5705/P:WtWM - Truth-Faker

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P:WtWM - Truth-Faker
Date of Scene: 17 February 2018
Location: Alberichstadt <P:WTWM>
Synopsis: The Pied Piper plays his last tune. Part of the Persona: Were the World Mine plot.
Cast of Characters: August Kohler, William Pauwel, Atalanta, Janine Liberi, Kotone Yamakawa, 999, 1040, Robert Speedwagon, Rebecca Chambers, Empty Tidings


August Kohler has posed:
The Black Queen's Castle is evershifting and turning. The terrain changes, though the group now has a lead. The Blacksmith's forge had been set in stone, and the group knew the path to it. Indeed, it was the same as last time, and everything seemed right. Returning to his forge would be quite possible, so that they could continue pursuing him.

Or atleast, it would have been, if suddenly in the path there wasn't a wall. Though on first glance it might look the tunnels had shifted, words have been etched into the wall. As the group gets close enough to read them, where they say "Tonight we tell a story of sorrow", the sound of a pipe begins to play off to the pathways to the side. Turning to try and leave the way they came reveals a second wall near the entrance, preventing them from escaping. There's only one direction to go, which is through that side tunnel.

"For a group of children try to find the path to tomorrow", a voice echoes out. The location of it is indeterminate, but for anyone who has heard him, it can only belong to one person. A dead end reaches ahead, before several of the walls suddenly slide open, making multiple paths. Left, right, and forward. "Getting lost can be quite scary..." The voice is melodical, the pipe playing intricate. But that's probably not the primary thing being noticed, as the sounds of shuffling walls start echoing in the background, as walls start sliding up to fill the spaces of the halls.

"But if they do not want to get crushed, they better not tarry!"

The walls are moving fast, and there's three directions. What will you do?

William Pauwel has posed:
William Pauwel is here! Of course William Pauwel is here. He is always in places where August Kohler is almost certainly guaranteed to suffer. Ostensibly he's here to help out, but, ah, well, you know how these sorts of things usually go.

'Poorly,' that is.

Things seem to start out well enough. They find their way to the smithy and-- no! There's something in their way. Ah yes. Walls. The universal enemy of all exploratory forays. They are second only to that most terrible of obstacles: locked doors.

...Well.

Only one way to go. Though that terrible pipe tune inevitably brings back memories of... Another time. Another place. A meeting with a certain tank-cat. And... A kidnapped lizard. And a thing that wears the face of a man, but is in fact a whole bunch of rats stacked on top of each other. Will's tongue clicks against the back of his mouth as he nods his head down the only available path forward. "G'wan," he says, unlimbering his favorite firearm. "Let's see what the sunuvagun wants."

Except Will already knows.

The piper only wants one thing.

Delicious suffering...!

And there are more walls. A dead end that becomes a live end that quickly begins to die again. The walls rise. Will's eyes sharpen as Judgment's light suddenly burns blindingly bright.

He depresses the trigger, a cataclysmic flash of lightning blasting into the oncrushing walls.

"Come on out and face us like a man, y' damn monster! We've learned a thing or two since the last time we met. Don't think it'll be so easy t' weasel out this time...!"

Atalanta has posed:
     Atalanta is ready to go. The Archer has her bow tucked into her grip as always, except then Will cheats like only a gun-toting madman can cheat. She just stares at him, her mouth curled up in such a way that suggests subtle amusement, but also firm disapproval.

     "Do you really think that'll work?" She asks him softly, her lion tail swishing behind her slowly.

Janine Liberi has posed:
    Janine takes to the castle with the same attitude she takes towards anything; a clear display of aggrieved apathy. Her sword hangs on her good side and she sniffs as the group confronts the wall in their way. "Oh god damn it, I hate this place," she growls, the frown lines in her face only deepening when a familiar song hits her ears.

    Can't go back, can't go forwards, can only go to the side... she stomps along, looking for any sign of the Piper as she does, eventually coming to the three-way split. She considers each one, before noticing the walls coming from behind. "Stay together!" she yells at everyone, before looking deep into her sword. "BIANCABELLA!" she calls, the wretched Persona arising from behind her and creating a constant stream of wind down the corridor on the right. She immediately breaks for it, expecting everyone to join her and have their speed be bolstered by the wind!

Kotone Yamakawa has posed:
Once more into the collective mind of mankind. Kotone tried to not think about such things too hard it didn't lead to happy thoughts. She was quick to suit up in her stealth gear grab her other kit and this time she had a small pair of hovering drones tailing her when she arrived. The Japanese woman looked more than a bit worried as she arrived. It was just in time to hear the Piper call out to them all.

The piper seems to be trying to lure them all out of being able to direct the flow of this conflict. She feels a lot like Will but doesn't unload, she need to conserve her fire power, she does direct the drones away maybe the two flying cameras might have more luck than she might alone also unlike anything else here they are disposal.

"Will he's trying to bait us."

Emily Branford (999) has posed:
    Oh boy, he's trying to split them. "Janine has the right of it, if we split up we're easy prey!" Needless to say, Emily is going to be following along with Janine; she's got Strands of Fate in her right hand, and her sidearm in her left.

Ran Itoh (1040) has posed:
    Yeah, Ran is familiar with 'poorly' by now. "I don't remember you guys talking about any walls," she frowns, not having been with the team on the last trip to the smithy. Especially ones with literal writing on them...

    "She's right, don't get split up!" Ran calls needlessly, glancing after Janine as she calls out her Persona. That's how people die in horror movies!!! "I hate mazes," she sighs, before dashing down the 'hall' with the winds at her back. "C'mon, you guys!!"

Robert Speedwagon has posed:
    Even when one is an easily-frsutrated, angry Englishman with lava for blood (not literally, mind you), after so long of a specific sort of mind-screwing, one moves from anger to resignation. Robert Speedwagon is about there, and has pretty much lost any real anger with the place. Now he EXPECTS it to screw with their heads, so when the walls start appearing and the voice starts talking, rather than ANOTHER curse (he is SUCH a bad role model for the kids!), he heaves a put-upon sigh. Right up until the walls start closing in. Literally this time. "Oh bleedin' 'ell..." he mutters.

    "There's three paths, Boss," the tattooed man with him points out. "Which way?" There is a notable tension in his voice, since he doesn't want to end up a tattoo'd greasy spot on the walls. Janine hangs a right, though, and Speedwagon points in that direction. "That way!" he announces, with confidence. Then Tattoo, Kempo, and he make for the right-hand branch, following Janine.

    In truth Robert has no idea if they're going the right way. But he's not letting Janine go by herself. He's also loud enough that the others should hear both Janine's words and his own, so everyone should know which way some of them have gone.

Rebecca Chambers has posed:
By now, Rebecca's used to the way things work here. The fact that the Black Queen's Castle is shifting and turning doesn't faze her in the least bit. It's almost like common knowledge to her now. So when she sees what's going on, she's more than ready for action and not the least bit uneasy at all. Amazing what some time in a strange place can do to one.

