Protectors of the Crystals, a Final Fantasy RP (Dead)

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With the Elezen covering her somewhat, Lilianna jerked free of the body. She reached around to try and pull the arrow out, but it managed to get her right where she could just barely brush the arrow shaft. Her brow furrowed, and instead she started healing the cut under her arm. Sometimes she wished could cast Cure more often, but closing the cut would have to work. She'd fight with the arrow in her back for now, breaking it off against the wall in order to prevent anyone from pushing it in too much further. OK, concentrate.

The Elezen had his hands full enough with the ranger, so she found herself another enemy. They were endless, but at least it was manageable so far. As she picked up her weapon, she noticed am odd piece of fire sticking out of her neck. Was never good at throwing knives she mused, plucking it out of the gria.

What the hell is going on here?

The battle was weird enough. The magic essence of the room made spells go haywire around him and it was difficult to get any kind of momentum going with his shots. Rowen had remained somewhat perched on the stairs they had entered in to try and stay out of sight of some of the brutish bashers that usually come into fights such as this one, but it did limit his effectiveness. Why did we have to be going at it in a tower? It's like trying to fight in a gods damned basement! Least I can take solace in knowing I was right. Once the reprieve in shouts indicated the battle on the floor was over, he walked into the room, only to be treated to a light show.

"My life for the Empire! Vae Victis!"

As the white mage committed the most bizarre suicide that he had witnessed or could even care to imagine, the shock and horror that should have been prevalent in Rowen's actions could not be found. All he deigned to do was shake his head. What a stupid woman. Sacrificing herself like that for no good reason except to leave a charred corpse instead of an intact one. Such a shame. She wasn't a bad piece of ass either.

There was no real time to comprehend what had just happened. No efforts could be made to decipher the meaning of the words she shouted, of the Empire she spoke of, or what had compelled her to do such a foolish thing. No, there was no time because the bird brain from the ship had decided to run off down the tower. As the party followed after the self-destructive fighter, Rowen stared up at the ceiling for a moment. "The least she could have done was taken that bastard with her," he griped as he moved down behind the group.

As the party seemed to disperse into the makeshift arena, Rowen was still left wanting for a prime spot from which to fire. The open spaces of the aerial fight on the airship seemed so long ago with these narrow corridors. Still he could spot some of the action. The horny girl was in a battle with a swordsman that she won via an assist from ears, before he was stuck fighting...a ranger? It had to be from the bow on his back, but he had taken to trying to stab Ears? Oh that was not going to fly.

Dumbass. I'll make you pay for forgetting your damn job. Rowen moved down into a position where he could Sharp Shoot successfully and got a clear shot of the opposing Ranger's feeble attempt at melee combat. Smile sucker. A quick burst of fire from his revolvers ended any notion of a knife fight as the ranger collapsed near Ears' feet. Teach you to be sorry enough to get yourself caught like that. Now who's next? Rowen stuck to the walls as closely as possible, looking for another opportunity to pick off a fighter who needed to learn their place.

Nr. i

The room with the moogle so far was the only incident so far for the Black Mage. Each room seemed cleared out, which was good but at the same time bad; he had hoped they would have more provisions stashed away somewhere, but he found very little. The one potion he found on the Moogle had been the only thing of use. It however did make progress down the tower a tad quicker than he had posited, and soon found himself up to where the vanguard was situated.

He saw the Gria knight scuffling with another Gria, while the Yuke was still out ahead. To his surprise a good portion of the gathering was focused on the foe. This foe would easily be dispatched with a use of a spell, but with so many allies together made such an approach costly. Besides, further ahead he saw a group of foes - four dragoons and a black mage with a suspiciously missing hat - approaching to the party. With them so far away the Black Mage drew his rod out and slung a jolt of lightning. Half of the dragoons were on their last legs while the other half were twitching and convulsing in pain; the black mage was in better condition than the other two for being more resilient to magic, while he was pushed back by the sheer discharge in his own spell.

The Black Mage was still standing, but was still staggered by the lightning spell. It was enough time for one of the dragoons to approach with spears pointed at him, too close to loose another spell. By the skin of his teeth, the Black Mage dodged the spearpoint, but found his body scorched by some pyre that came from nowhere. His eyes flickered to the hatless mage and noticed a Viera white mage by his side; the hatless foe looked like he had been subject to being thrown into a pyre. Then it dawned on the Black Mage.

The dragoon turned face and resumed his attack, forcing the Black Mage to keep turn around and run. On the positive side, the other dragoons were still reeling leaving the two mages open; meanwhile simple spells would not do any damage to either, and there was still the fourth dragoon bearing down on him. Reluctantly, he drew the sword he took from the fallen Viera and went forth. The cold metal grip felt alien, heavy, and inelegant to him; he was taught practical uses with the knife, but not to use it - or any other thing like a weapon. But he would make do.

He raised his sword to slash at the mages, and found the weight to be off-putting. Despite the weight, the slash hit true and both foes took damage. That small victory was mitigated however as the white mage cast healing magic to herself and the hatless foe. And the Black Mage.

He slashed at them again and again with new vigor, clumsily striking at both mages until finally piercing the white mage through the neck; her body fell limp and her face stretched with terror as blood seeped from the wound. The hatless one did not take the news well, and grabbed his staff for a spell. The Black Mage could not strike on time before he found the foe and himself smoldering in flames.

