2019-11-01: Part Time Help

From Dream Chasers
Jump to: navigation, search


<Pose Tracker> Neriah Parringer has posed.

"Find the Testament," Neriah orders crisply. "Let ARMS play with the Claw."

The battle in the antechamber left huge gashes blown out of the side of the mound of Arastell. By contrast, the door into the ancient ruin within is intact, mostly by virtue of Neriah and her defensive shield having stood in it. Now, she's faded back in the blink of an eye, vanishing down the corridor beyond, a hallway with niches full of mouldering bones. A Valmarian catacomb.

The corridor comes out into a broader central area - a big, round chamber, open in the front, but with rows of bookcases taking up most of the back half. A huge central archive, one loaded up with leather-bound tomes in various states of decay, slotted in there with a range of bizarre artifacts - skulls, crystal balls, curiously-shaped stones and prisms, things that defy description.

The bookcases are not unattended. Figures in red and white robes - at least six, perhaps as many as a dozen - dart from bookcase to bookcase, conducting an examination of the contents. They're looking for something.

Neriah, breathing heavily after the battle with ARMS, touches down with a click of a high heel on the flooring. She holds one hand out towards the open area in front of the archives. Tensing, she bunches her shoulders as she calls an immense surge of magic forth. It's not the path she wanted to take, but here she is.

BGM: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1vxLVg0eJFY

The surge of negative energy that ripples through the room hits the soul like a gut punch. Dark power roils out of a growing portal, forming a halo of shadow around a hole in reality. Something is being called forth - something that should never be called forth. Something that the world does not want to be called forth.

DC: Eleanor Klein switches forms to Three of Hearts!
DC: Eleanor Klein switches forms to Crest Sorceress Eleanor!
<Pose Tracker> Tio has posed.

    https:'dreamchasers.spaceimages88fTioClaw.png

    What emerges from the portal appears, at first glance, vaguely humanoid. The first thing that can be noticed, though, is the large yellow organic mass that clings to her small frame. A fleshy, claw covered mess that surrounds her upper torso and head, with a large tail descending from it. The woman herself has pale blue skin, and blue hair emerging from under the mass. She doesn't speak, and only faint points of light are visible where her eyes should be.

    And then something lets out a horrific cry, without the woman's mouth moving.

    The mass shifts and grows, and soon the woman is absorbed into it, and some huge and trundling grows from the thing attached to her. Long gangly limbs with vestigial webbing and claws running along their entire length to taloned, bird like feet. The long tail grows yet longer and gains chitinous armour, becoming a snakelike body for the creature, with a large bony protrusion from the tip. And most noticeable of all, it grows a face, A large, gaping mouth, with two massive fangs emerging up from the bottom jaw. It looks like a snake gone horrifically wrong, with four tiny red eyes barely visible on the mass. Giant spurs of bone grow from it's back. And on the top of it's head, barely visible, is the woman it has all but consumed. The beast lets out a roar.

    https:'imgur.comanIaNRVk

    Behold:

    THE CLAW OF VALMAR

DC: Tio switches forms to The Claws of Valmar!
<Pose Tracker> Kamui has posed.

    Kamui's descent to Neriah clashes in an eruption of sword, light and energy -- and she's blown back and disappears into a nearby pillar. Smoke, dust, and electricity coursing through her body. "Hr...g--"

    Let ARMS play with the Claw.

    The surge of negative energy--

    --well--

    --it doesn't hit as hard to someone who technically doesn't have a soul. But the Suffering Circuit is flashing internally, the gem pulsating with a wild variety of reds as she climbs back up to her feet.

    Then the woman steps through.

    Kamui's one good pupil shrinks.

    MEMORY ACCESSED

    "... Why?" Kamui asks quietly through the roar of flame and smoke. The light from the cannon has subsided. It should have been her, not... not--

    The broken machine lying down on the floor in front of her. A machine in the shape of a woman--

    "Why..."

    MEMORY CORRUPTED

    The woman disappears into the mass in front of them. Long, gangly limbs with webbing and claws running through with a chitinous tail.

    Kamui holds her head as she doubles in pain; she exclaims, "Why...!"

    The beast roars. She looks towards Acacia, the others... then Marivel. She looks the picture of a small, lost child.

    "... I disappointed mom ...?"

    She doesn't quite know what she's saying. Just a powerful impulse that forms words without context or understanding. She swallows harder. She steps in front of the Crimson Noble.

    "Not this time, though ..."

    She looks to the grotesque monster, the Claws of Valmar. She doesn't possess the look of someone who wants to vanquish the beast, however.

GS: Kamui has attacked Marivel Armitage with Together with Mother...!
GS: Kamui has completed her action.
<Pose Tracker> Marivel Armitage has posed.

Last time Marivel had vowed to protect her robot daughter from the machinations of Valmar's ill informed mercenaries. She exhibited a level of anger that she rarely shows. She hasn't calmed terribly much in the little bit of time since then.

"ARMS! We can't let anything escape! This is officially a biohazard situation!" What the fuck a biohazard is, Marivel doesn't explain but it has the word 'hazard' in it so it's probably pretty bad and she certainly sent out a call over the empathite for backup pretty much the instant Neriah showed up. Hopefully backup had a chance to arrive since then!

She no doubt INTENDS to go after Neriah and feast on her soul or whatever, but she quickly finds herself stalled by the portal out of steps through...

Marivel squints, tilting her head. "Is that... A TIO class Automaton..? But that thing on her... it's...."

There is a horrific cry and Marivel's eyes widen sharply. "That must be... The Claw of Valmar!" She shakes her head. "We can't let that thing leave this tomb under any circumstances! ARMS! Take it out!"

She is stalled from advancing on the creature herself when Kamui bowls over in pain. Her eyes widen and she approaches the reploid.

"What...?" She asks before her eyes widen. A memory, perhaps? Lifetimes ago?

"Never." Marivel assures Kamui, resting a hand on Kamui's shoulder. "I'll back you up. I've always been proud of you."

And just to provide action to word, she channels some boostering power from her hand and into the reploid.

"Fighting together...!"

GS: Kamui heals Marivel Armitage! She gains 125 temporary hit points!
GS: Marivel Armitage has attacked Kamui with A Crimson Noble's Pride In Their Child...!!
GS: Marivel Armitage has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Marivel Armitage has completed her action.
GS: Kamui takes a solid hit from Marivel Armitage's A Crimson Noble's Pride In Their Child...! for 0 hit points!
GS: Reload! Kamui gains 15 extra FP from Marivel Armitage!
<Pose Tracker> Ethius Hesiod has posed.

 
LAST TIME
 
     Ratatoskr has yet to budge from where he stands after those last displays of unleashed power among forces of (or festering upon) Filgaia. For one who cannot be instructed reliably with pain, and thus have some difficulty bridging the idea that many of these sensations he's feeling are intended to be warning signs to not be present or to get away as soon as possible...
     He really wants to see more. He wants to see what's inside. He knows they're all still going in to keep fighting. So excited, he can scarce escape paralysis, as he presently stands in a corner of the antechamber less well lit and mercifully out of the way of anyone moving to pursue. Maybe the Day of Darkness is about to happen again and this time he'll--
 
     *paf*
 
     That is the sound of a soft, powdery explosion of choking out sight and breath, as another silhouette moves through it all like some sort of winding serpent rushing for the kill. If 'the kill' is 'to rush down the corridor.' Did... they acknowledge who was there?
     "I can't see...!" Ratatoskr whines. Incidentally there are also other snake-like things flopping around like they want to be in the water instead that will have his attention soon enough. Looks like the smoke dislodged them from the ceiling. Oh well.
 
NOW
 
     The tip of a quarterstaff noisily hits the ground as the negative energy ripples, a silhouette enshrouded in ash and soot exposed with their right forearm crossed in front of their face for protection - as if the shadow itself were blinding. Of something eyes shouldn't see, of something ears shouldn't hear. (That part is before even that horrific cry of the organic mass.) He can't quite make out what is going on with the eldritch existential mass.
     Only one thing keeps him anchored, by will, to not staying rooted to the spot under the pressure of the presence.
     There are matters that have slipped ever further from clarity, they inwardly think, but until I know for certain... I cannot look the other way. The Symbologist lowers his arm away from his face as he stands straighter, daring to speak words of a commitment to be in the presence of all of this.
     "This does not belong here." Those words, even with no noticeable increase in volume or urgency in tone - their normal way of speaking - somehow being delivered with clarity in these environs. Those words comprise, in themselves, the initial meaningful resistance as that stare levels towards Neriah.
     Words he does not intend to be an actual rallying cry to be shared. This man is not of ARMS, and that he may have been trailing at any point may be unsettling or unwelcome (just like almost anything he does), but it is unambiguous as to where he stands.

<Pose Tracker> Seraph Clarine has posed.

Clarine had to take a little time to recover after their fight with Neriah, but soon enough she's following the rest of ARMS down into the catacombs, where they find themselves in a round chamber.

She spots the robed figures, and then Neriah herself - but before she can do or say anything, a surge of negative energy drives the breath from her. It is not Malevolence - she is not at risk of Hellionization, and even if she were, Kamui is here with her vessel carried safely with her.

No, this is a wholly different fell power, but one she is sensitive to even so as a spirit of light and magic. It makes her feel ill in ways she is unused to.

And then, a woman emerges from the portal - but there is something horrible and fleshy clinging to her. And then that something grows, almost entirely consuming her.

Clarine stares in awe, fear, and revulsion.

"Wh-what manner of fell madness is this...? What happened to her...?" Clarine breathes out. She hears Marivel's order and nods quietly. A 'TIO' class automaton... Then, is she like Kamui...?

At this thought she looks toward Kamui herself. She sees the look on her face. The pain she seems to be feeling.

"...Kamui..." Clarine whispers. She inhales deeply. She has to be strong here.

"Sacred spirits, bestow your healing touch upon the weary! Nurse!" Clarine incants. Around her, four lights appear, each one appearing to possess shimmering wings. They fly in a ring around Clarine for a brief moment before fluttering off, settling over Kamui, Acacia, Eleanor, and Ashley.

They emit a healing light, warm and reassuring much like Clarine herself. It should help with the fatigue and lingering wounds from the previous battle.

"Do not forget... I am with you." Clarine murmurs quietly.

GS: Seraph Clarine has attacked Kamui with Nurse!
GS: Seraph Clarine has attacked Acacia Saitani with Nurse!
GS: Seraph Clarine has attacked Eleanor Klein with Nurse!
GS: Seraph Clarine has attacked Ashley Winchester with Nurse!
GS: Seraph Clarine has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Seraph Clarine has completed her action.
GS: Seraph Clarine heals Kamui! She gains 125 temporary hit points!
GS: Seraph Clarine heals Eleanor Klein! She gains 125 temporary hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Ziara Tanir has posed.

Not every member of ARMS was involved in the original... investigation, let's say. One of them was holding down the fort about a mile away to make sure someone like Odessa didn't pile in for a back attack.

Given there are now huge gashes blown in the mound of Arastell, she is pretty sure she doesn't have to scout anymore. Especially with one M. Armitage giving a quick call to anyone anywhere nearby who has one of ARMS' empathite radios (which she does).

There is a faint flicker of shadow at one of the battered, shattered gashes in the antechamber of the mound of Arastell before someone slips through. It's a tight fit for a human; the gash is long but not really broad enough for an easy entry and there is a certain amount of squeezing involved to get through. Little chunks of disturbed masonry break away as the person enters.

Ziara Tanir - ARMS member, gadgeteer and gunsmith - spreads her wings reflexively as she drops from the ceiling to the floor. She doesn't precisely fly and she doesn't precisely glide but she does manage to slow her fall enough that her touchdown is jarring but not painful. Her almost-modern look - a mechanic's boilersuit like one might see on a coal-fired train, worn as pants with the sleeves tied around her waist and the upper half bundled at the small of her back, a tank top-styled shirt with a scooped back to allow her wings out - is somewhat incongruous with the ancient ruin.

It is not incongruous with the shotgun she carries, though. Or the bundled tool pack riding at her hip.

Ziara fires almost immediately on landing because Marivel told her to start shooting and also she is more than a little uncomfortable. Her first shell, though, is not damaging - she fires it almost straight down, and the specially designed flare shell impacts the floor and penetrates slightly, the rear of the shell emitting sputtering light that illuminates the area near her.

"What - " Ziara tracks her shotgun from Neriah to the Claws and back. It's still loaded; she only fired one of the barrels. "What is this?" Is this going to happen every day?? she thinks to herself, but does not ask out loud.

GS: Ziara Tanir has completed her action.
GS: Seraph Clarine heals Ashley Winchester! He gains 125 temporary hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Eleanor Klein has posed.

Eleanor does not like the implications here at all--but she has a moment to breathe despite herself, shoulders saggering as she looks back to the others and catches said breath. "We should hurry," she says, her portrait showing worry as the party goes through the conversation before the save point. Along the way, she pulls her curatives--some basics that people can down immediately, to get ready for all of this. And only once they're through the corridor...

...Does Eleanor look up to the library archive, slotted with bizarre artifacts and old books, and tightens her expression. "Under better circumstances, what could we find here?' she wonders. Maybe nothing good--but even if so, they could keep that knowledge out of the wrong hands. But..

There is a portal, abrubtly--dark power roils out of it and Eleanor stumbles, nearly swooning at the awful shadow of it all, having to catch herself along the wall. "Who?" she wonders, as she sees a woman... No, a woman connected to some thing. It seems wrong to her--but of course it would, wouldn't it? And suddenly--

"No!"

Her protest comes along with Kamui's, and Eleanor stares at the awful creature that comes, its gaping mouth and its bizarre clawed body, bone spurs and all, its single terrible arm....

Biohazard--'hazard' is good enough, 'bio-' refers to life, and so Eleanor just goes with contaiment protocol. "Right! I'll be sure not to allow it!"

Feeling the power of Clarine's light infuse her, Eleanor stands up straighter--"I won't forget," she says, and presses her hands together in focus--though some might mistake it for prayer. "...Deneb and the twins Albireo--I call upon your light!"

"Seal this place, let within stay its might!"

A shockwave erupts from the sorceress as she calls upon one of the more obscure magics in her arsenal, an amulet about her neck shining suddenly as the entrance above suddenly shines golden--

"Unless they break through my seal, nothing here is getting out for now!" Eleanor calls to Marivel--and pulls her boomerang, looking with no small apprehension towards the Claws of Valmar.

GS: Eleanor Klein has attacked Eleanor Klein with Elemental Seal!
GS: Eleanor Klein has completed her action.
GS: Eleanor Klein takes a solid hit from Eleanor Klein's Elemental Seal for 0 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Ashley Winchester has posed.

She blocked the beam like it wasn't even there...!

And yet Ashley's fury, unsatisfied, is undeterred. Everything that he is is screaming at him that nothing about this situation is right. For once, the parts that make up Ashley Winchester's strange and fractured psyche are in agreement, and it only took fighting against a walking conduit of Valmar's power, and--

A wave of unholy energy slams into the musketeer's very being. His soul surges against the antiresonance of all that he knows to be right in the world. Lord Blazer's power is a world-scouring, obliterating thing-- destruction wrought into reality-- but this? This is something else. This feels somehow worse. And the feeling grows only stronger as that woman steps through that portal.

A woman... a woman that Kamui seems to... recognize.

Ashley looks between the apparent servant of Valmar's unholy will and the thing that is its cursed flesh incarnate. He glances to Kamui and Marivel, then... pauses in his charge.

And takes a moment to clench a fist over his heart.

His eyes draw closed. His breathing slows. He turns inward, as if recoiling from the profane presence blighting the world. A flame illuminates the darkness. A roiling orb of wrath, a thin contrail leading from it into the fathomless abyss of the Other within.

Ashley focuses upon it, taking it as if by cupping it with his hands. The heat surges up his limbs, shoots through his spine, into his brain. This is his rage. His anger. The negativity that exists within the moment. A paradoxical fracture in a soul trained from birth to be flawless and pure. Ashley takes it, and holds it close to his heart like an ember.

"It'll be okay," he says, in the world of the living. He gives Kamui a smile, and reaches out to clasp Marivel's shoulder. "Neither of you are doing this alone," he adds as Clarine's power pours across him, closing the wounds that Neriah had opened. "I think it's time for everything you've done to finally pay off, even if only a little bit. It'll be fine. It'll all be fine."

His eyes turn toward the abomination, the thing called the Claw of Valmar.

"I'm not letting you escape," Ashley Winchester says, less a statement of intent and more a declaration of fact. Flame begins to spread up his fingertips, up from the soles of his feet. They consume his limbs in an instant. They devour his body in a heartbeat. His voice. His head. "I have Access."

BGM CHANGE: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VvVk0L5lpZY

Where there was once Ashley Winchester, there is now a knight in black armor. A disaster-red scarf flutters from its shoulders in a nonexistent breeze. Blue-white eyes ignite within a jet black helm as catastrophy incarnates unto the world.

"I am in control. This corruption--" He surges forward, a heat-haze racing after him like an after-image. Flame erupts around his arms as he meets the Claw of Valmar head-on with a fierce combination of blows! I'll use this power to burn it out of reality, down to the very last speck!"

DC: Ashley Winchester switches forms to Knight Blazer!
GS: Ashley Winchester has attacked The Claw of Valmar with Fevered Blow!
GS: Ashley Winchester has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Ashley Winchester has completed his action.
<Pose Tracker> Acacia Saitani has posed.

    Acacia is still not sure what she's doing here, exactly. In the broader sense, that is - when did she go from the journalist for a sleepy, kinda lazy city into a ruins-diving adventurer who's visited another world and has Veruni regularly call upon her while she fights ancient demons alongside... well, other ancient demons?

    She's kept it together so far, but she's uncertain whether that's due to staying relatively grounded and skeptical or whether it's purely out of an extended fit of pique.

    Right now, it definitely feels like the latter, as she watches the impossible creature grow and shift with a series of horrifying cracks. Part of her should be gibbering with fear and crawling for the corner, and indeed part of her is - her legs shake, and there's a painful pulse at the back of her head that leaves nausea crawling up from her stomach.

    But the rest of her catches that lost glance from Kamui, and she feels the impulse to surge forwards rise up through her body. They've been through enough recently to last them a lifetime. Having something dredge up yet more unpleasant memories now just feels completely unfair. The anger and the ire that builds from that thought is useful; she concentrates on it, clutches onto it, and lifts her head as she grits her teeth.

    She can figure out 'biohazard' based on instincts, but it's the talk of the automaton from Marivel and Clarine that really catches her attention, and makes her look twice. It's hard to see - but there's a fleck of blue hair just visible beyond the mass of the insane creature that makes her suck in a breath. "So we're ripping her out of there. Right?" she states grimly to the open air.

    She lets the broken, melted pistol fall from her grip, tugging her gloves back on securely. "Don't worry. You-- get used to it," she puffs out in Ziara's direction, and then pauses. "My advice is to absolutely not get used to it." Then she's pushed off the floor at a run, motes of Ether aligning around her.

    She stops short of the Claws, because even she's not brave enough to just punch something like that straight out the gate - but she concentrates as she plants her feet and thrusts her palm forwards. The aura around her hangs in the air, then twists and rushes forwards. It's not a spell nor anything so structured, just a rush of shattering force.

