5770/Good Intentions

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Good Intentions
Date of Scene: 24 March 2018
Location: An-Teng, Creation-9999
Synopsis: The Watch returns to the lair of Kinvat, the Threshold's Toil to pay the toll.
Cast of Characters: Empty Tidings, Eve, Sarracenia, Yang Xiao Long, Atalanta, 1149, 513, Yuna Kagurazaka


Empty Tidings has posed:
    THOUSAND DRAGONS LAKE
    THE PRINCIPALITY OF AN-TENG
    CREATION-9999

Thousand Dragons Lake is an enormous body of water abutting the foothills and mountains that lie along the southeast of An-Teng, a coastal province in the South of Creation. It's fed by at least four major rivers coming out of the mountains, and empties to the west in the River of Queens, a wondrous lifeline through the heart of the province. During the day, it's a beautiful sight, with golden sunshine glittering off the wide, blue expanse.

It's the middle of the afternoon. Clouds cover the sky in a grey, dismal overcast. Sunlight filters through, but it isn't the sort of pretty sight it was last time the Watch came here. Fortunately, this time they're not going to be spending an hour or more swimming around looking for the place.

The meeting point this time is further west on the southern shore, making the walk from the warp gate in the woods a bit more of a hike. There's a small house on stilts there, with unlit standing torches stuck in the sand outside and leading to the near side of a floating dock that extends out over the water. A man in peasant's garb sits at the end of the dock in a conical farmer's hat, his feet in the water and a fishing line cast into the lake. There's a second man in identical clothing apparently napping in a dinghy attached to the dock.

No Man, the pale, long-haired and well-dressed young gentleman the group met before, is found the same way he was before: seated in the sand at a small, low square table on the beach. The same wine bottle and array of small cups as before is arranged in front of him, and a parasol keeps the minimal sun off of him. Apparently, he just moved closer to the surface location of the underwater cave and setup shop here instead in case you need him.

You've got to get that sunken bridge under control. You know there's a demon down there guarding it, and he demands a toll. The question is, do you produce something to pay, or do you ready for a fight?

Eve has posed:
    Well here we are again. Eve pads back to the beach, looking much the same as she did last time. Different outfit however; now she's wearing a salmon-colored sundress and blue sandals. Not exactly swimwear, but it's cute!

    She doesn't seem to have brought anything special to the party, or if she has it doesn't show. She's not carrying anything obvious, nor does she have any pockets or other obvious means of carrying anything with her. If she's prepared for this, well, it doesn't really show.

Sarracenia has posed:
     Sarracenia has some idea of what has happened, but she has never been one to spend much time on reading. However, when she heard that a toll was needed she felt she would have something to offer. Of course, she doesn't seem to have anything out of the ordinary as she walks through the woods with the others. In fact, she looks like a normal princess in an overly extravagant dress and a cute satchel purse that doesn't look like it could hold more than a few small items.

     She gives her brilliant red hair a toss as she reaches the beach, then looks toward the people at the dock. "So...would anyone want to show me just where we are going and who we must give these tolls to?" she asks, arms crossing over her chest impatiently.

Yang Xiao Long has posed:
    Yang is here! She's walking along the path this time, carrying something in a satchel. It seems to glow faintly around the edges. She nods to No Man, and the others, keeping rather more quiet than usual.

Atalanta has posed:
     Atalanta shows up hella late to the party. (This isn't a party, by Atalantas' reckoning. There's never enough alcohol.)

     She is angry. She knows this is probably another water trip, so someone, somewhere, has found a solid green bikini the color of her eyes to dress down in. She's also covered in blood, dragging the skin that contains a lions mane behind her, her bow slung over her back. Atalanta looks off, and it's not unless someone takes a good look that, much like she cut the lions mane, so too, has her own been nicked, the green and blonde strands mixed in with the darker color of the actual lion mane.

     She has her perpetual scowl going on.

Krusty (1149) has posed:
    Krusty has shown up for this second forray into the large lake. He doesn't like leaving things unfinished, which is why he's back. However very little has changed about him, still wearing the same heavy armor that he was during the initial trip.

    As the group gathers, Krusty remains silent. He's not greatly experienced in the matters of Creation, definitely compared to others here. But while the others are greeting No Man, Krusty is swiping his finger in the air in front of him. He's scanning through his inventory for something that may represent something of value for his toll.

Finna (513) has posed:
    With information dispersed and decisions made, Finna is GRUMPY, and she's doing absolutely nothing to show it. A stormy tempest rages across her face, brow furrowed and lips peeled back. She's ornery as they come over what she must do today for what might well be a wild goose chase.

    Perhaps to vent some of her frustrations while she waits for others, Finna is ACTIVELY RUNNING AROUND THE LAKE IN A BIG AND ANGRY CIRCLE. No, not the lakeSHORE. The lake itself.

