2017-04-30: Caverns of Malevolence

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================================<* Port Timney *>================================

Port Timney is the Kingdom of Adlehyde's premier port town. The city hugs the southern coast of the ranchlands and several trains terminate in Ardyne Grand Station at the northern part of the town. Cattle brought from the ranchlands tend to end up in the northern part of town, before their meat and hides are shipped as far as Krosse and Nortune. Timney has the look of an industrial city, without much of the simple style that Adlehyde's other cities are popular for. While it has few factories, it has many workshops and tanneries in the northern parts of town.

Most of the people live in between the northern factories and southern docks, in apartment homes of varying quality. The markets are functional, meant to serve locals rather than sell the imports and exports making their way through the port. The docks, however, are something to behold: numerous large piers, fit for both wooden sailing ships and the newer ironclads, extend out onto the blue waters of the South Ignas Sea.

BGM: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k9KZlk_t4Ww
DG: Josephine Lovelace has created a party! To join, type +party/reset and then type +party/join Josephine Lovelace.
DG: Catenna has joined your party!
DG: Vin Barrett has joined your party!
DG: Rose has joined your party!
DG: Seraph Edna has joined your party!
DG: Seraph Ragnell has joined your party!
DG: A party led by Josephine Lovelace is now entering Otherworldly Hollow.
DG: Party formation is now over. An Entry Challenge will now be drawn and displayed to the party.
========================<* CHALLENGE - Hellion Horde *>=========================
|Type: Entry       |Dungeon Ability: Combat    |Challenge Rating: 2          | 
---------------------------< Challenge Information: >---------------------------
 There can be little doubt you have found yourself at the right place if one   
 but looks at the creatures that call this place their home; congregating at   
 the yawning entrance of the Hollow, the animals wandering here are many and   
 varied but all have one thing in common: to the spiritual eye, they are       
 undoubtedly Hellions, warped in ugly and frightening ways and exuding a       
 sickening sensation to all with the spiritual presence to sense it. To get    
 inside, you'll have to clear them out, but you won't go entirely              
 empty-handed: scattered bits of armor, potions and other intact provisions    
 dot the landscape in front of the cavern; given the presence of blood smears  
 and bone fragments, it's probably best not to dwell too long on how these     
 boons got here.                                                               
=Dungeon Conditions: Treasure=================================================
<Pose Tracker> Josephine Lovelace has posed.

The best thing to do after a horde of twisted animals (and a few people, it seems) launches an all-out apparently-mindless assault upon a city? Follow after them.

Tracking the creatures back to their lair isn't hard, even for people not skilled in tracking beasts. They've left a bit of a trail, cobwebbing back all the way to a network of caves -- Batical Grotto -- not terribly far from Port Timney itself.

Something's wrong even with the land here. These aren't the caves they once were -- even the air feels sick to those with spiritual sensitivity. Neither are the twisted things milling about near the entrance to the most prominent of the caves. They're watchful, waiting.

Also telling are the remains scattered about the land, here. The group, assembled back in Port Timney as part expedition party-part extermination crew might not have been the first ones here. There are items strewn about, pieces of clothing. Armor, a helmet. ...Parts of bodies.

For her part, Josie's curious.

And she could also get paid. But it's the terrible curiosity that's pushed the archaeologist to stick her neck out, this time.

"Looks like a whole bunch of them," she observes, drawing her rifle from its holster. Ugh, even the air here makes her nauseous. "Get ready, and let's try to ambush them. They might not even know we're here, right~?" In spite of the atmosphere and the battlefield ahead, Josie smiles, unrepentingly sunny.

Penelope is not the least bit happy about this. The bird clings to the back of Josie's neck, hunched up.

"Well, shall we?" With that, Josephine ducks into a crouch, squinting one eye closed as she takes careful aim. She should try to drop one of those large cats first. She pulls the trigger, and a shot cracks out.

DG: Josephine Lovelace has contributed a Combat Basic Action toward her party's challenge, Hellion Horde.
<Pose Tracker> Rose has posed.

Rose is on a mission today. Sorey can't stop worrying about whatever might be driving the animals to attacks. Malevolence this, Malevolence that. Shepherd or not he's going to run himself ragged! Rose came out of the scuffle a lot less scratched than he did, thanks to that stunt he pulled with all the water, so she's taking it upon herself to scout out the cave the animals ran off to. With some luck, a party of non-Sorey adventurers can resolve the issue and he won't have to do a thing. As luck would have it, she wasn't the only one with the desire to come here either.

Maybe, just maybe, she also just really needs to prove to herself that her methods still work and there's no such thing as a Shepherd-only problem. Something about staying away from him since he's such a Seraphim magnet, too?

That's why the merchant is with this crew of Drifters. Did someone just say ambush, no less? Welp!

"On it!" Rose says with a grin, as she pulls a couple of small black orbs from one of her utility pouches. She throws them towards Hellions, though to her they're just regular-but-hostile-looking animals. Still, after seeing what those animals did to Port Timney's guards, she isn't going to treat them like "just wildlife". The black orbs detonate! They are smoke bombs. Even a Hellion's going to dislike one popping directly in its face.

Rose grabs her knives, and dives into the fray once the group's positioned, slicing and dicing without a care. And maybe swiping some of those potions and valuables strewn about inbetween slashes too.

What?

They're just lying there. It's not theft!

DG: Rose has used her Tool Smoke Bomb toward her party's challenge, Hellion Horde.
<Pose Tracker> Catenna has posed.

Catenna wasn't in Port Timney, but she'd hurried down when she'd heard the animals had gone mad.

What's before her curdles her stomach - not just the grim sensation of the hollow, but the animals coming into view. They're not... normal. Attuned as she is to the spirits, the woman opens her mouth half an inch, then purses her lips, staring for a few seconds at the hideously distorted creatures clustered outside the cave. Even the air feels somehow impossibly curdled.

Stoic as she tends to be, Catenna tries not to let it show on her face. Pressing her lips together, she pops a couple of rounds into her shotgun, then looks up towards...

...towards Penelope. She clucks her tongue softly and flashes a faint smile, as if to assure Josie's bird that it's alright.

Then she snaps her shotgun closed and inches forward. Her medium rests in her left hand. Playing her other hand over it, gun still held within it, she bows her head and murmurs a few power words under her breath. The word 'Celesdue' may be overhearable, but the language isn't Baskar - and for those familiar, the enchantment is longer than usual for her. It sounds almost apologetic.

When Catenna casts, there's never a spectacular visual effect. Much is the same here. The Hellion beasts clustered around the entrance seem to slow down, as if encumbered by the earth. The power of gravity upon them multiplies.

And as it does, Catenna levels her shotgun.

Her cheeks are a little green as she blasts into the wildlife swarm with a scattering shrapnel round.

DG: Catenna has used her Tool Shrapnel Shell toward her party's challenge, Hellion Horde.
<Pose Tracker> Seraph Ragnell has posed.

Rose, you have no luck. There's no way Seraphim would just overlook this matter, considering it *is* a major Shepherd-related problem. At least, that's why Ragnell tailed Rose when she bounced, and why the poncho-wearing Seraph stands over her, invisibly (though perhaps not to everyone), as the group overlooks the cave of Hellions as they lurk about. Malevolence befouls the air and the land and the creatures alike, but Ragnell glowers at them with a stony expression. This was about what she expected, after all, this being something she has quite a bit of experience with. Remains of previous Drifters and their old supplies dot the landscape in front of the cave. Sucks to be them.

"Get them before they get you, that's what I always say," Ragnell murmurs of Josie's suggestion of an ambush, her twin pistols in her hands. She pops off a pair of shots, lightning bullets buzzing through the air like angry bees, towards the twisted creatures near the entrance, aiming to take care of the confusion Rose and Catenna create with their smoke bomb and shrapnel round to help take out some of those monsters.

DG: Seraph Ragnell has contributed a Combat Basic Action toward her party's challenge, Hellion Horde.
Seraph Ragnell
A ruggedly handsome, nebulously young woman (man?) with brown skin, red eyes, and short, ragged, storm-cloud gray hair tipped golden like thunderbolts on the bangs and in the back. She's quick with both a smirk and a scowl that both reveal sharp incisors, and her eyes gleam with a perpetual, sharp watchfulness. Dressed in a zigzag-patterned orange-and-brown poncho that obscures her figure and a paisley red-and-white neckerchief, it's hard to tell her gender at a glance; her husky voice makes it additionally easy to mistake her for a man. Besides the poncho and neckerchief, she wears a wide-brimmed brown hat, loose cream-yellow shirt, stone-washed blue jeans, sturdy knee-high brown boots, and thick brown worker's gloves. She has a survival knife strapped to her right thigh and a pair of guns hanging from the belts at her hips, all holstered. The guns *seem* normal enough, but the sufficiently savvy might be able to tell that they're unloaded.
<Pose Tracker> Seraph Edna has posed.

Edna...

...was mostly just watching from inside Sorey all this time. Not like her help was especially needed, right? Right. But curiousity eventually leads her to pop on out of our dear old Shepherd and amble off to have herself a look with her own two eyes. She can't exactly ignore something like this. At least not totally. Sigh. Annoying. Not like anyone'd pay an invisible person either, so that was out too. But that's no matter. The information would be good enough.

And so she quietly follows along with this ragtag group, keeping a fair distance, but remaining close enough to help if possible. The discovery that others came before them does not surprise the earth seraph. Nor does the sight of remains. "...Typical." She grumbles to herself, but otherwise does nothing.

It's not until those beasts come out and start attacking that Edna... well, does more than just stand around. It's still the most minimal amount of help she an be bothered to give. That is, to point her umbrella and cause the ground under a few of those things to burst upwards with sharp spikes. Nothing is said, no one is addressed. She's here to see for herself what's happening. That other stuff can wait.

DG: Seraph Edna has contributed a Combat Basic Action toward her party's challenge, Hellion Horde.
<Pose Tracker> Vin Barrett has posed.

Luckily, even if one isn't skilled at tracking beasts, the beauty of capitalism is always there to help! In other words, one could always hire someone who -is- skilled at tracking things! Someone such as Vin Barrett, Baskar Guide, and someone who is most certainly quite good at tracking critters and beasts.

