Duty Session 384: 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+
Rewards:       2
World Rewards: Reduce venomous monster activity in Westelande.

    Setsuna had taken up the mission for the caves of toxic death from the Alne hunter guild and then had to walk himself all the way out to the desert to get the real fun started. So here he was waiting out in the desert infront of a rope bridge, simply sitting and rubbing his left leg. His left, now non skeleton, leg. Taking a moment he even takes his knife and pokes at his leg for a moment as if to check things more. The other oddity floating around Setsuna is the lack of monsters, yep just Setsuna sitting out here all by himself.

Being the Hunter that she is it shouldn't be much of a surprise that Shiruba would show up for a second round at this exceptinally challenging Duty. "I guess I shouldn't be surprised a few hunts wouldn't be enough to completely thin out the monsters lurking here." She pauses to glance off to one side, then the other. Then back to Setsuna. "Didn't bring any of your companions along?" It's odd seeing him with neither the tridoge or the skeleknight.

Prophylaxis has also decided to come along for this particular excursion. To be honest, it's in part due to the bizarre obsession that has the doctor's brain positively buzzing with thought at every hour of the day. There's a decent chance that the manticores living in these caves will be able to provide some sort of useful pharmaceutical reagent, after all.

Also, he has an obligation to make sure Setsuna's new meat-leg doesn't collapse into a pile of red jello if he steps on it wrong. That's kind of... an important thing, it is.

"It looks like you're still getting used to having sensation in your limb again," the doctor observes as he approaches, eyes visibly heavy with thick, dark rings. "Well. This will be a good opportunity to work out the stiffness, eh?"

Schneider arrives at the startoff point, glittery cape flickering. Technicolor is an understatement. He nods to Setsuna, looks over the edge that the rope bridge spans, then looks back at Setsuna, puzzled. "Oh, hey, I almost didn't recognize you. A real leg and no pets. You trying out some new tactic?" he wonders curiously.

For his own part, he hasn't changed much. Flashy jacket, and all the trappings: Polished boots, shirt with ruffles, smug grin. He nods to Shiruba, then Proph as they arrive.

    It's probably little surprise Fukaziroh accepted a hunters' guild quest. She's always accepting those, eager to be useful and adventurous and do something fun with people she could consider friends. What might be a surprise is the little Sylph's state when she arrives. Nothing too surprising in that she looks terrible, tired and probably a little malnourished and no doubt a little stinky... it's a state most adventurers would recognize by now. But unusual in that many people in similar states have to be dragged into doing things outside their personal obsessions.

    She stops near the group, thankfully upwind, and looks rather cheery to see everyone even if a little ... drawn. "I hear we're questing for Manticores? I'm kinda looking for something myself, though, uh, probably NOT a manticore for what I've got in mind..." she admits, trailing off as she looks around at the others.

    Setsuna stands up and brushes himself off as he looks around, " Coach says I can't rely on any monsters or monster legs when it comes to things. Have to do it all myself. I should just be happy she still lets me use boats I suppose." Taking a moment he approaches the rope bridge and starts to climb down. " So weird not having to coordinate what I am trying to do. " Down he goes one step at a time. Eventually reaching the bottom and already seeing the poison symbol pop on his status. "Looks like we have poison gas down here. If you have something to counter it , use it. "

Schneider peers at Fukaziroh, wonders, "What sort of trouble have you gotten yourself into now?" But it's time to go down into the mission, so down it is, and he nods to Setsuna, jumping off the cliff. He doesn't have wings or magic for it, but he -did- invent that parachute some time back, and he likes using it. Or maybe he just likes the thrill of jumping off cliffs?

He lands, rolls to his feet, and starts coughing right away. Seems he forgot his gas mask. That'll have to be his next next invention, since he's got a bunch of stuff in the process already. He tries summoning an air elementa to circulate the air, but apparently the small elementals he can summon can't bring air from far enough away to be clear of yuck, and he keeps coughing and hacking.

