2018-06-07: Judgment of the Past

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  • Log: Judgment of the Past
  • Cast: Riesenlied, Ambrosius, Rebecca Streisand, Dean Stark, Kaguya, Noeline
  • Where: Pearloats Pasture
  • Date: June 7th, 2018
  • Summary: Drawn by a voice, Riesenlied, Noeline, and a group of trusted allies go to investigate the ruins of the village of Felkirk, seeking the truth of its distortion. The village itself, however, finds them looking inward...

===========================<* Pearloats Pasture *>============================

Pearloats Pasture is the agricultural heartland of the Rolance Empire. It stretches through the center of the empire, from Lastonbell in the east to Pendrago in the west. The eastern half is a rolling, hilly meadow. Shepherds tend their flocks here, and must keep a careful eye because of the danger of roaming monsters that have only grown worse in recent days. The western stretches of Pearloats are where the countless grain fields and farms of the Empire are. In the last year, nearly constant rainfall has dampened the fields and the capital of Pendrago, and made the roads muddy and dangerous. This state has drawn out more bandits and monsters than before.
DG: A party led by Riesenlied is now entering Felkirk Ruins.
DG: Party formation is now over. An Entry Challenge will now be drawn and displayed to the party.
=============================<* Felkirk Ruins *>==============================
==================<* CHALLENGE - How Quickly Ye Draw Near *>==================
|Type: Entry       |Dungeon Ability: Agility   |Challenge Rating: 2          | 
--------------------------< Challenge Information: >--------------------------
 Ahead of you, the shape of the ruined Fellkirk Village looms low on the       
 horizon, the shapes of buildings seeming unnaturally dark no matter what      
 time of day or night you arrive. And yet... as you draw close to the          
 village, you draw farther away. It's not that you aren't moving.              
                                                                               
 It's that the village is actually /moving away from you/ a little bit with    
 every second.                                                                 
                                                                               
 Even when you stop, the village seems to get farther away. And if nothing     
 else it seems to be moving away at the right speed. Or is it moving away at   
 all? Isn't that a house not too far away? Shouldn't you run to keep up with   
 it? Or does it matter?                                                        
                                                                               
 <BGM: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hKtlEOX392I>                            
=Dungeon Conditions: Hesitate=================================================
<Pose Tracker> Riesenlied has posed.

        Following Nall's advice, Riesenlied has finally made tracks south towards Glenwood... though she's attempting to lay low and skirt the edges of the conflict that has newly erupted in Lastonbell, between Glenwood and Rolance. The Hyadean leader, fresh off tending to the Fereshte's needs and stopping at Vane, was hopeful to make her way unfettered to the Volgran Forest... but...

        The voices of the worlds have other ideas.

        Felkirk Village has seen better days, yet it is a strange phenomenon that takes it further away from her, no matter how much it beckons to Riesenlied. A contradiction, very much so, yet one that nags at the senses that has taken her in the past.

        Don't be afraid... please... I want to know...

        Riese has enough of a sense of when this is happening to alert Noeline, at least -- and given what's happened in the past, it's been prudent to summon more people since the voices always inevitably take her to danger.

        And it's why she's standing here, at the gateway to the village as it seems to pull away from her, in her white and gold-trimmed hood...

        "The very spirit of the village rebuffs us..." she murmurs, holding her hand to the Dragon's Tear. "Something... something is screaming within it. It cries out in pain..."

        She glances to the rest of her companions. "If you would not mind... please, help me get to the bottom of this. I want to understand."

<Pose Tracker> Ambrosius has posed.

Conveniently enough, Ambrosius happened to be in the area. He only rarely left Glenwood...primarily due to the large concentration of prominent ruins and the area, among other things. And so, when Noeline asks for assistance, he answers.

When he arrives, he's looking notably different than usual - rather than the bright red poncho some people knew him for a dark grey hooded cloak is wrapped around his person, trailing along behind him. The hood is currently down at the moment, making spotting those pointed ears of his much easier.

He walks quietly alongside the others, his gaze focused on the village ahead as they move toward it.

The village that doesn't seem to get any closer, despite how much they walk toward it.

Hm. Problematic.

"...Very well...miss Riiiesenlied... You shall...have my assiiistance..." He replies, offering her a nod.

At the moment, he was curious, too - just what, exactly, was the reason for this bizarre phenomenon? It warranted further investigation.

DG: Ambrosius has contributed a Agility Basic Action toward his party's challenge, How Quickly Ye Draw Near.
<Pose Tracker> Rebecca Streisand has posed.

 
"So - the spirit of a village is rejecting us."
 
Rebecca repeats it to make certain she understands it correctly.
 
"And it's screaming in pain."
 
Rebecca casts Dean a sidelong glance.
 
"Say Dean isn't that like back at the Temple of Rejection? The kind of thing Avril would say - you know... about the place rejecting her?"
 
Well that explains why she doesn't think it's unusual. But now she's wondering if there's a connection.
 
"Well... guess we don't mind checking it out then. I mean how bad could it be?"
 
Kaguya's presence makes her wary certainly - but she promised Dean that she'd let him be... himself... when it comes to his friendship with her. And if she's worried then what better way to deal with it than to come with him to keep an eye on her? Rebecca takes a step towards the village.
 
-=-=-
 
~Not Long After~
 
Rebecca is tearing forward at a full tilt sprint. Sweat pouring off her brow. "COME BACK HERE! DON'T YOU RUN AWAY FROM ME!"
 
... Well at least she's pretty athletic. She can probably keep running after it for some time. But she's not about to be rejected by a location.
 

DG: Rebecca Streisand has contributed a Agility Basic Action toward her party's challenge, How Quickly Ye Draw Near.
<Pose Tracker> Dean Stark has posed.

        Dean likewise is negative amounts of interested in getting involved in a war. War is the exact opposite of helping people. And when it became clear to him that part of the kinds of things mercenaries do is get involved in wars... he suddenly lost all interest in joining a mercenary group.
        
        He'd been out with Rebecca to seek the next ruins to explore, and run into Riesenlied while she and her companions had been on the way to the Felkirk Ruins. True to form, Dean had offered to help, and now here the two of them are. Rebecca might be less than pleased, given the nature of their mixed company.
        
        "Why does it keep doing that??" he wonders, befuddled, at the village speeding away. He frowns at Riesenlied, then nods firmly. "Right! We'll do our best!" He smiles at the others, including Kaguya, Ambrosius, and Noeline, making it clear he's counting everyone with that 'we.'
        
        Rebecca then raises a good point, and realization dawns on the young man's face. "Hey, yeah, you're right...! I wonder if it's something like that? Now we *really* gotta check it out!"
        
        He calls Twin Fenrir into his hands, then shoots an ice beam onto the ground in a long, long trail leading towards the village. "HEY! GET BACK HERE, TOWN!" he yells as he runs and jumps forward onto said trail, letting himself slide at speed towards it. Hopefully he'll catch up before he runs out of ice trail... Though at least it's wide enough for others to use, *Rebecca*.

DG: Dean Stark has used his Tool Freeze Ray toward his party's challenge, How Quickly Ye Draw Near.
<Pose Tracker> Kaguya has posed.

Kaguya sighs, shaking her head. "I don't see a lot here, but..."

Kaguya, for her part, looks fairly different from how some have seen her, too. She's dressed in greens, draping and layered, a large overtunic and bare hands, bare forearms. Her short blonde hair does little to obscure her pointed ears, and she's in loose-legged pants with soft shoes. ...At her hips, under the overtunic visible, are a pair of broad-bladed knives, and of course she has a satchel of items. Her ARM is nowhere to be seen.

"I'm kinda used to places rejecting me," Kaguya points out. "...But yeah, Mom, I'm with you too, okay? Even if it doesn't look like there's a lot to get out of it..." She grumbles a little, but she doesn't mind a chance to spend some time with Riesenlied.

"Anyway if it feels that bad, maybe we can fix it. Dunno." She tries to be optimistic-sounding, anyway. But--she considers--and--

Shortly:

"Heheheh. Get 'em, Dean! Smack that town!"

Kaguya does not shout. Insead, she stops, huffing for breath a little, and glares as the town keeps fading... and then pulls something from the folds of her clothes. "Whatever--" She pulls a little container, the size of a large bullet but a little narrower, and pops off a cap before placing it at her nose. She sniffs loudly, inhales sharply--and her eyes dilate immediately. "Whew...!"

One more shot in the other nostril and all of Kaguya's fatigue is gone. "All right WAIT FOR ME!"

...Aaaand she's off, off to catch up with Dean and Rebecca. ...Ignore the slight nosebleed.

DG: Kaguya has used her Tool Formula AM-17V toward her party's challenge, How Quickly Ye Draw Near.
<Pose Tracker> Noeline has posed.

        For Noeline, the lengthy trip away from Vane and Taben's Peak is almost... bittersweet. For the Hyadean who prides herself on knowing her own mind, it still takes a while for her to pin down the reason behind the feeling - and when she does figure it out, she's left with only a ruefully amused chuckle. If it were a couple of years ago, she wouldn't have hesitated to traipse off in a random direction on a whim - now, however, she's gained that much more of a family and a purpose, and leaving both the orphans and the Ebony Wings so soon after finding them again leaves a pang in her chest.

        Not that she'd ever admit that aloud, of course. She's got an image to maintain.
        Hmph.
        ... maybe to Riese.
        ... it's not like the rest of the Wings don't have her number, anyway.

        Still, she has to admit that it's pleasant to have a chance to travel once more - and more than that, an objective which doesn't technically have any kind of time limit. The war in Lastonbell is certainly a concern, and one that Noeline finds herself drawn to, if only to observe the differences between Lunar and Filgaian warfare - but they're free to remain on the periphery, avoiding the worst of the conflict as they ring their way towards the forest.

        At least, that was the plan - until Riesenlied's concentration started to waver, her attention stolen away by the song of the spirits, and Noeline had to make some rather hurried scouting runs to establish who was available in the area to assist. Ah well, she thinks to herself, looking up at the rusted gates to the village with a tug at her lips. She can't really find it in herself to be irritated - after all, she's always held the opinion that travelling is that much more enjoyable if you take the time to look at anything interesting along the way.

        Laying a hand on Riesenlied's arm, she nods her head, offering a warm and unhurried smile. "There is no need to rush," she reminds herself as well as Riese, her voice lifting a little to project it to the others as well. "There is no apocalypse waiting for us, nor are we trapped, nor are we any one of a thousand things we've faced before. We have the luxury, for once, to take this little by little."

        She does at least pause, and look comically glum as the pair of humans and one Veruni all tear off ahead of them. It's a well-worn look, the sort that's had a lot of practice, and her mind is absolutely drawn to imagining them all clambering Taben's Peak.

        Closing her eyes, her own step forward is that much slower as she leads Riesenlied towards the village. Each step is careful, placed one in front of the other. If her vision is lying to her thanks to some kind of illusion, she'll just rely on her other senses instead - after all, if there's one thing she's willing to trust more than anything else, it's her sense of self. It helps when Strife beeps at her shoulder, and with a chuckle she tags the little robot out of the air, letting it hover in place under her arm. As far as anchors to reality are concerned, you couldn't ask for better.

