Duty Session 581: The Secret of the Maidensong Isle
Following the discovery of a hidden dungeon through the efforts of one Uta, an exploration-style dungeon that seems to be lacking in monsters has opened. A hidden reward lies deep within the dungeon.
Rec. Party: 4+
"I've been meaning to check this place out." Fuka muses, having been involved in some of the maidensong shenanigans but not having actually investigated the hidden ruin within. There is, of course, always things to do. Places to go. People to see. Or is that the other way around? She has a map, put together by ... well, hopefully *not* Uta. That girl, as much as Fuka adores her, gets lost at the drop of a hat. Or even when no hat is dropped.
After following the map the party reaches the entrance to the dungeon, and the first challenge they have to overcome. The entryway to this dungeon is a giant doorway made of metal that has been polished to a mirror shine. It becomes difficult to look at due to its positioning, reflecting light from a magical source above directly out, so darkness may help to allow one to view their surroundings more. It might be possible to simply brute force the door open, though there are also notes of shimmering words that might be seen if someone can read it through the bright light of the mirrored doorway and speak a secret passage to open the door.
Though the first obstacle to cross is likely going to need a different touch to deal with. "Hmmm." She squints. "I can't read any of this. Too bright." But that's what gives her the idea to draw upon her favorite arcane force, and cast a layer, or filter if you will, of darkness upon the room to dull the reflection from the doors so the words can be actually read by others more versed in those talents.
After all, how often do you find a dungeon /without/ monsters in it, these days?
Prophylaxis finds the very first chamber quite difficult to see in-- and not, for once, because it's too dark. This time, it's actually too bright! The doctor grumbles and tilts his hat ever so slightly over his eyes like a makeshift sunshade. "Looks like there might be some writing here..." He murmurs, approaching the massive mirror-- or rather, the metal door. With a grunt of complaint, he conjures a mote of darkness to envelop his eyes, giving him all the protection he needs to read the strange words.
"Huh. Seems to say... 'Friend?'"
Fuka peers about. "Surprisingly bright down here. Must be Prof's influence!" she claims. Because no one else in this party has brains that she knows of. Well, Kauchemar perhaps, but Kauchemar's a dark horse.
"It says... friend? Oooh I've heard this one! Speak friend and enter! FRIEND!" she yells out. When that doesn't immediately work, Fuka frowns. "Maybe it just needs a little encouragement." she says, fingering the pommel of her greatsword. Then, deciding to forego the brain aspect, she begins pushing and tugging as best she can at the door. Possibly someone else figures the actual code phrase needed, but to Fuka, the door moves when she tries to force it. Proud, she marches on leading the way.
Getting through the door leads into a giant ice-encrusted room that reflects any lights in a rainbow of color. In the center of the room is a giant, decrepit harp. Its magical energy is spent and many of its strings broken. There is seemingly no way forward, but perhaps repairing this harp through magic or knowledge of delicate instruments could assist in figuring out the way forward? Or one could use one of their own instruments to attempt to play several notes that are crudely inscribed into the side of the harp. Upon either playing the notes on the harp or the notes on a personal instrument, several blocks of ice pull out to the side, revealing a damaged stairway leading down. It's a relatively safe, if slightly treacherous way down.
With a smirk she holds one hand over her head and snaps her fingers. There's a few sparks between them. And then a thunderous crack as a lightning bolt strikes down despite this being indoors.
Which Kauchemar grabs onto and pulls down into her hands, the crackling electricity taking the form of a Flying V with a jagged zigzag to the neck.
Kauchemar proceeds to get down and jam, strumming out the notes on her literal electric guitar.
To... a strange harp in a room full of ice. "Huh," the doctor muses, squinting at the instrument in the middle of the room. He thinks for a moment about pulling his own instrument out to give it a strum, but...
Well, Kauchemar is here.
So maybe he can just sit back and let her take care of this one?
Fuka starts to examine the harp for some idea of the enchantments linking it to the path forward, finding only musical notes where she expected runes. "Huh. Looks like whatever magic opens the path forward, it's *not* inscribed on the harp here." she comments. "So, it should be a matter of playing the correct sequence of notes, and ... what, I guess something else will open up!" she claims. And Kauchemar, she sees, is right on that. Awesome.
At first Fuka tries to assist with her own air guitar. And while she does shred fairly well, it's not exactly producing sound. After a moment she stops, then instead plays percussion, clapping and stomping to accompany Kauchemar's own performance. It might not be the notes that will open the way, but it definitely adds to the performance!
Before long, ice blocks slide aside to reveal a stairway leading down. "Radical!" Fuka grins, skipping off to the chill stairway before coming to an abrupt halt, seeing the hazards therein.