...Although, given how unsubtle the latest batch of unruly (unholy) wildlife is, it's...not like one needs his skills to pull such things off, honestly! Mind, it's also been a most interesting group that's set out to deal with the latest pack of attackers. It is nice to see that unusually intelligent pigeon again, though, so at least that's one thing about the day looking up.

Sadly, that's just about the only thing good about the current situation. The Baskar tsks, eyes narrowing as he glowers about at the entrance to the Hollow. "The sanctity of this place has been -fouled-." Shaking his head and hissing a curse under his breath, the Baskar pulls his own longARM from its sheathe, grimly holding it one handed. The other hand, after all, is occupied as flames begin to swirl in it in as the Baskar Shaman murmurs a small invocation to Moor Gault, finishing and flinging a blazing lance of furious orange flame roars downrange into one of the abominations infesting this little portion of the land.

DG: Vin Barrett has contributed a Combat Basic Action toward his party's challenge, Hellion Horde.
DG: The party led by Josephine Lovelace has failed this challenge! The party gained 9 exploration! If anyone needs to use party management commands, do so now. Otherwise, the next round's GM may begin the next round with +dungeon/draw.
<Pose Tracker> Josephine Lovelace has posed.

There's a few people who came a long that Josie knows -- the two shamans, most notably. It's been a while. And she thinks she saw two of the other girls in the fighting at Port Timney, but... she's not sure about that. The last one, the one who looks like a little girl, is a new one to her.

At least Catenna's presence -- and whatever what she just said means to a pigeon -- allows Penelope's feathers to be less ruffled. The bird's still pretty on edge, though, and with good cause.

It should have been the perfect shot. At the last moment, just as the Josie pulls the trigger, the apparently oblivious wildcat turns to stare right at her. Quite handily, it slides out of the way. Her shot misses.

And here comes the large wildcat.

"Shit!"

Almost at that exact moment, the rest of the milling animals leap to the fore as if they had been waiting for the command to attack, perhaps only a few taken down or slowed a touch by gravitational forces, detonations of smoke bombs, a barrage of electrified bullets, a burst of flames, or earthen spikes. There's a lot of them even if a few fall, and worse: they're relentless.

Standing, Josie glances back, over her shoulder. It doesn't take more than an instant to come up with a desperate and foolhardly plan.

"Into the cave! We can try to out-maneuver them there!" She gestures, circling her arm in a wide arc towards the cave mouth, even as the cat comes charging at her, claws at the ready. Barely twisting out of the way, she receives a scratch across her cheek for her troubles.

Josie wastes no time in booking for it for the entrance. If they run away, they'll just get the whole lot of them ambushing them where there's no terrain or ground to use.

DG: Rose has drawn a new Challenge.
=========================<* CHALLENGE - Geyser Groove *>==========================
|Type: Exploration |Dungeon Ability: Agility   |Challenge Rating: 1          | 
----------------------------< Challenge Information: >----------------------------
 The presence of Malevolence in this cave system has made the landscape        
 unstable. Things don't quite behave as they should, or are much more          
 volatile and intense than usual. One newer addition is the series of geysers  
 throughout this wide, open cavern, each of them shooting up columns of        
 boiling water of various heights; some of them seem to be holding aloft       
 crumbling platforms of rock, too, which is fortunate, considering the path    
 leading onward is at the top of a very steep ledge that is conveniently       
 accessible by the highest platform when it reaches its apex. Convenient! Now  
 all you have to do is get the timing of the leaps between platforms           
 perfectly right so you can reach the ledge before the water dies off again.   
 Easy, right? ... Right??                                                      
=Dungeon Conditions: Stupify==================================================
<Pose Tracker> Rose has posed.

Was that lightning out of nowhere?

Why is the earth shooting up?

/Oh no./

Rose shivers, and immediatly loses all of her composure. How does that keep happening?! What kind of rotten luck does she have? No, no, calm down Rose, maybe it's just... something someone else did. There's like, three people with her, there was smoke and shrapnel and... you never know. Don't assume the worst. Don't assume the worst. Don't. Assume. The worst.

It helps take her mind off this when the "ambush" doesn't go as planned and they're forced to run inside. Another smoke bomb'll cover their retreat, just to be safe!

Inside the cave is a whole different feeling. While the Hellions outside made the place feel uneasy, being inside exposes people to Malevolence more directly. Those who can feel it, anyway. Rose is oblivious, even if she can tell the air is "heavier" somehow. For the more perceptive, it's much more than that. There's this mist, purple, brown, black, lightly hanging in the air. Touching strands of it doesn't hurt physically, but it's emotional strain. Something that tugs at the negativity in your hearts, if there's any to reach. Luckily, there's not enough here to do anything significant to anyone, at least not yet!

More urgent than the oppressive feeling in the air is the obstacle ahead. As geysers shoot water up randomly and others are constant, it becomes obvious the only way forward is to climb. There are rocks, holes in the cliffside, and for the more adventurous, the geysers' jets hold platforms up and down that could be used, with precision leaps, to reach the upper ledge ahead.

Rose has none of this and pulls her grappling hook out, spinning the hook at the end of the rope before hurling it up at the highest ledge she can reach, tugging a few times to ensure it's secure. Those who don't want to deal with platforming on geysters can swing by using the rope, though that's not without risks given said geysers.

The merchant even manages to strike a conversation! At Vin. "Sanctity? Is this place special?"

DG: Rose has used her Tool Grapple Hook toward her party's challenge, Geyser Groove.
<Pose Tracker> Catenna has posed.

"Tactically sensible," Catenna murmurs with a sidelong glance at Ragnell.

The fact that Ragnell should be invisible and inaudible doesn't even occur to her. And then Vin unleashes his spell. Inhaling sharply, the woman watches him for a moment, listening to the things he murmurs and the fire he casts forth.

Then the wildcat comes and ruins her precious moment. Backing off, Catenna fires off another round of buckshot, then steps back to try and cast again - but the group's already moving. Wincing as the cat barrels past her but managing to lunge to the side, she hits the ground and rolls, then comes to her feet in a ripple of skirts as she sprints forward, gun in one hand, medium in the other.

The cave is almost as bad as what lies outside. Slowing, Catenna bites her bottom lip as she falls in near Vin. She doesn't say anything initially, merely measuring the cavern with her eyes and trying to grapple internally with the nauseating feeling of this much Malevolence rippling through the world itself. It's hard for her to keep track of the geysers as they lift the platforms.

Instead she looks up at Vin.

"Moor Gault?" she murmurs inquisitively, momentarily running her fingertips over the tablet cradled in her left hand. There's Baskar writing and a moon symbol etched into it.

Then she shoulders her shotgun and pulls out a rope and a grappling hook instead. Stepping forward, she casts the hook overhead; it bites in not far from Rose's, and she starts climbing quickly from there.

Screw timed jumps. Catenna's got tricks.

DG: Catenna has used her Tool Grappling Hook toward her party's challenge, Geyser Groove.
<Pose Tracker> Seraph Edna has posed.

Oh.

Well then.

These things are more tenacious than she anticipated. Not about to let herself be touched by a hellion, Edna empowers her umbrella with earth magic, rendering it super hard. Then she opens it up to defend against an oncoming claw. Good news; she didn't get mauled! Bad news; the force of the attack send her careening a short distance before she hits her back to the ground. But the earth seraph isn't about to waste tme sitting idle.

She immediately rolls to her feet and books it, as per Josephine's suggestion. Yeah, no need to fight uphill battles. Just bypass them entirely.

Into the cavern they go, until they find themselves face to face with... "Hm..." Edna murmurs in a difficult manner, staring at this geyser based hazard complicating their journey.

"........"

She doesn't have time for this.

Edna raises a foot. Then stomps the ground. What follows is a column of stone abruptly bursting up from the ground betneath her and launching the girl high, high into the air. Once she reaches her apex, te earth seraph just opens up her umbrella and casually floats along.

Nevermind that to the less spiritually inclined, it just looked like a pillar of rock just burst upwards for no real reason at all.

Hi Rose.

DG: Seraph Edna has used her Tool Umbrella toward her party's challenge, Geyser Groove.
<Pose Tracker> Seraph Ragnell has posed.

Edna's presence hadn't gone unnoticed by everyone--Ragnell thought she sensed the Earth Seraph, and when she sees stone spiking up towards Hellions during the battle, she's sure of it. She doesn't draw attention to Edna, though, since if she's off to the side on her own, there must be reason for it. Ragnell, for her part, just doesn't really care if people see she's there or not; the best seat for observing these matters is the front row.

Besides. Rose is /right there/ for the harassing. And after seeing what she could do in that battle at Port Timney, Ragnell's decided she wants to see more.

Catenna glances at her, remarking on her remark, and Ragnell gives her a sidelong glance back. "Hmmm..." So she can see her, whoever this... person is. Good to know. As for the sanctity of this place... Ragnell leaves that unremarked on. Malevolence does that, after all

The battle itself, however, ends up terrible. The attempted ambush goes badly, the Hellions turn it all around on them and leap for them, only slowed down slightly by the attacks leveled their way. "Tch!" Ragnell utters through gritted teeth, falling back; one Hellion lands a solid blow on her, and she tumbles into a roll to attempt to soften the damage. When Josie calls for everyone to fall back into the cave, Ragnell doesn't need to be told twice; she turns and runs for it.

She'll be feeling that hit a whole hell of a lot once the adrenaline wears off.

Still, once they've made their way inside and shaken off the Hellions, there's another problem ahead of them: specifically, a series of geysers shooting up slabs of rock. In fact, the rocks, if timed correctly, lead all the way up to the top of an otherwise unclimbable ledge. Ragnell eyeballs the geysers thoughtfully, working out the pattern; then, quick as a fox, she leaps onto the first rock platform and attempts to speedily jump-jump-jump-jump until she makes it to the top of the ledge.

Of course, with all this water about, it's entirely possible to slip, but she's an otherwise agile Seraph, and there are no less than two grappling hook ropes; it should be easy enough to grab hold of one of them if the worst happens. (Or maybe she's being overconfident?)

Either way, once everyone reaches the top, one way or another, Ragnell grins at Edna. "You're such a show-off."

DG: Seraph Ragnell has contributed a Agility Basic Action toward her party's challenge, Geyser Groove.
<Pose Tracker> Vin Barrett has posed.

