2018-08-23: In The Name of Her Moon

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<Pose Tracker> Seraph Lanval has posed.

    There is said to be a statue beyond reproach in its beauty.
     Its depiction of a woman most serene that sits upon a crescent moon has, over the centuries, invited introspection and wonder for those who come across it on nights where the Blue Star is full. Nights... exactly like these, according to the legends and stories passed about by... well, nocturnal people, as though it could only ever truly be found by those who choose to live under the darkness of night. The very few who claim to have ever seen it, say they've found it by following cerulean-winged butterflies on their nocturnal migrations to parts unknown.
     Butterflies of this exact nature, their wings bioluminescent as white flecks represent the distant stars, flit through the plains in great numbers. At least one nameless spectator to the spectacle says that's way, way, way more butterflies than he's ever seen. It's like they want to be seen. (Why wouldn't they? They're pretty. They should be proud of themselves for being so pretty.)
     Those around to witness such will find themselves chasing them across the rolling hills of the Plains of the Goddess. No monsters of any stripe - wild beasts or Hellions - gets in their way. It's a solid hour or two of walking underneath the light of the Blue Star trying to keep up with them. They all converge within a forest clearing well off the beaten path. The last fifteen minutes are the most difficult, the most trying - all the overgrowth, and the butterflies get a bit more distant with every minute...
     ...Until they all wade through the forest. Though the journey through it is trying between the low visibility and raw amount of forest detritus, there is a serenity that pervades the forest glade. The butterfly swarm parts, as if to provide a visual guide for those chasing them towards the heart of this very forest - inside a shining clearing.
     The Blue Star shines from directly overhead, reflecting light upon a shallow lake that would go waist-high were it not for a convenient array of stepping stones in which to travel to its center where it waits. It is nearly impossible to maintain one's balance on these stepping stones unless they are familiar with - no, capable of embodying - this same serenity.
     A statue of a woman of this exact nature rests at the center of the circular mirror-like body of water (perfectly so), sitting upon a crescent moon.
     That is Filgaia's Celesdue. This is not the product of coincidence via an artisan's flight of stonecarving fancy. That is a Guardian Statue, right there...
     The butterflies rest in the trees surrounding the clearing, as though watching to see how the visitors take in the sights - or attempt to walk on those stepping stones to reach it. Someone would need to in order to move to seal it.

<Pose Tracker> Catenna has posed.

A statue of a woman, seated on a crescent moon, which emerges when the Blue Star is full in the sky....

That legend drew Catenna. It drew her instantly. And it drew the Owlet with her - the two of them sought it out together.

In her long blue and silver robe, she's right at home in this quiet night - the kind of evening she's spent in many a forest glade. As those shimmring cerulean butterflies float past her, the Moon Shaman makes her way through the plains, her hands slowly playing through the tall grass, before she passes into the trunks and into the glade beyond.

Into a serenity she has experienced before. Catenna widens her eyes a little as she gazes on the statue on the other side of those stepping stones.

The Owlet's eyes shine like a pair of full moons in their own right. Catenna, sealing rod in hand, gives the bird a quiet, serene smile, before she begins to pick her way across those stepping-stones as best she can.

It is her intention to ssee to the sealing as soon as she can. When the time is right, she will pause for a proper ritual - when Celesdue's icon upon this world is safe and whole. Delicate steps move from stepping stone to stepping stone, guiding her across the water with simple dancer's grace.

<Pose Tracker> Ree has posed.

Ree scowls as she pursues the butterflies, their beauty quite lost on her. Had she not been hired to accompany some questionable-seeming people on this seemingly idiotic quest, it would've seemed a colossal waste of time.

Until, that is, she glimpses the statue of Celesdue on her crescent moon -- something she'd never have expected to see on the Old Moon. The butterflies, it seemed, had flown with purpose. Always skeptical about matters of religion, she attributes this to some kind of magic -- even she had learned to use that, and it wasn't that difficult! She draws closer to the statue as her employers do, and awaits further instructions. She'd heard them talk of "sealing" but didn't know what they meant by that, or why they thought it so important. With any luck, this sealing would go smoothly and she could go back to the inn for some well-deserved rest (and with more coin in her pouch). The sooner it was over with the happier she'd be! Ree huffs impatiently and waits to see exactly what the sealing entails.

<Pose Tracker> Jacqueline Barber has posed.

Jacqueline heard the tale from Catenna and, of course, decided to join her. This was important to her friend - she wanted to be present to help her, should anything go awry.

And, as they chase those butterflies through the hours-long walk, they finally find it...that serene forest glade, with a statue in its very center.

Jacqueline is, momentarily, awestruck...but she doesn't say anything. For some reason, she feels that breaking the silence here would be almost blasphemous.

While Jacqueline is often sure of her footing...as she moves to follow Catenna across the stones, she finds her own passing to be uncertain and uneasy - hardly matching Catenna's own elegance.

She's about halfway through now. The next stepping stone is a bit further out. It takes more than a hop to clear that gap, as if testing those who would wish to pass in the face of the unexpected.

Jacqueline smiles nervously, inhales, and takes a small leap.

...For a second she was afraid she'd fall off, but she manages to stick the landing at the last second.

She feels, momentarily, proud of herself.

<Pose Tracker> Seraph Lanval has posed.

    Fox Company had a brief brush with the Caravan Kinship for the usual supply stuff. Seraph Lanval saw a great opportunity and said to the rest that he'd catch up with them tomorrow.
     Because he was totally going to go for more of Jay's Brewte Force. That is his 'pie on a windowsill' vice. He loves the stuff, she gives it out almost like candy when they're out on an expedition, and he was hedging his bets on there being one. So he transferred himself into a new vessel all sneaky and incognito, into--
     --a bottle of Reliable Repellant, by accident. It is wholly unpleasant!! But he can taste the Brewte Force of the future, and so he is willing to endure the presence of one of the few 'beverages' to ever successfully repulse him.
     As they make it into the clearing, he manifests much less discreetly out from Jay's pack. They haven't had to really move any obstruction or destroy any door or anything, so there was no real opportunity to bum any Brewte Force... but there's another reason to come out, eyes wide for a split second.
     "By the Goddessh..." He's speechless, looking at this statue. That's... not of Althena, but wow. The look of it matches that powerful manifestation he saw a long while back... he watches Catenna go on ahead on the stepping stones. He wants to go see it closer too. He closes his eyes, puts on his best cat-like smile, and follows suit.
     The Seraph is oft of a carefree attitude, swaying along through life as he will. His manifestation is possessed of an uncanny balance beyond the vast majority of mortals. He is of the water element, embodying it in whole. The first six strides across the stepping stones are promising, if uneven in rhythm. He looks to stumble and trip between the third and fifth steps, but catches himself on the sixth with one leg raised behind him as he balances cautiously ahead.
     He does not make it to the seventh, before he falls into the water. Though he breaks the surface, there are no ripples in which to mar the perfection of this lake as he silently floats face-up on its surface. An invisible, intangible current gently sweeps the Water Seraph right back towards the shore of the lake, where he rests.
     It's a humbling experience. Humbling enough that there is no silly giggling that he tends to be possessed of.
     Rather than make another attempt at it again, he sits up and watches the robed woman continue her journey towards the center, one eye open half-lidded with a quiet smile. He doesn't understand what, exactly, is going on, but he can appreciate the beauty of the sight.

<Pose Tracker> Cyre H. Lorentz has posed.

The presence of a guardian statue alone would be enough to earn Cyre?s presence, but this one is different. This one is Celesdue?s

<Pose Tracker> Cyre H. Lorentz has posed.

He has to be here.

He has to be.

Through woods and bramble, into the depths of the forest they go, chasing after that swarm of almost phantasmal butterflies. The idea is whimsical, almost childlike in wonder and yet...

There it is. The statue of the Lady of the Moon in all her glory and resplendance.

Cyre releases a long, mystified breath. It?s beautiful in a way few of these have been. Maybe that?s just the way the Silver and Blue stars have aligned, but...

?Go on, Cat,? Cyre whispers as the woman strides into the water. ?She?s waited for you all this time.?

<Pose Tracker> Red Priestess Mauri has posed.

It's a lovely evening. A beautiful evening. Butterflies are dancing and the Blue Star shines perfectly into the center of the lake but it's a fact of life that any two individuals can look at the same exact picture and see two completely different things. For the Red Priestess, she sees the beauty as a sign giving her the blessing to act.

As Catenna, and others, approach the statue something surprising happens! A swirl of fire ripples across the surface of the lake and wholly encases the statue in flame, cutting off any hope of approach--but leaving the statue within unharmed. For now.

"When I heard about voyagers from the Blue Sphere arriving on our world, I was so terribly happy, and that they returned my long lost brother to me...only brought me further joy."

On the other side of the statue, standing on one of the stepping stones, is a young silver haired woman in red Althenian Priestess robes. For some, that horn jutting out the center of her head and those pointed ears may have a resemblance to another individual they know.

"But then I saw the people from the Blue Sphere for what they were." The beastman says as she daintily hops across the stones as if playing hopscotch. "A cursed people with no regard for the blessings and might of Althena. They escalated a war costing us countless lives and much destruction. They spread malevolence across the land, even breaching the Boundary. They even consorted with an assassin who desired little less than the life of one of our Four Heroes."

The Red Priestess smiles. "If you were in my shoes, you would take this as a sign that you should do something, that you must do something...or am I wrong?" She shakes her head. "I am afraid I can't let you conduct your rituals anymore. Submit to Althena. Your weak spirits are nothing before our blessing. It's time you accept it."

Her smile becomes even sweeter. "Or be cleansed in holy fire."

Her gaze turns towards Seraph Lanval. She exhales faintly, dissapointed, before adding, "And I believe you were excommunicated, were you not? The Dragonmaster showed you Althena's mercy, yet here you are...spitting in their faces."

<Pose Tracker> Catenna has posed.

Catenna couldn't get Matilda out to back her out for this one, so she paid Ree a good rate and threw in meals as a bonus. Hopefully Ree likes curry.

The sight of Jay beginning to hop over the rocks brings a kind smile to Catenna's face. The look she gives her is simple and hopeful. Take your time.

The pause cuts her off before she can get to where she wants to get. Catenna opens her mouth and blinks as that swirling fire rips across the lake - and it swallows up the statue before she can reach it. Pressing her lips together, she forces down the urge to vent her frustration, particularly as the figure behind the Statue begins to speak up with such imperiousness.

A Beastwoman speaking something of holy fire. Great. Catenna has no idea who the Four Heroes are by name, but she recognizes the title.

Taking a neat step across one of the stepping-stones, Catenna rests her sealing rod against her shoulder. "I think you are under something of a misapprehension," she says, her voice quiet and polite. "Perhaps a grievous one. I can speak for myself in saying that I have been a part of no war. I have cleansed Malevolence where I have found it. And I have not consorted with the Four Heroes in any particular respect. If there was an assassination, I know nothing of it."

With the Owlet perching on her shoulder, Catenna lets her rod lean on the opposite, holding her hands out with her palms open. "You are a woman of faith," she appeals. "I respect that, and I have done my best to shown Althena's priestesses the honour your faith deserves. I ask only this: That you permit me to approach the statue and complete this one task, and when it is done, I and these with me will trouble you no more."

She bows her head. "And if I am anything less than honest in my request, I give you leave to cast me down where I stand."

<Pose Tracker> Seraph Lanval has posed.

