Honoka - Night At The Circus

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Description: The Twilight Star Circus has been left in the capable hands of Elise Harkness. But stranger things are afoot outside the Shirahama Circle K, as the boundaries between worlds begin to weaken, and more malevolent beings spring into existence...

What happens to an organization when its leader more or less up and vanishes? Well, that depends on the organization, doesn't it? How many moving parts it has, how many pies it has fingers in, and how many competent people there are in the highest floors of the building, as it were.

The Twilight Star circus is just one face of many for the organization at which Honoka Kawamoto usually sits as head, but when the diabolo-spinning ringmaster of the circus proper basically dropped off the grid for months to take part in a battle for Earth's very future, what she had built did not fall apart. Rather, the network of lieutenants, contingency plans, and -- in one case or another -- actual confidants she had woven sustained these various structures with only a minor, brief, and unavoidable amount of hiccup. There had been a meeting, a discussion, some questions Elise had been unprepared to answer but which she had, nevertheless, provided answers for anyway, and then the world had kept on -- much like Honoka's beloved diabolos -- spinning.

For her part, the Scot has been content to observe everything and say little. After Honoka's departure, she had done a customary spread of the cards, hoping to glean some insight into her friend's fate, but the result had been frustratingly vague. The spread spoke of influences of many kind -- the High Priestess and the Page of Swords in prominent places -- but the most telling was the card indicating the future: the Wheel of Fortune. Change of some kind is coming, but knowing exactly what was impossible. A frustrating result indeed.

Since then she's busied herself with something that calms her jangled nerves: serving as ringmaster. This is a task she infrequently takes on, Honoka being the usual choice, but with the circus itself moving to milder climes for the winter and the naturally stay-indoors-iness of the season keeping audiences present but modest, it has been Something To Do, the background noise of life that gives the brain something on which to focus instead of the crushing weight of anxiety.

Tonight saw more people than most, an oddity considering the steady drizzle of rain that had been coming down since early that morning. Now, with the show over and the crew packing up, Elise emerges from the tent to find the clouds parting and the rain to have stopped. Above, the gibbous moon continues its journey away from the perfect silver disk of fullness, clouds making a movie scene-perfect transit across its pale surface. For a moment, the Scot looks up and is reminded of 'home,' of the moon shining over a moor that had been rain-lashed for days, turning wet grass into a glistening field of silver blades.

Around her, the men and women of the circus wheel carts and carry boxes into and around the otherwise darkened grounds, a flurry of motion around one woman staring at the moonlit sky.

Normally, winter is a popular time for hot-blooded fighters to duke it out in the ring for their adoring public. Some people want to stay huddled up at home around a television set, curled up under a kotatsu or a blanket for warmth in the company of friends and families. Fighting tournaments are practically a staple for winters. Others would, of course, brave the elements to seek out pugilistic paradise, finding applause to be the cure for the wintry weather.

This season was a bit different though, lacking any huge tournaments to speak of. Even Saturday Night Fight has been curiously bereft of the martial arts sensations of years past -- sure, there -are- fights, but the biggest crowd-pleasers of late have been curiously absent. Perhaps this is the reason for the upswing in circus attention -- lack of anything else to really draw a crowd. Perhaps it's just out of a need to fill the need to see talented performers in action -- to remind oneself that the limits of human performance are being pushed back each and every year.

Tonight, though, the circus will host not only the adoring crowds, talented performers, and hard-working cast and crew. Tonight, there is a very special visitor -- a rather burly humanoid figure, standing just a hair over six feet tall. Draped across his broad shoulders is a leather vest of a style which hasn't been deemed fashionable in centuries, worn over top of a simple blue tunic. Resting upon one shoulder is a wooden pike, worn smooth from decades of use and smeared with crimson streaks. His trousers have seen their fair share of use, old bloodstains permanently engrained into their rugged fibers. He leaves behind puddles as he walks -- the trousers and boots having been throughly saturated with seawater. But aside from the creature's dark olive skin, the most striking feature is a red skullcap, pulled snugly over his head. The fibers of the cap have been dyed by red throughout the years, but unlike the other garments and accessories, the red pigment seems to be catching the moonlight.

The blood on the cap is still wet.

And from the grizzled old man's stalking towards the workers in the food truck -- he seems intent on keeping it that way.

