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Topics - Riven

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1
Everywhere Else / Ways of the World [Ordelis] (CLOSED)
« on: June 11, 2018, 05:04:56 PM »
S C E N E ~ M U S I C
Bazaar Merchants
by Derek Fiechter


Ah, Vacuo. The City in the Shade. The "Gem of the West". The "Great Oasis".  And, for one particular freewheeling young man... home.

Sort of.

One can only be so impressed by all the gleam and dazzle of a city while living out of an old shed, cutting smuggling deals in back alleys between classes, and routinely dashing across the desert wastes for either business or pleasure. Sean had long ago ceased to be impressed by the city whose walls he sheltered behind, having seen too much of its shadows to be naive and not enough of the world to draw comparisons. To him, the "great" kingdom-city was just a place where those with a mite of authority tried unsuccessfully to tell everyone how to live their lives, largely to be ignored and disregarded in favor of the strong, the cunning, or the wealthy. Shade had its fair share of all three, of course, but not nearly enough to change this wild town's soul... though, truth be, it was more like the nation's soul. Wanderers. Outcasts. The stubborn and misguided breaking bread with the jaded and unscrupulous. It was the old wisdom, pure and simple, the 'one unspoken rule' that everyone somehow seemed to know regardless. If you can survive here, you're welcome here.

Laying on a crate in the early-morning shade of his ramshackle abode, Sean wasn't exactly deep in thought. More like 'skimming over memories'. He'd just met his new teammates less than a week back, and after the fiasco that had brought them together it was just yesterday that things had finally quieted down. Gods, how he hated getting questioned and lectured by cops. Even though he and his new friends had finally proven their innocence in that whole mess he still got the business just for "getting mixed up in trouble". Ugh. Somehow he knew that even if he one day did become a Huntsman, live like a goddamn hero, he'd never get any respect around here. And he'd basically just been an 'accomplice to vigilante mischief' in the whole ordeal...

... Which brought his team lead, the center of the storm as it were, to mind. He hadn't really checked in with Solar much after all that went down, and classes were due to start soon. That meant books. Lectures. Homework. All things that he rather doubted a faunus girl from an isolated mountain village had much experience with. Thinking back, there were rather a lot of things she hadn't exactly been savvy on. Slowly, a smile cracked across his face. Yeah... now that wouldn't be a bad way to spend one of the last days of vacation. Rocking back until he was literally doing a handstand, the scruffy blonde sprang to his feet with a pleased-with-himself smile and pulled out his Scroll.



TO: Solar Raise
MESSAGE: Sup boss! Things finally settled down on your end a bit, I hope? Figure we oughta meet up before classes, get you familiar with the city beyond just alleyways & rooftops. Lunch is on me. You game?







2
Everywhere Else / The Tangled Web We Weave [SerAnad] (CLOSED)
« on: June 10, 2018, 01:24:39 PM »
It was all over the papers and news-feeds in Mistral: 'Historian Murdered - White Fang Involved?' A catchy headline, to be sure, packed with just the right measure of mystery, theatricality, and political volatility to catch eyes and set weak hearts aflutter with concern. Three days earlier the police had found one Mr. Alan Neland, who'd been missing for about a week, fatally tortured and left for dead in the basement of a hotel in the tourism district of Wind Path. Neland was many things: head of the Mistrali Historical Society, a personal collector of antiquities, and a single father to three young girls -- simply put, the perfect victim to rouse sympathy. The White Fang connection also seemed a little too perfect: an unmarked rental van found abandoned in an alley two blocks away, a damaged Fang mask with blood splatter on it tucked into the glove compartment and Neland's wedding band -- a reminder of his wife, a Huntress who'd been reported KIA years beforehand -- discovered wedged into the van's seat cushions. To the casual reader it was the perfect story to evoke anti-Fang and anti-faunus sentiment.

By Maria's read of the situation, however, the story was so obvious and choreographed that it had to be hiding something. She sat in her apartment, newspaper laid out in front of her as her eyes scanned the contents for the second time. She was one of the most well-connected people in all of Mistral, but this headline had caught her completely by surprise. A new player in the kingdom committing crimes and blaming it on the Fang? A splinter-faction? Something in the dark web that was Mistral's underworld had clearly shifted, and it left her uncomfortable.

Then her Scroll chimed -- an authentication code, followed a minute later by a call from a familiar number. Unlike most of her contacts and clientele, this one was trusted... well, mostly trusted. She picked up without bothering to activate the voice masking she typically used. "Fancy getting a ring from you today. To what do I owe the call?" She paused, ruby eyes going back to the page. "Yes, I've seen. In fact, I have today's paper in front of me right now." Another pause, this one significantly longer; Maria leaned back as she listened to the gravelly voice on the other end of the line, her expression going from nonchalant to eyebrow-lifted curious as she did. "... You don't say? That does make things rather interesting. And concerning. Still, I'm not entirely sure that I should be getting involved, desire to know more notwithstanding."

" . . . I see. And the 'client' is willing to pay how much?"

"... Why yes, that does cast things in a rather different light. One problem, however. Given the nature of the situation I'm not sure I can rely on any of my local contacts, and this is most certainly not a two-person job."

"... No need to concern yourself. You know me -- I'm nothing if not resourceful. In fact, there's someone operating in Vacuo who should be perfect for this. I'll make the arrangements and let you know when everything's in place."

"...Yes, a pleasure doing business with you as well."
click.





Minutes Later, Somewhere In Vacuo, the Scroll of one Shoko-La Bitter would register an incoming call from an unfamiliar number...

3
The Vale Region / The Hunter and the Hunted [CLOSED]
« on: May 13, 2018, 09:04:09 AM »
They call it 'the storm walker'.

Legends about it have floated around the mountains outside of Pactois for generations, going back to the very founding of the town. A gaunt figure, appearing out of the mist and rain to ambush travelers on the narrow mountain roads or snatch away children when their parents' backs were turned. People not from Pactois tend to dismiss the stories, chalking up disappearances and deaths to everything from bandit activity and common Grimm to taking a bad step and a long fall. The thing is, the mountains tend to deter bandits and Grimm alike -- the entire reason why the town was built in such a remote locale to begin with -- and anyone who's grown up in Pactois would naturally learn to master the terrain. The locals know all of this, and tell it to anyone who will listen... yet, the few times that Huntresses or Huntsman have come out this way has led to nothing. No findings, no slain Grimm, nothing at all.

Until one decided not to leave. Halard Jacobson wasn't an old man when he first came to Pactois; like other Huntsmen before him he'd been called out this way to investigate 'the terror of the mountains', but though he didn't find his quarry he had found something. A girl, one of the locals... and the love of his life. Halard never left Pactois after that, opting instead to settle down in the small mountain town. There were many quiet, peaceful years together after that -- though tales of the storm walker continued to circulate, and people went missing from time to time, the town itself was never directly attacked. It could have gone on like that forever... except, these things have a way of going horribly wrong. When, after over a decade of marriage, Halard's wife didn't come home one night...

... well, you can imagine. Halard's search left no stone unturned; she'd last been seen on the road to the local trade outpost when a storm suddenly rolled in, and then she was just gone, like so many others. But the ex-Huntsman refused to relent, even when the trail grew cold. It took him years, but he finally found the beast -- or rather, it found him. Just like with his wife it ambushed him during bad weather, using the fog and storm as cover for its attack -- unlike her, he managed to survive, though not without injuries. Ever since, Halard took it upon himself not to let the beast have any more prey: he's trained up every willing volunteer within Pactois to become a town militia, set up patrol routes, bolstered defenses, and generally done everything he could think of to thwart his lifelong foe. And it's worked: barely anyone has gone missing since Halard's watch took over. There was even talk that the storm walker might have left, or been starved out, or just died of old age.

