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Clearing the Land
(2013-03-24 - 2013-03-24)
No description.
Artyom W. Valodjn Southeast of the Holy City of Mullonde, there is a road that winds through the hills and plains that slope away from the nearby Sabil Mountain Range toward the central coasts. Along the roads, a number of hamlets have sprung up over the years, benefitting from the trade that moves in and out of the great Cathedral City. Many of those towns have, unfortunately, been lost with the shattering and subsequent reformation of the World of Ruin. There are more dilapidated corpse-villages and skeletal settlements than there are bustling, living towns, these days.

Of course, the relative dearth of inhabited homes and shops make some of these towns the perfect place for monsters and adventurers alike to establish some manner of settlement. In one such village, home to a whopping thirteen able-bodied people- five of whom are farmers, one who is a cart-driver, and the others working various small-trades- Artyom has come to fulfill his promise. Outside the town, in an abandoned field surrounded by rolling hills, he drags his weapon like an ox tethered to its plow, carving a great ring in the earth.

Every so often, he deposits a small, intricately carved stone.

It seems he's making something! A small number of villagers have come to watch this strange man with his incredible size and awful, stone weapon work the old field.

Entertainment, it seems, is scarce around here.

Soon, the ring is complete, and he begins criss-crossing its center, carving an arcane design into the withered and weeded earth. But for what!?

Well, that's what the villagers aim to find out.
Ophelia The sound of hooves against the worn-down cobbled street that winds down from the sound carries on the wind, announcing the approach of a horse and rider several minutes before their bodies become visible over the rolling hills. The unmistakable glint of armor reflects the sunlight from a distance, not an unusual sight in these dangerous times. Monsters threaten even the well established trade ways at times and in the untamed wilderness such as this they are a near constant menace.

The templar do an admirable job of patrolling the highways that see the most use but the land is vast and small hamlets inhabited by little more than a handful of stubborn frontier men are not priorities. These people are likely used to fending for themselves, however.

The small gathering of bodies in the field is difficult to miss even with the glare of the sun in Ophelia's eyes. A thick cloth hood is pulled up over her head to shield her skin from the painful rays. Her hidden curse makes going about in the daylight less pleasant than it should be but hiding away in some cloister until the evening hours would arouse suspicion thanks to her new position directly in the Church's heirarchy.

The power and resources that have been put at her disposal are difficult to argue with but being constantly scrutinized by the busybodies of the clergy is making her secret that much harder to keep. Fortunately, her new underlings seem to ask very few questions and she has had little trouble convincing them to take their dealings as far away from Mullonde as often as possible. Inquisitors can get away with a great deal when they flex their muscles a bit as no one wants to end up disappearing in the dark of the night for 'questioning'.

Ophelia's steed bears her swiftly down to the field where Artyom is crafting his strange circle. She draws back the reins and brings it to a gentle stop, peering at the carvings for a moment before dismounting and making her way over to the edge, ignoring the gawkers for the moment. "What are you about, Artyom?" she asks.
Artyom W. Valodjn Experienced arcane scholars might note that the arcane circle etched into the land seems to be aspected toward the elemental forces of Earth. Specifically, stone and soil, with some relatively more disturbing glyphs that are attuned toward forces of natural decay. Artyom carves the ring into the ground, his blade gliding through the soil and vegetation like a hot knife through butter. It's only when he completes the circle, winding back through the intricate designs into the ring's center that he seems to notice the audience he had gathered.

He seems a bit... Sheepish at the fact. He scratches awkwardly at the nape of his neck as he cranes his head slowly from the crowd on the hill toward the rather battle-ready woman at his circle's rim.

"Lady Lovett," Artyom inclines his head from the center of his earthen circle. It's relatively difficult to converse at such a distance, but Artyom's voice booms loudly enough, regardless. But he is not so rude as to keep this sort of thing up for too long. With a simple twist of his hip, the Titanic geomancer plunges his stone sword into the center of the circle. It rests there, idle. The tell-tale glow of magic around its blade suggests that it's doing... Something. It's hard to tell what, but it is certainly serving a function.

With his weapon in place, Artyom moves toward the edge of the ring where Ophelia waits. He offers a respectful bow of his head to the woman and her horse, "I am doing as you suggested, Lady Lovett." Artyom gestures at the ring in the earth, "This field was not being used for anything else, and its owner had passed away years ago. And so I have decided to put it to good purpose. I assume you have no objections?"
Ophelia "It is difficult to say whether or not I object when I am in the dark as to what purpose these sigils serve." Ophelia accepts his bow and gestures at the strange runes carved into the ground. While she has learned much about the dark arts used by necromancers, sorcerers, and warlocks thanks to her mentor's teachings, this form of magic is foreign to her.

