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No title.
(2013-04-21 - 2013-04-22)
No description.
Ophelia It is midafternoon as the small group finally steps off of the pleasant grassy plains and into the outer edges of the Tramadine Fens. Even here on the threshold of the cursed swamp the air is heavy with the foul scent of decaying matter and tepid water. The occasional pile of bones can be seen among the gnarled roots and sodden mud, some still wet with raw flesh as if only recently slain.

The starkness of the change is sudden, as if a line has been drawn on the ground where the borders of the Fen begin. The wind also seems to pick up here, howling softly through the hollows of dead trees and craggy rocks. Even if the stories of ghosts taking up residence in this place were little more than stories it's clear to see why few would feel inclined to venture very deep into such a place.

The stories, however, are quite true. Ophelia pauses at the border of the Fen, her feet resting on a small patch of dry ground that is the beginnings of one of the only stable trails into the depths that she and her master were able to find. Not that she's particularly worried about getting her feet wet but one wrong step into a pool deeper than she thought and one such as herself could end up trapped in an eternal stasis. It is unlikely that anyone would ever find her again in a place like this.

Alexander has refrained from joining them today with complaints about the humidity of the swamp making his old bones ache. That suits the young woman just fine. She doesn't hate her master, despite the harsh and sometimes cruel methods he has used to keep her on the path to maintaining her humanity, but his presence always put her on edge, like that of a disapproving parent, and it was nice to be able to just be herself every now and then.

"Artyom," Ophelia says, turning to look back at the massive figure of her hired assistant. "Be wary of your step here. Mud and moss are not the only threats we face once we step inside."
Artyom W. Valodjn This job has been quite a long time coming, and Artyom has been making quite a number of preparations! For about a week now, he's been camped out just outside the Fens, making observations and taking notes, surveying the land and deciphering just how the blazes someone is supposed to build a sturdy structure in the middle of a haunted swamp.

Fortunately, he has discovered a solution. He has also discovered something else. Specifically, that mosquitos are awful, and that there are types of wood that do wonders at fending them off when burnt. Furthermore, coating one's skin with a thin layer of sterile clay also helps to fend off any unwanted insects.

This is why Artyom is covered in a distinctly gritty film of earth. It gives him a rather dusty appearance- or at least, more dusty than usual. There is an odd apparatus lashed to his shoulders, where a small compartment emits a cloud of fragrant smelling smoke as it burns through a cache of herbs and dried treebark. A large man has much surface area for bugs to nibble at, and Artyom has taken maximum precaution.

He does wish he had actual insect repellant, though- that would be very nice.

"Yes," he replies to the High Inquisitor as he takes a step across the threshold into the fens. The ground sinks under his weight, but the damp mud fails to penetrate his rather thick, hide boots. When he lifts his heel out of the ground, the mud seems to coalesce into a broad platform underneath his feet, drastically increasing the surface area of his stride.


Artyom unfurls a small scroll- it is apparantly a blueprint of some kind. He makes a sound of affirmation, and then takes another step forward. "These woods are truly haunted, then? Perhaps we aught to have brought the field mouse or the elder. Though I suppose we will have to make do without a proper exorcist."
Ophelia The heavy smoke causes Ophelia to wrinkle her nose in disapproval for atleast the third time since arriving to meet up with him. Event though she can understand the purpose behind his apparent fondness for dirt that does not ease the awful scent that permeates the air. In contrast to the large man she seems to have little worry about biting insects or the like as they completely avoid her for reasons that are not immediately apparent.

Ophelia gives her companion a coy smirk in response to his query. "Who says I wish them gone?"

She turns and starts to meander down the winding and nearly invisible trail which often to degerates to little more than raised stones and small dirt clumps that are barely a few inches wide. Her petite feet have no trouble navigating these obstacles, nor does she show any real difficulty keeping track of their path, often chatting at him as they go.

"This place belongs to them, after all. Attempting to cleanse the entire Fen would be a monumental task and not one that serves my purposes."
Artyom W. Valodjn At least the smoke doesn't smell like death! In fact, it smells almost like a really heavy perfume. Or the inside of a Wutai temple. Neither are particularly pleasant for prolonged periods, however.

"Mmn. I can appreciate the security these wandering spirits might provide," Artyom explains, "But it would be nice to have a ward of some manner to keep them away as I work. Unnecessary negative energy can cause disruptions in the working. Makes things more..." He pauses to find the word. And then he finds it. The word is: "Spooky, than they aught to be. Though I have the inkling that this is not entirely undesirable."

Artyom follows behind the (much) smaller woman, his steps often entirely missing the narrow causeway between the swamp's edge and their destination. His makeshift swamp-clogs help to keep him from sinking into the fens, however- a fact he is dearly thankful for. "So, speaking of architecture," Artyom rumbles, rubbing at his chin, "Did you have any... preferences?"
Ophelia "Oh? Are you an architect now as well, Artyom? Going to build my dream home for me?"

Ophelia laughs in a bemused manner as her eyes wander across the landscape ahead. She waves a hand dismissively at the air over her shoulder. "Do not worry, I shall be able to handle any distractions that may arise as you work."

