Hidden 2 mos ago Post by Thanqol
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When the Maid held the Mask there was a moment of... serenity.

Serenity is never calm. Serenity is manic. Serenity is disconnect. Serenity is when the world is aligning into something so unstoppably that the mountains sweat and the sun seizes and the rains stand still. Serenity is an alignment around a new centre of gravity. She is pulled in a different direction, strong enough to fall. She is pulled towards something happening between the Maid and the N'yari.

The mask. The mask. It must be the mask. She is too close. Too real. Too seen. Too catalogued. Too known. Here and helpless beneath the eyes of the powerful. They see her and they judge the mask more important, as is right. They see her enough to mark her for later. Serenity is the terror of knowing that you are not a part of this connection. The Maid is failing her; she is losing this fight. She can no longer be patient.

She moves closer. Her umbrella is still closed, but the crook of it is ready to slash down and hook the mask the moment the embrace fades. Her serenity rules her voice and her smile, and it's with serenity she looks down and says to her Maid: "Is that all you've got?"
Hidden 1 mo ago Post by Tatterdemalion
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Kalaya!

“The wheel-turning king,” the witch says. Or maybe those should all be capitalized. The Wheel-Turning King. “Heaven under one hand, Hell under the other. In total control of the destiny of their kingdom.”

“Which means,” Ven continues, “receiving assistance from the enemies of the world as it exists. The fairies are too treacherous; they’ll stab you in the back because they must. But the Old Lords keep their promises.”

“The hero-queen. A new identity for the kingdoms. Unification. Uusha’s plan less… elegant. Messier.” The gleam in Peregrine’s eye suggests that this is her reason for supporting Ven. Not because Ven’s cause is more just, but because the process of making her the cakkavatti is more interesting. It also suggests she has not slept in some time. “The culmination of cultivation.”

Ven colors, ever so slightly. “Look. Set the cultivation aside. This is the most peaceful way to handle… everything. The Legion consists of a pack of rabid dogs who will kill indiscriminately if Uusha starts her war, and she doesn’t have the support she needs to win. The Red Wolf will sail into Chrysanth and seize control for the ‘good of the Kingdoms.’ And we’ll cheer her. And then we’re just like An-Teng: another colony for the Empress to squat on.”

Politically? What she’s saying is solid. She’s just leaving out the fact that the Kingdoms will be unlikely to accept a new queen with backing from Hell itself. There’s every risk that even if she goes into this with good intentions, she’ll end up sliding into the tyranny of a witch-queen.

But she’s right about how bloody a war will be, and about Uusha’s chances. If the Flower Kingdoms, as they are now, go to war? They will lose. Your options are to accept Cathak Agata as the inevitable colonial governor of the Kingdoms, or to back Ven’s play.

But there’s still one person who might know more than you, who might have opinions about this, and might be able to help you (or to imprison all three of you forever).

The Sapphire Mother herself.

Whatever you say, know that you, in this moment, have the power to sway Ven. You, and only you.

[Ven accepts, and chooses to gain insight.]




Fengye!

The Maid squeals, and then headbutts Jazumi’s chin. It’s a shocking, primal sort of violence— but the N’yari can take it. It dazes both of them for a moment, but then Jazumi pins the Maid’s head down into the mud with one forearm. The Maid thrashes helplessly underneath the weight, hissing and trying to bite and unable to get leverage.

“Looks like I still won,” Jazumi says, and then plants a big, sloppy, rude kiss on the Maid’s cheek. And that’s it! You’ve lost! Time for a new career as a N’yari maid!

…unless you were to cheat. To make an opening for the Maid to put on that mask. You’ve put fire in her belly, but the limitations of the body that you gave her are just too much for her to win like this. Not without a thumb pressing down on the scales.




Giriel!

“Glad to see someone is having fun,” Azazuka says. She’s red-cheeked, out of breath, and looming over you. It’s possible that she has Opinions about being the host for the celestial Hound. This is, after all, quite a lot of adventure, and a N’yari camp isn’t exactly the sort of accommodations she’s used to. “But we should be going. While they’re still distracted with… them.

