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Same! :3

Feeling the pulsing away from her mech with shrill whine of desperate single heatsinks, Ziska watched with no small amount of satisfaction as the Firestarter ate most of the firepower that Marit could send by way of Archie's LRMs. Staring at the screens scattered across the cockpit of her RVN-3L it was impossible for her not to notice that the heavy damaged that had registered on the Ostroc, Ingrid would no doubt be worse for the wear, and Ziska felt a cool touch of anger travel through her, an electric current of emotion that tasted oddly like blood. There was too much talking. Too much banter. She liked to kill in silence. She didn't need to offer any words. But she was laughing, she felt at peace. This was the life. Fighting. Dying. Who cared for some C-Bills? Who cared what anyone thought?

Drag and bag, baby!, Ziska mused, she would have to play bait, just like Ingrid.

With thoughts of violence in mind, Ziska aimed her paltry armament at the looming Crusader. She would have liked to brawl. She would have liked to stay. But she knew better. She had to stay fast. She had to keep moving. And a light mech had little business deep in an enemy formation.

So she ran. Ducking and weaving Ziska, twisted her torso to keep her TAG laser plastered on the center torso of the Crusader. Her graceful piloting made the RVN-3L look as if it was doing a strange looping dance as it crossed back over the bridge, moving away from the hornets nest of now angry heavier mechs at maximum speed.

"Make it rain, Marit! Crusader has to die! You got NARC! You got TAG! Make em' pay!" Ziska said over the encrypted lance comms, cheerful as ever seeing the TAG and NARC symbology burning bright on her HUD once more. As she darted her light mech back across the bridge, Ziska laughed seeing Tarik charging forward, it was time for the heavier mechs to tank, she had places to be, and no intention to stay close to the AC20 of the Hunchback or the now peppered Crusader.


An involuntary shudder coursed through the tiefling as the dark spells woven by the newly arrived pilgrim took form in front of her. She knew little of the pilgrim who had named himself Terilu, but the words he spoke after performing his foul ritual did little the quell the disquiet and concern that had stirred in her heart. To bandy so lightly with death was an ill omen. She feared for his heart and his soul. The mace she held in her hands felt heavy, but she did not feel anger, only sorrow. The ill-fortuned undead had been granted no reprieve, merely a different set of chains to bind them in unwilling service to another. Still, there was hope, perhaps this Terilu would release them when their task was completed.

The Goddess spoke of forgiveness. She spoke of mercy. Nemeia would not judge the necromancer hastily. Honesty was a start. And she knew better than most that no evil was certain, no evil was everlasting. Valradun could touch the hearts of even the most wicked, her moonlight shone through the darkest nights. Even there, beneath stone, in the forsaken tomb of the long damned. More importantly, her mistress was no fool. The Necromancer was doubtlessly correct. Some greater force, some more powerful evil lurked deeper in the tombs. She would not reject more allies. Theological debates had no place on the battlefield.

Offering a quietly whispered prayer to Valradun, Nemiea moved next to Ilyana, nodding towards the half-elf as she shook the dust from the head of her mace, the unwelcome reminder of the undead figure who's skull she had pummeled.

"Let us fight with the shackled dead then, deeper in this corrupted crypt," Nemeia said to the others, a hint of unintended sorrow apparent in her voice as she gazed at the batling flying ahead of them. Her wings tingled beneath her robe, her armor cool against her skin, it would be good to fly again, she thought, but not in such a place, not then. Hefting her mace over her shoulder, Nemeia spoke with renewed cheer, "My fellow pilgrims, our solemn task remains, we must continue our freshly begun work, we must cleanse this place of the evil that afflicts it."

There was fresh steel in her bearing as walked after Terilu, mace and magic at the ready.
Dominika Kovač Pignatelli

A shift had occurred in the Scion of Metal as the topic anchored on the practical applications of magic and she seemed at once at ease. Magitech was something Dominika could understand. It was something she could grab on to like a drowning person desperately grabbing for a lifebuoy. The reappearance and fading of the very adorable Scion of Light had heralded a welcome new arrival. She could see the happiness in Ioanna's eyes and felt her heart swell with a kindred feeling. It was easy, pleasant even, to let herself be swept along by the young woman's cheerful disposition and her guileless charm. The care with which Dame Gusev attended to her child charge was touching. There was obvious affection in her actions and words. More importantly to the Scion of Metal, awe emanated from Ionna in heavy waves at the mere presence of the veteran Templar and Dominika desired nothing more than to encourage such joys in her protector. Entering the conversation once more with renewed delight, Dominika gestured politely at the two Templars, indicating at visor and eyes of Sir Chaudoir and Dame Gusev respectively.

