Duty Session 72: Obligatory Rat Cellar

In each of the starting cities, there are at least a couple of poor merchant landers who have developed mysterious rat problems. This is clearly bad for business! A worried looking Lander stands outside their shop, rubbing their hands together, looking anxious, flagging down any passing Adventurer they can find to help.

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

Count V
Alne - Plant Hwyaden HQ

    One of Many Shops

Count V stands out front of today's "Quest Shop". The shop itself is a general store of no particular interest, one of several located throughout the city for the sake of convenience. It sells an assortment of goods, but nothing particularly high-level. Basic rations, extremely basic crafting items, tools and weapons that most adventurers would scoff at in short order-- though perhaps not right this moment.

The Diviner has used light magic to illuminate himself gently, making it easy to catch sight of him. The owner of the shop stands on the other side of the door, a portly-looking man of utterly average appearance otherwise who looks rather downcast.

"Just waiting on some friends, sir. Our experiences with cellars beneath this city are rather more than I'd risk alone, as much as I hate to admit it." He asides to the fussing merchant, who is twisting a simple blue cap between his hands in agitation.

Att Syne
Alne - Plant Hwyaden HQ


Honestly, if they'd advertised themselves as that, Att might visit more often.

The Spriggan shows up, heralded by the distantly echoing sound of his staff clicking against paving stones. He raises his free hand in silent greeting as he approaches, an Adventurer out for a stroll -- or so it'd seem, from the way he's sauntering up and all. He's started to take the measure of the locals as he sees them, and finds that making himself -- a foreigner and a Spriggan -- a visible figure in and around town, he'll gradually engender a certain degree of tolerance or respect from the Landers who are smart enough to think of such things. Or, well, that's the theory, anyway...

"This is the place, eh?" Att Syne looks at the storefront, and then the merchant. He smiles. "We'll have the problem handled just as soon as everyone else is here."
Alne - Plant Hwyaden HQ

Once more, U.L.P. is here with harp and bow on his back as he walks up to the quest store in question.  A dinky little place whose only value is the lack of value of the goods.  However, it's TRUE purpose is to provide a place for their adventure.  The spriggan gives a smile to all before he waves towards Count V.  

"I see we meet again.  Though to be honest, I am curious to see if we find you know who again?  Or if the racist rat's thing is always an event." He nods towards the others, and he greets them one by one.  For those who do not know him, he announces himself.  "I am U.L.P., in the flesh.  Let's have an interesting adventure."
Kyo Kirin
Alne - Plant Hwyaden HQ

    Kyo Kirin (Kyou, just Kyo, Kirin, Kyo the Kirin, or <untranslatable pun>) arrives to the call to Adventure!

    Though it's rather similar to an adventure she's already been on more than once. It's another shop. Another place nobody would have any reason to bother with--or at least, assuming that he stays in business due to 'having customers' and not some other reason, a place no adventurer has any reason to bother with. Still, there is always a cellar. There is always an infestation. There is always a distressed merchant. Even if the reasons seem to vary. Hopefully, she won't see anyone get killed today.

    "Hey, hey, V!" The hunter-dressed wolf-eared girl (who is not, in fact, a hunter at all) waves, two fingers raised. That gesture might get old, and it's not like she's streaming anymore (as far as anyone can tell), but old habits die hard, and other pithy sayings.

    She gives a nod to the Lander, and pats the slender blade at her hip. "No worries. You could hardly find a better organized group than ours." That much seems to be true, for the moment, even if she can't say she's looked in too hard on the other guilds.
Alne - Plant Hwyaden HQ

Basic gear for basic needs, the needs of basic adventurers. It had been a long time since Proteus had need of anything these people sold, but here she is... If nothing else, for other reasons. The cloaked and hooded Imp sweeps into the store, looking to the Lander merchant and then over to the softly glowing Count V. "Always full of surprises, aren't you?" She says with approval.

A moment later, she sweeps to one side, taking up a spot flanking the man and gives the others present a wave. "I fully expect to have this handled in short order. Still advancement has been something of a problem since the Black Wave." She emits a longsuffering sigh. "Even such that we're still doing these things instead of moving on to more difficult... And lucrative zones."

She looks over to the shop. "Let's get this over with."
Shin Heno
Alne - Plant Hwyaden HQ

     Shin just sort of comes in with a broad grin and a potato in his hand. It's obviously one of the cooked foods Plant Hwyden's been giving out. It's got a couple bites out of it, and some crumbs have found their way into his long white scarf. He gives the same sort of two-finger wave that Kyo did on entry, pausing long enough to introduce himself to ULP and Kyo with a cheerful:

     "Hi! I'm Shin Heno. I'm a Hero of Justice."

     He certainly sort of looks the part. That whole...scarf, brown hair, sleek green-and-white outfit thing. Looks like he stepped right out of an anime or something.

     Shin stretches a bit as they head on in. "Let's kill some rats!" Another bite out of the potato.

     He is way too excited about this.

     Friggin' newbies.
Whiskey Sour
Alne - Plant Hwyaden HQ

Newbie quests popping up with such frequency and regularity may be a blessing in a shitty disguise - as long as you're a quest-hungry low level character! Which issssss...

Exactly what Whiskey Sour is, plus a few characterizing traits.

They include: * Garish disregard for levelling gear fashion. * Aura of exhaustion. * Consuming weird substances.

However, there's still a new person (to Whis) gathering for the party, so putting on her bravest, most smiling face, Whis bows towards Kyo. "We haven't partied before! I'm Whiskey Sour, a support player. Please take care of me." She introduces, energy that simply was not showing before coming out. "I recently joined the guild, so I hope I won't let you down."

Then, to V and the rest: "Rats... again?"
Count V
Alne - Plant Hwyaden HQ

"Yes," V says to Att Syne, "based on my observations, every basic shop is capable of generating this duty. I probably missed some instances of it, and I half-wonder if it's limited by the ones that actually have basements. Based on the other quest I want to pursue today, I suspect that's the case."

The Diviner raises his staff in greeting-salute to ULP, and then again towards Kyo.

To Proteus, he says, "Ah, but this isn't the real surprise. I'm working on something that could be /incredibly/ interesting if I can get it off the ground. Anyway... there /is/ a more intesting quest at the end of the night, if we don't miss it. Please look forward to it."

Shin elicits a pleasant smile, though the potato he's eating gets a side-eye. V has only eaten garbage filler food today.