“Why the rush? Treat you right,” Hanaha purrs, tail thumping against your butt. “So much girl <3”

“This is exactly what I mean,” Azazuka says, flushing in a way that’s not from exertion. She’s realizing, just as you are, that a curvaceous Chrysanth girl is prone to be the center of attention once the fight with the Maid is over. The minute you let Hanaha up, she’ll be bounding over to Azazuka with a lusty purr and a coil of rope, and if you don’t, another N’yari will beat Hanaha to it. And Azazuka herself probably wants to go back to find Piripiri, right? Even if she’d probably quite enjoy a N’yari vacation.
Hidden 1 mo ago Post by Thanqol
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"I'm disappointed in you," said Fengye. "You had so many weapons. So many opportunities. So many openings. And yet you chose to fight disarmed."

She conceals her mouth behind her half-open fan. Concealment is control, a mask that keeps her true expression from being known. Such a slender one, in this moment.

"I gave you gifts of beauty. Of seduction. The ability to sense needs and desires. All that power you had is still there, lit by the fires of different stars. And still you cling to the light of Mars? You are right where you should be, and so is your opponent. Victory is yours and all that stands in your way is your pride."

She leaned down alongside the Maid and ran a finger along her still-wet cheek. "If you will not seize it, though, so be it. After all, one way or another your pride is about to be broken."

[Entice: 9]
Hidden 28 days ago Post by Anarion
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Giri gives Hanaha a hard thump, pushing her weight down on the N'yari. "None of that. I've won. Your sisters are going to respect that too, right? If they don't, it would mean they don't respect you and you'd help me get my friend Azazuka on her way, right? She's under my protection." Giri gives Hanaha another thump for good measure, pushing the catgirl's head into the dirt, mouth still open from sneering.

Hanaha was probably enjoying this, the N'yari always did like a challenge. But in this moment, she needed her victory to stick. There were too many people here, too much risk, and too much to be done to just lean back and enjoy a nice N'yari vacation. And among all those things, Giri had promised to keep Azazuka safe and that had to come first. And that meant focusing on this match, and Azazuka's safety. Besides, they way Azazuka was looking, it would be fine if a N'yari caught her up for a few minutes. Just as long as they could make their exit afterwards and not have to wait for the turning of a full season.

She glanced to the side, just once, briefly. Well, she just hoped that the rest of that remained safely. She'd have to trust the scribe and the maid, both. Maybe that would work out, it's certainly not what either of them would expect.
Hidden 27 days ago Post by BlasTech
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Kalaya takes a breath, chewing on a flavourless dumpling, as she mulls over the options.

"I've spoken to Cathak, and you're right that she wants the Kingdoms as her prize. And that's it, not to savor, or protect, or cultivate or cherish. Just as a bauble to add to her hoard. Kept and held tightly, even as her gaze then seeks out the next thing to grasp."

"I refuse to let the Kingdoms suffer that fate - and will not let that happen." she continues, shaking her head. "I'd hoped to win support at the Convocation in Chrysanth to take a stand, or at least do something against that rising tide ... and maybe from there to convince the Kingdoms to band together against the Dragonchild. I don't know if that will work - it certainly won't be as elegant either. Knowing some of their leaders, I'm picturing a whole bag of cats fighting amongst themselves whenever I try to think of what that might be like."

Not to mention I'd have to talk to Lin.

She shudders.

"Whatever path we take though, I think I owe it to the Kingdoms, and my oaths, to first speak to the one being that I hope would actually help us save her own lands. If the Sapphire Mother can give us some insight, or some support as to what path to take, or what dangers we might face ...

She trails off, uncertain of what she was hoping the deity would provide.

But hoping all the same that she'd give them something to go on.
Hidden 18 days ago Post by eldest
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Piripiri is eleven and her first duel is finishing up. Fundamentals only, padded swords and basic moves, but the core of the styles were there, the water style facing her with flowing aggression, to her yielding defense, waiting for the opening. She'd lost, one swing opening her up for greater retribution and was battered out of the circle.

It didn't matter to her that she was short for her age, or that her opponent had most of a year on her, the lose still stung more bitterly than the bruise. She'd seen the fierce brightness years ago, the first time she saw a duel between daughters of dragons, and she'd wanted that clarity for herself.

She'd do better next time.