At least, until the night that a bad storm swept over Pactois. Amid the thunder and lightning came the screams and weapons-fire -- it came out of nowhere, scaled the town walls with terrifying ease, and slaughtered three guards in the blink of an eye before smashing its way into the nearest house. Before it was done an entire family lay dead in their beds, save the eldest son whom it dragged off into the night. The storm walker had never attacked the town before, and no one ever thought that it would. That it would not only attack, but stop so suddenly and withdraw, was strange beyond all reason. That night confirmed one thing, however: the storm walker was definitely a creature of Grimm, roughly human in shape and size with sharp, bony protrusions covering its back and arms.

In the aftermath of the attack, Halard grabbed his weapon and left town to hunt the beast back to its lair, determined to end this once and for all. That was three days ago. The village leaders have put out an urgent request to Beacon for whatever aid can be spared...



MISSION PARAMETERS:
- Discover the whereabouts of Huntsman Halard Jacobson
- If possible, return Halard back to Pactois
- {OPTIONAL} Kill the 'storm walker'

4
The Vale Region / Within Nature ~ Training [Mikelobmike] (CLOSED)
« on: April 24, 2018, 04:40:38 PM »
When Teddy's turn for Budonoki's attention came, the old faunus led the younger to a spot not far from camp. Here the trees were thick and their shadows fell a deep amber, the air tinged with hints of sticky-sweet sap and decaying leaves. Budonoki kept to a casual, easy-going pace, letting the student fall into step without urgency.

"Though you may not know it, mister Williams," The surgeon-sage began. "You and I have a good bit in common. Besides both of us being faunus, we've also had much of our lives and world view defined by the actions of those who did -- and did not, unfortunately -- wish to see the peoples of Remnant live in peace with one another." He smiled over at Teddy, though the expression on his face was burdened with a quiet sorrow. "I'm sad to say that, although I never met your father, I have nothing but admiration for the way in which he lived his life. I suspect he would be proud to see you on the path to becoming a Huntsman yourself."

It was a heavy subject for simply being small talk, to be sure, and it seemed there was more that the old sage wanted to say... however, he stopped short, reconsidering. "Tell me... do you know where a Huntsman's greatest strength comes from?"

5
The Vale Region / A Walk In The Shadows (Inex, CLOSED)
« on: March 24, 2018, 05:25:36 PM »
The term 'black market' evokes all sorts of imagery -- clandestine backroom meetings, abandoned warehouses under moonlight, deals hashed out between crime bosses over cigars and whiskey. In some places these images would have been perfectly reasonable, expected even... but not in Vale. In prim and proper Vale such arrangements would, with few exceptions, draw far too much attention... no, the way to operate effectively wasn't in the shadows, but in broad daylight behind a veneer of the mundane and accepted. A common storefront, for example, might double as both a legitimate business and a place to arrange illicit exchanges on the sly. Such was the case with Weylan's Imports: on its surface a quirky odds-and-ends shop that specialized in art and oddities from the other three kingdoms, but behind the knickknacks and strangely designed lamps lay a shrewd businessman who could obtain almost anything if the lien was right.

Today he had a delivery for Amane Petrichor: a set of cutting edge Atlesian focusing lenses, military grade stuff... and a little something extra, passed to him through the grapevine. The only problem was, he could never seem to remember what she looked like between visits; old Weylan wasn't sure if she just had 'that kind' of face or if his memory was starting to go as he got up in years. In fact he didn't even recognize her as she walked in.

"Ah, yes miss. Welcome to Weylon's Imports. How can I help you today, hm?"

6
Plot Zone / It's not easy being evil... (group planning/setup)
« on: February 15, 2018, 09:37:36 AM »
ATTENTION VILLAINS!

Are you tired of the "goods" and the "grays" getting the spotlight?
Are you ready to turn scheming and plotting into sinister activity?
Do you long to be more, to do more, to unleash the evil in your soul?


If so, HAVE WE GOT A GROUP FOR YOU!


This thread is for all the aspiring Roman Torchwicks, Neos, Emeralds, Mercurys, and yes, even Cinders -- if you have an evil character (or are interested in making one), you are officially welcomed to be part of the creation of this underworld organization. This is not technically a Worldbuild (at least not yet, as this is still very much in the concept phase -- are Worldbuilds even reopened?), more like a brainstorming and interest-gauging thread. The overall concept is simple: give true villain characters (who aren't associated with the White Fang, that is) something to do in-RP beyond serve as a boss / midboss in the occasional battle or act as a plot device for the "good guys". In essence, we'd be offering both social and mission threads for baddies, all within the in-story context of a criminal confederation taking on jobs and pursuing their own agendas.

Instead of simply launching a fully formed group concept myself, I figured it'd be best to reach out to those interested for feedback and ideas regarding everything from name and themes to roles, ranks, rewards, etc. I have a general concept -- using my character Maria Sanguine as a kind of "help wanted agency" to offer up evil missions to members of our consortium -- but I feel like effective evil organizing also means giving all the plotters, schemers, ner-do-wells, and aspiring evil overlords involved a voice in the process.

So, if you have a nefarious character (or intend to make one), a suggestion, or even just an evil laugh that you really, really wanna belt out, feel free to post here! All insidious contributions are welcome!

7
The Vale Region / Within Nature ~ Training [Nathan] (CLOSED)
« on: January 29, 2018, 05:10:57 PM »
"I have a special assignment for you, miss Chlophyll." Budonoki explained as they headed away from the camp site. "Something for which I think you may be uniquely suited."

The old faunus gestured to the south-east. "In that part of the forest is a family of foxes, one of several that Beacon uses to keep tabs on Forever Fall. The creatures are fitted with unobtrusive collars that include a miniaturized tracking device and a set of tiny cameras, and as they go about their lives they enable us to keep a weather eye out for signs of Grimm activity. As Grimm very seldom bother wild creatures it's a novel and surprisingly effective solution... however," He rested his free hand atop his staff, a look of some concern passing across his features. "Not without the occasional snag."

"One of the foxes' collars has stopped transmitting. Normally this would not be a matter of concern -- they break down with about as much regularity as you'd expect. This time, however, the collar abruptly ceased immediately after the fox came within sight of a pair of Boarbatusk."
He reached into a pocket on his gi and produced a small memory card. "If you plug this into your Scroll it will give you access to the camera feeds closest to you, as well as mark the last location where our missing fox transmitted from. With any luck we're just dealing with an uncanny malfunction... but somehow, I feel like that's not the case. All you need do is locate the fox and try to ascertain what went wrong, but if the creature is injured do what you can for it."

"Will you take on this mission, miss Chlophyll?"

8
The Vale Region / Within Nature ~ Training [Monster] (CLOSED)
« on: January 29, 2018, 04:17:28 PM »
Jocelyn, as Budonoki knew, was a kind and giving soul even by the standards Beacon held its prospective Huntresses to. One could even argue that she was too quick to give of herself, that her Semblance of healing at the cost of her own Aura stood to be her greatest potential vulnerability. Even so, as the sagely old Faunus led her up the course of a shallow river he could not help but admire her dedication to the welfare of others -- the girl would be a fine medic one day, very possibly even more.

It was thus imperative, he mused, to ensure she could survive to help as many people as possible.

"Not much further now, miss Antiqua." He assured, half-turning to look back at her. The foliage was dense up ahead but he knew the way -- in truth, this was one of his favorite spots in Forever Fall. Rounding the bend of a rocky outcropping, their destination came into view: a horseshoe-shaped cleft in the cliffs a mere ten feet high, over the ledges of which flowed no less than half a dozen small, burbling waterfalls. The place had no official name that he was aware of, but Budonoki had come to affectionately call it "the amber veil".