Now that the show is done, what Elise would really like to do is retire to her trailer and rest. But that is not good leadership, and in the absence of the 'commander' she needs to exhibit good leadership. And so she checks in on the workers, greets them, asks after them, makes a connection with them. Even the ones she barely knows are likely the only actual PEOPLE on the planet that Elise has any sort of fondness for. Honoka's ability -- intentional or not -- to create a sense of family among many outcasts is one of the things that impressed the Scottish witch into singing on with this bunch in the first place.

And perhaps it's for the best that she didn't give in to her more selfish urges and call it night. It's a chance encounter, for sure; she is standing sidelong with one of the animal handlers, chatting amicably about a tiger or somesuch. But this is Japan, and even though there are plenty of foreign folks in Twilight Star's employ, an over-six-foot dude in a red hat certainly stands out. As the old man trudges toward the food trucks, Elise sees him vaguely out of the corner of her eye. Not enough to make out what's going on -- after all, 'tall dude slinging a pole around' could easily be a janitor, or someone carrying a tent pole, or any of a bunch of other things -- but enough to flag something in her awareness that goes: is that SUPPOSED to be here?

Giving a quick apology to the person she was speaking with, Elise makes a step to the side and goes to follow, but suddenly everyone's in her way. A sidestep of someone lugging a box here, a bumping into someone else there, each minor thing putting her a fractional amount behind the person she's trying to catch up with, whose size almost guarantees that her will not be so impeded.

But the closer she gets, the better a look she can get, and when she gets close enough a stone seems to drop into the center of her stomach. "That *can't* be..." she mutters under her breath, quickening her page. She wants to yell, to shout, to tell people to scatter, but she knows that if they panic, he will strike. In truth he will strike anyway, regardless of what she does, but the witch holds some hope that this situation can be salvaged with a minimum of more blood shed.

"Excuse me!" she says, raising her voice. She COULD be talking to anyone. In fact, some people turn to look simply because of the sound. The question is: what will the red-capped man do?

The grizzled old one wrinkles his nose as he stalks towards the food trucks, eyes shifting back and forth. No one running in fear; his eccentric wardrobe doesn't stand out amidst the crowd of eccentrically-garbed cast and crew members.
If all goes according to the schedule laid down by their administrative team, they'll be picking up and beginning their journey to the next town.

The very notion of a schedule is anathema to the ancient, bloodthirsty soul walking amongst them.

His eyes cast back and forth to the various crew members. The fact that none seem -bothered- by him seems to be fueling his anxiety -- a growing frustration that few if any of the circus staff would be able to pick up on. He wants to incite fear, rage -- and he's not even able to elicit that. Gnarled fingers curl upon the haft of the pike, lifting it from his shoulder. His lips curl in a rictus of anger, outrage beginning to spill out.

If they do not react to his mere presence, then perhaps they will react to...

Excuse me?
The redcap whirls about at the sound of the voice. The stacatto nature of the Japanese language is unfamiliar, jarring against the Germanic language despite the considerable fluency of its speaker. But one thing becomes even more apparent as bloodshot, red-irised eyes glare onto the Scot:

He is out of place. And yet, as his enraged lips begin to curl into a smug, satisfied smile, it seems one thing is going according to plan.

"Aye, lassie?!" he belts out with a Scottish brogue. To hell with Japanese, seriously.

Actions speak louder than words, though -- as he welcomes the fellow Scot with a thrust of his pointed pike, aimed at forcing at least =one= person in this damned circus of fools to action. His smile drips with malice and no small amount of hunger...

COMBATSYS: Redcap has started a fight here.

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Redcap           0/-------/-------|

COMBATSYS: Elise has joined the fight here.

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Elise            0/-------/-------|-------\-------\0           Redcap

COMBATSYS: Redcap successfully hits Elise with Random Strike.

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Elise            0/-------/------=|-------\-------\0           Redcap

The element of surprise comes in many forms.

The brogue is part of it. Everyone in the circus has at least SOME conversational Japanese even if they're not of Japanese extraction; they work in Japan, after all, and without it, they'd be hopeless. Japanese is the lingua franca of the circus, ironically enough. So for someone to reply in English, and THAT tone of English besides, is surprise number one. But at close enough range, to see the hat, to hear the voice, and to take in the pike for what it is... that's surprise number two.

