Duty Session 566: Crystal Lake

The Eas Lake has reported increased activity from nearby Sahuagin. The Hunter's Guild has issued a quest for Steel Hunters to pacify the monsters and investigate the source of their agitation.

Difficulty:    Medium
Rec. Party:    3+
Rewards:       4
World Rewards: Reduced monster activity in the Eas water regions

Yamato - -25 - -10 - 0

The lake around Eas shines a calm crystal blue color of its namesake.
Fir trees dot the region and the crisp mountain air sings of nature.
It is a perfect place for a cabin, a campsite, and a dock to go
fishing off of.

The ideal is shattered when the fish fight back.

A trail around Crystal Lake is marked by skirmishes with the Sahuagin,
aquatic monsters known for savagery. Drag marks go off the path and
into the water where the less fortunate met their end. The trees are
scarred by tooth, claw, and trident from resistance. The deep blue
waters no longer evoke tranquility, but instead a veil which predators
could ambush the unprepared.

The trail towards the entrance of their lair is obvious, as if to
provoke the bold to seek these monsters out and dole out despair
against their might.

Haru is here, having put together a series of chims to gather Adventurers to investigate and bring peace back to this region of the lake. He believes it relates to another thing he is investigating alongside collaboration with Helba. That this situation is not natural. The Artificer stands by the trail, making forensic notes of the damage left by the previous attacks. "Looks similar in strength to the Sahuagin from Maidensong," he says, more a crafter than a hunter.
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Eas was pretty far to travel, but when it came to potentially needing to beat up evil monsters making life hard for others there wasn't a distance too far. Or something like that. There was evil to fight and Vertina was here to do that. Once she finished a series of pre-dungeon warm-up stretches. "Like Maidensong? That could be a problem if they spread out too far from there."
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Yeowang is often found around Eas, she has worked as a financier for some of Baroness Wake's projects, and of course she prefers to sleep indoors rather than roughing it, as so many adventurers prefer. But when Haru puts out word that adventurers are needed to help out the region, she will certainly come to help. She looks around the area, noting the terrain, and the recent signs of skirmishes, and she frowns. But then she looks blank as Haru and Vertina mention Maidensong. "What's Maidensong?" she wonders.
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Nyanta had already been travelling the world looking for potential places for his next Tea Party; however, when there was a call for help, a true gentleman always comes to aid those in need. It was this obligation that brought the Coolest Cat in ETO, Nyanta.

That being said, Nyanta had been out of the adventuring game for far too long, and there were large gaps in his adventuring vocabulary, "Many apurrlogies for my ignyawrance, but..." And Yeowang is quicker on the draw, sparing the Dandy Cat the necessity of asking the question. He gestures to Yeowang, bowing his head in her direction.
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The silvery haired Adventurer looks towards Vertina and agrees. "Keep an eye out for markings and tribal signs," he lets her know. "If they are the same, then there are migration concerns. If they are not, then the question becomes why are monsters of this size and voracity showing up as far as Eas." As for Yeowang and Nyanta, Haru elaborates before heading on, "Maidensong Isles is where the Phantom Atol and Colosseum is. The dungeon heart there was cleared in recent months and the land claimed by Fukasa Yuri. The interesting thing about the Colosseum was that Sahuagin of large size and strength were holding down the fort, so to speak." He gestures his hand to the ground and the trees, "The footprints and claw marks look of similar size. That is to say: Large." Turning towards the trail he begins to walk, "Talking and Thinking about it won't get the mystery answered, though. Lets press on."

The first beast that greets the Adventurers is not a Sahuagin at all.
It is a hulking golem made of scales, bone, limestone, and malice. A
crude '13' is etched into the largest torso rock serving as its core.
It stands as a sentinel before the yawning cave behind it.

Beyond the Guardian is the entrance to the monster's den where the
boss and answers await. The golem is crudely constructed yet durable.
A swift Adventurer could slip past or avoid the worst of the damage.
Those with might or magic could rip it asunder in combat to disable
the hindrance it currently provides.

