Zumfit: Meet the Elders
A group of Adventurers managed to get a meeting set up with the Elders of Zumfit in order to learn more about the culture of Landers that seems to have been born within the Tower and have been living there for generations - and have been prospering on the third floor, unaware of the other floors.
Three massive trees are built with housing all throughout it. Hollowed just enough to permit the trees to continue reaching towards the heavens of the enormous Floor of Aincrad. A few of the crew had asked to meet with the Elders, and they are being led in by a pair of absolutely enormous Were Fang polar bears wearing heavy armor and wielding gauntlets along their fists - which still leave their claws exposed.
Stepping into the large chambers at the bottom of the tree closest to the Gate of Zumfit, they can smell the heavy scent of incense - to the point that there's a subtle purple mist in the air - the curtain they move past clearly intended to keep this scent here.
There are three elders. To the left, a Pooka of light colored skin. To the right, a Were Fang tiger. And at its center, a human woman with purple hair, smoking a Kiseru. As the people enter, she blows a thick pink cloud towards the entrances.
"Welcome, travelers." She remarks.
The appointed time to meet with the elders has come and Amalthea wouldn't be anywhere else for this right now. Though the escort is one thing and unsurprising considering these supposed elders are probably the most important people in Zumfit, the old Paladin is here on a mission of learning and peace, so she does her best to not do anything that might agitate the werefang bears.
Entering the chamber with the cloying incense, the smell makes the old Adventurer clear her throat as she faces the trio waiting.
This is awkward. These are NPCs. But Amalthea decides to err on the side of politeness and dips into a slight bow.
"Hello." She begins plainly at first.
"My name is Amelia Theodore. My companions and I have need of your knowledge and requested this meeting so that we might learn of the beast that 'cut off your ancestors'. We humbly ask that you share with us what you know."
She may as well get right to business.
And that's where she is right now, with a bag of fruits, something similar to apples it seems, and of locally made bread. She's munching on a loaf when the greetings starts. Oops. Trying to finish her mouthful, she almost chokes on it before getting it under control, looking sheepish "Ah, hellow, sorry about that." She rubs the back of her head.
She looks around though. Speaking of Rylen, where is he? She scratches her chin pensively, but doesn't voice it out, since there's other present. She looks over to the elders again, and curtsies, holding the bag at best she can, while letting the others do introductions.
"Sorry about that, M'lady. I had to attend to helping another Adventurer." He straightens, trying to look dignified as much as possible amongst the smoke-filled room. As a Mentor for Crescent Moon, he often got waylaid with duties aiding others.
Hearing Amalthea's introduction, he bows, silver hair flowing forward briefly, "My name is Rylen Corvus. A mentor for the guild Crescent Moon." The Scale Emblem tank has the right of it, though. She manages to explain their purpose, so he doesn't add anything to that other than nodding.
Likewise the Nightmare Were Fang swooped an arm before herself and bowed graciously. "Kauchemar Tenebrae, Muse of Plant Hwyaden." She leaves off the exaggerated titles, this time. They may be NPCs, but she's already seen the evidence that they were not simply running programs, and if nothing else keeping up the status of being polite visitors seeking information would work more in their favor. "As she says, we wish to learn more of this 'cut off' and your settling within this grand forest to thrive."
The town of Zumfit is... interesting. Sam keeps finding himself wondering how they survived so long and having to remind himself that it didn't EXIST until a few months ago. But even so... not only is it the first inhabited town inside the tower, it has a Chaos Gate.
As the group arrives at the city, Mizuki looks around in surprise. She was picturing a village or small town, not this... Anthropological questions aside, how many quests and bits of lore might be found here?
As they approach the Elders' meeting room, she wrinkles her nose at the incense, but... apparently even were fangs can get used to it. She looks at the three, and their guards...
...and then gives Amelia--err, Amalthea a shocked look. Was that her /real name/? Why give that here? Should she introduce herself as well? She stands tall, trying to look like a serious hero... wait, is that too serious? Mizuki's not serious and formal. Smile. Cheerful! She raises a hand, "Mizuki, of the Odysseia Knights! Searching across the world for knowledge, I wonder what I can find here in your city?"
Notably, the Landers are not giving their names in return.
"It is said that there is a great evil tree, which bears dangerous fruit, to the North West of here. We no longer travel there." She explains, as she looks at her scroll for a moment, before turning it about. The scroll itself looks incredibly old, and the colors are rather faded. It looks like a charcoal-like etching, displaying what looks like a massive tree with crooked branches. Dropping fruit that seem to 'explode'.
