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No title.
(2013-08-13 - 2013-08-14)
No description.
Ramza Beoulve So much had happened.

And now that they'd gained considerable distance from Fluorgis, setting up many false trails and camps along the way, they'd finally had time to settle down. A little bit of healthy paranoia was always good when dealing with a Church of Zealots secretly run by Archdemons. The frequent ambushes were proof of that.

The various tasks of setting up camp were already finished, as they set up by the outskirts of the Western forest. A firepit was created, latrines were dug, and a very small hunting party of their most competent members were sent out. And while Artemis would likely have his hide for it later, he was seated alone, a good distance from the camp, beneath a tree. He was armored and armed, but otherwise alone. And all he appeared to be doing was writing in a leatherbound journal with a ballpoint pen. Every so often he'd look up in an abstracted manner, and just stare at the horizon in the distance, but otherwise those small pauses, seemingly for sight-seeing, were all that interrupted his scribbling.
Hati Somewhere in the British countryside, lies a dark forest. It's the sort of place that most people wouldn't dare to go. Whispered stories tell of monsterous creatures that lurk amongst the dead branches and hollowed out forms of trees. Maybe they're right.

At this moment, Ramza and his people were camped near the edge of those woods. They were not the tundra-forests of her childhood, but they were as close to 'home' as she had in this torn pasted-together world. There would be plenty of game here for the hunters, since few humans dared to traverse these woods. Yet for Hati, it's easy enough to avoid them.

The wolf simply watches Ramza for a while, the girl crouched in the darkness of the branches nearby. Her camo-colored trousers and dark shirt blend her in among the canopy, mismatched eyes peering like the predator she is.

Maybe it isn't the most wise of choices, but the wolf decides to show herself in the most plain way possible. She launches herself from the branch, landing in a thump on the ground, knees beneath her, arms drawn out, human form appearing half lupine as she cocks her head. "It's a good thing you and your people are pretty stealthy, otherwise I might have to take issue with them trapsing around my woods. I've worked hard to strike fear into people and keep them out. But I figure I owe you enough to let them stay, for now."
Ramza Beoulve As the wolf bounds down in a thump in front of him, the young man reacts mostly by quickly putting a hand to his side upon a sword pommel, while his other raises as if in to begin hasty spellcasting he relaxes a moment later. While he did react quickly to threats, he wasn't exactly the nervous type.

Both hands drift away from their positions slowly as he closes the journal and sets it aside. His smile did seem genuine at least, albeit slightly chagrined. "Lady Hati. It warms my heart to see you again." There was a beat pause, "...and if I'd known this was your forest I'd have asked permission in advance. As it stands I don't think my people will disrespect the reputation you've tried to cultivate for this forest. We're used to leaving as little sign of our passing as possible."

He regarded her for a time in quiet contemplation before finally moving on to the elephant in the room. "How are you faring? The entire affair in Fluorgis was... trying."
Hati The wolf slowly rises to her feet, shifting from beast to person, although her eyes never lose that lupine intensity. Though she has softened in some ways since her days as as Shadow Lord, there is still something quite inhuman about Hati. Unlike her brother, she tends to seem more like a wild child and less like a normal human being.

The wolf looks towards the book he'd been writing in, and then folds her arms over her chest, "I don't spend much time here, anymore. Especially since the nonsense in Fluorgis started." Much of her task in the whole sordid affair was to watch Faruja and report the changes in his behavior to Ramza and his people. She'd been kept at arm's length, for good reasons, perhaps, but it had been frustrating.

Her ears tuck down, "I haven't spoken to Faruja." Though few could call her a coward, there were times when matters of the heart were not so simple as charging into battle. "He's alive, and that's all I could have hoped for from all this. I know he's still with his Church, so I don't know what that means for me." Her tail swishes once behind her. "You were right, and I don't trust that this was one isolated incident."
Ramza Beoulve Ramza watches the shift with a nonplussed look on his expression, even if he found the lupine intensity of her gaze disquieting.

From the glance before he closed it, the writing in the journal would appear to be nonsense scribble. Likely it was written in another language in shorthand. Possibly even encrypted in his own code. Once shut though, it was just a nondescript book. "For a worthy cause..." His visage looked sympathetic, "I see... he did appear to be speaking sense on our departure. Even if I feel that he is making the wrong choice."

Another pause, as he looks down at his lap and hands, "He told me that he is staying to try and investigate, to root out the corruption, but he does not know how extensive this conspiracy is. Nearly all of the leadership in the highest levels of Church are involved, and that makes it.. nigh-impossible, to carve it out from the inside. He believes it will protect those whom he cares about..." He chuckles to himself ironically, "...even if it means I must remain enemy, outwardly."

