2017-05-23: Ominous Berries

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  • Log: 2017-05-23 Ominous Berries
  • Cast: Rose, Alisha Diphda, Neriah Parringer, Josephine Lovelace, Jacqueline Barber, K.K.
  • Where: Berry Cave
  • Date: 2017-05-23
  • Summary: In order to fill many orders, Rose hired Jacqueline to turn berries into healing potions, and so a party is gathered to collect said berries. Also K.K. is there with their best Oprah impression. You get ominous threats, and you get ominous threats, YOU ALL GET OMINOUS THREATS!

=================================<* Berry Cave *>=================================

The Berry Cave once held an underground grove, where the curative berries found throughout Filgaia grew. However, monsters moved inside of it, which made the cave dangerous. The tenders of the Berry Cave relocated to Surf Village, located nearby. Since then, the cave has become a nest of the monsters known as Wels. The locals advise against entering these cavernous depths, but nonetheless, the Berry Cave's namesake lures people in: those berries still grow on vines in the depths and sell for a pretty penny.

BGM: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C55flOnlXMg
DG: You have created a party! Your Digger status has been reset! As party leader your presence is very important! If you need to leave, please first promote another player using +party/promote <target>. Remember to set your tools before setting out with +tools/load.
DG: Rose has created a party! To join, type +party/reset and then type +party/join Rose.
DG: Jacqueline Barber has joined your party!
DG: Neriah Parringer has joined your party!
DG: Josephine Lovelace has joined your party!
DG: Alisha Diphda has joined your party!
DG: K.K. has joined your party!
DG: A party led by Rose is now entering Berry Cave.
DG: Party formation is now over. An Entry Challenge will now be drawn and displayed to the party.
=======================<* CHALLENGE - Militia Checkpoint *>=======================
|Type: Entry       |Dungeon Ability: Wits      |Challenge Rating: 1          | 
----------------------------< Challenge Information: >----------------------------
 One of the local men from Surf Village is assigned to watch the entrance of   
 the Berry Cave. He has been told to not let anyone pass -- especially those   
 Drifters. But, he seems to be dozing off, and he is certainly bored. Maybe    
 you can find a way past?                                                      
=Dungeon Conditions: Tire=====================================================
<Pose Tracker> Rose has posed.

It's time for another dive into the Berry Cave, courtesy of the Sparrowfeathers Merchant Guild, in association with Jay's Curatives and Curio!

Indeed a quick ad was placed amidst the Adventurer's Guild for an expedition today, paid of course, with for goal the collection of as many Heal Berries as possible. Bags have been provided.

Your "boss", and the person paying you for that matter, is Rose, who has even provided a ride to the Berry Cave via one of the Sparrowfeathers' caravans and horses, which'll be much needed to carry the loot back to town. Or flee quickly, if that were to be a thing too.

The merchant is sitting in front of the caravan as it arrives and stops, not too far from where the cave is known to be. The caravan's kept far enough that potential guards or hostiles at the entrance won't see it, but it'll mean a bit of walking to get there. A few nameless Sparrowfeathers are left to watch it.

This'd be a great time for introductions! And for late arrivals to show up on their own.

The whole "leaving the caravan behind" thing ends up paying off, too, as upon getting close to the cave, a man can be seen guarding the entrance, casually leaning against one of the sides of the entry like he could be sleeping against the wall and nobody'd know better.

Rose mutters to those already present: "Dang, he was here last time too. This guy has to be the most persistent cave guard ever. Anyone have any ideas to distract him?"

DG: Rose has contributed a Wits Basic Action toward her party's challenge, Militia Checkpoint.
<Pose Tracker> Alisha Diphda has posed.

Alisha isn't being paid, of course. She came because she is Rose's friend, and she could never think of accepting money from a friend. Such things would be improper! She stops, as she reaches the front of the cavern. "Ah..." The princess leans forward, and then she squints, before she pulls out her Celestial Record. "When I was in here before, this worked. Though--we should send them a note of apology."

She talks while she flips to a page. "This is breaking and entering. Even if, I think, these guards have been much too zealous."

She stops on a particular page, then nods. She lifts her fingers, and blows out a warbling pattern -- specifically, the red-feathered warbler's whistle.

DG: Alisha Diphda has used her Tool Celestial Record toward her party's challenge, Militia Checkpoint.
<Pose Tracker> Neriah Parringer has posed.

This seemed as good a place to start as any for someone new to the region and looking for something to fill her time. After all, an idle excavator isn't much of an excavator. And Sparrowfeathers was offering some cash, after all.

Hopping off the caravan, the girl folds her arms beneath the curve of her bust, canting her head; the brim of Neriah's oversized newsboy hat dips low, half-shadowing one eye with a little help from her bangs. She purses her lips as she checks out the situation ahead. A guard at the entrance to the cave and a group intending to sneak into the cave.

Rose asks for ideas. Neriah shrugs one shoulder. "There's always human sacrifice," she deadpans.

Reaching over her shoulder, she unslings the shovel she's carrying, but she doesn't go whacking anyone with it, just planting the head of it against the turf and folding her arms atop it as she considers the problem. Her tongue absently courses over her lower lip as she dips her eyelids a touch. As Alisha whispers, she watches the princess for a moment.

She eases up behind Alisha and cups her hands over her mouth.

Then she mimics a sound that sounds like a lot like a raven. A raven that chain-smokes.

DG: Neriah Parringer has contributed a Wits Basic Action toward its party's challenge, Militia Checkpoint.
<Pose Tracker> Josephine Lovelace has posed.

Once, before things had happened -- as they tend to do -- Josephine Lovelace had been making idle plans to head to the Berry Cave to hopefully make a few quick Gella. Money had begun to dry up again -- as it does -- and as she'd gleaned from a little inquisition here and there, delving into the cave was a good and fairly reliable way to do it.

Flash forward a number of weeks.

Call it curiosity -- it's its proper name in this case besides. The road back from Linga's long besides, and with the coin in her purse being dreadfully thin, Josie's come on by the cave -- dangerous, alone, but there's nothing wrong with taking a look. It quickly becomes quite clear that someone else is already here.

"Hey, kiddo!" This is directed to Rose, of course -- they last met during one of the investigations into the Hollow. "And Jay! Don't tell me you guys came here without me!" That's in jest, the tall archaeologist flashing a quick grin at Jay and Rose as she peeks into cave. "...Looks like we have company."

Dark eyes slide in Alisha's direction. Josie looks her over. "Probably!" she says, cheerily. "Still, there's no risk without reward. Penelope?" The bird on her shoulder stirs, almost in answer to Alisha's whistle. And Neriah's crow-call. "Not bad, guys! This calls for a distraction--"

In a flurry of black and white feathers, the pigeon takes flight.

DG: Josephine Lovelace has used her Tool Penelope toward her party's challenge, Militia Checkpoint.
<Pose Tracker> Jacqueline Barber has posed.

The great thing about working with the Sparrowfeathers was that Jacqueline didn't need to bring her own wagon, which meant she didn't have to manage her horse. They had helpfully arranged for transportation for her - primarily because she needed to be there to ensure that any ingredients they picked up were of sufficient quality to be used for potion-making.

"It's alright, Miss Diphda. It's for a good cause." Jacqueline says, trying to assure the princess. "Last time I was here, I was able to convince him to let me in by giving him some free samples...but I doubt that'll work again. I could try some of my repellant?" She suggests.

She's about to reach into her bags for a bottle of stuff when one of their number suggests 'human sacrifice'.

"Uh...?" Jacqueline's...not quite sure what to say to that. Was it a joke...? She hadn't met Neriah before, so she couldn't quite tell.

She doesn't dwell on this for long, for it is then that Josie addresses them.

"Ah, Josie! Good to see you!" Jacqueline greets with a wave. Fortunately, it's the hand that isn't carrying the bottle of foul-smelling liquid.

DG: Jacqueline Barber has contributed a Wits Basic Action toward her party's challenge, Militia Checkpoint.
<Pose Tracker> K.K. has posed.

An ad was placed at the Adventurer's Guild in Adlehyde. An expedition to the Berry Cave, to reap as many of its curative spoils as possible. Hun up in the midst of the entryway to the guild hall, it stays there until the day of the expedition...

... at which it is yanked free by a hand encased in white steel.

Not all who responded to Rose's request are here today to join the main group and make introductions -- they seem to be at least one person short. Hardly too surprising -- there always tends to be at least one no show in a group, plans fall through, they decide they -don't- want to risk their lives in deep dark caverns. Anything one can imagine. The only thing to do is to press on. And so they do, making their way to the entrance, where that guard awaits them.

Anyone have any ideas to distract him? Rose wonders to the rest.

And that is when the sound of metal thudding against earth can be heard.

Resounding, and repeated, the sound of definitive footfalls grow closer and closer. And they need only look towards that entrance again to see why:

A knight in heavy white armor, rapidly approaching the entrance of that cave headfirst, hands snapped to the side and light glimmering at their palms in a most dangerous manner that promises only violence ahead for any guard unfortunate enough to stay in their way.

"Move, or -be moved-," booms the sixth member of their expedition, making their threat no less than a certainty in body language alone.

K.K. has joined your party!!

DG: K.K. has contributed a Wits Basic Action toward its party's challenge, Militia Checkpoint.
<Pose Tracker> Alisha Diphda has posed. (OOC)

"JESUS TAPDANCING CHRIST!" Alisha screams, entirely out of character but this was so worth it.

DG: The party led by Rose 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> Neriah Parringer has posed.

Neriah steals a sidelong glance at Jacqueline... and shoots her a small, discreet wink.

Then a gigantic armoured knight stomps up to the cave entrance and shouts down the guard. Neriah's lower lip drops slightly before she closes her mouth again, darkly-painted lips pulled into a thoughtful purse.

"I'm not sure that's what tap-dancing looks like," she opines, tapping Alisha on the shoulder.

<Pose Tracker> Rose has posed.

