Duty Session 10: Gnoll it All
A powerful Gnoll has been reported as creating havoc within one one of the low-level Forest zones. The Berserker and his allies have been making things difficult for both Adventurers and Landers. This encounter seems to only appear at night. The Hunter?s Guild has posted an Obsidian-level Bounty for any brave Adventurers who can defeat Haggar the Gnoll Barbarian.
Some people are sluggish. Some people are eager. A stout gnome player comes along, with a gentle nudge and a nod. "Have you heard of the gnolls?"
"The gnolls are attacking."
"People could use some help."
"There will be loot."
"You will be a hero."
All of it towards pushing people onward, getting them off their backside and into the world. But, it hasn't been as easy as Cynwrig has thought. A more direct method may be required in the future. Or bring the trouble to them?
Still, the gnome makes his way towards the forests just outside Alne, to deal with the problem, waiting with his back against the tree. The forests at night are normally nothing to worry about. These forests around Alne are so well travelled and so well fought that it is certain everyone knows the forest like the back of their hand. Every nook, every respawn spot, every invisible wall. Every odd graphic quirk is known.
But at level 1, at night, the forests seem more nefarious. A place you must actually fight to survive. A place with new dangers now that the expansion has hit. The world is subtly different. And the world is not real.
All the comfort is gone. All the nostalgia and ease is gone.
Now there is only the faint cackling laughter in the forest, and a gnome with a lantern on a stick.
After considering the situation Zorin gives a slight shrug and hurries after them. "Maybe this will end in a more solid lead. If things are bugged, maybe it will be apparent with the monsters?" he mutters to himself.
As he nears the group he calls out to the gnome, "Hey! I heard you saying there was a strange attacking going on. Hope you don't mind if I tag along?"
Without waiting for a reply he falls into step behind the others.
When Cynwrig approaches and asks, Kaleido does not have to be asked twice - literally. "Let's do it."
The colorful bird stands out in the dark forest, and doesn't seem at all fazed by the woods. "Just a couple gnolls, yeah? Tutorial stuff. We've got this."
"I mean, this group has -me- after all. I did end-game raids."
Cynwrig nods along with Zorin, smiling. That self-confidence isn't quite there. The idea that the world is changed beyond what they know is both beautiful and terrifying. It would be easier to know what they were getting into... but at the same time, this tension, this is what forges people. Cynwrig waves to Zorin, "Always room for another willing to get up and deal with the problems of the world."
Kaleido gets an extra eying from Cynwrig, "Don't be so sure. But you are a skillful warrior, aren't you? We will be prepared." Ready to climb the ladder immediately. Another knight. A hero, perhaps?
And Elrune. He nods towards her. The voice of wisdom and cyncism.
Towards Merek, a man of action.
Cynwrig turns back towards the forest, a charge in his body. This. This is it. This is what every tabletop game, every video game has come to. The pinnacle. To throw everyone together... and see what happens.
Joy mixes with anxiety again as Cynwrig moves forward into the dark forest, carrying the lantern pole at the front. He doesn't have Kaleido's worries. He's always been a bad player, a niche pick good at only one thing. Defense and bringing the enemy down. He's only been in boss battles a few times.
The gnoll camp is one of those new things. And never have all the senses been perfectly assaulted. The smell of bodily fluids, sweat, and wet dog. Of smoke and ill cooked meat. The cackling deep laughter of the gnolls. Worse, though, is the glow. The terrifying glow of the skeleton dogs. On VR, they don't look so bad. But to see them now, each bone perfectly in place, jaw hanging askew. The rattle of bones.
Cynwrig takes in a deep breathe, and then taps his cane on the ground, pushing out a layer of rock across the ground. Grass turns over into stone, forming up into a hill... a hill not quite high enough.
The avian were fang knows enough to not be loud right now. Kaleido grabs their hymnal, and in the faint light, flips through to the page that they're looking for.
There, being sneaky isn't necessary - the magic is doing all the work. It's one of the few nice things about this place - magic seems to fill in some gaps.
