Exploration: Maidensong Isle
Following a desciphered map, Uta leads a team to what is told to be a hidden treasure on what had previously only been seen as the jump-off point for the assaults on the Phantom Colliseum. What secrets could this isle hold for our intrepid adventurers?
(Mostly exploration/non-combat scene, I will take up to ~6 people.)
The group has gathered together for their expedition to the maidensong isle, and it ... honestly was a mostly uneventful trip up until just before arriving at the maidensong isle. The place of gather is the main 'dock' on the maidensong isle, in maidensong fort. However, calling it a 'fort' is possibly an affront to forts, as it is mainly a small grouping of tents with a fire lit in a tower as a makeshift lighthouse, with a makeshift dock and fence as a leap point for assaults on the Phantom Colliseum. Still, it makes for a good part for the exploration party to gather together. If not for the eyesore of the fort, the beach would be a rather idyllic and beautiful place to vacation on, but honestly, the dinginess of the fort kind of ruins the aesthetic of an otherwise pristine beach.
She stops, and takes one hand to her lips, as her gaze gets lost in the distance. "I thought there would be someone selling seashells by the seaside, but there seems to be nobody. Pity, it'd have been interesting to learn about the local arts and crafts...'"
She turns to Haru. "...You know, if we, one day, reclaim the place, I think that setting up some business around it would be a pretty good idea. Create a whole ecosystem. Promote the local economy. Develop the place. Also, hmmm. Tropical island ambeince."
Fuka wouldn't mind vacationing here, but she isn't really one for vacationing in the first place. She loves to do things, and vacationing would kind of take her away from things she chooses to do as much as those things she's forced to do. "This beach needs an ice cream stand." she muses thoughtfully, watching Haru's escapades. "That would be a good business, Uta!" she claims. Of course she'd eat so very much of the product. Eat herself sick. But this is the price of doing business, one must suppose.
"We'd also have to renovate that so-called 'fort' though." she notes, peering out at the thing. "Seriously, more like fart right? No one would want to relax around it!" she complains good-naturedly.
And we need someone that can actually read a map.
Uta's little speech still gets a good-natured roll of the eyes. "There'd have to be someone living out here that's willing to actually interact with people without trying to beat them into a bloody pulp." Pause. "Not that I wouldn't put that sort of reference beyond whatever gods and coders created this place."
Crab hunting. Dun dun dun. Oh wait no it's just seashells. Haru does manage to gather a couple. They're nothing special though, just some nice little seashells that could maybe be fashioned into a necklace or something, maybe. Also the crabs might be tasty, though rather large due to the cold nature of the waters around the fog-obscured isle. That said, promoting a local economy might be a bit difficult. There are a couple of adventurers there to maintain the fort, but the rest of the island is mostly just barren save for a few ruins that dot the area here and there that have long since been mostly claimed by nature.
In fact, there don't seem to even really be any monsters lingering around the island from what those posted here say; it was almost as if whatever monster nest that was here was already mostly cleared by the time that they got to the island itself, and it was just lingering spawns. And even the few monster spawns are mostly out in the water itself which is basically impossible to truly make 'safe'. Which actually makes the map somewhat of a mystery; as the island itself has been pretty much entirely explored by the admittedly bored guards posted at that fort. Oh well, that's what the map is for, right? Maybe there's some sort of hidden cave that only shows before the diamond in the rough or something, like in that one movie.
Regardless, there is something to do now! And that is... to descipher the map and make their way to the entrance, possibly by matching their minimap to landmarks etched out on the map, or following clues written on the map that are in the traditional pirate fashion of 'go to the tree at half past three and walk 30 paces to the left, then at the rock with a smock go 50 paces north.' But what rock has a smock?
"The danger can be part of the appeal," a hand stretches across the beach line, "Beach World. Murder at 4, arts and crafts at 6, ice cream stand open all day and night." He is all about the vacation times. Need to take regular breaks. "And the late at night: ruin delving on a full moon." The white haired Artificer stops just short of howling.
What he should be doing is looking for tracks. In fact, he is, but he isn't exactly a tracker. Haru looks at the map every now and then, going around and looking for landmarks or references that would help align it. You know, treasure map stuff. Like look for a tree. Walk paces. Wait, his paces or Fuka sized paces? What if they are Wake sized paces? What if they are PEKO PACES? He picks up some sand to look thoughtful about it. "I've got nothing over here." Out of the corner of his eyes? A crab. Clack clack. Are you... clackering at me, crab?
Fuka sighs at Haru's question. "Apparently they have it in Kallamore, and I *completely missed it* when I was there!" she complains. "We'll have to invent some. Fortunately I already did all the hard work, inventing a freezer and all!" she claims, the last even becoming a self-congratulatory sing-song.
Only to break off and regard Haru sidewise, completely ignoring the map. Let the big brains figure it out. "How are we going to delve ruins on a full moon?" she asks skeptically. "I'm all for ruin delving. Very romantic. And I'm all about the pirate booty, it shivers me timbers." she adds. "Is that what we're looking for here? Booty?"
Fuka, conversely, gets a simple, "LOOT. We're here for LOOT."
"Reference? What Reference?", Uta asks Shiruba. She listens to the rest of her musings, and follows up with, "Yeah, I never understood that part. Especially since another pirate trope is that X marks the spot. So... there's some strange set of abstruse directions, which lead you to a spot which is marked one the map anyway? With the most glaringly obvious symbol?" She scratches her head. "Pirates are confusing."