At first, it seems to be working. The sight of Penelope, as well as the multiple conflicting bird noises, make the guard pull a rifle out and grin. "Oh, that damn multi-toned bird is back! This time I'm getting it!"

He is about to take off after Penelope when the Trial Knight arrives and booms, with a commanding voice, for the guard to skeedadle.

There is a long, uncomfortable pause, and the guard leaves whimpering, not even in the spirit to hunt for the elusive bird of many voices. No, see, he wants to live.

This leaves Rose speechless.

So speechless in fact she can't even answer the myriad questions she had just been asked, or respond to greetings. Instinctively she takes off after the White Knight, screeching. "Y-You! Why are you here?! What could possibly interest you in this place besides spouting cryptic warnings at all of us again?!"

Considering her proximity to the much taller and armored knight, one might almost call Rose brave. Especially factoring what he did to Alisha in their last meeting. In reality it's less courage and more an intense desire to shout at the walking suit of armor that impaled one of her friends.

DG: Alisha Diphda has drawn a new Challenge.
=====================<* CHALLENGE - Well-Stocked Goblins *>=====================
|Type: Exploration |Dungeon Ability: Combat    |Challenge Rating: 2          | 
---------------------------< Challenge Information: >---------------------------
 Drifters aren't the only ones to brave the Berry Cave. Goblins,               
 semi-intelligent humanoids known to live in caves and other deep places,      
 sometimes seek the same treasures. The ones that approach, however, aren't    
 the half-starved creatures that one often finds. They carry battered          
 gunsmoke ARMs -- and a supply of Heal Berries to tend to their wounds.        
=Dungeon Conditions: Treasure=================================================
<Pose Tracker> Alisha Diphda has posed.

"You!" Alisha cries out, when she sees K.K. It wasn't so long ago since the white-armored knight had appeared at Lahan. She knows what happened then. She steps backward, and then she looks sharply to Rose. "That--that knight signed up? But..."

Her voice wavers, before she hurries after. She fixes K.K. with a sharp glare. The place where she was impaled through -- the entrance and exit wound, which she is sure will scar -- aches just with the sight of the knight. She scowls, and then she shakes her head sharply, as she looks forward. "Is this some manner of toying with us? To show yourself here is--"

Then, a gunshot flies just past her ear, and she hears some commotion from inside the mouth of the cave. The guard is fortunate to have left -- because two goblins come running up, rifles to their shoulders, and fire shots at them. But, that isn't all: a third goblin strides up.

With a massive minigun in his hands.

He aims it, then fires. A massive burst of gunfire explodes. Rock wall shreds as the chaingun tears into it, and then it sweeps in a spray of bullets across K.K., Rose, Alisha, Neriah, and and Josie! (Penelope is, mercifully, out of the way.)

Alisha gapes -- and then she swings her spear up, ducking to the side -- but a bollet still slashes into her hip, drawing blood. A Demon Fang explodes across the ground, the fang of light slamming into one of the riflegoblins.

DG: Alisha Diphda has contributed a Combat Basic Action toward her party's challenge, Well-Stocked Goblins.
<Pose Tracker> Neriah Parringer has posed.

Neriah frowns as Alisha strolls off without explaining who was tap-dancing. She touches a hand to her cheek and widens her eyes a little, her lips curving into a small frown.

The princess explains the situation. "I don't know, I think we should take them at face value for now," she says with a shrug. "If they are here to toy with you, right now it sure seems that they're helping in the process. And I'll take it."

She opens her mouth to say something else - but all of a sudden, the goblins come scampering up. And one of them's packing.

With a sharp hiss of breath, Neriah lunges to the side, tucking her legs up as her back hits the ground. She rolls out of the way of the spray of bullets and comes up behind a rock, wincing as pain shoots through her. A thought occurs to her --

She clenches her right fist and pushes it aside. Unclasping her hand again, she snaps it into her grey tweed coat, coming out with a pistol. It looks like it ought to be a revolver, but the hammer and barrel are all wrong - they gleam in an odd chrome-silver, and the hammer itself looks more like the butt end of a piledriver with a pair of elongated vents to either side of it.

"Marilyn, going to need your help on this one," she murmurs to her gun, before leveling the weapon and popping up above her rock.

There's a sudden CRACK of sound, then another, joined by a hiss of escaping steam. Neriah fires her pistol twice, then twice more, bullets screeching from it at absolutely absurd velocity. The steam spills from the vents on her gun and away to either side of her.

DG: Neriah Parringer has contributed a Combat Basic Action toward its party's challenge, Well-Stocked Goblins.
<Pose Tracker> Jacqueline Barber has posed.

It looked like things were going great. Jacqueline liked the way the group was shaping up. She took the wink from Neriah to mean that it had been a joke and not actually a real threat. They even had a plan going...a plan that is suddenly interrupted by the arrival of a figure in white armor who scares the guard off.

Jacqueline doesn't say anything. Her jaw merely drops, and she glances between Rose and Alisha.

"You...know this person?" She asks, confused.

While she had been in Lahan, she had been spirited away into a certain young lady's nightmare world and hadn't witnessed their fight.

Before any proper answer can be given, however, more trouble presents itself in the form of goblins. Jacqueline dives off of the cart and behind a boulder. While she already had a bottle of repellant in her hands, the goblin's ARMs would prove a problem.

So, while her allies hopefully prove a distraction, she pulls out a bottle of bright-orange liquid - her Haywire Draught, for jamming ARMs - and an empty bottle. The two concoctions are mixed into one and then shaken.

"Incoming!" Jacqueline shouts to warn her allies then rises above the rock and hurls the mixture towards the goblin with the chaingun. They needed to get that taken care of before anything else.

DG: Jacqueline Barber has used her Tool Reliable Repellant toward her party's challenge, Well-Stocked Goblins.
<Pose Tracker> Josephine Lovelace has posed.

In the space after the point when Penelope takes off and the guard pulls his gun (Josie defensively starts to lift a hand towards her rifle), Josephine Lovelace is struck by the sudden impression of a chill.

She turns, even at the sound of that voice and Alisha's sudden shout. Her hand drops, sliding inside the front of her duster and coming away with a knife. "You!"

There's no way she could leave even a dent on the armor with a knife like this. All the same, Josie takes a step towards K.K., arm outstretched and the tiny blade pointed forward. Her dark eyes blaze. "What do you want!?"

Penelope quite possibly undercuts the tension by alighting on Josie's shoulder to peer quizzically at the knight, the pigeon tilting her head from side to side.

And then there are bullets. "Sh--"

Penelope skyrockets towards ceilingwards again before Josie can utter more than half the oath she intended. Dropping and dipping ahead to seek much-needed cover behind a nearby fragmented stalagmite, she draws the firearm and squinting one eye shut, aims for the head of one of the goblins up in front. "Heads up!" she calls in warning before squeezing off that shot.

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

"I didn't know!" Rose retorts to Alisha, although this is in part due to how notices at the Guild work. You just kind of hope someone shows up, you know? Usually they don't really touch base beforehand, or if they do it's shortly before the job starts.

A sudden swarm of goblins might change Rose's mind on whether or not this is the proper time to argue with the Trial Knight at all. Shots impact in the wall, spraying the party with rocky shrapnel! And bullets. Also important. Rose acts and thinks quickly, reaching for a smoke bomb and blasting it down at her feet.

The party is covered by smoke!

They can kind of see through it, but the goblins not so much. That should make it a lot harder to use their ARMs with any measure of accuracy.

"Yeah, we "know" this knight," she answers Jacqueline, before her own knives come out and she makes like Alisha, sending a fang of light along the ground, and then another, and another, making quick ranged slices towards the goblins. They have less punch than Alisha's single one, but there's more and they're faster!

"I GUESS if he's going to help..." she begrudgingly answers Neriah.

DG: Rose has used her Tool Smoke Bomb toward her party's challenge, Well-Stocked Goblins.
<Pose Tracker> K.K. has posed.

The guard flees, deprived of his mythical bird watching, possibly the only highlight of his day -- but at least now he gets a better story to tell.

The Trial Knight, for their part, just marches past undeterred, as if they had every intention of just bowling the man over as if he weren't even there if he had taken the more courageous or foolhardy path. Rose calls out to the knight, Josephine brandishes a knife. They turn, to stare at the woman with that tiny blade pointed so threateningly. They stare at that weapon, not as if it is not threat -- but as if there's no possibility that Josephine will use it.

What do you want?!

What could possibly interest you in this place besides spouting cryptic warnings at all of us again?!

K.K. pauses. That faceless helm turns to stare at the group, felt entirely through the sheer weight of its presence rather than anything else. That light coalesces into the same curved short swords that had so brutally skewered Alisha. And then they answer.

"Berries."

... which is stated so matter-of-factly aone would think K.K. thought the answer to that question was plainly obvious, only pausing to focus upon Neriah with the brief, curious cant of their head before they just...

... march right into the cavern.

Alisha's accusations resound through the vast, cavernous walls, but K.K. seems to pay them no mind. Instead, they're merely -sprinting- forward, swords brandished at the darkness in a way that no doubt seems threatening... if not for the fact that they are rushing -past- the rest towards those goblins just as they open fire. Bullets hit armor, denting and ricocheting off. K.K. ducks low -- and then -springs- forward, clearing the way for Alisha's Demon Fang before looking to descend -right- upon the third goblin just as it starts to open fire with that minigun, to do the sensible thing and disarm it.

Literally.

DG: K.K. has contributed a Combat Basic Action toward its party's challenge, Well-Stocked Goblins.
DG: The party led by Rose has passed this challenge! The party gained 21 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> Alisha Diphda has posed.

"This is--this is the one behind Lahan!" Alisha cries out, over the din of battle. Alas, Neriah, she can't explain how the culprit was tapdancing. (They weren't.)

Alisha is too busy fighting, at first, respond properly to K.K.'s claim. The goblins open fire, but Rose's smoke bomb makes it so the goblins' aim is terrible. Shots go wide -- and then one of them is shot through the head by Josie. The goblin drops, with a thunk. Another is slashed open, then crumples, on one of K.K.'s swords.

