2020-11-22: Prokopton

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<Pose Tracker> Hiro has posed.


It's dusk on the Isle of Besaid, a good distance from the seaport - and across the isle from the village itself. The fiends have currently set up camp near a secluded cliffside where the grass meets the sand.

But the fiends themselves? Are not in camp. They're currently unwinding on the beach after a long sea journey here to relax before eating and turning in for the evening.

In the distance, the sun is a orange disk on the horizon - a beacon of light that cuts a shimmering view of this seeming tropical paradise.

All of them know that from the waters, Sin can just emerge at any time - and yet, the danger does not simply stop fun being had on the shores. Far from it.

The fiends have perhaps split up into various groups doing their own thing on the beach. Though at the center is an impromptu game of simply tossing, lobbing, and kicking several Blitzballs around on land - that seems to cross over to others simply due to the nature of the ever-changing trajectory of the game.

"Throw it this way! Over here!"

Hiro chucks a Blitzball into the air. He's obviously not doing it at full strength. Ruby immediately flies to intercept it and...

"BOP!"

The little Dragoncat gives it a header in mid-air. The ball, which is about her size causing her to rebound backwards from the impact in a spin before recovering. But the ball on impact suddenly heads over towards Lucia...

Hitting the ground and rolling to a stop in front of her.

Hiro looks her way, then cups his hands and calls out with this mischievous sense of inclusion, "Hey Lucia! Kick it someone's way!"

<Pose Tracker> Talia has posed.

Talia is hanging out with the Fiends. This is a little new for her, still; she has spent some time with them after talking with Hiro, but the recent rush of events made that a little difficult.

She is on the beach, with her usual adventuring gear on; it is sleeveless, relatively cool, and able to get wet if necessary. She isn't inclined to swim, but she likes Blitzball well enough. She watches, at the moment, sitting back on the beach. She watches the ball go back -- forth -- and then back again, at a different angle.

Rolling towards Lucia.

She blinks at the Blitzball and the Lord of Calamity, then she tilts her head, and flashes her a quick grin: "Ah, you should it back, no?" she says. "It is very fun!"

Then she takes a drink of the mysterious hollowed out coconut that she has. The mystery is what is inside the coconut.

<Pose Tracker> Marivel Armitage has posed.

Marivel's dead body has been some distance from the beach itself, sitting under some trees in the shade with a large umbrellla casting her in extreme shadow though the sun setting means that Marivel is starting to stir a little.

On her stomach, a 'juicebox' filled with 'tomato juice' for the kids in the audience sits, the straw carefully positioned into Marivel'smouth. Periodically, the 'juicebox' 'juice' levels go down a set amount.

She's wearing sunglasses and there's a real weekend at bernies vibe going on here especially since her hands are still mostly skeletal.

Hob and Nob sometimes volunteer to be the volleyballs excitedly. Maybe Kamui gets her own head-ideas from these two sometimes.

<Pose Tracker> Isolde has posed.

Isolde is laying on her stomach on a length of cloth as well, absorbing the life-giving solar radiation of Lunar's primary star onto her back. She has left her sword, money pouch, and gambling appurtenances up near Marivel's corpse, and has acquired a coconut of mysterious beverage as well, which she occasionally raises like a noble's wine glass.

"Dead ball," she comments.

<Pose Tracker> Seraph Ragnell has posed.

    There are a lot of ruins on Besaid, littered here and there all throughout the island. Ragnell's poked her nose into some of them once before, but that was a decent while ago, and that excursion was interrupted by a meeting with the King of Evil. Now she's here and has the freedom to look around. She does so on the ruins atop the lush cliffs overlooking where the Fiends have ended up making camp.
    
    Now that the sun is setting, though, Ragnell decides to call it a day and treks on out. While there were a lot of interesting things to see, there wasn't much of anything to outright mess with, anyway. As she steps out and strolls through the overgrown non-path, she spots some movement down below. She turns down to see...
    
    "Huh," she utters, raising a hand to the brim of her hat as she peers down to see a blitzball getting bounced by none other than Ruby, to none other than Lucia, while several other Fiends and friends--including Talia and Gwen and Marivel's corpse; go figure--lounge about. "Been a while since I saw this team," she muses to herself, walking closer to the edge to get a better look. This might offend certain Fiends if they happen to look up. For now, though, Ragnell contents herself with watching and listening.
    
    Not that she's really had a proper conversation with anyone in the Fiends about it, but she kind of figures she's not really welcome in the group anymore. All considered.

<Pose Tracker> Mariel has posed.

Mariel is...

...not hitting a ball around. But she is around while the ball is being hit. She is not far away, having found a flat rock that can be brushed free of sand that she can use as a seat, and is performing embroidery on her bag. Her poor little bag has been through a lot, and the flower she had embroidered there was looking more than a little worn and ratty, so it's time to redo it.

She is sitting at an angle that she can see the ball crew as well as Marivel, without actually being under the shaded trees herself. She needs the light, as long as the sun is providing any.

<Pose Tracker> Lucia has posed.

Lucia is sitting up on the beach (for some generous definition of up; her back at lounge chair angle, supported by her arms, palms thrust back onto the ground), heedless of the risk of sand grinding its way into her red and black raiment. No grains would probably dare stick to her anyway. The island breeze does wonderful, gentle things to her long blue hair, almost as wonderful and gentle as her voice, which is humming... something, something unfamiliar, something new.

It was essentially inaudible under the crash of waves rolling in and the shouts of beachgoers. But, when she's interrupted by a blitzball rolling over her palm and it gutters into silence, that silence takes up an extraordinary amount of space.

Her curious smile fills it somewhat, as she glances over at Hiro's shout. Obediently she gets to her feet, winds back one of her long legs, and...

*POK*

The blitzball blasts past Hiro and Ruby at near-supersonic speeds, tugging hairdos, towels, and anything not bolted down towards its wake as it zooms by.

Unless someone does something heroic, it will not be seen again. The ocean is hungry for such treats, though at the rate it's going it might wind up in orbit instead.

Lucia cants her head to one side. "Um, like that?"

<Pose Tracker> Jean has posed.

Jean also has a coconut. There's not really a mystery what's inside it, though.

With one hand she holds that, and with the other she handles the ball when it comes her way. She's dressed in one of her usual outfits, though her hair's loose since she's already been in the water by now, and plans to get back in soon enough.

...Maybe sooner than later consideringwhat happens next. Luca, lunging, and then... a ball. A ball, which--

Swhwoom. The sheer force of it sends Jean's hair into a riot of sideways motion. She does not go for the ball. Instead--

"Nice," Jean laughs, whistling as she looks over to where the ball is going.

She sips from her non-mysterious coconut.

<Pose Tracker> Marivel Armitage has posed.

"Heeeeehhh... dead ball. I get it...." Marivel says to Isolde in a pretty difficult to hear, let alone discern, whisper. She seems to be waiting until that sun finally dips to really move around any.

"Her 'singing' voice is lovely...Isn't it...?" She adds to Isolde.

Nob DOES flit off in chase of the ball with a gestured finger from Marivel's corpse.

But it seems to be stirring to life. Such as life is.

The astute might notice a small dry tear along Marivel's cheek, jostled free from--well, it wasn't there before the humming.

<Pose Tracker> Gwen Whitlock has posed.

    Gwen has not really played Blitzball.
    Gwen is not sure of how Blitzball works.
    Gwen has promised to use her left hand. She even made of show of it, tucking her ARM inside her tunic!
    The problem is, Gwen is ambidextrous.
    But it's okay, because Gwen has not really played Blitzball.

    Looking over at Marivel's mostly skeletal form as she tugs on the collar of her tunic, as well as enviously at Isolde freely , Gwen grimaces. "I really need t'stock up on sun creme or I'm gonna have to hide in the shade too..."

    Seeing Ragnell, out of the corner of her eye, Gwen tilts her head towards the lightning Seraph gives her a wink and a thumbs up.

    Ragnell is fine here! .... well, in Gwen's eyes.

    But this is Gwen, who is ambidextrous in the world of hands and friends.

    Which is really stretching the meaning of the word, but-- did hiro ask Lucia to kick the ball

    Gwen heroically strays in the path of the blitzball, sacrificing her good looks (okay no) in the service of rescuing poor innocent blitzballs from a watery grave! As they connect, she makes a joyous sound of reunion, sharing a bond of contact, blizball skin to face, the sound echoing to the heavens--

    "WUAGH!"

    The blitzball rockets into the sky, free as a bird.

    By the time it comes down, Gwen is down, an imprint of a blitzball on her stunned freckled face.

<Pose Tracker> Talia has posed.

"Ragnell!" Talia says, with a bright grin. The grin, after a moment, flickers -- not out of the chance of awkwardness, but wondering if Amaranth talked to her sister about certain recent events. No, she decides, not the time. There is a time and place.

She waves at her once, then she glances around. Marivel being a corpse doesn't really faze her. What does faze her is the way that Lucia sends the ball flying by, her hair whipping after -- and the drink inside of her coconut sloshing -- and then she looks at Lucia.

She blinks. "Not bad, no?"

She takes another sip from her coconut, then gives Jean a nod. Maybe her coconut, also, isn't such a mystery. Then she cheers in Gwen's direction: "Go, Gwen! You can get it! You can--" She winces. "...owwwwwww. Is everything okay with your face, no?"

<Pose Tracker> Seraph Ragnell has posed.

    Yeah, with Gwen and Talia here, Ragnell sort of figured she'd get a warm greeting upon getting noticed. She debates whether or not to play along, but Ruby would probably harass her for just leaving either way, so she shrugs. In a flash of gold-and-indigo, she vanishes from the clifftop and reappears down on the beach.
    
    "Howdy, y'all," she drawls, flicking a hand up in greeting. "Fancy seein' y'all here." She half-smiles over at the blitz-toss that turns into a supersonic blitz kick when Lucia impacts it with the foot of an angry god. "Nice," she comments, unintentionally echoing Jean, raising a hand over her eyes as she watches it tear towards the horizon, then impact Gwen's poor cute face. "You're s'posed t' catch it with your hand," she adds 'helpfully.'

<Pose Tracker> Seraph Harmaus has posed.

    It had happened more or less 'by chance'.

    But then again, isn't 'chance' just 'fate' from a certain point of view?

    The Lord of Calamity... was...

    "I finds you at last, Lucia. Lord of Calamity."

    One might need to look down to sight the speaker, for they are... a cat.
    A grey-silver cat, its fur tipped with white, to be precise. Amber eyes, a lean build even under its long-furred coat. Its tail is neatly tucked about its feet where it sits in the sand, a trail of footprints giving some hint of from whence it came. A single red cord is wound about its neck, from which hangs a particularly delicate-looking bell.

    It looks expectantly up at Lucia, and blinks its eyes the once.

    "I thoughts you lost to Blue Star, but, ah! Here you are! How fortunate. A long long time passes since I last sees, hears, Anitia... but no matter. You are here now!" The cat pauses, whiskers bristling. "I seeks power of 'Calamity's Lord' anew. Seeks power the Goddess dreads!"

    This is when Ragnell speaks -- and in answer to Talia, no less.

    The cat's tail unwinds from where it rests about its legs and begins to twitch, as if it were agitated in some way, against the sand.

    "Jaeja," murmurs the cat, irritated.

<Pose Tracker> Isolde has posed.

Isolde tilts her head back towards Marivel's whispers and answers her with a mildly portentious "Hmmm," before Lucia reveals a verboten jam and--

Isolde's lips pull back into a grimace of dismay. "That sounded dreadful. Did she break her nose?" She then rolls to her side, arranging herself in anticipation of getting to, at least, a seated position. This is a little cautious, as the coconut's precious contents must not be spilt.

She pauses, as if quietly frozen, at the sound of an unfamiliar voice.

<Pose Tracker> Hiro has posed.


Hiro eagerly nods at Talia's urging. "It is!" And seems to give her a look of silent thanks for urging Lucia to include herself in the fun.