She sighs and starts pacing. "In any case, we'd better follow the instructions just in case. Let's see.." After the first 30 paces to the left, she rubs her chin and looks around. "A rock with a smock is clearly pirate slang to mean a rock which is wearing a smock. Like that one," she says, pointing off screen.
The camer pans to the right, fast as a blur, and the frame shows nearby rock that... doesn't look that different from the rocks around it. "This rock shows clear signs of having worn a frock by means of... of..." She paces around the formation, looking at the ground, and then raises one finger in a a-HA! gesture.
She jabs at the ground with her staff, digs with her hands, and after a bit, she pulls up a couple of buttons made of bone. "I am no expert in tailoring, but I'll say that these are the remaints of a smock. So..." She flips her staff. "We proceed North now, 50 paces... then we have to find some sort of... *squint* 'hanged giraffe'? Must be a tree or something."
Landmarks take a few moments to find, but eventually one of the ruined buildings on the island matches up with something on the map; a particularly large building that at once time probably was beautiful and grand. Possibly some sort of palace or noble's house, from the intricate (if worn and now indescipherable) carvings and golden artwork laid into it. On the other hand, searching for tracks... just finds exactly what Haru ends up finding. Wildlife. Nothing noteworthy either. More of those same crabs. One of which is particularly angry at his now second time disturbing it from its daily life on a previously abandoned island. Clack clack. It might be better to back away. Otherwise it might aggro.
Shiruba, meanwhile, ruins the pirates' fun. Or their directions. Probably both? Maybe both. Either way, the party's path has now been laid out and it is... an actually relatively peaceful one, if somewhat difficult. Most of the path to the dungeon is laden with nature that has overgrown and blocked paths that once were there, and ruins that have collapsed and made certain areas impassable, forcing the party to find alternative routes around it; frequently but cutting through overgrown plants that have grown tall to try to get access to what little sun the misty island offers.
Ruin delving on a full moon does sound kind of romantic though. Maybe it was something that could be done in the future. Who knows. It wouldn't be that out of theme for the game to have secret ruins and dungeons only accessable on the full moon. And Uta... well. Uta is Uta. And Uta actually manages to find the 'rock with a smock' and the 'hanged giraffe' which is in fact a tree. It's almost as if she was creating this nonsense as she goes along, to be honest. But eventually it does lead them to ... something. A cave, perhaps? One that the entrance to is heavily obscured and even makes use of an optical illusion to make it look like a solid wall, when in actuality it is capable to pass through and continue on in to find a ... large door.
The door is made of metal that has been shined to a mirrored finish, untouched by time, the mirror is actually somewhat difficult to look at as there are several glowing crystals around the room that make it difficult to look at due to the bright glare caused by it. Every so often glimpses of something can be seen in the mirror. Glowing ... something? Is that letters? On the other hand, it /is/ just a door. So it could possibly also just be brute forced. Or the light plunged into darkness so the party can see what is going on better and figure out the way to open the door. Either way, there's definitely magic afoot in the room.
It leans well into the fact that the group finds a cave. "Or a cavern!" Haru claps his hands together and rubs them, "a magical cave of wonder and excitement." Speaking of wonder and excitement, the cavern has /crystals/. Immediate distraction for Haru. He puts a hand to one, inspecting each one and working in Dark magic to adjust the amount of luminosity they product. "We will call this attraction the Crystal Cavern and say something silly like 'Only those with pure of heart may gaze upon the mirror and progress onward!'." Booming voice and everything. No, Haru is not being very helpful here, either. He does take a sample of the small crystaline shards to look at later. Accessory Forging and Enchanting loves these little guys.
"Like this," he says, and will do the thing. The thing that does the trick. It's complicated to describe, you kind of have to know what at least most of the symbols mean. "Er, no, like this," he advises, because some people have to get their fingers on things when they have no idea how they actually work.
"Only one way to find out..."
She slams the staff to strike the ground, and vocalizes an ominous chant. Tendrils of sheer darkness writhe along the item, they creep and slither until they pool into the gem. And the more she does so-
Light appears to be -sucked in- from the surrounding area, as if it was a liquid going down some sort of drain. Slowly, at first, but then being absorbed more and more. A vacuum cleaner for luminosity.
Fuka's clever plan of letting the nerds figure out where to go is successful, and she cheerfully follows along, keeping up moral support by whistling. Also cheering the group along by pointing out the landmarks the group is following. "Hey yeah, I can almost see the smock!" she agrees, squinting at the lone rock. "And those trees do look like a giraffe to me! Wait, are there giraffes in Yamato? Ah never mind, pirates sail all over the place looking for exotic booty!"
No, Fuka's probably never going to stop saying that word. She may be in her 20s, but part of her mind is the true envy of any thirteen year old.
The concealed cave entrance has Fuka a bit more serious though. "Ooooh. Hey, you found it!" she congratulates no one person specifically. "Never doubted you for a moment. So let's seeeee... what have we here?" she says as they push past the illusion into the cave. "Glowing crystals, glaring bright door... ow, not gonna look at that. Yeah, I'm just gonna cloooose my eyes and try to force the door, yeah." she muses, squinting with eyes very nearly shut to approach the door without falling over crystals too many times.
Once there she grabs hold of the door and opens it. Or tries to at least. It resists. "Must be stuck." she muses, reaching once again and pulling harder. Failing again she rubs her palms together. Then she tries yet again. Probably by this point someone's worked out what the writing says and how the door's actually supposed to open. With the result that when she yanks with all the might and power contained in a tiny battle fairy's body, the door SLAMS open as if there wasn't a single thing holding it back all along, and Fuka just goes flying. Someone catch her?