And Neriah's shot sends steam down, and one of the goblins shrieks as steam pours down, fleeing down the tunnel... while Rose's knife takes out a fellow goblin who thought to fight.

It ends, of course, in an explosion. Jay's mixture detonates with a bright orange. The minigun jams -- and then it is dropped with a clang, as the goblin shrieks and runs into the cave. The minigun sits there -- damaged, but certain to fetch a nice price.

Alisha sighs, before she looks back at K.K. She frowns at them. "...Berries," she says, a little flatly. Then, she looks ahead. "If you cross us in here..."

She can't follow that threat up. She knows it. So, she starts walking.

DG: Neriah Parringer has drawn a new Challenge.
==========================<* CHALLENGE - Berry Vines *>==========================
|Type: Exploration |Dungeon Ability: Agility   |Challenge Rating: 1          | 
---------------------------< Challenge Information: >----------------------------
 The path ahead ends in a cliff wall, which needs to be scaled. The vines      
 that Heal Berries and Potion Berries grow upon lace over the wall and lead    
 up. One can scale it, if they are sure of foot or resourceful -- and maybe    
 find some of the prized berries for their trouble.                            
=Dungeon Conditions: Treasure=================================================
<Pose Tracker> Neriah Parringer has posed.

The reactions to K.K. leave Neriah giving the White Knight a considering look. Her lips part slightly but she bites her lower lip, swallowing a surge of sympathy.

The way K.K. looks back at her, though, leaves her pressing her lips together tightly. She does, at least, hold the knight's gaze, trying to find eyes behind that obscuring helmet. She lowers her gun; it was never pointed at him.

The distraction startles her enough that a bullet grazes her left shoulder just before the gun jams. Sucking in a breath in pain, she recoils slightly, but doesn't cry out despite the fact that she's bleeding. Wincing, she brings her gloved right hand up to touch the injury briefly, then lowers it, biting her lip and shaking her head.

"I don't know what happened at Lahan," Neriah admits with a look towards Alisha. "If it was something terrible, we can decide what to do later. But none of us are going to get any berries if we start fighting each other." Giving her injured shoulder a roll, she starts down the tunnel -

- Stops to pick up the minigun, hoisting it over her shoulder. "Yyyyyyoink." -

And turns a corner, quickly finding herself faced with a cavern that opens up onto a looming cliff face, laced with berries. Slinging Marilyn at her side, the young woman plants her hands at her hips as she considers the viney mess before her.

Then she nods, clicking her tongue. "Okay. Let's do this," she says. "Just don't look down, or you'll start thinking about falling off and plummeting all the way back down until you--"

She pauses and tilts her head. "...Probably until you bounce," she murmurs as she begins to clamber up the vines. "Don't think it's high enough for you to splatter at the bottom."

DG: Neriah Parringer has contributed a Agility Basic Action toward its party's challenge, Berry Vines.
<Pose Tracker> Rose has posed.

Berries.

Rose slaps her face with her hand. She is holding a knife, but don't worry, she's gotten pretty good at facepalming while holding sharp instruments.

What can she answer the knight? Why does he want berries? Come on, they're Heal Berries, why else. Or maybe he just wants to bake the most incredible pie.

Rose shakes her head, forcing herself to regain her playful demeanor and just, side-line the whole issue of the Trial Knight for now. She loots the corpses, picking up their berry pouches first. The minigun, if no one claims it, can wait until they're on their way out. She doesn't want to haul that thing around for now.

Unless someone else volunteers.

Which Neriah does! Fantastic.

The cliff ahead gets her eyes to light up. "T-This is... so many berries! Alright, well, listen up, mister knight, I'll pay you like everyone else if you're helping, and you can have your share of berries, but how about we get a name for our trouble? "Mister Knight" doesn't have the greatest ring to it and it's a bit on the generic side."

As she says this, Rose pulls her rope and hook out, spinning it to toss it at and around a solid enough section of the cliff to provide an extra way up.

All the while she starts collecting berries, making sure everyone's got a bag of their own. Even K.K.! Unless he's just going to cram that helmet full of berries, and it looks like it has plenty of room for it, bags are always great to have.

DG: Rose has used her Tool Grapple Hook toward her party's challenge, Berry Vines.
<Pose Tracker> Josephine Lovelace has posed.

It's, on the face of it a reasonable response.

Josephine just happens to be an unreasonable woman. And the whole business with Lahan, too -- that probably also doesn't help.

Stooping briefly once she rises in the wake of combat's end, Josie reclaims her fallen knife. This is tucked away -- the firearm, resting against her shoulder, remains unholstered.

There's a lengthy and unusually for Josie, angrily silent, moment where she directs a penetrating stare at the armored knight's back. Her gloved fingers shift just once, inching in the direction of the trigger but falling back. She takes a deeper breath, followed by another.

"...Fine," she says at last. There's a glance, once, Neriah's way. Ever so slightly, Josie's expression softens. "--But if you try anything, I'll make you regret it." Hesitating a moment, the archaeologist at last slides the firearm back into its holster. As if on cue, Penelope swoops down from whatever perch she'd found above and back onto Josie's shoulder.

It's not a threat she can really back up either -- what happened at Lahan was proof enough. Still, pride is pride.

Stopping in front of the vines, Josie glances upwards. "Hmm... well, that's lucky, don't you think?" She rests her hand against her chin. "These should sell well..." Reaching up, she tests the strength of one of the nearby vines before -- with just one glance in K.K.'s direction -- beginning to climb on up. After taking a bag from Rose, of course.

Penelope naturally takes this moment to fly up as high as possible along the wall and...

...She's eating Potion Berries up there. Of course.

DG: Josephine Lovelace has contributed a Agility Basic Action toward her party's challenge, Berry Vines.
<Pose Tracker> Jacqueline Barber has posed.

'This is the one behind Lahan!'

Ah. So that's what it was.

Jacqueline sends K.K. a cautious look. Did he...she...they...?...really just want berries? Well, if that was all they wanted, she wouldn't begrudge them that. Besides, judging from the behavior of her friends, the knight wasn't really something they could handle on their own anyway. If they were being cooperative for now, it was best to follow suit. Neriah was right. If they fought now, no one would get what they wanted.

When they reach the vine-lined wall, Jacqueline pauses to appraise them. She takes Neriah's advice in tow, then reaches out to tug experimentally on a vine.

"I think we can use these..." She says with a nod, then reaches into one of her bags for a bottle of pale-green liquid. She downs the lot and then begins making her way up the cliff with surprising speed and agility, depositing as many berries into the bag that had been provided as possible on the way.

DG: Jacqueline Barber has used her Tool Invigoration Elixir toward her party's challenge, Berry Vines.
DG: K.K. has contributed a Wits Basic Action toward its party's challenge, Militia Checkpoint.
<Pose Tracker> K.K. has posed.

Blood glistens at the edge of those blue-bladed, gold-edged swords; the knight, at least, seems to take to violence as naturally as breathing, only stopping that onslaught once the last of the goblins has started to flee. Weapons flicking to either side of them, those blades disappear once more in a crackle of sharding energy as if they had never even been, and the knight continues onward -- not even pausing for Alisha and Josephine's threats as they wade into the dark.

"Such words mean nothing without the resolve to follow through on them."

The sound of their footfalls echo through the cavern as they make their way towards that cliff. They look up, head canting to the left almost like a gesture of fascination at the sight of those multitudes of berries laid out before them. "Why here?" they muse quietly -- but just what they mean by that question falls by the wayside as Rose addresses them once more. They look her way for a quiet moment, before accepting that bag with the clench of their metal fingers.

"Call me Mister Knight if you will," is their first answer, as if completely uncaring about such a sadly generic nickname. "But should you require another name, K.K. will do for now." A second passes. One of those swords manifests against their palm.

"And I do not need your money. I shall take my payment elsewhere."

That sword is tossed, hard, up towards the top of the cliffside; it impales into it violently before a red, glowing thread starts to flow down from it, long enough for the knight to take hold of -- and strong enough to support their not-inconsiderable weight as they start to climb, and gather, at a steady but unhalting pace -- though not before providing some generous, helpful advice:

"Do not climb this line. If you should attempt it, I will cut it."

Helpful!

DG: K.K. has contributed a Agility Basic Action toward its party's challenge, Berry Vines.
<Pose Tracker> Alisha Diphda has posed.

"That..." Alisha sighs, but she nods to Neriah.

And then she pauses, when she gets a good look at the wall, with all of those vines -- but all of those berries. She frowns at the word 'bounce.' She glances sideways at Rose, then blinks at her -- before she shakes her head and looks forward again. "I suppose that is only fair, but..."

She grabs hold of the vines -- and then gives herself a firm tug upward. Alisha doesn't hurry, though. She takes her time to keep her footing, and sometimes uses Rose's grappling hook. She moves under her, picking some of the berries as she moves.

"Have any of you had Heal Berries before?" she says. "I was amazed at how delicious they were. They were so much better tasting than gels!"

She slips -- and then she starts to reach for K.K.'s line. Except, of course, K.K. issues that warning. Her eyes narrow, and she pulls her hand back, before she keeps moving up. "...I see."

DG: Alisha Diphda has contributed a Agility Basic Action toward her party's challenge, Berry Vines.
DG: The party led by Rose has passed this challenge! The party gained 17 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> Neriah Parringer has posed.

Reaching for a handful of vines, Neriah hoists herself up with a chuff of effort. She pauses as she yanks herself up, swiping a handful of heal berries and stuffing them into the huge pouch hanging off her shoulder. "I've had 'em before, yeah," she calls down to Alisha as she swings slightly from the vine she's holding. "What's a Gel?"

She looks down, then, before blushing and remembering she's in a skirt. Swinging her legs up, she plants her heels against the rock face and tucks in, pulling herself up with a few careful steps as she proceeds to just walk her way up the rock face with help from the guide vines. Soon enough, she's reached the top, hopping over the ledge.