Yuria followed after the others down the stairs, sword at the ready. She jumped off the staircase down onto the floor, right next to two mages who were startled to see her appear like that near them, but didn't have the reaction time to dodge her sword when she swung it at them, slicing their necks. A viking charged at her with an axe and she was lucky enough to dodge it before plunging her sword in his leg, bringing him down on his knees, but still able to swing his axe towards her. She used her sword to block it, then pushed the axe away before stabbing him in the head, which stopped him.

With the viking out of the way, Yuria looked around for her other party members. She wasn't quite sure how to react to what she saw. The Black Mage from earlier who kept casting Blizzard and putting himself in an ice cage was now engulfed in flames, with another person in flames beside him. Whatever she thought, she needed to react, fast. Casting spells was unpredictable, but she didn't have any other way to help him other than cast Water. When she cast it on him, it created more water than she wanted and flooded a little down the stairs after it put the two Black Mages out.

There was a dragoon heading for the two of them, and Yuria figured he wouldn't be friendly towards the one she was allied with, so she struck towards him, and he jumped back. He would be a bit harder to fight as she wasn't used to armored foes, but she had to take him on. She struck towards him again, and he deflected her blade with his spear. He almost stabbed her with it, but she mostly managed to dodge it apart from him scraping her side, but she was unhurt thanks to her chainmail. His stabbing gave her an opening she needed, thrusting her blade into an opening in the armor on his arm. He quickly retracted his arm to him, and went for a swing with his spear instead of a stab, again hitting her, but she was mostly unhurt thanks to her chainmail. She thrust forward, and he dodged it again. This wasn't going anywhere, she thought. She was nowhere nearly armored enough to really take much risk, so she could only take careful stabs and swings at him with her sword. She would need to use the same strategy she used against the Red Mage earlier, just a little different.

Yuria prepared a Thunder spell, moving in close to him to strike him, striking herself and any enemy close to them as well with it. The spell hurt, especially because of her armor, but she shook it off and stabbed the now stunned Dragoon through his face, finishing him off. She'd have to be more careful, though, because she wasn't good enough to take on any more armored enemies. She returned back to the Black Mage. "Are you alright?" she asked him. "You were kind of in flames there."

Nr. i

One moment he was burning to a crisp, the next he was utterly smothered in water. The force of the water was enough to shove both the Black Mage and the hatless mage. All sense of bearing was lost for a while until the water receded below. He found himself on the floor coughing up water that got into his lungs. When he could breathe easily again, he saw his mask - cracked and damaged - was staring right at him. The Black Mage immediately grabbed it and stuck it back on his face, making sure it did not fall off again.

He gazed to his right and saw the hatless mage, drowned and lifeless. His gaze went to his shoes and took them to replace the set that was almost certainly destroyed; one shoe was already abandoned a while back and the other looked like it was going to ooze off his foot at any moment. Compared to the others, the new shoes were a loose fit, but like his new hat they will have to do for now.

He looked to his right and noticed a red mage, probably one of the friendlies if his memory back at the airship was accurate. If the Black Mage had an educated guess, he would assume she was responsible for the deluge.

"Thank you for the help." The Fat Bird spoke, his gaze returning to the way forward. He saw the Viera's sword strewn on the ground, but chose to pay no heed to it; that clunky strip of metal was too unwieldy for him. "As long as this job gets finished, I will manage."

His hand reached into his robes for the rod, and resumed his pace forward. "Come! There are still more foes to eliminate."

Mira drove her halberd into the neck of her opponent, the man, a wretched fellow clad in rags carrying a rusted sword, collapsing to the floor. "Hold, Mage." She took a breath. "Look ahead." She pointed down the corridor, what looked to be a living space ahead, the area lit by torches and far wider than the narrow passageways.

"We move together. Mira, Dagon, and myself in the front, the rest of you behind us. We're better than these, but we have to be a team." She geabbed the helmet of the dead Dragoon and wrenched it off. "It's what I feared." She sighed and closed the dead man's eyes - he was middle aged, his dark hair streaked gray and his dark skin marked with scars. "Captain Darius Kale of the Angelspear. His ship vanished on patrol two years ago. Whatever evil is at work here is not new."

With that she took the lead and stepped down into the living space, revealing itself to be a small diming hall, rather haphazardly put together. A single person was there, clad in simple gray robes. As they entered he held his hands out, showing himself to be unarmed. "So, you are the ragtag band who wiped out the maintenance crews. Be at ease, I offer no violence. Welcome to the Storm Pillar."

As the party moved down the corridor, in formation for once, Rowen kept his guns at the ready. There was no telling what a place like this with enemies seemingly teeming in the foundation would hold in store. As they moved down the hallway, the pressure was abating at least, setting the tone for what should be a huge final battle. It was almost anti-climatic that it was just a man standing there in a robe.

"So, you are the ragtag band who wiped out the maintenance crews. Be at ease, I offer no violence. Welcome to the Storm Pillar."

"Really?" Rowen grumbled from the back. "I never knew any janitors that needed to be equipped for battle just to sweep out the halls. Or committed suicide if the floors had a smudge on them. Seems a bit over the top."

Dagon had gotten into formation, but remained silent as Mira observed the Dragoon helmet. The nature of the discovery caught his interest, and he had some questions to ask, but those would have to be directed at the latest person standing in their way.

"So, you are the ragtag band who wiped out the maintenance crews. Be at ease, I offer no violence. Welcome to the Storm Pillar."

