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(2013-08-15 - 2013-08-18)
Helena is set upon a task to harness her powers to help Souji at all costs. The dark being Garland gives her a quest. What does she find at the end of her road?
Garland Mirage Tower.

In an uncertain universe, Mirage Tower remains a fixture and a constant. A massive, monstrous tower that rises from the sands, it casts a terrible, bleak and miles-long shadow across the shifting dunes as it spikes high into the sky. No monsters dare enter the shadow of the Tower; they steer away from it instinctually, as if sensing that only death lies within those halls.

Indeed, only death *does* lie within the halls of the ancient superstructure. Deadly traps of all shape and size, ancient weapons built to protect the inner secrets of the Tower, and horrible automated monstrosities programmed only to destroy any life that dares set foot inside. Only those invited have any hope of reaching the top unscathed; only those challenged (or those truly foolish) ever climb the Tower from its nadir to its zenith.

So far, none in the new world have achieved that lofty height on their own. Dead derring-doers and inanimate adventurers litter the halls, sliced apart by the mechanical monstrosities within; their treasure accumulates, left there by the uncaring Master of the Tower, a veritable horde of gold and siler and steel waiting to be taken by the right person. Despite the legends of wealth that dwell in this tower, few adventurers dare it; none have come back alive.

At the top is said to be a treasure unlike any other; the stories vary, but the promise is always the same. Untold wealth; ancient knowledge beyond reckoning; wisdom of ages long gone by; perhaps even the key to immortality. There are as many stories as there are those who have seen the Tower, the massive superstructure spinning imaginations and tongues wildly out of control.

But at the top, in truth, something far darker lays.

There is a throne, at the top of the monstrous spiral. It is large and stone, connected to the whole tower piece by piece with ancient magitechnology; from this throne, one can control every inch of the Mirage, master every piece of the miles-high structure, rule every machine as though they were one's own fingers. The Lufein's legacy could do wonders for the world...but not in the hands of the one who currently rules over it. The throne rises above the rest of the floor, a raised dais that demands attention and compels obeisance.

And, in the center of that circular room that overlooks the whole desert...
Helena Celba Which one was she, Helena wonders idly as she moves up the tower. She was told to make no attack on the take no gold. She was here for knowledge, and here she would come to reach the summit of the tower to take what was promised hers...but as she climbs the last stairwell, her steps visibly slacken. Her right hand bracing against the right side of the wall as she slowly starts guiding her way to the top.

Earlier, she had started this. She stood at the base of the tower, noting the lack of monsters, they had abandoned this place...or maybe they were frightened? She too felt the pit of fear, but fear was to be overcome, to be challenged...she did not know the primal fear was there to try and safeguard her life from what lay.

It didn't take too long for her to figure it out. The clockwork machines, though they were not the same, invoked the memories of the Iron Desolation...they moved, with similar purpose and desire...your death. Worse, she could not strike at them, she had to get around...

Then the traps, not the same as home, as what made home dangerous was the entire terrain turning against you. These were purposely placed things of death. Her quick reflexes saved her a few times, but not every time. Close calls caused her pain...agony...

Halfway through the tower it looked as if she wasn't going to make it...but as a defender had her pinned...something happened. Chains grew from her body, deflecting the blow as she ducked under the massive thing. She moved, instinct and the desire to survive drove her. Logical thoughts were suppressed...she gave herself over to the desire to survive.

The new source of power seemed to be giving her a second wind, driving her farther and farther...deeper she went. The tower was uncaring and unthinking, it persisted...and she was mortal. She made mistakes, each one cost her a bit more...

Then finally, the final challenge. The last steps to the top. The chains still were held out, but blood soaked her clothing, dripping on the floor below her. Drops, poison burned in her veins, she was tapped of magic to stop it at this point, no items of support. The last bit she staggered...

She had reached the top, she walks, slowly towards the dais, towards the throne that sat there. Her vision swam...Helena knew only one thing...

She was going to die here.

Everything seemed to be less important now...her only desire was to her master. Souji...

She had wanted to bring the man from the past back, to ease and shoulder his burden...but now? She had failed in his service. She could tell when something was dying, it was instinctive to her, she could no less stop it than she could stop breathing.

Another step.

She couldn't even form words. Denial came, she wasn't...she couldn't lose like this. It was not was not possible...she was a elite of the Academy...

Another Step.

She had done what the man in the armor had asked...she had...obviously he was going to stop this...

Finally she fell to her knees after one final step.

This was how it ended. Here. In a place nobody remembered, no doubt forgotten by her peers. She had so few precious memories...Kyra, Seloria, Minette, Frank, and Souji. Finally, she collapsed, face down in the silent tower.

