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  • Forjod had been kidnapped the night before, and now The Flying Duchess is in full pursuit. Rix, Dravela, Xinderas, the airship's crew, and a slew of new allies from the previous Hunt hope that they can arrive in time to save him. The orange head of the sun was just peeking over the horizon signalling the beginning of a new day...and a new test to see how well Rix can keep herself from chucking Reby out of the window.

    Valerie is currently watching her bracelet for any update on Gretchen and Despoina's pursuit of Forjod and the wooden heron responsible for his kidnapping.

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    • Reby the werewolf stands at the front of the ship, using her hand to block the sun as she desparately tries to spot the Heron for the third time that morning through the windows. When that fails she once again moves back to helping around the ship however she could. She was a decent help, having apparently worked with some airship crews under Band jobs, but she was obviously distracted.

      Arianna, the whip-blade Magic Weapon, in contrast to Reby, is in awe at the view, and the sky, and the scenery that rolls by as they fly. To any watching they could tell she was Oooing and Ahhing at her first view of sunrise on an airship, but as a mute creature she makes no noise to signify it. 

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    • (I should have mentioned that you're inside of what is basically a small metal blimp. It doesn't have an outer deck. My apologies for not specifying that. >.<)

      The crew is at the helm of the ship hard at work tracking down Forjod. Song is fast asleep in the net hanging above the room. Dravela and Xinderas are currently arm wrestling at the table. Rix is staring out the front window of the bridge desperately trying to pick up any sign of her husband. Lumbre meanwhile is down in the passenger cabin with the scent of stale lime rampant. She quietly sits there pondering what kind of help Mythria would send them.

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    • After a moment of helping the crew Reby finds herself at the window next to Rix, "Grrr...Damn it! Why does it have to feel like we're going so slow?! I mean I know we're going fast, but it feels like it's takinig us forever to catch up..."

      She lightly pounds a fist on the window, gazing out for any sign once again before sighing and propping her forehead on the glass. When she pulls away she looks to Rix.

      They hadn't conversed much, and she could tell Rix still wanted to toss her from the ship for her feelings for Forjod, but she looks to the Hellhound with genuine sympathy, "It feels awful enough having that dirty thing take Forjie from me...I can't imagine how you're feeling Rix, since you're actually his wife."

      She's hesitant at first, but gingerly places a paw on the focused Hellhound's shoulder before moving back to help the crew again. Her movements are more resolved now, the werewolf able to do well enough now that she seemed almost a natural part of the crew rather than a few steps above a newbie.

      Arianna, without looking away from the window, unsheaths her blade and flicks it in whip form to the table Dravela and Xinderas arm wrestle upon. It extends just enough that the tip segment lodges into the table. As they look down they see the same form of the girl sitting at the window watching them wrestle, [This looks like fun!] the refection gestures as the body at the window props on her elbow and watches outside, [How often do you both do this?]

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    • Rix glowers at Reby as she leaves for bringing up her husband again, but her expression soon softens. She walks over to Valerie and asks, "Anything?"

      "Nope, Gretchen still hasn't reported in," Valerie replies from her captain's chair. Rix sighs and mutters, "Keep listening. I wanna break that bird in half for stealing my husband."

      The Hellhound walks over to one of the side windows and leans against it. "Hmph, one of the most powerful beasts in the world yet I couldn't save him," she grumbles to herself as she stares out across the rolling clouds.

      Both Hellhounds at the table are quite surprised by the reflection's appearance. Nevertheless, Dravela answers, "Not very often. It's a good way to test our strength against each other and pass the time though."

      "Would it have killed you to just walk over here?" Xinderas asks with a slight annoyance in her voice.

      Arianna's reflection can see that the match is just about even. Neither sister seems to have the advantage over the other at the moment.

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    • Reby finds herself jittering from one task to another, not because of lack of focus now but rather her place being an extra one. She jumps from adjusting this, to hauling that, to turning this or that. Whatever someone in the crew says needs doing in passing she does. For the sake of Forjod, and even Rix, she was going to be as much help as she could. Then, when she had even the slightest chance to assault that mechanical bird, she was more than ready to tear it apart.

      Arianna rubs her shoulder shyly, and the body at the window sags a bit at Xinderas' comment, [I...I've never ridden on an airship before. I didn't want to stop watching out the widow, but I was interested in your match as well. Hehe, I probably should have given some warning first though shouldn't I? It's because of where I was raised. For Garrett's team, and therefore their Magic Weapons, the Main HQ was home until the Boss got permission to set up in Zahmeria. While it's not always as crazy as it was during the fair, it is still mostly lawless beyond the prime rules. If I ever needed to watch two things at once I was not only allowed but incouraged to do as I pleased.]

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    • As Reby assists the small crew with their tasks, there is a lights a tap on her shoulder. Song is hanging from the net by one foot with a groggy smile and asks with a slurred voice, "Morning cutie, have we caught that big bird yet?"

      Valerie takes notice and rolls her eyes at the scene. Rix audibly groans from Song's question.

      "I don't have a problem with you watching us arm wrestle, but I suppose that a warning would have been nice. I'd hate for you to accidentally happen upon me using the restroom now heh heh," Dravela tells Arianna with a giggle. "Really Sister?" Xinderas mutters, irritated by Dravela's joke.

      Dravela's grin widens at Arianna and she asks, "And this is really your first time in an airship? How are you liking it so far?"

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    • "No, and if you want a chance at it you better wake up and be ready. Me and Rixie are gonna tear into that thing first chance we get." her right paw reaches down, tracing the side of her MW hand cannon on her hip, "After that we're findin whoever sent it, and I'm giving them the same treatment, and carting them off back to the HQ for the Boss to sort them out!"

      Arianna's reflection bounces giddily, [Oh it's amazing! It's so pretty up here! Most Band members that don't have wings travel by foot or wagon, since we don't get many airship pilots in our ranks. Of course that's a problem that feeds itself. We can't get more, because we don't have enough in the air to take on more pirates we'd otherwise be hired to hunt. Since we lose business against these targets we don't get new members out of them, and that means less work. You see what I mean?]

      Suddenly, Arianna's body shoots upright, and as she leans into the window her reflection points to get Dravela and Xinderas to look. As any of the others look they can see the rare sight of a Ryu in her primal form slithering through the clouds. The great serpentine dragon is obviously uncaring of their presence, but her graceful and carefree flight through the clouds is a beautiful sight. 

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    • A lengthy yawn escapes Song's mouth as she stretches out her arms. She smacks her lips and adjusts herself so that she could drop to the floor on her feet. She rubs her lower back and asks Reby, "Hey, has that Grizzly been up here recently? She seemed quite bored out of her mind when I last talked to her. The honey muncher's probably still downstairs."

      Dravela breaks away from Xinderas who sighs in frustration. The two Hellhounds rise from the table and join Arianna at the window. Dravela is instantly mesmerized by the Ryu's appearance while her sister just looks on unimpressed. "She's so gorgeous. I wish my daughter was here to see this!" Dravela gasps.

      Rix notices the Ryu and is quite impressed with her primal form, but beyond that the only thing that mattered was getting her husband back safely.

      The crew working at the helm of the airship can't hide their amazement at the Ryu snaking through the clouds. The Werecat at the steering wheel is tempted to follow her, but she stays the course.

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    • Reby shrugs, "I don't know her that well, so I don't bother keeping track of her...but she's helping us despite obviously being a rival of Rix's. I'll go find her if you want."

      Arianna looks to Dravela with a smile, but then makes an [Oh!] as she gets an idea. She quickly digs into her bottomless bag she borrowed from Garrett, and finds a recording crystal.

      When she gets it free and started, she frowns. The Ryu seemed to have left back into the clouds, but fortune smiles upon her as the Ryu breaks from the clouds much closer to them than before.

      Her great eye looks in as she passes by the windows, and she whips around the ship without interupting its flight beyond a smidge of turbulence. Once the great serpentine dragon completes one rotation she moves to fly away into the sunrise, and Arianna is quick to get the whole happening on the crystal.

      Once it's over she stops the recording and offers it to Dravela with a smile, [There we go! The perfect birthday gift for her from me!]

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    • "That'd be great, she should be downstairs in the passenger cabin, so thanks!" Song says to Reby as she points to a stairwell close to the side leading downward. "Good morning sleepyhead," Valerie says as she approaches the duo. Song smiles at Valerie and says, "Morning to you too Captain."

      Valerie nods and says, "Just prepare yourself for anything. Gretchen hasn't reported in recently and hopefully she and Despoina were smart enough to keep out of trouble."

      "Right away Captain!" Song says as she grabs her spear from the wall and points to a small machine on a nearby counter, "Just let me make myself a little pick-me-up first."

      She skips over to the counter and begins to use the device.

      "Awww...this will be the first thing I show her when I return home!" Dravela announces as she takes the crystal from Arianna and drops it into her sack. She then pats the GMW on her head and says, "Thank you very much!"

      Xinderas simply strolls back to the table and retakes her seat.

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    • Reby nods, then looks over to Valerie, "Let me know as soon as the piece of junk is spotted if it is while I'm down there..." She hesitates for a moment before adding, "Please."

      She begins making her way to the passenger cabin, and as she moves along she finds herself nervously scratching the side of her MW. Between basically stopping cold turkey on her cigarettes since the night before and Forjod's capture she was extremely anxious.

      Her MW was helping keep her calm, a thankful assistance now that she didn't have work to distract from the dire possibilities Forjod's capture held in her cynical mind.

      She soon spots Lumbre, and she did indeed look bored, "Hey, Grizz, that girl on the bridge Song asked about you."

      Arianna grins widely, repositioning her hunter's hat and smoothing out the feathers on the ashen grey article before gestureing, [I hope to get to see the drawings she makes using that!]

      She then looks out the window again, [I hope we find Forjod soon. This view is amazing, but part of me feels guilty for enjoying this while he's not safe with his lovely wife...besides, that they're brave enough to take someone so close to the HQ, especially with the Grand Fair still going on, puzzles me. They'd have to know we'd get invovled...]

      She grips her chin in thought for a moment, thinking to herself. "I hope the Nilhassian Inquisition isn't involved...no, they couldn't risk the contract in the view international dignitaries we could rally if this heron had hurt someone. It has to be someone else, but who?

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    • The lower passenger cabin reeks of lime. To the left is a bright green streak of paint stretching across the wall. In the back of the cabin are parachutes hanging off of an array of hooks. On the right is a door to the outside with red painted on words that read, "ESCAPE WON'T ALWAYS SAVE YOU!"

      Several of the seats show signs of wear and tear. This lower area had seen better days compared to the nicer upper deck.

      Lumbre herself is seated in the sixth row and perks up at Reby when she hears her name. "The panda wanted to know how I was doing eh? You can tell her that all is fine down here. It's just been uneventful for the past several hours. In the meantime, how are you holding up?"

      "I'm not sure as to who could have committed this act. We haven't seen this wooden bird ourselves, and my niece and the Grizzly having their fight so far away from the HQ made it the perfect opportunity for him to get taken. If that heron had attempted to steal him when he and Rix were standing right outside of the bar then I'm certain that you, me, Tirush and the Destroyer would have made that nigh impossible," Dravela says as she herself ponders for any ulterior motive behind the kidnapping.

      "Aunt Dravela, since you can understand her so well could you ask her why she can't speak?" asks Rix.

      Dravela's expression becomes tense and she mutters while glancing at Arianna, "I'm not sure that's an appropriate question to ask Rix."

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    • "Honestly, antsy as hell" Reby replies with a grunt, "and pissed off too. The fact that Val still hasn't heard from that griffon and Ms. Des doesn't help at all either..."

      She stops, taking in a deep breath and letting out a shaky sigh, "Still, I can't imagine Rixie is feeling much better, so I won't bitch about how long this is taking."

      Arianna shrugs, [I don't mind, though I hope she realizes I'm mute, not deaf. Anyway...] she hesitates for a moment, [I honestly don't know. I've never thought on it, since I've never been able to speak, and my team generally follows Garrett, who doesn't need me to gesture to communicate. The only possibilities are either because of something that happened in my forging, which Markel has never mentioned, or the Bond with Garrett.]

      She thinks for a moment, [The former seems more likely, since I'm sure I would pick up on it having to do with Garrett.]

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    • "That's probably the best thing to do right now. The skies can get pretty crazy sometimes," Lumbre replies as she leans forward in her seat, "Though if it helps, if that bird was going to kill Forjod then it would have done it back at the fair. The fact that it kidnapped him means that there's a very good chance that he's still alive."

      Dravela glances toward Rix and replies, "She says it has something to do with how she was made."

      "Ohhh..." Rix responds as she moves back over to the helm of the ship and watches out the front window for any sign of her husband or anyone else involved in the chase.

      Dravela gives Arianna an apologetic smile and says, "In all of my years as a bodyguard, I never thought I'd go from a special event that gets sidetracked by a male vampire going berserk to helping my niece rescue her husband from someone or something, but I'm very glad to be of help."

      "Hey Rixadalones, when that wooden machination attacked you, did it have any Order markings on it?" asks Xinderas.

      Rix's eyes narrow at her mother for calling her by her full name but she responds, "I don't think I remember seeing any. Either way, it's paying dearly for stealing my husband."

      "So, whoever did it may or may not be affiliated with the Order," Song says as she takes a seat at a different table carrying a cup of tea.

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    • "Yeah, I figured that, but it didn't hesitate to try after the rest of us. That kind of shit doens't bode well, since they could hurt him in ways that death would be a mercy..." She lowers her head, "Hopefully it's nothing, but that doesn't mean I won't still be kicking all their asses whoever they are."

      [Well this kind of whiplash is commonplace for us, hehe!] Arianna replies to Dravela, [You should see Martha sometime. She'll take a swallow of liqour and go straight out on a mission knowing she'll be stumbling the whole time. Of course as a member of the Boss's Pride, and that insane luck she has some days, she's more than capable of handling it.]

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    • "Yeah, we nearly got fried, but we don't know what else that thing is capable of," Lumbre sighs and adds, "Mrs. Gahillo told me that she was sending us some help, but she never specified who it was."

      Dravela thinks on Arianna's comment for a moment and says, "Martha...luck...was she the one at the beer pong table last night, because I swear I've seen her landing all kinds of shots that would have been damn near impossible."

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    • "Gahillo? Who's that?" Reby asks, confused at the new name.

      Arianna nods, [Right. Martha was the one you first addressed when we went to play beer pong, the Werecat wife of the Boss. That luck you saw is something of a special ability of her's. When she gets drunk most everything goes her way, but only every other day. Otherwise she's the same as any other drunk kitty cat hehe!"

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    • "Mrs. Gahillo? Hmm...I'm guessing neither Rix nor Forjod told you their last names didn't they? She's the general of Iosariga's military force and the mother of Forjod," Lumbre explains.

      Dravela raises a puzzled brow at Arianna and says, "I never thought that boosting your luck could be an ability. How is that even possible?"

      "I'm not buying the entire 'suddenly incredible when drunk thing either'," Xinderas comments.

      "I wish I had the special ability to boost my luck like that. My life would be so much easier," Song mutters as she finishes up her tea.

      Back at the helm, Valerie's bracelet begins to blink, and Rix is next to her faster than one could say "Beelzebub".

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    • Reby's ears perk, "Oh! Yeah, they never mentioned their last name." Reby smiles for the first time since Forjod had been captured, "I really should've asked Forjie what my future last name was going to be!"

      She grins brightly, unaware that there is news at the Helm.

      Arianna shrugs, [It's a mystery. Perhaps she was blessed by something when she was drunk once?]

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    • "That's IF he accepts you," Lumbre murmurs as her eyes roll toward the window. Judging from her voice, she had a pretty good idea of what was likely to happen.

      "I still don't buy it," Xinderas mutters as she shifts her body to be facing forward at the table.

      Dravela shakes her head and says, "Well, who am I to pry you about it? I should ask her myself the next time I see her."

      Valerie's bracelet goes from blinking to glowing a bright blue and a tiny projection of Gretchen appears. "What's up Gretchen?" the vampire asks. Gretchen appears to be sullen as she says, "First the bad news, we unfortunately lost track of the bird over the course of the pursuit last night."

      "Shit!" Rix snarls as she stomps her foot in a rage.

      Valerie is undeterred by Rix's outburst and asks Gretchen, "So what's the good news?"

      Gretchen's face becomes upbeat and she says, "Through asking some passing fliers, we were able to track down the kidnapper to a wooded area. There's a village close by and a few of them told us that they saw a strange huge bird fly into some ruins. So far, I have a good feeling that we're on the right track."

      Rix relaxes herself and grabs Valerie's wrist. She leans in toward Gretchen's projection and asks with wild eyes, "Where are you guys right now?"

      "We're standing in a clearing, waiting for you guys to arrive," Gretchen replies. Valerie pries her wrist away from Rix's grip and says to the Griffon, "Alright girl, we'll see you there, and how's Despoina doing?"

      "She's doing well. Poor mosquito got tired during the chase so I carried her on my back," says Gretchen. "Nice, later Gretchen," says Valerie.

      The projection vanishes and the vampire's bracelet stops glowing. Valerie then flicks Rix's forehead, causing her to yelp. "Don't grab me like that again," she warns as the Hellhound rubs the afflicted area. "You're lucky we're on the same team jackass!" Rix snarls.

      Valerie turns to her crew operating the helm and says, "Set a course for Gretchen's location. Her anklet tells me where she is at all times."

      The Werecat operating the wheel nods and turns the wheel slightly to the left.

      "I'll go inform the Werewolf and the Grizzly," Song announces as she skips toward the stairwell.

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    • Reby tilts her head, trying to assess what Lumbre meant by her tone, but Song arrives before she says anything stupid.

      She looks to the new arrival, "Decided to come see your friend in person?"

      Arianna shrugs, [You'd need to ask her. However, it seems we'll be closing in on our prey soon.] 

      She pats her knees, standing and collecting her sword, [I guess we should get ready for departure right?]

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    • Song is wearing a cheerful demeanor and sways her body from side to side, "Actually, I came here to give you the good news! Gretchen and Des were able to track down the bird that took Forjod. We'll be landing in a clearing to meet them shortly."

      Lumbre smirks and mutters, "Well, there you go."

      She rises out of her chair and stands in the aisle.

      "Yeah, sounds like it," Dravela says as she inspects her claws. Xinderas does the same. Rix wears a clear grin of satisfaction and says, "It's about damn time too!"

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    • Reby gasps at the news, everything else losing its importance as she rushes back to the helm. 

      She bursts her way in, nearly tackling Arianna as she takes a position next to Rix, "Just heard we've got a lead! Please tell me we're close to landing, I'm itching to track these bastards down and save Forjie!"

      Arianna pouts at Reby's back, then sighs and combs through her Bottomless Bag, [Alright, I have the fifteen potions I'm limited to as a veteran, as well as all the other equipment Garrett already had. Did anyone want to carry their own supply of potions, or am I going to run support for this quest?]

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    • Just as Reby says this, a bright red flare is spotted in the distance. If one were to be staring directly outside of the windshield, then they'd see a thick forest with a sizable clearing in the center. Just up a ways and slightly to the left is what appears to be a small village. Further off in the distance are what seem to be ruins that are built into a mountainside.

      "We are beginning our descent Captain!" the Werecat announces as the Flying Duchess gradually begins to lower its altitude toward the clearing.

      "Easy girl, we still gotta prepare. We don't know what we're up against," Lumbre says as she and Song emerge from the staircase. "Well let's make it quick, I'm eager to get my husband back into my embrace!" says Rix.

      "Arianna here has fifteen potions on her right now as well as some other equipment for us to use. First we're going to need to know who will be joining us on this mission," says Dravela.

      "I'll go, I'll get bored if I were to stay with the ship, and I can carry some of those potions that the sword girl's got," Lumbre volunteers as she holds her paw out for some of the potions. "You can bet your sweet little ass that I'm coming! Forjod's my husband after all!" Rix snaps. "I do not need to carry potions as they will only get in my way," Xinderas answers as she displays her claws for emphasis.

      "I won't be attending your journey. I'll need to guard the ship for when you return," says Song.

      "I'm not going to following along for the same reason as Song, but I've got something for you ladies that you may find useful," says Valerie. She gestures to one of her Mantis guards, who nods and disappears through a nearby door only to return seconds later carrying a box.

      She sets it down in front of the group and everyone can see glowing runes neatly arranged in the box by the colors orange, yellow, blue, and white.

      "Elemental runes, just rub one against the blade of your weapon and it will become enchanted for a short amount of time. The colors are as follows: orange is obviously fire, yellow is corrosion, blue is electricity, and white is ice. Don't worry, they're all imbued with immense demonic energy, so the folks that you have a bone to pick with won't get liquified or shattered," Valerie explains.

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    • [Oh! You have some enchantment items too?] Arianna gestures.

      She hands off six of her fifteen potions to Lumbre before moving over to examine the stones more closely, [We should be well set then, since Garrett's supply of fire papers are low, but he's well stocked on the other elements. That means we'll have water and dark elements too on top of this supply!]

      Reby pulls out and checks over her DRS hand cannon, "I have my own supply, and I'm at least partly sure it's fine. I'm just ready to get on the ground and go after Forjie's captors and make them pay!"

      When she's satisfied with her once-over on her non-MW weapon she holsters it and pulls the MW from the opposite holster, "Now lets land, or at least get close enough to the ground so we can get off." she looks at Rix out the corner of her eye, "We've waited long enough, so I'm sure we're more than ready."

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    • "Just don't lose your head Reby. I kinda like you," Valerie says with a smirk.

      Rix takes one of each elemental rune and places them in her sack. She was more than ready to hunt down her husband's kidnappers and get her man back. Lumbre loads up her own sack with the potions handed to her by Arianna and takes both a fire and an electricity rune from the box.

      "Hey Val, how come the elemental effects are only temporary?" asks the Grizzly. Valerie's eyes focus on Lumbre and she replies, "They're not refined. You need a special magic forge to permanently etch the rune into your weapon, but they should still provide you with an edge in battle."

      When the airship touches down, the ramp extends and Rix is the first to depart. Despoina and Gretchen share relieved smiles when they see the rest of the party exit the airship.

      "How was the flight?" asks Gretchen. "Quite the hellish experience of pondering what I'm going to do to the idiots that stole Forjod from me when I get my claws on them!" Rix snarls as she displays her shotgun.

      "Good to see that the lot of you have decided to come along!" Despoina calls out to the others. Then her smile grows nervous.

      Lumbre jogs up to Despoina and asks, "Hey Des, any word on that help that Mrs. Gahillo was sending?"

      Despoina hesitates for a moment, but then she nods, "Indeed, they have arrived but..." she turns to Rix, "She won't like who they are."

      These words reach Rix's ears and she lunges at Despoina. Her claws grasp the mosquito's shoulders and she asks, "Who? Who are they?"

      "Ahhh...Rixadalones, it's so good to see you again! Mother Mythria said that this would be the perfect bonding experience for us!" calls a sweetly familiar voice that causes Rix's already vicious face to distort into one of a pure feral rage. She turns and spots a Raiju in a punkish purple and blue Zipangese style outfit and a Youko wearing a white kimono. "Riza...Ikuna..." Rix growls, desperately holding back the urge to scream out in agony at her two other rivals.

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    • Reby cocks her MW, glancing at the two new arrivals, "You two must be the other girls that want Forjie. Hope you two know how to fight, or me and Rixie'll have to leave you behind."

      Arianna walks up to Riza and Ikuna, [A pleasure to meet you both!] she gestures with a big smile before offering her hands to each of them.

      Reby takes a look to the ruins up on the mountain in the distance, "I'm guessing that's where we're headed right? Seems to be how these things always go."

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    • Both the Raiju and the Youko chuckle at Reby's jab and take Arianna's hands.

      "Arianna's pleased to meet you two. She's mute just so you know ahead of time," Dravela says, watching the meeting.

      "Oh? Oh my what a shame," Riza says as her expression turns sympathetic and she rubs Arianna's shoulder, "Riza Noshinori sweetie."

      Her tails swish from side to side.

      Ikuna points a finger at Reby and asks Rix, "This patch of fur with you?"

      "I haven't been able to peel her off," Rix replies as she shoots Reby a dismissive look and then tells Ikuna, "Though please tell me that you and Mrs. Sleepytime weren't the only ones she sent. It would make my life so much better."

      Ikuna looks around for a moment then shrugs, "What you see is what you get sweetheart. Sorry."

      Gretchen moves alongside Reby and points to the ruins, "Yup, that's where we were told that the bird went."

      She pats her musket on her back.

      Despoina pops up between the two of them and says, "And I know that both you and Rix are eager to start smashing heads, but if I could make a suggestion, perhaps we could check out the nearby village first. There could be some locals there who have information on who or what is inside those ruins."

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    • Reby growls, then sighs, "You're right...If I'd have gotten my teammates they'd have suggested the same thing."

      She looks to Despoina, "Doesn't mean we have to waste time though..." She looks back to the others, "Anyone wanting to check for info at the village? While that's happening I say me and Rixie go and scout the ruins."

      She moves next to Rix, "Just scout. We don't want to risk Forjie with too few fighters going in at once."

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    • "You gotta be kidding me! Here we are ready to go kick some ass and you all want to make a quick stop at the village!?" Rix snaps. "I concur, we've already wasted enough time here as it is," says Xinderas.

      "Despoina and Reby are right you two. It's a really good idea to go check out the village to see if anyone there knows anything about the ruins and who or what lives there. And scouting can be helpful too as it can give us a better insight into our opponents," argues Dravela.

      "On top of that, if they know you're coming then they could just kill Forjod already," adds Lumbre. "If they don't know already," says Ikuna.

      Rix snarls, but says, "Fine, Reby and I will carry out the scouting mission, the rest of you can go talk to the villagers."

      Xinderas says nothing, but her demeanor shows that she reluctantly agrees.

      "Remember, no starting the party without us!" Riza coos as she wags her finger at both Rix and Reby. Rix scoffs and mutters, "Then you better not be late."

      Not far away, a small wooden chipmunk with gem eyes similar to the heron watches the group from a high up tree branch just within the forest.

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    • Arianna moves next to Rix and Reby, [Actually, I think I should go with Dravela to scout...and instead you and Rix visit the village.] She offeres hesitantly.

      Reby growls, noticing the gesture invlolves her staying behind.

      [I suggest this because Dravela and Xinderas are the most physically capable fighters, along with myself, but Dravela is the only one to truely understand me. We're more likely to fend off any ambushes, and if we happen to get caught we could hopefully lie our way into their camp as simple tresspasseres rather than a rescue party.]

      She twiddles her thumbs for a moment before continuing, [Besides, Garrett mentioned a smaller falcon similar to the Heron. I'm bound to notice it much sooner than you two will, especially given the situation...]

      She looks to Dravela hopefully, hoping she can back her up.

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    • Dravela listens to Arianna's explanation, and she appears hesitant to provide the two canines the information. Rix notices Reby's growl and asks, "Dravela, you want to tell us what your friend is talking about?"

      The other members of the party begin to crowd around her, awaiting her translation of the Great Magic Weapon. Finally, Dravela sighs and mutters primarily to her niece, "Arianna believes it would be better if you, Reby, and the others checked out the village while she, Xinderas, and myself take care of scouting the area. We're more than capable of fending off any attempts at an ambush, and we have a better chance of bluffing our way into where they're holding Forjod."

      She leaves out the part about them being the strongest physically to avoid offending anybody.

      Rix points a claw at Dravela and barks, "Hold on, that's my husband they're holding! I should be going with you!"

      "Oh dear, things just got a lot more complicated," Despoina mumbles as she looks nervously between the two Hellhounds.

      "Rix, listen to me here, I really want to help you get Forjod back, as does everyone here, but if we are to succeed then we need to ensure the maximum chance of success," Dravela explains.

      "Hey, think of it this way," Ikuna says as she places her hands on Rix's shoulders much to the chagrin of the Hellhound, "We find anybody that has any implications of a connection to the kidnapping, then we get to torment them as we see fit."

      "Why should I listen to someone as sadistic as yourself?" Rix asks as she pushes Ikuna off of her. Ikuna taps the bottom of her lip and replies with a cruel smile, "Because, I'm fairly certain that someone under the threat of being torn limb from limb by a Hellhound would surely get him to spill everything she knows."

      The Raiju giggles lightly at her own dark humor. Despoina and Lumbre share unsettled expressions.

      Rix ponders about the suggestion.

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    • Reby grunts, kicking at the dirt, "Damn it...I really don't wanna wait..."

      Arianna moves over and pats the werewolfs shoulder, eliciting a growl that she ignores as she directs her attention to Dravela, [I really think this is best. Rix and Reby both are hair trigger girls as it is, and this situation isn't helping. Odds are even if they're not going to kill Forjod, they're likely not taking good care of him...]

      She leaves the rest to Dravela's imagination as she moves over to her Hellhound friend. She turns back, bowing apologetically to Rix, and when she does she catches the glint of the jewl eye of the chimpmunk nearby. The small creature and the distance makes it so she is unsure if it is truely one of the spies, but she airs on the side of caution.

      She takes a few steps ahead of Dravela, facing her side with her blade directed to Dravela, In the blades reflection she waves to get her friend's attention, then gestures, [I'm not sure, but there's a glint in the tree over there. We may already be under surveillance.]

