291/A Cloud Over Fovoham

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A Cloud Over Fovoham
Date of Scene: 26 July 2014
Location: Ivalice
Synopsis: The roadways between Gallione and Fovoham were cleared of the accursed undead, and much aid was to come to Fovoham under the canopy of the Yuguewood. ... But the aid never arrived. The Order of the Southern Sky has written it off as Archadian interference, but a soldier claiming to have survived the attack claims fiends the likes of which no man has ever seen descended upon the caravans. Many were killed, some were taken away into the forest - but none of the goods were taken at all.

The Soldier has posted three month's pay, requesting that captives be recovered if possible and their belongings recovered for memorial services. You have been provided a map, and a warning: be wary of the ominous-looking mausoleum.

Cast of Characters: Maya, Toph Beifong, 129, Faruja, Goffard Gaffgarion (Dropped), 513
Tinyplot: Of Stones and Sins


Ultima (129) has posed:
Fovoham, Yuguewood Trail -

It's mid-day and the sky's coloration is a dull gray from cloud cover, clouds dropping rain upon the wooded area all around though it be naught more than a light sprinkle. The pitter patter of rain against the canopy, and the pervasive sound of rain drops striking the soaked ground, dominates the ambience this afternoon. Here, the great mass of the Yugue trees is crowded together such that the bases of the trees can very nearly be touched on every side of one's person. Countless leaves cover the earth like a densely woven organic blanket, every step potentially a noisy one.

An uncovered wagon sits here, in the collective shadows of several Yugue trees. It appears half-full of barrels, boxes, and bags... all soaked and completely abandoned. One of the wheels was apparently torn off, at some point, by something... causing the wagon to pitch slightly and toss some of its contents over the right side.

There, leading away from the wagon is a dirt road.... in the middle of which lies a tattered coat covered by leaves... abandoned by someone possibly. Closer inspection of the thing would show that it has been shredded along the left side, possibly by wild animals...

Faruja has posed:
Dull, gray, dripping rain. It's miserable weather to a vast majority of Ivalice, but any Burmecian worth his salt loves it. Despite the reason for their coming here, Faruja Senra has been sporting a spring in his limp-step. The strange circumstances certainly has the rat on edge as well; a strange combination of restrained enthusiasm and the ever-present paranoia of a good Inquisitor. Faruja stops as they arrive upon the wagon itself. Frown. He kneels, inspecting. Unlike some of the party he's not here for coin. No, he's here for his Office. Something about the report makes him uneasy.

"...Well, the good soldier was right about this much. 'Tis nay bandit that hath done this, nor Archadian Soldier. Or at least I pray not." Shudder. If it /was/ Archadians, then they're true monsters. Faruja'd bet upon far darker forces. But perhaps he's seen a little too much recently.

A thought strikes him, and he turns back, the Burmecian tilting his head. "Holding up, Toph?" He calls to his Earthbender accomplice. He knows well her dislike for rain, so much as it's the call of home for him.

Finna (513) has posed:
    The leaves rustle, and a few moments later, out pops a lean and sleek young lady with dark bluish-black hair. Her skin is on the tanned side, one cheek shows a yellow star mark - either a tattoo or face paint, it's hard to say - her hair's short in front but a litle's been allowed to dangle past her shoulders down her back. She's dressed in a dark blue leotard-esque outfit - with several accessories over it, including a belt with plenty of pouches for tools, and a quiver slung over her back to match the short bow in her hand.

    And she enters by swinging from a low-hanging branch, soaring over Faruja's head, and landing near the abandoned wagon. "You beat me by ten seconds, but don't think I'm letting you take ALL the reward for this one, whoever you two are!" The girl crows, all the while grinning enthusiastically and good-naturedly at Faruja and his company.

    But only when that's settled does she sling the bow around her body, and take a peer about. She spots some of the signs of the struggle, and comes across the coat... and after spotting the shredded tatters, gives it a sniff. If it hasn't rained recently...

Goffard Gaffgarion (Dropped) has posed:
Now see... that's not right. Gaffgarion spent a good bit of time hanging out with stinky undead that were resistant to all his normal methods of attack, to assure that aid reached Fovoham. Sure, he'd gotten paid... but part of his job was to see that the aid reached Fovoham. And it didn't, for some reason.

His squire, Ladd, had done some more digging, and had found out two things. One, that the aid hadn't reached Fovoham because it had been attacked by... something. And two, that MORE money was being offered to deal with it. So of /course/ Gaffgarion's going to take the job! Not only for the money, though. Mind you that is a HUGE motivating factor, and about 99% of the reason he took the job. But it was the /principle/ of the thing!

Currently he's mounted upon a large black chocobo who seems to be minding the rain not one whit. On the other hand, his rider minds the rain a bit more. Rain and plate mail are /never/ a good mix. The rain is leaking down the back of his breastplate and generally making a mess of his padding. As such, he is thinking very rude, horrible things about the rain. And may possibly be grumbling some of them under his breath.

Grumblegrumbleblastedrainmumblegrumble.

On the bright side there are other people here. "Hail!" he calls out when he's close enough. This is partly to find out who they are, and partly so they don't attack him when he gets close. "Are ye fine lot here to look into this Fovoham business as well?" As he speaks, he draws closer on the chocobo. It's a well-taken care of beast, that much is certain.

Toph Beifong has posed:
    Her feet are /cold/.

    There's cold /mud/.

    So pardon Toph for not being too happy right now. But hey, it could be worse! At least it's not lava like there was yesterday. So she won't complain loudly at least, though she does frown a bit. And she remains standing upright when Faruja inspects the wagon. Really, she can't help but feel inclined to help Faruja with the mess in this world. Even if he's a bit stiff at times. "Eh, I'll survive. I can't believe I want a warm shower though," she mutters, crossing her arms under her rain coat and shifting her feet even as she feels the mud slip between her toes.

    "So... anything we're looking for here? You think the caravan workers have gone far? I can't really 'see' anything in the closest area. The rain makes it a little harder than normal though." Somehow it's not fun to admit it, but the rain does make it tougher to notice everything. It's almost like trying to listen to a specific sound among noise most of the time!

    Though she does focus... is there anything to notice in the rain?

    That's when Finna arrives though and slams into the ground, and Toph turns her head a bit. And there comes somebody on a chocobo? Arching an eyebrow underneath the hood of her cloak, the blind girl lets out a slight snort. "We're sure as hell not here on a picnic."

Ultima (129) has posed:
'Nay bandit that hath done this...' is quite correct, as one could readily see upon inspection of the pitched wagon. As one draws closer to it, several things becomes readily apparent: 1) the contents of the barrels and bags is likely food, as one torn bag in the wagon's back end appears to have lost much of its contents... beans, 2) within and about the wagon itself lie other abandoned possessions... mostly discarded weapons and trinkets, 3) the leather reigns of the wagon's Chocobos, now lying in a puddle caked with mud, were apparently severed. Chocobo tracks lead away from the wagon, apparently fleeing in the opposite direction of the chaos.