Shiruba seems to take a similar approach once she's down in the craig, though rather than summoning an elemental she just conjures a surge of air to vent to the toxic fumes out... unfortunately she can't get enough clean air to make a proper whirlwind and get the toxic air high enough too clear the rock walls and some of it comes billowing back down. "Ugh!" she coughs a few times. "It's denser than last time...."

    Fukaziroh's path down is unsurprising given her spritely nature. As wretched as she looks, she apparently has no debuffs to her physical stats, and bounces along and down in her normal fashion.

    Once on the ground however, she blinks and starts coughing. She goes for her inventory quickly then, pulling out a potion of what appears to be ... well, air. Chugging it back, she passes out more, first to Schneider then to the others.

    "I was trying to make cooled air." she notes, slightly defensively. "Early outcome. Failure, not at all cold enough, but it's an actual air buff! I think I'll have to use liquid cooling really. But it should help a lot here!" she claims.

This isn't Prophylaxis' first trip into the depths of these poisoned caverns. While his mind may be addled somewhat by the terrible grip of obsession, he can still remember *quite* clearly just what sort of antidotes to bring along to maximize the party's survival chances. Pills and syringes are passed around, along with masks that contain a variety of useful medicinal herbs. "Just keep calm and breathe steadily," Prophylaxis advises. "If your eyes start watering, let me know as soon as you can. That may be a sign of acidic vapor."

And heaven knows that they don't need another one of /those/ incidents on their hands.

    Setsuna takes his own advice quickly after and plucks something from his inventory before tossing a vial of purple stuff back and watches the poison status at least slow enough that natural regen covers the rest. Taking a few more vials he tosses them out to whoever may need it. Each breath still burns though. However it appears FUkaziroh is also providing help for those that need it. Then of course there is also the doctor, with his infinite doctor bag of holding that seems to have medication even for this situation. Between the trio no one is going to melt from the toxins, though growing a third arm may still occur. With the immediate threat taen care of they move into one of the caverns, by pure luc the more chalenging of the caverns. They reach a steep incline that they must ascend in some fashion, also they should avoid the walls maay poisonous critters are using the walls to traverse the incline.

Schneider accepts Fuka's potion of air gratefully, wheezing lungfulls from the flask until the debuff from the bad air goes away. He gives her a thumb's up, and will continue to breathe from it until the air runs out as we proceed on. Onward, he continues to swirl the air, or his elementals do, at least, though it doesn't help. WIthout warning, the flask of air he was breathing from runs out, and once again, he's hacking and coughing. "Why are we adventuring in this place again?" he wonders, but the rest of the gripe is lost to hacking coughs and gagging.

Shiruba accepts the offering from Fuka.. and between her context and the lingering aroma around her puts two and two together. "Not the first invention that's proven useful for something other than it's intended purpose," she replies. Takes a sip, and hands it back to Fuka. While making a mental note to make sure she has someone keep an eye on the girl while she's in the all too familiar 'strange mood' mentality.

After which she draws her longbow, the crystals inset in Thundersnow Howl's arm bases glimmering with elemental energy as she takes aim and draws back, forming an arrow out of a rush of air around herself. These which she fires upward, the bursts of pressure when they impact with something both knocking poisonous creatures away from the partial structure they can climb, and blowing some of the toxic vapors away. The smaller focused bursts seem to do a better job of it in this case.

"Because adventure," Prophylaxis answers to Schneider, "Also because manticores supposedly drop very useful loot, so it's beneficial to go see what we can't find." Who knows! Maybe they'll find a powerful Enigma Piece of some description! Or maybe they'll just end up melted to the bone by the acid and poison swirling around in this thoroughly toxic hellhole.

The scent that reaches Prophylaxis' nose is familiar for reasons he'd really prefer to not think about. "Arsenic...? That's not good," he mutters, weaving an arcane gesture with his staff. A whirling wind stirs, blasting the toxic vapors back toward the mouth of the cave. "We should move quick. These vapors are heavy; if we head upward, we should be fine."