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    • The wooden chipmunk scampers down the tree and flees in the direction of the ruins through the cover of the forest.

      "What'd she say now?" Rix asks, giving Arianna a suspicious expression that isn't one that makes her wonder if she's working for the enemy, but rather one that suggests that she isn't liking what Arianna could be saying about her.

      Dravela quickly comes up with a half-truth answer and says, "She thinks that you're both very strong girls, but that we'd be better suited to handle this. She's also concerned that we could be being watched, so that's going to make things harder on everyone."

      She sighs and places a paw on Rix's shoulder and says, "Look dear, we'll report back to you all once we finish and we can plan things out from there. Promise."

      Rix snorts and mutters, "You three better not get yourselves caught, or there will be a LOT of shooting. Understand?"

      "And considering your size, you and your sister will stick out like a pair of sore thumbs," Ikuna jokes. "We can handle ourselves Ikuna, and please don't go overboard with interrogation techniques everyone. We really don't need to be dealing with angry villagers right now," says Dravela.

      Dravela gives Arianna a sideways glance and a smile, letting her know that Rix has given her approval even though she already heard it.

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    • Arianna nods and smiles, [Good. You can tell Rix I'm sorry for doing this later, but it really seems like the best option. I actually have some ideas on how we can get a good look at the camp despite Ikuna's worries on your sizes, especially with our little spy gone.]

      Reby snorts at Dravela's comment, "You don't need to worry about us Dravela. Hell, if we have to get some words outta someone really tight lipped we may need you girls back so Ari can channel a bit of Garrett."

      Arianna rubs her shoulder, obviously uncomfortable with the comment and the memories it brings up, but the werewolf ignores her. 

      Reby takes the lead, heading to the village, "Alright, since we have our game plan lets hurry and find some answers in this little slice of nowhere. The faster we find info, the faster we can take down the bastards that took our Forjie!" 

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    • The forest isn't too thick, and Reby's group are quick to come upon a dirt road that takes them straight up to the village, which is named Smadolni judging from the hanging wooden sign to the right that reads, "Welcome to SMADOLNI".

      A man in light armor and wielding a halberd stands at the entrance to the village. He perks up when he sees the group approaching, but other than that he doesn't react too much and simply waves them through, though he DOES stop Despoina and say, "Just a warning little lady, your kind aren't too well liked around here. Try to stay out of trouble."

      Despoina chuckles and says, "It wouldn't surprise me, considering our reputation as pests."

      The inside of the village contains many well-kept cottages along the road with a few of them spread out. To the left is a medium-sized building labeled, "SPIRITS AWAY". Most likely a bar. To the right is a post office with an occasional Harpy entering now and then. Some of the human inhabitants spot the group, but they shrug it off and continue on their way. A few of them however give Despoina nasty looks, but the mosquito doesn't seem to mind, though if she did notice, she showed no sign of caring.

      Seeing Arianna in discomfort at Reby's comment makes her think, "Oh dear."

      The trio move up the other way through the forest. A light breeze blows through every now and then, and birds can be heard chirping all around. Just ahead a non-mamono rabbit enters their view. It turns it's head toward the group and it's curious eyes study the three for a moment before it continues on its way.

      "So, what was this plan you had for us?" Dravela asks Arianna.

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    • Reby looks back to Despoina, "So, what's your plan Miss Des? You're the one that thought this'd be the best use of our time, so what should we do?"

      Arianna looks around, assuring they're not being watched before gestruring, [Well as it is, we should assume they know why we're here, and they know what we look like.]

      She smirks as she continues, [However, they don't know any detailed information about each of us, so the three of us have an advantage. You and Mrs. Xinderas can use your primal forms. Since it's a rarity that a Hellhound has the ability to go primal, you two could pose as the wildlife, allowing you to get much closer than normal.]

      She hesitates before continuing, [As for me...I'm going to play risky while the two of you scout. I won't actively try and get caught, but if I do I don't want you two to engage. They're not likely to realize I'm a Great Magic Weapon. They're likely to bind my body, and once they take me into the camp I can simply reform it outside the binds with my blade. From there I could try and find out where they're holding Forjod and why.]

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    • Despoina looks around for a moment and says, "Well, if there's one good place to start, then it'd be that bar. You, Rix and Gretchen will go check it out. Keep an eye open for anyone suspicious. Ikuna, Riza, Lumbre and myself will case other parts of the village starting with the post office. You three expand your search as well if no leads turn up in the bar. Oh, and do keep out of trouble. We're here to gather information so we can use it when we head out to the ruins up there."

      She points a finger at the ruins in the mountain.

      Rix grunts and says, "Come on ladies, let's not waste anymore time than we already are."

      She starts toward the bar.

      Dravela produces an awkward smile and scratches the back of her head. "Unfortunately, my sister does not have the ability to transform like I do," she says. "What is her plan sister?" Xinderas asks with a puzzled expression. Dravela faces her sister and replies, "Arianna intends to have us pose as wildlife while she gets in close to check out our supposed enemy and to see where they're holding Forjod."

      Xinderas shakes her head and turns to Arianna, speaking in a solemn manner, "As my sister has stated, I lack the ability to enter my primal form, but..."

      She hesitates for a moment and then continues, "I can keep back enough to avoid causing any suspicion, but I will try not to let you out of my sight."

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    • Arianna is shocked for a moment, but realizes it makes Dravela even more viable as the close range scout, [This may work even better. We can scout in layers.]

      She digs into ther bottomless bag, pulling free a monocular and offering it to Xinderas, [This is Garrett's monocular, you can use it to watch from the farthest position, while I'm placed between you both. We can then spy on them from varying distances, and if things go south each layer can set ambushes to cover the next so we can avoid getting caught!]

      She looks to the Monocular, [This is very important to Garrett, since it's a gift from his grandfather. Please take good care of it Mrs. Xinderas.]

      Reby rolls her shoulders, popping them as she takes a determined pace next to Rix, "I'm right with you Rixie."

      All the while Reby keeps a sharp eye on each person they pass, as if looking at them hard enough would have them spill the beans related to Forjod.

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    • "Yeah yeah," Rix grumbles as she pushes open the door to the bar and everyone's ears get bombarded with loud violin music. It is a lively scene. A man donned in traveler's gear dances on a table while the patrons surrounding him cheer him on. Kikimoras in tight maid outfits move from table to table serving the customers their drinks. The bar is handled by an Orc and a man who appeared to be in his late forties with a grizzled face.

      There is currently an open stool at the bar next to a man in workers' clothing who was clearly aged.

      A small and skinny man bumps into Reby and yells in a drunken stupor, "Sorry babes I'm taken, but if you're looking for some fun you should go see Octavia! She's a Satyros with tits that would put a Holstaur to shame!"

      He crashes through the door and wobbles out of sight.

      "Just...remember why we're here," Gretchen says, attempting to keep the team focused.

      Xinderas inspects the monocle that Arianna gave her and Dravela points to it saying, "That's Garrett's monocular. You can use it to watch Arianna from the furthest distance. If things go wrong, we can set up ambush positions in layers to defend ourselves and to prevent capture."

      Dravela plants a claw on Xinderas's shoulder and says with a more serious tone, "This item means so much to Garrett as it was a gift from his grandfather. Please be very careful with it."

      Xinderas looks to Arianna and gives her a slow nod, "I see, I shall take care of this thing as if it were my own."

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    • Arianna bows thankfully to Xinderas before looking around once more, [Alright. Let's get started ladies. There's no sign of any interlopers, so you can change in peace Dravela. You go on ahead, and then I'll follow and Mrs. Xinderas will take up the rear.]

      Reby cuts her eyes back at the drunken man, then looks to Gretchen, "You don't have to worry Gretch, I'm not about to risk Forjod by kicking anybodies asses. I'm saving that for the ones that took him."

      She looks around, thinking hard for long enough a moment Rix could pretend she wasn't even there if she wanted.

      When she finally speaks, she's hesitant, "Though...maybe I'll go see this Octavia girl. I'm sure she gets quite a few visitors," She lifts her paw and flexes her fingers, "and I'm more than capable of getting even the most dominant girls to squeal for me...but I don't wanna betray Forjod, even to another mamono."

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    • "Yeah, you do that," Rix says as she heads up to the empty stool and takes it. The old man next to her turns his head in her direction and immediately begins speaking to her, though the immense amount of noise generated throughout the bar would make it impossible for Reby to hear what he's saying.

      Gretchen nods at Reby and disappears into the crowd of drunkards.

      At the left appears to be a hallway where a Minotaur stands guard armed with a huge morningstar. To the left of her is a sign on the wall that reads, "Pleasure Rooms."

      "I'll head up first, Arianna will follow, then you will come Xinderas," Dravela explains as she transforms into her dire wolf form. "Very well," Xinderas answers as she steps behind a few trees.

      Dravela begins her advance through the forest. However, when she comes to a small incline just ahead, both ladies can see her stop and raise her nose towards the sky, sniffing the air. Then she moves with a quickened pace and disappears over the incline.

      Xinderas's body language suggests that something was not right.

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    • Reby walks up to the Minotaur, sizing the woman up on her approach, "So, you the bouncer for this Octavia girl I've heard of? How much for a round with her?"

      She stands tall, looking the Minotaur in the eye. She wasn't stupid enough to show how deep her bag was, or how much coin she was carrying. The moment she did that the Minotaur would try and bluff her for more than was worth it, and it'd end in a brawl.

      She does look the Minotaur over once more, trying to gather how much she'd need for a bribe if it came to that however.

      Arianna looks over to Xinderas, tensing a bit at the Hellhound's obvious worry. Still, she makes her way forward. She couldn't exaclty communicate with Xinderas, so her only option was to move forward with exstreme caution.

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    • The Minotaur casts Reby a cold stare. Her hand clenches around her morningstar to demonstrate that she had zero tolerance for any funny business. Still, she speaks to Reby with a respectful tone, "You're looking to get down with Octavia? She's a sweet lady who uses wine to boost her fun. It's three hundred gold up front to have her. If you don't have that kind of money then there's Bridget. She's a Devil, but her price is sixty gold. Payments are an afterthought for her."

      Down the hall are three doors on the right.

      As Arianna continues forward, her nose is met with the scent of freshly charred wood. When she reaches the top of the small hill, she sees that Dravela was thankfully not under any attack, but she was staring at a scene of pure destruction. A completely wrecked caravan lay along the road. Pieces of charred debris and a few deceased humans lie scattered about. Two massive black scorch marks are present on the road and a small portion of the forest is burnt away.

      On the side of one of the wagons is the Order insignia.

      Dravela turns to Arianna with a sullen expression and says, "This was very recent."

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    • Reby thinks for a moment, with more than one girl she'd be taking a gamble hiring only one. To get the most information...but it'd put a dent in her funds that remained from her and Maria's last job...

      She doesn't hesitate long before she's digging the four hundred gold from her bag. A hit to her gold was nothing compared to Forjod's safety. 

      "I think I'll hire both girls, and I even threw in a bit extra for you there." she ends suggestively, offering the gold to the Minotaur.

      Arianna is visibly saddened at the death they now look upon, [This is...] she takes in a breath, sighing silently as she continues, [I see they bear the Order's mark, which seems to point that those here are not involved with them, or at least if they are still Order they are a more volatile sub group. The biggest issue is pressing forward. It seems they aren't the type to take prisoners, so getting caught is no longer a risk we can take without the others.]

      She looks back to Xinderas, then gestures to Dravela, [Mrs. Xinderas should take a look at the ruins from the crest of the incline. I'll let you both decide if we should press on or not.]

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    • The Minotaur takes the gold and inspects it for a moment. She then dumps it into the bag on her waist and says, "Two out of three eh? Many of our visitors usually take one girl and call it a day. I remember a professional artist passed through here one time and hired all three girls for one night. Made a lot of men pissy and I'm sure he would have had his head bashed in if it wasn't for his entourage keeping them at bay. I swear those bodyguards looked like they could break open a boulder with their foreheads."

      She then chuckles and says, "Anyway, you'll find Octavia in the second room to the right. I'll let em know that you want Bridget as well."

      The Minotaur calls down the hall, "Hey Yvonne, got a Werewolf here looking for a double team with Bridget and Octavia!"

      At the end of the hall a Werecat peeks her head out and says, "Oh okay, I'll let that Devil know!"

      She disappears from sight and the Minotaur turns back to Reby. She says in a softer voice, "Thirty minute limit. Reason is because of the artist I mentioned and others will want a turn. Besides, these three are the only ladies this bar has that are willing to sell their bodies."

      Dravela runs her foot along one of the scorch marks, gathering some of the blackened dirt. "The way they destroyed this caravan is...brutal," she comments as she heads around to the back of the closest wagon and peers inside.

      Once she finishes checking the interior she returns to Arianna and suggests, "This group probably has a deep seeded hatred of the Order and will just kill any that they come across. They could be a violent revolutionary group."

      Dravela's ears twitch and her eyes widen as her head whips to the opposite side of the road. "There's someone coming!" she whispers. The dire wolf dives into the nearest bush and Arianna can hear the sound of rustling leaves signalling that someone or something is indeed approaching their position.

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    • Arianna looks around quickly, thinking on her feet on ways to turn this to their advantage. She sees her chance, sliding her blade under the nearest, most collapsed wagon. She then dissolves her body, the ash flowing away and the whipblade sliding beneath the wreckage. 

      She forms an arm from the blade and grips the smoldering wood above her to stop her movement, and it burns for a moment. She shouts silently from the pain, but holds on enough to avoid sliding out the other side before dissapaitng the limb once more.

      She focuses her attention out, beyond the crack she's wedged herself into, hopeful that her friends are well hidden and that she can learn something from where she is now hidden.

      Reby kicks herself internally, "Dammit! I forgot to ask if there were more girls! Grrrr....Hopefully taking the highest and the lowest girls can round out for enough information."

      She cracks a smile at the Minotaur, "Fair enough. Hopefully that'll be enough time," She leans in and whispers, "can you stall the for me love? I still have a bit more gold if you can, but it's no biggie."

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    • The Minotaur shakes her head and mutters with a snide grin, "Sorry girl, no can do. Other folks need a turn you know."

      Just then, a Devil appears at the other end of the hall. She spots Reby and squeals, "Hey, are you the Werewolf wanting to screw both the goat and myself silly? Great, I'll be in her room waiting for you!"

      She flings open the middle door and swoops inside. The door shuts behind her and the Minotaur gives Reby a look that reads, "You better get going."

      From Arianna's view, she can see four figures emerge from the forest on the other side of the road. They're humanoid, but they're not exactly human. The arrivals' bodies are more skeletal and made entirely out of wood. Instead of regular human heads, their heads are flat and shaped like a knight's shield. They have the same gem-like eyes that the chipmunk from earlier possessed and are carrying an assortment of weapons: a falchion, a flail, a shortsword, and a hand axe.

      The wooden beings have no traces of demonic energy on them. They fan out across the wreckage and the one wielding the flail strolls right up to Arianna's hiding spot, though it doesn't appear to have any idea that she's there.

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    • Reby smirks, whispering back to the Minotaur, "Fair enough. Guess I'll just have to make due. I just hope those girls can hold out..."

      "and that they know what I need to know."

      Reby moves to the door Bridget entered, opening the door and entering with a confident seductivness. Her sauntering steps are filled with dominant assurance, and she eyes the girls half-liddedly from their positions on the bed, "I hope you girls are ready for a good time, because I'm about to blow your minds!"

      "...and get to picking them for information during the afterglow."

      Arianna studies the being curiously, but otherwise doesn't react. worst case scenario the strange machine would find her blade under the wreckage, but she knew she was modeled after a special sect of the Order's weaponry. She would be out of place, but not so much that it would arouse suspicion...if indeed these things could feel it.

      She still was slightly worried at the flail used by the one before her. If he landed a harsh enough strike with her flat on the ground, she would definitely be harmed. She highly doubted a local physician would even be slightly prepared to help her in that scenario...but she was ever the tactical risk taker just as Garrett was.

      So she stays down, prepared to hide her reflection and appear as a simple weapon, even if it would be tantamount to closing her eyes and being utterly blind to an assault.

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    • The room has a vibrant purple tint to it. A large bed sits to the right with expensive fabric. There is a slender table to the left with a wide array of wine glasses neatly arranged in rows. An oil lantern sits on a nightstand next to the bed. In the center of the room lies a beige and red rug.

      The Satyros Octavia and the Devil Bridget are lying on the bed in suggestive positions wearing translucent dresses and are giving Reby seductive stares. "You're quite the enthusiastic one," Octavia comments. "We'll make this half-hour the best half-hour of your life!" Bridget chirps.

      The flail wielding construct is there for a few more seconds until it moves away from Arianna's hiding spot. These beings continue to check around the wreckage until two of them move behind the wagon in Arianna's immediate field of view. One of them reappears with what looks to be Weresheep wool stuck to it's fingers. It then returns behind the wagon and both of them walk to the side with their weapons holstered by some kind of ethereal powder purple ring close to their waist and are carrying a crate that seemed to be relatively undamaged.

      The construct armed with the falchion gestures to the other three and they vanish back into the forest from whence they came. The area is silent for a few minutes until Dravela can be seen poking her head out from the bush, her extended muzzle scanning the area.

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    • "Of course I'm enthusiastic!" Reby exclaims...before a wild grin spreads on her lips, "I get to make you two cuties squeal..." 

      "In more ways than one..."

      She saunters to the bed, "So lets get started!"

      /Fade to Black/

      Arianna sighs, thankful at their departure but frustrated at the new questions. 

      Still she forms an arm, awkwardly pulling herself free slowly. When she finally has her hilt free of the wreckage she forms her entire body already bent to pick up the weapon.

      She then looks over to Dravela, [It seems clear, but I find myself more and more curious as to who we're dealing with. The animals were one thing, but humanoid constructs, especially non-mamono ones, are an extreme rarity. Odds are higher we're dealing with a single offender considering the number of constructs and their apparent use of weaponry...so what should we do next?] 

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    • "A single offender...or a group," Dravela ponders as she emerges from the bush and sniffs pieces of the wool that were left behind by the constructs. She peers up at Arianna and says, "They weren't even mamono either as I couldn't sense any demonic energy on them."

      She stares off at Xinderas and motions for her to come forward. Dravela turns back to Arianna and suggests, "I could try to tail them for a bit in my wolf form and then report back. All they took with them was that crate after all."

      Xinderas arrives and she inspects the wreckage with an amused smirk. "I take heart in knowing that these are Order casualties. Scumbags," she replies, getting an annoyed head shake from her sister.

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    • Arianna joins Dravela in her head shake at Xinderas, but decides to focus on the task at hand.

      [I think that's the best course, but keep your distance and stay vigilant. We don't know how many more there could be, or how they treat the wildlife.]

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    • Xinderas scoffs at how the two ladies disapproved of her comment, but she makes no attempt to justify it.

      Dravela nods and whispers, "Yeah, I'll be careful, you two do the same."

      She disappears into the forest and Xinderas suggests to Arianna, "Let's go back into hiding. I would hate for anyone to happen by this mess and think that we were responsible even though this caravan belonged to the Order."

      Xinderas slinks back into the opposite end of the forest and hides behind several trees.

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    • Arianna nods, not agreeing that they'd be blamed for the attack but that they should get out of sight. She takes to the brush next to Xinderas, keeping her senses sharp for any signs of spies watching them.

      After a moment she scribbles in the dirt below them for Xinderas to read, [It seems strange we haven't passed any more animal constructs spying on us. Perhaps the last one unwittingly became an unhealthy meal for something in the wild?]

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    • Xinderas notices the writing in the dirt and whispers, "I am unsure, but hopefully its fate is so. Those human-like constructs were strange enough, though they do look like they'd fall easily to my attacks."

      Fortunately, no one else happens by their location, and after several minutes Dravela returns and rejoins both ladies. She quietly gives them her report, "I didn't go too far, but I did see more of those constructs in the forest that were most likely hiding in ambush. I also saw a wooden bird perched in a tree and a wooden deer that looked like it had antlers made of metal instead of bone or wood."

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    • [Well crap...maybe we should test what Xinderas thinks? We could find one of the constructs on their own, and see how fast we can bring it down. It's someting that'll help when we try to break in, and with your primal form we can stage it to look like an incident with the fauna.]

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    • Dravela nods and says to Arianna, "Well, if that's what you're thinking then I did see a single one standing a good ways from the main group. It's most likely a lookout, so we can test out it's combat abilities there."

      "Is Arianna suggesting that we fight it sister?" Xinderas asks, her voice slightly eager. "Yeah, just this lone one for now. We can use this opportunity to gauge their strength, follow me," Dravela says before she heads off once more at a speed where the other two can keep up.

      The trip is very short, and as Dravela stated, there was indeed a single construct standing there with it's back to them. The main group is further away and could barely be seen due to the density of the forest. This particular construct that the group is looking at is wielding a crossbow and has a quiver strapped to its back that is loaded with bolts.

      Xinderas leans over to Arianna and whispers, "Would you like to take this one?"

      Dravela's ears perk up at Xinderas's question and she turns to the Great Magic Weapon asking in a quiet voice, "Would you?"

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    • Arianna thinks critically, [I think I will. Most of our group use weapons that rely on piercing, so if I can't do significant damage with thrusting attacks then that spells difficulty for us later. Just be ready to attack if it shows signs of alarming more, and be ready to jam the body into my Bottomless Bag so we can study it back at the village for weaknesses.]

      She then winds up, the motion giving Dravela the time to relay her message and both Hellhounds to get ready.

      She then launches her blade forward, the weapon segmenting and spearing directy for the joint at its neck.

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    • Dravela nods and informs Xinderas of Arianna's plan.

      The blade connects, and the head is sheared off. The body appears to go limp for a moment before it collapses into the dirt as a pile of broken wood. The decapitated head of the construct is staring directly at Arianna.

      The nearby group doesn't seem to have noticed, so Dravela rushes forward and picks up the head in her teeth, moving back over to Arianna to plop the head into her bottomless bag. Xinderas also collects whatever pieces of wood were attached to the former construct. There were no pieces of metal anywhere that could have been a part of the wooden victim.

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    • [Hmmm...that was much easier than expected. It seems more work was put into animalistic automatons...no matter. We should return and study this thing in private first. It may seemed shut down, but we don't know for sure that it is...unless you both want to push our luck and go for that deer you mentioned Dravela?]

      Internally, she hope Xinderas insists on taking it down. If what Rix, Reby, and Lumbre mentioned of the giant heron was true the larger creatures are tougher, so the deer would be a better subject for their group in general.

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    • "You want to take on the deer?" Dravela asks as she looks toward the group in the distance, "But I don't see it anywhere."

      "That deer does sound like it could put up a challenge compared to that wooden peon," Xinderas mutters. "Uhhhh....I don't know, if we try to chase it down then we could run into something much more dangerous," Dravela whispers with worry in her voice.

      "Run away? Look at them sister, we could easily take them down. They have the situational awareness and fragility of a typical lowly paid Order goon," says Xinderas. "Yeah, but it's the humanoid ones. Even if we fight them how do we know that there aren't others nearby waiting to attack like the ones I mentioned?" asks Dravela.

      "Then how about we seek the final opinion of our silent friend here?" Xinderas asks as she stares directly at Arianna. "What should we do Arianna?" Dravela asks, secretly hoping that she decides that the group should back out.

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    • Arianna finds herself regretting her internal wish when she sees how uncomfortable Dravela was with the idea.

      [Well,] she begins, [personally,I think we should test against it precicely because it's possibly more dangerous. The humanoids are obviously the fodder, and as such aren't a good baseline for what we may run into during our infiltration of the ruins...but if it really seems like too much of a risk we can head back.]

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    • Dravela grins and sighs with relief when she hears that Arianna is considering heading back. However, that relief is soon replaced with horror when she turns her head one direction and cries, "Watch out!"

      There is a loud cracking sound and a bolt of lightning streaks in between Xinderas and Arianna. It explodes against a nearby tree and it breaks off, collapsing into the forest. The group found the deer that Dravela mentioned was staring straight at them from a distance with a wooden frame matching the body of a cervine, gem-like eyes, and metallic antlers that had visible electricity coursing through them.

      "That group is charging toward us!" Xinderas announces as she points to the small group of constructs that are now rushing toward them with their weapons drawn.

      Without looking back, Xinderas says, "I shall keep these wooden dolls off of us! You two just focus on that deer!"

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    • [Dravela, you help Xinderas. I can out maneuver this deer long enough for your two to clear that group. Then we'll focus all our might against it.]

      She then rushes forward at an angle towards her target, ready to quickstep any lightning before making her first strike.

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    • "My sister can handle herself! I'll back you up!" Dravela yells as she follows after Arianna. The deer doesn't fire off another lightning bolt, but instead it hops and turns it's rear toward the GMW. When Arianna's in range, it swiftly kicks up its hind legs in an attempt to catch her in her face.

      The sound of shattering wood can be heard as Xinderas obliterates her first construct with a devastating punch.

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    • With her already at the ready, as well as the open space of the clearing, Arianna is able to quickstep out of the wa of the buck. She silently shouts Woah as the right foot grazes her cheek, and the scratch it makes causes a faintly glowing wound.

      She responds with a strike down onto its back, but her blade stops as it strikes the solid wood torso.

      She hope away, preparing to find a paper or enchantment stone while Dravela makes her strike.

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    • Arianna's strike causes the wooden deer to wobble a bit, allowing Dravela to swipe her claws at its right flank. It's a direct hit and it peels off some wood as well as knock the construct to the side. Dravela transforms into her mamono form and attempts to leap onto the deer, but the cervine is quicker and backs out of range, allowing Dravela's body to lay sprawled across the ground.

      The Hellhound attempts to get up, but is met with a kick to the face by the deer. Dravela's head jolts slightly upward and she rolls onto one side. The deer now has its eyes locked onto Arianna and its antlers are live with deadly electricity once more. The voltage seems to combine into a white ball in between its antlers when it fires off another bolt of lightning at Arianna.

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    • Arianna is destracted at the strike landed on Dravela, which leaves her open to the full brunt of the bolt shot by the deer.

      She screams silently, and her whole body glows in random places that were burnned by the shock as she's forced to her knee. She growls to herself, then looks sharply at the deer. She forces her arm back and then whips it forward horizontally. Her blade goes into whip form, aiming for one of the deers front knee joints.

      She prays it will be crippled so she can rush it and land a brutal counter.

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    • The whip connects, and the construct plops down on one knee, clear damage done to the joint. As a bonus, Dravela rises to her feet and grabs hold of the deer from behind. This would allow Arianna an easier time to perform her counter as the construct wildly struggles to break out of the Hellhound's powerful grasp.

      A wooden arm flies past Arianna's head and lands in the dirt nearby, presumably another casualty of the group that is currently engaged in combat with Xinderas.

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    • Arianna rolls forward, ignoring the limb that zooms past her head. Mid roll she applies a fire paper, the blue whisp flames igniting her blade in their hauntingly heated aura. She then grips her blade with two hands and aims for the joint at the deer's lower neck.

      It goes in at an angle, down the opening and into the deers torso. As it drops to a kneel she adjusts her grip and yanks her blade free through its side in a similar visceral move she used on Lumbre back during the Hunt. The fire allows the blade burn its way out, leaving a charred gash into the constructs innards.

      Arianna is apparently not satified with just one strike, and after a full turn she slams her blade back down across the deer's upper neck joint, breaking its small antlered head free from its long neck and body.

      She breath heavily for a moment, but isn't still for long before she is rushing over to Dravela. There is an obvious look of worry on the MW's face as she checks where the deer had struck her, looking for the damage it may have caused.

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    • The sound of the headless construct's body tipping over onto the ground could be heard in the background as Arianna checks on Dravela. She has slight bruising on her face from the earlier kick and a few scratches on her left shoulder. Dravela grumbles and rubs her face, reciprocating Arianna's worried look as she takes in the burn marks on her comrade from the earlier lightning bolt.

      The noises that were dictating Xinderas's fight with the other constructs had around this time fallen silent.

      Dravela is once again wearing a horrified look on her face as she moans, "Crap, that deer's about to fire again!"

      The eyes of the severed deer head still glowed a bright green, and it's antlers were once again flowing with dangerous electricity. A white ball has formed in between its antlers, but just before it can fire, Xinderas appears and delivers a powerful punch to the wooden construct's head. The punch is enough to shatter both of it's eyes and pulverize a fraction of it.

      The hot glow that the deer's eyes held before fade to a darker green, and the electricity coursing through its antlers vanishes with a pop. Xinderas faces the duo, and they can see small cuts on her lower torso and left thigh. "It seems that nature's prey had fared better against you two than those wooden figures did against me," she simply comments.

      Dravela ignores her sister and whispers to Arianna, "Are you going to be alright?"

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    • [I'm going to be fine, it's you I'm worried about...] she gestures before gently looking over Dravela again, [There's no way to tell if you've been fractured or anything, and I didn't think to ask if there were any who knew first aid in our crew.]

      She rustles through her bag, pulling free three potions and offers one to Dravela, [This'll keep your energy up, and might even help the healing process a bit, but we should gather these constructs into my bag and retire back to the village to see you to a clinic.]

      She sets down the second so she can down the third herself. The energy allows her to heal her body as well as her cloths, leaving her exactly as she was before the fight began.

