2019-06-15: The Unquiet Dead

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DC: Unquiet Dead switches forms to Unquiet Revenant and Laity!
<Pose Tracker> Unquiet Dead has posed.

    It's a warm night. Humid -- merely a touch of what is to come, as the Spiran summer progresses -- and undercut yet with the breeze coming in off the wide wide sea. After the excitement following the Guard's annexation of Kilika, the village has settled down to its typical rhythm. People rebuild. People fish. People go about their daily lives.

    The Blue Sphere (Gaia, to the locals) hangs heavy near the horizon. At this time of night, nearly everyone is asleep. Only a few villagers remain awake at this hour by choice or by necessity.

    Then there is a scream cutting through the dark.

    It came from the docks.

    The commotion that follows is just about immediate. Villagers with weapons take to them, rushing out into the darkness where the waves lap.

    There, rising above the fallen forms of a pair of dockworkers, is an eerily luminescent form of a skeletal Fiend. Pulsing with fell flame, it writhes above their bodies as it searches silently by the light of the lanterns. Power rolls off its very being -- those in this village are familiar with Fiends. They are even familiar with Sin's wrath. But never in their lifetimes have they seen a Fiend so powerful.

    A pike clatters to the ground. One of the would-be militia members has given in to terror and collapses to her knees. The others begin to back away, fright etched onto their faces.

    A spash echoes from the sea. A horde of Fiends has begin to emerge from the sea, one by one slipping up onto the land or taking to the air. The air is tense, a mere moment riddled with terror and possibility.

<Pose Tracker> Marivel Armitage has posed.

The Shrouded Woman, Marivel Armitage, has been lending a hand to the people of Kilika for some time--almost since her arrival. She did not help in the way the Guard helped, exactly. She looked after the children, both rescuing them from fiends that wandered too close to town or when they snuck out of the village for their own important work and also solving interpersonal conflicts between them. She did not do much manual labor (she doesn't seem particularly suited for it anyway) but she did keep fiends out of town, planted new flowers, and of course harassed various members of the Guard (including Kaguya) ((and Ivan)) (((and Amelia))) ((((and White Knight Leo)))) for uncertain purposes. Of course, her last conversation with Leo did not go well.

But Marivel has put a lot of work into this town. She has made friends here. She consider herself connected to this land. She may be not even of this world but Kilika is under her protection and these people are, as far as she is concerned, her own. At least so long as she is staying in Spira.

Normally Marivel is the sort of the person to joke around when faced with THE UNQUIET DEAD!. AFter all, she is a literal vampire, master of death, ect. so this is not the sort of thing she fears. Never Give Up Skeletons, as well as the other sort, are not in the slightest going to afflict her with terror or fear.

a pike clatters to the ground. A small hand picks it up. Marivel, who owns that hand, places it firmly in the terrorized militia's hands.

"Keep calm, friend." Marivel says to her. "You have a town to protect, yes! But the people too."

She then steps forward, unwrapping the shroud that protects her from the sun's light. Hardly neccessary at this time, after all.

"Angry, brave dead...!" She says, cloak fluttering behind her. "Cull your envy and return to the earth!"

Marivel is just weird enough to not immediately try to murder the undead, apparently figuring there is a non-zero chance they might actually listen.

<Pose Tracker> Kaguya Alathfar has posed.

It's humid. ...Tucked away upstairs in one of Kilika's wooden houses, up above the water rather than on the land, far from view of the ordinary people or most of the guard, and...

"Nn," she mutters, turning on what passes for a decent bed in Spira. Sweat beads at her forehead. No servants are nearby, naturally, at her order, but at her bedside is an array of strange bottles filled with unusual liquids, sterilizing equipment, syringes...

And then there is a scream, and she wasn't really sleeping anyway. She grows still, and her strange, pale eyes focus. "..."

With some effort she shoves herself upward, pauses as if to gather strength--and then looks to a bottle and one of the syringes.

"...Ugh," the small Veruni mutters, and reaches for them.

-=-=-

When the Duchess arrives, she is not in armor. Loose, baggy pants--technically shorts, but long enough that they hang past the knee, and a half-buttoned dress shirt--the cuffs undone, the buttons up actually off by one such that the collar hangs wrong. But more notable is the heavy belt that holds....

A strange device, smooth black and white, in the shape that those familiar with ARMs might understand to be a shotgun if it contained more metal or wood or any conventional materials, and those familiar with more advanced ARMs would recognize as by no means normal. She staggers out of the entrance to her house for now, and looks up from the dock towards the sound of more immediate noise, lifting a blonde eyebrow at Marivel.

"...Huh," she says, and her eyes are obviously bloodshot. She looks kind of... extremely awful, actually--to look at her she shouldn't be able to stand.

"...No," the Hyland-anointed knight says. "If they want to run, they can run. Now's the time we see who people are, isn't it?"

She starts walking towards the danger, towards the awful luminescent incarnation of death, and there is a wrongness in not showing fear of it, that assredly does not settle the people.

GS: Unquiet Dead has adjusted their boss level for 7 opponents!
<Pose Tracker> Ambrosius has posed.

For the time being, Ambrosius was staying in Kilika - all the better for him to provide assistance in whatever form he could. He was the sort to work late into the night on whatever project struck his fancy. Normally, this was uneventful...but tonight, his work is interrupted by a scream.

Ambrosius frowns and looks up from his current work - it appears to be a small machina, of the type often favored by the Al Bhed.

"Minerva - remain here and keep watch. I will investigate." He says, addressing the mechanical Scutum soldier accompanying him.

After receiving a nod of acknowledgment Ambrosius departs.

His journey takes him to the docks, where he finds something rather unexpected.

"Fiends," He mutters under his breath. "But so many."

One or two was to be expected, but so many...? And what's more, that skeletal Fiend...there was a sense of terrible power roiling off of it, unlike any fiend he had encountered - surpassing any of his research thus far. This was not a foe to be underestimated.

His eyes track toward the faltering militia, and then toward Kaguya as she approaches.

"Indeed. If they remain here against their will, they will merely die uselessly." He states, then turns his attention toward the Fiends.

Unlike Marivel, he is the sort to immediately try to murder the undead. Ambrosius casts a hand out...and the sea rises at his call. It surges forward, attempting to crush, consume, and return those Fiends that have not yet gotten out of the way back to the waters from whence they came.

GS: Ambrosius has attacked Unquiet Dead with Surging Tides!
GS: Ambrosius has completed his action.
DC: Marivel Armitage switches forms to Crimson Noble Marivel!
<Pose Tracker> White Knight Leo has posed.

    Last night, White Knight Leo attended an impromptu diplomatic function, met the other members of Lady Kaguya's retinue, and encountered Seraph Liath in person for the first time. It was one of the more pleasant evenings he's had in a while, so naturally, this evening has to be a return to form.

    The cry of the panicked militia ripples through the camp. Heads turn. Eyes widen in shock. Guards draw blades, ready spears, and rush towards the pier--but they've been caught off-guard. From his perch on the deck of the Dragonship Destiny, Leo watches the skeletal Fiend rise from the sea. His blade clears its scabbard. "To arms!" White Knight Leo shouts, his voice a booming roar. He raises his sword, and Gaia-light glints off its blade like a signaling mirror. The White Knight has taken the field.

    Leo surges forwards, plants a foot on the Destiny's railing, and lunges off. The movement is smooth, like he's done it dozens of times--because he has. He lands in front of the Fiend, cape billowing in the wind. "Face justice, creature!" the Beastman cries. He leaps towards the fiend, alighting atop a pier post for a moment before taking to the air again. At the apex of his jump, Leo sweeps his blade up, and brings it down--it trails golden after-images in its wake. It's a fierce, cleaving strike backed by both weight and momentum, and more than capable of cutting someone in two.

GS: White Knight Leo has attacked Unquiet Dead with Rising Falcon!
GS: White Knight Leo has gained 2 Combo!
GS: White Knight Leo has completed his action.
GS: Unquiet Dead guards a hit from Ambrosius's Surging Tides for 102 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Pearl has posed.

    The villagers may well be mostly asleep, but that doesn't hold true for everyone in Kilika. Even if they probably should have been. Pearl has been making a habit of only sleeping when absolutely necessary. In a corner of Kilika, she spends her night running through techniques against a now quiet haggard straw training dummy, for want of anyone to train against at this hour. It's nowhere near as satisfying as facing down a foe that can fight back, but she had to do something tonight.

    The scream cuts through just as she removes the head of the dummy with a brutal kick, and her attention is brought to the docks. Pearl moves with speed, running through the village towards the source. She runs towards the docks, and comes to a halt when she sees the fiends emerging from the sea.

    The faintest of smiles appears on the martial artist's face. This was much better than a straw dummy.

    Her eyes track to those others at the battle. She did not know Marivel, and her focus is briefly there, before she tracks to the dishevelled Kaguya, and then to Ambrosius. Now was the time to see these new allies on the battlefield, and this was something she wished to see. As Leo calls the charge, Pearl rushes in toward the horde. "Let us return them to the grave."

    As the lizard like fiends make there way up the docks, Pearl suddenly drops into a slide, setting up to rake the metal claws of her gloves across- and perhaps through- the legs of the creature. The skeletal wraith may be her main target, but she can kill things on the way.

GS: Pearl has attacked Unquiet Dead with Running Takedown!
GS: Pearl has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Pearl has completed her action.
GS: Unquiet Dead takes a solid hit from Pearl's Running Takedown for 138 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Ivan has posed.

'Screams in the night' are actually higher on the list of things Ivan likes to deal with than a fair number of everyday activities he can think of--for him, the sudden call to arms is a welcome change of pace from the party where he so recently embarrassed himself. He assumes some fiends got into town and somebody needs to stab them. He's not entirely wrong, although that isn't... quite the whole picture.

Ivan calls a shortsword into his hand and rushes toward the sound of the commotion, finding the otherworldly sight of the glowing, skeletal fiend, and many more creatures emerging from the sea. He gapes for a moment, stopped with a kind of awe. And then, he decides: This is certainly an enemy which needs to be set on fire.

He finds several others already there -- among them, Leo seeming ready to take them all down singlehandedly, and Kaguya looking like she's been called back from the dead, herself.