Ruby gets a look on her face as if being on the side of 'Lucia is probably going to tap it ineffectually with her foot.' as Lucia rises. "Dead Ball." She agrees with Isolde.

Hiro has this excited expression as Lucia winds back her foot. And gets his hands ready.

Speed lines suddenly WHOOSH by the two of them. Hiro's hair and scarf both whip violently in the wind as he sports a stunned expression.

"Aaaaaaa!" Ruby spirals out of control from the vacuum rush.

Hiro stumbles back as he instead goes after Ruby rather than the ball. Catching her and steadying her in mid-air. The two are caught in a pose of Hiro holding onto Ruby while balancing on one leg. Ruby flailing in mid-air and flapping her wings wildly in his grasp until she realizes she's safe.

While in this haphazard position, Hiro looks at Lucia and evaluates her performance with a single word. "Wow." He does look genuinely impressed. "Lucia. That was- incredible! I know who I want on my team next game."

He's not lying. Even with the idea that it was WAY too hard for a game, he is genuinely earnestly impressed by this turn of events and what is apparently huge talent for sports. Until Ruby calls out, "AAAAA SHE GOT GWEN!" Hiro turns around in sudden alarm. "I-I'm sure she's alright, Gwen is very tough-"

Ruby's already flying over to her. "Quick - Gwen! How many paws am I holding up?!"

Ruby suddenly spreads out both of her forelimbs and juts forward both her hindlimbs in a method that might be somewhat confusing on just exactly how one should answer as she flits around Gwen in alarmed inspection.

Ruby suddenly ceases in this, to open her mouth wide as Ragnell enters into the camp. "R-Ragnell!?"

"Hey Ragnell - been a while. Come to join in on the fun?"

Hiro seems rather accepting of her presence, doesn't he? And perhaps it might have turned into an argument over her presence...

... when someone speaks on the Lord of Calamity. And Hiro turns his head because none of the Fiends do that. "Did that cat just talk?"

"HIRO! HOW COULD YOU-" Pause. Look. "Oh... it actually is a talking cat."

<Pose Tracker> Mariel has posed.

Sharp-eared as she may be, Mariel cannot clearly hear Marivel from where she sits, but she can hear that she is saying something at least. She looks up, having been sitting close on purpose to keep an eye on her friend.

"Marivel," she says, before being interrupted by a SUPERSONIC BALL KICK (tm) from Lucia. She winces. It was an impressive kick, but still... "Gwen, come here," she offers, raising her voice. "I have some sun cream." Mariel, who is also pale, always makes some of that around Spira. "...and some bruise cream."

Her gaze passes toward Ragnell, and Mariel frowns slightly, but she does not say anything unless someone else does. There are a lot of people Mariel is uncomfortable around that other people aren't, and it's not entirely her place to say.

...it's a little different when Harmaus shows up. "...A cat?" Mariel has actually been around Harmaus before... but she's never spoken to him, nor dealt with him directly, and she does not immediately recognize him as the threat he might be. No, she thinks; she can feel the energy around him. Not just a cat. But... She grips the strap of her bag as she rises, pulling it up with her.

<Pose Tracker> Lucia has posed.

Lucia probably wasn't humming https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WHpt2qikj1I but since no one could hear her there's no way to say for sure that that wasn't it either.

"I'm glad..."

With characteristic guilelessness she takes Hiro's compliment in the spirit it was meant; she's surprised by his surprise, if anything. This is what happens whenever someone asks her to play a game. They tell her what to do, and she does it, and then...?

She blinks and strides across the sand towards Gwen. Like the song, the state of her footprints are indeterminate; the sea licks them away as quickly as they're pressed, if they were ever pressed at all. How Schrodingeric.

How appropriate.

She looks down at the cat in her path and pauses, midstride, on her way to Gwen's side. She is not taken aback by its ability to talk, but since the second creature she ever spoke to on Lunar was Ruby, maybe that's reasonable. Or maybe she's just a bit too open-minded.

"Humans call me by that name sometimes," she confirms to the feline, her dismissiveness of the title almost serene in its totality. "It means nothing to me."

Harmaus, and some others, have now accumulated enough references to Ragnell that if she was pretending not to notice she no longer has that choice, and if she was a little slow on the uptake it finally caught up to her. Either way, she allows the cat's tail to direct her gaze, and it crosses the sands between them with almost the same speed and force as the blitzball a moment ago.

It is rare for something so brilliantly green -- as green as Filgaia isn't, as green as it dreams of being -- to seem so deadly.

She keeps talking to the cat, without loosening the grip of her stare at Ragnell's face.

"Who is Jaeja?"

<Pose Tracker> Jean has posed.

Jean hadn't noticed Ragnell at first. SHe wasn't really being especially wary in the first place, focused more on the game and all. And on nodding back Talia's way, and then with... Well. Gwen.

"You okay?" she chimes in for Gwen. "That was a big hit! Lucia's real good at this." She does seem impressed by her ability.

"Oh, hey," she greets Ragnell. Thre's more to say than that, of course. A lot more. But that's the start. Before she can say more, though...

'Lord of Calamity.'

Jean looks around suddenly, the hairs on the back of her neck standing up. But all she ses is cat. ...very very fluffy cat, with a bell.

Jean doesn't say anything for the moment, instead watching Lucia and Ragnell.

<Pose Tracker> Seraph Ragnell has posed.

    Ragnell looks down at the sound of Harmaus's little kitty voice.
    
    'Jaeja,' he mutters.
    
    "Oh boy," she mutters back.
    
    *Anitia*, though... Ragnell knows that name well. He'd sought the power of the Lord of Calamity before? That's news to her. That would've been a good two hundred years ago... Had he really always been jonesing for power that whole time? Her frown deepens, but she doesn't try to interrupt him. The more he talks, the more she learns.
    
    Then Hiro and Ruby take a break from freaking out over Gwen to freak out over her. Well, Ruby does, anyway. Hiro is actually pretty chill. "Nah, I was jus' spelunkin' ruins when I noticed y'all an' figured I'd come say hi. Been a while," she replies, cool as you please. To Jean, she raises a pair of fingers in greeting and gives her a genuinely friendly half-smile. As she does, she catches Mariel's frown in the corner of her eye, but she pretends not to notice. Marivel is way likelier to try to start something, anyway.
    
    In the meantime, though, Lucia directs at Ragnell daggers of pure emerald. Ragnell duels her with a crimson parry, not hostile but hardly quailing either, and gives her a civil nod of greeting. She does not explain who Jaeja is.

<Pose Tracker> Marivel Armitage has posed.

The sun dips just enough.

"The cat came back th very next day." Marivel slowly stands up and when her head rises--it's a real face again. She pulls a scarf down, revealing her mouth. "Did you decide to go right to the top with your Althenaquisiton?"

Her body still moves stiffly but with each step, her movements are more fluid. In night, it's easier.

"Be wary, Hiro. Ruby. This is Seraph Harmaus. They have no compunctions in allowing their vessels to die or in harming innocents for their goals. They have already caused harm to a village in their pursuit of their truths. Their power is not to be underestimated, even in the form of a 'cat'."

Guillotine appears in her hands but transmogrifies into the shape of a staff which Marivel leans upon, but she is not really in a condition to fight just yet.

Maybe in an hour or two. Normally Ragnell would be right about her starting something but, well, the potentiality of fighting TWO Light Seraphs is enough to even stay reckless Marivel's hands.

<Pose Tracker> Gwen Whitlock has posed.

    The Good News: Gwen did not break her nose!
    The Bad News: Gwen is in no condition to warn that the strange talking cat could be trouble, regardless of whether or not they are actively being aggressive.

    Gwen's eyes squint at the bright sun, and the small shadow flying over her face. "..... Could y'hover.... right.... yeah... no, go over, that way... back... augh, shadow's too small t'block out th'sun... Oh, good, yeah, that's better..." That is Gwen commanding Ruby, then Lucia, to block the sun for her.

    When the attention shifts, Gwen groans in answer to Mariel's offer. ".... Could y'bring it over here? N'more coconuts f'me 'til my own coconut's better..."

    Eventually, against her better judgment, Gwen does raise halfway up, white sand trailing off behind her with the motion as it slips off her mop of red hair.

    ".... Ragnell?" Gwen rubs her head with her left. "When'd y'get here?"

    She'd look behind her, but Marivel's words fill her in enough to not need to look behind her.

    "... Harmauuuus." She groans, gently placing her head back down on the sand. ".... C'you come back tomorrrooowww." As if she wasn't witness to the more severe works this Seraph was capable of.

<Pose Tracker> Talia has posed.

A cat comes forth.

Talia takes a second to put everything together. But then the cat talks. Talia turns her head to look at the cat, her eyebrows twitching -- and she isn't all that shocked that a cat speaks, after some time around Ruby. (Sorry, Ruby.) No, instead, she looks right at the cat -- and then her eyes narrow. Maybe he looks very different, but she recognizes that voice. She remembers when he showed up.

"You," she snaps at him, her voice half-way to a hiss. "Are you here to harass someone else today, no!" The way she says it isn't a question. She stands up -- drops her coconut, though it lands open end up in the sand -- and sticks her hands on her hips.

She marches closer to Harmaus. "What do you want with her? Something like you wanted before?" Her expression screws up that much more. She looks angry.

<Pose Tracker> Seraph Harmaus has posed.

    To be fair, for most of those present here, the last they'd seen Harmaus prior -- if they'd seen him prior -- he'd been in the form of a man rather than a cat. But easy come, easy go -- the body he'd been borrowing has been lost to him. It's only a shame that it happened in Spira of all places, as far as the Seraph himself is concerned.

    But where there have been losses, there have been gains. For example, the presence of the one standing before him now.

    'Humans call me by that name sometimes.'

    'It means nothing to me.'

    Slightly, the cat narrows its eyes. "Means not... means what? Does Lord of Calamity accepts her role? Or does she falter?" voices the Seraph, tail beginning to thump against the sand.

    "Jaeja?" repeats Harmaus back at the 'Lord of Calamity'. "Is not person. Is a saying. Means, eh..." Cat faces don't lend themselves well to expression, but somehow this cat manages to convey great frustration as it wracks itself for a succinct translation. "...many things," the Seraph settles for. "Is not important."

    Which is when Marivel...

    ...presents herself.

    "Ah," says the cat, dryly, turning his head her way. "I sees it lives, yet. The child of red. Difficult to kill! Error is mine. I tries harder, next time." He doesn't answer her question -- at least not directly.

    "I serves Lord of Calamity. Pledges myself to her! ...If she will has me," he adds, glancing up at Lucia. "Long seeks I next Lord of Calamity. And here she is!"

    From a close distance, Gwen moans out a plaintive request.

    "...Jaeja..." sighs the catlike Seraph, as if put upon. "Problems, problems, yet..."

    Talia, recognizing that voice if not the form, intrudes. "Amaranth's guardian!" remarks the catlike thing. "Ah, or is 'jailor', now? Keeps it locked from me. Keeps truth well away! It not has questions for Amaranth? Or is silence enough?"

<Pose Tracker> Mariel has posed.

Ragnell is right: Mariel isn't going to pull anything just because of her presence. She's not going to trust her - she knows only a little about what she's been up to, but that's enough - but Mariel doesn't start fights just because she doesn't trust someone.

She just keeps her eyes on them.

Mariel says to Marivel, "Don't strain yourself," kindly, before she picks her way closer to Gwen. Getting smacked in the face with the ball has got to hurt. She's already pulling out a couple things from her bag; the time since Via Purifico has allowed her to restock, though some of the things she's come up with look a little strange.

Like the bright orange bottle that she's just pulled out. "Drinking this might help," she suggests to Gwen. "I'm sorry but it will taste awful. It's a new recipe... And then I'll find the sun cream for tomorrow." It's getting dark enough that putting it on now seems like a waste.