      She then offers the last to Xinderas, [It won't heal you both like it did me, since my body is a magical thing, but the SE in it should help a little and keep Dravela awake if she has a concussion...] she looks to Dravela seriously, [If it gets worse though, I'll use one of the five Phoenix Vials I have, but it'll hurt...a lot.]

      She then pulls her bag from her hip and stretches its neck enough to swallow the deer's torso.

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    • Dravela giggles and rubs Arianna's head. "I'll be fine Arianna, don't you remember how tough a Hellhound is?" she asks. She takes the potion and consumes it. Almost immediately she can feel her energy return and she says to Arianna, "Thank you kindly."

      Xinderas takes the other potion and drinks it. Her body rejuvenates and she says to Arianna, "Thank you."

      Dravela stretches and says, hoping to ease up the GMW's worry even more, "I don't feel like anything's broken on me. While that buck's kick stung, it would take a lot more than that to seriously damage me."

      She glances in the direction of the village and says, "Now, shall we meet with the others in the village?"

      (And now we return to Reby)

      Octavia's body is sprawled across the bed. Her face appears as if had just experienced Nirvana. Exhausted, but satisfied breaths escape her mouth. Bridget is laying unconscious in the fetal position next to the bed, a few empty wine glass scattered around her.

      The Satyros's eyes glaze up toward Reby and she breathes, "You...are impressive for a wolf. I...never thought I'd say this but...you have ten minutes left and...I don't think I can go any longer."

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    • Reby breaths heavily, rubbing off some sweat from her brow, "Glad you enjoyed it..." she takes in a deep breath, realizing just how close both of these girls had her to finishing herself, but her will to save Forjod kept her focused.

      She crawls along the bed, stradling Octavia and relaxing on top of the Satyros. She allows their soft flesh to press gently together across their whole forms as she hovers her face mere inches from Octavia's.

      "Like you said though, I still have you for ten minutes. Thing is, I need a teeny bit of information, so are you willing to help me out since I helped you out sooo well?"

      ___

      [Absolutely.] Arianna agrees once she gathers up the deers head and looks over to the humanoids Xinderas destroyed, [To save time, we'll grab the parts to equal just one more of those, that way we have two subjects to study.]

      When they finish gathering the parts she wipes her hands on her pants, [That should be enough for us to get an idea of their best weak points, as well as a spare to test gunfire against for the others. We'll be relying on their support for the brunt of the fighting when we hit the ruins, and it'd be best for Reby and Rix to know before hand just how much they can rely on their firearms since I expect at least one of them to add complications down the line...]

      She looks to both of them appologetically, [though I mean no disrespect from that. Just that Reby isn't always..."rational" in these situations, and I doubt any girl would be much better in Rix's place either.]

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    • Octavia takes a quick gasp for air and asks Reby, "Information...what...did you want to know?"

      Her arm extends for a nearby half-full glass of wine, but the exhaustion that is plaguing her causes her arm to drop just short of its goal. "I get...a ton of clients every...day, but not as much as...May," she says as her arm retracts to her body.

      __

      Dravela shrugs and shakes her head, "I understand. My niece can sometimes act like a loose cannon as well. She's a Hellhound just like us, but I just wish that she wouldn't use that as an excuse to be reckless."

      "At least she follows the way of the warrior," Xinderas mutters. Dravela shoots her sister an unimpressed glare and says, "Let's just head to the village and share our findings with the others. If that deer was able to cause that much trouble for us, then I'm certain that we'll encounter more just like it over the course of our rescue mission."

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    • Reby reaches for the wine, gently taking the glass, "Well I'm sure a pretty girl like you knows more about the town than just these bedrooms, so you can still help me. Does anyone involved with the ruins above the village make any stops in town? If so, what do you know about them?"

      _________

      [Agreed. We've done well, and now we can study more on these constructs. Perhaps we'll get really lucky and there'll be a signature on one of them.]

      (We can skip their group back to the village if you want) 

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    • (Yeah, sounds like a good idea!)

      Octavia sounds as if she's slowly regaining her energy. "That spot up in the mountains? I know of some of it's history, place used to be a headquarters for a strange eldritch cult centuries ago. Now unfortunately, I'm not exactly familiar with anyone who conducts business in those ruins, though I do remember servicing a Werebat several months back. She sounded quite fumed and claimed that she was kicked out from her home up there."

      The Satyros takes the glass from Reby and treats herself to a small sip of wine.

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    • Reby chuckles triumphantly, "That helps a ton! You know where this Werebat might be?"

      Reby presses into Octavia, eyes wide and hopeful that she can help.

      ___

      Arianna looks around as they are allowed to enter the village, [So...where do you think any of the girls are anyway, hehe?]

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    • Octavia slowly shakes her head and says, "Sadly, I have not seen her since that visit."

      She stops for a moment and ponders something. Then she snaps her fingers and says, "Though, through her rant she did mention a dark-skinned human woman among the group that kicked her out. Now, I've seen a woman like that visit this bar time and time again, but I'm unsure of if she's the right one."

      Octavia takes another sip of her wine.

      Outside, the noisy violin music that is barely muffled by the door sounds like it's dying down.

      ____

      When Arianna asks her question, the first thing the trio sees is Despoina, Lumbre, Ikuna, and Riza standing outside of an apothecary shop talking to a Weresheep who appears to be immensely traumatized and has several patches of her wool missing. As they get closer, they hear the Weresheep say in a trembling voice, "I...I thought the world was going to end! Those fireballs just looked so big!"

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    • Reby's ears perk as she notices the dieing music, but rather than note it she sighs, "Well thanks for the help cutie."

      She gives a quick kiss to Octavia before rolling off her, reaching for her belt on the floor and digging free one of the few potions she carries.

      She offers it to the Satyros, "This should boost you right up, and if you save half you can give it to the little bit. If you find out anything else let me know alright?"

      And with that she stands moving over to collect her cloths with her gunbelt still in her hands.

      ______

      Arianna moves over with concern on her face, [Hello everyone! We've returned. What happened to this nice girl here?]

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    • As Reby gets herself dressed, the music has now died down completely, replaced with frantic yelling. "What in the Demon Lord's name?" Octavia wonders as she takes the potion, slips on her clothes and moves over to the door. She opens it and peeks out, and if Reby was to poke her head out into the hallway, she would see that many of the patrons have abandoned their drinks and were gathered around someone whose view was obstructed by the crowd with faces of concern, confusion, or downright drunkenness, and that it was only one person yelling.

      ___

      Despoina notices the trio approaching and her eyes widen at the two Hellhounds' minor injuries. Nevertheless, she maintains her composure and says, "Oh wonderful, you ladies made it back! We were just talking to this Weresheep who claims to have escaped an Order caravan and watched two large fireballs destroy it. Did you see one such caravan?"

      "Yes, we did see an Order caravan. One that was completely wrecked and burnt," says Xinderas. "See see see!?" the Weresheep shouts as she points a finger at Xinderas.

      "Seems like your adventure got a little rough," Lumbre says as she observes the cuts and bruises on both Hellhounds.

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    • Reby gasps, hopping back into the room on one leg as she pulls her panties up, "Damn, there's a fight goin on. Maybe Rixie found this dark skinned girl you mentioned, and I wanna piece of her too!!"

      She rushes over to her denim shorts, pulling them up with one arm and waddling with her thighs spread to hold them up while she reaches for her bra and top. All the while she never lets go of her gunbelt in her hand, and once she gets her bra on she finally hooks it around her waist.

      She then heads to the door, pulling on her shirt and gently moving Octavia out of the way, "Thanks again cutie!"

      She barrels through the crowd, popping out head first into the center ring with no idea as to what she'll find.

      _______

      Arianna places a comforting hand on the weresheep, petting her sofly as if to say, [It's alright. You're safe now.]

      She then looks to Dravela, giving her a simple expression to go ahead and explain what they found and how they plan to study the remains of the constructs they fought.

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    • What Reby finds isn't a fight, but a terrified Harpy standing in the center with a broken left wing. Gretchen has one hand on her shoulder and is gesturing for her to relax. "Okay, start from the beginning, but slower," the Griffon says.

      Rix is standing at the front of the crowd with an indifferent expression and her arms folded.

      The Harpy takes several deep breaths and speaks, "I was attacked by an Order platoon...when this huge metal turtle came out and attacked them. Many of the soldiers struck at it with their weapons, but they were useless. That monster just did a stomp attack that either...blew them away or reduced them...to mulch. Then it opened it's maw and a huge burst of fire was sprayed out and it just...incinerated whoever was unlucky enough to stand in its way!"

      The avian takes several more deep breaths and continues, "It had these two large cannons on top of its shell that it fired, but it wasn't at the group that was attacking it. I saw a guy with a wand fire a lightning bolt at the turtle and the hit caused its shell to open, revealing this...huge red crystal. He couldn't get another shot off as these...wooden...doll things swooped in behind him and took him out!"

      "I knew it!" the old man that Rix sat next to screamed from the bar, "I told you there were wooden people wandering this forest, and none of you believed me!"

      The crowd has mixed reactions. Some are unsure of what to think, and others seem completely doubtful of the Harpy's story.

      ____

      The Weresheep is still shaking despite Arianna's petting of her. "You...you believe me now right!?" she asks Despoina. The mosquito points a finger behind her into the shop and says, "Why don't you head into the shop and get yourself patched up? You clearly have been through a lot."

      "You believe me right? After what the Hellhound said?" the Weresheep asks, her demeanor growing more frantic by the minute. Despoina nods and says, "Yes, I have two accounts. Now get in there and get yourself taken care of."

      The Weresheep smiles at Despoina, satisfied that she wasn't going crazy with herself and disappears into the shop.

      Despoina turns her attention to the trio and says, "So an Order caravan was indeed destroyed, and I suggest that you two hounds go in and get yourselves patched up as well."

      Ikuna points to Arianna's bottomless bag and asks, "Did you collect anything in that while you were out?"

      "Yes, remains of constructs that we fought and plan to study for any weaknesses. We indeed came across a destroyed Order caravan and fought what was in the bag. There was even a wooden deer that could shoot lightning bolts," Dravela explains.

      "Constructs? You mean like automatons?" asks Riza.

      "Sort of, but they were more humanoid and skeletal, though the deer bore a striking resemblance to a regular deer," says Dravela.

      "They fought as well as Order goons," Xinderas says as if it was no big deal.

      "That deer sounds nasty," Despoina mutters.

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    • Reby moves over, looking to Gretchen, "Did any of these guys send for a doc Gretch? Getting her settled might help her calm down. Besides, I got a lead on a possible suspect from Octavia, so we don't need to wait up for her anyway."

      Part of her wished Maria was here. She knew nothing of first aid, what with Maria being a white mage despite also being a vampire. 

      _____

      Arianna nods, [It was more dangerous than the humanoids by a long shot, and with it added with the Heron I assume all animalistic constructs are going to be much more dangerous than the humans. For now we should probably find a private place to study these remains in peace.] 

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    • "I'm not sure, she just arrived and started yelling," Gretchen says without looking at Reby.

      "I...I'm not making this up everyone!" the Harpy cries.

      "I believe you little lady, those wooden people exist!" the old man says as he pushes through the crowd to the center, "Been trying to tell these people for weeks now, but nobody wants to believe me!"

      "That's because you're always spouting this crap off Crazy Jack!" one of the men in the crowd shouts.

      "You have a lead, who is it?" Rix asks as she steps in front of Reby, her expression stoic.

      A small middle-aged woman emerges from the crowd and wraps her arms around the Harpy, careful not to touch her broken wing. "Why don't you come with me young one, so I can fix your wing," she suggests as she walks the Harpy toward the door.

      ___

      "For now let's just find a spot where we can study them without interruption," Dravela translates for Arianna. "So from what you say Drav, the kidnappers could possibly be these wooden things?" asks Despoina. "Possibly," Dravela replies.

      "Lovely!" Despoina mutters as she produces a small sack and says, "Well I still have that cash bonus from the Hunt, so perhaps we could rent a room at an inn to use."

      "Is it going to be enough? I mean considering you're a mosquito, are you sure they won't charge more just for that fact alone?" asks Ikuna. "Sometimes dear, a successful mission requires you to spend your funds, and considering that this is the General's son we're talking about, I'm more than willing to do that," Despoina replies as she opens her sack to check the contents.

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    • Reby stands and looks to Rix, opening her mouth but then looking around, "Why don't we go find the other girls."

      She moves over, grabbing Rix by the arm and whispering to her as she leads her to the door, "Oct said it was a dark skinned human woman, and she comes to this bar she thinks. Lets look back from the door so we block the front door if she's here."

      ___________

      Arianna digs into her own bag while she gestures, [That's not fair to you Despoina. You just earned that cash. Why don't I cover it for us? I have more than enough gold to book rooms for at least a week and still have money for food.]

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    • Rix seems reluctant to join Reby for a moment, but she soon concedes and joins her by the door. "You better be right furball. I'm getting tired of sitting in this place!" Rix whispers as they keep watch for any human women that could be sporting dark skin.

      Gretchen gestures that she heard Reby and comes over to them. She whispers, "Word of advice, when you see the potential suspect leave, don't jump her right away. Wait until she's in an isolated area, then nab her."

      She then grins and moves over to a corner of the bar just as the music and dancing kick up again.

      "Yeah yeah," Rix grumbles impatiently.

      ___

      "Arianna's offering to cover the costs for us Despoina. You can save your gold," Dravela says to the mosquito. Despoina spots Arianna digging through her own bag and says, "Oh, is that so? Well in that case."

      She puts away her sack and Ikuna asks, "Is your new girlfriend the silent type Dravela?"

      "She's mute, but she's really good at kicking ass," Dravela replies. Despoina points to the door of the apothecary shop and says, "Dravela, Xinderas, you two head in there and get yourselves all patched up. I want everyone at full functionality when we trek for the ruins."

      Dravela chuckles at Despoina and says, "It's not that bad Des."

      She rubs her face to show that she wasn't in any pain.

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    • "No promises..." Reby grumbles along with Rix.

      They reach just before the entrance, and Reby notices something she pretends to find interesting nearby. It's a simple barrel, but on top rests a pillow with elbow indentions on it indicating it as a place to arm wrestle.

      "Well Rixie," She whispers, "Found our way to do this without sticking out."

      She moves over, planting her self on the far side of the barrel. She looks over to the crowd for only a moment before looking back to Rix with a smirk. She rests her elbow in the pillow divot closest to her, her Paw fingers wiggling in challenge.

      As she does this she tries hard to scan the crowd with her peripheral vision while she nods for Gretchen to take the referee seat next to her.

      "Come here Gretch! Before we go I gotta kick our black furred friends's ass at arm wrestling!!" She exclaims, hopeful Gretchen will use the position to check out the crowd without drawing attention to themselves.

      ________

      [I trust Dravela enough to say she's fine, and the same goes for Xinderas.] Arianna adds, [For now we should find an Inn, as well as find some place on the outskirts or removed from the village for us to study and test against the constructs we collected.] 

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    • At first, Rix seems quite put off by Reby's eagerness to arm wrestle her. Then she realizes that it would be the perfect opportunity to show her what happens when someone messes with a Hellhound. She plops into the seat across from Reby and places her elbow in the pillow pivot in front of her.

      Gretchen is quite puzzled at why the two ladies wanted to arm wrestle, but she come over anyway and sits in the referee seat. "Do you ladies know what you're doing?" she asks. "Yeah...we do," Rix replies as she locks her claws with Reby while at the same time scanning the crowd for any sign of the dark-skinned woman.

      ___

      "Despoina these wounds are minimal. Their toothpicks for swords have barely scratched my skin," says Xinderas. "You may as well give up Dezzy. You're not going to convince them," Riza says with a smirk. Finally, Despoina throws her hands into the air and says, "Alright alright, we'll ignore you two getting medical aid, but don't start crying if it gets worse!"

      "You underestimate the resilience of a Hellhound Despoina," says Xinderas. Despoina shakes her head and replies, "More like looking out for some friends."

      "Come on ladies, the more time we spend bickering, the more time Forjod is out of his wicked damsel in distress's hands...and the more bitchy she becomes," says Lumbre.

      It doesn't take long for the group to find an inn. It is a wooden medium-sized building with two floors. Outside is a sign that reads, Smadolni Inn.

      "Shall we?" Despoina mutters.

      The group enter the inn and are hit with the sweet smell of maple syrup. In the right corner is a stairwell that leads to the upper floor. To the immediate left and right of the group are tables carrying several middle-aged folks who are either reading or eating. In front of them is a chubby man behind a desk with a bald head and a brown goatee.

      "This smell puts me in the mood for some pancakes," Ikuna comments as she licks her lips.

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    • "Gretch, we need to do this to keep from looking suspicious but still stay close enough to the door to block it." Reby whispers quickly once she sees Greetchen didn't pick up on her plan.

      She then smirks at Rix, speaking in a normal tone, "So Rixie, hope you're ready to lose!"

      ________

      [Why don't you ladies go ahead and order something to eat while I get our rooms.] Arianna suggests.

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    • "Ohhhh..." Gretchen nods as she fully understands the plan. She glances toward the door and whispers, "I get you now."

      Rix narrows her eyes at Reby and a wicked grin crosses her face. "Furball, I hope you're ready to lose!" she says.

      ___

      Dravela places her paws on Arianna's shoulders and whispers, "Let me come with you so I can translate to the innkeeper what you're saying in case he doesn't understand you."

      The Hellhound turns to the others and says, "You ladies go and get something to eat. Arianna and I will get us our rooms."

      They both move up to the desk, and the man perks up and says, "Morning ladies, what can I do for ohhhh ho woah."

      His voice trails off when he sees the monstrous size of Dravela.

      "Eh, it's still breakfast time. Time for some pancakes with maple syrup," Ikuna says as she walks over to a large table complete with a delicious assortment of breakfast style foods. An Akaname stands behind the table wearing an apron and makes a stopping gesture to the Raiju.

      The other ladies slowly shuffle over to where the Raiju is, but Xinderas instead takes a seat at an empty table.

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    • Reby chuckles, "Well then, begin on go alright? 3...2...1...Go!" 

      She pushes against Rix, her lithe arms flexing, though not nearly as much as Rix's do. She had to admit, there was something kinda hot about how strong Rix looked, but she wasn't going to go down easy.

      So she pushes back, giving everything she has.

      ____

      Arianna silently giggles, [He seems amazed at your beauty Dravela, you better break the bad news of your being married gently!] she jokes before continuing, [We would like a room for us, as well as our friends over there. How much would that be perchance?]

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    • Rix smirks and flexes her own arm, and Reby can immediately feel how powerful she is. The Hellhound returns the push, slowly gaining an advantage inch by inch. A few patrons begin to gather around the table, interested in what was going on.

      ___

      "I think he's left speechless by my size," Dravela whispers with a chuckle. Before she can translate however, the man's face lights up at Arianna and he says, "Oh, so you speak in sign language young lady? I do too!"

      He glances off to the side and scoffs, "And they told me that my skills in sign language would never be useful in the future."

      The man returns to the duo and says, "And don't worry about breaking my heart, I'm already married to my beautiful Akaname wife over there."

      He gestures to the Akaname who is grinning at Ikuna who seems to be wearing an annoyed frown.

      "So you said you wanted a room for you and your friends do you? Well could you tell me who in that group is with you?" he asks.

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    • Reby strains against Rix, but she is able to prevent the Hellhound from defeating her outright.

      She keeps checking the crowd in her peripheral, but this forces her eyes to look at Rix's body as well. Between not finishing completely with Octavia as well as Rix already being attractive she finds her attention to the crowd warning. An involuntary blush forms on her cheeks as she locks eyes with Rix, and she swallows hard. At first she was drawn to Forjod alone, but now she found herself enjoying the prospect of sharing such a handsome man with a gorgeous woman like Rix.

      ...or it could be her unsated lust playing tricks on her. She clears her throat, glancing over at the crowd, half looking for the woman they're hunting and half to simply calm herself. 

      _____

      Arianna grins, pointing out each of their members before adding, [There are also three more, but they aren't with us at the moment. How much would that be?]

      She hesitates for a moment, but decides to add, [Also, I know there is some animosity to Vamp Mosquito's here from what we were told, but...] she stops, looking to the Innkeeper hopefully with puppy dog eyes.

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    • Rix continues to keep on the pressure, but she snarls in frustration at being unable to defeat Reby so easily. She notices Reby's blush, and there is a brief moment of confusion that causes her arm strength to lessen, giving the Werewolf a good lead on her. Rix quickly realizes this however, and with a quick burst of strength they're back in the center.

      A larger crowd has begun to form around the match, but there is still no sign of the prime suspect.

      ___

      The clerk produces a half-grin and says, "That many eh? The room limits are four per room. Each person costs 120 gold."

      His smile disappears and he says in a softer voice, "However, since you have a mosquito girl with you, I'm going to have to double the cost on her. She's 240, and altogether that's 1,320 gold. That's all you have to pay if you're only staying for a week. However, any additional weeks will cost you 1,000 gold each."

      "That...doesn't actually sound that bad," Dravela whispers in Arianna's ear.

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    • Reby grunts and growls in resistance, but she isn't strong enough. She begins to lose, slowly but surely, as Rix forces her arm steadily downward.

      However, she can't find herself to be as upset as she'd have been before. Now that she really notices Rix, she finds herself okay with submitting to the Hellhound, at least in this. She looks at Rix in the eye once more. Her blush reapears, but she holds the gaze, wanting to look Rix in the eye as she finishes her.

      _______

      Arianna nods in agreement to Dravela, [That's more than reasonable...but I wish I'd have thought to try and pass her off as a Magic Weapon before hand, hehe!]

      The then looks to the Innkeeper, [That's acceptable,] she begins digging for the required coin, [but out of curiosity, why exactly are her kind exclusively discriminated here? That is, if you don't mind my asking?]

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    • Rix appears to notice the blush again, but other then that she smirks as she finishes the match by pressing Reby's hand against the table. The audience cheers and jumps around with excitement as Rix dusts off her paws and says, "Hellhounds are superior furball."

      In Reby's view just beyond the jovial crowd, the head of a dark-skinned woman with braided brown hair tied in a ponytail sails past toward the front door. Brief openings through the rambling patrons reveal that she has silver armor covering her body down to her feet.

      ____

      The Innkeeper whistles and replies, "Our dislike of them mainly stems from the fact that they are closely associated with those annoying small bloodsucking pests and that they basically function the same as vampires minus the better-than-you attitude. It doesn't help that there's a small colony of them that live quite a distance from this village and a man disappears from here once a week. I thankfully haven't been bitten by one, but those that have recount the throbbing sensations that they felt from the bites that wouldn't go away unless they were healed with magic or the Vamp Mosquito herself sucked it off."

      He taps his finger against the desk and adds, "If we had the resources to drive them out, we would."

      Despoina briefly glances back at the Innkeeper, but she turns away just before his eyes turn to meet hers.

      "Is there...anything else of interest around this village?" Dravela asks the Innkeeper.

      "Well, apart from the bloodsuckers there's a house a ways up the road that's deep in the forest, but that piece of crap hasn't been used in a decade," he replies.

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    • Her fluttering heart stops cold once she notices the woman walking through the crowd, and barely holds back a vicious snarl. She stands abrupt, appearing almost as if she was bing a sore loser.

      "Girls..." She growls. She slips around the wrestling barrel, stomping over to the entrance with determination. Her right paw itches to grab her MW, and she rubs it on her hip just below it as she blocks the door just before the woman can leave.

      She stares sharply at the woman, ready to draw at a moments notice if need be as she waits for her allies.

      ______

      Arianna smiles reassuringly, digging into her bag. She pulls free a pink communication crystal and offers it to the Innkeeper, [We of the Vantuos Band would be happy to help for a reasonable fee. Use this to get in touch with some of our dealers and if these Mosquitoes are truly causing this much trouble we of the Band can take care of them!]

      She then looks to Dravela, [I think I wanna see if the constructs are making use of this abandoned hut, but for now you go eat Dravela. I'll go find Rix and the other and shepherd them back here as well. You all need to eat after such a long day.]

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    • The woman casts Reby a slightly annoyed glare and says, "Umm...excuse me. You're in my way."

      On her right is a spiked mace that is attached to her waist and on her left side is a pistol crossbow.

      Rix moves behind her with her fiery eyes flaring and Gretchen watches the entire scene with a facepalm. "I told you dimwits to wait until she was outside," she mumbles, though her voice is lost in both the uproar of the crowd and the violin music blasting throughout the bar.

      ___

      The Innkeeper takes the crystal and looks it over. His eyebrows twitch and he says, "Really? Well I'll keep that in mind, thank you."

      He shifts his gaze to the Akaname where Ikuna appears to be growing increasingly irritated about something. "You can tell your friend that she and the others are free to eat now since you're officially guests," the Innkeeper suggests with a chuckle. He then makes an, "Oh," gesture and disappears under the desk, soon reappearing with a couple of keys that have numbers on them: 5, 6, and 7.

      "These three are the keys to your rooms on this floor. As I said, room limits are four per room, so two of your members will have to sleep alone," he explains as he hands them out to Arianna.

      Dravela places both of her paws on the GMW's shoulders and whispers, "Before you do, let me see if I can get more information about this house."

      She turns to the Innkeeper and asks, "Any interesting facts about this lonely house?"

      He shrugs and replies, "All I know is that it had a nifty little observation deck to see the stars at night.

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    • Reby snarls, her glare just barely resisting it's feral look as she eyes the woman. At noticing the small crossbow, she begins flexing her paw instinctively to ready for a quickdraw if it comes to that.

      First however, she was compelled to give the girl the benefit of the doubt, a habit Maria had instilled in her, "Look, I'm not gonna beat around the bush here. Somebody we," she gestures between her and Rix, "really care about has been kidnapped, and the clues we found led us to a dark skinned girl. Now I don't know how you're involved or if you're even involved at all, but if you wanna make sure you're not trapped between a werewolf and Hellhound in a worse situation I ask that you don't do anything stupid. Just let us ask some questions, and I'll keep the gorgeous lady behind you from hurting you for possibly taking her Husband...otherwise..."

      She lets the warning hang in the air to allow the woman to respond.

      ________

      Arianna takes the keys, looking them over as she contemplates the sleeping arrangements, [I wonder who should bunk together tonight? I'm sure it won't be us, as we need Xinderas, as well as anyone with mechanical experience on our team to examine these parts in our room before we begin weapons testing...]

      Once they reach the Akaname she jingles her keys with an innocent smile to show the woman they are guests now before looking to Dravela for her suggestion.

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    • The woman becomes increasingly annoyed and says, "Listen, I'm sorry to hear that the Hellhound's husband was kidnapped, but I had no involvement in such a petty crime. Now move aside!"

      She attempts to shove her way past Reby, but Rix grabs her by the arms and mutters through clenched teeth, "Just answer our questions lady."

      ___

      The Akaname smiles at Arianna when she sees the keys and says to Ikuna who looks like she's ready to kill someone, "Okay, now you can eat."

      "Finally!" Ikuna remarks as she grabs a small stack of pancakes and an even smaller bottle of maple syrup off of the table. She walks over to where Xinderas is sitting and joins her. The Akaname focuses her attention on Despoina and says, "I hope you didn't have too much trouble getting through this village."

      "I've been in worse dear," the mosquito replies as she selects a plate containing bacon and egg whites.

      Dravela's face falls at Arianna's suggestion of them possibly not bunking together, but she replies in a whisper, "I don't know of anyone in our group with any kind of mechanical experience. Then again, considering Gretchen's time aboard an airship, she may be our best one."

      She strokes her chin and adds, "We should definitely check out that house too. It could be a good place for Rix and Reby to test their weapons. Oh, and Gretchen too."

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    • "Look lady, just saying "I didn't do it" doesn't exactly prove your innocent..." She looks up to the bar, getting an idea.

      She looks left and right down the street out the doorway, noticing a cafe, "Why don't you let us feed you for your trouble. If you didn't do anything, then you get a free meal. If you did, then it's open enough for you to ditch us easier."

      She of course is lying about the last part, knowing that odds are low she could outrun a trio of mamono, especially since she had her hand cannons, but this might get them to get some answers.

      ___________

      When Arianna notices Dravela's reaction her eyes shoot open and then she face palms, [I'm so sorry Dravela! I miss-gestured. I meant who's having the spare room. Xinderas, Gretchen, you and I will have the first room. I didn't mean to accidently sign like we weren't going to share a room. I wouldn't have it any other way actually.]

      She then joins Dravela in rubbing her own chin in contemplation, [That leaves the others to decide how to bunk. I also agree we should check out this hut, but perhaps we should rest first? I don't actually need sleep, but I'm sure you organics are all getting tired right?]

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    • The woman grimaces at Reby and says, "Feed me? I already ate not too long ago."

      Then her lips curl into a smirk and she offers, "But, I have another way that I can prove my innocence in this matter."

      She gestures to the street and says, "Just let me pass and I'll lead you to it."

      "This better not be a trick you wretch!" Rix growls as a paw grips her glaive.

      ___

      Dravela giggles at Arianna's apology and says, "It's okay Arianna, nobody's safe from slip ups."

      She then shakes her head and adds, "Though, I don't think Rix and Reby could sleep in the same room together without getting at each others' throats."

      She nervously taps her claws together and says, "It's also likely that they're going to want to go on that rescue mission the second they get here without the thought of rest crossing their minds."