The woman pauses and peers back at him coquettishly for a moment. Her arms reach up into the air in a mock stretch, fingers lacing together to bridge over her head. The action brings her up on her tip toes and the shifting of her armor also pulls the edge of her already scandilously short skirt up to the point where the frilly outer edges of the garments beneath can be seen.

"The real question is if you can handle my distraction, non?"
Artyom W. Valodjn "Well, there is a fundamental difference in a building with a basement and a building without a basement. This is only setting the foundation, but I'd need to know the approximate dimensions for this territory, and how deep it is to go into the earth. Otherwise there could be problems during construction."

Problems such as 'accidentally hitting the bedrock' and 'whoops, there goes the left wall of the house.'

Of course, it seems that the issue of dimensions and landscaping aren't the only things that will be occupying his attention today.

Artyom produces a sheepish grunt as he fights his eyes away from the hem of his employer's skirts. Instead, he focuses on his own heavy footsteps as he makes his way through the fen. At least Ophelia isn't as overt about this sort of thing as certain other people.

He can definitely appreciate classiness.

"I will try to keep my mind focused on the task," Artyom murmurs, "Though it seems it might more difficult than I had first expected."
Ophelia That brings a more honest smile to Ophelia's face and she gives him a playful wink before continuing on into the deeper parts of the swamp. It takes them the better part of two hours to reach the spot that she and Alexander have scouted out as the best potential site for their new training facility and upon arriving it is easy to see why.

A large patch of solid earth stretches for several acres in the middle of the Fen. Heavy vibrant forest encircles a large portion of the clearing, broken only by a few gentle hills and a natural spring that has broken through the surface and winds in a snaking path down the far side into a small pond. Dense bogs still pocket the place here and there but they seem to be the only real obstacles preventing this stretch of the swamp from making a perfect location to build.

Ophelia sweeps her arm out in a grand gesture upon arriving as if showing it off to the geomancer. "And here we are. My little slice of home. Well, once we do a little remodeling ofcourse."
Artyom W. Valodjn There was not much mixing in Galiandia. Terrain was largely segregated by the divisions of the great plates. The mountain was the most mountain-like mountain that ever stood. Ramuhan plains stretched on for miles, and were covered by a near perpetual lightning storm. Elements and terrain did not often mesh and blend- not like this.

In many ways, the World of Ruin's strange division of distinct landscapes were more normal to the Titan than any truly continuous world. But there is certainly a great deal of beauty to be found in nature's alchemy.

"...I see," he says, after a moment. He takes a step into the grassy grove, and finds its land a great deal more solid than he had expected. After a moment, the Titan nods, "This is an excellent location. Will need to fill in the holes, ensure the bedrock is stable, and then everything should work out well."

He thinks for a moment, then asks, "How large, about, do you want the building? And the courtyard."
Ophelia Artyom's response is a little more subdued than she hoped for but Ophelia pushes that minor disappointment aside and strides out into the open field itself. She motions for him to follow and leads them up to the top of one of the nearby hills which gives them an excellent view of the entire area.

"I want to rebuild the Academy that Alexander and I opened in Ordallia. As of now, our forces have been lost... to whatever darkness has consumed the rest of the world. Only the two of us remain." She points down at the terrain, indicating a spot for him to look upon. "We will need a sizable facility to train replacements. Housing for several dozen, storage for provisions and supplies, space for training, and... containment. It will need to be quite sizable. Atleast here," she drags her finger sideways, marking out a rather large section of the open space. "To here."
Artyom W. Valodjn Artyom can't exactly help being a stoic sort of guy. It kind of runs in the family! Titans tend to be more temperate in general.

Ophelia outlines exactly what it is she wants in this new home of hers. Artyom listens attentively, idly making notes on a small, hand-held scroll, as if he were making a rough sketch of the manor's general layout. It's not a very extravagant design- though what can you do when your job is mostly just 'set up the floor plan.'

"Not sure how solid the terrain is, hereabouts." Artyom rumbles thoughtfully. "Could try to put in a basement, but it would probably flood unless I cover the walls with clay and stone. Mmn." He begins wandering, dragging the massive stone weapon along behind him as he starts weaving a massive pattern into the ground. "If that's not necessary, the job should be relatively simple. Needs more stable ground for more storeys, if desired. Could make more distributed facility more easily. Integrated structure is heavier, more likely to sink down over time."

"Could /also/ put up a wall, maybe. Hm."
Ophelia "Choose whatever design will make it the most sturdy," she says with a shrug. "As much as I would like to consider things like fashion and form, the reality is that we are likely to come under attack eventually. It is in the nature of our organization to make powerful enemies."

Ophelia watches him work for a short while though the mutterings and patterns he weaves quickly leave her bored. She finds a nearby tree that offers some shade against the sun, leaning back against it and closing her eyes. It shouldn't take long for their disturbance to draw the unsavory denizens of this place out.

And just as she suspects, it takes less than half an hour before the first signs appear. It starts with the wind. Howls and moans drift through the trees, louder and more forceful than before as if something is pushing the voice of the air into a frenzy. All sounds of nearby life die out, the birds and skittering creatures going silent all at once as if it were orchestrated.