Smiling at the sight, he found a familiar tree stump at the water's edge and sat down. "Thank you for indulging this old man -- I've a fondness for this place, you see." He smiled over at her. "But you must surely be wondering why I've brought you here, hm?"

9
The Vale Region / Within Nature ~ Training [Rush] (CLOSED)
« on: January 28, 2018, 01:41:47 PM »
 It was a spot Dr. Budonoki had picked out in advance -- the wide, quietly flowing stream was idyllic in some ways, a ribbon of soft-spoken blue contrasting the vibrant reds that dominated in Forever Fall. It was interrupted only by a single fallen tree trunk that bridged the water, and it was to this that the old Faunus led Juno.

"Juno Vert... the files the school has on you make it clear that you're a capable and creative fighter." Budonoki made his way over to a tree not far from the water where a number of simple metal poles were waiting, placing his staff aside and picking one up. "And I see no reason to contend that. Your performance at the Vytal Festival showed your skills quite clearly. However..." He gestured for Juno to grab one of the wooden poles. They were about four feet long and sturdy looking, the sort that one could easily spar with.

"Your go-to melee weaponry are all hard-light constructions, are they not? Very light and agile by nature, durable... but virtually weightless." The professor tested the balance of his pole, tossing it from one hand to another and spinning it deftly as he did. "To be a Huntsman, you must be ready to adapt. We do not always have the advantage of our preferred weapons, after all, and improvising in the field can prove just as critical as good preparation. Today, we'll be working on your balance. Get a feel for your weapon, then step up onto the log and face me when you're ready to begin..."

10
Approved Characters / Maria Sanguine
« on: January 27, 2018, 02:27:53 PM »
CHARACTER

Name: Anya Lacrima (name abandoned)

Alias: Maria Sanguine (self-chosen name), "Bloody Mary" (among close associates), "The Lady (of a Thousand Faces)" (professional title)

Theme Music: I Can't Wait (The Magic Puppet Remix) by Celldweller

Age: 37

Species and Gender: Human, Female

Symbol:

Spoiler: show


Maria's personal iconography is the absolute height of simplicity: a single elongated crimson droplet, without any form of embellishment or artistry whatsoever. This extreme simplicity lends itself well to her more covert operations, as she is often able to 'leave her mark' in plain sight without anyone being the least bit suspicious.

Occupation: Freelance underworld operative

Appearance:

Spoiler: show


Maria herself doesn't look like anything special, the kind of entirely forgettable face that you could pass by on the street and never think twice about. Standing at no more than 5' 2" she is far from intimidating, not even looking like the sort of person who would have an Aura let alone put up any sort of fight, yet looks can be incredibly deceiving.

Maria also has a second face, this one significantly more memorable and theatrical -- that of "The Lady". The costume is mostly simple, common elements: the short black dress, the long black hooded cloak, the high heeled shoes, but the uncommon elements of the mirror-shard mask and blood drop shaped ruby pendant give it its true presence and mystique. The mask's shape (1) (2) (artist credit) is highly off-putting, its uneven lip and jagged outline giving most people who look at it no small degree of discomfort. It also incorporates a built-in voice modulator, rendering Maria's normal voice unidentifiable while she's wearing it.

The costume may seem entirely impractical for fighting, and that's because it is. Maria typically only presents herself as "The Lady" when dealing with clients, preferring to reserve the theatricality of her alter ego for when it has the greatest impact. When expecting a fight she tends to dress very simply and practically, aiming to avoid impeding her agility but otherwise catering her appearance to whatever job or confrontation she's preparing for. She seldom wears armor of any sort, given that should her Aura go down it's no guarantee of protection for her in the slightest. Most of her outfits, whether as "The Lady" or for doing business, incorporate at least a few hidden pockets to help conceal the tools of her trade.

The elaborate tattoo patterns she wears on her legs and upper arms are semi-permanent, the ink incorporating a very high end formula that allows it to bond to various forms of purified Dust before application. Utilizing one of these "hidden weapons" will cause it to glow the color of the respective Dust element for the duration of use -- usually only a very short time -- before "burning away" into a fine mist, leaving behind skin that is raw to the touch for several days but otherwise perfectly healthy. Maria is VERY careful to cover up her arsenal when not "in character" so as to avoid being identified; on those occasions where she knows it can't be helped she'd typically opt to expend her tattoos and have them reapplied later (a very costly but sometimes necessary choice) than run the risk of her alter ego being revealed. Only an expert looking very closely (or someone with the ability to detect Dust) would have any clue that the tattoos were anything more than normal body ink without seeing them in action.


History:

Maria, born as Anya, grew up in an extremely unhealthy Mistrali home -- her father was always either drunk, broke, or coming home late reeking of strange womens' perfume while her mother mostly alternated between screaming, crying, and storming out of the house. Though neither typically directed their conflicts in her direction, it did happen from time to time. Outright abuse, however, was far less common than "forgetful" neglect, including "forgetting" to take little Anya for regular check-ups at the doctor. This, without a doubt, was probably why the symptoms of her illness went undetected for so long, only to finally come to the fore one night at dinner when she accidentally bit the inside of her cheek... and the blood kept running into her mouth for over an hour of crimson coughs and coppery swallows. The panic at the uncontrolled bleeding finally led to her seeing a specialist, whereupon she was diagnosed with a rare, progressive form of hemophilia that would only get worse as she aged. The treatment involved injections -- every other month at first, but by the time Anya was in her teens were quickly becoming a weekly tribulation. And that wasn't all that changed as she grew.

With their recent divorce becoming a messy and grim affair, the legal system finally had to intervene in Anya's upbringing and remove her from her parents' custody. She was instead entrusted to an uncle on her mother's side who had distanced himself from the family's dysfunction many years previous. Uncle Fraus was, oddly enough, the most stable and upstanding person in the entire family; the court regarded the fact that he helped run a travelling circus group more as a quirk than as a concern, and he did indeed see to it that young Anya was well taken care of and made her way through her schooling. That was far from all he did for her, however: sparking the girl's imagination with ringside seats to the circus' performances, he gradually began training her in acrobatics, magic tricks, and the skills of a travelling performance artist. One would think that for a young girl who might need a medical intervention for a bad bruise that such a career path was tantamount to suicide, but Fraus was a man of connections and had a former Huntress who owed him a favor. There had been speculation that awakening Anya's Aura could help her body cope with her disease, but all the medical professionals had fretted about the risks of undue stress and how if Aura failed her at a critical moment the results could be fatal -- Fraus had little mind to wait for expert consensus, only seeking Anya's permission before undergoing the process.

Awakening her Aura initially took a toll: Anya was bedridden for over a week while her body and spirit struggled to come to terms with one another, rendered exhausted and too frail to safely walk around unassisted. Finally, however, a sort of equilibrium settled in and Anya found herself stronger and steadier than ever. What's more, while laying in bed wishing desperately for a friend she accidentally discovered her Semblance, briefly and imperfectly transmuting a blood sample awaiting collection into a short-lived copy of herself. Were it not for the attending nurse in the room seeing the whole thing no one, perhaps least of all Anya herself, would have believed the incident to have been anything more than a fever dream. Unfortunately, though Aura allowed her to mend otherwise slow-closing injuries it only delayed the pace of her blood losing its ability to clot properly, not reverse it -- the injections were still necessary, and becoming more expensive as time went on. Uncle Fraus, while doing well by the standards of his profession, was not exactly wealthy. As soon as she finished her last year of regular school Anya threw herself full-time into preparing for a circus role, determined to help earn her own way in life... and see something of the world while she still had days left.