Tears rolled down her face, as she felt everything fading. She struggled, refusing to go quietly.
Souji Murasame Celba works hard and battles well, tapping into her instincts to drive her forward. But ven that has its limits. She begins dragging herself through the control room, her injuries sapping the last of her strength as she completes the task asked of her.

but at what cost?

The terrible throne sits there, its back turned to her in some mockery as glittering lights flicker on and off around it, the remains, no doubt, of the sophisticated defense system that maintains and protects the Mirage Tower. She senses a figure sitting within the throne. A dark presence... Garland, no doubt, having observed her progress and directed her path here.

Helena takes her final steps, and falls, struggling even in the end to not be taken by her mortality. So close to the end, only to fall before her goal, A choice she had made to serve in the most extreme of circumstances, to weather a fraction of that which Garland commands.

As she falls. There is a low hum, the massive Iron Throne rotating in place. Ageless machinery twists, nearly soundless even after the eons since its creators walked this world, allowing Helena to finally observe the being sitting within the throne.

It is not Garland. The Ironclad Nightmare needs nothing so prosaic for his work, such is his mastery. There is, however, another. She knows this person. As well as, perhaps, she even knows herself. Even through her fading senses, she knows him.

Souji Murasame sits upon the Iron Throne, his hands calmly folded before him as he observes the slow death of Helena. There is no pity in his eyes. To pity her would be to do her a disservice. No, there is no pity. There is only a cold calculation, with hints of the terrifying emptiness which lies beyond.

"You have done well." Souji says, simply, to Helena.
Garland The dark presence intensifies as the Ironclad Nightmare himself makes his presence known. Wherever there is suffering, wherever there is pain, Garland finds some nourishment, some enjoyment. He appreciates the suffering of mortals as a human might enjoy fine wine or excellen food; it is a pleasure he rarely fails to partake in whenever he can.

Garland rounds the Iron Throne of Mirage Tower, his fingers settled atop it. The sheer size of the monstrous demigod is emphasized by the throne itself; that he is nearly as tall as the throne itself, menacing with great spikes; that his eyes are mere pinpricks of red light, gazing down upon Helena Celba as she suffers in judgement and delight. The darkness around him is perhaps even more suffocating than Souji's - but where Souji's heart is bleak and empty, Garland's soul is filled with the rampage, the Conquering Chaos.

Garland says nothing; he does not need to speak. A slow nod of assent is all that he requires to give Souji control of the machines; a slow nod of approval. Helena Celba is prepared. Souji Murasame is prepared.

Now, they would create a most exquisite misery to share with the world.
Helena Celba Helena slowly looks up, her eyes turning slowly to the throne. Her eyes fade in and out, it was almost like looking through a fading television. For a moment, she fears her eyes are playing tricks on her, or that the figure in the chair is Garland, but playing a cruel joke on her.

That voice, even in her dying body hears it...she knows who it is. She tries to rise, but her body fails her, and she slumps back down. Her breathing is labored at this point, but the sight of the only family she has sitting there with her during her last moments...

No pity, she can feel that, and his words are...praise? She is not sure why...she is dying. She tries to speak, it is rough at first, but finally, "...But...I failed." She says, "You praise...the dead." She says, finally, weakly. There was nothing else to say, least she'd be able to pass with someone she knew in life.

That he knew why she was here...even if she failed in the end. It was...a happy thought at least, something to end this life on and go to the next. The emptiness calls to her soul, the emptiness in his eyes. She knows, but also isn't fully aware...

Her vision starts to fade again, but she struggles to not close them. She knows once they close...they won't open. Every ounce of strength she has left is to try and extend her last moments with Souji, so she can hear him.

She can not lift herself up again...but she can feel that darkness. The suffocating darkness not from their world. The same, yet not...breathing comes in sharper gasps.
Souji Murasame "Your objective was to reach the Throne without striking out at the defenses." Souji says in response. His voice is like iron, echoing in the great chamber as he speaks to the dying Helena. "You have accomplished the challenge set out for you. You have been tested to your utter limits and beyond, and now you sit at the cusp of life and death."

Garland gives his assent. Wordlessly, he turns over the control of the necessary machines to him. He has spent a good deal of time immersed in the ancient knowledge of the Conquering Chaos. His service, his efficiency, and his success has been repaid in kind.

And now he will make use of this knowledge. "You will be rewarded for your dedication, Helena Celba. I will bequeath to you part of myself, and we will be tied together, forever, beyond the death of the stars and the darkness at the end of all things. You will become my hand."

His eyes are locked upon the dying woman. "Do you accept this charge?" He asks.
Helena Celba Another sharp breath, she listens to the words from Souji. Was that...his plan from the start? How far was she being lead here? But who was the lesson for, she ultimately wondered. Again, even in death she wasn't thinking of herself...