Ophelia smiles and opens her eyes, tilting her head to the side to glance towards Artyom. "Here they come."
Artyom W. Valodjn "Mmn, I'm not performing the construction, only the act of clearing the land, so these decisions can be explored further at some later date." It's not like he's going to be raising an entire structure here today. That would be ridiculous- and also a little bit difficult considering he'd need enough raw material to build an entire structure, and that's not exactly just lying about.

And so he works. His circle takes shape around an area quite a bit larger than Ophelia's specification, to ensure that he was completely clearing up any unwanted sinkholes and bog-patches. There's no need to be reckless or overly specific about this kind of thing. The more territory, the better. It will be much easier to build anything here, if the land is broad enough to store material on-site.

The pattern in the earth is similar to the one that he had etched in the fallow field south of Mullonde, weeks ago. There are a few modifications here and there, however- such as the inclusion of a greater density of Sowilo glyphs to ensure the bog dries properly. But nobody needs to know too much about the fine details.

Suddenly, there are sounds. And then, there are none.

Artyom looks up from his work and his charts, peering over to where Ophelia reclines amidst the boughs of her tree. "The spirits do not appreciate my work. Unfortunately, I will be occupied with the glyph array for a while longer, still. I will also have to leave my weapon in the array's centerpoint while the ritual is cast. I leave myself in your capable hands, Lady Lovett."
Ophelia Ophelia smiles coyly back at him and then gives an elaborate bow. "I shall be sure to provide an entertaining show for you, Artyom."

The Inquisitor moves down from the top of the hill to stand a little closer to where he is working though not enough to get in his way or disturb the carefully drawn glyphs on the ground. One of the masterfully crafted katana is drawn forth with a casual grace as she approaches and she flourishes it a few times, showing off her incredible coordination and warming up her muscles in the process.

The silence is finally broken the sound of unnatural wailing, a piercing eerie howl that seems to permeate the air. All around the field the air distorts and wavers as ethereal humanoid shapes force their way between the barrier of life and death. The ghosts hover above the ground, their legless forms draped in tattered robes with heavy cowls that hide their faces in deep shadow but the hungry cries they emit are more than enough to betray any intentions their expressions may have hidden.

Ophelia gives a final flourish before sheathing her blade and smirks at the haunting apparitions. "Hmph. I was expecting more of you. And no signs of the one who leads you... no matter, the cries of your doom shall draw him to me!"

The first of the ghosts gives a mocking laugh and fades away only to reappear beside the small woman. It reaches out for her, invisible hands attempting to clutch at her pale flesh and draw the vitality and defiance from her body. But it never touches her.

A flash of steel rips through the outstretched arms and the rotten cloth suspended by their spectral form drops lightly to the earth. The ghost gives a pained wail but its cries are silenced a moment later as the chisel-tipped point of Ophelia's katana is driven into the gaping maw of the cowl that covers its head. The creature spasms, its robes fluttering in an invisible wind as it dies a fresh death.

The blade of her sword glows a faint crimson red as it feasts upon the essence of its victim, drinking up the pain and suffering that has bound this poor soul to a cursed unlife. The spectacle lasts only a few moments and then it is over. Ophelia whips her sword to the side slinging ectoplasm from its polished surface before sliding it neatly back into the scabbard at her waist.

"Ah... such a wonderful flavor you have. My blade shall dine well today. Hmmhmmhmm..."
Artyom W. Valodjn Artyom dislikes ghosts.

Artyom actually dislikes a great number of undead subtypes- especially the ones who do not remain in their graves where they belong. Those who have already been interred- who have been buried but yet remain among the living are abhorrent by the Titan's strict standards of what is kosher and what is not. So long as something has been interred, he believes, it should remain there unless it is not truly dead.

Undead who have never been buried are noticably exempt from this rule. But he still doesn't like ghosts. This is because ghosts tend to be cocky, intangible jerks who like to wave the fact that you can't club them over the head without dipping into mana reserves all up in your face. He also rather dislikes how ethereal they are- it's unnatural, to lack solidity to such a grievous extent.

But he has other things to worry about than dealing with a horde of advancing spectres. Artyom has land to etch and a foundation to lay. The wailing spirits cause him momentary pause as they rush out from the wood, screaming and howling like all the furies, but he toils on. Despite his earlier worries, Artyom only allows himself to be very briefly distracted by Ophelia's rather... Impressive display.

Vicious and impressive being synonymous in this particular situation.

He makes another pass through the glyph's center before rumbling, "I am nearly done. Five to two minutes!"
Ophelia The other ghosts waste no time in joining the fray upon seeing their comrade fall, if such creatures even consider each other allies in that manner. More likely their shared bond in undeath stems from the eternal torment that has driven their spirits from the grave and their hatred of the life that now mocks their existence standing before them. The one problem with this being that Ophelia isn't even alive herself.