Juggler. Tumbler. Magician's assistant. Plate spinner. Anya steadily worked her way up through the circus to become one of its top performers and illusionists, crafting an act all her own that combined feats of agility (assisted by a little Dust, unknown to the audience) and daring with illusions (often incorporating her Semblance) and theater. By the time she was twenty two "The Grand Enchantress" was one of the biggest travelling shows in the kingdoms... however, it was also one of the few still going. Travelling circuses were gradually becoming a dying breed; as modern technology surged ahead people began to care less and less for live performance, and the costs of running a circus were rising as well. As they went from village to village the circus had to hire Huntsmen, Huntresses, or just simple mercenaries for protection in case of Grimm or bandit attacks, nor was moving an entire troupe plus animals, tents, and equipment a cheap proposition, whether by caravan or airship. The circus' unofficial side business -- uncle Fraus' smuggling of contraband and gray-market goods, the source of much of his financial gains -- was also hitting on hard times as the SDC and its regulatory partners tightened their grip on everything they had even the slightest investment in. Things steadily grew increasingly desperate. Corners were cut, performers left to seek other occupations, and as the show down-scaled so too did its appeal. Without a large operation to conceal his other business uncle Fraus had greater and greater difficulty smuggling anything of worth, getting caught on several occasions and only avoiding years in jail by taking out significant loans to turn into bribes... and said loans did not come from good people.

The circus rapidly decomposed from there, going from a big top act to smaller, private shows just to make ends meet, crossing into progressively darker shades of gray as time went on. She'd never quite remember who made the suggestion first, but the idea was floated between Anya and her uncle of using her Semblance for... other kinds of entertainment. Highly paid... very private... of questionable legality. It was a desperate moment and both swore off the idea at once, yet when the collectors came calling, bearing threats if payment wasn't forthcoming, it seemed there was little choice left to them. Both quietly agreed, saying only what little about it was absolutely necessary. Neither liked it, even as a last resort, but there was no denying the necessity. Anya bore it as well as she could, gradually learning to throttle down the feedback of sensation from her copies as a means of preserving some shred of dignity... and steadily becoming numb to her own feelings as well. It was a dark time.

When she one day woke to news that her uncle had leapt to his death off the roof of a building, Anya cried for perhaps the last time in her life. Fraus had been a conman, a liar, and worse over the time she had known him... but he had also been the closest she'd ever had to true family. She considered suicide herself over the weeks that followed, just to escape the pain, but eventually decided on a different path -- a fake death. Her Semblance was still a closely kept secret, and with Fraus gone there would be barely anyone who knew what she was capable of. The trick was, ironically, in the execution; she could send a copy of herself to its "death", certainly, but there wouldn't be a corpse left to recover. What was needed was an audience, a crowd of unsuspecting witnesses to bear testimony of her "end", and a means to do so that no one would question after the fact.

She spent two weeks selling off her uncle's possessions, quietly buying up as much Dust as she could. When Anya appeared at the door of her uncle's worst loan shark they doubtless expected either payment or pleading, no doubt already savoring the taste of her desperation. What they got instead was an explosion that leveled half the building and shook several city blocks on the Mistral lower levels. On that day "Anya" died, and a new, ruthless, and determined woman walked away free, cutting and dying the long auburn hair she had carefully cultivated since she was a child and adopting the name Maria Sanguine.

Her fresh start was not without complications, however. Maria still needed the regular, expensive injections to stabilize her blood, and with her old identity gone she had no one she could turn to for help. However, for someone who can be in multiple places at once there are plenty of doors that can open, if one is flexible and creative. For a brief time she relied on crude criminal enterprise -- pick pocketing, robbery, and the like -- to get by, however Mistral is a rough place for an inexperienced thief to make a living. In a chance encounter with someone who had decided to rob the same house as her Maria was forced to defend herself, managing to kill her competitor in the process, and while trying to sort out what to do with the body happened upon a truly curious idea: using someone else's blood as the catalyst for her Semblance. It didn't work -- at least, not on its own -- but a second try which combined her blood and the victim's yielded a startling success. It was grisly and inexpert work, but Maria managed to drain and bottle up enough blood from the body to serve her purposes. Over the days that followed she experimented, mastering the finer points of controlling a copy that was hers but not her, and also learning the inherent limits to this aspect of her Semblance. The possibilities arrayed themselves before her mind as she considered them. All she needed was a few drops...

Getting them, however, was the tricky part.

Not many people think about how hard it is to sneak into a blood bank. Even in Mistral, where criminal activity could be argued to be at its most diverse and inventive, such a place seldom ever saw trouble and yet was still guarded carefully, though vastly more-so against clerical errors than break-ins. Ultimately Maria ended up abandoning the idea of direct infiltration and sniffed around for an alternative approach, finally finding a nurse who was down on his luck and eager for quick cash. It turned out to be an excellent arrangement: he would discreetly take note when a well-off or well-connected patient arrived at the clinic, match up the name to the scarlet donation, and remove just enough extra that Maria could work her magic. On her end Maria quickly became an adept identity thief, studying the routines and personalities of her victims from the backgrounds of their lives to more convincingly portray them with her copies, then use said copies to glean bank account numbers, empty out safety deposit boxes, or take out enormous loans. None of the people she hit were innocent -- in a place like Mistral, fairly few people truly are -- but only a handful were genuinely despicable. The morality of her scams only barely registered however, Maria having cast off much of her moral presuppositions long before giving up her former name. Survival was what truly mattered, and she was determined to survive at any cost... especially if it was someone else who paid it. Over time her ability to do what few others could led to growing influence, the tendrils of which ran both down into the dregs of society (including a certain very skilled mercenary) and up into the polished chambers of the well-off, and simple identity theft became secondary to a more exotic line of work doing all manner of freelancing requests. Still, she knew that associating her face with her deeds would only lead trouble her way eventually. A way to manage her growing enterprise without painting a target on her back was necessary. Drawing on her glory days as "The Great Enchantress", Maria proceeded to forge a new stage persona: "The Lady of a Thousand Faces", an alter ego who was one part mystic recluse, one part underworld intermediary, and one part dealer in various and sundry "miracles" for the right price. Setting up shop in the mid-level wards of Mistral under the false front of a psychic, fortune teller, and card reader, "The Lady" was the perfect front for Maria's operations...


Personality:

Regardless of who you are, who you know, what you want, what you believe, or what you have, one thing is almost certainly true: Bloody Maria is NOT your friend. Maria is the sort who keeps her circle of close associates small as a matter of self-preservation -- the fewer you people you trust, she reasons, the fewer there are who can betray you. That's not to say she can't be approachable, agreeable, even intimate if she so chooses... but it's almost certainly just an act, yet another mask she wears to get what she needs or wants. Maria is the quintessential actress, able to adopt a persona and wear it near-flawlessly for however long she needs to keep up the act. It's important to note that she's not cruel or necessarily evil at her core, nor that she's incapable of caring about other people. She just simply puts her own survival first and foremost, and will do whatever it takes to ensure she's in a position to make it through another day. She is capable of terrible cruelty or incredible kindness, however her heart is never really in either. She's the true neutral -- like a broken mirror she will reflect back a thousand faces to you, and whether they be welcoming or scornful is largely a matter of perspective.

In the stillness of solitude -- which she relishes whenever the chance comes along -- Maria is an unsurprisingly private and reclusive person who enjoys fine Mistrali and Vacuan teas, dark chocolate, a good book, meditation by candlelight and incense, and, strangely enough, fighting games. She has quite a collection in fact: Living Or Deceased, BurnzRed, FPL VS Wackom, Glory Tournament 7, even a classic Street Hunter 2 cartridge all feature proudly in a locked glass display case in her tiny, rundown apartment. A generous person would call her devotion to skillful button mashing cathartic, or perhaps even something of a power fantasy, but Maria mostly just finds the games to be simple, mindless fun and, somewhat more somberly, a cartoonish joke about the world's violent nature.