      "Sister, you are worrying too much," Xinderas chimes in and adds, "We have but a short glimpse into who our opponents are. If all that is holding Forjod are a bunch of wooden toys, then victory will be easy."

      "But it's a short glimpse dear, they could have other nasty surprises waiting for us," Despoina suggests as she sits at an empty table behind Xinderas and Ikuna.

      "To answer your question Arianna, I don't feel the least bit tired right now," Dravela answers to the GMW.

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    • Reby lifts a paw to Rix before answering, "I'm gonna take you at your word, but if you run, or I even see a sign of that damn robo-bird or any other crazy thing like it, you better pray to Eros I shoot you down before Rix here gets ahold of you."

      She aside, keeping a sharp glare on the woman and a hand on her MW. When she passes she leans in and whispers to Rix low enough where the woman couldn't possibly hear lest she were a non-human, "You're more durable than I am Rixie, and I'm faster on the draw. You take up the lead, and be wary of her mace, and I'll make sure she can't get a shot off with her crossbow...that is if she tries anything. Otherwise lets not maul her when she might not know where Forjie is anyway."

      ______

      Arianna nods, [Unless they've grown a sense of camaraderie since we've been out, it may be best for her to bunk with Despoina and leave the others the last room.]

      She then smirks, [I'm hopeful the others are the same, as the more of a headstart we can accomplish gives me less to handle on my own while you all sleep, hehe! I just hope it will last until after we check that hut so long as you both have the reserves for it?] 

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    • Rix nods and grumbles, "Okay."

      She looks up at the woman and orders softly, "Take us to this place and prove to us that you're innocent. Now!"

      The woman chuckles and says, "Easy Rix, proving my innocence will be very simple."

      "I'm hanging on to a shred of patience here Ms...." Rix mutters. "Mikayla, Mikayla von Duncan," the woman replies. She leads the trio outside and heads down the street.

      During the trip, Gretchen whispers to both canines, "You idiots should have waited until she left the bar then tailed her."

      ___

      "Somehow I doubt that," Dravela mumbles in response to Arianna's hopes of Rix and Reby forming a bond. She then adds, "And what do you mean on your own? I'm going to check out that old house with you. There's no way I'm leaving you alone in case of another construct attack."

      The Hellhound chuckles and playfully smacks Arianna on her shoulder.

      The front door opens and the Weresheep from earlier enters. She seems relaxed for now, but still has a face stricken with fear.

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    • "Yeah..." Reby whispers back, "I...kinda forgot you asked us to hold back when I saw her." She uses her free hand to rub the back of her head just below her pony tail in embarrassment.

      She then puts her focus back on Mikayla. She keeps her eyes on the environment as they go. With her upbringing she knew one wrong turn could land them in an ambush if they let their guard down for even a moment, that is if Mikayla truly was involved. She was compelled to give the woman the benefit of the doubt for now, and that was likely all that was keeping her from being as focused on the woman just as Rix was.

      _______

      Arianna grins, [I expect nothing less, which is why I also suggested Xinderas tag along. I bet she's bored just sitting here if she's not hungry.]

      She looks over to the Weresheep as she enters, waving her to come over before continuing, [What I meant was, since I don' t need sleep, I'll continue studies on the constructs in our rooms after you all get tired.]

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    • Gretchen glances away with an incredulous expression.

      Mikayla continues further down the street until she takes a right between two buildings and enters the forest. She leads the group on until they come to a large oddly-shaped rock in the thick of some trees. Mikayla turns back to the group with a calm smile.

      Rix, with ever growing impatience, is the first to speak, "Well, are you going to show us?"

      ___

      The Weresheep notices Arianna waving to her, and briefly steps over. "Don't mind me. I'm just looking to spend a night here before heading out," she says.

      "Any mention of potential combat will get my sister off of her rocker," Dravela mumbles as she stares directly at Xinderas, who is sitting silently at the table.

      She turns back to Arianna and whispers, "That's going to be a lot of late night work."

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    • Reby grips her gun tighter, gently lifting it a hair out of it's holster, but not enough for Mikayla to notice. At the same time she readies her opposite paw on her other DRS hand cannon...but she resists the urge to draw outright. 

      The odd rock could be simply that. As a Band member, she's seen plenty of odd careers pursued by even odder folk.

      However, old habits die hard, and she didn't trust that they weren't about to be ambushed, or that the "rock" was just a rock. As such, she was ready to gun down Mikayla, even at risk to her own health. If she kept the woman from escaping then the others could capture her and they could save Forjod, and that was all that mattered to her.

      ______

      Arianna pats the sheep in a friendly way, offering her to still follow them, [I don't need to eat like you organics, but I can give you my plate. You must be starving after all you've been through, and paying for a room can wait.]

      She then looks back to Dravela, [I'm also quite aware it's going to be quite  the workload, but I won't have anything else to do short of wonder around town while you all sleep.]

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    • Mikayla's smile never wavers, and she asks in a chilling tone, "What is there to prove when the three of you are dead?"

      On cue, two humanoid figures emerge from the woods. They are wooden with skeletal bodies, and their color is dark brown. Their faces are flat and in the shape of a shield, and they have red gems for eyes. One of them wielded a pair of short swords and the other is wielding a halberd with a net launcher on its back.

      "That bitch!" Rix growls as she produces her own weapons, furious, but not at all surprised about the trap.

      "Shit!" Gretchen cries, narrowly avoiding a bite from a wooden fox that has green gem eyes and a pink ring seemingly painted around its neck. It disappears in a cloud of pink specks and reappears beside Mikayla baring its teeth at the group.

      Mikayla equips her own mace and it glows with holy magic.

      (Just an FYI, the two humanoid constructs the trio are facing now are different from the ones that Arianna and her Hellhound pals fought.)

      ___

      The Weresheep appears to be completely confused by how Arianna is communicating with her and utters, "I...I'm sorry, I really don't understand what you're saying."

      "She's offering you her plate of food dear," Dravela says as she strokes the Weresheep's shoulder. The Weresheep loses some of her fear and says to Arianna, "Uhhhh...thanks."

      "But...are you really sure that you can handle it? I'm willing to stay up with you if you need some company. Thing is I wouldn't feel right with myself knowing that you'd be alone," Dravela whispers to Arianna.

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    • Reby narrows her eyes,at Mikayla. With her guns already partly drawn it only takes a fraction of a second for her to fire a rapid pair of shots into the woman. They're aimed for her knee caps rather than her head or face, which on top of gennerally catching most off guard it causes them to drop to the ground while the pain rushes up past a sensitive area.

      When Mikayla falls she pulls out a Dark Paper and rubs it along her MW's barrel, ready to fire DE infused shots that would increase lust build up and incapacitate Mikayla in a few shots, and hold her there as she teeters on the brink of monsterization without tipping over. 

      As soon as it's applied she takes aim at the body of one of the humanoid constructs, pelting it with shots without looking to slow it down as a she prepares to barrage Mikayla with her MW.

      ____

      Arianna pets Dravela's back reasuringly, [I'll be fine my dear freind. It's...much better now than when I was simply a weapon. I used to simply be stuck on Garrett's weapon rack through the night, but now I have my own legs to carry me hehe!!]

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    • Mikayla grunts as she falls to her knees. She reaches behind her and her hand returns wielding some kind of red needle. Its jammed into her neck and soon tossed away. She holds her mace in front of her as it glows, and soon she is glowing too. All of the pleasure that was inflicted earlier appears to have vanished as she rises to her feet and ducks behind the rock.

      The construct armed with the swords meanwhile sidesteps most of the gunfire, but one of her bullets grazes its torso. It charges at Reby, and it looks as if it's going to strike her, but instead it leaps over her with acrobatic finesse and attacks Rix with both swords, who blocks with her glaive.

      The other construct runs by Reby and uses the pole of its halberd to bat away her MW arm. It continues on toward Gretchen, who already has her musket equipped and fires a burst of DE rounds at the enemy. The construct however efficiently sidesteps each one and attempts to drive the spear part of its halberd into the Griffon who is forced to take to the air to avoid impalement.

      The fox leaps at Reby with its jaws ready to bite down on Reby, but instead it disappears, and reappears inches from Reby's side, airborne and close to biting down on Reby's arm.

      ___

      Dravela chuckles and says to Arianna, "Well, if you truly know that you're going to be well through the night, then I suppose I'll leave you to your work then."

      She strolls up to her sister and asks, "Hey Sis, Arianna and I are going to check out a house up the road later."

      "I shall come with you, this village bores me already," Xinderas mutters as she flexes her claws.

      Dravela turns to Arianna and says through sign language, (See? Wasn't difficult at all.)

      "You're checking out the old house are you? Count me in. It's always good to have a flier as a scout and I think that the less this village sees of my ugly face the better," Despoina offers with a grin.

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    • Reby pulls up her arm, blocking the fox by letting it bite down visciously onto her arm.

      She growls furiously as the fangs of the artificial creature dig into her, but she grins despite the pain. As the creature tears her black top and scratches against her denim short-shorts she slips her MW's barrel into the opening made at the back of its jaw. She fires repeatedly into its gullet, intent on not just breaking but brutalizing the construct as a show of force to Mikayla. To drive the point home, she stares dead eyed at the woman.

      Mikayla wasn't aware how lucky she is Reby was a Band member...but for now she doens't know that.

      ________

      Arianna widens her eyes at Despoina's comment, quickly giving her a friendly hug as they make their way out, [Don't even joke about that Despoina, you're amazingly beautiful!! Still, it's great that you're coming along, since we're likely to run into some of the constructs.]

      She looks to the others, [Should we see if anyone else wants to tag along?] 

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    • Mikayla's head peeks out just in time to witness Reby decimate the wooden fox construct and give her that cold murderous glare. The woman wears a grim look on her face and disappears back behind the rock.

      Rix slashes at the construct with her glaive, and the construct just dances around the attacks. The Hellhound swings her shotgun into an aiming position, but the construct delivers an upward kick to that arm, causing her arm to buck upwards and the DRS buckshot to explode harmlessly into the sky.

      The construct counters by using one of its swords to slice across her glaive arm, leaving a grazing wound. Rix responds by snarling amd bashing the construct in its head with her shotgun which causes it to violently spin backwards.

      With its target out of range, the halberd wielding construct turns its attention to Reby. It goes for a roundhouse kick to her back and then it attempts to bring its polearm down on her.

      As this is happening, a bold golden glow shows behind the rock, and Mikayla is seen peeking her head out once more before retracting it.

      ___

      Despoina giggles as she returns the hug and jokes, "I don't think she liked the fact that I called myself ugly!"

      Dravela steps forward and asks, "Ladies, would any of you like to join us in checking out the house along the road?"

      "I'll tag along. My hubby might be trapped in that house," Ikuna says as she licks her lips and adds in a chilling, "And in desperate need of a punishment."

      Dravela gulps as Riza replies, "I believe I'll save my strength for the time being."

      "Yeah, I think my nap time is starting to creep up on me," Lumbre says as she takes a sip of chocolate milk from a cup that she poured for herself.

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    • Reby grunts at being knocked over, but rolls to her back just in time to avoid the downsing of the Halberd. The blade of the weapon digs into the ground, and Reby instintively takes the opportunity to strike. She braces herself with her paws, gritting her teeth from the twinge of pain from her bite wounds as she kicks up into the contstructs chest. The kick launches it forward at an angle, the blade of the Halberd digging into the dirt and grassroots enough to make gripping the weapon impossible.

      The weapon slips free from the constructs grasp, and Reby takes the opportunity to rise to her feet.

      She holsters her weapons, pulling the Halberd from the ground and rushing forward to stab the construct attacking Gretchen in the back. Her inexperience with the weapon shows as it misses the lower back joint of the machine man, knocking it over rather than disabling it.

      With it down as well Reby grabs her DRS pistol and tosses it up to Gretchen, the safety on so she can catch it safely, "Gretch, take that and make sure that little bitch behind the rock doesn't get outa here...and stay safe."

      _______

      Ari nods, then waves for everyone to follow her, [I don't know about "punishing" him, but if we're lucky he would be there. We'd still need to hunt down who took him to begin with, but having Forjod in custody would help Rix and Reby clear their heads. It'll make any assault on the ruins much less dangerous since they'd be less likely to go against the plans we may make.]

      Arianna steps comfortably between Dravela and Xinderas as they go, the much shorter Sword Spirit in Hunter's attire seeming quite the contrast between the large hellhounds, though one the villagers can't look on at for long as they quickley find themselves at the main gate.

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    • Gretchen holds her musket with one hand and catches Reby's DRS pistol with the other. "Got it!" she shouts as she dives behind the rock.

      The construct that Reby downed earlier rises to its feet and leaps back. It takes its net launcher off of its back and takes aim at the Werewolf. Once it has a clear shot, it fires. The net spreads open as it flies toward Reby and threatens to close around her.

      Rix takes advantage of the stunned construct by once again taking aim with her shotgun and firing off another round of DRS buckshot. It's a direct hit, and pieces of wood break off of the construct's body. The impact also causes the construct to fall to the ground, but it quickly recovers and jumps to its feet. It charges toward Rix, and it attempts to drive both of its swords into her, but she sidesteps the attack and swings her glaive downward which catches the construct in the leg and breaks it off. Unbelievably however, the construct still manages to maintain its balance on one leg. It hops and turns to face Rix, preparing for another attack.

      ___

      "Yeah, if luck is on our side," Dravela mutters. She stares on down the road and says, "So, on to the house we go?"

      The trip is a rather lengthy one, but the group does eventually come upon a right turn that leads through the forest. Despoina halts everyone and takes flight. She disappears over the tree line, and it is only a couple minutes pass when she returns. "First thing's first, that house has definitely seen better days. It's a two-story, so there's a second floor. I didn't bother to check inside, but I didn't see any of those constructs you three mentioned," she explains.

      She coughs slightly and adds, "I didn't see Forjod around that area either, but he could be inside of that house, though I honestly doubt it."

      The walk down the branching path is a short one and they soon come upon the house. It is a dilapidated two-story cottage with signs of decay everywhere. Two of the windows in front are broken and the roof has a jagged hole in it. Out front is a rusty fountain and near the back of the house is a gazebo that has heavy deterioration as well, but nevertheless appears to be in better condition than the house.

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    • Reby reels back and hurls the halberd into the oncoming net, immediately tangling the two together as the momentum of the net slams the halberd at her fee. She then takes aim at the constructs neck, popping off a shot and moving on to the left shoulder, then the right. She continues this barrage alonge all the constructs joints from the top down, slowly forcing the machine to buckle under its own dead weight. 

      She is then forced to cock her cannon, and a burst of energy is sapped from her. as well as the residual energies from the constructs. It was much less than usual when she reloaded, and as such she is left much more drained than normal. She takes a breath, but finds herself glaring at the rock Mikayla hides behind. 

      _______

      [Warn everyone to proceed with caution please,] Arianna asks Dravela, [An old structure like this is just as like to be infested with bandits if not our targets. Make sure to stay in groups, leaving no girl by herself.]

      She places her hands on her hips, [Now, let's get to investigating.

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    • The downed construct's artificial eyes still glow brightly, and it casts Reby an emotionless expression.

      The one-legged construct leaps at Rix and it swings its sword in her direction, but Rix is quick enough to sidestep the attack and slash her glaive through its torso. The separated construct's one leg collapses to the ground in a wooden heap and one of its swords drops from its hands, but it uses its other sword to try to slash Reby before it hits the ground.

      The sound of a gunshot erupts from behind the rock, and Gretchen is seen stumbling backwards with a pained expression and slight bruising on the front part of her body. She raises Reby's pistol and fires again, but it's followed by the sound of a ricochet.

      ___

      Dravela nods at Arianna and turns to the others, "Let's be careful around here. We don't know what could be waiting for us inside of this building. Arianna and Ikuna will check the inside of the building with me. Despoina, take Xinderas and check around back, and especially take a look at that gazebo over there."

      "Sister, it only looks like a tiny hut," Xinderas comments, looking at the small structure. "It could have a switch that leads to a secret area," Despoina jokes. "Mind your jokes Despoina, we're here for my husband," Ikuna warns as she points a finger at the mosquito.

      Despoina apologetically raises her hands in Ikuna's direction and chuckles, "Okay okay, sorry!"

      Dravela leads the sword spirit and the Raiju inside, and they're all met with a large room that lacks any furniture, but displays rotting and cobwebs from years of neglect. There are a few spaces on the wall that are slightly more clear than the rest of it that show that paintings once hung there. Towards the back is a hallway, and to the right is a kitchen and a staircase leading to the second floor that is missing half of the rail.

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    • Reby Grits her teeth as she is forced to dodge the hit, but it gashes along her collarbone none the less. It cuts straight through the supports of her shirt and bra, causing the clothing items to drop and expose her left breast.

      She ignores the pain as she pins the now downed construct in the center of it's back, taking aim and firing for the joints just as she did with the other. With the construct incapacitated she ushers Rix to go around the back of the rock while she moves to assist Gretchen. She keeps her injured ally in her peripheral as she goes, focusing on what is behind the rock be it Mikayla or yet another construct.

      ________

      [Let's be sure the ground floor is clear before we head up...but if there's someone up there we could end up trapped. Hmmm...] Arianna gestures absentmindedly as she looks around.

      [Ah! There's an idea!] she moves over, grabbing a pair of knives from the kitchen silently.

      When she returns she gestures to Dravela, [Ask Ikuna if she can charge these with some electricity. I'll sit them so they'll tap if someone comes down, and you both should be able to hear the pop so we don't get ambushed in any tiny rooms.]

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    • Rix moves toward the back of the rock, but she takes a moment to stop next to the construct that Reby downed and presses her shotgun against the downed construct's head. She pulls the trigger, and there is a boom followed by the head exploding in a smattering of wooden debris and gem pieces.

      Another pump and she charges behind the rock where she can hear Mikayla scream, "Take no more steps if you do not wish to feel the unbearable pain of disintegration unholy one! Same for the werewolf!"

      Gretchen holds out Reby's pistol for the Werewolf to take and utters, "She has a shield on. I tried to get through, but she just smacked me away with her mace."

      She places a hand on her body and draws in a few deep, but pained breaths.

      ___

      Dravela takes the knives from Arianna and hands them to Ikuna whispering, "You think you can charge these up? Arianna has a plan that should keep us from getting ambushed."

      "Sure...?" Ikuna mutters as she takes the knives from Arianna, uncertain of what the plan was entailing. Her hands grip the blades of the knives and they both flow with electricity. She hands the charged up knives back to Ikuna in a way that she can grab them by the handles.

      "Judging by how there's no furniture here, I'm guessing that the previous owner moved out a long time ago," Dravela observes as she gives the room they're currently in another once over.

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    • Reby takes back her hand cannon, "If anything that makes this more satisfying. I can beat on her a little more without hurting her."

      She holsters her DRS weapon, moving around the rock to get a view of Mikayla herself from a safe distance, "Look here bitch. I don't know why you took Forjie, and honestly I couldn't give a shit. You are, however, gonna get bent over and I'm gonna make you tell me where he is and how to get him back. Now we can do this the easy way, or we can do this the hard way. The choice is yours..."

      She lowers her face and glowers at her, "but know if you pick the hard way you're gonna have a bad time."

      ________

      Arianna takes the knives, balancing one on the last step's edge and placing another on the floor below it, [With this, even one of those constructs are bound to knock this over by accident, and the pop from two electrically charged items colliding will give us our warning.]

      She then stands, looking down the hall, [So now let's check the back hall. I'll take the lead...]

      As Arianna leads them along she goes until the hall ends, carefully checking for any cracked doors before moving on. When they reach the dead end she looks both ways. She quickly motions for her friends to take up positions at the sides of the door before picking the one on the right first. 

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    • Mikayla has a glowing golden bubble around her and her mace is held out in front of her in an upright position. Rix is standing behind her with a face scorned with fury. The woman in the shield has a menacing smile on her face and tells Reby, "You three ladies handled my escorts quite well, so perhaps I'll drop a hint or two given my limited time here!"

      "Limited time!?" Rix screams.

      "Move east towards the ruins, but you will have to face the metallic guardian who blocks your path," Mikayla explains, "His defeat will grant you the key to enter the stronghold where the Hellhound's husband is imprisoned!"

      The bubble glows brightly, obscuring the ladies' view of Mikayla. After several seconds, the bubble dims and begins to dissipate. Once it ends, all that is left is a scorched ring in the earth and a small dull piece of paper. Rix's eye twitches, then she snaps, "WHAT THE FUCK!? THIS COWARDLY BITCH JUST FLED US!!!"

      The Hellhound stomps the interior of the ring in an unbridled rage.

      "At least...she told us how to...get to him," Gretchen mutters between breaths.

      ___

      Both Dravela and Ikuna nod and move beside the designated door. A look inside shows the room to be completely empty. However, there seems to be a hole on the opposite wall with a rolled up piece of paper sticking out of it. Above that appears to be a small metal drawer with six buttons on it, each with a picture of an animal. The animals on the buttons are as follows: a deer, a lion, a monkey, a bear, a fox, and a sheep. It appeared to be locked shut.

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    • "I've got half a mind to send the bitch to Garrett and tell him we need information out of her after we catch her for all this bullshit!" Reby nearly roars.

      She then moves over to Gretchen, supporting her gently under her shoulder, "For now though, you gotta be hurting something aweful. Let's go find you a clinic, and also find Arianna for some Phoenix Vials. Damn wel don't wanna be without those on me when we find this little bitch and beat her ass!"

      _______

      Arianna moves inward, giving the room a curious once over before examining the metal drawer above the paper, [Hmmmm....this is curious...]

      She bends over, looking into the hole with the paper to be sure of no traps before she pulls it free to read it.

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    • Gretchen slings her musket over her back and groans, "I think we could all use a clinic considering how badly we got hurt."

      "All I got was a gash on the arm!" Rix growls as she displays her wound for both ladies to see. "Even still, we need to get some healing. If those things were able to deal that much damage to us as a group of three, then there could be more that we'd have to fight when we go to rescue Forjod," says Gretchen.

      "What's it matter to you Gretch? This gash is nothing! I'll take on his entire band of captors if I have to!" Rix shouts as she shifts her gaze in the direction of the ruins.

      "What's it matter to me!? Look at us! I took a mace to the chest and Reby here has a few wounds of her own! Stop being so arrogant and learn to take care of yourself for once! Would your husband want you to risk your life so recklessly in a solo rescue attempt?" Gretchen screams at Rix, bits of saliva shooting from her mouth.

      Rix gives Gretchen a menacing glower, but she doesn't say a word.

      ___

      The paper is a letter of sorts, though some of the words are smudged it is still legible. It reads:

      My dearest son Henry,

      If you are reading this, it means that I have moved out and taken most of my valuables with me. Most. I say this because I have left behind something that was very special to me that I now want to pass down to you. You loved watching the stars as much as I did whenever we spent time together in the observatory or as you liked to call it, "The Stargazer's Platform". Ahhhh those were the days.

      Anyway, what is locked behind that drawer is something that I'm confident you will find to be very useful in your studies, but like I've always said, you want something in life, you have to earn it. As you've probably noticed by now, those buttons will come into play, but don't fret, you don't have to press all six, but you will have to press them in the correct order.

      Below are a few riddles for you to solve that will help you figure out the right sequence.

      Riddle 1- My kind are common around the forest. To be common means that we are often hunted by predators and humans alike, therefore I must rely on my swift feet and bone weapons for my survival. Skilled hunters like to hang my head on a wall as a trophy. What am I?

      Riddle 2- I am often either fishing by the river or sleeping in my cave. I also enjoy sticking my muzzle into bees' nests for that sweet taste of honey regardless of the tiny insects' negative opinion of my intrusion. You would be wise not to provoke me, as you may soon find me coming down on you at a frightening speed. What am I?

      Riddle 3- I am a popular inhabitant of the farm, though you may see a few of my kind wandering around the grassy plains or the mountains. Much of the clothing you see comes from me. What am I?

      Answer these three riddles correctly, and the prize is yours. Don't worry, the device will reset each time you fail, so you won't get locked out permanently.

      Best of luck to you, and may the stars be forever bright!


                                 Love,
                                       -Uncle Edgar
      
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    • Reby sighs, "I wanna go get him now too Rixie...but I got no idea what Mikayla meant there at the end. We should find Arianna, I know she'll know what the answer is...}

      She grunts and hisses when her bit arm brushes against her friend, "Hey, can I get a hand please Rixie? I wanna be careful with her incase she got hit really bad."

      _________________

      [Hmph, well this is simple enough. The answers are deer, bear, and lastly sheep. Make sure there's no note in the note about the order being reverse.] Arianna replies as she hands off the letter to Dravela.

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    • A low growl escapes Rix. "Fine, let's waste more time then we already have," she mutters as she slips under Gretchen's other arm and holds her up. "Let's go, I think I saw a healing shop when we first came in," says Gretchen.

      It is a slow trek back to the village, and passers-by give the trio looks of concern and fear. They pass by the inn and Riza steps out toward the group with a worried expression. "What on earth happened to you three?" she asks as she moves to help the others along. "This woman and her stupid wooden doll friends did a number on us," Rix grumbles.

      "Wooden dolls? Dravela and her friends told us they fought something similar," Riza says as they reach the apothecary shop.

      The Youko opens the door and the group is met with a fresh minty scent. All kinds of potions line the shelves along with bandages and splints. The hanging light provides the interior with a green tint. A young brunette woman in a dark brown dress steps through a door with an inviting smile and says, "Hello, do you require any hea...ohh my goodness! Did you ladies take on a group of Order champions or something!?"

      ___

      Dravela reads the letter and flips it to the other side to make sure that there was no other writing. When they see that the other side is completely blank she says, "Not that I can see. Try to press the corresponding buttons in the order that you answered them."

      She points a claw at the device.

      "Could there be toys inside?" Ikuna whispers with a snide grin, earning her a flat look from Dravela.

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    • Reby smirks, "Doubt it. The Order knows not to screw with a Vantulos Band member if they want our help in the field!" Reby states confidently before offering Gretchen to the girl, "Our friend needs more help than us. Help her out would ya?"

      As the woman takes Gretchen off to be healed Reby turns to Rix.

      "Well least now we got a clue...if we can trust the bitch at all. I say we get the crew together, then-ssss!!"

      She hisses as she absentmindedly crosses her arms, her arm with the vicious fox bite now throbbing as she is reminded of the major injury, "Damn it...a-anyway, I'm with you on wasting too much time. I say we gather everyone up while Gretch gets fixed up." She reaches up, instinctively gripping her shoulder as her arm throbs from the pain, "Once they're clear on what Mikayla said I say we rush the thing she mentioned, the guardian or whatever, on our way up to the ruins. We can send a couple off to check and see if Forjie is really where she says when we get the key from it, and the rest of us can catch Mikayla in the ruins and kick her ass!" 

      As she speaks Rix can't help but notice her injury is obviously very deep. Odds were that, despite her tough front, she could lose her arm, or worse hold back the team, if it wasn't tended too sooner rather than later.

      ___________ 

      [Hmmm...It's something to do with the observatory we were told was here somewhere...]

      She thinks for a moment, using her experience with dungeon delving and adventuring in ruins in and around the Chaos to her advantage. She does not remeber any sign of something as noticable as a common Observatory on their approach. Perhaps...

      She turns to Dravela, [Have Ikuna warn the others we're about to press these buttons. It may just be a simple box, but if it is an activation for the Observatory itself I would rather they not be caught unaware.]

      She gives Dravela enough time to relay her message, and then enough time for Ikuna to make it outside before pressing the buttons in their order; Deer, Bear, and then Sheep.]

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    • "Yeah, I'm more than ready to show that bitch what happens when my husband is stolen from me," Rix grumbles. She wraps a claw around Reby's wounded arm and says, "That does not look good."

      "You ladies luckily came to the right place! I'm very knowledgeable in fixing up many types of injuries and wield the remedies and potions to do so," the woman says cheerfully as she pats Gretchen on her shoulder and adds, "I'll take care of your Griffon friend first, then the Werewolf, and finally the Hellhound."

      "Is there a price?" Rix asks as she takes out a bag of gold. The woman's cheerful demeanor turns slightly serious and she replies, "Yes, the amount depends on the severity of the injuries sustained, but I make them pay after I finish healing them. Judging by what I'm looking at here...the amount will be 1800 coins."

      "Here," Rix says as she takes out the required amount and plops it on the table, "Patch us up."

      The woman inspects the gold for a moment to make sure that it is enough, then she looks to Rix and says, "Right away, come along now ma'am."

      She takes Gretchen through the door and the sound of a locking mechanism can be heard.

      "We're not going to rescue him if your arm looks like that. The bite looks quite deep from what I can see," Rix says as she gently runs her paw along Reby's arm, careful not to touch the bite mark.

      "Arianna and the others are at an old house up the road right now. It's just me and Lumbre at the inn at the moment," Riza explains.

      ___

      Dravela nods at Arianna and strolls up to Ikuna to say, "Head outside and let the others know that an observatory could appear."

      "It may just unlock the drawer," Ikuna says as she points to the device. "Better they be made aware beforehand instead of being caught off guard," Dravela explains. Ikuna silently throws her hands up into the air and departs.