The Elder then looks to Kauchemar, then to her own human companion. Who lazily puffs from her smoking device; "We do not have much information. When our ancestors came here, there was not much in the way of written medium. We only have oral tradition to go by. All we remember, is that there was a Great War, many centuries ago. And our Ancestors were left behind during that War."
They then glance to Mizuki for a moment, looking a bit confused, and then turn to the rest. It doesn't look like the Elders are here to be tourguides.
They're not giving their names.
That's. It's. Baffling. Landers always give their names. Even Kizmel did after a little prodding, but the fact that she hadn't given it at first was just as flummoxing.
These are no ordinary Landers, not giving their names even when she had gone the extra mile to give her real name, and Amalthea runs a quick inspection on the three to see if her suspicions are of any worth.
But then her eyes fall on the scroll. Mentions of an evil tree. Dangerous fruit. The old Paladin rubs at her jaw thoughtfully.
"A Great War..." She murmurs thoughtfully.
Sadly, Amalthea's knowledge of the game's lore doesn't go so deep as to draw any parallels. Briefly she looks to the others in the group to see if anyone might know anything of the like. But a thought does occur to her.
"A youth by the name of Kizmel, mentioned... An old rhyme regarding the beast, that had been passed down by your people." She ventures after a beat. "I would very much like to hear it if you could, please."
Questions that, sadly, are probably not going to get answers from NPCs, no matter how developed they've become. It's drifting into that 'meta' territory none of them seem to register.
"But of course. Oral traditions are the oldest means of sharing history and wisdom." The bard of the group would definately understand such things. "Such as a rhyme concerning the beast, one of your youths mentioned.. Ah, my dear we are on the same wavelength." She nods in approval when Amalthea asks the same thing.
She is squinting at the image though, as crude as it may be from the ancient medium used. A giant tree with exploding fruit... some kind of nature spirit monster, in a form to match the forest surroundings... They did get attacked by parasitic tree-snakes, after all. One suspects the floor has a thematic of some kind to match it's environment...
She's not too surprised about how these inhabitants act as if they were always here. In stories, that's how it goes, you can replace generations of stories by a few words on a page, that's more or less what they are seeing here, she wagers. 'Happily ever after' and what not.
She puts her bag of food in her 'storage' for now, crossing her arms as she listens to the conversation at hand. A rhyme hm? If it was a song she could learn it.
They were cut off long ago. But does that mean the reason that they do not give names is because... They have no names to give? It's a possibility that comes to mind; or perhaps it's just a matter of cultural drift. Even among the Landers, there might be some things that players take for granted that have in fact manifested in the New World as a matter of shared culture. If these have been apart for so long, then...
Well. They can investigate later.
"You wouldn't happen to know anything about the sort of poison that this tree produces, would you?" Prophylaxis asks with an arched brow. "It may be useful to come up with a countertoxin before we go investigating."
Having nearly forgotten the rhyme that was mentioned the last time, Rylen's brows lift, obviously interested. "If any of your stories might lend some aid in finding out how the beast fights, that would help us, as well." Though the Pooka has not been involved much in the tower climb, he has others under his care who risk their lives with each boss battle. "The more we can discover from your stories, the better the chances our people can be properly prepared."
He does look over the old charcoal images, taking note of the fact that the creature seems to be a tree amongst a forest of towering trees. "I imagine, in those fruit-like objects explode, then there's a high chance of splash damage." He assumes, thoughtful.
"There was a magician from Orth
Who frequently brought magic fore
On each Treant fighting day
The magician would say
'Darnit, I missed its Spore producing Core!'"
It's... it's a Limerick. No wonder it managed to stick in their memories without written recording of it.
They then turn to Prophylaxis as he speaks of poisons. "I believe we have the remains of some of those who were touched by the poison in one of our graves. But... we would rather not dredge their remains up." They way they are speaking or 'remains' sounds more like something was dropped from their bodies, rather than an actual corpse.
"A treant." That is what she was starting to suspect from the crude image. "An extremely old and powerful in Nature magic one, by the size and the length of time it's been here."
"...Mmn," he taps his chin for a moment, then continues: "Though I will not pry if you are adamant that their remains stay where they are. Still, I must ask if there are any rites or rituals that might permit the exhumation of such remains. I would be willing to lend my aid as a doctor if doing so might serve as payment for the trouble of going through the right motions. After all, if this monster shed spores, then... Chances are good that the 'remains' included some manner of fungus, yes?"
Amalthea does flash Kauchemar a little grin when they hit the same mental note. But then she quiets down for the rhyme and...
Well that's simple enough.
