Astrid - A Rock and a Hard Place

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Description: Having managed to slip through the barrier between Outworld and Earthrealm, Astrid attempts to explore her new surroundings, taking up residence in a small cave. Unfortunately, it looks like she's found herself right in the middle of some kind of intense war between two opposing factions. Mistaken for a potential collaborater, she's forced to fend off demands that she turn herself over to the local military forces. Out of one war-torn hell hole and into another...

'Traveller's log, day 5.

Today I went a little further than before, exploring the lands outside of the cave beyond the small stream that cuts across the base of the hill. While I have managed to survive without issue by collecting the roots and berries of local plants, it's been too long since I've had a proper bit of meat. Thus far nothing hostile has attempted to accost me in these strange lands, nor have I encountered any of the local inhabitants, thus I feel confident enough that my presence will go unnoticed while I hunt for something more filling.


My hunt was a success! As I suspected, the river was used as a source of water for some animals. Rather small things they were, hardly bigger than full-grown Rawi, but nice and plump. It only took a couple whacks to the noggin to put the fat bleeder down. Have to give the bugger credit though, he was a right mean bastard. Came chargin right at me when he spotted me. Hah, guess he never tangled with someone like me before!

Got enough supplies for a week atleast. Think I might pack up and move on soon. Nice as this little cave is, I don't want to linger for too long. The sorcerers have probably taken notice of my absence by now and I want several leagues between me and the tear before they figure out where I went.'

The soft sound of scratching that accompanies her neat flowing letters dies out as Astrid puts the last of her thoughts for the day to paper, tapping the end of the burnt stick against the surface of the thick tome in her lap with a flourish. While it certainly isn't as easy to use as a proper pen, she isn't in much of a position to be choosey. Packing ink and quills wasn't exactly high on the list of priorities when she made good her escape.

The bright red glow of healthy camp fire blazes warmly nearby, providing both light for her to lay down her thoughts as well as heat to ward off the chill dampness of the natural cave. The body of a massive boar lies stretched across the flickering flames, spitted on a thick branch which is supported by a small a pair of X-shaped braces crafted from sticks and reeds. A large hunk of the creature's side is already missing and the telltale grease stains on the woman's face and fingers offer clues as to where it might have gotten off to.

Tucking her journal back into a large rucksack, Astrid leans back and flops against the side of an inclined rock which has served her as a chair for several days now. Her hands fold up behind her head and she lets out a contented sigh, content at having a proper meal for the first time in days. Now if she could just get a drop of ale or beer she'd have nothing left to complain about! Alas, the odds of stumbling across a convenient brewery or pub in the middle of these untamed mountains seems quite bleak. It would have been so much more convenient if she'd stumbled through the barrier into a nice town. Bread without beer, indeed.

"Atleast nothin's come along to nip at my toes in the night. Hmmm... Count the blessin's, I suppose."

OLD CAVE - Retread
"Just as darkness is feared, so must light be."

A break between the NOL and SO had led to crumbling niceties between the two factions. No, to say as such would be an understatement. Friends one day, Noel was perhaps a wolf among lambs. A wolfdog, that is. How she led them through their valley, full of blood and violence. Trails made possible by the streams of blood that she had sacrificed so that they would not suffer her fate. Now, were they before her, it is according to orders that they were to be detained, and at worst, executed for such heinous crimes.

It was not even read to Noel what the envelope on Jin's desk had stated. No purpose to glance upon it with the disjointed frown that he so often wore. It burns into her mind as she wanders the darkness, as she had so often. Just a secretary. A secretary with a pen and paper that mimics their gun and barrels. It is how fate had decided she would write her own stories. It is how she would affect the world - not the reports that were written after. Not the kind words to friends in between the missions.

Not the letters home, each drop of ink adding onto the lies, to maintain the false happiness that is so important to keep up. The smile that she wears that with every day, weighs upon her face more so, dragging it down.

The same one that for now rests at neutral, a mask of darkness obscuring it as she strides through the cave in near total darkness. Near, save for the soft green glow of a glyph in her hand that is held forwards. Her other clasps a light grey weapon, not of silver or chrome, but of some unearthly shade. It was not natural, not of this earth. It's possession of Noel, just as she possesses it, keeps her calm as she strides through the cave. A hunt, as it were. The Sacred Order were to be hunted. They had betrayed them. Set a dangerous being... object... free, one that had nearly killed her. An act of kindness, or was it selfishness? It did not matter. Her decision was not important.

No, what was - the burning flames that began to cancel the soft green glow of the glyph that she held before her. The smell that began to replace the mold, decay, and scents of animals that make their dwelling in the caverns.

The light vanishes, replaced with a barrel that produces only darkness. Both of them are raised upwards, fanning outwards as the woman strides out from a passage deeper inside the cave. She had, after all, been put out to find those that may have hidden away. What better hiding spot than the deep parts of a cave?

Yet as the guns as trained on the only target present, they slowly drop afterwards. A... child? "I did not ... ah... are you alone here?" Noel asks, voice a bit relieved. "I didn't mean to..." Yet she is not ashamed. Bolverk has helpfully prevented such feelings. "Where.. is your mother and father?"

The 'child' gives a start at the sound of a voice that is not her own, practically scrambling to her feet in her hurry to turn and face the interloper. Her hand reaches out as she rises, clasping the haft of a gargantuan weapon, wielding it menacingly as she rounds on Noel.

Easily taller than its owner, the massive polearm has a striking resemblance to a simple pickaxe. One side of the weapon's oversized head is little more than a rectangular block of metal that tapers down like a hammer, while the other flares out in a great curved scythe nearly as long as the handle itself. Ornate golden bands encircle the monstrosity of a tool at various points, working into claws, talons, and other such decorations. More noticable than even this, however, is the dull orange glow that emanates from within the central node, clearly magical in nature.

Likewise, with her full profile now turned for the NOL officer to see, it's clear that the figure is decked from head to toe in bits of armor of a similar fashion. Her head is covered with a large helmet of black metal. A pair of horns sprout from the sides of the covering, reminescent of ancient viking warriors, but the dominating feature is the massive headlight built into the center of the thing. It's a strange mixture of modern technology and ancient design but it looks quite sturdy, as does the heavy pauldrons, metal-wrapped gauntlets, and sharp-toes boots.
Oddly, despite the presence of what is obviously armor, the 'child' seems relatively lightly clothed elsewhere. Her chest is protected by little more than a fancy-looking leather bra - and boy what a chest it is. No kid is quite that stacked. Nor do many of them have pointy goat-like ears. Or a deep alto voice. Infact, it's pretty clear at glance that this isn't a human at all.