"Our lands profit much from the judicious application of mana," she said, her voice a flowing river adorned with flowers, in the melodic register so characteristic of the Lorenzians. "I built ships once. I was a shipwright in Pogona. This work, your visor and your eye, they are different. Very fine, very delicate. The magitech of ship is different. The engines and the mana batteries. They are...delicate in a different way, but far simpler. It must please the Goddess greatly to see her children help each other thus."

In the background Dominika could almost make out the details of a serious conversation which she was sure she had no desire to take part. The Scion of Fire was not a quite man. It did not change that murder was a matter that left her only full of sadness and dread. So Dominika smiled again Ionna, focusing on the barely contained excitement that had taken hold of Ionna. The Goddess would understand, in such troubled times, a little bit of happiness was a mercy.

@Hero@Scribe of Thoth@McMolly
Dominika Kovač Pignatelli

Standing apart, Dominika found herself finally smiling, a hand politely covering her mouth as she had been recently taught. The Marchioness, Nadine Lucienne, had swept in like motherly goose to save her, to shield her beneath the great sweeping wings of her dress, and to save her from a most uncomfortable moment of self-induced awkwardness. She could hardly follow what the august woman said, but she smiled when she should, and listened when she could, fighting the urge to vomit. She suspected the Marchioness could tell her discomfort, but she charitably continued talking, gracefully guiding Dominika through the conversation. A kindness, Dominika gratefully resolved she would not soon forget.

Waiting upon the hallowed grounds of the cathedral, bright awe burned within her. She carried the faith of the newly received, noble aspirations tempered still only by the limits of her quiet hope. The room loomed larger than the preceding hall, heavy purpose distorting physical reality. It was impossible to fail to notice the tension. The pursed lips. The long, mournful gazes. The eyes that seemed hard steel forged with obvious anger. A multitude of other expressions had taken form on the faces scattered across the chamber.

It had been a solemn occasion, a ceremony touched by tragedy, and yet she hoped sorrow that could be mended by the mercy of the Goddess. Her own ceremony, her blessing...Ionna's blessing she remembered with no such apprehension. She doubted many things, herself most of all, but she did not doubt the Templar and her earnest desires to protect her. Beneath a fresh layer of anxiety, induced by the increasingly complex situation that seemed to be brewing following the Blessing, Dominika could not help but think back to short months earlier. The memory lingered as if the Blessing had just occurred. She could remember every moment. The immeasurable joy and the surety that had enveloped her like the soft embrace of the Goddess. She felt fortunate Ionna was her Templar. She had been kind and sweet, even then. She was pleased with her, and hoped that Ionna was pleased with her in turn. Perhaps she would ask her more about...

Lost in her thoughts, Dominika caught the sweet chiding of the Marchioness by fortune alone. She carefully stored the advice she remembered, knowing that her brief respite was soon ending. She offered a most sincere curtsy to the Scion of Lightning, happy to have been with such kindness. It was a small mercy that her aide had suggested a modest dress, of a middling length, cast in an elegant gray, patterned with fine lines of silver and a simple veil to match. She would not have trusted herself in a lengthy gown. The young Rosarian woman, Catalina, had come at the recommendation of the Archbishop Elijah. She knew fabric as Dominika knew metal and spoke of fashion that the newly minted Scion could scarcely imagine, never minded understand. To be dressed by another, was a strange experience, but Dominika had come to rely on her many new advisors. The Archbishop had repeatedly assured her that there was no shame in asking for help.

Immobile, as if teetering on the edge of a cliff of social doubt, Dominika felt a sudden nudge. A gentle push on her shoulder, and turning once more she was met with the smile of the Marchioness. Go, she heard whispered tenderly, encouragement apparent in the woman's kindly manner and her subtle nod in the direction of the other Scions and accompanying Templars. Dominika drew a deep breath, letting her shoulders rise up and then down, as she hammered her resolve into a useful tool. Complying, she willed her feet to move forwards, swallowing small bits of iron, her feelings, with each step that she took.

What did one talk about with someone famous? Oh, how nice to meet you, I've seen your Instagram posts, they're very cool, I love your dress, can I see your hammer, want to be friends?

Dominika tried to recall a topic. She desperately tried to think of something interesting. Something recent, but nothing sad, and nothing controversial. No politics, never, never on holy ground. She tried to find someone to address, someone to talk to. Half heard words sprang back into her thoughts. Bakeries promised for a simple secret. Her eyes darted across the room, urgently seeking her Templar. Relief laden laughter threatened to escape her when she finally spotted Ionna.