And with Gwen, Marivel and Talia recognizing Harmaus, that's enough for her. "I don't speak for her," Mariel says, "but I think you may have come to the wrong place. ...please do not hurt Marivel, or anyone else." Mariel's ears flatten down against her hair, slightly. 'I serve the Lord of Calamity'... Who would claim such a thing, and mean it? A Seraphim, no less?

<Pose Tracker> Marivel Armitage has posed.

Marivel says, "Soon I can rest for a time," to Mariel. "The Time of Promise is fast approaching. I simply need to last that long."

Harmaus threatening her isn't surprising. Marivel doesn't seem bothered by it judging from the smile. But those eyes as they are do widen faintly upon hearing Harmaus PLEDGE ITSELF to Lucia. Well, the Lord of Calamity.

"I have no objections," Marivel says. "If you wish to invite them along." Again, maybe a strange thing for someone who has received injuries like this, but it's probably not too surprising to hear it from Marivel herself.

"After all, their power may prove useful to you."

She does raise a hand, though, and places it gently upon Mariel's shoulder. In her opinion, it is not her place to make that call, nor does she wish their personal conflict to inform Hiro or Lucia on the matter.

<Pose Tracker> Isolde has posed.

Isolde shifts herself, having gotten more upright. She attends to what the - cat? - is saying to Lucia; she sets her drink aside.

Is it truly a talking cat? Isolde steels herself from smiling. Ruby is a darling little creature, whatever she truly turns out to be. And if she herself will acknowledge this form...

...and then Talia speaks, and there are shapes in what she says...

"Well that's a hell of a thing to just step out and say," Isolde says, in response to the service to the Lord of Calamity. She does not sound like she wants to smile.

<Pose Tracker> Gwen Whitlock has posed.

    Gwen raises her head just enough, finally managing to thread her ARM through the right sleeve of her tunic. ".... So that's why m'back hurts like hell..." The hand grasps the

    'I'm sorry but it will taste awful.' This is the liquid Gwen is already downing, but the courier knows better than to stop, at this point.

    She finishes the bottle and leans downward, the tips of her boots creasing with the force of her curling toes, as she lets out a loud 'BLAUGH!'

    The position is held for an impressive moment, the orange bottle still clutched protectively in her gloved hand, and then, she relaxes her body. ".... S'little bitter, but I've bought spirits that've tasted worse," Gwen manages to say with a small smile, gently offering the empty bottle back to Mariel.. "... I guess I owe you more seeds, when we get back to Filgaia."

    She may or may not be lying, when talking about the alcohol.

    "He was talkin' 'bout servin' that Seymour asshole," Gwen grimly offers, as silence follows. "S'for what it'sworth, a different leader might be good. Get him goin' on other projects."

    But this, again, is the ambidextrous Gwen.

    ".... But him puttin' a village t'sleep... real nasty-like, if word got out it was him. But, like... hold on..." She squints her eyes closed. ".... So. He could be.... foolin' you? But like, he could not be?"

    Gwen's advice, as always, may or may not be the sort of help Lucia and Hiro need, right now.

<Pose Tracker> Hiro has posed.


"Right... here?" As Ruby floats to block the sun from Gwen's vision until Mariel can apply some treatment.

Hiro seems to get his wits about him after the initial shock of the small cat speaking is over. Cats don't speak. Flying cats speak as far as he knows - because he's not actually certain if Ruby is a dragon or not. He's not even certain Ruby is certain of that.

"Stick around for a while, if you don't mind." Hiro notes to Ragnell, if his smile is strained it's not because of Ragnell this time. It's because he thinks that if something happens - that Ragnell will likely be on their side. He has a goodly amount of faith in that, despite everything that's happened.

Hiro's footsteps softly crunch in the sand as he approaches. He doesn't have his sword out, though he certainly does look sidelong as Talia snaps at Harmaus, "You know him?" The word harass makes him frown. Though as Marivel explains... his frown seems to deepen further, "Is that right? Thanks Marivel... didn't really know what we were dealing with here."

He then eyes Jean as if to try to get some sense of what she's thinking, because he trusts her instincts... but Harmaus soon makes it clear when he says he's come to pledge loyalty to the Lord of Calamity. He still remembers Agatha coming to pledge herself to the Lord of Calamity... and what that led to. The more he hears, from Gwen and the others, the less he likes. He gives Marivel another look, and a raised eyebrow upon her suggestion, "We're not going to invite them along on false pretenses Marivel."

Clearing his throat, he steps up behind Harmaus and says, "If you're looking for the Lord of Calamity. You can keep looking. This isn't her - so it's best you find that out before you pledge loyalty in a way you can't take back."

He then continues on after a short pause. "The real one's got a head like a lion. And is yay tall-"

Hiro corrects, raising his hand way above his head as if to demonstrate his height... then recognizes that he's still not tall enough and stands on his tip toes.

He's still not tall enough.

As he continues he's not aggressive, but he is a bit terse, as he drops back to his heels. "And by the way - Lucia isn't looking to do anything that'd make Althena dread her. She's here to save this world."

<Pose Tracker> Lucia has posed.
<SoundTracker> Lunar 2: Eternal Blue (Instrumental) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rf7eTakQ26M

Lucia obligingly removes her hat and tosses it, like a discus, at Gwen's face. Its very opaque crimson will give her friend all the shadow she needs. Absent even that tiny bit of constraint, her hair abruptly fans out to double its volume, a vast blue cloak whose undulations cannot wholly be explained by the simplicity of beach winds.

(For Gwen's benefit, the hat is heavy, a little bit stiff with texture best described as 'utilitarian', and smells like nothing at all, when it ought to smell like something distinctively HER. Maybe she doesn't know that she's supposed to exude oil from her scalp.)

CAN one parry something that is as insubstantial as a look? Insubstantial, yet significant... if one asked Lucia what she WISHED most for her role to be, she might answer, innocently, 'a looker'. It is the most overwhelming and confusing and difficult thing she has done since her arrival on Lunar. And also the best. She looks, and she looks, and she looks.

So when she looks at Ragnell, allow consideration for the full meaning of that word. She does not look at anything to kill; when moved to violence, she wields it far more directly.

She looks at EVERYTHING to understand.

The fatal flaw of this, of course, is that it is not suitable at all as a technique to understand what lies behind her eyes; what lies within herself. What, just now, is growing and growing inside her. She cannot identify it, but others can... just by looking at her.

Lucia's stricken expression... is that of someone who is grappling, for the first time, with deep, profound, and personal betrayal.

The others seem to know the cat; before and after his would-be pledge of fealty, they chime in with warnings of danger, of previous violent clashes, and in some cases with cautious acceptance. For her part, Lucia does her best to listen to him and the others, even if she cannot see past the presence, the immediacy, of Ragnell's face.

And, eventually, she responds, though by then some others have responded for her. Nevertheless, she has something to say.

Her eyes settle on Harmaus fully at last. There are no questions in them, only answers.

"I do not falter in my role," she whispers, with the intensity of a shout. "I must find Althena before Zophar returns to power, or he will destroy this and every world."

Something happens mid-sentence, something that those keenly attuned to the unseen experience violently, and everyone else experiences as a several-degree drop in temperature, wholly at odds with the sunny tropical afternoon, less like a cloud passing over the sun and more like a glacier passing over the island. When Lucia utters the name 'Zophar', the Malevolence that swirls around her -- which waxes and wanes, and today had been reduced by whatever means to little more than a slightly slick veil -- roars. It surges into galeforce, at unreasonable concentration, the sort of shocking, epic axis-maxima-label-reset phenomena that makes the notion of humans labeling her Calamity all too believable.

Lucia's eyes narrow against agony, and her breathing hitches as though she's just taken a grievous lash, the sort that exposes not only blood but bone. She sways on her feet. A stiff breeze could probably blow her over, where moments ago she was a being at least somewhat secure in her own power.

But despite this weakening of herself, at the eye of a storm of cataclysmic strength, she does not permit herself to collapse. Nor to look away from the one who sought her out.

"I am Lucia of the Blue Star, and I have no reason to lie. I seek no servants, but anyone who allies with me is an ally to basic survival. You may join me, if you wish."

<Pose Tracker> Talia has posed.

"He barged in on my girlfriend," Talia says. "Made rude demands of her, no? To tell him things she didn't wish to speak of." She doesn't elaborate more -- really, for the reason she said. She looks back down at Harmaus.

Her eyes narrow at him. Then her eyes flicker to Hiro -- and she makes quite the face as he tries to demonstrate the height of the real deal.

Her eyes dart at Lucia. She listens to her explan, and then her eyes move down to him. Lucia seems accepting of this, and for a moment... she thinks about it.

But Harmaus says something else.

"Her... jailor?" Talia repeats, and her tone becomes quiet. Measured, even. There is a look in her eyes, then. For all that Talia can act exuberant and cheerful, when she loses her temper, it tends to be a quiet and cold thing. Her smile flickers, then fades the rest of the way. "Amaranth doesn't want anything to do with you. She made this clear, no?"

She rests a hand at her hip. Her fingers are just an couple of fingertips away from the hilt of her dagger. "You should mind your lying tongue, no?"

She smiles again. Coldly. "Before I misplace it."

<Pose Tracker> Jean has posed.

There is a lot that Jean doesn't know; she's aware of this, and it isn't a huge problem, because there's more out there to know than anybody could really keep track of. But she kows there is something going on here, something beyond Marivel's macabre recovery and Harmaus's unusual request. Maybe presence. She doesn't recognize Harmaus like the others do, but...

She does look back at Hiro, and she gives him a sharp-eyed gaze in the moment--one to be careful--but that's about all she does for now, instead looking and listening for a little while longer still. She doesn't chime in about the other Lord of Calamity...

But she doesn't speak up with what she meant t say to Ragnell yet, either. Instead, she waits--and she feels that drp in temperature, the swirl around her. "Lucia," Jean starts, taking a step--but she doesn't collapse, or look away. ...Jean can respect that. She looks from her, to Harmaus again.

...And then to Ragnell. "You wouldn't be the first friend who'd given us some trouble," Jean admits. She returns that friendly smile, but maybe thre should be some talking. For now though--

"...But if you've got the wrong person after all, then that's fine, too." There's no menace in the dancer, though she speaks in part because of Talia. She doesn't make any movements herself.

<Pose Tracker> Seraph Ragnell has posed.

    When Harmaus declares that he wishes to declare fealty to Lucia, Ragnell's eyebrows rise a bit. Beyond that, though, she shows no particular shock. There's *another* Lord of Calamity tooling around, and a different Seraph works for *him*. And, well, K.K. might not be a Hellion but they're plenty dangerous in their own way, and she works for *them*. Althena's so-called children are really not as virtuous as the Church makes them out to be.
    
    "What, you think he ought to've beaten around the bush?" she comments to Isolde. "Better he be forthright than waste people's time *pussyfootin'* around." She raises her eyebrows at Marivel when she encourages the invitation, but doesn't remark. Gwen's encouragement does get a chuckle out of her, though. New projects, huh.
    
    Hiro invites her to stick around. Ragnell glances at him, nods once, and turns her attention back to Lucia and Harmaus. She makes a face when the topic of Amaranth comes up, but while she's itching to remind the bad, bad cat that she told him to stay away from her sister, she still doesn't interrupt for now. Just as well--Hiro wastes no time explaining matters to Harmaus, and Mariel strongly encourages him to leave. Ragnell folds her arms and waits to see how that turns out.
    
    As for Lucia's looking... if she wants to understand Ragnell by looking, she's welcome to try. But Ragnell is a person both forthright and opaque at the same time, and she's keeping her body language particularly tight right now. If Lucia wants to decipher her--maybe somewhere quieter, with fewer people, would be a better place to do it. When the Malevolence that waves around her like a banner flares, Ragnell eases back, but doesn't retreat.
    
    "I'm always causin' trouble for everyone, friend an' foe alike, so it was really inevitable, honestly," she remarks to Jean. To Talia, she gives a long, slow look. Lucia might be willing to accept Harmaus's fealty, but given what she knows of the Light Seraph... he probably won't be able to overlook Talia's sharp words.
    
