Battle of the Contrabands

Goldenblade and Uta locate a smugglers' stash. OF COURSE there's plenty of monsters protecting the area.


It took significant detective work, but all that effort paid off: here are our heroes, on an elevated rocky outcrop at the outskirts of Kogushi, just before teh desert proper starts.

Squatting down behind a long and narrow pile of generally flat rocks which the locals pompously refer to as a 'low wall', Uta observes the lower terrain ahead through the cracks between the uneven stones, lying low on the ground. "There they are," she comments, pointing at, or rather past, the wall. "A line of defense of giant scorpion monsters, some roaming Murderbiters, and then that well. That must be where the smuggled goods are hidden."

Goldenblade has donned a buff serape for this adventure, worn over her silvery mail and the hood concealing her bright hair. She fades into the desert, hunkered down behind this forgotten remnant of a wall, and she nods to Uta. "Wells are a significant resource in this region," she notes. "Someone must really want people to avoid this one." She's too far away to examine the monsters, so she can only get the relative levels based on the nameplate color, but she is considering that. "I think we can take them," she says.

"It's a bit far away to tell with certainty," comments Uta, briefly raising her head to peer through the rocks again. "But from what I've heard, the well is dried up, abandoned and in ruins, these days, like the rest of the area. Hence why they no longer bother to keep it clear of monsters." Uta stands up, and dusts herself off. "Hence why it's the perfect place to set up a stash. Wanna bet there are tunnels and a boss room?" She extends one hand with a grin. "Five silvers."

If there's a boss room and a boss, there'll be a lot more than five silvers, so Goldenblade will take that bet. "You're on," she says, chuckling. This way, no matter what, she'll make a bit of cash out of this encounter. "If the well has dried up, that explains why no one cares too much about it anymore." There's too many monsters roaming the desert that Westelande has in place of countryside for anyone to put them all down. That's why there's always something for adventurers to do. "How do you want to take them?" she wonders. "Ambush and tactical, or do you want to just run in and smash?"

Uta squints through the crack. "Let's assess the situation. Broad daylight. Open desert all the way to the well. Absolutely nothing to hide behind. Monsters all around.And there's a fifty percent chance that there's a sentinel waiting for us in the well, ready to see us approach. I guess there's only one way to go about this..."

* * *

A few minutes later, Uta is leaving very evident flip-flop tracks in the sand; decked in a hawaiian shirt, summer shorts, a wide brimmed hat, and sunglasses, she states, "I. THINK. WE. GOT. LOST," as she stops briefly, to rest on her walking stick; she makes sure to shout each word with a clear staccato, as she look around with a faux-clueless expression. She pulls up a book marked "Solitary Isekai's Travel Guide to Westelande". "I. THINK. WE. TOOK. A. WRONG. TURN. AT. TAKAMATSU." There. Not suspicious at all. Just a lost tourist. "Oh, my, monsters!", she exclaims, with faux shock, as she begins to beat at the scorpions with a calculated faux incapacity, that makes each of her blows look clumsy, and her impressive track record at slamming scorpions just dumb luck among a lot of failed blows.

Goldenblade has let Uta take the lead on the approach, but she relies on her own stealth skill to approach undetected. She's not an actual ninja, but she is quite subtle when she's trying, which is why when she's not in a fight, she can creep up on people, or monsters, without them being aware of her presence. In a fight, like now, she is all mayhem and slamming into targets with sword strokes like sledgehammer blows that leave the target feeling like they've been run over by construction equipment. With Goldenblade bulldozing on the left and Uta accidentally slaughtering them on the right, this is not a good day to be a giant scoropion guarding a well where stolen goods have been hidden.

Uta makes sure to always 'accidentally' interpose herself between the well and Goldenblade, to protect both Adventurers' approach through a clever(?) misdirection and sneaky progression.

After dispatching enough scorpions and Murderbiters (don't ask), the well is finally reached.

As anticipated, the place looks abandoned and in disrepair; the wind has sanded down the rocks, both the ones still forming the main structure and the ones that fell off to a side to attempt a solo career, without much success. As soon as she arrives, Uta looks all around, the oppressive heat of the desert causing a wavy effect on the panaorama, including the 'walled' outcrop the Adventurers came from; and once she's convinced nobody seems to have noticed them from afar, or be on their way to attack them, she nods once, beckons to Goldenblade, climbs over the edge of the well, and jumps in.

Uta's wings may not be good for -much- but this is one of the rare cases where they aren't completely useless. "Nothing so far," Uta comments. "There are bent metal bars nailed to the wall, though," she remarks, pointing at the shoddily put together ladder substitute. "You can climb down on those!"

It isn't long before Uta lands on the sand-covered dry ground at the bottom. While she waits for Goldenblade, she takes some time to knee down and observe the area. "The place looks undisturbed," she comments, running a finger on the bottom bars, and checking for the presence of dust or sand. "We're lucky, there was no sentinel to see us approach."