After a time, he looks up at her, "I think it means that he cares about you very much, even if I think he is being foolish. It is a decision I can respect, however, even if I disagree with it." Another short pause, and then his voice drops in a sotto voce, "...and unfortunately this is anything but, an isolated incident. If what we saw in the scrying is correct, they intend to bring a master of these Archdemons into this world. And given the power that each Lucavi possesses, it curdles the blood to think of what would happen if their master's revival came to pass."
Hati "I'm not one that's prone to self-sacrifice." The wolf explains as she steps forward, feet barely making any sound on the forest floor. "Throwing yourself in front of bullets isn't bravery, it's stupidity. There's only three people in the world I'd be willing to do that for, and for now, he remains one of them. The others are my brother, and Katyna." Katyna, who may already be tainted by her association with Ramza and his people.

"I don't think that choice comes as a surprise to either of us." Hati's ears tuck down, her tail held low. "I've never understood the religious, but I suppose you have to have faith in something." She leans against a tree nearby where he sits, dark circles beneath her eyes. "I don't know what he feels, but I certainly don't need protection from the Church of Glabados. I'm not afraid of them." She growls under her breath.

"I can't stay like this. Even if he comes to hate me for it, he's the one that needs protection. You have knowledge about these demons. You have information that could help me keep him and Katyna safe. I can't stand here and be kept at bay by your secrecy when their lives are on the line." Her words carry with it a furvor that she has on few other topics. Protecting her pack comes first and foremost, that is the way of a wolf.

"I'm either your ally, or I'm not. This half-way where you don't trust me to know the truth has to stop, one way or the other. And you know I can make it worth your while to work with me. If the Church doesn't suspect Faruja, maybe they won't suspect me, and I've spent enough time snooping around places as a Shadow Lord to know how to feed information to the right parties. Information like... when patrols are planned."
Ramza Beoulve Ramza actually barks out a laugh at the first comment, before giving her a sheepish look, "Unfortunately you would likely label me as one prone to stupidity. Artemis often tells me so. Though I am happy to hear that Katyna has such a loyal friend. There was a time when it seemed like she would forever wallow in despair due to a lack of them."

There is another pause, before he nods, "I'm afraid he does need protection. And until we can destroy the stone there will always be that danger. The Church knows that he is a potential perfect host for that stone and will stop at nothing to get it back." Another beat pause, "He wants the oppurtunity to attempt to purify it, but I.. don't want him anywhere near that stone, to tell you true. He will have to find means that won't require him to be close to it."

He quietly regards her in silence for a long while before stating, "Fair enough, though I'm not sure where I ever withheld the truth from you. There is always hesitation to trust, but Ser Senra believes in you, as does Katyna. And after what I saw in Fluorgis, that is good enough for me. What do you want to know?"
Hati The werewolf cocks her head, although her own expression doesn't seem amused. She knows more than a few of those 'white knight' sorts, and though she certainly will never resort to their sort of antics, she does respect the strength they have in protecting their friends and comrades. "Katyna is one of the only people I knew when I was a Shadow Lord. There were three of us that trained together, like sisters. Two of us made it out, the other..." Hati shakes her head. The fate of Morgan remains an unknown.

"You and I are in agreement there. I want him as far away from that stone as possible. It was all too easy for it to take hold of him, because of his faith. So long as he clings to that blindly, it will leave him an easy tool for those who want to do evil in the name of some god." Having been a tool, herself, Hati knows all about what it is like to be used for some idea of a 'greater good' that doesn't exist.

Rather than trying to explain what she means about trust, though, Hati simply reaches up, plucking a linkpearl from her ear. "This is what I mean." It's the one she'd been given upon her entry into VALKYRI. "I don't want to find out things when it's useful to you. I don't want to find out after the fact when the warning comes too late. I want to know when danger is coming, so I can be ready to do something about it."

She slips the small object back in her ear, shaking her head slightly at the odd sensation, "I don't want these monsters to get power any more than you do, and I'll do what I can to help you, if you give me a chance. You know you need someone on the inside to listen, and I'm sure you could use another set of daggers on the outside to fight." It's clear that the wolf is offering to work as a double agent of sorts.
Ramza Beoulve The young man listens to her recount her time with the Shadow Lords. Well this told him.. a few things that he didn't yet know about Katyna. The thing to know about his camp was that everyone had a past. And Ramza? He didn't pry. Everyone looked out for each other, and only if their past came looking for them did he intrude on their privacy. "I'm very glad to know that you'll look out for each other. She needs someone like you."

On the point of Faruja's faith, he nods once again, his expression abstracted, "I don't fault people for faith, so long as it is in gods and not in institutions that claim to serve them. Unfortunately he believed his church to be infallible, and that is how it took hold. I believe in the same god that he does, although the details are different." And after another beat pause he states, "There was a time when I held such trust in the Church as well. Unfortunately, my faith was misplaced and a good woman fell into their clutches as a result to be used as their puppet. And my sister fell into darkness shortly after during a battle with them.."