DG: Noeline has used her Tool Strife toward her party's challenge, How Quickly Ye Draw Near.
DG: Riesenlied has contributed a Agility Basic Action toward her party's challenge, How Quickly Ye Draw Near.
=============================<* Felkirk Ruins *>==============================
==================<* CHALLENGE - How Quickly Ye Draw Near *>==================
|Type: Entry       |Dungeon Ability: Agility   |Challenge Rating: 2          | 
--------------------------< Challenge Information: >--------------------------
 Ahead of you, the shape of the ruined Fellkirk Village looms low on the       
 horizon, the shapes of buildings seeming unnaturally dark no matter what      
 time of day or night you arrive. And yet... as you draw close to the          
 village, you draw farther away. It's not that you aren't moving.              
                                                                               
 It's that the village is actually /moving away from you/ a little bit with    
 every second.                                                                 
                                                                               
 Even when you stop, the village seems to get farther away. And if nothing     
 else it seems to be moving away at the right speed. Or is it moving away at   
 all? Isn't that a house not too far away? Shouldn't you run to keep up with   
 it? Or does it matter?                                                        
                                                                               
 <BGM: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hKtlEOX392I>                            
=Dungeon Conditions: Hesitate=================================================
========================<* Felkirk Ruins - Round 1 *>=========================
====================< Results - How Quickly Ye Draw Near >====================
Player                               Exhaustion                      Pass/Fail
------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Riesenlied                          0 --(20)--> 20                 Fail
Rush                                0   Agility Effects: BASIC                
------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Ambrosius                           0 --(20)--> 20                 Fail
Rush                                0   Agility Effects: BASIC                
------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Noeline                             0 --(15)--> 15                 Pass
Strife                              1   Agility Effects: Cleanse              
------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Dean Stark                          0 --(15)--> 15                 Pass
Freeze Ray                          2   Agility Effects: Quicken              
------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Rebecca Streisand                   0 --(15)--> 15                 Pass
Rush                                0   Agility Effects: BASIC                
------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Kaguya                              0 --(15)--> 15                 Pass
Formula AM-17V                      2   Agility Effects: Cleanse and Sacrifice
----------------------------------< Party >-----------------------------------
Leader: Riesenlied                  0 --(20)--> 20                 Pass
Conditions: Hesitate(2)
Effects: Cleanse|Quicken(1)
==============================< Dream Chasers >===============================
DG: The party led by Riesenlied 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.
<Pose Tracker> Riesenlied has posed.

        Riesenlied smiles warmly towards Ambrosius, noticing how he's dressed different -- she must surmise that the red coat draws too much attention, as colours are much more a mark of belonging to a company or an army... and she hopes that he'll be all right.

        "... I remember that Temple... it, too, had a sensation of rejection towards me," Riesenlied murmurs. She-- blinks, however, as the chase is on--

        And the village just seems to possess the quintessential spirit of 'trolling'; it's not like it gets up on comically tiny legs and starts pinwheeling away or anything, but it seems like Rebecca's juuuust going to get up to its gate--

        --and then the cobblestone path keeps zooming out from under her. Why DOES it keep doing that? Dean asks, and it's a brilliant question... one that's aided with a brilliantly cold answer-- an ice slick that it doesn't seem to have quite the ability to stretch!

        "I understand, daughter..." Riesenlied speaks gently, still-- happy that Kaguya can call her mother, and she in turn, daughter. She's worried about what she's been up to... but--

        --she's not going to impose her will on her.

        Kaguya takes medicine, and starts charging, charging....

        .... and perhaps it's as much a testament of will, a spirit of alacrity, that finally brings them towards the footpath leading to the town proper.

        Riesenlied looks a bit winded, catching up behind everyone else; she doesn't exactly have the athletic stamina to catch up. Fortunately, Noeline's illusory senses allow them to catch up and not get separated. "... just what consumed this village, I wonder?"

        She has little time to wonder, because--

DG: Dean Stark has drawn a new Challenge.
==============================<* Felkirk Ruins *>===============================
=====================<* CHALLENGE - Don't Forget to Heal *>=====================
|Type: Exploration |Dungeon Ability: Wits      |Challenge Rating: 2          | 
---------------------------< Challenge Information: >---------------------------
 You find a moment of respite - a brief window in which the illusions die      
 down and the village is calm, if unsettlingly still. If nothing else, this    
 pause in the flickering madness of the ruins will give you time to heal up.   
                                                                               
 Or it would - if your healing items and various other items in your           
 inventory weren't manifesting too many eyes and too many mouths and           
 beginning to whisper horrifying words to you in a backwards language you      
 can't even understand yet seems to want you to kill. The illusion tugs at     
 your senses, trying to prevent you from snapping out of it.                   
                                                                               
 Good luck crunching on that heal berry when it's speaking in the voice of     
 Satan.                                                                        
=Dungeon Conditions: Save Point===============================================
<Pose Tracker> Dean Stark has posed.

        "Yeah, I remember you saying that back then, too," Dean remarks to Riesenlied, nodding. He, Riese, Noeline, and Avril had all made their way through it together... though they hadn't been able to clear through it. They'd found a strange but wondrous map of Filgaia in one of its rooms before being forced to escape. And speaking of escaping...!
        
        "Ha *ha*! We gotcha now!" Dean crows once he leaps from the icy path he'd made onto the footpath that goes into the town proper. He runs up to the gate and grabs it, just to be sure, then waves the rest up to join him into entering town. Rebecca and Kaguya make it first, followed at decent length by Noeline, Riesenlied, and Ambrosius, who aren't in quite as much of a hurry. It lets everyone catch their breath, at least, so no harm done.
        
        Once they're inside, the village itself seems kind of... creepy. Nobody seems to be home, but there's odd flickers in some of the windows. Dean looks around in curiosity. What *is* the deal with this place?
        
        "Everybody okay?" he asks once they've all arrived. He pauses when his eyes rest of Kaguya and her nosebleed. "--Kaguya, you're bleeding! Hold on, I've got a Heal Berry here--" Before she can explain to him, no, it's okay, it's just the drugs, he pulls out a Heal Berry and holds it out.
        
        "K I L L Y O U R F A M I L Y K I L L Y O U R F A M I L Y K I L L Y O U R F A M I L Y K I L L Y O U R F A M I L Y," it chants, over and over, hypnotic and gravely as its individual lumps sprout disturbingly human-like eyes that search wildly for anyone who will make eye contact with it. It zeroes in on Dean, and--
        
        He drops it, Twin Fenrir flashing into his hands, and shoots it with a rubber bullet. *splorch*, goes the Heal Berry, leaving behind what looks hauntingly like a lumpy blood stain.
        
        Dean looks around at the others, looking a little like he just suffered a concussion. "That was weird as heck, right? That wasn't just me, right?" he says, blue eyes wide and, frankly, kinda freaked out.

DG: Dean Stark has used his Tool Standard Cartridge toward his party's challenge, Don't Forget to Heal.
<Pose Tracker> Riesenlied has posed.

        "... remind me to-- look at the Blue Star, Filgaia, before we return sometime, Dean... it would be lovely to see it for what it is, in detail," Riesenlied admits as his comment reminds her of the time they found that map.

        She glances towards the villages and-- places her hand to her chest again, wincing. "... something isn't right--"

        Her eyes widen as she stares at the Heal Berry as it chants about committing paternal murder!! Or maternal. Or sistercide... I'm out of words.

        "W-what is happening...?" Riesenlied speaks, before it's suddenly apparent that there's something sweltering in her own bag--

        --"Aaaaaaaaah"--

        --and Riesenlied is getting piled on by a mound of her own Apple Gels, which have gained a Muni-esque mouth and is trying to nibble at her horns. "Stop nibbling away at me...! Get away!"

        She sighs and-- focuses her breath for a moment, drawing her hand to the Dragon's Tear. "Dragon's Tear, shine the light of truth..."

        She can only hope that this is an illusion. Her heart isn't ready for Muni Gel quite yet.

DG: Riesenlied has used her Tool Dragon's Tear toward her party's challenge, Don't Forget to Heal.
<Pose Tracker> Noeline has posed.

        Noeline keeps her hand steady on Riesenlied's arm, leading the other Hyadean forwards with that same careful step. It seems deliberate, even if she isn't directly accessing the power of the Medium around her. This is more of a learned stance than one rooted in any mystical ability - move carefully with the flow of something, rather than push against it.

        "... I wonder," she mutters to Riesenlied, glancing across at Ambrosius at the same time. For a moment, she wonders how much she should really say aloud - but they're surrounded by people they trust, and they've already sealed Duras Drum's statue. What more can be done to a Guardian beyond that?

        "... given the breadth of illusion involved, I almost wonder if it's something to do with Duras Drum's power leaking from his seal. ... I don't feel particularly attuned to it, but then I can't honestly say how much experience I've had with it at this point."

        She starts with an unimpressed frown when Dean's medicine begins to chant for death, and one eyebrow immediately rockets upwards. Even then, she only speaks once the bullet has silenced the wayward fruit. At least her breath only catches a little. "A-- a bit of both, perhaps. Vengeful spirits and illusory sorcery. What a lovely combination."

        Riesenlied's shriek is something she responds to that much more quickly, and her arm flicks up to command Strife forwards. Perhaps it's for the best that she pauses at the sight of Muni Gels bobbling over the other demon's horns, because it gives her the necessary moment to realize that Strife's form has twisted, growing a techno-organic mouth with the chittering of gear-like teeth within it.

        "I suppose I deserve this for my treatment of you two--" she huffs as she dodges backwards a couple of steps; she grabs the spark within her, a blackened flame bursting into her hand before she crushes it in her hand, an aura bursting out around them to try to beat the illusions back. For good measure, she flicks the encroaching bot quite hard. "Stop that."

DG: Noeline has contributed a Wits Basic Action toward her party's challenge, Don't Forget to Heal.
<Pose Tracker> Kaguya has posed.

Kaguya waves a hand a little vaguely at Riesenlied's gentle words--but does look over at her. She knows of course that Riesenlied probably has questions, has things she want to discuss, but she sure isn't brinign them up right now. Instead...

Well, they make it all right, and Kaguya Stretches a little once there. "You okay?" she starts to say to Riesenlied, and doesn't... well, now she can't help but think about the question, frankly. What did consume the village? But--

"Eh?" Dean asks if she's okay, and Kaguya blinks his way. "I'm--" She pauses, and lifts a hand to her nose. "...Ha ha ha whoops," she says. "That's just--"

Riesenlied shrieks. Kaguya finds that her gear is starting to... talk to her, that the world is starting to shift, and she wavers. "Whaaat the--did I take too much--" She pauses, and then grits her teeth. It's a visible effort, suddenly, her fist clenches, her hand shakes. "Okay I've... got to..." Noeline starts to call it an illusion, but Kaguya reaches into her bag and pulls out a small, rectangular device that seems to be whispering to her, melting in place as she turns on the display. "I'm gonna--do some scans..." She scowls, partly just to keep herself going, "Nuh-uh, I'm the boss of you, I spent way too much work on that generator for you to get snippy with me now--"

If she can get some data, then maybe she can put this whole worry to bed.

DG: Kaguya has used her Tool Radi-74 Tablet toward her party's challenge, Don't Forget to Heal.
<Pose Tracker> Rebecca Streisand has posed.

 
When it finally looks like they've made progress, Rebecca slows to a jog - and Dean makes it to the gate first. "W...Way to go!" She gives Dean a thumbs up from afar before jogging up the rest of the way. Rebecca makes it a half-pace before Kaguya and internally she's at least glad she could beat a sickly Veruni but she's not going to say that! Ever! Nope! She wants to keep her face in the arrangement it's in.
 
She's also not wanting to use part of their Heal Berry supplies on Kaguya who probably has plenty of healing stuff of her own, but it's just like Dean to help her.
 
She's not paying attention to it at all. Instead catching her breath when-
 
The chant starts.
 
And she looks - "What in the!?" Starting she leaps a good two meters backwards from the thing - as everyone starts to shriek.
 
"N-No Dean... No. It wasn't... just... you..."
 
Rebecca then remembers she has heal berries in her pouch - fresh from Jay's crop. And she removes a single o-
 
And it sprouts eye sockets - with jaws and teeth. It speaks in a deep baritone that feels like shards of broken glass slicing across the brain - Your Friends Will Abandon You
 
Rebecca looks like to shriek for a moment.
 
But then casually she drops down the heal berry. And squishes it under her boot - grinding it down. Then further.
 
Then she starts mumbling, "Okay - Okay get it together Rebecca Streisand. Everyone's counting on you to keep your wits about you."
 
Grasping her travel diary out of her pack, she opens it up to a page near the start.
 
And starts to read to herself nervously and silently - countering delusion with something concrete like...
 
And so I fall asleep. Waiting for our paths to cross.
So close and so far away. So near and yet I swear you've lost the way.
I am waiting for you my prince. Waiting for you to wake me with that kiss.
 
... in her defense - she wrote this one when she was thirteen.
 

DG: Rebecca Streisand has used her Tool Rebecca's Travel Diary toward her party's challenge, Don't Forget to Heal.
<Pose Tracker> Ambrosius has posed.

By default, Ambrosius is never really in much of a hurry. He could move quickly when he really needed to...but when he wasn't, he tended not to. They do eventually, however, make it to the village itself.

