5717/Hunting Manticores For Fun and Profit

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Hunting Manticores For Fun and Profit
Date of Scene: 25 March 2021
Location: Enchanted Forest
Synopsis: During their Themysciran vacation, a group of Titans go on a manticore hunt. The Titans use spear, arrow, plasma and density. It's super-effective!
Cast of Characters: Donna Troy, Kate Bishop, Cassie Sandsmark, Vivian Vision, Toni Monetti

Donna Troy has posed:
    There are a lot of ways to amuse yourself on Themyscira. The walks in the beautiful countryside, the glorious beaches (there was even a Megalodon sighting, from a distance), the food, the drink, the music (unexpectedly varied), the amazing buildings, and so much art to see. There has even been a tiny bit of training for those who have wanted it, though Donna has insisted that the first few days at least people take it easy, and more training will be avialable for the second half of the vacation.

    A rarer activity, but one that was promised, is finally here for those who want to partake: a hunt in the enchanted forest for manticores, or as they are known to Greek-speakers, /androphagos/ - man-eaters.

    If the name hadn't been enough of a warning to take things seriously, the size of the party would give it away. As the Titans arrive, on horse- or kanga-back to a training ground on the edge of the Enchanted Forest, they find a party of some twenty Amazons ready to greet them, a dozen of them carrying strange shields, narrow but five foot tall with a sharp metal spike in the bottom.

    Donna calls out a greeting which is responded to by several of the Amazons, and dismounts neatly. A tall Amazon pats her on the back and says something to her in rapid Themysciran, which Donna replies to quickly before turning back to the rest of the Titans.

    "Right. As promised, a manticore hunt. We are going into the Enchanted Forest, which deserves its name. It's a very strange place. Do not get lost. Do not think you can rely on GPS tracking. Do not get out of sight of our escort, or you will be in trouble. Do not try fighting anything that we don't tell you is okay to fight. If you see anyone who didn't come in with us, or any animals that you don't recognize, alert someone."

    "Also, manticores are dangerous." Donna grins. "We are carrying an antivenom, but you do not want to need it. Manticore venom is very painful, and their spines hurt. They can fire them at you. This is why before we leave, I'm going to show you how to use a manticore shield. You'll have seen pictures of manticores looking like a lion with a human face - this is not entirely accurate. They have a tough hide and more muscles than lions have. They are supernatural creatures, so do not assume anything. The weak spot is where the neck meets the shoulders, and that's what you're going to be aiming for. We take our time and make a good shot, because being charged by an enraged manticore is not fun. If we get charged, you keep it at a distance with your spear and let us deal with it. Any questions before I show you how to use the shields?"

Kate Bishop has posed:
The Art is okay. The walks in the country is all right. The beaches down right fantastic. The Food and Drink, ten of ten would visit again.

The training though was definitely fun.

Hunting Mythical Beasts though. Sign her the Hades Up.

Kate totally has her Kanga. She is also fully kitted out and ready to rock and roll. Her armor, sword, bow, arrows. Everything ready that she can possibly think of. Also anything the amazonians tell her to bring. Which may be awhy she has a couple of spears with her too on the Kanga.

She listens to Donna nodding slowly. Yeah she is ready. She is also well aware she is maybe the only human on this trip trying to hunt a Manticore in a Magic Enchanted Forest.

"Okay. So ... how many manticores actually pack or .. uh pride together. Like how many would we need to be ready to fight at once?"

Cassie Sandsmark has posed:
Naturally, Cassie arrives astride Hoppa, her favored kanga mount!

Having settled in somewhat, the foreign-born Amazon is dressed more akin with her sisters, in their traditional armor and hunting gear, rather than one of her usual sporty getups. This may be a nod to practical concerns of the hunt, or to the ceremonial aspects of it. Or, very likely, to both. In her saddle, she checks on various weaponry and gear, from her own bow and quiver (even if she frequently speaks of how, much UNLIKE Kate, archery is her very worst Amazon 'subject'), to the longer spear, to all the smallest straps and buckles to make sure things are secure. And finally, her own lasso, of course. With whatever experience alongside Donna's warnings, she likewise seems to take the hunt very seriously, at least as much as she takes ANYTHING seriously.

To Kate: "Oh, no more than a dozen." That's a joke. So strike that 'serious' part!

Maybe the better phrasing is that she is still clearly respectful of the threat they face, and the dangers of the forest, without losing her sense of wonder and excitement at getting to share this hunt with some of her best friends and teamates, who she now reassures: "Don't worry, though, it's nothing we can't handle. We've fought aliens! Just keep cool, stick with the group, and listen to Donna."

Vivian Vision has posed:
Art, architecture and culture are the main reason Vivian Vision has come along on the trip. Hunting is perhaps the least interesting thing on the entire island to her. But it seems to have cultural significance and this might be the only time in her life she gets to see a manticore. So she's tagging along. Looking extremely out of place with any of the weapons or equipment she's been handed.

Thankfully the internet is filled with guides on how to fight with spears and other ancient martial impliments like bows. And worst case? Well then she will just laser things.

Viv can't help but hold her hand up when Donna asks if there are any questions. A habit she's acquired from High school. "I only have one real question," she notes earnestly. Waiting until it's her turn to speak as if it was a field trip. "Presumably they are magical creatures, so would it be wise to assume their claws and teeth are in some way enchanted? I do not wish to try and phase myself or others only to find it does not work."

Toni Monetti has posed:

Toni Monetti has been enjoying herself as if she were at a combination of beach vacation and music festival. She has also eaten more than her share of gyros and has tinkered with one of the Amazon combat arts, or at least its amateur-for-tiny-babies version. Archery? No! More about this later.

She has also been riding the palomino she has dubbed 'Silver,' a lot. The horse driving seems to have been something she was actually competent at, even if she was no Amazon!

