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No title.
(2013-02-22 - 2013-02-22)
No description.
Zia Night has fallen on the stretch of desert that lies between Fluorgis and Dalmasca to the East. Normally, this isn't a time when most would be out on the sands, but recently there has been a lot of activity in this particular part of the vast expanse. Since the discovery of a temple, half-buried, the Church of Glabados has been sending scholars to investigate. The sand has been trampled in places by the passage of chocobo-drawn carts and somewhere closeby, a camp is set up, with armored Templar talking in quiet voices as they guard over priests and historians. There are boxes of artifacts already packed up for transport back to the city, but surely far more lies still buried below.

Zia is among those working the 'night crew'. After spending so much coin loostening lips around Port Royal, she needed to take such odd jobs in order to fill her munny pouch again. The fact that this place means something to Faruja does help matters, making it not quite such a boring guard detail.

The gargoyle stands near a group of researchers, who are obviously too caught up in their work to bother with sleep. There is a huge area of sand that they've managed to move, revealing part of the temple that hadn't been visible before. Most of it is caved in, but by the wild look in their eyes, this is quite a find.

"Yes!" A voice calls, and then something gets handed from a man inside, out to a female assitant. It takes a moment for moonlight to catch it, but clearly it is some sort of talisman. It is the sort of thing worn by high ranking Templar of the church, and this one is very, very old. "It has an inscription on it." The woman explains, trying to brush sand from it. "It almost looks like some sort of spell, but I can't make it out." The man starts to crawl back out from the rubble, "We'll be able to get a better look when we get back to the holy city, but let me see if I can't decypher any of it."

Zia turns to look at them, flicking a tail. Her job is to guard them, but it's hard not to be curious. "Do ye think we need te wake the others?" She glances at the guardpost, which is only just barely visible. They're far enough away that anything that goes on here might go unnoticed in the dark of night.

"No no. No reason to bother. Now... let's see here." The researcher kneels, starting to sound out the words.
Royce Out here in the depths of the forsaken sands very little stirs in the night save for the occasion gust of wind which whips through the dunes, often sending plumes of the fine grit into the air in small cyclones that rampage across the empty stretches of blasted nothingness until their short lives are spent. Monsters do live here but they are few and small for the desert provides little in the way of sustenance beyond the scattered pools of water that form oasises from the crippling heat.

Tonight, however, is different.

By some matter of chance the dig site that has been recently unearthed is not terribly far from one of the latest battlegrounds in the conflict between the Burmecians and their Alexandrian aggressors. It was also the host to deadly clash between the brave ratling templar and an evil witch who sought to pillage the remains of the dried out husks. Alas, despite his heroic efforts, evil prevailed and Royce has spent much of her time of late making trips into the foboding sands to collect parts for her experiments and rituals.

It was during one of these trips that she stumbled across the ancient temple and its excavation crews. Curious, the foul necromancer watched and learned over the course of several nights, drawing the information she sought from their dreams with insidious magic. Who the ruins belonged to was of little interest to her beyond idle trivia but holy relics contained something she /was/ interested in - power. And ruins always held the promising of forgotten lore.

At the edge of the camp the sudden hint of movement can be seen by those who are keen of eye. The horizon itself seems to shift and waver a little, which would be normal if the sun were still up to cast its hazy mirages over the land. Soon after the soft rumble of crunching sand and clattering metal can be heard over the bustle of the tireless researchers and their excitement at discovering something of importance.

Something is definately moving out there and, without a doubt, it's drawing steadily closer.
Zia Since Faruja hadn't told her that there was any particular danger, or even warned her about the witch that he'd encountered on the sands, Zia is unknowing of the danger that lies beyond. She's looking at the two researchers when the haze starts to catch as a flicker in her peripheral vision. Turning, she squints into the darkness, barely able to discern what it is that caught her eye. Long white ears flick, and her wings extend from her back, feeling the shift of wind around her.

This is no natural trick of desert heat. Everything has cooled significantly, the pale sliver of moon offering little in the way of light. Her own features are cast in an eerie glow by a single torch that the two historians are using, talking amongst each other and ignoring her sudden signs of alert. "Shh." She mutters at them, "Quiet yerselves." The two look at her, then look at each other, then go back to talking in low voices.

