Difference between revisions of "2020-01-26: Unworthy"

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(Created page with "*'''Log: Unworthy''' *'''Cast:''' Character :: Seraph Ragnell, Character :: Talia, Character :: Ivan, Character :: Isolde, Character :: Seraph Nimue, Cha...")
 
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Latest revision as of 21:18, 9 February 2020


DC: You switch forms to The Dedicated Archaeologist!
DC: Josephine Lovelace switches forms to The Dedicated Archaeologist!
<Pose Tracker> Seraph Ragnell has posed.

    
"I've been mulling this over for a while, and I finally decided: there's something I need to tell you all about Lyonesse. Come to Dragon Roost Island tomorrow. I'll be waiting. -Ragnell
    
"P.S. 'But Ragnell, didn't you act like you didn't know anything about it?' Surprise! I know more than I let on! Are any of you shocked by this by now, really"
    
    So went the cheeky note that Ragnell had circulated around the members of Tomamond via Memory Cube. After that, she'd headed to the aforementioned island and found herself a cliffside overlooking the sea to wait by. She's done so with a serious expression, one foot hooked on the cliff's edge while the other dangles off, and both hands folded on her lifted knee.
    
    This position makes it easy to survey when the others arrive, both for her and for someone else. When the boat comes in and unloads, she smiles; when the other members approach, she stands and ambles on over to greet them, conveniently by arcing around the group and inserting herself in the middle of it, between the humans/Hellions and Seraphim. This subtly pushes the former group closer towards the mountainside, over towards a large clearing that dead-ends between the mountain and the cliff. Surely there is no significance to this whatsoever.
    
    "Howdy, y'all," she drawls, tipping her hat as she low-key bisects the group.

<Pose Tracker> Talia has posed.

Talia returned from the Lifeweaver's Whorl to find a note.

She does, in fact, wonder about Ragnell saying there is something on Dragon Roost Island. She isn't sure what that something might be. She wondered, a little, if the Seraph was keeping a secret. In a way, her and Ragnell are a lot alike: they both put on a smile, keep their cards to their chest, and don't let on what they're really thinking. Talia trusts Ragnell...

...well, that's complicated, how much and how she trusts Ragnell.

She walks off the boat, near the front. She hops off -- not quite registering how Ragnell inserts herself into their midst. She cracks a smile at her, lifting a hand to wave. "Hello, Ragnell!" she says. "Here we are, as promised, no? Ah, this is a pretty island..."

<Pose Tracker> Ivan has posed.

Ragnell has found an impressive vista to invite them all to for this chat; from the deliberateness of the whole thing, Ivan absolutely smells a trap. If he knows one thing about Ragnell, you see, it's...

That she never willingly tells him any of her secrets!! So obviously something is up.

Ivan folds his arms as Ragnell greets them, and answers directly to her note.

"Well, I'm not shocked at all, but are you actually going to tell us what you know?"

He is suspicious about entirely the wrong things here, it seems. He's just kind of expecting her to rickroll them.

<Pose Tracker> Isolde has posed.

Isolde walks off the boat. She is not in front, exactly, but she is no more than a pace or so behind Talia. (When she found out this fun message from their friend, Ragnell, she had frowned; frowned and said 'hm.' - and that, it seems, was that, for now.)

Isolde slides her fingers through her hair, recently dressed and trimmed (she assumes, anyway) and tosses it back as she gives a radiant smile towards the speaking Seraph. "Indeed," she says. "A big howdy to you as well. S-"

Isolde is about to begin saying more, probably flowery, when Ivan speaks. She laughs, lightly, apparently delighted; then places her thumb's knuckle to her lower lip.

"As he said."

<Pose Tracker> Seraph Nimue has posed.

Nimue is still a little upset with Ragnell, but it's also hard for her to miss a chance to know things. In spite of *acting* like she hates thing-knowing in general, being presented with the possibility of knowing some of Ragnell's secrets... well, she's intrigued to say the least.

Nimue sticks to the rear of the assembling group, in no small part because -- like many of the assembling -- her trust for Ragnell is something of a complicated question. ... that, and the presence of a Hellion, even a friendly one, always gets her kinda twitchy.

She doesn't meet Ragnell's eyes, or do much to announce her presence. She's having a complicated one!

<Pose Tracker> Seraph Clarine has posed.

Clarine has come along with the others, of course. If Ragnell wanted to talk, Clarine was going to be right there. And so it is that she joined up with the other members of Tomamond, making their way to Dragon Roost Island at the appointed time.

"It is good to see you, Ragnell!" Clarine greets as Ragnell slides right on into the middle of the group, separating the Seraphim from the mortals. She thinks nothing of it - it was just like Ragnell, after all, and so she doesn't look into any possible ulterior motives. She always was a bit too trusting when it came to her friends.

"I do hope we did not keep you waiting very long." She adds.

<Pose Tracker> Seraph Amaranth has posed.

    In many ways, Amaranth is someone who had to grow up paranoid -- Shadow Skean Assassin, Shadow Dragon Cult now, as well as... the entire history of what happened to Lyonnesse. But...

    She does have her blind spot: she trusts Ragnell wholeheartedly, unconditionally.

    And you know, just a trip to Dragon Roost Island -- a pleasant place as long as you stick to the mail office and such! But... this isn't that place, it's a cliffside. Still, it's a very nice vista, and very much like what Ragnell would love to stand and overlook the ocean on.

    She's dressed as Katherine Weaver as she follows with Talia and Ivan, smiling warmer as she says, "Sis!"

    She beams and holds up a picnic basket. "I brought some food if you haven't eaten..."

    In hindsight, Amaranth, as a shinobi, should've picked up on those subtle signs. The way they're being low key split up. The way the positions are.

    But... it's Ragnell.

    Again: Giant Blind Spot for her sis!!

<Pose Tracker> Seraph Ragnell has posed.

    It's not like Ragnell *wouldn't* rickroll the group. So there is that.
    
    "Pretty, huh? Yeah, it does have its charm," Ragnell remarks, looking over her shoulder at the looming, smouldering volcano and craggy landscape with only intermittent greenery, and then only near the shore. Ragnell, being a Lightning Seraph with Earth and Fire Seraph friends, can appreciate this kind of decor. Ivan's more suspicious approach, and Isolde's laughing agreement, get them a laugh from Ragnell in turn. "If I said yes, would you believe me?"
    
    She comes to a stop in between the two groups, fists on her hips and turning about. Hmm. "There's a couple of us missin'," she observes, as the others will also note of Josie (unless Josie was There The Whole Time After All?!) and Liath, "but that's fine." She pauses at 'Katherine.' Then she clasps her hands and presses them to her mouth for a moment. "That's very sweet o' you, but... let's leave that for later, Sis."
    
    A quick glance over at Nimue. She wasn't sure if she'd show up either. It sure doesn't look like she's being friendly. But oh well. So it goes. She smiles over at Clarine. "Nah, you're good." She looks up the mountainside for a long moment; then she turns sharply, sweeping her poncho at the same time. The quick action will likely prompt those sensitive to motion to back, splitting the two groups further. Which, why wouldn't they? Ragnell's the intended center of attention right now, and she is quite literally at the center right now.
    
    "So I sent y'all a note sayin' I know somethin' about Lyonesse. This is true! I know a bunch o' things about Lyonesse. I lived there on an' off for a few centuries, in between travelin' the Silver Star." She pauses, looking over at her Seraphim friends. "It was a nice city. Ended up quite wealthy, thanks to the gold in th' mountains an' the bounty in the sea--an' the blessin's of its Land o' th' Lord." A significant look, first to them, then to the other group. "But thanks to that boon, the people grew complacent. Spiritually soft. So when the plague came--an' with it, the Malevolence--even a Seraph's blessing wasn't enough to stave it off."
    
    Here, she bores a look directly into Isolde. Isolde of course won't see it, but she might feel the weight of the stare nonetheless. "Isolde. You of course saw the comin' of the fall for yourself. Unless you were blind back then too, then I guess you heard an' felt it. But you got out before the end, an' that's why you're here now.
    
    "I was there for the *actual* end."
    
    Her voice hardens. "So I know what it is now: a Malevolent Domain to twist all but the stoutest of hearts. Some o' y'all maybe might've heard of that gold mine that was discovered near Pendrago, an' the storm that drove prospective prospectors away?" She thumbs at herself. "That was me. Because that mine would've led them to the Lost City." A look to the Seraphim, to the Hellion-and-humans. She folds her arms. "When I heard about the Tomamond, I was torn. It's not I dislike you folks, necessarily. But it's not a matter of 'like' or 'dislike.' So to start, I played it cool.
    
    "But now I've thought it over, conferred with someone, an' I concluded: I won't just stand back an' let it happen." She takes a few large, aggressive paces towards the Seraphim, separating them further from the rest. "You want to reach Lyonesse? You'll have to go through me."
    
    She half-turns to Isolde and the others. Her red gaze flicks up towards the mountainside. "And them."

<Pose Tracker> K.K. has posed.

But now I've thought it over, conferred with someone, an' I concluded: I won't just stand back an' let it happen.

The land quakes.

There is a story by which Dragon Roost came by its name -- a story now more firm fact than fiction, for all the absurdity of it. That there lives here a dragon, not of metal, but of flesh and bone and scale and -pain-. It's said that, whatever so distresses the dragon, causes its wild thrashing that permeates throughout the entire island, makes the land rumble, makes boulders and magma spewing into the Great Sea beyond.

You want to reach Lyonesse? You'll have to go through me.

This is not the fault of that poor, dismayed creature.

And them.

The ground. Quakes.

And as Ragnell looks above, they need only follow her gaze to see something there up above. Something faint, made small by distance. A silhouette, glinting in the light of the open day.

A silhouette, holding something massive and bladed in its hands. A silhouette --

--driving one tremendous blade directly into the mountainside.

Everything around it shines with harrowing radiance.

BGM: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E-Jhf4Mj6wM Black History - Yoko Kanno

The mountainside erupts.

The sound of a landslide is a deafening thing. The sight of it all the more difficult to grasp in how uncaringly violent it all is. It's a thing that Ragnell's companions get to know very clearly, very directly, as the mountain bleeds rock and debris in a rapidly growing, rapidly speeding, rapidly -expanding- river of screaming, ear-pounding earth.

The landslide makes impact with violent and monumental intensity, cleaving the cliffside in twain between humans and Seraphim in a riotous crash.

In the aftermath, the crumble of rocks can still be heard. In the aftermath, dust cakes heavy in the air, a grand wall of boulders and rock dividing friend from friend, Seraph from mortal.

... In the aftermath, Isolde, Talia and Ivan find not Ragnell, not the others there to greet them...

... But a silhouette of armor, a massive, double-bladed greatsword in hand.

Faceless, and unrelenting, with but one thing to say to them.

"Get of man. You have not the right."

It is the only thing they are afforded before that blade sweeps upward, a massive plume of golden light erupting from its edge in the form of a roaring, golden dragon of pure force intent to rip through all of them.

