A Lander from the Hunter's Guild is awaiting the adventurers at the end of a beaten path, where vegetation begins to reclaim a long forsaken area. After a bow to the assembled Adventurers, the Lander briefs them on their mission: "There are a number of abandoned temple-like structures dedicated to The Burning Goddess throughout the forests of the Eastal Free League. It is believed that at the heart of each of them lies a brazier carrying special Igneous Stones, rumored to be particularly apt at stabilizing flames. They are in high demand, and the Hunter's Guild offers rewards to anyone who can bring a few back." He hands the team a map to the nearest structure, and a map of the structure itself. "Good luck, noble Adventurers."
"Rare material item quotas," Haru says as the Lander provides the location to the temple-like structures, "never cease. A different supply chain with different supplies." Enchanting is what he is getting at. They go through rare materials like it was candy. The ruins in this area tend to have good returns in that regard.
Goldenblade nods to Haru. She knows all about rare materials and supplies, and is quite glad not to have problems like that. "Yes," she agrees, but then grumbles, "Slackers." Her player is quite old and has /opinions/ on the use of magic which she has previously not kept to herself. Of course, in -this- world, where magic /does/ work, her arguements are actually /wrong/. So mostly she just grumbles occasionally and calls people slackers for not doing things the hard way. In her defense, when she makes a sword, it's a sword forever, at least until it breaks, where enchantments need to be re-energized and renewed periodically. "But the temple needs clearing, and monsters need to be slain, so let's do this."
Dosbox was just recently at the towers to get fire stones, and was able to get interesting materials applicable to his crafting: this is a side reason for him being here; the main reason, of course, is to cozy up to Haru, gain his trust... AND SPRING UPON HIM THE REQUEST FOR APPRENTICESHIP! DosBox chuckles sinisterly, yet quietly, to himself about his diabolical plan. "Adventure awaits, my fellow adventurers! Huzzah!"
The party finds a one-story circular structure built out of stone. Run down, smothered by plants and moss, it takes the Adventurers some time before they can free the main door from the vines. Still in place after all this time, wards made of wood and colored strings protect the place against trespassers. If someone could read their ancient script, or knew the enchantment which gives them their power, they could probably understand how to best deal with them. Knowing the exact rules which regulate their activation and removal could also hint at the proper defusing procedure. For the impatient, burning them all down at once is also an option.
"This place is going to drive you crazy, isn't it," grins Haru to Goldenblade. The eternal 'magical versus mundane'. Noodly Arms versus Minor Manastores. Cats vs Dogs. "If they only used a less magical option here, such as electricity, there wouldn't be wards. Instead we would have hermatically sealed bulkheads." A hand runs along the enchantment of the ward, hotwiring parts of the circuit like they were doing some grand theft auto--dooro.
Dosbox pokes at one or two of the runes on the wards, makes an educated hypothesis, and makes a casual attempt to snip one of the strings which seems to be the line to power the wards. While it doesn't stop the wards entirely, any further attempts to shut down the wards would be considerably easier... And he doesn't want to get in Haru's way. DosBox is, after all, the SUPER SUPPORT, and not the Super Main Character.
Goldenblade, for all her non-magical intentions, is entirely magical in one sense. She gives Haru a sour look and focuses on the door for a moment, and it erupts in intense flames, of the sort known to firefighters as 'Just contain it and let it burn itself out, that (fill in the blank) is a loss.' "This whole game is silly. 'It'll be cheaper than long distance phonecalls,' my son said. 'You'll look just like you do in real life,' he said." She sighs. "That's what I get for listening to kids." Her son is in his fiftes, she's said previously, so 'kids' is a kind of broad term.
"We will get Shiruba to woodwork you a rocking chair and a suitable cane. You'll have to find the lawn, though, and it probably will be filled with silly things like dire rabbits," Haru grins.
The Adventurers enter the building, and it does not take them long to discover a trap door leading down a musty stairwell. Torches flicker; long shadows are cast against the walls built out of uneven stones as the party descends a long flight of stairs. At the bottom lies a massive oaken door riddled with padlocks. The more roguish types can try and pick the locks, while Accessory Forgers can try and tamper with the hinges. Maybe those adept in the art of woodworking can find a way to cut through the wood? Of course, a well placed fireball can always burn the door down.