There's a wall in the way now. A bit of an inconvenience, but it doesn't make Rebecca uneasy like it might have the first time she was in a place like this. The words on the wall make her shake her head and say, "I'm sorry, but we don't have time to sit and listen to a story! We've got a job to do!" Which means heading through that side tunnel over there.

Now there's three ways to go and the walls are coming in after them. Going with her gut instinct, Rebecca turns and follows after Ran quickly, calling for others to follow. "We can't get separated here! Everyone stick together!"

Empty Tidings has posed:
Empty Tidings hears a cry for help, and what does she do?

Ignore it. She's not some uppity hero, out to right wrongs and do goods. Who do you think she is? She's got better things to -- oh, it's from August? Well in /that/ case...

        ~

Tidings appears to be maybe slightly older than the students in attendence, though possibly dressed in more (or equivalent, we don't judge) black. She's apparently unarmed, too, but since when does that mean anything around here? "You were really not joking when you were talking about an evil castle," she remarks. "Is there a villainous force occupying its center? Are we going to go," her eyes light up, excitement leaking into her voice, "/save the day/?"

The walls start to be completely rude. Tidings hops forward as things get hectic. Everyone rushes down the right path -- and Will shoots at the walls, making her jump about three feet up and ten feet backwards, springing away from the lightning discharge she's never seen before in her good god-damn life. "Hey! Watch where you're --"

That's about when the wall blocks her into the middle path instead of the right one. Good going, cowboy.

August Kohler has posed:
As blasts slam through the rising walls, the group is bought some time. However, several seconds after, more start coming up where the others fell, the floor itself shifting upwards to try and slam them into the ceiling if they stay back. If they keep trying to blast the walls back, eventually, they'll get crushed. Moving through one of the pathways is the only way forward, and most of the group all decides to go right, bolstered to move fast by Janine's wind. After a bit of traversing without any problems, the walls start to slam together like pistons from the left and right behind them, trying to close them in, crush them if they're too slow, and also block anyone who didn't keep up.

Eventually though, the group, heading RIGHT, will find themselves in a large, almost cavernous room. A few steps in, though, most of the floor will suddenly shatter like a mirror, falling into an abyss below. Only a few teetering pillars remain besides where the group has stepped in. "Trying to fight back with all their might," the music plays even louder as they continue further, "Believing they can combat their plight," Out of the walls, several Shadows pour out, climbing onto the ceiling and walls and folding out like hooks and spires, places that could be grappled onto or climbed with. "Few ways to cross..."

But then, the Shadows start to move all over the place, as do the pillars below. Every obstacle is shifting...and the floor underneath them is slowly starting to crack, showing it's not safe to stay in one place. "If they don't get moving soon, all is lost!"

However, one person got stuck in the middle path, and the song they hear is different - a fast-paced melody that wouldn't be out of place in an action story, as travelling forward, Empty Tidings stumbles across a large circular room. In the center is a gigantic and hideous man with bright yellow eyes, with extremely long chains tied to the floor and the ceiling around his wrists and ankles, holding a massive warhammer one-handed He's sitting against the floor, but as Tidings approaches, starts to stir, mumbles something, and moves to start approaching her. The exit is across and behind him, behind iron bars. They're not magical or special in any way.

"One splits off, finding a foe from the past..." The action music kicks up a notch, as the giant suddenly growls at her, clearly hostile. "A monstrous man, ready to put her in a cast!"

William Pauwel has posed:
Hey. HEY. It's not like Tidings is the ONLY one who has to make a sacrifice on the altar of Will's unsettling love for heavy firepower. Those who dare to ride the lighting-- who channel the might of Alternating Current-- are destined to walk a path of adventure, excitement and UNFATHOMABLE DANGER.

And so Will, unexpecting of just how much recoil Judgment decides to output, is flung back down the central path... And possibly, directly into Empty Tidings...!!

"Augh!" Will yelps as he tumbles back. "What! What're y'all doin', gettin' fallen on!? Sorry, sorry. Don't mean nothin' by it. Uh."

Beat.

Well! At least 'landing on a person' isn't an unpleasant kind of landing.

Will's luck with first impressions seems about as it's ever been.

"C'mon," he sighs, glaring daggers back at the crushed corridor. "I could probably shoot us a way through, but... Maybe we aughta just go see what's down this way?"

What IS down this way?

APPARENTLY, A GIANT MAN.

"Uhhhhh," Will says, not at all recognizing what this Big Shadow might or might not be. Judgment's light flickers and shifts, turning from blinding blue to rippling, translucent violet. "Break left!" Will... Breaks right! Is he planning a diversionary maneuver!?

He fires. Waves of nearly-invisible electromagnetic chaos erupt from Judgment's barrel, each aimed at the joints where the giant's limbs are shackled. The result: basically like being hit by a great big taser, except perhaps even moreso.

Empty Tidings has posed:
The wall slams shut. Tidings finds herself seperated from the majority of the group -- excepting, at least, the one who /landed on her/. Will bowls her over by dint of recoil and no room to dodge, ending up on top of the glasses-girl who is getting a good impression of just what goes on in this evil castle.

Shenanigans, that's what.

Tidings does not seem overly irritated by Will using her as a landing pad. She looks up at him, smiles warmly, and quirks an eyebrow expectantly. He scrambles up, and she lightly rolls her eyes. "Of course you don't." She puts her right hand against the wall and pulls herself up, glove creaking a little. "I don't know what you just did, but might I recommend you avoid doing it indoors in the future?" There's an edge to her voice.

She brushes herself off, letting Will take a peek. Tidings is fixing her glasses when he calls out directions. Sighing, she follows him out, moving left while he does... whatever it is he's doing. More lightning magic? Is that an artifact weapon? It must be. Tidings, for her contribution... starts silently weeping as she crosses 'round the left side of the room, tears rolling down her face as she rapidly blinks them from her eyes. She's looking at the big guy, trying to get an idea of if there's any oaths or obligations wrapping him up she can use.

William Pauwel has posed:
Will... Is abruptly distracted? He's... staring right at Tidings' face.

And looks... Positively mortified!?

"H-hey!" Will calls, "D-don't worry! You don't gotta cry, ain't nothing to be afraid of! Ahahahaha! W-we'll get out of this just fine, y'hear? It'll be all just fine!"

Oh no.

He's not just some kind of weird lightning-slinging weirdo.

He's an ~innocent cinnamon roll~

Empty Tidings has posed:
Tidings immediately feels a pang of something. Something like... guilt? Is it guilt?

Oh heavens no. It's /joy/. This is going to be so much /fun/.

"*sniffle*"

YEAH, WILL. LOOK WHAT YOU DID.

Janine Liberi has posed:
    Success! But some people got lost down the middle path. "Dammit!" Janine snarls as she sprints with the wind at her back. It cuts off as their route widens into a new room, and thank goodness for that. The ground falls away, leaving only pillars between they and progress. "God I fucking hate this place," she says, before considering the distance.

    "All right, line up if you doubt you can make it!" she barks at everyone who is with her. Anyone who takes her up on the offer would have Biancabella rise up before them, before being buffeted by heavy winds. "Okay... I usually only do this with myself, so hold on tight." The (un)lucky volunteer would feel the wind lift them up and then, in a sudden exhilarating burst, launch them over the gap! How successful this may be is up in the air. As she said, she only has her own size and weight to judge how much is needed.