    Exactly HOW she is running on the water is not obvious.

Yuna Kagurazaka has posed:
Yuna's policy is pretty consistently one of avoiding fights - and she actually had an idea for a toll pretty quickly upon hearing that the demon wanted some kind of payment. As such, while she's back in her Light Suit when she gets here (and, as before, has the full Matrix of Light with her), she's also holding a small bag in her hands. The bag appears to be canvas, and - given that we have to go swimming to confront the demon - is *probably* intended to be waterproof, or at least water-resistant.

Despite whatever unease she might be feeling at the moment, though, Yuna is her usual sunny, smiling self, waving to people, greeting them by name more often than not. Even if things have been unpleasant at one point or another, she clearly deems grudges a waste of time and energy right now. (Finna's antics might be drawing a bit of an askance look, but that's about it.)

Empty Tidings has posed:
No Man inclines his head politely to everyone as they arrive. Atalanta gets a weird look, but it's difficult to tell what sort with his oddly unreflective eyes. He also offers wine to anyone who hasn't proven they can already breathe underwater. Like before, it's somewhat sweet, burns a little going down, and gives the strong and striking sensation of being held in a loving embrace on a quiet night. It makes people daydream instead of drunk. Weird.

"Ah, miss," No Man says, smiling up at Sarracenia, "they go to pay the toll of the Threshold's Toil. He is under the lake. I'm certain they would be happy to show you the way." He offers up a cup. "But if you cannot draw breath from the waters of the lake, may I recommend you partake? My mistress offers it with her compliments to any who aid her in this endeavor."

"And, if you prefer," he adds, gesturing with one hand at the dinghy, "my compatriots can ferry you onto the lake itself."

    SMASH CUT TO: THE LAKE ITSELF

The water is warmer today than it was before. That's probably nice.

The cave is at the bottom. The boat drops off anyone who doesn't particularly want to swim the whole way right above it, giving you a look at a beast's head laid out in profile with huge stone slabs on the lakebed. The entrance to the cave itself is in a black gap where the eye should be, dipping downwards into a ravine and accessible through the side of it.

A voice issues forth, the same as before, sounding to the ear like an innumerable number of quivering stringed instruments building to a deep, growling harmony:

"WHO GOES? WHO COMES? CROSS THE THRESHOLD IF YOU WISH. BUT PAY THE TOLL! PAY THE TOLL, ELSE I MUST CARVE IT FROM YOUR FLESH."

Kinvat does not sound particularly angry, just... stern. None of the metal wires August saw last time are visible, and the bridge is no longer sunk into the silt at the bottom of the ravine. To present the toll, you must have to actually go inside the cave...

...which is a lot bigger on the inside than one might expect.

Swimming into the cave finds it curve upwards to an air pocket, and opens to a ledge near the ceiling that overlooks a huge cavern. Inside is a chamber lit by green-flame sconces, with a high ceiling supported by pillars of stone spiralled like nautilus shells that seem to have been grown out of the ground. Dozens of smaller plinths of the same style are set in clusters against the far walls. Some of them are occupied by odd objects, from strange, meaningless trinkets to objects of art and value. Many, though, bear nearly-identical open topped clay vessels instead.

There's also skeletons. Lots of them. The vast majority are human, with clean white bones slumped at the base of many of the plinths. Some wear old, decaying armor or rotting clothes. Others are missing bones or otherwise damaged. Unlike in many places like this, they do not immediately rise up to attack you.

There are stairs down to the smooth, sculpted stone floor which glitters throughout the chamber. Closer inspection finds the floor to be inlaid with tiny, delicate characters in perfect, gleaming gold from one side of the room to the other.

Kinvat is not immediately visible. There's a distinct feeling that you're being watched.

Eve has posed:
    What Eve's decided to bring, well, that's a curious thing. Eve's true treasure is books, and this quest is a highly literary one. She can't bring a book however. It'd be ruined, and she's not interested in ruining a book even if it's to pay off a demonic beast! No, she has another means to bring literature. They're trying to get into hell, more or less. Malfeas, the realm of the dead, or however it's called in any number of legends and myths. Call it the Underworld for simplicity. There's a host of legends about heroes making their way into the Underworld. The fee to cross over, to pass the guardian dog-like thing, is well known. Well, at least there's one payment common to a number of legends through a number of worlds.

    Eve might not know what this beast in particular is looking for, but that's not really the point. The point is to pick something significant to herself. That means an answer from legends and stories. She's probably mixing a few metaphors here. The demon wolf beast isn't the three-headed dog guarding Hades' realm. It isn't the ferryman offering passage over the river Styx. But when it comes to tolls for entering the underworld, a number of stories agree. You need two coins to pay the toll.