      When Arianna presses the buttons in their order, their is a distinct ker-klunk and the drawer flap drops down, revealing a retractable telescope and another letter. Dravela reaches in and takes out the letter. It reads:

      Congratulations Henry, you solved the puzzle, not that I made it too difficult to begin with! What you hold in your hands is my father's old telescope. It's not like the larger one that used to be in "The Stargazer's Platform" upstairs, but it has a powerful magnification feature that lets you see the stars up close. If it is a clear night out, then go up to the observatory and try it out. There is just so much out there to discover Henry. There could be rifts, passing balls of light, there could even be other worlds that are much like our own! The universe above is such a mysterious, yet fascinating place!

                               Love,
                                  Uncle Edgar
      

      Dravela couldn't help but smile warmly at the contents of the letter.

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    • Reby blushes a bit from Rix gently examining her arm, "I-it's nothing Rixie. I-mmph!"

      Rix, despite her carefulness, glances a tender spot and Reby cenches. She then rubs the back of her head, "Well...maybe I do need some healing, but getting to Forjie and that bitch Mikayla is more important. We should find Ari, and I can use one of her Phoenix Vials. It'll burn like hell, but I can tough it out for Forjie...and for you Rixie."

      She looks over to Riza, preparing to ask for directions to the hut, but Rix could still obviously pressure her to use a proper healer rather than the Vials if she wanted.

      ______

      Arianna sags, [Well that's almost disappointing, hehe...I was thinking something big and shaky would happen there.] She then joins Dravela in a smile, [Still, this is apparently something really important for this Henry character. We should return it here after we finish using it.]

      She reaches inside, taking the telescope and waving for Dravela to follow. They side step the knife trap and make their way upstairs. Once they reach the top Arianna looks around,  [Now, let's go to this "Stargazer's Platform" and test out the zoom on this spyglass. If it's as good as Uncle Egar claims maybe we can use it to scout for enemy movements on the ruins?]

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    • Rix shrugs and says, "I already paid for us to get treated here, so we may as well get it done here."

      She stares at the door where the woman took Gretchen and grumbles, "I just hope she doesn't take to long, I worry every second about what those assholes are doing to my husband."

      Riza strolls along the aisles, checking out the various potions that line the shelves.

      ___

      "You're right, I'd hate for this Henry fellow to find his 'gift' missing," Dravela agrees.

      Upstairs are three doors, two on the right and one on the left. Dravela slowly pushes open the first door on the right and inside the room is a deteriorated wooden cage-like structure with a glass roof giving a clear view of the sky save for a medium-sized hole in the center of the transparent ceiling with a tattered awning covering it, the mechanical parts rusted from years of neglect. A few patches of mold grow around the floor. Just like the previous rooms, this room lacks any furniture.

      "This must be 'Stargazer's Platform'," Dravela whispers as she steps inside.

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    • Reby sighs, then nods, "Whatever you say Rixie," she looks to the door, "and I agree. I'm antsy as hell just sitting here waiting. Once we get to him I'll do whatever it takes to save Forjie..."

      She pauses for a moment, her face contorting to one of confusion, "I still don't get it though. Why would Mikayla, or whatever dumbass bastard she works for, take him?" she waves her paw dismissively, "I know it doesn't matter much, but it's just so weird. They aren't Order, and they're obviously not Faction either. What could they get from taking Forjie?"

      She then looks to the door, tapping her foot as she hopes Gretchen wouldn't be alone much longer, as her arm was beginning to itch on top of throbbing.

      _________

      [It's very pretty, even in this old and tattered state...] Arianna gestures slowly in awe. She then shakes it off and moves forward, [Lets get to positioning this so we can see the ruins.]

      She moves over to the rusted wheel for the vertical movement, giving it a slight push but making little progress beyond knocking some rusted flakes to the floor. She grunts in silence as she pushes with her full body, but reacts as if letting out a puff of air before sagging.

      [Can you give me a hand please, my friend? Hopefully we can push it together.]

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    • Rix shrugs and growls, "Damned if I know, but what I do know is that I'm getting him back one way or another. Then I'll show those bitches what for!"

      The back door opens revealing Gretchen whose torso is now fully healed. The woman behind her gestures to the Werewolf and asks, "Now may I have the Werewolf please?"

      Gretchen rejoins the others while Riza inspects a potion with a golden liquid inside it.

      ___

      "Sure, here we go," Dravela says as she moves over and puts her strength into the wheel. It moves, albeit sluggishly and the awning squeals as it retracts, exposing the room to more of the warm air of the day. As they continue to push the wheel, Arianna notices that Dravela has a rather suspicious look on her face. Her nose is twitching and her eyes are on the door that they entered through.

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    • "I'll be right there with ya Rixie! Now let me get this taken care of."

      Reby walks over to the woman nodding as she passes her to enter healing chamber, "So doc, this shouldn't take long right? I'm sure it's nothing compared to how poor Gretch got walloped."

      _________

      Instinctively Arianna reaches for her blade, ready to cover Dravela at a moments notice as she gestures to her freind, [What is it Dravela?]

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    • Reby is seated on a soft white bench. Potions and remedies are seated all around the room. The woman dips her fingers into a jar containing a glowing light green substance and removes them carrying some of the goo with her. "Not long at all ma'am," the woman replies as she rubs the goo along Reby's bite mark. Almost instantly, the Werewolf can feel the intense pain vanish as the goo glows brightly and disappears into the skin, leaving a fully healed arm.

      The doctor then rubs it along Reby's cut collarbone and says, "That was a really nasty bite mark. Are you sure that it wasn't the Order? Their war hounds can be very vicious."

      ___

      Dravela continues to sniff out the area and replies with some uncertainty, "I think I smell...another mamono. She's across the hall."

      The Hellhound pushes open the door and slips across the hall to the other side. Just then, Ikuna's voice rings from downstairs, "How are you two doing up there? Everyone outside is disappointed because they thought something big was going to happen!"

      The Raiju appears at the top of the stairs just as Dravela is standing at the door across the hall, ready to open it.

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    • "Positive." Reby replies bluntly, "It was some kind of constructs, and they've killed a few Order guys as well as attacked mamono. Besides," She gestures to the wild pink lines of the tattoo on her shoulder, then draws attention to the bit of tattoo peaking above her collar at the back, the image looking slightly like a feline's snout.

      "This is a Band Symbol. Unless they're really hard Zealots, Order guys can tell from the magic signature embedded in it I'm on of the Vantulos Band. They wouldn't risk tryin anything to us, because we help them out too much."

      She leans her head to the side to give the doctor more access to her collar, "We help protect people and towns of any kind from the Faction and Sabbath, as well as general bandit attacks both mamono and man. We also help save people from unwilling monsterization thanks to our Magic Items," she pats her MW hand cannon, "so most grunts don't screw with us for fear of pissing off their stuffy commanders when the Boss pays them a visit."

      __________

      Arianna takes a position to the side of the door closest to the stairs, waving Ikuna up and pointing to the door as she readies to help Dravela if need be.

      [I'm ready when you are Dravela, but you said it's a mamono? Be careful of how she may react when we go in.] 

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    • "A group that helps out the Order? Now there's a new one," the doctor says as she pats Reby's healed shoulder. She checks around the Werewolf's body for anymore injuries and it's clear that she's not only not too familiar with the Vantulos Band, but she's also finding it odd that a group like that would help such a pious faction.

      When the doctor finishes treating any other wounds that Reby has, she pats her on the back and says with a warm smile, "There we are, a clean bill of health!"

      ___

      Dravela nods and pushes open the door. Inside is a small round coffee table that appears fresh. It has a cup and several apples that seem like they were eaten not too long ago. Up above, a figure hangs upside down from a wooden crossbeam with its condition just like the rest of the house. A Werebat. Peaceful snoring can be heard from her, blissfully unaware of the trio close by.

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    • Reby shrugs, noticing her reaction, "It's not just the Order we help, it's any and everybody. You can bet your ass that if the Order were to try and hurt a poor girl with one of us around we'd step in and stop 'em. We just don't hold it against the Order for bein a bunch of dumbasses just like we don't blame the Faction for being the same."

      She hops up, then takes a look at her arm with a smirk, "You did damn good work doc, thanks! If you ever wanna find out more about the Band, just start asking around about us and we'll find you."

      She gives a casual wave to the doctor as she passes out into the lobby, "Alright Rixie, I'm all healed up, so lets go find Ari and the others so we can save Forjie!!"

      _________

      [Awwww!! She's so cute!] Arianna gestures, [It'd be rude to wake her...but still, maybe she knows something about the ruins, being a werebat and all. What do you want to do Dravela?]

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    • "Not before I fix that Hellhound's gash!" the woman insists as she points to the grazing wound on Rix's arm. Rix appears like she is about to refuse, but she shrugs and goes in. She comes out a couple minutes later with a fully healed arm, but she has a noticeably suspicious look about her when she glances in Reby's direction.

      "You ladies have a wonderful rest of the day now!" the doctor announces cheerfully.

      "Rix, are you alright?" Riza asks upon spotting the Hellhound's less than ideal expression. Rix responds in a cold tone, "Yeah, I'm fine. Let's see if we can find the others as the Werewolf suggested."

      "Well okay, I'm heading back to the inn," Riza says as she promptly leaves.

      The rest of the group leave the inn and move down the street, though Rix can't stop stealing glances at Reby.

      ___

      Dravela watches the sleeping Werebat for a moment before murmuring, "You're right. It would be unkind to interrupt her beauty sleep."

      "But perhaps she knows something about the ruins we're heading to. Wake her up ladies!" Ikuna orders quite loudly. Her voice does nothing to stir the winged mamono from her slumber. Dravela didn't appreciate the Raiju's caustic attitude, but inside she knew that both ladies had a point. She could possibly have an understanding ruins.

      She reaches up and lightly pokes the Werebat in her shoulder. A few seconds pass before she mutters something and her body begins to shift. "No mommy, I had enough pork chops, I want cake now," the Werebat mutters. Though her eyes are hidden by her hair, her head shifts downward. "I...uh...who...are...you?" she mumbles as her invisible gaze focuses on Arianna.

      Her body shakes wildly and she drops from the beam shrieking, "Who the hell are you!?"

      She lands on the floor with a thud and slides away screaming, "What are you girls doing here!?"

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    • Reby begins to move in the direction of the house in the woods, but before she can take the first step she notices Rix stealing glances.

      She stops, "Yeah Rixie? Somethin up?

      __________

      Arianna bows apologetically, gestures within sight of both the bat and Dravela, [We're really sorry to bother you Miss!]

      She steps back, keeping her gestures smooth and non-threatening, [My friends and I are simply searching this house and investigating the constructs that have made the ruins and surrounding land their territory. They have taken the husband of one of ours hostage, and wish to gain intelligence before we make an assault. Do you happen to know anything that could help?]

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    • Rix slowly nods and replies, "Yeah, there is something up."

      Her voice grows stern, "That doctor told me that your Vantulos Band helps out the Order. You want to tell me what's up with that?"

      Rix's expression reads that she isn't going to be taking any bullcrap. Even Gretchen seems to have backed away slightly.

      ___

      "We're really sorry ma'am, we were just searching this house and didn't know that there was another occupant. We're just trying to gather as much intelligence as we can as one of our group members had her husband kidnapped by these constructs," Dravela rapidly explains.

      The Werebat raises a hand and says, still quite freaked out at the sudden intruders, "Hang on, constructs! Were they skeleton like?"

      "Yeah," Dravela replies.

      The bat grumbles and throws her hands into the air, "A group of them along with these women kicked me and many others out of those ruins up there!"

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    • Reby rubs the back of her neck, "Well yeah, but like I also told her we help everybody. We don't do it at the expense of anybody. It doesn't matter if they're man, elf, dwarf, or mamono. You don't gotta worry about us helping any murderous zealots that kill all mamono indiscriminately."

      She shrugs, "It's the Boss that has us help them, but I kinda get it. The citizens that live in their territory don't deserve the hard time they get. If helping the Order keeps them from killing some girls, or those girls breaking up a family or raping and monsterizing some poor girl against her will, I say it's not a bad trade."

      She looks at Rix seriously, "I know you and your mom are traditionalist, but I won't apologize for the Band. We keep the Order from killing a lot more girls than they could. We also slow the Factions' dumb asses down from taking men out of our lives, and the Sabbath from taking some innocent little girl from her family and perverting her innocence. I don't think you're the type of woman to fault me for that...I hope."

      As she finishes she can see Reby looks to her hopefully, but also desperately. If she does indeed fault the werewolf, it would leave the girl heartbroken it seems.

      _______

      [Women? This is new intel.] Arianna gestures.

      She turns to Dravela when she sees the bat wouldn't be capable of understanding her, [Lets get as much information from her as we can on the Ruins since she was an occupant. The foremost thing may be any interior maps she can help draw or find once inside. After that we should find out what she knows about the new occupants before rewarding her for the trouble we're causing.]

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    • "The Order has no business in this world, period. The fact that you are helping those punkheads doesn't help improve my opinion of you one bit. They're taught by their deluded Goddess that all monsters are evil and must be destroyed. Even if the Band is on good relations with those bastards, then what's stopping them from continuing to persecute and kill innocent mamono? What will my husband think when I tell him that the Order is getting aid from one of the most powerful mercenary bands in the world?" Rix snarls as she gives Reby a serious glare of her own.

      Gretchen looks as if she doesn't know what to say.

      ___

      "Good idea," Dravela whispers to Arianna. She prepares to question the Werebat, but Ikuna beats her to the punch, "The ruins eh? Well I'll have you know that we have very good reason to believe that my husband is up there!"

      Her voice has a hint of sadism as she points a finger at the Werebat.

      "Our Raiju friend doesn't have the well of patience that we have," Dravela explains as she gives the Werebat an apologetic grin, "But we are going to need your help on this. Since you used to live in those ruins, is there anything important that we should know uhhh...?"

      "Ashlynn, and I can remember that the pathways are straightforward. There are several traps, but they're long broken down," says the Werebat.

      She gets up to dust herself off and continues, "I don't remember exactly where it was, but there was a huge chamber that used to be run by cultists working on all kinds of freaky stuff from what the past inhabitants told me."

      Ashlynn clutches her shoulder and trembles slightly, possibly intimidated by Dravela's size.

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    • Reby curls slightly, submissively, as Rix snaps at her.

      She holds this throughout the whole of Rix's response, and for a few moments after, but soon she rights herself.

      She stands erect as she responds to the Hellhound, "I'm sorry you feel that way...Like I said, we're helping them to try and limit deaths on both sides, both now and later. We keep everyone we fight alive, so for every job they hire that's a dozen girls at the least that have another chance, and one less man taken from his human wife, It's also one less reduction in human numbers so our future daughters have a man of their own for themselves someday. If your idea of a better solution would be to let the Faction run rampant, so they can dwindle the number of men left down to the point they're like the Dwarves, or worse gone completely like the Dark Elves then..."

      She sags a bit again, before turning away, preparing to walk to the house, even if Rix doesn't follow. Her newly healed arm comes up and goes to her face, rubbing it in an obvious motion as she silently sniffles. 

      __________

      Arianna moves to where Dravela can see, [Try and get a bit lower, my friend. Your height is intimidating her a bit. Also, ask her about what kind of traps were there, as I'm sure this mysterious group of women have likely refurbished them given their prowess in making these constructs.]

      She then moves over to Ikuna, [Also, tell Ikuna I said stand down. If and when I need to yank answers out of someone I'll ask for her assistance, but until then her domineering needs could've cost us a lead. We're simply lucky Ashlynn didn't take offense. 

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    • Rix glances away for a moment before she sighs and says, "I understand the need for a balance in this world, but I just do not think that the Order belongs here. They've committed far too many atrocities against innocent mamono, and should be wiped off the face of the planet. The Demon Lord is a smart woman, and I do believe she's trying extremely hard to figure out a solution to the dwindling man problem."

      She wears a downcast expression and mutters, "If she isn't too busy making babies with her husband at the moment."

      Rix follows Reby along, and Gretchen lags behind.

      ___

      Dravela nods at Arianna and lowers herself to one knee. She's still quite taller than Ashlynn, but the Werebat appears to relax slightly. "Ikuna, put your finger away. We're not torturers!" the Hellhound orders sternly. Ikuna pouts and mutters, "You're no fun!"

      The Raiju lowers her finger and Dravela asks Ashlynn, "So, if I could ask. What kind of traps were there?"

      Ashlynn folds a wing in front of her and counts off of her fingers, "There were some swinging axe traps, a few bladed disc traps here and there. I'm not too sure but I think there was mention of a floor trap that could slam you into the ceiling. That's what I remember seeing when I used to live there. There could be more but I'm not sure, and as I said earlier, they have long since broken down. I doubt the new occupants could get much use out of them."

      "Speaking of new occupants, could you tell us who they were?" Dravela requests. Ashlynn shakes her head and snarls, "As I said before, a bunch of those constructs and those women. One of them in particular was especially feisty. She had dark skin that would have been impossible to not recall."

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    • "Well," Reby begins, stopping to sniffle, "if and when she does that you can bet your ass we won't help them any more, only the civies."

      She then hangs her head, "I personally doubt it's gonna happen any time soon. She's too busy making more Lilims, and just letting them do what they please like Druella and the Queen of Hearts. Keeping us all from oblivion has taken a back seat to her making sweet love to her man, and we're only bound to be safe when she can fix it without leaving bed."

      She then looks up and forward for a moment before looking at Rix, "Does...me being in the Band really make you hate me Rix?"

      ________________

      [Hmmm...] Arianna thinks, [Like I mentioned, they've likely refurbished the traps by now, given they have the means to make constructs without resorting to actual golems. That will make our ruin raid exponentially more dangerous...]

      She paces as she continues, [Also, these women are a mystery as well. Obviously they aren't Amazoness', or at least not a tribe that's been monsterized. Seems unlikely they're related at all given their distaste for the Order but more amicable treatment of mamono like Ashlynn here.]

      She looks to Dravela, [Ask if she remembers any emblems or symbols they bore, anything we may use to find out more of them ourselves. Beyond that I doubt there's anything else we would need to bother her for.]

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    • Rix is silent for a moment. Then her gaze focuses on Reby and she replies, "If it helps, I hated you the second you started going after my husband. I told you that there were other men that you could go after, but you were just too stubborn to listen. The Order will forever be on my shit list, and any group or person that associates with those bastards will be on my shit list. If you even want to think of getting into my good graces, then you have a lot of catching up to do!"

      ___

      "Do you remember any emblems or symbols they wore? Like a faction of sorts?" Dravela asks Ashlynn.

      Ashlynn strokes her chin for a moment, "I vaguely remember each of them having a symbol of a deer and a wolf on their armor."

      She then raises a finger and adds, "Something else, a Ghoul attempted to monsterize one of them. She got a good bite in, but the lady showed very little, if any signs of being affected by Demonic Energy. My guess, they're wearing some kind of charm that makes them super resistant to it."

      "Interesting," Dravela responds as she looks to Arianna.

      Ikuna scoffs, clearly growing impatient.

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    • Reby smirks, then giggles, "Strangely, it does help some. I'm not gonna apologize about falling for Forjie, as I'm sure you'd be just as stubborn if he'd already had a girl when you took him...but I am sorry for being such a bitch about it, and also for not respecting you."

      She blushes, scratching her cheek, "I've started to appreciate your strength and, uh *cough*beauty*cough*, so I hope we can work past our differences ya know?"

      She looks around for a moment, catching glimpse of the house in the distance, "A-anyway, seems like we've made it! Let's get the girls up to speed, yeah?"

      ____________

      Arianna smirks, [That's extremely helpful. I don't inflict energy buildup like Reby's guns do. I simply take energy away, so I could incapacitate these girls...though obviously I couldn't handle them all alone, two, maybe three at most if I was careful and had ranged support depending on just how much coverage this charm gives.]

      She moves next to Dravela, [As for the symbol, we should ask the whole group, and barring that inform the Band once this is over. The presence of an emblem shows a large following, so we risk this happening again if we don't consistently hunt them down later.]

      She looks to Ashlynn and smiles, [For now, we should thank her graciously for her time, and reward her with something. What would she like for the trouble? Garrett has a few sweets Dala had him tuck away for her, and gold is always an option.

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    • Rix sighs in annoyance as they move up to the house. Despoina is leaning against the side of the structure and when she sees the group approaching her face lights up. "Hey, you gals made it!" she calls out to them.

      Seconds later Xinderas appears. When the group is close enough Despoina asks, "So, what did you ladies find out?"

      "A woman named Mikayla von Duncan was involved in my husband's kidnapping. We tried to capture her, but unfortunately these wooden construct things held us off long enough for her to escape," Rix explains, not happy about answering it.

      "Constructs?" Despoina wonders, giving Xinderas a long look. "We fought them as well Despoina," she replies.

      ___

      "Hey, are you girls going to try to clear them out when you get there? I like living here it's just...not like my old home," Ashlynn asks as she wears a downcast expression. Dravela chuckles and says, "We'll do what we can Ashlynn. For now, thank you very much for your help."

      Ashlynn gives Dravela a smile and says, "You're very welcome."

      "Would you like a reward for the trouble we gave you?" Dravela asks, turning her attention to Arianna.

      "All I ask is that you let me return to my beauty sleep. And when you clear out those people from the ruins, please let me know so I can head back asap," Ashlynn requests as she flies back up to the crossbeam and hangs upside down. From there, she wraps her wings around herself like a towel.

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    • Yeah, and the bitch definitely knew about Forjie. She also gave us a directions for how to find him. I wanted to talk to Ari about it. Is she here?" Reby asks.

      __________

      Arianna bows, [We certainly will. I'll bring word personally once it is cleared.]

      She then looks to Dravela, [I think we have enough information to plan our next step. Lets return the spyglass and get back to the others.]

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    • Despoina points inside the house and says, "She's in there along with the others."

      Xinderas casts Rix a disappointed gaze and says, "You should have had an easy time with those constructs Rixadalones. They fight about as well as a grunt with a sword."

      "If they weren't so agile then we would have destroyed them and had Mikayla's ass dragged here by now," says Rix.

      "Cease your excuses!" orders Xinderas.

      ___

      As the trio leave the room, Dravela tells Arianna, "I don't think I saw you use the telescope yet. Let me see if I can lift you through the observatory port."

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    • Reby moves to Rix's defense, "To be fair Mrs. Xinderas, they had a animal with them too. The bastard ripped into my arm. On top of that, we had her surrounded before she ran like a bitch, but not before smashing Gretch's chest in because she had some kind of invulerability goin on."

      She looks back to Rix with a smile, "We won't let her get away next time, since we'll be storming her den and cornering her for Forjie, right Rixie?"

      ___________

      Arianna nods, [I didn't use it, but troop movements don't quite matter as much as they did given the new intel. With everything we know, it's less likely we could convince the others to settle for us to sneak in, but perhaps knowing any paths along the wall will help us plan an escape after we find Forjod.]

      She leads the way back across the hall, looking up at the Stargazer's Platform roof once more, [Alright then. We moved it down a bit, now we just need to rotate it a bit horizontally until we're facing the ruins.]

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    • For the first time since they met, Reby sees Rix produce a genuine smile. "Yeah, she ain't getting away," she replies. "Believe me, I would have caught her had she not knocked me away. Also didn't help that that barrier of hers kept out unholy creatures...or so she says," Gretchen tells Xinderas.

      Xinderas appears unconvinced and informs her daughter, "Either way, the fact that you let her escape the first time is unacceptable by Hellhound standards. You should be embarrassed Rixadalones."

      "They tried Xindy, they tried," Despoina mutters.

      ___

      "Okay Arianna, hold on," Dravela says as she walks over to the badly rusted mechanism. She attempts to move the crank, but it doesn't budge. She grunts and inserts more of her strength into it. The Hellhound is successful in moving it slightly. Only slightly, as the crank soon breaks off in Dravela's claw.

      She inspects the broken piece for a moment before she shrugs and sets it onto the floor. Having already thought of a Plan B, Dravela crouches and holds her paws out toward Arianna. "Hop on, I'll hoist you up through the roof," she says.

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    • Reby grins widely back at Rix, then looks to the house, "Now lets go get Ari and get this assault started...after we tell her what Mikayla said."

      ______________________

      Arianna nods, [Alright then, though that's too bad about that lever breaking. Do you think we should leave some money for repairs when we return the telescope she asks as she hops up into Dravela's paws. 

      She carefully stands, then pulls the telescope from her pocket before looking down and giving Dravela a nod for her to lift.

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    • "We'll wait out front. The back didn't have anything interesting anyway," Despoina says as she equips her musket and flies up to the roof of the house. She rests herself on the ledge and waves to everyone down below.

      "I'll stay outside as well. You two can head in," Gretchen says as she positions herself by the fountain.

      Rix smirks at Xinderas and says, "As the mosquito said Mom, we tried."

      "Tried is not good enough Rixadalones," Xinderas scolds.

      Rix, satisfied that she managed to get under her mother's skin once more, proceeds into the house. She almost immediately picks up her aunt's scent and begins her trip upstairs, but she fails to notice the noise trap left by Arianna.

      ___

      Dravela chuckles and says, "Given the condition of this place, I don't think the previous owner had any intention of tending to it any longer."

      "Up we go," she mutters as she lifts Arianna with ease toward the rooftop access. The GMW should be able to easily climb through the rest of the way.

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    • Reby chuckles, taking a position next to Rix as they go and placing a hand on her shoulder, "I wonder, do you think your mom would stop nagging if we kick more ass than her later?"

      She also doesn't notice the trap. Rix steps on the flat of the knife at the base of the stairs, which immediately shocks her with Ikuna's stored Raiju lightning. The shock travels up her foot, her torso, and to her shoulder to also shock Reby.

      "Eeeep!!" she involuntarily shreiks as she hops, her fingers glancing Rix's neck as she clips the knife perched on the first step, sending another shock through the two ladies. Reby falls just before Rix, spralled out on the steps where Rix may soon be about to fall.

      ________-

      Arianna doesn't respond with more than a smile, then reaches up and begins to climb free. She makes it outside just before Reby shrieks downstairs, the GMW turning back and looking down confusedly at Dravela as if to ask, [What was that?]

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    • Rix yelps as she also falls backwards from the shock, straight on top of Reby. Her body covulses from the pleasure as she struggles to make sense of what had just happened. She stares at the knives and wonders who would leave them on the steps like that.

      ___

      Dravela and Ikuna snap their heads to the source of the shriek. "I'll go see what happened!" Ikuna volunteers as she exits the observatory and makes her way to the stairs.

      She spots Rix and Reby lying on the stairs twitching from the shock of the trap and can't stop herself from laughing. "Hey Arianna, your trap worked! Caught a Hellhound and a Werewolf trying to sneak in!" she calls to the others.

      Dravela casts Arianna a flat expression and mutters, "They're here."

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    • As Rix falls on her Reby bites her lip. She can feel the soft yet firm tush of the hellhound press into her lap. She whimpers as she shivers in pleasure, the werewolf barely able to stop herself from grabbing the hellhounds breasts and hug her middle instead as she rides out the ecstasy.

      She finally relaxes when the electricity leaves them, but in the afterglow she doesn't think to remove her paws from Rix's abs.

      Her words are airy and intermittent with sighs and deep breaths when she speaks, "W-what...the hell...just happened..."

      _______________

      Arianna rolls her eyes with a smirk as she hears Ikuna and Dravela, [Catch them up on what we know, and take your time so they don't try and rush me, hehe!]

      She then turns, pulling the telescope free and looking around for the ruins in the distance. She is careful as she steps on the round roof, and soon finds it, thankfully to the east, opposite of the sun.

      She looks through the scope, curious as to what she'll see, and hopeful that it will be valuable for their group.

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    • "You two dumbasses stepped on a trap, that's what happened," Ikuna explains as she moves down the stairs towards Reby and Rix. "S...screw...y-you.." Rix groans as the electricity escapes her body. Ikuna chuckles and says to Rix, "And you're supposed to be one of the most powerful mamono out there."

      Rix works through the pleasure to shift her paw into a throat-cutting motion that's meant for the Raiju.

      ___

      Dravela turns toward the door and says, "I think Ikuna's got it, but I'll go see."

      She exits through the door and peers over the railing at the incapacitated canines who are lying on the staircase.

      Thanks to the telescope's powerful "zoom" feature, Arianna can easily see the ruins that are embedded into the mountainside that appear as if they've existed for centuries. There are a few broken pillars standing about, and there isn't a door guarding the entrance, though there are two long chains on each side. There are no signs of any constructs presently guarding the ruins, but that didn't necessarily guarantee that there wouldn't be an encounter with them. Also on each side of the entrance are two square-shaped holes that are large enough for a horse to squeeze through.

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    • Reby simply sighs under Rix, the afterglow of the shock and contact with Rix keeping her mind mostly muddled. She slowly takes in the scent of the woman on top of her as she gently moves her paws along Rix's abs.

      She is capable of at least speaking as she enjoys Rix's presence, "B-bet this was Ari's doing. Damn it, I still have a bit of a tingle."

      She squeezes a small hug, pressing her breasts into Rix's back, "How you Rixie. You alright?"

      ________________

      Arianna takes in the new sights, [That small opening may be too obvious... but perhaps there's another place.]

      She peeks back, looking for Dravela for counseling, [I found some small openings, but I worry they're too obvious to storm. Do you think the girls are calm enough not to immediately blow our insertion point to give us time to find out where Forjod is being held?]

