Duty Session 356: The Deadly Caves Of Toxic Death!
The discovery: a long-forgotten system of caves packed with venomous monsters. The mission: the Hunters' Guild rewards killing or capturing the deadly creatures which lurk within. The rumor: it is said that the place is home to unusual monsters, and where there are unusual monsters, there are unusual drops?
Difficulty: Easy/Moderate (depending on branch)
Rec Party: 3+
World Rewards: Reduce venomous monster activity in Westelande.
Uta is the first to arrive, together with Merek. "Alright, let's go dispose of a few venomous vermin," she says, white staff shaped like a caduceus firmly clutched in her hand, "But this time we go for an easy cave, okay?".
As soon as Uta arrives, the Salamander Lander from the Hunter's Guild begins his spiel: "I, Mister DesertGuide, welcome you to The Gorge of Death", he announces as he points to a number of openings at the bottom of the ravine. "You will find the entrances to the caves down there." He gestures towards some pickets close to his feet, to which bits of rope are tied; the rope disappears past the edge of the cliff. "This rope ladder will get you to the bottom of the ravine. Go there, and rid this place of its worst vermin. Good luck!"
The destroyer of worlds, the spreader of roses of the blackest night, the ... jewelry maker ... look even world destroyers need a hobby okay? Anyway, THE DARKROSE HONAMI HAS ARRIVED. She arrives a bit towards the end, in fact at the tail end of the group. It's quite possible she just lost, but she looks absolutely like she belongs there when she arrives at the end. "Venomous vermin and an easy cave? Well that just sounds like a pleasant evening on the desert." She says with a soft laugh.
She glances towards the Desert Guide and gives a small nod. "Right, right... down the rope ladder into the ravine, so this is an elimination quest? Cool, sounds pretty fun to me." Honami says, drawing a giant sword with a blade as black as night. It might be made out of obsidian. But like, fantasy obsidian that doesn't break super easily. "Whelp. I'm ready when you guys are."
She looks at Merek, nods, and then expands on the Alchemist's discussion for Demonrose's benefit: "Well, easi/er/. These caves are still largely unexplored. But the rule of thumb is, we expect caves that are so choked full of poisonous gas to disgorge it on the outsied to be harder than those who don't. Today we are going to test that theory".
Uta bows at the Lander. "Thanks for the rope ladders, but for personal reasons I prefer not to use them." That said, she runs up to the edge of the cliff, and jumps off.
She spreads her arms, legs, lets a few seconds pass, and then it's her wings' turn.
It might not be flying, but the Spriggan still has the widest grin during each second of her feather falling to the ground below.
Once below, she'll point at the caves without poison. "I think we should go down there -- but if you people want to go into the hard ones, uh, you'd better be /great/ at coming up with antidotes for poison on the spot."
"...I'd assume as much, it is the easy way!" Honami responds to Merek with a smirk towards him. She lifts her hand to wave towards her. "I am the remnant of the forgotten legion, she who will destroy all... Demonrose Honami. Also I'm part of the scale emblem and honestly mostly am just used to acting it up, I only kind of mean half of it. I mean. I'm part of the scale emblem so if I succeed I guess I'll do that but."
Honami shrugs, shouldering her sword as she continues. "Hm? Oh, you'll have to figure that out for yourself. After all, a magician shall never reveal her secrets! ... Kind of. Sort of." She waves her hand a bit and then shrugs a bit. "I'm honestly a little tired but just like. I mean... illusions go a long way." She says towards Uta with a smile.
And then they're on their way down. Uta opts to ... jump. Instead. Uh. And then the flapping wings. Honami taps her lip and then just... laughs. "Sure, you know what." She sprints after Uta and leaps after her, her wings and cape both spreading to glide down. Hers is ... maybe a little more graceful. If only because she has extra surface area to slow her fall. Why not.
"That cave huh? Sounds pretty good. So... the easy cave? Sounds pretty good." She looks around. "...Which one's the easy cave?" She asks.
As Uta approaches, a Lander rushes in to block their passage: A lanky old Salamander hermit with unkempt hair, a long beard, and wild eyes, he is dressed in tattered rags. He shakes his cane and yells, "Go away, strangers! This is no place for you!"