Humans. There are some moments when Zia severely wishes that she hadn't decided to give their race as a whole a second chance. Even here, where other races did tend to be accepted, there were still those who treated them as second class citizens. Well, jerks or not, her job was to keep them safe. So, she steps forward a few paces, moving further from the light of the torch, ears finally catching the sound of that rumble and the sound of metal on metal.

"Who goes there?" She calls out, but the gargoyle holds no weapons. In truth, she doesn't look like much of a threat. "Identify yerself and yer business here." Again, the two researchers stop, but this time one of them does the 'crazy' motion by twirling a finger around one ear. Zia's tail flicks once. "If ye think Ah cannae see tha, then ye ferget tha Ah'm a creature of the night." The two shush, and then seem to finally hear the approach. Then, they finally /do/ fall silent.
Royce The only thing that answers Zia's authoritative demand is the continued shuffling and clanking from beyond the darkness. Within a few moments, however, the noise has grown from a faint echo to a stamping beat that comes from a wide area engulfing their entire half of the campsite. It continues to build, inexorably closing the distance until finally the source of the mysterious noise becomes horrifying clear.

Bodies stumble into view at the edge of the torchlight. Desiccated flesh and bleached bones wrapped in the tattered remains of armor and heraldry march into orange glow of the weak illumination, their movements halting and staggered as if their limbs were attached to strings being pulled by an invisible puppet master.

Broken fragmented weapons of all varieties are clutched in their boney weathered hands; shattered swords, rusted axes, and mangled spears menace the air before them. Those that no longer have the limbs or the gear to effective have taken up bits and pieces of their former comrades, adding splintered bones and skulls held like bludgeons to the mix of dangers present.

Though clearly long since dead, the reanimated corpses stare darkly at the men and women gathered here with bright red points of light burning in their empty sockets. And there are dozens of them. The unholy creatures form a half circle around the edge of the compound, lingering for a moment to allow their soon to be victims to take in the dreadful aura that surrounds them as if to mock their foolishness in daring to tread here with so little protection.

Their ranks part suddenly, giving way to allow a slender figure to make its way up to the front of the formation. Royce steps into the subtle glow of the firelight and lifts her head to peer casually at the excavators gathered here. Her single eye glows intensely like a neon red ember from the fires of hell beneath the wide brim of her jacket's hood. The weak light fails to penetrate the darkness that conceals her features and only the lower half of her face can be seen when she speaks in a cold and emotionless voice.

"Hear these words but once and they shall echo in your nightmares forever."

Her hands raise up from her sides, slowly lifting towards the sky as the witch begins to chant. The sounds that leave her mouth can hardly be called words for their very utterance scrapes against the surface of the mind, causing intense pain to those unaccustomed to hearing the ancient arcane syllables uttered aloud. The army of dead linger at her sides, shuffling about on their feet but unwavering from their position as the dreadful incantation begins.
Zia While Zia might have grown up during those early years of black and white television, and lived through until the times of modern TV and multi-million dollar movie blockbusters, it doesn't mean she is any less effected by the sight of a horde of shambling undead coming her way. "Oh dear mouse, this is nae wha Ah signed up for." She whispers to herself. Every part of her screams to /run/ - to get away from these creatures. These are not the sort of things she had seen in so many long nights on stolen cable - these are all too real.

Turning, she looks at the two frozen researchers. "Get out. Go. Run te the camp. Ah'll try te hold them off." She shoos the two of them, who only then seem to snap out of it. They scramble, fall in the sand, and are already racing away by the time that Royce appears from the throng. In their hurry to try to escape, one of them drops the talisman, and the other is too quick to pull them along for either to go back for it. It glints slightly, sitting there in the sand.

In the distance, the Templar only seem to have just realized what is going on. A few torches are raised, perhaps hearing the commotion, but none have come out to investigate. That leaves Zia standing there, trying to summon up her bravery. Her ears tuck down at the old words, and while she might not know their origin, she recognises them for what they are. In return, the gargress murmurs her own protective spell, trying to block out the effect on her, at least.

