2017-12-31: Curse and Light

From Dream Chasers
Jump to: navigation, search

=============================<* Nortune Grazelands *>=============================

The Grazelands are the last remaining fertile land in the northeast if the Ignas continent. Firmly under control of the nation of Kislev, they are covered end to end with highly regimented farms and ranches, each under strict orders to produce so much produce or livestock, with an eye to maximum possible efficiency. Agricultural experts frequently travel from the city of Nortune to assist landowners, as do so-called "engineers," a nascent profession of individuals devoted to the study and use of ARMs in the Empire.

The southern border of the Grazelands is heavily guarded, tapering off to a single pass through the mountains leading into the Great Aveh Desert. Kislev's forces are firmly entrenched in the area, and travel to the heart of the empire is strictly controlled.

BGM: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5ddOSJ8571M
DG: A party led by Talise Gianfair is now entering The Decaying Labyrinth.
DG: Party formation is now over. An Entry Challenge will now be drawn and displayed to the party.
=========================<* CHALLENGE - Eternal Decay *>==========================
|Type: Entry       |Dungeon Ability: Wits      |Challenge Rating: 2          | 
----------------------------< Challenge Information: >----------------------------
 The Decaying Labyrinth is not found on any map. A squat ruin built into a     
 cliff, it is difficult to spot at a distance, which is probably why it's      
 been overlooked for so long. Finding it is a matter of riding (or walking)    
 along the cliff until it's located. The decay of the soil becomes more        
 obvious as you approach it, with grass giving way to scrubby bushes and       
 rock, and eventually no greenery at all. This is not a healthy place to       
 linger.                                                                       
=Dungeon Conditions: Overwhelm================================================
<Pose Tracker> Talise Gianfair has posed.

There's nothing on a map that would lead the so-called Company of the Fox here, sad friends and sort-of happy friends alike. Instead, it's word through the Adventurer's Guild of an unknown treasure of a blighted land in which some unknown treasure might be found.

"I have a bad feeling about this," Talise murmurs as she rides along atop the grey horse she's named Dragon.

The hooves of the horses and the boots of the adventurers resound eerily against the dry, desolate soil along the foot of the vast cliff, the dirt cracking in places underfoot. The horse beneath Talise is nervous, eyes darting and neck tensing. The tall woman shakes her head and smiles faintly, giving the big beast a quiet pat. "Easy," she murmurs, wishing she could feel that ease in her gut.

Ida and Rosaline must be having a rough time of this. Saying nothing of Sephilia, she realizes. The thought of going back occurs to her. Certainly she's fought more overtly terrifying foes than this.

This is different. The earth itself seems to be rejecting its own lifeblood.

Rising in her stirrups, she squints into the distance, biting down to her lower lip. "I don't think it's much farther," she calls back, her voice echoing from the cliff wall and ringing hollowly in the air a little before the dead wind catches it and blows it away. "Can you see anything...?"

DG: Talise Gianfair has contributed a Wits Basic Action toward her party's challenge, Eternal Decay.
<Pose Tracker> Sephilia Lampbright has posed.

Sephilia is holding up okay. She's riding Chauncey-back, and keeping uncharacteristically quiet. She's been quieter lately in general, but even with that in mind...

"I hope it's nearby. I'd like it to be. I don't want to see how much worse this can get...though, really if we just ride for the center of this...desolation..." She suggests quietly.

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

Of course Rosaline is here to help. 'Here to help' is her middle name! Except when, of course... No, no, positive thoughts. Keep your head in the game, Rosaline Calice!

She's riding on the still-nameless black horse who has been her companion since anyone here knows her. They got separated long ago, during the flight from the Guardian Temple, but it seems the beast has somehow made its way back to her. A miracle, perhaps?

She seems fine right now, at least as fine as she seems capable of being. There's something faintly oppressive in the air, she can feel it, but at least the bleak surroundings don't seem to bother her especially.

"I-I'm looking," she answers, while doing just that. She has sharp eyes, after all, but there's only so much they can do, especially if she's not looking in the right places.

DG: Rosaline Calice has contributed a Wits Basic Action toward her party's challenge, Eternal Decay.
<Pose Tracker> Ida Everstead-Rey has posed.

Despite the best efforts of at least two separate groups of thieves, Ida made it to Baskar territory in one piece. The Arc Scepter, though--the ancient artifact that someone unwisely wrote about in the paper--that's missing. Ida was hired to guard it, but was unable to fend off one thief, much less a half-dozen. The sole saving grace was that she wasn't as badly-injured as some of the other defenders, and that Dean and Rebecca were able to patch her up. Grey Lady was fine, too, if a little put out by the commotion going on a considerable ways from the stock car.

Ida rides along behind Talise, wearing an outfit constructed largely from military surplus. The long overcoat is buttoned up a little tighter, and Ida huddles down within it. She's seen desertification before, extensively--and this isn't it. This isn't even plant blight, or nutrient deficiency. Something is wrong.

Ida swings herself out of the saddle, reaches into a pack, and pulls out a paper-wrapped block of something. She opens it, takes out a chocolate biscuit, and eats. She offers the rest to the group as a whole. "Look for signs of wear," she says, once the carbohydrates have been distributed. "Inconsistencies in the stonework. It was how we found the Serpent's Coils."

DG: Ida Everstead-Rey has used her Tool Chocolate Biscuits toward her party's challenge, Eternal Decay.
<Pose Tracker> Layna Manydays has posed.

There were many words that were liable to catch Layna's attention. 'Unknown' and 'treasure' were two of them, and putting them together was practically a guarantee that she'd listen. She didn't need to be asked twice, especially when the person asking was one of her best friends and most reliable allies.

Nevermind the fact that she had encouraged a certain troubled youth to rob a train that, unbeknownst to her, Ida was hired to guard. It was probably for the best if she didn't find out.

