Illyria - Illyria Act 1 - Circle the Square

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Description: The leyline nexus in Illyria are an untapped resource of incredible magical power. As the rest of the army drives into the heart of Illyria, the researchers are free to pick and poke through these magical circles. Haruna, in the midst of researching some of the geomantic symbols near an old barrow, soon draws out the latent spirit energy within. But with it comes the very monsters who seek to control the land. A banshee is drawn out, and Haruna finds herself at the front lines of this conflict.

Oh thank God, I get to leave Japan and the realm of being sexily disrobed and ogled by people, thinks Haruna Abe.

She was even able to dress normally for this expedition. If she has a complaint, it's that she has had to go into Albania, alone, and she is kind of chilly in her stylish Uniqlo windbreaker. It is, in fact, the same color of purple-blue as her swimsuit at 'That Event'.

The rest of her body is wrapped in comfortably form-fitting jeans, ankle-high hiking boots, and an irritated expression because...

"I don't get why they had all these damn things everywhere," Haruna bitches aloud in Japanese, as she wipes the dirt out of another runic inscription. Sort of runic. She isn't sure. "It's obviously some kind of dragon line, but it's like it's trying to work like some kind of a circuit break-"

The old weathered stone cracks into two distinct parts plus some rubble, breaching a central looping figure. The air chills abruptly and distinctly. Haruna can feel that she has just opened a refrigerator, metaphorically speaking, that hadn't been open in ten years. "Ah," Haruna says, quickly trying to nudge the two pieces of stone back together.

"Dammit... they're going to think of me as an unreliable person for this...!!"

The first sound is soft and indistinct, as if far away and distant. It sounds vaguely like the winds howling through the nearby mountains. Did it not closely follow the splitting of tone and the sudden drop in temperature, it would have been hardly noticeable at all.

The second sound is close, more distinct. It's less of a howl now and more of a faraway scream, as if someone in the distance were howling with frustration at some perceived mishap, like losing their gear down the cliff. ... like losing a member of their party.

Distant sounds... the drop in temperature... a scream... it sounded more distant, Haruna thinks, as she presses the stones together on reflex. She has no other option here.

She breathes out.

"Obvious, in hindsight," she says. "I guess I should have seen it earlier, but you'd never use stone for something like this in Japan... you'd use wood, so everyone would remember you had to replace it. It's a paradox, I suppose, but you keep it up better when it's less durable. You have to maintain the boundary..."

Haruna's hands spread apart, and let the stone slump aside. It's not exactly far off the ground, and when Haruna rises, she watches it. "It was just an accumulation," she says: "No different than a pocket of natural gas, or something." Her hands slide into her pockets.

"I suppose that means this hill could be explored. Maybe the reputation of the place precedes it...? I suppose the Order'll be a little grouchy if they hear I found a false positive, but -"

Haruna turns around.

Her eyes slowly widen. "Shit."

COMBATSYS: Haruna has started a fight here.

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Haruna           0/-------/-------|

When the third sound finally comes, it's much softer, practically a whisper A gaunt and ghostly apparition is suddenly there, so close to Haruna that it's breathing down her neck. It looks to be a woman, or something like one.

Her eyes are wells; glassy spheres reflecting light from her deep in her skull. Her hair is like dry, tangled mess of brush Haruna's likely seen climbing the mountain, and it hangs long and stringily from her head. Her skin? Her skin is that frostbite and gangrene--a cold, lifeless blue of the deceased. She whispers again.

"This place..." she says, words seem to crawl from deep in her throat. "...ours."

When the third sound finally comes, it's much softer, practically a whisper A gaunt and ghostly apparition is suddenly there, so close to Haruna that it's breathing down her neck. It looks to be a woman, or something like one.

Her eyes are wells; glassy spheres reflecting light from her deep in her skull. Her hair is like dry, tangled mess of brush Haruna's likely seen climbing the mountain, and it hangs long and stringily from her head. Her skin? Her skin is that frostbite and gangrene--a cold, lifeless blue of the deceased. She whispers again.