DC: K.K. switches forms to The Trial Knight!
GS: K.K. spends 2 Combo on Headshot!
GS: K.K. has attacked Ivan with Dragon Ascendant!
GS: K.K. spends 2 Combo on Headshot!
GS: K.K. has attacked Talia with Dragon Ascendant!
GS: K.K. spends 2 Combo on Headshot!
GS: K.K. has attacked Isolde with Dragon Ascendant!
GS: K.K. has completed their action.
GS: Isolde guards a hit from K.K.'s Dragon Ascendant for 81 hit points!
GS: Isolde's Force Guard activates!
GS: Ivan takes a glancing hit from K.K.'s Dragon Ascendant for 71 hit points!
GS: FP up!
GS: CRITICAL! Talia takes a glancing hit from K.K.'s Dragon Ascendant for 90 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Talia has posed.

Ragnell says a lot, in a short span of time, that changes Talia's view of things. It isn't that Ragnell knew more than she let on. She remembers the look of surprise, when she heard the name 'Lyonesse' inside the Water Shrine. Talia is surprised, rather, that Ragnell lived there. She draws a sharp breath in.

Then she looks at Isolde. Her eyes are wide, for a moment, as she looks at her. She lived there? "Isolde, you..."

The question -- or maybe accusation -- dies on her lips. She looks back at Ragnell, and her eyes narrow, slowly, at the statement. She starts to make her statement, hand reaching down to her side. To where Mirage's hilt is. She glances back at Katherine; she looks at Nimue, uncertain; she looks at her brother. But then she looks up, at the word 'them,' and she breathes in sharply at the armored figure that comes crashing down, with a landslide.

Any defiance breaks into a more panicked scream: "MOVE!"

She jumps -- and stares at the resulting landslide, which has ripped a path through the countryside. It's split her from Amaranth and Nimue, too -- and she can only see them in the distance. Her eyes shift, back to the Trial Knight. "...you, again. You survived, when you and Ragnell tried to destroy the world, no?"

She swallows. Talia's eyes shift to her brother. She looks at him and nods; one of those nods that communicates a hundred different things with a familiar sense of desperation.

'Be careful.'
'They're dangerous.'
'Don't get overconfident.'
'You go left.'
'I go right.'

Talia rushes right. The golden dragon of light slams into her. It pitches Talia into the air, sending her into a spin. She does a midair twirl, then comes down at K.K. She comes down, feet first, and swings back her left foot. "If we have to go through you, then we'll do--" That left foot flashes, white light exploding along her boot. "--just THAT!"

The same charged ki explodes off her foot, as she tries to drive it into the Trial Knight's helmet.

GS: Talia has attacked K.K. with Demonic Swallow Kick!
GS: Talia has gained 2 Combo!
GS: Talia has completed her action.
<Pose Tracker> Seraph Amaranth has posed.

    "Sis...?"

    Amaranth -- 'Katherine' -- can feel it, now, when she declines. Something grave and serious, the way her sister typically gets when there's something of importance. She grips her hands around the basket tighter, glancing towrads Nimue and Clarine. Nimue she knows has had some... history, given the last time they had a big argument it sent her packing with horse jerky to her door.

    Then she starts speaking of Lyonesse.

    She keeps mum as she lowers her head, expression tightening quietly.

    In many ways, of course, she knew some of this -- not, perhaps, for the actual end, because she fled Glenwood and hid in Vane for centuries, but it was impossible for her to not... keep track of her beloved city.

    But what Ragnell says about Isolde is also impossible to ignore. What? How could a human live that long? What... exactly happened to her?

    "Sis... you know I..."

    But the ground starts to quake, as the mountainside erupts with radiance. Her eyes widen further, as the landslide makes impact and sends her flinching as she covers herself.

    "I--is everyone okay??"

    She can't see Isolde, Talia or Ivan. "Talia! Ivan! Isolde! Where are you--"

    She looks towards Ragnell, expression deflated.

    "S-sis..." she looks a bit boneless. "You know I won't ever choose to fight you..."

<Pose Tracker> Josephine Lovelace has posed.

    "Would you look at that. Guess I was late to the party after all. And here I was thinking, it wouldn't matter none..."

    A figure stands silhouetted against the gleaming light of the Trial Knight's onslaught.

    "...Well, nevermind any of that, eh? Looks like you lot're gonna have to catch me up on what I missed, but I dare say I've got the right of most of it," Josie remarks, revealed as the light dies.

    "If we want to learn more about Lyonesse we've got to go through you," she summarizes, dipping her head in a short nod as she slides the Gawain-class rifle from its holster against her back. "I ain't from Lunar. This stuff doesn't concern me directly-like. But I'm an archaeologist for one," she says, giving the rifle an easy swing as if to test its weight in her left hand, before taking aim at K.K. themself.

    "And if you ain't dead," she says, easing her finger over the trigger, "then I've still got a score to settle with you."

    "I'm not the forgiving type, understand."

    The rifle cracks off a shot through the air.

GS: Josephine Lovelace has attacked K.K. with Bite The Bullet!
GS: Josephine Lovelace has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Josephine Lovelace has completed her action.
GS: K.K. guards a hit from Talia's Demonic Swallow Kick for 45 hit points!
GS: FP up!
GS: K.K. guards a hit from Josephine Lovelace's Bite The Bullet for 70 hit points!
GS: Cripple and Jam! applied to K.K.!
<Pose Tracker> Isolde has posed.

When Ragnell looks her dead-on, Isolde shifts herself a little to face Ragnell directly, though that sweet smile doesn't leave her lips.

"Perhaps I was," she says, in response to Ragnell, and this is perhaps cryptic enough.

"It sounds as though you are holding our best interests in mind, but this is, of course, the role of a Seraph, isn't it," Isolde continues, even as Ragnell turns. Isolde's head tilts upwards slightly and she says, quietly, "ah," and she crouches down an inch or so immediately afterwards.

The ground begins to tremble. Isolde, of course, does not turn her head to look up along that mountain's side. She reaches up to where she has lashed the great Spiran blade that she bought to replace her battered travelling sword, turning round on one heel to face the mountain. She sucks in a deep breath through her teeth - impossibly deep -

And she lets it out all out.

"I'm sorry," she says to Talia. "Time gets strange, you know."

The dragon roars towards her. Isolde lowers her head and strides forwards as if she is heedless of the thing, but it is belied when she draws out the thirty pounds of spiran steel in a single enormous up strike - not enough to cut the gold but enough that a ripple of - air? - moves it, enough to make the dragon smash into her shoulder rather than into her center chest. The landslide rolls down.

Isolde crouches a little lower and then

spring

Isn't there.

She surges up the mountain like a katabatic wind played in reverse, kicking off of tephraic boulders as she goes, raising her voice slightly. "Do we?" she asks, before a final leap sends her leading with her long blade, aiming to plunge it into the center of the knight's mass. Then to slam one boot down towards shoulder or head and TWIST into a carving backflip.

"Kind of you to tell us," Isolde murmurs.

GS: Isolde spends 1 Combo on Link!
GS: Isolde has attacked K.K. with Plunge Towards Peril!
GS: Isolde has launched an attack Link!
GS: Isolde has attacked K.K. with Challenge Accepted!
GS: CRITICAL! K.K. guards a hit from Isolde's Plunge Towards Peril for 62 hit points!
GS: K.K. guards a hit from Isolde's Challenge Accepted for 29 hit points!
GS: FP up!
<Pose Tracker> Seraph Clarine has posed.

"Ah, good..." Clarine says with a nod as Ragnell assures that they're good. She goes quiet, then, as Ragnell begins to speak - telling them what she knows. Clarine listens intently and quietly. This information is new to her. It's a sad tale, what happened to the land of Lyonesse. And... Ragnell was there, to witness it purposely. And so was Isolde too, it seems. Clarine frowns uncertainly...

And, Ragnell says that if they want to reach it, they have to go through her...and them.

Ragnell follows her gaze...and gasps, at the sight of the knight clad in white armor. She had only seen Ragnell's companion once before, at Love's Cradle, but that meeting had left quite the mark.

The quaking that follows shakes even Clarine, but that shaking is nothing compared to the landslide that follows as the mountainside erupts, and the cliffside is cleaved...separating them from K.K., and their friends.

"E-everyone...!" Clarine half-shouts, half-gasps in concern and surprise. She looks between Ragnell and Amaranth, then...and, then moves to place herself between them protectively, fixing Ragnell with a stare. Her expression is... a little hurt.

"...Why?" Clarine asks quietly. "Could you... could you not have told us sooner...?"

She shakes her head.

"Your companion, K.K... what is their plan for the mortals?" Clarine asks. She might be standing protectively in front of Amaranth at the moment, but she hasn't drawn her weapons yet.

She'd prefer to avoid fighting Ragnell too, if possible...though she would, if it came down to it. She'd proven that much in the past.

<Pose Tracker> Ivan has posed.

To Ivan's astonishment, Ragnell really does tell them what she knows of Lyonesse-- her long history with the place, and her knowledge of its dangers that linger to this day. "So you've been guarding the place?"

He asks that question of Ragnell, but his gaze goes to Talia, wondering if the note of caution is enough to override her desire to know about the past.

But Ragnell's tone shifts, and it suddenly becomes clear that she didn't plan on using mere words to dissuade them.

The earth itself shakes, and a cascade of rocks tumbles toward the small split in the group, driving them further apart amidst the skull-shaking roar of falling rocks. Ivan leaps backwards, coughing on dust and looking to find Talia amid the confusion. She gives him a signal he knows, and he races in the opposite direction from his sister, to put distance between them as the golden dragon flies toward them. Though they jump into action quickly, their strange assailant's attack is faster, and the opposite edge of the dragon ploughs into Ivan, knocking him from his feet. He tucks into a roll, skidding to a stop and pulling throwing several throwing daggers from his jacket, which he sets spinning in the air. Fire gathers around them, taking the ghostly shape of stinging insects as they race toward K.K.

"You're the one who Ragnell tried to destroy the world with?" With... or maybe for? He takes a breath. Asking straight out is... it's worth a TRY.

"Why?! What are you getting out of it?"

GS: Ivan spends 1 Combo on Poison!
GS: Ivan has attacked K.K. with Fire Wasps!
GS: Ivan has gained 2 Combo!
GS: Ivan has completed his action.
GS: K.K. critically Guards a hit from Ivan's Fire Wasps for 26 hit points!
GS: K.K.'s Force Guard activates!
<Pose Tracker> Seraph Nimue has posed.

There's obvious caution in Nimue's expression even as she listens to Ragnell. When she mentions she lived there off and on, Nimue can't quite stop herself from smirking a little and noting, "Yeah, that sounds like you, all right." Then again, she spent like 500 years hopping from boat to boat so it's not as though she can exactly talk too much shit. (Or maybe it's precisely that that enables it?)

And then the other shoe drops, of course. A plague... Malevolence... -- Isolde was there too, apparently. That gets Nimue to scoot another six inches away from her, without really thinking about it. Old Hellions are even scarier than garden-variety standard-issue Hellions.

And, once again, Ragnell reveals a simple truth: To receive what they want... people -- Seraphim and humans alike -- must fight. "... Yeah, okay. That suits me just fine," she says, with a glance to Amaranth, who seems to feel almost exactly the opposite way. "I'm still kind of mad at you for what happened in Spira, so this might actually be kinda fun!"

