Duty Session 347: Karluin Reclamation - Labyrinth
The goblin stronghold in Karluin Keep has finally been weakened enough to send teams into the underground labyrinth through recently discovered entryways in pursuit of the Goblin King. Unfortunately, the vast maze of tunnels under the fortress-town has proved all but impenetrable to average reconnaissance teams. Elite explorers have been called upon to penetrate the dangerous depths, eliminate threats found within, and track down the source of the goblin infestation once and for all. Unfortunately, it's easier said than done; the depths are home not only to the local goblins, but a number of elemental machines, deadly traps and other hitherto unknown dangers waiting to befall unprepared adventuring parties.
Rec. Party: 5+
World Rewards: A chance at the Karluin Dungeon Heart.
A flame flickers in the gusts of air; as Uta swings her brass lantern from side to side, patches of light shift on the nearby surfaces, to give a glimpse of the Spriggan's features, along with bricks and stones.
"These are the worst sewers ever," Uta grumbles, as she leads the party onwards. "We've been here for... how long now? And still not one slime in sight."
Gamer joking aside she nocks an arrow ready in her bow, tail lashing. "Don't let your guard down. I can smell goblin stink from here."
Her features are keen and interested, though more like a craftsman preparing to do a complex job than a warrior about to stab some monsters. But, that's the way she approaches the game, here. Got to do the missions to get done, right?
Aside from that, he remains both silent and still. Silent, that is, save for the universal male response to discussions that aren't quite being listened to. He grunts supportively. Or at least he presumably hopes it sounds supportive. Just nobody ask him a question and everything will be fine.
Or maybe he just made a little camp-out cubbyspace for himself next to the dungeon gate, considering how often he and his compatriots come down this way to waylay some goblins.
"Anyway, that's not to say that there /aren't/ any, just that I haven't seen them. Maybe the goblins have kept their numbers down?" Prophylaxis shrugs!! "Anyway! I've seen evidence of some truly ancient ruins deep in the depths of the dungeon, but we haven't figured out how to get in so far. Too many goblins. Maybe this time though, we'll get lucky?"
"What's an Evil Otto? A... literal pair of buttocks with a visage?" Uta seems to take Shiruba very seriously on this.
She does not interfere with Robert's polite grunting. "Goblins. I hate Goblins!", Uta growls at Prophylaxis. Her step picks up speed and determination, and her movements stiffen a little. "I'll be more than glad to help you slay some. And who knows..." She ducks to enter a particularly low passage, "...maybe this time I will finally manage to secure myself a Dungeon Heart piece. I've always wanted one of these..."
Uta dodges and rolls to the ground with a scream, as one arrow plants firmly into a shoulder, now glowing red. "ARGHHHHH!", she winces, and the hint of tears form at the edge of her eyes. "/This/ is why I hate goblins!"
The patter of feet can be heard getting closer and closer -- Goblins have night vision after all, and the team will have to find a way to compensate for the enemy's advantage.
From her crouched position she raises her bow and fires back in the direction the shots start coming from. Except her arrow explodes with wind power, knocking several of those arrows out of flight before plunging into the sniper nest the archer are trying to ambush them from.
Uta is struck, but this is why you bring a medic. "Potion," Prophylaxis calls, jabbing a syringe into Uta's arm before tugging the arrow out of her shoulder. But that still doesn't help much when there are more arrows coming their way.
Fortunately, Prophy has been here before.
"Lights! Give them a great big flash of light and turn that darkvision against them!" Lights, as it happens, much like the ones you get by spamming the electrical fuzz spell ad nauseum. Soon the entire corridor is shining like a Christmas Tree in a particularly competitive neighborhood...!
She is more than capable of holding her own with her katana in close quarters with the goblins, deflecting and parrying strikes and delivering counter blows each time.
"Thanks, Doctor...", Uta replies. She's still wincing a little, but it's clear that the bulk of the pain is gone. "Good thing this party is not short on healer. Now, I think it's time we both check on Tenix," she says, as she navigates through her menu and materializes her caduceus-shaped staff in a shimmer of colors and light. She approaches the avian Adventurer...
...oly to be interrupted by more arrows coming. "Oh, no! This time I'm prepared!" She spins her staff, and a blast of air deflects the arrows, right into half of a party of goblins that happen to have just rushed in. The other half... well, Robert seems pretty good at squishing them.
The party proceeds deeper into the labyrinth, when all of a sudden, Uta raises her hand to stop and silence the party. She hurries to duck into a dark side passage, motions for the others to do likewise, flattens her back against a wall, and peeks around the corner.
