Requests for assistance to the Hunter's Guild are not usually on such satisfyingly heavy paper, nor with such delicate calligraphy.
In an elegant, formal hand, the letter invites a small group of refined adventurers to an evening of dinner, animated conversation, and excellent wine. As guards and servants. After all, hiring an adventurer can be a mark of status in some circles; and it never hurts to have several on hand in dangerous times!
So it is that our heroes gather at a manor on the outskirts of town, late in the afternoon, and are met by a solidly built Were Fang at the rear door of the main buildings.
"Greetings, dear Sir. Please allow me to introduce myself: Uta Furore, Aerialist, Musical Kung-Fu Nurse," a Spriggan declares, extending the invite letter and various documents as proof of credentials. "Trained in Etiquette, Melee fight, ranged fight, multiple elemental techniques, Law, first aid, second aid, all the aid in-between until last aids. Triage as well. Well versed in literature, modern and ancient, Adventurer matters, various forms of musical performance, from playing instruments to singing and dancing..." She keeps rattling out qualifications, making sure to add the closest to a business card that is available in this world. "...and trained in Monster Control." She takes a step sideways, to reveal who's behind her, and sweeps a hand to point at them. "I am here with a carefully selected party of fellow Adventurers to take care of... you know. That matter." She gestures to the letter she's just extended.
Schneider has been summoned for ... his skill as a butler. This sounds on the surface like a really bad plan, unless you're serving tea to fire elementals, which this world is crazy enough to do, and the Guild didn't tell him not to sign up, so here he is, looking a bit confused at Uta's briefing and introduction to the manor.
"Uh, Schneider," he introduces himself and bows. "Scale Librarian." And no skill list, but the look on his face says that he's smug enough to take on anything. Successfully or not is, of course, and entirely different question.
Elegance?! Sign Haru up. No really, how did Haru get signed up? He is looking at what his day planner has and it involves responding to this formal request with great formality. Its entirely possible it was assumed that meant the princely looking Haru was the default choice to respond. He is reading over the invite as Uta introduces herself. Paper. Werefang. Paper. Werefang. Uta? Paper. Werefang. His version of the invite is put away as he decides to roll with it. "Haru Nox. Leader of Silver Sword, Breaker of Crowns, Second of my Name, Prince of the Andals." The last part is just something that is on a loyalty card for Andal's Sweet Shop. He thinks it sounds funny, like those long email signatures. The young man takes to cleaning his purple monocle while the introductions go round like one of those board meeting calls of the Old World.
Dosbox has been summoned ... because they needed headcount? Dosbox isn't entirely certain what he is going to be doing here, as being a butler is outside of his skill set, but when Uta says jump, DosBox employs the stone catapult, so... "I am Borywick Rockborer, Jewelcrafter. It's a pleasure." He listens to Haru's list of titles. Of course Haru is a prince too. Why wouldn't he be?
The Were Fang looks the party over, and nods with a grunt, leading the people inside.
The back door leads to a large, well-equipped kitchen with a well-designed stove, large oven, and heavy brass pans hanging on the walls, but it becomes very clear that the money offered to hire the adventurers was more or less the entire budget for the event. The willowy chef has outright refused to work with them - screaming in a heavily affected accent about 'ze amateurs' and that she 'cannot be expected to work under zese conditions!' - and the rest of the servants have been given the evening off. The menu is long and complex, though at least the main dish is simple enough in the form of sliced and seared grunty. Worse still, the supplies for the party are only just arriving, in the form of a haggling merchant who intends to take as much of the money you were paid as she can before she deigns to deliver the comestibles.
Well, DosBox can't cook, but there's one thing that being in SEA for 2 years has taught him: FIRE. The Rock Gnome grabs a handful of what LOOKS like it MIGHT be a seasoning blend, throws it on some shrimp puts the shrimp on some skewers, and puts them on one of those flat black countertop things that have fire underthem? What are those called? Well, whatever they are called, the fire under them goes to 11 as Dosbox kicks the fire up a notch with his magic.
