Duty Session 399: Karluin Reclamation - Town
Even with the defeat of the fifth floor boss, Karluin is still a monster-infested ruin filled with precarious traps, ancient dangers and just plain old fashioned half-collapsed architecture. Though dilapidated, the goblin settlement in the area is deeply rooted and will need a good deal of effort from intrepid Adventurers to clear out... But it'll all be worth it. Once reclaimed, the fortress of Karluin will be a second or third home for Adventurers making their way up the tower. It's not like they have much choice; the way up is right smack dab in the middle of the old fort, and leaving it to rot will just make getting to the sixth floor that much more difficult.
The long task begins with exterminating monsters still lurking in the castle-town surrounding Karluin's mysterious central keep. Only then can the walls be secured and progress can begin on securing the fortress' heart.
Rec. Party: 4+
World Rewards: Free Karluin's Ground Level
Well, Uta is guaranteed to cause trouble, regardless, but that's besides the point. The black mage looks over the brim of her glasses at the Spriggan. "Let's not. That sounds like it would take way more clean up than I am looking to do. This place is bad enough as it is without having to scrub goo out of every crevice."
The plains are a massive battlefield. Goblins, Palace Landers, and all sorts of monsters as far as the eye can see, led by a line of Alv Generals.
"You have no hope, Yamato!", shouts the Alv General with the most impressive armor. "Surrender now, and your eternal cycle of deaths will be made marginally less painf- What in the Cursed Wave is that?!"
A shadow emerges from behind a hill. A gigantic cube of gelatin diffracts the sun with that radial hexagon effect, and on top of it, on a saddle, is a tiny figure. Dramatic zoom in, and atop that towering mass of wobbling jello, the silhouette is revealed to be Uta in shining golden full-body armor (yes, even the wings!), raising a sword. "CHAAAAAAARGE!", she yells, pointing at the opposing army.
"By the Goddesses! We are lost! HAVE MERCY!", the generals quiver, while the multitude behind them is plunged into chaos. It's a free-for-all where everyone screams and runs for their lives, in their vain attempt to escape the Gelatinous Mount Dispensed Death which, after a massive leap, is about to bounce on them from above..
Ripple away from Uta's daydream.
The Spriggan, who until a moment ago had her hands clasped and an idiotic smile on her face, blinks. And blinks again, resuming her usual expression. "Uh.. er... y-yes, something like that," she says to everyone, and Haru in particular.
Just as the party sets out, thing begins garbling unintelligible obscenities from nearby. Crude arrows embed themselves in the wooden barricades as a band of goblins riding mottled wolves charges down the thoroughfare, looking to overrun the Adventurers' position in a vain attempt to undo what progress has already been made.
"Seriously, more arrows?!", exclaims Uta, more annoyed than scared at this point. "Can we -please- go a day without being forced to cosplay porcupines?!"
Yeah, that's exactly what Vertina does. And then throws them right back at the goblin outriders! It actually works pretty well, though it's not perfect, and she still gets hit a couple of times as there's more arrows as she has hands. "Yeah these little bastards have a thing for arrows and crossbows it seems," she quips aside to Uta.
There isn't much time to dwell on the answer to that, as they are forced into combat against the goblins. Kita seems relaxed for the moment, despite the fact that she generally dislikes anything to do with the goblins of Karluin or elsewhere.
Still, she weaves her hand around, forming a shield of dark magic around herself and some of the others. "At least they're low level-attacks. There's far worse things than arrows."
"Yes," Haru imagines there are worst things as he responds to Kita, "like Ballista bolts. Or Slime Ballista Bolts with a little slime on the end of it." The damage. The carnage. Tin-tink, another arrow deflected.
Her first instinct, as a fellow martial artist, is also to grab arrows. It is only after her conscious brain kicks in that she stops the already initiated movement and poofs an Aura of Darkness out of herself, as if her whole body suddenly puffed dark smoke, with Pure Writhing Darkness instead of smoke.
Two or three arrows are deflected out of the way, and end up slamming against the ground grotesquely deformed by the experience; the spell, however, is too weak, and shatters briefly after. More arrows penetrate it, and Uta screams as three arrows, one after the other, push her backward, step by step, until a fourth impales her right trough her chest.