The woman, for she is clearly deserving of that title, looks quite similar to a human, only in miniature scale. She stands perhaps four and a half feet tall, give or take a couple of inches, but her proportions are totally normal, lacking the obvious rotund squatness of form that might mark her out as a midget. Plus most humans can't lift several hundred pounds of metal over their head like it is made of styrofoam.

"Great ancestors! Who the bleedin' shist are you?! Anyone ever tell ya it's rude to sneak up on a girl like that? Yer bloody lucky I don't ring yer bells, ya blighter!"

The tiny woman eyes Noel suspiciously, her expression one of annoyance rather than fear. A human? They live here too? Well, atleast that solves the problem of having to learn a new language to deal with the natives. She was half worried she'd end up on one of the outer planes and get stuck dealing with wind spirits or some damn fairies. Ofcourse, that doesn't mean they're friendly. Plenty of humans in were among the guards that kept watch over her home, guarding it like a prison to ensure no one escaped more than any worry about keeping things out.

No. That is no child.

Eyes, perhaps deceiving her at first, make it clear after. How useful that information is after the fact is irrelevant. The size of the breasts, sadly, are noted first, but there is no outrage. No complaint. It is just, from head to toe, where her eyes fall after the face. Ears slightly missed. She does not miss the voice. Neither the way she speaks, so crude and straight forwards with knowledge that comes with years, some of them at least, of strife.

Perhaps it is lucky that Noel finds her. Perhaps it is anything but.

The pair of guns, lowered towards the ground instead, are not dropped. In fact, they are raised slightly as Astrid speaks. "Lieutenant Vermillion of the Novus Orbis Librarium." Her words are recited as she had so practiced them, year after year, hour after hour. The woman shakes her head afterwards, taller, but perhaps less of a woman than the girl before her.

They may be equally human.

"This area is under suppression due to the actions of the Sacred Order..." She begins, looking upon Astrid as the flames dance before her, casting shadows across her face. "All accounted for threats, personnel and civilians must identify themselves or will be dealt with equally, under suspicion of an alliance with the Sacred Order..." It's clear the voice reciting this is doing so with audible pause, lacking the triumphant trumpeting of those that live for such things.

"..Unfortunately." Human, perhaps, and not just a gear in a machine. "I hope... that this won't end how I think it will..." She remarks, "So, p-please, let me know who and what you are, and disavow the Order."

Easy enough.

"Then report to the NOL base at co-ordinates..." This is likely to be the interrupted part.

The strange hammer-wielding woman peers at Noel with a look that says she hears the words coming out of the lieutenant's mouth but understands them about as well as a cat understands alegebra. She relaxes slightly, leaning the weapon on her shoulder while scratching the side of her head through a mass of thick dusty hair that flows from beneath her helmet like a waterfall of flaxen straw, unkempt and wild save for a trio of thick golden gem-encrusted circlets that divide it up into an equal number of sections.

"Eh... what? A library?" She glances back and forth at the cave and it's collection of rocks and stagnant pools of water. "Seems like a pretty schist place to keep books, if ya ask me!"

The part about suppression she understands well enough. Noel's uniform and the guns in her hands make it pretty clear she's some sort of a soldier. Apparently there's a conflict going on and whatever group she belongs to is doing a sweep of the area to find their enemies, this 'Sacred Order'. Naturally, she escapes from one war-torn pit of vipers right into another one. The gods have a cruel sense of humor.

"Gonna stop ya right there, lass," she interjects, cutting Noel off in the midst of her rehearshed lines with an upheld hand and a firm tone. She's met her fair share of humans over the years and gotten to know how they act. This girl looks to be little more than youngling, maybe a handful of years into adulthood. Her timidness is a pretty clear sign that she doesn't have a lot of experience or confidence either. Probably some new recruit sent out to do the dirty work, hunting down rebels or insurgents or enemy agents or whatever it is they're fighting.

"Never heard of either of those things, Novis Orbis Libraries or Sacred Orders or what have ya. Not interested either. I'm just a traveller passin through. If ya need a name for yer books, ya can call me Astrid."

The dwarf, a fairly apt descriptor for the diminuative woman, jabs a thumb at herself as she gives her name, offering a toothy grin. She makes no overtly hostile moves but nor does she lower the great pick, one arm coiled loosely around it's shaft keeping it propped up against her body.

"I'm not particularly interested in trottin myself out for inspection by yer masters either. So how bout ya run along and go find yerself someone more deservin ta bother?"

An unidentified class. A 'woman' or being that simply exists outside of the knowledge of NOL. A being that, barring some surprising change of policy, protocal, or plans, would need to be brought in simply due to being... different.

Some of the topmost members of NOL would not let such a breach escape their notice. The armor is unknown. The weapon is clearly heavy, powerful, hefty. All of it is notable to Noel, more observant than the coat laden, green eyed waif would let on. The guns in her hands likely the sturdiest part of her.

'War torn', a correct assumption, with one that 'assumed' the other friendly, smaller, nation would play by the same rules, even after being wronged. A tactic, classic in nature, to get what they wanted - or to take it, in the end, anyways.

The hand is raised, and Noel's words fail to escape from her mouth any longer. Not that words describe any more than Astrid is capable of observing. Yet something she doesn't immediately gleam, the most important note, shines like a diamond between layers of earth. Even the keenest eye, if they don't know what or where to look, would miss it.

Hands clench the diamonds between her hands, an odd way to relax as Astrid speaks. The woman doesn't know what they are. They don't care. They are just passing through. Yet the name is provided. Astrid, at least that is what her name is in her tongue. The dwarf jabs a thumb at herself, grinning - and doesn't really seem hostile.

It is not the first time the woman has repeated this action. The words come from Astrid that set the clock into motion. Daily, the clock must strike each of it's 24 cycles. Each carefully planned with utmost importance. So too does the NOL instill such rigid adherence. The words that come from Astrid, as they are uttered, cause the woman's hands to shake. It is the first time she has had to do this that she remembers.