    Fukaziroh prefers her body unmodified. Well, it's definitely not her original body but it's not missing a leg right now or added any extra limbs or heads or anything, and she quite likes it that way. "We're here for the booty of course!" she observes to Schneider. "Wait, do manticore tails count as booty? I mean they ARE tails right?" she asks, apparently cheered up by that thought.

    She's a bit slow to realize the abundantly lethal nature of the toxic winds of this area, but when Prophylaxis says it aloud she's quick to take up the effort, adding air magic to his in an ultimately successful effort to hold off the poison. And help blow it at the bugs in fact, helping to clear a path to allow them to climb to relative safety.

    Setsuna looks over at Schneider, " Well I was sent here because I was told it would improve my lung capacity. Apparently there is also a manticore in there. " Taking a look at the incline and head tilts for a moment as he simply does the most natural thing, he makes steps of air. It is something he commonly does in battle so even without having it all prepared he is able to make it work over all and maintain the steps for others as well. On the other hand it appears most people have been able to find a way up , mostly through blowing away the bugs and climbing where the bugs were climbing which was absolutely a valid approach Setsuna hadn't considered.
     As they go deeper into the cave the miasma of toxins is only getting thicker, taking on a smell of rotten lemons. As if hat wasn't troublesome enough they have encountered a Dire Q*Bert called <<Toxic Jumper>>. The creature is super poisonous and evasive, the usual tactic is to simply run away from it or seal it away and avoid it at all cost.

Schneider nods to Fuka about why we're here. "And to blow things up," he adds, though there's been a lack of that so far. He hrms to Setsuna and says, "Swimming will do that, too, but you don't have to swim with sharks..." He looks over as Proph replies, and he's reminded that he -is- looking for particular loot. "An Enigma piece," he grumbles. "But they don't grow on trees, at least not any trees that I've seen, and I haven't found one that I'm looking for." He sighs, which sets off another coughing fit. He hurries after everyone when Proph urges us to head upwind.

The Toxic Jumper is a problem, mostly because it doesn't hold still long enough for him to get an attack spell off. Luckily, his garish cape is nearly impervious to blows, and when it jumps down on him, he draws the cape up lke a shield, and the jumper jumps off, singed by the sheet of flame that erupts from the cape.

    "That thing smells." claims Fuka in a bout of immense irony. She begins to chant, building a pattern out of earth, ranged and barrier runewords repeated. As the dire Q*Bert jumps around she tries to erect walls in its path, with a reasonable degree of success. With some help from others the group can no doubt either wall it off, direct it into a trap, or eject it from the path and continue on their merry way.

Q*Bert is actually kind of adorable, you know? Something about being gigantic and tremendously round. Well, in either case, it's probably best that they *don't* try and actually kill this thing. There are simply too many fumes swirling around the cave to really risk being taken out by something that isn't even their primary target.

Prophylaxis frowns and gestures with his staff. The ground begins to rumble as some of those oddly geometrically perfect stone pillars shoot up out of the ground to impede the creature's progress (while giving it a nice new set of obstacles to play around with.) "Hurry now," the doctor says, his gaze flitting from side to side. "We need to stop soon. It seems there were more toxins in here than I expected."

When the threat of the 'Toxic Jumper' makes itself known, Shiruba just stares for a moment. "By the Goddesses, they really did...." Having been a fairly avid gamer even before VR as a form of escapism, she easily recognizes the 'Dire Q*Bert' for the homage that it is.

Though this also gives her keen hunter skills an edge in dealing with the threat, even if they can't fight it directly. In such she goes immeadiately into the 'Leader Mode' she's been developing over the last few months since her promotion to Guild moderator. "Make for the next cave if you can!" She skids to a stop, swerving around to face the leaing monster's erratic approaching, and bringing up her longbow. The other hand grabs one of the earthen tipped arrows from her quiver and quickly nocks it, drawing the line back to it's full capacity. She waits, judging the creature's jumps for a moment, and then fires!