"Incoming!" he shouts, because that seems like a polite thing to do when you're going to introduce a rain of fire to a battlefield which also contains your allies.

He sweeps his free hand in a summoning motion, and sizzling globes of molten fire begin to rain down on the hoarde.

GS: Ivan has attacked Unquiet Dead with Scorching Rain!
GS: Ivan has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Ivan has completed his action.
GS: Unquiet Dead guards a hit from Ivan's Scorching Rain for 85 hit points!
GS: Ivan assumes the Avenger stance!
<Pose Tracker> Gwen Whitlock has posed.

    "Was goin' on?" A bed-headed Gwen seems to just tumble out from where Marivel is, stifling a yawn and rubbing the sleep from her eyes. Dressed in her bright Spiran tunic and black undershirt, the courier is far less dressed than most would be used to be seeing her. "Tonight was 'sposed t'be my catch-up night. Kin the Guard deal wit'it?"

    Then, she looks beyond Marivel, to the strange beasts beyond. Of milita members shuddering in fear, of Kaguya going fearlessly in to face the horde (and looking terrible, but who is really complaining), and Ambrosius, coming to join her. And lastly, there is White Knight Leo, surging off the Destiny with his blade in hand, cleaving enemies in his wake.

    "..." Gwen reaches up, pinches her cheek, winces, and then sighs in resignation, a sound that stretches into yet another yawn. "Damn... need t'... wake up." She rubs her face more vigorously now, then raises her ungloved hand up in the air. She feels exposed, yes, but the nights are so humid that she's gotten beyond caring if her scars or her right ARM might see the light of day.

    Besides, it's night.

    And the electrical field she casts is definitely not helping her hide, expanding outwards with a field of pyrite-yellow light.

GS: Gwen Whitlock has attacked Unquiet Dead with St. Elmo's Fire!
GS: Gwen Whitlock has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Gwen Whitlock has completed her action.
GS: Unquiet Dead guards a hit from White Knight Leo's Rising Falcon for 96 hit points!
GS: White Knight Leo assumes the Avenger stance!
GS: Unquiet Dead critically Guards a hit from Gwen Whitlock's St. Elmo's Fire for 0 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Unquiet Dead has posed.

    "Milady..." the terrified woman whispers, her voice barely heard over the scuttling claws or whispering wings of the horde as the Fiends emerge from the sea. Her hands still close over the pike when Marivel hands it back to her, though she doesn't rise. "There... there are too many..." Her gaze fixes on the swirling form of the revenant, looming overhead.

    One of the members of the militia with their wits still about them nods sharply at Kaguya's statement -- which is joined by Ambrosius' own. "We'll try to retreat and see to the villagers! Take it down!"

    But their retreat is hampered by the horde of Fiends.

    At the Veruni's behest, the waves themselves rise up, surging to drag those Fiends still rising from the depths back down once more. Those that succumb do not rise again; Pyreflies alone for a moment emerge from the sea's surface.

    But there are more yet that come. A series of lizard-like Fiends slip their way up onto the docks.
    Where they meet Pearl's claws. Heads, literally, roll. In a series, the lizards explode into Pyreflies, which roll away and flit off into the dark of night.

    As below so above: those Fiends that have taken to the skies take almost uniformly insectoid shape: they swoop and swarm, threatening to overwhelm the slowly retreating militia. The lone woman clutches her pike more tightly than before, holding it close to her chest.
    But from above comes a rain of flame: individual spheres strike the horde of hornetlike things and annihilate them in a single burst. Pyreflies fly free into the night sky.
    It would be easy for any onlooker to mistake the unfolding aurora of lightning -- stalling or stunning a few strays close to her in the air for a few critical moments -- as yet more of the same magical display.

    The horde so thinned, the militia begin to retreat. One of them breaks off to try to retrieve the pikeswoman; the lone pikebearer at last rises to her feet, trembling, the weapon in her hand held fast as if it were talisman.

    Meanwhile, above the form of the revenant continues to writhe, shifting its attentions as if those eyeless holes could indeed see and seek like a living thing.

    The revenant only has to lunge once. A spectral claw goes through her.
    She doesn't even cry out as she crumples.

    From above, like an avenging god, descends Leo. The blade cracks into the massive skull of the revenant, mixing white-gold light with the blue-purple flame that burns off the Fiend without ceasing.

    It focuses on him in a manner that is almost curious.
    Before it opens its mouth and shrieks.
    Fury? Exultation? Fear?
    Maybe the reason doesn't matter.

    To the starry skies above does the revenant raise its claws, as if in some benediction to the abyss of night--

    --and there, drawing down from the heavens comes a rain of curses, glittering purples and bruisy reds. It sinks in, settles deep. Into the body, into the soul.

    OST: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=icvtHXkw7O4

GS: Unquiet Dead has spent 1 Combo on Poison, including 3 on Gatling!
GS: Unquiet Dead has attacked White Knight Leo with Doom!
GS: Unquiet Dead has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Unquiet Dead has spent 1 Combo on Poison, including 3 on Gatling!
GS: Unquiet Dead has attacked Marivel Armitage with Doom!
GS: White Knight Leo guards a hit from Unquiet Dead's Doom for 0 hit points!
GS: White Knight Leo suffers an additional 27 from Poison's Combo effect!
GS: Poison and Reaper! applied to White Knight Leo!
GS: White Knight Leo takes an additional 55 damage from Reaper!
GS: Unquiet Dead has spent 1 Combo on Poison, including 3 on Gatling!
GS: Unquiet Dead has attacked Ambrosius with Doom!
GS: Unquiet Dead has attacked Ivan with Doom!
GS: Unquiet Dead has attacked Pearl with Doom!
GS: Unquiet Dead has attacked Kaguya Alathfar with Doom!
GS: Unquiet Dead has attacked Gwen Whitlock with Doom!
GS: Unquiet Dead has completed its action.
GS: Pearl takes a glancing hit from Unquiet Dead's Doom for 0 hit points!
GS: Pearl suffers an additional 23 from Poison's Combo effect!
GS: Poison and Reaper! applied to Pearl!
GS: Pearl takes an additional 45 damage from Reaper!
GS: Ambrosius critically Guards a hit from Unquiet Dead's Doom for 0 hit points!
GS: CRITICAL! Kaguya Alathfar guards a hit from Unquiet Dead's Doom for 0 hit points!
GS: Kaguya Alathfar suffers an additional 30 from Poison's Combo effect!
GS: Poison and Reaper! applied to Kaguya Alathfar!
GS: Kaguya Alathfar takes an additional 55 damage from Reaper!
GS: Marivel Armitage guards a hit from Unquiet Dead's Doom for 0 hit points!
GS: Marivel Armitage suffers an additional 30 from Poison's Combo effect!
GS: Poison and Reaper! applied to Marivel Armitage!
GS: Marivel Armitage takes an additional 45 damage from Reaper!
GS: Gwen Whitlock takes a solid hit from Unquiet Dead's Doom for 0 hit points!
GS: Gwen Whitlock suffers an additional 22 from Poison's Combo effect!
GS: Poison and Reaper! applied to Gwen Whitlock!
GS: Gwen Whitlock takes an additional 45 damage from Reaper!
<Pose Tracker> Marivel Armitage has posed.

There's too many. That is true. The dead have always outnumbered the living. Marivel can't deny it. She instead smiles softly and says, "But you are not alone either."

She is hardly one to begrudge the living for striking quickly. Fiends have never seemed the sort to react well to olive branches nor to sympathy. Her gaze slants towards the bloodshot Kaguya and her own commentary regarding choice. "We are always free to do as we please, but never from consequence." Of course it's entirely possible for the Veruni to feel as free of consequence as they please. Marivel's eyes return to the fiends. "Though perhaps you are unaware of who is responsible for this consequence."

Her eyes then slant towards White Knight Leo.

She does not say 'hallo'.

"They have not the luxury to depend on the Guard that has sent the legion of the damned upon them."

Ivan politely shouts incoming but honestly Ivan is one she does not blame for current events.

She braces against the curse that is inflicted upon her. Intense pain strikes across her fromthe few kinds of wounds that can truly harm a Crimson Noble.

"This is nothing..." Marivel whispers in a pained voice.

Nothing compared to what the rest of her kind have endured. She toughs on through it...

...instead retaliating with a bunch of pails and assorted construction material that she summons above the horde's heads, dropping it right upon them!

"Perhaps you wisely simply intend to rely on me to solve the problem the Guard has created here? Very well, you may rely on me."

GS: Marivel Armitage has attacked Unquiet Dead with Aport!
GS: Marivel Armitage takes an additional 20 damage from Reaper!
GS: Marivel Armitage takes 22 damage from Poison!
GS: Marivel Armitage has completed her action.
GS: Ivan completely evades a hit from Unquiet Dead's Doom!
<Pose Tracker> Ambrosius has posed.

"Miss Whitlock." Ambrosius acknowledges as Gwen arrives on the scene. He hadn't expected to see her here, but with a dangerous enemy before them he would welcome any assistance they could get.

The others he recognizes as members of the Guard - the very ones he met the other day. With the exception of the White Knight himself, he had not seen any of them in battle yet. Thus far, their talents are meeting his expectations.

It is a shame, though, that Amaterasu is not here, he thinks. She would probably enjoy this.

But, the Fiend army is still coming - his water-based Sorcery may have extinguished a good number of them, but even more yet continue to rise.

And then, the wraith shrieks an awful shriek, and terrible curses rain down. Reactively, Ambrosius draws some of the water he had used before toward him. It forms a curtain above him, intercepting the rain...

But where it strikes, the water becomes a deep, bloody red. It spreads, cursed and befouled. Ambrosius sends it away from him and it splatters on the ground.

If it had struck him directly...well, that was something he did not want to dwell on. It was something to be wary of.

It is clear, however, that he will need to utilize a greater display of firepower. Ambrosius reaches into his poncho and draws out his main weapon - the variable ARM of Veruni make, Veritas Varia.

He fires it into the crowd of fiends, unleashing searing bolts of energy that burn through anything in their way. He will allow the others to deal with the wraith, at least for the time being.