Unfortunately for Haru, his dark magic is ... apparently just not quite up to snuff when it comes to adjusting the lights. Sure, they darken for a moment, but then it brightens right back up as if nothing happened a few moments later. And the shards of crystal seem to just be... pretty normal crystal, too. Not elementally attuned or anything, not even actually enchanted either, possibly the spell casting the light is beneath the crystals or something? It's hard to tell without breaking one. And that would just be rude.
Meanwhile, the crab just evidently has been added to the party now, following after. Possibly curious what the heck these weirdos are doing on the island of the king crab, Gibraider. Not that it was actually a king crab. It just might have an ego problem. Meanwhile, Uta's dark magic pulls in the light, allowing Shiruba and Schneider to properly read the symbols after a few moments of desciphering it.
Ah yes the vague 'the thing that does the trick'. Arcane sigils that are desciphered, read, and ... it's some ancient lander language, that none the less is translated by that useful translation effect the game has, allowing reading of the pass phrase. 'In frigid cold and dangerous dark, the beautiful lay in this frozen ark.' ...Some sort of tomb or something? It's hard to tell.
Meanwhile Fuka is ... doing... the simple option! Pushing the door! The floor is, unfortunately, slick. In fact, there seems to be ice coating the walls and floor of this area, making brute forcing it even harder... until... that phrase is read. And Fuka is sent flying by a sudden gust of frigid air that chills one down to the bone -- even with the resistance to such things that the system normally provides. Hopefully everyone brought their warm clothing as they proceed forward into a frozen foyer of sorts.
There doesn't seem to be anything too particularly challenging or trap-like to this foyer, and it's actually rather beautiful, as if the entire room was a giant ice sculpture that depicted many beautiful people of the land. Almost too beautiful. Man, the people who lived here must have been full of themselves. Regardless, there seems to be a stairway heading downward on the other side of the room. And a subtle ... cracking noise? Surely, nothing bad could come of walking through an icy room with a sound like that happening, right?
Fwoosh. Right past everyone. His feet skate in as he casts some basic air to aeroplane across. "Skating Rink!" Hands go out to Fuka and Uta. Yes. Exactly what this is. Totally NOT a death trap. That crackling sound is just a way of welcoming them, clearly.
Fwoosh! Right past everyone! And Haru goes right out into the middle of the room. Skating along the skating rink! And... those cracks get louder. And the burst of wind? Didn't help things either. As one of the statues starts to list to the side. And then topple over, the floor under it cracking and breaking, and it's like a domino effect, the room mostly breaking away and starting to fall forward, down to the room below as massive chunks of ice crash and fall, massively damaging the room ahead. Going forward suddenly became much more treacherous. And it looks like about all they're going to be able to do to go forward is slide down a slab of ice that stayed mostly together as it fell, creating a makeshift slide.
Of course. There are now jagged pieces of ice at the bottom of it to try not to get impaled on. On the upside, Haru made it to the stairway and just has to try not to slip on the icy stairs!
But the room has fallen in without his help, so what is there to do? Well, the slide down would be easier without all those sharp spikes of ice, and since the fire's already up, he will let the fire radiate out a bit more, and melt the fallen sheets into a smoother path.
Exasperated, Shiruba steps out onto the slide that's been formed from the collapsing floor. But rather than go wily nilly she makes her steps carefully, sliding a bit with the scoot of her feet while keeping her body upright so her center of balance remains stable. The same method she'd use to get down an icy mountain slope to evade jagged frozen rocks serves her well here.
Having been blasted by the cold air and knocked off her feet - and no one caught her - Fuka's a bit slow to get up. Shivering, she watches Haru skate right past her. "HUH!" she says rather loudly. Something's got her back up? "And here I was going to ask H to keep me warm, but I suppose he missed out. Songbird, would you keep me warm?" Fuka asks, fluttering her eyelashes and gazing longingly at Uta. The whole look of longing desire is really spoiled only by the smirk that makes it clear Fuka knows *exactly* what Uta will do.
Unfortunately Uta's warm embrace will have to wait as the icy floor cracks and tilts. "OH SHI..." Fuka abruptly cries out, beginning to slide. And seeing the jagged icicles below. "...IEEEEELD!" she finishes, adjusting herself into the position of a shield-based sword arte, her forearm braced out before her. Doing so just right calls up a defensive field that pushes back against what's coming straight for her, or rather she's sliding straight for it. Either way, it's relative, and the repulsive force is enough to allow her to avoid harm.
It takes a few moments for Uta to get her bearing and realize what is going on. But when she does, she makes this high pitched 'a-ah-ah-ah-aaaaaaaah-aaaaah-ghfhghnnnngh--gnnn' squeal of discomfort as a deep red tint surges on her face. Camera cut between Fuka's expression of longing, and Uta's choked, tongue-tied red face of utter embarrassment, a couple of times, until, when the camera sets back on Uta, one can see steam raising (presumably from her feet, due to the sheer nervousness), and her figure sinking (presumably deeper into the ice). Deeper tracks can be seen being left behind her.
Needless to say, she can't armflail due to the delicate skating balance. That doesn't stop her from wingflailing.
"OH SNAP!", she exclaims, and jump in the air, in an attempt to bounce off whatever surface is available at the moment in her best imitation of a pinball.
