The party delved deeper into Salvation, searching for Manfred Seed. Strife rised around them, until they came to a crisis of fire and smoke.
The party secured the area, and fought off a horde of undead that descended upon their position.
One of the rescuers who came charging from the fire was Manfred, whom related the ongoing troubles between the city, its future, the rising of the Deserters, and the catastrophe of spirits.
At that point, two large semis loaded with armed, uniformed Hundred pulled up, a contingent of Deserters, and Manfred believes they're after a relic which takes the form of a plowshare…
One of the tiger-Hundred that leads the pack looks up at Ridwan, after the mystic called out the warning about not stepping on the chalk. "Oh? Why not?"
Ridwan: "Because I'm making a barrier that will prevent these spirits from entering the location, that where there is a safe place for the wounded to rest while this mess gets cleaned up."
[OOC] Ridwan: that way there is^
(The assemebled Deserters number sixteen- of you, there is six of the party, Rivers, Casey, Manfred, and various other first responders and injured that lie about. You might still have a numbers advantage, but preparedness…?)
Zephyr: "This one not be stepping on chalks, then. Safety for small price."
Claret lowers his sword, but doesn't sheathe it.
Issa is trying very hard not to be obvious-not exactly stealth, but definitely to look…unimportant.
Alida makes sure her pistol is reloaded. "Hey-o friend-o. You're here a bit late for back up." She glances over to the three Hundred from around here for cues.
The tiger-Hundred asynchronously rolls his shoulders. "It's a terrible tactical decision to give an enemy rest when they're surrounded by fire, seiged by smoke, and right in your ironsights," he growls.
"But we're not monsters here. Toss Manfred over the chalk, and we'll walk," he relents.
Eidolon: "Walk, yes, but to where, and to what purpose?"
Rivers looks ready to leap, and stands gun-drawn-but-down and a half-step in front of Manfred, who is still winded from smoke inhalation.
Ridwan: "Glad to see you've got your priorities all straightened up." Ridwan sighs but continues drawing the gylphs.
Casey has slunk off, and with a bit of searching with the corners of your eyes, you note she's setting up position behind a parked vehicle, ready to but not willing to give off her location with the glint of a barrel.
Claret nods to Alida. Sword still in hand.
"It's real simple, what one of the wizardy-guys told us," the tiger-Hundred relates in a calm, confident manner. "There's a relic we need to get our hands on and forge into a weapon. Link it with a sentimental and physical source- that'd be Manfred. With that, we figure we can go on to stop the supernatural crap as well."
Zephyr: "Where do smoothskins find such a relic?"
Eidolon would raise an eyebrow, if he had any. "Your goal is to stop the, eh, supernatural crap, then?"
[OOC] Zephyr: *does one
Ridwan pauses just long enough to start chuckling under his breath, though it steadily grows into a loud laugh.
"Easy. It's right inside city hall. Right 'ere." The tiger-Hundred waves a hand to the nearby building, the one that was being focused upon by the firefighting crew.
"After that, we continue to put it to some kinda use. The way it was meant to be used. The way we've done forgot."
Issa: "Mmm." Issa can't help themselves. "Glorious disemboweling."
Eidolon: "…you -need- this relic, then, to go back to the old ways? No strength of your own to rely on?"
Ridwan: "What a riot. You lot fancy yourselves a band of war ready sellswords, yes? And your plan to deal with your town being beseiged by a supernatural threat of vicious spirits is … to… do exactly what the spirits want you to do? To bend the knee to them, do their bidding, and offer up your prayers to them? Not to simply crush and destroy them??
"You've put up a good fight," points the tiger-Hundred to Manfred, "-but that's all this has ever come down to." He is about to say more, and then grins at Eidolon. "Why leave it on the table? At this point things are about winnin'."
"Alla this city, alla the victories of the past- we ate off of them for years, until a reckoning happened that we were clearly losin'. Switch tactics. Remember who we were. Nothin' simpler."
Issa: "Historically, winning at any cost is, ironically, not a very winning strategy," says Issa. The contempt is starting to leak in.
Alida: "Winning what? A burned out husk no one can live in?" Alida scoffs. "Short-sighted."