She is no fool to think that she can stand against this many, but maybe, just maybe she could slow them down enough to give the Templar and their charges time to escape. Losing the site might not mean loosing so many lives. But at what cost? "Wha'ever yer purpose, Ah willnae let ye harm them." A wind kicks up the sand, making a wall of it behind her so that the escaping researchers fade into it. Zia stands before it, although it's clear that she is no fearless warrior. Still, she is a creature of magic, that much is certain. If not by that wall of wind behind her, then by the creeping motion of ice that seems to be forming a slick layer over the sand, working it's way towards the line of armored undead.
Royce Several of the undead corpses shift into motion as the holy knights behind them begin to take notice. Their burning red eyes focus on the torches as they shamble across the dunes, the sands masking their approach until they come spilling into the fire light once more in a deadly wave. Rusted weapons and diseased limbs are raised and they fall upon the guards. The battle is afoot!

With roughly half her horde remaining distributed in small clusters, Royce continues to chant her dark magics, utterly ignoring the fleeing researchers. Their lives are not what she is after here. Her show of force was meant to intimidate and sow fear and for those who were foolish enough to remain behind, she had deadly magics and minions aplenty.

However, upon hearing the words of familiar magic being uttered, her casting slows and her hands fall back to rest gently at her sides. The mind-scraping pressure lifts as she turns her gaze upon the gargoyle, replaced by a sensation of being pierced by the smouldering stare.

Royce watches silently as the layer of frosty rime creeps swiftly across the sand, coating the shifting crystalline surface with a glinting sheen of white. The icy magic hits her first, swiftly crawling up her legs to bite at the surface of the metal greaves and the tender flesh beneath. She feels the surface of her skin grow dead and cold but not hint of pain or annoyance touches her empty expression.

The dead show no more reaction than their master, save for the occasional groan of displeasure at having their cursed souls tormented into a state of obedient subservience. The crackling magic coats their withered limbs and shattered armor in a thin frosty layer but does little else.

Aaah, what have we here. A creature of olde, this one. We have not crossed the path of a gargoyle for near three hundred years now. I was beginning to think their kind extinct. It would seem the stories we heard were true after all.

"And now that I have found one, I shant let it go free," Royce confirms her intentions to the rumbling voice in the back of her mind. How fortunate she was to find not only the possibility of ancient treasures but a mythical creature as well. Her potions would benefit greatly from the components she could harvest. And the experiments; oh there was much to be done.

Lifting a single clawed hand, Royce draws back the hood of her jacket. A great mass of white hair spills forth, draping loosely down her back and revealing the youthful features of the human girl beneath. She begins to chant once more, calling up the basic spells to ward her body against further assault from Zia's magic. The tip of her finger digs into the skin on her forehead, drawing forth a flash of bright red light followed swiftly by a slight trickle of blood. The sanguine fluid runs swiftly down her face, dripping into her open eye until the magic suddenly draws it back up into the sigil she has carved upon her own flesh; a diamond with a single slit running down it's middle - an eye.
Zia The fact that the attacker seems to be a white haired human girl does little to dissuade Zia from her course of action. She'd seen humans with magic before. Their cruelty had kept her prisoner before. Narrowed eyes show with a faint glow of red as she watches the magic come over the zombie forces with little visible effect. There weren't enough soldiers here to defend against this type of onslaught, but she intended to try and hold them back as long as she could.

The conversation between Royce and her 'inner voice' is missed as the gargoyle focuses on those zombies who had gotten as far as the Templar. Trying to keep everything in sight is hard on the ground, but easier once she's airborn. White wings show against the night sky, one of the downsides of her unusual coloring. The wall of wind is shifted, turning into a hard gust that is aimed to knock into the line of shambling undead, aiming to push them back.

The fact that some had gotten that far leaves her cursing inwardly. Why hadn't the Church sent more soldiers? Maybe they had thought this just some historical site, and something of little real value for anyone other than hstorians. Clearly, this isn't the case, since someone is obviously interested. The wind holds her wings aloft, surveying as a few carts do manage to start escaping into the dunes, with a few stragglers calling out, trying to catch up to those escaping. The Templars are brave, but most have never seen anything like this. One or two drop their swords and turn to run.

For all that it's clear Royce is the center of things, the gargoyle seems more focused on the horde as a whole. Right now, it's all about crowd control. Then again, seeing that the chanting necromancer is using some sort of magic on herself... well, it's enough to divert her attention for a moment. There is a rumble from below, like water being summoned up from someplace deep underground. After a moment, a geyser pushes to the surface, sending water spraying everywhere, dampening the sand like rain. This is no ordinary water, though, as it seems to have a cleansing effect.
Royce The zombies are weighed down by their armor but their naturally shuffling gait is inhibited further by the powerful winds. The damaged but still deadly weapons only manage to find purchase in a few targets before the undead are buffeted back, leaving none dead and the injured free to scramble to safety. They growl their annoyance at being denied the kills that their wrathful spirits so crave, thrashing wildly at the invisible presence that holds them back.

