Duty Session 582: Threat to the Harvest

During the Harvest Festival, there are many who take to the fields to bring in the summer crops. However, there are also those who would like to claim those bountiful harvests for themselves. The Hunter's Guild has hired Adventurers to protect those Landers who have been tasked with working the fields. It sounds like a boring, simple task, but they wouldn't spend the money hiring defenders if there weren't real dangers looming.

OOC: This quest is only available during the Harvest Festival. This quest is largely 'Combat'-concept based.

Difficulty:    Easy
Rec. Party:    3+
Rewards:       1
World Rewards: None

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As the end of summer falls upon Yamato, the temperatures have started
to drop. Despite the sun still beating down from high in the sky,
there is a cool breeze blowing, which seems a relief to the Landers
who have been tasked with working the fields.

A wide expanse of crops needs to be harvested, largely done by hand or
teams that work with grunty or pekos and crude, simple tools. It's a
task that takes time, but the yield is important to carry the Landers
through to the next Spring.

The Adventurers have been spread at the far edge of the fields,
closest to where they run adjacent to the wilderness beyond. These are
the most dangerous places, where they might come under attack from all
manner of threats.

The end of Summer is one of those seasons which does not hold high esteem for Haru. Its not for a deep, specific reason, but rather that his lofty history doesnt have the same harvest ties that others might. Still, he is one for being a 'Prince in the Field' for as much as any adventurer can contribute. He puts a request out for help. While Haru's Earth magic helps him with the magical element of Nature harvesting, he isn't going to be lifting a scythe anytime soon. The Chuuni inside him is sad about that. Currently he waits by the edge of the fields, keeping watch with two eyes. One bemonocled. One not.
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Goldenblade hangs out by the edge of the fields, as one who frequents festivals generally, and as a Legend, she's generally here to help Landers. Not so much to spread her rep, though it has that effect. But taking part in festivals is how she earned the rep needed in the first place. But festivals are a thing you do, when your world doesn't revolve around TV like kids today. Slackers.
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    In the past, the fall was a time of excitement to Asuna. The leaf changes, the chance to go north to Hokkaido in a train and see all the beautiful foliage. Sometimes her parents would join. But less as years went on. It is a with a nostalgic sigh that she focuses on their surroundings.

    Eventually, she does take notice of Haru and wanders in his direction. She's not lonely! She just wants to talk and it's strange not having someone around. Mom is missing daughter, clearly.

    "Taking a break from dance lessons, Haru?" she asks.

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"For a time," Haru says to Asuna with that faint, regal smile, "If you are lucky, you will see my secret dance. A midnight waltz. Steeped in darkess and mysteriously moving," Haru muses. And one cannot mention the darkness without heralding a certain mare.
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It's festival time! And where there's festivals, there's often bards to help work the crowds and entertain people. So it's of little surprise to find Kauchemar in the vicinity, because that's the sort of thing she does. And the infamous nightmare were fang is very, VERY hard to miss.
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Once the Adventurers have taken their positions in the fields, the
most keen-eyed might spot that there are already animals who have
taken the harvest as an opportunity to graze on an easy source of
food. An entire flock of birds seems to have landed nearby, taking
advantage of easy access to the grains.

They seem to keep a distance from the Adventurers and the Landers, but
there are large swaths of farmland that need to be protected from
their greedy beaks. Even now, they seem to be gorging themselves
wherever they can, landing and taking flight whenever someone takes
notice enough to try to shoo the flock onward.

Someone needs to do something to keep them away on a more permanent
basis, otherwise they are going to continue to be trouble for the

Haru in a field. It looks out of place. He is a tall Enchanter with white hair. If he did a t-pose he could be confused for an expensive, designer scarecrow. He does not T-pose. Maybe he should to scare off the birbs. "You are giving noble avians a bad name," he informs the squawkers. They are not amused. They are... murderous. Haru responds in kind with a pair of finger guns. Pew pew pew. Zaps the critters to shush them away.
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Goldenblade looks alarmed as a flock of birds seems intent on grazing from the Landers' food. That's what we're here to stop, though, and Goldenblade's sword slip from their sheathes, and she darts to one and then another, and any too slow to take wing are dispatched by her golden steel, blades cutting deep into the simple animals, each blow deadly.
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And whatever performance Kauchemar is putting on is interrupted by some wild fauna trying to recreate some version of The Birds. "Well, this won't do. This won't do at all." She lets the grip on her staff slide briefly, going from holding it like a mic stand to an actual weapon, making a few fancifully twirls with it, then points towards an invading flock. "Let's balance out these excess tweeters with some woofers!" Wind whistles past her as she summons a couple of air elementals, which take the vague shape of Big Bad Wolves to huff and buff and blow the birds away in order to make Kauchemar's dumb pun work.
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    "Wow, you have a diverse repertoire," notes Asuna. She does, as well. She can not only more or less control monsters (Tomoe's occasional rampages don't count! She's just too adorable!) but also handle animals pretty well, too.