There's nothing here - absolutely nothing. No sense of life or movement around them whatsoever. It's a little unnerving, but his eyes whirl quickly when Dean remarks that Kaguya is bleeding.

He quickly calms when he realizes what it is, however, though Dean reacts...well, in a manner indicative of Dean.

Noeline says something interesting, which catches his attention for a moment. He should, technically, do something about it. However...he didn't want to take advantage of the situation. So instead, he takes a moment to rummage around inside his cloak before drawing out an unusual device.

Kaguya would be able to recognize it for what it is - a Veruni tool, combining a multitude of items in a single, small package. He's using it similarly to a telescope and looks through it for a moment to get a good view of the area...

But then lowers it quietly a second later.

"...Hm." He remarks stoically. ...Who knows what he saw there.

DG: Ambrosius has used his Tool Advanced Multi-Tool toward his party's challenge, Don't Forget to Heal.
==============================<* Felkirk Ruins *>===============================
=====================<* CHALLENGE - Don't Forget to Heal *>=====================
|Type: Exploration |Dungeon Ability: Wits      |Challenge Rating: 2          | 
---------------------------< Challenge Information: >---------------------------
 You find a moment of respite - a brief window in which the illusions die      
 down and the village is calm, if unsettlingly still. If nothing else, this    
 pause in the flickering madness of the ruins will give you time to heal up.   
                                                                               
 Or it would - if your healing items and various other items in your           
 inventory weren't manifesting too many eyes and too many mouths and           
 beginning to whisper horrifying words to you in a backwards language you      
 can't even understand yet seems to want you to kill. The illusion tugs at     
 your senses, trying to prevent you from snapping out of it.                   
                                                                               
 Good luck crunching on that heal berry when it's speaking in the voice of     
 Satan.                                                                        
=Dungeon Conditions: Save Point===============================================
=========================<* Felkirk Ruins - Round 2 *>==========================
=======================< Results - Don't Forget to Heal >=======================
Player                               Exhaustion                      Pass/Fail
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Riesenlied                          20 --(5)--> 25                 Pass
Dragon's Tear                       1   Wits    Effects: Cleanse              
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Ambrosius                           20 --(5)--> 25                 Pass
Advanced Multi-Tool                 2   Wits    Effects: Enlighten            
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Noeline                             15 --(5)--> 20                 Pass
Investigate                         0   Wits    Effects: BASIC                
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Dean Stark                          15 --(10)--> 25                Fail
Standard Cartridge                  3   Wits    Effects: Fanfare              
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Rebecca Streisand                   15 --(5)--> 20                 Pass
Rebecca's Travel Diary              2   Wits    Effects: Enlighten            
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Kaguya                              15 --(5)--> 20                 Pass
Radi-74 Tablet                      2   Wits    Effects: Enlighten            
-----------------------------------< Party >------------------------------------
Leader: Riesenlied                  20 --(20)--> 40                Pass
Conditions: Hesitate(1)|Save Point(1)
Effects: Cleanse|Enlighten(1)
===============================< Dream Chasers >================================
DG: The party led by Riesenlied 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.
<Pose Tracker> Dean Stark has posed.

        "Yeah! It *would*!" Dean tells Riese, of checking out the Blue Star. "Me and Avril will have to join you. I bet it looks amazing from here!" But then he notes Kaguya's nosebleed, and gets out a Heal Berry, and it chants for filial murder, and he shoots it into silence...
        
        ...Riesenlied is feasted upon by her own Apple Gels, which have grown draconic mouths, and fends them back with the power of the Dragon's Tear...
        
        ...Noeline gets sassed at by Strife, only to bop it back into submission...
        
        ...Kaguya gets into an argument with her gear...
        
        ...Rebecca finds solace and stability from the emotional wounds inflicted on her by her own Heal Berry in old poetry...
        
        ...and Ambrosius spies through a looking-glass. Who knows what he saw there.
        
        When it's all over, Dean shakes his head like a drenched dog drying itself off. "That was... super weird," he says slowly. Thankfully, Rebecca backs him up--though in all fairness, everyone started acting really weird for a moment there. "Looks like we all saw and heard something... freaky. I know I already asked this, but what *was* that?"
        
        Noeline offers a theory. Dean blinks, then nods slowly, frowning. "Vengeful spirits and illusions... Is that what that was?" That's a little easier to deal with. At least, he's freaking out somewhat less now. "If it was just an illusion, then I can deal with that... Ghosts might be tough, though." His frown increases. "We'll have to be careful going forward. I definitely wasn't expecting... all that."
        
        He looks down at the berry he squashed. It seems, for a second, to wink up at him. He shudders and looks quickly back up. "Uh, anyway, let's get going before something else weird happens!!"

DG: Noeline has drawn a new Challenge.
=============================<* Felkirk Ruins *>==============================
======================<* CHALLENGE - There Was a Box *>=======================
|Type: Exploration |Dungeon Ability: Brute     |Challenge Rating: 2          | 
--------------------------< Challenge Information: >--------------------------
 Some things within the ruins are actually real. Like this treasure chest,     
 for instance. Tucked away in what's left of a crumbling house, it is edged    
 with silver, but there's no key in sight. Someone must've put something       
 valuable in here and then left it when the village was abandoned.             
                                                                               
 If you're strong enough, you might be able to pry the chest open.             
=Dungeon Conditions: Treasure=================================================
<Pose Tracker> Noeline has posed.

        "... I am only guessing, so do bear that in mind," Noeline admits to Dean; she huffs softly as she does so, because despite the illusions swirling around them and the rather distressing scene they've all just witnessed, she can't really find it in herself to be too upset when Strife abruptly resolves itself back to a normal form, bobbing back up into the air to nudge against her hand. "Illusions are my specialist subject, you could say, and I happen to know that a rather major source of them is somewhere nearby."

        "But I am not-- as spiritually attuned as Riese is, but in this case that probably works in my favour. When in doubt, do your best to remind yourself that what you are seeing is not real. Whatever you can do to ground yourself will probably help." That sentence draws her gaze to Kaguya, stood there clenching her jaw as she fiddles with a Veruni device; Noeline saw the 'medicine' go down the hatch, and something makes her place a hand carefully on the girl's shoulder, as if to underscore their physical presence.

        "I will do what I can to stave off the effects, but-- well, given my source of power, it may not be terribly helpful to some of you," she adds with a diplomatic chuckle, neatly bringing Kaguya and Riese a little closer together in the process. "Rest assured I will do my best to be careful."

        A glance at Ambrosius - Noeline's not stupid enough to think that he might have missed the significance of her words - and she offers a quietly amused smile, puffing out a breath. "Most of all, as I said before - if you need a moment, take it. Then we'll move on."

        Off to one side, Strife and Trouble beep at each other, swirling around in a tight spiral in their excitement. Strife's string of whistling noises could almost be described as eager, an attempt to get the party's attention - more obvious is the way that Trouble, still wearing its fake cucco wings and a felt hat knitted by a certain mechanic, is bashing against a tempting-looking and rather ornate chest repeatedly.

        Catching sight of it, the Hyadean frowns. "... if those two can see it, it is-- probably real," she ventures after a moment. It should be more cut-and-dry, she's sure, but her pods have gotten worryingly sentient as of late.

DG: Noeline has used her Tool Trouble toward her party's challenge, There Was a Box.
<Pose Tracker> Riesenlied has posed.

        Riesenlied doesn't seem to have a good answer, perhaps in part due to her panic, in part due to how the oppressive atmosphere is really not conducive with making her pick out where the source is coming from-- as she drops to her knees and lets her ruined Apple Gels soak in the besotted village grounds for a moment.

        She looks up towards Kaguya bashfully, before expressing, "... all my recovery items are ruined now, I need to fetch some new ones. Fortunately, I do have a way..."

        It's not being as madly and completely prepared as someone like, oh, Jay, though -- instead, she draws a familiar green flute to her lips as she softly plays a three-note tune...

        ... kweeh ...

        There's a comical falling noise, almost like a slide whistle -- and then the ground goes 'THOOM' as Loccy the Cuccobo flails its wings and looks up towards Riese and the others.

        "Loccy, can I bother you to retrieve some Apple Gels for me?"

        Mysteriously, in a puff of smoke, a transaction is made, and some freshly wrapped Gels do appear!

        She looks concernedly to Kaguya since she had a nosebleed, nodding to Dean as she says, "Kaguya, Would you like a Gel...? Your nose is--" A pause, as Loccy makes a nose.

        "C-cuccoweh," the very rotund bird tries to mimic a cucco noise unconvincingly, holding up... a small key? under the rectrices of his left wing.

        "A key? What is this, Loccy?" Riesenlied asks gently, blinking as she looks to Noeline. "Will this work for that?" Mysteriously, it feels like the key could only be used once and once only....

DG: Riesenlied has used her Tool Flute of the Cucco Queen toward her party's challenge, There Was a Box.
<Pose Tracker> Kaguya has posed.

"Um, thanks," Kaguya says belatedly to Dean, after eyeing her tablet thoughtfully and then nodding. "...Yeah, the raw data doesn't match up with this weird crap we're seeing at all. Just another hallucination I guess..." But everyone else had it? "Ugh, human weirdo magic," she grouses. "Whatever, we'll just have to keep an eye out." That is, she'll be watching Rieesnlied, mostly. But--

"...Ah, thanks," she says to Noeline after her grumping, appreciating her presence some, clearly. ...Just, you know, not saying it all that much. She looks to Riesenlied, now closer, "Oh... That's not great, you--"

THOOM.

Kaguya blink blink. Stare. Blink again.

"Uhhh... Um...." Pause. "That's really handy... Hey Loccy, do you have any copper wire or... idk, some cerium? Gadolinium?" she lets that go for a moment and then peers down at the chest. "Um, you know... If that doesn't work, well..."

Kaguya makes a gesture where she puts her hands together and then pantomimes breaking something with them, and then wiggles her fingers. "This doesn't have to be that complicated." She waits a beat and then wipes her nose, glancing away in a little embarrassment. "Aah, ha ha, fine... I'm, y'know, fine... It doesn't even hurt!"

DG: Kaguya has contributed a Brute Basic Action toward her party's challenge, There Was a Box.
<Pose Tracker> Dean Stark has posed.

        "That *does* help a lot. Thanks, Noeline," Dean says to the 'Crimson Noble' as she explains to focus on reality over unreality, to find something physical upon which to focus. And hey, if she says she's an expert on illusions, he has no reason to disbelieve her. If it can't actually touch him, then it should be no problem! ...Kaguya and her drugs might be another story, though... Speaking of whom, he gives her a thoughtful look. "Human magic... Do we know humans did this? Come to think of it, I don't know anything about this place." This might well be Rebecca's cue to chew him out.
        
        First, though: "Oh!" he utters, looking over at Ambrosius. "I just remembered--Ambrosius, I haven't managed to get my friend to look at that orb yet, so I don't know if it'll work for that Golem or not. But don't worry, I haven't forgotten my promise!" He gives him a firm nod and smile, then starts to walk off with the others.
        
        Except then Strife and Trouble start squealing, bringing the news that they've found a treasure chest. Huh! And it looks like it's real, even! Riese plays her flute and summons a cucco, from which she gets new apple gels. Dean, meanwhile, retrieves his shovel, White Fenrir, from under his jacket. "Hey, I bet I could knock that lock off," he suggests, just before she gets a key. "...Oh. Or we could use a key. But if it doesn't work, I could knock the lock off!"

DG: Dean Stark has used his Tool The Trusty Shovel toward his party's challenge, There Was a Box.
<Pose Tracker> Rebecca Streisand has posed.

 
"Ghosts-!?" Rebecca looks momentarily unnerved but just agrees with Dean - "-r-right let's get going!"
 
Rebecca isn't that spiritually attuned at all on the other hand. Like - she was starting to sense malevolence a little. But it was more like a bad feeling? She tended to rely on Avril's senses for that sort of thing. Luckily - Noeline's advice checks out in her mind. "So a little mind over matter huh..." She mumbles to herself. "... yeah. Thanks Noeline."
 
Rebecca shoots a glance off to the side at Strife and Trouble though and - "You know... not gonna even ask."
 
When Riese calls attention to Kaguya's nose Rebecca actually shoots a look, but looks away after a moment.
 