Absently, DosBox asks, "Schneider, do you know any Spinal Tap songs? It's been a while, and I forgot what they sound like."
Haru is immune to the level of stress being thrown about in a busy kitchen. Which, during a crunch, is pure madness. He walks around to get an assessment of what the fire situation is before grabbing a bright red apple. Monch. His other hand opens up and he summons the smallest version of his fire birb, Rachel, at the size of a robin. He controls the elemental summon, having it go to station to station to apply heat to sears, boils, and the concentrated heat. The key here is controlled heat. Likely to balance out all the raw burning going on now. Possibly needing to absorb some. Definately needing to absorb some.
Schneider is tall and imposing and looks skeptically at the cook and merchant, then looks back to Uta. "All right," he tells her. "Who do I incinerate first?" And he does one of those flaming aura things, where he bursts into flames for a moment before the flames extinguish themselves, and he looks at the merchant with a meaningful glance. "Just to confirm," he says, ignoring the scortchmark on the floor, "you want to renegotiate your fee after the fact. I can offer you a thousand degrees, how would you like that?" The merchant indicates with a shaky expression that her temperature is fine as it is. "Okay, then." There could be a problem later, after he's gone, but it will not be his problem.
"No incinerating people unless they're posing a threat!", Uta admonishes Schneider.
And while Fire burns abundant in the kitchen, Uta... Uta is haggling. Can you trust Uta to haggle?
"No, I don't think I-" ... "The going price of carrots? I'm pretty sure-" "...really? It slices, it dices, -and- makes Julienne fries?" ... "No way- people REALLY trip and gouge their eyes out when attempting to use a regular spoon? Wow. I... I suppose I'm lucky I'm a high-Physical stat Godhand..."
Walking away with a pile of kitchen gadget as tall as herself (and far less money than she walked in with), Uta greets the rest of the team cheerfully, "GUYS! You'll never believe what I've just bought from Mistress Infomercial!"
A gong echoes through the house at seven PM sharp. Dinner is to be served.
The dining hall is expansive and gloomy, with dark ceilings and rows of candelabras along the central table. There, well-heeled Landers rare speaking in low tones and casting glances of amused surprise at the sight of the adventurers. Your employer, at the head of the rtable, casually waves a hand for you all to proceed.
Navigating the complex layers of Lander protocol will certainly be a challenge here, if you wish to avoid giving offence. Likewise, ensuring the wine and spirits are served with the appropriate courses demands a certain knowledge of the subject. And if all else fails? Look busy.
"...Wait, how did this happen?", Uta wonders, as she walks out of the kitchen in a maid's outfit. She turns to the rest of the Party, and quickly whispers, hopefully too quietly to be heard by the Landers, "...I don't want to go back to waiting tables like I did in my old life before the Apocalypse!"
Dosbox begins to TRY to brew tea, approaching said guest with a tea pot, but he is too short to reach the top of the table. To add insult to injury, aforementioned guest sets a platter on his head, causing DosBox to freeze in place. In fact, many of the guests mistake him for, 'the place where dirty dishes go,' and do the same thing. DosBox slowly walks into the kitchen with the massive stack of dishes on his head. When the door closes behind him, there is a loud crash and the sounds of breaking china.
Schneider hrmphs at Uta and says dryly, "I was just offering to help." Who exactly was being helped is a valid question that will have to go unanswered as we're stuffed into uniforms and sent out to serve. Schneider played basketball, he's entirely capable of getting the bottle of wine out on a fast break, but the etiquette of serving and polite society is lost on him and he has no idea whether you pour from the right or the left, and he's not particularly neat serving this and that, flipping appetizers like cards at a blackjack table and shocking the guests with his flippant attitude as the sauce maybe splatters a bit. "Sorry 'bout that."
Haru is in his element when it comes to this high class level of social requirements. How you hold yourself matters. Posture. Facial expression. Choice of words. "Allow us to lighten to the mood," the white haired artificer says as the fire bird takes the lighting up from 'gloom' to 'cozy' with an enchanting display of firey falconry. It gets a few 'oos' but not to be too impressed. "The real illumination must come from that pelt," the crafter offers, having inspected it with his monocle, "arctic fur. A personal hunt? A rare market find. That story must be told." Its effortless, even if Haru really /doesnt/ care about the pelt. People remember how you make them feel, not what you actually said or did. In that, the normally aloof Haru is in his element as he dances from group to group to get a memorable conversation started.
