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The Garland Games
(2013-01-13 - 2013-01-13)
Garland makes good on his promises and ambushes Avira in the streets of Rabanastre.
Avira It's a new day in Rabanastre, the rising sun just cresting the high walls of the desert city. Roughly an hour ago, a fresh set of guards had cycled through their posts, replacing the sleepy men with those of sharp mind and rested body. Though it had been quite some time since the city faced an attack of any sort, Heartless or not, they remained ever vigilant as they could hardly forget the incident from a month ago where a Shadow Lord brazenly invaded a charitable event from the Galbados Church.

Some good men lost their jobs that day and who knows what explanations were demanded behind the scenes for this interference.

Even this early, the streets of the marketplace were quite crowded already as merchants race to set up their stalls, eager to attract the business of travellers and locals alike. The local tavern had long since opened though with few here interested in mere drinking. Clients this early in the morning aspired to visit one thing: the mark listing. Competition was the way of clan life and securing a job before another could make all the difference in the world.

Today, it is Avira's turn to scour the job board for missions easy enough for the still-small Clan Dagda to complete. It was important to bring back something good since Avira's absence and involvement in VALKYRI had lead Mabo to start doubting her commitment to the clan. She never had told him or the other non-Angantyr members about her time spent mutated, trying to spare them the complication of that matter. The presence of VALKYRI really was starting to become a problem since splitting her time was beginning to become difficult.

Ideally, she could easily solve the problem by quitting Dagda, but she owed the clan her life. Cutting ties so dishonorably did not sit well with Avira.

At this point in the morning, Avira is alert. She had to be if she wanted to avoid unpleasant interactions with the local guard. There had been rumors recently that one of the more fearsome Judge Magisters had returned from whereever mysterious place he had been. Avira figures he was lost, wandering in the darkness as many others had.

Pushing through the crowd, Avira squeezes her way between a pair of Seeq, then swiftly ducks around a pair of conversing guards.
Garland 'Safe' is an outmoded word.

It has no meaning among the worlds, not really. Wherever there are shadows, wherever the light is swallowed up by darkness, there are the Heartless. Wherever human hearts gather, the Heartless are not too far behind, the inscrutable nightmares that come from beyond the worlds for no purpose but consumption, no reason but destruction. There is no 'safe' anymore, not in a world where Heartless exist; even in these massive cities, with guards and soldiers of both magical and physical inclination, the Heartless could swarm over the populace in a matter of hours with a concerted reason to do so.

'Safe' is an even more outmoded word in a world where Garland exists.

It does not matter to him that this is Rabanastre, one of the most highly-defended and powerful cities in the Word of Ruin. It does not matter that this is a large and impressive population center, full of people who want nothing more than to go about their lives in peace. It does not matter that these people are going to suffer from his mere presence, are going to bleed because he chose to set foot in this place; they are so much chattle, so much kine, cows for the slaughter to prove his point.

What is his point?

That 'safe' is an outmoded word.

He steps out of the shadows, and people scream. He draws his blade, the air coiling into darkness around his palm, the massively unwieldy weapon falling into his iron-clawed hand, and people run. He advances on Avira, silent, but no less fearsome in his visage, his cape flowing behind him.

Later, many people would claim that he must have been a Judge arresting a criminal. They would claim that they did not know which Judge it was, but that he had the armor of a Judge, and in Archadia, that meant he was a Judge.

The lies people comfort themselves with are most amusing.
Avira Judges were iconic figures long since burned into the collective psyche of Rabanastre. Symbols of the law and oppression brought on by years of their country's occupation, reaction to their presence always fell towards horror.

Garland was no judge magister but he certainly looked exactly like one and his current marriage to the abyss only intensified any reaction to his appearance. Even those normally dull to the fabric of magic woven into their very existances here can feel what's inside of the imposing man. Any bystander would readily leap to accept that he was just a judge magister, rather than continue to consider the terrifying truth that, for a few seconds, they stared into the void themselves.

Avira feels his presence before he sees him and even before the screams start up around her. There's zero doubt in her mind as to Garland's identity and zero doubt over the reason he has appeared.

