GS: Margaret takes a glancing hit from Seraph Ragnell's Storm Shot for 54 hit points!
GS: Mighty! Statuses applied to Seraph Ragnell!
GS: COUNTER! Carina Wynne strikes at Seraph Ragnell with a counter attack!
GS: CRITICAL! Carina Wynne takes a solid hit from Seraph Ragnell's Storm Shot for 109 hit points!
GS: Hyper and Mighty! Statuses applied to Seraph Ragnell!
GS: CRITICAL! White Knight Leo critically Guards a hit from Seraph Ragnell's Pummel Kick for 22 hit points!
GS: Hyper! Statuses applied to Seraph Ragnell!
<Pose Tracker> Neriah Parringer has posed.

Even through it all, Sister Domitia gives Talia a quick look and a nod. She may be intruding a bit, but: "Hello, Talia. I am Domitia. Thank you for your help."

Then it's back to the fighting. And the little verbal joust with the Phantom Thief. As the paintings are shooed away, the hooded priestess begins to alight the stairs at a steady pace. "Ah, but Althena is hardly one to revel in sin, is she? And what of the Ankh you speak of, then? One wonders what it is you see in those pages of history...."

Sister Domitia trails off at the sight of Ruby venting her frustrations on Amaranth. The priestess would probably blink if anyone could see her eyes under that hood.

"...Remarkable," she breathes.

The ever-so-charmed Phantom Thief unleashes a literal flock of doves, but by the time she does, Sister Domitia is again pulling away from the fighting, hoping to escape Amaranth's notice by repeating her own little trick of illusion. Within seconds, the white colour of her cloak has melted away until she looks like part of the wall, fading into it and vanishing from sight.

Under the cover of the cloak's chameleon effect, Sister Domitia moves. She lets the doves distract where they will but does her level best not to fall for the distraction, no matter how pretty the birds are and no matter how elegant and fancy the Phantom Thief is.

The latter's hard. She likes fancy, kind of.

In any case, as Amaranth begins her escape, it'll be on her way past a painting hanging on the wall. It depicts several Chiro Mongrels playing poker.

Until part of the painting pulls away from the canvas. The pattern of the painting drains away from Sister Domitia's cloak. She parts it and reaches out with her staff, sliding the butt of it towards Amaranth's ankle even as the last of the gambling Chiro Mongrels bleed away from her garment. She's trying to get lucky and trip up the escaping Thief.

"Please," she invites, smiling a bit archly. "Stay awhile, won't you?"

DG: Neriah Parringer has used her Tool Chameleon Cloak toward her party's challenge, Got Your Game Planned Out.
GS: Seraph Ragnell takes a glancing hit from Carina Wynne's Counter Attack for 50 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Jacqueline Barber has posed.

It's true - these are, in fact, illusions, as Shalune points out. But...she couldn't help it! Jacqueline didn't have it in her to damage fine artwork like this, illusion or not. She ends up wasting time, but fortunately Hiro, Fei, and Talia make up for it. She shoots the three of them a smile, and then continues forward.

"I see...well, I can't deny that it does seem a waste to keep it for one's own personal collection, but I don't think stealing it is the way to go about it, either!" Jacqueline replies. "Even if you donated it to a museum that could appreciate it more, they could hardly accept a stolen artifact..."

...Did Lunar have museums, come to think of it? She tries not to focus on the idea that she might have slipped up a little there. She focuses more on the fact that...gosh, this Phantom Thief sure is impressive! It takes a lot of composure to keep herself from going all starry-eyed(though she would probably go squealing excitedly about it to a certain waitress later).

She doesn't even notice as Amaranth's persona slips a little...but she definitely notices the doves.

"A-ah! Winds, aid me!" With a quick gesture of her left hand and that completely fake incantation, Jacqueline releases a gust of wind. She doesn't want to hurt the doves, illusionary as they most likely are, instead aiming to just...divert them harmlessly away.

DG: Jacqueline Barber has contributed a Combat Basic Action toward her party's challenge, Got Your Game Planned Out.
<Pose Tracker> Claude C. Kenny has posed.

Claude C. Kenny... still can't see or hear Ragnell, unfortunately. Even after several months on Lunar, the Boy from Earth has little more in the way of Resonance than when he first began. But when his painting suddenly goes into a spin, reverses direction, and then throws itself at Leo, he's pretty sure something is up. When the Mysterious Heroes (and also Leo) start shouting at the absolutely nothing, he finally figures it out.

"Oh, it's one of those invisible people Rose told me about," he says, then realizes he's TOTALLY FROM LUNAR, YOU GUYS. "I mean, that we can... all see. Of course."

...

Rain and lightning provide a welcome diversion, and Claude baseball-slides under a rich-looking table holding china or some boring crap like that - the table eats the worst of the blast, but the electricity arcs through the water underneath, and Claude is a little jinky in the limbs when he gets back up.

"L-least this one is-sn't on the f-funions," he chatters to himself as he continues the pursuit, bouncing off the perpendicular wall and into a roll to keep from losing any more speed as he takes the corner. When he gets back to his feet, he sees a clear corridor in front of him. Which is, of course, all he would expect to see. And so he sucks in a breath and focuses his chi as he lifts one foot.

"TEEEEEEEEEEEEEAR INTO PIEEEEEEEECEEEEEES!"

Claude slams the foot down, and a pulse of energy flickers along the stone corridor, under Ragnell's feet and past her, before suddenly bursting up into a series of large, jagged stone spikes that may slow Ragnell's progress but will definitely be expensive to fix.

GS: Claude C. Kenny has attacked Seraph Ragnell with Ripper Blast!
GS: Claude C. Kenny has completed his action.
<Pose Tracker> Talia has posed.

"Nobles like to pin all sorts of unfortunate things on us lowly commoners," Talia says with a sigh. Then, she hisses as the painting breaks through her guard. Phantasmal blade strikes past real one; Mirage flies to the side, a blur of blue through the air, and then it bites into her side.

She rushes forward, though, and plunges Mirage into it -- and slashes the painting apart. She looks sideways, onward to Amaranth, and meets her eyes for just a moment. There is a brief flash of irritation, perhaps from the pain that wells up so sharply in her side -- then she cracks a smile. "You're good with words? But, I'm afraid--"

Her eyes dart, quickly, to the left. She doesn't know Matilda Whitehead. She is not who she is used to fighting side-by-side with. When she mouths 'go left,' she isn't sure that she will understand or move with her. Especially considering how she looks so flustered. She looks back at Amaranth, as she begins to escape -- as the doves come flying out, offering that terrible cover. So Talia wheels back, spinning her sword backward with one hand.

The flickering light of the mansion dances off Mirage's mottled, swirling steel. It isn't an ordinary weapon, clearly -- no, Mirage has swirls of blue and grey in the steel that refuse to catch the light properly. Which, especially, is true when she hurls the sword and it slams into the door frame next to Amaranth. The blade strikes true, wood splintering, and Talia's fingers so far away and outstretched.

And then she whisks away into strands of shadow. Those strands streak and rush through the air -- they split around Neriah's staff, midswing -- and then all join together. Talia's body reforms, leaping already, and her leg is pulled back for a mid-air roundhouse kick. She cries out, as she slams her foot for Amaranth. Her hand, already, is gripping Mirage's hilt. "Demonic Swallow Kick!"

And, true to her promise, she went right.

DG: Talia has contributed a Combat Basic Action toward her party's challenge, Got Your Game Planned Out.
<Pose Tracker> Neriah Parringer has posed.

Sister Domitia's hood turns subtly but Talia can feel her staring all of a sudden.

<Pose Tracker> Hiro has posed.

 
Upon acknowledging that she's a dragon - Ruby's furor gets taken down a notch as she suddenly blushes a bit at being called adorable. "H-Hey! I'm supposed to be cultivating an image as a fierce sort of dragon though - not a cute one!" She then whines, "Fei! Tell her I'm more majestic than adorable!"
 
... She doesn't seem too against it though.
 
Hiro leaps up the stairs and just charges straight down the hall at the Phantom Thief Amaranth. Into a cloud of doves - and more doves - and more doves and - "Where did she get all these pigeons!? uwu... I can't burn any of them! It'd feel like I'm hurting Penelope's cousins or something!" "-aren't these doves?"
 
"N-Not the point!"
 
Hiro though - out of respect for not wanting to hurt them, reaches down to grab a boomerang out of his belt - and throws it. Which arcs down the hall, curving over the horde of pigeons... until it swoops around to attempt to smack Amaranth at the side of her head. "You're just toying with us aren't you!? Are you really serious about stealing this or... are you more interested in playing a game with us?"
 

DG: Hiro has contributed a Combat Basic Action toward his party's challenge, Got Your Game Planned Out.
<Pose Tracker> Margaret has posed.

 
The flame-tipped spear rebounds. It remains on fire, at least - just - the tip; Margaret herself has a slowly dawning expression of sheer consternation as Amaragnell's cruel words cut to the bone. The BONE!

The metaphorical bone. The skeleton of her self regard. Ragnell can see the storm gathering on Margaret's face. She might also notice that Rex shoots a pair of arrows at her from over Margaret's shoulder, but that's definitely in the category of "worth."

The thundercloud comes together and lightning crashes. There are no new mothers in the immediate area (for once, Fei) and so nobody dies; Margaret is singed further, not helped by all that metal jewelry she's wearing which is becoming, by attrition, an increasing percentage of her clothing.

Her eyes close for a moment. She counts three, or ten, perhaps, even as Rex - who had to do a power-slide to avoid getting smashed into by thunderbolts - fires another couple of arrows. Token things. Pressure points. He's breathing heavily; he isn't young and drinking all that punch didn't help.

Margaret's eyes open. She raises one hand to her mouth, as if to veil herself, as she says to Ragnell slowly, "It's hard to handle something new, isn't it? You're quite right. - Oh, do we have to catch you? To find out what your "Precious Treasure" is? That's quite unfortunate; it must be difficult to be..."

She presses her fingertips against her mouth, and finishes the statement: "Chaste," before blowing Ragnell a kiss.

It's a literal one! You can see the purple lip-mark fly towards her. It aims for the face.

Behind it is a deceptive veil that shows only a SHADOWY WORLD LIT BY THE GREEN FIRES OF HORROR AND HAUNTED BY THE EIKONS OF THE TAROT. This may not work that well on a Seraph but Margaret thinks she's dealing with just some Phantom Thief. "Get her once it takes root!" she calls, more or less at Leo.

<Pose Tracker> Fei Fong Wong has posed.

Fei gapes at the...answer there. She really is just risking her life, limb, and freedom for...fun, essentially. For the thrill. Part of him is upset. To create trouble like this just for the 'thrill' of it all. Isn't life dangerous enough without adding fake danger to it?

But the stronger part of him is just happy that he can 'enjoy the chase' without having to feel guilty. If he tempers himself, this can be a good time for everybody. Nobody's in any real danger. Failure or victory--it doesn't truly matter and that means that faint gnawing in the back of his head is ever quieter.

"Heh." Fei glances to Ruby, smiling. "I guess you've got a fan."

Claude shouts TEAR INTO PIECES.

THIS IS MY LAST RESORT!

Fei is given further instructions and he clears his throat. "Right, right. Phantom Thief! Ruby is more majestic than adorable! It's like a 60-40 split!"

He can't harm any pigeons either. What if one of them was Penelope?! No, instead he flits through them with expert timing as befitting a martial artist and he's soon in melee range with Amaranth.

At which point he says, "Okay so to play you hold out your fist. You bounce it three times and then you change it at the last moment on the third bounce. Rock happens to also look like your fist, that beats scissors. Scissors is well--" He holds out his index and middle finger. "That beats paper! And paper..." He just holds out his hand flat. "That's paper and beats rock! It's about reflexes and analyzing your opponent...it's the world's most magnificient game...Perhaps one day you too--" He holds out the RPS Badge. "--will become an RPS Champion...!!"

Amaranth is forced to listen to this tutorial while avoiding everything else. It may stall her escape!

DG: Fei Fong Wong has used his Tool RPS Badge toward his party's challenge, Got Your Game Planned Out.
GS: Margaret has attacked Seraph Ragnell with Illusion Kiss!
GS: Margaret has completed her action.
<Pose Tracker> Shalune Amira has posed.

        "There's better ways to educate someone about true histories than straight-up stealing them!" Shalune blurts back to the mysterious Thief who dances away from them; she can't really bring herself to sound angry, not with such a chaotic and unreal chase on her hands, so the statement is more so that she continues to go with the flow rather than anything else. "That way no-one figures it out!"

        She risks opening one eye, hoping that she's blown through the last of the illusions; it turns out to be an exceptionally good idea, as she does so just in time to prevent herself from slamming straight into a turn on the staircase she's barreling upwards and instead gets to pivot on one foot pushing off the wall and up the next flight.

        At the top, there's a clear run towards La Fille du Temps, the corridor open and their quarry's escape stymied by Talia's swordthrow. For a moment, her brow furrows, as something else the Phantom Thief says burrows its way into her mind; there's something increasingly familiar about her frame of speech, and her attention wavers hard as she tries to grasp for it in the midst of the chase. "Perfecto...?" she mumbles--

        --and realizes that her body has been running on automatic, propelling her in the direction of both the woman and her sudden shield of doves. Shalune's got far too much momentum to be able to stop herself now; all she can do is turn her run into a diving lunge, time slowing sufficiently to let her stare down the collection of beady eyes that await in her path. Fervently, she hopes doves are kinder than pigeons. They're a symbol of peace, right? Right?

DG: Shalune Amira has contributed a Combat Basic Action toward her party's challenge, Got Your Game Planned Out.
<Pose Tracker> White Knight Leo has posed.

