Duty Session 357: 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.
Goldenblade advises, "We should prepare quickly and begin, I don't expect things to be peaceful for long." She's wearing something new, for those that haven't seen her in a while, a tabard denoting her membership in Westelande's military. She's pretty far afield for that, but ... remote duty? Or just field training.
While the palace lands are scary places full of monsters beyond Fuka's level, she's the sort to not let that get in the way of a good adventure. Or to turn down a group, for that matter! Besides, the longer she stays in the Palace Lands, the more she's going to have to learn how to deal with the mobs here... and the faster she gains in power doing so. Or so the theory goes anyways.
The little Sylph is dressed in her traditional battle gear, though some pieces of it are new or perhaps just a little shinier than before. She's... not quite beefier; she'll never be beefy but perhaps she's a little better prepared to be the Mighty Battle Fairy she sees herself as.
"Rogah!" Fuka says to Goldenblade, saluting perkily. Also apparently not taking things too seriously. She does prepare however, making sure she's well stocked on mana and healing potions and various other buffs. The Palace Lands are dangerous after all, and she's not enough of a dumbass to take them lightly even when she acts like she is.
Soon, one rotting fruit is joined by another and another! It isn't long until they begin hurling progressively grosser projectiles, rocks, and worse! The path is narrow and treacherous, though, and, if we're not careful, a single misstep could send someone tumbling into the valley below! Goldenblade grimaces, but says, "This path is narrow and treacherous, be careful!" |
Though navigating the narrow path, even with the bombardment, proves to be a daunting but not impossible task for her. She's done this in the mountains before. "Stay closer to the rock wall and avoid the edge as much as possible, that's the most likely to crumble away. And the farther beneath their angle of trajectory you can get the less likely to be hit you are."
Fuka shrieks (like a monkey in fact) as the group comes under foul assault from above. The first solution to come to her mind, naturally, is to lash out with a fireball. She second-guesses quickly enough. Not only is that disproportionate, it's so loud and obvious that it'd probably draw far worse monsters in response.
"Come *ow* on! Let's just keep going." she suggests, looking for a clear and easy-ish path that hopefully doesn't have enough trees and rocks nearby to allow the monkeys to follow. She also fires off one of her scouting spells... a simple air spell that sends out a pulse of energy which might also manage to harass the damn hairy apes besides.
She also giggles extremely inappropriately when Shiruba says 'wasteful' but declines to share what she considers so funny about the word.
Leaving the monkeys behind, the party finds itself at an intact dragon statue, standing silent vigil over a confusing intersection indeed. The fog here is denser than it was, but even then you can tell that the path branches in several directions. Following one such route leads us down under a switchback, through a small cave and... back up to where we began. Navigating the maze of convoluted walkways and making progress will take a good deal of cartographical skill, preternatural awareness, or just plain old footprint tracking. |
The confusing intersection leaves Fuka confused, naturally. And of course Fireball won't solve this situation, more's the pity. She's relieved they left the monkeys behind but at this point would be wandering around in circles more often than not.
Applying good logic in an attempt to solve the problem, she studies the ground and points out footprints to the others! Which would be *their own* footprints, of course. Hopefully someone points it out before the three ladies waste even more time.
Then the wolfgirl crouches down, inspecting the ground. Also because fog, while thick, tends to rise a bit. It's easier to work with the environment than try to fight it. "Those are our own prints, Fuka. Three pairs, and if you look close you can see little arcs where the dirt is swished by my tail. But that tells us where to not go, so still a good job."
She stands up partway, and points at where some fruit has been smeared on the walls. "Those damn monkeys have probably learned how to either navigate or bypass the maze living down here. See? They've marked their own route. Com'n." It's a long shot, but it's what her tracker instincts are telling her.
Finally making it out of the labyrinth, the party finds itself at a dead-end. Or, rather, there are a dozen dragon statues standing here, each one covered in intricate hieroglyphs and murals. Each looks like it should be able to clutch some sort of artifact in its jaws, claws or coils... But the artifacts are missing!
Just then, there is an infuriating hoot of laughter from the fog. A monkey is slapping its backside in our general direction and, curiously, has a number of tiny red joints stitching its eyelids shut. As the fog parts, it seems that the monkey is not alone-- it has two friends! One with lips sewn together by worms, another with its insect jaws stapling its ears to its skull.
All three dance and cavort and laugh, and each one seems to be carrying... a crystal orb that looks distinctly like it belongs with a dragon statue. Unfortunately, attempting to pursue the monkeys reveals that they're more formidable than they seem. Each one begins hurling high-level elemental magic, fire and ice and lightning too-- defeating them will mean needing to match their potent elemental powers with your own, but it's the only way you're getting those orbs back!