"So you guys call them man-eaters," Toni observes on the way in. "But you don't have any men here? So what do they eat now, like, deer or something?" (She explains to a nearby person, "In my homeland we got deer out the ass. They like killed off all of the stuff that ate deer and most people don't bother hunting so they're just, everywhere. If you hit three in the same place they put up a sign, 'deer crossing'. Six, 'deer warning'. But they're not doin' the deer any good.")

Silver the Horse looks at thin air, or possibly the veiled numenous form of Hermes Trimestrigos, with an expression that says: Can you believe this?

As she dismounts, Toni looks at the others. She raises her hand too. "Uh, I got two questions. If we get an allergic reaction or something, how f- uh, screwed, are we? Two, uh... Yeah Viv got it."

Donna Troy has posed:
    "They eat whatever they like, Toni." Donna's answer was inevitable, and accompanied by a grin. "Apart from Amazons, so we didn't think it worth renaming them. I don't want to downplay the risks, but try not to be worried. If you follow instructions, you'll be fine, and Themysciran medicine is very advanced. We will have a healer along with the party."

    As she's talking, the Amazon who greeted her starts handing everyone one of the tall shields. "Normally they are solitary, Kate. If we see more than one it will be a family group and we leave them alone. No hunting the young or paired adults. Vivian, they are magical creatures. That doesn't mean they are enchanted, it means that magic is part of their nature. How that will interact with your powers I cannot say, but it is entirely possible that they can hurt you when phased. I strongly recommend you stick to the methods that we have employed for thousands of years rather than improvising."

    Once the amazon has passed out shields to the rest of the Titans, she hands one to Donna, who asks her a question. The Amazon replies by putting up two fingers. "Right, Donna says. "We're allowed to kill two manticores. We keep their numbers carefully controlled with hunting, but we're not going to endanger them. Also we treat them with respect. I'm not going to go into a whole philosophy of hunting thing here, but no zapping, hurling giant rocks, or brutality. They are living creatures. Now... watch."

    Donna grips the shield, rams it down into the ground, and crouches behind it. "These shields have a treated hide on them that makes them pretty fire-proof. They will protect you from the spines, but notice that I am a little way behind the shield. Spines are about a foot long, and they will embed in the shield and stick an inch or two through. Before recovering your shield, you need to remove the spines. If you look inside your shield, you'll see a small hammer attached to the grip - that's what it's for. From behind the shield you can fire arrows at range, or use your spear if it's close. Cydippe?"

    The Amazon, who is apparently called Cydippe, nods and stands beside Donna, ramming her own shield spike into the ground so that the two shields are at an angle of about thirty degrees from each other, with a small gap between them, just about long enough for a spear to go through. "If we're in danger of being charged, you group together and angle your shields to make a zig-zagged wall. Hold the spear out like... this, and stay behind the wall. Try to jab into the shoulders, or drive it back with thrusts to the flanks, which they don't like. Now everyone practise setting your shield, and when you're satisfied you can do that, I want you all to try forming a wall. Follow Cassie's lead, she's done this before."

    While the Titans practise, Donna chats quietly to Cydippe, but they are shortly joined by another Amazon, an impressive figure who towers over most Amazons and has a powerful air of authority. The Titans have met her before at the palace - she's the leader of the palace guards, and thus the leader of the Themysciran armies, Philippus. "Troia!" She calls out. "Which one is the... uh... /toxotria/?"

    Donna grins wide and nods towards Kate. "Archer is the word in English, Philippus. This one. She's called Hawkeye. /Geraki/."

    Philippus turns to look at Kate, studying her with an impassive expression for a few moments. "Show me," she says to Kate.

Kate Bishop has posed:
Kate looks the shield she is handed over. She did a couple of danger room sessions with shields to just try it out honestly and she is definitely skeptical of the whole shield thing. Then again she tends to dodge and use arrows in almost every fight so this is a bit unsurprising.

"I like hte whole no zapping, hurling giant rocks, or brutality business." which means she may actually be able to stick one of them hunting style before someone EYE ZAPS them or something.

"Fire proof.. you said spines. Do they also breath fire?" this is a real shield though not a holodeck and the details are right. She practices slamming the spike to set it as cover and toys with how one would fight around it while using it as partial cover like that. Also forming the wall.

She is packing the Wonderbow and several complicated looking quivers, she is definitely the archer as it were.

When she is called out she perks up and tilts her head there and steps closer. "I assume you mean my archery?" confirming as she takes her bow up and looks at Philippus and then around and back. "Name a target?" there is no arrow in her hand prepared though yet.

Once Philippus points to a target Kate moves like a cobra strike, pivoting, arrow drawn and fires it off in one fluid motion ... and unsurprising to anyone who has been in the field with Kate. Hits it dead center on the mark.

Cassie Sandsmark has posed:
"It's crazy how many of them you've got in Jersey! I remember seeing a news story about some coming across the gee-dubya into Manhattan," Cassie asides back to Toni in some cross-chatter while the lesson goes on. It is a comment that may be rather cryptic to the Amazon crowd, tales of lands as distant and mysterious to them as Themyscira once was to the Titans, but rather mundane to the two Americans. A familiar tale to anyone who's lived in the suburbs or knows someone who has: the plague-like deer population, scourge of scenic Rhododendron bushes!

"There's a lot here too. They're Artemis' animal, so there's a lot of- well, the hunt is a religious process, as much as anything else. And deer take a very special role in all that..." Danger, danger! Risque ritual topics ahead! Yet most of all, this chatter serves to segue back to the matter of manticore dietary requirements, as Donna confirms the obvious. "Which isn't to say they wouldn't eat an Amazon, either, just that we're careful not to put ourselves onto the menu."

Since they're moving on to shield drills, Cassie hops down from her mount, bringing her spear and grabbing up one of the shields, and then wanders back toward the others. "Let's try to make a line of the whole bunch of us, like Donna described. Pretend it's coming from that way-" she indicates, pointing ahead. Then she thrusts her own shield down at an angle to where Kate has placed hers, beginning that overlapping pattern and placing her spear into the gap, before glancing down the line toward Toni and Viv. "Form up!" Kate's otherwise left out for the time being since the General has singled her out for a demonstration. "Showtime, Hawkchick!"