        Leo feels as though he should know something here. There's a familiar sensation in the air near the thief, an aura not completely unlike his own--

        'one of those invisible people Rose told me about'

        Leo's head jerks towards Claude, the Boy from Earth unknowingly providing him with a disturbing bit of information. "A Seraph?" Then Amaranth catches the painting out of the air, and tosses it at Leo--the heavy wooden frame even has a bit of spin to it, as if it were a giant frisbee. Leo throws his sword to his off-hand, and grabs for the painting's frame. His fingers close around painted wood, and the delightful piece of art comes to something resembling a stop inches from his chest. Pain shoots through his wrist as some of the force of the impact goes there, instead. Leo grunts, and gently sets the painting down.

        "What is the meaning of this," Leo demands, significantly more incensed than he was five minutes ago. "In Althena's name, explain yourself, Seraph!" He will brook no argument. Whatever banter is taking place between Amaranth and Margaret is irrelevant for now, but Margaret's recommendation is not. "DEMON FANG!" Leo roars. He surges forwards, sweeping his blade through a wide arc--a bolt of chi leaps from the edge, and goes racing across the floor towards Amaranth. If he can just knock her off-balance after Margaret stuns her, this whole fracas can be over and done with.

GS: White Knight Leo has attacked Seraph Ragnell with Demon Fang!
GS: White Knight Leo has completed his action.
<Pose Tracker> Matilda Whitehead has posed.

The more La Fille du Temps speaks, the more flustered Matilda finds herself. ... she's kind of easy to put off her game, honestly, when it comes right down to it... -- No! She's here in a professional capacity! She can be flustered all she wants later!

... Something gnaws at her about that 'perfecto,' but she doesn't have time to focus in on it, fortunately; those doves startle her into movement. She moves back at first, readying her shield in addition to her blade at long last. "I suppose that's so," Matilda finally manages to offer back to Talia, before pressing forward. She's... charmed enough that she doesn't actually want to hurt the phantom thief that much, really, though...

She settles for a shield bash, at first -- quick and efficient, a little hop that takes her through the doves. It's at about this point that she realizes she does have something for this sort of situation, actually, though...

Reaching into her cloak, she hurls a vial at the Phantom Thief's feet. It explodes upward in a small cloud of all-too-famliar spores... after which she calls to Shalune and Jay in particular, "Ah -- cover your nose!"

DG: Matilda Whitehead has contributed a Combat Basic Action toward her party's challenge, Got Your Game Planned Out.
========================<* The Heist at House Armagnac *>=========================
===================<* CHALLENGE - Got Your Game Planned Out *>====================
|Type: Exploration |Dungeon Ability: Combat    |Challenge Rating: 2          | 
----------------------------< Challenge Information: >----------------------------
 A twist and a turn, and you've finally got a lead on the chase! You and your  
 ilk have trapped the Phantom Thief in a pincer attack in this corridor.       
                                                                               
 "Ara ara..." she seems genteel and curious as she plants a finger to her      
 lip, curious as to what you've got in store. At the same time, she clicks     
 her fingers, doves emerging from her cuffs that obscure her form. Even with   
 these distractions, now's your best chance to strike!                         
=Dungeon Conditions: Wound, Secret============================================
===================<* The Heist at House Armagnac - Round 3 *>====================
=====================< Results - Got Your Game Planned Out >======================
Player                               Exhaustion                      Pass/Fail
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Neriah Parringer                    17 --(15)--> 32                Pass
Chameleon Cloak                     1   Combat  Effects: Cleanse              
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Jacqueline Barber                   17 --(15)--> 32                Pass
Fight                               0   Combat  Effects: BASIC                
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Hiro                                15 --(20)--> 35                Fail
Fight                               0   Combat  Effects: BASIC                
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Fei Fong Wong                       10 --(15)--> 25                Pass
RPS Badge                           3   Combat  Effects: Rally                
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Shalune Amira                       22 --(20)--> 42                Fail
Fight                               0   Combat  Effects: BASIC                
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Talia                               22 --(20)--> 42                Fail
Fight                               0   Combat  Effects: BASIC                
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Matilda Whitehead                   10 --(20)--> 30                Fail
Fight                               0   Combat  Effects: BASIC                
------------------------------------< Party >-------------------------------------
Leader: Neriah Parringer            40 --(10)--> 50                Fail
Conditions: Fright(1)|Secret(2)|Wound(2)
Effects: Cleanse
================================< Dream Chasers >=================================
DG: The party led by Neriah Parringer 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.
DG: Neriah Parringer has drawn a new Challenge.
========================<* The Heist at House Armagnac *>=========================
==================<* CHALLENGE - My Mind is Too Fast For Eyes *>==================
|Type: Exploration |Dungeon Ability: Wits      |Challenge Rating: 2          | 
----------------------------< Challenge Information: >----------------------------
 You emerge into a hallway full of doors. The Phantom Thief lavishly chuckles  
 and disappears down a nearby exit, but reappears behind you with a playful    
 salute. "Over here!" she taunts, then vanishes once more.                     
                                                                               
 There's way too many doors here! She's conjured illusionary doors with fake   
 entrances and exits! You'll have to figure out which one's which if you       
 don't want to fall behind!                                                    
=Dungeon Conditions: Stupify==================================================
<Pose Tracker> Carina Wynne has posed.

"Somethin' Ranger, maybe," Locus tells Claude, distracted, as she has to dodge a water blade, aaaaaaaah

"This ain't a game!!" she then adds, since he seems to have gotten the WRONG IDEA there. Hero stuff is serious business! Sometimes fun, but serious! It doesn't occur to her that he might, in fact, be missing part of what's going on. And that this might also be the case for Xantia, for that matter!

"What, really??" she asks, sounding like she actually believes it, when Amaragnell teases her about getting caught. "I think we're both pretty easygoin'! But we're not gonna take it easy about catchin' you!!" If there was any implication there, it sailed far over her head.

"Wait. Is that an ARM?" she then asks, because she is FAR more familiar with ARMs than she is with strange magical canes and assorted sorcerous boomsticks. Then a localized storm appears, prompting her to retract her question, like so: "Ack! Whoa! Whoa there!!!"

She tries to run past bolts of lightning, but one catches her square in the chest, which is extra painful due to the armor that came off just a moment ago. The superhero stumbles and falls, wincing in pain and having trouble standing back up. Xantia might, huuuuh, want NOT to imitate that.

But this is when the UNEXPECTED RETURN BOOMERANG shows its thoroughly unexpected secret feature. That's right! Once it's sailed past the phantom thief... it returns to the one who threw it!! This means... grazing past Amaragnell! WOW!

With an application of GUTS, however (and if Mystery Hero X can give a hand as she runs past, that could be nice), Locus is back on her feet! And since she is conscious that she is losing ground, she attempts to take a slightly more direct route: She runs right up the wall, running alongside it in blatant defiance of gravity, until she ends up rounding up the corner Amaragnell just ran past, in a maneuver that doesn't even LOOK like it should work but totally does.

And so, she continues to run, perpendicular to the ground, possibly getting into an unwitting art-defacing competition with Claude. "Okay now! Time for a secret improvised technique! TRIANGLE KICK!"

This 'triangle kick' consists of kicking herself off the wall she is currently using as floor, flipping in the air, then kicking herself off of the opposite wall before finally flying foot-forward towards Amaragnell! This may be needlessly convoluted, but at least it looks cool.

GS: Carina Wynne has attacked Seraph Ragnell with Physics-Ignoring Karate Stunt!
GS: Carina Wynne has completed her action.
<Pose Tracker> Josephine Lovelace has posed.

        "Invisible people? Have you been in the drink?" This is commented to Claude, before he makes a certain u-turn conversationally.

        Internally, Josie considers the situation a little more deeply than outward signs might indicate. Invisible people... huh.

        What's also interesting: this little thief doesn't seem the least bit shocked by a weapon that -- as far as Josie has been able to determine and see for herself -- is an unknown factor to the people of Lunar. That suggests a thing or two.
        As does the fact that she appears entirely unharmed when she stands, despite being hit. Multiple times.

        Invisible people.

        A Seraph, Leo voices then, and there the piece slots into place. Again, Josie grins.

        

        "Well, I've always prided myself on my honesty," voices Josie on the subject, her gaze steady on the apparent phantom thief as she makes her advance, skirts tucked haphazardly into what is apparently her garter. "Hmm~ But you're not the type to kiss and tell, are you, sweetheart? Well, that suits me just fine. It was getting a little boring before you showed up..."
        Her gaze hoods for a moment. "You and your friends, that is. Or am I possibly barking up the wrong tree?" To judge by the tone in Josie's voice she doesn't think she is.

        ...Not entirely. One possibility has afforded itself, but as for testing that...

        Well, when what you have is a hammer, all problems look like nails, so to speak.

        And speaking of nails--

        Josie has enough warning here to sidestep out of the way of the chair, but it's insufficient to evade its passage entirely. It clips her handily on the side of the head, which sends her reeling towards a wall where she slumps for a moment, the gloved fingers of her right hand sliding stiffly and entirely unhelpfuly along the wall's surface.

        The good news is that this has pushed her well out of the way of the calvacade of electricity that follows. A little punchdrunk from the chair to the head, she blinks a bit muzzily at nature's fury as it blows past her.

        Then she straightens, pulls herself upright. Shakes her head (her hair's in disarray, a sticky smear of blood discoloring her pale tresses on the left).

        And faces 'Amaragnell', her gaze an appraising one.

        "Honey, that was a cheap shot," she says at last, in the tone of voice that suggests she doesn't entirely disapprove, even in spite of the mark Ragnell's left.

        "Why don't I show you how I do it?"

        She swings forward in a sudden stride. Her left hand barely twitches as she takes a shot at Ragnell -- aiming low, to cripple rather than down.

GS: Josephine Lovelace has attacked Seraph Ragnell with Kick the Bucket!
GS: Josephine Lovelace has completed her action.
GS: Seraph Ragnell takes a solid hit from Claude C. Kenny's Ripper Blast for 85 hit points!
GS: Seraph Ragnell takes a solid hit from Margaret's Illusion Kiss for 0 hit points!
GS: Disease and Weaken! Statuses applied to Seraph Ragnell!
GS: Seraph Ragnell has been weakened by Disease! They take 0 damage, and burn off their temporary hit points!
GS: Seraph Ragnell takes a glancing hit from White Knight Leo's Demon Fang for 71 hit points!
GS: Seraph Ragnell takes a solid hit from Carina Wynne's Physics-Ignoring Karate Stunt for 134 hit points!
GS: Seraph Ragnell enters CONDITION GREEN!!
DC: MISS! Seraph Ragnell completely evades Kick the Bucket from Josephine Lovelace!
<Pose Tracker> Xantia has posed.

Don't look to Mystery Hero X to figure out anything this Phantom Thief might be implying. The question of who's more easygoing might go unanswered, but it's pretty clear who's less likely to figure anything out unless it's directly spelled out for her. "Yeah!" She instead adds to Locus's words, "I'm not even sure what 'easygoing' means!" She might be a little bit too honest for her own good.

Even so, as imperceptive as she is about many things, Xantia doesn't miss everything that goes on around her. Chiefly at the present time, she notices that her attack didn't have the kind of effect that she was expecting. Granted, she didn't get in a clean hit, plus her energy blade wasn't at the highest of possible intensities since it's not like she wants to chop anybody's limbs off here. But that still should've done something. She narrows her eyes, earlier suspicions further solidifying.

Only for Claude and Leo to flat out confirm it. One of those invisible people, indeed. That she can more-or-less see, sometimes. That explains why it's like the Phantom Thief is always slightly out of focus. That complicates matters. Simple punches are probably not going to work, or so she figures. But there must be some way she can hurt a Seraph. She should've asked Ragnell more details about that when she had the chance. Now she'll have to fight this other Seraph with subpar knowledge.

Not that knowing more would have helped her in this particular instance, expecting a head-on counterattack, when the attack comes from above instead. Xantia does react to it, thankfully not the same way as Carina, but also not exactly the most sensible way. She raises her ARM blade into the air, as if she could somehow stab the lightning strike coming for her out of existence. That doesn't work, of course. If anything, it turns her into more of a lightning rod. However, if one were to observe carefully... lightning seems to burst forth from Xantia's own body, moments before she is struck by the foreign lightning. An attempt at counterbalancing, perhaps.

This works... somewhat. Mystery Hero X still recoils in obvious pain, but recovers quickly, sparks of lightning continuing to dance across her body, but no longer seeming to cause discomfort. She would go over and offer Locus a hand, but... giving people an electric hand usually ends badly. So instead, she rushes off, in seemingly a wrong direction. She did scout the building a bit while wandering around earlier - this is an attempt to head off the Phantom Thief, Mystery Hero X suddenly jumping out of a doorway with an electrically-charged punch. "Here, I think you lost this, let me give it back to you!"

It's not actually the same lightning she was hit with, of course. Give her some slack, she's new at doing quips in battle.

GS: Xantia has attacked Seraph Ragnell with Elemental Fury!
GS: Xantia has completed her action.
DC: MISS! Seraph Ragnell completely evades Elemental Fury from Xantia!
<Pose Tracker> Carina Wynne has posed.

"'Easygoing' means we know how to kick back'n take it easy!" Locus tells Mystery Hero X, in a tone that is four or five notches more dramatic than necessary.

<Pose Tracker> Seraph Ragnell has posed.

        A trio of rock pillars tears up from the floor towards Amaragnell. She's able to evade one, but in moving to one side, that destabilizes her footing, and she's sent into a sideways roll. This slows her down long enough for Locus to whallop her into the other wall with a powerful series of kicks, which Leo follows up on with a trail of energy sent bursting forth from his sword. The Demon Fang, however, prompts Amaragnell to remove herself from the wall, if with pained staggering, and flare her cape as she faces the group.
        