As he fires, though, he glances over toward Marivel.

"You claim the Guard to be responsible for this. Explain." He says. What does she know that they don't?

GS: Ambrosius has attacked Unquiet Dead with VV-AESTUO!
GS: Ambrosius has gained 2 Combo!
GS: Ambrosius has completed his action.
<Pose Tracker> Kaguya Alathfar has posed.

Kaguya doesn't react overmuch to Ambrosius's addition, which in Kaguya parlance mostly means she thinks he's right.

But the impromptu diplomatic function is over, and now that Kaguya's outside, the small house she'd been using suddenly emits a loud slam as its door slides shut and barricades are made of the furniture. Ideally, nothing is getting in there. But here...

Here and now, Kaguya keeps walking, slowly and inexorably forward, sparing little extra effort to look around at the militia around them. She doesn't look to her allies, either, except insofar as the White Knight Leo abrubtly slams heroically into her field of vision, and Ivan helpfully mentions his rain of fire. She doesn't answer at first.

...Not until Gwen's light field makes Kaguya squint against its brightness, and she sees--

"...Yeah I'm with you," she announces, but there's something... darker than her usual fey humor. Instead as she walks she speaks dully to Marivel, too. "Yeah," Kaguya answers Marivel in that moment. "We all have to accept the consequences of our actions." She pauses, then, "So you'd say we made this happen?" she asks. "That's an interesting data point."

She only comes to a stop as she reaches closer to the terrible Fiend before them, stepping beside the crumpled form of the woman fallen there. The Fiend brings its hand down--its shriek...

Kaguya feels it, then, and her eyes flash with something like anger. "...You, too?" Kaguya says, her jaw starting to set, thin muscle coiling in her arms as she looks up, up, up--

It is there, in her soul, this curse. It is not the first. It is no less lethal for that.

Despite the lack of overt reaction save anger, there's a twitch at Kaguya's brow; in the wake of the Fiend's power, her eye is redder, like a blood vessel may have popped, and bruising spreads down from beneath her jaw to the side of her neck. She looks, if anything, paler than before.

"..."

Something like a low growl emits from the back of the small Veruni's throat as she shows her teeth. "You... dare..." Kaguya reaches to her side, and most of the Guard have not seen her wield the weapon she holds now; all in strange, otherworldly plastics with unsettling chrome and alien curves, the Tk-38K gleams in the night air. She pulls something from a pocket, and opens up the chamber--cla-CLACK.

The shell glows before she loads it in, and then lifts it towards the Fiend at short range. "...Can you choke a ghost?" she wonders, points up--and fires, her weapon emitting a deafening roar as sonic waves cascade from its barrel, and wood splinters where it hits.

GS: Kaguya Alathfar has attacked Unquiet Dead with Concussion Rounds!
GS: Kaguya Alathfar takes an additional 15 damage from Reaper!
GS: Kaguya Alathfar takes 27 damage from Poison!
GS: Kaguya Alathfar has completed her action.
<Pose Tracker> White Knight Leo has posed.

    Leo watches the militiawoman's body hit the dock, and something twists in his heart. The Beastman snarls, baring teeth and driving his pommel for the creature's skull. The look on its face would disturb him if he weren't running on anger.

    The Fiend's dark magic saps the strength from Leo's limbs, and his charge falters. His hands simply fall, the momentum of his attack gone before it even has a chance to connect. An aura of deep bruise-purple sinks into the White Knight's flesh, burning like acid. Tendrils of foul black smoke curl off of Leo's body--he coughs, and more smoke comes out. Leo grits his teeth until they creak, and forces himself upright.

    An ear cocks towards Marivel, and the White Knight twitches as he hears her words. "Hold your treacherous TONGUE, arrogant creature!" Leo growls. He steps forwards, putting his body between the fallen militiawoman and the Fiend. His blade falls like a guillotine, cleaving through the air with a high-pitched ringing sound. Golden energy tears free from the blade, races all of four feet, and erupts beneath the Fiend in a column of light.

GS: White Knight Leo has attacked Unquiet Dead with Demon Fang!
GS: White Knight Leo has gained 2 Combo!
GS: White Knight Leo takes an additional 35 damage from Reaper!
GS: White Knight Leo takes 28 damage from Poison!
GS: White Knight Leo has completed his action.
<Pose Tracker> Pearl has posed.

    The problem with fiends is that don't even give you the satisfaction of leaving a corpse. As the dinonix are slaughtered, Pearl rolls back up to her feet, closer still to the skeletal monstrosity that seems to head the horde.

    She watches as the fiend strikes the hapless militia woman. She does not try to help, or even react. Instead she refocuses on the fiend, butas the shriek echoes out, she is not able to defend herself from the curse that soaks into her, and she feels her life sap away. If there was ever a moment when Pearl felt as though she was on borrowed time, this curse inflicts it. She feels herself still for a moment, as the energy drains from her.

    Instead, she focuses her ki. She breathes deeply, and starts focusing outwards. Focusing towards the other members of the guard in battle. And her ki spreads outward from her body, and it flows into Kaguya, Leo, Ambrosius and Ivan. Gwen and Marivel get nothing but perhaps some scorn. Their steps become swifter, and lighter. They are able to move more freely. Pearl breathes out, and returns to combat stance. The time spent on that may have left her open to being surrounded, but that is a risk she is prepared to take.

    Still, something about Marivel gets under her skin. "You have to prove to be of use for your moralising to mean anything." She speaks it, rather than shouting, but there is venom in her voice. "Your 'aid' is not needed here."

    She eyes the weapon Kaguya brings to bear. These are the weapons of her people, are they? Interesting. She can respect the rage, though. Rage is useful. It makes you stronger. More dangerous. In these moments she can see it in her commander too. There is something amusing about the four heroes being equally prone to such a thing.

GS: Pearl has attacked Kaguya Alathfar with Pack Mentality!
GS: Pearl has attacked White Knight Leo with Pack Mentality!
GS: Pearl has attacked Ambrosius with Pack Mentality!
GS: Pearl has attacked Ivan with Pack Mentality!
GS: Pearl has attacked Pearl with Pack Mentality!
GS: Pearl has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Pearl takes an additional 25 damage from Reaper!
GS: Pearl takes 25 damage from Poison!
GS: Pearl has completed her action.
GS: Pearl takes a solid hit from Pearl's Pack Mentality for 0 hit points!
GS: Quick! applied to Pearl!
GS: Pearl takes an additional 5 damage from Reaper!
GS: Ambrosius takes a solid hit from Pearl's Pack Mentality for 0 hit points!
GS: Quick! applied to Ambrosius!
GS: Unquiet Dead guards a hit from Marivel Armitage's Aport for 62 hit points!
GS: Unquiet Dead guards a hit from Ambrosius's VV-AESTUO for 79 hit points!
GS: Hyper! applied to Ambrosius!
GS: Unquiet Dead guards a hit from Kaguya Alathfar's Concussion Rounds for 99 hit points!
GS: Break! applied to Unquiet Dead!
GS: White Knight Leo takes a solid hit from Pearl's Pack Mentality for 0 hit points!
GS: Quick! applied to White Knight Leo!
GS: White Knight Leo enters CONDITION GREEN!!
GS: White Knight Leo takes an additional 5 damage from Reaper!
GS: Kaguya Alathfar takes a solid hit from Pearl's Pack Mentality for 0 hit points!
GS: Quick! applied to Kaguya Alathfar!
GS: Kaguya Alathfar takes an additional 5 damage from Reaper!
<Pose Tracker> Ivan has posed.

The militia attempt their retreat, and it seems that many manage to escape -- but not before the wraith lashes out, striking down the terrified pikewoman with what feels like exceptional cruelty.

Ivan feels a chill go through him as the wraith cries out, bringing down a rain of curses so potent that they seem to have physical form. He leaps and rolls, feeling one pass just by him like the sensation of someone walking over your grave. ...Shudder. What WERE those? Are the people who were hit by them all right? Is that what happened to Kaguya before he got here, maybe...?

This seems to be no ordinary enemy.

It would be fitting, maybe, for Ivan to be taken down by a ghost -- but not today, not today!

He calls a wind to life that glitters with unstable sparks, each one the seed of a greater fire. He pushes his hand forward, and the wind carries them in a swirl around the wraith, where they detonate.

Ivan neither takes offense at Marivel's accusation toward the Guard nor accepts it, instead just wondering what exactly she's getting at. "You're saying we're responsible for this thing?!"

GS: Ivan takes a solid hit from Pearl's Pack Mentality for 0 hit points!
GS: Quick! applied to Ivan!
GS: Ivan has spent 2 Combo on Gatling, including 2 on Gatling!
GS: Ivan has attacked Unquiet Dead with Stars of Fury!
GS: Ivan has completed his action.
<Pose Tracker> Gwen Whitlock has posed.

    Gwen told Hiro she'd keep an eye on the Guard. It was the best fit, as she was the least likely to be targeted, being a small fish in an ocean of large, more crucial problems. Gwen also promised Hiro that she'd run should she run into trouble, but she doubted Hiro actually meant, or even suspected, that the trouble she'd face was- ".... So that's a Fiend too?" she says, squinting.

    She hears Ambrosius say her name; she nods, responding with a wry smile. "Ambrosius. If I'd known all these familiar faces'd be here, I'd take a lil'longer t'look a lot more decent th'this."

    It's the only bit of humor Gwen manages to get out, before the revenant rains its misery onto the many below.

    *That* is enough to wake the courier, glowing yellow lines beginning to brighten in between the plates of her right ARM, pulsing in time with her heartbeat, the color slowly shifting to a hue of red with each pulse. Imperceptibly, slowly. A breathing meter for oncoming death, so visible in the dim light.

    Then Kaguya asks a very critical question: can you choke a ghost? As the strange energy feels like something squalid and rotting taking in her soul, whatever humor the redhead had has gone cool. "... I'm gonna find out," she says, her posture slightly hunched over. "... Whatever it did-"

    Marivel makes her stance known, but Gwen seems beyond those words, feeling that old, old friend slowly beginning to take yet another stab at what it had been denied, many times before.