Upon sniffing that coat, a cocktail of smells would probably hit Finna at once... if her senses were sharp enough. The most recent is definitely the smell of the clay-rich earth mixed with the scent of some manner of wild animal. There's smell of iron there, but it's faint... and smell of human body odor that is almost gone. Then there's the smell of something potentially disgusting and not quite -right-! Though that may well be the smell of traces of Mosfungus...

For Toph's part, she may well sense that much of the life that would normally be teeming in this area have moved away... there is silence where there might ordinarily be footfalls. All except... a pair of very fleet feet, bearing a very light load, heading directly toward them at all speed...

"-Wark!-"

There comes a call in the distance, but it is faint. Then it comes again after a few moments, and finally....

Underbrush rustles several feet from the Wagon... and a large bird of golden plumage runs right in, wearing silver barding.

It stops running, suddenly, stopping to scratch at the ground and poke at the earth with its beak...

Faruja has posed:
Faruja's /definitely/ getting paranoid, as he bolts up and has his Blaze Gun half drawn by the time Finna lands. He squints in the dark, not quite leveling the weapon, but the rodent hasn't perfectly ruled out bandits /just/ yet. Particularly ones who might quarrel over scraps. But then she speaks, and he relaxes just slightly. A gaze into the dark. He can't see any accomplices.

And the hailing voice is /far/ too calm and without threat to be such. He takes stock of the situation, and decides to take a small risk. Making sure his Ajoran cross is plainly visible, he turns to Finna. Something about her is familiar, though he can't quite place it.

"Hail M'Lady! If ye art worried of coin, than hath ye nay fear. While I shan't think to speak for mine companion, I am here to solve this mystery."

A glance to Toph, and he'll let her speak up when it comes to money.

Then, he's sure to be loud enough that Gaffgarion hears. "Lord's blessings upon thee, Ser, Dame. Allow me to speak plain. I am Inquisitor Faruja Senra, and this is mine associate, Junior Acolyte Toph Beifong. As the good Lady says most...bluntly, we art all here likely upon the same reason. Investigating what hath befallen these supplies, and the soldiers whom guarded them. Methinks we aught draw upon common purpose. As for pay, split it as ye like, I claim only mine duties and oaths upon Faram and Church, and to those whom hath perished in pursecuting this most holy defense of our country." Ever one for speeches, this rat.

A breath. "Might I know thine names, good Ser, Lady?"

Even as he speaks, he's concentrating. To Toph, he nods.

"Anything unusual. Tracks. Unusual residual scents. And...anything thine own skills may sense." The rat doesn't outright call Toph's powers, just in case this is a trap.

Faruja draws upon his magic. He whispers, quietly, to Toph. "...Watch me, Toph." Powerful magic flows around the rat, blocking out the sensation even of running chocobos, as he attemps to peer into the past for some inkling of what happened. The Burmecian trusts the young Earthbender with his life, and so he puts it in her hands while his senses fade from the world and the area around him glows blue.

Faruja has posed:
Faruja also might be stifling a smile, and muttering about plenty of hot baths in Mullonde.

Finna (513) has posed:
    "That's the mission. Find the fallen - hopefully alive - and the works. The name's Clara... and THIS..." She hoists the tattered coat even as Gafgarion's arriving, a finger pointed at the damage, "was not done by a blade or arrow. Something nasty. But most woodland beasts wouldn't come near even a half-guarded caravan, would they?"

    As a master of beast behavior in her own way, that's something she can say with confidence. "What else prowls these woods?"

Goffard Gaffgarion (Dropped) has posed:
Gaffgarion takes a moment to note the assembled crowd. Sharing reward money is something he's learned to do. He's not bloodythirsty--or stupid!--enough to try to eliminate people that would be working with him. It's less work for him to have to do for them to accompany him. And if he gets less of the reward? Well, he's still alive to take another job and make up the difference.

Surprisingly Toph's rudeness gets a laugh from Gaffgarion. "Quite right. I would think you daft if you had," he returns, dismounting from the bird and approaching the group proper. Toph's 'eyes'--that is, her feet--would tell her that he's a pretty large fellow, and completely armored on plate mail. He's also been wearing it long enough that its weight doesn't encumber him too terribly much.

Faruja's words get a nod from Gaffgarion. Though he waits until after the Burmecian comes out of his light-induced trance before he offers, "Well spoke, Ser Senra. Goffard Gaffgarion." He watches Finna sniff the garment, with a raised eyebrow, but doesn't say anytihng about it. Because he's heard about this 'Multiverse' business, that there are powers out there that he probably wouldn't understand if he tried. He doesn't think about it too hard.

The 'wark!' has the black chocobo fluffing feathers, and Gaffgarion looks in that direction. "What in...?" He steps forward as the chocobo bursts in, and stops. He pauses, but when he notices the barding, approaches it. With a GYSAHL GREEN! "...A chocobo?"

Toph Beifong has posed:
    Coin? Toph shrugs. "I'm not too greedy. I'm mostly here to help him," she states and gestures to Faruja. She's got enough money, and besides... her supervising officer is filthy stinking rich.

    There we go, formal introductions... blergh. Though when Faruja refers to her as a junior acolyte, the earthbending master gets a deadpan look on her face. Really? Slowly she lets out a sigh, a bit annoyed. She's no junior acolyte! Heck, the church stuff doesn't sit well with her either, all that fuddy duddy business and rules. But yeah, the rat is right. She nods and focuses her feet on the area. "I can't smell anything, but I see something." See? Her eyes aren't focused on any of them, and Finna and Gaffgarion might notice that her eyes are rather pale and milky. As for Gaffgardion's comment, Toph snorts. Still, when he dismounts and walks, she does frown. Better watch it, this guy seems used to wearing armor. And Finna seems agile and quick. But she's confident that she and Faruja can handle themselves if need be.

    Hmmm, it seems like there are foot steps leading off from here. Toph turns her attention slightly off toward the direction they head off in, listening intently. "There aren't even animals in the area," she says, her tone making it clear that she finds this unnerving. What kind of forest is without life? The whisper is heard and Toph responds with a nod, even as she focuses on him, ready to act should danger befall them.

    Then suddenly her eyes go wide. "Somebody is coming!" Toph calls out to the others, even as she assumes a defensive stance in front of Faruja while he's doing... well, whatever he is doing! Whatever it is, it doesn't feel like it's human. No. She knows those creatures well enough, considering she owns one herself. And when the golden chocobo comes running, she blinks and steps forward a bit. Just what is it poking at there? The blind earthbender frowns and takes a few more steps, still ready. "It's not a pig chicken, Goffy," Toph says. "What's it digging for?" Is it something she can sense with her feet, or will it be difficult due to the rain?

Maya has posed:
Maya has just been hanging back the junker is clad in her leather and metal battle gear and has a large rifle over her back. She's been moving with the others and listening as they go.

"Let's keep aler...."

She pauses at the Chocobo's reaction then comes Toph's warning Maya goes slient now and she's reaching for a fate card, why? She's cloaking herself from view with it making ready to to fade into the shadows now but the rain might put a damper on it.