"Your offer rings hollow when your activities bring harm to the very WORLD. But there are things that must be known, and Dagon Seth shall have answers! What foul magic have you cast upon these folks to drive them to such madness? The things you have used on both man and monster show their behavior is not rational. Was it hypnosis? Illusion? Or mayhap these beings have already met their fate and you DARE use necromancy." He seemed to get angrier with each suggestion, but calmed himself. "You had best answer quickly..." he said, clenching his fists.

Nr. i

He kept behind the vanguard as Mira had ordered, but his hand was still in his robes clutching his rod in case another enemy showed itself before the party. The data became empty air for him with no context to what this Captain had to do with this job. He chalked up Mira's discovery as something akin to sentimentality and continued when the rest was out in front, noting that the sheer amount of mana in the air was thinning.

The violent hum grew quieter until the Black Mage could barely register it. His head felt like it was emptying out like wine from a cask, and his limbs stopped twitching. Gradually his stance relaxed as he filed into this new area, his original directive still stored in his memory. Strangely he still detected something very off in this tower; the hum diminished along with the mana density but something still registered in his body that was not his own. It felt regular like a heartbeat, but alien from his own system. Compared to the prior facility which seemed akin to a harvesting or production facility, this are belied something functional, like a nerve center to the tower. The Black Mage considered that any damage done here could damage the other facilities. But for the time being there was this interloper that stood to greet them.

The Black Mage said nothing but stared at the robed figure through his mask. He saw a man whose youth was draining away from him. The figure was taller and lankier than the average human, but apart from that nothing really stood out. Whomever this person was or his purpose in this tower, he assumed the figure to know more about the tower and its function. He hand was still on the rod in case this mystery person chose to betray the hospitality he presented. Then again with the sentiments displayed by a portion of the party that looked eager to fight him, he posited that this sentiment would vanish soon. Mira's order to not escalate the situation echoed in his head.

"Just don't set yourself on fire again. Or encase yourself in ice again..." Yuria said quietly to herself as she was about to follow the birdmasked Black Mage, but then Mira told them to move together, and went ahead with the Yuke monk and Gria knight. The space down there was indeed wider than they'd been moving through upstairs. And when she thought about it in the silence, she couldn't hear the slight buzz she'd heard upstairs. The mana here wasn't as dense, or almost not there at all.

They were greeted by a robed man who at first sight seemed unarmed. He didn't seem like anything special, just there to greet them for whatever reason. It seemed like some of the others had questions for him. "If you offer no violence, then why did we just have to face a multitude of people who were hellbent on stopping us? Assuming you're the one or at least one of the ones responsible for their state." She wasn't about to let go of her sword, which was unsheathed, but kept down by her side so she wouldn't accidentally stab her team members with it.

The man listened to the cavalcade of threats and questions with an expression that was little more than intellectual curiosity. Dagon Seth seemed to interest him most at first. "This structure does tap into the elemental forces, what I believe the scholars of Halvor refer as the Lifestream, but the idea that it harms the world is preposterous, Is the river harmed by the waterwheel? Does the forge give offense to fire? But enough of that. You seem curious about my soldiers. Allow me to explain - the devices on their necks are the exposed portion of a simple device that renders them pliable to those they are attuned to. More efficient and ethical than prisons and camps." At their reactions he scoffed. "You can hardly pretend moral outrage at this. Do you think the Magitek Research of your own people is a bastion of pure and sinless science? You are simply far behind." The man peered at the Fat Bird. " are learning quickly."

"Pardon my rudeness. I am Cristof. I must confess that while I recognize the armor of the Dragoon Knights and the Royal Guard I do not recognize any of you, but I am the caretaker, not the Observer."

Roderic was only a little relieved when the Ranger who had thought to try and stab him fell to the ground, with the guns that a sharpshooter had put into the man. He smiled, largely because it meant he wouldn't have to keep getting this close, and also because he could admire a fine aim. After the area had been relatively cleared out, it seemed mage-warrior was going to go forward...until stopped by the fine captain. Seems they might actually be trying to do this in some organized method. Of course, he was pleased as everyone else began to move forward, as he had an opportunity to collect his knives.

During which, he discovered one of his knives missing. Annoyingly, the one he actually would mind not having. Which meant that someone had collected it while he had been a little bit busy. It was quite the nice weapon to lose, but he should have assumed that was going to happen when you try to help people. With a sigh, he asked one of the corpses as he collected what he pleased...and did another investigation of his own. More of those odd metal things, and....some personal effects. Normally he wouldn't bother with such things, but some of them were identifiable, down to almost the very city that they came from. With a small sigh, he took a few of the smaller trinkets, a picture here, a ring and a note there...It would be the best he could do.

With more supplies than he typically would carry about, and more ordinary knives that almost made him wish he could just have some time to properly distribute them around, as he had more than he typically would around his chest, some up his sleeves, and just generally around him. But, it would do for now, and would especially be handy for the amount of foes he had encountered. Especially if he wouldn't have a chance to collect more in the future.

As he came up from behind, he noted that they had been greeted by the grounds keeper. Cristof, apparently, and Roderic wouldn't trust the man any farther than his limbs.

"Greetings, Cristof. While you may indeed recognize some of us, we do not recognize your tower, or what it is you are taking care of. Is there further purpose to it than sending out flying monsters to assault nearby passer-bys? Or are you running something along with 'caring' for the tower?"

Roderic didn't much care for the man, and halfway tempted to just kill him just so he wouldn't be spreading nonsense, but that might be his annoyance at the combat. Chances are he might say something halfway useful, and Roderic let it go...for now.

