2017-12-03: Emergency Evasive Maneuvers

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DG: A party led by Rosaline Calice is now entering Wayside Wellspring.
DG: Party formation is now over. An Entry Challenge will now be drawn and displayed to the party.
============================<* Wayside Wellspring *>============================
==================<* CHALLENGE - Whatever Floats Your Boat *>===================
|Type: Entry       |Dungeon Ability: Wits      |Challenge Rating: 2          |
---------------------------< Challenge Information: >---------------------------
 You find yourself in a dark, dank cave system beyond the qanat. The water
 looks slimy and not very clean -- there's a *reason* Wayside depends on its
 ARM-purifier! On the other side of the water you see several antiquated
 rowboats, complete with paddles. You'll need one if you want to continue
 further -- unless you decide to swim! You'll also need a light source --
 it's DARK in these caves!
=Dungeon Conditions: Hesitate=================================================
<Pose Tracker> Rosaline Calice has posed.

One way or another, rumors of a statue in Wayside's waterworks has found its way to the Fox Company (and perhaps even a non-foxy friend or two). Rosaline is generally all in favor of protecting this village Riesenlied and her friends have built, and so it would be a double-shame if something were to happen to it.

Rosaline is leading an undersized party through the cave system. "Here, um... here we are, I guess." She's holding up her Ethos symbol, illuminated to provide at least some amount of light to the party. They round the corner, and find...

Water, lots of water. And gross, too. And rowboats, frustratingly unreachable at first glance.

Rosaline lets out a hiss, shrinking away in reflex. Swimming is out for her, at least. "Has anyone got an idea...?"

DG: Rosaline Calice has contributed a Wits Basic Action toward her party's challenge, Whatever Floats Your Boat.
<Pose Tracker> Layna Manydays has posed.

Layna had never been to Wayside before. This wasn't exactly the best introduction to the village, venturing through it's grimy underbelly...literally. But Rosaline had wanted help, and Layna wasn't one to turn down a request from a friend.

She walks behind Rosaline, keeping close so as to stay within the boundaries of the light of her symbol. And soon enough...

Water. Lots of it. It would be great, if it weren't so gross. But not only that...

"Ah, looks like they've got a few dinghies here, aye? Not a problem. I'll have them over to us in no time at all." With a grin, Layna extends her hand and recites an incantation.

In no time at all, a strong wind will begin to stir, pushing the rowboats over to the party for their use...

...Or, at least, that's what she intended, but who knew what would really happen? She might need a little help...

DG: Layna Manydays has contributed a Wits Basic Action toward her party's challenge, Whatever Floats Your Boat.
<Pose Tracker> Neriah Parringer has posed.

Talise would be here, but she said something about a blacksmith.

--

Neriah has only had a few occasions to get out and about lately. Most of her time has been spent here, working to build a tunnel to the surface. For the moment, though, that tunnel is not only not open to the public, and not only unsafe, it's a secret Neriah's keeping. Everyone else will have to do this the hard way.

The sound of Rosaline's hissing is followed by the sound of something else. The soft creak and clunk of wood on metal. Oars moving within oarlocks.

Out of the murk, a small rowboat coasts. A bobbing light radiates from somewhere within the little craft. As it draws closer, one can make out that it's a simple mining lantern.

Manning the oarlocks, it's easy to make out who it is because not many people wear a hat like that.

Neriah looks up from her rowing. The position of the light casts rays upwards. They illuminate Neriah's face from the bottom; her eyes are rendered to an ethereally pale blue, like ghost pools amidst strange shadows that don't go the right way.

"Get in," she whispers, before lifting a complex lens to one of her eyes and squinting through it at the ceiling.

"And don't be too loud," she whispers. "The cavern roof isn't always stable."

DG: Neriah Parringer has used her Tool Excavator's Lens toward her party's challenge, Whatever Floats Your Boat.
<Pose Tracker> Sephilia Lampbright has posed.

Sephilia frowns, tapping her nose as she puzzles over the situation. "Hmm. I don't want to send Chauncey wading through that...I don't think I could toss a rope that far...Maybe Dad had a problem like this one sometime." She sticks her tongue out in thought as she flips through her Dad's journal looking for a good solution.

This might take awhile. Or...not. "Oh, hi Neriah!"

DG: Sephilia Lampbright has used her Tool Dad's Journal toward her party's challenge, Whatever Floats Your Boat.
<Pose Tracker> Loren Voss has posed.

SOMEWHERE ELSE IN THE CAVE

(probably right around the bend, honestly, but you get the idea)

An earlier investigation of the wellspring had turned up some interesting things, but by the same token, it also had not gone well. While the statue had been in sight, they hadn't been able to investigate further.
And without the full force of a team to spare here, Loren's hardly foolish enough to explore the depths on his own.

No, the labs had said they wanted more datapoints for the water sample he'd retrieved from deep within, particularly samples from the contaminated sections... which for all that they'd been soaked in it, he hadn't obtained a lab-ready sample for.

And so, as someone with some backgrounding in environmental sampling (because you never know, especially on the surface, what you might need to collect and analyze) --

In the chill gloom of the waterway, on a forlorn rocky shoreline, Loren holds up a sample to the light of an LED -- set aside on a chunk of rock -- and squints at it critically. Touching a hand to his glasses, he takes a closer look.
And wrinkles his nose in disgust. He doesn't even need a lab to tell him this sample is teeming with... something.

Noise, in the distance, appears to echo through the winding caves of the waterway. Loren stands, sample in hand. Is someone coming...?

DG: Loren Voss has used his Tool Etheric Lenses toward his party's challenge, Whatever Floats Your Boat.
<Pose Tracker> White Knight Leo has posed.

Someone is already in the cave--a big, broad-shouldered person in a long, white cloak with the hood pulled up. He has some sort of glowing gemstone in one hand, and the other hand is swinging some sort of rope implement in circles. Is there a hook on the end? He's looking at one of the rowboats that's just out of reach.

Footsteps. The man stops swinging the rope and turns around, revealing his face. Leo frowns into the gloom at the sight of other lights. Are those Demons? Is he going to have to--

Oh no, it's just a rag-tag group of Drifters. Leo draws himself up, and gives the group a confident smile, as though he'd planned it like that all along. "Plumbing the Althena-forsaken depths of this cesspool of a canal, hmm?" Leo says. He glances sidelong at the sound of an approaching rowboat. That Neriah woman? "Divide up between boats," Leo concludes. He throws the hook, and it catches on the oarwell of one of the rowboats. Leo starts hauling it in hand over hand.

As soon as it's within reach, he promptly situates himself in front of the rowboat and stands up, assuming a dramatic pose. The oars? Someone else can get those.

DG: White Knight Leo has contributed a Wits Basic Action toward his party's challenge, Whatever Floats Your Boat.
<Pose Tracker> Sephilia Lampbright has posed.

"Well I'm not being in the boat HE'S in," Sephilia says with a scowl.

<Pose Tracker> Dean Stark has posed.

Dean's heard these rumors too, about a statue being in Wayside. As a friend of Riesenlied's, and someone who likes Wayside, and as someone who's promised to help out with all this Guardian sealing business, he of course had to swing by to see if there was anything he could do. When he ran into Rosaline and company and found out they were here for similar business, he... well, pretty much invites himself to come along.

"Wow," he says when they arrive, looking around at the poorly-lit place. "This water is *gross*! No wonder they have to purify it!" He peers over at the boats as best he can--Rosa has her Ethos symbol providing light, but it's still pretty big... and dark. "Maybe I could try ricocheting some rubber bullets off the wall to get the boats to come over this way?" he suggests, holding out his hands to let his ARMs flash into existence. Before he can try anything, though, Neriah rows a boat into view, while Loren brings a new light into the situation, and then Leo appears and hooks a boat on over.

"Oh hey!" Dean says, cheering up as his ARMs vanish. "Wow, thanks a lot, mister!" He pauses when Sephy declares her refusal to get into Leo's boat. Not knowing their history, Dean gives her a puzzled look... while stepping into Leo's boat. "Why not?" he asks, already taking up the oars.

Dean, when you ask someone a question, it might behoove you to wait for their answer before taking action... Oh well.

DG: Dean Stark has contributed a Wits Basic Action toward his party's challenge, Whatever Floats Your Boat.
============================<* Wayside Wellspring *>============================
==================<* CHALLENGE - Whatever Floats Your Boat *>===================
|Type: Entry       |Dungeon Ability: Wits      |Challenge Rating: 2          |
---------------------------< Challenge Information: >---------------------------
 You find yourself in a dark, dank cave system beyond the qanat. The water
 looks slimy and not very clean -- there's a *reason* Wayside depends on its
 ARM-purifier! On the other side of the water you see several antiquated
 rowboats, complete with paddles. You'll need one if you want to continue
 further -- unless you decide to swim! You'll also need a light source --
 it's DARK in these caves!
=Dungeon Conditions: Hesitate=================================================
=======================<* Wayside Wellspring - Round 1 *>=======================
====================< Results - Whatever Floats Your Boat >=====================
Player                               Exhaustion                      Pass/Fail
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Rosaline Calice                     0 --(10)--> 10                 Fail
Investigate                         0   Wits    Effects: BASIC
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Neriah Parringer                    0 --(5)--> 5                   Pass
Excavator's Lens                    2   Wits    Effects: Enlighten
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Layna Manydays                      0 --(10)--> 10                 Fail
Investigate                         0   Wits    Effects: BASIC
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Dean Stark                          0 --(10)--> 10                 Fail
Investigate                         0   Wits    Effects: BASIC
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Loren Voss                          0 --(5)--> 5                   Pass
Etheric Lenses                      2   Wits    Effects: Enlighten
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Sephilia Lampbright                 0 --(5)--> 5                   Pass
Dad's Journal                       2   Wits    Effects: Enlighten
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
White Knight Leo                    0 --(10)--> 10                 Fail
Investigate                         0   Wits    Effects: BASIC
-----------------------------------< Party >------------------------------------
Leader: Rosaline Calice             0 --(20)--> 20                 Pass
Conditions: Hesitate(2)
Effects: Enlighten(1)
===============================< Dream Chasers >================================
DG: The party led by Rosaline Calice has passed this challenge! The party gained 20 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> Rosaline Calice has posed.

Rosaline proposed to Layna having a more formal visit of Wayside later. It's certainly an interesting place, at least, and maybe she'd enjoy the alcohol.

Neriah and Leo appear, causing Rosaline to shrink away even further, for two entirely different reasons. "P-Praise be," she says at this turn of fortune, briefly looking terrified.

Layna casts a wind spell, though quickly notices that the boat she was working on is tied up. No dice. At least she can redirect it to let Leo's missing oars float on over to the S.S. Coolboat, the boat for cool dudes. Be careful, though, it doesn't seem very steady!

Rosaline takes a seat in the S.S. Curse of the Black Pearl, as far away (which is likely not very far at all) from Neriah as she can. Last time she saw her, she felt... well, it wasn't Malevolence, but she felt something deeply unsettling from her. But at least she's not Althena's Guard, she supposes.

"Um. Hello."