Toni Monetti has posed:
Silver wanders off to eat some grass. Perhaps later he will experience the joy of oats, or a carrot. Or better yet: Suffering.

Toni (who is in gym shorts and a bandeau top, both imported) walks forwards and snorts at what Donna has to say. "Yeah, yeah, I just always worry." Then there is an explanation. She frowns in thought. Thought that could be rendered as 'maybe I should just hide under a dome if they rush me.'

But instead she accepts a shield, turning it around as the Amazon guide speaks to them. She tilts the shield back and forth, lips pursing in a thoughtful frown as she spots the hammer, and then looking upwards as Donna does the demonstration. "... huh," she says, before looking to Cassie. "RIGHT? Like what the hell were they thinking? You're gonna just go into town for a bagel, stupid deer?"

ORDERS! Toni looks at Viv and nods once, moving to try and slam her shield down at at least kind of the indicated angle. "I'm gonna back these up if they fall over," she tells Viv conspiratorially. "I bet I can totally do that. I'm not gonna get poisoned even if they mess up my silver plasma constructs." (She continues to ask Viv, "Is it lame to do that? I just feel like I shouldn't take things for granted.")

Toni also tugs a little on the shield. She managed to get it stuck pretty good. "YEAH KATE," she shouts encouragingly when she hears a bowstring go 'ftap!'

Vivian Vision has posed:
"I can assure you I will only resort to 'zapping' to shoot spines from the air," Vivian promises. Although it's probably fair to assume she might do a tiny bit of zapping if it's that or letting someone die. "Even if I do suspect that a laser hole through the eye into the brain would be less distressing than a spear wound."

She forms up in a line next to Cassie. Spear and shield at the ready. Her stance, for anyone of a book reading nature, seems to have been lifted directly from a medieval book on boar hunting. Plus the extra shield. Thankfully she's able to increase her strength, durabilty and general mass to make such weapons easier to handle.

"I am happy to act as cover from any incoming fire or spines," she notes for the benefit of... mostly just Toni. "I am immune to poison and don't really burn unless a cutting torch is used." Lowering her voice she adds "Honestly I would say a wound to your dignity is better than being killed, maimed or partially eaten."

Donna Troy has posed:
    Kate's shot is dead center, but Philippus doesn't seem to have seen that, because her eyes are firmly fixed on Kate. The spooky thing is Kate gets the impression she doesn't need to have looked at the target to know Kate hit it.

    Philippus nods her head very slightly to Donna, then turns back to Kate. "Tomorrow morning, at sun-up. In the courtyard. Do not be late." Her voice is neither warm nor cold. It lacks any hint of praise, but is filled with a confidence of command that only someone used to having their orders listened to for thousands of years can manage. She turns and walks back to the assembled group of escorts to give them orders.

    Donna gives Kate a smile and a wink, and whispers "You impressed her, I can tell." It's hard to guess what gave Donna that impression, but perhaps if you don't impress her, you'd know it.

    Donna watches the shield practise for a little while, occasionally giving people pointers, and goes through use of the spear as well. When she's satisfied, she calls a halt to the excercise.

    "Okay, let's go hunt some manticores. Well, two manticores. The forest rangers have reported spoor in this part of the forest, so we probably won't have to go too far. We'll have a dozen Amazons with us, lead by Cydippe. She's a little shy about speaking English, but she can probably understand you. Euboea - that's the one on the right over there - is good at English, so if you need something from the guards speak to her or me. We'll have three scouts up front, and nine more behind us who will stay out of things unless they are needed. If you hear anyone yell /ASPIDES/ then ready your shield. If everyone's good - let's go!"

    Donna leads the Titans to take their mounts to the group of Amazons who are staying here to look after the horses and supplies, and the group readies themselves for the march into the forest. The three scouts head off at a run, while Donna leads the Titans and the rest of the Amazons at a steady walking pace through the first few ranks of trees and into the increasingly dense forest.

Kate Bishop has posed:
There is only one arrow fired before Kate turns her attention to Philippus. She doesn't fidget. It is like she is absolutely used to being stared at like that.

The lack of cold is a step up from the way her dad judges her at least.

"I'll be there." she affirms matter of factly then once Troia leans to whisper she focuses on something else.

"How can you tell?" she whospers back, not really expecting the answer right here though perhaps. She will shake it out of Troia later.

Kate gets her shield back up. She does absolutely plan to plant it in the ground and use her bow probably, at least unless it proves useless then she will switch to the spear or sword. She is adaptable like that. "Right!" she is way to excited about fighting really danger monsters.

Her now adopted Kanga is left with the people staying behind and follows Troia eyes sharp. "So. Cool." she whispers very softly.

Cassie Sandsmark has posed:
Kate's shot gets a proper whooping, "Woo, nice one!" from Cassie. Not everyone can be so stoically awesome as the General.

She leads a couple more rounds of shield drills, each time gesturing in another direction to indicate the angle of incoming attack and thus the rough perpendicular on which their wall should be assembled. There is chatter, as they do it: "Its all ritual, Viv. Some of it may seem simplistic or anachronistic. But we do it the way we do it to show respect for the hunt and thus honor the Huntress herself." The capital letter is audible in her tone, the respect heaped on the figure being referenced. "If we do that, then she will bless us and our quarry alike. I know it may seem weird, but trust me. You do NOT wanna break any rules unecessarily and tick off a Goddess. That's a baaad time."

She knows it's a hard concept, that this is a place where different rules apply. There's extra emphasis. Of course, she also has the pragmatism of someone who -didn't- grow up with this stuff her whole life, glancing back and forth behind their shield-wall, to offer one last whisper: "Tho' if someone's gonna get manticore'd to death, do what you gotta. It's a fine line." Or an arbitrary and fickle one, where the Gods are concerned!