        Phantom Thief Amaragnell just shakes her head a little at 'Clesss attempt at a verbal save. That, in and of itself, might be telling; not only is she not surprised or puzzled by talk of a Rose, she's not puzzled by his talk of invisible people, or his claim that they should all be able to see her. "Someone be a dear and tell him he lacks training," she says. (She doesn't really expect any of them will pass on the message.) Likewise, when her flirting sails wayyyy over Locus and X's heads, she just clucks her tongue.
        
        But Claude's revelation just gets Leo angry when he puts together the pieces, and Amaragnell chuckles. "Let's be realistic, Sir, Leo--are you *actually* interested in the answer, or in simply being indignant about the state of affairs?" Then she gives Josie a knowing wink and waggles a finger. "It's more fun when there's a bit of mystery in the mix~." The question she doesn't directly answer--but she does chuckle and give her a sweeping bow, which is answer enough in and of itself. X leaps in from another doorway at this moment, and lucky for Amaragnell, already being bowed means that she can forward roll out of the way of the attack--though then Margaret gets her *own* digs in, and sends a magical kiss flying her way.
        
        "It's indeed a tragedy. How blessed you are to know nothing of it," Amaragnell tells Margaret with all the sincerity she can fake. She then attempts to swat it to one side, but it only attaches to her arm instead. Those hellfire illusions, as a result, flare up around Ragnell... but as Margaret would suspect had she realized, as a Seraph, it's not as terrifying as it might otherwise be, especially when she's *already* cloaked in illusion. It's at least effective in getting her to stop, though, as she rears back a step, falling almost to one knee as she draws her white cape around herself; Josie moseys in, then attempts to swing her ARM around and fire at Ragnell's knee.
        
        A dapper cane sweeps up, and Amaragnell intercepts the shot before it can hit its targets. "Cheap? Hardly. But perhaps a young lady like you prefers something a bit..." She grins roughishly, and purrs, "Rougher~?"
        
        Her free hand flashes into her cape, and she tosses up a couple more orbs, now visible as glass flasks. She opens fire with her cane--actually an illusion overlaid over her pistol, which Josie might realize with her right there--to have lightning bullets smash into them and sent more fireballs flying forth towards Margaret, Rex, and Locus, while a pair of sharp blades of wind rip along the floor right back at Leo and Claude. Then she leaps backwards to create some distance, aims her cane (still a pair of pistols) at Josie and X for being right in front of her--there's a heartbeat or two as light charges at the ends of it--and then a laser beam *blasts* forward at the time, aiming to drive them back.
        
        Once that's accomplished, Amaragnell will once again dash away. This time, the chase will lead everyone into the side of a ballroom, which might well bring them into the same space as the *true* Amaranth and *her* pursuers. For once, some open space?!

GS: Seraph Ragnell has attacked White Knight Leo with Wind Blade!
GS: Seraph Ragnell has attacked Claude C. Kenny with Wind Blade!
GS: Seraph Ragnell has attacked Margaret with Fire Ball!
GS: Seraph Ragnell has attacked Carina Wynne with Fire Ball!
GS: Seraph Ragnell enters a Counter stance!
GS: Seraph Ragnell has attacked Josephine Lovelace with Tempest Laser!
GS: Seraph Ragnell enters a Counter stance!
GS: Seraph Ragnell has attacked Xantia with Tempest Laser!
GS: Seraph Ragnell has completed her action.
GS: CRITICAL! Carina Wynne takes a solid hit from Seraph Ragnell's Fire Ball for 134 hit points!
GS: Hyper! Statuses applied to Seraph Ragnell!
GS: Claude C. Kenny guards a hit from Seraph Ragnell's Wind Blade for 64 hit points!
GS: Margaret takes a glancing hit from Seraph Ragnell's Fire Ball for 71 hit points!
GS: CRITICAL! Josephine Lovelace takes a solid hit from Seraph Ragnell's Tempest Laser for 112 hit points!
GS: Hyper! Statuses applied to Seraph Ragnell!
<Pose Tracker> Seraph Amaranth has posed.

        The doves, at the very least, are also illusions... but whether they are or not, each of them would explode into a gleeful shower of confetti and sparkles rather than dying like doves would.

        "Ah--!"

        Sister Domitia's staff reaches out just as Amaranth passes by the Chiro Mongrels playing poker (why do Chiro Mongrels play poker? perhaps it is a question of the Lunarian schlock subconscious...) and whacks her hard on the back of her calf, prompting a wince as the Phantom Thief stumbles a little.

        "Araa... that is a little forward, sister!" she cheerfully expresses as she swans one side and catches herself. Bruised, but not out.

        That opening is enough for Jacqueline to lecture her, scattering some of her doves away as she chuckles and peers towards the Crest Sorceress to express, "So you've magical aids in your possession as well, Miss Jacqueline! Truly a woman of many talents--"

        And she catches Talia's look. There's a flash of recognition as she seems to bumble as she did with Domitia when she playfully trips...

        But Mirage, with its blue and grey swirls, comes -fast- and very nearly catches her and lands on the doorframe. There's a gulp and a little 'whew'-- but it's not long before she has to keep her guard up again as Talia reforms around her--

        --and the braced block she raises, her knees up and her cane used as a parrying instrument is definitely a very practiced manuever.

        In that moment, she peers to Talia to ask, as neutral as she's been: "Where did you get that?"

        But that moment passes, and Amaranth is blown clear back and tumbles along the ground, looking more haphazard and playful once more as she expresses, "Such clever, resourceful adventurers we have here tonight!"

        Matilda steps in through the doves and neatly strikes at her with her shield, but Amaranth catches the vial from the corner of her eye as the spores start to explode. "That is not the scent of a proper lady!" She leaps on away, dropping a vial of her amaranthine perfume to counteract.

        Hiro's boomerang comes through soon after her compliment, and she yelps as she ducks down and springs towards the nearby window. This is getting rather heated, and she needs her distance!

        "I assure you, this is very much real to me," Amaranth has recovered her verve by the time she can respond to the youth. "But! There's no harm in creating a playful guise of it~"

        Fei comes up and lectures her on Ruby. "Mm... I see! Majestic, Magical Dragon Ruby-chan!" But then it's--

        ~Tutorial Time!~

        Amaranth nods vigorously as she bounces her fist against her palm. "I see... I see! So there are no clear winners, for every outcome has a weakness! It's about the art of reading your opponent's mind, is it?" She beams for a moment, and then goes: "Then, let us try it! Rock, Paper, Scissors..."

        She holds her hand out, but out comes an adorable dove that flies onto Fei's face. "A-araa... Goodness me, that was not intentional!"

        Shalune's charging at her! Aaah, Amaranth thinks internally, if only Big Shal were here-- no, don't be distracted, Amaranth! She snaps her fingers to express, "It is precisely that reason that people need to learn -- to have attention drawn to it, dear Shalune!"

        Shalune would... would... just get smothered by doves. Doves that are very fluffy and pillow-like, thus ensconcing around her to create a perfectly round ball of pink.

        This may or may not backfire on Amaranth in short order.

        Still, the doves have done their job, and just as the last cloud of doves disappear into sparkling lights she... disappears down a door, wincing slightly from the lumps she's gotten. These adventurers are strong!

        There's one of those camera shots where the hallway suddenly stretches out before you, illusionary doors with fake entrances and exits suddenly creating a whole labyrinth! You'll have to figure out which one's real and which one isn't, if you don't want to get left behind!

GS: CRITICAL! Xantia takes a solid hit from Seraph Ragnell's Tempest Laser for 111 hit points!
GS: Hyper! Statuses applied to Seraph Ragnell!
<Pose Tracker> Shalune Amira has posed.

        Funny thing: Shalune's hair has often been referred to as a birds nest, and never has it proved more true than now. Her dive is far too haphazard to do much of anything, barely snagging the Phantom Thief before she's drawn down to the ground by the force of several well-meaning doves flocking excitedly to her mass of pink.

        "Wah!" she blurts in a moment of true fear - pigeons are terrifying, even when they're not called Penelope, and the Adlehyde ones are the closest experience she has to doves - but then the birds seem to settle and be content to coo happily, trapping her in place as the Thief gets away.

        The mechanic struggles from her cocoon (cuccoon) of doves when the last of them winks away-- and stops dead in her tracks, staring at the unexpected sight of way, way too many doors ahead of them. Not that she didn't expect architecture like this in a big fancy manor, but the sheer number of them is obviously off, and she's figured out enough of the Phantom Thief's ways to know that some of them must be illusory - but somehow, the relative mundanity of the illusion prevents her from simply barreling forwards through them as she could the paintings and the doves.

        Chewing uncertaintly at her cheek, she furrows her brow, and feels for the belt of her dress for a rounded shape of metal, a few inches long. Not that she's a suspicious sort, but hiding her shotstaff in its compressed form as a decoration was remarkably easy; she's thankful for it now, as she reaches for it and presses a button inlaid into its length, letting the full thing unfold and telescope out in her hands.

        "--um-- I hope they're not going to get mad at us for this, but-- the easiest way to tell--" she blurts uncertainly, then just screws up her courage instead and sweeps the staff in front of her, pointed forward at her hip; she squeezes the trigger, and the newly modified shotstaff spits out its light, this time focused into a tight beam.

        It isn't any kind of super-laser, and it doesn't really do much to the manor's structure other than write a neat little burn mark along the wall - but that's enough for Shalune, and she drags it around in two lengthy sweeps that leave a long black mark of crisped, burnt wallpaper in its wake. More importantly, it scores some of the doors with a hint of woodsmoke - and leaves others alone.

DG: Shalune Amira has used her Tool Bag of Tricks toward her party's challenge, My Mind is Too Fast For Eyes.
GS: White Knight Leo takes a solid hit from Seraph Ragnell's Wind Blade for 114 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Talia has posed.

"Cover my--"

Matilda's warning may not have been directed at her, precisely, but Talia still hears it. Unfortunately, Talia does not have much time to comment. Her foot slams into the Phantom Thief's bracer with a terrific clang. Her eyes meet the thief's, as Talia descends to the floor, kneeling in a three-point stance.

"A birthday present," she says, a little drolly -- though not entirely inaccurately. "It's lovely, isn't it?"

Mirage is held out to the side -- and then she watches as Shalune charges in. Talia glances, briefly, at her -- and then back at Fei and Hiro. This is all the time that Amaranth needs to escape, through a door -- and thus, the mercenary stands up. She glances at Matilda.

"After her!" she calls out, to all of them. "Our paychecks are on the line! And she is--mm. I am curious, no?"

She hurtles along, running into the room. Talia skids to a stop -- she eyes the doors over, illusions and no. Then, she looks at Shalune, and smiles. "Good plan. Now, I have found a book of ancient wisdom. Let's see what it says..."

She fishes out a weather-beaten book; it has a metal binding, with a canvas cover, and it is stained here and there as if it fell into something caustic. As if, perhaps, the owner had a few very unfortunate encounters with slimes.

The emblem of the Kislevi military is engraved on the front.

DG: Talia has used her Tool Lt. Keil's Notebook toward her party's challenge, My Mind is Too Fast For Eyes.
<Pose Tracker> Neriah Parringer has posed.

Why wouldn't the Chiro Mongrels play poker? Lunarian pop culture is weird. Just ask anyone who's found any of those thousand-year-old Bitmey Smears songs.

Domitia has other things on her mind, though. As Amaranth stumbles, the priestess tilts her head away from Talia.

She reminds me so much of Ragnell if Ragnell were really really femme, Sister Domitia reflects internally, drawing her staff back. Aloud, she merely chuckles, her smile small but with that hint of something amused to it. "One tends to be when dealing with sinners who lay their little fingers on the Goddess's artifacts. I hope you aren't offended."

Amaranth manages to get away anyway. Sister Domitia briefly straightens her robes, then shakes her head with a little click of her tongue. "Goodness," she murmurs with a look back towards Matilda and Talia. With a curl of her fingers, she coaxes them onward.

Into a hallway of illusory doors. The Priestess of Althena folds her hands together and bows her head, letting out a slow rush of breath.

"Clever," she murmurs. "Very clever, Phantom Thief."

Domitia migrates to the nearest door. With a brief flick of her sleeve, she bows her head, hands folded in front of her hood. She mouths a few words silently as if taking a couple of seconds to mutter a quick prayer over each door.

In fact, she's artfully concealing her excavator's spylens between her hands and is squinting through it to check each door for illusory tricks. Outwardly, she simply pops from door to door, checking each for illusions.

Until Shalune busts out her shotstaff and opens fire. The second sweep nearly scorches Sister Domitia. She sucks in a breath and jumps back sharply enough that her hood spills away from her face. Long, lustrous, raven-black curls spill free. "Goodness," she murmurs with a small frown.

The person beneath the hood is...

...nobody anyone here would recognize. Sister Domitia is certainly a beautiful young woman in her early twenties with orchid eyes, black hair and dark makeup. But she is not Neriah. Her cheekbones are a little too high and her eyes are a little too almond-shaped and her nose is a little too sharp and her forehead is a little too high. She seems to be someone entirely new.

She lifts her hood again with little fanfare. "Thank you for your assistance," she says to Shalune, her tone level.

DG: Neriah Parringer has used her Tool Excavator's Lens toward her party's challenge, My Mind is Too Fast For Eyes.
<Pose Tracker> Jacqueline Barber has posed.

Jacqueline can hear the sounds of battle nearby...it sounds like there's just as much excitement with the other Amaranth as there is with this one. She still can't be quite sure they're chasing after the real one...but at this point, she's not so sure it mattered - things would become a lot more dangerous if both of them were able to join forces.

"And so are you, Miss Amaranth! The title 'Phantom Thief' isn't unwarranted..." Jacqueline replies, with a hint of a smile. ...Oh no. She might be enjoying this a little too much, even though the others were scolding the thief herself for treating this as a game.