    Eve swims into the cave, then out and to the ledge in the cavern. Her nanomachine mermaid tail fades in a faint shimmer of electric blue, as does her bikini top and apparently her skin as well, revealing her dry sundress underneath. She pauses, looking around the cavern, then shrugs slightly.

    With bold intent and little time to consider, she approaches a plinth. She accepts at face value that nothing here will harm her, so long as she intends to pay a suitable toll. With a straightforward mein she holds out her hand, depositing two small silver coins of little monetary value on a plinth. As per the myths. Two coins to pay for passage into the realm of the underworld. It's cheap and quite possibly something she picked up off the street, but to her it's significant. It's a solution of logic and literature, both things she values quite highly. It's also a solution of myth, of metaphor, and of peace. She doesn't explain her offering however. She remains silent, merely standing there with an intent and somewhat challenging demeanor, trusting the beast to understand... or perhaps to somehow read her intent.

Yang Xiao Long has posed:
    Yang takes the drink, quaffing it in one knocked back go, then strides out into the water, ducking beneath the surface and beginning to trek to the gatekeeper's lair. She dives down, down further, her hair streaming behind her like some strange sea creature. She enters the cave, and finds the skeletons and the plinths. "I'm gonna take a wild stab in the dark and say these bones belong to those who couldn't pay the toll, yeah?" she says to the 'empty' air, hauling herself up to one of the nearby plinths that isn't occupied.

    She reaches in, pulling the containment vessel from the satchel, showing a deep purple Dust Crystal suspended within. "Gravity Dust. It's the same type that lets my weapon compact into its standby form without damaging the mechanisms." she explains. "Without it, I wouldn't have my weapon, or my way of life." she places the entire vessel onto the plinth... then waits.

Atalanta has posed:
     Atalanta swigs the drink, Atalanta boards the ferry, Atalanta hates you, you, and especially you, and /really/ hates this.

     Underwater is an actual pain, Atalanta slowly moving towards a empty plinth. She sighs deeply, before rolling her hair-and lion mane gift up into a tight bundle, reaching over her back and-- pulling the string off of Tauropolos.

     Using the waxed string, she ties the bundle up neatly, leaving it on the plinth. Aside from just offering up August, it's the best thing /she/ can thing off...

     ... hopefully it'll work.

Yuna Kagurazaka has posed:
Much like last time, Yuna doesn't bother with the wine, or with the dinghy either; she walks out to the water's edge and shifts into Marine Form, electing to swim in her mermaid-styled armor.. And again, Elner sticks with her - although this time, Jiina and Erina fly along near the boat.

Upon entering the air-breathing part of the cave, Yuna's armor reverts to her basic Light Suit, Marina re-assembling next to her. Yuna takes a moment to look around the cave, almost regretting the decision to do so ... but this *is* where they need to be at this point, so it's not like she can let herself get creeped out to the point of fleeing.

This does not stop her from getting creeped out. And it shows.

After a moment's discomfort, though, the blonde idol/magical girl/space paladin walks over to one of the plinths, unzipping the bag she was carrying and taking out a CD. Not just the disc, but the still-wrapped jewelcase; even without looking closely, Yuna's picture is pretty evident on the front cover - and rather than the Light Suit, the cover-photo Yuna is wearing a cute, slightly frilly dress, posed as if the photographer caught her in the middle of a dance.

The still-sealed CD is placed on the plinth, gently, even respectfully - not so much respect for the CD as for the toll it represents, and the one (demon or not) who'll be collecting it. It's both an object of some financial value, and a representation of who Yuna is and what she does .... not as the Savior of Light, per se, but in her primary career as an idol singer. Then again, Yuna being who she *is*, her heart shines through whether she's singing or fighting - or whether she's trying to stop a fight by singing (which she's also done).

Sarracenia has posed:
     Sarracenia takes the offered drink, gives it a sniff, then takes a polite drink before handing it back. "Thank you." she says, then boards the boat. She is not going to swim a great distance in this dress! When greeted Sarracenia returns the greetings with a smile and a wave. "If any of you would like, I can provide an easy way down to the cave!" she calls to the others.

     Over the cave, she reaches into her purse and pulls out...a rubber frog? At least, that's what it looks like. But, when she squeezes it, it explodes in white smoke. When the smoke clears a few moments later, she is in a green frog suit! It's a green wetsuit with built in flippers and a cute green cap with frog eyes on top. She leaps over the side of the boat, flying pretty far into the air before diving down gracefully. With a small splash she plummets toward the bottom of the lake and into the cave. She lands inside, still in her frog suit, then ends up hopping like a frog as she heads deeper inside. She doesn't seem to realize she is doing it, or at least doesn't act like it is an unusual thing to do. Anyone else who had taken up her offer of a frog suit would find it similarly compulsory to hop like a frog. "So...something valuable to me..." she says quietly as she hops along.