"This place..." she says, words seem to crawl from deep in her throat. "...ours."

She reaches for Haruna, jagged fingernails scratching and pulling. Her grip is cold. Cold like death.

COMBATSYS: Mountain Maiden has joined the fight here.

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Haruna           0/-------/-------|-------\-------\0  Mountain Maiden

COMBATSYS: Haruna parries Mountain Maiden's Quick Throw!!

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Haruna           0/-------/------=|-------\-------\0  Mountain Maiden

The woman - no, a creature. Glasslike orbs reflecting something within her head. Dry hair like grass. Withered, frozen skin like a freezer-burned human, like something forgotten by history. Haruna isn't sure why she's flashed to a refrigerator here mentally.

Her thoughts move. So does her mouth. "Shit--!!!"

Haruna leans to the side, and as the creature digs its ragged nails into her Uniqlo windbreaker, the nylon fabric tears, yields, gives way. It starts to rip and Haruna throws herself in the opposing direction, letting the jacket come apart to free her limbs. As colored fabric shreds, Haruna says--

"Is that so?"

-- From her half-crouch on the ground, Haruna's lip curls up into a smirk. "I'm not sure just what you are, being, but please be assured I mean your home no insult - I represent scholars not - hey, do you hear me? No, I can tell that you're not interested." Oh no, how unfair of her!

"Either way, I'm lucky to have met you." what "By admiring you - excuse me - feeling your [Energy] - I can understand what this place was meant to do much more efficiently than by wandering around. Hm hm~"

Having expressed her arrogance, Haruna kips back to a full and upright position, rendering a short flurry of strikes up along the banshee's - well, it's something of a feint, but if the creature is physical - if it can be HURT - KILLED! - Haruna is going for some classic crippling meridians. And if it isn't... well, those are good facts to know as well.

COMBATSYS: Haruna successfully hits Mountain Maiden with Left Wall EX.

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Haruna           0/-------/----===|===----\-------\0  Mountain Maiden

Mountain Maiden falls asleep.

Mountain Maiden wakes up.

Mountain Maiden falls asleep.

Mountain Maiden wakes up.

Mountain Maiden falls asleep.

Mountain Maiden wakes up.

The banshee grips the windbreaker tightly in its bony fingers. When the fabric tears, it reaches out to get a better hold--but finds no purchase.

"Give it to me...," she whispers with that same faraway, strained voice.

But Haruna is on the move. When her chi-infused strikes batter the haint, they do so with a certain firmness--a solidity that tells the woman that whatever this creature is, it's not entirely ethereal. It takes hits just fine.

The wailer stumbles back weightlessly, chilled skin and gnarled bone driven back by the sudden assault. If has something resembling chakras, twisted though they may be. Whatever they are, they are surging.

"Give it," she rattles again, "TO ME!" The last part is puncutated with an ear-bursting shout. Sonic waves ripple through the musty air of the chamber, echoing off the walls as the creature's voice shakes the whole room.

COMBATSYS: Mountain Maiden successfully hits Haruna with Hue and Cry.
- Power hit! -

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Haruna           0/-------/-======|=====--\-------\0  Mountain Maiden

I'll give it to you alright, Haruna thinks. Then the creature stumbles back. She can feel the echoes of that touch, the image - the feeling - something like a map... it feels like a rotted tree, but, Haruna thinks, I can work


Then there is nothing, because of that SOUND. That horrid shriek. Haruna is not thrown back but only because the echoes push her back and then push her forwards, her eyes rolling back as for a single horrid moment she feels like her eyes are going TO BURST, but then it passes - and she staggers to the side, gasping for breath.

"Give... WHAT to you? All of you - hnh - spectres and remnants - none of you can ever compose a single coherent sentence!" Haruna gasps. "Perhaps you can't even try, perhaps I'm not - hah - giving you credit, but so much hassle could be avoided, if -" All of these are things that salve Haruna's ego as she staggers away from the Banshee, her stance guarded to cover up its wobble.

She makes herself watch the entity, however. To try and watch that subtle webwork she'd touched, to see how it develops.