Most of the group is able to make it with little difficulty, if they're a little clever; some of the vines do crumble out of the rock face when grabbed, but most are firm enough. At the top, Neriah reaches down to help a couple of others up.

She makes a point of helping K.K. up, at least.

Then she adjusts her hat minutely. "Everyone alright?" she asks. "Okay. Let's press on. More berries to be found."

She gestures with a quick beckoning gesture, turning to delve deeper into the caverns.

DG: Josephine Lovelace has drawn a new Challenge.
======================<* CHALLENGE - Water-Slicked Path *>======================
|Type: Exploration |Dungeon Ability: Agility   |Challenge Rating: 1          | 
---------------------------< Challenge Information: >---------------------------
 The underground rivers of the Berry Cave make some pathways treacherous       
 indeed. Here, one has crossed the path. The water is only ankle high, but it  
 has made the ground slick in the extreme. A slip could cause a twisted ankle  
 -- or worse, send one sliding over the edge of the nearby pathway.            
=Dungeon Conditions: Slow=====================================================
<Pose Tracker> Neriah Parringer has posed.

Neriah Parringer reach for popcorn

<Pose Tracker> Josephine Lovelace has posed.

Such words mean nothing without the resolve to follow through on them.

If any stare could be termed 'venemous', the one currently displayed by the archaeologist could. Here, her lips press thin as she once again maintains a curious silence.

"...Let's go," Josie says at length.

Up against the wall, she quickly has more to worry herself about than the presence of the knight. Balancing against the wall takes some concentration, even with using the vines as support as she levers herself up the rockface. But even that hardly stops Josie from being a little bit chatty as she slowly slides away from whatever fell mood had gripped her in the knight's immediate presence. "...Gels? I can't say I'm familiar with those. Still, I think that's why the berries sell so well -- besides their curative effects, anyway! Make sure to collect some of the Potion Berries -- they're rarer."

Josie glances up then, just in time to see Penelope steadily pecking away at a quarter of a remaining Potion Berry. Josie makes the exact face a mother might upon seeing their toddler smearing fingerpaint all over the good couch. "--Penelope!!"

Penelope, notably, doesn't even stop what she's doing.

"Honestly, I can't believe you," she gripes, after hauling herself up over the edge. Penelope, having fluttered on up ahead once finished eating, trots along on the cave floor. Stooping just long enough to scoop the somewhat fatter bird up -- who protests -- Josie pauses. "I hear water." A few steps ahead display why:

These must be the waters that help feed the berry plants. Streaming speedily over the rock and cutting across the path ahead, the water glistens like crystal in the dim light. It must be ice cold.

"It's shallow, so we can make it. Careful, though -- I once heard a story about an geologist who drowned in a stream juuuust about this high." She gestures, as if to make the point, as she steps ahead to ford the river. "If your pack's too heavy it can be a problem getting back up again, you know~"

DG: Josephine Lovelace has contributed a Agility Basic Action toward her party's challenge, Water-Slicked Path.
<Pose Tracker> Jacqueline Barber has posed.

"I can't say I've tried Gels before, Miss Diphda, but I've had plenty of Berries." Jacqueline replies with a nod and a glance towards Alisha as she climbs. "I use 'em in some of my potions, so I have to make sure they're good quality."

Yes, Jacqueline, I'm sure that's the only reason.

This does make a thought occur to her, and she glances towards Rose.

"Come to think of it, wouldn't mind studying some of those. What would you say to selling me a few once we get out of here?" She asks. It was perfectly reasonable to study how well her potions compared to the competing brand, right?

Before too long they're at the top, and Jacqueline has obtained a fairly decent supply of berries. She had been a little choosy with hers, but this was fine - it was good to leave some of the berries behind so that they could continue growing here.

Waiting for them next is...a stream. Jacqueline shivers slightly at Josie's story.

"Ah...well, in that case..."

Out comes another dose of Invigoration Elixir. Better safe than sorry, after all.

DG: Jacqueline Barber has used her Tool Invigoration Elixir toward her party's challenge, Water-Slicked Path.
<Pose Tracker> Rose has posed.

"K.K., huh?" Rose replies, quietly. Gears finally turn in her head. Was Vin right? Is the Trial Knight the very same from the rumors and legends on Lunar? Normally she'd probably be pleased that he's refusing payment, it means more money for her, but the revelation kind of bothers her now. Is this how Sorey feels whenever he thinks the Lord of Calamity is within his reach but he can't get to her? The calamitous knight is right there.

And she knows she can't kill him.

She climbs, trying to think about something, anything, else. A nod to Neriah as she reaches the top, and helps Alisha up the best she can, while hauling around the now filled bag of berries. She has more than one bag with her, but it's a bad idea to carry too much yet.

Josephine's story is enough to get the party to take care, but Rose's mind is on the Trial Knight. She observes how he chooses to cross the slippery area, walking carefully as well. She's trying to get a read on those movements, however futile an idea it is.

The grappling hook returns, and with a one-handed toss is thrown to the other side, their destination. A few tugs are given to ensure its grip against the rock, and Rose uses it as a guide for where to stand and head, keeping tension on it.

"Hold the rope if you're not sure about your footing or you're afraid to slip," she tells the party, before focusing on K.K. again.

"... hey. When you said I was blind. What were you talking about and how do you know?" It's a slow crossing, so they have a few moments to talk.

An answer to Jacqueline, too. "What, Gels? Sure, I think we have a few left. We sold most of them to collectors who wanted Lunar stuff but since you're turning all these berries into potions for me anyway I'll include one as a freebie."

DG: Rose has used her Tool Grapple Hook toward her party's challenge, Water-Slicked Path.
<Pose Tracker> Alisha Diphda has posed.

Alisha slips at one point. She could have grabbed K.K.'s rope -- but she doesn't, taking the knight's vow at their word. So she slips down, with a yelp, and bangs her knee hard against the wall. But, they get over it, and even if she is the last up, she looks relieved to be standing there. She looks at Josie, then shakes her head 'no.'

"Gels are... ah, they're common from where I am," she says. "A common curative there."

She pockets her berries, and then she walks after Josie. She frowns as she sees the stream -- and then she glances to Josie, head tilted to the side. Someone drowned in a stream this high? She feels a shudder run down her back, before she nods. She starts crossing -- grabbing for Rose's rope, again, and she quiets.

If she gets swept away, she wears heavy armor. It could end badly. But, she wants to hear the answer, too.

DG: Alisha Diphda has contributed a Agility Basic Action toward her party's challenge, Water-Slicked Path.
<Pose Tracker> K.K. has posed.

The others wonder about gels. K.K., helpfully, explains:

"They are not of your world. On Lunar, they are a curative distilled into a chewable gelatin, making them more viable for long term storage."

A second passes.

"They come in sometimes perplexing flavors."

Otherwise, K.K. continues reaping those berries, not pausing until their bag is well and truly stuffed full to the brim. Only then do they rise up behind the others -- possibly a vaguely threatening proposition, especially given how forcefully they just -drag- themselves up along the cliffside as if the concept of subtlety and nuance escapes them. They lift themselves up--

--only to see that hand offered. They stare at Neriah for a long moment where anyone else might wonder if the knight might be liable to grab that hand and throw the woman off the ledge for even so much as offering it. They reach out... clasp that hand tight within the vice of that cold metal grasp...

... and then use it for their ascent, hitting ground comfortably and without word. There is a simple, quiet nod of acknowledgement on the part of the Trial Knight before they begin to march off once more with singleminded purpose, only pausing to offer, simply,

"Your bird is obstinate," to Josephine.

"And strong of will."

It's really hard to tell if it's a compliment, or an insult.

Eventually, though, the knight passes Rose by. They don't speak to her, nor even look at her, but that bag of stuffed berries is offered in passing, only lingering for a moment to allow her to take it before the figure wrapped in white armor moves on, stopping at that stream. Hands cross over their chest. Their head tilts as they listen to Josephine's story.

And though they say nothing, there is a certain, strange sense of fascinated appreciation there, for what or why is difficult to say; the sense is only there for a passing moment before one of those swords crackles back into existent, tossing it into the opposite wall of mineral and rock and using the thread to guide them past the slippery mass of water.

... hey.

The Trial Knight continues to pull themselves across, their faceless helm focused perennially forward as Rose speaks to them.

"You refuse to see what is in plain sight of you," is all they say, at first. "You hold yourself back from what you are. Bury your head in the comforting sands of ignorance like so many others. Why? Do you fear what you may see if you open your gaze?"

How do they know, they do not say. They just continue to move forward, unceasing. Unwilling to stop.

"Whatever it may be, it is naught but weakness. An excuse for complacency. And that excuse shall cost you everything, like a man drowning in shallow water."

Josephine's story was assuredly a fascinating one.

DG: K.K. has used its Tool Grapple Line toward its party's challenge, Water-Slicked Path.
<Pose Tracker> Neriah Parringer has posed.

"What's Lunar," Neriah asks.

She holds that hand out to K.K. Her eyes again search that helmeted face, trying to find eyes behind the helmet. Her grip is startlingly firm as she clasps the Knight's gauntleted grip in her gloves right hand.

Her eyes widen a little with sudden surprise.

She sets the Knight down, guiding him to the clifftop. Nodding, she bites her bottom lip, then steps back and looks after the rest of the group. "...I didn't think birds were usually that stubborn," she murmurs. "Other than the cuccos, anyway...."

For a long period, she's quiet as she tails the group. The sound of running water ahead draws her on as surely as the backs of the other women she's traveling with. Then the stream comes into view.

Momentarily wishing she wore more practical heels, Neriah frowns for a second as she looks down at the rippling waters. Then she looks across the stream towards Josephine.

"On the plus side, one of us could pull you out and pump the fluid out of your lungs," she points out without batting an eyelash. "Then all you'd have to worry about is the brain damage."