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    • Ikuna scoffs and says, "Yeah, Ari did set that up. I only helped."

      Rix doesn't react much to the hug, but she says, "I'm well, just going through some shock right now."

      "Ikuna, quit screwing around and help them up," Dravela orders. Ikuna turns to Dravela and playfully pouts, "Awwww...but they look so cute down there!"

      "Now Ikuna," Dravela says more sternly.

      "Ugh...fine," Ikuna groans as she holds out her hand to the two canines. Rix barely manages to reach up and clutch the Raiju's arm. "After we rescue my husband, I am so kicking your ass," she mutters as Ikuna pulls her to her feet.

      The Raiju then kneels down to help up Reby.

      "Arianna's in that room waiting for us. This house doesn't have much to offer save for a sleeping Werebat in a different room," Dravela explains.

      ___

      Unfortunately, Dravela doesn't notice Arianna gesturing to her, as she was out in the hall trying to get Ikuna to straighten up. However, it sounds like the group is about to head into the observatory soon, so she could give them the rundown on the situation.

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    • Reby reaches up, taking Ikuna's hand and pulling herself up, "Well we got stuff to tell you two," she replies to Dravela, "then we need to hit those ruins and get Forjie back!"

      __________

      Arianna stands, looking back at the ruins once more in the hopes of catching some sign of guard movement, but it remains a still scene in the distance.

      She puts away the scope, then holds her hat as she hops back into the hole. 

      She hits the ground just as the others return, and she greets Dravela with a smile before looking expectantly at Reby.

      Reby chuckles, "Judging by that look you've guessed we got some info right? Well Rixie and I are more than ready to share. You better damn well be satisfied too, because once we get it all together we're hitting the ruins!"

      Ari gives a silent sigh, [Let's hope they have enough, Dravela. They're more pep then I thought, so I doubt they'll wait once they know what I've seen. The ruin is suspisiously devoid of guards on the outside, so they're either patrolling the forest for ambushes or inside using the likely reconstructed traps to their advantage. As for points of entry, there's nothing of note save for two holes at the main door big enough to fit a horse.]

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    • Dravela nods at Arianna and gestures for the two canines to relax and says, "Well, you two better chill out and listen then. Arianna tells me that she didn't see any guards outside the ruin, so they're likely either A.) patrolling the forest waiting to ambush any unsuspecting adventurer, or B.) waiting for us inside as they fix up the old traps to use against us."

      "If they are the wooden toys like the ones we fought, then we should have an easier time to take them down considering we have a better understanding of their abilities," says Rix.

      "Focus!" Dravela scolds as she continues, "Now, the main door has two holes that are big enough for a horse to fit through according to our friend here."

      She folds her arms and her voice takes on a more skeptical tone, "I just hope you two aren't planning on running in guns blazing."

      "My husband is in those ruins, and I'm willing to do whatever it takes to get him out. So if you lag behind, then don't expect me to let you catch up," Rix declares.

      "Yeah, so, what intel do you girls have?" asks Dravela.

      "A harpy with a broken wing cried about some huge metal turtle that decimated an entire Order platoon. Mentioned it could breathe fire too," Rix answers.

      Dravela stares at Rix in disbelief for a moment before she turns to Reby to hear what she had to say.

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    • "There was this chick named Mikayla von Dumbitch who we tried to question, but she had some of those things help her out. She said something about there being a guardian we had to beat to save Forjie, but I don't trust her...anyway, she used something that made her immune to damage for a bit before she ditched us like a punk."

      [As you shouldn't, though with this fire turtle being a factor we should eliminate it rather than risk it cornering us with a possibly injured Forjod.]

      Arianna paces in thought, [I've not faced anything like a turtle before, given I normally face the Chaos Demons with Garrett. My blade would be useless for anything beyond joint hits, and the same could be said of most of our group.]

      She looks to the group, she realizes things were getting to the point that they'd need more backup. Their crew wasn't large enough to handle this ever growing list of strong enemies.

      [Things are getting a bit more. We need to summon help. I need to see Despoina, so she can launch a flare, one to summon a nearby Band member or two to help us.]

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    • "Arianna wishes to summon more help. This is getting more complicated than we anticipated. One of you go fetch Despoina please," Dravela requests.

      "Yes, let's bring in more help who could potentially fall for my husband," Rix mutters sarcastically. "I'll get her," Ikuna says as she leaves and returns a short time later with the mosquito girl.

      "You needed me to perform a task for you Madame of Silence?" Despoina asks Arianna. "Yeah, she wants you to launch a flare into the sky to bring in a few Band members," Dravela replies.

      "Oh," Despoina says as she points to Arianna and asks, "Well, does she have a specialized flare to do that? I have a flare gun of my own, but I'm not sure it'd be the right one."

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    • Arianna digs into her bag, pulling free an object that seems almost like a piece of pink chalk wrapped in plastic, [You'll need to use this flare. It holds the same energy that is in the Band Emblem most members have either embroidered on their cloths or tatooed on them like Reby here."

      "We'll be damn lucky if anyone shows up at all, since we flew pretty far from the HQ before we got here..." Reby begins.

      [Better to try, and besides, with the Hunt over there should be plenty in transit as we speak. We may get really lucky and end up with an entire HQ's worth of members, or at least another Veteran to give me back up.]

      She offers the flare to Despoina, [Just be careful when it goes off. It's got a deceptively large blast radius because the flare splits into the Emblem's shape of a smiling lion.]

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    • Dravela points to Arianna's flare and says, "Use that flare to call for Band reinforcements."

      Despoina takes the flare and inspects it for a moment. Then she aims it through the hatch in the roof and fires. The pink flare shoots up through the opening and streaks toward the sky. A couple seconds later, the flare explodes and the group can see a bright large smiling lion as Arianna mentioned.

      "Hope they're close," Despoina whispers.

      "I swear if any of them start desiring my husband..." Rix grumbles with a snarl.

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    • Arianna giggles, [Tell Rix hopefully she won't have that problem. If we're lucky we'll get some dwarven berserkers with warhammers. A group of those men could grind a small mountain to dust, and Dwarves don't normally go Alp so they're more likely to flirt with her then Forjod, hehe!!]

      (K Flame, get the group outside to meet the girls :))

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    • Dravela smiles and pats Rix on her back saying, "Hopefully that won't be an issue, we may have some dwarven berserkers helping us."

      She then grins and leans into Rix's ear whispering, "They don't normally Alp, so they're more likely to flirt with you than your husband."

      "If any of those bastards try that with me, I'll kick them away like soccer balls," Rix snarls.

      Dravela looks toward the doorway and says, "Now everyone, let's head outside. I'm eager to see who came to aid us."

      Despoina simply flies through the hatch and lands on the other side of the roof to see who shows up as help. The others that are inside move down the stairs to the exit Before Dravela leaves though, she lightly nudges Arianna's shoulder and mutters, "Don't forget to return that telescope."

      She heads outside with the others.

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    • Arianna nods with a smile, [I'll go put it away now. I'm sure I have time before our reinforcements arrive.]

      Reby keeps step next to Rix, "Don't worry Rixie, I'll kick any ass that tries flirting with you for you."

      When Rix looks to her she cuts her gaze away and scratches her pink tinged cheeks.

      As the group huddles outside they can see the shimmering of the pink flare above them, the dying embers almost charming against the evening clouds.

      Reby moves to a rock and sighs, "Well, we got a long..."

      She stops and her ears perk, the werewolf looking around as those with enhanced hearing pick up the sound of whistling. Soon the wind begins to pick up pace, as well as other tones of whistling coming in from conflicting wind currents. 

      A flash of green is all they see as blades of grass are cut straight from the ground where a new face now kneels before them. Buried in the ground in front of her is a greatsword of immense size, especially compared to the woman herself. She stands and looks to Despoina, who has landed at the front of the group. The Mosquito is likely able to recognize her as Sif, the fast and stoic sister of the Kamaitachi sisters. The ground is more cut than crushed where she landed, and she smirks at the sight of Despoina before looking back.

      She is soon accompanied by Anri, the little Sorceress with the strange spear/staff. The smallest of the Kamaitachi hovers down, and when she touches down the grass around where she lands crystallizes, her soft breeze freezing it and causing a clear crunch to echo in the clearing. She smiles and waves at Despoina, "Lady Despoina! It's good to see such a legend once more! How do you fair?"

      Before Despoina can respond the last of the sisters, the great Sieglinde, crashes down with enough force to knock Reby off her feet as well as any who aren't steady on their feet. The six foot woman stands tall, hefting her great machete onto her shoulder.

      "Greetings all!" she declare's proudly, "The cavalry has arrived...Hahaha!" She laughs jovially once she notices Despoina, "Once again apparently. I hope you aren't having dog and bat trouble again my Lady Despoina?"

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    • Rix stumbles a bit from the trembling earth, but she manages to regain her footing as does Dravela and Xinderas. Ikuna and Gretchen on the other hand are easily knocked off their feet. "Heh, good thing I got my chest healed up," Gretchen mutters as she gets up.

      Despoina uses her wings to hover a few feet off of the ground to evade the shockwave. When she returns to the earth she is delighted to see her former teammates from the Hunt. "Bloody hell, I never expected to see you three again! Nevertheless, it's indeed great to see you ladies again!"

      She looks to Anri first and answers, "Apart from a long tiring flight I've been doing well for myself!"

      "I had to carry her the rest of the way," Gretchen whispers with a smirk.

      Despoina then turns to Sieglinde and replies, "Thankfully it's not that. It's something different this time. We're on a rescue mission and our investigation is leading us to the ruins where hopefully our hostage resides."

      She points to the ruins in the far distance, though their view is barely obstructed by the trees in front of the group.

      "Some big damn wooden bird with electric powers took my husband the night The Hunt ended. I'm getting my husband back, and I'm tearing that bird's head off when I see it again," Rix explains with a sneer.

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    • "Ho ho!! Got some fight this one!" Sieglinde declares jovially, "Well don't you worry miss. We'll see to it you get the chance."

      "While Rixie here takes the bird, I'm takin a certain human bitch named Mikayla." Reby adds with a growl.

      Sif looks to her with a raise eybrow, hefting her greatsword out of the dirt and onto her shoulder, "Human?"

      The group hears the door open, and turn to see Arianna leave the house. She smiles, waving to the three new arrivals.

      "Lady Arianna! The surprises continue!" Aria says happily.

      [It is great to see you all here as well! Sieglinde is no dwarven berserker, but her heavy winds may serve just as well against the giant turtle...]

      "Wha-Turtle? This group we find ourselves facing gets stranger by the minute!"

      Sieglinde looks to Aria questioningly, who looks back to Arianna, "Perhaps you should explain in detail, so that I may explain it to my sisters here?"

      Arianna shakes her head, making sure to get Dravela's attention before gestureing, [We're only just now compiling our information ourselves. It would be faster if my great friend Dravela here and her niece Rix quickly give you all the rundown. Once you know what we know, we'll gather our party and hit the ruins, with you three heading the charge most likely.]

      "Oh dear...well we have a surplus of potions at least to get everyone in top condition for this assault." Aria replies.

      Reby perks up, a grin on her face, "So we're finally hitting those bitches that took Forjie?!"

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    • "Looks like it," Rix replies to Reby. She turns to the sisters and says, "Yes, a giant metal turtle and a human. Both of whom I feel are going to try to impede my journey to get my husband back."

      "Don't you mean OUR husband Rixadalones?" Ikuna asks as she hugs Rix's side and strokes her chin. Rix snarls at the Raiju and raises her fist above her head, but she sighs and lowers it muttering, "You know I hate being called that right?"

      Dravela chuckles and rubs Arianna's shoulder saying, "First, nice to meet someone else who understands you. Second..." she looks directly at the three sisters, "The Great Magic Weapon, my sister, and myself scouted the area in the direction of the ruins not too long ago and happened across a wrecked Order caravan. Later on we fought these wooden humanoid constructs along with a wooden deer that could fire lightning bolts from its antlers. The humanoids were easy to take down according to my sister, but the deer was tougher, but fortunately we managed to destroy it too."

      "We fought two of those things as well along with a fox made of wood. We almost nabbed Mikayla, but her artificial protege cut us up real good," Rix explains as she adds, "And about the turtle, some Harpy said it was a huge metallic one that could shoot out fire from its mouth and had two cannons on it's shell. She also mentioned a red crystal that would pop out when the thing was hit with electricity."

      Dravela raises her hand and says, "Something else."

      She turns to Arianna and says, "Arianna, when you tore off that deer's head, it's eyes were still glowing and it was about to shoot another lightning bolt at us. When Xinderas pulverized it, it's gem eyes were shattered and the glow faded along with the electricity. If I assume correctly, the gems could be their weaknesses."

      "Let us make sure we actually capture this Mikayla and whatever help she has with her this time," says Xinderas, earning an eye roll from Rix.

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    • Sieglinde smirks at Xinderas, "No need to worry there Miss. We will be more than happy to aid in your quest!"

      Sif nods, turning and walking towards the ruins, with Anri shouting after her, "Wait sister! We have to gather the others first!"

      "Catch up later. I'm scouting." She replies bluntly, giving a similar fist gestrure that Arianna gives to mean Quiet Resolve.

      Arianna sighs, [She should be fast enough to retreat if things get rough for her, but I suggest we get our party together now before...]

      "Wait just a damn minute! I'm coming with you, and so is Rixie right?!" Reby shouts after Sif, pulling Rix by the arm.

      Arianna sags in defeat, the inevitable deviation of Rix and Reby having begun.

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    • Rix nods at Reby, but before the two of them can proceed after Sif, they're both grabbed by Dravela who booms, "Like hell you are! We are going up there as a team! I don't care how badass you think you are, as there could be more construct variants up there that we don't know of, and if you get surrounded during your short scouting trip then how are we supposed to save you!?"

      "Ugh, Dravela, this is my husband we're talking about here! Let me go!" Rix barks.

      "I don't trust that the three of you will be able to effectively fight your way out of an ambush. You already told me that you were wounded before!" Dravela snarls, growing increasingly frustrated with her niece's stubborness. "Reby and Gretchen were the ones who got badly injured, I only got a cut on my arm! I could fight them all solo if I wanted too!" Rix shouts, struggling to break free from Dravela's iron grip, but to no avail.

      "Sister, a little help here!" Dravela says as she turns to Xinderas with pleading eyes.

      Xinderas is silent for a moment. Then she sighs and says, "While I appreciate my daughter's fighting spirit, and my views consistently conflict with yours, I concur that we should gather our forces before we assault the ruins. As I say to my pack, you are stronger as a team, than a single hound."

      Rix only lets out a silent growl.

      "Damn," Despoina whispers.

      Xinderas turns to the mosquito and says, "You, accompany her. As Dravela says, we don't know what else our enemy holds in their arsenal. If that Kamaitachi happens to get wounded, then fly her out quickly."

      Despoina clutches her musket and mutters, "R-right....right away!"

      She flies after Sif and lands alongside her. "I hope you don't mind be tagging along," she says with an awkward smile.

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    • Sif flips her hair, "Not at all."

      Ever the stoic, however, she says nothing more. She simply takes to the air, forming a small gust that lifts Despoina to her feet as well. The gust is sharp, and controlled, keeping the mosquito level so that she can position her wings for flight. It changes before she can flap, and soon she finds herself gliding along beside Sif, carried rapidly by the wind she makes rather than using any effort on her part.

      The trees zoom by, but there is little noise to be heard, Sif obviously focusing it all on movement rather than allow it to muffle anything Despoina might have to say.

      "This is nice, fighting with an ally again." Sif states bluntly.

      ___________________

      Anri bows, "I am sorry she did something tempting for you two. We can be quick in gathering the others, so that you may rush to the ruins yourself?" She offers to Rix and Reby sincerely.

      Reby grumbles, "Fine...but this is it." She gestures to the others, "This is the last damn time alright? Next time something tries to keep me and Rixie from finding Forjie, we're going right through it."

      Arianna rolls her eyes, [Of course you will Two-Shot.] She grins at Dravela and Anri, [I'm honestly surprised they lasted this long. Lets hurry and fetch the others before they decide to try sneaking off rather than wait one more minute.]

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    • "Uh...uh thanks," Despoina says, slightly surprised by the wind carrying her. She stares downward and catches sight of the wrecked Order caravan on the trail, but they pass by it too fast for her to ask if they could check it out, not that she needed too anyway. "Try not to get us too close Sif," Despoina cautions as they come closer to the ruins.

      The duo come upon a clearing, and Despoina catches sight of charred bodies and dropped weapons all around. A large triangular scorch mark stains the luscious grass and just ahead a large column of trees appear to have been broken over. "Sif, I think this is as far as we should go," she comments with nervousness in her voice.

      ___

      Dravela sighs and says, "At least you two are willing to listen some more."

      She sets down both Rix and Reby. "Just don't try to stop us again," Rix warns. She looks to Anri and mutters, "We'll wait, but this is it."

      Dravela turns to Arianna and asks in sign language, [In terms of being alive or in terms of not running off by themselves on what could potentially be a suicide mission?]

      Gretchen steps forward and says, "I'll fly out to the village and retrieve Riza and Lumbre."

      She swoops into the sky and disappears over the treeline. Minutes later she returns with both Riza and Lumbre on her back. "So you're fighting constructs huh? I doubt my sleep magic would be effective against them, but I can give them some swift kicks," Riza says as she hops off of Gretchen's back. "There's probably a weapon you could use when we pass by the caravan. I'd recommend a bashing weapon," Dravela suggests.

      "So, when are we making for the ruins?" Lumbre asks as she climbs off of Gretchen's back. "As soon as the mosquito and the Kamaitachi return," Xinderas replies bluntly.

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    • Sif nods, "Right."

      She quickly shifts her wind's direction, yanking the pair to a stop, though other than her vision experiencing a bit of whiplash Despoina isn't jarred by the motion. The remnants of the first wind they rode blasts into the clearing from their new perch on a tree just within the forest, the sound of the air making a clear gusting sound as it kicks up charred leaves and ash.

      The debris whips into the air, then floats almost solemnly back to the ground. to rejoin the other remains of the lives lost there. 

      Sif looks on, her stoic expression hiding her sadness over the poor souls below, but she looks away quickly enough to scout for enemies, as well as signs of their movements beyond the destruction below.

      "Why did they take the man?" She asks bluntly. Despoina can tell she is asking noone in particular, but is free for guesses. 

      ________________

      [The latter my friend. I may not agree with their ways of operating, but I'm more than sure they can handle themselves that they wouldn't have died before now.] Arianna explains with a smirk.

      "There's no need to wait my friends. Sif will know where we are so long as Anri and I are with you, so it would be much more prudent for us to simply make our way to them now."

      Anri nods, "Indeed. We would fly you all there, but my wind isn't strong enough to lift anyone without wings to glide with, and Sieglinde's is...not built for stealth, which I assume we would like the option of having yes?"

      "Well if Siggy can take us, I say we just go damn it. Mikayla already know's we're here for their asses, and we've kept Forjie waiting long enough."

      Sieglinde chuckles, "Well I doubt even I could handle so many, at least not without risks. No my friend, it is better we hurry along on foot."

      She turns, leading the way, but not to the beaten path they would have taken to get to the ruins. Instead she moves to some brush, pulling aside the plants to reveal an older path less traveled, "Through good Sif's wind we know of a shortcut. This should catch us up to them in a short time, now lets show them our valor!!"

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    • For the time being, there is no strange movement in the forest and the area is deathly quiet save for the blowing wind.

      "I have no idea," Despoina answers honestly, she herself confused with the seemingly random kidnapping. She points to the corpses and whispers, "I'm going to go check on those bodies, I'll be right back."

      She flies down to the nearest corpse and rolls it onto its back. The first thing that she notices is the Order symbol on its armor. Some of the victims of the alleged fire attack also bore the icon of the Order. The mosquito prepares to rejoin Sif in the tree when she detects a partly burned satchel lying a few feet away with a rolled up piece of paper sticking out.

      Despoina strolls over to the satchel and takes the paper. She then rejoins Sif in her perched position and whispers, "Those guys were Order troops. Bloody hell, whoever was responsible for this clearly hated the Order."

      Her gaze shifts to the paper in her hand and she unfurls it. It's a brief letter that reads:

      Father, I am glad to be writing to you again from the front lines. I heard that you and Steve's fishing business is doing well. That is good luck compared to the hardships that my platoon and I had faced thus far. We were ambushed by a group of Werewolves during one of our nightly travels and several of the men were taken. Thankfully, the wizard in our group was able to ward them off with his wand of lightning, but we were unable to recapture our men. We had to press on. A few days later poor Finnigan caught the flu and it rendered him unable to lift his sword. Our only hope is that we reach the next town before our situation gets worse.

                             Love, Your Son Nevel. 
      

      Despoina shakes her head in silent depression at the contents of the letter.

      ___

      "Finally! Come on, the faster we get there the faster we can rescue my husband!" Rix says as she moves through the forest at a high rate of speed, but not fast enough that she leaves the other members of her group in the dust.

      The trip is quite uneventful, though Riza and Ikuna do attempt to make some small talk with the others. As Sieglinde said, the path taken was indeed shorter than the other path, and they eventually find themselves approach the scorched clearing where both Despoina and Sif hide in an elevated position.

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    • When the group arrives Sif leaps down, "Arianna, prepair yourself. Sisters, your weapons as well."

      Arianna looks at her questioningly but soon realizes what she means when they see the clearing. She silently sighs sadly, hurt at the sight of yet more death on this day, [Why do they feel the need to kill these men so brutally?]

      Anri shakes her head, "Indeed. It's quite curious. You're sure they aren't mamono?"

      Reby gestures to the bodies, "Would a mamono do this to a man?"

      "If they're married and the man was threatened," she answers innocently, "maybe they've taken F..."

      Arianna's hand stops Anri in a flash, and the GMW shakes her head in warning, [Don't dare suggest that, or Reby and Rix are liable to fly off in a rage.]

      Reby looks to them confused, then shrugs, "Whatever. I saw one of them with Rixie and Gretch. She was definitely a human."

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    • "It's just like back at the caravan," Dravela comments as she looks across the field in dismay. "Why do you people feel sad for them? They served the Order," Xinderas says as she points to the Order emblem of one of the victims.

      "Even if they served for those pious jerkoffs, they're still human beings who possibly had families," Despoina says as she flies down from the tree and rejoins the group with the letter in tow. "Agreed, this entire scene is depressing," Riza whispers.

      "Well ladies, I think we've mourned the dead long enough, now let's get a move..." Rix's voice is cut off by the pop of a gunshot, followed by something whizzing an inch past Arianna's head.

      "Shit!" Lumbre barks as everyone gets into a combat position.

      On the other side of the clearing, multiple constructs emerge from the forest wielding a variety of melee weapons. One of them is armed with a musket, possibly the shooter. Three other creatures step into the clearing alongside the constructs: two deer, similar to the one that Arianna, Dravela, and Xinderas fought earlier, and a cougar. All three animals have entirely wooden frames that match their real life counterparts complete with gem eyes.

      For now, the artificial group holds position, almost as if they're waiting for something.

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    • Arianna quick steps away and to the closest tree for cover when the bullet whizzes past her, and Reby, Anri and Sif are soon to follow.

      Sieglinde, however, simply plants her great machete into the ground before her, making her own cover for the others to use if getting back to the tree line would be more risky. 

      Reby draws her guns and readies to return fire, but Arianna quickly gestures for Anri to stop the werewolf.

      [Wait! They're waiting for something...lets use this to our advantage. Have Reby and Rix sneak around to the left side, while you, and Despoina flank right. The rest of us will draw them from the front so you four can catch them in a cross-fire in the clearing where they'll have no cover.] She directs to Anri, who nods and explains to Reby the plan.

      [Oh, right!] she gestures frantically to get Anri's attention again, [Keep your eyes out for other constructs, especially that Heron or Turtle.]

      Anri relays the information, and she and Reby split to fill in Rix and Despoina.

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    • Rix and Despoina are given the information, and quickly understand.

      They are about to follow their respective partners when a loud thumping sound stops them in their tracks. At the opposite end of the clearing trees shift around, some of them even collapsing into the forest. "The hell?" Xinderas mumbles as she crouches.

      The thumping grows louder and soon a large metallic turtle emerges from the forest. It stares at the group with menacing red eyes and protruding from the top of its shell are two vertical tubes and a small dome-like structure embedded in between them. Rix and Despoina quickly move to rejoin their flanking partners.

      "Well, there's the turtle that the Harpy mentioned," Gretchen whispers as she hugs her musket against her chest. She didn't want to admit it, but she was quite scared at the moment.

      BOOM! BOOM!

      Two large fireballs explode out of the tubes of the turtle and ascend toward the sky in a short arc before they begin to fall toward the group.

      "Oh shit get away!" Dravela screams as she attempts picks up Arianna and carry her away bridal style from what could potentially be the impact zone. Gretchen immediately takes flight and swoops a good distance into the air. Xinderas, Riza, Ikuna, and Lumbre quickly move away as well.

      (Just to give you a visual, the turtle is three semi trucks high and two M1A1 Abrams tanks wide.)

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    • "Sif, Anri!" Sieglinde orders, and her sisters are quick to react. 

      Sif launches herself at the fireball with blinding speed, slicing it in two, while Anri charges a spell and fires a massive crystal spear shaped blast at the second.

      The one Sif slices splits in half, crashing away from their party somewhere in the forest at their sides, but the one Anri aims for is completely decimated by the powerful sorcery. 

      As Arianna bounces around in Drabela's grip she tries to gesture to the Hellhound, [We need to take down that gunner, then have Anri, Despoina, Rix and Reby focus on the minor targets while we hit the turtle!]

      Meanwhile, Reby and Rix reach their position farthest from any in the group. Reby has her back pressed against a tree as she looks to Rix, "Alright, so that fireball chunk came a little close eh?"

      She peaks around, "So, you think this turtle really is the guardian, or do you think it's a waste of time? Maybe if we got the others and ditched this hunk of junk we can find Forjie faster? I doubt it holds like a key or anything." She says lowly to avoid drawing attention.

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    • "Now that was impressive!" Lumbre shouts after witnessing the sisters destroy the two large fireballs with ease.

      Dravela sets down Arianna and says, "Rix mentioned that the turtle revealed a crystal on top when hit with electricity. If the crystal is its weakness, which I assume it is, then that would be a good way to start off!"

      She turns in time to see three constructs charging at them. Dravela obliterates the head of one of them with a powerful uppercut, sending it spiraling away. The second one she simply knocks away with a backhand. The third swings its war axe for Arianna.

      "I doubt that piece of scrap metal would let us slip past so easily," Rix whispers as she stares at the turtle from the side. Just below it's shell on it's side appears to be a triangle etched into the metal that instead of being fully connected at the bottom it goes over it.

      The Hellhound shakes her head and asks, "I don't care if it's the guardian or not. It needs to be taken down."

      A bolt of lightning shoots in between them, and both find one of the wooden deer staring at them. Electricity courses through its metallic antlers as three other humanoid constructs stand by its side.

      Despoina stares at the turtle from her side of the forest and whispers in shock, "This is heavy!"

      The other deer construct maintains its position in the clearing and shoots a deadly lightning bolt at Anri. The other constructs, including the cougar, charge across the clearing toward whoever is still in the open.

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    • Reby leans out from her cover, taking careful but quick aim at the musket using construct and popping a shot off, hoping to hit at least an arm joint, "Fair enough. Just don't go getting hurt alright? I got enough goin on having to save Forjie from a group of psycho bitches without you getting hurt."

      Arni "EEP"s and dives unceremoniously behind a tree to dodge the lightning, the ground quickly ruining her much daintier dress.

      She looks over to Despoina, "It shouldn't be much for you, right Lady Despoina? I mean you survived against the Warhound! Even in the unlikely event we fail to deal with this roughian and its cohorts you are sure to survive!"

      Sif launches herself back to the ground at an arc, curving mid air and gashing through one of the humanoid constructs. Rather than simply land she hooks one of her arm-scythes into the ground an uses the momentum of her speed to spin, then launch into a second and rend it to pieces all together before landing in the woods and taking cover.

      Sieglinde simply moves her position forward, keeping her great machete raised as a portable shield, "Once the fellow with the musket is down I will show these fellows what for!"

      She isn't left alone however, as the cougar quickly closes the distance and tries to pounce on her. 

      She quickly plants the machete into the ground and just barely stops the claws of the beast from doing more than cutting into her shoulders and holds its fanged mouth at bay, "Oho!! The cat wishes to test the great wind eh? rrrRRAAAGH!!"

      With a mighty heave, assisted with a downdraft made by the Kamaitachi, Sieglinde slams the cougar into the ground with enough force to dent the earth and crack most of its sturdy wooden frame and crystal eyes if not outright break it.

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    • The shot from Reby strikes the gunner in its torso. It appears to recoil a bit and retreats behind the turtle, blocking Reby's view of it. From its cover, it takes aim at Sieglinde and fires as she fights the wooden cougar.

      The cougar's wooden frame is badly damaged from the impact, and one of its crystal eyes shatters and loses its glow. It desperately tries to snap its jaws at the largest of the Kamaitachi sisters.