The advance of Garland immediately drives people from his intended path, citizens of Rabanastre running and tripping over themselves to flee. There is one exception, however, that is being the pair of city guards nearby Avira. They stand their ground, their heavily armored appearances concealing their confusion and fear. "Oi! You there!" his voice is unsure, "Sheath your weapon! Fighting is forbidden here!"

The huntress turns, witnessing Garland's advance. Just that very image of him brings fear to her heart as well, but she doesn't run. She doesn't scream out 'why?!' Why here, around so many bystanders?! No, she knows why. Garland had explained this little game quite thoroughly in the jungle months ago. With no hesitation, she draws her weapon, but she doesn't advance.

For a few seconds, she seems to be content to wait for him to come to her. After a moment of consideration, she too advances and the grip on the Spine switches from one-handed to two-handed. All the better, as one of the guards reaches out to pull Avira back, as if that was going to stop the impending battle.

His own cowardice that prevents him from advancing means his reach for Avira's bare upper arm fails.

Cheekily, Avira seems to be trying to get the first strike in as her advance quickly turns into a burst and she swings the Spine in a low to upward stroke at him.
Garland Garland feeds off of fear. He loves fear, inasmuch as the Ironclad Nightmare can enjoy anything; though the part of his heart that once loved and cared for things, that once felt the emotions born of light, has long since been smothered by the endless darkness from which he draws his might. He is the Void, the Abyss, the Shadows That Stretch Longer Than The Night; he is its Champion, its once-and-future incarnation, the soon-to-be-again god of destruction and devastation. Even without knowing his true name, the name mumbled on the lips of madmen and crazed prophets, even the most magically dull person knew it, felt it, touched it in their soul. The shuddering these people felt, the primal terror in their heart of hearts, the revulsion and despair that echoed through them as he walked, silently, predatorially, was Garland's sweetest pleasure, in a world that no longer held such things for him. Terror is the only spice of his life; violence and bloodshed and battle the only joy.

What must it be like in that iron shell, to have such rage, such fury, such all-consuming hatred wrapped all about where his heart of hearts should be? What must it be like, drenched in the blood of countless innocents for nothing less than the goal of divinity itself? What must it be like to be Garland?

Only one man can answer that, and he's not speaking.

As Avira advances and switches to a two-handed stance, Garland takes it in. She is adapting, learning; she is wielding her weapon for attack, not defense, well aware that there is no defense against his massive blade. She swings in, hard, stabbing up; Garland meets it with his shoulderpad, the Spine smashing against his inner elbow.

Garland's sword vanishes. Too large for the position he's found himself in. It disappears, vanishing like a morning mist, as his massive iron fist comes swinging around for her stomach. Not for her face, but her stomach - the head was too easy to miss, too small, with too many joints to make dodging easier. That massive iron gauntlet comes swinging in, as his terrible, black voice echoes from within the confines of that monstrous suit.

"You have been practicing."
Avira The guards remain still, paralyzed with fear as they watch on, trapped between self-preservation and duty. One leans to the other, murmuring in his ear that this could very well be a judge magister here to do his job, which means they would not have to interfere with the fight. On the other hand, as representatives of the law they still had a role to play and could not flee as the current peasantry is doing.

Speaking of said peasantry, the immediate area has somewhat cleared out, leaving injured trampled people crumpled on the ground. Even they are still trying to weakly drag themselves to safety as the rest of the fearful populace, Archadian guards included, does little to help them. Despair and confusion hangs thickly in the air, no doubt intensifying the moment for the Iron-clad embodiment of Chaos.

Avira seems aware that there are still others in the area, the guard included, but does little about them. Splitting her attention right now would prove to be deadly. She had to get in close, she knew, because close enough would make it difficult for Garland to swing his massive weapon effectively.

It's obvious he quickly realizes this too as the giant weapon disappears and it's disquieting how quickly he eliminates this particular advantage in Avira's favor.

Shortly after the upwards blow, Avira completely changes the grip upon the hilt of the Spine. Though it remains two-handed, the way she holds it becomes reversed, so once her strike has reached its apex, she can drag it back down, as an animal would rake something with its claws.