Uta blinks. "Wait, these caves have just been re-discovered. How... how come there's an eccentric hermit already?" "Do you have any idea how long a waiting list there is to become an eccentric old hermit?!", the man snaps. "There's a whole bunch of people who want to get into the field, but there's just not enough caves around for all of us aspirants. As soon as new caves were discovered, I jumped at the chance!"
Uta nods. "Understandable. So, can we go through now?"
"That one? Sounds good to me." Honami responds with a cheerful smile, and as they start to walk towards the doorway... suddenly... the eccentric hermit! Dun dun dun! Telling them to go away. "Oh my dear sweet old man!" Honami says, stepping closer suddenly with a fetching grin, a flourish of movement and suddenly she's presenting a black rose to him. "We aren't simply adventurers who randomly decided to come down here!" She says. Absolutely lying through her teeth. "We, are the adventurers here to /defeat/ this quest, and also we have an OFFICIAL QUEST to go through this cave and defeat the monsters within. With the exclamation mark over their head and everything. Just look up at there at Desertguide. You wouldn't want his exclamation mark quest marker to go to waste would you?"
She does another swirl of movement, leaving that rose tucked into the lander's ear as she crosses her arms, pulling her cloak tightly around her. "Now, would you kindly step aside and let us through... before we, you know. Have to get a bit more physical about it? Because I'd really rather not get physical about it, I don't really like killing people of the land."
"I have a stick," she simply says, clutching it tight in one hand and extending by the smallest amount towards the Lander, leaving the implication of "and I'm not afraid to use it" hanging in the air. Is she bluffing?
The lander decides not to take his chances, accepts Merek's gifts, and steps aside to let people pass, still mumbling something to himself about Exclamation Marks. He sounds very confused.
The Adventurers meander into the cave they have picked. There are some rare leftover signs of the cave having been used for some purpose in the far past (perhaps by the Gnomes?), but very little remains; now it's mostly a hang out for all sorts of venomous beasts and monsters. The first few caves do not pose exceptional challenges, just a bunch of snakes, scorpions, and the occasional spider. A few caves in, however, something different appears.
For one, the cave is relatively small, compared to the others, so it would be easy for people to pass through it, were it not that a multi-locked gate still stands at the opposite end. People could probably lockpick it relatively easy, given time, the problem is -- there is no time: the place teems with large flying insects, about as large as a small dog. For some strange reason, they do not appear to be stinging the adventurers, but /biting/ them.
"Oh wow we all opted to go the 'talk through it' route, that's nice. It's good to be on the same page coincidentally." Honami says with a smile. "This is nice. Anyway, let's continue!" Honami says, humming under her breath as she walks on through the caves, her sword drawn. The sign of the first monsters gets her darting in quickly, not even bothering with her sword in the first few caves, just using quick little bolts of dark magic mixed with bursts of air for some cutting jabs of magical energy.
And then... they get to... the room with the big locked door. And giant bugs. "...Hm." She glances towards the insects and bugs. That are trying to bite her. "Yeah. Not feeling this." She lifts her hand and takes a deep breath, a swirling mix of energy coming to her hand... before she unleashes it all, pushing upwards in a wall of air.
Soon, the air is pushing up in a single wave. Attempting to force all of the bugs up towards the ceiling and hold them there. "Would you kindly finish them off? This is a channeled spell, so I can't do much else at the moment."
The aria crescendoes, and that's when in a staccato of single notes, she blasts lightning bolts out of her hands or staff at each pantomimed strike, and without fail, each bolt electrocutes one monster.
This is one fancy bug zapper.
The attackers now nothing more than a bunch of colorfuly polygon confetti, Uta redirects her lightning towards the lock, each hit snapping a different one open.
She completes her kata (and song) with a high C and a flourish... and bows to the audience. "There we go!", she grins, and leads the way to the next cave.
The party cannot proceed any further through dry terrain -- the cave dips into a large pool, with barely enough head space to catch one's breath above the surface.
At first the scene is pleasant: underwater, there is no foul smell, and the scenery, instead of dead and barren, is graced by colorful plants which have somehow managed to grow among the gravel at the bottom. It is not long, however, before a group of curious creatures torpedoes into view. It's a group of dire Platypi with bloodshot eyes, ready to slash at the Adventurers with their venomous spurs.