And with that, they're soon off! As far as the Titan party goes, Cassie takes up the vanguard of their little sub-formation, ready to take the defense. "You got shots, plant it and take 'em," she offers Kate, over her shoulder. "I can help give you a little more melee cover, keep your hands free." That is not cheating. That's teamwork!

Toni Monetti has posed:
"Yeah but it's magic poison," Toni tells Viv. "I don't know how that works, and I bet you don't either. Maybe it'll poison your like, software, idk." Toni actually says, 'eye dee kay,' with her mouth.

Silver the Horse canters sarcastically over to the Amazons on rein-holder duty.

"It's weird to think it's like manners but there's a goddess and a horrible monster and shit involved," Toni answers Cassie as she hoists up her shield and her spear and walks forwards, with the others.

There is a meditative hush to the forest. Toni keeps her mouth shut. This becomes remarkable somewhere around the half-minute mark - she's not even vaguely narrating what she sees, how she feels, or what's happening in front of her. Progress? Or itself a sign of fell enchantment?

Vivian Vision has posed:
Vivian Vision glances at Cassie. "I did not mean to sound disrespectful," she says quietly. "I can understand the concept of ritualistic behavior. I have read numerous sociology textbooks after all and humans actually act in that manner far more than you might expect. Nor do I intend to use my abilities frivolously. But I will happily suffer the displeasure of any entity in order to protect my friends and team mates."

As the group begins to head off she frowns. "I was wondering. Are the spines that manticores fling a similar size and speed to arrows?"

Toni gets an amused smile. "I am still not concerned. Given the size and thickness of these shields I can become durable enough the spines will simply shatter upon impacting my clothing." Which is her usual garish synthezoid outfit. At least here in the Enchanted Forest the cargo pants, with so many pockets to pack water and supplies in, are at least more practical than they are visually appealing.

Donna Troy has posed:
    Although the forest is quite dense, a fair bit of sunlight makes its way through the canopy, and eyes quickly adjust to the lighting. The forest seems peaceful for now, but it's not quiet. The cries of birds high in the trees are heard often, and there are frequent movements in the undergrowth as of unseen creatures moving about. The party makes its way around a large, bright red snake that sits coiled obstinately in their path, and stops to let a spooked herd of deer put a distance between themselves and the hunters.

    Nobody seems bothered by the Titans talking so long as they do it at a whisper, but a short way into the journey Donna calls the party to a half to have a quiet but firm word with Vivian. "Yes, they are like arrows. But remember these are /magical/ creatures, and that means that the laws of physics do not necessarily apply. It is probable that if you are bullet-proof you are also proof against manticore spines, but it is not certain. Use your shield, okay?"

    She gives a quick nod to Toni, and adds "Remember that we are in Artemis' domain. What that means is that if you make her mad there's a possibility you'll find the next manticore spine fired at you has a gods' power behind it. Listen to Cass, she knows what she's talking about."

    The hunt resumes, Donna walking along beside Kate at the front of the group. The Amazon escort is barely seen or heard, keeping their distance and moving with impressive stealth and woodcraft. Somehow they never even seem to treat on a twig.

    The sun climbs higher in the sky and the heat in the woods begins to get a little oppressive. There is a brief halt when canteens of watered-down wine are handed out, and then it resumes. There is something otherworldly about any dense woodland, but that feeling is far stronger in this one. As the group moves deeper and deeper into the woods the sounds of animals become more erratic - there are long moments of silence suddenly punctuated by the cry of some unseen animal, or periods when the chattering of birds fills the air for a time and then suddenly, without warning or apparent reason, stops.

    About two hours into the hunt, one of the scouts appears in front of the group and raises a hand. Donna gives her a nod and then turns to the others to speak, but before she can get a word out, a sound something like a cross between an elephant's trumpeting and the roar of a lion can be heard. Donna gives a smile. "That's a manticore. Sheilds at the ready, form a line three feet apart, spears at the ready and advance slowly. Archers, spears ready too. Drop your spear and knock only after we have our shields planted."

Kate Bishop has posed:
The young archer is definitely impressed by the Amazons woodscraft and stealth out here in the enchanted woods. Trying to keep an eye on the escort is almost distracting. But not any more so than trying to keep track of the woods themselves.

Once past the red snake there is a whispered "What was that?" to Troia.

During the brief water break Kate will definitely look around and note "If the woods in upstate New York were like this, I would have enjoyed going up to our house in wine country a whole lot more.."

Kate does follow instructions though, very much so, and she shifts spear and shield looking out at the woods around them. "Woah" she whispers. Then she shifts her grip on the spear and then starts to move forward just like she is told. Lined up. Three feet apart. Head on a swivel.

Cassie Sandsmark has posed:
"That's not a bad way of putting it," Cassie agrees, considering Toni's somewhat unique phrasing of the concept. "Manners with monsters, and some very particular and occasionally grumpy hosts."

She doesn't have anything more to stress in these warnings, as Donna echoes them. Plus, they have a whole lot of hunt ahead of them. A couple hours, as it turns out (yay wine break). After a while, the general inclination toward stealth increases as they venture deeper and deeper into the forest, and the sounds around them become more haunting and otherworldly. Of course, their somewhat less-trained group is bound to be less than perfectly silent, but they have the advantage of the leading scouts.

More time passes!

Then, just as quickly, the hunt is on, although it seems briefly indeterminate who is on what side of it, quite yet. Donna turns, Cassie looks to her, expecting something, and then suddenly, all is a flurry of motion as that terrible roar rings out. Shield and spear come down from their march positions, sliding off her shoulders with a practiced shrug and quickly into an adjusted grip. Cassie steps into place, lifting her shield and keeping it ready before planting it, eyes scanning side to side while she keeps more of a mental picture of the positions of her teamates around her. "Ready, ready-"

Toni Monetti has posed:
Toni glances between Donna and Viv, and says to the latter, with a lot more gravity than usual, "Yeah, uh - yeah, what she said."