Whatever happened in this dungeon before caused the icy foyer to become a shattered mess of ice and slick puddles of water. Traversing this entryway is extremely treacherous and requires careful balance and finesse. Even with that, the only way forward is to slide downwards on a makeshift icy slide. Of course, this isn't a smooth or safe ride, with jagged ice crystals. One needs to either be nimble to avoid getting speared or durable enough to tank their way through the worst of the damage. Perhaps fire could be used to blunt the incoming spears to reduce damage as well. Either way, the party will make it to the bottom...
Out of one challenge, and into another. But again this is a situation she's got not qualms about handling. "Guess its time for a few icecapades." Kauchemar skids across one of the water puddles, collecting some of the moisture to her hooves as she does so, and turn it frosty. This allows her to use the same technique she came up with for running across water to skate along the surface, taking advantage of Prophy's work and easily dodging some of the icy spikes that manage to survive the heat of Schnieder's fire spells.
Prophylaxis frowns severely at the state of the chamber. "This looks like a punctured lung waiting to happen," he assesses with a huff of mild perturbation. "Not to worry. I'll clear the way."
The doctor takes a bold stride forward and steps directly onto the frozen slide.
...Whereupon he is abruptly ensconced in a block of ice himself and goes racing down the slope and directly into the frozen spikes at the bottom.
They shatter. He does not. A moment later, the protective ice block melts and the doctor walks out of it as if nothing had happened at all. "All clear," he calls to the others, before moving safely aside to wait patiently for their descent.
Seeing the icy slide, not to mention the jagged spears of ice that make the descent treacherous, even Fuka is given pause. Then she just shrugs. "Last one to the bottom's a dirty imp!" she claims, and plunges on down, relying on her armour to see her safely through. Unlike some others here, she actually HAS armour, and it's quite good stuff! She gets a bit scuffed, a bit scraped, but nothing that can't be healed with a minimum of mana and effort. And she's not the last down. Not that she has anything actually against dirty imps. She supposes they can be rather fun. But that's something for a different time and place!
After their descent, the party finds themselves in a beautiful ruin that looks to once have been home to a large tribe of monsters that lived rather comfortably. The walls are lined with intricate golden designs, and the room has several seats and places where the former sirens that lived in this cave could relax and spend their days eating or socializing. Several of the golden designs on the wall have a story that is shown in different parts of a beautiful maiden that was cursed by the gods to become a siren. She is shown crying or sobbing after her curse, and those tears become sirens themselves.
In the center of the room is a giant, shattered mirror. There are several large cracks in it that spiderweb out from points of impact. If anyone should gaze into this mirror for more than a second or two, they will find themselves mesmerized, lost in a state of longing for what once was or might have been. The visions can include forgotten dreams, lost loves, and other desires.
The party will have to search for clues on how to continue, requiring the use of the light artes to temporarily counteract the mirror's illusions, enabling them to plunge into the mirror itself to continue deeper into the ruin.
Being an experienced old-timey adventurer has its occasional perks.
...Even if all Prophylaxis achieves is mostly stumbling around with a barrier spell thick enough to prevent him from stubbing his toe on something painful. Maybe the others will have more luck...?
Avoiding the mirror is tricky, and Fuka does find herself snared by it. She's quite used to choosing when to give in to her desires and when to buckle down and do something necessary however, so she quickly shakes it off and gets to work, scanning through the story depicted on the walls for clues. "It's the mirror itself." she finally says, sounding a little dubious. "But it's cracked. This is going to be super rough. We'll need to be well-defended to make it through without cracking ourselves!" she suggests. She may not be as old as Proph, but she's been a gamer all her life. She sees the path, even if she's not sure how it can be made more easy.
Light would help, but light isn't something this group has in abundance. They'll have to make their way through, suffer what comes, and deal with the aftermath.
After entering the mirror, the party finds themselves in a room that emits dark energy. There is a massive, damaged magical seal in front of them. Whatever the seal had been holding back has long since been freed, though there is no sign of it beyond the dark energy permeating the room. A wall of water blocks off the other half of the room and a stairway that goes down below. Inside of the wall of water there seems to be several phantasmal shadows of adventurers that failed to adequately protect themselves from the bitter cold of the icy ruin and dove into the water unprepared. Party members with a particular knack for survival could figure out the exact buffs or potions they might need for the situation, or the party could simply attempt to brute force or try to use fire to keep themselves warm while pushing through the frigid waters.
Then she gets to specters of past failed attempts. She pauses. Holds up a hand.
... And in a flash of her ethereal movement she is standing back behind the group again, frowning. "Sorry, there's so much bitter malice and resentment sealed up there I couldn't commune with the spirits held within. Gonna need a different tactic."
Darkness. A lot of darkness. And a lot of cold, besides. With all the time he's spent attuning with the Yuki-Onna, Prophylaxis is ostensibly resistant to all of this awfulness, but the others may not necessarily be as hardy. So instead, he turns to magic. With a gesture, the magus conjures a globe of hypercompressed magma. He crushes it with another wave of his staff, causing it to shatter into a quartet of glowing, orange crystals.
