2018-11-23: Devastation

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<Pose Tracker> Siegfried has posed.

New Arctica has seen a whirlwind of activity ever since the Drifters from Ignas arrived. The harbor has extra ships inside of it; the tent city has been reinforced by some hastily-built, but more permanent wooden construction; there are now tunnels that lead out, providing a pathway for those who might wish to escape. It is the latter, now, that may be the saving grace of the city. However, it is one of the tunnels that leads into the city that is the scene of violence today.

A guard, trained by Lily Keil and her cohorts, looks up with newly-practiced precision -- only in time for a beam of light to slice through his neck, spraying blood onto the snow. His body collapses to the ground in a heap, as dark shapes emerge from snowbanks and craggy rocks near the cavern: hulking, hound-like Metal Beasts, followed by flashes of light as the Photosphere's teleporters activate.

The one who appears at the head of this strike force is, as ever, Siegfried.

But something about the Quarter Knight is different today. There is a lifeless darkness in his steel eyes; even when they gleam a metallic red, there is no hate, much less life in them. His stern features are cold today. His grip upon Glumzambor is mechanical and uninspired, as he swings it down. The tip of the great blade slams into the ground behind him.

He steps forward, dragging the spear after. It splits snow and rock alike. A few sparks fly, as he starts walking forward. When he speaks to the gathered Metal Demon and Veruni forces, it is a voice of resignation and despondence; it is nearly a monotone.

"Mother has made her will clear," he says. "We destroy this place. Kill every last one of them that remains."

    -=-=-

Inside of the central cavern of New Arctica, where the harbor, the tents, and the buildings are, a cry rings out -- a guardwoman charges in, clad in leathers for the cold and with a gunsmoke rifle strapped over her back. She cups her hands around her mouth, and then shouts: "Metal Demons! Coming in through the main entrance! They--"

She goes down in a blur of steel, as a Metal Beast slams into her back, jaws sinking into her shoulder in a spray of red. More of its wolf-like ilk follow -- darting into the crowd, as the trained guards of New Arctica begin firing into their ranks. A loud bell, onboard one of the ships, begins to sound.

From the darkness, eyes lit red by the lights of the cavern, Siegfried appears. The armored knight walks, at a slow and deliberate pace. He carries Glumzambor behind him, still dragging across the ground.

Its blade is painted red with blood, now.

<Pose Tracker> Riesenlied has posed.

Owing, perhaps, a piece of the puzzle as to the lack of hatred and life within the Quarter Knight Siegfried's eyes is... a much more diminuitive person that follows in after him. This person which is...

    ...is...

    Riesenlied, unmistakably. To any Drifter that has met her before, and especially those that have come rather close... this is no doppelganger or clone of superficial similarity, a crude simulacrum possessed of no particular accuracy.

    This Riesenlied bears a small crown that covers her eyes, laced around her hair. Unmistakably, the crown possesses a design that draws striking similarity to the one Quarter Knight Alhazred wears...

    Her garments are coloured black, a distorted and mocking version of her usual robes of the Fereshte. As if to indicate that something utterly twisted has happened.

    And finally...

    The Original Artificial Medium of Life, which is visibly seated at the base of her neck where her necklet would usually be -- yet fused into her skin, in a manner not unlike that time when Berserk had a Sealing Rod fused onto his skin. It pulsates very gently, flowing with the errant glow of the Ley.

    Several of the guards from New Arctica take notice, one of them grimacing with eyes wide open even as one of their kin fall to Siegfried's blade. They've formed a small half-circle around the fleeing refugees, who are seeking to board the nearest ships, or the closest outcroppings that lead to the caverns outside.

    "What... why are you-- why now?" questions the guardswoman, even as she takes a step back and furrows her brow. "All these times-- with that 'Outreach' of yours-- was it just a lie?!"

    The screams seem to echo and bounce off the form of Riesenlied, who gently... bristles for a moment. A hand comes up towards her Medium.

    "... these people ... why? Why do I feel..."

    She lowers her head for a moment. She trembles, her shoulders shrinking in. A pause.

    "I am still... to be your support, Lord Siegfried. I shall follow your lead and... assist you..."

    The Medium gleams just that little bit brighter... a light tinged with a faint echo of sorrow.


GS: Riesenlied switches forms to Novice Heri--
GS: ... ...
GS: Riesenlied is to switch forms to The Maiden of the Ley...
 
  >>CAUTION!<<
  As a support boss, Riesenlied will be spending some of her actions supporting her other Bosses. Especially Siegfried.
 
  That's just the wish of this daughter...

<Pose Tracker> Elvis has posed.

"Impressive method of transit," comes a voice from behind Siegfried, standing quite tall, and overlooking that which is to be decimated. A small Human settlement, a place where the drifters of the time were surely using to mount their assault. Though it seems they have taken too long. A shame.

And while Elvis has no intent to kill, unlike his Veruni compatriot, The job was clear. This place is to not exist by tomorrow. The Professor will spend his time destroying structures and buildings, for that is his forte, commanding the elements of water and earth masterfully. To have a punch that can level buildings.

Perhaps those he comes across will flee accordingly, lest they have the same end as the buildings they hid in when confronted by the beasts. Returned to Filgaia in pieces.

Riesenlied in particular has a large amount of his attention, as she had in preparation. He knows she was against all this. And yet now is serving unfailingly. This is either a clone or something more devious done to her. The latter holds more weight, if not for the fact of the Life Medium embedded in her. "You seemed to have changed your mind on matters," comments the Sentinel, as he leaps down from his arrival location, beginning to feel out the balances held within the elements of impact nearby. "Suppose it is none of my business though."

THAT IS A LIE. It really is his business! He has spent hours of research into her affliction, and now with this change, what, it is wasted potential?!

But causing a ruckus here and now could get him and Persephone killed.

It would have to wait.

And so, Elvis, with a rather grim look on his face, begins to topple any structure he can find. Let the hounds and wartorn kind do their dirty work.

<Pose Tracker> Persephone has posed.

The metal beasts assault should elicit a greater response. Either having arrived earlier, or simply before the rest by a few minutes, a sentinel that excels in breaking the veneer of safety has made their handiwork known indirectly. A few guards on standby never hear the call of 'Metal Demons!'.

Deaf ears hear little, to those silent corpses.

the less buzzing insects, the less howling mongrels, no matter the comparison, it was a necessary act of the job. With careful steps, that avoid the pools of blood, the Sentinel walked... away from the base as Siegfried rushed forwards. The same as with their additional ally. "I think you have this under control. It should be enough." Persephone so declares as she lets the other Metal Demons and such charge forwards.

With such disinterest, Persephone sits against one of the craggy rocks and leans back like in a throne, to overview the assault from the other beasts and Metal Demons. How friendly they had seemed last time, except with each other. She is not one to forget, and the remaining correlation is not all that unlikely, either. One leg slides over the other as she, pink and purple framed, watches the violence on the settlement.

She's waiting for a few reasons. None of them that she would share. Out of all the Sentinels, Persephone is the least outspoken of them all. Elvis goes about like a giant orilla, Persephone is ... actually not immediately murdering each and every human she had seen. She had removed a hand full of key parts.

<Pose Tracker> Lady Harken has posed.

A pair of crimson eyes stare balefully ahead from the long shadows cast by a pillar. Remaining in the shadows suits Harken just fine, before the carnage starts. Something is drastically amiss. There's no anticipation of the purity of the fight to come in that gaze, there are no tensed muscles coiled and ready to strike beneath the veil of that cloaking device.

     There's just the tired glower of a soldier who has lost their way.

Glumzambor's first strike stirs the Quarter Knight to action. She melds out of the inky blackness with a loping, fluid grace to her movements that even a heavy heart cannot still. The pincer movement is as effective as it is quick: the guards of New Arctica can scarcely raise their voices before scythe and spear rend them apart. But there is no bloodbath, there is no victorious cackling or taunting. Just two Quarter Knights moving in tandem as they often have, two parts of a greater whole.

Siegfried bids the place be destroyed, and everyone in it be put to the sword. Harken barely budges at this commmand, glancing aside at the lord and commander of the Metal Demons. One of the very few people she respects anymore. "I'll advance separate to you. We'll reconvene when the stragglers have been destroyed." but by the time she finishes saying this, her gaze is clearly somewhere else: the crown-wearing woman in white robes with the gold mask following Siegfried.

Her teeth clench visibly.

"He will pay." is all Harken says of -this- particular matter before disappearing into a breeze of shadowy motes.

When next Harken reappears, it is at the flank of the Veruni assault. She doesn't trust herself to spend too much time with Siegfried before her increasingly free-spirited tongue says something treasonous. Yep, that's why Harken appears out of thin air next to Elvis with a sour look on her face. The Metal Beasts, even, know better than to brush against the angry lady with the glowing scythe today. "There's no joy in this." she mutters darkly to him as she punches a nearby arrow slit in a tower hard enough for the entire wall to collapse inwards.

That's probably a cordial greeting, if the rumours about her are true.

<Pose Tracker> Kalve has posed.

Kalve arrives, presaged by a flash of light like all the rest.

He's shed the pretense of humanity. Seven feet if he's an inch, Kalve steps away from the point of arrival on only dimly humanoid legs covered in angular, articulated carapace like an insect's armor. Broad shoulders are wrapped in a cloak like grey mist turned solid, shrouding his body, with his black-gauntleted hands exposed and pressed together in front of him as if in prayer. His face is uniform grey, a metallic mask with a third eye etched in red at his brow, the crimson lines cutting across the whites of his eyes and with an angular slice towards his jaw.

"As you say, Lord Siegfried," Kalve murmurs. "Mother commands it. It will be done."

He starts into the tent-city at a walk, seperating from the others. He spares a glance at Harken, twitching his head in a note of subtle acknowledgement, perhaps at what she said. He does not look at what has become of Riesenlied, focusing on what's in front of him rather than what has become of her behind him. She will keep Siegfried standing, he's sure. He needn't concern himself with her condition here and now.

Two more arms slide free of the voluminous cloth, gleaming chrome and unnaturally skeletal. Blades manifest in their grip, rendered in something like yellow glass. A yellow-white glow shines between his folded hands in front of him, and he begins to stalk the twisting paths in search of prey.

Duty, then, today. Honor...

DC: Riesenlied switches forms to Novice Heritor of the Fereshte!
DC: Lady Harken switches forms to Quarter Knight - Lady Harken!
<Pose Tracker> Tethelle Cirdian has posed.

Tethelle has been on-again off-again staying at New Arctica, because it's a reasonable place (in fact, one of the only places) to use as a base of operations in between expeditions out into the wilderness. She doesn't ask for much - a corner where she can pitch her bedroll is honestly most of it, and while New Arctica doesn't have a lot, it does have space for her, especially if she's willing to do some work while she's here. And she is.

But Tethelle is actually asleep when the alarm comes. Even her endurance isn't endless. She is sort of waking up when the first call comes, wide awake and moving when the bells start to ring.

Several seconds later, Tethelle explodes out of a pitched tent along the edges of the cavern. She is technically half-dressed; she got her shirt and shorts on, along with her gloves and gauntlet, but not the decorative half-skirt, shoulder or knee guards. She has to stomp her feet down to finish forcing her boots on during the first couple steps of her movement.

What Tethelle does have, perfectly ready, is her Arctican-styled greatsword: heavy, plain, and utilitarian.

Tethelle barely has time to take in the battlefield before she's joining in, coming in toward the flank of the assault. She comes in with a sweeping blow against a Metal Beast hard enough to launch it, then switches to a long thrust into another. Metal Demons, she thinks, and their allies again. Damn!

Tethelle focuses her sights on the closest of the Metal Demons - Harken, just as she punches a wall. Tethelle whistles, sharply, to draw her attention, before throwing her *entire sword* at her in a spinning arc. It approaches, cutting like a saw, ricochets awkwardly off the debris and rebounds back toward Tethelle; she has to spring about ten feet to actually retrieve it, but her aim isn't that bad, really. "Hey! Over here!"

Better her than the Arcticans, Tethelle figures.

GS: Tethelle Cirdian has attacked Lady Harken with Sword Boomerang!
GS: Tethelle Cirdian has completed her action.
GS: Lady Harken has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Tethelle Cirdian has lost 1 Combo!
DC: MISS! Lady Harken completely evades Sword Boomerang from Tethelle Cirdian!
<Pose Tracker> Ida Everstead-Rey has posed.

    EARLIER

    Ida made a promise to Hazel Raye--a promise to return to New Arctica with their ancestor's mysterious legacy. She kept the promise. The Endeavour made it into port less than an hour ago, its hold full of emergency medical supplies. Ida, of course, brought the box she retrieved from Luisa's tomb.

    FIVE MINUTES AGO

    Hazel Raye is a grizzled veteran, but the look on her scarred face is one of awe. She holds up a scroll, reading it by the light of a nearby torch sconce; Ida stands next to her, face shadowed by the hood of her heavy wool cloak. Her left arm hangs at her side, but her right arm is merely a vague suggestion, perhaps bound across her chest. She explained to Hazel, earlier, that she was injured.

    "This is a complete manual," Hazel says. Ida already knew, but the confirmation is good. It makes it feel like all this was almost worth it. "Not just the style--the martial lineage, historical records--"

    Noise filters in from elsewhere in the cavern. Scraping metal, panicked voices. One of them cuts through the rest.

    'Metal Demons! Coming through the front entrance!'

    Ida's blood runs cold. Hazel rolls up the precious scroll, sets it back in its box, and hands it back to her. Ida's numb left hand closes around the stone. How many are dead?, she thinks. How many will die before this is over? Wasn't it enough that they--

    A gauntleted hand closes around Ida's left shoulder. "The tunnels," Hazel says. "Now." Shaken out of her reverie, Ida nods. Her jaw still trembles.

    NOW

    Sorcerous lightning rips into the Metal Beasts from the crumbling Arctican flank. Two women charge out from between the panicked soldiers--Hazel is in the lead, the bracer of her right gauntlet glowing with the three crests of Wing. Ida follows closely behind, her right arm still a vague suggestion beneath her cloak. It's bound tightly against her chest. Is it broken?

    "Tripwires! Go! Go! Go!" Hazel raises her hand and whispers another incantation. Ida grabs a blade from a fallen Arctican defender, and brings it down across something set into the floor.

    The tripwire breaks with an audible twang. Moments later, the rumble of falling rock--delicately set into place by one Elly van Houten--echoes down the tunnel, just ahead of one of the enemy's flanks. A cave-in?!

    Ida's eyes are wide as saucers. Her face is pale. Even with Hazel guarding her, she feels like she has a target painted on her back. Why is she even here?

    She glances back, at the fleeing Arctican civilians. She sets her jaw.

<Pose Tracker> Noeline has posed.

    The Fereshte and the settlement of New Arctica have managed to maintain something of a truce. As might be expected, it's been difficult in places - the crew of the airship being what they are, Noeline can well understand the anger of the townsfolk, and trying to explain the subtleties between Tainted and Metal Demon would be crass in the face of a shattered city. On the other hand, there's no hiding that the Arcticans need supplies, that the Outreach are offering, and that many of the Arctican survivors just... don't have the fight in them to argue any further.

    That last part is suddenly, abruptly, a problem. The Outreach scouts have already told her everything she needs to know - that not content with just ripping Riesenlied away from her, the Metal Demons have also come to take away her home for the second time. A rag-tag band of soldiers probably isn't going to cut it. She's not sure that, here on Elru with the Photosphere in reach, the Outreach are going to cut it. And besides, she still doesn't consider herself to be an inspirational leader, too focused on information and facts than empathy.

    But she made a promise.
    Even if the world turns against them.
    Even if Riesenlied is turned against them, part of her whispers in fear.

    "--those who cannot or do not wish to fight, get to the ship with as much as you can carry! The spirit of Arctica is carried in its people, and we will not see it snuffed out!" she yells over the din of motion and panic as the town prepares in the best way it can, as members of the Outreach filter into the city with makeshift barricades and stretchers and the calm hurry of those who've gone through this before. Noeline doesn't know where she's going with her speech, but she knows that the those that had survived need something. "We will ensure your safety and return you here as soon as we are able!"

    "And those of you who can still fight--" she catches herself, and slowly sets her jaw. When she lived there centuries ago, Arctican pride had felt very much like Photosphere pride - but she's older, now, and a lot wiser. "Those of you who can still fight, forget everything I just said," she amends, with a humourless grin and the first edges of anger in her voice. "I loved Arctica. I loved every moment I lived there. I considered it my home. And I watched it burn, telling myself that there was nothing I could have done to stop it. I carry that regret every single day."

    "So I will stand and fight, as long as I am able, to protect this place! And I don't give a damn who or what stands and fights with me - but if you have any pride left, then show them what it means to be Arctican! Show them that you will make them fight for every inch!"

    * * *

    That was then. This is now.

    True to her word, Noeline stands at the forefront of the defenders, silent fury rolling off of her in barely suppressed waves. Her sword is already in her hands, the six-foot slab of white metal thrust down into the ground as if to declare that this is a line the Metal Demon army will not cross. The spark of her Medium is already lit, a faint corona building around her as she prepares to tap into its power.

    The unfamiliar weight of the Dragon's Tear hangs around her neck, settled against her skin. It glints slightly as if picking up on Noeline's uncertainty and fear, revealing her bravado for what it is. But at least it is not empty bravado, and she holds her position in stony silence as their enemies approach, the grip on her hilt of her sword so tight it turns her knuckles white. She heaves it up into the air with ease, doing her best to command attention. "--ready!--"

    The world shrinks to a pinpoint when she catches sight of the figure that floats almost placidly at Siegfried's side. Noeline could pick Riesenlied out of a crowd on any given day, but the mockery of the Fereshte robes that she's wearing only makes the situation that much clearer - whatever has happened, however Alhazred has managed it, her partner now sides with the Metal Demons.

    She'd been expecting the worst, but expecting it is always a very different thing to experiencing it. That recognition is like ice in her veins as she watches the poor guard fall, and for a moment her arms shake with anger and fear. Can Metal Demons hyperventilate, wonders that detached part of her mind - because it feels like she's doing a damn good impression of it right now. Carefully, as if she might break just from voicing it, she whispers into her headset, letting the rest of the Outreach know: "I'm going after Riese."

    The world comes rushing back, and with a sharp exhalation of breath Noeline takes off at a dead run. "--forwards!" she calls to those behind her, and then sets her expression straight ahead, her lips thinned into a tight, tight line. She made a promise. And--

GS: Noeline has attacked Noeline with Even Without You...!
GS: Noeline has gained 2 Combo!
GS: Noeline has completed her action.
GS: Noeline takes a solid hit from Noeline's Even Without You... for 0 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Noeline has posed.

    "... I will keep going. I will get you back," she whispers to herself in the tiny moments before battle is joined. "I love you." And then, at the top of her lungs: "--RIESE!"

<Pose Tracker> Lydia Seren has posed.

Ever since Riesenlied's capture, Lydia knew New Arctica's safety was far more precarious than it had been before, but it was tough. It was real tough caring about the war, caring about much of anything while Riesenlied was taken from her. Taken from her family. She recalls her promise to Kalve to give Mother a chance to explain herself--but it's hard to imagine something like this happening without Mother's blessing. Maybe she was a fool for offering a chance to let the past remain in the past, but Lydia doesn't regret the choice.

She doesn't regret much of anything. All she regrets is that she couldn't jump a little higher on the day that already feels like an eternity ago.

She is with Noeline, knowing that in this moment she needs her support even if she wouldn't ask for it.

Lydia does not interrupt Noeline's rallying speech, even allowing a small smile as Noeline talks about her own regrets, but she has her own words to share.

"The people before us aren't content to talk about peace. Mother's hopes for Filgaia are made clear by the actions of her adherants. They have sacrificed everything not to make a home for themselves but to satisfy their bloodlust. They come here having made their choices, and so we must make our own! I will not talk to you about being Arctican, or about sacrifices. I have seen your tombs. I have seen the desolation that has taken your home. But I am not about to let those sacrifices be in vain! Will we let them smash our idols? No! Will we let them take any more of our family away? No!! Instead we will take it back! Starting...TODAY! Not for revenge, not for the Guardians, but for our parents! For our children! And for our future! Our world may be fragile, but our wills are strong!"

She's getting better at this shit.

Now Lydia watches ahead for what she knows is to be coming. She knows how Alhazred works. To Noeline, Lydia says, "I will not let them make mom throw away everything she sacrificed for away.

Her eyes narrow when she sees Siegfried amongst the Hyadean forces. Perhaps some part of her hoped that he would have, at least, cared enough about Riesenlied to not let her become thrall to Alhazred's will but lo and behold--he even marches with her.

Her teeth grit and show fangs as she sees Riesenlied as well amongst the crowd, readily picking her out. She dashes forward at high-speeds--but not so fast that she moves past Noeline. Indeed, she actually doesn't rush directly for Riesenlied, eyes looking towards that mask of her as she rushes past and throws a slew of magical glowing stars towards Siegfried's helmet. She is a difficult to destroy, she knows this even as much as she hates pain, but best that she receive the blows that others cannot.

"You know," She says to him with narrowed eyes. "Despite everything I was taught in Baskar school, I thought you were better than this. I thought you wanted to save your people, like I wanted to save mine. But I guess you just want slaves to kill for you. It's dissapointin'"

She holds the Silver Medium tightly in her hand.

"Or is it just convenient to look away? But hey, you do you... We'll save your people. And We'll save your daughter too!"

GS: Lydia Seren has attacked Siegfried with Interstellar Vibe!
GS: Lydia Seren has completed her action.
<Pose Tracker> Seraph Lanval has posed.

    Lanval's had a difficult time fully adjusting to the circumstances plaguing this part of Filgaia. (It's plaguing ALL of Filgaia but it's even worse here.) The portly phantom hasn't been able to drink as much as he usually does. An attempt in which to try and work through a completely foreign faith in which to bring ease to a weary mind, uh, didn't quite work. (There will be a cutscene on that later.)
     For the most part he's coasted along on scouting missions with Fox Company in search of the Photosphere, in which he has excitedly delivered so many false positives. It's about to be another quiet, sullen, bleak passage of a day on the Blue Star, when Metal Beasts appear out of nowhere and cause untold mayhem while he's busy snoozing against an empty barrel.
     He has a hard time waking up. The spike of specific energies and signals of a spiritual nature that's common to Lunar simply isn't, here. A wounded guardswoman falls to the ground before him. He gets a little more pep in his step - a little - as he holds out an arm to the chanting of a restorative Seraphic Arte.
     It's much too late, as a canine Metal Beast severs that life.
     He staggers into the caverns being painted red. No one shouts out to him, nor reaches out to him for help. Almost no one outside of the Drifter circles really knows he's even there. It's a morbid picture as much as it is a lonely one, watching a divine drunk try to stride across a cavern of mounting tragedy. He catches sight of something familiar from when he got sent to the Blue Star - someone who looked important/commander-y at a distance.
     Siegfried.
     "Hey." Lanval speaks up as he plops down in front of the intimidating spear-wielder. There is a pause. He remembers, vaguely, seeing this shape in the reflection of Ida's magnified fears from that damnable mirror at Mount Manfred. Even when the phantoms within were magnified to prey upon the greatest fears and worries, they don't give justice to what he's seeing before him.
     Lanval exhales loudly, meditatively. He feels no strength from those who used to believe in a Lanval watching over them, all the way back on Lunar. Much like the growing number of victims here, he could maybe even be swept aside and forgotten as one of the fallen. There's something about the manner of Siegfried that suggests he will not be paid much heed, but... nonetheless...
     "My name'sh Lanval," the Water Seraph speaks at last, as he finds the courage to speak. "New Arctica," and these following words probably ring hollow most of all for what is presently going on, but nonetheless spoken with conviction after another beat, "it'sh under my protection."
     No one enshrined him. That is a flight of fancy, in Seraphim terms. He sits tranquilly, as though an attempt to project presence against one who has lived longer than he. He can only draw upon his own experience, the select few times a stronger Hellion even thought about trying to cause trouble where he reigned - where he once was stationed to keep any Malevolence from clumping upon itself.
     Siegfried is not a Hellion. The rules of Lunar and its spiritual ecosystem do not apply. This is folly. This is desperation.
     "'m gonna ashk ya," Lanval settles on 'ashk,' er, 'ask,' and not 'plead,' "ta be on yer way... leave New Arctica in peace." He has himself a sip of his gourd, in which his posture is slightly deceptive. He tilts it as though he were committing to drinking more of it than he intends, as one eye opens half-lidded to better watch how Siegfried moves.
     He's not used to having to directly watch the motions of corporeal bodies.
     It's terrifying.

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

Arctica has suffered a bit... too much, hasn't it? Its world was turned upside down too many times-- it's a miracle that there are even people left to cling to the old name and the old flag. But then, living in this cold, blasted place makes the spirit strong. So maybe, just maybe, they'd survive this, too.

No.

They have to.

The Metal Demons are coming in through the main entrance, as unstoppable as they were the first time they reduced Arctica to so much rubble.

The Metal Demons are coming.

But not all of them are as interested in this slaughter as their leader.

A black haze surges up the advancing line like a bolt of ebon lightning. Where it crosses, metal beasts fall in gushing spouts of quicksilver blood, their throats cut clean open. One by one by one, as if leapfrogging from one kill to the next, it charges down the center column. Its target is at the head.

"SIEGFRIIIIIIIIED!" Zed roars, twisting in mid-leap to scythe into the azure knight's path, his blade hewing at his former commander's midsection. Zed backflips, rolling back to a skidding stop in front of the Arctican line. His gaze flickers from knight to the floating figure behind him, his lips drawing back into a fierce snarl. "What did you do!? This... Is mind control what we've stooped to, now!?"

GS: Zed has attacked Siegfried with Dark Horse - Supreme Tornado!
GS: Zed has completed his action.
<Pose Tracker> Elhaym van Houten has posed.

Elly van Houten had been resting. She has it coming. She probably needs it. After all, she just had to help Ida get back from - from what she was doing. She was wrapped up in a fur and napping near the fire when the chaos began.

Elly woke quickly, and moved faster. The benefit of not napping in bed. There is one other benefit: the doubts, the hesitation, the self-recrimination that hooks into her so often was in abeyance, as it often is in sleep. The first thing that she has come to her in that moment of full wakefulness, the point where this becomes clearly 'reality' instead of a dark nightmare, is when that guardswoman speaks towards -

Towards -

Elly's eyes widen as she sees her.

"Lily," Elly says faintly, "I'm not accepting this."

Elly looks at her comrade, the woman who should despise her but has come to feel quite otherwise. "I need your help. Please--"

-=-=-=-

What was their scheme?

Something goes 'fshhh' and then 'thoom' but it is not artillery. The Artificial Medium of Life gleams in the darkness, touched by sorrow.

And then there is a streak of pink.

Pink because the top is read and the back is a sort of off-white, the Kislevi colors - because it's Elly in her coat of battle. And she is coming towards Riesenlied as if propelled by a bursting explosion, like some sort of human cannonball.

(Behind her, a simple ice construct falls apart, already rapidly melting. It was burst asunder by the Fire Ether used to superheat a unit of water encased in ice of different thicknesses...)

A gale-force wind howls down the cavern, catching up Elly as she tumbles and letting her land with some grace. As she does, she lowers her rod from another world, which...

She had swung to strike Riesenlied with, upside the head, as she flew past!

"... Don't resist the enchantment," Elly says to her, eyes lowered.

Fei, she thinks. I'm sorry, if this works like I think it will. Ida, Lily, everyone...

Elly sucks in a deep breath and raises her eyes. The Lunar Rod is brandished as she says loudly, "Is this how you wanted it to end, Siegfried?! What did you do to my friend!"

There is a sudden lurching FWASH of flame around Elly, mostly for dramatic effect, as the collapsing Wind ether behind her hits a raising Fire-sort of weavery. It's certainly dramatic. And perhaps it will mean people don't look at their front for key moments.

Her free hand raised up in a fist, Elly says, "I won't let you make another massacre! If this is what you insist on - then this is where it's going to end!"

GS: Elhaym van Houten has attacked Riesenlied with Please... I'm serious.!
GS: Elhaym van Houten has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Elhaym van Houten has entered a Reflect stance!
GS: Elhaym van Houten has completed her action.
GS: Riesenlied guards a hit from Elhaym van Houten's Please... I'm serious. for 75 hit points!
GS: Ida Everstead-Rey has attacked Lady Harken with Combat Engineering!
GS: Ida Everstead-Rey has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Ida Everstead-Rey has completed her action.
<Pose Tracker> Tesni Inoue has posed.

In the end, she was just as foreign to this world as the Metal Demons were? She wondered how much misery over the ages did falling Federations ships bring to this world? How many things have fallen from the heavens to bring ruin to this word? She had to do something, she would again fight, after all, what else can she do? If there was one thing her people were good at? It was fighting in the end.

 She had the Dead Man's ARM in hand, had made sure she had a pile of ammo and she could only wait.

 Then the demons come, the battle is on and it's time to fight.

 People are dying already and the elites of the Metal Demons are showing up along with the beasts. As Klave stalks he would find a woman standing there with a long ARM of some sort staring him down as he stalks the camp the weapon is levelled she pulls the level and opens fire on him before she starts to move. Tess fires again and again and starts to move to keep up a rate of fire on the Metal Demons well aware their elites can live through anti-gear rounds such as the time she fought Lady Harken.

 "You want some prey?! You have some right here!"

 In the end what was the difference? She would fight and perhaps die for this world that was not her own. If she can only keep this elite off the rest of her allies.

GS: Tesni Inoue has attacked Kalve with Rapid Fire!
GS: Tesni Inoue has completed her action.
GS: Siegfried guards a hit from Lydia Seren's Interstellar Vibe for 65 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Xantia has posed.

Xantia was with her fellow Black Wolves when the attack went down. She didn't stay with them for very long. Not because of any conscious choice to head in a particular direction. She just saw a Metal Beast attacking someone, ran straight at it, and punched it. Then she saw another Metal Beast attack someone, ran straight at it, and punched it. This scenario continued for a while, pushing back or disabling single opponents who'd breached the defenses, until reaching a very shaky defense line consisting of only a handful of people, struggling to hold back the invading horde.

As usual, Xantia didn't pause to take stock of the situation before acting. She has no plans, and no idea where anyone else is. She just saw people in danger, and reflexes took over from there. Even if she were thinking about it, it would seem like the best course of action in a chaotic situation like this. Don't think, just punch anything that looks remotely threatening.

Still, that doesn't mean she has no mind for tactics at all. When she reaches the group of defenders, she yells, "I'll take over here! Get back!" Suggesting you take on all the oncoming bad guys by yourself is sort of a tactic, right? Probably a bad one if all she could do was punch things normally, but this is where she switches to launching shockwaves with every blow, sending Metal Beasts flying back in the opposite direction. Nobody's getting through while she's here!

Or so she thought. Flanked by buildings as she was, there wasn't a very large gap for her to defend. Then suddenly one of those buildings isn't there anymore, leveled by a punch that didn't come from her. This obviously draws her attention immediately. A single remaining Metal Beast from the last wave takes advantage, lunging for Xantia with bared metal fangs... and is intercepted by Xantia's hand catching it by the throat, while she wasn't even looking at it. Her eyes are now focused on the silhouette of Elvis, obscured by the dust left in the wake of the building's collapse. It reminds her of someone. "...Grandpa...?"

When the dust settles, it turns out to be someone else entirely, causing her to narrow her eyes. She flings the Metal Beast far, far away, a feat that doesn't seem to cause her to break a sweat, as she questions Elvis, "You don't look like a Metal Demon. Who are you?" She doesn't attack immediately, but she looks quite ready for a fight if she doesn't like the answer.

GS: Siegfried guards a hit from Zed's Dark Horse - Supreme Tornado for 66 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Mihaya has posed.

 Ever since coming to Filgaia, Mihaya has been doing her best to help other people. First of all, because she figures it is the right thing to do - being sent to another world is strange, but she knows that there is going to be a way back eventually. And she fully means to convince as many people as she can to come back to Spira with her and find a way to combat the horrible calamity that is Sin.

 Given how large a favor she would be asking, there's little she can do here to make up for it. So she just has to show that she - and by extension the people back in Spira - are worth helping!

 So when the alarm goes up that the Metal Demons are coming, Mihaya grabs her staff and immediately rushes to the defense of the city. New Arctica is refuge to quite a number of people who have both come to stop the Demons, as well as those who are fleeing to the first safe harbor they have seen in quite a while.

 As the elf runs into the main area, she sees a considerable amount of carnage being wrought in the main cavern. That's enough to make her clench her staff in both hands for a moment, her eyes locked on the Metal Demons who are hurling themselves at innocent civilians.

 "Everyone who is not able to fight needs to move towards the harbor!" she shouts, gesturing with her staff and ushering a young woman away from the site of the battle. The appareance of... some other force besides the Metal Demons is unusual, and Mihaya has no idea who they are, never having been told about the Veruni or anyone related to them. Instead, she can just aim to support her allies as best she can.

 Seeing Tethelle hurl her sword at a graceful and dangerous looking Metal Demon, Mihaya raises her staff into the air. The wire wrapped crystal on the top flashes red for a moment, and she adds her own assault to the mix by unleashing a bolt of flame that zips through the air to slam into the Quarter Knight's chest. "We need to draw their attention and let people get away from the fighting!" she calls out. There's... not much else to be said, really.

GS: Mihaya has attacked Lady Harken with Fire Bolt!
GS: Mihaya has completed her action.
GS: Lady Harken has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Ida Everstead-Rey has lost 1 Combo!
DC: MISS! Lady Harken completely evades Combat Engineering from Ida Everstead-Rey!
GS: Lady Harken critically Guards a hit from Mihaya's Fire Bolt for 17 hit points!
GS: Lady Harken has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Mihaya has lost 1 Combo!
<Pose Tracker> Chime Isa has posed.

    Making her way from the docks to the tents was a short, cheerful happy elf. Or more accurate, the ARMs Meister was moving to the group of forges set off a slight bit from the more flammable tents. Or was.

    Chime can't see the entrance of the Harbor itself, but see can see the results of the initial attack and the hear the ringing alarms. The elf squints, and then breaks into a nimble run beelining towards the closest tents near the entrance, clambering up a short five foot rock to spot Tesni calling out a Metal Demon.

    "Ooo~ That's the spirit! Through don't be prey, be a predator~" the happy go-lucky elf calls out cheerful at Tensi, smiling far to cheerfully and happfully given the situtation. "After all~ we can win~" She adds ontop of that in a voice of extreme confidence and cheer.

GS: Chime Isa has attacked Tesni Inoue with Keep it up!!
GS: Chime Isa has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Chime Isa has completed her action.
<Pose Tracker> Ashton Anchors has posed.

Have dragons, will travel. The weeks since arriving on Elru, he's been moving back and forth a lot. The travel has been mostly between Fereshte and New Arctica - but it's been a lot of time on the road. The cold, cold road.

Today, he's returned to Arctica in style. While not one of the Outreach crew, Ashton's thrown his lot among the Tainted for the moment. Perhaps out of a kinship for those with a monstrous look, or perhaps because of a soft spot for those in trouble. Either way, it's where he's chosen to be in this moment.

And that means when Noeline says her words? She isn't alone. Not that the sorcerous swordsman needs much of a reason to step out in defense and do battle against monsters.

And they come.

He has no need for speeches right now - just the whistling song of twin swords in the chill wind. A promise was made to help the Outreach regain Riesenlied. So Ashton follows Noeline's lead - he doesn't step forward to strike. But he's been in fights before. He knows the blow is coming - so the Symbologic tattoos under his robe start to glow with power.

<Pose Tracker> Josephine Lovelace has posed.

    JUST MOMENTS AGO

    Even plugging the door with a scarf hasn't kept the chill out entirely. This far north is freezing. In the end Josie had moved her makeshift workshop onshore, had taken the incomplete ARM north to the settlement of New Arctica to finish the job. She stands now, staring down at it, fiddling with the power source she holds in her hand.
    There's no way around the fact that the ARM had been build to 'eat' a good deal of power incoming from Gryndille's core. Unless Josie wants to try to wire this thing to a Gear or a landtank, even the power core Lily provided her is only going to allow for a limited runtime.

    But beggars can't be choosers, particularly when it's a portable cannon on the line. It just means that the archaeologist will have to use a little prudence for once in her life.

    The project otherwise is just about complete. Squatting alongside it, Josie reaches in to readjust the lenses, squinting through the sight. The real proof will be in the pudding one she takes it out for testing soon.
    Repurposing and rebuilding -- to allow a normal person to use it, that is -- takes time, when your project in question is an ancient ARM. Even if you've had help from, quite possibly, almost all of the premier ARMs Meisters (etc) across Ignas you could reach.
    (Particularly Shalune, who is just about a damn genius when it comes to intuiting the workings of these machines as far as Josie's concerned).

    It's been a long, long road, but the cannon, redubbed 'Nostos', is almost com--

    A dull roar echoes out, followed by a vibration that -- and Josie has become a good, old hand at placing this sort of sound now -- was probably the collapse of a guard tower. When she cocks her head, she can hear shouting. Screaming. Still a ways off, but not too far.
    Another bass boom rolls across, rattling the house she's taken up residence in. Standing from her crouch Josie reaches out and grabs for a nearby nearly-empty bottle and finishes it off. It's set down roughly on the table, which also rattles, knocking it over to roll onto the floor with a clatter.

    "...Damn. Guess field testing comes early, huh," she remarks to the ceiling as dust comes cascading in. Rolling her shoulders with a grimace, she approaches the cannon.

    A LITTLE AFTER THAT

    Even though she'd made sure that 'lightening the load' was among the plans for the ARM, it's still a back-breaking load to haul up and out through the tunnels.

    Against the tide of people fleeing in the opposite direction.
    In the nearer distance she can hear Noeline shouting commands, directing those who aren't staying to fight to flee. Josie pauses a moment in the tunnel, back bent under her burden.
    Heh. Could flee. But I don't feel like it.
    And soldiers on.

    Finding the one spot that has a good, clean view up through the tunnels towards the city entrance, she slings the cannon down, swinging out the stand.
    And slots in the power core.
    The cannon hums pleasantly.

    Josie, in the meanwhile, draws her sidearm from its holster under her jacket and takes a shot at a pair of Metal Demon soldiers.
    "You'll thank me in a moment," she comments dryly. The cannon continues to draw power.

GS: Josephine Lovelace has attacked Lady Harken with Pardon The Mess!
GS: Josephine Lovelace has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Josephine Lovelace has completed her action.
GS: Ashton Anchors has attacked Riesenlied with Crescendo Stance!
GS: Ashton Anchors has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Ashton Anchors has completed his action.
GS: Riesenlied guards a hit from Ashton Anchors's Crescendo Stance for 0 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Arleph Ardan has posed.

      In the far corner of Arleph's academic mind, he is eager. In one way, this might confirm one of his theories that he's had about the Metal Demons very soon. The absolute rest of his mind, however, is pretty damn anxious. They ARE doing this. They ARE going after the Metal Demon's stronghold in a desperate scramble and they are meeting straight into their frontlines. A quick scan gives him no comforting news. Riese is there. She... clearly don't seem to be there of her own will, thanks to the Strange Things latched on her. The great Generals are also here, the 'Quarter Knights'. It's at times like this where you are acutely reminded of your own mortality.

      one person do get his focus more than some others. Kalve's demonstration catches his eyes. In fact, it's something of a miracle that he can recognise the person at all. being in a terrible biomechanical monster form would do that to you. He gives Tesni a look. He meant to talk more with her, considering they came to this planet on the same accident, but in the end... well, thigns are things that happens.

      Arleph tightens his coat, the invisible shield around him briefly indenting out a few glowing hexagons as he advances. They went hard on.

      "I am going to assume," Arleph says, lowering his arms at his side, fingers lax, spread out after he tightened his white, symbol-covered gloves. "That talking is out of the question at this juncture. I'll try anyway. This wont end for you or us, even if you succeed."

      With a flash, the Symbologist snaps his left arm up, swinging it into an horizontal motion in the direction of Kalve, a blinding, scathing slash of freezing ice shooting out of his swing.

GS: Arleph Ardan has attacked Kalve with Azote Flash!
GS: Arleph Ardan has gained 2 Combo!
GS: Arleph Ardan has completed his action.
GS: Tesni Inoue takes a solid hit from Chime Isa's Keep it up! for 0 hit points!
GS: Reload! Tesni Inoue gains 15 extra FP from Chime Isa!
<Pose Tracker> Layna Manydays has posed.

From the red ship in the harbor, Layna stares out at the encroaching forces with a grim look on her face.

They're coming.

She knew this day would come eventually - that was part of why she'd focused on providing as much support as she could. But now, they were here - and it was time for her to make her move. Layna collapses her telescope and whirls to face her crew with a dramatic gesture.

"Alright, me buckos, listen up! They think they can just waltz in here and tear everything apart as they please? Well, I say scupper that! I say, we give 'em a taste of the hell we're going to give their Mother!" Layna shouts. A cheer roars up from her crew.

"Sorcery Squad One - focus on protecting the Empress! I want a barrier - the strongest you can put up, aye!? Squad Two, you're on supporting fire! Take down as many of those Metal Beasts as you can!" Layna commands. There's a group of salutes from the magic-using types.