Ultima (129) has posed:
The Chocobo seems particularly interested in -whatever- it is pecking at in the mud. Feathered wings flutter, neck cautiously retracts, and the bird seems to pause as Gaffgarion and Toph encroach upon its territory though. Beady eyes flit from Gaffgarion, to the offering, to Toph in turn... its body weight shifts slowly as it prepares to take a step back...

The moment the greens are within smelling range, however, the bird cautiously treads toward Gaffgarion at a measured pace, neck shifting suddenly to get a better look at his face. This leaves Toph an opening to check the muddy ground where it was pecking. If she does, she'd likely find a very lightweight leather purse.

The bird seems to eventually accept the offering.

As for Faruja's part, well, he may notice that peering into the past here is -not- quite as easy as it might ordinarily be. There is a dense concentration of corrupt spiritual energy here... likely from the fabled movements of the forests undead through the aether. But what he does get, is a brief glimpse of the moments prior to the attack. A fleeting glance of covered wagon passing through, a mighty ROAR like that of a fierce lion echoing through the jungle, and the wagon pulling to a stop as the Chocobos pulling it react -badly-. Chocobos wearing silver barding in fact...

...After, a brief flash of burning wagon cover and dead bodies scattered about the wagon... then it's gone.

Toph Beifong has posed:
    "Nice going, Goffy!" Toph grins when the mercenary manages to divert the chocobo's attention, then she kicks the ground now that the chocobo isn't pecking at the item there, and a small earthen pillar shoots the small item towards Toph's waiting hand. "What do we have here..." Why, the grubby girl doesn't think twice before she opens the pouch and examines it. "Some coins... one of you seeing people mind taking a look at this?" she asks, holding a piece of paper towards Maya.

Faruja has posed:
Faruja ponders a moment. "The occasional undead, more oft than not. A hardy species of wolf...various deer...birds...squirrels...the usual assortment of fauna." Answers the rat from his briefing on the area, distractedly. Seems 'Clara' is now in the party. He'll leave the unspoken question of what's left to others. A nod to Toph. Their lack right now is more than a little unnerving.

The Burmecian suddenly collapses in the middle of his trance. His features are frozen in terror, a hand grasping his cross while the other crosses his chest many, many time. Prayers are all but spat out. He knows that roar.

"...Lord in heaven, guard the souls of the lost, that they know nay pain, nor ravaging as ye take them upon thine arms."

Deep breath. Slowly, he leans on his cane, standing as he tries to bring himself out of it. Slowly, the all-consuming terror fades.

Coming out of the trance, the rat's eye widens a moment. "...Well. Ye art welcome amongst us, then, Ser Gaffgarion. Speak freely as ye desire, and without fear. I care only for results this day." A nod. He knows the man's reputation well. Who doesn't? But he's willing to trust in the man since the coin's likely good. He's hardly rumored after all, to be outright bloodthirsty. Hopefully the rumors are correct!

Faruja makes a mental note to buy Toph ice cream and a day at a local spa. Sorry Toph, it's what you are, at least on paper so his superiors don't complain too much.

And then the Burmecian is standing, and Gaffy is seeing to the chocobo. Ear perking, he lets the man answer as he keeps a sharp eye out for anything /else/.

It's only then that he speaks. "...'Twas nay mortal that hath done this. A great evil hath been wrought here, mine friends, one I tremble to speak of. Guard thine souls well if we find its source. That chocobo is one of those that pulled this very cart. /Something/ frightened away the poor creature before it slaughtered the men. Fire. Faram, hath that /THING/ used them for meat?" Says the rat, still obviously shaken by what he's seen through his magic.

Maya has posed:
Maya seems to have reacted a bit too soon with the cloak, but she does take in what's happened. She watche the wagon for a moment pauses cancels the spell. She looks sheepish as she takes the paper from Toph. She takes it in her hands carefully trying to keep the elements off it as she goes to take a look at it.

"Sometimes the dead are never quiet...even when they wish they could be."

She's just accepted it may be a lot in life to hunt undead for her. For now she reads over the paper!

Finna (513) has posed:
    "A great evil?! .... For someone like you to say it, it must be REALLY bad..." Clara surmises with a shudder, and... edges a little closer to Faruja and Toph. She seems wary of Gafgarion, but curiously eyes his dealings with the Chocobo nonetheless. "... So... they were attacked, but definitely dragged off. Whatever was after them didn't care about the supplies, so it wasn't most bandits... to take the people, but leave the goods? No way. ... But there's no remains here either. ... E-eaten whole?! ... B-better not think about that..."

Goffard Gaffgarion (Dropped) has posed:
'Goffy'?

The nickname prompts him to look at Toph, with a raised eyebrow. Ultimately it doesn't bother him too much. Besides, he's been trying to get Ladd to do pretty much /exactly/ what Toph is doing. "Perhaps not. But a chocobo is not to be taken lightly. 'Tis always better to bring an offering and the chocobo not require it, than for the chocobo to demand one and one not have it." And then suddenly Maya's disappearing! He'll have to keep an eye on her. Figuratively speaking.

When the chocobo takes an interest in the greens, he slowly reaches up to push the visor of his helmet up, so his face can be better seen. Chocobos aren't like horses, after all--horses will want to smell one, but a chocobo is primarily a vision-oriented creature. "There you are, now," Gaffgarion speaks up to the bird, quietly and calmly.

When the newly-arrived bird seems calmer, the black chocobo that Gaffgarion had been riding comes up to the other chocobo, examining it carefully. "Wark?" One can almost hear the upward-lilting tone at the end. It's a question. He's keeping the chocobo busy, so he can't look at the paper Toph is carrying. He also needs to keep an eye on Melody, to make sure the two chocobos aren't going to come to blows!

To Faruja's words, Gaffgarion nods. And then, with a nonchalant tone, he replies, "I had intended to do so anyway, but to know I'll not have to defend myself against one of those meant to work alongside me. Thank ye, Ser. 'Twill decrease the danger of this venture tenfold." Yup. Reputation as /rude ass/ definitely intact.

    "Who knows?" This to Finna. "If some 'great evil' made off with them, they are likely dead by now. If this 'great evil' could not do as it wished with them here, it doubtless did so upon reaching its lair."

Toph Beifong has posed:
    Faruja's collapse does cause Toph alarm, it looks like. The blind girl tenses and turns. "Twitchy?!" she asks, stepping over while she's still holding the pouch and coins. The others might see the terror in his eye, but she hears the way that he's obviously freaked out. The way his heart hammers in his chest, the rapid breathing... something has really spooked him!

    So the rat knows what did this? "Wait, so something killed the people and the chocobos except for Goffy's friend here?" she asks.

    And then 'Goffy' has to comment on chocobos, which makes Toph let out a groan like only a teenager can do. "At least it doesn't want beer..."

    Turning her attention back to Maya she asks, "Does it say anything?"

Ultima (129) has posed:
The Chocobo, still mouthing Greens, cranes itts neck to gaze at the encroaching Black Chocobo. Head cocks, feathers stir, and golden plumage emits a ruffling noise as the thing warily steps back. "-Wark-?" comes a reply, tone falling high to low at the tail end. There seems to be an exchange going on here. The bird draws closer to Maya as a measure of caution.