    Either way, once she's done, she too blasts herself across! This should have much more success, depending on what the Piper throws at her.

William Pauwel has posed:
OH NO, WHAT IS THIS FEELING IN WILL'S HEART

IT'S GUILT. IT'S GUILT, ISN'T IT!?

All he can do is... keep shooting at the giant...! All while feeling /horrible/ about how he accidentally brought a gigantophobic girl to fight a giant...!

Robert Speedwagon has posed:
    "Keep running!" Speedwagon calls to his group, as the walls don't seem to want to stop harassing them. Tattoo is in front, with Kempo behind him, and Robert is bringing up the rear of the three-man group -- both are either faster or more agile than he. Besides that, the most present danger is BEHIND them, so he's putting himself between his gang and the danger.

    The room ahead looks like solace, but that's a lie. Tattoo is actually standing on the floor as it begins to crack and fall away; as soon as he feels it shift under his feet, he leaps back. "Careful! The floor's fallin'!" All three back up from the falling floor.

    That voice is getting on Speedwagon's nerves, but he knows that's exactly what the owner of the voice wants. To no one in particular, he mutters, "Ya know... the more yer hassle these kids, the 'arder they're gonna punch your face once they finally catch yer..." While he's not expecting any sort of response, he figures the owner of that voice can probably hear him. "Jus' somethin' ter think about..."

    And then the formerly 'safe' part of the floor starts to crack. "Go!" Speedwagon calls to the others.

    "Boss, you sure you're gonna be--?" Tattoo starts.

    "GO!" Robert repeats. "This shouldn't be nothin' ter either of ya! I'll find me own way across!"

    It's true. Tattoo's speed is enough that sheer momentum should make it simple for him to get across; he can go via the sides of the room, on the hooks and other places to grab onto. Kempo has trained his body for years to near the peak of his body's capabilities; he is agile and can basically bounce between handholds and footholds. As for Speedwagon?

    He's a thug with a heart of gold and a hard head. Great for dealing with people. Not so much for jumping across shifting obstacles. But damned if he doesn't give it his best go. Unfortunately it's not too terribly great a go. About halfway across, he jumps... and his hand misses the edge of one of the teetering pillars. He lets out a yelp of surprise as he starts to fall, and Tattoo turns back to see what happened. "BOSS!"

    And then the head of a sledgehammer hooks on the teetering pillar. A split second later or earlier, and Speedwagon would have been sent tumbling into the abyss. Tattoo quickly hops back onto the pillar, pulling Speedwagon up. There's not much room. "Go!" Robert says again. The pillar will surely break...

    ...But that's exactly what Speedwagon WANTS it to do. Because he puts his weight on the forward side, so it will topple FORWARD when it breaks. With the extra momentum from the falling pillar -- and that extra wind power from Janine's Persona, all of Speedwagon's group should make it over.

Atalanta has posed:
     Sedately following Will - because she doesn't even need to trip him to get ahead if necessary - Atalanta finds herself in the strange room with the strange person and the other strange person ... and a third strange person. So to say, everyone but herself.

     "Will. Behave."

     Atalanta reveals her presence with her voice and with a series of green, glimmering arrows fired so quickly it's impossible for them to be actual arrows.

Rebecca Chambers has posed:
A large cavernous room? Doesn't bother Rebecca.

The floor shattering into the abyss? Still doesn't bother her.

The music and the words? Doesn't faze Rebecca.

The Shadows start moving rapidly around and Rebecca clenches her fists, before finding herself being boosted by the wind of Janine's powers. Not one to let such an opportunity go, Rebecca uses the wind's boost in an attempt to get into the air and clear that pit completely.

Kotone Yamakawa has posed:
Kotone Yamakawa watches as Will blows a hole in the walls it buys the party time. Janine's wind helps even more to be able to move after than normally her shell would allow her to and she keeps in step once they get through to this next room.

""What is this..."

It's an agility puzzle it looks like to her for a moment.

She has a few options thanks to the many upgrade she has acquired over her long adventures in the multiverse.

Once again she owes the Starbounders once again, she'd have asked Janine for help but she doesn't want Janine to tax herself evne more doing something experimental The people who need her help should get her focus, or so Kotone thinks.

With the danger rapidly getting worse Kotone will move to try and leap from pillar to pillar making use of the double jump system installed in her body pulling off several jumps that not even a cyborg could do back home on her world. She catches sight of Robert as he he and his own crew are moving to travese the death room, using ome pretty clever tatics.

Kotone her self keeps oging nad the added mass of her shell might just cause more damaged when she lands, so she'll have to keep moving till she gets past the Pillas and then the pits ad away she goes agauin with a long jumpo and a second double jump at the apex of the first one.

Ran Itoh (1040) has posed:
    Ran actually weighs a little bit more than Janine, because Janine is built thinner and is a bit sick despite her intense physical training with the blade, while Ran is taller and hides some decent muscle tone underneath her loose t-shirts.

    It doesn't make a lick of difference, though - because Ran leaps into the wind, judging the pillars' distance with eyes more used to the flashing lights of an arcade. One, two, three, four - don't miss the arrows - step to the beat, just like always. The wind pushes her further and faster, it feels like flying...!

    Ran lands on the opposite side with a grace that surprises her, blinking away the sudden rush of desire to do it again. "Uh-- thanks, Janine!" She turns to check on Robert and his friends, eyes distantly tracking everybody else. Usagi can float, so she can catch anybody that can't quite make it. Right??

August Kohler has posed:
Those trying to cross the pit are pretty successful - Janine's boost allows them to go flying forward, while Speedwagon cleverly gives himself extra reach by pushing the pillar forward. As they're making it forward, entirely bypassing the Shadows, the creatures leap off, moving to try and jump at and bite into the group as they're making the final stretch across! Their fangs are extremely sharp, and they scurry across the bodies of anyone they can get onto, trying to rip them open.

However, there's no other obstacles, though once everyone's across, the pillars suddenly fall into the deep abyss, leaving a dark pit between them and the way back. The rest of the path forward, with or without monsters climbing on them, is through the halls ahead. There's no lyrics from the Pied Piper, yet, but there is the fact that the ceiling is starting to...lower? As if it's going to crush down on them if they don't get forward quickly enough. And it won't be as easy, because the walls are moving back and forth like pillars, trying to trip them up more so than crush them.

In the center path with the giant, he's shot full of arrows and brought to his knees with electricity, brought screaming, but he's incredibly hardy, and starts rising despite his flesh smoldering. The Shadow moves to slam his hammer into Will, trying to bat him into Atalanta's direction. He's not paying too much attention to Empty Tidings, because she doesn't appear to be a threat, weeping like that. She'd be able to find that he's been 'branded', binded to serve the Black Queen on threat of pain and death. The Giant lets out a roar after trying to strike into Will, moving to strike at him again as he continues to fire. The iron bars remain shut and still.

Empty Tidings has posed:
Empty Tidings, as a weeping non-threat, is mostly serving to guilt trip Will and give Atalanta (where did /she/ come from?) the opportunity she needs to admonish him. Honestly, this is a good use of her time, if nothing else is.