"(This does seem to be unusual. Is this some degree of organization occurring?)" Zorin wonders as his party members prepare for the conflict ahead. And then he glances at what to him is a rather flamboyant Kaleido. "(I really don't think there is any hope of stealth)" which is of course the time when Kaleido completes his spell and is suddenly silent as a ghost.
Merek has also disappeared after a whisper to scout ahead, and Zorin isn't quite sure what Cynwrig was attempting to do? It looks like he is in the process of creating a hill to obscure the gnolls vision?
Finally Zorin whispers a word to the Burning One activating a spell ability to distort the light around himself, effectively making him temporarily invisible.
The skeleton dogs roll forward over the hill of stone that Cynwrig creates. One leaps to the pinnacle of the stone and over in one leap. Cynwrig's eyes widen in sudden terror as the jaws come snapping down on his wrist, a dull far away pain on him.
But, that makes for a good distraction for the others. While the ghost dogs are focused on Cynwrig, most of the group has an easy chance to get away. At the cost of Cynwrig getting his wrist chewed on. By the most basic of monsters on the quest!
Elrune is the savior of Cynwrig, slamming a wall of wind against the skeletons. Both of the calcified canines go sprawling and Cynwrig gets the chance to run up with Elrune to get on through!
Cynwrig nods eagerly to Elrune, panting as they push on through to the forest to gather up with the others, "Thank you."
Then comes the first gnoll. "A gnoll enchanter? That's new."
Gnolls don't make good enchanters. They aren't exactly... smart. And they aren't exactly studious. Ones that can get a hold of a spellbook and work it for long enough are rare.
The creature stands in a robe made of animal hides dyed with ochre and blood, a maddening swirl of yellows and red in flames up and down their body. Where the robe doesn't cover, countless scars of trail and error of flame roll up their body. One eye is wide open where a lid has been burned completely away, and only patches of skin are left. The creature has not noticed the group yet, eagerly practicing a new spell of a flame dart, a narrow pinpoint shot of flame it is using to blast away at a tree.
The avian were fang flips through their hymnal and stops on a different page. "Behold my mastery of status effects - Blinding Flash!"
Kaleido gestures dramatically at the gnoll with one hand, their other holding their hymnal up in a similarly dramatic pose -
- and the spell fizzles, nothing but a few sparks appearing from their fingertips.
"This is the first time this has happened, I swear."
To his surprise first sparks of light burst in front of the gnoll as Elrune chants her hymn, and then a beam of light strikes the gnoll full on as Merek begins to channel power. Zorin barely has a moment to wonder, "(Did they not see I gestured to surround it first?)", which of course absolutely no one saw because he was still invisible. He really isn't used to group tactics in battle.
Nevertheless he quickly acts, muttering another whisper to the Burning One, "Source of light, make those I appose cower." And a debuff to weaken the gnoll caster to light quickly enfolds around him.
This time, Cynwrig is more prepared. He slams his staff once into the ground and lets out a stately bellow, "STONESKIN!"
Earth erupts from the ground, like thin sheets of paper standing tall like monoliths. The sheets of paper fly at each of the group, wrapping around them in a solid magical shield that covers the blast. No matter how thick a gnoll's head might be, it turns around with a curious 'woof' to peer at the group. The first fireball slams against the stone skin, absorbing the heat of it.
Light from the aether suddenly rolls up around the gnome as Zorin focuses, pushing light over the creature until it slowly kneels to the ground. Kaleido's spell goes awry as a stray firebolt comes his way, and the blinding flash fizzles into nothing.
A perfect follow up for Merek to cast. The pillar of light fills the air, taking a moment to come into being, gathering light onto itself before it slams downward in a heavy energetic blast on top of the gnoll, staggering it back. Elrune's bolt comes in only a stutter step behind, a great beam powered by love slamming into the ground around the gnoll like a hammer blow. Both pillars of light leave it almost pushed into the ground, where it explodes into light.
The attention of the battle has gathered up another gnoll, this one giggling with glee. The cackling and gabbling between them is impossible to figure out. But at some point it becomes clear they are all gathering themselves out of the camp, grabbing clubs and pulling on ragged armor. The first gnoll yanks on the stake, pulling it up to unleash a massive wolf.