The man's answer didn't really register with Dagon. While he knew about the Lifestream due to his studies as a child, he stopped learning about the arcane decades ago, so he had no idea if his explanations of the mechanics were actually accurate. Maybe it was harmless, maybe it wasn't. But there were some things he understood perfectly well.

His voice was clearly agitated "Such foul magic to force people to do these things could not be permitted. I doubt all these people are criminals deserving of imprisonment. More likely captives you are using for your FIENDISH purposes! Be grateful that they still draw breath, or you would not be..."

Finally, he heard Cristof introduce himself. "Well, you do not know of the GLORIOUS MAJESTY of DAGON SETH yet, but those who dare threaten the crystals shall ALWAYS remember his name... if they SURVIVE his wrath. None have, yet." Admittedly, Dagon had never actually run into a person who specifically threatened the crystals, but it was still technically true. "Now you clearly know your situation. Take us to the one in charge now."

Nr. i

More words were spoken by this... Cristof. There was not much need to focus on the subject spoken; thinking was the only thing to distract him from the sensation that was cracking his head open back in this 'Storm Pillar' as the man called it. But at this point he was content to let a lot of the comments wash over. He was here to eradicate the enemies in this tower, not whatever this Cristof thinks they are here for. After this job he was to head back to the facilities, and after this the Black Mage would be in good need to return. Losing articles of clothing, not to mention other types of damage and side effects from the mana oversaturation.

It was at this tangent that he accounted for his own person. His mask was irredeemably scorched and scarred from the fire spells; the paint and red feathers were all but removed. Holes and gashes dotted across his many robes along with scorch marks where the chocobo feather lining peeked out; silk embroideries were damaged and strings were hanging loosely against his leather robe. The hat he recently acquired had a hole at the side from the pyroclasm that one mage loosed; the gloves had lost their finger sleeves exposing his fingers to the cold air, making him keep his free hand in a pocket. Then there was the Black Mage's personal health; it could not have have held well having expunged so much magic and repeatedly get himself damaged and stitched back to snuff. This job had proven more dangerous than he had posited. He would not make that assumption again for the next job.

His gaze never left Cristof, still trained for any danger or surprise the figure would throw their way. His rod still ready and concealed in his robes.

"We seek certain malcontents in this structure." The Fat Bird finally spoke up. If this man was not going to get in their way, then perhaps he could be of help to their job.

Gerhard continued on with the party further into the tower after the last room of fighters had been cleared. Their Hero, Mira, tore off the helm of one of the Dragoons that had fallen and revealed that she knew him.

"If they captured one ship for their use, who knows how many they may have..."

They all followed Mira down another flight of stone steps together but Gerhard noticed the atmosphere of the tower changing. The highly charged mana in the air felt like it was thinning out considerably with every step. This suited him just fine as he felt the sensation of his own reserve of magic reach its zenith. He was ready for action and the tower was conveniently making casting less of a suicidal prospect.

Finally, I'm tired of being a useless third wheel. Let's be done with this place.

They came into a living quarters of sorts and a tall and unarmed man stepped into the light of a firepit.

"So, you are the ragtag band who wiped out the maintenance crews. Be at ease, I offer no violence."

No violence? Yeah right.

Gerhard studied the strange man. He could feel nothing magical in the room aside the pulsing of the tower at his feet. Whoever he was, he certainly wasn't the architect of what was controlling the tower. The man simply had no magical charge of any sort. He waited in silence as the others blustered threats at him or questioned his purpose. He kept a careful eye on their surroundings. This was so clearly a trap of some sort and Gerhard had no interest in being another number in the Kingdom's "Missing in Action" report.

"This structure does tap into the elemental forces, what I believe the scholars of Halvor refer as the Lifestream, but the idea that it harms the world is preposterous.

"It's not the elements or the towers themselves that represent danger to our world, its the ones who would use them. We meddle too much in the affairs of nature as is, the wars of the past of shown this to be true. Drawing from the source directly, for whatever purpose, is what casts the shadow over us." said Gerhard, speaking up when the man started to talk about the towers.

The man ignored Gerhard however, preferring to go into an explanation of the devices on the men and women they had just fought. What caught Gerhard's attention was the man's interest in Engbyr.

Magitek research...?

"Pardon my rudeness. I am Cristof. I must confess that while I recognize the armor of the Dragoon Knights and the Royal Guard I do not recognize any of you, but I am the caretaker, not the Observer."

"And why would any of us reveal our names to you, our ene-"

"Well, you do not know of the GLORIOUS MAJESTY of DAGON SETH yet, but those who dare threaten the crystals shall ALWAYS remember his name... if they SURVIVE his wrath. None have, yet."

"BY THE GODS! Do you have no idea what self preservation is? We don't know what this man can do, what agents he may have out in the land. Why don't you tell him where you live while you're at it?" shouted Gerhard in exasperation. Dagon may serve a purpose in a fight but he was beyond useless here.

Then, to his dismay, Engbyr went and said something stupid as well.

"We seek certain malcontents in this structure."

Gerhard put his hand to his face and shook his head.

"He just admitted they were his soldiers..." he muttered.

Only Roderic and their Red Mage truly seemed to be the voice of intelligence amongst them.

These people WILL get me killed. Beats alcohol poisoning... But still!

"BY THE GODS! Do you have no idea what self preservation is? We don't know what this man can do, what agents he may have out in the land. Why don't you tell him where you live while you're at it?"