GS: Seraph Clarine heals Acacia Saitani! She gains 125 temporary hit points!
GS: Acacia Saitani has attacked The Claw of Valmar with Special Edition!
GS: Acacia Saitani has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Acacia Saitani has completed her action.
<Pose Tracker> Ida Everstead-Rey has posed.

    Ida stalks down the hallway, slow and purposeful. The 'slow' part is because her whole body aches, especially her neck. As she passes the rows of niches, her hand dips into a hardened leather case at her side, and comes up with a small vial. Ida uncorks it, raises it to her lips, and downs it. It's the last of the potions she got from Spira. It's sweet, like a cocktail of tropical fruits she can't name--but the medicinal aftertaste is unmistakable. Ida drops the vial. It cracks open on the stones. She keeps walking.

    'We can't let anything escape!'

    "Acknowledged," Ida says. Her signal is oddly clear of interference, emotional or otherwise. Glancing at her neck reveals the reason why--her neck is covered with layers of segmented biometal plates. The empathite radio protrudes from them, the sensitive bits encased in more exoskeleton. Ida slides a fresh clip into Devil's Due, and sucks in a breath. For the first time in a very long while, she finds herself remembering the words her mother told her when she taught her Five Precepts. Calm heart, still mind, pure purpose. "I'm in pursuit." Her walk turns into a jog. By the time she reaches the inner chamber, she's almost sprinting.

    Ida's eyes fall upon the strange figure as she emerges from the darkness. The raw wrongness of it hits her like a punch in the gut. It's like Garmia Tower, she realizes. Another piece of a dismembered god--and this one has already found a host. "Kamui, watch yourself!" Ida shouts. "Even if you knew her once, Valmar's corruption--!" She doesn't finish the sentence. The flesh encasing the woman does things that flesh should not do--human, Hyadean, or otherwise. Ida's throat constricts. She glances to her right, at her comrades, and for a few terrifying moments she wonders who's going to die this time. Someone who wasn't there five minutes ago cries out. "Get behind me," Ida tells Ziara.

    A much lesser transformation happens. The armor at Ida's throat unfolds, expanding to cover her torso with exoskeletal plates. More plates crawl up the sides of her face, like interlocking dragonscale. Ida twists her neck one way, then the other, and focuses again on the Claw.

GS: Ida Everstead-Rey has attacked The Claw of Valmar with Steel Body Focus!
GS: Ida Everstead-Rey has gained 2 Combo!
GS: Ida Everstead-Rey has completed her action.
GS: The Claw of Valmar critically Guards a hit from Ashley Winchester's Fevered Blow for 23 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Neriah Parringer has posed.

As the Claw swells into its full terror, Neriah clicks her teeth together and exhales through her nose. The way Valmar's part simply warped and consumed its host reminds her uncomfortably of what her own powers did to her before the Chains of Arius broke.

Just as terrifying is the fact that Neriah herself seems to still be able to fight. She draws a breath, ambient energy rippling and flowing into her. The scorch marks and cuts she's sustained rapidly diminish, her body and attire both replenishing rapidly as her defensive field reasserts itself. It's as if the atmospheric darkness of this place only feeds her.

"Hey Claw, do me a favour," she says with a wave of her trident for the Claw's benefit, projecting her will not just through voice and posture, but through some imperceptible magic - the will to act upon the Parts of Valmar. "Trash these pests for me. If you're real good about it, I'll give your horns a shine."

A quarterstaff strikes the ground. Neriah's gaze turns towards it.

Her eyelids lower. "Oh look, it's my good buddy, Ethius. I guess you were really in a hurry to die, huh? Did you come all this way just to make my life miserable, or am I just the unlucky recipient of a nasty little lump?"

With a whirl of her trident, the Impetus slides her heel back, taking on a defensive stance - positioning herself between ARMS and the archives beyond even as the robed priests rush to work, scampering through the library stacks and sorting through books and artifacts all the more hurriedly. Above it all, a large raven is circling, for some reason.

The search is on, and Neriah seems intent on covering for it.

Ashley calls forth a horrific power of his own. Neriah clicks her teeth lightly together. "Sorry, friend. There's a line and I'm first," she says flatly, before frowning a little as she looks towards Eleanor and then up, as if gauging the strength of her seal.

"They work very well as a team, don't they, Claw...?"

Snapping her curls back with a flick of her head, she throws a look over her shoulder before sweeping her hand out. "Then seal yourselves in your own tomb!" she barks as lightning bolts dance from her fingers, jagging through the room and slashing across the floor. They erupt towards Ziara and Ida, recognizing the threats as worth keeping at bay. Ida's transformation is new enough to her that she scowls through the surge of energy.

"Something really did happen to you up there, didn't it, Ida," Neriah questions intently before pivoting on the toe of one boot, snapping her hand out towards Ethius.

Power ignites from her gloved palm. Shadow flame swells into a massive fireball in the shape of a monstrous face, not unlike the gaping mouth of the Claw, surging forward to try and consume Ethius within its evil.

GS: The Claw of Valmar guards a hit from Acacia Saitani's Special Edition for 45 hit points!
GS: Break! applied to The Claw of Valmar!
GS: Neriah Parringer has attacked Ida Everstead-Rey with Zap All!
GS: Neriah Parringer has attacked Ziara Tanir with Zap All!
GS: The Claw of Valmar critically Guards a hit from Ida Everstead-Rey's Steel Body Focus for 0 hit points!
GS: Neriah Parringer has attacked Ethius Hesiod with Hellmouth!
GS: Neriah Parringer has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Neriah Parringer has completed her action.
GS: Ziara Tanir takes a glancing hit from Neriah Parringer's Zap All for 67 hit points!
GS: Ida Everstead-Rey takes a glancing hit from Neriah Parringer's Zap All for 69 hit points!
GS: Ethius Hesiod takes a solid hit from Neriah Parringer's Hellmouth for 167 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> The Claw of Valmar has posed.

    For all that the host of the Claw might be recognised, there is no such recognition in the eyes of the beast themselves. It's red eyes draw upon the enemies in front of it. The long masses of claws that pass for arms are brought up, and Knight Blazer's flurry of violent blows crash against a wall of unmoving flesh. The Claw roars in defiance of the catastrophe, and swings out with it's left limb, bringing a mass of claws to slash against it's enemy. It is a wide, raking slash at the first thing to have gotten within range.

    The burst of wind from Acacia batters against the Claws, and even it's terrible mass is shifted backwards, it's snake-like body rearing up, and taloned hands dragging gouges across the ground. But as soon as the wind lets up, it springs forward with surprising speed. It swings out with it's right claw, a downward swipe with the taloned hand to rake at Acacia.

    Ida moves against the claw and meets a steel hard defense to match her metallic fists. But the Claw's hands are busy, and Ida escapes unscathed, at least from the claw.

    It recognises the form of a seal going up, but does not seem to do anything about it. Instead it turns it's self towards Eleanor and Clarine and it moves... oddly. But one can sense the power of magic building from it. It lets out a roar, and as it does so, lightning starts to coil around the seraph and the crest mage. But before the strikes, it rises up, taking form of a dragon made entirely of lightning. There is a thunderous roar from the summoned magic, before it dives in a straight line towards the two.

    Finally, it's eyes come to Kamui and Marivel. The two who seemed to recognise the host for what she was, perhaps. The Claw of Valmar has no such recognition beyond 'threat'. Magic channels again, and spear like shards of ice drive towards the crimson noble and her reploid daughter. The ground and air freezes around them as they crash down into the ground, while their targets have to avoid the spikes.

GS: The Claw of Valmar has attacked Ashley Winchester with Left Claw Sweep!
GS: The Claw of Valmar has gained 1 Combo!
GS: The Claw of Valmar has attacked Acacia Saitani with Right Claw Swipe!
GS: The Claw of Valmar has gained 2 Combo!
GS: The Claw of Valmar has attacked Seraph Clarine with DragonZap!
GS: The Claw of Valmar has gained 2 Combo!
GS: The Claw of Valmar has attacked Eleanor Klein with DragonZap!
GS: The Claw of Valmar has gained 1 Combo!
GS: The Claw of Valmar has attacked Kamui with Crackle!
GS: The Claw of Valmar has gained 3 Combo!
GS: The Claw of Valmar has attacked Marivel Armitage with Crackle!
GS: The Claw of Valmar has gained 2 Combo!
GS: The Claw of Valmar has completed her action.
GS: Ashley Winchester guards a hit from The Claw of Valmar's Left Claw Sweep for 102 hit points!
GS: Eleanor Klein completely evades a hit from The Claw of Valmar's DragonZap!
GS: Seraph Clarine guards a hit from The Claw of Valmar's DragonZap for 93 hit points!
GS: Kamui critically Guards a hit from The Claw of Valmar's Crackle for 33 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Ziara Tanir has posed.

"Good news! I am very not used to it!"

Ziara's gun tracks back and forth once more before she realizes she is wasting perfectly good time and lowers it. Just for a moment; a snap of her wrist and a movement of her thumb breaks the barrels open, and she slides a new shell into the emptied one, closing it back up almost as fast. It's smooth; she might not be used to fighting eldritch abominations but she knows her way around that shotgun of hers.

"Is that a Wels," she asks Ida as Ida jumps in front of her - just before she does something with armour plates. Under ordinary circumstances Ziara would absolutely want to look at that to figure out the trick, because it's clearly a mechanical one.

These are not ordinary circumstances.

"Are YOU a Wels?" she adds, with a significant glance toward Lord Blazer. She'd been told that some of the people she might be working with are a little unusual, even by the standards of Drifters, but... "You left out half of it," she mutters under her breath. It's not meant for anybody here.

Unfortunately, Neriah has noticed her. Ziara jumps, wings spreading and beating with a surprising amount of volume; it's enough to push her jump higher, not enough to really take off. The crackling electrical bolt catches her a glancing blow, mostly through torn-up detritus from the floor, and Ziara lands poorly a few steps further back. She winces on the touchdown, but her leg supports her.

A few steps make no difference to her firing both barrels of the shotgun at Neriah. Ziara is reloading before the sound dies away. "What is even going on? Did that thing come out of there?" She means the Claw, in this case, rather than Neriah. She thinks rather the opposite of Neriah - she, or the minions back there, in the library, are definitely looking for something. "She's a cultist, isn't she?"

GS: Ziara Tanir has attacked Neriah Parringer with Frontier Shotgun!
GS: Ziara Tanir has completed her action.
GS: CRITICAL! Marivel Armitage guards a hit from The Claw of Valmar's Crackle for 165 hit points!
GS: Acacia Saitani takes a solid hit from The Claw of Valmar's Right Claw Swipe for 167 hit points!
GS: Neriah Parringer guards a hit from Ziara Tanir's Frontier Shotgun for 95 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Kamui has posed.

    Marivel speaks up regarding her worries.

    I've always been proud of you.

    Kamui's agitation softens; she looks and reaches towards her mother, as she reaches out with her hand. "... Fighting together..." She doesn't react immediately to her callout of the TIO class automaton, though there's a reaction there. TIO...

    Why does that name sound so...

    Eleanor creates a seal around the area to stop them from worrying that it'll spill out, and Clarine... Clarine redoubles that she has nothing to worry about as the spirits surround her.

    "Clarine..."

    There is hesitation, though, as Ashley's fingertips burn and he transforms-- transforms, into that knight of black armour. A black armour that everything inside of her Circuit screams at. She hesitates. Something inside of her still says--

    "You can't!"

    Kamui pauses, looking still alarmed and confused as she turns towards the giant abomination. She doesn't agree with burning it out of reality, down to the very last speck? Ida cautions her, telling her that even if she knew her once, Valmar's corruption...

    "You're right, Ida. We have to defeat the Claws of Valmar, but... but..."

    She clenches her hands together. Acacia is asking if they're ripping her out of there.

    "That's right, Master. I want to save... I want to save... Tio!!"

    And to that end, as Marivel has done, she puts action into words. Even if it means overdoing it, given last time in Macalania. She speaks ancient words Marivel and those versed in the Zeboim can understand:

    "<System... ACCESS.>"

    Something moves out in space. A thin, nigh-ethereal beam streams to the Blue Planet, towards Filgaia. It reaches and engulfs the Reploid in familiar light-blue cubes of sheer data.

    And Ashley is no longer the only one wrapped in black armour. Draped in chiseled obsidian, with a light-devouring, rough-hewn surface akin to rock than metal, accented in gold...

    It is a sight that might be familiar to the automaton, should she have consciousness. But perhaps, right now, she only registers as 'threat'.

    The Claw of Valmar's blast of ice shreds her, and more electricity sparks against her as she lets out a cough and her armour filigree shifts to the colour of red.

    The difference between the Reploid's normal Armour and the Ultimate is clear to see -- it's as if the Armour itself compensates for Kamui's lack of defences, as it pulls her together and fires her forward.

    She extends her hand, and a sweltering burst of ancient fire rises upwards as she tries to scathe the creature's 'head' to try to scathe her free.

    "Tio! Can you hear me...?!"

DC: Kamui switches forms to Ultimate Armour Equipped - Maverick Hunter Kamui!
GS: Kamui has attacked The Claw of Valmar with Hunter Arte - Rising Fire!
GS: Kamui has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Kamui has completed her action.
GS: The Claw of Valmar guards a hit from Kamui's Hunter Arte - Rising Fire for 61 hit points!
GS: Poison! applied to The Claw of Valmar!
<Pose Tracker> Ida Everstead-Rey has posed.

    The light of Ashley's flame casts Ida's face in shadow. Her gaze darts sideways, and she bares gritted teeth--but it isn't long before she has to look away, for fear that his light will leave the image seared into her eyes. Ida's heart leaps against her ribs. Calm heart, still mind, pure purpose. Funny how she only started to approach those things after she started to question her faith.

    Ida is already in motion as Neriah lifts her hand. The martial artist charges forwards, twisting to the side as the Impetus gestures--she swings her right arm up, and the armor on the back of her forearm unfolds like a blooming flower. Lightning bolts slam into the face of the resultant shield, tracing black lines across the Hyadean biometal. Ida grimaces as the impact races up the limb, and tendrils of electricity crackle over her. She might be hurt, but she doesn't slow down.

    "Worse!" Ida says, glancing behind her at Ziara. In its own way, the fact that the newcomer is still talking is good; it means she wasn't killed instantly by Neriah's fell sorcery. She can work with this. "So much worse!" Kamui, meanwhile, gives the response Ida was expecting her to give. Ida twists, snaps both hands up, and throws a punch at Neriah's face. "Then do it!" Ida shouts. More punches follow--a brutal, relentless series of strikes. Ida hasn't always had a knack for pugilism--far from it--but there's a certain effortlessness to her power, now. "Give it your everything, or no one will see tomorrow!"

    Ida looks into Neriah's face. This close, Neriah can see the quicksilver mingling with the crimson on her lips. "Oh, it happened long before that."

GS: Ida Everstead-Rey has attacked Neriah Parringer with Relentless Combination !
GS: Ida Everstead-Rey has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Ida Everstead-Rey has completed her action.
GS: Neriah Parringer critically Guards a hit from Ida Everstead-Rey's Relentless Combination  for 27 hit points!
GS: Ida Everstead-Rey assumes the Avenger stance!
<Pose Tracker> Ethius Hesiod has posed.

    Much happens in short sequence. The erection of a containing field by sorcerous means that would trap them all in here with this thing, a thought that he does not find all too worrisome. Another wash of power is accessed and bursting forth from that unassuming young man over there. Ida's physiology once more proves fluid in ways beneficial martially. There's also the oft-aforementioned piece of Valmar going about their business over there. It makes Neriah's questions, to outside observers, seem far less rhetorical when he manages to keep fixing his gaze on her.
     "I do not believe my presence in this matter to be ambiguous," Ethius remarks. For all the trouble he causes with his seemingly single-minded drives to get or destroy a thing to irritatingly tiresome expectations, this drive - for better or for worse - keeps the fractures of his focus from a foggy haze of forgotten factors together enough to make a conscious and meaningful decision to stand and oppose. That's his mind and soul.
     He starts to move as others pull Neriah's attention. The fast-moving robed priests benefit from Neriah's defensive positioning, but he thinks he might have an opening to move past - rushing in when Neriah questions to Ida's well-being.
     This is a mistake... on his end.
     The shadow flare swells, the monstrous face contorting sideways as it intercepts Ethius' rushing path and appears to smother him with a pained yell that is much, much more like a regular human being recoiling and not the more detached composure of him in question. Where mind and soul was willing, his body throws a dissenting opinion as off-color smoldering smoke rises from the tumbling body that is dashing against the length of the chamber, pushing him away from the angle he was pursuing. He catches himself in a kneel in time, voice breathy underneath the usual lower facial half-obscruing bandanna. He has to grip both hands on the quarterstaff to even use it as a means to stand back up.
     His back is to Neriah - distant, but still a vulnerable position. In direct combat, experience has shown that frontal assault scarce has been effective. She tracks him too well. He doesn't have the force to crack open her countermeasures. She's too familiar.
     His fingers flutter from the left hand gripped around his weapon. He does - no, he did - have a spell for something like this, didn't he? Why yes, he did. With his back turned, he keeps that angle and position of vulnerability in place as he quietly chants the syllables and flexes the fingers. Once he has the first six of them down, the rest come rhythmically as his memory jogs. Sorcerous lights come from him moments before he caps it with the name with a final broad outward sweep of his left arm...
     "Ashen Veil."
     Suddenly, a huge, smoking cloud of soot explodes between the two of them. That first blow Neriah inflicted has robbed him of the breath to state any back-and-forth banter, but not his desire to stand against her.
     Or to turn their part of this conflict into an impromptu game of hide and seek.

GS: Ethius Hesiod has attacked Neriah Parringer with Ashen Veil!
GS: Ethius Hesiod has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Ethius Hesiod has completed his action.
GS: Neriah Parringer guards a hit from Ethius Hesiod's Ashen Veil for 53 hit points!
GS: Ethius Hesiod assumes the Stoic stance!
<Pose Tracker> Marivel Armitage has posed.

"You could say Odessa did us a favor by putting us in tight spots. Of course we work well together now! By neccessity!" Marivel shouts over to Neriah but for however threatening Neriah is, she seems to be giving the Claw priority right now. Neriah may be some kind of Valmar general, an Impetus, but the Claw could do incredible mindless damage. That's a problem.

Marivel was perfectly willing to eliminate the machine along with the creature using it as a host, but she frowns thoughtfully as Acacia effortltessly brings up an idea of her own.

Well, that is why Acacia is here, isn't it? To see the truths only a journalist can see, the paths that only a strong heart can travel.

During her moment of refletion, the Claw spears Marivel with a shard of ice and Marivel crashes onto her back, just barely avoiding being wholly impaled by the shared by gripping the edge of the ice shard with her hand.

Perhaps it was Kamui's own brand of encouragement that gave Marivel that little bit of push to avoid a troublesome injury.

"Kamui... Are you certain?" She stands herself up and studies the Claw. Is it even possible, she wonders, to remove Tio while also eliminating the creature controlling her?

And Ashley transforms. He is in control. Marivel turns her gaze towards him as well as he taps into power that no man should tap into, and yet does so--while maintaining his composure (mostly) and spirit.

"...I suppose we are tapping into a dangerous power already..." Marivel considers. "And this is the spirit I am gambling on."