"So we're sure we're not gonna... get cursed or something by doing this right?" Rebecca mumbles... before eyeing Loccy a little more closely. "Trained... cuccos..." Rebecca marvels to herself.
 
Dean mentions bringing out White Fenrir and... Rebecca hastily points that way in agreement, "Uhhh... yeah! Let's try the key first. If this place is really haunted or something then better that we just open it properly rather than seeing you try to Meteo Drive it's lid or something."
 
Did she actually acknowledge one of Dean's special shovel moves!?
 
Only on accident...
 

DG: Rebecca Streisand has contributed a Brute Basic Action toward her party's challenge, There Was a Box.
<Pose Tracker> Ambrosius has posed.

Ambrosius glances toward Noeline as she speaks. A major source of illusions...hm. That would certainly explain a few things. The phenomena here, for example. The town moving away from them, and what he saw through his scope... There would probably be more to come, too.

Noeline sends him an amused smile, and in return, there's a faint smirk from Ambrosius. They both probably had an idea of what the other was thinking.

Eventually, as they move, something presents itself...not an illusion, as they might first thing, but what truly appears to be a legitimate treasure chest.

"Take your time...young man...I am in no hurry..." He replies, sending Dean a slight smile, before turning his attention to the treasure chest itself.

Riesenlied calls upon one of her cucco(?) friends, who produces a key. He, however, is more on Dean and Kaguya's side.

"Eeeither way...I would recommeeend...deciiiding quickly..." He says, standing off to the side. "If neeecessary...we can carry...it with us..."

...He probably could.

DG: Ambrosius has contributed a Brute Basic Action toward his party's challenge, There Was a Box.
=============================<* Felkirk Ruins *>==============================
======================<* CHALLENGE - There Was a Box *>=======================
|Type: Exploration |Dungeon Ability: Brute     |Challenge Rating: 2          | 
--------------------------< Challenge Information: >--------------------------
 Some things within the ruins are actually real. Like this treasure chest,     
 for instance. Tucked away in what's left of a crumbling house, it is edged    
 with silver, but there's no key in sight. Someone must've put something       
 valuable in here and then left it when the village was abandoned.             
                                                                               
 If you're strong enough, you might be able to pry the chest open.             
=Dungeon Conditions: Treasure=================================================
========================<* Felkirk Ruins - Round 3 *>=========================
========================< Results - There Was a Box >=========================
Player                               Exhaustion                      Pass/Fail
------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Riesenlied                          25 --(5)--> 30                 Pass
Flute of the Cucco Queen            1   Brute   Effects: Cleanse              
------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Ambrosius                           25 --(5)--> 30                 Pass
Force                               0   Brute   Effects: BASIC                
------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Noeline                             20 --(5)--> 25                 Pass
Trouble                             2   Brute   Effects: Strengthen           
------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Dean Stark                          25 --(5)--> 30                 Pass
The Trusty Shovel                   2   Brute   Effects: Stalwart             
------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Rebecca Streisand                   20 --(5)--> 25                 Fail
Force                               0   Brute   Effects: BASIC                
------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Kaguya                              20 --(5)--> 25                 Pass
Force                               0   Brute   Effects: BASIC                
----------------------------------< Party >-----------------------------------
Leader: Riesenlied                  40 --(25)--> 65                Pass
Conditions: Treasure(1)
Effects: Cleanse|Strengthen(1)
==============================< Dream Chasers >===============================
DG: The party led by Riesenlied has passed this challenge! The party gained 25 exploration! If anyone needs to use party
management commands, do so now. Otherwise, the next round's GM may begin the next round with +dungeon/draw.
<Pose Tracker> Noeline has posed.

        Noeline turns out to be quite right; they really do have time to spare, and so long as they don't try to push forwards through the ruined village the bombardment of illusions seems happy enough to pause for a moment and provide them with some respite. It's a chance to catch their breath, and pause for long enough to resupply and recentre themselves.

        The Crimson Noble's step to one side is almost artful as Loccy crashes down to the ground; she lets out a huff of faintly amused air, shaking her head ruefully to herself as she nudges the gigantic creature in the side. "... honestly. If I only knew where to start with your presence," she grumbles. Oh no, is the jig up?!

        Fortunately, Kaguya's word of thanks tugs the twintailed woman's attention aside, and Noeline huffs a second time as she simply nods her head to their Veruni 'daughter'. There's a quiet glint of concern in the back of her eyes, though she's comfortable enough with the fact that both of them aren't the most expressive when it comes to each other, and more to Riese. At least Loccy offers a rumbling chirp, and a sudden giftwrapped package of wire for her.

        "I would say it's residual, more than anything else," Noeline comments towards Dean's absent thought, and Rebecca's worry that a curse might be waiting for them ahead. "Places like this don't happen on purpose. Malevolence isn't the only force that tends to pool in forgotten corners of the world, I've often found," she grumbles, folding her arms. It's not entirely clear how much of her comments are intended to just sound cool and foreboding, mind you...

        The fact that a key ends up in her hands so simply and without much fanfare seems to slightly ruffle her feathers; she stares at it for a moment, weighing it in her hand uncertainly before she shakes her head. "Well, let us try it, at least. We might need that shovel yet," she comments to Dean, crossing over to the chest and gently nudging the single-minded Trouble out of the way. The key slides easily into the lock - but true enough, a bit of force is required to pop the lid and reveal--

        --a great deal of ruined provisions, the smell of them driving Noeline back from the wooden box with a hand over her nose and a comical grimace. Well... at least there was time to rest properly.

DG: Ambrosius has drawn a new Challenge.
=============================<* Felkirk Ruins *>==============================
==================<* CHALLENGE - If Ye Die Before Ye Wake *>==================
|Type: Exploration |Dungeon Ability: Agility   |Challenge Rating: 2          | 
--------------------------< Challenge Information: >--------------------------
 As you meander through streets composed of houses that are both there and     
 not there at the same time, it becomes clear that you are not alone.          
                                                                               
 "Now ye lay thee down to sleep," croaks a single raven perched upon a         
 rooftop. "Pray Althena thy souls to keep," croaks a second raven perched      
 beside it. "If ye die before ye wake," croak three more ravens beside it.     
 "Pray Althena thy souls to take," croak six more ravens beside it. "Now ye    
 lay thee down to sleep," croak twenty more ravens across the next rooftop,    
 their eyes boring into you as if unfurling the scrolls of your soul. "Pray    
 Althena thy souls to keep," croak the next forty-six ravens as they perch     
 atop the rooftops around you, their voices echoing madly in your ears. "If    
 ye die before ye wake," croak the next hundred and twenty-eight ravens,       
 staring at you as if their words alone could kill you. "Pray Althena thy      
 souls to take," cackle the next two hundred and sixty-one ravens. "Now ye     
 lay thee down to sleep-"                                                      
                                                                               
 You may want to start running before they actually do take your souls.        
=Dungeon Conditions: Fright, Slow=============================================
<Pose Tracker> Ambrosius has posed.

...Ambrosius frowns. It would appear that the contents of this treasure chest were exceedingly out of date. He turns and decides to simply continue forward, out of the building.

As they continue through the streets, full of buildings that appear to fluctuate between existing and not, both at the same time, something soon becomes clear.

They are not alone.

It starts slowly, at first - a single raven on a rooftop, reciting a prayer. But then more appear, their numbers growing exponentially, each one reciting the same prayer that grows in grows into a maddening cacophony, drowning out all thought as it echoes through the town, and in their ears.

Ambrosius says not a word. He just keeps moving. He doesn't look at them. He refuses to acknowledge them, even as their numbers grow to a frankly alarming amount.

DG: Ambrosius has contributed a Agility Basic Action toward his party's challenge, If Ye Die Before Ye Wake.
<Pose Tracker> Riesenlied has posed.

        "Ah... if you're sure. Be sure to take a Gel, okay?" Riesenlied asks, as she hands Kaguya one of them, if she'll accept it.

        Riese looks to Dean's shovel to ask, "Meteo Drive...? Wow, I wasn't aware you were trained in shovels, Dean!" with a bright, admiring smile at even how Rebecca seems keen on it. It helps them break through the lock, too, but...

        Riesenlied frowns very quietly at the contents of the chest, remarking, "That can only be expected, I suppose..." as she looks towards Noeline. Unfortunately, Loccy can only stare confusedly at Kaguya's requests for all kinds of metals..... and lets out a 'kweh' as it sits back behind.

        Then the ravens come, her eyes widening. "Ah..." she stares around, then steps behind Ambrosius as she stays by his side, her hand focused on the Dragon's Tear to channel the voices away... and keep the important one inside.

        "Over there, I think..."

DG: Riesenlied has contributed a Agility Basic Action toward her party's challenge, If Ye Die Before Ye Wake.
<Pose Tracker> Rebecca Streisand has posed.

 
Rebecca gives Loccy one last look as her marvel turns to suspicion. "That doesn't look like any Cucco I've ever seen before..."
 
What's inside the chest causes her nose to wrinkle. Whereas Rebecca upon realizing what she said - looks hurriedly to Riese with crossed arms, "Well I mean - he pulled off something pretty amazing with one this one time against a monster but... I mean... trained?"
 
And then she trails off because Dean still pulls off pretty amazing feats with a shovel. A little bit of annoyance creeps onto her brow.
 
Eventually she just throws up her arms, "I GUESS!"
 
And yet... as they walk forward. The ravens show up. And they start chanting it like a lullaby.
 
It's really creeping her out but Rebecca tries to keep walking straight forward without looking.
 
It's only when the hundred and twenty eight become two hundred and sixty one that she breaks into a run.
 
She probably won't sleep tonight.
 

DG: Rebecca Streisand has contributed a Agility Basic Action toward her party's challenge, If Ye Die Before Ye Wake.
<Pose Tracker> Kaguya has posed.

Kaguya pauses, when Dean asks about humans. "Huh. I guess you're right, we don't. I just kinda assumed, y'know? Shit happens here, it's probably humans or beastpeople who did it." --Golem? Golem talk? Hmmm. Kaguya meets Rebecca's look... but doesn't answer it. She just instead says, "I mean, I'm not worried about getting cursed. I'm already cursed, like, what're they gonna do, kill me?"

Pause. "Meteo Drive... That sounds cool..."

She wrinkles her nose as she smells the contents though, looking to Noeline again for a moment--they don't express as much but... Well, indeed--for her it's fine, too. "I guess you'd know," she says instead about the local magic, acknowledging Noeline's experience if nothing else. "Ewwwww..."

Kaguya sighs when Loccy doesn't have her stuff. Oh well.

But... But, well, when the ravens come, when they start to gather and caw, Kaguya shudders a little. "Ugh ugh ugh," she says, and--and--

...The little things come together. The way she shudders and gets bravado-y about the ghosts--the way she looks away and gets grouchy--is Kaguya... afraid of that kind of thing...???

"Stupid birds," she says nervously, still hanging onto the Gel Riesenlied gave her because she can't just say no. "Uh..." Kaguya pops the Gel into her mouth and pulls her makeshift inhaler again, hand shaking as she gives herself another dose.

"I mean, it's not like I care or anything, but... we're totally wasting time going this slow. C'mon."

...Kaguya starts walking much faster. ...Rebecca runs, "I'm only running because you did first!"

...She bolts after the other girl.

DG: Kaguya has used her Tool Formula AM-17V toward her party's challenge, If Ye Die Before Ye Wake.
<Pose Tracker> Dean Stark has posed.

        Dean makes a face at Kaguya's response. "Well," he says, "I guess I get why you say that." He's been around Meribia and a bit around Glenwood, but he's yet to see any other Veruni. Still not cool though, Kags.
        
        Rebecca suggests they try the key first/'praises' Dean on his shovel-based killer moves. "I guess that's true. I wouldn't wanna break whatever's inside with my awesome moves!" he declares, because apparently that was totally what Rebecca was saying. Riese speaks in wonderment on Dean's training in shovels. He puffs out his chest in pride. "Hehe! I'm amazing with a shovel! I'll be glad to show you anytime, Riese!" Then Rebecca wrinkles her nose, but Kaguya chimes in on the coolness of Meteo Drive. Dean points at the latter. "See? *She* gets it!"
        
        He gives Ambrosius a firm nod. "All right! I'll let you know when I get to talk to her, then." The chest gets opened, and... the stuff inside has rotted away... Dean makes a face and puts his shovel away. "So much for that."
        