Two more ghosts go down in the next few seconds, neatly cut apart by the vampire's deadly blades. Despite no trace of holy magic being wielded by the woman there is no signs of the spirits simply dispersing and reforming as if oft the case for their kind. Each ghost that falls leaves only a pile of moth-eaten robes and an unearthly howl of fear and suffering to mark its passing.

However, despite Ophelia's clear prowess at handling her swords, the sheer numbers of the fiends continues to grow. The tide of battle slowly begins to shift from her dazzling displays of showmanship that sees her opponents scattered to the wind to a desperate struggle to maintain her ground as more and more monsters rush to feast upon the faint traces of life that reside within.

Artyom is not forgotten, either. The ghosts press upon him several times, trying to get at the hearty and abundant source of flowing vitality that dwells within his stocky body. But each time Ophelia seems to come out of nowhere, dancing among the distracted spectres and leaving naught but death in her wake.

"Nnrgh!" The sound of nails of a chalkboard echos through the clearing as she deflects yet another strike against her from the front, pushing the offending ghost away with clear signs of effort. Another takes advantage of this moment to rake its horrid claws across her exposed back, leaving a trail of thin red lines that begin to trickle blood. She spins about instinctively, cutting down the foolish monster who dared to strike her, but atleast a dozen other such wounds marr her armor and delicate skin.

"Take your time, Artyom," she calls out to him light-heartedly. "This fight is just starting to get interesting."
Artyom W. Valodjn It bears repeating: Artyom dislikes ghosts.

He makes a sound of mild surprise when one of the spirits manages to close in quickly enough to actually threaten him. Supernatural cold washes over his body as the creature draws near, meeting a bulwark of solid, vital energy. He does not need to resist it for long as the huntress cuts the creature in two, reducing it to mere ash and old rags.

But she cannot possibly keep this up forever. The creatures draw closer and in greater numbers with every moment he tarries. But to rush would lead to a mistake- and a mistake, when rearranging geography- can have very dire consequences, indeed.

Consequences like 'accidentally killing them both.'

And so Artyom takes his time as quickly as he possibly can. He moves with renewed purpose and direction, weaving his blade through the earth as swiftly as he can manage without making a critical error in the geometry of the complex geomantic array. "Bit longer--" Artyom grunts, "One minute, need only to make it to the center--"

He turns as his weapon touches again on the circle inlaid into the earth. His stance pivots as he presses onward hauling the massive across the land with the sound of a plow milling through a field. The Titan winces at he screeching spirits before finally- after what seemed like an eternity- he arrives at the circle's absolute centerpoint.

Artyom releases a breath he did not realize he was holding. The Titan grunts, raising his blade mightily overhead- and then drives it, thunderously- into the center of the glyph.

The air stagnates. The land goes quiet.

And then, the glyph blazes with terrific, inner light. At its perimeter, colossal standing stones rise from seeds of quartz. Artyom steps back from his blade as it thrums with all the force of the earth itself. The land rumbles ominously- he turns towards the onslaught of spirits--

Artyom frowns. "There are more than I realized."

His stance widens. A foot slams heavily into the wet earth even as the light of the ritual builds all around him, mana pouring into the symbol in preparation for what will come. Out of the earth rise two long, heavy weapons.

One: a bastard sword that seems be composed entirely of gnarled, thorny bramble- it resembles a club more than a blade. The other, a cleaver made of stone, its single blade hewn of solid crystal. Artyom grips the tools at the hilt and draws them, in one motion, out of the earth.

"Ophelia," the Titan rumbles, "The spell will take some time to charge. We can only hold them off now."
Ophelia Ophelia carves her way out of a small ring of ghosts that have managed to encircle her, decimating two of them with swift strokes of her katana that neatly bisect the apparitions down their center. The blade glows red for a moment as it absorbs their essence but quickly finds its way back into her sheath and the Inquisitor darts across the glowing terrain to stand beside her hired blade.

"Well," she huffs, "I was starting to feel bad for taking all of the fun. There still seem to be a few left for you to play with though." It's clear that the short battle has taken a toll on the woman. Sweat glistens on her skin like a fine coat of oil, beading down the side of her face in thin rivulets. Blood intermingles with it as well from several thin cuts where the ghosts managed to get in close enough to leave their marks before being destroyed though the amount seems to be very little so perhaps the wounds are not as bad as they appear.

Ophelia turns to look over her shoulder at Artyom with a slightly more serious expression than usual. "Do not be careless. These spectres can drain your life away and muddle your wits with a touch." She narrows her eyes and scans the battlefield again, whispering to herself. "Any moment now..."
Artyom W. Valodjn "Of course," he rumbles, "However, I am not as proficient with these as I am with my weapon of choice. But, I believe I can handle this much. Moreover--" Artyom steps over one of the lines he had carved into the earth. Dim, tellurian light plays across his clay-covered leathers as he raises his two weapons to a ready stance. For any other man, these would require two hands each- but Artyom is a Titan.

He fights like a titan, and that means knowing how to maul like one, too.

"I did not exactly come unprepared for this." His shoulders shift, unintentionally revealing a strangely brilliant, spherical gem set into a very temporary-looking medallion clasped under the wrap of his cloak. One bold spectre approaches, its spindly claws tearing, ravenously, through the air. Artyom lashes out, swinging his earthen weapon into the spirit's flailing limbs with a heavy, rather unusual 'thud.'

