2018-08-25: Reining In The Raining

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  • Log: 2018-08-25: Reining In The Raining
  • Cast: Runette Forton, Thessaly, Seraph Ragnell, Ethius Hesiod, Sorey, Garan Dantear, Runette Forton, Neriah Parringer, K.K.
  • Where: Pendrago - Castle District
  • Date: August 25th, 2018
  • Summary: The time has come to deal with the central issue plaguing Pendrago - the ceaseless rains. Having long since identified the cause as being Cardinal Runette Forton herself, it appears she has also had a strong hand in perpetuating the war engulfing the Glenwood continent a number of times over. It's not hard to find a reason to put an end to her. Can a reason instead be found to stay hands from being further covered in blood?

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

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

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

BGM: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NmeIVrUY4X0
DC: Seraph Ragnell switches forms to The Free!
DG: Fei Fong Wong has left your party.
DC: Sorey switches forms to Shephed Sorey!
DC: Sorey switches forms to Armatus Fethmus Mioma!
DC: Sorey switches forms to Shepherd Sorey!
<Pose Tracker> Sheriff Star has posed.

Different winding paths have led to here.

Rolance's capital is vulnerable to infiltration, for those so inclined. For the Shepherd, that was a necessity: although Alisha left him a letter, telling him that the Cardinal would further a war, he had no standing in the Rolance Empire to simply barge his way into here. However, the vast majority of Rolance's armies have been making a move to the east: to try to corner and destroy the Hyland army in Tryfan Vale.

For Garan Dantear and Thessaly, as well as their ally, Ethius Hesiod, it was easier. They did have official backing; Lord Commander Sergei Strelka would see them through. And, well, neither he nor anyone else could see Ragnell.

The inside of the Shrinechurch of Pendrago is a somber place. Moreso, with the everpresent rain giving it a grey cast -- and gloomier still, with the occasional flash of lightning. A storm is outside. Those who have traveled have gathered here, to find sealed doors in the foyer: double wooden doors, which will lead into the sanctum of the Shrinechurch, and where Cardinal Forton likely awaits.

<Pose Tracker> Thessaly has posed.

It's time to bring this entire affair to a close.

"I have it on good authority that she is responsible for the weather in Pendrago, or is at the very least influencing it," Thessaly tells her party quietly as they venture forward into the depths of the Shrinechurch. Mystic eyes search their surroundings, to determine whether ephemeral locks or traps are inundated upon the doors that will end this confrontation before it begins. Black silks rustle at every step, when she makes those cursory inspections.

It's only when she confirms that they can proceed safely on that she'll wave her fingers, and start unsealing the doors with her sorcery - if she's successful, she'll let them blow open by magic and will.

<Pose Tracker> Seraph Ragnell has posed.

Ragnell half-smiles at Thessaly's statement to the party as she walks along with them, unseen by anyone outside of the group. Anyone who *does* react to her presence would be giving themselves away in a lot of ways. For now, she doesn't remark, opting to keep her eyes and ears peeled for anyone or anything hiding in the wings of the Shrinechurch, as it were.

The ambience is nice, at least, but then Ragnell generally appreciates a storm. It helps offset the ambient Malevolence, as the place no doubt has. When Thessaly starts using her magic to break the seal on the doors, she turns her attention to that; once it's done, she goes back to keeping a watch on the perimeter.

Now then, how will things pan out below?

<Pose Tracker> Ethius Hesiod has posed.

Almost everything is falling into place, Ethius internalizes, and yet, he recognizes the delicate nature of the situation at hand. For how chatty he may have gotten initially in his attempts to get into the good graces of Alisha's task force, he has turned stone silent since they have retrieved the Lord Commander from his unfortunate hostage situation.

He allows the rest to speak, to make the decisions, to determine whatever they will. He generally does what's asked of him to the letter, without deviation nor further innovation on what is asked. He is just... there. That tends to be how he usually is, isn't it? He's just there, along for the ride, with the occasional rare bursts of destructive whimsy. Today, he is mostly just there.

Where Thessaly has her eyes on sorcerous designs, Ethius keeps his eyes peeled for anywhere official clerical work might be stored. (Or just staring everywhere, indiscriminately, which he also does all the time.) It may be of importance later - maybe even soon.

No words of reassurance or rallying about good against evil come from him. Only silent compliance and his continued presence.

<Pose Tracker> Sorey has posed.

It turns out that its surprisingly easy to sneak around when you are the Shepherd.

Sorey might not have had a lot of practice in sneaking around in human cities before, but he's certainly done his share of ruins explorations where there are dangerous creatures and other unpleasant things that would love to do anyone that they came across a great deal of harm. And the storm definitely helps. The fact that it seems to get considerably worse when the Shepherd passes, running along narrow ledges that happens to gain a bit more traction in the rain at unexpected moments, or expand slightly to provide a better foothold, certainly does help him get closer to his destination.

Having friends is a good thing. And being able to tap into the elemental powers of his Seraph companions means that keeping Sorey out of a place where he wants to visit is going to be hard.

But he arrives at a window to the Shrinechurch, looking at it for a moment before he looks to the side. Dezel shrugs, and a whisper of wind slips through the crack in the frame and tosses the latch upwards, allowing Sorey to slide over the sill and into the hallway. He lands lightly on his feet, his heavy oil over-cloak shedding water as he makes his way down the hallway towards the foyer. He pauses as he spots a group including two of Althena's Guard and another unknown person - but then he spots a fourth member of the group and raises an eyebrow. "Hmmm, if Ragnell is here, it's probably not just business as usual," Sorey muses. He looks around for a moment, and then consults with his Seraph companions. "I don't know why Forton is trying to push the war from his end, but we need to at least talk to him and find out what is going on. I'm not sure why these folks are here, so... keep a low profile and following them in seems like the best bet. Ragnell is here though, so the rest of you keep out of sight until we find out what is going on."

He senses the four notes of agreement as the Seraphs disappear, vanishing back into their 'House' as Edna has so flatteringly put it. But Sorey pulls his hood down and walks along silently, keeping just out of sight for the moment. He's gained some appreciation for keeping a low profile when the situation is unclear.

<Pose Tracker> Garan Dantear has posed.

Sorcerous matters are, generally speaking, outside of the purview of Garan Dantear.

That's what he has Thessaly for, after all, and while he can feel the witch working her arcane powers through the eldritch bond that connects them, he has only the most tangental awareness of what she might actually be doing. Instead, he focuses on the potential for more physical dangers. It galls him to have to worry about those sorts of things here in the heart of Pendrago, but the red-haired Imperial Knight may have to learn to accept that Rolance is no longer the place it once was... Due, at least in part it seems, to the influence of the Cardinal.

His armor gleams, all enameled white chased in silver, as though here he had to make even more of an impression than he would elsewhere.

He frowns, watching as Thessaly works on the sealed doors, but it's a determined look that settles across his features more than anything else. If they have to do something drastic, well, let it be done. Better than to sit back and let the capitol drown.

<Pose Tracker> Sheriff Star has posed.

There may be irony in that the way Thessaly helps bring this matter to a close is to, in fact, open a door.

Nonetheless, her sorcery undoes the locks and bindings. It is a slightly eerie thing to witness: there is a succession of pops, squeaks, and clicks as the six locks built into the two double doors are undone. The doors swing open, into a vast chamber. Pews fill the inside of the cathedral; the stormlit stained glass windows make the insides look altered and otherworldly, as images of Althena's glory and coming to the Silver Star have a pallid hue.

And, if any were to doubt the conclusion that Ragnell and her fellows reached, Cardinal Runette Forton is a Hellion.

She stands in the center of the hall, having turned to meet their gazes just as the doors open. She is a stately woman in her late thirties: tall and imposing, wearing a white habit that bears more in common with an archbishop's garb than a nun's attire. Her hair is dark, as are her eyes.

And motes of black and violet light rise from the floor, a powerful Domain shuddering through their senses. Her eyes narrow, slowly.

"Ah," she says. "Come while the guards are away, have we? I am... so utterly disappointed in you, Sir Garan. Please, call back your dogs -- and your bitch. I am sure we can settle this with the nobility that they lack."

<Pose Tracker> Thessaly has posed.

"Your Eminence," Thessaly says as their party heads within, and if she somehow senses Sorey and his own company trailing behind them, she doesn't make any indication - difficult as that is to tell, with her veiled features. "If you mean to chastise my lord for exercising sound strategic judgment in facing only you today instead of having to fight through a throng to get to you, I have no choice but to surmise you're disappointed in the fact that he elects not to be as ridiculously inept as some of the others you hold under your boot. Pity. And here I thought you were a woman who doesn't balk at a righteous challenge...that is your reputation, yes?"