     Sarracenia watches the others present their gifts, Sarracenia wonders what she has of value to offer. She has money of course, but implications were that money may not be the type of valuable the demon is looking for. So, Sarracenia stands up and in a puff of smoke she is back in her billowing red dress. She is really trying to ignore all those skeletons. She hasn't really looked around, just followed the others. She reaches into her bag again and pulls out...a Bob-omb plush. She gives it a firm squeeze and a little kiss, then places it on the plinth with the other offerings. Or...at least tries to. It takes her a minute to actually leave it there. She is obviously not used to giving things away, much less things that are precious to her. "This is Bomby. He has been my faithful friend since I was little. S-so...you had better treat him well!"

     The princess actually has a few tears slide down her cheeks as she slowly backs away. It may not make sense to the others here, but Sarracenia really seems to be having some difficulty.

Krusty (1149) has posed:
    Krusty once more accepts the drink, the underwater breathing buff appearing in his view. This time he also accepts the transportation out onto the lake, at which points he jumps off the boat into the water with a splash.

    Rising out of the water and into the cave, Krusty runs a hand through his hair to settle it in some form of neatness. Glancing around at the sight of the skeletons, Krusty is reminded of some dungeon environments. He wasn't exactly prepared for combat with undead... But thankfully it doesn't seem to come to that at this moment.

    Seeing the others offering their tolls, he brings up his inventory again... He'd been pondering what to offer on the entire trip here. And now that he stands in the cavern, great risk if he chooses wrong if the skeletons are any indication... There's really only one choice. Reluctant as he is, his finger hovers of the title of the item, 'Tear of Silune'. A small smile tugs at the corners of his mouth as he recalls. Normally a meaningless vendor item, this particular object was a treasure from his guild's very first dungeon raid. Twelve hours straight of dungeon crawling and boss fighting with people who would eventually become trusted guild members...

    Krusty presses his finger forward. There's a small flash of light as the glimmering jemstone enclosed in gold manifests in front of him, gently falling into his hand. No hesitation. This must be done. Krusty quickly places the item into plinth and then turns away, "Time to move on."

Finna (513) has posed:
    Finna does NOT imbibe of the Great Mother's gifts. She just dives right into the lake when the others are, growing gills and fins and mermaid-kicking her way down into the cave with the others...

    She has already decided on her toll, but upon entering the air pocket... Finna erupts from the waters, sails a good twenty feet through the air---

    And lands on all fours, now a fuzzy white fox...

    And she RAPIDSHAKES all the water from her coat. Why she chose to shift like this is anyone's guess... but upon seeing the skeletons laying about, she chooses to go investigate the skeletons and see if any of them have anything particularly SHINY that Kinvat didn't enshrine. Any money or perhaps fine weapons.

    She also attempts to CAREFULLY peek into the clay pots, already with half an idea of what grisly things might be in them.

    As much as she WANTS TO snatch things from this BOTHERSOME DEVIL, she is, for the moment, clamping down on the urge. If only out of fear of both the demon and angering her allies. How long she can subdue that desire remains to be seen...

    "What do you DO with all this stuff anyways, Demon? Nice art gallery here, skeletons aside, but you can't get many visitors down here!" She can't help but rib the creature a little bit, as she seeks out one of the empty plinths.

    And upon reaching it, once again assumes human form. In her hand she bears... a single canine tooth.

    "Among my people, it is customary to take a trophy from your first kill as a hunter. I'm loathe to part with it in a forsaken shrine under a lake..."

    But she gently places it down on the plinth.

Empty Tidings has posed:
The chamber is warm, and humid, with an occasional hot breeze coming from nowhere. It's like standing in the mouth of some great beast rather than being in an underwater cave. At least it'll cool down once you get back in the water again on the way out. Closer inspection of the skeletons finds little of particular value left on them. Finna does spot one carrying a curved dagger with a handle inlaid with silver, though.

Something stirs. There's a sound like the scrape of a blade across stone. A black vertical line rises from the miniscule gap between the stones in the floor. It bends, and it makes a sound like a stringed instrument being plucked when it does. It does it again, and again, faster and faster, the line growing longer and more twisted with every heartbeat.

Eventually, it stops. It resembles a large man with the head of a hound rendered in intricate black wireframe. Four eye-sockets are set into its head, two just above the usual pair you'd expect, all of them great brass orbs instead of actual eyeballs. The upper on the left side is missing. They weren't there a moment ago, but when it made a motion like blinking, they suddenly appeared.

"I am Kinvat." The creature's voice is less booming and harsh. It still has a strangely orchestral quality to it, like instruments being tuned and tested, but it isn't the bone-rattling scale it seemed to be in the lake. "You seek the Bridge. What have you brought me?" He turns.