Both hands gesture from the silver haired Artificer, "This looks perfectly normal for run of the mill non-magical mundane foils. A door. Classical setback on all adventures." Notably, Haru draws out his Goldsmith kit and starts dismantling it instead of picking it. "All the usual options of: Attack/Pick Lock/Dismantle of old school dungeon crawlers."
Dosbox stares in awe at Haru's mastercraftsmanship and completely forgets to help as he watches the artificer. "OH, WOW! I didn't see that piece being able to do that there." He probably should be helping, but he's totally in the zone.
Goldenblade snorts at a cane and a rocking chair, and says, "I'm sure Baroness Wake will let me set it up at Eas." She's done enough building there, she ought to have a place there with a lawn. At the next barrier, she does the same as before, a brief moment of concentration, and a burst of flame. But it's not as intense as before, apparenntly Haru's words stung more than she's letting on. "Fine, do your magic thing. Stupid doors. Stupid fire temples anyhow. Who worships fire?"
The Artificer points out the load bearing parts so that the door doesn't get disassembled out of order, causing weight to pinch on the parts and warp them beyond manipulation. "Salamanders. Palace Landers. People attuned to the Divine Beasts of Fire," Haru starts off a short list to muse Goldenblade on. The ire is good for knocking the door down towards the end. It sucks up a bit of time and resources. Stupid doors.
As the Adventurers bring their light sources into the next room, a blood-chilling sight meets them: the walls and ceiling are covered in dire bats. They seem to be asleep, and that is a good thing: they are far too numerous to fight, so the adventurers' best bet is to sneak past them, possibly shrouded in a spell of Darkness. Or, you know, wipe the whole lot out with fire.
The bat room. Home of Wrus Bane. Covert action is /probably/ best, but Haru covers both options by draws his mana around in in a black-fire sheath of dark fire. "Uta and I faced off against big bats like this ones in ancient ruins. It gave me a new appreciation for the Dark element," he says, casually talking as they stealth/fight/stealthfight thier way onward.
Dosbox almost forgot about the bats. He whispers to himself, "Are there bats in ALL of these towers...?" DosBox cloaks himself in darkness and tiptoes underneath the bats, keeping an eye on any ally that might need him to extend his magic to them. He is, after all, a support. Supporting is what he does.
Goldenblade shrugs as Haru lists off people that worship at fire temples. "The point is," she says, as she fights off dire bats with strokes of her swords, which are blazing with fire up and down the length, like a lightsaber dripping gasoline. Or a pair of them, really. "The point is that worship of elements went out /thousands/ of years ago. This isn't a simulation of ten thousand BC. It's like twelve hundred, or sixteen hundred AD. If you're going to make stuff up, why make stuff up that makes no sense." She smashes the hell out of the bats, and the ones that aren't slaugtered by her blades are set aflame before they can get close to her.
"Do you think elementalism worship would have gone out of style in the Old World if /literal fire/ could be summoned from our hands," Haru poses. "In that context, it is our world that is the strange one from moving away from it. Quite silly if we find out we can do the same kind of magic back there and it was our own beliefs that got in the way." Of course Haru is too science brained to believe in things without repeatable studies. And thats when the Fire Nation attacks you, when you are busy doing studies.
The Adventurers reach what, according to the map from the Hunters' Guild, is the antechamber to the inner sanctum. The smell of mildew is overpowering, the floor is littered with puddles, and the silence is broken only by the occasional drip of water. If, that is, we don't count the screech from the tangle of monster vines which has taken root in this room: vegetal tendrils attempt to grab at the Adventurers, too many for mere physical beating and slashing. The stench makes it hard to fight, so some aeration could come in handy. Perhaps one could concoct an impromptu weedkiller, or someone familiar with plants might be able to identify some weak spot of this species. Given the level of humidity in this room, fire looks like an unlikely solution, but that is certainly not going to stop some Adventurers from trying.