She folds her hands in front of her, violet eyes gleaming with fell light from above her veils. Her smile, however thin, wouldn't be apparent, but easily felt.

"But I suppose there's something to be said about effective facades, though that hardly explains just how tiresome your face and everything has become over the last few months. On that end, I'm more than happy for all of us to simply get this over with so our Empire can be ours once again, and you can crawl back to the stygian hole that bore you."

<Pose Tracker> Seraph Ragnell has posed.

A bit of motion in the corner of Ragnell's eye draws her attention. A figure slips in through a window from the outside. She smirks--so he'd gotten her message after all, either through the Goddess Statues or via Edna--and says nothing to her companions.

Soon, Thessaly has the door open, and the group passes through into a huge chamber filled with pews. She glances around at the stormlit stained glass windows before settling her gaze on Cardinal Forton ahead.

Ragnell, of course, had no doubt at any point that Forton was a Hellion--not since she asked her straight-up, right to her face, but also slightly before that, when Forton put on a speech and toyed with the Malevolence of the crowd like she was a potter working raw earth. Regardless, when Forton calls Garan out, Ragnell snorts--but lets Thessaly take the verbal lead.

<Pose Tracker> Ethius Hesiod has posed.

The distance in which Ethius seems to have from his surroundings - physically and emotionally - seems to close ironically as Thessaly opens the swinging doors through her own sorcerous might. The air that rushes out rustles against his hood. He has to bring a hand up to keep it pulled over him, in a humbling moment about where he might stand before something of this power.

This adjustment made, his hands return behind his back. He makes up the rear of the three (well, four, counting Ragnell watching above) as the Cardinal's very presence challenges their intrusions. She speaks as though she already knows what's coming, why they're even here...

...

Curiously, from Ethius' positioning, he is exactly at Garan's six. Three steps out from striking distance of the Imperial Knight if he's even of the mind, as he stands there quietly. His expression, what little of it is visible, doesn't change any as he eyes the Hellion Cardinal. His hands remain at his back, when her very presence and what she's exerting makes it clear as to how much danger they're all in.

He doesn't falter. What purpose brings him here, whatever crazy thoughts go through this man's mind as his reason for being, sees him stand tall. He offers no retort or commentary for her less-than-kind observations. He's just there. An extra.

<Pose Tracker> Sorey has posed.

Well, she certainly didn't seem like the most friendly of clergy. Sorey continues to walk up behind the group, although he raises an eyebrow at the feeling of malevolence that is oozing off of this place. For this strong of a domain to be coming from a place that should be dedicated to healing, kindness, and helping others... that didn't bode well for its occupant. At best, the Shepherd was willing to bet that the Cardinal had been negatively affected by the malevolence here.

At worst, she was the Hellion causing it.

But it seems that rather harsh language is being exchanged, and Sorey continues to walk towards the door that the others had passed through a few moments before. As he passes through the door, Sorey's voice rings out clearly enough for everyone to hear him. "I would think that coming in regards to peace and keeping people from getting killed would be a topic that both Althena's defenders and a Cardinal of Rolance would both find common ground over. Of course, if there is another reason why you should have a dispute with the Guard, then perhaps I can offer an option as to a solution."

As he speaks, Sorey releases the clasp on his oil cloak and allows it to fall to the ground behind him, leaving him dressed in his usual Shepherd attire Alisha had given him so long ago. He's not even that wet, for which he can thank Mikleo. But the Shepherd walks up to stand behind Garan's group, one hand resting on the hilt of his sword. "But the atmosphere here is not exactly good for reasonable discussion - it would probably be better to take it elsewhere. Unless, of course, there is some reason you'd be unable to leave this malevolent domain Cardinal...?"

Given the words being exchanged, Sorey figures that the source of the problem is here - although Alisha mentioning that one of the high clergy was likely a Hellion would have been nice!

<Pose Tracker> Garan Dantear has posed.

Well, Garan thinks to himself, that just figures.

The Imperial Knight is undeterred by the truth about the Cardinal, his booted footsteps loud inside the cathedral even with the storm outside. Metal sounds on metal as his armor moves and shifts with each step, as Garan moves forward undaunted. The comments about the others with him do little but wash over the knight, though there's a spike of anger at the remark clearly aimed at Thessaly. Of course, he knows better than most that the witch, who would under other circumstances be a noblewoman herself, is more than merely capable of holding her own in a battle of words.

"Your Eminence, I'm disappointed to hear you stoop to such childish insults," the Imperial Knight says. "I have no interest in involving anyone else in this. Guardsmen doing their duty deserve better than to die in the name of a Hellion, and I have little interest in killing fellow citizens of Rolance." Again, anyway. "Shall we dispense with the theatre? I'm ill-suited to speeches. As an Imperial Knight, I'm here to destroy a traitor to the Empire."

<Pose Tracker> Runette Forton has posed.

"Make your empire... yours? Please," the Cardinal says. "Rolance was nothing until I came. It was a shadow of its former self -- mired in a repeating cycle of mediocrity, riding on the thinning blood of House Dragonia. The mighty had become the corpulent. I gave it purpose. I gave it the hatred it needed to fuel it. I gave it power."

Runette, despite initially on addressing Garan, looks about the room. She notes all of them in turn -- even Ragnell, her eyes lingering on the Seraph with a growing recognition.

Then, she looks at Sorey. "...You think my dispute is with the Guard? I think you should ask more questions, boy--such as who these people are, really. But, no."

She turns back towards Garan. Her lips curl back into a smile. "Ah, Sir Garan... then, let me explain something to you: I--" And her lips keep curling, unnaturally, until they split half of her head. And, then, her body shifts; her legs fuse, a snake-like tail shooting out, and her headgear bursts apart. Snakes swing out, rather than hair, hissing and snapping. The Medusa-like form of Runette snarls at them.

"--AM THE EMPIRE!"

A shockwave erupts from the Cardinal. A blast across the ground, threatening to send all of them to their feet!

DC: Runette Forton switches forms to Medusa Hellion Runette!
GS: Runette Forton has attacked Garan Dantear with Shockwave!
GS: Runette Forton has attacked Seraph Ragnell with Shockwave!
GS: Runette Forton has attacked Thessaly with Shockwave!
GS: Runette Forton has attacked Ethius Hesiod with Shockwave!
GS: Runette Forton has attacked Sorey with Shockwave!
GS: Runette Forton has completed her action.
GS: Runette Forton has canceled their attack on Thessaly.
GS: Runette Forton has attacked Garan Dantear with Shockwave!
GS: Seraph Ragnell takes a solid hit from Runette Forton's Shockwave for 144 hit points!
GS: Sorey critically Guards a hit from Runette Forton's Shockwave for 26 hit points!
GS: Garan Dantear guards a hit from Runette Forton's Shockwave for 87 hit points!
GS: Ethius Hesiod guards a hit from Runette Forton's Shockwave for 85 hit points!
GS: Runette Forton has attacked Thessaly with Shockwave!
GS: Runette Forton has canceled their attack on Thessaly.
GS: Runette Forton has attacked Thessaly with Shockwave!
GS: Runette Forton has completed her action.
DC: MISS! Thessaly completely evades Shockwave from Runette Forton!
<Pose Tracker> Seraph Ragnell has posed.

Ahh, Ragnell notes, and that's the group all together... such as it is. Alisha had mentioned before leaving for Hyland that she'd send a letter to Sorey asking him to come here, and here he is. The Lightning Seraph half-smiles when the Shepherd heads up the rear, while Thessaly scores back with cutting words of her own and Garan simply makes his intentions plain. Also, Ethius was there.

The Cardinal meanwhile begins her... rant? Speech? Mmm, somewhere between the two of them. When Forton's stony gaze passes over her, Ragnell smiles, winks, and cocks her a fingergun. Forton probably has no idea what that's supposed to mean. But Ragnell understands Forton quite well; after all, she sincerely believes that she ought to rule the Empire just because she put some work into lathering its citizenry up into a rage.

The shockwave bursts out on the literal tail of Forton's transformation. Ragnell backsteps when she should have jumped straight up and over--an embarrassing mistake that she'll pretend never happened another minute from now--and it smashes into her, sending her tumbling down across the floor.

"Ugh, son of a gorgon," she grumbles, picking herself back up. She takes advantage of the increased distance being blown back has afforded her and casts a Seraphic arte. A moment later, the golden glyph at her feet materializes over Forton's head, and sends down a single lightning bolt down towards her head. "Blitzstrahl!"