Vin swears up a blue streak as the swarm of mutated monsters forces the group of Drifters to break for the cave. He leaves off casting, instead going for just shooting his way through, having to smack a particularly persistent tiny Hellion Dog Thing off of his ankle with his rifle butt. "Get! Off! You! Nasty! Little! Canine! RAT!" WHAP!

Sliding into the cave along with the rest, he takes a moment to catch his breath and wrap up a few of the worse scratches, blinking as he stares at the swriling nasty evil mist and, just as importantly, the geysers and the leaping and the...well...It's not just the Malevolence that makes Vin's heart sink.

He rubs his forehead, sighing as he looks up at the heavens. "Guardians know why every damn time I go out to work, it always involves precarious or precision jumping. Every. Damn. Time. Bah."

The Baskar sheathes his gun, limbering up a bit, taking the opportunity to chat, politely nodding to Rose. "Eh, only special in how nasty it feels. The Badlands feel positively comforting compared to this."

As for Catenna's inquiry, the Baskar just grins, casually flipping a small totem of the Guardian of Fire up and down while waiting for the more agile sorts to take point, so to speak.

That's something, at least! Why, there's ropes and extra platforms and everything. Vin even pauses to tap his brow and nod politely to the Seraph of Earth after she makes that platform. "My thanks." And, quick-as-a-kinda-fast-thing, the Baskar attempts to traverse the geysers, unsteamed, with quite a bit less showing off and much more trying to take advantage of ropes and extra stone platforms and the like.

DG: Vin Barrett has contributed a Agility Basic Action toward his party's challenge, Geyser Groove.
<Pose Tracker> Josephine Lovelace has posed.

The good news is, they manage to shake the Hellions.

The bad news is, they've all just run into a cave probably chock-full of hidden dangers of another sort. And full of the oppressive sensation that seems to come part and parcel with these creatures.

But what's the worst that could happen?

"Whew..." Josie exhales as she rounds a twisty bend, entering what looks to be a wider cavern. She slides her rifle back into its holster, and glances at the rest. One, two... ok, six. That's everyone. "Looks like we lost them. Geez..." She reaches up briefly, touching a gloved finger to her cheek. Bloody, but not deep, it feels like. It should be fine.

"It feels worse in here, doesn't it." Josie glances upwards, dark eyes tracking the shifting mist. "...What's all this mist? It feels..." She squints one eye, slightly. Unpleasant.

Penelope shifts, talons needling at the back of her neck. Maybe she should have left the pigeon with Lily.

She pauses, upon spotting the geysers, her gaze briefly following them and the route they take upwards. "Oh, now that's handy," she comments, watching as Edna simply makes her own platform. She didn't get a good look, though; was that Crest Sorcery? Something seemed different.

But if other people have handy ropes and grappling hooks, she'll take that; even if she trusts her feet, even she'd rather not take a nasty spill in here. Wrapping a section of Rose's rope around her right arm, she'll work on levering herself up with her left.

DG: Josephine Lovelace has contributed a Agility Basic Action toward her party's challenge, Geyser Groove.
DG: The party led by Josephine Lovelace has passed this challenge! The party gained 27 exploration! If anyone needs to use party management commands, do so now. Otherwise, the next round's GM may begin the next round with +dungeon/draw.
<Pose Tracker> Rose has posed.

Ropes, earthen artes and natural platforms are used successfully to go on ahead! There might be a few close encounters with some of the geysers suddenly deciding they have to shoot while people are crossing, but overall there's not one burn suffered and everyome comes out of the mess pretty much dry!

That's a win no matter how you look at it.

Ragnell even manages to do this the way the cave intended, watching her footing and ending up needing none of the backup plans. Who's the showoff now, though?

Rose, for her part, practically trips and falls at the sight of the earthen pillar rising. That was NOT something anyone did, she was watching this time! She manages not to plunge down, mostly because by the time she staggers back she'd reached the upper ledge, but now there's no avoiding the truth: there is at least one person she can't see with the group. Knowing her luck, more than one.

She falls kind of quiet, packing her hook and rope back up around a shoulder while hoping if she just ignores the ghosts VERY HARD that they will return the favor. That'd be so nice.

DG: Catenna has drawn a new Challenge.
=======================<* CHALLENGE - Ascend the Shaft *>========================
|Type: Exploration |Dungeon Ability: Brute     |Challenge Rating: 1          | 
---------------------------< Challenge Information: >----------------------------
 People once used the Hollow, before it was ultimately abandoned; their        
 presence still lingers, here and there, mostly in rudimentary ways. Ways      
 like the manual rope-and-pulley lift that leads up, further into the          
 caverns. Hopefully you've got some people with great upper body strength      
 with you, because it's sure as hell a long way up.                            
=Dungeon Conditions: Tire=====================================================
<Pose Tracker> Catenna has posed.

Catenna just smiles quietly at Vin, a little blush momentarily colouring her cheeks. "...We should talk later," she offers him quietly.

Edna's trick draws a curious look from Catenna; she didn't see any Crests or mediums being used, but /felt/ it nevertheless. Maybe the girl is hiding symbols under her clothes somewhere, she figures.

Pulling herself up her rope the rest of the way, she alights upon the cliff with a flip of her hair back away from her face with one hand, exhaling in a short huff. Retrieving the rope, she coils it up and tucks it away before looking back to keep track of the rest, then turning her eyes to Rose and - and biting her lip as the woman plummets. "Are you alright?" she asks quietly.

Once she's sure everyone is with her, she bustles on, through a twisted, malevolent cavern mouth beyond the eldge. The pall of Malevolence hangs heavy in the air, the violet-tinged fog eddying subtly, seeming to want to stick to the skin. Even breathing feels deeply unsettling.

But through the mist, mechanisms appear. Far above, there's a subtle light shining through what looks a lot like a cavern mouth set into a wall; thin beams of light radiate from narrow gaps in the cave ceiling, diffusing through the mist into an eerie glow. Off in the distance, something drips.

And looming in that wall, lined up with the entryway above, is a simple rope-and-pulley elevator, with a couple of ropes dangling near the platform.

Something inside Catenna dies a little.

It's too far for her rope. "We need to pull those ropes to get up," she says quietly in her thick accent as she heads for the elevator. Sinking to one knee, she cradles her tablet in her hand and murmurs something.

As folks pile onto the elevator, lifting the thing might get perceptibly simpler. As if the weight of it had been marginally reduced.

DG: Catenna has contributed a Brute Basic Action toward her party's challenge, Ascend the Shaft.
<Pose Tracker> Vin Barrett has posed.

Huh. Well, either Catenna is a fellow Guardians-worshipper, or she's read some of those blasted novellas. Meh. Either way, Vin will worry about it later.

The Baskar looks at the shaft, the pulley system, then the shaft, then just sighs. Welp, this is going to be annoying.

Taking a moment to pull a pair of heavy duty work gloves out of his travel satchel, tugging them on. Tsking, he grabs one of the ropes, rolling his shoulders. "All aboard, I suppose."

And, well, while he doesn't have any Fancy Tricks to deal with this sort of thing, and he's not exactly a -master- of manual labor...Vin will do his best to help with the rope pulling and the like.

At least it isn't a door, this time.

DG: Vin Barrett has contributed a Brute Basic Action toward his party's challenge, Ascend the Shaft.
<Pose Tracker> Josephine Lovelace has posed.

Rose's little stumble hadn't gone unnoticed. "You feeling okay, kiddo?" Josie asks, looking the girl over. "It is a bit... off in here."

It's a pulley system ahead. A manual one at that. Josie frowns, slightly, and tilts her head as if in thought. Brute force ahead, huh...

Slipping off her pack, Josie pauses a moment before climbing on board the elevator. "Just one moment..." she says, kneeling to quickly root through its contents. Out comes the mattock. "It's a little makeshift, but..." Stooping briefly, Josie scoops up her back and strides on board, grabbing onto the rope. "...If we wrap it like so--"

Like so. Though judging from the knot, /untying/ this again will be an ordeal. "Tada! We have a handle. That should make this easier."

DG: Josephine Lovelace has used her Tool Well-Used Mattock toward her party's challenge, Ascend the Shaft.
<Pose Tracker> Rose has posed.

Catenna and Josephine ask if Rose is alright. "No!" She panics. "I mean ghosts!" Wait. "I MEAN YES. I'm fine! Totally fine. I'm the very image of calmness and composure, nothing can get through me! Ahaha... haha... haaaa..." The nervous laugh probably doesn't help.

It's odd, really. If she had her other outfit on, if she just had that metal mask, she'd be a totally different person. She feels like she could handle this. Deaden herself completely. As Rose, it's... harder. She's not sure why. Maybe because she's a bit more "herself" like this?

She squeamishly gets onto the elevator, reaching to grab a bit of rope all to herself. If they all pull together it should be a bit easier! Four people can lift this small elevator and their own weight, right?

DG: Rose has contributed a Brute Basic Action toward her party's challenge, Ascend the Shaft.
<Pose Tracker> Seraph Edna has posed.

Edna glances at Ragnell plainly while dusting herself off a bit. "You expect me to put in effort climbing?" She smirks just a faint bit before closing up her umbrella and wandering on ahead with the others. If she actually knew how much she was bothering Rose, the earth seraph would certainly have been doing so much more. But... no.

The Malevolence is thick in here, and it's not something to be ignored. Just what could be causing all of this? That's the most important question of all. And the one they, or at least she, know the least about. Hm.

Eventually, they arrive at what looks to be some sort of manual elevator. ...That makes Edna quirk a brow. "Really...?" She murmurs to herself, icy blue eyes narrowing at the contraption. At least it was simple. Made simpler as Catenna reduces the weight. Okay, she can manage this much.

The blonde girl walks over to the rope and raises a hand. A flash of light follows as a huge silver gauntlet forms over her extended hand. "Tsk. /Effort/." She mutters before grabbing the rope with her gauntlet and PULLING with far more strength than her little frame would suggest that she has.

Someone's impatient.

DG: Seraph Edna has used her Tool Divine Gauntlets toward her party's challenge, Ascend the Shaft.
<Pose Tracker> Rose has posed.

Edna yanks the rope down with all of the strength she can manage. Rose is almost dragged to the floor of the elevator along with the rope, spared the fate via the fact she lets go and catches herself at the last possible second.

NOPE. NOPE NOPE NOPE NOPE.