Surprise number three is buried in Elise's expression of genuine poleaxed (or in this case, piked) shock, and the murmured "How did...?" before the red-capped man, seizing on the element of surprise, stabs her right in the side with his weapon.

Now THAT... that gets the attention of the crowd, most of whom start to scatter. Some think they might go for help, but who would they ask? Probably Elise... who's the one that's in trouble. Honoka's not here, and neither is Oboro, apparently, meaning their best option for defense is the woman who just took a polearm in the side.

It doesn't reassure them that she looks genuinely shocked at this.

Pushing herself free of the spear, Elise takes a step backwards, coughing loudly, before snapping a hand behind her back to produce a single silver knife, which suddenly blooms with an aura of violet-black, vibrantly visible in the silver gloom of moonlight. "Begone!"

She hurls the knife at the redcap, looking merely to touch it to him, the glow of her power flowing seamlessly from the knife to the man before she violently and sharply swings an arm wide. If the giant hasn't done something about it, the power moves with Elise's will... taking him with it. AWAY, ideally, from anyone else.

COMBATSYS: Elise successfully hits Redcap with Hrunting.

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Elise            0/-------/-----==|====---\-------\0           Redcap

The red-capped brute leers with delight as his pike lances home, forcing his chosen target to stumble backwards in surprise. "You cannae keep running from us forever, lass..." he chuckles, drawing the bloodied pike backwards, balancing it comfortably upon his palm as he takes a safer distance. His wild eyes glance back and forth at the fleeing cast and crew, fully cognizant of the fear in their expressions, the panic in their gait, the anxiety in their haste. "Everyone has a weak point..." he chuckles, rolling his head from one side to another, cracking the joints of his neck.

When he watches her whip out a single knife, he raises an eyebrow, chuckling as he hefts the pike in a vaguely threatening fashion. "I'm twice your size, surely ye can't..."

The knife is hurled. And he flinches -- barely. He hardly sees it as a threat, writing off the strike off entirely, even as the keen edge of the blade digs into the olive meat of his upper arm.

It's only when the knife and its attendant flare of orchid power swerve that he is forced to acknowledge the power. He is forced backwards off his feet, into a gulf devoid of collateral damage amidst the encircled trailers. His skin simmers with a mix of roiling flames and his own fel blood -- a sight which is exposed for only a moment before a meaty hand is slapped atop it. With a growl of anger, he rams his shoulder into the ground, hurling himself back to his feet.

"I was beginning to wonder if your clan had even -remembered- the bargain... I see you're just content to pick and choose which parts you'd hew to..."

His afflicted arm hangs a bit lower, but he maintains his grip on the pike, using it to lance forward. Not once, not twice, but four times in rapid succession, hoping to drive Elise -- and the fight -- back towards the defenseless observers.

COMBATSYS: Elise parries Redcap's Fury Swipes!

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Elise            0/-------/----===|====---\-------\0           Redcap

If the sudden appearance of the redcap had thrown Elise's emotions and equilibrium into disarray, his mention of a mysterious 'bargain' -- thank god he's speaking English -- has the entirely opposite effect. The circus performers and workers, already in disarray after the initial exchange, *definitely* head for the hills when Elise displays her powers and the person she used them on suddenly erupts into fiery blood. Well, that, and the way that her eyes narrow dangerously at the mention of some forgotten 'bargain'... or, perhaps, at the mention of her family, a topic that even Honoka respects as being verboten when it comes to the Scottish witch.

"Aye, you are a great big lug, my lad," Elise says sharply, producing another knife which begins to glow with violet light. She seemingly tosses it in the air carelessly as the redcap approaches, pike at the ready to strike like a swarm of angry horneys, but filled with her power, the knife floats. Elise's left hand moves with intricate motions, the knife dancing in midair in time with them like a symphony conductor; with each thrust, the dagger swiftly intercepts the point of the spear, driving it harmlessly off course by fractional amounts, the polearm whistling perilously close to Elise's body but never finding contact.

But it's her right hand which he SHOULD be watching, because it is also glowing with power.

After the fourth thrust, Elise steps forward *into* the redcap's guard, bringing her right hand forward. "But unlike a sorry bastard such as yourself I know what *finesse* is," she hisses, voice tight, before gesturing at the ground underneath them with that glowing hand. On cue, a mystic seal of violet light swirls into being before erupting skyward in a column of energy to bathe the attacking hulk in the signature power of the very Harkness clan the redcap dare invoke.

