Duty Session 441: The Deadly Caves Of Toxic Death!
The discovery: a long-forgotten system of caves packed with venomous monsters. The mission: the Hunters' Guild rewards killing or capturing the deadly creatures which lurk within. The rumor: it is said that the place is home to unusual monsters, and where there are unusual monsters, there are unusual drops?
Difficulty: Easy/Moderate (depending on branch)
Rec Party: 3+
World Rewards: Reduce venomous monster activity in Westelande.
Under his projected aplomb, Shenmi betrays some nervousness. Whatever role he has in this party, it is clearly not the leader of this group, having stayed in the back during the whole journey.
"Oh, thank you!" She exclaims happily to the lander, moving forward to examine - wait, not the rope, but the pickets, before nodding contentedly "It's great to be welcomed to the I'm sorry did you say Gorge of Death begging your pardon?" As her ears catch up with her
"So this is my first time running with you, what do I need to know?"
She tilts her head for a bit at both her liminal ring glowing faintly and then she turns to Goldenblad and grins.
"Good to see you and if we're lucky? We could get some good blacksmith material drops here!"
"The Gorge of Death," Shenmi replies for Sumisu's benefit, once he's at the bottom of the chasm. "They apparently like their picturesque names around these parts."
He turns to Miho, and bows. "Why, you should know that it's a honour for me to be questing in the company of such fine ladies!" With a flourish of each hand, he materializes two bouquets, one of which is offered to Sumisu and the other to Miho. He smirks at Goldenblade. "I'm sorry, only one bouquet per customer. But the honour still includes you as well, of course!"
When the niceties are complete, he'll look around the place, with a slow, repeated stroke of his goatee. "If you don't mind, I'd prefer if we went for the caves without fumes. I'm trying not to die and wind up back in Kallamore..."
Shehe smiles and rests a hand on her hilt, a casual familiarity "Nothing in particular for me. I'll just help out as I can. A little of this, a little of that. You know" A flutter of her fingers in a dismissive gesture
She smiles to Shenmi, taking the bouquet with a little laugh "It's been some time since I had these" She says wistfully, examining the bouquet with a contented nod^r
"I'd love to see how it's done" She tells GB, not quite putting the flowers away, but definitely moving to lend a hand with clever armor-forging fingers!
Alas, her skill is not quite up to par, and the item she makes does not work as it would have to. Which is a shame, because she's worked on a tethered hostile environment suit that maybe -would- allow operattion in such conditions. Alas, it's tethered, so not portable, and what she can improvise here is not enough.
"Yeah there's likely someone waiting with a box of crowns there."
She looks over to Sumisu and says "You craft?"
She nods in agreement to Goldenblade and she too falls shor on the armour challenge as well.
As they arrive at the hermit, she steps forward, and bows politely, a hand lifting to her pendant "We mean you no harm, sur, but we do intend to pass through" She says demurely "If you share your concerns, I do trust we may assist your own safety, as you have our own so firmly in mind"
"I run the Mirthrilscale Ironwork and I like your attuide I'm quite into smithing myself from kitchen knives, to armour but more so even weapons myself if your curious to leanr I might be able to teach you a few things."
"You're one of them, aren't you?", the hermit cuts him off. "One of 'em Palace Landers?!", he exclaims, with a glare towards the Conjurer. "Are you here to wreak havoc like you did pretty much everywhere else?"
Sumisu's kinder manners, though, seem to calm the Hermit down, as does Miho's offer. "...You may pass too," he finally mumbles at Shenmi, who greets him with a tip of the hat as he passes by.
"...Thank you," he mumbles to everyone else, once he's sure the group is out of earshot.
The Adventurers meander into the cave they have picked. There are some rare leftover signs of the cave having been used for some purpose in the far past (perhaps by the Gnomes?), but very little remains; now it's mostly a hangout for all sorts of venomous beasts and monsters. The first few caves do not pose exceptional challenges, just a bunch of snakes, scorpions, and the occasional spider. A few caves in, however, something different appears.