"The rest of you, I want you to separate and evacuate as many non-combatants as you can! Bring 'em back to the Empress. If things get rough...then leave without me!" And that just leaves...

Layna glances to the side, looking toward her Quartermaster and Lead Artillerist.

"Dahlia, Victoria, you're with me - we're gonna take the fight straight to them." She says, a wide, violent grin crossing her face. The two nod. Dahlia - a stern-faced woman on the shorter side - shoulders an axe, while Victoria returns Layna's grin with one of her own.

"Okay! Give 'em hell, me hearties - and come back alive, you hear me?" Layna says. With a rallying roar of 'Aye aye, Cap'n!' the crew gets to their respective jobs, with Layna, Dahlia, and Victoria descending the gangplank first. They charge off into the battlefield, weapons at the ready.

Layna, Victoria, and Dahlia, however, do not join the main battlefield.

Persephone will probably feel it before they arrive - rapid invocations of fire and wind sorcery, used to cross great distances in a short amount of time. And then, soon enough, two humans can be found reclinining against the rock face on the opposing side.

"Well, look who's here." Layna comments, looking the Sentinel over. "I'm surprised you're not out there with the rest of them."

Layna recognizes Persephone from the White Lotus Falls Monastery, but whether she recognizes her is another thing entirely.

Victoria shifts her spear to the other shoulder, not having any comments to add...

...Meanwhile Dahlia, not possessing magic she can use for transportation like the other two, is still working to catch up using a grappling hook.

GS: Lady Harken takes a glancing hit from Josephine Lovelace's Pardon The Mess for 52 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Cecilia Adlehyde has posed.

Cecilia and her entourage have been working day and night on waking the Earth Golem, Asgard. But no such hero arrives to save New Arctica this time. Fortunately, the Dawn Chasers proper were in town, and as the cries of assaulting Demons and Metal Beasts rise up, Cecilia Adlehyde, Shaman and Princess and several other things besides, barrels out of a tent, her staff flashing into her hands.

And nearly trips.

"Riesen--lied...." she croaks out, mouth dry at the site. The blood, the screaming...it all hammers her, as it always does.

But the site of Riesenlied, corrupted with that unmistakable crown, draws a new kind of hatred out of her.

Her eyes whip to Siegfried. Every time she sees that blade, she remembers - the sight of her father, cleaved near in half. The ring in her bones, from the Guardians' translocation spell bouncing off its strength. She sets her staff firmly, feet silent. "Siegfried," she says, and though her voice is quiet there's a quiver to her fingers. "...I'm so glad Fei isn't here to see this," she says.

Then she raises her hand and a Medium leaps into her hand. "You'll never be satisfied, will you? Do you even have a heart to hear these screams!?"

The Medium blazes bright and Cecilia's frame flickers away, replaced at once by the looming form of Grudiev. The Guardian of Earth shrieks at Siegfried, a blast of energy flickering between the shoulder-mounted crystalline spires and BLASTING downward, throwing up stone as it roars toward Siegfried and detonates.

GS: Cecilia Adlehyde has attacked Siegfried with Material - Magnetron Bomb!
GS: Cecilia Adlehyde has completed her action.
<Pose Tracker> Claude C. Kenny has posed.

Historically speaking, going up against Siegfried or Lady Harken has not worked out super well for Claude C. Kenny. The Quarter Knights-to-Earthman scoreboard currently stands at all of them to zero. But when Cecilia Lynn Adlehyde - the Innocent Maiden, Chosen Shaman of the Guardians, and also technically-but-not-really-though-kind-of-sort-of his wife - hears the voice of the world, Claude's only real choice is to follow after.

On the plus side, if he dies here, at least he got to kick a Guardian in the face first. It's the little things.

As the Dawn Chasers arrive, Claude takes up a position in front of Cecilia, trying to look threatening. He is aided somewhat in this by a rather large sword he is gripping in both hands - not the single-edged katana Gamgee made for him, nor the flame sabre he's been favouring since his travels took him to the frozen parts of Cow Patty Planet, but a heavy, single-edged, two-handed blade he had intended to give to Tethelle. But facing off against Siegfried and his Glumzabor, Claude feels as though he'll need the extra stopping power.

The boy from Earth does not yet spot the Myseterious Dragon Dude, so focused is he on his opponent. Claude hauls the blade back over his shoulder and sucks in his breath, setting his feet a little wider apart than usual to adjust for the weight of the blade. As he prepares his classic opening attack, a series of strange symbols light up along the back edge of the sword, one after the other catching a ghostly white-blue flame that eventually spreads to the blade edge as well.

For the record, this does not add any sort of attack power or flame-elemental energy to the sword - it basically just lights up so it can look cool. Claude is honestly surprised nobody has thought of this before.

The blade swings forward, other Symbols lighting up and causing it to emit a really cool basso humming beam sabre noise. (Again, how has no one thought of this before!?!) "AIR SLASH!" Claude shouts, firing a projectile that, thankfully, is 100% real.

<Pose Tracker> Matilda Whitehead has posed.

It wasn't twelve hours ago that Matilda was helping train up the New Arctica guard -- such as it is. She'd expressed pessimism to Lily about their chances, and, well... that feeling has certainly come home to roost, to put it lightly. As Metal Demons start to pour into the caverns of New Arctica, Matilda sees all their work start to be dashed. ... It's how she sees it, anyway. It's hard for her to see it any other way.

She's in a scramble in an instant, heavy coat and light breastplate and shield and sword in hand... and then she sees Riesenlied. A lot of thoughts flicker through her mind, one after another.

Even as she scrambles forward to meet Riesenlied, Matilda feels... differently, than she expected. She was expecting more anger -- but really, there's just... a knot in her stomach. She performs the calculus -- and finds the answers to be little comfort.

"I'm *curious*, Siegfried!" Matilda shouts, "Did you *do* this to Riesenlied, or just sign the paperwork?!" The compounder remembers her last encounter with Siegfried -- harrowing, to be sure, but... this doesn't strike her as the sort of tactic he prefers. He's... if not too *honorable*, certainly too *conventional*. She keeps advancing.

Once she's close enough, she shifts her stance, putting her shield forward and facing Riesenlied. "Miss Riesenlied... I'm going to -- try, not to hurt you -- much," she says, though she knows the words are lost. They're more for her own sake than Riesenlied's, really.

She comes in with a quick shield strike, getting her footing, making sure she can defend herself from as many angles as possible. As she finds her footing again, though, she adds, "... but I won't make any promises," grimly.

GS: Claude C. Kenny has attacked Siegfried with Air Slash!
GS: Claude C. Kenny has gained 2 Combo!
GS: Claude C. Kenny has completed his action.
GS: Matilda Whitehead has attacked Riesenlied with Tilling!
GS: Matilda Whitehead has entered a Reflect stance!
GS: Matilda Whitehead has completed her action.
GS: Kalve critically Guards a hit from Tesni Inoue's Rapid Fire for 19 hit points!
GS: Kalve has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Tesni Inoue has lost 1 Combo!
GS: Kalve guards a hit from Arleph Ardan's Azote Flash for 84 hit points!
GS: Siegfried takes a solid hit from Cecilia Adlehyde's Material - Magnetron Bomb for 116 hit points!
GS: Cover! Statuses applied to Cecilia Adlehyde!
GS: Siegfried critically Guards a hit from Claude C. Kenny's Air Slash for 21 hit points!
GS: Siegfried has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Claude C. Kenny has lost 1 Combo!
GS: Riesenlied guards a hit from Matilda Whitehead's Tilling for 73 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Cassidy Cain has posed.

The sound of ensuing and growing violence reaches her ears at the outskirts of New Arctica - these are faint, but there and pale, deft fingers tug on the reins of her horse to ease it into a stop. Green eyes shot with gold lift from the shadows in which they hide, cast by the brim of her hat - even in the cover of burgeoning darkness, it remains on her head, and the stare within keen and alert. Especially when it comes to danger, she is particularly sharp....but the question is, as always, what she intends to do about it.

 A sigh leaves her lips, drifting from the dewy seam in a visible puff of air. She rolls her head lazily to one side to look at the horse and wagon she's accompanying sidelong.

 "Why is it," Cassidy Cain drawls softly, "That whenever I go someplace with you, this always happens? Remember the last time? Because I remember the last time. It dinnae go so well for you and me. Between you and me, I'm starting tae think you do this on purpose. Are you doing this on purpose? Because you can tell me, y'ken."

 She leans against her saddle. "Still, if you're right about the place, most of the fighting will be down below...center of the network. There'd be escape routes tunneled out by now, but fighting in close quarters, nae matter how big the space...underground is underground, Gwen. There are risks tae be accounting for."

<Pose Tracker> Ines Colina has posed.

    Like many others, the sound of the alarms being rung caught Ines flat footed. The beastwoman emerges from a tent, being ready to rush for the entrance the alarm was raised from. The fact that the metal demons were already nearly upon the camp was an unpleasant wake up call. Civilians running, monsters causing havoc, and dead bodies littering the floor. At that, Ines charges in the direction of the first Metal Demon she can find. In this case, the insectoid monstrosity scything out through the tunnels.

    Even as Arleph and Tesni provide ranged damage, and Chime provides support, Ines instead charges past them. "Save the talk when there isn't a slaughter happening!" The beastwoman yells at the symbologist. As she runs towards Kalve she thrusts an arm out to one side, aiming to use raw strength and momentum to try and slam the metal demon into the wall. It might be overly optimistic, but you've got to make use of what you've got.

GS: Ines Colina has attacked Kalve with Hills Hoist!
GS: Ines Colina has gained 2 Combo!
GS: Ines Colina has completed her action.
GS: Kalve takes a solid hit from Ines Colina's Hills Hoist for 124 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Lily Keil has posed.

Helping to organize the soldiers; ensuring that the makeshift hospital is ready for the inevitable casualties. Lily Keil has not been eager to spend her time in this place; she knows a doomed operation when she sees one. Nevertheless, her duty is more important than that feeling, and she has returned here. She is within the cavern when it starts, dressed in coat and armor, writing something in a book. She pauses, though. A cry rings out, and Lily's gaze snaps up. So it is that Lily sees the guardswoman charge in--she recalls this one, trained her to do a proper tourniquet, to keep pressure on wounds.

It's unlikely that she'll survive the Beast that takes her down, Lily's rational mind reflects in the instant that the sorceress begins to stand. She doesn't need to order the alarm taken up; frankly, she has no real command here.

But all thoughts of anything else flee her mind as Lily's eyes happen upon the black-robed woman with the Medium grafted to her. ...With the look, with the feeling that isn't right, with--Elly emerges. Lily's eyes flick to her once, and she simply hears that Elly... isn't accepting it.

"What did you have in mind?"

-=-=-=-

Lily's hands for an instant are still out, palms open, from finsihing the Fire that was necessary to launch Elly forward, and she lets go the concentration that kept the ice together in the first place. All the rest she allows herself is a breath she draws in, and then she begins forward. ...Stepping, walking, not running. Others are concerning themselves with defenses, with making time for the survivors to flee. Lily has already done what she can, and now...

...She has other priorities.

"Riesenlied," she murmurs once, and it hurts to do; the effort of controlling her emotions just now is significant. She's alive, at least. And yet... Clearly, something is wrong. Clearly. Matilda's words echo in Lily's ears first.

Lily's primary answer is a psychic spite of anger that can be felt as a ripple, briefly. She lifts her ARM, first, not trusting her magic yet... And then finds that she is unwilling to shoot Riesenlied. "Damn--"

So she lowers it, and reaches out her other hand instead. "Listen," she murmurs, and begins to reach out. A pulse; a drawing. Her circuit-markings pulse crimson as she attempts to pull Riesenlied's awareness forcefully, brute-strength forge a connection. ...She does not have the calm to do it gently.

GS: Lily Keil has attacked Riesenlied with Dark Reach!
GS: Lily Keil has completed her action.
GS: Riesenlied guards a hit from Lily Keil's Dark Reach for 66 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Siegfried has posed.

Even though Riesenlied has been beside Siegfried, he has been silent. He has been eerily quiet this entire time. He barely spoke to Harken; he only acknowledged Kalve with a nod. The Veruni allies only received the same. Siegfried's walk continues, unabated, as he strides into the domain of New Arctica. His blade drags after him, even still. His eyes lift, looking up at the lot of the people within the cavern.

There is neither glee for the battle nor regret. His expression is as empty as it was out there. It does not shift, even when he spots Noeline on the front lines. Nor does it shift when Lydia dashes with the defenders, rushing to meet them. His eyes look at her, dispassionately.

He lifts a mailed fist. Magical stars fly free, and then they slam into the opened gauntlet of his fist -- and he crushes one beneath his fingers, acrid smoke from the burnt metal rising from it. He fixes her with a dead-eyed gaze. "People want many things, you fool," he says. "But I've learned something in the past few days."

He keeps walking. Despite his despondency, he is alert; he is observant, and his eyes dash towards Lanval. He stares at him for a moment, clearly seeing the Seraph. He simply looks, then he turns his head, and resumes his walk. He does not resume speaking. His eyes just turn towards Zed, and there is a briefest flicker of some emotion in his eyes, before it ends. Quicksilver blood splatters down on his armor.

He is unblinking. He is uncaring.

Glumzambor sweeps up with two rapid strikes, and when it does, he splits the air. Two blades of compressed air, an imitation of a Demon Fang from Lunar, scream across the ground -- one for Lydia, the other for Lanval. Then, Glumzambor rises up, and catches the blade of the Dark Hero, before it can bite into his armor. He looks down at Zed, with an impassive stare unlike any other.

He continues speaking in that near-monotone, as if he was talking to his newest assailant the entire time. "I learned, Zed, that our decisions carry no weight. Our desires will change nothing. Your betrayal... it is meaningless," he says. "Nothing will stop Mother from reigning over all Filgaia and shaping this world."

Then, he swings the Dark Spear down with a massive, overhanded slash -- trying to split Zed in twain, or at least throw him backward. He continues his stride, the moment he has struck, and practically walks right into Claude's Air Slash. It slams into his blade, splitting across it -- white-blue flame in the slash whisks off to each side.

He raises his other arm, aiming it towards Claude. He addresses Matilda: "It doesn't matter."

He fires, a lance of blue-white light exploding across the battlefield and directly toward Claude C. Kenny's midsection. Finally, his eyes turn towards Cecilia.

"It doesn't matter," he repeats. "Princess Cecilia." He does, it seems, know her days. Grudiev hurls the earth's very wrath into him -- stone slams into him, and finally smashes him back into a wooden crate. It shatters, and he tears himself free from the broken planks. "There is only Mother's ascension. There is only what comes after her new world. What we did before, who we used to be, what we wanted, those we cared for..."

He steps away from the wreckage of the crates. There is a flash around him; interlocked white hexagons of light, which form a barrier that hugs to his very form, and he fixes Cecilia with a stare that is different than all of the others. For the first time, Siegfried looks defeated.

"...have no meaning whatsoever."

He raises his arm, mechanically. The forearm plate that popped out snaps backward, as the ARM inside reloads, and then fires another pulse of light for Adlehyde's princess.

GS: Siegfried has attacked Lydia Seren with Dark Fang!
GS: Siegfried has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Siegfried has attacked Seraph Lanval with Dark Fang!
GS: Siegfried has attacked Zed with Blue Steel Strike!
GS: Siegfried has entered a Reflect stance!
GS: Siegfried has attacked Claude C. Kenny with Ion Pulse!
GS: Siegfried has attacked Cecilia Adlehyde with Ion Pulse!
GS: Siegfried has completed his action.
GS: Claude C. Kenny guards a hit from Siegfried's Ion Pulse for 94 hit points!
GS: Mighty! Statuses applied to Siegfried!
GS: Lydia Seren takes a glancing hit from Siegfried's Dark Fang for 74 hit points!
GS: Zed takes a glancing hit from Siegfried's Blue Steel Strike for 98 hit points!
GS: Seraph Lanval takes a glancing hit from Siegfried's Dark Fang for 73 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Jack van Burace has posed.

At first he things he's still in the middle of a nightmare. It is a familiar nightmare. Screams. Smoke. Blood. The roar of Metal Beasts competing with the echos of war. Ash mixed with snow swirling around the battlements of a castle desperately trying to hold its own against a force it could never hope to match. He dreams it almost every night. The nightmare of it all...

...and then Jack van Burace realizes that he isn't asleep.

He was awake and it is happening again. For a split second there is terror, blind panic as the swordsman starts to stand. He was just taking a nap near one of the outer walls after...well...a series of barfights brought on by SOMEONE FORCING HIM TO HAVE A FEEL.

...better not to ask.

Reflexively his hand closes around the sword that is never far from him as the first of the true screams reach his ears. His fingers curl around that familiar grip and slowly he takes a breath. The terror is still there even as he starts to stand, slowly, ponderously. Gathering momentum slowly as fogged thoughts dissipate. "Again?" He says quietly, alone in his corner of the wall. "Have they no shame, no honor, no mercy?"

Next to him Hanpan and Argent both stir, the Wind Mouse with worry in his eyes.

Slowly Jack stretches, still strangely alone in this corner of the brewing war. "I'm not running from this one, Hanpan." He finally says as he reaches up to pluck up the Wind Mouse. "Either we win, or I die here."

The Wind Mouse shakes his head a moment as he scampers up the man's arm to take the customary place on his shoulder. "Well then Jack, don't loose."

There is a smirk. "That's easy for you to say--"

...which is about when a red armored figure who likely has no idea Jack is even in the tower she's punching does said punching.

Screams, stone, debris it rains down all around the impact point and leaves a gaping hole there. The rumble of stone is there the roar of the battle. Under all of that though comes a very specific sound. A very telltale sound. One Harken might not have heard in some time, one that the defenders haven't heard in years.

The distinct click the sword of a Knight makes just as a Fast Draw activates.

Others make speaches or plans, Jack never has been one for that.

Instead the high pressure wave of air suddenly explodes out towards Harken, scattering the debris of the wall back into the ranks of the Metal Demons. A wave almost instantly followed by a long haired, sword wielding Drifter and his Wind Mouse.

...who looks just about as surprised as anyone to see who just punched a hole in the damn wall.

"...you?!"

...remember totally not good with words.

GS: Jack van Burace has attacked Lady Harken with Blind Draw!
GS: Jack van Burace has gained 2 Combo!
GS: Jack van Burace has completed his action.
GS: Lady Harken has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Jack van Burace has lost 1 Combo!
DC: MISS! Lady Harken completely evades Blind Draw from Jack van Burace!
<Pose Tracker> Riesenlied has posed.

    Elvis makes his comment to Riesenlied. The quiet daughter of Siegfried so pauses as she lowers her head and asks:

    "Of what matter do you speak, noble Veruni...? I do not... understand."

    Bereft of mind, bereft of soul, bereft of heart... and bereft of memory. She does not even appear to recognise him as familiar. The level in which Alhazred's concoction and the subsequent grafting of the Medium within her has unequivocably done more damage than can be seen on the surface. This person that has once espoused so much care and love, even for the Veruni, vowing to help seek a method to advance forward with the VR Factor...

    Is it all for naught, now?

    She is not particularly of familiarity with Persephone other than her title, though bows her masked head towards her as she turns and faces forward.

    Harken passes forward and she hears her anger for a moment. She looks -- 'looks' up at her, whispering, "Lady Harken...."

    Kalve, also, marches forward in front of her. His arms slide free of his cloth, skeletal and wielding blades. A slow pause. "Kalve..."

    Being with what should be her family here... but why is there such a dark cloud over everyone's spirits? She does not understand. Honour... is there honour in this? No, as everyone says...

    This is for the will of Mother.

    Everything is... everything is suddenly bursting all around her. So full of energy, of chaos... as Harken slashes that tower, as Tethelle engages her. As some strange green-haired... is that... Zed...? Why is he fighting father--

    Why are they... opposing Mother...?

    Her attention is drawn to that dark-haired woman delivering the effulgent speech. Of how Arctica is her home... how she regretted watching it burn. Was she not...

    She slams her sword down. It is unmistakably a weapon of Hyadean design, and the bristle of her Medium is something she can well feel. And what is more... that Tear hanging around her neck...

    Why... do I feel this way...?

    "Do... do..." Riesenlied whispers softly as she hears her, perhaps fluttering ever softer as she hears those pivotal three words.

    "Love...? I..."

    She watches Lydia charge in towards Siegfried -- the Drifters are fast. She, too, adds in her words about the state of Arctica and what has been taken away. She glances to her...

    ...the mask glinting a little as she seems to 'see' in her direction...

    Another Drifter spots her. A red-haired woman of... passing... familiarity... why? Why do all of these humans make her feel this way? She has been in torpor for so long, due to injuries sustained... at the Day of Collapse? Was it-- was she alive at that time--

    Her confusion is cut short when that streak of pink flutters forward, as Elly charges her directly with her rod and strikes her.

    Perhaps it's surprising, perhaps it's not, but there's a yelp of pain as the rod connects and Riesenlied bristles for a moment. An enchantment starts to wash over her as her head lulls. Perhaps, despite everything Alhazred has done to her, she still....

    She still... isn't that much of a combatant?

    It doesn't appear to have taken well, though -- perhaps the Medium suffusing her body with the Ley is making it more difficult to affect her.

    "A massacre... I... do not wish for it, but Mother... the will of Mother is..."

    Her unseeing head turns to look at Ashton. Someone who has only been introduced to the Outreach recently, yet there is something about the shape of the swordsman and his two dragons that bear more than a faint familiarity...

    Matilda, too, is provoking an unusual reaction inside of her. A strange desire to want to make amends for the trust she has frayed... and... a desire to be more genuine, to not hide behind cheap words. Why?

    There's a yelp, as Matilda accuses Siegfried, getting slammed against her shield with a 'whoof' that pushes air out of her. However, she doesn't quite get thrown to the ground with the striking force -- amongst the little enhancements Alhazred has given her, it seems like minor levitation is one of them as she remains... m-mostly upright, a mere inch off the ground.

    The glint that echoes in her mind from Lily is moreso than the others -- perhaps through some connection that they possess, both as empaths. She flinches for a moment. A woman... a human woman... who is her dark mirror.

    Lily calls her out-- and there's a flinch as Lily's circuit markings pulsate outwards and she tries to grapple with her mind.

    Lily finds that trying to reach through is... difficult. There's a morass of... something that feels like the emotional equivalent of a thick wall of insubstantial stuff. A deep and formidably black cloud. Something deeply insidious. But she does puncture through for a moment--

    "Good Drifters... I--I will not... hesitate to use force if required. Please be ready."

    riese you don't have to warn your opponents beforehand

    Her head is starting to throb, though she doesn't particularly show it outside. As she scans the area, seeing so many Drifters whom should be so alien to her-- Xantia, Josephine, Arleph, Jack-- Her lips purse a little as she holds her hand out--

    The Medium twinkles.

    The sight of the princess of Adlehyde, Cecilia... gives her pause. She feels a strong, unusual pang of... guilt. Something that makes her feel... that she can't possibly ever make up for it...

    There is a new kind of franticness that comes in her when she sees the Guardian of Earth assaulting her father, however--

    "Lord Siegfried!"

    She thrusts her hands outwards, and a small dome of what visibly appears to be Ley energy bursts around her. If struck, Elly, Lily and Matilda would feel that they're pushed back with the approximate soreness of... well, a kind of rude push.

    ... 'use of force' is apparently well below lethal levels. With space granted, however, there is a flash--

    And two spectral Pinions in the shape of feather-like swords would launch and seek Ashton and Noeline out as they try to strike at the Drifters and once more deal mild subdual damage.

    Finally, she calls out once more towards her father--

    And Siegfried is briefly awash with invigorating Life energy; regardless of whatever incompatibility Metal Demons may have, it would seem that whatever heartfelt connection Riesenlied has... as well as whatever modification has been done to her...

    ... will grant this daughter the ability to heal her father.

GS: Riesenlied has activated a Boss Action!
GS: Riesenlied has attacked Lily Keil with Stay Away... Please...!
GS: Riesenlied has attacked Matilda Whitehead with Stay Away... Please...!
GS: Riesenlied has attacked Elhaym van Houten with Stay Away... Please...!
GS: Riesenlied has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Riesenlied has attacked Noeline with Alone in a Crowd!
GS: Riesenlied has attacked Ashton Anchors with Alone in a Crowd!
GS: Riesenlied has attacked Siegfried with Life Arcana - Spirits Within!
GS: Riesenlied has completed her action.
GS: Lily Keil takes a solid hit from Riesenlied's Stay Away... Please... for 69 hit points!
GS: Elhaym van Houten guards a hit from Riesenlied's Stay Away... Please... for 40 hit points!
GS: Ashton Anchors takes a solid hit from Riesenlied's Alone in a Crowd for 77 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Siegfried has posed.

MEANWHILE, NEAR THE DOCKS:

A few adventurous Metal Beasts have broken past the defenders, bounding over their heads or bouncing off the walls. A few four-legged ones have formed a circle around a pair of defenders, standing near the docked ships -- specifically near the Fereshte. Leon Albus grits his teeth, back-to-back with another Drifter. His eyes glance over at her, before he lifts up Argent Divider.

A shotgun round fires, the slug blowing off part of the cranium of one of the hounds. Leon cracks a smile. "You know, it almost feels wrong, having a moment to speak to you."

Talia sighs, before she holds up her hand. A magical circle swivels into the air, spinning and forming at once -- before a javelin of ice spears the chest of a second hound through. "It is because you are far too uptight for my tastes."

"And I find your carefree attitude right obnoxious," Leon sighs.

"I also think your accent... it is most irritating, no?" Talia retorts with a frown.

"Right back at you," Leon sighs. "Now--"

The ground before them shatters, as a massive metallic worm -- though shaped flatter, rather than round, and with a vaguely fish-like head -- bursts through the ground, crackling with lightning. The two stop, stare, and then a shot rings out before a short sword buries itself between its scales.

GS: Matilda Whitehead takes a glancing hit from Riesenlied's Stay Away... Please... for 40 hit points!
GS: Noeline critically Guards a hit from Riesenlied's Alone in a Crowd for 14 hit points!
GS: Noeline has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Riesenlied has lost 1 Combo!
GS: Siegfried gains Restore, shortening negative statuses by 3 turns each!
GS: Riesenlied heals Siegfried! He gains 200 temporary hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Gwen Whitlock has posed.

    Scouting is a job Gwen has found a natural fit, in lieu of 'being a courier'. However, there was only so much 'scouting' a person could do on the frozen tundra. That is, if Gwen's on foot. But with her trusty horse....! No, not Gulliver. He's a continent away, possibly being babysat by a man who may or may not have a bounty worth an exorbitant amount of gella on his head. Because good life decisions always begin when you trust a man who'll do something for free.

    Gwen's horse is on loan, a shaggy, bulky beast that is better suited for the climate than Gwen's Gulliver. She's also very, very slow in comparison. And she was chosen, of course, on the basis of her name.

    Her name is Gullveig. And she has a cart behind her, holding a batch of supplies for New Arctica, fresh from the outlying settlements. Or whatever Gwen could find, anyway. And one of those things was Cassidy, so this definitely counts as helpful.

    ".... You're clearly bad luck for me," Gwen quips, pulling down her binoculars and offering them out to Cassidy. "So you're just gonna have to own up to it n' follow me in." She shoots the blonde a wide grin. "The ground'd be too cold for things t'get too far. Looks like they teleported in. Bad news is, it's not just the Metal Demons, but the Veruni, too. The... other people who weren't supposed t'exist." She clears her throat in the following awkward silence, bereft of any sane explanations. "So. Uh. Time t'go."

    ----- LATER ----

    Xantia will see the approaching silhouettes of an approaching Gwen and Cass, with the former having safely placed their trusty horse out of harm's way, along with those supplies. "Heeee- Xantia? Oh man, you're here too? Who's Grandpa?"

    You know, you guy who is OUT OF GWEN'S FIELD OF VIEW at that very moment.

<Pose Tracker> Claude C. Kenny has posed.

Claude C. Kenny is preparing to fire a second Air Slash in Siegfried's direction, because you can never have too many Air Slashes, when the big Metal Demon lifts a hand in his direction. Knowing that whatever Siegfried is doing can't be good for his health, Claude reacts with tactical alacrity, stomping the frozen ground hard; a ripple of chi surges outward, and stone spikes rip up from the earth, forming an improvised shield against kinetic attacks.

The lightning, unfortunately, does not give a good goddamn. Crackling electricity courses through Claude's body, and he falls twitching to one knee, the acrid tang of ozone and burnt hair flowing out from around him. Sucking in a shaking breath, the boy from Earth focuses his internal qigong, reasoning that the laws of thermodynamics state that energy is basically just energy.* Electricty flows into the earth, grounding it, and Claude grits his teeth and forces himself back to the fight.

His first move is to shoulder-check his way through the maze of stone spikes, blasting through like a refreshing beverage mascot, sending chunks of stone flying out in front of him. Claude takes two strides and then hops upward, spin-kicking one of the larger chunks of stone toward the Quarter Knight. Based on Siegfried's last tactic - i.e., just straight-up absorbing damage - Claude figures the Quarter Knight will just let the rock hit him. It might not hurt, but it will block his vision for a moment, during which Claude drops down from the skies, swinging that big two-handed blade downward, putting everything he has into the strike, knowing it may not be enough.

* - They don't, and it isn't.

GS: Claude C. Kenny has attacked Siegfried with Helmet Break!
GS: Claude C. Kenny has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Claude C. Kenny has completed his action.
GS: Cecilia Adlehyde takes a solid hit from Siegfried's Ion Pulse for 163 hit points!
GS: Mighty! Statuses applied to Siegfried!
<Pose Tracker> Kalve has posed.

Kalve meets resistance in the form of gunfire. Tesni charges out of cover and yells what the humans would call a challenge, even if it's a sorry excuse for one where Kalve's from. Gunshots strike him center-mass, rounds sparking off of some kind of armor beneath the shroud of grey that surrounds his body. Ricochets cut into the tents nearby, but none of them hit any of the scattering people. Fortunately, he's large enough that he's hard to miss, and people are running away instead of towards him.

Well, mostly.

Arleph tries to talk, and Kalve obliges. His voice is deep, rumbling with a distinct metallic edge to it. It carries well without him having to raise it much. "Words can do little to deflect the wrath of a goddess," he says. There's no fervor in his voice; no heat that accompanies a warrior's boiling blood. "Mother has spoken. So it goes."

Ice slashes across the space between them. Kalve's paired blades -- short but wide, with a definite heft to them -- slash vertically to part the sheet that comes at him. The spell shatters, turning it into a spray of cold shards that frosts the ground and pierces his cloak. His stride is broken, momentarily staggered.

Ines takes advantage of that by strong-arming the Demon warrior into a nearby rock formation. His footing is ruined by the ice, and she sweeps him up in her mad rush. He hits the boulder hard, cracking the surface of the stone and snapping his arms back and to the side like he was a pinned butterfly. The short swords drop out of limp hands, striking the ground and shattering into motes of short-lived light. It neatly and incidentally disarms him, making it hard to respond with his bare hands.

So he uses the other arms.

Numbers five and six shoot out of the cloak, open-palmed, a sudden two-handed strike to Ines' midsection intended to drive her backwards. He follows it with a short step forward and to the left, pivoting on a planted foot and dropping low to sweep her feet out from under her. One more hand plummets like a falling axe, looking to accelerate her descent to the cold ground.

His previously-armed hands swing down to his sides and draw weapons. Both look like pistols with particularly bulky dimensions and unusual shapes: one looks like the pieces of a broken mirror all fused back together into the shape of a weapon, while the other looks like a series of angular crescents large and small were blended into a firearm's shape. Both shriek with the distinct sound of technological thunder, barrels sparking with blue light as they pepper the distant combatants with hypervelocity slugs.

GS: Kalve has attacked Ines Colina with Hundred Handed One!
GS: Kalve has attacked Arleph Ardan with Mass Driver!
GS: Kalve has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Kalve has attacked Chime Isa with Mass Driver!
GS: Kalve has gained 2 Combo!
GS: Kalve has attacked Tesni Inoue with Mass Driver!
GS: Kalve has completed his action.
GS: Siegfried guards a hit from Claude C. Kenny's Helmet Break for 55 hit points!
GS: CRITICAL! Chime Isa takes a glancing hit from Kalve's Mass Driver for 85 hit points!
GS: Hyper and Shield! Statuses applied to Kalve!
<Pose Tracker> Noeline has posed.

    Noeline is right on board with the idea of setting tripwires throughout the Arctican tunnels, she just hasn't had the mental bandwidth to actually get to setting any up what with having to deal with everything else around the Outreach. Thankfully, its members are more than used to acting on their own instincts - and again, sheer necessity has outweighed the boundaries of race. As the Demons start to filter in, a series of pops sounds along a chunk of the ceiling, sending down a boulder to seal one of the side passages amidst shrieks of pain from Metal Beasts within it.

    She pushes forwards alongside Lydia, twisting under a Beast's leaping attack and then pivoting to slam her sword into it and bat it aside. It barely makes her break her stride as she drives forwards; her tongue feels thick with sudden fear, and she can't summon the words to actually answer Lydia's quiet promise but does at least meet it with a frown of solemn determination. "... be careful," she eventually gets out, even if she has more than enough trust in Lydia's abilities to know she'll be safe.

    "Elly!" she yells in sheer bemused surprise as the other woman sweeps in towards Riesenlied from a direction she simply didn't expect, catching her with the baton and then a gout of flame. Protective instincts flare up in her instantly, warring with the detached and clinical side of her at the back of her mind that says they aren't going to be able to subdue Riese with words alone. She's heard enough rumours about Alhazred - watched Harken enough - to be sure of that much.

    Tamping down the sick feeling that rises in her throat at that particular thought, she lets out a terribly shaky breath. You can't just charge like normal, she realizes to herself amidst the sudden clamour. You've been given more responsibility than that. Slow down. "Ashton! Keep yourself alive, first and foremost! And--" ... and what other orders are there to give? When it comes down to it, she doesn't know the first thing about how to deal with this situation, or how she might possibly manage to make her words reach her partner, now under Alhazred's thrall. The only faint hope she's got hangs around her neck, and she clutches instinctively at it - the Dragon's Tear that Riese left to her.

    Somehow, she manages to keep her gaze on Riesenlied, even as the other woman too-calmly, too-placidly warns them that she's going to attack. Her hold on the Tear is tight enough to leave an imprint in her hand - her weapon lowered as she simply faces the attack head on and continues to close distance. It's a gamble: if Riesenlied is truly in there, she'll pull her attack. If not... ... then there's very little continuing. "... and I will not be dissuaded from trying to reach you. Remember what you were doing! Why you were here! What we meant to each other! What about Lydia? Or Janey, or Mikaia?" she presses, her voice raising as the pinions rain down on her - but true to her instincts, their strength isn't enough to even begin to stop her right now, a tiny little flame of hope to hold onto and nurture.

    In Riesenlied's hands, the Dragon's Tear can wash a battlefield with the force of her empathy - but Noeline simply does not have that capacity. She cannot be her partner. But she is resourceful, and rather than focus her empathy into the gem she pulls at the well of Duras Drum's power inside her instead, tearing at one to channel it through the other. The shadowy corona around her suddenly blossoms outwards, buffeting against the Beasts around her as it twists and shifts and seems to reach for the masked Heritor in tandem with Lily's searching power.

    And in the midst of it, her eyes spark with an odd combination of fear and affection and most of all a sinking, sinking anger. "... so you've given up," she realizes coldly when Siegfried finally speaks. "That fight of yours - it has gone out so easily. Here I thought you just wanted Riese to be docile, but it's worse than that." Her gut crawls as she searches for the words. "... to the bitter end, I thought you cared about our race - I thought you cared about our people. I thought I could trust in that, even if we were enemies."

    "Is this all you want, then, 'Lord Siegfried'?" she asks, her voice suddenly a roar that she can't stop - the twist in her stomach becomes a deep stab. "Are you content with this? Is this the daughter you wanted? Do you know how much she truly wished to call you 'Father'?!"

GS: Noeline has attacked Riesenlied with Starless Sea!
GS: Noeline has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Noeline has completed her action.
GS: Riesenlied takes a solid hit from Noeline's Starless Sea for 151 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Seraph Lanval has posed.

    Lanval is surrounded by passions and convictions that ring loudly. He feels Siegfried's gaze bear down upon him - he can see him. His everything runs a touch colder. He might almost be of the mind to just let him pass, despite what he just said - Siegfried seems intent on doing just that, not heeding him. What, exactly, could the Water Seraph do to stop him? Even without the measures in which he is capable of perceiving, everything about Siegfried speaks of a power and magnitude beyond his own.
     There's a slice in the air, and Lanval's grace dissipates right then and there - he rolls onto his back with a startled series of noises as he overcompensates a backwards dodge-roll for something that wouldn't directly reach him to begin with. Which is to say, the spear itself.
     The air it rends, the Demon Fang-like technique screams past him. He escapes (meta?)physical harm from where he now lies on his back, but the damage can instead be measured against his courage as the displaced air violently ripples around him... and what damage it is, as the Water Seraph exhales again as is his peculiar meditative habit.
     Siegfried's nihilism feels oppressive in ways he's not used to - not on the spiritual level, but just the depth of those words, speaking of an experience and life that exceeds his in length. It takes him a while to find it in him to sit up, and an even longer while to stand back up. He watches as Grudiev actually pushes Siegfried back into a crate - one of the Guardians.
     I'm not making a good show of myself, am I, Lanval inwardly acknowledges. There's something he knows he wants to do, and uniquely, may be something only he can do. It all means nothing if...
     "I know ya shaw me," Lanval's voice is maybe too quiet to be audible, an artifact of his shaken courage. He finds it as he clasps his gourd in both hands and approaches, while Siegfired starts to erect a defensive by some means he can't quite fathom - that wasn't a sorcerous barrier, there. "I know ya heard me. New Arctica'sh under my protection."
     Watery energies form around the Seraph as he concentrates power within his focus - his gourd - and sprays out a great gout of water as he starts to chortle. To bring back mirth, at least some semblance of hope to these people, he has to be it... until he, at last, sees from beyond the geyser that splashes out from the humbly-sized gourd.
     Hey, that voice, all the way over there, isn't that... Riesenlie--
     Life energy forms a protective barrier around Siegfried, and what great force of water Lanval might be able to gather is greatly blunted - or perhaps even effectively negated - against it.
     "...What'sh she doin'," Lanval's eyes open without the aquamarine glow that tends to follow their revelation, completely dumbstruck.

GS: Arleph Ardan critically Guards a hit from Kalve's Mass Driver for 28 hit points!
GS: Arleph Ardan has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Kalve has lost 1 Combo!
GS: Seraph Lanval has attacked Siegfried with Water Walled Out!
GS: Seraph Lanval has completed his action.
GS: Siegfried critically Guards a hit from Seraph Lanval's Water Walled Out for 7 hit points!
GS: Siegfried has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Seraph Lanval has lost 1 Combo!
<Pose Tracker> Lady Harken has posed.

Harken has been free of Alhazred's meddling compounds and material influences for a month or so. The changes are starting to add up: her complexion is paler, features slightly gaunt as muscle mass recedes, none of which really makes sense since Metal Demons can just reshape their forms at will. Of course, these are probably hard changes to appreciate for those that don't spend day after day around her, and with all that red platemail and billowing grey cloak, maybe it isn't that easy to see. And whatever she might have lost in mass...

Tethelle whistles sharply. It does not draw Harken's attention, her baleful gaze locked onto a proned Arctican man as he lies before her. She lowers one foot onto his midsection to still him, and prepares to behead him. "Pray for a kinder life, to follow this one's end." she instructs him. This is when a boomeranging greatsword enters her field of view, and her weapon's path halts. The towering Quarter Knight looks up, noticing the fine Arctican make of the weapon. She doesn't budge an inch as the weapon helicopters past with a tremendous *woosh*, hair and cloak billowing in the aftermath. A plated boot removes itself from the poor man, who scrambles to safety.

"I see you." Harken calls to Tethelle, calmly, scythe held in both hands as she slowly circles around her. "If you want to die so badly, I will grant you that final wish."

A deep thrum and a rumble of falling rocks follows this bold statement, as a carefully-calculated cave-in dumps several tonnes of boulders on a nearby fireteam of Metal Demon soldiers. They die without a sound, even their resilient and fluid forms destroyed in a heartbeat. Harken glowers to one side at them, and calmly begins to walk forward again towards Tethelle. She hasn't yet spotted Ida, not before the crackling of magical lightning surges through a howling Metal Beast, and arcs onto Harken's--

--cloak, where it sputters and fizzes without incident. "That's two." she scowls, turning her head and making direct eye contact with Ida through the throng and the chaos. There can be no mistaking in that moment the recognition. "A pity."

The Quarter Knight tosses her scythe into the air, where instead of falling to the ground again, it hangs far above the carnage like a dire, glowing portent of things to come. "If you ferry them all to the harbor," cautions Harken to Mihaya as she plucks the elf's voice out above the din with finely-honed senses, "They'll all perish in the one place. Are you certain that's the best decision?" her tone is lecturing, wearied. A gauntleted fist meets the flying bolt of flame before it can strike her, fingers wrapping around the sizzling fires and--quenching them, closing to a fist. "Three, then."