        The group moves on. The streets fluctuate as they walk, which is incredibly disorienting. Dean shuts his eyes to keep from getting dizzy, which works for a while; listening to everyone else's footsteps lets him know when to turn, though he does still stumble every so often. However, a strange song begins to fill his ears, and he blinks and looks around to see a murder of crows staring and singing... The crows chant their cacophonous lullaby, all while growing in number, staring, staring, staring staring staringstaringstaringstaring "SHUT UP!" Dean roars.
        
        He shoots at a bunch of them with the Freeze Ray, hoping to turn them into blocks of *silent* ice, even if they *are* just illusions. Then he takes the heck off after Rebecca and Kaguya, because if they *aren't* illusions, it occurs to him that he probably just really pissed the remaining crows off. Oops.
        
        It's kind of clear who the adults in this group are and who are the children...

DG: Dean Stark has used his Tool Freeze Ray toward his party's challenge, If Ye Die Before Ye Wake.
<Pose Tracker> Noeline has posed.

        "True enough," Noeline sighs in amused agreement as she returns to taking Riesenlied's hand in hers; she suspects they've still got a way to go, and she would rather provide her companion with something in the way of support than not. "Still, I suppose it was worth a try. It didn't notably slow us down, after all. ... more to the point, why do you apparently have an avian key dispenser?" she adds with a light grin, shaking her head in mild disbelief.

        Speaking of avians - the demon breaks into an amused grin at the sight of the first Raven; her step does not speed up at all, the pace she sets a determined and steadfast one. Rather than ignore the morose chant wafting down from above, she leans up to listen to it instead, her smile quickly turning brilliant as she listens along.

        A waft of her hand brings Strife around in front of her - and then sends it speeding upwards, on a collision course for a string of the birds. Not that Strife would actually pluck them out of the sky, of course; instead, it's meant as more of a break in the illusion, and a reminder that their response - or lack of it - is not necessarily in line with reality.

        Still, Noeline is Noeline, and her eyes flash in challenge as she simultaneously breaks into a bright grin. "Given everything I've faced - you're welcome to try," she crows back, a lilt in her voice. "But I'm not much afraid of Althena's power, nor your own."

        She keeps walking.

DG: Noeline has used her Tool Strife toward her party's challenge, If Ye Die Before Ye Wake.
=============================<* Felkirk Ruins *>==============================
==================<* CHALLENGE - If Ye Die Before Ye Wake *>==================
|Type: Exploration |Dungeon Ability: Agility   |Challenge Rating: 2          | 
--------------------------< Challenge Information: >--------------------------
 As you meander through streets composed of houses that are both there and     
 not there at the same time, it becomes clear that you are not alone.          
                                                                               
 "Now ye lay thee down to sleep," croaks a single raven perched upon a         
 rooftop. "Pray Althena thy souls to keep," croaks a second raven perched      
 beside it. "If ye die before ye wake," croak three more ravens beside it.     
 "Pray Althena thy souls to take," croak six more ravens beside it. "Now ye    
 lay thee down to sleep," croak twenty more ravens across the next rooftop,    
 their eyes boring into you as if unfurling the scrolls of your soul. "Pray    
 Althena thy souls to keep," croak the next forty-six ravens as they perch     
 atop the rooftops around you, their voices echoing madly in your ears. "If    
 ye die before ye wake," croak the next hundred and twenty-eight ravens,       
 staring at you as if their words alone could kill you. "Pray Althena thy      
 souls to take," cackle the next two hundred and sixty-one ravens. "Now ye     
 lay thee down to sleep-"                                                      
                                                                               
 You may want to start running before they actually do take your souls.        
=Dungeon Conditions: Fright, Slow=============================================
========================<* Felkirk Ruins - Round 4 *>=========================
====================< Results - If Ye Die Before Ye Wake >====================
Player                               Exhaustion                      Pass/Fail
------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Riesenlied                          30 --(20)--> 50                Fail
Rush                                0   Agility Effects: BASIC                
------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Ambrosius                           30 --(15)--> 45                Pass
Rush                                0   Agility Effects: BASIC                
------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Noeline                             25 --(15)--> 40                Pass
Strife                              1   Agility Effects: Cleanse              
------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Dean Stark                          30 --(20)--> 50                Fail
Freeze Ray                          2   Agility Effects: Quicken              
------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Rebecca Streisand                   25 --(20)--> 45                Fail
Rush                                0   Agility Effects: BASIC                
------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Kaguya                              25 --(20)--> 45                Fail
Formula AM-17V                      2   Agility Effects: Cleanse and Sacrifice
----------------------------------< Party >-----------------------------------
Leader: Riesenlied                  65 --(20)--> 85                Pass
Conditions: Fright(2)|Slow(2)
Effects: Cleanse|Quicken(1)
==============================< Dream Chasers >===============================
DG: The party led by Riesenlied 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.
<Pose Tracker> Ambrosius has posed.

Ambrosius doesn't stop moving forward. Even as the number of ravens build, he just presses onward, even as others panic and begins to run. Noeline, however, challenges them directly - she is not afraid of whatever it is they might be able to bring to bear.

They emerge unscathed. The others, however, soon learn two things about them - they react to fear, and while they may be some manner of illusion, like the rest of the town around them they are in some ways all too real.

The Frost Ray goes through them and they descend, in a black cloud. Their prayer comes to a crescendo, enough to overwhelm those sensitive, and for a moment, it looks like they might make good on their threat...

...But then, they're gone. And the party's surroundings look vastly different than they did before.

DG: Kaguya has drawn a new Challenge.
==============================<* Felkirk Ruins *>===============================
======================<* CHALLENGE - Ye Who Enter Here *>=======================
|Type: Climax      |Dungeon Ability: Combat    |Challenge Rating: 2          | 
---------------------------< Challenge Information: >---------------------------
 At the very heart of the village of Fellkirk is the largest and most          
 imposing of all the ruined buildings: The church. And yet, to approach it is  
 to find it both ruined and not ruined. One moment the holes in the roof are   
 there and one moment they aren't, the steeple is both there and gone between  
 blinks, and the stained glass windows shift rapidly between bright colours    
 and cracked ruins and twisted things in black and red. The doors stand        
 closed, flickering between normal doors and doors hanging off their hinges    
 and doors etched with erratically-drawn symbols that pulse in a horrible,     
 lifeless white light.                                                         
                                                                               
 Hunched before the door is a slender figure in a long cloak - but it's hard   
 to tell if the cloak is white, black or red, the colour changing between      
 blinks. As you approach, the figure turns to face you, pushing their hood     
 back.                                                                         
                                                                               
 It's hard to tell if it's a man or a woman or some kind of dead creature      
 because its visage flickers between all three to form a madness-inducing      
 confusion of overlapping phantoms - all that seems constant is an             
 unnaturally wide skeleton leer of madness and eyes that have been subsumed    
 by roiling white pools of madness. Shrieking in speech that garbles together  
 like several voice recordings played backwards, the church guardian holds     
 out its hands and unleashes jagging streams of white and black energy,        
 crackling like lightning and dripping like blood, twisting into faces like    
 grasping claws and screaming faces, seeking to rip through both your body     
 and soul.                                                                     
=Dungeon Conditions: Madness, Exhaust=========================================
<Pose Tracker> Kaguya has posed.

It's scary! Really scary. So talk of Kaguya thinking Dean's moves are cool is lost by the wayside, as she runs with Dean and Rebecca and gives lie to the idea that she's actually older than Ambrosius technically. She gets to learn that the birds react to fear, and that means Kaguya ends up hitting the ground, tripping while running, and is stuck there for a few momens without looking up. "Aaaaah..."

She huddles her shoulders, crosses her arms, and looks miserable for a few moments. However... the shadows of the ravens' wings lift to show the largest of the abandoned buildings looming up before them. Holes in the roof are there and then not there instants apart with no transition; stained glass shift in color and cracked, awful things. The sounds from all around them creak, and creak, with horrifying light.

...And above all, in front of the door, is that figure, many things at once, nothing at all, the overlapping phantoms making it hard to look and see and do anything at all. Its shrieks come, multiple voices--

"eid fall erehe fall fall dluohs emoc EREH"

Incomprehensible, the jagged streams of energy crackle towards all of them. ...Fight, or die.

...For her part, Kaguya freezes in place--and then once she's hit, charges with an inhuman snarl, pulling her knives.

DG: Kaguya has contributed a Combat Basic Action toward her party's challenge, Ye Who Enter Here.
<Pose Tracker> Riesenlied has posed.

        Riesenlied finally arrives, with the rest of the group's aid, towards whe she feels the dissonance... the voice... the beckoning is coming from. The church.

        She looks a lot more haggard by the time they arrive, her head ravaged a little by the endless chittering of the ravens-- but she stands strong as she...

        ...gazes towards the shifting church, which moves between repair and disrepair, glory and dishonour, life and death...

        And the creature, the figure at the door... is so many things at once, and nothing at all, as she holds onto her voice--

        "..."

        Riesenlied drops onto her knees again, but grits her teeth as she whispers, "I can't leave. Not before I understand..."

        The zither-like instrument she acquired at the Sluice Forest comes out as she places it onto her lap. She breathes in a little deeper, her eyes closed as she drops her head back and slacks her tension and begins to pluck away at the strings.

                        You are many. Yet you are one.
                     You are one. Yet you are also none...
                            Yet, if you are none...

        The photons start to emanate from her very form as she continues to play, as she does when she evokes her power of empathy through the music... and where there is dissonance and phantasm, her own sensation brings the nature of what they deal to the fore.

        To reveal it for what it is.

DG: Riesenlied has used her Tool Bella Aeterna toward her party's challenge, Ye Who Enter Here.
<Pose Tracker> Ambrosius has posed.

Looming before them is the church. Ambrosius stares up at it with a slight frown. Its appearance shifts constantly, uncontrollably, but even worse if the slender figure standing hunched before the door.

Ambrosius backpedals slightly, a hand disappearing inside his cloak. He can sense it - madness practically radiates off this being. And then it turns on them, pushing its hood back. It's enough to make even him flinch.

And then it attacks, with fearsome energy. At this point, Ambrosius draws out what he had been looking for. It appears to be a metal container with a switch on the front. He flips it and tosses it down and it opens. A cool, relaxing mist startes to spread over the party, curing their wounds and easing some of their burdens.

It also provides a convenient source of water for him to draw from, which he takes advantage of. With a gesture of his hand, the mists that don't settle on party members coalesce into spears of ice which go flying toward the slender figure...even as Riesenlied plays her tune, attempting to connect with it and reveal to them its true form.

DG: Ambrosius has used his Tool Mist Canister toward his party's challenge, Ye Who Enter Here.
<Pose Tracker> Noeline has posed.

        Slowly, their path begins to give away as the odd birds begin to congregate and then dissipate; one of them flecks through her arm, and even Noeline can't suppress the shiver that runs through her at the sight of it - but she keeps that cocksure grin plastered on her face, staring down the rest of the swarm as it envelops them and shifts and moves and--

        --and they're in the middle of the village square, staring at the sight of the church as it rises above them. For a moment, the Metal Demon lets her gaze play upwards and along the edges of the spire, tracing the shape even as it shifts and moves; her gaze tracks back down to the hooded figure that guards the doorway, and Noeline doesn't need to think twice before her scythe has materialized in her hands with nothing more than a thought.

        Despite herself, she pauses; she'd meant to summon her spear, but somehow this just felt-- more appropriate.

        "Be careful," is all she can get out before the air comes suddenly alive with fire and fury; she darts forwards ahead of the rest of the pack, and while she's still intent on facing down the illusion for what it is, she also drags her blade around quickly enough to catch some of the first assault of lightning, leaving it cracking along her weapon's edge before a sweep at the air dissipates it away.

        The aura around her flares; Duras Drum's power extends outwards from her, but in a protective arc rather than a wash of offensive power, covering those she can with a shifting, distorting wall of energy. It is not exactly fully formed, or particularly powerful - but here on Lunar, she's that much more able to feel the tang of Duras Drum's power.

DG: Noeline has contributed a Combat Basic Action toward her party's challenge, Ye Who Enter Here.
<Pose Tracker> Dean Stark has posed.