Sephilia consults her book, which doesn't help her much with the current situation, but does however offer some very timely navigating advice. And they'll need it, too, as the two boats navigate away from the entrance and...

Right in Loren's direction! Possibly.

DG: Neriah Parringer has drawn a new Challenge.
=============================<* Wayside Wellspring *>=============================
=========================<* CHALLENGE - Large Largons *>==========================
|Type: Exploration |Dungeon Ability: Combat    |Challenge Rating: 2          |
----------------------------< Challenge Information: >----------------------------
 You see a disturbance in the water, a brief warning that two Largons are
 trying to kill you! These fish-frogs are right in their element. You have no
 choice but to fight back!
=Dungeon Conditions: Injure===================================================
<Pose Tracker> Neriah Parringer has posed.

Neriah lowers her eyelids a little at the sight of Leo pulling a Captain Morgan at the prow of his boat. She breathes out a slow sigh through her nose, but otherwise sets to work. Making room for Sephilia, Layna and Rosaline, she turns the boat with care and begins to row, smooth and steady. The light of her lantern ripples hauntingly across the murky water.

Her gaze turns towards Rosaline - she has to look across a whole lot of boat to actually see her, given how far away the Etone is sitting.

"Hello," she says politely, nodding once. "Please don't be afraid."

The creak of oarlocks echoes through the cavern as Neriah rows along, stealing a look back towards Leo's boat. She takes it a little slower and waits up for him, before eventually beginning to row at a more regular pace.

"The rock is saturated. You'll need an excavator along to watch for cave-ins," she explains to Rosaline, Layna and Sephilia, keeping her voice down. "But I want you to promise me that you won't touch anything before you listen. There are... things down here that look like they should be moved, but doing so could be...."

The sound of something sloshing in the water interrupts her. Neriah stops rowing. She slowly stands in the boat. Smoothly, she reaches for her belt, drawing her silvery pistol.

"There are Largons coming," she explains - a split-second before the surface of the water erupts with a loud, tumultuous splash, and a horrible fish-frog creature attempts to claw its way into Neriah and the Fox Company's boat.

With a crack of her pistol's steam-powered hammer, Neriah meets the Largon with a bullet to the face; it falls back into the water, but another attempts to slobber and snarl over the side of the boat. It hurtles right at Sephilia. Two more are attempting to board the Leoboat from the stern, fangily hoping to sample the white knight's goods.

One of them, further ahead, has even bounded up onto the shore and hurled itself at Loren Voss. Whoops.

DG: Neriah Parringer has contributed a Combat Basic Action toward her party's challenge, Large Largons.
<Pose Tracker> Sephilia Lampbright has posed.

Sephilia tries to decide how to explain to Dean why she doesn't trust White Knight Leo. It takes a while for her to come up with a concise, accurate answer that carries the full gravity of the situation.

"Because he's a jerk who puts bounties on my friends." So saying, Sephilia looks quite satisfied with herself.

She'd have added in that he doesn't respect the Magic Guild of Vane, but she doubts Dean knows what that is. Perhaps surprisingly, Sephilia does not appear interested in going out of her way to annoy the White Knight today, as she has done in the past.

Then there's some fish-frogs attacking, which would distract her from that anyway.

Normally, Sephilia would be getting Chauncey up to huge size, but rather than capsizing the boat, she instead yanks out the Foxtail, a harmonica-gun ARM she found the last time she was in Leo's company. She's got it tuned up, and...well, it lets out a merry little tune as she unloads its clip at the squamous and batrachian inhabitants of the wellspring.

DG: Sephilia Lampbright has contributed a Combat Basic Action toward her party's challenge, Large Largons.
<Pose Tracker> Layna Manydays has posed.

White Knight Leo...to see him of all people here...

Layna's looking pretty unimpressed. He was the last person she wanted to see, but this was the last place she wanted to fight him in. She eyes him suspiciously, but he doesn't seem to recognize her just yet.

That was for the best, really. She stays a distance away and glances toward Rosaline.

"Keep an eye out for that one, lass." She says. She does, however, send a friendly smile toward Neriah.

"Ah, good to see you again!" She greets with a grin. It doesn't seem like it, but she is keeping her voice down. "You're here at a good time. Thanks for the boat, aye?"

With that said, she moves into Neriah's boat.

She listens to the explanation, and nods.

"Aye, lass." She agrees, and then pauses.

Largons?

She doesn't need to ask for an explanation, because it isn't long before they show their faces. Her normal strategy won't work here...but fortunately, she isn't unprepared. She draws her revolver and takes a few shots at the Largons, hoping to discourage them from trying anything further.

DG: Layna Manydays has contributed a Combat Basic Action toward her party's challenge, Large Largons.
<Pose Tracker> Rosaline Calice has posed.

"Okay," Rosaline answers Neriah, still afraid. She clutches her shining Ethos symbol closer.

But she listens, still. The girl may be odd, but she seems to know her way around. "Very well, then. I promise." She has large ears for listening, after all.

But suddenly, Largons!

"HYDRO STORM!" Rosaline calls out, holding up her glowing bottle of holy water. And soon, it's... raining inside the cave, which seems like a terrible idea at first, but it turns out at least somewhat better in practice. The rain is fine enough that not much gets into the boat, but what does touch the water seems to purify it, or at least the circle affected.

This means two things: First, if someone falls in, they won't have to worry about getting gunked up. Second, clear water means it's easier to aim for the Largons!

DG: Rosaline Calice has used her Tool Holy Water toward her party's challenge, Large Largons.
<Pose Tracker> White Knight Leo has posed.

Once the matter of oars is solved, Leo's boat gets moving. Unfortunately, as soon as it does, Leo loses his balance and goes tumbling backwards, landing awkwardly on top of Dean's legs. "Is there a current?" Leo mutters, as he picks himself up. The boat moves on. Leo keeps an eye on the surface of the water, as if expecting monstrosities to burst from it at any moment.

This means that he's in a good position to notice the Largons the moment they show up. Leo frowns sternly--he rises up as high as he dares, draws his blade, and slashes at the fish-frog-entity appendages grabbing for his boat. "Keep rowing!" he says, to Dean. It's really more of an order. "I'll fend them off!"

DG: White Knight Leo has used his Tool Leo's Goods toward his party's challenge, Large Largons.
<Pose Tracker> Loren Voss has posed.

STILL ELSEWHERE IN THE CAVE, BUT PERHAPS NOT FOR LONG

...There are definitely other people in the waterway. He can see the lights reflecting off sections of the watersoaked rock from here. With one hand, he starts hurriedly tucking the sample away. Glancing over at the punt he'd borrowed, Loren starts to make his way across the moss-laden rock. The last thing he wants is to answer some sort of twenty questions game, and that's assuming no one in that group has been talking to Lily or Cecilia.

...The last thing he needs is another mark on his record.

He gets aboard the bobbing unsteady punt just for a Largon to erupt from the water with a warbling cry and tackle him, laying him flat across the little boat which has begun to drift out into the waterway.

So much for avoiding that mark, he thinks distantly as he takes ahold the first thing he can bring to hand -- a bonecutter, from the depths of his kit -- and attempts to brain the Largon with it.

DG: Loren Voss has used his Tool Solarian Medical Kit toward his party's challenge, Large Largons.
<Pose Tracker> Dean Stark has posed.

Dean doesn't know Neriah either. This doesn't stop him at all from giving her a friendly wave. "Yeah, thanks for the boat help!" he adds to her, chiming in after Layna. "Boy, it sure was lucky running into you guys here! --OOF." That would be him almost dropping the oars into the water due to Leo landing on him. "It's okay! I got 'em!!" he announces, though it takes him a moment to get them situated back again and start rowing.

Meanwhile: nailed it, Sephy. The moment Dean hears about the bounties, he pauses in rowing to frown and furrow his eyebrows. "That's not okay," he says, before turning that frown over to Leo. Despite the SS Coolguys Or Whatever boat containing just the two of them, Dean has no hesitation or self-consciousness as he asks, "Why would you do that?"

Something disturbs the surface of the water at that moment. Dean looks over, only to see: SUDDENLY, LARGONS! What's a Largon, anyway? It doesn't matter, because they're coming up to try to eat everyone!! With a fierce shout, Dean once again releases the oars--only for Leo to tell him to keep rowing while *he* does the fighting. Dean is not someone who takes orders, but Leo... well, he sounds *very* decisive. "O-okay!" he says, grabbing the oars again--though he *does* attempt to smack one or two of those monsters in the face with said oars as he paddles.

DG: Dean Stark has contributed a Combat Basic Action toward his party's challenge, Large Largons.
=============================<* Wayside Wellspring *>=============================
=========================<* CHALLENGE - Large Largons *>==========================
|Type: Exploration |Dungeon Ability: Combat    |Challenge Rating: 2          |
----------------------------< Challenge Information: >----------------------------
 You see a disturbance in the water, a brief warning that two Largons are
 trying to kill you! These fish-frogs are right in their element. You have no
 choice but to fight back!
=Dungeon Conditions: Injure===================================================
========================<* Wayside Wellspring - Round 2 *>========================
===========================< Results - Large Largons >============================
Player                               Exhaustion                      Pass/Fail
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Rosaline Calice                     10 --(20)--> 30                Fail
Holy Water                          1   Combat  Effects: Cleanse
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Neriah Parringer                    5 --(20)--> 25                 Fail
Fight                               0   Combat  Effects: BASIC
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Layna Manydays                      10 --(20)--> 30                Fail
Fight                               0   Combat  Effects: BASIC
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Dean Stark                          10 --(20)--> 30                Fail
Fight                               0   Combat  Effects: BASIC
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Loren Voss                          5 --(15)--> 20                 Pass
Solarian Medical Kit                1   Combat  Effects: Cleanse
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Sephilia Lampbright                 5 --(20)--> 25                 Fail
Fight                               0   Combat  Effects: BASIC
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------
White Knight Leo                    10 --(15)--> 25                Pass
Leo's Goods                         1   Combat  Effects: Cleanse
------------------------------------< Party >-------------------------------------
Leader: Rosaline Calice             20 --(10)--> 30                Fail
Conditions: Hesitate(1)|Injure(2)
Effects: Cleanse
================================< Dream Chasers >=================================
DG: The party led by Rosaline Calice has failed this challenge! The party gained 10 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.

On the plus side, Neriah doesn't seem to hate White Knight Leo!

Holding a Largon at arm's length with her free hand, Neriah salutes Dean with a quick tilt of her gun. "Hello," she calls. "Please don't die, okay? I'd be sad if I had to fish you out of the aquifer."

Loren lands in the boat with a heavy thud. He begins to drift out towards the other two boats. Of those two, only one is being cleared expediently; Althena's White Knight absolutely clobbers the fish-frog monster with his heavy broadsword. The creature tumbles back into the murky water, gurgling sickeningly. Dean has slightly worse luck but is quickly bailed out by his heroic compatriot.

Things go slightly worse in Neriah's boat. She levels her pistol to try and shoot the other one, but all the fighting by four people in Neriah's boat results in it quickly overturning. Neriah, at the prow, flails before she falls overboard. The pair of Largons dive after them into water clarified by Rosaline's holy water.