The ID card, she would find, is smudged with mud and torn... but the first part of a name can be made out, 'Boff-' in addition to text relating him to the Order of the Northern Sky's forces. Not much useful though.

As the bird draws near, it turns... eyeing the girl and the card she carries... lowering its beak to sniff. Seemingly at her...

...Then, in one very fast movement, the bird attempts to snatch the card in question! If it is able to, or even if not, it may attempt to run away again... this time in the direction of that old dirt road. Apparently leaving them all behind once more...

Finna (513) has posed:
    "Thief bird!" 'Clara' declares, amused. And a little frustrated.l That thing's fast. She could PROBABLY catch it, but not without revealing her nature, and that's not something she wants to do.

    "For lack of any other clues, maybe we should follow the leader here?"

Maya has posed:
Maya pauses for a moment as she looks at the Chocobo coming towards her, this does get her notice and she honestly wonders what that bird has seen. Either way she's going over the text and pauses.

"Humm Can't make out the name Boff? However I can confirm this is related to the ORde rof the Northern Sky for what it's worth."

The card is pucked out of Maya's hands, she's not expecting the bird to jack the card. Maya stares for half a second, is it trying to get her to follow? It seems like it.

"... I suggest we follow that bird!"

Which is just what Maya does!

Toph Beifong has posed:
    What? Where is it going? Toph's expression turns determined, and it seems like she has the same idea as the rest of them. "Keep up, dunderheads!" And then she kicks into the ground, yanking Faruja close as she bends herself an earthen plate to stand on for her and Faruja.... and shen she earth surfs off after the fleeing chocobo!

Faruja has posed:
There's a small smile from the rat, brittle and weak towards Toph. The rat may well be trying to reassure her. "I...I shall be fine." Mutters the rat. He stands, and discretely uses the radio.

Faruja's already regretting giving Gaffgarion freedom to speak. At least it saves him investigations into minor Heresy. He has neough paperwork right now.

Another nod to Toph. She hit the nail on the head. To Finna, Faruja nods, wobbling a bit. "Follow the..."

Yoink! toph hauls him to his feet. "Right! Chocobo!" Faruja swiftly casts a haste spell on the party.

Goffard Gaffgarion (Dropped) has posed:
"Shorter answer: I did not wish my face to be its next meal," Gaffgarion replies to Toph's snark, a wry tone to his voice. Patpatpat chocobo! Good widdle murderbird. He also reaches to scritch Melody behind her ears so she doesn't feel left out. Yes, chocobos totally have ears! Meanwhile he pays attention to what's going on with the leather pouch. He looks at the unnamed chocobo strangely as it nears Maya. Notably, he makes a face when 'Order of the Northern Sky' is mentioned...

And then suddenly the bird steals the ID! Gaffgarion growls, and mounts his own chocobo, giving a "Hyah!" and a tap of his heels on the bird's sides to get her moving. He stays on the ground for now, but he's chasing that runaway bird! "Get back here, ye daft bird! Else I fry you in oil when I catch ye!"

Ultima (129) has posed:
The agile bird darts through some underbrush, vanishing momentarily, as it speeds down the muddy pathway as only a Chocobo can! These are, in fact, some of the fastest animals in Ivalice and at no time is that more apparent than now! As it runs, it flaps its stubby wings... almost as if attempting to fly... but never actually leaves the ground. In its wake, it leaves large foot prints to follow through the soggy underbrush... and if one were to look for them, one might find something else: a trail of old blood, wet from the rain, smears the ground and carves its own path through the forest... eventually branching off from the bird in the direction of a clearing. Surrounding the Chocobo foot prints, are massive impression in the soil... as though perhaps a giant waded through...

"WARK!"

One last call is made, with the Chocobo dropping its stolen card finally upon the ground as it speeds off again to... who knows where...

...One could continue chasing it now, or one could check the clearing... from which a minimum of sunlight pours in... it is in that direction which the otherwise massive footprints break off and as the leaves become less sparse it becomes apparent... that they are accompanied by booted feet... walking no less.

Toph Beifong has posed:
    For now it seems like Toph is more intent on chasing the chocobo, as it is going somewhere, unlike the clearing! And while she drives the stone plate on, she keeps a grip on Faruja too to make sure the rat doesn't fall off! "I doubt it will listen to you, Goffy! Maybe it will lead us somewhere interesting!" she yells.

Finna (513) has posed:
    Clara dashes along at tremendous speed, rather like an olympic athlete - seemingly without really trying too much. She breezes along with the group, only just SLIGHTLY ahead... and comes skidding to a halt at the sudden scent of blood. "Hold on a moment, I just saw some blood!"

Goffard Gaffgarion (Dropped) has posed:
Gaffgarion stops too, as he hears Clara call out about the blood. They're looking for bodies, after all--at least, he's pretty sure that's what they're looking for--and blood is directly connected to that. He pulls his chocobo to go to where he heard Clara's voice from, and asks, "Where?" The others can chase the bird for a while.

Maya has posed:
Maya finds out just how agile Chocobos are as she hounds after it, is this what it's like for Runner when he spots a cat? Well with less beam weapons after another thought. She does however spot the trail and move to follow it, she looks at the blood, grimacing as she start to check out the clearing she keep an idea of where the bird went however. She does take a moment to form a sphere of magical energy to light her efforts to search.

Faruja has posed:
Thank Faram for Toph and her earth disc. Faruja hangs on tight, trusting Toph to keep him from losing several layers of fur and flesh. Even the rodent can spy the blood, and so the Burmecian nods as Finna speaks.

"Mayhaps the lost soldiers! The bird is secondary." They now, after all, have a tracker. The rat will only leap off, of course, if Toph stops.

Ultima (129) has posed:
If one followed the bird, they'd likely find that it and the blood trail lead to rughly the same place. But while the blood trail, accompanied by gargantuan imprints, leads out into a grassy plain toward a hill... the Bird itself seems to be tearing across the grassy wilderness aimlessly. Perhaps it REALLY was attempting only to escape from them.

About halfway out into the clearing, something strange happens... those massive imprints give way to another pair of booted feet. Suddenly there appear to have been three persons making for the clearing, and down the long, rolling, green hill which leads to a marshy lowland.

...In the dead center of those lowlands, isolated on an island of earth, stands a dark granite structure... bearing crosses, semblances of angels, ... and a thick iron gate barring its entrance. It has the look of a mausoleum, and behind the iron gate there comes a barely visible light against its inner walls... likely torches.

...To get there, however, one would not only have to cross that swamp but... somehow deal with the wandering monstrosity in its waters: a Black Marlboro. A very large, multi-tentacled, creature with many eyes and a mouth large enough to swallow a man full of razor sharp teeth...

Toph Beifong has posed:
    The blind earthbender has no problems slowing down for Faruja when he tells her to, though she does snort. "I can follow the birt just in case," she says as she lets Faruja off the earthen plate, then she kicks off again and chases after the chocobo. It doesn't hurt to split up, now does it? Even if the bird does annoy her!