"Not fishy makes this fishy," Haru observes, as he was expecting angry fish peeps, not angry rock peeps. Hands gesture up from the ground as it trembles, swirling up along the guardian's feet to keep it anchored for an assault or evasion.
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Yeowang returns Nyantya's bowed head, a respectful nod from one professional to another. Her demeanor is dead calm, though little tells indicate to the cognizenti that she is far from a professional adventurer. Nervertheless, her poise is one hundred percent. She offers a nod to Vertina, and says, "Good to see you here."

She ohs as Haru explains that these sahaugin may be refugees from Maidensong Isle. She'd been there a few times, herself, and she's considering it rather than paying attention to the mission at hand when we encounter the Guardian. She will rush in, but her close quarters combat is off, and she seems to have a hiccup in her timing, taking hits that she should have dodged, missing strikes, or striking glancing blows where she should have struck clear. She growls at herself for being distracted and makes an effort to concentrate.
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It isn't the kind of monster they expected. But it is big, and tough, but also cumbersome and obviously telegraphing its attacks. The combination of those and her own wuxai agility is enough for Vertina to readily dodge its attacks, and throw a few blows in here and there to wear down it's health. She might not be a tank but her tendancy to be really hard to hit is just as good at keeping attention off more squishy people in a party. "If this one is 13, where's the other 12?" she asks somewhere admist the golem dodging and bashing.
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Nyanta also finds it odd that their foe is earth-based rather than water-based, but twice has a comment been made before he has had his opportunity to voice it. All-in-all, it's rather convenient for expediency's sake. And of all the options available, dismantling it seems to be the quickest path.

Nyanta draws both rapiers and joins Yeowang in the destruction of the construct, peppering it with many slashes of the tip of his rapier against the joints of the arms, hoping to disable any counter attacks it might make.

To Vert, the cat replies, "Perhaps it is just the 13th purrrsion, like a system update, nya. Purrhaps versions 1 through 12 were nyawt successful, nya."
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The legends about Water Temples being the worst are true. The door
deeper in is immediately recognizable by a XIII on the keystone, an
ornate aquian door, and a trident-shaped keyhole that bemoans further
puzzle solving will be required to get access beyond it.

Corridors lead away from the antechamber where Undine or excellent
swimmers would not struggle to do the platforming necessary to obtain
a piece of coral. The less aquatically inclined may struggle. The
struggle bus continues on with the assembled pieces being fragments of
the backup key that need to be assembled before it is used.

A skilled appraiser will need to discern the properties whereas one
good with puzzles and cryptography are needed to determine how they
connect to each other. Finally a crafter is needed to forge it as a
whole piece before it is used on the door.

There is the dread and sensation that the party is being hunted while
they solve the challenge.

"Was wondering the same," Haru tells Vertina and Nyanta, "or if there is numerology at play." He starts out by getting his field forging gear out. Moonlight Goldsmith time. "We will have to ask the owners. Or, since I can't recall the last time that interrogation worked, look around once we are inside."
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Vertina just stares at the doors, marked with a lot of things she doesn't understand and puzzles she has no idea how they work. That's about the most sense she can make of it, and it's not a lot. ".... Are you sure I can't just kick it open?" she asks, at a loss for anything else to really contribute.
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Yeowang recognizes the decoration on the door to be Undine, nut as to what other information might be derived, she cannot tell. She will be the first to admit she's a fighter, not a detective, and while she has a few scouting skills thanks to her choice of class, she's not particularly adept at their use. A skilled appriaiser, she is not, and numerology, like so many nerdy skillsets, is not among hers. She fails ad nerd. Such a thing.
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Nyanta finds himself bemoaning his own ineptidude, partially because his dungeon delving prowess has been lacking and partially because he had always left such puzzles to a certain Villain with Glasses back in the day. Had he the forethought to practice such mind muscles, he might have been of help here. "Mayhap we pull instead of push, nya?"
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The time to open the Temple doors was more finite than expected. A
muscular Sahuagin appears at the entrance wielding a trident with two
of the prongs broken off. What is left of the metal spear has been
honed down into a singular long blade. It does not wear armor except a
dirty white mask that goes over its face. The hunter approaches the
party in a slow, determined pace. With a lack of speed and armor it
should be easy to defeat.