The Count fails altogether to address Whiskey's 'really, again?' feeling towards the quest itself, but does lean in her direction and nudge at her with his staff, "Get it? Get it off the ground?"

Then he turns, and heads on into the shop, and down the cellar hatch into the basement.

Count V
Alne - Plant Hwyaden HQ

For those who did this before, the scene is familiar but not identical. A dusty descent down crude wooden steps brings them all into a cellar with wood floors that have been greatly neglected. The lighting is a single faint, flickering lamp sitting atop an empty crate. Barrels and boxes of goods are scattered around, some intact, some obviously having been gotten into by pests.

There is, in particular, a box of potatoes that look nibbled on.

Cobwebs hang from the corners, and one in particular is thick to filling with them, as if some especially large arachnid had made its home there. Distant squeaking can be heard, but from where?
Att Syne
Alne - Plant Hwyaden HQ

Att turns to regard the gathering of guildmates after his brief and cursory mercantile reassurance. He's glad to have faces around that are actually regular enough to be familiar, given the circumstances, not to mention the heightened teamwork from regularly working together. In particular, Kyo's arrival turns Att's false, placating smile into a genuine one, though he tries not to let it show long enough for anyone to notice. It's inevitably awkward when someone you're trying to work with finds out you're a fan.

"We can't rush into higher-level zones until we've made a base level of progress through the starter areas," Att tells Proteus with an apologetic tone and equally-apologetic shrug. "I want my levels back as much as you do, but the death penalty isn't a risk worth the reward." He sounds like he's getting all grim -- and then he continues, "There's a lock-out -- something like a day. That's a lot of time we could be spending on the less-interesting grind."

Att heads down into the basement with the group. The room gets a once-over, and then he starts trying to clear it out immediately, conjuring a small, humanoid whirlwind to slice through and push away the dense webs with airy blades at the ends of its arms. "There's some kind of secret passage or something usually, right?" He's moving along one wall, bit by bit.
Kyo Kirin
Alne - Plant Hwyaden HQ

    There are newbies. That's probably not going to stay true, given that no new players have been spotted since the Apocalypse, but for now, still in the early days of this new, strange year, there are newbies. How precious.

    "Hey," Kyo says after Shin, nodding to him and U.L.P. Keeping it short, since they're on the job, now. Sort of. Easier to not think of it as 'play' considering their new, more real circumstances. "It's our first time working together, right?" Though that's true in more cases than the couple of them, effectively. "Let's do our best." Even if it's this low-level stuff again. Proteus' complaint has hit Kyo's mind, too. She's just not of a mind to let that show. 'Confidence' goes down better, overall. Looking professional.

    And there's Whis. Kyo almost bows in return, but keeps it to a(n intended) cool nod, keeping to character. "I'm Kyo Kirin." It's a known name, though less than she would have liked, a month or two back. "Pleased to meet you. I'd like to say I'm a support type, too, as a bard, but despite how it looks, I'm better equipped as a protective type. That's the Commander class for you." It doesn't look like she has armor or a shield or anything, really.

    And down they go.
Alne - Plant Hwyaden HQ

"Oh don't be like that, my good lady.  Think of it as a minor setback.  After all, no great accomplishment came without challenge and strife.  Just take it as a sign of your inevitable rise to power and prosperity," U.L.P. says with a positive tone to his voice.  He waves to the Common Rider of Justice, "Ah yes, we've met.  Unless this is just something you do whenever you meet someone!  In that case, nice to meet you all over again!~"  

Moving down into the basement, he is already preparing an arrow for his bow.  A gust of wind flies out as he shoots the arrow across the room, aiming to blow away cobwebs.  "Honestly I think this might be a lander racket.  'My basement is dirty, lets hire a trouble maker to live in my basement so adventurers clean it up for me.'" U.L.P. says with a shrug.  
Shin Heno
Alne - Plant Hwyaden HQ

     Shin offers V his potato. It's half-eaten, but that's half more than V's likely had in a bit.

     "All yours," he says on the way down.

     "It is!" He says to Kyo. He's got that sort of odd, irrepressible cheeriness you'd expect from somebody calling himself a Hero of Justice. He waves at the people he already knows with a "hi!" on the way down into THE CELLAR.

     To ULP, he says, "I mostly just do it whenever there's somebody new. It's easier that way!"

     Kyo says she's a support type. Shin nods. "I'll be up on the front lines with you, then! Don't worry - I might be new, but I've gotten the hang of this pretty quickly." A meaningful pause. "I think."

     The basement is once again full of dust. No immediate transformation this time - instead, Shin just kicks the air a few times, little bursts of wind joining Att's own strange creature.

     "Hey, if they're paying! You can do worse than clean up somebody's basement, right? Plus, killing monsters just means more stuff for us!"
Kyo Kirin
Alne - Plant Hwyaden HQ

    "Just having a lock-out would be bad enough," Kyo says after Att, "but you have to get back to wherever you'd died to try again, and if that's /all/ we have to deal with I'll count it lucky. At least it's not, you know, 'make a new character' territory, like those old games, right?"

    As she talks, she whips the sword out, and slashes through a few webs. It doesn't make things noticeably cleaner, but it means not getting cobwebs in her hair, and that's a bonus. She's on the lookout for something actually dangerous, but it tends to be like this at the start. To U.L.P., "Maybe if there was a maid around. Isn't it more likely that hiring a bunch of Adventurers means they'll break all your crates, barrels, and pots?"
Alne - Plant Hwyaden HQ

The insight into quest generation prompts something in the Imp and she gets a pondering look on her face under the shadow of that hood. "MMmm... That could be something we could take advantage of if we could learn the proper mechanics, couldn't we?" Proteus eyes Count V as he shares a hint of what is to come, and her tail lashes back and forth for a moment. "It's all right. We have to do what we have to do, don't we? That said, I'm looking forward to it indeed."

There is a nonchalant gesture as Att brings up the important caveat to Proteus' commentary. "Yes, yes I know. The infuriating thing is we would be there already under the old advancement tables. Something happened in the Black Wave to completely trash our ability to level the same way. It's like nothing is giving any decent experience... Or something is gating it. I know the danger in probing areas too high level. I am simply... frustrated." She says the latter as if she is enjoying it somehow, nonetheless...