There Ionna stood. Seemingly unconcerned by the famed Scions and noteworthy Templars that surrounded her. Happily chatting, bristling with the infectious cheer and good-will with which Dominika had come to know her. High Cardinal Margaret had told Dominika to rely on her templar. So she would listen. She plotted a safe course, maintaining the steady caution of a ship caught in stormy seas, and drifted silently across the polished floor until she stood in front of Ionna and a masked templar. She would not disappoint them, Ionna least of all.

"Pardon the interruption, but I would trade a secret for a cookie," she began, her heart fluttering as the gears began to turn in her head.

"I always dreamt of building a flying machine. A sleek iron bird with metal wings that could soar in the blue skies that float above the seas. Silly, I know, but...I- I also know how to circumvent the sonar system on the new Cordis-class Frigate! Allegedly..."

Letting her story fade with a panicked shrug, Dominika reached for a chocolate chip cookie, convinced that she had fairly paid her dues. She bit down cheerfully on the cookie she had claimed, carefully wiping her mouth and fingers after with a silk handkerchief fished out from her purse, cognizant of the high company she now kept. Hiding most of her hesitation behind a newly formed smile, Dominika spoke earnestly, "I agree with Dame Ionna, Sir Templar, you have a very cool visor. The metal work is exquisite, truly the work of a great master or several."

@Mcmolly@Scribe of Thoth

The Dreamwalker's words did not bother Nemeia, his caution was merited and there was wisdom in his warning. His concern for their safety was touching and the tiefling could not help but smile. She cast a quick eye at the motely crew gathered outside the tomb, two had turned to three and then five in a short time. Five was a good number, certainly when confronting unknown numbers of undead. Still, she nursed other hopes, and her heart fluttered with unbridled joy as she desperately latched onto Knossos' suggestion that talking remained an alternative.

Taking a step closer to the elderly occultist, Nemeia nodded energetically, "YES! Let us parley with the poor, wretched creatures that lurk in this no doubt cursed tomb. Not all undead are evil creatures hellbent on spreading death and disease, some are simply weary souls seeking to return to the long, peaceful sleep that they have been promised. It would be right to offer them kindness."

She gestured towards Galaxor's axe, Ivraan's spear, and Ilyana's cutlass,"I feel great confidence in our abilities, but we needn't dispense with good manners and good will...at least to start?"

Nemeia did not doubt that the others could feel the wrongness that poured forth from the entrance of the tomb. Standing outside she felt cold, as cold as she had on a cold winter night in Morenia. A decidedly unnatural phenomenon, standing in the daylight as she was. Nemeia knew better than to expect a peaceful resolution. But she had hope. She wanted to think that things could go well. She had decided to try.

Galaxor's song warmed her still. There was a cheer to the giant that comforted. Ivraan's person too shone with a pleasing light. She knew little of the cutlass wielding woman, but she seemed the capable sort. Nemeia was not alone. The pilgrims could do great things together. She believed it with all of her heart.

"Haha, yes! Kill these bastards!" Ziska hissed, cackling loudly to herself as she watched Ingrid pop out of the snow and launch her attack on the lance of misfit toys.

Her amusement turned to outright loud laughter, laughter that shook her to her very core, and hurt with all the wounds she had collected, as Marit launched her own impromptu attack. She had always hated plans anyways. Her instructors had been right. The grizzled old drill sergeants back on Canopus knew the game. There was only one mistake. There was only one sin. The only mortal sin was to hesitate. Everyone knew that. All the way down to the lowest-ranking enlisted infantryman. To seize the initiative and act was the primary imperative. There was no priority higher than that of achieving the mission, of accomplishing the objectives the Colonel had given them.

Ingrid had acted. Marit had acted. And now, she, Ziska, would act.

Death, the old man wanted death, and he would get it, one way or another. Orders didn't matter. The rules didn't matter. Not anymore. Not as long as they accomplished the mission. Overkill was the only answer.

Slamming the throttle of the RVN-3L until she felt the familiar thud of metal on metal, Ziska felt herself pushed back into her seat as the BattleMech leapt up from the crouching position she had left it in. Bursting into a full speed run as the ECM began to scream, sending lines of burning chrome, all the signal noise that Reya had harnessed, smashing into the sensors of the enemy lance. Ziska wasn't going to keep Ingrid waiting. She wasn't going to miss out on any of the party. Speed was what she wanted Speed was what she needed. Speed was what would keep her safe. And if not...then she'd at least die quickly.

Thundering over the packed snow, across the fragile bridge of rock and ice, Ziska race through grid T6, taking aim and firing the entirety of the RVN-3L's payload at the Firestarter. Ingrid had made it clear, whoever the pilot was, he was going to be the first to die. Pulling the trigger, Ziska smiled, her eyes calm, and her heart cold.