      Rix rushes at the deer and its cohorts. One of them hurls a tomahawk at her, but she bats it away and continues to charge. When she's close enough she swings her glaive at the deer but it swiftly sidesteps it. One of the constructs attempts to thrust its rapier into her torso, but she catches the attack and counters with a shotgun blast to it's chest, obliterating it. One of the other constructs steps past Rix and throws another one of its tomahawks at Reby.

      "Yeah I did, except that was a tournament where no killing was allowed. This is a battle against wooden creations where we could actually lose our lives-OOP!" Despoina ducks, narrowly avoiding a second lightning bolt from the deer in the clearing.

      Dravela manages to grab the other constructs arm just before it hits Arianna and tears it off. She then smashes its head into the ground, annihilating it completely. The Hellhound drops the artificial limb and points to the turtle saying, "We need to find Ikuna or a source of lightning. If we could hopefully expose its weak spot then we could take it down quickly. It looks like it could do a lot of damage the longer we keep it alive!"

      The giant metallic turtle begins to slowly lurch forward across the clearing.

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    • Reby leaps from her spot into the fray with Rix. She focuses, a wild battlelust in her eyes as she aims her cannons in fierce defense of her possible future co-wife.

      She shoots the tomahawk from the air to send it flying far off its mark, then pops the construct who dared to throw it at Rix dead in it's throat with the other, cutting all connections to its body.

      She slides in to stand back to back with Rix, a sharp toothed grin on her face as she readies to fight as hard as needed to keep Rix safe and sound.

      Meanwhile, the shot fired from the musket wielding stikes Sieglinde, hitting her arm where it left the protective barrier of her great machete.

      "GYAAHH! By the Maou's breast milk that stings!!" She shouts as she cradles the wound. Absentmindedly she curb stomps the cougar, ending it before returning to cover, "I seem to be in quite the pickle comrades! May I please ask again for some brave soul to end that insufferable marksman?!"

      "Well Lord Armata was with him correct? To escape their pursuit at all is an accomplishment in itself, so I see no problem here Lady Despoina." Anri replies to Despoina with a smirk.

      A construct aims to stab Dravela in the back while she deals with her current target, so Arianna cracks it with her whip-blade. As it stagers she closes the distance and with a quick switch of her blade's state lops the creature's head off, [I lost track of Ikuna when the turtle forced us to scatter, where is she?] she gestures quickly when Dravela looks to her again.

      Anri then overhears both her sister and Dravela, and turns in time to see Arianna's signing to Dravela, "It seems we are needed." She hops into the air next to Despoina, "Quickly dispatch the gunner, then let us use our flight advantage to find Lady Ikuna to deal with the tortoise!"

      As she speaks she charges yet another great Crystal Spear, aiming this one at the second deer that persists in targeting them. The creature attempts to hop aside and dodge it, but mistimes the dodge, allowing the slight homing ability of the spell to track and crush the construct under a mighty wave of crystallized demonic energy. The crashing sound it makes when it collides with the deer and the ground is like a shattering chandelier, drowning out the other sounds of battle in the clearing for a moment. 

      Anri shows signs of fatigue from using such powerful spells in succession, but with the other deer preoccupied with Rix and Reby all Despoina has to do to give them air superiority is end the gunner construct.

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    • The deer vanishes deeper into the forest. While the group is still being attacked, Rix currently isn't in any immediate combat. She watches the deer circle through the forest and fires her shotgun at it. Some of the buckshot hits the trees, but she could see that some of it struck the deer, evidenced by several small pieces of wood breaking off. The deer continues unfazed, shifting its direction toward Reby. Its antlers are charged with electricity, and its intent is clearly to gore the Werewolf.

      "Reby, that deer's charging at you!" Rix shouts. She notices a construct too late as it swings its longsword at her, and it cuts across her chest. Thankfully, the cut isn't too deep as the Hellhound did manage to back away.

      Despoina hears the call to end the wooden shooter and she rises to her feet. She glares through her scope at the head of the construct and fires. It's a direct hit, and a portion of the head is missing. Despite it still having one crystal eye remaining, the impact is enough to send the construct to the ground and it's musket falls from its hands.

      "The shooter's down!" Despoina announces as she takes to the sky along with Anri.

      She flies to the back line where Ikuna was last seen, and it doesn't take her long to locate her huddled behind a tree with Riza. "You ladies alright?" she asks them as she lands next to them. Ikuna turns to Despoina and says, "Never better, Lumbre and Xinderas are occupied with the wooden dolls that tried to get at us over there."

      The Raiju points to the pair battling several constructs that managed to slip through. Despoina places her hands on Ikuna's shoulders and orders, "Ikuna, we need you to use your lightning on that behemoth! If it exposes its weakness then we can take it out!"

      Ikuna chuckles and says, "That sounds like a pretty big weakness. It's a good thing you have me."

      She strolls to the scene of the battle, but hides behind a tree as the turtle slowly closes in.

      The giant turtle opens its maw, and a deadly jet of flame shoots out across the field threatening to torch Sieglinde.

      "The shooter's down," Dravela says upon hearing Despoina, "That should make our fight a little easier!"

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    • "HAHAA!! Now you cold machines will learn; I am Sieglinde of Catarinne, and you shall feel my WRATH!!" Sieglinde declares as she declares as she takes her Great Machete from the ground, "RRRAAAAAAAGH!!"

      She barrels forward into the fray, using mighty swings to cut down the constructs and gripping the knotch with the second handle to slam down on them with two hands as she decimates their forces. The others can see she is not simply reckless, as any constructs that get within slashing distance to her look to be under duress as her hard downdraft causes them to gain weight and throw them off balance.

      The deer is interrupted from its charge as Sif flies from the woods, landing on the deer with a downward slash that digs into its front shoulder joint, causing it to steer just away from Reby.

      Reby looks over to see Rix's cut, and she shows signs of anger as she kicks the offending construct to the ground. She walks to where it skids to a stop, looking down in disgust and firing multiple rounds into the downed construct. In her focused execution she doesn't notice another construct approaching her flank.

      Arianna tosses her solid blade to Ikuna as she forms her ethereal one to continue fighting alongside Dravela, [Dravela, please tell Ikuna to take my blade and charge it with lightning, then take aim at the turtle where she feels it's weakest and I'll strike...just watch out for me, since her shock is going to make this body react.

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    • Rix raises her shotgun at the approaching construct and fires. The blast causes its head to explode in a shower of wood and crystal. It's body quickly goes limp and collapses to the ground in a heap.

      The wooden deer that Sif is riding attempts to buck her off and at one point even flings it's body forward into a tree in a desperate attempt to crush its unwanted rider.

      The amount of fighting and chaos going on makes Ikuna oblivious to Arianna's blade as it lands just beside her. She points her finger at the giant metallic turtle and a bolt of DE electricity shoots forward. The bolt strikes it and it's body comes alight with voltage. The turtle shakes as the dome on top of its shell gradually opens, revealing a large red crystal.

      "That must be the crystal!" Despoina shouts as flies to the side and takes aim with her musket. There is a crack and a small chunk of the crystal breaks off. Dravela spots the turtle's exposed crystal and quickly picks up a spear from one of the downed constructs. She hurls it at the crystal and it strikes true, shearing away more of the crystal.

      Dravela then calls out to Ikuna, "Ikuna, grab Arianna's blade and charge it with lightning. Then aim it at the crystal. Just be very careful okay!"

      She leans into Arianna's ear and whispers, "I'll keep you safe."

      Ikuna notices the blade and picks it up. It comes alight with DE electricity, but before she can do anything effective, the dome closes around the crystal, shielding it from any further attacks. She is about to throw the blade at the turtle when she sees the metal titan glaring right at her.

      She is forced to roll away as the intense flame burns past her, and she throws the blade at the neck area of the turtle, certain that the electricity soon to affect it would get it to expose its weak spot again.

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    • Sif simply leaps back as the deer makes to slam her into the tree, and as it lurches from the impact she launches herself forward again in midair. She grabs her blade's hilt, jammed deeper into the recesses of the deer from the collision into the tree, and continues past in a rapid spinning roll. 

      The pair are sent into a small, violent yet brief vortex that ends with the deer slipping free of the blade and flying forward into the fray in front of the raging Sieglinde. Sieglinde wastes no time adding it to the other constructs on her chopping block, curb stomping it as she slashes apart another of the humanoid constructs. The antlers are shattered, and the head is mashed into the dirt as well as mostly detached from it's wooden robotic body.

      With all the minor constructs down around them Reby steps away from the construct she was executing. She rushes to Rix, checking the Hellhound over before signing in relief, "Phew...it's nothing major. Come on Rixie, lets help take the big guy down now!!"

      Arianna's thighs lock, she shivers and her eyes glaze as Ikuna coats her blade in electricity. She loses the ability to stand and grips onto Dravela. She barely has the presence of mind to do so, but she is able to launch her blade in whip mode to cover the distance with the turtle's neck, and a quick retraction of the blade back to sword mode caused the hilt to hammer it deeper as the electricity courses through the large construct.

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    • At this point, many of the smaller constructs have been dealt with. Only the turtle and several stragglers remain.

      The second bout of electricity that the armored giant suffers causes its flamethrower to cease and its dome to open once more, revealing its damaged crystal.

      Rix pumps her shotgun and glares at the turtle muttering, "Yeah!"

      She raises her firearm toward the crystal and fires. The blast causes small chunks to fly off the exposed weak point. Dravela tightly hugs the exhausted Arianna when she notices something out of the corner of her eye. Although it is missing a part of its face, the construct gunner has managed to retrieve its musket and is now aiming it straight at them. The Hellhound steps in front of the GMW as a shot goes off. Her eyes widen and her teeth clench as a round strikes her in the back.

      "Destroy that crystal!" Ikuna shouts.

      Despoina fires another round from her musket and it breaks off another piece of the crystal. It looks as if one more powerful attack should destroy it for good, but whoever will deal the devastating blow must be quick, as the dome is now beginning to close once more.

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    • Arianna's eyes widen in shock as much as the pleasure from Ikuna's electricity. She tries desperately to gain someone's attention, but they're all too focused on the turtle.

      Anri and Reby, for their parts, attack simultaneously, Anri casting a barrage of smaller spell bolts that splash the entire crystal as well as some of the space around it's location, while Reby focuses two precise shots dead center on the last piece. Anri uses the last of her energy to assure the gem shatters under the assault, and she begins hovering lower and lower next to Despoina with heavy eyes.

      With the Turtle passing Sif and Sieglinde attack the stragglers, Sieglinde crushing the gunner before finally noticing Arinana with the injured Dravela, "Wait, hold, HOLD!! Lady Dravela has been shot comrades!! Quick, Anri..." she notices her sister fading above, "Someone get a potion and Anri to both her and Lady Dravela immediately!!"

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    • By this point, all of the group's opponents have been defeated and the battlefield is silent.

      With the crystal destroyed, the turtle's red eyes slip to black and it's legs slide outward. It's body collapses to the ground with a loud thud. On Rix and Reby's side, the incomplete triangle on the turtle glows a soft violet. It then pops out into the burnt grass, leaving its mark behind.

      "What the hell?" Rix wonders as she walks over and picks it up. When she hears that Dravela had been shot she growls, "Shit!"

      She runs across the field to check on her aunt.

      Dravela's clenched teeth twist into a smile as she stares down at Arianna. "It's going to take more than that to bring me down," she replies with a hearty chuckle. She catches a minor healing potion tossed to her by Gretchen and she drinks it up.

      The others begin to gather into the field. Ikuna strolls up to the iron scrap heap and pats it on its head saying, "Not so tough now are you big fella?"

      Riza picks up a flail from one of the fallen constructs and inspects it.

      "Hopefully that was their main force we took care of," Despoina mutters as she kneels down by the destroyed wooden cougar and runs her hand across its head.

      "Is anyone else hurt besides Rix and Dravela?" Lumbre asks, noticing Rix's wound on her chest as she meets up with her aunt.

      Xinderas joins Ikuna in front of the deceased metal turtle and shakes her head in disappointment. "Such a waste of resources on an artificial being," she comments.

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    • Sieglinde moves next to Xinderas, barely listening to Lumbre's call for aid being so used to Anri simply handling it for her team, "I would not say a total waste Lady Xinderas! T'was a wonderful fight, with the only flaw being the minimal energy obtained from these roughians for our weapons."

      She rips the ruined shoulders of her tunic away, leaving the article of clothing to be held in place by a minor bit of fabric over her shoulders as well as her large firm bust, "It has shown me and my sisters our weaknesses in ways we would not have noticed against common foes. It is valuable knowledge I belive you would respect as well I trust?"

      Anri drags herself over to the main group, but slumps onto a large rock and offers her large jar of medicine despite Dravela already recieveing healing, "Get...g-get your healing medicine here my fellow champions." she says groggily.

      Sif approaches to rejoin the group, rolling her shoulders stiffly. Her amazing but constant speed and jerking momentum lasted longer than she would've liked, and the repurcussions were apparent in every movement of her body. She shows no shame as she removes her top and takes some of her sister's medicine. She begins liberally applying it to her skin, rubbing every place where her body would've moved during the fight, and as she goes the slick, creamy light green substance sinks in and removes the apparent tension of her muscles.

      Reby moves to Anri as well, but rather than offer her fellow Band member a holstaur potion for her energy she takes a handfull of the medicine and moves to Rix. Before the Hellhound can protest Reby is applying it to her wound. It is chilly on Rix's exposed flesh, but it also sooths, making her think of a calm frozen wood. Reby is methodical in her approach, making sure to remove any debris from her cuts so they aren't sealed within, "You can't go getting hurt like that Rixie. What the hell would I've done if you'd fell? What would I've said to Forjie?"

      She moves over the cuts gently, hesitantly moving over Rix's breasts as well, worried about stepping even further over her bounds, but her nearly obsessive emotions refused to risk even a second for Rix to go without healing. 

      Arianna sighs, hugging Dravela before play pouting, [Well I know I asked you to watch out for me, but you could've let me take one bullet you know!]

      It is an obvious joke, but there is enough seriousness in her movements that leads Dravela to believe she deeply regretted putting her Hellhound friend in this perdicament.

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    • "Please don't...talk about him," Rix mutters as Reby heals up her chest wound. Admittedly, she was quite irritated that her rival was healing her, but she doesn't make it known vocally. Instead she glares at Riza and Ikuna and says, "They would have broken the news, but I sure as hell ain't dying today."

      She holds up the glowing triangle that was ejected from the metal turtle's corpse and looks it over, trying to figure out what it is.

      Xinderas focuses her eyes on Sieglinde and says, "Yes, I suppose that it is valuable knowledge."

      She runs her paw along its head and comments, "Whoever created it clearly knew what they were doing."

      "And yet we beat it," Ikuna says with a snicker, "As we did the others in this battlefield."

      Riza casually spins the flail above her head when she catches sight of Rix holding the glowing triangle. She makes her way over to the pair and leans inward, eyeing it curiously. "Whatcha got there Rixie?" she asks. "Damned if I know. I got it from the turtle when it died," Rix answers.

      Lumbre takes a small portion of Anri's medicine and runs it along her leg where she received several minor lacerations. Almost immediately her wounds are healed up.

      Despoina takes out Nevel's letter for his father and reads it over once again. She wonders if one of the group members should locate and send the letter to the home of the deceased soldier's father once they rescue Forjod. Her gaze turns to the burnt corpse with the satchel and she sighs.

      Dravela returns the hug and says to Arianna, "Well, I couldn't risk that one bullet being fatal now could I?"

      She laughs some more, a sign to Arianna that she need not kick herself so much.

      Gretchen strolls up to the area that once held the wooden deer before it was decimated by Anri's crystal spear. She dips two of her fingers into some of the debris to feel it around. It felt like a rough powder.

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    • "Damn right you're not! I won't allow you to die on me or Forjie." Reby huffs as she carefully applies the last of the medicine. 

      She then takes notice of the glowing triangle, "...that came out the turtle?" She looks at it closely as Rix moves it around, "Maybe it has something to do with what Dumbitch said about the Guardian or whatever."

      ______

      Sieglinde giggles at Ikuna, "That we did, but we know not how many more our enemies have in store for us. This short battle took it's toll, and I daresay we risked losses if there were more of those non-human constructs."

      Moving around she notices Arianna embedded in the turtle's neck still, "Oh? Would you like assistance Arianna?"

      The reflection of the succubus body of the GMW forms in the blade, and she nods. Sieglinde grips the whip-sword firmly, carefully pulling her from the turtle and moving to return her to her body.

      ______

      Sif notices Despoina reading the letter, moving over and looking over the Mosquito's shoulder at it as she rubs the medicine on her hands into her breasts. 

      "If you wish, we could handle the delivery of the news." she says bluntly as Despoina puts the letter away, "Most mamono aren't friendly with the Order like we are."

      She doesn't say more, but Despoina should understand she means that Despoina needn't force herself to give courtesy to an Order soldier if it makes her uncomfortable.

      _______________

      Arianna sighs, [True, as a fatal wound would have me trapped in my blade until I could gain the energy to reform my body again, which would leave the team down a woman...but I would rather that be the case than you get hurt again.] 

      She grins, then half-jokes, [Next time, just punt me out of the way, hehe!!]

      _____________

      With her fatigue growing ever still, Anri sets her medicine jar down and ruffles near blindly for a holstaur potion. She finds it, and nearly spills the contents on herself as she sleepily guzzles the drink. 

      Once her energy returns to her she notices Gretchen examining her handy work, and the smallest of the Kamaitachi hovers over to her. She lands next to the Griffin, hands behind her back and slightly bent, "Examining the residue of my Crystal Energy Spear, Lady Gretchen?"

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    • "Possibly," Rix says as she holds it up toward the sky, "She mentioned the guardian holding the key, so this must be it."

      "One step closer to bringing our man home!" Riza cheers. "I'll be the one carrying him back!" Rix states as she glares daggers at Riza.

      ____

      Ikuna chuckles at Sieglinde and returns to the turtle. "A shame you all aren't bandits or Order peons. Those bring far more satisfaction to take down," she coos as she rubs her face like she was applying lotion.

      ____

      Despoina turns to Sif and says, "Personally, I'm not too fond of the Order. Those self-righteous blokes have caused enough damage in this world as it is. If the Chief Goddess despises us that much then why did she even create us?"

      She holds the letter over her shoulder for Sif to take while at the same time she's thinking, "An organization with mamono helping the Order? Has the world gone mad? Well, I guess technically it already has with society allowing divine beings to live among them. Bloody hell."

      ____

      Dravela laughs even harder and says to Arianna, "I'll keep that in mind. Hopefully you fly far!"

      "Sister, have you forgotten about our mission?" Xinderas asks as she approaches the duo with a stoic expression. "Oh come on Sis, nothing wrong with a little laugh now and then!" Dravela replies as she makes a dismissive gesture toward Xinderas.

      Xinderas simply produces an annoyed eye roll.

      ____

      "You...freaking obliterated it!" Gretchen gasps as she lifts up some of the powder off of the ground with her fingers. She turns to Anri and adds, "I can't imagine the destructive power of that spell in the era of the former Demon Lord."

      She visibly cringes as she struggles to envision what kind of impact a Crystal Spear in that time period would have on a human body.

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    • "Right!" Reby quickly agrees with Rix, "She's the only one actually married to Forjie, so we don't get to act like we take first dibs on him when we find him...but you bitches are definitely behind me when Rixie or him give us our chance!"

      It wasn't a malicious comment, more a crude tease, and her genuine non-hostile smile is all the proof they need of this.

      __________

      Sif shrugs, taking the letter, "They are men, and most are good despite the darkness they hold same as we. They simply lack the control the Maou's influence gives us to remain non-lethal in most cases."

      She replaces her shirt, placing the letter in her bag. She then pulls her pants down to her mid thigh, leaving her panties on as she rubs medicine on her butt and legs. She adds, "We are also made by the Maou more then the Goddess."

      ___________

      [Indeed. I think we're allowed a bit of a laugh considering the victory here. However, Xinderas is right. We should move on soon, or we may have more constructs sicked on us.] Arianna gestures.

      ____________

      "Twas nothing much really. I am a veteran Band member, and a sorceress at that." 

      She crouches down, examining the dust, "Shamefully, I must admit I am not as powerful as my siblings. I cannot risk using such a spell unless we are against yet another giant construct with a small contingent. Since these machines do not hold energy, I gain nothing for my MW for the spell landing, which means we sacrifice much more energy than we take in."

      She then looks to Gretchen with a  smik, "I also cannot say as to how GMW's would be affected should the Maou die, given they were crafted in this era. Perhaps they would be classified as holy swords, who can say?"

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    • "Except we landed in his arms before you did Ms. Wolf," Riza retorts to Reby with a grin of her own. "Correction, Mrs. Gahillo pushed you two into our lives," Rix mutters. "Sucks how he didn't just outright reject us doesn't it?" Ikuna asks Rix with a snide grin, earning her a cold stare from the Hellhound.

      ______

      "I...guess you're right on that," Despoina responds softly to Sif, "But...how can you ignore the atrocities that their men and women committed against us? All we do is have sex with them to show our love and devotion. Why would that bring such a violent response?"

      She shifts her gaze downward and rubs her chin, "You'd think men all over would be happy that monsters don't enter their villages to slaughter them anymore."

      ______

      "Let's give everyone more time to heal up and collect their bearings first. This was quite the battle after all. Although there is the undeniable possibility that we may encounter more of these constructs in the ruins, hopefully Des is right in that this was their main force that we took out," Dravela says to Arianna.

      "Possibility? Knowing that this is my daughter's husband that we're rescuing that's a guarantee," says Xinderas.

      ______

      Gretchen raises her powder-covered fingers to her mouth and blows on them. A tiny cloud forms and quickly dissipates.

      She overhears Xinderas's conversation with Dravela and says to Anri, "Well, I hope you have enough energy to get through the ruins, because I have a feeling that we're going to encounter plenty more in there."

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    • "You're right about that Riz. As a Band member all he'd have to do is tell me to hit the road and I'd forced to leave him be...." Reby then looks to Rix, sincerely saying, "though now I at least feel sorry about being such an ass about it to Rixie here."

      However her tone becomes less firm as she looks Rix up and down, Her next words more submissive than "I-I mean she iiiss the first wife, so we should submit to her as much as we do Forjie, right?"

      ___________

      "Yes, we simply break their families, forcefully monsterize their women, and turn their daughters into lolis..." Sif replies flatly.

      She pulls up her pants leg, reaching down and pulling the legs high to rub medicine there now, "And it seems to them that not much has changed. As we see on our own missions, we mamono still attack their homes, still drag their men away into the woods., and still leave their lives in ruins to sate our instincts no matter how they've changed. To them, we are still little better than animals, with we of the Band treated more as domesticated beasts than equals in truth."

      She finishes with the last bit, pulling her pants legs down and wiping the excess medicine away on the ground, "Of course we are not, and never had been beasts. Pretending we are untainted by the darkness of our souls, and painting the Order as wholely zealotous evildoers, is a falacy even if they are closer to that end of the spectrum of morality."

      __________

      Arianna nods in agreement with Xinderas, [Even without other animal based machines, we have yet to face the Heron that abducted Forjod in the first place...of course we definitely have an advantage against it with Anri and her sisters. If we absolutely have to, we can use their special ability, and knock out Anri and Sif to boosts Seiglinde's winds to a massive downwind that will keep it grounded and likely crush the humanoid bots around it...though I hope it doesn't come to that.]

      ____________

      "I do as well. I do not wish to be a burden. Of course if I must, I will gladly expend enough energy to sleep, so that my dear sisters will be able to use their winds more effectively without the dangerous drawbacks, as they are likely the same. You see, our unique nature as Kamaitachi combinded with our MW's allows our loss of conciousness to act as a trigger for the others. By the end, Seiglinde gains the strength of a giant, and her winds are enough to ground even mighty dragons from flight, and dear Sif becomes a blur with her winds potentially turning any loose debris into a hazard to the enemy."

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    • Rix wears a bright grin and stands. She roughly pats Reby on her head and says, "Yes, if Forjod decides to allow you into our family, then you should know your place and understand that I am the prime wife. You step out of line and I'll be sure to drag your fluffy little ass right back into it."

      "That just makes it more fun to usurp her," Ikuna whispers, earning a gentle chuckle from Riza. Rix's ears perk up at the quiet banter, but she decides not to confront the other two wives for the time being.

      ______

      "It's still better than being strapped to a rack and having your body be cut apart to be consumed by them," Despoina answers, trying to maintain an optimistic spin on the subject, "Sure the conversations can be awkward for families, but a man coming home with his new Ogre wife is much more preferable to a courier coming with the bad news that he was killed and cannibalized by said Ogre."

      "Lolis though," Despoina shudders at mentioning them, "Their Sabbath is just bad news all around. And this is coming from someone whose home is in a Demon Realm."

      ______

      "That sounds like an extremely risky move. Those two girls being out cold leaves them open to attacks from other enemies even if the powerful wind created by Sieglinde doesn't get them all," Dravela says as she looks to the Kamaitachi sisters with concern.

      ______

      "A powerful wind like that sounds great, but you realize we could encounter enemies hiding behind kill holes down in those ruins. Even if Sieglinde takes out a majority of these artificial beings with that special ability, you could still have enemies behind cover that are a threat," Gretchen tells Anri in a cautionary voice.

      "On top of that, you being unconscious leaves you open to attack from ranged enemies or flankers. If care is not taken, then one lucky shot or blade could end you like that," Lumbre warns as she snaps her claws to emphasize her point.

      "Which is why it is especially important to keep her protected ladies. If she happens to be out of action, then someone could take her behind cover and protect her until she reawakens. A dead teammate is a useless teammate," Xinderas says as she approaches the group. She looks around the area before she asks in a booming voice, "Is everyone ready to proceed?"

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    • Reby's smile grows and her tail wags happily at Rix's patting.

      "I wouldn't mind you dragging my ass Rixie..." she says in a daze.  

      She doesn't even react to the comment of the other girls, her focus solely on Rix until Xinderas calls for everyone to mobilize. 

      ______________

      "Indeed, though even their members can be saved from themselves as difficult as it is."

      She looks to Despoina, "However, things are not quite so simple as you would like. That Orge would only return with him if he showed he was strong enough to make it so...but that is why we Band members help the Order. We protect the non-mamono races of this world from extinction, and we offer those same mamono a chance at true love and happiness rather than death at the hands of a hero or a lesser Paladin."

      She looks to Xinderas when she makes the call, "I apologize if I seem cynical. In truth, I am quite optimistic. If the Boss, a man, can find a way for mamono and men to coexist without bloodshed, that gives me hope the Maou can do the same."

      _____________________

      [I agree, it is quite risky,] Arianna nods, [I would personally rather we avoid the risk altogether, but this all depends on just how difficult the inner ruins show themselves to be.]

      She shakes a bit, the last of Ikuna's lightning finally leaving her blade and her focus returning to normal, [However, I will be right with you my friend. If we fight hard enough, perhaps we can prevent that outcome together.]

      She smiles to Dravela, obviously ready to continue when Xinderas makes the call.

      _____________

      Anri sighs, "Indeed, it is always a risk Lady Gretchen, "However, we have the advantage that these constructs are not wholly bright. So long as they are our enemies, I believe they would not properly compensate for the change in wind pressure...though in truth I would like to remain concious throughout, as I am curious about our enemy now more than ever."

      She looks to Xinderas, "I am ready Lady Xinderas, so long as everyone is done with my medicinal jar?"

      Sieglinde smiles, taking up the jar and handing it to her little sister, "Indeed we are Sister Anri."

      The large Kamaitachi then points in the direction of the ruins with her Great Machete, "Now comrades, let us forward to show these husband theives what for!!" 

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    • "Ready to go Mom!" Rix announces, more than excited to be back on the move toward the ruins. She leans toward Reby and whispers, "Good girl. You're already learning."

      ______

      "The Demon Lord needs to stop shagging it with her husband and focus more on finding a way to bring male mamono into existence. But I guess that day will come by the time I'm in my grave," Despoina says as she chuckles lightly at her gallowed humor. She aims toward the sky with her musket and adds, "But before that time comes hopefully I can still do some good around here."

      ______

      "I too hope our friends never have to endanger themselves like that," Dravela says as she walks up to her sister, "But as Sis told the others, keep them safe should they faint."

      ______

      Gretchen wears a slightly worried expression as she thinks back to when Mikayla and her wooden entourage severely wounded the three of them. "The ones that Rix, Reby and myself fought showed far more advanced combat capabilities then the ones we went up against here. They were a darker shade of brown and had red crystal eyes," she tells Anri as she prepares to join the group in their trek to the ruins, "I saw what they did to the two canines before they were destroyed. To say they're not generally bright puts you at risk for getting jinxed."

      ______

      The trip is short, and the group soon find themselves dwarfed by the entrance into the ruins. Pillars in different states of damage stand scattered about. The enormous entrance itself contains two chains on each side along with holes that one could squeeze through that are relatively high up off the ground.

      There is nothing blocking the entrance, and the group could see inside was a dimly lit pathway with a right turn.

      "Everybody stay alert. We have no idea what's in these ruins," Xinderas says in a strict tone.

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    • Sif and Sieglinde take positions at Anri's sides, the littlest of the sisters casting a spell that lights up the tip of her spear/staff. 