    In this case, her approach is to mimic the call of the Japanese Sparrowhawk. Which hunts smaller birds with great effectiveness. To hear that call is more than simply unsettling to the birds, it forces them to make for cover, getting away from the open fields.

    "I have been practicing, you'll be happy to know," she says to Haru. "The dancing, I mean. Taka loves it."

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"You will have to show me," Haru tells Asuna as the avians assault is averted. "Nothing like practical application to bring out the best of a good dance," he smiles to his student. Shuffling. Everyda.

Birds seem to be the least of the problems that the farmers face with
the harvest. While dealing with the feathered pests, a few figures can
be spotted, crouched low and moving amongst the edges of the field.
They seem to be sizing up both the Adventurers and the Landers,
getting counts of how many are here.

The scouts seem to be only an introductory party, likely readying the
way for a larger incursion against the harvesting crews. They need to
be eliminated or at least scared off before they can gather
information to take back to their leaders, but the hardest problem
might be finding them.

They seem to move stealthily through the taller reeds and plantlife,
sometimes vanishing from sight and making it quite difficult to track

Haru catches the movement out of the corner of his eye. A quick turn of the purple monocle shows it turning pitch black for a moment with a glowing red center that traces the air in front of him like a robot seeking the kill. The red light fades and the purple lens returns to hits deep amethyst hue. "Kau," he calls out in all his stoicness, "if you command those canines as their dominant alpha, does that make them your..." wait for it, "sub woofers?" A bit of wind rustles against his hair. What is a good 'groan' worth pun without some misdirection. He snaps his fingers as nature itself works against the scouts, entangling them in a thick snare of reeds and hanging one three meters in the air, upside down, by one leg. Dont let your guard down around an Enchanter!
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Kauchemar turns to point a hardtipped finger at Haru. "Great followup punnery, noodlemeister!" Then turns back to the surroundings. Hmmm. Something is being sneaky, and it isn't her. She snorts, nostrils flaring a bit, and stomps a hoove hard on the ground. It sends a vibration rolling through the ground, causing the reeds to sway and part... but by that point the creatures have already moved on to a new position. "Hide and seek isn't nearly as much fun from this side of the game," Kauchemar complains to no one in particular.
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Goldenblade groans at Haru's pun, looking out for the figures sneaking in and among the crops. Alas, she can't see the pestss, so she can't prepare a counter against them. Whever she spots one, it's too far away, and by the time she's close enough to strike, they're gone.
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    "If Taka keeps following along, she'll be better at it than I am, soon." Asuna can't help but get a bit distracted, though. It's the smell in the air. There's a hint of some herb there, or the ingredients. She murmurs what are probably the fragments of a few sentences, "I wonder... sauce? Wait, no... not red sauce. Maybe just... tossed in with red wine?"

    In fact, to those paying attention, Asuna probably does have a certain unique take on perfume about her today. She smells like a really good Italian restaurant. One would be forgiven for thinking her pockets are hiding pasta. If she had pockets.

    But despite it all, Asuna does notice bandit prowlers. She was, after all, the scourge of just this kind of enemy for well over a year. And that was all on her own. With this group around her? They are in trouble.

    It is not a bow that Asuna uses to deal with them, but Lambent Light.

    "Distance.. is no defense from my judgement!"

    And she attacks with it, channeling wave artes through the weapon and at the scouts in a serious of deadly, magical attacks.

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"Impressive," Haru says to both Taka's accomplishments and to Asuna's Lambent. To Kau? A bow. Not a Bao, though, no Shenmi here.