    Good. Ragnell wouldn't mind beating up this asshole cat, either, if it comes to that.

<Pose Tracker> Seraph Harmaus has posed.

    "Not needs its approval," rumbles the feline-shaped Seraph, when Marivel and Gwen agree that his power may be of use to Lucia (and better there than elsewhere)--

    And even when Jean remarks that he'd hardly be the first friend they've had some difficulty with at least at the start--

    But this is all a mere aside.

    No, the real first part of the initial response comes from Hiro's corner... when he says that Lucia's not the one he's seeking. "It lies," the Seraph says flatly, with enough acid in that tone to melt through glass. "I knows she is 'Lord of Calamity'. World knows it, since awakening!"

    And then Hiro pantomimes a much taller fellow. Someone with a 'head like a lion'.
    Harmaus' eyes narrow to slits. Particularly when Hiro says that--

    --when Lucia agrees that--

    Harmaus, still seated upon the beach, goes completely still.
    It's only mere moments before all hell breaks loose in a metaphysical sense. It's a bizarre sight if one turns their eyes upon the Seraph: he flinches away from the onslaught as if he were recoiling from an oven's inferno, but he, standing on all fours now, tries to push himself forward and into the heart of hell. His body shakes; his mouth opens as if he were straining to even breath. "No! It is not--"

    The best that can be said at this point is that he manages to stay standing.

    Then light blazes about him in a nimbus.

    "It seeks aiding Althena?!" In his rage, even the respect he had presented to Lucia has been momentarily withdrawn. "Not Lord of Calamity, yet Malevolence yet rages! What meaning, this? What trickery? What lie?!"

    His rage has still only just been kindled when Talia addresses him, and says again that Amaranth made herself clear. Then calls him a liar.

    "It calls me liar?!" howls the Seraph, wroth. "Me?! I, seeking only truth?" His fur nearly stands on end. "I sees what happens -- all these around her coat her with lies and falsehoods! I...! I removes the rot! Starting now!"

    It appears that, again, the Seraph has redefined what reality is.

     "-Accept your fate-," Harmaus declares in the Ancient Tongue, light gleaming brilliantly about him. "Askesis!" The beams fire off in a wave, a horrific star bringing about the dawn of a new day.

GS: Seraph Harmaus spends 1 Combo on Poison!
GS: Seraph Harmaus has attacked Seraph Ragnell with Askesis!
GS: Seraph Harmaus has attacked Jean with Askesis!
GS: Seraph Harmaus has attacked Talia with Askesis!
GS: Seraph Harmaus has attacked Lucia with Askesis!
GS: Seraph Harmaus has attacked Hiro with Askesis!
GS: Seraph Harmaus has attacked Gwen Whitlock with Askesis!
GS: Seraph Harmaus has attacked Marivel Armitage with Askesis!
GS: Seraph Harmaus has attacked Mariel with Askesis!
GS: Seraph Harmaus has attacked Isolde with Askesis!
GS: Seraph Harmaus has gained 2 Combo!
GS: Seraph Harmaus has completed his action.
GS: CRITICAL! Hiro takes a glancing hit from Seraph Harmaus's Askesis for 0 hit points!
GS: Poison and Reaper applied to Hiro!
GS: Hiro takes an additional 45 damage from Reaper!
GS: Mariel used Defend! She takes Seraph Harmaus's Askesis attack on Marivel Armitage on herself!
GS: Talia takes a glancing hit from Seraph Harmaus's Askesis for 0 hit points!
GS: Poison and Reaper applied to Talia!
GS: Talia activates Evade bonus!
GS: Talia takes an additional 55 damage from Reaper!
GS: Seraph Ragnell takes a glancing hit from Seraph Harmaus's Askesis for 0 hit points!
GS: Poison and Reaper applied to Seraph Ragnell!
GS: Seraph Ragnell activates Evade bonus!
GS: Seraph Ragnell takes an additional 55 damage from Reaper!
DC: 1 turn has elapsed in the battle against Seraph Harmaus! 4 turns remain!
GS: Jean takes a solid hit from Seraph Harmaus's Askesis for 0 hit points!
GS: Poison and Reaper applied to Jean!
GS: Jean takes an additional 45 damage from Reaper!
GS: Mariel takes a glancing hit from Seraph Harmaus's Askesis for 0 hit points!
GS: Poison and Reaper applied to Mariel!
GS: Mariel takes an additional 45 damage from Reaper!
GS: Mariel takes a solid hit from Seraph Harmaus's Askesis for 0 hit points!
GS: Reaction switch bonus! Mariel gains 1 additional Combo!
GS: Poison and Reaper applied to Mariel!
GS: Mariel takes an additional 45 damage from Reaper!
DC: 2 turns have elapsed in the battle against Seraph Harmaus! 3 turns remain!
DC: 3 turns have elapsed in the battle against Seraph Harmaus! 2 turns remain!
GS: Gwen Whitlock guards a hit from Seraph Harmaus's Askesis for 0 hit points!
GS: Poison and Reaper applied to Gwen Whitlock!
GS: Gwen Whitlock takes an additional 60 damage from Reaper!
GS: Hiro used Defend! He takes Seraph Harmaus's Askesis attack on Lucia on himself!
GS: CRITICAL! Hiro takes a solid hit from Seraph Harmaus's Askesis for 0 hit points!
GS: Reaction switch bonus! Hiro gains 1 additional Combo!
GS: Poison and Reaper applied to Hiro!
GS: Hiro takes an additional 45 damage from Reaper!
GS: Hiro has gained 1 Combo!
<Pose Tracker> Mariel has posed.

Mariel accepts the bottle back. "Don't feel you must," Mariel says. "...But I will always take seeds." Especially if they're ones she doesn't have, yet. She is, at least, easy to shop for.

Mariel looks away for just a moment when Marivel rests one hand on her shoulder. "No," she says, more quietly. "You treat your own self too lightly. I... don't want to stand by and allow people to try to hurt you, just because you think you will live, or..." There are other reasons. Mariel will not say them in public, and being in front of Ragnell and especially Harmaus counts as 'in public'.

She falls quiet for a moment, which becomes a longer period when Lucia's Malevolence surges. It is an unpleasant sensation for anyone, but for Mariel, sensitive as she is, it's worse; unpleasant and nauseating to the point of physical pain.

Mariel takes a physical step back away from something that isn't physical at all, nearly walking backwards into Marivel when she does, and squeezes her eyes shut. Her ears flatten down even further. She has no proper defense against it short of trying to focus and find herself and her balance, something made more difficult by not being on Filgaia.

She opens her eyes some moments later, breathing out. The feeling of cold has faded for her, at least a little, and she has herself under control again. She heard Lucia make the offer while she had her eyes closed, and though she expected Harmaus to turn it down she did not expect violence.

But there is, indeed, violence.

Mariel throws herself flat at the sudden blasts of light, or that was her original intention; she realizes at the last moment that Marivel is right there, is already injured, and is being menaced by light magic, and she pushes herself to throw herself on top of Marivel instead, catching herself on elbows and knees rather than putting her weight on Marivel but still covering her from the beams.

It hurts. The beams tear into Mariel's back, the impact points on her robe literally smoking as they hammer home, and Mariel lets out a pained sound. She slides past, landing on her side (and incidentally no longer pinning Marivel). "Marivel," she says, quietly. "Remember what I said..."

Slowed by her injuries, Mariel carefully retrieves a bottle of powdered root and attempts to get some of the contents on her own back. (Which is harder than it looks.) "Harmaus," Mariel says, her voice tight with pain. "I think - you are making a mistake - "

GS: Mariel enters CONDITION GREEN!!
GS: Mariel has attacked Mariel with Holy Root!
GS: Mariel has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Mariel takes an additional 25 damage from Reaper!
GS: Mariel takes 29 damage from Poison!
GS: Mariel has completed her action.
GS: Isolde guards a hit from Seraph Harmaus's Askesis for 0 hit points!
GS: Poison and Reaper applied to Isolde!
GS: Isolde activates Guard bonus!
GS: Isolde takes an additional 55 damage from Reaper!
<Pose Tracker> Marivel Armitage has posed.

Marivel assures Harmaus, "I only spoke up in case that was a concern for them, my pet." And then she laughs a little at Harmaus' growing rage. "Eheh... Did I forget to mention they were hoping to help Althena not harm her? Heheh.... I suppose the heat must be getting to me, since I forgot to mention that you wouldn't actually want to join these people. My bad." She sniggers wildly before coughing into her fist. "Ahhh, that made my day. Harmaus, Harmaus... I really thought you'd still take the opportunity given to you but I suppose--"

Mariel interrupts her with a refusal. Marivel clamps her mouth shut, even the taunting she lives for ceases. She feels the Malevolence pulsing around Lucia. "Mariel... I don't deny that but my time is..."

Mariel tackles Marivel to the ground. The Crimson Noble's eyes widen. "No...!" She shouts. "Don't you---" It's too late. The beams slam into Mariel's back. "No, no no...!"

Mariel slides off. Marivel turns to look at her.

BGM: Yearn To Bloom - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8FfC7YkrLCY&ab_channel=Aivi6Surasshu-Topic

"Mariel... Don't... Don't ever do that again." She manages. "You're too important. And..." Her cheeks flush blue faintly. "...Too important to me. Please... Please, please..."

She slowly stands up, grimacing in pain as she does so. "You..."

Her fangs are bared now, and any semblance of amusement is gone.

"You fool. You don't even know what Mariel is and you clearly throw your power around where it can catch her...!"

Her eyes narrow. "If the Time of Promise had come, I would unleash true power upon you for this insolence. But by the law of our pact...The pact between the Enenra and the Elw... You're getting everything I have..."

"MAGIC SEAL...!"

Marivel shouts as an eldricht seal starts formulating around Harmaus's form, glowing a bright purple as Marivel crouches down--

--and picks up a ball???

GS: Marivel Armitage has attacked Seraph Harmaus with Magic Seal!
GS: Marivel Armitage has completed her action.
GS: Seraph Harmaus takes a glancing hit from Marivel Armitage's Magic Seal for 0 hit points!
GS: Mute applied to Seraph Harmaus!
<Pose Tracker> Isolde has posed.

Isolde tilts her head towards Talia as the explanation of just how rude this particular cat has been comes up. Lucia speaks... s too does Jean. At this point Isolde gets up and walks over towards Marivel, sidling round her and Mariel and perhaps Gwen in order to reach over and -

"Ha!" Isolde laughs at Ragnell's jest. It's heartfelt.

She feels the eruption of beamlight from Harmaus in a completely unrelated manner. It smashes into her side hard enough to stagger her with a grunt, making her grimace, and this is when she unties the little strap that held the blade in its cover during travel and swings it round so the sheath flies off to the side.

Isolde strides with ragged determination towards the epicenter of that hot, skin-searing feeling, towards the point that spoke words of power and command. As she does she raises her sword in a high two-handed grip and then --

DOWN it comes! Both hands; a strike that will cleave a divot in the sand should it not strike the Seraph.

GS: Isolde has attacked Seraph Harmaus with Heavy Rain by Nightfall!
GS: Isolde takes an additional 20 damage from Reaper!
GS: Isolde takes 26 damage from Poison!
GS: Isolde has completed her action.
GS: Seraph Harmaus takes a solid hit from Isolde's Heavy Rain by Nightfall for 144 hit points!
GS: Reaction switch bonus! Seraph Harmaus gains 1 additional Combo!
GS: Charge!! You gain 40 FP!
<Pose Tracker> Hiro has posed.


"Now you're just saying the obvious." Ruby mutters at Ragnell's statement to Jean. She's still quite hurt over what Ragnell did, but despite how hurt she is over the betrayal, she's closer on the beach to Ragnell than she is to Harmaus right now. Funny that huh?

"The 'world' is mistaken." Hiro says, "I was there-" Yet he doesn't get around to explaining it, before Lucia speaks on the matter.