"Kyo, Shin, Whis, ULP, let's do this." She gestures, letting the tankier of the team lead the way while she takes squishy position. They head down into the cellar, and she frowns at the state of affairs. "Do these people /never clean house/?" She grumbles. "Then again, why would they ever? It's dirty because the game decides it's dirty, isn't it?" She asks, before making a series of little gestures with a hand: ^ X o

A moment later, air whips through the cellar, slashing into the cobwebs and suctioning the dust and mess towards the center of the basement room, amplifying the efforts of the others and trying to coagulate the webs and mess into a sphere of nastiness that should optimally just plop down into the center of the room.
Shin Heno
Alne - Plant Hwyaden HQ

     "I've never even seen a basement outside the game," Shin offers to Proteus, "So maybe not cleaning them is standard procedure for most people."
Whiskey Sour
Alne - Plant Hwyaden HQ

Whis returns Kyo's introduction with a weak smile, nodding. "Oh, sometimes we support ourselves. It can't be helped."

'It's a racket' is a point brought up that, after a few moments of consideration on the stairs, Whis can't help but shake her head at. "A racket... I don't think so. It's a reverse protection racket, isn't it? That's these quests in a nutshell. Instead of Adventurers approaching the NPCs, it's NPCs approaching us. We're still the racket."

Once again, it's barrels. Once again, cobwebs and detritus. Once again: A single spider.

"Oh. Is it the same spider? Hello, Spider! Are you the same spider!" Whis waves with mild animation at the Definitely Friendly Neighborhood Spider. Perhaps it really is the same spider! That she killed with her 'friendship potion'. Or the other same spider! That she blasted.


Oh no.
Count V
Alne - Plant Hwyaden HQ

"More importantly than that," Count V pipes up in response to Att, "trial-and-error is easier to accomplish in these areas, where the problems are lesser in scale and retreat is more practical. I want to know how generation occurs with regards to these quests, and in particular how structures occur within /cities/. For instance..."

He scribbles in the dust, "Let's say that there is a tunnel system in five portions of the city: North, South, East, West, and Central. If this is the case, there are tunnels through all quadrants of the city. Do they link up, or are they disconnected? What does it do to the structural integrity of the surroundings? Does anything inhabit the tunnels between infestation scenarios? If the tunnels are disconnected, could they be connected to form a single hidden network?"

He summons up a gust of air, blasting it into-- the wrong corner. Cobwebs scatter into nothingness, but there's no passage there. Enthusiastically, he adds, "You see? That's approximately where things were last time, but I got it wrong despite having a good idea of what was going to happen."

"And for another thing, what if ULP was correct, and it /is/ a Lander racket? That would tell us a lot about Landers." V carries on, heedless of the problem still in front of them.

"If there wasn't a generally good result for them, I'm not sure they'd keep asking. In fact, some of them /don't/ ask me." He says to Kyo, indicating both his skin color and wings.

Count V
Alne - Plant Hwyaden HQ

Att's elemental does a better job of clearing relevant spots than Count V does by far. It whirls along, sucking up dust and cobwebs, gradually wearing away those in the corner so as to better expose the passage going forward. They're thick, though-- and strong. Like something quite large, rather than the spiders dangling from the support structures right now, made them all.

ULP's arrow finds the thick spot soon after, dispersing what looks like a solid foot of spider web, followed by the air-kicks of Shin and Proteus's follow-up gust of wind reducing the remaining mass to the thickness of a gauzy curtain. Kyo takes a blade to what remains, parting it to allow passage.

Whiskey Sour reaches past the webs and darkness to grasp-- A GIANT SPIDER. The Giant Spider reacts predictably, attempting to bite Whiskey several times before her SPIDER WRANGLING SKILLS compel it to submit. If for some reason it isn't dead shortly after (highly probable, based on prior patterns) it will follow after her like an extremely disturbing giant puppy that leaps at small things and eats them on reflex.

Att Syne
Alne - Plant Hwyaden HQ

"Or are they still instanced, and do the physical sizes of the tunnel systems not have any indication on what's going on," Att muses. He gestures mildly, and his little elemental sweeps back and forth to pick up the bits that people missed. It eventually becomes a swirling torrent of cobwebs and dust, moving itself to one side of the room, and then gently setting itself down and dispersing into... well, a pile. A much neater pile. If someone had a broom and a dustpan, it'd be pretty easy to get rid of it now. "If it's a scam, I gotta wonder what they'd be getting out of it that they couldn't accomplish by just hiring a Maid or two."

Att nearly and reflexively tries to incinerate the Giant Spider. Whis seems to handle it, and he gives her a wary look as he edges around and away from the spider on the way through a different passage. Apparently. "I guess not all cellars are created equal. Does Japan really not have basements?" Att shakes his head. "Wild."

THE NEXT PASSAGE is crumbling, older than the shop's cellar, or at least much less well-maintained -- even by the apparently low standards of the mercantile demi-elite around here. History practically oozes from the walls, alongside moisture and magic. An ominous door of stone looms at the far end, ringed by luminescent runes. Is it a seal, or a puzzle...?

"Looks like a puzzle," Att decides. He eyes the runes. "Well, let's get to it, I suppose. Nobody happened to see fragments of a mysterious alphabet around or something, did they?"
Shin Heno
Alne - Plant Hwyaden HQ

     "Not where I'm from!" That narrows things down a bit - it means he's from Tokyo, for sure, or Kyoto, or one of the big cities. The country has more space for that kind of thing, more...*room* to spread out.

     Speaking of room, here's a puzzle room! The pulsing runes on the wall get a look from Shin, who wanders over and leans forward to examine it.

     He clicks his belt.

     For a brief instant, his eyes turn into the weird, glowing bulbous Armor Beetle eyes.

     He clicks the belt again, and they're gone.

     "Ah, it's probably like this." He points a path out. "This seems like the right combination this time. Right?"
Alne - Plant Hwyaden HQ

U.L.P. nods towards Kyo, "Well, I hear the maid cosplay for adventurers is really in.  I don't get the appeal myself, but who am I to judge.  Still, you're right about it being more destructive in hiring us than just finding a maid.   Maybe the Racketiers are the reason why Maids are not here."

"Oh, I know for a fact there are Landers who are running rackets," U.L.P. says towards Count V, "One of my contacts is one of those people, for example." Towards Att he shrugs, "I can't say.  However, eliminating the probable is the first step to solving a mystery."