The scouts are not the end of the bandit troubles that seem to be
facing the farmers. It isn't long until the main group of Bandits make
their way out of the nearby trees, armed with swords, crossbows, and
cudgels of all sorts. They are dressed in simple armor, likely not
expecting to face the sort of resistance that Adventurers usually
bring with them.

They head straight for the largest group of farmers, likely intending
to capture or slay as many as they can in order to seize control of
the fields for themselves. There is a war cry from a heavier armored
bandit at the lead as he raises a sword high, rushing into the fields.

It's up the Adventurers to stop this attack and protect as many of the
Landers as possible.

"Assaulting a farm?" interrogates a Haru as he looks at the captured scout. Then the raiding party comes in. "Watch closely, Asuna, if you can," he says with a sense that his dance student most certainly can. There is something /off/ about the way Haru is walking as he strides towards the raiders. It looks like lag. Latency issues? Framerate drops? The four floating orbs around him are often colorful. The four elements, made to magic stones that float around him. The color drains to shades of gray that pull the very life out of Haru until he is black-and-white. Noir. Except that blue eye of his which is a crisp accent color. It makes tracking his movements difficult and abbrasive as bolts of dark arcane fire off to blind the crew, the few he engages with clutching their face and tripping over their own feet from where they once ran.
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Goldenblade rushes at the attackers, quick to come to the Landers defense! She manages to pull some of the aggro off them and onto her, but .... she's pulling the aggro onto her, and she hasn't set up her defenses yet. In her haste to defend the Landers, she came in unprepared, and takes considerable damage as she fights the attackers off.
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    "Wow, what the... what are you doing?"

    Asuna cannot enjoy the show for as long as she'd like. She loves to see powerful techniques, even if they are clearly unique like that one. Seeing the enemy racing towards the Landers, Asuna has to race ahead of them. The Flash is known for her speed, and she proves it again.

    Asuna is usually a pretty good tank, too. But this time around, it doesn't go all that well for her. Still, though she gets bloodied for it, she enjoys dropping a quality taunt.

    "I'd say pick on someone your own size, filth, but there's nobody small enough for you."

    Clearly he got the point that she's not talking about the size of his shoes...
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Kauchemar tilts her head, watching as Haru goes all Enchanter Noir as he approaches the emerging bandits, letting his Dark side really show before bombarding the bandits in a barrage of blinding bolts of blackness. Impressive. Well, this is an atmosphere she can take advantage of. She props her staff upon the ground, an ethereal glow emitting from the horned skull's eye sockets atop Grindcore. The other hand is held up and out melodramatically as she encites:

"Stalking summoned from deepest nether; jumping scaring, light as feather; forward terrors nightmare bore.
Damage scratched along a shaking mind; crawling, seeking, safety to find;
Spare me this vision, I implore..."

A giant raven-like bird, seemingly made of shadow and nether in itself, rises up behind the men, shrieking loudly as it slams it's massive wings down like a decending dark wave to scattered the already blind and bewildered men.

While Kauchemar's voice goes ominous soft for the final part, "Quoth the Creatures: 'Nethermore'."
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"The Ashlight Dreamstep," Haru finishes with a bow as the color returns to his personage and the four floating stones. "My focus involves these four orbs. Though their use I can channel strong enchantment and Wave Artes." Of course he has to give the fellow Darkness that is Nethermore a standing ovation. Masterful.

Once the bandits are dispatched, things seem to quiet across the
fields. There is a feeling of relief that spreads through the Landers
as they return to their duties. Long hours pass without much activity
at all, only the occasional animal that wanders too close to the edge
of the fields and has to be shooed away.

Then, there is a strange feeling, like a trembling of the ground. It
starts with one large thump, followed by another shortly thereafter.
Then, everything nearby goes quiet. Out of the nearby forest, a series
of lower level monsters begin fleeing in the direction of the fields.
They don't seem to be concerned with attacking the Landers or with the

Instead, the Stampede seems to be caused by something else, causing
the smaller dire creatures to run for their lives. This is just the
sort of thing that could cause irreparable damage to the fields! The
stampede needs to be diverted, either by clever use of monster
control, or creating barriers to prevent them from getting to the

