Duty Session 351: Shrine of the Dragon King
Far from any Root Town, nestled deep in the misty ravines in the southern reaches of the Palace Lands, there is rumored to sleep an ancient altar sacred to the divine spirit, Longwang. Unfortunately, without any local adventurers to cull their numbers, the shrine has been all but overrun by monstrous apes. Now running rampant, the mad monkeys need to be put down to restore some semblance of holiness to the shrine. Perhaps Longwang will award a blessing to those who fight to cleanse this sacred space? But even if he does not, the high-level monsters in the area are sure to drop some pretty substantial loot!
Rec Party: 3+
World Rewards: Reduce the danger near Seeker's Landing.
...Like this cloud of fog, specifically.
What is he doing here? Why have so many followed him here? Well, he /did/ put up a general invitation offering healer-duties to whoever might wish to accompany him to a known high level area to do some monster-punching. Perhaps it's in the name of EXP grinding, or perhaps because he's after some new loot to add to the growing pile?
Maybe there's a hint in the identity of his stated targets. 'I'm going up there to hunt some monkeys,' he said. Those awful apes have been quite a nuisance to all those who have called Seeker's Landing a temporary home, stealing supplies and menacing scouting parties who travel too far off the beaten path. Exterminating a nest of them can only do the area good, right...?
The necromancer had set foot in the palace lands, if only for last minute training before the tournament. Also it gives him 14 days on the boat to fill in the hunter's guild paper work for putting in a new request. Apparently it is simple enough if you are a common requester but if it's your first time well Setsuna is glad they don't know what DNA is. So here he was now and now the doctor has requested help going to kill monkeys , how could he refuse that. Gathering his bodyguard skeleton and his cerberus he is ready to go.
Spying? No, of course not. Spying would imply some decisive effort to not be seen or known about. This was observation and information gathering, as much interest in another newly discovered location in the land as anyone else. That it might give some insight to what the Scales are working towards is just a bonus.
That, and they're going to beat up monkeys. Monkeys are not high on the Nightmare's list of creatures she'd like to tolerate, so beating some apeshit apes is perfectly fine with her.
"I am ready for this mission," she says as she arrives, looking over the area and considering.
"We're here," the doctor says, lifting a hand to stop the party moments before anyone has a chance to trip over the toppled statuary in their path. It /was/ a dragon, and in many ways it still is, and clearly sculpted in the traditional style. As if responding to the sudden noise, the fog begins to part in churning, colorless clouds. Emerging from the mists is an ancient mountain pass, the kind that would be depicted in Chinese fine art from several centuries ago. The shadows cling to the rocky ridges like inkstains to canvas in the setting sun. There's a sheer cliff face to the left hand side, and to the right, an equally sheer drop into a fog-swallowed canyon.
Obviously, it would be best if they avoided a trip into the soup below.
...But they may not have a choice in the matter. A wet *plop* sounds as a piece of rotten fruit splatters to the ground at the doctor's feet. He curses and looks up, where a trio of monkeys jabber and cavort atop the cliff... next to a pile of gross, rotting garbage!! "Move, quick!" Prophylaxis orders, but dodging the fruit while making sure everyone keeps an eye on where their feet are falling on the narrow passage is probably easier said than done...!
A glimps here and there of a presence moving, like a shadowy form flitting at the edge of ones field of vision but impossible to focus on, and then the Nightmare Were Fang is visible at the opposite end of narrow pathway away from the citrus bombardment. It's not a true teleport, but the jungle and cliffs provide more than enough shadowy spots for her to transposition through to get from point a to point b while avoiding the notice of the stupid simians up at point c.
Already one good reminder of why she doesn't like monkeys.
Setsuna looks at the nrrow path and his eyes glow. " I have to admit, I really like the UI enhancement with this spell. " From his view point the safe spots to step are bright blue while the dangerous spots are obviously red. So using his skeleton as a guide he shouts " Following the knight, step where he steps. " Once everyone is across he would bring up the rear just incase anyone had to be grabbed to avoid falling into the mess below
She retains her heads-up alertness as she hustles along, ducking and dodging the thrown projectiles as she zips along the narrow way. It's a bit of going, but she reaches relative safety out of the throwing range of the monkeys and pauses to take stock of where we are now and to find out what our next move will be.
Fortunately, guided by their sure steps and with Setsuna's helpful knight marking the path with its passage, the party is able to proceed deeper into the mountain pass without being lost to the ravine below.
That's the good news.
The bad news is that said mountain pass is a veritable rat's nest of switchbacks and fog-swaddled passages that seem to loop back unto themselves with no rhyme or reason. In other words, it's a maze.
And they're lost in the middle of it all.
"So uh," Prophylaxis says to the group, "...Anyone halfway decent at navigation?"
Not while there are other things to deal with. Like maze paths and thick fog. "Navigation, no." Despite the thick mist the glow of her eyes is visible. "But I have other means." There is also glow from the flicker of supernatural flames around them that almost look like spectacle frames that ignite around her eyes, the visual sign she's delving into her divination abilities. "... It's been a long time since these paths have been used..." And then she's silent for several more minutes in what seem like an eternity while others try paths and fail.