The archer looks at the wards and thinks about how to deal with this.  After a moment, he pulls out his harp and tries a song, but the moment he starts strumming, one of the strings breaks.  With a frown, he instead spends his time restringing the harp.
Kyo Kirin
Alne - Plant Hwyaden HQ

    "It sure looks like an old, forgotten tunnel system... but it's not like the game is older than about a year, if you don't count the offline version, or the backstory. Though, I remember somebody saying something like, 'what if time inside the game was different?'" That doesn't necessarily mean anything, speaking of the world as if it had to make sense.

    Again to V, "The Landers really do care about that? I heard about it, but... that wasn't a mechanic before the Apocalypse, was it? The backstory never seemed to matter like that. Well, rarely." Even a reputation mechanic wouldn't more than reference starting states in passing.

    Whiskey acquires a huge spider. "Woah." Kyo laughs. "Looking up close, is this the fabled 'horror-cute'? Or is it just horrible?" Alas, they can't make a strawpoll for it under these conditions. The question will have to go without definitive answer.

    They arrive at a puzzle room. It is very clearly a puzzle room, and not related to the merchant's shop, except that the passageway connects it. Are basements even worth the trouble if they end up connecting to places like this? Highly questionable. "Okay, let's just see if we can figure out how any of this reads.
Alne - Plant Hwyaden HQ

The appearance of the spider almost makes Proteus incinerate it as well, but she pauses when Whis has things well in hand. She moves on, gazing warily at where the spider was/might be/will be. You can't trust spiders. "Mmm. Landers." Proteus says neutrally. "You're right, Kyo. I don't remember them ever caring unless it was supposed to be part of their plotline to care. Now... who knows?"

That said, the next challenge is exactly in her wheelhouse. The mysterious runes ringing the door cause Proteus to smile, and she immediately approaches those runes. She's about to get to work when Shin points out a combination. "Oooh, that's helpful." She hums. "This looks like it might be a ring cipher..." She begins using some of the dust on the floor to sketch the runes in a ring, using Shin's input to help fill a three-layered sequence. With a twist of her hands, the runes light up and rotate on the floor, settling on the combination Shin mentioned...

And then a second series of runes appears in the center of the rings. "And there's the rest of the answer." She says, gesturing. "Careful, you usually get kicked out if you mess one of these up three times."
Count V
Alne - Plant Hwyaden HQ

"Possibly, they just want to get rid of us. That's certainly the case with /some/ of us." Count V says to Att, wiggling his wings.

The following passage is... different. V proceeds down it cautiously, raising his staff high as light emanates from the 'eye' at the top of it. The eye blinks now and again, flickering the light on and off as it does so. He shakes his head, "No mysterious alphabet, no... but it makes me think of something that's been talked about recently. I can't quite put my finger on it."

To Kyo, he replies, "Some of them seem to. They're not too aggressive about it, but their annoyance threshold with Spriggans seems much lower."

Count V shuts his eyes and plants his staff before the door of luminescent runes, breathing in heavily. He speaks a word that comes out deep, ominous, and gloomy compared to his usual voice. A black eye opens on his forehead, shining what amounts to a blacklight upon several of the Runes, helping identify their usage in the sequence.

Whiskey Sour
Alne - Plant Hwyaden HQ

Wrangling an enormous spider seems to be a theme with Whis, though this offering is far more subdued than her previous times attempting the act. The spider makes a 'scree!' noise as monstrous spiders are keen to do, and charges her down. Summoning her crooked length-of-wood staff to hand, she waits until the spider is just about on top of her before--

Two handing her staff and delivering a dazing whallop right onto the spider's eight-eyed head.

One short montage session -- Whis smiling at the Spider, the Spider demurely batting eight eyes at Whis, Whis spreading her arms wide to hug the Spider, the Spider attempting to bite Whis's stomach, Whis flipping the spider over her shoulder and backdropping the arachnid into a leg-lock, and FRIENDSHIP ACHIEVED.

"Horror... cute? Oh, I guess? Last time, I convinced a spider to ally with me against the rats, but then poisoned it to death."

Spider-Bro makes a confused (and slightly worried) 'skree?'.

"It was an accident."

Spider-Bro makes an EVEN MORE confused and worried 'skree!'.

"Practice makes..." Whis yawns, lifting her hand to cover her mouth. "... level-ups. Also, of course Japan has basements, where do you think all the delinquents--" The rune puzzle looms up, the despairingly tired Whiskey Sour staring dumbly at the wall. "--Oh! I've heard of a way Druids can divine puzzle answers. I'll just..."

Taking out a small bit of charcoal and some scraps of paper, Whis sketches out the runes onto the slips and offers them towards Spider-Bro. "Now, whichever one the spider takes, is the first one, and then the second one, and so-on."

The Spider, meanwhile, just eats all the paper at once in one snapping bite.

"... I have no idea what that means."
Att Syne
Alne - Plant Hwyaden HQ

The problem is indeed divining the nature of the puzzle before attempting to proceed. Getting locked out would put a quick end to their expedition, though maybe not their career as overgeared maids. The black-eyed gaze of V determines the length of the string, while Proteus works out the various possible likely combinations. Kyo's examinations finds certain runes possess shapes that 'evolve' along familiar lines, like frames in a video featuring a lot of dynamic typography, and Shin uses BUG POWERS to put it all together at the end.

Unfortunately, broken-stringed music and the wisdom of arachnids are not enough to brute-force it. It takes TEAMWORK to make the DREAM WORK.

Which is what Att says.

No, really: "Teamwork!" Fistpump! The door grinds open with a satisfyingly stony sound. "It makes the /dream/ work." He sighs pleasantly. "That's such a dumb saying, but it never gets tired."
Shin Heno
Alne - Plant Hwyaden HQ

     "Who says that?" Shin asks, fiddling with his belt thoughtfully.
Alne - Plant Hwyaden HQ

"Att does, apparently," U.L.P says with a shrug of his shoulders. "Gota pay attention."
Att Syne
Alne - Plant Hwyaden HQ

"People on the internet," Att says, vaguely, unhelpfully, dismissively. Intentionally?

(don't at me, logger)
Alne - Plant Hwyaden HQ

"I suppose Att is in fact a person on the Internet." Proteus shrugs. "Let's go. We're not done here yet."
Kyo Kirin
Alne - Plant Hwyaden HQ

    They get through. "I guess we'll find out how many guesses you have some other time. Or, not! Hopefully." That would mean being stuck in a dank not-cellar with only a giant spider for company and no way forward. What an awful quest.