Getting in this close also had distinct disadvantages made apparent once his weapon disappears. In fact, this had been a near repeat of their previous encounter in the jungle where he had also inflicted this painful blow upon her. It is for that reason Avira seems far more prepared to deal with this possibility so when Garland swings in, Avira twists her body sideways. He still strikes, but the hit is not the direct, debilitating, vomit-inducing stike as earlier.

The noise of the impact sounds like a car crash, the gaunlet ripping the breastplate that protects Avira's torso asunder. The momentum makes Avira spin with little control to Garland's flank and she loses her balance, stumbling to the ground and landing on her side.

His remark is uncommented upon at first as getting to her feet becomes the priority. Avira rolls sideways, as if anticipating Garland trying to stomp her with a foot while down. Pulling up into a crouched position, she brings her sword up, held lance-like, and jabs out for his knee, searching for weak spots in the heavy armor.

"I am always practicing." she says, her voice low and breathless. "There's so much to catch up to."
Garland Garland knows of the Judge Magisters. It was one of the reasons he had even picked this place to once more intervene in Avira's life: he knew what he was capable of doing in this place under the blanket of the Judges and their Magister leaders, what he was capable of performing in a single burst of sudden and brutal violence so long as it looked like a criminal's arrest. He could do so many things...but only once. He had chosen this for a reason. What was that reason, though? What was the purpose of choosing to wield his power so visibly, like this?

That was undoubtedly left to Avira to decide.

Garland cannot help but note the subtlety with which she evades the blow; she knew he was faster than she was, knew he was strong enough to smash through her armor with ease, but still predicted his strike well enough to partially evade. The breastplate goes flying, smashing into the wall near the two guards. Garland doesn't bother drawing his sword at the moment; he simply turns, raising one arm as a shield like a boxer, the other low at his side. It minimized the weak points on his armor, minimized the chance of her finding a repeatable strategy to deal with the Ironclad Nightmare; the raking of her Spine across the innards of his arm is still quite visible, the damage done quite obvious, if not quite enough to cut through the armor itself. What was that armor made of, to resist her weapon?

As Avira jabs Garland at his knee, he twists, just enough, to get out of the way; the Spine strikes him on the back of the knee, the screech of metal ringing through the square. Garland...stumbles? And falls to one knee, his fist smashing against the ground? Did...she manage to injure him so critically? Did Garland possess such an Achilles Heel?

"What are you waiting for, you fools?!" Garland's voice rings out at the various soldiers of Archadia gathered around the square, "Arrest her!"


Even the innocent are weapons in his hands.
Avira In Avira's mind, she doesn't spend a lot of time thinking "why here," especially since Garland claimed he could strike anywhere. Doing so in a crowded market like this would add the dimension of innocent bystanders getting caught up in the fight, which would add amusement to her attacker's time here, right? She never considered that Garland would want to maintain a certain image here or even alliance with the Archadians. That their fight here could be interpreted as...something else.

ANot until Garland's next "attack" comes at her in a very unexpected way.

The back of her mind notes the destruction of her armoring with irritation. She'd have to purchase a new one later, though it wouldn't be the first time. Avira goes through a staggering amount of gear, her inexperience being particularly rough upon her equipment. It's a bit of a wonder that her Spine has remained in one piece-though there might be much more than just physical integrity keeping that weapon together.

Her inability to penetrate Garland's armor does not come to much of a surprise to Avira. In fact, she had been suspecting to face such a problem, which is why she tries to strike at joints in the first place. There had to be a way to get through it besides flailing and striking the thickest parts!

Sparks fly as armor and Spine interact.

A small swear escapes her as the Spine fails to hit its real target, though the results of her blow are a lot more surprising than she expected. Was that really a weakpoint in his armor? She would have to exploit it later.

Avira quickly stands, lifting her weapon to hover it over her shoulder, pointing the tip at Garland's armored head. She's poised such that it seems, like with one quick stab, she could drive the Spine into her opponent's ear. For a single moment, it actually looks like she has the upper hand.