Some call them dire wolves, others call them wargs, but it is a massive beast, shaggy thick black ruff of fur around thick protuding spikes from the shoulder blades. Red eyes and slathering fangs that come roaring towards the party, eager to feast.
The warg charges - and Kaleido loses their cool. "I'm the support class, I'm not supposed to be in danger!"
Reflexively, they dodge back, and swing their casting hand out wide, launching fire spell after fire spell, trying to ward off the assault.
"I'm wasted on the front lines! Do something!"
Kaleido suddenly jumps back with a yell as they start to launch fire spells at the warg, and in response Merek summons a wall of flame. Hefting his shield Zorin moves to get in front of the party to act as a wall, his invisibility spell long dissipated. "Stay behind me, I will try to hold it back if it breaks through the wall of flame!"
The firewall spreads out from Merek's fingers, weaving itself carefully around the battle field, pushing the warg downward. It jumps forward, snarling as it is coralled by the fire. Cynwrig can do little more but tap his cane into the beat, feeding his own Artes into the wall, solidifying it.
Elrune's potent fire construct rises up from the ground, lances of flame suddenly slashing at the wolf, tearing and burning great hunks of fire as it tries to find a spot on the flame beast to attack. Jaws come down on solid flame, only to jump back with a yelp!
Kaleido's wild fireballs slam into the side of the wolf as it tries to dodge around, burning up wide swaths of fur from the back, setting a burn scars across it's back. It tries to duck away, battering against into Zorin's shield. It snaps and claws at the wall of iron, pushing paws against it to try and throw Zorin down onto his back, but it is blasted off again by Kaleido and Elrune's fire, pushed down to the ground.
Leaving the rest of the gnoll camp to deal with...
Yet something is on the air. Fear. The gnolls feel fear. The bright wall of fire, two of their powerful warriors taken down. They are slow to get geared up. Slow to get into the thick of battle.
"They are bloodthirsty," Cynwrig points out, "But they are cowardly. Gnolls are scavengers."
The bloodmage is the more common gnoll magic practioner. They don't need books or study. They just need pain and blood. It takes out blood from a small bag, fingers moving slowly in the air as it lumbers forward, a wall of steel and floating red droplets.
The cackle is slow and deep this time, happily amused as the droplets turn into tiny spears that lance out to pierce through the wall of fire and towards the group!
Kaleido flips back in their book to the healing spells. "Jeez, wasn't this supposed to be easy? Like this - oh, right, level 1..."
They start casting. "Ol Repth! Ola Repth! Healing Ligh- OW!"
Their casting gets interrupted by the attacks coming their way. "Damn - Healing Light! I'm better than this!"
Fire. Lots of fire.
And through the flames he sees the gnoll bloodmage complete his spell and the droplet shards flying forward. With a curse, he repositions himself to try block as much of the party as possible and mutters another prayer to the Burning One followed by the front of his shield begins to radiate flames.
Cynwrig tries to pull up his stone shield figure again. Blood slams through the wall of fire, blades of the liquid go straight through the wall and into Cynwrig, slamming into his chest with heavy meaty thuds. The gnome gets pulled up off his feet by the sheer force of the blood, throwing him down to the ground before his shield can go up.
The real pain, the realness of the situation bears down on top of him as the armored figure continues forward, weaving hands haphazardly in the air. More blades form, and when they slam into Cynwrig, the only reason he isn't DEAD is Kaleido's healing spell spreading out over the group. Elrune's song adds to the healing, but each THWIP of blood darting through the air takes off more health than it can heal.
As the blood mage gets closer to Zorin, it brings up its own shield of blood, thrusting it forward to butt shields against Zorin. The heat rrefuses to penetrate through the wall of blood and it sneers over the top, through the translucent layer of blood at Zorin, blood shot eyes eager for more violence. The blood shield lashes out, pushing Zorin back and then flashing the blood outward at Merek. For a moment, the creature is eager to fight.
And then the massive Greataxe comes through it. Haggar. A stumbling block for newbies. A joke for veterans. An overpowered boss for a beginning quest, meant by devs to test mettle. Though in truth, it comes out too hard instead.