The clattering of chains becomes louder and louder, mixed with disgusting jeering. It's a train of prisoners, both Landers and Adventurers, being pushed around with whips and poked at with spikes by an escort of Goblins.
She nudges her head in the direction of the train. The team will know what to do now.
The arcane archer draws her bow... but has to hold her fire when she sees several others sneaking forward to break the prisoners free. And then the fire from the phoenix. In the end she ends up having to drop her initial plan to cluster shoot the guards to avoid friendly fire, and pop off shots one by one to try and give the other's some coverfire instead.
So, Goldenblade ninjas up to the group of prisoners and guards and suddenly, goblins have blades sticking out of them and do not know why.
Still now that they have the drop on the goblins, Tenko should be able to put an arrow straight in between a few of their eyes before they even realize that the adventurers are there. In coordination with the rest of the team, it should be quick and ruthless.
What happens next is lost amidst a cloud of smoke and screams and flames, which...mysteriously manages to keep going once a rather sooty Robert stumbles out of the middle of it. He watches it, warily, even as he steps back to take a swig from his potion flask. Yes, that's really healing potion in there, and not something else. Promise.
And if he does, he has actual paralytic poisons now. So that's good.
But then, there is a sound that Prophylaxis recognizes almost instantly. The clattering of chains, the quiet, resigned sobs of captured landers and adventurers... More goblin captors, more captives in irons.
But this time, the party has the drop on them.
Prophylaxis hangs back, his staff reaching into a particularly deep shadow. Tendrils of tenebrous black squirm outward, concealing the party's presence as they move to do some right proper liberation...!
The team eventually succeeds in freeing the prisoners who, after thanking the party, flee to safety. The party, conversely, pushes on, and soon, they find themselves into a tangle of corridors, which branch off in strange and winding directions, passages which loop back upon themselves in a seemingly intentional attempt to confuse your sense of direction, and people can't shake the feeling that something is watching them.
"These doorways... they've been used recently," Uta comments, kneeling down to inspect the footsteps. She levels one cheek to the ground, turns her head left and right, and even tastes a sample of terrain. She finally declares, "Two Were Fangs, two Cait Siths, one Human, and two Spriggans." She frowns. "This... this is a starnge party of Goblins. I wonder how..."
And why is Shiruba's tail actually wagging a bit at this?
"Finally a challenge more up my alley!" The wolven cait sith examines one the walls for a moment, then another, then motions to the others to follow her. "Com'n, I'll find a way. This maze also has to support the floors above us so there is only so many formations the wall structures can be laid out in, that can be used to plot possible pathes and hope we can get the better odds on the right one!" She points at Goldenblade. "You know construction, help me keep track of which walls are load bearing or not."
The prisoners are free. WOO! The maze continues. AUGH. As the hours draw on, the bird-trapped-underground is trudging along with the others, thinking about open spaces and any kind of sky, rather than the cold, dank, stone walls leading them around in a wibbley-wobley space-wacey kind of way. IT IS AWFUL. "Ugh.. when are we getting out of here..?"
When Shiruba calls out for her assistance at identifying load-bearing walls, she explains, "In a mostly closed layout like this, pretty much all the walls are load-bearing. It's only in open designs where the load-bearing is an issue..."
In that, by entering said ruin, they've found the labyrinth that the Karluin Labyrinth is actually named for. How about that?
"I'm pretty sure..." Uta has found footprints. But they are, notably, /not/ the kind of footprints that one would be excited to find.
Because they are the /party's/ footprints. Prophylaxis sighs. This... is probably the exact sort of circumstances that would merit certain extreme measures. "Uta," he says, carefully, "We need you to keep a clear head while we're down here. I haven't explored this part of the dungeon at /all/. Gotta keep everyone in the game, so."
He produces a familiar crystal.
...And gently boops Uta's forehead with it. Boop!
None the less, she does what she can in order to help the group out. At the very least she's doing her best to not make things worse.
Narrow all of a sudden.
Uta blinks twice, stands up, and shakes here head. Her vacant expression is gone, replaced by an uncharacteristically focused one.