BGM: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MCE3e1-jNHw

"Alright, Kamui...! Servant of Valmar she may be... but let us save her!"

Her eyes flash red.

"I Call Upon The Power Of Maximization! Without Limiters...Infinite Potential Can Be Unleashed.... BOOSTER!"

And with that a great surge of power ripples across Kamui's body, boosting speed, strength, and durability to an incredible degree!

GS: Marivel Armitage has attacked Kamui with Booster!
GS: Marivel Armitage has completed her action.
GS: Kamui takes a solid hit from Marivel Armitage's Booster for 0 hit points!
GS: Hyper, Quick, and Shield! applied to Kamui!
<Pose Tracker> Eleanor Klein has posed.

Ethius's appearance catches Eleanor's attention once she finishes the spell--she recalls meeting him, at least, though not getting to talk really--she'd tried to reach out to him. But she cannot think much on might have been, not as she feels Knight Blazer appear.

"...Ashley..."

Or, as her eyes turn, and she feels the magical prodding against the shield. Neriah looks at her, and Eleanor squares her shoulders, lifting her chin. She doesn't know exactly how powerful Neriah is--but it's more powerful than she is, she's certain. She can't back down, all the same.

...More pressingly, though, the Claws of Valmar have noticed her, and Eleanor can no longer work on a mage duel. The orange-haired elf looks--and sees the dragon of lightning. Moving on something like instinct, she drops down with the momentum of her turn, hitting the floor and letting the thunderous construct dive over her, hair crackling with static as the lightning passes just by. "Aaah," she indicates, breathing hard as she quickly pushes herself back up. "Clarine," she says, "It seems we'll be together in this one."

She looks to the black knight--and to the Claw again. "She seems to be the boss cultist if anything!" Eleanor calls to Ziara's question about Neriah. "Kamui," she whispers after, seeing her move. "Please, be careful!"

She wishes, for a moment--that she could've been here to study Ethius's magic instead of this. The subtleties of Symbology are interesting, and she misses for a moment the academic's life. But only for a moment. She instead pulls a Crest, because it gives her an idea all the same--a spell that would be helpful here. "Ashley!" Eleanor calls. "I'm with you! Do what you have to do!"

Drawing upon the lingering power of Earth from Ethius's spell, Eleanor holds before her a Graph emblazoned with the Crests of Geo and and Wing, as sparkling light rises around her in spirals. "As the greatest boulder turns to dust..."

"...Let the wind on which it blows be our shield! Dust Veil!"

GS: Eleanor Klein has attacked Ashley Winchester with Dust Veil!
GS: Eleanor Klein has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Eleanor Klein has completed her action.
GS: Ashley Winchester takes a solid hit from Eleanor Klein's Dust Veil for 0 hit points!
GS: Amplify, Burst, and Quick! applied to Ashley Winchester!
<Pose Tracker> Neriah Parringer has posed.

The wings are new. Neriah blinks a couple of times before clicking her tongue, taking a step back. "You must be new around here. That thing is the Claw of Valmar, and it's here to show you a thing or two...."

Something else happens. Neriah glances to one side and bites her lower lip at the sight of Kamui's change. "...Well well," she murmurs. "So it's you again... and you've met an old friend, too, haven't you--"

Ziara takes advantage of Neriah's distraction and just shoots her. The dark-haired woman squeaks in surprise as the buckshot hits her defensive shield and knocks her back hard enough that she stumbles and drops to the ground on her bottom. "Ow!" she grouses before tipping backwards, rolling over herself and coming up in a crouch. "That stung! And I'll have you know I don't appreciate it very much!"

By the time Ida bears down on her, though, she's drawn her shield back up. Pushing it out around her, she grunts and flicks her trident out to blunt the first blow the woman throws. It's hard enough to test her shield, her polearm deflecting the rest. Whirling the weapon, she deflects a few more blows away, her eyes fixed on Ida's. The quicksilver is there, but there's something in Neriah's eyes that's new.

They were blue before she broke the Chains of Arius. They've shifted to a vivid red-violet, swirling with magic and seeming a thousand miles deep. "More old secrets, Ida? Then I guess we have something in common, you and I. Though I can't say I was ever much for all this fisticuff stuff."

Ethius makes his mistake. The shout he gives off is satisfyingly human. When the caster unleashes his spell of dust, Neriah drops back from Ida and pivots to one side, holding her arm up and coughing a couple of times as the soot cloud streams across her field. "Rascal," she growls. "You've festered too long on this world, Ethius. Like a damn polyp."

Drawing a breath, Neriah takes a quick glance behind her. The raven overhead has swept further back, fluttering between a row of shelves. A couple of cultists are throwing tomes aside after skimming them only cursorily.

There's still work to be done, she realizes. Resigning herself to it, she begins to gather energy once more. The shield around her gutters and ripples as she amplifies it with the force of the punishment it's taken so far. Her shoulders straighten, and she tosses her head back, setting her feet apart.

"Alright," she says with a neat little smile. "Round two, muffins." Casually, she lifts two fingers on her right hand - and she flicks them upwards.

A massive wave of shadow flame and force explodes from around her with the power of a hundred bombs going off at once. Unholy screams ring out around her as the shadow flame winds itself into the forms of yawning mouths and grasping talons. They whirl outwards in an insane miasma, spilling through the chamber to try and swallow up Ziara, to consume Ida in one blazing gulp, to enwreath Ethius in even more pain.

GS: Neriah Parringer has attacked Neriah Parringer with Inhalation!
GS: Neriah Parringer has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Neriah Parringer heals Neriah Parringer! She gains 100 temporary hit points!
GS: Neriah Parringer has activated a Boss Action!
GS: You have activated the Boss Action Extend!
GS: Neriah Parringer has attacked Ida Everstead-Rey with Hellmouth!
GS: Neriah Parringer has attacked Ziara Tanir with Hellmouth!
GS: Neriah Parringer has attacked Ethius Hesiod with Hellmouth!
GS: Neriah Parringer has gained 2 Combo!
GS: Neriah Parringer has completed her action.
<Pose Tracker> Seraph Clarine has posed.

Ashley takes on the form of the Knight Blazer, and the temperature of the room increases. It's a good thing that Clarine isn't usually bothered by increases in temperature.

Nearby Neriah has begun to fight her other friends(and Ethius), but right now, Clarine has to focus on the Claws of Valmar. If she tries to split her attention between both of these catastrophic presences, her capabilities will be great hindered.

Regardless of that, the Claw forces her attention onto itself. Lightning starts to coil around her, and with a gesture Clarine's mirrors emerge from her sleeves and swirl around her protectively...but the attack comes from below, a dragon formed of lightning emerging and sweeping toward herself and Eleanor. Clarine winces as electricity crackles over her body.

Somehow it always came down to lightning.

Clarine retreats a short distance, floating back to put some space between herself and the Claws.

And then, Clarine looks back to Kamui as she makes her declaration. She wants to save Tio.

And then...Kamui says words in a language few in this room can understand - but she can.

"That armor..." Clarine murmurs. It's her first time seeing it. It's power is incredible - but she is also aware of what become of Kamui last time.

She's a bit hesitant - but then, she nods toward Eleanor as she speaks.

"So it would seem." She says, sending her a smile. "Let us both do our best."

But this time, however, she doesn't have a support spell at the ready - what comes is a sphere of light forming in front of Clarine, which soon emits a single, searing ray toward the Claws of Valmar.

They were going to try to save Kamui's friend. Clarine just hopes they could do this without hurting her...

GS: Ziara Tanir critically Guards a hit from Neriah Parringer's Hellmouth for 33 hit points!
GS: Seraph Clarine has attacked The Claw of Valmar with Limited Ray!
GS: Seraph Clarine has completed her action.
<Pose Tracker> Acacia Saitani has posed.

    "Good!" Acacia yells back to Ziara. "Get real angry about it and hold onto that confusion as long as you c--ufgh--"

    Her rather spurious advice is cut off by the claw that sweeps towards her. She doesn't wear any armor, doesn't even really seem to try to dodge - instead, the sensation around her seems to twist and churn, the air rearranging itself into a physical wall in hopes of stopping the attack. Perhaps it blunts it just a little, but the end result is still Acacia getting flung backwards and to one side in kind of a heap, scrabbling for purchase as she tries to slow herself down.

    She can hear Kamui's declaration above her as she decides to just roll with her momentum, and while she'd normally be worried about the Reploid summoning her armor, the conviction behind it makes her crack a grim smile. If nothing else, she can take some pride today in the fact that she's helped spur Kamui onwards in what she hopes in the right direction. ... of course, there's a lot of 'if's around that sentence. But she'll be damned if she's going to stop thinking about possibilities like that.

    "She's a kid," she mutters back towards Marivel as she finally rights herself and pulls up to one knee. Perhaps that comment might explain why she's so ready to suggest saving Tio. In another world, Kamui could have easily been an enemy. The Minder technically is an enemy, or at least is a member of a race that positions itself against humans. But she's been around them both for long enough to know that it's easy to only get half the story.

    She reaches for her pistol-- oh, right, she dropped it because it had melted away into a lump of slag. Swearing under her breath, she casts around her for something to improvize with, grimaces, and finally just raises her hand as if holding a gun, thumb up and index finger out. It looks comical, but she's not laughing as she sights along her own hand at one of the flailing claws.

    The aura around her shifts again, and a brilliant white light pools at the end of her 'gun'. She even vocalizes the 'bang!' as a tight line scores itself in the air, impacting what she hopes is a joint and not just a grotesque bit of swelling. Then she fies again, and again.

GS: Acacia Saitani has attacked The Claw of Valmar with Bury the Lede!
GS: Acacia Saitani has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Acacia Saitani has completed her action.
<Pose Tracker> Ashley Winchester has posed.

Armored knuckles crack against hardened, tumorous Valmar-flesh. Even Lord Blazer's fire isn't going to so easily burn this monster away, is it...? It's probably for the best-- if it could so easily obliterate what it touched, then Filgaia as it exists today would be in an even worse state.

The Claw of Valmar lashes out. Its left arm scythes against the black knight's armor, sending a spray of sparks shooting into the air. Ashley grunts and leaps back and away before the bladed limb can cut through completely. He lands not far from Ziara, who seems to have an... unusual idea about what exactly he is.

"N-not really? I don't think anyone could be doing well, given the circumstances. But we've got to do our best...!" Clearly there's a bit of miscommunication there, but Ashley doesn't let it get him down.

"I don't think I can complain about wanting to save a friend from demonic possession," Ashley calls toward Marivel and a freshly transformed Kamui. Is that her true power...? The Ultimate Armor seems almost as ominous as his own...! "I'll aim as best as I can. She's... Her body's in its head, isn't it?"

So that just means that he has to not hit it and instead hit everything else.

The opposing powers of Geo and Wing whirl around the black knight. Ashley turns and nods toward Eleanor, even as a veil of dust accumulates and seals over across his already hardened armor. The wind fuels the flame within. Earth draws upon the ash into which it renders all that it touches. "Thanks," the Black Knight says and, though it seems at first glance that its gaze should be a terrible, soul-piercing one, the will within that helm at the moment is certainly none other than Ashley Winchester. "That means a lot. Let's do this thing."

Of course, that doesn't mean that the light that blazes within the visor isn't able to melt stone and turn sand to glass. As Ashley turns back to face the Claw of Valmar, his eyes suddenly flare. A baleful, white-hot radiance surges out from those two pinpricks of flame, washing out to set the Claw of Valmar's corrupt flesh alight with a light that casts no shadows...!

GS: Ashley Winchester spends 1 Combo on Poison!
GS: Ashley Winchester has attacked The Claw of Valmar with Ignite Gazer!
GS: Ashley Winchester has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Ashley Winchester has completed his action.
GS: Ida Everstead-Rey completely evades a hit from Neriah Parringer's Hellmouth!
GS: Ethius Hesiod guards a hit from Neriah Parringer's Hellmouth for 102 hit points!
GS: The Claw of Valmar guards a hit from Seraph Clarine's Limited Ray for 64 hit points!
GS: Quick and Shield! applied to Seraph Clarine!
GS: The Claw of Valmar critically Guards a hit from Acacia Saitani's Bury the Lede for 20 hit points!
GS: Cripple! applied to The Claw of Valmar!
GS: The Claw of Valmar guards a hit from Ashley Winchester's Ignite Gazer for 87 hit points!
GS: Poison! applied to The Claw of Valmar!
<Pose Tracker> The Claw of Valmar has posed.

    Kamui comes for the figure engulfed in the in the head of the Claw, and flames burn away at it. Two of it's four eyes are caught in the flame, and it rears back. Kamui has drawn the beast's attention. The body of Tio remains unmoving and non-responsive. If she can respond, she doesn't show. The Claw, on the other hand, can respond just fine. It swings it's right claw forward in an arc in fromt of it, and small spear like bolts of lightning fire out rapidly towards Kamui, aiming to blanket the area around the reploid in blasts and make it harder for her to protect herself.
As Marivel reinforces Kamui, and Eleanor assists Knight Blazer, the Claw seems to take note. It's massive jaw closes, and then reopens, and flame is belched out towards the two of them, the Claw sweeping it's head from left to right, billowing fire everywhere. It closes it's jaw, massive fangs ever visible.

    The blast of light from Clarine drives into the claws arm and shoulder, and sears it. The horrid yellow flesh burns somewhat, and the Claw turns to face her. As with Kamui, it swings wide with it's left arm, but instead of lightning, it is bullets of ice that soar at high speed towards Clarine, and the area around her. It is hardly a precision attack, but instead sweeping and hard to avoid.

    Acacia blasts the Claw of Valmar with blast after blast from a gun doesn't exist. The bury into an elbow, and the horrid beast stumbles, it's with one claw swung out and the other supporting it's weight. It's massive tail looms above, and the body contorts. The tail, with it's sharp point, drives for Acacia, over and over again. It tries to impale her with ruthless violence, a brutal series of attacks.

    The burning gaze of Knight Blazer scores into the Claw's torso, and it reels back somewhat. And then, it surges forward and opens it's terrible jaws again, aiming to take a bite of the demon powered man with's massive piercing fangs. No elegance, just furious power.

Herss it recoils from the bite attempt, again there is the feel of magic welling up. But instead of tareting it's spells at it's enemies, the earth lifts around it, and grants defensive strength. With the power of earth absorbed into it's flesh, it roars again.

    The woman remains unmoving, even through all this.

GS: The Claw of Valmar has attacked Kamui with Lightning Bullet!
GS: The Claw of Valmar has gained 2 Combo!
GS: Kamui guards a hit from The Claw of Valmar's Lightning Bullet for 99 hit points!
GS: Disrupt! applied to Kamui!
GS: The Claw of Valmar has attacked Marivel Armitage with Infernal Sigh!
GS: The Claw of Valmar has attacked Eleanor Klein with Infernal Sigh!
GS: The Claw of Valmar has gained 2 Combo!
GS: The Claw of Valmar has attacked Seraph Clarine with Ice Bullet!
GS: The Claw of Valmar has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Seraph Clarine guards a hit from The Claw of Valmar's Ice Bullet for 111 hit points!
GS: The Claw of Valmar spends 2 Combo on Headshot!
GS: The Claw of Valmar has attacked Acacia Saitani with Tail Piercer!
GS: The Claw of Valmar has gained 2 Combo!
GS: Kamui used Defend! She takes The Claw of Valmar's attack on Acacia Saitani on herself!
GS: Kamui guards a hit from The Claw of Valmar's Tail Piercer for 106 hit points!
GS: Cripple! applied to Kamui!
GS: Kamui enters CONDITION GREEN!!
GS: The Claw of Valmar has attacked Ashley Winchester with Massive Underbite!
GS: The Claw of Valmar has gained 1 Combo!
GS: The Claw of Valmar has attacked The Claw of Valmar with Diggin'!
GS: The Claw of Valmar takes 31 damage from Poison!
GS: The Claw of Valmar has completed her action.
GS: Eleanor Klein takes a glancing hit from The Claw of Valmar's Infernal Sigh for 105 hit points!
GS: The Claw of Valmar takes a solid hit from The Claw of Valmar's Diggin' for 0 hit points!
GS: Shield! applied to The Claw of Valmar!
<Pose Tracker> Ida Everstead-Rey has posed.

    "Old family secrets," Ida says. "They can be unpleasant, can't they?" It's a testament to Neriah's new skills that she can keep up, defensively--Ida bobs a little as she strikes, trying to see where that guard is weakest. She even starts to circle Neriah, but can't get the opportunity to circle-walk in earnest before she backs off--and Ethius's veil of dust obscures her vision shortly after. Ida coughs, sharply, and steps back. She chances a glance behind Neriah, at the rummaging cultists. They've had far too much time to browse for Ida's liking.

    Neriah gestures, and the world explodes. Ida crosses her arms across her face--the shield snaps out from her right forearm, and she sways and rolls with the wash of pummeling force. More than once it threatens to knock her back, or pluck her off her feet, but Ida rides out the first wave of Neriah's fury. The second is even more challenging. Ida steps forwards, pirouetting and flowing around a yawning mouth as it snaps at her. She turns again, takes another step, and raises her right arm--a flaming talon slams into her shield, and dissipates. There is a deranged sort of pattern in Neriah's sorcery, and Ida--in a moment of almost transcendant battle-calm--is flowing with it.

    Ida clasps her fingers together, and--having reached Neriah's side again--jabs them forwards, trying to breach the shield and touch the person within. Golden-white energy crackles around her fingertips. If the strike hits, the energy leaps into Neriah's body like a spark jumping across electrodes. Ida's chi might ultimately be nothing before the might of Valmar, but it can sure cause unpleasant muscle spasms when weaponized.

GS: Ida Everstead-Rey has attacked Neriah Parringer with Burning Infusion!
GS: Ida Everstead-Rey has gained 2 Combo!
GS: Ida Everstead-Rey has completed her action.
GS: Neriah Parringer takes a glancing hit from Ida Everstead-Rey's Burning Infusion for 0 hit points!
GS: Cripple and Disease! applied to Neriah Parringer!
GS: Ida Everstead-Rey's Avenger stance ends.
GS: Ashley Winchester completely evades a hit from The Claw of Valmar's Massive Underbite!
<Pose Tracker> Ziara Tanir has posed.

Ziara had chunks of rock hit her from the first electrical blast. It's not exactly fun or healthy but she has been hurt worse before - though there's no guarantee it's going to stay that way, of course.

"She's worse? The boss cultist?" Ziara's not sure what to make of that. Her expression shifts between several before settling on pure, unbridled glee.

What?

Oh, she saw Kamui's armour. And her fingers itch. She wants to look at it. She wants to look at it *bad*. Later, she tells herself. *She* works with ARMs. She can ask later. Don't get distracted!

Prying her gaze away from Kamui, Ziara turns back toward the matter at hand - not getting killed by Neriah. Unfortunately, her mouth has other ideas. "If you keep trying to light people on fire, next time it'll be solid slugs," she snaps, without really thinking about it - just before, as if her very words summoned it, Neriah tries to light people on fire.

