Duty Session 474: Spooky Scary Skeletons
During the Shadow Festival, the number of dark element monsters and undead seems to increase across the lands of Yamato. In the desert landscape of the Holy Empire Westelande, this is a particular problem, as the harsh desert seems to yield even more of these monsters. The Hunter's Guild has reached out to Adventurers, hoping to quell the numbers of undead before they become a threat to Breg Epona.
OOC: This quest is only available during the Shadow Festival. This quest is largely 'Combat'-concept based.
Rec. Party: 3+
World Rewards: None
The desert to the south of Breg Epona is notably two things: arid and hot. Even at the edge of the area there is a sense of uncomfortableness that comes from a dry heat. It serves as a distraction from the otherwise visible signs of the festival. The envirtonment is impacted. There are several shambling bodies moving across the sands in the distance. Occasionally they dip beneath a sand dune or concealed by a shifting sandstorm. Usually undead are confined to dungeons. They are not common to be out and about like this, but it looks like they wandered beyond the confines of their dungeons.
These shambling undead seem haphazard and even random. It is unlike the organized undead seen in the Ninetails Dominion. Despite the time of year shifting into the fall, the heat of the desert reminds everyone of how uncomfortable this exercise will be. A heat shimmer in the distance practically taunts them.
A guide from Hunter's Guild guide waits at the edge while the party forms. "The largest concentration seems to be towards the oasis," the guide says as she points deeper towards the desert. "So head in /that/ direction. Kill as many as you can. It should slow them down from reaching the city." One thing she didnt mention was her coming with the Adventurers. She is not coming with them.
Haru takes in a deep breath of the air here. Its enough to cut into the natural moisture of the lungs and give it an irony taste if not careful. He kicks back some water. "Sounds like fun," he says with a smile. Gnolls last month. Undead this month. Palace Landers, always. One does not want for their choice in the Adventure buffet. The Artificer is naturally attuned to Earth and Fire, so a desert is his sort of place. A brief enchantment on himself grants a utility over time to fire resistance. SPF 80.
So it is little surprise to find her already raring to go as soon as the Shadow Festival was coming around. "Time to remind some shadows why they should of stayed in the shadows!"
Taking a long pull from a waterskin, Curtana just nods before starting to follow after the others. "Shame we can't do this at night, but got to do what we can." Taking a cue from Haru's own casting, Curtana casts a spell on himself. His talents with magic are not great, but he can redirect the worst of the heat into the ground underneeth his boots, at least.
The last time she was in the desert, Fuka got to experience it heat-free thanks to lovely silken harem gear thoughtfully provided by Gwen. That was an exploration mission however, and this is almost certainly combat. Fashion and heat-protection can't be entirely ignored, nor can protection from hordes of undead. So the little Sylph has managed a compromise.
Her usual coat which covers her torso is now gone and her full armour set is exposed for the world to see; a close-fitting plate-and-chain 'dress' which protects her from all but the heaviest of body blows, and her typical heavy vambraces, greaves and boots. The sun is kept off by gauzy silks covering her head and shoulders, and providing some slight shade for the armour beneath. It's more fashionable than practical, naturally, but it's not entirely devoid of practicality.
"So this is a light duty then?" Fuka asks cheerfully. "Great I'm all fired up! We'll show these undead who's hot and who's boreing!" she smirks.
Even at a distance it is easy to see the wandering figures that have begun to make the desert passage more dangerous. The heat effects more than just the Adventuring party. It has taken regular ghouls and made they crackling desiccrated creatures. The undead look as if they were formed from a number of the usual races across the land. Human. Fae. Gnome. Their skin has dried in such a way that it clings to the bones underneath like an overmicrowaved pizza to a plate. It has a paper consistency, sometimes flapping like cloth on the fringes against the desert gusts and reveals the skeletal framework below. Some of the undead drag along shriveled lines of strange, dark organs behind them. They look more like rocks than what they might once have been.