"Magic... Spore producing core..." She mutters, rubbing her jaw. She'll have to spread this information among the raiders come time for the floor boss run. For now though she files it away under her 'IMPORTANT STUFF' mental notes as she rests a hand on her hip.
The fact that the elders are only designated by an I, just like Kizmel was is purely BAFFLING.
"What do we know about treants?" She asides to the group at large when Kauchemar raises the name of the beast.
Luckily, as a performer, he is pretty good at training himself back to a more polite expression. He turns to look at Kauchemar, then, leaning a bit towards the Were Fang to speak in a quieter tone. "The one in their iconography looks a fair bit larger and older than the one I remember from the first climb. So yet another change from the known bosses."
Amalthea's comment about the core is answered out loud by the Beastmaster, though. "Our past experiences with such creatures, they didn't have one. So that seems to be something new to this particular beast." He puts emphasis on the word 'new'.
Rylen's silver eyes flick over to Prophylaxis, amused by his commentary, but he also agrees with the man's assessment about the poison. "He is right. It's also, perhaps, a chance to make sure no further members of your people have the same fate befall them."
Mizuki stares, stonefaced. Just as she was starting to forget it's a game again... "...Got it. Thank you for your ancestors' wisdom."
"...Hey, that's right!" She looks at the others. "They're trees, they shouldn't have spores... is it a fungus-infected tree, or perhaps a fungus monster...?"
After Rylen's comment, she looks back to the elders. "When was the last time one of your people fought the monster...?"
"I'd be careful with your fire, Doc," Kauchemar adds as she wags a finger at Prophylaxis. "Monsters on this floor already specifically targeted me for trying to exploit that weakness once already."
"Treants... sounds like a bad time." She heard stories of living woods of course, Usually not the pleasant place to be. She didnt' see Lords of the Ring though.
It only takes one, after all.
They give an apologetic look to him and Rylen. But then, these travelers are strangers to them. Can one blame them?
"We have not fought the monster in centuries. There is no reason for us to go to that place. This place feeds us." They explain.
It's the kind of look that says 'don't be that one guy when you check out the soil'.
He looks to the Elders, then, "Are there any unusual mushrooms, funguses, or spore-producing plants which naturally occur here in the forest? Anything that might be strong enough to effect the larger trees?" He asks. Perhaps if fungal growth is influencing the treant, it might be found elsewhere as well.
The Beastmaster has little to offer in regards to the soil or poisons, as that is beyond his expertise, but one other idea does strike him, "Or perhaps... any animals or insects that have ever become infected with something similar? Sometimes fungal infestations can take over some creatures."
While she may dabble in some necromancy summoning herself, that's undead monsters made that way. Even the Nightmare has little interest in desecrating the burials of these people (without extremely good reason). It would put them on bad footing to aggrivate the native culture that could otherwise be a boon.
.. Wait, a poisonous 'core'? Monsters that infect trees, like those snakes? Maybe there is more to these Boss than the obvious...
Kauchemar.. hits on a small spark of her own inspiration. And seeing as these are a people of oral traditions.. She reachs back across a shoulder to retrieve lute from her back, settling it in her grasp and giving the strings a light strum to start herself.
" o/~ This Forest gives all that they need to thrive
So to venture beyond it they do not strive.
But words hand down wisdom when in need
A warning from ages that they do heed.
To the far North, be wary to tread
As elderoot terror looms far overhead
Beneath mighty boughs the creatures cower
From fruits that erupt of poisonous power
A massive Treant sure to be such a sight
With a Core more bitter than the coldest of night
Adventurers, how shall we deal with this fight?
Hoping it's *bark* is worse than it's *blight*. o/~ "
But the others raise an interesting point. What if the tree isn't really so much an 'enemy' as it is just a puppet of the toxic core within it? If they can burn away the fungus and leave the tree alone, what then? Could it be a condition... by which /secrets/ might be acquired...!?
"Fire solves many problems, Amalthea," the good doctor answers with a helpful shrug, but nods to Rylen shortly thereafter. "Though the warning is appreciated. So... who are these Dark Pooka you mentioned, elder? Do they live elsewhere within the forest? Would they be amenable to meeting with us as well?"
But she listens to the words of the elders though, thinking. There could easily be something that they don't know either, after all. Plus its a story, there can be something else at work after all, a third party maybe. She hms "Well it loosk like it needs some investigation either way."
The more difficult a foe they tend to be. "And the more rings they have." Mizuki adds. She shivers at Rylen's suggestion. "You don't think they could take over Adventurers, do you?"
"Dark Pooka?" Mizuki tries to remember if that was a thing in the lore.