*

Piripiri is fourteen, and is losing a duel. Eleven is a lifetime ago, and so she's moved up from the fundamentals of swordsmanship to what could be in truth called Reed Style, bending to blows without breaking to them. Her opponent today is Aisha, who's taken to the Seabreeze in turn, all feints till one of them isn't, taking the measure of your enemy before taking them apart. Aisha finishes her last exchange and whips through a sequence of feints, tripping her and ending with the wooden sword at her neck.

*

Piripiri is sixteen, and winning a duel. The secret, she's found, is to think. That's really hard in fights, what with the red and the pain, but it's important because it's equally hard for everyone and she lacks the raw strength that other people have. The wooden swords are clashing, but the real fight is if she can figure out a trick that Kai can't simply power through. She's been very careful to make it look like the answer was no, and as he goes to strike her while she's cornered against the side of the ring, she hops over and kicks back with both legs, sending him tripping out of the fight.

*

Piripiri is nineteen, and has just won a duel. All she had to do was to finish the sequence, the same one that her opponant reads through and yields. They're using live blades, now, and a proper kit-out, and so the instructors were very clear about the expectation to yield rather than be maimed out of pride. She's the fifth ranked of the school, after winning this duel, and weaker physically and with essence than the next 15 people after her, so it's clear whose pride that was aimed at. But she takes a minute to breath in, still, and grin at Aisha, hugging her tight. It was a good fight, between good friends, and there's a radiant glow in that.

*

Piripiri is twenty three, and just lost a duel. Cathak Agata had the potential to be her direct command, and she'd made a point of putting up a good showing, while avoiding any of the dirtier tricks that would be unsightly, even if they failed to work, and harm Agata's reputation if they did. It's a balancing act, and as she knelt to yield, she saw the bright interest in her opponant's eyes. Agata wasn't fooled for an instant that this was all that Piripiri could give, and was very intrigued. The offer, after, was only a formality.

*

It is now, and Piripiri is winning a duel by losing it.

Han has had dust kicked in her eyes, her girlfriend danced with, and her dominion threatened, and as she rushes out of the smokescreen Piripiri is rushing to meet her. Answer her in kind, o daughter of dragons, rise to the challenge. Sing the song of your people as Piripiri has grown up singing, with blade and will. It will lose you the fight, for you do not see the trailing rope in the other hand, but you will exalt in defeat because the glory is in the clash.

Hidden 16 days ago 16 days ago Post by TheAmishPirate
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The scales fall from her eyes.

Blinking, her vision clears, and the dragon comes into focus. Her muted silks flap in the wind, hugging her body with the speed of her approach. She is a flower, rushing to the sun. She is an arrow, fletched with promise. She will not run away. She will not break. This time, she will meet her opponent head-on. Give the dragon a thousand thousand words, Han would not believe her. Let her hear the song of her laugh and the thrum of her umbrella, and the duel works its greatest magic yet.

The world goes white. Hurtling through the air, Han opens herself up, and great rivers of essence pour into her insatiable heart. Raising her blade, Han opens herself up, and essence floods out of her in waves of blistering heat. In. Out. The dragon beneath her skin writhes and rages to escape this body, and a barrier the width of a tissue frustrates its claws. She dances on the knife-edge of transformation, pushing the excess of essence from her body in the breath before it can burn her out from the inside. She glows impossibly bright, a star in the shape of a girl, flying to the foe. Where her foot strikes the earth, it hisses and bubbles beneath her. Slipping, melting, where she expected to find solid ground. In slow motion, she topples forward, no tool to hand but her sword.

Her sword.

She tenses, and releases. The force of her strike spins her full around. The force of her strike stops her fall. The force of her strike is the fire of her heart, released at once in a clap of thunder. It explodes out from her, a blazing, tilted ring, racing away from her on a burning wind. Plants turn to dust moments before their ashes are scattered to the winds. Bound demigods are sent tumbling from the melee to fall in a breathless, squeaking heap. The ring of fire slices tree limbs clean off, blackening the stumps in an instant. It digs a flaming trench in the earth before Han, racing to meet the oncoming dragon. Try to dodge; all the air is a furnace. The ground is full of fire, licking at silks and shoes.

But the fire is not the danger. Neither was flash-powder, or nets, or ropes, or clouds of smoke, or any tool of this clever dragon of the Dominion. She knows this, now. The real threat is not the fire. It is the girl. Always the girl.