A pair of Metal Demon soldiers, wielding eerily-glowing spears and swords rush past Harken in an eagerness to prove their worth to their leadership caste, and all, but in their eagerness... completely miss the ambush launched by Josephine, and make for easy targets. The first is punctured with large-bore sidearm rounds and collapses in a heap of bleeding quicksilver. The second, still reacting to the noise and the shock, is saved by Harken stepping in front of the oncoming bullet with a dissatisfied look still worn on her face. Sparks fly and bounce across the ground as her armour holds firm. "A fourth. One who knows better, even, but you're still here, holding onto some vain hope... what is it, I wonder?"

Azrael, the dread scythe, glows overhead with a pale radiance not unlike that of the moon. Harken takes a deep breath and presses one palm into an open hand, settling into the first hand-to-hand Hyadean combat stance Siegfried taught her. Hands forward. Feet square. Centre of gravity brought low. Eyes tracking from target to target. "Think of this as a test," she lectures those who would stand against her. Harken's armoured form begins to waver, like a mirage on a hot summer's day. "If you can't survive against me, then Mother is victorious. Show me your resolve."

A shrieking wave of pressure and fighting will rips out of the shattered tower, courtesy of one Jack Van Burace. An arcing bolt of power showing Harken exactly what she just asked for - his will to keep standing. "Heh. Okay, then." she brings that one palm back behind her head, and--

                                  vanishes

From one Quarter Knight comes Five. Jack's fast-draw technique splits the empty air where once Harken stood, her form explosively dividing into multiple shadows as a means of evasion. "Lesson one: Outnumber your enemy. This, you haven't done." Tethelle is the first to receive a reprimand from the lady clad in scarlet armour. With contrails of moonlight from her hands and feet, a visage of the Quarter Knight appears before her with a sudden axe-kick. No weapon, but a freight train of steel moving upwards towards her chin.

ch,Mihaya) had distance between herself and her quarry, but no longer. A pallid glimmer follows Harken's hands and feet as she charges the Elf with a combination of open palm strikes. "Lesson two: Strike from hiding. That fireball was easy to follow."

Josie comes under assault at the same moment. The Quarter Knight doesn't seem to like the ranged fight, and descends upon her from above with a crushing two-handed blow that it'd be best to escape from. "Lesson three: Pick the right weapons. That peashooter might kill the rank and file, but Mother is made of sterner stuff."

Ida is not spared, despite the complicated camaraderie she might have shared with Harken in very small doses. A flickering image of the Knight charges her, too, and then--disappears before it can strike. Ida can then hear a voice behind her. "Lesson four: Think hard, and I mean really hard, about when you're up for the fight. Sometimes, it's best to step back and think about things." and then she has a split-second to get out of the way of an oncoming strike to the back of the neck.

Jack. . . notices maybe, that no image of Harken comes for him. Instead, Azrael, the scythe in the sky, suddenly bobs and jerks, and then falls down--right towards him. Harken reappears, fading into view, with both hands gripping the terrible weapon as she descends on him with a very resigned grin. "And you, I don't think I can teach anything. You sentimental old fool, come on and kill me."

GS: Lady Harken has attacked Mihaya with Azrael - Moonlight Step Form!
GS: Lady Harken has attacked Tethelle Cirdian with Azrael - Moonlight Step Form!
GS: Lady Harken has attacked Josephine Lovelace with Azrael - Moonlight Step Form!
GS: Lady Harken has attacked Ida Everstead-Rey with Redshift Feint!
GS: Lady Harken has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Lady Harken has attacked Jack van Burace with Azrael - Bloody Fang!
GS: Lady Harken has completed her action.
GS: Ida Everstead-Rey has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Lady Harken has lost 1 Combo!
DC: MISS! Ida Everstead-Rey completely evades Redshift Feint from Lady Harken!
GS: Mihaya takes a solid hit from Lady Harken's Azrael - Moonlight Step Form for 192 hit points!
GS: Tethelle Cirdian guards a hit from Lady Harken's Azrael - Moonlight Step Form for 135 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Chime Isa has posed.

    "Actually, words can do a lot~" Chime chimes up from her spot. Which is probably not the smartest of taunts. The short elf is a hard target for most shooters, but even a glancing blow is enough to make her lose her footing and appear to tumble back down the rocks the way she came disappearing from sight.

    And the Chime's back around the side this time both crossbows drawn and grinning brightly as she unleashes a pair of shining orange bolts at Kalve. "Now now~ No need to be so strident either~" she calls at the metal demon. "You could just leave if you don't want to talk~" a slight giggle following this as the elf continues to move instead of standing still this time.

GS: Chime Isa has attacked Kalve with Shield Breaker!
GS: Chime Isa has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Chime Isa has completed her action.
GS: Josephine Lovelace takes a solid hit from Lady Harken's Azrael - Moonlight Step Form for 190 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Zed has posed.

Glumbzambor meets Doombringer. Sparks burn bright into the dark, musky cave as, for the briefest of moments, the two blades are locked in a deadly embrace. "What--" Zed breathes, "Meaningless!? What are you talking about!? You--" In that moment, Zed looks away from their interlocked blades and instead locks eyes with his former commander, but what he finds there...

No.

It's... Wrong. "Zeik," Zed starts, "What--"

But while Zed is strong, Sieg is stronger. The azure knight completes his blow. The younger metal demon is smashed backwards by the sheer force of that blow. He tumbles through several crates, plows into a makeshift barricade, and flips himself upright between two terrified and confused Arctican militiamen. They don't get a chance to stick the not-cut-in-twain demon with their bayonets-- he's already back on the move.

But.

This is wrong.

This is wrong.

This is wrong on a level that Zed had no idea things could be wrong on.

"You..." Zed murmurs, "This... This isn't like you. This isn't the Siegfried I know!" The metal demon yells, rushing back down the central file of combat. His blade ignites, Doombringer's edge burning with the light of an unconquered soul. "Wasn't Mother's awakening supposed to be a happy time!? Weren't you and the others supposed to be... to be rejoicing in her return!? What is this? It looks like you've already lost, when you should be swollen with triumphant pride!?"

"Siegfried, this isn't the fight I wanted. I stab you and Berserk and the others in the back and... and you say it doesn't matter!? Even LADY HARKEN wanted to kill me for what I did!" Zed growls, ducking under walls of water and jack-knifing around Claude's helm-splitting strike. "This... This isn't like you at all! Your eyes are all wrong, your face is all wrong, your voice, your motions, your sword!" Zed surges in, driving his own sword deep into the Azure Knight's guard. "Come on! Fight me with everything you have!"

Is... Is Zed trying to hype up the man trying to kill them all?

No.

No, there's a desperation in his eyes. A fear, there. What's happened here. Why is Siegfried... Acting like some kind of walking corpse?

GS: Zed has attacked Siegfried with RayBlade - Zed Saber!
GS: Zed has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Zed has completed his action.
<Pose Tracker> Cassidy Cain has posed.

The other people who aren't supposed to exist.

 "Is that right," Cassidy drawls, taking the binoculars and looking through them, brows lifting at the sudden explosion that happens on the other side of the settlement - close to the docks. "Considering we were just on the other side of the bloody cosmos a few months ago, I'm content tae believe that nothing's ever truly gone, luv. Before y'ken it, dragons'll be coming back, birds'll evolve back tae lizards and dodos'll just reanimate from their perches at museums everywhere." Tying up her horse, she sliders her hands in her pockets.

 "And I'm definitely nae taking any responsibility for this, if there's any bad luck tae be had, the answer tae fix it is simple." She winks at her red-haired companion, before following to where she leads.

 "Just going tae have tae steal enough good fortune tae make it through today, metinks."

 But how, exactly?

 ~ * ~

 They come upon chaos. As Gwen steps up from behind Xantia, her tall, be-hatted companion takes a step into her shadow and to the side, blinking at the chaos located in the heart of the tavern.

 "Ah, bloody hell. Not again. Dinnae s'pose they brought their dragon with them, did they? It owes me sommat."

GS: Jack van Burace takes a glancing hit from Lady Harken's Azrael - Bloody Fang for 91 hit points!
GS: Mighty! Statuses applied to Lady Harken!
GS: Siegfried takes a solid hit from Zed's RayBlade - Zed Saber for 139 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Elvis has posed.

A dejected sigh is all that escapes Elvis in response to Riesenlied. Some sort of memory alteration. Are the soldiers of war desperate enough to fall to such measures? Or was the rise of Mother giving their kind all the justification to commit such atrocities?

If anything, Elvis was not stupid. He knows what is happening to the woman, and what is causing it, by moments of observation. But allies are 'allies' he figures. "It is always worth considering, Commander Seigfried," Elvis states idly. "Soldiers are little without something to marshal against."

---

The building that lay in front of Elvis was nothing but visible frustration to him. What was the point of all this? He gets that they are encroaching on the lands of the Photosphere, but was a massacre really necessary. A section of a wall goes down as the foundation is ripped out from under it with earthen magic. "Keeping a lookout up there?" he asks Persephone, without looking from his work.

A sudden arrival piques his attention. "Miss Harken," he says, a sideglance toward her. "Your reputation precedes you." A look back to the stone as she talks, and takes out a similiar section, just as effortlessly. "Continued acts of violence toward Humans will only spurn them harder. The path your kind chooses is a strange one, for it never ends well for any kind in the record books." Veruni included.

He is no saint here.

A Human voice catches his attention, particularly for what he is called. "Did you just call me OLD?!" he says, pointing intensely at Xantia. "No, I'm not! But all you should know is you should go home before you get hurt! Oh, and if you live here, find somewhere else to live, because it won't be around much longer!"

And then Gwen shows up. Possibly the worst person to show up. "Hey! Gwen! Go home! You shouldn't be out here!" he calls out. "I'M NOT A GRANDPA!" he shouts loudly after, despite that comment not being toward him. A squint is offered toward Cassidy on her approach as well. "Okay, I have had enough of this gathering! Go away!" he says, stomping the ground and causing a vicious tremor to tear thrhough the area, with the aims to knock the trio off their feet, and hopefully scare them enough to run. "If the Metal Beasts get a hold of you they will tear you to pieces! Flee while you can!"

<Pose Tracker> Lydia Seren has posed.

Lydia stares at Siegfried in disbelief. Not that he blocked his attack--she kind of expected that. That attitude of his, that is what surprises her. Lydia leaps to the side to avoid the Dark Fang, but it still clips her side, ripping open a wound of silver fluid from there. She shifts into a crouch, staring up at him. Whatever she expected from Siegfried, it surely wasn't this nihilistic approach.

She lowers her head. "...Heh..." And then she laughs into her hand, standing up slowly.

"You finally got what you wanted, huh? And the victory tasted like ash? That's what y'get for not treating your treasure better."

Lydia turns to look towards Riesenlied.

Her fists tighten upon seeing her like this. They tighten further when she is MADE to restore her father with the use of the medium. They are turning the medium's power against Filgaia's defenders. It's practically sacrilege. "Sit right there and owe me."

"MOM!" She shouts at Riesenlied, a silver light enveloping her, tears in her eyes. "This isn't fair! Don't you know how often we had to lose our families already? Janey, Mikaia, me--you're the mother that we have! Even now, they're crying for you to come back! I've had to fill in for you too, you know! Don't you know what you are?"

BGM: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o_BS4X4dAEw

"You're my treasure...!" Lydia says. "And I'm greedy, so I'm not giving you up! I'm going to hold onto you forever...!"

She pauses and then adds, "No... You're Our Treasure!"

And with that her form fades into the light, now completely subsumed by it as she channels Rigdobrite's power directly into her.

Lydia throws herself into the air, her form still subsumed by light so blindening her form is wholly obscured by it.

And then she throws herself down at Riesenlied, intending to grab hold of her with both arms and hug as tightly as she can.

"I never wanted you to be used for an experiment!" Lydia shouts. "But it's okay...! It doesn't matter because you're still you. And I won't let them control you. I won't let them use you to break your dream...Our dream! So please wake up! Mikaia's trying to be strong, Janey too, but they're crying for you every day!"

It's clear what Lydia wants...

But is it as Siegfried says?

Do her wants not matter?

DC: Lydia Seren switches forms to Stardust Sequence!
GS: Lydia Seren has attacked Riesenlied with Brilliant Comet!
GS: Lydia Seren has gained 2 Combo!
GS: Lydia Seren has completed her action.
GS: Riesenlied takes a solid hit from Lydia Seren's Brilliant Comet for 157 hit points!
GS: Elvis has attacked Xantia with Hi-Crush!
GS: Elvis has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Elvis has attacked Gwen Whitlock with Hi-Crush!
GS: Elvis has attacked Cassidy Cain with Hi-Crush!
GS: Elvis has completed his action.
GS: Ines Colina guards a hit from Kalve's Hundred Handed One for 48 hit points!
GS: Cripple! Statuses applied to Ines Colina!
GS: Cassidy Cain takes a glancing hit from Elvis's Hi-Crush for 66 hit points!
GS: Xantia takes a solid hit from Elvis's Hi-Crush for 123 hit points!
GS: Tesni Inoue guards a hit from Kalve's Mass Driver for 82 hit points!
GS: Gwen Whitlock critically Guards a hit from Elvis's Hi-Crush for 24 hit points!
GS: Gwen Whitlock has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Elvis has lost 1 Combo!
<Pose Tracker> Elhaym van Houten has posed.

"The will of Mother doesn't matter!" Elly cries out.

She sweeps a hand around as she focuses her attention on Riesenlied - or what she blackly hopes is still Riesenlied and not some horrid recycling of her body frame and inherent abilities. "You have your own will! These memories - even now you can't bring yourself to," and at this point Elly is given a very rude little *poosh*.

Elly stumbles. It is farcial, but Elly is in some sense glad, because she had expected to get instead knocked on her backside, at best, and more likely ripped in twain by Glumzabor, but Siegfried seems more engaged. Her eyes cut towards Noeline as she tells her, "Do you know what's happened to her?! Is this - do you -"

Elly can't formulate the questions well, not in the common speech anyway. Too much stress, fear, and anxiety rising.

But even if her tongue is weak... her will isn't.

"Even if you've decided to give up," Elly says, "I haven't. Your dream... everything you've done... The least I can do is make it up to you, Riesenlied!"

Matilda's there too. As Matilda gives pressure Elly has time to think. To act - and she calls over Matilda's head four words that don't make a lot of sense for the most part.

"Arof arop, links!" CODE...

And Elly thrusts out her hand. When Matilda gets her footing she would see a sudden blossoming of flame on the larboard side of Riesenlied, an eruption of flame rising as if to jacket her and hug around her rib cage and up past her head. Peculiarly it does not seem to be ON her, although her dress, tattered as it is, may be in peril. The air around her gets breathless and thick, like a blast furnace's.

GS: Elhaym van Houten has attacked Riesenlied with Thermo Misericordia!
GS: Elhaym van Houten has completed her action.
GS: Riesenlied critically Guards a hit from Elhaym van Houten's Thermo Misericordia for 22 hit points!
GS: Riesenlied has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Elhaym van Houten has lost 1 Combo!
<Pose Tracker> Cecilia Adlehyde has posed.

'It doesn't matter.'

Cecilia's already sensing something different. The way he moves, the way he fights...Zed has empathy for this man. Fei would have empathy for this man. Elly told her she should try to understand.

Siegfried's electric blast tears through her magic barrier and sends her backward, screaming in pain. She tumbles to a stop, hand slapping down and forcing her attention immediately back to Siegfried. "This isn't like you," she spits. Forces her legs under her to force herself further upright. "Even while Adlehyde burned, you were all too happy to tell me of the crime of my peoples' lives. Twice, you spat on our names! And now...now you come before me to slaughter people just trying to stay alive with the eyes of a man who's not feeling his job at the mill."

She reaches for her crests, swirling her staff. The frame of the magic circle forms, the inner circle drawing out that outer magic and glutting itself, drawing the lines itself. The frame, the icons, ticking in counterpoint like gears as the parts interlock. Fray, above; Fray, below, burning icons of fire. And uniting them, coloring the whole thing a shimmering dark, the icon for offense of the first level.

"What did she take from you, Siegfried?" Cecilia demands, as fire blooms from her Crest.

GS: Cecilia Adlehyde has attacked Siegfried with Heart of the Crests!
GS: Cecilia Adlehyde has completed her action.
GS: Siegfried takes a solid hit from Cecilia Adlehyde's Heart of the Crests for 144 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Tesni Inoue has posed.

She was not alone Chime's support is welcome as she keeps her weapon at the ready and she's on the move, knowing to close quarters fight a metal demon is not a smart idea for her. The Deadman's ARM is at the ready still and she's soon joined in the fighting by another. Be the Predator? Maybe so it was time to be the predator and she sees Arleph she thinks they really do need to sit down and talk later if they live through this day, and makes it a point to do so. Arleph attempts talk, and then it dawns on her it's Kalve they are fighting, she may have ruined Arleph's attempts or she may have not.

 It seems Kalve has his marching orders and at least out of some level of respect she will stop the trash talk, she doubts she needs it to keep his attention on her when all things are considered now.

 That telltale sign of the weaponry, Gauss weapons, Tess curses inwardly that federation law prevented her from producing such heavy firepower.

 "his weapons they will punch through cover!"

 She warns Chime and Arlpeh and then she gets hit. Oh it's not good her vision floods red for a moment from the pain and that was not a direct hit, she's bleeding now and has to keep on the move. This time she doe snot fire har ARM, no she lashes out with her mind so to speak ending a focused burst of TK force right at the Metal Deamon. Hopefully Chime and Arleph are fariing better than she is.

<Pose Tracker> Cassidy Cain has posed.

Before she gets an answer to her rather ridiculous question that implies, in no uncertain terms, that the unassuming-looking woman is out to fight a dragon of all things, Elvis rudely interjects by taking loud umbrage to the fact that someone just called him old, followed by a shockwave of power that has her stumbling on her feet. Instead of fighting against it, Cassidy sways with the resulting tremors, softening her knees and pushing back. It is not enough, however, for her to be able to save her hat. It goes flying off her head, pale-gold tresses tumbling free.

 A hand does whip forward, however, the incendiary device that she tosses in Elvis' direction reflecting ambient light. It takes a click or two before it explodes.

 This isn't the first time she's battled against Metal Demons, but this one is most definitely not one - possibly one of the Veruni that Gwen just spoke about moments before. Not that she much cares about the difference, for she's already moving, the thing used as just a distraction, a gold and red streak towards the mountainous man as a small blade finds its way into her grip.

 "Nice mustache."

 She veers away at the last moment, feet finding rocks, and launching herself at Elvis, arm drawn back and the threatening point sandwiched between her fingers. Lips curl up in a broad, mischievous grin.

 "Methinks I'll shave it."

GS: Tesni Inoue has attacked Kalve with TK Burst!
GS: Tesni Inoue has completed her action.
GS: Cassidy Cain has attacked Elvis with You'll Get Yours!
GS: Cassidy Cain has gained 2 Combo!
GS: Cassidy Cain has completed her action.
<Pose Tracker> Lily Keil has posed.

When Lily meets that something, that black cloud of interference in Riesenlied's mind or heart or whatever it is that Lily is reaching--the witch makes no effort to shield herself against it. She simply tries to press through, closing her eyes in concentration. They look more alike, dressed both in black in this way. But she can only get through for an instant, just long enough that she hears Riesenlied's warning as if she were standing right there. "Gh--"

Riesenlied pushes back with some kind of power; Lily, too busy concentrating to defend, stumbles back a few steps, and her eyes snap open. "...So, you aren't prepared to listen..."

Siegfried's words cut through her haze of emotion. Lily hears them, distantly at first, and then comprehends them, and what was a spark of fear-nursed anger spikes for an instant into something else, a hollow feeling at the pit of her stomach and a scream of rage that she doesn't realize she's made.

"No meaning? IT DOESN'T MATTER!?" Uncontrolled flames burst at her sleeves for an instant, igniting her coat, which she shrugs out of and casts to the ground beside her, lets it burn. ...The wounds it causes on her skin are plain, her shirtsleeves half-consumed but no longer ablaze. "If that's how you believe, fall on your sword now, you coward!"

Everything has a weakness, Matilda reminded her--Everything. ...And Lily told her--she said... It's just a matter of deciding whether you're willing to strike at it. Whether you're willing...

"So be it," Lily says, and for her the words feel like a closing tomb.

As she turns towards Riesenlied again, the fear of fleeing refugess assaulting her mind with the hate of the impossible foe--Elly's words ring out. A code, a memory.

'Arof arop, links!'

As Elly thrusts out her hand, Lily thrusts out hers. "Complete!" An instant after the flames erupt around Riesenlied, there is a mist that turns to frigid, growing ice on her other side, shrouding Riesenlied from view with glacial force. When the two forms of Ether meet--

Steam erupts, an explosion outward that leaves Riesenlied's body untouched, unburnt--but hit her from all sides with sudden, intense pressure from the change.

GS: Lily Keil has attacked Riesenlied with Break Order!
GS: Lily Keil has completed her action.
GS: Lily Keil has canceled their attack on Riesenlied.
GS: Lily Keil has attacked Riesenlied with Ether Impact!
GS: Lily Keil has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Lily Keil has completed her action.
GS: Riesenlied guards a hit from Lily Keil's Ether Impact for 44 hit points!
GS: Break! Statuses applied to Riesenlied!
<Pose Tracker> Jack van Burace has posed.


The sword of Arctica comes up to meet Azrael in a flare of sparks. In speed Jack can match Harken's descending slash, in strength though he is only human and Harken? Well she is something more now.

Also the fact that parrying a scythe with a sword is a pain in the ass.

The blade rips down his back even as he flash-steps away from the killing stroke.

"If you remember anything, Sword." The nickname comes easily to his lips, easy as that confident smirk. "You would remember that I don't really listen to you. Ever." Under that smirk though his eyes are sharp at the blade of his sword. "...I've seen you die once, I don't relish the thought of seeing it again. However..." The sword in his grip shifts. "...that doesn't mean I'm not going to beat you bloody."

That flaming rage, that wild madness, that hate. It...isn't absent. No it is there, but is lashed for the moment under his won will. He's let the madness take him once and nearly killed everyone he cared about for it. He won't let that happen again.

He explodes into motion again, blade sweeping out to catch a leaping Metal Beast almost casually in a swing before sending it spinning towards Harken as...

...a distraction.

 The swordsman blurs in behind it, cutting to the left at the last second to flash past the Quarter Knight, sword flickering out to cut at her armor as he dashes past before spinning to face her once again.

<Pose Tracker> Persephone has posed.

"How pathetic." The voice comes from the sidelines at Lydia, "You remember your selfish ways, even accepting them, and still imagine that you have some sort of worth?"

The pink and purple Sentinel has deigned to come off her lofty perch as she strides forwards and down. "'This isn't fair.'." These words, mocked, drip with venom. Something that resonates with her most of all is this pathetic complaint. "You put yourself into this own situation!"

"Well, if you must know," Persephone remarks, "For your studies of course - I'm keeping watch to find out if there is any relevant to provide you, that your more friendly encounters with these beings haven't provided - oh my." She feints, "They're not so friendly, are they? Even after you spared them, again and again."

Usually so helpful, apparently she is just reacting a bit obstuse for the moment, the Veruni woman striding closer and whipping out the pistol she carries with her. "DOn't worry, however, Elvis. Any of them you spare, I'll be happy to finish off for you."

GS: Jack van Burace has attacked Lady Harken with Wolf's Bite!
GS: Jack van Burace has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Jack van Burace has completed his action.
<Pose Tracker> Siegfried has posed.

Siegfried grits his teeth, the fact that he finds the blessing of the Original Artificial Medium of Life to be a help also shooting concern through him. Some of the wounds he took healed. There is a flash of concern, perhaps; there is also anger, too. It melts away, slowly, though, as it is subsumed into that emotion that he feels.

The wretched feeling, strong enough to keep him moving, that does not abate. He looks up, then, and his eyes catch Claude's. The rock does, in fact, slam into him -- and then the big, two-handed blade does two. It smashes into his armor, denting it, and Siegfried reaches out.

He grabs Claude, then tries to spear him through in one stroke with Glumzambor. As he finishes the stab, he turns his head and looks at Noeline. There is a flash of a pained look on his face; blink, and you might miss it. "...Our race... all we are, we are because Mother willed it. How easy it is to forget that, Noeline."

Water comes for him. It slams into Siegfried, and into Glumzambor, as the Dark Spear slashes across it and splits it in twain. "You should have stayed on your world, spirit," he answers, in that same cold monotone. The water breaks about him, the Life energy around him shooting it away -- but Zed closes in, not a moment later, and this time, Doombringer finds purchase. It slashes along and through the armor, where the ribs out to be -- and quicksilver blood is drawn.

Siegfried turns, to look at Zed. "Mother's return... simply is. Like the dying gasp of a star gone nova. Like the storm that cleanses. You chose to stand against the storm, Zed."

He rushes Zed, then. The languidity of his words is not reflected in his movement. With a wicked speed, Siegfried surges to close and then pass the distance with Zed, and his blade hacks out with one brutal chop across his midsection. He turns, then, eyes briefly moving to Lydia. He looks on, coldly, and he offers no retort.

He twists his jaw, glancing briefly for Lily. He doesn't answer.

His head turns back, both to Cecilia's words and to the blast of flame that hurtles from her Crest. It smashes into his armor, knocking him and spinning him at once. He turns to look at her, and his expression hardens for a moment. "...It matters not," he repeats, though more formal than before. "I never had anything."

Glumzambor spins, red and quicksilver blood alike flying from it, before Siegfried stabs the Dark Spear into the ground. The eye on the blade twitches, twice. Then, arcs of terrible black and white light explode off it. Some smash and rip through stone; some tear through boxes; one shears through the hip of a nearby guard. Most, however, whip out for Lanval, Cecilia, and even Lydia -- each with twisting, undulating, and strange light.

Then, a shield of interlocked white hexagons flashes across Siegfried's armored body, before fading from view.

GS: Siegfried enters a Counter stance!
GS: Siegfried has attacked Claude C. Kenny with Dark Spear!
GS: Siegfried has attacked Zed with Glumzambor Nemesis!
GS: Siegfried has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Siegfried has spent 5 Combo on Gatling, including 4 on Gatling!
GS: Siegfried has attacked Seraph Lanval with Negative Rainbow!
GS: Siegfried has attacked Lydia Seren with Negative Rainbow!
GS: Siegfried has attacked Cecilia Adlehyde with Negative Rainbow!
GS: Siegfried has attacked Siegfried with Hi-Shield!
GS: Siegfried has entered a Reflect stance!
GS: Siegfried has completed his action.
GS: Siegfried takes a solid hit from Siegfried's Hi-Shield for 0 hit points!
GS: Cover! Statuses applied to Siegfried!
GS: Claude C. Kenny takes a solid hit from Siegfried's Dark Spear for 139 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Ashton Anchors has posed.

Ashton braces. He's never faced - or even seen - Riesenlied in a fight before. He doesn't know what to expect. In fact, he laughs a bit at Noeline's warning comment. "Do not worry on my account, m'am!"

He pays for that. Ashton sees the flash and lunges forward to engage properly - and so takes the glowing pinion right to the chest. Perhaps to the mercenary's credit? It barely slows him down. Perhaps Noeline, Elly, the others? They can talk the rogue woman down. But they won't get the chance if the Metal Demons murder everybody. And the folks tangling with Siegfried could use the respite from the whole buffing thing.

Coming from the opposite side of Elly's flameburst, Ashton gets in close. The shortswords in his hands shear outwards first horizontal and then again vertically - not close enough to actually strike Riesenlied, oddly. The true strike is in the faint white lines each cut lets hang in the air that are suddenly connected and solidified to form an icy diamond in the air. "NORTHERN CROSS!" The shield does burst out a deathly chill - but the true power is the defense it gives the swordsman. And those behind him.

GS: Kalve takes a glancing hit from Chime Isa's Shield Breaker for 0 hit points!
GS: Shieldbreak! Statuses applied to Kalve!
GS: Kalve guards a hit from Tesni Inoue's TK Burst for 60 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Mihaya has posed.

 Alas, Mihaya is not used to fighting people who are quite *this* fast. Harken's speed is something well beyond what she was expecting to see, and the series of blows from the Quarter Knight sends her crashing back into the wall of a nearby building with a tremendous crash. The blow leaves an impression in the shape of the elf in the wall, and she drops to the ground with a dull thud. Managing to push herself back to her feet after a moment, she pauses for a moment before gagging up blood as her bashed up insides protest the beating that they have just taken as being rather unfair.

 "That's... much stronger than I had expected..." the summoner manages, gritting her teeth in pain as she plants her staff on the ground. She pushes herself upright for a moment, and wobbles unsteadily. The Quarter Knight had already moved on at that moment, leaving her to recover. "This... this won't work. Damn."

 Another hit like that and she was going to be out of the fight altogether. Which left her with only one option.

 Taking a deep breath, Mihaya raises her staff into the air for a moment, and takes a (staggering) step to one side, working through the pain of what are probably a cracked rib or two as she goes through the ritual motions. Silently she implores - there are innocent lives at stake. This is not your world, but will you consent? Will you cross the dark void and stand here for the sake of those whom have never bowed their heads in prayer for your salvation?

 The replied takes a moment, and Mihaya closes her eyes.

 "Come forth my Aeon!"

 The wires on her staff open like a flower, leaving the inscribed crystal at its top floating as it burns with a frosted blue light. All around her, massive ice crystals erupt from the ground, a shimmering image passing around them. And finally a single large crystal appears in front of her, and within it appears a pale blue woman, clad in gossamer blue clothing, her hair falling behind her in numerous braided tails tipped by golden rings. The Aeon steps forth, the crystals shattering into a cascade of snow in her wake as she looks towards Harken and raises one finger.

 Don't give away your position? Very well.

 And spears of ice form out of thin air all around Harken, spinning around for a moment before they all start launching inwards, freezing cold blue spears aimed right at the Quarter Knight.

DC: Mihaya switches forms to Heavenly Queen Shiva!
GS: Ashton Anchors has attacked Riesenlied with Northern Cross!
GS: Ashton Anchors has entered a Reflect stance!
GS: Ashton Anchors has completed his action.
GS: Mihaya has attacked Lady Harken with Blizzard 2!
GS: Mihaya has completed her action.
GS: Riesenlied critically Guards a hit from Ashton Anchors's Northern Cross for 23 hit points!
GS: Riesenlied has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Ashton Anchors has lost 1 Combo!
GS: Lydia Seren takes a glancing hit from Siegfried's Negative Rainbow for 113 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Tethelle Cirdian has posed.

Tethelle recovers her sword after the ricochet, scooping it up and sweeping it into a defensive position in front of her. She takes the moment's respite - and it is only a moment - to actually take stock of the battlefield. She kind of rushed in without really getting a feel for it...

...and the feel isn't great. Too many Metal Demons and allies, too many people who might get hurt in the crossfire. If she could be in twenty places at once... but she can't. All she can do is take it one step at a time. One enemy at a time, in this case. She has allies too, at least.

"While I'll learn from almost anyone," Tethelle says, "I don't really need the basics."

Harken's style is agile, acrobatic, and *fast*. Far, far faster than Tethelle is, even if she pushes herself, except maybe for a bare instant. Tethelle favours a stronger style; agile still, but more focused on power and stamina than raw speed. It does well against most Metal Demons; Harken is the exception.

Tethelle withstands the blow as best she can, bracing herself and turning her body to take it on her shoulder instead of the chin. It drives her back a step, her boots kicking up rock dust and debris, and Tethelle really wishes she had had time to put her shoulder guard on before she fought.

She strikes back, a great sweep of her blade. Harken is already leaping away, but chi blazes along the edge of Tethelle's blade, and she launches it in a cutting wave of blue-green energy; a wide sweep that leaves her sword shining with light down the edge as Tethelle focuses her martial skill.

"Here is your lesson! Lesson one! Never turn your back on a Priestess of the Sword! If you want to kill the citizens, you will have to get through me!"

GS: Tethelle Cirdian has attacked Lady Harken with Comet Blade!
GS: Tethelle Cirdian has completed her action.
<Pose Tracker> Arleph Ardan has posed.

      "I know." Arleph replies simply to Ines, admist the chaos. A tragedy is happening. A Void-damned massacre. This is precisely why he has to remain calm like this while doing what he can to save lives. Still, Kalve's answer is perplexing. Troubling. Cold. Admist the chaos around them, it's hard to tell, conversation, shouts and defiant attacks, but there IS one voice, louder than most, that strikes him to his heart.

      Zed's desperate plea to Siegfried. Now that he notices, that seems to be the case on a lot of them. There seems to be a... sort of resignation.

      That moment of observation almost costs him his head. The Symbologist snaps back to attention to watch the Metal Demon warrior brandishing some ridiculously large caliber guns in his direction. In a desperate moment, he drops the spell he was weaving to bring his shield into focus before him. The round slams into floating hexagons, sending Arleph sliding back a feet, leaving skids on the ground. "Tch!" He grunts in pain. He got lucky, this time. Too lucky, even past defenses he could feel that one pretty hard.

      "A Goddess!? That's the whole crux of the problem, is it!? Damn, it's far more ahead than I feared for. She's far more insunated than I imagined." Was he correct? Is Mother having far bigger of an insunation into their species than his theory have been saying? Whatever. Right now, right this moment, he need to fight.

      He acknowledges Tesni's call, snapping two fingers. A symbol spreads out from out of his feet, tendrils spreading out to the Warform Metal Demon. They latch at the air around him, motes of light violently coming into focus and blazing out past him and, hopefully, through him to come to Arleph's person. Scattered energy spread in the air, motion, kinetic energy harnessed to his own magical uses -- and destructive use in their path back to Arleph, through Kalve.

GS: Arleph Ardan has attacked Kalve with Mote Reclamation!
GS: Arleph Ardan has completed his action.
GS: Lady Harken guards a hit from Jack van Burace's Wolf's Bite for 82 hit points!
GS: Lady Harken takes a solid hit from Mihaya's Blizzard 2 for 120 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Xantia has posed.

Xantia was completely ready for a fight. She wasn't ready for a sudden friendly conversation in the middle of all this. Though it may be hard to tell, given how easily she switches gears upon hearing her name. "...huh? Oh, Gwen, hi! I didn't know you came here too!" She's only a little surprised. Gwen always seems to show up where there's trouble. She's long since started to assume being a courier is only part of her job description.

But before she gets around to addressing the matter of 'grandpa' or asking about Gwen's companion, Elvis takes offense, which causes her attention to turn back in that direction. It's a look devoid of understanding, as she responds with genuine confusion, "I didn't call you old." She just said the word 'grandpa', that doesn't have anything to do with age, does it? She doesn't get at all why that word seems to be making this man so mad. Of course, her frame of reference may be a bit different from the typical. Not just regarding this matter.

And as if she weren't distracted enough already, just at that crucial moment... Xantia looks away for a moment, turning her head vaguely in the direction of Riesenlied. Could she somehow tell she was being looked at from afar?

Whatever the case may be, she doesn't discover the source before snapping her head back to Elvis, only left with a split second to react to a violent tremor sent her way. Not enough time in the slightest to prevent being thrown off-balance, taking a painful tumble to the ground. Of course, all that really does is flip the switch in her mind that wasn't sure if she should be fighting this person to 'very yes'.

"Oww... so it's a fight you want, huh? Fine!" With that, she leaps back to her feet, and bridges the distance between her and Elvis in no time flat. Her actual attack is deceptively simple, a single strike for the center of mass with the flat of her palm. The power behind it is probably more than expected from a human however, let alone the other effect should it connect, a lingering burning sensation as it disrupts the internal flow of energy through the body.

Xantia is quick to hop backwards afterwards, dropping into a ready fighting stance with a confident grin. "You think I'd run just because you tell me to? I'm not so easy to tear to pieces."

GS: Kalve guards a hit from Arleph Ardan's Mote Reclamation for 100 hit points!
GS: Lady Harken takes a solid hit from Tethelle Cirdian's Comet Blade for 111 hit points!
GS: Mighty! Statuses applied to Tethelle Cirdian!
GS: Xantia has attacked Elvis with Disrupting Palm Strike!
GS: Xantia has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Xantia has completed her action.
<Pose Tracker> Matilda Whitehead has posed.

Matilda tries to cede ground to that push, but doesn't cede *enough* ground to actually make herself safe; she's knocked over unceremoniously. She has to take a moment and scramble back to her feet... though she's not actually in much *pain* -- just losing ground. "Nngh..." She rubs at her side a little bit, and after a second or two...

... puts away her weapon, sticking exclusively to the shield. The spectre of the worst outcome rises in the back of her head... and while she's perfectly capable of dealing with that eventuality -- it's not exactly something... she wants to think about, or court.

Elly gets her attention with what sounds like nonsense; she takes a half-step back, letting Elly do her thing -- and watching as that pillar of flame bursts upward. Matilda waits for a few moments, and takes the time to speak rather than fight.

"Riesenlied..." Matilda murmurs, barely audible -- if at all -- above the din of the combat. "I..." She lets out a sigh. "... No, there's no point in saying those words right now."

As Lily's attack joins Elly's, Matilda makes use of the opening as swiftly as possible. She moves in through the steam, knowing her motions will be obscured. If it's going to be so difficult to attack Riesenlied as she floats, then... well, she'll just have to ground her, instead. Matilda reaches out to grip Riese tightly -- though it's much less a 'hug' than Lydia's, much more of a no-doubt quite painful joint lock.

GS: Zed has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Siegfried has lost 1 Combo!
DC: MISS! Zed completely evades Glumzambor Nemesis from Siegfried!
GS: Matilda Whitehead has attacked Riesenlied with Planting!
GS: Matilda Whitehead has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Matilda Whitehead has completed her action.
GS: Riesenlied critically Guards a hit from Matilda Whitehead's Planting for 27 hit points!
GS: Riesenlied has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Matilda Whitehead has lost 1 Combo!
GS: Seraph Lanval takes a solid hit from Siegfried's Negative Rainbow for 235 hit points!
GS: Elvis guards a hit from Cassidy Cain's You'll Get Yours for 61 hit points!
GS: Elvis guards a hit from Xantia's Disrupting Palm Strike for 61 hit points!
GS: Cripple! Statuses applied to Elvis!
<Pose Tracker> Ines Colina has posed.

    Ines was definitely not expecting extra hands bursting from Kalve, which smash into her hard. It's a lucky reflex that brings her arms up just in time to catch the worst of open palm strikes, but the impact is enough to feel her shoulder get dislocated. And she's not fast enough to stop Kalve's sweep, and she's driven into the hard ground at speed. Her breath is knocked out of her, and the best she can do is roll away before Kalve decides to capitalise on Ines' prone state.

    She pulls herself upright and takes a second to yank on her dislocated left arm and, with a painful sounding click, pull it back in to place. Yeah, she's gonna regret that tomorrow, but the fight right now is the problem. "Great. The murder bug is a zealot." Ines grumbles, as Chime, well, chimes in about the importance on talking. As Arleph lashes out with a spell, Ines starts preparing symbology of her own.

    Instead of closing again, Ines kneels places a hand to the ground as the tattoo on her chest glows. The ground starts to crack and shake in a cone towards Kalve, before suddenly bursting up with shards of stone to dig into the Metal Demon. Because earthquake magic in a tunnel system is always a good idea.

GS: Ines Colina has attacked Kalve with Tectonic Breaker!
GS: Ines Colina has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Ines Colina has completed her action.
GS: Kalve guards a hit from Ines Colina's Tectonic Breaker for 84 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Layna Manydays has posed.

While Layna's crew works to fire on Metal Beasts and evacuate the people of New Arctica, the Captain herself and her team have not been idle. No, while they have not made an appearance on the battlefield yet, they are here, and they've been waiting for an opportunity.

That opportunity arrives in the appearance of Veruni sentinel, as she draws her revolver. Suddenly, three women emerge the shadows. Layna appears first, with the Quartermaster Dahlia - a short, stern-faced woman with a two-handed boarding axe resting on her shoulder - and the Lead Artillerist Victoria - a taller woman carrying a spear in a ready position - at her flanks, forming a wall to prevent her from assisting her fellow Sentinel.

"How about no? I think you oughta turn around and head back the way you came from." Layna says, rolling her neck. "Outta the goodness of my heart, you know."

Layna very much remembers Persephone from the encounter at the White Lotus Falls Monastery, but whether or not the Veruni recognizes her is another thing entirely.

<Pose Tracker> Josephine Lovelace has posed.

    If only she had her rifle.

    That, alone, is the thought Josie has when she drops but one Metal Demon before Lady Harken intercedes. Good in a pinch, bad a distance. Ain't that always the way with these sidearms. Her irritation is momentary as it settles and flees her expression, and she here shrugs her shoulders in an almost lazy fashion.

    "I wouldn't call it 'hope', exactly. More like, 'I don't feel like running', this time. Besides--"

    Red lights resolve to amber across the cannon. Hurry it up, you little bastard, she grouses, nudging the ARM with her free hand. Shoulda slotted it in earlier.