It's worth noting that, although she doesn't let it impact her business dealings, Maria holds a deep-seated distrust of men that borders on hate and disdain. To her, men are the world's second most terrible -- and first most successful -- of monsters, the primal savagery of Grimm just barely overshadowing the calculated greed and wanton cruelty men are capable of. Then again, she also tends to view herself as having become a monster and has long since reconciled herself to that notion, more out of begrudging necessity than anything else. In Maria's view the world is little more than monsters biting and clawing one another just to avoid being trampled beneath the herd... it's a rare person indeed that makes her second-guess this paradigm. This is one of the chief reasons why she is so incredibly slow to consider trusting, REALLY trust, anyone at all.

In business matters Maria positions herself as the public intermediary for "The Lady", adopting what is basically a secretarial role of booking appointments and dealing with the occasional walk-in. Most of the customers who come in through the door know that "The Lady of a Thousand Faces" is about more than just getting your palm read or checking the forecast of your stars -- such mystic preludes are kept up for appearances, though business is just as commonly discussed in frank terms behind closed doors. Still, it's not uncommon for tourists or the extremely superstitious to wander in, and to avoid giving up the ruse they are catered to as well with all the pageantry and hocus-pocus one might expect from a reclusive soothsayer. Maria is still, in many ways, an entertainer, and she hasn't forgotten how to put on an impressive show.

She is a pack-a-day smoker and occasional drinker despite the added health risks it poses for her, living by her own rules and enjoying what small, temporary comforts she can. She also turns a fair bit of her profits around and anonymously invests in research she suspects could lead to a cure for her condition, hoping that one day she might finally be out from under the ever-present shadow of her bloody affliction.

Aura and Semblance:

Maria's Aura burns a deep blood red (#660000). It is not as strong and resilient as one might find from a Huntsman or Huntress, matching more closely to the average level of Aura strength one would expect to find in an aspiring student not yet entered into the main four academies -- the reason for this being her Aura constantly being that little bit more strained from trying to keep one step ahead of her illness. In practical terms her Aura absorbs actual damage less efficiently than others (equating to an extra 2% impact from all attacks).

Not only that, but the Aura's healing effect is a large part of what's holding her together. If her Aura is broken and she starts to bleed in any significant measure (a cut from a blade or claw, a wound from a gunshot, or any physical trauma that would cause internal bleeding) she risks literally bleeding out and dying if not rushed to an emergency room within thirty minutes or less. This is a big part of the reason Maria focuses on agility and relies on her Semblance to fight either for or alongside her, as well as why she comes to battle with so diverse a range of tricks up her sleeves.

Her Semblance, which she calls Bloody Reflection, isn't entirely uncommon in the world of Remnant: the ability to create an Aura-based duplicate. However, hers has some fascinating and disturbing distinctions. For a start, Maria cannot simply will her doppelganger into being -- first she must bleed, shedding at least a few drops while focusing a measure of her Aura into it. The Aura-infused blood will quickly form into a mist, taking the shape and then likeness of her body, indistinguishable at a glance from Maria herself and very much able to pass for her. This process does mean that she must willfully retract her Aura, even if only for a moment, in order to draw blood; a prick of her finger or, if creating multiple copies, a shallow cut across the flat of her palm if what she usually goes with, but a cut on her leg, shoulder, or elsewhere will do just as well. Besides blood, the body double also requires a sacrificial measure of Maria's Aura flow into it; at least ten percent is necessary, but Maria can grant however much she wishes so long as she doesn't give it all away. This does, however, leave Maria herself permanently short that measure of Aura for however long she maintains the copy, only able to begin restoring her reserves if the copy is destroyed, dismissed, or makes physical contact with Maria to return however much Aura it has left to her. She can dismiss a duplicate at any distance but will only recover any Aura if the copy is making physical contact with her when it is nullified -- this restores around 3/4 of the Aura the copy had left at the time of its dismissal, the lost amount basically being a "transaction cost" for maintaining so elaborate a power. Fortunately, such a costly Semblance does have its upsides: Maria's copies share their awareness with her (sight, hearing, touch, taste, and smell), can pass for a real person (they can eat and drink, are convincing to the touch and even imitate body heat, and can give the appearance of crying or bleeding if such deception is needed), but can also operate at a distance of up to a mile from Maria herself and for as long as twenty four hours before reaching their limit and degenerating. A copy that is destroyed, dismissed, or degenerates will rapidly reduce to a hazy, person-shaped cloud of crimson haze for a moment before dispersing entirely, leaving only a few drops of blood on the ground where they were standing. Maria's copies also leave no fingerprints -- useful for deniability purposes.

Maria is able to create more than one Bloody Reflection at a time, however if she tries to maintain more than two at the same time it requires an extremely high level of mental focus. This forces her into the equivalent of a meditative state wherein she cannot move most of her body or be moved without disbanding her Semblance entirely, only able to speak. Her absolute maximum is five, and every copy she creates cuts the maximum distance they can be from her (and the time she can maintain them for) by half. It is still required that each copy be imbued with at least 10% of Maria's maximum Aura, no matter how many she makes. A copy does not spawn with any weapons and will only give the appearance of having Maria's tattoos, meaning they must either arm themselves to fight effectively or rely on fisticuffs and martial arts.

A Bloody Reflection can also be "infused", causing various effects. If Maria is able to acquire at least a few drops of another person's (or even animal's) blood she can use it in addition to her own when making a copy, the result being a doppelganger that is visually indistinguishable from the other person and even able to produce a match for their voice. However, physically they are the same as Maria's normal copies, matching her and not the other person in physical attributes like strength, resilience, vision and hearing, etc. One additional quirk is that the identity-stealing copy will always generate wearing a facsimile of whatever Maria herself is wearing at the time, meaning that a change of costume may well be needed if the copy is truly to pass for the original. This is Maria's most used Semblance infusion, even though it is also the hardest to use to its full potential and often requires extensive planning and study of the target beforehand to truly get a payoff from. Besides a "mixed blood infusion", Maria can also infuse her Semblance copies with anything that can play nice with air, Aura, and blood -- this includes Dust, yes, but also other substances like acid or poison if she's being particularly devious or spiteful. Usually such infused Reflections are the equivalent of walking bombs, intended only to close distance to target and then "go off" in a small (2 ft wide) burst of blood-hued haze and whatever destructive payload they were carrying -- a remembrance, in a way, of Maria's first "death".

Maria must be careful about her emotional state while employing a Bloody Reflection. Though seemingly autonomous they are still guided by her will and mind; if she experiences any form of extreme stress, pain, or emotion while controlling a Reflection its appearance will warp and distend in nightmarish, horrifying fashion: pale, gaunt, and ghoulish with entirely black eyes and rivulets of blood running from cracks and gouges in the skin... a reflection of Maria's tortured deeper nature.

Interestingly, Maria is able to form a copy as wearing any outfit she herself is familiar with. This means that she and "The Lady" can easily be in the same room together with hardly any forethought or planning, which is very useful for maintaining the deception that they are two separate people.


Combat Behavior:

In so far as combat goes, one could describe Maria as a glass cannon... but lacking the 'kaboom'. She is only too well aware of her own susceptibility and takes great pains to avoid putting herself needlessly in the line of fire. When a fight is inevitable, however, her first impulse is often to turn to her Semblance or her tattoos to create a diversion or opening that she can then exploit, relying not on strength or firepower but cunning to bring about victory. She will endeavor to keep an opponent off-balance as much as possible and get them to expend their strength chasing shadows before delivering a carefully planned strike, withdrawing to repeat the pattern until either she or they have lost too much to continue -- a strategy of attrition through evasion. To this end she leverages her highly trained dexterity for both acrobatic combat maneuvers and parkour, bringing her guns and blades to bear only when she either has no choice or a clean angle of attack.