The first attack against it shows how much health the Masked Hunter
has. It is an aberration to fish kind! An inspect shows it as 'Jayson'
and stats show him as a buffed up murderfish on two legs.

The party has their back against the temple walls and will have to
coordinate in order to escape uninjured from the predator. A
combination of ranged attacks and light artes are required to draw it
away long enough for the party to maneuver around it and position for
an escape.

Haru's arcane bolts are being absorbed as if he was tossing bean bags at the baddie. "Artificer uses Arcane Bolt. Not effective damage. Will keep this thing delayed instead," as he starts to move around Jayson with suppressive fire to keep the already slow moving monstrocity at bay.
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Yeowang has never fought a buffed-up murderfish before, but she's been fighting since she was six, and a buffed-up murderfish is not going to put her off her stride. A hard kiyai and a sirect strike do nothing, other than picking up his aggro, thank you very much. "I think this is not a fight we can survive," she says with a fish in her face. Tanking is not part of the glass cannon skillset. But she exhales slowly and concentrates, visualizing where it can strike, how it can strike, and where it will be next. That preternatural knowledge lets her evade its attacks easily while her friends back away, and then draw it off her once in a safe position so she can make her escape as well.
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Nyanta does his best to try to distract the creature with his blades, but such efforts only serve to concentrate the creature's ire upon himself. His hitpoint bar notices the attention that 'Jayson' is paying to him, though Nyanta keeps his composure... Luckily, Yeowang manages to pull the creature's attention, and do a much better job of not being hit. The blooded cat takes this chance to slip away while the creature is occupied.
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Stupid door! However the new threat that presents itself is more Vertina's pace anyways. A lumbering terror of a fishy fiend stalking in their direction. Haru shoots at it and it barely makes a dent in it's health but it does slow it's approach. If it's an aberration then it's corrupt, and that she can help with. "Okay, find the way out." The Salamander does what at first probably looks like the reckless option as she darts towards 'Jayson'. "I'll drive it back!"

And that's when she jumps into the air, twisting her body as flames infused with ki erupt in spirals around her, giving the impression of a flaming drill as she comes down at the aberration at an angle.


The flames spark outward as her spinning kick connections, driving the monster back several steps in one direction. While Vertina backflips off from the impact, hits the ground in a handspring, and vaults back onto her feet to turn and follow the others.
Yamato - -25 - -10 - 0

Living is good. The mystery of this whole 13 business will have to wait until they are not being murdered. Haru is still doing the dakka dakka dakkas on the way out as he agrees with Yeowang here: Not a fight they can win.

The world has creepy critters and that Hunter is one of them. Even
after escaping there is this feeling that the party is being watched
from the treeline and from the water. It provides the proper spooks
feelings as the Adventurers regroup.

Maybe this is the Sahuagin threat that the Hunter's Guild was talking
about? They wouldn't have to wonder long before coming to a nearly
abandoned campsite by the lake. There are enough placements at the
site to fit a dozen campers, but only one Lander is still around and
they are in a state of heightened fear. They, too, have run into the
Hunter out here and survived to tell the tale.

This is a chance to investigate and put together the mystery of
Crystal Lake. A skilled people-person can calm the Lander down enough
to talk or a soothing song can do the same. Otherwise the campsite
offers potential clues for those taking the time to gather them
through perception or instinct.