Victory is fleeting as Haru turns his head slowly to the small savage stompers. Clapping stops. "An avalanche approaches anon," the bemonocled man says a he sends the four stones outwards to the creatures. The Ioun Stones are not supah powahful gems. No. They are humble orbs of celebrations filled with hope, enchantment, and the elements. They are meant to 'pacify' and 'calm'. So they go out and fire off pulses of energy that make groups of the critters lethargic in droves.
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Goldenblade gulps as there seems to be a stampede straight towards her. She finds this out by getting blindsided by a critter she ever saw coming, and with her face in the dirt, she didn't see it leaving, either. But she sees everything else coming, and decides this is not the place to be. So she leaves, and so fast, it's hard to say where she went. She turns up eventually, somewhere over by Haru.
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    "You know, I really need to make better use of magic," notes Asuna. "I am clearly limiting myself. I'm amazed at what you and Kauchemar can do. It's so important to use all your... ingredients." Oh dear. And she's off on another mumble again. The details aren't really important, but it's clear she has cooking stuck in her brain right now.

    But again, her attention is wrenched away by the commotion. Which means it's time for the Flash to dart to the side and retrieve her mount. Tomoe is not afraid of the stampede. She seems excited! It all makes sense. Tomoe can only be scared by deadly threats. Like butterflies, her own shadow, rocks, and the shadows of butterflies and rocks.

    And so it is when the rush of monsters gets close, Tomoe rears up, her massive paws raised on either side of her head. Her mouth opens to make a battlecry! Which honestly sounds more like the sound of a little bird, but hooked up to a really good amp and dropped an octave or two.

    She is death and cuddles incarnate! Fear her power!!

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The bandits are down... and now there's an onrush of creatures erupting from the forest in a very clear panic. "Crissakes, what is this now? A cartoon with the Tasmanian Devil?" They don't intend to do harm, but a stampede will trample the crops regardless of intent.

Well, Kauchemar as luck would have it already has a Monster on the field, so there's no need to evoke another summoning. She lifts her staff from the ground, and points it forward. "Take to ye wings, bleak and stark. Cast the land beneath ye in utter dark!"

The nether raven cries shrill as it lifts off the ground and launches forward, wings spread wide. This creates great shadows of dispair beneath it. It terrifies the already fearful creatures to the point that they turn away from the encroaching dark and run off in another direction away from the fields AND whatever chased them up.
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It isn't long before the source of the stampede becomes obvious. Trees
are toppled over in the path of an absolutely massive creature which
lumbers out of the forest. The massive thing seems to wobble back and
forth on stubby legs, it's exaggerated cow-like features emphasized by
enormous buck-toothed fangs.

It doesn't seem interested in either the Landers or Adventurers, only
the food. One massive mouthful takes out an entire swatch of crops as
it begins to chew noisily. Anything that isn't eaten, will surely be
stomped under enormous feet.

Something has to be done about the massive grunty menace before the
harvest is ruined!

"Then allow me to provide a proper dash of inspiration to your magical cookbook," Haru says with a smile as he looks at this huge Grunty that has emerged. He draws his hands outwards as the four stones begin to circle around him. A trail of red follows the stones. Soon it is no longer a trail, but four solid lines. Fire. "My second most powerful summoning technique. Blessed by the Divine Beast of Fire, Feng Huang." The heat gets intense around him. It is enough to ignite the drier grass at his feet. Soon the ground itself chars as the lines of a Wave Art cut into the ground like a crop circle made of ash. When Haru draws his hands upwards, the fire shoots up in a hurricane of flames, emerging finally as massive fire bird. Moltres would be jelly. It looks down at the Grunty, snuffing any flames on the fields as it roars out in a vicious divebomb.
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"... Well, that's not a Tasmanian Devil but I can see why they'd be terrified of something that big and hungry." Pause. "At least it's not a swarm of bun-bun." That memory gets a brief shudder out of her. That was the night many Adventurers learned what horror Bun-Bun in large numbers could create.

But that's not the here and now. Kauchemar considers a moment, then unfastens her cloak and pulls it off into her hands. She takes a few prancing, almost dance-like steps forward, swaying the cloak back and forth. "Here Grunty grunty. Here grunty grunty." She twirls with the cloak to one side, then back to the other, trying to entrance it with the movements because we all know despire what every movie ever made says it's not the color of the cape that matters.

She stops, wagging it front of the beast... and then yanks it away as she twirls again. "OLE!"