    The scythe the Quarter Knight bears, meanwhile, glints a grim promise.
    Josie's dark eyes skim the area, taking in her fellow combatents. Elf-girl, that lady with a sword she's seen before. Blondie with a sword. And... Ida.
    Her pale brows knot as she takes in Ida.

    "Hey, do me a favor and try to keep her back a sec or two? It'd really do me a fav--"
    She cuts out. She freezes, languidity shedding for the quiet subtle dawn of horrified realization at the sound of a certain voice and the words that voice speaks.

    It's Riesenlied's voice.

    "...Sunshine...?" Josie utters.

    For one perilous second her attention is torn from the Quarter Knight--

    --She'd heard the story. Riesenlied had been plucked away from a refugee caravan headed back this way, been spirited away into the night by her former compatriots. Now she knows to what end--

    --her mind shifts direction quickly. 'Run' speaks the first impulse.
    Josie heeds it not. There's the matter of the cannon. She can't leave it, not after all of this. So save but to fold her arms inwards and lower her head

    The blade flashes; there is a spray of red. The archaeologist crumples alongside the ancient ARM for a heartbeat, then reaches up for it, dropping her sidearm as she moves.
    then using it as a prop, stands upright.

    "Pick the right... weapons, eh?"

    A chime within the ARM rings out. Lights turn from a dull amber to a brilliant green, casting its glow and strange shadows across the tunnel walls.
    This is not a stealth weapon.
    It doesn't need to be.
    Power up: complete.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=anuAekXi13M

    "If you didn't... like that one," Josie says, falling into a crouch alongside the cannon, squinting one eye shut to peer through the sight. Target found.

    "How 'bout you give this one a go?!"

    Finding the trigger, she hauls on it. The whole ancient ARM whines shrilly as it amps up--
    And lets its ammunition fly. Calling what it uses a 'bullet' is by no means accurate at this point anymore: this is artillery.

GS: Layna Manydays has attacked Persephone with Restrained Aggression!
GS: Layna Manydays has completed her action.
DC: You switch forms to Repurposed Ancient Cannon Nostos!
DC: Josephine Lovelace switches forms to Repurposed Ancient Cannon Nostos!
GS: Josephine Lovelace has attacked Lady Harken with The Gods Will Make It Bitter!
GS: Josephine Lovelace has completed her action.
<Pose Tracker> Ida Everstead-Rey has posed.

    Ida glances out from behind Hazel at the man spearheading the assault. The first thing she sees is the thing she was silently dreading that she would see--Riesenlied, her loyalties "reaffirmed". She moves like a puppet, like something devoid of its own intent. A cold shudder makes its way down Ida's spine, but she raises the blade and brings it down on another tripwire. The cable snaps with a sharp twing, and a good half-ton of rock comes loose further down the corridor with a thunderous crash.

    And then there's Siegfried. At another time, given different context, Siegfried's words would be proud, even boastful. Now, his voice is cold and dead, devoid of emotion in a way that cuts far too close to home--the sort of thing someone can only experience when they've been so beaten down they can't even feel despair. Ida's heart twists. She knows Siegfried wants her dead, but there's something wrong even behind the obvious hollowing-out of his trusted protege.

    And then Harken makes eye contact. Everything comes into sharp focus. Ida's thoughts flicker back, momentarily, to lying on the floor of the Lacour Coliseum, nearly gutted, but unable to die.

    Her right hand clenches into a fist beneath her cloak.

    "Colonel!" Ida cries, her head whipping back towards Hazel Raye, still watching her back. She catches a glimpse of a tall, spindly figure with blades that look like gold stained glass, and it takes everything she has to keep from telling him to get out of here. Instead: "Trip the rest! I'll keep her busy!"

    Bold words. Especially coming from someone who looks wounded. Does she think she can beat Lady Harken with one arm tied up and useless?

    Hazel looks at her as though she's lost her mind. "FOR HOUSE RAYE!" Ida cries. Her voice is raw, scratchy. "FOR THE LEGACY OF THE DEMON FIST!" Her thoughts skitter about, the old, familiar worries joined by entirely new ones.

    Ida feels the wind kicked up by Harken's passage moments before the Quarter Knight reappears exactly where Ida knew she would. She doesn't turn. Doing so would waste valuable time when every second counts. The young martial artist ducks forwards, executing what would be a deep, respectful bow if the circumstances were different. Azrael cuts a long, thin line down Ida's cloak, its edge glancing off a cloth-like armor layer beneath.

    "I preferred it when we were on speaking terms," Ida says, whipping herself back upright and shooting Harken an icy, level look. There's something a bit off about it, a bit too fluid. Perhaps she's just gotten good. "If you need a goddess murdered, well, I'm working on it." Ida has a narrow window, and she takes it. She drives an open-palm strike at Harken's torso, chi glowing around her fingers. There's a heat to it that wasn't there before. A loud rumble that isn't from one of the traps catches her ear, and she shouts something over the din. "Ines! Try and disable that one if you can!" She doesn't know if she'll go for the kill. Maybe...

    Either way, she clears out. She only got a glimpse of that thing Josie unholstered and she does not want to be anywhere near its point of impact.

GS: Ida Everstead-Rey has attacked Lady Harken with Open Palm!
GS: Ida Everstead-Rey has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Ida Everstead-Rey has completed her action.
<Pose Tracker> Riesenlied has posed.

    Noeline may not be acting out against her directly, but her words seem to have meaningful pierce as she pauses for a moment. Remember what she was doing. Why she was here, in Elru. What about Lydia, or Janey, or Mikaia...

    Riesenlied finds herself mercifully distracted from that painful recollection as she looks towards Noeline proper, then whispers, "I-- no, please, do not say that... I cannot possibly..."

    A hitch of her breath. Cannot possibly be what?

    "... even if it is just to make him a bit happier... then I would be..."

    Even on the other side, even after all that has happened, what little she could cling onto that was unequivocably 'her'... if she could just be a little bit of that daughter she's always wanted to be...

    MOM!!

    Riesenlied turns her head, and looks to Lydia. She bristles further, shaken as she hears Lydia's words. Her treasure. Janey. Mikaia. Them again... why-- why can she not remember--

    Another Medium is evoked, and she can feel the very Ley shifting beneath her feet once more. There's another yelp as she's briefly blinded by that light, and sees Lydia charging at her; she's far too fast, as she clumsily stumbles to the ground, unable to sustain her floating power against the Guardian of Star-- and the Daughter of Stars' power. She accepts that hug, prompting a reaction--

    Elly announces that the will of Mother does not matter. The moment she hears that, the moment she parses and processes it-- some measure of pain within seems to stir within the Hyadean.

    Even if she's given up... her dream... everything she's done...

    Why... do all these people speak as if they know me?

    Elly's spell erupts flame around her, not directly but rather uncomfortably boxing her in; her dress and capelet start to catch fire, although seemingly the enchanted thread of the Fereshte prevent from just disintegrating the way normal clothes do. Her breathing gets choked and hard, however, as the air superheats around her...

    ...and then Lily's followup makes the combination more understandable. Fire, then ice -- and it creates an intense change of pressure in the air that prompts her to drop to her knees for a moment in pain. She hasn't been singed nor frozen, but the reaction seems such, especially with her words--

    Ashton is following up, as well- behind that crown, her eyes trail the movement of his short swords, but she's not ready to detect the incoming blast of cold air that's thrown in her direction and defending the others.

    ... which leaves her open for Matilda, given that she's far from the most heavy, strong or agile of targets and she doesn't exactly have much trouble grabbing her and bundling her into a joint-lock. She has both Lydia and Matilda on her right now!

    For a moment, it looks like the fight is over already.

    ... then the Medium shimmers, as if to say, 'No,' and she bursts into something equivocal to a familiar light blue Ley flame that spreads to those closest to her. If there is a mercy, much like before, there isn't exactly much force behind it -- something startling and overwhelming, but not intrinsically lethal in desire.

    Incandescent blue motes turning to familiar photons as they dance about the field like moths... and then, reforming on the other side, away from the antipodean pressure zone.

    Riesenlied is breathing hard, yet the Drifters can visibly see--

    The Medium of Life is propelling her to keep fighting.

    Is there anything to remember?

    She pauses to work a small response, breathing hard, as if she has to select her words... as if something has to select her words.

    "I--I do not know of what you speak, good Drifters...
 I am... I have always been...
 I am to be-- Lord Siegfried's loyal and caring support.
 If I can even just... do this much... at such a difficult time..."

    A pause, as she hitches her breath. Even with that denouncement, it feels like the closest thing she can manage to resistance right now. To be Lord Siegfried's, rather than Mother's.

    "This-- this will not be as forgiving as the last. Please be ready."

    More of those spectral Pinions erupt around her, six in a circular formation this time; they weave around her, perhaps to persuade those that prefer to get closer into combat like Matilda otherwise --

    --then they spread out as they attempt to strike at those further away. Lily, Elly, Noeline. A sparkling trail of light weaves out after them, as they zig, zag and behave in a way that reminds Elly of a much, much less destructive and tinier AEROD.

    And like before...

    "... please... do not say that, Lord Siegfried.
     No matter the outcome...
     No matter the will of Mother...
     I shall always be there with you.]"

    She doesn't know she's making it worse in a way.

    And with that, to adjoin with his hexagonal formation of shields comes additional layering above the Quarter Knight's blue armour; shields composed of Ley energy, appearing with the visual of a faint trail of the aurora.

GS: Riesenlied has activated a Boss Action!
<Pose Tracker> Gwen Whitlock has posed.

    Too many things are happening, all at once. Gwen finds her emotions pulled in all sorts of directions, from Jack's fight against Harken, Noeline trying to reach out to a brainwashed(?) Riesenlied, the uncharacteristic despair that marks Siegfried's usually proud gait, Zed's shouts to him carrying over the air. And so much more. It'd be far too easy to get overwhelmed. Where would she even begin?

    'I'M NOT A GRANDPA!' Well, Gwen's getting quickly familiar with that voice, having met its source several times in the past month or so.

    "E-elvis?!" Cassidy, meet Elvis. He is very strong, and he has an impressive mustache. Gwen flops down from the shockwave like any fragile human would when their grip on the ground is yanked from them so violently. But, much like Xantia, Gwen quickly gets back up, rubbing her side. "Ugh, she's here too?!" she exclaims, at Persephone's remark. Cupping her hands to her mouth, Gwen shouts, "Lydia, don't underestimate her!" Where... is Lydia?

    No, wait, she should focus.

    "I appreciate the concern, but I think I'll take my chances with you over her." Undoing the strap over the muzzle in her palm, Gwen aims. "I know you're tough, so I won't hold back!"

    Except she's not even aiming at a vital area, so she's totally holding back.

GS: Riesenlied has attacked Matilda Whitehead with Leyline Escape!
GS: Riesenlied has attacked Lydia Seren with Leyline Escape!
GS: Riesenlied has attacked Ashton Anchors with Leyline Escape!
GS: Riesenlied has gained 2 Combo!
GS: Lydia Seren takes a glancing hit from Riesenlied's Leyline Escape for 43 hit points!
GS: Riesenlied has attacked Noeline with Sterling Sea!
GS: Riesenlied has attacked Lily Keil with Sterling Sea!
GS: Riesenlied has attacked Elhaym van Houten with Sterling Sea!
GS: Riesenlied has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Riesenlied has attacked Siegfried with Life Arcana - Border of Souls!
GS: Gwen Whitlock has attacked Elvis with Coil Cannon EX!
GS: Gwen Whitlock has entered a Reflect stance!
GS: Gwen Whitlock has completed her action.
GS: Riesenlied has completed her action.
GS: Siegfried takes a solid hit from Riesenlied's Life Arcana - Border of Souls for 0 hit points!
GS: Quick and Shield! Statuses applied to Siegfried!
GS: Noeline critically Guards a hit from Riesenlied's Sterling Sea for 26 hit points!
GS: Noeline has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Riesenlied has lost 1 Combo!
GS: CRITICAL! Ashton Anchors takes a solid hit from Riesenlied's Leyline Escape for 137 hit points!
GS: Elvis critically Guards a hit from Gwen Whitlock's Coil Cannon EX for 16 hit points!
GS: Elvis has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Gwen Whitlock has lost 1 Combo!
GS: Lady Harken guards a hit from Josephine Lovelace's The Gods Will Make It Bitter for 52 hit points!
GS: Shieldbreak! Statuses applied to Lady Harken!
GS: Josephine Lovelace has lost 0 Combo!
GS: Lady Harken has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Ida Everstead-Rey has lost 1 Combo!
DC: MISS! Lady Harken completely evades Open Palm from Ida Everstead-Rey!
GS: Persephone takes a glancing hit from Layna Manydays's Restrained Aggression for 0 hit points!
GS: Matilda Whitehead takes a glancing hit from Riesenlied's Leyline Escape for 49 hit points!
GS: Elhaym van Houten takes a glancing hit from Riesenlied's Sterling Sea for 69 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Elvis has posed.

A small canister of some kind taps along the ground and lands near Elvis' feet, who is still extracting his foot from partway in the ground. "Hm?" is all he says as the device glows brightly and detonates, fire and flames going everywhere, and coating the Veruni! "Ahhhhh owowowow!" he shouts, like some kind of lunatic, or very emotive person. Possibly both.

When the heat dies down, the man is smouldering slightly, as is one tip of his moustache, which is promptly put out with a pinch. "Well, besides hurling napalm at me, thank you!" the man says, straightening his ascot.

And then she says something that makes him grow pale. "N-NO! THis is mine! You can have whatever with your own hair! Do you have any idea how long this took to grow?!"

...Elvis actually doesn't remember. Probably not too long though. "If you take it, the proportions of my face will be all off! I--"

THUD.

In the middle of his rant, Xantia makes he distance and palm strike to his chest, which makes the man double over in... not quite pain, but some strange sensation. Pain is something easily tolerated. This was... "Wh-What did you do to me?!" the man says, holding his side. The Sentinel frantically reaches for Xantia to grab her and hold her under his arm, as he tries to do the same toward Cassidy! "You both need to leave right now!!!" he shouts as he does this. He intends to just take them and deposit them otuside New Arctica!

Gwen lands a glancing hit on a leg, causing him to stagger for a moment, at which point he looks ot her, runs up and...!

"Shoo! Just shoo! Go home!" he says, shaking his head at her. After all, if the two previous attacks succeed, he doesn't... have any extra arms. Even fi they didn't he isn't supposed to hurt her.

GS: Elvis has attacked Xantia with Lariat Grab!
GS: Elvis has attacked Cassidy Cain with Lariat Grab!
GS: Elvis has attacked Gwen Whitlock with SHOO!!
GS: Elvis has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Elvis has completed his action.
<Pose Tracker> Claude C. Kenny has posed.

Siegfried's hand is nearly big as Claude's face, and so the Quarter Knight has little problem grabbing hold of the young man from Earth, who soon discovers the downside of a heavier weapon, i.e., the difficulty in deploying it both in close quarters and without any leverage. He tries to bring the blade up to cut the Quarter Knight's arm, but instead just sort of slaps at it ineffectually. Then the Dark Spear rises, toward Claude's helpless body...

...and the designers of the Federation field uniform save Ilia's baby boy once again. The armourweave hardens in response to the terrific thrust, preventing it from piercing Claude's guts but doing nothing to prevent the transfer of the terrific impact. The blonde swordsman emits a half-gasp, half vomiting noise as the air is knocked from his lungs, and he goes hurtling backward a dozen yards, smashing into and through a ramshackle building.

For several seconds, he just sort of lies there and twitches, trying to remember how to breathe. Then, with a surge of effort, air floods back into his lungs, and Claude spends another half-minute or so just breathing and not much else. Except listening. He can listen just fine.

What he hears confuses him. Then it annoys him. Then it makes him irrationally, furiously angry.

A powerful crash followed by the flight of a small kitchen table heralds the return of Claude C. Kenny to the fight; the blonde swordsman stalks out of the collapsing shanty, gripping his sword in one hand, a shimmering blue energy swirling about him as he start gathering chi, pulling in as much energy as he can. Whatever the next minute or so holds, he's either going to need everything he's got... or he's never going to need anything ever again.

"Bullshit!" Claude says, barking the word. "You are so frigging full of it. For all of your goddamn lectures and speeches about the oh-so-superior Mother, about how you guys aren't human, about how Zed and..." Claude falters, forgetting Riesenlied's name. God, they've had, like, one whole conversation. "...anyway, that they shouldn't even try to be human, yet here you are, Edgy McEdgerson! Oh wow, nothing matters, and you've never had anything to care about? BUUUUUUUUUUULSHIIIIIIIIIIIIIT!" Claude repeats, going for volume, treating it like a yodel. "God help me, you'll probably kill me for this... but if I'm gonna die, it's gonna be fighting a monster, not some whining, petulant baby."

The Boy from Earth plants his feet, pulling his sword back, charging another assault... but this one is significantly larger, howling winds roaring around the great blade like a furious whirlwind. "I stood in the halls of a tomb you built with your own goddamn hands," Claude says, his eyes flashing with anger. "And you nearly killed me for it! Because it was the tomb of your beloved, or have you forgotten, Mister I Never Had Anything?"

The blonde swordsman pours even more power into the sword, his arms shaking with anger, his voice cracking with it. "His name was Enkidu!" Claude roars, hovering poised on the edge. "Do you remember it, you..." Claude sputters, to angry to think. "you..."

"YA BASIC!" he screams, bringing the sword down.

GS: Claude C. Kenny has attacked Siegfried with Ultimate Air Slash!
GS: Claude C. Kenny has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Claude C. Kenny has completed his action.
GS: Cecilia Adlehyde critically Guards a hit from Siegfried's Negative Rainbow for 44 hit points!
GS: Cecilia Adlehyde has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Siegfried has lost 1 Combo!
GS: COUNTER! Siegfried strikes at Claude C. Kenny with a counter attack!
GS: Sneak! The true nature of Claude C. Kenny's attack becomes clear!
GS: Siegfried guards a hit from Claude C. Kenny's Freestyle Combat Arts for 117 hit points!
GS: Claude C. Kenny takes a solid hit from Siegfried's Counter Attack for 220 hit points!
GS: Xantia takes a glancing hit from Elvis's Lariat Grab for 61 hit points!
GS: Entangle! Statuses applied to Xantia!
<Pose Tracker> Noeline has posed.

    Noeline feels her heart lurch as she watches Lydia crash into Riesenlied. On the one hand, that little nurtured hope that's taken root in her at her partner's hesitation begins to blossom further at the sight of daughter meeting mother, despite the fear and desperation that makes her muscles quake with every step she pushes forwards. On the other hand... Riesenlied's sense of identity was already fractured and frayed when she was taken. What must it be like now? she wonders with another rising wave of nausea. Is that the lynchpin that Alhazred used?

    She can spare enough time to look at Elly from where she's pressing towards Riesenlied, her face set into a thin line - but all she can do is shake her head in a quick staccato jolt, the motion saying more than she ever could. "... that mask," is all she can trust herself to get out, but there is no doubt in her mind that it will not be as simple as just plucking it off of Riese.

    More than once a Metal Beast lunges at her, but the sheer wash of sorcery around her seems to let her slip past and through them, Duras Drum's power veiling her approach as she twists to simply pick one up and - with the speed of her whirl - send it flying aside into a wall. Her body already aches from the channeling of sorcery; as much as she's been practicing with the Medium as of late, some incompatabilities are still harder to get over than others. But the thought of dropping her field isn't an option - the thought of ending her attempt to reach Riesenlied something she simply can't stomach.

    Her nerves jangle at the sight of her partner assaulted from multiple directions, but she screws her eyes shut long enough to redouble her attempt to channel through the Dragon's Tear. When it comes down to it, Riesenlied is tough - tougher than she'd ever recognize herself, able to stand time and time again against whatever the world next chose to throw at them. If she's stopped by this attack, then it's just to get a little more time to try to reach her.

    Siegfried actually deigns to look over at her, and offer her some words - and she can catch that tiny, tiny look, her eyes widening as she realizes what it is. All at once, the disgust starts to drain out of her, replaced by a pity she'd never expected she'd feel - but still, her grip tightens on her sword. "... Hyadeans are not pets. They are not slaves. That isn't the future I want for them. And I'm going to remind Riesenlied of that." It isn't exactly a promise - but it lights a determined fire inside of her nonetheless. Perhaps it's close enough.

    Riesenlied's power scatters around them in a gigantic weave of light - but the Hyadean forces herself forwards, her gaze set firmly on her opponent, on her beloved. Step by step. Inch by inch. Little by little. Her only option is to try to forge a path towards Riesenlied - to try to reach her, come what may.

    Noeline has always joked that she fights with words more than weapons, and to be honest it isn't much of a joke. The right phrase can be a way to set an opponent off their balance, or to rile them up into making a mistake, or to take away their will to fight back. A constant litany of chatter can be as distracting as any surprise attack. But...

    ...there's no such careful calculation here, not today. Instead, it's a mix of desperation and anger and fear and love that keeps her mouth moving in hopes that she might reach Riesenlied even just a little. "Do you remember - you were so worried about what mask you should wear," she whispers, and yet her voice is strong enough to carry over the sounds of battle.

    "I promised that I would stay at your side until you decided - I promised that I would love you, no matter what you decided," she fixes her gaze back on Riesenlied as she steps closer, her voice quavering but held as soft as she can make it. "... but I want it to be a mask you choose yourself! Not one that's been forced upon you!"

    She can't help it, but the protective fear starts to rise in the back of her voice; is Odoryuk deliberately prolonging the fight? Is this the tainting of her Medium, or the Guardian deciding to set them a challenge at literally the worst possible time? "Alhazred took you from us. He forced that mask upon you. He altered your memories - as he has Harken's in the past. Riese... please," she adds, and this time the whisper is silent as she focuses on the Tear once more, her aura redoubling as it pauses - and then, with a mental effort and fatigue screaming through her bones, blossoms further outwards.

GS: Noeline has attacked Riesenlied with Hesperos - The Evening Star!
GS: Noeline has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Noeline has entered a Reflect stance!
GS: Noeline has completed her action.
GS: Riesenlied guards a hit from Noeline's Hesperos - The Evening Star for 99 hit points!
GS: Mighty! Statuses applied to Noeline!
GS: Cassidy Cain takes a glancing hit from Elvis's Lariat Grab for 65 hit points!
GS: Entangle! Statuses applied to Cassidy Cain!
GS: Gwen Whitlock guards a hit from Elvis's SHOO! for 0 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Zed has posed.

Doombringer actually... connects? That's not supposed to happen. That's not supposed to happen! Zed's eyes widen at the quicksilver splash. He... Actually made contact? No. No time to mull it over. No time at all. "That's what I'm saying is so weird!" Zed yells, even as Glumzambor swings to divide him at the middle. It never gets the chance.

In a single smooth motion, Zed slides his blade from Siegfried's wound. Three metallic clashes ring out, pure and clear as churchbells. Brutal force meets swift swordplay as, faster than the eye can follow, Zed moves from ready to slashing three times in quick succession, each blow knocking Glumzambor just ever so slightly off target. "That's not right. That's not right, Sieg!"

With the third blow, Zed launches himself backwards, though this time landing in a centered and ready stance rather than sprawling prone somewhere halfway across the battlefield. "I... I remember the stories you told me! Of how warm the Mother was, of how she loved each of us. You... You seemed so happy when you thought of her! Even Berserk-- I never thought he could make a face like that." Zed pleads, his sword... trembles. Not out of fear-- there's desperation in his voice, as if he were being confronted by something... Something unthinkable. "And... And besides that, you... You always told us, that her awakening would finally bring us peace! That we'd have a world again! And you seemed so sure of it, that when we'd finally won, you'd be able to guide us into a better age."

"Was all of it a lie!?" Zed screams, "Don't say you don't have a future. Don't you dare tell me that! That's... That's what kept me around, what made me think, maybe, just maybe, we WERE doing the right thing!"

"But..." Pain cracks his voice. He lifts a hand from his blade for just a moment to wipe away at his nose. "But even if that is lie, you're right!" Doombringer rises, not to strike-- no. It swings in a loose, lazy circle, before coming to a stop overhead. Zed takes in a breath-- and when he releases it, the air seems... Different. Focused, intense, as if something were about to explode. "I AM standing against a storm! I AM cutting through that supernova! That's my choice, and damnit, if all I have to cleave is one little calamity to snap you out of this funk, then I'll cut Mother's head from her shoulders MYSELF!"

"Now come on!" Zed roars, "TRY and cut me down! You'll fail, I guarantee it! Nobody with such a half-hearted sword could ever kill me!"

GS: Zed has attacked Zed with Saint Arts - Empty Sky Form!
GS: Zed has gained 2 Combo!
GS: Zed has entered a Reflect stance!
GS: Zed has completed his action.
GS: Zed takes a solid hit from Zed's Saint Arts - Empty Sky Form for 0 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Persephone has posed.

Humans from the shadows slide free, a Quartermaster, an artillerist, and another woman - and then, a woman directly facing at her with that ARM. The Sentinel does not even seem amused as they arrive, making it clear that she has no interest in even the slightest bothering of this all. It is, to her, completely irrelevant they have stood before her. "Do you think I care what choices you make?"

The Sentinel stands, hands on her hips, as she glances at Layna. Eyes from beneath the helmet stare directly towards the human? and regards her for only a moment. Not as a person, but simply... there.

She keeps walking afterwards, towards them. "I don't need to explain to you why your actions are in error - you can figure that out yourself."

Where as there was only a remark from Layna, Persephone does not take a moment to provide Layna any information of her actions, the Sentinel suddenly stopping in her movements and flicking her wrist upwards with the IPCC-3927 Veruni pistol, golden as it gleams in the cold atmosphere, before popping off a shot, then another. As 'friendly' as she is, these shots are aimed at more of the expected 'weak' points all humans share, joints, central mass, and the head of the Drifter.

GS: Persephone has attacked Layna Manydays with Silence!
GS: Persephone has completed her action.
GS: Layna Manydays guards a hit from Persephone's Silence for 66 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Lydia Seren has posed.

Lydia is taunted by Persephone!

Lydia glances over. Her entire expression is 'huh???' because she has no idea who Persephone is. She says, "Uhh, pretty sure Alhazred put me into this situation. Not like I know the guy." Pause. "Anyway for an alien invader whose entire racial conceit is 'Wahh we have a life threatening illness, let's help the Anti-Life Goddess, y'all have a pretty weird definition of pathetic." Despite the words, she doesn't sound heated, just kind of casually irreverent. "Especially since you could just move to Lunar and avoid the problem. Yeah that's right I solved your entire crisis because I'm a genius."

She then says something else but it's blocked out by Josephine firing her cannon so don't worry about it. It was probably something rude anyway.

Moments later Lydia is hugging Riesenlied tightly, sobbing into her despite her earlier bravery. The end of it is that this sucks, she doesn't want to fight Riesenlied. She doesn't want to hurt her mom. She doesn't even really want to fight Siegfried or this purple lady that's bugging her.

The DUAL TECH from Elly and Lily end up impacting her as well somewhat thanks to her position, but she doesn't let go.

This doesn't hurt, she thinks, Lily and Elly are my friends. This doesn't hurt.

But then she is blasted off from Riesenlied thanks to Medium of Life blazing blue around her. That sends Lydia flying and onto her back.

Does this mean Siegfried was right? It certainly looks fairly pathetic like Persephone said, in the right lens.

Or maybe the wrong lens.

But Lydia stands again anyway. "Even like this...you're still you! Don't forget us!!" Pause. "Or if you did...that's fine!" She rubs at her eyes. "We can make new memories too...!"

And then of course Siegfried punches several holes through Lydia's back with rainbow lasers. Well, negative rainbow lasers. Lydia gags out a slough of silver fluid and falls back down to her knees.

And the light fades. Lydia has shaken off a lot of that bulkier cyborg frame. Her ram-like horns are covered in silver armoring but even though the glow has largely faded from her, her arm-blades remain a brilliant right, and her eyes shine a solid shining yellow. Her hair is longer in this form, braided back and topped off by a cartoon star ornament.

Lydia looks over towards Siegfried.

"You've got Riesenlied!" She says. "She's still...ngghh...there!" In some lights it's even more pathetic to try and encourage the man who just impaled you four times with death lasers.

"Even if nothin' matters..." Lydia shakes her head. "No, ESPECIALLY if nothing matters...!"

Her eyes unleash a twin pair of EYE LASER BLASTS for Siegfried's body.

"Then why spend that nothing hurting people?!"

GS: Lydia Seren has attacked Siegfried with Peekaboo!
GS: Lydia Seren has completed her action.
<Pose Tracker> Kalve has posed.

"Indeed," Kalve says. He starts towards Ines, apparently planning to do exactly what she was worried about and capitalize on her being down. "It is difficult to defy the will of a goddess, much less the progenitor of one's own species." He raises one of his empty hands. A hook sword materializes out of the same yellow stained glass material that the prior swords were made of.

Tesni and Chime keep him from following up. Orange crossbow bolts strike home, piercing that cloak and pinning it to something underneath. A telekinetic blast follows, driving them deeper and staggering the Metal Demon before he can properly follow-up and remove Ines from the equation rather early in his calculations. Kalve stops in his tracks, grasping the bolts and tearing them free, throwing silver-stained hafts to the side and shifting his cloak partly open in the process. His midsection, covered in an angular overlapping plate just like his legs, bears fractures where there should be none.

"Zealot. You think this zealotry?" Kalve advances. Heat and light manifests around him, and shards of stone erupt beneath him. He powers through them, sizzling holes punched in the billowing cloak and searing across the armor(?) underneath while his legs grind and scrape across the sharp-edged ground. He passes partly through them, somehow -- over them? He changes. He should have to contend with a jagged wall of stone, but he bends and twists around it, leaving behind part of his substance to press on. "I do my duty to my people. I must do no less if we are to survive."

Kalve strikes. The hook sword remains. He slashes downward at the beastwoman before him, making sweeping cuts and never halting his advance. He gets closer and he whirls on his feet, delivering a stunning backfisted blow and rotating his sword-arm around to the other side of his body to follow through with a razor-edged slash across her body. His other hands swap the mass drivers for something else: weapons like tuning forks affixed to a cross-beam...

Some sort of lightning suddenly lashes out, a brilliant yellow-white glare filling the air. It drags across a swath of the encampment, setting tents ablaze and ripping up the ground. A shockwave ripples off of the points of impact, arcs of energy jumping to anyone and anything nearby to blast it all apart. His opponents are right in the midst of it all -- and their cover is quickly being turned into frag bombs instead of a layer of protection.

GS: Kalve has activated a Force Action!
GS: Kalve has attacked Ines Colina with Fifth State!
GS: Kalve has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Kalve has entered a Reflect stance!
GS: Kalve has attacked Tesni Inoue with Method II - Force As Instruction!
GS: Kalve has attacked Chime Isa with Method II - Force As Instruction!
GS: Kalve has attacked Arleph Ardan with Method II - Force As Instruction!
GS: Kalve has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Lily Keil critically Guards a hit from Riesenlied's Sterling Sea for 26 hit points!
GS: Lily Keil has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Riesenlied has lost 1 Combo!
GS: Kalve has completed his action.
GS: CRITICAL! Ines Colina guards a hit from Kalve's Fifth State for 83 hit points!
GS: Hyper and Shield! Statuses applied to Kalve!
<Pose Tracker> Lady Harken has posed.

"I remember your face, amidst a lot of others." Harken answers Jack frankly and not altogether unpleasantly. "Who were they? What were they? That, I can't answer." and she skids back as the clash of blades ends, both participants preparing for the next strike. Huddled onlookers scattering for the habour and Metal Beasts alike give them a wide berth, knowing that whatever's going down likely shouldn't involve them. "Those memories aren't mine. They belong to some girl, who died--" the Quarter Knight spins on one foot, anticipating the distraction before it happens. The flung Metal Beast strikes her back, the poor thing, but even with that preternal movement, she can't meet Jack's strike first. One arm raises to catch his sword, which bites deep into her gauntlet. Crimson trickles down the blade, not the quicksilver blood of demons. "--and was reborn as this freak."

Jack's quick dash past the Quarter Knight is fraught with hazard. In the same moment as they strike and trade words, she reaches out rather quickly--if she grabs hold of him, well, he's about to take a quick trip through a nearby wall or two. And that's the less-than-lethal option.

Mihaya, meanwhile, earns Harken's approval by not folding instantly from such a blow. The Quarter Knight strides solemnly towards her, and the habour where the refugees are gathered, with an air of inevitability about her. She carries herself as if she knows she cannot be stopped. "You harbour a greater power?" she asks dryly, looking up as the unbelievable might of an Aeon makes itself known on Filgaia for what must be the first time in quite awhile. "Bring it to bear before you are injured. Mother won't be so forgiving."

Harken leaps straight up in response to the fusilade of icy spears, the first few passing beneath her. "Ho~h? Interesting, are you some kind of greater patron? A Guardian? I don't know much about such things." she seems more intrigued than upset, despite the barrage of frozen energies following her through the air. She's not dodging all of them perfectly, either: a near-miss from one of Shiva's summoned weapons gives the Quarter Knight pause enough for Tethelle to aim true. Harken scowls and casts one hand forward, just as a weaponized wave of fighting spirit and a blistering hailstorm crash against a shimmering field of negative light that flares to life around her. "Heh--how noble of you, offering a lesson in return. I'm told learning is a lifelong journey now, I'd do well to take heed of some of that."

With a bass-heavy pulse of energy, the blizzard is momentarily upended! A glittering glass hailstorm of broken ice-shards scythes back towards Mihaya and Tethelle for their troubles!

Ida and Harken have the most cordial exchange of murderous pleasantries possible, while the Quarter Knight oestensibly tries to kill everyone just trying to hang on here. "You're quick to rush to conclusions." the scarlet-haired woman admonishes her with a patient frown, "I understand the position you're in, but you need to find your center if you're going to make good on that promise. Else, Mother will kill you with a single thought." and unfortunately, Harken meets Ida's open-palm strike with a bare-handed parry before it can land clean. The kind of parry children are taught at white-belt stage, brushing the oncoming limb away with the edge of the forearm. Is it an insult, or another lesson? There's scarce time to contemplate this, Harken delivers a very well-mimicked open-palm counterblow just before Josie opens fire with something -much- more high-caliber than before.

The Quarter Knight hops backwards, as if to distance herself from Ida, before bullets can rain down on the Human. Azrael whirls around her form with a one-handed helicoptering spin, bullets fragmenting and sparking as they deflect. But the jittering backstep of the Quarter Knight suggests several are finding their mark. "Yes, that's much more like it. Do you have anything that fires directed energy?"

Despite the casual inflection of her words, that weapon's more of a threat than Harken is comfortable with. She suddenly blinks out of sight and reappears about seven feet in the air, rearing back with her scythe to strike from a distance. "Don't think I'm taking this lightly--but my best interests require I handle this all a certain way, now. Let's continue." and when she swings that scythe, despite being so far away, Josie can see a vile arc of flickering fighting-spirit and pressure arcing towards her at a hell of a pace. Ugh, you just can't get away from this woman, can you?

<Pose Tracker> Cassidy Cain has posed.

She told Loren Voss once that it only takes within minutes of meeting someone new that she could divine whatever it is that truly matters to that person. Judging by the draining of the color of Elvis' face at the threat of doing away with his glorious mustache, she manages to prove - at least in this case - that it is no exaggeration.

 Not that it was particularly hard. Even she has to admit that is is a glorious mustache. If nothing else, it reflects every minute spent in its upkeep.

 What she didn't expect in the end, really, is the grab - and how fast someone so large can execute it. Snagged by one burly arm at mid-launch, the cacophonous din that fills the craggy, warn-torn space drowns out her surprised squawk as thick ropes of muscle bind around her torso, hefted up like a keg full of ale. Breath twists out of her lungs, one eye squeezed shut. But one remains open and fixed on the side of his face....right in range of the well-conditioned tuft of hair sprouting from it.

 "...sorry, luv." To her credit, Cassidy sounds genuinely apologetic...or whatever the sentiment truly means in the world of the pale-tressed charlatan. "Was told I'm like a cat more than once. You ever have one as a pet? Did you ever try and grab it around the middle when it was least expecting it?"

 And while still in Elvis' grip, she reaches out with both hands...

 ...and bats him repeatedly in the face.

 She squirms. She kicks. She entangles herself in his mustache and makes an absolute nuisance of herself. And she will continue to do so unless she's dropped, or crushed.

 "What the bloody hell are you doing here anyway?" she asks conversationally in the middle of her best disgruntled feline impression. "It's just rocks and people. You can find that anywhere in this godforsaken planet."

GS: Arleph Ardan takes a solid hit from Kalve's Method II - Force As Instruction for 188 hit points!
GS: Lady Harken has attacked Lady Harken with Wrath of the Undying!
GS: Lady Harken has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Lady Harken has activated a Force Action!
GS: Lady Harken takes a solid hit from Lady Harken's Wrath of the Undying for 0 hit points!
GS: Lady Harken gains Restore, shortening negative statuses by 3 turns each!
GS: Hyper! Statuses applied to Lady Harken!
GS: Lady Harken has attacked Mihaya with Blizzard Return!
GS: Lady Harken has attacked Tethelle Cirdian with Blizzard Return!
GS: Lady Harken has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Lady Harken has attacked Josephine Lovelace with Azrael - Sonic Lash!
GS: Lady Harken has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Lady Harken has attacked Ida Everstead-Rey with Reprimanding Strike!
GS: Cassidy Cain has attacked Elvis with You'll Get Yours!
GS: Cassidy Cain has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Cassidy Cain has completed her action.
GS: Lady Harken has attacked Jack van Burace with Hyadean Form - Counterstep Throw!
GS: Lady Harken has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Lady Harken has completed her action.
GS: Mihaya takes a glancing hit from Lady Harken's Blizzard Return for 61 hit points!
GS: CRITICAL! Tethelle Cirdian takes a solid hit from Lady Harken's Blizzard Return for 178 hit points!
GS: Cripple and Poison! Statuses applied to Tethelle Cirdian!
GS: Hyper! Statuses applied to Lady Harken!
GS: Ida Everstead-Rey takes a glancing hit from Lady Harken's Reprimanding Strike for 65 hit points!
GS: Jack van Burace takes a solid hit from Lady Harken's Hyadean Form - Counterstep Throw for 167 hit points!
GS: CRITICAL! Josephine Lovelace guards a hit from Lady Harken's Azrael - Sonic Lash for 110 hit points!
GS: Cripple and Poison! Statuses applied to Josephine Lovelace!
GS: Hyper! Statuses applied to Lady Harken!
<Pose Tracker> Layna Manydays has posed.

Persephone says she doesn't care. Layna, in response...laughs.

"...Nay, but I thought I'd offer anyway." She says, still grinning.

Persephone does not, in fact, back down. Layna had a feeling she should've expected that from her earlier actions. The three pirates scatter as she opens fire, searing shots from IPCC-3927 just barely missing critical targets. Still, it's enough to cause them to reconsider the threat level of that weapon - and the person holding it. They'd have to be careful.

"Heh, you're right, lass. I know exactly where I went wrong." Layna says with a grin, wiping away blood from where the revolver shot grazed her.

"I shoulda took a shot at you first when I had the chance." She says with a malicious grin and charges forward, aiming a punch for Persephone...!

It is, however, a feint - she suddenly leaps backward as Victoria, who has found an opportunity to find higher ground, recites an incantation and sends a flurry of explosive fireballs aimed directly at Persephone's immediate vicinity.

GS: Layna Manydays has attacked Persephone with Bombardment!
GS: Layna Manydays has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Layna Manydays has completed her action.
GS: Siegfried critically Guards a hit from Lydia Seren's Peekaboo for 27 hit points!
GS: Siegfried has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Lydia Seren has lost 1 Combo!
<Pose Tracker> Seraph Lanval has posed.

