Duty Session 587: 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+
What Adventurers might recognize as the Jaws theme begins to play.
To quote another cinematic masterpiece, a young woman in a wetsuit emerges from the waves; it is no Ursula Andress as a Bond Girl, though -- it's Uta. She is decked in head to toe in what must be one of Gwen's newfangled full-body wetsuits, immediately recognizable as a medical-style uniform with its white color with red accents; perfect for medical rescue missions and exploring islands.
"Can you please not attract attention?", she exclaims sloshing towards the shore, blushing, as she addresses a Lander kid who's playing what looks like a flute. "Oh goodness," she countinues, burying her face into her hand. "I wish I hadn't taught that kid the Jaws theme. Now he's playing it every time something emerges from the sea..."
"Hard to imagine that it took this long to make the location reasonably transversable again," she muses. Water and ice in caves don't really agree with birds, so instead she has her bun-bun with as an animal companion, Yojimbo sitting on her shoulder. "I wonder what other secrets we might be able to uncover...."
Dossy fiercely shakes his head to rid himself of the image, choosing instead to pay attention to Uta. The pale face of horror shifts to one of red blushing, "Ah, I don't think you look scary like a shark. But it is white, and you are pretty great, Uta."
When Uta comes out of the water, Goldenblade is indeed put in the mind of Ursula Andress, which was an iconic image back in the day despite being fairly tame by modern standards. She will keep quiet, per Uta's instructions, but she is here and waiting to see what the plan is. She stands ready in glimmering mail and swords on each hip, and a heavy cloak over her shoulders.
"I am pretty great?", Uta wonders, scratching her head. "No, no, I am supposed to get people to -under-estimate my fighting progress, not -over-estimate it!" Because, obviously, Borywick was speaking of fighting prowess. And then! A wild Gwen appears! As it is probably obvious, Uta had already been Enfashioned by the Tailor Sylph. And now it's YOUR TURN.
"Well played... what? It wasn't me that played the music. It was -him-", she gestures towards the Lander Kid; kid who has started a gain, some jellyfish has broken the surface of the water. Theme time.
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.
She will follow the party to the dungeon entrance and inspect the door, looking it over critically. After a considered inspection, she decides the door is best accessed using Brute Force. She seems to have found the way of things.
Then her attention quickly shifts to the actual matter at hand, walking up to the polished doorway. Ears erect in attention, tail swishing slowly back and forth as she ponders. Squints her eyes a little. "There's something scribed into the doorway but the lighting makes it difficult to fully translate."
He follows everyone from the back to keep as many eyes off him as possible; he is very self-conscious about his body, and those who he had hung out with until just this year had done nothing to promote his self-esteem. Further, with the presence of many people who look REALLY good in the bodysuits, DosBox doesn't want to make it seem obvious that he is looking anywhere BUT his partymates.
One of those places he is looking instead of at his companions is those shimmering words which, with the proper application of magically summoned sunglasses, he is able to read aloud, "I can read it if you can translate it, Shiruba?"
"I see you have been hard at work with your own project!" She's bubbly and a bit more lucid she could be near the end of her mood. She's joyful at Goldnenblade's reaction.
"See Shiruba I told you! You look awesome!"
she also gives Dosbox a nod. She however walks up to the door and is going to brute force it open. Geeze Gwen's got stronger lately too...
"The pants fit well, Gwen, thank you," he says as he looks at the mirror. Slightly vain. For as noodly as Haru he, the young man /has/ muscles. Not that they do anything. "Let me know if you'd like to try out the body paints," he says as he touches one of the many lines on his arms and chest. They light up in a dull amber color that ripple like a setting sun across his body. For a moment he considers, attempting to open the door with his muscle arms to confirm what they are: Noodle Arms. Vanity muscles. Alas, his Phys score hasn't changed.