As Rose casts the rope, Neriah reaches for it, planting one foot carefully in the stream, then the other. She moves forward somewhat gingerly, careful not to step anywhere that might get her washed away. Even then, she might be unlucky.

As K.K. speaks again, Neriah bows her head slightly, her cheeks colouring. "Not everyone is strong like that," she points out quietly. "Even a lot of people with great power are scared sometimes. I've known a lot of people like that. People who can hurt you with strength, but all they see is fear and panic."

DG: Neriah Parringer has contributed a Agility Basic Action toward its party's challenge, Water-Slicked Path.
DG: The party led by Rose 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> Josephine Lovelace has posed.

"--You okay there, kiddo?" This time, the 'kiddo' in question is Alisha, who has just slipped. The girl seems to have things under control though, and Josie can't exactly reach her where she's at anyway. Reaching up, she takes the next handhold, before swinging over to grab another ripe berry. "Oh, I see. So sort of like a sol, or something?" Medicines, in any case -- quite different from a berry.

It's Rose who says a word that prompts Josie to pause after selecting a particularly large berry. "'Lunar stuff'?"

The question's answered, but not quite in the way -- or from the person -- Josie would have expected. The archaeologist is silent, as if mulling all this over as she hangs against the wall like a spider. Slightly, she tilts her head to her right.

That's right, 'look up', Jean had said, or something like that. The place she was from.

"...Interesting!" Josie says after another second has passed, before reaching up overhead to continue climbing. "Lend me one sometime," she adds to Rose.

For all the sudden reclaimed cheer she demonstrated on the way up, she still draws herself up straight -- impressive at her already-six-foot-at-least height -- when K.K. addresses her. Or rather her bird. "Leave her out of this," she mutters, pitching her voice down as she urges Penelope onto her shoulder again.

The water's pretty swift here. Faster than she thought. She still half-turns when halfway across, glancing back at Neriah. "Hmm, I suppose so! That's the good thing about traveling in a group," she comments, absently reaching out to rest a hand on Rose's rope. "Though, if you spoke to my teacher, he'd have said I already had enough knocks on the head, so..." She tosses her hands up in the air, pairing the gesture with a self-deprecating variant of her usual lopsided grin. Turning again to face the opposite bank, she takes a step.

Suddenly, HUBRIS!

Some patch of algae, maybe. Something's slipperier than expected, and with the speed of the water here, it's sufficient to send the archaeologist tumbling forward towards the stony riverbed--

Only Rose's rope saves her from landing facedown or being sent sliding away or any other fell fate. It doesn't stop her from getting rather wet or salvage her pride, though. Staggering back to her feet, Josie waves a hand in the air. "I'm fine -- just tripped a little." She'll much more carefully -- and using the rope -- cross over from there. Penelope, having of course abandoned her in her hour of need, awaits on the opposite side.

DG: Jacqueline Barber has drawn a new Challenge.
=====================<* CHALLENGE - Blocked Passageway *>=====================
|Type: Exploration |Dungeon Ability: Brute     |Challenge Rating: 1          | 
--------------------------< Challenge Information: >--------------------------
 A large boulder has fallen down inside of the cave and rolled before the      
 passageway leading to the next room. If you want to keep going, you need to   
 do something to get rid of it.                                                
=Dungeon Conditions: Weaken===================================================
<Pose Tracker> Jacqueline Barber has posed.

"Excellent." Jacqueline grins slightly at Rose's answer. That was something to look forward to, then.

She...wasn't paying too much attention to K.K., admittedly. To her, they were merely...there. If she focused on them too much, she was afraid they might do the same...and from what she'd heard, that was the last thing she wanted. Just think of them as a mysterious armored ally and nothing more...and apparently knowledgeable of Gels? Huh.

She was about to ask about Josephine's condition, when suddenly...

They hear it first, before the see it. Just as they step onto the opposite bank, a loud rumbling clues them into to danger.

A boulder rolls in, crashing into what seemed to be the way forward and blocking progress - hopefully everyone had enough presence of mind to jump out of the way!

"Well, this is just fantastic..." Jacqueline mutters, drawing a Crest from her pouch. She invokes it, attempting to push it aside with a pillar of earth. It had lodged in pretty deeply, though, so it'd take a little more than just that...

DG: Jacqueline Barber has contributed a Brute Basic Action toward her party's challenge, Blocked Passageway.
<Pose Tracker> Rose has posed.

"Lunar. You guys call it the moon. The princess, myself, and..." Rose eyes K.K., briefly, "The knight too, we're from there. Us two are from a region called Glenwood specifically, I don't know about..." A gesture towards K.K., again.

It's the Trial Knight's words that make Rose stop, even as she takes the bag of berries from him without considering that he just did something nice for her.

"This is about Seraphim, isn't it? About Malevolence? What does it matter to you if I don't want to see those scary things, huh?!" Oh, she's fiery now. "What if I DID lose everything over it? What would it change for you at the end of the day and why do you care?!"

Rose is not much help getting a giant boulder out of the way. This is a hard fact. She's better as moral support, or in this case, upset support yelling at K.K. but he probably enjoys it so it's OK. But she has to admit, his warnings wound deeper than she tries to let on. She doesn't want to lose everything, and she acknowledges there are invisible forces at play. She just doesn't want to acknowledge how important they really are.

But would it be so bad if she learned to live with them?

DG: Rose has contributed a Brute Basic Action toward her party's challenge, Blocked Passageway.
<Pose Tracker> Alisha Diphda has posed.

"Oh, yes... I-I'm fine," Alisha says to Josie. She looks a little flustered.

She slips, again, in the water. She yanks on Rose's rope -- but she keeps walking. Even if she frowns at what K.K. says about Rose. Her nose wrinkles, and she wonders. How could Rose be blind? What is she ignoring? It sends a little guilty feeling into her, to even wonder. But, she looks at the merchant's back as they walk, and she wonders.

She sighs, as she steps out of the water. "We call it the Silver Star, sometimes," she adds. "And we call Filgaia the Blue Star."

That the Blue Star is supposed to be a world devoid of life, a wasteland lost to all mankind, is something that she decides to ignore. Alisha keeps walking, and then she blinks, and hesitates at Rose's anger. She frowns, as she stops to see the boulder.

She lifts her arm back, then, and her crystal gauntlet gleams.

And then she punches the damn thing. It feels pretty good.

DG: Alisha Diphda has used her Tool Crystal Gauntlet toward her party's challenge, Blocked Passageway.
<Pose Tracker> Neriah Parringer has posed.

Things go worse for Neriah than she'd care to admit. Midway along her transit of the stream, her heel strikes a submerged rock funny; it gives way, and she slips with a gasp, tumbling and landing hard on one knee. A jolt of pain shoots through her.

She doesn't make a sound, just drawing in a short breath and wincing slightly. She pushes herself back to her feet in relatively short order. Only the fact that she's holding onto Rose's rope keeps her, too, from being swept away - her legs are soaked, though, and water trickles into her boots.

She blinks at Rose a couple times, standing there with water dripping down her legs. "What's a Seraphim and what's Malevolence," she asks with a tilt of her head. "And why do you call Filgaia blue when it's basically just desert? I'd think it would be the Brown Star. And besides, I don't see how you can be from the Moon. I'm pretty sure it's made of cheese, and you can't live on cheese alone."

She pauses and considers Alisha for a moment, then Rose, then K.K.

"...Unless you're body snatchers and you've taken the forms of your Filgaian victims," she says, again completely deadpan.

She doesn't seem too bothered by the idea, at least - more bothered by the sudden clatter of the boulder down the corridor ahead. With a click of her teeth, she reaches over her shoulder and whips out her excavator's shovel, glancing around towards the cavern walls, then the turf around and below the stone.

"Here. Let me help," she suggests as she digs the blade of the shovel into the softer rubble beneath the boulder, scooping some of it aside. With care she begins to chip some of the rock away from the boulder, bit by bit.

DG: Neriah Parringer has used its Tool Trusty Shovel toward its party's challenge, Blocked Passageway.
<Pose Tracker> Josephine Lovelace has posed.

"Yeah, I get it. Let's just say a little birdie hinted at it to me once?" Josie says, smiling slightly. She shakes her head. "Still... damn. Have you ever read some of those 1-Gella novellas? The ones where the professors say 'this changes everything!' and so on at every new discovery out of the ruins?" Josie pauses, inching herself up the wall a touch. "...Kiddo, it's pretty cliche, but this really does change everything. If people are living up on the moon, anyway."

She's going to be dumping water out of her boots later but for now she'll just have to live with it. "A lot of help you were," she gripes at Penelope -- safely perched on a rock close by the water -- uncharitably, before catching a sudden impression of movement out of the corner of her eye. "Whoa--"

That could have been unfortunate, there, with the boulder. Josie quickly backsteps, coming up short -- but not taking a dip this time -- against the edge of the little stream.

She turns her head, glancing over at Neriah. "...'Made of cheese'?" One white eyebrow is raised. Shaking her head, Josie slips her pack off her shoulder before digging around within for the good old standby. "Let's get this thing out of the way, shall we~?" Grasping the mattock on both hands, she gives the boulder the good old over-the-shoulder strike, bracing herself for the inevitable moment of impact.

DG: Josephine Lovelace has used her Tool Well-Used Mattock toward her party's challenge, Blocked Passageway.
<Pose Tracker> K.K. has posed.

For the briefest moment, before K.K. crosses that stream, they hold their hand up -- the hand that had clasped Neriah's. They seem to consider it with silent thought for all of a handful of seconds, before they simply press on unabated.

"Strength is many things," they say to Neriah as they advance through the sloshing protest of the water, "but it is never something gifted. Strength is something that can only be possessed by those with the will to grasp it."

Josephine slips up, nearly collapses into the stream. K.K. does not so much as look back as they wade through the waters to the other end, offering only one thing to Josephine for her abashed dismissal:

"Keep up."

As if they had no patience for excuses.