GS: Seraph Ragnell has attacked Runette Forton with Blitzstrahl!
GS: Seraph Ragnell has completed her action.
<Pose Tracker> Thessaly has posed.

I AM THE EMPIRE.

"It seems that the lady cardinal has forgotten her history," Thessaly remarks cooly as she watches the Hellion transform before her very eyes. "Where it clearly establishes that Rolance predates her for a few hundred years. And if that somehow isn't true, Your Eminence, I have to say you look incredible for your age. How many virgins did you slaughter? Is that why you attracted the Shepherd here?"

The shockwave explodes outward from the transformed cardinal, and pale fingers lift in readiness, simply batting away her side of the spell with a flick of her wrist and the application of pure sorcery and will brought to bear. While her tone is light, the fact that she is saying this much makes clear one thing:

The witch is furious. The sin of pride is there, but it is a righteous one - to not just try and drive her country to ruin, but malign her lord and cast aspersions upon her. Underneath her silks, no matter how displaced, blood doesn't lie, and her blood screams that she is still Duchess Trevelyan of Rolance.

Black and violet encapsulates fury she is too graceful to express. Lightning and hellfire coruscate together to javelin straight towards the woman's chest.

GS: Thessaly has attacked Runette Forton with Rallentando!
GS: Thessaly has completed her action.
<Pose Tracker> Sorey has posed.

"Truth be told, no," Sorey replies levelly to Thorton. "But people should always be given the chance to come clean before you start a fight with them. But I can see you are not in the mood, so..."

And with that, the Shepherd draws his lacquered sword from its sheath, holding the antiquated blade in front of him in a guard position as the Cardinal begins to transform. There is something of a sad look on Sorey's face as the Hellion reveals her true nature, and he sighs quietly. "The Empire is not its ability to commit violence on others - and if you've become so lost that you truly believe that hate is going to make Rolance stronger, then I fear for how far gone you have become."

The shockwave ripples across the room, and Sorey brings his sword down in a single swift motion towards the floor. The weapon bursts into a tongue of blue flame, the purifying magic cutting straight through the Hellion infused blow and scattering it before the Shepherd.

A moment later Sorey leaps across the room, his feet barely touching the ground as he lunges straight towards the Hellionized Forton. A moment of concentration as the Shepherd gathers the flame into his sword, not using it as a flaming torch but instead focusing its power down into a single cutting edge. The sword comes down low... and then up to the right, cutting upwards and diagonally across Forton's torso before Sorey leaps back and away to give others room to attack. He needs to see just how resistant she is to being purified first.

"I'll see what I can do to burn away that malevolence... but keep the pressure on! The harder we push her, the easier it will be to break through this domain!"

GS: Sorey has attacked Runette Forton with Crimson Edge!
GS: Sorey has completed his action.
<Pose Tracker> Ethius Hesiod has posed.

Ethius' gaze averts when the Shepherd appears. The situation rapidly intensifies to what seems an inevitable conclusion.

'I think you should ask more questions, boy--such as who these people are, really.'

Ethius' eyes narrow. He has to move in at the earliest opportunity. What is the earliest opportunity? Evidently, it is after the Hellion reveals her true form and releases a shockwave that roars across the ground.

This is one tactical benefit Ethius has by having positioned himself a ways behind Garan - Garan has to take the brunt of it before it reaches him. It should speak to Garan's valor, convictions, and quality of his equipment that Ethius doesn't fare any better in comparison to the Imperial Knight even for logistically taking a weakened shockwave. He skids back, a loud echoing *THUNK* as the tip of a quarterstaff strikes at the ground for traction's sake. It noisily drags against the ancient ground of the once hallowed shrinechurch.

He scrambles back to his feet not as smoothly as he should, as he disperses from the crowd. He moves to try and dive beyond to one of the supporting pillars, aiming for a space relative to the Hellion's eight o'clock as he takes a moment to gain his bearings and attempt to break line of sight.

His support is less laced with vocal retorts and spirited attempts to claim what Rolance is or isn't. What is his stake here, then, if not that? His support is low-key as he watches Ragnell's lightning come down. The crack of thunder is what he hears first, so he works with that as he starts fluttering his fingers and chanting a proper incantation under his breath before extending a hand out from behind the pillar support.

"Recurrent Current!" HE calls the spell name as the light of geometric patterns about him and other miscellaneous noise that accompanies such Symbological casting would otherwise call him out, threatening to send a shocking current of electricity to zap the Medusa over, and over, and over, and over...

GS: Ethius Hesiod has attacked Runette Forton with Recurrent Current!
GS: Ethius Hesiod has completed his action.
GS: Runette Forton guards a hit from Seraph Ragnell's Blitzstrahl for 53 hit points!
GS: Disrupt! Statuses applied to Runette Forton!
GS: Runette Forton guards a hit from Thessaly's Rallentando for 127 hit points!
GS: Runette Forton guards a hit from Sorey's Crimson Edge for 82 hit points!
GS: Runette Forton critically Guards a hit from Ethius Hesiod's Recurrent Current for 20 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Garan Dantear has posed.

"No."

The shockwave of force slams into the armored form of Garan Dantear: Most would surely be knocked off their feet, forced to prostrate themselves in front of the serpentine Hellion nesting in the heart of Pendrago. Braced and ready, trained to weather all manner of storms, the Imperial Knight lifts his shield in front of him and uses it to blunt the worst of the impact, though the raw kinetic energy behind it is enough that it sends him skidding back on his booted feet. But still, he stands. As always, he stands.

Perhaps others were willing to give the Cardinal some measure of a chance, or perhaps it was simply a concession to the appearance of things, but only now does Garan draw his sword, the steel edge singing as it meets the open air inside the cathedral. He'd never thought to draw steel here, of all places... But he'd never thought to draw it in the throne room either, and they'd already had to fight the Trial Knight, there.

Perhaps Rolance truly never would be as it was. At least not for him.

"I'm afraid you're just a worm at the root, Forton."

No spells, no Artes: Garan Dantear lunges at the Cardinal with his shield and his sword, aiming to drive her off-balance with the slab of steel before carving at her with the blade, to deal the Hellion a wound she'll keep feeling despite her Malevolent gifts.

GS: Garan Dantear has spent 1 Combo on Poison!
GS: Garan Dantear has attacked Runette Forton with Rending Slash!
GS: Garan Dantear has completed his action.
GS: Runette Forton critically Guards a hit from Garan Dantear's Rending Slash for 17 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Runette Forton has posed.

Runette finds herself under fire -- which, really, comes as no surprise, now that her true form has been unveiled. Lightning slams down for her; it smashes into her, shocking her backward, and prompting a hiss. It has a reptilian quality to it; no surprise, given her current form. "Mock me if you wish, you accursed blight! I know a little of your history! I know you will only bring ruin!"

Lightning and hellfire, woven together, blast into Runette -- but not fully, as she holds a hand out. A barrier appears, deflecting the worst of the shot around her; then, the Shepherd rushes in for her, and she throws the barrier at him. It catches the blade, and sends it flying to the side. Her eyes flash, as it cuts into her waist and nicks it rather than slashing through her torso.

Then, more lightning. Ethius's Symbological assault crashes into her, and she lets out a sharp cry -- "Sentinel!" -- before a barrier explodes outward, and arcs of electricity slam into pews and send them scattering instead.

Then, she turns towards Garan. He slams at her with his shield, and she is blown backward. But, then she reaches her bladed, clawed fingers up--and she grasps his blade, holding it at bay. "I am no such thing! I am your rightful master, knight!"

She spits down at him, and then claws at his shield -- which is when a point-blank shockwave of force erupts, her Arte unleashed under his shield unless he moves quickly. "I am the best this kingdom has! What Goddess, what Dragonmaster, what true Emperor would save us!"

Then, she slams a fist down into the ground. Three immense blades of pressurized water form -- and shoot out, creating an inverse triangle. One blade hurtles for Ethius; another slashes out across the ground for Ragnell; the final one tries to rip through Ethius's defenses. "I claimed power for our Empire! I gave it the weapons of the barbarians of the Blue Star! I gave it MEANING!"

Then, she turns her head, and snarls at Sorey. " And do not think I will surrender this power that I sought, Shepherd!"

Her eyes flash from gold to slate grey -- and Sorey feels a wave of power wash over him. And then, he sees the edges of his cloak and his boots turn grey... and brittle... and into stone. It rapidly begins to spread, unless he does something.