For one, the cave is relatively small, compared to the others, so it would be easy for people to pass through it, were it not that a multi-locked gate still stands at the opposite end. People could probably lockpick it relatively easy, given time, the problem is -- there is no time: the place teems with large flying insects, about as large as a small dog. For some strange reason, they do not appear to be stinging the adventurers, but /biting/ them. Maybe they are just hungry, and someone can appease them with a snack? This is where some knowledge in armor forging would also come in handy -- not only to offer impromptu protection to those who have none, but since the bugs seem particularly good at prying their teeth through joints in protective equipment, to improve protection for those who are already wearing armor.
Shenmi rushes through the cave, getting a few bites in the process. "Ow. Ow! Someone do something about those bugs!", he grimaces, while he extracts some sort of leather pouch with small metallic tools from his jacket. "I'll see if I can take care of this," he says, and begins to work on the locks.
Then they enter the cave. One slap at the insects, one look at them as her eyes widen in horror, and she quickly moves to gather piece and set up protection around herself and Shenmi from them, layering pieces and encouraging the insects to come through built-in weaknesses. Where she smashes them with a rock.
"We're going to need to keep feeding our war effort with gear."
She notes before the bugs come and she's got her Katana out.
"Look for the joint behind the head strike there!" She also shows by doing so to several of the things.
The item shatters into pieces, and Shenmi is left blinking, his natural complexion resumed. "...well, what do you know, that did the trick," he comments, as he quickly resumes his composture and tugs at the lapels of his jacket to straighten it.
The party moves on, and after crossing a few more caves, reaches a point where they cannot proceed any further through dry terrain -- the cave dips into a large pool, with barely enough head space to catch one's breath above the surface. It is time to swim.
At first the scene is pleasant: underwater, there is no foul smell, and the scenery, instead of dead and barren, is graced by colorful plants which have somehow managed to grow among the gravel at the bottom. It is not long, however, before a group of curious creatures torpedoes into view. It's a group of dire Platypi with bloodshot eyes, ready to slash at the Adventurers with their venomous spurs.
There aren't many options, here: maneuvering, underwater elemental fighting, or trying to hide oneself from the creatures.
"I don't mean to pry, but I used to help run a themed parlor in Tokyo. We got a lot of new machines in, usually themed. I don't suppose you used to ...? You look familiar" She explains to Miho.
Then they come across the. Sigh. Dire platypi. There is a moment's pause, as she begins to engage clumsily with the water beasts - ice cracking into existence below her feet as she advances, ensuring she can strike with the straight blade before dropping through the crust of ice and thrusting below the surface, frost slowing the advancing platypi
In the next cave, the party encounters a group of Poisonous Bears on Fire (yes, that is the actual name they inspect as).
The most pedantic among Adventurers will point out that, technically, they should be called 'Venomous Bears on Fire', because their claws will inject poison into you, but then an experienced Hunter will point out that attempting to eat meat drops from a Poisonous Bear on Fire will also kill you, therefore the name qualifies. The more pragmatic among Adventurers will point out that there is a bunch of them, right here, right now, and they are attacking. Also, they're on fire. At which point the Hunter and the pedantic will reply, "Of course they are. It's in their name. Duh!"
Case in point, there's a group of Poisonous Bears on Fire about to attack the party. Animal handlers can attempt to calm down the beasts. Were Fangs can use their monster form to look more intimidating. The rest of the party can be sneaky, and pretend to be dead. Or on fire. It is a well-known fact that Poisonous Bears on Fire will not attack you if they think that you are already dead, or already on fire. If your pretending to be already on fire is not convincing enough, maybe a fellow party member can helpfully set you aflame for real? If none of those work, one can always fall back on parrying the attacks, or running away as fast as possible.
So, flame on, and she wreathes herself with flames, channling quite a huge amount of fire with minimal effort, and will walk past the bears with only a few wary glances.