Dagon heard the surly mage shout at him. Dagon didn't turn around, but he did address him. "We have him outnumbered 9 to 1. Even in the VERY unlikely event that he could defeat DIVINE FURY MADE FLESH, I SINCERELY doubt that he could take on a Dragoon Captain, her most loyal knight, 4 skilled mages of varying schools, the rude ranger back there and the nimble Elezen."

He moved into a position where he seemed ready to lunge at the man in front of him, ready to react in case the robed one would try and throw the first punch. "We've already made our way through dozens of his soldiers, and by his own admission, this Cristof is not the one in charge of this place. The sooner we can find the one responsible and end this threat, the better."

"You mistake me. I am not in command, and I will not fight you, but do not confuse that with fear of you. I have been freed of my fear, just as those above were freed of their will. You can no more compel action of me than you can disperse a hurricane by waving your arms. This war is already over, the protections of Halvor's crystals are all but gone. Allow me to show you something."

Cristof walked to a wall and caressed it gently, the stonework stirring and sliding aside as though it lived. He beckoned for them to follow him, leading onto a balcony over a massive shaft perhaps a hundred feet across and going down at least a thousand feet. The walls were a strange latticework of crystals that caught the dim light and amplified it. Within the nearest crystals they could see dim shapes.

"The monsters you faced, and the men you slew, they were the beginning. Test platforms for these, perfect soldiers imbued with the raw, primal force of the Earth's mana. Do you begin to understand the folly of resistance? This is merely the vanguard. Like your homes you have a simple choice." He fixed his gaze on Yuria. "Live and serve, or fight and die."

More efficient and ethical than prisons and camps? Making a person act against their will was most certainly not better than putting them in prisons or camps. At least there they had a chance at redeeming themselves if they truly regretted their actions. But this... This was not the way to do it. Yuria listened to him go on about Magitek Research before looking towards the birdmasked Black Mage. What does he mean with that? And why did he look at him when saying that? I'm probably looking too much into what he's saying. Though she couldn't help but feel there was something off about the Black Mage when Cristof said what he did.

She didn't dwell on it long, though, as some of her team members said more to him, clearly not liking what he had to say. Then as he continued talking, he went over to a wall, somehow making it open. As they followed him they were greeted with a magnificent sight. Until Yuria realized what was inside the crystals due to Cristof's next words. Her hand clenched tighter around her sword hilt once he was done talking.

"Like hell we will serve you! You think that we would just surrender ourselves to whoever you serve?! You threaten the Crystals, and for that I cannot forgive you! I will fight for my home. It's you who will die!" For once in her life, she was being reckless when she held her sword aloft as she charged towards Cristof, intent on cutting him down right there.

Lilianna shook her head before following the man down into the passage. If this was a trap, there was nothing she could do about it now. It still amazed her how dense some of this group was, particularly the monk. Apparently rushing in headfirst was an attribute not limited to battle.

At the bottom of the stairs, they were greeted by a most surreal sight. Thousands of crystals, each one incubating a dark shadow. She realized what they were a second before Cristof explained. Is even possible!? On the outside Lilianna didn't even flinch, on guard against any sudden moves, but her mind was racing given the new information. Halvor was already severely weakened, all they needed now was a full force invasion. They would never survive without the crystals. On one hand, she doubt that their plan was complete. What they had faced out there, sure, they were controlled well enough, but they also weren't living/reanimated vessels of potent energy. There was only so much a mortal could withstand, and to control that? On the other hand, they could win with sheer numbers, their army replenished with every town they conquered.

"Like your homes you have a simple choice. Live and serve, or fight and die."
He really must not have anything to lose with a bold statement like that. She gripped her mace and turned, swinging down and forcing the red mage's sword down and catching her with her free hand. Either he was goading them on, or he was finished being helpful. In case it was the first, she pushed the feline back. "You keep saying that you are not in command. Who is?" Since he seemed to be in the sharing mood, it wouldn't hurt to ask for more information. Lilianna kept her ears open, she doubt the mage was the only one with a mind to end this man's life.

Nr. i

The Black Mage's head tilted at Cristof's words. The man so far has been unhelpful in providing more information about their objective. The only thing he did was show some vast matrix of crystals. He could feel the sheer amount of mana from where he stood; his assumption that the facility was a production plant had been correct, but now came the question to what this plant was producing. If Cristof was to be believed then they must contain some kind of weapon array; missiles perhaps, explosives maybe, or perhaps a means to control the fiends and foes the party had encountered. It made more sense for this device to be mind control, on account of a munitions system was unsafe on an astronomical level.

First there was the sheer amount of mana the harvester was generating and presumably processing. The party had already encountered the oversaturation of mana and its effects on spellcraft, not to mention the degenerative effects of being exposed to it for too long. It was clear that no effort was made in safety warnings or precautions in the harvester; either that or such information was kept to the personnel. Regardless if an accident occurred the consequences would be cataclysmic.The builders would need to have designed not only the holding vessels, but the entire structure with failsafes to prevent such an outcome. And second the weapons were all packed closely together. Based on the first oversight, the damage one vessel would take would probably affect an area around it. This would be fine if there was one crystal vessel or all were sparsely stored, but compromising one vessel would cause a chain reaction, setting off all the entire weapons array. The effort this organization clearly made would be disintegrated if just one of those vessels suffered a catastrophe. Again, the results would be cataclysmic.