Eidolon: "Winning on your own terms, or on the terms of the 'supernatural crap' you just said you wanted to fight? I can't imagine anyone would stop you from simply leaving, and starting a mercenary company, like the 'good old days'."
Alida: "As someone in the business, there's more work and more money elsewhere."
The tiger-Hundred sneers, but then quickly hides it under a forced grin. "And what is this 'their bidding?' This whole bit, the spirits and skeletons and junk- it was a wakeup we needed, but it's time to punch the alarm clock. Salvation built itself up but good, and to not use that as a resource? Why leave it on the table!"
Claret shrugs a tight, poised shrug. It is, after all, a living.
Issa: "Ahh, yes, we're back to the glorious disemboweling. Good business, when it's not you getting knifed."
Ridwan: "You said it yourself, no? That you need to take the plow and reforge it into a blade to quell the spirits? What is that if not doing exactly what they want you fools to do?"
The tiger-Hundred pounds a fist into a palm. "There's enough of us that believe! Enough of us who have died! And maybe it isn't a bad thing we do what they've wanted, if'n it makes 'em go away!"
"A victory ain't gotta be beautiful. It's just gotta be."
Issa: "Ahh. I believe it's called 'Pyrrhic' at that point…"
[OOC] Issa: Forgive me, I'm using the reference we'll know.
Zephyr gives a halfhearted shrug back. "Job is job. Figure out what this one is doing and it will be done."
"What'da you lot care anyhow!" the tiger-Hundred bellows.
Eidolon: "How's the market for 'mercenary bands that turned on their own sanctuary village' these days? What's the going rate?"
Issa: "People who don't understand history…annoy me." Issa smiles. There's a lot of teeth-an almost unnatural amount of teeth-and no humor in it.
Manfred half mumbles: "(He is kind of right. You've helped a lot- probably more than I know, but I can't ask you to fight this battle on our behalf.)"
Ridwan: "*I* care because I am here to destroy these spirits entirely, source and all. Given how powerful they already are I shudder to think what they'd be capable of in their true form. None of you would have any hope in hell of controlling it."
Rivers, at this point, grits his teeth. "But I asked, because- because I believe!"
Ridwan finishes his magic circle, stands up and dusts his hands off, then pulls out a vial and spreads the contents of it around the markings. He then claps his hands thrice, nods his head, then stows the vial away.
Ridwan, as you hop down, the very microscopic bits between the chalk you laid down- because what can draw a 100% covered surface- slighly glow purple. Something is happening against your ward, but it is keeping it off, for now.
"What's to understand, 'annoyed one,'" mocks the tiger-Hundred, crossing his arms.
Ridwan cranes his head, looking around the area. "Zephyr, Alida, do you sense anything off?"
Alida: !Sugar 2d6; Insight
Alida rolled 2d6 and got 1, 5 ( Total: 6 ) for Insight
Issa smiles, brightly, edged, like a blade. "History teaches us that victory is insufficient. Victory at what cost? To what purpose? Even great empires become addicted to victory-the conquest, the rush, the feeling of validity."
Zephyr shakes his head. "This one senses nothing in the immediate sense."
Issa: "They send their shining armies out, their waves of men, they gather glory and they reap the bloody harvest. And…"
The smile grows brighter still, brittler, sharper. "And it drags them all to ruin. One by one. As the men who plow the fields are siphoned away to die on distant fields. As the moneys for building and feeding go to armor and swords."
Issa: "They die of it. All of them."
Ridwan: "There's something putting up resistance already but I don't see anymore spirits. Be on guard."
Issa: "Brilliant and glorious and shining corpses."
Issa: "So by all means, friend, take your plowshare, turn it into swords, reap the red harvest. Pray it won't be you coming back home on your shield. I've read the books, the histories, the truths. I'm not a /fool/."
And with that they smile a brilliant flash, spit on the ground, and turn their back.
Alida crosses her arms in response to Ridwan. "I get the sense that nothing we say here is gonna amount to anything. He's already made up his mind. Or at least convinced enough people he doesn't want to lose face in front of his buddies."
