6983/LI0: Welcome To Finaria

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LI0: Welcome To Finaria
Date of Scene: 12 January 2020
Location: Last Illusion
Synopsis: The world of Last Illusion is mysteriously reset to its beginning, and the Multiverse begins to intervene in the progression of its events.
Cast of Characters: 7141, 7191, Shigure, 7201, Arthur Lowell, Tomoe, 7173, Athela Valemore, Alruna Greengate, 6666, Staren, 7180, 7197, Crow Armbrust, 6895, John Rizzo, Rean Schwarzer, Shyra, 6733
Tinyplot: Last Illusion
Tinyplot2: Loop Zero


Linehart (7141) has posed:
     This is The Beginning.

     Everyone knows The Beginning. It's so old that it's a cliche. It's sitting in the Tavern in a small town, waiting for the Hero to arrive. The music of the town is a cheerful chiptune arrangement. It beeps and hums in comforting ways. The music of the Tavern is a simulation of conversation, a low murmur of quiet underlaying the upbeat tune. There are people here, but they're...off. They're all the same - all the men are the same, black-eyed, with only slight hair and robe colors to differentiate them. All the women are the same, black-eyed. Most of them are sitting. One of the women moves around the tables, but it's obvious that she's on a pattern; after two or three loops she's gone right back to where she was, and started the whole thing over again. The bartender just keeps scrubbing the table endlessly, wordlessly, black-eyed. No one talks to each other. No one speaks unless spoken to. If spoken to, they just repeat the same things ad infinitum, over and over and over, the same line of dialogue in blue and white textboxes that appear with a little bwip and disappear with the same.

     It's all around a central table. A central table with four chairs. Upon the table, three drinks. At the table, a pink-haired healer-girl. There's a man in gold armor hiding in the corner, hoping desperately that nobody notices.

     This is the Beginning.

     Everyone knows the Beginning. It's so old that it's a cliche. It's starting in a little town with a cheerful guard outside whose dialogue box says something like Welcome to Finaria! I like bows.

     In the little town of Finaria, that's where it starts. Outside the windows of the Tavern, rows of identical wooden houses - down to the last grain - stand on a copy-pasted cobblestone road, wrapped around a suite of high stone walls. Identical people go about their cycles, simply walking in place, standing in place, sitting in place. Children run around and around buildings without stopping.  

     This is the Beginning.

     Everyone knows the Beginning. It's so old it's a cliche.

     It starts with an old man sitting on a stoop. If only I had some HERBS from the Yellow Forest, this back ache of mine would disappear. It's a quest, of course. Every good Beginning is a quest.

     This is the Beginning.

     It's so old it's become a cliche.

     We've already done this once before.

Pazkar (7191) has posed:
The man in golden armor, with red jewels built into his massive suit, is hiding. He has a script in hand. Pazkar is here, and is waiting for people to filter in, trying to hide out of sight of literally everyone. Time to get this show on the road.

Shigure has posed:
    Shigure approaches the town alone. A lone traveller. She's wearing a variation on her kanmusu uniform, fitted plates of metal over 'important' areas. A heartplate, thigh guards. She's got a Skorts thing going on with segmented plates instead of the regular pleated schoolgirl skirt. Her hair is done with a circlet of iron, and a tight coronet of her braid around it... lastly, she's not (obviously) armed, save for the short wakizashi blade strapped to her left hip for right handed draw.

    She greets the guard, and gets the text box. She greets a townsperson and gets the text box... then she approaches the OLD MAN, and gets the Quest... before heading toward the TAVERN... that seems to be the place to gather, after all.

Arkae Zellar (7201) has posed:
A QUEST!

All of this... multiversal weirdness that's come up since leaving Golarion is something that Arkae has been able to handle. It does help if you think of it like planar travel, only instead of planes of fire or water or thought it's... a bunch of weirder stuff.

But this. This, right here, right now, in front of her, pushes down incredibly hard on her nostalgia for her early days.

"Yes! Yes, hi, I will go get you herbs for your back pain, old man!" The tengu waves at him, and then heads off at overland speed for whatever looks most like a Yellow Forest. Presumably it's yellow colored, or just the largest nearby forest, or something like that. And then once she gets the herbs, the old man will have some sort of clue for a further quest chain, or some old heirloom he'll hand down to the nice adventurer that got him those herbs, or something like that. That's usually how it goes, right?

Arthur Lowell has posed:
    Arthur descends from above, riding his ROCKET BROOM. Despite the blandness of each NPC, he approaches many of them, barraging them with lots and lots of SECRET COOLKID HANDSHAKE motions as well as viewing their text. He heads for the TAVERN, intending to stop in.

    "YOOOOOO, HOMIE! What's good? You got everything BACK TO SQUARE ONE? You keep those LEVELS and that THINKIN', dog?" Arthur assaults Shyra's hand with handshake motions as well. "I gotta go find that CAVE, you hit up a DEEP DARK CAVE anytime in that ADVENTURE? How should I ROCK-IT ROCKET to that bitch? STARBOY and I got some SHIT to DROP OFF, think I'mma BREADCRUMB the MISSING TIMELINE stuff... Probably gonna need LILIAN to see if it's even WORKING." He looks around. Where the hell is Lilian Rook? Probably appearing suddenly somewhere nearby. "Where's POLICE-STATE PRINCESS anyway?"

Tomoe has posed:
So this is the beginning, it's a tale as old as stories really, tales lost to only what gods there are and the dead. She's made it to the tavern as she was asked to be by Shyra. She'd said she would let her aid to Shyra and so here she is. She looked at the townfolk and there was a bit of horror here at the loop most of the locals seem stuck in. The looping dialogue leaves Tomoe feeling uneasy thinking about some of the 'NPCs' from her world who have broken through their programming back in the death game and later. This isn't like any of those souls these people are trapped in a loop.

The Salamander woman wonders about this?

She would make for the tavern. She pauses at the old man but it seems someone has that already. Once in the tavern, she'll ask around seeing if she can find any other quest chains also she's got to meet up with Shyra too.

Tamamo (7173) has posed:
    Tamamo no Mae, having both voiced and unvoiced concerns for the troubles and proposed solutions of Shyra, arrives close by. As before, she's wearing that garb that looks more like a priestess than a goddess, but the reasons for this that can be currently explained are 'it's not meaningfully cold in Finaria,' and she's enjoying that, compared to other countrysides. She knows that nothing here will react to an out-of-place costume.

    Reasonably close by, but keeping, potentially, out of the spotlight. She has not selected a role in this play. First remaining outside the tavern, she then elects to move inside, sidling along one wall and standing primly, hands clasped, waiting for the show to begin. Should Shyra look at her, she'll smile, but it wouldn't be proper for an avowed audience member to speak too loudly.

Athela Valemore has posed:
Such an interesting quirk, how grand quests seem to start in places such as this. Taverns just naturally become hubs of activity it would seem.

Athela rests an elbow in the palm of a hand while rubbing her chin thoughtfully with the opposite hand. The way everyone looks the same, responds the same, with a few minor variations here and there like the barmaiden cycling through a specific pattern of tables, is slightly off-putting.

On the other hand, it does make those that are here to give out Quests to brave Adventurers stand out a little more. Because what other reason do they have to look distinct from the mass civilians?

Or maybe she's thinking too hard about how this world appears to be going about it's day in such a cliche, feels like it's always done this, sort of way. "What do you think?"

The lavander slug-like creature sitting on her shoulder just burbles a bit of slime and wiggles it's amorphic mass in a manner that someone gives the impression of a shrug.

"You're right, Slurry. No way to know but to see for ourselves!" Plus she just say some familiar faces pass by on their way to the Tavern, and picks up her own pace to follow.

Alruna Greengate has posed:
Questing is the thing Alruna does. Adventuring is the thing she does. Walking into a new town and stepping into a mess of potential quests and brief windows into the lives of others is exactly the sort of thing she does.

And yet, something is very... off, about this place. She can see the seams, like this is some elaborate theater machina the size of a world. She half expects to see a cluster of faces gathered around when she looks up at the sk- hold on. Where's the sun?

Something is very, /very/ off about this place. Still, perhaps it's best to just go with what you know. The mystery of a sunless sky is something to work on. Alruna leans on the stoop and addresses the Old Man. "What kind of herb do you need?" she asks, because that seems like an important detail.

Kupot (6666) has posed:
Kupot does not come from a world of quests. Jobs, tasks, fighting for your life and happiness.

This is something that gives Kupot a moment of rest. There is something he can do, somewhere he can help. Somewhere where he must not make the constant hard decisions of the will of the people vs the will of the supposed greater good.

He has found a Fantasy Costco that has given him a simple tunic and breeches. His cybernetics are covered with gloves, so that all that one can see that the moogle is strange are the insectile lenses of his HUD and the cybernetic marks of his pom. At his back is his katana, at his side a simpler wakasazhi.

He makes his way up to ALruna and stands besides her, about to do the same thing. A person needs help.

Linehart (7141) has posed:
     The old man doesn't look at Alruna. When she speaks to him, the textbox pops up again. If only I had some HERBS from the YELLOW FOREST, this back ache of mine would disappear.

Staren has posed:
    Two walking machines walk up to the gate. One is about nine and a half feet tall and made mostly of wood, legs and arms attached to the underside of something like the cab of a car with no top. Staren rides in it, dressed in a fantasy version of his usual clothes -- the coat is armored and there are more layers with armored leather and metal bits on -- as well as a man and woman with blank expressions dressed in fantasy clothes. They're not copies of anyone already in town, though.

    The other is ten or eleven feet tall, made of metal and stone and wood. Its body structure is a sort of chicken-walker, but the main body has the arched shape of a door, the front and back carved with a relief that suggests a door. One of its arms ends in a similar door clearly meant to be used as a shield -- the other is heavy enough to be used as a club but has a hole in it suggestive of some sort of gun barrel. The metal parts of its construction are heavily greebled, suggesting interlocking parts and conduits but they're solid pieces. It at least kind of resembles the technology inside the RED BIRD SHRINE.

    Welcome to Finaria! I like bows. "Do none of you have even a second line? Really?" Welcome to Finaria! I like bows. Staren sighs and moves his constructs on. He tells the mini-boss to wait off to the side inside the gate, then disembarks with his fake NPCs, leading one off to the side and the other to the tavern. The NPCs, if questioned, talk about a mysterious cave and the rumored DOORMECH.

    He doesn't stop to talk to NPCs or start quests just yet, there's setup to be done. The catman smiles and waves to Tomoe, then walks up to Arthur and tries to engage in a complicated fistbump. "The robot's waiting outside. How do we get there?" He sighs at the mention of Lilian. "Do we really need her for this? Well, if you think so."

Arthur Lowell has posed:
    "You want me to try to do TIME SHIT solo? Really? Remember LAST TIME? When I disappeared for like... TWO YEARS? FUCK NO, HOMIE. We callin' an EXPERT." Arthur says, waggling his finger obnoxiously just a bit too impolitely close to Staren's personal space.

Amelris Belthrone (7180) has posed:
     "I feel like I am in a life-sized exposition of the latest new creations of the Weaver's Guild, using life-sized mammets with almost life-like faces." Amelris Belthrone says, peering over the faces and some of the 'townsfolks', scratching the side of his head. "Not to mention that the main creator is not actually that imaginative."

     The Red Mage straightens, rubbing the bridge of his nose as he looks around. Seems like there IS a lot of people around, including some folks he didn't really agree with. "So, are we going to need to speak like someone from two centuries back to make this work, or... what?"

Mordred (7197) has posed:
After being given her role, Mordred's got some thinking to do. She could get started on her job early, but...

But nothing. Someone playing the role of the EVIL KNIGHT isn't going to just wait and attack while the heroes are off doing something else. A truly respectable knight acts with conviction! Confidence! Purpose! Mordred doesn't simply walk up to the gates of Finaria and make her demands.

She arrives in a plume of flame and red lightning at the front gate. The flame is somewhat janky looking as it waves and flares in a perfectly timed five-second loop, and the lightning is considerably less predictable as it crackles in random directions. The guard at the gate gets a brief smirk before Mordred waves a hand dismissively, another identical plume of flame appearing before the guard and slowly advancing to consume them in dramatic fashion.

"Listen up, maggots! Did you think this podunk little piece of sh-" Wait. EVIL KNIGHT, not Kingslayer Mordred. Right. The white-armored knight clears her throat, then somehow manages to shift her tone to become even more boisterous and overconfident. "Your puny hamlet of Finaria won't stand in the way of Discordia's return! Now begone from my sight!" Another flame is conjured and-wait. She already chucked that one at the guard. Instead, Mordred gestures broadly at the gate, those flames surging forward steadily to consume the gate entirely as Mordred marches towards the center of town to make her EVIL and DRAMATIC appearance!

Tomoe has posed:
Tomoe looks to see Staren arriving she waves, somehow her friendship with him hasn't been nuked with her conflict with him back on N'raha's homeworld. She also waves to Arthur. "That's a heck of a nickname for Lilian."

She notes to Arthur before she finds a good place to set down and then she asks Staren. "So whatcha planning Staren?"

Crow Armbrust has posed:
    This is the Beginning.

Crow, much like every other 'outsider' here, stuck out like a sore thumb in his Thors Military Academy uniform, now sporting a vivid red coat instead of a drab green one. "What's cookin, good lookin'?"

He's hit on the same bar-maid three different times. It's basically the same with each repition. She'll come around, he'll say something to her, she'll say something back, and then she'll move on. Then she'll come back, he'll say something to her, and ...

He couldn't help but loathe this place already. Everything was measured, from the way people spoke to the way they looked, from the weather to the layout of the building and indeed, probably the town itself. Some kind of parody of life.

Eventually, he comes up to Rean and the feathery friend he was talking to. "Yeah, it sure is lively here. About as a lively as a graveyard."

Staren has posed:
    Staren looks at Tomoe. "We're trying to enable some dummied-out content. Arthur's theory is that if the story goes on longer this time, more NPCs will start waking up the way the hero's party and the Yaksha did."

Alruna Greengate has posed:
Alruna blinks. "But that's..." She gets the text box again. Okay. The people of Linehart's homeworld are... to the point.

Straightening up, she notices Kupot. "Oh! Hello." Moogles. She knows moogles. She gestures to the Old Man. "He needs some herbs. If you're looking for something to do, two sets of hands would be better than one!" she offers, rolling her shoulders to resettle her armour comfortably and heading back out of Finaria. She squints at Staren suspiciously as she walks past his machine, but elects not comment seeing as he's not pointing weapons at anyone. She's out of sight and out of range of the SFX by the time Mordred shows up to menace the Party.

Lilian Rook (6895) has posed:
    "Excuse me, but I'm not 'police'." says Lilian to Arthur, who is just suddenly there, but not just suddenly there. "That's a loser job." A beat. "Princess is fine though."

    She seems to have zero interest in the pre-baked NPC lines, having apparently been watching in bafflement that Arthur bothered with greeting any of them all, never mind in such an elaborate fashion. "Don't worry; I absolutely have no intention of leaving that boy alone with some insane premise like 'the source code to reality'. He's even less qualified to be fiddling with timelines than you." She looks back over her shoulder. "Tamamo is . . . probably going to end up coming too. I don't know. Maybe she'll get distracted by the theatrics long enough for me to slip out?" She doesn't sound confident in that.

John Rizzo has posed:
     The author is in the wind, and so is the hero. No use trying to track them down. But, maybe... Maybe he can help the villagers a different way. Maybe, just maybe...

     He looks like his usual self, because he's technically over ninety years old, for one. For two, his Sphere is Private Detective, he's come to believe. That doesn't at all make it true, it's just what he believes. The outfit is a must. He doesn't know why, but it just 'feels' right. He's an audience member, since his 'Sphere' is based on watching.

     Instead of just doing nothing, though, he watches with his mind. John activates one of his vampiric powers, gazing through the crowd. He's looking to see if they're Waking Up--and, if so, where the best place to run for cover would be.

Kupot (6666) has posed:
Kupot dips his head towards Alruna. "I think this may be important. Or not."

Kupot walks by Staren as if it were nothing. He's got somewhere else to be. But he would like to think he is being helpful.

Rean Schwarzer has posed:
Rean approaches every NPC, despite knowing full well none of them change what they said if he kept trying to talking to them. But it felt weird just ignoring them, y'know? This place was vaguely lively though, even with the repetition.  Just kind of like looking like how he'd imagine a painting come to life.

He's wearing his usual red school blazer, tachi sheathed and hanging off his belt.
He approaches the old man, getting the QUEST. There's a bird woman he's never seen before , and a woman who seem to realize that the old man won't respond to her anymore. Neither seem to be part of the game. Probably. She doesn't though.

"Uh...Are you new here?" He asks the women. To the taller woman, he says, "Everyone says the same thing over and over again. It's part of the nature of this place. Unfortunately, I think that's all we're getting."

Shigure has posed:
    Well, the Tavern is pretty full... Oh, hey, those two seem to be heading off to the forest.

    Shigure jogs to catch up with Alruna and Kupot, insinuating herself into the pair's little group. "I shall accompany you." she says. "Acquiring a lay of the local terrain may be advantageous."

Shyra has posed:
CENTRAL REGION - FINARIA

OUTSIDE:

    Shigure arrives, she looks like she fits right in. Okay, kind of. But no one's judging. No really, they are fundamentally incapable of doing so as certain other people (Hi Staren and John) found out earlier. > TAVERN

    Arkae gets /right to work/. That ex-Pathfinder is wasting no time, because time is money and XP! Also, there is an intense nostalgia going on here. There might be an eerie feeling someone might ask Arkae to go kill some rats in a basement, but that thankfully doesn't seem to happen. > FINARIA REGION

TAVERN:

    Inside the TAVERN, Shyra sits at the table, staring at the empty places with a mix of nostalgia and melancholy. As Shigure enters, Shyra looks up with a smile, her expression brightening immediately. Shigure! She exclaims, stepping over to meet her. For a moment it looks like she might get closer, but she stops herself, settling for smiling happily and nodding. It's so good to see you again! It looks like you've decided to come help take the place of the Hero?


As Arthur arrives, Shyra is suddenly ambushed by another COOLKID HANDSHAKE minigame. She attempts it again, immediately focusing to try to coordinate her response with Arthur. She still fails out, but at least she does a little better! H... Hello Arthur! I'm still practicing! But yes, I'm fine. I was not... in the world when it was reset. Um... As for a cave... There was a cave near Pradia! I remember that one, it was kind of difficult!