Of course all of this is supposition if these crystals were holding munitions of any kind; if this was the array that was responsible for mind-control then the whole tower would not be in such great danger.

The Black Mage turned his focus back to the dialogue and saw the red mage charge forth with a sword drawn. None of the others had joined in this sentiment yet. Assuming this to be insubordination, he chose to intervene, but found that the task had already been delegated.

"Will you take us to your superiors?" The Fat Bird asked,slowly pulling his rod out from the robes, but not yet out in the open. "It seems your assistance is unhelpful to us."

"Allow me to show you something."

Cristof walked up to a stone wall and after stroking its surface it opened up to reveal a passage. Gerhard watched as Mira and six of the others enter the new door. There was a hint of powerful magic coming from doorway and Gerhard didn't like this situation already.

Yeah, no.

"I guess I'll make sure its not just a ploy for time and watch our backs." he muttered to nobody in particular as they left.

He looked around at the makeshift living quarters and noticed Roderic had hung back as well.

"I wonder if our caretaker fellow has something to drink around here." he said sarcastically.

Gerhard walked over to a pile of books in a corner and picked a few up. A cook book, a bestiary... wait...

I know this series.

Gerhard opened an aged book and it was full of runes. They were familiar but, alas, past mistakes caught up with him again. He had always done the bare minimum of effort when studying runes for Calamai. Spells had interested him much more and the language of scribes was one that required frequent meditation. It also required one to abstain from spirits.

For someone who isn't magical, he has some old texts lying around... What's this one?

Pulling a small, rather thin tome from the shelf, Gerhard was struck by the runes on the front of the book. They were moving. As he tried to open it, Gerhard noticed the pages were seemingly held shut by a force like glue. A simple but complex charm for security. It must be holding some secrets of value for someone to bother casting such a spell on a book so small.

"I might have found something important, how about you?" asked Gerhard to Roderic who was also poking around the room. He quietly found an appropriately sized pocket in his robe and secured the book. Perhaps with time it could prove to be of some value.

"I might have found something important, how about you?"

"If you consider quite a bit of rags, junk, and old things as important, no. Not a damn thing worth noting. Least the books revealed something to you." Roderic replied, sifting through what few shelves and things were available. Whoever had set this up had done so in some kind of hurry...or had let the place fall apart and just tossed around whatever afterwords.

Whatever the case, as he sifted through the junk, this place seemed very...technological? It was surprising to him since this place seemed so much more based on magical devices, so the last thing he expected were tattered papers of blueprints of some kind? It made little sense to him, along with a collection of ripped bits and drawing and measuring tools.

"At this point, I would be happy with a warp gem, or something to get us out of here at this point. Because if there was one thing I'm sure of, its that we should bring this place to the ground, and leave it to itself. Especially with crazy man...or whatever it is he is." Roderic muttered, slightly to Gerhard, but more to himself.

Really need to pack those things, but those are sometimes so damn expensive, and just leave such a bad taste afterwords.

Cristof watched Yuria's charge with an expression of curiosity, his eyes fixated on her every movement. "Fascinating..." He gave them a thin lipped smile. "I am afraid my 'leader', the Emperor, is far away across the sea. However, if you desire to meet the overseer of this facility that is within our means."

Cristof turned away from them and looked down the shaft, his mouth opening and three sharp notes coming from it.

"The Overseer will be here shortly." There was a shift in the vibration of the facility. "His purpose is to ensure the smooth operation of the facility until the Legion is decanted." There was a sound like rattling chains and a massive bipedal construct rose from the depths to land on the platform, leveling an arm that ended in three massive gun barrels at the group.

"Facility Fourteen under threat. Initiate protocol twelve and exterminate the infestation. For the Empire."


So much for no violence
Lilianna swore internally, hoping that this hulking machine was not going to scare away any of their party. They were going to need a lot more team work to take the behemoth down. "You have a piece of scrap metal in charge of this place? Very funny. No wonder we cut our way here like a sword through smoke. For Halvor!" She positioned herself in front of the mages, intending to defend them as well as she could. "For the crystals!"

The machine answered with a spray of bullets, it's guns lighting up. Lilianna thanked every crystal from here to Alexia she had good armor. Most of the bullets pinged off (painfully), sparing her much more tender flesh.

The rumbling of the oncoming overseer did not disturb Dagon. He was content knowing that the one who oversaw this was heading their way, and that the overall threat was this 'Emperor'. However, the smug attitude was dampened when he actually saw the damn thing. "By the gods..." he muttered, half impressed by the scale of it, half dreading the fact that they would have to fight it. The machine pointed an arm with three barrels at the party, machines whirring as it warmed up to start firing. Liliana stepped in front of the party, taking the first few shots.

"The kingdom is lucky to have a knight of your VALOR, noble one! Leave this hazard to me!" Dagon rushed to the hand, prepping a blitz. "ELBOW CANNON!" He slammed the arm of the machine, sending it upwards, making the remainder of the shots fire harmlessly in the air.

As he backed away from the arm, he could feel the aura of a protection spell cast from the white mage who had been remaining in the back. "Thank you once again, mage!" He then remembered the current situation. "Some of us need to try doing something about that army over the balcony!" He wasn't sure who it should be, but he remembered one thing from the Alexander "Chicken Mage! You can summon things! Such power might be helpful in felling the enemy legions!"