Which is followed by an "OOF!" as, since the giant grunty didn't give enough of a shite to move, her evasive cape twirling instead twirls right into the side of the beast, sending her sprawling backwards. She flops down, groans, and holds up one hand. "Maybe.. I shoulda used.. SUUEY..."
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Goldenblade grunts as the massive creature comes into view, a huuuuge grunty. "I see the problem now," she says, and slips from view once again. She's not gone for long this time, appearing behind the grunty as her two blades sink deep into it, and cost it dearly in health. The Assassinate strike claims another victim. Or injured it badly, at least, so that it's quick work for the part to pile damage on it until it expires.
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    "Now that is really cool.. err.. hot! Wait, second strongest?"

    That does beg the question, after all! But there's a big gruntie and Asuna is on Tomoe and it's time to show just what her faithful steed can do. With a dig of the heels and growl to ensure she is understood, The Flash sends her dire red panda forward in a full-on charge.

    Along the way, she reaches down to pull Kauchemar up behind her. It's a bit, forgive the pun, flashy, but no way Asuna is leaving a friend in danger. Besides, more people equals more mass. Which in this case, equals way, way more damage as Tomoe throws herself at the enemy. Shifting mid-air, Asuna puts herself-and Lambent Light-between all that power and the enemy, delivering a horrific blow that buries the enemy's health gauge.

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The attacks from the Adventurers seem to do little to move the health
bar of the enormous grunty. It seems to have extremely high stamina
and defensive stats. It isn't until it has lost almost a quarter of
its health that the creature even seems to realize they are there,
lifting a head and chewing before giving a somber sort of moo-roar.

Then, it burps loudly, sending spittle and foul breath through the
edge of the fields. Apparently, their attacks had given it an upset
stomach. Wobbling on those stubby legs, the creature turns and begins
to toddle off towards the trees again, it's cow-like tail swishing
behind it.

Thankful for the aid, the Landers share tales that the grunty had been
a problem in years before, almost eating them out of entire fields.
The Adventurers certainly pulled their weight in keeping the farmers
safe, so they're offered up some of the spoils for their troubles.

Divine Beast of Fire, mooed at by a Dire Grunty. Haru watches with a slow blink while the Lander thanks them. "Did it," he checks his sanity, "did it just moo at us and wander off?" He points out to the retreating creature, "I am going to craft the /biggest/ /cowbell/ Yamato has ever seen and put it on your neck as an early warning system." Ding. Shame! Ding.
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Kauchemar gets yoinked onto the back of big red panda, and being a familiar monster rider reflexively grabs onto what she can. And there is logic to Asuna's plan. She is a tall and well built Were Fang after all, that's definately some extra mass. But no one say it her face.

Once the battle is over and the Tomoe Express comes to a proper alt she slides off the creature's back. "Thanks. I wasn't in the mood to be the one getting stampeded on." Pause. Makes a face. "Give her a treat or something for me as thanks?" she adds to Asuna. "Most of mine are carnivors, terravores, or don't eat at all."

Then Haru points out the sound the giant grunty made as it trundles away. "... That sounds like a load of bull."
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Goldenblade is not used to Assassinate being so ineffective, though the damage she did manage to inflict seems to have achieved the desired result. She nods to Haru, and says, "That counts as a win for us, I think." She will inspect her blades, then resheathe them, smiling to the Landers. She nods at the Landers' tales about the grunty showing up in previous years. "I recall," she says, because part of being old is having been there for events in the past. She's led a full life, it seems.
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    Asuna raises her weapon in a sort of salute to the retreating enemy.

    "Farewell, worthy foe. Rest well. For one day, I will return and elevate you to your highest form. I imagine there's at least a thousand cheeseburgers in that creature."

    She just barely manages to avoid a meatball tangent. But one can notice that she's still thinking about it. Plump, juicy, perfectly seasoned meatballs. The kind that haunts a person's dreams for weeks.

    Where was she? Oh! Right.

    "Certainly, Kauchemar! Always happy to welcome a new passenger to Tomoe airlines, where all the passengers get thrown off eventually!" Usually due to the previously mentioned threats of Tomoe's own shadow, butterflies, rocks, and the shadows of butterflies and rocks. The dark element is a powerful thing, as Haru and Kauchemar know very well.

    "A giant cowbell, huh? I suppose that would be helpful. And there's always room for more cowbell."