And then Kauchemar sings. Mizuki doesn't recognize the song... was that composed on the spot? It must've been, it's about here...
"A gift of a song? Hoping it'll catch on, huh?" And then she has a thought. "Wait, this place has been cut off for centuries... do they have the same 42 songs?"
Okay, so according to Rylen, treants having a core is a new thing. But that makes this all the more simple.
Don't miss the core.
Now, though, the old Paladin quiets down. She's asked her question, and so she listens to the responses of the elders to the others, filing details away and mulling over the implications thereof.
"We met one of the Dark Pooka when we arrived." She asides to Mizuki. "Girl by the name of Kizmel."
"Perhaps our Dark Pooka friend we encountered in the forest might be able to give us some guidance?" He suggests, nodding as Amalthea seems to be thinking along the same lines, "She did say that she was part of this community, now, but it's posssible she might know something of where they are." If the people were that nomadic, it could be problematic to track them down.
"I have some skill in tracking, but I'd need a place to start." Otherwise, it is like looking for Pooka in a sea of trees.
To Amalthea, the Pooka nods. "Kizmel is a wonderful warrior. If you can draw on her strength for your travel, I recommend you do." She points out.
"The only monsters that infect trees, are the Tree Snakes." The heavy voiced Wolf Were Fang then answers Rylen. "They are monsters that infect a tree, and then change their branches into their own bodies, which they use to try and capture unaware targets."
Infected or not, knowing the boss has a Core that is the source of some of it's power is still useful information. It might be a weak point, or one of those 'attack this spot to disable the attack that can wipe a party' mechanics... if you can still call them mechanics.
The good doctor shrugs. "Oh well, it's not important. Though I wonder if the songs that your people have are the same as the ones on the surface below. I don't suppose you'd all be willing to answer a song with a song?"
Mizuki is puzzling over whether Dark Pooka is another race, or just a local group of people -- Kizmel could be either, it's not like she saw her stat sheet -- and then the comment about 42 songs catches her off-guard. That wasn't... /exactly/ what she was hinting at... but Prophy hits the nail on the head and she nods. "Yeah. Why would they have the same songs here? Or are they just something that Landers... tap into, instead of learning the normal way?"
The three nod, as the human pulls some blankets over a few drums she then begins to tap on. The Pooka takes up a small little piano-like device - a Guqin. The male then gets up and steps around the Adventurers for a moment, inviting in a small group of smaller children who'd been near the entrance. They chipperly flow into the room to the side...
As the Human begins.
"A changing deep dream..."
The chorus quickly wells as instruments are added. More people flowing in from outside with a few small instruments, adding more music from behind the Adventurers. Voices welling up as the song seems to spread out into the streets of Zumfit.
"When a life is born,
The star sings as it releases a strong light
The children that offer their vows
Surpass the techniques created by the people
Oh duet of joined voices, rip apart the darkness!"
"Perhaps I'll have a word with Kizmel, then." Rylen murmurs quietly, not wanting to interrupt the song. It seems they had some measure of intel, at least, which would be helpful in the upcoming movements against the boss of this floor. However, there is always more to learn.
It's quite possible she's trying to memorize as much of it as she can from one listening. The said songs may come in useful at some point. Or just be a curiousity. Either is fine with her, this is a very musician thing to do, and hold to that passion either way. "An enchanting performance to behold."
It's something that can only be described as beautiful, even beyond just a matter of game OST composition. If this is simply a simulation, then it is within his prerogative as a man of science to appreciate how complicated and intricate the code necessary to produce such an effect would be. And if not, and this truly is some Other World that they've all fallen into... Well, then it's beautiful regardless.
As the song winds down-- though still echoing in from the far reaches of the village-- the good doctor smiles and nods gratefully, "Thank you. I wasn't expecting something so spectacular when I came here as part of this delegation."
"I am glad you enjoyed." The Were Fang remarks. "To us, Songs are core to our society. It is important to let out emotions out like this. It helps keep the peace." The Pooka adds to that.
"Please, we invite you to join the festivities outside. It seems our people are in a good mood. You might catch a dance or two out there."
Mizuki listens intently. She hadn't really been seeking out the lander music yet. Yes, this game's OST is certainly pretty... For a moment she can close her eyes and imagine she's sitting back in front of her computer, listening to Winamp pointed at the game's music folder... And then it's over, seemingly so quickly. "...Thank you." She nods at Prophylaxis's assessment.
And then the song picks up outside. "Well... it's putting me in a good mood too. Let's join the event. Err, the party!" She heads out after the others.