Luckily for the party, Schneider had produced a particularly intense fire which smooths the worst of the slabs into a much safer makeshift slide. Sure, there's melted puddles of water here and there creating more of them, and likely later they might build back up, but for now... they've got a RELATIVELY safe path, and between their careful movements, evasion, and simply shielding themselves, they manage to get down the slide in relative safety with only minor bumps and bruises instead of impalement as they get down to the lower floor. Oh yeah and Haru joins them. But not the crab. The crab has decided that this is too dangerous and has skuttled away as Haru suggested. Escaping with its new name and its life. Nope. Screw that. Not going into the monster's den. Sir King Crabbington Gibraider is out of here.
A last leap leaves the group into a massive ice-encrusted room, this one seemingly a layer of ice on solid ground at least, thankfully. Areas that are still intact after the destruction of the room above have a rainbow reflection to them, and the area gives off the sense of a town center, with various different places to relax or sell ones' wares, places where people gathered for meetings, or... apparently... music. In the center of the room is a giant harp, beautiful and made of gold with silver strings; magic seeming to emanate from it and strings of enchantment visible on its surface. There aren't really any obvious signs of how to go forward, but considering there is a giant magical harp in front of the party, well... it's not hard to guess what needs to be done. Either figure out the way to activate its magic through examining its enchantments, or just generally puzzling through the music that likely activates it, making note of each note that seems to be important. In fact, there was the start of someone doing just that etched into the side of the harp; probably why its magic is starting to fade, actually. Idiots, damaging enchanted items.
He effectively pressure washes and temperature stabilizes the object.
Hmm hmm hmm. Haru hums. This is work he likes, albiet this could take him a while before he is done.
That said the best she can do is try and use some of her wind magic to make the strings vibrate and hope she can luck out on finding proper notes, but that doesn't seem to be the case. She just gets some badly tuned twings and twangs because while the effort is there, like I said, she has no idea what she is actually trying to do.
Fuka looks at Haru with an attempt to be serious, though given the pulse-pounding excitement and fun she's having, she's having a remarkably hard time keeping a broad grin off her face. It makes her dignified look fail kind of hard. "Songbird is much cuddlier than you." she states with wounded dignity. Well, more like dignity that's been dragged into a back alley, stabbed several times, and had its pockets rifled for beer money. Fuka doesn't do dignity well.
Possibly that look from Fuka is why Haru has such trouble with the simple repair work? Either because he thinks she's actually upset or because he's busy snickering.
In any event Fuka turns her attention to the magical harp, losing interest in teasing Haru once he actually starts trying to do serious work. Instead she studies the magic and the music both, the combination actually being quite appealing to her. She hums a few notes, tuning her senses in an attempt to pick up a resonance. Then starts pitching her hums to the tune and speed of a very popular jingle from a popular fast food company advertisment. Probably causing everyone to play the ad in their heads.
She plucks the strings and harmonizes in accordance with Fuka's melody, both with the instrument and her own powerful voice, for a few times before she realizes what she's doing.
Too late, it's stuck now.
Fuka gives a shrug and a look to Haru as if to say 'what can you do?'. "No, she's right." the little sylph agrees. "What we did that night was emotional and deeply meaningful. You couldn't rightly call it mere cuddling."
Power washing! ... The harp is! ... Now wet. And starting to freeze in the frigid cold of the room that they're currently in. And one of those silver harp strings seems to be crackling a little, threatening to break. It might be difficult to play that string more than once now. Whoops.
Luckily, Shiruba's wind doesn't make it break. But it definitely doesn't help, and it gives off an awful twang and creak from the wind moving it. On the upside, Schneider seems to be feeling the rhythmn, dude. And it's kind of coming out here and there. Like pieces of a puzzle.
A piece of the puzzle that Fukaziroh starts to pick up on even further with her humming and testing, the music starting to resonate. Individual notes glowing momentarily. PLucking the strings and harmonizing... Uta's fingers move masterfully over the strings, and with a final TWANG of that damaged string snapping (threatening to hit and cut Uta), the magic activates, and the ice at the base of the harp starts to crack and shift, parts of it lowering and sliding to the side, a long, grinding noise and movement until a stairway further down into this deep cave that is no doubt deep under the ocean now.
Which leads to... some sort of ... lounge? A beautiful ruin that is encrusted with gold and ... lacking in ice for the moment, it seems. The walls are encrusted in golden artwork and designs that draw the eye and tell a legend. Once it's pieced together, the images seem to tell the story of a beautiful maiden that seems to have been cursed by a dark god to become a twisted siren monster. Of course, piecing together that story would be difficult as there is a giant mirror in the middle of the room, its edges encrusted in gold and jewels. It seems to draw the eye. In fact, it's mesmerizing... and difficult to look away from when one glances at it. If the party doesn't quickly counter the dark magic of this mirror, or find a way to deactivate it, they're going to find themselves lost in bittersweet memories of the past. Things they long for, things lost forever to time. Forgotten dreams, lost loves, family that has passed away that they were dearly close to. Stuck there to become a part of the beautiful scenery if not careful.
A shruged look to Fuka and he notes, "So this is why 'Maybe'. You could have just told me! I'm so happy for you two. Such a cute couple." A finger snap as he moves into the next room, "Makes so much sense now." Its all coming together!
He looks into the next room with a welcome distraction. "Ooh," he investigates the tapestry of riches and art. If there is ever a place to escape an enchantment, its through a hidden wall or door. Like this one right here. Haru runs towards it, confident that the mural is but a doorway and behind it is not a stone wall but a passage onward. With a loud think, it is not so. That is absolutely a wall. "Et tu, cursed maiden?"
You don't look. At least, not directly with your eyes.
Instead Shiruba holds up her arm while adverting her gaze from the mirror, and activates the relic device strapped to her wrist. Golau Chwilio flickers to life, casting a radial glow, scanner lights sweeping across the room. Shiruba is expecting it to trace something from the engravings in the wall. Which it sort of does, as it appears to be one of those 'beautiful on the outside, monster within' stories.