It must be noted that Mary seldom fights with the intent to overpower, or even kill. Barring planned and targeted assassinations, she is typically far more concerned with eluding threats than facing them. This goes double for Grimm, and she has virtually no experience fighting non-human creatures. If clearly overwhelmed or caught without a strategy she focuses all her efforts on escape, standing her ground only if absolutely forced to.



WEAPON

Name: Shards

Primary Form: Maria's Shards are small, razor-edged, mirror-surfaced throwing stars about five inches long. She keeps these weapons in their collapsed form tucked into concealed pockets in most of her outfits; her skills as a magician and illusionist means she can often produce anywhere from one to six of them at a time, seemingly just by flicking her wrist a certain way. Maria keeps herself in good supply of Shards, often carrying around fifty or more -- and stocking up even more if she feels at all threatened.

Secondary Form: The Shards collapse down into three-inch wide flat metal discs for ease of storage and concealment.

Tertiary Form: N/A

Dust Functions: N/A

History: One would think that a hemophiliac like Maria would be wary of blades, given the risk that an unexpected cut could present. However, she has in fact long since reached a sort of peace about the matter -- hard experience has taught her how to handle short blades like an expert, and during her circus days it wasn't uncommon for her to include knife throwing into her act. Her desire to protect herself from exploitation and risk has led to her desiring a means to protect herself that others won't see coming, and throwing stars suit that need just fine.


WEAPON

Name: Chant Thrice

Primary Form: Bloody Mary's go-to weapons for conflicts that can't be solved by a deft kick or well-placed throwing star, Chant Thrice is a trio of collapsible, concealable pistol-blades that also each pack a magnetic-action dart thrower. The weapon's primary form is a thirteen-inch single-edged short sword with a curved handle, cast in hues of dark red and smoke gray. The pistol and dart thrower components cannot fire in this form.

Secondary Form: Chant Thrice's secondary form is dedicated to ranged combat; the curved handle twists to become a pistol grip and the blade separates and folds to become an under-slung bayonet, revealing the pistol barrel and rail-edged dart thrower. The pistol fires common 9mm kinetic Dust rounds and can also chamber elemental 9mm rounds, though beyond the element-specific damage output the specialty rounds don't offer any additional benefits to the weapon. In this form Chant Thrice can also fire bolt-style darts from a magnetic rail-propelled top-mount -- these darts are armed with a tiny contact-explosive tip which bursts upon meeting solid resistance (or intense heat), dispersing a concentrated hallucinogen into a two foot wide cloud for about thirty seconds before fading. The hallucinogen is Maria's emergency answer in case she's ever pursued by a human or Faunus opponent who greatly outmatches her: breathing it in causes extreme disorientation and nightmarish hallucinations for at least three minutes, even in those with strong Auras. Unfortunately, each Chant Thrice only carries a single dart and the mechanism is complex to reload, meaning that even having extra ammo with her wouldn't allow her to employ it in a heated battle. The darts can hit accurately up to 70 feet away.

Tertiary Form: Chant Thrice is designed to fold in on itself into a small and compact form no larger than an expanded Scroll, making it relatively easy to conceal when not in use.

Dust Functions: N/A

History: Maria knows that she lives a dangerous life -- even with her Semblance and alter ego there will still be threats she cannot foresee, enemies who will come for her, and fights that won't be won with just a few acrobatic maneuvers and a handful of throwing stars. The trio of gunblades were quietly commissioned from a Mistrali underworld arms merchant via a string of third parties to guarantee anonymity, ensuring that tracing the weapons back to her if she were ever forced to abandon them would be next to impossible. It may seem a strange choice to have three when only two could be held at once, but assuming that is a mistake. Not only is Maria an excellent juggler (which can make for some fairly deft combat tricks) but given the limits of her Semblance she's able to arm both herself and up to two Bloody Reflections with a Chant Thrice -- a personal firing squad should things go badly.


WEAPON

Name: Dust Tattoos

Primary Form: Until activated, Maria's tattoos appear to be nothing more than common -- if elaborate -- body ink. Only very close examination, special Dust-detecting tools, or the eye of an experienced expert in the field of novel Dust applications would pick out her swirls, wisps, and iconography as anything more than an artistic expression while they lay dormant.

Secondary Form: N/A

Tertiary Form: N/A

Dust Functions:

Each of Mary's tattoos, which range from her ankles up to her shoulders and down to her elbows (as well as one hidden away on her inner lip), is infused with extremely fine grain Dust suspended in the ink. Needless to say, something like this is not cheaply done nor do they just wash off in the shower (fortunately). Although the exact mix used is something it's maker, a Faunus going by the name Pariah, protects as a trade secret Maria knows that one of the key ingredients is a rare and highly expensive resin that's used to bond the finely powdered Dust to a blend of pigments and metallic salts. Though the patterns themselves are largely meaningless they do organize the applied Dust types, giving Mary a means of knowing how much of her "hidden in plain sight" arsenal she has left before needing them reapplied. Each use of a tattoo causes one segment to "burn away", expending the Dust and evaporating the ink all in one go -- the process leaves the skin where the tattoo was without its topmost layer, tender to the touch but quickly enough healed by Aura or just simple time. As the actual amount of Dust one can fit into a tattoo isn't very much, even with highly refined and concentrated Dust, the effects of the tattoos tend to be minor one-off tricks that Maria can pull out to surprise an enemy or get herself out of a tight spot.

The various tattoos are outlined below:

[GRAVITY] :: Wings of Hermes ~ Arguably the most useful of Maria's tattoos, this marking of crossed wings adorns her upper back and is comprised of thirteen segments each centered around a feather. Each segments' gravity Dust lessens the effect of gravity on her by 10% for ten seconds, letting her briefly leap higher or fall slower.

[AIR] + [ICE] OR [FIRE] :: Whispers of the Four Winds ~ These Dust tattoos dominate Maria's legs in prominent, seemingly erratic swirls and sharp, hooked lines, comprising eight segments on each leg. Of these, four are purely air Dust while an added two each combine air with either fire or ice. These segments are among those with the most direct combat application, allowing Maria to turn her kicks into short-range elemental bursts with a minor knock-back effect.

[GRAVITY] + [ICE] :: Cold Rejection ~ This two-segment tattoo on Maria's right upper arm takes the form of a scorpion's stinger as though rendered out of ice or frozen over, wrapping around her arm twice in a spiral pattern. Activating this tattoo channels a pulse of dark blue Dust energy down her arm and into her fingertips where it is released, generating a small one-foot shockwave of compressed cold air that's strong enough to knock an unsuspecting person off their feet.

[STEAM] :: For My Next Trick ~ This seven segment tattoo of playing cards spilling out of a magician's top hat splays across Maria's left upper arm and is a call-back to her days as "The Grand Enchantress". Activating it generates a concealing burst of smoke-like white steam around her body that quickly spreads out to cover a four foot area -- just enough space to make an unexpected move such as using her Semblance or, if the chips are down, evade and run for it.

[LIGHTNING] :: Electrifying Touch ~ A three-segment tattoo of thunderbolts on Maria's lower torso, this Dust tattoo is more defensive-minded than offensive -- though it can be used both ways. When activated it briefly electrifies Maria's Aura for a span of about four seconds, causing anyone or anything that comes in contact with her to suffer a mild jolt. Useful for dealing with those who can't keep their hands to themselves or to fry any tracking devices that might be planted on you... though it's best to avoid having a Scroll, for example, on your person at the time of use, as it's a sure-fire way to void warranties.