"Belay that!" Mira shouted. "The crystals can wait! Focus on the machine!" She moved forward, bringing her halberd around in a powerful hack that cut a notch in the armor of the Overseer's torso. It shifted and broyght the claw arm around, smashing into her and sending her flying across the balcony, nearly sliding over the edge. She drew in a breath and winced - cracked rib, her armor was driven into her flesh at a few points. "Fall back." She choked it out. "We'll get butchered if we fight it here." She regained her feet and moved to her sister's side.

There was the sound of gunfire, far more rapid and loud than any of Rowen's shots had ever been, and it was coming from the passage. There also was the sound of steps, far heavier than any of their compatriots should be.

"This doesn't bode well!" he shouted at Roderic, rushing down the opening in the wall.

Gerhard came upon a balcony with the others in a chamber that was surrounded in crystals. More importantly however there was some kind of gigantic metal machine unlike anything he had seen before. It had an arm which fired out bullets at frightening speed and what looked like an arm designed for grasping. He didn't see Cristof anywhere. Although his hand had been on the hilt of his sword, it felt foolish even making the gesture in front of something that imposing.

What manner of magic is this?!

The arm leveled down at them and began to fire again but Dagon managed to strike it just before the elbow joint, causing the spray to fire up into the ceiling. As small chunks of rock harmlessly battered his hat, Gerhard rushed an incantation.

"Chicken Mage! You can summon things! Such power might be helpful in felling the enemy legions!" said Dagon, clearly readying himself for another rush.

"Belay that! The crystals can wait! Focus on the machine!" shouted Mira as she charged forward.

His incantations complete, Gerhard launched a Thunder spell from his hands at the most power he could muster.


The three bolts he had casted erupted out of him with far more force than he had ever managed before. Gerhard struggled to maintain control of the spell as it surged through his arms, making them heat up tremendously. It struck chest area of the machine, seemingly making it flinch before it turned and struck out at Mira with its claw arm. The impact sounded horrifying, sending the Dragoon skidding across the floor.

"My Thunder is amplified here!" he shouted as Mira picked herself up. It was apparent she was hurt but she was still moving.

"Fall back. We'll get butchered if we fight it here."

"Where do we fall back to?" asked Gerhard, launching another bolt to cover the group's retreat. This one hit the grasping arm, causing the torso of the machine to turn slightly upon impact.

I have to be careful with this spell, my arms are already sore and I've cast it only twice!

He began prepping a third spell, praying that the machine didn't focus its attention on him.

Nr. i

The figure Cristof was still unhelpful and at this point chose to brandish his rod openly and draw from his deep reserves of mana. He spoke about one possible superior - an Emperor - but was still obstructive in divulging more to answer his query. Cristof had elevated himself to an active deterrent and it was time for more coercive methods.

As if robed man knew the conclusion the Black Mage reached he summoned a massive construct to their area, presumably to defend him. It looked mechanical in nature and meticulous in design; clearly built to last, and the party's objective was to eradicate this new target. He was glowing with the mana he's collected and proceeded to summon Adrammelech once again to combat this new foe. Just in time too as it tossed Mira like a dart.

The shining gate appeared behind the construct and the Wroth emerged, charging at the hostile with a deafening shriek. The Esper collided right into the mechanical foe like a brick against a wall. Violent sparks of viridescent lightning shot out from the Esper's armor, connecting with the construct's body. If it had taken any damage, the construct did not show its damage. Despite the Wroth Emperor rivalling its foe by size, the latter was wider and heavier; built for combat as opposed to the former's lightning. It took swipes at the Wroth and sent it flying, but the Esper charge back at it, discharging another cascade of lightning. Whatever damage the construct took seemed superficial, and Adrammelech was going nowhere in progress. But the Esper did provide a benefit to the Black Mage and the rest of the party.

The Black mage meanwhile stood behind the Gria Knight and the Protective spell that was cast over him, willing as much mana to maintain the Wroth's presence in this plain; compared to the spells and strengths the party wielded, the Esper - in his mind - yielded the best chance to terminate this mechanical enemy.

Mira and Dagon were on the offensive. Lilianna could notice as the mages behind her got to their casting, the hairs on her neck pricking as electricity filled the air. The machine focused on the physical attackers now, and the knight was relieved that at least they had Protect when it grabbed Mira. It wasn't anything the hero dragon couldn't handle, nothing worthy of a Phoenix down, but Lilianna reflexively cast as powerful a heal as she could manage, resisting the urge to run over and help her up.

"Fall back! We'll get butchered if we fight here!"
All the mana in the tower might actually help them in this case, but they would come up with a plan while they ran. It was then that she noticed that they were missing a few from their rank. I swear to the Crystals... she didn't finish the thought, grabbing the white mage first and shoving her towards the stairs. "You heard the Captain! Retreat!" The suicidal black mage and herself would probably be the last to go, since he was in the middle of summoning, and she wouldn't wish another direct hit on the only other well armored person in the group. She kept her focus on the machine now, blindly nudging the next mage toward the stairs.

"Electrical overcharge received. Engage sinks." The mechanical monstrosity hummed, electricity pouring off it into the stony ground. A heartbeat later it straightened up, the slots and gaps in the armor glowing blue-white. Adrammelech struxk it with another blast that flowed across it before reflecting and striking Adrammelech to minimal effect.

"Storm shield engaged."

In spite of the creature's apparent implacability it was showing the marks of the battle, armor plates dented and notched, twisted by the lightning.

While it was distracted Mira moved for the exit. "Move! Move!"