He's suddenly amidst the plinths, examining each. He looks to the coins, and then to Eve, his head tilted. "The Bridge does not go to the underworld. It may yet go to your death. But I understand why it is this." He touches them gently. "It is... clever. I like clever." Kinvat lifts his hand away from the plinth. "Acceptable."

Kinvat turns to Yang. He looks at her from a short distance away, and then addresses her from the opposite side of the plinth she stands at. "They paid the toll in flesh." He lifts one wire-wrought hand with a chorus of spidery plucking sounds and gestures at the nearest clay vessel, an armored skeleton seated at its base. "They are permitted passage." He looks the containment unit up and down. The wire effigy bends over to examine the crystal more closely. "Men and women like you would always find a way to live as you do. Do not hinge your existence on something that is not a part of you." He narrows his eyes. The effect is like many-layered shutters sliding into place instead of actual lids closing. "But I have never seen its like, and thus, it is acceptable."

There's another twinge of sound. He's now leaning forward to examine the CD. Kinvat eyes it, and then Yuna. He makes a low, ponderous rumbling noise. "You will find the song in your heart to serve you well on the far side of the Bridge. Do not miss a note. Do not anger the Dancer." He straightens, nods. "Acceptable."

Empty Tidings has posed:
"Do you make demands of one such as I," Kinvat asks Sarracenia, suddenly looming over her, "while visitor within my own domain?" He reaches out without looking and plucks the Bob-omb plush off the plinth, holding it up in a firm grip. His wire-wrought fingers seem to tighten -- and then he releases it very slowly, putting it back where it was lain and carefully arranging it in the center. "It will be kept with care for as long as it is needed here," the demon says, oddly gently. "It is an acceptable toll."

A flicker. A finger plucking a string. Kinvat stands across from Krusty. He stares at him for a long moment, expression unreadable. He inclines his head very slightly, and then steps past him to the plinth. One hand brushes the Tear. "A memory shared is not a memory lost," he says. "Acceptable."

Finna does not get instantly shifted to. Kinvat strides across the chamber instead. The demon's feet lift off the floor, and the wires connecting it to the ground are briefly visible. It moves like it was suspended above a track rather than walking free. It gives her a chance to look into one of the pots, where she finds exactly what she'd expect: chunks of human flesh. It looks freshly butchered, despite the obvious age of the skeleton at the base of the plinth. It's easy to pick out that all the skeletons rest beneath clay vessels now, though not all the vessels have skeletons.

"I guard them from would-be /thieves/," Kinvat says, a bit of a stringed hiss in his voice, "and keep them for when next you may need passage over a threshold bearing my mark. Do you think this a passing fancy?" He circles the Lunar for a moment, and then examines her offering. Gruffly, he barks, "Acceptable," and moves on.

Which is about when things get less pleasant.

The sound he makes is a dischordant screech of a string section going apeshit. He jumps from one side of the room to the other, facing Atalanta and her bundle. His eyes are wide, the surface of the brass orbs rippling and roiling like waves in a violent sea. His voice gains that previous /mass/, his words carrying physical pressure that makes the room seem to vibrate around you. Jagged black lines snap upwards from between stones in the floor, rapidly diminishing the space there is to stand by way of fields of asymmetrical spikes.

"IS THIS A FOOL'S TOLL OR A FOOL'S INSULT?!" Kinvat demands. "DO YOU MOCK ME?! DO YOU THINK ME ONE OF THOSE PATHETIC CREATURES SET TO GUARD THE GATES OF THE TRAITORS' CITY, TO BE DISREGARDED AND DEGRADED WHENEVER YOU SO PLEASE?!"

Uh oh.

Eve has posed:
    Eve likes clever far more than she likes fighting, and so she's pleased by Kinvat's response. Her smile, however, is minimal. Just a tiny tightening of the corners of her lips replacing a normally impassive manner. She's like a cat trying not to show how much it enjoys getting petted.

    As the demon goes through the rest, she nods slightly at each. Seems they'll be fine, everyone giving something meaningful and the beast respecting the thought and sacrifice made for each. Until Archer that is. EVE thought it was meaningful but Kinvat, it seems, disagrees.

    The little blonde literaturist acts immediately, seemingly without pause for thought. Her arms come up abruptly, crossed as if in warding, then flash down to her sides. At the motion, a bright chime of steel on steel rings out. She's not as unarmed as she appears, as her arms spout thick blades longer than her forearms and almost as broad.

    Eve doesn't attack however. She maintains the posture, using the weapon 'draw' to merely get attention. "Can't you see how much of a sacrifice she made just to get down here?" the little blonde snaps out sharply. Seems Eve WAS paying attention all this time.