"Making a note here," Haru says as he takes out a small pocket book from his pants and starts jotting down research notes on the results of this effect. How about now? He tries again after a set of static electricity goes through the air. Those that know the Law of Alba will realize that something has 'changed'. But the noodle arms part, it has not. "Relax a little, Shiba," he says as he writes a note, noticing that sigh from earlier, "Its a good look. Gwen is master level as always and with Uta here on medical, we can afford to reduce the stress, no?" Menu summon a martini. Sip. Martinis not yet invented, this is just juice.
As the party gets down to business, she does her part by holding her staff in place, intoning an ominous chant; dark splotches of raw magical energy form and bubble around the staff, like globs in a lava lamp; they then swirl and disappear into the focus gem, in the shape of an anatomically correct heart; a progressively darkening heart. As the spell reaches its steady state, the heart functions as a drain of sort, vacuuming away light, and reducing the glare so people can see beter.
Shiruba can now read, Dosbox can translate. Haru can show off his vanity muscles, as if they were a vanity license plate that says MUSCLES. They're also as effective. But just wait until the time comes to advertise a car lot! Then those MUSCLES are going to shine.
Or perhaps... perhaps they were a distraction all along! Let's face it, if there is one thing noodly arms are good at, is grabbing attention.
After the door is slammed, and she can finally resolve her ominous chant into a proper ending, she exhales. "I have enough stress balls for everyone," Uta confirms to Haru's urging, "and then some." She frowns for a moment, then continues, "Oh, hey, that was neat. How'd you did that?" Unclear which 'that' she refers to, among the couple of Haru's experiments. And maybe it's even one she's seen before, she's known to forget things. Given Haru's strange mood... she might even have been a test subject for something similar.
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 one of the best healers and tanks along? Haru's right the party is in a very good spot today. The party's effort gets them past the door and now into a different room which has Gwen pause for a moment and she'll take a look at the problem the harp she's inspecting it, she has skill in this thanks to haru and will assist anyone else on the attempt to fix the harp.
The work itself is rather easy for a Moonlight Goldsmith. Haru takes to the harp and spends his time working with Gwen to instruct and work through the nuanced precision work without micro managing. When the work is too delicate, he takes those parts, though when he looks to Dos to see if he wants to help he... well he slowly turns his head back to the work here at hand. "Bory, when you are done with that, come check out the work here with me and Gwen. Another set of accessory eyes is helpful. Or pair and a half?" Monocle joke.
"Magic tattoos and body pains have my attention. I ahve some ideas it hink we we can talk about those later when I'm done with my own work. So indeed you thought right!"
The stress balls Uta hands out to those who would like one (Haru included) happen to be made of sewn leather -- very different from the red, squishy one the Nurse herself is usually seen operating. People might get the idea she must use a professional medical-grade stress ball or something.
The Harp is cleaned by Shiruba, fixed by Gwen and Haru (but... not really by Dosbox); Uta sits down, ready to play the instrument, but the inscribed notes are still hard to read. "Improvisation is in order," Uta declares, as she engages in the two-pronged attack of plucking the strings and intoning a melody. Enthralling, enticing, the kind that lures sailors to their death.
Those who have had the misfortune of meeting a certain kind of monster, will instantly recognize the style, timbre, structure: Sirens!
The (anatomically correct) heart-shaped gem at the center of the staff seems to resonate even stronger this time, and--
Ice rumbles, making way for a passage.
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...
"Ah. I love these," Haru says. Though the idea of someone like Haru, who is like an angsty teen that became a Professor of the Dark Arts, loving anything is an odd sentiment. Like he loves coffea. Nope. Still sounds weird. Yet down he goes, in all his Darklord Nox glory, down the icy slide. One would /think/ raw skin against ice would be a horrible experience but those tattoos speak true, going as far as steaming and sizzling the ice he slides on so much that he is 'gliding' down with great maneuverability around the crash-points along the way. "All that time in the Rat Maze paid off," he howls down the slide, remembering how similar the water slide is.
