Duty Session 427: Obligatory Rat Maze

It has been a year of Adventurers delving into the underground of various cities across Yamato, seeking to eliminate the rat infestation that has caused so many shopkeepers trouble. After all this time, something finally seems to have changed. The shopkeeper's dialogue has changed, explaining that while repairing their cellars, they found a passageway into a deeper part of the underground. Since then, rats have been finding their way up through the previously sealed passage.

Now, they are seeking brave Adventurers who are willing to, once again, explore the tunnels beneath the city, in order to seek out this new source of rats.

Difficulty:    Easy
Rec. Party:    3+
Rewards:       3
World Rewards: None

Dun Loireag - The Peaks

Flickering torchlight casts long shadows in the cellar beneath one of the city's shops. Crates are stacked against the walls in neat rows. Everything seems neat and organized. It is clean in a way that one normally wouldn't expect, without even a hint of dust or spider webs.

Shenmi kneels down to take a closer look: Some of the crates have been gnawed on, their contents spilling out onto the floor. There are droppings in small clusters here and there. "It does look like rodent activity, indeed." He moves to stand up. "Surprisingly realistic, I have to say. The amount of research that went into this game is astounding," he comments.

"Where could they be coming from...", Shenmi mutters, as he paces around the room. "There must be... must be... a-ha. There it is."

He points to large crack that runs up along the wall of the cellar. It is just large enough for the tallest of Adventurers to uncomfortably squeeze through. The air from below feels cold and has a fetid smell to it. A distant sound of squeaking echoes up from an ancient, spiral staircase that descends into the shadows below.
Dun Loireag - The Peaks

Tian brushes two fingers held together across their nose as they take in the cellar and the current state of affairs. "<Rats.>" The wolfish Cait Sith agrees with a bob of their head, crouching down and getting a closer look at the damage. Tian is not a tracker, that doesn't lie within their skillset, so they just shrug once, looking over at Shenmi.

Thankfully, it isn't hard to find where the infestation might be coming from. Rather than starting up a torch, Tian casts a simple floating fire-sprite spell, causing a mote of fire to hover over one shoulder to offer them light as they decend. It also allows the deaf Adventurer to at least be able to communicate.

"<Have not run a quest since I started.>" Tian signs, seeming almost amused by the prospect. The Hunter's Guild is controlled largely by Landers, and thus untrusted in the Palace Lands. "<Seems safe enough. Watched other Adventurers doing it.>" Because watching... that is what Tian is good at.
Dun Loireag - The Peaks

"I did run quests in the early days, when we could still log out. Was fun," Shenmi comments. He stops for a moment, then shakes his head, as if for shaking a thought. "This one seems like a good one to start with, yes," he confirms. "Rats... rats are usually one of the simplest beginner quests. It should not be too much of a problem. Hopefully."

At the end of the spiral staircase, the light the Adventurers carry flickers over uneven ground. There are sharp spikes that stick up in places, making it look intentional, as if it were some sort of trap. However, as they step closer, something crunches underfoot.

Bones. The floor is littered with bones. Some appear to be small, as if they were from many rats having met their ends here. Others seem to be larger, as if the creatures were some monstrous variety. "It is quite unusual for animals or monsters to leave this many drops behind. Either this is part of the coded scenery, or there's been a lot of killing going on here."

He claps his hands together. "Right... let's get searching..."
Dun Loireag - The Peaks

"<I did not play before. Joined to meet with friends in America.>" They open their fingers and mesh them together as the sign for that country. It is common knowledge that one of the rumored benefits of the new expansion, was going to be cross-server play. It lured many to join in hopes of reuniting with friends.

The sound of their feet crunching into bones sounds even before the flicker of light over Tian's shoulder starts to illuminate the sight before them. The wolf-fox's nose scrunches slightly. Their gold eyes seem to try to peer closer at a few of the bones, but they seem unable to get more than the basic information about them. Shaking their head, Tian shrugs.

Looking through them doesn't fall within the crafter's skill set. So, they are left to sweeping them out of the way. Thankfully, most of them are easy to crunch underfoot and then sweep to the side, though it seems a bit dramatic of a way of going about things.
Dun Loireag - The Peaks

"Look at these marks. These creatures haven't died of natural causes, see? Look here," Shenmi points. "This bone doesn't snap this way by natural causes. Something has killed this rat-." A pause. "Oh, yes, these are rat bones," Shenmi adds, realizing that it was probably important to establish this point. "Impressive. Look at the anatomical details." While still pointing at the bones, he takes a step towards Tian, to better show the small details, and-


Old wooden boards give away, and Shenmi plummets straight down. Holding onto his hat for dear life, his surprise is expressed in a simple comment, "...well, what do you know. A surprise disappearing act."