    Lanval rests at the shore of the lake. He's so captivated by the very beauty of the whole picture that when powerful flames start to creep about the lake, he thinks very little of it. So serene as to inspire numbness--
     Then a lick of flame scalds him from where he sits. That's not ordinary flame, he comes to realize, as he flops back in a roll and has to magically douse himself to stop it from overcoming him. Twice, in fact - that speaks to the power of its wielder. An even more sopping wet water elemental stands at utmost attention as a woman's voice rings out.
     "That'sh..." He can't finish the sentence when he sees her outline. That of the Red Priestess herself... one of the Four Heroes. He is so frozen by the sight that he might be just shy of being mistaken for a Seraph of Ice.
     ...She is technically not wrong about the Boundary breach. He doesn't quite have the full scope of the series of events that led to it, but the Domain Masters of Mount Manfred were all from the Blue Star originally. When the Red Priestess smiles, Lanval seems tempted to just want to disappear back into the bottle of Reliable Repellant, as if to not be seen--
     --but he has been, as that sharp gaze looks to him.
     "R-R-Red Prieshtessh Mauri, I..." Talise, Tethelle, Sephilia, and Layna aren't here. They've been rock solid emotional support for him, for having felt so ostracized and powerless to figure out or do much of anything about what's been going on...
     ...
     He watches as Catenna maintains her composure before the Red Priestess, speaking with such conviction and respect as to seem untouched by the great fires that could envelop any of them in an instant. The boundless faith... the endless zeal. The Red Priestess' devotion is said to be second to none, and that this 'none' might be tempted to give up first place as to not be consumed by holy fire.
     ...
     While those who worsened the Mount Manfred corruption were from the Blue Star, so, too, were its saviors.
     He saw Catenna cleanse the Malevolence from the Hellion within the uncharted isles, too. Once more, Lanval has the distinction of being a witness to something extraordinary and unthinkable. The last time he withheld this...
     There won't be another instance of him withholding.
     "R-Red Prieshtessh..." Lanval sounds sheepish from sheer intimidation. How can he not be? His standing is well-known to himself. "She shpeaksh the truth... it wash thoshe from the Blue Shtar that... that... that cleanshed the Malevolence from Mount Manfred... I wash there."
     That's the honest truth. "I... I don't shay I know much about their own waysh, but... they ain't our enemiesh... 'm... 'm shure of that."
     He's too uneasy to even think of taking a drink from his gourd for that liquid courage. Having this truth is all that stops him from escaping out of sight.

<Pose Tracker> Jacqueline Barber has posed.

The sight of flame rising around the statue is nearly enough to startle Jacqueline off the stone, but she barely manages to maintain her footing. She turns to face the woman who speaks, and gasps in surprise.

"Red Priestess Mauri...!" She says. Jacqueline had done her research - she knew who was in command here, and so she knew that the person in front of them now was one who commanded respect among her people.

But then things take a turn for the worse. Her words...it feels like a knife to her.

"...I'm sorry. The actions of those from my home...they pain me as well, Red Priestess. Our coming here was an act of desperation, but I didn't realize people would be willing to visit such destruction upon yours." She says, placing a hand over her heart.

And to Catenna's request, she only adds a simple 'Please...', and bows her head as well.

<Pose Tracker> Ree has posed.

Ree stands and listens to the Red Priestess and Catenna speak, impatiently. Great, another one of those religious fanatics that swarmed all over the Old Moon like flies on a three-day-old pizza! They followed All Thena, or something like that. 'Holy fire' sounded like a threat, though, and if there was one thing a Geohound was attuned to, it was threats. Ree discreetly checks to make sure her ARMS are ready -- not that she REALLY wants to use up more precious ammo! -- and prepares a couple of spells, just in case.... She has a strong hunch the Beastwoman won't listen to reason. Fundamentalist fanatics, regardless of affiliation, rarely do.

<Pose Tracker> Claude C. Kenny has posed.

When the Guardians of Filgaia have their greatest need, they seek out a champion. And though she failed her Trial, the sole remaining hope they have is their Chosen Shaman - Cecilia Lynne Adlehyde, Princess Royal and Uncrowned Queen of the throne of the Kingdom of Adlehyde, also known as The Innocent One.

Unfortunately, she is currently... indisposed, as it turns out that drinking centuries-old beer you found in the bottom of a burned-out (probably haunted) brewery is inadvisable from a gastronomical point of view.

And when Cecilia Lynne Adlehyde, Princess Royal and Uncrowned Queen of the throne of the Kingdom of Adlehyde, also known as The Innocent One, has her greatest need, she too seeks out a champion.

Unfortunately, once again, there was literally no one else to choose from.

The sound begins as a faint, soft 'aaaa' echoing out from the trees at the edge of the clearing, a sound that grows louder with each passing second, punctuated by stacatto cracks of broken branches, the rustle of torn leaves, and the startled protests of various local fauna. It grows louder and more clear - a male voice pitched in the middle tenor range, still emitting that single, continuous cry.

'aaaaaaaaaaa'

Claude C. Kenny emerges from the treeline and into the clearing, moving at a full sprint, trailing vines and twigs and an extremely confused-looking squirrel behind him. His face and left forearm are bandaged up, owing to an encounter with some particularly tenacious yaks. Upon sighting the group gathered around the pool, in which sits a large statue of considerable interest to him, Claude's eyes flash with a renewed sense of determination, lending strength to his steps.

"aaaaaaaaaaAAAAA"

The blonde swordsman leans into the sprint, faint flickers of blue light dancing around his legs as he channels chi. Form blurring, he notices through teary eyes that the statue is surrounded by fire; he also notices that he recognizes basically everyone standing around the statue except for a beastwoman who they are all addressing. While the wind blowing past his ears makes it too hard for him to hear the discussion, he notices Jacqueline bowing her head toward this strange person.

How nice of her, Claude thinks. Ducking out of the way like that.

"AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH!"

Claude leaps into the air, clearing Jacqueline's bowed head by an inch or two, his body twisting in two rapid 360-degree spins, after which he drives a heel kick toward the point of the priestess's chin.

Diplomacy.

Space American diplomacy.

GS: Claude C. Kenny has attacked Red Priestess Mauri with Face Kick No Jutsu!
GS: Claude C. Kenny has completed his action.
GS: Red Priestess Mauri guards a hit from Claude C. Kenny's Face Kick No Jutsu for 56 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Jean has posed.

Jean could use a moment of peace, a moment of wonder, after her hurried flight from Meribia and the days and nights since. She came alone--quiet, thoughtful, walking through the plains, through the forest... Monsters are rarely an issue when someone can walk quietly, and her ordinary clothing doesn't make her stand out terribly. ...She has not yet seen the new posters demanding her capture.

But this--she sees the pool, she sees the statue itself, and knows in that instant that it is not of Althena, but corresponds to the same being that does the stone tablet she carries among her things. And this--

Fire.

Jean looks in some shock from where she stood away from the others, not intending to intercede, but--

Another of the Four Heroes. So what can she do, but...?

...Step out of the darkness, into plain view. The bandana that holds back her green hair does not conceal her face. The yellow dress she wears, with black and white overpatterning, does not hide her form. The fans at her sides are not her claws, but they hang as weapons from her belt nevertheless.

"I am not of the Blue Star," Jean, Vile Fiend and revealed assassin announces. "...And I know that Althena's ways aren't this sort of destruction. These people aren't the ones who have done the things you say."

She gestures to Catenna, "This woman is a gentle priestess, who wants only to help those she finds." A gesture to Jacqueline, "This woman is a merchant, as kind as anyone just travelling." She starts to keep talking--

Claude leaps into the air. Jean stops, and sighs. "...Althena, he's as bad as Hiro at staying out of trouble," she mutters, palming her face.

<Pose Tracker> Red Priestess Mauri has posed.

Red Priestess Mauri--now identified by name--listens to Catenna's words. She seems very patient, not interrupting any words or diplomacy. Honestly, she's probably coming off at better at this sort of thing than her brother. She doesn't seem inclined to interrupt. She doesn't even so much as bat an eye when Jean shows up, THE VERY KILLER ASSASSIN SHE WAS TALKING ABOUT, and speaks on their behalf.

And when all is said and done, she sighs--sadly--and frowns with concern. "Aw..." She says. "Your story touches me... But I'm afraid..."

"The correct answer was 'Yes, I bow before the graciousness of the Goddess Althena and beg her mercy.'"

That sweet smile is back. "Excommunicated Seraphs really will say anything, won't they?"

She starts to advance but Claude suddenly jumpkicks Mauri in the chin, knocking her over into the water.

SPLOOSH.

Huh, well, that was easy.

Wait, no. Mauri is standing back up in the water, now positively grinning with a strange glint in her eyes.

"Ever since I was a little girl..." Mauri says. "I loved the power of the flame." She stands herself up, rinsing out her dress. "It could warm the blood, the heart, you could cook with it...Dry your clothes..."

A fire sprite ripples across Mauri's hand, dancing along it until it reaches the tip of her finger.

"It was only when I became an adult I learned my favorite purpose...Burning Heretics!"

And with that the fire sprite leaps out of her hand before transforming itself into swath of flame threatening to utterly envelop Claude within its power.

"Turn to ash before the purifying flames of Althena! Our Immortal Goddess!!!"

Yeah Ree might've been right about this one. She gestures with one hand, unleashing several pillars of flame that threaten to envelop the members of the Carakin before, with a snap of her finger, an erupting burst of flame exploding directly near Jean and Ree. Lanval is ignored for the moment, perhaps intent on giving him an opportunity for redemption? By murdering all his friends of course.

GS: Red Priestess Mauri has spent 1 Combo on Poison!
GS: Red Priestess Mauri has attacked Claude C. Kenny with Immolate!
GS: Red Priestess Mauri has attacked Catenna with Flamme Rouge!
GS: Red Priestess Mauri has attacked Cyre H. Lorentz with Flamme Rouge!
GS: Red Priestess Mauri has attacked Jacqueline Barber with Flamme Rouge!
GS: Cyre H. Lorentz takes a glancing hit from Red Priestess Mauri's Flamme Rouge for 64 hit points!
GS: Red Priestess Mauri has attacked Jean with Bloodflamme!
GS: Red Priestess Mauri has attacked Ree with Bloodflamme!
GS: Catenna takes a glancing hit from Red Priestess Mauri's Flamme Rouge for 69 hit points!
GS: Ree guards a hit from Red Priestess Mauri's Bloodflamme for 96 hit points!
GS: Jacqueline Barber guards a hit from Red Priestess Mauri's Flamme Rouge for 83 hit points!
GS: Red Priestess Mauri has attacked Red Priestess Mauri with Divine Coil!
GS: Red Priestess Mauri takes a solid hit from Red Priestess Mauri's Divine Coil for 0 hit points!
GS: Hyper and Shield! Statuses applied to Red Priestess Mauri!
GS: Mighty! Statuses applied to Red Priestess Mauri!
GS: Red Priestess Mauri has completed her action.
DC: MISS! Claude C. Kenny completely evades Immolate from Red Priestess Mauri!
GS: Jean takes a glancing hit from Red Priestess Mauri's Bloodflamme for 82 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Ree has posed.

Ree flinches as Mauri's flames envelop her, then counterattacks immediately with her gunsmoke ARMS. Two bullets fly, one from each pistol. She can only hope her efficacy is equal to her aim...

GS: Ree has attacked Red Priestess Mauri with Hired Gun!
GS: Ree has completed her action.
<Pose Tracker> Cyre H. Lorentz has posed.

Well.

It couldn't be easy, could it? There's always someone, somewhere, who stands in opposition. The wind shaman remains hood-clad, golden eyes glimmering enigmatically beneath his cowled shroud. Catenna has this, he thinks. They can get by without a diplomatic incident that results in yet another organized religion deciding to take up Baskar Bashing as a major tenet. They can do this--

And then Claude straight up kicks the priestess in the face.

Cyre just kind of rubs his face as negotiations break down and all hell almost literally breaks loose. Hell is full of fire, right? That's what those weirdos with the cross guns like to say, anyway. Whatever, it's fine.

It's fine.

...

No, you know what. It's not fine. It's not fine at all!

Cyre has had it UP TO HERE with this nonsense. His staff strikes the water, sending ripples across its once serene surface. Even as the flames leap up to consume him, burn and devour him, a blast of wind transforms the pool into a wall of water, surrounding him--

And the other members of the Carakin--

In a protective veil.

"You know, I actually like that Leo guy. He's a nice guy. You should ask him about all the times we've struck at the roots of evil together. But you're a real piece of work, lady. You're special and not in the good way." The veil of water and wind parts, and behind it, the one responsible has shed his cloak and replaced it with a frankly oversized sniper rifle.

"Lemme show you another thing we Blue Starians like to do. It's called click-click," Cyre pulls the trigger. Twice. "Boom-boom!"

GS: Cyre H. Lorentz has attacked Red Priestess Mauri with Deadly Sequence!
GS: Cyre H. Lorentz has completed his action.
<Pose Tracker> Catenna has posed.

When Jean emerges to advocate on their behalf, Catenna blinks a couple of times, a flicker of surprise in her face - but it passes, and she bows her head with simple gratitude. She doesn't know the woman well; knowing nothing of her martial arts background, in Catenna's eyes Jean's simply a talented dancer, much like those in the caravan Catenna landed in, albeit one who travels and fights with Hiro. But here, she has earned a shaman's gratitude nevertheless.

Mauri throws her politeness back at her. Catenna tilts her head slightly to one side. "I will give your goddess th--"

Catenna is suddenly cut off by the fact that Claude C. Kenny is Claude C. Kenny and spacepeople negotiate with their footwear.