Issa glances over at Alida, shrugs. "I tried. Nobody ever likes my lectures. Been fired from four universities."
The tiger-Hundred… says nothing, slitted eyes darting amongst the party. Alida speaks, and there's a twitch- but not from the tiger, but from a few behind him.
Ridwan pauses, glances over at Issa with a bit more of a proding look than he's given the librarian before.
Zephyr nods to Ridwan and starts to survey the perimeter. He had nothing to add to the argument.
Claret smiles a small smile at Alida, to Issa. There's an imperceptible nod, behind his glasses, towards the chalk line. "I liked it. Got the ward done."
Alida nudges Issa with a wink. "Nah, I think he likes you. I'd say lecture more the way you have been."
It's when the locked knees and steady biceps relax, and find themselves unsure, unsteady.
Issa: "Really?" There's a bright blush, and a brilliant, true grin. "Nobody's ever asked for MORE lecture!"
Eyes that were trained on those within the protective circle search around, lost in the dark, looking toward others.
Alida: "Not to rain on your parade, my nameless stripe friend, but I'd say listening to the experts will keep less of your people from joining the ranks of the spookies you say you want to chase out."
Eidolon listens, raptly, to Issa- and then snorts at that last comment. Amused, and other things. "Ask yourself- all of you, ask yourselves what you really want. Certainty? A purpose? The certainty of death and the purpose of a grave…"
Issa blinks, eyes shift around, sidles closer to Eidolon. Whispers, barely audible over the crackle of dying fires: "Uh. Did something happen? While I was lecturing?"
Claret purses his lip, watching the shift. "Ridwan. Something big?"
Big, wide eyes. "Oooh, that's a good one…I need to write that down…" They start fumbling in their robes for something.
Eidolon side-glances to Issa, and much more quietly: "(I think Ridwan's engaging in shenaniganry. Of some sort.)"
Ridwan: "No, it's subtle."
Mumbling across the Deserter back line. "(-worked a long time for this-)" "(-mm yeah but-)" "(-could end it now-)" "(-how-)" "(-think we could-)" "(-uh maybe not now-)" "(-my leg hurts-)"
Ridwan: "It's knocking against the barrier -" He points to one spot in particular that's glowing a little brighter, "- but not enough to activate the pain that should come from it."
"What other certainty is there, amongst all this," the tiger-Hundred asks, arms wide, gesturing against the smoke, haze, the destruction, the blood.
But his voice is much… quieter.
Eidolon: "The certainty of life. Of light. Of something you'd lay down your life to protect." He's staring, intently, full-body, at the barrier.
Issa glances at Eidolon and Alida, then looks back towards the Deserters. "You had a gift here, you know. The envy of empires. Peace. Farms and fields. People think that empires were most prosperous when they were expanding, but they were wrong." They shake their head.
Ridwan: "Which is a little strange, all things considered."
Issa: "This?" The smile turns cruel, and edged again. "This is what you will BRING, friends. This is combat, war. This is what you will bring to cities and villages, when you go out to fight for lords and kings and masters."
Issa: "These are the places that die when war comes. The first heralds of the empire's blight."
Issa: "Strength is good. Defending what is yours is good. The blight doesn't come when peace is fought for." That smile glitters, red hair flying in smoky breeze. "But when peace is not enough, oh, when it's /boring/, inglorious…" They laugh, a chiming bell.
The wind stops.
Issa: "This is what you will bring. Because you were /bored/. Bored of fields and farms and wives and peace."
Issa: "Such /glory/, don't you think?"
Issa: "Look at those glorious wounds!" They gesture to the burned and wounded. "Listen to those glorious fires!" They gesture to the smoke and char. "What a gift! Go on."
Issa: "Go on, and drag this with you."
Issa: "Won't that be /fun/?"
"Just hearin' all that…" the tiger-Hundred begins.
"…it's like every muscle in me just aged a decade."
Their smile is the line of a blade in candlelight. "/Good./ Imagine long marches, and years away from home, and dead friends, and a thousand battlefields like this one. Congratulations, that's your glory."
Claret sheathes, slowly, his sword.