The ghost looks rather confused as what seems to be a thin layer of sand coats the outline of its intangible form before trapping it wholly in the physical realm for only the briefest of moments. Artyom smirks as he shifts his weight, throwing every ounce of his might into slamming the wooden weapon into the spirit's now quite solid skull, causing the entire form to collapse into a mound of inert soot.

Artyom can't exactly destroy them as permanently as his employer- but the magic of the Earth is also the magic of stagnation, of graves and tombs and the solidity of form. While he cannot break a spirit, he can certainly reduce a grounded ghost to its component motes for a good long while.

"It will be five- maybe ten minutes before the spell finishes. We must endure until then."
Ophelia Ophelia hangs back for a moment to rest after nearly five minutes of continuous combat. With the sun still hanging in the sky her body is significantly weakened, perhaps even more so than when she was merely human. Were she able to use her full power these pitiful creatures wouldn't even slow her down but as it stands she's nearly on the brink of collapse and Artyom's timely intervention is more than welcome. Not that she's going to point that out.

The spirit of her sword stirs restlessly as he smashes one of the ghosts apart with his strange magic, its ravenous hunger pining for the dark lifeforce that escapes back into the air. She puts a hand on its hilt, stroking it gently as if it were some restless beast.

"Easy... there will be plenty more to come."

And there are certainly plenty of ghosts left. The deaths of their fellows doesn't seem to slow the encroaching horde down in the slightest and they scramble and claw at the air in their rush to strike the pair down and gorge themselves on their life energies.

Ophelia carves up another pair but earns herself another nasty cut in the process. She goes down to one knee, staggering as her body begins to fail despite her stubborn insistence otherwise. As if this single act of weakness were a summoning spell for disaster, another ghostly form rises up from the earth. Much larger than all of the others, the spectre is clad in a dark cape that hangs from a skeletal torso. A boney fleshless skull protrudes from the mass of cloth, twin demonic horns curving up from the sides towards its empty eye sockets. Massive razor claws hang limply at its side but their heavily muscled fingers clench and flex idly as it looms before the small woman.

She coughs out a laugh, tilting her head upwards to take in this viscious creature at a glance. "Hnn... so there you are..."
Artyom W. Valodjn The battle does not seem to be going particularly well. Or rather, Artyom feels suddenly validated of his concern at entering this forest with only two able hands. They did not merely attract a horde of spirits- their business stirred up one of the most ancient spectres of the forest. But there are more spirits here than just the one. Far more. It's enough to overwhelm even the most able of warriors- if they stood alone.

Artyom grunts, hewing several spirits down at once with a single cleave of both, mighty weapons. Each ghost turns to sand moments before being shattered into a fine mist of particulate matter and rapidly decaying negative energy. But there are many spirits, and only one Titan. They move in as he brings his weapons back around, slipping into his guard. One rakes its claws across his chest, the spectral talons slipping through his armor and raking at his very life-force. The Titan fights back a gasp as he leaps away, clutching at his chest.

He cannot move the earth to swallow up these spirits. They are not zombies- they are incorporeal, spirits, capable of slipping into the material realm just long enough to tear the flesh as well as the spirit.

Artyom hates ghosts.

He really, really does.

Again, he draws his weapons through the pursuing, predatory spirit. Again, it turns to sand and is reduced to a swirling mass of granulated ghost. But they come in droves- unending- unstoppable. Too many for one man. Too many for one man and a vampire.

"But-" Artyom murmurs, his fingers reaching under his cloak, "Two and--?"

One spectre, closer than the others, notices as the Titan pauses in his retreat toward the circle's central point. It unleashes a screech of triumph as it charges, claws outstretched to tear the man's heart out through his chest--

It does not.

Its spindly fingers come to a halt at a point two inches over his breast. It is arrested there by an unearthly light. Artyom steadies himself as the creature tries, but fails to free its arm in time to avoid being torn to shreds by the advancing glow. The Titan breathes- "Ancient, I am borrowing your power for a moment."

Tendrils of tremendous, living power surge across the surface of the Titan's arm as he knocks the ghost away. His voice roars to a terrifying crescendo before he slams his fist into the loamy earth.

At first, nothing happens- and the spirits crowd in, descending on the apparantly vulnerable man.

Then, there are thorns.

Crystalline roots tunnel out of the ground to ensnare the horde of spirits. The circle beneath flickers, a fraction of its accumulated power being channeled into the glistening emerald gnarls and tangles, causing them to glow and thrum with the living aspect of the Earth itself. It would not be enough to kill them- but the energy radiating out of the growths would be sufficient to impair their movement. A coccoon of brambles surrounds the colossal man, wrapping him in a protective layer of thorny vines. The growth surges down his arm, into his wooden weapon, transforming it into an arboreus mirror of his colossal, stone sword.

There is a sound- a sound of wood and stone tearing loose.