    "Ohh," dropping her voice lower, Kyo keeps her sword ready, and looks up ahead. "Yeah, this is familiar. I mean, you can't see the floor because of all the rats, but 'some place where you can't see the floor because of all the rats,' this is my third time. Will we see an armored rat again afterward?" Maybe. "You know what worked here, last time?" She pauses. "Anchor Howl! ... Which I don't have. So let's go with last-last time, when the answer was 'buffs.'"
Whiskey Sour
Alne - Plant Hwyaden HQ

As the STONE DOOR grinds aside, the room just beyond has a pathway that drops down at around a fifteen degree angle for a few dozen feet, before the lanternlight goes out. Still, there's the sussuration of movement, the whisk of 'objects' against the dusty ground. It's hard to make out -- until someone lights a fire.

And someone absolutely lights a fire. The flare of light spills out into the room, revealing the ground isn't dark - the 'ground' is rat, beady eyes gleaming in reflected oranges and yellows. A chittering *horde*, a sheer *mass* that encompasses the conceptual space of 'rat' as a *terrain type*.

It chitters. It bites. It shuffles. It swishes.

It rises up, like a wave, a ripple of awarness for this uniquely garbage terrain feature of this cellar moving inexorably up the path towards the party.

The only solution is, of course, probably more fire - but in such tight corridors, any use of shaping magics would be highly effective. The brave may apply weapons, knowing that unlike systems designed by complete morons, a sword or spear at a choke point can sweep through large numbers of pressing bodies. And rat swarms are not somehow immune to being stabbed.

'But you can only kill one or two a stab!' the fools reply. The BRAVE know how to FOLLOW THROUGH.
Alne - Plant Hwyaden HQ

U.L.P. steps through the stone door, as someone lights a fire, the archer immediately regrets that.  He feels very unclean by just being in the same room as these things.  With a sigh, he brings out a bow, notches an arrow, and channels a not insignificant power into the arrow.  Releasing the arrow, it soars into the group of rats.

Moments later, vines start growing out of where the arrow struck, aiming to wrap around, squeeze, piece rats with vines, and so forth, aiming to grow.  

Really, he was just providing his allies with a place to light fires, and feed them until this whole area was burned out.  
Kyo Kirin
Alne - Plant Hwyaden HQ

    Kyo's magical aptitude requires a focus, and that focus is now displayed: an ocarina. It's just about the cheapest, level 1 bard implement you could ask for, but it works. It works pretty well.

    Kyo faces the rat swarm with a cheery tune, or as cheery as the little wind instrument can make. Spritely, sure. It's quick, given the circumstances, and no full-length Ballad of the Flames. The buff icons light up across the board, giving everyone a pretty basic 'damage enemies you contact' fire shield.

    Then her sword comes back out, and Kyo steps to the fore. She's done this before, after all. It's not hard to be brave, even being able to see them, hear them, *smell* their mangy fur, if it's your third time through. Not when you've got backup.

    She wades in.
Count V
Alne - Plant Hwyaden HQ

"I think it means that the spider failed its check." Count V responds to Whiskey, helpfully. Unfortunately there is not an alternate spider to claim and use in divination, and so there is no way to improve that check right now. Maybe a rat would be more discerning in its taste?

... Maybe?

... ... Maybe?

In response to Att's observation that the saying is dumb, he remarks, "If it's dumb but works..."

He meanders along almost lazily as they proceed past the Magical Door, the entire 'magical door' concept spinning ideas in his head. Hypothetically, could a similar effect be applied to any door of their own choosing? Could they program in passwords? Is that a standard language, or--

The light fades away.

V frowns, and shakes his staff. The top of it lights up, revealing rat, RAT, RAT!!!, and more RAT.

Count V stares into the abyss, and starts chanting.

                                "Burn them all,                                
                                burn everything.                                
                       Fire is bright and fire is clean."                      

Before delivering a flash of light that bursts into a 20-foot radius sphere of flame within the RAT TERRAIN.

Shin Heno
Alne - Plant Hwyaden HQ

     The brave do in fact know to follow through.

     The wave of rats comes forward. Shin moves to meet it, a slow, purposeful walk. The stone belt buckle around his waist lights up. "Alright. I'm going in."

     His right hand goes to eleven o'clock. His left hand goes in against his side. The right hand sweeps down in an arc from eleven to six. Then, suddenly, he jerks back his elbow. "Transform."

     His right hand snaps across the belt buckle.

                        0 01 0
                      1 /----\ 0
                     0 /      \ 0
   ARMOR BEETLE    ====|  /\  |====  CODE: ALGOL
DEFENSE OF DESTINY ====|  \/  |====    COMPILE
                     0 \      / 1
                      1 \----/ 1
                        0 10 0

     Old-school lights flicker across his body in the shape of the Perseus Constellation. At point Algol should be is the belt. It blazes an ominous, evil red.

     The lights die, and it's no longer Shin anymore.

     "Masked Ranger, Algol."

     "The Demon Star will light your way back to Hell."

     It's black, and armored, with glowing red beetle eyes and a streaming red scarf. It's bladed arms and blades heels, a yellow mandible crest.

     One hand snaps against the belt.


     Red light streams from the belt down his leg. As Kyo's shield bursts to life and U.L.P.'s vines explode out of the ground, 'Algol' just goes running directly in, force-proccing the rats with the shield. He dives through V's explosion without a care in the world, hitting the ground in a handspring.

     His foot bursts into flames.

     He handsprings off the ground to kick his way right through the swarm of rats, backed by V's explosive force.
Att Syne
Alne - Plant Hwyaden HQ

Att wing-waggles in solidarity. Man, he wishes he could for-real fly. "I have been accused of being a person on the internet before," he confirms.

Sneak, sneak, sneak. Att peers forward, trying to get a look at the moving floor that's supposedly ahead of them. "I'm a little surprised you don't have Anchor Howl," he asides to Kyo. "I figured the name at least kinda fit your whole aesthetic, you know?" Without thinking, he conjures a little floating lamp containing a tiny fire elemental --

"Oh that is way too many rats."

Att draws a line through the swarm with the end of his staff, violet lines rippling out of the end. Glowing roots and vines spring out of every nearby surface, creating a huge mass of entangling terrain to slow down and pin the rat mass long enough to start a real fire. He's positively delighted that arson is in fact the best solution to their problem right now. Not, like, pyromaniac-tier delighted; just, you know, it's nice to burn something to the ground now and again. Catharsis!
Alne - Plant Hwyaden HQ

"No room." Proteus answers. "Also, flooding risk. Almost any time you see a basement, it's usually in a horror movie. The only places that really can afford to have them are manor houses."