The flame doesn't - quite - touch Ziara. She's feeling uncomfortably warm in her little bubble, like she was getting an all-over sunburn, but she *is* in a bubble - a bubble projected by the strange device in her hands. It is a boxy machine in a steel box with several electrical emitters, like two-tine prongs, spaced around it; the box is set into a framework with a control system and a grip. Occasionally, an electrical bolt arcs out from the box's prongs to nowhere in particular, popping loudly in space in a bizarre, not-quite-natural display of lightning.

"Ha, it works! - Stay in range! Don't get behind anything!" she calls to Ida, adjusting some of the controls on her side of the box; the bubble ripples and pushes forward, forming a hemisphere in front of her, a faintly soap-bubble effect in blue and white. Anything that touches the bubble is pushed, deflected or at least dampened in strength; it's not a perfect barrier, but it's doing a good job of keeping her safe, and she's trying to focus the other part of the barrier on Ida to give her the same hemispherical protection.

Sorry, Ethius. She only has one extra output on this thing so far.

GS: Ziara Tanir has attacked Ziara Tanir with Repulsion Field Generator!
GS: Ziara Tanir has attacked Ida Everstead-Rey with Repulsion Field Generator!
GS: Ziara Tanir has completed her action.
GS: Marivel Armitage guards a hit from The Claw of Valmar's Infernal Sigh for 121 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Ethius Hesiod has posed.

    'You've festered too long on this world, Ethius.' Neriah growls. 'Like a damn polyp.'
     From where he is within the dusty haze, Ethius is frozen. It was his tactical decision to stay put and hope the outward billowing of dust clouds - especially when partially manipulated by another sorcerer present - would put forth the illusion of his further movement.
     Now it is less a conscious decision, and the words themselves, as though a sudden weight and weariness were coming into that stare of his.
     It had gone on for far too long even before I became acquainted with any of them. He reflects. To lengths and depths I know I should not. I am running out of places to find what must be destroyed. This thought seems impassive, when he is literally kneeling in the presence of a loose piece of Valmar, an awakened calamity from ages past, and who knows whatever other mysterious powers and persons are running about in front of him.
     Time and time again, I am met with items, people, and situations I recognize as things where my hand cannot be stayed... Explosions, thundering as though hundreds at once, sound out. He stays where he is. ...in the same matters where my lot cannot be cast freely.
     This is an all-or-nothing ruse, choosing to stay put through the next identified pulsing of Neriah's otherworldly power. If he is sitting still in the confusion - and he is - a direct hit by the spiraling hellmouth of shadow flame would end it all, and even he can see the colors and shapes flickering through the dust that both shields him from clarity but hampers his own view of things.
     It comes distressingly close as it slams into a nearby wall, the explosion of flame washing over him. He braces, holding in his breath as to not have the very sound of it giving him away. It hurts no less than the catch of before.
     It has nearly been four years since I came to. He holds this train of thought while he is being slow-shadow-roasted in the wake of dispersing shadowflame. I have endured countless setbacks. I have made errorneous calls. I have too few leads remaining.
     He stays put a little longer even after the (non-Ethius-made) smoke settles. He moves one hand up against his face mask as to double-protect against any loose sound escaping his lips as he begins flexing the fingers of his freer hand. He quietly tracks the general presence of Neriah's movement, accounting for the speed and agility in which Ida moves about her - which is important, for accuracy purposes, when one's own visibility is low.
     But I persist because I must. As long as it takes.

<Pose Tracker> Ethius Hesiod has posed.

    'You've festered too long on this world, Ethius.' Neriah growls. 'Like a damn polyp.'
     From where he is within the dusty haze, Ethius is frozen. It was his tactical decision to stay put and hope the outward billowing of dust clouds - especially when partially manipulated by another sorcerer present - would put forth the illusion of his further movement.
     Now it is less a conscious decision, and the words themselves, as though a sudden weight and weariness were coming into that stare of his.
     It had gone on for far too long even before I became acquainted with any of them. He reflects. To lengths and depths I know I should not. I am running out of places to find what must be destroyed. This thought seems impassive, when he is literally kneeling in the presence of a loose piece of Valmar, an awakened calamity from ages past, and who knows whatever other mysterious powers and persons are running about in front of him.
     Time and time again, I am met with items, people, and situations I recognize as things where my hand cannot be stayed... Explosions, thundering as though hundreds at once, sound out. He stays where he is. ...in the same matters where my lot cannot be cast freely.
     This is an all-or-nothing ruse, choosing to stay put through the next identified pulsing of Neriah's otherworldly power. If he is sitting still in the confusion - and he is - a direct hit by the spiraling hellmouth of shadow flame would end it all, and even he can see the colors and shapes flickering through the dust that both shields him from clarity but hampers his own view of things.
     It comes distressingly close as it slams into a nearby wall, the explosion of flame washing over him. He braces, holding in his breath as to not have the very sound of it giving him away. It hurts no less than the catch of before.
     It has nearly been four years since I came to. He holds this train of thought while he is being slow-shadow-roasted in the wake of dispersing shadowflame. I have endured countless setbacks. I have made errorneous calls. I have too few leads remaining.
     He stays put a little longer even after the (non-Ethius-made) smoke settles. He moves one hand up against his face mask as to double-protect against any loose sound escaping his lips as he begins flexing the fingers of his freer hand. He quietly tracks the general presence of Neriah's movement, accounting for the speed and agility in which Ida moves about her - which is important, for accuracy purposes, when one's own visibility is low.
     But I persist because I must. As long as it takes.
     _____________________"As long as it takes."
     He slurs the syllables for the spell in question quickly, aiming an explosion in a space near Neriah that forms spontaneously, opposite the direction of where Ida currently is. "Combustion."

GS: Ethius Hesiod has attacked Neriah Parringer with Combustion!
GS: Ethius Hesiod has completed his action.
GS: Neriah Parringer guards a hit from Ethius Hesiod's Combustion for 67 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Kamui has posed.

    Kamui's eyes widen a little at Neriah. "'Again'...? What-- do you know?" She clutches at the chestpiece of her armour for a moment. She fought so hard to even free the memory of 'Tio', and she still doesn't know so much about herself.

    Ida encourages her to do it. Ashley speaks up and offers his own support. "Let's do this, Ashley. And..."

    A pause, even as she feels that nagging doubt inside of her as well. Clarine speaks of the armour and she feels the Seraph's concern. She notices Ethius too. That mysterious man who helped coax her away from the Giants in Spira. Acacia offers words about how Ziara should be angry, and seeps that inside of herself too.

    "I believe in you too, Ashley! You're in control... and so am I. I'm not gonna overdo it and worry anyone else!!"

    And Marivel offers her spell at that point, and something within her systems immediately accepts as the soft thrum of a charge begins to well within her armour.

    It's all well and in time, because the Claw has taken notice of her and fires out an enormous arc of lightning towards her; she holds up her arms in a boxer's brace, and she's still blown back with another rapid cough.

    A pause, as she sees the Creature moves towards Acacia. "Master!!"

    Before she even knows it, the Dash functions have activated -- and she has erupted into a black blur in front of the reporter.

    *CRUNCH*

    The Tail Piercer sinks down into her and a sickening crunch erupts from a shoulder plate. A second, third, fourth hit strikes upon her, but she isn't impaled -- brutality happens to her, but the ancient armour is ancient... for a reason.

    Still, as the smoke from the devastating blows clear, Kamui is on one knee--

    "Master... I'm not doing this to sacrifice myself. I'm doing this so we'll survive...!"

    The X-Buster slidelocks into place -- there's an actual mechanism for its transformation, as golden side-wings snap out while the charge completes -- a charge that surrounds her entire body with spiralling motes of pure-blue light, not just her cannon. She aims her transformed ARM towards the mass of the monster--

    "Charge Shot...!"


    CHARGE ENERGY !!
 \\ ' PRESS (X) ____
  \\//________________/ \
  '\\________________ 85 |
 // \\ \____/


    "Now!! Eeeeeeeyah!"

    The Reploid is recoiled down to the ground from the backblast, a resplendent and tiny sun erupting from the barrel of her cannon.

GS: Kamui spends 1 Combo on Gatling, loading 1 into Gatling!
GS: Kamui has attacked The Claw of Valmar with X-Buster - Charge Shot!
GS: Kamui has completed her action.
GS: The Claw of Valmar guards a hit from Kamui's X-Buster - Charge Shot for 105 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Ashley Winchester has posed.

'Demon-powered man' is a little bit of a simplification with regards to what Knight Blazer is, but it's close enough.

A better description would, perhaps, involve the word 'spicy' somewhere along the line. As in 'Knight Blazer is too spicy to eat.' The Claw of Valmar goes to try and take a bite out of the black knight and... Encounters resistance. Ashley grabs hold of the thing's upper jaw with one hand and wedges the sole of his boot into the lower. Metal screams and screeches, even as his backfoot carves a sparking trail of flame into the ground as he digs in. Slowly, inexorably, the Claw's advance is halted, but before Ashley can capitalize, it withdraws-- and begins channeling its dark power into protective magic...!

Ashley Winchester takes umbrage.

And, as it turns out, so does Kamui.

"That much power--! Kamui, be careful! You're hurt! If you push yourself too far, then--" She fires, and his heart sinks. Marivel might be able to repair her, but how many times? She's already in a questionable state most of the time, and whenever she pushes herself like this...

...No. He can't let it get to him. She's right, they have to give it their all.

"That barrier's going to be a problem," the Blazer observes, levelling his arms at the whirling barrier of earth and stone. "But... this is the fire that almost turned Filgaia to ash! I won't let a shield stop us!" Heat gathers in his arms. The knight's hands tighten into fists as his wristguards draw up and back, revealing a pair of gunbarrels that even now burn with an awesome power...!

With a sound like twinned thunderbolts, he fires. Two gouts of world-scouring flame lance outward at the Claw and its shield, threatening to burn flesh and stone alike...!

GS: Ashley Winchester has attacked The Claw of Valmar with Corona Bolt!
GS: Ashley Winchester has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Ashley Winchester has completed his action.
<Pose Tracker> Eleanor Klein has posed.

"We're friends, aren't we?" Eleanor answers Ashley, though she of course hasn't forgotten the frightening appearance of his current form. Nevertheless, she means what she says. Besides--they're trying to save another friend in an awful state... "Right! We'll save her!"

At least, that's the theory--in practice, the Claw is smarter than its appearance might indicate, cunning and dangerous and not at all the mindless beast one would hope its horrific appearance to indicate. All that to say that Eleanor looks up to see its massive jaw closing. "Oh, no," she says, and immediately steps back, starts to run to the side. She makes it part of the way before the flame hits her in the side, knocking her to the ground with its heat and force. "Gah--"

She hits hard, stunned briefly as the rest of its attacks sink through. She doesn't have the time at first to notice them all...

Until she catches Kamui taking the attack for Acacia. Not just one--many. "Kamui!!"

She reaches, and pushes up. starting to rise. "I know you're not trying to sacrifice yourself..."

"So let's make sure you don't!"

Ancient armor is ancient for a reason, isn't it" Still--

"A perfect moment for all things..."

Eleanor lifts the Crest, closing her eyes as the focuses amidst whirling light. Geo and Muse gleam at her hand--

"Auspicious Span!"

GS: Eleanor Klein has attacked Kamui with Auspicious Span!
GS: Eleanor Klein has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Eleanor Klein has completed her action.
GS: Eleanor Klein heals Kamui! She gains 125 temporary hit points!
GS: Lock State! applied to Kamui!
<Pose Tracker> Marivel Armitage has posed.

"It's not a demon!" Marivel shouts back to Ashley because she is opinionated about this kind of classification. "I'd classify it more like a parasite!" Marivel has strong feelings as to what constitutes a 'demon' okay. She doesn't want to share that label with this friggin' thing.

She isn't sure if the Tio unit CAN be saved. If it were easy to remove Valmar bonded creatures from their victims everybody would be doing it. Marivel refuses to resolve herself to the worst case scenario just yet, though, because when all is said and done Marivel's soft spot for Kamui is either one of her best qualities or a glaring weak point.

Kamui is thrown back from using the Charge Shot but Marivel is there to catch her and steady herself, at least for a few moments.

"Nice shot!"

The flame slams into her as well, but this is at least partly resisted from an anti-magic shell she crafts around herself. Trails of black smoke drift from her body. She is already pushed this far?

She draws that bloodshaped blade into her hands. She needs to wear this thing down.

"The work never ends," She says, stepping away from Kamui just enough so that she has enough room to swing Guillotine with a flourish as she slams it for the creature's side.

There is little reason to dramatically shout at a fairly mindless creature, but she does narrow her eyes at Neriah to show she doesn't appreciate the attention on her daughter from a supervillain.

GS: Marivel Armitage has attacked The Claw of Valmar with Guillotine!
GS: Marivel Armitage has completed her action.
GS: The Claw of Valmar critically Guards a hit from Ashley Winchester's Corona Bolt for 27 hit points!
GS: The Claw of Valmar guards a hit from Marivel Armitage's Guillotine for 71 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Neriah Parringer has posed.

"Ugh, I'm tired," Neriah mutters to herself with a sharp look back over her shoulder at the library stacks. There's a crack as a red-robed cultist - a young woman with long scarlet hair - drops a skull on the floor in the process of rooting through several books.

Fighting ARMS is no small task, even with the power at Neriah's disposal - and the connection Marivel and Kamui have to the Claw's host is disturbing enough that she can't afford to just leave this to the tiny robot.

She swings her attention back towards Ida as the wavefront of magic begins to pass. "You've just got to find the right way to live with them," she parries as she takes a cuple of steps forward. Ida's entirely too alive for her tastes, and she attempts to remedy the problem by pivoting away from the woman and off to one side.

Ida's skill is even to the task. It's not a solid strike, but her fist hits Neriah's defensive shield and the energy leaps through. The priestess jolts and lets out a sickened retching sound as she staggers back a couple of steps, the trident nearly jerked out of her hands with a sudden convulsion. "Guh," is the only eloquent reply she can manage.

Ethius takes full advantage. The mysterious sorceror hurls explosive power into the fray. Thunderous blasts ring through the ancient catacombs as Neriah drops to a knee, continuing to shudder and clench her muscles as she tries to bodily fight the strange effects of Ida's chi coursing through her. Her shield splutters, flame leaking through to lick at her robes and skin, leaving a few sooty scorches across exposed shoulders. "As long as it takes to make my life miserable, huh, Ethius?" she hisses venomously. "You've been trying to kill me ever since I was an innocent girl who didn't understand her own powers. That's why I am willing to take as long as I need to tear you apart like the trash you are!"

The force of Neriah's anger surges through her defensive shield. Power flickers and pulses, eldritch patterns weaving bizarre geometries through the globe around her. Within, the priestess's feet leave the ground - and a few pieces of rubble float up with her, beginning to wind slow helixes around her as she hovers a few feet above the floor. Dark curls billow around her face and shoulders like a raven halo as she holds her trident out.

"The other thing you should know is that the Claw and I aren't here for no reason," she says, raising her chin imperially. "The signs are all there. Filgaia is on the clock. The Day of Darkness is coming. And so long as that's true...."

Sweeping her polearm, Neriah raises her voice to a shout. "...I'm glad I'm on the winning side!" she declares before a sudden howl of magic booms through the archive.

Flame suddenly explodes from a point equidistant between Ida, Ziara and Ethius. A dome of fire swells into being, rapidly blooming out and shooting up in an enormous spout. The wave of flame roars across the stone floor as if it were soaked in liquid fuel.

GS: Neriah Parringer has attacked Neriah Parringer with Eldritch Sphere!
GS: Neriah Parringer takes a solid hit from Neriah Parringer's Eldritch Sphere for 0 hit points!
GS: Shield and Surge! applied to Neriah Parringer!
GS: You do not have enough actions remaining to use that attack.
GS: Neriah Parringer has attacked Ida Everstead-Rey with BA-BOOM!!
GS: Neriah Parringer has attacked Ziara Tanir with BA-BOOM!!
GS: Neriah Parringer has attacked Ethius Hesiod with BA-BOOM!!
GS: Neriah Parringer has completed her action.
GS: Ida Everstead-Rey takes a solid hit from Ziara Tanir's Repulsion Field Generator for 0 hit points!
GS: Shield! applied to Ida Everstead-Rey!
GS: Ziara Tanir takes a solid hit from Ziara Tanir's Repulsion Field Generator for 0 hit points!
GS: Shield! applied to Ziara Tanir!
GS: Ziara Tanir guards a hit from Neriah Parringer's BA-BOOM! for 120 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Seraph Clarine has posed.

In response to Clarine's spell, the Claw of Valmar sends a flurry of ice bullets down toward her. Her mirrors move to try and intercept the storm, but they can only catch so many of them. Many of them fly past her mirrors, slicing into her. One of them manages to bury itself solidly in her left shoulder.

If she were a human this would be quite the problem for her, but it isn't. That doesn't mean it's comfortable for her either, though - it really hurts, and it limits the movement of her arm.

Perhaps even worse, though, is that Tio doesn't seem to be able to respond to Kamui's voice. ...They'll have to try harder, then.

But, speaking of Kamui, Clarine hears her assert that she's in control. And even says that she's not planning to sacrifice herself. Clarine nods to herself. She just had to trust her...and everyone else, too.

And so, Clarine glides forward toward the Claw, her mirrors streaming along behind her like a pair of wings. As she draws closer, she swings her left arm forward toward the Part and the mirrors on her left side move with it like an extension of the limb.

It's a little difficult to move, injured as she is, but she doesn't let it stop her - and then she follows through with the right in an upward swing that carries her upward as well. And then again, and again, in a combination that sees her lifted above the others.

And then, she casts her arms out wide. Her natural light spreads out over the whole room, wrapping her friends and allies in its glow. It's bright like the rays of the sun on a pleasantly warm day - encouraging, invigorating, and reassuring. As if she's letting them know everyone will be alright.

The only one spared these rays, for obvious reasons, is Marivel - but maybe the sentiment will still get through to her all the same.

"...Tio...your friend Kamui is here for you." Clarine murmurs. "And, she will not give up on you. I know this well."

Even if she wasn't responding, it couldn't hurt to reach out.

GS: Seraph Clarine has attacked The Claw of Valmar with Solar Ascent!
GS: Seraph Clarine has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Seraph Clarine has launched an attack Link!
GS: Seraph Clarine has attacked Eleanor Klein with Radiant Horizon!
GS: Seraph Clarine has attacked Ashley Winchester with Radiant Horizon!
GS: Seraph Clarine has attacked Acacia Saitani with Radiant Horizon!
GS: Seraph Clarine has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Seraph Clarine has completed her action.
GS: Acacia Saitani takes a solid hit from Seraph Clarine's Radiant Horizon for 0 hit points!
GS: Quick and Shield! applied to Acacia Saitani!
GS: Eleanor Klein takes a solid hit from Seraph Clarine's Radiant Horizon for 0 hit points!
GS: Quick and Shield! applied to Eleanor Klein!
<Pose Tracker> Acacia Saitani has posed.

    There's a grim satisfaction at the way in which the Claws of Valmar stumble from her attack, even if that was entirely what she was setting out to do anyway. She knows she can't stand up to the other members of ARMS when it comes to raw strength - though she has to admit that under Yue's tutelage, maybe she'll get there. But what she can do right now is try to impede and support as best she can.