Several seconds go by.

And then the water abruptly goes dark - and the surface of it suddenly swells outward like a swelling dome, before bursting in a spray of water and a horrific magical shriek that rattles the senses. The spiritually sensitive will feel clearly the awful, curdling sensation of the spell as roaring coils of dark energy part the water, tearing the pair of Largons asunder - almost decaying them into dust as the coils punch through them.

Neriah sucks in a breath as the dark power recoils back into her, the sound and feeling dying away. She bobs at the surface of the water, her pupils dilated to small points.

"Everyone alright?" she asks.

<Pose Tracker> Sephilia Lampbright has posed.

"I-I'm okay," says Sephilia in a small voice, sounding shaken.

DG: Layna Manydays has drawn a new Challenge.
===========================<* Wayside Wellspring *>===========================
=====================<* CHALLENGE - Precision Paddling *>=====================
|Type: Exploration |Dungeon Ability: Agility   |Challenge Rating: 2          |
--------------------------< Challenge Information: >--------------------------
 You'll have to navigate carefully to get your boat past the submerged and
 semi-submerged stalagmites in this cave. Otherwise they could splinter your
 craft, and then where would you be??? Best proceed slowly. At least the
 currents don't seem so strong here.
=Dungeon Conditions: Bad Luck=================================================
<Pose Tracker> Layna Manydays has posed.

With all their fighting the boat tips over sending everyone into the (thankfully purified by Rosaline's Hydro Storm) water.

...And then, the water goes dark, before erupting upward. Something prickles at her mind before the water darkens and Neriah bursts from the water, disintegrating the Largons.

This did, however, leave four of them in the waterway itself. Fortunately, water is something Layna knows how to handle. She rights their boat once more before swimming over to Rosaline and Sephilia to help them into the boat.

"Aye, lass. I am." Layna says with a nod, before swimming over to Neriah and helping her as well.

Layna's learned something from this little endeavor - maybe four people in a boat was too much.

"Make room, lads, I'm coming in." Layna says, climbing into Dean and Leo's boat. It wouldn't be her first choice(and wasn't), but...

"Now, I got a good look at the terrain up ahead, and it ain't good. There's a bunch of stalagmites up ahead, so it's going to be a tight fit." She warns, then reaches into her coat to produce a bottle of liquid.

"If anyone needs somethin' to take the edge off after that, just let me know." She says, then pops it open and takes a swig.

Surely she wouldn't be so brazen as to drink alcohol while sharing a boat with the White Knight himself, would she?

Whatever the case, her warning rings true - when they progress further, they'll see a treacherous array of stalagmites lining the waterway ahead of them. They'll have to row carefully if they don't want to find their boat breached...

As will Loren, who has reached the same section of the waterway. Layna lowers her bottle with a slight frown.

"Do you see that? Looks like we're not alone..." She says.

DG: Layna Manydays has used her Tool Quartermaster's Stash toward her party's challenge, Precision Paddling.
<Pose Tracker> Neriah Parringer has posed.

Neriah knows how to handle the water, too. With a puff, she accedes to Layna's assistance, clambering up into Leo's boat. Grimacing, she drips there for a moment, then sits up and shrugs out of her coat and vest, disencumbering herself from most of the heavier parts of her outfit.

"Sorry," she offers, hunkering down a little and wrapping her arms around herself. "...No, the terrain ahead's pretty bad. Let's make landfall and stick with me...."

Layna calls out that another has joined them. Neriah sits up, peering into the murk.

Her eyes narrow dangerously and she lets out a soft hiss of breath before cutting it off with a click of her teeth.

Only thoughts of her friends in Wayside keep her from going down a grim path. Setting aside thoughts of absolutely murdering Thomas the Medical Student, she moves to kneel at the prow of the boat, reaching out to feel at one of the stalagmites as they drift past it. She gives the boat another nudge, directing it around the stalagmite, then moving to steer it around the next one.

"...Someone pass me an oar," she suggests. If she does get one, she'll use it to push the boat around stalagmites well in advance.

DG: Neriah Parringer has contributed a Agility Basic Action toward her party's challenge, Precision Paddling.
<Pose Tracker> Sephilia Lampbright has posed.

Sephilia, for her part, hangs on tight and white-knuckled. She releases one hand, only one, to pass an oar to Neriah as requested.

DG: Sephilia Lampbright has contributed a Agility Basic Action toward her party's challenge, Precision Paddling.
<Pose Tracker> Rosaline Calice has posed.

Rosaline falls into the water. At least this is not the worst possible outcome, since it's been purified, but it's still a horrible outcome!

And that's even before Neriah opens a can of anathema in Rosaline's presence. The Etone is spritually sensitive indeed, and this isn't the first time she feels this, but it was sometime ago, and easy to brush off as the heat of the moment. Now... not so much. Rosaline clings for dear life to the overturned boat even as that sensation makes her want to vomit.

"Y-Yes," she answers in a tiny voice, when asked if she's all right. She takes Layna's hand and climbs back in, looking, well, like a wet cat. The pirate leaves them, and Rosaline considers asking her to come back, but bites her tongue.

But there are two things ahead: an ordinary medical student (oh, she's met him before!) and a treacherous set of stalagmites. Rosaline swallows and takes an oar, beginning to row. She doesn't put too much force into it, which may just be what they need-- this navigation requires a delicate touch.

DG: Rosaline Calice has contributed a Agility Basic Action toward her party's challenge, Precision Paddling.
<Pose Tracker> Loren Voss has posed.

It takes a couple of solid strikes to the thing's head, during which the Largon does end up with its jaws wrapped around his left forearm, as he fights to keep it from pushing to other, more vulnerable body locations.

Meanwhile, the punt continues its drift. It's well and fully away from the shore now, caught up in the current of the waterway. The pole rests where he'd left it.
Back on the shore.

A thought that occurs to him as he sits up and tosses the monster's corpse into the drink. ...Which probably doesn't help with the water quality issue here, but then again, he doesn't live here so he doesn't have to worry about it.

Besides, there are larger problems. One's his arm, which he steadily works to fix in the gloom with a subtle burn of ether (the infection risk is too high as it stands to mess with a bandage) as the other problem begins to catch up from behind him. So much for staying out of sight now.
...And the other, other problem which is coming up ahead of him.

It occurs to Loren, briefly, that he is quite literally up shit creek without a paddle.

Standing in the punt, which rocks disconsertingly underfoot, the 'medical student' slips his glasses off, securing them in his bag which he doublechecks the closures on.
He already knows he doesn't stand a chance in this thing, and there's no way he can steer it.

So.

As a certain White Knight's boat drifts closer, he grabs for the only chance he can see: abandon ship for a more seaworthy craft, as it were.

At least he warns before he attempts to jump from one boat to the other, "Out of the way!"

DG: Loren Voss has contributed a Agility Basic Action toward his party's challenge, Precision Paddling.
<Pose Tracker> Dean Stark has posed.

It turns out oars are a terrible weapon. Dean flails at a Largon haplessly and might well get his chest carved open if Leo hadn't stabbed it for him. "Th-thanks!" he says, now conflicted--Sephy said this guy set bounties on her friends, but he doesn't *seem* that bad a guy...? Dean hasn't heard his response yet on why he'd set those bounties in the first place, though.

But then the waters darken and explode. Dean cringes, too busy holding onto the oars to clap his hands over his ears. "Wh-what was *that*?!" But as soon as it had come, it vanishes, ripping the Largons into dust in its wake. That... was freaky. Dean looks around at the others, but they seem to be content to move on, so... guess there's nothing for it but to keep rowing.

Before that happens, though, Layna's hopping from Neriah's both over to theirs, taking Neriah with her, and Dean scrambles to make room. "Hey again, you two! I didn't die!" he declares, as if this is an impressive feat. Given that it's Dean, perhaps on some level it is. He'd have been in *real* trouble if he'd fallen into the water, considering he can't swim.

He looks up at Loren when directed, and hands Neriah the oars when requested. "Oh, huh," he says, then raises his voice: "Hi, mister! You wanna join us?"

And then Loren decides he does. By jumping ship, literally. Except by now, Leo's ship has four people on it, meaning there's little space for Dean to move out of the way. Can he make it on time, or will he be a convenient cushion for Loren's landing?! A good thing he already gave the oars to Neriah...

DG: Dean Stark has contributed a Agility Basic Action toward his party's challenge, Precision Paddling.
<Pose Tracker> White Knight Leo has posed.

Leo's eyes widen as the other boat pitches over. He's upset by this development, but honestly not surprised--and he's about to order Dean to go after them when

s o m e t h i n g

slams into Leo's hindbrain in a torrent of eldritch magical energy. The water bubbles and boils. Leo goes still, his teeth gritted. It takes him a moment to recover, but he at least helps Layna right the boat, if she'll let him.

Leo notices Loren a moment after Layna does. Another explorer? "You there!" Leo says. "What are you doing here? This is a--" Those are some very big stalagmites, Leo realizes, a moment later. Turning his attention away from Loren for the moment, Leo unhooks the rope ladder from his belt and throws. The grapple sails through the air, hooking securely around a stalactite on the far end of the cave. Leo pulls in the slack. "This should help," he says. In the moment he has to spare, he rummages through a small satchel emblazoned with Althena's symbol. "Take these," Leo says, offering a handful of Heal Berries to Dean. "I'm sure you will find them invigorating." And then Loren just sort of leaps for the boat.

The upshot to this is that he completely missed Dean's question, sparing everyone an awkward incident. Yay!

DG: White Knight Leo has used his Tool Rope Ladder toward his party's challenge, Precision Paddling.
===========================<* Wayside Wellspring *>===========================
=====================<* CHALLENGE - Precision Paddling *>=====================
|Type: Exploration |Dungeon Ability: Agility   |Challenge Rating: 2          |
--------------------------< Challenge Information: >--------------------------
 You'll have to navigate carefully to get your boat past the submerged and
 semi-submerged stalagmites in this cave. Otherwise they could splinter your
 craft, and then where would you be??? Best proceed slowly. At least the
 currents don't seem so strong here.
=Dungeon Conditions: Bad Luck=================================================
======================<* Wayside Wellspring - Round 3 *>======================
=======================< Results - Precision Paddling >=======================
Player                               Exhaustion                      Pass/Fail
------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Rosaline Calice                     30 --(5)--> 35                 Pass
Rush                                0   Agility Effects: BASIC
------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Neriah Parringer                    25 --(5)--> 30                 Pass
Rush                                0   Agility Effects: BASIC
------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Layna Manydays                      30 --(5)--> 35                 Pass
Quartermaster's Stash               2   Agility Effects: Quicken
------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Dean Stark                          30 --(10)--> 40                Fail
Rush                                0   Agility Effects: BASIC
------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Loren Voss                          20 --(10)--> 30                Fail
Rush                                0   Agility Effects: BASIC
------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Sephilia Lampbright                 25 --(10)--> 35                Fail
Rush                                0   Agility Effects: BASIC
------------------------------------------------------------------------------
White Knight Leo                    25 --(5)--> 30                 Pass
Rope Ladder                         2   Agility Effects: Quicken
----------------------------------< Party >-----------------------------------
Leader: Rosaline Calice             30 --(15)--> 45                Pass
Conditions: Bad Luck(2)
Effects: Quicken(1)
==============================< Dream Chasers >===============================
DG: The party led by Rosaline Calice has passed this challenge! The party gained 15 exploration! If anyone needs to use party
management commands, do so now. Otherwise, the next round's GM may begin the next round with +dungeon/draw.
DG: Rosaline Calice has drawn a new Challenge.
============================<* Wayside Wellspring *>============================
=======================<* CHALLENGE - Oncoming Traffic *>=======================
|Type: Exploration |Dungeon Ability: Agility   |Challenge Rating: 2          |
---------------------------< Challenge Information: >---------------------------
 Look out! Another party of adventurers in a boat is careening STRAIGHT
 towards you, swept by the strong current! You need evasive maneuvers ASAP!
 For what it's worth, they don't seem loaded down with any treasure. Hey, is
 that someone you recognize...?