    Tomoe is also greeted by the healer. Hello Tomoe! You wanted to help, right? Well we should have everything going shortly! Everyone is coming here, it's amazing! She bounces there, enthusiastic at what's going on. There doesn't seem to be any other quests in the Tavern at the moment but she can certainly talk as much as she wants to the locals... Even if they don't have much to say at the moment other than talking about how bad it must be for that Old Man who needs those Herbs.

    Tamamo receives an appreciative nod and bow from Shyra as the deity enters, but she gives Tamamo space. Observation will be important.

FINARIA REGION:

    Arkae bails right out of the village straightaway. There is a definite change in enviromental tension and feel, as if you just crossed a defined line between 'safe' and 'danger'. There is a large forest right outside of town, however, and it appears to be the only one in sight. It seems... very uniform, really. While individual trees look a bit different, there is a pattern to it that seems to repeat if you watch the forest instead of the trees. Every so often, minor creatures such as goblins and imps and little slimes appear and attempt to attack her. They have tiny life bars hanging over their head that vanish basically as soon as she reacts. The Tengu is more than a match for them... but again, this only likely increases her nostalgia.

    She soon finds the herbs. They are little yellow buds that seem to flourish around a place deep in the forest... That also opens right into a large clearing with a RUINED TEMPLE in it. The large TEMPLE looks like it has mostly surrendered to the forces of time, large square blocks having tumbled down and rubble laying everywhere with the gate wide open. Huh.

Alruna Greengate has posed:
Shigure has forecfully joined the party!

Alruna is a high-level PLD, and a starting level quest like this doesn't have remotely good material rewards. She's in it for the sake of exploration! Adventure! Camaraderie! The stuff of legends, right, Kupot? "Where'd you get your clothes?" she asks curiously, as they enter the YELLOW FOREST and the atmosphere alters like a bad gear change.

Arthur Lowell has posed:
    "GAHHH! God DAMMIT, you're always just THERE. Oh, TAMAMO? Didn't we meet at uh... That weird DARKNESS TREASURE TOWER?" Arthur squints, briefly, glancing to Tamamo herself. "Wait, no, that's a DIFFERENT ONE, can't be that. WHATEVER, you want EXTRA DUDES, I'm down for HELP. She got MAGIC? We gonna need some MAGIC."

    Arthur listens to Shyra's discussion. PRADIA! He marks his QUEST MARKER. "Alright, homies! We bustin' out ARTHUR'S TIMELINE REPAIR up in this bitch? Let's HIT IT!" That's the invitation to Staren, Lilian, and Tamamo -- and whoever else might be coming along. "STARKID, pack that ROBO-PAL up! Anyone need a MAGIC ROCKET-BROOMSTICK RIDE? Guarantee you won't BLACK OUT all the way." He's already wandering out the door, readying up...

    Let's skip the complexities of logistics; Arthur will provide gravity magic or rocket-broom rides to assist any who need it, but those here are likely to have their own solutions. He intends to head for PRADIA, and scout around for clear entrances to CAVES, so unless something or someone stops him, he's just gonna do it!

Kupot (6666) has posed:
"The Fantasy Costco, kupo. I do not like to shop at such a large soulless store... but I was in a hurry."

Pazkar (7191) has posed:
The group travelling into the Yellow Forest has someone stalking them. At first, it might seem spooky, and like something bad is happening, but then they turn around and there's a giant golden knight poorly hiding behind a tree. And he talks, too!

I, a random bird on the wind, wonder what's inside that temple...perhaps someone should go check it out?

Athela Valemore has posed:
Looks like some people already found a quest. Athela considers asking if they need more help, but in those few moments they're already leaving and there's a ruckus coming from the main gates. Was this some kind of Event? Or was she thinking too hard about it again? Well, either way, it sounds pretty intensive.

She steps back out of the Tavern just to see the so-called EVIL KNIGHT throwing around fire and chewing the scenery. Figuratively on the second part. So far.

Well, then. Quest or no Quest, this is certainly something that can not be left to abide on its own.

With a grunt she walks out of the Tavern, reaching over her shoulder to grab the hilt of her weapon and draw the glaive-sword from her back. Points the clearly fantasy design blade towards DISCORDIA or whatever Mordred is calling herself for this. "You there, the one of bright armor and fiendish intents! Cease this needless harassmenet of yon locals at once." Not that they're going to react beyond their behavoir cycles, it seems. "Or taste the mighty steel of my divine blade!"

Great. Now they're both Hamming It Up.

Somehow the Goomy on her shoulder even manages a scowl, though it looks more cute than intimidating, being a small pink-and-purple slug that is also somehow a Dragon.

Arkae Zellar (7201) has posed:
Oh man, goblins. Hah. Memories. Good memories. Most of the party didn't die, and they only went slightly into massive debt paying for resurrections that cost more than the quest reward. Those were the days.

Arkae certainly doesn't remember them having little bars hanging over their heads... or them appearing and vanishing abruptly like that...

By the time anyone's caught up to her, Arkae's started scooping what to her feel like 'one quest's worth' of herbs into her bag. Her attention isn't strictly on the task at hand, though...

... she keeps glancing over at the ruins, as if trying to make a decision about poking her beak into them.

"... Well, that decides that. Thanks, random bird!" she says, standing back up, all without looking in the direction of what she assumes is truly the random bird.

Amelris Belthrone (7180) has posed:
     Amelris stops, causally leaning against one of the NPC's shoulders, looking up. No, he takes it back, this is like an amateure troupe that's trying to assemble and people getting ahead of themselves. Including that Knight that just showed up, monologuing.

     This is pretty clumsy, he thinks but he keeps that fact to himself. This is all some great new frontier of... jank? Jank sounds about right. That word just popped into his head and it just feels... right.

     He looks up at Alruna, blinking at Kupot as he follows along for the moment, looking back and forth at their conversation.

     "Okay. Good." Amelris comments, breathing a bit easier. "This is not some post-hang over hallucination, you ARE a Moogle." He taps Alruna's shoulder once, "I'm gonna go check the shops, see if I can't stir some neurones or something by messing with the /economoy/."

     Amelris then walks into the general store, humming loudly to himself as he walks to a counter, a large basket filled with folded neat cotton sheets appears in his hands, slamming it on the counter.

     "EXCUSE ME SIR AND/OR MADAME, I WOULD LIKE TO SELL, uh," He thinks. "x5 Cotton Blankets."

Shigure has posed:
    Shigure, before she leaves with the other two, bows toward Shyra. "I heard there was something going on... but I am uncertain if I could help with that." she smiles back softly. "Destroyers are used as scouts... so I am going to reconnoitre the lay of the land." she bows again, then moves to catch up with the others.

    Once the group enterse the YELLOW FOREST the destroyer girl summons her rigging... a pair of large cannon-tonfa appearing on her back, and torpedo tubes on her thighs.

    And then her Radar picks up Pazkar trailing them. She glances, then shrugs, gesturing towards the ruins. "Maybe we should check those ruins." she parrots the 'narrator' before making her way towards the overgrown structure.

Tamamo (7173) has posed:
    One of Tamamo's ears twitches. She looks straight at Lilian, and gives her a relaxed but, clearly, Meaningful Smile. Did she hear that? She probably heard that.

    At Arthur's direct question, she shakes her head. "Oh, no, we have only met the once, and in this land, if you recall? At the least, I remember seeing you upon the deck of Shyra's airship."

    Tamamo hasn't brought a flight solution, but a magic ride is fine. As long as Arthur doesn't start in on A Whole New World, no matter how thematically appropriate it might soon be. For his own sake.

Crow Armbrust has posed:
Folding his arms behind his head, Crow sighs in a put-upon way. "Well, at least whatever the hell that ...guy...? ... is doing looks to be more interesting than talking to a bunch of walking stiffs, yeah?"

In the end, this whole place was a lot like the set of a play, he supposed. If that were the case, then he could try and get into 'character' and go fight the big, bad, evil knight pounding on the front gate of the peaceful, lovely little village in the middle of nowhere. Besides, there were enough outsiders here to take care of everything, from that old man's herb problem to whatever that Arthur guy wanted to look into.

    Crow heads for THE FRONT GATE.

"We'll never bow down to an emissary from evil! Beat it before we send you flying!"

Tony Stark (6733) has posed:
Something here is exceptionally wrong. The locals talk about scripts and code. Those who should, by all rights, know at least something of their trade know nothing. A land filled with things that work exactly as they are, but don't 'work'. It's an unsettling mess, a snarl of things don't track. It's the logic of fantasy.

Flying in is the one luxury Tony grants himself, rather than approaching with the crowd. Hovering on thrusters, Iron Man (a matte-black-and-red armor with silver faceplate model) scans the town below and--

Tony's entire red-orange HUD fills with hundreds of textboxes declaring various iterations of the Single Dialogue Line that every NPC in the town regales the sensors of his armor with. In his ear, a synthesized male voice tonelessly observes: <"Tactical Assessment: The town is useless. Flagging non-friendly major exoenergetical source leaving operational zone - plotting to intercept.">

Rolling his eyes as his filters clear the chaff, Iron Man adjusts his boot- and palm-jets to vector off towards the ROCKET BROOM'ING COOLKID.

"Hey, kid, where are you going? You're the one messing with reality, aren't you? Are you responsible for all of this?" Tony asks Arthur, making several INCORRECT LEAPS OF LOGIC.

Kupot (6666) has posed:
Someone yells loudly behind them to go into the temple.

Kupot sucks in a deep breath.

This is very strange. He is not used to this. Usually, he flies into a place, murders everything, and saves the day. Now he's taking directions and being told where to roam around.

As he gets up to the temple, he spies Arkae, but shrugs. She is a new entity. But he is not sure what her deal is yet. All that matters is going into the temple, apparently.

"This is not quite as...normal as I had hoped, kupo." He mentions to Alruna.

Tomoe has posed:
Suddenly Lilian makes her entrance out of nowhere. Tomoe seems startled but clams down just a quick. Messing with reality code is something Tomoe knows damn well knows she should not be touching it. She sees Shyra arrive and greet those of the party in the pub. She grins back at the healer and speaks

"I did, I'd be dead as would a lot of my adoptive family if outside help hadn't marched into the death game to help us."

She notices Shyra is in quite a spirited mood right now. After talking to the people in the pub? She gets the idea that it seems old man's Quest is what they need to be going at this point. She looks to Tamamo for a moment and nods to the heroic spirit.

"Yo."

She pauses for a moment

"Looks like we need to get to work."

Her tank drives kicking in as someone is attacking the town and people need to deal with that right?

"I'll trust those going after the Herbs to handle it."

She will have to catch up with Shigure later as her tank instincts are screaming protect the newbie adventurer to her about the boat spirit, who is yes older than she is. She will exit the tavern drawing her Caliburn and has the Mourning Wall at the ready.

"I am Tomoe the Iron Lily and I shall not allow your dark master's schemes to progress unchallenged!"

Alruna Greengate has posed:
Alruna is taking the lead in the YELLOW FOREST to draw off goblins and other random encounters that lunge out from amongst the oddly regular trees, but really, it's a job to get within range of them before they're eliminated by Shigure. "Fantasy Costco..." she says thoughtfully, filing the name away for future reference.

"You ever have the distinct feeling you're being herded somewhere?" she murmurs in agreement with Kupot, sheathing her sword as the party approaches the ruins. Did someone remember to pick up some HERBs while they were at it?

Staren has posed:
    Staren waves to Tomoe and Shyra and continues on with his work. He gets back in his walker and it runs beneath Arthur, miniboss in tow. Staren gives Mordred a thumbs-up in passing. "Good luck!"

    And then Tony shows up. Staren replies by directional radio: <"We're messing with reality, but not in the way you think! It was already like this. We're trying to fix it. Want to help?">

Pazkar (7191) has posed:
AMELRIS: Approaching the shopkeeper, a text box appears over his head. BUY/SELL

Buy has a bunch of very basic potions. This is the starting town, after all. Sell, meanwhile, gives him five Jee total, one per blanket. After he's finished, he gets another textbox. Thank you for your transaction!

The Jee are gold coins, with 'JI' written on them. The shopkeeper, otherwise, waits for more BUY/SELL action.

----

RIZZO: None of the townspeople have awakened. Not a one. They're all still locked to their role. The best place for cover, though, would be on a roof, or inside one of the buildings farther away from Mordred. It's /all/ probably going to get wrecked, but momentary cover is best cover.

Lilian Rook (6895) has posed:
    Lilian gets smiled at. She smiles back. It's a bright and pretty and winning smile. It is also just a little bit nervous. Just play it cool.

    "I'll be fine." is all she says on the subject of magic rocket broom rides. Just one of her glances at the contraption makes it clear enough that she has next to no faith in it whatsoever. When Tamamo offers to ride though, Lilian immediately makes a noise as if to interject. She thinks about how she can skip the whole indignity (and Arthur showing off), but then abruptly recalls the day before the new year where doing that had almost gotten her killed, and for now, she is still within the threshold of 'after having learned her lesson but before having forgotten it or rationalized it away as not her fault'. She sighs and shuts up.

    "Oh I see." she says, extra double blandly and sarcastically towards Tomoe. "Another job for shooting all the bad things until it goes away. Stunning credentials for this." She only considers for a second. "Even if it's a video game, I suppose."

    After that, she pretty much flight-stalks Arthur the whole way. Whenever she starts lagging behind, she ends up ahead of him again, giving him a very advanced sort of critically nuanced form of mistrustful eyes.

Linehart (7141) has posed:
                      PRADIA GROUP - DUMMIED-OUT CAVE                      

This place is better than Arthur could've possibly dreamed. Getting to the bottom of the Pradia Cave is a little bit rough, but for the group of adventurers Arthur's brought along, it's substantially less than it might be for, say, four plucky adventurers trying to level up. It's a windy little dungeon, but it's not very large. It was probably rushed. It has that feel of it - a lot of copy-pasted stalactites and stalagmites, a lot of simple straights with very few turns. The monsters are high-level, the same kind of white-and-masked zombie swordsmen that Mordred saw in the Black Warriors Shrine. It feels like something at the end of the development cycle, something that was meant to be made more important than it was.

     At the end of it is a door.

     It is the kind of vast, imposing door one expects from something...important. Arthur, Lilian, Tamamo, Staren, even *Tony* can feel vast and overwhelming power down here - real power, not fake, video game power. This is something...dangerous. Something that's supposed to be part of the world, but isn't. It is at once both divine and profane, a beating heart that throbs from beyond, connected to this place by Arthur's magic.

     It's also much more intricate than anything else here. More than anything else in the *world* that Arthur's seen, in fact. It reminds Staren of the Red Birds Shrine - all sorts of lines and pulsing lights along an ominous black door. The lights are a deep and unpleasant red. Whorls of illumination run along the door, travelling little lights that look like they're blood running through veins.

     Oh it is unpleasant. Ohhhhh, it is unpleasant. It is a piece of a dream that was never finished, and Arthur's intuition may just be right - this is someone's /project/. Someone spent hours designing this door, spent hours making the sprite look just right. This has no copy-pastes, no rushed development. This is a work of art.

     A profoundly unnerving work of art.

     Opening the door reveals nothing at all, save the portal Arthur found and connected. It has the shape of an elevator, all black and red lights. It didn't exist before. Now it does. Arthur did that.

     There's a glowing circle nearby. Probably a save point.

     Good a place as any for a monster, probably.

Rean Schwarzer has posed:
And then everyone else kind of just leaves without him, off to the YELLOW FOREST to help the OLD MAN. Rean sighs. Maybe he should just follow them anyway? Suddenly, there's a loud bang behind him. A wild MORDRED has appeared- wait, wrong game.

Crow comments about the OLD MAN, And Rean nods. The others could handle the quest, right? They were still here and could help protect Finaria, and hopefully prevent it from getting burned down like last time. He rushes into the village again after his classmate, standing by the front gate.

Rean draws his sword, dramatically pointing it at Mordred. "We won't let you destroy Finaria, Evil Knight! Leave these innocent townsfolk alone!"

Mordred (7197) has posed:
The first person to confront EVIL KNIGHT MORDRED is...

Mordred has no idea who she's looking at. She has a sword, but there's also a strange slug thing on her shoulder. Luckily, Mordred has her helmet on, so the blank stare is hidden and gives her time to figure out how to react to that!

Her solution: Don't address the blob at all."Needless harassment? These PEONS are in the way of my god's return! If they knew any better, they'd be scurrying like ants by now! Your divine blade will be no match for my TREACHEROUS TWOHANDER!"

Inwardly, Mordred is groaning at the alliteration. Outwardly, she's cackling and sending more of those perfectly identical flames around the village to really set the stage for that first dramatic battle as Tomoe arrives with sword and shield in hand.

"Challenge me all you like! This is the will of chaos, and by my hand...!" Crap. Why did she have to improvise this hard? Couldn't she just beat the crap out of people and let her sword do the talking? "... By my hand, this village will burn to the ground!"

Good enough.

When Crow and Rean arrive, the former's comments have Mordred tapping the chin of her helmet. "Emissary of Evil? That one's not too bad..." She mutters to herself, nodding slowly before holding her hand to her side.

"Innocent? If only you knew the extent of their crimes against my master! I am the EVIL KNIGHT, and I am here to herald the resurrection of DISCORDIA, God of Chaos!" Mordred's self-conjured red lightning crack around that outstretched arm as a silver and red greatsword materializes, grasping it with a single hand pointing it at the group with her head thrown back dramatically in that horned helmet.

Staren gets a brief glance from inside the helmet, but not even a nod. She's trying not to corpse here, man!

And then it's time to actually do what she came here to do: Beat some people up for a while. Mordred crouches slightly as the air around her crackle with that red electricity, then trails behind her as she lashes out at the four protectors in nearly an instant! It's almost as if she teleported behind them with how she's...

No, she actually does teleport in front of them for each slash before returning to that same exact spot she had been posturing from moments earlier in that same exact pose. It's not like she's done homework on this sort of thing beforehand or anything!

Staren has posed:
    When they reach Pradia, Staren wakes up a couple more NPCs lying in the back of his walker, an old man and a woman, and leaves them in town. Then it's on to the dungeon. Staren's got the forcefield-harness from last time on his person, and the walker he's piloting has two high-caliber machineguns on its arms. He also has a literal boss monster with him that can club enemies and fire high-tech grenades and missiles (he'll top off its ammo when they reach their destination.)

    They reach the door, and Staren looks around, taking it in.

    "Well, I guess this is it. Do we leave DOORMECH here and wait for the party to get here, or should we go hide potions and stuff all over the dungeon too?"