"Okay, okay, that's it.", she states, and begins to pace around. "Goldenblade, I have to commend you for that technique. A simple yet clever way to determine contour lines, if one wants. But why restrict oneself to sweeping a segment when we can approach the isoline issue from a planar, or even volumetric, angle? We could exploit the principle of potential energy, and spray the ground with a thin layer of water. Due to the liquid tending to pool into sacs of minimal potential energy, the countours so described would be a visible representation of isolines!", and after saying this, she proceeds to do exactly that. Constrained martial arts gestures, reduced to only her fingers, materialize a reduced amount of water, just enough to show pools in the ground, and allow the party to see exactly where they've been, where the /Goblins/ gave been, where they're going, and which paths are more or less travelled, allowing the team to quickly find their way into the deeper recesses of the Labyrinth, where the maze thickens and deepens. A tangle of non-Euclidean springs, wire, and spaghetti, a maddending writhing of wormlike tunnels, an insane system of viscera designed to make even the most seasoned Adventurer seasick.
"And this is very interesting, the prints are starting to show a minimal, yet perceptible, amount of divergence here. It would appear that the Goblins are preaparing to split, and-" She spins to look at the walls. "Notches. Oh no, this can mean only one thing, get down!"
All of a sudden, she jumps abruptly, to push as many members of the party she manages to to the ground.
Which turns out to be a good choice, since one-foot-tall shurinken fly in a second later, planting themselves into the wall right next to the notches Uta identified. And just then, black smoke starts filling the air...
And then her reflexes are put to the test as Uta starts to notice something. As she had been using the walls to navigate she too notices the notches, and dive-rolls in the opposite direction as Uta so to not get in the Spriggan's way.
Immeadiately she rolls back up into a crouch, conjuring a projectile of storm energy in her bow. "BRAKE WIND!" She fires it down the corridor, both to deflect projectiles and blow that dark fog in the opposite direction so they won't be overwhelmed by it.
Oh hey, flying shuriken. Robert leans to the side just enough for the shuriken to whistle past, nearly taking off his nose en route. He rips his sword rfom his belt and, as soon as Shiruba fires off her spell, he's zipping after it. There's a blindingly fast surge of movement that, as he nears his target, begins to leave greasy flames in his wake. It would seem that his solution to this problem, as with many others, is to set the adversary on fire and stab it. Standard operating procedure, really. Less standard would be the bit about clearing smoke with one's butt.
Trudge, scrape, sigh loudly, "This maze suuuuuuuuucks," Tenix groans before things change rather suddenly. For some reason her personal fire-light seems dimmer.. "Er..?" Then windmill ninja stars EVERYWHERE. "AWK!" She dives for cover, not wanting a repeat of the arrows earlier. She STILL gets pinged, barely, in the back for her trouble though. "THIS LOOT BETTER BE REALLY GOOD!"
When the shuriken hit the fan, so to speak, she pretty much just vanishes, poof. The advantage of being a ninja. You vanish from over here, appear behind an enemy, and the first thing he knows, his head has fallen off, and he's looking upwards wondering why.
Unlike, perhaps, the one deploying these throwing daggers embedded in the wall.
"Shuriken...?" Prophylaxis asks, a chill running down his spine. One such throwing star neatly embeds itself in the masonry just left of the doctor's head, causing him to flinch reflexively away... But not before staring at Shiruba, "We do not need to know when you are feeling /gassy!/" He shouts, then turns and hurls a mighty gale of his own in the direction that the the deadly shuriken are coming from. If nothing else, it should knock them off-course...!
She casts a quick glance around, and in a fraction of a second, she hatches a plan, which is immediately put into motion. She begins singing an aria, which activates her staff, as evidenced by tendrils of lights dancing all over it. Given the sheer size, and deep embedding, of those shurinken, she places the large, flat, gem-bearing side of her staff against each one of them, in turn -- which means that the pointy end is pointing /exactly/ towards where they came from. With flawless timing, or should one say, tempo, the staff is in position just as the accented notes in the melody are hit, and a blast of lightning departs at each go, frying a Goblin shurinken launcher, without fail.
As the smokescreen clears, the party finds itself into a chamber filled with an unnecessary number of platforms, thin stone pillars and chest-high walls. Just then, a series of figures drop from the ceiling to try and drive narrow blades into people's backs each one every bit like a classic ninja... except that they're mechanical.
These are not merely ninjas, but ninja ROBOTS! Just as quickly as they appeared, the mechanical assassins duck back into cover, hurling more of those shuriken as parting shots. They're not gone, though, merely waiting for people to drop their guard before striking again.