GS: Runette Forton has attacked Garan Dantear with Fierce Demon Fang!
GS: Runette Forton has attacked Thessaly with Aqua Edge!
GS: Runette Forton has attacked Ethius Hesiod with Aqua Edge!
GS: Runette Forton has attacked Seraph Ragnell with Aqua Edge!
GS: Runette Forton has attacked Sorey with Gorgon Eye!
GS: Runette Forton has completed her action.
GS: CRITICAL! Thessaly takes a solid hit from Runette Forton's Aqua Edge for 236 hit points!
DC: MISS! Ethius Hesiod completely evades Aqua Edge from Runette Forton!
GS: Garan Dantear guards a hit from Runette Forton's Fierce Demon Fang for 112 hit points!
GS: Seraph Ragnell takes a solid hit from Runette Forton's Aqua Edge for 183 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Thessaly has posed.

I know you will only bring ruin!

The words ring in her ears, and there are indicators that what the cardinal says may not be all bluster, because those violet eyes fall on Garan just before she's blasted backwards by the next spell heading her way, her focus diverted. The last thing she sees when she tumbles off her feet and skids back in a pile of smoking silks is her lord's charge up the dais in his attempts to destroy the Imperial traitor. And for a while she lies there, taunted by the very destiny that has brought her to the beautiful, terrible cage that has cloistered her for three years. Pale fingers ball into a fist.

Her head lifts, her veil torn out of her face - large violet eyes and luminous skin are simply small aspects of the picture she makes, fine bone structure and hair darker than night. She is no derelict, damaged thing, inundated by beauty so ethereal it gives the impression that breathing on her wrong would shatter. But there is something else there; some infinitely more dangerous.

She grabs her veil and resecures it on the way up. Her bones ache, but she manages to stand on slippered feet and delivers onto their foe another salvo of lightning and fire as dark as pitch:

"You had better kill me, then, before I do."

All a feint, in the end, because tendrils of shadow suddenly web out from where she stands, to entangle into Runnette's and attempts to pull them, and her in the doing, into the hellpit she has just created, to not just incinerate her, but also inflict a strangeness in the blood...pain, to hide the presence of a curse.

GS: Thessaly has spent 1 Combo on Disease and Headshot!
GS: Thessaly has attacked Runette Forton with Crescendo!
GS: Thessaly has completed her action.
GS: Runette Forton takes a solid hit from Thessaly's Crescendo for 144 hit points!
GS: Runette Forton has been weakened by Disease! They take 0 damage, and burn off all temporary hit points!
GS: Disease! Statuses applied to Runette Forton!
<Pose Tracker> Ethius Hesiod has posed.

Ethius ducks back into cover when he hears the cry of 'Sentinel.' He has to, because her barrier doesn't just disperse the electricity - it comes within impossibly small margins of coming back and catching through him instead.

'I claimed power for our Empire!' Ethius mulls where he hides... only an idle turn of his head clues him in to his impending water-blade doom. 'I gave it the weapons of the barbarians of the Blue Star!'

He vacates his position, as if that very line were his cue. tHe keeps running, moving. There is not much cover for him to work with, and now he has to stride right back out into the open as the blade of water comes rushing through. It explodes into the masonry behind him, showering rock and moisture everywhere as small pebbles bounce off of him. He seems to come to a trip, a fall a ways behind or near the side of Runette--

"Stinger." Ethius says the name almost nonchalantly as he slams the tip of the quarterstaff down towards the Medusa's tail - no, almost as if he were trying to stab through it. To try and dare to pin down something so unfathomably powerful in their accumulated Malevolence, powerful enough to drown out Pendrago in unending rains... and trying to stay teasingly out of reach of those snapping snake hairs.

Ethius' eyes narrow. He was passive the entire way here. Something just flipped the switch. What's in the man's eyes, usually blank - looking to take everything in from around him and not give back in turn, is sure as hell giving back.

"You have simplified matters... Cardinal." These are not words spoken of someone who can and should be fearing for his very life, but there's no shaking or fear in his body language. "Your cooperation is appreciated."

With a strong dragging motion, he tries to yank her right back and fling her some length across the ground, as Ethius formally joins the battle with much more overt interference than witnessed prior.

GS: Ethius Hesiod has attacked Runette Forton with Stinger!
GS: Ethius Hesiod has completed his action.
<Pose Tracker> Seraph Ragnell has posed.

WHAM. That blade of water *slams* into Ragnell, knocking the Seraphic equivalent of the breath out of her, knocking her into a wall and making her see stars for a moment. As her head spins, she reflects that it's no wonder Forton's manage to seize so much power for herself; anyone who figured out the truth about her would have to deal with her as a fighter, and she's certainly holding her own. If it comes to it, she'll have to get serious...!

Hahaha nahh, she'll just fall back and let these guys handle it. Ultimately, Ragnell is here as support, a guide, to see things through to the end. It's everyone *else* who has a problem with Forton, one way or another.

Well. Presumably Ethius has a problem with her. Ragnell doesn't think he'd bother with this if he had no stake in the matter. Particularly after she lets it drop that she's *also* been getting weapons from the Blue Star... If he didn't know that already, that'll set him off for sure. See: Ethius actually talking.

Humming to herself as she sweeps her gaze across the battlefield, tracking how everyone's doing so far (she smirks at the exchange between Forton and Thessaly, clucks her tongue at the force Forton slams into Garan, and narrows her eyes at the Gorgon Eye petrifying Sorey), Ragnell fires off a pair of lightning bullets at the Medusa, jogging to one side as she fires to provide a less easily-hit target in return.

GS: Seraph Ragnell has attacked Runette Forton with Twin Bullet!
GS: Seraph Ragnell has completed her action.
GS: Sorey takes a solid hit from Runette Forton's Gorgon Eye for 0 hit points!
GS: ! Statuses applied to Sorey!
GS: Runette Forton guards a hit from Ethius Hesiod's Stinger for 78 hit points!
GS: Runette Forton guards a hit from Seraph Ragnell's Twin Bullet for 90 hit points!
GS: Runette Forton enters CONDITION GREEN!!
<Pose Tracker> Garan Dantear has posed.

The terrible, unnatural power of the Hellion is enough that even with all his physical strength Garan can't force his sword down, though he tries even in their clash. The Cardinal claws at his shield, seeking to divest him of his defenses before unleashing another blast of power, one he's only barely able to avoid the worst of, twisting and wrenching himself free at the last moment...

Blood spatters down, red drops spreading over the floor of the cathedral. The knight's blood, not the Cardinals. The blood of a man of Rolance, not a twisted Hellion.

Perhaps there's a metaphor there: Garan doesn't stop to consider it.

"You made a war to sate your own greed. Pendrago drowns, people starve in their homes and die in the fields. No more talk, Hellion. You know a traitor's reward."

If they fail here, Forton might be able to recover, to consolidate power further. Even the Lord Commander might not suvive, this time. And besides, part of him thinks: What's one Imperial Knight against all the lives in the Empire?

Leading with his shield again, Garan charges at the Hellion, aiming to slam full force into her with all the weight and momentum of an armored man. His sword swings downwards, to carve at the Hellion once, then again, and then without hesitation, without a moment's respite, he aims that razor edge at Runette Forton's throat.

Traitors, after all, lose their heads.

GS: Garan Dantear has attacked Runette Forton with Vanguard Destroyer!
GS: Garan Dantear has entered a Reflect stance!
GS: Garan Dantear has completed his action.
<Pose Tracker> Sorey has posed.

Well, this was... not what Sorey had been expecting. The flash of strange magic hits him, and Sorey can feel it trying to transform him into something not.. alive. He grimaces for a moment. This was not something that he had expected. In fact, he can't see a way to get out of...

And then there is a flash in front of him... and a voice shouts in his head, "Armatize Shepherd! NOW!"

"Lukeim Yurlin!"

A ripple of wind rushes out through the room, sending dust flying away in an expanding circle from the Shepherd as he transforms in a blaze of green light. And instead of the graceful bow or the massive sword he had appeared with in the past, instead a number of glowing green blades hover around the Shepherd's back, swirling about in a restless motion as he hovers a few inches above the ground.

Just behind his shoulder a Seraphim dressed in black - with green hair and a grin that would remind any onlooker of a shark - appears for a moment. "That's a nice trick Hellion. But I think you'll find it isn't going to work against me - or the Shepherd when I'm lending him a hand."

"Thanks Dezel," Sorey replies after a moment. "That sort of attack... that could be bad. Everyone, be careful not to look her in the face! That was turning me to stone as long as I could see her, and once she starts petrifying you that could be it!"