And while Haru keeps a good part of the audience entertained, the number of witnesses to Dosbox's and Schneider's antics are... surprisingly fewer than one would expect! Somehow, there are quiet thuds, quiet thuds nobody notices. Feet being dragged away into the Darkness. Not that people notice, mind you. And Uta... could Uta be responsible for this? Judging by how she's waltzing through the tables carrying trays as if she hadn't done anything else in her whole life (which... is pretty close to truth, based on what she's just said), one would be inclined to say no. It'd be like saying that Bruce Wayne and Batman are the same person! Preposterous! "Here! Here's your plate! Enjoy!" Pause. "Oh, I'd definitel suggest a Ninetails Chardonnay with a Sher Kar Manticore Stinger." Murmur. "Why, thank you sir! Yes, I did help in making this dinner." Mumble murmur. "It does." Mumble. "That too." Murmur? "This might blow your mind, Sir, but it -absolutely- makes Julienne fries!"
The dessert has only just been served, and glasses refilled, when there is a shout from outside. A greased pig is thrown through an open doorway, and it squeals and begins to charge about madly! The guests stare in confusion before the windows shatter, and armed, masked Wombat Were Fangs burst into the chamber, throwing down vials that burst into a thick gas that makes the eyes stream and lungs burn. They quickly begin to attempt to round up the Landers!
Adventurers can try to sneak the Landers out, helping them to escape, or help them with the effects of the smoke inhalation. They might also try to disperse the smoke before the effects get too bad.
Or you could chase the pig. It's ruining dessert!
Schneider acks as the dinner party is attacked, and normally plan A, fireball, would be charging up, now, but we're being paid to serve the guests, so maybe now serving them consists of manhandling them out of the cloud of toxic gas and doing what first aid he remembers from chem lab in college. Splashing water in their eyes once they're out of the area of effect. Surprisingly, this seems to be effective, and he'll keep doing it, getting more and more guests clear and vapirizing any attackers that try to stop him.
A pig? This early in the event? That should be reserved for the final show of the night. Haru looks to the Wombat with a 'yes, this tracks' deadpan look in his blue eye. He sends his fire birb around to flap away the gas, but its current size isn't up for the task. Nor the element. He ends up burning away some of the fumes, but it doesnt get them out of the area. All while drinking a glass of wine. Monocle glint.
Dosbox had to change clothes and clean up the mess in the kitchen from the broken plates... And when he FINALLY comes back in, there's a PIG running around the room and smoke spraying everywhere?!? "Is... Is this how nobles usually throw parties?" Another server insists that it is not. DosBox feels relieved.
ETO's only patented Hypervisor (That we know of) employs a bit of his magic touch, changing the air pressure and the temperature of the room so that the smoke rises to the top of the room almost instantly. "I figure... It can stay up there for a while, right...?
"Good, good. Yes, take them away from the contaminated areas!" Uta is helping direct the Chaos. "Yes, excellent, splash water into their eyes!" She's downright boggling at Schneider solving a problem with -water-. "Not susually, Borywick. The pig usually comes at the end. And the fireworks go in the sky. I think we're being assaulted."
And finally, she performs some medical treatments on her own. Potions are handed out at impressive speed, massages, even a Heimlich maneuver or two. "...yes, keep drinking that wine!", Uta finally tells Haru. "It's a Mac Anu rose -- known to have antitoxin properties. I'm surprised you knew that, it's a pretty obscure factoid!"
With the Landers safely out of danger, the Combat Wombats are still a clear and present threat; to the party's employer, their hysterical cook, as well as all the other guests! As they realise they were dealing with skilled Adventurers, they quickly fall back, forming groups and drawing short swords before advancing again. With your employer shrieking to mind the drapes - and that statue, it's been in the family forever! - there is a running battle through the halls of the mansion which spills out onto the grounds.