Redcap falls asleep.

Redcap wakes up.

COMBATSYS: Elise successfully hits Redcap with Hauteclere EX.
~~ Alluring Hit! ~~

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Elise            0/-------/---====|=======\-------\0           Redcap

The brute grimaces as his pike stabs are avoided with such dexterity to make it seem as if he's moving in slow motion. Each thrust, effortlessly deflected with the blade dancing in midair, parried aside from anything more satisfying than a clash of metal and a shower of sparks. His final strike knocked aside, the old one throws the pike to the side, all ready to drop the pretenses and change tack entirely.

That would be when Elise stepped into his guard. Her presence is unmistakable -- a powerful aura, like an aroma that can be permeates every fiber of being. And she's -- quite the lady, which is part of the reason he is not as quick to get out of the way as he might have liked.

The energy surges upwards into a rising column of unrelenting force. The Old World redcap flies upwards and back, swept away by the tremendous tower of mystic force. With a guttural groan erupting from his mouth, he grasps at the air for purchase, finding none. He sails over the tops of the trailers, the energy searing through his drab skin as his bloodshot eyes scan around for sources of refuge -- something that might provide a softer landing.

But he is not so deft as to ride the zephyrs of air, not so agile as to redirect his fall like the number of acrobats present. His back slams into a lightpole, slamming his jaw shut as he doubles over, colliding into a heap.

"What good would finesse do to a lug like me?" He begins to rise, rubbing his gnarled hands across the number of violet-tinged wounds -- spots where the remainder of Elise's energy continues to smolder. "I dinnae have enough of those round coins to ask me fortune of ye..."

He does not wait any longer -- he drops his shoulder, charging at her with an overhand slash, aiming to rake his unkempt fingernails across the front of Miss Harkness' outfit -- less for a tender embrace, and more in an attempt to spin her to the ground, her violet energy be damned.

COMBATSYS: Elise blocks Redcap's Scent of Blood.

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Elise            0/-------/--=====|=======\-------\1           Redcap

She's trying to portray an outward sense of calm to reassure the people around her -- people for whom, in her eyes, she's *responsible*, whether Honoka is here or not -- but inside, Elise's state of mind is a whirlwind of conflicting and confusing thoughts. That the person, or rather being, in front of her is of supernatural origins is now relatively clear. Even though human fighters can also acquire abilities far beyond the average person's ken, there is... something about a non-human's style, their demeanor, even their aura that sets them apart. Especially if you come from a clan of dark hunters who've been dealing with their kind for centuries.

Someone who could see inside her thoughts would take the thin line of Elise's displeased expression to read: then why didn't I sense him before he made his appearance known?

Much like her jaw, Elise sets her entire body to receive the brute's charging blow. He slams into her guard, which keeps her from going flying across the space from the force of it, but that's about all it does; the witch's heeled boots leave deep grooves in the wet ground as the redcap's shove slams into her, pushing her quite a few feet from the impact alone. If she'd been a second slower, she might be on her back fifty feet from here after that.

"Aye well, that's why the Winter Court sends boys like you to do the mucky jobs, then, my lad," Elise bites out. The cap, the pike, the bad attitude... he's a redcap, and in the literal sense, not just the figurative one. The muscle of the Unseelie Court, a giant mass of a dark faerie with naught but orders or base desires to drive it on. "Bit far from home though, aren't we? Lost?"

She's deliberately provoking it, thinking as swiftly as possible back to training and knowledge dusty but not lost with disuse. You can't out-muscle a redcap, but you can outthink it, get it to make a mistake. And prodding people in a soft place is something she just naturally excels at.

"As for your fortune, this one's on the house," she says, stepping forward and looking to press her index fingertip to the redcap's chest. If she can do that, another mystic seal appears *on* the brutish fae, before disappearing in a burst of violet, filling his body with more of that damnable power. "You'll be on your arse and headed home in a sack very shortly!"

COMBATSYS: Redcap endures Elise's Tyrfing.
~~ Alluring Hit! ~~

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Elise            0/-------/=======|=======\===----\1           Redcap

This redcap in particular is not... subtle. In his mind, if someone is mad, they should look mad. If someone is distressed, they should ask for help. The very notion that someone like Elise can act differently than they feel is an infuritating bother to the simple mind of the brutish oaf.