The Shepherd snaps his hand to the side, and several of the blades behind him spin around and launch themselves towards the Hellionized Forton. The blades dash forwards, swirling in the breeze that they generate and slashing towards the Cardinal in an attempt to carve away at the malevolence surrounding her.

DC: Sorey switches forms to Armatus Lukeim Yurlin!
GS: Sorey has attacked Runette Forton with Whirlwind Slash!
GS: Sorey has completed his action.
GS: Runette Forton takes a solid hit from Garan Dantear's Vanguard Destroyer for 173 hit points!
GS: Runette Forton guards a hit from Sorey's Whirlwind Slash for 102 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Runette Forton has posed.

"I assure you... that killing you is precisely my intent!"

Forton snarls, his reptilian features clear -- and fangs visible. She finds strands and streaks of darkness griabbing her. They slash into her body; it bleeds a thick, purple smoke. She is a powerful Hellion, and she casts aside some common notions of biology. She is dragged, screaming, into the pit. Then, she howls as the shadowy darkness takes her. It shoots up over her form, shadowstuff clawing and burning at her.

"You WITCH!" she screams at Thessaly. Her tail swishes -- and then Ethius stabs his staff down into her tail. She screeches, and turns, looking back at the man. "What do you mean, you insolent outworlder wor--"

She gets thrown across the room. Runette slams into the wall hard, cracking a piece of the Shrinechurch's stonework. Before she can move, though, Ragnell opens fire twice. Two lightning rounds slam into her body, shocking her badly. She hisses, as she slumps downward, and her head lifts, to look at Ragnell. "...gh, such interference... our nation never needed Shepherds and Seraphim! It needs something TANGIBLE!"

And then Garan gives her a traitor's reward.

His shield slams her back into the wall, and the stone and brickwork cracks. The iron frames of the glass windows pop; bolts pop out, and cracks shoot up through the glass, before Garan's sword chops once. Twice. Mist and smoke of Malevolence pour out, and then she ducks her head to the side at the last moment. The blade slashes across stone with sparks, as Runette -- battered -- slithers away.

The Medusa's injured tail swishes, as she wheels to turn -- and face the now-Armatized Shepherd. Her eyes narrow, as realization settles in. "You...! NO!" The blades swing down, slashing and cutting. She crosses her arms, warding a few back, and then knocks a number of the blades away when she shoves her arms to each side. "In the name of the Lord of Calamity, I call upon the seas that churn and howl! Wash away the sins of a lying, forgetful Goddess!" the blackened Cardinal cries out. "SPREAD!"

And then a massive wave of water explodes out from her. It blasts into those here; it picks up pews and the altar, smashing them into them. It breaks around columns, as it tries to wash the inside of the Shrinechurch unclean.

GS: Runette Forton has attacked Seraph Ragnell with Spread!
GS: Runette Forton has attacked Ethius Hesiod with Spread!
GS: Runette Forton has attacked Sorey with Spread!
GS: Runette Forton has attacked Garan Dantear with Spread!
GS: Runette Forton has attacked Thessaly with Spread!
GS: Runette Forton has attacked Runette Forton with Rapture of the Shrinechurch!
GS: Runette Forton has entered a Reflect stance!
GS: Runette Forton has completed her action.
GS: Hyper and Shield! Statuses applied to Runette Forton!
GS: Runette Forton heals Runette Forton! She gains 100 temporary hit points!
DC: MISS! Ethius Hesiod completely evades Spread from Runette Forton!
GS: Seraph Ragnell takes a glancing hit from Runette Forton's Spread for 60 hit points!
GS: Garan Dantear guards a hit from Runette Forton's Spread for 90 hit points!
GS: Thessaly takes a glancing hit from Runette Forton's Spread for 92 hit points!
GS: Sorey guards a hit from Runette Forton's Spread for 189 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Seraph Ragnell has posed.

Ragnell hadn't really been planning on getting into it with Forton. She's not her problem, this is a fight she's only offering support to. However, even Ragnell has her buttons, and when Forton decries Rolance's need for Shepherds or Seraphim, Ragnell bares her teeth.

"'Your' nation was BUILT on the efforts of Shepherds and Seraphim!" she sneers at Forton. It's not even just Bradamante she means, though certainly that's who she thinks of first. "Take your ignorance and shove it up your snake-ass!"

Sorey allays his petrification by Armatizing with Dezel--and Dezel says something interesting. Immune to her tricks? Ragnell tilts her head at him. "What d'you--oh. *Oh*." That hat, his bangs; he's always hiding his eyes from view, isn't he? What a cheap trick! Still, it makes her half-grin. "Will do!"

Then Forton calls up a huge wave of water that bursts out from her and breaks out towards everyone in the Shrinechurch. That mention of the Lord of Calamity is interesting, but nothing she didn't already know, so it gets put on the backburner for now. Instead, Ragnell hops up on top of a pew, and so avoids the initial strike, but when it carries off the pew, Ragnell's left with the choice to get smashed into the wall with it or abandon ship. She jumps into the water, wading until the magical waters recede; then she focuses her gun on the Cardinal's head and concentrates as hot white light concentrates in the barrel.

"RAGE LASER!" she shouts a moment later, and unleashes a brilliant white beam of energy to shoot across the room and, hopefully, right through something important of Forton's. Ragnell aimed for center mass, so there ought to be *something* of value there.

GS: Seraph Ragnell enters CONDITION GREEN!!
GS: Seraph Ragnell has attacked Runette Forton with Rage Laser!
GS: Seraph Ragnell has completed her action.
GS: CRITICAL! Runette Forton guards a hit from Seraph Ragnell's Rage Laser for 126 hit points!
GS: Quick! Statuses applied to Seraph Ragnell!
GS: Sorey has activated a Force Action!
<Pose Tracker> Sorey has posed.

The feeling of flying, even if it is just above the ground, is an incredibly liberating one. Sorey flits from side to side, barely able to stay in one place as the blades he had launched at Forton come spinning back to rejoin the panoply that swirl behind him. He can understand Dezel's restless spirit better from this contact - how settling down to watch over Rose had been a tremendous sacrifice for him. "Dezel..."

"Eyes on the battle, Shepherd." Dezel's voice in his head is chiding - not really interested in anything more heartfelt while there are enemies on the field who have to be dealt with. "This witch isn't going to go down without a fight. And she's got at least one more trick up her sleeve. In fact-!"

The Cardinal unleashes a massive burst of water that roars out in all directions. The pressure she unleashes is incredible. Barely able to keep from being thrown against the wall, Sorey and Dezel throw their shoulder into the attack as the torrential waves roar out towards them, pounding and battering them with considerable force. The room is almost swept clean by the blast, and as it fades away Sorey gasps for a moment, his foot coming down until it is just barely above the ground.

"Hellions do terrible things under the influence of malevolence - and while I can't say that what you have done will or should go unpunished, you should confront that without darkness clouding your mind and soul!" The Shepherd raises one hand and leaps up towards the rafters, the blades spinning out from his back and forming the points for an incredibly large mystic circle in the air. "Come divine wings!"

And from within that circle, countless glowing copies of the divine daggers that Dezel used for his pact weapon appear, one after another. Sorey points one finger down towards Forton, and intones, "And bring the winds of purifiction!"

And the daggers RAIN from the sky, darting down towards Forton and the ground around her. They rush down, digging into the floor stones and altar in an unceasing barrage.

The Shepherd raises his hand, and the mass of blades glow a brilliant green. "Sylphystia!"

And then all of the divine weapons erupt in a cleansing tornado of swirling emerald wind.

GS: Sorey has spent 4 Combo on Headshot and Gatling!
GS: Sorey has attacked Runette Forton with Sylphystia!
GS: Sorey has completed his action.
GS: CRITICAL! Runette Forton guards a hit from Sorey's Sylphystia for 251 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Thessaly has posed.

"The most inconvenient part about intentions," Thessaly breathes. "Is that more often than not, they remain precisely that alone."

Tattered silks billow about her like shadows and ink, ephemeral and liquid at once, and she manages to right herself just in time to watch Garan deliver his own deadly fury as he presses his advantages against the Hellion with a speed that belies the burden he carries. She always, somehow, manages to be aware of him - either by sight or by their eldritch bond, he is never far from her senses no matter how great the distance.

And then the Cardinal calls upon the great flood, itself.