"Deep breaths," Haru says with a level headed amount of decorum when approaching the Lander. "That thing could still be after us, and you," the Artificer says, pushing up his monocle in half-glasses style. "Anything you know. Anything you've seen. This will be vital for our survival and its removal." Assuming it can be removed, that is.
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"Can't say this is what I would of expected to come across when we started this question." Vertina however paces around a bit, then finds a clear spot amongst the remains of the camp to.. sit? No, wait, she's getting into a lotus position, legs crossed and arms at her sides to rest her hands on the ground. To feel the location. Closing her eyes and hoping mayhaps some meditation will help illuminate what has transpired here and how to deal with it.
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Yeowang backs down with the others, once the monster is maneuvered out of the way of the exit, and she will zip off down the road and glad to leave it behind. It seems interesting to her that this game has so many challenges that are not meant to be beaten by players, but avoided. Perhaps it's intended to challenge gigantic parties that come through, rather than the small 4-person group now present?

But what we encounter next is not a monster, but a terrified Lander who's clearly in over his head. "We've cleared some of the path back," she assures him. There's the one huge monster we just avoided, ourselves, but we left him not blocking the path, so if you go back quick, you may be able to avoid him as well." The news that the backpath has been mostly cleared and very scouted seems to relieve him.
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Nyanta notes that Haru and Yeowang seems to have things under control with the lander, so he does his best to search the campsite to see what he can find. He discovers an axe, the tree-felling kind, and surmises, "I am myarginally skilled in weaponsmithing, nya. I suppose I could repurrpose this one to be myore of a combat variant, nya..."
Yamato - -25 - -10 - 0

Enough evidence is collected to point that this Hunter is part of the
Sahuagin problem. It has been terrorizing Adventurers and Landers that
travel in the area with relentless brutality. If the party can
assemble the right combination of weapon and weakness against it, they
should be able to counteract Jayson's monstrous health and slow,
methodical attacks.

Evidence suggests that Jayson has a weakness to party members wearing?
sweaters? The party will need a tailor for that. Less weird is a
weakness for axe-like weapons used on the trees near the lake. A smith
can reforge a nearby felling axe into a combat variant. While the
crafters get crafty, everyone can pitch in and look for where this
frightening fish is and prepare their buffs for a beastly battle
before them.

Haru is neither the smith that Miho is or Fashionista that Gwen is. Magic, however, he has plenty of that. "If we are going to hit him, we will need to hit him hard," as the Summoner draws out one of his rarer Artes. It normally would supercharge his earth sprite, Terra, but instead he diverts the supercharge effect into bursts. These lock into his Ioun stones and sends one of the four to each member of the party. Holy Hand Grenades: Check.
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Nyanta gets to work on making the axe battleworthy. Using the tools he has on hand makes the task difficult, but with the hammer he has in his inventory, a rather level boulder nearby, and a lot of elbow grease, Nyanta is able to remove a lot of weight from the axe head and thin the cutting edge to make it better for cutting flesh. Not his best work, mind you, but Nyanta has always been more of a dabbler in the craft than anything else. "Can anyone else manage anything more?" He looks around for volunteers.
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While the other party members go and prepare for the fight that will come, preparing axes and sweaters, Yeowang will goi and very carefully scout out that prey. As a Shadowfist, she does seem to have some facility with the scouting, and while she has no background in infiltration, she can in this game put eyes on the target, and return to tell the party of his pathing and where he may be found now. "He seems to be walking a pattern just so," she explains, drawing on the ground with a stick.
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After a bit Vertina gets up from her spot, and walks over to grab one of the lumber axes lying nearby. "This will work..." Whatever she saw must be related to it. Seems Nyanta has a similar idea. "I know enough of weaponsmithing to make this feasable." She ignites some flame to heat the blade, and then use the claws of her battle gloves to sharpen the edge. It's not perfect but it should help get the job done. "I could feel how much resistance to impact damage he had when I kicked him, even with that technique being designed to wear down defenses. A blade is going to need to be sharp and narrow to bypass it, focus the force into that very limited space the blow hits."
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Rematch. This time the party is prepared for Jayson. Location? Check.
Arms and Armor? Check Check. Time for Jayson to pay the bill? Yes,
check please.

The hulking Sahuagin in a mask shambles from the trees where the party
tracked him to. He is used to being the hunter, not the hunted. It
puts him off guard on his already sluggish reaction times. The party
will get one good shot at this so they need to coordinate and make it

The party will have to get in position, utilizing their newfound
objects of exploitation to strike fast and fierce past Jayson's health
before he gets a chance to regenerate and retaliate against them.