Vines. "This place," Haru observes, running a finger along the silver lining of his purple monocle. You want vines? Haru will give you vines. Hands gesture upwards as thick, red-hot vines sear out of the earth and entangle themselves with the growth in the room. Its Vine on Vine combat here on RedVine. A writhing mess of plantlife, steam, and fire makes the entire room a mess. "Can't do much for the smell," he observes, as it is not a fragrant exchange. Smells more like old shoes.
Goldenblade considers Haru's coments on the worship of fire. "Well," she says. "If you control a thing, you tend to stop worshipping it, yes? That's why religion has gone out of real life. We can control the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, and we're no longer subject to the whims of mischance. Disease no longer strikes down people randomly, and if bad things happen, a cause can always be identified. The lack of mystery tends to reduce the mystical component."
She zips through this room without stopping, her speed a thing of ... well, speed. She doesn't stop for vines or anything else, but she probably should, the flaming trail she leads ending in a clump where the vines were too thick and she couldn't burst through. She's forced to hack her way clear, at a great expense in HP and MP.
Dosbox is rather distracted by the conversation, and completely forgot about the plant monster until it grabbed him and started coiling around him like a snake. His HP bar made it down to half before he could manage to shoot off a fire pillar, separating the tendrils around HIM from the rest of the plant. He rushes ahead to meet up with his companions. If he were trying to impress Haru, this would be an example of how NOT to do it. "I always thought of religion as a mental process to aid one in stress management rather than something that is actually beneficial in helping understand the world around you. Ignorance can protect from the mental weight of knowledge..."
"I don't know about control leading to less worship. There are a few religions that control the divinity and science is like a church itself when you look at the dogma behind it," Haru considers the idea. "Perhaps we worship science and logic the same way these people worship the primal forces of fire." Being more open minded about it all. For Bory, Haru is quite used to contrarianism amongst his social circle. "Plenty of views on it. Consider how many senses we have. Our brain handles some 11 million receptors, 10 million of them in the eyes. Our views would change if we started to perceive other parts of our world and make sense of it under that information. And then explaining it to others would be like explaining color to a colorblind doggo." A grin to Goldenblade.
The Adventurers' torches are the only source of light for this room. The brazier in the middle is unattended, a large number of Igneous Stones just lying there! As soon as the stones are removed, the walls rumble, and dust and rocks begin to fall from the ceiling. As the cliche demands, the structure starts to collapse! Adventurers need to rush back to the surface without being squished by the falling rocks, or killed by any monster that might still be lingering!
Being open minded won't help the whole falling ceiling situation. "The temple knew were were badmouthing its spiritual beliefs," Haru observes. Something else he observes is the need to move, fast, while handling all the impending rocks. He summons out a fire elemental birb to start incinerating the debris during their escape to marginal success.
Dosbox musters all his focus to speak while also attempting to keep the ceiling above them from collapsing on top of them with his Earth magic by stabilizing the corridor as much as he can, "That's exactly what I am saying. I mean, if you have an answer already, even if it's a false one, not only will you not be looking for another one, the religious answer you have is probably nice and soothing in some way. So if you try to explain color to that color-blind creature, it would not bother even thinking about it because you're wrong1, and it's in its happy place."
Goldenblade says to Dosbox, "That works in real life. In this game, the gods are /real/, and you -can- gain advantages by worshipping them. To Haru, she says, "Science is like a church if you don't understand it. But in a church in Real Life, you can't make things happen with chemicals and items you've made. Science isn't an opinion, it happens whether you believe in it or not. Just because you might not understand it, just because it's cool and amazing, as my grandkids say, doesn't make it magical. Now, -here- that garbage /does/ work, so I guess it's a thing. I guess that means real life sociology doesn't apply eiher, though." She huffs, sighs. "Dang kids and their games."
And now the temple's falling in, and she grumbles as Haru identifies the likely cause. "Probably so," she says sourly, and cleaves a fallen boulder blocking her path with an absolutely staggering blow of her fiery sword. Everything in a swath ahead of her is incinerated apart from the igneous stones, which seem to be energized by the flames, and she will pick them up, and hustle the hell out of there.