She sees it, though. 'Bound to serve the Black Queen on threat of pain and death.' Empty Tidings raises one hand, extended towards the giant, tear-streaked face settled in an expression of focus. Flickers of viridian light like sparks from a flame scatter from her open palm, vanishing before they touch the giant's flesh.

Reality stutters. She sees it, again: 'Bound to oppose the Black Queen on threat of pain and death.'

"STOP!" Her voice rings out in the enclosed space. "Please! We're not enemies! We can help you; look...!" She steps forward, carefully, moving towards the chains that bind him... and then reaches down with her right hand and, with a grimace, wrenches one of the chains' anchors out of the floor with a short, sharp yank.

Nearby clairvoyants may abruptly feel a sense of awful foreboding.

Janine Liberi has posed:
    Janine makes it across! And thanks to her assistance, so does Ran, Rebecca, and Speedwagon. It almost feels nice knowing she helped, but god knows she would never show that. Once they're on the other end, she barks, "Keep moving, or the Shadow's will mass on us!" She swings her sabre around, accepting no argument, especially once she realizes the ceiling is coming down on them.

    As she goes, she barks on the radio to those who went down the middle path. "Hey doofuses! Everything okay over there?!"

Ran Itoh (1040) has posed:
    Ran manages, through sheer dumb luck, to avoid getting chewed up by these particular Shadows. They're off-beat, maybe?! She probably won't be able to pull it off a second time, but... that actually felt /good/, sort of.

    (She'll panic later, at home, where nobody but Hikaru can see it.)

    "I can't believe we just did that," she huffs, and looks up at the sound of some... weird, ominous creaking. Rumbling? "Why is this place the Temple of Doom?!" the blonde wails, and takes off running again. At least she's good at running, away from or towards something. "Hurry! Watch out for the walls!"

William Pauwel has posed:
Note: Do not spook the Will while he's busy fighting a giant shadow man.

"Wha--!?" Will jumps as Atalanta APPEARS OUT OF NOWHERE behind him like some kind of ninja cat. Or maybe just a cat. Cats do that, don't they? They do! But more importantly, the distraction is /just/ enough for Will to... End up being caught up in the giant's hammerblow. He yelps as the impact smashes into his torso, cracking his ribs in a way that make him /pretty sure/ that something in there just broke.

They grow back. It'll be fine. Right?

...

Atalanta would have to look out, though. Will is on rapid approach! And he... doesn't seem to have much control over his trajectory.

Robert Speedwagon has posed:
    Speedwagon and his group are worried about getting across, not so much about monsters biting them. Tattoo is the first one to discover they're hostile -- one bites into his shoulder as it clambers onto his arm. "Agh!" the tattooed man yelps, stabbing at the monster. The strike is deep enough to stab through the Shadow monster but leave his own skin untouched; he's just THAT GOOD with knives. Kempo finds himself needing to dodge several, but as he's facing one, a second tries to sneak up behind him...

    ...Only to get a sledgehammer to the side of what Robert supposes passes for a head. FORE! It might get knocked back into the abyss itself! Kempo deals with the monster he was facing, and then turns. "Thank you," he says quietly. He has a very soft voice, and he doesn't speak often.

    And then the ceiling starts falling. "Bloody 'ell. We're not outta this yet. C'mon!" Speedwagon instructs. Again he tries to bring up the rear, not just of his own group, but of the group at large -- he wants to make sure everyone has enough time to get away, and that he's not holding anyone up. If he's in the back and he has enough time, everyone does. Plus, he can help anyone who trips.

    Then again, if HE trips... he's probably screwed...

Atalanta has posed:
     "Also, pay attention."

     Atalanta gets her comeuppance when she realizes milliseconds too late that she is about to have a up close and personal encounter with William Pauwel. She takes him the way any other superhuman Servant might, which is to say that she ends up on her back, o nthe floor, underneath Will a few feet back, her bow clenched so tightly in one hand her knuckles are white. "... you have." Atalanta says slowly, her Grecian accent suddenly rather thick, "Approximately three seconds to move. One... ... two..."

William Pauwel has posed:
Hey.

That's two soft landings in a row! A new record! Though this one is somewhat... less so than the last.

Also, this one is significantly more dangerous.

"Bluhhhhh--" Will groans on the count of two, and on the count of three blearily rolls off his landing mat.

He'll need a moment.

Atalanta has posed:
     Atalanta stares at the ceiling, and regrets everything in this short, summoned life time.

Kotone Yamakawa has posed:
Kotone Yamakawa makes not the most graceful of landings but avoids landing flat on her face. The then comes under attack even as she's staring to get up. The shdows that pile on to her soon fine Kotonme's body is arcing with electical currents as she turns on her interla eelware taser systems to keep pusing forward and she's goihng to just pull a knife and use brute force to keep the things away. Then comes the swining pillars.

<<I'm not dead yet.>>

She's a bit roughed up but she's made it so far.

August Kohler has posed:
As the flame flies at the giant, he turns to Empty Tidings, hefting his hammer and stepping forward. What is he going to do? As he gets closer, as she pleads for him to stop and yanks one of the chains out...

The giant lifts the anchor up and chucks it, moving to throw it straight through the iron door. It crumples as the giant silently starts moving that way, slamming his hammer into the other anchor several times as he moves to rush forward through the hall. A wall-slam trap flies forward, and finds itself destroyed when he punches it back with incredible strength, allowing those in the center pathway to freely follow after him without worries of getting wall-crushed.

The group leaving the pit room has to tend with horrible biting Shadows, which they peel off and cut through, and with horrible obstacles. Teamwork and running allows them forward, and eventually, they reach what appears to be a dining hall, emerging from the corner of it towards a massive dining table that could easily support hundreds.

Those in the center area will find themselves coming out not far from the others into the same table, as the music plays at its peak - it's in this room. "Yet, despite the troubles they faced," A figure sings, standing atop a chair at the far end. The Pied Piper plays his pipe, his multicolored hat and coat not distracting from his bright yellow eyes, which is the only descript part of his face. The rest are sort of smudges, obviously he has a mouth and a nose but they don't seem real. "They managed to not get erased. From this event the Piper got a rise," As he sang, the Piper gestured to the doors behind him, which opened into a hall of black mirror, more pathways to go.

"And so he allowed them a prize. The way they sought was ahead, and this chapter in the story had been fully read."

The Pied Piper then proceeds to...start to leave! He leaps off his chair, moving towards a trapdoor that suddenly springs open. He's about to leap down...when the Giant comes barreling forward with a massive yell, and intercepts him, trying to slam the Piper into a wall. The floor under the Piper suddenly lifts up, causing the Giant to slam into the wall, as the Piper leaps onto the table with the sound of piano keys being brushed along. Nonetheless, he doesn't move to stop the group from leaving past him, as the floor around and under the Giant starts to lift, moving to cage him. He's entirely willing to just let them continue forward as he deals with the pest.

Rebecca Chambers has posed:
They made it across, thank the stars. (No pun intended.)

