2018-08-31: Cibola Burn

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<Pose Tracker> Sheriff Star has posed.

Just recently, the alleged Destroyer and the rest of the 'Vile Fiends' arrived in the port city of Azado. Azado is a bustling, pleasant town, which is dominated by a large lighthouse. The hope, perhaps, was that they could find a ship that would take them to Pentagulia here. This has been the earnest and oft-repeated desire of Lucia ever since they have arrived. This, in turn, has led them to the docks. One pier, in particular, stretches out.

There, ahead of them, lay Azado's lighthouse.

The immense tower is a plain, white stone construction on a rocky island -- the pier is also a bridge, leading out to it. Normally, they might skip that, to instead turn to one of the many ships docked here. However, that is when they notice something from the overcast skies.

A series of floating balls of light, which rush out from the top of the lighthouse. There is a great flame there, and it crackles -- and burns -- and shines much too bright. Those balls of light swivel, turn, and then come crashing down. Dozens upon dozens of them do so -- and some hit the distant city, first. There, blasts of fire shoot up high. One slams into part of the pier behind them.

The explosion shakes the pier ahead of them, and the lighthouse ahead of them burns ever brighter.

<Pose Tracker> Hiro has posed.

 
An excited little Dragoncat comes back to the group and speaks in a whisper. "Alright. So good news! The Destiny doesn't appear to be docked here! Things are looking up in our world!"
 
"Well I wouldn't expect it to be docked here. I mean where would it even fit? It feels like it'd have to run every ship out of the harbor..."
 
Ruby eyes Hiro. "Hiro... in what world would that deter Leo?" The youth scratches his chin as if to think about it before he answers, "I dunno. He always seemed like too nice a guy to run folks over like that just to get at us. Anyhow let's get moving. There's gotta be at least one ship heading there..."
 
"Given the bribes its going to take to smuggle us let's hope Lemina is footing the bill."
 
As the group moves though - Lucia seems distant, as if distracted. Every so often she seems to stop for no reason to stare at something that isn't there. Until finally...
 
Something about this place... it feels wrong. We should make haste."
 
At the port though. The fire starts burning as the balls of light swirl. And Ruby finds herself staring at it as Hiro chats up a sailor. "Pretty..." She says as if a little entranced. "I wonder what kind of magic they use to power something that big-"
 
Then everything starts to blow up. And Ruby shrieks, "-OH CRAP IT'S THE LEMINA KIND!"
 
Hiro's eyes shoot to the top of the lighthouse, before looking at the rest of the city - burning in the distance. "I don't think it could malfunction like that. This has to be some kind of attack. Who's even-"
 
He stops himself, "-you know what. We can figure it out as we go. The best way to stop it is at the source right?" As he starts to run towards the lighthouse.
 
Lucia doesn't seem that enthused by the prospect. Her eyes are still lingering on the ships even as they go. Like she's considering the prospect of escape instead. "There's very strong magic behind these flames. Everyone please be careful."
 

<Pose Tracker> Fei Fong Wong has posed.

Fei Fong Wong promised to help the Vile Fiends with their quest after they so graciously helped Filgaia so many times he lost count. In fact, he probably doesn't even know of all the ways the Fiends helped out his home planet. That being said though, he's kind of anxious to leave it and go back home even though he doubts he'll have much more reprieve in Filgaia than here. At least on Filgaia, he can punch the giant Mother god of death and probably solve everything for a little while.

Plus, if they get to Pentagulia and Althena turns out to be a huge asshole he gets to have the biggest 'I told you so' ever. Well, he probably wouldn't actually say it but he'd certainly think it. Another avenue where punching in the right direction might solve problems, but religion is involved and it's never that easy when religion is involved, particularly the homebrew ones.

Of course, shortly after arrival, like--they literally just arrived it felt like--and the city's exploding.

Of course, Fei thinks, so deadened to this sort of thing happening that he just looks kind of sad and defeated by it rather than outraged and panicked.

It started with Lahan, of course, and then there was Adelhyde. He's not sure he should count Old Petra, that was part of a war right? Well let's count it just to be safe. Then there was Wehaca which was nearly destroyed, Krosse thank god merely became a malevolent domain or something. After that, Wayside. He didn't even make that one, but he spent a lot of time there, damn it.

Then he got to Lunar and he's already seen one town be invaded and seized and slightly set on fire and shortly after that got eaten by a Dragon. Now Azado is being bombarded with explosions. So let's see, that's 8 places now.

He is jarred from his thoughts by Hiro suggesting they figure it out as they go.

"Well Weltall isn't here," Fei says mildly. "So I probably can't make it too much worse."

He sighs faintly. He forgot about the assassins invading Taben Peak, not like forgot that it happened, but maybe he should've counted that one too. It wasn't on fire though? So leave that as a maybe.

<Pose Tracker> Seraph Ragnell has posed.

    "Least you won't have t' foot the bill for *all* of us," Ragnell cracks, lounging near Hiro and Lucia with her arms folded behind her neck. She unfolds them when the group moves on towards the docks, more than happy to have let Ruby do recon and report back about her findings, but glances at Lucia when she states something's wrong.
    
    "Wrong how?" she asks--but she soon gets an answer when the lighthouse flashes, and fireballs begin to fall in all directions. Hiro dashes off towards the lighthouse to deal with the source, while Lucia eyeballs the boats. Ragnell catches her and leans in.
    
    "I know how you feel," she murmurs. "But there's no guarantee one o' those fireballs won't hit a commandeered ship. If you wanna make it to your goal safely, you gotta take out anythin' that'd keep you from it." She jerks her head towards the lighthouse. "An' right now, that's the asshole with the fireworks display."
    
    She pats Lucia on the shoulder, eyes Fei and his mildly-spoken statement (in all fairness that Dragon only ate Lastonbell's Malevolence, not Lastonbell itself; this probably doesn't reassure anyone), then jogs on after Hiro.

<Pose Tracker> Jean has posed.

A bustling, pleasant down--well off of the route that Jean's caravan tended to take, deeper into the territory of the Chosen than is entirely safe for them to stay... And Jean herself is perhaps under a lot of heat just at the moment, given her personal flight from Meribia ahead of the others. ...With Pearl having disappeared, her main lead to the Cult was gone...

But they were after Lunn. So maybe going to Pentagulia would help answer her questions, as well as Lucia's quest. So it is that she's been going, dressed in casual clothes this time. ...Her claws are stowed away among her things once again, as if she'd never taken them back up. She's all smiles again, and her response to even talking about what happened back there has mostly just been to smile and wave it off, look for something more pressing to talk about... or just to grab out her flask. One of those.

"That's a good sign!" Jean agrees with Ruby, though Hiro... has a point. "The approach is pretty flat," she says. "We'd probably see the Destiny by now. ...Better to keep our eyes open."

A beat, "If Lemina's footing the bill, maybe I can add on an extra dinner!"

Lucia though--Lucia senses it first, and Jean sense it a moment after. Ruby calls it pretty, but, "I don't know--"

The flame is too bright. It's there, suddenly, the pier rocked--

"If we stay out here we're going to be hit anyway!" she answers, nodding quickly to Ragnell. A glance to Fei, "Pessimism later, moving now--come on!"

...It has been a lot though. She takes off at full speed for the lighthouse.

<Pose Tracker> Lemina Ausa has posed.

"Why would I foot the bill?" Lemina asks, raising an eyebrow. "It's not *my* weird, insistent mission to Pentagulia." She really shouldn't be quite so sassy about it, but... well, it's Lemina. Lemina has never once stopped in her entire life. Jean pitches 'extra dinner' and Lemina looks like she's about to die. "No! No second dinners! I need that money! For -- purposes!!"

Straightening out her dress a little, Lemina looks up toward the lighthouse as Ruby draws attention to it. She opens her mouth to answer the question about the lighthouse --

-- and is promptly cut off by explosions. Hiro offers an explanation -- and Lemina *instantly* agrees. "Yeah, uh, that's actually an impossible malfunction! If something like that were breaking, it'd probably set itself on fire, not everything else!!"

Lemina... sighs as Hiro runs toward it, briefly rubs her temples, and then starts shuffling along not far behind him. ... eventually, kind of far behind him. Running is hard.

<Pose Tracker> Gwen Whitlock has posed.

    Gwen Whitlock, super courier, and Vile Fiend. Kind of. She's sort of dreading the day her name gets added to the list, with some added description about her terrible metal electric arm powers. That, or the opposite, where she's described as some poor, innocent soul who just can't understand that she's enabling the Lord of Calamity to be calamitizing the world. To this day, she's not sure which'd be worse: to be thought of as evil, or to be thought of as incompetent do-gooder.

    But that's an experience for another day. Today, she's exploring yet another lovely seaside town, coming back to the group with a few sticks of some street food that smells heavenly in a way that just speaks of 'definitely not healthy' it is. Eating one, she offers the rest to the others, each still sizzling from the vendor's grill. "Anyone hungry? These are good."

    Looking at Ruby, Gwen laughs. "Well, I mean, if it really came down to it, I'd transport y'guys myself, but they're probably gonna get more strict about searchin' wagons soon. Besides-"

    Like Ruby's Gwen's attention is redirected towards the lovely floating balls of light, tilting her head. Looking towards the rest, then back towards the light, Gwen points to the lighthouse and opens her mouth, about to ask the usual question any self-respecting alien from another world would dare to ask.

    That is, 'is that normal?'

    She doesn't even have a chance to ask it before the answer makes itself clear.

    And Hiro, being Hiro, wants to go. Gwen, being Gwen, wants to do the same, even if the mere *idea* of being in a burning building makes her queasy the more she thinks about it. The last time she braved one was when she was running *though* a house, with the adrenaline of a an invasion and screams to speed her along.

    "Well, if we had to choose between bein' seen runnin' away from a fire and bein' seen goin' *towards* the fire, I think the latter'd be a better option." Gwen laughs uneasily, running off behind Hiro and the rest of the group.

<Pose Tracker> White Knight Leo has posed.

    And where the Destroyer goes, the Dragonship Destiny is not far behind. The amphibious vessel is, as Hiro noted, too large to fit comfortably in the docks. The massive white pier that will one day serve as its dock is still under construction. Instead, it rests in a field some distance away, a constant stream of Guards moving between it and the city. Azado is extremely well-defended even when it isn't here, but now the streets are crawling with Guards as well. White Knight Leo strides down a pristine street, flanked by a half-dozen guards on each side. His usual air of easy confidence (some might say arrogance) is gone. The Destroyer is here. So is Mauri, his beloved little sister. The combination makes him uneasy, to say the least.

    Leo stops on the foot of the Grand Temple's steps, his sensitive ears pricking as he hears a distant crackling noise--the sound of flames. He turns to face the noise, and as he does, the first fireball arcs gracefully from the lighthouse and slams into one of the nearby buildings.

    "The Destroyer," Leo breathes. His eyes narrow. In the next heartbeat, he turns on a heel and races off in the direction of the lighthouse, a "Double time, men!" echoing in his wake.

    As the Vile Fiends make their way to the lighthouse, an unwelcome presence soon reveals itself. "VILE FIENDS!" bellows White Knight Leo, who is now charging towards the lighthouse at top speed. "HALT IN THE NAME OF THE GODDESS!" At his back are a dozen elite guards. Things just got much more complicated.

<Pose Tracker> Sheriff Star has posed.

At Lucia's urging -- and with little complaint -- they enter the lighthouse. Their cause soon has extra reason, when the first screams can be heard from the city. However, it falls to others in the city to help people evacuate. The source of this unnatural fire is, indeed, above them.

The inside of the lighthouse is also white on the inside. The inside of the tower is a hollow thing: solid, stark white stone that only has a long, spiral staircase that leads around it. It moves upward, loop after loop, until it reaches a platform at the top. This, it seems, hides the flame at the top -- except that through cracks and holes, that brilliant light shines down on the Vile Fiends.