Rose scoots to stand such that Vin is between her and the rope. This is better. It's nice and safe back here. She contains her yelps, too! What staggering self-control.

<Pose Tracker> Catenna has posed.

"What ghosts?" Catenna asks with a blink. "I cannot sense any."

With a glance at Edna, she asks, "Can you?"

<Pose Tracker> Seraph Ragnell has posed.

Well, she wasn't gonna say anything about taking on the challenge straightforward, Rose, but since you're calling her on it... (*hat-tip*)

More seriously, Ragnell stretches once everyone's safely on the top. That went remarkably well! A nice change after how poorly the would-be ambush went... which is all the more reason to keep on their guard as they move further inwards. Like Edna, Ragnell's here to see how things go for everyone else. She notes the way Rose quietly freaks out at Edna's magic, half-smirking, but doesn't go out of her way--THIS TIME--to try to freak her out further. Instead, she snort-laughs at Edna. "When would you ever?"

However, from there, they move onwards as Malevolence thickens like a choking fog clinging to their ankles, and eventually reach a manual-pull elevator... Ragnell cranes her neck to peer up into the shafts of light swaddled in darkness above. It's a long, long, /long/ way up. "You gotta be kidding me," she grumbles.

She climbs aboard, though, smirking as Rose blabbers on in the face of concern and doubt. "Maybe she's losin' her marbles," she suggests 'innocently' of Rose to Catenna and Josie. "Places like this do that to a person, y'know. It's all the terror creepin' up on them; it makes 'em--*kgklglgkkrr*--/crack/. Just like an egg." Sage nod, with a side wink to Edna.

Then Edna grabs hold of that rope along with the others and YANKS. Ragnell staggers, then laughs as she steadies herself. "Well," she says louder, pulling out an egg-shaped device. She gives a thoughtful look to the others--Rose is the only one who can't see her and Edna, right? She's pretty sure Josie and Vin can see her, anyway, and she knows Catenna can. In which case...

"I can give us a boost, but it's gonna be rough, and y'all are gonna need to be *ready* to take advantage of it. So on the count'a three, pull like the dickens, a'ight?"

Without waiting for questions or protests, Ragnell pulls the pin on her lightning grenade. She counts under her breath, then pitches it into the shaft beneath the pulley system now that they're far enough from the bottom, then says aloud, "One, two, *three*!"

Safely below, the grenade explodes, and the force that erupts from it pushes up at them from beneath, giving them a boost where the entire thing feels like it's floating on air. It might be nasty on the rebound, though.

DG: Seraph Ragnell has used her Tool Electric Grenade toward her party's challenge, Ascend the Shaft.
<Pose Tracker> Seraph Edna has posed.

Edna stares aside at Rose.

Then she smirks faintly and looks at Catenna. "What ghosts?"

<Pose Tracker> Josephine Lovelace has posed.

Ghosts? Josie glances around, quizzically. "...It's just that weird mist, I think." And the dull but omnipresent sense of something seething, writhing. She smiles, cheerfully. "No need to worry!"

DG: The party led by Josephine Lovelace has passed this challenge! The party gained 22 exploration! If anyone needs to use party management commands, do so now. Otherwise, the next round's GM may begin the next round with +dungeon/draw.
<Pose Tracker> Josephine Lovelace has posed.

"Oh, do they? Well, we'll have to try to stay positive then, right?" Josie says to Ragnell.

<Pose Tracker> Seraph Ragnell has posed.

"Right!" Ragnell says brightly to Josie. "For poor Rosie's sake, too!"

<Pose Tracker> Catenna has posed.

"I have no idea," Catenna confesses with a shrug for Edna.

The team puts their collective backs into it. The elevator creaks beneath the force being put upon it, Edna's unlikely power gradually dragging the platform upwards; Josephine giving the rope a handle only helps. So does Ragnell's explosive boost, pushing the elevator upwards; the team hoists collectively, the combination of spells, physics and sheer muscle bearing fruit. Foot by foot, the elevator begins its ascent. Truth be told, Edna's doing a lot of the heavy lifting -

While it does sway perilously on its way up, the elevator nevertheless makes it up the wall, lurching as it clunks to a halt at the top of the pulley system. The platform of it has halted right in front of a ragged cave mouth. The light filtering from beyond it is distant, obscure, diffused through the malevolent fumes drifting through the cavern. Biting her lower lip, Catenna squints off into the fog.

"We should get moving," she murmurs, moving to stand near Vin.

DG: Vin Barrett has drawn a new Challenge.
========================<* CHALLENGE - One Big Push *>========================
|Type: Exploration |Dungeon Ability: Brute     |Challenge Rating: 1          | 
--------------------------< Challenge Information: >--------------------------
 Oh hey look, it's a giant boulder. How'd that boulder get there? What was     
 this boulder's life like, until it got here, resting on that lonely slope,    
 blocking your way further down into the depths of the Hollow? Oh, what        
 adventures this boulder must have had! Epics of scales one could scarcely     
 imagine! Adventure! Intrigue! Romance!(?) A true hero, this boulder very      
 well could be. But right now it's in your way so maybe you should try to      
 just push it down that path so it stops continuing to be in your way. Alas,   
 poor boulder. You were the best of us.                                        
=Dungeon Conditions: Weaken===================================================
<Pose Tracker> Vin Barrett has posed.

Huh. Vin is glad he is not wearing a hat. It keeps him from needing to hold onto it as the Grenade Propelled Elevator zips upwards thanks to a mix of explosives, Magical Gauntlets, Magic, and Leverage. The Baskar does glance back at Rose as she cowers from 'ghosts'. Huh. Well, it -is- a mite bit spooky in here, with all the Evil Mist and everything.

The Baskar is quick to snag the tie-off rope at the top of the shaft, securing the elevator and turning about to look at the next challenge in the party's way...

Namely, a wannabe -DOOR-.

Vin's eyes narrow, a bit of wind making his cloak flutter dramatically as he engages in a momentary stare-off with his most hated adversary (Besides the Undead. And crazy fans. And that trouble-making blonde. And, alright, fine, Vin has lots of adversaries)...and then he shrugs and gestures at the giant rock blocking the way forwards. "Welp, looks like we've got a big ol' rock in the way. Hope ya folks have some tricks to use it."

Humming lightly to keep his spirits up in the terrible fog, Vin glances about, snagging a bit of discarded wood from the earlier occupants of the Hollow to help act as a lever. Levers are pretty awesome, y'see, and maybe it'll help move the big ol' boulder out of the way.

DG: Vin Barrett has contributed a Brute Basic Action toward his party's challenge, One Big Push.
<Pose Tracker> Rose has posed.

Catenna is talking to someone who is not there, and predictably, in the general direction of the rope. Rose starts tensing, the safety of being behind Vin proving insufficient as time passes. Yes, the place is spooky on its own to begin with, excellent point. Now it's even worse! Thanks Vin.

She tries to steel herself in response.

In fact let's have this boulder be the recipient for all of Rose's pent up fear and frustration right now. The merchant rolls her sleeves up, steps forward, and starts trying to help push the boulder while Vin makes a lever. Will it help: hell no, Rose has noodle arms.

But while she's breaking them trying to move an immovable stone, she's not having to deal with any of the things she can't stop thinking about. "Dumb rock! Move it, we're coming through and you don't get a say!"

Just focus on the rock.

Insult it, it probably deserves it.

DG: Rose has contributed a Brute Basic Action toward her party's challenge, One Big Push.
<Pose Tracker> Catenna has posed.

Of course it's a damn rock.

Setting her hands at her hips, Catenna scowls at the rock as if it had just insulted her children - the children she doesn't actually have, but you get the idea. A soft sigh slips out of her before she takes a step back, once more taking her medium in hand. "I do not really," she answers Vin quietly. "But I can try to help."

Splaying her fingers over her medium once more, she begins to chant softly; she's close enough to Vin that he'll be able to clearly hear what it is. An invocation of Celesdue, Guardian of the Moon.

As Vin attempts to lever the boulder, once again Catenna pulls the same trick she did before: She sets her magic to work easing the weight of the boulder, reducing the effect of gravity upon it. It's harder here, though. This one's less about raw weight and more about awkwardness. Moving that much mass is going to be difficult even with silly magic.

DG: Catenna has contributed a Brute Basic Action toward her party's challenge, One Big Push.
<Pose Tracker> Josephine Lovelace has posed.

"But let me if you're feeling unwell, okay, kiddo?" This is said to Rose. "I've got a little something that could perk you up." She winks.

This is Josie, it's probably spirits.

Well, that worked! Josie has to reach out for a handy bit of railing as the pulley system jerks them upwards rather speedily. She stumbles but doesn't fall over.

"Just a moment--"

She, uh, can't seem to get the knot undone. Josie frowns. Damn, what did she do wrong with tying it this time? Well, it'll just be a little unfortunate for the next person through, maybe -- Josie draws her knife and makes a cut at a critical point in the rope. With any luck there'll still be enough rope left to pull.

She doesn't put it away, hurrying off after the others.

"A rock, huh... Well, move out of the way, please!" She moves up ahead once Rose is done pushing, now taking hold of the archaeological digging tool with both hands. Josie takes a breath, bracing herself. And raising the mattock overhead, dishes out the mightiest swing with it she can manage.

All the positive thinking in the world can't hide the fact that this is about to really suck for her, though.

DG: Josephine Lovelace has used her Tool Well-Used Mattock toward her party's challenge, One Big Push.
<Pose Tracker> Seraph Ragnell has posed.

They all reach the top of the shaft and emerge, the elevator secured behind them, and stride forward to see...

A giant rock.

Ragnell sighs and shakes her head. She *could* use another one of her grenades to try to loosen the earth beneath it, make it easier to push, but... well, this is literally what they have an Earth Seraph here for. Also, Josie just swung a big ol' mattock at it to try to break it into easier-to-push pieces.

"Well, that's that, then," she says once Josie's done. She grins at her fellow Seraph. "I'm lookin' forward to you makin' us all look like chumps, Edna." Then she joins the others in attempting to push the boulder forward, because she should probably at least *try*.

DG: Seraph Ragnell has contributed a Brute Basic Action toward her party's challenge, One Big Push.
<Pose Tracker> Seraph Edna has posed.

A giant rock.

"..... ....."