The party rushes through the whole building, past the dire bat room, up the floor, dodging or blocking any menace that might be remaining, possibly fireballing anything that might be left. Once outside, they slump on the floor and catch their breath, possibly admiring the stones they have managed to snatch: enough Igneous Stones to allow Adventurers to possibly pocket one and still meet the mission's quota with the rest.
The stones that Haru gets are quickly marked for the Silver Sword crafting division for experimentation. The applications in alchemy, enchanting, and even accessory forging requires raw materials to mess around with. Skience! "Alls well that ends well," the Artificer says upon observating the party's health and mana levels. A good challenge! "The Goddesses are here, worshipped, and quite real. Big ole statue of one in the Palace Lands as well as in Eas, Tolbana, and Shibuya." There is a nod to Goldenblade there. Wake is a big follower for example. "Faith and Hope are different senses over Knowledge. All useful in different ways."
Dosbox dives and rolls as the party escapes the collapse, coming to a stop a short distance away. He's tired, hungry, and frustrated at his lack of skill demonstrated on this run. But maybe Haru didn't notice... "Well, I am not sure how much faith I want to put in digital gods. If they exist, they can do some kind of miracle and have me see it to get my faith. Until then, I am digitally agnostic." He stands up, brushes himself off, and bows, "Thank you, once again, for allowing me to come with you on this adventure. I learned a lot."
Goldenblade dashes through the temple, or such of it as remains, and at the end, she nods at what Haru says. "This is all true. Doesn't mean I understand any of it. It's all marsh gas to me." She nods about Wake, but says, "I know, it's sad to see such a reliable person fall to that." She gives a disappointed sigh.
To Dosbox, she assures him, "Oh, within the game, the digital gods reign supreme, whether I like it or not. You can ask Wake for a sign, or any of them, I guess. You just missed the big statue in the Palace Lands, maybe two or three months ago. I heard a goddess came down and broke the crowns of thousands of Palace Landers at a stroke and freed them all. They're entirely real."
Dosbox makes a coin sign with a hand, "Yeh, but what have they done for me, eh? Give be a buff or something. Wouldn't say no to a divine spellfocus either. You make it worth my while, and I will TOTALLY worship a digital god. Better than worshipping one in the real world with no proof, right?
Goldenblade arches a brow, says, "You're thinking about it the wrong way around. You don't get something for nothing in /any/ transaction. You have to do the right worshipping and then you get the blessing. Just like you have to hammer metal to make a sword. Or bake bricks to build a wall. Nothing's free in life, once you're an adult. I guess kids today don't see that." She sighs.
Dosbox chuckles, "It's been a while since I have been called a kid. It's... nice I guess." He shrugs, "Well, it's not that I want free stuff. I just have other things that I am doing, and if some goddess or another wants me to do something for them, they have to give me something of equal or greater value to the time that I would other wise have spent. Time is money. I am a craftsman. I have things to do. If you want my time, make it worth my while. If you want to talk to me about the glories of a god, set an appointment. I charge by the hour.
Goldenblade shrugs to Dosbox. "That's a fair perspective. I think most people have that outlook." She ohs about Dosbox being a craftsman, but then recalls him cozying up to Haru, and revises her opinion. "Well, you do you," she says disappointedly. I'm sure the gods aren't /necessary/ here. But they patently exist, so denying that makes you look a bit foolish." She shakes her head and sighs, "Gods and magic, good grief."
Dosbox nods. "I am not denying they exist. I am just saying..." He thinks really hard about this one, "Well, what have they done for ME lately?"
Goldenblade shrugs to Dosbox. "How should I know what they do for you? What have you done /for them/? As I say, this is a transactional thing. But go see the huge statue outside Lumina Cloth in Kallamore if you want to see. That statue broke mind control devices on thousands of people and gave them back control of themselves."
Dosbox sighs heavily as he kicks at the ground, "Yeah, I get that. That god has done a lot for other people. That's super cool of them. I guess... I am just bitter because, when I needed rescue from a dark place, I wanted a god to show up and fix things, and it didn't happen. I get that the world is... BIGGER than just me. I'll... look into the Gods. Maybe they ARE cool, like you're saying."