Haru raises his glass up to Uta in a Great Gatsby kind of way as the celebration event of Wombat Chaos takes over the stage. "I appreciate you acknowledging," crash! bang! slash! "the importance of savoring a drink. It need not be rushed." boom! clang! fwoosh! "No matter the circumstance." Sip. He walks around the battlefield enjoying the last sips. A hand gestures out to land it on the tray of a collapsed waiter (fainted, thankfully) as he engages into the brawl. In the same motion the hand goes up, drawing out four golf ball sized orbs. They hum. They sing. They dakka dakka dakka out bolts of arcane energy as if he was a mobile bipedal war walker dishing a magic missile storm.
Dosbox sighs with relief. They are attacking now. That's great. DosBox knows exactly what to do when people attack him. With gusto, he summons small, spiky gems that appear on Uta's knuckles, taking on the form of spiked knuckles (that explode directionally at the enemy when you punch them), and after that, he spends some time leisurely bringing a Spearhead-like gem magically out of the ground, slashing at or piercing through an opponent before bringing it back down. Though he does take a break to give applause to the orbs as they perform.
Schneider is, at least not conjuring water, simply taking it from the pitcher and splashing it. So it's not /water magic/ which he actually can't do. Or not well, anyhow. But now that the guests are safe, he casts, "Fiery Power Blast of the Damned!" which is one of his lower-level spells. It is enough to nail a combat wombat and drop him with a minimum of collateral damage. Said mimimum being about a three-foot diameter of absolutely shattered enemy. Armor flung into the air, parts splatttered messily. Cleaning the drapes will be a problem if the fire can be put out.
"I know better than to interrupt someone savoring their favorite drink," Uta comments to Haru while she ducks, a massive beastly fist flying just above her head; the hairy arm is grabbed, and its owner flung over the tables, over the cacophony of fine china shattering. THEIR CABBAGES!
At first, Uta looks with surprise at the gems appearing on her knuckles. But it doesn't take long for her to figure out where they come from. "Oh, hey, thanks!", Uta says, and as a Combat Wombat runs for her, she performs her maidenly duties by serving him a Knuckle Sandwich. On the rocks. Rocks which explode, blasting the Wombat backwards, hurtling through the air, spinning through the air, and slamming against the opposite wall upside down. The whole room shakes. Uta is blasted backwards by the recoil, but after a backwards somersault in the air, she lands on her feet and looks down at her hand, in surprise.
"...Cool," she beams, as she rushes for another Combat Wombat with as much gusto as Borywick. He swings, she dodges, he swings, she ducks, she pops up, swings her hand backwards, spins in place, YAH!
Cut to where the other wombat is embedded in the wall upside down. SLAM. Slap second wombat on top in a cloud of dust. Wombat sandwich.
"You'll have to teach me that trick, Borywich!", Uta exclaims as she keeps on fighting... until, looking around, she notices the splattered remains and the drapes on fire. "I'm not cleaning that," she points.
There he is. Looming out of the darkness, the clouds above gather as one figure, as burly and heavy-set as any among the Wombats, he starts yelling and pointing, directing his gang back into the fight. If he can be cut down or captured, this dreadful evening might come to a satisfying conclusion!
Even as he turns back towards you, he and his guard begin a fusillade of crossbow fire; bolts singing through the air. After everything, if you can only somehow get through the arrowstorm or stop those whizzing bolts pinning you back, you can turn this around and earn your pay!
And thus they engage in combat. Mortal combat with a wombat. Mortal Wombat. Haru takes the sting out of the Mortal part by having his Ioun Stones pulse out in a debuff, making accuracy more difficult for the ranged assault. "A day in adventuring is to expect the unexpected. Such as getting an invitation to a dinner party to the aristocracy only to help cook, entertain, and defeat a foe. This is going to be the talk of the town for a time. Worth looking into an entertainment business," the Artificer observes as the attack continues on. He fights as if removed from the present, taking a stoic, level headed approach to the frantic pace.