    The blind earthbender chases after the chocobo, cussing under her breath as it heads this way and that. Though Toph keeps it up as best as she can, at least until she gets close enough to the lowlands and the marshes, frowning. The water here makes it tough to 'see', so she slows down, letting the earthen plate recede into the ground. And as the others draw near after following the blood trail, Toph heads over towards them. "It's hard to see here... what's going on?" It's not fun to admit that she can't handle this... but then again, if they /are/ chasing a monster and finding a horrific killer beast, then it would be stupid to head straight into this blindly. Literally.

Finna (513) has posed:
    Clara has chosen to follow the blood. Better something proven than a skittish beast with no real sense of direction, right? She proves to be an apt tracker, eyes missing little. Every disturbed plant and misplaced undergrowth... well, it's not hard to follow blood and massive footprints, either.

    But she "... Hooo whoah..." Upon encountering the Mausoleum she eyes anyone who's come this same way too... and notices the Marlboro.

    "... Who wants to bet that's the thing that got 'em? ... No, I don't think so. No claws... now, better question. WHO built something like that out in the middle of NOWHERE? And WHY?" She jabs a thumb at the faraway mausoleum. "... They warned against getting too near it, but looks like we'll have to ignore that warning..."

Faruja has posed:
"...Mayhaps a number of our soldiers lived after all." Footprints. Perhaps some fled? He can't deny them doing so. It's likely the /smart/ option.

A glance to the mausoleum. Faruja turns to his companions. Clara in particular, given she's the tracker. "Shall we? Mayhaps, between us all, we may deal with the...fauna." Faruja squints at the occasional movement off in the distance. A marlboro. Not something he /wants/ to fight, but duty compells him.

But he'll hardly deny Toph. "Swamplands, boot tracks, and yonder mausoleum. Mayhaps the survivors fled there...if the local animals hath not devoured them. The creature within is known as a Marlboro. Beware the creature's breath. 'Tis most toxic! Mayhaps ye can disable the beast, Toph?"

Finna proves herself more than competent.

"Nay doubt to house the dead of some old community long perished." There's a bit of a growl in te rat's words. A place of the dead like this, in theory, is holy.

"I wouldst ready thine bow. Marlboro art quite carnivorous."

Toph Beifong has posed:
    As the rat explains the area ahead of them, Toph frowns and crosses her arms over her chest, her pale unseeing eyes narrowing. "I can get us into the mausoleum easily enough," she says, then sighs. "I have no clue what a marlwhatever is, though. Might be easier to fight it if we can draw it out of the swamplands..." Here she leans closer to murmur next to Faruja and Maya's ears. "All the damn water interferes with my sight..." Not like she would admit that to people she doesn't know, after all! Finna and 'Goffy' might be okay, but she's not going to be stupid enough to trust them off the bat like that!

Goffard Gaffgarion (Dropped) has posed:
The soldier that had put up the pay for this job did say something about a mausoleum, didn't he? However, Gaffgarion pulls his chocobo to a DEAD stop, pardon the pun, when he catches a glimpse of the Malboro. That foul thing is in the way to the mausoleum, too. Blast! Just his luck! "Codso!" Gaffgarion growls, past bared teeth. "Fie and fie again! Filthy, misbegotten beasts! God's teeth, 'twould be my luck to run across a loathsome Malboro here."

...Yeah, that about says how he feels about the situation. To think, with a mouth like that and he travels with a young boy. The things that poor boy must be picking up from Gaffgarion.

Toph's question, and Faruja's answer, gets him to add, reasonably calmly, "Malboros? A plague sore on the arse of the world, the lot of them. They can afflict a man with every sickness known. And very likely several not known. Foul things. I have always avoided them whenever possible. But..." He pauses, to dismount from his chocobo. He's probably going to need her here, and she can't do her thing if he's on her back. "I suppose there is little choice in the matter."

Faruja has posed:
As Gaffgarion curses, Faruja's twitching brow may very well shake the multiverse itself by how /hard/ he twitches. Or merely show how much the man's offended the rodent's fuddy-duddy sensibilities. There's the choking sound from the priestly rat. Why, Faram, why?

Toph Beifong has posed:
    Gaffgarion's exclamation does make Toph arch an eyebrow where she stands. "You kiss your mother with that mouth?" Somehow, she doesn't look too impressed nor shocked by the language. Then again, a girl who spent her time around crude earthbending professional fighters has heard far worse language.

    What's more telling is the fact that the people here seem to dislike the Marlboro, meaning that the creature is serious bad news.

Maya has posed:
Maya pauses at Toph and nods once to her, she ponders bout otherways to deal with it, she has no idea about the sotories and she looks to Goffy for a moment.

"This is likely going to need to end in fire."

Maya keeps her voice low as she reches for her fate cards to get ready.

Ultima (129) has posed:
Marshes indeed. The worst part about Marlboros and marshes though? Despite their apparent great heft, the damnable things can -glide- across water's surface with nary any effort (OOC: Marlboro's in FFT have innate water walking, fun fact.). Thus not only does this marsh fail to slow the damn things down, but they seem to move even more quickly than on land!

This should become readily apparent as the thing, writhing like the eldritch horror it is, slides across the surface of the marsh toward... of all people... Toph Beifong. Apparently, it either heard the Chocobo squawking, her shouting, or it smelled her... regardless, her choice to follow the bird has put her in a rather precarious situation indeed...

...She would get her first LITERAL whiff of why people HATE Marlboro's with a passion once it has gotten within ten feet of her. It's breath reeks like a combination of corpses, sweaty socks, and $#679!! and, as it opens its gaping maw to snarl at her with serrated teeth bared, it just gets more intense. Accompanying that fowl smell comes a series of gut wrenching, wet, sloshing noises as its nasty tentacles flail about at the air... dripping -poison- all the while.

Fortunately, since the Marlboro has acquired a taste for Earthbender, this leaves its backside exposed... should her companions have the wherewithal to take advantage...

Faruja has posed:
No one touches the Greatest Earthbender on Faruja's watch. Not without copious amounts of fire. Noting that some of these heretical knaves can float on water, he raises his Blaze Gun.

Faruja might be a knight, but so far as he's concerned, animals don't deserve chivalry. Aiming for the back, Faruja pulls the trigger, and the smell of incense and holy water mixes with the scent of flame as he simply tries to set the create aflame!

"Touch not the girl! Fie upon ye vile animal! AWAY, MONSTER, AWAY LEST YE BE DEVOURED BY THE LORD'S CLEANSING FLAME!"

Toph Beifong has posed:
    When Toph first joined the Union, she was concerned about fighting flying opponents once she learned that several opponents might be able to catch her by surprise that way.

    Never did she imagine she would encounter a horrible beast that would /glide/ across the water. So she doesn't see the Marlboro coming. But she sure as hell smells it.

    The stench hits her like a ton of bricks, and Toph goes pale, startled looking quite ill. Legs are shaky as she stumbles, grasping a hand at her mouth as she feels like vomiting, weakness overcoming her as she falls to her knees, her arms and legs quivering as she heaves for breath. The world spins, vertigo overtaking her senses.

    Is that Faruja talking? Right now she can't make sense of it.