    As he talks, he places little cameras and bugs in the nooks and crannies of the cave so that he can better remote-monitor this encounter when it happens, just in case his golem malfunctions.

Tony Stark (6733) has posed:
Iron Man doesn't especially 'react' to Staren catching up with the Arthur Lowell outbound flight, the armor keeping pace with the flying broom at a clearly automatic 'wingman' spacing and matched speed. A cant of the head, a glance with one masked eye-slit, and a rather invasive probe of sensors.

His reply is open-band, as Lilian stalks up to the flying party. "I'm an Avenger, and you're a dangerous god-playing radical who thinks you can just plug whatever into a world to jump start it is a great idea, using someone else winning at rolling some dice at justification for never trying again."

"Put simply: I'm here to make sure you don't ruin everything, the feeling isn't mutual, and if you target lock me I'm taking you down. Are we clear?"

MEANWHILE
The robot 'miniboss' isn't probed so much as electronically violated by Stark's on-board AI - lacking in poise or respect, the source-code and design schematics are scrutinized at a deep level like a math teacher grading a college-level exam and weeding out anything that fails to meet muster.

Landing at the door in a flare of jets, on a knee and a fist, Stark looks at the door, and then back at Arthur and Staren.

He doesn't really have much to add verbally, as he glances over the details of what's going on from a technical perspective. He's not yet at the point where he sarcastically drops a 'will it work' or smugly declares it won't. Staren is, at least, good at what he does.

John Rizzo has posed:
     His Sphere feels right. So much so that he doesn't fear the flames that come. He knows not to fear them. His only concern for hiding is to make sure the Private Detective is not seen by the villagers. It'll spoil the con, see?

     The flames come. He stands perfectly still, poised like a predator ready to leap--leaning slightly forward. He doesn't fear them, even as everything burns. But nothing happens. Even when the flames clear...

     "Nothing," he says in disbelief. "Nothing?" Nothing. Everything is exactly as it was. ...but he can't get discouraged. These people are trapped. They must be freed.

     "Alright, so that wasn't it," he says to Mordred. "Now what?" He starts thinking on that very same question.

     The author and the Hero are in the wind, the con is a no-go... Rizzo begins pacing back and forth, muttering to himself, in another one of those stream-of-consciousness rants of his. He pauses. "No... try this first."

     He reaches out to the mind of the nearest villager, after everything resets. He attempts to change their emotional state into one of profound, existential sadness. He's hoping that the juxtaposition of the emotion upon their surroundings will be enough to wake them. While he does so, he attempts to project an image into their mind--and they know it isn't their thought. It's an image of the End.

Staren has posed:
The construct is ten or eleven feet tall, made of metal and stone and wood. Its body structure is a sort of chicken-walker, but the main body has the arched shape of a door, the front and back carved with a relief that suggests a door. One of its arms ends in a similar door clearly meant to be used as a shield -- the other is heavy enough to be used as a club but has a hole in it suggestive of some sort of gun barrel. The metal parts of its construction are heavily greebled, suggesting interlocking parts and conduits but they're solid pieces. It at least kind of resembles the technology inside the RED BIRD SHRINE.

TONY: DOORMECH is, fittingly given the way technology works in this world, lacking most of the internal structure that would be expected. There is a real radio and a couple of cameras and microphones embedded, and the grenade launcher and missile launchers are what they seem, but there's no evidence of how the darn thing MOVES or how it triggers its weapons, let alone how it analyzes and responds to its environment -- that's just straight-up magic.

    Whenever Staren gives it commands, it's either vocal, or voice commands by radio.

Amelris Belthrone (7180) has posed:
     Amelris ponders over the Jee he's received, poking at them, making them bounce in his hands, wriggling them between his fingers, even bringing one to his teeth and making a small bite into one of the coins. It looked coin-like enough, looking back up at the shopeekeeper, tapping his chin. His ears flutters as he rattle his brainmeats over this, listening in on the linkpearl on Linehart's own comments. So they're humans, like frozen, that knows nothing, are nothing in personality and don't act at all like humans. Kind of like someone that's been completely out of it, reclused in their own minds.

     Assuming they have minds of their own.

     He's starting to feel that he is pretty out of his knowledgebase, here. This kind of esoteric thinking is more like the strength of, say, Urianger or Y'shtola.

     A stimuli, of somekind. What could he...

     His ears flutter' stops, settling back on the blankets. Quietly, he takes one off his blanket, quietly unfold it, holding it by the edges and looking at the shopkeeper.

     With a flick of the wrist, he unfolds it into a wide part and let it fall, softly, on the shopkeeper's head and, verily, his entire body.

     "Hello, kind sir!" Amelris then talks. "I am here to sell theses fine x5 blankets!"

     Let's see if they recognise, oh, night and day, for a start.

Shyra has posed:
CENTRAL REGION - YELLOW FOREST

FINARIA:

    Shyra nods to Shigure. All right! We can solve this quickly... And then there is the sound of the explosion. WHAT?! Oh no! The Evil Knight is here... early?! We have to get moving! Shyra rushes out after Shigure, letting the others fact down Mordred, though she does give Mordred a thumbs-up clandestinely as she passes. > FOREST

IN THE FOREST:

    Arkae is having a wonderful old time. Thankfully, the herbs scoop right into her pack in what seems to be a discrete amount that seems to measure up to an appropriate amount for a QUEST ITEM. The others seem to quickly catch up too, resulting in a somewhat lost-seeming party that isn't sure on what they should be doing even with the help of THE VERY STEALTHY PAZKAR.

    Shyra, however, quickly follows up to wave behind the group. Hello! We have the HERBS, right? She looks around and peers before nodding. I think we have them! All right. Um... Don't worry about anything, we should go exploring inside the Ruined Temple. A pause. No one actually told us to go into it before, but the Hero was very interested in exploring everything around in most places. We found some important items inside! Oh. At least Shyra is explaining what's up. > TEMPLE

RUINED TEMPLE:

    The group enters the TEMPLE. The walls are carved with a large amount of decorative symbols depicting some kind of regal figure in gold, but it is heavily eroded and cracked. The somewhat trapezoidal building seems to be mostly open, with many crumbled columns dotting the place and several discrete rooms partitioned off of the central area. There seems to be some kind of dais in the center of the place that is intended to hold /something/ but what that something is happens to be missing. There are large stairwells in the northwest and northeastern areas.

    Creatures also occasionally appear in the area from seemingly out of nowhere. Here, minor undead appear, as do monstrously-sized bats and spiders. They are, again, no match for the group. The main question is what they might want to investigate first.

Lilian Rook (6895) has posed:
    Despite tromping through dungeon halls that look incredibly samey and stereotypical, for the second time here, Lilian is unable to suppress her discomfort with the place. While the others seem to take it in stride as banal, rushed videogame design, it falls on her in a way that causes her to grow gradually more restless --more tense and suspicious-- as the excursion goes on.

    She doesn't say a word about it, but even the notoriously oblivious Staren would be able to tell by the end when she's professionally slicing every single corner and back-and-forth watching every single stalactite/stalagmite pair to make sure they're in the same spot. She seems to be more concerned with the environment than the monsters, which she tries to save magic on by firing bullets from the rear and half-assing her end of the party weight.

    The giant ominous door is almost a relief. It'd be a real one if it weren't the huge, monolithic thing, pulsing with alien energies and dark designs. One look at it is all Lilian needs this time, content to take in the bespoke design, rather than stare mistrustfully at the recycled. "Ah, this is what they call 'cut content', right?" she says. "Do you have any idea where it leads?"

    For some reason, she takes the question about potions extremely seriously. She hmms and ahhhs on it for more than a few seconds, pacing back and forth, until finally just holding out her hand demandingly. "You have a bunch of junk items, right? Hand them over." Then to Tony, vastly more politely. "I don't suppose you have anything that'd work like a chest on you?" And then almost sweetly to Tamamo. "And maybe a trap or five? Nothing that'd blow them to pieces of course."

Staren has posed:
    RE: LILIAN

    Staren blinks. "Junk items? Uh, not really, but..." He fishes some potion vials out of his bag. "I can brew up a few more, too." He also demonstrates a knife, the blade of which goes soft for storage or hardens into blade shape when a button on the hilt is pressed. "Does this work as a weapon drop, or is it too high-tech?" He also fishes out guns and missile launchers. "Actually, if this is the tech dungeon, well, one of them, do you think these would be appropriate?"

Kupot (6666) has posed:
Kupot cannot attack first. He will simply have to wait for the undead to move forward towards him.

A spider comes towards the group. He cannot be sure of the hostile intent until it rears up to bring both fangs down on him.

ShiCRACK

The monoblade flies out of its sheath so fast that it creates a pressure wave with it, slicing entirely through the spider. It disappears, and Kupot finds his pockets heavier. He continues to swing, a flick, then slides the blade into its scabbard. He moves up to the dias, looks down it, around, then turns his head. "When I play a game, there is a very clear indication of what to do next, kupo," he says, somewhat annoyed. "We will have to explore."

Shigure has posed:
    Shigure has her tonfa out, and is jus casually letting her secondary battery snipe out the adds as they spawn, so the others can properly explore without getting interrupted every five feet... she's almost like a walking/talking repellant for low-level mooks. "Feel free to explore. I shall keep these monsters at bay." She does try to PING her SONAR, see if there's any hidden compartments in the walls or any hollows under the floor. A long shot, but worth a go, right?

Arthur Lowell has posed:
    Arthur sets the broom down near the cave, and lets folks disembark. He keeps the broom out as they enter, and dives into combat with intense eagerness! Despite being a veteran, he engages with all combat broom-first and face-first just because that's how he rolls.

    "So, past here is some kinda GIANT INVERTED TEMPLE. We're talkin' some WILD TOWER shit. Now, I dunno what's IN IT, but I know it was TOTALLY DISCONNECTED. So I'm thinkin'... Whatever's in here, it'll give us MATERIAL, maybe HINTS, about how the TIMELINE is supposed to be. But..." He glances back. "I think it's gonna be too hard for just us. Not that, y'know, I don't trust you guys are some hardcore dudes, even the new hot-rod-humanoid weapon platform there," He gestures to Tony. "But this ain't gonna get cleared tonight. So, let's settle DOORMECH here, then check the PORTAL."

    Arthur holds his hands out, checking that it's all still connected, that everything's stable and it seems compatible... He wants to see what DOORMECH does once it settles in at a new HOME POINT. Is there anything that affects timelines or other suchlike? While that gets done... He wants to poke through, just his head, to see what the inside of that inverted temple is like.

Tamamo (7173) has posed:
    Tamamo is rather hardier than she looks, and is not in any significant danger of blacking out during rocket broom rides. She is more worried about falling off, for which she keeps a firm grip on whatever is available (most likely Arthur). She spends part of the ride talking to Tony or Arthur, and part of it watching Lilian fly. Tamamo hadn't seen her do that, previously.

    When they encounter monsters, the fox seems largely useless, or at least uninterested. They're zombies, and presumably undead, but they were likely 'undead' the moment they came into existence, and have no relation to the Sun this world lacks. She's perfectly content to let others handle it, only coming to physically smack or roughly slice enemies with that giant mirror that floats around he if pressed. The sight of copy-pasted cave textures is merely what the structure of the outside world has led her to expect, but it stands in stark contrast to that door at the end, which gets an appreciative look from her. It's not 'good,' stinking of profane magic like that, but it is 'something interesting,' and 'something important,' quite obviously. This is a suitable place to attempt what she's realized of Arthur's plan.

    Finally stepping to her feet and free to look around, Tamamo turns first to Iron Man with a, "This is the first time we have met in person, is it not?" by way of greeting, though they've previously been properly introduced. Then to Lilian, "Oh, yes, I could provide something... disruptive, but not too dangerous. However, before that, I expect the highest priority would be... please wait some moments, and I shall then assist with the dungeon-craft."

    Saying that, Tamamo brushes out a bit of ground, kneels, retrieves old-looking paper and an archaically styled inkpot and brush, and begins that process that's more painting than writing, that Lilian has seen her perform once before.

Arkae Zellar (7201) has posed:
"Oh, hey, already got some yellow herbs for the old man, you don't need to..."

Arkae trails off. She's glancing at Kupot's katana, and specifically the orange gem on it.

"... I mean, the temple. Yes. Let's go there."

The transition into the temple happens.

"... So I keep picking up bits and pieces... this place is literally, um, stuck in time? Cursed? Something like that?"

The tengu makes her way further in, stopping only to cleave her sword clean through a random monster that pops in only to disappear a moment later. "And are these randomly appearing and disappearing things part of it?"

"The way this is laid out..." says Arkae, two or three random encounters later, "Is... the sort of thing that a powerful enemy would reside in, and there'd be something important we need to claim from it. And defeating it and claiming it should advance the quest."

"Where the powerful thing and important thing are... I'm not sure. Just pick a direction and go?" She randomly heads to the NORTHWESTERN stairwell.

Crow Armbrust has posed:
Reacting with a blur, Crow tries to dash to the side to avoid Mordred's savage slash, but still winds up eating a ghastly gash!

        "Guh!"

Thankfully, it wasn't actually that bad, leaving a bloody line across his side. While it was a long wound, it wasn't a deep one, and that was what was ultimately more important. "Then we'll just have to make like a monday and put you down!"

Reaching into his holsters, Crow withdraws his orbal guns; an automatic pistol and a revolver, which he then uses to pepper Mordred with a volley of vivid gunfire!

Pazkar (7191) has posed:
RIZZO: An image and profound sadness is projected into a man's mind. He has blonde hair and brown robes. That image is The End.

It works.

The man immediately starts screaming and sobbing hysterically. Rizzo gets the immediate impression that, while he awoke the man, he might have just done it in the Worst Way Possible, like sticking a fork in an electric socket to create a current. The man immediately starts wandering in search of the nearest way to end his life, an existential depression created. He looks for something sharp, or a jagged part of a wall, or even some rope.

Rizzo might want to help him, immediately.

----

AMELRIS: Amelris attempts to see if the shopkeeper knows day or night. He places a blanket on top of the man's head, and then...

BUY/SELL

Five Jee once he sells. Same cycle. Same thank you in the end.

They do not have any idea what day/night is.

Athela Valemore has posed:
The choice of words, particularly 'my god's return' and 'will of chaos', makes Athela's hackles stand on end. Why does she keep coming across dark individuals or cults or whatever wanting to revive ancient dieties that are probably sealed or dead for a reason.

Instinctively she steps back a foot to brace herself and brings her weapon at a defensive angle in front of herself. It's just barely in time to get between her and Mordred's teleporting strike, the impact still enough to make her grunt at the force and wince as her arms are pushed back in a not quite comfortable manner as she pushes back, and doesn't quite get into swinging back before Mordred blips away again.

Wait, she didn't... yes, she did, right back to the same spot she stood in before. That's... not entirely smart.

As it means the little Goomy doesn't even need a command to do what it needs to do. The slug-dragon puffs up briefly, and then with a gurgly *SPLURTOO* hurks a big ball of purple toxic slime at Mordred, providing a little cover fire as Athela is getting her bearings back from the blow.

Tomoe has posed:
Tomoe is facing down the Evil Knight Mordred has been confronted already by Crow, she's seen Athela and Rean also getting into the mix here. She already starts going through her mind on what tactics to employ. In the back of her mind clicks, wait she's going to fight Modred. One of the most infamous traitors in the consciousness of if not mankind at least Europe and those descended from their stock.

there is a look of shock on her face as she has clearly connected then she able to get it together as she moves to intercept the inbound attack from the Knight. The force of the impact, she's also not used to dealing with teleporters either. She is pushed back there's the mourning wall is pushed back along with the rest of her. Had that been a clean hit? Tomoe would shudder to think about what would have happened to her.

She chants a spell quickly golden runes dance about her body, and is that Norse? Yes, it is. Caliburn then burs into white flames and Tomoe will flare out a pair of red translucent wings as she makes a go right at the EVIL Knight trying to catch her before she teleports again with a series of slashes or failing that impact into her with her own considerable mass.

"HOLY BLADE STRIKE!"

She's also left how did it end up coming to this? God or the Gods have to be amused with her at some level for things like this to keep happening.

Rean Schwarzer has posed:
Mordred gets really into the Evil Knight act, burning things and dramatically talking about their lord, DISCORDIA.

They then rush in, literally teleporting around the group and leaving sparking dark slashes in their wake, Rean tries to side step, but can't quite beat out the Knight's speed. "Agh!" Rean shouts, taking the blow. But he's not done yet.

"...Your lord won't win!" Rean shouts, sheathing his sword and rushing Mordred, unsheathing it at the last second as he runs past them into a flurry of strikes.

Alruna Greengate has posed:
Alruna gives Shyra a Look, then a stoic nod. She springs into action as they enter the temple ruins, but Shigure is more than capable of handling the threats before she can reach them.

Putting her sword away, the paladin walks around, dragging her gloved fingers over the stone walls. As she approaches the empty dais, a sharp pain starts to penetrate her consciousness, and she instinctively presses her hand to her temple as the world fades to white.

A vision of fire and darkness. Magitechnology wielded by an ancient civilisation. Beams glitter in the darkness as they focus their advanced weaponry upon a King in Yellow, finally prevailing and sealing it away...

Four objects were laid here in the temple with great reverence, still glowing with Empowerment.


Alruna's consciousness returns to the present. She stands up from her slumped over position atop the dais, straightening up and when she's asked what just happened, explains it in a brief crossfade cutscene. "There should be four artifacts." she says decisively, following Arkae. "They were laid to rest here, but," She glances sidelong at Shyra. "They've been stolen and scattered across your world?" she asks.

Tony Stark (6733) has posed:
It's hard to read the body language of, as Arthur observes, the 'new hot-rod humanoid weapon platform' that Tony has selected for the evening, even as everyone - including Lilian and Tamamo - continues to get the very distinct impression that they're constantly being 'checked up on' at regular time intervals.

Really regular. Every five seconds, on the dot. Lilian can track the precision by the number of zeroes past the decimal.

"A portal? So we're just leaving DOORMECH here and then doing something else?"

Stark's faceplate pops open as he looks at Lilian and Tamamo - bags under his eyes and clearly under-rested. "That... Sound like a plan, Rook? Amaterasu?"

Perhaps Tony is looking for a star-spangled man with a plan here, and the best he's got is a Rising Sun Goddess with a Mirror.