Unshouldering her sling-staff, Nimue gives it a quick twirl -- and then the mountainside erupts. With a long, low leap to one side, Nimue gets herself out of the path of the landslide -- but ends up separated from the 'get of man.'

This doesn't seem to faze her much. What *does* seem to faze her, though, is that neither Clarine nor Amaranth is willing to throw a punch. Indeed, that's the thing that gets Nimue -- despite having already drawn a weapon -- to slow her roll a little bit. Taking a half-step back, still in a defensive stance but not actually *doing* anything yet, she asks, "... I'm kinda with Clarine on this one, actually -- why sit on this for this long? I mean, besides the whole, 'I'm Ragnell and sitting on stuff is kinda my thing.'"

<Pose Tracker> Seraph Ragnell has posed.

    
    The landslide CRASHES down the mountain. Ragnell, knowing it would happen, has already braced herself for it, holding down her hat and weathering the cloud of dust thrown up in its wake. As it settles, sounds of battle come crashing up--including that of someone she hadn't seen at first. She tilts her head over her shoulder, sizing up the new arrival. Looks like Josie *was* there, just a bit late--though not so late that she couldn't end up on the right side of the landslide. She hears the shouts of all those fighting. She takes another look around, this time at her side of the mountain trail, then nods to herself in apparent satisfaction.
    
    Then she looks at her erstwhile friends. Nimue's snark at Ragnell traveling around gets a shrug; Nimue can talk all the shit she likes, but to Ragnell's eye, she at least was coming home rather than running away. Anyway, it's besides the point. The point is the three Seraph's reactions to the true nature of this get-together. Amaranth in particular is looking at her sister like a deflated balloon.
    
    "Oh, yeah, I know," Ragnell tells the Dark Seraph, matter-of-fact.
    
    A beat.
    
    "Oh wait, did you think *we* were gonna fight?" She barks out a cynically amused laugh. "No, no, no! No, I get the misunderstandin', but no, there's no need for that. Mind, if Liath'd seen through my lie or compared notes with one o' the rest of y'all, that'd be one story. She's too stubborn to say die, an' strong enough to kick my ass. But it looks like she took the note I sent her, which said to meet at Meria Boule, at face value. So she's all the way over there, which means none o' the *rest* of us have to fight--" She sweeps an arm out at Amaranth, Clarine, and Nimue. "Because let's face it: even if the three of y'all teamed up, you still couldn't beat me, because you're all *terrible* at fighting."
    
    One might note at this point that Ragnell still hasn't drawn her weapons. She does still have her Seraphic artes, but it looks like she's serious about not fighting them. Except--
    
    "'Course, if y'all want to take your chances, either to vent your spleens or to get to your human friends," she continues, an edge of threat in her voice as she eyes Nimue, "that's a different matter..." Another beat; then she shrugs. She was smiling that whole while, so it's clear she didn't disapprove of Nimue's willingness to fight, at least. "But I figure, the four of us old-time friends, we can at least talk it out while K.K. goes at it with the rest."
    
    Still, she notes the way Clarine places herself between Amaranth and Ragnell with a rueful smile. "I could've told you earlier," she concedes, nodding to her. "But then you would've warned those guys." She thumbs towards the battle at her back, on the other side of the landslide. "Right?" What is K.K.'s plan for the mortals, though? Ragnell's smile turns edged. "I'm pretty sure that's obvious," she says to the sound of combat. "But they're over there, and we're right here."
    
    She hooks her hands behind her neck.
    
    "So.
    
    "Lyonesse."

<Pose Tracker> K.K. has posed.

"'Twas never a question. My work is yet unfinished."

That double bladed weapon of whites, golds and blues hits ground in a heavy -crack- of earth. The Knight stands their ground.

"As long as it yet holds purpose, this heart shall never stop its beat."

The metal of the Trial Knight's great blades begins to crumble apart into motes of shimmering white as they release it. It shatters the very second their last finger departs the hilt, countless flecks of shimmering light surrounding them as if to illuminate the fading veil of dirt and dust that ensconces them. They do not budge, even as Talia makes her rightwards sprint, Ivan his left. They do not move. Even as she spins towards the skies, even as he looses knives shrouded in silhouettes of phantasmal, fiery insects --

"No."

Their right hand -snaps- out. There is an invisible billowing of force; one of those knives cracks against the knight's palm with fiery force, heating it to a glowing orange point. The rest? Hold in the air, swirling in an increasingly indistinguishable mass of flame that the knight -hurls- at Talia -right- as she swings for them in a distracting belch of fire.

CRACK

The sound of Talia's impact rips through the sundered mountainside. It blows dust away in a swirl of obfuscating clouds. In its wake?

The Trial Knight's clawed, metal-wrapped fingers grip fast upon the heel of Talia's ki-empowered boot, furrows in the earth dragged back roughly three feet from where K.K. was originally standing.

"You will not."

They release. And their other hand -snakes- out, to seize Talia by the front of her throat to hold her up -high- as they stare at her, that faceless helm showing nothing but her reflection.

"I have seen you, child. At the Cradle. I have seen the face of you. I know what you are. What would become of a thing like you, at the end of the road you so blindly stumble towards? You grope at heroism without knowing the shape of it." Their gauntlet seeks to clench tighter.

"And in so doing, you grasp nothing but blithe disaster for you and yours--"

BANG

A bullet flies. It says both leagues for Josephine's accuracy and K.K.'s reflexes both that the knight is already releasing Talia and Josephine has already hit her mark by the time the knight begins to move. The sound of bullet ricocheting off metal rings through the air as the Trial Knight -yanks- backward from the force. They stumble back, one step, two; that horned, faceless helm looks up.

"You stand with them," they observe. Their left hand snaps out. There is a shimmer of light, but nothing obvious forms in the knight's hand, as it might normally.

"And so then they will surely drown. For that is all you know, girl."

If they have more to say, they are cut off by Isolde's aggressive advance. Helmed head snapping upward, they track her movements; Isolde might hear faint, tinny murmurings from the armored figure as their hands snap up to -catch- that blade between palms reinforced with strange, white metal. The grasp doesn't last. Metal shrieks across metal as Isolde -kicks- off their head, -tearing- her blade free in a blow that scores a shallow divot across that otherwise pristine armor.

"... You are a thing that should not be."

The accusation comes sharply, pointedly, as K.K. comes to a stop in their stagger. Their right hand lifts high. Magic swells in a way imperceptible to common senses as Ivan's question comes.

"I gain nothing in destruction," is their answer. "Yet you lose much. -You- gain nothing for seeking things that are far beyond the scope of your ken. Yet I lose much. So then I ask you, get of man, stumbling through the inanity of your lives--"

Shadowy glyphs erupt all around the ground between the knight and their chosen prey. And above, what they summoned can be seen at last: a tome of white, blue and gold, rapidly flipping through pages as it floats in the air, landing on a simple, darkly seething incantation.

"--What do YOU hope to gain in this mummer's farce?"

An incantation of a great and terrible blade of shadow forging from the largesse of Althena's Blessing, an edge of darkness incarnate sweeping through air and earth and anything and anyone in between. Powerful -- but to those who were at Love's Cradle, they would know:

It is a far cry from everything the knight is capable of. As if they were holding back.

GS: K.K. has attacked Ivan with Negative Blade!
GS: K.K. has attacked Isolde with Negative Blade!
GS: K.K. has gained 1 Combo!
GS: K.K. has attacked Talia with Negative Blade!
GS: K.K. has gained 1 Combo!
GS: K.K. has attacked Josephine Lovelace with Negative Blade!
GS: K.K. has gained 1 Combo!
GS: K.K. has completed their action.
GS: Talia completely evades a hit from K.K.'s Negative Blade!
GS: Talia's Force Evade activates!
GS: Josephine Lovelace critically Guards a hit from K.K.'s Negative Blade for 28 hit points!
GS: Isolde takes a solid hit from K.K.'s Negative Blade for 146 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Seraph Amaranth has posed.

    The battle is already getting quite heated, on the other side of the landslide; Amaranth doesn't quite catch Josephine being there, distracted and gathered her attention is towards her sister and the other Seraphs. Clarine stands by to protect her, and she has an infectious courage and a resolve to fight...

    And Nimue has a good point. Why sit on it for that long? Because they would go and warn them...?

    "... I am terrible at fighting," Amaranth repeats. "I actually came to my own resolve about that a short while ago."

    She steps forward, closer to Clarine, her hand on her chest. "A time after what happened in Spira, with the Shadow Dragon, I started getting really scared. Really, really scared. I jumped at any and all shadows, thinking when I might be next attacked..."

    A pause, as she lowers her head.

    "But no more, sis. I've decided that it's okay for me to lower my blade and not brush up on that anymore. Because the life I'm leading with a thread and needle is how I'm fighting those guys."

    The weaver raises her head, eyes full of a different kind of resolution. "By showing them they don't control me, or my life."

    She slowly sits down on the ground, seiza-style, brushing her long skirt. "And... I might be worried about Talia, but by telling her she shouldn't fight when she believes in it, I'd be no better than her father Lubov."

    Amaranth sucks in a breath. "So I'm going to let her fight and believe in her."

    Then Ragnell speaks of Lyonesse again.

    "... I ..." she glances towards her sister again. "Even if I did not know how it ended, I knew what Lyonesse had become, over the generations. In that sense, perhaps I am as much to blame for running away."

    A glance towards the landslide.

    "But... I'm done running away."

GS: Ivan takes a solid hit from K.K.'s Negative Blade for 146 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Seraph Nimue has posed.

There's part of Nimue that's actually kind of upset at being called terrible at fighting, even if it's, you know, absolutely and completely true and all she really has is the uncanny ability to refuse to die under any circumstances. It sucks to be thought less of! ... But she's actually kind of relieved that she doesn't have to fight Ragnell, because... well, becaue Ragnell is kinda right.

Nimue looks to Amaranth, listening to the weaver saying her piece; something about it gnaws at her a bit -- but now isn't really the time for that. It's sincere and it's what Ammy believes in, and that's what matters.

So eventually, she just affirms, "... Yeah, all right. So. Lyonesse."

<Pose Tracker> Talia has posed.

"I have a lot of questions, later, no?" Talia says to Isolde, with a wary glance. It is as Katherine asked: how old is she, then?

Questions to ponder later.

Her brother's fire, redirected, comes at her. She billows through it, singed and eyes narrowed, and her foot slams into the armored gauntlet of the Trial Knight. She opens her mouth, to say more, but armored fingers dig into her throat. "Hrrk--"

Her breath is short. Raspy. Labored, to get any precious air past fingers closing on her windpipe and crushing. She looks down at the armored helm, reflecting her face, and her crimson eyes are wide -- and angry -- and betraying any pretension at a lack of concern.

The crack-boom of a gunshot makes Talia twitch in that armored grasp. When she drops, she rolls to the ground, and turns to look up. That's when she cracks a smile. "I thought you weren't coming!" she yells to Josie.