It is one of dozens of times that it has happened.

"I ... if you aren't going to come, then I'll have to use force... please... I don't want this." The woman declares. Claims. Pleads.

Yet even as she does so, Bolverk's twin barrels are ever more raised to face Astrid, the long barreled devil weapon that had chosen her. The weapon that now focuses it's gaze upon Astrid. Every moment sapping Noel's resistance to the Librarium's chosen decision. Every moment drawing her away from this place.

Astrid's good-natured smile fades in the face of the human's odd pleas. Despite her claims of reluctance, it's becoming quite clear that the girl intends to use violence to force the issue. Damn it all. She's spent entirely too much time and effort to break free from her old masters just to be swept up in this nonsense.

"And I don't want ta go with ya but it seems like neither of us are gonna get what we want without a fight, doesn't it?"

The dwarf shifts her stance, taking a two-handed grip on the massive weapon once more. Astrid shakes her head a couple of times and sighs, grumbling something in an unknown language under her breath. She doesn't look particularly happy about it but nor does she shows any signs of backing down, her body language exuding confidence and strength.

"Spent the last hundred years in a cage, lass, not about ta get thrown in another one. If yer smart, you'll turn around and leave. If not, well, maybe a good thrashin will make ya a little wiser. Either way, the stone never forgets... and neither do I."

Those words are left hanging in the air, inviting the lieutenant to make a choice that will decide if they're going to part on friendly terms or as mortal enemies. Astrid makes no move to be the first strike. She'd much rather this ended peacefully but her gut is saying that a brawl is inevitable. Something about the human's demeanor is wrong and she's always had a nose for trouble.

"We don't have to fight." Noel continues to plead, hands shaking. Bolverk, pointing slowly upwards, against her own requests. "If you just come quietly... I don't have to use force, and ..."

Astrid continues. She doesn't want to come. "I just... want don't want to hurt you! You don't seem bad and I ..." It happens, in a split second. Hands that had grown to shake in intensity, barrels veering off every which-way, quiet. The woman's faltering voice comes to a halt, as if it had fled and given up. Her posture in general is different now, standing taller - before dropping an angle towards Astrid.

"Dispatched, in mankind's darkest hours. We are the knights of the Blue Flame. Bolverk, initiate." There is a calm silence, a moment before it all happens. "An unknown humanoid form is necessary to be taken account of." The twin guns react, barrels glowing a bright green as they churn to life readily, as if they had already been active.

They are just weapons, after all, aren't they? A tool to be used.

Yet it is by their use that Noel now points them towards Astrid. "You will be brought in for questioning and released if what you say is true." Noel moves assuredly now, far above any novice as she leaps atop the burning spit in the middle, kicking off and spinning upwards, over Astrid. The barrels pointed downwards fire over and over again - peppering the dwarf with the chi the weapon apparently seems to wield. A gun that fires such energy, instead of bullets is likely not too rare - but not all too common, either.

If uninterrupted, she would land against the wall, moving to slide down the cavern wall.

Through it all, her face is emotionless now. Save for the small tells of exertion.

COMBATSYS: Noel has started a fight here.

[\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  <
Noel             0/-------/-------|

COMBATSYS: Astrid has joined the fight here.

[\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  //////////////////////////////]
Noel             0/-------/-------|-------\-------\0           Astrid

COMBATSYS: Astrid blocks Noel's Type XIII - Revolver Blast.

[ \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  ////////////////////////////  ]
Noel             0/-------/-------|=------\-------\0           Astrid

Well, that can't be good. Noel's sudden change in demeanor rings all sorts of alarm bells causing the dwarf's expression to become more dire. She clenches her teeth, stubbornly setting her jaw as she prepares to fight. Whatever is wrong with this human, she's not about to give up.

"Aye, maybe when this mountain crumbles, ya loon!"

The lieutenant's rapid assault is met with practiced reactions. Her acrobatic leap into the air carries her well above the tiny woman offering an excellent position to rain down blasts of energy from the terrible guns, yet Astrid does not flinch in the face of this. Instead, she hunkers down and moves, weaving back and forth to make herself a more difficult target. Several of the searing shots land solidly on the stout dwarf's body but the majority are caught by the wide surface of her ornate helm, diffusing harmlessly on its polished surface.

"Blood and rust, that stings!"

Once the barrage has started to abate, Astrid shifts course, turning to leap towards the NOL gun-woman with a mighty lunge. Her great hammer rises up as she flies through the air, its inner fire glowing red hot as the power contained within prepares to combine its fury with the might of its wielder in an overhead blow that is capable of shattering stone and bone with equal ease.

COMBATSYS: Noel blocks Astrid's Rune-Etched Hammer.

[    \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  ///////////////////////////   ]
Noel             0/-------/-----==|=------\-------\0           Astrid

Nothing so much wrong as that which she cannot avoid. In her heart, if she was to avoid this battle and those like it, it would affect those closest to her. Bolverk does not make her do bad things. It does not make her like Terumi, or others of his ilk.

It simply makes what she knows what must be done doable.

With no inhibitions, the waif of a woman finds the ability to use the weapons given to her. The ability to accept what she may always know deep down, and what she is capable of. She cannot care about being a tool to NOL if she cannot -care-.

Hunkering down, as Astrid does, she seems to weather the shots with not so much expert defense as she does with formidable defense. The armoring is not for show, but neither are the muscles and the fortitude of the dwarf. Size, as well. Less target, less impact.

Clasping the rock as she goes to move, it seems that Astrid is not completely helpless. Her reaction time, from being peppered with such gunfire, is quick. Her response comes with a leap and a swing of the massive hammer. It glows, as she makes an arc with weapon and swing that leads her directly towards Noel. The hammer, specifically.

A hand reaches out - pointing towards weapon and dwarf. An eruption of green light springs forth as the light expands, a shimmering green field absorbing the bone crushing force of the hammer, the strength of the blow. Her hand shakes not of uncertainty, but of exertion, though it does not stop it fully. Against the rocks, Noel is stuck as it bears down, the glyph suddenly angling to send the hammer crashing into the cavern wall as she rolls to the side, freeing herself. "Dangerous." She chirps, "But perhaps slow."