But what's more -- he doesn't know -why- his particular presence wasn't enough to draw out the Scot witch in any of his previous visits. He knew =something= was different this time -- that the 'aroma' he sensed from Elise was different than the 'aroma' he sensed on previous visits. Something was clearly -missing- on this visit.

Her previous defenses had been so blase -- more cause for his furor. But there is the satisfying, visceral thump of his palm across her shoulder that keeps him grounded in the moment.

He's surprised, actually, that she could withstand such a swing. Shaking his head in disbelief, his only real reply to Elise is a meaty snarl -- calling him out for what he is? Dirty trick.

"You're playing with fire!" he roars, lurching forward into the blow. It might be an alluring gesture to some, but the Scot witch should be mindful she doesn't break her finger off when the oaf barrels forwards. The blossom of violet energy rushes outwards, its runes distorting from the muscles as he insists on pressing forward in a thorough aggression into Miss Harkness' personal space.

"GURRRAAAAAOGH!" he howls, blindly pressing -through- the violet energy, forcing it to wash around him like a pier's pillar against a cresting wavefront. The energy blisters his skin, stretching the seams of his leather vest--

But still he thunders forward, aiming to slam his protruding forehead against Elise. If he makes contact, he'll slam his meaty palms against her shoulders, grabbing her securely for a second headbutt -- and then he would sharply veer sideways, aiming to slam her back into the side of one of the many circus trailers.

Not... really much in the way of conversation, this one.

COMBATSYS: Redcap successfully hits Elise with Primal Fury.
Glancing Blow

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Elise            1/----===/=======|==-----\-------\0           Redcap

Elise may be taunting the redcap, but that doesn't mean he's unable to hurt her. Rather to the contrary; his blistering, rage-fueled assault might be what Elise WANTED but that doesn't mean it's not going to hurt if it connects. This is why she decides to make her exit as soon as he says she's playing with fire... but that bulk belies an inhuman speed, and she's not able to completely fade backwards before the headbutt comes raging in. Luckily, the witch turns in time so that the blow, rather than stunning her with a direct hit to the forehead, lands on her shoulder. It still hurts -- quite a lot, actually -- but the impact sends her spinning further back away rather than hammering her in place for the blows to come.

Coming to stop in a 3-point crouch, Elise looks up, then around. Thankfully, by now they are mostly alone. Not entirely alone; there's more than a few people here who genuinely need to know that the Scot is okay, even if they're terrified of facing this hulking, fiery-blooded monstrosity. But largely, the Twilight Star workers aren't paid to face down otherworldly threats and they have left.

She nods to herself at that knowledge. Good. Then there'll be fewer messy questions after this.

"Not a very hot flame, is it, my lad?" she asks, quirking her lips into a smile. She brings both hands up, making a series of gestures, weaving arcane patterns, her entire body limned with violet-black faerie fire. "You made a good show of talking about my family, aye; well, then, you should know that you've upset me, and for some Unseelie nobody like you, that's a mistake you ought nae make."

She kicks off the ground and looks to slam both hands, palm forward, right onto the redcap's big broad chest. No forceful push, this... just a method of delivering that power of hers...

COMBATSYS: Elise successfully hits Redcap with Claimh Solais.

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Elise            0/-------/-------|======-\-------\0           Redcap

Finding her opening, Elise forces all of that gathered energy onto the redcap, shaping it with her hands, sculpting it into a spherical barrier that completely entraps the fae enforcer. Stepping forward, she gives a smile. "In the event that you walk out of this with your senses intact, boyo... I've got some questions you're going to be answering."

Almost as an afterthought, she taps the edge of the barrier's exterior with her finger. From that point, a spark of violet light emerges, streaking across the inside of the barrier itself, pelting the redcap painfully but passing through him as well to the other side, where it rebounds, reflected back for a second pass... and then rebounding to a third, then a fourth, accelerating with each bounce until the barrier seems like it's alive with flying, rebounding bursts of power until the entire thing explodes in a shower of sparkles, like a dying firework.

The grizzled old redcap shakes his head as the Scot manages to avoid the worst of his blistering onslaught. Incensed, enraged, and maybe even a little turned on by the witch's infuriating defense, he is not willing to step back and disengage. The fortuneteller would be able to take a guess at the truth -- that months of failed pursuits have driven him past the point at which common sense might tell him to back off.