    Her focus narrows to the matter of the fallen pikeswoman. Gwen darts ahead, sprinting towards the woman's fallen body just as Leo puts himself up as a shield, defending the woman against oncoming danger. "C'mon, stay with me!" She tries to grip onto the woman's body, to lift her up onto her shoulder. "I got you!"

GS: Gwen Whitlock has attacked Gwen Whitlock with Bounding Flight!
GS: Gwen Whitlock takes an additional 15 damage from Reaper!
GS: Gwen Whitlock takes 33 damage from Poison!
GS: Gwen Whitlock has completed her action.
GS: Gwen Whitlock takes a solid hit from Gwen Whitlock's Bounding Flight for 0 hit points!
GS:  Restore reduces negative status durations by 3 rounds each!
GS: Hyper and Quick! applied to Gwen Whitlock!
GS: Please react using the attack number in +queue.
GS: Unquiet Dead takes a solid hit from White Knight Leo's Demon Fang for 187 hit points!
GS: Unquiet Dead critically Guards a hit from Ivan's Stars of Fury for 56 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Unquiet Dead has posed.

    Above, the masses of insectoid Fiends continue to make their assault from the sky. Below, the horde of reptilian Fiends relentlessly seek flesh and blood with teeth and claw.

    The revenant hovers restlessly, its 'gaze' seeking what remains in the wave of its summoned curse. Beyond the feeble lights hanging from the posts at the docks, it alone is what provides the light here: it is a livid and sickly light, unhealthy in the dark, but it is light.

    Ambrosius, then Kaguya turn Veruni-made ARMs into the horde above and below them. Bolts, fleetingly, streak brilliant against the darkness; blink and they are gone.
    So too are a number of the Fiends. Whether falling to the earth burning, or missing parts of their anatomy, or rendered into nothing whatsoever, the Fiends fall.
    Pyreflies alone rise against the curve of blue Gaia, low on the horizon.

    But there are still more remaining. It seems at a glance as if there will ever be more remaining in this fight.

    The survivors take to arms. Kaguya finds herself on the receiving ends of swooping stinger-first dives from the insectoid fiends. Another bobs in the air for a crucial moment before drawing down a jagged bolt of lightning, for Ambrosius alone. Pearl finds herself on the receiving end -- even as she works to channel her ki outwards -- of a lizard perhaps seeking a mindless sort of revenge for its beheadded 'kin'. What, indeed, drives a Fiend in their restless violence?

    The woman lies on the dock, unmoving. Does she yet breathe? It's difficult to tell from here. The Unquiet Revenant looms with its laity at hand, nearly above her.
    Leo interposes himself between the fallen woman and the Fiend. He does so at just the right moment. The blade rises in the same moment that the Fiend's claw swings for her -- or where she used to be. The claw may mark Leo.
    The blade -- white and gold and blazing -- marks the Fiend. It recoils, rolling back from Althena's White Knight with a howling screech, its one arm slumped as if it was wounded.

    A barrage of heavy items -- pots, pans, and others yet -- pours down in an unnatural rain upon the revenant. Though it is staggered -- here it slows for a crucial moment -- it is undeterred.

    But a crucial moment is what matters for Ivan's spell.

    The revenant raises its damaged limb to defend against the flames, but it is a moment too slow to do more than shave the barest edge of the attack that follows. Fire engulfs it, explodes outwards like a fiery flower.
    The Fiend that emerges from the flame, still burning in a mix of its own and Ivan's fire, stares at him sightlessly. Something seems to almost flicker, black-on-black, in those empty hollows.
    And then it trades fire for fire: for Marivel, a rolling gout of blue-purple flame, as if a vent of gas were set alight.

    A pair of insectoid Fiends follow after Gwen, as she hauls the fallen woman up into her arms and moves to make her getaway; they may painfully dog her retreat.

GS: Unquiet Dead has spent 2 Combo on Headshot, including 3 on Gatling!
GS: Unquiet Dead has attacked White Knight Leo with Spectral Claw!
GS: Unquiet Dead has gained 1 Combo!
GS: That attack doesn't exist. []
GS: Unquiet Dead has spent 3 Combo on Gatling, including 3 on Gatling!
GS: Unquiet Dead has attacked Kaguya Alathfar with Fiend's Assault!
GS: Unquiet Dead has attacked Pearl with Fiend's Assault!
GS: Unquiet Dead has attacked Gwen Whitlock with Fiend's Assault!
GS: Unquiet Dead has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Unquiet Dead enters a Counter stance!
GS: Unquiet Dead has attacked Ambrosius with Thundara!
GS: Ambrosius guards a hit from Unquiet Dead's Thundara for 74 hit points!
GS: Ambrosius enters CONDITION GREEN!!
GS: Unquiet Dead has attacked Ivan with Heart-Stopping Stare!
GS: Unquiet Dead has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Unquiet Dead has attacked Marivel Armitage with Fira!
GS: Gwen Whitlock guards a hit from Unquiet Dead's Fiend's Assault for 30 hit points!
GS: Unquiet Dead's  stance ends. It enters the Avenger stance!
GS: Unquiet Dead has completed its action.
GS: Pearl takes a solid hit from Unquiet Dead's Fiend's Assault for 37 hit points!
GS: Pearl takes an additional 15 damage from Reaper!
GS: White Knight Leo critically Guards a hit from Unquiet Dead's Spectral Claw for 16 hit points!
GS: White Knight Leo takes an additional 25 damage from Reaper!
GS: Unquiet Dead's Avenger stance ends. It enters the  stance!
GS: Marivel Armitage guards a hit from Unquiet Dead's Fira for 81 hit points!
GS: Mighty! applied to Unquiet Dead!
GS: Marivel Armitage takes an additional 15 damage from Reaper!
GS: Kaguya Alathfar guards a hit from Unquiet Dead's Fiend's Assault for 32 hit points!
GS: Kaguya Alathfar takes an additional 15 damage from Reaper!
GS: Unquiet Dead's  stance ends. It enters the Avenger stance!
GS: Ivan takes a solid hit from Unquiet Dead's Heart-Stopping Stare for 75 hit points!
GS: Ivan has been weakened by Disease! Temporary hit points tick down 1 round!
GS: Disease and Weaken! applied to Ivan!
<Pose Tracker> Marivel Armitage has posed.

Marivel Armitage says, "Indeed," to Gwen, smiling faintly as she goes to help the militia woman.

Pearl says she must be of use to criticize and that her aid is not needed. Marivel considers these words and considers Pearl but she says, "Those terms are contradictory with one another. I owe nothing to the people of Lunar. If my tongue offends you, tear it out if you can."

Ivan, Kaguya, and Ambrosius in a variety of different ways seem to be more amenable to her words--and at the very least are engaging in dialogue rather than flat rejection. It's probably pretty understandable that too since the Veruni aren't REALLY the Guard and Ivan, well, there's certainly a story there. He doesn't exactly feel like a fanatic anyway.

"I'd say so with reasonable certainty." Marivel says. "Unless certain rites are performed--rites you may have glimpsed from the Summoner Yuna after the Battle of Mi'ihen--then the dead, somoe not all, may yet rise to torment the living. Surely you have noticed the pyreflies drifting off of dead fiends. They are the same pyreflies that drift from the unsent dead."

And of course there's a third ending too but that is not her story to share. "The Guard chased away all those in the temple, you have shattered what little protection this town had. Even summoners are ill equipped to visit this land under these conditions and perform their duties."

And then there's Leo who has the fiercest reaction of all. Marivel smiles to herself at that, tipping her hat low so her eyes cannot easily be seen.

"Truly I am prideful... but compared to the arrogant of mortals, I am yet humble. Are you angry because I am 'treacherous', White Knight Leo, or is your ferocity merely to hide your guilt, the fear that all that has gone wrong here being at your hands? There is no shame in erring, Chosen of Althena, unless you insist on repeating the behavior."

Despite Marivel saying she owes nothing to the Guard, however, she is fighting regardless. She lets out a sharp laugh when the little moment she provides allows Ivan to capitalize on the matter. "Well well! You're a strong one aren't you?"

But the fire that Ivan unleashes is shortly turned upon her. Marivel slides a foot back, raising a barrier to interpose between herself and the fire. The fire pushes through though it is slowed and lights Marivel up, a form of flame taking her position.

She appears several feet to the side, without the flame though the burns remain.

She huffs at the revenant before saying, "I will not bow to lesser undead." Though she is taking true wounds here. Fire and soulstrikes are amongst Marivel's least favorite pains to endure. She throws herself at the revenant, slamming her hands down upon the revenant.

"I'm sorry," She whispers. "But you are making this difficult."

She presses her hands down, seeking to very well rip the pyreflies out of the fiend's form and absorb them into her own body, swallowing them up much like she had Jack earlier...

...though in this case, they are hardly precisely a singular identity, no? That calms Marivel. Especially since she is hardly going to swallow all off it.

GS: Marivel Armitage has attacked Unquiet Dead with Life Drain!
GS: Marivel Armitage takes an additional 15 damage from Reaper!
GS: Marivel Armitage takes 30 damage from Poison!
GS: Marivel Armitage has completed her action.
<Pose Tracker> Ivan has posed.

As the wraith stares into Ivan with some deathly light flickering behing its gaze, his veins ice with primal fear, and his chest seizes. Whether his heart stops or merely seems to, the shock sends him to his knees, and he gasps to catch his breath as it eases. Some element of it seems to linger, leaving pain behind and sapping the strength from his limbs. Thoroughly shaken, Ivan answers this unsettling experience with one of the strongest rebukes he knows: Flaming bees.

He tosses four knives in the air, and as they spin, fireballs are born around them with shapes reminiscent of stinging insects, which surge toward the wraith. The blades are the stingers!

Marivel attempts to clarify the cause and effect of the attacking wraiths. "The Sending ritual was supposed to be fake!" he responds. It's more of a complaint than an argument. Is it possible Marivel is wrong, and this is simply a coincidence? It's not like Spira isn't hellish enough to produce a ghost-led army of fiends by coincidence, right?