And then she is quiet.

The red snake is ominous. The birds are ominous. The deer are somehow ominous. Ominous? Awesome, in the classical sense? Toni just knows it feels strange here. Maybe it's not unfriendly, but jeez, Toni thinks, I wish I were--

-- Do I wish I was back in the city? Toni thinks, in this moment of forced introspection. Or is it because part of me doesn't really recognize this planet, and it's standing out? Her eyes turn to the sun-dappled grass, but fortunately, their quarry keeps her from really getting into the weeds. (The wine may have helped this matter, dilute as it was.)

Toni brings the shield up, her spear poking out unsteadily. She forms up. She is probably one of the weaker links, but she *is* a link. Her face doesn't show it directly until she speaks: "Is it too late to switch to painting? Yeah probably, forget I said anything," in a low ramble to the others.

Vivian Vision has posed:
What was perhaps not apparent from the conversation around Vivians previous question is she was not trying to gauge if she can withstand hits from a manticore spine. She was calculating if she can react in time to shoot spines out the air and the amount of energy she should output to do so. This information is then plugged into a targetting subroutine that calculates what, if any, shots will pass over the shield wall in a dangerous manner. It's not guaranteed to be perfect but it will at least provide an additional layer of protection if needed.

"Hawkeye I suspect that if the woods in upstate New York were like this the entire population distribution of America would be drastically different. If the country existed at all." Then again perhaps at one time they were like this and the march of 'progress' simply killed all of the wonder from the rest of the world.

And while she may have come across as blase up until now she does follow the instructions to the letter. For good measure she also cranks her density up as high as she can without impacting her movement.

Donna Troy has posed:
    The shield-wall of Titans advances cautiously for a few hundred feet before they hear the sound of the manticore again -- this time from the side. Have they been flanked? Is the monster hunting /them/? If so, it seems strange that it would advertize the fact by making a noise.

    "Two of them," Donna concludes at a whisper. "Unusual. There must be something they're hunting. Keep moving forwards." She peels away from the group, giving a quick 'you're in charge' nod to Cassie to check out the flank, but before she's gone ten paces one of the escort Amazons appears out of the trees. There's a flurry of quickly whispered Themysciran, and the escort heads back off into the trees, and Donna hurries back to the group. "Our flank is covered. The one ahead is ours."

    The trumpeting roar is heard again from in front, closer now. Much closer. Another Amazon comes running out of the trees, heading straight towards the group, yelling "/ASPIDES!/ SHIELDS!"

    Fifty feet behind the Amazon, and closing the distance to the Titans fast, they finally catch sight of the manticore. Five foot tall at the shoulder, it does somewhat resemble a very large lion, but its body is covered in thick plates of rhino-like hide that ripple over its skin with the motion of powerful muscles. Its leonine tail is raised high, the end a puff of vicious looking thorns. Its head is much flatter than a feline's and it can be seen why someone might describe it as human-like but it's not a close resemblance. The face is pulled back in a ferocious grimace, and its huge, open mouth is filled with three rows of teeth top and bottom, resembling a shark's more than anything else.

Kate Bishop has posed:
There is absolutely a pause when the second one roars off to the side. She glances that way and then glances forward. Okay this is not good.

The assurance that their flank is covered does get her moving once more forward. At least until the amazons come running out of the woods like that shouting shields.

"Holy shit that is a lot of teeth!?" wide eyed there for a moment before moving to slam the shield down to help form that shield wall. She looks sidelong to Cassie who said she would help cover when it is time for the bows though.

Still she does not at all move to switch from spear to bow until all of those shields are planted now.

Cassie Sandsmark has posed:
When Donna briefly departs, Cassie assumes her brief command, although all this really consists of is continuing to help keep the coherence of their formation, standing at the anchor point in the center of the would-be line and constantly checking to make sure the other three remain in the correct relative positions. They've probably been taught at least the few Themysciran words used as commands in formation fighting, and she uses these - quick vocabulary for advance, to turn to one direction or the other, ready, hold - to keep them focused and positioned, and eventually facing back front again when the flank is declared secure.

It's like a little microcosm of Amazon war tactics.

And then the beast is upon them!

Cassie has done this before, so the simple sight of the manticore is not as shocking as it was the first time around. Which is still different than saying it is not still somewhat intimidating. Because a lion-porcupine-manshark isn't exactly something you see every day at the Bronx Zoo. Yet the warning cry is given, and she herself echoes that command of "SHIELDS" a fraction after the first is given, before stepping forward and decisively thrusting her own into the dirt at a position she judges to be well-distanced and angled ahead of the charging beast. As soon as Kate's is down and locked with hers, she moves to dock her spear into the position between them, even as the first volley of those spikes comes flying toward them. "COVER!"

A fraction later, and they can see some of those poison-covered tips poking through the edges of the framed leather. But that is only the first of the attack.

Almost as quickly, it is on them, and Cassie rises and thrusts forward, meeting the beast with her spear. It scores a hit, but only so much as to cause it to snarl, leap back, and lunge again from another angle, tail swinging ominously above as it charges again: this is where she must hope another Titan stands ready beside them!

Toni Monetti has posed:
Toni feels a weird twinge up the spine as she feels something like the elation of the hunt, briefly and for the first time. She bites her lower lip and tastes wax and pigment as she hears the cry. She whirls round and she thinks for a moment, I thought it'd be way bigger, and then she thinks, it's the size of a freaking rhino!!

And aloud, she says, "What the SHIT is going on with its MOUTH!?"

Toni plants the shield. Her angle isn't perfect and as she's trying to fix it right, Cassie is shouting and fighting. There's a thunt-thunk-TUNK of the barrage against leather. Toni doesn't look at it or at the creature. The manticore probably senses this or perhaps it just spots Toni out as being distinctive among the Amazons for faintly metallic-gleaming white skin. So that is the way where it chooses to charge...