        Crap crap crap crap CRAP CRAP CRAP
        
        The murder of crows all swoop down when Dean fires upon them with the Freeze Ray. Dean is normally a pretty courageous boy, but everything about this town just screams wrongness into his every pore and has ever since a Heal Berry told him to kill his family. Kaguya goes down, and with a shout, he dives to protect her by covering her with his own body. If Rebecca stumbled similarly and close enough to her, Dean'll protect her as well. After all, it's his fault the crows are attacking.
        
        So it's a little embarrassing but mostly a relief when the crows vanish on impact.
        
        That relief lasts precisely as long as it takes for Dean to get up and see The Thing In Front Of The Church Door.
        
        "Wh-wh-wh-whaa..." he utters, staggering backwards, eyes wide. He knows that this must be an illusion, but the things he's seeing are just... so far beyond his ability to comprehend. It's like childhood trauma brought to life, made all that much more horrifying because Dean has been blessedly free of trauma for his childhood. The church, the cloak, the creature beneath it--they're beyond description. And so his brain just... locks up. It's a self-defense mechanism. The sapient mind just can't handle this.
        
        For a moment, he's unsure if he should try fighting back, given how poorly attacking the crows earlier went. If it's just an illusion, maybe he should just ignore it? But then it unleashes black-and-white lightning, striking Kaguya... and Kaguya unleashes herself upon the creature. *That* snaps Dean out of it; he can't let a friend fight alone! Riese's music gives him something further to hold onto mentally and concentrate on, while Ambrosius' mist eases some of the panicked tension through his body and Noeline summons a protective shield that finally ticks Dean back over towards feeling like this is something he can handle.
        
        "You've got some nerve, trying to scare us like that!" he shouts at the monster, which, while still terrifying, is not quite so body-lockingly terrifying now. "Now it's payback time! HYAAAA!!" He lifts up his copy Sword Medium, channeling its power. A second later, a near-invisible blast of non-elemental concussive force BLASTS towards and hopefully into the creature.

DG: Dean Stark has contributed a Combat Basic Action toward his party's challenge, Ye Who Enter Here.
<Pose Tracker> Rebecca Streisand has posed.

 
Kaguya is only running because - "I DON'T CARE JUST RUN!"
 
Rebecca hears the tell tale noise of Dean's Freeze Ray and his - shut up, and she whirls back around, "DEAN!" Into a stumble- near trip that results when she sees the black cloud bearing down on them. Illusion or not - it's convincing. And she manages to pivot around hurriedly and run on. If she'd known that Dean was thinking such a thing as the fact he'd protect her - any other time she might have been happy.
 
It catches up though.
 
And even though it passes through her. She's obviously shaken after - hands trembling. "Not real - not real. It's not real. Not real." She mumbles in the aftermath.
 
She's still mumbling it as they approach the church. "It's not real." It's cloak flickers to white. "Not real." Red. "Not! Real!" Now black.
 
It gibbers in multiple voices - as streams of energy crackle towards her.
 
Whether or not she believes it's real is readily apparent. Because she hits the ground, and rolls aside - fumbling for her Medium. It's a good thing that Dean as she watches Kaguya charge it head on - and Riesenlied start to pluck at the strings. And then Dean - Dean - it's like he's not scared at all anymore. While she's scared out of her mind. In that moment she's afraid for example that he's about to get in over his head and then... then what happens?
 
"MATERIAL-"
 
This isn't how she imagined it. Leaving town with Dean. She imagined a few odd jobs as drifters to help him become an Apprentice Golem Hunter - they'd find Avril's lost memories - then she'd get scouted out in Lailah Belle - then they'd grow closer and Dean would realize his feelings for her...
 
... and then.
 
It's a lovely thought. A lovely dream - or so she thinks. It's not something that holds up to the reality of her friends. The reality of life as a Drifter - and their situation as it stands now. It doesn't even really touch upon the reality of her feelings if she took a moment to stop and think about it.
 
"-PRISMATIC DREAM!"
 
Yet she clings to it anyhow as she cries out desperately. The thought of something better than this.
 
Her invocation is answered with beams of light coruscating in sequence down upon the figure. Like each individual beam of the rainbow blasting it one after another with spiritual power in answer.
 

DG: Rebecca Streisand has used her Tool Sky Medium toward her party's challenge, Ye Who Enter Here.
==============================<* Felkirk Ruins *>===============================
======================<* CHALLENGE - Ye Who Enter Here *>=======================
|Type: Climax      |Dungeon Ability: Combat    |Challenge Rating: 2          | 
---------------------------< Challenge Information: >---------------------------
 At the very heart of the village of Fellkirk is the largest and most          
 imposing of all the ruined buildings: The church. And yet, to approach it is  
 to find it both ruined and not ruined. One moment the holes in the roof are   
 there and one moment they aren't, the steeple is both there and gone between  
 blinks, and the stained glass windows shift rapidly between bright colours    
 and cracked ruins and twisted things in black and red. The doors stand        
 closed, flickering between normal doors and doors hanging off their hinges    
 and doors etched with erratically-drawn symbols that pulse in a horrible,     
 lifeless white light.                                                         
                                                                               
 Hunched before the door is a slender figure in a long cloak - but it's hard   
 to tell if the cloak is white, black or red, the colour changing between      
 blinks. As you approach, the figure turns to face you, pushing their hood     
 back.                                                                         
                                                                               
 It's hard to tell if it's a man or a woman or some kind of dead creature      
 because its visage flickers between all three to form a madness-inducing      
 confusion of overlapping phantoms - all that seems constant is an             
 unnaturally wide skeleton leer of madness and eyes that have been subsumed    
 by roiling white pools of madness. Shrieking in speech that garbles together  
 like several voice recordings played backwards, the church guardian holds     
 out its hands and unleashes jagging streams of white and black energy,        
 crackling like lightning and dripping like blood, twisting into faces like    
 grasping claws and screaming faces, seeking to rip through both your body     
 and soul.                                                                     
=Dungeon Conditions: Madness, Exhaust=========================================
=========================<* Felkirk Ruins - Round 5 *>==========================
========================< Results - Ye Who Enter Here >=========================
Player                               Exhaustion                      Pass/Fail
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Riesenlied                          50 --(5)--> 55                 Pass
Bella Aeterna                       4   Combat  Effects: Fanfare and Efficient
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Ambrosius                           45 --(20)--> 65                Fail
Mist Canister                       1   Combat  Effects: Cleanse              
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Noeline                             40 --(5)--> 45                 Pass
Fight                               0   Combat  Effects: BASIC                
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Dean Stark                          50 --(20)--> 70                Fail
Fight                               0   Combat  Effects: BASIC                
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Rebecca Streisand                   45 --(5)--> 50                 Pass
Sky Medium                          3   Combat  Effects: Rally                
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Kaguya                              45 --(20)--> 65                Fail
Fight                               0   Combat  Effects: BASIC                
-----------------------------------< Party >------------------------------------
Leader: Riesenlied                  85 --(0)--> 85                 Pass
Conditions: Exhaust(1)|Fright(1)|Madness
Effects: Cleanse
===============================< Dream Chasers >================================
DG: The party led by Riesenlied has passed this challenge! The party gained 0 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: Rebecca Streisand has drawn a new Challenge.
=============================<* Felkirk Ruins *>==============================
=======================<* CHALLENGE - Holy of Holies *>=======================
|Type: Final       |Dungeon Ability: Wits      |Challenge Rating: 2          | 
--------------------------< Challenge Information: >--------------------------
 To step inside this once-Church of Althena is to walk into yourself. And as   
 you do, you can feel /them/ watching you.                                     
                                                                               
 Them - the faces that loom in the sky. Peer from the stained-glass windows    
 that are simultaneously both loving depictions of Althena and monstrous       
 depictions of twisted faces with too many eyes and too many jaws and too      
 many animalistic and demonic features. Them - the phantom shapes that seem    
 to hover around the edges of the memories and fears that this place merges    
 with. The indistinct shapes of pale-eyed men and women who sit and stand and  
 walk and float all at the same time, gathered around you like an audience of  
 thousands and yet one. They are there even though your nightmares tell them   
 they cannot be here, in this place where you once felt fear.                  
                                                                               
 You remember when you felt that fear, don't you? That time in your life when  
 you suffered terribly. The moment when hope was nothing more than a fading    
 star on a distant horizon. That nightmare that felt more real than reality    
 could ever be. That memory you don't want to face. That bad dream you don't   
 want to face.                                                                 
                                                                               
 You face it now, here, before you, as real as it ever was. And the phantoms   
 and the stained glass horrors watch you as you confront and grapple with      
 your suffering, and they revel in it.                                         
=Dungeon Conditions: Suffer, Overwhelm, Fright================================
<Pose Tracker> Kaguya has posed.

Riesenlied's music carries her wish to understand, carries the way she offers a connection, reaches out even to these violent shades. The light moves from her, attempts to reveal truth. Perhaps they will see that.

For now, Ambrosius while this happens does flinch--but he draws out that container, the strange mist moving to soothe even as the light reveals. This helps Kaguya, for one, who finds herself coiled up, striking with reckless force. But Kaguya does not do well; fighting without thinking does not get something that cannot be so easily pinned down. Red, white, black--

Dean charges, channeling the Medium's power. Light, and more light. Rebecca calls on the Guardian, still more light. Brilliance, everywhere--

And Noeline calling forth a shield of distortive power, a flaring aura. That protects those attempting on their own--but it is light that dispels the illusion. The battle takes moments, and each of those moments feel long, stretch out.

...But when the light fades, the truth is revealed, such as it is: the ruined church stands... And it is covered in palpable shadow. What is coming is real. The light has revealed it beyond doubt.

<Pose Tracker> Rebecca Streisand has posed.

 
It's not so much that they step aside. It's that they're drawn inside the Church.
 
There's an intense feeling of isolation here. The others are here certainly - but they become shadowy - indistinct - distant. The only things that are close are the faces in the sky. Phantom shapes. Despite their presence that feeling of being utterly alone grows - and changes. It's that feeling of humiliation while one is being bullied by a crowd. The laughter and jeers of those bearing witness to the worst moments of your life.
 
Your worst fears - your greatest nightmares. What shape will they take for those that bear witness?
 
... even though you're not truly alone. Isn't this even worse than facing it alone?
 

<Pose Tracker> Riesenlied has posed.

        The light fades.

        And beyond it... before the pews of the church that falls-- much more real than ever could be, much more real than what fact and reality can tell, and truly much stranger than fiction could ever conjure...

        She is here.

        A young girl, perhaps no more than sixteen or seventeen -- dressed in familiar Fereshte tribal clothes, Baskar and Elru both in origin. Her robes billow before her, suggesting a position of importance despite her youth; her chestnut brown hair is cut in a hime style.

        An octagonal object that Dean and Rebecca are very familiar with is hung along a talisman at her chest -- An Original Medium, much like the Sky Medium Rebecca possesses.

        Riesenlied's expression drops to one of sheer shock, her pale face more pale than it ever has.

        "... it's okay, Nazgul," she speaks very gently as she steps forward, on her cloth-wrapped feet.

        "You've been suffering for so long. I forgive you. You were just... confused, and torn apart by your circumstance at the time..."

        Her smile is delicate, as calming and genteel as any goddess' as she brushes a lock aside. The light seems to illuminate her for a moment.

        "I forgive you for killing me."

        The Dragon's Tear, however, ebbs with a convulsing darkness. Within a moment, Riesenlied suddenly steps away from her as she murmurs, the expression conflicted upon her face. She jitters, as she looks towards where her pendant is showing the dissonance she faces.

        "...I'm sorry."

        The corpse lifts her head up.

        "...I'm very sorry..."

        The frost-slicked girl lifts herself from her broken throne, her mottled and shredded hands slipping to each armrest.

        Riesenlied is in silence for a moment. A tear rolls down her face. The pain is evident within her. It seems like she would succumb to the illusion at any point, as her knees buckle.

        There's a scowl from the corpse as her head droops, her tattered neck shredding a little. "Do not disappoint me, Riesenlied... not now... not after how long I've been waiting for you..."

<Pose Tracker> Kaguya has posed.

The Church. ...It's strange, unsettling, but then--a 'church' is one of the most alien things that these worlds have, to Kaguya. Something steed in unfamiliar mysticism, in beliefs she never knew that have, as she has learned, terrifying truth to them. She has met gods, and she has seen their anger, and for all that she rages and rages back at them...