GS: Ivan has attacked Unquiet Dead with Fire Wasps!
GS: Ivan has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Ivan has completed his action.
GS: Unquiet Dead guards a hit from Marivel Armitage's Life Drain for 106 hit points!
GS: Marivel Armitage drains Unquiet Dead! Marivel Armitage gains 53 temporary hit points!
GS: Unquiet Dead takes a solid hit from Ivan's Fire Wasps for 167 hit points!
GS: Poison! applied to Unquiet Dead!
GS: Ivan's Avenger stance ends.
<Pose Tracker> Kaguya Alathfar has posed.

The Duchess Alathfar does not shout in defiance like the White Knight does. ...But she is forced to avert her eyes slightly from his brilliant light. In so doing, she has an easier time seeing Pearl in the darkness. Her focus registers--she feels as much as notices it, and breathes in a life energy that is... curious, to her. She is lighter, then. Lighter...

Not like a feather, gentle, but like a gale, terrible, like the howling wolf ready to bite.

What she says to Marivel interests her, but distantly--everything now in Kaguya's mind is processed through a filter, a haze of red. Such as... the survivors, approaching, such as they are.

A stinger settles straight into her shoulder before Kaguya reaches to the Fiend with one hand and crushes its body, making it burst into a puff of awful pyreflies, the stinger fading to become an open bloody wound. More of the bee fiends launch towards her, but the next she sidesteps, and a third she outright headbutts into submission. There are more from there, naturally--she is swarmed by them, frankly. And the woman, saved...

"Yeah," she tells Gwen, "We can find out. But not you. You've picked another way."

"...Lucky for that woman." She shows little emotion in her voice at all--just acknowledgement, as she steps closer. The flames fall, and Kaguya watches the Fiend through those flames. "...So," Kaguya tells Marivel, "We made this happen by removing the priests..." She considers. "That's very interesting, isn't it? That the dead hate their living counterparts so much? You don't see that other places. I wonder what it says about Spira? I wonder what it says about its people?"

A beat, "We can handle Fiends. But this..."

A fang glints as she shows her teeth. She does not say what it 'is'.

"Leo!" Kaguya calls. "I"ll start pinning it down!"

She bends at the knee--and leaps, feet slamming into the dock right after Ivan's fire rushes forward, and she says, "There's a lot of things I assume are fake." She ducks down, loads her ARM again, "But pain is real. Pain we can test, and verify."

She points up--and there's a hum and a SHRIEK as her ARM disscharges a bolt of terrifying green light instead of bullets.

"Show me! If you're the dead, tell me how you feel! If you blame us, SHOW ME!"

GS: Kaguya Alathfar has attacked Unquiet Dead with Riot Burst!
GS: Kaguya Alathfar has gained 2 Combo!
GS: Kaguya Alathfar takes an additional 35 damage from Reaper!
GS: Kaguya Alathfar takes 22 damage from Poison!
GS: Kaguya Alathfar has completed her action.
<Pose Tracker> Ambrosius has posed.

"Hm. I see." Ambrosius comments. While he knew this information about the pyreflies, he had not made the connection in regards to the Guard's takeover yet. "This does align with my own research."

It would seem that if the Guard wished to maintain a hold over this area, they would need someone who could perform the Sending - or, failing that, devise their own method.

But that was something for later and not, currently, his problem. The current problem was the wraith. It's death-curse having failed, a bolt of lightning crashes down toward him. A moment before strikes, however, he feels a wave of ki wash over him. The timing may or may not be coincidental, but it's invigorating effects allow him to move more swift.

He manages to backpedal and adjust his stance for protection - rather than striking him solidly, the armor underneath his poncho absorbs most of it. But not all - the power of it is such that some of it gets through even still.

He grimaces for a brief moment, but it passes quickly and he sends Pearl a brief nod of thanks.

He has no words, however, instead gesturing out once more toward the horde of fiends. This time, water begins to build around him before being unleashed as a powerful wave, looking to sweep away some of the horde.

In the process of this his attention is drawn toward Kaguya as she speaks, wondering why the dead act as they do in Spira.

An interesting question. His research up to this point had involved the 'how', but had had not yet considered the 'why'.

GS: Ambrosius has attacked Unquiet Dead with Roaring Rapids!
GS: Ambrosius has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Ambrosius has completed his action.
GS: COUNTER! Unquiet Dead counterattacks Ambrosiuswith Counter Attack!
GS: CRITICAL! Unquiet Dead takes a glancing hit from Ambrosius's Roaring Rapids for 106 hit points!
GS: Ambrosius guards a hit from Unquiet Dead's Counter Attack for 82 hit points!
GS: Unquiet Dead guards a hit from Kaguya Alathfar's Riot Burst for 96 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> White Knight Leo has posed.

    The curse sinks in further. Leo's guts twist as mortal fear wells up inside him--the certainty that something can strike him dead at any moment. Gwen darts in behind him, snatching up the fallen militiawoman, and it's all he can do to keep himself between her and the Fiends. "DEMON FANG!" Leo shouts, as he takes an unsteady step forwards. His blade flashes through the air, and an arc of energy leaps from it and streaks across the ground, detonating in the middle of the horde. Goddess, Leo thinks, as the fear sinks its claws in. There's so many of them.

    Of course, Leo's not alone either, and Pearl's ki provides ample evidence of that. Leo breathes in, and it flows into his lungs like a breath of fresh air. His blade all but leaps through the air, meeting the Fiend's claw halfway with a ringing chime. The White Knight holds the monster's arm there, teeth gritted, staring into the grotesque death's-head that is its face. He drives a foot into its stomach, and pirouettes away once the claw pulls back.

    He doesn't look at Marivel. He doesn't answer her. Doubt invites Malevolence. Malevolence is poison. That poison would corrupt him, twist him into a mockery of what he now is--what the Goddess Herself made him into.

    Leo's face twists into a snarl. He plants a boot on the dock--the sound of it is almost thunderous. The stone beneath the waves erupts upwards in a line of jagged, twisted spikes, surging towards the Fiend to impale it from below. The line ripples across the field like a wave, tearing into the rest of the monsters.

GS: White Knight Leo has attacked Unquiet Dead with Rock Viper!
GS: White Knight Leo has gained 2 Combo!
GS: White Knight Leo takes an additional 35 damage from Reaper!
GS: White Knight Leo takes 23 damage from Poison!
GS: Poison and Reaper expired!
GS: White Knight Leo has completed his action.
GS: Unquiet Dead takes a solid hit from White Knight Leo's Rock Viper for 147 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Pearl has posed.

    The lizard seeking 'revenge' manages to succesfully get fang and claw upon Pearl, and she rolls away with scratches. As she pulls herself back up into fighting stance, Marivel's response comes through. "A tempting offer." Perhaps later the opportunity will arise. For now, the fiends are their goal.

    Her attention swings back to the vengeful fiend, and her response is simple. She delivers a swift, brutal kick designed to launch the lizard and send it flying at the Wraith that commands most attention.

    This is a feint.

     Pearl charges at full spead and leaps between Ivan's magics and Kaguya's ARMs fire after the fiend she sent flying. As she sails through the air towards the Wraith, she moves to drive one claw into it's skeletal shoulder, and another into the bones that makes up her neck. The final step follows, biting into it's skull with her silver fang, with a beastlike ferocity. The secondary goal of the attack is to draw the fiends attention, keeping it on her, while providing an opportunity for others to swing and strike at it. She is making herself hard to ignore, after all.

GS: Pearl has attacked Unquiet Dead with Fangs of the Pack!
GS: Pearl takes an additional 15 damage from Reaper!
GS: Pearl takes 21 damage from Poison!
GS: Pearl has completed her action.
<Pose Tracker> Gwen Whitlock has posed.

    Something seems to happen as Gwen scoops up the pikeswoman in her arms. Positioning the unconscious(?)woman over her left shoulder in order to free up her right ARM, the light that very ARM gives off begins to resolve itself back into that familiar yellow, seemingly cleansing itself of the revenant's taint. It's a far more complicated process than that, but it's not something Gwen's able to really mentally process at the moment.

    Kaguya is right, in more ways than one: while Gwen had felt a similar sort of disgust at the way doom seemed to lurk nearby. She was very ready to give in to that anger with violence, but another concern came into view.

    And so Gwen runs, her pale legs made obvious in the dim lighting of the village, scars and all. But a young woman being seen in what passes as a nightshift is really not that big a thing, considering what else is there to be worried about.

    Like giant, angry wasp-like Fiends, driving her away from the shortest path and onto a path that's far more dangerous, taking her potentially by the revenant. But when that opening is made by Pearl, Gwen takes advantage of it, throwing her fist forward as she charges forward, like some strange battering ram, onto her way to safety.

    It's kind of like punching a ghost, but not really as well-planned, or to the face.

GS: Gwen Whitlock has spent 1 Combo on Gatling, including 1 on Gatling!
GS: Gwen Whitlock has attacked Unquiet Dead with Special Delivery!
GS: Gwen Whitlock has completed her action.
GS: Unquiet Dead takes a solid hit from Pearl's Fangs of the Pack for 161 hit points!
GS: Unquiet Dead takes a solid hit from Gwen Whitlock's Special Delivery for 141 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Unquiet Dead has posed.

    Marivel touches it, forcing into physical form its one usable arm.
    Some of the Pyreflies peel off from the Fiend's form--

    --before it jerks its one useful arm away, rounding on her if briefly. Again, as with Ivan, it regards her with a lengthy, unearthly stare, its hollow sockets full of the sort of light that one might see just before death. Darker than black, a sort of glow that swallows up the light.

    The thing that breaks the intensity of its gaze is none other than Ivan. Fire pockmarks the revenant, scorches its body, carves pieces -- Pyreflies float up into the sky -- from it. Fleetingly, its gaze falls on him.

    With a loud piercing shriek, it reaches for him with its one functional hand, seeks to snatch him up firmly and bear him, as if to the darkened sky above. And then it will attempt to slam him, bodily, into the docks.

    Whatever happens to Ivan -- indeed, it may be what follows after that is what saves him in either case -- it is into this moment that a sickly-green beam of corruscating light slams into the monumental Fiend.

    It screams. Is it pain? Can a Fiend feel pain?

    Or is this, instead--

    That hand, insubstantial once again, lunges for her.
    It may go through her if unchecked.
    Is this its answer?