Water rushes from her form, threatening to engulf them all in its wake. The wall rushes up towards her and with the cascade descending, Thessaly flattens her palm against the air in a stopping motion. Ice crystalizes at the touch of her will, crusting over her portion of the wave, heat around her condenscing into mist and swirling away from her like expelled breath. The wall of frost shatters, too heavy at the head to stand up on its own, but at least she doesn't drown and her barrier takes up most of the slack, though this isn't foolproof - daggers of splintered ice shear at her clothing, and cuts her right cheek through her veil, drawing blood.

She hardly seems to notice when she's already conjuring up another spell - and all the shadows in the room seem to come alive. They snake across the floor like vipers, curling over her own, threatening to suffocate the facimile of Runette's own form splashed on the ground - stiffening into spikes once they have her own shadow ensnared and spearing through. There is no damage, not visibly, but it will hurt; as a Hellion, Runette has no blood to spill. But that doesn't matter, all she has to do, somehow, is manage to get in her while the rest are pelting her with other attacks. Eyes glow and grow blank simultaneously as the hold of her shadow snare intensifies, worming into her...

She extends a hand, and clenches it into a fist - seizing what she sees in her mind the further she's lost in the machinations of her sorcery. In the world she and the Cardinal inhabit, where secrets are just as dark and deadly as expected, those deft fingers grasp the air. In her mind, black-lacquered fingertips seize the fine bones of her tail...

....and with a yank, attempts to rip them of her scales lengthwise, like staples coming free, and attempts to manifest it in reality.

<Pose Tracker> Ethius Hesiod has posed.

Whatever amount of importance Ethius will place on Ragnell's acquisitions seems like it's presently taking a backseat to what's going on here. He has to step back to allow Garan to pursue the Medusa as he casts a glance back over to where Ragnell and Thessaly currently are--

And has to put a hand to his hood to stop it from flying off when Sorey turns into a striking, brilliant figure of white and green. This is the first time he's truly seen it, and it's good it has his attention - his advice is key.

Turns out he might've been inches from a fate set in stone when he tried to accost her moments prior.

"Very well... Shepherd." Ethius acknowledges as the Cardinal screams anew. In the name of the Lord of Calamity... this doesn't offend him so much. Then... water. Lots of it. The concentrated power of one of the most dangerous Hellions upon Lunar today, concentrated from the endless squalls of rain.

Ethius moves.

"Hyland went through the effort to individually train a new unit of soldiers to these weapons." He picks up where he left off, heedless of the roaring torrents that should drown out his voice. (It kind of does in the English voice over, sadly.)

He leaps onto one pew.

"The Battle of Three Hills has ensured their faith in these weapons has been questioned." He continues, as he leaps onto another almost effortlessly aside from having to go to a three-point stance to maintain his balance upon landing on another loosened pew. "Your methods were efficient. You instead enlisted the aid of those already familiar... already equipped."

He leaps for the altar that passes underfoot. It proves a stable vehicle for him to keep talking.

"You played to a sense of right and wrong remarkably. Hyland were the aggressors. It would seem natural, righteous then, to come to Rolance's aid in a moment of crisis." There is an unnerving even quality in Ethius' voice. His heart should be pounding. His voice should be unsteady. There should be more emotion than there is. Most of his face is hidden. He speaks with a comfort as though this might be... familiar?

"Hyland will not overtake Rolance. I do not suspect Hyland will have the means in which to continue a meaningful offensive for long. There lies one more matter - one that you have simplified as identifying yourself as the origin point for these new weapons you have grown fond of." Ethius says as he leaps off, having rode past the wave no more soaked than he began. Bone dry, almost, like an aura of dust and soot pevades him sometimes, as he strides closer towards the cornered Medusa.

Nothing will stop him. Nothing will stay his hand. He moves less like a man and more like an embodiment of inevitability - like someone or something detached from what's going on around him, save for what appears to interest him right now.

His interest appears to be to lunge the quarterstaff from the absolute utmost of his wingspan, aiming for Runette's face to try and pin that gaze away from anyone gathered, to try and hold her there while the rest throw down their greatest expressions of their powers - and themselves - for a singular cause.

Saving Rolance?

"I will not permit Lunar to become a proxy for the Blue Star's own conflicts."

...That's... almost the same?

GS: Ethius Hesiod has activated a Force Action!
GS: You have activated the Force Action Lock On!
GS: Ethius Hesiod has spent 3 Combo on Headshot!
GS: Ethius Hesiod has attacked Runette Forton with Far Point!
GS: Ethius Hesiod has completed his action.
GS: Thessaly has spent 1 Combo on Headshot and Gatling!
GS: Thessaly has attacked Runette Forton with Fortissimo!
GS: Thessaly has completed her action.
GS: Runette Forton takes a solid hit from Ethius Hesiod's Far Point for 136 hit points!
GS: Runette Forton takes a solid hit from Thessaly's Fortissimo for 222 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Neriah Parringer has posed.

ELSEWHERE IN THE SHRINECHURCH, OFF-SCREEN TO THE GROUP....

There are murmurs afoot among a small group. A few of the higher-ranking deacons have become aware that Runette is not alone.

Arming themselves with staves and preparing their litany of spells, a pair of arch-deacons make their way down an empty corridor. The place is quiet today, but the two priests can tell there is battle afoot and that the target is Runette.

At least, that is what the ordinary might see, were any around. In truth, the pair of arch-deacons seethe with violet flame, their heads warped hideously into those of stony-scaled serpents.

The pair round a corner - and waiting for them, a slender shape in snowy white stands.

Sister Domitia looks up at the pair from beneath her hood, simple and serene. "...Then see to it," she murmurs.

With a double nod, the arch-deacons begin to move past her. Sister Domitia turns to watch them go.

And at the last second, reaches out to lay a hand on the shoulder of each one.

The surge of dreadful magic is cold, terrifying and instant. The deacon-Hellions twitch and immediately begin to crumple. Tenebrous energy boils from their eyes and mouths, lancing through their bodies like a cobweb of cracks. Between those spreading lines of unglowing ghostlight, matter begins to turn grey and ashen. In the space of several seconds, the two Hellions - powerful ones in their own right, servants there to help Runette - rapidly break down into little more than heaps of dust at Sister Domitia's feet.

The Abjuress stares down at them. Then she looks up, off into the distance, towards another room altogether, where she can feel the battle reaching its conclusion.

<Pose Tracker> Garan Dantear has posed.

The terrible rush of water is enough to force Garan back, though again the Imperial Knight manages to remain on his feet, however barely. It scours as him, leaves a slick and oily feeling behind as the Hellion invokes the name of the Lord of Calamity. Distantly, he wonders if that sensation will ever go away, or if it's seeping in beyond the physical, into the very soul.

Distantly, though. A battle is no place to get distracted. Distraction is death.

The brand on the back of his hand, the marks on his skin under his armor that tie into it tingle as he feels Thessaly working, knows she's doing something grave and terrible to Runette... And whatever his other concerns about the power his witch wields, right now he can't muster up even a spark of sympathy for the Cardinal. Instead, he pulls on the connection, draws on it: He has the Blessing, to be sure, but arcane might was never something Garan Dantear possessed. Instead, in this, he shares some of Thessaly's, some scraps the witch would never miss.

Light bursts over the length of his sword, the Light of the Goddess maybe: It blazes bright in the darkened cathedral, it burns away the Hellion-conjured water that soaked the blade, faint curls of steam on the hilt, on his silver-chased white gauntlet near to the shining blade.

And he shows no sign of mercy here, either. He was not a man for speeches, generally, he thought himself ill-suited to dramatic gestures and leadership alike. No, Garan Dantear was a man of action. A man better suited to tangible things, as Runette Forton said.

And so, tangibly, he tries to carve her limb from limb with that shining blade, a furious assault that seeks to simply batter through whatever defenses the Hellion can muster, and bring destruction in its wake. He'd never be so arrogant as to call it the judgment of the Goddess, but maybe the judgment of Rolance, at least.

And in the end, he aims to run the once-Cardinal clear through, with sheer brute force.

GS: Garan Dantear has activated a Force Action!
GS: Garan Dantear has attacked Runette Forton with Breaking the Unbreakable!
GS: Garan Dantear has completed his action.
GS: Runette Forton takes a solid hit from Garan Dantear's Breaking the Unbreakable for 206 hit points!
GS: Runette Forton enters CONDITION GREEN!!
GS: Runette Forton has Fallen! She is no longer able to fight!
<Pose Tracker> Runette Forton has posed.

"I do not need those failures! I have a power that isn't reliant on their weakness!" Forton shouts. "And I was graced it...!"

Her snarl is animalistic; her face is less and less human, maw spreading out too wide, and showing hideous fangs. But Ragnell's beam of light strikes true, ripping through her defenses and through her. It blasts out her back, and black smoke erupts from the exit and entry wounds at nearly the same time.