Edna's eyes narrow. "If it's not one thing, it's another..." She mutters, shaking her head. She ignores everyone for now, including the potential amusement to be had from terrorizing Rose. Instead, she heads right up to the rock and resummons her gauntlet. "Always making me work, these places..."

She rears back with that fist, then drives forward, slamming it into the stone with explosive force.

WHAM!

DG: Seraph Edna has used her Tool Divine Gauntlets toward her party's challenge, One Big Push.
DG: The party led by Josephine Lovelace has failed this challenge! The party gained 12 exploration! If anyone needs to use party management commands, do so now. Otherwise, the next round's GM may begin the next round with +dungeon/draw.
DG: Seraph Edna has drawn a new Challenge.
=========================<* CHALLENGE - Waterworld *>=========================
|Type: Exploration |Dungeon Ability: Agility   |Challenge Rating: 1          | 
--------------------------< Challenge Information: >--------------------------
 Water rolls through the entirety of the Hollow in rivers and subterranean     
 lakes and other forms. The deeper and more profoundly touched by Malevolence  
 it gets, though, the stranger its nature becomes. Take, for instance, this    
 narrow passage you find yourself climbing up. You hear a rush of water.       
 Perhaps some flowing down from above, one might imagine, gravity taking its   
 toll. Except... it's not flowing down. It's flowing up. A torrential          
 waterfall rising up instead of falling down, right beneath your feet. Would   
 that make it a waterrise, instead? Questions to wonder later; for now, it     
 might be better to try to get the hell out of this passage before you're      
 swept up into the waterfall. Rise. Whichever.                                 
=Dungeon Conditions: Weaken===================================================
<Pose Tracker> Vin Barrett has posed.

Good news, everybody! Due to the extensive and well-practiced excavation work of Penelope the Pigeon's human and the explosive power of the Seraph of Earth, the boulder is dislodged from where it has acted as silent sentinel for an unknown amount of time, rolling backwards slightly. Vin grins, wiping sweat from his brow. "Hey, good work everybod-"

There is a low, rumbling sound of stone, and the Baskar's eyes widen as the forward progress of the stone stops, quivering, an unseen mechanism of some sort triggering. "...oh shit DODGE!"

Annnnd then the big rock comes rolling -back-, cracking apart as it goes, the passageway behind it falling in on itself, blocking the pathway.

As for Sir Boulder of Tunnelington, it barely misses the elevator, slamming into the wall, then rolling down the Shaft, bouncing and thumping, making a huge racket as it falls, no doubt coming to rest somewhere else in the Hollow to once more take up its lonely duties once again as a Primordial Door..

Vin spits out some rockdust, swiping fresh scrapes off, and eyes the formerly passable passage. "...Huh. Well...Shoot."

He scratches his head before blinking, sniffing, and turning to follow a whiff of moving air, a secondary passageway revealed by Sir Boulder's abrupt departure. The Baskar eyes it, flicking a bit of flame to his hand to illuminate it, the nods slightly. "Maybe it goes where we want, maybe it doesn't, but at least it's somewhere!"

And, as cheerful as he can be under the circumstances, Vin steps into the narrow rocky tunnel, eyeing the ceiling warily as he, and his impromptou torch, lead the way to see what lies beyond.

<Pose Tracker> Seraph Edna has posed.

Well.

That was a thing.

Edna just kind of disperses that huge gauntlet and scurries aside to watch the fallout of their failed attempt to get that boulder moving. It moved alright. ...In the opposite direction they wanted. Wheeeeeee crash. There it goes, right into the wall and barely missing the elevator.

There is a silver lining to this though. A secondary path revealed from Sir Boulder's valorous charge into the afterlife... boulderlife? Whatever. Edna rolls her eyes and proceeds down it. It' a narrow, rocky path. They'll have to go in roughly a straight line, heading along until... The earth seraph pauses.

"Water..." From above? She looks up for a moment, then suddenly looks down. "From below. Time to get moving." Gripping her umbrella, Edna breaks out into a run, speeding forward before leaping into the air, feet touching a rock wall. It then shifts abruptly launching her upwards to attempt to clear the rising, malevolence tainted water and find purchase above.

DG: Seraph Edna has used her Tool Umbrella toward her party's challenge, Waterworld.
<Pose Tracker> Josephine Lovelace has posed.

The mattock makes impact with the boulder. The impact, which goes right up her arms and jolts the bones and the nerves.

Yes, this sucks for Josie. She backs off hurriedly, releasing her grip on the mattock with her right hand, shaking it out as she hisses a rather vile oath between her teeth.

But it's worth it if the rock's moving out of the --

Josie flattens herself against a wall, which earns a shrill warble of a protest from Penelope, which also earns her a solid peck somewhere right in the neck. Josie winces.

"Well, all's well that ends well, right? We're still alive," Josie says, the moment she's able to peel herself (and Penelope) back off the wall again. "And there's /a/ way forward."

Low bar, Josie. Low bar.

Treading carefully, follows along the pathway. It's a bit slick here, as if they were getting somewhere in the vicinity of... "Oh, a waterfall?" She can hear the tell-tale roar, anyway.

But as she rounds a bend of the narrow ledge, she's forced to make a correction. "Waterrise."

Something's wrong with the water. Edna says they should run. Inclining her head in a shallow nod, Josie's quick to comply. "Let's go!"

DG: Josephine Lovelace has contributed a Agility Basic Action toward her party's challenge, Waterworld.
<Pose Tracker> Catenna has posed.

As the boulder rolls, Catenna gasps and pushes herself back against the cavern wall, shoulders slamming into it. She cringes as a bolt of pain shoots through her and down her back but at least she doesn't get run over.

"I hate boulders," she mutters to herself. "And doors. And lifting."

Wincing, the woman rolls her shoulders, rubbing at the right one; it's numb from the impact, but feeling's beginning to come back into it as she begins to move. She nevertheless aches as she bustles forward, sliding her medium into her belt. As the group moves onwards, she...

...she pauses. Looking down into the depths, she frowns as she realizes the water is falling up.

"Hold on," she suggests quietly. "I may be able to... assist with this."

Once more, Catenna pulls her medium out, and her grappling hook with it. Focusing, she utters a few words in some language not of this continent. The air around her pulses subtly as she concentrates her power - or rather, someone else's power -

And far below, the water shudders as a sudden gravitational force seems to labour to /reverse/ it. It's like the tide is waning, working to pull the water down again.

"Quickly," Catenna breathes as she swings her rope and attempts to leap over the waterrise.

DG: Catenna has used her Tool Grappling Hook toward her party's challenge, Waterworld.
<Pose Tracker> Rose has posed.

The boulder rumbles unnaturally under the might of the Seraph punching it. Rose eeps and backs away, her mindset shattered just like that. To make matters worse, the boulder attempts to take them down with it, and Rose has to carefully (and not-so-successfully) navigate the incoming mess of boulders down the hall. Yeah she kind of gets one right in the face, but luckily nothing breaks. Everything hurts, but nothing's broken!

Pain is one way to take your mind off being haunted.

"At this point I don't even know what we're looking for in here, so does it matter if we stick to the main path?" she asks Vin, still trying to keep her mind off aforementioned ghosts.

What also helps is realizing there's a waterrise under you. That's WEIRD. And definitely bad news. Since their target is upward, Rose unwraps the rope and hook from her shoulder and swings it up, following Catenna's aim and example to provide an even more reliable grip via having two ropes instead of one. It'll provide additional footing to avoid slipping due to water, prevent tripping on uneven surfaces, and might shortcut them up a little bit if they get room enough to swing.

It kind of helps Rose can jump and climb pretty high and fast to begin with.

"What're you doing to the water?" she also asks Catenna.

DG: Rose has used her Tool Grapple Hook toward her party's challenge, Waterworld.
<Pose Tracker> Catenna has posed.

As she gets ready to swing, Catenna blinks back at Rose, tilting her head to one side. "I have asked Celesdue to pull it the right way again," she explains, as if that's all that's needed.

Then she grabs the rope and gets ready to become... the King (Queen) of Swing.

Swinging over a waterrise, anyway.

<Pose Tracker> Vin Barrett has posed.

Well, things are going pretty well. The passageway seems to go somewhere, it doesn't seem to be leading to a dead end, the lady with the nice umbrella and the earth control seems to not be worried about cave-ins...really, it's all good, considering that they're in a cave full of -horrible pure unholy filthy taint-.

And then, Edna takes off running to scale the current spot of wall, heading for the top. One glance at the quickly rising water, and Vin clicks his tongue lightly. Oh good!

Horrible tainted water! Just what Vin always wanted to experience!

Seriously, the Baskar doesn't know -what- is in that stuff, but the sight of it is enough to make him shudder and contemplate whether it is actually possible to burn water. Something to think about later, he supposes.

The Baskar takes advantage of the party's grappling hooks, using them to brace himself when the footing is bad, scrabbling for the top with the rest.

He does note Catenna's chanting, mind you, in passing, but, well, he's rather occupied with avoiding the tainted waterrise, so he'll ask her about that another time!

DG: Vin Barrett has contributed a Agility Basic Action toward his party's challenge, Waterworld.
<Pose Tracker> Seraph Ragnell has posed.

Well hey, the boulder's moving! Success! ...wait, is it just Ragnell or is it moving harder against hAUGH. She just barely manages to scramble out of the way in time to avoid getting squashed like a bug (a ghost bug), and gawks at Sir Boulderton III, Esq., as it careens away, just missing the elevator back down. Good thing for that miss. "Hmm," she mutters, rubbing her chin. "/Hm/."

And then she shrugs and moves onwards with the rest.

"It might not matter," Ragnell remarks absently to Rose, despite the fact that there's no way Rose will respond to her. "Though I gotta wonder what we *will* find..." She looks around. Huh. There's a certain dampness in the air... Edna remarks on it, and Ragnell gives her a sharp look, then breaks into a sprint. Not only fast but an excellent jumper, particularly when she uses her own element to give her a boost, and /leaps/ for safety over the waterrise.

The grappling ropes will make a nice fallback if it comes to that.

DG: Seraph Ragnell has contributed a Agility Basic Action toward her party's challenge, Waterworld.
DG: The party led by Josephine Lovelace has passed this challenge! The party gained 12 exploration! If anyone needs to use party management commands, do so now. Otherwise, the next round's GM may begin the next round with +dungeon/draw.
<Pose Tracker> Seraph Edna has posed.