Linehart (7141) has posed:
                        PRADIA CAVE - ARTHUR'S GROUP                        
     Staren leaves the NPCs lying around. The old man and woman stand there for a moment before they speak. They say exactly what Staren programmed them to say. They talk about the rumor of a terrible monster in the Pradia Cave, some kind of door guardian. They say this five times so Staren can confirm they work, and then it's off to the cave.

     Lilian scatters traps and drops about. Tamamo starts her mystical painting. Staren gets to work setting up DOORMECH. There's an odd sort of synchronicity to it; though the thing doesn't *belong* here, it sort of looks like it...does. But it's not doing anything Staren didn't program it to do.

     As soon as that's done, Staren's radio connection to the NPCs goes dead.

     DOORMECH's connection fails.

     The weapons Lilian scatters about vanish. The traps she scatters about sink into the floor. The cave starts to grow outwards, little by little. The rock just sort of...starts moving. You don't have to be Arthur to see it. But Arthur can tell that it's not growing *retrocausally*. It's growing *now*. It's growing in the here and the now.

     DOORMECH comes to life. Where there was once nothing, Tony's systems can now see that it's been filled up with...bits. They don't make *sense* - off bits of technology that don't really click together right, pure nonsense machinery that offends his sensors and his systems - but they're *there*. They're...living. Moving. Pumping.

     Life. Not pseudolife. Not mechanical life. No, this thing, this machine that Staren has created, starts moving in ways it should not, bumping and thumping and bouncing, bits of it spinning ominously. It has not yet noticed their presence. In fact it is just...standing there, whirring, like an NPC. It must not activate until they speak to it, or interact with it.

     Some wandering monsters pop up nearby. They stumble into the traps Lilian set, which promptly reset themselves. The monsters drop some Jee, but along with that, one of them drops one of the weapons Lilian scattered. Tamamo can tell that just the *vibrations* from her work caused that to happen - that that was a very low chance, and it happened anyway.

     But it's not...*right*, yet. It's been added, but it hasn't been *assimilated*. It's like it's waiting for something. Like a reboot? Or a change?

     As Arthur sticks his head down the elevator, he can see something, alright.

     The Upside-Down Tower is mostly missing. It's chunks of stairwell and floor unfinished. It's not even lit. But it isn't copy-pasted - it's unfinished, for sure. There's not even any monsters inside, unlike *everywhere else*.

     Below he has a glimpse of something sleeping deep below. Something white and glowing. He can't tell the size. He can't tell the shape. He can only see it through the holes in the floor.

John Rizzo has posed:
     "Stop." Rizzo knows /exactly/ what that sadness is. He felt it, one night, long ago. He knows it the moment the man begins wandering. The only thing he ever felt which was worse than that night was the moment he realized it was all fiction. "Please--c'mere, fella." Rizzo is faster, and stronger.

     He is upon the man in a moment, his arms wrapped 'round him in a bearhug. "Hold on. I gotcha. I'm real. I'm not one of them," he says. "I'm sorry--but I didn't know how else to wake you. Calm down, now. I gotcha. It'll be alright." His voice is almost paternal, as if this were a scraped knee. But beneath that, there is an understanding which is present in his voice.

     "This happened to me, too."

Mordred (7197) has posed:
Shyra, too, gets a stare from the EVIL KNIGHT when she throws that thumbs-up Mordred's way. Luckily, the knight is busy with that fighting thing going on, so the annoyance doesn't last as long!

Crow's the first to counter, and Mordred barely even moves when he brings out those guns. She's the EVIL KNIGHT, and she needs to do some posturing for her first appearance! Those bullets strike true, though, pinging against Mordred's armor and a few even managing to hit through the gaps in the knight's defenses.

Athela's attack comes next, but from an angle Mordred wasn't expecting. Rather than stepping forth with her sword, it's that weird blob thing on Athela's shoulder spitting some vile gunk at her! It actually gets Mordred to move rather than just taking it head on since it'd be pretty hard to recover from that blow to her pride!

In her haste to avoid Goomy's vomit blob, though, Mordred steps right into Tomoe's range. What's worse, being this close to the Salamander means there's little room for Mordred to evade, and she takes that holy-imbued strike head on, the slash leaving a nasty scorched effect on the EVIL KNIGHT's armor!

That follow-up from Rean only serves to make those last few strikes worse, the sudden flurry of slashes just off-angle enough and at just the wrong time to keep Mordred from properly defending against all of them. The first few cut into her armor, and she lets the last one push her back enough to avoid letting his blade cut right into her.

The EVIL KNIGHT starts laughing. It's not a pleasant laugh, but it's vaguely pleased and probably just a little bit mad. There's probably some hamminess in there, too, but it's hard to hide that specific brand of excitement that Mordred's feeling.

"Is that all you have, defenders of Finaria? I want a real fight, not just a bunch of kids scre-" Wait. Did they use that word back then? It doesn't sound like something that knight with the glob would say. "... Pretending to be heroes! Now face me properly or die!"

And then Mordred is on the attack again. Instead of teleporting around to chop at them again, she instead raises her blade as that red lightning and more regular-looking white lightning crackles around that massive sword. She takes a single step forward, swings it sideways with her one hand, and the combined lightning blasts around at the quartet of heroes!

Tamamo (7173) has posed:
    Ostensibly, the ink that Tamamo puts to paper, brush held upright in the calligrapher's pose, forms a series of words, drawn in black with a thin, rectangular border of red. Translating it would be exceptionally difficult without a lot of specialist knowledge, but it's certainly pretty to look at. When she's finished, she sets it aside, and calls out, "Mr. Lowell, please attend. I have prepared for you a gift."

    Ideally, he'll come back over without the portal biting his head off so she can give him the just-completed charm. In the meantime, she begins to craft several more, the design simpler, the strokes faster, almost artfully messier, as she prepares something entirely different. "Lilian, have you some idea where such traps should be placed?"

    Her brush pauses long enough to wag a finger in Iron Man's direction. "Ah, no, no. Please, call me 'Tamamo.' You will know if *She* is here." As to his question, "Hmm, the explanation of the reasoning may take some time. There is more meaning to the actions than may be at first apparent."

    She doesn't get a chance to try out those traps she just made, and they are promptly stuffed into her sleeves, which might as well be an elaborate item storage system. She stands, graceful and formal as a ritual, taking up that one, set-aside charm in her hands, and holding it up with a critical eye. "Ah. And so, it had nearly been too late." Something occurred with just the outer effects, the leakage of her pouring magic into this piece of paper, and that... did not burn the talisman. 'No,' she confirms. The magic is still there. It can still be used.

    Her mind returns to the present, "Mr. Lowell, with some haste, if you please." She'll present it to him at the first opportunity.

Shyra has posed:
CENTRAL REGION - RUINED TEMPLE

    Shigure is basically a walking interdiction patrol all on her own. Her potent ranged weapons are enough to oneshot anything that comes in range as long as they don't overwhelm with numbers, and even if they somehow do, the other adventurers are RIGHT THERE. This gives them plenty of time and ability to examine the area in detail.

    Shigure's sonar pings resonate through the area. She gets some /very odd/ readings out of the floor indicating while it's not entirely solid, there is definitely something complicated under the heavy stone facings that hint at something larger. Also, one of the rooms seems does seem to have a hidden compartment in the wall. If she or someone else checks it out there is a small chest that contains a pile of coins with JI on each. They get 500 JII.

    Kupot is also right on point, his enhanced Moogle reflexes serving him well. The moment something gets through the screen, his katana is there to answer. He assesses the situation and immediately decides to follow his instincts.

    Arkae's experience as an adventurer points them exactly in the direction they need to go to progress. Her question is answered by Shyra. Well, this Temple is kind of cursed. A little. But nothing that will affect you! Really! It's just kind of full of bad things. Do monsters not attack you like this in your world?

    Arkae comes to a swift conclusion, and Shyra claps. You're exactly right! That's exactly what we need to do here! I can't imagine how terrible it would be if the Evil Knight came here first... > FLOOR B1

    If anyone should accidentally get hurt at all, Shyra is right there to dispense green heal sparkles. Some people might find this familiar, at least. Alruna, to be sure, opens her eyes to lots of them. Are you all right Alruna? Please, say something! She practically hovers on top of Alruna with HEALER CONCERN, but she backs off once Alruna indicates she's fine, nodding.

No, actually. The artifacts are still here. She says, pointing. They're heading down in the direction to get them now!

FLOOR B1:

Arkae, ever intrepid, reaches the next floor first. It is a maze full of twisty passages, all alike. At least that sourceless light is still present so one does not need to concern themselves with being eaten by a grue.

    That's the wrong genre entirely, after all.

    The patterns on the walls seem to be repeating over and over, as if they seem to have run out of things to put down so they just start from the beginning. The rooms seem to be mostly barren with only some sparse decorations to indicate that there is much to the room at all besides being a containment area for treasure chests that contain weak gear, more Jii, or potions. The enemies here are slightly stronger, different colored undead that seem to have a little more defense and damage and a nasty paralyze attack that randomly procs but never does because they're blown up on contact.

    You know, business as usual.

    The main issue seems to be the problem of getting through a LOCKED DOOR that seems to split the floor in roughly half. One can go searching for a key or potentially use some alternative methods to try to deal with the issue. Shyra continues meandering along with a big smile on her face, letting people explore and loot to their heart's content, as if she too was just a pocket healer along for the ride.

Amelris Belthrone (7180) has posed:
     Amelris jingles the coins in his hand, frowning. "Well. So much for the Blanket Ploy." He mutters to himself, adjusting his hat with a push of his thumb. He pockets the coin anyway, removing the blanket off the shopekeeper person, folding it neatly in a few strokes before making the basket vanish back into his storage. By the sound of it, Rizzo managed to make one awaken by make him see the end...

     The Miqo'te looks up, taking a few paces around in the shop, taking in his gaze around. A gloved hand trails on the counter, checking for dust, moving along to touch at the walls before resting his eyes on the door itself. Amelris pauses, narrowing his eyes and slowly walks his hand, reaching for the knob...

     Then the world pulses. A pounding sensation in his mind makes him grit his teeth, holding his forhead as--

     <"Hello?" An individual, hard to determin the gender of, opens the door to the shop, squeezing and turning the handle in a hurry. They look worried. Confused. They jog into the shop, straight to the counter.

"Oh, PLEASE tell me you can talk, come on!"

     The Shopkeeper stares back, 'BUY/SELL', it 'declares'. This makes the person blinking, then sigh.

The scene pass. The person is looking around in a pot in the shop, reciving a potion. Vision of another building, opening a chest next to a woman. Some other object. They talk to everyone. Nothing. All nonresponsive, despite dozen of repeated attempts.

Vision shifts. The person talks to the shopkeep again, buying more potions, more potion than they need.

After what might feel like hours, they stand before the guard for the HERB, parting in the direction of the YELLOW FOREST.>


     Amelris blinks his eyes open as he staggers back, leaning hard against the door frame. He pants, sucking in a breath deeply. "Bloody hells..." The Miqo'te hiss out. "Was that... the Hero, they talked about?"

     The Red Mage turns around to stare at the Shopkeeper, frowning, making his way to him and buying as many potions he can... then walking out. Looks like he's got to catch up to the folks in the Yellow Forest.

Lilian Rook (6895) has posed:
    Lilian doesn't even give Staren an answer short of just taking the stuff, heaping it all into a bag under one arm. "Well, blind corners, in front of oblivious monsters, and rigged to treasure, right?" she repeats to Tamamo, initially trying to list it off on one finger, but giving up immediately with how cumbersome it is.

    Considering the amount of screwing around at the door, she doesn't 'teleport' it all to the correct locations, but goes traipsing back through the grind on memory, seeing the traps and loot where she's expect to see them in a training course --more or less close to a videogame, but a lot more on the side of 'keeping someone on their toes' and 'making them work for it', rather than a nice curve of tutorialization.

    The cave shifts. That much is completely obvious. Lilian priotizes stabilizing herself and watching carefully for sudden ambushes first, then studying the scenario second. Replying to Arthur comes a distant third, when he enquires about the timeline. Given a complete lack of anything outstanding . . .

    "No. It's not retrocausal. This is happening now. All adjusted futures start from here. We've actively altered it in real time." she says, heading back to the door. "Though it's still a bit of a mess."

Pazkar (7191) has posed:
RIZZO: Why?! The man shouts out, speaking his first words of his own volition. There is still no sounbd, but his mouth moves like the others. What is wrong with this world? We're all- we're all made to die, to suffer, to...that's why we exist, isn't it? It's the only possibility...just let me cease to be!

But Rizzo speeds up, bearhugs him, and starts calming him down. Normally, this wouldn't have any effect on someone suffering a Reality Breakdown. But Rizzo understands. And the man can feel, for the first time being able to truly feel, that someone understands. He stops trying to immediately kill himself. He might try again later, but Rizzo can release him safely and try and continue to help him.

I don't even have a name...

AMELRIS: Amelris gets to buy ONE potion, for all ten Jee. It'll help heal him in a pinch. And then he's off to the Yellow Forest!

Crow Armbrust has posed:
        "ARCUS Activate!"

Crimson, crackling lightning changes in hue as Crow gets a bad feeling about his odds, moving to holster one of his guns as Mordred comes in swinging, releasing her electrical attack on all of them. His Chrono Drive accelerates Crow's movements, but not so much that he was able to completely evade her lash of lightning that leaves him momentarily on his knees, smoking. "Ugh...seriously...?!"

He'd blurred into an afterimage due to the effects of his temporal acceleration, but he'd still been caught by the thunderstorm, it seemed. Even so, he retorts with a small, square canister that he hurls directly at her, shooting it to cause a detonation of glimmering purple haze that fades as quickly as it comes, giving him time to get back to his feet and dash forward for a close-range blast from his pistol. "Rean, now!"

Shigure has posed:
    Shigure points out the hidden treasure closet, and relats the oddness of the construction... like it's meant to do something. She collects the treasure pot, then follows the group down. She's still pointedly not using her main battery. No point on things her autocannon and machinegun nests can deal with.

    She does frown a little at the sparce layout of the second floor, and moves to check the door. "I could blast it open... but perhaps we should look for some kind of key first."

Kupot (6666) has posed:
Kupot frowns at the door. He is trying to get this 'game logic' thing. He really is. He stands in front of the door, staring at it. His eyes flicker with green light as they roam over the portal. He turns back to Shyra for some sort of confirmation, but she seems to be more... watching instead. So he turns back to the door. "There... should be a key, yes?" He turns back towards the maze of hallways and sighs.

The moogle heads back to start going through each chest one by one.

Assuming Arkae didn't rob them all.

Tony Stark (6733) has posed:
"Tamamo. Alright. My mistake." Tony Stark replies to the fingerwag, a light smile coming and going across his face. He's tired - but Tamamo is a 'pretty lady', and Stark isn't entirely heartless.

Things go a bit sideways at that, complete with Staren freaking out. Contrary to his rather clipped and forceful entry, as Iron Man's helmet clicks down over his face once more he steps beside Staren. "Alright. We good?" He asks, a light expectant air.

He expects a 'yes'. It's a mystery what other answers will get.

"There's... something going on, but even if you write it, once you compile it, it becomes a different beast. I'll leave Rook to help the space cadet: This thing grew some new parts, like..."

The impassive facemask turns to DOORMECH. "It's like you dropped your code object onto a node. It got instructions, inherited structures. Is that what you want it to do?"

With purpose Iron Man strides forward, right up to DOORMECH. As he does so, 'physically' challenging without actually engaging, Tony Stark has an important question.

"Retrocausal? That's not a word. Rook, I'm offended, you can't make up new phrases without consulting me. Exoenergy is a very useful word and I won't have it upstaged by exotimeywimey."

Arthur Lowell has posed:
    The raw, unfinished world. Arthur has never seen it in this state, even as someone who once, long ago, crafted a universe. It's kind of incredible to see. It's also something he needs to not spend too much time around, not with things as they are. Arthur first slips back, then runs to Tamamo. She has a GIFT! What's that? Arthur intends to take it, squinting and peering. "Whatcha got here? This some magic stuff?" He CAPTCHALOGUES it in his SYLLADEX. It's not entirely clear what this means.


    But, he also needs to see what's further into PRADIA CAVE. The Upside-Down tower needs to be known. There's something down there. Something white and glowing. He knows it's an important thing, maybe an objective for this area a long atime ago... Can he just, you know, reach out and take it? "Princess, you seein' this?" He asks curiously. "You gonna slap my shit for being irresponsible if I go poke that? Looks important." He moves carefully, cuts his gravity to about a tenth, and slides into a hole, descending cautiously. Can he get, at least, a better look? He expected an obstacle, so he wants to at least scout just a little... Or maybe retrieve something important?

Athela Valemore has posed:
Not the strategy she would of prefered, but Athela is not going to object to making Mordred run into one attack by dodging Goomy's attempt. Hitting the foe is hitting the foe regardless who does the hitting, in the greater scheme of things.

Mordred retaliates with blasts of bloody lightning. Athela grits down and starts to march towards the EVIL KNIGHT with her weapon still held more defensively. The lightning slams against Resolute Blade, sending sparks flying in various directions. Some of the electricity arcs around her and into the ground in her wake as the energy reflects off the indestructable blade. Not all of the current is deflected though, some of it crackling through her metallic armor. Goomy gets zapped a few times sitting on her shoulder, making it go hide in the hood of her cloak.

Athela focuses her elemental aspect, but it's not into her weapon. Chilly fog starts swirling around her, some frost and ice starting to coat over her armor in an attempt to ward off some of the damage Mordred has been inflicting, sealing ablative layers over some of the dents and cracks.

Its with that done that she finally lowers her weapon and lunges, thrusting the slightly curved point of the glaive-sword at the Evil Knight at what she's trying to estimate is the foe's relative center of mass.

Staren has posed:
    Staren loses all his connections to local experiments. And his battle construct full of explosive weapons starts changing and moving on its own, in ways he didn't tell it to.

    Staren is a very careful mad scientist, THIS HAS NEVER HAPPENED BEFORE. For a few seconds, he panics, then calms down. "Yeah." he nods, replying to Tony. This is, after all, a fascinating chance! However... fighting his creation and seeing what it's become NOW would mess up the purpose of this whole exercise! So Staren climbs back into his walker and... well, he was going to leave the boss room, but Iron Man's decided to risk close-up examination.

    Staren nods. "I expected SOMETHING like this to happen. That it would get new instructions. I didn't think it would physically change like this, though. Or that I'd lose all my connections to it."

    He's nervous, but it's normal 'there's a big battle robot that might attack me at any moment' nervous, not 'AAH I'VE LOST CONTROL OF THE WORLD' nervous.