Crackle crack crack pop... and... boom! The locks were open. Honami watches appreciatively as she lets her spell pass, the wind fading away as she lowers her arms to her side. "Mmm." She stretches a bit. "I'm starting to think there won't be much good to use my sword on here." She says with a soft sigh, giving a small chuckle. "But that's an easy route for you, huh?" She chuckles as she walks after Uta. "That was some good songwork. We'll have to share notes sometime." She adds as she walks.
And then there's an underwater area. "Oh, wonderful." She says, slipping into the water without too much hesitation. "This should be fun." She says, taking advantage of the fact that, well. This was a game. Totally. Yep. And not the 'waterbreathing' potion she drank right before entering the water. And then, of course... the platipi appear! And Honami's immediate response? "Aww, cute! And feisty too!" She says, as they start to approach her, using a few bits of armor to deflect the poison spurs... before she lifts her sword, slashing her sword straight down into the water, spears of black energy immediately darting out towards the platupi. "Down boy and girls." She says sweetly, before starting to swim on cheerfully with a hum.
"Water. Why does it /always/ have to be water?!" Uta groans, pinching the bridge of her nose. "I mean, I /have/ learnt how to control the element now, but it still involves" *a sigh* "Swimsuits."
She flicks her menu open, navigates it, and shimmers into a white one-piece. She chugs down some water breathing potion herself, and in she goes!
As the platypi approach she attempts to chant an activation melody for her staff, but alas, it would appear she's still new to underwater singing, and all that comes out is a garbled gurgle. Her staff remains stubbornly inert.
Uta stops. And starts. Starts as in... 'recoils involuntarily'. While stops is like, you know, no longer walks. Look, English is complicated, okay?
Uta stops with a start, and turns to the rest of the team. "...Poisonous Bears on Fire," she begins, somber. "I knew this would happen one day."
"We have six options, in decreasing order of desirability: one, sneak around them. Two, handle them. Three, pretend to be dead and hope they don't attack us. Four, pretend we're on fire in the hope they won't attack us. Five, actualy be on fire so they don't attack us. Six, actually be dead so they don't attack us." She glances between the party members, then gives a resolute nod. "I'm going with option one."
"Songs of the land? Hmm. A little bit. I do enjoy the lore a fair bit. Though I haven't been looking /too/ much into it. You know. The whole, y'know. Tower climb thing is kind of distracting. Aaaanyway. I mostly use it super secondarily." Honami responds. "Great for background music when you're being badass, you know? And I figured out this trick where you can throw it so it's less obvious that you're the one doing it. And..." She pauses.
"...Huh. Those are... why do those exist. That seems painful." She says as she looks towards them, before giving a soft exhale, summoning some dark magic to swirl around herself and Uta... before shifting down into the standard 'stealth crouch' to start so sneak past. For some reason, this action leaves swirling black petals in her wake... and... are those like... incoherent whispers? Yeah she's turning on the dramatics that make fun of stealth systems. The bears just seem confused, probably.
It isn't even Uta that did it -- it was a nearby poisonous bear on fire, but Uta didn't know and yelped in surprise. A gigantic paw swung in, claws seared her flesh and left a row of glowing gashes surrounded by flames, her face twisted into a grimace as her HP bar began ticking down even after the fact. "It burns...", she mutters, holding a hand to her glowing gash. As if it wasn't obvious from the name of the bear.
For better (Merek and Demonrose) or worse (Uta), the group squeezes its way past the crevice at the opposite end of the cave. After a short crawl in a cramped tunnel, the walls of stone open up into the central room: a wide space strewn with pincers of dead, or molted, manticores. Scorpions and snakes scuttle about, and in the center, a curious creature the size of a calf crouches, snacking on some sort of meat. The being had the body of a lion, the face of a monstrous humanoid, and the tail of a scorpion. Its fangs are sharp and threatening, and it is unsettling how easily it can rend through that snack.
When the Adventurers arrive, it looks up, and hisses. Its hair raises on end, and begins a frantic dance where it leaps left and right. "Hmmm. Another manticore. This one looks like a juvenile specimen," Uta comments among winces, trying to pretend that the conspicuous flaming, glowing gashes on her were no big deal.