"Some sort of geomancy, I take it?"
Artyom W. Valodjn "Your assessment is accurate," Artyom bobs his head. "It is a geomantic ritual. The glyphs are an arrangement intended to repurpose this field into a more appropriate form while reducing the biomass presently growing to base nutrients," he begins- and then doesn't ever quite stop. "I am utilizing the Maxwell Ordinant Principles to do so, so there should not be any detrimental effects in the long run. In specific, the primary glyph is a slight deviation of the Tharwaz Runic Complex, replacing the traditional Surn, Hajal and Urth runes with modified Dagosh, Jersh and Helas symbols. This should prevent any unwanted upheaval while enhancing local soil quality. I have also used--"

Needless to say, he goes on for quite a while. For the purposes of maintaining narrative convenience, the duration of Artyom's Geomantic Rant has been replaced by the following rock ballad.


"--Or in other words, I am clearing the vegetation by accelerating its decay and returning the nutrients to the earth, while simultaneously flattening the earth and homogenizing mineral incongruencies to ensure that the land will be made relatively uniform." Artyom bows again, "I hope this is acceptable."
Cressida Cressida is only recently becoming acquainted with Mullonde city and its surrounding country side. Today is not so much a sight-seeing trip as an important errand she must run, after her strange encounter with Valos and Morrighan, however, she does take a chance to enjoy the countryside as she moves through it at a relative fast pace even without the aid of a chocobo. It seems the young dragoon knight seems to prefer transport by foot over chocobo.

When she sees the small crowd gathering, she gives pause, stepping a little closer to get a better look. Not much of a mage herself, she's unsure what to make of it and so she just listens quietly to the others chatting.

In particular she makes note of the armoured male geomancer(?) who designs the stone runes, and of Ophelia, one whom she has heard about as a high-ranked official, and most likely the one whom she will need to pass her important message onto.
Ophelia As Artyom begins his explanation the young woman listens dutifully, nodding occasionally to indicate her interest. By the time he is finished her eyebrow is twitching furiously with barely contained annoyance, both arms crossed over her chest in an effort to keep them from reaching out to strangle the large man. The low-hanging hood keeps her features cloaked in shadows that obscure her bored expression and she skillfully puts on a diplomatic face once he wraps it all up.

"That was... fascinating to be sure, Artyom, but in the future please omit such lengthy dissertation." Ophelia draws back her hood and watches the transformative process for a few moments. The sun immediately begins to irritate her skin but years of practice and discipline allow her to ignore the sharp tingling sensation without any outward signs of discomfort.

The arrival of the new presence draws her attention immeidately, however. Even before Cressida steps up to the rear of the crowd the inquisitor turns and watches the exact spot where the pretty Templar breaches the row of dirty farmers and peasants. Her crimson eyes narrow slightly and a faint red glow flickers behind them for a moment as she extends her web of supernatural senses out to probe the girl.

The reading she gets makes her smile devilishly. "Well, what have we here?" Ophelia strides confidently towards Cressida and the small crowd parts to make way, seemingly pushed aside by authoritative aura she seems to project. "You are not a member of this community," she says after studying her for a moment. "Identify yourself."
Artyom W. Valodjn Artyom is at a very auspicious angle. For one, he is positioned perfectly to completely miss out on Ophelia's rather nonplussed expression, considering that there is a rather convenient hood concealing her face. Two, he has an excellent vantage point to keep watch on his magic circle as it thrums and rumbles with the distinct sound of this sort of geomancy at work.

'Sound' is a rather abstract word, in this case, as it's really more of a rumbling sensation in the knees and ankles.

"Of course," he replies, after a moment. "I will try to... Summarize, next time." There's a slightly disappointed tone in his voice that suggests that he doesn't really get a chance to talk about geomancy very often, and does enjoy the occasional opportunity. But, alas, the order was given, and so he must follow. "The charge will be completed shortly. Afterwards, I'll finish the ritual, and we aught to have a fairly nice ground for... Various functions."

Like beating each other up! And hurling boulders through the sky!

And then, there is a new presence. One that Artyom is rather unfamiliar with. Curious, indeed, that she seems to have a message for the Inquisitor.