Ramza Beoulve watches her explain and nods, "Very well. Right now we have no further leads outside of the Church and are searching for some. Several of the Zodiac Stones fell into darkness with my sister. Others are yet to be found. I have.. suspicions on where one might be, but it is better off lost if it is there." And then a final statement, "If you are particularly brave, then we need the names of the Templars and clergy within the Church that might already possess aligned stones of their own. I suspect High Templar Folmarv Tengille, his son, Izlude Tengille, his daughter, Meliadoul Tengille, the High Confessor Marcel Funebris, and.. Templar Louis LeBlue. If they have a stone which is aligned with them, then they are extraordinarily dangerous, and it may be impossible to seperate it from them without killing them."
Hati "I wonder if that is what it would take to convince him of the truth... losing someone he cares about." Hati murmurs in her own absent sort of way. It has that hint of forboding in it that comes when someone might not be too far off from the truth. Would getting involved with this someday cost her life? Perhaps, but the choice was made long ago when her heart chose this path for her.

Shaking her head, Hati refocuses her attention, nodding once to Ramza's own story. "As much as they may be best left hidden, we need to be on guard. Should the Church discover hints of their whereabouts, we have to be ready to intercept the stones before they do. It's a dangerous tightrope act." The 'we' in how she phrases things suggests that the wolf has every intention of being involved in all of this, even if the danger is high.

With a huff, the wolf slaps her tail against the tree, "I don't think I need to defend my courage, but there's only so much I can do from the outside. I have no intention of enlisting as a Templar." Hati smirks, as if she finds the idea of that entertaining. It's not as if anyone would really buy her as a religious sort. "I might be able to get information from Faruja to you, though, if he still..." She trails off. "My ability to use the dark portals means I can't be followed, or tracked. I need to know what I'm looking for, though."

With a sigh, she rubs at her temples with one hand, "I didn't even get a sense of the stone in the chalice until it activated. Unless you happen to know a way of identifying someone bound to the stones, you might be better off asking your thread-seeking friend to sneak a peek at them. He might have better luck, there."
Ramza Beoulve "I pray it doesn't come to that." He states in a low voice, but he speaks no more on that subject. He was terrible when it came to personal relationships and advice himself, so he typically didn't presume to advise people on their personal business.

There is another short pause, before he states, "True, and unfortunately this would give them a possible alliance with the Archadian Empire. It might be in their former Magicite Mine which was lost in the darkness. However... if I were to restore that, I would give them more tools for their powerful war machine." He rubs a hand against his brow briefly in consternation. " is not an easy decision. While Archades may appear to be the victim right now, they were Imperialistic conquerors on their world. Giving them that resource will have far-reaching consequences. And simply collapsing or blowing up the mine once it is restored and searched would not stop them."

He chuckles once again, "Nor would I ask you to defend it after the events in Fluorgis, as to tell you true, that sort of bravery to get that close to those individuals is nearly suicidal. And I certainly would not aver that you should enlist as a Templar. That would be foolish." Another short pause, "....Well, let us hope that Faruja has more wisdom than I give him credit for."

He nods once again, his expression thoughtful, "It's an effective trick, since he can conceal himself as a beggar or supplicant, but it only goes so far. In truth whenever we know that a stone is on someone's possession, we automatically presume that they are tied to it. The stones... have a tendency to tempt anyone who touches them. I have been tempted as well."
Hati "A choice between two evils." The werewolf states, her lips quirked slightly. "I know that all too well." While she doesn't know much about the Archadians, having had little contact with them, directly, that doesn't mean that she's interested in giving power to a warrior nation. "If the two were to band together to reclaim the mine, then we would certainly have trouble being able to steal the stone. I doubt you have enough members to stand against an army, and though I'm a clever enough thief, I'd rather not risk the influence of the stone, myself."

Hati raises a hand, a bit of dark flame flowing over her fingers. "Though I'm not a believer of your faith, the darkness in me would make me look like a tasty snack to a demon, I suspect." Though the wolf has been trying to reform herself after her time with the Shadow Lords, she cannot shake the darkness like her brother. It has become too much a part of her, along with the negative emotions and actions that sometimes go with it.

"I don't know about his wisdom, but no matter what happens between us, I do plan on keeping him safe, one way or the other." Hati chuckles then, "Wolf loyalty." She shrugs. "But perhaps it is a good thing to keep the thread-seer away then. If they were able to control him somehow, then the knowledge he holds is enough to bring anyone to their knees."