With the roll to the side, Noel shifts as well, kicking off the wall edge to leap towards Astrid with her hammer forwards, in the wall. Hands would move to grasp the helm, legs swinging around to wrap against Astrid's form as she moves to twist them over her, thighs wrenching around neck and head, before her body would invert, a sudden burst of strength that she should not be capable of allowing her to, at least attempt, to pulls the dwarf into the ground.

"It would be preferable if you ceased resistance." She so claims, once more.

COMBATSYS: Astrid blocks Noel's Medium Throw.

[   \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  //////////////////////////    ]
Noel             0/-------/-----==|==-----\-------\0           Astrid

Noel's barrier doesn't stop the swing of the hammer so much as deflect it. With a thunderous blast of raw force the massive weapon crashes into wall of the cave filling the tiny space with deafening noise. The rock splits asunder beneath the mighty blow, dozens of wide cracks spreading out from the impact point in a chaotic spiderweb. The lieutenant's observation of the strike hits the nail on the head. That bulky weapon might be slow but its power is clear to see.

Astrid doesn't seem particularly nonplussed by this turn of events. She's spent most of her life learning how to wield this monstrosity of her own design and the trade-offs between speed and destructive force have always been favorable in her eyes. In Outworld, there are countless threats in the vast wastes and swampy forests around the mountains where her kind is sent to mine the ore for their industry. Many of them are considered large and dangerous to those much taller than a dwarf, so it was imperitive that one possess the means to drive back such creatures definitively. Ofcourse, it's not quite as good against speedy targets like Noel but it's only going to take one good hit to ruin the human's day.

"Wh- oy, get offa me!"

As she tugs on her weapon to free it from the cavern's ruined wall, Astrid suddenly finds herself carrying a lot more weight. Her head jerks back as Noel tugs on the heavy helm but she instinctively widens her stance and tightens her stomach, bracing against the NOL officer's attempt to hurl her to the ground. The contest is laughably one-sided. The dwarf grunts and growls a bit but becomes utterly unmovable as if she has somehow melded her feet into the ground. Noel would have better luck trying to wrestle one of the boulders lying about.

"Hah, ya think...ngh... hidin up there will help ya? Yer just makin it easy!"

Dragging her feet along the ground, Astrid pivots suddenly, putting her back and Noel towards the same wall she'd just smashed a chunk out of. With a powerful leap, the dwarf hurls herself backwards becoming the hammer to the anvil as she tries to crush her assailant between a literal rock and a hard place.

COMBATSYS: Astrid knocks away Noel with Stone Breaker ES.
- Power hit! -

[          \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  ////////////////////////      ]
Noel             0/-------/-======|====---\-------\0           Astrid

The hammer cracks into the wall. The defeaning sound is something that should affect Noel. Yet it doesn't seem to cause the woman to even flinch. Completely devoted to her purpose, to her actions, and nothing more. Nothing less.

The dwarf's observation isn't without merit.

The weapon, tugged free, is just in time as Noel clings to her, attempting to pull her down. She may bend, she may resist, but she does not move. With Astrid suddenly pivoting, the woman uses herself as a weapon between rock and wall.

There is only an answer of, "Negative." To Astrid once she responds. As Astrid throws herself backwards, Noel's legs move to unravel, body twisting to push off with her hands, to twist away from the deadly wall and land before her. Yet she does not unentangle quick enough for that to become an acceptable path. The woman crashes against the wall in perhaps a more sickening crack than is expected. The body bending in ways it shouldn't, the pain shooting through - but there is no listening to be done.

It doesn't matter anyways.

The doll's dance hadn't been completed. "Type II." She declares, between Astrid and the wall, as she struggles, bones and body crushing in turn. Yet her movement is quick enough that Bolverk, wedged between the two, is jammed straight against the Dwarf.

A plume of energy fires outwards, the barrels slamming towards her before firing off, glyphs growing in form and shape before erupting.

COMBATSYS: Astrid interrupts Type II - Bloom Trigger from Noel with Right in the Dongliz! ES.

[                 \\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  ///////////////////////       ]
Noel             1/------=/=======|=======\==-----\1           Astrid

Astrid merely grunts as her slam attack does unpleasant things to the human's body. She has little desire to cause the woman harm but she was given the choice to walk away and she squandered it, so there's no one to blame for her current suffering but the officer herself. If it's going to come down to her or the human, she's decidedly in the pro-Astrid camp. Bones can be healed with time but getting put into another cage by some authoritarian bunch of librarians sounds like something she absolutely does not want to experience.

Oddly, the waif of a girl seems much less affected by having a few of her ribs rearranged than most people. Astrid takes a step forward and whirls around to face the eeriely calm soldier just as she brings those deadly guns up again. The space between them is so small that she all but has to shove them in the dwarf's face, practically guaranteeing a decisive shot. Except her tenacious little foe has other ideas.

Astrid releases her grip on the hammer, bringing one of her mailed fists up in a simple but methodically aimed strike. When you're waist-high to most everyone you meet certain strategies become a lot more feasible to use. The dwarf provides an excellent demonstration of this simple fact when her gauntlet smashes into Noel's groin. The sheer power of the strike is enough to disrupt the girl's aim, sending one of the shots wide and another glancing off the curved surface of a pauldron. It stings but it's hardly enough to slow the sturdy creature down.

"Hah! Let's see ya walk that one off!," she says with a big grin.

The swing of the weapon, forwards, is interrupted as Noel attempts to do such a thing. The nailed fists are swung forwards to smash into Noel's midsection. The power of the strike sends Noel backwards.

The impact is, however painful, met with ... nothing.

The woman pulls herself up from the ground once more - striding forwards in a perhaps uncertain step. No verbiage is used at all to express her displeasure, if there is any, from the assault.

The woman simply rises once more, after struck, a pained cry on impact, but one that is more guttural and instinctive than one that may be from a thinking, feeling, woman. The impact is painful, for certain, yet it does not seem to have caused Noel to react.

It is unlikely if anything may.

The twin pair of guns once more rise upwards, aiming towards the form of the dwarf as she speaks - and fires, glyphs of energy pouring from Bolverk as she no longer moves, nor attempts to - as she had risen. Simply gunfire as a response.

COMBATSYS: Astrid blocks Noel's Type XI - Optic Barrel.