Hollow eye sockets peer out into the endless expanse of the sand. They groan as they shamble. A real desert walking of the dead. They seem to take little notice to those around them until they come too close or make too much sound. These are more of the stray undead variety and more a nuisance to passerbys. One could sneak by them or just round them up so they are not a problem for travelers.
"Was just talking about undead with Setsuna, too," Haru says with a light laugh. He opts for the sneaking method, walking slow and confidently while being mindful of the body-pull agro radius or being particularly loud. The later is a real challenge for the Enchanter. One must be loud. Except when not. Like now.
With that extra little tidbit of advice presented Vertina makes for the other side of the area. Stealth isn't really her thing, so instead the Salamander relies on her speed and agility, moving in a zigzagging motion that is hard for the undead, who are slow and don't turn from their straight pathes very easily, have no chance in catching up with.
Magic would normally be an option when Fuka wants to be stealthy, but casting darkness magic during the Darkness Festival when trying to sneak past monsters tied to Darkness seems to be a terrible idea. Without magic, she's actually rather bad at stealth. She's willing to try, however. This ... also seems to be a terrible idea.
In the end, having roused ghouls, Fuka ends up sprinting and yelling like a madwoman as the ghouls chase after her. Good news, this probably draws a ton of aggro and helps the others get clear. Also good news, the little sylph is tough enough to tank some hits. Bad news, the sylph tanks some hits before she can get through the group, before her speed as a Messenger is enough to see her to safety!
Making a grimace at Vertina's warning, Curtana draws his attention to the undead at hand, or rather how to avoid the majority of them. But with the desert's shifting sands under his feet and his armor, avoiding them completely doesn't seem like an ideal choice.
Taking inspiration from Fuka's tanking, Curtana takes the other side of their small party, yelling and slamming his sword against his shield to draw attention. After that, it's mainly suddenly changing direction and letting his armor take the worst of any attacks he couldn't avoid. After a few minutes, he meets back up with the rest of the party, and even offers Fuka a pale red potion. "Should give a mild regenerative effect. Made it myself yesterday."
Beyond the first stretch of the sands are the more dangerous undead lurking. Not wasting resources on the last set is coming in beneficial here. At first the sound comes at a distane. It thumps like drum beats across an empty landscape. The source of the sound comes clearer as the party crests one of the dunes. Skeeltons. There are a group of them marching together and rattling in time to their march. The rattling is rather rhythmic to the ear. It must be keeping them in formation. They must have been a military regiment once and the tattered remains of Westelande colors support the notion.
Things shift the moment the Adventurers get within range. The back line of the skeletal formation begins to grab bones from their own bodies. They don't /really/ need those rib bones. The makeshift projectiles are thrown in true skeleton fashion that make an weird whomp woo woo whomp sound as they sail. It heralds the charge as the front line of skeletal figures charge forward in rattling clanks of their dry bones. The have no weapons save their own brittle bones. Combat seems like the obvious choice but they seem very vulnerable to disruption to their coordination through going after the rhythm that organizes them.
"No weapons," is the first thing that Haru observes, "brittle bones from heat. Yeah. Hope you saved up fun for these nerds." Both of his hands go down by his sides as the four floating stones around him begin to spin in a bleached sandstone color. He motions both forward, as if scooping water from a pool to splash someone. The 'splash' is the sand, waves of it crashing up and down on the impending skeletons. Bury and Break, my dudes.
She stops, as wuxai 'sixth sense' kicks in and she leans to the side to avoid a thrown bone. "Wow. Rude. And here I was complimenting their formation." Several more bones are thrown at her... Which Vertina snatches out of the air and throws right back at the rear skeletons! She figures their tanky dude in the armor will deal with that front line charge.
Fuka accepts the potion with a grateful smile. Sure she has her own stock, plus mana besides. No doubt they'll need both later though, and she doesn't turn down generous gestures. She's more the type to do the same at a later time anyways, with or without receiving a likewise gift, but she's more inclined to appreciate those who are freely generous.