Haru is a support role here in Enchanterland. Everyone has one of his orbs of bursty destruction to use. He finds a position further in the back and prepares to launch tracer fire with searing red bolts to make it easier to spot and hit Jayson. Hunting is not his forte, but he must have been picking up a thing or two from being around Shiruba and listening to Yeo's earlier commentary as the results are surprisingly effective at keeping a bead on the murder machine's machinations.
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They've been provided with tools and Vertina takes full advantage of them. She uses the same technique as with her own projectiles to kickball the infused stone provided by Haru into Jayson. The burst briefly staggers the stalking monster. A brief moment is all the speedy Salamander needs to rush towards him in the wake of the explosion, and swing her reforged axe.

And take advantage of what she was able to deduce from when she had previously kicked him, using not only the sharpened axe blade but also channeling her ki through the weapon to increase it's damage dealing potential against his aberrant nature. "Come and get it, sucker!" she snaps as she darts to the side afterwards, trying to keep Jayson's attention long enough for someone else to make a move on him.
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Yeowang sneaks into position, and will strike hard. She knows her job is melee DPS and she doesn't stint, though this monster has some sort of crazy resistance because she's not using the axe blade as she was supposed to. Even so, her attack is so fierce she is able to do damage anyhow, and her fallback punch, the deadly one-inch punch is delivered as she gets into close range with about zero warning. Much of the damage comes because the attack is not telegraphed, and it overcomes Jayson, catching him by surprise.
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First, Nyanta waits until the time to strike. After the volley of explosions, of which Nyanta does participate in throwing his, it's finally Nyanta's time to shine. Typically one to dual-wield rapiers, it's more than a slight deviation to switch to axes, yet Nyanta is confident in his skill with any blade, and axes have an edge... So it's close enough.

What comes next is an attack that is typically only seen used by spriggan, but it has become a favorite of the Cat swordsman as of late. Still, Nyanta makes it look more like a dance than a battle as the axe blades whirl and slice into his opponent.
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Holy fish fry, it worked! The party is able to strike hard, strike
fast, and strike with the minimum necessary mercy to shatter through
Jayson's defensive buffs and obliterate his health pool. His
regenerative ability is halted long enough to deliver the finishing
blows in the shortest boss-not-boss battle that was won before the
first attack was landed.

Jayson shatters into light and shards of magical glass that glitter in
the area to signal new peace for Crystal Lake. Only the remnants of
his mask and single-pronged trident remain to remind of his legacy?

?until another unfortunate soul dons them to continue it.

"Not what I expected when I first got here," Haru affirms an earlier statement from Vertina at the camp site. "I don't think these are the same Sahuagin from Maidensong, though." He holds up the dark mask loot that they got from fighting him. "I don't recall the fighters there caring much about face accessories or sweaters, though there is crossover in the 'being slashed and chopped with melee weaponry' between them." Either way, the Hunter's Guild will be pleased to know that the wandering murderfish around Crystal Lake has been stopped... For Now!
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Yeowang nods to Haru, breathing hard after the fight, and she agrees, "There was certainly nothing like this at Maidensong." brushing her hair back from her face, she considers the loot and recovered artifacts. "I can't help but think this is supposed to be significant somehow," she says. But she's too young to know 1980's slasher flicks. Which were not huge in Korea in any event. "I'm sure someone will know," she says confidently. So many older players.
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Nyanta quickly activates the Cleaning menu function to get all of the blood off of him. "You knyaow... I visited Isekai Ryokan the other day, and they serve sushi that is simply to die for, nya. Purrhaps, at a later date, we could have a small get-together to celebrate, nya."
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Vertina grunts softly. "There's probably more answers back in that Temple. Need people with the skills to get those doors open, though." Huh. A mask. Doesn't mean much to her, but maybe the materials it's made of could be useful some time.

Her mood picks up when Nyanta mentions victory celebrations though. "Now that sounds like an idea."