Then she snaps up an arm with such abrupt vigor you can almost image the cracking sound of a whip accompanying it. "There is a flicker of former presenses in that direction!" Pause. "I can neither confirm or deny if it is more monkeys. I'm a muse, not a zoologist."
Setsuna looks at the others as he hears the request for navigation, "Oh yeah I can navigate as long as my spell..." He trails off as his eyes stop glowing and well thats it. " Hmm I think my spell said it's that way before it raan out." After this it would be all down to coin flips and which ever way the stick fell, so really it will be all up to luck. " I would kill for a mini-map."
...And once the party can decide which way that way is, without getting terribly confused, they finally find themselves at... A dead end!? Impossible! There must be some kind of secret door or something; perhaps those dragon statues are the key...?
But... it looks almost like... Almost like there's something /missing/ from them? Like they should have some sort of <<IMPORTANT PUZZLE PIECE>> that someone has stolen away! Prophylaxis' brow knits in deep thought, when suddenly... There is a sound.
It's a terrible, hooting laughter that emerges from the fog. Three monkeys cavort out of the mist, two of which are jeering and cheering, while the third is utterly unable to do so-- because its mouth is apparently being held together by a knitted weave of thin worms. The other two are similarly maimed; one has its ears pinned by insect jaws, while the other's eyelids are held together by tiny, ruby-red bug legs. It's kind of gross, honestly.
Also, each one seems to be carrying an important-looking crystal orb.
Unfortunately, they also immediately begin spamming potent elemental spells the moment anyone thinks to give chase. If you want those orbs, you'll have to beat the triad of monkeys at their own game...!
Setsuna has no issues with the monkeys, really its no problem , however the Cerberus has taken issue as he barks and howls and is not happy over all. Probably something about canines and monkeys never really getting along. So what does the Cerberus do, he looks at Setsuna with those big puppy eyes and the necromancer can't say no. " Oh fine, but just this once. Next time you have to do it yourself." With that he begins to help the cerberus launch a decent sized fireball at the fire flinging monkey.
And what happens is she gets a faceful of earth or water or fire or air, and it's hard to tell which is worse. Water's not awful, but it makes the earth stick and cling like mud. Which protects a bit from he fire, which makes it not as bad as it could have been. The air blows the muck off her face, though, leaving her vulnerable again, and it blows the little clods of earth and dollops of water into her eyes. Hopefully the rest of the party can catch these monkeys.
Elements, on the other hand, is something she can jive with. They want to fling repelling attacks, that's fine. Much like with the previous projectile monkeys Kauchemar just doesn't bother playing by their rules, instead conjuring a slosh of water beneath her hooves and using it to hydroplane past the magical spam, getting behind one monkey to snatch his pilfered prize, and waterskating back to the rest of the group. "o/~ And he's got big balls, and she's got big balls... But we've got the biggest balls of them all o/~"
They have three orbs, now. This is good, because it means they can once again proceed. The problem is...
There are /twelve/ dragon statues up against that wall, each coiled or posed in a different way, each one covered in complicated and half-worn-down script that might or might not give a hint as to what each one means. If the party wants to figure out which orb goes where... Well, that'll be a matter of reading and deciphering, and maybe just plain old dumb luck.
"God, remind me to think twice before accepting any weird favors next time," Prophylaxis sighs, knowing perfectly well he would have said yes even if he /did/ know what he was getting himself into.
"Pff. Every Adventurer says that, knowing full well we'd do it anyways."
Setsuna is at a loss, and in this situation back in the day it would be a lot of trial and error and then giving up and looking up the guide. Instead here he is, having to figure out on the spot , not a yeehaw search bar in sight. He even considers trying to summon the spirits of darkness to try and help him but that just sounds stupid so what does he do. Not much really he kinda is just standing there staring at one of the pedestals.
When they do, the three orbs begin to glow... and part of the cliff face seems to just fade away, as if it were perhaps some kind of force wall that had been glamoured to seem like perfectly ordinary stone.
"...Looks like this is our way in," the doctor says, though he obviously doesn't need to. There's a set of stairs in the dark, slick with moisture and leading deep, deep, deep into the mountain. It winds through a natural cavern, and occasionally requires the party to duck beneath a fallen stalagmite or squeeze between a narrow passage, but soon enough, it opens up...
To someplace... beautiful. It's a temple of natural stone and the fountainhead of what must be a dozen different springs, each producing water that tumbles down towards a nearby waterfall. There, up ahead, is what seems to be a jade altar... And it's absolutely filthy. This /whole place/ looks like someone's been holding a non-stop frat party and stinks of rotting fruit and a whole ton of that stuff Kauchemar was dreading being pelted with earlier. But that altar still seems to shine dimly under all the filth. Prophylaxis' eyes light up when he sees it, and the doctor begins to move towards it as if called--
When suddenly, his path is cut off. Three orbs of mist alight in front of him and condense into three familiar monkeys. The trio from before screech angrily at the party before dissolving again into mist... and fusing together.