 (OOC: Any +Observers, feel free to RP the other adventurer(s)...)
=Dungeon Conditions: Fright===================================================
<Pose Tracker> Layna Manydays has posed.

Layna offers Rosaline a sympathetic wave and tosses a bottle over to her. She would've preferred to stay over there with her, boat...the situation called for a change of pace.

Dean looks pretty cheerful, at least.

"Good work, lad." Layna says with an approving nod and gives him a clap on the shoulder. Hey, sometimes not dying was an important job!

It is about this time that the person in the third boat approaches. It does so at high-speeds, and apparently without something to guide it. Because of this, its passenger tries to jump.

...Unfortunately, it's pretty dark in the cave. That combined with the movement of water and Leo and Layna(with Layna probably doing the actual navigating) weaving between stalagmites makes it fairly easy to miscalculate the distances.

Which Loren does. His arc, though impressive, causes him to miss the boat by a mere foot, splashing into the filthy waterway.

Layna winces. At least when she fell in, it was after Rosaline had purified it.

Speaking of Rosaline and Sephilia, their boat goes along smoothly. However, they may end up bumping into a stalagmite, which may cause some damage to the boat or putting someone at risk of toppling overboard.

<Pose Tracker> Sephilia Lampbright has posed.

Sephilia is clinging for dear life at this point to the boat, face white with terror. "H-help me..." she whimpers. "I hate this boat!"

Just then is when the boat rams into the stalagmite, shaking Sephilia and jolting her half-overboard, with a shriek of terror.

DG: Sephilia Lampbright has contributed a Agility Basic Action toward her party's challenge, Oncoming Traffic.
<Pose Tracker> Rosaline Calice has posed.

Suddenly, the boat Neriah was in finds itself a lot emptier. Now there are five people in Leo's, and three in... Rosaline's, she guesses. (The third passenger is Chauncey.) The beastwoman fumbles to catch the bottle Layna tosses her, but manages to secure it before it breaks or falls into the drink. "Thank you..."

And then the boat rocks, sending Sephilia toppling. Before things can truly get dire, however, Rosaline is at her side, extending a hand with a very concerned expression and pulling her back in with a burst of strength normally reserved for lifting cars off a child.

At least they're clear of the stalagmites now, which is little consolation as the current picks up like never before. Both boat teams need to stay on top of their rowing game to avoid crashing into one another, or into the third boat!

Wait, third boat?

"ROW, ROW WITH ALL OF YOUR LOVE AND COURAGE! UNTIL YOUR ARMS BREAK! UNTIL YOUR ARMS BREAK! Oh, hello, Rosaline."

Standing on the prow of the incoming boat is a diminutive, ancient-looking woman in Etone garb a lot like Rosaline's, arms crossed. "Mother Oba!" the beastwoman exclaims. Friends of Rosaline might have heard her talk about her elusive mentor in the past. Either she and her passengers are on a statue quest too, or she's picked the worst possible time and place to dispense special training to Etone hopefuls.

Of course, there is literally no time to examine the situation further! ROW WITH ALL OF YOUR LOVE AND COURAGE, OR EVERYONE DIES! Or gets injured, not to mention all stanked up.

DG: Rosaline Calice has contributed a Agility Basic Action toward her party's challenge, Oncoming Traffic.
<Pose Tracker> Neriah Parringer has posed.

Neriah opens her mouth for a moment, then bites down to her bottom lip, watching where Thomas the Medical Student is floating.

"Take over for me, please," she offers Layna tensely. She hands off her oars to the pirate captain before easing to the edge of the boat.

Without a moment's hesitation, Neriah jumps over the edge and vanishes back into the murky water. As she goes under, the spiritual can feel that awful magic once again at work, though whatever she's doing, it's hard to tell.

Several seconds pass. Then, with a splash, the water sloughs off the surface of a shimmering globe of dark unlight as Neriah emerges, grasping for the edge of Sephilia and Rosaline's boat. She boosts herself back into it and reaches for an oar again. "Hi. You two looked like you needed some help," she says with a tilt of her head towards Sephilia and Rosaline.

It might look all the more unnerving because Neriah's pupils have shrunken down to tiny points, nearly lost against her irises - which have faded to a very pale blue, so light as to be almost white. Combined with the lamp still sitting in the bottom of the boat casting shadows upwards across her face, it looks incredibly unnatural.

Of course, she gets there just in time for Rosaline's mentor to come sailing in... also in a boat.

"This place is not a social club for Etones!" she huffs. "Big fluffy fox, can you row?"

She leaves that question for Chauncey to answer, because right now she's leaning over the prow of the boat, attempting to push off of a stalactite and divert Rosaline's boat off to one side. Evidently her contract as possibly the devil prohibits her from allowing two Etones to meet on the water.

(Truthfully, she just doesn't want to share a boat with Loren. She doesn't trust herself not to murder him.)

DG: Neriah Parringer has contributed a Agility Basic Action toward her party's challenge, Oncoming Traffic.
<Pose Tracker> Sephilia Lampbright has posed.

Sephilia shakes her head to answer for Chauncey. "He--he hasn't got the grip for rowing," she explains, trying to get onto the other boat safely. Since it's where everyone else is going. "Please don't let me fall..."

If she is unnerved by Neriah's eyes, she doesn't show it, but that's Sephy for you.

<Pose Tracker> Dean Stark has posed.

Dean didn't die! Again! Somehow! "Thanks!" he says to Layna, beaming. He's confused when Leo gives him a bunch of Heal Berries. "Oh, uh, thanks? But that doesn't answer my--" AND THEN LOREN HAPPENS. Except instead of landing on top of Dean, he lands in the stanky water. Dean winces, stuffs those Heal Berries in his coat pocket, and offers him a hand. "Are you okay? At least we managed to get past those rocks--"

Whatever Loren does, he might wanna do it fast. There's more boats incoming from the opposite direction!

DG: Dean Stark has contributed a Agility Basic Action toward his party's challenge, Oncoming Traffic.
<Pose Tracker> Loren Voss has posed.

A pair of the people in the boat he's targeted call out to him. Damn, and the boat's packed at that. But he doesn't have time to think about it, much less argue.
Both boats are moving steadily through the waterway by now, weaving erratically as they are steered -- and pushed -- by the current.

Loren takes his chances and jumps for it. There's no time to think, particularly with -- he glances aheadin the seconds before he jumps -- a huge stalagmite looming in the water ahead.

But he should have realized, runs the distant thought as his arc takes him short of the boat nearest to him, just how this would turn out for him.
He lands in the water with a splash.

At least the contents of his kit will be fine, he thinks, breaching the water's surface. Blindly, he reaches for what he thinks is the side of one of the boats.

The punt, having continued its journey without any occupants, crashes into the rock pillar and renders itself into so much flotsam.

"Of course I'm not alright!"

Then, his luck being what it is, there looming abruptly out of the dark arises...

another boat

...He's pretty quick to grab ahold of Dean's offered hand. "Hurry--" he barks out, attempting to haul himself out of the filthy waterway before he gets run over by a boat.
What an embarrassing way to die...

DG: Loren Voss has contributed a Agility Basic Action toward his party's challenge, Oncoming Traffic.
<Pose Tracker> Layna Manydays has posed.

"Aye." Layna agrees, accepting the oars from Neriah. She's not sure why Neriah was leaving the boat, but she figured there was a reason for it. Fortunately, Layna was good with boats! She had plenty of experience rowing, so she takes to it pretty quickly.

Unfortunately, as she's busy rowing this does mean she can't really make a move to help Loren out of the water. She has to keep the boat steady!

Especially when there's yet another boat approaching, this one bearing passengers. Layna stares.

One of them was someone Rosaline knew, but the other...

"...Lysander? Lad, is that you?" Layna asks. Indeed, there, in the other boat, is a young man in robes that look clergical, but don't bear the mark of any faith - Lysander, the Chaplain of the Ruby Empress. He's currently helping row Mother Oba's boat, and he's just as surprised to see Layna as she is to see him.

"Oh, hello there, Captain! Yes, I-" Just as he's about to start talking, Neriah starts pushing the boat away.

"Ah!" He has to start rowing a little harder to keep their path steady after that...

DG: Layna Manydays has used her Tool Quartermaster's Stash toward her party's challenge, Oncoming Traffic.
<Pose Tracker> White Knight Leo has posed.

Leo offers Loren a hand up as Dean does. "You should be more careful," he says, but that's about all he gets out before that terrible un-light cuts through his brain. Leo closes his eyes, grits his teeth, and shakes his head. What is that woman doing? The other boat snaps everything into sharp relief. Dean gets to handle Loren for the time being--Leo busies himself with ensuring there isn't a horrible boat collision. The Beastman whips out that rope ladder again, and throws it towards the cave wall.

It hooks around some sort of metallic protrusion? Leo can't tell what it is, but it seems solid. He starts hauling the boat out of the path of Mother Oba's boat, hopefully while someone else is paddling. Layna??

DG: White Knight Leo has used his Tool Rope Ladder toward his party's challenge, Oncoming Traffic.
============================<* Wayside Wellspring *>============================
=======================<* CHALLENGE - Oncoming Traffic *>=======================
|Type: Exploration |Dungeon Ability: Agility   |Challenge Rating: 2          |
---------------------------< Challenge Information: >---------------------------
 Look out! Another party of adventurers in a boat is careening STRAIGHT
 towards you, swept by the strong current! You need evasive maneuvers ASAP!
 For what it's worth, they don't seem loaded down with any treasure. Hey, is
 that someone you recognize...?