The powerful gale kicks up dust and sand, fluttering Royce's long hair out behind her like a cape in the process. She slowly lowers her hand upon the completion of her dark arts and the sigil in her forehead glows brightly with an internal red light before fading away as her necromantic magics seal the wound over.

Her eye swivels in its socket, turning the baleful crimson gaze upon the ground as a deep rumbling signals the magical geyser's approach. No signs of concern surface to marr her face but a swift leap sets her flying through the air as the explosive water erupts beneath her feet. The sheer force sends the girl tumbling like a pinwheel and she bounces roughly in the sand once, her arm bending the wrong way with a sick audible crack.

Her other arm shoots out the moment she hits the ground, pushing her back up with the rebound to land nimbly on her feet. Royce reaches over to her broken limb and sets it with a quick tug, still nothing but blatant boredom visible in her features. The chains encircling her torso begin to shift and unfurl, lowering the heavy cannon on her back like the gate of a portcullis and her reaches an arm out to catch it by the strange side-mounted handle.

The weapon is brought about and leveled at the flying Zia with great ease despite the utterly ridiculous size of it. The witch sights down the barrel despite it having no obvious method of aim assistance, using nothing more than the hundreds of years of experience she has accumulated with the strange artifact to guide her shots.

A single unintelligable word is spoken and a sudden wave of force hammers into the gargoyle from above, attempting to drive her down into the sand. Royce leaps into motion, taking off at a dead run to close the distance between them. Brilliant scarlet fire erupts from the gaping maw of her gun, shards of burning sulfer and noxius smoke billowing out in a pyroclastic cloud to engulf her once she is within range. Several of the undead shuffle over to help, swiping with dirty mailed fists and tainted weapons, though their efforts see several of them go up in flames in the face of Royce's violent and careless assault.
Zia One thing that Zia still hasn't learned is how to split her attention when there are multiple dangerous targets. Right now, her priority is those escaping, but that means that she misses important signs of just how terrible a foe she is up against. The sight of the girl putting her arm back together with that quick motion might have been enough to make her wonder at such a spectre, but instead, her eyes are set on Templars, the last few who start to fall back to defend the retreating historians.

That means she isn't really looking in Royce's direction when that force seems to hit her right in the center of the back, slamming her down into the ground. It's enough to knock the breath out of her. Coughing, Zia lifts her head out of the sand, gritting her teeth as she sits up. Her head lifts just in time to see a blast coming her way.

Wings tuck in, and the gargoyle rolls to the side, landing right at the feet of a zombie. With a clearly Scottish version of a swear, the girl scrambles between armored feet just in time to miss being grabbed by slow, rotten arms. Not good. Not good to be grounded. Her wings might be fragile, but against so many opponents, getting that distance could mean life or death.

The gargress crouches, wincing before she speaks a few darker words, causing a spiral of crackling purple flame to errupt around her, lashing out to blast back a few of the shambling knights. After that, she leaps, bouncing off of a shoulder, then a head, and then her wings flare as she launches herself up again, pumping her wings like mad to try to get some distance between herself and the horde. "Bad idea, lass." She murmurs to herself.
Royce The seperated wad of zombies continue to harry at the templars with slow but powerful strikes, refusing to stop or give up now matter how many times they are pushed back. Their slowness makes them easy to avoid but even powerful blows hardly seem to slow down their unnatural hardiness. It isn't hard to stay out of their reach but there is enough of them that those who stand and fight will be swiftly overwhelmed.

Zia's swift reactions manage to save her from the fell magics and wicked claws. Her counter spell tears into the nearby zombies with great fury, shattering their bodies with greater ease than the physical weapons of the templar and the few that were unlucky enough get caught in Royce's flames erupt into crumbling piles of glowing embers.

Further displaying her acrobatic prowess, the gargoyle bounces nimbly from zombie to zombie, escaping back into the skies as the witch rushes in to take her own swipe at Zia, only to catch the explosion of one of her own zombies full in the face. She sails through the air engulfed in flames and hits the ground rolling. The ice-covered sands quickly snuff her out and she pushes back to her feet, tilting her head up to track the creature's path through the air even as her weapon comes up once more.