Layna doesn't own a beast of transportation of her own, however, and her she could only cross so much distance with her wind magic before getting exhausted, so she's most likely riding alongside one of the others.

Everyone else seems to be concerned and worried by the blight that seems to strike this land to the very core. It's unnatural, and speaks to the danger of the mission they've undertaken. Layna, however...

"Eesh, this place looks even more dead than the Silver Coast, aye? This sort of thing is what I expected to see when I heard I'd ended up on the Blue Star." Layna comments idly, looking around.

She says that, but...it doesn't seem to bother her all that much.

She glances toward Talise as she asks if they see anything, and with a nod draws her telescope from her waist, stands precariously on top of her mount(or rather, her partner's mount, whoever that might be), and gazes into the distance.

"Aye." Layna says with a nod toward Ida. But does she see anything...? Or is she more likely to fall over from her rather reckless endeavor?

=========================<* CHALLENGE - Eternal Decay *>==========================
|Type: Entry       |Dungeon Ability: Wits      |Challenge Rating: 2          | 
----------------------------< Challenge Information: >----------------------------
 The Decaying Labyrinth is not found on any map. A squat ruin built into a     
 cliff, it is difficult to spot at a distance, which is probably why it's      
 been overlooked for so long. Finding it is a matter of riding (or walking)    
 along the cliff until it's located. The decay of the soil becomes more        
 obvious as you approach it, with grass giving way to scrubby bushes and       
 rock, and eventually no greenery at all. This is not a healthy place to       
 linger.                                                                       
=Dungeon Conditions: Overwhelm================================================
DG: Layna Manydays has used her Tool Captain's Telescope toward her party's challenge, Eternal Decay.
=========================<* CHALLENGE - Eternal Decay *>==========================
|Type: Entry       |Dungeon Ability: Wits      |Challenge Rating: 2          | 
----------------------------< Challenge Information: >----------------------------
 The Decaying Labyrinth is not found on any map. A squat ruin built into a     
 cliff, it is difficult to spot at a distance, which is probably why it's      
 been overlooked for so long. Finding it is a matter of riding (or walking)    
 along the cliff until it's located. The decay of the soil becomes more        
 obvious as you approach it, with grass giving way to scrubby bushes and       
 rock, and eventually no greenery at all. This is not a healthy place to       
 linger.                                                                       
=Dungeon Conditions: Overwhelm================================================
DG: The party led by Talise Gianfair 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.
DG: Rosaline Calice has drawn a new Challenge.
====================<* CHALLENGE - A Little Elbow Grease *>=====================
|Type: Exploration |Dungeon Ability: Brute     |Challenge Rating: 1          | 
---------------------------< Challenge Information: >---------------------------
 You find yourself in a room with a pair of large levers, each lever almost    
 three feet tall and capable of being pushed or pulled, and two                
 portcullis-style grates blocking the hallway forward. Pulling the levers      
 makes the portcullises lift back into the ceiling. If you're expecting a      
 puzzle, you'll be disappointed, since the solution is 'pull both levers once  
 each'. The challenge is more that the levers are frozen in place by rust and  
 fallen dirt, and are most easily moved by hitting them until they stop        
 seizing up.                                                                   
=Dungeon Conditions: Overzealous==============================================
<Pose Tracker> Talise Gianfair has posed.

Talise presses her lips together and lets her breath out through her nose in a slow rush. "...Yeah. Hopefully it isn't much further," she concedes, before straightening with a rough smile. "Nothing to be done for it but press on, right?" she says with more cheer, straightening in her seat. She's in her usual heavy sea coat and hardy tunic and chainmail shirt, Rastaban hanging from her saddlebow at the moment.

She leans back, nodding graciously as Ida offers the biscuit, and takes a quick, crunchy bite. "Thanks." The taller woman nibbles at the sweet as she skims the landscape ahead.

Ida's biscuits help; the dying landscape, at least, doesn't take the chocolatey sweetness out of the snacks, the crispy crunch of them like a little ray of sweet sunshine amidst the unnatural decay. Things seem a little less dire with chocolate in hand, at least.

It's Layna who spots it first, her standing stare identifying the opening in the base of the cliff. Soon enough, the little band reaches that gap in the stone.

Talise dismounts with a huff, driving a steel peg into the ground and securing Dragon to it. "Stay here," she urges the horse as she takes her sword and draws it.

She sets her jaw. "...Ready when you are."

<Pose Tracker> Rosaline Calice has posed.

Rosaline feels a pang of disappointment when the group finds the entrance in a spot she could swear she was looking at earlier. She does take a bit of pride in her unusual senses.

Oh well. At least she has chocolate. Thank you, Ida!

The entrance isn't much of one. The Company moves through the opening, and as soon as they produce ways to see in the darkness (Rosaline incants something, lighting the Ethos symbol around her neck), immediately see (or run into) a pair of heavy portcullises blocking their way.

A moment's experimentation later makes the mechanism clear. One lever is relatively cooperative, the second not so much, only enough to make it clear that it still works at all.

"It seems we'll need to activate them both at once and run through before they close. But... hmmm..."

She stands there, staring at the grates with the occasional swish of her tail, while the others try their hands at moving the levers.

"Actually... I might have a Plan B to propose," she then says, producing a stick of her trusty TNT and reaching through the first grating to plate it between them.

DG: Rosaline Calice has used her Tool Blessed Bomb toward her party's challenge, A Little Elbow Grease.
<Pose Tracker> Sephilia Lampbright has posed.

Sephilia beams. "Chauncey an' I are good at this sort of thing! Well, it's more Chauncey's specialty," she points out. Needlessly. Sephy shrinks him down, hooks up his digging claws, and brings him back up to size. "Let's get whackin, buddy!"

DG: Sephilia Lampbright has used her Tool Digging Claws toward her party's challenge, A Little Elbow Grease.
<Pose Tracker> Talise Gianfair has posed.