Many say that anger is a secondary emotion.

Kaguya, in the darkness, sees the strange shapes, the threatening angles of the windows, and she sees the strange girl before Riesenlied. She blinks, looking at her, unsettled--and that darkness ebbs, the dissonance shows. ...The dissonance shows, and these other presences... fade. Kaguya does not see 'Mom' anymore, does not see Noeline, or the humans, or Ambrosiuis. They are in her field of vision but no longer really matter.

Phantom shapes shift around Kaguya; if one looks wrong, the area at her feet becomes rich red carpeting, her clothing shifts to something long, draping. Her hand falls on a shape that disappears too quickly to show. But that laughter--everyone seeing...

The funny thing, of course, is that there is nothing to see, for Kaguya. No figure appears before her, no phantom nightmare rises to menace her. Kaguya just looks up, at nothing in particular--and jerks, a hand coming up to grip at the right side of her chest, where her heart is. "Ah--" She freezes in place, unable to move except for the unsteady, sudden motions of her hand shaking. "Nn--" She starts to pull that strange device from her bag again, one-handed, and it rattles against her fingers. "Aaah--aa-h--"

It's easy enough to hear the choking noises as the small Veruni entirely fails to get words or even breaths out fully. They're ugly sounds, desperate, painful noises. She looks down. She tries to push through the right commands. ...She shifts again, stumbling back, and her device falls from her hand and clatters onto the ground, an open display in a strange language showing graphs and continually-updating lines, something like sound waves next to a number that updates.

"Ah--aaa--aaaaa--!"

The blonde girl wavers where she is, and tumbles to the ground in a heap. She doesn't stop moving. ...She doesn't feel herself start breathing.

<Pose Tracker> Dean Stark has posed.

        The light fades. Dean shields his eyes with one arm; then, slowly, he lowers it, peeking out. The church and its horrors surround him, and he tenses at those monstrous faces yawning and leering down at him. When he realizes they're just tasteless decorations, he relaxes... but only a bit. Because there is another problem.
        
        "...Where *is* everybody?"
        
        He's alone. Alone, yet as the others cry out, he can hear them. Hear, but not see. Not interface. His friends are somewhere close by, suffering intensely, but he can't do a thing to help them. "Guys? Guys?! What's wrong?! Where *are* you?!" he calls, running back and forth with greater speed and desperation to try to find an exit out, to find where the others are. He can hear them so clearly, it's like they're in the same room, but no one is here!
        
        It's not real. It's not real. Can he bring himself to remember that? Or will he be overcome? Dean forces himself to stop, squeezing his eyes shut and taking deep breathes to try to calm himself. What happens if he can't get back to where the others are? If they're hurt--if they're killed--and he can't do anything about it?
        
        He has to try *something*.
        
        So, not understanding the situation, not knowing if he's hallucinating or not, Dean calls up his paired ARMs and sets them to the rubber bullet Standard Cartridge. He hesitates, though. What can he possibly target that will correct his vision?
        
        Well. Isn't the problem himself? Isn't he the one seeing things that aren't there--or more accurately, not seeing things that should be there?
        
        And when you're in a dream, don't you usually wake yourself up by giving yourself a sharp, quick pain?
        
        Dean stares down at the pistols in his hands. He is, as a whole, not really afraid of much, nor is he particularly prone to despair. But he can't abide by doing nothing while his friends are hurting. He has to do something. He *has* to.
        
        But someone like him, who lives so fully, who has so much he wants to do, is always going to hesitate to do something like this. Is this the right choice? Would Rebecca tell him he was being an idiot? Would he end up making Avril cry? They're rubber bullets, so it should be fine, right? But at close range, doesn't he risk hurting himself badly anyway?
        
        But he can't do nothing. And a mere pinch on the cheek won't be enough.
        
        Dean takes a deep breath and squeezes his eyes shut. "I'm coming, guys," he murmurs as he lifts his gun to his head.

DG: Kaguya has used her Tool Radi-74 Tablet toward her party's challenge, Holy of Holies.
DG: Dean Stark has used his Tool Standard Cartridge toward his party's challenge, Holy of Holies.
DG: Riesenlied has used her Tool Dragon's Tear toward her party's challenge, Holy of Holies.
<Pose Tracker> Rebecca Streisand has posed.

 
Duogrammaton puts his perfectly manicured fingers up to his lips. "Well now show us your stuff darling. Don't be nervous now - the world is watching."
 
Like she practiced - Rebecca holds up the tin can casually with a smile. And then with a wink to the crowd - she drops the can, knocking it aloft with her boot.
 
Leaping to the side, her ARM is out in a flash as she squeezes the trigger once in mid-air.
 
There's no 'tink' like she remembers. To her horror the shot never connects. The can falls and hits the ground.
 
The laugh track above is ghastly. Like the chorus of hell itself. The TV Host turned Talent Scout gives a smile, "My dear that was dreadfully unimpressive. Well it's fine - it's not like you can't go back to whatever podunk town you came from."
 
Rebecca blurts out quickly - "Just one more chance! Please!" Duogrammaton just idly shakes his head, "What would be the point of that? Go fail on your own time little girl."
 
The laughter follows her outside of the TV studio where Avril is waiting and she's... holding... Dean's... hand. Dean salutes her casually with his other hand and a smile, "Well hey - you gave it your best try Rebecca. Don't let it get you down. You'll get it next time." Avril smiles placidly, "Indeed."
 
Dean continues after a moment, "So Avril and I were talking and... well... I don't know how to say this..." Avril interjects, "We don't want to make things awkward for you."
 
Rebecca stares at them speechlessly, wanting to say something but the words won't come out. It's like she can't breathe.
 
"Dean and I are going to be taking it from here alone." Dean's smile becomes full of sympathy, "I don't want to hurt you like that- making you watch the two of us... together. So isn't it better this way? You can go back to Capo Bronco and practice - and I'm sure next time you'll totally impress everyone!"
 
The only sound she can make is a whimper.
 
"So I'm sure you'll agree - it's best if we part ways here. See you around Rebecca!" Avril echoes, "Farewell - Rebecca."
 
-=-=-
 
She's been watching this all from the outside in. Like a nightmare that she's watching and can't interfere with - yet it feels so real to her. Like she can't deny it. The voices continue to jeer her like that demonic television laugh track.
 
And Rebecca Streisand feels utterly alone and humiliated - she's even down on her knees now.
 
For the first time in so many years she feels droplets of water well up in her eyes.
 
She hasn't cried since she got her ARM. She told herself she had to be a grown up now which means she can't allow herself to cry. But the shapes above laugh - and laugh. "No. No."
 
Willing herself not to out of a sheer feeling to spite these voices more than anything else. "That's not how this goes."
 
Rebecca shakes her head in denial. Then grabs her little diary and puts it down, angrily turning the pages until she gets to an entry. And then she holds it up. With her private thoughts of one of her worst nightmares laid bare there's no need to hide these ones. "LOOK! Just - LOOK! See for yourselves why this would never - ever happen!"
 
She really did that. And Dean just said - Yeah! We'll be friends forever! He has no idea I wish it was 'more' than that. More than just friends. But it was still sweet. And Avril... Avril...
 
I always get scared that one day I'm just gonna be left behind. And then there'd be nothing to go back to back in Capo Bronco. But she just giggled and told us so casually she has no intention of abandoning us and well, it just made me feel all fuzzy inside. It's just nice to feel wanted and appreciated you know?
 
And it's that moment that she starts calling out.
 
"Dean! Dean I'm here! I'm right here!"
 
Whether she'll think he's an idiot or not...
 
... all she hears is a bang.
 

DG: Rebecca Streisand has used her Tool Rebecca's Travel Diary toward her party's challenge, Holy of Holies.
<Pose Tracker> Noeline has posed.

        There's a tug on her - on her mind as much as on her body, and she feels the walls of the church rush around them in a disorienting moment. Noeline feels the stone shift and churn as she's drawn inside the structure, and it takes everything she has to tamp her reaction down, to stop herself from recoiling from the sensation. Go with the flow, she reminds herself, a mumble under her breath as she hardens her stare, and digs her nails into the palm of her hand hard enough to draw a white metallic blood.

        The church cannot seem to settle on a single moment; her immediate locale shifts and flickers around her, twisting into a set of darkened and ordered gunmetal corridors, the light dim and green and providing a sharp pang of angered nostalgia. The air shivers around her; it begins to snow indoors, lightly at first but picking up in speed and strength - and at her sides and her feet the metal of the floor and walls squeals as it shaves itself away in rolling strips, revealing a cobbled floor and the shadowed edges of thick stone walls.

        Letting herself go to the illusion, Noeline changes with it; her knightly armor tears itself away to reveal a simple, utilitarian bodysuit, familiar enough as the Photosphere's uniform. Her hair unravels, free of its ornaments, and then half of it is roughly torn away; the demon grits her teeth as she suddenly slumps to one side as if struck, and then is propelled sideways as if flung backwards, impacting against a wall that wasn't there a moment ago to slide to the ground. When she stares up at the falling snow, a shadow of her past self, her face is lit by the dull red of smoke and flame, and her eyes dance in fear--

        --but--

        --but there's a spark in them, as well, and she focuses her mind on the pain of the nails still dug hard into her palm. It takes her an effort to pull herself up to a sitting position, biting back a yelping noise as she feels something inside her scrape against another component in a way it shouldn't; she has to pause, throwing her memory back before she lets out a rueful, rasping chuckle. The repairs from the neonate's assault on easy prey had taken weeks, she remembers.

        She pushes through it anyway - hauls herself up to her feet, staggering two steps before she manages to catch her balance. A grin, which would be fanged were several of her teeth not missing - but her identity has begun to reassert itself, and the second try is free of both pain and imperfection. Rather than turn away, she looks up instead - facing the implacable stares from above. Her promise to Riesenlied, her words of support to Avril, her acceptance in the face of Jack's anger.

        Noeline wipes the white blood away from the corner of her mouth, feeling the familiarity of her glove and gauntlet as a weight on her arm. "... is that all you've got?" she rumbles, her voice still hoarse and cracked - but she closes her eyes for long enough to let a spark of the Guardian's power run through her, taking a moment's strength from it - and that itself is another spark of her identity she can focus on and latch to.

        "--we can be weak. We can make mistakes. We can look back with regret. ... but you will not stop us from going onwards. What good would it do to live in the past? We didn't come this far - forge the bonds we have now - by wallowing in it," she spits, and then sucks in a breath as she turns away from the faces above, pointing forwards instead as she begins to push through the cloying darkness around them, her voice pitched to try to pierce through the fog. "--Riese! I'm with you!"

DG: Noeline has contributed a Wits Basic Action toward her party's challenge, Holy of Holies.
<Pose Tracker> Riesenlied has posed.

        "... as much as I would like it to be ..."

        Riesenlied -- holds her hand out. She sucks in a breath that is simultaneously timid, yet resolved. The tears have continued to flow on her face... yet her expression is not broken. Somewhere, she hears Rebecca shouting at her-- See for yourselves why this would never ever happen!

        She grimaces, shaking her head, her tears staining her eyes and blurring her vision. "... Dean?" she asks, as she feels as if she can hear him calling out to her from... somewhere. There's a gunshot. It stings her out of her dulled sense.

        She hears Kaguya's choking gasp as that sensation of worry for her daughter starts to make her come to her senses. She struggles, internally, as she tries to refine her thoughts. "K-Kaguya...!"

        And-- finally, Noeline calls out to her, clearing away the last of her doubt. "Noeline... Noeline--"

        She turns towards Nasrin, whispering, "... I'm sorry... but you are not her. It is not yet time ... there is more that I do not understand yet... that I owe to you to understand."

        She brushes a hand against the cheek of 'Nasrin', who stands before her... and the phantasm slowly withers away before her hands, intertwined with the photons running loose around her and her wings.

        "... so wait for me, Nasrin. Just a little longer."

        Nasrin pauses for a moment... before letting out a little chortle, shaking her head as she reclines upon her broken chair. A bony elbow sits against the armrest, the flaps of her tattered Fereshte robes howling in the cold winds. "... you had me worried."

<Pose Tracker> Ambrosius has posed.