Talia turns to look back at K.K. She sees the shadowy blade form. Mirage is torn free from her scabbard. The short sword twirls in her fingers, then she throws it. It plunges into the ground about a half-dozen feet from the Trial Knight, buried into stone. The shadow blade comes down -- but only touches whisps of shadowstuff, which shoot through the air, then recombine.

Talia's gloved hand tears Mirage free. "I don't know what we're doing, or where we're going! But, staying in one place... not looking, because you're frightened of what might happen--that hasn't served me well!" she yells back at K.K.

She turns, open palm extended. A magical circle alights off it, light blue and turning. Runes fill it, traced with the tell-tale ancient prayers to Althena and the White Dragon inscribed in the spell circle. Then, a lance of ice appears. Frost covers the ground, and the icy spear hurtles for K.K.'s side.

"Freeze Lancer!"

GS: Talia has attacked K.K. with Freeze Lancer!
GS: Talia has completed her action.
GS: K.K. guards a hit from Talia's Freeze Lancer for 78 hit points!
GS: K.K.'s Force Guard activates!
<Pose Tracker> Seraph Clarine has posed.

Clarine looks to the side, at Nimue, and gives her a slightly-lopsided encouraging smile - it's the best she can manage in this situation. She's here for her.

She looks back at Ragnell, then, as she explains that she sent Liath off on a wild goose chase.

"...I had wondered why she hadn't joined us..." She murmurs with a frown. She looks momentarily offended when Ragnell accuses her of being terrible at fighting.

"I-I have been working very hard, thank you very much!" She huffs. ...But, she can't deny that Ragnell's right - if it came down to a fight in this situation, it'd be pretty one-sided. And so she relaxes, just a bit...though, she does send a worried glance in the way of the massive stone wall separating them from the mortals before looking back at Ragnell... and then, at Amaranth, as she speaks her piece.

"...I am proud of you, Ammy." Clarine says. It couldn't have been an easy decision to make, but she had reached it, and it made Clarine happy. So, to honor that, she allows herself to relax a little, too - though there's still a hint of worry in her stance.

Besides, it seems Ragnell wants to talk.

"Lyonesse." Clarine repeats.

"...I am certain I have never been, but I have not been able to shake the feeling that something about it rings... familiar." She admits.

<Pose Tracker> Isolde has posed.

"Oh, am I?" says Isolde to the Trial Knight -

"That's rich," she concludes, landing, "coming from you. I've heard tell of what you've done - something occult here - you were going to gash open the arteries of the world and let it bleed out. That was your plan - you slew some kingdom, Krosse, wasn't it? Set it all to burning, or so I have gathered. And yet I, a poor honest gambling woman, I'm the thing that should not be."

"TUT TUT," Isolde says, "the quality of rhetoric has truly declined in this world - that must be what they mean about the planet -"

Magic bloats; bulges; "- dying -"

The Negative Blade strikes home.

IIsolde is, briefly, felled. Struck again, she sinks to one knee; she makes a noise best rendered as "grrrhk" - and behind the bindings on her eyes, or where they were, she feels a tear or two flow out. Probably a tear, anyway.

They're down there, she thinks. The children. She stabs the side of the mountain.

I suppose, Isolde thinks further, with a dull and dogged determination, I'm going to have to take a risk! She grins at the stone, forcing the feeling, pressing outwards. Another deep breath.

She sweeps the great blade up and calls to the Trial Knight, "Whoever you are, I can tell you're no parent, at least; for the first thing you learn, the very first, is that when you place something out of bounds..."

Isolde kicks off.

She does not so much slash as she falls, leading with the enormous blade towards the back of the knight, perhaps hoping that her lingering sentence will leave distraction open as she exploits, without mercy, this moment of the high ground:

"- they WANT IT ALL THE MORE!"

GS: Isolde has completed her action.
GS: Isolde has attacked K.K. with Red Bone Marrow Feast!
GS: Isolde has completed her action.
GS: K.K. guards a hit from Isolde's Red Bone Marrow Feast for 101 hit points!
GS: Shieldbreak! applied to K.K.!
GS: K.K.'s Force Guard activates!
<Pose Tracker> Seraph Ragnell has posed.

    The way she speaks, it does sound like Ragnell thinks less of Nimue and the others--but she does respect Nimue's willingness to fight anyway, and Clarine's hard work at getting stronger (Ragnell can't help but grin when she huffs at her), and Amaranth's will to not fight at all.
    
    Case in point: Amaranth explains that she isn't going to stress her decision not to fight, that she'll let Talia fight, that she's satisfied with picking up not a sword but a needle. Ragnell, arms still folded, nods at her. "That's fine. An' it's good that you're stickin' to what you believe in." She crooks an affectionate smile at her. "Even the strongest warriors need their support." A wry chuckle then at Clarine's remark on Liath. "I'm sure she'll be mad at me when she realizes what happened, but I'll deal with that when it comes."
    
    Her gaze dims, and her smile fades, as Amaranths accepts a certain level of blame for what became of Lyonesse. Nimue prompts conversation further, and Clarine says something about it seems familiar even if she's sure she's never been. Ragnell gives the latter two a small, tight little nod before focusing on the first. "No, that's not your fault," she says quietly to her sister. "You didn't live there; it wasn't your responsibility. I'm glad you *didn't* move there, like I told you you should. Neither of us could've known it would get as bad as it did. Not with such a diligent Lord o' th' Land protecting it."
    
    She bows her head, expression turning dark and cloud, frown deepening. "Familiar, hm. Well, it *was* a well-known city in its heyday--an' a scant two hundred years later, it's just a legend. I'm sure you've heard of it in some form or another." She pauses, lips pursing as if tasting the sourness of her words; then she shakes her head and sighs. "Amaranth knows a bit o' this. Like I mentioned before, I told her once, ages back, she ought to move there. It was a very safe place for a while--the Lord's domain was so strong, it was peaceful and pure even while lands beyond were filled with strife and war. And, well... there was... someone I cared about there."
    
    There's a certain delicacy to her words that might alert the three that that's a topic Ragnell will step lightly around. This is typical of her; she never did like emotionally facing the things that matter most to her head-on. "Since I did leave to travel every decade or so, I wasn't there for the worst of the decline. But I did see the *rest* of Glenwood two centuries ago--during the rise of Anitia... the last Lord of Calamity."

<Pose Tracker> Ivan has posed.

A look of scandal and shock comes across Ivan's face as the knight re-aims Ivan's own attack at his sister. When the knight follows up on this by grasping Talia by the throat, Ivan pushes to his feet and charges forward -- only to be beaten to it by the welcome interruption from Josephine.

"Talia!" he calls in relief, as she's dropped back to the ground. "G-good timing!" he says to Josephine.

Ivan's mind swirls at K.K.s complicated answer to his question, and how they turn it back around on Ivan.

What do YOU hope to gain in this mummer's farce?

"How should I know?! If you'd given us a normal warning, and a normal chance to think it over, I would have talked about it with my sister and maybe I would have changed my mind! But storming in calling us out like we're inferior beings with no business even wondering about your fancy immortal secrets -- that makes me want to see what's off limits!!"

He rushes forward again, just as K.K. is calling a blade of shadow down. Ivan is stopped in his tracks as it crashes into him, opening a tear across his chest. He stops and draws a shaky breath as he struggles to keep on his feet. He doesn't know that this is K.K. pulling their punches -- he would probably find that to be a frustrating discovery.

Without advancing further, he summons a blade into his hand with a flash of his ring, and slashes his arm down in a quick motion, opening a portal to a place of roiling flame.

"Beasts of fire, show your fury -- molten roar!"

The circular portal erupts with a column of molten fire that rushes toward the knight.

GS: Ivan has attacked K.K. with Molten Roar!
GS: Ivan has completed his action.
GS: K.K. guards a hit from Ivan's Molten Roar for 94 hit points!
GS: Disrupt and Shieldbreak! applied to K.K.!
GS: FP up!
<Pose Tracker> Seraph Amaranth has posed.

    Amaranth pauses a little as the conversation continues. She's rather glad to have Nimue and Clarine's support, even if she knows on a certain level that's not how Nimue would feel; she nods towards the Seraph of Light, though, and listens further.

    Ragnell says it isn't her fault -- that she's glad, in the end, that she didn't move there. That none of them could've predicted that it could've gotten that bad.

    "... it's surprising to me, still. A Domain..." she whispers. She looks to Clarine, who's never been there...

    Her smile gets a bit more distant and sorrowful when Ragnell says there's someone she cared about there.

    "I... was in Vane, all that time. Hiding away fearfully..." There's a quiet flash, and then her grimoire has appeared ontop of her lap. "Inside this tome. To hear about another Lord of Calamity just made me more and more convinced to stay away."

    In a way, even though her choice was voluntary, it wasn't that different from Clarine's own exile.

    There's a soft sigh as she holds the basket up. "... we might as well have some food and drinks -- though I'm going to reserve some for the folks when they're done fighting."

    On one side of the landslide: FIGHTING! On the other: PICNIC! Thanks Ammy.

<Pose Tracker> Josephine Lovelace has posed.

    "Got waylaid! You know how it goes," she shouts back to Talia and Ivan. "Looks like I just made it just in the nick of time!" Which may be referencing the bit of a landslide, back there.

    But apologies, such as they are from the inherently chaotic archaeologist, are fleeting. Almost immediately her mind is set towards a murder.

    The bullet ricochets; Josie in truth expected as much. Having traded blows with the Knight before after a fashion, she doesn't expect more than what she gets:
    Which is to buy her -- and the rest of them -- a moment's respite.

    "Suppose you might say that, sure enough," she remarks, taking but one step forward across the path, grinding volcanic stone dust under her heel.

    They will surely drown.

    Josie's jaw sets, the sole outward sign of whatever concealed mark that dart had hit head on.

    "Then let it," she replies, reiterating the response she had the last time they spoke. She has changed, grown since then, sure enough--

    But not much can peel off the rough hide that wraps her heart. Some things cannot -- do not -- change.

    Her gaze then tilts Isolde's way, watching the woman as she advances on K.K., and here, she actually blanches, her dipping downwards as the woman closes.
    As she has a sudden realization about Isolde's nature.
    Whether Josie likes it or not, she is the daughter of a sorceror, and between what has been said -- and what she can feel -- she is made to understand.

    But such a shock does not last -- not under current conditions.

    "Maybe we need to have a talk soon-like!" she shouts to Isolde. "But first--"

    First, there is a more pressing thing to attend.

    A great blade of shadow rends forth, the air itself hissing at its inexorable passage.

    Josephine is a daughter of a sorceror. There is light, a sparkling shield that travels down her crippled right arm as she blocks the blade's passage with the only means available to her now: that hand outstretched, fingers stiffly splayed. There the blade of magic wrought catches. There it slowly begins to work through the barrier she's conjured, provoking a pained, desperate whine from the archaeologist as the edge just barely cuts through her glove and knicks ruined flesh.

    And there it goes no further. Despite that she's seen worse from them. Despite that she's received worse from them. Blood drips but a few drops onto the dust of the earth as Josie draws back, her right arm held against her abdomen.