COMBATSYS: Haruna tunes into the flow of energy.

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Haruna           0/-------/-======|=====--\-------\0  Mountain Maiden

The banshee seems a bit of weakness when its scream rattles the cavern. Its sunken eyes seem somehow...smug, condescending. She floats in low, practically scurrying across the ground to close the gap with Haruna before she surges back up to look in her eye.

"This place," she hisses, "We will take it..." she trails off for a moment. "Just like you outsiders want to...isn't that right?"

The chakras pulse and shift, unseen by someone without Haruna's sight. Some aspects are different, but this ... creature, is definitely a living thing rather than a raw spirit.

It reaches out toward Haruna once more, its nails threatening to rake against her and spread whatever foul chi this thing carries inside itself.

COMBATSYS: Haruna dodges Mountain Maiden's Corrupting Touch.

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Haruna           0/-------/-======|=====--\-------\0  Mountain Maiden

Mountain Maiden falls asleep.

Mountain Maiden wakes up.

Haruna's brow furrows. "Wait," she says: "This is not your tomb?"

Of course she has to wait to get clear answers, because a banshee is not known for having a civilized dialogue. Besides which, in many ways, it's better, clearer, to communicate with your fists. Police won't help you, after all: only strength.

She had already given ground and now she gives more. Pivoting around she flattens against the wall for a moment, the claws whiffing at the air as she shamelessly invalidates the horrid creature's efforts; how cruel! How rude! Except that she can feel in a sickly rippling way the corrosive, unnatural process of chi that's coming off the banshee's claws.

Yes: A process! Because energy is not static - that is its nature. Matter isn't static either but it comes much closer; energy, even when stored, simply becomes stable, able to self-sustain without much loss, or even increase itself. Haruna does not explain such subtleties aloud, however; she acts.

Pushing off the wall, closer to the banshee as its claws overcommit, she leaps up to aim a mule-kick with both feet on the torso of the thing - throwing herself back to the entranceway of the barrow foyer she'd breached in her quest to examine these rooms. "If you're trying to negotiate with the Sacred Order," Haruna says, "you ought to be more friendly about it!"

COMBATSYS: Mountain Maiden blocks Haruna's Hidden Virtue.

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Haruna           0/-------/=======|======-\-------\0  Mountain Maiden

"Not yet," the banshee hisses, a toothy smile creeping across her weathered face. Her claws no purchase, and the smile disappears as swiftly as it came. Each expression on the creature's face almost resembles canvas pulled taut. Attractive, this thing is not. Then again, it is, functionally, something resembling undead.

And then Haruna snaps into action, springing around and delivering a solid mule kick into the banshee's twisted frame. She seems to guard mostly out accident and reflex rather than technique, pulling up a bony arm to catch both feet even if it still drives her back into a stone with a heavy thump.

"Negotiate?" she wheezes. "I intend to...take!" The last set of syllables is punctuated with a thrust of sonic power before she surges forward suddenly. She grasps as Haruna, raking through the air with several slashes. Each claw resonates with a sort of frosty chi, as the banshee's energy is far more abundant than its emaciated frame would suggest.

COMBATSYS: Mountain Maiden successfully hits Haruna with Charged Combo.
Glancing Blow

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Haruna           1/-------/=======|=======\-------\0  Mountain Maiden

She's gotten distance, but Haruna has not gotten safety. She kicks off the ancient stone wall with its mysterious Occidental megalithic construction - how DID ancient Europeans manage to build so much? Must have been aliens -

This ridiculous backflip means she does not get much of her skin or blood gouged out by the banshee when she leaps to get over the creature's head.

Of course, 'much' is relative. Two bloody gashes appear in her leg as she tumbles and lands with a stagger that was absolutely unplanned. Sucking in breath through her teeth at the mixture of the hot pain of a gouged wound - which she is not entirely unfamiliar with - and the cold, glacious, corrosive chi - which she is also not entirely unfamiliar with - Haruna speaks.

"I had thought as much," she breathes out.

Spinning round, she drips a little fresh, hot blood onto the stones.