Artyom surges out of his protective, wooden coccon, his flesh streaming with blood torn of his own flesh by the thorns that had raked across his skin. He roars with all the sound of all the rage of the land as he draws the bramble blade high to run the greater spectre through--

But would he be fast enough to make a difference?
Ophelia The ghastly skeletal face of the Deathscythe shows no emotion as it completes the transformation from haunting spectre to full bodied horror. Twin points of burning hellfire ignite within its empty eyes and turn downwards to peer into the soul of the young woman kneeling at its feet - only to find nothing there. Impossibly the twin rows of exposed teeth tilt and crack into a mocking grin upon this discovery and it opens its jaw to belt out a dark hollow laugh.

Ophelia merely laughs back at the creature, pushing back to her feet with some effort. "You think knowing that will save you?"

The fist impacts with her chest before she can even move to respond and the Inquisitor gives a muffled gasp as the air is hammered from her lungs by the massive ball of muscle that is the abomination's hand. She sails backwards and skips across the ground several time, finally coming to a halt when her slender frame wraps itself about the roots of a tall tree. Dull pain shoots through her body and a well of blood erupts from her mouth as she coughs. Well, that didn't go as planned.

Artyom's battle cry draws the attention of the Deathscythe back his way and it grins at him as well. The thorn-encrusted sword drives into the thick folds of the cloak that drapes about the massive skeletal torso hanging in the air and he is rewarded with the sound of bones grinding and snapping. The wraith lets out a bellow of dark pain but instead of falling to the ground it brings its heavy claws up and wraps them about Artyom's thick neck, easily encompassing even his collosal stature in a vice-like grip.
Artyom W. Valodjn This is certainly unexpected.

Artyom grunts, satisfied, as his brambled blade impales the massive, spectral creature. That he is surprised when the monstrous undead takes his throat in its wicked, soul-chilling claws is somewhat of an understatement. He feels the beast strangling the breath and life out of his body, unable to make a sound save for the weak gurgling of a man being, slowly, asphyxiated. The very stuff of his soul, gradually ebbing away.

There is no help from Ophelia. She lies, half-dead, by a tree. He is all that's left, and now--

Is this how it is to end? Murdered in a swamp, with only one other person to tell of his story. Or maybe that's for the best- it's a terrible shame, death by being strangled by something that is only /half/ there at best.

Artyom grits his teeth. He whispers a curse, its meaning lost to a rasp of painful gurgling. But though it is unheard, what Artyom said was this:

'Mountain Father Claim You, You Unburied <GOOSEHONK>'

The creature's fingers tighten, cutting through the fabric of Artyom's cloak- and exposing the brilliant Magicite burning over his collar.

The Titan's jaw tightens as the gemstone's light pours over his torso. This creature is strong, strong enough to ground its existance in the material plane. Strong enough that it has ribs and bones that can be broken--

Yes. That's it. There's still one thing he can try.

Artyom fights back the pain, focusing on the land beneath his feet. Subterrannean thunder roars, deep underground as the plates that form the very foundation for the World of Ruin buckle and pop, their kinetic power transformed into spiritual, and sent racing up through the legs of the geomancer who begs the power of the Earth.

A pulse of magic surges into his colossal, wooden blade, causing the thorns to grow and expand, crucifying the creature's physical mass against a mess of yew and bramble. Simultaneously, his blood congeals, unnaturally, over his wounds as his body pays the price for channeling such primal force- thick arrowheads of stone and shale erupt from the tears across his skin, staunching the bleeding but tearing painfully at nerve and muscle and bone.

The stone presses out of his throat, slipping between the Deathscythe's fingers.

He says again, more clearly now as he releases his sword, one hand rising to wrestle the creature's talons from his throat. "Mountain Father--" the Titan grits his teeth, twisting his grip to bend the beast's arms in a direction no living limb was ever meant to twist.

The other arm reaches back, summoning the stone-and-crystal cleaver from where it had fallen, earlier. Artyom roars, swinging the heavy, serrated blade into the Deathscythe's skeletal limbs, "--Claim You!"

There is a tellurian crack as he swings his weapon, over and over again, into the monster's hollow form, his magic solidifying as much of the Deathscythe's spiritual form as it can, while his brawn hews those portions away--

But there is an army of ghosts, though they may be slowed by thorn and magic, and only one Artyom.

He can hold out for only so long.

Fortunately, it should not be much longer, now.
Ophelia Cries of spectral pain emanates from the massive undead skull as it is forcably ripped out of the aether and dragged into the prime material plane. The transition from etheral to corporeal is not particularly damaging to it, however, the massive thorns piercing it from the inside out and the heavy stone cleaver hacking away at its exposed limbs are a different story.

One of the Deathscythe's arms comes away with a sickening crack and the deadly curved claws spasm and twitch even as they disentegrate into little more than a pile of ash and dust. The army ghosts renews its attack, hissing with anger as they are whipped into a frenzy by the powerful apparition's domineering will.

Several of them carve into Artyom's exposed flanks, raking bits of life away and leaving painful sympathetic wounds where the half-real claws pass through the flesh. But again their single-minded attacks prove to be their undoing.