Wounds dealt with for now, she shuffles along with the group. Like Curtana her boots aren't really good on sand, but she manages all right. Just don't expect her to dance. Which of course cues up a group of skeletons who move and fight on the beat.
Fuka's pointy ears perk up as she catches a hint of rhythm. After a few moments she confirms her thoughts. "A one-two-*DODGE*! And a one-two-three-*DODGE*!" she calls out, gracefully pivoting through the incoming fire and advancing on skeletons, Frank drawn and ready for mayhem in her hands. She laughs, continuing to call out the relevant beats and moving at just the right times to keep from getting overwhelmed as she attacks the skeletal band. Here, the oversized sword really pays out dividends, its reach and weight making it a good weapon to crush skeletons with rather than needing its edge to chop through... but the true star of this fight for the sylph is her sense of rhythm and timing!
Raising his shield, Curt deflects several of the makeshift bone-erangs that came his way and scowls at the engaging skeleton infantry. "I know some officers tell you to throw yourself at the enemy, but this is outragous. Did all your training rot with your brains or were you lot too literal?" Perhaps the heat may be getting to him a little.
While Haru goes to ripple the sands, Curtana goes for a more direct route. Stomping the sands causes a moving geyser of sand to travel into the ranks before exploding upwards, sending several skeletons flying. Each stomp fills his metal boots a bit more with sand each time, but it's worth the effort to take out the undead from afar.
Chalk up less skeletons in the overworld. Back to the dungeons with you! "Rocking it," Haru laughs to Curt, as that felt a lot like being on a range but with Earth Magic.
It isn't long after the encounter with the skeletons that the first hints of structures are spotted within the desert. The party notices ancient, stone buildings that seem to been half buried much like the skeletons behind them. These old buildings are etched by wind and sand. Anything that would be an identifying mark has been scrubbed away by nature's cleansing erosion. The buildings serve as an important landmark in the vast dunes to the entrance of the green oasis.
An oasis is a location of value to a barren land such as this. Valuable things have their guardians. Mummy guardians of course! The bone hands scramble up from beneath the sands to pull them from their slumber. Dry bodies follow wrapped in linen as they emerge with sand pillowing off them like grave dust. The mummies seem to be wearing a strange necklace upon each of them, emblazoned with the symbol of a beetle. These undead are faster than thier skeletal and ghoulish brethren. They make quick movements towards the group with clasping hands and dirty, sharp fingernails. Dark, gaping mouths open wide with the promise of sinking into exposed flesh that burns as a bright ambition in those empty eye sockets. Dark magic is afoot.
The four floating Ioun Stones around Haru begin to burn with the sort of heat of the sun. The amount of Fire mana to tap in here is too available to not draw upon when they are basically made of cloth. "Ashes to ashes," he says as the orbs spin and form an Lava orb that pulses forward, sticking like burning red paint. A laugh, "or is it o/` We didnt Start the Fire o/`"
That said, she still starts to slow down a bit as the half-buried structures start to come into view. "Something is off here. I can feel it..."
Then a hand comes bursting out of the sand, followed by the rest of a mummy. And a few more of his unwanted friends. "It's a desert. Of course there are mummies... but kind of weird they'd come outside on their own..." Not that it slow Vertina down too much. The Salamander leaps into the air, launching into a flying kick that would make any Kamen Rider proud to slam a Light Ki charged heel into a Mummy's ghoulish face. It obliterates the negative energy animating the undead, causing it to crumple into a useless pile of dust and moldy bandages. "Should of kept this one under wraps!"