[ICE] :: Kiss of the North ~ Hidden away on her inner lip, this tattoo foregoes any elaborate design work for a simple black dot. This is one of Maria's least frequently used tattoos and tends to be more of an assassination tool than anything else; activating it and then breathing out releases an icy mist that will flash-freeze an area roughly six inches wide on contact. As you might imagine this is at its most useful if the intended victim is very close, entirely unsuspecting, and unable to quickly respond to their lips and nose frosting over from an extra-minty kiss. Bye bye oxygen...

History: When you work in the Mistrali underworld you tend to meet all sorts of people. Most are ruthless criminals out to turn a profit off of other people's suffering, but there are the occasional exceptions -- the outcasts, the exiled, the misunderstood. One such person was a serpent Faunus who called herself Pariah, offering her services as a tattoo artist to whomsoever could pay. Given that Mistrali gang members and guns-for-hire often used tattoos to mark their "accomplishments" it was a decently profitable business, but Pariah was also a talented chemist looking to push her art in bold, new directions. Incorporating Dust into tattoos, turning them into one-off weapons, wasn't something she advertised openly -- too much attention, too much trouble. Instead she reserved it as a service for her best paying and most trusted customers. Maria was neither when they first met, but circumstances rapidly changed and an alliance formed over shared interests... those interests being to see the remnants of a certain money-lending group disappear for good. Now not only does Maria regularly send work Pariah's way in addition to depending on her when her tattoos get used up, but the two have been known to enjoy the occasional casual tryst over white wine. There is plenty of reason to suspect that Pariah is more than she lets on, as not just anyone could craft Dust tattoos that are so potent and effective (even given the top-grade materials that Maria helps her to acquire) but much of the Faunus' past is something she keeps to herself. Mary has her theories, however, and even a mutual agreement not to go digging up the past hasn't entirely muted her curiosity. Maria, for her part, has plenty of reason to suspect that Pariah may not be as self-taught as she claims to be...

11
Non-Canon / Crossing Blades [GingerAvalanche] (CLOSED)
« on: January 20, 2018, 02:26:31 PM »
(OOC: Practice battle thread for Ginger -- if you have any questions or uncertainties along the way just lemme know. En guarde!)


S C E N E ~ M U S I C
Where Valkyries Fly
by Ioannis Gutevas



ARENA: Amity Coliseum
CURRENT TERRAIN: Default



Normally this sort of thing wasn't exactly Cordell's cup of tea -- pirates, after all, don't go looking for fair fights when an unfair fight can be had. Yet here she was, striding out onto the most renowned battle stage in all of Remnant. Amity Coliseum somehow seemed... bigger than it looked on the tournament broadcasts. Maybe it was all the empty seats? Or maybe it was the camera work and nimble fighters who made it seem more compact.

In any case, when one finds the famed arena making its way between kingdoms and its escorts are called away to deal with Grimm, who can be faulted for having a peek? It wasn't hard to imagine what it must be like, stepping out under the bright lights with thousands of cheering fans filling the stadium seating, the excitement, the anxiety, the anticipation of battle. Perhaps if life had taken a different turn she could've stood here legitimately, competing under the Atlas banner. Ah, it was a nice thought, at least.

Only, Cordell wasn't as alone as she assumed...

12
The Vale Region / Legends of the Hidden Temple [SLVA ~ CLOSED]
« on: December 12, 2017, 04:27:08 PM »
MISSION SCENARIO:

The Emerald Forest has always been a site of archaeological interest, featuring many ancient ruins scattered about its verdant expanses and the promise of greater finds below the surface. One such site has recently been revealed: a long-forgotten temple. The research team at the site was making remarkable progress in understanding the pre-Kingdoms culture which once thrived in the region when they happened upon what they described as a 'treasure room' of relics and valuable artifacts. Two days later all contact with the team was lost, and efforts to find out why have been hampered by increased Grimm activity in the area. That was a week ago, and Beacon has decided to step in. Your team, supported by Doctor Budonoki, has been tasked with investigating the site and recovering the research team if possible. Don't worry about clearing the area of Grimm -- simply get to survivors and extract them, as prolonged activity is certain to draw in more Grimm.

Objectives:
 - Learn what befell the research team
 - Evacuate any survivors
  Optional bonus objectives may occur during the course of this mission





In the research team's notes the area was simply known as 'site 173', which said a lot about both the sheer volume of archaeological efforts in the Emerald Forest and how little the expedition had been expecting a find of the scale and interest that they'd actually unearthed. From the air it certainly looked no different from any other verdant stretch of trees and undergrowth -- it was only as the Bullhead carrying Team SLVA came in low to drop them off that it at all became clear they were in the right place. The base camp was little more than the remains of shredded tents and trampled supply crates with gouges and small craters suggesting the fervor of the fighting that had left it ravaged. Strangely, and hopefully, the only bodies to be seen were those of robots -- the archaeologists had elected for rent-a-droid security instead of hiring along a Huntsman or Huntress to protect them. Needless to say, they would not be getting the deposit back.

Stepping off the Bullhead, Budonoki surveyed the area with a critical eye. "No dead among the wreckage -- promising, that. We may find the research team alive and well after all." He turned to the group of students. "Keep your wits about you. Something in this area has been agitating the Grimm, and they are indeed prowling about. We cannot afford to be careless. The dig site is just north of here, and the most likely place that any survivors would go to seek shelter."

"Now, then..." The sagely old Faunus looked to his four charges, hands laced atop his gnarled wooden staff. "I'm not here to lead unless absolutely necessary. This is your rescue mission, Team SLVA. Time to show this old hand how the younger generation handles themselves, hm?"

13
The Vale Region / Far From Home [CLOSED INITIATION]
« on: December 09, 2017, 12:53:17 PM »
S C E N E ~ M U S I C
Ghost
by Lucas King



Mountain Glenn. The ruined skeletons of once-proud buildings cast jagged shadows in the early morning's light, making the desolation seem even more shattered and broken than it was. This was a place of ghosts, a graveyard of hope and a testament to what happens when the best of intentions go awry. From above, gazing out the window of the Bullhead, Budonoki took in the terrible scene with mournful solemnity. He hadn't been here before, either before or after its fall, but he could remember the hope that had accompanied its golden days... and the dread that came with the announcement of its fate.

Drawing in a deep breath and centering himself, the Faunus doctor turned to the young students he was accompanying. This team was literally just starting out, having been freshly assembled such that a team name and and roles hadn't yet been figured out. This would be a proving, to be sure. His gaze traveled from one to the next. "We're close now to where we'll touch down. As most of you already know, Mountain Glenn is very dangerous -- not only the creatures of Grimm which stalk these ruins, but all the natural hazards that come from crumbling infrastructure. Somewhere, somehow, there is a child clinging to life in this forsaken place," He pulled out his Scroll and displayed for them a grainy, blurred reconnaissance photo; it was clear that the child was young, had messy mid-length dark-colored hair, and wearing some sort of tattered poncho or dress, but not much else was clear enough to make out. "And our duty is to bring them safely within the kingdom's walls if at all possible. I know your team is still finding its way, and you aren't likely used to working with one another yet, but I believe that we can do this -- if we work together and watch each other's backs."

He pocketed the Scroll, then hefted a backpack with a prominent first aid kit strapped to it up onto his shoulders. "Remember, this is a child. Sounds of gunfire and fighting may attract their attention, but could just as easily scare them away. Defend yourselves as necessary, of course, but try to avoid combat when possible. I've read each of your files, so I know what the school knows of your capabilities; each of you has knowledge, skills, and talents which may prove useful to our endeavor. I have every confidence we can succeed here."