Claude... surprisingly also earns a twinkle of gratitude. "That seems like it was not going to go well anyway," she murmurs with a glance at Jean.

Catenna begins to hop back across stones again - but she can't get all the way before Mauri rises out of the water with a grin far more sick and disturbing than Catenna would've hoped from her. She clenches her teeth and attempts to jump, even as the flames of ritual purity fly. Fire boils and bursts around her as that eruption billows into existence, and Catenna gasps as she does the only thing she can do.

She jumps. She lunges to the next rock. The flames scorch at her limbs and the trailing edges of her dress. With a startled hoot, the Owlet rolls off of Catenna's shoulder, fluttering to a safe perch somewhere just out of the fight.

"If you would listen for five seconds you would understand that I am not trying to displace your goddess," Catenna growls with another jump, trying to keep ahead of the fire. But arguing's going to be useless. Even as Cyre and the others jump to help, the Moon Shaman flicks a hand out and utters a few words - and with a burst of gravity, attempts to repel Mauri backwards and a way from her.

"Cyre!" she calls over the noise of battle. "If I can get to the statue--!"

GS: Catenna has attacked Red Priestess Mauri with Grav!
GS: Catenna has completed her action.
GS: Red Priestess Mauri guards a hit from Catenna's Grav for 44 hit points!
GS: Poison! Statuses applied to Red Priestess Mauri!
<Pose Tracker> Jacqueline Barber has posed.

Jacqueline looks back toward Jean as she appears, trying to explain that she and Catenna are innocent...but before Jacqueline can say anything in response her eyes open wide in shock as a shadow passes directly over her, on a collision course for the Red Priestess.

"W-what're you doing!?" She demands, shocked and appalled. She straightens up to see Mauri having been knocked back into the water, and Jacqueline grimaces...and then looks on, somewhat unnerved at the expression on her face.

Mauri assaults them immediately with a wave of flame...but before it reaches her, a wall of water rises up, swallowing most of the flame. She sends Cyre a thankful look, then glances toward Lanval.

"...It isn't safe anymore here. Please, depart quickly." She urges, before reaching into her bags.

"Red Priestess...I don't seek a confrontation with you! This rite is one of utmost importance, for our world and yours. Please, talk to White Knight Leo about it!" Jacqueline urges, then hurls the bottle at the Red Priestess's feet.

It splashes open, mostly harmlessly, and releases a liquid that aims to sap strength.

GS: Jacqueline Barber has attacked Red Priestess Mauri with Sapping Solution!
GS: Jacqueline Barber has completed her action.
GS: Red Priestess Mauri guards a hit from Jacqueline Barber's Sapping Solution for 15 hit points!
GS: Weaken! Statuses applied to Red Priestess Mauri!
GS: Red Priestess Mauri critically Guards a hit from Cyre H. Lorentz's Deadly Sequence for 20 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Jean has posed.

Jean is openly surprised at the harsh, awful words from someone who is ostensibly a priestess of Althena. Sure, Jean hasn't believed in the Chosen for some time... But she can feel the hostility in that moment. And it only worsens. Flames... Mauri is rising, talking with that odd look--

"No--!"

The pillar of flame that erupts before Jean scythes at her with its heat as Jean starts moving, rushing to the side and away from the easy open ground. ...It's not like she likes Leo that much, frankly, but--

Jean glances to the others once and focuses, drawing her fans. "This sort of destruction isn't Althena's way!" Jean argues back to the Red Priestess. "Is the Goddess who gave refuge to so many so vicious as this? Of course not!"

Whether they seek a confrontation or not... It seems that it's here. "Seraph, run! I'll cover you!"

And at that, Jean stops, and--begins to dance. She moves, a rapid, increasingly quick dance that has quick dramatic movements--and in an instant, conjures with the Blessing of Shadow this:

A swarm of stinging insects that rushes Mauri to intrrupt her casting, to slow her down.

"If this is what you want--!"

This is a terrible idea.

GS: Jean has attacked Red Priestess Mauri with Swarm Dance!
GS: Jean has completed her action.
<Pose Tracker> Claude C. Kenny has posed.

Claude C. Kenny lands in a foot or so of water along the edge of the pool, skidding through the waves for a short distance as his momentum bleeds away. For a second or two he crouches like a dog down on all fours, shoulders rising and falling rapidly as he sucks in sweet, delicious oxygen, recovering from the long sprint. Made it in time, he thinks. And totally took out the (probably) bad person, too! Another victory for--

At jacqueline's interjection, Claude toward her with a faint scowl. "What?" he asks. "She was totally going to zap us with fire, because we always have to fight someone for these statues! It's never, like, 'oh hey it's a statue, cool, let's poit it, comma, POIT!'" Claude shouts, bonking himself on the head with the priceless artifact that is Cecilia's sealing rod. "It's always a big fight, except this time, because I---"

Mauri gets up; Claude turns toward her. His face falls. "Aw, face," he groans. "Just stay kicked!"

The flaming sprite weaves through the air toward Claude, who though vexed at the suggestion that his hair is full of ticks (or any other kind of insect), remains cool and collected enough to reason his way out of this situation, which is a first. Claude stomps his foot, channeling a burst of chi down through the limb, and sending a wave of water soaring over the flaming creature, enveloping it and blocking Claude from sight.

At least, for the moment.

Steel whispers out from behind the wave, as Claude's tenor voice booms out in a roar of "AIR SLASH!", after which the wave is split by a vacuum blade of craclking golden energy, streaking toward Mauri---

OH MY GODDESS THE AIR SLASH IS A LIE HE IS USING DEMON FANG

THAT IS LEO'S MOVE

THE HERETIC IS STEALING LEO'S MOVES

GS: Claude C. Kenny has attacked Red Priestess Mauri with Air Slash!
GS: Claude C. Kenny has completed his action.
<Pose Tracker> Seraph Lanval has posed.

    Lanval takes a step back as the Red Priestess clues them in on the correct answer she was looking for. The edge in her voice is... it stabs right through him. He doesn't know many mortals that would be able to do anything but say that in her presence. Heck, that could go for a lot of his own kind too... and the sweet smile that follows it makes the accompanying words stab that much deeper.
     "Red Priesthessh, I--" he tries to protest, but Claude decides feet are better for talking than mouths. When Mauri rises back up to talk about her love of the flame, Lanval tries to step back out on the stepping stones.
     He slips again, and is carried back ashore as fire rages out for everyone.
     It's as though there was another force in play that wants to say, 'this does not concern you.' The immolating holy flame... the Hellion Rosaline's own flames of fury took his everything to resist. This is on an entirely different level...!
     "Mmmmph," Lanval struggles as he gets up, tries the stones again, flops and falls in, where he gets carried back anew.
     He watches as Catenna effortlessly moves between the stepping stones with a comfort and clarity in purpose that enables her to keep her balance and avoid being overtaken by the flame.
     'If I can get to the statue--' He hears her say.
     Lanval does not want to raise a hand against the faithful of Althena. Even when journeying with a bunch of legitimate outlaws and a cute young girl, he never directly moved to bring them harm. He'd go out of his way to try and keep them both away from one another where he could, but now...
     "'m not shure what it'sh all about," Lanval concedes. There is no serenity in this confusion. Jay implores that it's not safe, that he departs. He is not welcome here by the faithful of Althena.
     Cyre might be able to throw up a veil of water, but Lanval knows that's not going to be enough to stop the flame. He also knows (by his own elemental theory understanding) that Cyre is one with the wind. Wind only feeds fire.
     "...But 'm shure 'bout one thing," Lanval says as he steps not on the rocks.
     He steps on the water, chaotically as he staggers and spins past flames that sweep across the lake, as he winds up his gourd in a circular swinging motion...
     And sprays clean, clear, sparkling water everywhere, doing his damndest to try and fight back the encroaching flame. He can't stop it. Water holds power over fire... but the Red Priestess is far more fire than he is water, and he is water. The gulf of power between them... it's almost unthinkable.
     The Red Priestess won't listen to him.
     "People of the Blue Shtar..." Lanval starts, as he stands on a tippy-toe with one raised leg on the water's surface, gourd in one hand, its rope in the other. "Whatever thish shtatue ish to ya... I'll help ya to it...!"
     And so, the Water Seraph defied.

GS: Seraph Lanval has attacked Red Priestess Mauri with Symbolic Defiance!
GS: Seraph Lanval has completed his action.
GS: Red Priestess Mauri critically Guards a hit from Claude C. Kenny's Air Slash for 23 hit points!
GS: Red Priestess Mauri guards a hit from Ree's Hired Gun for 67 hit points!
GS: Red Priestess Mauri guards a hit from Jean's Swarm Dance for 49 hit points!
GS: Disrupt! Statuses applied to Red Priestess Mauri!
GS: Red Priestess Mauri critically Guards a hit from Seraph Lanval's Symbolic Defiance for 0 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Red Priestess Mauri has posed.

"Now now, heretic, tis too late for words." Mauri says which seems to be something they're getting to agree on. "I don't wish to dally while an assassin is near." She is thrown back by Catenna's gravity assault, but she spins in midair and lands back down on the stone. She must be of serene mind. Or maybe she just is more acrobatic than she looks.

"Oh please," She tells Jay. "I know some of who is in your employ and that is quite enough." SPLOOSH. Some gunk is thrown onto Mauri. She doesn't seem to immediately recognize the purpose and hops to another stone.

Cyre points a sniper rifle at her. Mauri's eyes widen upon recognizing the name White Knight Leo and she turns her head to the side. The wind bursts grazing her cheeks but not causing significant damage.

"Funny." Mauri says with a curious quirk of her head. "He didn't mention you at all. Perhaps he has a different opinion about those encounters. What he did say..." Mauri smiles again. "Is that your spirits are incompatable with our God. They even went so far as to call her a 'Traitor'. Now, please, tell me more about how I should give your people more chances than they have already squandered. Your little cult clearly has no interest in 'peaceful cooperation'."

She crosses her arms. "Do you wish to know what my brother thinks? He thinks Althena's power will protect your world far better than your spirits." Sadly those fires surrounding the statue are CUTSCENE fires and will not be easily dispelled. Her fire isn't like normal fire--it is empowered by the Goddess herself--and it will not be easily quelled.

Claude C. Kenny tries using her brother's move on her and she just gestures with a hand and blows the blast back with a wave of fire of her own. The fire continues onward, in fact, and threatens to slam directly into Claude C. Kenny if he doesn't use i-frames to avoid it. She doesn't speak on it, but that frown indicates she recognizes the similarities and isn't very happy about it.

Ree has better luck with her pistol. She gets a couple bullets into Mauri's gut and she hops back to another stone. Jean unleashes the power of bees at Mauri and she unleashes a wave of flame to disperse them, but some get through and sting her along her arm. Mauri grits her teeth and bears it.

But perhaps the worst of it is Lanval. He doesn't even attack. He just defies. Mauri sniffs faintly, as if genuinely distraught by this revelation--but hardly surprised.

"Lanval." Mauri says, forgoing the title of Seraph entirely. "Face Althena's condemnation."

A swirl of flames rise up around Lanval and then surge through him. They don't actually hurt physically--this is magic fire, not normal fire!--but it comes with the feeling of being utterly cut off from the divine, the sensation of the goddess turning her back on you.

Perhaps she has.

Mauri places her hand on her chest and a a dragon of flame swirls up and around her before throwing itself for Claude, Jean, Cyre, and even Catenna! Especially Catenna! If she falls it's game over, guys!! It's not a pink ball of fluffwinged kitty though. This dragon is pure angry flame!

Then she turns towards Jay and snaps her finger once more, sending explosive bursts of flame for Jay and Ree with yet another snap of her fingers. It's loud and hot and can propel with concussive force but if you're caught in that fire, it'll be the least of your worries!

"Are you going to kill me, murderer?" Mauri asks of Jean. "I do not fear death, when Althena is on my side!"

GS: Red Priestess Mauri has attacked Seraph Lanval with Divine Condemnation!