Rebecca breathes a sigh of relief, realizing this is going to be a story no one will easily believe. But then again, who cares as long as she's alive and she made it.

Unfortunately, the Shadows seem a bit intent on making things tough on them. Thinking quickly, Rebecca draws her Beretta and opens fire, hoping she can at least get them to leave her and her allies alone for the time being. At the same time, Rebecca's wondering if she's made a mistake in attempting to shoot the Shadows, since she doesn't know what her weapons are capable of here.

Robert Speedwagon has posed:
    Who says running never solved anything? It seems to have gotten them to the Piper's room! The little rhyme is noted, and Speedwagon growls quietly. And then suddenly the 'new friend' that Empty Tidings appears to have made seems to serve the Piper a knuckle sandwich! Robert smirks at that. "Lest ye think us STILL beneath / Eat yer couplets, an' your own bloody TEETH!" he declares.

    No, it isn't perfect, but he's not a poetry master. It's just enough to verbally give the middle finger (or in Robert's case the two-fingered salute) to the Piper.

    Though he does note, "That trapdoor! D'yer think it'll lead where we're goin' faster?" he inquires. That is probably a stupid idea, and very dangerous. But DRAWING BREATH in this castle is dangerous, if one is a human, it seems like!"

Kotone Yamakawa has posed:
Kotone Yamakawa looks a bit scruffy after that fight with the Shadows, yet in the end along with her comrades as they surive the trap gauntlet. She will come ot a halt though as they find themselves face to face with the Piper for a moment. He sings some more she's about to say a hint but then the Giant comes almost out of nowhere from her view point and hwam the Piper is about to have a bad day. She'll not rush to go after the Piper as she falls in with Speedwagon and his crew.

"I have to agree here with the breahing danger here as for the door it could be or it could be somewhere else but there's only one way to find out, right?"

Empty Tidings has posed:
Empty Tidings' new friend frees himself and promptly goes on a rampage down the path ahead. Tidings takes off her glasses with one hand and wipes the tears off her face with the edge of her sleeve on the other side. She clears her throat a little, apparently composing herself. "Please stop," she eventually says. "Your meter is causing me physical discomfort."

She lets her hand drop and, very, very delicately puts her glasses back on. Empty Tidings nudges them to get them settled right, and then casts Atalanta and Will both sunny smiles. She turns, faces down the path of devastation, and positively flounces off down the wrecked passage towards their destination.

Seeing her Giant Friend in trouble, Tidings clicks her tongue. "/That/ won't do." She makes a little gesture towards the Piper and the walls. Her shadow lengthens, slipping into the cracks in the wall and clinging there even as she moves on. It flows out of a crevice near the Piper and under his feet, silent as... well, you know.

Barring external forces at work, his luck abruptly goes from 'Normal' to 'Comically, Dangerously Bad.' Tidings assumes the various mechanisms and the presence of the Giant will make this sort itself out soon enough.

Janine Liberi has posed:
    Janine enters the dining room, and immediately points her sword at the Piper. "You son of a bitch. I'm sick of your shit!" she barks, before drawing out Biancabella and squaring up... only for the Shadow to bid them to carry on before making a break for it. "Get back here!" she yells, rushing for him... only for a giant to suddenly erupt through the walls and overtake her in his own mad rush to get at him.

    "What the shit did you do?!" she yells at Will and Tidings as they join up, before considering what lay before them. An easy advance, or a tough fight?... She grits her teeth, and looks at everyone dead-on, with no teenaged ennui on her face for once. "The Piper is the one who goes out and draws people into the Forest. If we pass up this chance, he'll keep doing it, again and again. We have to take him out now."

    She looks aggreived. Her own family fell victim to him, after all. But she turns, and Biancabella sends a shower of toxic rose petals swirling at the Shadow, aiming to slow him just enough for the Giant to get a good hit in!

Empty Tidings has posed:
"I made a friend," Tidings calls back. "He was bound to serve; now he'll fight the Queen, instead."

Beat.

"You're welcome, by the way."

Atalanta has posed:
     Atalanta twitches a little as she eventually drags herself to her feet and follows Empty Tiding's into the next room, where there's a moment of shenanigans, before she shrugs slowly, and then starts shooting, spamming the shots as quickly as she can.

William Pauwel has posed:
Will stares at the giant as it...

Uh.

As Tidings apparently sweet-talks it into helping them...?

"You..." Will gives her a big, wide-eyed gaze. It's not the kind of wide-eyed gaze that she's probaly used to getting. There's... there's no fear there. There's... glittering, glimmering, blissful admiration. "You actually tried... talking to it?"

"Oh my golly gosh," Will almost squeaks like a happy schoolgirl, "I finally have someone who will try talking first!"

He's.

Inordinately happy.

"Janine, Janine!" Will waves his not-gun-hand jubilantly in the direction of Tidings and the caged giant. "We made a friend! He clubbed me a bit, but-- oop."

Right.

"I got it!" Will says, taking aim at the literal Pile Of Rats. "Here we go! JUDGMENT, FRY HIM."

Judgment's energy changes again. Suddenly, it begins burning an angry, fiery vermilion. Will roars as he fires, disgorging a great blast of superheated, napalm-like plasma. He's... Not about to let the Piper get away intact...!

Ran Itoh (1040) has posed:
    Should... should they just go? Ran doesn't want to give up this chance, but they aren't at full strength, and what if the prize is some/body/? Speedwagon suggests they go for the trapdoor...

    But Janine brings up the best point. They really /can't/ let this chance slip past them. Not with the chance they've been given-- thanks to the mercurial-seeming girl with the sad name? Well, if they're committing...!

    "Tsuki-no-Usagi!" Ran calls, raising that rabbit-shaped pendant to her eyes. The lapine alien spins into being from nothingness, long-handled mallet gripped in her fists. It rushes for the Piper weapon-first, slamming the metallic head for the center of his mass.

    It's nothing compared to the giant's hammer, but it's still not pleasant to be hit with.

August Kohler has posed:
The shadow creeps underneath the feet of the Pied Piper, who as the Giant starts to get lifted into the air, is about to have a very bad day. The Giant forces himself upwards, before leaping off the platform and moving to hammer straight into the Piper. The Piper moves to dodge...and slips on his own foot, getting smashed straight into the table and crushing it. The rose petals slam into the Piper, who makes a sharp noise like a violin suddenly getting yanked, as the Giant starts pummeling into him, Ran hammers into him, arrows pierce into his body, and then he's scorches by horrible plasma, which does hit into the Giant, but the Giant's tanky enough to handle it. The table is utterly scorched where the shot is. Is he really that easy?

BOSS BATTLE: THE PIED PIPER
FORTUNE REVERSED
PREPARE TO BATTLE

As the Giant slams into him, suddenly, the Piper's coat goes flat...and then starts to /scurry/ away, leaving behind the corpses of several rats. A mass of them moves across the table at a breakneck pace, before reforming into the Piper behind the Giant. The floor under the Giant suddenly moves to send him flying into the ceiling, as he begins his terrible rhyme again. "But they gave it up to fight...and now they will face the Piper's might!" Spiral chunks slam out of the wall, moving to crash into everyone sharply as the Piper flings himself off the ground, moving to land boot-first in Will's face. He's using the environment to batter into them, though the spirals are moving strangely slowly, to the Piper's frustration. Almost as if he's super unlucky. He starts playing a very bitter-sounding song, and everyone hit by it will feel like they have a heavy weight on their shoulders, trying to exhaust and slow them. "If only you had fallen for my trap! Well, let's make this a wrap."