And, as he enters, upon White Knight Leo. The White Dragon Hero crashes through the doors, and feels what they can feel: a powerful wave of heat, which suddenly washes over them, and causes a sweat to break out in an instant. There is, however, something more alarming. After Leo's cry, and the trudging of guards, there is a shudder from above.

Then, a piece of wrought iron comes crashing down. It slams to the ground between Leo and Hiro. When it hits, however, it doesn't break -- its half molten form sticks to the floor, and glows a red hot.

<Pose Tracker> Margaret has posed.

 
AMONG THE ELITE GUARD are four people of note.

One of them is Margaret, the Black Pearl of Neo Vane, who has her spear out but not yet ignited. She is herself, as always. Perhaps more worrisome are the three people flanking her in leather armor with face guards and nets and tridents. Normally these are the sorts of people who go out to fetch and seize rare animals. That's probably not a good thing.

Margaret opens her mouth to say something, possibly catty, but she is, for once in her life, interrupted by a piece of wreckage smashing into the floor. "!!" says she and the HOUNDS OF HELL CAPTURE TEAM.

Nobody expected THAT.

<Pose Tracker> Hiro has posed.

 
Ruby had taken up Gwen's offer on the street food. "That could maybe work if we could find a ship that would ferry over your wagon. Too bad it's an island though."
 
"I'm pretty sure Dragons smuggle for free too." Ruby quipped at Ragnell, "At least when they're your size." Hiro had added while Ruby spouted at Lemina, "What you won't even treat Jean to a meal? Stinnnngy." Says Ruby who just totally ate on Gwen's dime.
 
Whereas when Lucia is questioned on what feels wrong - she actually answers. "There is something that feels like Althena's power... but it isn't."
 
-=-=-
 
That was then though. And this is now and- Leo and a dozen elite guards appear, "Wagh! It's Leo!" As Ruby flaps faster, to catch up to the others, "... ... ... Hey on the bright side Fei you can't blame yourself for this one."
 
Once inside the lighthouse Hiro calls out, "Lucia is NOT the Lord of Calamity! You saw the real one yourself on the Blue Star!"
 
Hiro says as he draws his sword, while facing Leo. He then seems to think better of it, "... You know what!? We don't have time for this Leo! Something up top is attacking the city. You want to try to arrest us after - fine - but deal with that first before this city burns to the ground!"
 
Which is when a piece of wrought iron starts to crash down- "LOOK OUT!"
 
Ruby shouts as Hiro suddenly makes a quick backstep. Only narrowly avoiding getting hit by it. Eyes wide as saucers as he sees its state after hitting the ground. "Hiro! Hiro are you okay!?" "Everybody up! Up! We need to put this out before it gets any worse!"
 
"If this whole thing is coming down that feels like the OPPOSITE direction we should be running!" Ruby shouts to complain that Leo had completely cut off that option.
 
Their destination is up though - and that's the way he starts to run. Towards that spiral staircase. And up.
 

<Pose Tracker> Seraph Ragnell has posed.

    "Why wouldn't you foot the bill? Aren't you Lemina Ausa, generous of heart an' spirit?" Ragnell teases, winking at Jean as she does. "You don't want a reputation o' bein' STINGY, now do ya? That's a trait you associate with old geezers shakin' sticks at kids an' yellin' at 'em to get off their lawns!" Ruby quips about Dragons being free; Ragnell snorts, smirking. "Free? Please. Who wouldn't pay for the privilege of havin' a cutie like you on board?" she now teases Ruby, smirk widening into a grin.
    
    But enough needling Leminas with Jean. To the lighthouse! ...And there's Lucia being forthright for once, huh. That feels like a bad sign. ...oh and there's Leo, chasing them. It really figures, doesn't it? "I wouldn't be so sure o' that," she remarks to Gwen as a consequence. "Some people'll twist what you do to the worst possible thing no matter *what* it is."
    
    Once they're at the top, Ragnell shades her eyes with one hand. The light and heat are uncomfortable, even for a Seraph of the Lightning element. This pulse of magic is powerful indeed... Who exactly is doing this? Then Leo and his subordinates, including Margaret, crashes through the door, and Ragnell and the others turn around, only for their attention to then be arrested by red-hot iron smashing through the ceiling and sticking to the floor.
    
    "...Well, that sure was a thing," Ragnell remarks after a moment, while Hiro shouts at Leo. Ruby might have a point about leaving if that's the kind of thing they have to anticipate up ahead, but at this point they're caught between a rock and a hot place, so they may as well move onwards.
    
    "Everyone, get ready for a fight, 'cuz we got one on our hands either way!" she declares, drawing her pistol. Just *a* pistol, for some reason; the other one is clearly in its holster, but she doesn't even reach for it.

<Pose Tracker> Fei Fong Wong has posed.

"Eh?" Fei says. "Oh, right. Sorry Jean." He gives chase! God, it's hot out here.

Suddenly, there's WHITE KNIGHT LEO in their path. And a middle aged woman! Some kind of mage. Maybe a spooky one judging by the color scheme. Maybe she's a medic? Older Lily?

"As far as we know!" He adds to Ruby, not quite ready to CONFIRM that just yet before a thought occurs to him and he looks to White Knight Leo, pointing upward.

"Destroyer later! Someone's trying to, uh, destroy the city!" Pause. "And it's not Lucia!" Pause. "Or us!!"

Judging from the heat, which is even making him sweat even with the Fire Medium at his side, they might need the Guard with them on this one. Sometimes you can fight fire with fire, but he's not sure about this particular case.

He intends to follow Hiro up and adds, "Well, Ruby we--" to say why they are going up the tower that's coming down. He stalls, and then says, "...I guess that just means we have to go even faster, and if it comes down while we're up there, you'll have to carry us down."

He manages a small smile at his joke.

<Pose Tracker> White Knight Leo has posed.

    The heat feels wrong. Leo chances a glance upwards, as if he could see whatever was making trouble at the top of the lighthouse. "Had it occurred to you," Leo growls, "that there might be more than one?!" It seems appropriate, if nothing else, given how horribly wrong everything else seems to be going. Then, the groan of stressed metal echoes down the length of the tower. Something SLAMS into the stone, pelting Leo with chips of white marble. The guards beside him raise their shields, as if they could somehow use them to ward off the inferno. Leo glances at the half-molten blob, then at Hiro. "Get the citizens to safety!" Leo bellows, as Hiro and his friends bolt up the tower stairs. "We'll deal with the perpetrators." True to form, Leo stays on the Vile Fiends' tail the entire way up the tower; the heat grows more and more intense, but it doesn't seem to be slowing him down any.

<Pose Tracker> Fei Fong Wong has posed.

"He's got a point, Janey's one too." Fei says quietly. "I feel like they should've named it 'Lords' of Calamity--"

<Pose Tracker> Jean has posed.

"Awww," Jean answers Lemina. "I was starting to look forward to it!" Winking at Ragnell, she grins back and outright laughs when Ruby chimes in. ...Though... To be fair, treating Jean to a meal can be an expensive prospect...

She shakes her head at Gwen though. "it's okay--we don't expect you to take on all the risk."

But--well. Fire, explosions. And the Guard. Jean turns around to see Leo and Margaret and the squad and all of them, and she grits her teeth for the moment. "No??" she answers him, and the heat... Even she sweats as a result of it. And the iron--

"Hiro's right. We've got to get up there." She nods sharply to Fei, and--

More than one... Destroyer?

Jean is definitely heading up though. Right there with the others.

"Honestly, we don't have time for this!"

<Pose Tracker> Seraph Ragnell has posed.

    "As she is now, Janey is a child playin' pretend," Ragnell interrupts Fei. "She's a *future* Lord o' Calamity."

<Pose Tracker> Fei Fong Wong has posed.

"I heard she stopped the demon of elru singlehandedly," Fei says, noselling his alter ego like a dick.

<Pose Tracker> Lemina Ausa has posed.

"That -- I'm not treating any of you to a meal!!" Lemina declares, huffing a little. "I will be as mega-stingy as I want!!" ... though Jean needling her, unlike Ragnell, actually gets her to let up a bit. More insistent huffing as they head along still happens, though... andt kind of turns into actual exhausted huffing by the time they get to the lighthouse -- which is convenient, because it means Lemina's well behind when the whole thing starts coming down. That also offers her an opportunity to catch up!

Lemina pulls out her staff, and offers a brief, low chant; she's able to freeze some of the area, or at least *significantly* drop its temperature, making it easier for them to move forward.

Her gaze turns toward Leo, and she offers him a big ol' tongue raspberry. "Help us put out the fire or wait for us to get out," she says, with precisely zero patience.

<Pose Tracker> Seraph Ragnell has posed.

    "Did she now," Ragnell says with open amusement. "I s'pose even the Demon of Elru is no match for her spunky cuteness, then. Good to know he's such a softy."

<Pose Tracker> Gwen Whitlock has posed.

    "Well, yeah," Gwen says cheerily, to Ragnell. "Better we're thought out t'be a bunch of idiots who can't start a fire without getting caught up with it than a buncha arsonists fleeing the scene of the crime, eh?" She laughs.
    
    See, she's fine.

    -----

    They're in the lighthouse, and Gwen is still fine. See? She's not screaming or anything. Even when the Guard catch up with them, just as Ragnell predicted. "More than one... lord...?" Gwen coughs. "Damn, I didn't think of that. Well, uh. Let's... go resolve this, one way or another, eh? Then we can figure out what t'do from there."

    Because it'll all work out. Somehow. She's more focused on the fir-

    SHE IS FINE

     As they get near the top, sweat breaks out on Gwen's skin, both because of the heat and because she's sc- FINE.

    "... Lemina, you can just cast some ice or water or whatever and get the fire to go away, right? I mean, it's jusEEEKK-" Gwen *shrieks* as the piece of wrought iron comes slamming down, hot enough to bond with the floor.

    They're trapped.

    No, wait, no, they're not, technically she could always just PUNCH THROUGH A WALL and they'd be okay. Right, she's not trapped, she's with friends, she's a-okay. Except they're charging up the stairs, as that's the way lighthouses work.

    _This is fine._

    Lemina's icey magic allows Gwen to calm down, the courier giving Lemina a thumbs up. "Well, uh, goddess, or lord or whatever. We'll just... punch them and make them stop. I'm sure it'll work out."

<Pose Tracker> Sheriff Star has posed.

The spiral staircase leads up to the ceiling. The run takes longer than they might like, and they can feel the heat pouring off the thing -- and the whoosh sound of more firebombs hurtling out into the city, one after the other. Finally, though, they break up onto the platform. It is made of stone, and fixed to the walls -- built in, but with a large latticework of wrought iron meant to contain the flame.

This is where the molten piece came from.

The flame is not contained. It writhes and churns, a brilliant white hot -- and more than that, there is the occasional pulse of a sickly violet light. Malevolence is part of what gives this flame power, and yet, there is also intense sorcery at work.

Which is when the flame explodes from the wrought iron bindings. The fire washes over the ice that Lemina freezes -- but it holds, her sorcerous might a match for this thing's power.

For the moment.

Then, it erupts from the bindings. It takes form: fiery wings, fiery feathers, and fiery body; a creature of flame, a phoenix given form, and it opens fire shaped like a beak, and screeches -- before a wave of fireballs cascades out for all of them!