GS: Red Priestess Mauri has attacked Claude C. Kenny with Flame Dragon!
GS: Red Priestess Mauri has attacked Jean with Flame Dragon!
GS: Red Priestess Mauri has attacked Cyre H. Lorentz with Flame Dragon!
GS: Red Priestess Mauri has attacked Catenna with Flame Dragon!
GS: CRITICAL! Catenna takes a glancing hit from Red Priestess Mauri's Flame Dragon for 150 hit points!
GS: Cripple and Poison! Statuses applied to Catenna!
GS: Red Priestess Mauri has spent 3 Combo on Headshot!
GS: Red Priestess Mauri has attacked Jacqueline Barber with Calamity Flare!
GS: Red Priestess Mauri has spent 3 Combo on Headshot!
GS: Red Priestess Mauri has attacked Ree with Calamity Flare!
GS: CRITICAL! Jacqueline Barber critically Guards a hit from Red Priestess Mauri's Calamity Flare for 38 hit points!
GS: Cripple and Poison! Statuses applied to Jacqueline Barber!
GS: Claude C. Kenny guards a hit from Red Priestess Mauri's Flame Dragon for 150 hit points!
GS: Jean takes a glancing hit from Red Priestess Mauri's Flame Dragon for 146 hit points!
GS: Seraph Lanval takes a solid hit from Red Priestess Mauri's Divine Condemnation for 0 hit points!
GS: Seraph Lanval has been afflicted by a Curse!
GS: Break, Cripple, Jam, Mute, Slow, and Weaken! Statuses applied to Seraph Lanval!
GS: Red Priestess Mauri takes 8 damage from Poison!
GS: Red Priestess Mauri has completed her action.
GS: CRITICAL! Ree guards a hit from Red Priestess Mauri's Calamity Flare for 128 hit points!
GS: Cripple and Poison! Statuses applied to Ree!
<Pose Tracker> Ree has posed.

Ree buckles as Mauri's flames hit her, then gets back on her feet through sheer grim determination. The only way she's going to survive this fight, she thinks, is to press her attack. Her ARMS ring out once more. Too bad they're gunsmoke ARMS and not the more powerful relic-ARMS. "Yaaaaaaaa!" she cries. It's the most anyone's heard her say in hours...

GS: Ree has attacked Red Priestess Mauri with Vicious Gut Shot!
GS: Ree takes 7 damage from Poison!
GS: Ree has completed her action.
<Pose Tracker> Catenna has posed.

Of course everyone wants to set Catenna on fire. And all because she worships the wrong moon goddess for this particular moon.

How can she not feel the power of Celesdue moving through this world? Catenna reflects for a moment, giving the Red Priestess a slightly mystified look. Her lips come together in a firm line. For a moment, it occurs to her that she's going to have to argue.

She doesn't. All she can do is dive out of the way when Mauri calls forth the flame of the Red Dragon itself.

The flaming dragon roars across the serene pond, cutting entirely too close to the Statue for Catenna's comfort. Lunging towards the next rock, she graps for it -- but she falls short by just a few inches and has to land just short. It's all it takes. The fire rages across her, swallowing her up and consuming her - and when it passes, the Moon Shaman is nowhere to be seen.

But the water is slowly rippling.

For the first time, the serene surface of the pond is broken by simple, clean ripples, one after the other. They radiate out from just in front of the rock where Catenna vanished. Each ripple comes quicker and quicker. The surface of the water begins to well and surge upwards.

And with a burst, something vast and blue surges up from the water.

The shape is no dragon - it is that of a coiling water serpent. And the water it brings up with it is not simple spring water. It's the water of the ocean, carrying the scent of salt and sea. The Sea Guardian, Lucadia, casts those droplets about with a shimmer. They spray where they will - towards Claude, towards Jean.

In the midst of the halo of water, Catenna is holding her second Medium in one hand. Her head is bowed serenely. Much of her dress has been scorched and ruined.

"The Moon and the Tide walk hand in hand together," the Moon Shaman whispers. "All things on this world and the other are woven into one. I wish that you could see that... Red Priestess Mauri."

GS: Catenna has attacked Catenna with Material - Sovereign of the Deep!
GS: Catenna has attacked Jean with Material - Sovereign of the Deep!
GS: Catenna has attacked Claude C. Kenny with Material - Sovereign of the Deep!
GS: Catenna takes 5 damage from Poison!
GS: Catenna has completed her action.
GS: Catenna heals Catenna! She gains 200 temporary hit points!
GS: Catenna gains a Combo from Inspire!
GS: Catenna heals Claude C. Kenny! He gains 200 temporary hit points!
GS: Claude C. Kenny gains a Combo from Inspire!
GS: Catenna heals Jean! She gains 200 temporary hit points!
GS: Jean gains a Combo from Inspire!
GS: Cyre H. Lorentz takes a solid hit from Red Priestess Mauri's Flame Dragon for 174 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Seraph Lanval has posed.

    He defies. It is a trifling gesture at best, as a dragon of flame wreaks havoc about the lake. It swirls to and fro about him, mockingly, as though it would render him ash as much as anything else. A heretic to burn away, same as these. For over five hundred years, he dedicated himself to reinforcing the Boundary - only for this to be taken away from him.
     He recognizes how even the so-called heartless assassin all but kindly offered to see him safely out of harm's way, over there, but it is too late. He is in deep. The flames tease him. If he turns back, he will be incinerated. According to the Red Priestess, Althena condemns him, as he teeters on the mirror-like lake. His very footsteps do not leave a ripple on it, as though he might not even be there.
     He exhales, that mortal habit he picked up. He clasps his gourd close, both eyes closed.
     "Goddessh," Lanval murmurs, "whatever yer reashonsh... I don't hate ya fer what'sh goin' on." He goes down to a kneel... on the surface of the water. "Maybe none of ush are meant ta know or queshtion yer deshignsh, in the end... all I know ish..."
     He rises again. He walks. Actually walks, upright. He walks calmly through the dancing dragon of fire, moving towards where Catenna stands as he holds his gourd in both hands like one might a valued chalice.
     He comes down to a kneel before her, holding the gourd out, as in offering, from wherever she might move next.
     "I owe yer Guardiansh a whole lot for helpin' out with Mount Manfred... 'n Talishe'sh friendsh... no, Lunar itshelf, for cleanshin' the Earthpulshe... sho hey."
     Lanval's eyes open up to Catenna, a brilliant aquamarine shining through the smile.
     "I will see you to this statue." If she can't take it and drink the gourd's contents, he'll just splash it on her like it's some kind of hilarious on-camera prank. Though the water is cold in a way that is just a step past 'refreshing' and more 'shocking,' it will do the trick - cleansing away lingering burning sensations and other nastiness to return her to vigor and continue on her journey.

<Pose Tracker> Claude C. Kenny has posed.

Claude C. Kenny is not a super-religious person - hence his disagreements with the Guardians of Filgaia, whom it has to be said Claude thinks are kind of jerks - but this Al Thena appears to be a 100% bona fide mega-jerk. But given his status as a stand-in to a quasi-religious figure, he feels somewhat compelled to engage in a form of theological debate.

"Hey!" he shouts back to Mauri as he edges his way around the edge of the fight, rolling to evade the backlash from her flame blast... but succumbing to the heat bloom, because physics is still a thing, no matter how little he studies it. The young man ducks under the water to escape some of it, then comes back up, spitting mad (and also liquid). "The Guardians may be jerks - except for Rigdobro, who's sort of cool - and they might have called us a bunch of failures, and one of them seems to be making it his personal mission to mock me personally, but, like..." Claude frowns, considering. What was his point again?

A surge of energy passes through Claude's body - channeled by the very Guardians he kind of sort of defended, poorly - and so he breaks into another sprint, faint blue light flickering along the soles of his feet as he dashes across the water. "Cecilia says they're trying!" Claude shouts, holding Gamgee's single-edged curved blade down and to his left as he charges forward. "And she's good people. So that's good enough for me!" he roars, dashing past Mauri, whipping his sword out in a horizontal, half-moon arc. Claude twists and pivots, water spraying out as he arrests his momentum, then slashes along the vertical, carving through the liquid plume toward the crown of the flaming priestess's head.

GS: Seraph Lanval has entered a Reflect stance!
GS: Seraph Lanval has activated a Force Action!
GS: Claude C. Kenny has attacked Red Priestess Mauri with Twin Slash!
GS: Claude C. Kenny has completed his action.
GS: Seraph Lanval has attacked Catenna with Wake Up Splash!
GS: Seraph Lanval has completed his action.
GS: Catenna takes a solid hit from Seraph Lanval's Wake Up Splash for 0 hit points!
GS: Catenna gains Restore, shortening negative statuses by 3 turns each!
<Pose Tracker> Jacqueline Barber has posed.

Jacqueline can't help but look away when Mauri comments on the people in her employ. She doesn't have to ask what she means by that. Jacqueline knows.

She looks toward Lanval, then...who decides to stand with them, despite what it might mean. Jacqueline hesitates a bit...and then nods.

"Lanval...thank you." She says, before returning her attention to Mauri.

"...Did he truly say that? I see." Jacqueline replies, sounding a bit...disappointed. And then, suddenly, she feels a sudden swelling of sorcerous power. Her eyes open wide in shock and she leaps backward and braces herself, crossing her arms over her face.

Suddenly, the place she was standing just a moment before erupts with explosive flame, emitting a shockwave that sends her flying back onto the opposite shore.

There is no longer any trace of the stone she had been standing on nor a good portion around it, besides. If she had been caught in the middle of that...!

"...I'm sorry, Red Priestess. It looks like we won't be able to see eye to eye. Is there anything that can ease the hatred that drives you?" She asks. Another bottle is hurled toward Mauri's feet, emitting a plume of cool, lavender-tinted flame once it shatters...but the part to be concerned about are the fumes it gives off, that try to lull one into sleep.

Nearby, she watches in surprise as Catenna emerges from the water, and as Lanval offers her a drink.

Catenna...they needed to make sure she was able to see to the statue safely. Jacqueline nods to herself, then returns her attention to Mauri.

GS: Jacqueline Barber has spent 1 Combo on Poison!
GS: Jacqueline Barber has attacked Red Priestess Mauri with Apothecary's Fire!
GS: Jacqueline Barber takes 10 damage from Poison!
GS: Jacqueline Barber has completed her action.
<Pose Tracker> Cyre H. Lorentz has posed.

"Oh sure gladly," Cyre answers the Red Priestess. "Well the first thing you need to know is that the Guardians are totally awesome and myriad. They're also ancient beyond reckoning and are kind of crotchety, which is maybe why Leo had a bad impression of them to begin with." Cyre keeps right on yammering as he loads another slug into his rifle. "Now, much as I'd-- wait."

Beat.

"Leo's your /brother?!"

Cyre's jaw hangs open for just a moment long enough for something terrible to smash right into him. Flame surges all around the wind shaman. His world is set ablaze. Cyre growls as the dragon passes over and through him. Even a hastily erected barrier of moistened air is only enough to make sure the burns aren't immediately fatal.

They just hurt. A lot.

And then, with a roar and a blast of raging wind, they scatter. Cyre stands, smoldering and smoking, with an array of prismatic lights hovering all around him. "Leo," he sweeps a hand forward, lips pulled up into a pained snarl-- but it doesn't look like Mauri's burnt the sarcasm out of him yet. "Is a much more pleasant person overall, I think. So maybe ask him to teach you some manners?" The prismatic spheres suddenly erupt, unleashing a storm of brilliant energy at the not-so-distant priestess.

It looks like they'll need to deal with her before anyone can get to the statue. Damnit.

GS: Cyre H. Lorentz has attacked Red Priestess Mauri with Valkyrie!
GS: Cyre H. Lorentz has completed his action.
<Pose Tracker> Jean has posed.

Jean spots Claude's use of his chi, all right--she looks for a moment, thinks, but doesn't recognize the style offhand. ...As for the sealing rod, well, it's not like she can use it but--

"Less talking about what you expect, more actually fighting!" Jean tells Claude. Then--well, then she can see Lanval... standing up. Helping. It's a little of a surprise given how drunk he looks, but--

She nods, firmly. She understands.

'An assassin is near', Mauri says again. Not even her name, just what she was. The 'heartless assassin' does not look as cold as one might imagine of her, is dancing rather than coming out with terrible strikes. And now--

The flames erupt around them, the dragon crashing towards Jean, who whirls to the side, impacted hard as flames lance across her despite her dodge--but she doesn't cry out in pain. She doesn't make a sound at all that would account for what must be awful, simply hits the ground and rolls across it to put out the fire.

Standing, she feels the spray of the ocean, of the sea...

"Thank you," she murmurs, and looks back at Mauri.

"I'm not here to kill you," she answers. Who else would 'murderer' mean in this case? "I don't believe Althena would support what you're doing. The Guardians are only trying to help the world we left!"

She looks forward--and then moves closer. Her fans out, she begins a dance that starts slow, funerary, to a beat only she can hear. And then she is forward, moving within Mauri's guard, strike after strike from all sides of bladed fans.