And there is Han, leaping in close from the heart of the flames. Thrusting with her sword, red-hot. Clawing with her free hand, wreathed in embers. She is fire, and the fire is truth, and the fire is honesty. She who will burn away all masks and all lies.

Step forward, and she will show the world who you are, daughter of dragons.

[Han rolls one last Fight, taking aim at Piri's mask, and the dice say 1 + 2 + 2 = 5]
Hidden 11 days ago Post by Tatterdemalion
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Fengye!

Help me,” the Maid mewls. The realization of what she has said, of what she has admitted, of how far her pride has dropped, hits her like a bar of iron a moment later. The blossoming of it over her face is a masterpiece. And you were right! Her pride was indeed about to be broken. But not just by Jazumi.

Take a String on her. You have brought her tumbling, tumbling down to earth, and she will never forget the way she feels right here, right now, hating you and craving you, reduced to this blushing, needy little mess.

And then Jazumi gets her arms in a lock and it’s all over. A third N’yari all decked out in fake-feathers on her leathers grabs you from behind, and brandishes pale rope from the mountains that brush against the spine of the sky.

“What a fight~!” Jazumi is grinning as she puts a knee between the Maid’s shoulders and slips a loop around her wrists, ignoring the frantic kicking and the burbling complaints. “Once we find Machi again, we have to introduce you! You could be a trainer!”

Then the mud explodes underneath her.




Giriel!

Something’s wrong. And the worst part is that it might not even be somebody’s fault! You don’t have the information on hand to know whether the N’yari did anything to spiritually defile the region, or whether some foe (like the fairy) has pricked the world until it is irritated like a sore, or whether the drainage of essence through this glade has just been backed up for too long.

But some lesser spirit of this place has taken too much essence and imbued itself into the clinging mud. Jazumi and the Maid vanish inside of it as it half-forms various limbs and a maw to roar with. Twice your height, half-falling with each step, it begins to— lurch away?

No, that’s not right, either. What could it want with either of those two? Why would it manifest and then refuse to engage? Unless it already had what it wanted, but…?




Kalaya!

“The Sapphire Mother is a goddess,” the witch says, and there’s no respect to her tone. She says it the same way you might say that someone is a professional courtier. “Too busy with the responsibilities of her station to look beyond them properly. Besides, compromised.” She refuses to elaborate on that. Instead, she proceeds to summon a thing that is like a stretched-out weasel with the nose of a mole.

(Her summoning is… well, a little worrying. Lots of murmured commands you don’t quite understand, said in a tone that makes you itch to do whatever she’s ordering. The little you in the back of your head, the lesser soul. Truly, a witch among witches.)

“All we have to do is follow. Come along, swans.” The weasel is already streaking off towards the woods: deep, dark, dense and dangerous. You just got out, after all. But Ven’s slipped her hand into yours and it’s easy to just follow, isn’t it?

If you do, if you let her lead you into more peril, mark an XP.




Piripiri!

Now you have her. You’ve stoked her essence to the boiling point, and now you just need to let her burn herself out. She’s not used to fighting someone who can redirect her blows rather than rushing head-on or trying to dodge, she’s not used to someone who knows how to fight a duel, and most of all?

Only the demigoddess, and only just now, squeaking a breathless warning too late, is aware of how you have brought Han to the very edge of the hungry river, which is a slow, deep well of water essence. Fire burns so, so hot— but water douses it.

(And isn’t that perfect, knowing the demigoddess’s nature? Truly beautiful.)

Extinguish her before she burns herself up. Then maybe she’ll be able to listen.
Hidden 7 days ago Post by Thanqol
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The umbrella snaps open. The demon summoning circle painted upon its surface spins. Fengye whirls it up and around, then crackling down into the dirt. A horse. A horse. Heaven's realm for a horse.

A thunderclap of emerald sorcery echoes as a beast from a nightmare, upon hooves as swift and silent as the void wind, leaps through the portal that her umbrella had become. As soon as it does so she is hooking herself onto its back and urging it into a gallop in pursuit of the mud monster. She does not know what this is, where it came from, what it thinks, who is watching. It took her maid. Hers! Right when she had finally gotten her right where she wanted her, it had -!