The marching band defeated, Fuka's mood is rather cheerful as the group continues through the desert. Getting into the rhythm seems to have made her day indeed. She's rarely not cheerful of course, never letting anything get her down for long, not beating herself up over mistakes. So more accurate to say Fuka is pretty much her normal self, skipping through the desert as best she can manage despite wearing armour. She even stops to channel a little bit of air and water mana, a pairing she's rather experienced with even if it's not her strongest elemental pair, momentarily covering the party in a cooling mist. It doesn't help much, but it doesn't cost much either and it's rather pleasant!
Coming across half-buried buildings, Fuka takes note. "Oh hey, is this what we're looking foAAAAAAH!" she abruptly shrieks as she sees linen-wrapped bodies start to move. "I don't want my mummy!" she wails, dancing away to put as much distance as possible between herself and the threat so she has the time to chant a spell.
Light isn't exactly a common element in the lands of Yamato, but this group has it handily. Fuka's contribution is to channel mana into a broad shield, not super strong, but something able to keep the mummies back long enough for the other group members to hammer them with attack spells.
The ancient ruins surrounding the oasis draws more attention from the Pooka that the inviting waters does. Sandworn structures that have managed to stand the test of time in such conditions are wonderful to look at. Shame that he wouldn't have time to examine a few up close.
What doesn't deserve a closer look are the mummies bursting clear of the sand, as if in wait. "You're right. You would expect the mummies to be resting in their tombs, not just under the sands. Can't be good for their bandages either." Drawing his longsword and reading his shield, Curtana takes a moment to enchant his gear with a blessed light. Perhaps it was the sunlight directly overhead, but the temporary enchantment seems quite potent, and Curtana needs no further preperation to close the distance with the wrapped undead. Several basic slashes are enough to send one mummy back to the bone zone, with another sent flying backwards with a shield-led tackle.
The battle in theirs and they leave behind the ruins at the edge of the oasis. The party continues into the lush landscape that has grown out of this rare watersource. Leafy plants sway in the hot, desert air. There seems to be no evidence of animals here despite it being an ideal watering hole. Many creatures would need this sort of location as part of their continued survival. Yet? Nothing. The monsters are surely the reason for this. It does not take long for the direct cause to show itself.
A faintly glowing undead monster floats in patrol around the edge of the water. This creature lacks legs and is nothing more than a floating ribcage with arms and a head attached above it. It classifies itself as a much stronger undead than the masses they have obliterated so far. A slow turn of its skull scans for life. Animals. Travelers. Adventurers. The patrol comes around and finds the group. A bony hand reaches outwards and summons a large obsidian scythe from the darkness of its tattered body. It flies at remarkable speeds, whipping through the air to harvest their life like they were naught but desert wheat to be brought to market.
Cue the bullet time Matrix dodge. Haru leans back in time to avoid the scythe coming one way. "Look, seasons don't fear the reaper and neither do I," the Artificer says, pointing at the patrol guard. Then he has to duck to avoid the return slice. "That was Terra-ble," grins the Wave Artes caster, the stones begining to pick up speed as if they were a centrifuge. "Terra. Vocare. Terebro. Numerus. Terebrare. Hostis." Vrr vrr vrr. Rising menacing from the sand behind the reaper is the four meter tall earth golem. Haru doesn't need to melee, he has an Earth summon that does it for him. With drills.
Cue the big dark scythe being manifested. "Yeah, that's better." As usual Vertina just charges headlong into the fight... Only to have to stop short as she's forced to dodge the scythe. She ducks, rolls, and springs back up onto her feet, but before she can try to strike is forced to keep dodging. "He's got too much reach with that thing!" She complains. Not to mention he's swinging too fast for her to try and use one of her charged moves.
Standing back up, Curtana takes a moment to focus on how the now-armed reaper and it's swings. They are quite fast, with power and reach. There is a pathern to it, though, and if the knight can time it just right...
There! Curtana charges in to take a blow on his light-blessed shield, using both hands to hold it steady. Light flows out in an sphere as darkness met light, and while the light noticably dims, the shield holds firm. It comes at a cost, as Curtana being pushed back through the sand despite his best efforts and a small but noticable decrease in his HP. "Ergh! This skeleton made sure to get lots of calcium!"