"Did that spider just eat all of the paper?" Proteus asks the Captain Obvious question for humor value, judging by her smile at watching the attempt at pet-based divination. "Looks like it's got a few kinks to work out. It has potential though! It seems very 'you'."

The next room, of course, is filled with rats. The smile fades on Proteus' face as she looks at the horde of rats. "This is a level of rat infestation that is... completely unacceptable." She pronounces with a dire overtone.

ULP leads with Plan A, the group not even needing to confer before coming to the proper solution. Kyo breaks out the ocarina. Proteus does not diss an ocarina, one of the most famous and powerful instruments in gaming history. The flame buffs come out, and Proteus leaps forward, streaming flame dramatically as she lunges over the enemy swarm... + < S

And that fire buff becomes a burning streak as Proteus blasts forward in a dashing flame sweep through the rats and vines, working together with Shin to blast through and scatter them.
Whiskey Sour
Alne - Plant Hwyaden HQ

In Whiskey Sour's first party, with a gathering of heroic ninjas, legendary beta beaters, and also weirdos, it was put forward that the answer was clearly arson.

At that point in time, the democratically chosen answer to deal with the pirates in question was stealth, failing forward, and violence. In that order!

Plant Hwyaden's marching order is much clearer in the flow of activities: When confronted with mass of <Rat>, everyone either summons Highly Flammable AOE... Or fire. Kyo is even among THE BRAVE that wades in!

One of the truths of the world, beyond data constructions and enemies that inexplicably fight to the death, is that the post-Sound world is a little more real. Less stat blocks, and more *feeling*.

The line blurring between digital pile of damage stats and hit animations, and real thinking rats.

This is evidenced by how *purely effective* fire is. The heat, the rising light, the brightness, the primal fear. The morale of the rat swarm breaks, and all the danger spills out of the challenge: they act like rats confronted by a massive amount of big hot bright things and shy away, are corralled away, and burn. Mostly, they burn.

Whis lifts up Spider-Bro and whispers enchantments. "Magical Fang. Body of Flame. Ferocity. Beast Blood."

Spider-Bro powers up to a buff-stacked flaming death-spider, and chitteringly wades in - chasing after single rats and gobbling them up, immune to the flames and carrying on quite happily. For a spider.

The path... is clear! And de-ratted. Unfortunately, it still had <Rat> as a terrain type, so it'll be a little... sssstinky to cross.
Kyo Kirin
Alne - Plant Hwyaden HQ

    "It /would/ be cool," Kyo agrees with Att. If only she had the points for it, without giving up all the other things she does.

    The party continues on. On and on into another chamber, this one rather devoid of swarming rats, as all the Ratness of the room has gathered into one, single, enormous rat, which has gone to the trouble of wearing armor. It might even have crafted its armor itself, through makeshift means, with the detritus of its trial-and-error armorforging style littered around the room. The terrain is now 'junkyard.'

    "This guy. Again!" Or possibly, another one. Kyo was right on the mark, coincidentally or not. "Careful! There's no pause in his attacks! You're only getting an opening on the flank." Obviously, the last two times she saw a massive Armored Rat (Midboss), it died, but it's likely enough that whether it's respawned or just 'another mob of the same name' makes no difference.

    And that's about as much time for warnings as anyone gets, before the thing starts its forward charge. It takes a little time to get that much mass in motion, but it's a hell of a lot of momentum, and it isn't doing anyone the courtesy of aiming for the tankiest-looking person first. Smaller rats might be dangerous mostly for their numbers and their bite, but this one has claws big enough to be a real danger, and enough teeth that 'it ate them all' might be why it's the only one left.
Alne - Plant Hwyaden HQ

U.L.P. heard about the armored rat, but this was faster and more fierce than he expected.  The thing charges at him, and before he could get out of the way he is caught, and thrown across the wall.  With a thud he slides down, getting the wind knocked out of him.  

Assuming someone picked up his slack, he attempts to get back to his feet, firing a few quick arrows to try and distract it, but he can't quite get a good, clean shot on it.  Between his burning lungs, and his bruised ribs, this was going to be an uphill battle for the bard.

"How long you've been playing," and despite everything, he finds the chance to talk about music.  The question aimed at Kyo.
Shin Heno
Alne - Plant Hwyaden HQ

     Armor Rat, meet Armor Beetle.

     'Algol' dives straight into the rat almost head-first. He charges directly at it as it starts its attack sequence. At first one might imagine that he just ignored Kyo's warning.

     But no.

     The rat's claw swings in. 'Algol's foot swings around to catch it. Another strike, and a repeat with a bug-armored fist. The bite comes in and it meets with a beetle-shell knee. The attacks of the Armor Rat are met blow for blow, strike for strike, armor and Armor Beetle shell ringing out like bells in the deep dark. 'Algol' is not pressing the attack for himself but rather forcing the rat into a position where it cannot counterattack anyone else without giving 'Algol' a strike - and simultaneously locking 'Algol' into the combat so that the moment the rat gives, 'Algol' gets to punish it brutally.

     It's kind of a stupid plan, but if it's stupid and it works...
Alne - Plant Hwyaden HQ

Rats burn like everything else. There's something viscerally satisfying about it. Really, drowning them might have been just as nice in its own way, but you just don't use water and fire at the same time.

That's how you get saunas. And you don't put rats in saunas. That's just wrong.

The group progresses to the next section of the cellar, and once again they reach the deadly Armored Rat. "Somehow I feel this is a whole 'would you rather fight a thousand duck-sized horses or one horse-sized duck' reference." Proteus asides to the others. "Go forward. I'll cover you all." Again, Proteus begins gesturing: < K O

Again, flame erupts, but this time in searing fields to interpose themselves between the armored rat's attacks and the party members. Proteus' DPS this time comes from retaliation damage. Quickly, Proteus moves to help ULP up and get him over with her for the moment, using Flame Shields in order to keep the Armored Rat off balance. "Come on, we can do this."
Count V
Alne - Plant Hwyaden HQ

The dim light of Count V's staff continues to help light the way into the chambers. These feel a lot more... 'constructed long ago', to Count V, than the other quest did. Those were more crude, a little more immediate. Like the rats themselves had made them, by the direction of the Ratspeaker. But in this specific case, it felt like they'd simply stumbled upon something that had been there all along. Could there be any truth to that? And if so, what did it mean?