[                \\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  /////////////////////         ]
Noel             1/-----==/=======|=======\===----\1           Astrid

Still crowing taunts at the human despite her lack of response, Astrid once more takes evasive action when the guns come up. The vast patches of stalagmites scattered around the caves offer excellect cover for someone of her size, blunting the worst of the terrible living weapon's energy blasts. Infact, none of Bolverk's soul-searing shots manage to connect cleanly and the only damage she sustains comes from the flying storms of shattered rock created by their explosions. She earns a few shallow cuts from the shrapnel as a reward for her efforts but it's nothing in comparison to what a direct hit might do.

"Hah, that the best ya got, lass? I've seen one-eyed Tarkatans with better aim!"

Her manuevering is not entirely defensive. Astrid slowly works her way closer as she avoids the gun fire, darting from rock to rock until she's finally close enough to make another approach. The dwarf lets out a battle cry as she appears from behind her most recently bit of cover, leaping over the small boulder into a dead run towards the NOL officer. The massive hammer is drawn back menacingly as she approaches, its heavy head preparing to unleash another devastating blow that the human's body surely can't withstand.

That turns out to be a ruse. Instead of slamming Noel with the giant pickaxe, Astrid releases one hand from its haft and slams it towards the girl's body. It doesn't much matter where she hits, so her aim isn't particular - all that needs to happen is for the small flat rock that's cupped in her palm to make contact. A single rune is carved into its surface, a magical symbol that lies dormant until called upon. In this case, an enchantment of transformation has been worked into the trinket, causing the rock to stretch and bend into bands of hard stone that attempt to encircle Noel's body, holding her fast.

COMBATSYS: Astrid successfully hits Noel with Rune of Binding.
- Power hit! -

[                     \\\\\\\\\  < >  ////////////////////          ]
Noel             1/--=====/=======|=======\===----\1           Astrid

The taunts come once more, yet the woman doesn't notice them.

It seems that she doesn't pay attention at all to the words from Astrid's mouth. As irrelevant they are to the woman that has attempted, at least, to take in the dwarven woman. Yet it does not seem that such a thing is likely.

Once more, the woman moves as she can. The pickaxe is raised upwards, Noel drives to the side - running - yet she runs into the rocks that encircle her body. Bound as she is, Noel is lead to once more to trapped. With little ability to rely on her feet, the woman moves to rely on her hands. Rocks, squeezing ever tighter, are simply just factors.

The form of Bolverk twists and changes as Noel holds them together, then aims downwards to Astrid.

The barrels of a chaingun rattle off energy as they tear into the ground around the dwarven woman, unlikely to do very much, based on the evidence so far - but Noel does not have a choice but to continue. It is not her actions.

It is, of course, yet another irrelevant factor.

COMBATSYS: Noel successfully hits Astrid with Zero Gun - Fenrir.

[                    \\\\\\\\\\  < >  //////////////                ]
Noel             0/-------/--=====|>>>>>>>\>>>>>>>\2           Astrid


The rune works like a charm, snaring her opponent so that the agile human can't slip away at the last moment. Astrid lifts her hammer up on her shoulder, a big grin on her face as she takes a moment to properly boast. What's the point of winning if you can't brag about it a bit?

Unfortunately, Noel seems to have a few tricks up her sleeve. Or maybe she keeps them in that silly hat. Either way, she pulls out one mother of a gun, offering very little in the way of opportunity to escape.

"Oh sch-"

Astrid attempts to fling herself out of the way, bringing the hammer up defensively, but it doesn't provide nearly enough coverage to shield her properly against the onslaught of projectiles. Dozens of magical bullet pepper the surface of Astrid's body and for the first time she appears to suffer a serious injury. Her teeth clench as she rides out the storm, the armor and hammer combined with her natural resistance to magic offering her enough protection for the wounds to be painful instead of debiltating.

"Hrngh... that's quite the beast ya got there."

She winces, lowering her hammer after the hailstorm of blasts subsides. Dark purple blotches can be seen all over her earthen skin where the shots peppered her unprotected flesh. Merely suffering some nasty bruises from an attack like that, however, speaks volumes about the woman's durability.

"Haven't seen artifice like that in ages."

Reaching down to her waist, Astrid digs a hand into the satchel strapped there and withdraws a small spherical object. Anyone on Earth who hasn't been devoid of entertainment medium their entire life would immediately recognize the familiar shape of an old-fashioned bomb, an orb of dark iron with an upraised fuse. The dwarf grins again, though her mirth is marred with a bit of a grimace as she flicks a small lever on its exterior.

A scratching sound fills the air as the igniter goes to work, replaced by a sharp hissing of a burning fuse. Astrid hurls the bomb at the rock-bound NOL officer and runs for cover, taking shelter behind one of the nearby stone columns.

"Enjoy the pretty lights, ya loon!"

COMBATSYS: Noel dodges Astrid's Blasting Charge.

[                    \\\\\\\\\\  < >  /////////////                 ]
Noel             0/-------/--=====|>>>>>>>\>>>>>>>\1           Astrid

A momentary lapse in the defensive abilities of the dwarf, likely. Noel herself lacks any skill, lacks any training that would directly benefit into the use of the Ars Magus. It was unnecessary when Noel wasn't even Noel.

With Astrid finding herself unable to shield her from the assault, the NOL member does not move from her earthen prison. Much like a gunner in a trench, the weaponry, unfed by physical objects, continues unabated. Limbs pull free from the shaking of the weapon, loosening her entrapment. Legs press backwards, the gun shaking Noel loose from her prison, the Bolverk controlled woman managing to inch her way out.

"Negative. Weapon classification, Nox Nyctores Bolverk."

A necessary response. It was unimportant if she even died. The weapon chooses its owner, for it is so much more than the wielder.

A dark orb of iron is grasped before it is tossed towards the rocks and towards Noel. The dwarf would find the explosion fitting. Yet the limb of the woman, already wounded, already twisted, partially broken, is wrenched outwards from the trap that had caught her, like a cockroach losing a leg.

"Type V - " Words that were swallowed by the explosion. Astrid would not be alone behind that stone column, the NOL Lieutenant almost appearing before the dwarf. One step leads into a shoulder charge towards Astrid. She flashes, Bolverk twisting out to swing and slam towards the dwarf, flashing brief blue energy.