A whirling circle of steel sails through the air, slicing through half a dozen of his attackers like a buzzsaw before it implants itself to the hilt in the forehead of the towering Deathscythe. Another blade flies past him and then another and another as Ophelia unleashes her array of deadly weapons from range to drive the undead host away. The ornate weapons sail strange curving arcs through the air that seem defy the laws of physics, weaving back and forth to riccochet among the ghosts before they all come to a dead stop in the air, hovering in a loose circle around the battlefield.

Ophelia grins, wiping away the small river of blood flowing from her nose as she takes a step forward. "Do not count me among the dead yet. I am not so easily defeated."
Artyom W. Valodjn Spectral claws tear through the Titan's sides, ripping through spirit- and then flesh. Artyom yells as the terrible sensation of having your very spirit ripped to shreds screams through his psyche. The only possible way to describe it is through metaphor: The sensation is not unlike having your most cherished childhood memories inverted and left twisted and ruined in an awful mess of incomprehensible stuff.

That's not what's really happening, of course. Not yet. But it certainly could be the Titan's fate, should he fall here--

But it seems Artyom isn't quite as alone as he thinks he is. Ghost-flesh meets enchanted steel, each one screaming a final death-wail before disintigrating into mere atoms of aetherial mass. The air around the Titan seems to clear, a weight lifted from the world in one fell swoop. Artyom gives a weak smile that quickly turns into a confident smirk, swinging his stone cleaver into the massive spectre's forehead one last time before leaping back--

To where his greatsword rests, buried in the earth. The light pouring from it reaches a crescendo as its master's hand closes around the hilt. "It seems," Artyom breathes a sigh of relief, twisting the hilt of the blade to stir the raw, tellurian might suffusing the bog underneath- and triggering the spell, "That this is our victory, Lady Lovett."

Artyom surges forward, tearing his greatsword from the center of the glyph. The stone ensconcing the blade falls away in great sheets of soil and rubble, revealing a massive, scintillating, crystalline sword underneath- one that seems paradoxically larger than its own sheath.

Underneath his feet, the land shifts and transforms, moisture draining away as the earth hardens and solidifies. Heavy subterannean stone is realigned and fused, forming a strong foundation under several meters of compacted soil. At the borders of the spell, cairn-stones rise protectively from their quartz seeds, strengthening the land by gathering the energies of the earth itself.

The air saturates, growing thick with moisture and 'solid' magic. Tellurian energy surges across the circle, mingling with the spectral bodies of the ghost army, and rendering them, temporarily, very much creatures of the material plane.

But they are not Artyom's target.

With the final embers of strength in his body and spirit, the Titan surges toward the Deathscythe, his crystal sword looming ominously overhead like the blade of a final guillotine. "Thirst not! Hunger not!" Artyom roars the final words to the traditional Titanic Burial Rite. "Return to Ash! Return to dust!" He pivots, swinging his colossal weapon, blazing with terran magic, into the greater spectre's demonic mein, "Become one with the Earth!"

If this isn't enough-- Artyom does not even know.
Ophelia The demonic eyes of the undead abomination flare with defiant light in the face of Artyom's bizarre magic. In death there is no fear, such emotions burned away and replaced only with hatred and sorrow. Rather than retreat to preserve itself the creature gives a piercing wail and rushes to meet the titanic man halfway.

It's remaining claw reaches out, massive scything fingers for which it is named latching around the crystaline blade as it comes crashing down. Impossibly, the heavy blade slows and then stops, mere inches away from cleaving the terrible monstrosity asunder. It struggles visibly to hold its own doom at bay and the remaining ghosts swirl and converge on the pair, intent on weakening Artyom in order to give the Deathsycthe the upperhand.

Ophelia lets loose an utterly amused laugh from behind. "You fools really do not learn your lessons do you? Very well, I shall deliver a lesson in pain anew!"

The small woman's eyes begin to glow from within as she draws upon the wellspring of unholy magic lurking within. Even in the daylight her supernatural powers boost her above the power of normal humans and she displays that very power strength for these cursed souls. The swords hovering all around the battlefield begin to glow with unearthly light, each one blazing in an aura of eldritch flames of various colors.

The spirits within the blades respond to her call as she takes up an ancient stance, speaking words that call out to their lust for battle. "There is no room for hope. Hope is for dreamers and poets. We have our will and our weapons and we shall dictate our own fate!"

The soft glow permeating the swords erupts into a raging flame as Ophelia's will resonates with the spirits within. In a flash, she moves, racing towards the first of the blades hovering nearby. Her hand closes about the hilt and then the samurai seems to move even faster, turning into a blur of motion that no human eye could hope to follow. Only the thin trail of fire from the blade she wields marks her passage across the battlefield as she slashes down a pair of the ghosts.

Her trail carries her to the next floating sword and she sheathes the first in its proper place as the fire within dies out, its wrath spent. Ophelia dances across the land, destroying dozens of spectres in the blink of an eye as she travels from sword to sword in an eight point star. Those struck by the ghostly flames are frozen in mid air, their bodies convulsed and twisted in a single moment of pain, locked in that brief point of time.