Silently, he follows after the woman in red, his arms crossed passively over his chest. As he passes, one of the village's few children stares up at the giant with dinnerplate eyes. One does not often see someone of his stature wandering about the countryside. Artyom comes to a halt behind his employer, occasionally glancing over his shoulder to gauge how near the ritual is to completion.

He looms, slightly. It's not intentional- just an unintended consequence of being Tall.
Cressida Cressida's cool violet gaze slides briefly towards Artyom, acknowledging his presence with a slight nod before looking back to Ophelia once she addresses her. "My name is Lady Cressida Merune, newly minted Templar Knight of Glabados church." She bows politely to the lady Inquisitor, watching her quietly, sizing her up but being subtle about it, not staring too much.

"Am I correct in assuming you are Lady Inquisitor Ophelia? If that is so, then I have an important message to pass on to you, milady..That is, if you are not currently preoccupied..?"

She glances questioningly back at the runes and at the Geomancer, uncertain if they are finished their business here.
Ophelia "That is correct, I am Ophelia." She inclines her head in response to the bow, ignoring the looming shadow over her shoulder for the moment. The unusual sensation radiating from the templar has her full attention. Something is clearly different about her though she cannot quite put her finger on it without a more... invasive method, one that would certainly see her own secret revealed.

Her eyebrow quirks at the news of a message. "Indeed? We were just preparing to begin some training, nothing of terrible import." She holds a hand out to receive whatever letter or package Cressida might have for her. "Come then, let's have it."
Artyom W. Valodjn "The spell will be fully charged soon," Artyom rumbles to the messenger. "But unless the ritual is interrupted, I've little need to interact with it, save to activate it." A pale glow of rich earthy hues and ominous violet begins filtering up from the creases carved into the ground.

"If the runes remain undisturbed, then the rest is trivial. Five minutes."

He cranes his head back toward the runes, "Or maybe six. Hmn. I don't suppose this is a private message?"
Cressida Cressida glances between Ophelia and Artyom, anxious to get away from the crowds at least as she nods to Ophelia. "Well, I have come to report a potential traitor to the church..However, the circumstances surrounding his treachery did strike me as odd.." She glances hesitantly at Artyom, uncertain if he can be trusted or if she should go into further detail, and so she waits for some sign from Ophelia before continuing.
Ophelia Ophelia retracts her hand when she realizes the message is being delivered in verbal form. This causes her to frown. The only reason to do such a thing would be to ensure that any documents that might carry sensitive information could not be stolen or fall into the wrong hands. But if the report is that important then why trust it to a fresh recruit?

"Artyom," she says, tilting her head slightly so as to peer up at him over her shoulder. "This is Church business. Please tend to your ritual and I will find out if this matter requires my immediate attention." Her gaze shifts to the gathering of farmers and such, giving them a harsh stare that sends them all scattering before she can even open her mouth to order them to clear out.
Cressida Cressida nods, watching Arty thoughtfully before continuing. "Hmm. Well then. It is true I am a new recruit, however, as I was witness to his words myself." She frowns, checking her pockets. "It seems I have left the documents at the church in my haste. I shall return shortly with the details. My apologies." And with another bow, she hurries off back to the city.
Artyom W. Valodjn It would stand to reason that there's Official Church Business at hand. There often is. Artyom shrugs his massive shoulders and offers a surprisingly official salute, "Understood, Lady Lovett. I believe the circle is fully charged by now. So if you will excuse me--"

He turns to stride back across the threshold dividing the thrumming, roaring mass of elemental force from the rest of the countryside. From a nearby hill- far from the rather frightening Inquisitor- a couple of inquisitive children watch as the young Titanic moves toward the center of the ritual circle.

He wades through the dense field of magic, currents of elemental power cascading off his shoulders. It's a familiar feeling, but not unlike attempting to move through a bubble of molasses. Tellurian energy tended to be... Denser than that of some of the less sturdy elemental forces. As he moves, the low cylinder of magic ripples and distorts, straining against its restraints as this new entity moves toward its heart.

And then, he reaches his blade, buried three feet into the earth. Power humms at its hilt, pouring down from the pommel in thick sheets- like sand tumbling from a dune. Artyom reaches for his weapon, his hand closing around the volatile wellspring of natural magic.

In a brief, earth-shaking moment, he seizes the blade, tearing it from the heart of the sigil and setting the magic in motion. There is a cascade of un-light, violets and greens and browns merging into a terrible wave. The weeds in the field immediately wither, their life draining back into the earth from their tips. The skeletal plants crack, blacken, then turn to ash.