Entering the oasis, Fuka looks around. "So *this* is what we're looking for! Looks perfectly safe to me, yep!" she claims. This of course causes a reaper-class undead to drift towards them in a fit of cutting irony.
Inspecting the creature, Fuka sighs. "Nobody lose your heads over this okay? That thing looks nasty." she claims. But she expected it to come straight at them, not to summon a monstrous lethal scythe from the air around them! Her health bar lowers significantly as she takes the hit, though fortunately her armour prevents the hit from being critical.
Unfortunately the shattering blow prevents her from being able to call upon magic spells, which would normally be her first resort while facing a floating ghost attacking with a weapon larger than she is. She has an answer to that though! Squaring up, she swings her sword to clash it against the obsidian scythe. Mana surges into the blade, electrifying it, and there's nowhere for the energy to go but out and into the scythe, and from there into the boss. "I know it's usually electricity that raises monsters from the dead, but it's also pretty good against the monsters too!" the little Sylph calls cheerfully as lightning slams into the spectral form. But of course she's not done, continuing to slam her sword at the ghost... which doesn't have a whole lot of respite from the energy coursing through her blade whether it tries to dodge, block, or otherwise avoid the attacks!
As the Reaper's health begins to fall dangerously close to defeat, it gives a cry that sounds like the screams of many people and animals melded together. The souls it had harvested. Their death cries in a horrid chorus. It floats away from the party to the oasis water. Final attack? No. Something strange happens. It crumbles into dust as if it has been 'snapped' to death. Reaper, reaped.
The cool blue water pulses a neon green light. The pool is shallow, but in this moment it looks like a window to the underworld as another creature emerges. The water surface ripples as the undead rises out of the oasis with an even larger health bar. Robe billow around it with the hot desert heat. Magic crackles around its feet. This creature shows as one. A classic Lich.
The Lich raises a hand out as the green light pulses out from him. All that hard work the party did? Undone. Skeletons rise, being repawned as they rise up through the sands. The rattling band dances to thier familiar marching tune to welcome back the ghouls that shamble out of the water. The previously dry ghouls are now the bloated, nasty variety. The disappointed mummies? They are back, rushing in to wrap them in bandages so the Adventurers know how bad they have been. The final injury comes as the previously fallen scythe rising back up and returning to the set of reconstructed bones.
A hard, long battle is ahead of the group. The undead forces wade upon the Adventurers with one of the worst things they can do: reanimate. The Lich's necromancy keeps them strong and returning. Left unoccupied by this he raises a green gemmed staff, pulsing out a green light that sucks away the life of all living things. Taking a good look around the area? Thats just us.
"Going to keep the zone enchanted with an accuracy debuff," Haru says as this is one of those times to take it serious. Getting overwhelmed seems far too easy to do in this situation. "And then focus on counter-light to that green pulse," he follows up. Thats a lot to focus on so he brings out help. The black cat pads out from his shadow, not looking all that surprised at being here. It is a Dark Festival time. She is like a celeb now. Praise and pet her. "Counting on you, Eve," he winks to his Summon. Yeah. Whatever. You better count on me. I am super catte. "Tenebris. Cadit. Lunae Lumen. Oriri. Occultare." The hot desert sun is replaced by cool twilight as the dark mist changes the landscape of the oasis. It is not the world's natural Dark, but a controlled zone spell. "You said you wanted to fight at night, right Curt?" the Enchanter asks, the battlefield lit by moonlight as it goes at war with the green light pulses.
"YEAH YOU BETTER RUN!" Fuka yells out as the boss retreats out over the lake. "Or, you know, float." she clarifies a little sheepishly. She begins to chant, readying a nice big toasty fireball chaser, when the reaper crumbles to dust. Interrupting her cast, Fuka just stares. "Uh... I got a bad feeling about this." she murmurs, as the actual final boss steps out. And then the undead all begin to respawn.