Impact or not, Noel would appear on the opposite side moments later, flashing out with a kick. A step that lead her from one side to the other.

A shame that Noel is so very droll to write personality-wise in combat. Reactions to Astrid would be far more interesting otherwise.

COMBATSYS: Astrid endures Noel's Type V - Assault Through.

[                   \\\\\\\\\\\  < >  /////////                     ]
Noel             0/-------/-======|>>>>>>>\>>>>>>>\2           Astrid

It is quite a surprise for Astrid to find her foe behind the pillar as she runs for cover from the thunderous explosion of the mining charge. She'd expected that to be enough to finish the girl off or at the very least bury her in rubble long enough to make a quick getaway. Instead, she runs head-first into Noel's surprise attack, quite literally, which is what saves the dwarf from being completely overwhelmed.

Bolverk clonks against the hard surface of the black metal helmet with a resounding clang that rattles Astrid's teeth. Most people would recoil from such a blow but dwarves are made of hardier stuff. Ignoring the ringing in her ears, the tiny woman hunches down and weathers the brief flurry stoically, waiting for an opportunity of her own.

"That is quite enough of that!"

As Noel comes in for another kick, her angry foe turns and steps forward, driving her shoulder towards her midsection to stop her momentum. With the same motion she swings the massive hammer around, finally bringing her great weapon itself to bear upon the annoying soldier once again. The air whooshes as short but powerful arms slam the giant hammer at the human's side with all of her might, Astrid no longer inclined to play nice.

COMBATSYS: Noel blocks Astrid's Unbreakable.

[                      \\\\\\\\  < >  /////////                     ]
Noel             1/-------/=======|>>>>>>-\-------\0           Astrid

Astrid runs directly into the assault.

Not the epitome of efficiency, the woman still manages to slam against the dwarf as she clonks, perhaps less harmlessly than before, against the frame of the smaller woman. The dwarf seems to weather the assault well. It is an observation that is made. An observation that is short lived, as the tiny woman hunches down.

Before she rises up. Stepping forwards, Astrid moves into the blow, Noel's momentum caught short to stare upon Astrid, eyes dull and lifeless ringed in green iris' - solid instead of the normal color, shape, and state that humans normally have.

They stare down at Astrid, frozen in that moment. Eyes gazing down to take in the momentary data that is present between the two of them. The woman swings the hammer around - aiming to slam the hammer into her side, to remove her. To destroy her.

It is not the first time. It is not the last. Noel reacts as every living being does to such acts, with resistance. A hand rises upwards with less practiced knowledge and more industrial precision. A glyph surges with momentary force between the two, unable to stop the assault as it slams into her side, sending Noel skidding backwards on her feet, leaving a trail of two streaks across the cavern surface.

Three if you count the blood that has broken through the skin, the bruise clearly becoming more as the glyph only manages to dampen the assault. It does not prevent impact, though it tries. It does not hinder the effects of stone and metal on flesh.

That Noel is human is clear only as she falls to a knee, growing close to the edge of normal human limitations that she has surpassed two or three direct strikes ago. Even in the worst conditions, Noel, a waif of a woman, has not stopped buzzing around.

A fly that has been swatted over and over again shows signs of weakness as the blood stains the side of the outfit, however limited in nature. Numb, as her body becomes, is irrelavant. Warnings of pain to her form are simply numerical in nature.

The foot plants again, potentially twisted, or broken, as weight once more rests on it.

The girl still sleeps within.


"Zero Gun - Thor. Engage."

Hands slam together before Astrid, Bolverk once more twisting, churning, aiming down towards the dwarven woman. The woman kneels once more. It is not due to pain, a rocket launcher held in her hands, aimed downwards between the two of them. And fires. The missile, a colorful decoration adorning it of a mouth and eyes, flies forwards to detonate between the two of them - far closer to Astrid than herself.

COMBATSYS: Astrid blocks Noel's Zero Gun - Thor.

[                     \\\\\\\\\  < >  /////////                     ]
Noel             0/-------/------=|>>>>>>>\-------\1           Astrid

"Bloody shale, girl. Whatever brand of crazy you have, it certainly makes you tough."

Astrid's expression shifts to one of genuine surprise as her hammer blow fails to pulp the brightly-colored soldier or atleast render her too injured to fight back. She's felt the bones break, seen the blood spilled. Whatever's holding her together must be doing it with wishes and prayers right now.

Unfortunately, while she's the far more durable of the two, Bolverk's raw destructive power exceeds her own. The magical assaults of the nox nyctores have taken their toll on Astrid and even her incredible dwarven toughness isn't going to last her much longer if things keep going this way. Her wounds are far more visible than Noel's, dozens of tiny cuts and angry bruises working together to turn her entire body into a knot of soreness and pain. All of the injuries seem centered on her torso, oddly the one spot on her that seems lacking in armor protection. Much as she'd love to tote around a full suit of platemail all the time, it just isn't practical, though it's times like this that make her reconsider.

"Oh what now?!"

Astrid's expression becomes a mixture of tight-lipped annoyance and wide-eyed concern when Bolverk reveals yet another of its various forms. Apparently even Outworld has rocket-launchers because recognition flashes in the little woman's eyes immediately, her face going slightly pale.

"Now that just isn't fair..."

Noel doesn't seem to care much, however. Infact, the human has been strangely quiet the entire time, save for the occassional one-word responses. She definately needs to work on her conversation skills. The massive RPG, however, speaks quite loud and clearly as to what it's all about, drowning out everything in noise and fire.

Astrid emerges from the cloud of smoke, her body now sporting several dark scorch marks in addition to the cuts and bruises. But, she's still standing, too stubborn to fall and too tenacious to give up. She grins at Noel fiercely, unwavering in the face of her emotionless assault despite her mounting injuries.

"Runnin outta tricks yet, girlie? I'm still rarin ta go!"

Heaving her weapon high overhead, Astrid takes a firm grip on the hammer and holds it aloft dramatically. She's much too far away from the soldier woman to strike at her with that thing, despite its absurd size, so what exactly she's planning doesn't become clear until after the fact. Letting out a bellow of challenge, the dwarf slams the head of her hammer into the floor of the cavern with a mighty crash.

