Voices echo menacingly in the banquet hall as four armed men threaten a scrawny-looking Rath'ani cowering behind a lectern on a stage at the head of the hall. Three of the men, a Rhian, a human, and a Khatta, smirk as they advance between the richly set tables lining the marble floors, while a burly shiga at the lead casually rests his spear on his shoulders, arms draped over the haft. Unbeknownst to them, three adventurers observe from the promenade above, the Lapi nodding agreement with the Kiriga and moving to a rope anchor tying off one of the majestic chandeliers lighting the scene below.
Lilac gives the men a worried look, then scurries off to another of the anchors in preparation to untie it. Hunkered down as she is, only her ears peak above the rail of the overlook, swiveling this way and that in nervous anticipation.
With a grim nod to Gibson and Lilac, Kin takes a running start, then leaps over the railing and arcs down to the hall below. She lands on the immaculate table with a loud thud, which jars the dishes that cover its edges and ends, positioning herself between the shiga and the three lackeys. Then with fluid grace, her hand goes to the long sword tucked in her obi. In a softly spoken, but hard edged tone of finality, she says, "That would be most ill advised. It appears that I must teach another lesson to those who seek to harm those weaker. Leave now … or prepare to die."
There are shouts of surprise from the flunkies, who take a step back, and the shiga's head whips around, eyeridges raised high. Even the Rath'ani looks shocked, his nose peeking up over the top of the lectern. It's the leader who recovers first, his face twisting into a sneer. "Unbelievable. Did you follow us all the way here, just to die?" He points at the human and Rhian. "You two. Kill the painted Jadai whore. Snag, get the bookworm out of here." The Khatta skirts around one of the pillars and begins moving around the edges of the hall toward the stage. The Rath'ani looks like he wants to flee, but thinks better of it when the reptilian soldier brandishes his spear. The other two fighters exchange looks, and begin advancing on Kin, still some distance away.
Lilac glances over at Gibson, giving him a 'what do we do now' look, ears splayed in confusion. Idly, she fingers the anchor tie, her delicate performer's hands feeling out the knot instinctively.
Umeko draws her longer sword, scabbard and all. She then whips the sword around hard, releasing the scabbard and trying to hurl it towards the human and Rhian. Her goal is to slow them down while she goes after her current target, the Khatta. The reptile then runs and leaps off the table, heading towards the feline, blade turned so the edge is up and the point held low so she can do an upwards sweeping strike when she can get to him.
"I guess she's down there. Are all Jadaians that brave? Or crazy?" Lilac whispers over to Gibson. In afterthought, she adds, "I can't believe he called the lady a whore. I am so going to squish him!"
The scabbard makes for an unwieldy missile, but it does make a satisfyingly hollow 'donk!' noise as it rebounds off the Rhian's forehead, who curses and takes a moment to clutch the welt. The human keeps advancing, but seems rather too slow to catch up, since he can't seem to get around the tables as quickly as Umeko can bound over them. The Khatta throws a glance over his shoulder worriedly as Kin closes on her prey…
Instinct kicks in and the Kiriga dips down low. A moment later a spear goes whistling over her head. Dipping down, though, costs her time as she makes her way towards the Khatta … not letting that spear interrupt her plans. Her mind goes over several possible strike points and decides she'll go for his legs and cripple him if possible…
"Do you think I should go down and help? I'm worried. The last time Kin did this, she was bruised and I think unconscious," Lilac whispers across to Gibson.
Gibson shrugs helplessly, still at his own station. "I will if things get crazy, but I think she's quick enough to stay out of real trouble… well, I hope she is." The shiga boss near the stage grimaces as he settles back from the follow throw of his throw, and draws a sword. The Khatta's made a bit of headway, but another frantic look over his shoulder tells him Kin won't be deterred so easily, and his grip tightens on his own sword.
"Drop them now!" Umeko shouts as she draws close to the Khatta. Her sword then comes upward in an arc towards the feline's legs. She angles the stick such that the hilt is above the sword point, the blade in front of herself at a left to right downward angle so that she can use the blade as makeshift shield, if need be; she is trying not to swing past herself and leave herself completely open…
At the call, Lilac suddenly scrambles to untie the anchor as quickly as possible. When she's done, she hops up and races to the railing to try and catch the results!
The knot comes undone under Lilac's fingers, and Gibson releases his trap as well. There's a buzz of twisted rope on loops as they whip free with the chandelier's weight, and the mirrors on the lights sparkle as they plummet to the banquet hall below with a jangling of glass. They hit at the same time, crashing spectacularly and scattering snuffed candles and prisms. The human at the lead lets out a bark of surprise as one comes down behind him, tripping and stumbling. His Rhian partner isn't so fortunate, the horse looking up for a split second before he's brought to the floor by a heavy ironwood frame and obscured by a mound of glass.
"Ouch," Lilac remarks, blinking at what their deeds have wrought. "Do you think he's still … You know." The movement of the human catches her eye, and she points, "And, that one got away! Should we go down? I'm not going to feel guilty if Kin gets hurt again!"
The tremendous crash gets the Khatta to look behind himself again… and to his dismay the golden Kiriga is bearing down on him, blades flashing. He whirls to break off his run, raising his sword to try to defend himself.