It is a wall of beef and fur and hair and mohawk. Only a slight bit of leather covers a shoulder and across the legs, a haphazard metal pauldron. It holds the axe upward, letting the top half of the body of the blood mage slide off the top. It shakes it twice to get some of the gore off before putting the massive axe back up on one shoulder. Its maw hangs open, in a slavering almost feral sag, tongue lulling. It summons up the breath and mental capacity to speak two words in Japanese before it charges at Zorin, axe high.
Another wave of healing washes out over the group, trying to counteract the incoming damage. Being Level 1 is TOUGH.
"OLA REPTH -"
"Damn it! Out of mana! Um..."
Frantically, they bring up their UI and start speed-reading through their list for something that uses less mana than they have remaining.
"Thats - what? THAT ability is still in the game?"
"Okay, okay. Physical attack skills are - um, you just do the motion, and so..."
They dodge backwards a moment too late, taking another glowing wound from Haggar's axe hit. "GAH!"
No more time for thinking on if this is going to work or not. The were fang reaches into their pocket, grabbing a handful of whatever loose Lander change they can find from the odd jobs they were working this morning.
And they THROW their handful of loose change with all of their might!
"Pillar of LIGHT!"
"(For the love of the celestrial, is this Haggar?)"
With blood shot eye's and a hysterical cackle it starts to repeatedly chop down, try to cut it's way through Zorin's defenses. Despite blocking with both shield and scepter, he was being driven back.
"Guys, this isn't going well!" he calls out, as he hears the calls of the others. Following he intones another short verse to the Burning One and is enveloped in a dim glow that causes his armour to sparkle slightly, reinforcing it. Nevertheless, Haggars is too fast. Too strong. Attacks are making it through, scoring deeply into the armour. Red slash marks glow as Zorin tries to slow the onslaught.
From the ground, Cynwrig has the one trick that every enchanter knows.
It's really not that special, every enchanter likely knows it. It's the best spell in the game, you don't have to be a genius to realize the potential. Especially in a party. Cynwrig pushes up onto his knee, and points the walking stick forward. "THORN BIND HOSTAGE!"
Thick ropes of energy pull up from the ground, snapping around the limbs of the gnoll. Even the thick limbs of the gnoll can be encompassed by the stout vines. It doesn't do anything to slow the blow of the axe!
Elrune's soft light comes down on the party, sealing wounds, slowing down the flow of blood for that much longer. It is a good feeling that counterbalances the axe.
For some, it might be the first blood truly felt in this new world. The axe's blade is nearly four feet long, enough to cut a man clean in half if delivered with enough power. ANd power it brings. It swings the blade in a circle, slashing it across Merek's side as the fighter tries to jab both blades in.
Each swing seems to take an eternity, Haggar bringing the massive haft of the axe back up to his shoulder to swing it down again. Zorin can feel what an anvil might feel like. Each blow of the axe rings against Zorin's shield, pushing at the warrior like a machine. Each blow of the axe is enough to bend steel, and only the spell is enough to keep the blade from sheering everything straight in half.
The quick blows coming in start to have an effect. The heavy blow from pillar of light is staggeringly different against Haggar, only making it bend slightly. The coin throw has a better affect. Each blood triggers the Thorn Bind Hostage, cutting deeper into Haggar. Every blow from Merek is enough to wound the creature. But it doesn't slow. It moves like a machine, each blow just as powerful, unwilling to stop.
Haggar bellows out a slathering roar as it swings the axe around him, sending out a sudden powerful wave of force to push everything back from him!
Cynwrig gets thrown up against a flaming tree by the blow, his tunic cut wide open, blood starting to flow from his portly middle. "Fuck." He forces his staff up against the tree and then pushes himself up just slightly. "You can do this... you are the mighty heroes of this place. Finish it off!"
Her voice was barely a whisper as the glimmering flake of light, like golden snow, turned into a rain of golden flower petals.
Kaleido's out of spare change AND mana now - and they'd better get that spare change back, they did fetch quests all morning earning it, and they had to compete for those with the glut of adventurers trying to do the same. That loose spare change is their life savings right now, gosh dang it!