That wasn't to say she was completely distracted, though Shalune being transformed into a cloud of pink puff does startle her.

"A-ah, Shalune, are you alright!?" She asks. Her friend recovers pretty quickly...and even comes up with an idea! It eliminates some of the doors, but there are still plenty of them to choose from. "W-well, I'm sure they'll understand. For now, though...h-hmm..."

Jacqueline frowns, thinking things over. She does keep thinking, though...until she closes her eyes and concentrates. Amaranth had that perfume...if she could just follow the scent to its source!

"Everyone, this is going to sound a little silly, but...try following your nose!" She suggests. She does glance toward Talia and her 'book of ancient wisdom'. That emblem...

Hm.

She doesn't comment on it, instead glancing toward Sister Domitia. She smiles, and offers her a nod.

Of course Sister Domitia isn't Neriah!

DG: Jacqueline Barber has contributed a Wits Basic Action toward her party's challenge, My Mind is Too Fast For Eyes.
<Pose Tracker> Margaret has posed.

 
Margaret's brow furrows.

Rex says it. "A Seraph... turning to crime? What manner of Vile Tribery is this!"

Margaret seems stricken by this turn of events and braces herself against her spear, watching how her spell reacts to what may or may not be, in fact, a Seraph. It's quite natural to watch these things, because how else would you learn anything? She gives Amaragnell an extremely weak smile, even as the Seraph contends with others...

Rex... stays back.

Margaret leaps to the side, away from the fireball. Too slow, perhaps by all that -punch- or perhaps just because she's out of her usual gear. The fire and the flame blast her into the ballroom proper, leaving her tumbling. But despite this, she carries on. With the heart of a dragon, she rise(s)...

"If I had to guess I'd say that you're running interference," Margaret says to Amaragnell, soberly. After a beat, she adds, "'How observant of you,'" in a mummer's imitation of Ama-ragnell's voice, just as

A lot of things happen at once. Rex shoots an arrow but it isn't at Ragnell. Ragnell is a moving and complicated target. What is less of one is a piece of crystal assembled to make the candle or lamplight that might have simply illuminated the ballroom - and Rex shoots it, and it snaps and breaks.

As the broken mirror, a million shards of light, falls - Margaret bifuricates. Repeatedly! In a certain way she does it four times. All of them walk towards Ama-ragnell, twirling round that shorter spear as if to get its measure. The head flames, leaving trails and streaks of light.

"So," Margarets call towards the Mystery Hero as, suddenly, four of them stab towards Ragnell -- and ONE of them is real. "Why 'X'?"

GS: Margaret has attacked Seraph Ragnell with She is.!
GS: Margaret has completed her action.
<Pose Tracker> Hiro has posed.

 
Ruby allows a small whine, "Fei! I'm more a 7030! B-But it's fine! I'll accept that 6040!"
 
The boomerang comes back without making contact, and on the return trip he catches it mid-leap.
 
"I don't know that I'd agree with you on there being no harm!"
 
The game of Paper Rock Scissors - "H-Hey you can't shoot Pigeon! That wasn't part of Fei's instructions!"
 
But the doves disappear into sparkling lights - and...
 
Suddenly the hallway just extends unto eternity and Hiro gapes a little as he screeches to a stop. Looking down the endless labyrinth of doors in despair. "Uh... Uhhh... my nose huh? Well I don't... smell anything..."
 
So what does he do? Well he pulls out his Grandpa's journal. "Hiro there's no time to look something up!"
 
Which is why instead of consulting it - "No intention of doing that! Sorry Grandpa - desperate times!" he just chucks it in the general direction that Amaranth just went in - checking to hear it if impacted something solid.
 
He then runs right in that direction, knocking on empty space to see if he can find the right door knob.
 

DG: Hiro has used his Tool Grandpa Gwyn's Notebook toward his party's challenge, My Mind is Too Fast For Eyes.
<Pose Tracker> Claude C. Kenny has posed.

Claude C. Kenny's kung fu master - i.e. his mom - has put him through any number of bizarre combat situations over the decade-plus he's spent training with her. He's fought sideways, backwards, upside-down, with one or both arms or legs tied up, or even on one memorable session upside-down while also dodging cars. Ilia Silvestri-Kenny is a thorough woman.

But invisible? That's a new one; Claude's exchanged a blow or two with one of Rose's invisible friends - Ragout like the soup or something - but it wasn't enough to come up with any sort of meaningful tactical doctrine. Claude catches the flicker of the airblade coming toward him and manages to stamp another stalagmite out of the floor, absolutely destroying the carpet. The blade breaks upon the stone barrier, then splits in two, catching Claude with lesser strikes on each arm. He staggers a bit, maintains his footing, and slips around the wall.

By the time he's done this, he can't spot the flickering something of the phantom's shots, or hear the sound of her movement, or any other non-visual cue that might help him target her. Claude's shoulders square. New plan, then, he thinks, drawing his right hand back, focusing chi as his fingers extended into a chopping knife. "AIR--" he starts to say.

He glances at Leo.

"DEMON FANG!" Claude shouts, firing a short uppercut, emitting a flickering blast of energy down the corridor. "DEMON FANG!" he shouts again, then---

"DEMON FANG DEMON FANG DEMON FANG DEMON FANG DEMON FANG DEMON FANG DEMON FANG DEMON FANG DEMON FANG"

Claude keeps firing with every step, eyes narrowed, searching desperately for an impact sign.

GS: Claude C. Kenny has attacked Seraph Ragnell with Demon Fang Death Blossom!
GS: Claude C. Kenny has completed his action.
<Pose Tracker> Fei Fong Wong has posed.

Fei's kung fu master aka his dad never warned him about doves. It slams into his face and sends Fei sprawling onto the ground. The bird spins back around and then salutes with a wing before flying off to be a problem another day.

Fei recovers and starts running after Hiro. Thanks to the monk enhancement to movement per round he manages to catch up enough that he can start throwing paintbrushes through doors to check to see if they're real or not before running throuhg. If it's not real he just runs through, but if it's real he tries to kick it open because, well, K.K never called him a fixer. He's a destroyer. A doorstroyer.

"DON'T!" Fei shouts. "THROW!" He crackles with chi power. "BIRDS!"

DG: Fei Fong Wong has used his Tool Artist's Toolkit toward his party's challenge, My Mind is Too Fast For Eyes.
<Pose Tracker> Fei Fong Wong has posed.

Fei's kung fu master aka his dad never warned him about doves. It slams into his face and sends Fei sprawling onto the ground. The bird spins back around and then salutes with a wing before flying off to be a problem another day.

Fei recovers and starts running after Hiro. Thanks to the monk enhancement to movement per round he manages to catch up enough that he can start throwing paintbrushes through doors to check to see if they're real or not before running throuhg. If it's not real he just runs through, but if it's real he tries to kick it open because, well, K.K never called him a fixer. He's a destroyer. A doorstroyer.

"DON'T!" Fei shouts. "THROW!" He crackles with chi power. "BIRDS!"

He doesn't see Talia whip out the notebook but his eyes do slant towards it mid-doorkick.

Naturally thinking that Talia stole it, Fei ends up breaking off partway to shout over to Talia, "That's my friend's book! Give it back!"

<Pose Tracker> Josephine Lovelace has posed.

        A Seraph. This, Josie has heard some of -- now that she's on Lunar, it's been easier to learn about topics that were somewhat more... esoteric back on Filgaia.
        It's one thing to run into a person. It's another thing to realize that there's something unusual about a person.

        "I'm sure we all have our rough patches in life," Josie quips to Rex, still unfortunately unaware how great a transgression (or at least somewhat unprecedented) an event such as a thieving Seraph might be.

        It isn't much of an answer, but if Josie was expecting any sort of straight, honest response... well, it certainly doesn't show on her face. Instead, she laughs, however briefly. "A little bit of a tease, aren't you?" Josie asks, arching her eyebrows. "I suppose that's why they say you steal hearts. Well, well... you're certainly stolen my," pause, "purely academic interest. I suppose we'll just have to catch you after all, then?"

        This may be easier said than done.

        A pale eyebrow lifts as the sudden bullet is so handily deflected.
        Josie might not even be mad.

        "You're not some ordinary girl, are you, sweetheart? Then again, I guess I already knew that. Heh..."

        Her lips part in a grin that verges just a touch on feral. "Rougher, huh? Try me," she says to the phantom she chases.

        Famous... last words, as it were.

        She has enough time to cast a sidelong look at Xantia -- well, at 'X' -- and wonder whether or not she should have left a message or tried to coordinate (the thought is admittedly fleeting) before her attention snaps back towards the sucking space the blades of wind and raging thunder is creating ahead. Her frame tenses; she prepares to leap out of the way as Ragnell's attention arcs their way--
        Even when pinned up (haphazardly) this just isn't the ideal sort of clothing for the sort of movement she's attempting.
        That and the pulse of light comes in fast. Hard.

        For the second time tonight, Josie is sent ass over teakettle, slammed into the floor in a sprawl that's punctuated by a grunt.

        But she doesn't stay there. Oh no, now this is becoming a little bit personal -- it's not just academic anymore.

        As she rises, her hair finally escapes the loose fancy bun she had pulled it up into for the party, falling in heavy waves over her shoulders and down her back.

        "Heh... I think I owe you for that now, darling," she breathes, before breaking into an abrupt run down the hallway.

        Into the ballroom.

        Whereupon she banks hard and drops into a low crouch, sliding across the polished floor.

        One eye squints shut. Her hair, for a moment, billows out behind her.

        Josie lifts the ARM, draws a bead on Ragnell, and fires.

GS: Josephine Lovelace has activated a Force Action!
<Pose Tracker> Talia has posed.

Talia stares at Fei for five whole seconds, slack jawed.

Then: "I got it for my birthday!"

<Pose Tracker> Neriah Parringer has posed.

Sister Domitia nods back to Jacqueline politely, utterly unruffled.

"Children, this can wait," she puts in as Fei and Talia start to argue. "One thief at a time!"

GS: Josephine Lovelace has attacked Seraph Ragnell with Bite the Dust!
GS: Josephine Lovelace has completed her action.
<Pose Tracker> Matilda Whitehead has posed.

Matilda's spores prove to be mostly a dud, much to her chagrin, as the group continues to give pursuit. "I'm -- hardly the sort of person most consider 'proper,'" Matilda offers to La Fille du Temps, as she advances. There's a bit of a falter in her voice as she says it.

She pursues La Fille, in fact... into that hallway that feels like it extends forever, with the doors that feel both uncountable and fruitless. She shoulders her shield again in favour of her map of the estate, pulling it out and taking an extended look at it. "There -- ugh, where are we, this place is too big..."

She frowns, canting her head to one side and looking it over a little more. There has to be some way to find which door is right...

In the meanwhile, she glances over to Talia, giving her a look. She spots the notebook, raising an eyebrow. "... Interesting find," is all she offers, though. "Happy birthday, I suppose...!"

GS: Sneak! The true nature of Margaret's attack becomes clear!
GS: Seraph Ragnell takes a glancing hit from Margaret's Seven Sisters for 77 hit points!
DG: Matilda Whitehead has used her Tool Portable Library toward her party's challenge, My Mind is Too Fast For Eyes.
DC: MISS! Seraph Ragnell completely evades Demon Fang Death Blossom from Claude C. Kenny!
========================<* The Heist at House Armagnac *>=========================
==================<* CHALLENGE - My Mind is Too Fast For Eyes *>==================
|Type: Exploration |Dungeon Ability: Wits      |Challenge Rating: 2          | 
----------------------------< Challenge Information: >----------------------------
 You emerge into a hallway full of doors. The Phantom Thief lavishly chuckles  
 and disappears down a nearby exit, but reappears behind you with a playful    
 salute. "Over here!" she taunts, then vanishes once more.                     
                                                                               
 There's way too many doors here! She's conjured illusionary doors with fake   
 entrances and exits! You'll have to figure out which one's which if you       
 don't want to fall behind!                                                    
=Dungeon Conditions: Stupify==================================================
===================<* The Heist at House Armagnac - Round 4 *>====================
====================< Results - My Mind is Too Fast For Eyes >====================
Player                               Exhaustion                      Pass/Fail
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Neriah Parringer                    32 --(5)--> 37                 Pass
Excavator's Lens                    2   Wits    Effects: Enlighten            
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Jacqueline Barber                   32 --(5)--> 37                 Pass
Investigate                         0   Wits    Effects: BASIC                
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Hiro                                35 --(5)--> 40                 Pass
Grandpa Gwyn's Notebook             2   Wits    Effects: Enlighten            
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Fei Fong Wong                       25 --(10)--> 35                Fail
Artist's Toolkit                    2   Wits    Effects: Enlighten            
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Shalune Amira                       42 --(5)--> 47                 Pass
Bag of Tricks                       2   Wits    Effects: Resilient            
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Talia                               42 --(10)--> 52                Fail
Lt. Keil's Notebook                 2   Wits    Effects: Enlighten            
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Matilda Whitehead                   30 --(5)--> 35                 Pass
Portable Library                    1   Wits    Effects: Cleanse              
------------------------------------< Party >-------------------------------------
Leader: Neriah Parringer            50 --(30)--> 80                Pass
Conditions: Secret(1)|Stupify(2)
Effects: Cleanse|Enlighten(1)|Resilient(1)
================================< Dream Chasers >=================================
DG: The party led by Neriah Parringer 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.
GS: Seraph Ragnell takes a glancing hit from Josephine Lovelace's Bite the Dust for 60 hit points!
DG: Neriah Parringer has drawn a new Challenge.
========================<* The Heist at House Armagnac *>=========================
=======================<* CHALLENGE - Your Last Surprise *>=======================
|Type: Final       |Dungeon Ability: Agility   |Challenge Rating: 3          | 
----------------------------< Challenge Information: >----------------------------
 The chase has gone on long enough.                                            
                                                                               
 Bursting into a moonlit balcony, the Phantom Thief stands atop the railing!   
 Her cape flutters dramatically in the winds. She's got nowhere to go, and     
 the manor guards have gathered below her. Their roars of frustration are      
 evident, as they cannot see the quarry you've managed to corner.              
                                                                               
 "Unfortunately, all entertainment is destined to come to an end," she         
 expresses. "You all have been most gracious hosts to delight me with such     
 sport. I look forward to our next meeting..."                                 
                                                                               
 She tips herself over the edge!                                               
                                                                               
 An explosive burst of pink, and off she goes -- on a large swan manifesting   
 from nowhere! She tips her hat and salutes you.                               
                                                                               
 You've only seconds before she'll be out of reach -- what do you do?!         
=Dungeon Conditions: Save Point===============================================
<Pose Tracker> Carina Wynne has posed.