Which makes it a little less weird when it stops, and when Shiruba peeks up the pointer light is shining to highlight... the mirror itself. Could this be similar, an appearance hiding something else?
Well, one way to find out.
Shiruba holds her arms up to cover her face, both for protection and so she still doesn't look -at- it, then runs towards the mirror. Or whatever the mirror is hiding.
Sometimes it IS appropriate to swallow your concerns and just rush ahead before you think too hard about it and do nothing at all.
Having been recently engaging in music and teasing with Uta, and joking and flirting with Haru, it's no surprise to Fuka that memories of her best friend come flooding up in a hurry. Her old best friend, that is, the one from her old life. Karen is a wonderful person, stylish and talented and smart, and Miyu misses her dearly. It would be easy to get lost in those memories, to engage in a wistful fantasy about another world, another life. To dwell on what was lost. But Fuka isn't the sort of person to dwell on such things. Nor to take this sort of thing lightly. She scowls, temper rising. "Look, you. That is NOT something you want to be messing with!" she growls.
Muttering and chanting, getting angrier and angrier, Fukaziroh channels her mood into a burst of radiant energy, the brilliant shield snapping into place and cutting her off from the assault of dark energies. It gives her ideas, how this shield worked like that, but that's something she'll have to think about later.
For now, wiping at her cheek absently, she looks around. "Okay, let's get out of here. I've had about enough of this room." she grumbles.
The party plummets to the chamber below, and when Uta pushes herself to stand after the rather embarrassing fall, and dusts her off-
Well, bad idea. Her eyes lock into the mirror. "W- wh-"
One step. A wait. A second step. Closer. Closer. "How...", she stares, blinks, once, twice. Three times. "Oh, yes, well, one must remember that the hermeneutic angle, here, has to be framed according to a holistic approach: one must not forget that the medieval and Renaissance approach to knowledge is all-encompassing, and there is no reductionism or compartimentalization as it is more common today. That is literally where the denomination of 'Renaissance Man' originat-"
*BONK*Uta had gotten so close to the mirror that her own bumping into it temporarily snapped her out of her daydream, whatever that may have been. "Wait, what-", she exclaims. And then gasps. "It's not real!", she exclaims with a frown. "You're not Zoomies the Turtle! You're a fraud!", and that said, she is quick to point her staff at the mirror, and intone a powerful holy hymn, which makes blindingly white tendrils of light dance on her staff, coalesce in her gem, to shine a powerful beam of lihgt at the mirror. Lens flare galore! Hopefully.
"I learnt this trick from the entrance door!", she explains.
EGO SHIELD?! The sheer strength of Schneider's ego allows him to resist the effects of the mirror long enough for him to get instructions on how to continue. Which evidently is /not/ how Haru attempts to go forward. Sorry Haru. That's a wall. It hurts to run into, but luckily isn't some sort of trap like the mirror is? Crack. Good thing you can't get bloody noses in this game. Otherwise he'd definitely have one. Poor guy. He just has the worst luck in this icy dungeon it seems.
Shiruba, meanwhile, scans the room and its story. And then the mirror. And she rushes towards it! And... disappears into the mirror. A spiderweb of cracks starting to form where she went through. At least they knew how to get through now, dashing through the mirror and leaving behind other spiderwebs of cracks... though almost more like ripples in the water, they seem to fade away for the most part after a while. The burst of light from Fukaziroh temporarily dispels the enchantment, making it properly safe to continue as well! Uta's light is... a little belated. Because she bumps into the mirror! And then sinks into it, having a realization that there is no Zoomies the turtle there. Was there even ever a Zoomies the Turtle? The light is definitely there though. Maybe it's helping? Or just illuminating the next room.
Everyone eventually continues on through the portal, which leads them into ... a massive room, with a seal etched into the floor along the edges and seeming to continue on the other side of the room. What's not immediately obvious is that the other side of the room is obscured by completely clear ice, the only hints of its presence being a few tiny bubbles here and there, but otherwise it would be easy t o walk into the wall of ice if one wasn't paying attention. It seems that SOMETHING is sealed down here, and whoever sealed it doesn't want it to be woken up. Of course, to continue exploring, they're going to have to do that. Luckily, there's a seal! And they can easily access half of it! Time for destruction. Or at least sealbreaking. Or just fire. Maybe the wall of ice could be melted to allow passage?
And the flames come, the horrible, palpably evil flames, searing through the ice, shattering and cracking it where it doesn't melt away fast enough. He grins a smug smirk. It's good to be the wizard.
Well, fire is probably the way to go, but Shiruba doesn't want to just toss it around recklessly. One room of ice nearly collapsing under them was enough of that.
Instead she draws a couple of incendiary arrows from her quiver, and shoots them at pinpoint spots to melt weak points in the ice, rather than just burn entirely through haphazardly.
So the Artificer adapts, running a finger over his silver monocle as the purple lens starts carving lines of while against it like some sort of HUD against his vision. "Weak points as as follows," he begins to read out very monotonous, robo Haru mode, "Fire is best applied here, here, or here," and he summons out a series of crystal shards taught to him from a certain awesome someone, to highlight areas in the seal itself weak to fire. The crystals light up in a red hue.
"For physical or sonic force, here," with a crystal that floats there and looks metallic. Looks like he has gone full strategist mode for a moment and is being /actually useful/ with breaking the seal. A second set of floating crystals appear for the alternative route of if they dont want to break it and move forward with the ice wall. Option A, Option B.