    'You should have stayed on your world, spirit.'
     It is a sentiment that often feels so agreeable that Lanval initially misses the weight of Siegfried saying something like that. It's a shocking development that has to share the stage of seeing kindly Riesenlied - that is Riesenlied, over there! - seeming to stand alongside the conqueror, as a powerful burst of water is overturned. It is water's nature to be moved easily, contained by what could shape it, and the burst is naught but a muddy puddle where more spilled blood will yet mingle.
     Lanval flinches every time Glumzambor moves. Siegfried's hand is fast, and unbound, that he finds himself plodding along near those who can see him as a matter of personal comfort when he is plainly frightened. Fear's always been a motivator for a lot of his life decisions, he has to reflect.
     Glumzambor is stabbed into the ground, and Lanval stands there where the others nearby might already be bracing or moving. This costs him, as the full spectrum of anti-color lances through him. If he were a corporeal being... the splintering, shattering environs are a good comparison.
     His manifestation flickers visibly and violently, a silent pained yell as he reverts to being a mere blue-hued wisp for several seconds before he starts to descend upon a bottle dropped upon the ground, as if thinking, 'no, no, no, this is too much.'
     The wisp's glow glistens about the perimeter of his vessel as if one were standing at the doorway to one's own home, hesitant as to whether they want to go inside. Metal Beasts help weigh in, their stampeding feethoovesclaws battering the bottle around as if to mock him. How it doesn't shatter into a million little shards of glass is providence.
     The boy in white with the weird fancy... coat? Really tough-looking one? Who looks nothing like anyone else here, punctuates his youthful exuberance with a gut-wrenching exchange of blows.
     Zed, the green-haired swordsman who seems to have once been a close comrade, holds true to his feelings and resolve where Lanval has lapsed, daring Siegfried and boasting he won't be cut down.
     Lydia, who has found someone who truly loves and accepts her, still fights through an awful truth that may be irreversible.
     He understands he's in the presence of the mortal that the Guardians seem to place the majority of their trust within, as an executor of their will - and he knows she will not be bowed by Siegfried.
     ...
     The bottle rolls closer to Siegfried, deftly moving past stomping feet of mindless creatures of war. As it draws nearer, an aquamarine light shines - a tell that Lanval can't hide - as the fat, disheveled drunkard of a spirit finds it in him to stand again. In the way that 'Lanval' ever deserves to be in the same sentence as 'standing.'
     ...Scratch that, nope, he just falls over, thrusting his gourd back up and over him for a drink. That gourd might do little more than just tap Siegfried's hip, at best... but yet, that tiny, hollow gourd strikes as though there were something far heavier about it, far greater than it should, as water splashes about haphazardly from where Lanval now lies on the ground.
     "Thish ish my world," comes Lanval's belated response, quiet but unwavering in stating such even from a compromised position - lying there.

<Pose Tracker> Cecilia Adlehyde has posed.

The bolting flame crashes toward Siegfried. "Never had anything," Cecilia breathes, echoing Siegfried's words. "This from the man who's murdered my people TWICE for the cause you held so dear. And now that cause brings no light to you. But it's still enough to murder for."

He lashes out at her - the spear's power crashes at her, seeking, annihilating...and Cecilia sweeps her staff at it, a blast of light FLASHING back, striking the seeking vines of death aside like so much wheat. "So many people have tried to tell me you are noble, Siegfried. So many people have tried to tell me you deserve to be heard. To be saved. And yet when I look at you...when I see you like this...."

Her fingers clench, knuckles white, against her staff. "I feel no pity. I feel no remorse, or empathy. All I feel is hatred. Hate for the man who's STOLEN SO MANY LIVES and has the TEMERITY to feel despair for it now! If you wish for this to end, Siegfried, I will help you. PRESENT YOUR HEAD!"

She thrusts her hand forward, and another Medium leaps into her grip.

And a shrieking bird of fire appears, folding out of the air like an inferno melting out of the trees, as Moor Gault shrieks and bathes Siegfried in fire hot enough to make steel glow.

GS: Seraph Lanval has attacked Siegfried with Leisurely Lunge!
GS: Seraph Lanval has completed his action.
GS: Cecilia Adlehyde has attacked Siegfried with Material - Vapor Blast!
GS: Cecilia Adlehyde has completed her action.
<Pose Tracker> Ashton Anchors has posed.

The blue motes of leyflame and the spectral barbs strike out. Ashton simply braces himself behind the icy shield, weathering the storm. With each impact the ice chips away - and continues to float around him in a glowing halo of energized frost.

That's.. good? Maybe? It's hard to tell at this point, given that there's also a fair bit of darker wet spots on Ashton's already dark robe.

Under that robe, Symbological ink flares brighter and brighter. It needs a release. But at the same time? Ashton doesn't want to hurt Riesenlied. She's a good person, even if this seems like madness. And she's hesitating. Or at least speaking some words of regret for what's going on.

The medium. Perhaps that's the key. It's glowing bright, pushing her despite the exhaustion. It's almost melded into her at the base of her neck, flaring with power. But if perhaps...

Ashton looks to Noeline. She's trying. And if he messes this up it's going to be devastating. But something must be done before more people die. Mentally? The Double Dragon Duelist braces for his luck to turn to the worst again.

Verbally? It's more straight-forward as he backpedals. "I am sorry, miss Riesenlied. Please - forgive me, but I can't let you do anything more. Hopefully your lady can talk sense into you afterwards."

A few more steps back and... "LEAF SLASH!" And he vanishes with a flourishing salute of his right-hand sword.

And re-appears on the opposite side of the Hyadean, the right-hand weapon raised to strike downwards.

And he vanishes.

And re-appears on the opposite-opposite side, left-hand blade jabbing outwards. It's a ridiculous called shot, attempting to pierce the razor-thin margin between medium and maiden.

Perhaps those with legendarily bad luck should not try longshot gambits like this.

GS: Ashton Anchors enters a Counter stance!
GS: Ashton Anchors has attacked Riesenlied with Leaf Slash!
GS: Ashton Anchors has completed his action.
GS: Elvis guards a hit from Cassidy Cain's You'll Get Yours for 60 hit points!
GS: Riesenlied takes a solid hit from Ashton Anchors's Leaf Slash for 88 hit points!
GS: Siegfried critically Guards a hit from Seraph Lanval's Leisurely Lunge for 23 hit points!
GS: Siegfried has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Seraph Lanval has lost 1 Combo!
GS: Siegfried guards a hit from Cecilia Adlehyde's Material - Vapor Blast for 107 hit points!
GS: Persephone has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Layna Manydays has lost 1 Combo!
DC: MISS! Persephone completely evades Bombardment from Layna Manydays!
<Pose Tracker> Elhaym van Houten has posed.

Lydia comes in mid-invocation but - Elly grits her teeth - she can't hesitate - doubt, reticience, that's the greatest weapon they have. Whatever's gotten into Siegfried, she thinks, he's lost *doubt* - and that means he can commit himself completely. CAN I DO LESS? Elly muses further before -

The clinch breaks. Chaos reigns.

They didn't take Riesenlied down. She isn't giving up. And Noeline - she points something out. Elly's eyes widen. "The mask," she says, a moment before a sparkling trail of light comes out and Elly is forced to LISTEN.

HEY: LISTEN.

The bursting light makes her cry out in a moment, and she does not have an immediate countercry for Lily. She breathes heavily. She needs a plan but what plan is there? Her eyes narrow as her arms lower down, and she answers Riesenlied.

"No," Elly says. "You weren't always thus."

"I remember you just a week ago. Anxious, worried, caring. I can't say - that this is the 'real' you - because right now, the person who I thought I remembered as good, is invading this place, laying waste to those fighting to protect their homes!" Siegfried, she thinks off, but it's fruitful, isn't it?

Exhaling, she looks towards Ashton - maybe the best thing is if:

As Ashton makes his dive, Elly tightens her hands. The cavern floor erupts in improbable stalagmites, aiming to fence in Riesenlied - to cross across her abdomen, to hold her in place! Maybe they can do something about the mask, Elly thinks, or the Medium. She tries not to think of the chaos behind her: at least nobody's shooting her in the back...

Yet!

GS: Elhaym van Houten has attacked Riesenlied with Terra Cage!
GS: Elhaym van Houten has completed her action.
GS: Riesenlied guards a hit from Elhaym van Houten's Terra Cage for 67 hit points!
GS: Weaken! Statuses applied to Riesenlied!
GS: Chime Isa has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Kalve has lost 1 Combo!
DC: MISS! Chime Isa completely evades Method II - Force As Instruction from Kalve!
<Pose Tracker> Matilda Whitehead has posed.

Matilda gets successfully pushed off for a few moments, at least; as the Pinions start to swirl around, she's hit with a few, but once she gets her shield in place, she doesn't seem much dissuaded from actually staying in close. "So, this *really is* the source of the Hyadean esprit d'corps," Matilda reflects aloud, with a glance toward Harken as well.

Weighing her potential forms of defense for a few precious seconds, Matilda listens to Elly. "Just because you are to be something, doesn't mean you *have* to be something," she says, a little softer than she feels. "Just because you 'are to be' Siegfried's support, doesn't erase that you *were*... someone who found a path to kindness in the middle of a war zone."

Matilda dashes up, suddenly, shield still held high; she ducks her small frame into it to the greatest extent possible, and aims it right for Riesenlied's gut. The goal is as much to leave her miserably winded as to actually cause lasting damage -- maybe if they can stun her, they can keep her here after the fight, and...

GS: Matilda Whitehead has attacked Riesenlied with Shield Bash!
GS: Matilda Whitehead has completed her action.
GS: Sneak! The true nature of Matilda Whitehead's attack becomes clear!
GS: Riesenlied takes a solid hit from Matilda Whitehead's Harvest for 81 hit points!
GS: Poison! Statuses applied to Riesenlied!
<Pose Tracker> Xantia has posed.

Fortunately, Xantia has no dark designs for Elvis's facial hair. Unfortunately, she still very much intends to beat him up. Especially after Gwen remarks on how tough this guy apparently is. Hearing that makes her grin grow that much wider. "So I don't have to hold back, huh?" Her right fist meets the opposite palm with a crackle of energy. This is going to be fun! ...Probably less so when she turns her attention back to the battle at large, but as is so often the case, only what's going on directly in front of her is what matters at the present time.

And then Elvis just grabs her and starts to carry her off. She wasn't certain what to expect, but it definitely wasn't this. Though stunned in surprise a moment, it's not long before she protests, "H-hey! Let me go!" And then starts to stuggle. Quickly making herself difficult to keep a solid hold on, actually managing to contest the Veruni's considerable physical strength with her own.

In time, she may have been able to break free through struggling that way. But Xantia isn't that patient. When she doesn't manage to get out of Elvis's grasp within a few seconds of trying, she adds a different element to the equation. The element of lightning. Suddenly the red-haired girl's body is completely enveloped in electricity, a rather shocking experience for anybody holding onto her. And yet, all focused on Xantia's side - none of it comes close to touching Cassidy.

The aura of lightning lingers even after she's eventually freed, one way or another. And Xantia asserts once again, "We're not leaving! Not before we beat the Metal Demons! We have to win here, to save Filgaia!"

GS: Xantia has attacked Elvis with Elemental Fury!
GS: Xantia has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Xantia has completed her action.
<Pose Tracker> Chime Isa has posed.

    Chime hums softly as she clashes her crossbows together forcibly reloading them with a bright smile. Bright yellow bolts are loaded this time! And then without real warning the short elf is charging forward as if by instinct. And good timing too!

    Kalve's attack explodes outward wrecking the rocks in the area, as Chime shouts "You know~ That might bring the entire place down on you~" as she runs through the lightning, slowing down as the shockwave passes through her and then back to full speed not at Kalve but across him.

    Rocks blasted by the lightning zip pass the ARMs Meister, ripping holes into her shirt or gouging her leather vest but she doesn't slow as she drops into a short slide firing off both bright yellow bolts into Kalve before picking up her nimble run again for new cover on the opposite side of where she started.

    The biggest change to this, the short elf is more centrally located suddenly in regards to the drifters fighting Kalve.

GS: Chime Isa has attacked Kalve with Breaker Bolt!
GS: Chime Isa has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Chime Isa has completed her action.
GS: CRITICAL! Elvis guards a hit from Xantia's Elemental Fury for 112 hit points!
GS: Mighty! Statuses applied to Xantia!
<Pose Tracker> Siegfried has posed.

Siegfried's barrier intensifies; the hexagons glow brighter, with a slightly golden hue. It is not lost on him, how Riesenlied helps -- and his heart sinks, further, at that. He swallows, as he hears her, and his voice sounds pained -- until he makes it monotone.

"...Yes, Riesenlied," he says. There is a slight tremor, when he finishes speaking. "Until the end."

His eyes turn, pointedly, from Noeline -- and to Zed. He listens to him, hearing him be equal parts saddened, frightened, and furious. His eyes watch his former soldier, his former protege, with an impassive stare. Then, he lifts his blade upward. "We have no future but Mother. But that, Zed, is where you are mistaken."

He lifts his chin. "I need not believe, to kill. It is why I was made. It is all there is." He rushes forward, then. Siegfried leaps at the last moment, cape fluttering after. Then, he comes down -- and chops his sword, diagonally, across Zed's chest with a single stroke. His feet slam into the cavern floor, cracking it. Then, Lydia's eye lasers slam into his side -- and disperse over Riesenlied's reinforced barrier. He turns his head, to look at her.

"It is all meaningless," he says. "What pains we cause--all of it goes away. All that matters... is that Mother will rule over Filgaia." He lifts his arm; the forearm plate pops back out, and the cannon bounces back, discharging a bolt of blue light off towards Lydia. The forearm plate has no time to retract; Lanval's gourd strikes him, water spraying him. Siegfried turns, to look down at him.

"Then allow me to educate you upon your new home. This world other hates you... or finds you a disappointment." Then, one-handed, he stabs the blade down hard for the Seraph on the ground.

His eyes turn to Cecilia and her Guardian. Moor Gault's flame breathes down upon him; it burns through him, and he walks through the fire, scorched and hurt, but able to walk. He walks by Claude, twitching on the ground. Then he swings his sword up, looking down at Cecilia.

His voice is quiet. "I understand, now, what I took from you. I offer you no apologies. Hate me if you wish," he finishes. "Because love, hate, all of it... does not change that Filgaia, and all of us, already belong to Mother." His blade hacks down, a moment later, straight across Cecilia's body.

But he hears something stirring, to his side.

Siegfried's head head snaps back to Claude. His eyes narrow. He heard him. It registers in his face, and there is a ghost of the old anger there; a ghost of the person that he once was. It dies, visibly, as Claude descends. The sword slams own into him; it smashes into his armored hide and splits open steel. Quicksilver blood runs out.

'His name was Enkidu!'

BGM: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iWO4ff1HXYY

Then, in a fit of sudden rage, Siegfried screams. It isn't a shout; it isn't a battle cry. He swings the flat of Glumzambor to smash Claude hard into the wall. The blow of skull against cavern stone may make Claude see stars. It may make him scream. Hopefully, it makes him scream.

Because a moment later, there is the taste of iron and a growing heat that fills Claude's mouth. His teeth bite down onto something impossibly hard. The saliva on his tongue begins, in a few places, to bubble.

Siegfried, face turned into a rictus of grief and rage, has slammed the charging barrel of his forearm ion cannon inside of the boy from Earth's mouth.

GS: Siegfried has activated a Force Action!
GS: Siegfried has activated a Force Action!
GS: Siegfried enters a Counter stance!
GS: Siegfried has attacked Zed with Blue Destiny!
GS: Siegfried has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Siegfried has attacked Lydia Seren with Ion Pulse!
GS: Siegfried has attacked Seraph Lanval with Nemesis Cleave!
GS: Siegfried has attacked Cecilia Adlehyde with Blue Steel Strike!
GS: Siegfried has gained 2 Combo!
GS: Siegfried has entered a Reflect stance!
GS: Siegfried has attacked Claude C. Kenny with Taste of Death!
GS: Siegfried has completed his action.
<Pose Tracker> Mihaya has posed.

 "Power isn't something that you use simply because you have access to it. Some power... comes only when needed, and should not be abused for petty battles," Mihaya replies, although her voice is still pained, and she is barely supporting herself with her staff. "But since you seem so willing to bring violence to innocent people... then I need to use this power. I don't know what exactly you are rambling about, but people don't deserve to be hurt just because some ineffable god demands it!"

 Of course, her idea isn't just to attack Harken... but she's going to need to build up some more power before she can hope to use this trick.

 As the shards of ice are thrown back towards them, Mihaya closes her eyes and sends a mental command to her Aeon. In response, Shiva raises both of her hands - and the ice shard is sent spinning away as the Aeon manifests a shield of crystal blue ice in one hand, and a slender blade of ice in the other. The summon looks at Harken for a moment and smiles - almost as if she were enjoying the opportunity to fight a powerful opponent herself, rather than the usual variety of fiend that she had usually been called upon to contend with.

 A moment later the Heavenly Queen charges forward, blade down low and shield out front in a rushing assault that is designed to put Harken on the offensive. Unbound by mortal flesh, the Aeon might not be as fast as Harken... but she isn't that much slower either. Shiva leaves a wake of white in her wake, with tiny snowflakes crystalizing in the air and a thin patina of frost appearing on every exposed surface within a dozen feet of her. But the spirit comes in, eschewing a more fanciful technique for bringing her ice shield around to bash Harken with it - and then follows up with a powerful cut from above, her frozen sword leaving an explosion of ice as it slices all the way down to the ground.

 The question is, will Harken be caught in its descent?

GS: Mihaya has attacked Lady Harken with Icebrand!
GS: Mihaya has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Mihaya has completed her action.
GS: Claude C. Kenny takes a solid hit from Siegfried's Taste of Death for 81 hit points!
GS: Claude C. Kenny has Fallen! He is no longer able to fight!
GS: CRITICAL! Cecilia Adlehyde guards a hit from Siegfried's Blue Steel Strike for 215 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Lily Keil has posed.

It is a difficult level of control, this--Lily's power calls out to her to be used, not shaped so finely, to be unleashed on something. But it's necessary. But she is not oblivious to the world around her--she does not let Siegfried too far out of her sight. He could change the termns of battle at any time. But what does he say to her rage?

...Nothing. He looks at her, and Lily meets his gaze in that instant. A cruel smirk of triumph marks her expression after he looks away. She has not defeated him, could not so easily...

...But she struck a mark. Even one mark against the unassailable leader of the Metal Demons...

But in the moment, Lily lets her gaze track Lydia as the smoke clears. Intact; she does not have time to apologize for catching her in part of the blast, but she believes the shaman can survive it.

"No. ...You wanted to support him. You did for some time." Lily speaks, raising her voice to reach Riesenlied, "...But you left. You left for a reason."

How dare he? How dare he use this, to control her? This pain, the pain of having left, the pain of losing what she once knew?

The rage makes Lily's defense nearly effortless this time, when it should have been much worse; a blast from one of those pinions is obliterated by a cloud of darkness at Lily's hand, only the impact of attack versus attack surviving to shower her with sparks.

In that moment, she hears the roar of Josie's new cannon... and she hears Cecilia rage. The gentle girl who nights ago spoke to the giant, calling now for execution. And now... Lily is not in a position to help. She can't get words out elsewhere.

...For her part, Lily ducks down, and then takes off in a sprint directly for Riesenlied, charging into melee beside Matilda and Ashton both. Her hand glows abrubtly with black power, her markings gleaming red, brightly enough to sear the eye.

"Matilda," Lily says. "...Remember what we discussed."

With only that ominous instruction, Lily reaches out to try to take hold of Riesenlied with her other hand, snapping out for her arm--and then following up, lashing out to place glowing palm on that crown to try once more to pull Riesenlied's awareness free somehow, tugging at magic and will and pure Ley power.

...It's untested territory; a trickle of blood picks back up from her nose, falling quickly now.

"If you force me to choose you over this continent, Riesenlied," Lily hisses breathless as she channels her magic, "You know that I will."

GS: Lily Keil has attacked Riesenlied with Red Draw!
GS: Lily Keil has gained 2 Combo!
GS: Lily Keil has completed her action.
GS: Riesenlied takes a solid hit from Lily Keil's Red Draw for 55 hit points!
GS: CRITICAL! Zed takes a solid hit from Siegfried's Blue Destiny for 306 hit points!
GS: Lydia Seren takes a solid hit from Siegfried's Ion Pulse for 170 hit points!
GS: Mighty! Statuses applied to Siegfried!
GS: Lydia Seren enters CONDITION GREEN!!
<Pose Tracker> Persephone has posed.

The laugh is expected, the human grinning.

As Layna declares something so simple to Persephone, the Sentinel glances towards the woman and raises an eyebrow. "Please, I want to hear nothing on this." The Sentinel remarks, not pleading - but identifying that it is, of all things, a complete waste. As that grind comes forth to face her, Persephone is lunged at with a punch. The Sentinel twists her head to the side, body slipping barely past the punch, hands grasping to push and swing the woman - as she jumps back?

The incantation sends explosive fireballs towards Persephone as she watches them close in on her.

"Tch."

The fire erupts around her, apparently swallowing her up in the blaze.

Lydia's response, how flippant, how careless, combined with such words that she explains her problems and the solution there of, as she then goes to ignore her entirely.

The Sentinel glares - managing to have avoided the fire and flames, flipping out of it, backwards, as the explosions catch the ground before her, Sentinel kicking off chunks of rock and the sides of the back wall she is against to kick forwards and up, above the human ensemble.

She lands on the other side, away somewhat from them. "You're right, how rude of me. You're not worth my time." The Veruni turns her back to the woman and group, moving to ... simply leave?

<Pose Tracker> Ines Colina has posed.

    Kalve's rapid advance shows Ines how close she was to getting outright killed by Kalve, saved only by Tesni and Chime's intervention. "I owe you two one." She says, even as the spell goes off. It's not enough to even slow the metal demon's advance, and Ines once again realises she is not going to be fast enough to get out of Kalve's way. She brings her arms up again, and the stained glass sword digs in and blood spurts from both of Ines' arms, before her side is smashed into by a powerful backhand, and the sword cuts through her body.

    Or would, anyway, if not for a metallic cloth undershirt that takes the worst of the sword's swing and survives. It's clearly visible under the massive gash in her shirt. And, to Kalve, is probably familiar. It's his work, after all, if not directly.

    As Ines slides back, her back is put to a wall, and she Kalve's other attack soar into the other drifter's she's fighting with, and she grimaces. Fine. If that's the way this fight is going to go... "Well, ain't that grand. Unfortunately, our survival kind of requires us fighting back, so you'll have to excuse me if I don't give a damn." Ines' tattoos glow again, and two spells are cast in quick succession. The first hardens her skin to stone, her grey skin becoming rocky, and her bleeding wounds temporarily stopped. The second causes iron to form over her hands, and her knuckles sharpening to brutal points. "So let's go, big guy. See which of us wants to survive more."

GS: Ines Colina has attacked Ines Colina with Stone Skin Iron Fist!
GS: Ines Colina has completed her action.
GS: Ines Colina takes a solid hit from Ines Colina's Stone Skin Iron Fist for 0 hit points!
GS: Hyper and Shield! Statuses applied to Ines Colina!
GS: Seraph Lanval guards a hit from Siegfried's Nemesis Cleave for 109 hit points!
GS: Seraph Lanval enters CONDITION GREEN!!
GS: Lady Harken has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Mihaya has lost 1 Combo!
DC: MISS! Lady Harken completely evades Icebrand from Mihaya!
GS: Tesni Inoue guards a hit from Kalve's Method II - Force As Instruction for 125 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Claude C. Kenny has posed.

Claude C. Kenny does, in fact, scream; it's a scream that is cut off first by the incredible pain of a concussion and having his battered organs bruised again, then by the searing agony of having an energy cannon shoved into his mouth. This is not the sort of situation one trains for, even when subjected to the tender mercies of one Ilia Silvestri-Kenny. He's not sure what to do, other than die.

So he reverts to an ancient childhood lesson; if it tastes bad, spit it out.

Claude slides his head away and drops to one knee, barely propping himself up against the blade of his heavy blade as he stares, helpless, up at the Quarter Knight. He licks cracked, burned lips and tries to keep conscious.

"Hurts, doesn't it?" he rasps. "Ever think... even for half a second... that maybe everyone else... feels like that too?"

<Pose Tracker> Tesni Inoue has posed.

Well things are getting heated at this point Kalve clearly isn't fooling about here, he's brought some seriously advanced weapons into play here. They clearly have done some damage but she's not foolish to think Kalve will be an easy foe to take. Given his ability to clearly keep Zed alive before Zed bailed on his people. She will fight, has a look on her face that pretty much reads she will not be stopping utill she drops. Another joined the fight as she makes note of Ines arrival and is glad for more backup on this fight, as Chime and Arleph keep fighting Kalve as well.

 Tess is not fast enough on her feet to evade the Metal Demon's savage attacks, there' a lot of power from this, the shockwaves are a lot to take she's still standing though. She leaps from her cover, rifle in hand and she's firing more shots as she goes after the Metal Demon better than getting cut down by her own cover.

 She fires another series of shots from her rifle at Kalve and keeps going.

GS: Tesni Inoue enters CONDITION GREEN!!
GS: Tesni Inoue has attacked Kalve with Rapid Fire!
GS: Tesni Inoue has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Tesni Inoue has completed her action.
<Pose Tracker> Tethelle Cirdian has posed.

Tethelle probably should not try to taunt Harken. She just woke up and she's not very good with the words (or, indeed, much else) before she gets some time to finish. It's mostly adrenaline that got her going, and adrenaline isn't very good a helping her run her mouth. But she is listening. Memories, huh? Hmm...

She's placed badly - off to the side, with Harken - and cannot hear Siegfried; all she knows is that there is a battle raging in that direction with powerful forces being tossed around. She has no idea of the drama unfolding not that far away, except to hear Siegfried's scream, and she becomes very busy a moment later.

Josie fires a goddamn cannon. Tethelle throws herself flat because she assumes cannonfire is a Metal Demon weapon, and indeed she isn't hit by it (though probably not because of the evasion). She pushes up in a runner's movement, darting after Harken as she passes around the battlefield, running through an ice storm created by Miyaha and thrown back at her by Harken.

That was probably a mistake.

Ice, ice everywhere; frost rimes Tethelle's sword, the sharp shards cutting at her exposed arms and legs as she pushes herself through it. She refuses to let herself slow down, but sheer willpower doesn't quite push through and she does slow, at least a little bit.

Tethelle covers it up with a battle cry, a wordless roar as she leaps into the air. She does a forward flip at the apex of her leap and kicks off of nothing at all, sending herself right back down with a straight vertical descent, blade held out to make a shearing slice to bisect Harken head to toe.

"We will stand against Mother as long as we're able!" Tethelle can't hear Siegfried's part of the story, so she focuses on Harken's: "I do not know whose memories you have, but they can't be enough if you haven't learned that by now!"

GS: Tethelle Cirdian has attacked Lady Harken with Skydrive!
GS: Tethelle Cirdian takes 7 damage from Poison!
GS: Tethelle Cirdian has completed her action.
GS: Kalve guards a hit from Chime Isa's Breaker Bolt for 21 hit points!
GS: Break! Statuses applied to Kalve!
GS: Kalve critically Guards a hit from Tesni Inoue's Rapid Fire for 23 hit points!
GS: Kalve has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Tesni Inoue has lost 1 Combo!
<Pose Tracker> Gwen Whitlock has posed.

    Gwen stares at Elvis, stupefied by Elvis's... shaking head attack? He's.. actually concerned about them all. How strange. But not entirely out of character, considering his past behavior. But she gives him the benefit of the doubt. He may be trying to get her to open up to a massive delayed attack! While both of his arms are occupied, even!

    She takes a mighty step back. That should do it.

    "He's here because the Veruni are their allies," Gwen helpfully supplies again, possibly missing the actual intent of Cassidy's questioning he struggles with her and Xantia. "They've been affected by the same sickness or whatever that's been affectin' the Metal Demons. Like, Filgaian auntie-bodies?" What was that word again?

    And so, Gwen just... stands there, feeling a little awkward. "Well, everyone else is givin' it their all, so, uh, reallyreallysorryElvis!"

    Like her dear Auntie, Gwen attempts some gardening, attempting to plant a nice, solid punch with her right fist against Elvis's presented face. "Too much on the line, but I 'preciate that you're tryin' to be nice! It's kinda makin' this real hard!"

GS: Gwen Whitlock has attacked Elvis with Special Delivery!
GS: Gwen Whitlock has entered a Reflect stance!
GS: Gwen Whitlock has completed her action.
GS: Elvis guards a hit from Gwen Whitlock's Special Delivery for 69 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Ida Everstead-Rey has posed.

    It's difficult to tell what some of the others are talking about over the din, but Ida hears bits and pieces, and she can fill in the rest. Noeline pleads with Riesenlied, to no avail. Claude says something about Enkidu that sets Ida's blood to boiling. Trying to get anything out of a Is this... what she would've become if she hadn't stopped when she did? If the people who cared about her hadn't stepped up to help? If she hadn't decided that treatment wasn't weakness? Cecilia--Cecilia's losing it. The rage is out again, and it reminds Ida so much of her own. Everything is so--

    This is what Mother--

    Ida snaps back into focus as Harken's hand comes rushing at her. The Quarter Knight's grip is strong enough to tear steel apart--Ida's seen her do it. It should be a crushing blow. Instead, the young martial artist twists with it; the layer of undercloth absorbs the raw energy of the impact, and it merely sends her reeling instead of breaking bones. Pain shoots up the arm bound beneath her coat, but it's still... intact? Is it even injured?

    "I know," Ida says. She steps back, light and graceful despite having one functional arm. "But if you're so hell-bent on testing me, you can join the queue." She steps to the side, circling Harken with purposeful strides, one hand raised up to guard herself. The anger that breached the surface remains, tempered, hardened. Ida ducks back, whipping her cloak up to shield herself as Shiva rushes in. The ground is suddenly coated with rime; Ida looks down, and a thought strikes her.

    Ida steps back into the danger zone that is 'melee range with Lady Harken'. She drives a hand forward in what looks like a straightforward strike, but then whips it aside, lightly touching Harken's right bracer. Her right foot shoots out, hooking around Harken's ankle. Ida's still learning how to time these, but Kalve taught her well. Trying a takedown on someone as big and fast as Harken is risky, but it might just pay off. Especially with the ice making footing treacherous.

GS: Lady Harken critically Guards a hit from Tethelle Cirdian's Skydrive for 23 hit points!
GS: Lady Harken enters CONDITION GREEN!!
GS: Lady Harken has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Tethelle Cirdian has lost 1 Combo!
GS: Ida Everstead-Rey has attacked Lady Harken with Lotus Sets Its Roots!
GS: Ida Everstead-Rey has gained 2 Combo!
GS: Ida Everstead-Rey has completed her action.
<Pose Tracker> Josephine Lovelace has posed.

    Something's changed about Ida's form. True enough, it's been a while since Josie has last seen Ida fight. And true, the girl's been through hell and back, though that turn of phrase is a little on the nose this time around.
    One pale eyebrow arches as her attention remains on the younger woman. Now that's a martial artist's form if she's seen one, and she's seen more than a few in her day.

    Harken seems somewhat more pleased (if that's the word) by this display of weaponry.
    Tethelle and others, perhaps, may think otherwise.

    "Not yet," comes Josie's rejoinder, raising her head from the sight.

    She... winks at Harken, though her smile doesn't meet her eyes, though blood spatters part of her face (the remains of her earlier near-bisection). "But give me a couple months more and I'll see what I can cobble together! Don't suppose you could tell that Mother of yours to go back to sleep? Even another year'd do!"

    The modified force of Gryndille's arm will have to do for now.

    But even that smile doesn't maintain. She can hear from here the shouts as people attempt to break through to Riesenlied. That whatever had been done to her maintains its grip yet.

    "...Dammit, Sunshine," Josie mutters, as Nostos begins to spin up again for another shot.

    "Didn't even give you that fossil back yet..."

    Of all things, it's what comes to mind for her now.

    From afield, she can see that incoming swipe of blade-sent airpressure and she ducks--
    hardly quickly enough. White hair, red blood: strands of Josie's messily braided bun slide stickly free, all thanks to the impromptu close shave the archaeologist has just been handed. Gaze blank for a moment, she slumps against her weapon and takes a breath. Another, then another.

    Get up. GET UP. Get up, girl!

    She rises, one eye glued shut. No hand rises to investigate the wound -- there's no time for that.

    Nostos has just announced, in the manner of that pleasant chime, that it's ready once again to fire.

    "As long as we're talkin' all friendly-like," Josie says, again synching up the ARM, drawing a bead through the lens.
    What a stroke of luck it had been, retrieving that crystal from the Stone Forest site. Once polished they'd proven exceptionally clear.
    "Maybe you can answer something for me, hey?" Her expression flattens out. Deadens, even.

    "What in the Guardian's green hell did you do to Riesenlied?"

    As if to apply the punctuation to that question, she hauls back again, urging Nostos to unload another shell upon the Metal Demon they face, which it does so with an eager whine followed by a low roar. It may be a warning for some.
    Nostos, for better or worse, is not subtle.

GS: Josephine Lovelace has attacked Lady Harken with Set On Ruin!
GS: Josephine Lovelace takes 7 damage from Poison!
GS: Josephine Lovelace has completed her action.
<Pose Tracker> Arleph Ardan has posed.

      Arleph expected a physical attack. Unfortunately, Tesni's warning, while useful, mostly prevents him from being completely demolished. The lightning crash through the Air, the Symbologist crying out as he dive for the ground, not before being caught by an arc of it. He writhes on the ground, gritting his teeth with the last ditch effort of not trying to bite down his tongue in middle of a scream. Panting, he shakingly lift a fist and push himself up, panting with energy coursing through his body.

      "No. You're right. This is not zealotry. This is ... this is something different. This feels like something... something clamping down. The dread realisation of the weight of everything." Arleph tightens a gloved hand, coursing his own energy into it, a symbol unfolding from the impact. "At this point, the reason why hardly matters! We wont back down from this, whenever your parasite of a 'goddess' feast upon your species or not, I wont let it come for us!"

      Arleph's coat billows, the blackened spot ripping off from it to let sight of some of the circuitry-like tattoos beneath his shirt, lifting his other hand up into a closed fist. "IN THE NAME OF BILLIONS UNSEEN ALL AROUND US, PART OF US ALL!"

      Arleph's concentration shift , pointing his palm at Kalve while gritting his teeth. The air condenses in humidity, snuffing out some of the flame around the immediate area as blue motes gather around him, pressing, crushing into a tight ball.

      "MAY THEIR WRATH BE HEARD, MAY THEY SHOW THEIR HIDDEN STRENGTH! AQUA FRIGORE!"

      The ball of water, near the center suddenly freezes, a tiny point of compact that freezes out all to the entire ball of water, flash freezing, expanding and exploding all at once, as Kalve's general area as epicenter.

GS: Arleph Ardan has spent 4 Combo on Gatling, including 3 on Gatling!
GS: Arleph Ardan has attacked Kalve with Aqua Frigore!
GS: Arleph Ardan has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Arleph Ardan has completed his action.
GS: Kalve has activated a Force Action!
GS: CRITICAL! Kalve takes a solid hit from Arleph Ardan's Aqua Frigore for 236 hit points!
GS: Mute! Statuses applied to Kalve!
GS: Lady Harken takes a glancing hit from Ida Everstead-Rey's Lotus Sets Its Roots for 41 hit points!
GS: Lady Harken critically Guards a hit from Josephine Lovelace's Set On Ruin for 30 hit points!
GS: Lady Harken has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Josephine Lovelace has lost 1 Combo!
<Pose Tracker> Riesenlied has posed.

    Riesenlied is discovering that her power isn't enough to stop Noeline. The Drifter is lifting and tossing Metal Beasts as they swarm the area, as they desperately try to grant what they detect as a superior some protection-- to not much of one.

    Do you remember - you were so worried about what mask you should wear...

    "I... I am already wearing..." she replies, though she pauses for a moment as she withers herself. She bristles, whimpering as she breathes even more erratically than before; if Noeline has to wonder whether Hyadeans can hyperventilate, Riesenlied certainly can.

    "Alhazred... Lord Alhazred did not..." Riesenlied does not appear to have the werewithal to finish that sentence. Altered her memory. No... there was no such recollection inside of her.

    She was in a deep torpor due to harm...

    But... from what?

    Ashton's declaration follows him doing a similar act to what she did just prior-- and he reappears in her vicinity as he strikes at her-- no, towards the Medium.

    There's a singular rent and a strike, and there's a prompted screech of pain that causes her to struggle. It was, indeed, a long shot... but is luck in the end not what makes one of it? No matter in the most dire of circumstances so as to have been fused with a two-headed dragon...

    But to have made possible friends of it.

    She doesn't have long to think of it, because Elly is quick on the gap between attacks; the cavern floor suddenly shoots upwards and nearly sends her flying, but she hits her back and gets caught inbetween! Will she try another reappearing and disappearing trick?

    "Elly--"

    An unprovoked call, from a name she shouldn't know.

    "You all speak this, yet I've no recollection...
     I... who is it that you speak of?
     Why am I so frightened when I hear it such?"

    Elly's cage leaves her wide open, again, to Matilda's shield which comes at her again. She flinches as she readies herself for it-- and once more, it strikes her, but perhaps from less effective an angle as if her body were completely open to attack. It still leaves her wheezing afterwards, however.

    "What I am to be..." she responds to Matilda. "And what I was... I..."

    Someone who found a path to kindness in the middle of a war zone. It sounds... good. Yet, why does it fill her with such... fright? Envy... as if it were someone she could never be...

    Riesenlied can feel Lily's struggle on some level. That she doesn't want to hold back, that that unbridled power is seeking out to be called forth... something hurts so hard, growing so hot within her...

    "I was... in a torpor. That was what I was told.
     I have been asleep for a long time... due to injury.
     I never left him...
     I did not leave him... did I?"

    Lily can strong sense that fear as she starts to peek on the possibility that she did stray away from her father. And in that moment... something starts to buckle within that blackest of clouds -- but not enough, yet.

    But she is getting there.

    Somewhere, she hears that Boy from Earth yell at her father about... about a distant memory. But a fond memory. The memory of Enkidu...

    Why does that Drifter... know...?

    She hears Zed, shouting at father again. A longer pause as she bites her lip. She recalls... all the times he regaled them of tales of how wonderful Mother was. Was Mother not... wonderful...?

    She hears the wrothful anger of the Princess of Adlehyde as Siegfried continues to stir and spurn her further, summoning yet another Guardian -- this time of Fire, onto him...

    Lydia is hurting, from that negative rainbow of Siegfried's, amongst others. She chokes for a moment as she yelps for a moment--

    Don't forget us!

    Instinctually, she holds her hand out and... a wash of life, like before, revolves around Lydia's body. Something inside of her is frightened and panicking, from all Matilda and Lily has said, as she watches her cough out silver blood and drop to her knees.

    "Lyd...ia..."

    Whatever measure of mercy that's driven her so much as to assist her daughter gets stopped cold, however. Ashton and Elly's attempts at unseating that Medium seem to only go so far -- but it has bought them time.

    "Y-you are all making my head hurt... No-- Noe...line..."
    A hitched breath. Noeline never mentioned her name before. So why...
    "So please stay away... STAY AWAY...!"

    The Drifters find that the ground around Riesenlied, so entrapped by Elly, becomes quickly unsafe--

    As she screams, small fractures from the ground quickly enlarge into fissures that splash with a hiss of the Ley that flows underneath the ground. If they're not careful, it'll splash-- and not controlled by Riesenlied this time, the lifeblood of the planet... is not particularly conductive to be exposed to.

    What comes next out of her, aimed towards Noeline, however... as she screams and extends both hands-- is a familiar technique, passed down from father to daughter.

    Yet where Siegfried's comes in the colours of contrary, hers is... bright. Effulgent. Full of the colour of the most resplendent rainbow...

    Seven fantastic seals of Ley energy -- one for each of the four cardinal elements, and two others for the positive and negative reaches... and a singular, central one more for--

    For...

    No... that emotion is not here right now...

GS: Riesenlied has activated a Boss Action!
GS: Riesenlied has attacked Matilda Whitehead with Leyline Breach!
GS: Riesenlied has attacked Elhaym van Houten with Leyline Breach!
GS: Riesenlied has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Riesenlied has attacked Ashton Anchors with Leyline Breach!
GS: Riesenlied has attacked Lily Keil with Leyline Breach!
GS: Riesenlied enters CONDITION GREEN!!
GS: Riesenlied has attacked Lydia Seren with Life Arcana - Border of Life!
GS: Riesenlied has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Riesenlied has completed her action.
GS: Riesenlied has spent 5 Combo on Gatling, including 4 on Gatling!
GS: Riesenlied has attacked Noeline with Positive Rainbow!
GS: Noeline takes a solid hit from Riesenlied's Positive Rainbow for 171 hit points!
GS: Noeline enters CONDITION GREEN!!
<Pose Tracker> Jack van Burace has posed.


Oh yeah. Jack is going to regret this.

That is the thought he has a moment, that split second he feels Harken's fingers curling round his arm. There is almost a sigh there before he leaves the ground and goes on a sudden and unexpected trip.

Thankfully Hanpan is quicker on the draw than he is. The wind mouse shielding Jack's relatively fragile limbs in swirling wind that completes its protective cocoon an instant before Jack impacts the first wall.

It is about the time he hits the third wall that he is very much regretting life decisions.

At least he doesn't go through that one. He just stops and tumbles into the snow there. Tasting his own blood and maybe a tooth, he'll find out later. Right now there are other things to worry about.

Like Harken.

"You say that Sword, but I think somewhere you remember more than you let on." She's not her usual manic self. What is wrong? Siegfried is having some kind of strange crisis, Kalve and Elvis are trying to kill everyone. Riese has gone completely mad. He doesn't particularly like any of this. "Why are you sounding so resigned today?" This snarled towards Harken. She really is different. Her heart isn't into this fight. What has changed. Did she remember something more? Does she know everything now? Everything is twice as confusing as it should be...

"Jack," Hanpan's urgent voice. "Concentrate, you'll never figure anything out if you die here."

"Urgh, stop giving good advice rat."

"You're welcome."

Stay alive. Figure it out. Make her remember.