Issa: "Go /home/. Rebuild your houses, plow your fields, love your wives and have a dozen children. You'll reap a much better harvest than this /fucking/ mess."
Issa: "And if you want to /fight/ something, fight the fucking things that made your home this way! Or does that seem too dull?"
Alida leans over to Claret
Claret listens to a whisper from Alida. He keeps his hand on the hilt after, at least.
"…it's so…" the tiger whispers, and sinks to his knees- "tiring,"
Issa hesitates-then: "Ridwan?"
Ridwan: "Yes?"
Issa: "Should they be falling over?"
Eidolon: "Such is war. …such can be survival, as well, but- there's a true and profound strength in peace, too easily forgotten."
Ridwan: "Not from anything *I* did, I would assume not from anything *you* did if you're asking…"
Ridwan cocks his shotgun and steps outside of the ring experimentally.
There's no spark left in him. Sitting on his ankles, knees bent, hunched slightly. Silent-but-there tears mat his fur.
Quietly, nervously. "I've had people /fall asleep/ before…"
Ridwan: "(Just between us, *are* you a spirit though?)"
Issa: "(Who, me?)"
Claret strolls out of the ward. "Right words at the right time, Issa." (He doesn't overhear Ridwan and Issa's murmurings.)
Ridwan: "(Yes, you.)"
There's the sound of rifles shuffling, but they're being unshouldered, pointed down- the Deserters have disassemebled their minds, and you can see the questioning glimmers of people wanting to listen.
"Uh, so-" a lemur-Hundred from the back of the Deserters calls out, "-um, whaddya we, uh… do? Then?"
A brilliant, brief smile. "(That would be telling.)" Issa then steps forwards, quietly, hands clearly visible, slowly, to kneel in front of the tiger-Hundred-though they speak past them, to the crowd. "We're here to help stop the spirits and the monsters. You could help /us/. Help your home."
Eidolon looks around for Manfred. This is -his- circus. "I'd start with putting out the remaining fires and tending to the injured, myself."
Issa: "This /is/ your home, correct?"
Manfred, for his sake, stares in open-mouthed and watery-eyed awe. He hasn't remembered to take a breath in a bit, but it catches up to him now.
Alida: "Also! Follow what this guy says" She points to the masked Alloci. "He's the expert on ghost stories."
Zephyr, Alida, Claret: you hear a slight rythmic tapping- morse code… Casey's asking if she takes the shot or not.
Ridwan: "Well yes hence the asking…" Ridwan mumbles, though nods to Eidolon's suggestion.
Issa: "But, first and foremost…" They lean in, to look the tiger-Hundred in the eyes, or try to. "Be /better/ than the emperors and kings. Learn the lesson they did not. Peace is what you fight for, not glory."
Ridwan: "Right, we're going for the source, but there's still a lot of people here that could use help and protecting until we're done."
Claret signals a very clear "No." with a wave of his hand. Which, hey, isn't on his sword anymore.
Alida gives a stand-down gesture as subtly and non-directional as she can.
Murmuring begins, which rises to ripples of assent, which leads into some cheering.
Directly to the tiger-Hundred. "You want to lead? Lead them. In defense of their home, in rebuilding their home. Fighting…hells, I can do it. Be /better/."
Issa: "Better…than this hell." They gesture to the rubble, the burning.
Alida breathes a sigh of relief at the deescalation- she's a bit low on most resources
The tiger-Hundred inhales deeply, filling their lungs, their chest expanding, and in a movement, slinks upwards from their double-kneeled, stance, shooting up past Issa, standing nearly a foot taller, and he looks down.
"How do we get across the chalk without disturbin' it, then? Can't help much on this side."
Issa smiles, standing, dusting off their robes. "That's a question for the man in the mask there. Ridwan?"
Ridwan: "Wide steps."
Ridwan: "Nothing more complicated than that, as long as you're not a spirit."
He nods, turns his head and talks out of the side of his mouth. "Watch your steps, everyone! Paint's still wet and if any's on your shoes or tails you'll be pavin' roads from coast to coast!"
"There's burns, cuts, lacerations, probably smoke inhalation!" As he's talking, some are already moving to unload the trucks- seems they have some first aid and trauma kits on hand.