    Something flies for it. It engulfs it -- the lizard -- in a burst of flame. A lone Pyrefly circles out into the night. Was it an accident that it destroyed another Fiend? Or did it simply not care?
    Regardless of intent, the Wraith falls for the feint. It twists in search of the projectile, and in doing, leaves open that jointing at the neck. The claws sink in. It bares its teeth, and twists as if attempting to dislodge her. This leaves it open to other attacks, which Leo quickly exploits.
    It also leaves her open to a barrage from below: a single reptilian Fiend seems to twitch before unleashing a torrent of watery magic for Pearl and her perch.

    But in the meantime there is Leo, and there is soon too a forest of stone. It tears into the revenant -- it retaliates with a short cast of bone-freezing ice directed for him and anyone unfortunate enough to be caught in the sweep of its maddened spellcasting -- and it tears into those Fiends close enough to it to be so struck.
    Pearl is avenged, however the dice fall: the Fiend that cast at her is reduced to a smear, and then too there is a single Pyrefly...

    The Fiends in the air -- on the ground, all about them -- continue to harry. One might dart in at an inopportune time and provide an unfortunate distraction. Another might outright wound.
    All the while, the curse of the spectral Fiend at the heart of the horde continues to work its ill effect.

    Ambrosius provides a welcome moment of relief -- water rises in a tide about him and sweeps many of the Fiends of air and land back into the sea. Pyreflies again flicker in the night sky, behind the backdrop of the battle. The water, too, even washes through the revenant itself.

    Are Fiends intelligent? What do they think about, if they think? What do they want? Do they want?
    Is it revenge? Or is it something more basic than that? As the ill-fated smaller reptilian Fiend had done to Pearl earlier, the revenant turns towards Ambrosius and unhinges its jaw.
    The curse had color. The torrent of life-sucking magic that surges out for him now has none. Drown the spirit. Sink the soul deep into the mud. Is this the answer -- the desire of a Fiend?

    No one can answer that.

<Pose Tracker> Unquiet Dead has posed.

    The woman is cold and heavy in Gwen's arms. It's hard to say whether she still lives or is just close to the boundary of life and death. The Fiends continue to harry her as she flees, swooping in from the skies above to stagger or sting. This far, she is free from the Wraith's touch, but...
    Will the whole village be overrun at this rate? She will be able to see, in the distance, the militia attempting to fell the flying Fiends.

    Another set float down before her with disconcerting speed, intent on getting in her way.
    They meet her fist.
    There are only Pyreflies afterwards, as she charges towards where the militia -- and, one hopes, the town doctor -- await.

GS: Unquiet Dead has attacked Marivel Armitage with Heart-Stopping Stare!
GS: Unquiet Dead has attacked White Knight Leo with Blizzara!
GS: Unquiet Dead has spent 2 Combo on Headshot, including 3 on Gatling!
GS: Unquiet Dead has attacked Kaguya Alathfar with Spectral Claw!
GS: Unquiet Dead has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Unquiet Dead has attacked Pearl with Watera!
GS: Unquiet Dead has attacked Gwen Whitlock with Fiend's Command!
GS: Unquiet Dead has attacked Ivan with Jealous Grip of the Dead!
GS: Unquiet Dead has attacked Ambrosius with Face of the Destructor!
GS: Unquiet Dead takes 27 damage from Poison!
GS: Unquiet Dead has completed its action.
GS: Ambrosius critically Guards a hit from Unquiet Dead's Face of the Destructor for 39 hit points!
GS: Unquiet Dead assumes the Avenger stance!
GS: Marivel Armitage takes a glancing hit from Unquiet Dead's Heart-Stopping Stare for 35 hit points!
GS: Marivel Armitage has been weakened by Disease! Temporary hit points tick down 1 round!
GS: Disease and Weaken! applied to Marivel Armitage!
GS: Marivel Armitage takes an additional 15 damage from Reaper!
GS: Gwen Whitlock guards a hit from Unquiet Dead's Fiend's Command for 43 hit points!
GS: Disrupt! applied to Gwen Whitlock!
GS: Gwen Whitlock enters CONDITION GREEN!!
GS: Pearl takes a solid hit from Unquiet Dead's Watera for 96 hit points!
GS: Break! applied to Pearl!
GS: Pearl takes an additional 15 damage from Reaper!
GS: Unquiet Dead's Avenger stance ends. It enters the Stoic stance!
GS: Ivan takes a glancing hit from Unquiet Dead's Jealous Grip of the Dead for 93 hit points!
GS: Ivan enters CONDITION GREEN!!
GS: Unquiet Dead's Stoic stance ends. It enters the Avenger stance!
GS: Kaguya Alathfar guards a hit from Unquiet Dead's Spectral Claw for 66 hit points!
GS: Kaguya Alathfar enters CONDITION GREEN!!
GS: Poison and Reaper expired!
GS: Unquiet Dead's Avenger stance ends.
GS: White Knight Leo guards a hit from Unquiet Dead's Blizzara for 61 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Ambrosius has posed.

The wraith turns its attention fully onto Ambrosius now and exhales a terrible breath. Water will not protect him this time. It's a torrent of life-draining power, that seeks to drown him spiritually.

The sheer force of it sends him to his knees. A rare look of surprise and fear crosses his face.

Is this what it was like? Is this what it wanted?

...Is this what awaited him?

"...No..." He breathes out. With no small amount of effort, he forces himself to his feet. His stance is unsteady. "...No..."

"...I refuse." Stubbornness and determination flashes in his eyes. He had far too much left to do. He would not succumb to this. "You may...keep your desires to yourself."

Carefully, Ambrosius swaps out some parts of his ARM and takes aim at the revenant.

There is a great build-up of power and he fires, launching a small red and black marble of crackling energy. It pierces through everything in its path - possibly even the wraith, if it makes contact - and then, somewhere over the crowd of fiends it expands, growing rapidly into a sphere of annihilation that consumes any fiend caught in its path.

GS: Ambrosius has activated a Force Action!
GS: Ambrosius has spent 3 Combo on Gatling, including 3 on Gatling!
GS: Ambrosius has attacked Unquiet Dead with VV-EXCIDIUM!
GS: Ambrosius has completed his action.
<Pose Tracker> Marivel Armitage has posed.

It is of course possible that Marivel is wrong. Even Marivel wouldn't deny that but she feels the evidence is lending credence to her analysis here. "I saw Yuna perform the ritual." Marivel says. "And I trust few on Spira as much as I trust her." And it is true as well that if the Guard or the Veruni could devise their own method, a better method!, to solve this problem then Marivel's words might as well be moot.

The stare allows most of the pyreflies Marivel pulled free to escape as she was expecting some sort of strike. She is briefly put off by the stare. No doubt she has seen plenty of corpses and monsters, so the pause isn't that long, but she has seen plenty of corpses and monsters--so there is that pause.

Doubt does invite malevolence doesn't it? Well, Marivel has little room to speak on malevolence, no? She did see what it could do in the Raftina's temple but that's hardly the same as seeing it's day to day effects.

Perhaps there are those that made Marivel into who she was today too.

"A good question," Marivel tells Kaguya. "But even Filgaia and, I presume, Althena's lands---they have their wrathful ghosts too, no?"

"Still," Marivel murmurs. "This feels more like tis part of the ecosystem rather than an exception to it as most living dead are." She thinks of her own people in this moment. Whether or not it was simply a story they told themselves, the Crimson Nobles have always considered themselves a natural aspect of Filgaia's ecosystem.

Marivel makes a quiet decision about tAmbrosius nd simply gives him a small nod. She is considerig her next move as she backpedals faintly. Ripping this apart directly seems effective but not nearly effective enough.

She needs to...

Ivan has been lending her a hand. His techniques have seemed effective. Marivel looks at the assassin seriously.

Then she looks at the assassin not seriously as she cracks a broad smile.

She leaps backwards and hovers in the air of moment. It has been demanded of her that she make herself useful so she supposes she can keep at it out of her own generosity.

She thinks of Auron in this moment. Is Auron very much different than this creature in the end? Well, she supposes, even if the nature is ultimately the same--

--actions speak more than words. Even someone who can't shut up like Marivel would be inclined to agree with that.

She already apologized once. That's all it gets even when she says,

    "One Thousand Detonations."

--And channels a power from a fiend against the fiend, sending precisely one thousand exploding needles crashing down upon the fiend in rapid succession, sending large plumes of fire soaring up into the air as explosion feeds explosion.

GS: Marivel Armitage has attacked Unquiet Dead with One Thousand Detonations!
GS: Marivel Armitage takes an additional 15 damage from Reaper!
GS: Marivel Armitage takes 33 damage from Poison!
GS: Poison and Reaper expired!
GS: Marivel Armitage has completed her action.
GS: Unquiet Dead critically Guards a hit from Ambrosius's VV-EXCIDIUM for 62 hit points!
GS: Sneak! The true nature of Marivel Armitage's attack becomes clear!
GS: Unquiet Dead guards a hit from Marivel Armitage's Red Power for 112 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Kaguya Alathfar has posed.

At some point, Kaguya's clothes were something resembling white. Her outfit consists largely of whatever she bothered to drag on before she stepped outside, the long shorts down past her knee the main point of dark color. Even her feet, now that one might look, are bare--cut in places, but even before that they were bony and bruised and her toes might be slightly too long unless it's a trick of the light.

No longer is that the case, though--what might've been white is stained with something dark in multiple places, her sleeves torn, her hair messy and her eyes still more than bloodshot, one of the whites filled largely with red now as she stares up at the Fiend she waits to hear answer.

Maybe they will gather more data for Ambrosius. Maybe they won't. One can hope that the main force is at least occupied with them... But it may not be. The small Verunidoes not seem to stop to spare much interest in the fate of the town this instant. As Gwen moves to save someone, Kaguya spots Pearl bite a fiend--and smiles, unpleasantly.

The Fiend before her screams, and counterattacks--its claw dives straight for her, and the botanist makes no move to get out of the way. She shifts slightly, to control where the claw hits; she channels force into her body, will into where it hits, and the claws rake against her but do not spike her through--just enough that an obviously unpleasant injury opens up. The curse is still threading about her, strange bruising all about her body, something dark against her skin--

But she stares, as the monster is forced to deal with others.