DC: You switch forms to Flame Phoenix!
DC: Sheriff Star switches forms to Flame Phoenix!
GS: Sheriff Star has attacked Hiro with Fireburst!
GS: Sheriff Star has attacked Lemina Ausa with Fireburst!
GS: Sheriff Star has attacked Jean with Fireburst!
GS: Sheriff Star has attacked White Knight Leo with Fireburst!
GS: Sheriff Star has attacked Margaret with Fireburst!
GS: Sheriff Star has attacked Seraph Ragnell with Fireburst!
GS: Sheriff Star has attacked Gwen Whitlock with Fireburst!
GS: Sheriff Star has attacked Fei Fong Wong with Fireburst!
GS: Sheriff Star has completed his action.
DC: MISS! Seraph Ragnell completely evades Fireburst from Sheriff Star!
GS: Fei Fong Wong guards a hit from Sheriff Star's Fireburst for 85 hit points!
GS: Margaret takes a solid hit from Sheriff Star's Fireburst for 138 hit points!
GS: Margaret enters CONDITION GREEN!!
GS: Lemina Ausa critically Guards a hit from Sheriff Star's Fireburst for 29 hit points!
GS: Hiro guards a hit from Sheriff Star's Fireburst for 86 hit points!
DC: Seraph Ragnell switches forms to The Free!
GS: White Knight Leo guards a hit from Sheriff Star's Fireburst for 88 hit points!
GS: Sheriff Star has attacked Margaret with Fireburst!
GS: Sheriff Star has attacked Jean with Fireburst!
GS: Margaret takes a glancing hit from Sheriff Star's Fireburst for 72 hit points!
DC: Jean switches forms to Shadow Dancer Jean!
GS: CRITICAL! Jean takes a glancing hit from Sheriff Star's Fireburst for 93 hit points!
GS: Hyper and Quick! Statuses applied to Sheriff Star!
<Pose Tracker> Seraph Ragnell has posed.

    It's probably not the best of times for Ragnell and Fei to be chatting about if Janey is currently a Lord of Calamity or not, considering the situation they're in. Whether Lemina is to foot the bill for anything, or if Gwen truly is fine, or if Jean is fine in a completely different sense of the word (she is), they reach the top, thanks to Lemina using her magic to freeze part of the structure and make the heat more tolerable. Ragnell snickers at her Leo-sass, but beyond that, it's forwards ho.
    
    And at the top, they find... flame more intense than intense, bound by iron that is quickly melting. Lemina's ice doesn't help here, sadly; it *shatters* through, then wings forth as a phoenix and sends fireballs down at the crew.
    
    There's not exactly a lot of space to maneuver in here, but Ragnell makes do by back-stepping just in time to avoid when the fireball aimed for her would have struck home. When she lands and it passes by, she enters into a Seraphic arte; a moment later, a bolt of lightning shoots down towards the firebird. "Blitzstrahl!" she calls, pointing her gun its way as if using it to aim her arte.
    
    Hit or miss, she eyes it as it passes. "Was that always here? I'm pretty sure that wasn't always here," she remarks. "An' that Malevolence cracklin' through it... Whose handiwork d'y'all figure this is?"

GS: Seraph Ragnell has attacked Sheriff Star with Blitzstrahl!
GS: Seraph Ragnell has completed her action.
GS: Gwen Whitlock critically Guards a hit from Sheriff Star's Fireburst for 29 hit points!
GS: Sheriff Star takes a glancing hit from Seraph Ragnell's Blitzstrahl for 50 hit points!
GS: Disrupt! Statuses applied to Sheriff Star!
<Pose Tracker> Margaret has posed.

 
Margaret feels, obscurely, judged. After this, there is a command from Leo, and she twists her weapon around, telling her Hounds - such as are present - "You heard him! Hrach!"

She turns her head around just in time to see Lemina go 'thbpt.' Her ears flip up and flatten against the side of her head, a sure sign of momentary emotional upset. "You don't get to make these decisions, Ausa! Your ancient magic guild doesn't make you our MOTHERS!" Margaret shouts.

At which point IT erupts. The fire and the flame resolve into a great predatory bird, which immediately hurls a fireball at Margaret. Margaret twists her spear around in a defensive posture, her countermagicks already flaring up - the weapon catches the fireball, splitting it in twain, and one side of it washes over her, making her hiss in pain.

The Lamplighter Spear burns merrily, its enchanted head burning as if dipped in oil. Fiery! Hot! Searing! Cauterizing.

Margaret looks at the head of her weapon, grunts, and then dips her head. The magic focuses.

"Thunder Road," she says instead - and lightning erupts, arcing up the feet and ankles of herself as well as the White Knight, who can now run about three times as fast, through the power of magic. He is also hearing an encouraging backbeat in the back of his head, which may be heresy - but surely it isn't evil to imagine music. It's like a sea chanty or something.

"Of all the days to leave Griz home," Margaret gripes.

GS: Margaret has attacked White Knight Leo with Thunder Road!
GS: Margaret has attacked Margaret with Thunder Road!
GS: Margaret has completed her action.
GS: Margaret takes a solid hit from Margaret's Thunder Road for 0 hit points!
GS: Quick! Statuses applied to Margaret!
<Pose Tracker> Hiro has posed.

 
Has it occurred to him that there could be more than one? "Yes! I just also know she isn't one of them!"
 
"Sure. Sure Fei. I'll definitely fly you down with these guns." Which is when Ruby flexes a pawsie. No bicep forms at all.
 
"Also Fei I'm an expert in fire related disasters and I think-" Which she says as they crest the top of the staircase to where the flame is burning with sickly violet light. "It looks... alive." And then a malevolent phoenix takes shape - and form and... "I CAN COMPLETELY ABSOLVE YOU OF THIS ONE!" Shouts Ruby, Veteran Arson Investigator and Instigator - at high pitched volume.
 
fireballs launch towards them, as Hiro raises his shield and barks out a word.
 
A gust of wind takes shape in front of him. Which the flame strikes and- explodes fortunately. Mercifully. A little further than it might have otherwise. Charring his face, he brandishes his sword. "It.. It feels like it's just pure malevolence and flame. Geez how do you even fight something like this? Everyone! Take it down quick before it puts more people in danger!"
 
"This should not be..." Lucia says - as she marvels at the creature.
 
And also completely wastes the rest of her turn to stare.
 
It's the kind of thing you wonder how you're even going to take down under the circumstances. He doesn't seem too fussed about the fact that it barely seems tangible though given that he's charging right at it, feet pounding at the floor, before he leaps high. His sword held above. As he descends - slashing with a call of, "DODGE THIS!"
 
"..." Ragnell's question elicits only ellipses from Lucia. Who seems to be pondering the same thing. And like always when faced with things she doesn't like, she just stays silent.
 
Upon landing though, Hiro tries to answer, "I've never really been to Azado before - Leo any ideas?"
 

GS: Hiro has attacked Sheriff Star with Poe Sword!
GS: Hiro has completed his action.
GS: Sheriff Star takes a solid hit from Hiro's Poe Sword for 109 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Jean has posed.

Flame is given form--as Jean looks around for something to use to help put out the fire, the creature comes, and with its screech fire comes crashing for her. She sees--she knows she's not in a position to dodge it. So in the moment she makes the decision to step into the fire, letting it crash against her arm and rush against her.

"No idea!" she answers Ragnell, apparently without stopping to really consider the pain of that strike, though she pats out her arm to make sure no flames linger.

"Something like this.. would normal strikes work on it?" Jean asks, and steps back after that, taking in a breath. She lifts one hand, not the other, and starts to move, whirling in place, stepping to the side, shifting hands and arms--it's a strange dance with an unusual tempo, just out of step--

And a lighter purple mist blooms around the phoenix, becoming floating moths, butterflies--

Choking.

GS: Jean has attacked Sheriff Star with Moth Dance!
GS: Jean has completed her action.
<Pose Tracker> Fei Fong Wong has posed.

"Um. I'm joking. I don't know this guyh but please don't uh. Tell him I said that." Fei asides to Ragnell on the matter of the demon of elru. Please don't.

And then Moor Gault attacks! ... ... Well okay it just looks a lot like Moor Gault. It unleashes a wave of flame at, well, everybody, and Fei forms ice around his arms to try and punch it out of the way but mostly succeeds at creating a steam cloud as the ice melts around his arms. This is some fire! Fire is hot!

Ruby absolves Fei of being to blame for 'this one' and Fei smiles faintly. "Alright, alright. I get it. You win, Ruby. I'll try to be more... chill."

FEI PSYCHO DOWN

But Fei cricks his neck faintly and he looks towards Lucia but honestly at this point he's gotten to realize that Lucia often says things like this and cannot be made to followup. "Well it is," He tells her.

And at that points he forms the ice around his arms again and throws another punch for the creature. IS IT WEAK TO ICE?? It's about time to figure out the elemental weakness chain of this place as is.

GS: Fei Fong Wong has attacked Sheriff Star with Suikei!
GS: Fei Fong Wong has completed his action.
GS: White Knight Leo takes a solid hit from Margaret's Thunder Road for 0 hit points!
GS: Quick! Statuses applied to White Knight Leo!
GS: Sheriff Star takes a glancing hit from Jean's Moth Dance for 54 hit points!
GS: Poison! Statuses applied to Sheriff Star!
<Pose Tracker> White Knight Leo has posed.

    "If this is your doing," Leo growls, "I will see to it that the Goddess Herself--" Leo doesn't finish the sentence. A wall of fire erupts from the enchanted iron meant to keep it in place, and it reeks of Malevolence. Leo draws his blade, and shields his eyes with his arm; the fire is almost too bright to look at, but it's clearly taking shape...

    "Incoming!" Leo cries. He steps forwards, sweeping his blade up to intercept the incoming fireball. Its steel is made of sterner stuff than the bindings (perhaps?)--it glows a brilliant cherry-red as the flame glances off of it, passing close enough to Leo's face to raise minor burns and set strands of hair on fire. Leo claps out the flames with his other hand. Hiro asks if Leo has any ideas.

    Leo glares knives at the Lord of Calamity, who looks for all the worlds like she's busy admiring the destruction she has wrought.

    "I can take a guess. DEMON FANG!" That was not Leo's guess. It's what he roars as he steps forwards, sweeping his blade through a single, lightning-fast strike. Chi boils off the edge, racing towards the Malevolent entity like an onrushing wave. Moments later, electrical force rushes up the White Knight's legs, settling into his nerves like it belongs there. He's worked with Margaret enough to recognize it, and gives her a nod of acknowledgment. "But whomever sent it has made a terrible mistake."

    This is Leo's little sister's turf. You mess with Leo's little sister, you mess with Leo.

GS: White Knight Leo has attacked Sheriff Star with Demon Fang!
GS: White Knight Leo has completed his action.
GS: Sheriff Star takes a solid hit from Fei Fong Wong's Suikei for 136 hit points!
GS: Sheriff Star takes a glancing hit from White Knight Leo's Demon Fang for 74 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Lemina Ausa has posed.

Lemina is already mid-ice-spell, and has no issue turning it toward the fireballs in front of her to add more. Throwing up a wall of ice, Lemina lets only the barest amount of flame through -- and while it singes her, it's not nearly as awful as it could be.

"Actually it mega-magic *does!*" Lemina shouts to Margaret, and promptly adds another raspberry to the mix just to be safe.

Lemina plants her staff in the ground next, as she looks at the flames before her; this... signficantly curtails her list of offensive options, to be sure -- but she's got plenty of options to begin with. She starts up a chant that sounds *quite* similar to her first one, joining Fei in ice-based offense as well as defense.

She lets loose with a single, massive ice spike aimed for the center of mass of the Malevolent creature; it's not precisely flashy, but it at least gets them going.

GS: Lemina Ausa has attacked Sheriff Star with Ice Lance!
GS: Lemina Ausa has completed her action.
<Pose Tracker> Gwen Whitlock has posed.

    Dread creeps along down Gwen's spine as they race to the top, Lemina's ice magic a comforting ace card against the worst possible thing.

    Until it doesn't.

    The fire breaks free from its icey prison, raising up like... a terrible fire bird beast thing, as far as Gwen can surmise. But it's okay!