These, of course, have happened often; Haru and DosBox get along fine; however, at this moment, such events do not seem to be coming to his mind, and in his current state of mind, such events might as well have never happened. He squeezes the stress ball harder and quicker as he speeds down the ramp.
Luckily, the stressball seems to have helped; before the slide's end, he manages to get himself out of the negative headspace, recall he has had several positive encounters with Haru before, and that he really needs to stop being such a Negative Ned all the time. With his successful evasion of a depressive spiral, Dossy sticks the landing effortlessly. Nice.
"Nothing is perfect but it is very resitant I had Uther try to break some of the others in this batch."
She beams at this then seems to be readying a spell, to deal with the incomming speaks.
"LIGHTING BLAST! After we should talk shop on these inks of your Haru! I have ... more ideas...." Yeah she's near the end of her mood...
Uta needs no word to reply to Haru's explanation: the increasingly intrigued and interested expression and posture are more than enough to convey her change of attitude towards the Enchanter's work. The mention of the interlinking with Song is the icing on the cake.
"Shadow-form...", she mutters, absently. Look, we said she -needs- no words. She may have been a little wasteful there.
Haru goes down the slide, Shiruba does likewise. Down goes Borywick and somehow... he doesn't die! Uta was right, stress balls are the true panacea. And work for prevention too! Next Pharma strange mood about Medical Stress Balls, here comes Uta!
"Are you giving Gwen ideas?!", Uta asks Haru, as she, herself, slides down the slide. "Do not give Gwen ideas! She might get ideas!" She does her best to re-focus on the slippery path she's zooming down.
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.
Shiruba has a means of dealing with this, and even as she turns her head to look away from the mirror she raises one arm to direct the Relic strapped to it in the cursed object's direction instead. A soft red light emits from Golau Chwilio, playing across the mirror, gleaming more darkly upon the cracks marring its surface. But it stays red. So something about the mirror in itself is their clue onward...
Everyone got a version of Haru that was once in a full moon. One that isn't dripping with lament and brooding. Why can't we have that version of Haru more often? This is why. Mirrors of sadness and regret. The Artificer doesn't look away from it and he appears transfixed there for a time being. The subtle motions of his visible blue eye shifting its focus along the reflective lens. Thats when the feels get ya, when you let your guard down.
The amethyst lens on his right eye begins to dim to a darker, richer purple. The silver metal writhes in a damascus design. Soon he lens fades to an inky black. A red light behind it flashes for but a moment before Haru puts a hand over it in pain. As if grasping onto raw mana itself, he clenches his other fist, releasing it as a series of glacial pillars appear, steaming off in alchemical fumes to dull the enchantment in the area by spreading out the lament in a broader area, diffusion into a tolerable 'mood' instead of such a targetted assault on the personages. Slowly he lowers his hand from his monocle. A gesture to his menu to equip his normal white cloak over his body and the tattoos. "The enchantment is distributed over the frostburn pillars. This will allow us to work with less distraction."
"Time to make it over...."
She just gets more idea and she's beaming a bit at Haru's praise too. Hopefully her own illusions will muddle the mirror's own while the others handle it. Wait was that move called hostile makeover?! Oh dear...
"The more the merrier on a project I say! I can work with either or both of them!"
And that's when the mirror gets you.
Uta's reaction begins as subtle as the others. Clenching of fists. Biting of her lower lip, trembling. Just like the fists. And thankfully, Haru and Gwen's interfere with the mirror before it can do anything worse. She clasps her staff, intones a hymn, and the gem flashes a blinding blast; the glare, for once, is a useful distraction from the main item. "Quick, time to move! Let us not linger further!"
"I get it, Gwen is a strong independent Sylph who needs nobody else to feel validated!"
The way forward, as Shiruba points out, is into the mirror; and if anyone lingers behind, at this point, they will likely be rammed into by Uta, and shoved into the magical item. On purpose. Can't linger for too long.