Yuna Kagurazaka has posed:
A piece of Yuna wonders, as Kinvat manifests, whether he's a construct or something - although he is still quite definitely a person, as well as being plausibly a demon. These are not mutually-exclusive categories in Yuna's book; neither is the fact that his mere presencei n the chamber sets her on edge like nobody's business.

But as uneasy as Yuna is, she maintains a non-hostile demeanor, watching Kinvat evaluate the various offered tolls, and inclining her head politely when he passes a favorable judgment on hers. Plus the 'advice' he gives her - although she finds herself wondering exactly which song Kinvat *means*. She wasn't actively thinking of a particular song ...

Then he gets to Atalanta, and all hell threatens to break loose - the tension up-shifting violently enough that the Matrix Divider appears in her hand *without* her consciously choosing for it to appear. A brief glance downwards, and the weapon is dismissed ... although she mutters, "Shugoseiheki," and summons her kite shield instead - this time as a conscious invocation.

"Atalanta is bonded to the young man who paid his toll on his previous visit," Yuna tries to explain to the demon. "And we didn't have a lot to go on when you told us we'd need to pay a toll. If you take exception to her offering, you take exception to more than just her, despite saying our other tolls are acceptable in your eyes."

Her left arm, the one which bears the shield, tenses up further, her fingers shifting around the handle - gripping it tighter, ready to brace it. If this is about ot come down to a fight anyway, she'll regret it - but she plans to make Kinvat regret it a LOT more pointedly if the demon forces the issue.

Finna (513) has posed:
    "Ahhh...." Finna's eyed that dagger! But She's back up and about to perform the toll, clearly not holding any jeweled daggers.

    The call of 'thieves' gets a shameless grin on her face and a twinkle in her eye, even as her grin turns a little feral. But no, she made her toll, and it was declared acceptable!

    "OWWWWWW--"

    Though the screaming gets her ears ringing and teeth grinding.

    She purses her lips, and looks Atalanta up and down...

    She's pondering whether she should take this opportunity to stab the demon in the back while it's angry and off-balance, or reason with it. And the choice is looking pretty coinflippy!

    "I take a deal seriously, so if the toll is accepted, the deal is done. But I also have a duty to safeguard my allies' passage through Creation. Let's keep the exchange peaceful, hm? What upsets you so?"

Sarracenia has posed:
     When it comes to her turn, Sarracenia flinches in surprise when Kinvat is suddenly right in front of her but she doesn't back down. She is about to yell back at him until...he suddenly softens and sets Bomby down. She softens as well, a bit confused but glad that Bomby wasn't hurt and is acceptable. She smiles to the wireframe demon and bows politely. "Thank you." she says, then watches the rest of the reactions.

     Seems like it is going well right up until Kinvat goes after Atalanta. She blinks at the unexpected reaction, then tries to get a better look at the offering. When she realizes what it is she takes a step back. "The skin of a lion and the string of the bow that I can only presume felled him? She gives you a most difficult prize and the most important piece of a hunter's tools, and you accuse her of disrespect?!"

Atalanta has posed:
     "I give you of lion, of my mane and of that of which I am! I snapped the bow of my weapon, to hold them together! You have me wrapped up, in a string!" Atalanta is angry, she's upset, and she's tired. She hates this, she hates being /stuck/ here.

     Atalanta furiously throws the curved wood that makes up the rest of her bow on top of the pile. "I already died once in my determination to give everything to the rest of the world, I don't have anything else to give!"

Krusty (1149) has posed:
    Things appeared to be going well... Until suddenly they weren't.

    As Kinvat begins to verbally unleash hell at Atalanta, Krusty remains visibly calm. Unlike some of the others, he doesn't draw his weapon in objection to the treatment of their fellow Watchman. For a being like this, it would probably be a hollow gesture.

    As the others attempt to reason with the so called demon, Krusty remains quiet as he studies Kinvat. He's not entirely convinced that what's happening is as straightforward as it appears, so he's watching carefully, trying to discern if there might be something else at play here.

Empty Tidings has posed:
Kinvat apparently disagrees with Eve's assessment. He turns towards her for a moment, layered wires peeling back from the jagged maw that must be his impression of teeth. He stares at her for a long, long moment --

-- and then twists around towards Yuna instead. "His toll," he says, voice still full of disharmonious twists, arm outstretched towards a plinth bearing the very same currency flung into the ravine, "has been paid. /Hers/ is an /insult/. An /insult/!"

Krusty can see that this is exactly the case: he's been insulted. Everything about him screams 'enormous faux pas.' Atalanta might as well have pissed in the soup at dinner for the kind of reaction she's getting. He can also tell that he doesn't look like he's turned hostile yet... but that the area around them is very clearly reacting to his mood. The jagged, shifting shapes appearing between stones in the floor... they look a lot like the teeth in his mouth, and you're all standing between them.

This may be why he is apparently unmoved by the suggestions of violence. 'Home field advantage' does not properly sum it up. You might as well be in his mouth already.