    "Oh thank Guardians," Gwen says. "If it's somethin' alive, then we can at least-"

    And the world seems to explode, fireballs crashing up against Gwen's upraised ARM.

    There's talk of strategy, of blame, of who or what force may have caused it.

    Gwen, meanwhile, just does what seems to come very, very naturally when she is secretly scared out of her mind: shoot the thing shoot it shoot shoot SHOOT THE DAMN FIRE BIRD DEAD

    Beams of light erupt from Gwen's gloved hand, each a fat, panicked blast that sends Gwen backwards, yelling incomprehensively with each blast.

GS: Gwen Whitlock has attacked Sheriff Star with Coil Cannon EX!
GS: Gwen Whitlock has entered a Reflect stance!
GS: Gwen Whitlock has completed her action.
GS: Sheriff Star takes a solid hit from Lemina Ausa's Ice Lance for 117 hit points!
GS: Sheriff Star takes a solid hit from Gwen Whitlock's Coil Cannon EX for 90 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Sheriff Star has posed.

Ragnell's gun fires, and a bolt of lightning explodes out for the fiery Phoenix. It slams into its fiery form; lightning crackles over it, a few fangs of it scarring the stone ground underneath. The thing screeches at Ragnell.

Which is when an ice lance rips through its midsection, poking out the back. It screeches loudly, and then thrashes; the ice javelin snaps in two, and its eyes blaze towards Lemina.

Then, a pinprick of red light appears just between Ragnell, Lemina, and Margaret. It shudders, before balooning outward into a fireball that blasts the floor black and threatens to send Margaret, Ragnell, and Lemina flying away in a fiery shockwave. Flame churns as it does, and a streamer of fire shoots out of one of the gaping windows, and slams down into the sea below. It becomes so much steam against the water.

The Phoenix screeches -- and then hacks, as a cloying purple mist, with moths floating amidst them, surrounds it. It surges forward, flying out of it, but looks worse for the wear. A fireball swirls and manifests, then rockets off towards Jean. A second one hurtles at Fei--

--But the ice-encased punch lands a second later, and it impacts hard enough to warrant a screech. It is, it seems, weak to ice. It is less weak to Demon Fang. The creature flies up just before it takes it full on -- and then it dives down, spinning and tries to slam into Leo.

It is slammed, then, by the beams from Gwen's gloved fist. They drill into its body, and it screeches with an open beak. Another fireball swirls into existence; then, it explodes forward, and rockets towards Gwen.

Before it can fly in at her, Hiro's sword slashes into the Phoenix. Flame is actually shorn off it, dropped to the ground in curling pieces of fire and devastation that wink out. The way that the fire bird screams, perhaps, is satisfying. It can be hurt. Its eyes turn -- two blazing white embers -- and it looks down at Hiro. Then, it swoops up, and then dives at him. Claws are outstretched.

They grab for Hiro's shoulders, and the Phoenix lifts into the air. It cries out again, a terrifying screech -- before it shoots out the open window of the lighthouse, and just past the wall. The creature screeches again--

--and opens its claws, letting Hiro drop down towards the promise of the ocean below, unless he can stop himself on the wall of the tower.

GS: Sheriff Star has attacked Seraph Ragnell with Malevolent Conflagration!
GS: Sheriff Star has attacked Lemina Ausa with Malevolent Conflagration!
GS: Sheriff Star has attacked Margaret with Malevolent Conflagration!
GS: Sheriff Star has attacked Jean with Fireball!
GS: Sheriff Star has attacked Fei Fong Wong with Fireball!
GS: Sheriff Star has attacked White Knight Leo with Blaze Rush!
GS: Sheriff Star has attacked Gwen Whitlock with Fireball!
GS: Sheriff Star has spent 3 Combo on Link!
GS: Sheriff Star has attacked Hiro with Wicked Grasp!
GS: Sheriff Star has launched an attack Link!
GS: Sheriff Star has spent 2 Combo on Smite!
GS: Sheriff Star has attacked Hiro with Terrifying Drop!
GS: Sheriff Star takes 5 damage from Poison!
GS: Sheriff Star has completed his action.
GS: Hiro critically Guards a hit from Sheriff Star's Wicked Grasp for 22 hit points!
GS: CRITICAL! Hiro critically Guards a hit from Sheriff Star's Terrifying Drop for 42 hit points!
GS: Hyper and Quick! Statuses applied to Sheriff Star!
DC: MISS! Jean completely evades Fireball from Sheriff Star!
DC: MISS! Seraph Ragnell completely evades Malevolent Conflagration from Sheriff Star!
GS: Lemina Ausa guards a hit from Sheriff Star's Malevolent Conflagration for 91 hit points!
GS: Reaper! Statuses applied to Lemina Ausa!
GS: Lemina Ausa takes an additional 15 damage from Reaper!
GS: Gwen Whitlock takes a solid hit from Sheriff Star's Fireball for 194 hit points!
GS: Fei Fong Wong guards a hit from Sheriff Star's Fireball for 117 hit points!
GS: White Knight Leo guards a hit from Sheriff Star's Blaze Rush for 97 hit points!
GS: White Knight Leo suffers Infect, extending negative statuses by 1 turn each!
GS: Margaret critically Guards a hit from Sheriff Star's Malevolent Conflagration for 29 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Seraph Ragnell has posed.

    Ragnell flashes Fei a wolfish grin, a mischievous sparkle in her eye. "What'll you give me to keep from spillin' the beans~?" (It's okay. She's joking. Probably.)
    
    Nobody seems to have any idea who's behind this, though--and someone is *obviously* behind this. This doesn't feel like the kind of thing that just happens. Those moths fluttering around the phoenix, trailing Malevolene... Ragnell narrows her eyes. Are they... harassing it? Then, if they're Malevolent, and they could be purified... will the firebird calm down? Ragnell has no practical experience, but she did technically learn how to do it with Lemina from Cecilia. It might be a good opportunity to put what they've learned to the test, with no Shepherds, Squires, or Shamans present--
    
    OH HEY THAT'S A BIG OL' FIREBALL. Once again, Ragnell dives out of the way, though when the fireball then becomes a banner of flame that explodes out a wall, falls into the ocean, and becomes a plume of steam, Ragnell nearly rolls her way right out of the lighthouse. She manages to rise to her feet and grab the wall just in time, and gets a good eyeful of the steam rising up from below.
    
    "Well, if no one knows, guess we'll have to figure it out later," she concludes, pulling herself back inside. She shoots a look over at Lemina--but then holds her tongue. Lemina's better served right now using her ice magic against this creature. And Ragnell doesn't have any experience either... Well, they'll have to beat this phoenix into calming the fuck down before they can get an opportunity regardless. To that end, she fires a charged shot into the air-- "Squall Shot!" she roars-- which then comes down over the phoenix in the form of a brief but intense rainshower, complete with needle-light bolts of lightning.

GS: Seraph Ragnell has attacked Sheriff Star with Squall Shot!
GS: Seraph Ragnell has completed her action.
GS: CRITICAL! Sheriff Star takes a solid hit from Seraph Ragnell's Squall Shot for 125 hit points!
GS: Quick and Riposte! Statuses applied to Seraph Ragnell!
GS: Sheriff Star has adjusted their boss level for 7 opponents!
<Pose Tracker> Hiro has posed.

 
Flames shorn off. "Oh yeah? What's your-" The firebird screams and Hiro is caught in its sights as it dives. "-gu-" Hiro twists with the blow before it grasps ahold, the birds talons pinning in one side between his shield and his armor. Dangling from it as he's picked up. And crashed through an open window. "Wait! Wait NO!" Ruby flaps after them. "Don't drop him you bird brain! Bring him back!"
 
And then as he's dropped - he makes a desperate call. "Ferocious Winds!"
 
The wind picks up and gives him a boost back towards the lighthouse. His sword extended he apparently hopes to use it as a piton.
 
... His sword clashes off uselessly.
 
Lacking a handhold. It looks like his fate is going to be to plummet. Ruby dives like she's going to try even if it's futile. "HIIRROOOO!"
 
And then a hand reaches out of nowhere, "I have you!" "Whoa - nice save Lucia!"
 
Limmed by a blue circular barrier. Lucia floats in mid-air, straining as she pulls Hiro into her barrier, "Lucia you actually..." Hiro gasps out before managing a smile, "Alright! Now fly us back up!"
 
"Oh." It's only then they realize their extremely slow gradual descent. "I can't actually do that."
 
"... Oh." He looks up as he holds onto her hand. "Okay. Well we need to get up there. Do you trust me?"
 
Lucia gives him a long look before finally nodding.
 
-=-=-
 
The winds outside pick up in a violent spiral until the two reappear over the howling of the wind. A blue shape that's rotating faster and faster-
 
"LUCIA YOU SHOULDN'T HAVE TRUSTED HIM BECAUSE THIS IS-" Until it becomes so violent it drowns Ruby out as the two are launched up in a rotational spiral by violent wind currents which surround the phoenix. The blue barrier containing the two pounding into the malevolent firebird once - twice - thrice in the cutting battering turbulent storm. On the last hit he releases the magic.
 
Upon which they promptly ricochet off the Phoenix and back inside the lighthouse. The bubble pops and the two are dumped head over heels inside. Rolling on the floor. Hiro curled protectively over Lucia.
 
"That was..." Lucia says breathlessly, "... exhilarating."
 
-mind-bogglingly stupid are the words I would have gone with for that one."
 

GS: Hiro has attacked Sheriff Star with Cyclone!
GS: Hiro has completed his action.
GS: CRITICAL! Sheriff Star takes a solid hit from Hiro's Cyclone for 182 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Margaret has posed.

 
After rendering her enchantment, Margaret is at a loss and in fact hangs back from Leo for a few paces. She knows she can catch up. Indeed sometimes she has problems getting up in the early morning to use the bathroom and assuming she still has Thunder Road applied. Fortunately, she rarely has problems past that.

But this is a fine kettle of fish, Margaret thinks. Lamplighter is a weapon of flame and that creature isn't just a dragon but is in fact some kind of - I can't believe I thought 'just' a dragon. What is my life! Lemina Ausa, though, is hurling ice. Can Margaret, the Black Pearl of Neo-Vane, do less?

"Swap you," she tells the capture crewman who was near her.

THUS: Margaret now has a trident. Weaker perhaps, certainly less flashy, but decidedly not Fire-aspected. She nods to her fellow Hound. At this point there is a massive explosion, throwing the Capture Soldier down the stairwell leather armor and all.

The Destroyer goes flying out the side of the wall as Margaret...

Margaret, you see, went flying, but she hit the wall and started running up it.

Margaret, wall-running, thinks: Maybe she'll break her neck in the ocean! Stupider things have happened! Then she leaps out, leading with the steel trident to try and skewer the bird in the back.

She doesn't try to mount it. It's on fire.

GS: Margaret has attacked Sheriff Star with Straight!!
GS: Margaret has completed her action.
GS: Sheriff Star takes a glancing hit from Margaret's Straight! for 73 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Gwen Whitlock has posed.

    Gwen shoots. She shoots until her ARM begins to feel numb, electrical pulses sending faulty signals up into her shoulder. While a good majority of them hit, a fair number of them also shot past the firebird, hitting the wall behind it.

    And now, it's time for it to counterattack. As the firebird reels around to fly at her, Gwen flinches back, the explosive force of its fire sending her back to crash against the wall with a painful thud.

    Thankfully, that's when Hiro comes in, wielding his sword. A flinch is the amount of time it takes for the tide of the battle to turn, and for the firebird to turn its attention towards Hiro, grabbing onto him on its way to the open window of the lighthouse. "-Hiro!" It comes out as a wheeze, the wind having been knocked clean out of Gwen earlier as she tries to stand up, leaning against the wall for support.

