Feb 03, 2023 9:34 AM
It's 1913 in Sicily, where Sable lives
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"Incazzato. Maybe I can dash past it? The cliff is too tall to jump down, and too rocky at the bottom. How fast is it, Teresa, and would it hurt you if I got away?"

She assesses the distance quickly and carefully.

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"They're fast. Those things are monsters among monsters, I would be able to slay one, but two, three? And you... No. You don't even carry a spear, do you?"

The demon goat starts slowly approaching, clearly not in any particular hurry, thinking them trapped.

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"I don't. Was always better with a whip or a bow."

She sighs and smiles bittersweetly at Teresa. "Well, it's been a good run. Glad I got to spend so much time with you."

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"Oh Lord my God, I pray for Your protection in this time of strife. As I have protected others, so I beg you to protect my friend. Oh Lord, bring her salvation in Your mercy. Protect her from this evil. Give her the strength to stand, as I pass Your divine flame onward. Hail Mary, full of grace. The Lord is with thee; blessed art thou among women and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death.

Bria. Take my hand. Take my magic. Trust in your spear. It knows its foe."

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Bria's hand is halfway to Teresa, running on lasting trust and a lingering crush, before something occurs to her and she freezes, her expression twisting to shock and horror and guilt.

"Wait, is this the Last Gift? No, this would end you!"

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"So will time! There's hardly any of me left! It's harder to remember every day. So will - so will letting you die instead of giving you a chance. I am long, long overdue to Heaven, Bria. This is your chance. I defend Sicilia. It is what I do. Forgive me for the blessing and burden I am laying on you, please..."

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A tear rolls down her cheek. "Damn it all, Teresa. Why d'you have to be right about this?"

A twisted, tragic smile curls across her face as a rueful laugh escapes her lips. "You better get the good seats up there. You deserve them. I'm going to miss you so much."

She reaches out her hand to Teresa.

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"I'll see you again. Next house over to Saint Peter himself..."

Their hands touch, and the world becomes a wash of sensation.

Sometimes, like now, it hurts (for more than one reason). A burning. A striving. A light brighter than any light. A sense of flying at dizzying speed. A flowing sea of potential, a tapestry of connections, a rush of never-remembered always-familiar impressions, of pushing with will and soul, of feet planted firmly and spear held steady, of desperate fury and manic thrill. The vigor of ages like lightning in the veins, a buzzing in the head declaiming how utterly foul the thing stalking up the hill is. 

Raiment spills forth.

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Her raiment pours over her like a bucket of paint. It bubbles out of every pore, and in that moment Bria is reforged. Her curves fill out, her waist tightens, her hips widen, and in every respect she is the picture of femininity. Gentle brown curls spill about her face, down to her chin, capped by a wide-brimmed hat in midnight-violet set at a jaunty angle. Below that is a snug cobalt blouse under a hip-length jacket. A midnight-violet skirt flares out below that, down just past her knees. Black boots complete the ensemble.

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She gazes sadly for a moment at the swiftly-unraveling wisps of her only friend in the world. "Goodbye, Teresa. I l—I'll always remember you."

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And then she turns to face the monster, glaring wickedly at it, a midnight tear rolling down her cheek. A spear bubbles swiftly into existence in her hand, viciously sharp head a glossy, wet-looking black.

"You cost me the last echo of someone better than this world deserved, and far better than you deserve to face, stronzo."

It's about then that she pays any attention to the two Unexpected Primitive Actions sitting in her sense of her magic. She pokes at the edge of one, and feels something drip off her fingertips. She lifts her hand up so as not to take her eyes off her foe, and it's ink. It feels simultaneously incredibly slick and far grippier than it has any right to be.

She swings her left hand low in an underhand toss, lobbing a splatter of ink toward the monster, and slides her right hand high up her spear to coat it in ink as well.

And then she shifts into a low stance that somehow feels intuitively correct, spear held steadily forward in a two-handed grip.

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The demon goat seems enraged by her sudden empowerment, giving another bleating howl and lowering its head, pawing at the ground. It points the firey horns at her, and charges startlingly quickly up the slope straight towards her- If perhaps not quite as quickly as it would go on level ground.

When it hits the patch of splattered ground it doesn't slow down, not at all, but it does perhaps get slightly less controlled. There's a buzzing noise of some sort in the background, between the rushing wind and the pounding of her heart and the thumping of the hooves, but it would be understandable if Bria was more focused on the vicious points of evil-looking horns rushing towards her.

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Yeah, Bria isn't remotely paying attention to the buzzing. Instead, she's focused on the charging demon, and what she can do in these fractions of a second to make up for her relative inexperience. Can she maybe do something about the ground near her as well, after that ink toss? She focuses carefully for barely a heartbeat, then with a bit of effort pours ink out around her feet to splatter the ground she's standing on, further solidifying her own footing and hopefully weakening the beast's.

That's not to say no one is paying attention to the buzzing. Maya is listening carefully in the back of her mind, attempting to categorize it, while Nova is focusing on real-time tactical suggestions.

When the beast nears her, Bria attempts to quickly side-step to the right, hopefully dodging its charge and gouging its side with her spear.

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The noise sure does sound like some sort of engine. The pitch increases a bit as it gets louder. Closer, and quickly.

The demon goat's charge ends with a vicious attempted goring, which misses her by mere inches, head turning to track her dodge. The spear hits its body with bone-shaking force, drawing a long line that pours grey smoke from its flank.