Locus lands a series of kool kicks, which is satisfying but also signals her returning to gravity as we know it. Her feet thump to the floor.

"Hey," she yells at Claude, "she says you lack training!" There! Message delivered.

She then flashes a thumbs-up Amaragnell's way. Easygoing indeed.

What isn't so easy is running facefirst into a fireball. Or rather, it's quite easy to do, but it's not an easy experience to go through. She is knocked back by the blast, and while her helmet took the brunt of the heat and impact, Carina's visor HUD is displaying several very worrying warnings, not to mention a few cracks and outright glitched-out displays. "Aw, fritz."

Once again, she peels herself off the floor and hotfoots it even further. This armor may be doing a significant amount of the physical work for her, but it's hard not to get winded after all this. Is this... Is this what effort feels like??

She emerges into the ballroom. "Dancin' in my dress actually sounds pretty nice right about now," she mumbles, mainly to herself. Then, more loudly: "Y'know, actually, I should step things up! Time to bring out the big guns! I mean, the big sword! But first..."

She pulls a gently glowing blue marble from thin air, making sure the viewers at home know how this works, and pops out the yellow marble currently resting in the middle of her belt, swapping the two. The yellow marble vanishes.

                                 ELEMENT: ICE_

"Okay! Sorry for the wait! Time for a special attack! Mystery Hero X, I hope you're takin' notes!"

Now, the sword isn't THAT big, and she was in fact carrying it the whole time, but as she grasps it with both hands, the translucent, glass-like blade starts to hum and glow with a blue light, soon joined by swirling snowflakes.

"Chill out! BRAVE BLADE! LOCUSABER!"

She swings the sword, and out comes a beam of blue light, flying towards Amaragnell at blinding speed, while also leaving a trail of solid ice in its path. This may make the path for the other pursuers just a bit more treacherous, but the real intent is to freeze the (real, right?) phantom thief in her tracks... or at least slow her down. She IS being super persistent, and all.

GS: Carina Wynne has attacked Seraph Ragnell with Brave Blade - Locusaber!!
GS: Carina Wynne has completed her action.
<Pose Tracker> White Knight Leo has posed.

        One of the glass flasks nearly smacks Leo upside the head mid-toss. The Beastman skids to a halt long enough to juke left, twisting his upper body out of the way. The flask misses him by inches, before continuing on its merry way towards Carina. Amaranth follows up with something actually aimed at him--Leo's twisting back towards her when she launches the air blade. The wave of wind catches him in the chest, slashing a wide arc across his shirt, and the flesh beneath. Leo's breath hisses between clenched teeth, and he skids to a halt again. Amaranth gets a few precious seconds to put distance between her and Leo.

        But as Hiro can attest, Leo is nothing if not persistent. He runs through the doorway at a full tilt, glancing back at Margaret and Rex a moment to make sure they're in sight. "Thunder," Leo gasps out. Hopefully Margaret knows the rest, because he's still reeling a little from getting the wind knocked out of him mid-chase-scene.

        But he's not so winded that he can't fight back. Leo forces himself to focus. The White Dragon Aura steadies his soul, as it has since Althena bestowed it upon him. Leo slows to a stop at the edge of a palatial high-pile carpet, and fixes the fleeing renegade Seraph in his gaze. He draws back his blade, and chi flows down his arm, focusing on the weapon's edge.

        Leo lets loose with a thunderous kiai, and strikes with all his might. The energy tears free of his weapon, forming an expanding cloud that gains definite features--eyes, fangs, a flowing mane. The phantasmal lion-construct bears down at Amaranth with the force of the White Knight's judgment.

GS: White Knight Leo has attacked Seraph Ragnell with Lion's Howl!
GS: White Knight Leo has completed his action.
<Pose Tracker> Xantia has posed.

Mystery Hero X comically sails right over the intended target of her lightning punch with a "Whoops!" Unable to kill her momentum, she flies directly into the opposite wall, getting her fist briefly stuck inside of it before she can pull it free, adding more to the undoubtedly considerable collateral damage that's been already racked up since the Phantom Thief showed up. Is what was stolen really worth all this?

A question that Mystery Hero X certainly won't be asking herself, since she's trying to be a hero and heroes are supposed to catch thieves. If there was anything in the rules about proportionate response, she hasn't gotten to that part yet. Neither has the thief, apparently, since immediately afterwards there's a freaking laser beam coming her way. It drives her back quite effectively, given that she can't get her guard up in time after her little wall incident, and is struck by it full-on, knocking her flat.

She doesn't actually stay that way for long, quickly sitting up again, shaking her head to clear it of cobwebs. "Wow. This is a really strong thief." Credit where credit is due. Clearly she needs to re-evaluate her mental definition of a thief. Or maybe this is because of the Phantom part?

Undaunted, it's not long before she reappears in the ballroom, catching up while others are keeping Phantom Thief Amaragnell busy. "Alright!! So you like to play rough? Then--" She had a quip in mind here, having had some time to think of one. Unfortunately, Margaret interrupts her train of thought right at that moment, with a simple question that nevertheless seems to confuse her. "Huh? What do you mean, why X? It's the start of my name! ...I mean... my name! Just, my name."

She then catches a glance from Josie, and is instructed to take notes by her mentor. As if she wasn't distracted enough already. "Huh? But I can't do--" Actually, considering what she's been told, she might be able to do ice. She therefore corrects herself: "I don't want to do ice! It's cold!" All the reason anybody should need, right?

With that, Mystery Hero X points a finger at the Phantom Thief she's been fighting, opens her mouth to try that quip attempt again... and soon realizes she forgot what she came up with entirely. She slowly closes her mouth again, shaking her head. "Never mind, how about I just...!"

And with that, she leaps into the fray, arm stretched back far to deliver a massive blow, not so much with her fist itself, but with the explosive force that blasts outwards when she throws her punch. Quips and attack names are all well and good, but keeping it simple has worked out better for her in the past. Sometimes you just have to go with what you know.

GS: Xantia has attacked Seraph Ragnell with Exploding Fist!
GS: Xantia has completed her action.
DC: MISS! Seraph Ragnell completely evades Brave Blade - Locusaber! from Carina Wynne!
GS: Seraph Ragnell takes a glancing hit from White Knight Leo's Lion's Howl for 113 hit points!
GS: Seraph Ragnell takes a glancing hit from Xantia's Exploding Fist for 94 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Seraph Amaranth has posed.

        Shalune's shotstaff blasts out and criss-crosses the doors; to Amaranth's credit, at least, the illusionary doors *do* have weight and feel... but they certainly don't interact with the laser beam in a way that you'd expect wooden doors to. They warble a little -- and Amaranth is revealed behind one as she laughs to say, "My, you are very inventive, Shalune!"

        Domitia and *not* Neriah's examination would reveal that Amaranth is actually pretty stubborn about her illusions -- there are complete illusions of hallways down each of these, and perhaps to her credit, that's making locking down her position a little bit tougher as she slips down another hallway.

        "How could I be offended? Sinner or not, I am still a servant of the Goddess Althena..."

        Jacqueline has a smile on her face. She's enjoying this. She's enjoying this? A tiny, chibi Amaranth is rolling around on the floor excitedly... ...and then thunks against the side of the screen.

        Following one's nose certainly, actually does have merit -- Amaranth's perfume is very distinct, and as shown against Matilda earlier... she's offended to have that scent be overridden by anything else!

        Vain much??

        Talia's comment about it being a birthday present merits more investigation. But not now. That woman has a sense of danger around her she really should watch out for...!

        Does Lt. Keil's notebook say, of hallways with seemingly infinite doors: 'Eh, just burn them all?' (More accurately the Kislevi field manual probably describes techniques to uncover subterfuge.)

        Hopefully, Grandpa Gwyn is less murderous than Lieutenant Keil -- not that we get to know what his words of wisdom are, because instead--

        "Ow!"

        Amaranth smiles as she emerges from the door, holding the notebook in her hand as she rushes straight towards Hiro and Ruby, time slowing--

        --and hands it back with a soaring leap, reaching out to pet Ruby as she expresses: "You are one hundred percent Majestico to me, Ruby dear!"

        She zips into another doorway as time ramps back up. And gets hit by an errant paintbrush that nearly strikes against her, but she manages to catch it as she looks towards Fei on the other side.

        "You can call me incorrigible, but you are litterers! Do not litter!" she announces with... with... a surprisingly upset tone. She catches another two of Fei's paintbrushes.

        Matilda finds that the map of the manor is quite useful, allowing the group to ignore another batch of doors and eventually--

        --come up towards the top of a dramatic, moonlit balcony. The Phantom Thief awaits you, with a smile as her cape dramatically flutters in the winds. She's cornered now, and the guards are yelling as they gather below her!

        "It has been a very long time since I have had a chase this exciting. Yet... all entertainment is destined to come to an end." She bows, and--

        --tips over the edge!

        There's a wonderful burst of colours, stars and sparkles that can only charitably be described as happy, and out from it emerges...

        ... a giant pink swan whose wings spread out as the Phantom Thief descends down upon it. She chuckles very richly and expresses, with a blown kiss, "Thank you for all the entertainment tonight. I look forward to our next meeting...!"

        At the same time, the other Amaranth -- Amaragnell -- can see the swan rising, their escape route (at least, one out of many) to get out of House Armagnac. She reaches out for her hand with a confident smile. "Well done."

        There's only moments to react, as the swan rises. What will you do?!

<Pose Tracker> Seraph Ragnell has posed.

        Amaragnell only smiles as Rex reacts with shock at the idea that a Seraph has 'turned to crime.' Even Margaret seems subdued. Ahh, Althena's Guard. "Well, since you seem so sure of yourself," she remarks to Margaret in open amusement, both to her observation and her imitation of what she expects Ragnell's reaction to be. Josie, too, remarks that Amaragnell is no ordinary girl, and she laughs heartily. "Oh, my! That wasn't obvious from the start, my dear?"
        
        Then Locus passes on Amaragnell's message to Cless and gives her a thumb's-up. Ragnell grins and thumb's-up back. She really *is* easygoing. Ragnell appreciates that. Good timing, too: Claude dashes in and decides that the best way to handle an invisible target is to just spam Air Sl--Demon Fang every which way.
        
        Unfortunately for him, by the time he gets those attacks off, she's already made it to the stairwell that leads up to the second floor hallways. The multiple Margarets have a better time of it, since the benefit of illusions is that it's difficult to tell which one is real, if any of them *are* real, until it's too late. Ragnell gets stabbed in the side by a flaming lance, and staggers against the railway before hauling herself further up. A blade of ice *sears* towards her, and she hauls herself out of the way in time for the path of frost to take out the illusory Margarets and leave a trail of ice separating the two of them from each other.
        
        "Ah, you are a treasure, my dear," she lilts over at Locus. "Perhaps the true Treasure was you all along?" She pays for her sass when Josie opens fire on her with her ARM, which shuts her up, and then Leo and X combine their concussive blasting forces to send Phantom Thief Amaragnell *flying* up those stairs to crash into the wall behind her. It's well-constructed, so she doesn't fly *through* it, but that's definitely some cracked walling...
        
        But then, on the other side of the ballroom second floor, on a large balcony that overlooks the gardens, more laughter resounds. More laughter... Another Amaranth?! Amaragnell stirs and rises to her feet, clutching her injured side--but she smirks to see the pink swan over that way, then gives a cheeky two-fingered salute to her enemies gathered below. Those familiar with Ragnell's mannerisms might find it familiar...
        
        "I find it *quite* curious, Sir Leo and assembled Guard," she calls, "that you do not for a second wonder if there is injustice lurking in the heart of House Armagnac when confronted with the idea that a Seraph may be thieving from it. Is your faith in the Goddess truly so weak? Ah, but perhaps that's rude of me to say~. You'll have to search within yourselves for the answer regardless. And until then, I bid you all--adieu~!"
        
        Reaching into her cape, she hurls out a truly *ridiculous* number of glass flasks that she then shoots with her "cane" gun in midair, causing them to unleash low-level magic artes down upon the assembled defenders, creating a screen of attacks that may or may not hit but will definitely cause the others a lot of trouble in closing the gap. Then she races towards the pink swan with a grin, reaching out to accept the other Amaranth's hand. "To you as well~."
        
        Their fingertips brush; in another instant, the other Amaranth will pull this one aboard, and both of them will make their escape, regardless of which one has the true Ankh. Is this the end?!

<Pose Tracker> Neriah Parringer has posed.

Sister Domitia is content to keep her hood up. Life is easier that way.

Not that Amaranth is making things easy for her. The priestess clucks her tongue, tilting her head to one side. "You have found an interesting way to serve her interests," she remarks, though that little smile she wears hasn't faded. It's a touch more sardonic now, though.