Twin dark metal chains erupt from the girl's back in fountain of bright red fluid that glows with unnatural energy, extruding from her body like coiling snakes. Covered with barbs and blades, these chains lash up into the sky after Zia, seeking to slash at her wings and overhead to keep her from rising any further.

Brilliant white energy gathers in the depths of the gun once control has been established over the skies and a spear of blazing holy energy erupts from Royce's weapon, lancing up to try and pierce the stony body that she is so obsessed with.

"I will not allow you to escape so easily," she intones.
Zia By the time that Zia has gotten back into the air, she's just in time to see the last of the Templars either turn and flee, or be overwhelemed. While the first few could certainly be claimed as cowards or deserters, these others are clearly outnumbered and there is no need to waste their lives here. There are cries from those caught, the sound of ripping metal and the wet sounds of flesh being torn or eaten. It's enough to make her wince. Maybe if she had trained with a gun, she might have been able to pick off a few more - pretend this is just one of those video games she used to play. Right now, it's all too real.

One of those metal chains catches her foot just then, and Zia blinks, finding herself yanked downward slightly. Somehow, she's able to stay in the air, where a normal gargoyle might have been dragged down to earth easily enough. Wiggling, she reaches her hand down to try to free herself, but it's too late to avoid the blast that comes towards her.

Her body doesn't react like something made of stone. It doesn't crack or crumble. Instead, it just jolts her backwards, drawing her wings to the side and ripping her ankle free from the hold of the chains. Bits of smoke rise from places where the magical energy had caught hold. Rather than falling to the ground, Zia manages to move, pushing herself up with the wind and catching the wind again, a hand wrapped around her chest.

A small trickle of blood shows from the corner of her mouth, but her eyes are still alight with a fierce need. Protect. A little more time. "Well, Ah dinnae plan te let ye catch me quite so easily." She coughs, grits her teeth, then puts on a smile of false bravado. Raising one hand, her wings flapping behind her to keep herself aloft, the gargress calls down a bolt of lightning, which forks as it streaks down from the sky, lashing out in an area of effect around Royce.
Royce Royce's poker face holds true even as it is washed out in a flare of blue-white light when the thunder drops out of the sky like an anvil. Sand explodes all around the witch, bathing the battlefield in a cloud of sparkling dust as the heat melts the ground into chunks of flying glass.

Several of the zombies nearby vanish in the blast, shredded or tossed aside like empty sacks by the sheer force of the shockwave its impact creates. However, when the haze finally settles down a few seconds later the gritty clouds part to reveal the girl still standing strong.

Blood pours freely from countless gashes across Royce's body but before the very eyes of anyone who has stopped to look the wounds begin to seal shut, flesh knitting together of its own accord while her empty eye continues to gaze nonchalantly up at the gargoyle. Chunks of glass clatter to the fractured surface of the crater she now stands in as they are pushed from her body, making a brief musical clatter somewhat like windchimes.

Hrngh... I actually felt that one a little. Be wary, girl, this one has some fair skill at magic. Ofcourse, that will make it all the sweeter when we rip those secrets from her broken flesh, hah ha ha ha!

Clawed metal fingers clasp about a final shard protruding from the girl's neck, easily the size of a sword blade. Despite being half-way decapitated by the random piece of shrapnel, she pulls it free easily and waits until her throat has sealed shut to speak once again. "Your plans are of no consequence to me. You are going to die in the end. How hard you fight is up to you."

The gun snaps up once more, barking another wad of fire at the airborne gargoyle. The swirling demonic flame rips through the air like a missile, streaming smoke and ash in its wake as it closes in, detonating violently once it is close enough to trigger the proximity spell.

Below, a pair of the surviving zombies suddenly begin to spasm and shake until spears of bone erupt from their body. Leaning back, they let out a horrific cry and their newly twisted ribcages launch a volley of jagged bones festering wet with disease and rot.
Zia This time, there is no missing the way that the white-haired girl just pulls out those shards of glass like they are nothing at all. "Wha sorcerery is this?" Zia asks herself, blinking surprise from her eyes as her ears slide back, nearly hiding in her own white hair. The strange darknesses of the world keep finding ways of bringing out new things to haunt them, and whatever this girl is, she is clearly some great force of darkness. Shaking her head, the gargoyle calls out, "Everyone dies, but Ah'm nae plannin on join yer army of the undead jus' yet."