"Crap." Fuka claims with feeling. Then she raises her sword. "Right, that's a good idea. I have a tankbuff! Seems like the best move!" she calls, and breaks into a chant. Calling on Earth, protection and retribution, the little sylph enchants the entire group with a buff that retaliates against any attack, sending spikes back at the attacker. It turns every defense of the group into a counterattack, hopefully allowing them to focus their attention not on the horde but on the master. And that master? Every time it pulls a little bit of health in to heal itself, it should also pull spikes to itself as well, turning that necromantic healing into a net harm.
"Oh that's it!" Vertina clenches her fists again, this time igniting them in glorious blazes of magic infused flame. "YOU'RE ALL GONNA BURN NOW!" With blazing fists Vertina charges into the mess, smashing everything that gets in her way. But only because they're in her way. The counterattack defense buff definitely helps in plowing her way through, until she can slam her flaming fists into what she's realling aiming for, the Lich in itself.
"HERE COMES THE PAIN TRAIN!"
And this train of pain is on fire, too.
A gut feeling tells him all isn't said and done when the reaper falls into dust, and the lich rising from the depths of the oasis shows who the true master of these sands are. As if to further show that the undead are it's doing, the spells it casts brings back all the monsters that they either evaded or defeated on their way here. Such a show of force and numbers against the quartet of adventurers. As for Curtana, as he looks out upon such an evil force surrounding him and his allies? He smiles softly and adjusts himself. "Undead. After this, there'll be a lot less to worry about."
Curtana takes in a deep breath, his sword starting to give off sparks of light as he channels the energy into his blade. "Absolutely, Haru. Might as well give these guys a chance. And everyone? Give no quarter!"
Trusting in Fukaziroh's spikey armor, Curtana rushes straight for the Lich. The Hamon-infused weapon cuts down a few ghouls that insist on being in the way, opening up a clear path towards their master. Leaping out over the waters, Curtana pulls his blade back over his head to deliver a jumping slash at the floating Lich. "BEGONE!"
The Lich's staff shatters in the final phase of battle. The remaining undead fall to the ground immediately as if thier strings were cut. This is the chance they need to finish it off. The focused strikes drop the boss' health quickly until it is crackling in white light and shattering in dramatic flair for a boss battle. It looks like a thousand fireflies against the dark zonescape of the mightnight desert. Slowly the clouds part. The enchantment fades. The team is victorious. The source of this uprising was this creature and he is gone. For now. All that is left is the gem that was once encrusted on the staff behind landing onto the ground, cut into equal parts for each Adventurer.
Haru walks over, picking up his own share of the loot. "That should keep things safer around here for a while," he says as he turns back to Fuka, Vert, and Curt, "solid work. We really knocked this thing's lights out." Of course he isn't about to head back into the desert without at least enjoying SOME of the oasis. He jump in to cool off, "Victory lap."
"Teamwork makes the dream work, as they say!" Sheathing his longsword with a satisfied smile, Curtana takes one of the offered flasks with a smile. "I guess one wouldn't hurt. Thank you very much." While the others may be more than happy to go swimming as it, Curtana still has his armor on. Sitting down and resting his back against a palm tree, he dips his bare feet into the waters. "Now this I could get used to."
As for why he removed his boots? He still needed to get the sand out. He has to walk back, after all.
Hacking through hordes of undead, *twice* works up quite a sweat. Fortunately once she fired off her thorn protection spell Fuka was freed up to do other things. She's a generalist, and both her defensive ability and fighting ability were enough to help along with that one strong spell.
Looking around, she cheers in victory. Glancing at Will and Tina, watching Haru leap into the oasis, she calls out. "Last one in is a dirty mummy-lover!" she calls out, leaping into the water with all her clothing and armour on.