    "...I was hoping I could use those connections to trace wherever these changes are coming from. So much for that, but at least it looks like we just might save this world after all."

Tamamo (7173) has posed:
    "This," Tamamo says to Arthur, "I have made for you. It is a Divine Blessing, the answer to a prayer for Good Fortune. A surety for when the dice are cast. I expect that you will need such a thing, though it may instead be passed to another." She acts as if this is wholly sufficient explanation for what can only be easily determined to be some kind of Divine Magic Thing in the form of a Shinto-style paper charm. Maybe it is.

    "Shall we remove ourselves, then? Though it does appear as if there remains something that is missing." She tilts her head, those fox ears turning, as if listening carefully will find the missing piece of the puzzle.

    The comment from Tony gets Tamamo's attention. She claps her hands, once. "Just so, Mr. Stark! Some part of this world merely awaits missing pieces, and so we provide connections, revealing more than that which we added. Like a bridge that is missing planks, it is what is upon the other side of our repairs that is of interest."

Tomoe has posed:
The EVIL knight is proving to be a mighty threat that much is clear and she's playing the role pretty well. Tomoe is ready for magic as the lightning bolts hit she still is harmed she still cries out as lighting arcs over her body caring part of it to turn into angry red wireframes. She falls back a bit as she looks to the Evil Knight. She recovers quickly as she can and would ready her sword again. This time she dashes in throwing her shield like a boomerang at Mordred and as that is happening she'll make for a two-handed overhead strike with her blade before the shield returns to her.

"SHIELD IMPACT!"

She also keeps tabs on her companions. She doesn't know Crow but he's proven he's no speed bump she tracts Athela's movements as she tries to think of her next plan of attack.

John Rizzo has posed:
     Rizzo is easily able to think up a name. "No," he says. "You exist because someone thought you deserved to. Right now, that means bupkis to you, I know." He releases the villager, holding up a hand. "I want you to have something." He reaches into his shirt with one hand and shows the tiny silver medallion around his neck.

     The vampire removes it, and offers it to the villager. "This is Saint Jude--the patron saint of lost causes. I'm giving it to you so that you can remember the day you got a name, Jude. And so that you remember there's always hope, even for lost causes."

     He offers the medallion over. "I was like you. I didn't know anything but the part they wrote for me. Then I saw the End too. My end. I know that right now you're scared." He frowns, pauses, nodding understandingly. The vampire shoves his hands into the pockets of his coat. "But... someone wanted very badly for you to be awake. They thought that you deserved the chance to have your own destiny, to break outta the script..." Rizzo's memory flashes back to the hazy image he'd seen of the One with the Circle. The Author. "They tried to give that to you--but the world they live in is a tough one, kid. Making something, it's not as simple as just doing it." He shrugs. "I wish it was, but... I can't undo what's been done."

     "But I do wanna make it right. These people--all of 'em--they deserve the chance to have more than... this. You're right, Jude--the world is broken. But we wanna fix it, and we need your help."

Alruna Greengate has posed:
Alruna is a lot quieter as they advance into the dungeon. Echo visions tend to give her something to think about. She doesn't even need to draw her sword, simply punching through skeletons when they lunge out from around the corners or respawn behind her. Temple's cursed, all right.

Alruna hangs around the door while Kupot and Arkae hare off in search of the Key, folding her arms with a quiet clank while she waits to be periodically jumped by one particular skeleton that constantly appears at a nearby intersection. "Shyra?"

The Holy Healer's text boxes don't transmit the tone, but there's... just /something/ about the way the text scrolls, and about her body language. Alruna's expression is sympathetic, but she doesn't really know how else to say it. "What are we /doing/ here?"

Lilian Rook (6895) has posed:
    Returning to the group, Lilian replies to Tony as though the answer were totally obvious, though she thought of it along the way. "It's supposed to be the midway encounter, right? Obviously it has to stay here. We've added these details to the dungeon, and it's expanded to accommodate them, but they aren't integrated into its design, by the looks of it. It's still all . . . samey. The monsters wander into the traps by accident, and drop loot with no Party present."

    "So, if this all present tense, realtime editing, we need to find a way to prompt it to recompile. To absorb all the new data and restructure. That's how development works, right? You make the changes, then you have to compile or save or bake or whatever before restarting the program to see them."

    She leans past Tony and yells to Arthur "I will absolutely slap you if you mess with it before knowing what it is!" She briefly rights herself to look up at Tony in the eyes. "Look, you're allowed 'boat ghosts'. I'm allowed whatever I want." In the most incredibly brief of windows --a blink and you'll miss it flash of never-there-- Lilian sticks out the tip of her tongue at him, and then she's already moved on to chase after Arthur, only shooting back the words "Just call me if you get stuck on the boss!"

    Yelling at Staren for being a whimp and freaking out when his mech became an ambient enemy instead of on his controller, and descending into the Inverted Tower, she does her best to head off Arthur immediately. "Hold up, not your domain!" she says, encroaching upon the glowing thing first. "I didn't bring my whole kit with me, but this entire world is excruciatingly basic."

    From there, she intends to use her naturally honed magical senses, her familiarity with a broad array of multicultural mystic theorems, and a wearable reader hooked over one ear presenting information to one eye, to analyze the intended magical connotations of the big glowy mystery.

Linehart (7141) has posed:
                        PRADIA CAVE - ARTHUR'S GROUP                        

     Tony walks forward, right up to the DOORMECH. Its eyes zoom in on him, looking down at him. It whirrs.

     And then it speaks.

     Actually speaks. In a tinny, mechanical voice.

     "WARNING, WARNING! INTRUDERS DETECTED IN CONTAINMENT ZONE - TOWER OF VRITTI. CONTAINMENT UNIT D-00-RM3 IS ACTIVE. CONTINUING INTO TOWER OF VRITTI IS DISCOURAGED. LEAVE IMMEDIATELY. YOU KNOW NOT WHAT YOU DO. FURTHER ATTEMPTS TO ENTER THE TOWER OF VRITTI WILL BE PUNISHED."

     The cave's bending further.

     A moment ago it *was* just a cave. Now the red lines are spreading outwards, the pulsing red lights along the floor. The cave twists. The texture of the cave starts changing. The *geography* starts changing.

     It goes from stone to steel.

     The floors grate themselves out. The ceiling thrums with low red light. The twists and turns that were unfinished, with items at the end of them placed by Lilian, turn to straights and corners. Monitors appear, flickering with static. Every so often words pop up on them.

     AYUDHA

     The words flicker like creepy static, scrolling up and down and crackling out every so often, just like the static again. The zombies are no longer zombies but shambling machines in red and gold, with glimmering, mirror visors that sweep outwards with sunlight. Some of their heads spin every so often, and they bend forward and back, swaying like the zombies they were not moments ago.

     And yet there's still rocks every so often, like broken textures jutting forth from the metal ceilings. There's still stalactites, though some of them are metal, with those lines wrapped around them. There's still stalagmites, though some of them are now flashing warning lights. It's half-formed, jank, but it's there.

     Arthur descends the Upside-Down Tower. He doesn't get to see all of this changing. He doesn't get to hear the Tower of Vritti line. Instead, as he descends, the thing grows larger and large in his eyes. He's going further and further down.

     And then he hits the bottom.

     It is a creature. It is a machine. It is unfinished. It is asleep.

     Wings of blue fire peel off it. Two floating bits sit along its sides, like vast claws disconnected from the main body. It has six eyes, all open, glowing the same color as the lights upstairs.

     Arthur touches down.

     Textboxes pop up.

                         ISHVARA PROTOCOLS ENGAGED                          
                 IF ISHVARA=1 THEN GOTOGOTOGOTOGOTOGOTOGOTO                
                     BLASPHEMOUS WEAPON - AYUDHA RAKSHA                      

     The eyes start to glow.

Amelris Belthrone (7180) has posed:
     Amelris is running to catch up. A brief talk with the Guard to 'get' the Quest, the Miqo'te's feet kicks up the ground at his full sprint. Sprinting through the field, sprinting straight into the forest proper and navigating it up.

     ...All things told, it didn't seem to have taken all that long for the Miqo'te to come thumping up behind the party inside the Ruins. Someone's been lucky on the random encounters... or at least, maybe he just skipped the respawn rates of the bloody things on his way there.

     He stops, arriving, panting rather obviously, staggering into an alt and panting, hands on his knee behind the party. "Ahhh... ahhhh... He... heeey... Just... hurried my arse to... catch up with y'all..."

     The Red Mage lifts a finger, straightening himself with a grunt. "Figured it was the best thing to be, here--are... you guys stuck with a door?"

Rean Schwarzer has posed:
Rean braces himself, raising his sword in an attempt to 'ground' the lightning. It doesn't really work, and he just gets hit head on with it, though. He lets out a scream, getting fried, as some od his hair sticks up.

Then Crow makes a call out for him to attack, making an opening for his underclassman.
"Got it!" Rean shouts. He ignites his sword, ducking under the blast to rush Mordred again. He then makes three rapid strikes, slamming into the knight's armor.

Staren has posed:
    The mech speaks up. "I DEFINITELY didn't program that!" Staren shouts over it.

    And he stares at the dungeon changing around them. Okay, THAT is cool.

    "We hear and understand. If we leave, will the other guardian machines here allow us to exit the uh, tower in peace?"

Pazkar (7191) has posed:
The villager - Jude, as he nods to the name - was going to leave as soon as Rizzo did and probably end his life. But Rizzo does something kind. He gives him something.

A silver medallion. A personal gift. Jude takes it, stares at it for several moments, and then clutches it tightly.

The world is . . . a bad place. But it needs hope, you say? What's the point?

Despite saying that, and no tone to his words, Jude's face tells a different story. He's willing to keep living.

We need to get out of here. There's fire everywhere, and . . . I'm not an adventurer. I can't fight like the Hero would be able to. I guess my special ability . . .

Is to inspire?

The man is clearly still scarred. Clearly still scared. Clearly still hurting.

That's impossible . . .

But he'll live another day.

Lilian Rook (6895) has posed:
    Seeing the dungeon change further, Lilian is somehow *less* put off by it than the copypasted boring cave. Pleased, even, though that seems to be a separate gradient, judging by the slowly corrected mismatch of her walking confidence and relieved expression. "Well, it's certainly working. You've been on the money so far, Lowell." she says.

    Glancing at the monitors, she makes a contemplative noise aloud to herself. "Ayudha. That's . . . in mysticism, a symbolic item held by an idol, especially Hindi. It literally means weapon, or tool, though. I wonder what that's about."

    She has her answer extremely quickly. One glance at the bit of errant scripting and the unfinished boss monster activating, and she responds to Arthur's call to retreat instantly.

    "Can you think of any other way to fill in a 'boss' other than fighting it? We don't have to destroy it. Just fight it a little. Attack it. Dodge its attacks. Get hit if you please. Either way, we're feeding the encounter various kinds of data. If it's like the rest of the dungeon, it should do exactly what I said earler: it'll procedurally accommodate the new information."

    That being her best guess in mind, Lilian ~~takes her turn~~ opens fire. Ripples of black water-static disconnect her feet from the floor. Floating backwards, she gestures with both hands, crosses her wrists, and then thrusts her arms out towards the giant machine. A column of roaring black and red fire explodes out from her and crashes against its body, blasting it with a high velocity torrent of a combined magical fire/corrosive darkness damage.

Arthur Lowell has posed:
    Arthur is pulled back! He'll let Lilian take the lead. Not just because she's more qualified, but because he's suddenly quite worried about things. While they descend, Arthur focuses on pondering how to induce a "reset". "So, we gotta reset... How do we do that? Hmmm. Not really sure. Crash it from the inside? Fuck, no way, that's a huge risk. Uhhhh..." He rubs his face. Tapping his chin, he focuses into the most intense thought Lilian has ever seen him engage in probably. Helps that he's mostly alone.

    He snaps his fingers. "I got it. I think."

    But right as he gets it, they activate the boss. "Uh oh. Uh oh! Bad powerleveling zone! Very bad powerleveing zone! Think running now would be good, Princess!" He calls out. Eyes wide, he busts out his broom and takes a white-knuckle grip. The more the music builds, the worse he feels. "Look, I get that monster-killing is your /thing/, but /please/ trust me, we wanna take this with a full party!" But Lilian is quite a compelling argument. Arthur, as someone who has worked extensively with Time-aspected individuals, has a particular instinct: Whenever temporally-related shit is going down, just trust them and do whatever they're shouting to do, and keep listening for more shouting.

    So he takes his BATTLE STANCE, and opens up with a heavy barrage of blasts of starlight launched from his broom that a creature like this hopefully hasn't felt in literal eternities! He wants to gauge how resilient it is, how much power he needs to bring to fight, and what effects fighting it has, then he needs to make sure to book it!

    C'mon, fresh new good-luck charm, don't fail me now.

Alruna Greengate has posed:
Alruna reflexively waves and smiles at Amelris as he chases them down into the basement of the Ruins. Alruna is currently standing in front of a locked door with Shyra, while Arkae and Kupot are cleaning out the labyrinth's rooms of everything that isn't nailed down and generally being JRPG protagonists. She knows something questionable is happening, but so far nothing has caught on fire...for them yet, at least.

Tony Stark (6733) has posed:
"Awaiting missing pieces is all well and good, but if what you said is true, I'm not about to trust myself to a rickety piece of wood. I'm a very uncivil engineer, but I know my way around bridges."

Stark places a powered fist on Staren's probably-actually-a-mecha-but-it's-still-a-shoulder shoulder. "Like the kid said - this isn't a two person fight. Let's try a full party of five, right?"

Normally a party is four, or three, isn't it? Well, Tony has a slightly higher number that means something to him.

"BASTION." Stark utters. His helmet UI switches to a combat red, from a standing red-orange, rotating around his view into purely tactical displays, missile indicators filling up in his periphery.

<"Yes, Mister Stark.">

"Turn out the lights."

With a beep of acknowledgement in his ear audible to the rest of the trio above the tower, DOORMECH recieves a brutal code injection.

    Awareness Ratings . . . . . accessed.
    Accessing ocular processing . . . . deleted.
    Accessing auditory processing . . . . deleted.
    Accessing damage feedback sensors . . . . overwritten.
    System reboot for Update xx.xx.xx2 . . . in progress.


Stark gestures to the tower. "Let's go, before it grows new sets of eyes and ears. Don't hit it on the way down!" Tony calls before rocketing off down after Arthur and Lilian, not bothering to start with a snappy comeback. As Lilian just leaps to take her own turn, Stark fills the air with explosive flechettes launched from the shoulder of his suit. "Who said there was only two heroes, kid? This is the sort of thing you have whole teams of people for! I'm billing you my consulting rate after this, by the way, space cadet."

Staren has posed:
    Oh, they mean... whatever Arthur and Lilian are facing. Alright.

    Staren nods, The open-top walker he's riding in charges through the door as half of the cavelry, and turns its twin machine guns on AYUDHA RAKSHA.

Tamamo (7173) has posed:
    Tamamo edges around the Doormech, which has identified itself as 'CONTAINMENT UNIT D-00-RM3.' Once she has a line for it, Iron Man does a thing, and she immediately hotfoots to the portal Arthur and Lilian took, taking off in what's practically a single, building-bounding leap. She's not fighting the Containment Unit, and keeping her mirror between her and it just in case it does detect her and she needs to do a mid-air deflection.

    Once through, she stops, takes stock, and starts stretching out her senses. Almost immediately deciding this to be insufficient, she pulls out a bit of her own power and makes a few, sharp gestures, murmuring a rapid incantation for divination. There may not be very much here to analyze, but there was that divine/profane energy of the door, and there is certainly 'something' at work here. If she can find some points in the unfinished tower that seem meaningful at all, if most likely not true leylines, she'll choose those spots. If not, she'll just take her best guess, trusting in her own Good Fortune.

    At each spot, Tamamo plants one of the trap talismans she crafted earlier. The style is off from that of the metal dungeon created above, but it adapted, so why should this not? Each spell she plants is set to ring a loud alarm and send out a stunning, but mostly non-lethal, electric blast at trespassers.

    She isn't expecting anyone to wait for her, and answers, "Please continue on ahead, I shall shortly join," if anyone seems like they will. She isn't sure about Arthur, but Lilian at least sounded confident. Tamamo will catch up with some delay.

Shyra has posed:
CENTRAL REGION - YELLOW FOREST

Shyra is incredibly passive, only offering information when people ask her. This is probably a bad habit she picked up in her previous life. When Kupot looks at her, she smiles and nods to Kupot in anticipation. Kupot wanders off. Shyra almost follows him. She seems to not believe in splitting the party, but she also isn't stopping them from wandering off on their own. She doesn't seem to be willing to just outright tell people what to do, the healer simply dancing back and forth a bit on her feet almost in an animation-cycled fashion.

    Shigure makes some important observations as she gets richer. She could certainly attempt to blast it open. Would it work? Who knows. Others are looking for the key, so it's up to her! At least she's in good company.

    Alruna is back early. Temple's cursed. What? Temple's cursed. She immediately sees what Shyra is up to and begins nailing the healer to the ground on No Seriously, What Is Going On Here. Shyra looks shocked, like she just got caught with her hand in the cookie jar, and then she slumps down a little, her eyes going to the floor, embarassed. What do you mean? It's a ruined temple, don't you want to get the treasure from it? She says, and then after a pause... Well, um... Also there's some important relics in the bottom. We're almost there. We just have to get them before the Evil Knight does. These relics are what began our quest to save the world... before.

    Amelris rolls out like a boss except not since he's not a boss, he's the adventurer. The boss is attacking the main gates. He doesn't dillydally at all, using his own trained adventurer senses to hone in right where he needs to go. Good thing everyone else got stuck trying to open a door, gave him plenty of time! Of course now he's confronted with the same problem everyone else is, but hey, he has a moment to catch his breath. Shyra claps her hands and glees in his direction. Ah! So dashing! She says, smiling. You must be a very popular hero!

    It takes a little bit but Kupot manages to find a chest in the farthest possible corner that Arkae hadn't reached yet. Opening it up, he finds a YELLOW KEY that when used on the door, opens it up. Shyra claps again when that happens. YAY! Good work, Kupot! Now we can get to the end!

    The group gets through the doors and quickly cleans out the remainder of the temple. There was much left behind it anyway. The final room on B2 is a large one, festooned with ornate decorations of four iconic shapes surrounding a yellow crown, the fresco hanging over an altar. Tha altar holds four RELICS, small statuettes colored BLUE, WHITE, BLACK, and RED in order. Oh look, there's the objective!