As time ramps back up again, Domitia whirls towards the reappearing Amaranth, tailing her through the door - and checking to make sure she's not dropping anything important. She still doesn't run. But she does manage to keep pace; her walking speed is pretty damn high for some reason. Enough that she's leaving faint, fading shadows behind her as she seems to partially phase down the corridor, finally slowing once she reaches the balcony. With a click of heels hidden beneath her fancy dress, Domitia watches the Phantom Thief standing at the balcony.

Right. She'll jump off and float to a landing, Domitia judges.

Amaranth partly surprises her. She wasn't expecting a roseate swan.

The sparkles are less of a surprise. Amaranth seems the type.

The huge swan begins to lift both Amaranths away. Stepping up to the balcony's edge, Sister Domitia mentally runs through her options. She rules out 95% of them and focuses on the less killy ones.

Ah well. When on Lunar, go maximum stupid, she decides.

And then she jumps off the balcony and attempts to grab Amaragnell by the ankles, in a move that just might leave her dangling off of both Amaranths.

"Excuse me," she says as her hood blows back again.

DG: Neriah Parringer has contributed a Agility Basic Action toward her party's challenge, Your Last Surprise.
GS: Seraph Ragnell has attacked White Knight Leo with Stone Blast!
GS: Seraph Ragnell has attacked Margaret with Aqua Edge!
GS: Seraph Ragnell has attacked Claude C. Kenny with Stone Blast!
GS: Seraph Ragnell has attacked Josephine Lovelace with Fire Ball!
GS: Seraph Ragnell has attacked Carina Wynne with Wind Blade!
GS: Seraph Ragnell has attacked Xantia with Wind Blade!
GS: Seraph Ragnell has completed her action.
GS: Margaret takes a solid hit from Seraph Ragnell's Aqua Edge for 105 hit points!
GS: CRITICAL! Claude C. Kenny guards a hit from Seraph Ragnell's Stone Blast for 81 hit points!
GS: Hyper! Statuses applied to Seraph Ragnell!
GS: Claude C. Kenny enters CONDITION GREEN!!
<Pose Tracker> Hiro has posed.

 
Hiro would totally vouch for Hiro's persistence.
 
Fei draws his gaze Talia's way where he double takes at what she has with her - "Hey isn't that..." 'I got it for my birthday!' Hiro would usually be stunned by that thought but - "You know I can't rule out that she would do that."
 
And so instead, he keeps running - and running, his military epaulets jostling at an even rhythm as Amaranth hands it back. And he gapes in stunned shock as he just catches it. "That actually worked!? You hit her. Well that means... that means..." all the way until they get to the balcony with the light of the Blue Star shining over them. "Give it up - you've got nowhere to go-!"
 
Until she proves she actually tips over - "Wait - no - don't!" And the idiot rushes forward with all the belief that this could be lethal for her.
 
Or at least harmful - but then with a burst of pink there's a swan that she's riding - which her partner then joins her. And - "Ruby!"
 
"On it!"
 
Ruby flies right past Hiro in a pink blur - and Hiro is still motioning like he's going to hand something off - "Oh shoot! I don't have all my gear! No rope!"
 
Ruby keeps flying - unperturbed, "And just who do you think you're talking to Hiro!? She says I'm a hundred percent Majestico - well I'm gonna prove she's right!"
 
It feels like there's nothing the little Dragon could be able to pull off like this until - "Sending us on a wild goose chase!? Well here's my gambit. I'm gonna bet with all the stunts you've pulled off tonight-"
 
Ruby breathes flames over one giant pink beating wing and try to either sabotage their ride. "-THAT YOU'RE MESSING WITH US EVEN NOW!" - or reveal it as a phoney.
 
Of course if she's wrong. And it is real - she'll probably feel bad about it later. Well maybe.
 

DG: Hiro has used his Tool Ruby Being Helpful toward his party's challenge, Your Last Surprise.
GS: CRITICAL! Carina Wynne takes a solid hit from Seraph Ragnell's Wind Blade for 118 hit points!
GS: Hyper! Statuses applied to Seraph Ragnell!
GS: Claude C. Kenny has activated a Force Action!
<Pose Tracker> Shalune Amira has posed.

        Shalune lunges forwards after the Phantom Thief, even as the woman tips backwards over the edge of the balcony into open air - and then surges back up on the back of a gigantic swan manifested out of nowhere. The sight of the enormous bird doesn't so much stun the mechanic as outright stop her in her tracks; she lurches for a moment out of sheer confusion, her eyes wide, and then grits her teeth to continue her pursuit.

        Her chase continues right up until she plants one foot on the balcony, the other next to it - and then beyond, as she pushes with both feet to launch herself out into the open air.

        It's not as much of a gamble as it looks, even if the world does spin a little around her as her mind catches up to what she's just done. If her hunch about La Fille du Temps is correct, she's reasonably certain that the mysterious Phantom Thief isn't actually out to see anyone get hurt, and her overly reckless move might help delay the woman's escape out of sheer compassion.

        Besides, the shotstaff isn't the only thing she's upgraded recently; gritting her teeth, Shalune grabs for another button on the side of her staff, smacking it home with a quiet wince and a rather fervent prayer under her breath. No sooner has she pressed it, than there's a blur beneath her, and the bottom drops out of her stomach as the shape of the Little Dipper makes itself known at her feet.

        It isn't the most graceful of mounts that there's ever been. She stumbles roughly, pinwheeling her arms as she tries to keep her balance and not immediately pitch the craft down towards the ground - and then grits her teeth, doing her best to try to recover and pull the Little Dipper up and after the swan. "--get back here! I'm not done yet! Jay!" she adds, blurting the name out as she wrenches herself to one side, hanging on for dear life as she banks the Little Dipper to expose its flank.

        She can already feel that she's lost control and is going to have to take some serious evasive maneuvers - but she does her best to hold the Little Dipper steady, at least in the hope of acting as a stepping stone for the one person present she knows for sure might be more reckless than her at a time like this.

DG: Shalune Amira has used her Tool Little Dipper toward her party's challenge, Your Last Surprise.
GS: Claude C. Kenny has activated a Force Action!
GS: Josephine Lovelace takes a solid hit from Seraph Ragnell's Fire Ball for 160 hit points!
GS: CRITICAL! Xantia takes a solid hit from Seraph Ragnell's Wind Blade for 121 hit points!
GS: Hyper! Statuses applied to Seraph Ragnell!
<Pose Tracker> Fei Fong Wong has posed.

Fei jerks his head back towards Amaranth, "I was going to pick them back up!" He protests, but he gives a firm nod to Ruby.

Fei seems to care more about that beat up notebook way more than some dumb Althena ankh. He has fond memories of Lily's Kislev Field Manual. Like The Guardian Temple - Round 6. And even The Guardian Temple - Round 8! Of course there are some not so fond memories, like The Battle Front - Round 4 but even the memory of nearly everybody getting blown up by artillery is precious to Fei because he everyone was nearly blown up...

...<3 together <3.

So naturally Fei totally ignores poor Sister Domitia and the cross and lunges for the book. "I don't believe you! Give it back!" Besides, perhaps the other Amaranth has a point and there's a problem within this household? All those paintings--

Fei doesn't get much of a chance to think about this but because of his attempt to lunge for the book he ends up sending both himself and Talia crashing INTO the swan rather than trying to get anywhere near Amaranth or Amaranth.

His last thought before crashing into it is 'I didn't know that you could be a Seraph of Ducks.'

DG: Fei Fong Wong has contributed a Agility Basic Action toward his party's challenge, Your Last Surprise.
<Pose Tracker> Jacqueline Barber has posed.

The illusions are pretty effective...but Amaranth's perfume is effective as well. By shutting out everything else and following just the scent Amaranth left behind, she's able to bypass all of the illusions in her way.

...And thus, they reach the balcony. The end of the line, so to speak.

...But Amaranth would not be a proper Phantom Thief if she didn't have a plan for this very occasion. And a plan she has - she tips over the edge...but rather than the ground, she finds a giant pink swan to carry her off!

Jacqueline reaches into her bags, drawing out a potion bottle which she downs.

This was crazy.

This was ridiculous and altogether crazy.

And yet...she was still riding the adrenaline of the situation.

"Not just yet, Phantom Thief Amaranth! I must request..." Jacqueline begins to run. Shalune is right beside her. Jacqueline nods to her. She doesn't say anything, but...

...She doesn't need to.

She leaps up onto the balcony railing and propels herself off it...

...onto the waiting Little Dipper, which she uses as another stepping stone to bring herself even closer to her real target.

"...an encore!" She concludes.

For a moment, Jacqueline flies freely through the air, illuminated by the brilliant blue light of Filgaia above. The sequins on her dress catch the light, shimmering beautifully against the night sky around her.

Her trajectory will take her right toward both Amaranths and their mount...but will they be out of the way by the time she makes it?

DG: Jacqueline Barber has used her Tool Rapid Remedy toward her party's challenge, Your Last Surprise.
GS: CRITICAL! White Knight Leo takes a solid hit from Seraph Ragnell's Stone Blast for 133 hit points!
GS: Hyper! Statuses applied to Seraph Ragnell!
<Pose Tracker> Talia has posed.

"This--this just tells me to set fire to the doors! Ah, but my brother's the one with fire magic..." Talia sighs down at the book, then snaps it shut with her hand. A little dust puffs away from the notebook when she does. She tucks it under an arm, and then looks up at Amaranth. Her eyes meet hers again -- and she shakes her head once.

"We're not done yet!" A small smile quirks up, at the corner of her lips. She bolts through the door, after Matilda. She doesn't, at first, quite notice Fei's look at her and her book.

She goes sprinting up, all the way to the balcony. She skids to a stop again, a few bits of dust and a couple cracked pebbles rolling off the balcony. They fall away between the rails -- and she looks down at it.

'I don't believe you! Give it back!'

"What are--"

Fei plows right into Talia. She yelps -- and they both slam through the railing, and go flying off, plummeting down towards the swan below. Talia's eyes widen, as she shoves the book underneath her now torn-up jacket. "I found the damned thing! Whoever had it didn't want it! Is this really the--shit!"

She turns, and throws Mirage, before they can go too far off course. The two tumble down -- until the blade comes up, slamming into the pink swan... or the wall of a nearby tower. Talia's eyes are wide, fingers outstretched, as her and Fei tumble uncontrolled through the air. Her arm wraps around Fei, in a one-armed hug that is out of instinct rather than fondness.

The two of them dissolve into strands of shadow-stuff against the night sky. Stars vanish and wink away, until they reappear, and Talia's gloved hand grips Mirage tight. "Don't do that! If we fell, we could have splattered!" she snaps at Fei, before she looks back at Amaranth--

--er, the two Amaranthes. (Amaranthi?) "Hold on!" she yells. "Was this all for a chase!? Or--or something else? You called that thing priceless! It is powerful, no?"

DG: Talia has used her Tool Mirage toward her party's challenge, Your Last Surprise.
<Pose Tracker> Margaret has posed.

 
Amaragnell speaks to Margaret and Rex. Rex is kind of old and set in his ways. Margaret isn't much younger but she has a certain privilege; the privilege of plasticity.

She stares at the laughing Seraph and she speaks quite sharply and her words do cut deep - it is not play. The show of ego strength is in abeyance. Margaret gazes dead-on at the Seraph to the point where she seems to disregard Leo entirely, even as he makes his request. How rude.

(Rex says, to the Mystery Hero X, "Oh. That makes sense. Handy, isn't it?")

The strange vertiginous sense in Margaret's gut, perhaps her bowels, perhaps the cockles of her heart, keeps her silent. Balanced on the edge, she feels a hot alertness that she has felt rarely in the past. A sense of the infinitely smooth razor of reality itself cutting into her. These words would have gone into one pointy ear and out the other...

If they were not coming from a Seraph.

"I'm afraid I'll have to be insubordinate again," Margaret answers Leo, distantly. "Thunder Road could never get you up there. And the only thing that could catch up with them..."

She looks at Leo with apology even as she raises a hand in front of herself, fingers curling with a slow and deliberate pattern in front of her. "Well, it would kill you, darling, and I'm not saying that to be cute." As she sucks in a breath and tilts her head forwards, as the swan flies into the air, Rex tells the White Knight, "She isn't playing, sir. It nearly killed Silf."

Darkness gathers round Margaret's ankles and her legs. It gathers like shed skin wound in reverse. It gathers and it collapses like the arching spirals of a galaxy, igniting in ten thousand subtle ways. Tension builds in the air - and with sudden nebular speed, Margaret breaks away and starts to run back the way they all came.

Misapprehension. She needs the space of the ballroom to buildup speed. The wind whips behind her hard enough to snap loose the bronze clips holding her hair in place, sending them flying as involuntary party favors. Round the corner then and she starts to run on the wall and she still builds up speed, leaving a stellar pathway behind her in the wallpapering.

As she gets near the balcony there is a sudden crack of thunder and she runs straight up the side of the building, gathering momentum even as Lunar's gravity is shrugged aside. Rising past the balcony, she kicks off on the lip of the roof and tosses herself in a spiral as her newbought spear, the flame of its head guttering, is raised with both hands.

"I shan't let you -" Margaret howls, even as she is thrown ever so fractionally off course by a ripping blade of water that conclusively ruins this fancy dress. It's a matter of four inches. Margaret doesn't think it matters. Except...

... this spear is nearly a yard shorter than her familiar naginata...

And so the brutal spinal thrust, so intended, instead brushes along the neck feathers of the great swan as Margaret descends, her expression utterly, cosmically priceless for a moment. She smashes into the ground hard enough to crater, steam rising around her. She immediately throws her head back to shriek,

"AMARANTH!!!!!"

GS: Margaret has attacked Seraph Ragnell with Gained an enemy!!
GS: Margaret has completed her action.
<Pose Tracker> Matilda Whitehead has posed.