It's alright, Rosaline. Talise is pretty sure she looked there, too.

Upon finding a room ahead, Talise frowns, chacking the place from right to left. Upon finding nothing in need of stabbing, she sheathes Rastaban and moves forward to begin checking out the switches. The light Rosaline shines from her sigil is enough for her to take in the state of the switch.

"Rust," she huffs as she gives it a light prod. A few small oxidized flakes fall from it.

Pressing her lips together, Talise nods towards Rosaline. "I'll give one of these levers a try, then," she says as she slips her hands into the gauntlets hanging from her belt. Slapping her palms together with a clash of steel plates, she taps into their latent magic. Beneath her coat, muscles tighten and throb with power beyond even the prodigious strength of her heritage.

"Here goes nothing," Talise grunts as she takes ahold of one of the levers. Planting a heel against the wall, she clenches her shoulders, grips, and begins to pull the lever downwards.

She can't apply all her strength; she doesn't want to tear it out of the wall. She applies it steadily, pushing more than yanking. Rusty metal squeals as she fights against age to yank the lever.

DG: Talise Gianfair has used her Tool Ogre Power Gauntlets toward her party's challenge, A Little Elbow Grease.
<Pose Tracker> Ida Everstead-Rey has posed.

Ida, likewise, hammers a hitching-post into the hard, dead earth and hitches Grey Lady to it. She offers the horse an affectionate muzzle-rub, and a carrot to tide her over. "We'll return soon," Ida says. She removes something from the saddlebags, unfolds it, and buckles it into place, bit by bit, over her right arm. It's a gauntlet of some kind--it covers the entire arm, and the bulk suggests there's a bit more to it than just armor. She unbuttons her coat, revealing a coil of rope threaded through some sort of metal, mechanical spool, and attaches the rope to something on the back of the gauntlet.

When they get to the locking mechanisms, Ida peers at them, frowning. She'd normally apply a coat of oil, but these things are too far gone for that to be of any use. She grabs the rightmost switch, braces, and tugs with all her strength. A few more tugs, and she hands it over to someone else. All that really matters is getting things working, right?

DG: Ida Everstead-Rey has contributed a Brute Basic Action toward her party's challenge, A Little Elbow Grease.
<Pose Tracker> Layna Manydays has posed.

As a pirate, Layna naturally has special senses that point her toward the most likely locations of treasure and other such interesting things. This is a very true fact.

"Aye, let's proceed." Layna says with a nod and a grin toward Talise, and starts to head inside.

It's dark, and...there's some kind of mechanism before them. Rosaline studies it first, figures out how it works...and comes up with a possible alternate solution. Layna grins wide.

"Smart, lass. Now you're thinking like a pirate, aye?" She says, giving her a friendly pat on the back before looking towards the levers. Talise probably has hers handled, so she instead goes to working on the one Sephilia and Ida are working at.

Layna cracks her knuckles, reaches for the lever, and pulls upward with all her might.

...Hopefully she doesn't break it.

DG: Layna Manydays has contributed a Brute Basic Action toward her party's challenge, A Little Elbow Grease.
====================<* CHALLENGE - A Little Elbow Grease *>=====================
|Type: Exploration |Dungeon Ability: Brute     |Challenge Rating: 1          | 
---------------------------< Challenge Information: >---------------------------
 You find yourself in a room with a pair of large levers, each lever almost    
 three feet tall and capable of being pushed or pulled, and two                
 portcullis-style grates blocking the hallway forward. Pulling the levers      
 makes the portcullises lift back into the ceiling. If you're expecting a      
 puzzle, you'll be disappointed, since the solution is 'pull both levers once  
 each'. The challenge is more that the levers are frozen in place by rust and  
 fallen dirt, and are most easily moved by hitting them until they stop        
 seizing up.                                                                   
=Dungeon Conditions: Overzealous==============================================
DG: The party led by Talise Gianfair 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.
DG: Layna Manydays has drawn a new Challenge.
=======================<* CHALLENGE - The Bone Zone *>========================
|Type: Exploration |Dungeon Ability: Combat    |Challenge Rating: 2          | 
--------------------------< Challenge Information: >--------------------------
 The Decaying Labyrinth is a nexus of undead and unliving monsters, and this   
 is one of them. A skeletal lizard the size of a horse, it has a huge spiked   
 crest, rather like a triceratops - if anyone here knew what a triceratops     
 was, anyway - and multiple additional horns and spikes. Also, it can breathe  
 huge gouts of scalding steam. Riding it is not recommended.                   
=Dungeon Conditions: Wound====================================================
<Pose Tracker> Rosaline Calice has posed.

Rosaline laughs nervously when Layna praises her pirate-like way of thinking. She knows it's meant as a compliment, at least, but...

Talise and Chauncey, with the mighty power of the Ogre Power Gauntlet and Chauncey's mere existence, manage to overcome the stubborn lever. Ida and Layna, meanwhile, have a tougher time when the other one merely proves halfway cooperative after all. There's a cracking sound, and a moment later, Layna finds herself holding up a lever handle...

"Oh... Well, then," Rosaline concludes, lighting her TNT's fuse.

A second later, the group goes through one open portcullis and one "open" portcullis. So far so good, though hopefully the noise didn't altert anything dangerous...

<Pose Tracker> Layna Manydays has posed.

"Hahah, whoops." Layna says with a sheepish grin, holding the end of a broken lever. "Well, these things happen. Good thing we've got explosives, aye?"

Still holding the broken lever, Layna moves through the portcullis.

The party progresses forward, but things seem...quiet. Entirely too quiet. And then, suddenly, Layna extends an arm out. A jet of steam shoots out from an attached corridor, right where they would have been if they hadn't suddenly stopped. Even from their current position they can feel the heat, and the source of it soon appears...