Her umbrella is like a lance as she gallops in pursuit. She seeks to get close, get around ahead, force it to stop or failing that she will snap open the umbrella again and call forth more and worse. In this moment she does not think; she is in service to desire, and for it all the walls of heaven and earth will come crumbling down.
Hidden 6 days ago Post by eldest
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Piripiri feels guilty, just a touch, as she slides her stance left, turning a head on counterblow into instead a slight parry, just past her and into the river. There is the need, when fighting, to always be aware of the risk of putting your all into a blow, and it's quickly demonstrated. Han's attack tries to burn away the river. The river, the water essence of the land, is indifferent, and quenches the fire and rage. She makes sure to grab the back of Han's shirt to prevent her from tipping over into the water after. Nobody does well when they suddenly have that much essence eaten up, and she wouldn't be shocked if Had hadn't been taught this.

Han seems to have not been taught a lot about her heritage, and if nothing else, she will do her best to leave one good mark upon the world in the wake of the dirty deeds of today.

*

And so Han and Lotus find themselves captives of the dread Dominion! Han, your hands are bound in front of you, with the same cord that also binds Lotus's hands behind her, just in front of you. Piripiri has not yet taken off her mask, and is carefully, reverently perhaps, adding layers to the gag on Lotus, never lifting her veils out of place, simply slipping the cloth under it one at a time. A soft stroke along the back of Lotus's neck after the last knot is tied, and then the spy turns to you.

A quick bow, respectful but not deferential, and a happy sigh, and then a noted lack of gag. "Thank you for the fight. It was well fought, and a joy."
Hidden 5 days ago Post by BlasTech
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So easy to follow. So easy to obey. Just slip her hand into Ven's and come along.

But.

But but but but.

"Wait." she says, tugging Ven to a stop beside her.

This isn't a small thing. This isn't a simple thing. This is asking her to put the Kingdom's welfare on hold. To put her girlfriend's welfare on hold. Two pillars standing against the suggestion of a Witch, where neither would be easy to bend. Both together? Almost impossible.

"We do need to talk to the Sapphire Mother about this before we do anything else. Lifting this curse on me, fighting the Dominion. Even Hell. Our approach to all of that hinges on Her response."

"I understand if you don't want to come with me when I see her" she says, glancing at Ven. "But I don't want any more distractions. Everyone in this whole land seems to be moving in their own directions, pulling at the strings of their own plans and just building a bigger and bigger tangle. Ushua, Agata, The Broken King, Mars. I mean to cut to the middle."

She blinks, as if remembering something.

"Uh, assuming that the date part of this morning is over I mean. I'm always happy to go and eat some dumplings for a bit more if you want Vee?"

[Kalaya refuses the XP - as much as I'd love her to take it, she's got her priorities right now and won't be swayed.]
Hidden 3 days ago Post by TheAmishPirate
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The river is still steaming.

Fire will lose out, in the end. This Water flows from the mountain peaks, from snowmelts and secret rivers from beneath the earth. The clouds carry endless waves of pilgrims, trudging across the land in countless streams and rivulets to join the great flow. All will come to the sea, in time. Behind and before, there is more Water, and always will be more Water, and there can be no victory for Fire. But here, the surface still bubbles, and the branches above vanish into great clouds of steam.

The spy had to pry the patta from her chilled hand, teasing each finger loose. When it was gone, she grasped at the empty space, as if her blade might hear her song of need and appear when called. To what end, to what task, none can say. But as the cord passed over her wrists, it passed over hands clenched white. As the gags passed over a demigod’s dangerous mouth, a low growl mingled with the soft brush of silk.

When it is her turn, she raises her head. When the time has come for her humiliation, her eyes aim to burn the mask her blade could not. When she is thanked?

“Tch.”

She turns her head away.

“Well good for you.”

She should be half-drunk with fatigue, after how much essence she threw away. She should need a breath of Wood and Water to manage the hike you have planned for her. She should hardly be standing. Fire will lose out, in the end.

But she is still steaming. Burning, with the memory of her first dance white-hot beneath a damp cord around her wrists. A contradiction. An injustice. In her mind and in her heart nothing can exist beyond why. Why had she won so many fights before, just to lose this one? Why, when the world was nothing more than her and her, and she felt so, so free, and there was nothing she couldn’t do? So why?!