    And then, he's gone.

    The worst has happened, along with a new possibility of something Gwen didn't even think of.

    There's only one thing left to Gwen, blinded by pain, fear, and anger.

    _Gwen is going to punch the goddamn fire bird in the face_.

    And that's likely the scene that greets Lucia and Hiro as they make their way up in a rather impressive fashion.

    Gwen is actively trying to punch _fire_, while, yes, yelling incomprehensively.

GS: Gwen Whitlock has activated a Force Action!
GS: Gwen Whitlock has attacked Sheriff Star with Special Delivery!
GS: Gwen Whitlock has entered a Reflect stance!
GS: Gwen Whitlock has completed her action.
GS: Sheriff Star takes a glancing hit from Gwen Whitlock's Special Delivery for 65 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Fei Fong Wong has posed.

"Um-" Fei says, at a loss because of the phoenix trying to kill everyone. "My appreciation?"

Fei's breath catches in his throat as it looks like Hiro might be dropped to HIS DOOM but Lucia thankfully saves him. His heart almost jumped out of his throat there.

Unfortunately, the flames are still very brutal. Even with ice deathblows proving effective, they're not effective enough to diminish the flames to a comfortable level. Fei doesn't recall ever feeling heat this heavy before, not any time recently at least.

A fireball bursts agaist Fei's arms and he screams in agony before biting his lip till it bleeds to focus himself up.

Then Fei leaps into the air, swirling ice mist rippling around his feet as he tries to crash down feet first for the phoenix and repeatedly kick it upside the head so long as he has ice-feet to strike with.

"What is this thing..? It's not a Guardian so..."

GS: Fei Fong Wong has spent 3 Combo on Headshot!
GS: Fei Fong Wong has attacked Sheriff Star with Tenbu!
GS: Fei Fong Wong has completed his action.
GS: CRITICAL! Sheriff Star takes a glancing hit from Fei Fong Wong's Tenbu for 152 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Lemina Ausa has posed.

The massive shockwave bowls Lemina over; she manages to stop herself from outright rolling, but much past that eludes her... though it at least prevents her from going out the window, or worse. Her staff stays anchored inside the building, and she forces herself back to her feet using it...

Lemina, who is from just south of the Zulan region and knows ice magic, is -- despite her facility with fire -- bad at heat. She's sweating to an extent that makes her feel, frankly, vile; she tries to catch her breath, but she can't even quite do *that*.

She starts a slightly more insistent chant than before, thrusting her staff out before her. Ice starts to coalesce in front of her, in thinner, spinier spikes than the heavy lance she used before.

She starts moving to the side, making convenient room for Margaret to advance along the wall past her, letting loose those icy arrows one after another.

GS: Lemina Ausa has attacked Sheriff Star with Ice Arrows!
GS: Lemina Ausa takes an additional 125 damage from Reaper!
GS: Lemina Ausa has completed her action.
GS: Sheriff Star takes a glancing hit from Lemina Ausa's Ice Arrows for 88 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Sheriff Star has posed.

Rain and lightning pelt the Phoenix and slam into it; the shots pelt and damage it, steam and smoke rising off, and a few of those needle-light bolts slash clean through the Phoenix. Ragnell may not have ice, but her aim is true. It whirls around, back into the room, leaving Hiro for dead. This proves to be a mistake, as Hiro and Lucia -- in their barrier -- are deposited behind it.

The winds slam into the Phoenix, smashing it forward. Pieces of fire and flame are shorn off, whipping and surging about, and fall to the floor with a sizzle. However, with a might beat of its wings, it rises -- and jukes to the side, such that Margaret's descent only clips it instead, and Gwen's punch slams into the side of its body, rather than directly into its face.

Fei, finally, lands a good hit. His feet slam into the back of the Phoenix. It gets slammed down into the ground; it slides over the ground, scorching a streak black, and there is a shudder of flame and Malevolence both from the might of his blow. Lemina's ice arrows slam down after, the blades of ice peppering it one after the other. It still manages to rise, surging away from them. It rises into the air, in the center of the chamber, and beats its wings.

Then, a thick black smoke bursts from it -- a wind, powerful enough to push them back, and with smoke that may make them hack and cough, as well as make it hard to see the Phoenix.

GS: Sheriff Star has attacked Seraph Ragnell with Smoke Field!
GS: Sheriff Star has attacked Hiro with Smoke Field!
GS: Sheriff Star has attacked Margaret with Smoke Field!
GS: Sheriff Star has attacked Gwen Whitlock with Smoke Field!
GS: Sheriff Star has attacked Fei Fong Wong with Smoke Field!
GS: Sheriff Star has attacked Lemina Ausa with Smoke Field!
GS: Sheriff Star takes 10 damage from Poison!
GS: Sheriff Star has completed his action.
<Pose Tracker> White Knight Leo has posed.

    Leo stomps a heel into the floor, and the earth answers him. An irregular slab of pristine white marble slides free, rushing upwards to interpose itself between Leo and the onrushing phoenix. The creature slams into it, but keeps right on going, shattering the improvised cover in a spray of enchanted stone. Leo steps to the side, twists, and slams the flat of his blade into the creature's wing. It barely keeps him from being set alight. As it is, the flame passes close enough to burn him even through his uniform; the fabric sizzles, acquiring several new patches of soot and char. The thing keeps going right on past him, grabs Hiro, and rushes out the tower wall. The Lord of Calamity rushes after her lieutenant, and Leo can only turn to stare.

    "It's a Hellion," Leo says to Fei, equal parts relieved and upset at Hiro and Lucia careeening back into the tower. "Stay focused!" He gestures, and chips of marble snap off the edge of the hole, racing towards the firebird!

DC: MISS! Fei Fong Wong completely evades Smoke Field from Sheriff Star!
GS: White Knight Leo has attacked Sheriff Star with Earth Edge!
GS: White Knight Leo has completed his action.
GS: Sheriff Star takes a solid hit from White Knight Leo's Earth Edge for 85 hit points!
GS: Hiro guards a hit from Sheriff Star's Smoke Field for 0 hit points!
GS: Entangle and Shieldbreak! Statuses applied to Hiro!
GS: Lemina Ausa guards a hit from Sheriff Star's Smoke Field for 0 hit points!
GS: Entangle and Shieldbreak! Statuses applied to Lemina Ausa!
GS: Lemina Ausa takes an additional 15 damage from Reaper!
GS: CRITICAL! Gwen Whitlock guards a hit from Sheriff Star's Smoke Field for 0 hit points!
GS: Hyper and Quick! Statuses applied to Sheriff Star!
GS: Seraph Ragnell takes a glancing hit from Sheriff Star's Smoke Field for 0 hit points!
GS: Entangle and Shieldbreak! Statuses applied to Seraph Ragnell!
GS: Margaret takes a solid hit from Sheriff Star's Smoke Field for 0 hit points!
GS: Entangle and Shieldbreak! Statuses applied to Margaret!
<Pose Tracker> Hiro has posed.

 
This is the moment when Hiro is going to try to help Lucia back to his feet. Or at least it would be if not for the sudden blast of smoke that hits them all and obfuscates their vision.
 
Suddenly all of his efforts turn into coughing. As do Lucia's efforts to breathe. And Ruby's efforts to do anything as she flies down to the floor and stays low. "Th-This is terrible! It's going to turn my fur black at this rate! I don't want to be a black dragon!" She finally says as she manages to get a gulp of actual air.
 
Hiro instead has to roll off Lucia in a way that's way less cool. And get to his feet in a crouch. "Luh-Lucia... stay low."
 
Raising his sword, the winds swirl around it as he starts to spin from its hunched over position. Before suddenly slicing it down violently. The wind erupts as a wide vacuum slice that smashes blindly into the cloud of smoke. Hoping to catch it by happenstance - or at least disperse some of this awful smoke.
 
"It is not a Hellion." Lucia actually says to Leo once she catches her breath - but it's like she's answering Fei too - and Ragnell for that matter. "It is Althena's power... but wrong. Something not of Althena has corrupted it."
 

GS: Hiro has attacked Sheriff Star with Sybillium Sword!
GS: Hiro has completed his action.
GS: Sheriff Star takes a glancing hit from Hiro's Sybillium Sword for 99 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Seraph Ragnell has posed.

    The phoenix sends out a bursting plume of wind and smoke in all directions. It's particularly thick in Ragnell's direction, so while she might not be affected by breathing issues, by the time she finishes guarding against the wind blast, she is good and blinded--completely unable to see anything at all around her. It's preeeetty annoying. She goes down on one knee to present a smaller target while she tries to sort things out, both hands on her pistol.
    
    "What's wrong with bein' a black dragon, Ru? Don't you know black an' pink is a hot color combo?" Ragnell calls over to Ruby--there's Ruby in that direction--and nearby is Lucia, to whom she calls, "You mean the moths that're swarmin' it, right? Any of y'all know anyone who's associated with moths?"
    
    At the very least, she should be able to sense the phoenix by its heat and Malevolence. If she can use that to pinpoint it, then she still ought to be able to land a hit. Following that logic, she concentrates until she feels she's sure she knows its location--and then she fires several shots into the darkness that arc towards the firebird.

GS: Seraph Ragnell has attacked Sheriff Star with Storm Runner!
GS: Seraph Ragnell has completed her action.
GS: Sheriff Star takes a solid hit from Seraph Ragnell's Storm Runner for 138 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Fei Fong Wong has posed.

"Lucia just said it's not a Hellion," Fei says right back to Leo. "And it doesn't...feel like a hellion. Unless it's hiding it--" He thinks it over. If it's Althena's power but corrupted... "Do you think...maybe something is messing with Althena, and that's why she's giving strange orders? Is that even possible? That could explain the discrepencies in how she's seen and portrayed..." He frowns thoughtfully. "Or maybe her power got siphoned somehow...?"

It seems the phoenix is about to send a deluge of smoke their way--Fei has no ability to repel but Hiro--Fei's eyes widen and he slides behind Hiro, flat out using the vaccuum he creates to crouch down and avoid the slew of smoke. Of course, this doesn't help Hiro, but it does keep Fei from getting covered in smoke and inhaling a bunch of fumes.

"Hey...if Zophar can 'curse' you, Lucia..." Fei comes to an incorrect conclusion but frankly a reasonable one considering the circumstances. He leaps into the air once he has an opportunity and sends a quick pair of ice boosted fists at the Phoenix. There's no way he's going to strike at it WITHOUT some protection after all, not with his bare hands.

Ragnell's got a point regarding color combos, Fei thinks. Red and black work well too.

<Pose Tracker> Seraph Ragnell has posed.

    Even if they don't strike true, the bursts of wind in their wake ought to help clear some of the smoke and increase visibility.

GS: Fei Fong Wong has attacked Sheriff Star with Hoten!
GS: Fei Fong Wong has completed his action.
GS: Sheriff Star takes a glancing hit from Fei Fong Wong's Hoten for 71 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Gwen Whitlock has posed.

    ".... A fire can become a Hellion?!" Gwen squeaks incredulously at Fei and Leo. Then, to Lucia. ".... Like, distorted, maybe? Like light coming through colored glass? The source is still Althena, and Althena's not corrupted, but there's something inbetween." It... makes sense, but maybe only in Gwen's head. It may just be better to think about light and colored lens than how much her skin hurts, and how her scars ache with a pain well over a decade old.

    Right, right, stay focused. She can do this. She's not alone. She may be trapped, but she's not alone.

    As if in answer, black smoke clouds the room, blocking Gwen's view of her friends, causing her eyes to go blurry with tears and her lungs to seize with hacking coughs.

    Focus.

    All of the rage, anger, fear, and pain gets squished into a ball. That's the way Gwen imagines it in her mind. Just ball it up, and...