    Unfortunately, it seems to make the creature angry more than anything, and it has too many appendages for her to be able to stop all of them. "Oh, hell--" she starts to blurt, bringing her arms up in the vain, instinctive hope of trying to at least block her face. Part of her knows that it's not going to be of any use against something that size, but it's not as if she has time to muster anything else.

    There's a crunch - but there's no impact, and the incongruity of it all means she takes a few moments in confusion before she actually manages to open her eyes. "--K-- Kamui!" she yells with a shiver of fear, but the Reploid has somehow managed to avoid being punctured straight through, and she gasps back a relieved breath, with a chuckle caugt somewhere amongst it.

    "Yeah... good job. And thanks," she mutters fondly as she plants a hand on the Reploid's helmet, briefly ignoring the way in which light coalesces around Kamui as she charges her shot. The reporter has more than enough faith to know it's not going to hurt her, and for a moment she even tries to feel for the energy involved, wondering quietly to herself if perhaps there's a way to assist her assistant right back.

    That's for another time, though. Instead, she raises her head, and lifts her hand up. It isn't in a gun shape any longer; instead, she has a fist clutched around a whorl of fiery power. "I've got your back. Providing support," she promises, smirking just a little as she mimics the Reploid's mission-focused way of speech for a moment. "Or more like-- let's tear that barrier down!"

    She rears back as the sphere of energy builds and builds, the Ether around her sucked out of the air into the ball - and then flings it forward in a wild throw whose wildness doesn't seem to matter an iota. Rather than move it hangs there, twisting in her palm, and then rockets forwards to tear at the Claws of Valmar. It isn't an explosive force, but what it lacks in power it makes up for as it explodes, tearing the atmosphere around it into a mess of disorienting sensation.

GS: Acacia Saitani spends 1 Combo on Link!
GS: Acacia Saitani has attacked The Claw of Valmar with Stop the Press!!
GS: Acacia Saitani has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Acacia Saitani has launched an attack Link!
GS: Acacia Saitani enters a Counter stance!
GS: Acacia Saitani has attacked The Claw of Valmar with Hit Piece!
GS: Acacia Saitani has gained 2 Combo!
GS: Ashley Winchester takes a solid hit from Seraph Clarine's Radiant Horizon for 0 hit points!
GS: Quick and Shield! applied to Ashley Winchester!
GS: Ethius Hesiod takes a solid hit from Neriah Parringer's BA-BOOM! for 92 hit points!
GS: Ida Everstead-Rey takes a solid hit from Neriah Parringer's BA-BOOM! for 172 hit points!
GS: Ida Everstead-Rey enters CONDITION GREEN!!
GS: The Claw of Valmar critically Guards a hit from Seraph Clarine's Solar Ascent for 28 hit points!
GS: The Claw of Valmar guards a hit from Acacia Saitani's Stop the Press! for 0 hit points!
GS: Weaken! applied to The Claw of Valmar!
GS: The Claw of Valmar guards a hit from Acacia Saitani's Hit Piece for 0 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> The Claw of Valmar has posed.

    The sharp tail meets the Ultimate Armour, and even as it digs into Kamui, she stands against it. The Claw doesn't have feelings like 'frustration'. It has no such intelligence. It exists to kill and destroy without care or control- unless, say, someone has power over it. It does not try to evade Kamui's tiny sun, and it scores into the body of the Claw, and it is rocked by the blast and driven back, leaving massive marks in the ground. It quickly tries to right itself, but then comes the blast from Knight Blazer.

    This time, the Claw manages to pull it's arms in front of itself, and while some of the bony protrusions from it's arm shatter, they are acceptable losses to keep the power of Knight Blazer at bay. It is not quick to counter attack, but it starts channeling... something.

    Guillotine carves into the Claw of Valmar viciously, taking out chunks of flesh. The Claw of Valmar does not bleed cleanly. Horrific, thick black blood oozes from the wound onto the ground below. It is wrong, as wrong as Valmar is, and hideous to behold.

    Clarine's upward swing forces the Claw onto the defensive. It reels back quickly, as the arc of light sears the ground and the flesh of it's arms. It reels back before Clarine can follow up on her strike. But it doesn't. It's chitinous form takes no further damage from the blast.

    And then it finishes channeling. Volcanic power surges through it, the earth beneath it glowing red as it fills itself with power.

    And then white light forms between Clarine, Acacia and Eleanor. Those paying attention ahead to the fight with Neriah might recognise this spell. It was cast only moments ago. A blast of pure explosive energy flies outward, aiming to catch the three of them in it's powerful blast.

    And then darkness flows out of the Claw. That same darkness that formed the portal that brought the claw here. The darkness of Valmar, and all it's wrongness. Tendrils fly out towards Marivel and Kamui, aiming to surround them. No damage is done, but the power of Valmar seems to sap all, strength, speed, defenses. It is a cruel and horrid power, rife with Darkness.

    And for Knight Blazer, something else happens. A red sphere fires from the Claw. Upon reaching it's destination, and ideally Ashley, it expands. Should Ashley be caught in it, it traps and ensnares the target, lifting it off the ground. And then a massive clawed skeletal hand bursts from the ground, and and tries to crush the sphere and Ashley alike. The sphere seems to bleed as the clawed hand pierces it, before a horrific crush. This is the claw manifesting the purest part of it's existence as part of Valmar. This is why it is The Claw.

GS: The Claw of Valmar has attacked The Claw of Valmar with WOW!!
GS: The Claw of Valmar has gained 1 Combo!
GS: The Claw of Valmar takes a solid hit from The Claw of Valmar's WOW! for 0 hit points!
GS: Cripple and Hyper! applied to The Claw of Valmar!
GS: The Claw of Valmar has activated a Force Action!GS: The Claw of Valmar has attacked Seraph Clarine with BA-BOOM!!
GS: The Claw of Valmar has attacked Acacia Saitani with BA-BOOM!!
GS: The Claw of Valmar has attacked Eleanor Klein with BA-BOOM!!
GS: The Claw of Valmar has attacked Marivel Armitage with Valmar's Curse!
GS: The Claw of Valmar has attacked Kamui with Valmar's Curse!
GS: The Claw of Valmar spends 3 Combo on Gatling, loading 3 into Gatling!
GS: The Claw of Valmar has attacked Ashley Winchester with Avenging Claw!
GS: The Claw of Valmar has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Marivel Armitage takes a glancing hit from The Claw of Valmar's Valmar's Curse for 0 hit points!
GS: Break, Cripple, Jam, Mute, Slow, and Weaken! applied to Marivel Armitage!
GS: The Claw of Valmar takes 24 damage from Poison!
GS: The Claw of Valmar has completed her action.
GS: Kamui has activated a Force Action!
GS: Kamui guards a hit from The Claw of Valmar's Valmar's Curse for 0 hit points!
GS: Break, Cripple, Jam, Mute, Slow, and Weaken! applied to Kamui!
GS: Kamui enters CONDITION GREEN!!
GS: Ashley Winchester guards a hit from The Claw of Valmar's Avenging Claw for 142 hit points!
GS: The Claw of Valmar assumes the Avenger stance!
GS: Seraph Clarine guards a hit from The Claw of Valmar's BA-BOOM! for 88 hit points!
GS: COUNTER! Acacia Saitani counterattacks The Claw of Valmarwith Counter Attack!
GS: Acacia Saitani takes a solid hit from The Claw of Valmar's BA-BOOM! for 183 hit points!
GS: Eleanor Klein guards a hit from The Claw of Valmar's BA-BOOM! for 150 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Ziara Tanir has posed.

Though Ziara has thoroughly tested the repulsion field generator, she's never brought it into the field before. It takes a bit more attention than she was hoping for - but it's an early model, and one that was never really designed to be operated this way. She's sure she can make it better.

Once she has it running, Ziara tucks it, on a strap, over one shoulder; it hangs at her hip, and continues to emit the deflection bubble around her and Ida. It still occasionally sparks, but (fortunately) it tends to spark away from Ziara.

"Right, okay..." Ziara moves a little more carefully because of the activated system at her side - or that's the idea. Sometimes you can't move 'carefully' in the middle of a battle. Like right now - fire is bad, and the bubble won't perfectly protect her from fire. "Get down!" she calls at Ida, as she sees the flash, and everything goes red.

When it clears, Ziara is hunched down behind a pile of rubble from where part of the ceiling fell down. It's not enough to fully protect her; her arms feel like she reached into the forge, though at least her hands aren't as badly burned as that would suggest (she checked). The field...

...is still ticking away, though it has more white in it now, less blue. Stressed, Ziara figures. She can't rely on it for long. Which means she's got to act fast. Which meeeeans she has to do something stupid so that ARMS can deal with the Claws (which she has avoided looking at) and the people ransacking books.

"Hey! Hey, wizard cultist lady!"

Ziara rises up from the debris, her wings uncurling to knock dirt and ash off them. She has something else new in her hands; it looks like a short blunderbuss. Sort of. It has the bell of a blunderbuss, anyway, though the actual gun itself looks much, much older; the sleekness and the styling suggests somewhere between Collapse and the Metal Demon War. (The first one.)

"I don't believe in Granas or Valmar!"

Ziara squeezes the trigger. What starts out at a low hum, barely audible both because of its volume and pitch, slowly rises; a droning hum that intensifies. That's what everyone but Neriah hears.

Neriah is in the path of a cone of sound that is intense enough to vibrate the air, making it ripple like a heat haze. It's not really noise so much as vibrating pressure. It shakes her - and her spells, threatening to throw both of them across the room.

The gun in Ziara's hands is also visibly vibrating. She is having to wrestle it to hold the sustained blast on Neriah, and after a few moments of this something in it pops, spraying sparks out the side of the gun. Ziara hisses as some of the sparks scatter across exposed skin, but only shuts the blaster down a couple seconds later. It's *hot*, too - it looks like it's steaming or smoking from wherever the sparks came from.

GS: Ziara Tanir has activated a Force Action!
GS: Ziara Tanir has attacked Neriah Parringer with Sonic Blaster!
GS: Ziara Tanir has gained 2 Combo!
GS: Ziara Tanir has completed her action.
GS: Neriah Parringer critically Guards a hit from Ziara Tanir's Sonic Blaster for 34 hit points!
GS: Weaken! applied to Neriah Parringer!
<Pose Tracker> Ethius Hesiod has posed.

    All the while, Ethius tries to take in colors and shapes from behind his cover. He can just about make out Ziara's energy barrier and use it to pinpoint that 'this is currently considered a barricade' as he considers the next movement. He realizes that his position is already given away from speaking aloud.
     As Neriah's rage builds, though there is the thick smog between them, the presence of the Eighth thrums and builds with her own declarations of his own sins against her - sins that other Drifters called on the spot on that day he moved to electrocute her as she engaged a black death-touch butterfly that could have taken them all were it not for the intervention of her power.
     Her anger towards him is, at root, born of what could be recognized as some righteousness. Riesenlied's and Jay's first ever meeting with him involved him executing a surrendering bandit at the Sacred Grounds of Linga.
     He takes a step back, visibly unsettled with slightly widening eyes as if she could see him clearly through all of that - all of that, and her own defensive barrier.
     It may say worse of him, yet, that he makes no effort to speak any sort of excuse or apology even now - it could be that the two of them, both, are too deeply entrenched in their desires and goals that any sort of greater truth or motive that could be put before them would be wasted. If one such exists.
     The greatest tragedy of it all, but that is enough waxing poetic.
     An explosion begins from the center point between the three who stand directly against the one who would spearhead the return of Valmar. It happens so fast that Ethius can't acknowledge its spacing is deliberate and confirmation she has his position marked.
     Even if she didn't, it throws him off his feet and up against the wall with a grunt that goes off into a pathetic gurgling sputter. Flames race against the stone as he lies face down. The series of sounds his throat makes - he's choking. He has to pull that face mask off to not suffocate on what would like to take leave of his body from equal parts pain and pressure.
     Flames dance throughout the chamber for a while. His vision, when he decides to look up, is hazy. He watches the various struggles as swirling shapes and colors. The emotions. The distresses. The... detachment.
     Were it not for that feeling... this would not be my concern. Far too late for regrets. His corpse would be sealed within this tomb for as long as it took for someone to break that seal. Even if I am not clear on the whole of it... I am clear on what must be done.
     He starts to rise. He is just a mortal man, but there is something about him that casts a nefarious silhouette in a scene of fire, smoke, and ruin. Like he belongs in this sort of place, this situation. If this came about by my hand... there is no other way.
     He exhales. His nose and lungs are ravaged. He feels exposed, as fire licks and scalds at his face. Nonetheless, he finds enough air to work with. Air to breathe, to speak.
     "You won't have that time." He flutters the fingers again. The fabric on one arm is gone, revealing the myriad number of Symbological crests - whoever or whatever this man is, it is unambiguous that he is one of its most ardent and serious practicioners anywhere on this world or the next. They light up as he finishes chanting and flexing his hand and fingers to various arcane movements and gestures...
     "Dust Compress!"
     All ambient smoke and dust in the air - including from his own ashen veil - compress and slam down against the ground, with Neriah as the focal point, fanning outward and trying to bury out the flames consuming the room.
     "I will see this buried." He remarks plainly, punctuated with a cough. "It- It... It has already taken what place it will. Instead... I am to see it erased."

GS: Ethius Hesiod has activated a Force Action!
GS: Ethius Hesiod has attacked Neriah Parringer with Dust Compress!
GS: Ethius Hesiod has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Ethius Hesiod has completed his action.
GS: Neriah Parringer guards a hit from Ethius Hesiod's Dust Compress for 89 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Kamui has posed.

    Marivel compliments her on the shot, and even has her back as she catches her; Acacia gives her a headpat, and tells her she's got her back. Kamui sucks down a breath as she nods and says, "I feel strong knowing you have my back, Master... Mother!"

    Marivel says their work never ends, and she reflects on something that's given her despair in the past, but... "But... having you with me makes me believe the work can be made lighter."

    Because what she saw in that flashback... it disturbs her...

    Clarine speaks up to Tio as well. A friend... that's what Kamui remembers right now. She doesn't remember much more than that she was a friend. She doesn't even remember the context in which they existed. Just...

    "That's right... Tio..."

    Eleanor tells her she understsands, and the forces of Geo and Muse surround her as a light surrounds her. Once more, the Armour absorbs it, and surrounds her in a powerful barrier--

    "Thank you, Eleanor..."

    One that comes just in time as the tendrils surround her and threatens to sap them of all energy. There's a grimace from Kamui as she answers her mother truthfully,

    "I don't know if she can be released... but it doesn't mean I won't try."

    She closes her eyes.

    "I can't remember a lot. But I know she protected me once. So--"

    The X-Buster snaps to light again.

    "To that end..."

    Ashley -- Knight Blazer -- calls out to her and shows concern for her. "I'm keeping a close eye on my systems... I won't let myself break down." She pumps her hands tighter. "I... will survive! So you do the same too, Ashley!"

    The X-Buster raises again -- a differing charge ensues throughout her entire body, similarly light-blue in colour but adopting radiant, thin rays seeping into her Buster. It is a different technique, a different kind of power...

    "Clarine... you inspired me to recall this. <Reflect Laser!>"

    Not dissimilar to the Seraph of Light's rays, the Buster fires -- but instead of an enormous, powerful shot, she fires a spread of thin blue lasers that inexplicably rebound off the stone walls and the ground, seeking to puncture a certain point in the creature's barrier.

GS: Kamui has attacked The Claw of Valmar with X-Buster - Reflect Laser!
GS: Disrupt expired!
GS: Kamui has completed her action.
GS: The Claw of Valmar takes a solid hit from Acacia Saitani's Counter Attack for 106 hit points!
GS: The Claw of Valmar critically Guards a hit from Kamui's X-Buster - Reflect Laser for 27 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Ida Everstead-Rey has posed.

    'Stay in range! Don't get behind anything!'

    Ida glances over her shoulder and sees Ziara fiddling with something--it's definitely an ARM, but not one she recognizes. A moment later, the forcefield snaps into place. Ida flashes Zaira a thumbs-up.

    It isn't two minutes before the barrier proves its worth. This time, there's no gesture, no warning sign. Flame erupts from out of nowhere, washing over Ida and everything near her. The forcefield strains against the sorcerous onslaught, and holds--but there's only so much it can do when it seems like the whole world is on fire. Ida bites back a scream of pain as fire licks up her body; she throws herself to the ground, rolling to try and put out the flames. Superheated air rushes into her lungs.

    Ida lies there for a long moment, trembling, curled up on her side. "Awfully premature of you," she croaks. Slowly, she starts to push herself upright.

GS: Ida Everstead-Rey enters CONDITION GREEN!!
GS: Ida Everstead-Rey has attacked Neriah Parringer with Just Need To Focus...!!
GS: Ida Everstead-Rey has completed her action.
GS: Sneak! The true nature of Ida Everstead-Rey's attack becomes clear!
GS: Neriah Parringer guards a hit from Ida Everstead-Rey's Devil's Draw for 105 hit points!
GS: Neriah Parringer enters CONDITION GREEN!!
GS: Ida Everstead-Rey assumes the Avenger stance!
<Pose Tracker> Ida Everstead-Rey has posed.

    Ida is the very image of pain. It helps that her body is peppered with burns, patches of oozing red. Quicksilver fluid is seeping from them, too, forming protective plaques. She waits, patiently, as Ethius makes his declaration. Ida heard what Neriah said about him.

    And the instant her opening arrives, Ida draws. Devil's Due all but leaps into her hands, as if Flora's old gun still possessed the urge to work God's will, even in its reformed state. She takes aim at center mass, pulls the trigger, and then double-taps for good measure.

<Pose Tracker> Marivel Armitage has posed.

"Me too, kiddo." Marivel assures Kamui, and it's such a natural response that she probably isn't just trying to be dramatic here or be reassuring. She means it.

Kamui speaks on Tio. But really, probably not Tio. There are many Tios, Marivel knows this. And Marivel is hesitant to even deem Tios as people, occupying that weird space between entities like Kamui and Dash and entities like Hob and Nob and some golems.

And even if Kamui made such friendships with other Tio units, one can hardly expect this one to maintain it. But even though Kamui can be pretty needy and wanty, Marivel can tell the difference between Kamui needing stickers and Kamui needing to save this Tio.

rHer gaze shifts to Ethius. She knows not of his past with Neriah, but she does in a sense trust the guy's judgement. Even at his strangest.

She chuckles briefly at Ziara's shout. "Yelling how you don't believe in something when looking it straight on... I can't say I dislike that."

She darts forward but...

...but she's caught by that tendril. It whips around her and starts draining Marivel dry. Her power. Her life force.

She can't seem to pry herself free.

And yet... she doesn't seem to be trying to.

"Let's see.... if this will do it...!" Marivel shouts as she slams both hands down on the creature. She doesn't shout out an attack because this is not an attack. Not really.

It's just a natural ability of those born as Crimson Nobles. The power of the Spirit Drain. It is a key part of the mystery as to what makes a Crimson Noble be. but that is a mystery that will have to wait until the next time as Marivel rather than try to overpower the monster--

--instead aims to disrupt the spiritual link between host and parasite by sucking away at that power. Such tastes are often unpleasant but the Noble is prepared for such unpleasantness.

To use such an enshrined technique striking at one of the parasites aiming to destroy Filgaia beyond recognition? Well, it is the sort of work that makes Marivel feel closest to her people.