A distant thought struck V, of the Dire Tarantula, and its 'level 10 dungeon' closer. Perhaps something similar, but currently occluded?

It's not until they come across the colossal, armored rat that Count V stops being lost in his own thoughts. Even when he does, his answer is resoundingly simple and straightforward:

"FllllllAME Wall!" He exclaims, erecting a circular wall of fire through which the armored rat has no choice but to pass -- and struggle with, as it is as much shield as well -- before it can reach them.

The way he says it makes it sound like some sort of magical cure-all.

"You know," Count V asides to Proteus, "I didn't used to think all that much of these more 'gross' dungeons, but I am growing to dislike them now that I need to experience the ambient effect of them. I /like/ rats, too. What happens when we end up wandering through a place made of meat? Will the meat rot realistically, or will it just stay... 'meat'?"

"I wonder if a meat zone would be edible, or just a skin..." He adds, thoughtfully.

Att Syne
Alne - Plant Hwyaden HQ

Once a rat is in motion, it stays in motion, unless acted on by an outside Grimgi. Er... force.

Att doesn't go in on the layered Flame Walls this time. Instead, he waits for it to pass through one end, then moves to intercept it at the other. His sword comes out, and once it's barreled through again, he leaps at it, blade flashing in the reflected firelight to dive into gaps in its armor and scour the plating protecting its eyes. He maneuvers forward then back again, making space and zig-zagging abruptly to force it to turn, giving time for more walls to come up and more opportunities for him to hit it while it's vulnerable.

Summoner sure is great statistically, but damn does Att like getting into melee in this game engine.

"Stone to flesh spells," Att calls to V. "Boulders. Giant meatballs. Think about it!"
Whiskey Sour
Alne - Plant Hwyaden HQ

Scratching her arm against the side of her staff as she continues on, Spider-Bro having reaped and feasted on scorched rat, Whis doesn't have a witty comment or observationally humorous line to drop. She just sort of trudges, bare feet squishing through the <Rat>-filthed ground.

"A meat zone... Can't wait..." She mumbles, drool audible on her tongue. "Like a Korean place..."

THEN: Armored Rat.

"Throw the same garbage at us over and over, why don't you?" Whis mutters exhaustedly, nodding to Proteus at his proclamation that he'd open the path.

"Spider!" Whis orders, and the large and buffed up spider-companion surges forward, defensively covering as Whis just straight up books it across the room towards the far side. She fought Armored Rat before. She did not *like* it. This time, the SPIDER shall be her shield!
Kyo Kirin
Alne - Plant Hwyaden HQ

    The rat goes for U.L.P. It could be worse, since ragdolling him away gives time for 'Algol' to charge in and interrupt the pattern by meeting it blow for blow, stopping the advance. He's looking good, but though its armor is patchwork garbage-tier, it has all the strength and speed you'd expect out of a monster tuned to chew up a full party of unprepared newbies. It takes teamwork, and fire, quite a bit of fire, both to start hurting it and to provide the kind of breathing room that saves him from being thrown out of position under its otherwise relentless assault.

    Kyo makes good on her own advice, and though she was prepared to throw in for the tanking this round, the strategic use of flame walls switches up her plan immediately. She comes in from the opposite side together with Att, jumping in lightly and stabbing in hard, trying to find a spot that's not only uncovered by the armor but can reach something reasonably vital. That's how you get crits, and why wouldn't you want crits? Her sword looks designed for just this sort of work. Jump, stab, back out again. Slap its nose if it turns on you too fast, then get around the flames. Spiders may not be expected to be as smart about the tactical advantages of fire, but at least Whiskey had remembered to put the buffs on it first. The order of battle can be maintained.

    And the beast goes down, burned and sizzling under heated trash-plates, roasting even more than its kin, stabbed and beaten in dozens of places. The final state of the failed berserker. And there isn't even any loot.
Alne - Plant Hwyaden HQ

U.L.P. rubs the back of his head, well at least things didn't go south for everyone else.  Mostly his pride was hurt, but that's something he'll get over.  With the beast dead, he whistles a bit and then moves with the group towards the next challenge.  "Nice reaction," he says towards Kyo.  "So how long you've been playing?"

That being a small maze before coming to the source of the rats.  There is a pause as the RATSPEAKER can be heard cackling, as he turns towards the party.  There is a moment of pause before U.L.P. points towards the RATSPEAKER, and the RATSPEAKER towards U.L.P.

Once the meme has passed, the RATSPEAKER booms out again, "Not you guys again...well THIS time my goal to bring tasty meat to the world will not be stopped!  Watch as I summon TWO rats," he did this same thing last time.
Kyo Kirin
Alne - Plant Hwyaden HQ

    "Counting the offline version?" Kyo answers U.L.P., "Since release." That would be back in '06, before Pluto's Kiss.

    "And it's this guy aga--wait, have you met?" Kyo looks from one side to the other.



    "Lightningstep!" And she is suddenly no longer where she was. The upper-tier gap-closer, a must-have tactic when dealing with summoners where your own weapon is 'sword' (and the power of music), carries her right over to bequeath the Were Rat Enchanter a boot to the head.
Shin Heno
Alne - Plant Hwyaden HQ

     Well this is familiar.

     'Algol's foot leaves the ground as Kyo's does. He's much slower than Kyo, but he's also not going for the RATSPEAKER himself. Instead, 'Algol' takes a running jump. He flips forward, his feet pressing against the roof of the cavern.

     Fingers click the belt. It glows an ominous green.


     'Algol' pushes off the ceiling and hits the ground with both feet. Thorns erupt out of the earth. They grab at the rats. They claw at the RATSPEAKER. They exist for one reason and one reason only - to hold everything down so everybody else can beat the tar out of these things.
Count V
Alne - Plant Hwyaden HQ

"Ah. It's this guy."

Count V's reaction is utterly flat. He regards the Ratspeaker with something approximating wonder. It is certainly a feat to have slipped out from beneath them and come right back to doing this elsewhere in the city. Thinking about it, he wonders whether or not this same fellow has been the source of /all/ rat infestations. How many times has he gotten beaten up in the last week?

... Day?

"Nightmare Sphere." V says, /almost/ boredly. The tremendously powerful debuff wraps itself around the Ratspeaker, a dark purple bubble of fatiguing, armor-corroding badness that nobody wants to deal with.