"Think of me what you want. ...I believe in Lucia."

GS: Jean has activated a Force Action!
GS: Jean has attacked Red Priestess Mauri with Nocturne!
GS: Jean has completed her action.
GS: Red Priestess Mauri guards a hit from Cyre H. Lorentz's Valkyrie for 71 hit points!
GS: Red Priestess Mauri guards a hit from Ree's Vicious Gut Shot for 62 hit points!
GS: Red Priestess Mauri guards a hit from Claude C. Kenny's Twin Slash for 89 hit points!
GS: CRITICAL! Red Priestess Mauri guards a hit from Jean's Nocturne for 96 hit points!
GS: Cripple, Mute, and Shieldbreak! Statuses applied to Red Priestess Mauri!
GS: Red Priestess Mauri takes a glancing hit from Jacqueline Barber's Apothecary's Fire for 52 hit points!
GS: Toxin! Statuses applied to Red Priestess Mauri!
<Pose Tracker> Red Priestess Mauri has posed.

Mauri seems to be done with talking to Cyre. Actions speak louder than words. Instead she exhales faintly, summoning a shield of flame around her body allowing the prismatic orbs to detonate against them. Ree screams and fires gunsmoke weapons at her, ultimately dispelling the barrier Mauri had summoned but some of that flame remains and it swirls around in a spiral formation before spinning straight through the barrel of one of her gunsmoke arms, the weapon glowing red hot

That's probably not good.

Yeah it explodes almost immediately. Mauri isn't impressed by guns just yet.

"Toys." Mauri says. "You're so impressed by them."

Using his own techniques (well okay is double slash really ANYBODY'S technique or is it like EVERYBODY'S technique?) seems much more effective than techniques Mauri has seen performed over and over again and knows instinctively. He slices through her guard and swipes the side of her face, leaving a thick red line against her skull.

Mauri places her hand on Claude's chest and sends a wave of flame into him at point blank range, sending the heat directly through his clothes and armor. "Okay." She says, again probably done with any religious discussion here. She doesn't seem too impressed by his defense though. In fact, there was a moment where she kind of comedically went -.- in Claude's direction, disrupting the entire flow of the battle.

"Yes, I think the fact your spirit claims dominion over Lunar is yet another example of how we cannot get along?" She flicks her finger, sending a wave of heat against those droplets shimmering around Catenna.

And boiling them. Jean is going to have to deal with that too, in fact, even as she swipes across Mauri repeatedly with her fans, carving into her robes, her face, her skin. "Gyaahh...!" Mauri cries out. "Y...you....I know he was has having trouble, but you had to deceive him, you had to lure him into darkness! How dare you speak to me of 'belief'!"

Mauri is unaffected by Jacqueline's flames. She even igsunores it because, well, it's fire, but those fumes start to get to her. She sways unsteadily. Her speech slurs for a moment, "R..." she begins before snapping out of it. "Trickery! It will not be so easy!" She says as she sends a flurry of flames surging for Jay's FACE.

Lanval continues to DEFY DEFY DEFY and Mauri wastes no more tears for the fallen servant. "I will let you tarnish the good name of the Seraphs no further." Mauri says, before the water underneath Lanval's feet (and Cyre's too, in fact), suddenly boil away into the shallow mud below them, a tower of fire exploding underneath their very feet.

GS: Red Priestess Mauri has attacked Ree with Crown Fire!
GS: Ree critically Guards a hit from Red Priestess Mauri's Crown Fire for 37 hit points!
GS: Red Priestess Mauri has spent 5 Combo on Poison and Gatling!
GS: Red Priestess Mauri has attacked Claude C. Kenny with Burning Castigation!
GS: Claude C. Kenny has activated a Force Action!
GS: Red Priestess Mauri has spent 2 Combo on Smite!
GS: Red Priestess Mauri has attacked Catenna with Fear Flare!
GS: Claude C. Kenny critically Guards a hit from Red Priestess Mauri's Burning Castigation for 62 hit points!
GS: Red Priestess Mauri has spent 2 Combo on Smite!
GS: Red Priestess Mauri has attacked Jean with Fear Flare!
GS: Red Priestess Mauri has attacked Jacqueline Barber with Crown Fire!
DC: MISS! Catenna completely evades Fear Flare from Red Priestess Mauri!
GS: Jacqueline Barber guards a hit from Red Priestess Mauri's Crown Fire for 108 hit points!
GS: Jean takes a solid hit from Red Priestess Mauri's Fear Flare for 157 hit points!
GS: Red Priestess Mauri has spent 5 Combo on Poison and Gatling!
GS: Red Priestess Mauri has attacked Cyre H. Lorentz with Burning Castigation!
GS: Red Priestess Mauri has spent 1 Combo on Poison!
GS: Red Priestess Mauri has attacked Seraph Lanval with Immolate!
GS: Red Priestess Mauri takes 10 damage from Poison!
GS: Red Priestess Mauri takes 12 damage from Toxin!
GS: Red Priestess Mauri has completed her action.
GS: CRITICAL! Cyre H. Lorentz takes a glancing hit from Red Priestess Mauri's Burning Castigation for 195 hit points!
GS: Cripple, Disrupt, Poison, and Toxin! Statuses applied to Cyre H. Lorentz!
<Pose Tracker> Ree has posed.

Flame bursts from Ree's left pistol as Mauri's Crown Fire erupts around her. It somehow manages to spare HER the worst.
But her ARM. Her ARM is effectively destroyed.
"Toys," the Red Priestess sneers. It is too much. "YOU BROKE IT!" Ree shrieks, beyond rage. "DO YOU THINK THAT'S ALL I'VE GOT? ...DO YOU?!?!"
        Eldritch energies surge through Ree as cold begins to build around her (unintentionally soothing her burns), and soon the Red Priestess finds herself being pelted with snow and ice, some of which may actually make it past her flame-shields. At a minimum the biting cold should prove DISTRACTING...

GS: Ree has attacked Red Priestess Mauri with Blizzard!
GS: Ree takes 8 damage from Poison!
GS: Ree has completed her action.
GS: Red Priestess Mauri guards a hit from Ree's Blizzard for 94 hit points!
GS: Seraph Lanval takes a solid hit from Red Priestess Mauri's Immolate for 202 hit points!
GS: Toxin! Statuses applied to Seraph Lanval!
GS: Seraph Lanval enters CONDITION GREEN!!
<Pose Tracker> Catenna has posed.

Amid the spray of the vanishing Sea Guardian comes the appeal of the Lord of Rylia. As Lanval kneels before her like that, Catenna widens her eyes in some surprise, reaching out to take the gourd.

"...You are kind. I shall do my best," she says quietly, drinking of the goblet's contents.

But for every soothing sip comes withering heat. More of it roils towards Catenna, bringing Mauri's chiding words along with it. Leaving the goblet for Lanval, Catenna drops back as the flame comes - an intense, roiling flame that threatens to consume the blessing of the Guardian of the Sea. The droplets burst into steam; the billow of it conceals Catenna from sight for a moment.

And then there's a ripple of something. A shape comes flowing out of the steam. It's the scorched remnants of Catenna's robe. The pile of fabric hits one of the rocks in the middle of the stream.

"That is not the nature of the Guardians," Catenna's voice rings out.

From above the steam cloud. A sleek figure spirals through the air - and with a soft click of heels, descends. The overrobe is gone, but beneath it, Catenna's wearing the dancer's outfit she got during her time with the caravan of Drago. It's a motif Jean might find familiar, though her accents are black, blue and silver. Twirling deftly in midair, the Moon Shaman flips legs over head and then descends, elegantly coming down with a soft click of heels atop a rock ever closer to Celesdue's Statue.

"Their nature is not to rule. It is to be," Catenna points out calmly. "What does it matter who is lord over the earth when you are the earth, or who sails the seas when you are the sea? You assume I seek to replace Althena... but I do not. Rule the Moon?

"Celesdue is the Moon.

"But there is one area we differ."

Catenna raises one hand, holding her Moon Medium within it. A surge of power pulses through her. The water surrounding her rocky little perch ripples as gravity shimmers around her.

And then it spikes outward. It is as if the air itself has seized Mauri and begun to compress her. A furious force comes to bear upon her, seeking to compress and flatten her - as if existence were trying to crunch her down into a Mauricube.

Catenna narrows her eyes. "Hands. Off. My. Man. Bitch."

GS: Catenna has spent 1 Combo on Gatling!
GS: Catenna has attacked Red Priestess Mauri with Polarity Clutch!
GS: Catenna has completed her action.
GS: Red Priestess Mauri guards a hit from Catenna's Polarity Clutch for 159 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Seraph Lanval has posed.

    From where Lanval kneels, the water boils. He takes back his gourd from Catenna with a patient smile.
     He does not move, when the water starts to evaporate underneath him. A great pillar of fire erupts, and the Water Seraph disappears inside of it. Water does evaporate if exposed to enough overall heat. The entire lake could stand to be evaporated into a dry, hardened patch of earth in its wake. Such is the power of the Red Priestess Mauri. Burnt to nothing, there is no scream of pain or anything as the Seraph is immolated...
     ...then there is more water. Where the flames burn away and evaporate the crystalline water of the lake, a water of equal quality returns to it. From it...
     Lanval rises back up, aquamarine eyes bright even as flames inexplicably continue to smolder around him. He exhales loudly, again, pressing back against the intense heat that eats away at him.
     "Red Priestess Mauri..." Lanval speaks. "These are not the enemies of Althena. Mine name matters not to this I know as truth."
     He strides across the replenishing water as he waves his gourd to and fro, splashing sparkling pure water all about. Steam rises from the continued dance of the flames. He cannot ultimately win against the flame directly - but he will make that flame work for it. He must entrust Catenna with whatever it is she must do in order to reach the statue, for the moment, as his eyes turn upon the suffering Nahual of Fengalon.
     "Fengalon." That's... not a title, but in the heat of the moment (ha ha) this might be forgiven, as Lanval strides along towards Cyre. "I will not allow even the holy flames of the Red Priestess to consume thy winds of life!"
     There is a dramatic outward sweep of the gourd, looking to clear aside as much of the fire that presently consumes Cyre - or at least lessen it - swinging it about one more time before offering it in both hands for Cyre to drink in which to replenish his strength.
     "Cheers! Ha ha ha!" Lanval gives off that aura of celebration and ease to fight back against the disapproval and condemnation of a most prominent figure of the Church of Althena. It's impossible to ever feel good, happy, or healthy while you are being immolated from the inside out by cleansing fire - but this curative gesture might come close to making this reality for Cyre.

GS: Seraph Lanval has attacked Cyre H. Lorentz with Quick Swig!
GS: Seraph Lanval has completed his action.
GS: Riposte! Statuses applied to Seraph Lanval!
GS: Seraph Lanval heals Cyre H. Lorentz! He gains 100 temporary hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Jean has posed.

There is a lot of this that isn't good. Jean... Well, Jean doesn't understand what Mauri is saying as she strikes, and she is not arguing the Guardians for now. Strike, slash, strike--They are not death wounds, not even meant as such, but they hurt, they move with rhythm. But... How dare she?

And suddenly, Jean too feels the boiling droplets hitting her skin, reddening and burning immediately though once again she doesn't cry out. There are fumes--but who? Who is he, and how--

It doesn't matter for a moment. For a moment, Jean hits a knee, breathing heavily, focusing to try to ignore the pain, to force herself to keep moving even under Mauri's incredible force. But...

But she can't. 'Ignore' won't work here. "Ugh... What a time... for Ronfar not to be here," Jean murmurs, loud enough to be heard, most likely. Mauri has called her a murderer, but Jean has not today. Now, instead, as the others are hit, as Catenna moves in surprising rage...

Jean stops holding back the pain, and closes her eyes, stowing her fans again. She lets it flood through her, and begins to rise, no longer slowed by the injuries of her body. Injury to the skin does not stop the legs, the muscles. She reaches her full height, and shifts her foot to drop into an open stance. "...Think whatever you want," she says simply to Mauri, and suddenly moves forward. It's not the Blessing of Althena that moves about her though--

Shadowy, ghostly violet ki erupts about the dancer as she makes her way forward, hands rising shaped into claws, and Jean ducks down, swirling into a high kick for Mauri's face--

And dissolves into darkness an instant after she should strike, the shadows flowing around to form behind Mauri where Jean delivers two quick jabs to her back. "Hah!"

DC: Jean switches forms to Shadow Dragon Apostate!
GS: Jean has attacked Red Priestess Mauri with Vanishing Wave!
GS: Jean has completed her action.
GS: Red Priestess Mauri guards a hit from Jean's Vanishing Wave for 91 hit points!