    ...They're holding back. ......Maybe.
    She can't be sure, and that is more dangerous than if she knew for certain they were going all out or holding back in either case.

    So be it.

    "You're a right bastard, you know," she remarks, venting, rifle still angled low in her one good hand. "Here I thought, 'at least we won't have to deal with that one no more', but here you are, back again like a bad one-gella coin." Her hand aches, incongruous with the wound she received, which only serves to fuel her darker impulses.
    Now nearly on naked display.

    "...I really hate people like you. Thinking, you know how it oughta go. You know what's right. Well, I'm sure sick of this sanctimonious crap. Either end it," she practically spits the word, her right hand curling against her stomach, "or get out of our way!"

    Light the color of a bruise begins to swirl around her feet, the quiet invocation of a Symbological spell.

    Which she hooks with her right foot and kicks upwards with a simple and singular shout of, "PAINRA!" as the ugly-colored dart of magic is flung for none other than the Trial Knight.

GS: Josephine Lovelace spends 2 Combo on Poison and Interrupt!
GS: Josephine Lovelace has attacked K.K. with Painra!
GS: Josephine Lovelace has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Josephine Lovelace has completed her action.
GS: K.K. takes a solid hit from Josephine Lovelace's Painra for 0 hit points!
GS: Poison! applied to K.K.!
GS: K.K. has lost 2 Combo from Interrupt!
<Pose Tracker> Seraph Nimue has posed.

Nimue has heard bits and pieces of this tale before, of course; she's not young, despite her youthful demeanor, and her memory isn't *totally* destroyed, despite the urge she has to act like it sometimes. Still, the vast majority of this is quite new. She looks to her fellow Seraphim --

-- and then Ammy offers food. Needless to say, Nimue is *very* ready for that. She reaches into her pack, pulling out a big ol' bag of... not horse meat for once? No, today she's got fish. It's probably a little far gone for a *human* to eat, but perfectly aged for a Nimue.

Where did she get it? Don't worry about it.

She plops her butt down on the ground, and is... right back to acting like a child. "Food! Food! Food! Food!" she demands, totally undermining the gravitas of the story Ragnell is telling. This is probably for the best, because it stops her from drilling down on Ragnell's COMPLICATED EMOTION FEELINGS.

<Pose Tracker> Seraph Clarine has posed.

"I do not envy you that, I think." Clarine says with a shake of her head, when Ragnell says Liath will probably be mad at her. Better Ragnell than her... not that she had anything to do with what Liath would be getting angry over.

She nods, then, as Ragnell explains that it was pretty well-known. That would make sense. Knowing that helps her relax a litte. She listens, then, as Ragnell explains that she had once suggest Amaranth move there...and, that there was someone Ragnell cared about.

"...I see..." Clarine murmurs with a sad frown. She can't help but be curious, of course, but out of respect she doesn't press Ragnell on the matter.

"The Lord of Calamity... I did not know much about that at the time, admittedly..." Clarine comments. "I noticed an increase in wounded mortals, but did not think much of it..."

Amaranth, then, decides they might as well have food and drinks! Clarine takes a seat near Amaranth and Nimue. She might not be much for food, but she always made exceptions for food prepared by friends.

She steals a glance over to the stone wall... but, then back to Ragnell. She looks at her expectantly - clearly expecting her to join them.

<Pose Tracker> K.K. has posed.

"You understand ill, creature. I labor under no pretensions as to my existence.
    "I have taken. I have ruined. I have defiled.
        "I, too, am a thing that does not belong."

The tome above splinters away into so much light. It all comes racing back towards the Trial Knight's palm, flowing and reforging anew as they step forward in the midst of dissipating shadow.

"'Tis but a singular difference between my existence and yours, blighted heir of the Lost Land."

Isolde shouts that great truth -- the Trial Knight offers no rebuttal towards it specifically, that much is sure. The woman of Lyonesse -kicks- off. K.K.'s booted heel plants into the earth. Light shines in their palms.

And as Isolde leads in with that great stroke of her blade from the high ground, the knight -pivots- to meet her. Their weapons fly up; they are at the disadvantage here. They cannot stop the full assault; but it is grimly masterful in the way they -divert- it, like changing the flow of a stream with the brief deflection of those twin, curved edges as Isolde lands behind them, leaving a powerful blow to lose some of that mighty momentum until it still brandishes not inconsiderable strength across the steel chest of the Trial Knight, screaming across armor and biting into what looks almost like flesh exposed briefly at their hip.

Light shines around the scar of rended armor -just- as K.K. sends Isolde's blade crashing into the earth with their own. Whatever might have been beneath is lost beneath the shallow renewal of that armor.

"... You live but to live. You go through motions, but I sense naught but dwindled intent behind them. Gestures devoid of meaning." They push, intent to use the pincer of their swords to urge Isolde's blade ever-inward, ever-closer towards her midsection.

"'Twould be better, then, for such a hollow, wrong thing to end--"

Fire and ice bring an unceremonious end to whatever else the Trial Knight might have to say. First, the spear; it shatters -violently- towards K.K.'s side, forcing them to abandon their efforts with Isolde. Twin blades fold into liquid light, expanding into the broad flat of a war hammer that -bashes- into the crystaline surface of that spear. It is too late, however, to build the momentum to properly quell it, and in the end, smaller, but no less fierce shards of frost -riddle- the knight's armor one after the other, piercing it like a pincushion wreathed in congealing, chilled moisture. The Trial Knight reels backwards. That faceless helm looks up --

And broiling fires -belch- outward before them, instantly vaporizing ice to thick bursts of steam as they are engulfed within all that molten fury.

Fire bubbles and spews. And from it, K.K. -rips- themself forward. All that armor is aglow in baleful orange as they stomp across the earth, ground sizzling beneath their heated heels. It's a wonder whatever is beneath simply isn't cooking alive beneath it all. That sightless stare fixates on Ivan and Talia both, somehow weighty despite its lack of obvious presence.

"..."

But perhaps most oddly, is the silence. No scalding remarks. No condemnations. It's hard to say what it is behind that silence.

Approval?

<Pose Tracker> K.K. has posed.

And then they turn upon Josephine.

...I really hate people like you.

"No. I will not belabor the heart of it, nor shall I entertain your sad spectacle. You know well better than any."

Josephine invokes. K.K. turns to face her fully. The glow around them still ebbs with the heat of the flame.

"'Tis not we who are the true focus of your wroth."

And then -burst- in a sprint towards Josephine.

Symbology -rips- through armor in ugly, bruising patterns that simply twists into something more off and surreal as it ripples and distorts in the heated light that ripples in thick trails of steam off K.K.'s armor. The magic sinks -down- into whatever is beneath, bespoiling the flesh? - spirit? - whatever is at the core of the thing that is the Trial Knight -- the Adversary.

They do not stop.

The steam that ripples off them takes a different hue now. Red. Angry. Swirling. Heat subsides into something more purposeful as they -charge- the battlefield. Hammer explodes into blinding light -just- as they push into Josephine's defenses.

And it is the white tip of a spear that aims for the gut of the woman, to impale clean through her midsection without second thought.

They never provide their answer to just who Josephine truly hates.

They just stare at her, her face in their reflection as Talia before her.

"... So you seek but to seek. You strive but to strive. That is your answer."

Force billows around the would-be Trial Knight. Vaporous light rises upward around them, potentially around -Josephine-. Gathering raw ki that grows like a tempest around them.

"'Tis folly, then."

And -upwards- all that purple-white light rises towards a blinding crescendo, looking to sweep up -everyone- unfortunate enough to be caught within its furious cyclone as it rises high, high into the air --

And then EXPLODES in a rippling splendor of light and fury.

"Very well. Show me the depths of foolishness."

GS: K.K. has attacked K.K. with Savage Beckoning!
GS: K.K. has gained 1 Combo!
GS: K.K. takes a solid hit from K.K.'s Savage Beckoning for 0 hit points!
GS: Hyper! applied to K.K.!
GS: Mighty! applied to K.K.!
GS: K.K. assumes the Avenger stance!
GS: K.K. has activated a Boss Action!
GS: K.K. has activated a Force Action!
GS: K.K. spends 3 Combo on Gatling, loading 3 into Gatling!
GS: K.K. enters a Counter stance!
GS: K.K. has attacked Talia with Ancient Requiem!
GS: K.K. enters a Counter stance!
GS: K.K. has attacked Ivan with Ancient Requiem!
GS: K.K. enters a Counter stance!
GS: K.K. has attacked Josephine Lovelace with Ancient Requiem!
GS: K.K. enters a Counter stance!
GS: K.K. has attacked Isolde with Ancient Requiem!
GS: K.K. has gained 1 Combo!
GS: K.K. takes 22 damage from Poison!
GS: K.K. has completed their action.
<Pose Tracker> Seraph Ragnell has posed.

    "Mmm. Well, the Domain is... eeeunnghh..." Ragnell waves her hands in a circle around each other. "It's complicated," she ultimately concludes.
    
    Amaranth suggests they have a picnic. Explosions sound on the other side of the rockslide. All considered, Ragnell's plan to distract her fellow Seraphim and keep them from aiding their mortal friends is going swimmingly, but she has to admit, this probably would've happened anyway because Amaranth is just so Amaranth.
    
    "I'm not that hungry," she tells her sister. A pause, shooting a wry smile and eyeroll at Nimue's child-like chant. "But if you've got any liquor in that basket, I'll happily have a drink." She settles in with her old friends, hardly needing a prompt from Clarine but accepting it anyway.
    
    "So you all missed out on that? Lucky you three," she says. Granted, she's making assumptions in Nimue's case, but she's pretty sure Nimue would have dodged town the second there was even a hint of anything hinky going on. "I never met Anitia personally, but I heard a lot about her. She was a priestess in the Church of Althena, did you know that? Somethin' about the Church keeps poppin' out Hellions. The Cardinal that died just recently, Forton, she was a Hellion too."
    
    A pause to drink. She drinks deep, then serves herself more, whether it's alcoholic or not--but especially if it's alcoholic. "Anyway. One of Anitia's thing was spreadin' a plague across Glenwood. At first, Lyonesse was fine. It had mountains on one side an' the sea on the other, so travel was pretty well regulated. But then they discovered gold in the mountains, an' there was a whole boom!" She spreads her hands, fingers wiggling, as if this boom were an actual explosion rather than a gold rush. "Suddenly they were a lot less lax with their safety measures. Lots o' people came in an' out. An' with more people travelin' through for a piece o' those riches, the plague got a foothold. An' since the people were so used to a pure an' peaceful land... they had no immunity to the disease--or defenses against the Malevolence.
    
    "I was over in Meribia when I heard about the plague hittin' Lyonesse. I left for the city immediately, but thanks to all the Malevolence everywhere in Glenwood by then, it took me a while, to th' tune of I think a couple o' years, to actually make it there.
    
    "And once I got there... it was too late."