In front of them stands an Undead Reptile, full of spikes, bony armor plates, and a furious anger that never dies. An anger that was now focused solely on them.

Red lights gleam out of empty sockets as it charges at the party. With a grin Layna hurls the broken lever at the enemy. Rusted and aged as it is, the lever shatters upon impact...but it does provide enough of a distraction that the creature diverts its course somewhat.

Layna charges forward with one of her gauntlets equipped, aiming to slam it straight into its skull.

DG: Layna Manydays has contributed a Combat Basic Action toward her party's challenge, The Bone Zone.
<Pose Tracker> Talise Gianfair has posed.

Talise shakes the rust off of her gauntlets, coughing a couple of times and burying her mouth in the collar of her coat as dust particles dance from the pulled lever. "Althena's minty-freash breath!" she curses.

As the group shoulders through the open portcullises, Talise finally manages to catch a breath of something that isn't rusty - and instead catches a wiff of undeath and steam. She comes up short with a gasp as Layna halts the group.

"Either you have the world's sharpest hearing or I'm not drinking enough," Talise huffs as she bolts to one side, hits the ground and rolls. She comes up with her shotgun in her hands, pumping it.

Blistering light blares from the gun's barrel as Talise opens fire. Buckshot discharges with a bang that rings from the cavern walls, once, twice, thrice towards the reptile. Satisfied that the gun's done its work after those few shots, Talise shoulders the weapon, hoping it's enough to seriously inconvenience the critter.

"Let's bring it down!" she shouts as she draws Rastaban and lunges forward. The sword's blade arcs low, then ascends as she attempts to slice through the undead reptile with an arcing strike. "HOOOOOOOAHT!!"

DG: Talise Gianfair has used her Tool Trench Sweeper Shotgun toward her party's challenge, The Bone Zone.
<Pose Tracker> Ida Everstead-Rey has posed.

Snap, goes the lever. Ida lets out a soft breath, and tells herself that it's okay. She brushes rust off her hands, adjusts one of the gauntlet's forearm buckles, and walks onwards, through the open portcullis.

Layna holds an arm out. Ida knows what the signal means, and stops in her tracks, slipping into a fighting stance. Between the gloom and the fact that Layna's in front of her, she doesn't get a good look at the beast--she flattens herself against the tunnel wall as Talise opens fire, and then charges alongside her. As Layna goes for the head, Ida darts around to the creature's flank, raises both fists, and brings them down in a vicious two-handed hammerblow to the spine.

DG: Ida Everstead-Rey has contributed a Combat Basic Action toward her party's challenge, The Bone Zone.
<Pose Tracker> Rosaline Calice has posed.

Rosaline stops without a word, eyes darting, then yelps at the sight of the charging creature. However, Layna's quick thinking gives her the time to get into a position less liable to be charged right into and pulverized.

"Undead!" she calls out, "I can weaken it." As she moves to the sidelines while the more combat-oriented do their thing, she brings out her vial of holy water. She incants a prayer, casting the multi-purpose spell that her friends know and love...

"HYDRO STORM!" Rosaline shouts, and a moment later it's raining indoors. The magical water's purifying water should give the beast a harder time... existing in general.

And when the rain stops? Rosaline begins chanting some healing spells, using them to dispel the unholy energy holding the creature together. It's a healer trick, one she doesn't get opportunities to use nearly enough!

DG: Rosaline Calice has used her Tool Holy Water toward her party's challenge, The Bone Zone.
<Pose Tracker> Sephilia Lampbright has posed.

Chauncey is a match in size, if not in hardness, for this thing, and the digging claws help deflect the sharp spikes from his soft plush hide. Sephy cheers on in excitement, calling out the names of his attacks, as usual. "Yeah! Hit him in the noggin! Teach this bonehead a lesson!

DG: Sephilia Lampbright has contributed a Combat Basic Action toward her party's challenge, The Bone Zone.
=======================<* CHALLENGE - The Bone Zone *>========================
|Type: Exploration |Dungeon Ability: Combat    |Challenge Rating: 2          | 
--------------------------< Challenge Information: >--------------------------
 The Decaying Labyrinth is a nexus of undead and unliving monsters, and this   
 is one of them. A skeletal lizard the size of a horse, it has a huge spiked   
 crest, rather like a triceratops - if anyone here knew what a triceratops     
 was, anyway - and multiple additional horns and spikes. Also, it can breathe  
 huge gouts of scalding steam. Riding it is not recommended.                   
=Dungeon Conditions: Wound====================================================
DG: The party led by Talise Gianfair 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.
DG: Ida Everstead-Rey has drawn a new Challenge.
============<* CHALLENGE - So That's Why it's Called a Labyrinth *>=============
|Type: Exploration |Dungeon Ability: Wits      |Challenge Rating: 3          | 
---------------------------< Challenge Information: >---------------------------
 This section of the Decaying Labyrinth is proving extremely difficult to      
 map, with stairs and ramps forming a maze that is subtly three-dimensional,   
 which some of the tunnels looping over or under others. Sometimes it's hard   
 to tell that you're ascending or descending at all, and you're pretty sure    
 some of the paths are taking you right back the way you came. Other times     
 you can take a short cut by jumping down a convenient hole... but some of     
 those go backwards, so it might not be the best plan. Still, you're a         
 Drifter. You can make the hard decisions.                                     
=Dungeon Conditions: Bad Luck=================================================
=============<* CHALLENGE - So That's Why it's Called a Labyrinth *>==============
|Type: Exploration |Dungeon Ability: Wits      |Challenge Rating: 3          | 
----------------------------< Challenge Information: >----------------------------
 This section of the Decaying Labyrinth is proving extremely difficult to      
 map, with stairs and ramps forming a maze that is subtly three-dimensional,   
 which some of the tunnels looping over or under others. Sometimes it's hard   
 to tell that you're ascending or descending at all, and you're pretty sure    
 some of the paths are taking you right back the way you came. Other times     
 you can take a short cut by jumping down a convenient hole... but some of     
 those go backwards, so it might not be the best plan. Still, you're a         
 Drifter. You can make the hard decisions.                                     
=Dungeon Conditions: Bad Luck=================================================
<Pose Tracker> Layna Manydays has posed.