And so her smile is a peaceful one as she feels a little less alone in her people's work and purpose.

GS: Marivel Armitage has attacked The Claw of Valmar with Skill Drain!
GS: Marivel Armitage has completed her action.
<Pose Tracker> Eleanor Klein has posed.

The claw erupts around--and Eleanor can't escape it, this time. She tries to make herself a smaller target, to brace for impact, but she still is hit hard enough to knock her from her feet, requiring her to drag herself back up again after a moment. "This is..."

But they're all still going. "Keep at it," she says, but it's partly to herself for now. Instead she lifts her voice to Marivel, "Even if it doesn't end, you don't have to do it alone!"

The day of Darkness, coming... Eleanor wonders--she thinks--

"...It... It couldn't be," she murmurs, briefly distracted as if by memory, and it is something like memory. "I--"

Neriah attacks more of them. And Ziara calls out her lack of belief--

"That's--Heh, I didn't either!" Eleanor answers. "Kamui! We'll keep trying!"

The barrier... and this power--if there's any time for it--

"Now is the time!" Eleanor raises her voice, calling out to the others. "Give it what you can! I'm right behind all of you! Just remember, we're together!"

She breathes in--and pulls another crest, one of her very brightest, shining in gold. "...As above, so below--let the heavens shine down, and show symmetry in all things--"

Muse and Geo shine around her. "FATED MOMENT!"

Eleanor lifts the crest, and brilliant restorative, protective light bursts up around those of ARMS in closest proximity to her here, the ones she can reach with all the energy she can put in.

GS: Eleanor Klein has activated a Force Action!
GS: The Claw of Valmar takes a solid hit from Marivel Armitage's Skill Drain for 85 hit points!
GS: Marivel Armitage drains The Claw of Valmar! Marivel Armitage gains 42 temporary hit points!
GS: Eleanor Klein has attacked Marivel Armitage with Fated Moment!
GS: Eleanor Klein has attacked Kamui with Fated Moment!
GS: Eleanor Klein has attacked Acacia Saitani with Fated Moment!
GS: Eleanor Klein has attacked Seraph Clarine with Fated Moment!
GS: Eleanor Klein has attacked Ashley Winchester with Fated Moment!
GS: Eleanor Klein has attacked Eleanor Klein with Fated Moment!
GS: Eleanor Klein has gained 2 Combo!
GS: Eleanor Klein has completed her action.
GS: Eleanor Klein heals Kamui! She gains 250 temporary hit points!
GS: Eleanor Klein heals Seraph Clarine! She gains 250 temporary hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Ashley Winchester has posed.

    "Parasites can be demons too! I'd wager anyone who ever had a parasite probably thought it was pretty demonic-- but if it's a parasite, that's even better, isn't it? If it's alive, then all we need to do is to burn it out...!" That's a gross oversimplification of the situation at hand. Valmar isn't simply a parasite of the flesh, but of the soul. The question then becomes whether or not the 'Tio Unit' has enough of either of those things for the infection to have taken permanent hold...

But the Claws of Valmar are not wont to surrender their host so easily, once it is within their grip. Their grasp is terrible, their claws dig into the very essence of a thing. Ashley finds out the hard way, as a sphere of crimson light slams into him. He went to block its advance as he did the Claws' bite, but there was nothing to parry or guard here. The sphere is nothing more than a vector for the power that gives the Claws of Valmar their namesake.

Ashley makes a noise of surprise as he's abruptly hoisted into the air. His eyes widen into burning saucers as that hand materializes out of the grotesque, moist abyss of its origin. He screams as it clutches down around him. The pain is indescribable. The pressure is incredible. It's as if everything that is him is being squeezed out of his armored body like a crab's succulent meat being shucked out of its shell. He wants to shout, he wants to cry out, but his voice is spent.

But.

Even then.

There is resistance there. The blood that floods from the sphere begins to sputter and spark, catching fire as it drips from the eviscerated sphere. The hand's fingers begin to twitch and spasm as something, impossibly, forces them back. Faster and faster the blood burns, before it instead begins to boil instead of flow, blasting out in gouts of crimson steam that quickly turn to plumes of flame like a dozen stove burners igniting at once.

A single, flaming blade lances out of the top of the sphere... And carves it clean in half.

Knight Blazer tumbles to the ground, landing on his knees. His armor is cracked in dozens of places. Light like magma drips from his wounds. Ashley's grip tightens around the burning sword in his right hand. "...WE will survive, Kamui," Ashley coughs, staggering to his feet. "Whatever happens. We will survive!" He looks toward Eleanor and gives a firm nod, "And we will save her! If this thing is a parasite, then...!"

Knight Blazer surges forward, swinging his blade even as it flares like a distended star. "We'll just have to cut it out of her!"

GS: Eleanor Klein heals Eleanor Klein! She gains 250 temporary hit points!
GS: Eleanor Klein heals Ashley Winchester! He gains 250 temporary hit points!
GS: Eleanor Klein heals Marivel Armitage! She gains 250 temporary hit points!
GS: Ashley Winchester has attacked The Claw of Valmar with Fury Striker!
GS: Ashley Winchester has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Ashley Winchester has completed his action.
<Pose Tracker> Seraph Clarine has posed.

Clarine's still in the air above the Claw when she sees that light beginning to build. She recognizes it as the same spell used by Neriah not long before - but in her current position, she can't do much but brace herself as the explosion rocks the chamber. The concussive force of it sends her flying, knocking her out of the air and causing her to crash into the ground below in a painful fashion, her mirrors collapsing to the ground around her. On the bright side, it does dislodge the ice bullet from her shoulder.

On the not-so-bright-side this...really hurts. But...then, she hears Eleanor's voice. 'Give it what you can'. She's right there behind them.

We're together.

She is suffused with Eleanor's restorative light and with a deep, centering breath, she rises - though it still takes some effort.

"...Okay." She replies with a nod.

Everyone is fighting, and Kamui is determined... and, she even uses an attack that she inspired her to recall.

"...Okay. Then I will...!" She decides, nodding once more. Her mirrors struggle for a second...and then arise, dispersing themselves throughout the room.

"One thousand divine lights, arise and light the path to tomorrow! Radiant Cannonade!" Clarine incants. Countless beams of light flash into the air around her, take aim, and then fire off. They rebound off of mirror after mirror, becoming a confusing array of light and color as they join Kamui's lasers in bouncing around the room. And then, they start rebounding off of the mirrors toward the Claw, each of them aimed at a different location on its main body - but none of them aim for Tio herself.

GS: Seraph Clarine spends 3 Combo on Gatling, loading 3 into Gatling!
GS: Seraph Clarine has attacked The Claw of Valmar with Radiant Cannonade!
GS: Seraph Clarine has completed her action.
GS: The Claw of Valmar guards a hit from Ashley Winchester's Fury Striker for 87 hit points!
GS: Ashley Winchester assumes the Avenger stance!
GS: CRITICAL! The Claw of Valmar takes a solid hit from Seraph Clarine's Radiant Cannonade for 238 hit points!
GS: Eleanor Klein heals Acacia Saitani! She gains 250 temporary hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Neriah Parringer has posed.

As the light of the explosion fades, Neriah draws a steadying breath and looks back again, then over towards where Kamui and her friends are appealing to the Claw of Valmar. To their friend - Tio, they called her. Frowning, Neriah narrows her eyes slightly, making a few mental calculations.

They are calculations she has privately dreaded making.

    'Hey, wizard cultist lady!'

"For starters, my name is Neriah," Neriah huffs, resting one hand at her hip and flicking her hair back as she fixes a flat look on Ziara. "And you could have just asked me that. As for the theological debate, you aren't required to believe in anything but it's a bit silly to aaaaaaaAAAGH STOP THAT," she shouts in an increasingly loud voice as Ziara cranks the noise up on her. Squeezing one eye closed, Neriah takes an unsteady step back, her cape and hair blown back by the sheer force of the sound.

"Would you make that thing shut up!" she snaps before flicking her wrist - and the shape of her shield shifts subtly. It pulses, and the sound radiating through it muffles noticeably. The shouting outside dims to a dull sound, like people shouting through a wall.

She can see Ethius shouting at her.

"WHAT," she yells through her shield.

She finds out what when Ethius slams the smoke and dust down in a pressure wave. The flames dim and suppress, still more of the shock powering into Neriah herself and battering the eldritch sphere around her violently. The sounds of battle come through clearly again as she shifts it back to a standard defensive field, but she can't block everything. Particles rake across her legs and arms, and she has to pull a sleeve up to keep it out of her eyes. "It's been tried," she snarls at him. "By better people than you, no less!"

Whirling, Neriah glances towards Ida, but as she finds the woman down, she mentally writes her off. With a look back over her shoulder, she checks to see what's happening among the stacks. A couple of bookshelves have been ransacked, and the raven is perched on the shoulder of a cult-robed figure who looks an awful lot like a gangly metallic figure with a winch sticking out of his back. Not only a Hyadean, but one of the Tainted. The pair are looking intently through a large tome.

The distraction gives Ida her moment.

Devil's Due blares with the urge of Ida's will, if not God's, and only the sound alerts Ida that there's trouble. She begins to turn, but even she can't dodge a gunshot from someone she assumed to be out of the fight. She snaps her hand up. "Shiii--"

The blasts hit Neriah's half-formed defensive shield and tear through, slamming into the silver plating that protects her bicep hard enough to tear part of it off. With a pained gasp, she sails back several feet, hitting the floor and skidding, then rolling as she struggles to stop herself. Spitting out a mouthful of blood, she pushes herself to her knee. The scowl she fires back at Ida seethes with hatred.

"You just made my list," she bites out. "Pat yourself on the back, Ida. Pat yourself on the Granas-be-damned back."

With another steadying breath, Neriah pulls herself out of her crouch, once more mustering her power. Blood drips down from one side of her mouth and down her left arm as she raises her right hand, fingers splayed. "Now have a look at this really amazing trick I learned," she invites

What springs to light in her hand is not a card trick or a colourful fireworks display. It's a globe of raw negative energy - the same energy seething from the Claw. The power of Valmar and his agents - the feel of it subtly unique, but similar enough. Colour seems to drain from the area around her, casting everything in stark, washed-out contrast as arcs of black lightning screech out from the building orb of shadow. Neriah's eyes blaze with power.

"It's called 'Neriah murders every last one of you' and it's the very best trick," she proclaims. "Just watch me."

Neriah casts the ball of darkness down. It slams into the floor - and the stone around it ripples like a liquid, as if it were a pond rippling around a thrown stone. The hall itself groans sickeningly.

And everything vanishes in a wave of howling shadow and light.

The energy unleashed is titanic. The explosion overwhelms the senses, a burst of raw evil magic bathing the room in cold white light and vapourizing stone and rock alike. More debris is blown back out through the catacombs as the spell is unleashed. It's concentrated around Ziara, Ida and Ethius - and for those caught in the blast wave, it's more than just pain and force.

Energy crackles through the explosion, twisting into howling visages twisted beyond human understanding, of maddening geometric shapes, of things that defy description and tear at the soul as well as the body.

GS: Neriah Parringer has attacked Neriah Parringer with Inhalation!
GS: Neriah Parringer heals Neriah Parringer! She gains 200 temporary hit points!
GS: Neriah Parringer enters CONDITION GREEN!!
GS: Neriah Parringer has activated a Boss Action!
GS: You have activated the Boss Action Extend!
GS: Neriah Parringer spends 3 Combo on Gatling, loading 3 into Gatling!
GS: Neriah Parringer has attacked Ida Everstead-Rey with Dawn of Retribution!
GS: Neriah Parringer has attacked Ethius Hesiod with Dawn of Retribution!
GS: Neriah Parringer has attacked Ziara Tanir with Dawn of Retribution!
GS: Neriah Parringer has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Neriah Parringer has completed her action.
GS: Ziara Tanir critically Guards a hit from Neriah Parringer's Dawn of Retribution for 46 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Acacia Saitani has posed.

    "Kh!" Acacia grunts to herself in the wake of her attack; she's briefly dizzy, still not sure on how exactly to handle her power when she really needs to tap into it. The floor beneath her feet feels too hot in a way that promises danger, and she can barely lift her arms again before a rush of explosive energy blasts her away from Kamui, sending her one more tumbling backwards.

    One hand grabs for the floor for purchase as she skids, and she grits her teeth with a noise of irritation; dimly she can recognize the sensation in the air of the Crimson Noble trying to suck away at Valmar's presence, and were this any other situation she might grump and complain that that doesn't exactly seem like a good idea. Right now, though, she's prepared to take whatever options are available.

    Her hand finds purchase at the same time as Eleanor's spell does; she grasps at the floor and hauls herself up as the light pervades through her body, bringing with it a rush of relief. There's no time and no werewithal for her to add an inspirational speech of her own - besides, she's already promised Kamui she's got the Reploid's back, and that's more than good enough for her for the time being.

    So rather than say anything more, there's a swell of power around her as she concentrates instead, gritting her teeth as she pulls together what power she can. She thinks that her disrupting blast had an effect, so now it's just time to find out for sure - and with that in mind she grasps for every last bit she can, her arms shaking as she pushes off the ground.

    The sheer mass of reflective lasers and beams of light help give her the cover necessary to slip under and past one of the claws, and then allow her to converge on the bulk of the creature before her mind can actually catch up enough to ask what the fuck her body thinks it's doing. It isn't a flashy attack, not at first - just a raw and straight punch delivered to the lower half midsection - then she twists to slam her back and shoulder into the side of the Claw.

    Each strike is accompanied with a growing flare of power, though, as motes of fiery light coalesce around her and impact against the creature. She twists into a body blow, then pauses for long enough to tear at the Claw's body as if trying to rake its armor away, flame following her fist as she spins into a backfist and then sinks low. "Wake up already!" she yells with the final uppercut, planting her feet as Ether explodes along her arm, nearly blinding her in the process.

GS: Acacia Saitani has completed her action.
GS: Acacia Saitani spends 3 Combo on Gatling, loading 3 into Gatling!
GS: Acacia Saitani has attacked The Claw of Valmar with Mightier than the Sword!
GS: Acacia Saitani has completed her action.
GS: The Claw of Valmar guards a hit from Acacia Saitani's Mightier than the Sword for 101 hit points!
GS: Ethius Hesiod guards a hit from Neriah Parringer's Dawn of Retribution for 139 hit points!
GS: Ethius Hesiod has Fallen! He is no longer able to fight!
GS: CRITICAL! Ida Everstead-Rey guards a hit from Neriah Parringer's Dawn of Retribution for 186 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Ziara Tanir has posed.

"I'm only seeing a monster," Ziara calls back to Marivel. "I don't see where Granas or Valmar is involved!"

After that shot, Ziara is not going to trust the sonic blaster for a follow-up until she gets some time to repair it. It should *not* be smoking or sparking (unlike the repulsion field emitter, where sparking is expected) and the last thing she wants it to do is explode or otherwise break beyond her ability to fix.

She shoves it away, tucking it onto a strap that hooks it under her wings when they're folded, up with her tool pack - where it came from in the first place, actually. She winces as she does. Hopefully it *is* repairable.

Ziara tries to look past the dust and ashes from Ethius' spells, Ida beating up everything, and - well, the entire fight against the Claw, which is frankly kind of psychadelic from all the beams if you don't think about why they have to be there for very long. She sees the figures looking through books, or at least one of them, but she can't bring herself to shoot someone who is not shooting her.

Jabbing one finger, Ziara calls at Ida, "There are people back there! I think they have something!" before turning back to Neriah; the change in light caught her eye as Neriah summoned the globe into her hand, feeding it with - something. Ziara is not especially magically sensitive but she can feel something in it regardless, something that makes her skin crawl.

I have made a very bad decision today, Ziara thinks, as everything goes monochrome.

But when the explosion clears, Ziara is still there. She has brought up her barrier-emitting device and held it in front of her. Ida's barrier is unchanged, still providing the same protection as before - but around Ziara she has modified it, running it at full power. A flashing red light on the side suggests that she probably should not be doing that. The bubble sheltered her from the energy, though not from the debris it threw; she's limping, barely able to stand upright, and her bare arms are pretty cut up from flying rocks. Her eyes are wide with fear, but she refuses to tremble.

With another electric *zap* discharged from a prong, the shield shuts down entirely, and the flashing red light turns solid.

"I don't like this trick," Ziara croaks out. It's barely audible because she inhaled rock dust, and she coughs immediately after she says it. Letting the shield emitter hang on its strap, Ziara raises her shotgun with both hands, her every motion deliberate as she braces it properly, pointing it straight at Neriah -

And fires a pair of solid slugs, little more than massive bullets, directly at her.

GS: Ziara Tanir has attacked Neriah Parringer with Lock-On - Precision Fire!
GS: Ziara Tanir has completed her action.
GS: Neriah Parringer critically Guards a hit from Ziara Tanir's Lock-On - Precision Fire for 39 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> The Claw of Valmar has posed.

    The Claw leaves itself open as it casts, and Acacia takes advantage of it, delivering that first punch.

    The Tio that is here and now remains unresponsive to Kamui's heartfelt plea. Maybe there is only room for the power of Valmar, maybe it has take hold of her body and whatever mechanical mind lay there. But Kamui still chooses to try, and the reflected beams of light lance for a point in the Claw's shield. It twists, and manages to avoid the worst of it at the cost off several more of the claws on it's arm. The thing is slowly becoming unsteady from the assault, the beams continuing to barrage still.

    And then Marivel does something different. She leans in to Valmar's Curse, and it provides her a link. The Claw screams. It is an unholy thing, as it is attacked in a way it could not comprehend. There is a momentary, blink and you'll miss it twitch from the Tio atop it's head. It quickly reasserts itself, and there is... something, in it's cold red eyes. A glow, a glint. It is not a pleasant thing. The taste is foul, and wrong. It is not something one should try to eat.

    Ashley's blade of Fury cuts into the Claw, even as it tries to defend itself. It's barrier is failing, it's limbs rapidly getting declawed. It roars again, defiantly, advancing on Knight Blazer.

    That leaves it open. Clarine's beams combine with Kamui's barrier, and the barrier finally shatters. The beams of light score holes in the body and limbs of The Claw of Valmar, more of that horrid black ooze dripping to the floor. It rounds on Clarine, seeing only fury.

    At the same time, the Claws fall back from Acacia's series of strikes. It's back is against a wall now. The power it was bringing to bear is failing. Can the Claw of Valmar feel fear? It seems to feel something else as well.

    Rage.

    Magic soars, and a huge sorcerous ring appears on the ground beneath ARMs and attempts to draw them clowser together. Everyone nice and cozy, and all in one place to kill.

    The claw of Valmar swipes out with it's tail at Acacia, Marivel and Ashley, before charging forward. It rushes past them, aiming to slash relentlessly with it's damaged claws and Kamui, Clarine and Eleanor. Left and right it flails out at people, a raging mess.

    It swings out recklessly with it's right claw towards Ashley. The Claw's tail lashes out at Ashley, trying to knock him to the ground. With it's left tries to bash at Acacia, it's many claws reduced.

    And yet, even as it tires, it continues to assault. It again sweeps left at Ashley, trying to force away the armoured Knight Blazer, and maybe crack at his armour. The right arm goes for Acacia, wild and flailing, trying to grab her and tear her apart. And then it lifts both claws and swings down at Kamui, trying to smash her to the ground and try and rip apart her ancient armor.