Each one gives off an aura of gentle, life-preserving warmth.
"Hold tight to those," he instructs, before pressing on into the dark.
Once within the mirror and the room within, Fuka peers at the wall of icy water dubiously. "That... okay, that's rippling way too much to be ice. But it's way too solid to be water. I guess it's ... ice water! Drinks on me!" she comments. Then frowns. It was pretty lame, even for her.
Fortunately she has a thought to help them out. She's done a lot of study on fire and earth, almost as much as she's studied air. Combining the two creates a defense against the chill, against water and air mana combined, which is another thing she's studied in her quest for ice cream. Er, for refrigeration.
With some effort, she conjures fire-imbued rocks to protect herself and those near to her. Without them exploding, naturally. That's the hard part, to be honest. Making earthen fire explode is child's play! Making it just a vessel for heat, well, that's tricky. But with her mana being channeled, she has a way for them to pass through the wall of ice water! She notes Proph's own approach, and recognizes that at the core it's the same general idea. No surprise, since her own understanding was pretty much entirely based on his teachings.
Swimming down deeper into the dungeon results in a slightly desperate situation where buffs and oxygen meters start to wear off as mana ticks down, but just before things get truly desperate, almost abruptly the party finds themselves 'falling' out of the water into a massive room.
What were once chambers befitting a queen or king is now reduced to rubble. Sitting on the remnants of a throne in its center is a beautiful young woman whose legs are crossed daintily. She waves towards the adventurers, before pointing towards several chests in the room with a smile. In spite of the fact the young woman says nothing, an eerie music permeates the room, and initially the coast seems clear. That is, until the party approaches either that woman or the chests, at which point the rubble, maiden, and throne all move, revealing a twisted anglerfish-based siren that immediately attempts to grab and devour the party -- forcing them to attempt to free their party members from the devouring attacks through several difficult mechanics, along with countering the false maiden's icy breath attacks.
Experience. Knowledge of things that might bring harm to him or those around him. And, critically, a pathological understanding of roleplaying games and their underhanded tricks.
So when presented with a silent, smiling princess and a room full of treasure, Prophylaxis' first response is to squint and Inspect her.
"That's a monster. A False Maiden. Which means--" he says authoritatively, before conjuring a bolt of lightning from the head of his staff to smash into the throne. The woman convulses, before the whole setting devolves into some kind of awful anglerfish-looking horror with a siren dangling as a lure from its head.
"Ugh," the doctor mutters, "I knew 'no monsters' was too good to be true..."
What surrounds her is like a whirlwind of razorwire, slashing and siphoning out blood from her body in a spray of gore. It probably contribnutes to the Not-For-Children rating on ETO, it's horrible to watch, and it can't be pleasant for her. She certainly seems not to be happy about it.
Which shortly proves to be true as the treasure throne room and it's occpant fade away to reveal a horrific angler-siren that tries to eat them after the deceptive 'lure'.
"What a twist." Kauchemar spins her staff into her hand. "And by twist I mean so obvious it was bait it was no twist at all..." She grabs the staff in both hands, holding it horizontally like one would a gun as the eyes of the horned skull lights up and the jaw drops open. Elemental energy is channeled into the Grindcore Staff and it unleashes a harm-onizing assault on ears, eyes and body alike with it's bombardment of dubstep shockwaves and electrifying color flashes. It's a Magical Light and Sound Show From Hell!
"Oh hey." Fuka muses, as the party falls through the water barrier. Picking herself up from the sodden heap where she fell, she looks around. "Is it just me or does this resemble a boss room, with boss music?" she asks. She too is wise to some of the dirty and underhanded tricks of game designers, though by virtue of playing so many RPGs and the like rather than actual experience with game design, though that was a path she had begun before coming to this world.
She doesn't immediately suspect the pretty girl on the throne, of course. Fuka isn't generally suspicious of girls. "Your... your majesty? You might want to find some cover. Something nasty's about to happen." she warns. And then Proph gives his warning.
"What, her?" Fuka asks, incredulous. "But she's cute!" the little sylph claims. At least until the anglerfish siren reveals itself. "Sister, you got UGLY in a hurry!" Fuka compains, before beginning to cast one of her best spells. A defensive shield formed of earth and air that gives her an easy way out when she's grabbed and the anglerfish attempts to swallow her. The defensive shell exploding outwards within the anglerfish's mouth is ... kind of spectacular. And it gives Fuka an easy escape, as well as the ability to help others manage their own escapes as needed.
As the fight ends, Fuka peers at Kauchemar. "What do you mean, it was obvious?" the little blonde demands. "I thought it was a remarkably convincing disguise! No one could have forseen someone that innocent being so ... nasty!" she huffs.
"..." The doctor un-says, sighs, and shakes his head. Oh, the irony...