"Yes," Kaguya answers, eyes wide, not from fear or shock but because she must look, must gather all the light she can and burn the expression of the wraith before her into her vision. "That's what you want. Above all--heal, harm... You want to touch. You want to be a part of it, even if it's a terrible part. Yes..."

"I understand," she murmurs, and there's a wicked breathiness to her words, "I'll grant your wish."

She speaks up more loudly then, "As you say--it's more common here. That's what's interesting to me. Or is it the other way around? Is this normal, and the way we're used to unusual? What is the variable? What is the change?"

As she speaks she seems to take part of her weapon apart, exposing not only the loading chamber but strange machinery within as she adjusts its configuration. She shifts the stock forward, part of the plastics around the barrel shifting back as if on hinges to choke a little farther up. Into the chamber she fits a gleaming cartridge and--

Lock. She lifts her weapon again, pumps the action once more. ...There's a faint hum of energy, something gleaming, a crackling energy briefly visible about her hands. It is no simple weapon this; the unmistakable signs of attunement to an ARM are clear. "...You reach out," Kaguya says, her rough voice rising louder over the din, "Because you're used to weakness. You strike in haste, because you're drunk on the power of what you've become. And hey... You're strong."

BGM INTERRUPT: All Hail Me - Veruca Salt https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8LimHXfavgw

The bruising has stopped spreading farther--it's reached her forearms, and holds there. "It feels good, to lash out. To make the people who don't have to suffer hurt. ...To share that pain. But..."

The electric hum intensifies, and Kaguya has to hold the weapon with both hands now as light, greenish and sick, begins to gather into its barrell, something charging there, becoming a shine difficult to look at, staining the vision. "It's not enough. It doesn't help. It doesn't change anything."

Kaguya lifts the increasingly-heavy ARM, her superhuman strength necessary to keep it steady as she aims upward now, towards the Fiend's center of mass. "But I promise," she says, her sharp fangs glinting, her eyes half ablaze.

"I will change it."

The gathered power erupts into a beam wider than Kaguya is tall, bright enough to sail upward and split the night sky.

GS: Kaguya Alathfar has activated a Force Action!
GS: Kaguya Alathfar has spent 3 Combo on Gatling, including 3 on Gatling!
GS: Kaguya Alathfar has attacked Unquiet Dead with Genocide Shot!
GS: Kaguya Alathfar has completed her action.
<Pose Tracker> Ivan has posed.

The creature's hand darts out, so fast that Ivan is unable to outmaneuver it even with his practiced footwork, clasping icy fingers around him that make his skin crawl. In a rush, it lifts him off his feet and raises him skyward, and then smashes him down again into the wooden dock. Pain spikes through him as the bone in his shoulder seems to crack, and he's immobilized with it for a time, but fortunately, the attacks of his allies serve to capture the attention of the wraith long enough for Ivan to find his footing and put new distance between himself and the fiend.

What does it want? Ivan's interpretation is far less sophisticated than Kaguya's -- moreso than any other Fiend he's encountered, this one seems like a kind of death incarnate--all it seems to want is to share the cruelty of the afterlife with anyone it finds. With any luck, they can put it out of its misery before both it and the horde overtakes them...

As Ivan reorients himself to the battle, he sees the sky lighting with astonishing outflows of energy, as the others unleash their reserves of power to put the creature down.

Ivan will do his best to contribute. He makes a violent, snapping slash across the air in front of himself, tearing open a portal to some realm of roiling flame.

""Beasts of fire, show your fury! Molten Roar!"

A column of magma erupts from the portal like a cannon blast, racing toward the fiend.

GS: Ivan has attacked Unquiet Dead with Molten Roar!
GS: Disease and Weaken expired!
GS: Ivan has completed his action.
<Pose Tracker> Gwen Whitlock has posed.

    Gwen runs. It's a testament to her stamina, as well as the physical health of the courier, that she's able to keep a steady pace. Not the fastest run, as Fiends will find it easy to catch up with her and make their attack against her shielding ARM, but a steady pace nonetheless.

    She feels cold. The pikeswoman, that is, not Gwen. There's a certain heaviness to that body on her left shoulder that sends a course of cold, like a trail of ice water, down the courier's back. "... Please tell me you're still alive," Gwen pants. "Or whatever alive means, in this place."

    Maybe the curse is what is affecting her. If Gwen can shoot it down...

    The redhead's pace slows down to a gradual stop, Gwen taking in gulps of air. She caught enough of what Marivel said, at least- something about rituals, and pyreflies. The unique trading off between life and death.

    Gwen takes in another breath, letting the pikeswoman gently off her shoulder down onto the ground besides her sandal'ed feet. Pausing to run a hand through her sweat-soaked hair, Gwen shakes her curly hair. "... Clear shot, don't ya think? This angle, this vantage point, a clear night like this. And all this energy. I feel like if I don't let it out soon, I'm gonna scream, or somethin'."

    The woman does not answer. Gwen's lips betray a grimace, the edges offset by the growing glow in her right ARM. "If you are some sort of dead, then this is for you. A big ol' last hurrah." She gazes back towards the battle beyond.

    "I think this should be enough." Gwen always had a bad habit of talking, especially to things, animals, and people, who can't talk back.

    Static clings to her clothing and hair as she raises the Mockingbird, straightening and locking the position of her right arm, her left hand wrapped by her right elbow for support. "Just need t'wait... and... there."

    The soft words give way to a bright blast of plasma, Gwen holding on against the recoil for as long as she's able, until her sandals give way, and she's sent, in the wake of the blast, falling backwards.

GS: Gwen Whitlock has activated a Force Action!
GS: Gwen Whitlock has activated a Force Action!
GS: Gwen Whitlock has attacked Unquiet Dead with Corona Discharge!
GS: Gwen Whitlock has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Gwen Whitlock has completed her action.
<Pose Tracker> White Knight Leo has posed.

    The air around Leo turns misty-white as a deathly chill takes hold of it. It's the only warning he has before lances of ice condense from out of nowhere, rushing at Leo's stomach and chest. The Beastman's breath hisses from his lips in a plume of frost; his blade sweeps through the air, shattering three of the icicles with a heavy crunch. The fourth digs into his side, staining his uniform red. Already weakened by the Fiend's sorcery, Leo sags. He half-hears what Kaguya's saying. If he could answer, he'd probably say that this is what comes of life far beyond Althena's Boundary, beyond the protection of even her blessed Seraphim: A world where the living exist in perpetual terror, and the dead hate and envy them anyway.

    None of it makes any sense to him.

    "Whomever you were," Leo growls. "And whatever you want, this ends now!" He draws himself up, and steps forward to keep himself between the skeletal Fiend and the others. Blood drips down his side. Chi ignites around him. The edge of his blade starts to glow like the surface of the sun. It's all the warning the Fiend gets.

    "LION'S HOWL!" Chi erupts from Leo's blade, flaring outwards as it travels--the Fiend finds itself faced with the spectral head of a lion, fangs bared. If the thing doesn't move, the will wash right over it, before doing the same to a sizeable chunk of the horde.

GS: White Knight Leo has spent 3 Combo on Gatling, including 3 on Gatling!
GS: White Knight Leo has attacked Unquiet Dead with Lion's Howl!
GS: White Knight Leo has gained 1 Combo!
GS: White Knight Leo has completed his action.
<Pose Tracker> Pearl has posed.

    Pearl's drawing of attention is succesful. Unfortunately, she cannot disentangle from the fiend quickly enough, and she is engulfed in the spell, magic forcing water around her and into her lungs. She falls from the Wraith quickly, falling to the ground, coughing. Water comes from her mouth as she coughs it up. She is vulnerable to the barbs of the flying fiends and the fangs of the lizards as she tries to breathe. She takes several blows, slowly pulling herself up. She growls, low, like an angry wolf.

    "Enough." Pearl says, and turns into a blur of claws, furious, rapidly kicking and slashing the fiends around her, to clear space. The strength the fiends have is in numbers, and the fewer there are the easier they are to kill.

    She waits for the opportunity on the Wraith as others give it less room to move with their attacks. She launches for it's spine, level with the monster's rib cage. Two open palms, close together, drive towards vertebrae. Controlled, targeted ki flows through the hand aiming to shatter the spine, if such a thing can be done to a ghost. Pearl has no care for how the dead think, or how they feel. They lost the right to such things when they died. "It is high time you fell, revenant. Return to your miserable death."

GS: Pearl has activated a Force Action!
GS: Pearl has attacked Unquiet Dead with Predator's Opening!
GS: Pearl has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Pearl takes an additional 25 damage from Reaper!
GS: Pearl takes 27 damage from Poison!
GS: Poison and Reaper expired!
GS: Pearl has completed her action.
GS: Unquiet Dead takes a glancing hit from Kaguya Alathfar's Genocide Shot for 107 hit points!
GS: CRITICAL! Unquiet Dead guards a hit from Ivan's Molten Roar for 146 hit points!
GS: Disrupt and Shieldbreak! applied to Unquiet Dead!
GS: Unquiet Dead has Fallen! It is no longer able to fight!
GS: Unquiet Dead takes a solid hit from Gwen Whitlock's Corona Discharge for 170 hit points!
GS: Unquiet Dead has Fallen! It is no longer able to fight!
GS: Unquiet Dead takes a solid hit from White Knight Leo's Lion's Howl for 220 hit points!
GS: Unquiet Dead has Fallen! It is no longer able to fight!
<Pose Tracker> Unquiet Dead has posed.

    Power gathers at the heart of the ARM Ambrosius levels at the Wraith.

    It catches the Fiend dead-on in the blast that follows. For a moment, there is nothing but searing light. Did that destroy it, somehow?

    There are but a few Pyreflies, flittering up into the night. Not enough for the size and power of the revenant.

    It remains as the glow of the beam fades, both arms -- functional and not -- crossed in a guard still. It is alight with the heat that ARM unleashed.

    Into that guard -- still, it holds its ground still -- comes Marivel's one thousand glowing needles.
    They find their mark. And though they may be little, they are fierce. They erupt, one after another, higher and larger yet, exploiting the weakness that Ambrosius had drenched the Fiend in.