<Pose Tracker> Jacqueline Barber has posed.

The heat in this place was starting to get to her. Jacqueline falters a little but remains standing as she looks over the battlefield. The power of one of the Four Heroes...it was a sight to see. She hadn't expected to face it first-hand.

Jacqueline gestures quickly with her left hand as Mauri sends a flurry of flames in her direction, generating a column of ice from the water before her. The flames melt through it quickly, but it does dull some of the bite as they wash over her.

Jacqueline backpedals with a wince, and looks back up at the Priestess before gesturing with her right hand to send a bolt of lightning flying down toward her.

GS: Jacqueline Barber has attacked Red Priestess Mauri with Lightning Strike!
GS: Jacqueline Barber takes 7 damage from Poison!
GS: Jacqueline Barber has completed her action.
GS: Red Priestess Mauri guards a hit from Jacqueline Barber's Lightning Strike for 83 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Claude C. Kenny has posed.

Claude C. Kenny is blasted at point-blank range by fire. The Red Priestess Mauri, by virtue of her proximity to said point-blank explosion, will notice something... odd about this, namely that when her hand touches Claude's seemingly normal tan jacket, it doesn't feel... quite right to her touch. She will subsequently notice that instead of blasting through into the blonde swordsman's soft chestmeats, the fire blast rebounds as though it hit a steel wall, the cloth of the boy's outerwear hardening with the force of the impact.

That said, heat and momentum are still physical things, and the blast sends Claude flying backwards, away from the fight. He bounces face-first off the water, Gamgee's sword flying out of his grip; the sword flashes with light as it spins through the air and embeds itself neatly in a distant rock. Be bounces a second time, off of his butt, and continues to cartwheel, deeper toward the centre of the pool. And, y'know, the giant wall of fire.

Claude's body twists in the air and he lands hard, sending a huge spray of water out behind him; it hisses into steam when it contacts the bounded field of flame around the statue, a faint cloud descending upon the area. It is a red-faced and literally smoldering Claude C. Kenny who slowly turns back toward the Priestess continues the dance of flame and faith, setting the heretics alight for Althena's glory. He narrows his eyes, sucks in a breath, and starts channeling chi.

Though Jean will not recognize Shen Chu Mo kung fu by sight - its only other living practitioner behind several thousand light years away - she will undoubtedly see the energy pouring up out of Claude's chi centres, flowing up from the belly and groin into the trunk of his chest and then down into his hands. Blue light - visible to everyone by this point - begins to pulse out from the young man's body, the water actually repelling away from him as the energy begins to gather. A few more seconds pass, and the energy ball coalesces into a solid mass, sharpening into serpentine features, held at bay by the will of the blonde boy from earth.

He throws it forward, screaming two words. And in the same moment that Jean unleashes the power and fury of the shadow dragon... she will find herself confronted by its writhing twin, bathing the area in brilliant blue.

GS: Claude C. Kenny has attacked Red Priestess Mauri with Dragon's Howl!
GS: Claude C. Kenny has completed his action.
GS: Red Priestess Mauri guards a hit from Claude C. Kenny's Dragon's Howl for 106 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Cyre H. Lorentz has posed.

Mauri stops bantering with him. Cyre takes this as a victory.

It's a small one, and it barely helps to dull the pain, but it's there.

Which is good, because he really could use a little victory of some kind here.

Cyre has barely any time to react when the water under his feet suddenly flash-boils. The steam hits him like a blow to the gut, followed shortly thereafter by the column of flame that drowns the sounds of his scream in the roar of hellfire run rampant.

Is this Althena's true power? The might of the so-called goddess of the moon?

Maybe. Maybe so. But...

What seems at first to be a tidal wave washes over him, crashing down upon the flames and swallowing them whole. Cyre staggers as the fire dies away, flesh scalded and raw, his breaths coming heavily, wearily.

Fengalon, I will not allow even the holy flames of the Red Priestess to consume thy winds of life!

"M' not Fengalon," Cyre wheezes in reply, but drinks greedily from the gourd in spite of his pain. The cool water soothes his wounds, flows into the very depths of his soul. He breaks away with a refreshed sigh as the winds gather around his fist. "But... Thanks for the sentiment regardless, Seraph. I'm not done yet. These flames aren't nearly enough to break the Wind God, and they aren't enough to break me! Not yet!"

Cyre...

Lifts his hand to the sky.

The whorls of wind surge and build, twisting upon themselves in a great, roaring spiral. He takes in a breath, filling his body with the life-essence of the world itself, fusing spirit and flesh as one.

He kicks off the lake. A shockwave roars in his wake. He drives a clawed hand forward toward Mauri's core with all the might of a hurricanne.

GS: Cyre H. Lorentz has activated a Force Action!
GS: Cyre H. Lorentz has spent 3 Combo on Headshot!
GS: Cyre H. Lorentz has attacked Red Priestess Mauri with Tornado Fang!
GS: Cyre H. Lorentz takes 4 damage from Poison!
GS: Cyre H. Lorentz takes 11 damage from Toxin!
GS: Cyre H. Lorentz has completed his action.
GS: CRITICAL! Red Priestess Mauri takes a glancing hit from Cyre H. Lorentz's Tornado Fang for 93 hit points!
GS: Mute! Statuses applied to Red Priestess Mauri!
GS: Hyper and Quick! Statuses applied to Cyre H. Lorentz!
<Pose Tracker> Red Priestess Mauri has posed.

Mauri, being an embodiment of wrath as she is, is still surprised by Ree flipping the hell out. Ree promptly unleashes the power of ice and snow and continuously pelts Mauri with it, freezing the ground she's standing under and causing her to slip and fall on her back and crack her head against the ice. Honestly, it's so effective it might make you wonder why Ree didn't do that to start with. Ice powers is pretty good in a scenario when someone is spamming fire attacks and is standing in a pool of water.

Catenna follows up with a gravity slam into the ice. Mauri can't move, pinned there as she is. She writhes against it, screaming in pain. She doesn't become a cube, but she starts bleeding from her eyes and ears as the pressure mounts. "B...brother...why aren't you here? I can't...There are so many of them."

She struggles to sit up into a crouch. Jean mentions a name even as she strikes across her back and sends her slapping right back down into the ice, staring up into the sky, Claude's impressive energy blast rippling through her before she even hits the ground. "Ah, I see...That's right..."

Another heat barrier ripples around her, blocking--though not perfectly--the lightning strike from Jacqueline. "Ronfar isn't here either."

She shifts back into a crouch, standing up bent over, and then straightening into a full standing position.

And then Cyre dives in and slams his claw into Mauri's chest, blood dripping around his hand, down his arm. It's hot. It burns.

Mauri grabs Cyre's arm, refusing to let go of it, with surprising mad strength.

"It was he who showed me the light of Althena, saved me from the plague that would have claimed my life with her blessing!"

"My love, Ronfar! Where are you?" Mauri says. "Will you let them break my body? I miss you, I miss you, I miss you, I miss you..."

Mauri is sobbing. "Where..where did you go!? Why did you leave me?! Why did you betray everything we stood for!? My brother is your best friend, you said you loved me! Was it all a LIE!?"

She then screams wordlessly, her own blood turning into fire around Cyre's arm, traveling up his body, threatening to set him utterly aflame as it leaks across his body.

A lance of fire rips out of her back and threatens to punch right into Jean's gut like a bullet shot. A wave of flame promptly erupts around her, trying to slam directly into Claude, Ree, and Jacqueline Barber.

The fire expands outward, enlongating even as it widens, tranforming into a dragon's head as it threatens to crash into Lanval and Catenna at full strength, full power, and full...

...
...

Firepower.

"You people think you are the only people who have loved, you think you are the only ones who have lost! You spout filth into my ears, seek to turn my brother against me, and expect to run rampant across my home! WELL NO MORE!"

GS: Red Priestess Mauri has activated a Force Action!
GS: Red Priestess Mauri has spent 2 Combo on Smite!
GS: Red Priestess Mauri has attacked Cyre H. Lorentz with Fear Flare!
GS: Red Priestess Mauri has attacked Claude C. Kenny with Flamme Rouge!
GS: Red Priestess Mauri has attacked Ree with Flamme Rouge!
GS: Red Priestess Mauri has attacked Jacqueline Barber with Flamme Rouge!
GS: Jacqueline Barber critically Guards a hit from Red Priestess Mauri's Flamme Rouge for 29 hit points!
DC: MISS! Cyre H. Lorentz completely evades Fear Flare from Red Priestess Mauri!
GS: Red Priestess Mauri has activated a Force Action!
GS: Red Priestess Mauri has activated a Force Action!
GS: Red Priestess Mauri has attacked Catenna with Sinners' Pyre!
GS: Red Priestess Mauri has attacked Seraph Lanval with Sinners' Pyre!
GS: Claude C. Kenny critically Guards a hit from Red Priestess Mauri's Flamme Rouge for 30 hit points!
GS: Claude C. Kenny enters CONDITION GREEN!!
GS: You do not have that Force Action. [evade]
GS: Ree guards a hit from Red Priestess Mauri's Flamme Rouge for 90 hit points!

GS: Catenna has activated a Force Action!
GS: You have activated the Force Action Accelerate!
DC: MISS! Catenna completely evades Sinners' Pyre from Red Priestess Mauri!
GS: Red Priestess Mauri has attacked Jean with Flame Lance!
GS: Red Priestess Mauri takes 6 damage from Poison!
GS: Red Priestess Mauri takes 7 damage from Toxin!
GS: Red Priestess Mauri has completed her action.
GS: Jean has activated a Force Action!
GS: CRITICAL! Jean takes a glancing hit from Red Priestess Mauri's Flame Lance for 144 hit points!
GS: Cripple and Poison! Statuses applied to Jean!
GS: Jean has Fallen! She is no longer able to fight!
<Pose Tracker> Ree has posed.

Ree curls into a fetal position and throws her arms over her face as Mauri's flames try to cremate her while she's still alive! She desperately throws up a shield of ice. It feels so good, the cold against her burns!

GS: Ree has attacked Ree with Ice Ward!
GS: Ree takes 7 damage from Poison!
GS: Ree has completed her action.
GS: Ree takes a solid hit from Ree's Ice Ward for 0 hit points!
GS: Shield! Statuses applied to Ree!
GS: Seraph Lanval takes a glancing hit from Red Priestess Mauri's Sinners' Pyre for 220 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Jean has posed.

Jean can sense the dragon in Claude's ki, at least, see the strike, see the movement. The style is unfamiliar, but... She lifts an eyebrow at him for an instant before she looks to Mauri again. The way Mauri screams, bleeds--

"Please," Jean says, "Stop this. We don't--"

...Ronfar isn't here either. Jean is thrown off, all right; this talk of Ronfar, who she knows, her calls to him, her sobs--

Jean freezes in shock for an instant--....And that instant is one too many. Jean starts to move as she senses the fire crashing towards her, but she started an instant too late. Her movement only means that it doesn't pierce through her stomach. Instead, the flames course through her side, the lance of it piercing through entirely, stealing the breath from Jean's lungs as she stands in place for an instant, choked. ...Still, even impaled, she doesn't cry out.

She learned better.

"I..."

"I'm not... trying..."

Jean's eyes flutter and she collapses to the ground neatly, knees-first, then on her front, the wound clear in her back, in her ruined attire.

The best thing that can be said is that the assassin is breathing.

GS: Claude C. Kenny has activated a Force Action!
GS: Claude C. Kenny has activated a Force Action!
<Pose Tracker> Catenna has posed.

As Mauri breaks down so completely, Catenna's jaw actually drops a little. That spark of anger vanishes. It's replaced by something softer. A profound pity.

But that pity alone cannot shield her from the fury of the fire of the Red Dragon's chosen handmaiden. Driven by those wails of loss and desperation, the flames reach out, threatening to consume them all. Towards Jean, towards Lanval, towards Cyre - towards all of them. They billow towards Catenna.

From the tree nearby, the Owlet watches and waits to see what Catenna will do. The Moon Shaman holds her ground. She lets the flames tear towards her. And then....

She levels one hand, and utters a word of power that rings out like a church bell across the serene water - and the air shifts with a deep, rolling vibration. The water stirs subtly - and the fire begins to blossom upward. The flames well into a huge fiery cloud that blooms through the air above Catenna's head, flames licking upwards and forming into unnatural spheres and globes as they exhaust oxygen that refuses to bloom as it should. Gravity acts on fire. Reduces the pressures pulling upon the gases it needs to live. The flames blossom upwards into the sky.