"You can hear it sometimes. The telltale hissing and bubbling as water comes to a boil. Useful tactic, when you're out on the see." Layna explains.

Her strike stops the Undead Reptile in its tracks...but it seems to be more out of confusion that having inflicted any actual harm, and from Layna's slight wince she seems to have hurt herself more than she had hurt it.

Fortunately, before the creature can take advantage of its current situation, it is interrupted by three powerful shots from Talise's shotgun. It turns to face her, but suddenly...

Hydro Storm!

Rosaline's purifying water rains down on it, and healing spell after healing spell is slung, but...it doesn't seem to be affecting it as much as it should. It is almost as if this place's foul aura is weakening their effects...

It goes to charge at Rosaline, but Chauncey intercepts, his plush body easily taking the brunt of it with little harm! And while it tries to contend with him, there's Ida with a bone-crushing hammerblow to the spine that knocks it to the ground, leaving it open for Talise to finish off with a powerful swing of Rastaban before it can recover.

"Good work, me hearties!" Layna compliments with a grin, flexing the hand she had used to punch.

<Pose Tracker> Ida Everstead-Rey has posed.

Ida brushes flakes of bone off her hands, and looks down at what is now a pile of scattered, broken bones. Her lips tighten into a line, as if she were discarding some possibility she had briefly entertained. The group moves on.

The passage starts to twist and turn. The group moves up a set of stairs, then down a set of stairs. Ida keeps an eye on her surroundings, but no further ambush reveals itself.

...Come to think, she hasn't seen any signs of life in here. Most ruins play host to a variety of organisms, ranging from moss and lichens to enormous sandworms, but this place is completely barren. Ida thinks on this for a moment, and rummages through her pack. She pops a biscuit into her mouth, and breaks another into small fragments. She places one in the middle of the path, in a visible location. Fifty paces later, she leaves another one.

If there's nothing around to eat them, then she might as well leave a trail of breadcrumbs behind.

DG: Ida Everstead-Rey has used her Tool Chocolate Biscuits toward her party's challenge, So That's Why it's Called a Labyrinth.
<Pose Tracker> Sephilia Lampbright has posed.

Sephilia is paging through her Dad's journal, through several pages. "There's looooots of tips in here that my Dad wrote down about navigating mazes and labyrinths, and stuff. Plus, thanks to everyone's help, I've got lots of experience of my own now! I'm so glad you're all part of my journey to be a famous explorer like my Dad!" She points. "This way, I think!"

DG: Sephilia Lampbright has used her Tool Dad's Journal toward her party's challenge, So That's Why it's Called a Labyrinth.
<Pose Tracker> Talise Gianfair has posed.

The pirate lingo gets Talise every time. She shoots Ida a wolfish grin, her eyes afire with headstrong momentum.

And then they end up in a maze and all that momentum just drops right out of her.

Frowning, Talise holds Rastaban in her right hand, her left lighting a torch to try and cast a little more light on these dim passageways. The flame casts guttering shadows of the five women against the walls of these lifeless tunnels. It's hard for Talise to tell if she's climbing or descending at any given time.

After a few turns, she presses her lips together and tucks Rastaban briefly under an arm. Fishing out a piece of white chalk, she scrapes out a few marks on one of the walls. The first time she stops, it reads like this:

<---- WE WENT THIS WAY

She leaves a few more of those marks on the wall as they go. Sticking close to Ida, she flashes Sephilia a smile. "You're incredibly helpful, Sephy. Thanks a lot."

DG: Talise Gianfair has contributed a Wits Basic Action toward her party's challenge, So That's Why it's Called a Labyrinth.
<Pose Tracker> Rosaline Calice has posed.

Rosaline hums in dismay when the undead creature proves more resilient against her spell than she expects. Luckily, the rest of the team has things in hand, and Chauncey even prevents her from being turned into a Rosaline sandwich!

"Oh, good thinking," say tells Ida, when she starts laying down a trail of crumbs.

Her nostrils flare, quietly, and she doesn't immediately comment, remaining quiet as the group figures out further ways to navigate. Only a few minutes later does she first remark that a particular direction 'smells like chocolate'. She makes the same observation again a few times besides, but otherwise stays out of the way.

DG: Rosaline Calice has contributed a Wits Basic Action toward her party's challenge, So That's Why it's Called a Labyrinth.
<Pose Tracker> Layna Manydays has posed.

Layna follows along behind the others, arms folded in front of her with a frown. She seems to be focusing very hard on something, moreso than Layna usually does...though she does interrupt it to offer Sephilia a bright grin as she talks about the advice her father's given her.

Eventually, and after more silence on her part...

Layna lets out a frustrated groan, removes her hat for a moment, and runs a hand through her hair.

"So, I've been tryin' to use some magic to monitor the airflow, aye? See if we're goin' the right way...but there's nothin'. Not enough for me to notice, at least." She mutters. "Ah...damn it, I'm gonna double-down. Can't let this place beat me, aye?"

With that, Layna begins to focus harder, her lips moving subtly as she incants yet more spells.