Beams of green, two brilliant rays of light, burned ozone, and slashed at the light mech, as Ziska pulled her crosshairs over the Firestarter. As one medium laser dug a deep molten trench into the leg of the Firestarter, the pilot reacted, lurching to the side, and avoiding the burn of the other medium laser.

"Fuck you, you shifty bastard," Ziska shouted to herself, sweeping to keep her TAG center mass on the dodging light mech. Her SRM-6 missiles peppered the Firestarter. Slamming into metal slag, crumbling armor, and stripping the enemy mech down to the internals at several locations. It was a good start, but it wasn't enough. Ziska wanted to see limbs falling off. She wanted to see critical components explode outwards in maelstroms of fire. She wanted to see the fucker die.

Hit with everything the RVN-3L could throw at it, the Firestarter somehow kept going, it kept dancing, and didn't seem like it was gonna stop. The light mech was hurt, that much was obvious. Still, the pilot didn't stumble and didn't fall, much to Ziska's disappointment. The pilot was good, he was real good, and Ziska hated him for it. Even more than she had shorts moments before.

The NARC missile symbology that appeared on her HUD and blinked a pleasant green was her only consolation. Someone would have one hell of a shot. And if they didn't take it, then she intended to finish the job.
I love this lore.

Thinking of a dope reply from Cold Hands, but should have something up in the next couple of days (I am as always terrible at pacing).

Anxious mutterings had reached Nemeia like ill omens traveling on a cold wind. Word had spread quickly concerning the luckless strangers that had emerged from the woods surrounding the Pilgrim’s Caravan. Hoogarth, the hooman, the owl man in the common parlor, had told her. He had shared grimmer news still, relating what little the strangers had hoarsely breathed about haunted tombs and wandering undead that had assailed the strangers with cursed words.

She had listened quietly, tending as she saw to the sick. Hoogarth had departed, leaving her with a seasoned strip of jerky that staved off the hunger that had accompanied her since morning. She would remember his kindness.

A week on the road had passed far too quickly by her measure. Ministering to the sick, attempting to stave off the strange illness that afflicted more and more of the caravan had filled her days and nights traveling through the sea of boundless green. The sickness had proved resistant to mundane treatments and magical healing. It was only by a small mercy that it appeared to not yet have charted a fatal course in one of the afflicted pilgrims. The aberrant nature of the mysterious illness troubled her and she had begun to suspect a supernatural origin. Something in the forest. Something far beyond the merely mortal.

The caravan navigator, Athulwin had said as much. He could name the illness no more than she could, but he had suggested that it almost seemed like a curse. The Dreamwalker, the old man, had told her they had to discover how the disease was spread. They had found no common cause. She could divine no easy answer. He counseled that they would have to uncover such facts in order to counter any powerful magic. She would have to continue seeking, to find answers, and to find a cure.

Beneath the broad canopy of the ancient forest, the moon and stars seemed far away. To see the moon more clearly would have been preferable, but Nemeia was not afraid, she knew that even in the darkness the moonlight was shining down on her. She did not need to see the sky, she knew that Valradun walked with her, she could feel it in her heart. Others were with her as well. Those that could help. Those that were willing to risk infection. Two carriages had been repurposed into infirmaries. Full of suffering travelers, they had become a necessity as the caravan’s pace slowed and the number of sick pilgrims grew. And yet, the work continued, as it had to. It was a bright light of compassion in the foreboding forest that filled Nemeia’s heart with much needed warmth.

Replacing yet another strip of thick cloth burned dry by fever from the head of an ailing wayfarer, Nemeia felt something stirring deep within her. She knew she could sit idly by no longer. Action was required. Great action! As Valradun would have wanted. As she wanted. The terrible disease that had overwhelmed the caravan had to be tackled head on. It was not unheard of for a sickness to stem from an undead barrow, given life by the proximity to the undead or whatever power had raised them.

Nemeia heard a commotion as she stepped into the shrouded daylight. She listened to a voice that boomed like a boulder thundering down a mountain. Extermination, the concept was not unfamiliar to her, although she viewed the undead with greater kindness. She felt no hatred, only sympathy for the misguided and misled spirits. Wretched beings that she suspected had been reanimated, most probably against their will, and cruelly torn from their deserved rest.

"Allow me to join you, Sir Stoneclaw," Nemeia said, her singsong voice ringing out pleasantly across the clearing as she approached the large man, the giant painted in shades of stone, "You speak of handling the undead, yes? I will help you bring peace to the unfortunate souls scattered in the nearby barrows."

Addressing: Galaxor @Timemaster
Referencing: Hoogarth @Lugubrious, Athulwin @Tortoise, and Knossos @Crusader Lord
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