"This area must be rich indeed if you were able to exist just out there, wandering around... I'm not entirely sure you weren't sealed here," she asks. "Do you know who Jesus is?"

She sucks breath in deep through her teeth as she stares dead on at the banshee. Focus, she thinks. Draw it in... Where would the meridian go...

There! Her eyes narrow and she suddenly lunges forwards, aiming to smash her clenched-up fist into -- the banshee's left elbow? The interior of it at least. It might feel strange to the entity, oddly and subtly congested, but... Kind of a waste of time, in terms of how exposed it leaves her.

OR IS IT? (it is not) (maybe) (we'll see)

COMBATSYS: Haruna successfully hits Mountain Maiden with Aggressive Strike.

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Haruna           1/------=/=======|=======\=------\1  Mountain Maiden

"What?" the banshee hisses in response to the question. Perhaps she knows, or perhaps she doesn't, but in either case the question is so startling it throws her off kilter entirely. It leaves her wide open in the ensuing action, where Haruna strikes her aggressively under the elbow. The joint pops and creaks, going limp as claws dangle.

"Witch!" the banshee hisses at Haruna. "You seek this place's power too..."

The creature lurches forward in zombie-like fashion once more, trying to reach out with its undamaged arm and rake across Haruna's belly! That chi pouring out of it a moment ago seems to have subsided somewhat--a sign of progress?

Mountain Maiden falls asleep.

Mountain Maiden wakes up.

COMBATSYS: Haruna blocks Mountain Maiden's Medium Punch.

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Haruna           1/-----==/=======|=======\==-----\1  Mountain Maiden

"I wanted to establish how ancient you are," Haruna says, with the smug attitude of the scholar. "I'm not surprised you can speak to me - you're speaking with the words I already know, aren't you -"

Oh here it comes. Her arms cross down low as those claws are braced against, but they still cut deep. What horrid things dwell inside the soil on the creature's claws, Haruna wonders; anthrax? the plague? the... other plague? No matter, she thinks.

"Hnf- Perhaps I do - and what of it?" she continues as she yields a pace to the creature, sweeping back and reaching behind herself to, completely unnecessarily, toss her hair with one hand. "At worst we are the same. Do you want obesiance? Apologies? Religious services in your honor? Or do you just want to bite into the world's veins and start suckling harder than Jezebel Faiblesse, bloating like an unnatural tick so that you can visit your whimsies and devastations on people, fueled by the energetic flows of a long-suffering world?!"

That one may take the banshee a moment to process.


That part won't. Haruna suddenly /gleams/ in the gloom as she feels herself flow forwards, driving dead ahead with her hand drawn back to administer a diving punch with her entire weight behind it. It's more of a twin-fingered murder-jab with her fingertips than a proper punch, aimed between the banshee's -- well, we'll say instead, several inches below its collarbone.

Is she trying to break its clavicle?!

Just a little more, Haruna thinks - hopefully it won't figure out how to draw on this site's energy flows directly with me popping it in the meridians!

COMBATSYS: Haruna successfully hits Mountain Maiden with Four Advisors.

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Haruna           1/-----==/=======|=======\=====--\1  Mountain Maiden

The banshee's lips curl, as if offended at the accusation. It runs its bony fingers along the damaged joint. "Are you some sort of...demon slayer? Crusader?" It asks Haruna with a hissing whisper.

"This hardly suitable for mortals!" the banshee hisses, circling Haruna. "...who?" it asks in response to the mention of Jezebel. That, at least, may something. Perhaps she's not a pop culture fan.

The blow strikes the clavicle with bone-shattering force, knocking the monster prone with the impact. It's wild hair and scattered robes billowing in the wind as she soared back across the chamber floor.

She rises slowly in its wake, chi surging around her again. The room seems to get colder, less welcoming. As the surge of chi crescendos, the banshee begins screaming.

"FOOLISH MORTAL!" she howls, voice echoing throughout the whole cavern--and threatening to bring it down. "YOU DO NOT KNOW WHERE YOU TREAD! THIS POWER IS MINE TO TAKE!" The sonic waves ripple out like a typhoon, echoing through the cavern with each syllable.