Boss Theme: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E6aMkYnfJ_s&

Robert Speedwagon has posed:
    Speedwagon looks up at Empty Tidings at her proclamation. "...An' 'ow did yer manage that?" he asks. "When ya say 'bound', I s'pose yer mean magically. Did yer break it?" He's no longer surprised that people in the Multiverse can do these things.

    His group doesn't make any overt moves at the Piper just yet. He's melee-focused, and getting into melee with that guy is probably a bad idea. Though when more people start attacking, Robert's eyes narrow. "Spread out!" he instructs his group. And as one, the three of them go in three different directions. Tattoo circles to the right, Kempo goes to the left, and Speedwagon charges straight ahead!

    Suddenly the Piper's rhyming at them again... and then spirals made out of the floor are flying at them. Thanks to that spate of supernatural bad luck, they're slow enough that human beings with nothing special about them can dodge with some degree of success. Once more, Tattoo and Kempo have less trouble with this than their boss does; Robert has to start bashing them out of the way with his sledgehammer!

    Though as the Piper moves to leap at Will, he growls. "Oh no ya don't!" He flicks the bottom of his bowler hat's brim, and the false brim unravels, falling off in four pieces. It leaves behind four blades made into the hatband. With a twitch of his head, he flicks the hat off into his hand, and then throws it at the Piper.

Rebecca Chambers has posed:
The rhymes are getting old. Real old.

"We didn't come here for a poetry reading!" Rebecca says as she reloads her Beretta. "We came here to take you out!" The Beretta might be trying to fight a tank with a slingshot, but it's all Rebecca's got with her.

Empty Tidings has posed:
This is an unfamiliar expression. Tidings looks at Will a bit hesitantly and a bit puzzled. She expected him to be wary or annoyed that he got batted around like a ragdoll, not to be beaming like a schoolgirl. "I... er..." Words, for just a moment, fail her.

Then, violence. The Giant moves in on the heels of her spiteful curse. Empty Tidings adopts an expression of deep satisfaction at the pummeling he delivers. She tilts her head towards Robert, eyes gradually trailing off the clash ahead of her to look at him. She's still smiling. "Mm? Yes, magically. I changed it. I'm sure he's much happier now, though!"

The wall comes apart into spiral patterns. Empty Tidings turns to the first one and raises her right forwarm, catching the wall-piece on the sleeve of her sweater-dress. It explodes into powder, breaking apart against her and scattering to either side. She pivots on her heel and palm strikes another piece coming at her, spiking it down into the ground. Without thinking, she's shifted stances, changing from the demeanor of an interested spectator to a trained martial artist ready to get her hands dirty.

Then, the song hits her. She sways on her feet for a moment, widening her stance to stabilize herself. "That /music/..." Empty Tidings grits her teeth. She sucks in a breath --

    "Your trap was laid
    'neath eyes alert;
    Your quarry, bade,
    Yet paths avert!"

Taunt a rat in their own language, that's the way. Tidings manages to slip mockery into her meter:

    "Then who the fool that baits a scrap?
    A pest? A poet? A rat, entrapped!
    What hope is left 'gainst forces drawn
    to flame like flies who've since caught on?"

The curse and the Giant remain, doing their thing. Tidings shoots her mouth off like Janine (but with more class and less totally understandable fury), holding back and waiting for the reprisal.

Kotone Yamakawa has posed:
So Empty has brought some backup and she's not going to complain about it, not at all. The Giant does it's thing but hte Piper isn't down yet. It seems they got something other than the Piper from the looks of it. That thing being rats rather than him. This is like some kind of trick ninjas seem to use where you think you get them but get a log. She is already moving to engage her optic cloak and vanishes from view as she's now moving into the Piper.

Well he can't do it forever, right? Or so she thinks.

"With that last quip, you just don't know when to quit."

She is moving in on the Piper and will lay down several burst of SMg fire on them evne while cloaked it should afford her at least being harder to make out in the chaos of the melee.

Ran Itoh (1040) has posed:
    Ran doesn't move too much closer. She wants to keep people within her line of sight whenever possible. Of all the people who came with them, she's fairly sure that only Usagi can do much in the way of healing. She'll save her magic for later, but the mallet doesn't cost much to use.

    Reaching for the weapons belt around her hips, Ran pulls out a different knife than her usual ones. These are smaller, slimmer, lighter, and hardly meant for cutting. Ran measures the distance, takes a single step forward, and whips her arm forward, loosing a throwing knife for the swarm of rats.

    Secretly, she covets Speedwagon's hat a little bit.

Janine Liberi has posed:
    Janine attacks, and everyone has her back. She smirks, watching as the Piper is crushed, only to dissolve into rats and reform. "Gross," is all she can say with a sneer. She bounces on her heels as she awaits him to make the first move. The buffeting chunks of Castle freemasonry flies at them, and Janine responds with a vortex of wind to protect herself and those close to her.


    "Hah! A fucking trap?! If the Huntsman couldn't kill us with that, what hope do you have? Snivelling little bitch like you, always sneaking about and being coy. You think you're sooo clever, don't you? Well, here's a new flash, Pooper. You're nothing! You're less than trash, and you're gonna die here, leaving nothing but dirt under our shoes!" She's venting, and venting hard, but her tongue is certainly good for drawing aggro.

    And furthermore, she's watching Speedwagon's hat wheel towards the Piper. She's waiting for him to dodge it... sos he can redirect it with a current of wind to take him by surprise!

William Pauwel has posed:
EMPTY TIDINGS HAS ACQUIRED: Followers - */Bright-eyed Admirer

MEANWHILE. Under normal circumstances, Will would have found himself taking a boot squarely to the head. However! Today, he has a few things going for him. For one, he has the support of his friends! For two, he has Speedwagon! They haven't actually been properly introduced yet, you see. But soon that will be amended! Probably! Will dodges away from the face-kick, leaping to one side. His aim pivots, Judgment's barrel flashes as the weapon reconfigures. In a blink of an eye, the handcannon has shifted and transformed... Into what appears to be a twin-barreled shotgun.

"Hey," Will snarls, unleashing a veritable wall of viscous flame. "Come on. Split up again. Give it another try. I wanna see how many of your rats I can shoot down 'fore you can reform!"

August Kohler has posed:
Speedwagon's hat moves flying at the Piper. The Piper manages to slip under it mostly, grazing into the top of his head instead of slicing it off, which draws blood and knocks him off balance but doesn't do a terrible amount of damage. Or atleast, not until the hat comes flying back with the assistance of the wind, cutting into the Shadow's face and cheek. A rat bleeds out of the wound, and horrible squirming and movement can be seen from the rest of his face, as Rebecca's bullets rip into his flesh. The vermin drop to the ground with each hit, as the Piper's ability to dodge is difficult because he keeps tripping or bumping into something. The Pied Piper is visibly thinning from the loss of body mass, too.