 (OOC: Any +Observers, feel free to RP the other adventurer(s)...)
=Dungeon Conditions: Fright===================================================
=======================<* Wayside Wellspring - Round 4 *>=======================
=========================< Results - Oncoming Traffic >=========================
Player                               Exhaustion                      Pass/Fail
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Rosaline Calice                     35 --(5)--> 40                 Pass
Rush                                0   Agility Effects: BASIC
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Neriah Parringer                    30 --(5)--> 35                 Pass
Rush                                0   Agility Effects: BASIC
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Layna Manydays                      35 --(5)--> 40                 Pass
Quartermaster's Stash               2   Agility Effects: Quicken
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Dean Stark                          40 --(10)--> 50                Fail
Rush                                0   Agility Effects: BASIC
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Loren Voss                          30 --(10)--> 40                Fail
Rush                                0   Agility Effects: BASIC
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Sephilia Lampbright                 35 --(10)--> 45                Fail
Rush                                0   Agility Effects: BASIC
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
White Knight Leo                    30 --(5)--> 35                 Pass
Rope Ladder                         2   Agility Effects: Quicken
-----------------------------------< Party >------------------------------------
Leader: Rosaline Calice             45 --(15)--> 60                Pass
Conditions: Bad Luck(1)|Fright(2)
Effects: Quicken(1)
===============================< Dream Chasers >================================
DG: The party led by Rosaline Calice has passed this challenge! The party gained 15 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> Rosaline Calice has posed.

"Why do we all keep switching boats?!" Rosaline squeaks out, tears welling in her eyes, as Neriah returns. She's probably choosing to complain about this to avoid talking about Neriah's Aura of Antichrist. At least her hair standing on end means it's drying faster. Right??

Emergency evasive maneuvers are performed. Neriah changes their boat's course with quick thinking. Layna runs into a crew member, but won't let the reunion distract her too much. Leo performs a daring rope later maneuver. Everyone else rows as if their lives depended on it, and honestly they just might.

And after a moment stretched into eternity, the boats sail past one another safely.

"Very good!" Mother Oba congratulates the clergical band she's leading, as she zooms past. "YOU, PUT DOWN THE POPCORN THIS INSTANT! Oh, Rosaline, I had to tell you something very import--"

And she rounds the corner, the sound of her surprisingly booming voice drowned out by the roar of the current. Rosaline's ears droop. She looks forward again, hoping things are FINALLY calming down.

Right? Right?

DG: Loren Voss has drawn a new Challenge.
============================<* Wayside Wellspring *>============================
======================<* CHALLENGE - Dancing Fountains *>=======================
|Type: Exploration |Dungeon Ability: Wits      |Challenge Rating: 2          |
---------------------------< Challenge Information: >---------------------------
 The entrance to the next cave is blocked off by a stone slab, which seems to
 be attached to a mechanism of some sort. On the landing you find a dozen
 holes that seem to shoot out arcing water into each other, and you can find
 the pattern if you look long enough. You also find six flat round stones.
 Maybe if you blocked off some of the holes the way would open -- but which
 ones?
=Dungeon Conditions: Reckless=================================================
<Pose Tracker> Loren Voss has posed.

The boat's wake means that the ride gets a little bit... bumpy. Particularly for a young man reaching for another young man in the water. Loren grabs ahold of Dean's hand at the worst possible time... and pulls the young man over into the water.

This is definitely not Loren's ideal situation.
Particularly when Dean clings.
A brief bit of thrashing and grabbing for the side of the boat -- as Dean probably continues to hang on tight -- follows. Leo may need to intervene or assist at some point. But there's good news:

The waterway slowly starts to slow. Is it possible they're approaching the endpoint...?

No, it isn't. Though the drift has settled to a mere ebb, this cannot be where the paths were meant to end. The presence of a partial blockage, in the shape of something akin to a canal lock (complete with ancient lettering and enscriptions among the decorative carving work) up ahead, is proof this can't be the end.

Still dripping, water pooling the bottom of the boat he's finally managed to climb aboard, Loren squints at the gateway. Eyes the water flowing through the small crevice below.
Then slowly glances sidelong at the flat, smooth if very timeworn rock to their immediate right.

And the jets of water that arc from the small holes up aboard the landing. He gestures sharply towards them. "Take us on over. My guess is this is yet another clever lock the ancients designed for us." So he says, punctuating this with a roll of his eyes. Current mood: not great.

Once they're close, he hops over to the landing, and reaches into his bag for his glasses, which he slides on.
quietly taps a bit of ether for
"Mmm. Try... Arranging them like so," he says, gesturing towards the four corner holes. "That should stop them, and it should open the gate." He then surreptitiously attempts to wring some of the water out of his clothing. Ughhhh.

DG: Loren Voss has used his Tool Etheric Lenses toward his party's challenge, Dancing Fountains.
<Pose Tracker> Sephilia Lampbright has posed.

Sephilia, still shaken and terrified and unhappy, brightens a bit at the sight of something that she can use to take her mind off of the frightening boat ride. "This...this puzzle looks...like something my Dad wrote about," she says, pulling out the journal and flippng through pages. "There's weights and counterweights and--it's complicated, but if we put a stone here, and one here..."

She looks very very focused...and is still pointedly not looking at Leo, but not being annoying for once.

DG: Sephilia Lampbright has used her Tool Dad's Journal toward her party's challenge, Dancing Fountains.
<Pose Tracker> Neriah Parringer has posed.

Until now, Neriah hasn't really noticed the way Rosaline is reacting to her.

Once Mother Oba's boat passes, Neriah looks back to take stock of the young Etone in the boat with her - and she spots the tears standing in Rosaline's eyes. Neriah's own eyes have begun to return to normal, but her expression visibly softens as she opens her mouth a little, then closes it, looking down at herself with a little blush.

"Hey," she offers quietly. "Uh... listen. I'm sorry if I'm scaring you."

The water currents slow down, steering them into a lock. Neriah doesn't look up ahead just yet. Instead she watches Rosaline a little longer. She smiles at the Etone faintly, then reaches over to touch Sephilia's shoulder. "...It's alright. I've seen locks like this down here before."

Neriah slips her excavator's lens into her hand. Fiddling with the device, she wipes it on the hem of her shirt - she's down to her tank top, the rest of her stuff drying at the bottom of the boat - and then flicks a few more lenses into place. With care, the Excavator squints into a seemingly unobtrusive crack in the rock.

"...Just like I thought," she says quietly. "Sephy, Miss Etone, it works on water pressure and flows. As the water comes in, the pressure you put on through those holes determines where it flows over the lock actuators. I'd say...." Neriah trails off, thinking for a moment.

"...The first two on the right," she suggests.

DG: Neriah Parringer has used her Tool Excavator's Lens toward her party's challenge, Dancing Fountains.
<Pose Tracker> Dean Stark has posed.

'Of course I'm not all right!' Loren yells, and Dean grimaces. "Yeah, okay," he concedes. "Well, whatever! Grab my hand, I'll pull you in!" Loren at least doesn't waste any time on that, and Leo comes over to help them, and Dean pulls--but then Something happens, and Leo turns to making sure there aren't any boat collisions, and suddenly Dean is handling all of Loren's weight on his own. "Woah, woah, woah, WOOOAH--" he yelps, dragged backwards towards the murky water. He attempts to grab the side of the boat, but to no avail; both of them enter the murk with a loud SPLASH.

Again: Dean can't swim. When he enters water that's more than bathtub-deep, he sinks like a rock. And Loren could at least keep his head afloat, so: "DON'T LET ME DROWN!!" he wails as he latches onto Loren.

Eventually Loren gets them on board again. Dean is soaked through, but he's at least alive. He wrings out his scarf, making a face, as the boats reach some kind of blockage in the water. He looks up. "Oh--is this some kinda lock?" he asks, looking at the odd gateway with its squirting water. He releases his scarf and holds up his hands; his ARMs flash into existence in them. "If there's some switch that needs flipping that we can't reach, I can shoot it on! Just let me know where!"

Helping, at least, gives him something to focus on that's not being soaking wet with filthy, brackish water.

DG: Dean Stark has used his Tool Twin Fenrir - Standard Cartridge toward his party's challenge, Dancing Fountains.
<Pose Tracker> Layna Manydays has posed.

Being stuck with oar duty meant that there's really not much she can do when it looks like Dean is about to take a tumble. Her main goal is keeping the boat steady so that no one else ends up falling out...though she would honestly find it pretty hilarious if Leo ended up taking fall.

...Not hilarious enough to force the issue, at least.

Eventually, they reach what looks like some sort of unusual puzzle. Layna stares at it...assesses it for a moment...and concludes...

"...I have no idea what to do here. You lot can take it from here, aye?" She says, deciding to take the opportunity to rest her arms.

DG: Layna Manydays has contributed a Wits Basic Action toward her party's challenge, Dancing Fountains.
============================<* Wayside Wellspring *>============================
======================<* CHALLENGE - Dancing Fountains *>=======================
|Type: Exploration |Dungeon Ability: Wits      |Challenge Rating: 2          |
---------------------------< Challenge Information: >---------------------------
 The entrance to the next cave is blocked off by a stone slab, which seems to
 be attached to a mechanism of some sort. On the landing you find a dozen
 holes that seem to shoot out arcing water into each other, and you can find
 the pattern if you look long enough. You also find six flat round stones.
 Maybe if you blocked off some of the holes the way would open -- but which
 ones?
=Dungeon Conditions: Reckless=================================================
<Pose Tracker> Rosaline Calice has posed.

"Um, it's all right," Rosaline tells Neriah, even though it clearly wasn't. But she seems to appreciate the sentiment. She still doesn't ask the obvious question, however, of 'What the heck IS that?'

But then, ah, an ancient canal lock. Rosaline is almost certainly the first on land. Sweet, blessed, solid ground.

People emit interesting hypotheses as to how to work this lock. Rosaline, meanwhile, is quite happy picking up stone slabs and placing them where instructed. At one point she expresses an opinion on possible stone placement, but she does so quietly enough that it might get lost in the puzzle-solving hubbub.

DG: Rosaline Calice has contributed a Wits Basic Action toward her party's challenge, Dancing Fountains.
<Pose Tracker> White Knight Leo has posed.

Leo doesn't immediately intervene in the ongoing drama between Loren and Dean. At the moment, he's more focused on keeping the boat from slamming into the onrushing craft, or the cave walls, which would be just as bad. Only once everyone is safe does Leo reach down to try and grab some convenient part of Thomas. His nose wrinkles visibly as Dean and the 'medical student' go tumbling into the boat again.

<Pose Tracker> White Knight Leo has posed.

Leo doesn't immediately intervene in the ongoing drama between Loren and Dean. At the moment, he's more focused on keeping the boat from slamming into the onrushing craft, or the cave walls, which would be just as bad. Only once everyone is safe does Leo reach down to try and grab some convenient part of Thomas. His nose wrinkles visibly as Dean and the 'medical student' go tumbling into the boat again.

"I see dry land up ahead!" Leo says, smiling. "Just a little longer..." To his credit, he seems more intent on making sure everyone makes it there in one piece than being a jerk. He does, in fact, have priorities.

Leo disembarks, uses the length of rope to tie the boat to the dock, and holds it steady so everyone can disembark. He then turns to consider the fountains while the more technically-inclined among them do the hard work of figuring out which stones go where. (Once they've figured out the solution, Leo is more than capable of helping move a couple rocks.)