The Bullhead began to turn, vectoring towards the roof of a squat two-story building as the door lights shifted from red to green. As the hatches slid open Dr. Budonoki leapt out, gnarled wooden staff in hand, sticking the simple landing without issue despite his years and gesturing for the team to follow. Their mission had begun...

14
  S C E N E ~ M U S I C 
Seeking The Truth
by Atom Music Audio



How had this happened? Everything, everything, from that fateful day onward, had been done to avoid this...

Gripping the flight controls with desperate urgency, Captain Cordell of the pirate airship Red Corsair willed her ship and herself to maneuver faster and more deftly than she'd ever done before. The stress of constantly shifting momentum would have battered her senseless against the cockpit had Delahaye not deployed a safety harness upon the first reckless maneuver Cordell had performed... and she was now somewhere between her fifth and her twelfth, having well and truly failed to keep track as her heartbeat thundered in her ears. Yet the enemy was keeping up, move for move... and an abrupt shower of sparks and warning klaxon going off suggested they might even have the upper hand.

"Starboard fuel injection system has been hit." Delahaye's computer-generated voice was perhaps the only calm and collected thing in the cockpit right now, standing in stark contrast to the ill-tidings she bore. "Ring circulation compromised. Main engine efficiency dropping to 85%."

'Damn it all!' Cordell thought, sweat mingling with blood on her forehead. The enemy had come seemingly out of nowhere, their sensor baffling leaving the Red Corsair blind until the first shots struck -- a complete surprise attack, and one that included a nasty collision with a bulkhead for the young pirate. She'd been too bold, too careless, especially to come this far north over open waters. Now it seemed painfully obvious that the rumors she'd been chasing down about illegal shipments of military-grade hardware from Atlas had been nothing but a trap from the start.

Well, not entirely untrue. There was, after all, that other airship. The one keeping up with every twist and turn she made, tracking every tight zig-zag and calling the bluff on every feint. The one that looked almost exactly like hers -- a cobalt-blue and smoke-gray painted devil straight out of hell. She knew Atlas still had old V-21 Arrowheads mothballed in storage, sure, and it wasn't impossible that the military could have upgraded them to the level pursued by Project Thunderbolt. What she was looking at through the rear cameras was entirely possible... but it was also entirely wrong. The other airship had no military markings, in fact it had no markings whatsoever. There had been no call with a demand to surrender; Cordell knew Atlas military protocol, and her attacker was not following it.

This was why her father had stolen the prototype and destroyed the plans. This was why she'd never stopped poking about in the black market to see who would have wanted it in the first place. This -- a swift, potent combat airship potentially ending up in the wrong hands. Apparently it had all been for nothing.

They hadn't prevented it. They'd just given it a target.

"Del, is there anyone else in local airspace? Anyone? Even a gods-thrice-damned Atlas patrol?" She quickly keyed up the manual shut-off to the damaged connections and routed in the emergency backups, one hand dancing across buttons and flip-switches while her other jerked the flight stick hard left.

"One. A cargo carrier, ten clicks out. Scans indicate they may possess moderate-to-heavy armaments."

"It'll have t' do. Lock in their coordinates an' send out th' following distress signal on auto-loop." He paused for a moment, focusing to pull the Red Corsair into a steep climb as she hit the under-slung wing thrusters at full tilt. "Whomever's receivin' this -- this is Captain Cordell o' th' Red Corsair. I've come under fire from an unidentified airship an' sustained significant damage. Help get this bastard off'a me an' there's fifteen crates o' industrial-grade Dust in it fer ya, no questions asked. FIFTEEN. CRATES. Onboard me ship, goin' down with me if'n this backstabber gets their way." Despite whipping into a corkscrew and diving hard left, the Red Corsair took another hit from the enemy ship's guns, causing the Red Corsair to shudder from the impact and Cordell to lurch forward against her harness with a pained grunt. "Damn iiiiit!"

Turning in the direction of the cargo ship, the pirate switched off several safeties and accelerated for all her ship was worth. Gauges spiked, needles shot into the orange and teetered on the brink of red. She knew her ship could take this, even in its damaged state... but not for long. If this didn't pay off then she'd risk burning out the fuel cells and induction coils -- the Red Corsair could literally overload and go dark, plunging into the churning, frosty waters below.

It was time to roll the dice...

15
The Vale Region / Ashes to Ashes, Dust to Dust (AGAT Initiation)
« on: December 07, 2017, 05:27:10 PM »
MISSION SCENARIO:

The mining settlement of Carron Valley in southern Sanus had, from its inception, been a gamble. The area is fairly bleak with little in the way of farm-able lands, instead featuring rocky bluffs, dense forests, whitewater rivers, and huge rocky canyons like the settlement's namesake. What the local area does have, however, is iron -- large supplies of it near the surface and even more below the earth. Prospectors made small fortunes there and mercenaries earned almost as much protecting the town and its many dig sites, even before the excavations uncovered rich Dust veins in the region. Once the Dust began to flow, Carron Valley became a booming outlands hub of raw material commerce.

Two ago, Carron Valley came under attack by a massive wave of Grimm. The defenses held, barely, but something curious happened during the attack which caught the town's defenders by surprise. A lone cargo hauler took off without permission and flew away from the town, and as it left almost a quarter of the attacking Grimm turned and followed it away into the wastelands. The unusual behavior was enough to turn heads, and the town's leaders launched an investigation once everything was secure. The ship belonged to one Tarn Farrus, a known smuggler who'd been under medical observation after passing out in the streets a few days earlier. The clinic he was being kept in was torched as fled, and the recovered bodies of the medical staff there showed signs of violent trauma.

Tarn's ship was found crashed at the edge of a vast pine forest twenty five miles from Carron Valley. Surveys by local pilots and Huntsmen confirm that he has fled into the forest on foot, but his exact whereabouts are unknown. Beacon Academy has been tasked with capturing and questioning Tarn, and they've dispatched Team AGAT -- supported by Doctor Budonoki -- to bring him to justice. Tarn is known to have basic Aura and weapons training but nothing advanced; once found, his capture should be a simple matter. Team AGAT is also tasked with investigating the crashed airship for any clues as to Tarn's whereabouts, the violent shift in his behavior, and why so many Grimm followed him away from the attack on Carron Valley.

Objectives:
 - Deploy to Tarn's crash site and investigate
 - Locate and capture Tarn Farrus






An overnight flight in a small kingdom airship certainly wasn't the most appealing start to a mission, to be sure. The cabin which he and the students had made themselves comfortable -- relatively speaking, at least -- was at least more spacious and with better seats than a Bullhead, but one can only sit in place and try unsuccessfully to sleep for so long. Even meditation had proved elusive, and not for lack of trying. There was something about a pressurized cabin, no matter how generously adorned, that chaffed both mind and body after the first few hours... in Budonoki's experience, at least.

Now, as the sun began to rise outside, the pilot called over the intercom that they were thirty minutes from the crash site. Setting out some dried apricot slices, styrofoam cups of tea poured from a heated thermos, and a few other quick breakfast options, the Faunus professor roused whomever had managed to fall asleep. "Nearly there now. Everyone get something in you to keep your energy up, then check your equipment."

Outside the windows the contrast of the landscape could be seen, barren rocky slabs giving way abruptly to a winding wall of towering pines. The rising sun cast everything into deep relief, painting brilliant ambered hues and inky black shadows with the same broad brushstrokes. It honestly looked like a painting... yet, somewhere in all that natural beauty, a suspected murderer with much to answer for was lurking...

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