    Unfortunately, in front of it is a large, grotesque pillar that is surmounted by a massive eye, lashing tentacles flailing in all directions. That looks like a problem.

                    EVER-WATCHING GUARDIAN - EYESTALKER                    

BGM: https://youtu.be/dF5cWiDMjIA

John Rizzo has posed:
     Rizzo sighs with relief. He watches Jude go. Watching the ember of hope spark within someone only moments after they escaped from a nightmare... "There's... a few people that didn't think this could fly. But we just proved you guys can wake up."

     Jude is the first. They'll look up to him, but he'll be prepared. "You'll be fine, Jude. It'll be hard, but it's worth it." He smiles wanly. "Now. I gotta go let the gang know this wasn't as impossible as we thought."

     "...there's gonna be a lot of change coming up, Jude. Keep an eye out, and hang tight. We'll need your help for what's coming, pal."

Shigure has posed:
    Well, door's open. There's the objects, and oh look, a boss. Shigure steps forward, in front of even the party tank, and levels her cannons on Eyestalker. The report is likely deafening to her companions, the 12.7cm shells lashing out towards the boss monster in an opening gambit.

    After she's fired, she jinks off to one side, allowing the melee fighters to follow up her opening volley. "Reloading, 12 seconds. Load High Explosive."

Linehart (7141) has posed:
             TOWER OF VRITTI CONTAINMENT UNIT - ARTHUR'S GROUP              

     BASTION outclasses D-00-RM3 by a mile. As soon Tony starts fucking with it, status symbols pop up over its head - BLIND, SILENCE, STUN, DISABLE. Sunglasses, an ellipses in a box, stars over its head, bands of light wrapped around it. It stands there uselessly, repeating the same phrase it just said, as Tony and Staren bail into the Tower of Vritti itself.

     Tamamo goes past the disabled D-00-RM3 and into the Tower. She finds not ley lines, exactly, but something close enough for Godderment work. She starts placing the talismans around, and the Tower does, indeed, start to shift. The strange red lights start turning gold. Sunlight appears at the top of the tower, pouring down on the awakening Ayudha Raksha, Lilian, Arthur, Tony, and Staren.

     No, not sunlight.

     A sun.

     The entire top of the Tower, the entire ceiling, becomes a blazing fire. It twists and writhes, licking the golden walls. The golden lines transform to fire, wrapping the Tower in dramatic flame patterns all the way down.

     More textboxes start popping up as Tony fires his flechettes into the thing's hide. The flechettes rake across it, numbers popping up above it - just like with Linehart, Shyra, and Pazkar. They're very nice, big, satisfying numbers. Tony has made his numbers go up *a lot*.

     ORIGINAL SIN
     HERETICAL ENGINE THAT CHALLENGED THE GODS
     AYUDHA RAKSHA

     Staren's machine-gun fire isn't nearly as big, number-wise, as Tony's, but it's punching holes in the thing's strange fur.

     Lilian's dark flames rake across it. The fire seems more effective than the darkness by far - two separate numbers pop up, and the red one is *much* bigger than the other.

     But it hasn't moved yet.

     And then Arthur's light comes down upon it. The starlight smashes into it. The numbers are *pitiful*. Almost *nothing*.

     Oh.

     And those eyes all light up at once.

     *Oh*.

     Ayudha Raksha rises. It has tiny arms that look incomplete. Its wings are rippling flame. Its jaw and one of the floating pods has mechanical bits, but BASTION can find no machinery within it, not like D-00-RM3.

     HERETIC CANNON

     The words pop up above the floating pod with mechanical bits. The pop opens like a camera. A beam rakes out. It's seven colors. If Arthur is foolish enough to be struck by it, the damage is catastrophically painful - fire, metal, earth, water, forest, light, and dark. It is something *designed* to kill gods, to imprison them in a circle of elements and hold them down and beat them to death. It is the Original Sin - challenging the gods themselves. Even if he isn't struck by it, he and Tamamo can *feel* that this thing was meant to destroy divinity. Arthur's even read about it in the book. Ayudha Raksha, built to challenge the Yellow Emperor.

     The other pod turns upwards towards Tony and Staren.

     MATSYA

     It's a glitchy mess. The attack is just nonsense, like somebody took a broken, incomplete sprite and shoved it into reality. It's clearly *some* kind of projectile, and by the color it's supposed to be some kind of enormous flood, but it's just...nonsense.

     The central head's eyes turn green.

     REINCARNATION PROTOCOLS

     Green numbers start popping up over it. The wounds start closing.

     Oh dear.

     Yep, this is a Superboss. It probably even has phase changes.

Mordred (7197) has posed:
"That's more like it... Show me your resolve, or scatter to the wind!" Mordred's getting more into the EVIL KNIGHT role the more she fights and boasts and yells in that stilted tone, even going as far as gripping her sword with two hands instead of hurling it or something for the sake of the act.

Never let it be said that the Knight of Treachery doesn't know a thing or two about proper theatrics to really get the blood pumping.

Once again, Crow charges in with that gambit that catches Mordred off-guard. She's used to attacks coming from different directions, sure, but an archer attacking her head on in melee range? That's just stupid enough to actually work, and that shot actually knocks Mordred's helmet off-kilter enough that the rest of the crew can capitalize.

The teamwork from Crow and Rean isn't all too surprising considering... Well, considering that Crow's outright saying Rean's name, but it still works wonders when Mordred's facing attacks from multiple directions. Rean's blazing sword slashes aggravate that earlier holy sword strike from earlier, seeping deep into the EVIL KNIGHT's armor as she utters a more guttural battle cry to psyche herself up through the pain of being steadily cooked in her armor.

Or maybe try and intimidate Rean. Either or.

Athela's charge into close-range is met with Mordred bringing her blade up to defend against the thrust, but the curve of the blade scrapes along past Mordred's defenses to draw blood from her side. Truth be told, the EVIL KNIGHT was expecting her to stay at range, so being met head to head like this actually gets an amused "Finally." from Mordred even at the glancing stab.

Tomoe's shield toss, too, is completely unexpected considering that the knights Mordred knows don't normally fight like... Well, Mordred. The shield bounces off her helmet with a loud clang, staggering the EVIL KNIGHT just long enough that she only has time to block against that overhead strike with her free arm, the blade digging into her armor further and worsening the existing damage to it further.

"You're fighting well for fodder. But I've got more important things to do, so just lay down and die already!" The act's slipping a bit even as Mordred's own less-refined tone starts to come through, the excitement of battle getting the better of her.

With Tomoe's sword digging into her gauntlet, Mordred ducks down briefly before thrusting upwards with one of the horns on the side of her helmet and following up with a hasty swing from the silver sword, aiming to slice right through her and Athela with that single slash.

Rean and Crow are going to get caught up with a rapid swing coming from the other direction. It's not a slash like the last one that comes for them, though, as Mordred turns Clarent sideways and swings it more like massive club. Apparently, she's aiming to smash right through the pair in one fell swoop, proper sword use be damned!

Arthur Lowell has posed:
    Arthur notes the numbers. He notes the absence of apparent response. He sees... this is not ready for killing. "This is bad, Princess!" He calls out, urging her. "I'm not seein' bars. I'm not seein' flashes. I don't think this guy is done! Thinkin' this guy isn't even in the system for losing! We gotta-- we gotta /fill/ more!" The sun blasts above. "It's /filling out/, but it ain't gonna /fill/ with just this! Come on! We gotta move! We gotta--"

    Then, an incoming beam. It's the enemy's turn now. Arthur dodges as best he can, blasting to one side on a rocket-blast. Despite it, he suffers a dead-on shot from a beam designed, specifically, to kill a god. It slams towards him. Despite dodging at speeds that would tear apart the bodies of most pilots, he eats shit and the beam has him dead to rights.

    Unless someone interferes, it strikes him hard enough to kill him instantly by tearing a hole through his torso. Arthur is DEAD, and his corpse subsequently flops onto the ground of the arena. It would seem he won't be able to retreat on his own.

    Staren probably knows why this isn't the worst ending that it seems to be.

Amelris Belthrone (7180) has posed:
     Amelris do strike quite a dashing figure in the way he's running into the scene. Hand on his be-feathered hat, his shining rapier with the pommel of a wonderful, glowing gem. Cape billowing behind him with each step he takes, taking in the wind of his velocity. That is, until he stopped, hands on his knees to catch his breath again from all that mad dash he just did.

     The truth, however, is that he followed his nose. The smell of booze still followed Alruna. A bit. A little. That was nice and well enough to follow up.

     "Ah, I just do what can be do, Shyra." The Red Mage replies once he's retaken control of his faculties, beaming wide and his ears fluttering. An amazing trick, that. YOU try to flutter your ears. "I'll share what I learned when we are out of here. It might give us some ideas." There is a stare at Kupot. Try not to stare too much at the Moogle, Amelris. This one do not look like a lazy arse. Amelris also give Arkae a smile, lifting his feathered hat politely at her.

     He follows along through the door, peering around the room while keeping a hand on his rapier. A flick of his wrist makes the gem unhook, floating above his other hand, dancing beneath his wriggling fingers. Amelris lets out a loud whistles at the sight of the relics. Objective found.

     Then a pillar is also there.

     A problem, in other words.

     "AH-HA!" Amelris calls out, flourishing his rapier and taking a step forward. "It seems we have found the protector of the VERY IMPORTANT relics! Come! We will need to DEFEAT IT before we also return with the HERBS for the POOR GU--"

     Amelris' voice is drowned out the the CANNON FIRE unleashed from Shigure, the Miqo'te's ears flattening against his head with an visible wince, gritting his teeth while looking at her surprised and somewhat cross, before pointing at the WATCHER, swinging his rapier above him. A crystaline arc follows his swing, growing several swords that are launched relatively silently out to soar at the 'Boss'.

Alruna Greengate has posed:
Alruna didn't drink THAT much at the party. Just because Miqo'te have an excellent sense of smell and are born trackers... she's not a chronic drunkard, don't judge her.

Alruna gives Shyra an askance look. "Aye, I do like to delve." she admits. She draws her sword again out of habit as Kupot returns with the Key they need to unlock the door and continue down.

The paladin sprints this time to get to some of the enemies before Shigure can shoot them, but not nearly enough for her liking. They make good time. When they approach the final room, Alruna's eyes settle on the Eyestalker, first. But there are the artifacts sitting behind it, just as Shyra said. She takes a step forward, sword and shield at the ready-

Only to be cut off by the thunderous report of Shigure's heavy cannons. "AHHHH!" Alruna twists her head in pain for a second, shaking it. "Godsdamn that's loud!"

And Shigure's gotten the beast's attention before she had a chance! That's it. When she gets out of here, she's going to find herself a gunsmith and learn about those weapons.

Alruna tosses her shield at the Eyestalker nonetheless, trying to draw the malevolent architecture's attention. She catches the shield on its rebound and swings wide at the pillar, channeling a surge of brilliant blue aether into the blade like she's trying to cut down a stone tree.

Alruna may be suspicious, but Shyra's got her number when it comes to classical adventuring tropes.

Pazkar (7191) has posed:
. . .

Jude walks away from Rizzo as he leaves. Jude turns towards the fire and the group. He watches Mordred start dunking into them. And then, he does something entirely outside of the script.

Instead of a civilian fleeing, he pumps his fist into the air. Come on, Heroes! Kick their butt!

Kupot (6666) has posed:
I mean, there is the fact that Kupot is also cybernetic. The large insectile lenses look back at Amelris. "What, kupo."

He brings the key up to the door to grasp and turn it with a heavy clunk. In truth, destroying the door feels like... cheating.

He looks up at the relic with a frown. Now it is there. This place isn't finished yet. Everything in this world is so damn strange. Not in that beautifully strange way either. That 'hurt your brain' strange.

And that's a giant eye. Kupot puts his hand over his sword... but he cannot strike. Not until it has lasered him.

Which may make him look a bit goof,y standing there while everyone attacks, waiting.

Staren has posed:
    The flood(?) tries to wash Staren and his ride away. Talons deploy to grip whatever passes as a floor in the tower. Wood and metal creaks, and Staren has to hold his breath until it passes -- at least he's strapped into his seat!

    After the flood passes, Arthur hits the floor with a big hole in him. Staren tries to recall how that works. Something about only being able to die when it's dramatically appropriate or... there was a second scenario but he can't recall it off the top of his head. This definitely didn't FEEL like Arthur making a noble sacrifice. It just kind of happened by accident. That PROBABLY means it doesn't count. But in any case, Arthur's head is intact, so he can be saved other ways too.

    But what to do about AYUDA RAKSHA? They haven't hurt it enough, apparently. Staren doesn't exactly have his mecha here and the cool boss monster he built is otherwise occupied. The machineguns built into his walker aren't cutting it. He'll need to use another big gun.

    Staren pulls from his bag a two-handed raygun of some sort, a single piece of metal sculpted into the abstract SUGGESTION of a firearm. He aims down and fires.

    It's almost video-gamey. A (relatively) slow-moving bullet of energy shoots down the tower, looking like something you might expect a sidescrolling shooter ship to shoot (or dodge) hundreds of.

    But when it hits, it EXPLODES like a thousand missiles at once!

    Staren sure hopes that makes some big numbers appear. And in the back of his mind he keeps listening, waiting for Arthur to pop up on the radio or something. Come on, Lowell...

Tomoe has posed:
Tomoe is getting the idea Modred is getting into it maybe a bit too much. She's scored a good hit but it's not over yet. Mordred is a legend far bigger than Tomoe, yet? Tomoe is stubborn very stubborn even as the weapon is swung like a club at her? She pops just about every cooldown she has, she glows bright gold, she slams her shield into the ground and just takes more of the brutal punishing beating that Modred is dishing out.

She's still standing and isn't too badly off.

"Not done yet."

She will flare out her wings fully at this point. She's not quite been in the situation that the natives of this world have been in. She does know what it's like to be trapped in a nightmare like this can be like even if you are not alone.

Then comes Jude? She sees his text box and assumes this is the person that Rizzo woke up.

This inspires her more, a thought comes back to her. Something about what Big Boss said about how she got her powers, not on how but the most important thing. How many people have you saved?

She spreads her wings taking flight above Mordred and then at the apex like an angry angel she will drop from on high putting all her energy into a chain of diving bombing attacks, where she'll strike out with her blade on each pass.

Athela Valemore has posed:
The headbutt in itself doesn't do a lot, but it disorients Athela just long enough she can't get her own weapon back into a defensive position against the sweeping slash that follows. The protective ice she had formed over her armor fortunately takes most of strike, keeping it from getting through her armor and into the squishy human underneath.

That doesn't change the fact that it hits with enough brutal force to send the young knight crashing over backwards and hard into the ground. "Ugh!"

The groan gets her Goomy to poke back out from within her cloak, nudging at her cheek with a pseudopod. "No. I am fine." She puts a gauntlet to the ground to push herself up. "Sore, but fine." The other hand grabs her weapon, propping the butt of the hilt on the ground to help herself up, then resuming her grip on it. Hmm. She's not sure how this world would react to her patron's smite... and honestly this is probably not drastic enough to take the risk.

Fortunately, she's got other capable tricks up her sleeves.

But first a moment to push a few stray hairs out of her face and tuck them back into her headgear. Then armored heels slam into the ground, kicking off into a short dash, smirking a bit at the cheering from the sidelines somewhere. A few strides is all she needs.

If Mordred expected her to just run right up to her an attack again, the Evil Knight will be disappointed.

Instead Athela close in just enough to take an astounding leap into the air. At the same time elemental energy congregates in Resolute Blade, flash freezing into a larger jagged blade of snow and ice.

It's just as Tomoe is passing on her bombing maneuver that Athela comes back into the fight with an angling descent at Mordred, hurtling with all the fury of snow and ice crashing down a mountainside.

Crow Armbrust has posed:
        "ARCUS Acti --"

Crow feels his ribs crack as he gets caught unexpectedly, flung like a ragdoll through the air, tumbling back down to the ground moments later with a groan. This was where he intended to clock out, it's not like he had a horse in this race after all, all he had to do was just leave the rest to the others now that he'd sustained suitable injuries.

But, someone broke the script. " ... ?"

Rizzo had mentioned something like that earlier, that someone had 'woken up'. And now, here he was, cheering them on. Even though it'd take no effort at all for the Evil Knight to obliterate him with a flick...

What a pain in the ass. It was stupid, sentimental garbage, but he couldn't just lay down when someone real was cheering them on. "Man.."

Crow forces himself up and breathes in, holding one hand out. "ARCUS Activate."

Blue aura shimmered around his body as some kind of runic circled formed on the ground, glowing briefly before the light dimmed and an ethereal skull appeared, releasing a miasmic curse on Mordred in an explosive vision of death.

Lilian Rook (6895) has posed:
    This time, the boss' full information fills in. Its title bar. Its intro flash. She can see the numbers. Elemental weaknesses and resistances. It has attack placards. Multi-action turns. According to Lilian, this is all going exactly to plan. She frowns, almost imperceptibly, at the regeneration ability --these are the types she hates especially-- but the object here isn't to take it down. She can live with it.

    Until Arthur promptly eats shit. The exact instant he makes contact with the beam, in that RPG-esque way where his health hasn't ticked all the way down yet, Lilian--

                -----[stop]-----
    "Oh my god you *unbelievably useless *ass**! You had one job! I told you, try not to die! I thought you were supposed to be good at it!" she yells, where nobody will hear her. Flying over to Arthur as quickly as possible, she tackles him out of the beam, twisting her body so as not to be roasted by it herself, and then hurls him down on the floor some distance away, splitting up to a higher vantage.
                -----[start]-----

    --apparently telports him out of the way, then herself to another location, given that she briefly has the luxury of not being put under fire herself. "So what's your suggestion then?!" she yells to Arthur, before hitting the radio and calling for Tamamo. "Can you make your way down here?" she prompts, over the sound of boss music blaring. Given her play right now is to poke and prompt the boss as much as they can until the group has to pull back, she switches from 'fire' and 'dark' elements completely, and brings out her staggered and interlocking, counter-rotating magic circles of gold and black, then hammers the Ayudha Raksha with an 'element' that definitely doesn't exist here.

    To pretty much every given observer, it's an artful barrage of flashing and scintillating lines of golden light and negative shadow, blowing up in starstruck explosions. What's actually happening to the construct, though, is that it's being hit with a missile massacre of compact temporal anomalies. Potential energy brought in from the future and mass-energy diverted and scattered into alternate timelines. Light and dark. Chaotic, fractal, physically and energetically shredding impetus. A 'time element', more or less, coupled with physical damage.

