Duty Session 540: Totally Typical Tomb
Landers don't leave bodies to bury, but graveyards are still created as a place for them to mourn the departed. For some reason these places are randomly becoming infested with undead. The Hunter's Guild has an open quest available for clearing these infestations.
The mission is simple as these things go. For the past week or so zombies and skeletons have joined the orcs and spooky cave molds in terrorizing those brave souls who live on floor 6 of the tower, and they're sick of it. And so, after sending out a scout to locate where these dastardly undead have made their home, a band of adventurers was gathered to give him support.
Creed, the scout in question, now stands outside a jagged split in the damp cave wall, a faint fuzz of static crackling around one gloved hand for illumination. He was advised to mark the area and await backup, so that is exactly what he has done, seeming oddly relaxed for a man hanging out alone in the echoing dark with who knows what ghostly foes lying just beyond the reach of his light.
Now you see Kotono arriving on the ground with a diving roll like the swift Spriggan she truly is. A contrast to Miyako, who prefers to take the more direct route, but then again, you can't help those things. For now, Kotono stops to survey the area before doing some light stretching. "In this world, anything is possible," She comments to Daiyu.
As she approaches, she can be seen in her typical mail coat and breeches, twin blades at her hips, that Westelander Badge on her chest that has the Landers all helpful to her when they spot it. She takes a look at the cleft in the wall, and says, "This might get complicated, but hopefully we can get through OK. Nothing for but to do it." She speaks like an old man, and those who know her will know why. She offers a nod to Daiyu and Kotono also, "Good to have you today."
She has no weapons showing, just her usual light armor and casual clothes. And her guitar, of course, which gets a brief strum as she perches on a convenient boulder. "Just be prepared for space and time to be a bit ... wibbly-wobbly, when it comes to room layout." She remembers a certain pirate ship all too sensibility-offendingly well, for example.
As the first to arrive, Daiyu earns a soft grunt of greeting from the scout, shaggy head nodding once at her observation. However, unlike the others who begin to gather he has no personal greetings to share. Perhaps they have fought alongside one another before, perhaps not, but Creed has never been much of a talker.
"Zombies." Creed states simply, using the same 'what can you do' tone that you might use when saying 'Kids.' Shifting his hand, he takes in the little group, pauses just a fraction to insure everyone is ready, then steps through the rift into the room beyond.
A couple of things become immediately clear as the group passes into the chamber. Firstly, that it Is a chamber. Large, circular, with a domed ceiling that reflects glittering points of light back at them from crystals imbedded in the worked stone. Though it was difficult to tell from the outside, the area they enter through is clearly an arch that had been bricked over some time in the distant past, now smashed partially open to allow the monsters within a path to freedom.
Secondly, the large pit of bones that takes up the center of the room. Bones of all shapes and sizes, all perfectly smooth and gleaming in the light of the adventurers. Lizard bones, humanoid bones, skulls and tusks all heaped in a jumble that vanishes deep into the floor. Between that, and the stone work spaces built into the circular walls, this might have been some sort of ancient meat processing station. A large one too, if the three other empty arches yawning into darkness are anything to go by.
Large, but not abandoned. For as the whole of the picture begins to sink in, the rattling of bones fills the space. With a horrible chattering clatter, bones within the massive pile begin to shift, and tiny skeletal forms swarm forth toward the trespassers, empty sockets glowing with a malevolent hunger.
Just what Kotono needed to see, right?
"These should be a cinch!" Kotono says with a grin as she draws her blades. "I'll cut them down to size1" With that, the Spriggan goes rushing in with a yell, slashing with her blades in an attempt to show those skeletal monsters why you shouldn't underestimate Kotono!
Blackbird, blackbird, flyin' late
Grease in the pot, and ash in the grate
They've barred the door, and they've shut the gate
They've got no place for me
My bottle's empty and my head is sore
I don't know where I've been before
Bar your gate and shut your door
The Blackbird's flyin' free
She continues the song, her little tale of a wandering soul adrift in the world, finally laid to rest.
Where am I goin' to sleep tonight?
I can't turn left and I won't turn right
Where the road goes on in the cold moonlight
And the lonely blackbird cries
I'm goin' to sleep in a lonely bed,
With white and whiter linen spread
A cold grey stone at my foot and head,
And pennies on my eyes.