      "I've casted a stealth spell for us my Ladies, however it is sadly not of a powerful sort. We will be invisible unless an enemy finds themselves five feet from those farthest from me, and our noises will be muffled but not outright silenced. Sadly, to conserve the most energy it only works within the circle formed of the distance between our two farthest members.Should you find yourself out of the bubble, you will no longer gain the benefits of the spell"

      Arianna nods, then looks up to the holes and chains, [Seems more than strange they would break down their own door. Odds are low they thought the turtle would kill all of us, let alone none of us...]

      Reby stays near Rix, tail still wagging from her praise even as she stands with her hand on her MW hand cannon, "This place is bigger than I thought...where do you think they got Forjie, Rixie?" she then points to the purple triangle "key", "I'd say in the dungeon, but if that thing's really a key, it might be to the master bedroom or some other special room that'd use that."

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    • "Unless...the door was destroyed long ago," Dravela whispers to Arianna as she observes the entrance some more, "Before this strange group took over."

      "If I pick up his scent, then it should lead me too him. As for this key, all I know is that it's gonna bring me one step closer to saving my husband," Rix replies as she sniffs the air for any sign of her husband. There is nothing.

      "A couple of us should stay outside and keep watch in case a few of those constructs try to get in," Gretchen suggests, "I'll volunteer."

      "Splendid idea Gretchen. It's good to have our escape route covered should it be the only one," Despoina agrees. "I'll stand with you Gretch. The rest of you head in and find Forjod," says Lumbre as she stands beside the Griffon.

      "Let us proceed inside," says Xinderas.

      The group enters deeper into the ruins under Anri's stealth spell. They take the right turn and come upon a purple barrier that blocks access to a medium-sized room and seemingly empty room. To the right is a stone tablet with an etching that matches the item that Rix is carrying.

      Dravela points to the board and says, "Rix."

      "On it," Rix says as she walks up to the tablet and inserts the odd triangle. It locks in place and glows brightly. The barrier slowly begins to dissipate from the bottom up.

      While the barrier vanishes, Xinderas moves over to Arianna and lightly nudges her. She holds the monocular out to her and mutters, "Here, you'll need this back."

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    • Arianna takes the monocular gently, carefully storing it back in her bottomless bag. She then bows deeply in thanks to Xinderas for taking good care of the object.

      Reby is directly next to Rix, her gun out her holster and held at the ready as the barrier fades, "So Anri, just how quiet is this barrier's mufflin?"

      Anri keeps her focus on her staff, answering slowly and deliberately, "It is not enough to muffle gunshots effectively I am afraid. Tis better that you quickly assassinate any that enter our range"

      "Haha! Simple enough dear sister!" Sieglinde proclaims, though obviously quieter than her normal tone

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    • When the barrier has fully disappeared, the group enters. The room has nothing in it and there is an entrance to another area straight ahead with no door blocking it. "I see nothing here," Xinderas whispers.

      The group moves toward the next area when Ikuna steps on a plate that descends slightly. "Damn it," she mutters as just in front of Arianna a trapdoor slides open and a rusty battleaxe pops out of the floor. However, the amount of rust covering it's mechanisms only allow it to rise a few inches off of the ground before it locks into place.

      Dravela had already sprung into action, grabbing the handle of the blade before she realized what a pathetic trap it was. She glances toward the GMW with an awkward smile.

      While the stealth spell muffled noise and rendered the group invisible, that didn't necessarily mean that the activated trap was unnoticed. This would be made apparent as Reby could see a wooden porcupine with metallic quills and green crystal eyes approaching the group, presumably to investigate the trap.

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    • "Shit, girls we got incoming."

      Sieglinde squints as if she has trouble noticing the small creature, "I dare say you're right Lady Rebecca." She hefts her machete, "Seems almost unsporting to crush something so small, but it cannot be helped..."

      Sif blocks her sister from approaching, "The eyes are green." she states bluntly as she points, "Odds are high it is a scout."

      "Oh dear..." Anri says, "Should we back away? Perhaps lady luck will bless us and the cute thing will retreat if it finds nothing?"

      Arianna smiles at Dravela, but then thinks, [No, odds are that she will investigate to the point we end up at the start. Perhaps we can...]

      She begins digging in her bag, and pulls out a simple string. It is thin to the point it is invisible to the naked eye, but as she tugs on it hard to test it is doesn't snap, [This is a bit of Arachne webbing Garrett keeps handy so his wife can perform longcoat repairs in the field. If we tie it around the axe, perhaps either Dravela or Xinderas can yank the trap onto her and make it seem an accident?]

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    • "I don't know, that trap seems pretty stuck in place," Dravela whispers as the porcupine continues to close in.

      "Well damn! Someone better think of something fast cause that creature's getting closer!" Rix whispers loudly.

      "I suggest we listen to Anri and back into a corner somewhere. It may just be checking out the trap and nothing more," Riza suggests softly. "I could crush it when it enters the circle," Xinderas says with a snort.

      "And risk it fleeing to alert the others if you screw up? I don't think so Sister," Dravela whispers.

      The group is huddled away from the trap just as the porcupine draws near, narrowly avoiding it entering the radius of the stealth spell. It circles the trap several times and it even reaches up to the handle in a cute display.

      Eventually, the small construct moves beside the next entryway and lays in place, its eyes watchful for anything else that's out of the ordinary.

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    • "Well that's just perfect," Reby grumps, "now the little bastard is blocking the hall."

      [I'm...inclined to agree with Reby. I'm fresh out of ideas on how to get past and maintain stealth. Any suggestions?]

      "I would rather like to avoid harming her if we can manage." Anri answers Arianna, "perhaps we can find a way over..?"

      She looks around, letting the question hang hopefully in the air.

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    • Anri looks around, but is unable to locate an alternate route to avoid a confrontation with the little artificial creature. Xinderas however is both angry and annoyed with the group's lack of progression and makes sure to let everyone know it.

      "Are you people serious right now? This is a stealth barrier right? We had the chance to take it out and we hesitated! And now you're wanting to avoid destroying something that lacks emotion!? The constructs that we fought showed no emotion and sought our deaths! What makes a wooden creature such as that any different!?" she rants.

      She shifts her attention to Riza and says, "Give me your flail, we're getting past that runt!"

      Riza casts Xinderas a puzzled expression and holds her flail out to the Hellhound with a cautious, "O...kay?"

      Xinderas points to the porcupine and whispers, "Anri, keep your spell up. Everyone else, be ready to rush that damn thing. A good smash with this weapon should silence it permanently!"

      "Xinderas, if you fail we risk a huge fight!" Dravela whispers, trying to talk some sense into her sister. "Mom's right, we need to keep moving!" Rix snaps quietly to her aunt. Dravela nervously glances toward Arianna and whispers, "I don't think I'll be able to talk them out of this one."

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    • Anri shirks a bit as Xinderas points out the silliness of her wishing to avoid smashing the hedgehog, "I-I'm sorry Lady Xinderas. Indeed, sparing the creature because of it's cuteness was a foolish suggestions."

      "Hey, I wasn't saying anything about not smashing it," Reby adds, "I'd just as soon say to hell with this barrier and just have us run through to find Forjie." 

      She shuffles a bit closer to Rix, "I'm just following Rixie's lead."

      Arianna looks to Dravela assuredly, [It's fine Dravela. This is what I figured was the outcome. I only wish we'd had stayed hidden until we found Forjod, since now we risk them using him as a hostage.] She looks to Xindears, [Tell your sister to...wait, what is Sif doing?]

      As the group bickers, Sif has moved to the back of the field, she bends her knees, and a small whirlwind forms around her feet before she launches herself. Before anyone can stop her she does a frontflip out of the barrier, just out of sight of the little hedgebot. She comes down, and they can just see her hands move from her hips to reach forward.

      When it is over they see that Sif has taken her bottomless bag and used it to capture the hedgehog before it could notice them. With the creature now trapped in the bag's pocket dimension, it couldn't escape until someone wished to pull it free.

      She then leaps back into the field, flipping and straightening her hair before gesturing for the woman closest to her, in this case Rix, to lead the way forward.

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    • Dravela raises an eyebrow at Sif and whispers to Arianna, "Well, that problem's been taken care of."

      Xinderas snorts, quite frustrated that her plan wasn't put into action, but nevertheless she shoves the flail back into Riza's confused arms and prepares to continue forward.

      Rix nods at Sif and they press through the doorway, now finding themselves staring at a stairwell leading straight down to an area that branches off into two different pathways. Standing guard down there are two constructs that were similar to the ones that Rix, Reby, and Gretchen battled when they tried to apprehend Mikayla. One is wielding a scimitar and the other is wielding a shortsword. Their red crystal eyes stay vigilant for the first sign of trouble.

      "They bringing back memories furball?" Rix whispers to Reby as she gestures to the two sentries.

      "Does...anyone have a throwable item I could use? I think I know how we could get them away from those entrances and neutralize them," Riza whispers, "But we'll need to get closer for it to work. Those two seem to lack the ability to see anything that's invisible."

      Despoina stares through her musket's scope at the two constructs, trying to spot any other potential threats. "Apart from those two blokes I can't really see much else. There could be more beyond those trails," she mutters.

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    • Arianna looks around at the group, giving questioning looks for Riza's question.

      The sisters shrug once Anri explains what she desires.

      Reby ignores them all together as she looks to the red crystal eyed guards with Rix, "Nothing too harsh. We were trying to catch that chick last time. I bet they're way easier when we focus on them." 

      She sighs, scratching her neck. Rix can see she's under a bit of a strain for some reason, and her DE, which has been running high since Forjod was taken, is starting to fade.

      "Um, Lady Rebbeca?"

      "Hmm?" Reby looks back. She reaches into her bag, pulling out a cigarette and moves it to her mouth...until she realizes what she's doing.

      She flicks it away in frustration, not realizing she flicked it in the direction of the guards, "Damn it!" she growls, "My DE kept me from wanting one all this time, but between "interrogating" the girls at the bar and all this fighting I'm starting to run out of juice..."

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    • Rix gives Reby a confused glance for a moment until she realizes what she means. She places a hand on her shoulder and whispers, "We're already in deep now. We gotta keep pushing."

      "You gotta way to replenish it girl?" Dravela asks the werewolf, concerned that her forming exhaustion may make their rescue mission even more difficult.

      While the cigarette was expelled from the barrier, the guards failed to notice it since it wasn't lit. It was also helped by the fact that they were still at the top of the stairwell.

      In accordance with Riza's request, Xinderas notices a loose piece of stone jutting out from the stairwell. She kneels down and pries it free with ease. "What do you plan on doing with it fox?" she asks as she holds it out for Riza to take.

      Riza takes the stone with her free hand and looks to Sif requesting, "If you still have energy in you Sif, see if you can use your wind powers to create a distraction for them that will draw them away from where we are going. This stone should help."

      She waits for Sif to take it.

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    • "It's not that girls." Reby says reluctantly, "My DE has been burnin away since Forjie said he hated smokers. It's tryin to remove my addiction, but we're doin too much other important stuff, and vices are hard to remove in the first place."

      She fidgets a bit, "I'll be fine, but man is the withdrawal a bitch..."

      With Riza, Sif looks contemplatively at the stone, holding it for an almost uncomfortable moment before she looks away and to Sieglinde.

      When Sieglinde takes notice she looks to the stone herself, "What? Is there some way we can get past those ruffians using this stone?"

      "Riza wants a distraction."

      "Hmmmm....I think I can help with that..."

      She takes the rock, and the large Kamaitachi focuses on it between her hands until a visible green downdraft of wind forms around it. She does this until the stone looks almost as if it is a moss covered rock rather than a plain stone, "Now, who here has the most physical prowess, as well as throwing accuracy? Neither my sisters nor I can do so, as we lack some of the qualities even if Anri was not preoccupied."

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    • "I'll handle this," Dravela offers as she takes the stone from Sieglinde.

      Rix gives Reby a brief glance of disappointment before returning her attention to the two guards. "Damn it! And here I was hoping for SOME form of resistance!" she thinks to herself.

      Dravela maneuvers herself into position, standing on the edge of the stealth barrier. She hurls the stone with all of her might towards a corner that is closest to the stairwell and it bounces against it causing a chunk to break off. The two constructs immediately enter combat stances and draw toward the stone to investigate the sound. With them away from the two separate pathways, the group makes haste down the stairs, their footsteps muted thanks to the barrier.

      "We should all stick together," Dravela suggests. "Our chances of finding Forjod would be better if we split up," said Riza. The group will need to quickly come to a decision, as it wouldn't be long until the two guards returned to their posts.

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    • "I say we split and find Forjie." Reby states almost predictably.

      "What of my spell? Would forgoing stealth not defeat the purpose of luring our foes away rather than simply slaying them?" Anri asks, a bit of an edge to her voice at her possible wasted effort.

      Reby grumbles, but the decision is soon made for them as Sif steps forward and out the stealth bubble. 

      She is quick, but not so quick her winds whistle and alert the constructs as she hustles down the right path.

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    • After seeing Sif swiftly move down the right path, Riza steps out of the stealth bubble and follows after her. This leaves the rest of the group to move down the left path. "Well, it's not too bad of an idea to move as a smaller group," Despoina mutters with a shrug, reassuring Anri that her efforts to conceal the team weren't completely wasted.

      Both the Kamaitachi sister and the Youko arrive in a small room. There are various open slits in the wall across from them, as well as several panels that are slightly sunken into the floor. There are no constructs to be seen, and there is a wooden door to the right that is open ajar.

      The rest of the group arrives in a large room. Just ahead is a set of stairs leading down to a doorway that leads into another hall. A small set of constructs also populate the room. There are three wooden wolves lazily lying about and another humanoid wielding a shortsword that is standing on the far right. The artificial canines are widely spread out and none of them appear to have a clue of the group's existence.

      The trip to the exit should be a simple task...that is if no one steps on the hidden pressure plate ahead that if stepped on would trigger a ceiling axe trap to swing downwards toward the group.

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    • Sif looks at the floor, stopping Riza and gesturing for her to wait.

      "Tell me, Lady Riza, do you possess the magic power common to your species?" She whispers.

      _____

      Reby grumbles and twirls her finger around behind her MW's trigger, "I'm getting sick of this. We need to hurry and find Forjie, but we keep running into these assholes."

      "Agreed," Sieglinde adds, "Though I think it best we stay hidden until Sir Forjod is in our possession. I do not wish to risk collapsing these ruins with him outside our immediate protection."

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    • "Uhhh...yeah," Riza whispers as she rubs the back of her head, "I'm very adept in charm magic like those of my kind, but I also have knowledge of sleep magic."

      She twirls her flail above her head and whispers, "I doubt that either of those would be useful right now minus my fireballs."

      The Youko examines the room and asks, "What's wrong. These traps seem to have already been triggered."

      Her foot presses against one of the embedded panels and it doesn't budge.

      ______

      "We will crush them, just as we have with the metal brute and its allies," Xinderas states matter-of-factly. "If we fight them we risk bringing in more of them. I thought we went over this already Sis," Dravela mutters as she prepares to move, but stops just short of stepping on the pressure plate she detected in the nick of time.

      She turns to the group and says, "Trap here. Move around to the door, but keep away from the wolves."

      The group cautiously navigates around the trap. Fortunately, the wolves just seem content with relaxing and offer no trouble, allowing the heroines to reach the exit. They proceed down the hall and quickly find themselves in an even larger room. To the right is a large terraced set of steps (like bleachers) and a door is at the top and on the far end. Closer to the group at the top of the steps is another wooden wolf that is facing away from the group, but instead of green crystal eyes it has blue. Standing next to it is a lever and a construct with a triangular head and purple crystal eyes that is unarmed.

      On the left is a door that is open a crack. The sharpest eye would spot what appears to be three vials containing holstaur milk on a top shelf.

      A disabled construct with both of its eyes destroyed lies in the center of the room. A morningstar with several of its spikes broken lies against the stairs.

      "Fancy," Despoina whispers.

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    • "I wished to make sure," Sif answers bluntly.

      She then motions for Riza to follow as they approach the door, "With luck, we may happen upon a living creature, one you may charm the location of Sir Forjod's location from."

      She takes a position at the side of the slightly open door. Reaching her arm with her jagged sycle up she she uses it like a mirror to see inside.

      _________

      "Hmmm....Curious..." Sieglinde hums, "Why would they break one of their own pray tell?"

      "We also have some milk it seems. An odd place for it to be stored for sure." Anri adds, "Should we investigate?"

      Reby shrugs, "Whatever we do, we need to hurry the hell up."

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    • Sif's scouting of the next room reveals to her a ceiling that has an array of spears sticking out of it. There is a hole in the ceiling closest to the girls' position. A wooden monkey jumps from each hanging trap and it appears to be wielding a dagger. Up ahead is a wooden owl sitting atop a perch next to a sealed door. The bird possesses blue eyes and is currently looking to the right. There is nothing else other than those three threats.

      "What do you see?" Riza whispers as she leans in through the door to catch a peek herself.

      ______

      "Don't know why they'd do it. Unless one of the mamono did it when they were kicked out," Dravela whispers as she observed the downed construct.

      "Move in front of the door Anri. I'll check out that room," Ikuna whispers. "Make it quick you weasly bitch," Rix mutters, annoyed with how much time they were wasting moving through these rooms. Ikuna smirks at Rix and says, "I'll be quick your highness."

      She waits until the humanoid is looking away, along with the wolf. Then the Raiju slips into the room. Just then however, the rest of the group's attention is grabbed by the sound of growling. The wolf is glaring right at them, baring its metallic teeth. The construct next to it pulls the lever, and three of the bottom steps groan and lift away, revealing a dark opening. A slab of rock drops into the doorway behind them, preventing the group from backtracking.

      There is the sound of rushing water, and a green liquid gushes into the room, inching toward the group. "What's going on?" Ikuna asks at the doorway carrying all three Holstaur potions. The morningstar appears to slowly melt into the fluid, more and more of it's shape being eaten away.

      "Bloody hell! It's acid!" Despoina cries as she shoots up out of the stealth bubble in a panic. "Son of a bitch!" Rix growls as she watches the acid creep toward them.

      The purple-eyed construct at the top of the stairs waves its hands around for a moment until an iron bolt forms. It uses both Despoina's sudden appearance and where the artificial wolf is glaring at to calculate the position of the group. Then it launches its iron bolt at them to not only attempt to hit one of them, but also force them to scatter.

      The bolt grazes Dravela's shoulder and embeds itself in the wall next to a stunned Ikuna. Dravela hisses from the pain as she glares daggers at the construct who attacked them.

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    • "Two targets." She answers as she pulls away from the door, lightly tugging on Riza to do the same.

      Sif grabs the hilt of her greatsword as she explains her plan of attack to her ally, "They both appear to be made of wood, though I can not tell which kind."

      She lifts her arm again, taking a moment to watch the monkey's movements to try and identify a pattern before pulling away before the Owl can notice any glints of light from her arm sycle, "They are animal shaped, an owl and monkey to be precise. The owl has odd colored eye gems as well, of which I worry as to what the purpose of their difference is..."

      She looks once more, catching a pattern to the monkey's movement, before looking to Riza directly, "I don't plan to find out either. If you would assist me, Lady Riza, I plan to charge the owl, but you must protect me from the monkey."

      _____________

      Arianna jumps and is there to check Dravela's shoulder in an instant, [Dravela!!]

      When she is sure her friend is alright, she joins the Hellhound in glaring at the construct. She draws her blade, winding up and launching the whip as a spear at the construct's right shoulder joint.

      Sieglinde places a hand on Ikuna's arm to make sure she is alright before taking a position at the front of the group with her great machete at the ready, "Be calm comrades, but let us charge!!"

      She roars as she rushes forward, preparing to bat away the wolf when it inevitably dives for her at the risk of swinging early and being open if she misses her guess.

      "I will keep the stealth spell up my Ladies!" Anri states, "At least until you all have your tagets picked!"

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    • Riza takes another peek into the room before retracting behind the door. She nods at Sif and says, "Okay, I'll do what I can to keep you safe. Just be careful alright."

      She holds up her flail, ready to rush in after Sif once she moves in.

      ______

      Despoina sees Sieglinde charge out of the stealth bubble toward where the acid continues to spread and screams, "Sieglinde don't! That crap will burn you!"

      The wolf rushes down to meet Sieglinde, but it doesn't hop off of the steps, instead snapping its jaws at her to dissuade her from jumping on the steps to avoid the deadly acid that continues to inch toward the group and has now nearly melted away the damaged morningstar and is currently eating up the construct lying on the floor.

      The spear launched by Arianna strikes the construct in the right shoulder joint. It flinches for a moment, but it soon raises its left hand and a blue puff of smoke appears in it. The construct launches it toward Sieglinde, or more precisely her weapon. If the blade managed to get caught in the smoke then it would come alive and attack the large Kamaitachi until either she or the caster were dead.

      Rix aims her shotgun at the wolf and fires. The buckshot breaks off some of the wood and it glances away from the charging Sieglinde.

      "We can't stay on this floor forever! We gotta get up those steps!" Rix announces.

      Despoina snaps her musket onto the construct at the top of the stairs and fires, but in her panic from earlier she only manages to hit the construct in the lower right leg. The impact causes it to buckle slightly.

      "Keep a tight hold on those potions Ikuna! I'll get you to the higher level!" Xinderas shouts as she pulls Ikuna into her and uses her power to leap onto the lower level of the stairs.

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    • Sif nods, taking one last look inside with her arm sycle. The moment to strike was nearly upon them, with the monkey swinging to the left side of the room and the owl looking in the same direction.

      "...Now!!"

      She rushes through the door so quickly it breaks it free of its top hinge. She moves at an angle, maximizing the time she is out of the owls eyesight. 

      Her focus is solely on her target, its head seeming to move in slow motion from the speed she is moving. She catches the ground with her sycle, using the momentum to turn and direct her blade at the owls head. The blade strikes true where she aims, and the great blade crushes its way through the wooden skull of the construct directly through the center to strike the eyes from behind, shattering them.

      ___________

      Sieglinde grits her teeth as the smoke approaches. She knew she was too slow to dodge the spell, but she had to try.

      With a great grunt of effort she leaps away, but her blade is caught by the smoke.

      "W-whoooooaah!"

      Her Magic Weapon's voice echoes in her head as the blade is yanked from her grasp.

      There isn't much of a chance for her to respond as the now hovering weapon swings at her. Thee mighty weapon crashes where she once was, "Blasted spellcaster!!"

      "I-I'm sorry!!" 

      "Worry not my friend, tis not your doing!"

      The pair are interupted as a rapid series of clacks in heard, Reby having taken to firing on the spell casting construct with her characteristic feral smile.

      As the construct is jostled by the shots Arianna retracts her blade to its sword mode at its feet, her body fading and reforming next to it. She gives it a swift kick in its spine, sending it forward into a shot into its head. The construct is slammed into the stairwell on its back, and it slides violently down in response.

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    • Riza barely makes into the room as the wooden owl's crystal eyes are decimated by Sif's swift and powerful sneak attack. The monkey screeches and hops across the spears toward the ceiling entrance. Riza launches a fireball at it, but her attack misses, instead creating a light explosion against the ceiling. The artificial monkey manages to reach the hole and disappears through it.

      A few of the spears directly above Riza shudder for a moment before they slip free and fall toward her. She yelps and leaps out of the way, allowing the polearms to harmlessly strike the floor.

      "It's above us!" Riza calls out to Sif as the door bursts open and two green-eyed constructs charge through armed with swords. They both swing for Sif as Riza rolls out of the way of another spear that has been presumably cut loose by the monkey.

      ______

      "Holy shit!" Ikuna gasps at Sieglinde being attacked by her own weapon.

      As the wooden spellcaster slides down toward the corrosive acid at the bottom, the wounded wolf reaches out and clutches its foot in its maw just before it falls into certain doom. Before the canine can pull its ally to safety however, Xinderas delivers a heavy kick to its hindquarters, causing them both to tumble into the acid. This causes a splash that nearly catches the four ladies still at the bottom. Both enemies flop around wildly, struggling to escape, but it is helpless as their wooden parts are quickly being eaten away.

      Xinderas gives the mamono a frustrated look and screams, "Damn it girls! That acid is about to overtake you! Quit standing there and get up here now!"

      She's right, as the acid is now closing around the small group.

      "Damn! Come here you two!" Dravela says as she picks up both Reby and Anri and tosses them toward the stairs in a way that they'll land easily. Then the two remaining Hellhounds use their legs to bound onto the steps just as the door at the other end of the room opens up. Another spellcaster steps out followed by a construct wielding a spear and another wielding a scimitar.

      The spellcaster forms a small blob of acid in its hands and fires it at Arianna. The construct with the scimitar swings at Ikuna, but Dravela is quick to stop it by obliterating it with a single devastating punch. The construct with the spear charges down the steps in the direction of Reby, but a blast from Rix's shotgun knocks it off balance, causing it to roll toward the Werewolf.

      Despoina has by now regained her composure and trains a more focused aim onto the second spellcaster and fires, but it's head jerks back just in time, causing a harmless bullet hole to form in the wall next to it.

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    • Sif hops away from the attack, but as soon as she hits the ground she spears forward with her greatblade at one of the attackers, intending to knock him off his feet.

      She hopes her comrade will cover her from the other, as her right side is now open to a counter otherwise.

      _________

      "You ladies worry on our combatants!" Sieglinde shouts, "I cannot very well leave my dear Skadi to harm with this acid."

      "No, don't worry about me!! Get to safety Sieglinde!" her loyal MW pleads to her wielder as she is forced to swing at her again.

      This time Sieglinde is ready for it...though to the others it would seem otherwise. She moves over only slightly, allowing Skadi to gash into her right shoulder. The MW holds back on taking as much energy as she can, but is forced to at least take some as she sinks into Sieglinde's shoulder.

      Sieglinde gives a feminine gasp as the MW causes intense pleasure to ripple through her, but through sheer force of will she doesn't do more than flinch. She then reaches around, grabbing the notch in the blade for her off hand. She roars in effort as she proceeds to pull the blade free, the large Kamaitachi sweating in both pleasure and effort until she finally forces Skadi free.

      As she wrestles with the spellbound MW Anri finally forgoes using her stealth spell to focus on the enemies on the stairs. She focuses her magic, but rather than casting an offensive spell she instead casts something with less of a chance of harming her allies. Her spear/staff glows an off white color at the tip, and then light focuses on the remaining constructs. There is a whirring noise, and soon the constructs minimize down to about half their original height.

      As Reby leaps over the construct rolling down the stairs she can see it is both lighter and weaker as it tries and fails to stop itself. Mid jump she fires at the spellcaster, finding that the shrinkage seems to have made them denser with the shot glancing off, but their new weight sends the spellcaster sprawling down to the steps.

      Arianna looks wide eyed at the incoming acid ball, but with the crowding on the steps she can't flee. With no other option she hugs her blade to her chest and turns to the wall of the stairwell as the spell makes contact. She lurches, and silently screams as it quickly eats into her body. Her cloths fall away from the front, and her succubi wings are eroded off from the base and fall away, turning to ash and light as they dissipate. The damage to her back causes glowing wounds to light the stairwell as if it was exposed to the midday sun. The GMW slowly crumples to her knees on the floor, her body huffing as she gingerly looks to her blade and her bottomless bag that fell beside her.

      Thankfully they are unharmed, but with the amount of energy lost she can already feel the hunger and exhaustion from the effort to regenerate her damaged back.

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    • Sif's charge connects and her sword tears away the contruct's lower half. The upper part of its body clatters onto the floor and its sword slips out of its hand. It desperately tries to crawl for its weapon.

      The second construct had indeed swung at Sif when the opportunity presented itself, but luckily Riza had stopped it by bashing it in the head with her flail. The construct is sent spiralling to the floor and one of its eyes was destroyed from the impact.

      Two more spears fall from the ceiling. One that would land just behind Sif, the other about to land directly on top of her if she didn't move in time. "Sif!" Riza shouts, pointing to the spear above her comrade.

      ______

      Down in the acid flood, both the first spellcaster and the wolf stop struggling, finally having been disabled. With the spellcaster out of commission, that meant that Sieglinde's MW was free of the spell, meaning she could have control of it once more.

      The second now smaller spellcaster that was tumbling down the steps manages to stop itself from falling in. It focuses its eyes on Reby and launches a fireball at her. Dravela is on the spellcaster within seconds and she brings her powerful foot down on it's head, completely annihilating it's wooden frame and leaving its body soon out of commission.

      She turns and sees that Arianna has taken severe damage from the acid ball. "ARIANNA!!!" she shrieks in terror as she rushes up the steps to her friend. "Don't panic okay, your body seems to be healing itself!" Dravela states as she looks behind her at Ikuna and calls, "Ikuna, get over here with those potions!"

      Ikuna nods and jogs up the steps with the three Holstaur potions in two.

      The last surviving construct releases its spear and grabs onto Rix's leg in a last ditch effort to pull her into the acid pool with her, but she doesn't budge an inch. "Not a chance halfy," she mutters in reference to Anri's shrinkage spell as she simply presses her shotgun into its head and pulls the trigger. The explosion of buckshot decimates most of the construct's head, breaking its eyes in the process. This causes its body to go limp and slide into the acid pool with a small splash.

      With no other hostiles attacking, the party is free to to tend to whatever wounds they sustained and regain their energy.

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