COMBATSYS: Haruna endures Mountain Maiden's Deadly Premonition.

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Haruna           1/--=====/=======|=------\-------\0  Mountain Maiden

"Hardly! Don't lay your categories on me," Haruna says pertly.

("You're better off not knowing," Haruna asides.)

But then comes the shrieking wave of force which throws Haruna back. She thinks -- she can't think! That is the problem: her interior monologue, the planning calls, the self-to-self dialogue, all of them are drowned out by that resonant profound tintinnabulatory HORROR of the VOICE of the CREATURE - Haruna can feel her nose aching, can taste blood in her mouth -

It comes to her.

A series of images. Memories. Snapshots. Moments of the time that has just passed, echoing back down to childhood days.

The subtle frostlike ripples in the gelid limbs of this creature / A snowflake landing on her mittened hand.
The held-out claws of the banshee / A playfully batting kitten
The banshee with its head thrown back in a shrieking outrage / Somebody Haruna saw at the airport with short hair, short skirt, long jacket, arm in arm with a man in sunglasses
The echoing words of 'mine to take' / A clutching grasping hand looming from a bakemono hidden amongst the trees...

"You're like a machine," Haruna says, her eyes gleaming as she looks back at the creature. "You're shaking up because your predictable cycles are breaking down, aren't they? I wonder if you're just a restless shade who's bloated on the power spilled when I broke that stone. No matter!"

She sucks in breath deep and firm; the faint mist of the barrow sparkles as it forms around her, like a fog of stars, a galactic spiral. It would be subtle in a brightly lit arena; here, it shines like a clear summer's night.

"You're defined by your [Hunger], right?" Haruna asks. Then she coughs unpleasantly.

"Then let's suppress it."

Haruna dives in again. She does this a lot - it is perhaps not the best strategy for quick defeat, but when you're opposing an unknown shadow, you go swift and careful. As she moves the sea of stars around her feet rises upwards, swirling in a clockwise spiral around her arm as her hand, clenched into a short-surface punch with the thumb firmly gripped between index and middle finger, aims, it seems, to follow up on that clavicle punch.

UNTIL... The fog slides down, for it was her other hand coming up to try to sink shining nebular-wrapped fingers straight up and THROUGH the banshee's solar plexus!

COMBATSYS: Haruna successfully hits Mountain Maiden with Celestial Spear.

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Haruna           0/-------/-----==|======-\-------\0  Mountain Maiden

The banshee barrels down on Haruna for several painful moments, her shrieks echoing throughout the chamber. The rumbling, ear-splitting horror echoes through the cavern in a seemingly endless loop as the banshee draws closer, closer, going for the throat, aiming to snuff out the life of the woman and steal away her soul...

And the spear-like strike of chi rips through the wave; it punches through like a rock cutting through crashing waves on the shore. In its wake it leaves a faintly smoking hole in the monster's form, perfectly shaped like the exploded meridian point. The banshee lingers for a moment when the screaming stops. She looks at Haruna for a long moment, eyes widening in realization. Then she looks down at the hole.

"CURSE YOU!" she rasps, "CURSE YOU AND YOUR -MAGIC-, YOUR M--" She starts to unravel, her tie to the world severed. Like smoke in the wind, the banshee seems to blow away--until there's nothing left.

The chamber is ominously silent.

COMBATSYS: Mountain Maiden takes no action.

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Haruna           0/-------/-----==|

COMBATSYS: Mountain Maiden can no longer fight.

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Haruna           0/-------/-----==|

Peace settles.

The tomb regains that funereal hush. Haruna hears her own breathing. She wipes her nose on a hankerchief.

"Fshh... I wonder," she says, "if that curse is going to stick."

And with that she turns to walk out of the barrow like a cool person. Sixteen steps forwards, she staggers; a step after THAT she nearly falls onto a jagged piece of fieldstone, reflexes narrowly saving her from a puncture wound into the liver.


Log created on 21:46:21 03/21/2018 by Hayley, and last modified on 00:50:12 03/26/2018.