He shifts his blade as he starts to cock it back and there his eyes spy the bright crimson staining the weapon. Crimson. Not silver. Shock. Suprise. A mental note to grab Kalve by the ankles and shake answers out of him if they both survive this mess.

"Fine though!" This a snarl. "Fine. We'll do this the hard way. You always liked it that way anyway..."

And then he is moving. Rushing frowards, running flat up the wall he was thrown though to sail though the air. And he whistles...

A flash of silver scales as a tiny wyvern sweeps though the chaos, darting between blade and snapping jaws to arrow just in front of Harken's view. Just enough to block it with silver scale and icy breath for a split second...

...but a second is all that Jack needs as he bounces off a piece of flying debris in the air, using it to propel himself into an arc. His sword sings downwards, nothing more than a blur of silver aimed to shatter that scythe of Harken right down the blade.

He'll land in a snow bank in a roll, hit or miss, he is committed.

...in multiple definitions of the word.

GS: COUNTER! Matilda Whitehead strikes at Riesenlied with a counter attack!
GS: Matilda Whitehead takes a solid hit from Riesenlied's Leyline Breach for 136 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Seraph Lanval has posed.

    There is the sound of a blade stabbing into water. Because Lanval is lying low to the ground, and there's so much going on above and around him, the more visceral details - if any - might be lost by more urgent matters (such as a great spray of Moor Gault's flame, or a Claude-induced raging scream). The only hint of anything of Lanval's presence might be an added sense of weight against the Dark Spear's blade that is quickly fleeting, more as the Quarter Knight Commander's attention changes than anything.
     A voice calls out. Crying? It's loud, it's booming, it's...
     Laughter.
     The air, such as it were, full of dread and death, gains an out-of-place but pervasive sense of mirth. The laughter continues without a real physical point of origin, just that it's there - an atmosphere that damn well seems to try and press against it all. One that may not truly 'belong' in this world, for this sort of Blessing was meant for another entirely.
     There is a great whirl of moisture in the air, a blur of the cleanest, freshest, beautiful water that might even catch the eyes of those not Resonant. Within the whirling maelstrom of building water, a humanoid figure has one hand against their midsection while continuing to have a belly laugh - simultaneously clutching searing pain and just... belting out a good laugh.
     The whirling water goes from an orientation of horizontal above, to a vertical, whirling wheel as the force of nature comes to Siegfried's flank, attempting to batter the forearm ion cannon upwards - away from the Boy From Earth, a bid to save his life.
     "Siegfried of the Metal Demons!" Calls a voice that is much less, er, slurred and sometimes even mumbly, and Lanval's form holds greater clarity. His eyes are open, shining a full aquamarine. "While I may know naught of the depths of what ails Filgaia... allow mine words to thus clarify further!"
     The whirling gourd, practically invisible within this water wheel, moves again to try and batter Siegfried back further if the parry attempt itself isn't overcome, the smaller water spirit daring to try and walk Siegfried further back with that relentless an assault.
     "No hatred or disappointment shalt deter mine will!" ...Suspiciously, or maybe absent-mindedly, he doesn't include 'that spear' or 'Mother,' which may yet prove adequate deterrences.

GS: Jack van Burace has attacked Lady Harken with True Draw!
GS: Jack van Burace has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Jack van Burace has completed his action.
GS: Seraph Lanval has attacked Siegfried with Water Wheel!
GS: Seraph Lanval has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Seraph Lanval has completed his action.
GS: Sneak! The true nature of Matilda Whitehead's attack becomes clear!
GS: Riesenlied guards a hit from Matilda Whitehead's Counter Attack for 79 hit points!
GS: Poison! Statuses applied to Riesenlied!
GS: Riesenlied heals Lydia Seren! She gains 200 temporary hit points!
GS: Lily Keil takes a solid hit from Riesenlied's Leyline Breach for 129 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Layna Manydays has posed.

Victoria curses as Persephone manages to avoid her spells. That one's agility was a cut above what she was used to dealing with. And then the Sentinel...turns and walks away? With a glower Victoria goes to recite an incantation but Layna raises a hand, causing her to stop.

"Yeah, get the hell outta here." Layna says, with a roll of her head and a dismissive wave. Her devil-may-care nature proves beneficial here - someone with a hotter head might use this opportunity to try and strike Persephone in the back.

Layna knows that would unlikely to work out very well. She saw it in her eyes. She turns away, gesturing to Dahlia and Victoria.

"Come on, let's go. The rest of 'em are keeping the big names busy, let's grab anyone else we can." She says. With a nod, they're off, moving to rejoin the rest helping to evacuate the citizens.

GS: Elhaym van Houten guards a hit from Riesenlied's Leyline Breach for 77 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Elvis has posed.

As Elvis looks menacingly at Gwen to get her to go away, the unexpected happens! Eh, who was he kidding, he was gonna happen, he just hoped they would give up. "OW! Hey!" Palm slaps, claws, a yanked moustache! "Cut it out! Just hold still! I'm TRYING to help you!" Certainly an odd way to show it!

Then Xantia kicks in! "You too?! WHat is it with you new generation of young ladies just looking to fight?! I swear, back in MY day, young ladies were prim and proper! Like my daughter is!"

"Kids these days..." is said, before his eyes snap forward. Wow. Is he really a grandpa? That sounds like something one would say.

And out of nowhere, Elvis eats the full charge of the lightning element Xantia brandishes. After all, Xantia is only grounded by Elvis, so the power has only one clear path-- directly through him. The man visibly stiffens from the lightning coursing through him. "Its antibodies, yes!" he corrects Gwen helpfully despite still being electrocuted, tone shifting more toward what an educator might have. Just soem zapping noises present too. "And they act as a form of repellant to foreign--"

BLAM.

Elvis eats that punch right in his face and stumbled backward into the snow, releasing both his captives! A few seconds later, he pops up out of the embankment, shaking his head free of any clinging snow. "Y'know if this wasn't such a serious situation I would say you should practice fisticuffs," the Sentinel says, standing back up.

"If you lot won't leave if your own accord, I will make you leave by force!" Elvis says, working his wrapped hands, conjuring the power of water all around. It was there, jsut i na different form. And so, the three will suddenly had what is visually equivalent to a snowslide coming in from all directinos, the unifying and flowing away from Elvis toward the open areas New Arctica is entered from!

GS: Elvis has attacked Xantia with Hydro Pressure!
GS: Elvis has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Elvis has attacked Gwen Whitlock with Hydro Pressure!
GS: Elvis has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Elvis has attacked Cassidy Cain with Hydro Pressure!
GS: Elvis has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Elvis has completed his action.
GS: Sneak! The true nature of Jack van Burace's attack becomes clear!
GS: CRITICAL! Lady Harken guards a hit from Jack van Burace's True Draw for 126 hit points!
GS: Ashton Anchors takes a solid hit from Riesenlied's Leyline Breach for 147 hit points!
GS: Cassidy Cain takes a solid hit from Elvis's Hydro Pressure for 190 hit points!
GS: Xantia critically Guards a hit from Elvis's Hydro Pressure for 37 hit points!
GS: Xantia has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Elvis has lost 1 Combo!
GS: Siegfried guards a hit from Seraph Lanval's Water Wheel for 99 hit points!
GS: Gwen Whitlock takes a solid hit from Elvis's Hydro Pressure for 194 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Lydia Seren has posed.

Lydia is blasted in the face, skin peeling away revealing bits of metal skeleton beneath. Her own body is thrown back in a manner that almost looks comical if viewed from afar. Lydia doesn't stay down, however, getting up once more.

She hears Claude's strange battlecry. His name was Enkidu. It seems to stir something within Siegfried in the way everything else seem to bounce off his own despair.

"That's not true..." Lydia manages, though she's having a hard time standing now. Whatever is the case of her strange abilities, it seems Siegfried is able to wear even that down. At this point, he can probably take his time disposing of her. Or could, if she wasn't surrounded by comrades.

"It hurts forever!" Lydia shouts and then, perhaps inspired by Claude of all people, she says it as well.

"His name was Enkidu!!" Well at least she didn't defile his grave, but she is ever defiant in the face of oblivion.

But her will is outlasting her body. Her grip on the medium slips as she tumbles over and lands on the medium itself, hacking and coughing from the earlier wounds.

"Mom..." She manages, eyes starting to close.

But then she hears it. She hears her name.

It's the name she chose for herself. No mother gave it to her. No father. She picked it out and--

--and it's mom's voice. Lydia is crying freely now. She doesn't want to fight.

She really doesn't want to fight. But she has to fight because people are going to die if she doesn't. She has to fight because Riesenlied would fight. She would do what was in her power to save as many people as she could. She did this even though the world still hasn't wholly let go of its (understandable) grudge.

And she has to fight because her mother is calling for her.

The life energy is what gets Lydia to stand once more. Odoryuk is VERY good at this. Perhaps it is for this moment it fell into Riesenlied's hands, and many more in the future. Maybe this is all part of some vague Guardian plan.

Or maybe what you do does matter.

Maybe not a lot.

Maybe very little.

"But it does matter..." Lydia murmurs. "Mom...I'm sorry but you..."

And with that she takes another medium into her hand. This is a bronze one. That's right, she aims to summon two guardians at once again. Rigdobrite is already channeled within her but now? Now Solais Emsu appears into the sky, looking down upon the distressing battlefield.

He gestures as several sigils appear behind him and then points down towards Siegfried--

--and then Lydia, in a burst at what is like the speed of light, throws herself at Riesenlied once more, aiming to throw her TOWARDS Siegfried.

"...You taught me what it means for our hearts to Extend!."

An eruption of light crashes down upon the three of them.

Lydia's eyes screw tightly shut. Please wake up.

Please wake up. Please wake up. Just a little more.

GS: Lydia Seren has activated a Force Action!
GS: Lydia Seren has activated a Force Action!
GS: Lydia Seren has spent 3 Combo on Headshot, including 0 on Gatling!
GS: Lydia Seren has attacked Siegfried with X-Summon!
GS: Lydia Seren has attacked Riesenlied with X-Summon!
GS: Lydia Seren has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Lydia Seren has completed her action.
GS: CRITICAL! Riesenlied critically Guards a hit from Lydia Seren's X-Summon for 63 hit points!
GS: Hyper! Statuses applied to Lydia Seren!
GS: Riesenlied has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Lydia Seren has lost 1 Combo!
GS: CRITICAL! Siegfried takes a solid hit from Lydia Seren's X-Summon for 308 hit points!
GS: Hyper! Statuses applied to Lydia Seren!
<Pose Tracker> Noeline has posed.

    Dimly, Noeline can register the presence of a booming voice that can only be Elvis, and a complicated-looking melee of fluid metal and motion off to one side that signifies that Kalve has also joined in the melee. It's not a conscious thought, so much as that detached part of her trying to keep stock of the battle, but she squares the realization away in the back of her mind for later. Perhaps, once all is said and done, she can go and have some seriously pointed discussions about ethics.

    Her attention is torn away from that half-formed thought as their daughter is unceremoniously torn apart by one of Siegfried's attacks. "Lydia!" she yells, her voice already rasped and hoarse from her earlier exhortations. She almost stumbles from her straight-forward path towards Riesenlied, bolting to one side to skid to a halt next to the girl - because as much as she knows Lydia is preternaturally tough, it's still another thing to see her get punctured by the Glumzambor and lose most of her muscle mass and keep going.

    Her tongue still feels thick in her mouth, but she swallows shakily. "Young lady, if you don't dodge at least once or twice you are in for a serious talking to later," she mutters, ignoring the way her voice hitches as she tries to provide even the tiniest amount of levity. For just a moment, she plants her hand on the girl's shoulder and squeezes. She's not Riese. She can't offer anything in the way of healing - but as she is these days she can admit to being able to offer support and faith, and perhaps that's enough for right now.

    She looks back at Siegfried for another moment as Lydia bolts her attack forwards, watching the way the Quarter Knight moves now; it makes her wince, makes that knot inside of her twist a little further. Can they hope to do anything when their opponents have no hopes? ... and then Siegfried screams, and she can only stare with wide, wide eyes. Had she really thought her own anger and frustration was the greatest here?

    Whatever thoughts that noise brings, it also spurs her into action; she lifts from Lydia like a sprinter taking off from the blocks, her weapon vanishing back into her metal as she pulls at the pieces of the Medium with in her, pulls at them for every little bit of power she can. Her arms quake with tension and effort, but it doesn't stop her or slow her pace. Siegfried's unbalanced moment of weakness, his rage and fury, might be the key they need to carry their feelings to Riesenlied. At the very least, it's a hope she can't let go of.

    The others around Riesenlied have already intuited the same and moved to try to lock her down, she sees ahead of her. Urgently, fervently, and above all quietly, Noeline whispers a prayer of desperation to whoever might be listening that this maneuver won't prove to be abortive - but the unbidden mention of her name instead lights a bright, roaring fire in her chest, and for the first time in days a pure sensation of hope and urgency rips through her so fast it almost takes her breath away. Noeline rips the Dragon's Tear from her own neck, clutching it tightly in her hand as clarity washes over her.

    The first of the beams slams into her arm, nearly knocking the Dragon's Tear loose before she redoubles her grip around it; the second and third almost take her off her feet from the impact as they punch against her torso, but she grits her teeth against the pain, forcing herself towards Riesenlied with everything she's got.

    The fourth does at least go awry, sucked into and dissipated by the field of Duras Drum's shadows - but that corona fizzles away in the next moment as Noeline reaches the limits of her power, desperately panting for breath out of sheer exertion. The fifth punctures straight through her shoulder, bringing her to the ground with a yell of pain - and the sixth and seventh tear through her painfully, leaving her gasping for words.

    And yet... when she raises her head with a rattling cough, she's still smiling, the Tear still held out towards Riesenlied as she concentrates on it, its light washing out from it for just a moment to cut through the remnants of her own aura. "I made you a promise... to stay by your side and to love you. No matter what. Even now."

GS: Noeline has attacked Riesenlied with If The World Turns Against Us!
GS: Noeline has completed her action.
GS: Noeline heals Riesenlied! She gains 200 temporary hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Lydia Seren has posed.

"Sorry mooom!" Lydia shouts to Noeline as she is literally running into her own death laser.

<Pose Tracker> Matilda Whitehead has posed.

It's very strange -- when she set out on this journey more than a year ago, now, Matilda would've booked it at the first sign of trouble -- at least trouble of this scale. Perhaps it was Riesenlied, in part, who taught her the value of risk.

... though Matilda likes to think her risks are more calculated than Riesenlied's...

Filgaia's life force spills out onto Matilda. It's hot and hissing, it's too much -- but Matilda accepts the exposure as the price of doing business, as it were, as she continues to close on Riesenlied. She sweeps in with a heavy shield bash, then a rising knee strike aimed right for her gut -- even if she can't find full purchase, thanks to the pain in her legs, she thinks it's more important to maintain the position.

She thinks about what Riesenlied is saying -- she doesn't think she'll be able to convince her these memories are fake. She *also* doesn't think she'll be able to do much about this in one swoop, really. But if she can plant the seeds of doubt... perhaps they can flourish even when she's not tending them, if the rain is right.

"... Your injury must have made you forget leaving," Matilda offers. It's a little bit of a half-truth, at best -- but it's the option she thinks is *most* likely to get Riesenlied to self-assess. "It's plausible... that such a thing would be taken advantage of, isn't it? And for your head to hurt at the suggestion..."

Matilda can't *quite* bring herself to shoot Riesenlied -- not here, not at this early stage of the problem before them. So instead...

Staying in close, Matilda draws Freischütz, dropping her shield to pour a bottle of something into its reservoir. This is not a problem she can face alone... so instead, she'll make sure Noeline, lanced through by the beams, has the strength to face it. She snaps off a quick shot of a sparkling, pinkish liquid -- one which rapidly sets to work healing and invigorating the Hyadean.

GS: Matilda Whitehead has spent 1 Combo on Inspire, including 0 on Gatling!
GS: Matilda Whitehead has attacked Noeline with Syrup Bullet!
GS: Matilda Whitehead has completed her action.
<Pose Tracker> Cecilia Adlehyde has posed.

Others identify that Cecilia has once again lost herself to the PYRE of hatred that blazes in her chest. Perhaps hoping this woman could ever pity Siegfried was futile. Perhaps he destroyed that option himself, on that day when King Justin Adlehyde died.

Perhaps, for all that this woman is one who has wept for the freedom of a stone, there is one person on Filgaia that she can never forgive.

Her hands are shaking as he speaks to her. "It's n--" she starts, and then he cuts her as cleanly as her father.

She drops directly to her knees, vomiting blood from her mouth and stomach both from the blow that sheers entirely through her barriers. She finds a Potion Berry and shoves it in her mouth, preventing herself from dying on the spot as she cuts the skin with her teeth.

And by the time she looks up, Claude has had his head almost blown off.

She jams her staff down, spitting gobs of blood. "No, Siegfried," she croaks. Watching the way the man moves. Claude is still jabbing him - that Seraph is working to save his life. She is going to build that guy a fountain later. "With that reaction...I think you've known what you took from me for a while." She leans hard on her staff, hand slowly sliding to her case to grasp a Medium and raise it up, the tiny thing slowly gathering the winds around itself.

She feels cold. It's so hard to muster the sparking, blazing hatred from before. She looks at him through bleery eyes. "I hate you...for how much I want him back," she whispers.

It's good enough; the Medium scatters apart, a roaring razrowind emerging laterally from it and forming into the great Guardian of Wind, Fengalon gallopiong toward Siegfried and BOWLING into him with claws outstretched.

GS: Cecilia Adlehyde has attacked Siegfried with Material - Hi-Speed Ripper!
GS: Cecilia Adlehyde has completed her action.
GS: Shield! Statuses applied to Noeline!
GS: Matilda Whitehead heals Noeline! She gains 200 temporary hit points!
GS: Reload! Noeline gains 15 extra FP from Matilda Whitehead!
GS: Noeline gains a Combo from Inspire!
GS: Riesenlied used the Force Action Protect! She takes Cecilia Adlehyde's attack on Siegfried on herself!
GS: Riesenlied has activated a Force Action!
GS: Riesenlied takes a solid hit from Cecilia Adlehyde's Material - Hi-Speed Ripper for 168 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Zed has posed.

Siegfried's blade is an unstoppable, insurmountable force. It truly is the Blade of the Mother. The great demon sword swings with the might of a falling star. Zed readies his own blade to deflect it, but to try and turn aside a meteor is impossible, even for him. Still, he struggles there against the blow, his feet sink into the stone, the cavern cratering around his heels as the shockwave blasts down into him, beating at his ears with raw concussive force. "That's... Not what I asked," Zed snarls from around the juncture of the twin blades, before...

There's a spray of quicksilver blood and a sound like a cannon being fired. Siegfried would feel his blade dig into the young rebel's chest, and then there is nothing at all. Where there was once a Zed, there is now only a crater. He ragdolls through the air for but a split second before slamming hard into the cavern wall. Zed falls, hitting the ground face-first, as rocks and a variety of sundry subterrannean detritus crumble down on top of him.

By all rights, it should be enough to kill him.

It should be enough.

But.

But.

The rubble shifts. A hand forces a body up, struggling, fighting, as if wrestling against the weight of the world itself. Zed finds his footing, on foot then the other, his breathing is ragged, wet and pained, it sounds like the sucking breaths of a dying man--

No.

No, he's laughing.

"You... You can still yell like that," Zed wheezes, a massive gash carved straight across his chest still leaking quicksilver blood, even as his body struggles to put itself back together. "You're... still in there, no matter what you say. You... Riese, too."

Zed... lifts his sword, one more time.

"That's... That's what seemed so wrong. I finally have my finger on it, I think. It's... Mother made you. To destroy, to kill, to be a weapon. But... But Sieg, it doesn't matter what we're made to do. Where we come from just tells us where we start. But..."

He takes another step forward. Then another. Each is faster than the last, as if he were building up momentum to make up for the strength his legs can no longer provide. "But you're the one who lived your life, right? Not Mother. You're... You're the one who I looked up to. Not... Not Siegfried the Sword of the Mother, but Siegfried, the hero, the man, the one who would always have a story to tell, or advice to give."

"Uncle Zeik... So what if you were made to kill!? We're alive! We get to choose whatever path we like!" Zed roars, his blade surging with power enough for one more strike. And another beyond that. And another beyond that. Each time Zed seems as though he's about to give out, he finds the strength to strike again and again, until finally he's in position to deliver a single, decisive strike...! "To be swayed so easily... Your heart can't be that weak! I won't accept that the one I admired has so little determination!"

GS: Zed has spent 5 Combo on Headshot and Gatling, including 1 on Gatling!
GS: Zed has attacked Siegfried with Split Ladle Sakura Supernova!
GS: Zed has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Zed has completed his action.
<Pose Tracker> Cassidy Cain has posed.

Pried away, she manages to flee just in time before Xantia goes for the face herself, Cassidy skidding across rock and snow. Her spare dagger is gone, her fingers empty. "Ay, well, I just arrived, y'ken, you really think I'm just going tae turn around and leave when I just got here? I had tae-- "

 Despite her present state of seeming preoccupation, she manages to keep a good bead on the room and the events unfolding within it - more out of habit, then desire. Siegfried's words has her emerald stare cutting across to that direction, but what really captures her attention is the small dragonling leaping to a familiar figure's defense. It has been months since she last saw Jack Van Burace - his fart rat had traveled with her in Lunar for a time, but the sight of Argent has her staring long enough that she doesn't catch what's coming until it's too late.

 "...is that a-- "

 FWOOSH!

 She's suddenly buried in snow, swept away from the eye of the hurricane that is Elvis, her mouth filling with ice and chill seeping into her bones as the avalanche carries her some distance away. For a while, there's nothing else, she has simply disappeared underneath all the sudden white....

 An arm suddenly emerges from all that fine powder, chilled fingers cocking back the hammer of a glinting nickel-plated pistol. The engravings of Hawthorne's Revolver reflect the dim light as she manages to claw herself out of the snow, squinting through the sights and aiming at the Veruni. "Cannae say you're the first mountain I ever fought, luv," she tells Elvis. "But you're definitely the first that's ever tried tae teach me etiquette. Think you've got tae let it go, luv. Kids're nae going tae learn if you keep coddling them all the time - sometimes the best lessons are the ones you learn while you're sticking metal in an electric socket."

 And with that, she fires a single slug, aimed right for the Veruni's center mass.

GS: CRITICAL! Siegfried guards a hit from Zed's Split Ladle Sakura Supernova for 186 hit points!
GS: Cassidy Cain has spent 5 Combo on Headshot and Gatling, including 1 on Gatling!
GS: Cassidy Cain has attacked Elvis with Before the Music Ends!
GS: Cassidy Cain has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Cassidy Cain has completed her action.
GS: Ashton Anchors has attacked Riesenlied with Dragon Breath!
GS: Ashton Anchors has completed his action.
<Pose Tracker> Lady Harken has posed.

Mihaya, of course, speaks sense. And truth. But Harken cannot just acknowledge this, no, not while certain conditions haven't been met. Scarlet hair and matching eyes lock gaze with the summoner, even as the Quarter Knight meets the Divine Queen, Shiva, blow for blow. Perhaps because her combo meter hasn't had a chance to reset yet, momentum isn't bringing her down to the ground.

"Power is a fickle thing, and if you think I am rambling without aim about it, then I'm worried the message isn't getting through." Harken sounds exasperated as she parries an oncoming blow that sends a finely-networked spiderweb of cracks and frost up one arm, and sails upwards--the least plausible direction--before that frozen shield can come down on her head. The explosion of frost slows, bizarrely, as it comes within the Quarter Knight's aura, as if the winds are listening to her instead. "How much more power can you tap, under duress? How much higher can you climb? That is what I'm trying to find out!" and it isn't Mihaya that Harken strikes back against, but Shiva.

The Quarter Knight doesn't flee from the towering Aeon, nay, she clashes directly -into- it. She falls upon Shiva with a descending, two-handed strike that leaves her opponent enough time to consider: block, parry, dodge? A call for a test of strength and wits, instead of being too fast to follow.

Tethelle is much too hard on herself, for starters, and Harken would probably mention this if she were aware of it. Her eyes track the young woman sprinting through the hailstorm, dodging cannon fire, and still finding the acuity to wield her weapon with form and poise. The downwards stroke is good. Sublime, even. Harken brings her dreadful scythe to bear, the blade catching that greatsword before it can split her in half, and her feet sink into the ground with an impressive shattering of stone. "Ho~." she hums in pleased surprise. Her voice is a low, conspiratorial, (some would say 'handsome') rumble. "Standing against Mother won't do you any good. I don't want you to vanish with some glorious last stand." and then she leans in closer, scarlet eyes boring into Tethelle's. There's purpose and clarity in her gaze, not the vicious insanity of the Kingslayer of years past. "I need you to win." and then, as if giving her another chance to try again, Harken's leg fires upwards like a piston. Tethelle has a split-second to avoid being kicked in the gut by a crazy lady in powered armour.

Josie is included in this seemingly insane conspiracy and lesson, of course, none are left out. 'Don't suppose you could tell that Mother of yours to go back to sleep?' she asks, and more critically, 'What in the Guardian's green hell did you do to Riesenlied?'. At this, Harken responds. First, she catches the first shell from the terrible ARM in one outstretched hand. While the bullet might stop, the force continues into her arm and her armour, which is still splintered and frosted from Shiva's onslaught. The entire gauntlet explodes in a hailstorm of metal shards, which for a moment, makes it look like Josie blew her entire goddamn hand off, which might be alarming. She also speaks, voice strained a little from the pain of absorbing that one.

"Alhazred." Harken corrects Josie, dropping the still-glowing shell from broken fingers. "Alhazred and Mother are the ones who have twisted Riesenlied into... that." oh, she actually sounds dangerous again now. This is not a happy topic. "Just another in a long, long list of unforgivable sins. Whether it is you, or I, I care not. But those sins cannot go unanswered..."

The follow-up movement is blindingly fast. Harken suddenly strikes the falling ARM shell with the staff-end of her scythe as if it were a ball sitting upon the tee, and the projectile--still cherry red--is sent flying into the distance. Ah, did you expect her to send it back? No, Harken spins with the momentum and carves a nearby building in twain with her weapon. That, in turn, threatens to crumble onto Josie instead of being struck directly. That's just being a dick.

Jack can't be kept down for long. His egress through New Arctica's makeshift dwellings has only slowed his return, and for that, Harken is impressed. It also hasn't done much to still his tongue. "You charitably assume I remember more than I do." she corrects him, patiently, but also with the tone of a disappointed schoolteacher. "I remember waking in a sealed tube, sick, on death's precipice. I remember being told my name, my station, my purpose. Do you think I'm -hiding- memories from you, for some reason? Tch." the scythe, that damnable scythe, almost moves with a life of its own to catch the oncoming sword-blow. Yet, it does not. Jack's sword-strike rides the shaft with a shower of sparks, and the blade cuts a glowing trail through Harken's breastplate. And he is away again before a counterblow can land. Harken scowls deeply at this and focuses briefly--a ghostly afterimage of her chases after Jack into the snowbank, rearing back to punch him despite being, ostensibly, a hologram. Ugh, ninja images.

This is about when Ida succesfully catches Harken's ankle after a well-timed feint, but... there's insufficient mass and momentum for the takedown, otherwise perfectly-practiced and executed, to work. The Quarter Knight is wearing, like, three-hundred pounds of alien powered armour and her feet are anchored into the ground after blocking Tethelle's overhead grand slam. "Test?" her nose wrinkles. "No. A test implies you can try again if you fail. Observe." and it becomes evident that the stakes are real, and high, as one of Harken's eyes bleeds a distressingly bright gleam before Azrael falls towards Ida like the executioner's axe, come to penalize her for being caught terminally out of position at the final hurdle. The abruptness of this blow is hard to understate, after the toying nature of the fight to this point.

GS: Lady Harken has attacked Mihaya with Azrael - Bloody Fang!
GS: Lady Harken has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Lady Harken has attacked Josephine Lovelace with Fast Draw - Slash Rave!
GS: Lady Harken has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Lady Harken has attacked Tethelle Cirdian with Admonishing Strike!
GS: Lady Harken has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Lady Harken has attacked Jack van Burace with Redshift Feint!
GS: Lady Harken has activated a Force Action!
GS: Lady Harken has spent 5 Combo on Gatling, including 4 on Gatling!
GS: Lady Harken has attacked Ida Everstead-Rey with Azrael - Laser Silhouette!
GS: Lady Harken has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Lady Harken has completed her action.
GS: CRITICAL! Mihaya takes a solid hit from Lady Harken's Azrael - Bloody Fang for 205 hit points!
GS: Cripple and Poison! Statuses applied to Mihaya!
GS: Hyper and Mighty! Statuses applied to Lady Harken!
GS: CRITICAL! Ida Everstead-Rey guards a hit from Lady Harken's Azrael - Laser Silhouette for 155 hit points!
GS: Cripple and Poison! Statuses applied to Ida Everstead-Rey!
GS: Hyper! Statuses applied to Lady Harken!
GS: Tethelle Cirdian takes a solid hit from Lady Harken's Admonishing Strike for 169 hit points!
GS: Tethelle Cirdian enters CONDITION GREEN!!
GS: Josephine Lovelace guards a hit from Lady Harken's Fast Draw - Slash Rave for 110 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Elhaym van Houten has posed.

It's probably some kind of hypnotherapy, Elly half-thinks before the words of Riesenlied come forwards, and a moment later, the layline bursts.

Searing blue. Elly sets her teeth in the face of it. She stumbles back once more - and resolves as she reels forwards that it will be her last yielding! Matilda is speaking, Elly's ears pick it up gradually -- And then she sees Riesenlied moving. Abruptly. Towards -

siegfried

And in that moment something in the back of Elly's head goes 'oh hell no' - if not in so many words. Perhaps it is the spirit of a woman named Liabelle and long ago killed, come to haunt her anew. Elly raises both of her hands up and

What happens follows a pattern that does not feel reliably like Ether, because it is almost an imitation of something more limited. Several interlayered Symbolism effects.

The wind from towards the ceiling whips around, drawing down air from up there. This accomplishes very little in and of itself, beyond making Riesenlied be surrounded by even more fabulous and subtle billowing effects. Unfortunately the scale and scope of the cavern means that this takes longer than Elly would like - but in her current intensity of thought she has no room for hesitation or doubt beyond a tch!

There are, therefore, faint pockets of air around Riesenlied, distinctive and faintly wavey. This accomplish nothing save smelling slightly dank until there is, from the clear blue sky, a stroke downwards of lightning - a single snapping arc. Unremarkable in and of itself until it hits one of the pockets of mine gas and

explodes!

Directly between Riesenlied and the position of Siegfried.

The remaining pockets start to twist round in a faintly discernible torus around Riesenlied as Elly sucks in a deep breath and shrieks at her, "RIESENLIED I LOVE YOU TOO MUCH TO NOT BLOW YOU BOTH ALL THE WAY TO KISLEV IF YOU DON'T GET AWAY FROM HIM THIS MOMENT!!"

As if to warn her there is another electrical arc. The torus rotates, wobbling violently around her. "You see it?! It's mine gas! We had to dig this place out! Don't try me, Riesenlied!! I won't spare him for your sake!"

Panting for breath she staggers nearer to the others, saying as she does in a mutter, "act horrified. she's not thinking well. I think we can..."

Can what?

GS: Elhaym van Houten enters a Counter stance!
GS: Elhaym van Houten has attacked Riesenlied with Sacred Elemental Boundary!
GS: Elhaym van Houten has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Elhaym van Houten has completed her action.
GS: Riesenlied guards a hit from Ashton Anchors's Dragon Breath for 79 hit points!
GS: Riesenlied critically Guards a hit from Elhaym van Houten's Sacred Elemental Boundary for 35 hit points!
GS: Riesenlied has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Elhaym van Houten has lost 1 Combo!
GS: Jack van Burace has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Lady Harken has lost 1 Combo!
DC: MISS! Jack van Burace completely evades Redshift Feint from Lady Harken!
<Pose Tracker> Xantia has posed.

Much of what Gwen says provides Xantia with additional information. She knew the Veruni were allied with the Metal Demons, but she had no idea why. Nor that she was fighting one, until now. That explains a few things. However, there's one thing about it that wasn't quite right.

"Antibodies," Xantia corrects Gwen off-hand, at the exact same time Elvis does. Then she immediately frowns in confusion. How did she know that word? No, not just the word, but its meaning. But this is the first time she's ever heard it. ...isn't it?

She stops thinking about it as soon as she hits the ground when Elvis finally releases his hold on her. Finally, that took way too long, even with the electricity, she thinks as she picks herself back up. It's clear enough by now that this is someone she doesn't need to hold back against. Gwen may think it's hard to fight someone who's being nice, but Xantia on the other hand...

"It's not that hard! It doesn't matter who it is, sometimes you just have to fight!" Can you blame her? All evidence she's seen clearly points to beating people up being the best way to make all problems go away. Which suits her fine, fighting is what she's best at.

Before she can follow up on that, the snow all around her is manipulated, and comes closing in fast. Xantia panics a little, for the simple but to her very pressing reason of 'not wanting to be cold'. It's an instinctual reaction, when she throws out both hands to her side just as the cocoon of snow threatens to close around her. Waves of force are generated in response, crashing against the waves of snow, blowing them apart and leaving Xantia with only a fraction of the intended effect to deal with. She still doesn't like it very much much, shivering as she comically hops around for a moment.

...Maybe if she doesn't like the cold that much, she should not still be in an outfit that makes a lot more sense in a warm environment.

Regardless, Xantia eventually turns her attention back to Elvis. "You'll need a lot more force than that to make me leave!" So she claims, with more confidence than she has any right to after that little display. Cracking her knuckles, she adds, "Something more like this."

With that, she sprints towards the Veruni Sentinel, bridging the last of the gap with a long horizontal leap with her arm drawn back. Her fist glows with a bright white light, growing in intensity until she throws it forward, unleashing a violent explosion of energy, increasing the force of the punch to such heights that it creates a crater in the snow, as well the soil below.

She wasn't kidding about not holding back.

GS: Xantia has spent 5 Combo on Gatling, including 4 on Gatling!
GS: Xantia has attacked Elvis with Exploding Fist!
GS: Xantia has gained 2 Combo!
GS: Xantia has completed her action.
GS: CRITICAL! Elvis guards a hit from Cassidy Cain's Before the Music Ends for 153 hit points!
GS: CRITICAL! Elvis guards a hit from Xantia's Exploding Fist for 131 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Ashton Anchors has posed.

There's leyfire everywhere now. Ashton's okay with that, oddly - he was more worried that his desperate stab would find flesh rather than medium. The blow is cushioned a bit by the player forgetting how Counter works, but in this case that's perhaps a good thing.

Still. The kid's hurting a lot now. But there's no standing down at this point. No backing away. If the Metal Demons win today, the Drifters and all their like will be pushed clear off of Elru, and a lot of lives will end.

Part of the adventuring life is prioritization: deciding which battles to fight, which lost child to chase, which tiny town to rescue. There's a balance to be struck. Right now? The cost is too high. Ashton does like Riesenlied, he really does. She - and those who she counts as her circle and kin - have done nothing but show him kindness. And he truly wants the happy ending for them. Perhaps that's what's holding him back.

It is not holding back all of him, however. Those sharp enough amidst the chaos might catch that Ashton's eyes are not green. The left is blue; the right is red. He drops to a knee, blades sinking into the ground even as that same ground fractures and splinters.

Ashton leans forward. He is not in control now - that much becomes clear as the two dragons on his back rise up, writhing like snakes. They grow. And grow. And grow.

Creepy and Weepy loom tall, truly dragon-sized once again. It's easy to forget that they're not just there for the comedy.

Both look down at Riesenlied. And for those few - such as she - who understand the words of a dragon? Their statement is simple. "For Muni-Muni"

And while Noeline shields her love? The dragons make the hard choice. Flame and frost wash down as they breathe, venting terror and sorcerous power at the errant Hyadean, filling the area with raw firepower.

<Pose Tracker> Kalve has posed.

"I'm confident in my ability to escape a cave-in," Kalve comments a touch casually. "You, however..."

Fire continues to pour on. Crossbow bolts and rifle rounds come in from long range. The former are obvious when they hit, intercepted with his sub-arms and jammed through the metal limbs. The latter are less obvious, causing snapping motions from the cloak he's wearing and pulling it taut against his body as they pass by. Two shots come close, but miss him, his physical form more narrow than Tesni anticipated; two more hit him dead on, but spark off angled body plating that seems perfectly calibrated to defeat gunsmoke firearms.

Perhaps he has had prior experience with them.

"Good. Fight. Live!" Kalve turns his eyes to Ines, watching the magic flow with a spark of definite envy. He circles around her, head cocked. He discards the hook sword as an almost passing thought. "I have no desire to see your peoples wiped from the face of this planet. If you think you are worthy of survival --"

Kalve leaps forward. He strikes like a snake, six different points of attack that all converge for stabbing blows. For... pressure points. He dives at Ines with something, some kind of pulse of internal energy that threatens to utterly disrupt her coordination and make every motion feel like it was taken in a vat of molten lead. He draws back, and --

Arleph flash-freezes him.

It's sudden and dramatic. The water coalesces, crashes down, and turns to ice. It explodes, then crushes downward again, then explodes, then crushes downward, the ever-increasing pressure threatening to turn him into a metallic ball of crushed wet metal. After the spell's completion, there is a moment of quiet, where the icy mass billows with mist and fog, utterly still.

A breath after, the ice fractures. Loud as a gunshot. Terrible as a curse.

The icy mass bursts. Kalve storms out of it, propelled by some unfathomable alien strength. He vaults past the front line that Ines presents, landing amidst the trio that faces him from down-range. He's suddenly on top of them, a figure covered in icicles and frost, silver glittering with wintry substance.

Kalve strikes Arleph with a terrible fury. He batters at his shields, a constant staccato flurry hammering against the conjured defenses. He hits the same points, again and again and again, stressing the spellwork until he can pound holes in it and reach the wizard standing behind it -- and then he hits him.

Once.

Like a train.

Kalve whips around suddenly, carrying the momentum onward. He takes a loping step and flicks his arms outward, attacking Chime with a whiplike lashing of too-long limbs. He turns a one-inch punch into a ten-foot punch, driving at her with a one-two-three rhythm of two strikes followed by a hammerblow meant to drive her to the ground and knock the wind out of her lighthearted sails.

His head twists, finding Tesni's cover next. One of his many hands moves to take care of it, dropping downward to slam into the ground, cracking the earth and punching a fissure into the already-buckling stone. He stomps, hard, sending the far end of the ripped stone see-sawing upwards, and then cracks it in half with an elbow strike to bury her in rubble.

"-- Show me!!"

GS: Kalve has attacked Arleph Ardan with As The Hammer!
GS: Kalve has attacked Chime Isa with The Long Arm!
GS: Kalve has attacked Tesni Inoue with Freed by the Fight!
GS: Kalve has gained 1 Combo!
<Pose Tracker> Lily Keil has posed.

"You did," Lily insists, reiterates when Riesenlied says she didn't leave him, asks. The fear builds, but maybe that fear is the key, however awful it is this close. Something--something begins to give way. A little more, maybe. She is not entirely certain if the pain she feels now is her own, or if it is Riesenlied's; blurring the line leaves her less and less certain. But there is an ache within her arms, within her chest, sharp and growing sharper.

Still bleeding, Lily watches Riesenlied as she asks them to stay away--and then screams. Fractures from the ground do not dissuade the witch; the lifeblood of the Planet splashes outward, and Lily doesn't so much as move, doused by the caustic-to-her fluid in an instant, hissing with pain that comes of something too pure trying to make her part of it.

"Riese--"

But pain can be an excellent way to focus. That sharpness inside her; Lily doesn't fight it, but embraces it. The colors come...

Lily's plan to handle things evaporates as the power of a Guardian descends. The sorceress stares, still for an instant. Lily's hand at her side shakes and she breathes slowly as she curls it into a fist. "You..."

Elly mutters to them, but Lily for a moment can't move. She can't move as she notes the pocket of gas; she does not move in time. "..."

"Riese," Lily says quietly, too quietly. "...You'll die for him, without ever knowing that you already did more than you thought you could." Quiet, sad--it's like the anger has dropped out of her. "...Sorry, Elly," Lily says, and steps forward. She holsters her ARM, walks ahead, step by step, towards Riesenlied, and reaches out. Her arms gleam red--

And healing crimson light begins to spread about them both, and Lily reaches out to touch her dear friend's arm. The glow is so bright.

GS: Lily Keil has activated a Force Action!
GS: Kalve has spent 1 Combo on Poison, including 0 on Gatling!
GS: Kalve has attacked Ines Colina with Mother's Malevolence!
GS: Kalve has completed his action.
GS: Lily Keil has attacked Riesenlied with Red Light!
GS: Lily Keil has attacked Lily Keil with Red Light!
GS: Lily Keil has completed her action.
GS: Ines Colina has activated a Force Action!
GS: Sneak! The true nature of Lily Keil's attack becomes clear!
GS: Riesenlied takes a solid hit from Lily Keil's Anima Breach for 188 hit points!
GS: Sneak! The true nature of Lily Keil's attack becomes clear!
GS: Lily Keil takes a solid hit from Lily Keil's Anima Breach for 177 hit points!
GS: Chime Isa has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Kalve has lost 1 Combo!
DC: MISS! Chime Isa completely evades The Long Arm from Kalve!
GS: Ines Colina used the Force Action Protect! She takes Kalve's attack on Arleph Ardan on herself!
GS: Ines Colina has activated a Force Action!
<Pose Tracker> Lily Keil has posed.