Then Garland calls out to the other guards. Avira's eyes widen. "What-!" Her focus zooms out to their crowd of spectators, now primarily the city guard, blocking both sides of the market street. "No! He's not a judge!!!" she calls out.

The guard does hesitate for a second, but as far as appearances go, they really are far more inclined to believe Garland. Lowering their polearms and halbreds, they quickly start to close in.

Panicing, Avira looks both ways, then around her, scooting backwards at a ninety degree angle, slipping between two of the market stalls lining the street, glancing over her shoulder as she does. Behind her remains another storefront, filled with cowering merchants.

A halbred is thrust between the stalls and Avira lets out a swear as she parries it away. Wood shatters as guards simply elect to break /through/ the stalls to get at her.

Rather than get cornered, Avira turns and throws herself through one of the storefront windows, incurring the cuts from shattered glass. Scrambling, she shoves her way through the shop-a weapons shop as it would happen to be-and immediately scrambles for the second floor. Her entry has caused a bottleneck at the storefront, buying her some time to flee upwards.
Garland Garland is a relentless foe. He stands - making it clear to Avira, if she is wise enough to notice - that in no way is that simple strike enough to break through the armor he has clad himself in. That armor has been forged over ten thousand years of his life, once made by one of the finest of smiths, then transformed by his hand, added to, improved upon. Every advancement of magic and technology, every forging technique the Terrans had ever learned - and the Gaians, by extension - had been incorporated into that armor. Every touch of Spine against iron rings out with secret magics, enchantments, junctioned spells and other, more arcane tricks that Avira can likely only guess at at the moment. Perhaps she can see the weave of arcane energies, if she is tremendously sensitive...but then, if she is too sensitive, could she even stand in his presence without pain?

Likely not.

Garland strides silently behind the guards, his cape brushing against the ground, his hands clenched tight as a tyrant's fist. He watches the guards smash through the stalls, pursuing Avira carefully; perhaps inside his terrible armor, he is smiling, congratulating his own cruel cleverness, his own baleful brilliance. None in this world will ever know. None in this world could ever know, could ever know the inner workings of this monstrous mind. As Avira throws herself through the storefront, Garland holds out his hand. "She will go upwards; cut off the nearby buildings, establish a perimeter around the street," he commands, his voice radiantly black with power and authority. Even if he is not a Judge, he has the air of one, the appearance of one, and now the voice of one; who are they to take the chance?

Then Garland simply leaps, one of his massive, inhuman leaps, unslowed by armor or burdens mortal or supernatural. He goes up, up, up, then comes down, down, down, crashing into the roof of the shop Avira scrabbles towards. The ceiling caves in under his weight, and he falls, landing on the second floor even as she makes her way up it; immediately, his blade is in his hand. He does not roar; he makes no noise, as the blade splits in half down the middle, becoming a pair of elegant (if bulky) longswords. He comes at her, a whirlwind of violence and destruction in an environment of weapons and shields. What will she choose to counter him? How will she continue to play the game?
Avira It's the consequences, not any result of extraordinary magic sensitivty, that clue Avira in on the fact that the effects of the blow were feigned. Now the local guard was convinced that she was a dangerous criminal with enough power to match a Judge. The long-term consequences of this encounter hang in the back of Avira's head with dread. There'd be time to reflect on this much later since not only was she actively fighting for survival against Garland, but her own potential freedom should he be apprehended.

She wanted to call out her innocence, but it would waste precious breath.

Though Garland may not be recognized as any known judge, he carries himself with such authority and presence that the guard does not hesitate to obey. It seems like a much wiser choice than to force everyone to pile ineffectively into the cramped space of the shop. They spread out, surrounding the buildings and lining the streets.

Within the store, Avira is not alone. One guard has followed her and remains hot on her heels as she scales the stairs to the second floor. Not unaware of this, Avira actually whirls on him unexpectedly, striking with a double-handed blow as she brings the pelvis-shaped hilt against the soldier's armored head. He reels, and Avira presses her advantage, slamming into him bodily and sending him tumbling backwards, back down the stairs he came. His falling armored form takes out a second guard that had not yet caught up in his pursuit.