DG: Layna Manydays has contributed a Wits Basic Action toward her party's challenge, So That's Why it's Called a Labyrinth.
=============<* CHALLENGE - So That's Why it's Called a Labyrinth *>==============
|Type: Exploration |Dungeon Ability: Wits      |Challenge Rating: 3          | 
----------------------------< Challenge Information: >----------------------------
 This section of the Decaying Labyrinth is proving extremely difficult to      
 map, with stairs and ramps forming a maze that is subtly three-dimensional,   
 which some of the tunnels looping over or under others. Sometimes it's hard   
 to tell that you're ascending or descending at all, and you're pretty sure    
 some of the paths are taking you right back the way you came. Other times     
 you can take a short cut by jumping down a convenient hole... but some of     
 those go backwards, so it might not be the best plan. Still, you're a         
 Drifter. You can make the hard decisions.                                     
=Dungeon Conditions: Bad Luck=================================================
============<* CHALLENGE - So That's Why it's Called a Labyrinth *>=============
|Type: Exploration |Dungeon Ability: Wits      |Challenge Rating: 3          | 
---------------------------< Challenge Information: >---------------------------
 This section of the Decaying Labyrinth is proving extremely difficult to      
 map, with stairs and ramps forming a maze that is subtly three-dimensional,   
 which some of the tunnels looping over or under others. Sometimes it's hard   
 to tell that you're ascending or descending at all, and you're pretty sure    
 some of the paths are taking you right back the way you came. Other times     
 you can take a short cut by jumping down a convenient hole... but some of     
 those go backwards, so it might not be the best plan. Still, you're a         
 Drifter. You can make the hard decisions.                                     
=Dungeon Conditions: Bad Luck=================================================
DG: The party led by Talise Gianfair 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> Mariel has posed.
DG: Talise Gianfair has drawn a new Challenge.
=======================<* CHALLENGE - A Treacherous Path *>=======================
|Type: Exploration |Dungeon Ability: Agility   |Challenge Rating: 1          | 
----------------------------< Challenge Information: >----------------------------
 The large room you find yourself in looks fine, at a first glance - except    
 the stone underfoot is even more cracked and broken than usual. In truth,     
 it's a thin layer of bricks and mortar over a rather deep pit - probably a    
 basement underneath, now ruined. You can get across it by staying to the      
 safe zones, but you're really going to want to take your time instead of      
 rushing to your doom.                                                         
=Dungeon Conditions: Hesitate=================================================
<Pose Tracker> Ida Everstead-Rey has posed.

Ida turns to Rosaline the first time she notes the smell of chocolate. "You can smell it?" she says, a note of surprise in her voice. Not unpleasant surprise--the opposite, in fact!

Unfortunately, everyone has grossly underestimated just how big this place is, and how far one can go without running across marks one has left. Layna's idea would be a extremely useful if this place had meaningful airflow--as it is, the air is stagnant, as if it, too, were dead. At some point in the past, someone had the exact same idea Talise did, and things only get more unpleasant when the crew stumbles across not just a 'WE WENT THIS WAY --->' sign, but a pile of skeletal remains strewn across the corridor. Something has gnawed on them, and Ida stops to examine them for a moment... and to shove down the nagging, terrifying suspicion that they're being watched. Sephy's father's notes prove useful, at least, even if the biscuit breadcrumbs don't pan out in execution.

Eventually, the team finds a path leading out of the maze. But does it lead into more danger?

<Pose Tracker> Talise Gianfair has posed.

"It really does smell chocolatey," says Talise Gianfair, master of the olfactory sense. Mostly what she smells is her chalk.

Eventually finding their way out of the labyrinth, the group finds themselves in a long room with a masonry floor. Leading the bunch forward, Talise puts her foot down.

She pulls it back right away and holds her arms out. "Don't don't DON'T!" she shouts.

A second later, the brick she stood on crumbles away. It plunges into a vast, dark chasm gaping beneath the masonry. A few more crumbling chunks of mortar follow it into the abyss.

Grimacing, Talise steps back towards the doorway. "It's probably all like that," she mutters as she squints across the room, trying to get a better sense of how much of the brickwork seems sound - in fact, most of it does not, save for a few safe patches. "...I think if we're careful and don't all go at once, we can make it," she says anxiously, reaching into her coat.

She cringes as she comes out with... a coil of rope.

"This is gonna end with me falling off the fuggin' rope really, really hilariously, I bet," Talise deadpans as she affixes the rope to a stone protrusion on the wall and ties the other end around her waist, beginning to tiptoe across the safe zones as delicately as she can.

DG: Talise Gianfair has contributed a Agility Basic Action toward her party's challenge, A Treacherous Path.
<Pose Tracker> Sephilia Lampbright has posed.

Sephy grumbles and carefully picks her way along. Slowly and carefully. She knows how this ends if she doesn't and doesn't want to have to get rescued as usual.

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

"It's very faint," Rosaline tells Ida, looking as if she had just revealed something a bit embarassing. "But it's a very noticeable smell."

She meanwhile looks quietly impressed by Layna's attempt to sense the air flow. It didn't amount to much in the end, but it's still something Rosaline can't do either, with her normal or spiritual senses.

She shudders at the sight of a skeleton that, apparently, went that way.

But they find a way out, even if it wasn't the one they were necessarily looking for. She tenses up as the floor gives way just where Talise's foot used to be a moment ago, then nods, worried.

"One at a time, yes... I can, um... I can go last, or right after you, whichever is most convenient for people..." She can probably handle a little unstable floor, to be quite honest. It's the rest of the group she's worried about!

DG: Rosaline Calice has contributed a Agility Basic Action toward her party's challenge, A Treacherous Path.
<Pose Tracker> Ida Everstead-Rey has posed.

Ida stops in her tracks, her head snapping up. A brick tumbles down into the darkness, and it would've taken Talise with it if she hadn't noticed in time. Ida presses a gauntleted hand to her chest, and breathes. Once her nerves have calmed sufficiently, she inches into the corner of the doorframe, raises her right arm, and takes a moment to gauge the distance. The ceiling looks fairly stable, at least, and that is where Ida chooses to plant her hook. She pulls some sort of mechanism out of the side of the gauntlet, and twists it so it's clenched between her fingers like a sideways pistol-grip. She pulls the trigger.