Beneath them, the earth roils and convulses, not violently, but more akin to how waves play about the surface of the ocean. Stones are broken apart and spread evenly into the soil as the terrain flattens. A burst of earth-light shatters the veil of decay, solidifying the surface of the land even as standing stones rise along the rim of the ring where its creator had left his carved, runic tablets. Each one is etched with a single symbol. Eight stones rise in each of the eight directions, each marked with the same glyph that had once been written their respective positions astride the compass points.

There is a burst of light and a crack of thunder as the ground closes up around the scar left by Artyom's blade, and the glowing, arcane circle shatters into a flurry of elemental motes.

Artyom twists at the hip, setting his weapon back into place along his shoulders. He surveys his handiwork, before nodding, satisfied that it had all been established as he had desired.

He glances toward Ophelia, and then flashes a quick thumbs-up.
Ophelia "Surely you jest...?" Ophelia's incredulous expression and the disbelief in her voice at the young recruit's words fail to find purchase as the woman turns and runs off as swift as she arrived. Had she somehow noticed the fact that she was being examined on a much closer level than mere eyes could tell? Or was she actually that incompetant? Neither one bodes well.

Assuming the latter, the inquistor squeezes the bridge of her nose between two fingers and lets out a sigh as Cressdia vanishes over the hills. She turns back to the circle in time to see the flashy display of geomancy reshape the large patch of earth into a more suitable arena for training, however, the presence of the rune-carved stones gives her pause.

Her hand reaches out to rub the smooth surface of the nearest one as she steps into the ring and the lingering magical residue clings to her skin like oil. She rubs it between her fingers experimentally but the sensation is only temporary. "Quite impressive," Ophelia says. "Though this will draw a fair bit of attention to us."
Artyom W. Valodjn "I am aware," Artyom rumbles as he approaches the same standing stone, "That is why I have ostensibly erected this land for local use while we are not present in the area. Officially, it is a fairground." Unofficially, it is a place for the Inquisition to punch each other without worrying about destroying a cathedral or catching the eye of one of the bishops.

"It seems," Artyom explains, "that this town was once much more lively than it currently is. I offered to clear land for miscellaneous use, and was allowed to do so in the hopes that it might draw business as a temporary marketplace."

He shrugs. "Hiding in plain sight is sometimes more effective than dancing into the shadows."

Artyom glances about, looking over the woman's shoulders as if searching for a furtive pygmy or a shy dwarf. "Is your business concluded already? That was rather fast."
Ophelia Ophelia frowns slightly. Hiding in plain sight is rather difficult for her. When you can move in the blink of an eye and cleave men apart with your bare hands, people tend to notice and rumors spread like a plague in the slums. A simple lapse in concentration or a slip of discipline could have dire consequences in full view of the public. She will have to be even more careful than usual here and she /hates/ being forced to hold back.

"Yes. It would seem my messenger came without her message. Fool girl. I shall have to see that she is properly reprimanded." She might even see to it herself. A little time with the thumb screws would likely see to it that things were not forgotten in the future.

Ophelia allows a faint smile to replace her dour expression. If there was one thing she absolutely admired in the zealots of Glabados it was their ingenuity in the application of pain. Her initial trip down into the dungeons had been most entertaining. If only she had known sooner, she might very well have been the one to initiate their dealings with the Church instead of the other way around.

Unfortunately, her master had seen very quickly that such toys would bring out the worst of her sadistic nature and forbidden her from spending free time 'enlightening' the prisoners. No matter. Her duties as a hunter of heretics and witches would most like require such interrogations and Alexander would have no choice but to allow it to keep up their disguise.

"Next time consult with me before making such decisions. There are things that you cannot account for because I have not deemed you worthy of knowing them yet."
Artyom W. Valodjn "I see," Artyom replies with a sigh. "You would think that, after coming all this way, she would have realized that she forgot what she had aught to deliver on the road, rather than at her destination?" He shakes his head, muttering idly to himself, "And her clothes. She seemed very poorly dressed for travelling such long distances. Honestly, you would think that she had come all this way for some kind of party or something, not to deliver a message."

Clearly, Artyom has been to the kinds of parties that girls in miniskirts would tend to frequent.

He pats one of the standing stones, hand running lightly across its smooth face. "Maybe I scared her off? Hm. I'm not exactly the most... Approachable of individuals, I suppose." Or maybe the girl is a ditz. Airheads are pretty common around here, huh?