Goffard Gaffgarion (Dropped) has posed:
Gaffgarion is absolutely not above letting another person in the party take damage for him. Especially a Malboro. ESPECIALLY when this opens it up to an attack from behind. As such he makes absolutely no move to assist Toph. Or even to call out a warning to her. As mentioned, Gaffgarion is kind of an ass. However, even if he doesn't distract it, he takes the opportunity to attack it. For the time being, he is going to remain at distance, though. He's no mage, but they don't like fire, so...

A hand is raised before him, held in a clawed posture. "Out of the ground, raze all greenery with flame!" And then he clenches his hand into a fist, the channeled magic erupting in a fiery whorl around the Malboro. Once this is done, he whistles to Melody, directing the bird near Toph. He may be an ass, after all, but he recognizes that the more people fighting the Malboro, the better. So he's not going to let her get /too/ injured. One Choco Esuna, coming up!

Finna (513) has posed:
    Clara has the desire to take advantage, alright. Once she sees the creature has committed itself towards Toph, she draws her bow and - FWOOOOOSH!

    Well, nobody said you couldn't be a 'quick draw' with a bow, but how do you explain THIS?

    The arrow SKIMS across the swamp water, glances against an outcropping of rock, and angles SLIGHTLY up, aimed INEXORABLY at the Marlboro's... well... what serves for its derriere.

Maya has posed:
Maya sees ahe's got a chance to deal with this thing in fire. She's not going to fool around, her magic keep allies safe after all. That's when the amount of magic Maya has at her call becomes very much more clear to those not aware of it. There's a swell of power as she pulls one card from her dec it bursts into a blue flame and hovers above maya followed by one that does so save it's green flames.

Maya chants something in a lanuag only a few on her world still know and the last part of it ends with what's clearly a name.

"Ouroboros!"

Maya seems to fade away and massive stone pillars seem to rise out of the swamp followed by a massive culdron full of magma, and then something rises up and out of the couldron three almost snake like creature which turn thier attention to the Marlboro and start spraying what seems to be Magma upon it, maya said fire and she seems to have brought it!

Ultima (129) has posed:
A hailstorm of burning and pain is visited upon the Marlboro's flank and, perhaps, just as Toph might have been suffocating under all of that VILE stench... the creature turns away... and emits an otherwordly roar that is somehow both beastial and as wet and nasty-sounding as its every movement! It's a gargling noise that almost sounds like it were choking on its own viscous phlegm, but it doesn't seem to actually be doing so.

The many tentacle'd beast now turns all of its RAGE upon those on the ground nearby... gliding across the water's surface toward the land while -spitting- viscous poisonous globs of goo that smell every bit as nasty as they look!

Whether that actually does anything or not - it quickly zeroes in on the nearest person and begins to flail its long tendrils like whips through the air - attempting to either ensnare or savage Gaffgarion if he isn't fleet enough of foot!

Toph Beifong has posed:
    As the black chocobo makes its way towards her and works its magic, it does seem like the earthbender is confused, but faring better. Perhaps it's the esuna spell, maybe partially thanks to her stubborness, but the blind girl grits her teeth together even as she tries to ignore the horrible stench... which is far easier when it turns around. And while she isn't feeling all that well yet, Toph digs her fingers into the ground.

    All before she slams her fist down, and a series of sharp, thin spikes shoot out at the Marlboro from the side. Just give her a second to get to her feet and unleash some hurt on that beast!

Faruja has posed:
Faruja finds out firsthand how horrid Marlboros can be. Too worried about Toph, he gets hit right in the chest by a poison glob. His armor saves his life, but he's still wretching and looking quite literally green. Heartbeat far too quick, he gazes upon Maya suddenly.

"...Maya? Ye art a Summoner?" is the rat's feverish words, before he nods.

Faruja incants, and joining Maya's fire, is the head of a massive lizard breaking from the earth. Salamander douses the creature in purging fire before swiftly dissappearing. Even an esper doesn't want to smell that thing's breath. Yuck!

Maya has posed:
Maya fades back in as the summon fades back from which it came, it can't stay long without Maya's aid and she knows not to hold them here too long. She pause as the spell ends and she looks to Faruja for a moment.

"Yes."

She does not reply as she's got all sorts of horrible goup coming her way. She drops and rolls trying to keep away from the thing as her previous work is joined by Faruja.

Finna (513) has posed:
    "Whew... it's one big ball of bad EVERYTHING!" Clara declares worriedly, backstepping. That is genuinely NASTY STUFF the Marlboro's whirling out. "Look out, guy!" She calls out Goffard's way, not really knowing Gafgarion's name.

    She'd probably be more worried about Toph if Faruja didn't seem to have that stuff in hand for now.

    But when MAGIC starts flying around, Clara executes a few backflips onto a low-hanging branch and draws another arrow. "Right then! Maybe you should try this instead!" Clara's movements become a blur as she nimbly grabs several arrows and manages to fire them off in quick succession - practically one per second. A total of seven arrows fly at the Marlboro now! But they don't do any fancy tricks...

Goffard Gaffgarion (Dropped) has posed:
Gaffgarion remembers to put the visor of his helm down as 'Clara' calls out, but it doesn't save him from getting TENTACLE WHIPPED! In the face, and in the side. He's not quite fast enough, unfortuantely. The thing's extremely strong, that much is clear enough when it the smack to the face throws him to the opposite side as he's hit. Sploosh. Swampwater is nasty, by the way. Gaffgarion stands sputtering, and in an even /more/ ill humor thanks to the fact that his armor is now full of said swampwater. Ladd is going to have a not-enviable job once all this is over...

Still, with Toph holding it in place and Faruja burning the hell out of it with Salamander, it leaves an open spot for Gaffgarion to attack. He raises his sword to chest level, holding the handle with both hands for a moment, the tip of the blade pointed skyward. A bloody red energy begins to gather around the blade. His eyes seem to take on a similar reddish hue, but that might be just a trick of the light. His voice is a growl as he speaks, "Master of all swords, cut energy!" Then he raises the sword over his head and points it at the Malboro.

The area almost seems to darken, and a bestial, demonic growl sounds up from the earth. A closed eye appears in the sky over the Malboro, drawn in dark red energy. It opens, and from it, like bloody tears falling, crimson energy falls. Then with a SNAP, the energy forms into a blade that stabs up, into the eye above it. Then all fades.

Ultima (129) has posed:
The angry Marlboro is made yet moreso by Toph's retaliation, the spikes of earth that jut out from beneath and pierce the beast... severing several of its tentacles as well. The snake-like, slimy, appendags writhe on the ground feverishly... the amber eyes at their tips roll without purposeful direction in the throes of death. Not merely that, but those spikes seem to have rooted it to the ground in a way... preventing it from continuing to take its rage out upon Gaffgarion!

Another sickeningly wet, nasty, bestial roar escapes the creature as it fights to escape its makeshift earth prison - even as the combined efforts of Maya and Faruja see its backside being BURNED with furious flames rivaling the heat potential of literal hell fire! As if that weren't bad enough... Gaffgarion's dark energy attack erupts from the ground and appears to literally bisect the creature, but as its ghostly form dies it is apparent that all it did was stop its writhing.