No -- he needs to succeed in this battle. Fates worse than death await him for his failure, and the longer he waits, the greater the chance of Elise's allies returning -- their defenses stronger after this surprise attack.

"Keep sassing me, aye..." he growls back, listing sharply to his side. The wounds are starting to add up -- his muscles beginning to resist their commands. He staggers sideways, finding comfort in sliding up alongside a tall box, its carrier having left it there in his haste to scramble out of harm's way. He squints back at the series of gestures -- no longer is he able to shrug them off, as he had the initial knife strike.

"Upset you? I've =upset= you? Oh, well pardon my =rudeness= milady!" he howls back, lips curling into a crazed smile as he steps backwards.

That's when he jukes hard to his right, slamming his shoulder into the wooden crate. It goes -flying- forward, easily closing the gap between himself and Elise...

If it were =full=, the collision between one corner of the box and Elise's outstretched palms might have been impressive. Instead, the crate crumples apart, having weighed very little indeed. The collision occurs in a shower of splintered wood and unfurled bubblewrap. As the box tumbles nigh harmlessly to the side, its precious cargo appeared to be no more than a few circus posters and promotional materials...

The redcap is aghast. But not as aghast as having Elise's palms finally slam into his chest after his failed gambit, with the energy rippling out to envelop him. He then finds himself trapped within a semitransparent sphere, inhabited by a roving needle which seems hellbent on piercing him as many times as possible. Ultra c-c-combo?!

The fae enforcer is, well, not silent for the process of being transformed into a living plasma globe. His bellowing roar is loud enough to startle some of the cast and crew into full alertness. His spine arches, his meaty hands flailing out to the side in an obvious sign of distress. And his eyes... well, they're even starting to glow with the same purple energy as Elise is fond of wielding.

"You haven't =seen= upset yet!" he roars, lurching forward with a left hook, aiming first to pierce through the diaphanous barrier -- and then slam into Elise's head. And if he connects he'd follow through with a second punch to the stomach -- and then a lurching knee strike below the belt. What a -gentleman!-

COMBATSYS: Elise interrupts Unmatched Dominance from Redcap with Gram.

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Elise            0/-------/----===|=======\=------\1           Redcap

Everything that happens next seems, to outside viewers, to take place in the blink of an eye. For the players on the stage, however, it might seem like an eternity. Elise keeps her eye on her trapped quarry carefully. That her strongest attack -- which she's used only once in 'public' and even then under what felt like desperate circumstances -- didn't fell him, or at the very least take the fight all the way out of him, means that she's soon going to have a very angry, wounded, and therefore dangerous fae bruiser on her hands. One that she doesn't have the raw *physical* skills to keep up with. But that's not how Elise fights. No... she has other methods. Ancient methods for dealing with beings such as this.

As the redcap swings, the barrier shatters, resolving into violet sparks as his punch sails through the air, seemingly unstoppable... right up until a few of the sparks re-coalesce in Elise's outstretched hands, forming another of those violet mystic seals. A seal that seems like it's made of light and air but which, amazingly, the unseelie bruiser's fist slams into like a brick wall.

Elise's face is visible behind the flowing light of the shield, power spilling off it into the air from the unstoppale force/immovable object collision of fist and barrier. Her expression is calm, cold, calculating... not at all the typically warm, if sardonic, expression of Elise the con artist. This is Elise Harkness, dark hunter, of a clan that walks and lives in the shadows.

How is she actually doing this, though? The two forces continue to struggle against each other, and eventually, observers get their answer: a trickle of blood from Elise's nose. Bruises spontaneously appearing on her exposed forearms. Apparently, using her power like this has a cost in biofeedback... her ability to deflect the strike paid for in sympathetic magic instead of direct force. Wouldn't it be easier to just take the blow and roll with it, however...

"By the ancient covenant I bind thee," Elise's voice suddenly says, sonorous and low, echoing in the clearing. "Thou who live 'neath bough and grove far from mortal ken, by my will be chained, by thine nature be snared."

In a pulse of force, the redcap's fist is pushed back from the barrier, which shatters; the shards of light form into chains which swirl around his form and then anchor him to the ground, a perverse echo of the chained exotic animals that featured in circuses just like this one in decades past.

And standig there, hair blown back by some unseen wind, her concentration to maintain this binding iron, stands Elise Harkness.