Issa grins, leads the way carefully back across the ward-and pauses beside Eidolon, speaking softly. "Hey, shiny. Is there a place you can see where I can duck in and not be seen for, like, five minutes?"
The Deserters are yours to command, if you wish to make a scene of your knowledge, of how you would guide these lost souls in this moment.
Eidolon turns around, very slowly, and deliberately- and, of course there's a place, and he points towards it, without asking any questions.
Alida heads to the Tiger. "Hey my friend, glad we could come to an ammenable way of things. If you're still looking for work after though, I may know a guy back in town… How're you called?"
Issa smiles brightly-and is subtly and quietly just…not there for about the next three minutes or so.
[OOC] Issa: I figure if anyone is LOOKING for Issa they can be fairly easily found, it's just a character moment.
Claret does, you know, your standard heavy lifting and directing a few folk to keep the immediate disaster under control. No real detail focus here, but he gets to work in some direct way.
With the Deserters taking careful steps, they cross chalk lines and assist the already-in-place medics (which in this case is shorthand for 'anyone who can wield a bandage').
Triage keeps the worst of them from bleeding out, but the burned ones will need immediate attention in a proper hospital- some already being loaded onto stretchers and into the back of the semis.
Ridwan is mostly just preparing some vials they'll need shortly until the others are ready to move out.
Issa reappears just as suddenly as they didn't, and steps up next to Ridwan. "I…think we did good work? How's the spooky stuff?"
Claret: Actually, yeah - Claret's absolutely on first aid.
Ridwan: "I reckon we can offically declare 'not having to fight half the town in order to deal with some angry ghosts' as a pretty solid win and some good work, yeah."
Zephyr seems to be watching the perimeter still. It is not that he does not trust the barrier per se, just that there could easily be things on the exterior.
Ridwan: "As for the actual question…"
Ridwan: "Some kind of presense is trying to exerct greater control over the townfolk, as you noticed earlier and in addition to the more mindlessly combat ready spirit… but the ward should hold up long enough for us to do our job."
Ridwan: "We'll want to go retrieve that plow as soon as possible, it'll be useful in getting into the manor without our faces melting off."
Eidolon: "And what -is- our job- ahh."
Issa: "Mm. Think the tiger will be useful for information? I wouldn't know what to ask."
Manfred is on a light oxygen feed, and as Ridwan talks, he bats it away and hops over to join the discussion, clearly not at 100%
Ridwan: "He did point out the location of the plow, which was useful."
Issa: "True. But background context…every story has its setting, and we know so little about this tale, I think."
"Oh, yeah, that's always been in city hall," nods Manfred. "It's part of what I was looking for, but there were some others trapped inside, and, well…"
"Most of the building's concrete, the screaming head thing made it burn quite unlike a real fire was the problem."
Ridwan: "Hahah. Well, personally, I think I know enough to go on between Manfred's explaination and then the little, uh, discussion between yourself and our tiger friend. But stories are admittedly not my strong suit."
Ridwan: "Though we might want to know the location of the other two relics…" Ridwan glances over to Manfred.
Ridwan: "Screaming head thing?"
Issa smiles a little. "Stories are my stock in trade. But if you've got the spooky stuff handled, I think I will wait happily for your elucidation."
"You know, the ones that shrieked and spat sparks and lobbed fireballs and such," Manfred explains, including hand gestures
Zephyr: "So when city hall is doused we go in, yes?"
Ridwan: "I think I missed that on the way in."
Issa: "I saw the one, we fought the…two." A chagrined look. "One apologizes for only scouting the one."
Eidolon: "Didn't we murder that on the way in?"
"Yeah, some of the firefighters are already on it… we should get this done sooner, rather than later," he mumbles near the end.
Ridwan: "Oh right, those things that kept trying to make friends with Alida. Right, right."
Zephyr nods back. "Threat dealt with. Waiting for flames to douse before this one moves."
Alida nods to Zephyr, a good plan.