Kinvat faces Atalanta again. He bends down, the face of the metal effigy practically touching hers. Nostrils flare with a sound like a scraping of knives. "You claim you have passed," he growls, "yet you stand before me. You claim you give all, yet you yourself are intact."

He gestures at the bundle. "These bear the marks of power and skill. They are of /you/, yes? They are what you /are/." A gust of warm, wet air rolls through the cavern, making the green flames illuminating it flicker and waver. "You are no god. You are no spirit of this world, or mine."

"What," he growls, "/are/ you?"

Eve has posed:
    While Eve's principles are firm and her thinking rather quick, she completely lacks the reference frame to deal with Kinvat. She can't figure out why exactly he's reacting the way he is, what his power might be, or how to appease him. The place-demon, however, isn't attacking. Yet.

    She might be a bit worried at being within his place of power, but not THAT worried. Eve's ready and willing to cut her way out even from inside the belly of the beast... if that's the only way possible. She'd rather not, of course. She doesn't mind violence, but also doesn't hold with holding a being's nature against them. It's compelled to be here, to guard, and perhaps some other things. If there's a way past this that doesn't involve fighting, so much the better. Not just for her sake, but for Kinvat's as well.

Atalanta has posed:
     "I am a spirit, but you are correct. I come not from this world, so I have erred. I am a lion; I was cursed to be one, and died as one, so I bear its' marks with me now." Atalanta says, quietly. "I am what is called a 'Heroic Spirit', someone who made such a strong mark on my world, that had such a strength of will, that I was drawn to a special place, to be called on as a 'Servant', in a fight for a holy relic, that if I win, grants me a wish. If I am 'killed' - not that I really can be, once I pass I go back to that special place- or if my 'master', the person that calls me, dies, I also return."

     "I am sorry, for erring in the way that I did. I did not know." Atalanta's sincerity, as well as the fact that she is absolutely truthful in her words, make her a humble figure.

Sarracenia has posed:
     It isn't until those shapes start shifting about that Sarracenia gets any sort of inkling just how much danger they might be in. Her eyes widen at the tooth-like outlines. Can they even fight this thing if they have to? With a bit of explanation as to what might be the problem and Atalanta apologizing Sarracenia calms down as well. Still on edge, but it seems like they have no choice but to hope the demon will accept the apology...and not take the price out of Atalanta's hide.

Finna (513) has posed:
    As a Lunar, Finna's used to being in some pretty freakishly dangerous situations... but with the area shifting not so subtly, she has to rank this as one of he most dangerous! A few beads of worried perspiration roll down her forehead as she glances around, muscles tensing and scenarios running in her head a dozen at a time of ways to get the HELL out of here and grab whoever she can if it goes utterly south.

    Half of the predictions aren't getting very far though, hence why she's nervous!

Krusty (1149) has posed:
    Krusty remains very still as soon as he realizes exactly where they are. They should probably act rather carefully from this point on. They don't want to risk angering this demon much more than it already is. And thus, Atalanta goes into great detail about what she is.

    Krusty places head in one of his hands... This is probably not going to go well.

Empty Tidings has posed:
Kinvat stares down at Atalanta for a long, still moment.

The demon settles back on his metal heels. He lifts his head and sniffs the air, the wire-frame lines of his face settling into something more normal (well... for him). He folds his arms and exhales a sound like a growl and a sigh, descending in volume and severity.

"You are not from here," he states, "and acted in ignorance, not malice. I forgive your trespass." He points at the pelt. "From others, I would take this to mean I should feast upon their heart's blood. But this..."

He touches the bow. The demon lifts it off the pile, gliding fingers down the length of it, knife-like wires gently caressing the weapon. Then, he holds it out to her. "This is not to be offered. You have already rendered it incomplete without the string. That is sufficient."

Kinvat looks up. "You may access your prize... but here it will remain."

Wires descend from the ceiling. A section of the roof comes apart, peeled open by intricate wireworks. An object is lowered from above, set into the middle of the room. The crazed wireworks, and Kinvat himself, come unwound. They descend back into the gaps in the floor, leaving the place peaceful and calm again... but with the same sense that someone is watching you.

The Scarlet Bridge is a work of art. Its wedge-shaped stones are of carnelian polished to a silky sheen; its joins and posts are hammered from blood-red iron. Carvings of leering demonic faces and paeans to the Yozis cover every square inch of rock and metal, curving upward to support the arched roof decorated with angular points. Nearly ten feet wide and almost fifty long, the bridge arches gently up from the floor to end abruptly at the height of its arc, hanging in mid-air without a far half.

No doubt about it; this has to be your way in. Now... how do you use it, exactly?