Thus far, Zia has not shown to be a great fan of explosions, mostly because they are always aimed in her direction. Even as she uses her own wind force to push herself higher, trying to get more distance between herself and the small army below, it isn't hard for her to be buffeted about. The blast throws her one way, narrowly missing a direct hit, but then a bone catches her right on the back of the head.

Blinking on confusion, the gargoyle looks down to the zombies-turned-catapults. Then the stench hits her. "Ugh." Coughing, Zia raises an arm to shield her face, her color turining a bit green from the smell of rotting flesh. Her only thought just now is this: Get clear - get away. Not becoming a part of this necromancer's carnival of the undead is her highest priority. With a blast of wind, she throws herself upward, a trail of magical force flowing behind her, lashing down into the earth like the power of a sonic boom.
Royce Royce opens her mouth to utter another word of power but the sonic boom hits first, drowning her out and smashing her slight frame against the ground. Her body indents into the crater of glass and she grits her teeth, pushing back against the overwhelming force out of pure stubborness that has no chance of winning this contest of strength.

The crystaline fragments crackle and tinkle as they are driven into the flesh of her unprotected back, several even managing to punch all the way through and erupt from her chest and stomach in geysers of striking neon red light that send a thick wet substance fountaining into the air under great pressure.

The first hint of annoyance breaks through the surface of Royce's calm as her eye narrows slightly. Her wards must be failing, she actually felt a hint of pain from that one. Without even bothering to get to her feet, the girl lifts a hand and carves the Eye into her forehead once more, summoning dark magic from the source of her power to reinforce her vitality and ensure that she can fight without the distraction of physical suffering breaking her concentration.

The zombie-spears cease momentarily as Zia draws out of range with her hasty climb, some flattened like their master while others take a moment to regenerate their expended unnatural bones with sickening wet crunches and pops that fill the empty night.
Zia From the high vantage point, it's easy to see the army below her. Inwardly, she can already imagine how pissed off Faruja is going to be about all this. Maybe not at her, not directly, but the mouse is likely to find fault in the Templar who were meant to protect this place. Her job had been to keep the researchers safe, and she can see them already escaping over the dunes. As long as they keep going, they should manage to find safety behind city walls... likely just in time to face whatever is soon to befall Fluorgis.

But the temple... Knowing how much it means to the church is one thing, but knowing that there must be something within that these dark forces want. No, she couldn't let them have the place that easily. The church and Faruja might get mad at her for this, but better she damage the historical site than risk this necromancer having an easy time of finding her way down into those tunnels to find whatever items of power remain hidden there.

"Forgive me." She whispers to herself, and then closes her eyes, drawing her hand skyward. Where her fingers touch, a cloud begins to form. It starts small, but within a matter of seconds, the cloudcover has blocked out the moon and stars. The wind whips through the area, blowing sand over entrances and erasing what work the historians had managed thus far. Then, lightning strikes. It hits against the ground, caving in passageways, returning the temple below the sand. There, it would remain, but it would be far more difficult to get into - perhaps not worth the time.

Of course, while her target is the temple, a storm is impossible to really keep from lashing out to other things surrounding it. Hail pours down onto the zombies, the crackle of electricity follows rain that darkens the sand. This is quite powerful magic - not the sort that any novice wizard would be able to cast. Then again, it is also quite out of control. It is raw, unbridled power, the sort that cannot be tamed.

Zia's plans right now? Cave in the passage to the Temple, then get the hell out of dodge. In all the trouble, she's forgotten about that trinket still laying in the sand, though. One that just might happen to get blown right between Royce's feet.
Royce Royce sits up, her head craning backwards at an awkward angle to keep her intense glare locked on the flying creature above as the singing pain in her blood boils away to empty nothingness once more. The lightning dancing overhead is clearly impossible as a natural phenomenon; rain and thunder were not things that happen in deserts especially not on such a spontaneous level. This was olde magic at work.

Leaning forward, to leverage herself up once more, the hesistates as she feels her fingers close around something small and metal. Normally she would care less but the subtle sparks that course through her fingers speak of the magic lying dormant within. Slowly, she draws it up to her face for a closer look, sand spilling freely around her fingers until the emblem is revealed.

Well, well, well... what have we here? Could it be possible that these poor fools went and left the only thing of worth they've yet to uncover? Ha ha ha. Marvelous. Now all we have left is the-- what's this?! No, stop her!