    It shrieks, a discordant sound.

    Battered, more and more of that fell flame leaking from its body like fluid from an open sore, it still doesn't remain so off-balanced.

    It comes in like a stormcloud, swooping low and trailed by the swarm of lesser Fiends that still cling close to it.

    Kaguya says she understands.

    Darkness spills from it, slinking across the docks in a way that magic shouldn't move.

    But, as Kaguya says, as her weapon charges. But.

    The beam strikes the revenant first. It widens, evaporating even shadow -- even magical shadow -- under its intensity, eating up many of the lesser Fiends. The air is awash in Pyreflies, if just for the moment, as Kaguya delivers her statement.

    Into the moment that follows -- felling Fiends about her -- Pearl intrudes upon the badly-wounded Wraith. For her -- as if in memory (do they have memory) -- it unhinges its jaw and lunges.
    Pearl slips past it. Introduces to it her hands, applying force and ki both to key parts of its form. Ever more of it begins to slip into undifferentiated ghostly flame and smoke.
    And Pyreflies.

    But even like this, it refuses to stop.
    It cannot.

    Light, fell and dark, lights off from about its being, quivering about it as if in anticipation of a terrible detonation of force. Its attention rolls from Pearl and back to Kaguya, as if drawing into line a pair of targets.

    Further afield, the woman in Gwen's arms doesn't respond. Doesn't move. She is so very cold to the touch, ice compared to the air about Gwen.
    Yet, there's something about the weight of her body...

    One of the members of the militia approaches, stalling only as Gwen lifts her arm for that single crackling shot.

    "Oh... Yevon..."

    Whatever else happens, Gwen can take satisfaction in the fact that it hits. Even at this distance, the shot strikes that otherworldly Fiend dead-on, sending it reeling away from Kaguya and Pearl.

    The militia member behind Gwen stares for a moment, then kneeling behind her, pulls the pikeswoman's wrist towards him. As his fellows down the flying Fiends, he waits, in complete silence.

    "There's a pulse! She still has a pulse! Get the doctor!"

    Tonight, one fewer soul has been lost.

    Closer to the revenant, there is flame.
    Fire, fierce and bright -- perhaps from the heart of the Ley itself in its purity -- roars out from the tear in the world Ivan has rent. The Wraith dances in the heat like a piece of paper set over an open flame; lesser Fiends are consumed utterly, their passing marked only by the rising streaks of the Pyreflies. But the Wraith -- the revenant -- remains, burning with Ivan's fire and bleeding Pyreflies.

    Leo follows close on Ivan's spell. What fire has prepared, the blade finishes.

    The Fiend is rent asunder by the rising chi of his swordswing. The few remaining nearby in the air and on the ground are consumed. Pyreflies illuminate the village as they are shed out into the night sky.

    And then, mercifully, it is dark and still.

    If only for a moment. A shout from the militia, hurrying to see what the group has done, rises through the brief silence.

    The rest of the night that follows will not be a quiet one.
    Nor will the day following.

<Pose Tracker> Pearl has posed.

    The blow strikes true, even as she angers the fading revenant with her strike. She gives it a cold glare, watching it fade away. Finally, the battle done, she sags. She is tired. This was a fight against a strong foe, a dangerous foe. The battle provided vital experience, that much is true. It was a worthwhile battle.

    But she is exhausted. She was already tired, but now she is exhausted. She doesn't have the energy to even try and tear Marivel's tongue out now. She doesn't want it to, but that exhaustion shows. It's true that she has been through worse... but that worse required weeks to recover from.

    She turns towards Leo, regardless. She had been on her own time, technically. "...Permission to retire for the evening, Commander?" It's a simple question, and if the answer is no she will push on. At least she's allower to ask this boss for rest. She half expects some snide comment, from the non-guardsmen here, but, well. She can always shut those mouths later.

<Pose Tracker> Marivel Armitage has posed.

'You want to touch'. That gets Marivel's attention. She turns her attention to Kaguya for a moment looking at her. The rest is extrapolation. Hardly neccessary or important in her mind. It's this particular line that distracts Marivel--

--no not distracts, because to her those words are simply more important. It is natural to turn your gaze to that which deserves more attention. The fiends are fiends, she has said her piece on the matter but this strikes a chord with Marivel.

The rest...

Well it isn't as if Marivel doesn't understand. It isn't as if she hasn't felt similarly before long ago when she was young. She is still a child, of course, compared to Filgaia, compared to the universe--scarcely less a child than the others here in that regard--but practically speaking she is hardly a child compared to herself back then.

She too thought she could change the world. She fought hard, harder than she thought possible to change it. To improve it. To save it. But then she realized something about the world.

It is not so easy to change is the easy lesson. Anybody can learn that.

'The world does not change' is the harder lesson. True, she had saved Filgaia. For a time. Most people call it an apocalypse all told.

And then there was another one.

And another one.

And another one is coming. But they weren't truly apocalypses. Filgaia persevered, carrying each wound and scar proudly. Great and powerful governments rose and fell before eating the past to create more great powerful governments to rise and fall. Marivel has slept through enough armageddons to know of Filgaia's strength. Most humans curse that land and its rules but Marivel disdains such shortsightedness.

But Kaguya. Kaguya unleashes a spark.

Marivel drops down on the ground and approaches Kaguya, staring at her, staring into her eyes.

"Kaguya," She says.

If the world does not change, not really, then what is the purpose of taking risk? What is the purpose of making dangerous moves for either Filgaia or for your people or even for yourself? If nothing matters, what matters?

Is it worth it to try and save or even change the world when the world seems quite capable of saving itself? Are you not simply bloodying your hands with needless sacrifices?

The answer to both questions......

"You showed insight today." Marivel says. "And then you said so many frightening things about what you would do. I wonder how drenched with blood you will be as you come closer to your goals, how many needless sacrifices you make for your end, desperately seeking a meaning to an ending life."

She comes to a stop near Kaguya, still staring as if trying to make Kaguya flinch. It is probably not that easy to make Kaguya flinch.

"I approve." Marivel says. "One favor that does not endanger Filgaia." She holds up a singular index finger.

The answer to both questions is 'Yes'

"Thank you for looking after the dead." Marivel says. "But if you are to make your dreams come true you must rest."

There is a flash of red from her eyes. "Sleep."

It probably wouldn't normally work on a strong will like Kaguya, Marivel knows this, but in her current condition--it's less a test of wills and doing the lady a favor.

Marivel vanishes shortly after.

<Pose Tracker> White Knight Leo has posed.

    Leo does not allow himself the luxury of relaxation. The Fiends might be gone, but the danger is not yet over. The Beastman lets out a slow, labored breath, turns on a heel, and stalks back down the ruined wooden pier towards the town. "Permission granted," Leo says, to Pearl.

    He's not going to grant that same permission to himself.

<Pose Tracker> Ivan has posed.

After a certain point, Ivan has watched his allies pour so much power into the fiend that if it doesn't disintegrate, he is going to pass some critical horror threshhold and, well, what happened after that probably wouldn't matter very much because they'd probably all die soon after. But!! It finally dissolves, leaving his horror to be more manageably divided and distributed as awe for the strength of his allies. Allies that -- who knows -- maybe his crazy father will want him to betray some day. But he can burn that bridge when he comes to it.

Pearl asks if she can retire to bed, and that... sounds like a very good idea to him, too, preferably after a healing potion.

But ... as usual, pride wins out, and he looks to Leo.

"I'm good to keep helping," he says, through gritted teeth. Whatever help he can offer one-armed, but whatever.

Ivan has very little idea what Marivel is going on about to Kaguya, other than to find the woman's tone shifts alarming and that sleep spell attempt seems pretty rude to him and he is offended on Kaguya's behalf, but no one really asked him.

<Pose Tracker> Gwen Whitlock has posed.

    'Oh... Yevon...'

    It wouldn't be the first time Gwen had been caught at an inopportune time. But when viewed in the bigger context, it likely will fail to matter.

    Raising into a sitting position from where she fell back, she looks back towards the militia, self-consciously angling her ARM away from the militia member's gaze. But, hearing the news, she relaxes, givimh a genuinely grateful smile at the news.

    It would probably be the best reaction she could have had after releasing such a display of power from afar.

    She also does the next best thing in saying nothing, waiting until the woman has been picked up before standing up and picking the snapped remains of her sandal.

    With any luck, this will simply feel like a bad dream for that woman, at the very most.

    As for Gwen herself, she runs a hand through her hair. "... I'm not gonna get any more sleep tonight, am I..."

<Pose Tracker> Kaguya Alathfar has posed.

A great deal happens in the moment, and what Kaguya thinks as the Wraith is finally destroyed she keeps to herself. But for an instant she does turn, as Marivel drops down on the ground, and she stares back. It's true; it's hard to make her flinch. She stares right back, and it's easy because her eyes are already so aggravated that her blink reflex has more or less given up. And she mentions insight, sacrifices...

"...Do you," she asks, and then seems thoughtful. She knows, naturally, that Marivel is older--that Marivel holds many secrets, has started her on some long paths, too. And as the town is loud, as the aftermath of this attack and the difficulty of the night presses in, a night that needs someone of strength and power to help it--

Marivel's eyes flash, and Kaguya's lips turn up into an odd smile before she lets her eyes close and with perhaps surprising grace starts to crumple towards the ground.

...Those things aren't her problem, but a little sleep is what she wanted in the first place, and she certainly wasn't getting it keyed up like this. ...There's almost an innocence to her in it--if one can ignore the blood.

<Pose Tracker> Ivan has posed.

Marivel's sleep gambit appears to take hold, and Ivan vanishes his sword, stepping in to hook his good arm around Kaguya and spare her whatever injury or indignity might come of falling to the ground after a rough battle. As he balances her, he calls out to the departing Marivel, "I don't get you!!"

Scary or whimsical -- PICK A SIDE.

In the process of catching Kaguya, Ivan discovers that she... has... no pulse?

"WAIT, DID YOU KILL HER?!"

...Hang on, no, there it is. It's exactly where it's... not supposed to be.

"NEVERMIND, FALSE ALARM??"

Ivan has so many questions.