Good news, colonel! We managed to avoid drowning!

Good job.

Well, most of them anyway. Fare thee well, Josephine. We hardly knew ye.

Naw, one of these big damn heroes would rescue her. Not Edna though. She's more concerned with no falling into malevolence infested waters to turn back. But 'someone' will, right? RIGHT?

She lands up top and closes up her umbrella again, letting out a faint sigh. "There had better be something worth going through all of this for." The blonde girl mutters mostly to herself, icy blue eyes narrowed in a most unimpressed manner.

DG: Seraph Ragnell has drawn a new Challenge.
========================<* CHALLENGE - Burnt Offering *>========================
|Type: Climax      |Dungeon Ability: Wits      |Challenge Rating: 1          | 
---------------------------< Challenge Information: >---------------------------
 Before you is an altar. Beyond it, a door, the only door to be found in the   
 entirety of this cave system. The door will not budge. Not for all the        
 greatest force in the world, not for all the most clever keys, not for all    
 the most dextrous devices. Besides the altar is flint and fuel for burning.   
 Upon the door, a simple message: OFFER UNTO THE PYRE. Flesh, possessions, it  
 matters not -- as long as it has meaning. As long as it takes something from  
 you. As long as it satisfies the whimsy of this altar's wards. What will you  
 give?                                                                         
=Dungeon Conditions: Wound====================================================
<Pose Tracker> Seraph Edna has posed.

"........"

Edna eyes the altar.

Then she eyes the door.

And then the message.

Calmly, she reaches behind herself and pulls out a small black notebook. It's opened to a blank page and written in. Scribble scribble scribble.

Once she's done, she walks up to the altar and tears the page out of the book, placing it onto the pyre. The page reads:

'My hopes and dreams.'

She puts her notebook away and steps aside, expression unchangingly even.

Yes.

DG: Seraph Edna has contributed a Wits Basic Action toward her party's challenge, Burnt Offering.
<Pose Tracker> Vin Barrett has posed.


There's advantages to being one of the slower climbers, really.

Namely, when Josephine plummets, the tall Baskar just blinks. "Huh." He quickly wraps one of the climbing ropes around his hand and reaches out with the other, snagging her around the waist, skidding backwards and downwards a bit on the slick wall, heavy boots catching one of Edna's earlier handholds, halting the progress towards the tainted water. He lets out a sigh of relief. "Close one, eh?" Having bravely saved the pigeon and its human, the Baskar shuffle-walks along the wall until he's close enough to the other climbing rope for Josephine to grab. Once she's on her way back up, he scales the wall as quickly as he can, pulling himself up above the waterrise and sighing as he brushes himself off, then blinks, frowning.

"...Stupid ancient and/or evil doors."

Sighing, the Baskar rolls his neck. "Well, not sure about y'all, but I'm thinking that, as things aren't falling on us, a small break's in order, neh?"

And, saying that, Vin cheerily pulls out a satchel, flipping it open. He then goes about handing the rest of the party individual cloth bags full of delicious homemade (aka, shady) Baskar trailmix, with delicious Meat Jerky and several locally sourced herbs and spices! Shady Baskar Recipe Jerky: The Stimulating Mental Treat!

Yes, Rose, this -includes- to the Ghosts haunting you. Hopefully, she doesn't notice the bags vanishing or something, she'd probably be 'spooked'.

Chewing on a piece of jerked Meat, he pauses, glancing at the pyre, then at the -DOOR-...and pulls out a seventh bag, dropping it on the pyre, humming lightly as he murmurs an invocation to Moor Gault, flame swirling around a hand as he waits for the others to do their thing. "Only natural that a pyre needs fire, you know?"

DG: Vin Barrett has used his Tool Baskar Trail Mix toward his party's challenge, Burnt Offering.
<Pose Tracker> Rose has posed.

Hooray for not drowning!

And for distractions. Massively for distractions. A door, a puzzle! Something to think about. Oh, it's just asking for an offering. Well, that's... simple enough. Rose sighs deeply as she reaches into a pouch and pulls a small purse full of CASH MONEY out. Will that do? She really doesn't want to split with that but has nothing more significant on her that she would WANT to part with. And she considers herself very lucky not to carry all of her money on herself to begin with. Then she watches Vin light a fire! That's a neat party trick for sure.

She deposits the pouch of coins onto the altar, then turns to look at the Baskar again. "I don't know but I hope it's worth the price of admission." A pause. "Eheh. Price." She snickers to herself.

DG: Rose has contributed a Wits Basic Action toward her party's challenge, Burnt Offering.
<Pose Tracker> Catenna has posed.

The aura of Malevolence continues to bother at Catenna's senses even as she touches down on the other side of the gap and continues onward.

Into a room with a door. A room with a flame, and a message. Offer unto the pyre. The flame crackles expectantly - in some ways even innocently.

With a hiss of breath, Catenna /recoils/ from the pyre and presses herself back against the wall beside the door from whence she came, her eyes wide. Clutching her medium in her left hand, she levels her shotgun at the pyre with the other, but doesn't fire. "Shapit lao," she hisses as colour begins to drain from her face, her normally sienna complexion gradually growing pallid. "Ya bakut adhak la jaoga. Isa kutch bhee na dan!"

The others may do as they wish, but coaxing Catenna to give something to the pyre will prove to be absolutely impossible. She just presses herself as far away from the pyre's warm halo as she can and keeps her gun trained on it and her fingers gripped like a vice around her tablet blessed to Celesdue.

Under most circumstances, Catenna is fairly stoic and makes an effort to speak the tongue of Ignas, if haltingly and with an accent. It is incredibly rare to see her this terrified.

<Pose Tracker> Seraph Ragnell has posed.

Ragnell lands gracefully on the other side, the waterrise gushing up harmlessly at her back. She grins cockily, one hand on her hip. "T'weren't nothin' to it," she drawls, then turns to head on forward down the path to the next challenge.

This one in particular is an altar, and beyond it, a door. The door reads: 'OFFER UNTO THE PYRE.' The altar has a flint and fuel... Well, the answer to this is pretty clear, and Ragnell scratches her cheek as she considers it. Hmm... As she considers her own offering, she pulls out a small, electric fan and, by flexing her power through it, blows clean-ish air into her face, refreshing herself as she thinks. Something of value... something of import... Well. Something does of course come to mind, but can she really sacrifice it? Can she really give up something that means so much to her, no matter what may be beyond that door? No matter /what/ they learn? She grimaces as she grapples with the question, but... ultimately, she knows it must be done. Her thoughts are clear, thanks to this refreshing breeze, and Ragnell is not one to ever shirk away from a challenge.

Expression grim, Ragnell approaches the pyre, hands on her hips. She bows, knowing what must be done but action made no less easy for it. Yet the others are making their offerings, and she can't very well dawdle here. She stands up straight, taking a deep breath; then she squares her shoulders, eyes steely, and removes her cowboy hat from her head and presses it to her chest. Then, with a heartfelt, muttered word of farewell, she places it upon the pyre:

Her hat.

Her /hat/.

Truly, Ragnell has made the greatest sacrifice of them all today.

DG: Seraph Ragnell has used her Tool Portable Fan toward her party's challenge, Burnt Offering.
DG: Catenna has contributed a Wits Basic Action toward her party's challenge, Burnt Offering.
<Pose Tracker> Josephine Lovelace has posed.

The rock in here is slick. That's a fact. Also a fact, that the upward-tumbling water is twisted and wrong, a sense that pervades this section of the caverns. Normally steady-footed and swift, these two facts align to form a certain problem for Josephine: doubt slips in through the crevices of her spirit at a crucial point. Her gait is, for a moment, less assurged. One foot lands wrong. She slips, and begins to plummet with a sharp yell from the path--

Someone catches her around the waist. It's Vin, of all people. Eyes wide, she stares over and back at him for a moment. "Huh--?"

A moment passes. Josie breathes out. "Talk about a close shave," she murmurs, smiling in spite of the situation. From there, at least, it's a little precarious, but she's able to close the distance and grab for the dangling rope. A rough climb, too, sure, but it's better than the fall would have been.

Rejoining the others, Josie pulls up against the door, craning her head back as she stares up at it. "Hmm." Dark eyes flit sidelong to the altar, the fuel and flint. "Offer unto the pyre, huh..." Approaching the door, she leans her shoulder into it and shoves with all the force she can muster, once. "No good, it's not opening. Something tells me it's not going to move if we try to knock it down, either." It feels heavy, too solid.

So that means there's a key. The fire.

Edna steps up to make her offering.

"..." Josie is uncharacteristically silent, folding her arms over her chest. "Offer, huh..." She frowns, staring at the flickering flame as others step up to give what they can. "But there's nothing /to/ offer," she murmurs, turning her gaze down towards the stone floor.

A taloned foot scrabbles at the back of her neck. It finds, there, the simple strand of beads hidden under the scarf, and it pulls. The string is old. It gives. Josie shouts in alarm, grabbing for her neck, but it's too late.

A few beads rain down upon the floor of the cave. The rest of the necklace is consigned into the fire by Penelope.

Josie can only stare, her hand at her neck and her lips slightly parted. "--How could you!?"

DG: Josephine Lovelace has used her Tool Penelope toward her party's challenge, Burnt Offering.
DG: The party led by Josephine Lovelace has passed this challenge! The party gained 0 exploration! If anyone needs to use party management commands, do so now. Otherwise, the next round's GM may begin the next round with +dungeon/draw.
<Pose Tracker> Seraph Ragnell has posed.

The flames of the pyre roar up, perhaps due to Vin's magic, perhaps independent of any outside force. It swallows up Ragnell's hat, Josie's necklace, Vin's snack, Edna's paper, Rose's purse, and Catenna's... fear, possibly. Material or immaterial, they all burn, slowly blackening and vanishing into ash. The flames, once red, turn an intense purple. They flare bright, then die down.

Then, quietly, far too quietly to be natural, the door before them opens.

The final challenge awaits.