The very walls shudder as the rock shatters apart, dozens of massive chunks of jagged stone erupting in all directions from the impact point. Most of the shrapnel is flung harmlessly to the sides, fist-sized shards smashing into pillars and stalagmites with a cacophany of cracks and crunches. However, the omni-directional nature of this attack means that Noel too will find herself being bombarded by a veritable storm of flying rocks.

COMBATSYS: Noel dodges Astrid's Avalanche.

[                     \\\\\\\\\  < >  ////////                      ]
Noel             0/-------/------=|===----\-------\0           Astrid

"I am not crazy." Noel repeats, voice not monotone, wavering, faltering. Yet it is because of just how much she is pushing herself. A being of flesh and bone that doesn't care for it's own preservation. It is likely that Noel only needs a few powerful blows to threaten her - but it needs one strong enough to, as well, keep her down.

Yet the single strong blows, even if they were the 'weaker' of those in Astrid's arsenal, had nearly pulped Noel initially. If anything stronger had struck her directly on, she would have been pulp - it is likely that such things still yet may happen. Compared to Astrid, weathering through such assaults, the waif still falters slowly and surely.

The rocket launcher fired - shooting the tip outwards, Noel tilting, tottering backwards from the force. Her legs catch herself from faltering all the way onto her rear, yet they catch themselves barely. Bolverk twists and turns, white barrels reconfiguring after a moment, held once more to her sides.

"Mission complete... beginning reti-.." Yet Astrid emerges, "No, it isn't after all..." Noel falls back into a stance - Astrid striding through, grinning, angry. It's clear that she would give it everything that she still had.

"..." No response. A likely affirmative answer to the dwarf, who keeps pushing forwards. The weapon is raised upwards, Noel moving already. Feet hit the ground of the cave, thundering as she moves towards Astrid, a direct movement to try and interrupt such an assault. She was swinging... in-front of her?

The woman's legs kick against the ground, throwing her to the side of the assault. A small bit of rock strikes her. Then another. A third. She glances around, turning her head upon the damage, the destruction, the potential for death.

There's no way out. Chunks of stone erupt all around, some smashing above, to fall below. Others crash towards her directly. There's too much. "No escape..." Noel answers, eyes closing as guns hang to her side.

It should end with Noel being crushed. The waifish woman struck, impaled, dashed against the rocks in a violent end to the bitter struggle. Eyes flash open to reveal something more. The green gives way to blue. A dark azure that only widens as the woman is set upon. A stalagmite erupts beneath her, but only after he legs have left the ground, kicking off as a hand is held upwards to summon a momentary glyph, stronger than that she had ever produced before - holding the rocks at bay above before they crash to the ground. Her frame twists mid-air, twirling to kick off the ceiling and slide down an emerging chunk of rock, skidding across it and leaping just as another eruption tears through the ground beneath her.

As if those blue eyes can see what is to happen reacting to what has not even yet formed. No other explanations are possible for her to avoid such an assault, Astrid having Noel in a veritable checkmate moments ago.

The final leap carries her towards the dwarf, hands swing outwards, flinging both barrels of Bolverk towards the dwarf, throwing them at her. They spin, twisting around as she strikes in unison, a foot slamming towards that wounded midsection like a piston, before she grabs the spiraling weapons out of the air and twists them around to fire once more in mechanically perfect unison in close.

Before she staggers backwards, green eyes washing away the Azure from her gaze, causing her to falter to an exhausted pile before the dwarf.

COMBATSYS: Astrid Toughs Out Noel's Chain Revolver!

[                      \\\\\\\\  < >  //////                        ]
Noel             0/-------/-----==|=====--\-------\0           Astrid

"By Dakri's eternal beard, would you just hold still!"

Noel's bag of tricks seems to be a lot more full than the dwarf had anticipated. Time after time, she manages to escape what should be certain defeat at the last moment. Either she has a god or two watching out for her or more luck any one person has any reasonable claim to. Whatever the case might be, she's managed to slip through the jaws of destruction by a hair yet again leaving Astrid in something of a bind.

The acrobatic manuevering of her opponent leaves little room for proper defense, Noel's speed and her own fatigue combining to create a rather unpleasant situation. She has no intention of giving up now, though. It's down to a contest of endurance now and she's pretty sure this human will be the first one to falter.

Planting her feet and bracing herself for the coming pain, Astrid roots herself in place rather than flee. She makes no move to defend against the twirling gun-arangs, grunting as she simply allows the weapons to strike her body. It hurts but it isn't enough to drop her, not yet. The flying kick lands squarely against her chest, digging into the hardened muscles. The impact forces her backwards a couple of inches but her feet never leave the ground, the metallic soles of her boots kicking up shrieking sparks as she skids.

The twin blasts from the hellish guns tear into the stubborn woman at point-blank but it is already too late to stop what has been set in motion. Astrid's mighty hammer swings around as she takes a single step forward, defiantly walking into the magical explosions so that she might land a telling blow on her frustrating harasser. Her anger bellows forth in a drawn-out warcry, fury, pain, and determination mixing together as she shouts. Shimmering runes flare to life as the inner fire of the weapon blazes with renewed fury, dozens of the small magical marks lighting up along its exterior like a Christmas tree.

COMBATSYS: Astrid keeps on fighting!

[                      \\\\\\\\  < >  //////                        ]
Noel             0/-------/-----==|=====--\-------\0           Astrid

COMBATSYS: Noel blocks Astrid's Grudge-Born Fury ES.

[                         \\\\\  < >  //////                        ]
Noel             0/-------/---====|=======\-------\0           Astrid

Staggering backwards, faltering after the sudden eruption of energy, Noel fails to do little more than stand at attention after the assault. The dwarf may finally be down, the woman suspects. Silently, Bolverk retains control, humming. They had walked out of worse already.

Once more, from the earth, the dwarf rises. Silent acceptance from the woman turns into labored movement. Limbs that were already numb, pushed beyond human measure, fight to bring Noel up and keep her so. The dwarven woman manages to make her stand. To stay before her and weather the assault that Noel now finds herself struggling to stand before.

The swinging hammer turns towards Noel once more. Eyes tell of the pain a direct assault would cause. But it isn't her eyes that throb with pain in remembrance. An additional request to prevent the assault. Avoidance may be difficult.

Another glyph, hastily created, rises upwards. The energy of the hammer once more swings down with Astrid's fury behind it. Noel pushes herself into a position to retreat as the barrier is raised. She would skid, potentially - she needed to, or she would be crushed flat.