Alida: "I'd like not to try to make friends again, if it's all the same." Alida grimaces
Issa: "You have a fascinating definition of friendship." Blinks. "Oh, I was going to write that one thing Eidolon said down…" They scuffle around in their robes until they come up with a small, battered, leatherbound book with a pencil tied to it.
Ridwan: "Haha. Well, you were the one that wanted an exciting ghost story…"
Zephyr makes his way over towards city hall to check on the progress.
Distractedly: "Ghost stories are turning out to be much more entertaining when one isn't IN them." Flipping around hurriedly towards the middle of the book, revealing page after page packed with dense scrawl.
Hoses are fed inward into city hall, and a few Hundred tend to the lines connected outside, pumping as the pressure lowers. About twenty minutes after one of the semis has left in the direction of a hospital, the firefighters emerge with an object wrapped in a purple and gold-laced cloth.
Eidolon grins at Issa. "One can learn so much about a story by living it, though, you must admit."
Issa glances up, grins. "One wishes to live through to writing it. Now…what DID you say again? It was profound, I have to preserve it."
Ridwan: "No doubt."
Ridwan: "That's our plow then, Manfred?"
Unwrapped, it is in fact a plowshare- a pristine, shimmering steel, with a few nicks and imperfections, but otherwise marvelous metal.
"That's the one," Manfred nods. "Not sure if I should be surprised or not that it doesn't even smell of smoke."
Alida: "Looks like no need to fight flames, Zephyr. It's been brought to us instead."
Eidolon: "'The certainty of death, and the purpose of a grave'?"
Issa: "Hmm. Such a simple thing, for so much trouble. The reality is smaller than its legend."
Ridwan nods.
Issa beams at Eidolon. "That's it! Thank you." Scribbles frantically, then reties the book shut and disappears it inside their robes.
Eidolon might blush, if Maxwellians could.
Ridwan reaches out and takes the plowshare.
Zephyr nods before slowly clapping. He glances to the NPC's making a comment. "You be telling these smoothskins where other two relics are now, yes?"
"Well, one's the gates to the manor itself. The other's… a portrait," Manfred explains, though his brow wrinkles his brown fur, his tail uneasily wavering about.
Eidolon: "A portrait of…?"
"Sabre Three."
Eidolon: "Ahhh."
Ridwan: "Ah. That's likely the epicenter of this little incident, then."
Alida: "If that's the epicenter… How do we move the gates?"
Ridwan spins the plowshare around. "With this."
Claret: "That can throw wide the gates?"
"It… wasn't ever quite a weapon? The gates were made of repurposed and reforged spears. The Portrait- just something of really important historic value that was made with care and infused with magic for vibrancy… or so the story goes." Manfred flinches a little at Ridwan's spin, but he bobs his head from side to side in assent.
Ridwan: "It'll get us past, yeah."
"Like cancelling like, or… something like that?" Manfred asks, half-certain half-faking-it-until-you-making-it.
Ridwan: "Something like that."
Manfred nods. Rivers wanders up with a handful of supplies.
"There's some leftover aid from the trauma kits. Best to get prepared while we can," the badger-Hundred says, while laying them out.
Ridwan: "Right."
There are four temporary items which must be used now: [Restores 10 HP] [Restores 10 HP] [Restores 8 MP] [Restores 8 MP]
These are single-use single-target.
Claret crushes some pills to powder and takes them with a swig of his canteen. [+8 MP]
Also [Potion] x1, [Medicine] x1
[OOC] Claret: I mean… +10 HP…
Alida: "Hmm, I'm feeling healthy enough, though maybe a little low on energy. Unless our magic users need more." ((I'll take an MP restore if no one else wants one, but I am not totally necessary.))
[OOC] Issa: I'm down to a little over 50%, I'm gonna pop a potion, probably, but I could use a pick-me up…not if there are people who need it more, though
[OOC] Claret: let's make this problem a little simpler:
Claret draws a pattern in the air, leaving a trail of blue light. There's a vague ring flickering around each of his fellows, before it fades to imperceptibility, but the protection is there. [Field: Solace] to everyone, [+18 HP to all.]
[OOC] Claret: …and I take one of the +8 MPs and not the +10 HP, yes.
[OOC] Issa: Who's taking the +10 HPs?