Frustration building, Fuka screeches (like a monkey) at the taunting creature before the group. She charges after, Chopstick raised, eager to draw blood. She skids to a stop when she sees the three monkeys there, all wielding elemental magics. After realizing that this is a challenge, that she's not going to be able to win by whacking the monkeys repeatedly with a giant axe, Fuka grounds her massive weapon with finality, eyes beginning to ominously flash with energy. The solution is obvious to a gamer, but ... can they do it? It seems plausible but it seems it'll require a massive expenditure of power.
"I have had *just about enough* of all this monkey crap!" Fuka claims, lowering herself into her artes, sinking deeper into her power than she's ever managed to show before now. She begins an ominous chant, heavy with the elements of air, offense, ranged, and area. She's struck by lightning but doesn't even flinch. The power burns her and she'll need potions after this, but she draws even that power in and adds it to her own.
Finally, Fuka raises her axe towards the sky, electricity swirling around both it and her. "LORD. OF. VERMILLION!" she cries, firing a bolt of pure power into the heavens. And the heavens answer, multiplying that bolt and firing it back down, lightning slamming repeatedly into the monkey casters. Only one of them is properly vulnerable to lightning, probably, but it's going to be so toast.
Then the monkeys get down to monkey business. And Fukaziroh vents her frustration in a manner that gets her attention. "Wow. You're one of the few people besides myself I've seen use that spell."
Shiruba on the other hand doesn't get so wound up. It's the exact opposite, as she follows one of the other monkeys with a cautious stride, just advancing forward while the critter carvorts about trying to be confusing and annoying... and then in a flash of motion when she's got her quarrt where she wants them the hunter does her thing, snatching her throwing glaive from her belt. "SEE HOW YOU LIKE THINGS THROWN AT YOU!" She whips the spinning weapon past the monkey, so it boomerangs back to knock the orb out of the monkey's hands. Fortunately she'd used her magic to cushion the weapon in water so it didn't break the orb, and after catching the returning glaive she walks over to pick the treasure up.
And so the party has managed to defeat the trio of monkeys who disappear into puffs of fog, leaving behind the orbs that they had stolen. Now all we need to do is to find how they should be placed among the dozen dragon statues. Perhaps pure pattern recognition will win the day here, or perhaps we'll instead need to use the diagrams and runes inscribed onto each of the statues to figure out which ones are real and which ones are full of deadly traps? Because of course it's not going to be easy.
The release of power, particularly in how it utterly murders her opponent, is quite cathartic for Fukaziroh. She pants in exhaustion. "I am... a mighty battle fairy!" she gasps out, rather pleased despite everything. Pleased both at the outcome and the praise.
Taking a minute to recover does Fuka a world of good, as the group backtracks to the statues. "I *like* this group. We're doing great aren't we?" she beams, as potions begin to restore most of what was lost. She peers at the statues a bit dubiously. "This looks like one of those puzzles in a game I once played. Let's see, how did it go...." she muses, trying to figure out the patterns. And failing miserably. Fortunately when intellect fails, brute force is an option. Right? How long could it possibly take to try every combination of three orbs on eight statues?
Okay this will take a while. Sigh.
Once the orbs have been set /correctly/, one of the cliff walls seems to simply vanish into so much fog, revealing a damp, mist-slick stone staircase that winds deep, deep into the mountain. After what feels like several minutes of walking, the passage finally opens up into a vast, natural cave. Clear water cascades down from thin streams onto limestone tables all around a central clearing. A massive waterfall pours over the cave mouth, light filtering through to illuminate... There!
A large, jade plinth seems to spring from the stone as if it had been carved out of a natural formation. It's beautiful, covered in imagery revering the great Longwang, the Dragon King.
The entire chamber is also covered in piles of rotting fruit and animal residue. This place reeks to the highest heavens. Is the fog thickening?
Three clouds emerge out of the mist and condense into the very same monkeys we defeated only a few minutes ago! They scream and screech before vanishing again into streams of fog-- which join together into a single, massive plume. Suddenly, out of the assembled monkey mist, a behemoth ape with stark white fur emerges-- a Great Monkey Sage! It screams furiously, slamming into the ground an enormous staff that looks as though it had been fashioned out of a small tree. It attacks, unleashing waves of dark magic with each strike.
Even as she's musing that Shiruba leaps back from the staff slamming down, bringing up her magic bow as she lands afterwards. As she draws back on the line elemental energy is drawn into the weapon, allowing her to fire off a barrage of alternating lightning and ice shots at the not so great ape in rapid succession and not needing to reload arrows to do so.
"Naisu!" Fukaziroh says approvingly when Goldenblade proves that not everyone in the group is a dumbass. She does like the group after all. A good blend of brains, beauty, and brute strength. She assesses herself rather high in all three categories of course, with perhaps a hint of bias showing, but it doesn't mean she fails to appreciate her companions.