The two Amaranths come together, Matilda still in pursuit along with the rest of the assembled friends, guards, and other well-meaning thief-stoppers. "A servant of..." Matilda tilts her head. "Huh. Why would this serve Althena better than having that...?"

She doesn't have any time to think about it, though, as that burst of happy -- and the subsequent giant pink swan -- appears. She has but a moment to consider what to do, and honestly, none of the available ideas jump out at her that much...

.. So she decides to leap for the swan herself, much as 'Sister Domitia' does. She doesn't have quite as good of an angle, though; she can't leap directly for Amaragnell. Instead, she ends up clinging to the side of the swan, trying to climb. ... She's always been a good climber, admittedly...

DG: Matilda Whitehead has contributed a Agility Basic Action toward her party's challenge, Your Last Surprise.
GS: Seraph Ragnell takes a glancing hit from Margaret's Gained an enemy! for 0 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> White Knight Leo has posed.

        Leo follows Amaranth up the stairs, his footfalls echoing down the stairwell. He'd take them two at a time, but he's already pushing himself to keep up with her. Noise from further up ahead makes his ears twitch, and swivel in the direction of the balcony. When he reaches the top, his suspicions are confirmed--there's the other Amaranth, and the people chasing her. "Apprehend them!" Leo roars, as the sparkles rain down, and the giant, fluffy swan rises against the night sky.

        Amaragnell sasses. Leo snarls. "Then perhaps you could be forthright instead of traipsing around like this were some common circus act!" He had hopes for this, and they ended in an arrogant mortal thief being captured, and then escaping and vowing revenge against the dashing White Knight who apprehended her. Those hopes are shattered, now.

        Also shattered, nearly: several of Leo's ribs. The big Beastman twists to the side, presenting a narrower profile to the flying flasks, but one catches him anyway. There's a flash of burnt-ochre light, and the flask distorts, taking the form of a good old-fashioned ten-pound rock. "Ghk," Leo grates, and he sags to a knee, spots flashing before his eyes. He hears Margaret veto him, and part of his brain rails against the thought. It is not bad enough that he's having to suffer the presence of one of the Destroyer's entourage? This Seraph must be caught!

        Margaret starts running. No--she's doubling back. Leo finally forces himself to his feet, stuffs a Heal Berry into his mouth, and tries his very best to pretend Hiro isn't right over there, and probably more of an actual existential enemy than Amaranth. Margaret shoots past, followed by Ruby, and Leo is right behind. The Beastman launches himself out the window, driving his blade towards Amaragenell's shoulder--specifically, the shoulder attached to the hand holding the 'magic stick'. If he can just take that out of play...!

        Margaret is considerably less lucky. Leo experiences a momentary, uncomfortable lurch before he hears her screaming vengeance. That means she's all right. Right?

GS: White Knight Leo has attacked Seraph Ragnell with Rising Falcon!
GS: White Knight Leo has completed his action.
<Pose Tracker> Carina Wynne has posed.

"Dang, missed," Carina says with a squint and a fingersnap. Sass quickly follows. "W-Whaaaa!" She puts her hands to her masked cheeks. She may appear immune to flirting, but compliments, on the other hand... That WAS a compliment, right?

But it seems they have their thief cornered! Even... two of them?! "Hold on! There's two of them? What a twiiiiiist!!" she cries out, perfectly earnest.

And now, she eats herself a face full of wind blades for her troubles. THIS REALLY ISN'T HER DAY.

She wobbles back to her feet, her armor cracked and sparking here and there. She's starting to feel like this isn't that much of a fun chase adventure after all! But... wait, they're making their escape, aren't they? And since the Locusaber didn't work, she has to use the last remaining trick up her sleeve...

"All right, time for a thing I've never tried before!"

What?

"Here goes nothing! ALWAYS-WINNING..."

Once more, she plucks the yellow Element Marble out of thin air, but also a red one in her other hand. Her belt starts to swirl with snowflakes and frosty air, while haze and embers dance around one hand, and lightning arcs around another...

                                 ELEMENT: ALL_

"...FINAL..."

And Locus leaps into the night sky, illuminated only by the Blue Star, until the energies of ALL THREE ELEMENTS start to swirl around her in earnest.

"...LOCUS KICK!"

And she dives towards the swan, one foot extended, as symbols and multicolored magical energy spirals around her, forming a spectacularly flashy cone all around her extended leg and body!

Of course, there's the obvious problem of the ground far down below. She could probably survive that fall, but with her armor in this shape, the gamble might not be worth it. So she could always try to bounce off the swan and backflip back onto the balcony, or if she misses, sail past and grab on to the nearest pair of ankles she can find.

SHE'LL FIGURE IT OUT AS SHE GOES ALONG, OKAY.

GS: Carina Wynne has attacked Seraph Ragnell with Always-Winning Final Locus KICK!!
GS: Carina Wynne has completed her action.
<Pose Tracker> Claude C. Kenny has posed.

Claude C. Kenny clues into the fact that he's missing his target horrible when everyone else starts aiming has had better fights, but he is learning an important thing here - apparently it is mega-hard to hit people who you can't see. This is a valuable lesson, and one he will take to heart. Perhaps when he gets back he can devise some sort of training mechanism or something that will help him train blindfolded.

Or maybe he'll drink heavily and forget this night ever happened. That works too.

But for now, he sets his feet and focuses his chi, cupping both hands in front of his chest. Chi blazes out from the depths of his body, coalescing into a bright blue aura that shifts and blows into a ball of dancing light, ever growing in its intensity. Remembering the nature of his disguise, Claude concentrates, trying to sharpen the image in his mind, wrest it away from the draconic features that he typically uses and into the proud, leonine visage Leo unleashed.

He really does try.

"LION'S HOWL!" Claude roars, and a... sort of amorphous chimera creature surges forward. It has fangs, sue, but also whiskers and scales both. The eyes and nose are sort of melting together like a pair of wax figures that have been out in the sun too long. Frankly, if this is meant to be a lion, it should be put down as a mercy.

That said, as it flies toward Ragnell's last known position, it does breathe blue fire. So that is a bonus.

GS: Claude C. Kenny has attacked Seraph Ragnell with Dragon's Howl!
GS: Claude C. Kenny has completed his action.
GS: Seraph Ragnell takes a solid hit from White Knight Leo's Rising Falcon for 167 hit points!
DC: MISS! Seraph Ragnell completely evades Always-Winning Final Locus KICK! from Carina Wynne!
DC: MISS! Seraph Ragnell completely evades Dragon's Howl from Claude C. Kenny!
<Pose Tracker> Josephine Lovelace has posed.

         "Let's just say I had my suspicions, shall we~?" runs Josie's teasing response. "But let's just say I'd rather be certain. Or at least, close enough to it." Once again, her shoulders roll in a shrug. What can you do, what can you do.

        Rising as friction catches up with her and her shoes -- which she steps out of entirely in the next three heartbeats, having apparently decided they, too, are more liability than they're worth (also she might have just broken the heel on the left, which is a fun problem to have) -- and she treads slowly now across the polished tiles, the very model of a disheveled dame on the dance floor.
        Her gaze flicks down to the ARM she has in hand.

        Perhaps she should have brought back up. ...Oh well.

        Still, as dismissive as that thought may run... the smile that still rests on Josie's lips as she regards 'Amaranth' is a little less broad. A little more tight.

        "I should charge you for the dress, you know--"

        One Amaranth stands before her.

        Her gaze lifts. Another Amaranth plummets from a balcony above and beyond.

        There's enough time for the archaeologist to blink. Even she can be caught flat-footed, and the rosy swan's appearance -- as well as apparent confirmation that if it's possible both of her guesses about the situation may have been correct -- certainly fit the bill.

        "What--"

        Josie doesn't so much think as open fire, bullets cracking into the flung array of flasks. Some may detonate, but unfortunately, she only has so many bullets left in the chamber. What else is there to do as the inevitable makes its roaring inescapable rise except...

        fire her sole remaining bullet, apparently blindly.

        The fire catches her in the next second. Though the dress -- and Josie -- are seared, though she stumbles as she races ahead to close the physical gap that still remains (whatever becomes of that sole bullet, still twisting as it slices through the air), she also hasn't stopped yet.

        "Not so fast, you--"

        She's never been good at knowing when to quit once she's got her mind set, and isn't about to start being practical now.

        So it goes.

        "I don't think... we're quite done... yet!"

GS: Josephine Lovelace has activated a Force Action!
GS: Josephine Lovelace has attacked Seraph Ragnell with Right Through The Air!
GS: Josephine Lovelace has completed her action.
DC: MISS! Seraph Ragnell completely evades Right Through The Air from Josephine Lovelace!
<Pose Tracker> Xantia has posed.

Now her punches are landing as intended. And so, Xantia is once again left convinced that her normal way of doing things just objectively works better. Sometimes she wonders why she would ever try to fit herself into a mold that doesn't seem to suit her as well. But... it's for the sake of being a hero. Nobody said it would be easy.

Though she makes to follow up in the wake of this, Mystery Hero X is left staring, mouth agape, as the truth is revealed. There are two Phantom Thief Amaranths. She can even actually see the other one, for reasons she fails to question at this time. Not picking up on any clues to the contrary, she's now assuming that this is how it was all along, that 'Amaranth' was never a single entity to begin with.

She should probably be mad about all this. But, for some reason, she's just not feeling the whole righteous fury thing right now. She's feeling more impressed than anything else. Phantom Thieves are kind of neat, aren't they?

A bombardment of magical attacks snaps her out of that line of thinking. She can't be thinking like that, not if she wants to be a hero! They still stole a thing, and being a hero means stopping thieves, no matter how fancy they are! Easier said than done though, the solid wall of magic effectively deters her in a most painful way, stumbling back and looking to her mentor for guidance. "What do we do, Locus?"

The answer comes in the form of one of those Ultimate Finishing Moves she's heard so much about. "Yeah! Go get 'em!" Wait, is she just going to cheer Carina on without doing anything? For a moment it seems that way, but when the actual attack is launched, and it doesn't look like it'll quite work out as planned...

"Locus!!"

Seemingly without any thought, Xantia leaps right after. It's not quite clear whether she intended it that way, but her legs are left caught on the balcony, while she stretches out her body as far as possible, to try and offer Locus something to grab hold of. If this works out, she'll be literally left hanging... but that's for later worry. This is far more important than trying to stop the thieves, at any rate. Surely there will be another chance.

GS: Xantia enters CONDITION GREEN!!
GS: Xantia has attacked Carina Wynne with A Helping Hand!
GS: Xantia has completed her action.
GS: Carina Wynne takes a solid hit from Xantia's A Helping Hand for 0 hit points!
========================<* The Heist at House Armagnac *>=========================
=======================<* CHALLENGE - Your Last Surprise *>=======================
|Type: Final       |Dungeon Ability: Agility   |Challenge Rating: 3          | 
----------------------------< Challenge Information: >----------------------------
 The chase has gone on long enough.                                            
                                                                               
 Bursting into a moonlit balcony, the Phantom Thief stands atop the railing!   
 Her cape flutters dramatically in the winds. She's got nowhere to go, and     
 the manor guards have gathered below her. Their roars of frustration are      
 evident, as they cannot see the quarry you've managed to corner.              
                                                                               
 "Unfortunately, all entertainment is destined to come to an end," she         
 expresses. "You all have been most gracious hosts to delight me with such     
 sport. I look forward to our next meeting..."                                 
                                                                               
 She tips herself over the edge!                                               
                                                                               
 An explosive burst of pink, and off she goes -- on a large swan manifesting   
 from nowhere! She tips her hat and salutes you.                               
                                                                               
 You've only seconds before she'll be out of reach -- what do you do?!         
=Dungeon Conditions: Save Point===============================================
===================<* The Heist at House Armagnac - Round 5 *>====================
=========================< Results - Your Last Surprise >=========================
Player                               Exhaustion                      Pass/Fail
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Neriah Parringer                    37 --(5)--> 42                 Pass
Rush                                0   Agility Effects: BASIC                
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Jacqueline Barber                   37 --(5)--> 42                 Pass
Rapid Remedy                        1   Agility Effects: Cleanse              
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Hiro                                40 --(10)--> 50                Fail
Ruby Being Helpful                  2   Agility Effects: Resilient            
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Fei Fong Wong                       35 --(10)--> 45                Fail
Rush                                0   Agility Effects: BASIC                
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Shalune Amira                       47 --(5)--> 52                 Pass
Little Dipper                       2   Agility Effects: Resilient            
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Talia                               52 --(5)--> 57                 Pass
Mirage                              3   Agility Effects: Fanfare              
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Matilda Whitehead                   35 --(10)--> 45                Fail
Rush                                0   Agility Effects: BASIC                
------------------------------------< Party >-------------------------------------
Leader: Neriah Parringer            80 --(35)--> 115               Pass
Conditions: Save Point(1)
Effects: Cleanse|Resilient(1)
================================< Dream Chasers >=================================
DG: You have overcome the dungeon's trials! This run is a success!
DG: The party led by Neriah Parringer has successfully explored The Heist at House Armagnac!
========================<* The Heist at House Armagnac *>=========================
=======================<* CHALLENGE - The Moonlit Garden *>=======================
|Type: Discovery   |Dungeon Ability: Conclusion|Challenge Rating: 1          | 
----------------------------< Challenge Information: >----------------------------
 You've caught up to the Phantom Thief and cornered her!                       
                                                                               
 If there is fear in her, she does not show it, however. She turns             
 confidently and places the artifact squarely in your hand and expresses:      
 "You've bested me, fair and square. I look forward to another duel of wits    
 with you, adventurer!"                                                        
                                                                               
 Her form dissipates to that of fluttering amaranthine petals, the scent of    
 the eponymous flower in the air. Just who was that curious gentlewoman        
 thief...?                                                                     
                                                                               
 The heirs to House Armagnac are extremely grateful, and promise to spread     
 word of your heroic deeds throughout Rolance! You are handsomely paid in      
 silver, and dine well that day. The rest of the auction goes off without a    
 hitch.                                                                        
                                                                               
 A similarly-scented card makes it to your inventory several days later:       
                                                                               
              My moonlit garden -Clair de Lune- awaits you at dusk,            
                                                                               
                     Ensconced in lands of unrelenting rain.                   
                                                                               
                   Discover me, with all your heart and soul!                  
                                                                               
                  My treasure is open to those who can find it!                
                                                                               
                                                                               
                                                                               
                                   Sincerely,                                  
                                                                               
                               -La Fille Du Temps-                             
                                                                               
                           The Phantom Thief Amaranth                          
                                                                               
                                                                               
 A moonlit garden... this may be worth investigating, if the claims of         
 treasure are true.                                                            
=Dungeon Conditions: Treasure=================================================
<Pose Tracker> Fei Fong Wong has posed.