He replies to Kyo, "Good taste. The original Elder Tale is how I got into this, too. It was mostly nostalgia, to tell you the truth."

    "Do you suppose..."
        "He uses those portals for himself?"

Whiskey Sour
Alne - Plant Hwyaden HQ

The final room. Will it be different? Will it be the same? Will there be TASTY RAT MEAT at the end of things?

It's the RATSPEAKER again.

"How are you here again? We dealt with you all the way across town!" Whiskey complains.

<Watch as I summon TWO rats!>


The exhaustion bubbles up. She's itchy and walked through garbage and is so very, very tired but juiced up on 'don't sleep' and energy drinks. A hell of her own mixing. "Call a healer." She intones, raising her staff as crackling arcane energy gathers in the crook at the top, coalescing into a single point of light immediately reminiscent of every beam attack ever from countless shounen manga.

"But not for me." Whis growls, levelling her staff at the Ratspeaker and his two summoned adds, aiming with her thumb.

Spider-Bro makes a chitter that sounds conspicuously like the cocking of a firearm.

The pillar of light that issues forth is a bright coruscating blue, sweeping over RAT and SPEAKER alike.
Att Syne
Alne - Plant Hwyaden HQ

"Da-da-da daah daah duh da duh daaaah," goes Att, over the corpse of the berserker. "No loot?" Sigh...


"'This guy,' huh?" Att feels vaguely offended that the rat is doing more summoning than he is. "Well, three can play at that game!" There is a series of ~magical sparkles~, and a DRAMATIC, SWEEPING GESTURE, and Att conjures a WALKING STORM to do his bidding!!

A moment later, he's on the far side of the rat, levelling a straight-up lightning bolt instead. That was the flash, you see.

"If I had portals --" KRAKA-THOOM "-- I'd use them for all kinds of things."
Alne - Plant Hwyaden HQ

"This is exceptionally more unpleasant than it needs to be." Proteus sighs. "What happened to enemies simply vanishing when defeated?" She asks to no one in particular, and then looking over to Count V and the subject he brings up. "What happens to anything in this world? Things got dusty but barely anything else seemed to happen. It's not like you had to constantly buff and oil your gear out to keep it from rusting. Only things with actual timers on them for expiration decayed. I think a 'flesh area' would end up just being flesh forever unless it was specifically made to rot."

The Armored Rat gets alpha struck. "Looks like we had enough DPS to not have to worry much about the mechanics." Proteus mentions, glancing over to Att.

They move on, and face the RATSPEAKER. Or something. "Aren't you supposed to be making rat meat for us?" She asks the guy. "This is the guy, right?" She asks ULP... And then just shrugs. "Whatever." She throws her hand forward, and gestures: N + , # "MIND CRUSH." She announces, despite not having to with her input mode.

This promptly creates a sizzling bolt of brain-frying energy to surge out and wrack the RATSPEAKER. He's going to have a Bad Day. Again.
Alne - Plant Hwyaden HQ

"I meant the instrument, actually!" U.L.P. says, "Though on that we're about equal on.  I started shortly after, after some time in Fragment," he says, trying to release another arrow spell at the portals, but this time it appears the RATSPEAKER was ready, as a gust of wind sends his arrow off course and to bounce harmlessly into the darkness.  

Before exploding with a flash of cold.  

However, between Kyo's flash of movement, and providing the Rat a boot to the head (and another for the wimp) and Algol's thorny explosion the RATSPEAKER is already on the backfoot.  This is supported by the OBVIOUSLY EVIL COLORED SPELL that Count V releases, causing bad status effects to the speaker! This is doubled up by the SHOCK TO HIS HEAD because of Proteus's spell, wu la mind shock.

Then comes the massive wave of light from both spiderbro and Whis.  There is a low-quality version of the RATSPEAKER as he is overtaken with the light, and the rats themselves just vanish from damage.  However, the RATSPEAKER is still on his feet.  Eyes blazing as he takes a step forward.  "HAHAHA!  YOU ALL COULD NOT TAKE ME DOWN, NOW IT IS MY TURN!  I ACTIVATE MY..." a pause, looking at Att and his lightning cloud.  "Oh shit, there's more of you this time."

Now, on his face, as he's being electrocuted he curses as he's thrown down.  "Not again...!"
Whiskey Sour
Alne - Plant Hwyaden HQ

There isn't a COMPLETE lack of loot - there's some TASTY RAT MEAT!

Whiskey Sour, tiredly, prepares for her post-battle catchphrase. "Nice fighting! Commends fo--"

Spider-Bro is halfway through devouring the pile of Tasty Rat Meat that would otherwise be awarded to the group. Whis winds up a bare foot and kicks her Spider-Friend in the large arachno-behind. "No commends for you! Anti-heart! The opposite of heart hands for you!"

Spider-Bro, still powered up and crackling with semi-harmless flame effect particles, hisses and retreats down into a large rat-hole and does not return.

"Okay." Whis draws in a steadying breath, and forces a smile. "Commends for everyone!" She forms a heart over her chest with bridged fingers and thumbs, holding her staff in the crook of her arm, before ignoring the rat meat and trudging towards the exit spider-less.
Shin Heno
Alne - Plant Hwyaden HQ

     'Algol' snaps both hands across the belt. It clicks.


     The Armor Beetle form flakes away, as if it was a pile of leaves in a strong wind, leaving Shin standing there stretching his arms.

     "Nice job!"
Count V
Alne - Plant Hwyaden HQ

Observing Whiskey Sour use her not-yet-but-inevitably-to-be-so-catchphrase, Count V raises his free hand to his chin, rubbing at it thoughtfully. He declares, "The 'V' stands for 'Verve'."

With a heavy sigh, he hooks his arm underneath one of the Ratspeaker's and says, "One of you get the other side of him, please."

Kyo Kirin
Alne - Plant Hwyaden HQ

    Kyo first admires (though does not return) Whiskey's pose, clapping once, and doing a FAITO fist-pump, before she moves in to help V, hefting up the other side of the RATSPEAKER.

    "I'm just glad you don't have to, you know, 'manually' clean blood and burning smells out of fur in this game. Can you imagine?"
Count V
Alne - Plant Hwyaden HQ

The Diviner hoists the Were Rat Enchanter up with Kyo's help, and with a light grunt, begins marching him out.

"Yes." Count V says, without explaining further.