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 orpotions 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.
When it suddenly gets supercold, he barely notices. His hair tips freeze. He mutters something about a greek god, and he bursts into flames. He completely forgot about the potions he had packed to hand out in case it gets cold. It seems Dossy's worst enemy is not the monsters but his tendancy to get distracted by the smallest things...
She pauses at the exchange with Haru and Uta. Then there is a laugha sn they carry on. Once they get though the miarro she will pause t the room and stare at it. Yeah she knos what she has to do, she's going to just push through with raw power. She can be very much a brute sometimes.
"Just think how bad it would be without my creations and you all look wonderful!" She beams.
"I-I-I-dd-d-on't h-h-have any F-F-fire in m-me!", Uta manages to stutter through chattering teeth. Yes, she's hugging herself as she advances. It's freezing. "I-I t-t-think I'll exercise t-to warm up a b-bit!", she declares, and dives into the freezing waters, attempting to swim as quickly as possible.
Reluctantly, Uta has to admit that Gwen's suit help a lot.
Push ahead. Push ahead. Shiruba's words eacho in her mind, and she can almost... feel them. Feel them within her soul. Warming her up. Can... can mere words do that?
Wait, no, it's just Borywick on fire, right next to her. Phew. Situation norm- wait, why is Borywick on fire?! Uta's eyes pop open, and even if words cannot be uttered underwater, the way her eyes pop and she releases bubbles in a gasp of surprise tell a whole story.
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.
And then stops dead in her tracks. The analytical ability of her Loremaster system arte resonates with the woman occupying the throne in a very sharp manner, revealing that things are not as they seem and definitely not the historical content she was hoping for.
"SHIT!" Shiruba curses as she jerks back, drawing her weapon in a flash. "THAT'S A MONSTER IN DISGUISE!" she shouts to get her friends' attention, even as the woman changes into her true horrific siren form. At the same time Shiruba is already manifesting arrows of lightning in Thundersnow Howl and opening fire!
"Oh hell no."
Not something you want to hear from a lady who is texan, no you do not.
Oh, snap! It's an Anglerfish Siren! Uta's expression turns to panic. "This is uncharted territory!" She looks around, frantic, for inspiration on how to deal with this menace, when-
It's like a flash of enlightenment. A gasp, of surprise, then her expression softens in a closed-eyed smile.
"Thank you," she mouths. And leaps backwards.
No matter what attacks might be thrown her way in Darkness, she is simply not there. Constant zigzaging motion at breakneck speeds, in different directions, all across the room, creates a Doppler effect; the same effect that changes the frequency of the blaring of an ambulance depending on whether it's approaching or leaving. The perfect way to disrupt a siren's sound.
Uta's smile persists. "Thank you. Thank you for the inspiration, Sir Crabbington."
Her memory drifts back, bittersweet, to Sir King Crabbington Gibraider's finest hour: NOPE'ing out of the last room, before she moves in for the occasional punch.
Blow after blow after blow, the party succeeds. The False Maiden is shattered, bursting into pixels and dispersing its illusionary magics to reveal, once the darkness vanishes, the true room they were standing in, which is a relatively plain room. On the far side of the room areintertwined statues: a young hero and a beautiful siren intertwined in an eternally frozen moment. Both of the siren's eyes are missing, and the statues are starting to crack in places.
Uta stands there panting, smiling. "Good job, team! Now... I think it's time to perform some research on those ancient stories," she says, as she approaches the statues...
"Yesm I think we need to look into things her and I think it would Shiruba! I'd be happy to help when I'm done..." Fashion first, oh lord Fashion first...
When the dust and the darkness settles, Haru looks to the room and deep lore within it. "I am going to look around at the enchantments on this place. There was high levels of illusion, of the visual and emotional nature. For it to endure the way it is, there may be a source to speak of. Techniques to record." The eternally frozen tear being one such thing, like the Witherless enchantment put on plants.