The crystal-tipped arrow lodges itself into the stone face, and as the Elemental Earth magic is released from it, the rock face erupts like someone spawning a Cubist art work from it, completely changing the angles and facets of the polygonal crystals surrounding the chamber, as well as many of them turning back to the black.

There's an audible *THUMP* as the Toxic Jumper slams into what's now a pillar rather than a platform, and several outbursts of "@!#?@!" echoing through the cave as the creature is briefly stalled by the change in environment.

    Setsuna follows the lead of the others as he places his hand on the ground and he feeds magic to the already raised terrain till it reaches the prison. " Earth magic doesn't last long." If it wasn't for the others that thing would never have been trapped. Already the ground is begining to return as Setsuna urges people out of the room. From one room to another they travel as the toxic gas gets thicker and thicker and the nauseous vapers are begining to show an effect again on the group so much so that there current buffs against the toxic gas isn't strong enough. Setsuna even tries to say something about it but just ends up coughing and choking. Quickly he is sorting through his inventory.

"It's lasting long enough thanks to teamwork," Shiruba notes when others employ a similar tactic as she did. "Let's keep moving before something like the escape disc turns up and it's back on our trail." Thusly she pushes on ahead.

Unfortunately ahead turns out to be more contaminated that before, and even the wolfgirl fumbles and coughs from a wash of nausea, not having much she can do other than keep forging ahead and hope the other members of the party can help keep them going.

    As the toxic air thickens, Fukaziroh rummages through her inventory for more potions of clear air. After a few moments she shrugs. "Guess I'm out. Really need to work on more of those. Preferably colder. Elemental crystals as cryogenic batteries maybe. Not a potion though, that's silly, but ... hey there'd be a market for cold beer at least right? But that's a bit disruptive to the Landers, so hmmmmm..."

    She's probably going to sit and think a while. Hopefully someone gives her a potion or remedy, cluing her in to her current situation so she doesn't continue to wallow in toxic debuffs.

Schneider is ready this time as the toxic gases continue, even growing thicker as we leave Q-Bert behind. He pulls out one of the potions Doc handed out before, since this is the same type of toxin, and is rewarded with a clear breath, which he exhales as a sigh of relief. He will help everyone forge ahead, doing what he can to help everyone along. He only has one extra potion, but if they move fast enough, they can hopefully do it all on the first dose.

Prophylaxis /always/ has antidotes available, flavortext bedamned. "Here," the doctor says, offering yet more medicine to the rest of the party. He soon turns his back on them, though, FOR FAILING HIM!!

...or just because he's planting a strange seed into the ground. He taps it a couple of times, before taking a step back. Soon, a vast tangle of vines bursts up out of the earth, blossoming into a hideous, but brilliantly colorful flowering plant. "That should take care of /some/ of the toxins... Let's keep moving before my spell wears off."

    Setsuna takes the antidote from the doctor and a flask from his invetory and poors the antidote into the flask and shakes. Then in a single gulp he drinks whatever may be in the flask. The healing magic of the doctor helping to heal the burned tissue n his lungs. Really all he mixed it with was fruit juice but damn did it help the medicine go down. With a sigh he looks around. "You heard your nearest doctor, lets get out of here." Down the passage they go as it begins to narrow and the toxic gets worse until it opens into a room. A gorgon stands in the center of the room surrounded by several statues of adventurers afflicted with petrified. To make matters worse, the monster seems to be glitching and it seems that the party's goal is not to fight this glitched creature but instead to out manuever it in a series of tunnels all with the goal of getting away.

Shiruba pauses a moment. Her attention immeadiately goes not to the glitchy gorgon, but to their surroundings (and trying not to think about the statues). She even crouches down partway to put a hand against the wall, then the floor. Then darts off in a direction. "This way!" She's using a careful measure of both navigation skills and sensing the layout of the tunnels through Earth magic to quickly yet precisely pick out a route that won't lead them into any roundabouts or switchbacks the Gorgon glitch can corner them in.