    If that doesn't have much of an effect, all she's got left is unpinning the ~~TREE~~ FOREST relic made of an empty Grief Seed from her hair, and channeling that.

Shyra has posed:
CENTRAL REGION - YELLOW FOREST

The battle is joined! Shigure opens in the proper manner: with heavy artillery. The detonations tear into the pillar of eye, causing it to roar and lash around emphatically. The life bar over the creature decreases significantly as Numbers Appear over it for a second, then vanishing. This gives the others the opening they need to strike.

    Amelris launches in right afterwards, the Heroic Statements interrupted by the explosions. But it's okay, Shyra appreciates the bombastic heroness regardless if one simply looks at her expression. The Crystal Swords that strike down pierce into the beast, A punchy number appears as well, the bar continuing to decrease thanks to the focused DPS on the boss monster. It's not instantly falling over at least, which makes it more of a challenge than the alpha-susceptable creatures seen thus far.

    Alruna, meanwhile, Does Her Job. The tanky Paladin shield bounces off of the Eyestalker, following up with a wide cleave of burning aether. The beast roars again, numbers appearing, albeit small compared to the DPS. Still, Alruna probably won't instantly detonate on the retaliation, will she?

    Kupot enters a counter attack stance, preparing to use his skills to strike the boss in the inevitable moments that it will be vulnerable while it strikes. But when will that be? It must be low Speed.

    THOUSAND EYES

    Oh. A moment later, the tentacles all bloom open, showing that it is named what it is for a reason as innumerable alien orbs gaze at the party... And lasers BRZZZZZZZZT across the room, attempting to rake across the assembled adventurers! WATCH OUT! Shyra calls, attempting to mitigate damage with her healing spells.

John Rizzo has posed:
     Rizzo smiles, as Jude cheers the heroes on.

     Elsewhere, Staren and Arthur report to his inquiry over the radio. The con is working. All that's left is to wait--the Private Eye doesn't need to fight. Not this time, anyway. It's enough to figure things out. This way leads to The End, he's sure of it.

     John has saved someone from a meaningless, repetitive existence, and in so doing, proven that this scheme can work. He's stood in the face of flames and not budged an inch. He is the last person in any given situation to lose hope, but this is exactly what he needed after his frenzy at the dungeon some days ago. Moreover, it could prove key to his stated quest of defeating the Beast once and for all.

     Rizzo's done his part here. The rest is up to the actors. He quietly makes his exit.

Tamamo (7173) has posed:
    Tamamo's efforts... succeed...? Looking up, she sees that she has created a sun. It is not The Sun. It is not Her. But it is a sun, something this world had lacked, and she feels immensely accomplished in having righted one of this world's major deficiencies. Perhaps there will yet be some way to bring it to its proper place in the sky. That can be considered after the play has yet again run its course. Even if Shyra needs to reset the world again. "Come to that, however did she accomplish such a thing?"

    At Lilian's request, Tamamo brightens, putting aside any musings. Tony's more dire statement not having parsed, she remains unaware of Arthur's situation as she descends. Certainly, there is a battle down there. A strange fight against a strange creature. She might assume that Staren's attack is normal 'for him,' but to her, it's just as strange as anything else she's seen today.

    The alien aspect of the place doesn't slow her down. Leaping from platform to platform, Tamamo speedruns the descent as well as anyone technically lacking a flight spell could. Mild magical effects (and her naturally light frame) keep there from being the kind of hard impacts that would normally result from falling such distances, purposefully or not. Finally, it lands her, if not at the lowest point of the floor, at least conceivably 'in range,' and coincidentally not far from Lilian.

    "And what is... oh, that creature is even less pleasant a visage at this distance." It's bad enough that she actually clicks her tongue. "And a heretic, too. Of course it would be. Very well, then. If the fire of a sun bothers you not, then let us dispense with a hell of fire, and bring about a frozen plain. We have not the one trillion years to repent in the Naraka Arbuda, but condense this into moments."

    Tamamo doesn't need to create new talismans for this. 'Needing to drop a rain of giant ice spikes and blizzard winds' is just part of the standard kit for going outside, so she only has to pull a handful of strips of paper from her sleeves and toss them. They talismans fly on their own, but not too far, before disintegrating to activate their magic.

Tony Stark (6733) has posed:
Iron Man is heavily equipped, right now, for extremely tactical engagements. A heavily reinforced chest reactor space with an oversized blue-white ring accompanies enlarged shoulders - where the flechettes launched from. The whole thing lacks some of the normal sleek, muscular racecar stylings and looks largely like a bulked out military frame.

As the glitchy 'MATSYA' attack crashes into the hovering battlesuit, the forearm extends a tower-shield like glowing energy field of repulsor energy, breaking the flood of junk data around it.

So instead of being washed away into badly rendered pixels, Tony Stark just gets whammied by a hurricane in nonsense form.

Over the whine of a 'woopwoopwoop' behind both ears, Bastion fills Tony in. <"Damage Report: Shields will fail should this combat frame take another hit. Suit integrity stable, seventy-three percent. Auto-repair functioning nominally.">
"Seventy-three? Jesus. Thought I upgraded the shields."
<"Confirmed: Shield upgrade effective against damage.">
"Lordy."
<"I concur with the tactical assesment of allied units.">
Stark searches for who would be the person his suit AI was talking about. "Rook?"
<"I have calculated the appropriate response.">
Stark's vision fills with munitions, targeting solutions, charge levels, and leading indicators for manual targeting. "Yeah? What's that."
<"Please confirm release of central RT limiter.">
Stark smirks. "Let's go."

With Lilian calling down Tamamo and claiming she'll 'handle' Arthur, Staren going at it with his RAISER rifle, and the field largely cleared beyond explosions and 'giant flying superbosses', Iron Man hovers out of the cloud of smoke and fizzling glitches, ports all over the suit opening as the 'bweeeeEEEE' whine of repulsor weaponry spooling up fills the air around him.

A rapid succession of strafing palm-blasts is joined by a staccato spray of micromissiles as Tony maneuvers around Lilian's impressive 'TREE' blasts and the detonation of the RAISER full charge. Closing with one of the pods, ports on his right wrist opens expelling a cardinal red laser of tremendous cutting force to slash across the spiny bulb aimed to test the boss's depth - if it even has any - before flying back up as amber light gathers in the white-blue chest ring.

<"Primary weapon ready.">
"Then show it the big one."

Cleared from the firing line of his allies, Iron Man's chest darkens the entire sun-lit room for just a heartbeat before a tremendous beam of solid kinetic energy rips forth from his suit's chest and crashes into the boss just like the boss' glitchstate hurricane crashed into him.

Kupot (6666) has posed:
Lasers begin to move across the room. As the lasers hone in on Kupot, he takes a step forward.

Again, the blade comes out of his scabbard, flickering out twice. Two lasers burst against the ceiling away from Kupot, though likely not making a stain at all. Or a mark. Two more of the lasers push through, forcing him to drop his katana as the strange light rips across his arm and chest, tearing open the tunic. He frowns.

His HUD suddenly starts to pick up the numbers and run them, formulating them into an ATK and DEF statistic off to one side. But they don't mean anything to Kupot. At least not yet. It is information he can use in the front. For now, he grabs at the monoblade and slides it back into the scabbard, before touching the pommel gem.

"Warriors of old, kupo. Ancestors. Lend me your power."

> SUPLEX > ROCK DROP > EYE STALKER

Leaving his primary weapon aside, Kupot takes three steps towards the pillar in rapid succession to build up speed. Then the technomagical cybernetics in his legs spring to action, and Kupot hurtles the pillar with ease. He grabs two tentacles of the Eyestalker in mighty hands and with a leverage of roughly 'infinity', pulls the Eyestalker onto his shoulders. Another mighty kick off the pillar, and the moogle goes plummeting towards the ground at magically enhanced speeds, pushing himself to be on top of the mighty First Boss Of The Game.

Alruna Greengate has posed:
Alruna's sword cuts into the pillar with a meaty thud. She tugs on it. It's stuck. She pulls again, planting her foot on one of the eyes and yanking her weapon free.

The boss music hits a slightly discordant note as the boss counterattacks. Alruna ducks behind her shield for what good that'll do when the tentacles themselves are spawning eyes with which to attack them, running around to the side of the monster to try and pull its attention away. THOUSAND EYES appears to be an omnidirectional saturation attack.

She strikes at the base of the pillar over and over, forming an interlocking shield of aether in front of her before it can attack again.

"Burn it down!" she roars, indicating to set it on fire or just throw everything they've got at the damn pillar and hope it isn't load-bearing. It could be either, really. She takes a step back to watch the spectacle of a /moogle/ suplexing the boss monster, a goofy smile appearing on her face at odds with the dramatic tension of the music playing.

Rean Schwarzer has posed:
Mordred's blade slams right into Rean's chest, knocking all the wind out of his lungs as he goes flying. He tumbles head over feet for a bit, landing somewhere behind Crow. Crap, what now?

And then someone calls out to them. It looks like one of the NPCs from earlier broke the script, and was cheering them on now, like out of a fairy tale or something. The townsfolk cheering the heroes on and getting them to keep fighting.

Rean laughs. They were here for something like this. To wake up the people of Shyra and Pazkar's world so they could live better lives than this empty loop. They couldn't let them down. What else could he do right now, though?

...Well...there was 'that.'

Rean drags himself to his feet, raising his sword over his head. Focus...Focus...On Getting Mordred out of the way. On clearing the path for the people of Finaria. On clearing this obstacle.


With a shout, Rean lowers his blade, becoming engulfed in a burst of darkness, becoming decidedly less heroic looking with his hair and eyes shifting to white and red respectively. But it's still him.

"UOOOOOOOOOH!" he shouts, rushing Mordred in a split second, his sword engulfed in blue flames. He then slashes at them multiple times, with one final large burst of flame at the end.

Arthur Lowell has posed:
    Arthur is knocked out of the way! He suffers only some fairly horrible damage, not lethal damage! He's bleeding all over, and his HEALTH VIAL is a little wild! "Gah! Hhhh! Thanks!" He calls out. There's further negotiating. He decides to mount his broom, and focus on /survival/! While Lilian tries to get this whole thing to shift this to the next stage, Arthur's going to try to evade the dangers of anti-god nature. Curse his godhood! The worst thing.

    He's crafting up a GATE back up to the cave. Something that'll be easier for the others! But lord, he sure doesn't want to let this thing out of containment. If this thing wanders around the world, or worse, the multiverse, he'll be dead inside a week. Once they get a reaction... he's gonna get this party to FLEE as fast as they can!

Amelris Belthrone (7180) has posed:
     Amelris gives Kupot a brief shurg, keeping his voice still drowned out by artilery. He said something, seeming like 'Will tell later'. He adjusts his hat with the tip of his rapier, looking back at the monster full of eyes.

     Oh. Good. Lasers. Just what he needed.

     The Red Mage dashes forward, gripping his gem in one hand as he leap in against the saturation effect of energy beams. He attempts his best to avoid them, leaping, then rolling down to slide, but it's still quite heard to avoid something that is at the speed of light, or close enough. Some do blows into him, leaving burns on his outfit and body.

     Still, there's something that bothers him about the place. There's the monster, yes, sure. But that fresco...

     Time to get a closer look.

     The Red Mage vaults to his feet, swinging his blade in front of himself as he concentrates, then launches himself like an arrow at the monster. Both to get closer to the monster to deliver a fantastic enhanced swing of his blade, but also to move past to get a closer look at the fresco. What the HELL is it?

Linehart (7141) has posed:
                      TOWER OF VRITTI - ARTHUR'S PARTY                      

     Lilian opens up on Ayudha Raksha with a new and interesting element. She smashes into it with something that does not exist yet, something that was in no way programmed in. Something that the distant dreamers could not have expected, could not have produced, because how could they have ever expected anything like this?

     How could they have expected their dream to be made real in the most literal possible manner?

     The chaotic fractal of temporal force crashes against it. There is a moment of extreme chaos. The whole of its existence shudders. Damage numbers - quite high ones - pop up on all three bits of Ayudha Raksha, both the hovering pods and the central body. Bits of it shred, aged in an instant. How a thing that has no age and no concept of aging can age is...impossible to say. It looks like it's just some kind of Poison Damage, or at least, that's how it's being interpreted. Maybe a Poison Element or something just got added?

     Staren opens up with his RAISR. It smashes into the thing, and, true to video-gamey form, works staggeringly well. It hits the boss right in the eye, punching through it. There's a burst of some nasty liquid, something that feels uncannily to Tamamo like liquid bad karma, and a big number above its head. That's a good, big number.

     Tony Stark makes a hell of an argument too. An absolute hell-rain of micromissiles pours down, popping up very big numbers all over the place. The red laser pierces right through the left pod, rendering it still, though not dead; they can tell it's not dead. But Tony can tell - it has depth. It has weight. It is a real entity. It *shouldn't* be, but it is.

     The sheer force of the kinetic energy is the big one, though. It crashes into Ayudha Raksha so hard the thing actually staggers, floating backwards for a moment as if a boat pushed in a bathtub. The number that pops up is a massive 999 - probably the highest it can go in something this old. That is a limit break, for sure.

     Tamamo floats down the stairs, flicking her talismans. Eruptions of ice spikes and cold winds spread across the field, and there's another very, very low set of numbers that pop up - uncannily low, though across all three parts, including the one Tony just blew into stasis. The numbers are still going down, the spikes jutting forth from the thing, frost forming on its body under the glacial winds. The red eyes turn upwards towards Tamamo.

     That's probably not a good thing.

     And then the TREE hits it.

     The boss stops.

     INITIATING BLUE DRAGONS CONTAINMENT

     It turns metal.

     Every part of it becomes metal in an instant. The pods surge together, connecting into a single, massive cannon, which hovers above the now-metallic creature. Its wings turn to stylized shimmering steel, glinting in the harsh sunlight. Its body becomes armor. The lights spread across it rapidly, its maw transforming into a grille.

     BLUE DRAGONS CONTAINMENT PROTOCOL

     FIVE MOVEMENTS - METAL

     And then the cannon turns upwards towards Tamamo.

     KARMIC IMPALEMENT

     It isn't a beam this time. It's five points of light, five points of light that shoot out towards Tamamo's arms, legs, and heart. Any one of them is going to be painful - all five of them might just be lethal. Where they hit the wall or her they draw a star in the shape of the Five Chinese Elemental chart, which flares to life with dark and terrible energy.

     Meanwhile, the core body begins opening up. DEVIC BINDER

     Liquid metal shoots out of its body. It shoots for every member of the party save Arthur, who it's already forgotten exists (well, he died. It can't reregister him? Maybe?). It's a black, unpleasant liquid metal, something thoroughly profane, thoroughly evil. This is a weapon meant to hold down gods, after all. What else could it be but profane?

Mordred (7197) has posed:
That's not right. Is that... "A seventh now?" As Jude passes by, Mordred squints at the cheering civilian. "Hold up, when did you...? Gah, just stay out of the way!"

The EVIL KNIGHT sounds annoyed instead of just cleaving through this guy. Still, Mordred has more important things to focus on as that light show from Tomoe's fiery wings draws another amused laugh from the Knight of Tr-wait. EVIL KNIGHT. As she brings her blade up to her shoulder to ready herself for that next charge, however, she's faced with a tricky situation when Tomoe's flaming strikes come right for her at the same time that Athela's icy...

Sword? It might as well be a jousting lance when it's coming at Mordred at that angle at that speed. Bringing her weapon up to meet theirs, she can only deflect their attacks partially off course as the combined assault shears into her armor, stabs into joints, and draws spurts of blood that would probably draw cheers from a more bloodthirsty crowd if there was more than that one guy standing there.

Of course, focusing upwards at Tomoe and Athela means Mordred can't quite see what's happening below or in front of her as easily. When she finally notices that strange circle appearing below her, it's too late to react as the explosive curse draws an angry, pained howl from the EVIL KNIGHT. It keeps her disoriented just long enough that Rean's sudden shift in disposition between the darkened blade and the white hair catch her further off guard. The flaming blue sword clashes against the steady red of Mordred's, the flames mixing together as the blue swallows up the red, and the searing within Mordred's armor can be heard even through the din of battle.

Staggering back, Mordred holds Clarent with one hand again as she hunches forward, preparing to get right back into the fight without allowing even a moment's respite. As the discussion over the radio continues, however, her posture straightens back up, the sword dematerializes, and the EVIL KNIGHT starts laughing once again while she gets back into character.

"Not bad! Maybe you ai... Perhaps you're not as weak as you looked. You might be worth taking as sacrifices instead of killing today." Another laugh, and the EVIL KNIGHT turns with a dramatic flash of the... No cape that's being worn.

She should get a cape for the next time. "But know this, would-be heroes!" The EVIL KNIGHT points backwards without turning. Hopefully, she's actually pointing at someone directly. "Even if Finaria stands, DISCORDIA shall return and raze this whole land to the ground!"

That hand goes down, and she starts walking. A plume of flame comes up behind the EVIL KNIGHT, and she disappears! Actually, she just teleported maybe thirty yards away, but it's far enough that she's functionally not on screen anymore.

Athela Valemore has posed:
On the other side of things, her downward angle helped Athela see that ring forming around Mordred's feet. Knowing she shouldn't stick around in close quarters longer than it takes to strike, she pulls back as soon as the brunt of her attack has landed. As soon as her feet hit the ground she kicks off, doing a rather impressive backwards flip to get clear of the magic explosion about to engulf the Evil Knight.

She lands a few meters back, and slumps partially from the exhertion of the moves. A few heavy breaths follow, needing to keep her wits about her and ready to go back on the offensive.

It doesn't matter who's being pointed at, Athela narrows her gaze at the withdrawing fiend as if it had been her. That, and the cheering from Jude, bolsters her enough to stand back up fully. If one local could start acting like that, could more? Was their presence and persistance having an effect?

Athela does her best to not look as tired as she feels, raising Resolute Blade to point it at the Evil Knight as she retreats. "Try all you like, vile one! The brave and the bold shall always rise again to fend you off, no matter how many times it takes!"

Arthur Lowell has posed:
    Arthur, thankfully, is noit being aggressively targeted. It means he has just enough room, among the danger, to finish up his EXTRACTION GATE. The big green spirographic circle flickers into self-sustaining resolution, linking to the top of the area. Lilian has called for authorizing a retreat, and Arthur intends to take it. "C'mon! Over here!" He shouts, leaping through fast. He intends to close it tight just the very moment after the gang gets through.