Goldenblade is more tanky than she had been previously, and so despite having no shield, she seems quite capable of tanking the hardest hits. But the exterior monsters are dealt with in jig time, and Goldenblade will peer down the well with a skeptical expression, which grows more skeptical at the ladder rungs.

She wiggles the ones closest to the top, though, and they seem solid enough, so she will take a chance on them and attempt to climb down, testing each rung with a bit of weight before settling onto it, and never letting go a handhold until her foot is on a new rung and it's seeming to hold. She nods about the place looking undisturbed, and she says, "Maybe they're not stashing their loot here anymore? How recent was your intel?"

"I accidentally got a few sailors drunk last week," Uta replies to Goldenblade, whose cautious approach to her descent secured her a safe arrival. Yes, there was the odd suspicious rung, but there was a sufficiently solid one that could work as a substitute. "Granted, I had to get myself -even drunker- in the process, but thankfully I had a designated note-taker who could hold alcohol better than I did." A short pause. "I should have suspected that the cheap price for writing down what the sailors said would be rounded off by the surprise fees of buying their silence about what -I- did while drunk, but I suppose that in the end we'll have a net profit."

Uta ducks into a narrow passage, which proceeds for a few tens of yards before widening into a cooler, larger room. By now she has already sung the gem of her staff into providing some sort of low-key, but longer-lasting illumination. Moving it around as if it was a torch, she looks for further passages. "You think you know where-"

Uta stops, and her mouth turns into a little 'oh' of surprise: from a crack in the tip of the domed ceiling, sand trickles down, into a mound below, as if the room was the bottom of a hourglass. "This is recent," Uta observes, kneeling down to observe the small pile of sand in the middle of the room. "There's barely any sand here, as if it started..." A short pause. " soon as we arrived?", she frowns.

She reaches out to touch the sand, and as soon as she does, there is a rumble, the ground shakes, which makes Uta jump back.

The crack at the top widens, a larger mass of sand plummets downward, and the whole pile rises to form a tall, burly humanoid figure with a deformed mouth; it raises its 'arms', and roars menacingly.

<< Sand Golem >>

It inspects as a monster.

Goldenblade boggles as Uta shares drinking stories. It seems out of place, though Uta getting plastered would have seemed out of place in any conversation she can think of. "I never thought of you as the party girl type," she admits. "But as long as you had fun, it's all fine. If expensive."

She follows Uta into the narrow passage, holding one of her swords aloft, flames licking up and down the steel like a torch, and tries to follow Uta's glance. She spies the falling sand, and the first thing she thinks of is, "Unstable ceiling, let's back down," but them the sand forms up into a Sand Golem, and while she has no idea what that may be, she knows it's bad news. Any sort of monster with a dramatic forming up visual is bad news. The devs don't spend the engergy to make cool sequences like that for goblins and grunties.

"I recently taught Song to June!" Uta hurries to explain at being called a 'party girl'. "You'd be surprised at the amount of tavern songs that implied. And mugs of beer. In the DPS/Tank/Healer classification, June falls squarely in 'Tankard' territory." She leaps away just as an abrasive fist impacts with violence on the floor, leaving it oddly more levigated in its wake.

With a tumble on the ground, she lands halfway between her original position and where Goldenblade is. "In the meantime, I learned a trick or two about not to being completely devastated by one mug of beer-" Another leap, another barely avoided abrasive fist. This one is so violent it makes the floor shake and leaves a -crater- in the ground. Spin in the air, and land right next to Goldenblade. "-long story short, I overestimated my abilities this time. In any case, you know how it is. Japan. Social drinking...", she trails off, as if for listing some necessary facts of life.

"In any case..." She clenches her staff and narrows her eyes at the monster. "You ready? Time to pound some sand!"

Goldenblade ohs at the mention of June, and says, "-That- explains the drinking." And with the explanation of the Japanese style binge drinking, she laughs. "Don't underestimate the liver of a salaryman. Those tiny bastards have a super-high tolerance, they can really stick it away."

As the sand golem attacks, Goldenblade's swords blaze, and she will wade in with both swords swinging, dishing out the DPS like a champ, smashing the golem left, right, and center with her swords, using her preternatural agility to avoid the golem's counterattacks, if maybe not by as much as she'd have liked to avoid them. She'd /like/ to avoid them by several km, but with that not being in the cards, she'd settle for fewer 'narrow scrapes' and 'almost flattened' results. But she does stay ahead of the golem, and indeed pounds sand. It's not as bad as it is reputed to be.

Uta does her part at pounding sand -- and with their combined sand-pounding action, what must be a miniboss is quickly defeated. "...That was quick," Uta, in fact, comments. "Sand." A pause. "No, wait- Argh."

She shakes her head. "Anyway, that must have been a miniboss," she adds as she ducks- wait, didn't we say that already?