As soon as she completes the circumference, fireball.
Just fireball. No need to say anything else.
Fuka actually notices Haru's psychological pain, or at least the return of his fake smile. She doesn't understand the cause of it, but she recognizes the symptom. And it makes her set aside a little of her own annoyance as well. The last room was troubling to her, and she thinks there might be some of that in her friend's reaction as well. As they pass through the mirror and on into the next room she reaches out, brushing fingers lightly against his arm and offering a small, quiet smile. Not her usual grin and definitely not a copy of the faked smile. Just a private message that she's there.
She drifts aside after that, putting her game face back on. Watching the others for intent and for action. She readies her axe, waiting for others to act. For Haru to designate a weak point, for the strikers to damage the ice. When they've softened it up, figuratively or literally, she chops into it, using steel and force to break through what barrier remains.
One of the first things that happens after the party enters the room? A giant nasty fireball of evil magic. The sage of Hades summoning the gates of hell to blast and destroy the ice and crack it, melt it! And ... cause damage to the seal, which starts to crackle from the incidental damage, the helloween revealing that it's not a wall of ice, but instead the entire other side of the room being frozen. And, in fact, any melted water or ice simply... reassembles itself back into the wall, though retaining its melted status. Now it's partially a wall of water!
Which is becoming more water as Shiruba shoots fiery arrows into it. And Uta makes a hole in it, motioning to blast it with a fireball or something. The seal, meanwhile, is crackling further. Starting to fizzle. And dark energy is starting to suffuse the room. The wall starting to get a series of cracks in it. Crack... crack... crack... water flowing out, only to pull back into that wall. And then? Then Fukaziroh follows the instructions from Haru. She walks up. Lifts her axe. And strikes. And it cuts straight through the icy wall, falling down upon a line of the barrier. All at once, the entire wall seems to shatter, but before striking the party it turns into water and flows back into itself. Before parting into a pathway that lets the party walk through.
And continue down a set of stairs, water closing in behind them as they continue forward. A muffled sound can be heard as they move through that watery path, moving downstairs. A soft song. Sorrowful. Pained sounding. Even as they continue down the stairs into what appears to be... some sort of throne room. Nobody sits on the throne anymore though, and there doesn't seem to be any secrets in this room. No puzzles. Nothing. Just a normal room with a throne in it. The party is able to continue forward through a doorway that leads to a ... hastily made little room, it seems. That song gets louder the deeper they get into the room. Until they fully enter. And silence falls abruptly.
Not a strangled cry. Not an angry, screaming monster.
In the center of the room was a pair of people, arms intertwined in an eternally frozen embrace, and around them were several frozen sirens, each one standing facing outward from the pair.
An utterly silent room. Freezing cold, the only sounds being the breathing and words of the party. Their footsteps and movements. There are no carvings. There are no signs of chests. Or loot. Or treasure beyond maybe the tridents in the hands of the frozen guards. And yet. In spite of this, there is a sense that they're being watched. And that they should not be here.
Fuka can all but hear the song that must have happened here in ages past, echoing through time. No, she *can* hear the song. Perhaps it's a result of that seal, locking away the echo from the past. She doesn't understand what's going on, and she tries to put it in terms that make some sense.
"I ... I think this was their final defense." she observes in a soft voice. "They must have been under attack, and they did.... this." she gestures around to the room. Some kind of ward, triggered in response to the invasion on the throne room. Or more likely, triggered by the rulers when all hope was lost. "Freezing everything all at once. Themselves, the attackers, everyone." she suggests. "I don't suppose it's possible they're still alive, right? Like... frozen in suspended animation or... or something?" she asks, her voice still perhaps surprisingly quiet and gentle.
"This story reminds me a lot of those high-level undead from Ninetails," she remarks, as she paces around. Possibly to observe the scene better. Possibly to warm herself up. "An Adventurer turned undead. A maiden turned Siren. And Gabriella's story..." Uta trails off.
A pause. "Ok, I -think- I definitely need to try and Loremaster the story of these people. I'm sure something interesting will come up. But first..." She swipes through her menu, and selects the option for medical inspection. "Before we act, let's gather some data. I can perform a medical inspection. Coupled with my Handle Monster skills, it should bring up interesting data about them."
She approaches one of the frozen Siren guards, and-
Or, at least, she attempts to. This kind of specialized inspection requires physical contact.
She snaps to look back at Shiruba. "Wait, you can Loremaster too? Uh. I didn't know that."
"Don't worry, Shiba!" Fukaziroh states cheerfully. "I'll get in the way if something tries to gut you here!" she offers, raising her axe like some sort of dementedly grinning dwarf, er gnome.
The party starts examining the group in the center of the room. And a subtle sound starts to resonate through the room. A quiet heartbeat as Haru and Uta start to walk forward. To start examining the sirens, and the couple. Haru's examinations find the source of the quiet heartbeat. In the center of the beautiful maiden's chest, a subtle glowing red gemstone. Beating. Tha-thump. Tha-thump. Tha-thump. Uta's booping examinations find something that Schneider then further confirms; they have a strong Frost status effect with constantly refreshing stacks along with a secondary 'frozen' status effect that is likely due to those refreshing stacks. The hero bears a shield and sword which seem to pulse in time with the heartbeat. Old. Rusted. Just the remnants of an enchantment lingering. Or a curse? And the frozen maiden...
Is starting to look back at Haru. Eyes slowly turning. Staring at him. But she doesn't seem to be alive. Strange. Especially since her eyes seem to be frozen in their sockets separate from her body.