    He wasn't running away out of fear of death, but... being far away from that thing sure does make him a lot less worried than he was. He immediately finds a clear spot in the cave to flop down on his ass and pant exhaustedly, putting pressure on his wounds and chugging exotic mountain-dew-based healing potions crafted from his Punchcard Alchemy.

Crow Armbrust has posed:
Crow falls back down, groaning in pain. The EVIL KNIGHT RED BOY has gone somewhere far, far away. Thirty feet away, in fact, a genuinely impassable league.

That meant they were actually done fighting, now. It felt oddly fulfilling...even if it was just Jude, it was still a real person. And that made this a real place, not just a prop on a set. It gave the fight meaning it'd otherwise been lacking.

Sometime between the start and the end, he found himself genuinely defending it. "What a pain."

Well, it wasn't so bad, especially since he finally got to see Rean's power. It was just like he'd thought, as mysterious as its origins were, that and what was under the Old Schoolhouse were certainly related. "Heh."

It almost felt like destiny. Happenstance couldn't be so cruel.

Shigure has posed:
    The Eyestalker shows its namesake. And then there's suddenly lasers.

    Shigure tucks tail, bringing her oversized backpack up to protect her with its armoured strikeplates. Metal boils away, and the places that are exposed on her body turn black like scorched metal.

    Once the counter attack passes, the destroyer uncurls, and stands. She then gives a backhanded twirl and hurls a quartet of Torpedoes, taken from her thigh holster, like throwing knives... which explode on impact with shaped warhead charges.

Tamamo (7173) has posed:
    Of course it targets her. Tamamo is a god, and Ayudha Raksha is the Heretical Engine that Challenged the Gods. It is a thing made to fight gods, and if it does not yet understand itself, is not sufficiently aware to be more than a dangerous tool, it still knows that it must combat any god that comes to claim it. A trillion years would never see an engine of blasphemy repent.

    Thus, though Tamamo did not expect the numbers to be small (and is only dimly aware that larger or smaller numbers have intrinsically differing values in a matter of combat), she did expect to be attacked. She is already bringing her mirror to the fore. Rather than silhouetted in the sunlight behind her, as she glows, it becomes her halo. And then, all at once, all light about her disappears, save what the mirror reflects. "Aphotic Cave." The hiding place of the Sun.

    It's not a perfect defensive maneuver, but it's as close as most come. The lights merely fail to find her, though they do find her mirror, and the energy charges it dangerously, rather than reflecting it all away. Most attacks would be at best ineffectual against this prepared counter, and their force stolen away, but most attacks aren't explicitly anti-divine. One of the five lights strikes her left foot, and with a cry of pain, Tamamo's spell is broken, and she's diving down and away. She tumbles through the air, accelerating in accordance with gravity, until she hits another platform hard enough to bounce, something human-like bodies are not generally very good at doing. Her mirror flies with her, as if invisibly tethered.

    When she gets up again, it's with a limp, and she drops down to all fours so she can pull and strike the ground with her hands to make a bestial leap, landing again roughly on her hands to avoid her injured limb making contact, then awkwardly pulling herself through Arthur's portal.

Shyra has posed:
CENTRAL REGION - YELLOW FOREST

    Kupot strikes. The counterattack is triggered, as it must be. Why would the boss NOT attack? Numbers calculate, but who knows what they mean. He needs context to know if the numbers are big enough. At the moment, all that matters is if he can marshall his spirit in order to strike down his foe. He hurls himself forward, the Moogle striking with blazing speed and power, gripping onto the huge, fell boss. For a moment it seems absurd that Kupot would succeed... but then the thing tilts, the eye-pillar being pulled over and finding itself on Kupot's back thanks to his arbitrary strength. A moment later, and he is slamming down to smash the thing into the ground! There is a dramatic BOOM as it hits the ground, and then the thing is right back where it is supposed to be, but with some Big Numbers floating over it as the lifebar drains significantly.

    Alruna follows suit, pummelling into it and dropping into a powerful, crushing combination strike. Eyes follow her everywhere, the creature seeming to have plenty of eye tentacles to follow the warrior around. She strikes nad crashes into it, the beams firing back intermittently to try to pierce through Alruna, but the defensive shields stop most of it from going through.

    Amelris launches himself around the creature acrobatically, working to strike the thing down in his own special way. The enchanted blade pierces into it over and over, cutting in deep and ripping through the thing. At least it's not gross or anything. The life bar plummets with the flashy strike, the creature orienting all of its eyes onto Alruna. They all glow bright...

    OCULAR RIFT

    But just before the attack strikes, Shigure unleashes torpedoes! It's just what the doctor ordered. The explosives rip through the thing and all but knock it over. It's just too much as the numbers pile on! The cumulative damage seems to be too much for the thing. The life bar empties out as the blasts end, the tentacles sag down... and the thing speaks.

I have failed to stop you from seizing the accursed Relics that can hold the powers of the Spirits... But Lord MORDRED will not take well to your interference! Heh.... Heh... HEH.... AAAAAGH!

    With a rumbling flash, the pillar disintegrates, the horrible thing vanishing and leaving a big pile of JII for people to acquire in addition to the FOUR RELICS that are sitting there on the altar. YOU DID IT! Shyra exclaims. Collect the Relics, and we can begin working to stop the Evil Knight and save the world! A pause, and then her face falls. ... Finaria is going to be burned again, isn't it... She sighs.

    Still, through all this, Amelris gets a chance to look over the fresco in more detail. Four colored creatures are surrounding a yellow insigna, each facing inward. There's some ANCIENT WRITING under it but it might need some kind of KEY ITEM or SPECIAL ABILITY to decipher.

Staren has posed:
    Well, it sure did phase change! But now it's made of metal. That looks... substancially harder to hurt. There's probably an elemental weakness trick here... but now it's time to go, right?

    Liquid metal, made of condensed evil, splashes all over him. He has his forcefield up, but the walker he's riding in doesn't have such protection. Smoke rises as the liquid evil eats away at the machine. Staren bails out as his machine corrodes away into a puddle of sludge.

    He falls down the tower and suddenly orange wings of energy appear at his back, buzzing like an insect's. Seeing the trouble Tamamo's in, he lands next to her and puts an arm around her to help her to the portal. Time to get out of here!

Linehart (7141) has posed:
                      TOWER OF VRITTI - ARTHUR'S PARTY                      

     The party makes their retreat through Arthur's portal.

     It dumps them at the cave entrance, just like a proper 'escape rope' or 'escape flute' might do.

     And the party immediately notices something.

     It's still a cave. It still has the regular white-clad undead with their hatchets and the other weird, Hindu-inspired monsters. It hasn't changed at all. The entrance is the same as when they came in, all rock and ground. There's no metal in sight. No robots. No glowing red lights.

     And it doesn't take much time to check what happened. Tony's scanners, Staren's scanners, or Arthur's intuition, can tell immediately.

     Every single change that stuck took place Out Of Bounds.

     The cave itself remains resolute. If Staren goes to check on the NPCs in Pradia they are simply gone, as if erased from the world entirely.

Kupot (6666) has posed:
Kupot pulls himself up from his throwing position and spins around. He brings his hand over his katana again to blow the next mighty blow, but Shigure takes care of taking it down before it can slay them. He lifts his hand from the sword and moves forward. He reaches out carefully, with a hm, then grasps one of the relics to hold.

"This is... rather odd, being in a story, kupo"

Tomoe has posed:
Tomoe is pretty spent, Mordred has pushed her very hard she's breathing har as she comes about waiting of the next. She's already shifting to over Jude if it's needed. She will take the hit. She'll look up at the EVIL KNIGHT for a moment she looks haggard her body is covered in wireframe damage glowing an angry red. While her form attempts to sort itself out from the beating that the EVIL KNIGHT has inflicted upon her. She's still standing she holds Caliburn ready in the event the EVIL KNIGHT makes her next move.

"We'll see about that EVIL KNIGHT!."

She's chanting again but before she can fire a spell Mordred is gone and while battered Tomoe will turn to the others.

"We need to check if anyone is hurt and then get to any fires."

She notes she looks to Jude.

"Thank you."

"When we're done with that I need a drink and something to eat."

She'll put her weapons away and set to work on clean up.

Amelris Belthrone (7180) has posed:
     "You get used to it." Amelris comments, picking himself up, sheathing his weapons to get a closer look at the fresco, rubbing his chin. He have to keep in mind that there is several levels of stories going on. There is the story of The Hero and the quest they Followed. There is the Story of the person that BECAME the hero. There is the story of the 'story' and how it was made, behind it.

     He glances back at Shigure, pondering over things. Heavens, they sure make boats in a... strange way in some lands. Not that he minds.

     he looks back at the Fresco, nodding. "If that's what happened last time, perhaps." He says, opening his hand. A puff of aether snaps a piece of paper into being along with some coal, making his way to the Fresco. He flattens it against the STRANGE ANCIENT WRITINGS and starts... well, coaling it up, to get a good impression of it.

     This Might Be Useful Later.

Alruna Greengate has posed:
Alruna grits her teeth, enduring more lasers. They cut at her back and front, still no cakewalk, but she's used to it.

She's ready to hunker down as OCULAR RIFT starts to initiate, only to be interrupted by another of Shigure's salvos, this one significantly less deafening. The boss goes down, with a sinister monologue to accompany its disintegration.

Well, to the victor go the spoils. Alruna picks up some JII (or Ji, or Jee, they're...inconsistent about that) and collects one of the Relics at Shyra's prompting. "Yes." she agrees with Kupot, hefting the statuette in her hand.

"What do you think?" she asks Amelris, watching him take a copy of part of the fresco.

Tony Stark (6733) has posed:
Another attack - this one metallic - surges up as Lilian uses her RELIC.

Tony distantly wants a RELIC of his own. He wants two. He definitely wants more than Captain America, but he's pretty sure Steve Rogers either has none or is hiding them all between his pecs. Damn that man.

"BASTION, options."

<"Formulating countermeasures.">

Dodging one lance, Iron Man bids for space, blasting down with repulsor beams as he gains height in the 'Out of Bounds' area filling with metallic vectors.

<"Countermeasure formulated. Engaging Heavy Weapon Knockout-Interdiction.">

Stark cannot help but guffaw. "You can't call it that!" He complains, as inside his suit micromissile tips are replaced by tiny loading arms. "Clint will be mad."

<"Agent Barton's opinion has been calculated at a lower priority than your survival.">

A spear -- and then a second -- impact Stark, first in the lower belly and then another in the chest, bearing him up against the floating pillars above before slamming him into the underside of a platform, causing Stark to smash his helmeted head against the obstruction and grunt loudly and painedly. "But you can't just... call it that. He'll never recover. He's a very sensitive man."

BASTION doesn't respond, as the now armor-piercing missile heads flare down the metallic lines, blasting them apart as firepower walks down the liquidmetal tines, freeing Iron Man on his way up - up - and out through Arthur's portal, jets failing and sputtering as soon as he's out of the danger zone, crumpling into a controlled but not cool at all tumble to a kneel.

Righting himself, sparks shooting from the multiple crumple-zones and visible mechanical elements in the suit from battle damage, the helmet pops open.

"So what did we learn, children?"

"Listen... I guess to the space kid? Hey, are you killing a mountain dew? Those'll rot your teeth. Please don't tell me it's gamer fuel."

Amelris Belthrone (7180) has posed:
     "I'm not sure yet." Amelris says as he works, rubbing the charcoal against the paper to make a good copy of it. It's not perfect, to be sure, he'd like to have a magitech thing to make a full copy photo of it but, hey, them the breaks. "I was thinking that we're dealing on multiple layers, here."

     He looks at Alruna, peeling the paper away to get a look at it, giving his work a satisfied flutter of ears and twitch of tail. "When I saw the Hero, they were clearly aware and awake... and quite disraught at the fact that others were not. So, this brings the question."

     He carefully folds it up, before vanishing it into his stuff. "Where DID the hero come from, then?"

Rean Schwarzer has posed:
Mordred retreats, claiming that they'd come back one day to continue to try and revive their god.

Rean raises his sword, pointing it in the direction of Mordred's dark teleport flames. "Try all you want, Evil Knight! We'll still defeat you and Discordia!"

And with that, Rean sheaths his sword. He takes a few deep breaths, letting his heart rate settle back down. The darkness surrounding him dies down, and his appearance returns to normal.

He then falls to his knees. "...Oof." Mordred did a number on him, and everyone else, honestly. Plus the usual stamina drain from his power being on. He looks around and then turns on his ARCUS. He quickly slaps himself with a healing Teara spell, and then goes around, doing the same the other three combatants.

Otherwise, things managed to not be a /total/ disaster, right? Even with him attempting to use his power for once.

Rean nods to Tomoe. They did have to clean up a bit after all the fires. "Right. Let's get to work." And with that, he heads off to start checking on things, even if it was more of a formality than anything else.

Lilian Rook (6895) has posed:
    The boss mode shifting was exactly what Lilian had been hoping for with that slight hail mary. Keeping up with her occult and religious knowledge, she barely has to glance at the metallic form of the Ayudha Raksha to know what's going on. "Metal is the counter to Wood in the pentagram, so it's reacting to the power of the Blue Dragons to-- why is it aiming for her?!"

    The boss swivels and opens fire on Tamamo. Arthur is 'dead'. Tamamo is divine. It makes sense, but only in the heat of the moment. For a rare change of pace, Lilian is almost consumed by panic. Almost out of ideas, she'd asked Tamamo to come down here. Right into the line of fire of an anti-divine weapon. She'd *already seen* what it did to Arthur the minute he appeared. She is mentally *screaming* when the five point beam heads for Tamamo's mirror. She--

                -----[stop]----
    Lilian turns straight towards Tamamo and rushes to get her, the same way she had Arthur . . . except she can't. She'd been so focused on the phase mechanics. Raking her brain for ideas. She'd gotten it *right*, but the trailing columns of the Devic Binder are *everywhere* by now. Profaned liquid metal is frozen in the air in a dense, jungle-like tangle all around her. There isn't sufficient pace to maneuver through all of it. She can see the array of tendril tips heading for her, and easily dodge those now, but . . .
                -----[start]-----

    

    --turns and blasts at the stream of the Devic Binder, creating a gigantic flash explosion to scatter it far away from her, and then accelerates hard away in the moment's respite that buys her. Tamamo, the person who'd heard out her ridiculous wish, seen all her cards on the table, and treated her with unconditional support, is shot through the foot, and drops from the air. Lilian arrives only after she makes that initial crash landing, hurriedly catching her from the hard bounce, and scooping her up in a princess carry, taking her towards the portal at top speed.

    Once the group is outside, she's too stressed to even pay attention to the cave just yet. Instead, she's trying to put Tamamo down without putting any weight on her foot, hovering over the injury, repeating "Oh my god I'm so sorry, I didn't realize-- I didn't think to-- I told you to stay back but then I-- I'm really sorry, it's my fault --can you walk? How much does it hurt, on a scale of one to ten?"

Staren has posed:
    Staren blinks at Iron Man. "I learned that sometimes, if you believe hard enough you can change the world by acting like you can and faking it 'till you make it? As long as you find a receptive world."

    Staren scratches his head. "Also I learned that next time I decide to use vatgrown clones for something I should try one at a time instead of four, those are gonna take /months/ of vat time to replace."

    Beat. "...Also, now I've had the experience of having one of my creations turn on me and it wasn't the end of the world or my hubristic undoing? Still something I'd like to avoid in the future, though."

    Staren looks down at the lack-of-a-ride-armor he is no longer riding in. "Also from now on when I come here I gotta bring heavier armaments. This 'barely-making-it-through-alive' stuff is getting old."

Shyra has posed:
Shyra looks relieved as the others collect the Relics. She doesn't take one for herself. There's only four here after all. I don't know where the Hero came from. It wasn't from anywhere in our world, though.

    Mysterious! Still, at least they can make their way back to town and get some rest before the next phase of the main questline.

Arthur Lowell has posed:
    "Gamer fuel is baller as hell." Arthur says, waggling his sloshing plastic container of hellfluid at Tony Stark with a bloody hand while the other is occupied with pressing onto his wound. "But yeah. This... I got some veterancy with this shit. I know one'a /those/ guys when I see it. That motherfucker needs a Quest." He takes another massive swig of the horrid healdrink. Tamamo's out too! She said she can heal right? And there's Lilian. Arthur regards the way she carefully and with absolute dedication cares for Tamamo. Totally absent any actual context, Arthur just winds up kind of wordlessly making that plaintive gesture of that classic "what am I, chopped liver?" kind of feeling. Then he actually realizes how shitty that is considering how she helped him, and says, "Hey, thanks for that help back there. Dying was not gonna be a good thing, even if that /maybe/ wouldn'ta been Just or Heroic."

    That last bit has no context added. Solve it yourself!

    "We... are /really/ gonna need a coordination on this." SWIIIIG. "Lot of our shit is super varied on the expertise but we kinda need all of it to figure out what's happening. Back in the day, we made a walkthrough. Uuhhhhh... don't think that's gonna work for this, but I'll figure out how we can talk this out later, get some proper coordination. On my end too, I mean." Another big swig. He sort of lies back against a chunk of cubical rock and flutters in and out of unconsciousness.

Tony Stark (6733) has posed:
"Okay, on the first point, just say you're trying something new. Be honest, because otherwise people think the grinding noises are things being under control. Unless that's your thing, I guess?" Stark reasons to Staren's first moral.

The second gets a shrug. "Build disposable things for disposable tasks."

The third...

Actually that one just gets a sad nod. "Yeah. ... Yeah. Well, glad to pop your creation-highjacking cherry, it's been fun."

Tony steps over to Lilian, taking his time and nursing his chest with a hand. "Everything alright, Rook? I lost you down there for a bit. I think sensors were tertiary to flight systems for a hot second there."

Lilian Rook (6895) has posed:
    Lilian is mostly preoccupied with Tamamo, apparently telling her that it hurts so much and she definitely can't walk and oh no it's fine though she can heal it, in pretty much the perfect mixture to get her all worked up. She holds up three fingers in Tony's direction and counts down on them.

    "One, I'm fine. Two, hush. Three, punch Staren for me. In the jaw." After a pause. "Oh and four, check on Arthur I guess." She mostly just kind of slowly flinches as being thanked by him directly. After all, she managed to save him just fine; she should have been ready for it the second time.