What emerges from their combined fog is a veritable behemoth of simian might. Covered in stark, white fur, wielding what looks like it might have once been an entire tree, the Great Monkey Sage roars defiantly and swings its enormous staff like a club. Prophylaxis is sent hurling back not by the force of the blow, but by a wave of dark magic that its attack emits...!
"We need to get to that altar," Prophylaxis grunts, pushing himself upright. "Otherwise this whole journey will be for naught. But to do that..."
They'll need to kill its 'protector.' Or would that be 'defiler?'
Setsuna stares at the great monkey sage and again Cerberus is barking like someone had food and wasn't sharing. " Fine fine , just stop barking before you break someone elses concentration. " Setsuna and the Cerberus begin to work together to launch a ball of black fire but the magic doesn't quite make it. Instead it seems the Cerberus has ran out of mana. " See I told you, this is why you can't just indulge in launchiing fireballs everywhere. Except in Robert's bedroom. You can absolutely always fireball Robert's bedroom." Setsuna is prepping for round two to launch his own spells but he has a feeling it won't be needed.
Almost immeadiately the giant simian starts having a tantrum and throwing around dark magics while flailing with it's big stick... So once again the Nightmare just opts to not be there. She is really putting that effort into being sneaky, even if this is just more using magic and her monster abilities to do so. But even as she's fliting around the big ape out of view, her voice can still be heard in a haunting echoing tone.
"o/~ Run, run... but we won't run away.
So bear your arms and call me the enemy.
Dangers in shadows, striking precisely
Chances of surrender -- UNLIKELY! o/~"
The last lyric is emitted with extra emphasis as Kauchemar steps back into view from behind dumb ape... and chomps down on his arm with a ferocious bite. With strong jaws added by those viper-like fangs she has.
It SLAMS the monkey hard and takes a huge chunk of HP just at the start, while she lands nimbly in a ready stance, and proceeds to deliver a savage beatdown that would do for lessons in Tae Kwon Do, Kung Fu, and half a dozen other styles that she mixes freely as she kicks the snot out of the ape. It hardly has a chance to defend itself or counterattack, as savage a beating as she delivers, and with the party's assistance, it's over quickly.
Then it... coughs, hacks, vomits a bloody stream of fluids. The creature's body jerks and convulses, before what seems to be an enormous centipede bursts from its mouth. A tangle of the insects swarm out over its arm and fuse to its staff as the thing now called a Centimonkey Sage ambles to its feet, unholy energy boiling from every gash and tear in its form. It hurls itself forth, rampaging like an unstoppable wrecking machine of a monster, striking with raw physical force and profane power both.
"Hold it down!" Prophylaxis shouts to Setsuna, "Ugh. What the heck kind of mess did we get ourselves into-- hold it down and burn it to the ground! This thing is too gross to live!"
"Oh fuck no, I ain't getting near this horror show." The bard backs off, instead summoning her ghostly sword and shield and sending them into the fray. It might not be the most effective means but the spirits are too happy to slice up and squash anything to care.
Setsuna just watches as the bugs take over the body of the sage. It is rather disturbing to watch and he turns away to see his skeleton. Oh yes his skeleton came with him, why didn't he make use of him sooner. However this inspires Setsuna as he begins to dump the majority of his magic into a single spell. From all around pieces of bone rise from the ground and latch on to the centiape. Locking it's movements and making ti dance to Setsuna's tune instead of it's own. " Anytime guys."
She will force herself to go forward, but it's with entirely uncharacteristic reticence that she puts one boot forward and tries to squish the writhing mass one at a time. This does not appreciably aid the party. They will have to sue her.
The doctor... who is the de-facto leader of renowned pyromaniacs, the Scale Emblem Alliance.
Wordlessly, and with face set in grim determination, Doctor Prophylaxis strides forth and sweeps his hand in a grand gesture. Abruptly his /entire body/ catches flame as he charges boldly toward the grotesquerie. He draws his arm back, and plunges it into its gut...!
"Heat..." he declares, "END!"
There's an earth-shattering kaboom. The monster tumbles back, flame spreading wildly across its body. Finally, it dissolves into so much ash and rapidly skittering centipedes. The ape is slain, but...
This place is STILL A MESS.
"Hrmph," Prophylaxis turns to the rest of the party. "Well, come on. Let's clean this place up a bit. There's /no/ way leaving all this here is good for the camp's water supply."
...And it's no place to leave an offering. While the others are busy, the doctor produces what looks to be the most amazing opal anyone here has likely ever beheld... and places it atop the jade altar.
A moment later, several orbs of pure, crystallized divine energy materialize on the altar as well. It looks like the party is free to take these as payment for their assistance in cleansing the shrine...!
Setsuna follows Kauchemar's example as he to begins to cleanse the room with fire. " I mean if you wanted to have us do something like this , we probably could have just launched fireballs at the building to begin with. " Eventually outside of some ash and scorch marks there is nothing to dirty lying around. So Setsuna retrieves one of the orbs and gathers his monster pals. " Time to go back to camp. "
He shrugs, then. "Don't worry, I'll head back to camp after a few days, but it'd be a waste of a trip if I only murdered *one* monkey while I was out here. Feel free to send more folks out this way if you're worried about me though."