As he suspected, Avira continues to look for ways to go up, likely seeking the rooftops so she can flee. Before she can cross the floor to what looks like a door to an outside balcony, the ceiling caves inward as Garland drops down upon it.

Immediately, she halts, leaping backwards and hitting her back against the wall as Garland appears in the space she was just about to occupy, armed.

Reaching out with one hand, she grasps a rack of polearms leaned against the wall and yanks it down in front of her, buying her seconds as Garland's longswords cleave and spin into them. His strikes quickly reduce the rack and weapons contained to small chunks of wood and iron that scatter violently, embedded into the floor and walls.

A hand slaps downward and an ice spell is loosed, a sheet of such coating the floor beneath her and Garland. Inverting the Spine again, Avira suddenly drops down and lunges, not to attack him, but to slide underneath him, perhaps even through his legs if his stance allows it. This takes her through the shattering polearms and through his dangerously whirling blades-indeed, Garland can feel her slipping along the length of one of the longswords, leaving a fresh coat of blood upon it.

Not that she hadn't already been bleeding from throwing herself through the window. This, however, is blood that Garland earned.

Should she make it through, Avira will actually attempt to strike him from behind as she backs away to that balcony.
Garland Avira is a cunning and brave woman. She is willing to take truly insane risks to win - truly insane risks being the only thing that possibly CAN win against Garland, given the sheer level of combat prescience he seems to possess. She throws the rack before him; he shreds his way through it effortlessly, his blades preternaturally sharp and supernaturally fierce, wood chips splintering across the room. They crash against the walls, against the floor, as those swords reduce finely-crafted spears to so much kindling and dust. As he draws blood, there is a primal thrill, a simple joy of the cycle of battle that runs through him; her blood along his blades, the scars she would develop if she survived, were enough for his satisfaction. The ice upon the flor distracts him briefly, for all of a split second; he spins around, but it's too late. Her blade crashes against his shoulder, knocking the iron man back; he stumbles on the ice, slipping and falling to the ground, slamming into it with his full weight. The ground begins to crack, under his massive weight and the weakness forced upon it by the ice.

He falls; the floor falls with him, giving way. For the moment, Avira is given pause to reach the balcony - though that will do her little good, for outside are the countless soldiers of Archadia, waiting to arrest her.

Inside the building, Garland's dark laughter echoes. That tells her two things: that he is no more disabled by that attack than he was by her strike in the square, and that she has temporarily passed his test, earning herself a brief reprieve.

All she needs to do now is escape.

...easier said than done, though.
Avira Indeed, faced with a whirling blender of death as Garland presents himself with right now. A more cautious individual would try to flee back down the stairs, it being the only obvious way 'out.' Going through him takes guts-guts that could easily end up on the floor after doing such. Avira comes dangerously close to this happening too, the strike Garlan made having raked itself just above Avira's right hip, cutting through skin and flesh alike. She quickly finds that wound aching much more than it had any right to.

Ice combined with the environment, Avira notes, seems to be far more effective than the spell she had attempted to direct upon Garland the last time they met. Perhaps that was the key, Avira's own magical skill too elementary to possibly overcome Garland's magical defenses. There would have to be more of this...creativity in the future, should she plan on continuing to survive Garland's tests.

Able to witness Garland falling down to the first floor of the weapon's shop, Avira regards this as a momentary victory at best. Clamping a hand to the wound he left upon her, Avira channels some good ol' Ivalician healing into her body. One foot lifts, kicking out the door to the balcony, allowing her to stumble forth.

Just as she steps out into the light and beholds the entirety of the Rabanastre guard gathered in the streets below, Garland's laughter echos behind her. While it was true that she survived his assault, in Avira's mind, she'd hardly consider this a victory.

The Spine is slipped away and Avira quickly jumps to the balcony railing. Just as Garland predicted, she goes up, frantically scrambling to the rooftop of the building.

What follows is, perhaps, an equally impressive chase over the rooftops that eventually moves down into Lowtown. It is only through there that Avira manages to escape the city completely, provided an exit through the sewers instead of the heavily guarded city gates.

This scene contained 11 poses. The players who were present were: Avira, Garland