...And suddenly the eldritch horror pitches... falling forward and shearing off more of its body parts on Toph's rocks as it does so. When it hits the ground, vile smelling black fluid pools out from its body onto the ground: an ENORMOUS mass of poison liquid that quickly drains into the marsh...

...In the distance, the iron gate of the mausoleum opens...

...A figure dressed in flowing, evergreen and violet, robes strides up to its entrance and stares out for a few moments. Whether they're spotted or not, they then turn and dart off into the dimly lit stone interior once more...

Toph Beifong has posed:
    Luckily it seems the thing was too big to miss, and Toph lets out a sigh of relief even as she gets to her feet. Despite the paleness to her face, she stubbornly stands her ground, twisting her hands to ensure that the earth spikes keeps the damn thing rooted while the others assault it. Somehow, she imagines fire is far more effective against the damn thing.

    When it finally falls though, Toph makes a grimace. "Ugh... more of that stench...?" she laments, her face looking slightly green. Right now she can't see just what is going on with the mausoleum, and she leans forward, resting her hands on her knees. "... you guys were right. Those things /suck/!" Fucking nasty Marlboros!

    Pardon her, she still looks like she wants to go lie down. "You guys handle the rest, I... I'm just gonna go rest here until I feel better," she says, pressing a hand to her mouth again before she miserably waddles over to a rock and flops down, leaning beack against it and closing her eyes. Let the others check out the damn mausoleum for now.

Faruja has posed:
Faruja digs into his belongings, and quaffs an antidote far too rapidly to the point of nearly choking. Between their combined efforts, the little wretch dies!

"...Faram curse the damnable abominations." Mutters the rat. Yup, someone officially hates marlboros.

Then, he spies a figure in the distance. Frown.

"Shall we? Methinks we art not alone." A glance to his fellows! Is everyone alright?

He's not about to leave poor Toph utterly alone, however. Summoning up one of the Lamia Sisters, the poor Earthbender has a blanket, pillow, and antidote to keep her comfy and not-poisoned.

Then, after a float spell, he's off towards the mausoleum.

Goffard Gaffgarion (Dropped) has posed:
"Ugh!" This from Gaffgarion as the creature pitches into the march and spreads that poison everywhere. He is quick to avoid the spreading pool of filth, too. That's just NASTY. In fact, he whistles for Melody and gets on the bird again, to make absolutely certain he's not going to get that stuff on him. Ew.

However, the opening of the mausoleum gets his attention. He looks up, watches the figure dart away. "Quickly. Before the door is closed again." And then he's heading for the mausoleum, on Melody's back. He won't be able to ride through the door, he knows, and he'll quickly dismount once he reaches it.

Finna (513) has posed:
    Finna's now VERY GRATEFUl for her perch in a nearby tree, as she escapes most of the noxious fumes that drift away from the Marlboro's remains. "... ewwww." Whsat she does get a whiff of is bad enough though. She hops down after Faruja though... and spares Toph a few words. "It's not really that safe here... but we can't just stop either. Unless you really think you can handle yourself... turn back to town. I don't wanna drag home any corpses."

    Then, she... starts backing up, beeeends down FAAAAR forward... and takes a RUNNING LEAP after Faruja. AAAAALMOST sort of gliding... but she's keeping above most of the marshwaters.

    And if she has to drop down to SKIP along the gunk once or twice, oh well, Faruja's cheating worse!

Maya has posed:
Maya Sees the creature go down, she sees the horribole thing goes down, she watches the thing burna nd is thankful that it's finally down. She watches however to be sure the thing is down and out finally. She looks for a moment out at the rest of the landscape and makes a face.

"...I did not need to know things like that thing existed..."

Ultima (129) has posed:
Heading into the Mausoleum, the party would find themselves walking ino a literal stone maze cloaked in densest shadow. Only the light of torches here is of any avail, as far as seeing goes, but oddly... they only seem to be lit down certain hallways - including the one directly across from them. Stepping foot into this place, and glancing around, wold show this interior is VERY old. In fact, much of it has near completely grown over with spider webs or cob webs... and there's layers upon layers of dust over everything. Thus far, though, the interior appears to be just a simple burial ground... with stone coffin almost literally wall-to-wall. Suspended over each and every coffin are statuettes of angels, bearing crosses, likely intended to guard the souls of the dead.

But as one gets further down the hallways... the echo of voices can be heard in the distance... almost unintelligible. And it doesn't seem to get any better as the echoes get stronger, at a certain disance it becomes apparent the almost certainly human voices are chanting in what is possibly a dead language.

At the very end of a series of winding corridors, all well lit by torches, there is a massive chamber. Before it, there apparently -was- a massive boulder blocking it off... that has apparently been pushed aside. Inside that chamber, corpses are arranged about... all lying on the floor of the chamber. They lie at the feet of a group of three persons, two in hooded evergreen robes and a third wearing violet robes layered over gleaming gold steel... a large man... bearing a deep blue stone. He's holding it out in the air toward a singular standing coffin, this one made of black stone and apparently baring inactive magical runes carved into its surface.

Finally, there's a bit of regular Ivalician tongue, as both runes and stone glow blue in tandem, "...Rise... return to this mortal coil once more, Darkening Cloud, herald of Chaos and Waste...!"

Faruja has posed:
Clara's near gliding gets the rat's attention. He raises a brow. Is she some sort of time mage? Oddly, he doesn't feel any magic he recognizes. How strange!

Still, there's no time to ponder it. Gaffy's right, there's a mausoleum to see to!

"The good Sister shall see her safely home." Or, at least, to the Union. Toph would hunt him to the ends of the Multiverse if he took her /home/!

Down into the Creepy Mausoleum they go, Faruja fingering his cross. But what he sees upon entering the antechamber has him pausing. Horror overtakes him. He knows well what that stone is, or at least, he has a damn good idea.

Fury rises up, pure and utter hatred and Judgement rising. Far away in Mullonde, the Cancer Stone glows.

"...Die for thine crimes, vile Heretics!" With that, the ratling summons the great Esper Bahamut, the large creature contemptuously spitting a ball of nuclear fire upon the men near the coffin.

"KILL THEM ALL!" Screams the Inquisitor.

Goffard Gaffgarion (Dropped) has posed:
Mausoleum? More like a dungeon. Gaffgarion sneers with distaste as he pushes a cobweb aside to avoid it getting in his face. On the other hand, Melody warks softly and plucks a large spider from a web, eating it. Gaffgarion gives her a look, but says nothing. Oh well. One less bug he has to worry about getting in his armor, he supposes.

He gives not one whit of care for the crosses, and barely gives them a first look, much less a second. Gaffgarion is not a religious man. And then? They reach the chamber where this weird ritual is taking place. Sadly, it looks like Gaffgarion was right--there are corpses strewn all about the place. Looks like they murdered the caravan for whatever twisted ceremony they're holding down here.