As Tidings rhymes back at the Piper, his eyes narrow, and he shifts his movement to try and leave several kicks into her side, while Ran's knife slams into him, and Kotone's SMG fire rips into him. Will's flames pour forward, scorching against his skin and creating the horrible smell of burnt flesh. It's enough of a distraction that, so luck shall have it, the Piper moves right underneath the Giant's landing arc. The hammer impacts against his skull, and explodes into a burst of bloodied vermin, everywhere. But...more of the rats climb up his neck, reforming his skull, even if he's much, much thinner, and shouldn't be able to walk or fight like he can. The table is blasted upwards by the floor rising into it, and then knocked into the Giant to send him skidding backwards.

The Piper doesn't sing more, but instead makes a horrible...screech. It sounds like the wailing of rodents, dozens simultaneously, as he does indeed split up. Or, more accurately, changes how his mass is working. The Piper becomes thinner but taller and longer, as he moves around the battle much faster with the reach of his legs. The pipe plays a melody that sounds like nails on chalkboard, as vibrations emit to blast everyone near the door with the black mirrored glass...

That suddenly explodes, firing shards in all directions to rip apart and flay the group. The Piper moves to dash for the trapdoor. He's trying to escape!

Robert Speedwagon has posed:
    "HA! Good shot!" Speedwagon praises, when Janine's gust blows the hat back into the Piper. It does mean a minor distraction, though, since the hat flies off in an unexpected arc. He's gonna have to go get it now. In the meantime, the Piper starts BLEEDING RATS! "What the 'ell?!" Speedwagon yelps, hesitating for a moment. But no, he's not going to run off here. Besides, it's probably going to be worse for him if he DOES take off.

    Instead, as he retrieves his hat, he calls to Tattoo and Kempo, pointing at Will. "'E's got the right idea! Whenever yer see a rat drop off 'f 'im, KILL IT!" The Piper may be too fast for them, but they can do that. Tattoo is fast and precise with his knives, and Kempo can kick the rats away from the Piper as they fall off -- he can kick them towards Tattoo, in fact!

Atalanta has posed:
     Atalanta turns from the party and finds the closest thing to the sky she figures is here in this strange world. Her shoulders roll as she settles an arrow to the string, before drawing it back, aiming it for, where in her heart, she knows where the moon is. She exhales gently. "Very well, Master. Let us begin and end this hunt!"

     The arrow starts glinting at the tip, a green light, before she starts speaking. "With my bow and arrows, I respectfully ask for the divine protection of those that I worship; of the sun god Apollo, and of the mother moon goddess Artemis. Then to you, Pied Piper--"

     "I offer thee this calamity - Phoebus Catastrophe!

     Atalanta shoots into the sky, the arrow turning from a single slim arrow into a laser, before it disappears into overhead, a green sparkle like the sun shining, before, down, and focused completely on the Pied Piper, is what can only be called a veritable hail of glowing green arrows, each one nearly faster than the eye can see, and controlled to such a point that they strike the Piper and the Piper only.

Rebecca Chambers has posed:
Rebecca's shots do hit their mark and they seem to actually do some damage. The medic smiles a little bit as she realizes she's made a good choice, but then the screech happens and she covers her ears a little. "Unngh! No! I can't take it!" Nails on a chalkboard? Makes it even worse. Rebecca squeezes her eyes shut and holds her hands over her ears.

Then Rebecca hears the shattering noise, and she instinctively tries to dive for the ground, hoping the shards pass over her. At the same time she looks up long enough to fire a couple of shots in hopes of keeping the Pied Piper from getting away.

William Pauwel has posed:
Of course the piper starts bleeding rats. He's literally made of rats, after all! Will hisses a curse as the piper dissolves-- how annoying can an ability like that get, anyway? Even the giant's attack wasn't enough to crush it dead. And...

All that glass, too. That terrible noise. Will grits his teeth as fragments of shattered mirror embed themselves into his back, drawing a thin trickle of blood from every laceration. He can't let the pain or the blood loss affect his aim-- Will has a job to do.

Even if it's... not quite as flashy as what Atalanta gets up to.

"Woah...!" Will murmurs as a literal flood of arrows begins pouring down from on high. He steels his gaze, his shotgun changing again-- the energy returns to that strange, rippling pulse as he fires wave after wave of stunning electricity into the fleeing swarm of rats. It might not kill many of them, but it doesn't have to-- he just has to slow the thing down.

He just has to keep it stunned... And the cat will do the rest!

Kotone Yamakawa has posed:
Kotone Yamakawa watches as the rat gestlat keeps reforkming form more rats, if she had had any idea she'd have brought some serious rat posion or fire. Wait fire? She has the Plasma Grenade Dr. Shen developed. She'll pull one of those and will call out a warning to her allies.

"Fire in the hole!"

More and more rats, wait they are diplling up and kotne is cuaght in the attack her stelth armor and nbody getting ripped up quite a bit. The grenade though is in the air and it's in the Piper's path mauybe it iwll keep him from getting away and she calls out.

"We're not dead yet, keep it up."

Then comes some serious greek myth time as Atalanta rains down so many arrows you'd think she'd robbed Gil of some of his own supply.

Janine Liberi has posed:
    Janine smirks as she watches the hat cut a deep wound. "See? I can do stupid tricks too. Don't make me smart, just makes me an asshole. And that's exactly what you are, you complete waste of space. Now you have nothing left."

    He races for the hole, having shifted his shape. Raising his centre of gravity. Making him vulnerable to a strong gust of wind, pushing him away from it! "NOWHERE TO RUN! NOWHERE TO HIDE! DIE LIKE THE VERMIN YOU ARE!!"

Ran Itoh (1040) has posed:
    The noise gets worse and worse...! Is that what a dying rat sounds like?! Ran's halfway to trying to cover her ears when the mirror explodes in a storm of black diamond dust, slicing and stabbing into her companions and herself. "Ngh!" Her right side gets it a bit worse, with a shard the size of a playing card cutting her thigh, but otherwise Ran comes out mostly unharmed.

    She's already calling out for the Rabbit on the Moon when Atalanta does... something. Even she can feel the power building in the room when the Servant speaks those words. "What's..." is all she says before the arrows are fired. "...that?"

    It's like rain. Hundreds of arrows embedding themselves into nothing but the rats. Even Tsuki-no-Usagi stops to stare along with her mistress, though her eyes are still covered. "...Wow..."

    The power of a Servant, Ran realizes suddenly, really is a terrifying thing.

    Usagi raises her cupped hands, a mote of darkness nestled between her palms. It bubbles and bursts, flecks of comforting night floating toward the wounded to help stop the bleeding.

Empty Tidings has posed:
Empty Tidings does her best to kill things remotely, by causing awful luck and a giant rampaging, uh, Giant, to do it for her. It seems to be working out.

Until the impromptu poetry battle draws his attention. Tidings doesn't turn quite fast enough, getting kicked twice and nearly losing her footing before she twists around and physically slaps the leg aside. She goes in for an open-palm strike with her left hand and then a closed-fist hammerblow with her right, her unnatural strength channeled in the swift one-two.