And a spasm of adrenaline keeps her from being knocked down, though a paw reaches into a too-wide gap experimentally before Toni stabs outwards with the spear, shrieking, "GET THE FUCK OUT! SHIT! DICK!! I'll rip off your fuckin' ASS off and EAT it you FUCKING-- gh - FUCK!!"

Toni jabs her spear in a violent little spasm of high speed forward thrusting even when the manticore makes another move forwards, perhaps the leonine (And thus, catlike) instincts expressing themselves. In Toni, other instincts entirely come out as she shouts, "You want some of this?! Hannh?? I'll --"

She visibly remembers this is a hunt. And yet -- her eyes saccade for a moment, before she whacks a fast tattoo on the back of her well-anchored shield while crouching down, "Bet you can't bust through THIS, DICK!" A spine is shot forwards, spearing further through the leather than usual, embedding itself in the ground and making Toni gawp in momentary silence.

Vivian Vision has posed:
While only the first time Viv has handled either a spear or a shield she manages to form up into her part of the shield wall without trouble. The extra strength and mass letting her securely plant the shield spike in the ground. While her machine precision pairs surprisingly well with the long spear. Keeping the point at the optimal angle to ward off attacks or to impale a charging enemy.

It might also help this isn't her first weird monster. And compared to a building size preying mantis it's not even that big!

Perhaps a little late Viv remembers to wrap herself in a hologram. Dulling the bright yellow of her clothing and blending her into the background, but not so much that her allies can't tell where she is. No need to present herself as an obvious target or to disappear and risk getting shot by an ally.

She does indeed duck when Cassie shouts 'Cover' although it's likely more to ward off further lectures from Donna than out of fear of manticore spines. Any barbs which she calculates might strike an ally will find themselves met with a searing lance of light.

As the creatures charges in again she leans into her shield, trying to help support Cassie, and cranks her mass up to maximum. She can't really adjust her aim at top density but no-one expects something her size to weigh seventy tons.

Donna Troy has posed:
    Donna is a blur returning to her position with the group - literally. She can move seriously fast when she wants to. Her shield is raised and pounded firmly into the ground next to Toni's shield and in a swift motion she drops behind the shield, lets go her spear and pulls her longbow from her shoulder. She draws and knocks an arrow, but doesn't let it fly. Even over the roaring of the monster, the creaking of the bow can be heard as she holds the string taut. The mysterious ironwood, much stronger than any wood known outside Themyscira, provides her bow with an absolutely insane draw weight, even by Amazon standards. When Kate gave it a go she could barely pull the string back a couple of inches, but now the bow bends at full extension.

    The Amazon scout meets the Titans' quickly assembled shield war and somersaults over it just before the manticore is on them. She spins quickly around to join the far end of the line from Donna, planting her shield next to Vivian's, and holding her spear ready. "Remember," Donna calls out. "Where the neck meets the shoulder. Make it clean and quick! And stay behind your shield as much as possible, it'll breathe when it's hurt!"

    Cassie's spear thrust is clean and well-delivered, scoring a hit on the beast's armored flank that doesn't draw blood but lets it know that the Titans are no easy prey. Its second assault finds the less experienced Toni, but the shield wall holds. Its clearly not a stupid creature, because that huge paw clawing around the edge of the shield momentarily attempts grasp the edge of the shield and pull it down

    When it leaves Toni with that parting shot (which is out of Vivian's line of sight and doesn't get a laser- shield walls make that awkward like that) it takes a couple of steps back, and it seems Toni's wild stabbing made more of an impact that she thought - a trickle of blood can be seen welling between two toes, and it favours the foot slightly.

    The next attack the manticore makes is swift charge to try to knock the shields down. The beast twists its body between the points of Vivian's and Toni's spears, but it picks the wrong shield to collide with - the creature is heavy, but simply pushes Vivian's shield against her extra-dense body, and doesn't move the synthezoid.

    The creatures paces back, paws the ground and draws in a deep breath, its chest expanding wide -- but this is no roar. The Amazon yells "DOWN!" just before the creature, as Donna had predicted, lets loose a jet of fire that rolls across the shields. The blast only lasts a few moments, and the shields smoke but hold firm. And then the creature charges again, leaping to try to get over the shield wall!

Cassie Sandsmark has posed:
Amazon tactics are rooted in their sisterhood: it is an ethos where each sacrifices for every other, and a discipline where the whole is stronger even than its individually still-impressive parts... even when one of those parts is Toni!

Which is to say, as a touch of panic is audible in her friend's reaction and COLORFUL torrent of language (and as the Manticore in general seems to focus its assaults on the point between Toni and Vivian), Cassie quickly adjusts to reinforce and assist.

And she, too, is fast when she needs to be, as is required by this adjustment on the fly. In just a second or two after the heat of that fiery blast dissipates she does quite a handful of things:

First, Cassie bangs clear the embedded spikes protruding through one of the shields as Donna warned of earlier, although rather than using the hammer, she deftly hits them with bottom side of one of her bracers, a rapid metallic tap-tap-tap. Actually, she does this on KATE's shield, as its the furthest down the line, her own at the near-center.

Next, she quickly yanks it from the dirt, and whirls around, moving behind her own stationary shield, raising Kate's overhead as she goes: a platform? Or just extra cover for any shooting the Manticore might do from overhead.

She reaches Toni's position. The manticore is already in the air, and perhaps in this high speed she may see some of the shimering plasma even starting to form, she plants her spear between them, in the dirt, facing upright, pushed down deep enough into the Earth.

Some second or two later, Toni might be surprised that Cassie is with her, as she wills her barrier in place between them, and the creature's claws fall upon it. By then, she might grasp the plan, as she sees its belly held just above the upright tip.