Sarracenia has posed:
     Sarracenia lets out a breath of relief as Kinvat accepts the apology and gives them access...to an incomplete bridge? She looks at it skeptically before looking to the others. "A bridge to nowhere?" she asks before making her way toward it. She doesn't start ascending yet, just looks at it and up along it. "Or...will it be like one of the warp gates...?" she wonders to herself.

Yuna Kagurazaka has posed:
It takes a lot of Yuna's self-control not to draw forth another weapon - and she's actually chiding herself, in the relative privacy of her head, for letting herself freak out enough to 'draw' a weapon in the first place, however reflexively.

And she has to *keep* exercising that self-control, right to the hilt, especially when Kinvat gets in her face again. Even if it's just briefly, she is far too keenly aware that he is a demon who's ready to tear a pound of flesh (or more) out of one of her allies - one of her friends, really. And she's not going to let THAT happen.

But she doesn't want to be the first one to attack. Even though every fiber of Kinvat's presence, every jangling wire, sets her own nerves on edge, she fights back against her own instincts - and the moment of danger is finally averted as Atalanta explains her offering, and Kinvat accepts it. Tension starts draining back out of Yuna as she hears and sees that, but she doesn't let her guard down until Kinvat's wires filter back into the floor. Of course, by that point she's more focused on the Scarlet Bridge.

And regretting it. Well, it *is* a gateway into Creation's counterpart to hell, so she should have expected something like this ... but that doesn't make it any less discomforting to look upon. With Shugoseiheki still mounted on her left arm, Yuna cautiously steps towards the bridge ...

And, as if expecting something drastic to happen, firmly places her right foot on the bridge's surface. She doesn't yank it back unless something actually DOES happen, though.

Eve has posed:
    Eve headtilts at Atalanta's explanation. Some she knows of course. Some... well, it's interesting hearing a story from the story's own source. She doesn't judge though, she just seems curious.

    She's relieved when Kinval accepts it. At that point Eve looks down at her own blade-arm extensions. A little sheepishly, she shakes her head and causes the blades to shatter into a crazy crystalline pattern. The blades break like shards, then like glass, then like snow, progressively finer and finer fragments within a matter of moments until the blades are nothing but dust that disappears into thin air. Well, not thin air exactly. Each fragment divides and separates until each is smaller than dust, smaller than the cells of a human being, and they ride electromagnetic currents back into Eve's body.

    At the speed they vanish, it's like Eve's actually /embarrassed/ at having reacted with the seeming threat of violence.

    She begins to study the bridge, looking for all the world like she'd never shown the slightest martial intent here. Nope, just a small booky scholar here! One with no clue about what to do with this bridge. She knows stories and she's smart, but there's thousands of bridges in stories with no clue about what this one's supposed to do exactly.

Krusty (1149) has posed:
    Krusty is proven correct to have not drawn his weapon... Thankfully. Otherwise that might have been embarassing. But all's well that ends well. Now that just have a bridge to deal with... It's a rather impressive sight, even with the somewhat ominous demonic carvings. Of course, this kind of thing is way outside his area of expertise. And quick glances suggest none of the others really know what to do next...

    Krusty hmmms and suggests, "I suggest we leave for now and discuss the next step in a more appropriate setting."

Empty Tidings has posed:
At least some of the demon faces are cool looking. A couple are even pretty.

Stepping onto the bridge...

...causes nothing in particular to happen. It seems very sturdy; very well-built. Despite having been buried at the bottom of a lake for who knows how long, it looks like it hasn't been touched by age or the elements.

Ascending to the top finds no change in the bridge's status. The apex of it just abruptly cuts off, like it had been sliced in half. Sticking things through the gap puts them into empty air. Examining it with any sort of magical senses gives an impression of emptiness...

...and then, very abruptly, of a presence of thrumming power. It doesn't seem to change anything at first, but the bridge itself just /feels/ more alive, like it was waking up from a long dormancy. There's an almost electrical tingling in the air for a span of seconds -- and then blue fire wreathes the empty archway, filling the end of the bridge with a sudden heatless blaze.

A young woman steps through, clad in a red dress covered in asymmetrical brass ornamentation. Her hair is long, black, and bears tiny brass bells that ring with each step. Her hands are covered in long black leather gloves, and a reddish veil falls over the upper half of her face, covering her eyes.

"Ah! Perfect!" Empty Tidings exclaims. She strides down the bridge. The sound of the demon reacting and reforming echoes through the cavern. When Tidings reaches the floor, she makes a precise sweeping motion with both hands in front of her, and then ducks down and touches the ground.

All the intricate little golden characters in the floor take on a hazy green tint. The demon withdraws back to wherever it hides. She stands up straight and smooths her dress, smiling brightly. A disc of utter blackness rests on her brow, painful darkness visible even through the veil.

"Who wants dinner?" she asks. "I'm /starving/."