DG: White Knight Leo has contributed a Wits Basic Action toward his party's challenge, Dancing Fountains.
============================<* Wayside Wellspring *>============================
======================<* CHALLENGE - Dancing Fountains *>=======================
|Type: Exploration |Dungeon Ability: Wits      |Challenge Rating: 2          |
---------------------------< Challenge Information: >---------------------------
 The entrance to the next cave is blocked off by a stone slab, which seems to
 be attached to a mechanism of some sort. On the landing you find a dozen
 holes that seem to shoot out arcing water into each other, and you can find
 the pattern if you look long enough. You also find six flat round stones.
 Maybe if you blocked off some of the holes the way would open -- but which
 ones?
=Dungeon Conditions: Reckless=================================================
=======================<* Wayside Wellspring - Round 5 *>=======================
========================< Results - Dancing Fountains >=========================
Player                               Exhaustion                      Pass/Fail
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Rosaline Calice                     40 --(5)--> 45                 Pass
Investigate                         0   Wits    Effects: BASIC
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Neriah Parringer                    35 --(5)--> 40                 Pass
Excavator's Lens                    2   Wits    Effects: Enlighten
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Layna Manydays                      40 --(5)--> 45                 Pass
Investigate                         0   Wits    Effects: BASIC
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Dean Stark                          50 --(5)--> 55                 Pass
Twin Fenrir - Standard Cartridge    3   Wits    Effects: Fanfare
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Loren Voss                          40 --(5)--> 45                 Pass
Etheric Lenses                      2   Wits    Effects: Enlighten
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Sephilia Lampbright                 45 --(5)--> 50                 Pass
Dad's Journal                       2   Wits    Effects: Enlighten
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
White Knight Leo                    35 --(10)--> 45                Fail
Investigate                         0   Wits    Effects: BASIC
-----------------------------------< Party >------------------------------------
Leader: Rosaline Calice             60 --(20)--> 80                Pass
Conditions: Fright(1)|Reckless(2)
Effects: Enlighten(1)
===============================< Dream Chasers >================================
DG: The party led by Rosaline Calice has passed this challenge! The party gained 20 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> Loren Voss has posed.

"What-- how can you not know how to swim--" Loren manages as Dean clings to him.

ETRENANK, MANY YEARS AGO

"So you're really thinking about it, huh?" asks the taller of the two boys as they, standing side by side, stare out at a reflecting pool.

"Yeah," says the younger and smaller of the pair. "Why? Is there a problem with that?"

The older one is silent for a few moments, as if mulling this over. Then, shaking his head, he shrugs. "Nah. But you know, Ren, you're going to have to learn how to swim if you think you've got a chance in Jugend."
Which is the point where the taller boy pushes the shorter one into the reflecting pool.

IN THE PRESENT TIME

Bit by bit, they assemble pieces of the 'lock'. Put a few at the corners. Put a few more towards the right, but settle those first, as Neriah says. It's all a matter of counterweights and so on.

As for the others, someone has to move the things where they need to go. It also appears that they're one shy --
Which a chance look will reveal the sixth of the plates is perched up high on a ledge, ready to be knocked down (into someone's grasp!).

Loren, a little dryer, takes the moment to regard those present. That Etone (whatever her name was, he thinks), Neriah (who seems to be ignoring him, which suits him just fine), Layna (in typical form, he thinks), he knows. But the others...

Dean's pair of ARMs as they apparently flash into being in his hands for just this purpose earns the younger boy a brief look. ...Those don't seem like normal weapons. In fact, they seem highly advanced. "Did you find those in a ruin?" he asks, gesturing at Twin Fenrir as Dean opens fire. "They seem different."

DG: Neriah Parringer has drawn a new Challenge.
=============================<* Wayside Wellspring *>=============================
==========================<* CHALLENGE - Weigh to Go *>===========================
|Type: Climax      |Dungeon Ability: Wits      |Challenge Rating: 2          |
----------------------------< Challenge Information: >----------------------------
 How interesting! THIS cavern you find yourself in has been worked by human
 --or possibly humanoid--hands. There's a convenient landing to tie up your
 boat, and past that, a wall with a mural depicting a beneficent turtle and
 admiring or grateful subjects. You see a sealed door on the lower right side
 of the mural. Nearby you find a large balance scale and a huge assortment of
 water pitchers of every size and type imaginable. No two are alike. At least
 you'll be able to proceed on foot, once you get the door open. What is it
 with ruins and quirky locks, anyway? Hadn't the ancients ever heard of
 normal keys?
=Dungeon Conditions: Treasure=================================================
<Pose Tracker> Neriah Parringer has posed.

Trust me, Neriah's ignoring the ever-loving stuffing out of Thomas the Medical Student. She really does not want to stab anyone right now. There are more important things at hand.

As the lock gives way, the stream beyond pushes the little dinghies slowly towards a much more expansive cavern. A landing waits; Neriah's quick to hop from her boat and tie it off to a post that's been driven into place.

Setting her jaw, Neriah looks up at Rosaline, then over to Leo. She'd really hoped she could've steered them somewhere else. She'll have to try Plan B.

"Remember I told you not to touch things?" she asks with a little frown. "Once we get past that door and those pitchers, you're going to find something that looks like you'll want to touch it. You shouldn't. Doing anything to it could hurt the village. Just be careful."

Or I'll have to kill you, Neriah fills in mentally as she moves towards the pitchers, arrayed in the shadow of a huge mural depicting a benevolent turtle spirit. The Excavator looks up at the image of Schturdark, her expression unreadable, and begins to move one of the pitchers towards the scale.

"We need to balance it off," she explains quietly as she sets the pitcher down, then pulls out her lens to begin measuring.

DG: Neriah Parringer has used her Tool Excavator's Lens toward her party's challenge, Weigh to Go.
<Pose Tracker> Sephilia Lampbright has posed.

Sephilia is nose-deep in her Dad's journal still. "Dad knew this kind of puzzle! There's a trick you can do with the different size pitchers to make it easier even if you don't have measuring tools..."

She natters on, relieved to be on solid ground and not in a boat anymore.

Sephy's not going to be a good pirate, she gets scared when she's on open water.

"Um, thanks for helping us out, Neriah. We really wouldn't have made it this far without you. That goes for all of you," she adds, louder. There may or may not be a muttering under her breath that follows that last.

DG: Sephilia Lampbright has used her Tool Dad's Journal toward her party's challenge, Weigh to Go.
<Pose Tracker> Rosaline Calice has posed.

And soon after the previous landing, another one, of seemingly great importance. Rosaline is just glad she doesn't have to be in a boat anymore, nor in close proximity to Neriah. (This realization, coupled with her earlier apology, causes Rosaline to briefly feel awful.)

"I'll be careful," Rosaline repeats to Neriah, looking down at the ground. Does she mean the statue? Hopefully everyone here is on the same page regarding this one. Right?

She looks at the turtle spirit's mural, looking... well, not unimpressed, but tired most of all.

She then returns her attention to the pitchers. Something in her wants her to knock one over, possibly the most fragile of them all.

"I-I should really not touch anything," she decides. "But I can help you measure. I'm... well, I'm getting better at these things."

DG: Rosaline Calice has contributed a Wits Basic Action toward her party's challenge, Weigh to Go.
<Pose Tracker> Sephilia Lampbright has posed.

Oh and Sephy also takes the time to sketch the mural into her journal. Just saying.

<Pose Tracker> Dean Stark has posed.

"I'm just no good at swimming!" Dean protests to Loren. "Everyone's got something they're bad at!" A beat. "Thanks for helping me back into the boat, by the way..." But they make it to the lock mechanism, and Dean summons his ARMs, to Loren's curiosity. "Oh, these?" He holds them up. "No, my best friend gave them to me! She's really nice and super-cool and smart, and if you want, I'd love to introdOW."

That would be the sixth plate that he'd just shot down landing on his head. Dean picks it up, Twin Fenrir once again vanishing from his grip, while rubbing his skull. "Owww...! That really hurt! Ugh, at least we got it, though. Ow... Here, you have this." He hands the plate over to Loren, then grabs one of the Heal Berries from earlier. It's wet with brackish water. Dean makes a face, then slowly puts it back in his pocket. The group moves forward then, eventually reaching a point where they can tie up their boats and handle... another puzzle! Exactly what Dean's good at.

"Aw, thanks, Sephy!" he calls over to her. "We all did this by working together, so let's keep moving forward!" He pauses when Neriah warns everyone not to touch something that looks like he'd want to touch it. "Uh, okay?" Then she mentions that doing so might hurt the village. Dean sobers. "Okay, I understand. Thanks for the warning!"

Hmmm. He looks again at the puzzle. He... really can't make heads or tails of this at all. "Yeah, I think I'd better do the same," he chimes in with Rosa. "I don't really understand these kinds of things, but I can help carry pitchers back and forth if you need it!"

DG: Dean Stark has contributed a Wits Basic Action toward his party's challenge, Weigh to Go.
<Pose Tracker> Layna Manydays has posed.

Layna spends some good time relaxing, letting the others deal with the puzzle work. Eventually they're let through, and they continue forward to a larger cavern. Layna steps out of the boat and takes a moment to stretch before looking over toward Neriah.

"So, you know what's through that door, then? Then maybe you oughta enlighten us now, lass, so there's no 'surprises' once we've got it open, aye?" Layna suggests with a shrug. It seemed reasonable. Leaving it until the last moment just opened up the possibility of people acting without thinking.

If she had any real knowledge of the Guardians at all she might be able to put two and two together, but...

...Layna hadn't done any real research. Because of that, she doesn't really know where to go from here in regards to the puzzle. Instead, she walks up to Rosaline, offering her a smile and a pat on the shoulder.

"I'm sure it'll be fine, lass." She says, then glances toward Dean and nods in agreement.

"Aye, if anyone needs a hand with anyone, let me know."

DG: Layna Manydays has contributed a Wits Basic Action toward her party's challenge, Weigh to Go.
<Pose Tracker> White Knight Leo has posed.

Leo's eyes narrow ever-so-slightly as Neriah explains her terms. He says nothing--part of him wonders if it's some sort of bizarre Demon incubation chamber, or perhaps something more sinister. Maybe the surroundings hold some clues...? The White Knight walks over to the mural, and starts inspecting it, carefully. The worksmanship is fine, and he appreciates that, even if the iconography is too heathen for his tastes. Did they hide some clue in here? Maybe in the goods they're offering to the turtle?

Has he seen that turtle somewhere before?

Leo looks thoughtful. The bad news is he only helps with the actual pitcher puzzle several times, mostly by telling people to add or remove water.

DG: White Knight Leo has contributed a Wits Basic Action toward his party's challenge, Weigh to Go.
<Pose Tracker> Loren Voss has posed.

Someone gave those to... this idiot? is more or less the gist of Loren's though processes as Dean explains where he got the obviously highpowered ancient ARMs from. "And what was your friend's name--" he starts to ask, before a plate falls on Dean's head and effectively reroutes this line of conversation.

Well, he'll add following up on this to the general to-do list they've been cultivating.

Something unfortunate's behind that door? Interesting, Loren thinks as he continues to eavesdrop on various conversations. What, other than the statue? Or did they think the statue was holding something back?