Snag's sword comes up to meet Umeko's, but it's a desperate and clumsy defense. He barely manages to catch the first high strike, and is far too slow to bring his weapon back down as the Kiriga's blade whips down.
The blade goes down and the razor sharp edge slices into the Khatta's leg. As the blade comes away the edge is now red. His leg buckles and Snag drops down to his knee as the fiery pain flares through his leg.
"Aagh!" screeches the Khatta. Red stains his fur and pools on the marble under his leg as he goes to one knee. He flails his sword at Umeko, but the swipe is met easily with the flat of her katana. The human scrambles to his feet, looking shaken but otherwise much better off than his Rhian cohort, and he looks up to find Gibson vaulting down from the promenade, landing with a rattle of flatware on one of the tables. "Dagh take you all," hisses the shiga, and he points his sword at the Rath'ani, snarling, "Through the door. March or die where you stand." The raccoon blanches, but backs away toward the door.
"Wait for me!" Lilac, acting before thinking, vaults off the promenade after Gibson. She lands with a thunk, tail high, blinking in surprise at her own survival. After casting a startled glance back at what she just leaped off of, she turns around faces the human. "Hey you!" She snatches up a plate, and shakes it menacingly at him.
Deciding the Khatta is no major threat now, she disengages from him and takes off in a run towards the shiga. "Deal with me first!" she hisses at him. "Or are you too afraid to fight a Jadaian whore and will run just like last time?"
The balding man gives Lilac an incredulous look, but his attention quickly turns to the bigger and heavier Gibson, who brandishes his skedat whip, a determined look on his black-furred face.
Unsurprisingly the human chooses to face Gibson rather than her she'd ignore herself, too the human woman takes the opportunity to hurl the plate at the man. She hopes it will at least distract him, giving Gibson an edge.
The plate sails harmlessly past, to break unnoticed against a pillar as Gibson rushes to take on the interloper. His swing is wide, and he's quickly put on the defensive, catching a couple strokes of the man's sword on his skedat shell, then holding his ground with one-two combo that's blocked, then ducked.
Lilac's ears go back as her projectile sails off, to break far from its intended target. "Oops," she whispers, sheepishly. At least I didn't break a window I hope I don't have to pay for that! Her musing on the costs of adventure is broken short when the two men engage each other, with the woman left to watch helplessly, having neither sword nor fighting talent. "Stab him in the … the … " Her encouragement falters as she suddenly feels woozy, suspecting the jump hurt her more than she realized. "The spleen!"
Both men stand their ground, but the human seems a bit overmatched, looking more put upon to defend than the rabbit is. Lilac's vision gets a bit cloudy; that strange feeling comes back, but neither combatant seem inclined to pay attention to her at the moment.
Oh, not again! Lilac whirls around, trying to discover some hidden foe, some bruise or strain that has caused her discomfort. Finding nothing, looking left and right frantically, she loses her grip on the growing haze, sliding to her knees with a thump. "Gibson, … please don't die … " She reaches up and holds her forehead hair falling in front of her face as she tries to hold on.
The human is forced back, beating off several swipes of that skedat shell's edge, and once near a table he sweeps the table settings at Gibson, showering plates and flatware. The distraction is enough for him to force the rabbit backward under a flurry of strikes.
Lilac's hand drops from her face, landing limply against the table, as her grip on herself is lost. Her body sways, then topples forward, the hand that had been helping prop her up digging its nails in to the table cloth. "Don't … " Her voice is hoarse, guttural, yet still varied in tone, giving it a harsh musical quality. She lays there like that but briefly, before, all at once, the sound of tearing fabric mixes with her pained cry …
Rising from the shred of Lilac's clothes, a beast, black as night, winged as she and with empty, glowing, purple eyes gets up. It lets loose a haunting, melodious, howl a mournful dirge in monster's song before leaping forward.
Blows are exchanged once more, and then both combatants freeze as Lilac's primal song echoes in the banquet hall. Acoustics meant for an orchestra make the sound roll through the entire place, wine glasses shivering. Lilac CERTAINLY has the human's attention now!
It would seem Lilac, if the monster can still be considered she, hasn't shed all its draping. The collar Lilac chose to wear out of symbolic fealty to her friend remains, a shock of silvery metal against her otherwise abyssal black fur. Her tail bow, too, remains, providing a ludicrous contrast to her overall menace. The beast hops off the table, looking between the two men with an equal stare, then begins circling them.
The melee between the two men has stopped, as they both eye the midnight monster now prowling around them, staring with piercing violet eyes. The human's grip tightens on his sword, while Gibson readjusts the skedat shell on his arm. "L-… Lilac?" the black rabbit ventures. "Is that you? It's… it's me, Gibson… "
Kin backsteps quickly into the banquet hall, cursing under her breath all the while now knowing Lilac has changed too. She never looks back, though, as the shiga could easily strike at her while her attention is diverted.
The beast's head tilts when it is addressed, ears splaying as it turns its attention towards Gibson. It continues to circle and stare at the man, then whines at him, ears back. It's tail raises, and its head lifts to sniff that air, staring all the while.