Why was that a lie?

Why couldn’t she win?

Please, agent of the Dominion. Fellow dragon. Agata’s long shadow. Do not see in Han an ill-mannered brat, unable to bear defeat. Look with your eyes and your dragon’s heart. See your opponent. See your rival.

Her education has been nonexistent. Every lesson she thinks she has, she bought with her own strength, with no one to tell her if it was a lesson worth learning. Defeat, to her, is always humiliation. It is mountain bullies demeaning her, showing her how small she was to them, giving voice to the shadows of her heart. She is no flower. She is a rock. She is a beast. She will only belong here. She will belong nowhere else. Defeat, to her, is always suffering. It is pulling arrows from her side in the depths of the forests, with no one to remind her that she is anything more than bloodied and broken. It is town after town singing the praises of the Dominion as dissident voices vanish into the night, never to be heard again. It is crowds of eyes on the problem child, who is always wrong and never learns her place.

Victory? Victory is safety. Victory is vindication. Victory will make it all worthwhile. If she is strong enough to grasp it. And whose fault will it be if the Vermillion Beast falters?

How could she master her heart, under such conditions? How could her techniques be anything but sloppy, even when they are drawn at last from her dragon’s heart? But you, ah, you. You have had training. You have had teachers. You have that which she sorely lacks. You have seen yourself grow into something new and beautiful, and watched others grow right alongside you. You know the path of dragons.

You see what she could become.

Her instincts are sharper than any blade. She saw your tricks, and moments later hurled them right back at you. A fast learner, with the right examples to learn from. Training, that’s what she needs. Talent is something you nurture. Instinct is something you hone. And ah! What talent to nurture! Those near-limitless reserves of endurance, the way her mind shrugs off the weight of injury and fatigue. Make her perform a hundred forms, and the last shall fall with the earth-splitting strength of the first. Her affinity for essence, though? That is a fine treasure indeed. It is as if she was born to breath it rather than air. The sheer volumes she can muster without collapsing, that alone presents such delicious, novel opportunity. All this, without mentioning the glory of her aspect made manifest. All together, with the right training…

In her heart, you see the makings of a champion that any Kingdom would count themselves lucky to have. A blade of unflinching honesty, against whom no lie can prevail. Strike her from ambush? She can take it, and decimate with her counter-stroke. Dance out of her reach? Just how far do you intend to dance, exactly? She can blanket a field in fire and close any distance in a heartbeat. Try any trick you like. Try every trick you have. The only way to beat her is honestly. Blade to blade. Heart to heart. Bared, for all the world to see. No artifice or pretense could survive contact with her.

A terrible foe, against those whose blades are reputation and image. A terrible foe for those like Cathak Agata.

What she could become, but now she is a hatchling, stung bitterly by the loss of her first duel. Leave her to it, and no one could say what trouble she might cause, least of all her. Her heart will cry and weep until she blindly follows after it just to drown out the noise.

Please, agent of the Dominion. Fellow dragon. Agata’s long shadow. You have long to go before you reach shelter and safety and comfort, and your lessons can begin in earnest. But your fallen foe cannot wait so long.

Can you spare a taste, to whet her appetite? Can you show her a new meaning for Defeat?
Hidden 2 days ago Post by Anarion
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Giri cocks her head as she stands from the fight with Hanaha, moving in front of Azazuka to protect the girl with her bulk. But the mud spirit isn't coming to fight, it's simply leaving with the demon maid and one of the N'yari.

Ah and there's the scribe pulling her tricks out to race after it. Giri grins. A horse summoning. What an excellent use for the fan!

She didn't feel the same urgency here, but they did need to follow the thing, preferably with a bit more knowledge in hand. She only has a small sigh as she considers. "Do you have a shaman among you? Tell me everything about this camp and this glade. I'm going to have to narrow down why that thing is here. We'll need to follow it too. You, and you..." Giri gestures at Hanaha and one of the other burliest N'yari "come on, I'm your shaman now until we sort this out, follow that thing and keep my guest safe. If we're lucky, maybe we can even finally take care of that damn Rakshasa."
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