She grumbles then, "I'll do what I can. At the very least, I can try to give you a heads up if they're coming your way. If Faruja gets sent out after any stones, you'll at least have a chance to be one step ahead of the Templar."
Ramza Beoulve "With the Church being handed a powerful alliance no matter what we do. If they discover the stone is there and restore it, then they will have the gratitude of the Archadian Emire. If I restore it, steal the stone, and collapse the mines to temporarily thwart them then I give credence to accusations of terrorism. And they are driven into an alliance either way." He gives her a chagrined look, "It is not an easy choice, as I am relying on their ignorance, and the hope that they cannot track the Stones to places still concealed in darkness. Also, because they would require a keyblade wielder.. and I pray that most would have the sense not to restore that area. I may be hoping for too much."

A short pause and a nod, "There aren't...many that I trust to touch the stones. Even in my own company, only I am allowed. Will Sherman only because of what lay within him makes him virtually immune to their influence. But we all saw what happened when Zack touched it.. it is not an easy thing to steal them away." And after a moment, he nods, "If there is /anything/ in the world you desire, they will offer it to you. And worse yet, they have the power to grant it. It is very difficult to resist their temptation, especially if you are steeped in that much darkness. It was difficult for me, the first time.." He gives himself a self-depreciating smile, " became only slightly easier with experience." That is probably him being just a little bit too humble given that he literally spiritually punched a Lucavi demon out of Zack's mind.

There is a slight pause, and then a chuckle, "I would like to see them /try/ to control Will Sherman, but while I doubt they would succeed I would not wish their methods on the worst of my enemies. No, I would prefer to keep everyone out of their clutches, if I could." Then after a moment's thought, he nods his head in gratitude, "Thank you Lady Hati, that is more than I could have ever hoped to ask you for. I appreciate it."
Hati Though her time within the Shadow Lords had given Hati the identity of a certain Keyblade wielder, she remains oblivious to the fact that there are others who now carry those powerful blades. "Well, if you have any luck in finding any keyblade wielders, I'd suggest warning them not to go unlocking that particular shard." With a laugh, the wolf girl pushes herself up, scratching at one scarred shoulder. "Then again, the Shadow Lords have had trouble tracking down the one they know of. It might be easier said than done."

"Will is a strange one, but ... I like him." The wolf admits. Unlike so many others, he didn't seem to carry much pretense about him. "It puts my mind at ease that he isn't susceptible to the influence of the stones." It doesn't help at all with the fact that she's walking into a lion's den when it comes to her own exposure to the stones. Then again, it would be a bad idea to choose her as a host, since no one would really believe the wolf had converted to anything.

The prospect of her desires brings her mind back to her White Wolf, though. Would she strike a bargain with them if it meant finding that one person she'd been destined for? No. The wolf shakes her head, riding herself of that silent thought. "I only desire one thing, and it's something I have to find for myself. Otherwise, there's no point in the quest."

That said, Hati looks towards the edge of the woods. "You'd do the same if you loved someone, wouldn't you?" It doesn't seem like a rhetorical question. The wolf really does seem confused on that matter. "Just... get me a radio frequency and keep in touch, will you?"
Ramza Beoulve "I'll certainly try. Though at the moment I'm not acquainted with any. I believe Will stated that he's in contact with a boy named Sora, and Artemis was searching for him for his aid in the Fluorgis affair." He chuckles, "Well it's a very fortunate thing for all of us that they have trouble tracking them down."

And there's another nod with a genuine smile, "Will is...always a good man to have at your side. I count myself fortunate to call him a friend. And he is holding onto the Sagittarius stone for us, for now."

He listens to her personal quest for a time before responding, "Then I wish you the best of luck in finding them." As for her question he states immediately, "Without hesitation."

He scrawls down a radio frequency on one of the final pages of the journal, before tearing it out and handing it to her. "That should keep you in touch with all of us."
Hati "Sora." Hati repeats the name, and then nods her head. "I only knew of the one, but for all I know, there's more out there. As miraculous as their power is to bring worlds back from the brink, it may not always be a good idea. Some things are best left buried." Her thoughts shift to her father. Luckily, her world was destroyed, rather than having fallen to darkness. He couldn't have survived, right?

Taking the frequency, Hati looks at it, taking out her phone so she can quickly add the code into her contacts. After that, the bit of paper is destroyed with a rush of dark flame. "I'll keep in touch on anything I learn."

Then, she sighs. "But first, I need to talk to Faruja." The thought of it is enough to make the wolf look absolutely downtrodden. For someone who has rarely been accepted by many, the thought of losing one of those social ties is frightening. "If you have need of my services... you know that I owe you one. A thief's fingers or a far-seer's sight or a potion-master's brew, they're yours at your request."

With that, the werewolf leaps up towards the trees again, crouching on a branch, then makes back for the deeper parts of the woods. Their paths will likely cross again soon enough.

This scene contained 16 poses. The players who were present were: Hati, Ramza Beoulve