"I am sorry you have lost," Catenna murmurs to Mauri, bowing her head and closing her eyes. "Being alone is hard. I wish that we did not disagree like this, or I would like to help you, if I could."

All she can do is try to enlighten. Raising her right hand, heels together, Catenna inhales, then speaks a few more words in her own language.

The flames begin to change. Their ruddy colour lightens - shifts to yellow - and then drains of colour entirely. The fire scatters into a thousand little spheres of flame that fade to a shimmering blue.

Those spheres swirl. They flutter their shining butterfly wings. And they whirl apart.

For just a moment, a golden crescent hangs over the serene water as a pair of enormous blue butterfly wings flit apart. Within, a slender shape, dusky-skinned and silver haired, perches upon that crescent. The Guardian of the Moon's expression is hard to read - serene, with a touch of pity mixed with cool implacability - as she levels a hand towards Mauri - and then the light grows, and she vanishes from view.

But the effect of the spell does not. Gravity lets itself go around the Red Dragon's Heroine. The earth itself looses its grip upon her - and the force of Celesdue's power works to try and lift Mauri into the air and pin her, to try and seize her and hold her.

Catenna slowly shakes her head. "We do not have to fight anymore, Red Priestess. Please, take care of yourself first."

GS: Catenna has attacked Red Priestess Mauri with Material - Merciless Queen!
GS: Catenna has completed her action.
GS: Red Priestess Mauri guards a hit from Catenna's Material - Merciless Queen for 0 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Claude C. Kenny has posed.

Fire washes over Claude C. Kenny, the boy from Earth, the cleansing and destructive fires of a wrathful, angry goddess. The flames bring pain, stealing the air from his lungs and boiling the tears from his eyes.

But that doesn't matter.

To make matters worse, he heard enough of what the priestess was shouting to know what he's stepped into - family drama. Family drama and a woman scorned, and God only knows there are sayings about that.

But that doesn't matter either.

To make matters worst, with the reference to Leo being her brother, Claude has now realized this lady is some sort of super-hoity-toity mucky-muck, and he is interfering again with the ruling politics of another planet, despite his people having very strict and murderous rules about not doing that.

But that doesn't matter... at least not yet.

What matters, Claude, thinks, is that I made a promise. To Cecilia, in honour of the burden she carried. To my friends, for supporting me, even though by now they know I've been lying to them all along. And most especially...

Claude advances forward, his arms held up protectively in front of his face as he stalks through the wall of flame, accepting the pain as the price of keeping his word. Despite being a dozen feet short of Mauri, his left hand flickers out, then his right, a blistering one-two punch that hits nothing but air.

He advances forward, unloading a hook-straight-uppercut-overhand right combination that still misses entirely.

He advances forward, and four punches become eight.

Then sixteen.

By the fifth step, Claude's arms are flickering in and out of sight, blue and yellow motes of chi spraying outward like sparks erupting from a forgefire.

By the sixth step, the water around Claude begins to ripple outward, a soft breeze pulsing out from his body with the barrage of strikes.

By the seventh step, then the eighth, Claude C. Kenny's movements are a blur, lines of streaking light lancing out toward the Red Priestess of Althena. Cracking noises erupt from the air itself as he unleashes strikes beyond counting, adding more with each stride, descending like a force of nature upon Mauri. Forceful, merciless, and inexorable.

And always advancing forward.

GS: Claude C. Kenny has attacked Red Priestess Mauri with Unlimited Punch Works!
GS: Claude C. Kenny has completed his action.
GS: Sneak! The true nature of Claude C. Kenny's attack becomes clear!
GS: CRITICAL! Red Priestess Mauri takes a glancing hit from Claude C. Kenny's Freestyle Combat Arts for 129 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Seraph Lanval has posed.

    Lanval turns back from seeing to Cyre's continued health that he watches the Red Priestess struggle underneath the forces brought to bear against her. She has gone from being a wrathful, frightening figure to... a still wrathful, frightening figure, but now one who seems to be defined by the very fear she inspires. Vulnerable-- and Cyre runs his hand into her core, and Jean into her back.
     "It is time to cease...!" Lanval tries to say above it all, above all the passions. He does not wish the Red Priestess grievous lasting harm, but this may be well out of his hands. Neither side are to budge, and he has chosen his in choosing to assist the people of the Blue Star - and sympathetic Lunarians - to see Catenna to the Celesdue statue to whatever end it entails.
     The Red Priestess' power is far greater than his... but she is a mortal. He has centuries of watching mortal lives play out about and around him. For their foibles, their lives are short...
     "Red Priestess Mauri..." Lanval starts, words patient and friendly as he strides across the lake, but she will not have it. Her fury builds, a dragon-headed flame headed his way. He can look it in the 'eyes' and know for certain what he did when the flames first broke him out of a pleasant daydream (...nightdream) of just how beautiful the lake and its statue was.
     Laughter fills the air, because it is all he has. Being mirthful, projecting contentment - having to be this for an environment that inspired the exact opposite of this for over two centuries helped him through it. (Also, alcohol. Lots of it.) The gourd, for its measly size and theoretically small contents, sprays out the water to the call of a Seraphic Arte.
     Lanval can not win against the direct fire. Immense volumes of steam fill the air as the dragon-headed flame encroaches on him, further and further and further. Only a tiny speck of aquamarine can be seen within the draconic inferno. He can only try to endure...
     And then the fire blossoms upward. Away from Lanval, whose form looks weakened, as though scarcely clinging onto whatever passes for corporeal for a being that defies the concept of physicality. He sways where he stands... and the flames turn to spheres - like butterflies such as the ones they followed here - and take the form of Celesdue. Lanval gazes upwards to that familiar form.
     "I thank thee for your aid." he tells Celesdue. Catenna's summon might have saved him from being eradicated, as he strides towards the center of the lake.
     "Red Priestess Mauri... I do not raise my hand against Althena and Her faithful this day." He says, as he stands before the wall of flames. He sits down on the lake proper as though it were the floor, holding his gourd in his hands as he looks at and contemplates the flames that seem so far beyond him - or much of anything he's seen before.
     "People of the Blue Star... Red Priestess Mauri..." He speaks, though violence rings out around him. That's not new to him. The Copper Rapier Inn had... a lot of violence inherent in its existence. He eyes the wall of flames, the source of all the discontent here. "It is time we move past this conflict."
     A mass of bubbles flit forth. They are blindingly large in number, uncountable and basically everywhere surrounding the firewall. Each bubble has the laughing, staggering, drinking visage of Lanval, as though inviting those terrible flames to seek a way out from the veritable labyrinth of revelry, in bubbly effigy of the very concept. He does not bring them against Mauri herself, as he takes a sip of his gourd before him.
     "I bid thee allow the people of the Blue Star peace."
     The bubbles explode, aiming to drown out and douse the wall of flame surrounding the statue of Celesdue with the full brunt of his might as he looks away from the explosion because he's too busy chugging down the contents of his gourd, whatever they may be.
     When he wipes his arm against his lips, sparkling droplets of water glisten underneath the light of the Blue Star, reflecting - in part - at least some synthesis of understanding and acceptance of apparent goals being aligned.

GS: Seraph Lanval has activated a Force Action!
GS: Seraph Lanval has spent 2 Combo on Gatling!
GS: Seraph Lanval enters CONDITION GREEN!!
GS: Seraph Lanval has attacked Red Priestess Mauri with Revelry Labyrinth!
GS: Seraph Lanval has completed his action.
GS: Red Priestess Mauri takes a solid hit from Seraph Lanval's Revelry Labyrinth for 264 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Cyre H. Lorentz has posed.

There's something about being up close and personal, having a front row seat to someone's mind cracking into so many splinters. Cyre stares with eyes full of confusion and concern; he knew that the whole sticks and stones thing was a load of crock, but... This much emotional damage, it couldn't have just been because they were throwing mean words at her.

What is wrong with this woman? What happened to her to break her like this?

The shaman is silent, his fist lingering in Mauri's midsection for a moment too long. She grabs hold and he is too slow to react to the mercilessly strong grip this young woman possesses.

Something is wrong here. Something is wrong here.

And then her blood starts... Crawling.

Cyre's eyes go wide. He's not too slow for this. A rush of wind blasts out from the surface of his skin, splattering his surroundings with a haze of scarlet mist. It explodes, blossoming into some kind of twisted blood-magic equivalent to a Fuel Air Bomb.

That would have been enough to finish him off-- if it weren't for the light of the Lunar Queen.

Celesdue appears overhead, drawing the flames upward in the throes of gravitational mastery. They burn blue in the sky, sprouting gentle wings and transforming into motes of moonlight. Cyre feels the gravity grow. Doubling, tripling... All around him. It's a strange, mystical sensation to feel space twist and lens like that without actually... Crushing him.

Instead, he's left to exult for a moment in the gentle light of the Guardians...

And then he opens his mouth and roars a blastwave that could shatter solid, mountain stone.

Maybe Mauri should have shut him up to begin with...?

GS: Cyre H. Lorentz has attacked Red Priestess Mauri with Howling Gale!
GS: Cyre H. Lorentz takes 6 damage from Poison!
GS: Cyre H. Lorentz takes 9 damage from Toxin!
GS: Cyre H. Lorentz has completed his action.
GS: Red Priestess Mauri takes a glancing hit from Cyre H. Lorentz's Howling Gale for 67 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Jacqueline Barber has posed.

Jacqueline is somewhat taken aback as the mention of a man named 'Ronfar' causes a sudden change in the Red Priestess.

"...W-what's happening...?" She murmurs, taken aback. Mauri lashes out with flames instilled with pure rage, and it takes all Jacqueline has to defend herself against them.

"W-we didn't say that! Nobody said any of that!" Jacqueline says...but she's not sure if Mauri can hear her.

"Miss Jean, are you alright?" Jacqueline asks, moving to take up a position in front of her. She has a feeling Mauri is not in a state to relent just because she's fallen. "Hang in there...I can see to you once this is over, but first...!"

Jacqueline reaches into her bags, and draws out a stone tablet which she holds over her heart. She entreats Grudiev silently...

...And behind her, the image of the great saurian Guardian appears. Dust and debris is drawn into the vents on his back and blown out a shining, protective covering to protect every single one of her allies.

"I'm sorry for you, Red Priestess, I really am...but it's entirely too soon for us to burn out just yet!"

GS: Jacqueline Barber has attacked Catenna with Material - Earthen Embrace!
GS: Jacqueline Barber has attacked Cyre H. Lorentz with Material - Earthen Embrace!
GS: Jacqueline Barber has attacked Seraph Lanval with Material - Earthen Embrace!
GS: Jacqueline Barber has attacked Claude C. Kenny with Material - Earthen Embrace!
GS: Jacqueline Barber has attacked Ree with Material - Earthen Embrace!
GS: Jacqueline Barber has attacked Jacqueline Barber with Material - Earthen Embrace!
GS: Jacqueline Barber takes 8 damage from Poison!
GS: Jacqueline Barber has completed her action.
GS: Shield! Statuses applied to Jacqueline Barber!
GS: Jacqueline Barber heals Jacqueline Barber! She gains 200 temporary hit points!
GS: Shield! Statuses applied to Claude C. Kenny!
GS: Jacqueline Barber heals Claude C. Kenny! He gains 200 temporary hit points!
GS: Shield! Statuses applied to Ree!
GS: Jacqueline Barber heals Ree! She gains 200 temporary hit points!
GS: Shield! Statuses applied to Seraph Lanval!
GS: Jacqueline Barber heals Seraph Lanval! He gains 200 temporary hit points!
GS: Shield! Statuses applied to Catenna!
GS: Jacqueline Barber heals Catenna! She gains 200 temporary hit points!
GS: Shield! Statuses applied to Cyre H. Lorentz!
GS: Jacqueline Barber heals Cyre H. Lorentz! He gains 200 temporary hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Red Priestess Mauri has posed.

Mauri bleeds as any other, likely having used magic to set flame to her blood. She does kind of have the one thing going for her here.

Still, the power of the Guardian is perhaps not as meager as Mauri expects. Despite everything, it would just be an instant, a single mistep like Jean had just made and the fight would be over in her favor, but Catenna cuts out that possibility by dispelling much of her flame, by pinning her into place with the weakest force of the universe. Mauri shrieks and pulls on the restraints, but weakened as she is--she can't break free.