The unseelie brute's force is held completely in check by the powerful barrier -- and he is most unsettled about this. The anger flares up on his face -- he wants so very badly to get an actual emotion out of his opponent. Well, okay -- =real and unabiding fear=, the kind of emotion that accompanies most of his victims.

But, much like his attempt at punching the woman, he will not win that battle. His muscles ripple, shuddering for that brief moment. His perception of time slowed by the fae equivalent of adrenaline, he notices the trickle of blood -- and for a glorious moment, he realizes, =he did that=. Of course, he thinks he did that earlier and just didn't notice the blood till now.

The contest of wills is ended utterly with the aged redcap forced backwards. In a splash of orchid light, he staggers back in confusion -- only to find his arms, legs, neck, waist, and hips each looped by swirling chains, which then jerk him backwards. He topples, like a small oak, the trailers of the circus shuddering with the impact of his fel body slamming down.

And he -roars-. His muscles tenses against the chains, arms and legs kicking back as if to uproot the chains from the ground -- a futile struggle.
"You best be ending me -now-, witch! I swear, if you so much as let your guard down one more time --"

COMBATSYS: Redcap takes no action.

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Elise            0/-------/----===|

COMBATSYS: Redcap can no longer fight.

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Elise            0/-------/----===|

It's only once the binding appears to be fully in place that Elise breathes out, and didn't even realize she was holding that breath at all. She doesn't relax her concentration; she daren't. Even stripped of his fight for now, a redcap is dangerous. Like other brutes of myth, their regenerative powers are notoriously strong. Mystical powers can make hurts stick, as can...

At the recollection of it, the Scot finally smiles. She calls over her shoulder without turning. "Keisuke! I know you're there. Bring me one of those horseshoes from the equestrian equipment, would you?" Behind her, a startled employee blinks, but hastens to do as she's asked. Soon, the surprised youth deposits a heavy horseshoe in the witch's hand.

Everyone else looks pretty confused. Why did she want a horseshoe?

Leaning forward toward the chained redcap, holding the horseshoe as if it were the most threatening thing in the world. And in fact, to a fae... it is. Cold iron is rare in the modern world, with alloys and steel being more common, but some things -- horseshoes, skillets -- are still just plain everyday iron.

"We'll get to that, my lad, and no mistake. But first you tell me this: how did you get here? You're not lost. But the Winter Court has no domain here and even if they did, it's not the proper time of the year for you to be crossing the boundary. You tell me that, and I'll make your end swift. Otherwise...?"

She spins the horseshoe on her finger. It's not entirely clear what the touch of iron might do. But does the redcap want to find out if, by some chance, he doesn't know? It'll be instructive for the others here, that's for sure.

As soon as Elise mentions 'horseshoe', the fae brute is shuddering with fear. No longer full of bravado and bluster, his eyes widen, and his jaw begins to quake.

She seems to know her stuff.

"... I can't speak for the Winter Court! Why d..."
The last trace of temerity, in the face of a shoe of iron, fades.

"... Anyway, the boundary was weak, not as rigid -- There was some nonsense about the time being nigh to strike, but who am I ta be questioning the Court? Their ways are way beyond me..."

He shudders, shrinking away as best he can considering the mighty pull of the chains binding him.

The blue-eyed gaze regarding the redcap is as stoic and cold as it was before he answered, but in truth, the fae enforcer's response deeply troubles Elise. It compounds and complicates a problem she had already observed this evening, one that has been gnawing at her since her now-bound victim first arrived. One of the gifts of her bloodline is a sense for the proximity and power of supernatural creatures in her general vicinity. It's an ability she has kept hidden from everyone at the circus, even Honoka; the ringmaster knows of Elise's dark hunter heritage, but not of the full extent of what that means or how it works. The witch had hoped that in leaving that life behind those gifts would never be needed. Apparently she had been wrong.

But have they merely atrophied from disuse, or is something more sinister and troubling at play here? If what the redcap says is true, then the weakening of the boundary between the mortal world and Faerie should have made him *easier* for her to sense, not harder. After all, that boundary is only crossed at particular sites, at particular times of the year, as established by magic that was ancient before modern civilization even began. Somehow, Elise doubts that a stone circle or fey grove is present in Japan, but one never knows...