Her breathing gets a little labored. She thinks she might have cracked a rib. Tidings moves a little too slowly, willing her body to knit itself back together. There's a flicker of un-light on her brow, something round and blacker than pitch left upon her forehead. It's mostly covered by her hair, though. She takes another tentative breath --

-- and then stands in the middle of a rain of glass shards.

Her dress is shredded. She writhes like she was being electrified, or shot, again and again. Each shard that hits her embeds itself in her skin, dark blood welling up in the innumerable wounds. She staggers a step towards the trap door, already fairly near, and then looks puzzled when her left leg -- currently perforated in a huge way -- refuses to work.

She doesn't feel any of it. She'll thank Avenger later.

She pitches over, practically in the Piper's path. Glass crunches -- and then sprays, and /how/. It's a veritable geyser from her wounds, the kind of thing you only see in exaggerated animation or particularly grotesque mockeries of humanity when they're cut down. She doesn't seem to be either -- but the /blood/...

...the slick, sticky, deadly poison that is her blood...

...is everywhere. Have a good time, Piper.

August Kohler has posed:
The shambling rat-man tries to escape for the hole, but is knocked backwards by a gust of wind, tripping over his own feet, and blasted into with several punches, thinning him more.. This all but spells the Pied Piper's doom, as Tattoo and Kempo destroy the rats that invariably fall out of the pile, shrinking the Piper. Bullets tear through the musician and drop more rodents, electricity stunning the rats in one place, left squirming, and the Giant rushes forward to start hammering him again. He's barely alive, and is going to die soon anyways, what with the poisonous blood suddenly seeping into his system, causing his breath to be haggard and several of his rats to just fall out over time. And then, Atalanta requests permission for something special.

Back at the front of the castle, playing watch, August grants it. He can feel the mana pull from him, draining to power his Servant's finishing blow.

As the arrow glints, the Pied Piper's yellow eyes show fear for the first time. "I can still be of use to you! A gift you'll love if you let me go through! Boots that will let you traverse the Castle, without any-"

The Pied Piper doesn't get to finish his sentence. Hundreds of arrows pierce into his already battered and beaten body, making it hard to get a good look at the pile of rats. They rip and tear through him, and smoke brushes over from the sheer friction. Everything is silent, until the smoke fades and the smear that was once the Pied Piper is all that's left, his hat fallen to the ground next to the trapdoor before it fades away. The only noise is the carrion call of ravens, echoing through the hall briefly before disappearing as quickly as it came.

Inside the trapdoor, there's no way to go through, and further attempts to investigate give the feeling that there's something wrong with this space, something horrible attached to it. Their search won't be futile, though. A pair of red and black boots lie inside the darkness, capable of allowing whoever wears them and whoever they lead to traverse the shifting of the Castle and the Forest without getting lost. Indeed, just trying to get back to the entrance gets them there in minutes, without any obstacles or dangers.

Robert Speedwagon has posed:
    After the shower of broken glass from the mirror, all the Ogre Street gang is in need of some patching up. The sparkles of night take away the pain; Ran receives a polite nod from Kempo, and thumbsup from Tattoo and Speedwagon. Though Empty Tidings's almost comical spray of blood gets a twitch from Robert, and his lips pull back from his teeth in a grimace of disgust and concern. That is definitely not normal!

    Though he's glad to see that all this is taking a heavy toll on the Piper. He's growing smaller and smaller. And as he tries to bargain his way out of death, Speedwagon intones, "We're ignoring those words so rushed! / We're going to see your hopes --" Here he pauses, to brings that sledgehammer down on one rat that had tried to escape. Splut. "--Crushed!"

    Yeah, he's not a poet. Sue him.

    But the Piper appears dead, his hat fading away. Robert puts his own hat on his head -- somehow without cutting his hand, his head, OR his hair -- and grins. "Slowly but surely -- eh, lords and ladies?" They've been making steady progress! He definitely understands something as big as this castle can't be finished in a short time.

Ran Itoh (1040) has posed:
    Why is everybody so good at coming up with rhymes on the spot like this? Is there a course you can take, or...? Oh well. Ran returns the men's thanks with a quick wink and a thumbs up of her own.

    Maybe this will mean the last of the kidnappings, or maybe another member of the Black Court will take over the job... Or, more worryingly, another member will be created. /That's/ depressing.

    Easier to rush past the twitching, dying rats to kneel by Empty Tidings's side. There's so much blood... and the wet cough from a moment ago sounded bad. "Usagi," Ran murmurs, rummaging in her /absolutely fashionable fannypack, excuse you/ for a pair of latex gloves. "C'mon, on your left side..." With that flimsy layer of protection between her and the secret poison, Ran carefully rolls Empty Tidings onto her side. She has no reason to believe there's unusual trauma to the vertibrae, and would rather keep the new girl from drowning in her own fluids. Behind Ran, the alien form of Tsuki-no-Usagi looms like a really weird angel, cupped hands spilling more of those healing black bubbles onto her patient.

Rebecca Chambers has posed:
Rebecca also runs to try to help Empty Tidings as well. She kneels down and takes out a can of First Aid Spray. "This might sting a little, but it's just anesthetic mixed with coagulant." She carefully sprays at the injuries, especially where the bleeding seems to becoming from. "Try not to move around too much, OK?"

Empty Tidings has posed:
There's totally a class for this. It involves being raked over coals when you fail to rhyme things with orange.

(doorhinge)

Empty Tidings flops like a fish out of water. She's a mess of black glass, ripped cloth and a frankly absurd amount of blood. When Ran rolls her over, she gets a look at her face, and sees an expression of irritation rather than abject agony. All things considered, she's remarkably composed for a pincushion.

Her eyes trace up to Tsuki-no-Usagi. She twitches her head in a slight and awkward nod at the two of them, smiling. There's blood on her face and smeared across one of the lenses of her glasses. It is a somewhat unsettling expression.

The glass slowly slides out as the healing bubbles drop. Shards click against the floor when they come free, leaving red marks that don't bleed. Tidings slowly lifts her right arm, bits of reddish leather showing through tears near her elbow. She reaches down and extracts a long, narrow piece from her side, then coughs up a glob of grossness. Rebecca's First Aid Spray seals up the biggest wounds when the glass comes out, taking some stress off her overworked system.

"Careful," she manages, still too punctured to completely speak. "Blood. Is poison."

Kotone Yamakawa has posed:
The piper tries to cut a deal in the end and the party as a whole are not having any part of it. The shadow is cut down by the fury of a certain cat archer and well? That's all she wrote on the subject of the piper. She'll attempt to study the door but will not be bale to get much, they do find the boots.

"Looks like he wasn't lying about that but I think i t's time to get going..."

Kotone would be looking pale herself if she coudl still do that, she has an uneasy feeling but givne the nater of her body it doesn't get father than that. She'll leave Empty ot the medics but damn her blood's posion? She's just glad they didn't lose anyone...she's in a notaice bit of pain and works to start pulling bits of shrapnel from eariler from her body for moment...