    The charge that Gwen's been building up in her right fist begins to make its presence known, a low, pulsing hum that synchronizes with the beat of her heart in a way that's scarily comforting, as long as Gwen doesn't think about it.

    She tries to follow the path carved by Ragnell and Fei's voices, Ruby's lamenting, the chips of marble flaking off into the air as Leo moves, and the movement of smoke from Ragnell and Hiro's wind attacks. To the center, where the Firebird undoubtedly exists. She'll strike that core, and hopefully, the beast within.

GS: Gwen Whitlock enters a Counter stance!
GS: Gwen Whitlock has attacked Sheriff Star with Return To Sender!
GS: Gwen Whitlock has completed her action.
GS: Sheriff Star takes a solid hit from Gwen Whitlock's Return To Sender for 94 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Lemina Ausa has posed.

"I think it might be better to say a Hellion can become fire," Lemina notes to Gwen. "It's... I don't know, it's mega-weird! I guess you could have fire become a Hellion??" Lemina is completely lost on this one. This is too weird a metaphysics question for her.

Smoke starts to fill the room, and Lemina starts going from 'feeling bad' to outright 'feeling sick.' This is *not* the sort of fire she's used to, and it feels so *oppressive*... she reels, moving away but not wanting to move so far away that she backs herself out a window.

Lemina can barely force out the chant for this one -- but she doesn't entirely *need* to, even if it helps a lot with focus. Amid the smoke, her staff glints with a bright-white three-pronged claw of ice...

... which she promptly swings forcefully into the fire. If she can barely see, her best play is probably 'avoid giving it opportunities to attack her again,' right?

GS: Lemina Ausa has attacked Sheriff Star with Freeze Claw!
GS: Lemina Ausa takes an additional 15 damage from Reaper!
GS: Lemina Ausa has completed her action.
DC: MISS! Sheriff Star completely evades Freeze Claw from Lemina Ausa!
<Pose Tracker> Margaret has posed.

 
Even Margaret cannot resist all smoke situations. As she completes her leap and lands, she is enshrouded and lets out a wet noise of a cough even as Leo calls out instructions. Great, she thinks: a massive Hellion. Wonderful. And I brought the capture crew instead of GRIZ!

ELSEWHERE

Griz is gettin' a rubdown at the spa. He gives the camera a thumbs up.

HERE AND NOW

Lucia - the Destroyer - corrects them. Margaret's eyes cut towards her and she says (mostly to herself), "Oh, well, that settles it then, the author of lies said something." She shifts back for a moment, and then she can hear Fei speak, one of her ears having unfolded with relaxation of tension.

"You f-" No, she tells herself, it's that boy with the cheese-grater abdominals from Filgaia. "That isn't how it WORKS! You could use her Blessing to ill ends for a while, obviously, but it's never a winning proposition in the long run!" The rest of what Fei says might as well be "heresy heresy heresy" but Margaret hears several words.

Fire that became a hellion? Corrupted fire?

Margaret raises a hand to her lips.

Let's find out, she thinks, not saying anything bitchy for the moment and possibly giving the false impression, as a result, that she has died. She blows a kiss into the air.

It isn't actually a kiss, of course. It's a tight packet of hallucinatory darkness. She's testing something: to see if this thing has perceptions at all.

GS: Margaret has spent 1 Combo on Disease!
GS: Margaret has attacked Sheriff Star with Illusion Kiss!
GS: Margaret has completed her action.
GS: Sheriff Star takes a glancing hit from Margaret's Illusion Kiss for 0 hit points!
GS: Sheriff Star has been weakened by Disease! They take 0 damage, and burn off all temporary hit points!
GS: Disease and Weaken! Statuses applied to Sheriff Star!
<Pose Tracker> Sheriff Star has posed.

Chips of marble slam through the thick cloud of smoke -- and White Knight Leo finds his mark, as there is a gout of flame that acts as a beacon. The Phoenix shrieks -- and then louder still as Hiro's wind blasts away the smoke, and slam the beast back into the wall. It snarls, then opens its beak and screeches.

A bead of light appears, glowing between Hiro and Leo. It explodes outward a moment later into a colossal fireball -- blowing back the cloud of smoke, but also sending a fiery shockwave for the two of them.

More of the smoke is blasted away, and Ragnell proves she can sense its Malevolence -- even if there may well be more than Malevolence here. The shots she fires slam into the fiery bird, shooting holes into its form. It turns, white ember eyes barreling down on her. Then, it shrieks--

--And a massive gout of flame explodes, a column of fire shooting up underneath Ragnell's feet, unless she moves fast.

Fei lands a punch a moment later, icy fist slamming into it. The beast is thrown backward, ice flecks that shoot off flying into the air and melting. They glisten, and then another punch slams into the firebird -- and punches clean out the back. Gwen's arm pushes through it, to discover a horrifying truth:

There is no core.

The Phoenix sweeps out, then, and flies in a straight line across the room with wings outstretched. Flame explodes and erupts in its wake -- as it hurtles across Gwen and Fei, and then ducks low. The Freeze Claw erupts from the Lemina's staff and smashes down, but the Phenix ducks low -- and it crashes down after, just before those wings burn at her. Fire explodes off, before it rushes for Margaret. It hesitates, for a moment.

Perhaps it can perceive.

Then, it screeches with fury -- and ends its fiery rush across the room by trying to smash bodily into Margaret.

Lucia, Lemina, and Hiro notice something strange, when they happen to glance out the window: the ocean has vanished. They can see the piers and docks, still, but the beams stick out of wet mud. It may be distracting; it may be barely noticed, in the face of the fiery Hellion that is barreling down upon all of them.

GS: Sheriff Star has attacked Hiro with Eruption!
GS: Sheriff Star has attacked White Knight Leo with Eruption!
GS: Sheriff Star has spent 5 Combo on Poison and Gatling!
GS: Sheriff Star has attacked Seraph Ragnell with Ignition Blaze!
GS: Sheriff Star has attacked Fei Fong Wong with Blazing Wings!
GS: Sheriff Star has attacked Gwen Whitlock with Blazing Wings!
GS: Sheriff Star has attacked Lemina Ausa with Blazing Wings!
GS: Sheriff Star has attacked Margaret with Blazing Wings!
GS: Sheriff Star takes 7 damage from Poison!
GS: Sheriff Star has completed his action.
GS: Margaret takes a solid hit from Sheriff Star's Blazing Wings for 235 hit points!
GS: CRITICAL! Seraph Ragnell takes a glancing hit from Sheriff Star's Ignition Blaze for 191 hit points!
GS: Toxin! Statuses applied to Seraph Ragnell!
GS: Hyper and Quick! Statuses applied to Sheriff Star!
GS: Seraph Ragnell enters CONDITION GREEN!!
GS: Fei Fong Wong guards a hit from Sheriff Star's Blazing Wings for 142 hit points!
GS: Fei Fong Wong enters CONDITION GREEN!!
GS: White Knight Leo takes a solid hit from Sheriff Star's Eruption for 126 hit points!
GS: Lemina Ausa guards a hit from Sheriff Star's Blazing Wings for 147 hit points!
GS: Lemina Ausa takes an additional 15 damage from Reaper!
GS: Hiro has activated a Force Action!
GS: Hiro guards a hit from Sheriff Star's Eruption for 105 hit points!
GS: COUNTER! Gwen Whitlock strikes at Sheriff Star with a counter attack!
GS: Gwen Whitlock takes a solid hit from Sheriff Star's Blazing Wings for 241 hit points!
GS: Sheriff Star takes a solid hit from Gwen Whitlock's Counter Attack for 170 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Hiro has posed.

 
Fei suggests that the orders might have corrupted Althena. However Lucia is silent for a few moments, before turning her eyes on Fei and saying... "That cannot be so." She states with total conviction, "We must trust that Althena is well." She says that though because she does not want to think of the alternative. Because if it were so then... all would be lost.
 
"The sea-" Lucia notes. "-it is... receding? No..."
 
"What's going on with the ocean? Don't tell me it was boiled a-" A massive fireball explodes between Leo and Hiro and Hiro barks out a cantrip. A column downburst smashes into it, as the eruption blasts him backwards as the shockwave sends him careening into the side of the lighthouse. Smashing him hard enough to shatter stone. Wincing, he wobbles back onto his feet, half of his body wisping with smoke. "Worry about it later!"
 
His eyes slide over to meet Leo, "Truce for long enough to deal with this thing?" As if that isn't what this already was already. Like he's playing along at least with Leo's role of their pursuer and him the fugitive. "Let me show you how far I've come since we last crossed swords."
 
Raising his blade shakily, he snaps his wrist as it ignites into...
 
Flame?
 
"I'm going to bet I can keep up with you a little better now." The flames lim the blade as he starts to run at the creature from one angle, in time with Leo's attack from the other. "Here we go Leo!"
 
Faster and faster- like he's using wind magic to propel himself along from behind.
 
At such reckless speed he smashes into the creature with a titanic slash that slides him past it in one fluid motion at the same moment Leo's hits. As he shouts a single word, "BURN!"
 
And that's the moment the released flames from the slash blast into the creature center mass.
 

GS: Hiro has activated a Force Action!
GS: Hiro has spent 2 Combo on Gatling!
GS: Hiro has attacked Sheriff Star with Battalion Sword!!
GS: Hiro has completed his action.
GS: Sheriff Star takes a glancing hit from Hiro's Battalion Sword! for 118 hit points!
GS: Seraph Ragnell has activated a Force Action!
<Pose Tracker> Seraph Ragnell has posed.

    "That's very possible, Fei," Ragnell calls over to him when he theorizes about something being wrong with Althena herself. "I know a few folks who've been theorizin' somethin' along those very lines--" 'That cannot be so,' Lucia interrupts, and insists that Althena must be fine. Ragnell gives her a long, even look; then she concedes mildly, "Well, maybe so."
    
    Her Malevolence-sensing is the right thing to do, and her shots home in on the phoenix--but it retaliates with white-hot eyes and a column of massive flame that explodes up beneath her. Ragnell has only a second's warning, and she launches herself to one-side--but a second is just not enough time, and she's engulfed by the scorching blast before she erupts from it, stumbling and rolling across the floor, hand protectingly set on her hat, the rest of her literally on fire until she can roll enough to put out the flames.
    
    Panting, she rises to her feet, her other hand on her pistol. The glyph of a Seraphic arte forms beneath her as she chants under her breath: "Blade of the heavens, lay waste to our foes! Divine Saber!!"
    
    A paired glyph forms above and below the phoenix, and several lightning bolts sear down at various corners of it before a central bolt roars down with incredible heat and force.

GS: Seraph Ragnell has attacked Sheriff Star with Divine Saber!
GS: Seraph Ragnell has completed her action.
DC: MISS! Sheriff Star completely evades Divine Saber from Seraph Ragnell!
<Pose Tracker> White Knight Leo has posed.

    Leo gives Fei a look. "I trust the Destroyer to know Althena's power like I trust a blind man to know blue," he says, demonstrating both tact and sensitivity. He sets his feet, and coughs to clear the smoke from his lungs. "But whatever it is, it is threatening the city and all the innocents within!" Including Mauri. The beast screeches, and moments later, a bloom of fire explodes outwards, a crushing shockwave hot on its heels. Leo twists into it, chips of white marble forming out of motes of light around him and reinforcing his skin. The impromptu, additional armor lasts maybe half a second, but it's long enough for flame and air to wash over the White Knight, rocking him back on his heels. His cape catches fire. It's only by virtue of Althena's Blessing that he isn't thrown off his feet--earth is extremely difficult to move, after all.

    "Damnation," Leo growls. "It's going to tear this place apart if it keeps up!" Then Hiro looks at him. Leo's lip curls, revealing a fang. "If we must. And yes, by all means!" Hiro then immediately charges the giant flaming monster. Leo would let out a put-upon sigh if things weren't deadly serious. Instead, he slips into a familiar fighting stance, his blade held back in both hands. He breathes, trying to drown out the heat and pain with memories of a young woman who is still counting on him, even now. He lets it out. Chi condenses along the blade of his sword. He seems to have not noticed the horrible events going on outside at all.