And then they are entering right, About To Be Pursued By Bears.
Not if she can help it! She slips a mask from her wrapped tunic, sliding it over her face as she dramatically proclaims "This appears to be a job - for TENGU" The wings of the brand at her neck spread, gaining dimension as feathers rush over her shoulders into a heavy cloak of jet pinions. The head of the tattoo rushes up, taking over her own as her nose elongates, tapering to a point below her deep red mask. Her shoulders hunch, though she loses no height, her body thickening to the form of a large, humanoid avian, coal-black eyes and feathers, though one that holds that straight sword with a calm, confident posture. "A Challenger Approaches!" She calls out. And seems annoyed she's not approached.
"Wait really!? You were always good to grandpa and that time you were cosplaying as the Major from Ghost in the Shell..."
She'll talk more later about that as they run into the monster they have come to hunt. There are Bears freaking Bears, so what does Miho do? She takes a heck of a deep breath and breaths out fire, a whole lot of fire.
That was bad timing, because Sumisu's transformation, possibly along with her reaching for her blade, is enough to terrify the bears into taking a few steps back, leaving a free passage for Sumisu and Miho. Acting dubious and scared. Miho's final breathing of fire is the last straw, which causes the bears to run for cover into the next room.
The team squeezes into a narrow stone passage; it goes on for a bit, and finally opens into the central room of this cave: a wide space strewn with pincers of dead, or molted, manticores. Scorpions and snakes scuttle about, and in the center, a curious creature the size of a calf crouches, snacking on some sort of meat. The being had the body of a lion, the face of a monstrous humanoid, and the tail of a scorpion. Its fangs are sharp and threatening, and it is unsettling how easily it can rend through that snack.
When the Adventurers arrive, it looks up, and hisses. Its hair raises on end, and begins a frantic dance where it leaps left and right. Given its diminutive size and erratic behavior, one would be inclined to think of it as a juvenile specimen.
Despite being on the low end of difficulty when it comes to manticores, it's still a manticore, so the fight is still not going to be trivial. However, given how erratic, impressionable, and easily distracted the creature seems to be, perhaps experienced Monster Catchers can confuse it using their trapping experience. Or an Oracle can drive it bonkers by casting voices directly into its head.
Where she went is the mysterious ability shared by herself and Akatsuki, who's been even more hard to fine lately, that is to say, she comes out of the darkness behind the manticore, and without a word, uses her ASSASSINATE skill. The monsers HP drop in a huge chunk all at once, and it staggerss from the blow. Goldenblade joins the others in DPSing it the rest of the way down, looking pretty pleased with herself.
The Manticore is indeed such a thing. The Tengu's mask rises, and those skinny legs shake the ground as it darts forward, past the beast; one quick strike with the blade severing a wing, which hangs a moment in the air before vanishing in a shower of pixels. One strike!
Until right at the very end, the fight intense. Goldenblade may have removed a huge chunk of HP from the monster with a single blow, but each blow the monster manages to land is devastating, taking down a large chunk of the adventurers' HP in turn, each clawing burns with poison for far longer than just the moment of impact, each bite wipes large chunks of HP. But the Adventurers have some trick of their own up their sleeve. It is only with the last blow that the situation is resolved in favor of our heroes: with a last shriek, the manticore shatters into polygons, and the exhausted combatants, with barely any HP left, can see a small Manticore pincer drop, on top of a small pile of similar ones.
"Yes, I... I think I'll heal," Shenmi replies to Goldenblade. "I have access to some basic healing spells. Nothing fancy, regular fare anyone with a similar build has access to. I think nobody will be needing any of this, but if anyone does, I will be glad to comfortably tide us over until we get to a proper healer."
Shenmi turns to Miho with a wide smile. "And the lady over there wins this game! I'm all for it.", he says, as he pulls a handkerchief out of his jacket, covers his hand with it, and proceeds to pick up the monster drop.