As we were saying -- Uta ducks into another narrow tunnel, leading the way with the illuminated gem of her staff, and the duo emerges into a larger, proper boss room.

This one has all the trappings: massive pirate treasure, consisting of a few scattered chests of gems and coins atop hapazard mounds of gems and coins, making one wonder what the point of the wooden chests is in the first place. Crates of crates of booze, a favorite of smugglers everywhere. Then there's the circular, luminous markings on the floor, and the enormous monster smack in the middle; a humanoid bovine monster, akin to a minotaur, but one with impressive facial hair, in the iconic 'handlebar' style. It inspects as a monster, of course, named the <<Moo Stash>>.

"....aaaand I think I'm owed five silvers!", Uta exclaims, as she emerges from the tunnel and immediately steps sideways to provide healing support. "You want to go first?"

Goldenblade finds Uta's attempt to pun on pounding the sand golem into pixels more painful than actually getting hit. "We like you, Uta, you don't need to make a joke a minute," she says, as one telling a child to spool down. "In fact ... well, joke if you like. But it's not /important/." She will follow Uta through the rest of the labyrinth to the end boss, such as it is, and she laughs to Uta. "Five silvers is yours." She kicks over a crate of coins and piles of them spill out in Uta's direction.

At the invitation to go first, she laughs, then adops the Fortress Stance, one of the common mid-level tanking powers. Any attack it makes that doesn't come at Goldenblade will earn it a slash across the face. "Fight me!" she taunts the Moo Stash, and leaps in to the attack. Unlike most tanks, she's a kite tank, which means she avoids taking damage by not being where the target is swinging. It's a bit more mobile than a shield tank fight, but she keeps it in a limited track so Uta will never lose line of sight.

Uta does keep a worried eye on Goldenblade as well. As primarily healer who can DPS in a pinch, she is, as the vernacular goes, 'squishy'. And she knows it. As the old medical saying goes, 'prevention is better than a cure', and as a professional nurse, she takes that saying to heart, especially when it comes to her HP bar not getting ravaged by monsters.

The fight seems to go mostly well, Goldenblade does a great job at attracting the monster with her 'Come at Me Bro!' routine followed by being in another castle when the monster bites. An Aggro Ding Dong Ditch of sorts.

Since Goldenblade seems to have this, and not to need much in the way of healing, she focuses on intoning melodies that cause her staff to shoot Ranged attacks -- and between the combined effort of the duo, the HP bar is slowly chipped away at.

Over one late, angry roar of the monster that sends the whole room to shake, Uta yells at GB, "One blow and it's down!" She raises her staff to stand, tapping it to the ground next to her, and bows. "To you the honour of the last blow."

Goldenblade can't avoid all the damage, of course, and while she's agile, she needs to /take/ a couple hits to keep the monster's attention also. But not too much, and Uta's focus on DPS is an indicator that her healing skills are not being taxed. Goldenblade's own physical skills are considerable, first and foremost she's melee DPS herself, and while she's slowly growing into the tank role, she's not all the way there. Which of course means that there's more damage to be had.

As Uta exhorts her to finish him, Goldenblade nods, and twirls around like an acrobat, each golden blade striking the target for a separate damage score, the rotational attacks quickly stacking on the previous damage to start to really accumulate. The swords gleam especially distinctively, this being one of her signature moves, on which her legend is based.

While Uta was out partying, Paula studied the blade.

And it shows.

The swords spin; the aureate metal glistens when it catches the light at just the right angle, like the glasses of an anime villain.

Everything is going according to plan.

The move is flawless: a long gash of pulsating red light is traced diagonally throughout the chest of the Moo Stash; a searing cry of pain, real or virtual as it may be, bellows through the room; the walls shake, much to Uta's concern as she watches bits of rubble rain down from above.

The explosion, in a burst of luminescence and energy, is is deafening and blinding -- because of the explosion of the colorful polygons itself, but then because the released energy, either by the explosion or by the monster's last stomp before disintegrating, makes the central part of the floor ruin into the middle of the room.

When everything subsides, Uta- well, she has to cough and squint: not only because of the cloud of dust that is still hanging in the air, but also because the sunlight that gets in from what must have been a secondary, hidden well makes the gold and gem glisten with an intensity that is painful to her eyes, used to the semi-darkness and the dim light of her staff.

She may have to cough and squint, but that doesn't stop her from smiling. Wide.

Goldenblade doesn't have a plan so much as a few base strategems that she relies on in situations like this. They are stratagems like 'Don't get hit' and 'hit the opponent as hard as you can'. These don't quite fall together at the plan level, they're incomplete, but moment by moment in a fight, they're quite good tactics to fall back on.

Having finished the boss with her Golden Whirlwind and brought the roof down, which is almost always considered good, she coughs and looks over our conquest. "You sure did win that bet," she says to Uta as she gets a shovel from her inventory and starts collecting the loot.