Fei says, "Then why didn't you just say so?!" as he plummets to his demise. Fei doesn't seem to be terribly concerned about that so maybe he thinks he can survive the fall somehow or he just has willingly jumped into bottomless pits enough times that he has forgotten how to judge distance. It could be either one really.

Then Talia throws a sword. "Huh?"

Then the two of them dissolve into strands of shadowd-stuff. "HUHHHH??"

And then Fei lies on the cobblestone floor, staring at the sky.

"You can teleport?" Fei asks blankly, patting his body to make sure it's still there. "We teleported?!"

<Pose Tracker> Seraph Amaranth has posed.

        The two Amaranth's hands are outstretched; neither of them escaped this one unscathed, even if the real Amaranth faced much less combat (as is her milieu)! But the spirited look on her face is clear to see -- she's immensely enjoyed the turnout this evening. Most heists, she might get one, maybe two who get a bit of a hunch, but this...

        This!

        To see so many Drifters, so many members of the Guard... all of them so capable of seeing her... it fills her with hope, inside her heart.

        Her expression is one of deep surprise as Ruby blurs towards them, and-- she can't help but laugh. "Ruby dear..."

        The flames light as the swan gains thick white circled eyes and goes 'Wehhh?!--' and flails a little. "Oh no, Swan-chan!"

        (Swan-chan is not, strictly speaking, real, but sometimes, you know, you wish for something hard enough that a dreamy thing becomes real and-- oh who're we kidding)

        She cups one hand over her mouth as Shalune comes springing up next. She stares to express, with a huff, "Come now, Shalune, don't be reckless--" as the girl dives and threatens to fling herself off... ...

        ...and the Little Dipper comes to her rescue instead. "My, the Caravan Kinship truly is wonderful...! Just what is that wonderful, flying contraption?!"

        Jacqueline comes in not long after, as the two give chase with their flying machine. "You 'Drifters' truly are something else!" she laughs heartily. "Ah, Miss Jacqueline, you truly look beautiful..."

        A thought that's deeply, deeply interrupted as Margaret's spear blasts straight through the poor swan and lets out another 'weehh--!!' as she stares at her. And can't help but laugh. "I-- do not know your name, but I do admire your verve, Lady!"

        Mirage winks into existence again, Fei in tow with Talia with wide eyes as the Swan is... indeed tangible enough to use as a warp point. There's a quiet grin as she expresses, "Is power what describes the pricelessness of an artifact, Miss Talia? Hmm..."

        She wags her finger and winks to express, as she strokes the neck of her poor swan, "I call the treasures I take precious. Nothing more and nothing less, after all."

        Matilda also follows with the suite of people who're leaping off, which prompts a quiet huff as she expresses, "You truly are gallant... fufu..." Leo's blast comes towards them, but it's not her but Ragnell that he's aiming at; there's a yell and a--

        Always-Winning... Locus...

        Amaranth's eyes widen. "Ooh dear, who is that?" And then Locus is swarmed in the tri-elements, diving towards the swan as she slams against its rear-side with a 'weeeeh--!!' once more...

        ... followed by Claude C. Kenny's Li--gon... Ligon? Ligon's Howl, we'll say, which emerges and swarms forward towards the swan and forces Amaranth to hold her hand out and...

        "D-Dove's Howl!"

        A pink dove emerges forward and cuddles the Lion-Dragon howl, and then they both subside. She only gets a moment to gawk when Josephine's bullet whizzes straight through the swan again and she expresses something possibly incriminating:

        "Those 'ARMs' you mention are absolutely terrifying!"

        There's enough heat upon them that Amaranth gives Ragnell a look -- the one that says 'I've gotten what I want out of this', as she chuckles and looks towards the closest of them on the swan: Fei and Talia.

        "Well done, everyone! I can earnestly say I've never faced against such a wonderful, extravagant and skilled group of adventurers...!"

        She takes the Ankh of Althena and places it in their hands, with a wink as she holds Amaragnell's hand--

        --and then suddenly falls as the swan disappears into another puff of pink, magical, diabetes-inducing sweetness. Everyone on the swan freefalls for a moment, obscured in the sugarcloud!!!

        ... however, Fei and Talia, as well as whoever winds up crashing and needing a save would find themselves floating onto the ground on pillow-like doves that let them down, just like that. Fortunately, Xantia's got Locus to pull her up!

        ~*~

        Amaranth rolls to an abrupt slump and hits the leg of her desk back in her safe room as their teleportation spell comes to a stop. She's sore all over from all the injuries she's sustained, and she didn't get what she came for, but...

        There's a big, satisfied smile on her face as she laughs and expresses:

        "Those Drifters you mentioned truly are an exciting bunch, Ragnell! And to think we got to play with the Guard too! What an amazingly Resonant turnout!"

        She pauses for a moment, looking towards the ceiling. She reaches up to it, with her white gloved hands.

        "It gives me hope."

<Pose Tracker> Seraph Ragnell has posed.

        When Leo roars his dissastisfaction at Amaragnell's chasting, her eyes narrow. "Or perhaps you could think for *yourself* for once in your life, White Knight," she tells him, voice switching with all the dissonance of a record scratch from playful to cold. "Do you think you can truly serve the Goddess by whining for answers to be spoon-fed to you? Pathetic."
        
        A beat.
        
        "Ah, but who cares about the words of a thief? I'm sure you know best~," she continues with a playful lightness that does nothing to hide the underlying contempt.
        
        But then she dashes for the roseate swan, zig-zagging this way and that to avoid incoming attacks (though the swan itself may not be so lucky), grabbing hold of Amaranth's hand and stepping onto the avian's back, evading Margaret's desperate attempts to stab her in the spine--only for 'Domitia' to leap forward and grab onto her leg. She makes a sound distinctly like "?!" and looks sharply over her shoulder at the sister as her hood comes back. Her eyes widen slightly, and then she half-smiles. "Hmmmm..." she murmurs knowingly.
        
        But if she's realized something, she doesn't share it. It's kind of not the time for that anyway, though as Amaranth defends against the attacks incoming against the swan, Amaragnell does... smile, wink, and tap a fingertip against Domitia's lips. Then she looks sharply over at the others. "I'm afraid you'll have to bill your dry-cleaning to your employers," she calls to Josie. "Tell them it's part of your hazard pay. If they didn't offer you that, then I have nothing more to tell you." Then she laughs heartily at Locus and X's shock about the *two* Amaranths... though she then looks sharply around at everyone grasping for the swan. It does look they won't be able to get away--
        
        But that's all right.
        
TAmaranth catches Ragnell's eye, and they share a smile and a slight nod. Amaragnell then laughs and adds, "Didn't I tell you they were fun~?" If there's any question of who the 'real' or 'primary' one is, it's make clear by the fact that Amaragnell now leaves all the talking to Amaranth, before taking her hand again--and then both of them vanishing in a *poof*, right out from under Domitia's grasp.
        
        Fortunately, there's plenty of soft fluffy birdclouds beneath to cushion everyone's fall. No harm done. ...except maybe on Amaragnell's side, but those who care to think about it afterwards will realize that the majority of the artes she'd used had been low-level ones. One wonders what might have happened if she'd cut loose a bit more... though given Phantom Thief Amaranth's reputation, perhaps that's precisely *why* she used basic artes.
        
~*~
        
        "Right?" Ragnell drawls at her companion, grinning as she tilts her hat back. She lifts a hand and starts casting a healing arte as Amaranth laughs and speaks of hope, then chuckles herself. "I'm glad t' hear that. We'll jus' have t' see how they carry themselves goin' forward, eh? An' if those who *don't* see..." Her eyes narrow, even as her arte completes and knits Amaranth's wounds together. "...end up learnin' anythin'."

<Pose Tracker> Neriah Parringer has posed.

The wind whips at Domitia's hood, billowing her hair out around her head in a dramatic ripple. With a grip on Amaragnell's leg, the priestess - who is surprisingly light, to be honest - sways in the air, her expression remarkably poised for someone who's precariously clinging to the leg of a ghost thief.

For just a moment, she makes eye contact with Amaragnell.

A finger is laid against her lips. Domitia...

...dips her lashes ever so slightly, and blushes a gentle shade of pink, teeth catching her lower lip for a moment.

When the magic swan finally vanishes, it leaves Sister Domitia in the unenviable position of dangling in midair from something that no longer exists. Her dress and cloak crackle as she suddenly plummets towards the ground. Closing her eyes, she draws her breath in.

The puffy pillows are briefly disturbed not by bootheels touching them, but by a globe of force etched through by subtle ghostly patterns that might be runic lettering. The bubble around Sister Domitia winks out after a couple of seconds, and she brings her heels back down with a soft click of contact with solid turf.

Pulling her hood up again to preserve her modesty, Sister Domitia looks back up towards the places where the two Amaranths vanished. The hood hides it, but she's still blushing.

She really does remind me of someone, she reflects.

...I want to know more.

<Pose Tracker> Jacqueline Barber has posed.

Jacqueline leaps...but she doesn't quite catch her target. Still, she couldn't count it as a loss. She might not have caught the Phantom Thief, but she certinainly caught her eye. And it seems, even, that they were able to convince her to return the stolen item!

But, as it happens, right now she's...falling.

This kind of causes come back to reality.

"...Oh..." She says to herself, then looks around. "Shalune...!"

And then she lands...with a 'fwumph'. It was not the ground she hit, but...a fluffy pink dove, large enough to support her like a pillow. It carries her to the ground where she slides off, feeling completely spent...but still excited.

She covers her eyes with a hand and laughs to herself, just missing it as the dove poofs into a cloud of glitter.

"Just wait until Lunata hears about this..." She murmurs, shaking her head. One thing was certain, though...

She was looking forward to her next meeting with that mysterious, charismatic Phantom Thief. But before that, she returns to the auction with the others. The show must go on, after all!

...And no doubt this sudden thievery would have notably raised the price and the prestige of the Ankh of the Goddess Althena, if they were still interested in selling it at all.


With the adrenaline gone, she's back to being the normal Jacqueline. She's humble when she's praised along with the others, of course, and as she partakes of the meal they're offered, her mind starts to wonder.

Just who was the Phantom Thief Amaranth?

Where did she obtain her skills?

...And why was that giant pink swan so suspiciously familiar...?

She'll investigate these questions and more, but for now...she'd just have to look forward to the next encounter.

<Pose Tracker> Talia has posed.

Talia gives Fei a long look -- and then she smiles at him, something a little sly and confident. "Mm-hm. It's something I do," she says, before she stands up straighter -- and turns to look at the two Amaranths. Her eyes dart between the two Phantom Thieves, and her expression shifts into a wolfish grin for just a moment.

'Is power what describes the pricelessness of an artifact, Miss Talia?'

It flickers. The grin vanishes, finally, into something more neutral -- and her fist tightens around Mirage's hilt. "That's--"

It isn't a lack of an answer that bothers here. It is the answer that she comes to, and that reminds her of certain facts about herself. That makes the smile that comes back to her face a little emptier, a little less meaningful. "I guess... that makes sense." She looks at the Ankh, but she doesn't move to take it.

Her expression, and her reaction, are muted at first. Then, the swan vanishes out from under them -- and Talia yelps as she goes dropping down through the sky. With a shout, she plummets next to Fei -- her legs kicking for purchase that isn't there, within the sugar cloud. Until, of course, she finds the doves that fly in. She crouches on them, then sighs.

"She's..." Talia looks down. She smiles, but the distance of a moment ago remains in her express. "...something else, isn't she?"

<Pose Tracker> Neriah Parringer has posed.

"...She is an interesting sort," Sister Domitia finally speaks up from where she landed not far from Fei and Talia. Her tone is somewhat subdued, melting back to her usual level neutrality now that the little interplay with Amaranth has well and truly passed.

The priestess gives her hood another little tug to make sure it doesn't fall down on her again. It hides the fact that she's giving Talia's sword a curious look.

Questions for later, she decides.

<Pose Tracker> Josephine Lovelace has posed.

        Barefoot, slightly on fire, and more than a little beat up, Josephine doesn't close the gap in the end.

        In the end, both girls vanish into thin air as it were, leaving Josie still yards away.

        She comes to a halt, her lips twisted in a displeased moue. It's almost as an afterthought that she reintroduces her sidearm to the holster (only half-hidden by what remains of the skirts at this juncture) and after some fumbling slides loose a single machine-rolled Filgaian cigarette.

        This is lit with a snap of her fingers and a brief wiff of ozone.

        She might be barely standing, but she's not going to let that stop her from her last quality smoke.
        Somehow, to her, this seems like the only reasonable decision she can make right now.

        "Heh... not a normal girl at all, are you, sweetie..."

        Her gaze hoods as she stands there watching the smoke rise.
        "...Suppose I owe you one now, too."

        Her gaze swings to search out Xantia and Fei, but Josie doesn't linger here long.

        She's got a dress to return.