Duty Session 88: 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

Members of Plant Hwyaden have taken an unusual interest in the presence of RAT problems, in Alne and elsewhere. Today, of course, is no exception to this special interest.

Count V stands outside a merchant's shop, his eyes half-lidded, waiting for At Least One Party Member to respond to his request for either a partner or an actual party. He doesn't really care which. It's not that hard to get away from (RAT), even when you go roving around in their underground dens. Who knows, maybe it'll offer some insight into the particulars of Alne's underground to go rooting around down there.

"Hellooooo... you know the drill." He asides, as soon as Whiskey Sour turns up.

"Do you suppose People of the Land ever get tired of doing the same thing? Rat meat can't be /that/ good to them, can it?" He wonders.

As soon as they enter the cellar, V begins rooting around in the boxes. He's taking out... bottles of chemicals? Yes, he's mixing something together. What the hell?

"I keep wondering about making 'rat repellant'. Problem is, a lot of the things poisonous to rats are poisonous to /us/, too. There's a reason 'lab rats' are a thing." He muses aloud, as he mixes.

Whiskey Sour
Alne - Plant Hwyaden HQ

Joining the VIVACIOUS COUNT V for a journey, once more, into Another Shockingly Rat-Infested Store Basement.

At least this time Whis has a small journal out, carefully pressing a charcoal nub into the page. The whole page is taken up by scrawls and scribbles vaguely trackable to an old-style hand drawn grid map of a dungeon, though why and where is a bit fuzzy on the page.

"Ah, V." The druid's smile is one of unveiled weariness, rather than her normal performative chipper. "You can remove the 'of the land' and it's still a valid question. Monotony is part of life. As are, apparently, rats."

Whis stands over V as he rummages around in the bins, blinking. "No, no, the other one. To your right. One up. No, your other up." She councils, as he mixes and splashes.

Whis seems alert for something that isn't... coming.

"Spider... -san?"
Count V
Alne - Plant Hwyaden HQ

"'People of the Land' and 'People' are only questionably the same at the moment. The limits of our old NPC's consciousness hasn't been tested. It's actually why I'm a little concerned with how we treat them--" Count V adjusts in accordance with Whis's recommendations, ultimately mixing a Rat Repellant solution that he spreads around the basement. Then he casually uses an air spell to locate the secret passage that is always down in these places.

He doesn't necessarily know where it /is/, but it is always there.

"It /is/ pretty strange that there isn't a spider down here." He admits as they advance into another corridor, frowning slightly. It isn't familiar like the others-- no magical runes, no mysterious construction exactly. It looks like it belongs to the modern city, which unfortunately means it isn't magical the way the others are.

"Well... I see a bunch of pressure plates, but some of them look like dummies. Let's see if I got it right, shall we?" He asks, and then presses forward, playing a bizarre game of hopscotch in which he is simply desperately trying not to trigger any number of nasty traps.

Once he reaches the other side, he turns and gestures at Whis, "I /think/ that's safe to repeat..."

"Anyway, as I was saying. I'm concerned with how we treat them because we're an out-group at the moment. If their psychology is actually close to ours, that could become a problem in short order." He draws a thumb across his throat by way of illustration.

Whiskey Sour
Alne - Plant Hwyaden HQ

"You worked at a... Cabaret, right?" Whis asks, her tone a plain, fact-stating sort. The kind used by interviewers and managers of all walks to get someone to talk about past experiences, the sort of tone that's just-assured-enough that someone may even be compulsed to answer simply to correct the initial presumption.

"So you must have met people who you weren't sure were real. I met them all the time. The average person is about as nuanced as the landers."

Whis brings up a finger to tap at her temple as she hopscotches along the path Count V had laid out. "Complex in the brain, code or curls, but the experience is simple simple simple! Predictable. Rote. Right?"

Whis' robe-trail trips up her feet a bit, and as a big toe brushes the wrong plate, her eyes pop and she dives for safety, a bundle of crap and spiked bits of metal dropping from a cieling hatch onto where she just had been.

Breathing heavily for a moment, Whis sits on the ground and looks back at the pile of barely-avoided damage.

"Some of us are more out than in. Some people shouldn't be allowed out in public because it ruins it for the rest of us."
Count V
Alne - Plant Hwyaden HQ

On the far side of the trapped corridor, Count V waves his staff towards Whiskey, "Fairy Attendant Healing!" This is distinct from regular Fairy Healing in that it is a heal-over-time with a little fairy circling the target, ticking their HP slowly up as it rotates.

Once they press on into the Almost Inevitable Rat Warren (with the alternative being the Almost Inevitable Rat Race War), V gestures with his staff again and announces dully, "Flame Wall."

It's not even a real Flame Wall, it's an improvised one. Flames race up and down in the room in a nonsensical, lazy, quite un-optimal pattern that is still enough to roast a path through the rats to follow along into the next areas. It's half-hearted, though. There's plenty of Rat left off to the sides, being nuisances.

Count V makes a deliberately exaggerated thoughtful noise, an extended 'hmmm'. He doesn't answer the first question, but his reply is probably at least mildly telling, "I never met anyone I wasn't sure was real. People are complicated, even though their problems don't seem that much to the rest of us. A part of being involved with them is learning how to empathize with and engage those things when doing so doesn't come natural to us."

"People hollow out when nobody troubles to do that for them, and a lot of people exist in that sort of 'hollow' state. But they're not really empty, exactly. It's more like... they've become a chasm they echo themselves into. Nothing outside is validating them." He helps Whis get to her feet -- unless she declines -- before he continues speaking.

"That doesn't mean that everyone's wants are equal, of course. Some people are perfectly happy doing 'nothing', while others are only happy accumulating power. Is the former less weighty than the latter, in the end? The world thinks so, I suppose..."