Eyes open wide, expressionless, she stares in the distance. Back against the rock, she slides down, landing on her knees, hands clutching at the arrow in her chest. "...I... I am done for... I... I cannot continue... Please..." she stretches a hand out. "Continue without me... I- wait, Ballista Bolts with slimes at the tip!?" She yanks the arrow out of her chest with a massive grimace (and a suppressed yelp. Lots of lip biting). "Forget dying, I have a goal in life now!", she exclaims, standing up, and marching on, while she pulls another arrow off herself. Red dots keep glowing bright on her, but that does not seem to stop her.
The party pushes on to a ruined part of the city. It's still along a major boulevard, but the rubble around makes navigation a precarious proposition.
"Ok, folks? Where are we supposed to go? I'd wish for some directional signs, but-" She yanks another projectile off her leg. Grimace. "...I'd rather not ask for more arrows, today."
Well it doesn't, because Vertina tries to punch a marker in a wall that doesn't have structural integery left, and it crumples down around her. "Oh son of a b--" *BONK* Her remark cuts off into a hiss as a piece of mortar bounces off her thankfully thick head.
Of course, then they are left with the prospect of trying to navigate through the goblin controlled streets. Kita takes the pencil she normally has behind her ear, taps it on her cheek once or twice, looking thoughtfully around. "I think we may need to head up this way. I remember seeing some maps back at headquarters... but I'm not totally certain I remember clearly."
The relaxed posture gives way to some uncertainty from the Imp mage, but she offers up her thoughts, regardless.
Walking through the rubble, Haru offers to Uta, "We can figure it out. Getting lost is half of the adventure, right?" As an Artificer he is getting accustomed to going through rubble and unearthing things that may help in his creations. What he finds is a little sad at times, since pulling back stones with his noodle arms reveals small stories of the people before that are no more. Yet he continues down this empty street on the boulevard of broken dreams. Smile.
A sign is plucked from the rubble to relate to some mappage "Main and Second? Not creative, but easy to follow," Haru says, finding similar landmarks to help with navigation as they go.
"Well, that is the best we have, Kita. We should probably follow with it. This way, you say, huh?", she says pointing in a specific direction. And when Haru unearths the sign, Uta nods in confirmation with a pleased smile. "Well done, Natsu! I'm glad everyone is giving their contribution!"
Vertina's attempts are politely ignored, as not to attract attention to them.
"I suppose that now we play it by ear..." Uta mumbles, tapping her lips. She inhales, and... does exactly that. She intones a song, a song, a song which contains many clicks, likely produced by her tongue. Pulses, long notes, different frequencies.
The scenery nearby affects the sound waves in various way: reflects, diffracts, refracts them, each person in a differnt spot will possibly notice the echoes and interferences. Those trained in Song will start to notice patterns.
Uta herself, with her eyes closed, turns her head left and right a little, and then stops, abruptly.
"That way, confirmed." she states, certain, spinning her staff and pointing in the exact direction Kita indicated.
The party proceeds to find a small group of other adventurers... carving away at what appears to be a building that has collapsed in the group's path. "We've got a team trapped on the other side, and there's no way through if we don't get this cleared out," the apparent leader of the group explains, but gestures aside. "If you want to risk it, that alley should lead the next street over, but we'd appreciate the help getting this stuff torn down before you go."
"Let me see what some of my summons can do to help." She offers, weaving up some more of her dark magic to throw at the problem. The only issue is... Kita's summons have a tendency to resemble dinosaurs of various persuasions. In this case, she has a couple of velociraptors, who are not particularly good at clearing rubble.
Mostly they just bite at the rocks, and flail small arms in ineffectual clawing motions.
... strain on dislodging a single board from the debris. "Nnnnng," the Artificer emotes, reinforcing that Strength is not the highest stat in the Enchanter/Summoner's attribute tree. He pants by the end of it. "I think," pant, "its," pant, "really lodged in there." He says this to one of the raptors who just gives him one of those lizard lazy blinky eyes. "You said it, Blinky," Haru agrees.
She climbs the pile of rubble, and begins jabbing at the rocks with the tip of her staff.
Jab. Jab. Jab. *Plink*
Uta blinks. She kneels down, rummages among the rocks she's dislodged, and pulls something out.