GS: Talia takes a glancing hit from K.K.'s Ancient Requiem for 90 hit points!
GS: CRITICAL! Isolde critically Guards a hit from K.K.'s Ancient Requiem for 49 hit points!
GS: Josephine Lovelace completely evades a hit from K.K.'s Ancient Requiem!
GS: Ivan critically Guards a hit from K.K.'s Ancient Requiem for 37 hit points!
GS: FP up!
<Pose Tracker> Seraph Amaranth has posed.

    Amaranth doesn't comment on Nimue's fish, because she's ceased to be surprised with what the Wind Seraph will procure from her next. A bowling ball? A plate of sashimi? A man dreaming he's a butterfly?

    Some things are just... Nimue.

    She hands a sandwich to Nimue the moment she also hands some liquor to Ragnell, because you don't live this long without knowing what your sister likes, really.

    She also has a cute treat for Clarine, because she's started to figure out that the Light Seraph likes pretty food, if she's gonna have food...

    ... and, you know, enormous fire and clashing is still in the distance, as the Trial Knight conjures vaporous light and enormously swirls power around the Drifters.

    ...

    Well, some things will be.

    "... yes, she was," Amaranth answers, "I remember that, at around the time when we were in Lunar last year. In truth, at the time I was doing my phantom thief act, it was also to keep tabs around those happenings..."

    She bobs her head.

    "Gold... it has a way of tempting people, doesn't it?" Amaranth sounds a little sorrowful. "And Lyonesse..."

    She feels a bit complicated. She looks over towards the battle again. "It was a bit like Filgaia a few years ago, when the first Lunarians arrived, is it not? A land that knew no Malevolence, had no defence against Malevolence..."

<Pose Tracker> Talia has posed.

"I think it is premature, to be telling someone who should live, and who should die!" Talia shouts as her icy spear collides with a warhammer. It shatters apart, but still pelts the Trial Knight, and she stares at the white-armored figure tears through the flame. Maybe they look at the twins with a sense of approval, but she feels a twist of dread in her stomach.

She glances, briefly, at her brother. Then, she looks back at K.K. She sets her jaw, lowers her head, and raises Mirage again in front of her. Defensively; wardingly; and it cuts through the first blast of purple-white light, before the rest strikes her. It pushes her backward, and she jumps, rolling with it. Talia jumps -- and then she comes crashing down.

"If you don't look... then you'll never know! I would rather have answers, than not!" she shouts. She lands, and Mirage swings up -- and a frozen arc of ice appears on the slash, driving up at K.K. Talia spins, on a foot, then, and drives the short sword down with the backswing, slashing across the Trial Knight.

"Frigid--"

And the arc of ice /explodes. It shoots out in a tightly-focused cone, all centered on the Trial Knight, and shards of ice rain down.

"--MOON!"

GS: Talia has attacked K.K. with Frigid Moon!
GS: Talia has completed her action.
GS: K.K. takes a solid hit from Talia's Frigid Moon for 167 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Seraph Nimue has posed.

When there is food, there is Nimue, being an absolute bloody toddler about the whole thing. She puts the fish inside the sandwich she's given, takes a bite, and pauses thoughtfully. "I think, once again, I have discovered two items that taste much better separate than together," she declares, after chewing for a long time and then swallowing.

"Yep! Dodged the whole thing! Pretty much just stopped taking routes there once things got bad. Or was I already in a book by that point?" Her brow furrows. "Not worried about it. Either way." She seems a little relieved to know that Clarine *also* missed it, at least.

Ragnell comments that the Church keeps popping out Hellions, and that prompts an immediate, "Yeah, no shit it does! Churches make people dumb, crazy, and dumb *and* crazy."

Nimue pulls the fish back out of the sandwich and just kind of pops it in her mouth.

The story rapidly gets more depressing and less familiar, and Nimue frowns. "... Yeah, that sounds about right. Jeez... then again, it sounds like if it took so long to get there you might have dodged a bullet. Or, uh, some scales, as the case may be, I guess. Still. Yikes."

Ammy's observation seems pretty astute to Nimue; she reflects, "Filgaia might've been worse. At least a Lord of the Land can, like, kind of help."

<Pose Tracker> Seraph Clarine has posed.

Clarine marvels over the treat Amaranth packed for her. She clearly knows just what she likes!

"They are both news to me... I kept myself to a fairly remote part of the land, so we very rarely received travelers from outside." Clarine comments. Hellions, in the Goddess's own church - one achieving even the title 'Lord of Calamity'. She frowns slightly. "I suppose even the most devout mortals can fall... or perhaps that lead to it to begin with. ...But, I suppose there is no point in idle speculation."

A spreading plague... this was the first Clarine had heard of it, and it's a bit shocking to her. The greed of mortals lead to its decline... it's a sad tale. She distracts herself by nibbling at the treat, thinking for a moment.

"...Yes. It is is very possible..." Clarine says, nodding in agreement with Nimue's comment. "I am glad you made it out."

She looks between the others, then, as they mention Filgaia's own first brush with Malevolence.

"I was not present for that. ...Or, rather, I was, but locked deep within the Shadow Vault, far away. Was it...bad?" Clarine asks.

<Pose Tracker> Ivan has posed.

... So you seek but to seek. You strive but to strive. That is your answer.

Ivan lets out a breath, his mouth quirking into a small grimace.

"That's... about it, yeah." He looks round at the others briefly. "Probably? Yeah. It is for me, anyway."

He gives a long sigh, as he advances on K.K., vanishing the sword that had been in his hand. As the storm of swirling energy called by K.K. washes over him, his pace slows, as he calls his own flames to fight back against the whirl, giving him some shelter from the cyclone. He still faces some battering from the furious winds, but is able to keep his footing so he can continue to close the distance.

He finally moves his hand to the hilt of the weapon sheathed at his waist, drawing it with a flourish. It's a curious blade; even unsheathed, it seems as though it's still covered in a twist of cloth.

But then he pops it open, and its true nature is revealed -- a luminous white umbrella, covered in illuminated golden scrollwork. A great pulse of energy flies forth from the open canopy, severe and biting, like a sharp word of judgement delivered by some cosmic force.

"But we don't need your permission for it, folly or not!"

GS: Ivan has attacked K.K. with Umbrella Rebuke!
GS: Ivan has completed his action.
GS: K.K. guards a hit from Ivan's Umbrella Rebuke for 78 hit points!
GS: Weaken! applied to K.K.!
<Pose Tracker> Seraph Ragnell has posed.

    Ahh, sweet, sweet liquor. This is what's great about having a family that's more about lunch than lynch. Ragnell takes another drink, nodding at Amaranth. "A few knights o' Rolance put her down after learning she was a Hellion. Naturally, I helped out of the pure goodness of my heart," she adds, winking at her friends. "But that's beside the point.
    
    "Anyway."
    
    Her smile turns grim once again when Nimue chimes in about the Church spitting out Hellions, and how it was just as well Ragnell took a while to get there or else she might have scales right now. "Funny you should mention," she says. Then she nods to Clarine at her question. "Oh, it was bad, all right. In short, I got there just in time to see Lyonesse's Lord of the Land hatch into a Fell Dragon."
    
    She leans her elbows on her knees, head hanging, a shadow darkening her expression. "...You might've heard of the Saint of Sinners. The war between Rolance an' Hyland attracted her to Lastonbell. That was her first appearance since Lyonesse fell in the first place. Hopefully she won't show her scales for another two hundred years, or better, never, but..." She lifts her chin, expression grim. "I'm not really counting on that."
    
    She turns her gaze to Amaranth. To Nimue. To Clarine. "That's what I mean by it basically being a Malevolent Domain. Lyonesse produced the Saint of Sinners--and the Saint sent it to the bottom of the ocean, in a bubble of Malevolence." She shakes her head slowly. "It's nothing any mortal, even a Shepherd, could withstand. It's sure as hell nothing the three of you could withstand. No offense. But it's just too much for... anyone."
    
    She glances at Nimue. "I know you said I'm too patronizing and secret-keeping for anyone's good. And you're right about that! I am. But you know--you all know," she adds, gaze traveling back to Amaranth, "there's no going back from full dragonhood. If you're wise, you'll tell your human friends, assuming they survive K.K., to give up on Lyonesse and forget about this quest." She finishes off her liquor, then rises to her feet. "Before the worst happens. To any of you."

<Pose Tracker> Isolde has posed.

Isolde's blade is caught.

She does not dispute the words of the Trial Knight. Her lips purse. Her expression, though lacking the limpid soul-optical vision of the eyes, clearly tightens. The Trial Knight scored a point even if they did not strike a blow. She breathes out afterwards as the edge turns towards her abdomen. She strains - strains hard enough, in fact, to partially rip the seam of one sleeve, the muscles beneath it shown in starker relief now as she contends.

"Can you give life," Isolde says to the Trial Knight, "to those who lost it?"

"I doubt it," Isolde says: "So do not command it be taken from those - who still have - it!"

She breaks the clash, striving, but she overbalances for a moment. By the goddess, Isolde thinks, I'm being toyed with. How infuriating!

And yet, Isolde thinks. And yet, I have to thank that woman with the gun. Isolde rears herself upwards again, carves a figure-eight out of the air before her as she regains her balance, and strides forwards. Heat rises and Isolde sweats but she bulls past it, as if it were a sauna or a soothing bath. "When you lose everything," she says, "sometimes that's what you have to find."

Cryptic again. Perhaps a syllogism. And yet, it seems to come from the heart. The light rises upwards though, and while the light itself reaches Isolde not, the glow, the pressure, the rising explosion DOES - she is briefly limned in shadow, then there is that hellish BURST, the blinding outlay -

"Ah," she says. "How temperate... thank you, Talia."

Ivan reveals the power that is an umbrella. A shelter from the storm. Isolde's blade, held in both hands, is now glowing with the subtle power that is often seen with any master of the blade. The distinction for her is that this light is a garish polychromatic, a rainbow-light that shimmers on the edge of the blade. Is it pride that speaks thus? Confidence?

Or does Isolde just have no idea what it looks like?

Nonetheless she grates out, "Do you - know what it is like, perhaps you do; yes, perhaps you do; but do you know how it FEELS? TRULY?"

Then she swings.

One strike, two, a X-carving three-four; a fifth, a sixth, a seventh in the form of two-handed stabs, leading into a twisting plunge for the eighth; a kick (oh, does that count? let's say it doesn't; it's not a sword) as she goes in for the nineth, passing to the other hand for a one-handed space-maker on the tenth, a swing round in a great loop for the eleventh, and a swung-down overhead SMASH for the thirteenth.

Or was it the twelfth?

GS: Isolde has attacked K.K. with I See The Millions!
GS: Isolde has completed her action.
<Pose Tracker> Josephine Lovelace has posed.

    Josie's response--

    When K.K. says again that isn't them she sees, truly. That her wrath is really for another.

    --is to spit. For the earth alone, sure enough, but the sentiment in that single derisive gesture may be conveyed all the say.

    "Think I don't know that?"
    The hand clutching the rifle tenses, the muscles on the bare portion of her arm exposed beneath the rolled up dress shirt sleeve telling the story. "I hate him and I hate you. Because I'm sick unto the death of you people who claim to know everything--"

    K.K. is moving, at a calamitous pace.
    K.K. is moving, weapon bared.
    K.K. is moving for her.