DG: Josephine Lovelace has drawn a new Challenge.
======================<* CHALLENGE - Hellionized Hydra *>=======================
|Type: Final       |Dungeon Ability: Combat    |Challenge Rating: 2          | 
---------------------------< Challenge Information: >---------------------------
 Beyond is a large and empty cavern, beset by a spacious lake. The air is      
 still, uncomfortably so... and thick with choking Malevolence. And then       
 there is a roar, so violent it makes the ground rumble. From the lake bursts  
 forth a tremendous, scaled hydra; once the one who called this place its      
 home, now warped by the grotto's new denizens, this Malevolence-twisted       
 hydra is fueled by maddening rage and torturous corruption and wants nothing  
 more than to squash anything and everything in its path, and right now that   
 includes you. Perhaps you should try encouraging it not to. With violence.    
                                                                               
 http://68.media.tumblr.com/f3312659598c654d8cceed0e63f8600f/tumblr_mt3agoRb4  
 o1s1slpoo2_1280.png                                                           
=Dungeon Conditions: Tire=====================================================
<Pose Tracker> Josephine Lovelace has posed.

Penelope swoops down, dirty mission complete, and settles on Josie's shoulder. Probably for the first time since anyone present has known her, she looks genuinely upset, still frozen there where she stands. "That was..." She turns her head, staring at Penelope. Penelope looks away, preening at the feathers on her left wing. "..." Josie exhales, closing her eyes. Her left hand briefly closes into a fist and stepping forward, she stoops only to pluck one of the fallen beads from the floor.

She must be furious, from the speed at which she takes through the now-open door.

Only to stop, just inside the doorway. "There's something--"

The whole of the cavern seems to pitch and shake. Bits of stone rattle from the stone arching overhead and bounce off the stone below.

It's easy to see, even through the pervasive mists that may be visible for some in this cavern. There in the lake ahead, tossing its heads about as it thrashes about its watery abode, the maddened and twisted hydra screams its torment.

And it's spotted the perfect ones to take it out upon. Its many maws open wide, fangs glittering.

There's a rock, the remains of a stone pillar, not far inside the door. Josie rushes for it.

Whatever she'd felt before is for now, gone, replaced by the urgency of this moment. "No turning back! Give it everything you have!" she shouts, drawing her rifle from its holster. It's moving around a lot. A headshot will be hard to do, but...

Josie takes aim and fires.

DG: Josephine Lovelace has contributed a Combat Basic Action toward her party's challenge, Hellionized Hydra.
<Pose Tracker> Rose has posed.

"Is she alright?" Rose asks Vin and Josephine, looking at the sudden fit Catenna seems to throw over the altar. Fear of fire, maybe? Or is it something about the altar? At least the sacrifices paid out. Then it's onward into another chamber!

On the bright side: Rose can't see the Hellion form of the hydra. On the not so bright side: Rose can see the standard form of the hydra and it's still terrifyingly large and menacing.

"Is that... why we came here? Because there's a giant monster living here? Is it what's agitating all the animals and people into frenzies?" Oh, if only it was that simple. Rose immediatly reaches into her belt pouches, pulling another round of smoke bombs out. "Well, we'd better get to... cutting it down or something!" Or something, that sounds about right. Rose hurls the bombs towards the hydra's many heads, trying to blind the beast. The bombs detonating that high will keep it out of people's ways for the most part too!

Then knives come out. Rose dives in, showing that she's significantly less afraid of hydras than ghosts. Probably because you can stab a hydra. The daggers twirl in her hands as she makes a beeline for the creature, literally attempts to scale its side up, and then suddenly produces arcs of lightning flowing along her arms into her twin weapons.

"Lightning Tiger Blade!"

Several slashes are executed along one of the creature's necks, as Rose tries to make for its head to jab her knife right into the skull. With lightning, because Rangetsu Style is for cool people. Shouting attack names is also for cool people.

DG: Rose has used her Tool Smoke Bomb toward her party's challenge, Hellionized Hydra.
<Pose Tracker> Vin Barrett has posed.

Vin Barrett's eyes narrow as the flame turns -purple-.

That is NOT a natural color for flame to turn. He considers himself something of an authority on that, after all!

Oh, and the other Shaman is -freaking the hell out at it-. That's never a good sign. Mind, maybe it's because whatever -evil fire- is there is confused by the SHEER DELICIOUSNESS of Baskar Treats to be able to freak him out as well, but Vin supposes erring on the side of caution can't hurt. So, once the rest of the party is through the door, he pauses at the doorway himself, murmuring an invocation to Moor Gault, Elemental Guardian of Fire, holding a totem out towards the Pyre of Possible Nefariousness...and just flat out coats the thing in heat hot enough to make the metal warp and melt a bit. Flicking a few trailing embers off his hands, he nods in satisfaction, trotting after the rest of the group...and then blinks, eyes narrowing, nostrils flaring at the sheer -feel- of the Hydra in the lake.

"If there's one thing my teachings have taught me, it is the proper way to deal with abominations such as this..."

He frowns, both hands gripping his Pyre Totem. "It is to -BURN THEM-."

The Baskar chants, quick and focused, flames flickering up and twirling around his hand before the totem's eyes gleam, roaring flickers of flame chasing through the air, burning away at the omnipresent miasma as they settle around his fellow adventurers, hopefully strenghthening their blows.

As for Vin himself, the Baskar just opens fire. Literally, actually, darts of flame arcing out from his hands as he chants, quickly skipping backwards to try and keep -away- from the Hydra, occasionally slamming a shotgun or rifle blast downrange.

Each flame dart is, noticeably, stronger than the previous, oddly...The Baskar Shaman literally building up firepower until he slaps his hands together, bowing his head. He -grins- as he pulls them apart, flames roaring up around him. "All or nothing! Moor Gault, Guardian of Fire, hear my call! VAPOR BLAST!"

...that is a lot of fire that just appeared at the top of the cavern. Like...crazy amounts of fire. And it just coalesced above the Hydra into a single lance and slammed straight down at it.

Hopefully it's enough to put that twisted abomination down, though!

DG: Vin Barrett has used his Tool Pyre Totem toward his party's challenge, Hellionized Hydra.
<Pose Tracker> Catenna has posed.

"Hamen ja'na chahi," Catenna urges, her voice pinched and small, but urgent. She inches towards the exit. She's still not offering the fire anything. She's hoping that the others giving it something will be enough.

The door grinds open nevertheless. Catenna continues to hang back, holding her weapon towards the entrance. Her hand is actually trembling.

It takes her a little while to follow along with the group, muttering under her breath all the while, still in a language not heard around these parts outside of, well, her. Her knuckles are white as she passes through the doorway, swallowing a lump in the back of her throat and looking up at it suspiciously, as if expecting her soul to be taken from her as she steps through without having offered anything tangible aside from her dignity. She's still keeping to the back of the party.

Vin burning off the pyre seems to help, at least. Some of the colour returns to her cheeks.

The monstrous hydra, twisted and mutated by the pervasive Malevolence, reveals itself. Catenna sucks in a breath again and lunges backwards as the creature begins to attack, stamping and clawing and hurling water around. "Va sab galat hein," she gasps as she rolls out of the way of a sweeping claw and a biting head, coming up in a crouch. Whatever fear has gripped her, it's still keeping her from speaking anything the rest of the team can comprehend.

Unable to do much more than react now, she blasts away with her shotgun, unloading shrapnel shells one after the other, then pausing now and then to divert away from a bite, to dodge something, to gasp and hold her medium high as she casts forth Celesdue's power, letting the power of gravity act against the hydra and try to pin it down even as she keeps shooting. It helps - if only to make her feel like she's doing something to defeat the evil.

DG: Catenna has used her Tool Shrapnel Shell toward her party's challenge, Hellionized Hydra.
<Pose Tracker> Seraph Edna has posed.

Her hopes and dreams burn up.

Edna gets a feeling that The Pyre did not like her hopes and dreams very much. Well screw it then. The door opened anyway, so-

Off they go!

And what they find is a wonderful party with tea, cake, and pleasant company.

Nah, what they actually find is a goddamn hellionized hydra. Because that's what needed to happen, right? Edna narrows her eyes, already feeling less than idea from all this sheer malevolence permeating about. But she takes a deep breath and focuses. They just need to get through this before they can find some sort of clue, maybe.

She raises her umbrella and points it towards the thing.

"Air Pressure."

At those words, magic glyphs form in the air and on the ground, causing a font of crushing gravity to build and grow rapidly. At the very least, it could help keep it in place for the others to attack. Maybe.

DG: Seraph Edna has contributed a Combat Basic Action toward her party's challenge, Hellionized Hydra.
<Pose Tracker> Seraph Ragnell has posed.

Ragnell casts one last grimace towards the pyre where the remains of her hat are reduced to cinders; then she strides forward through the door along with the others. Or sort of. Josie pauses for a long time, and Ragnell glances over her shoulder at her. This is her first time meeting her, so she doesn't appreciate the significance of her looking so upset.

"Hey, we all had to give up somethin'," she says, then glances at Catenna. "Sort of." A look back at Josie. "Let's get a move on."

In the deepest depths, the Malevolence takes on a sickening pungent quasi-palpable feel, like you could reach out and squish your hand against its disgusting exterior. In a way, that's accurate, since a Hellion hydra awaits them within with its tortoise shell and many heads. All of them shriek upon seeing the group, too, and Ragnell dives into a roll to one side to seek cover behind the pillar remains.

"Ha, if only it were that simple, Rosie," Ragnell drawls dryly to Rose, again even though she knows perfectly well Rose can't hear her. As Josie sets up her headshot, Ragnell begins to cast a Seraphic arte, motes of electricity weaving up around her from her feet. Her poncho billows and her gold-tipped silver hair flutters. A moment later, she points towards the beast, and a spear made of lightning shoots straight for it.

"Pierce through! Thunder Spear!!" Ragnell calls.

DG: Seraph Ragnell has contributed a Combat Basic Action toward her party's challenge, Hellionized Hydra.
DG: You have overcome the dungeon's trials! This run is a success!
DG: The party led by Josephine Lovelace has successfully explored Otherworldly Hollow!
=========================<* CHALLENGE - Breadcrumbs *>==========================
|Type: Discovery   |Dungeon Ability: Discovery |Challenge Rating: 1          | 
---------------------------< Challenge Information: >---------------------------
 Scattered notes and books line this place, left here and there, haphazardly   
 enough to simply be forgotten. Perhaps. Scattered books detailing the         
 geography of the Adlehyde region, with specific focus given to the areas      
 west of Adlehyde Castle; remnants of reports and news detailing the tragic    
 loss of the village of Lahan. It looks like someone has been researching.     
 But for what, exactly?                                                        
=Dungeon Conditions: Treasure=================================================
<Pose Tracker> Josephine Lovelace has posed.