    "LION'S HOWL!" Leo surges forwards, releasing all that gathered energy in a single, mighty strike. The air ripples before it as it speeds towards the phoenix, gaining form and definition as it approaches from the angle opposite Hiro. Thankfully, Leo has eyeballed it so it won't slam into the young man as he dances around the monster. It will just sink burning energy teeth into the body of the hellion-thing. Hopefully.

GS: White Knight Leo has spent 1 Combo on Gatling!
GS: White Knight Leo has attacked Sheriff Star with Lion's Howl!
GS: White Knight Leo has completed his action.
<Pose Tracker> Lemina Ausa has posed.

"UUUUH" Lemina shouts, as she looks out the window -- but whatever thought she's having is promptly vigorously owned by a swooping phoenix. As, for that matter, is she; her metal staff gets white-hot, and she's forced to discard it. She ... *might* get it back later, but for the moment, it's that or hand blisters, and Lemina needs her hands.

While Hiro and Leo compare swords, Lemina starts to move forward through the darkness and the smoke, trying to find... something, to do to this thing that will actually harm it.

In the end, she settles for something that's become something of a go-to in situations like this since she realized she could pull it off.Her chant is barely audible this time, her voice hoarse -- all that's really visible is her extending a hand and flipping two fingers upward firmly at the end of it --

-- and then a giant spire of ice and rock pops out from the ground beneath the phoenix. Skewering it would be nice, of course -- but even just impeding its movement for a few moments for Hiro and Leo's sakes would be enough.

GS: Lemina Ausa has attacked Sheriff Star with Final Embrace!
GS: Lemina Ausa takes an additional 125 damage from Reaper!
GS: Lemina Ausa has completed her action.
GS: Sheriff Star takes a glancing hit from White Knight Leo's Lion's Howl for 113 hit points!
GS: CRITICAL! Sheriff Star takes a solid hit from Lemina Ausa's Final Embrace for 284 hit points!
GS: Sheriff Star has Fallen! He is no longer able to fight!
<Pose Tracker> Fei Fong Wong has posed.

Fei frowns as he's told off by Margaret, and then Lucia--sort of--agrees with her. He is starting to suspect that if Lucia wasn't the target of Althena's ire, she'd probably make an excellent Guardsmen. "Mm....well, I hope you're right and I'm full of it," Fei says, which sounds like he is sort of agreeing with them now but in actuality he's just as doubtful as before but admits that his outlook is hardly optimistic. That's partly why he suspects something's wrong.

He frankly isn't inclined to look at the ocean right abuot now, he's got bigger birds to...cool? But when Lucia points out the sea, Fei takes a look. "That's impossible or, at least, exceedingly unlikely--" Fei begins before he's promptly tackled through the air by flaming bird.

He is sent off the side of the lighthouse but he's able to catch the side of it rather than plummet to his doom. He has got good grip but he looks down and sees it for himself, now that it has been pointed out.

But how can he quickly finish off fire itself? He doesn't have the skills to deprive it of oxygen and fighting fire with fire is likely not enough. He flips back onto the lighthouse proper and exhales faintly, steadying his body's chi.

"don't have any more time..." He murmurs before he steps forward and shouts, "Suikei!!"

THis time, of course, it's not just Fei charging his fists with ice, it's him sending a wave of misty ice chi/ether that threatens to encase the bird whole in its ice. Only Fei would try to freeze fire wholly in ice. wouldn't it just melt, Fei?
5rWell generally, yeah.

<Pose Tracker> Gwen Whitlock has posed.

    "Well, it's only been, what, an hour at most? Maybe Althena's justice *is* here," Gwen surmises. "That'd be pretty quick justice, wouldn't it? Hellions might become fire, but the forces here'll become the justice to end it."

    She does not, for the sake of the fragile cooperation in the room, specify who brings the justice.

    Because, as she soon finds out, it's clearly not her, as her ARM grasps at nothing in that firey body.

    There is no core. Only pain.

    Fire licks through Gwen's body, her eyes briefly seeing Fei before orange and red flame overwhelms all her senses.

    ..... It'll be nice, a darker, more bitter part of herself thinks, for someone else to understand what it's like. Him, and Ragnell, and-

    No, no, no, no. Don't. Don't think that.

    She hears Hiro's voice. He's.. combining his might with Leo. Two enemies, brought together by circumstance, because deep down, they have the same heart.

    "... I'll keep up too," she wheezes. "With my ARM, I can-"

    No matter how ugly her exterior, and with all the doubt and fear of the precious thing that serves as her heart, with it, she can keep up with them.

    In order to protect this sister world, this green jewel next to Filgaia's blue.

    The lingering smoking separates around a slowly generating beam of light, Gwen pressing every ounce of her energy into this one, final push. A line beams out towards the firebird, expanding into a powerful beam of sparkling energy, the young woman at the source of that power seeming small in comparison.

    And, too soon, it stops.

    Because Gwen is collapsing, weakly slumping against a wall. ".... Guess I'm gonna... be the one who needs t'be carried out this time..." she breathes.

GS: Fei Fong Wong has attacked Sheriff Star with Frozen Flame!
GS: Fei Fong Wong has completed his action.
GS: Sneak! The true nature of Fei Fong Wong's attack becomes clear!
GS: CRITICAL! Sheriff Star takes a solid hit from Fei Fong Wong's Ultra Idstinct for 483 hit points!
GS: Fei Fong Wong enters CONDITION GREEN!!
GS: Sheriff Star has Fallen! He is no longer able to fight!
<Pose Tracker> Margaret has posed.

 
Margaret doesn't know what the receding ocean might mean.

No, Margaret has a big problem right now which is that a giant fire bird is coming right towards her. Her counterspells shroud her but this means only that there is a gorgeous sparkling nebular effect around her as the fire bird smashes into her entire body. The counterspells means that the room is not filled with the horrific scent of roast elf.

She hits the far end of the tower hard enough that she can feel her teeth rattle in her head, and she slides down, smouldering, to lay in a heap, potentially dead, certainly stunned. She coughs again, rather weakly.

She says some very unAlthenan things about the bird, then: "I've got your measure, you twerp." The trident - which is more like a bident now, given that one of its tines melted out - is stamped on the ground. She raises a hand upwards.

"The sea will part before you," Margaret mutters. "Stop the rain - turn the tide - O power of storm and stress, draw on what you have with in the innermost recesses..."

That nebular gleam arcs around her again, but the nebulas are cracking again. "If they can't dissipate you... You're all fire, aren't you? Heh. Heh heh heh - how fast can a fire arc?"

The glow reaches a crescendo, possibly at the exact moment when Lemina and Fei finish their artes, but that's just Margaret's life for you. "Starlight Express!"

GS: Gwen Whitlock has activated a Force Action!
GS: Margaret has attacked Margaret with Starlight Express!
GS: Margaret has completed her action.
GS: Hyper! Statuses applied to Margaret!
GS: Margaret heals Margaret! She gains 200 temporary hit points!
GS: Gwen Whitlock has spent 1 Combo on Headshot and Gatling!
GS: Gwen Whitlock has attacked Sheriff Star with Corona Discharge!
GS: Gwen Whitlock has completed her action.
GS: Sheriff Star takes a solid hit from Gwen Whitlock's Corona Discharge for 173 hit points!
GS: Sheriff Star has Fallen! He is no longer able to fight!
<Pose Tracker> Sheriff Star has posed.
<SoundTracker> https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H93A879EJlA

Hiro charges in with Leo. His blade swings up, wreathed in fire -- and the Phoenix seems unaware of the irony that it might be hurt by flame. Hurt it is; the fire-wreathed sword rips through the middle of it, blowing out the back, and causes the whole form of the Phoenix to shudder, unstably. It still manages to surge to the side, as the glyphs form above and below.

The Seraphic Arte that Ragnell summons blasts thin air with a powerful column of electricity, as the Phoenix shoots just left of it.

Except, then, it flies straight into Lion's Howl. The lion head-shaped blast of energy slams into the front of the Phoenix -- and creates a rather perfect one-two punch. Slammed back into the wall, the spike of ice and rock rips up from the ground and shoots clean through the Phoenix.

It holds it there.

This, ultimately, proves critical. Gwen fires a beam of light that blows back layer after layer of flame. The result is a brilliant gold-white core of fire, shaped like a bird. Its wings flap, desperately; then, however, ice shoots up and surrounds it. It covers it, encases it, and freezes it in place on the spike.

Then, it shatters -- and the thing explodes into wisps of flame and a few traces of Malevolence. Unlike most Hellions, these whisk away, in distinct strands.

The room goes silent and quiet -- perhaps, as the temporary truce that was called must now come into question.

Gwen, however, feels it first, leaning against the wall. She hears the roar of noise. Then, a powerful downpour of rain blows through the opened window of the lighthouse. It sprays into everyone there -- hard enough soak clothing, make hair sodden, and chill them to the bone. There is, however, something wrong about that water. It smells and feels of salt.

If they turn, they can see it.

A colossal wall of water -- a tidal wave -- rushes towards them. It rises up to nearly a height with the lighthouse. It does not quite crest it, though, and that allows them to see what rises above the wave: a great, mottled grey fin that reaches up into the midnight sky and threatens to touch the low clouds. Then, two equally mottled grey fins burst from the water.

What rises is a monster unlike any other. It looks to be the size of a small city; whale-like in shape, with a mouth that resembles a whale's, but no eyes. Bony ridges, with spiral patterns, criss-cross its body.

And, oddly, the spires of a drowned, ruined citadel rest on its head. There is no noise.

But they watch as a galleon, desperately making way from it, is suddenly lurched into the sky. Men and women scream, as it rips apart into boards and debris; as a ship and its crew are hurled, begging for their lives, into a maelstrom that already begins to swirl above.

Then, the wave smashes into the tower. The lighthouse creaks and groans -- and there is an enormous CRACK. It runs through the floor -- and then the lighthouse begins to teeter, violently, to one side.

<Pose Tracker> Seraph Ragnell has posed.

    Well, isn't that a very ugly sentiment, Gwen Whitlock. But that, too, is part of being human.
    
    Ragnell mutters a curse when the phoenix veers to the left in time to avoid her arte--but since doing so herds it into the others' attacks, including Lemina's icy deathblow, that works for her. She's ultimately here to support these mortals, anyway. Gingerly standing up, she holsters her gun, then frowns as the Malevolence peels off in streaks. That's unusual.
    
    Then the sea erupts.
    
    She hadn't paid much attention to the steam before, having figured it was more of the result of that phoenix's guttering of flame that smashed through the windmill earlier. Now, as she stares out at the ocean, she sees a massive wall of water, and an even more massive finned, whale-like creature.
    
    "What in the *fuck*?" she utters, proving that you can live over eight hundred years and *still* not see everything there is to see in a given world.
    
    A galleon gets knocked into the air like a seal playing with a rubber ball. Ragnell thinks once again that not heading for the boats was indeed the smart thing to do--right before the massive wave SMASHES into the lighthouse, which cracks and teeters dangerously to one side. Grabbing hold of the nearest nailed-down object, Ragnell looks up and around swiftly, then down. The lighthouse *below* seems to still be intact, it's just this part up here that's been smacked off, so--
    
    "See y'all at the bottom, if you survive," she calls--and then blinks into a ball of golden light that hovers out the opening in the wall. It--she--traces the wall of the lighthouse until it reaches a safer spot with a good view of what happens next.

<Pose Tracker> Hiro has posed.

 
The phoenix shatters, wisping away. The room goes silent and...
 