Lucia's intensity when it comes to her mission is one that Hiro is well accustomed to, when she begins her whispered reply to Harmaus, he understands her fervor. He admires it - and has since the first few moments he's known her. Though what he does not expect is how the malevolence around her rises into that swirling maelstrom. Even knowing her on her worst days, he still feels low key naueous when dealing with its intensity.

Even knowing that she suffers under its weight, he still wonders how much she suffers in ways they don't know about. Yet when Harmaus angrily blazes, Hiro raises an arm to shield himself. "Why wouldn't we!?" Hiro sounds completely dumbfounded by how anyone could disagree with trying to fight an evil as great as Zophar. Though perhaps he's not really thinking about the fact that Harmaus might not know who that is. Instead responding to his accusation that it must be because of the malevolence. "It's a curse-!"

Talia's words on 'misplacing' his tongue, make Hiro think it's a fine joke, because of course Hiro doesn't think she's that brutal anymore. Yet it sure makes Harmaus angry, doesn't it?

Yet he certainly knows how this goes too. As the light rises further into a wave, he starts moving in front of Lucia. While Ruby ironically moves behind Ragnell for cover...

Right now - with her malevolence roaring so fiercely, Hiro doesn't want her to have to suffer from anything else.

Trying to push on her shoulders enough to get Lucia just a bit lower, seeing as he's shorter than her, before pivoting forward with his shield. The searing wave of light washes over him - a star of harshness that seems in such contrast to the gentle dusk of only a few moments ago. "Gnnn-aaaaa-!" Suddenly his arm - his shield, nothing is enough to truly block out the magic... but... he at least makes a solid enough barrier.

His interposition near Lucia putting him as close to the spell's casting as he can get in order to spare her from the brunt. Spots fill his vision. Wisps of smoke blacken his clothing as if he were an egg being fried sunny side up on the pavement of the city.

He has to take a deep breath to steady himself, blinking back his eyes, and then with a look at Lucia the sides of his lips turn up as he smiles at her, "It was a good try." And then while shaking his head to try and get more of the spots to clear from his vision, he gropes blindly for his sword and brings it out with a swift motion on its hilt. "But - basic survival?" There's the faintest tease in his voice, "I think... you could stand to sell yourself a little better Lucia."

He knows Lucia might take the comment literally, but perhaps he's fine with that right now. He's always found that endearing. Being unable to see outright. "As for you - what even is your PROBLEM?" He simply pivots his sword in a vertical spin, before hopping forward and slamming it against the air itself near Harmaus.

As he strikes seemingly nothing at all. It erupts forward like he just struck an explosive tuning fork. A vibratory burst of concussive power that tries to envelop the immediate area over the Seraphim, and wreak some havoc on their equilibrium.

"Besides picking a fight with us - that is."

GS: Hiro has attacked Seraph Harmaus with Concussion Sword!
GS: Hiro takes an additional 15 damage from Reaper!
GS: Hiro takes 26 damage from Poison!
GS: Hiro has completed his action.
GS: CRITICAL! Seraph Harmaus takes a glancing hit from Hiro's Concussion Sword for 44 hit points!
GS: Reaction switch bonus! Seraph Harmaus gains 1 additional Combo!
GS: Shieldbreak applied to Seraph Harmaus!
<Pose Tracker> Gwen Whitlock has posed.

    "mhph," is the soft, but grateful reply as Lucia's hat spins over to rest over Gwen's face, artfully skipping over Mariel as the Elw accepts back her bottle. "... Well, by th'time we get back, I'm sure there'll be new strains Auntie'll wanna test."

    The air grows tense, loud with the potential for violence. Gwen almost audibly mumbles another groan of complaint, this time more willful than automatic, but she holds her words as another debate seems to stir inwardly in Lucia. The Malevolence that had been absent for the most part is back, a sharp spike that reminds Gwen of the tumult of fear that briefly plagued Gwen, even in her cursed state.

    And against this, Harmaus objects, bringing up a side Gwen had failed to consider.

    'Not Lord of Calamity, yet Malevolence yet rages!'

    It hurts, in a different way, different from the burning lift that pierces her midsection, as Gwen sloppily scrambles to her feet.

    Different than the pound of her head, obscuring the field.

    Different from the twinge in her gut as she sees Mariel slump against Marivel, the former clearly affected by a combination of Lucia's spike of Malevolence and Harmaus's attack.

    Different from the protective anger she feels as Hiro tries to protect Lucia.

    As a person who has begun to question her own sense of 'being', it all feels far too close to home for Gwen to accept it, even in her befuddled state. She can't put words to it, or separate her own feelings from what Lucia might feel.

    "_She's who she says she is_!"

    The words precede a bright flash, a collapsing of ozone in the air as a bright laser issues from Gwen's outreached right hand, popping a hole through the unopened glove.

GS: Gwen Whitlock has attacked Seraph Harmaus with Quasar Palm!
GS: Gwen Whitlock has launched an attack Link!
GS: Gwen Whitlock takes an additional 15 damage from Reaper!
GS: Gwen Whitlock has attacked Seraph Harmaus with Corona Discharge!
GS: Gwen Whitlock has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Gwen Whitlock takes an additional 25 damage from Reaper!
GS: Gwen Whitlock takes 19 damage from Poison!
GS: Gwen Whitlock has completed her action.
<Pose Tracker> Talia has posed.

There is a little spike of fear in Talia's stomach, when she sees the very Malevolence that people spoke of with Lucia. A veritable storm of it, and she understands how she came to be called. Seeing tells her things that she could only know. Her eyes turn, then, and look back at Harmaus. Her eyes narrow, crimson and angry, as she looks at Harmaus.

"The only rot here is you, you vile thing!" Talia snaps back, heatedly. Her eyes dart to the side -- and then she dives. A beam of light explodes, and the spillover from it catches her. It singes her coat, draws out a hiss, and she hits the ground in a three-point stance.

She glances back at Ragnell. There's a nod to her. She figures they're on the same side. For Amaranth's sake, if nothing else.

Talia gives Mariel a look. It's worried, for a moment, at that pained sound. Then, she looks back at Hiro, standing between Harmaus and Lucia.

"Hiro, don't worry! We will help keep her safe!" She calls it out, then hurries forward, too. Hiro moves up -- and Talia stays her ground, not that far from Lucia.

"You heard me, no?" she snaps at Harmaus. "You should stop demanding people be what you need--without a care for what it would do to them!"

She grits her teeth, then raises a hand over her head. A magical circle flashes -- shines up underneath her feet, with intricate lines and runes between the circle -- and then a solid block of ice forms in the air. Chains of ice and rime rattle, flecks of frost flying every which way. Then, the huge slab of ice comes crashing down, shattering and exploding into so many fragments of frost all about Harmaus.

GS: Talia has attacked Seraph Harmaus with Frigid Coffin!
GS: Talia has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Talia takes an additional 25 damage from Reaper!
GS: Talia takes 22 damage from Poison!
GS: Talia has completed her action.
<Pose Tracker> Lucia has posed.

Lucia stares at Harmaus through the storm raging around her -- watches him try to plunge further into it, rather than flee its wrath, despite what it's doing to him -- and for all that her eyes are bruised with silent suffering, a question enters them at last.

It goes unspoken, but the Seraph can see it well enough. Like a small child, it distills everything down to its essence, but that is no bad thing. There is a purity to such simplicity.

'Why?'

There is something childlike, Lucia feels, to Harmaus' subsequent meltdown as well. It makes her feel gentle -- she knows what that means now, thanks to Taben's Peak. This is a bad time for that, but more than most the so-called Lord of Calamity has learned that her feelings do not care one single whit for the vagaries of TIMING.

She is so different from what she once was when she first arrived, dispatching every possible threat with a brutality that had that same essential reasoning: basic survival. Now, assaulted directly, she hesitates even to raise a hand in her own defense...

Fortunately, Hiro is there to protect her from this betrayal of her instincts. He slams her down -- and Mariel, into Marivel. Lucia, aware of both of these sacrifices, is further moved.

"Life is not something that can be bought or sold, Hiro," she corrects softly, and a little grittily, as she has to force it out through the malevolence that would shackle and gag her, bind her helpless and unmoving to the spot, forever, or at least until it's too late, which is much shorter than forever. "It can only be... defended."

As Gwen has put it, with a ferocity that strikes a terrible chord within her, she is, indeed, who she says she is.

She had barely been standing before, and cannot get up easily now. It is a matter of degrees. Step one, place the balls of her feet on the sand. Step two, place the palms of her hands on same. Step three, raise her head, and--

--she exhales, and from her lungs comes that which Harmaus yearns to reach, a miniscule fraction of her curse. She didn't ask for it, or for this, but it billows outwards all the same, to embrace the cat Seraph in an omnidirectional beating and binding. A malevolent pulse which, despite its magnitude, will not actually so much cause harm as cause everything that Harmaus himself brings to the table of his own misery to worsen, to intensify.

Maybe that's reasonable, actually. What better description could there be for what Malevolence really is?

And what does it mean, that that magnification of inner wrongness is so potent in chaining Lucia herself?

No defiance gleams in her eyes. Only a strange sadness.

And that gentleness he kindled within her, unquenched by his violence or her own agony. Perhaps the others, standing up for each other and for her in their various iterations, are to thank for that. Or to blame.

"-I always have-," she agrees with casually perfect fluency in the Ancient Tongue, and arguably without realizing that Harmaus was using it for invocation rather than conversation. "-It is you who came here to change your fate... what is it that you seek?-"

GS: Seraph Harmaus takes a solid hit from Gwen Whitlock's Quasar Palm for 0 hit points!
GS: Reaction switch bonus! Seraph Harmaus gains 1 additional Combo!
GS: Jam applied to Seraph Harmaus!
GS: Charge!! You gain 30 FP!
GS: Seraph Harmaus takes a solid hit from Gwen Whitlock's Corona Discharge for 177 hit points!
GS: Reaction switch bonus! Seraph Harmaus gains 1 additional Combo!
GS: Seraph Harmaus takes a glancing hit from Talia's Frigid Coffin for 84 hit points!
GS: Reaction switch bonus! Seraph Harmaus gains 1 additional Combo!
GS: Delay and Entangle applied to Seraph Harmaus!
GS: Seraph Harmaus activates Evade bonus!
<Pose Tracker> Seraph Ragnell has posed.

    Ragnell shrugs at Ruby when the little pink dragonling mutters at her. "Least you know I know it, eh?" She grins at Isolde when the swordswoman laughs, though it's really only for her own benefit since, well, Isolde can't see. But Talia can, and when the ex-assassin nods to her, Ragnell nods back, all humor fading. She told Harmaus before that if he didn't lay off her sister, he'd have to answer to her for it.
    
    And just as Ragnell predicted, Harmaus takes what he's told poorly, Talia's comment/threat poorly. She hadn't *quite* expected him to outright refuse to believe what he's told because it doesn't match what he thinks he already knows, though, even though in retrospect she should absolutely have called it. (Amaranth has never actually admitted to Ragnell *her* truth, after all.)
    
    Harmaus unleashes a wave of light, burning as it explodes and turns dusk to dawn. It sears through Ragnell, and she grits her teeth and snarls in pain. "Don't even bother! He never listens!" she barks at Mariel when the now-injured Elw tries to convince Harmaus that he's maybe making a mistake. Whether Mariel listens to her or not is another story--Ragnell says it less because she thinks that and more because she's mad.
    
    Not so mad that she doesn't take note of Mariel's comments about 'what Mariel is' and Mariel being 'too important' and a pact between the Elw and the Enenra, though. Intriguing. Ragnell files that away for later, while listening to Lucia respond to Harmaus in the Ancient Tongue--though once again, she doesn't interrupt.
    
    "You wanna know the truth, Harm?" she calls instead. "The truth is--you're fucking annoying!"
    