"THERE'S WATER!", Shenmi screams. "IT IS SAFE TO JU- oh, wait, you cannot hear me-"

It is hard to simulataneously avoid the rocks the current pushes him toward and work towards notifying tian, so Shenmi takes the occasional blow, but in exchange for that, he manages to shoot a bolt of light magic towards the trap door -- a streak meant to notify Tian that Shenmi is still alive, and that it is safe to jump down. And which might possibly allow the Cait Sith to briefly see down, if he happens to look at the right moment.
Dun Loireag - The Peaks

Tian pauses in the chaos they are causing to look over at Shemi. Slowly, they touch their third finger to their thumb and tap it against their nose. "<Nerd.>" The system translates, but the amused expression seems to suggest it is being used as a term of endearment at the moment.

Then, all of a sudden ... between one moment of searching and the next, Shenmi has mysteriously disappeared. Confused, and obviously not hearing either the crack or the splash, Tian ends up having to look around for a moment until they realize there is a Shenmi-shaped hole in the ground.

Peeking down through the whole, the Cait Sith makes a strange sound before rolling their eyes and leaping down into the water below. Thankfully, they are skilled enough at staying out of the way of damage to avoid most of the rocks on the way down, though the fact that they are getting wet is not appreciated.
Dun Loireag - The Peaks

A final water slide dumps Shenmi onto solid ground. Accounting for the time difference between 'jumping', Tian should be here soon.

"Ugh...", Shenmi complains, staning up in the most annoyedly dignified (or vice versa) manner one can muster while drenched.

He removes his hat, and pulls out an equally drenched bun-bun. "You okay, Bao?", he asks. The sudden shaking of the creature, which further contributes to the overall humidity of the party, seems to be a positive response.

Shenmi sets Bao down on the ground, and begins to look around. "Let's see then- we should... Bao, no!", he exclaims, rushing to pick up the bun-bun again. "No wandering off alone. There's big predators alone. Perhaps it's best if you stay with me."

The tunnels continue to weave beneath the surface of the city. Sometimes, the group finds themselves coming to places where the path ends in rubble or empty corridors, forcing them to backtrack through the maze-like tunnels.

Eventually, they find themselves skirting the edge of a large chamber where a massive looking creature slumbers. It is hard to tell who makes the wrong sort of sound, but one ear twitches in their direction and red eyes snap open, a massive rat head turning to face them.

As the monster stands, it licks at a muzzle filled with pointy teeth. Foam has formed at the edge of the creature's mouth. Its danger rating is unusually high for a creature found in this level of dungeon, as if it has somehow been affected by some sort of buff. With a mad scramble of paws, the massive rat starts to charge towards them.
Dun Loireag - The Peaks

At the end of the raging river, Tian climbs out and does what you would expect a wolf-fox to do. They start to shake themselves off, including a very impressive 'puff' of their tail in the aftermath. With a tilt of the head, they give a confused expression towards Shenmi's Bun-Bun, but then lifts their own mask to shake the water off of it. Thankfully it is pretty sturdy and the makeup Tian wears isn't prone to running easily.

Pulling the mask back on, Tian nods before they start to make their way deeper into the dungeon. Right into what looks to be the lair of an absolutely huge rat. This is where the wolf's quiet nature would usually do them well, but they also can't really hear when they make sound accidentally. So...

All of a sudden, there is a very angry rat barreling down on them. Tian is quick to cast a spell, sweeping their daggers forward and slicing through the air, pulling up vines from the ground in the process which weave around the massive rat, trying to hold it in place until they are able to escape.
Dun Loireag - The Peaks

Tian's spell looks insufficient to hold the monster on its own, so, Shenmi steps in to cast an additional one: the bones of rats, strewn about, recompose into a semblance of unlife, and- well, provide some sort of annoyance, pretty much. They are weak, but they are many; compounded with Tian's own vine spell, they serve the purpose of slowing the monster's pursuit just enough to allow our heroes to make it to the next room.

"These are -not- a beginner's rat quest!", Shenmi exclaims, panting after the rush. "What... what has been going on here?" He glances into the previous area. "Are the Landers up to this?"

The tunnels seem to get darker as they descend further into the depths beneath the city. Though it seems to only be an effect of dark moss and mold growing on the nearby rocks and the close confines of the passageways. It is a small enough space that some larger Adventurers might have a rough time squeezing through.

It is at one of these passageways that they have to climb over an area that is nearly collapsed, finding themselves in a room that has not seen the light of day for many years. Inside, everything is lit by an unusual green glow.

A glow that seems to be coming from some abnormally large rats. Someone, or something has changed these creatures, turning them from common pests into monsters. They radiate magical energy and seem to immediately notice the Adventurers trespassing into their domain. With a series of squeaks, they launch to the attack.
Dun Loireag - The Peaks

Tian's expression speaks louder than words in that instant as they flee from the giant rat, their spell unable to hold it. There is a mix of surprise, frustration, and astonishment. Tian and Shenmi were capable Adventurers, right? Riiiight?