"Did we do it?" Hiro actually tremulously moves towards the window as if he were going to check if the fires had gone out, "Is the city safe?" He didn't feel the initial little downpour of rain. He didn't even make it to the window. Before he's sprayed with water. And Ruby too. "Bluh!"
 
And then the water rises and Hiro finds himself gawking. "It's... It's massive." This isn't something he's ever read about before in a book. Not something he can put a name to. A word to. Other than Massive.
 
As is Lucia with this look somewhere between surprise and outright horror. "This cannot be one of your creatures... Althena..." "... LUCIAAAAA LESS SPECULATING MORE BUBBLE!"
 
The enormous tidal wave comes closer to closer. And Lucia seems to realize that it will be there doom just in time, along with Ruby's prodding. "We cannot fall here."
 
Striding forward to their center... she puts a hand to her pendant.
 
Which is when azure light emanates from her, spreading outwards in a spherical shape to encompass as many as she can.
 
Which is the exact moment the tidal wave hits the lighthouse.
 
The lighthouse creaks, groans. Teeters. "Hang on everyone!" As it shifts, it shifts them sidelong too...rolling them alongside until they smash into a wall. Where Hiro finds himself losing his balance and crashing into Lucia.
 

<Pose Tracker> White Knight Leo has posed.

    Leo doesn't take his eyes off the phoenix until the core is gone. Hellions shouldn't do that, he thinks. The Malevolence should've left its body, but he's always seen it leave like smoke from a fire, not directed tendrils. Something to deal with another time. The Beastman sheathes his blade, lets out a huff of breath, and gives a stern look around the room at everyone gathered. "Well done, Guardswoman," Leo says, to Margaret. "As for the rest of you, while I am not yet absolving you of this--" His gaze falls, rather pointedly, on Lucia-- "--more innocents would have perished this day had this thing not been destroyed. I--"

    Water starts dripping through the wall. It's dripping throuch cracks in the wall that weren't there several minutes ago. It's pouring through the window. A torrent of it sprays across Leo, soaking him to the bone instantly. Seawater? "What in Althena's name...?" Leo looks through the window, and sees it.

    His eyes go wide. His jaw drops. His brain starts to turn in circles, as if trying to make sense of the thing he's seeing. It falls on the docks like a natural disaster, and as it makes landfall, he knows lives have already been lost. His throat tightens at the thought of it. Perhaps hypocritically, one life remains in the forefront of his mind. Mauri, Leo thinks. He takes a tentative step forwards. The tower begins to sway, then, reminding him of more urgent problems.

    "MARGARET!" Leo bellows. The Fiends might be entrusting themselves to the Destroyer, but Leo has other plans.

<Pose Tracker> Gwen Whitlock has posed.

    Gwen closes her eyes, a small smile on her lips.

    ....

    There's a low, rumble, the sorts of sounds that remind Gwen of late nights, being awoken by a stray giant sand worm, her ear next to the ground. It always meant you had to move, and *fast*.

    But she's kinda tired, you know? Let it wait. They'll deal with the sand worm.

    .....

    But they're not on Filgaia.

    There aren't sand worms on Lunar.

    Gwen's eyes open. "WATCH OUT!" she screams, even if she's not sure what they need to watch out for, or where from.

    This isn't a sandworm, that much is clear, as Gwen's tattered clothing becomes damp with rain.

    She turns, and sees what's beyond.

    "That's..."

    She looks to the Lunar natives present, her eyes almost innocent in their powerlessness. "What is that...?"

    Ragnell's reaction says it all.

    There's a loud crack. Lucia tries her best, but her powers were spent as it was in trying to save Hiro earlier.

    'See y'all at the bottom, if you survive.'

    Gwen nods, a small smile on her lips for the departing Seraph ".... It's a promise, Ragnell. Otherwise, I promise to come haunt you instead." She lets out a snort of a laugh, tears beginning to collect in her eyes.

    The tower lurches, sending Gwen flailing for anything she could grab ahold of.

    For better or worse, that anything is none other than White Knight Leo. Gwen's vague malaise in the face of possible death is instantly replaced with an embarrassed blush as she clings onto Leo for dear life. It then falls away panic, as she tries to sight the others, as the tower begins to collapse. "I..."

    

<Pose Tracker> Fei Fong Wong has posed.

Fei exhales faintly and then manages a small smile. "...Looks like the city's safe. For a moment I thought just me being here would make something destroy the city, like it's just my luck you know?" Sure the sea is behaving oddly but he is expecting maybe a weird ruin to show up not...

...not this. How could anybody expect this?

It's the smell that hits Fei first. The smell, feel, and haze of salt water. It's suddenly raining. Did someone do something to put out the fire, he wonders, for a beautiful moment in which he thinks what's about to happen might actually be beneficial, a beautiful hopeful oment.

But then the screams start. They rise up like terrified prayers to meet God. What was it you always said about power, Fei? There's always a bigger fish. And this seems to be the biggest fish of them all.

???

Id sits in the chair, grasping at his head, shaking like a little boy, remembering fear--an emotion he thought he had long since discarded. It's not, of course, that it would be an especially unusual death in of itself, but the style, the very visage of the creature is so massive in of itself that it can't help but inspire fear.

I need Weltall. If I had Weltall. Weltall isn't here. Weltall! WELTALL! COME WELTALL!! I NEED YOU!!!

It's his only hope. Weltall can move faster than anything. It can punch through anything.

FILGAIA, YGGDRASIL

Weltall's lights turn on. It flexes out its arms and starts walking for the hangar door. Franz, eating an ice cream cone, watches it march towards the docking bay and with a flipper pokes the hangar door control and Weltall jumps out and flies away from the Yggdrasil through the use of its boosters.

It makes good distance. Soon the Yggdrasil is out of sight. Soon it shifts forms, machine plates shifting back, transforming as its power output increases more and more, it flies up up up, keeps flying up up up. It's being called. It must make it to its partner. The speed of Weltall 2 can catch up to most crafts on Filgaia...

....but breaking escape velocity? Perhaps, perhaps. But there's one problem. Even as in a panic, Weltall keeps getting called, it only has so much fuel. The fuel monitor rapidly decreasesas Weltall presses up against the atmosphere, like a shooting comet in reverse. It glows hot but much like its master, Filgaia is its prison.

The meter dips. The engines sputter, and Weltall gets one look at Lunar before it tumbles back to Earth, falling falling falling down to the Earth, transforming back to its original state.

HERE

"Weltall...!" Fei says. "Weltall...!!" He shakes his head. "No of course...of course it's not going to make it. I can't believe it... to something as random as this... It's almost funny..."

He closes his eyes for a moment. Once again, somehow, he doomed this town. He doomed it. It's his fault just for being here. He should have known by now, even if it's not something he has anything to do with--it'll find him. It'll make him suffer. That's the eternal punishment for his innocent sin. It will always be like this.

What does he do?

He hears Ruby shouting. He hears Lucia's words. He hears the lighthouse teetering. he feels it. Hiro grabs hold of Ruby.

And Fei...

He looks over the end. It's just earth down there, but he is a decently leveled monk. He has resilience to fall damage.

Ruby crashes against him and that's the insight he needs. He holds Ruby close to his body.

"I'm sorry," He tells her.

And then he holds Ruby close to his body with one arm and starts running down the side of the lighthouse. He leaps off at the last moment. He fully expects the whale to kill them all. He fully expects the whale to kill him. He's not sure if he should have his back facing the creature or his face so the ground doesn't hit Ruby quite so badly.

He aims for the latter. He can always twist in midair. He tumbles backwards, holding Ruby tightly.

"I'm so sorry Ruby. You were right," He says, curling up, holding his mother's cross in his other hand tightly.

I'm sorry, mom.

It hurts and hurts and hurts and it never stops and you never get used to it.

<Pose Tracker> Jean has posed.

Jean steps back with a huff from the fight, seeing layer after layer... fall. The creature explodes, and Jean looks quickly to check on the others--and to stare immediately at Leo and Margaret, ready for what she assumes is an inevitable continuation of the struggle. ...But her instincts, while she's so focused, miss something important--

The noise. The rain that crashes into them, and Jean throws up her arm by instinct--but she turns. She turns, and the wave is here, which allows them to see...

"W-what is it?" Jean asks, eyes widening in shock. The ship is torn apart--and the wave--

Ragnell disappears. Lucia doesn't even know what it is. And as she uses her abilities, Jean trusts her.

"Lucia!" she calls, and cannot think of absolution that isn't for her in the first place. She cannot understand Fei's calling, his cryptic statements. "Ragnell--" She grits her teeth, and watches Gwen clinging to Leo. ...Maybe of any of them, Gwen has the best chance, but--

Already she feels the tower tottering over. Soaked through, slowed down, Jean sees someone not caught, somehow who doesn't have the experience living through falls that Jean does.

"Lemina--!"

She's already shifting out, but she finds footing with extraordinary agility, kicks off of a piece of wall that shatters behind her--

Her nose full of saltwater, Jean ignores the spike of pain and grabs Lemina, holding onto her with both arms and pointing her own back at the exit outside.

...Fully intending to take this fall for herself, heedless of the broken stone and terrible ruin beneath.

<Pose Tracker> Lemina Ausa has posed.

At first, Lemina starts to move toward Hiro and Lucia, seeing the path to escape -- and then that tidal wave hits, and she promptly loses her balance. Hitting the floor hard, she's barely able to do anything -- not even hang on, really, and *certainly* not actually make any meaningful move to protect herself. She starts to tumble --

-- and Jean grabs her, kicking from wall-piece to wall-piece, scooping her prone form up and bolting out of the fall.

When the pair of them land, Lemina breathes a momentary sigh of relief. "... Phew -- I thought I was a goner," she says, sort of -- rolling out of Jean's grasp, once the chaos... doesn't really stop, but, subsides, perhaps. "Thanks, Jean."

There's a bit of an awkward pause as she mumbles, "iguessicouldbuyyouseconddinner"

<Pose Tracker> Margaret has posed.

 
Margaret sparkles fabulously. Her expression is best summarized as :/

"Well," she says, clearing her throat for a moment. "I suppose well done everyone, HOWEVER -" She is about to point the trident accusingly towards Lemina or perhaps Fei, based on the way she's facing (feicing?)

when

crack!

Margaret turns her head. She had started to half suspect some kind of ocean shenanigans, but she was thinking more 'secret heretic escape ship' or potentially some sort of criminal skiff. Instead she sees a creature that, at first, makes no sense to her. Her mind tries to parse it as an island at first? A volcano? Did a volcano make a new island? But it's so big.

Then it moves. The ship rises.

"Ai!! Aii!!" Margaret shrieks, one of those weird elf noises that in this case isn't just 'a slightly quirky vocal register' but is more of a horrifying shriek. Leo shocks her back to awareness.

She looks at him and watches a rock fall...

... slowly...

BOOM! Not an impact; the shock of continuing enough to still be alive. She is shrouded in starlight. She shakes her head once sharply. No fish, she thinks as she begins to run, is going to end me.

I'll live beyond the reach of anything in the sea! Margaret resolves as, in a moment, she comes up to Leo. She bulls into his side, forcing him and probably Gwen into a fireman's carry that makes the back of her entire body scream in agony. She abandons her weapon, thanklfully not an artifact, and as the back of the lighthouse falls she leaps down.

Part of the floor falls before her and with a whipping of the wind that Gwen may associate with an actual steam train, Margaret vaults forwards and crosses the rubble like lily pads beneath the feet of a tiny frog.

A moment later she is in the doorway where Margaret's left leg hoists up for an instant, boots throwing up sparks as she skids, rebalances, and erupts out of the front of the lighthouse. She cannot see the Hounds that were in that group.

Later, the one with Lamplighter meets up with her. The other two...

Well...

You don't get away from something like this unscathed.