Snapping her attention back to Zia, the witch can only glare in cold frustration as the first bolts of flashing thunder come crashing down upon the ruins. A deep rumble in the earth is puncuated by billowing plumes of dirt and smoke as the foundation shifts, carrying the ancient structure deeper into the shift sands. "You will pay for that."

The remainder of her zombies forces suffer horribly in the chaotic storm as their shambling forms are penetrated or smashed by chunks of bullet-like ice or blasted to pieces by blades of white-hot lightning. With an ominous peal of thunder, a particularly nasty bolt drives down out of the heavens, completely engulfing the young girl in its wrathful power.

Royce gives a muffle grunt of rage as she feels her flesh begin to bubble and flake away in the searing heat, necromantic magics waging a titanic battle of destruction and regeneration. When the light fades, she crumples to her knees. The tips of her hair burn in several places, her striking white locks glowing like the dying embers of a bonfire. Smoke wafts into the air with a soft hiss from her ruined leather clothes and the cooked flesh within the armored frame of her hands and legs.

After several moments, Royce manges to push to her feet and exhales a thick cloud of smoke as if to mock the attempt to strike her down. This creature wanted to play with magic? Fine. She could oblige.

The tip of her cannon easily drives through the sand as she plants it like a stake into the ground, pushing it deeper until the wide surface of the stock in level with her chest. Upon the metal frame, bound by several slender but study iron chains, rests a thick tome. A eye stares out from the cover, not a symbol or a depiction but a living blinking optic that stares back her with quiet intensity. Her hand lifts, the fingers within already mended to usable condition and she brushes the surface of the bindings. The chains fall away as if cut loose and the book hovers eeriely in the air of its own accord, slowly floating up before the girl where she can read as it flips open.

Some ghostly force flutters the pages madly for several seconds until finally coming to rest on the ancient passage necessary. Royce holds up her arms and begins to chant the words, power flowing into her body like a river whos dam has burst. The roiling storms overhead begin to flash with greater fury and their terrible power is subverted and brought to heel by magics older than time.

Lightning spiderwebs across the clouds and gathers into a single point before lashing out in unholy revenge at the airborne gargress, not once but twice. Even then the air about her begins to churn and spin, gathering force and speed until a raging tornado of glass and sand rises up to engulf the sky above the ruins in a cataclysmic show of power.
Zia The one thing that can be said for Zia is that as much as she can wield her own magic with quite a bit of force, she isn't as good at predicting the magical abilities of others. Up there in the sky, she is an easy target. As lightning comes from that darker source, it strikes her squarely in the back, freezing her in place. Pain jolts through her, blacking out her senses, causing her limbs to shake, and eventually, the limp form just ... falls. It is by some miracle that she isn't too high up to make it a fatal fall, but the cascade of tumbling wings and limbs that lands in a heap on the ground is certainly worrying.

Alas, where her body falls just so happens to be in the path of one of those escaping Templar. He hesitates for a moment, then gets off of his mount to heft the gargress up like a sack of potatoes. She's still breathing, barely, and for all the defense that she had given them, he can't very well leave her behind. Unfortunately, the temple is lost. With all the interest that the Church had in the location, though... it's clear that they will come to reclaim it soon enough.
Royce The raging cyclone that tears through the area is short lived but its ferocious swath of destruction leaves a deep gouge in the surface of the ground around the temple. Even the dunes themselves are mostly flattened and scattered in the intense winds.

It's clear that unlike Zia's wild call to the heavens, Royce's magical is precise and contained for no harm befalls the temple iteself or any of her allies as a result of the titantic twister. Once her victim is dealt with the winds dissipate almost immediately and the rolling clouds thin and fade to reveal the weak light of the moon once more. A hand lowers to point at the fallen gargoyle but before she can issue commands for her retrieval the cowardly knight manages to find enough courage to stop and save her stony hide.

Royce's eye narrows again but she manages to keep her utter annoyance from showing as usual. Instead, she turns to the remnants of her forces and takes stock. Only about half of them survived in a useful state. Several of the fallen were still in good enough condition that she could stitch a few back together into working condition. Their service wasn't over yet.

Her gaze then travels down the talisman in her hands, fairly radiating with sealed power. Its secrets would be hers - in time.

This scene contained 18 poses. The players who were present were: Zia, Royce