Yuria was very annoyed that the Gria Knight had stopped her, though she supposed that they'd gotten valuable information from Cristof, who his leader was, but had she been able to cut him down, they wouldn't be facing this monstrous machine he'd summoned onto the balcony. Joining with the two Black Mages, she cast her own lighting spells, which were almost as good as Gerhard's, striking the Overseer who was now preoccupied with the birdmasked Black Mage's Esper.

Things seemed to be going alright for them, even if the Overseer didn't seem to change much despite showing damage, until it hummed. "So, no more lighting. Guess it's time for-" She couldn't continue with that when the Gria Knight nudged her towards the stairs. Seriously, do you just have a problem with me or something? She hadn't missed what Mira and her had said, though she wanted to get off at least one Fire spell before leaving. She gathered some mana before releasing it into a fireball that headed towards the Overseer, then headed herself for the stairs.

Roderic was glancing at the blueprints a bit more closely when what possibly had been on parts of them decided to get up and start threatening them. Gerhard took off to help out, but Roderic upon seeing the monstrosity even from a distance knew that this was a fight that he was not going to be doing much for. And when the others called for them to get out of there, Roderic was already as far away from the thing as possible.

But where where they going? They really shouldn't go upstairs, as that would take them to a dead end where they wouldn't be able to go any higher after a point, and there was nothing waiting for them on the roof but monsters. Roderic couldn't help but be annoyed that they hadn't just killed the crazy man when they had the chance.

"Nice of you to join in. Anyone got a plan on what exactly we could do to bring this thing down? It looks...well, like it doesn't give a damn." Roderic said, staying back against the wall, as far away as he wanted to be from the bot. One so he could have time to move, and two so he could lean against the wall as the rest of them fell back.

Gerhard cast forth bolt after bolt of Thunder but aside the occasional flinch, the machine continued to focus it's attention on the summoned beast Engbyr had brought into the battle. Gerhard nearly lost control of a bolt intended for their foe and directed it into the ceiling rather than risk it hitting Adrammelech.

This tower must be destroyed somehow... It's too reactive to surrounding mana! Wait... what's it saying?

"Storm shield engaged."

Engbyr's monster continued its assault but now the mechanical terror seemed to be reflecting the beast's lightning back at it.

"Move! Move!"

Gerhard wasn't about to argue with that order. Despite all the mana they were slinging at it, it was still moving without any signs of slowing down. As the red mage fired a ball of flames at what appeared to be it's head, Gerhard quickly cast a Blizzard spell at it's gun arm. The ice seemed to jam it's ammunition feed briefly and the bullets which had been spraying wildly in their direction temporarily ceased. He didn't stick around to watch anything further, he just turned and ran for his life with the others.

He made it out into the room he was just exploring a few minutes prior along with the others who had emerged from the chamber. With no obvious way out except but up, Gerhard stomped his foot in helpless anger.

If we're supposed to die today, at least let us get out of here first. I don't want go down like a rat in a trap.

"Well, we're out of there. What's our next move?" he said curtly with no hint of sarcasm. He could get angry at Mira and her planning later, survival came first.

"There's no time to dillydally. Orders now, we can argue later."

Nr. i

Adrammelech shrieked in defiance to the construct's attempt to turn His own Judgement against him.

A standstill appeared to have been made between the massive construct and the Wroth; neither appeared to have taken slight damage, and neither had a clear advantage over the other. The mechanical foe could shove the Esper easily and charge right to the rearguard that's been established, but Adrammelech had speed, maneuverability, and before the defensive precautions kicked in he had the initial edge. But the call to retreat had put this standstill in question; if the mech disengages from the Wroth it would mean trouble for the party. An option came to dispel Adrammelech in favor of one of another Esper - Belias in particular. Considering the attunement of the construct's precautions they would be nothing before that Esper; by the same token it would mean that the foe could damage the Esper if the Black Mage summoned him. There was a temptation to summon the Gigas of War and push for more damage, but doing so would require channeling more mana and leaving the party - and himself - vulnerable.

He would direct the Wroth to refrain from lightning and buy time. A low growl escaped the Esper's mouth, obviously balking at the order, but eventually complied; the Black Mage's caution was misplace according to Him, but that did not matter. The streaks of red faded from his terrible visage, and the streaks of lightning gradually lessen as Adrammelech took a different offensive, charging more at its limbs to add to the light damage the construct took.

The Black Mage meanwhile slowly moved back where Mira and the others were falling back to. He still had to keep Adrammelech here as a buffer between the party and the construct, at least until the rest of the party has regrouped...

Without lightning or the distraction of the group Adrammelech was in a rather difficult position, only able to engage in direct physical attack to keep the machine occupied. It worked long enough for the last of the group to escape. Then, "Tactics analyzed. Target locked." As Adrammelech came for another pass to strike it the mech snatched him with the claw arm, squeezing. Adrammelech let out a screech of pain and dug his claws into a damaged plate, wrenching and tearing it before the gum arm came up and fired into his head, reducing the Esper to a rapidly dispersing cloud.

On the other side of the door Mira barked orders. "Grab shelves, tables, whatever. Make some cover. Battlemages, target the legs and gun arm, use ice magic. Gunner, go for joints. Knives, get behind it if you can, look for a weak point. Dagon, try to draw fire. Healer, keep him alive. Lili, beat the shit out of him. I'll attack from above. We're ending this now!"

They only had a minute to prepare before the Overseer tore through the wall. "Resistance is pointless. Die. For the Empire."

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