There's a solid bang as a gunsmoke charge goes off. Something halfway between a bullet and a grappling hook goes flying out of the barrel on the bracer, and embeds itself firmly in a crevice between the stones. Ida tugs on the line to make sure it's secure, grips it, and presses the secondary trigger. The line starts reeling itself in, taking her with it.

Ida seems intent on this whole process--it's still an experimental device, and she wants to stay alert in case something fails.

DG: Ida Everstead-Rey has used her Tool Line Launcher toward her party's challenge, A Treacherous Path.
<Pose Tracker> Layna Manydays has posed.

Layna had expected that, really. She could feel it when she used her magic, attuned to wind as she was. But she was stubborn, and she had tried it anyway.

At least they were able to find some way through. Layna doesn't seem at all concerned by the corpses, but by this time the rest of the party is probably used to that from her...which might be a worrying observation in and of itself.

Eventually, they find a way out of the maze. Layna walks on ahead...but then suddenly Talise reaches out and stops them all. Layna leaps back instinctively, watching as that portion of the path simply crumbles away.

"...So it's gonna be like that, is it?" Layna mutters. She reaches into her coat, pulling out a bottle of some kind of liquid and takes a deep swig.

"If anyone else needs a drink, just holler, aye? We'll probably need it, in the future." She says. They weren't going to find anything else to drink here, after all.

And then, Layna takes a few steps backward.

She's going to do it. They've been around her long enough to know that she's probably to just try and clear the gap in a single wind-powered jump. She starts forward, and...

...Just makes use of Talise's rope and Ida's line like a normal person?

...It looks like she's taking this ruin seriously.

DG: Layna Manydays has used her Tool Quartermaster's Stash toward her party's challenge, A Treacherous Path.
=======================<* CHALLENGE - A Treacherous Path *>=======================
|Type: Exploration |Dungeon Ability: Agility   |Challenge Rating: 1          | 
----------------------------< Challenge Information: >----------------------------
 The large room you find yourself in looks fine, at a first glance - except    
 the stone underfoot is even more cracked and broken than usual. In truth,     
 it's a thin layer of bricks and mortar over a rather deep pit - probably a    
 basement underneath, now ruined. You can get across it by staying to the      
 safe zones, but you're really going to want to take your time instead of      
 rushing to your doom.                                                         
=Dungeon Conditions: Hesitate=================================================
DG: The party led by Talise Gianfair 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> Talise Gianfair has posed.

The effort of crossing the chasm involves a lot of crumbling masonry falling away into the dark chasm beneath. Every step is precarious, even in those areas supposedly safe.

Well, other than Layna, who just power-jumps across the damned thing like a boss. Talise grouses visibly at her pirate friend, sulking and crossing her arms.

As Ida opens fire with the gunsmoke charge, Talise sighs and momentarily wishes she had something like that.

---

OUTSIDE...

In Dragon's saddlebags, a hookshot sits, alone and neglected.

---

Back at the plot, the team manages to somehow shimmy and sneak their way across the crumbling brick, finding themselves soon enough in the clear at the far side, with a doorway waiting for them. Even Talise manages to cut herself loose from the rope, pausing to scoop Sephilia up in her arms and boost her way across the last few bricks before setting her tinier companion down on solid ground. "OKAY," she declares, a bit louder than necessary. "Pressing on."

DG: Rosaline Calice has drawn a new Challenge.
========================<* CHALLENGE - Phantom Hazard *>========================
|Type: Climax      |Dungeon Ability: Combat    |Challenge Rating: 3          | 
---------------------------< Challenge Information: >---------------------------
 You're at the very heart of the Decaying Labyrinth, in a huge, empty room.    
 There are no decorations. There are no creatures. The air feels oppressively  
 still and stale, as if it hadn't moved in centuries. There is literally       
 nothing but a great sealed chest that seems to be the source of the aura of   
 decay.                                                                        
                                                                               
 It looks like the chest should be impossible to open, but on investigation,   
 part of the seal that decorates the chest is chipped; it's unclear if it's    
 faded and worn with time, or if something has intentionally broken it.        
                                                                               
 Either way, the stench of death begins to seep from the cracked chest, a      
 black mist forming into a human shape - the Ring Keeper, a cursed spirit of   
 death and decay. A hulking humanoid with long arms, it strikes with mighty    
 swings and geysers formed of the power of Hell itself!                        
=Dungeon Conditions: Suffer===================================================
<Pose Tracker> Rosaline Calice has posed.

Despite a few hair-raising close calls, Rosaline makes it past the treacherous ground with the rest of the group. Phew! She even extends a hand to Sephilia when it seems she's about to slip.

But soon, the group makes it way to a room heavy with importance. Its sheer size and circular shape is enough to give pause even to those with little spiritual attunement. Rosaline, however, spells it out.

"I think... I think that chest is the source of it. Whatever is in there is terrible. Be on your guard, everyone!"

And before they can formulate much of a strategy, the chest bursts open, exhaling a gust of foul, stale wind and black mist! A figure rises out of the smoke right in the middle of the group, swinging a massive arm towards its members!

With a hiss of her own, Rosaline narrowly avoids having her head pulverized, and scampers to relative safety, as more of that unholy miasma bursts out of the ground all around her.

"Is this... Valmar's power?" This might not be accurate, but it's been on her mind a lot lately. Nevertheless, she concentrates on her holy water.

"HYDRO STORM!" And soon the rising tide of darkness is stemmed, ever-so-slightly. But will it be enough to protect Rosaline and her friends?

DG: Rosaline Calice has used her Tool Holy Water toward her party's challenge, Phantom Hazard.
<Pose Tracker> Talise Gianfair has posed.

The press on - and find something horrifying.