[OOC] Zephyr: I'm at 78/80 and 40/50 so I think I'm good.
[OOC] Issa: I wouldn't mind topping up to 88/110. I don't need mana.
Alida rubs the back of her neck "Uh yeah, I have… something… of my own. I don't need these. Thank you very much Claret."
[OOC] Issa: Heck it, I'm taking a +10 HP.
[OOC] Ridwan: yeah that's fair
Anyway, shoot me some [x] marks when you're ready to proceed.
Alida: "Ah ok, I'll take it if it's good for the party." [+8 MP]
[OOC] Alida: x
[OOC] Ridwan: Hp to claret/issa, mp to claret/alida! then clarat heals everyone but ridwan/sephyr for 18. DONE
Ridwan [x]
[OOC] Issa: X
[OOC] Zephyr: X
[OOC] Claret: X]!
The area has more or less been secured. The greviously wounded have been taken to the hospital first, a second semi has left with everyone else needing monitored care, and then, there's y'all.
Issa stretches, touching toes then reaching to the sky. "So, oh masked man, where's our next target?"
The route back to the manor is easily retraced- it's slower going once you've left the city limits, as the lights were already bending to the persistance haze, but then the canopy covers you once more, and the road cracks and breaks…
Ridwan: "Back to the gates, now that the town is under control and plowshare's in hand."
Ridwan says as they amble over.
All of you feel it on your approach, before the gates come into view. A pressure, fighting against your heartbeat, tingling the tips of your nerves.
Ridwan tightens his grip on the plowshare as he closes in on them.
Alida squeezes Claret's shoulder and asks softly, "Can't say our last job together was so intense. You ready for another fight?"
Casey clicks her tongue, wanting to have her rifle at the ready but knowing better to not muzzle-sweep everyone. Rivers steadies Manfred as he suppresses a cough. The tiger-Hundred… turns out his name is Haystacks Thirty, and he watches the flanks.
Issa saunters along, finding themselves walking beside Eidolon, at a companionable distance.
Eidolon glances over to Issa. "Ready for the next chapter?"
Issa grins a little. "Oh, I suppose. Needs editing, but it's only a first draft…"
A purple tendril retreats from the cracked pavement upon your turn around a forested bend. The darksteel fence, pointy and shredded, stretch to guard a deeper fortress, meeting in the center of a wrought-iron gate.
Claret fixes his glasses. "…I remember it being pretty intense."
Ridwan lifts the plowshare high above his head, holds it there for a moment solemnly.
Then, in the most deadpan voice he can muster: "Open says me."
Ridwan swiftly brings the plowshare down upon the gates.
Like a muscle flexing within the front of your skull, a pulse of the gate- invisible but very tangible, demands of you the feeling of 'vengeance.'
Ridwan: "Oh don't worry, you'll get your due."
There's a loud *CLLANGGGGGGGGGGGGGG* as the plowshare is brought upon the gate, and a brilliant shine erupts from the sparks
Issa grits their teeth against the feeling. "Oh fuck /off/, I don't do vengeance. Even for overdue fees!"
The metal-upon-metal clash echoes- repeats, across each bar of the fence, sparking from an unseen blow.
The battle of weapon upon weapon continues for but a few seconds after the initial strike, but the sound is of two armies deep within a fighting melee.
The ground churns and splits before you, bending the bars and hewing the metals from in its path, making long inroads into the ground.
The fence and gate folds down in a wavy pattern, each about eight inches deep… right about optimal planting depth.
The rancor from the gates has faded, and the unkempt fields behind are in full view.
Zephyr: "Lives up to the name, this one thinks."
Alida: "You might need a new fence Manfred…"
Issa has ducked behind Eidolon, and peeks out slowly. "Oh. Well. I'm sorry I insulted its size."
Manfred shakes his head, chuckling lightly. "Stick me in a co-op anyday over coming back to this."
Overgrown, mutationally wrought topiaries are spotted- or maybe it's just a trick of the haze that has them seeming like giant, green, fuzzy beasts.
Ridwan hands the plowshare back to Manfred. "Alrighty."