The shiga isn't far behind Kin, and though his mouth gapes in reptilian fashion at the exertion, there's a grin to it. "Hold still, and I'll make it quick," he hisses, his slices coming closer and closer each time Kin dodges. A brief opening forces him to catch a swipe of the Kiriga's katana, and he narrowly misses cutting a lock of white hair free on the return.
Gibson nods slowly, holding up his hands. "Gibson," he repeats. "Friend?" The human looks at him like he's insane and his gloved grip tightens around the leather-wrapped hilt with a creak.
Again, the creature whines, and this time it turns it attention towards the human, instead. It sniffs again, and this time, it snarls. Apparently, the human is NOT considered a friend. It shifts its pacing path, now, circling towards the rear of the human, keeping Gibson on the far side. Then, without warning, it moves to attack!
The human is quickly forced on the defensive. He stands his ground as he did with Gibson, but seems shaken enough to have a harder time defending against this whirling mass of black and ivory. He lets his guard down for a moment…
A flurry of claw and tooth, the beast attacks with the speed and ferocity of an enraged bluehunter. It even bites at the man's sword, shaking it in its toothsome maw, before releasing it and streaking forward to bite a hunk out of the man's thigh. It skips back, then, crimson adding to the black and ivory as blood stains its maw and the attack resumes.
The tables turn and Kin launches into a flurry of fast and strong strikes against the shiga. The shiga does parry each, but this time he has to retreat. Eyes narrowed, Kin presses the assault and drives the shiga back through the doorway. "Hold still and I'll make it quick," she hisses at him in retort for his earlier jibe.
The shiga's smug expression changes to one of irritation, and then to hard concentration as Kin deftly reverses the clash, and soon their skirmish has returned through the banquet doorway again.
The human staggers backward, crimson spreading along the cloth of his pantleg from the ragged wound left by Lilac's powerful jaws. He clutches the gash with his free hand, and stares at Lilac, holding his sword point out at her, eyes bulging. "Stay back! STAY BACK!" he gibbers. Gibson takes the opening left by the black beast, and the mercenary has little chance to resist in the state he's left in. The soldier catches a strong backhand of the skedat shell to the side of his head, and he topples over, ceasing to move.
With the human fallen, the beast creeps forward to sniff at him, perhaps making sure he's alive or else, wondering how he might taste. For the moment, it seems unconcerned by Gibson.
The rabbit takes a wary step back, but then stops where he is, making sure not to present his back or do anything threatening. "Easy, Lilac… he's done."
The beast opens its mouth as the rabbit speaks, reaching forward, then pauses. It sits back on its haunches and turns to look at him, almost expectantly, while it licks at its teeth and 'lips.' It might almost seem placid, now, except for the stain of blood and glimmer of teeth.
The black rabbit doesn't seem entirely sure what he should do, simply standing there. You never run away from strange dog, he reasons. But they never told you what to do when you're just standing there! He simple keeps calmly talking. "You got him… thank you. It's alright now. Ah… good girl?"
The beast's head tilts, one ear up, the other down. Beyond the glow, its eyes are like luminescent pools of oil, reflecting none of the light they give. It sniffs again, then wags its tail a bit.
Deciding that if he can't run away, he shouldn't just stand there either, he slowly approaches, looking encouraged by the beast's friendly wag. "There… it's okay. Yeah, you know me, right? It's alright now, Lilac." He approaches to within an arm's length, and stoops down beside the inky wolflike creature; his own black coat looking almost bright compared to Lilac's deepest pitch pelt.
Leaning forward, Lilac sniffs at Gibson for a third time. Another wag, and it suddenly starts to get up, moving towards the man and staring at him until …
With a sudden whine, and a spasm of muscle, the beast Lilac has become collapses to the floor in front of Gibson. The light from its eyes fade, and the pool of inkiness that are its eyes seem to drain away, revealing Lilac's normal eyes. Even as her eyes return, her fur draws back until only the usual amount of fur shows. Her bones, too, change, creaking as her muscles jerk in protest. One paw scrabbles against the floor, pawing at it and the man's leg, until that paw becomes a hand that tries to hold on to him. With a tired sigh, the woman's head hits the floor, her eyes closing. And, so, Lilac sleeps again from nightmare to dream.
Startled, Gibson hurriedly kneels down by Lilac, hesitating to touch her until the transformation is complete. "Lilac? Lilac! Are you alright?! Lilac!" He touches the human's bare shoulder, then stands and yanks the tablecloth off one of the tables shattered by the chandeliers, and kneels again to gently begin wrapping the slumbering woman in it.
Lilac refuses to awaken, sleeping like so much rag doll and easily moved. The transformation has left her with nothing except the tail bow and collar, the two items that seem to be placed such as to be immune to the strains of the transformation. Alas, the blood remains as well, proof it all wasn't just an hallucination.
The black rabbit carefully swaddles Lilac in the white cloth, and gently lifts her up, holding her easily in his arms. He steps over the slumped form on the floor, and makes his way toward the stage with his bundle of sleeping enigma. Behind him, there's a faint rattle as some shards from the chandelier settle.