    Ragnell hurls herself forward into a forward roll and comes up with both pistols drawn. While she doesn't begrudge being cover for Ruby, Ruby might have to fly fast if she wants Ragnell to *stay* cover. Meanwhile, as Ragnell sprints in a semi-circle around the cat, she opens fire on him with a rapid back-and-forth between the two guns, left-right-left-right-left-right-left. As she goes, she shouts, "You say you seek the truth, but if the truth doesn't fit the narrow box o' what you think it ought to be, you reject it! Why don't you *piss off* already?"

GS: Seraph Ragnell has attacked Seraph Harmaus with Storm Runner!
GS: Seraph Ragnell has gained 2 Combo!
GS: Seraph Ragnell takes an additional 35 damage from Reaper!
GS: Seraph Ragnell takes 23 damage from Poison!
GS: Seraph Ragnell has completed her action.
GS: Lucia has completed her action.
<Pose Tracker> Jean has posed.

Jean looks back too Ragnell, and she might say more--if not for what happens. So instead she says, "Yeah, but it looks like a bad time to talk about it--" Because thre is surging Malevolence and Harmaus rage. She doesn't know what he said in the Ancient Tongue, but sh knows that tone, all right. So a wave of light hits her in beam form, too quick for her to evade. The burn starts immediaely, an unnatural kind of wasting from an unnatural kind of light.

Jean doesn't have her fans with her; she doesn't need them at the moment. As Hiro rushes closer, Jean moves. "I'm with you," she says, to Hiro and Lucia and everyone else. Her movements are quick and fluid--she rushes forward into a spin, rotating on the axis of one leg before she whirls next into a weaving motion. Shadowy pink-violet magic bursts up from around her, and suddenly there is a cloud of illusory butterflies erupting into being around Harmaus, each of which flaps its wings emitting a poisonous dust cloud that is all too real.

"I think it's time for a little defending now," Jean says, making her way across the beach near Lucia and adopting a ready stance. "Lucia's never once lied to me."

GS: Jean has attacked Seraph Harmaus with Butterfly Dance!
GS: Jean has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Jean takes an additional 25 damage from Reaper!
GS: Jean takes 30 damage from Poison!
GS: Jean has completed her action.
GS: Seraph Harmaus takes a glancing hit from Seraph Ragnell's Storm Runner for 87 hit points!
GS: Disrupt applied to Seraph Harmaus!
GS: Seraph Harmaus takes a solid hit from Jean's Butterfly Dance for 107 hit points!
GS: Poison applied to Seraph Harmaus!
<Pose Tracker> Seraph Harmaus has posed.

    "A curse? It lies! I knows the touch of the Lord of Calamity!" is the catlike Seraph's response to Hiro.

    "It silences, and it silences now!" snarls the infuriated Seraph, as Marivel makes light of the situation in which he has found himself. "It is trickery! Deception! Lies!" The fur along his back is on end; he is in a foul mood for certain.

    "Rot? We sees what rots, once I finish here!" snaps Harmaus in retort to Talia, in those moments before all hell -- well, at least from his end of the battlefield, considering -- breaks loose.

    'I think you are making a mistake' says Mariel, before moving to draw upon her healing knowledge. "No," is the Seraph's response, and a firm one at that. "I am not wrong!"

    Which is when Marivel accuses him of not so much as caring what he's struck at, where Mariel is concerned. "It matters me not!" he agrees, light still about him. "Let it perish!" He darts sidelong as she casts about him a spell to chain down a measure of his magical prowess--
    But isn't quite fast enough. "Tcha--" he hisses, unable to part himself from the seal that has wound itself about him for the time being. It will take more focus than he can outright manage to extract himself; so be it. But even with his power dampened, his retaliation for her is swift:

    "Sudden Dawn!" Like a flash from the rising sun, the rays -- multiple of them, as a volley -- race for where Marivel stands.

    But this costs him time, and perhaps more importantly, immediate awareness of the others on the field. Isolde's blade cleaves true, and were the Seraph anything but a spiritual entity in its natural manifestation, would have...

    But he shakes even this wound off, it leaves him staggered for the moment, a result of that forceful blow.

    'She's who she says she is!'

    If he hadn't already been staggered, perhaps those words would have stalled him long enough. But no matter: there is a brilliant flash, bright enough to blind even the light Seraph, and then...

    The beam that follows strikes true.

    But Harmaus won't simply let that stand. First his response comes for Isolde, a retort of spell for blade. ""-Embrace what is hidden-," he tells her thus. "Synkatathesis!" The solar fire that comes for her is white with blue-tinged edges: it will be but quickly-vanished heat and light if deflected but otherwise it may well burn keenly. Then he turns his grim attention to Gwen, the latest to thus intrude: "Bright Sequence!" A streamer of light erupts from the passing solar fire, tracing some zig-zagging path through the air for Gwen.

    "If not what I needs, what is the use?" questions the Seraph, staring down Talia as she faces him. "Tcha-- it yet in my way! Now--" He leaps, a single forward bound, as the ice sheds off fragments. As the central slab comes down.
    He's fast enough to avoid the slab. But that comes at a price: he must push on through the fragments of frost and is caught again by some of the trailing spray once it comes down to earth. His mouth opens, exhaling a voiceless breath.

<Pose Tracker> Seraph Harmaus has posed.

    'You wanna know the truth, Harm?' says Ragnell. He rounds towards her even as she comes at him, guns blazing. He darts left, right; a strategy that mostly suits him as she lays in, but also results in more glancing shots along his corpus. It doesn't seem to deter him any, even if it serves to leave him open for more of the same. "Why musts I accept falsehood? Because it says is 'true'? I rejects it! I rejects its lies!"

    Still engaged against Ragnell, he notices too late the whirling butterfly that Jean has summoned into being through her dance.
    Not until it explodes upon him, wrapping him in its toxic dust. "What-- is--" he hisses, trying to shake off the powder that clings to him. "No! She lies thanks to its lies! All its lies obscure mind, vision, spirit! I purifies her -- returns her to herself! Then--" Teeth bared, Harmaus drops back.

    "-Only that which is true is fit to grasp. Now, prove yourself!-" intones the Seraph, light flaring about him like a halo. "Phantasiai!" The beams, compared to the harsh burn that had flown forth before, are deceptively light and airy in their descent-- but scour and burn should they strike true.

    Perhaps it is just as well that here is the place where Hiro intrudes, sword in hand. "Problem? It is problem!" replies the catlike Seraph, before dodging, seemingly easily, that swordstrike from Hiro.
    It was a feint of sorts, is the thing. The bolt that follows sends the Seraph a short distance down the beach and he only rises to its feet after a short delay. Shaking himself off, the Seraph turns a gaze that might well be termed 'blazing' upon the young man.
    "Blinding Light!" Or maybe that's... literally blazing, when a barrage of burning rays of light scatter across the beach with abandon -- he and Mariel, should they not mitigate or escape the attack, will be caught in that display of might.

    But Lucia...

    Lucia speaks to Harmaus.

    More than anything else, this stops the Seraph's rampage.

    "-I seek the truth-," he answers her bluntly, in the Ancient Tongue. "-I seek what the so-called Goddess Althena has hidden from the world. I seek Althena's destruction! Awaken to your true power, O Lord of Calamity! Awaken to your true mind! Together, we will cast her down and free this world!!-"

    But that tail of his lashes still. "You beholden to them, yet," muses Harmaus. "Must purge their taint from you, yes?" A blink, and then comes the invocation: "Radiance Shackle!" The beams are nearly tendrils, seeking to grasp and sieze and hold her still.

    For what is to come?

GS: Seraph Harmaus spends 3 Combo on Gatling, loading 3 into Gatling!
GS: Seraph Harmaus has attacked Marivel Armitage with Sudden Dawn!
GS: Seraph Harmaus has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Seraph Harmaus has attacked Isolde with Synkatathesis!
GS: Seraph Harmaus has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Seraph Harmaus has attacked Gwen Whitlock with Bright Sequence!
GS: Seraph Harmaus has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Seraph Harmaus spends 1 Combo on Poison!
GS: Seraph Harmaus has attacked Seraph Ragnell with Phantasiai!
GS: Seraph Harmaus has attacked Jean with Phantasiai!
GS: Seraph Harmaus has attacked Talia with Phantasiai!
GS: Seraph Harmaus has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Seraph Harmaus has attacked Hiro with Blinding Light!
GS: Seraph Harmaus has attacked Mariel with Blinding Light!
GS: Seraph Harmaus has attacked Lucia with Radiance Shackle!
GS: Seraph Harmaus has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Seraph Harmaus takes 22 damage from Poison!
GS: Delay expired!
GS: Seraph Harmaus has completed his action.
DC: 4 turns have elapsed in the battle against Seraph Harmaus! 1 turns remain!
GS: Mariel heals Mariel! She gains 120 temporary hit points!
GS: Restore! Poison and Reaper removed!
GS: Hiro takes a solid hit from Seraph Harmaus's Blinding Light for 111 hit points!
GS: Reaction switch bonus! Hiro gains 1 additional Combo!
GS: Hiro enters CONDITION GREEN!!
GS: Hiro takes an additional 15 damage from Reaper!
GS: CRITICAL! Mariel guards a hit from Seraph Harmaus's Blinding Light for 73 hit points!
GS: Talia critically guards Seraph Harmaus's Phantasiai for 0 hit points!
GS: Reaction switch bonus! Talia gains 1 additional Combo!
GS: Talia activates Guard bonus!
GS: Talia takes an additional 25 damage from Reaper!
GS: Lucia takes a glancing hit from Seraph Harmaus's Radiance Shackle for 65 hit points!
GS: Entangle applied to Lucia!
GS: Gwen Whitlock guards a hit from Seraph Harmaus's Bright Sequence for 116 hit points!
GS: Gwen Whitlock takes an additional 40 damage from Reaper!
GS: Jean guards a hit from Seraph Harmaus's Phantasiai for 0 hit points!
GS: Reaction switch bonus! Jean gains 1 additional Combo!
GS: Infect! Debuff durations extended!!
GS: Poison applied to Jean!
GS: Jean takes an additional 15 damage from Reaper!
GS: Isolde guards a hit from Seraph Harmaus's Synkatathesis for 0 hit points!
GS: Break and Slow applied to Isolde!
GS: Isolde takes an additional 15 damage from Reaper!
GS: Marivel Armitage takes a solid hit from Seraph Harmaus's Sudden Dawn for 180 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Talia has posed.

Talia lifts up her sword. Mirage slashes out, the black and crimson short sword striking the beam that Harmaus hurls at her. The beam hits the blade and splits around it, into several separate arcs of light that explode to each side of her without quite touching. She grits her teeth, lowering her head, and her eyes narrow.

"You're just... shouting at people for not seeing things the way you do, no!" Talia shouts back at him. She is angry enough that the usual question is more of a statement. She bolts forward, then. She runs low, across the ground, to close the distance on the Seraph.

Then, Talia leaps up. Mirage slashes up, chopping through the air, and there is a flash of blue -- and a large arc of ice appears. As she reaches the apex of her jump, she twists -- and then sends the crescent of ice slamming down at Harmaus.

"Frigid Moon!:

GS: Talia spends 3 Combo on Gatling, loading 3 into Gatling!
GS: Talia has attacked Seraph Harmaus with Frigid Moon!
GS: Talia takes an additional 15 damage from Reaper!
GS: Talia takes 19 damage from Poison!
GS: Talia has completed her action.
GS: Seraph Harmaus takes a solid hit from Talia's Frigid Moon for 180 hit points!
GS: Reaction switch bonus! Seraph Harmaus gains 1 additional Combo!
GS: Seraph Ragnell takes a solid hit from Seraph Harmaus's Phantasiai for 0 hit points!
GS: Infect! Debuff durations extended!!
GS: Poison applied to Seraph Ragnell!
GS: Seraph Ragnell takes an additional 15 damage from Reaper!
<Pose Tracker> Lucia has posed.
<SoundTracker> Path Of The Wind - Joe Hisaishi - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MZgBjQFMPvk

'You say you seek the truth, but if the truth doesn't fit the narrow box o' what you think it ought to be, you reject it!' says Ragnell.

'Lucia's never once lied to me,' says Jean.