Eidolon spins in a circle, taking everything in. Or possibly recording it for later.
Beyond them looms a manor, of a distant age built- of centuries old buttresses propping up colonizer-style walls, with a circular towerlike corner, and then a vaulted door…
…it's honestly a horrific mishmash of once 'fancy' styles.
"Architects, they weren't,
"Architects, they weren't," muses Rivers.
Issa takes it in with an increasingly incredulous look.
Issa: "I could write this down but /no one will believe it./"
"…now that you mention it, I guess it is sort of… overdone?" warbles Manfred.
Issa makes an over-the-top double-take towards Manfred. "It was like this BEFORE it was haunted?"
"It… looked better in the light?" he weakly offers.
Ridwan: "Hahaha."
"There's a painting of it in one of the other government buildings, but it's a different angle," Haystacks says, scratching at a whisker. "It sort of emphasizes the tower bit."
Issa pauses, then, more hesitantly. "And were the /topiary/ like that before?"
Hurrying on: "I'm not criticizing, mind, there's a certain…modern art sensibility there…"
"Ah, that one's easy," nods Casey.
Issa: "…oh?" In the tone of one who fears the answer to their question.
"Let's say you've got a kid. And you cut the bush in the shape of the kid," she readies.
"And if you never trim it, it grows up, into an adult."
"Same thing."
"It's just a bigger whatever-it-was. Gazelle?"
Eidolon: "I didn't realise that was how topiary worked."
Issa: "Ah. It's just a fully grown…" They pause, clearly trying to find a workaround phrasing before stumbling on. "Bush?"
Ridwan: "At any rate, there's going to be more of those… i wouldn't say low tier spooks because this is all unusually physical and quite powerful, but there's bound to be more things in need of a vicious beating along our path, and probably something even more powerful still at our destination. So eyes and other sense peeled as we head inside."
Eidolon taps his chest with a glassy clink. "Always and ever."
Issa: Under their breath: "And /fashion/ sense in abeyance."
Alida: "Looks a lot less like an herbivore and more predator if you ask me."
Approaching the vaulted door- it's large, easily twice Zephyr's height, it's singluar, and it looks like it hasn't been touched in days.
Inevitably, someone touches it, and there's an appropriately loud c-r-e-aa-a-a-a-a-a-a-k as it opens.
Claret opened it. He strolls on in.
Issa rolls their eyes. "Oh gods, why do these places always have to have a sense of /ambiance/?"
Lantern-style flashlights are lit from behind you- sometimes I worry that I'm not always clear on the tech level, but I assure you, you're not lighting torches.
Ridwan: "I'd be looking to you for the answer to that one, Librian!"
The ground is a cross pattern, of whites and browns and ebony, with mahogany polished walls, doors open at various angles.
But you don't have to get far to find your object of desire-
Issa: "I wish I knew," Issa says, tone very dry. "One of these days I'll go to a tomb or ruin that's, you know…cheery."
Directly across fron the main foyer, a large staircase leading up and to the sides.
Eidolon: "Maybe they thought we'd like this. How would you ever know what future archaeologists and/or grave robbers would consider aesthetically pleasing?" He grins discongruously at Issa.
Issa: "Hmph. They could at least plant flowers or something. In the ruins, anyway." Issa's external monologue drops sotto voce again. "Though in this place they probably wouldn't prune the flowers, either."
And framed center within it- a gigantic portrait of Sabre Three: done with oils on canvas, strikingly vivid even in the wavering lights, an armored stoat-Hundred wielding a sabre upon horseback, across a barren field, thunder striking in the background.
Eidolon: "-ah, there's our man. With his flair for the dramatic."
A mantle lies across their armor, billowing in the wind. The horse reared back, but in control.
Issa goes quiet, craning their head back to take it all in. "I take it back, Eidolon."
Issa: "…I know /exactly/ where the overdeveloped sense of drama comes from now."
A voice cuts through the still air, and everyone knows from where it came.
Ridwan reaches into his satchel for a vial of some colorless… gas? The air smells a bit different after it's opened.
The voice, high and twisted, whips past you, cajoling, testing-
Eidolon: "How long has it -been-."

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