"Anyway, who do you think shouldn't be allowed out in public?"

Count V
Alne - Plant Hwyaden HQ

A ways beyond the trapped corridor, they come across a metal-strewn room. It's not the first time they've encountered something similar, though it isn't the most common encounter in here for them. The colossal, armored rat raises its head and charges aggressively, threatened by the invasion of its territory.

Whiskey Sour
Alne - Plant Hwyaden HQ

"Maybe all Landers are just like that, but to start." Whis decides, flashing a thankful smile at V as he engages in some mild HoT action. Helped up, she continues down the path, running her thumb along her neck from shoulder to the underside of her chin.

"Have you seen how their expressions change when you ask them normal things? Well, not me."

"They don't really talk to me."

The Obligate Armored Rat meanaces, and Whis rolls her eyes. "That cat-ninja of justice, for one. I get itchy just thinking about her."

Distracted by talk of Cat-based Roleplay, Whis just hard beefs it at actaully reacting to the rat's advances, getting run through as V's heal-over-time fairy frets and flutters around her red-outlined damage as she rolls past the rat. "Ghhk... See? Distracting!"
Count V
Alne - Plant Hwyaden HQ

"Flame Wall! FLAME WALL!" Count V calls, as the colossal armored rat charges them down. He is much more spirited and invested in making the spell happen For Real this time, resulting in a deadly ring of fire surrounding himself and Whiskey Sour. Then he just... stands there. In the middle of it. And encourages Whiskey to do the same, sweeping his staff out to make sure she doesn't re-position if necessary. Because it requires the rat to engage them in a vicious damage-over-time effect.

"The Landers don't like me by-default." He wiggles his wings illustratively, "I suspect the experience would be different for a less reviled race. At any rate, I haven't really sat down and tried to engage them at length yet. I should, but the things going on have been tiring enough as-is. I also..."

V frowns, "I also don't want to get too attached. If they are all people, and this all ends, it creates some uncomfortable problems. They're corporate property, unless something truly supernatural is afoot."

"The cat-ninja is... hmm. I want to say she's roleplaying, but she seems awfully sincere. If she's a good actor..." He doesn't complete the thought, though.

Count V
Alne - Plant Hwyaden HQ

They exit out onto a rough, circular room. Garbage surrounds them, forming piles lining the walls. Rats scurry here and there among stacks of discarded goods. For once, it isn't the Ratspeaker.

The Rat King is a yellow-scaled kobold, sitting atop a throne of trash. He is clad in dented old armor, left behind by some Adventurer or another. Rats weave in and out of the piles around him, warrens faintly visible in the gaps within them. This is, after all, their home now.

"They are mine," The Rat King says, "You throw away. I find. You go! Ours now!"

A strange hiss leaves the Rat King, and the rats stop scurrying about. Gleaming eyes stare out towards Whiskey Sour and Count V, each of them to a one apparently trained to do the Rat King's bidding.

The rats collapse towards them, re-creating the TERRAIN TYPE: RAT from the warrens as they rush the pair.

Count V
Alne - Plant Hwyaden HQ

"F...lame Wall?" Count V says, hesitantly. It still produces a perfectly respectable wall of fire, ringing them in a 'you don't get to engage unless you roll around in damage' field. It's actually probably more intense than the last one, because he really doesn't want to be swarmed with TERRAIN TYPE: RAT again.

"Ratspeaker is creepier," he says, "at least I can understand an oppressed beast-person deciding to make a... business?"

V lifts his eyebrows, glancing around the piles of garbage and shuffling at some of them with his staff, "Out of collecting our garbage. IF he figured out a more organized way to do it, then he'd have a pretty good junk shop. Hmm... was there a kobold junk shop in Elder Tale...?"

He lapses into thoughtful silence.

Whiskey Sour
Alne - Plant Hwyaden HQ

Proper applications of Flame Wall: 1

Whis stands alongside V as the pair wait out the rest of the Armored Rat fight in rather tight quarters while the monster fries on the backlash damage. Truly, the support meta is very strong.

Past that, just before the chamber with the Kobold Rat-Collector, Whis offers a sympathetic pat on the shoulder. "Keep your head up, V. People being programmed to dislike you is just a part of life in general."

Whis obviously has the wrong idea about at least one thing, from her tone.

"I'm fine with getting attached. I'm just not fine with becoming a part of it. Like school - when it's done, do you see everyone from your classes forever? Some of them, sure. Most of them you can't even remember their faces. If we suddenly woke up, it'd be normal to want to go back to sleep for a little."

"Our real lives are waiting, though. And I know people are coming to save me."

Talk of the cat ninja causes more rolls of the eyes. "Pla-ce-bo. Placebo! They've convinced themselves, and so act like they think they're expected to. Like giving people fake alcohol, it totally works."

The RAT-COLLECTOR gets an odd reaction from Whis: Hopping and clapping. "Yay! Nice! New ending! But for this terrain..."

Whis draws her staff from inventory, sweeping it against the ground. "Arms of the earth, shield me - Rock Cradle! Flames, dance to my song - Flame Wall!" She incants, rapidly, aborting the Rock Cradle cast only after a foot-or-so of rock terrain had been made before layering the Flame Wall along the outward facing surface, turning the Wall into a stationary flame-throwing ground cone to counter Terrain Type: Rat.

"Let's catch him and see if he'll become our shady kobold dealer!"
Count V
Alne - Plant Hwyaden HQ

"S... ure. I don't know how to deal with the monster-people, but I'm sure we can work something out." Count V answers, scratching his head and staring down towards the hole the Rat King went through. He sighs, and says, "Well, if that's what we're going to do, we'd best make some kind of breadcrumb trail to be able to lead the others down here. I'm not much of a tracker, but we have a couple..."