Harmaus has a lot to say about both truth and lies, too.

And Lucia -- Lucia, who wasn't even halfway up, back bridged above her limbs in grim resistance of Zophar's curse -- Lucia listens. She lets her knees slide forward in the sand. Then her back can straighten, an inch at a time. It isn't the most beautiful seat in the world; she's still hunched at a jagged angle, forced that way by malefic bonds. In a way she is kneeling before Harmaus, which is a strange thing to see; even brought low this way she is a radiantly proud figure, and yet she is prostrated before an angry cat.

She is far too preoccupied by his words, and her own maelstrom of thoughts, to resist the imposition of his shackle. Now both light and darkness grasp her, bind her; the choice of standing, once painful but possible, has been taken from her utterly by Harmaus.

She doesn't seem to mind.

Her lips are still free...

"-Everything that you just said is wrong-," Lucia tells the Seraph coolly, and her composure carries with it the sinking feeling that all is not as it seems with this one. That at her most helpless she might also be at her most powerful. "-I am beholden to no humans. I am awakened to my true power. And you cannot seek Althena's truth and Althena's destruction at the same time.-"

Her eyes flash.

"Destruction is the opposite of truth!" she exhorts, adjusting to a tongue she knows everyone can understand. "You and I can receive no answers from Althena's ashes! But I will grant you one truth that you seek."

Her eyes, no longer brilliantly green, but glowing with a white so fiercely pure the mind tends to interpret it as faintly blue in self-defense. She leaks energy without weeping it, and it is neither light nor darkness.

And it is both as well.

The Power of Althena, not seen upon this world in an Age...

Letting her jaw slacken, it exits through her throat along with a soft wordless ethereal note, as well as through either eye. One beam enters Jean; one Gwen; one Hiro.

If Harmaus was forced to confront an infintesimal part of Zophar's curse, her friends are now forced to endure a slender hair of Althena's blessing.

It might not be an easier thing to bear.

This sort of transcendent... power, is not for mortals.

It shouldn't be for anyone, really.

And this, too, is with Lucia, all the time.

"-Witness those Althena saved, who now would save her world-," she announces. "-Who would save even those who are too stubborn, too foolish, too deceived or too afraid to save themselves.-"

With a wrench of muscle, she shifts the angle of her head so that they can see her, and she can see them, when she smiles at them.

"Witness my friends..."

GS: Lucia has attacked Hiro with Power Charge!
GS: Lucia has attacked Jean with Power Charge!
GS: Lucia has attacked Gwen Whitlock with Power Charge!
GS: Lucia has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Lucia gains 5 FP from Sufferer!
GS: Lucia has completed her action.
GS: Hiro accepts Lucia's Power Charge for 0 hit points!
GS: Burst, Hyper, and Surge applied to Hiro!
GS: Hiro takes an additional 5 damage from Reaper!
GS: Gwen Whitlock accepts Lucia's Power Charge for 0 hit points!
GS: Burst, Hyper, and Surge applied to Gwen Whitlock!
GS: Gwen Whitlock takes an additional 5 damage from Reaper!
GS: Jean accepts Lucia's Power Charge for 0 hit points!
GS: Burst, Hyper, and Surge applied to Jean!
GS: Jean takes an additional 5 damage from Reaper!
<Pose Tracker> Mariel has posed.

"Marivel... It's fine. I'm all right... and in this case, I thought I had better help you. I'm no more important than anyone else..." If she's being honest, Mariel isn't precisely 'all right', but she is certainly alive. Now that she's gotten some of the powdered root into her wounds - painkiller and treatment all in one, as few people make but her - she's even functional, capable of sitting up and then standing. She still hurts, but she has definitely been worse off in the past.

Honestly, Lucia's Malevolence - involuntary as it might be - is doing as much to keep her from rising quickly. She does manage to stand up, but slowly, stiffly.

Old as she might be, Mariel does not seem to speak the Ancient Tongue; she cannot follow that side of the conversation. She does understand Ragnell being mad in her direction (the anger doesn't appear to be because of Mariel herself, as far as she can tell). "It's only the truth," she says, wincing again.

This time Mariel is nowhere near fast enough to protect Marivel, and out of position besides. She had previously had the advantage of positioning, but not this time. Marivel can take care of herself, she hopes, but -

More light cascades around her. She hunkers down against it, the scattered beams driving home despite her attempts to defend herself. She's tired of fighting; she seems to be doing so much of it these days, but she can't see any way to avoid it.

"Here is a truth," Mariel says, straightening again. She's wobbly but upright. "The truth is that I wish to learn the truth about Althena too. The truth is that I don't *want* to fight you! But - this is wrong. What you are doing is wrong...!"

Even though it isn't directed at Mariel, she feels the power from Lucia as clearly as she felt the Malevolence - intensely, deeply. She cannot, and does not try, to do anything with it; it was not given to her and she does not try to gather it to her. But she feels it, and she will know it again as something familiar if ever she feels it a second time. It also helps her settle herself against the unnatural disturbance of the Malevolence, and gives her a point to center on - what she'd normally use Filgaia for. For that, she is grateful.

Mariel does not attack, precisely. She does not carry a weapon as such, and though some of her tools are dangerous when used improperly (or sometimes when used properly) she doesn't think about them as weapons first.

What she throws at Harmaus is a black-green powder - a different plant, seaweed dried and treated just so. It eats away at his gathered power, dampening it - not painfully or harmfully, but making it difficult for him to hold enough energy to cast his most powerful spells. It's almost certainly a waste of time, but she won't stop herself: "Please stop!"

GS: Mariel has attacked Seraph Harmaus with Weak-Knee Weed!
GS: Mariel has completed her action.
<Pose Tracker> Jean has posed.

Lies, and more lies. Jean has no immediate argument for this--except, "Lucia knows who I am. And I know who she is--I won't let you 'return' her to anything!"

But light, and airy--Jean moves to guard this time, but light's touch is stil a touch, and she feels more burns yet than before, more pain that she ought to react to. She doesn't show much in her face of it--only in the actual wounds present.

But a wordless, ethereal note is Althena's blessing, and Jean feels that sheer power. It suffuses her, for the mment, and yet feels altogether different from the 'power' she once knew among the Shadow Dragon. It is....

Not something she can describe. Not something she needs to describe for now, as she hears how Lucia calls them. She smiles back at Lucia, right then, despite the fact that she has to still fight. Maybe not despite. Maybe because she is fighting for something better than 'power' and 'dominance.' "Haah--"

Jean bends at the knee and then sprints forward, whirling into a spinning kick at Harmaus. For all that he's small, she does not treat this form lightly--she kicks, then whirls around with knife-handed strikes, letting power collect along her hands to form a cutting edge of skin and bone. Then she is in motion, all around; her hair swirls about her as she strikes, again and again, dancing around her opponent in a way that could almost seem delicate.

The burns continue to scour her--she feels the pain through it, for that overwhelming power seems to heighten not to dull her senses, and she is clearly more and more injured--

But she endures both, aglow with force and with the power to do better with her strength than just destroy.

GS: Jean has activated a Force Action!
GS: Jean spends 1 Combo on Link!
GS: Jean has attacked Seraph Harmaus with Razor Step!
GS: Jean has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Jean has launched an attack Link!
GS: Jean takes an additional 25 damage from Reaper!
GS: Jean has attacked Seraph Harmaus with Endless Whirl!
GS: Jean enters a Counter stance!
GS: Jean takes an additional 15 damage from Reaper!
GS: Jean takes 25 damage from Poison!
GS: Jean has completed her action.
<Pose Tracker> Seraph Ragnell has posed.

    'It's just the truth,' Mariel says meekly.
    
    "Hah! Fair 'nough," Ragnell barks as Harmaus exudes more burning, searing light. To Harmaus himself, she shouts, "It *is* the truth, bucko! Whether you like or not! Whether you *accept* it or not!"
    
    Another truth: that light of Harmaus's might not do much harm on the first pass, but damn, does it sear the longer its burns linger. Despite this, the truth that Lucia lays down, first in Ancient Tongue, then in common, burns even harder, even as she lays it on someone other than Ragnell. She bares her teeth in a spiteful grin.
    
    Right before she calls down a savage blade of thunder.

GS: Seraph Ragnell spends 3 Combo on Gatling, loading 3 into Gatling!
GS: Seraph Ragnell enters CONDITION GREEN!!
GS: Seraph Ragnell has attacked Seraph Harmaus with Thunder Blade!
GS: Seraph Ragnell has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Seraph Ragnell takes an additional 25 damage from Reaper!
GS: Seraph Ragnell takes 20 damage from Poison!
GS: Seraph Ragnell has completed her action.
<Pose Tracker> Marivel Armitage has posed.

Marivel glances to Lucia. Life cannot be boguht or sold it can only be defended? Too true, but it's a little harder to convince the living off that than the dead. The Ancient Tongue is used, but Marivel is plenty ancient. Even so, s he barks o ut a laugh at Ragnell's own words. She just can't help herself.

"Ragnell," Marivel says. "Surely we didn't earn this pleasure. How have you been? I've had a lot to think about since we last talked."

Mariel tells MArivel that she's n ot any more important than anyone else.

"Objectively? Mayhaps not, but I am free to be as subjective as I please." She does seem like she's doing better. She's still going. She is grateful that Lucia does not unleash Althena's blessing upon her. She might have an emotional reaction to that right now.

But a dark look flickers behind her eyes at the words.

Witness those Althena saved

But even so, it's just a look. Marivel is more disciplined htan she acts.

"Friendship is the ultimate superpower." She agrees. "And you are pretty annoying. There's a lot of truths being thrown about but I suppose these truths are self evident...!"

Light slams against her quickly. She is unable to move her stiff body in time but luckily she is well shrouded. The light burns, and Marivel collapses into a crouch. She still hasn't fully healed from t he first t ime. She's going to be off limited use today, it seems. Instead she raises up a hand of her own and grips her hand tightly into a fist.

"CANCELLER!" She shouts.

There is a shift in TIME ITSELF and Marivel's wounds rewind themselves--as does Mariel's.

And Lucia's and Hiro's for that matter. She would lend her aid to more but she STARTED this fight near empty.

"You should have waited for a better opportunity to serve your goals." She murmurs.

GS: Marivel Armitage has attacked Mariel with Canceller!
GS: Marivel Armitage has attacked Hiro with Canceller!
GS: Marivel Armitage has attacked Lucia with Canceller!
GS: Marivel Armitage has attacked Marivel Armitage with Canceller!
GS: Marivel Armitage has completed her action.
GS: Marivel Armitage heals Hiro! He gains 200 temporary hit points!
GS: Hiro takes an additional 5 damage from Reaper!
GS: Marivel Armitage heals Marivel Armitage! She gains 200 temporary hit points!
GS: Marivel Armitage heals Lucia! She gains 200 temporary hit points!
GS: Marivel Armitage heals Mariel! She gains 200 temporary hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Seraph Ragnell has posed.

    "Me? I've been hangin' in there. You look like you've seen better days, though. Better twilights?" Ragnell calls back to Marivel. She doesn't especially *like* the vampire, but she's willing to have a mid-fight chat with her under the circumstances.

GS: Seraph Harmaus takes a solid hit from Mariel's Weak-Knee Weed for 0 hit points!
GS: Weaken applied to Seraph Harmaus!
GS: CRITICAL! Seraph Harmaus takes a solid hit from Jean's Razor Step for 175 hit points!
GS: Jean drains Seraph Harmaus! Jean gains 88 temporary hit points!
GS: Seraph Harmaus takes a solid hit from Jean's Endless Whirl for 152 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Hiro has posed.


Ruby does not keep using Ragnell for cover - only having used her to avoid such a wide area attack. It rankles her a bit that she'd find all she's doing after Ruby leaves that cover EXTREMELY COOL if not for what happened.

Despite Lucia taking everything so literally, Hiro's only ever found it endearing. He doesn't have time to tell her what he meant right now. Only to accept what she says - after all he doesn't disagree with what she says. "Hope you don't mind if I choose to defend you then."