    Even as it tires, it continues to rampage. It's spear like tail drives towards Clarine, strike after strike after strike, targeting her as the one who scored into it. Bolts of lightning fly at Eleanor, while bullets of ice drill straight toward Marivel. These are the last throws of a creature trying desperately to kill it's opponents before it dies itself. Murder is the Claw of Valmar's only purpose. It would be a poor part of a god if it could not do even that.

GS: The Claw of Valmar has become ENRAGED!
GS: The Claw of Valmar has attacked Eleanor Klein with Gravity!
GS: The Claw of Valmar has attacked Acacia Saitani with Gravity!
GS: The Claw of Valmar has attacked Kamui with Gravity!
GS: The Claw of Valmar has attacked Ashley Winchester with Gravity!
GS: The Claw of Valmar has attacked Marivel Armitage with Gravity!
GS: The Claw of Valmar has attacked Seraph Clarine with Gravity!
GS: Kamui has activated a Force Action!
GS: Seraph Clarine has activated a Force Action!
GS: Kamui guards a hit from The Claw of Valmar's Gravity for 0 hit points!
GS: Slow! applied to Kamui!
GS: Kamui enters CONDITION GREEN!!
GS: Seraph Clarine guards a hit from The Claw of Valmar's Gravity for 0 hit points!
GS: Slow! applied to Seraph Clarine!
GS: The Claw of Valmar has attacked Acacia Saitani with Swinging Tail!
GS: The Claw of Valmar has attacked Marivel Armitage with Swinging Tail!
GS: The Claw of Valmar has attacked Ashley Winchester with Swinging Tail!
GS: Marivel Armitage guards a hit from The Claw of Valmar's Gravity for 0 hit points!
GS: Slow! applied to Marivel Armitage!
GS: The Claw of Valmar spends 3 Combo on Gatling, loading 3 into Gatling!
GS: The Claw of Valmar has attacked Kamui with Claw Frenzy!
GS: The Claw of Valmar has attacked Seraph Clarine with Claw Frenzy!
GS: The Claw of Valmar has attacked Eleanor Klein with Claw Frenzy!
GS: Seraph Clarine takes a solid hit from The Claw of Valmar's Claw Frenzy for 95 hit points!
GS: Ashley Winchester takes a solid hit from The Claw of Valmar's Gravity for 0 hit points!
GS: Slow! applied to Ashley Winchester!
GS: Kamui critically Guards a hit from The Claw of Valmar's Claw Frenzy for 13 hit points!
GS: Ashley Winchester guards a hit from The Claw of Valmar's Swinging Tail for 70 hit points!
GS: The Claw of Valmar has attacked Ashley Winchester with Reckless Right!
GS: The Claw of Valmar has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Marivel Armitage guards a hit from The Claw of Valmar's Swinging Tail for 82 hit points!
GS: The Claw of Valmar has attacked Kamui with Tiring Tail!
GS: Ashley Winchester guards a hit from The Claw of Valmar's Reckless Right for 102 hit points!
GS: Cripple! applied to Ashley Winchester!
GS: Ashley Winchester enters CONDITION GREEN!!
GS: Kamui guards a hit from The Claw of Valmar's Tiring Tail for 74 hit points!
GS: The Claw of Valmar has attacked Acacia Saitani with Laborous Left!
GS: The Claw of Valmar has gained 1 Combo!
GS: The Claw of Valmar has attacked Kamui with Dual Claw Crash!
GS: Kamui guards a hit from The Claw of Valmar's Dual Claw Crash for 71 hit points!
GS: The Claw of Valmar spends 2 Combo on Headshot!
GS: The Claw of Valmar has attacked Seraph Clarine with Tail Piercer!
GS: The Claw of Valmar has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Acacia Saitani guards a hit from The Claw of Valmar's Gravity for 0 hit points!
GS: Slow! applied to Acacia Saitani!
GS: Acacia Saitani enters CONDITION GREEN!!
GS: Acacia Saitani critically Guards a hit from The Claw of Valmar's Swinging Tail for 27 hit points!
GS: Pierce!! The Claw of Valmar's attack breaks through 100 temporary hit points! 55 remain!
GS: CRITICAL! Seraph Clarine takes a solid hit from The Claw of Valmar's Tail Piercer for 357 hit points!
GS: Cripple! applied to Seraph Clarine!
GS: Seraph Clarine has Fallen! She is no longer able to fight!
GS: Acacia Saitani guards a hit from The Claw of Valmar's Laborous Left for 100 hit points!
GS: The Claw of Valmar has attacked Eleanor Klein with Lightning Bullet!
GS: The Claw of Valmar has gained 1 Combo!
GS: The Claw of Valmar has completed her action.
<Pose Tracker> Ethius Hesiod has posed.

    The way Ethius speaks with something approaching conviction in these environs and circumstances makes no sense. He has no blood ties with anyone who put the Chains on the bloodline - he isn't even anywhere near that same overall sorcerous discipline involved in creating them.
     There is nothing about this man, inherently, that bears any sort of specific quality or capability that something of Valmar would fear. Indeed, within their first encounters once Neriah turned her vengeance on him, more often than not she was in a position to dipose of him were it not for timely interventions and other factors. To any Filgaia-ly or Lunar-ly (...or Spira-ly?) logic, this is just a two-bit mercenary thug with a mismatching vocabulary.
     The 'WHAT' is not only well-earned - it deserves echoing, if it isn't just empty bravado! Did he... hit his head again when that blast rang out? He doesn't seem cowed as the one who stands at the cusp of reviving ancient catastrophe reiterates this succinctly: better than him have tried.
     He keeps a hand outstretched, the sorcerous equivalent of a drawn gun. Neriah draws something much bigger that has no equivalent other than the mathematical truths involved in its magnitude. Drawn, and fired - flung into the ground.
     Everything vanishes in a wave of howling shadow and light.
     It goes beyond physics. G-forces should tear the man apart. He is instead suspended in a tempest that tears him apart, things coming in directions that do not exist within this number of dimensions. Into qualities that differ, but what they differ from and share a likeness to is beyond mortal minds.
     It preys upon minds limited in their imagination scope that way, their attempts to translate it to what they know, unable to cope with what they cannot - Ethius' mind does not try to settle them into shapes. There is a trauma instead.
     A trauma plays.
     A trauma re(?)plays(?)
 
A POINT IN EXISTENCE INDETERMINATE
 
     Shapes in colors that do not belong. Smaller. Too warm above.
          No one understands. Different colors and shapes. One less. Nothing below. Less. Shapes in colors that confuse. What's behind is smaller. What's behind can never be bigger. What's behind can never be touched.
 
ANOTHER POINT IN EXISTENCE INDETERMINATE
 
Never again.
 
The Reality of Valmar, aka The Present
 
     Ethius squirms from where he is suspended in the blast, but the spasming coalesces in curious ways - in that his left hand has made sorcerous gestures, fingers twisting and stretching in ways impossible to do with any comfort without so much practice.
     "Surge Bolt!" He casts a legitimate spell. A focus, through all of those sensations - but it does not seem calculated. It does not seem this is a supreme act of willpower and masterful spellcasting focus through all of that. The discharging electrical blast comes up much, much too short to reach out and touch Neriah or her barrier.
     In his eyes, for that moment, it is clear and delectable for the one who holds the power now. Sheer terror - as if what he saw, and how he saw it, compelled him to act in fear of... what?
     Does it matter? The strange man falls to his knees, then slumps forward, one hand against the ground. He looks down at said ground. A tear falls.
     An overwhelming sorrow, for an instant, returned - and then left, leaving no lasting information as to what it was or why.
     An emotional vulnerability that had long since escaped Neriah, until now.

<Pose Tracker> Ida Everstead-Rey has posed.

    Ida pushes herself to her feet. She meets Neriah's gaze, and even as she sees that hatred--even as a chill runs down her spine--she can't help but feel a sort of grim satisfaction. Neriah isn't getting out of this unscathed. It's cold comfort at best. "I know!" Ida grates out, as Ziara points out the rummaging cultists. "But--"

    'Just watch me.'

    Ida's shield snaps out from her forearm. She crosses her arms, protecting her face with the buckler-sized disc; she sets her feet, digging in. She can feel the awful energies welling up, and Neriah has shown, repeatedly, that she's the type to forego precision in favor of raw sorcerous might. The gut-twisting feeling only gets worse as Ida watches Neriah draw more power into the globe, and then cast it down. Color drains away, leaving a world of grayscale--and then, a moment later, everything is white-hot pain. Reality contorts itself into a tableau of horrors. Ida hears herself scream, but her voice sounds distant, alien to her own ears.

    When the light fades, Ida is only barely upright. Every bit of exposed skin is covered with burns. She sways drunkenly, one hand clutching her head--her fingers have sharpened to claws, and those claws cut shallow gouges in her own flesh. She wobbles--
                             ...what is this...?
                                   ...no...
                               ...can't--no...!

    Ida's foot slams down. Something jolts her back to full awareness, steadying her against the hellish visions. She opens her eyes, and when she does, one of them is bright green. In the next moment, she's a blur, her body moving far too fluidly--moving at all, which is a miracle considering her injuries. The power of Ida's breath--the substance of her lifeforce--condenses within her hand, engulfing it in a brilliant bonfire. She draws back. She throws her punch--!

    Ida's gauntleted right hand races for Neriah's face like a piledriver.

GS: Eleanor Klein takes a solid hit from The Claw of Valmar's Gravity for 0 hit points!
GS: Slow! applied to Eleanor Klein!
GS: Eleanor Klein takes a solid hit from The Claw of Valmar's Claw Frenzy for 94 hit points!
GS: Eleanor Klein takes a solid hit from The Claw of Valmar's Lightning Bullet for 197 hit points!
GS: Disrupt! applied to Eleanor Klein!
GS: Ida Everstead-Rey spends 2 Combo on Gatling, loading 2 into Gatling!
GS: Ida Everstead-Rey has attacked Neriah Parringer with Unbroken Lotus Fist!
GS: Ida Everstead-Rey has completed her action.
GS: Neriah Parringer critically Guards a hit from Ida Everstead-Rey's Unbroken Lotus Fist for 33 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Eleanor Klein has posed.

Eleanor gets off her spell--and then she's drawn close to the others by awful magic, unable in the moment to defend. She tries to shield herself with the others, but that shield is necessarily tested--

Claws slash relentlessly at her, and the elf finds herself hit repeatedly, cut and cut and cut--but she stands. And then, comes the lightning; while the slashes largely hit the amgic around her, the lightning instead crashes into her fully, shocking all around her before launching her backward to hit the ground hard and roll along it with an unpleasant noise and a sharp cry of pain. She comes to a stop, wounded--her healing undone, and looks up--towards Clarine. Clarine...

"I..."

She feels out for her seal--and feels it. She nods, at that. "it's... almost done, I think..."

Eleanor pushes herself up from the ground with both of her hands, legs gathered beneath herself. There's a sort of grace to her disheveled movements despite herself, though her hair has to be brushed back out of her face. The orange strands shift back with her hands, and she then pushes herself up from one leg. ....It's difficult; she finds her heel has broken, actually.

"...They tell me... that you're ancient," she says to the Claws. "That's the story they give--that long ago, you were divided into pieces, stopped by an angel."

"...I don't know if that's true," she admits. "But however many years you've existed..."

Eleanor lifts a crest, and the card sits between her eyes, on edge as she holds it before her face. "This is your last."

The power of Fray builds, as Eleanor channels the spell, light once again swirling from the ground up around her. "Face the Desert of Years!"

She casts the spell--and heat radiates from before the Claws of Valmar, a heat that quickly becomes spiritual as much as physical; the very flame in the air erupts from the Ley, and Eleanor's spell manifests not merely as burns but as the ravages of time, all compressed from their long spans to a handful of instants.

...But it takes all the energy she has left, and regardless of the result, she sways when it finishes, and collapses in exhaustion. ...Her barrier doesn't fade with her energy--she puts the last of it into it with the spell.

GS: Eleanor Klein has activated a Force Action!
GS: Eleanor Klein spends 3 Combo on Gatling, loading 3 into Gatling!
GS: Eleanor Klein has attacked The Claw of Valmar with Desert of Years!
GS: Eleanor Klein has completed her action.
GS: CRITICAL! The Claw of Valmar takes a solid hit from Eleanor Klein's Desert of Years for 217 hit points!
GS: Disease! applied to The Claw of Valmar!
<Pose Tracker> Neriah Parringer has posed.

The light clears, revealing Neriah drawing slow, deep breaths as she collects herself after expending that much power at once. A couple of curls drift into her eyes. She flicks them back with the edge of her thumb.

But other things are revealed, too. Ethius's Surge Bolt slamming into the ground well short of her - and the look in his face. Neriah's bright red-violet eyes fix on Ethius's visage and read from the story he tells her without saying a word.

Biting down to her lower lip, she breathes out through her nose in a slow rush of utter satisfaction at the sight of a terror-stricken Ethius falling to his knees with a tear of sorrow. Even if nothing else comes of this, she at least has that.

She also has immediate threats at hand. Like Ziara holding her barrier. Looking back to the winged woman, Neriah blinks once, twice. "You're pretty resourceful, aren't you? What's your name again?"

That's about when Ziara shoots her in the face.

With her guard down after an attack that large, the first slug rips past Neriah just inches from taking her head off. It grazes across her shoulder and leaves a bloody slash across it. Hissing, she snaps her trident up. Flame and shadow spill behind it, and the second slug sizzles in midair, flashing into a puff of ash that sprays across her cheek and leaves a smudge behind. A low growl rumbles in the back of her throat. "Well, well... that's my receipt for underestimating you. I won't make that mistake again," she says, eyes sharpening dangerously as she begins to prowl forward.

She doesn't make it there before Ida rushes at her like a bolt of light.

As much power as Neriah has at her disposal, she can't move with the martial speed that Ida unveils. It rolls out as if the world has slowed down for Neriah but not for Ida. That blazing fist sails forward. Neriah begins to open her mouth and raise her hand.

Then Ida's fist hits her right in the face. Her cheek craters visibly and her jaw jacks sickeningly to one side as a physical ripple radiates through her skull.

Then physics catches up with her, and the punch hits like an explosion and sends Neriah flying backwards in a short arc. Blood streams behind her before she hits the ground, skidding for several feet. When she lands in a heap, she can be heard spitting.

Somehow, she begins to stand. When she does look back over her shoulder, there's outrage and outright shock written in her face. There's also an angry welt screaming across her cheek, blood streaking down from the centre of it. It doesn't do much for her porcelain-doll look.

She's still able to get up - but she does so without saying anything. It's as if Ida literally punched the sass out of her.

Clutching her trident, Neriah draws a breath, pushing her hair back with a stiff, jerky movement of her hand. She begins to draw herself up again, slower this time--

Until a voice rings out from above her. It's high, rasping and excited - and it's coming from the raven, flying out from the stacks towards her.

"My lady! We've found it! The Testament of Valmar!!"

The shock in Neriah's face reverses to a widening of her eyes. "Good! Get it back to the castle!" she snaps over her shoulder - and with a flick, she drives her trident point into the ground.

A wave of force bursts from the point of impact. It's not enough to hurt - but it's persistent, bursting out like a powerful wind. The intent is obvious, particularly as she sweeps her other hand back, tearing a rift open in the air through which the raven quickly banks.

She's opening a portal for her cultists to escape - and keeping ARMS at bay while she does it. But her eyes flash with worry as she looks towards the Claw.

...But if we lose one of the Parts here....

<Pose Tracker> Kamui has posed.

    The barrier shatters. Tio still does not respond. There is every chance that the 'Tio' inside has become utterly consumed by Valmar's part. It could all be for nothing. And yet--

    "I believe in you... Tio!"

    Clarine's Cannonade erupts and it shows her how resplendent her light is; she cheers on, "Clarine...!" and feeling some positivity in how their powers work well together.

    Ashley affirms for her that they, we -- will all survive. Even with that feeling deep down in her... she knows that there are some things the Circuit is wrong about, and that she isn't entirely bound to it.

    "That's right..."

    The worst comes -- and yet Muse and Geo combine to form a protective, brilliant light that defends her from the worst of it. The claw comes up to try to crunch her, and she's forced into that bracing block again with a grimace on her face--

    And like before, she keeps coming. Both claws come to SLAM down on her with ancient force, and that loose shoulder-plate pops on loose with a spark of errant electricity as a hydraulic pump goes loose.

    Curiously, the shoulder plate dissipates into cubes of data, recalled to whatever space-fortress it was beamed down from.

    "Tio..."

    Herr guard is loose. She looks to Clarine desperately, to Acacia, to Marivel-- but the Seraph is taking the worst of it.

    "Clarine...! Your vessel is here! I will protect you!!"

    She can barely announce it because the claws are still slamming her down. To the ground, to the point where even the floor itself is starting to cave inwards; but she keeps her arms held up, to defend herself -- and to defend that pendant within.

    Because it is Clarine's important artifact. And a symbol of their friendship.

    "Mari... Master..." she whispers. "I'm going to-- give it a little bit more. But I promise I won't overdo it!"

    A light surrounds Kamui, as her body starts to show its full mechanical nature. It is a transformation that they might have seen before -- once in Luca, during the battle with the Four Heroes ... and then during the fated sequence in Macalania.

    She is transforming.

    It is bizarre, perhaps, how her waist literally does a one-eighty and her kneecaps pop to let her forelegs fold in on themselves - not to mention how the winged backpack pulls in over her head and the chest armour locks it in place.

    Kamui is a plane now.

    "It's okay, Tio... hit me as much as you need to... unleash all the anger you have on me... because..."

    MEMORY ACCESSED

    "Why do you protect me like this...?" Kamui asks in disbelief, crouching down over the fallen Tio unit. Her scanners all report the worst -- they all tell her the damage is critical and it is too late for her.

    "Because we must protect..." announces the Tio unit, rasping as her voice box crackles. "Our kin..."

    Kamui's gloved hands take the Tio unit's broken one in turn. Slowly but certainly, the Reploid's stony expression is beginning to fray as emotion returns to her face.

    "Tio... TIOOO!"

    MEMORY COMPLETE

    "Because this time... I will not fail you!"

    (BGM: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-Dl_q1DSVws )

    The Kamui-aircraft flies off into the skies -- out from a breach that has occurred in the catacombs; for a moment it seems like that's it. That Kamui has fled in the form of a plane.

    ...

    The ominous *CRACK* of a sonic boom erupting outside tells otherwise, because--

    -ccccCRASHHHhh-

    --because Kamui causes a second, enormous hole pops loose in Neriah's poor, poor great-great-great-to-the-power-of-great-grandfather's storage shed, in her words.

    The attack isn't subtle. She aims the beak-like tip of her plane form towards the centre mass of Valmar, ensconced in a radiant aura that seeks to power on through with reckless abandon.

    "Valmar... leave her be already!!"

GS: Kamui enters CONDITION GREEN!!
GS: Kamui has attacked The Claw of Valmar with Final Arte - Nova Strike!
GS: Kamui has completed her action.
<Pose Tracker> Marivel Armitage has posed.