With Tian's hands full with their weapons, there isn't much opportunity to speak or respond. Instead, it is just a mad scramble into the room that seems to be occupied by that unusual glow. A glow coming from some very unusual rats. There is a sort of sinking of the Cait Sith's shoulders and their tail tucks ever so slightly.

There is a sort of helplessness in the fact that with their spells failing, Tian is grasping at straws on how to deal with these unusual rats. So, they try to find the source of the unusual enchantment. Which... they do. However, it is so well defended by the rats that Tian is forced to retreat from it before it can be dealt with, giving Shenmi an apologetic expression.
Dun Loireag - The Peaks

The dismayed and apologetic expression is returned when Shenmi's attempt at redirecting the flow of magic falls flat on its metaphorical face, before he has to scramble along with Tian. It is pretty clear that no communication is possible while running, so Shenmi reprises his discussion while passing through a tunnel connecting different rooms, away from pursuers. "Another possibility would be... if the adventurers of Yamato kept doing this quest, as you say, their skills and knowledge must be above ours. Which... would make sense. Remember how the Doctor said that they have people capable of advancing fields?"

Through another set of tunnels, the way underground opens into what would now be a circular room that seems to designate a boss encounter.

The room beyond is unusually dark, enough so that it is hard to see much in the way of details. It is a supernatural sort of darkness, that even the most keen of Were Fang eyes can't easily pierce. An oppressive darkness that seems to come with a feeling of being watched.

"I feel like we're being watched," Shenmi asides.

As if on cue, two red eyes flash open at the other end of the chamber. They offer just enough light to give a vague idea of a rodent-like muzzle, surrounded by dark mist. When it begins to move, the monster seems almost amorphous, made out of some sort of dark, elemental smoke.

Where it lashes out, the Adventurers are left feeling cold, as if all light were sucked from the world.

"Of -course- it had to be a Dark type monster. The only element I lack. Well-", Shenmi exclaims, pulling out his hat and reaching into it.

He extracts a magic wand, classic in design -- black with white tips-, places his hat back onto his head, and spins to point the item at the rat-

Wooosh! Out of the small item, a burst of flame one would expect from a far larger flamethrower is disgorged towards the rat.
Dun Loireag - The Peaks

Tian gives a considering expression at the idea that Shenmi comes up with in regards to just why this might be a particularly dangerous dungeon that portrays itself as a simple 'rat' quest. Then, with a lift of their shoulders, the Cait Sith seems to offer little in the way of alternative suggestions. Partially because there are none to offer, partially because their hands are occupied at the moment.

At the very least, it seems that they are finally able to discover the boss room shortly there-after. That, alone, might be enough to bring a sigh of relief, it it wasn't for the strange feeling that something were there, but hidden. Looking around, Tian's ears are perked, their tail slightly puffier than normal in response to the eerie feeling.

Thankfully, even without any real knowledge on how to deal with this creature, it falls to Tian's natural skill with magic to attack the shadowy rat. A gust of wind drives them forward, the wolf lashing out with a cyclone of dagger attacks that strike over and over again, trying to keep the rat at bay.
Dun Loireag - The Peaks

Shenmi's flame has the double effect of damaging the monster and warming up the environment, thus hopefully mitingating the chill: thus weakened, hopefully, the monster should now be more vulnerable to Tian's attack.

That hope is quickly dashed when the creature begins to suck in more heat and light, and the chamber grows darker and colder. It is not only life force, but the will to fight.

"The will to fight... it's... going..." He shakes his head. "No, no, here is what I am going to do: change of plans...", Shenmi pretty much yells to himself, to be able to hear his own voice over the calmor of battle. "I'm no longer shooting flames to fight a monster. I am shooting flames because, if I have to go, I am going -in the coolest and flashiest way possible-."

This reverses the tide of battle, at least as far as Shenmi is concerned. Burning with renewed passion, the literal flame from his wand, along with Tian's repeated slashes, causes the creature to shrink and become more like mist, until Tian's final blows, delivered during a cooldown of Shenmi's flame, disperse it into nothing more than mist.

"Well done!", Shenmi smiles. He flicks his hand and- hey, where'd the wand go? It's nowhere to be seen! He's applauding and looking cheerful, but he is showing all the symptoms of an adrenaline crash. "...Seems like it -was- within our abilities, after all...", he says, with a nervous laugh.

Nobody died today. That's good. That's very good.
Dun Loireag - The Peaks

When the monster is finally dealt with, there is a certain worn out, exhausted posture that Tian takes, leaning forward over their legs and panting softly while slipping daggers back into their sheaths along the Blade Dancer's back. The Cait Sith blows a few strands of ombre hair out of their face and turns gold eyes towards Shenmi.

One hand is flopped over in a gesture that almost looks like a dead fish, "<Not dead.>" Which seems to be as close to a victory celebration as you can get out of Tian at the moment. There is a smile that shows fanged teeth and a look of triumph. "<Good.>"

Rising back up to full height, the wolf stretches their back and then nods. "<We need to train. We are out of practice.>"