Duty Session 446: Sher Kar Challenge
The Holy Empire Westelande has a proud tradition, the Trial of Honor, where young people go into a nest, and those that come out have proven themselves to be stout-hearted and valorous. But recently, something has happened. It seems that somehow, giant ants have colonized Sher Kar - The Sher Kar nesting areas underground, and they are a threat to both Sher Kar - The Sher Kar and the Westelanders as well. So, a hunt has been organized through the Guild to cull these ants, so the ceremony can be held in its accustomed gravity. This is an obsidian-level quest for three or more offered through the Guild, Completion will make the site of Sher Kar - The Sher Kar ritual less dangerous to the Landers who have used it for their coming of age tradition for many years.
Rec. Party: 3+
World Rewards: Westeland's gratitude.
So this is where our heroes come into play. Shenmi is the first to arrive, and keeps himself busy by practicing some of his tricks. This particular one starts by shuffling a deck; he then casually flicks the cards upward, one by one, faster and faster, sends bursts of air magic to keep them afloat, and eventually snatches them out of mid-air as they fall back down, recomposing the deck this way.
She arrives, peering at Shenmi's method of amusing himself while he waits. She nods a greeting, offers her name with a polite, "I am called Yeowang," and falls silent. She can sit still and watch when there is nothing to do but wait.
The morning dawns bright and clear, another day in the desert, and the party sets out from Breg Epona in good spirits, following a trail blazed by previous generations of Westelanders over the course of centuries. The party arrives at a place like a quarry, an open pit with several ramps down. In the pit, there are several entrances into the ground, which twist and turn, showing nothing of what lies inside. The entrances are wide enough for three or four abreast, though for the moment, a handful of giant ants are clustered around the base of the pit, feeding on something. Engaging them will be tough on the ramps, though ranged or magical attacks would be easier.
But partway down the ramps she stops, glancing over the edge. "Looks like they've got cards at the entrance. Be careful." Shiruba takes a pair of arrows out of her quiver, drawing them back in her bow together, takes aim down over the edge, and fires. Despite the complexity of firing two at the same time her aim is exceptionally sharp, peircing through the head of one ant and the thorax of another, pinning it down.
Looking down in the pit, she blinks. "Giant ants, is it?" she wonders. She will head down to the slope as they climb up, and she meets them part way. She's got a hunter's eye for terrain and tactics, leaping forward with a kick, and using the momentum to push her back from their counterattacks. She continues with a tactical beatdown, fists and boots slamming the ants over and over.
The party arrives at the designated place. "Ants, indeed." To minimize the risk of death and respawn, Shenmi will stand at a distance and shoot a flurry of cards at the giant insects. Sadly, with all the movement and desert wind, only a fraction impacts, and it doesn't even cause much in the way of damage.
Ants defeated, the party must choose their path down into the depths. Various ways in seem, initially, to be alike. Only exploration will reveal much about what lies inside. Some ways lead to dead ends and egg chambers, others proceed deeper.
It seems that her and Yeowang are on the same wavelength. Eventually she stands and points down one of the other sections. "It's a high traffic section. Be careful we don't get blindsided from the other passages rejoining each other. We do not want to get flanked in a pincher situa--" She stops, makes a face at what she just said. Ugh, unintentional pun. "--You know what I mean."
The maze is used by both ants and Sher Kar, and while the ants are the deadlier predator, Sher Kar - The Sher Kar are a threat in their own right. The Guild would like it if you try not to eradicate Sher Kar - The Sher Kar, the whole point is to rid the place of ants so Sher Kar - The Sher Kar can thrive again, but they're here and they're hungry, and they're prone to attacking anything.
Shenmi tries as hard as he can to keep the Sher Kar at bay, but judging by his intense expression, the monster turns out to be exceptionally strong-willed. Also, ants are attacking from behind.
A few red gashes later, Shenmi just groans and attemtps to dash through, sacrificing a chunk of damage just to leave this area.
The party has gotten past Sher Kar - The Sher Kar, and is heading for where they expect to find a concentration of ants. But the ants have sensed the party as well, and a handful of the guard-ants have been sent to clear their nest of predators. The party has few choices here. It looks like it's going to be a fight, but the close quarters prevent anything fancy, tactically. There's no room for dodging, so hunker down and fight them off.
Turns out the head is specifically decided to turn the arrow's force into a blunt impact instead of a piercing one. With the speed and power Shiruba's exceptional archery skills can fire them, one arrow hits with enough momentum to actually knock the ant guard over backwards! She fires several more, forcing the creatures to slow down and defend themselves, or get knocked on their whatever ants have in place of asses and be vulnerable to the other attacks.
Which is a very good thing, because as they continue to move through the tunnrls, it looks like they've encountered a guard chamber /packed/ with ants.
Luckily, close quarters fighting is a thing Yeowang's trained in, and recently. Short punches, it seems, can be delivered at basically full power without the need to haul off, if one plants one's feet and uses their whole body to back up the blow, and the proof is, her first punch sends an ant stumbling back. She's quite deadly in close quarters, and there's no relief for the ants as she works them over hard.
Wait, where's Shenmi gone?
The ant herself looks puzzled, until it gets whacked on the noggin from behind. Aggro drawn, he pulls the ant to close where Shiruba is, before throwing himself to the ground, so that Shiruba's arrow can work their dissuasion 'magic' on this particular ant as well.
This central chamber houses the Queen ant and her workers, as well as grubs and eggs. When the party is spotted, the queen gestures wildly, and the remaining ants swarm the party. This is what the party is here to do, hopefully they have enough mettle to follow through. Fighting is hard in the subterranean chambers, but manipulating Earth directly, or through analysis of the structure of the chamber, may be able to change the balance of this fight deep underground.
So it's time to abuse animal/monster instincts.
Shiruba takes one of the lightning rod arrows from her quiver, nocks it into her longbow and draws back with it. As she does the elemental gems in Thundersnow Howl's arms glow brightly, giving off red-orange sparks that crackle along their lengths and down the bowstring to channel the storm borne energy into the arrow of highly conductive metal. Meanwhile Shiruba takes aim, and fires. The arrow howls through the air.. and thunks into the stone wall next to the Queen. Oh no, she missed!
Or not. THose that know Shiruba will release this is one of her stragetic 'missed shots'. Because the electrical arcs that discharge from the arrow as it hits the wall still threaten the Queen Ant, as well as the clusters of eggs near her. The idea being that the instinct to preserve their brood will kick in and more of the ants will swarm to protect the Queen and eggs, getting electrocuted in the process of doing so without having to be directly fought by their limited number.
Luckily, the workers go down in one or two savage strikes from her boots, but the queen is a ferocious and deadly opponent.
Luckily, Yeowang is crafty and can be alternately savage and subtle as the situation requires. Here, she's a much more subtle touch, taking advantage of Shiruba's archery to kite more enemies into its area of effect. Finally, the Queen Ant is felled with a spinning back kick that spray pixels out in a fan.
Once all the ants are dealt with, there are enough mandibles for the party to bring back to the Hunter's guild as proof of success (and maybe keep one for themselves...)