But all that wasn't the final port of call.

This is.

Stepping up onto the dock, Loren, AKA 'Thomas the medical student turned Drifter' as his still mostly-holding cover story goes, approaches the murals. Glances at the jugs.

And, as he lifts a hand to his glasses, attempts to affect deep contemplation of the materials at hand. It's hard to make it seem like you haven't actually been here before.
Perhaps if they're lucky, he'll even get some additional samples to take back.

But he ultimately picks up one of the jugs at length and steps back. "It's an old math puzzle. Why they pick this as the lock, only the ancients know. I suppose it's easy if you know what you're doing," he explains, stepping over to the water's edge and filling his pitcher. Where's the one with the five mark...

Oh, she has it. Great, he needed this moment. But he's not about to sit outside here on the doorstep of the statue over this either.

"...Parringer, bring that over here. There's no inside markings so we'll have to measure it out this way. This one's eight, so if I pour off its contents into five, we'll be left with two units in mine."

DG: Loren Voss has used his Tool Etheric Lenses toward his party's challenge, Weigh to Go.
=============================<* Wayside Wellspring *>=============================
==========================<* CHALLENGE - Weigh to Go *>===========================
|Type: Climax      |Dungeon Ability: Wits      |Challenge Rating: 2          |
----------------------------< Challenge Information: >----------------------------
 How interesting! THIS cavern you find yourself in has been worked by human
 --or possibly humanoid--hands. There's a convenient landing to tie up your
 boat, and past that, a wall with a mural depicting a beneficent turtle and
 admiring or grateful subjects. You see a sealed door on the lower right side
 of the mural. Nearby you find a large balance scale and a huge assortment of
 water pitchers of every size and type imaginable. No two are alike. At least
 you'll be able to proceed on foot, once you get the door open. What is it
 with ruins and quirky locks, anyway? Hadn't the ancients ever heard of
 normal keys?
=Dungeon Conditions: Treasure=================================================
========================<* Wayside Wellspring - Round 6 *>========================
============================< Results - Weigh to Go >=============================
Player                               Exhaustion                      Pass/Fail
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Rosaline Calice                     45 --(5)--> 50                 Pass
Investigate                         0   Wits    Effects: BASIC
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Neriah Parringer                    40 --(5)--> 45                 Pass
Excavator's Lens                    2   Wits    Effects: Enlighten
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Layna Manydays                      45 --(10)--> 55                Fail
Investigate                         0   Wits    Effects: BASIC
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Dean Stark                          55 --(10)--> 65                Fail
Investigate                         0   Wits    Effects: BASIC
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Loren Voss                          45 --(5)--> 50                 Pass
Etheric Lenses                      2   Wits    Effects: Enlighten
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Sephilia Lampbright                 50 --(5)--> 55                 Pass
Dad's Journal                       2   Wits    Effects: Enlighten
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------
White Knight Leo                    45 --(10)--> 55                Fail
Investigate                         0   Wits    Effects: BASIC
------------------------------------< Party >-------------------------------------
Leader: Rosaline Calice             80 --(0)--> 80                 Pass
Conditions: Reckless(1)|Treasure(1)
Effects: Enlighten(1)
================================< Dream Chasers >=================================
DG: The party led by Rosaline Calice has passed this challenge! The party gained 0 exploration! If anyone needs to use party
management commands, do so now. Otherwise, the next round's GM may begin the next round with +dungeon/draw.
<Pose Tracker> Neriah Parringer has posed.

The fact that someone is being genuinely nice to her brings Neriah up short for a moment. Blushing, she ducks her head and smiles back over her shoulder at Sephilia. There's something true and appreciative in that expression, like a brief spark of happiness cutting through her usual cynical dryness. "...Thanks," she says, her voice soft.

She clears her throat, nodding to Rosaline and Dean. "If you could bring me those two over there? And don't let any of it spill. We've gotta be perfectly balanced," she says with a waggle of her hand - her gloved hand, the left one (sans glove) busy reaching for another jug.

Then Thomas starts ordering her around. Neriah lowers her eyelids a little and gestures towards one of the jugs. "Sephy, could you bring Tom that jug," she suggests neatly.

With a soft click of her tongue, Neriah sets to work. Between herself, Loren and the others, they're able to balance off the scale - and with a low, stony rumble, a door in the mural wall slides open. It opens onto a chamber beyond.

Looking back, Neriah bites down to her bottom lip, eyes on Layna. "...You'll see why when we get inside," she says quietly.

DG: White Knight Leo has drawn a new Challenge.
============================<* Wayside Wellspring *>============================
======================<* CHALLENGE - Schturdark Shrine *>=======================
|Type: Final       |Dungeon Ability: Brute     |Challenge Rating: 2          |
---------------------------< Challenge Information: >---------------------------
 Through the scale-door you find an ancient shrine to the Water Guardian,
 Schturdark. Its highlight is an enormous fountain surmounted by the Water
 Guardian's statue. You have no idea why people would've located a shrine so
 far underground, unless the water is particularly blessed? It does look pure
 -- and tastes it, if you dare to. Reaching the statue to seal or destroy it
 will be a demanding climb -- the builders never intended for anyone to
 actually touch it.
=Dungeon Conditions: Save Point===============================================
<Pose Tracker> White Knight Leo has posed.

The door rumbles open.

The room beyond is... impressive, to say the absolute least. It's a massive cavern, so deep beneath the earth that none of Wayside's well-digging endeavors so much as scratched it. It's difficult to gauge exact size, because most of it is occupied by a massive ziggurat, all motifs of crashing waves and ocean life. Turtle iconography seems to figure prominently, as do basalt, obsidian, gold, and mother-of-pearl. A sense of quiet sanctity permeates the place--this is a site of great power.

At the very top of the ziggurate is a great, jet-black statue: a massive turtle, wise and ancient beyond measure. Leo looks at it for a long moment.

Then he begins to climb. It's not entirely clear what he intends to do, though the fact that he isn't shouting about this being an offense before Althena is promising.

DG: White Knight Leo has contributed a Brute Basic Action toward his party's challenge, Schturdark Shrine.
<Pose Tracker> Neriah Parringer has posed.

"Do not," Neriah immediately says as Leo starts to climb towards the statue.

Moving with more urgency than she's shown to date, the Excavator whips out the shovel from her backpack and moves towards the slope. She darts in to dig the blade into a crack in the slope leading up to the statue. With a couple of quick shovel-assisted leaps, she boosts herself further upward, then looks back towards the rest of the group.

"I know you're going to want to seal it," she calls back. "But when you get up there, you'll see there's a good reason you shouldn't do it yet. And the best one I can give you right now is 'because Riese asked you not to.'"

A tense Neriah begins to climb up the rest of the way towards the immense statue of the Water Guardian. Her cheeks colour a subtle shade of pink as she gazes up at it.

Here she is, defending a damned Guardian statue from a good thing. But all she can think of in this situation is a tiny face.

She's got a little buddy to protect.

DG: Neriah Parringer has used her Tool Trusty Shovel toward her party's challenge, Schturdark Shrine.
<Pose Tracker> Sephilia Lampbright has posed.

"Riese knows this is here?" Sephilia asks, dubiously. "I was about to get Chauncey out and see if I could get a closer look. For my journal," she adds hastily. "But...is that okay? Can I do that?"

If she isn't told not to, she matches action to word...

DG: Sephilia Lampbright has used her Tool Digging Claws toward her party's challenge, Schturdark Shrine.
<Pose Tracker> Dean Stark has posed.

"Sure, no problem!" And Dean helps Neriah out with the pitchers, and the puzzle is eventually solved... and the doors rumble open. Beyond it is an ancient shrine, at the center of which is a giant fountain.

"Woahhh," he breathes, blue eyes wide with wonder, as he walks into the room. "This is really pretty! I wonder where they got the water from? It's definitely not the same water as out there, that's for sure." He's tempted to taste the fountain water, but... he's still half-wet with that gross water, and it would be a real shame to contaminate the shrine with it. Maybe next time, if he gets a chance to come again.

For now, they've got to get up to the statue of Schturdark. Following Neriah's lead--though frankly, he'd do this if he were alone--he pulls out his *own* trusty shovel, White Fenrir*, and dig his own footholds for climbing up there. As he does, he looks over at Sephilia. "I don't see why not! We're just going to take a look, right?"

He's not *quite* sure why they're not sealing the statue, but if doing so would hurt Wayside, then he's happy to refrain. Besides, Neriah said, 'yet,' not 'at all.' And it's not like they're destroying it, either! And so, once he's prepped the way, he puts his shovel away and starts climbing. The others can use the same footholds if they like; Dean made them nice and wide for anyone to use.

* ignore the name on the tin

DG: Dean Stark has used his Tool Black Fenrir - THAT DAMN SHOVEL toward his party's challenge, Schturdark Shrine.
<Pose Tracker> Layna Manydays has posed.

And thus, the door opens. Layna stares up at the statue, then to Neriah as the excavator starts scaling it.

"So, this is what you're hiding, aye?" Layna asks. She listens to her explanation, then nods.

"...Aye. If that's the case, then I won't touch it. Although...I figure we should probably get up there and stop the great 'White Knight' from doing something stupid." She says, putting as much of a mocking tone as she can muster on Leo's title.

With that said, she reaches into her coat, and draws something out.

It's clearly an ARM of some kind that appears to be made for mining, with a drill at the very top. She attaches the thing to her arm and starts it up, the machine whirring to life.

"I'm gonna have to cause a little damage here, lass. But I'll not touch the statue, I promise you that."

With that said Layna makes her way upward, drilling some handholds into the structure to help her ascent.

DG: Layna Manydays has used her Tool Arm-Mounted Drill toward her party's challenge, Schturdark Shrine.
<Pose Tracker> Loren Voss has posed.

The door opens...

And once again, Loren finds himself within the statue chamber. Hanging towards the back as others press towards the climb reaching up to the Water Guardian statue, lingering high above them, he stoops for a moment, taking a few more samples of the water from here and tucking them securely into the depths of his bag.
He hadn't expected to make his way back here again so he should make the best of it.

"Why?" he finally asks, straightening from his crouch and securing the straps on his bag. "Is something suppose to happen if you touch the statue?"

Last time, he fell right off the shrine. Making another attempt is inadvisable.
Approaching the ascent, he rests a hand on the walls, slick with damp.
But on the other hand... he can certainly picture the reaction he'd get from Major Yugh if he came back and said he'd been too worried about falling to inspect closely an object that could well tip the scales in the weeks to come.
So he starts to climb to get a closer look instead.
...Surreptitiously ensuring he should bounce rather than splat if everything does go poorly for him, with a spend of ether.