Tilting her head upward, the Scot regards the redcap coldly. "I'm inclined to let you scurry back to your masters;" she says, in an imperious tone, "if only so they know what happened here. I don't know what you *think* you know, but just because I don't spend my weekends up to my elbows in Darkstalker viscera doesn't mean my skills -- or my dagger -- are any less sharp."

With a sweeping gesture, the chains that bound the redcap vanish into motes of violet light... but to emphasize her readiness to respond should he prove intransigent or, worse, stupid, her hands still scintillate with that flow of power, ready at a moment's notice to deploy it again. "Besides, killing someone like you is beneath me. Go back to the grove and stay there... and tell your friends that this place in particular is *off limits*, you ken?"

The redcap knows only what he was told about the Harkness witch, and what he had been able to observe with his own eyes. And judging from how she chose to exhibit her talents, his estimation of her was not high.

The old fae's understanding of her has been realigned with reality, as of this encounter. He puts up a token struggle against the violet chains -- constantly testing her resolve, on the off chance that he might be able to capitalize on any particular moment of weakness. Steadfast till the last -- though, in all honesty, he's hoping to be able to escape on his own power rather than attempt to combat the Scot with an iron horseshoe in her hand.

Bound on his back, he stares up at Elise with a fiery gaze, wary about volunteering any more information than he is being demanded. Sure -- he may have given a bit too much just now, but his own fear is now comung under control.

He does not seem particularly convinced about the threat of Elise's power, though -- simply raising an eyebrow. The redcap may not be a particularly wise individual, but while he may not see the -point- of bluffing, he knows people engage in the act from time to time.

When the chains vanish, his arms and legs jolt outward -- a show of just how much force he was putting into resisting them. Snarling, he picks himself up -- not too fast, nor too slow.

"'This place?'" he sneers, rubbing his wrists, still tender from the recent bout of captivity. "Ye say this as if you weren't a band of roaming gypsies, spreading amusements to the shallow masses... "

It seems that's as far as he's willing to proceed with the sass though, waving off any further argument with a raised hand. "Hold, hold. I leave ye in peace, then."

Still bearing that snide disposition, he kneels down to retrieve his pike, keeping his free hand raised: "... I dinnae think they'll listen, but aye, lass."

And then, as he steps backwards, his foot vanishes as if he were stepping into a shimmering veil, blossoming in wisps of yellow and green lights. The rest of him follows suit -- and moments later, he is gone, his very existence passing beyond the veil.

If she were the silly or dramatic type, Elise might make a V with her fingers, pointing them at her eyes, and then at the departing redcap. As it is, she simply stands there, body tense, power gathered, still clearly ready to continue beating him bloody if the need arises. Thankfully, it does not; he departs peacefully and, given the nature of his exit, pretty definitively.

What's left is Elise, in the middle of the circus field, surrounded by a slowly-gathering crowd of works, all too cowed, shocked, anxious, or curious to speak aloud. For her part, once the redcap is gone, the witch finally lets the tension drain out of her body, violet power dissipating, until all that's left is the shattered remains of a mostly-empty packing crate and some serious gouges in the wet ground.

Above her, the gibbous moon comes out from behind a cloud; in the heat of the moment, she hadn't even noticed the departure of its light from the situation.

Elise takes a deep breath and, still holding the horseshoe, does a slow circle, looking around her. She's got to get out in front of this, as with any public relations disaster. "Alright, you lot," she says, raising her voice to ringmaster pitch, making sure she's heard. "First things first, anyone hurt or injured, they get tended to. Otherwise, we keep moving on with our night same as any night. I'm sure..." She pauses, looks around again, takes a deep breath. "I'm sure you've got lots of questions, between this and Honoka being away for so long. Well, I've got lots of questions too, it would seem. But there *will* be answers eventually, I promise you that. Now, let's finish the work and get on with our night."

This is not a satisfying explanation for most people, but on the other hand, they're used to working for bosses who aren't telling them everything, either (even if they don't realize it). And Elise does get a certain amount of cred for taking down someone twice her size in defense of the circus; that 'this place is off limits' line got heard.

And Elise? She heads back to her roma-style wagon, flops into a chair, and has a good stiff drink... or four. Over the rim of her shot glass, the witch merely murmurs, "Come back soon, hen."

COMBATSYS: Elise has ended the fight here.

Log created on 16:46:14 01/15/2017 by Honoka, and last modified on 08:12:27 01/17/2017.