Tonight is just NOT Tenix's night. The maze was dreary, the dank was supreme, and now at the end, these Nin-nin bots are just brutal! While she can see them with the fog lifting, she's barely able to get away from the DOWNSTAB only to find herself hitting the deck AGAIN when MORE WINDMILLS start rolling out. At this point she just throws up a desperate barrier, throws another hand out to throw a fireball, only for it to sputter, flicker, and hit the ground a foot or so away from her. "This is madness!"
However they do have platforms, and Shiruba is an experience console gamer from her days before VR. "I was wondering if we'd run into some other elemental machine the Goblins accidentally uncovered. Seems to be a theme." The wolfgirl whips up another cyclonic wind around herself, using it to launch upward onto one of the platforms, and then jump to another. This is one time when the high ground would indeed be an advantage. Though she doesn't pull out her bow this time.
She pulls the throwing glaive off her belt instead, the sharp blades of the curved arms gleaming despite the lack of lighting in the chamber. "Didn't anyone ever tell you..."
Shiruba throws the Glaive of the Fallen spinning through the air with the same precise hunter's aim as she shoots her bow with, just as several of the ninja robots launch several of their shurikens. The Relic weapon knocks every one of them it collides with aside, and slices across several of the robots as well before boomeranging back to Shiruba's hand. "Quality over quanity!"
...Some kind of... ninja... robots.
Huh. Well, that's certainly something Prophylaxis hadn't expected. /Some/ kind of robots, yes-- this is Karluin, after all. Elemental Machines just have a way of turning up around here for some reason. But ninjas? What are ninjas doing in a labyrinth? It should have at least been a minotaur or something...!
(Sadly, Uranus is in a different dungeon)
Regardless, they are moving far too quickly for any of them to catch up to. Troubling, considering how ninjas tend to specialize in skirmish tactics. Worse still, it seems to be growing... cold. Terribly cold. Bone-chillingly, spine-tinglingly cold.
Wait. No. That's--
The air around Prophylaxis is frigid. So cold, in fact, that frost has begun to creep across the doctor's skin. So cold that his breath is fogging around nearly frost-bitten lips as he whispers an incantation under his breath. Waves of killing cold sweep outward, wrapping around each of the ninja-machines, freezing them where they stand.
The others should be able to take it from here, at least...!
Which is dealt with according to protocol by....yup, setting it on fire. Slowly, and taking advantage of Prophylaxis's control. Robert chips away at its health-bar to the best of his ability, taking a few more hits in return than he's comfortable with, before it decides it really has other things to do and vanishes. Leaving Robert, hands on hips, staring at the bit of space it used to occupy. "Huh," he states, uneloquently, his tones bordering on miffed. With a crinkling of his nose, he toes his loot, sending it into his inventory.
Thankfully it seems the rest of the team is more than capable of making up for her having to fall back and helping to keep her alive.
Uta spreads her wings which, with a satisfying *whomp*, slow her nosedive down to a feather fall. "Trying to push a /Spriggan/ off a chasm? /Really/?", she mocks the ninjabot, and begins to vocalize a melody which keep swinging, oppressing calls with breezy responses; her magical musical staff activates, tendrils of colorful light and pitch dark helixes and intertwine around it, and soon two beams of energy depart: a red one sucks globs of HP off the ninjabot, passes through the gem, and becomes a green beam which delivers the stolen HP to Uta. "Follow the red beam! It might hide, but as long as the link of the beam persists, we have a way to..." she blinks. "...to..." Another blink. She rubs her eyes. "...what...how..."
That vacant look resumes when she looks around. Multiple times. "...SERIOUSLY!", she exclaims. "Not only there were no slimes, there also was no sewage. Or water, for that matter. What kind of crummy sewer was this?"
The tips of her boots touch the ground first, followed by her heels. She stands there, staring ahead, and then looks up at the red and green beams. "Oh, hey. Seems like I'm draining energy off something." She looks at where the beam ends- but the beam just disappears in darkness, merely pointing at the /direction/ where the ninja bot went. "...anyone can remind me what we're fighting, again?"
The link is broken just after Uta says that. The bot got away. But somehow, it left a few crystals behind, and access to a secret room with a teleporter. The Adventurers have a way out, it seems.
Not that Prophylaxis had conjured even so much as a spark of flame this entire time, or anything. In fact, he's been hurling around quite a bit of cold today. Maybe he's just looking for a change of pace?
The doctor quietly pockets one of those mysterious new elemental gems for future consideration. They've accomplished pretty much all that he could hope to expect from a day's excursion into the depths of Karluin, and with Uta's medicine wearing off...
"Come on," he says, gently nudging the party towards the teleporter. "It looks like our way out is over here."