The song ripples over the mass of animated rodentia, and wherever its power passes, the dead join the blackbird in rest, bones falling to dust upon the earth.
(( https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xFxNimBjQTY ))
It is unfortunate that Daiyu is the first to act, in that she is the first to realize that these skeletal rats are not the usual breed. Spurred on by a uniquely hateful malice, they flow over and around the Chinese Fox's initial swing, threatening to overwhelm her in a surge of unexpected speed. Were she alone she might have been hard pressed to recover, but she isn't, and the first to leap snapping at her face explodes into bits as Kotono comes blurring past, hacking into the mass with a Ninja's speed. Soon after Goldenblade is there beside the Kitsune joining blade to fan, then Creed on her other side, light fuzzing around his left hand while his right sweeps down toward the floor, a heavy wooden mallet appearing in his grip to impact the floor with a heavy CRUNCH of tiny bones.
"Shit." is all the scout has time to say, mallet misting out of existence only to become a weighted net that he hurls forward to collapse atop the swarm, slowing them just enough for his companions to continue beating back the swarm. That is, until the music rises up behind them and washes over the mass of undead, extinguishing the unnatural fire in their eyes and reducing them to clouds of dust, finally at peace.
Sounding a touch impressed, Creed casts an appreciative glance over his shoulder toward Miyako, rough face unreadable, before sweeping his light up and across the walls. His discarded net shimmers away to nothing while he focuses on first one passage, then the other, light drifting back and forth before stopping half way between the two. There, just visible as a vague imprint in the stone, is the vague outline of another arch, likely sealed away through the application of earth magic. A much subtler job than the rough brick that walled off the entrance.
"Prophetic." Creed grunts idly, thinking back to the lyrics of Miyako's song. "Worth a look?"
Now they have an opening to make accessable. Were the undead rats guarding it, or just happen to be there because that's how dungeons are laid out? Who knows. Who really cares?
She can't do much when it comes to actual construction, but she can at least use the sharp edges of her warfans to help cut down the rock at Goldenblade's indication.
A minor earthquake occurs, causing a noticeable tremor which helps clear things up a bit. "I love this!"
Now that autumn is returning and the garden fires are burning
And the summer beasts are learning how to cope with shorter days
There I labor all alone, piling stone upon the stone
Feeling just a touch of sadness as the summer slips away
And I roll, a stone upon a stone.
And soon enough, their way is clear....
When you really boil it down to the basics, a wall is a wall. With Goldenblade coordinating their efforts, it takes relatively little time for the team to breach the barrier and carefully carve back the opening, splitting and shaping stone to the sounds of Miyako's skillful strumming. While the others work at making the opening larger, Creed retrieves the sturdiest of the bones from the top of the pile and murmurs quietly to them in the background, infusing them with strength and purpose before handing them off to be used as braces for the evolving structure. The effort is everything that teamwork should be. Industrious, cooperative.
Interrupted by a faint rumble.
The crew having breached the entrance and worked their way at a slight incline through several feet of stone, they emerge into the open tunnel beyond to the sound of approaching doom. Ahead, a giant boulder dropping from some hidden compartment, rumbling down the slope to dash apart their efforts, and their bodies. And with all of them lined up along the length of their newly opened construction! At the very least they have to hope they made it large enough for the thing to pass through, or else find some way to shatter it before it reaches them. That is to say nothing about being potentially squished.
"Cliche." Creed mutters to himself, gruff, but fond.
Daiyu goes upward, Goldenblade goes leftward, Creed goes rightward, and the twins go ninjaward. If the boulder had a face it'd probably be frowning as it rumbles between the upright bones and out into the initial chamber, hitting a slight lip at the edge of the bone pit and going briefly airborne before smashing down amidst the bones with a thunderous crash.
"Goal." Creed grunts dryly, peering across the empty tunnel to where Goldenblade stands flush against the wall, the pair of them mismatched mirrors of one another. One corner of his mouth twitches in the closest thing to a smile he's shown all adventure, before he peels himself away from the wall and summons the light back around his hand. A final glance is cast back toward the room now thick with a haze of bone dust before he and the others continue up the passage, emerging into a second, smaller chamber where every surface glitters with tiles of crystal-veined rock.