Runette screams, crumpling forward. Her good claw slams into the ground, and she summons the anger of the land itself. A magical circle erupts under her form; it glows a brilliant gold, crackling. It flickers when part of her tail is ripped away by Thessaly's terrible spell, spilling mist out like it was a smoky black blood. Her eyes lift, to meet Ethius. Her lips curl back into a smile. "No... no, that will not be what happens. We will kill every last one of those Hyland dogs--we will rebuild an eternal empire, over all of Glenwood, and then over all of the Silver Star! And then my empire will make your world--"

But her eyes are, in fact, fixed on the quarterstaff. It slams into her face, smashing in a cheekbone. Smoke explodes and erupts from it. She stumbles backward. "My... my guards, they will come, and--"

Her eyes lock onto the approaching form of Garan Dantear.

Those guards never come. Instead, a veritable tornado of divine weapons slam down into her, smashing into Runette one after the other. An arm is shorn away; it dissolves into smoke and darkness as soon as it flies back. Another spears her through. Then, there is a blast of blue flame. It washes over her; for a moment, the woman facing Garan is a woman again, clad in a bloodied habit, and staring at him. Her eyes meet his, as she sees light erupt along his sword. "NO!"

And then the Malevolence floods back into her. Her form balloons and swells outward, grotesquely assuming the form of the Medusa once more--and then Garan's shining blade cleaves down. It slashes through her torso, this time. It shreds her in twain. Her body splits -- and naught but black smoke rises away. Purification rejected and her soul forfeit, the Malevolence is all that is left of Runette Forton.

And it, too, burns away -- leaving a room empty and somber, save for the slowing pitter patter of rain on its stained glass windows.

<Pose Tracker> K.K. has posed.

Pendrago's Shrinechurch is a truly immense monument to the architectural prowess of the great empires that have come before. Larger even than the Rolancian capital's castle, there are many rooms, many halls -- vast and treacherous catacombs aplenty.

There are even places so deep and far away within that the sound of the war waging within one of the Goddess Althena's most sacred grounds can't reach them...

... but they are few and far between.

And here, in this grand hall that feels almost large enough to fit a dragon comfortably within its walls, the sounds of battle ring in a way most ferociously supplemented by this once-peaceful place's superb acoustics. Water drenches, surges -- and in the aftermath, those who have come for Cardinal Runette Forton endure through regardless. Take their fight straight to the heart of what has so plagued Rolance Empire for so long.

It is an epic struggle, indeed.

... and it does not go unwitnessed.

This hall is immense. Its rafters made of dense materials suited to supporting the staggering heights of this place, crafted through more than mortal means to serve as a true testament to Althena's grace and beauty. They can support the impossible weight of ceiling overhead, even through this violence.

And so it is not so difficult for them to similarly support the knight dressed in all-concealing white armor, who watches from overhead.

No sound ever comes from them. No indication of their presence, or even how they might have arrived. That faceless helm betrays nothing as it watches the noble knight, his sorcerous parolee, the Shepherd, mysterious drifter and Lightning Seraph tear down the serpentine Hellion's defenses.

As Purification seeps into her soul...

... as it is completely and utterly rejected by a heart that cannot accept the need for a second chance.

It is the second attempt at Purification they have seen in as many weeks.

And the Trial Knight watches the other side of this coin, unerring and unflappable, until it reaches its bitter conclusion.

<Pose Tracker> Sorey has posed.

Sorey might normally have been more upset about this - if it had just been his group fighting the Cardinal, he would definitely have not been willing to strike her down without trying to find some way to pull Forton back from the abyss she had thrown herself into.

On the other hand, Sorey has also come to accept that some people can only fight Hellions with blade, gun, and spell. And sometimes that means that people will die. But he holds out one hand as Garan runs forward in his charge, already shouting: "Wait, she-"

But it's too late, and the Cardinal falls to his blade. Sorey lowers his hand and closes his eyes, letting out a long sigh. Stronger. He needs to be stronger, to overcome those who have been this consumed by malevolence. As he drops back to the ground, the white and gold outfit dissolves around him, spinning about in a vortex of light before reforming into the black clad form of Dezel, who tips his hat as he looks down at Forton.

"Better her than you, Shepherd," he comments dryly, looking down at the Cardinal dismissively.

"That doesn't mean that I should stop trying to save them. I know that if I can grow stronger, I can save even these lost souls."

"But is it worth the effort for these wretches? Some people deserve to be put down," Dezel replies dryly, before disappearing in a flash of green light that zips into Sorey's body and disappears.

Sorey shakes his head, and walks over to look at Garan and Forton for a long moment... and then turns his gaze towards Thessaly. With the Domain of the greater Hellion dispersing, there is something about this one...

...but with one death on hand already, he doesn't really want to push the issue with someone who was fighting on the same side as him. Not right now.

"So," he asks, looking towards the others. "What now?"

DC: Sorey switches forms to Shepherd Sorey!
<Pose Tracker> Seraph Ragnell has posed.

Ragnell's Rage Laser pierces straight through Forton. The Seraph blows a plume of imaginary smoke off the muzzle of her gun, but she frowns as she does it. That was a bit more force than she'd intended on... ah, hell with it. The lion's share of the attacks still come from the rest. Her gaze flicks over towards Ethius as he speeches, ultimately declaring that he won't allow Lunar to be a proxy for the Blue Star's conflicts.

"Why do you care?" Ragnell asks him, voice clear and gaze steady. She breathes easier, so to speak as the Shepherd's flames cleanse the ambient Malevolence--though Runette, rejecting that second chance, pulls her power back around herself. Garan runs her through shortly thereafter, on the heels of Ethius's staff smash and Thessaly's destructive magic. She holsters her gun, then walks up to join the rest of the group.

What now?, Sorey asks. "Good question," she says--then looks over at Garan and Thessaly, arms folding over her chest. If she senses an extra observers, she makes no indication of it. "This is your land, an' your political mess. What d'you wanna do about this?"

<Pose Tracker> Thessaly has posed.

Light flashes, cleaving through the darkness and Malevolence spilling out of Runette, and with one final scream, she is obliterated by the Blessing the Imperial Knight wields along with his blade.

It has been a busy last few months, for the both of them, drawn from both determination, desire and no small measure of desperation to rip Rolance away from the trap in which it was ensnared, and while Thessaly took up most of the mental burden, using her considerable knowledge of the Empire's halls of power to maneuver the board to their favor, in the end, it is her lord that strained against the weight - to see to a grieving mother while both of his commanders have been indisposed and leaving the mantle to him, to hold the office he never truly desired if not just to see an end to the conflict threatening to tear his country apart. Garan Dantear never wanted fame, or power, or glory. His entire life, all he ever wanted was to uphold what was right, no matter what cost him.

She knows this better than most, because she is his burden, also.

In many ways, this is the root of that rarely exhibited rage demonstrated against the Cardinal. She is intimate with his fissures and cracks, and while his armor and bearing make him appear insurmountable...

...all men break, when pushed hard enough.

She knows this better than most, too.

She takes a few steps towards him but she stops when she feels eyes on her. Violet eyes swing towards the Shepherd, scrutinizing his young features. This one, too, is noble - if anything, his reverence for life no matter what form it takes commends him.

But...

"One day, Shepherd," she says, turning, her hands folding within themselves as she moves, silk and smoke trailing as she moves past. And how is she so sure?

"I was an Oracle, once."

She moves past Ethius and Ragnell, eyes sliding sideways to both, but she doesn't address the brewing confrontation there. Instead, her hands move, to reach for the knight and see to his injuries.

<Pose Tracker> Ethius Hesiod has posed.

Ethius doesn't look her in the face, for pragmatic reasons. He pays the mad ramblings no further heed, as the rest go about putting an end to the Cardinal and her ambitions right then and there. One vector of this once sprawling, almost seemingly unsurmountable problem... no, it was never unsurmountable. Not from a position of hope, youth, and pluck, but a truth. It is a matter that needs addressed, and a part of him he cannot identify makes it clear that whatever alternatives exist, they cannot come to pass. They will not.

'Why do you care?' Ragnell asks. It's a fair question to ask of him. Why should he care about any one of them? Most (rightfully, on reflection of some of his more antisocial and dangerous behaviors) distrust him, or would love little more than to bring their wrath upon him for whatever sorts of antics he occasionally subjects people to.