The final surge carries the Inquisitor to her blade which lies buried in the Deathscythe's broad skull. She appears upon its head as if through teleportation and pulls the enchanted katana free with a great heave. Dark ichor and blood-red fire erupt from the wound in a geyser as the creature screams in frustration and pain. Her blade snaps downwards, a crazed mixture of elation and adrenaline in Ophelia's face as she carves its arm away and Artyom's mighty blade is finally allowed to fall, severing the Deathscythe's tenous link to unlife in a single collosal strike.

The sound of Oboro-Muramasa sliding back into its sheathe is the catalyst that sets off an overwhelming chain reaction. Every one of the ghosts caught in her deadly storm of blades suddenly snaps back to life as if freed from her spell, only to explode into showers of etcoplasmic goo and demonic fire. The mastermind itself lets loose a final screech of outrage before even its voice begins to fade and its body crumbles to the ground, decomposing in a matter of moments until even the ash that remains is blown away in the wind.
Artyom W. Valodjn Despite the endless march of the restless dead- despite the arrival of their champion, the Deathscythe- despite the fact that the spirits have torn into Artyom's body and will more thoroughly than nearly anything else he has encountered thus far- despite all of that, they've come to this. With devastating, calamitous finality, the Titan's colossal, crystalline sword cleaves through Deathscythe's now thoroughly physical form. Artyom fights through the pain- physical and spiritual- to utter a final, devastating roar as his sword slams into the earth.

A shockwave blasts outward from the epicenter, releasing all the power of a tectonic collision at a single point of impact. Ripples pulse through the thick, stagnant gloom, before exploding outward in a colossal air-burst that scatters ash and ectoplasm alike into the sky, marsh and earth.

As the shockwave passes, the land underneath completes its metamorphosis, hardening and solidifying into a strong foundation for a new, enduring structure. Great, stone cairns stand at its perimeter. Runes climb across their surface, providing a makeshift, auspicious ward against evil spirits who might seek to enter it- though how effective the runic scriptures will be away from their plane of origin is questionable.

Artyom- weakly- raises his weapon, his wounds beginning to seal over, knit shut by crystalline thread and stone sutures- though his spirit will take much longer to heal than his flesh. The sword shimmers briefly, before a mass of discarded stone whirls about its crystalline edge, sealing it, once more, in a stone sheath.

He drops to a knee, resting his weight on his massive weapon. "Ghh-" Artyom coughs, "I was not expecting... So much resistance. Perhaps I should have prepared more in the way of countermeasures."

/Or/ they could have dragged the Churchmouse along. That would have been nice.

His eyes dart toward Ophelia as his shoulders rise and fall with no small amount of effort, "Are you alright, Lady Lovett? It appears that the ritual was a success."
Ophelia Ophelia remains frozen in her final pose, one hand resting on the scabbard at her waist that contains the great demonic presence of her primary blade while the other still clutches its hilt. The explosion of wind that results from her companion's collosal strike flutters her short hair and skirt wildly but the billowing cloud of dust that accompanies protects her modesty - not that she really has any.

Once the dust settles, she takes a moment to survey the result of their efforts. The broad expanse of flat earth that stretches out around them is pleasing to see; it will make a fine foundation for her new home. The woman turns casually to smile at Artyom and strides over to his side. A hand is placed on his shoulder as if in a friendly gesture, though if he is paying much attention he will notice that she is leaning rather heavily against his stocky frame for support.

"You did well, Artyom. Perhaps I will be able to put my trust in you, after all."
Artyom W. Valodjn A victory is a victory, even if it results in being completely exhausted afterwards. Artyom most certainly does not teeter and fall over when Ophelia leans on his shoulder, but that might be because he has a sword to balance on, and because Ophelia is also relatively light-weight compared to his colossal mass.

"I'm glad I had an opportunity to prove my worth," Artyom chuckles- not darkly, but definitely a bit sardonically. "Fortunate that this creature found its way to us to die. Though I had thought you didn't wish to take this land from the ghosts?"


"I suppose these were only a fraction of the spirits haunting these woods, hmn?"
Ophelia "Yes. This place has a dark history of suffering, more than we could ever hope to quell on our own." She runs a hand through her hair, smoothing it down into a semblance of order before flopping down on the dirt next to him. At this point she's too worn out to care much about looking demure or proper, something that she is decidely glad Alexander is not here to see.

"The mere threat of their existence will provide a barrier to keep out many undesirables who might wish to strike at us. And they are a good source of training and entertainment as well."
Artyom W. Valodjn "I see," Artyom breathes a tired sigh as he finally rolls over onto his side with a heavy /whud/, leaving his sword jutting out of the ground. At least the incense burner on his shoulders is still keeping the mosquitos away. "Well, at least, for now, we've earned a moment's respite. The cairns aught to help keep the weaker spirits away. Hopefully."


"Though it should still be possible to send recruits into the swamp to--" --die-- "--cut their teeth on the spirits lurking throughout these fens."

Artyom also never wants to have to do this with two people ever again.

Artyom W. Valodjn Really Hates Ghosts.

This scene contained 30 poses. The players who were present were: Artyom W. Valodjn, Ophelia