Claude dives in with several punches across her body. She writhes to avoid the worst of it, but frankly he gets several strikes across her body, face, and neck. Lanval says a lot of great words to her in this moment but, uh, she might have a hard time hearing them over Claude's punches. That's a lot of punches, Lanval.

Ultimately the finishing blow comes from Cyre of all people who sends a burst of wind right into her gut. She gags out more blood, bowling over as she grabs at her gut. At this point she's severely cut up, bruising in several places, and is bound to look even worse later once she starts healing.

"Is this enough, Althena...?" Mauri asks quietly before she struggles nad manages to stand once more, holding her body with her own arms.

"...You win this time, heathens...but the next time... you won't be so lucky."

And with that a swirl of fire ripples around Mauri and she vanishes within it. When the flames fade, she is gone.

And Lanval, with his own surge of water, ensures that the path forward is open to seal the statue.

<Pose Tracker> Catenna has posed.

As Mauri slouches to the ground in such bad shape, Catenna looks on with quiet sadness in her eyes. It helps to shield the fact that her entire body aches and her dancer's skirt is hiding quite a few burns that Lucadia's magic only mostly healed. But the fight doesn't continue; Mauri's soon vanishing into her own inferno.

And with her, and with Lanval's help, the flames around Celesdue's statue fade away. The serenity of the place once more takes over. Barely a sound is heard beyond the little group.

And a soft tick-tick-tick of little feet. The Owlet comes hopping over the rocks towards the one Catenna is standing on. Deftly, the tiny bird hops up onto Catenna's shoulder and gives her an expectant look.

Catenna sighs. "...I wonder if I was that zealous towards Riesenlied and Kaguya before I understood them," she murmurs self-consciously.

A quick look around allows her to gauge where Cyre is, then Jean and the others. She opens her mouth to say something, but swallows it. Something must be taken care of first. Her dancer's skirt billows around her leg as she picks up her Sealing Rod again and bounds with nimble grace from stone to stone until she's before the statue.

Her heart is beating a little faster and she's absolutely certain why. Her eyes practically shine as she touches the Sealing Rod to the statue and begins to intone the words to the ritual in her own language.

There is a shimmer as the Sealing begins to pulse forth over the marble visage of Celesdue.

<Pose Tracker> Jean has posed.

Jean doesn't answer Jay--or anyone, for the moment. She doesn't seem particularly conscious, even in the wake of the battle ending and the Sealing beginning.

<Pose Tracker> Claude C. Kenny has posed.

Claude C. Kenny os all of the ras. And then Mauri runs away. And then Catenna seals the statue.

Which is good, Claude thinks, because he is extremely tired from all of the punching and none of the breathing. He just sort of sags over, breathing heavily, sucking in sweet, delicious air. "Okay," he sputters, then pants a little more. "That was... okay." While the mission is technically a success thanks to him (or at least this is what he will report to Cecilia), he can't get many more words out, and his eyebrows are a little burned off, and he has the mother of all soakers in both his shoes. Also, the Guardians got what they wanted, which is only sort of a win. All in all, it could be better.

It is then that Claude looks slightly down and to his left, where a half-naked gypsy girl is face-down on the ground.

A half-naked gypsy girl with great legs.

And chromatic hair.

And possibly literal killer kung fu.

...

"...my mom can never know you exist," Claude grunts as he reaches down, scoops up Jean, and folds her over his shoulder. "Or she will beat us both until babies come out."

<Pose Tracker> Ree has posed.

Ree watches the sealing quizzically but silently. She doesn't understand Catenna's native tongue, or what exactly is happening, or why it's so important. The important thing is that she did her job accompanying this ragtag group, and doing her best against the Red Priestess.
        A fight that's cost her one of her ARMS, with no way to repair or replace it here on the Old Moon.
        And the burns. Oh, the burns. Blisters have formed along her arms and back, her clothes are scorched. It's a good thing she has access to magical healing to ameliorate the worst of it! She really, really should've charged more!

<Pose Tracker> Seraph Lanval has posed.

    Lanval sits and lets the world roar around him, as he is used to. Rocky protection (or maybe just dust and soot from Mauri burning stuff) collects on him via the blessing of Grudiev, and the flames die down after copious amounts of his own power - it takes a lot out of him, as his eyes close when he lowers his gaze.
     "Mmmmph." Is his contemplative grunting as Mauri laments whether it is enough. The shockwave of flame that ripples out with Mauri's exit - coupled with her threat - is a reminder of what they all just narrowly avoided. What of Lanval's concentration there is, is broken as it knocks him flat on his back against the surface of the water.
     An invisible tide gently carries Lanval back to shore, where he gets to watch Catenna's sealing ritual from a distance. He looks over to where Jean lies. From what he understands, she must have had it very rough. He doesn't quite grasp the depths of what her life entails...
     But it doesn't stop him from seeing to her care, as he musters at least one more curative splash of water for her sake. Lanval gets the idea that what they're looking at is something that's once-in-a-lifetime for mortals, if even that. To look upon the weight of what the is considered the very embodiment of the moon they live on...
     ...He's not sure if he's completely understanding or acknowledging that, but his feelingss are the same - the Guardians aren't their enemy.
     "Hey," he gently says to Jean as she's seen to by Claude, "can ya open yer eyesh?" He says, as he watches the sealing ritual being performed by Catenna.

<Pose Tracker> Jacqueline Barber has posed.

"...I'm sorry." Jacqueline repeats, shaking her head. This didn't...feel good. Either way, however, the fight was over - Mauri disappears into her own flames with one last, chilling statement.

...That didn't feel good, either. There was no way this wasn't going to blow back on them somehow. ...But, in the end, it was for the sake of Catenna and Celesdue's Statue. Filgaia would endure, for just a little longer.

Jacqueline looks toward Catenna quietly, watching solemnly as she begins the Sealing ritual...and then rummage through her bags.

She distributes goods to everyone - healing potions and burn salves alike to help mitigate the wounds they received. (Claude gets Jean's share as well, with the express demand that he give them to Jean when she awakens).

And as for Lanval's share...

There's a certain bottle of red liquid in there, as well.

<Pose Tracker> Red Priestess Mauri has posed.

Catenna, through the use of the Sealing Rod, strengthens the seal on Mother's prison and ensures that even if Mauri comes back to finish the job, at least that seal will be safe. Are there even any more statues? If not, then Mother's seal can no longer be affected. What will be, will be, and Catenna at least ended it on a high note.

The Carakin stood together, even that mercenary stood with them, and Claude was able to fulfill his promise to Cecilia. Perhaps most importantly of all, Lanval did not quail before the Red Priestess, chosen of Althena, and stood his ground with his friends and people.

And a foe is defeated....and yet...

Elsewhere

Mauri walks away from the battle, well out of sight. Beaten. Bruised. Sliced. Punched. And Drenched in water, bleeding severely, she makes her way towards Meribia.

"Ahahah...." Mauri laughs. "They don't hold back at all, do they...?" She hobbles along. "Oh, what will the people think...seeing Althena's poor humble servant...in this state...hahaha...."

She keeps hobbling along, the smile on her face crazed but with a divine madness that can scarcely be replicated.

"What will the excitable Storm Fist do? I wonder... Oh I wonder, what will my dear brother think...upon learning who did this to his dear, precious little sister...?"

She doesn't rest. She doesn't stop. Her energy is inhuman. Her dedication, unwavering.

"And what will you think, oh foolish Ronfar.... Knowing that your love stands in your way?"

She makes sure she's crying, the saddest tears that she can.

"Was letting them have a statue worth it, as I use my body to stir the fires of wrath within the hearts of the faithful against your enemies...What do you think of my plan..."

Mauri's eyes blaze with cursed fire.

"Master Zophar..."

<Pose Tracker> Claude C. Kenny has posed.

Claude C. Kenny, being roughly as magical as most sticks you could name, does not notice Lanval talking to Jean. So he turns around and shouts (accidentally) in the Seraph's face: "IT'S ALL GOOD, I'LL TAKE HER BACK TO CECILIA FOR THE HEALING!"

...

"UNLESS SHE'S STILL BARFING!"

...

"MAYBE I'LL ASK RENA INSTEAD!"

<Pose Tracker> Cyre H. Lorentz has posed.

Cyre H. Lorentz is presently unconscious in a puddle of water after having shouted most of the blood out of a batshit loco crazy priest lady.

Normally he'd be pretty happy about the whole 'sealed a statue' thing but right now this is kind of the third time this month that he's been immolated half to death, and he just kind of wants to sleep.

Unfortunately, he's sleeping in water. Someone might want to get him before he drowns.

<Pose Tracker> Catenna has posed.

"...I think Lucadia can help her," Catenna suggests as she begins to hop rocks back towards Claude and Jean. She's reaching for her other Medium.

She ends up having to divert with a gasp to dive into the water, swim over to Cyre and lug him up onto the shore beside Claude and Jean as best she can. It's harder for her because she doesn't have a ton of upper body strength, truthfully.

"Cyre?" she asks with wide eyes, before beginning to put pressure on his chest. She even holds his nose and tries mouth-to-mouth.

<Pose Tracker> Jean has posed.

It's sure apparent that Jean is unconscious--because if she were remotely aware, she'd be getting as far away from 'meeting this guy's mother' as is possible. ...It might almost be a welcome diversion to have something to run from. Instead, however...

Instead she's unconscious, and far away as Mauri leaves, unaware of her plans. She doesn't open her eyes, but the splash of water seems to lessen the burns on her body, even if it doesn't do much for her outfit. Instead...

Muscle can be heavy, and Jean is pretty strong. But this close--

...Jean sure does manage to conceal a lot of scars. Some through makeup, some through strategic outfits... But whoever this 'assassin' is, she's seen a lot of violence.

Inwardly, though, Jean is troubled with thoughts of a priestess screaming.

<Pose Tracker> Cyre H. Lorentz has posed.

>Lanval is healing everyone
>Also making sure they don't drown
>Catenna tries mouth to mouth.

Aaaand then Cyre is holding her head there, because that's actually okay with him except for the nose holding thing.

"I'm playing the role of sleeping beauty a lot lately," Cyre croaks, blearily. "Ain't I?"

<Pose Tracker> Catenna has posed.

Catenna gets caught in the middle of trying to give Cyre mouth to mouth.

Her first inclination is to blush fiercely. Her eyes widen a little. Then they close as she tried to add some dignity to it by letting go of Cyre's nose and brushing back his hair with long fingers. But other than that, she gives him what he wants. It is more public than she normally does with him.

Just this once, she doesn't care.

"...Please do not make me put you in a princess carry," Catenna murmurs with a small, fond smile. "You are a bit heavy."

<Pose Tracker> Cyre H. Lorentz has posed.

"I blame the curry," Cyre pats his belly. "It's too tasty. I can't stop eating."

<Pose Tracker> Catenna has posed.

"Perhaps it is time to put you on a diet," Catenna chides lightly before giving Cyre's lips another soft kiss.

"We will get you back to rest. I promise."

<Pose Tracker> Seraph Lanval has posed.

    There may be one lingering question. This is not the first time since they've arrived that the Blue Star's full light filled the night. Why was it this one, that Celesdue would give that invisible call to action for any and all who would see to the safety of the seal on Mother...?
 
     AS IT TURNS OUT, MUCH EARLIER IN THE EVENING...
 
     Something in the darkness slithers into the glades.
     "Fufufu. ^Long Voweller^ and ^Creature Creature^ think they are an educated over Yarobeleedt? Soon. Soon find an other...."
     The butterflies quake as Yarobeleedt appears before the lake, and the statue. It stands there, helpless, just waiting for him to crest the stepping stones (somehow)...
     "...Huh??" Yarobeleedt's beady eyes get beadier as he brings his horrid weapon-arms to his face as though gasping. "It is a here without the t??? But also the t??? Is it?" Yarobeleedt circles the lake, grinding forearms together noisily... a bit wetly, since one of them doesn't work as well now.
     He stops.
     "...Uncoy!!! It is uncoy." He spits. "Most ready seen! There are many! Not just one. Think you are also the educated of four years over Yarobeleedt? Celesdue? Fufufu." He looks away from the statue. "Polite tryyyy~"
     He slithers off. Of course that's a fake, he sees so many Celesdue statues! They're like in every town and every cave and they all look the same. Of course this one has to be fake, then. Soon he'll get all of Celesdue's many, many statues - a clever set-up, he has to say - and then he will watch that one cry tears of despair as Mother destroys them. Especially that ^Fool Moon Full^...!
     ...
     The butterflies flit out under the light of night for Celesdue's would-be champions, and the rest...
     ...we've already seen.