The intention, made as it was, rattles Noel's bones and shakes her body. Fleeting moments from earlier acts of battle gave her enough breathing room to stand once more - but not before her body weathers another horrific strike. The glyph doesn't cause her to skid - it flat out cracks upon the assault. The dampening fails, but only after Noel is sent sprawling from the impact. Rolling to a stop on the ground, it is on a knee and a hand that the woman, ragged hair and twirls of her uniform about her, plant her hands to the ground on both sides of her knee.

"Too close..." She claims. Slowly, humanity begins to seep into her eyes. Green, slumbering eyes, half lidding to normal, waking ones before reverting. "What is ... going ...?" She wonders out loud as she nearly collapses before Astrid, wide eyes of wonder once more blanking out into a dull stare at Astrid. "...To complete the mission."

Like a runner's start, Noel is on hands and knee, and foot - and from that position she dashes forwards into a flat run towards Astrid. Bolverk swings forwards, a few shots firing at Astrid as she closes the gap.

They all miss.

She flips with the last of her energy, through the air. Moving to clasp the helmet once more - but not to move the dwarf. She swings down, left knee raised to slam into that torso once again. A single minded plan, before she kicks off the ground with her right, twisting the helmet and possibly her head somewhat, before kicking off Astrid and away.

COMBATSYS: Noel successfully hits Astrid with Type VIII - Return Fire.

[                         \\\\\  < >  ///                           ]
Noel             0/-------/--=====|=======\=------\1           Astrid

Again, Astrid reveals the surprising depths of the power contained within her tiny body. Some of that is no doubt attributable to the strange glowing runes on the massive hammer but even being able to wield such an enormous weapon is testament to her strength. Combined together, they are force to be reckoned with, as Noel once more learns as her hasty shield clashes with the titanic impact.

Though the blow was not clean, seeing the skinny human get sent flying like a tumbleweed is enough to bring a grin to the dwarf's face. She staggers a moment later, the effort of exerting herself so forcefully becoming troublesome with the injuries she's sustained. Whatever is powering those strange guns it seems to be sapping her endurance bit by bit. Under normal circumstances, her body would break long before her stamina gives out. She's simply too stubborn to let something like a little fatigue slow her down and this brief altercation shouldn't have been anything remotely close to stressful enough to wear her down so badly.

Unfortunately, the brief window of lucidity that had opened up on Noel's mind slams shut just as quickly. Looks like she'd still be wasting her time with talk. It's time for a daring escape instead. Running away isn't particularly glorious but it's a necessary part of survival and she's not interested in dying a hero's death out here in some strange land where no one will ever hear of it.

The hammer comes up again in a defensive posture as Noel rushes her, though it offers little protection against the raging blasts of Bolverk. Strangely, none of them manage to find their mark, peppering the area around her rather than striking directly. A feint? Some attempt to keep her from running? Or merely a result of the injuries she'd inflicted on the girl? The answer is largely irrelevant for though her aim is wild, the human's kicks are accurate enough to slip past the tired dwarf's guard.

Astrid exhales a sharp breath as the knee rams into her gut, hard muscle straining as it clashes with the boney bludgeon. It isn't quite enough to do her in on its own, but the rapid twist of her head that follows is enough to send a jolt of lightning down her spine that robs her of most of her remaining stamina.

She collapses to one knee, teeth grit against the pain of a wrenched neck. Compounded on top of her other wounds the interest is simply too high for her to sustain any longer. Leaning heavily on the shaft of her weapon, Astrid reaches for her satchel and draws out another bomb, lighting the fuse with a flick of her thumb.

"Hope ya know how ta dig, lass...!"

Drawing deep on her inner reserves, Astrid pushes back to her feet, turning to hurl the explosive at the roof of the cavern. She doesn't bother looking back to see if the girl gives chase, she simply runs. The large rucksack that sits by the fire is snagged and slipped over a shoulder as she scampers for the cave's exit, her journal and a few other crucial supplies being contained within. The dwarf also grabs one of the freshly cooked boar's legs, ripping the limb from the body with a single bone-cracking yank as she zips past without even stopping.

Overhead, the bomb sails up towards the high ceiling, her powerful pitch sending it all the way to the top. It detonates in a blossom of angry red flame and concussive sound, shattering the stone with its fury. The entire cavern begins to rumble angrily in response, dozens of the hanging spikes of stone breaking free along side man-sized boulders as the entire thing threatens to come down on their heads.

COMBATSYS: Astrid can no longer fight.

[                         \\\\\  <
Noel             0/-------/--=====|

COMBATSYS: Astrid successfully hits Noel with Blasting Charge.

[                                <
Noel             1/------=/=======|

The statement is not understood by Noel. To dig? A brief moment of confusion that is made more clear when the bomb, lit as it is, is thrown upwards. Astrid has enough energy to pull herself away. The woman raises Bolverk to the ceiling, firing at the weapon - or at least, she considers it.

The explosion occurs before her decision to do so is made. The guns snap out, but then explosion occurs before the triggers are pulled.

The wounded Noel turns tail as she moves to escape the sudden avalanche that begins to bear down upon her.

Except the wounded limb that she had rested her weight upon finally gives way. While it does not snap, it leaves Noel tumbling to a stop as the dozens of hanging spikes of stone breaks free, man-sized boulders coming down towards both of them.

Bolverk brings a calm over the woman as the inevitable is stared upon. Massive boulders and sharp spikes of stone raining down towards her.

Hands claw the ground, pulling her forwards as the single leg that can do so kicks off. A boulder slamming too close to her, a stalagmite cracking the ground right nearby. Chunks of rock pelt into her as she moves - and then it all ends under a thick dust of earth that shrouds any more.

A hand pulls itself out, clawing from the earth and managing to slip herself free of the collapsed tunnel, or section, as she finally loses the battle to keep going - hand falling to the ground in exhaustion, body sliding free of the remnants of the battle.

A bed of rock, a blanket to sleep in, as wounds and the weight of the earth beckons her to sleep.

COMBATSYS: Noel takes no action.

COMBATSYS: Noel can no longer fight.

Log created on 22:54:47 04/28/2018 by Astrid, and last modified on 00:31:01 04/30/2018.