A scream pierces the room. Terror. Fear. Emanating from... the very back of the room. A smaller girl, also frozen. Curled up against the wall and almost impossible to see at first. Tha-thump. Tha-thump. Tha-thump. The guards start to move. The ice coating their bodies cracking. Tha-thump. Tha-thump.
The scene almost seems to start up again in slow motion. The sirens lifting their shields up defensively towards the party, spears aimed towards the party, and combat warnings activating. The party has acquired enemy aggro. The frozen sirens starting to give off a freezing mist that starts to cause stacks of their frost debuff to spread and slow the party if they don't react quickly to it. Luckily, their foes are not moving quickly yet, so the party gets the first chance to defend themselves before the guards fully thaw.
Investigation isn't really Fuka's thing. She's not half bad with magic, but others here outclass her in the investigative and medical arts. And so when the small frozen girl shrieks and the room begins to unfreeze, Fuka realizes she's out of position to properly react.
"Haru!" Fuka cries out in warning, if not fear. Good, he saw it coming and was able to escape. The little Sylph frowns, readying her axe. "If you guys want to continue this, you picked the wrong time!" she yells, bringing the weapon up and then down again to smash into a still partially frozen siren in a devastating concussive blow. Beware the mighty battle fairy!
And the explaination is disrupted by the frozen sirens starting to move. "--I KNEW IT." Immeadiately she has Thundersnow Howl up and is on the offensive. She draws back on the line, causing first an arrow of ice to form, and then a spark crackling down the strings to charge it as well. She aims at one of the Sirens... and then lowers her arm, firing the shot at the ground at the Siren's feet, instead of trying to shoot through the shield.
It's just as effective, as the lightning released as it hits the ground arcs up to zorch the Siren something fierce.
She turns to the human girl, and focuses on her. "For instance, if I try to learn about- Uh. UH. Sh-she's- the actual maiden! The one from the legends! She... apparently did not -turn- into a monster?", Uta yells out.
"Don't use fire near her! Don't defrost her! I've been involved in attempts at freezing living tissue in the past, and it is a dangerous procedure!", Uta urges. "I suggest that we leave her alone, and come back later when we have more knowledge on how to proceed!"
There is the gaze at Haru from the frost maiden and the gemmed heart. Now he knows gems. He knows enchantments. And he knows a bunch of other things like the freezing point of water. Haru looks away at the last moment and rolls like Sonic the Hedgehog in a ball of Samus fire that leaves a brief trail of fire in its wake before the guards come down in a multi-path way of pain on him. Crash crash smash!
When the Artificer gets out of the roll, his hands are up. Haru can't do much about the aggression behind him. To be fair, its aggression on both sides with the guards and the charming effects. It doesn't matter, he looks back over his shoulder to Fuka as he approaches the girl in the back with his hands still up as if to say he is unarmed. And Haru, as an Adventurer goes, is rather nonthreatening. He doesnt wear heavy armor. His weapon, if you can call it that, is a small crystal orb. The white haired man has a monocle and that clearly makes him either a Bond Villain or the third NPC shopkeeper in town. "We are not here to hurt you," he tells her as he approaches, "and you don't have to enchant me to protect you, I would do it if you asked and let me. This doesn't have to be violent. It never does." His steps are even and composed in the shivering cold. "But it can be if we let our fears win and don't take the chance to break through. Thats the real curse, being unable to trust or hope. To be so scared that the only thing you can do is put this huge wall between you and everyone else. Keep them out. Keep yourself safe." He shakes his head, "Thats not living. Its," he motions to the frozen landscape, "a prison of glass and ice. Trusting is hard. Its frightening. And, look, I'm scared, too. All the time. Of losing my friends. Of failing and watching an innocent person get hurt because I wasn't strong enough to make a difference."
Finally at the wall he says, "This is an opportunity for us to help you. If you can be brave just long enough to let us try."
MEGADETH! An inferno of fire consumes the group, including the frozen pair; and... were those red pixels in its wake? Oh. There went the hero's sword and shield, destroyed in the fire. And the guards are damaged. But also immediately unfrozen by the intense fires, letting them move at normal speed, screeching at the party and moving forward. One of the guards immediately getting bashed by that devestating concussive blow from Fuka, causing it to burst into pixels immediately.
The thundersnow howl is brought up to the offensive, and the line is drawn back to unleash an arrow of crackling ice aimed for one of the sirens! Ricocheting off of the ground to stab into its chest, it also joins its sister in being rendered nothing but red pixels and loot. Meanwhile. Uta examines the little girl and finds out important information. In fact... probably information on what the true treasure of that map was. Possibly that ancient captain's daughter, or princess, or ... something. There's not that much information about her, but it's an easy assumption to make.
And then Haru? Haru starts to negotiate with a frozen person. He talks calmly. Reassuringly. And the frozen young woman. Does not respond. She does not scream again though. In fact she doesn't react right now at /all/ to the talk. Which, I mean. It's an upside? She's not screaming for help or anything anymore? THere's still angry sirens who are grumpy at being woken up though. Probably about three or four left that are coming after the party, aiming mostly for the aggressors first; a spear being chucked at Shiruba in response. Another approaching, shield raised to attempt to stab at Schneider with the spear. And finally, one that was next to Fukaziroh's target turns to attempt to bash her with its shield.
Fuka dodges the clumsy shield bash with ease, laughing as she brings her axe up to interpose between herself and the siren guards. "FREEZE!" she shouts out. A shame since they just got unfrozen, but Fuka has no shame. She tosses a globe of mingled air and water, chilled to freezing, at her attacker. Maybe she'll follow it up with another bash, maybe not. She's having fun though, even as she has concern for just what they're all doing now.