And even as Rose yells at them, the knight does not stop, not for a moment. They trudge ahead, water slicking at the pristine white of their boots and making them gleam in the dim lighting of the caverns. They hear the cacophonous roll of that boulder, the deafening SMASH as it wedges itself into the passageway. They continue to move.

"It matters not to me," the claim, their voice filled with cold indifference. "You will simply be yet another human too weak to do more than cling to what they know even when that which they refuse to acknowledge tears down their life.

"A story oft-told, and just as often forgotten."

The others ply their craft upon the boulder, from Crest sorcery to powerful punches, a mattock, even a shovel, K.K. advances from behind them.

"Move. Now."

Swinging the flat end of a MASSIVE warhammer from quite literally out of nowhere, ancient and powerful and wrought of gold, white and blue, right down upon that boulder with titanic strength.

"Seraphim are the spirits of the Goddess, entities tasked protect an indifferent and unappreciative mankind from their own weakness," K.K. says through the impact, "though they, too, are ultimately too weak for the burden. That burden is Malevolence. Your sins."

...

"And Lunar is not wrought from coagulated dairy."

...

"Do humans believe such a world exists?"

It's worth asking.

DG: K.K. has used its Tool Where Did You Get That Hammer toward its party's challenge, Blocked Passageway.
DG: The party led by Rose 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> Jacqueline Barber has posed.

Most of this information about Lunar is already known to Jacqueline, though it does fill in a few gaps that she was unaware were even there - like specific terms, and places. She had learned that there were people there, but she had never given too much thought as to how they lived.

"It really is interesting. I'd like to see it someday. There must be things there we'd never dream of here on Filgaia." Jacqueline says, agreeing with Josephine.

She...doesn't quite get Neriah's comment either, though.

"Ah...hopefully that isn't the case. They're nice." She says.

Most of them, anyway.

While the boulder was often the nemesis of even the most experienced of adventurers, it was not prepared for the devastation that followed.

Neriah's shovel loosens up the rubble around it, allowing it to be pushed aside. But, before it can roll back into placed, it is struck with a mattock, opening a weakness that a solid punch from the princess is able to exploit. The rock splits, and then, a hammer(Jacqueline stares in confusion at this, having not seen it at any point before) simply smashes the remains into oblivion.

The boulder...perhaps should have chosen a different team to menace.

And with its defeat, the way is open...

DG: K.K. has drawn a new Challenge.
========================<* CHALLENGE - Rotting Beast *>=========================
|Type: Final       |Dungeon Ability: Combat    |Challenge Rating: 2          | 
---------------------------< Challenge Information: >---------------------------
 The Rotting Beast is the terror that hides in the deepest parts of the Berry  
 Cave. None can be certain how many might be found here, and Surf Village      
 considers their presence to be a rumor at best. The flesh of the creature     
 sloughs from its bones, mottled grey and brown on more lively red. It         
 stumbles, a hulking zombie perhaps twice as tall as any human. It has chosen  
 to live in a place with life-granting Berries to eat those who come for       
 them.                                                                         
=Dungeon Conditions: Wound====================================================
<Pose Tracker> K.K. has posed.

The boulder is dashed across the rocks thanks to their efforts, and K.K. completes their swing with an impact that makes the ground beneath them all shudder, cracklines forming across the dense, mineral-encrusted earth. They do not wait. They do not check to ensure everyone else is fine. Perhaps uncaring or indifferent or something else entirely, they wade towards the front of the group, down that winding, narrow passageway, that tremendous and inexplicable hammer slung over their shoulder.

To those who have seen it, its aesthetics and design bear striking resemblence to the Sacred Blade of Ladylake.

It's a fact that likely isn't one to be lingered on as the Trial Knight is lost to the darkness of the passageway. Moss creeps along the moisture-slicked walls, the sound of dripping water filling one's ears almost as fully as the strange scent that slowly grows stronger and stronger. To some it might be familiar. To others, perhaps not. It is the smell of entropy at work upon the dead. The way a bloated carcass must smell after weaks -- months -- of being gradually swollen and eroded away at by water.

The smell of rot.

By the time they enter, they'll see it: the sight of a massive beast of dripping flesh and decaying skin that clings tenaciously to crumbled bone, roaring a dank roar into the open air as it barrels towards them with snapping, slathering jaws.

"The unliving beast..."

And K.K. charging at it full-tilt without hesitation, hammer in hand and ready to swing with one mighty, powerful blow.

"ROTTED BEHEMOTH -- COME!"

They really seem into it.

"AND I SHALL SHOW YOU YOUR END LONG DENIED!"

Really.

<Pose Tracker> Neriah Parringer has posed.

"I... I guess there's something to that," Neriah says, her tone subdued as she turns pale blue eyes up towards K.K. from beneath the brim of her big floppy newsboy hat.

With a short chuff of breath, she scrapes away a little more of the rubble, nodding as the stone rolls aside. "Well. They haven't tried to feast on my succulent flesh yet," she says with a slight lowering of her eyelids. "I'll take that as a sign that I should like them." Here she flashes Alisha and Rose a little smile.

The scent of rot ahead curdles Neriah's senses. She recoils a little and bites down to her lower lip. Stepping slowly forward, she looks towards K.K. as the White Knight unslings a great hammer. The sense of dread grows, a profound decay that seems to gnaw at her.

Her right hand aches. She scratches at her palm.

And then she sees it. An unliving beast, massive and savage. It comes hurtling towards the group. Sucking in a startled breath, she recoils - but the creature's first pass strikes her and knocks her bodily off her feet. She doesn't cry out. Skidding for a few feet, she hits the cave wall and begins to struggle to her feet, wincing. Her hand dips to the pistol tucked into her vest.

...She pauses halfway there, her eyes going momentarily distant.

<Pose Tracker> Alisha Diphda has posed.

Alisha has been here twice. The last time, they found the corpse of a great rotting beast -- and they couldn't rip it apart. The time before, they found one alive. Or, as it happens, 'alive.'

She stops after the Trial Knight, sniffing the air but not looking surprised. Until, of course, she sees the corpse-like thing come shuffling out -- and hears K.K. shout a challenge at it. She stares at them for a moment, before she sucks in a breath. Especially after it simply bats down Neriah. Her spear swings off her back.

"Spread out!" she calls out. "It has a long reach! And be careful to not let it corner you against a wall!"

She runs in, then. Her spear flashes in front of her -- and slashes, long and hard, against the side of the terrible rotting beast!

DG: Alisha Diphda has contributed a Combat Basic Action toward her party's challenge, Rotting Beast.
DG: K.K. has contributed a Combat Basic Action toward its party's challenge, Rotting Beast.
<Pose Tracker> Rose has posed.

Everything torn down. Rose could not deny that it was starting to feel that way. What she can't see, she can't fight, and it keeps piling up.

Oft-told and often forgotten. She doesn't want to be that. She can't -fail-, she has someone's dream on her shoulders. Is that even her decision? It might originate from someone else, but it's been made hers for a long time now.

Rose falls quiet, having no further retort for the Trial Knight. He is right, every word he says is complete truth, and she's just too hard-headed to live with that. She keeps trying to out-think the words or think up of reasons why things are fine the way they are now, but she knows they aren't. The distraction is enough to keep her from noticing the hammer's visual cues.

"From your perspective Lunar looks silvery, but the surface is just like Filgaia. It's brown and green, mostly, with a lot of blue water. Maybe there's something altering the perception of the worlds from one another." Or, you know, maybe it's SCIENCE that all that water makes a planet stand out as blue, Rose??? But what's science, really.

Thinking about that is a lot easier than talking about her blindness.

It's also easy to faintly smile back at Neriah.

But you know what's also easier than K.K.'s truths to deal with?

NOT GIANT REAPERS THAT'S FOR SURE.

Rose kind of backs away at the sight of the monster, especially as she recalls that smell. One of those THINGS was dead last time and the gas coming out of it was so bad they had to flee the cave. This one's alive. It's not just scary, it's imposing. How does K.K. just charge in there, and what's with the knight's sudden zeal?

Rose opts to keep her distance. She reaches into her pockets, still lacking a new belt, and pulls another round of smoke bombs out. She hurls them towards the Reaper's head, hoping the small detonations and ensuing smoke blind it.

Alisha's advice goes without saying, don't let that thing corner you. She doesn't want to be eaten. But seeing Neriah knocked out like that - Rose pulls a throwing knife out from under her arm, and infusing it with briefly frosty mana, flicks it towards the monster's head. "Frozen Shade!"

This is not as effective as when she does it in melee, but on-impact the knife'll kind of detonate in this icy blast that threatens to freeze and slow it a bit, weakening it for others, and hopefully preventing it from reaching the downed Drifter.

DG: Rose has used her Tool Smoke Bomb toward her party's challenge, Rotting Beast.
<Pose Tracker> Josephine Lovelace has posed.

If that had been venemous before, the look Josie levels at K.K. as the knight strides past her -- as she stands there half-dripping with icy water -- is positively murderous.

What is wrong with you, girl? Can't you keep up?

Josie shakes her head and moves along towards the opposite side.

"I wonder if that's possible. It might not be a bad idea, someday," she wonders aloud, casting a brief smile Jay's way. "There are still things I need to do here first, though."

The mattock hits the boulder. As expected, the pain is terrible. Even though she had taken measures to try to ensure the recoil wouldn't be as bad this time, this was... Grimacing and shaking out her right hand, Josie takes a step backwards, exhaling a breath as she eyes the boulder. "I think that cracked it a bit."

There isn't much warning. But it's still a warning. Josie steps sidelong, twisting away from the boulder as K.K. quite literally brings the hammer down. Even Josephine stares, dark eyes widened. Hadn't she seen some trick like that during the fight? Weapons out of nowhere. At the nape of her neck, hairs stand on end. ...No. She won't think about it. Just keep going.

Malevolence, claims K.K., is their sins. "Sins, huh..." Holding the mattock loosely in her left hand, she turns away, walking slowly towards her pack and Penelope, still roosting. She drops the tool back in her bag and kicks it aside. "...I'm sure I've made more than my share," she mutters, watching as the knight heads on ahead through the opening.