    "You're a life-saver, Prof." Fukaziroh states, simply and warmly. Then her brain catches up with her mouth. "Not the kind you stick in your mouth and suck on, I mean. The other kind. Not that there's anything wrong with that if that's what you're in to I don't judge." she blabbers, partially in reaction to her own originally-thoughtless words, and partly to be typically inappropriate.

    In fact she's so busy motoring her mouth that she pretty much fails to be effective in the challenge, spending more time blabbing than figuring out the maze or the solution path. She just follows along.

Schneider gahs as the gas gets worse and the source of the gas is revealed. Though the maze we found outselves in might have been a hint. Getting past the maze and the gorgon look like the only good solution, because with so much of the game, it's glitched. "This begs the question: were we deliberately trapped in this game, or did they goof that up, too, and no one knows we're here. I mean, except whoever's taking care of our bodies. Communications seems to never happen at times like these, I think, at least not in movies and comics."

As far as getting /past/ this gorgon, since fighting glitched monsters does not go well in his experience, is a matter of some thought and contemplation. But he knows a bit about gorgon mazes, which he'd read in some of his research, and he manages to navigate the maze without too much trouble.

Don't worry Fuka, you're not the only one spewing gobbledegook. The doctor's mouth is moving, too. But the words his mouth makes... don't quite match up to anything that really makes /sense./ It doesn't help that he's whispering under his breath, his words nearly inaudible. The only bit that can be made out is... his own name, paradoxically.

But as he finishes, a wave of soft white light washes out from over the magus' heart. It settles on every single member of the party, and inexplicably shields them from the gorgon's petrifying gaze. She *tries* but gains no purchase, her power simply scintillating off the bubbles of protective light surrounding each one. "Come on," the doctor advises, "We need to move. I don't know what that thing's capable of, but I don't think we're equipped to find out."

    Yes this way, Setsuna thinks as he follows behind Shiruba and takes the moment to track Shiruba's movements to follow her. Hmm what big feet Shiruba , oh no wait thats the Gorgon's feets. Quickly he scrambles back to the group. Fortunately between Prophylaxis shielding them from the systematic problem that is a petrifying gaze and Schneider and Shiruba working out where to go everyone makes it out in one , non petrified piece. They in fact find there way into the highest concentrated room with all the toxins and in it sits the meanest , most bad ass manticore ready to eat the lowly adventurers that have wandered into it's lair. Not a moment is loss as the Manticore pounces , forcing the party into combat.

    Fuka just follows along with the others, not entirely sure what's going on. Her intellect gets piqued by Schneider's question however. "Not sure where that came from but man, that's a depressing thought." she claims, happy to distract herself somewhat from the creepy gorgon that's somehow not turning them to stone. Prof? Prof. Wonderful man, that bunny-man. A bit weird, but that's never been a disincentive to Fuka.

    "I prefer to think we're copies." Fuka continues. "That the real Miyu is out there, happily going about her life. I mean, it's not like we're stuck in the headsets, right? So our original bodies pretty much can't be hooked up to the game still right? I figure we kinda *have* to be copies." she blathers. But not without some logical sense behind her words.

    She is, in fact, so distracted by this whole line of thought that she's still a bit out of it when they first are presented to the elder Manticore. She's startled by its roar, setting up her axe, but it disrupts her first attempted arte setup. And her second. She's not useless in the fight, but she's unable to fully contribute, unable to get off the best physical arte she knows while in her current state.

"This is a lot bigger than the last one!" Shiruba stamps a foot into the ground to brace herself and with a few quick arm gestures whips up one of her Air based elemental shields. Just in time for the Manticore to lunge, but be intercepted by the shield.

Then Shiruba reachs forward and closes her fingers, grimacing in concentration as instead of holding the barrier she wraps it forward, pushing the Manticore away from the group and trying to keep it trapped in the small cyclone she's making out of the barrier. "I can't hold it back forever guys," she grunts through clenched teeth. "Make this quick!"