"...Are you okay?" Honami asks towards Uta once they get to relative safety. "That looks pretty nasty. Uh." Honami opts to just... pull out a potion and dump it on the flaming wound. Because among other things it seems to be spreading. "I don't think I have an antidote for that on me, but maybe that will help." She says simply, before she continues on, and then... they get into the Final Boss Room. "...Oh. Huh. That's.."
"Actually kind of cute. I almost want to keep it, but I don't think I could easily get it past those poisonous bears. Hmm." She pauses. And then shrugs, drawing her sword again. "Whelp. It's sword time!" She draws her sword, doing an acrobatic leap towards the center of the room, rolling past one of the snakes, before coming up to her feet and bringing her sword down in the same motion, bringing the blade down towards the manticore's shoulder to attempt to cleave into it. This is followed up by continuing the motion down and to the side so that she can try to recover it.
Another lack of wasted motion though, she turns the movement into a quick spinning kick towards its face, followed by the blade being brought around once more towards it. And that was how the combat continued. In spite of carrying a huge sword, Honami is ... pretty quick and graceful. This is because she's not a tank. No. She's a DPS. And it shows pretty quickly in the fight that she's pretty good at chaining her skills. "Aaaand... Shattered Rose FInale!" She calls out for one of her final attacks in the fight, stabbing her blade into the ground, while a rose-shaped crystalline creation of black energy shoots up through the ground under the beast, breaking into small sharp pieces to cut into it.
Then, battle ensues!
"I totally want one of those manticores for myself!", Uta replies to Demonrose. "I captured the humongous one from the harder cave for a customer. I don't think I'd want to do it again --" Uta leaps away just in time to avoid a pincer slamming into the rocky floor and blasting rock all over the place. Hey, look, there's a new crater! Uta, meanwhile, is leaping from wall to wall, "I'd probably just destroy it next-" She does a backflip, pushes against the ceiling, and comes flying down from the ceiling, "time, but- hmm. I think I might capture me a small one. Maybe we can arrange a monster handling party so you can get your own. I wonder how viable a mount it would be-" Another leap, another devastation of the stone floor.
Uta chants, alternating angelic and ominous, and two connected beams of light depart from her staff: a red one engulfs the manticore, and a greeen one, at the opposite end, engulfus Uta. HP drains from the mosnter, to replenish the Spriggan's. As this happens, Merek's more massive healing blessing washes over the whole party -- and Uta's already reduced wounds seal themselves back together.
Healer, tanky DPS, dark DPS. The Manticore didn't know what it hit it.
Mostly because of the 'dark' part. They're good at hiding things. And it seems like all three members of the team are somehow attuned to it, in some way.
When the Manticore shatters into polygons thanks to Demonrose's finishing technique, Uta tosses her fist up in excitement. "We did it!", she rejoices, and turns to Demonrose, "...so, you're not teaching me that technique, uh? It's fine, I understand." She scratches her chin. "Now, let's see if there's a back exit like in the other cave... that would help with sneaking out a captured manticore a lot..."
"Yeah, really this entire cave dungeon has been kind of cute. Even the spider, and I don't even like spiders that much. It must be to draw in the newbie players more I guess with the aesthetics?" Honami comments mid-fight, chuckling softly. In between slashes, really.
"A mount? Hmm... probably not. There's not much space to sit on and it would possibly hinder the poor thing, I don't think those legs are very strong." She says, and then... the combat ends! And they are left with their loot. Unsurprisingly, it's a stinger! ... Which is pretty useful really. Good to have. "Hmm, this could be good for some sort of spear or maybe some adornments for armor or something..." She says, turning the stinger around a bit in her (thickly gloved) hands. "Oh."
"The trick? It's. Honestly. Not much of a trick. If you think about it hard enough I'm sure you'll figure it out yourself. Hm..." She looks Uta up and down a moment, tapping her lip. "But honestly? You should find your own thing. Mine is dark rose, yours is... hm. Something! I dunno. Anyway, some of it is real rose petals and stuff that I just keep in my inventory." She winks, before continuing on to the exit of the cave. "Anyway, shall we get out of here before those poisonous bears on fire come back?"