Fuka takes the staircase at an exuberant bound, seemingly oblivious to any possible risk due to mist-slick stone. And she retains that good mood upon entering what appears to be the shrine itself. She examines the plinth in fascination mixed with disgust at the current condition. "Damn monkeys, getting crap everywhere. Hopefully we've seen the last of them."
Fuka clearly doesn't know the laws of dramatic irony, which manifest immediately upon her ill-considered words in the form of the three creepy magic monkeys. "Awwwwww...." she begins, only to pause and boggle when they combine into the Monkey King. "... crap."
She's quick to begin calling on artes however. "I might be able to disrupt the attacks!" she ventures, chanting runic words of darkness and usurpation. A sphere of sinister dark energies springs forth around her, doing a respectable job in neutralizing some of the albino ape boss's magical attacks and probably giving it a headache besides when it goes for more physical attacks.
At last, the massive albino ape seems bested. It reels and slumps against the stone altar as if trying to catch its breath. But before anyone can strike the final blow, the creature begins to... bleed profusely from the mouth.
And then come the centipedes.
An enormous one erupts from its maw, smaller ones burst from each wound, spitting beams of dark magic. A nest of insects burrow out of its arm, merging with the massive gnarled staff into a single, powerful limb. The abomination, now named the Centimonkey Sage, forces itself up like a corpse on puppet strings. Its movements are erratic as it charges, unpredictably brutal, incredibly strong, and emitting blasts of profane energy from every orifice. Worse, each time we injure it, its wounds are simply knit back together by a swarm of those centipedes. It seems you'll need to kill the main bug to slay the beast, but that's easier said than done when it's bounding around like an infested wrecking ball!
... and then it starts barfing up centipedes. Bugs burst out of it's wounds. Then fuse with the monster, bringing it back to fighting form with new powers. "By the Goddesses that is just all levels of nasty and gross!"
Digusted as she is Shiruba is not one to lose her cool that easily. She draws a handful of arrows from her quiver, runes glowing on the shafts as they're activated and the heads bursting into flames. She engages one of her elemental barriers to hold her position against the profane energies, giving her a chance to take aim and fire a few shots before she does finally have to move. She's hoping the fire's burning effect will off-set that healing factor. Besides, insects often have Fire as an elemental weakness.
Fuka's dark magic arte is powerful but it's also new to her, and not exactly in her best elements either. It drains her mana something fierce, leaving her all but tapped out at the end of the monkey king battle. Fortunately it's enough to see to the group's defense and help the group overcome a tough endboss.
Only, of course, it's *not* an endboss. "You have GOT to be kidding me!" Fuka complains as the Centimonkey Sage erupts from the messy corpse. Her natural instinct is to kill it with fire, but mana issues make that a pipe dream. Instead Fuka rushes in. "Please please please don't let me die covered in centipedes!" she cries out, whirling her great axe as she emits the rather odd battle cry. "Seriously like, fireball me first! I mean it!" she wails, launching herself into the swarm of enemies in an attempt to pin down the Sage with sheer force of will... and her top defensive sword arte.
With the Centimonkey Sage, and his bugs, nothing more than a pile of smoldering ash and rapidly dispersing centipedes, we're finally free to cleanse the shrine properly. As we remove the last of the beast's foul taint from the chamber, the room suddenly seems so much more awe-inspiring, perhaps even divine...? There on the altar, a set of crystalline orbs the color of a pure, pristine lake reflecting a cloudless sky. It seems that Longwang has noticed our service in his name!
The entire place seems better now as it's divine aspect is able to return. An altar is revealed, which she walks up to and gingerly picks one of the orbs off of. "Oh my.. I've never seen such a pure and perfectly shaped crystal like this before. It's brimming with otherworldly forces." It's nimbly tucked away in her inventory. "Let's head back before some other weirdness crawls out of the woodwork."
It takes a real team effort. Fuka is able to stop the boss from pinballing around while Goldenblade goes to town on the monstrosity and all its spawns. Shiruba's fire arrows thin the horde, making sure the centipede thing can't outheal the team effort. All in all it's a textbook operation, something that could rarely be pulled off by three people lacking the synchronization and mutual trust established here.
Fuka's exhausted, but actually not that badly hurt by the boss battle. Nothing that won't be recovered with a little rest. She beams happily at Shiruba, hoping to catch the wolf girl's tail wagging. Which, of course, would be adorable. She knows better than to say that thought aloud however.
"Note to self:" Fukaziroh says with a sigh. "Murder all the monkeys immediately. Their poop despawns when they die. Yeah, let's get out of here. Good deed done for today!"