They find themselves within the church now. All around them, faces loom down, phantom eyes that gaze and judge them. Those eyes that pierce into the soul, dragging out every moment of suffering and despair.

That was something he knew all too well.

He was a Veruni - though he tried to endure, their lot had become one of suffering and despair - one of a slow, dwindling demise.

It had not touched him yet, but it would - none of them were safe. It was a funny thing, really - they had come to that world seeking salvation, and it had brought them nothing but grief.

There was a time when he felt responsible for it. He was a mechanic, after all - it was supposed to be his job, along with others, to monitor the technology on the ship and make sure everything was in perfect condition - nothing could go wrong.

But, inevitably, it did.

None of them knew how it happened. Everything seemed to be fine with the cryogenic chambers, but gradually, the rate of VR Factor infection continued to increase. They were supposed to be safe, protected from the cruel hand of death - and yet, it came for them just the same.

It came for her all the same.

It was his fault. Their deaths were on his hands.

...It was foolish, of course - nothing they could have done could've stopped it.

But now, in the future, as those phantom eyes stare down at them, as the oppressive atmosphere weighs on him, and as Kaguya tumbles to the ground as a cruel reminder, the thought once more comes unbidden to his head.

This was his fault. He was responsible for this.

Quietly, and with some effort, he draws something from within his poncho. Little bits of scrap metal, which he slowly, carefully, and with trembling hands, starts to piece together. Nothing special...just something, anything, to distract himself. To focus his mind away from those thoughts.

To remind himself that it was still not too late for them.

DG: Ambrosius has used his Tool Advanced Multi-Tool toward his party's challenge, Holy of Holies.
=============================<* Felkirk Ruins *>==============================
=======================<* CHALLENGE - Holy of Holies *>=======================
|Type: Final       |Dungeon Ability: Wits      |Challenge Rating: 2          | 
--------------------------< Challenge Information: >--------------------------
 To step inside this once-Church of Althena is to walk into yourself. And as   
 you do, you can feel /them/ watching you.                                     
                                                                               
 Them - the faces that loom in the sky. Peer from the stained-glass windows    
 that are simultaneously both loving depictions of Althena and monstrous       
 depictions of twisted faces with too many eyes and too many jaws and too      
 many animalistic and demonic features. Them - the phantom shapes that seem    
 to hover around the edges of the memories and fears that this place merges    
 with. The indistinct shapes of pale-eyed men and women who sit and stand and  
 walk and float all at the same time, gathered around you like an audience of  
 thousands and yet one. They are there even though your nightmares tell them   
 they cannot be here, in this place where you once felt fear.                  
                                                                               
 You remember when you felt that fear, don't you? That time in your life when  
 you suffered terribly. The moment when hope was nothing more than a fading    
 star on a distant horizon. That nightmare that felt more real than reality    
 could ever be. That memory you don't want to face. That bad dream you don't   
 want to face.                                                                 
                                                                               
 You face it now, here, before you, as real as it ever was. And the phantoms   
 and the stained glass horrors watch you as you confront and grapple with      
 your suffering, and they revel in it.                                         
=Dungeon Conditions: Suffer, Overwhelm, Fright================================
========================<* Felkirk Ruins - Round 6 *>=========================
=========================< Results - Holy of Holies >=========================
Player                               Exhaustion                      Pass/Fail
------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Riesenlied                          55 --(5)--> 60                 Pass
Dragon's Tear                       1   Wits    Effects: Cleanse              
------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Ambrosius                           65 --(5)--> 70                 Pass
Advanced Multi-Tool                 2   Wits    Effects: Enlighten            
------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Noeline                             45 --(5)--> 50                 Pass
Investigate                         0   Wits    Effects: BASIC                
------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Dean Stark                          70 --(5)--> 75                 Pass
Standard Cartridge                  3   Wits    Effects: Fanfare              
------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Rebecca Streisand                   50 --(5)--> 55                 Pass
Rebecca's Travel Diary              2   Wits    Effects: Enlighten            
------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Kaguya                              65 --(5)--> 70                 Pass
Radi-74 Tablet                      2   Wits    Effects: Enlighten            
----------------------------------< Party >-----------------------------------
Leader: Riesenlied                  85 --(35)--> 120               Pass
Conditions: Fright(2)|Overwhelm|Suffer(1)
Effects: Cleanse|Enlighten(1)
==============================< Dream Chasers >===============================
DG: You have overcome the dungeon's trials! This run is a success!
DG: The party led by Riesenlied has successfully explored Felkirk Ruins!
=============================<* Felkirk Ruins *>==============================
=============<* CHALLENGE - Tainted Goddess and her Treasures *>==============
|Type: Discovery   |Dungeon Ability: Conclusion|Challenge Rating: 1          | 
--------------------------< Challenge Information: >--------------------------
 The nightmare fades away as you struggle to master the illusion. The madness  
 subsides enough that you can begin to see things clearly. The church has      
 been badly damaged, pews blown over and reduced to fragments, stained-glass   
 windows blown out, much of the walls and roof blown away. But a few things    
 remain.                                                                       
                                                                               
 Like the Statue of Althena standing behind the altar, surrounded by           
 stained-glass windows, all startlingly intact. And yet, all is not right.     
 The stained-glass windows depict monstrous faces and hands in tints of black  
 and red and ghost white. And the Statue's once pure-white marble has faded    
 to a deep black marble, as if inverted, its smile no longer kindly, but       
 mocking - but it is difficult to see it clearly, for the statue seems barely  
 rooted in reality, flickering and distorting subtly as you lay eyes on it.    
 As you draw close, you can feel the stirrings of some profoundly evil taint   
 beginning to try to infiltrate you.                                           
                                                                               
 One more thing has been left. A silver box near the remnants of the altar     
 lies on its side, battered, door open - but the damaged tabernacle still      
 holds several small silver baubles, mostly items of worship. None of them     
 seem to be tainted.                                                           
                                                                               
 You should send Neriah Parringer an @mail about your discovery.               
=Dungeon Conditions: Treasure=================================================
<Pose Tracker> Rebecca Streisand has posed.

 
Riesenlied cries in the midst of her apology to a corpse. The Dragon's tear pulsating with a feeling to match her own. And yet... yet... in life lay salvation perhaps. And forgiveness. If not given from a corpse. Then perhaps one day from by one's self. She asks her to wait - wait for a lifetime. It's the right thing to do.
 
Kaguya dies. Or does she? For a while it's like she's not breathing. Then things start to fade away. Thoughts. Feelings. Leaving her in a state where she merely exists. Yet this existence is strong. It's enough to claw her way back - as feelings... thoughts... return.
 
Oh and then life. Life is never gentle. Birth. Death. Such things are violent. And so is her return to life as the illusion breaks away.
 
Would she have it any other way though?
 
If Dean pulls that trigger - he's right. It does hurt. It hurts so badly it feels like he could die. It rings into his ears and jolts his skull and makes his eyes roll back in his head moments before he hits the ground. But then all of a sudden that pain retracts just like it never existed. A trigger never actually pulled. Was his willingness to do it to break the hold it has over him - was that what was being tested?
 
Noeline bears it all in flickering moments that bombard her like a strobe light. And like a juggernaut she pushes forward into it. Whatever foul beings are watching laugh at her resistance. Yet everything dissolves like smoke as she pushes forward. Of course she does though.
 
She knows better than most to keep moving forward - and to keep moving towards... her.
 
Ambrosius once upon a time made a simple mistake. An oversight. It contributed to something. And now in the face of those eyes he distracts himself until that gaze falls off him. It recedes - leaving him only with that feeling of guilt behind.
 
And then it's all gone. It's a Church. The illusion - the nightmare has left for now, but a lingering taint still remains. Going forward makes it feel even stronger. Going backwards makes it recede. And yet... in the place that would be the holiest of sanctuaries within the church there are baubles - silverine untainted things.
 
Rebecca still has the book open when - everything comes back into focus. She still has it in her hands - when suddenly everyone is back. "Dean! You're... we're... I thought... we're okay!" She looks at everyone else, "We're all okay!" She hiccups once - then starts to laugh. It's a little broken up - but it still has the feel of unbridled joy all the same that even if on some level - the fear - the insecurity - the nightmare was real. For now it's gone.
 
... she might need a minute before she's able to go check out anything else though.
 

<Pose Tracker> Dean Stark has posed.

        BANG. Dean is right: a rubber bullet won't, and doesn't, kill him, but being struck at point-blank range with anything with this kind of force will hurt like hell. Yes, hurt so badly he could die. It's like he cracked his own skull, like his brains will leak out all over, like he's being swept up in an ocean of agony, where the pain is so great he can barely feel his own body collapse--
        
        'Dean! Dean, I'm here!!'
        
        And when his knees hit the floor, Rebecca's voice washes all that pain away with a single note of desperate clarity. Dean wobbles for a second, then shakes his surprisingly un-pained head and looks around. There's Rebecca--and Riese, and Noeline, and Ambrosius, and Kaguya. His lips split into a grin.
        
        "It worked!!" he declares, scrambling up to his feet and running over to his best friend. "Rebecca! It worked! And we're okay!!" She starts to laugh, and he laughs with her, and even
        
        gives her a hug
        
        that only lasts a second before Dean wobbles back. "Woo... Still kinda dizzy, haha!" He grabs one of the nearby pews to steady himself. Once he's okay, he'll go around to check on the others. He might even get a closer look at that treasure along the way, but for now, he pointedly ignores the horrible, disturbing statues. His friends are more important, and they always will be.

<Pose Tracker> Ambrosius has posed.

Gradually, eventually, that feeling of judgment and despair begins to fade. Ambrosius looks down into his hand, and see...

...A small, vaguely humanoid wind-up toy. Like the first thing he had ever constructed - like the one he used to instruct a certain 'Lord of Calamity'.

He closes it carefully in his hands and stores it safely away, before looking around.

...It was just a destroyed church. A simple thing, though it looked like it had sustained some manner of heavy damage.

And yet, the stained glass window remains...

...as does the statue. Though not in a form that the followers of Althena would recognize. A deep black marble, a mocking smile...and a distortion and a sense of corruption that makes it difficult to look on for long.

He averts his eyes. He has no choice.

Instead, he turns to Kaguya. He moves to her side and kneels down.

"Miss Kaguya. Are you alright?" Ambrosius asks, with a hint of concern. It's quick and direct - that's how you know he's worried.

...It seems like she isn't conscious, however. ...But she isn't dead. That, at least, is a relief. Ambrosius relaxes somewhat.

<Pose Tracker> Riesenlied has posed.

        Riesenlied's eyes are clouded, in tears as she dizzily looks towards everyone as reality begins to assert itself. The statue is unsettling, one that she wouldn't ever attribute to Althena herself...

        But right now, it's her friends that matter to her -- and as she sees Dean hugging Rebecca, exclaiming mirthfully in that voice that honestly elevates her -- and Rebecca in turn.

        She looks to Ambrosius and hurries by her side, gasping, "Kaguya, Kaguya...!" Ambrosius assesses her, and she isn't dead... and that is indeed a relief. "Mister Ambrosius... thank you..."

        Right now, perhaps it's a fellow Veruni that she needs more than her mother. She glances back towards that statue... and frowns quietly.

        "The darkness in here... ... it does not stain like Malevolence. So what is it...?" she reaches for Noeline as she slumps against her.... glancing towards one of the silvered boxes as she whispers:

        "I hear you..."

<Pose Tracker> Noeline has posed.

        Noeline's eyes have closed at some point, but she's got the werewithal to at least push forwards through the fog in search of Riesenlied's side-- and then abruptly it all fades away, leaving her stumbling forwards at the sudden cessation of pressure. Almost stumbling, she just has time to catch herself before she piles the both of them abruptly over.

        Catching her balance, she too takes stock of their fellow explorers; her brow furrows at the state of the two Veruni, and then lightens a little with a puff of air at the pair of humans, and the fact that they are all more or less appear to be intact.

        "... it's similar," she mutters quietly to herself, in answer to her partner, as she guides the both of them forwards. "Not the same, but still steeped in regret. ... if you ask me," she grumbles afterwards, remembering to maintain herself.

<Pose Tracker> Kaguya has posed.

<poem> Kaguya is breathing, at least. ...But she's on the ground, curled up, and does not look well.

...But she is breathing.