What seemed like healing light continues to glow until the glow is painful, and then abrubtly, it inverts; what was red becomes gray, what was gray becomes black, and Lily, through the medium of touch, seeks to deliver another powerful impact against whatever the cloud over Riesenlied is. Around both of them, darkness crackles, ground around them begins to turn to ash.

But the real work is inside, as Lily's eyes cloud over black. "Riesenlied," she says between her teeth, "Remember--"

<Pose Tracker> Ida Everstead-Rey has posed.

    'A test implies you can try again if you fail.'

    Ida remembers the words of an older, wiser woman, one of the heroes who helped seal Mother away all those years ago. No. Do right by you. Conviction will kill the monster, but it can't make things better on its own.

    The scythe comes down. The last time something like this happened, Ida nearly died. She likely would've died, had she not picked the safest place in the Lacour Coliseum to engage her--the floor, where Symbological enchantments kept combatants from bleeding out. It happens again.

    The blade comes down. Ida twists back, leaning away and throwing her bound-up arm into the path of the scythe. It's foolishness. She's going to cut that arm off and then cut Ida open. Azrael's edge catches something--the metal cloth underarmor--then hooks on something else. Crimson sprays from the wound, running down Ida's cloak and staining the rock. The scythe keeps cutting. When Harken finishes the strike, its cutting edge is slick with human blood, and--

    quicksilver--

    The arm trapped underneath the cloak springs free, tearing itself loose in a flurry of shredding fabric. Hyadean blood drips down a gash that runs the length of its forearm, almost obscuring the crimson lines that mark it, tattoo-like, from shoulder to hand. It's too big to be Ida's--too big to fit comfortably on her body. It belonged to someone much bigger, taller, but it's attached to her body, seamlessly.

    Ida's cloak falls aside. The wound Harken made bleeds, but Ida can feel her new physiology trying to stop it--a strange sense of heat and tightness. There's far more crimson coming out of her than silver, but the fact that there is silver coming out of her at all is--

    Ida drives that strange right arm at Lady Harken's center of mass, a ferocious kiai tearing free from her lips. It's a wild haymaker, but she's moving on instinct. Its instinct.

GS: Ida Everstead-Rey has attacked Lady Harken with Haymaker!
GS: Ida Everstead-Rey has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Ida Everstead-Rey takes 6 damage from Poison!
GS: Ida Everstead-Rey has completed her action.
<Pose Tracker> Mihaya has posed.

 The blow slams into the Aeon, pushing it backwards and carving a large chunk out of the spiritual body that Mihaya has managed to coax into existence. Within moments the damaged parts flow back together, restoring the spirit to its former state of glory - but the feedback through the summoner is severe, and the elf drops down to one knee, barely able to hold herself upright. A more experienced summoner would probably have been able to power through the pain and continue fighting for a while longer... but it had been years, and the elf has little experience using this power.

 It is something she is lacking, and bitterly regrets now.

 "The point isn't to beat you, though..." Mihaya states, still barely able to hold herself up. She holds one hand to her side for a moment, and gauges the amount of energy that she's managed to gather with her Aeon. It wasn't a lot - but it should be enough to accomplish what she wants. "The point is to let people survive this attack, to give them hope to see tomorrow!"

 Closing her eyes, Mihaya concentrates - and the crystal in her staff begins to glow with a pale blue light once more.

 In response, Shiva tosses her sword and shield into the air, where they vanish into a shower of tiny ice crystals. As soon as Ida is clear of her path, the Aeon smiles, rising up into the air as she raises both hands up above her head, wrists crossed above her head. Shining motes of blue light appear in a cascade around her. The wind begins to howl, the temperature dropping as the Aeon of Ice summons her power for one large, formidable attack.

 "Wind, faded to silence and light, grant us power!" Mihaya states quietly. And then she raises her staff. "Diamond Dust!"

 Shivas hands come down, and a massive tornado of utter cold erupts before her. Ice builds on the ground in front of her, thousands of tiny icicle shards slamming into the flagstones of the street, nearby buildings, and continuing onwards. Harken is in the path of the attack, but it doesn't *stop* with her. The Aeon's power continues down the street... and off into the harbor, freezing the water solid in a broad path out to see and away from the town. Leaving a path for people to escape on to the coast nearby.

 Mihaya looks on for a moment before she falls forward with a faint 'mrph!' onto her face, her staff clattering onto the ground. She'd probably make a quip asking what Harken thinks, but she's a bit to face first to manage.

GS: Mihaya has attacked Lady Harken with Diamond Dust!
GS: Mihaya takes 6 damage from Poison!
GS: Mihaya has completed her action.
GS: Sneak! The true nature of Kalve's attack becomes clear!
GS: Ines Colina guards a hit from Kalve's Method III - The Tempered Blade for 116 hit points!
GS: Kalve has spent 1 Combo on Poison, including 0 on Gatling!
GS: Kalve has attacked Ines Colina with Mother's Malevolence!
GS: Ines Colina critically Guards a hit from Kalve's Mother's Malevolence for 0 hit points!
GS: Ines Colina has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Kalve has lost 1 Combo!
<Pose Tracker> Tethelle Cirdian has posed.

Some people need their coffee before they're at their best. Tethelle happens to be one of them. (Even though she does not drink coffee much - it's expensive! - and often makes do with dunking her head in cold water.)

Tethelle finds her blade blocked by Harken - blocked but not without flaw, judging by the cracked stone and sheer force of impact. Improbably, Tethelle manages to hang in the air for several long seconds, hands tightening around her hilt, as Harken speaks.

'I need you to win.'

Tethelle's eyes widen a split second before she pushes against the scythe in a different way; she uses the impact to spring off of the polearm. It's almost enough to save her, but Harken's foot is moving faster than Tethelle can spring off.

It hits. Hard. Tethelle finds herself thrown into the air, but she welcomes it; she shifts her position and posture to take advantage of the launch despite the aching, bone-deep pain in her torso. That is going to be a problem, but she can make it a problem for herself in a few seconds instead. This instant she has a different problem.

"Oh, I do not intend to lose! Not to you, or to Mother!" Tethelle's voice is rough. She finds it hard to catch a deep breath - but she does not let that stop her. Not now. Pain later. Focus.

Tethelle reaches the apex of her... well, it's not a jump, and it's not a launch, but somewhere between... about thirty feet up; higher than Harken have might have expected her to go, and higher than Tethelle could have thrown herself on her own. It took the two of them together to get her that high, and at the peak, Tethelle flips.

"I am the sword against the darkness, the strong arm of the Guardians, and I will do whatever it takes to protect this world!"

Tethelle drives down. She does not use her momentum in the same way as before, though; no single overhand strike for her. She simply lands behind Harken and turns her ground-shifting impact into a whirl, lashing out with a blow sufficient to knock Harken into the air, and then Tethelle leaps after her again, striking so fast her blade is nearly invisible. Blow after blow after blow -

And then she smashes Harken downward with all of her might.

GS: Tethelle Cirdian has activated a Force Action!
GS: Tethelle Cirdian has activated a Force Action!
GS: Tethelle Cirdian has spent 3 Combo on Gatling, including 2 on Gatling!
GS: Tethelle Cirdian has attacked Lady Harken with Whirling Juggernaut!
GS: Tethelle Cirdian has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Tethelle Cirdian has completed her action.
<Pose Tracker> Gwen Whitlock has posed.

    ....! Gwen would normally object to Elvis's indirect assertion about her character, but instead, she focuses on something else that is far, far more pressing. ".... You have a daughter?" Visions of a slightly smaller Elvis fill her mind, squinty-eyed, well-mannered, probably wearing something stylish while being proper. And of course, there is a gorgeous mustache, impeccably groomed and trimmed to a perfect, artful shape.

    There is another concern. Namely- "Oh, right! Antibodies! That's the word!" She nods her thanks to Xantia and Elvis. "It was on the tip of my tongue!"

    Gwen pauses a moment when Elvis crashes into that snowbank, concern breaking through her easy-going expression. When his head pops up, she's back to... being Gwen. "Fisticuffs? I've thought 'bout it, but it's kinnnnda hard because I'm just strong on one side, y'know? Well, like, big strong. Because I'm pretty strong as it is from luggin' this ARM 'round."

    gwen, this is not the time to be talking to people on the side of those wishing to kill you, especially if they're throwing ALL THE SNOW at you

    The force of the snow, combined with Gwen's awkward attempt at a block, send the courier tumbling through the air, knocking her into and through the second story window of a nearby watch tower that has already seen better days, despite not being all that old. "... guh..." Slowly, she makes an attempt to stand up on the unsteady, quickly constructed flooring.

    She sees, nearby, Ida. Specifically, Ida and her newly unwrapped ARM, shed of any mask on its very identity. "Guardians..." Gwen grits her teeth. While she was playing around, Ida had to deal with this whole mess-!

    "Haaa- -!" Gwen seems to suddenly appear from out of nowhere in the air right over Elvis, a large chunk of repurposed wooden debris held in both her hands like a large club.

    yeah, she just grabbed it and leaped out the window, it's really not that amazing

GS: Gwen Whitlock has activated a Force Action!
GS: Gwen Whitlock enters a Counter stance!
GS: Gwen Whitlock has attacked Elvis with Return To Sender!
GS: Gwen Whitlock has completed her action.
<Pose Tracker> Riesenlied has posed.

    Riesenlied finds her expression dying down further as she stares at Noeline receiving the brunt of her attacks. She'd been the one to assail her; so why does it fill her with such fright? She does not want to do this. She does not...

    Her tears flow further, from underneath that mask, as she watches each of her seals strike at Noeline. No, no-- this isn't what she wanted...

    "To love... me... no matter what..."

    Riesenlied finds herself at a greater loss than before. Why did she move in the way she did? What inspired her--

    Mom... I'm sorry but you...

    Riesenlied catches the gaze of Lydia with her two Mediums. Some part of her flashes straight back to just slightly before-- towards a time in which Lydia summoned two Guardians at once... but... when?

    She frantically darts away from Noeline as she looks towards Siegfried. Conflicting emotions, conflicting interests are beginning to lock her up, cast her mind in so much confusion. She wants to protect him, to throw herself in the way--

    She gazes upon Solais Emsu and Rigdobrite, each of them gazing back down upon her with... no, it is not judgement. She can feel the power that sustains the world... as there is a fragment of it within her too.

    "Why do you cast such pity in my way...? I--"

    The explosion comes. It utterly consumes her for a moment... yet when the light fades--

    Riesenlied is still standing there, even bloodied and battered as she is; she's coughing frantically, but it's evident to Lydia that an enormous veil of Ley energy has erupted out from underneath the ground to shield her. The power to sustain the world... is at odds...!

    She keeps running, towards Siegfried. She pushes past the Beasts, past other guardsmen and other New Arcticans still present--

    Matilda continues to close in on Riesenlied, and speaks to her. Battle is not the answer here, but she's cottoned on that words can plant a more powerful seed of doubt as Noeline has.

    "M-my injury... you were there too? I--"

    Indeed, the order of events continues to get further and further jumbled within her. This, as it were, was not the masterpiece that happened with Lady Harken. Alhazred expressed his dismay as much-- a hacksaw, compared to a surgeon's blade. It is an incredibly short amount of time...

    Ashton is the next to square against her -- no, she can sense it from all her time with her dragons... it's not the swordsman by himself, but also Creepy and Weepy as they enlarge and threaten to shadow her entirely.

    She flinches a little, yet continues going as they wash her with frost and flame; Noeline's encouragement seems to fill her just that much more as she-- pauses--

    "Muni..."

    For a moment, her addled mind washes away to the very image of a bright and bouncing gumdrop blob of a yellow Dragon that's going, "Muniii--!!" as she cheerfully bounces up to her side.

    "M-Muni...!" Riesenlied gasps, even as she's scorched.

    Lily continues to sow that seed of doubt as she affirms that she did leave him. She pauses further, as she continues to hurry... even as she tells her that she'll die for him without knowing why. Without knowing that she's done more.

    The ex-Kislevi lieutenant is far faster than her, grabbing onto her-- and what seemed like healing light becomes gray, and black as she lets out a pained scream as her black mirror touches and absorbs her into the dark.

    "Remember--" she says.

    And what Lily gazes from inside is a timid little light, one that has been screaming at them...

    A faceless Hyadean in the dark. A little Hyadean Dragon Unit. "miss... lily...!!"

    She's so close now. She just needs to-- to-- get caught in Elly's gas mine trap, winds blowing down as something slightly acrid flows in the air and the gas--

    EXPLODES!

    --and prompts her to caugh as she looks about and stare rather frightenedly towards Elly. "I--I have to be there! I have to be there for him! Don't stop me! I--"

    The way she disarms mine gas traps, perhaps, is to just sprint forward; much like what Elly observed before, there's a screech as the Ley continues to act to her whim and erupts through the ground, and perhaps that haphazard approach will be enough for her to shatter the mine gas traps and not make them all explode and turn this into a war criminal zone.

    She's also just hammering straight through that electrical donut of hers; she's fried, but she keeps going. She keeps... going.

    I hate you... for how much I want him back.

    Cecilia holds the power of Fengalon in her hand -- and the Medium scatters about; a roaring razor-wind erupts into an enormous great, white tiger. The Guardian of Wind himself...

    ...she grimaces--

    And bursts into light as she finds herself needing that extra boost.

    The sound of Fengalon's inexorable, steel-cutting claws is heard...

    "Lord Siegfried..."

    ... but Siegfried is not cut.

    Riesenlied is standing in front of her, arms held out -- less of a proper defence than it is just the unwitting act of Riesenlied being far more herself than even she knows right now, addled as she is. She stands...

    Her knees tremble. She buckles down, crying in pain as blood streams from the various cuts from Fengalon's claws.

    Here, standing symmetrically opposed to Cecilia...

    It does not excuse what has happened...
     ...what has been said...
     ...what grief and pain has been borne to the world...
     ...but the desire... is not at all different.

    ... is just another girl, no matter her species, no matter her origin, who doesn't want to see her father cut down before her.

GS: Elvis guards a hit from Gwen Whitlock's Return To Sender for 53 hit points!
GS: Elvis enters CONDITION GREEN!!
GS: Lady Harken has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Ida Everstead-Rey has lost 1 Combo!
DC: MISS! Lady Harken completely evades Haymaker from Ida Everstead-Rey!
GS: Lady Harken takes a solid hit from Mihaya's Diamond Dust for 186 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Gwen Whitlock has posed.

What *is* impressive(?) is how Gwen seems to have managed to nab the one piece of driftwood that watchtower depended on for stability. Or, well, what little it had, after that avalanche. It begins to creak-

GS: Lady Harken has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Tethelle Cirdian has lost 1 Combo!
DC: MISS! Lady Harken completely evades Whirling Juggernaut from Tethelle Cirdian!
<Pose Tracker> Siegfried has posed.

Siegfried aims his ion cannon down, pointed towards Claude. His lips are curled back into a snarl; his eyes blaze with an unreasoning anger, which is also unlike him in a wholly different way. "Be silent! What does it matter!? This--"

But Lanval moves faster than Siegfried's trigger mechanism. A water wheel spins up around his gourd, and then the Seraphic spell batters the Quarter Knight. It hurls him away, smashing the knight backward. He slams into the wall, with a loud crack. Siegfried stumbles, then; his legs find purchase, though, and he turns his head to look up at the Seraph. "This," he snarls, "is not your domain!"

He misses, until it is too late, the presence of the two Guardians.

Lydia's twin summon slams into him. Light explodes out, billowing up to score the ceiling of the chamber, and drill down into the floor. It burns at his armor; some of it blackens, in an instant. The azure knight is hurled away, feet kicking over the ground, and he comes up slower than before. His eyes are narrowed in that same hideous rage that he turned on Claude. His jaw clenches.

'I hate you...for how much I want him back.'

He turns his head, looking down at the bloodied, bedraggled princess on the ground. His fingers twitch; the forearm cannon remains out, and he lifts it, aiming it down for the princess. "Hate all you wish," he says. "It never brought back the ones stolen from me. Better to die hating, than to feel nothing at all for them."

He turns, to hear Zed's laughter -- to see him, covered in rubble and his own quicksilver blood, and not nearly as dead as Siegfried assumed him a moment before. Surprise registers on his face, and then his eyes narrow. "...This is who I have always been. This is what I must be," he says. "All we are... is what we were made to be. You should have accepted that, Zed."

And Zed rushes in, striking time after time, blade clashing repeatedly with Glumzambor. They meet with clangs and sprays of sparks, until Doombringer slips -- again -- through the Quarter Knight's guard, for that final strike. It splits into the armor, and quicksilver blood bursts free. Siegfried stumbles back, looking weakened for the moment. The shadow of Fengalon falls over him.

He turns, eyes blinking at it, with a bleariness similar to Cecilia's own.

But Riesenlied takes the attack, instead. She stands before it -- and his eyes widen. He swallows, staring at her. His armored chest, which had started to open, closes; the terrible cannon within is not withdrawn. He feels something in him twist.

And, without really thinking about why, he shouts the order: "FALL BACK!"

GS: Siegfried has completed his action.
<Pose Tracker> Arleph Ardan has posed.

      For a brief moment, Arleph wondered if he finished it. If he did it, with that spell. The Symbologist keeps tight, symbols drifting away after their energy spent, circuits tattoos beneath his clothing quieting down to a quiet, humming pulse of energy flowing in. Faint light follows his heartbeat, his blood rushing to his head as he waits, tightening his gloved hands, gritting his teeth.

      The sound crash into him like a bucket of ice cold water. His eyes shoots wide in horror, the bullet of fury rushing at him. As predicted, the shield comes up, coming upon harm, blow for blow beneath Kalve's unrelenting fury. Beneath each blows, Arleph grit his teeth, losing ground, his hand pushing back against his shield being hammered. Fractures spreads over the now clearly visible hexagonal-filled force field. It cracks. It shudders. Dust is thrown up from the impact, flowing down his entire body and trying to ground himself.

      And then the shield shatters like glass, that one precise point brought to it's limit, the Symbologist staggering back with his eyes focused on that fist headed for him.

      That one punch.

<Pose Tracker> Noeline has posed.

    The jolt of healing energy from Matilda's bullet washes over her; Noeline hisses from the sensation of it, as metal knits back together with metal in a way fundamentally different to her own Errant Blade, yet no less welcome. Bit by bit, they all learn to live with each other, and things like this are no exception, as healing methods that shouldn't possibly work slowly begin to.

    Not for the first time, Noeline has to wonder if the Medium stuck inside of her has changed her in more ways than she knows - can she even call herself Hyadean, that term she's kept so much quiet pride in all this time, if her physical makeup is so different now compared to what it was before? She doesn't know.

    That is all a secondary concern as she watches Lydia nearly burn herself away; her heart leaps again, straight past the blossom of hope that she's holding inside of it. "Lydia!" she cries hoarsely, shaking her head in what is a rarity for her: brief though it may be, it's definitely a sheer moment of genuine panic. "That's enough! I'm not losing you to this as well!" she almost demands, which is a little rich of her when she's still trying to struggle up to her feet right after managing the unfamiliar and draining task of summoning the light of the Tear she holds.

    She at least manages to find a knee, but her mind is hazy from sheer exertion; there's a burning behind her eyeballs that she's come to associate with too much power expended in too short a time, and her vision swims for a moment as she stumbles the rest of the way up to her feet.

    Elly mumbles a plan, but as she does her best to shake the fog away Noeline has to wonder for an addled moment: who is it exactly that would need to act being horrified in this situation, rather than have it just come naturally? Fear is all around her, locked in a tug-of-war with hope, and the mention of that internal fight together with the way Riesenlied lunges back towards Siegfried's side send a spike of fear through her at the realization the latter might be losing.

    She can't stop here, as much as her body is screaming at her to. Ashton manages something-- not unexpected, per se, because Noeline's honestly been wondering about those dragons since they met. But it does make her pause, and then force her tired limbs into motion again. This time, she doesn't have the luxury of Duras Drum's power to act as her shield - but she still advances through the melee, even now intent on trying to reach her partner through any means and via any distractions possible. Later, perhaps, her mind will catch up on the battle and the things she witnessed amidst it - but right now, her attention is a pinprick hole, centered on Riesenlied.

    Centered on Riesenlied... and Siegfried's call to fall back.

    As victories go, it is tremendously hollow. It doesn't just bring a stab of panic to her chest - instead, it crushes it so tight she can barely breathe. If Riesenlied is taken back to the Photosphere, it's back into Alhazred's clutches - and if that happens, Noeline is absolutely certain that the Quarter Knight will only bury her memory further, will only make the task of reaching her even harder, assuming that Riesenlied doesn't just burn out first.

    This time, her voice rings with true panic, and cracks with a deep-set fear. "--Riese! You have to stay! Riese!" she cries, but can't get anything more out as her injuries catch up with her, sending her pitching forwards towards the ground. Even then, she grits her teeth - and starts hauling herself painfully forwards, one arm at a time.

<Pose Tracker> Chime Isa has posed.

    Chime lets out a sudden giggle as Kalve is flash-frozen, saying "Oooo, cool~" all pun intended for she is no coward. Then the icy mass of metal demon explodes. "Explosive eh?" she calls out. "Don't stop~ Keep on him~"

    Maybe that wasn't the best. Suddenly Kalve is all limb and hammer striking out at the three that have appearently been the most vexing. For Chime that means a whip like series of punches. In response Chime starts... humming? Punch after punch and strike after strike whip and thrust past the four and half foot elf as she gracefully moves.

    Chunks of rocks from the nearby rubbles go flying or exploding, but not a single strike lands on the nimbe ARMs Meister who even as the flurry of attacks ends takes aim for another shot at Kalve. This time a barrage of bolts goes sallying forth at the metal demon, a not quite endless barrage but far more than enough to prove those crossbows are anything but normal.

    "Oh dear~ Was that a cry of retreat?" The elf calls out cheerfully, "Keep on then~ Don't let up~" her voice confident, amused, and cheerful in spades. Once she stops firing, she'll clash the crossbows together, the catch on the back of on hilt to reload the string of one crossbow and then the other way around.

GS: Chime Isa has spent 4 Combo on Gatling, including 3 on Gatling!
GS: Chime Isa has attacked Kalve with Heavy Barrage!
GS: Chime Isa has completed her action.
<Pose Tracker> Matilda Whitehead has posed.

Was she there for Riesenlied's injury? That's a complicated question -- and depends on *which* injury. For now, Matilda doesn't press it -- best to just let Riesenlied turn the thought over in her brain over and over, better for her to pull the knots in her brain so tight they pop.

... Then, of course, Matilda sees Riesenlied go to protect Siegfried -- and can't stop herself from wincing. There's some sadness in her expression -- but a little anger, too. Even knowing that Riesenlied really did care about Siegfried, seeing her take pains to protect him in this state...

Matilda starts to back away -- and Siegfried calls for the retreat. Matilda fumbles in her coat fo something, anything to help... someone... and comes up short, for the moment. She's lost, in this moment --

-- so instead, she moves to support *Lily*. She's done as best she can for Noeline, and for Riesenlied... all she can do now is try to keep what's left of the Wayside Outreach and its satellites... together, or something like it.

<Pose Tracker> Jack van Burace has posed.


Agent is a good wyvern! He helped. Totally helped. He flies over, winging over the battlefield before landing not five feet from where Cassidy explodes from a snowbank to wark happily at Cassidy.

...where he also doesn't notice the Metal Beast sneaking up on him.

Meanwhile Jack explodes from his snowbank already spinning. The holographic image of Harken, more that a illusion than reality. There is a touch of a smile there as he watches that image rear back. "Think you are hiding them? No. Not intentionally at least. But some are still there." The swordsman returns before he simply...steps aside.

The fist sails past and there is a smile. A faint, honest one that touches his eyes. Amused and somehow lighter. Younger. Less care worn. It is there for only a second...

Because he recognized that move.

"Missed me." That tone he uses, light at teasing. Something from years ago. Something that he used to tell her all the time in sparring. Something that made her so angry, him so amused, that bond still remembered by him even after everything else.

But then? Then he's moving again, faster than thought. Fast in a manner than only long years, decades, can master. Muscle memory faster than thought.

It the snow explodes behind him as he streaks across the battlefield, point of the sword aimed towards the small of actual Harken's back.

The point though wavers just slightly at the last moment, a killing strike changed to something less so at the last moment before impact.

Which isn't going to mean it won't hurt.

<Pose Tracker> Elvis has posed.

"Hah hah HAH!" cackles the professor, at the torrent of liquid snow. At least it moved jsut like liquid, but was still very frozen and mushy. Despite being tons of snow, it is fairly easy to fight against. It moves not quite as fast as water, and getting atop the moving snow seems unusually easy. Perhaps formed this way on purpose?!

Cassidy makes her way out of the rime tide with her sheer resolve, and points that gun straight at him. "Oh come now! Really gotta pull guns in this situation? What is that little thing gonna--"

The gunshot rings out.

Theres a slash of red on his white blouse and leather vest. Elvis staggers back a few steps. "Mmmf..." is the noise that escapes his mouth. "That was... uncalled for," the Sentinel states, looking down at the wound. Surprisingly, the glitter of the bullet can still be seen in the chest through the injury, though it went in a bit. Either his muscles are incredibly dense or that vest took a lot of the blow. Either one could be true. "Gonna... have to pry that out later...!" he says, pain clear in his voice.

Xantia explodes fro mthe snow like the battle maiden she is, and launches a punch straight for Elvis! The man puts up a crossguard, but the explosive power is too much to deal with, sending Elvis skidding backward, still winded from taking .45 caliber bullet equivalent to the chest. "I'm just... trying to... help! Ghhk!"

He finally comes to a step. a few droplets of blood hit the floor on his path, leaving a thin trail to his location. He will be fine, as he has been through worse, but perhaps the was a worse source of damage, unseen. "With a little training, you could fix that! Any effort toward that goal is unwasted---!"

And then Elvis gets clobbered by a chunk of wood. A concussive wave ripples out from the impact, an arm brought up to block. The arms strains and is rather damaged from the exploding fist and the wood combined.

Elvis grows quiet in that spot. A look down to the ground. He could stop them. He could hurt them. He could... He hasn't thrown a single punch. They haven't even seen what he can do. If it is what is needed to save them, then--

An order is heard. Called out from a familiar voice.

The Sentinel promptly stands up, dusts himself off, plucks out that bullet, and looks to the tree. "I don't have to fight you anymore!" he decalres, a finger pointed to the sky. "But uh... hum. What do we do now?"

It is like his alignment literally just switched in mere moments or something.

Just what was with this guy anyway? "Ah, what became of the Tainted then...?" A look across the battlefield. Something happened over there, but was occupied.

GS: Sneak! The true nature of Kalve's attack becomes clear!
GS: Tesni Inoue takes a solid hit from Kalve's Method IV - Freedom's Lie for 126 hit points!
GS: Poison! Statuses applied to Tesni Inoue!
GS: Jack van Burace has spent 3 Combo on Gatling, including 2 on Gatling!
GS: Jack van Burace has attacked Lady Harken with Guilty Blade!
GS: Jack van Burace has completed his action.
<Pose Tracker> Ines Colina has posed.

    The oncoming onslaught of Kalve is, to be frank, terrifying. Six strikes drive into Ines at once, hitting points that, on a human, would be overwhelming. For a few seconds, Ines doesn't seem to move. The quick strikes leave impact marks into her stone skin as Kalve rushes past her. The simple skill difference between the brawling beastwoman and the metallic martial artist is made obvious. The front line is bypassed easily, as Kalve moves to destroy Arleph utterly.

    "Hey."

    Instead of meeting Arleph's chest, a humanoid wall of stone is in the way. Kalve's powerful fist drives into Ines' back, shattering the stoneskin barrier and drawing blood. It drives Ines forward, knocking Arleph back with her body. Whether through her hardened skin, her differences from a standard human, or just sheer bloody mindedness, she's moving when she should not. "You haven't finished with me yet."

    She looks down at Arleph. "You alright?" She doesn't really wait for a response, as her symbology tattoos glow again. The metal spikes that are her knuckles on her right hand elongate and become even sharper. Made for puncturing armour. Or gears, perhaps. That should still work on a metal demon. "My turn."

    With a gust of wind surrounding her, Ines turns faster than she has any right doing, putting the force of a tornado behind her fist as she tries to drive her fist into the side of Kalve's head. The speed behind it causes her to keep turning whether or not the attack finds it's mark, whipping up shards of stone from the damage done the cave. Still, at the end of it she ideally lands to face Kalve, returning to her duty as a beastwoman wall against his attacks.

GS: Ines Colina has spent 4 Combo on Gatling, including 3 on Gatling!
GS: Ines Colina has attacked Kalve with Hullbreaker Knuckle!
GS: Ines Colina has completed her action.
<Pose Tracker> Lydia Seren has posed.

Lydia is flung back from the detonation, slamming a hand down to the ground to keep herself from being flung too far back. She smiles back at Noeline, now, "Still good...!" She laughs weakly, but then she sees Riesenlied there, taking the brunt of Fengalon. Her eyes widen. The pain doesn't come from Riesenlied using her body to protect Siegfried.

It's from how much Riesenlied is still Riesenlied in this moment. No, maybe in a moment like this, even her Riesenlied would have taken that strike for her father.

BGM: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EDhPsYeK-jU

Noeline calls out to her. Her head turns and she makes her demand. She can't possibly cry anymore, but where does that smoke come from those blazing eyes if not from tears?

Noeline is falling and in that instant she steps away from Riesenlied the first time to rush to her side, her form shifting from the wrath of the Guardians made manifest in her body to just plain old Lydia, scraps of metal hanging off her, parts exposed in several punctured wounds from Negative Rainbows and other sustained.

She catches Noeline before she can hit the ground and steadies her, helps keep her standing. They can't lose each other anymore, there are to be no more sacrifices.

"Please mom." Lydia says. "I can't stand hurting you, I don't even want to hurt him. This isn't neccessary! This has no scientific need of occuring! It's just paying a price over and over and receiving no goods or services in exchange, just more misery, so please..."

DC: Lydia Seren switches forms to The Lightspeed!
<Pose Tracker> Josephine Lovelace has posed.

    It's certainly alarming, and not only because Lady Harken looks for an instant like she's just lost a hand. Forearm, even. But if there had been any remaining doubts about the power inherent in a Metal Demon, those have been cast to the sidelines with a few fragments of the artillery shell.

    ...Reinforce the shells, Josie notes to herself. She'll have to empty her pockets to do so -- so much the pity -- but she needs more, much more, power than this.

    Here, in the middle of the battlefield tucked away from the other sidelines, Lady Harken brings those who stand against her into what can only be called 'a conspiracy'.

    Realization dawns across Josie's bloodied face.
    So that's how it is. A crack among the enemy, carried from within. But they can't oppose her directly, can they?
    Her lips split in a grin, cracking the blood where it's dried across her face in a spiderweb fracture.

    "Good," she says, pitched below the shout from before. "Because I've got things to do afterwards."

    Meaning, spoken in a way that may be plausibly deniable should cause to probe it arise, she's planning on surviving the encounter with Mother, by hook or crook.

    Her other question, too, is answered: that conspiratorial grin slips Josie's expression altogether, replaced face as grim as a day in January.

    Alhazred.
    And 'Mother'.

    "Tell you what."

    Her sober expression doesn't last.

    "Let's have a race. Let's see who gets to it first--"

    It's been replaced by a dreadful glee.

    The followup comes in an eyeblink. One moment Harken speaks of her intent, the next, Josie has her ammo returned to her, if in a roundabout manner. Josie glances up, only to duck down, using the plating on the ARM as a makeshift shield. This, she knows it can survive. Her body, on the other hand...
    And running to leave it behind is out of the question.
    The only good news is that the building doesn't outright collapse. Masonry rains down like a monsoon -- and the ARM can only shield her from so much of it. But one of Josie's hands still reaches around the cannon like someone else might embrace a favorite plush toy.

    Nostos revs up again with a sparkling display of green. Beyond green. "You beat me to it, and I'll buy you a drink."

    The screams and shouts ring out from another corner of the field; this time, Josie doesn't look.
    Whatever happens, happened, will happen -- she'll make up the due in blood.

    Nostos screams out, the lights flashing a staccatto now across buildings and people alike.

    She finally pulls the trigger. She, once again, lets one of those terrible shells fly for the Quarter Knight.

    Here's what I've got!

GS: Josephine Lovelace has activated a Force Action!
GS: You have activated the Force Action Full Clip!
GS: Josephine Lovelace has attacked Lady Harken with A Heart Of Iron!
GS: Josephine Lovelace takes 5 damage from Poison!
GS: Josephine Lovelace has completed her action.
GS: Lady Harken takes a solid hit from Jack van Burace's Guilty Blade for 181 hit points!
GS: Lady Harken critically Guards a hit from Josephine Lovelace's A Heart Of Iron for 29 hit points!
GS: Lady Harken has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Josephine Lovelace has lost 1 Combo!
<Pose Tracker> Arleph Ardan has posed.

      Then he's saved from very possible obliteration by Ines. Being knocked over is painful, shocking even. Far less, even if it's by a stone-like brawling woman. The Wizard rolls on the ground, grunting out as he holds out his bare head. His hat has flown away from the flurry of blows and the shattering of his mystical shield. "Yes. Yes, I am fine." He comments, grunting as he stagges back to his feet, his dark red hair free. He sucks in a breath. He don't really have time to say anything else at this point. "Thanks you."

      Deeper thanks will have to wait for later. Another circle spreads from his hands, the circuits visible beneath the holes in his clothing pulses, his heart accelerating to follow the demand. He thrusts a hand in Kalve's direction, spreading out fingers.

      "A BLADE SHARPENED TO A PERFECT EDGE!"

      Ice gathers at his fingertips. It's not a single icicle, either: it is hundred of very tiny silver of ice, visible from the lights of flames and the sun around them, growing, condensing. "MAY THE ICESMITH'S WORK GIVE YOU PAUSE BY THEIR THOUSAND'S CRIES!"

      Conciously avoiding Ines, the symbolg explods outward to unleash a torrent of tiny icicles at the Metal Demon in retailation. They are small. They are thousands, sharpened to an edge so small, so invisible that they can find wedges between matter and small fractures.

      It's not kind monomolecular edges, but it's close enough and impossible enough for magic.

GS: Arleph Ardan has attacked Kalve with Monomolecular Icicle!
GS: Arleph Ardan has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Arleph Ardan has completed his action.
<Pose Tracker> Tesni Inoue has posed.

The lizard part of Tess' brain is screaming, fight, live, fight live. In the depths of her mind with the fury, she's facing a metal demon an non-carbon-based life form so far as she understands them. Living metal, or whatever they are made from, they hurt Kalve just slams Tess into the ground. She's buried under rubble and it looks like it might just be the end of her. Though one hand remains unburied. She's battered broken and bloodied she seems to not be moving but then one hand moves, rubble starts falling off as she begins to rise.

 She moves gripping the Dead Man's ARM she starts to rise and flicks a small bit of it's detailing on the stock.

 Inside the advanced nanoforge gets to work, fabricating a round, a high powered one that a normal arm should not really have. It's assembled primed armed and loaded in all the time it takes Tess to rise and she levels the weapon at Kalve for a moment.

 "Live ... I want to live, I have a thing I must do. I have lost too much, given up so much chasing it, I will not die here with my work undone. I haven't been dealt the dead man's hand just yet by fate."

 She levels the weapon looks down the scope and lines up the shot, she then pulls the trigger timing her shot to try and avoid hitting any of her allies up close. She lines up the shot and fires a high explosive round that will detonate several seconds after it penatraes something, a round made to deal with Gears.

 "You on the other hand? It may just be Aces and Eights for you."

 Though given how Hakren took it the last time she faces a Metal Demon? Who knows how this will work.

GS: Tesni Inoue has activated a Force Action!
GS: Tesni Inoue has attacked Kalve with Dead Man's Hand!
GS: Tesni Inoue takes 6 damage from Poison!
GS: Tesni Inoue has completed her action.
<Pose Tracker> Seraph Lanval has posed.

    For all his foibles - of which there are many - the Seraph seems to just gain more momentum just from that booming air of mirth and celebration... an air that is completely out of place with the collapsing caves, the broken bodies, and the many tragedies that stand to unfold everywhere. An air that does not quite find purchase in New Arctica - a tiny settlement (this is a charitable description) within a large world that is rapidly dying.
     This is not his domain.
     "I say it not be Mother's!" Lanval booms back, one hand still on his stomach where the Dark Spear ran him through as he staggers back to allow the two Guardians summoned to do their thing. It's not enough to clear it, for even he is knocked flat on his butt by the very light - and for his laughter to be overcome by Zed's own, which he will have to reflect as being one heck of a feat.
     ...Only to be spellbound by the sheer speed and fury of the clash between Zed and Siegfried, of a people whose years together far exceed his. Where Claude currently fights for life, Lanval thinks to begin a more curative Seraphic Arte to see him live... but then, he catches sight of something unthinkable.
     ...No, it's very thinkable. Riesenlied would do anything for those she would love, as everyone would say - but does she truly love Siegfried enough to...
     ...the Water Seraph is taken aback, all the same. He has no words - what words could he have, before something like this? To watch the self-actualized Lydia, the bethrothed Noeline, and yet others reach out and try to reason with the matronly Hyadean...
     ...
     Oh, right, the young man in the strange clothes. Lanval quietly, almost off-handedly, gets to work on a splash of curative water in which to address his wounds as Siegfried seems to call a reatreat - an opening.
     If he claims New Arctica's under his protection, it'd do him well to at least save a life here after that nasty start where he could barely wake to the sound of several dying right in front of him. It's not the first time he's seen lives cut down so casually out of nowhere, but, now's not the time to reminisce over... uh, times.

GS: Kalve takes a solid hit from Chime Isa's Heavy Barrage for 153 hit points!
GS: Kalve takes a solid hit from Ines Colina's Hullbreaker Knuckle for 197 hit points!
GS: Kalve takes a solid hit from Arleph Ardan's Monomolecular Icicle for 238 hit points!
GS: Kalve takes a solid hit from Tesni Inoue's Dead Man's Hand for 196 hit points!
GS: Break! Statuses applied to Kalve!
<Pose Tracker> Cassidy Cain has posed.

"Ay, well. Look at you. Pretty sure a single bullet's nae going tae kill you."

 Cassidy manages to pry herself out of the snow fully, holstering Hawthorne's Revolver at the small of her back. She has two more - smaller pistols by the side of her, and an innocuous looking knife wedged in her weapon's belt, placed where a sword would typically be.

 Words confirmed when the Sentinel simply digs out the slug, and tosses it away.

 "Seriously, should the likes of you really be here? If what Gwen says is true, are you nae terminal? Should you nae be ticking off the boxes in your bucket list and enjoying whatever's left of your life? I understand that big, blue and metallic over there thinks his mother's going to come down from wherever to kill us all, but I dinnae think anyone can blame the lad for singing his mommy's praises for anyone tae hear. It does..." And she angles a look towards Siegfried's direction. "....explain so many things about him, though."

 She fishes out her cardboard pack of cigarettes, withdrawing one of Jude's menthols from its confines, and finds her well-loved silver lighter from the inner pockets of her jacket. Her eyes move away from the Metal Demons caught in battle and to a speck of silver fluttering at the distance.

 ...it's odd that at the moment, she's not hurling her body straight towards the Metal Demons presently fighting - her grudge against them is touched with nuclear fire and she rarely ever says no to a chance to put a few of them into the dirt. As usual, however, her reasons are her own. Either way, the Sudden Allegiance Switch doesn't seem to surprise her from Elvis' end...or Riesenlied's, having been listening to her fellows' entreaties for a few moments now.

 She takes a deep inhale of her cigarette, its cherry-red ember stoked to life, curling smoke escaping from the corners of her mouth.

 "Well, Gwen, now what? You better decide fast, something just caught my eye and it needs tae be addressed."

 Uh oh.

<Pose Tracker> Xantia has posed.

Although that was a lot of energy she just expended, Xantia lands and immediately drops back into combat stance, perfectly ready for more. She's actually smiling, enjoying the opportunity to go all-out like this.

But then Elvis just... stops fighting? Xantia wasn't paying attention to the battle at large at all, completely missing that a retreat order happened, so she looks thoroughly confused at this turn of events. "O...kay?" Her stance relaxes, awkwardly. Everything is so simple when all you have to do but fight. She has no idea what to do now that the fighting stopped. All she can offer Elvis in response to his question of 'what now' is a clueless shrug. She glances to Gwen and Cassidy, wordlessly asking for their opinion.