It's an interesting transition. One part of the cave: stone, water, plants growing freely. Life finds a way. The other part

"That... smell..." Josie cups her hand over her mouth and nose, her face twisted up in disgust. "Something's..."

She'd know that smell anywhere.

Something died down here.

She wouldn't be able to put a finger on it if she tried. But if you've crossed Filgaia as long as Josie has, you've also learned not to question the gnaw of experience. Sometimes it's the only thing that keeps you alive. She's already drawn her rifle before she plunges into the depths of the passageway after K.K.

The knight had better not be about to spring a trap--

She sees the beast. Josie pivots, breaking away from the entrance as Neriah is flung aside. 'Spread out', Alisha commands. "That's why it smelled so bad-- On it!" Josie calls back, falling into an all-out dash as she seeks out that one point of essential cover. There, an eyesocket -- a weak point. And here, on the far side of a chunk of fallen stone, is a good vantage point. Josie crouches, taking careful aim. "Keep it busy! --Just like that!" she shouts, as Rose hurls a knife at it. "I'm going to shoot it in the head!"

Squinting one eye closed, she squeezes the trigger slowly. The shot rings out.

DG: Josephine Lovelace has contributed a Combat Basic Action toward her party's challenge, Rotting Beast.
<Pose Tracker> Jacqueline Barber has posed.

Jacqueline's a little nervous to follow K.K. into the darkness. It seemed like a...genuinely terrible idea! But she does, after sending Josephine a smile in response. She pauses when she smells a familiar, awful scent and removes a filtering cloth from one of her bags and wraps it around her nose and mouth.

She's quick to offer one to her allies, as well, and once everyone has one who wants one she continues to follow the knight.

And then...she sees it.

"That thing...? But I thought it was dead...!" She says, in shock and surprise.

At least, it had been on her first visit to these caves.

She panics for a second, but instinct quickly takes over.

"Fire in the hole, everyone!" She warns then draws a familiar bottle of black liquid from one of her bags and hurls it towards the creature, before invoking a rapidly-drawn Crest that strikes it with a bolt of lightning as it flies towards the beast. The liquid inside is ignited upon contact, showering the beast with flaming liquid and shards of molten glass - it was a technique she'd had a lot of training with, though she wasn't sure if anyone here had seen it before.

At Alisha's order, she keeps to the back. She was always more of a long-range combatant anyway - her only form of defense at melee range was a small silver knife that was meant for collecting ingredients rather than actually killing living things...or unliving, in this case.

DG: Jacqueline Barber has used her Tool Reliable Repellant toward her party's challenge, Rotting Beast.
<Pose Tracker> Neriah Parringer has posed.

Neriah's hand hovers halfway between empty air and Marilyn's handle. Wide-eyed, she watches the rest of the group lay into the half-living creature before her. It's like nothing she's ever confronted and it hurt her, no less. It even provoked the White Knight to get serious against it.

Pain shoots through her as she maintains her footing. She's borne pain before. Her teeth click together but she still doesn't go for her gun, hand hovering there tensely. There's obvious fear behind her eyes.

Some of it is fear of the creature. But there is another fear there.

Slowly, she brings her right hand up. She clasps it over her heart for a moment, and takes a breath to centre herself. And then she begins to focus.

From the edge of the cavern, there's a sudden choked sound. It's from Neriah. She hasn't cried out in pain from anything thus far, but now, she staggers half a step to one side, crossing her arms over her chest and bowing her head. Her hat slips off and lands at her feet as her head droops, shoulders trembling and heaving as she gasps with short, deep, pained breaths. Her legs visibly tremble, as if just standing hurts. Again she lets out a strangled sound, her shoulders swelling and her right hand twitching violently. Squeezing her eyes closed, she clenches her teeth and breathes in.

Then she screams. It's a terrifyingly choked-off sound, like someone's strangling her in mid-cry even while something tears her apart.

And then SOMETHING explodes out of her body and fills her corner of the room and beyond with absolute, crushing darkness.

It's light, but it's not light. The sound of it is beyond belief. It's loud, but the sound of it vibrates just lower than the range of human hearing - a dull, vibrating, throbbing shriek of a roar that batters the senses and evokes a palpable sense of horror. With a hollow, energetic roar, more a feeling of incredible tooth-rattling sub-sound that seems to tug and wrench at more than just the physical, the energy manifests as a sort of negative light, roaring cascades of black power whirling around her in tendrils, forming a tempest. Neriah seems almost to wilt within the immensity of it -

But, clenching her teeth, she does manage to level her heavily-gloved right hand. She groans as if this is taking everything she had. As if it were the most agonizing thing in the world.

The coils of darklight explode outwards - and stream with a spirit-rattling roar of infrasound towards the shambling, rotting thing.

Where, if all goes according to plan, the outpouring of magic will simply tear it apart in a maelstrom of black magic havoc.

DG: Neriah Parringer has used her Tool Manifestation toward her party's challenge, Rotting Beast.
DG: You have overcome the dungeon's trials! This run is a success!
DG: The party led by Rose has successfully explored Berry Cave!
===================<* CHALLENGE - Hydroponic Section Panel *>===================
|Type: Discovery   |Dungeon Ability: Discovery |Challenge Rating: 1          | 
---------------------------< Challenge Information: >---------------------------
 In the deepest levels of the Berry Cave, in a cavern far away from the        
 others, there is a room quite unlike the rest. Embedded into the wall of the  
 cave is a large piece of metal plating. In large stencilled letters, worn     
 away by time, the text "SEED CORPORATION" is written across the upper half    
 of the wall. Below that, in smaller print at the words "Botanical Laboratory  
 BN-1303."                                                                     
                                                                               
 The lower part of the wall has a flat black screen, with two large ports and  
 a series of buttons. The buttons seem to do nothing. The screen never turns   
 on, whatever button is pressed.                                               
                                                                               
 You should send a +request regarding this discovery!                          
=Dungeon Conditions: Treasure=================================================

<Pose Tracker> K.K. has posed.

The flat of K.K.'s hammer slams into the beast just as its bony, flesh-wrapped claws scratch deep furrows into their armor; the impact is muted and oddly wet, a schlick of water-logged flesh crushing inward as the beast staggers backwards. Alisha's spear jabs into its side, and watery body fluid gushes out from the wound sound matched by another one from Josie's shot, hitting its neck just under the jaw in a spray of fluid, filling the air with its vile, acrid stench. K.K. readies another blow, legs tensing. Smoke billows across the chamber, obscuring the beast as it thrashes blindly, skeletal, rotting limbs looking to strike anything it can...

... and then with a bolt of lightning and a shatter of glass, the beast is lit aflame with Jacqueline's concoction, writhing and raging and--

  • thok*

The sound of that knife burying into the beast's head is muted, but it does the trick, stomping its rampage. Imbedded into its skull, it swerves its head around, glaring deadened eyes at Rose. It turns...

... and K.K. leaps, DRIVING that hammer down onto Rose's knife to bury it the rest of the way inside of the beast just as it -explodes- into shards of ice, letting it shred the behemoth from the inside. And yet still, its limbs raise, and as K.K. falls it prepares to simply -smite- the knight into the hardened earth...

... before that dark power from beyond -pulses- its way straight through the beast, lacing through its unliving flesh and bone and -ripping- it asunder in an unpleasant explosion of semi-tranparent liquids.

The knight falls, the hammer disappeared as if it was never there. That faceless plate, now decorated with slatherings of necrid fluid and ugly, angry scars in three stripes across the front, turns to level the weight of its stare upon Neriah.

The Trial Knight lingers there for a long, ominous moment of tense silence before they turn to wade off towards the very depths of the cavern.

"Come," they all but order, seemingly of them all -- but they do not keep Neriah out of the periphery of their vision. Not even for a moment.

<Pose Tracker> Rose has posed.

It's extremely difficult for Rose to pick between staring at the abomination that will not stop charging, and the fact Neriah just burst into... well, darkness. Darkness she can see. Darkness that lashes out and rips the Reaper into shreds, spreading its flesh to every corner of the room.

There is some in Rose's hair and she seems to care less about that than the state Neriah is in right now. What... IS that power and why did it happen? Rose can see it, though-- clear as day. She must assume that it isn't Malevolence, and must simply be dark-elemental magic of some kind. Right? Yeah that has to be it.

And in the wake of that K.K. just wants them to get a move on.

He sure doesn't let things bother him, does he?

She. It. They. Who knows? Rose assumes he, it's easier.

"Are... are you alright?" she hesitates to ask, towards Neriah, without daring approach any closer than she has to. At least not until the fireworks have been put out.

<Pose Tracker> Jacqueline Barber has posed.

Jacqueline hears a strange sound coming from Neriah.

"Miss...? Are you-"

She is interrupted as darkness launches from Neriah's body, accompanied by a horrible, grating roar. Jacqueline stumbles back, clasping her hands over her ears. She has the subtle feeling that she had let out a cry of surprise, but whether or not she did is drowned out by the rest of Neriah's assault.

The following moments go quickly, but at the same time last all too long. And when they end, the beast is no more.

Things go quiet and Jacqueline allows herself to relax somewhat, and she tries to ignore the mess that is now covering everything, including herself, but the silence is broken by a single word.

"Just...Just a moment." She says, removing a bottle of pale-blue liquid from her bag.

She draws a bit closer than Rose does, this mostly to hand the bottle over to Neriah.

"That seemed like it was painful. Here, take this." She offers.

Only once she is sure that Neriah is alright to move will she turn to follow K.K.

<Pose Tracker> Neriah Parringer has posed.

As the Reaper is riven apart beneath the onslaught of... of whatever the hell she just did, Neriah visibly wilts even as more of that power floods out of her. Her face has gone incredibly pale.