And then Faruja goes all righteous religious fury on the cultists. Gaffgarion stays back for the time being. He is /not/ going in there while Bahamut's raging around! However, he does draw his sword, and will move in after the Eidolon disappears. If there's anything left after Bahamut nukes everything, it's liable to get hacked with a longsword or bashed with a shield.

Finna (513) has posed:
    "Someone came here recently, else the torches wouldn't be lit." Clara points out the obvious, her tone somewhat interested. Perhaps she can smell the reward at the end of this journey? ... That would be great, because otherwise the mausoleum smells awful. Dank, and musty...

    And then there's voices... the moment she hears chanting however, her face twists about into an expression of utter distaste and loathing. Perhaps she has some thoughts of waht's going on that the typical commoner wouldn't...

    "... Of course, they didn't take them for their possessions... they just want their lives...!" She hisses under her breath...

    She HURRIES down that chamber, and there her fears are proven. "... Demon summoning!" The mercenary snarls.

Maya has posed:
Maya is following with the rest now as they head in. She's quiet now she's not sure what to think other than she's been places like this before. She does not move to bother the dead however she hears sojmething and that...gets her on alert. Oh this could be bad, this could be very bad. She's moving to fall into support mode for the party. Ya this is how it goes with heratics. You'd never know it but Maya has got as hardline as Faruja on some relgious issues.

Ultima (129) has posed:
The summoning of Bahamut, suddenly, draws the attention of the two men in evergreen robes flanking the stone-wielder. One of them draws a sword, the other... a leather-bound tome? But that much larger figure, doesn't even so much as turn... continuing to hold the stone level with the coffin's face as magical runes glow ever more brightly. Bahamut's purifying breath ROARS through the chamber, flooding it with magical energy that completely consumes the three in question! Not merely so, but it also appears to obliterate a large portion of the floor as well as turning a raised dais at the room center to mere particles...

...at the tail end of it all, one of them lies dead against the blackened back wall... slumped and burned nearly beyond recognition. The other two? Apparently shielded by a magical shell, barely visible as tinge of blue upon the chamber air around them. They are -unscathed-. The tome the evergreen knight carries seems to burn with black magical energy, as well as the hand that holds it. Momentarily, through the ethereal black flames, that 'hand' looks less like a hand and more like some manner of leathery, beastial, claw! But as the flames die, and the veil of magical energy drops, it regains its human appearance.

Laughter erupts from the center figure, no doubt a familiar voice to Faruja by now... though he's surely never heard a laugh so hearty from this man before.

"...Hahaha... your righteous fury is truly worthy of a Condemner...!"

The tome wielder rushes to cut a potentially charging Gaffgarion off, and draws a saber of his own. His free hand is raised, gauntlet crackling with magical sparks just moments before a surge of magical energy travels up his arms and a concentrated blast of energy rips through the room between them! It's mostly concussive, this particular spell, but if it hits it will likely singe armor and maybe burn some of those lovely moustache hairs off...?

The large, greying, man in the center turns and affords the gathered lot a bit of an ingenuine smile... a scar runs from his eye to cheekbone... and his left hand appears to be dressed in cloth beneath the gauntlet as he gives a lazy wave. The man's leather face and graying mane give an indication of experience that, coupled with his muscular frame, endows him with the aura of an esteem soldier. It would not be an unfamiliar face to anyone with knowledge of this region's Church. "...such potent fury has the potential for so much more... 'tis truly wasted on the High Confessor's petty purposes..." The man's grey eyes alight with something like amusement, as the coffin lid behind begins to slide sideways seemingly on its own...

...and out walks a woman, nearly naked except for conveinantly draped burial cloth. Her hair rolls in waves of ebony, her eyes are the color of blood. She rolls her neck quietly, uttering not a single word.

"...Yes, it's a shame..." Folmarv adds, turning to glance over his shoulder at their new companion. "...Loffrey, let us away... we have Alessia now... let us leave these fools to the grieving."

...And then? With a flash of brilliant light... they're gone...

Goffard Gaffgarion (Dropped) has posed:
Gaffgarion wasn't expecting there to be much left, so he didn't bring his shield up in front of him. He realizes this is a mistake, but the realization comes too late as the spell is flung at him. The force of the spell striking his armored chest forces a loud grunt of pain from him, and he's flung into a wall, hitting it with a hard /crack/.

He slides down the wall as if dropped there in an unceremonious heap. Singed and dazed, and with his moustache sticking out every which way, Gaffgarion does not rise immediately from where he has been thrown. Right now his concentration is on trying to remember how to breathe. That knocked the wind out of him something fierce.

It's not until the three disappear that Gaffgarion can manage to speak. "That!" he proclaims breathily, raising his free hand. "Was /not/ in the contract!" The emphasizes the word 'not' by pointing skyward.

Finna (513) has posed:
    "..." There's a righteous fury on Clara's face that doesn't seem fitting for someone who's apparently a mercenary. Maybe a thief... well, definitely 'rogue' of some kind. The ENTIRE escapade of sorcerous summoning (odd as it is by her standards) and shielding by the leader of this bloody affair leaves her stunned and shakey, unwilling to advance. But...

    "Creatures of Darkness... you will be hunted!" She breaks free of the terror just in time to--

    To watch Folmarv teleport off. Her sudden rush takes her through empty air and skidding across the ground. "... Gods... demon summoning. Even out here...! ... Why couldn't it have been beasts or monsters... but, no, demons... now this is REALLY serious!

Goffard Gaffgarion (Dropped) has posed:
"Serious? Likely." Gaffgarion's getting his second wind now, and stands, with a grimace. Blast... he's going to feel that one for a while. He supports himself on his sword for a moment, steadying himself. Melody ambles over, now that the danger is past, and flaps her wings in what looks like a dance. But the feathers seem to emit some kind of energy, and this healing energy soaks into both Gaffgarion and herself.

"Good girl," the knight says, reaching up to sritch the chocobo again, much to her delight. Then he looks to Finna. "Whatever it is, 'tis nothing to do with me. My contract ended with discovering the fate of the lost soldiers. I have done that." Not alone, of course, but it's done. "The wagon would be helpful for transporting the dead. Assistance in loading them would be appreciated." He's not going to expect it though.

Finna (513) has posed:
    Finally noticing the kind of blow Gaffgarion just took, Clara winces. "Even with all that armor, you must've felt THAT one... old man, do I look strong enough to hoist a bunch of dead weight around?" She asks, incredulous... "Well... it's only proper that they be returned to their families... yeah, I'll help. But let's hope the Inquisitor can lend some extra muscle..."

    "Aaaand... with these folk on the loose? I'd expect ANOTHER opportunity!"

Faruja has posed:
He'd always suspected. He'd had his doubts, his curiousities, and even something akin to proof all but shoved into his soul. But seeing the face is enough to shake him to his core. The Faram-damned Heretic was right all along. Part of him still wants to deny the horrid crime before him.

"...But...why?" Mutters the rat, only then realizing he's been on his knees, wide-eyed. His entire body trembles. Folmarv Tengille is a Heretic, traitor, and if that hand was any clue? A Daemon.

Faruja passes out, not even able to formulate a response to Gaffgarion or Finna. In his dreams, he's beset by darkness, and a gaping feline maw alike.