Schneider nods to Fuka about the copies hypothesis. "That's the explanation that I think makes the most sense, too." He will lead the way through the maze, since he's got a good idea of the way. When the manticre pounces, Schneider ducks aside and steps up boldly, chanting.

It sounds eeries and wrong, but he speaks boldly, "Kaizard, aruzard, kisk! Hansay Glossik! Unleash total destruction! Sage of Hades use the seven keys to open the gates of Hell!"


And the world explodes. At least the manticore's world does, Dark Schneider's signature spell hitting it decidedly hard. When the flames and smoke clear, the manticore is down a chunk of HP, and he keeps throwing fire magic at it until it explodes into a cloud of pixels.

"It's possible that our minds were copied," Prophylaxis agrees as the manticore pounces. The fatigue in his eyes is beginning to show in his movements; the magus is more sluggish than usual, nearly stumbling onto his ass when he goes to dodge one of the manticore's strikes. He seems to realize that there'll be no decent talking while the monster is nipping at their literal and metaphorical heels.

And so he just sort of... levels his staff at the creature and sets it on fire. So much fire. ALL THE FIRE. It's a veritable towering pillar of flame that consumes the manticore. Finally, when it is naught but ash, the doctor can finally find the space to speak.

"It's also possible that our mental 'perception' of time and such has been 'accelerated' substantiallly, such that we view the passage of days as the motion of /years./" The doctor shrugs, "...Ultimately we /don't/ know. Which is what motivates the climb for many of us."

    Fuka laughsnorts at Proph's last suggestion. "Not bad, Prof!" she claims, having never thought of that. It makes sense, even if it's not the most plausible answer. But he's definitely right that there's no way to know for sure, not from the inside. She prefers to think she's a copy though, which is the largest part of the reason she has no drive to gain 'freedom' from this world. Not that she won't help Scale from time to time... but she helps for personal reasons rather than policy ones.

    Setsuna charges towards the manticore and takes up the tanks role. How does a necromancer tank you may ask, by dodge tanking. The tail lashes forward a few times but Setsuna always seems to disappear a second before the tail impacts and reappearing in a different spot. Once the storm is in place there is a pumpkin face ball hits the storm turns into a raging flaming cyclone around the beast and the more schneider throws the hotter the fire gets. Then you have Prophylaxis infusing the spirit of fire itself into the tornado as the flames turn from red to blue to white. The miasma has literally been superheated away , in fact the party is literally taking fire damage. Then Setsuna appears behind Fukaziroh and grabs her before they both vanish and appear above the eye of the storm. "Swing down. " Setsuna says before dropping Fukaziroh to fall ontop of the manticore in the middle of the fire tornado of death. Setsuna himself disappears again as he appears behind the party, his magic gone. Moments later Fukaziroh would be the one claiming the final hit on the Manticore as it dies from everything the adventurers put it through, and they can acquire a piece of its tail, and even more important there is an exit.

Shiruba nearly collapses just after the Manticore does, bracing herself with her longbow against the ground and panting a few times. "That is a lot more draining using that spell as a trap instead of a defense." Once she catchs her breath though the wolfgirl stands. "Good work everyone. Let's grab the proof of our success and get out of here."

    Getting grabbed by a necromancer is CREEPY! Fuka flails, but quickly realizes what's going on. Fortunately she doesn't drop her greataxe and readies herself. Perhaps her contribution to the fight isn't so effective, not on its own, but when combined with Setsuna dropping her onto the confused and enraged manticore along with timely advice she ends up actually doing something useful. Hit large thing with sharp thing making it scream and bleed. "This had better die soon! I'm too young and pretty to die in a fire!" she shrieks, hacking away.

    Setsuna watches the fire around Fukaziroh die down as the Manticore dies and maes his way over to retrieve his loot. " I am with SHiruba , lets get out of here." With that he taes his own advice using the source of fresh air as a path to the outside world.