Finally, it's over. The unlight ebbs and fades, then whirls back towards her and seems to suck itself back into Neriah, vanishing into her chest and face and shoulders and arms and back and melting into her as if it was never there. If she sees eyes on her, she doesn't react at first, mostly because she's staggering forward a few steps, taking deep, wracking breaths as if she'd been underwater for too long and were desperately trying to fill her lungs. Tears bead down her cheeks, her eyes wide and unfocused.

She can feel people staring at her, though. She'd like to say that bothers her almost as much as the rest of it, but at the moment she's in far too much pain to.

"I'm... o...kay," she manages to answer thinly, her voice pinched with what sounds an awful lot like excruciating pain. With visible effort, she lifts her eyes to Rose, still doubled over with her arms wrapped around herself. As Jacqueline staggers up with the bottle, she blinks a couple of times.

"...Thank you," she manages with obvious relief and a genuine, if pained, smile. She takes the potion and downs it all. It seems to help, a little.

Breathing in again, she forces herself upright and begins to move forward gingerly after K.K., grimacing every time she tries to take a step.

<Pose Tracker> K.K. has posed.

The others offer their commiserations, their concerns. K.K. does not wait for them; by the time they have begun to move again, they'll find the Trial Knight at the end of the line, head tilt curiously, armored arms crossed over the polished white of their ooze-slicked chest as they stare down at...

... a large, black screen. A black screen, with buttons and metal paneling, looking so very archaic and yet at the same time decisively advanced beyond anything that exists in modern-day Ignas. It looks precious, and irreplaceable--

--and K.K. kicks the plated panel, with a resounding collision of metal on metal without even an ounce of hesitation.

The blow echoes across the caverns. K.K. doesn't even flinch. They just look down and stare at their handiwork. Hardly even so much as a dent lingers there, barely even a nudge against that sturdy material.

"This altar was built to endure," they observe, voice calm despite the odd terminology. "It was hidden here, away within the depths. It was important. Had purpose. A story lingers within this metal."

For as ominous and unreadable as the knight normally is though, right now? Right now, they simply sound... curious. Fascinated, even.

They look back, finally, to take in the rest.

"What manner of thing is this?" they seem to ask of the device itself -- even if their curious attention seems similarly focused on the grimacing Neriah.

<Pose Tracker> Rose has posed.

Everyone's okay! That's a relief.

And the darkness has stopped.

Rose helps Neriah up, along the others, and hurries to catch up to the Trial Knight afterwards, avoiding the remains the Reaper as diligently as she can. When she stops, it's to cross her arms and look just a little bit smug.

"Oh? I guess even you don't have every answer, huh?"

Yeeees deliverance from his truths via snark.

Let her have this for a moment before she starts moping again.

Taking a look of her own yields very few results, though. "More seriously, beats me. Never seen anything like this. The construction kind of reminds me of ARMs, in a way? It's old, well-made, and I can't really fathom how you build something like this in the depths of a cave."

Rose's eyes linger on the sign a bit. "Seeds... you think this might have been some sort of stockpile for seeds? Like this is some kind of really big ARM that... grows plants? Maybe that's why Heal Berries grow here and are so special, someone made them to be?"

<Pose Tracker> Jacqueline Barber has posed.

Jacqueline nods back to Neriah and manages a smile of her own. If she could manage that it was a good sign, at least. She seemed to be in pain, but this really wasn't the place to stop.

She follows the Knight, and when they finally come to a stop they find something...mysterious. It was far from what Jacqueline had expected to find here. They had only come here after berries, not...something like this. The room itself was amarked change from the rest of the caves.

"It looks like a machine of some kind. A terminal, maybe...? An old one, too. You usually find them in ruins, though, not places like this..." She explains, sounding somewhat baffled, then removes a notebook from one of her bags.

It took some effort to actually read the letters, but she is eventually able to make them out.

"Seed Corporation...? Botanical Laboratory...BN-1303..." She mutters, as she writes this all down.

She draws closer to the machine, looking at the array of buttons. She studies them all for a moment before cautiously and experimentally reaching out and presses a few of them, but...nothing.

"Hm..." This goes down in her notes as well. "Wrong button? Or...perhaps it's out of power...?" She muses.

"In this state, there's really no telling what it was for...though I think you may be onto something, Rose." She agrees with a nod and a smile towards her fellow merchant.

<Pose Tracker> Neriah Parringer has posed.

Neriah still can't tell if K.K. is a man or a woman. (Or should we ask?)

For her part, she's not especially forthcoming, at least at first. As K.K. kicks the panel, though, she winces, flinching away slightly. She's still moving incredibly gingerly, as if even after the potion, everything hurts to some extent. And yet...

...it doesn't budge. Biting down gently to her bottom lip, the dark-haired woman picks up her cap and sets it back atop her head, the brim of it half-hiding her eyes. Speculation is left to the two more experienced Drifters in the room - or are they more experienced? Neriah doesn't seem in a hurry to cast doubt on it.

"I don't... know how anyone would... make a plant," she murmurs. She's aware that there are eyes on her.

This time she can't quite look at K.K. Something behind that helmet seems to want to ask questions she can't - or won't - answer. Her head lowers ever so slightly.

"So there was a... company that made Heal Berries...? But... how's that possible?"

<Pose Tracker> Rose has posed.

"Beats me. I don't work with technology like... ever," Rose admits, before musing the other questions. "Well... if it's possible to make new recipes, new potions, new weapons, new drinks, why not new plants? You'd just need some advanced understanding of... like, plants, right? And it feels like everytime anyone ever talks about all these ancient civiliations they're always super smart people who could do things we can't anymore."

She pauses, and adds: "Except stay alive, apparently."

<Pose Tracker> K.K. has posed.

"No. I do not."

It's subtle, but the knight sounds almost distantly satisfied by this fact.

"A machine... like your ARMs," echoes the Trial Knight as they turn back toward the panel. Their gauntlet-clad hand lifts, touching upon the cold, forgotten alloys of the plate covering, the soft scratch of metal on metal filling the room as Jacqueline fiddles with the controls. "So it has died," they assess, based on the woman's findings. "But dead machinery may yet come to life." Their head tilts. They consider.

"A garden made by man, hidden away in the depths of a dying world..."

And then they pull away once more. Without a word, they start to walk, away from that black screen, from Rose, from Jacqueline, from Neriah, hands clasping behind their back as they move.

"Very well. I have seen what I need to see." Their featureless face tilts towards Jacqueline, if but for a moment. "Your people cling with tenacity," they aside to her before walking away. They only pause as they reach Neriah, stopping at her side. They still face ahead... but their words are undeniably for the woman beside them.

"When the time comes... I would have words with you."

And so they continue to walk, just like that, back into the darkness. A darkness soon illuminated by a half-shell of radiant light that encapsulates them within its searing splendor.

"This shall suffice as my payment. I will take my leave, now... but we shall meet again, girl."

And when the light flashes out, the Trial Knight simply... is not there any more.

"Whether you choose to open your eyes to the truth of things, or not."

<Pose Tracker> Neriah Parringer has posed.

"I know a little about those," Neriah admits, her voice still lacking much of its former dryness; it's much thinner and quieter now, though beginning to return to some semblance of conversational volume. "The ancient cultures, I mean... I'm an Excavator." She shifts the pack over her shoulder, and the shovel hanging from it. "A lot of stuff like this was left behind from before the Metal Demon Wars. I've just... never seen it like this."

Again, her gaze turns to K.K., watching what the featureless suit of armour says. She says nothing just yet.

The knight wants to talk to her. She widens her eyes a little and presses her lips together, but doesn't answer, suddenly horribly uncertain. The Knight doesn't seem to be the monster that Alisha said he was, and yet....

Neriah just watches the knight go. The pain may be melting away, but suddenly she feels very, very small.

"...I actually can't tell if you have eyes under there or not," she deadpans to the empty air, a long moment after K.K. is already gone.

<Pose Tracker> Jacqueline Barber has posed.

Jacqueline glances back at Neriah.

"Maybe...they bred them, until they got a berry with potent medicinal effects?" She suggests. "Back before Filgaia became...like it is. These days, it'd be difficult."

Rose was right, but that last comment...

"Goodness, Rose, that was awful." Jacqueline says...but she's clearly smirking as she turns her attention back to the machine.

She looks it over a bit longer, adding notes here and there, before closing the book.

"It may be best to head back and find someone...a bit more knowledgeable. I'm afraid my expertise in this field is a little limited." She says sheepishly. She was an apothecary, not a technician.

It is then that the Knight makes their conclusions. Jacqueline briefly wonders what K.K.'s comment towards her meant. Was it respect? Was it admonition? It's baffling, but not outwardly aggressive...but while she ponders it, the Knight walks into the darkness and, with a flash, is gone.

"...Well then. At least we found plenty of berries...?" She says, trying to find good in this. "I'll be able to make some good potions for you, Rose."

<Pose Tracker> Rose has posed.

"Hey, I'm just saying, if the ancients were so awesome, how come they aren't around anymore?" Rose even lifts an index finger as she beams and looks smart. In her mind, anyway.

K.K. departs, in the most dramatic fashion he can manage. How did he get out?! Teleportation? Is that even... people can DO that? Honestly, how he left is the least of the questions left lingering after his departure. He's given Rose a lot to think about.

She's broken out of it by Neriah's comment, which earns a snort from Rose. "Maybe it's just a living suit of armor. Like in those stories with the gh... osts..." DAMNIT ROSE. She shivers. "... and he's always calling us "you humans" too... and he seems to... know about undead and... so he... might be..." Oh no.

Abort train of thought. ABORT TRAIN OF THOUGHT.

Rose shakes her head, slaps her cheeks, removes smelly chunks of meat from her hair, immediatly regrets touching that, panics for a good ten seconds, and finally calms down. "RIGHT, YES. BERRIES. WE FOUND BERRIES. POTIONS! GREAT!" With that she'll be able to fill those orders!

Or hypothetically if Adlehyde caught on fire, help treat survivors!

But that won't happen.