"Oh, hey. A gold nugget," she exclaims, turning the tiny bit of shiny metal, held up against the sky, between her fingers.
Leaving the demolition crew to do their work, the party proceeds down the alleyway in hopes of making further progress. It stinks of decay and whatever it is goblins leave behind when they squat in a place for too long. Just when the Adventurers think that they may be in the clear, a nearby pot shatters and a goblin leaps forth to plunge a filthy knife into their ribs! More goblins descend from second story windows and crawl up out of hidden cellars. Trapped in a tight corridor and surrounded by goblins, they're going to need to hold them off if they want to escape unscathed!
Instead, as they start making their way further, she ends up with a goblin far too close for comfort. Kita does not like enemies in her personal space. So, she instinctually casts a spell, launching some of the goblins backwards.
"I'll try to keep some barriers up to minimize the damage, if you all want to try focusing on damage." She explains, but her voice carries an edge of panic.
Goldenblade doesn't really have the space in the alley to use them normally, anyhow, but with a backhanded grip, she can drive the pommels into goblin faces with brutal force, and let the momentum crush their skulls against the walls. The blades strike sparks on the bricks, and she thrusts backwards, spearing another goblin as it rises up, or as up as a goblin can rise, to attack her. She is brutal in close quarters melee - mostly by getting lucky, truth be told, but it's better to be lucky than good.
It is about this time where Haru gets shiv'd in the back. "Sonofa," the Artificer groans out as he whips his blue jacket around in swashbuckler-y style without any of the style or panache. This fighting tactic is known as flailing in some circles, but Haru will master it one day. Today is not that day. In time he puts his jacket on to cover the damage line. Shame it doesn't cover up the shame or debuff inflicted on his pride. "Its," Haru says to Vert, "a field study. A field study in debuffs. Good for..." he trails in a wobbly step, "... Enchantment research."
A flash. A goblin umps at Uta. She crosses her arms, focuses-
A scream pierces the air.
Uta falls to the ground, whriting in pain as a Goblin, with uncanny speed, twists the blade in the pulsating wound of red light on her exposed shoulder.
Dark streaks leak from the knife, spreading under her skin, and... 'glowing dark' is the best way to describe it. A pattern like gnarled branches, like thorns, like barbed wire creeps out like a sickly tattoo, marring her skin, down her arm and up her neck, surrounded by a dark purple aura.
Uta barely manages to gather enough strength to kick the goblin away. Still curled on the ground, almost in a fetal position were it not that her arms are still crossed in front of her, as if the poison made her unable to move them since being stabbed.
She shivers. Her breathing is shallow, quick, irregular. Her irises lose color. She sweats.
Seconds pass, with Uta looking more and more miserable each moments. And then... all of a sudden...
...the flimsiest barrier of ice materializes in front of her crossed arms.
It shatters immediately.
"...did I block it?"
After what seems like an eternity, the group finally emerges from the alleyway, to see the outskirts of a towering slum. This meandering shanty is easily the size of a city block, but is far taller than it has any right to be... And bristling with goblin archers and mages who must have heard the earlier commotion. They're all on the lookout for intruders, watching keenly for anything that might be a threat to their homes. Fortunately they haven't seen the party of Adventurers yet.
Her voice is kept low, as if she were trying not to let it carry too far to the nearby goblins. After the initial wave of archers, she isn't all that keen on drawing their attention a second time. So, she cloaks herself in a bit of darkness, and somehow the goblins don't really notice it.
Likely they're too busy worrying about the others to care much about a cloud of goth moving by them.
The first goblin to spot the Salamander gets a fist in his skull before he can do too much. But the sound of fist on goblin flesh is loud enough to alert others nearby... and in the end Vertina ends up forgoing any more stealth and just making a mad rush for the opposite end of the slum, retorting something akin to "Sorry, I'm a Monk, not a Ninja!" over the Party chimlink.
"...Training...", Uta replies to Kita, while the purple mass that precedes the dark marks slowly, but visibly, slithers further up her cheek, and down her arm, which she's currently clutching. The impromptu bandage she's applied on her way to the current location seems to merely manage her 'luminous bleeding', but the emergency potions she's chugged down seems to have only barely slowed down the poison.