He doesn't tell her. It is his turn to once again dance out of comprehension and understanding. He does care - a reason he has internalized as such that it appears to have prevented him from falling under the sway of Malevolence no matter how crazy or polar his decisions to do or not do something often appear.

"Shepherd," Ethius speaks. "On the Blue Star, I have noticed that you chose to only stick to matters as related to Lunar's own having come there. You have my gratitude for your discretion."

Ethius looks to the space where Forton once was. Culturally, he's been in the company of many who chided him for his willingness to kill - or even annihilate, to say nothing about the horrible sorts of things he gets up to. Few could look upon him and say, comfortably, 'this is a good man,' no matter the cause he seems to espouse.

It is inconvenient, at times, but he would rather they be as they are.

"I can only offer mine in turn. To this end... I must have access to any and all documents as related to those enlisted within the Imperial Foreign Auxilliaries." Ethius states, plainly. That may or may not be one of the bigger reasons he showed up, on top of deciding that Forton had to die horribly anyway. "When a means to the Blue Star is secured, I will ensure those enlisted will see their way back."

<Pose Tracker> Sorey has posed.

"Because if no one cares, what point is there in trying to save those who are consumed by malevolence? People will just be killed, without anyone realizing that there is something terribly wrong with them." Sorey replies to Ragnell after a moment. He reverses his sword, sliding it into the sheath at his waist and lowers his head for a moment in reflection for the fallen Cardinal. "Was she lost because she chose to be this way? Or was she simply a Hellion for so long that she had nothing left of her human self? I've seen people convinced that being Hellions were 'right' for them, but it was the malevolence speaking.

"If we give up, if we don't try to save them, we're letting whatever created this darkness win."

But as Thessaly speaks, Sorey nods his head once in acceptance for what she has to say. He's willing to accept that, especially after such a difficult battle. The cardinal had been... quite an opponent.

Hopefully with this, they could put and end to the fighting. He looks at Ethius for a moment, and offers a faint inclination of his head.

"I appreciate the belief that I am virtuously keeping to my own world's business, but I am afraid you are incorrect. If people are in trouble, I will do my best to help them. However, being on a different world means that rushing to judgment can lead to trouble."

He looks around for a moment, and adds, "While I appreciate your desire to help those from Filgaia return home... isn't that a bit much in the way of information?"

Of course... is it really his business? He looks at Garan and Tess. "You two are the representatives of Rolance here - do you find that request reasonable?"

<Pose Tracker> Garan Dantear has posed.

And in the end, there's a kind of quiet.

The light fades, as it must, in the aftermath of a clash between two individuals who were not willing to cede any ground to the other: Runette Forton would not let herself be saved, and Garan Dantear would not let her continue to bedevil Rolance. Not that he knew anything of the other layer that passed in the conflict, really. It's difficult to say he would've behaved any differently if he had.

The Cardinal, lost to Malevolence, to her own pride and greed, is gone. Burned away by what she'd become. The Imperial Knight looks down at the blade of his sword, warped and half-melted from the power forced through it, by the dreadful use to which he'd put it, and with a faint sigh he simply lets the ruined weapon drop, useless steel clattering heavily against the floor of the cathedral.

Thessaly's approach is hardly something he could fail to notice, though, and he turns a tired look her way as she reaches for him, looking to tend to his hurts.

"I'm fine," he says, though that's at best half-true, part of the red underlayer on his shield arm burned away, the flesh underneath red and bloody. "What of you, Thessaly?"

When they're addressed, though, the Imperial Knight's dark blue eyes turn towards the others, Ethius in particular.

"A little out of my purview, I'm afraid. You'd have to take it up with the Lord Commander." And Garan's relief that he's able to say that is almost palpable.

<Pose Tracker> Neriah Parringer has posed.

Word has not yet quite spread. No one has checked up on Cardinal Forton just yet.

But there is, at least, one more conspicuous absence. Five minutes ago, Sister Domitia was here.

Now, to seek her out is to find only an empty chamber in the place where she stays.

~

THE COUNTRYSIDE OF GLENWOOD

NOW

Days ago, the army of Rolance left its encampments and took up the march. It has been a steady process. Countless men troop through the rainy fields in regular formations, infantrymen and cavalrymen and a long train of wagons behind them to carry the army's supplies. The front awaits them - a chance to deal a decisive blow to the army of Hyland, reeling from the reversal of fortunes suffered some weeks ago.

"--when we reach the Tor of Branstein, that would seem to me to be an ideal place to make camp," an aide de camp reports to a general on horseback as they ride along. "From there we can go on to Tryfan Vale and seek a report back from the scouting parties."

The hard-bitten general frowns, shifting the helmet he holds against his saddlebow. "Let's be cautious about this. We don't want to rush into--"

"The Goddess has no use for timid men who are unable to preserve order," a voice, quiet and firm, says from nowhere.

The small command group gasps as a spark of cold light manifests in front of them. Within that growing halo, a slender shape enrobed and hooded in white manifests itself. The rain does not seem to touch her even as the cold light fades away and leaves the gathered group staring at the arrival who simply appeared in their midst.

Sister Domitia raises one hand and waves aside. "By the authority of Cardinal Forton," she says firmly, "you will press onward to Tryfan Vale at haste. We will deal the final blow to the enemy there.

"I trust my orders will be followed," she says, with no hint of room for discussion. The pale faces and wide eyes tell her all she needs to know: They'll obey. She's in command now.

And then we'll finish them off, Sister Domitia reflects internally as she waves an aide off to go get her a horse. We'll win the war and I will return a hero to assume Cardinal Forton's place as regent.

And then Rolance and all the souls within it will belong to Valmar, Neriah Parringer reflects from beneath the hood, with a quiet smile.

<Pose Tracker> Seraph Ragnell has posed.

Ragnell raises her eyebrows at Thessaly when she mentions she was an Oracle once. A 'joke,' or a serious remark? Either way, she leaves it be for now to look over at Ethius, who... completely ignores her question. Fair enough. That's often her method of dealing with questions she doesn't want to answer. The question then becomes, what is it about that question that's so inconveniencing that the best thing for him to do is to ignore it altogether?

Maybe something to ask in a more private setting.

For now, though, Sorey speaks, and the Lightning Seraph blinks over at him. She follows his gaze over towards the remains of the deceased Forton. She hums thoughtfully for a moment. Then she says, "I actually meant Ethius. If you didn't care at least that much, you'd be a poor Shepherd." She half-smiles. "...But given my general personality, an' what Dezel said before he popped back inside ya, I'm not surprised you thought I was askin' that o' you."

Garan deflects Ethius's request like a pro. Ragnell snorts and laughs. "Better luck next time, champ," she drawls. Then she turns away. "Well, looks like my role here is done. Y'all take care then, folks." Flipping a hand up in lazy farewell, she starts to walk off, though she'll stop if anyone calls to her.

<Pose Tracker> Thessaly has posed.

"We will have to see to them," Thessaly says quietly. "But not here, this place is..." Her eyes search the chambers and directs a look of such concentration to its awnings that it may very well be that she is seeing beyond them. "...tainted."

Purification is presently beyond her ability, and for many reasons other than the obvious. Delicate steps take her to his side, and with that much done, they proceed to take the steps necessary to head down.

As Ethius asks about the records, she is silent on the matter, letting Garan handle it - who places the responsibility where it ought. Now that the root of her anger and frustration has been scrubbed from the earth, she is back, seamlessly, in her quiet and obedient state.

Not that the Shepherd's ruminations aren't unfounded - well, now what? indeed. There's a glance to Garan at that, with a look that promises that while the immediate threat to Rolance has been neutralized...there is still Hyland to consider.

<Pose Tracker> Ethius Hesiod has posed.

Ethius' expression doesn't change much. That a pause can be detected at all when the man seems to exist as a series of pauses between 'standing there' and 'destroying something' is about as much a rise as anything. Unlike the gathered, the proper Lord Commander is not quite as wise to - or maybe even as sympathetic - to what Ethius hopes to achieve. A hand goes to his forehead at last, as if to go 'this is problematic.'

"..." Ethius voices his concern eloquently as Ragnell scampers off. His eyes track her for a while before she disappears from sight. There's something there he can't quite let go yet... but there are more pressing matters.

Hyland is in disarray, but agitators like Kaguya and others are still present. He imagines their political position may be greatly diminished in the wake of the loss at the Battle of Three Hills, but they are still there.

They should not be.

The Rolance side of things is about as well-contained as it's going to be until he can get his hands on the records... if he can. As for Hyland...

Little does Ethius realize that things may yet stand to grow ever more complicated.

DC: Neriah Parringer switches forms to Dark Manifestation!