Up close, the demon goat is quite large for a goat. Five feet high, head at her eye level, a mass of corded muscle under smelly ashen fur. It continues its run, bellowing out an angry cry and starting a tight circle to come at her again.

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<Bria, try the spell,> Maya interjects.

She does, and three translucent young women spill out of her body, floating slightly. Nova (short with hair split between brown and pink, a white streak on the pink side, and pink/brown heterochromia) and Erika (messy black hair and vibrant green eyes) fan out to either side, while Maya (steely-skinned with spun coalfire for hair) floats upward and looks around for the source of the engine noise.

In the meantime, Bria readies herself for thing's next charge with a suggestion from Nova, bracing herself until the last moment, when she tries to plant the butt of her spear at her feet, using it to vault out of the way while hopefully tripping the beast on the end of the spear in its path.

Does the thing seem to notice her ephemeral headmates at all? And how is she reacting and moving this fast? She couldn't have even come close to keeping up with this before.

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Adrenaline is a hell of a drug. It certainly doesn't feel like she has time to carefully consider- For example, the monster is upon her again! Already! Before she managed to fully brace! Instead of the the beast being tripped, the blow impacts her spear with shattering force - and Bria can either let her spear go flying, or be sent into a disorienting spin.

Either way, the demon goat doesn't give her a moment to recover. It gores the insubstantial form of Erika on a horn without pause, tearing straight through and sending phantom pain through them all, then turns around with a hop, aiming to clobber her with its hooves. There's barely a second to react.

(The engine noise is coming from above! A long shape in the sky, a sleek wooden hull, somehow flying like a biplane, pitched down into a dive.)

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"Cazzo!" Bria lets go of the spear and winces at the shared pain. <Erika!>, she cries out in mindspace.

<I'm okay. Hurts though,> she replies.

A bit relieved, Bria dives into a roll out of the demon's path as it turns to trample her, focusing on conjuring a new one as she comes out upright. Ink is stereotypically not good for living things, right? Can she coat the blade of this new spear in extra-caustic ink?

<Airship coming, minute or less. You don't need to win, just stall,> Maya calls out.

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There's a moment of resistance to her magic, as if she's pushing beyond the boundaries of what would normally be possible, but with the adrenaline high, fighting for her life against a foe too strong for a total beginner, having already landed a non-trivial blow? It expands with a sense of effort, this ink making her palpably more tired but sizzling and bubbling like hot tar on the tip of her spear.

The smoke and ash the thing gives off is distracting, getting in her eyes and making her want to cough. It eyes her spear warily, bleating a hateful sound. It inhales deeply, rearing back for something-

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Why does the stupid stronzo have to be so caustic? And she doesn't like the look of that preparatory wind-up. How about she lunges forward and tries to introduce it to her own flavor of toxicity with a spear stab?

In the same instant, Maya shouts down at the beast from above, "Look up here, Figlio di puttana!"

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Right at the moment the stab connects, digging into its torso just below the neck with a hiss, the demon goat - explodes, is perhaps the best word for it. There's just a wave of heat and pain, knocking her back and blinding her.

All three of her headmates pop, and she's sent tumbling, still holding onto the spear. She's lying on her back now. Something is wrong with her right shoulder and knee. Her face feels like it's on fire.

The searing pain lasts for a long, long moment before it starts rapidly vanishing, shoved away elsewhere by the urgent need to get up and fight. Her vision comes back, and she sees her raiment weaving itself back together before her eyes. Her knee pops back into shape with a crunch. Her shoulder rights itself with a lance of pain up her arm. There's strain adding up in the back of her head, like cloth under more and more weight, just like Teresa once described, a cost to be paid later.

The monster, too, is staggering, pained and confused. Roaring and bleating, thrashing in rage and pain as it bleeds on the ruined ground in front of her, the smoking wound in its chest regenerating just like hers, if more slowly.

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Cazzo. Ow. That hurts. Oh how that hurts. As soon as her legs feel like they'll support her she kips back to her feet. Ow, fuck, yeah that's a barely tolerable idea. How about the demon goat gets some caustic ink to the face and she scrambles backward? That sounds like fun. How does the awful stronzo like this plan?

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That only gives a direction for its blind thrashing! It moves to charge her again.

Luckily, this is about when a silvery web descends from above, clinging and wrapping the thing in a bundle of ropes, making it stumble and fall to the ground.

The engine noise is thunderous, now, and the airship swooping by at speed. A sparkling ladder made of more crystal-silver ropes falls directly in front of her, holding nearly still despite the rushing wind the still-moving ship is blowing.

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Bria grabs onto the ladder and starts climbing as fast as her still-healing limbs will carry her, shouting a last "Vaffanculo!" down at the demon goat as she goes.

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The rope ladder seems to help her up, shortening rapidly as the airship whips by. She's jerked into motion to match the swooping ship, and after a moment is looking down at the hills and cliffs, tinged red and half-shadowed by sunset, from high above. It all looks so small as she's blown through the sky, the hill she spent so long with Teresa rapidly becoming just another fold in the landscape.

And then she's hauled onto the deck to see what is obviously raiment, shining and pristine in a naval uniform style, as a man looks over to her.

"Easy, now!" He says in Italian, glancing over from a set of controls further back. "Are you alright?!"

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