Uta lets out a nervous laugh. Maybe it's the adrenalin imbalance, maybe it's the drugs. "It's funny. It's... when I joined this game, I wished for a cathartic experience. And whoever it was, be it the Goddesses, Fate, some Other Higher Power or merely Cosmic Irony, made sure the randomizer gave me an avatar which was every single one of my issues, bundled into a disasterous ball of symbolism." She winces. "I have recently realized... I used to shy away from my problems. And lo, I got a pure Evasion build." More nervous laughter. "I suppose I am taking the next step. I am fixing this. My learning how to use Shield represents my choice to stop being a loser who shies away from their problems, and start being like everyone else, and make sure it is someone else who gets in trouble for their problems."
Despite the party's best efforts, the goblins have managed to detect them! Amidst a storm of crude insults and poisoned projectiles, they run for cover... Only to find something there waiting for them. There stands a single, burly goblin carrying a massive, wicked halberd and wearing an even more wicked grin. But most worrying to anyone in the know is the bright red hat perched atop his head. This is no mere goblin, but a Redcap: a particularly murderous, incredibly dangerous variety known for dying their hats in the blood of their victims and for their vulnerability to holy magic and exorcism. With blinding speed, he rushes forward and strikes, each blow potentially lethal and every glancing hit serving only to bleed people out further.
Though instead of punch, she claps her hands together to produce a big flash of Light that makes the brutish goblin reel away from her and yowl as the divine power burns into his flesh.
Well, this isn't /exactly/ fireball that Kita summons up. In fact, as she weaves her hands through the air, drawing out runic symbols and forming a strange circle of purple light beneath her, the energy that forms within her hands has a distinctly dark hue to it. Purple flame licks at her fingers as she murmurs under her breath.
Then, raising her head, she sends a powerful blast of dark fire energy towards the redcaps, trying to sweep them up in the flames.
When she reappears, it's with her swords buried deep in the redcap's back, much to the redcap's displeasure. This takes a /huge/ chunk of its HP all in one strike, and Goldenblade looks pleased with herself as she finishes the fight with more normal fighting moves. The Red Cap knows now that he is done in, but he fights on for a bit longer, trying to figght back against the inevitable.
If it could be thought Haru is rambling, he is. Sweat beads on his forehead as he looks a bit feverish. Somehow it is working his favor as it relaxes him enough to find the right words that the Redcap seems to downright loathe. A natural debuff. "Oh you have to share your creation story with me sometime. I tried to get a summon like the one I had in Layer, but wouldn't you know it, beginning characters can't summon dragons. You believe that? Not even little tiny ones. Wittle bittle bebe bwaggins." He makes a small hand gesture the size of a dragonfly while the Redcap growls in backstory toxicity debuffing.
The redcap's polearm clatters to the ground moments before it itself does. Both disappear in a flurry of red pixels, leaving behind a large tooth that seems to radiate dark and malevolent energies. While the goblin shanty will stand another day, the redcap's defeat means that it has lost a powerful defender. It's impossible to say exactly how many of these creatures still lurk the shadows of Karluin, but there is now one less of them, and that's a victory which cannot be understated.
"I... I wasn't like that just after the Apocalypse," Uta stutters at Haru, looking down and away. "Ask anyone who was there. I was the worst coward. I spent the first months never leaving the safety of Root Cities. My dearest friends would be threatened by monsters, and I would step in only after everyone else had already taken care of the mess. The hardest quests I would take would be playing musical whack-a-mole in the vegetable gardens of Landers..." As she proceeds, she wrings her staff harder and harder, and she turns redder and redder.
"...Lost? Misplaced? Problem tangential?", Uta asks, unsure of what Haru means.
"Oh. Uh. Well. My creation story is..." She looks down and mumbles something. She sighs, and without raising her -head- completely, she turns her pupils to look at Haru. "Choose 'Uta' as name. Random. Random. Random. Random. Random..." Each time she she says 'Random', she flicks her finger, to mime pressing a button.
Always the same button.
"ANYWAY! T...thanks for your cooperation everyone!", she says, swaying, barely able to stand. "I... I think we need to take care of this poison now... starting with... Haru... no, wait..." She squints. "I should probably start with myself..."