DG: Loren Voss has contributed a Brute Basic Action toward his party's challenge, Schturdark Shrine.
============================<* Wayside Wellspring *>============================
======================<* CHALLENGE - Schturdark Shrine *>=======================
|Type: Final       |Dungeon Ability: Brute     |Challenge Rating: 2          |
---------------------------< Challenge Information: >---------------------------
 Through the scale-door you find an ancient shrine to the Water Guardian,
 Schturdark. Its highlight is an enormous fountain surmounted by the Water
 Guardian's statue. You have no idea why people would've located a shrine so
 far underground, unless the water is particularly blessed? It does look pure
 -- and tastes it, if you dare to. Reaching the statue to seal or destroy it
 will be a demanding climb -- the builders never intended for anyone to
 actually touch it.
=Dungeon Conditions: Save Point===============================================
<Pose Tracker> Rosaline Calice has posed.

Rosaline manages a smile as Sephilia thanks them all, Dean answers in his usual spirited way, while Layna offers a pat on her shoulder. They get past the lock and...

Another one of those shrines. Rosaline remains silent, her mouth hanging slightly agape at the surroundings. She's been in many churches, some of them lavish, but this isn't the same thing at all. The closest equivalent she can think of would be what she's heard of the Granas cathedrals you could find in Aquvy.

"U-Um," she lets out as Leo starts climbing, and Neriah explains, a little late, why their trip here might actually be for naught.

Well, she'll ponder that particular problem later. First she wants to catch up to Leo, in case he DOES actually think this thing is an offense before Althena. Make no mistake, it IS a bit of an offense, but their planet's survival may well hinge on it.

She briefly fiddles in her bag and pulls out one of her sticks of blessed dynamite, which-- Wait, wait, wait, no. She puts it back in her bag.

"Sister Calice, what is wrong with you?" she mutters to herself as she grabs for whichever handholds are already there and just... tries to scamper up with sheer momentum for the rest of the climb.

DG: Rosaline Calice has used her Tool Blessed Bomb toward her party's challenge, Schturdark Shrine.
============================<* Wayside Wellspring *>============================
======================<* CHALLENGE - Schturdark Shrine *>=======================
|Type: Final       |Dungeon Ability: Brute     |Challenge Rating: 2          |
---------------------------< Challenge Information: >---------------------------
 Through the scale-door you find an ancient shrine to the Water Guardian,
 Schturdark. Its highlight is an enormous fountain surmounted by the Water
 Guardian's statue. You have no idea why people would've located a shrine so
 far underground, unless the water is particularly blessed? It does look pure
 -- and tastes it, if you dare to. Reaching the statue to seal or destroy it
 will be a demanding climb -- the builders never intended for anyone to
 actually touch it.
=Dungeon Conditions: Save Point===============================================
=======================<* Wayside Wellspring - Round 7 *>=======================
========================< Results - Schturdark Shrine >=========================
Player                               Exhaustion                      Pass/Fail
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Rosaline Calice                     50 --(5)--> 55                 Pass
Blessed Bomb                        2   Brute   Effects: Strengthen
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Neriah Parringer                    45 --(5)--> 50                 Pass
Trusty Shovel                       2   Brute   Effects: Strengthen
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Layna Manydays                      55 --(5)--> 60                 Pass
Arm-Mounted Drill                   3   Brute   Effects: Fanfare
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Dean Stark                          65 --(5)--> 70                 Pass
Black Fenrir - THAT DAMN SHOVEL     2   Brute   Effects: Stalwart
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Loren Voss                          50 --(5)--> 55                 Pass
Force                               0   Brute   Effects: BASIC
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Sephilia Lampbright                 55 --(5)--> 60                 Pass
Digging Claws                       3   Brute   Effects: Rally
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
White Knight Leo                    55 --(5)--> 60                 Pass
Force                               0   Brute   Effects: BASIC
-----------------------------------< Party >------------------------------------
Leader: Rosaline Calice             80 --(35)--> 115               Pass
Conditions: Save Point(1)
Effects: Strengthen(1)
===============================< Dream Chasers >================================
DG: You have overcome the dungeon's trials! This run is a success!
DG: The party led by Rosaline Calice has successfully explored Wayside Wellspring!
============================<* Wayside Wellspring *>============================
=========================<* CHALLENGE - Water Wheel *>==========================
|Type: Discovery   |Dungeon Ability: Conclusion|Challenge Rating: 1          |
---------------------------< Challenge Information: >---------------------------
 In this cave you find a waterfall with an ancient water wheel, still
 turning. There's no telling what its builders used it for. It could
 potentially be tapped into to provide kinetic power for Wayside, though this
 would mean digging an access hole from the surface and attaching the wheel
 to some gears (not Gears).

 (OOC: @mail Riesenlied if you want to report this Discovery to Wayside.)
=Dungeon Conditions: Treasure=================================================
<Pose Tracker> White Knight Leo has posed.

The shrine is oddly malleable despite the materials used in its construction. Dean and Layna and Neriah dig out holes in the masonry holding tigether, but as soon as they've passed, it's like they never even touched it. Loren and Rosaline haul themselves up--there's certainly plenty of handholds, but it requires strength to keep from slipping. Sephilia probably has the easiest time of it, because her plush companion does not tire or falter despite being soaking-wet and smelling absolutely awful.

As the group approaches the top, though, something... happens. The spiritual pressure intensifies, and a dull grinding noise issues from the pedestal beneath the statue. Slabs of stone slide open.

No sooner has everyone gotten to the top than the Statue retracts itself beneath a slab of thick, solid, dense stone. It's sort of like a turtle pulling its head in, isn't it?

Leo just kind of stares at the whole process, and then at the seals over the statue.

"...Are they supposed to do that?" he says.

<Pose Tracker> Sephilia Lampbright has posed.

Sephilia pouts. "I was going to sketch it for my journal...now I can't even get a good look at it! I bet it's YOUR fault, you know!" Oh, there's the sass at Leo. Let it out now, Sephy.

<Pose Tracker> Neriah Parringer has posed.

"Riese does know," Neriah answers Sephilia with a stiff nod. "I helped her excavate the way to it."

Then the statue retracts itself. Neriah blinks a couple of times, frowning, then sinking to a crouch to peer at the slab. "...It didn't do that last time," she murmurs, before looking up towards Leo.

"What we found last time was that there's something that seems to be... sealed, under the statue," she explains quietly. "Something pretty icky-feeling. We decided not to do anything to the statue because we were worried about what affecting it might do to the water table - or if it might unleash something that'd hurt the village."

With a sigh, she leans over the edge of the shrine mound, over the back edge of the fountain. Her eyebrows rise. "...But hey, there's a big waterwheel back there," she says cheerily.

<Pose Tracker> Rosaline Calice has posed.

Rosaline's ears twitch as spiritual pressure intensifies, which is odd, but what is even odder is the statue... retracting?

She has no answer for Leo, but... "Maybe it sensed ill intent...?" She glances at him, suspiciously.

This would fit with what Neriah is saying, if it didn't do that before. "Oh, I see," Rosaline says, on the matter of the seal. Well, there's a conundrum. Of course, it's ALL MOOT RIGHT NOW.

She looks at Leo again, expression carefully neutral.

"Oh, there's that, at least," she says of the water wheel, though not without disappointment.

<Pose Tracker> Dean Stark has posed.

Dean makes it to the top with ease. He turns around to see if anyone needs help--but instead sees the footholds he'd dug out sealing themselves as everyone passes by them. "Woaaah. Weird!" he declares, staring down at them. Then he hears stone grinding on stone, and turns around to see the statue retracting itself into stone. "Woah, cool!" he declares, this time with wonder. "But... I don't get it. Why weren't we supposed to seal it?"

Neriah explains. Apparently it was different last time. Dean scratches his head. "Huh..."

He looks up. There's a waterfall rushing over a water wheel. It's actually quite pretty. He admires it for a moment; then he turns to the others.

"So... now what?"

<Pose Tracker> White Knight Leo has posed.

"Why would I break it?" Leo says, showing teeth. "That's what the Demons want. And if--as she says--this is sealing some greater evil, then it must be preserved." It doesn't help that Wayside has innocent orphan children in it, and those would probably be put in jeopardy if this wasn't sealed.

<Pose Tracker> Rosaline Calice has posed.

"I-I-I'm sorry," Rosaline says, looking away with a blush. Well, now she just feels very silly.

<Pose Tracker> Loren Voss has posed.

Loren ascends without incident a great height, then approaches the statue to get a better look at it, even stretching out a hand towards it--

And the whole thing just gets retracted into the structure proper, sealing shut firmly with a stone plate on top.

"..." Loren stares at it judgementally.

Then: "...Fine."

He didn't even get a chance to get a close-up image of the thing.

His gaze slides over towards Neriah. "'Icky-feeling'?" he asks, tone pitched as if to say 'are you for real'.

But he shakes his head. "Well, then lead on, Parringer. It's not as if we'll accomplish anything here."

<Pose Tracker> Layna Manydays has posed.

The climb up is pretty easy, Layna finds. She makes her way to the top...only to watch the statue retract into base beneath it. She stares for a moment...and then starts to laugh.

"Hahah! Well, that sure is a thing, aye?" She says with a grin, then glances to Neriah.

"Looks like you won't have to worry about anyone touching it, least not for now." She comments.

"But...something icky, aye? That's a problem..." And then Neriah says something about a water wheel. "Well, good to know this wasn't a complete waste of time, aye?"

It does make her feel a bit better, though then Leo growls at Rosaline and she frowns disapprovingly.

"Wouldn't put it past you, 'White Knight'..." Layna mutters, then walks over to Rosaline and puts a hand on her shoulder.

"Hey, don't worry about him, lass..." She murmurs, trying to reassure her.

<Pose Tracker> Sephilia Lampbright has posed.

Sephilia glowers at Loren. "Icky-feeling is a perfectly valid terminology. Not everything needs to be book-words, you know! Would it really make a difference if Neriah had said, it measured twelve kilo-icks on the squig-scale?"

<Pose Tracker> Neriah Parringer has posed.

"What makes you think sealing it won't affect the ward it's sitting on," Neriah points out, her tone quiet as she draws a fingertip across the stone slab. "The point is, we don't know what sealing the statue will do to the rest of the water table. The statue is inextricably tied into the waterway. Maybe we seal it eventually. But we need to make absolutely sure that it won't do anything to the village."

She looks up towards Loren, narrowing her eyes ever so slightly. "Forgive my lack of scientific rigor," she says acidly, "but there are orphans living in that village and I will not throw them back out into the wilderness or kick Riese out of another village because we acted before we knew all the facts."

With a short huff, she stands, beginning to pick her way down towards the waterwheel. "Let's just see if we can get this thing moving," she suggests, grappling with immense irritation.

<Pose Tracker> Loren Voss has posed.

First that little girl then Neriah tell him off, in so many words. Loren's gaze lingers on first one then the other.

Then he rolls his eyes heavenwards.

Emperor Cain preserve us.

"Scientific rigor. Fine, Parringer." He shrugs, already moving into the depths.

"Have it your way."

<Pose Tracker> Neriah Parringer has posed.

Neriah closes her eyes for a moment and takes a steadying breath. She pointedly doesn't answer Thomas.

A little dark voice in her mind makes a mental note to tear Thomas's heart out by way of his digestive tract. But for now, in front of Sephilia and in the aquifer which keeps her erstwhile home watered, she puts that thought out of her mind and just descends to the waterwheel.