Kaleido barely dodges out of the way of another axe swing. "Ah - oh, the were fang racial attack, of course! Alright -"
Kaleido takes a deep breath, and squares up against Haggar's flank.
What they mean to do next is yell "SPLITTING BARK!" but that is not what happens.
Instead, their mouth (well, beak) forms the shape of the words, and the air comes up from their lungs to give breath to those words...
... and then the system takes over.
They are loud.
Anime-shockwave-lines shimmering in the air between them and the boss loud.
The wave of force knocks Zorin clean off his feet, flying backs he slides several feet in the dirt before attempting to roll. It was not the most grace, but staggers to his feet only to realize his shield had been shattered - dissolving into fragments of light before nothing is left.
Grimacing, his left arm dangles at his side, a deep glowing red slash mark displayed prominently at his shoulder. Off to the side the form of Cynwrig, beaten and haggard, shout out. Maybe it was Elrune's chant to give hope earlier, or maybe it was the desperation of the moment, but Zorin grit his jaw. "(We can do this. I can do this.)"
Just then another chant completes and light and strength fill Zorin.
"(I have to do this!)"
Lifting his scepter to point at the blood mage he yells out "FLAME DARTS!" and flame projectiles stream out from the ruby atop his scepter.
Power radiates from Elrune. Power that fills the entire clearing. It rolls out in a single wave across the clearing, a wave of light that fills every body with new energy. With new power to attack. The ache of the battle saps away, and for a little while longer, everyone can feel in them the power to move on. To keep fighting.
Merek has the briefest moment as the whirlwind suddenly ends. A moment he can get in, light coming across each blade. Light shines from the tip of the twin swords and sings as it slashes back and forth. Each stab, each swing leaves another trail of light, clearing digging into the meat. Haggar's turn speed is slow, the swing of his axe slower, but it is a blade that has felled many a n00b in a single blow.
When it turns its beady eyes on Merek, coming down towards him. The blade is in mid air, there is no time for Haggar to stop if it even wanted to stop.
The ROAR ripples across the ground, visibly bending the air and sight as it lifts Haggar off its feet and into the air. The axe goes wide, missing Merek by a bare six inches and slamming into the ground, buried up to the haft. The shockwave hurtles Haggar back two stagger steps, only just barely keeping on its feet.
Until it's back is suddenly a mass of flame. Darts pound into the meaty flesh, plunging through fur and skin and meat into the creature. Blood doesn't come forward, into it is cauterized immediately. Again and again they slam in, and Haggar roars in dumb animal pain, arching up.
It makes a grab for the axe and tries to pull it up once... twice...
Then falls down to the ground in a heap before falling appear into light.
As the monsterous creature disaapeares in a golden shower of light, she blinks. Makeing sense of it all. "By the Goddesses..." she mutered trying to find her feet after a moment, only to realize she was really exhusted.
That seems to be about all they're going to say right now.
Haggar dead. Warg dead. Gnoll caster dead.
The rest of the gnolls appear to be in full retreat, yipping as they flee. The party is in rough shape, but it was over. They were alive. "Thank the Burning One's blade." Zorin mutters once again, before going to check more closely on the others.
"That was close. Too close? Still, you guys saved my ass there a couple times. You're a solid team." And gives a grin to the others as he exercises his once again functioning left arm.
In response to Elrune he nods again, "Yeah, we should get back. I think I've had about as much as I can take."
He looks around the area once more, "But lets loot this before we do. We need everything we can get right now."
Cynwrig picks himself up slowly. He pats down at his chest, which is bleeding, yes, but at least only feels like a bad paper slice. He nods once to Elrune, "Thank you." Before he can get himself up to his feet and nod towards Zorin as well. He taps his forehead with his cane, giving a smile. "You are quite a tank yourself." He turns towards Kaleido, "You a warrior," and he nods towards Merek, "And you a warrior." A smile pulls up on his lips at Merek's works and Cynwrig returns with another nod, "That we did. We did a lot for the people. They still need it, I think."
He winces, grabbing at his chest, "But time at an inn for now before anyone heads out again."