Yeah it tastes pretty awful but, well, she went into this fully prepared for that. It reminds her of when she also pretty recently tried snacking on Kaguya. But it's sort of a reverse medicine sort of deal except instead of pouring a spoon full of medicine into Tio she is siphoning the sickness out.

Marivel looks ill and spits out a sickly energy to the side, an ichorous ball that should not be. Marivel stabs her blood-forged blade into it to dissipitate it into air but that took a lot out of her.

On the plus side she is able to pry herself free while Valmar is screeching and she drops down into a crouch, wiping her brow as if she was sweating.

She is not, but it feels like she is in this moment.

She stands up, cricking her neck. Gravity works on pinning Marivel down, and the follow up strike from the tail is able to catch Marivel and send her flying flat on her back--and when the ice bolts get in, Marivel's eyes flash red once more and she says, "No."

The ice melts before her, a simply application of counterspelling. She stands herself up, but not slowly. In her hands is the Medium of Celesdue.

"This world still has its Guardians, and guardians besides." Marivel puts the medium away into her pouch and approaches.

"Tio is not entirely consumed. She can yet be saved. And I, for one, am curious... to what sort of path a free Tio will choose!"

BGM: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z5jdkyYvSZY

"You who bury yourself in thine own suffering and making devils' bargains, those that would be the Enemy of the World, know that it is mine life to eliminate thee. I refuse to quail before my responsibilities because of the sacrifices I have made are incalculable. I refuse to give up and allow the fall of mine people to be in vain! Filgaia will live even if I have to pin its soul into place with mine own hands! And Those that would seek a demon's domain shall find themselves dragged to their own hell!"

She looks to Neriah.

"You may have won your prize... But you will not escape with all you have sought! You gifted us this Claw so graciously, t'would be rudeness beyond compare to return it to you."

Marivel can summon a dark aura of her own and a triangular portal crackles into being above her head, interposing itself between the Claw and Neriah.

Marivel has brought into this realm... The Demonangle.

Smoke drifts from her nose and eyes as she pushes herself t her limits. She gathers the eldricht forces of her magics.

Valmar had taken something irreplacable from her.

Valmar wounded Kamui so terribly beyond that which Marivel could repair.

And now Marivel sees an opportunity of her own. To take something just as irreplacable from Valmar.

And like any demon, she can't help herself. She rushes forward with wide eyes and monstrous grin to take this claw in her own.

And unleash her own ice, her own flame at it, pummeling it with everything she has got--and yet leaving the crunchy Tio center free from her wrath.

"Know thee a mother's wrath!!" Marivel grins, turning to look at Kamui, clearly in a manic state.

Crimson Nobles are monsters. When sufficiently motivated, they forget to pretend to be people and become the beasts of Filgaia they always were.

"Thank you for this wonderful opportunity, Valmar, to relieve myself of mine frustrations!"

GS: Marivel Armitage spends 1 Combo on Link!
GS: Marivel Armitage has attacked The Claw of Valmar with I Carry The Hopes Of My People Within Me And Sing The Song Of
The Extinct - Armageddon!
GS: Marivel Armitage has launched an attack Link!
GS: Marivel Armitage has attacked The Claw of Valmar with Small Hopes Shall Slice Thy Destiny To Ribbons - Split The
Atom MEGATON!
<Pose Tracker> Seraph Clarine has posed.

Clarine's many lasers land the mark on the Claw of Valmar, buffeting it and scoring it across its body. But doing such damage could never be without cost. It whirls on her, and she can see the rage in its eyes - she can feel the bestial instinct to destroy weighing down on her.

For a moment, it strikes fear into her.

And then, it lets loose its rage. The power of gravity takes hold of Clarine. It usually had a tenuous grasp on her. This allowed her to float freely, and manipulate her mirrors with ease and use them to defend herself - but now, the weight of the Claw's rage falls upon her. Her mirrors - the few that remain close to her person - are forced to the ground as she is drawn toward the rest of ARMS.

And then, she is smacked to the side by one of its massive claws as it flails. Small and frail as she is, she's sent flying.

Dazed as she is, she tries to stand - manually, as she's currently still unable to pick herself with magic. She's altogether unused to this.

But, she's too slow.

The Claw's tail descends, running her straight through. Her eyes open wide in shock, as the tail descends for her again, and again. Everything starts to blur together and she slumps forward as the tail descends for her again -

And then, Kamui's voice breaks through the blur of sound and violence. She doesn't really hear the words themselves. But the feeling and emotion gets through them.

And, before the tail can strike her again... Clarine dissipates into motes of light.

For a brief, terrifying moment, her fate might be uncertain - but Kamui will feel her presence there, right beside her. Faded and weak, but still alive within her vessel. It sparkles sadly, but encouragingly.

GS: The Claw of Valmar guards a hit from Kamui's Final Arte - Nova Strike for 112 hit points!
GS: The Claw of Valmar takes a solid hit from Marivel Armitage's I Carry The Hopes Of My People Within Me And Sing The
Song Of The Extinct - Armageddon for 181 hit points!
GS: The Claw of Valmar guards a hit from Marivel Armitage's Small Hopes Shall Slice Thy Destiny To Ribbons - Split The
Atom MEGATON for 99 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Ida Everstead-Rey has posed.

    Ida's lips twist, baring teeth. She stumbles a little from the force of her own strike, catching herself before she can fall on her face. She steps forwards, towards Neriah--as if nothing, not even her own safety, mattered more than stopping her. One of the cultists shouts, and Ida looks around, and then up at the circling bird.

                                     ...

    Ida steps forwards again. The wave of force washes against her, and she raises her arm, tries to keep moving. The world spins around her. She is in terrible shape--that much is obvious--but she's still going.

<Pose Tracker> Ashley Winchester has posed.

It's a common truism, that an animal is at its most dangerous when it's cornered. The Claw of Valmar is, in this way, no different than any living thing that struggles to the last, desperately holding on to its own survival. But it is no mere animal. It is a fragment of a god, a thing that would devour the very world itself, spreading like a cancer until all has been consumed and violated by its vile essence.

They cannot give it the chance. They cannot let it leave this place. It must die here, and so they press on.

No matter how much it hurts. No matter how hard it pushes back.

Gravity itself bows to the Claw of Valmar, dragging ARMS together in an attempt to break them all at once. Blow after blow after blow slam into the black knight. Claws shed sparks from its armor. Hammerblows dent plates and send cracks spiderwebbing across steel skin. Its tail reaches about to plow into someone nearby-- Ashley reaches out to absorb the blow, and it's still not enough. Clarine is pierced over and over and over, and soon disintegrates into so many of those tiny motes of light. He opens his mouth to scream, only to be hurled aside by a sudden claw-strike. Knight blazer hits the ground and bounces twice before finally rolling to a stop, and for a moment it seems as though the fight must have been knocked out of him, and yet--

And yet.

It wouldn't be so easy to slay the Blaze of Disaster, would it?

If it were... If it were, none of them would be in this situation.

With the creak and groan of grinding metal, Knight Blazer rises. His visor has shattered on one side, revealing the alien skull hidden underneath. His shoulders heave with the exertion of motion, or perhaps the exertion required to keep the volcanic rage contained within, in spite of its promises of easy victory.

If it would just be unleashed, then he could save them all such suffering, and yet-- and yet-- and what cost would that come?

"I guess... I guess it wouldn't be easy, if Granas himself barely defeated you the first time. But He's not here. We can't count on Him now. They say He entrusted the world to us, to protect it in his stead. If that's the case, then--" Knight Blazer braces himself against a nearby wall. His clawed fingertips reach toward the point at which his breastplate meets along his center line-- and digs in. Plates of crimson and black armor shift and hiss, releasing gouts of golden protomatter as they pivot, turn and slide away. Ashley strains, his armor groans it unhinges at his middle. Strands of sinew and muscle tissue snap and tear as it is revealed unto the world.

There, at the very heart of the Blazer, is what at first glance looks to be a translucent pearl. Ripples of white light coruscate against some inner surface for the briefest of moments that it's still visible-- before the light comes. Streams of power draw inward in thin, needle-like bursts. Particles of light drift in on ribbons of sunfire, pulled from some inexplicable source that is at once small enough to be contained within a single man-- and yet great enough to have nearly consumed an entire world. "--If Granas left this world to us... Then we must have the power... To protect it in his stead! The orb bursts, a miniature protostar igniting over the Blazer's throbbing, demonic heart. And still it grows. It builds, brighter and wider and hotter, until even the armor covering Knight Blazer's hands begins to turn white hot in the struggle to contain the accumulating power. And... For what you did to Marivel and Kamui, to their friend, to Clarine--! We're ending it here and now! You might be Valmar's Claws, but we're Valeria's ARM!"

There's a sound like the birth-cry of a newborn sun as he finally lets that power flood out. A wave of heat and light pours through the cavern, a flame that these stones surely know from ages past. A fire that burns both body and soul, that which set the world alight, now constrained in the body of a man and unleashed in a singular burst of shadowless radiance...!

This is the light that gods once feared.

<Pose Tracker> Acacia Saitani has posed.

    The Claw's raging attacks are incessant - and Acacia, standing right beneath the thing, is at ground zero for them. How she's still standing halfway through the wild rush, she's not sure; she remembers managing to plant her arms in the way of several of the attacks, her wrists now bloody and sore but still attached to her body. That's good, she thinks muzzily, giving one of them a wiggle as she drops backwards.

    More than physically fatigued, though, she feels tremendously tired, and it takes her a moment to realize that the reason why is because her body has been doing much of the guarding for her, without even a conscious intervention. The Ether ebbs and flows as it shifts around her, and even if she only manages to half-duck the last sweep, there's a burst of white light at the side of her head as the weight of the claw is stopped just short of her.

    Gasping for breath, she lets the momentum of it all sweep her backwards, rubbing at her mouth as she tries to keep her footing. Around her there's a conflagration as everyone brings what power they have to bear on the Claw as a last resort, but she doesn't think she has anything left within her, standing out of sheer contrariness more than anything.

    Kamui is a plane, Eleanor is delivering the sort of threat that suggests this would be the worst time to mess with her, Marivel is tearing the entire battlefield apart - again - and Clarine is falling, though at least she can somehow manage to sense that doesn't mean the Seraph is gone entirely. There's really only one thing left to do - the other job she has, the other reason she's still standing amongst the people of ARMS.

    The Claw of Valmar needs to be stopped here. But the memory of it, and the danger it could pose, needs to be communicated. Her hand might be shaking, but she can still bring a camera up to catch Kamui's impassioned cry.

GS: Ashley Winchester has activated a Force Action!
GS: Ashley Winchester has activated a Force Action!
GS: Ashley Winchester spends 3 Combo on Gatling, loading 3 into Gatling!
GS: Ashley Winchester has attacked The Claw of Valmar with Banisher!
GS: Ashley Winchester has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Ashley Winchester has completed his action.
GS: CRITICAL! The Claw of Valmar takes a solid hit from Ashley Winchester's Banisher for 292 hit points!
GS: The Claw of Valmar has Fallen! She is no longer able to fight!
<Pose Tracker> Tio has posed.

    The Claw of Valmar must face the Desert of Years, and it does not do so gracefully. Seemingly exhausted. It's body is engulfed in the power of Fray. It had put it's all into killing, banking on not needing a defence. It was a bad plan. The fires physical and spiritual burn at it, and the years it has existed strike at it, leaving it shuddering from the spell.

    The Claw of Valmar turns as Kamui flies away, but it brings it's claws up to stop Kamui diving into centre of mass. It doesn't help much. One of the clawed hands is ripped off entirely trying to protect itself, and Kamui still strikes the core.

    Marivel turns her prodigious power against the Claw, fire and ice crashing into it, the creature rocked by every strike. It's defenses are weakened, and Marivel has power to spare. It starts to slide across the ground backwards, now unable to fight back.

    And then comes the power Knight Blazer, firing relentlessly at ht eclaw. It brings up it's remaining arm, but it is blasted away into nothingness. It's tail, too burns. It is all but consumed in the fire. And atop it's head, it's grip on the Tio unit weakens. It starts to move, trying to escape, but in this large form, it has not the speed. The Claw seems to decide.

    The Claw decides to survive.

    It shrinks back down to it's parasitic state, minus it's burnt off tail, and seems to take wing. The Tio unit falls to the ground with a metallic clang.

    But deprived of the host, the Claw does not run away. Instead it starts looking for it's new one. Invisible tendrils, dark and wrong, reach out. Who has the power? Who is close enough?

    There are precious moments before the Claw of Valmar takes another host. This is the way they work. Even when killed, they reach out again and again, unrelenting.

[OOC] Tio says, "blu-ray, replace claw pose with that one."
<Pose Tracker> Neriah Parringer has posed.

For someone who ostensibly got what she wanted, Neriah doesn't seem overly happy at the sight of her cultists rushing for the portal. The redheaded woman dives out in front, covering with her body to protect the Tainted one, who's carrying the tome. He's able to slip through the portal unmolested, taking the tome with him.

"Small comfort," Neriah mutters to herself as she squints through the force wave towards where Marivel is shouting. Thanking her for the gift. Narrowing her eyes, she fixes a flat gaze on the little Crimson Noble. Ugly thoughts occur to her.

She's going to lose the Claw. She needs the Claw.

"The gift's all mine," she says, her voice cold and tense. "But I'm reusing the wrapping paper."

Neriah takes a step. The Demonangle flickers between herself and the Claw of Valmar. She draws a breath, then lets it out, as if bracing herself for something inevitable. Then--

The shadow she was throwing around earlier begins to swell up around her body. Within seconds, it's swallowed her completely, wreathing her in darkness and reducing her to little more than an effigy with maddeningly vibrating white eyeholes glowing with ghostlight, her hair phasing into ghostly cilia that radiate out around the semblance of her head. The pressure radiating from her is intense - as if someone had opened the door to an active power plant running entirely on evil.

The Claw abandons its host. It skitters away. And then -

    *bip*

With a flicker, Neriah's no longer on the far side of the Demonangle. Instead she's standing just behind the Clawless Tio unit - with the Claw at her feet. She reaches down with her right hand. The Sigil of Valmar glows at her palm.

The moment Neriah's palm makes contact with the Claw, there is a shock of sheer magical force that shakes not the room, but the spirit.

White light swells around Neriah and the skittering Claw. The silhouetted shape of the Part of Valmar merges with her hand sickeningly before shifting into an amorphous blob. Hovering, the effigy of Neriah raises that hideously misshapen right arm.

She flexes it - and the sickening mass of darklight resolves itself into a taloned hand. And through it all, a voice rings.

"I CAN'T BELIEVE THIS!!"

The shadow around Neriah recedes. Her body comes into view again - whole, but her right arm is twisted into the shape of a talonous claw. Pressure waves roil around her body, pulsating - and she throws her head back with a laugh of disbelief even as her clawed hand begins to shrink. The demonic aspect sinks away, leaving behind her manicured fingers and nails. "After all that worrying! After all that, my will is the stronger! My IMPETUS! Ha! HA HA HA HA HA! OH, THIS IS FUCKING RICH!"

The pressure waves compact, and the roiling shadows compress around Neriah again - and with a wink, she vanishes into open air, taking the Claw with her.

The portal closes a second later, leaving Tio behind in a ransacked catacomb. The force of the spell was immense - enough to shatter Eleanor's seal like glass.

Tio is safe - but at what cost?

<Pose Tracker> Kamui has posed.

    As much bravado as she'd like to pretend she can muster, Kamui is at her limits -- as she begins to feel her body overheating; immediately she's unfurling from her plane form, as the Claw -- the Claw decides to survive. It shrinks down to a strange parasitic state and--

    And Kamui doesn't care right now, as she hurries and drops down in a weird, half-transformed state but she at least has the ability to pop her own head out. The pieces of the Ultimate Armour are disappating around her, returning to whatever mysterious space-fortress they came from, leaving a much more skeletal Reploid in its absence.

    "Tio... Tio!"

    She stares up towards Neriah as her cultists escape. She hadn't really paid attention to her evil plan. She's close --but she mostly takes hold of Tio to protectively gather her, as if fearing the Claw's parasitic blob will take hold of her again.

    Neriah reaches out. That Sigil of Valmar glows again--

    "Why...?" Kamui whispers, once more. But she winces and the room BLASTS through the spirit-- "Neriah! That isn't a power you should...!"

    For a moment it seemed like that's the end of her, consumed by a power she can't control... ... and... yet...

    Kamui winces, as her voice rings.

    She trembles as Neriah reveals herself to be the superior, her arm wrapped around a demonic aspect that was once the claw. She grips Tio closer as she grimaces and-- and says the only thing she can do--

    "Neriah!! D-Don't say the 'F' word!!"

    ... yeah, she's so exhausted right now ...

<Pose Tracker> Marivel Armitage has posed.

That's the trouble with being in the monster state. Sometimes the details skirt at the edge of your conscious.

But even though Marivel is surprised by Neriah using a fine tuned teleportation like that--as well she should that shit ain't easy--it seems Neriah gets about everything she wanted after all, taking the Claw for herself. And now Neriah has her own monster state, or something so like it that Marivel can't help but wonder if Neriah is drawing more of her own bestial nature into herself.

But she doesn't comment. It's only gracious to allow Neriah her departure without complaint. It wasn't what Marivel wanted, but perhaps what Kamui wanted...is what's important in the end.

She does not chastize Neriah for the SWEAR but instead approaches Tio and Kamui. Part of her thinks that if they hadn't concerned themselves with Tio they could've likely kept the Claw from Neriah. It was not the choice she would have made, but then again--

--she is here to help ARMS' will become reality, not demand her own be satisfied.

Still, she rubs at her forehead. "Valeria won't be happy about this." They have enough world eaters to concern themselves with and yet here is one more.

She crouches by Tio's body and runs a doohickey over the body. It makes beeping noises. Marivel returns the device to her pouch.

"She's functional. Difficult to tell if she will awaken under these circumstances."

She picks up Tio longwise before huffing her over a shoulder.

"Seems you are free now, but this is no place to wake."

She looks to the others. "Well, Valeria won't be happy but perhaps you saw today a road less traveled that will bring a tommorow ever more shining."

And with that she aims to recall ARMS and get on back to the chateau.

It's about time we've scened in our base anyway!!

<Pose Tracker> Ethius Hesiod has posed.

    The odd man is, once again, up against a wall from when Neriah put forth that wind-like force to try and stop those who engaged her from stopping her claim on the prize. His timing and presence remain as something that approaches inexplicable even for being a man who has drifted in and out of many of the gathered's lives, having moved as though he had some stake in this beyond mere personal survival.
     Too wounded to stand, Ethius remains hunched over. His left hand swats frantically for the bandanna he drop-- there it is. He fumbles and drops it twice in succession before he can hurriedly tie it back around his face, even though its obscuring serves no legitimate purpose that anyone who has ever seen his face can glean. He just looks like... a man? A thirty-something man, maybe mid, maybe late?
     When he looks up, that stare of his goes over the exhausted, wounded ancient Tio unit and the partially skeletal Reploid, as an exhausted mind that has touched something in a fleeting moment struggles to file away every detail that he normally would be apt to collect, keep, and identify as something of interest to be a creepy staring person at.
     To say nothing of the young man who boasted a presence of something equally disquieting and uncomfortable, or the young woman who has a symbiotic relationship of sorts with a Hyadean's remains.
     Everything continues to elude his grasp.