Being sure to place his feet carefully, the scout ghosts across the room toward the hulking monstrosity of bone pipes and deflated skin sacks that is built into the far wall, taking in the bone keys and open sheet of music spread out above them. He says nothing, only adjusts his light for better reading and shifts to one side, opening the way for the more musically inclined.
Now you don't...
And now she's gotten by completely unharmed! "Ha! What's next?" Kotono asks with a smile.
She peers over the manuscript, leaning over the vixen's shoulder to read the music. "Well now, that's interesting. Not exactly Toccata and Fugue in G Minor...."
While the others are studying the sheet of music spread within the clutches of the skeletal hands, Creed is gazing down at the bone keys themselves. Reaching out, Adjusting the angle of his light, he squints slightly, dark eyes thoughtful, before stating simply.
With that, the scout reaches out a gloved hand, and with two fingers begins to plink away at the keys where constant use has polished certain bones brighter than others, completely ignoring the much more complicated musical piece above that he has no hope of reading. The haunting, hollow blasts of air that emerge from the construction wheeze their way through the staccato blatting of chopsticks, rapid and discordant, and all falls still.
As if in a huff, the skeletal hands slam the open musical book closed, every skull across the organ seeming to narrow its empty eye sockets at the group. And yet, begrudging though it may be, the organ heaves itself up on 4 skeletal feet and shuffles off to another wall, revealing clearing the hidden passage behind where it sat.
"Hrmh." Creed grunts bemusedly, aiming his light through the opening and into the room beyond. A large rectangular room that stretches out before them, ceiling nearly lost to the gloom. Every inch of wall space is packed with chests and crates from all walks of life, made from every material imaginable. Stone, bone, wood, banded and not, open and shut. And within all of them glitters a bounty of riches. Necklaces, coins of all denominations. Ingots of rare and precious metals. Gemstones as yet uncut. All of it stood over by row upon row of skeletal guardian in glittering gold armor, halberds held upright at their sides.
And at the center of it all, looming tall and horrifying beneath the suspended skull of an enormous dragon, a six-armed skeleton stands with its many arms folded across its armored chest as if in rest. Six curved swords rest in sheathes about its person, skeletal face hidden beneath a midnight drape of faded silk. Piled around this monster's feet are the true treasures of the cave. Reliquaries, battle axes. Items of many shapes, some glowing and others seeming entirely mundane. Things of consequence to some.
But whatever course the group takes it is not without some strategic consideration. Then Daiyu draws one of her alchemical charms from within her glove-sleeves and tosses it on the ground. It bursts and quickly swells up and across the ship deck into a bank of obscuring mist, making it hard for the sentries to see the party as they go about their business of finishing this quest. Which will involve a lot of looting when the skeletons can't accurately aim at the elusive vixen while she darts about in her foggy camoflauge.
Sometimes using the simpler methods works best!
"This was all too easy," Kotono says as she makes short work of her enemies. "Anyone else want some?"
She still has a song for the occasion, though.
It's the end of the world as you know it
And I feel fine....
Waving a hand in silent acceptance of Daiyu's statement, Creed allows his light to fizzle away to nothing. Already Goldenblade has began the boss rush, so there's no real chance of doing this the quiet way. Ah well, it's all the same to the scout.
As Kotono explodes forth to meet the glittering gold-clad undead blade to blade, Creed strides forth into the mist with his grey cloak rippling behind him, seeming to move as one with the illusionary fog. Stepping past a skeleton, he weaves to the side as it swings at him, causing its blade to smash into the shoulder of another bony guardian. Soon the scout is in and among them, weaving between blows and scooping up hand fulls of treasure while the mob devolves into combating itself, only to get hacked apart by the true ninjas of the group.
From there it is a simple matter for all of them to gang up on the six armed menace, who might have been dangerous one on one but folds to the combined might of the team, swords clattering to the ground as it begins to crumple. But with its dying(?) breath it hisses out a single word of ancient power, and the dragon skull parts its mighty jaws, glaring down at the group while hellish light gathers at the back of a space where no throat should be.
One desperate dash and a near flaming demise later and the group has made their escape, the entire complex collapsing behind them in a cascade of stone and fire.