Toni Monetti has posed:
Everybody's moving quickly, faster then Toni, even if it feels like the world is-- she doesn't know how to put it in her interior experience; clearer, faster? She steps back a pace and there is a shout of DOWN and Toni throws herself down immediately, face first, right behind that shield.

This is not really what she is supposed to do.

Cassie is moving like greased wildfire and Toni raises her head as the manticore leaps towards her and she thinks to herself, yeah if Artemis is mad at me whatever, and THEN

There is a shimmering ribbon of silver plasma above her that blooms out like a horse's saddle scribbled in abstract. It pivots slightly and the manticore lands on it; the saddle sinks but then it throws five spikes into the ground, the pentad of struts holding the creature's weight up as Toni sweats bullets and looks over towards Cassie and says a little quietly, "Oh hi," and then -

Underside of the saddlebacked semi-dome.
Above it, the manticore.
Earth continues to have like a jillion tons of mass and thus gravitational attraction.

Toni's lips form a pale 'oh!' and she rolls to the side, saying, "AAAAAND HERE WE -- GO!"

The plasma disappears like someone turning out a light switch as Toni throws her hands over her head.

Kate Bishop has posed:
Wow okay these things are ridiculously fast.

Kate held the line with her shield, trying to decide when to swap to a bow. Yes Cassie was giving her the opportunity but the thing... is brutally swift on it's attack there. The thunk of the spines. The swipe of the claws.

The fire breath. She is still getting use to the fire breath.

Still Hawkeye has her spear thrust into the ground right as Cassie is removing her shield to use it to help defend Toni. Kate pivots following the blur of moveemnt and the beast now, eyes narrowed very critically.

Okay this can totally work. Actually she is in the moment here when things almost seem to slow down for her. When she is shooting. She takes in the sum total of what is going on. Her friends. The plasma. The spear.

Weak Point is the neck though.

There is an arrow in drawn from the quiver on her back, nocked, and fired. Sent sailing where the young archer wants it. Where it will connect as the plasma disappears and everything falls together right for that spot.

The spot where the neck meets shoulders.

Of course, just in case something goes wrong a second arrow follows the first a split second later. Why use one arrow when you can use two.

Cassie Sandsmark has posed:
And needless to say, Cassie's plan isn't simply to let it's full weight fall on the two of them!

As the creature is pierced from above and then likewise from below, she completes the maneuver: at the moment when it hits the crossbars on the spear, the very initial impact partly absobred by the grounded butt, she heaves upward and away with a dose of her own demigodly strength (if it's kosher for Hercules, she figures she's safe!). This isn't to further impale it: the spear is impaled fully as far as it will go, even as the creature's body is likewise being pincushioned with arrows. Rather it's to toss the creature's weight to one side of them, so it lands safely in the dirt, still at spear-length, lest's it's paws rake them in it's death throes.

She looks back to Kate, and gives her a thumbs up!

Donna Troy has posed:
    If the ferocity of the attack was shocking in its noise and speed, the end of it is somehow just as shocking in silence and speed. The roaring is silenced, and the manticore falls to the ground as the plasma barrier fades, and lies still. The Amazon scout quickly draws a sword and closes the distance Cassie's spear-thrust had afforded the Titans, but finishing the beast is unnecessary - Kate's arrow had found the weak point and was embedded to the fletching, and the beast is still.

    "Clean!" The Amazon announces to the Titans, grinning. She even gives a thumbs-up gesture. The influences of Man's World are clearly creeping in and infecting the Amazon people, despite Hippolyta's best efforts.

    There's no time for people to recover from the adrenalin rush though. "Recover your shields!" Donna calls out, as she does exactly that. "There's another one, remember?"

    Indeed, barely has she reminded the Titans of this fact when a pair of Amazons come rushing out of the woods to the side, one of them calling out "/Strophete!/" which Donna helpfully translates as "Turn!"

    Soon the Titans and the now three Amazons are standing in a line, shields up and ready, advancing cautiously into the forest in the direction the Amazons had come running.

Cassie Sandsmark has posed:
Cassie's already cleaned one shield! She rises, whispers a brief prayer of thanks to a previously-mentioned Huntress, and then yanks the spear free. Then she pivots to offer the shield she's currently holding back to Kate, since it was hers to begin with. Which means she gets a freebie on that whole 'spine removal' thing! The young Amazon quickly goes to retrieve her own, still-planted shield from its position, taking the same shortcut as early on pounding out the spikes that have gotten lodged in it with her bracer.

When those tasks are complete, she's soon back in line, ready for the next approach, with just occasional glances back to her friends: "Watch the spines, Toni."

Kate Bishop has posed:
Kate blinks "I thought our flanks were covered?" mostly she thought the escorts would be taking the other one really. Still. It may make sense it was harried or avoided. "Got it."

No time to for adrenaline to fade let alone time to celebrate yet it seems. She tucks her bow back stowing it and snags her spear. She does what she was shown and gets Cassie's shield up and out of the ground now. Or well she was going too until Cassie offers hers back "Thanks.. smooth move Cassie." she means it too. That was intense but Kate at least is still vewry much having fun.

Odd idea of a fun vacation.

She falls in moving up quick to go with the others and threee Amazons in a line advancing in the direction of the monster still out there.

Toni Monetti has posed:
Toni flinches the hell away from the creature as it perishes and -

She opens her eyes.

She returns the thumbs-up gesture, hesitantly, smiling like an anxious dog all the while. She is surprised at herself to find herself getting up on her feet and grasping at the shield as per her guidance, hustling forwards. This feels good, Toni thinks, even as she tells Cassie back, "Oh yeah, totally! I'm gonna like do, that, but like, wider probably if it rushes again cuz, okay shuttin' the hell up now."

Hup hup hup hup hup.

"Did you ever," Toni begins, before stopping short abruptly and not finishing the question to Kate, Donna, Cassie.

Donna Troy has posed:
    "They are covered, Kate," Donna says with a grin. It looks like she's very much having fun too. "They've been keeping it away from us, but they wouldn't want to take your prize. You're guests here, that would just be rude!"