He inclines his head toward his employer, a frown finding its way to his face. "I see. Well, perhaps you aught to issue standing orders to ensure that I don't take... Inconvinient action in the future? What would you have me do, Lady Lovett?"
Ophelia "Nothing," she replies swiftly. "Creative thinking is not something I value in subordinates. Do as you are ordered and nothing more. If you believe you have something to contribute then present your ideas to me and I shall provide the ultimate verdict on whether such things are of use."

She waves a hand dismissively at him. "Nevermind. What's done, is done. There might be aught of use we can find in this creation of yours. Twould be even more suspicious to erect such an unnatural structure and then abandon it without a word."

Ophelia steps into the flattened circle and wanders around its perimeter. The ritual cleared a rather sizable area, far more than they will need for training purposes. She might even be able to set up a jousting lane across the center. "Hmm. I suppose that this could be converted into a proper guard outpost. Mayhaps a few extra blades could be assigned to watch this small town. The security might well draw trade and settlers back."
Artyom W. Valodjn "Mm, think of it as a bonus, then," Artyom replies with a shrug, "Perhaps you might not value it, but I'm certain I will surprise you, one of these days." And if not- well, his other master is quite appreciative of intelligent subordinates. And if one is creative about being creative, well.

"More seriously," he notes, walking into the center of the circle, "My abilities are not exactly... Subtle. I apologize- inscribing a smaller surface area is possible, but I would have required a much more precise instrument. The aspect ratios are difficult to achieve when you start minimizing your area. If you would like, I believe that this place could be utilized to improve relations with the nearby community."

"Afterwards, if I could have access to more precise instruments, I would be able to prepare a smaller circle elsewhere," he strokes his chin, missing, somewhat, the magnificent tools that Alexander Academy used to stock. Gone are the days of the arc-borer and the Exactoglaive. Alas, alas. "It would be a decent idea, to win the love of the people and so have more freedom to do what is necessary, mmn?"
Ophelia Ophelia completes her walk around the circle and stalks back over to the large mercenary. The smile she gives him is not a friendly one and the devilish sparkle in her eyes is the sort that make lesser men cringe. "I care very little for the love of anyone, Artyom. The tasks which fall to me are the sort that leave nothing but cold fear and bitter hatred in their wake. The Inquisition does not seek to win hearts and minds, we require only unwavering devotion and obedience. To question us is to question the authority of the Church."

She gestures at the flattened earth beneath their feet. "A guard post here will provide better control over this region and serve to give forewarning over the approach of monsters or enemies to the main cathedral. There are many who would seek to subvert our authority or attempt to commit crimes beneath our very noses. The people may take comfort in the knowledge that the Lord's warriors are nearby. They need nothing else."

If she weren't already dead, Ophelia would probably have felt some part of herself wither internally after spouting such nonsense. But playing the part of the fiery zealot is rather entertaining, made all the more so by the fear that her mere title carried with it. She likes bossing people around and religion is hard to one-up when it comes to enforcing its rules.

Her rebuttal delivered, Ophelia turns and makes her way over to the horse which still stands obediently where she left it. "I shall see to it that the proper orders are delivered," she says as she climbs into the saddle. "Until next time, Artyom. Try not to disappoint me futher." The reins are snapped with a flick of her wrist and the samurai takes off down the dusty road at high speed to deal with other matters that require her attention.
Artyom W. Valodjn "Nevermind that people require food, fresh water and a decent economy to sustain their families, I suppose?" Artyom chuckles, patting the same standing stone. It does not move. Stones do not often react when patted. "Though I am certain that security will likely see that at least a few of those needs are met, in time."

He inclines his head toward the bizarrely predatory woman, his arms resting across his torso. The look in her eye is worrisome, and summons distant echoes of the primal fear that haunts every man from the shadows in the corner of his eye. But there is perhaps something the large man fears more than the slightly terrifying Inquisitor.

Or perhaps, just perhaps, much of that fear is lost on a man who does not adhere to the religion she protects? Nevermind that it won't help him much if they decide to string him up to a rack, or something. That fact isn't lost on him. He risks much in doing what he is doing, but there is much to gain as well.

"Take care on your way home, Lady Lovett," Artyom replies evenly as he turns to lean against one of the stone pillars, "I will do my best to exceed your expectations in the future."

For various definitions of 'exceed.'

This scene contained 23 poses. The players who were present were: Artyom W. Valodjn, Cressida, Ophelia