Before cocking his head Talia's way, "Much appreciated. It's nice you know? Knowing I can count on you for that."

Gwen's protective anger is one he finds himself agreeing with. He's never liked people calling her the Destroyer - the Lord of Calamity. Anything other than Lucia - though he's more than willing to accept Princess of the Blue Star too. Unfortunately, he doesn't even remember how he heard that for the first time.

"Alright - I'll look for an opening that backs you up." Hiro says to Jean as his vision finally clears and he takes a wide stance. Not understanding ancient speech, he has no clue what Lucia is saying to Harmaus. However, he finds himself accepting what the others are saying pretty readily now that he's met him. "You obviously don't know it." He says sounds frustrated, "You're not seeing the touch of the Lord of Calamity - you're being misled by Zophar!"

He tries to chase after the Seraph, when suddenly a blazing burning light starts raining on him with abandon. He tries to jerk himself out of the way but the laser like rain of terrible power burns him from various grazes. One across his thigh seems to hamstring him as he stumbles into the sands. Another slashes across his bicep with a burning force. However... while he can't understand the ancient tongue. He sees the binding seraphic arte take effect around Lucia.

He's angry. Angry enough to say exactly how he feels about that. But Lucia is cool, and calm. And tells her how wrong he is.

'Destruction is the opposite of truth.' He mouths, even as she says it. And Lucia's fierce opposition to him just brings only thoughts of admiration - cooling his anger in service of listening to her. And the rush of Althena's power leaks into him... he finds himself unable to do anything but smile as she says witness her friends.

"Lucia...!" Even in the midst of a dire battle, it's a moment of simple joy just to hear her say it. Taking a deep breath, he shakes himself off and finds it easier as Marivel shouts 'CANCELLER' and suddenly the burn marks on him rewind out of existence, "Well, now that she's said it... I'm not going to make her a liar."

Now that Lucia's said it. He doesn't see Harmaus as simply the Seraph who attacked Lucia - but one of the deceived she spoke of. Someone who he must save - if not for it's own sake.

Then for hers.

Fire spirals around his blade as he plunges it into the sand, the point it's sticking in suddenly becoming like glass. "You've attacked the bravest - most determined woman I've ever had the pleasure of knowing, without knowing a single thing about her. And in doing so whether you know it or not - you started serving the whims of something so terrible that if he cast a single glance your way... you'd know the depths of your mistake."

Power gathers in each palm in green swirling currents, and with an incantation it lashes out into a swirling burst of wind beneath them. Then inky blackness gathers in his other palm, before he sends that below to the base of that wind energy upon which violet glyphs form on contact. "And I get that you don't get that. Won't get that. But... I'll keep telling you, I won't stop - until you do." Shadowy points like daggers arise from them, then rush upwards as they're caught by the wind currents, swirling them about like debris caught up in a whirlwind in an attempt to slash them over and over

"Until you-" Pulling up his blade from the area it's wedged in, he holds it upright at a high guard pointed forward, then charges right at Harmaus - leaping mid sprint wielding it in a piercing stab that erupts into a wave of awful flame on contact.

"-WAKE UP!"

GS: Hiro has activated a Force Action!
GS: Hiro spends 1 Combo on Link!
GS: Formation! Hiro has attacked Seraph Harmaus with Black Storm!
GS: Hiro has gained 2 Combo!
GS: Hiro has launched an attack Link!
GS: Hiro takes an additional 35 damage from Reaper!
GS: Hiro spends 3 Combo on Gatling, loading 3 into Gatling!
GS: Formation! Hiro has attacked Seraph Harmaus with Battalion Sword!
GS: Hiro has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Hiro takes an additional 25 damage from Reaper!
GS: Hiro takes 17 damage from Poison!
GS: Hiro has completed his action.
GS: Seraph Harmaus takes a solid hit from Hiro's Black Storm for 201 hit points!
GS: Seraph Harmaus takes a solid hit from Hiro's Battalion Sword for 245 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Marivel Armitage has posed.

"I got a sunburn." Marivel says with midfight banter. "I put on the SPF 2000 for today, though." She doesn't especially like the Seraph either, but sometimes you don't like someone for long enough that you're still kind of cool with them.

<Pose Tracker> Gwen Whitlock has posed.

    Gwen just watches Ragnell load off on Harmaus, both verbally and bulletally (which is a word, shut up), saying the words Gwen didn't really have the guts just yet to say. After all, it's one thing if it's _Janus_, but she hardly knows Harmaus, not enough to really act like she knows what he thinks like, so it feels really nice to see another Seraph so bluntly call him out.

    Also, is Gwen blushing? ... That, or she's finally feeling that constant mild grade fever. Gwen coughs, turning her attention back towards Harmaus.

    ... Who is launching a streamer of light, dancing left to right like a geometric snake enroute to the courier. Gwen grits her teeth as she carelessly leans into it, not having much time or much in the way of wits in her rattled skull.

    She falters in the bolt's passing, the ground and sky blurring as her feet make their heavy purchase against the slippery sand. Her eyelids feel heavy.

    .....--!

    The slender hair of Althena's blessing passes through Gwen, glorious to the point of being painful. It feels similar, but utterly different from the times she's sailed on the power of her ARM, or when Setanta's stolen spark was sluggishly and unwittingly stoked by Gwen's emotions. The world falls into focus, opening the curtain to Gwen's senses rather than the rude forcing open of the world her ARM grants. Like donning the jeweled circlet that delicately fits you, than the heavy jeweled diadem that weighs down your head, but both cut against the skin, the ore made so fine, so sharp--

    Or maybe, it's just Gwen, focusing too hard on just how this sliver of energy compares to what she's felt before, instead of focusing on her own drive.

    Her own self, in this moment.

    ".... Ragnell's right," Gwen says, startling herself with how freely she laughs. "Expand your view. If a mortal can do it, then you have time still, Harmaus. And if we gotta fight again, we'll do it again, and again, and again, because I get that you might be a little stubborn, with how old those habits've gotta be."

    It's the same attack as before, but Gwen whirls with it, lightning dancing from her open left palm as if she had conjured it with magic, even if it was still through her ARM. It dances with her, and she lets the energy fly, coursing from her to Harmaus. "-because the door can still be open, when you're ready!"

GS: Gwen Whitlock has activated a Force Action!
GS: Gwen Whitlock has attacked Seraph Harmaus with Corona Discharge!
GS: Gwen Whitlock has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Gwen Whitlock takes an additional 25 damage from Reaper!
GS: Gwen Whitlock takes 26 damage from Poison!
GS: Gwen Whitlock has completed her action.
GS: CRITICAL! Seraph Harmaus takes a solid hit from Gwen Whitlock's Corona Discharge for 223 hit points!
GS: Seraph Harmaus enters CONDITION GREEN!!
GS: CRITICAL! Seraph Harmaus takes a solid hit from Seraph Ragnell's Thunder Blade for 175 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Seraph Harmaus has posed.

    "-Wrong. You... would tell me that I'm wrong? After everything I have seen? After all that I have learned?-"

    Harmaus' response to Lucia is broken up by bitter, nearly manic laughter.

    "-I can see that you hae been well-tainted by them. So be it. I will purge you of it, Lucia. Then, at last, I will be able to destroy the false Goddess!!-"

    But her eyes flash with her conviction. "I eradicates what stands in way of truth!" is Harmaus' retort to the 'Lord of Calamity', his teeth bared. "Show me now. Show me your truth!" He has returned to addressing her more respectfully but--

    Lucia, herself, burns with an awesome power, awesome in the older sense of that word: terrifying. Yet wonderous. Harmaus watches her as she sheds but a bit of her might.

    "-Saved?-" he voices, at a remove. "-Damned. As she damns us all!-"

    'You're being misled by Zophar!' shouts Hiro, trying to reassert logic and reason to the Seraph. "And it? It is misled by Althena!" he snaps, as if in retort.

    Mariel speaks to him of truths -- of Althena. "Long as it serves falsehood, it is my enemy! Run or die!" he speaks in turn as his promise--
    For which he receives a dusting of powder right to the face for his troubles. A Seraph does not need to breathe, but the body -- or the idea of a body -- is a strange thing. He wheezes, coughs, the powder already shoring up the enchantment that Marivel branded upon him with vigor.

    Jean presses this advantage, sprinting in at him while he grapples with what the Elw woman has laid upon him. Her foot lifts him fron the ground: even at his size, he's a fair target for her strikes, juggled about in the air. Every time he attempts to right himself he is battered anew, laying wound upon wound for his troubles.

    Would that he had a body that could actually be injured. Still, even a Seraph will eventually reach a point of no return -- it's just a question of whether he will cut his losses first.

    And yet, he eventually manages the dodge that sees him from her grasp, flipping backwards to neatly land upon the sand. Light burns about him, certainly the invocation of some arte or another.

<Pose Tracker> Seraph Harmaus has posed.

    But not if Ragnell has anything to say about it.

    Lightning strikes: it doesn't need to strike twice. "It... silences! It is quiet!" snarls the charred Seraph, shaking off the worst of that invocation. He's determined to see this out to the end, perhaps--

    "It considers my view -- my truth! And I will not-- gives up what I learn! What I see-- this world is--"

    Or perhaps, courtesy of Gwen's ARM, lightning does strike twice after all. He shudders with the discharge, trembling as he collapses, for the moment, upon the sand. Tired is not the same thing for Seraphs as it is for mortals, and yet, there is a limit, at some point.

    "...foul. This world... is wretched," he finishes, rising from the sand and turning to face the woman who challenges him now. "This world is wrong!" he shouts at Talia, in that gap before she takes for the air and releases, with a swing of her blade, that great pillar of ice down upon him. He moves, making to evade the strike.

    He doesn't move fast enough. Dazed from the impact, he reels, if but for the moment. The continued assault is taking its toll on his ability to continue this with any force, but he still burns brightly with the power of a burgeoning arte. Perhaps Talia might have been his target.

    And then Hiro intrudes.

    "It ceases its lies!" snarls Harmaus in response to Hiro, as livid as ever. Though the wind begins to gather about the both of them, he faces down Hiro now, light streaming from his body. Beams of light fly freely from him; before they can even reach Hiro they're caught, obliterated by those shadowy points the young man conjures. They are in a sense evenly matched--

    Until Hiro closes upon him, swinging his blade the once. He strikes true...
    ...but perhaps not deeply enough.

    Harmaus lands after a moment more upon the sand. "I am wake. But it sleeps yet," Harmaus remarks, pulling himself together after that strike. In the midst of his fury, he has attained, it seems, some small measure of calm. "It must wakes! Or it must die. It chooses!"

    There are many truths being thrown about here tonight. But unfortunately, much like the horse brought to water but refusing to drink...

    "Self-evident... tcha. Nothing yet true is easily won," Harmaus hisses at Marivel's pronouncement. Light flares afresh about him, and perhaps he would have pushed this further but--

    'CANCELLER!'

    --even a fanatic has his limits of what end he willing to push himself towards. He watches as wounds vanish, unwound so that they had never been, even as he takes that one slow almost-limping step forward.

    "Tcha," the Seraph again hisses, eyes slitted. "The undying red child... I can stands not against it and the Lord of Calamity. ...Not today. I go."

    The air about him begins to glitter with light.

    "But I returns for you... Lucia. Someday. Someday soon."

    Light detonates about the Seraph. Once the brilliance fades...
    He is no longer there.

DC: 5 turns have elapsed in the battle against Seraph Harmaus! No turns remain! Time has expired! The battle is over!
<Pose Tracker> Gwen Whitlock has posed.

    Harmaus is gone.

    Gwen's body weaves as that glimmer of Althena's blessing leaves her, allowing her mortal body to rest.

    With a small exhale, she collapses with a subdued 'pif' of body hitting soft sand.

    Thankfully, it's pretty evident that she's just asleep.

    It's probably going to be the soundest sleep she'll had in a long, long while.