She pulls one of her special conductive piercing arrows from her quiver, drawing it back in her magic longbow. Thundersnow Howl's imbedded gemstones light up with a reddish-gold glow that sends crackling arcs down the arms and bowstring to charge more and more electrical energy into the arrow. She aims back at the Siren that threw the spear, and fires. This time directly at the Siren. They might block the arrow with their shield.
It doesn't matter. Whatever it hits, the arrow releases its charge in a series of bursts, each one like hitting with the elemental force of a stroke of lightning. Enough to easily blow through the shield and fry the Siren wielding it to a crisp.
Uta flies in the air, both feet ready to land on the face of one Siren guard; the next move is already planned: push yourself away, flip in the air, smack another Siren in passing, and land punch-first into the third one. Roll on the ground, push up, swipe at siren with staff. And proceed by sliding backwards and introduce the siren's teeth to Mr.Elbow.
"Do sirens even have teeth?", she wonders aloud while performing the first move, something that the other Adventurers might find... well, a bit baffling, without context.
Freeze! Just defrosted, the siren that is suddenly frozen again finds itself almost immediately struck with an arrow that makes its entire body crack and fall apart, falling to the ground before becoming a pile of red pixels and basic loot. Yay, coinage and misc drops that aren't really worth noting. But mostly just experience.
Also yes. SIrens do have teeth. Very sharp teeth that might not have felt the best to elbow, but nonetheless it does its job, causing enough damage to take down the siren, leaving just one siren left.
Which Schneider strikes with a focused blast right in the center of its chest, ending the combat rather handily right there. Looks like this dungeon wasn't really designed to be a particularly difficult one, and more of a lore location, leaving the room... back to silence. Back to calm. Save for that subtle heartbeat of that crystal in the center of the siren queen's chest. At some point during the combat, her eyes seem to have ... disappeared? Possibly destroyed by one of the wide area blasts. Leaving that beating gemstone in the center of her chest that, upon examination, appears to be called 'The Maiden's Heart'. Luckily it doesn't seem to actually be a heart, and instead just a large ornate gemstone in the shape of a heart. And thus, the dungeon was cleared. And the party can figure out their plans on what to do with the 'Maiden'. Also Haru continues to attempt to calm someone who is completely unresponsive beyond that echo of the past at the start of combat. She doesn't respond, though the there is the feeling that Sir King Crabbington might be insulted by the likeness of him.
"... Maybe the transformation wasn't a literal one into a monster," she muses. "Well, sitting here isn't a safe spot to pursue answers."
Fuka frowns at the suggestion. "She's frozen in a block of ice." Fuka notes. "Taking her might be difficult. And it looks like the ice renews itself continually. We got in through the seal, but I'd have to study the source of the ice for a while to figure out if it's possible to move her." she observes.
Translation: dangerous to move her. Possibly dangerous to the girl, possibly dangerous to us. She's safe... for now. "I hate to say it, but we should leave her for now. Maybe come back with something to analyze and extract her if it's possible. Also, maybe you can share the story? I'm afraid I don't have the faintest idea what story you're talking about, some princess-and-monster tale? Might be important!"
Slap forehead. "Wait a minute! -I'm- a health professional!"
She approaches the frozen maiden. "Okay, okay... since we are not in the heat of battle, I can at least gather more information about her status. Collect as much data as possible."
She walks over to the frozen maiden, possibly next to Haru. "She wasn't 'transformed', apparently," She replies to Shiruba. "I mean, she's still here..." Uta says, pointing at the maiden but looking at the wolf Cait Sith. "But..." Uta flicks her menu open, and selects medical inspection. "...you are right. Perhaps something happened. Perhaps the gem is some sort of magical link device... or something? Think you can Loremaster that one?", she asks Shiruba. "Innate loremaster doesn't give me much information on objects, alas. I get the juicy stuff on events." She returns to look at the maiden, and touches her on a spot least likely to cause tissue damage (hair, probably?)
"...Hmmm. A debuff. I wonder if..." A pause. "...There -is- a relatively safe thing I can try. A pharmacological approach, as opposed to risky thermal shocks."
She stands up, swipes through her menu, and materializes her red squishy stress ball. Squeeze, release. Squeeze, release. "...I think it will work, yes. First, open up the oral cavity and the esophagus..." Some musical water magic, and the blocking frost is cleared from the maiden's mouth. "...then, prescription: stress ball juice!" She smiles at the rest of the party. "It's incredible how many things a stress ball can help with!"
She makes sure that the maiden's head is tilted at the correct angle and...
...just as she announced, she squeezes the stress ball into it. A red liquid drips from it, into the maiden's mouth.
She takes a couple of steps back. "Now we wait."
Squeeze. Release. Squeeze. Release.
Dangerous to move? Probably. A block of ice? Luckily not. Or unluckily. It would make it less safe to move her as a person who wasn't in a block of ice. But instead... it was... Uta. Uta who solved the situation. With a Relic. One of those rare items that can do truly wondrous acts. And soon the stress ball was dribbling into the girl's mouth, the debuffs starting to fade. And the frost retreating at the same time, leaving her... defrosted. And not dead. Is she breathing? It's hard to tell. If she is, she's breathing very shallowly, but it at least should be safe to take her back out of the dungeon and to safety to finish her care for now.
Meanwhile, appraising the gem finds it to be... well. A rare item that is said to have once been the heart of a siren queen.
Treasure acquired. Person saved. Good day.