    There is just one moment, one filled with a white-cold shock from within that seems to split her nearly in two. Her eyes widen as the Trial Knight closes, as the whole world slows to a crawl. There is just one moment.
    In this single moment, two possibilities arise, two alternate worlds. In one, Josephine is run through, her fate and future from that moment forward an uncertain but unlikely one.
    In the other--

    Josephine twists, bending parallel to the lance that stabs forward, the force and heat from the Adversary's presence alone palpable on her exposed flesh. She sees, nearly in parody, the reflection of herself and herself alone as she moves past K.K., as she continues forth with all haste hither.

    But that's just one trial to surmount.

    "And that's not-- enough? For you? Or--"

    There is force in the air, weighing heavily on the sorceror's daughter. It is nearly enough difficult to breathe with its weight.

    "Then let me be a fool!"

    She glances upwards but the once. It's all she needs now to know.

    "Scatter!"

    Her right hand comes away from where it rests against her stomach. Here, sorcery will do little good, but that will not stop her from trying.
    If from a different angle than most such attempts. Lightning is flung, but not for K.K. or the growing storm--
    Instead, it is cast for her feet and the ground below her, serving as a sort of small-scale catapult to launch her out of the immediate vicinity of the storm's fury.

    Josephine Lovelace has had better landings. She lands and rolls a short distance, finally sprawling on her right side, much to the dismay of her abused and damaged right arm. She'll pay the piper for it later, though; here and now she doesn't stay down but rises, quickly, to her feet, her right arm limp at her side.

    The Gawain rifle is slid in one smooth motion back into the holster against her back.

    She moves now, at pace, towards the Trial Knight, drawing a second smaller ARM from where it rests holstered against her hip.

    She doesn't say a word. She just -- nearly absently -- flips the Reaper's Hand in her grasp, an action that is rewarded by a decided 'click' from the ARM itself--

    And nearly without fanfare turns that ARM on K.K., her forefinger at an uneasy rest on the trigger.

    The look in her eyes speaks well enough on its own.

    This is a woman who seeks but one thing.

    She walks towards them still as she pulls the trigger, perhaps mere moments after the chromatic storm of strikes from Isolde ends.
    As the Reaper's hand unloads upon the Trial Knight, again and again.

GS: Josephine Lovelace spends 1 Combo on Gatling, loading 1 into Gatling!
GS: Josephine Lovelace has attacked K.K. with Knocking On Heaven's Door!
GS: Josephine Lovelace has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Josephine Lovelace has completed her action.
<Pose Tracker> Seraph Clarine has posed.

Lyonesse's Lord of the Land became the Fell Dragon known as the Saint of Sinners. This is Clarine's first time hearing about it. She shudders - she can only imagine what a dragon of that sort of power would be capable of. It...was a scary thought. And so, too, is the thought of the sheer amount of Malevolence wrapped up within Lyonesse, now at the bottom of the ocean.

...She doesn't have a response to that right away. What can she say to that, honestly? It's all...quite overwhelming. Ragnell's right - they do know there's no going back. And so, it gives her pause.

"...I do not know if they would listen even if we told them." Clarine admits quietly after a moment, breaking her silence. "They are... a very determined lot. More likely, it may push them to look for a solution."

GS: COUNTER! K.K. counterattacks Josephine Lovelacewith Counter Attack!
GS: K.K. takes a solid hit from Josephine Lovelace's Knocking On Heaven's Door for 183 hit points!
GS: Weaken! applied to K.K.!
GS: K.K. takes a solid hit from Isolde's I See The Millions for 169 hit points!
GS: Break! applied to K.K.!
GS: CRITICAL! Josephine Lovelace takes a solid hit from K.K.'s Counter Attack for 214 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Seraph Amaranth has posed.

    The Lord of the Land became the Saint of Sinners...

    ...

    "I was there, with Talia, when Lastonbell came under attack," Amaranth admits quietly to Clarine, since she wouldn't have had the context of that. "It was..." She glances aside. "It was a sight unlike any other... no, rather, a sight I wished I did not have to see ever again in my life."

    There's a tired exhale as she sips on some tea of her own.

    "But..."

    She does dare to look at her sister with a quietly challenging look.

    "Sis... is that really what you want to do? What they want to do?" she has to ask, glancing over her shoulder over the landslide again. "Yes, I myself have no reason to return to an underwater Domain of Malevolence. Yet..."

    She closes her eyes.

    "I heard tale. That yesterday's Drifters were not able to overcome the kingdom of Krosse, and yet, today's Drifters overcame that Domain... and then stopped you and the Trial Knight at the Love's Sanctuary too. I can't help but feel... that deep down, you wish to lead people to such a spiritual strength that you can save Lyonesse."

    There's a tired chuckle on her lips as she admits, "... I can't say I would be the one to do it. But... if it at all were possible... I would like to see our beloved city not have such an ending, even if it now were all but wiped from the history books."

<Pose Tracker> Seraph Nimue has posed.

Ragnell drops the roughest chunk of this -- the Saint of Sinners -- and Nimue suddenly has a lot to chew on. No, literally -- no sooner has Nimue heard those words than does she shove the whole rest of her sandwich in her mouth to have an excuse to avoid talking.

Amaranth says the thing she found herself thinking about, though -- that Ragnell probably wouldn't actually want things to end that way. She continues to chew -- but when at last she swallows, she locks eyes with Ragnell, raising an eyebrow.

Then a big smile crosses her face. "One, Clarine is right, there's no sense in talking this crew out of anything. *Two*, sorry, I'm an idiot and I won't ever stop being an idiot." ... Though, Nimue thinks to herself, I'm also kind of a *coward*... hmmm.

That's a problem for future Nimue to mull over. Present Nimue continues to eat slightly uncomfortably aged fish.

<Pose Tracker> K.K. has posed.

In the midst of their storm, the Trial Knight's fingers tremble around their spear.

It fades. And in the aftermath, K.K. stands straight, tall -- imperious, perhaps, in some ways. Unflagging and proud in another. That faceless helm does not tilt from where it stares, towards the barrier that divides Seraphim and human (and once-human). Even as those they fight recover with remarkable, laudable aplomb, fending their assault with true skill, their gaze fixates on that barrier.

"..."

That spear lowers, its tip tapping earth with a clink of metal. Fingers tense around its haft... and then relax.

"Hrm. ... So be it."

And then they turn, to face their opposition they have come for. To harry? To eliminate? ... To test?

I would rather have answers, than not!

Perhaps unclear; it's something the Adversary never elucidates in the seconds before Talia comes crashing downward upon them in the precious few seconds after the storm fades and gravity reasserts itself. She comes too swift, too powerfully, to be denied; that arc of frost carves in a frantic race after the sharp edge of the Mirage, freezing across once-heated armor in a way that carves close enough to spread hexagonal patterns of frost darting across polished white armor. Cool vapors billow around the knight --

And in that backswing, that arc -shatters-, raining an intense barrage of ice that -carves- through armor in chunks. One curving, white and gold horn snaps off that helm; countless puncture wounds burst across armor. A glimmer of bright, wet crimson can be seen beneath.

The knight stumbles --

But we don't need your permission for it, folly or not!

That faceless gaze snaps upward in time to see -- an umbrella, unfolded and billowing in its luminous judgment.

"...?"

Their head cants, at an angle.

"... 'Tis oddly more popular as a weapon than I thought. Is there merit to it--"

But whatever their likely very deep musings may be, they come to an end when energy flares from the umbrella's luminous canopy, -pounding- into the knight without mercy or relent.

Oh, yes. They know well the cruel judgment of umbrellas.

That spear comes up, -spins-; but there is only so much force from that mighty relic (???) they can endure before it -breaks- past their defenses. The pulse of light, or what remains of it, -hammers- them into the mountainside. Rock bursts forth like blood from a wound at the impact site. K.K. -tears- themself free in dusting debris, caking their armor. They still refuse to falter. Their gaze tilts upward.

Do you - know what it is like, perhaps you do; yes, perhaps you do; but do you know how it FEELS? TRULY?

And they fixate upon a full prism of light.

"..."

The index and middle fingers of their right hand spasm mildly.

Isolde swings.

And K.K. answers --
    by throwing aside their spear and facing Isolde headfirst, unarmed.

It could be further toying. But as those blows come, there is nothing but resolve behind the Trial Knight's actions, weathering blow after blow after blow, x-carved slashes, stabbing blows, a twisting plunge. Even kicks and grand loops, they weather each one, crushing into their armor, beginning to cleave -through- it, biting at whatever lies beneath; red dances at Isolde's blade in the twelfth or thirteenth blow --

--where K.K. catches it between two palms, the once pristine white of their armor now drooling slow trails of blood down their gauntleted forearms.

They stare up, gaze unseen. Their helm has shattered, part of their lips revealed, pulled into a thin, unyielding line. Their voice warbles, partially warped and partially clear in a way that makes it all too confusing to place --

"........ Yes."

-- save for the solemnity of that single word.

They hold, for a moment. But only a moment. There is a glint on the periphery.

<Pose Tracker> K.K. has posed.

Then let me be a fool!

And they do not hesitate to -violently- shove Isolde away and into the mountainside seconds before the first bullet ricochets off their helm.

They turn. Another bullet hammers into their chest, denting armor inward. They step forward. Another shot carves across the partially exposed stretch of their jaw, lancing a bright, ugly red cut. They -march-.

Every step, another shot, until it is two steps, three steps, four, shoulder armor torn free, bullets biting through sword-carved armor into the knight's side, leg, arms, midsection. They. Do not. Stop. Blood walks in their wake.

They keep -moving-.

Until they are upon Josephine, somehow more inhuman for whatever debatably human parts of them are exposed. Until they are in her defenses. Until they reach out.

"No."

And simply touch her side where their spear had so harmlessly passed.

A rebuttal of her demand? Or --

"I know the look of you, girl. I know it well.

"'Tis not him who failed what mattered most."

A bead of light shines at Josephine's side, exposed where it had been planted so many minutes before with the swipe of that spear.

And for so tiny a thing --

--the explosion when it bursts upon that simply contact is -blinding-.

Like a little star was born, force -ripples- past K.K. from the impact zone, consuming them and Josephine within that horrifying, furiously radiant wrath. Their skirts whipping in the winds is the last thing seen before they completely disappear.

... and when it all fades, there within the blast crater they stand.

Their armor restored.

Glowing so bright it might well simply be energy. Spirit. -Intent-.

"If that is your reason, then chase it. Chase it, with all that you are. Chase it 'til the end comes, whether for you, or not. Chase it, 'til there is naught left. But know this.

"Not one of you is ready. Not one of you is worthy.

"You are not prepared."

Their hand lifts. The sky swells with purpling clouds.

"Mark this well, get of man. Should you proceed with your merry chase as you are..."

And the bloated clouds split, something great and red sinking from their depths. The knight's legs tense.

"... I shall scorch away all that you are until there is naught but the misery of your passing left to remember you by."

And they -leap-. High into the air they rise, conjuring forth that spear once more. They leap -high-, until they are clearing the massive, blood-red sword of Althena's sorceries sinking down from the heavens. They hold that spear high. Broiling flames bubble at its tip, blossoming into a massive sphere churning like a second sun.