She feels pathetic, being seen in this state, but her body is beyond being able to resist such a thing. Her eyes focus on Souji once more, as he finally finishes. "...Yes." She says, without hesitation, "I as I was before...your right hand.."

Her eyes finally start to close. For all her devotion, she had limits, and she was finally beyond them. The strength she has is gone, and her life starts to fade after she accepts Souji's gift.

"...serve you...even in.." She gasps...
Souji Murasame Souji nods, and stands from the Iron Throne, stepping forward to approach Helena. The sounds of systems activating are heard, keyed in before she even responded.

He knew what the answer would be.

It is a mystery why such technology existed in the Mirage Tower, but exist it does. Perhaps the Lufenians were wise enough to see the coming of their undoing and attempt to stop it. But such machines can be put to other uses... Uses never intended by their designers, set to purposes much more fitting for the current Master of the Tower.

A purpose that allows Souji to do what he is about to do. He kneels down before Helena, and gives her a small smile. Perhaps she might even see a distorted, faded reflection of that man she met so long ago...

That man, who stands and draws Murasame with a single smooth motion, inverts the blade and stabs downwards, skewering her through her heart. "Let it begin."

At the moment of her death, the terrifying machinery begins to work, churning as he withdraws the blade. They sense the death, the release of a soul...

But this soul would not be given the grace of moving on to whatever Underworld awaits her. The ancient Lufenian binding machinery comes to life, crackling electricity searing downwards around Souji and causing him to arch his back. The pain is exquisite, as he screams in agony as power crackles between him, the corpse of Helena Celba, and her newly released soul. Blackness surges from him, surrounding that body as she begins to get a glimpse of what it means to be connected to one such as him.

Blood. A blade, flashing through the air. The burdens of life, raised to excellence. The endless expectations and pursuit of perfection. Endless love and perfect devotion, shattered. Crimson-stained white, red hair and shining eyes. Desolation, a void of the soul that yawns outwards with a terrible hunger and desperate ambition. An iron will that runs through it, a duty as unbreakable as adamant.

A welter of emotion and despair crashes through the consciousness of Helena, before her soul is bound back into her body, forced there with the terrible power brought to bear. Her wounds are gone, leaving only a mark over her heart.
Helena Celba Helena's life is finally cut short as the Murasame blade finally comes down, striking her heart, and snuffing the final moments of Helena's life.

The machines turn, the terrible machines and their dark purpose...perhaps once their purpose was not made for dark desires...but now? Those machines are used to preform a grate profane act on the world.

Helena's soul is forced to stay, for a moment her consciousness is able to perceive from a way she has never been able to in life. She see's Souji, she see's her body, she see's the dark magic...and feels it. She too, would scream, but her lungs are no longer with her...

Something touches her in a way she'd never thought possible. Memories...urges, feelings...all of these things pour into her soul as it is dragged back into her body. She can feel it, the darkness beyond darkness...the true meaning of what she served in life.

The iron will...the Desolation caused by duty forced upon him...he sacrificed love for it. Everything, including himself, as he stands here now cutting his own soul to make his perfect servants. The sword is removed, as Helena's body moves...

It sucks in a single breath, arching her back in a strange and unnatural arch as she receives another breath of life. Despair...she can feel the emotion, she did promise him...she would burden his sorrow. And now, she would do so literally.

Her eyes open, the red iris mix with black as they look unfocused for a moment as the true depth of what is poured into her comes into her still fragmented mind. Her chest is unperceived, only the scar where the Murasame blade pierced her remained.

After a few moments, she stops moving, on a knee in front of Souji. "You called for me, master."
Souji Murasame Souji himself looks shaken from the experience, but it does not last for long. Never let them see you bleed.

He looks down at Helena as she kneels before him, and he reaches out, placing a hand on her shoulder. "Helena... You have been given a part of my soul. It will sustain you though the dark times ahead. As I grow in power, so shall you. Expose this to no one. Soon, we will have assembled our number. And we will be ready."

Souji turns away, and steps up to the Throne and sits upon it. "Rise, Helena Celba. You are the chains that bind and devour. Use them well."
Helena Celba Helena does not say anything, she feels the hand on her shoulder. She can feel the power...the darkness... she can feel it.

Souji takes his place on the throne and she remains in her place for a moment, as he continues to speak to her, "...The Chains that bind and has a nice ring to it." she says, with a is not pleasant.

"I will, master. And we will grow in power, your will be done." she says, with a soft smile. While she burdens his sorrow, she still will smile. She will not let him see her bleed.

"So now I understand where it was you were disappearing to." She muses, "To think such a place exists...and that you would become one who would master it.." She smiles, "A matter of course, I think you would say." She considers. "...I suppose there is still a few tricks to learn from your gift.."

This scene contained 11 poses. The players who were present were: Garland, Souji Murasame, Helena Celba