    One of the Amazons says something that Cassie recognizes as "two stades", and Donna translates as a quarter of a mile. The Titans hear a distant roar, and advance.

    The shield line moves slowly and quietly forwards, Donna and the three escort Amazons on the sides, keeping a close watch on the flanks. The forest is silent. Eventually the shape of the manticore can be seen, standing still beneath a tree, some way ahead. It doesn't seem to be aware of the group yet.

    The Titans draw closer, and still the manticore doesn't seem to be reacting. It is turned mostly away from them, looking at something in the distance perhaps.

    The Titans draw closer.


    It's very still. Very, very still. One paw is raises, as if to strike, but it is posed there, unmoving, like a statue made of stone.

    Which it is. Why would there be a statue of a manticore out here in the forest? How could the Amazons have mistaken it for the real thing?

    But wait... didn't it roar just a couple of minutes ago?

    There is the sound of a heavy snuffling in the underbrush. One of the Amazons hisses. Another utters a sharp word: "/Katablepas!/"

    "SHUT YOUR EYES NOW!" Donna roars. "Stand very, very still. Do not open your eyes, or use any other kind of visual apparatus, until I tell you. Kate, make your way along the line to me. Cassie, grab Toni. We are flying out of here. No arguments. Straight up when you have your passenger, do not open your eyes until you are two hundred feet up. Sorry guys, but this one we're leaving to the professionals."

Kate Bishop has posed:
Part of Kate really wants to carefully set down the shield and the spear as they approach the motionless Manticore and shoot it.

The thing isn't moving. It is just standing there, the vulnerable spot exposed.

Hell even old man Hawkeye could make that shot right.

Still though discipline and following tactics and orders. She stays in the line drawing closer and closer now. Spear in one hand loose and ready.

"Stone?" she whispers squinting a bit and then when Donna roars well she shuts her eyes hard. What the hell is a Katablepas.

Why is Donna freaking out.

Still she makes her way towards Donna's voice, grip on her shield and spear still but gets to where she heard Donna. She has done eyes closed or simulated blindness drills so many times in the danger room to mock up flash bangs and other problems. "Here." she hisss whispers when she reaches Donna.

Thankfully she has also done a lot of practice being carried by fliers.

Cassie Sandsmark has posed:
This one IS new to Cassie!

Well, she's heard the stories of course, in the grade school mythology book form, and later in more serious 'oh these are actually real' discussion among the Amazons here. Perhaps she has even studied it in some training. But in this case, the evolving sources of her knowledge actually matter very little, because in truth they have not changed all that much. The broad strokes, you know: stone gaze. Or death in some stories. NEITHER ARE VERY GOOD OUTCOMES.

So when the command comes, real fear comes with it, and Cassie's eyes quickly lock shut.

She does have some blind-fighting training, one of those hardcore 'be ready for anything' sort of exercises one would expect of the Amazons. But it is not being applied to Catoblepean murder, here. It is applied to having a good positional sense of where Toni is in relation to her. In a moment, the other yuong woman will feel an arm wrap around her waist, plulling her tight to Cassie's side with a suddeness and irresitable power that is a reminder of what her strength actually is. Flying blind, she's not gonna risk dropping her.

And still, she goes with the cliche: "Hold on."

And then it's up, up, and away!

Toni Monetti has posed:
Hup hup hup hup hup.

It feels like nothing at all - Toni is kept from *skipping* mostly by the fact that, yes, it's kind of a long way, and also, she's holding a shield and a spear. This really is kind of like coke, thinks Toni, probably having just not capitalized it internally as she gazes ahead. That thing's got its back turned to them? She glances at Cassie and grins crookedly. "Tough shit for him, huh," she says, before--

"What the ****?" says Toni.

A second passes.

Medusa did this, Toni decides, before-- Katawhat?? The name means nothing to her, but then Donna yells at them to SHUT THEIR EYES. Toni does so.

In fact, she does it one better and puts her hands on either side of her head. A moment later, her entire head, from the nose up, is covered in a bubble of silver.

I could totally open my eyes, Toni thinks.

Somehow the fun is gone, although hey, that's Cassie, Toni thinks, I'm totally being rescued. "THANKS," she says, before muttering in a more normal tone, "thanks," followed by squirming around and then just grabbing on to Cassie's forearms.

"Is that Medusa?" Toni asks. "Cuz I thought that was Medusa's thing. What's Donna gonna do?" A moment later, "Jesus Christ, are the other girls gonna get killed?? Tell them not to pick up my stuff, that's my fault!!" (She dropped her spear and shield immediately after she behelmed herself.)

Donna Troy has posed:
    Vivian, without a passenger, is the first up in the air. Cassie soon follows with Toni, while Donna takes up the rear with Kate. When all five Titans are safely high up in the air, Donna calls out "You can open your eyes now!" and when they do, the Titans are greeted with an encouraging grin.

    "Okay, katablepas. The manticores were probably hunting it and it caught one of them. They're not vicious - actually they're kind of dumb and placid, but yes, you do get turned to stone if you make eye contact with one, and their breath is very toxic. So... yeah. This is not a hunt we are going to go on. Don't worry about our escort, they know what they're doing, they will be fine. Fortunately it's very easy to outrun."

    For some reason, Donna doesn't want them to fly all the way out of the forest, and after just a mile she brings them back down to the forest floor, where after only a few minutes, they are found by one of the scouts. There's a bit of a wait for the other eleven Amazon rangers to make their way to the group, but after ten minutes or so the group is back together again - and a pair of the Amazons are carrying the Titan's trophy, bound to a pole balanced on their shoulders. The pair are accompanied by the ranger leader Cydippe, who gives them a huge smile when she sees them, and walks up to the group. She rests one hand on Toni's shoulder, one on Kate's and says "Good!"

    It's the only word of English she speaks the entire day.