"If you still think you the mettle strong enough, then COME! AND WE SHALL SEE!"

And they send it -CRASHING- down straight into that sword of crimson light -just- as it impacts the earth. The two combine, bubble, shine --

--and EXPLODE in broiling heat and a thousand thousand countless shards of blood red shadow magic, ripping through the landslide, through the mountainside, through -everything- in all its blinding fury.

In the end, the knight is gone -- leaving nothing but the scars of K.K.'s passing in its wake.

GS: K.K. has become ENRAGED!
GS: K.K. has activated a Boss Action!
GS: K.K. has activated a Boss Action!
GS: K.K. has activated a Force Action!
GS: K.K. has attacked Talia with Disaster Flash!
GS: K.K. has attacked Josephine Lovelace with Disaster Flash!
GS: K.K. has attacked Ivan with Disaster Flash!
GS: K.K. has attacked Isolde with Disaster Flash!
GS: K.K. has gained 1 Combo!
<Pose Tracker> Seraph Ragnell has posed.

    "Possible," Ragnell concedes, of Clarine's point of the mortals not being likely to listen to any warnings. "So then what will you three do if they refuse to listen? Follow them down towards certain death--or worse, certain dragonhood? Are you going to throw away your lives or minds like that?"
    
    Amaranth chimes in about being there, when Lastonbell was attacked by the Saint. Ragnell's gaze flickers as her chin dips half an inch. "Same here," she murmurs. "I can't begin to explain how I felt that moment."
    
    Cacophony *explodes* on the other side. Ragnell lifts her face and gazes towards the battle. She only looks back when Amaranth challenges her--accuses her that, deep down, she wants the mortals to grow stronger so they can yet save Lyonesse.
    
    Ragnell's lips thin. She folds her arms. "...."
    
    Then Nimue sends her a challenging look and declares she won't ever stop being an idiot. Ragnell rolls her eyes again. "One, you're never sorry," she replies dryly. "Two, you're also a coward who's terrified of getting hurt, especially by humans. Sure, you decided you'd work on overcomin' that, but what do you think will happen if you follow a bunch of half-cocked humans and a Hellion into a Fell Dragon's Domain? Are you goin' to overcome that? Are *any* of you?"
    
    She shakes her head. "That's all I've got to say. I warned you all, I'll let you warn whoever survives." She frowns, expression cold as she looks over her friends. "But humans are weak. One of this group is *already* a Hellion. You really think they--*you*--could save the Lost Land?"
    
    She snorts and shakes her head again. To save Lyonesse from oblivion... Her fists tighten, her teeth clench, and she glares at her friends and family. "Even Liath couldn't convince me," she spits. "That's why... K.K.!"
    
    Ragnell raises her arm as K.K. leaps high, high, dazzlingly high until the sun glares off their armor. Down falls the light, down falls the darkness, down fall the flames, through the air, through the earth, through everything. Dust and rock and fire flare in the wake of the devastating attack.
    
    When everything settles and the knight is gone, so, too, is Ragnell. All that remains is K.K.'s destruction... and Ragnell's doomsaying.

GS: K.K. spends 3 Combo on Gatling, loading 3 into Gatling!
GS: K.K. enters a Counter stance!
GS: K.K. has attacked Talia with Ancient Requiem!
GS: K.K. enters a Counter stance!
GS: K.K. has attacked Josephine Lovelace with Ancient Requiem!
GS: K.K. enters a Counter stance!
GS: K.K. has attacked Ivan with Ancient Requiem!
GS: K.K. enters a Counter stance!
GS: K.K. has attacked Isolde with Ancient Requiem!
GS: K.K. has gained 1 Combo!
GS: K.K. takes 32 damage from Poison!
GS: Mighty expired!
GS:  Enrage purges all positive status!
GS: K.K. has completed their action.
GS: Talia takes a solid hit from K.K.'s Disaster Flash for 175 hit points!
GS: Reaper! applied to Talia!
GS: Talia takes an additional 15 damage from Reaper!
GS: CRITICAL! Talia completely evades a hit from K.K.'s Ancient Requiem!
GS: Josephine Lovelace guards a hit from K.K.'s Disaster Flash for 108 hit points!
GS: Reaper! applied to Josephine Lovelace!
GS: Josephine Lovelace takes an additional 15 damage from Reaper!
GS: Josephine Lovelace takes a glancing hit from K.K.'s Ancient Requiem for 97 hit points!
GS: Josephine Lovelace takes an additional 15 damage from Reaper!
GS: Isolde takes a solid hit from K.K.'s Disaster Flash for 182 hit points!
GS: Reaper! applied to Isolde!
GS: Isolde takes an additional 20 damage from Reaper!
GS: CRITICAL! Ivan takes a solid hit from K.K.'s Disaster Flash for 264 hit points!
GS: Reaper! applied to Ivan!
GS: Ivan takes an additional 15 damage from Reaper!
GS: Ivan has Fallen! He is no longer able to fight!
GS: Ivan takes a solid hit from K.K.'s Ancient Requiem for 214 hit points!
GS: Ivan takes an additional 5 damage from Reaper!
GS: Ivan has Fallen! He is no longer able to fight!
GS: Isolde takes a solid hit from K.K.'s Ancient Requiem for 179 hit points!
GS: Isolde takes an additional 15 damage from Reaper!
GS: Isolde has Fallen! She is no longer able to fight!
<Pose Tracker> Talia has posed.

Talia stares, as a little bit of that helmet is shattered -- as she gets a glimpse at their lips, but can tell precious little else about who the Trial Knight may be. Perhaps they are, simply, K.K. She doesn't have an answer, and she doesn't find one as the Trial Knight just keeps moving through their attacks.

She stands up straighter in the wake of her attack, and she wipes blood off her face on the back of her glove.

The explosion that K.K. centers on Josephine slams into Talia. It throws her back, bodily; she smashes into the rocks created by the landslide. She stumbles, and then falls down, breathing hard.

'You are not prepared.'

Her teeth grit at that, and she stands up. The land trembles in the aftermath. She doesn't want to admit it, but she has always been a little practical about these things. She knows they are right; she can't, really, expect to defeat K.K. with what she has now.

When they leap, she throws Mirage before she gets a good look at that heat. Her crimson eyes lift to the fire in the sky, before they -- and the rest of her -- dissolve into smoke. Talia reappears after the impact; after the blast of red shadow magic, which leaves a scorched crater.

Her hand is around Mirage's hilt, buried into the rock. She crumples down her knees, breathing hard.

The worst part, she thinks, is that they were holding back.

<Pose Tracker> Seraph Amaranth has posed.

    Amaranth keeps her expression somewhat reserved behind her cup of tea until Ragnell disappears, behind the massive explosion that consumes nearly all.

    She does wonder.

    "Sis..." she whispers, behind the trailing nothing as she gazes towards the debris flying around her.

    "I don't mean just us, either. I mean all those Drifters who've put in so much time, so much blood and sweat and effort... it's not going to be just us."

    She lowers her head. "If it truly was meaningless... if it truly was hopeless... I don't think we would be having this battle at all."

    She stands up and walks towards Talia, Ivan and Isolde with a tired smile, holding up a second basket. "I have medical supplies, everyone. And when we've patched you up, I have sandwiches, drinks and dessert as well."

    Even the strongest warriors need support.

    That's how she's going to make a difference, in her own way.

<Pose Tracker> Ivan has posed.

Not one of you is ready. Not one of you is worthy.

"We didn't ask you!" Ivan shouts back. For all he knows, the knight is absolutely right. But how do they know? What are they basing this judgement on?!

"You haven't evem managed to defeat us, don't go throwing around declarations like--"

K.K. leaps into the air, the clouds growing strange and ominous above.

"...Shit..!"

Ivan closes the umbrella and returns it to its sheath, moving his arms in a sweeping pattern through the air, calling a wind full of sparks...

But before his spell comes to anything, the knight's great sphere of crimson energy crashes down upon them, exploding in a blaze of force.

There's nowhere to run from such a tremendous shockwave of force, so Ivan tries to withstand it, bracing his stance and calling a swirl of fire in the closest he can manage to a barrier.

When the waves of power die down, Ivan is still standing. ...For a moment.

Then he sort of tips backward and plonks down to the ground.

<Pose Tracker> Seraph Clarine has posed.

Clarine remains quiet throughout Ragnell's words. In truth, she doesn't really have an answer. She's not sure what she'll do yet. It's difficult, and not something she can answer right away.

She finishes up her treat, remaining deep in thought all the way.

Did she really think they could save the Lost Land...? She's quiet for a moment, but her thoughts are distracted as Ragnell departs, leaving them a few last words. She sits there for a moment and then looks over to Amaranth, quietly resting a reassuring hand on her shoulder.

From there... she'll help patch everyone up. She can help with that much, at least.

<Pose Tracker> Josephine Lovelace has posed.

    They keep moving.

    So does Josie, continuing to unload until the ARM reports an angry and empty click alone, until there's nothing else left to the Reaper's Hand but the failed promise of violence. Only there does she stop, stock still as the Adversary meets here in that point.
    As they reach out.
    As Josie flinches.
    As she receives a tap to her side, where the spear had failed--

    Only for Josie to now stare at the Trial Knight, broken armor and flesh and blood, her naked shock in this instant rooting her to the spot and the proof her opposite needs to know they have struck more keenly with that single phrase than anything else they might have brought to bear.

    --Oh.

    No.

    The spear had not failed to touch her after all.

    She stares down at herself in shock, and there is little--
    No, there is nothing at all to be done. The world about her is bright with the explosion that follows, and even her scream seems swallowed up by the blast that ensues.

    She is simply flung aside, like a doll tossed carelessly by a spoiled child, to land heavily on the rocky path of the volcanic island. Her gaze is unfocused as she levers herself upwards, vocalizing a hoarse, "...you..."

    And then the sky rips open.

    Even here, the sorceror's daughter is defiant to the last and lifts her left hand, the ARM left abandoned where it lies several feet away. Spellcraft rolls from her fingertips in a crackling array.
    It's a poor attempt at a shield.
    It does little to spare her the fury that comes.

    The world runs red, then black. There is, for a time, only sound and pain.

    When she stirs at last, using a nearby rock as her pivot, it's simply to slump against it, her left hand reaching for the flask in her hip pocket. Slowly and with clumsy determination, she works the cap off and, at last, takes a drink.

    They were holding back.

    The only reason they're not all dead is because K.K. was holding back.

    Closing her eyes, the flask gripped tight, Josie holds onto her hate.

<Pose Tracker> Seraph Nimue has posed.

Ragnell, as always, decides to push the issue, and Nimue makes a face. "I was trying to sound awesome! Augh, you're always the worst," she mumbles. "It's definitely true that I'm never sorry, th..."

Nimue trails off -- and Ragnell is gone. As is K.K.

Nimue -- though she acts put-upon about it the *whole time* -- helps patch people up as need be; it's something she's... well... better at than one might expect. Her bedside manner is *terrible*, though.