Dosbox gives Uta the thumbs up, "I'll teach it to you, sure! Gems are fun!" He giggles to himself, in the middle of combat, about how someone wants to learn about Gems from HIM. He seems positively FILLED with glee. And now he is filled with arrows because he wasn't paying attention. With his HP bar now down to half, DosBox lays down on the ground (the side that is NOT pincushioned with arrows, and says the profound and meaningful, "Ow..."
Schneider grumbles as the big pig sorts his remaining attackers out. "I really want ..." he begins, but we probably won't get rewarded if he explodes the whole building around these clowns. So he chants, "Roots of shadow, tendrils of light, smoke over water, fire in the sky, DEEP PURPLE."
And the room is changed in an instant, as far as the attackers are concerned. The tables are flipped up, and armed guards, themselves with crossbows, are now in place, and the middle of the floor, where the party was, is empty.
Of course, when the players move, they leave a hole in the illusion, and present a hole-shaped image of the dining room, which still is confusing, and the attackers now have these new defenders to confront. They have decent cover, and the incoming arrow fire does not deter them, because that would be more control over the illusion than Schneider can muster, but for a few moments, the party has free hits on the attackers.
"Yes," Uta confirms to Haru, perplexed, as she keeps grabbing and catapulting the Dire Wombat Were Fangs attackers coming for her. "You are cordially invited to fancy dinner. RSVP." Fling. Thud. "P.S. Bring your own fancy dinner." Fling. Crash. "P.P.S. Bring some fancy dinner for us as well." Fling. Shatter. Whoops! Well, that stained window glass looked ugly anyway. And, what luck! There's someone who can help in the vicinity!
"Ow," Uta repeats to Dosbox, solemn. "A great entry for your book of quotations. Short. To the point. Brimming pathos. I like that," she comments, while a Wombat Were Fang suddenly discovers what it feels like to have your stomach percussively tucked behind your spine.
Being an expert in Dark techniques her self, she catches onto what Schneider is doing. She closes her eyes, intones an ominous chant, and in sync with the Cursed music, blobs of darkness seep out of thin air, coalesce in whirls around her fists, forming two large masses of maddening chaos; when she's satisfied they are large enough, she opens her eyes, raises the volume of her song, and darts towards the large Wombat, to pummel it repeatedly.
Haru's debuffs are effective in keeping the damage down, and thanks to the combined effort of the whole team, the monster is eventually defeated.
Strong as an ox and fast as the still-squealing greased pig that's running around, he's nevertheless subdued quickly enough once the arrowstorm is braved and he's forced to fight up close. There, despite his bulk and speed, he's brought low. Only then, when all is safe, does your employer emerge.
They are nothing but effusive. This party, they insist, will be talked about for years! They praise the entertainment the Hunter's Guild provided, rave about your menu and wine choices, and proclaim you the darling of their lives. They also press small boxes on each of you.
"Oh, hey, look! They're shiny! And they've been folded to look like a pig! They're amazing!"
Haru looks at the meal they have been 'gratefully' given and deadpans, "We have evolved from doggy bags of treats to piggy bags of treats," without saying if thats a positive evolution or not. Still, scraps from a royalty party is a cut above MOST food. "Good job, everyone," he leaves the two SEA members and his sister with. "I'll have to get this to Yumi while its still high enough on the durability chart." Aka not spoiled and still warm. Ish.
Schneider looks over the doggy bag, or piggy bag, we've been given, nods thoughtfully, and tucks it into his inventory. "It looks like lunch tomorrow is covered," he says, and menu-changes back into his normal gear, which is much more stylish, though he did look kind of dashing in the waiter outfit. Maybe he will be able to keep that? Idly, he's forced to wonder, "They hired adventurers for the party, did they hire the attackers, too? Were /we/ the after dinner entertainment?"
Dosbox accepts the food humbly, his right side still looking like a pin cushion, "Gee, thanks," he sats, as he removes the arrows one by one, "I mean, I really liked looking at Haru's orbs. Ouch. They put on quite a performance. Owwie."