One might have expected 'What became of the Tainted' to similarly confuse her, having not seen what happened back there at all... yet that one clicks instantly. Xantia turns her head, questioning out loud, "Riese...?" But by that time the retreat is in full swing, and she isn't easily able to make out the details of who all are over there and what's going on.

"I should... probably get back to the others," she decides, but doesn't actually move to do so just yet, needing to be sure that the fight here is really over, just like that. She should probably say something to encapsulate how she feels about all this.

With a bright smile, Xantia says, "Let's fight again sometime!"

Yeah, that... that'll do.

<Pose Tracker> Lady Harken has posed.

The Metal Demon who bleeds red. The Human who bleeds silver. What a curious pair of opposites, don't you think? Harken has a solemn, dark, tired grin on her face. Ida survived - that much she had expected. If the girl could neither dodge, nor reflect such an attack, she would have died to what comes next anyway. "Not content with wielding the weapons of Demons anymore, are we? Taking the term 'ARM' a little on the nose?" she asks. Ida's fury and spirit carry her despite her injuries, but Harken is a beast of instinct, and knows what's coming. She catches the oncoming blow with both hands.

The Metal Demon of skin and bone blocking the Human's Hyadean graft.

There is no vicious counterstrike. Harken holds Ida's fist until the urge to swing and fight has passed, and then releases it with a shove. The lesson is complete.

Mihaya and Shiva descend on Harken with a truly terrible power, a combined might that is unlike anything the Quarter Knight has seen before. Different from the perfect blossoming frosts wielded by the enigmatic Avril, the Aeon's power stirs in Harken a great curiosity. But first, she must survive.

A rolling wave of freezing energies explodes from the majestic Aeon's fist as it strikes the ground, and Harken's spiritual defenses shatter in a great fragmenting cloud of negative energies. Frozen spears of ice punch through her armour plate, and veins of frost chain her to the ground. Snow gathers in her eyebrows and hair. "Pfh." she spits blood and snow, staggered before the weight of such an asasult. "Good. I think that buys these people their lives."

Tethelle does capitalize wisely on this - Harken is robbed of her ability to move, and makes for an easy target. The Quarter Knight still retains upper body mobility, though, and blocks the first upwards strike before it can take her head off. Catching a greatsword in your hands is a poor idea for most, but it has a good use here: the force of the strike lifts Harken into the air, her frozen bonds shattering into glittering motes of icy dust. "You'd do whatever it takes, you say? Bold words... we did what we thought it would take to protect our world." Harken's words chase Tethelle even as she moves too darn quick to follow. Each blow doesn't--land, damn it, she HITS but EVERY time, the Quarter Knight catches the blow or turns it aside. Frost floats on the air as their aerial dance continues overlong. "I tell you this: the taste of war and tragedy turns acrid in your mouth even as a necessity. Don't commit to doing everything." and that last, downwards stroke is the only one to actually miss. Harken simply falls from the air before the greatsword can crown her, to the ground again.

Just in time for Jack to appear, having sped towards her at the speed of thought, with an unsheathe-draw swordstrike that slips through the Quarter Knight's armour. That's a lot of blood for something that isn't supposed to be lethal, is Jack sure he didn't accidentally stab her through the heart? "Point taken." Harken grouses mutedly, shoving the blonde man and his talking rat backwards a step. "But I warn you: that which you're chasing might no longer exist, no matter how desperately you wish for it. Don't let it consume you."

Josie also joins the club of people who, with their dangerous disregard for personal safety and a lust for at least some kind of carnage, find some hint of a kindred spirit in Harken. The Quarter Knight muses silently for a moment, wondering whether the ARM is working solely on chemical propellant or, based on that whine and the glow, some kind of hypervelocity electromagnetic accelerator. You know, just Metal Demon Things. "See, you understand." she turns to face Josie, while keeping everyone else at arm's length or at least in her field of view.

Harken has no intention of finding out just what the Human Spirit x-factor is doing to the power level of that weapon, though, and artfully slinks to one side before a slug encased in luminous emerald light can bore a fist-sized hole in her. This isn't to say she does so easily, and the crackling energies left in its wake arc onto her armour with a horrible sizzling noise. "Ah--what a shame. My battle recorder is damaged." Harken quips dryly, pulling a small black choker with a computer chip from her neck before tossing it very plainly onto the open ground. It is also very clearly in perfect condition. "Now, nobody will be able to warn Mother of a weapon like that, which might penetrate her protective shell."

As violently and quickly as it began, it ends. Siegfried calls for the Metal Demons to give up their fight, and retreat. Harken glances at each of the brave souls who have survived her in turn, while thinking: Mother is going to freak. This had better work.

"What a shame." the Quarter Knight says extra slowly, and loudly, after Siegfried has presumably left earshot. Azrael boomerangs back to Harken's hand with a loud woosh, and she gives her assembled assailants one last judging, cruel stare. "Do not fuck this up."

She vanishes. Those with keener senses than the traditional five can feel the killing intent and negative energies associated with her presence recede.

                                  YOU WIN:
                                    0 XP
                                    0 GP
                        Got Battle Recorder (1 ea.)!

<Pose Tracker> Mihaya has posed.

 Mihaya remains on the ground, the great form of the Heavenly Queen dissipating into a swarm of tiny motes of light - which then seem to soar upwards and vanish into the sky a moment later.

 The elf just... enjoys not having to be upright for the moment. She hurts a LOT at the moment. Bones battered and her own inner spirit bruised by the effort of summoning the Aeon.

 Yes, she was glad Harken and the others were leaving. She had very little left at this point.

<Pose Tracker> Cecilia Adlehyde has posed.

    'Hate all you wish. It never brought back the ones stolen from me.'
        'Better to die hating, than to feel nothing at all for them.'

Cecilia releases Fengalon upon Siegfried, but it's not him that takes the rake of those claws - it's Riesenled, mutilated and defiled but unmistakable, who feels Fengalon's sting. Riesenlied, a person Cecilia has had conflicted feelings about for so long. A woman who loves, and loves, boundlessly giving of herself. A woman who never seems to even for a moment consider herself. A woman Cecilia does not and maybe cannot understand.

She stares at her. And she hears Siegfried call retreat. Her breaths come in low, slow rasps.

    fight to protect what you cherish.

"That isn't..." Cecilia croaks, "What I want to die doing," she says. She could probably muster it - conjure another spell.

Blow them both away, if it came to it.

She turns, and leaning on her staff, hobbles to the side, daring to assume Siegfried won't finish her off in the interim.

<Pose Tracker> Riesenlied has posed.

    There's an almost sudden muteness that comes over Riesenlied, the way she lulls her head to one side, utterly spent. The proof of this combat was upon her, as it were; there's only so much that she can exert, even with the nanomachines and the Medium that has been so forcibly fused within her. She was never the most premiere of fighters between the Outreach or the Wolves, and it shows.

    She gazes upon Cecilia as she hobbles, still feeling strong that ache in her heart. A woman that does not understand her... but... a woman she'd like to understand, nonetheless.

    Matilda's comment earlier is still getting her to struggle; especially the way Lily seems to have just bored a hole in her head, so exposed by Noeline's use of the Dragon's Tear. An artifact which was unequivocably...

    Her...

    It was like looking at a part of herself that never went with her. It drives a deeply discomforting kind of fear.

    Please mom. I can't stand hurting you... I don't even want to hurt him. This isn't necessary!

    If Lydia could only see her eyes at present, she would see them for how tearful they are. These Drifters, this collective bunch which has so rattled her... made her question so many things...

    Just... just...

    Who is she?

    --Riese! You have to stay! Riese!!

    She's gazing towards Noeline as she whispers, sounding for all the world like she agrees... ... and then...

    FLASH

    Squares of digitised data begin to erupt around her. Her eyes underneath the mask widen for a moment as she looks about. Wisping trails seep up from underneath the ground as the Gate Generator activates.

    "No-- Noe...line..."

    Their hands reach, just for a moment, at the last moment as Noeline crawls herself forward forcefully, through the ground.

    Their fingers touch. just for a brief moment.
    Their engagement rings flash briefly against the light.

    ... and then she is gone.

<Pose Tracker> Josephine Lovelace has posed.

    The whine cycles down shortly after, in tune with the ARM's lights cycling back through green, amber, down to a dull red...

    And black, as the ARM consumes the last of the core's power and slides back into its inert state.

    It's very good, very fortunate timing that Harken leaves -- that the battle ends when it does.

    "You bet," Josie utters in reply.

    Only once the Quarter Knight has departed does her grip ease on the ARM and she slumps against it, resting her head against its warm surface.

    "Well, I'm still alive," she comments.

    She languidly slaps the side of the cannon.

    "And it looks like I've still got some work to do on you."

    She's not getting up right away, however spirited she may sound as she leans against the ARM.
    It's the only thing keeping her upright.

<Pose Tracker> Zed has posed.

"Why the hell," Zed growls as he delivers that final, decisive strike, "Would I ever accept something so depressing!?" Again Doombringer digs in, splitting through Siegfried's armor and flesh. Was it so surprising the first time because of how much he had idolized this man, or is it because...

Because there's just something wrong with all of this?

But then Fengalon arrives and Zed is forced to beat a hasty retreat to avoid being cut to ribbons, which is when...

Riese...!

"Riese!" Zed yells, even as quicksilver continues to leak from the sucking wound across his chest. What... Is she doing...? Subjecting herself again to the claws of a Guardian-- but...

No, Zed can understand that, at least. The drive to protect... hasn't changed.

But is this... an opportunity?

One way to find out.

Zed roars, forcing his ravaged body into motion. He takes two steps, runs the next three, and then leaps to catch her--

Too late.

Zed skids comically across the ground as Riesenlied's image disappears into the Gate Generator's waiting maw.

...All they can hope now is that somehow Sieg or Harken manage to keep Alhazred's claws off of her...!

<Pose Tracker> Gwen Whitlock has posed.

    "Thanks, Xantia." The courier nods towards Xantia, as she makes her exit. "Cass n' I'll hold down to the fort here. They need you over there."

    In reality, Gwen just can't bear to go over.

    "... I don't know," Gwen manages, with a grimace. "Y'mean what happened to her, or what will?" Just watching the struggle causes Gwen to look right back away, feeling that hollow pain in her chest. Loss of identity, of memory. Of being caught between roles, and or, that is, a mockery of those roles. Siegfried is... well, what in the world *happened* to Siegfried?

    And Riesenlied, after all that work, she just... vanishes.
    
    Sullenly, Gwen *flings* the makeshift club aside like a batter throwing a suddenly unlucky bat. Which it might as well be, because it manages to clip the one remaining beam of wood that still is in some semblance of a supportive shape. Supportive it is, no longer!

    Cassidy's smoke-tinged question brings Gwen out of her crippling malaise.

    "Eh? Here?" Gwen blinks at Cassidy. "What sorta 'somethin' is this? Wait, you're not thinkin' to- uh-"

    A shadow falls over the four of them with an ominous creak. ".... ohguardiansit'sfallingthisway-"

GS: Gwen Whitlock has attacked Elvis with This was a horrible idea all along!
GS: Gwen Whitlock has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Gwen Whitlock has completed her action.
GS: Gwen Whitlock has attacked Gwen Whitlock with This was a horrible idea all along!
GS: Gwen Whitlock has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Gwen Whitlock has completed her action.
<Pose Tracker> Lily Keil has posed.

There--

The little Hyadean Dragon Unit's voice, her silhouette--Lily sees them, knows them, and a little dam inside her snaps. 'I'll get you out of there--'

...At least, that's what she attempts to say. It doesn't come out properly. It comes out in broken Zeboim, the words themselves split as her magical assault fades. In the wake of that dark cloud, numerous wounds have opened on Lily's form; bleeding through her shirt to make it sodden with red, dripping from her palms, a cut at her face--the raw power of unmaking she wields has cut out at her own life force in the process. And she stumbles as Riese sprints away. "<You-->" In her strange language, again--

Lily lurches to the side, and then continues, ash falling away from her in the moment. "<Come-->" She notices, shakes her head, and changes, rasping, "Come back!" Yes, the order for retreat has been given. Lily's rational mind is already spinning to find what it means for this; whether there might be a greater assault coming, whether there is some motive on the Quarter Knight's part here. She cannot grasp those thoughts. ...But she sees Siegfried, staring, not firing.

Noeline's words echo in her mind. But Matilda's assistance is timely; when Lily lifts her hand, only sparks crackle away from it, not a fully formed effect, and she winces and starts to fall to the side, caught standing by the compounder. "Damn--"

As Matilda supports her, she starts to shift forward again. It means she's watching, when Cecilia doesn't strike Riesenlied and Siegfried again, doesn't press the assault. When she draws on something better within her. ...Like with the giant. But the light flashes, and...

...And Riesenlied is gone. "I..."

Her shoulders slump, and she looks to the departing force. "We..."

Lily leans on Matilda, despite herself. Her wounds are obvious and many, with no clear correspondence to the actual blows she took. "...We saved so many people," she murmurs to the compounder.

"But it only tastes like ashes. Damn that creature, it..."

GS: Zed has activated a Force Action!
GS: Zed used the Force Action Protect! He takes Gwen Whitlock's attack on Gwen Whitlock on himself!
GS: Zed has activated a Force Action!
GS: CRITICAL! Zed critically Guards a hit from Gwen Whitlock's This was a horrible idea all along for 14 hit points!
GS: Jam! Statuses applied to Zed!
GS: Zed has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Gwen Whitlock has lost 1 Combo!
GS: Gwen Whitlock enters CONDITION GREEN!!
GS: Gwen Whitlock has attacked Cassidy Cain with This was a horrible idea all along!
GS: Gwen Whitlock has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Gwen Whitlock has completed her action.
<Pose Tracker> Siegfried has posed.

Siegfried stares down at Cecilia, after calling the retreat.

It takes a moment for word to reach the Photosphere. It takes a moment longer for it to be debated -- after all, Mother will not be happy with her commander's decision. He would like to say, as Harken wondered, it was part of a deliberate plan. It is not.

It was a thing born of panic. His eyes meet Cecilia's, as that comes down; the panic sublimates into a deeper anxiety about the world, as he realizes that his fear, the day Mother told him what happened to Riesenlied, is false. He has not become the wretch that he once was, after Lacan and Sophia died.

He is not a bitter, hollowed out man with nothing but a mission from a dead goddess. He is an angry, exhausted man finding himself at odds with a living and maddened goddess. He stares down at the victim of crimes he can barely comprehend, and is left with the knowledge that 'barely' is infinities more awareness than he once had.

He looks at Riesenlied, eyes widening. The same squares of light begin appearing around him. They blink in and out, as Siegfried opens his mouth.

"Riese--" The girl in the shadows smiles but it never reached her purple eyes.

The squares grow larger, and then vanish -- and the quarter Knight is whisked away with them, leaving nothing but devastation and confusion in his wake.

GS: Gwen Whitlock has attacked Xantia with This was a horrible idea all along!
GS: Gwen Whitlock has completed her action.
<Pose Tracker> Layna Manydays has posed.

From the Ruby Empress, Layna peers out through the telescope. Her team had done their part - they'd rounded up everyone they could find and returned to the ship, where the barrier put up by her sorcerers was keeping those under her protection safe from further assault.

...And then, the Metal Demons start retreating.

A wide grin crosses her face.

"Aye, run home to your Mother. We'll be along to greet her properly soon enough." Layna says, collapsing the telescope. Nearby, Dahlia rolls her eyes at Layna's theatrics.

"...There's a lot of people that are going to need support after this." Dahlia replies with a frown. Layna frowns too, but nods.

"...Aye. Dahlia, mobilize Lysander and his team for healing. ...Oh, and break out the good stuff, too. Folks are probably going to need a good long drink, I'll wager." She says.

Among other things. Many other things. But right now, it was the best they could offer.

GS: Elvis critically Guards a hit from Gwen Whitlock's This was a horrible idea all along for 12 hit points!
GS: Elvis has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Gwen Whitlock has lost 1 Combo!
GS: Elvis has activated a Force Action!
GS: Elvis used the Force Action Protect! He takes Gwen Whitlock's attack on Xantia on himself!
GS: Elvis has activated a Force Action!
GS: Elvis critically Guards a hit from Gwen Whitlock's This was a horrible idea all along for 13 hit points!
GS: Elvis has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Gwen Whitlock has lost 1 Combo!
GS: Cassidy Cain takes a glancing hit from Gwen Whitlock's This was a horrible idea all along for 36 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Noeline has posed.

    Noeline might actually be significantly less tough than her daughter, given Lydia's unique makeup. She's a Metal Demon, but she's just a Metal Demon, and as much as she has a significantly stronger force of will than many of the Photosphere forces, she's never exactly been one of the big brawlers of the Hyadean race. It's all she can do right now, with her head spinning and fear and vertigo mixing in her chest, to hang onto her daughter as Lydia supports her.

    That's the plan, at least. But the last moment of recognition in Riesenlied's voice, the sudden fear and panic as she starts to teleport out, spur her forward just another few steps in a last-ditch attempt to close that distance between them. Trying still, at the very last instant, to reach her.

    And she does.

    Even if it's for mere moments, her fingers brush against Riesenlied's; the twin gems cut from the Dragon's Tear glitter softly, and Noeline can only hope that their feelings are exchanged through the soft light. Certainly she herself sucks in a tiny, gentle breath of genuine relief, and of love. Riesenlied is gone - but that single touch stays with her as she lets herself slump back into Lydia's hold.

    "... we reached her," she whispers quietly and privately to the shaman at her shoulder - a tiny little mantra of hope, something to cling to in the days ahead. "Even if it was for a moment... we reached her. And that means--" She'll surely need a while before she can throw enough belief and conviction behind the words, but Noeline knows it's important to voice it anyway. "--that means we just have to do so again. And again. And again. As much as it takes."

    With the digital cacophony of teleportation magic sounding in her ears, and the disbelieving shouts of victory coming up from the Arcticans who have survived, she decides it's about time to let herself fall into unconsciousness.

<Pose Tracker> Kalve has posed.

Kalve's offense is abruptly stymied by the presence of extremely dedicated and heavily-armed heroes. It's precisely what he asked for, and precisely what they deliver.

Kalve breaks through a shield and finds a wall of stone where there should be flesh. He fails to fell it, and in return, he suffers. A tornado follows a fist made for breaking armor, and there's a satisfying sound of impact as Kalve gets decked in the side of the head and knocked out of his combat rhythm entirely. He drops into a stumbling crouch for a mere moment, quicksilver blood running down the side of his head and neck. Head wounds are always bleeders. That seems to hold true even on Metal Demons. "Hnnn... impressive resilience. Frustrating sorcery. Good." He starts to move to counterattack --

Endless crossbow bolts from one side, and a hail of needle-sharp icicles from the other. Kalve scrapes the backs of his extra hands together suddenly, making a flicking motion to either side of him. A cloud of metallic flakes blooms from him, looking like chaff caught in a windstorm. Ice and metal punch into the cloud, but not all of it comes to the other side. He's using his arms as shields, and the metal limbs are being torn to shreds. Fletchings jut out all up Kalve's left limbs, and glittering ice up hos right. More than one or two of both made it past, finding purchase in his armored body. He slowly straightens, ice crackling and shafts breaking as his body slowly rearranges itself, flesh rolling unnaturally to wipe away the worst wounds. Too much has been damaged to just undo it, though. It's all he can do not to bleed everywhere. "Now..."

Bang.

Kalve drops to a knee. A hole appears in his breastplate, weakened by all the well-timed armor-rending bolts. He looks down, a bloody wound making something very clear: that is not an extra suit of armor he's wearing. It's just... him. Metal flesh is knit strongly and tightly, and a high-caliber round meant to fell Gears is lodged opposite where his heart should be. Kalve wavers...

...and jams two needle-nosed pincers suddenly at the end of one of his extra arms into the wound with a stifled noise. He hauls the shell out. The fuse is just about up. His eyes widen --

                                     BOOM.

When the smoke and fire clears, Kalve is simply gone. The shreds of his cloak drift down on hot wind. Wherever he went, it isn't here.

<Pose Tracker> Zed has posed.

And then Gwen Whitlock knocks out the only decent support-beam left in this god-forsaken cave, because today can't get any more terrible. The sky begins to fall, the ceiling begins to cave, and for a moment things look... so very, catastrophically, lethally bad.

And then a black figure surges toward where the support beam had been and inexplicably slams into it, head-first.

His shoulders and arms follow shortly thereafter but the point remains.

"G-Gwen," Zed says from around a COLLAPSING CEILING. "Dark Hero Rule Number Twenty-Four... Never throw your weapon away... Unless you're sure it'll come back...!"

Beat.

"ALSO DON'T COLLAPSE CAVES WE'RE STILL IN, PLEASE."

Siegfried... It's like you said. Pure power is just... Power. It can be used... however you want it to be used. To destroy, to create, or...

In this case, to hold up a collapsing mine.

Mostly he's holding it up for Gwen though, because she's the only person potentially getting caught in the cavein that Zed knows and cares about. So, there!

<Pose Tracker> Elvis has posed.

"Hum." Seems like they Metal Demons had the upper hand. What would change things so suddenly!"I of all people should be out and about, missy!" Elvis says with a large finger pointed toward Cassidy. "And yes, they are! But I am the one assigned to find a cure! It is my lifelong goal!" the man says with gusto.

A look to spunky Xantia. "Sure! Sometime, would be good to have a person to practice fisticuffs with!" He sounds like a broken record, mostly because interactions with Human's arent his strong suit when it comes to non-scientific things.

Just ask Ida.

It doesn't go well.

There is a distinctive flash Elvis recognizes across the fray, as Riesenlied is whished away against her will. "Suppose that is not yet over then."

There is a... distinct snapping sound of wood. "Ohhh that isn't good." A look up shows a large structure bearing down. "Move! MOVE! I GOT IT!" The man channels his Aura up, and puts his hands out to catch it, placing himself directly over Xantia to bear the weight!

There is a groan, but the man manages to catch a section of it that was coming down around him and Xantia. "Can't... hold... long!" he says toward her.

That usually means move.

<Pose Tracker> Zed has posed.

"HEY PRIESTESS," Zed yells in Cecilia's general direction, "COULD YOU SUMMON THAT BIG BLUE ONE TO SAVE ALL OF US PLEASE?"

<Pose Tracker> Ashton Anchors has posed.

Slowly, Ashton gets back to his feet. Head shaking, eyes green once more - he rises and wonders why he's surrounded by flames.

But this isn't the time. There's battle and--

Wait, they're leaving. What happened?

The sorcerous swordsman is only able to watch that fleeting moments as Rieselied has recognition and almost just barely touches her fingertips to Noeline's. It breaks his heart. As does the reactions of the others.

It's not his place to grieve with them - now more than ever. And he will have to have words for the members of the Outreach later. For now? He sheathes the paired swords at his side and stumbles over to offer Lily a small vial of healing elixir. (AKA blueberry juice)

"There may be a happy ending to the tale yet, m'am."

<Pose Tracker> Cassidy Cain has posed.

"A cure, ay? Well, good luck. I'd introduce you tae my usual tradition of passing that on, but methinks..." And here, the corners of her lips lift upwards, clearly bemused. "You might find that particular method scandalous and nae all that appropriate for proper ladies of good breeding."

 But before she can describe - thank god - what all of that entails, there's a large and ominous creak. Cassidy's cigarette dangles limply from between her lips as she hears that sudden crack. Slowly, her eyes move upwards towards the wooden construct looming above them.

 And then it collapses.

 She comes away with splinters, and there are a few good samaritans that attempt to take the crush of the falling structure upon themselves. But when the debris is brushed away and the smoke clears, the blonde thief and charlatan is gone, like dust in the wind.

 ....but it's only later when a certain someone will realize that a specific, bitey wyvern is also missing.

<Pose Tracker> Lydia Seren has posed.

Lydia stares into the empty space where Riesenlied and Siegfried once were. In terms of personal objectives, it could be argued that she lost everything. Certainly, scientifically speaking, it was a loss. People died, their progress towards reaching Riesenlied or beating back the Metal Demons seems meager, tiny, maybe even infinitesimal to the point of non-presence.

But she catches Noeline and Noeline whispers that they reached her. It is just a tiny little thing hope, and it often betrays you, but sometimes it's all that keeps you standing.

Lydia doesn't allow her dissapointment to reach her eyes. She smiles down at Noeline. "Yeah." She says. "We just need to seal the deal. You've got enough merchants on your side it'll be easy."

She hugs Noeline tightly.

Lydia looks back towards her friends, towards the straggled Arcticans.

And then, wordlessly, and still supporting Noeline with one arm she thrusts one fist defiantly to the heavens.

She doesn't have the energy to shout or speechify and this isn't a declaration of victory.

It's a declaration of defiance. The Metal Demons tried to wipe them off the face of Elru and failed.

Rather, they failed again. And that, at least, is enough to keep Lydia smiling for another day.

<Pose Tracker> Xantia has posed.

Xantia was all ready to leave to rejoin her friends in the Black Wolves. She'd just started to do so even, but then catches sight of Riesenlied vanishing with Siegfried, making her stop in her tracks. She feels that pang of doubt well up again. That despite all her power, it just... doesn't feel like she ever succeeds at protecting those she cares about.

She doesn't notice that behind her, the watchtower has started creaking... doesn't notice it toppling until its shadow eclipses her. She looks behind her just in time to see... Elvis catching the thing before it could fall on her? That was unexpected.

Elvis makes it clear that he can't hold it for long, which clearly does NOT mean she should move, it means she should help him, obviously. "Hold on, I've got it!" And just like that, she's under the structure as well, adding her own superhuman strength to Elvis's. "On three, let's toss it! One, two...!"

Together, surely even a structure as massive as this will be no match!

<Pose Tracker> Ida Everstead-Rey has posed.

    'Not content with wielding the weapons of Demons anymore, are we?'

    Ida has never weathered taunting well. Harken's words are like salt in a wound; she locks eyes with the Quarter Knight, and her jaw trembles with barely-controlled anger. The wounds in her keep tightening, pulling themselves closed; blood reroutes itself, the human blood much more grudgingly than the Hyadean. Move, she commands the arm. Change. Bloody change, like you did back then, you've already taken so much from me, stop being dead weight or I'll cut you off myself--

    The arm goes slack. Ida looks down at it, then pulls her torn, bloodied cloak over it, bundling it up with speed born of panic. She pulls it back across her chest, and holds it in place.

    The lesson is complete, indeed.

    Ida sags against the cavern wall. You survived, she reminds herself. Think of the good, and not just the bad. You protected people. Riesenlied is gone, but she isn't the whole of it. Tragic, but not the--

    She isn't the one you'd kill for. How is he? You lost track of him.

    "Kalve...?" Ida whispers. She casts her eyes around the cavern, breathing deeply. Each breath hurts. Beneath the flimsy shield of her cloak, she can feel the Living Metal inside her as it moves to fill the wound and stabilize it.

    She catches a glimpse of sieg?fried as the Gate Generator claims him, the look on his face all too familiar. It gets even more familiar as she sees Kalve, and then watches him vanish in a cloud of smoke.

    Her heart skips a beat. Shock, anger, disbelief boil up inside her, then back to emptiness as she realizes there's no body. The hateful little voice doesn't add anything, because there's nothing it could add.

    Ida ties what's left of her cloak in place, holding one end with her teeth and the other with her functional hand. The quicksilver blood has stopped flowing. There are people who need her help.

    Hopefully they'll just assume it's the blood of the enemy.

<Pose Tracker> Chime Isa has posed.

    The bolts on Chime's crossbows start to glow a soft white light, but when the smoke clears and Kalve is missing they fade back to normal bolts as the short elf looks around. "Well... Drats. The taunting was suppose to make him stay." she says amusedly and then holsters her crossbows. "Hrrrmmm." the ARMs Meister considers as she moves a slight ways away to look around.

    She pulls a pair of crests from her vest, and then slides one back away. The other is tapped to her forehead as she whispers something with a smile and then a soft, warm blue light sweeps out from Chime across the cavern wrapping around a handful of persons. The young looking elf is more than capable of it seems of an impressive range in her sorcery to the point it's likely a specialization more than anything else.

<Pose Tracker> Chime Isa has posed.

"There, that should help keep a few up to get them somewhere better to rest~"

GS: Chime Isa has attacked Tesni Inoue with Group Heal!
GS: Chime Isa has attacked Zed with Group Heal!
GS: Chime Isa has attacked Tethelle Cirdian with Group Heal!
GS: Chime Isa has attacked Lydia Seren with Group Heal!
GS: Chime Isa has attacked Mihaya with Group Heal!
GS: Chime Isa has attacked Josephine Lovelace with Group Heal!
GS: Chime Isa has attacked Lily Keil with Group Heal!
GS: Chime Isa has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Chime Isa has completed her action.
GS: Chime Isa heals Josephine Lovelace! She gains 100 temporary hit points!
DC: You switch forms to The Dedicated Archaeologist!
DC: Josephine Lovelace switches forms to The Dedicated Archaeologist!
GS: Chime Isa heals Lydia Seren! She gains 100 temporary hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Jack van Burace has posed.


Jack can feel that impact. The armor splinter under his strike. Then crimson flows across his blade and his hand and there is a look of suprise on his face. He didn't realize just how close he came to a heartstrike.

But obviously even a near-to-the-heart strike wasn't enough to stop her.

He staggers backwards as his blade is pulled free and by the time he recovers the woman there vanishes. There is a smirk though, even as the Metal Demons start to withdraw.

Just before she disappears though, as she delivers that few words he has a few of her own.

 "Don't mistake hope for desperation, Red." He says quietly as crimson drips into the snow. "I did, and it cost me."

But then she's gone and he turns slightly to survey the battlefield. This is a mess....but somehow...

Someway.

...it isn't quite as bad as it could be.

"...where the hell did Argent get to..."

GS: Chime Isa heals Tesni Inoue! She gains 100 temporary hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Arleph Ardan has posed.

      Everything happens. Retreat is called for the Demons, Kalve is... well, he hopes blown clear from the explosive bullet. Watching Kalve work with his own metallic, living body is facinating in a way. Ah. Yes. He did want to talk to him about that damn forest of trees.

      Why did he think about that, just now?

      The explosion blows this clear, Arleph looking down at his body and lowering a hand to feel his bleeding, burning, scathing wounds. Ah. Yes. Blood. He needs blood. That's right. Adrenaline's dying down. Now this hurts like hell.

      He staggers to his feet, his hand waving over his wounds with a glowing, wavering symbol over them. Foam bubbles out of his hand to cover and seal his wounds, leaving a lingering acid smell in the air, one of cleansing medicine. He looks upon Ida, tired and hurt at both his wounds and what he sees, shaking his head. He's pretty certain he'll be fine.

      He thinks. Honestly, after nearly getting his chest punched out of his body, his compassion on NOT blowing somebody up is pretty low.

GS: Arleph Ardan has attacked Arleph Ardan with Multilayered Foam!
GS: Arleph Ardan has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Arleph Ardan has completed his action.
GS: Arleph Ardan heals Arleph Ardan! He gains 200 temporary hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Cecilia Adlehyde has posed.

Cecilia sees, for the first time, something she recognizes in Siegfried's eyes. Something she knows, feels at every moment.

And it lets her collapse with something like peace, as Siegfried disappears.

It also means she doesn't respond to Zed in the slightest.

    But something else does.

The harbor suddenly bubbles up around a great horned helmet. Slender shoulders, leading down to tremendous arms; three glowing spheres, one in the chest, one in each gauntlet. Two glowing eyes as the figure that had apparently just walked here under the ocean bursts It stands three, perhaps four men tall, and is not really large enough at any point to have an apparent control mechanism.

And when it runs, it runs like a man, smooth, easily flowing joints as it charges across the distance. It vocalizes - roars like the grinding of stones as it charges toward the buildings toppling toward Zed and the others around him.

It raises one arm, the spherical jewel on the back of the gauntlet blazing brighter as a pulse of light rushes away from its hand, and the falling debris and rubble simply.....stops, doing so, held fast by forms of light.

    Asgard, the Earth Golem rumbles his arrival.

GS: Chime Isa heals Mihaya! She gains 100 temporary hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Lydia Seren has posed.

Weltall touches down shortly after, having been traveling through the air through its oft forgotten flight engine, escorting Asgard along just in case. Which is why Fei wasn't here!

The Weltall's speakers blare to life.

"I keep telling you...You can't just keep picking 'Rock'."

Weltall's fingers are held in the 'Scissor' move as if in demonstration.

<Pose Tracker> Jack van Burace has posed.


The golem erupts from the water and slowly, slowly Jack turns to look towards Cecilia.

"Really?"

A Golem?!

<Pose Tracker> Ines Colina has posed.

    Even after the brutal assault, Ines is half expecting Kalve to come at them again. She sees him dig out the shell, and braces for another attack. Even after the explosion she waits a few more moments to make sure it isn't a feint.

    It isn't.

    Ines finally relaxes, the spell sustaining her defenses finally fading, leaving wounds to start bleeding again. Yeah, she should probably do something about that soon, but the wounds are still a fair way from lethal. She also fails to notice Ida looking in the direction of her fight, which is probably a good thing given she has no idea how awkward she may have just made things. But that's a problem for another time. She's about to check on how the others are doing only to see the arrival of Asgard. "...I really hope that thing is on our side."

<Pose Tracker> Noeline has posed.

    Another figure has apparently joined the two newcomers. Smaller than the others, it is only about twelve-feet high, but shaped like a friend. The Tiniest Golem That Could, Big Shal, looks up at its bigger brother. They might be totally different in construction, but somehow it seems right.

    Patiently, Big Shal holds up an open palm, and points at it with the other hand, then offers a thumbs up.

<Pose Tracker> Zed has posed.

"OH NO," Zed screams when Cecilia takes a dirt nap, "WHO WILL SAVE US N-- wait."

Bum.

"W...wait."

Bum-Bum.

"I feel... A disturbance."

BWAAAA.

"Something is coming. Something is coming here!"

Bum-bum bum ba-bum. BWAA-BWAA-BWA-BWA-BWA--

BGM CHANGE: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aRwdN-tyfUQ

The rubble is blown away! A field of energy wraps the entire pile of collapsing building/cave in a protective embrace! Zed... Zed...!

Zed is staring wide-eyed at the form of the EARTH GOLEM - ASGARD

"OH MY GOSH," Zed actually squees-- and somehow runs up Asgard to go marvel at it from eye-level. "YOU'RE SO COOL. What's your name, new friend!? I'm Zed! Nice to meet you! Thanks for saving us! Ahahahaha!"

Wow, it's like he's completely forgotten about the sucking chest-wound.

<Pose Tracker> Layna Manydays has posed.

Calls of surprise meet Layna's ears and she brings her telescope out again, casting it about until she catches sight of the source of surprise.

And what does she see but a black Gear, and two Golems, one of them completely unfamiliar to her? Layna lets out a whistle, lowering her telescope.

"Well, damn. Now ain't that a sight?" She comments. At least it seemed to be on their side.

<Pose Tracker> Lydia Seren has posed.

"His name's Asgard. He's cool." Fei says, as if he made a new best friend. "Hey where's Dean? I want to see his head literally explodes off his shoulders."

Weltall waves in the dorkiest manner possible towards Cecilia.

<Pose Tracker> Zed has posed.

"ASGARD IS THE BEST NAME, well not the best. Zed is the best name. Objectively," Zed says, nodding his head like this is the most obvious thing in the world. "Oh. Oh! I should bring Surtr to meet you! Hey, if we team up, does that make our super special teamup... A-to-Z!? It's perfect! It's right there!"

This guy...

This guy.

<Pose Tracker> Gwen Whitlock has posed.

Gwen Whitlock says, "Oh guardians, hold on!" Gwen rushes over, attempting to help Zed hold up that one part of the beam, even as various rocks begin to fall down around them. "Cass, hey, com- Cass?" She stares at the Cassidy-sized hole where Cassidy was last, and lets out a grunt. "... W-well, at least she'll be okay!" _just what did Cass want to get_"
Gwen Whitlock says, "WHAT IN HADES ON A HALFSHELL IS Th... oooooohhh!" One can just hear that fear transform into child-like awe as a giant Guardian? Beast?"

<Pose Tracker> Gwen Whitlock has posed.

    Gwen flinches, pressing her hands upwards to meet the falling debris.

    ....

    Either she's really good, or there's nothing falling on her, just yet. Squitning one eye open, she spots the heroic Zed, holding up the... ceiling...

    "Oh guardians, hold on!" Gwen rushes over, attempting to help Zed hold up that one part of the beam, even as various rocks begin to fall down around them. "Cass, hey, com- Cass?" She stares at the Cassidy-sized hole where Cassidy was last, and lets out a grunt. "... W-well, at least she'll be okay!" _just what did Cass want to get_

    And the ground shakes. Something emerges from the harbor, tall and powerful, striding onto the cavern floor. And then, it _runs_. oh guardians it's coming

    "WHAT IN HADES ON A HALFSHELL IS Th... oooooohhh!" One can just hear that fear transform into child-like awe as a giant Guardian? Beast?

    wait, is that a golem, it's a golem, where is dean when you absolutely need him to see the golem "Fei? Is that you?" Gwen blinks up at Weltall. "Wow, this is so cool!"

<Pose Tracker> Cecilia Adlehyde has posed.

Cecilia is still unconscious because Siegfried made her insides be outside.

Asgard can only vocalize in dramatic Giant Robo rumblings, which he does do as Zed gushes all over him.

<Pose Tracker> Lydia Seren has posed.

Fei looks down at Cecilia's unconcious body.

"Wait was there a fight?" Fei asks. "Oh uh---yeah, it's me." You can tell strange things are a-foot because Fei doesn't talk about how much he hates Weltall when Gwen talks about it.

"Heh," He says. "Well, I'm sure Weltall appreciates the compliment." He has Weltall crouch down and hops out himself (Weltall is frozen in the 'SCISSORS' pose).

No doubt this is about when he gets Elly hugs which are statistically the best hugs.

<Pose Tracker> Ida Everstead-Rey has posed.

    Ida kneels next to an unconscious Arctican militiawoman, having untied the soldier's cape and retied it like a makeshift sledge. It's not the best way to carry someone, but she's got one functional arm, and she's running on autopilot. She needs to keep doing something, if only to keep herself from sinking--

    Something rises from the harbor. Ida stops and stands bolt upright, fear gripping her a moment--but then she recognizes the figure, animate and walking and stabilizing a section of cave. Ida sags forwards. Maybe there's something to Zed's nattering about heroic golem-robot-entities, because she suddenly feels a whole lot safer. "Thank you," Ida says, and she bows as deeply as she can without aggravating her wounds. "Fei?" she adds, after a moment, raising her voice so he can hear her up in Weltall's cockpit. "Bring medical supplies, we have wounded."

<Pose Tracker> Ida Everstead-Rey has posed.

    "If you can, ah, see the Princess to safety, too," Ida says. She trails off, Part of her doesn't want Cecilia to so much as look at her, in her present state, but she can't just leave her.

<Pose Tracker> Jack van Burace has posed.


Jack just sighs as Cecilia is...entirely non-responsive to his comment. "Double great..." However he does at least walk over to crouch next to her and pick her up. "...can't leave you out in the cold. Someone would yell at me." He grumbles.

Hanpan just smirks as he rides on his shoulder.

"Not a word, rat."

"Didn't say anything~."

"...oh hey. Anyone seen Claude?" A pause. "Or my wyvern?"

<Pose Tracker> Tesni Inoue has posed.

Tesni Inoue has had the hell kicked out of her by Kalve. she's badly off chankfully Chime is able to help pick her up a bit but she's looking to be pretty beat up.

 "Thank you I owe you one."

<Pose Tracker> Lily Keil has posed.

Lily is not close enough now to Lydia and Noeline to hear their words--she just looks out to where Riesenlied had been. She stares there, until she hears and feels the approach of a giant from the harbor. She sighs, then, shaking her head. Apparently, the appearance of the Golem doesn't faze her, momentous as it is.

...Of course, this is less Lily being unflappable and more that she knew. But she doesn't bother to say that.

After a moment steadying herself, Lily says to Matilda, "...I'll be all right. Thank you."

Then she walks on, meeting Fei and Asgard both, more or less. But along her way she stops to Jack, looks him over for a moment. "...I haven't," she said, and pulls something from her bag; some kind of... vaguely bar-shaped object wrapped in thin cloth. "Hand this to the fanboy up there," she gestures with her head to Zed, "If you don't mind. ...You did well today. I didn't think we'd come through this with so few casualties."

Then she moves forward, walking slowly, towards the caverns that lead to the exit of the town.

She doesn't look back.

<Pose Tracker> Matilda Whitehead has posed.

Though Lily's fine enough to walk on her own, Matilda's still a little hesitant to let her go. She offers a nod to Lily as she steadies herself, saying, "If -- ah, if you're certain." She straightens herself out a little as well, taking a moment to just... breathe.

She stays quiet; she's more than a little stung by the situation, to put it delicately. Even if they defended New Arctica, it feels... hollow. The costs were significant, and the rewards... almost vanishingly small.

She takes a few steps away, to just... sit and think, really. After a few moments, she starts to massage her temples with her hands, as if trying to physically coax out some new, better plan, now that they know what they're up against.