Is Catenna alright? Josie, occupied with other concerns at the moment, shakes her head. No idea.

The sole bead is stuffed into her pocket. The only thing that causes Josie to pause even briefly as she stalks for the now-open door is Ragnell's comment.

Well, yes, that's true. But it doesn't stop her from staring daggers at the women before moving on.

Maybe Rose is right. Maybe this /is/ the cause.

But it feels too easy, to clean. Whatever's going on here... Josie can feel the general shape of it, that lingering and twisting sense of defilement permeating the atmosphere, but she also has the vague sense that there's something else. Like it does deeper, extruding out further than she can feel. That somewhere the bottom of this lot just drops out.

It's moving too much. Despite setting up her shot as well as she could, Josie can still see that the shot went wide. Josie frowns, frustration from earlier venting through. The best thing to do is line up another shot--

Only to hold her fire as Rose in that moment ascends the hydra, amidst a cloud of smoke. It's moving around too much even for /her/ to dare the shot right now.

'Give it everything you have' she'd said. Vin's certainly rising to the occasion. Josie even lifts an eyebrow at the descent of the fire Guardian's power into the cavern. Whatever impact it has or not upon the hydra, the lake it's dwelling it will certainly boil and steam. Which won't do wonders for the hydra, regardless -- it thrashes madly but seems to have some significant difficulty moving properly, as the moon Guardian similarly makes her presence felt... if in a more quiet manner. The effect is only heightened as Edna lends her power to the effort, further locking down the monstrosity.

The whole thing ends, as it often does, with a barrage of lightning as Rose drives her knives into the thing's head. Scorched and burned, bleeding and barely able to even twitch, the monstrosity can take no more. It collapses into a limp heap, falling down into what's left of the underground lake. Smoke slowly rises into the air as the sounds of battle fade.

Rifle still in hand, Josie approaches the edge of the lake without hesitation, looking around herself as if to check for any further danger. The water is still bubbling. Spotting something, tucked away under a bit of stone and intially hidden by the pillars stretching up to the cavern's ceiling, she moves along quickly towards it.

Papers. Books.

She stoops, snatching one up, scanning a few lines. "...It's a report on Lahan. But why here?"

<Pose Tracker> Catenna has posed.

Catenna's definitely not alright. Even as the Hydra goes down, the woman hangs back, her cheeks still pale and her lip still caught between her teeth, eyes wide and intent. Bowing her head, she murmurs a long prayer to Celesdue, lowering herself to her knees.

Once again, the rest of the party gets ahead of her. She doesn't seem to care.

Only after she's prayed to her satisfaction does she pursue the group, a little more steady, yet still uncomfortable. Standing near the water's edge, she glances around, over towards Josephine, then back towards the others.

"We must get out of here. Quickly," she urges, voice low but anxious.

The hydra can't be all of it. Not in her mind. Whatever might be in the books, she's weighing against the likelihood that there's still plenty of Malevolence haunting the grotto - and that it's more dangerous than any monster.

<Pose Tracker> Seraph Ragnell has posed.

Ragnell raises an eyebrow when Josie glares murder at her. It was a ratty old necklace of beads. How important could it really have been? ...well, even the meanest of objects can hold great meaning, depending on what they're connected to. Ragnell knows that well. She lifts up for the brim of her hat to pull it down over her eyes, but she can't because it no longer exists, due to having been burned at the pyre.

Ragnell frowns mightily.

Regardless, everyone's efforts come together, and after a brief but ferocious battle, the hydra lies dead. Ragnell lifts a hand to steady her hat, only to mutter a curse as she yet again realizes it's gone. Somehow, now that it's not there, she has even *more* of a desire to mess with it. Could this be an example of the well-known Phantom Hat Syndrome?!

Maybe she can steal Dezel's.

For now, though, what remains in the wake of the hydra sinking into the lake are... papers. Books. Nerd shit. Not that Ragnell isn't necessarily a nerd herself, but she isn't about to advertise that. All the same, when she saunters over and reads the basics of what they're about from where she stands over them, the area around Adlehyde and a town called Lahan, her eyes narrow.

And then she shrugs, broadly. "Damned if I know what any of *this* is about," Ragnell declares. "So who's takin' this shit back?"

<Pose Tracker> Rose has posed.

Plan: climb the hydra, stab it, ????, end up on the ground safely. There was a problem in Rose's plan which she's forced to deal with as the hydra tumbles back following its brutal murder.

Rose, luckily, avoids falling into the Malevolence-tainted waters. She still hits the ground pretty ungracefully, making her own tumbles around until she suddenly darts back up, dusts herself and laughs. SHE'S FINE. TOTALLY FINE. YOU SAW NOTHING. Ow her shoulder.

Right! Let's forget about potentially dislocated shoulders and ghosts, now that the hydra's dead they can rejoice! And look around. Lots of books and reports and maps and papers indeed. Most of which don't make much sense to Rose. She can piece together that Lahan must be that ruined village not too far off, but it blew up long before she got here.

"Beats me," Rose answers Josephine, "What's interesting is that there was someone stashing these things here to begin with! I'll take some of these, maybe the Shepherd knows something. If he doesn't we can figure out who to talk to next another time."

Catenna's recovered enough to warn them to leave and that suits Rose just fine. This place is spooky and she just wants to catch a break from being haunted right now. And fix her shoulder. And rest. Mostly rest. Rose acquires a couple of the books and maps and stashes them in her backpack before getting ready to leave."

<Pose Tracker> Vin Barrett has posed.

For his part, Vin Barrett of the Baskar watches with -complete- satisfaction as the Unholy Abomination of a Hydra is burned, shot, and satisfyingly Lightning'd. As soon as it collapses...well, Vin does too.

The Baskar just drops down and leans back against a piece of rubble, breathing deeply and enjoying a momentary relief from the Miasma. Nothing like good, clean ash and fire to help deal with that sort of thing.

A little bit shakily, he pulls out two jars of murky liquid, unscrewing them both. One of them is set aside, a bag of trailmix dropped in after it. Vin carefully sets it on fire with a quick murmur, then drains the other in one dreg, shuddering. "Eeeegh. Put a liiiittle too much in there at the end."

Breath caught, the Baskar levers himself up with a groan, trotting towards the books, catching the nice Mysterious Ghost Lady Who Likes Lightning's words as he moves up. He pulls a Kislev General-Issue Duffle Bag out of his travelling pouch, calmly starting to shovel as many books and notes as he can into the bag. "Right, loot now, read later. Also, ironically, the looting bag originally came from some of the folks occupying the ruins of Lahan. Small world, huh?"

The Baskar is pretty good at looting, really, and once he's got a bag o' books and papers over a shoulder, he gives the party (visible or not) a thumbs up. "Right...I'm ready to get outta here. Air currents smell a bit fresher from that direction, by the way."

<Pose Tracker> Seraph Edna has posed.

Somehow, they manage to avoid getting murdered.

That's something, right? Awesome.

Edna lowers her umbrella once the thing goes down, having kept a veeeeery wiiiiiide berth of the thing. If other people want to stare a hellion dead in the face, they can do that, but not her.

With it out of the way, the earth seraph proceeds to take a glance about. ...Papers. Books. ...Wonderful. Sigh. "Maybe Sorey and Meebo can find something to do with this stuff." And so, she ambles about, picking up a few books at random. Not too many though. Gosh, you actually expect Edna to /work/? Hah! Jokes on you!

Once she has maybe four or five that seem interesting, she's done. Ready to get the heck on out of this place. Yep.

<Pose Tracker> Seraph Ragnell has posed.

So the answer looks to be... Rose, Edna, and Fire Shaman Guy With The Muscles, with Rose and Edna taking their part with the explicit intent to return it to the Shepherd. Josie meanwhile wonders about this Lahan, while Catenna all but begs they /leave already/. Ragnell leaves the carrying to the others--after all, who else would she gives this stuff to besides Sorey?--and nods over to Vin.

"That *is* a small world," she remarks. "So what's up with this Lahan place, uh... whoever you are?" She pauses a beat, then adds, "The name's Ragnell, by the by. Nice flames. You got that hydra good back there."

She'll also follow the others out of this place, whether it's towards the fresh-air direction Vin indicates or somewhere else entirely. They could always go back the way they came, if they so please. Either way, Ragnell's not exactly inclined to linger here in this place choked with Malevolence, so despite her calm exterior, she's really quite on board with Catenna's urgency.

<Pose Tracker> Catenna has posed.

Catenna will wait for the various ghosts and non-ghosts to collect books, but she's anxious about it, always glancing back over her shoulder. Again she mutters something to herself in whatever that language is, looking down at her Medium as if to centre herself. It helps, a little.

As others begin to move for the exit, so too does she. She gets the hell out of there as fast as she can, in fact. If only she knew an Exit spell; instead she just retraces the party's steps. The pace of her exit is not quite 'bat out of hell' but she's hurrying.

Finally, the rays of the sun can be seen in the distance. With an intake of breath, Catenna doubles over, hands on her thighs as she pants for breath. Her eyes remain wide, emotion whirling behind them. Pale, she holds her lips slightly apart as if she's expecting to throw up, but it never comes.

"It is unclean," she breathes as she begins to move away. "All of it."

<Pose Tracker> Josephine Lovelace has posed.

'We need to get out of here' Catenna urges.

Josie's senses might not be as select as the shaman's, but she can already feel the sick sense of defilement pulsing in the background. Who knows what sort of effect this could have, long-term?

"Yeah. That's probably a good idea," she says, nodding in agreement. "Let me grab a few of these papers. We can sort them out later." Holstering her gun, she stoops to gather up as many of the papers as she can hold.

"Maybe they were down here before this place got..." She gestures, vaguely, towards the lake. The weird mist. "...Messed up," she settles for, in the end. Standing, she tucks the haphazard pile of papers under her right arm.

"Lahan?" she says, at Ragnell's question. "It apparently got destroyed a few months back. I think. They've got the site warded off, though, I heard." And she hasn't had a reason to be by that place. At all.

"It might be worth taking a look sometime."