As that accursed spirit manifests itself, Talise widens her eyes - though in truth she's less surprised than she is struck by how familiar it seems. In the back of her mind she can see her younger self, with a plain sword in hand, fighting a monstrous guardian standing between herself and a treasure.

"Then something in the chest must be incredible," she murmurs, eyes bright and eager.

Her left hand reaches back - touches Rastaban for a moment. She wets her lips and falls back, then, pumping a few more clips into her shotgun as she realizes that the dreadful spirit has range on her. "Watch out for its reach!" she calls to her friends before blasting away, pumping the shotgun Ida's family sold to her and disgorging rounds in a storm of ringing buckshot bursts. How effective it is is anyone's guess, but it makes her feel a bit better.

Setting her jaw, Talise fires off her last round, then draws Rastaban again. The blade glints intensely as the swordswoman hurtles forward. Light seems to dance across its edge in a subtle reflection as she swings in, slicing, attempting to blow through one of those grasping limbs. Hellfire streams around her; her mailshirt rapidly grows hot, flames lapping at her face and arms.

She perseveres, growling and launching into a series of lightning-fast blows. Rastaban's blade practically sings as it cleaves through hellfire itself.

DG: Talise Gianfair has used her Tool Trench Sweeper Shotgun toward her party's challenge, Phantom Hazard.
<Pose Tracker> Layna Manydays has posed.

Layna also tries to reach for Sephilia, but Rosaline and especially Talise, who simply scoops her up, got there before her. And press on they do...but it seems there isn't much pressing on left. The chamber they find next looks very different than the rest of the rooms before them. It's huge, and yet...empty.

Empty save for a sealed treasure chest, radiating with a foul power that Layna can sense. It's enough to cause her to take a step back from it...but then Rosaline shouts for them to be on guard.

At that moment, a terrible figure with long arms emerges.

"...I dunno about 'Valmar' or whatever, but whatever it is, this thing needs to die." Layna says resolutely. She points at it and recites an incantation. Deadly blades of wind sweep out to slice at the Ring Keeper like a cutlass before Layna charges forward...

...And then, with a gust of wind, slides to the creature's side, her bladed gauntlets drawn as she launches a flurry of strikes at the creature's other arm, the one Talise hadn't attacked.

DG: Layna Manydays has contributed a Combat Basic Action toward her party's challenge, Phantom Hazard.
<Pose Tracker> Ida Everstead-Rey has posed.

Once she's on the other side, Ida slides part of the gauntlet forwards and presses down. A blade cuts through the rope in a single motion, leaving about ten or so feet attached to the grapple embedded in the ceiling. She takes a moment to steady herself--everything's fine, Sephilia is fine--she follows. The air gets thick, dense, stagnant--and considering how stagnant and lifeless the rest of the ruin is, that's saying something.

"It's not Malevolence," Ida whispers. "And it shouldn't be." Not unless it somehow seeped in here from outside. Given the rumors she's been hearing since she got off the train, she has... suspicions about activity in the nearby settlements. She steps back into a fighting stance, fists clenched.

The horror appears. Ida's lips peel back from her teeth. She feels the pulse of her own life force inside her, burning brightly--a bulwark against the erosive force outside. The massive limb sweeps at her, but Ida's already ducking; black flames crackle up around her feet as she darts in closer. Chi flows out of her, invisibly, leaving behind a sharp, cold pain like frostbite. Unfortunately for the monster, she has plenty more left.

Ida draws back a fist, arcs of golden light igniting around it. Before, that used to take incredible focus--now, it just sort of happens. Her whole body aligns behind a single punch, a low strike to the creature's gut reinforced with her own life-essence.

DG: Ida Everstead-Rey has contributed a Combat Basic Action toward her party's challenge, Phantom Hazard.
=========================<* CHALLENGE - Phantom Hazard *>=========================
|Type: Climax      |Dungeon Ability: Combat    |Challenge Rating: 3          | 
----------------------------< Challenge Information: >----------------------------
 You're at the very heart of the Decaying Labyrinth, in a huge, empty room.    
 There are no decorations. There are no creatures. The air feels oppressively  
 still and stale, as if it hadn't moved in centuries. There is literally       
 nothing but a great sealed chest that seems to be the source of the aura of   
 decay.                                                                        
                                                                               
 It looks like the chest should be impossible to open, but on investigation,   
 part of the seal that decorates the chest is chipped; it's unclear if it's    
 faded and worn with time, or if something has intentionally broken it.        
                                                                               
 Either way, the stench of death begins to seep from the cracked chest, a      
 black mist forming into a human shape - the Ring Keeper, a cursed spirit of   
 death and decay. A hulking humanoid with long arms, it strikes with mighty    
 swings and geysers formed of the power of Hell itself!                        
=Dungeon Conditions: Suffer===================================================
<Pose Tracker> Sephilia Lampbright has posed.

Sephilia is as always glad that her friends are at least quick enough to save her bacon when she herself is not. And soon enough, her opportunity to pay them back! "Chauncey, we're going to need to get real serious here," she says, and the pair launch into their usual shenanigans with unusual vigor!

DG: Sephilia Lampbright has contributed a Combat Basic Action toward her party's challenge, Phantom Hazard.
========================<* CHALLENGE - Phantom Hazard *>========================
|Type: Climax      |Dungeon Ability: Combat    |Challenge Rating: 3          | 
---------------------------< Challenge Information: >---------------------------
 You're at the very heart of the Decaying Labyrinth, in a huge, empty room.    
 There are no decorations. There are no creatures. The air feels oppressively  
 still and stale, as if it hadn't moved in centuries. There is literally       
 nothing but a great sealed chest that seems to be the source of the aura of   
 decay.                                                                        
                                                                               
 It looks like the chest should be impossible to open, but on investigation,   
 part of the seal that decorates the chest is chipped; it's unclear if it's    
 faded and worn with time, or if something has intentionally broken it.        
                                                                               
 Either way, the stench of death begins to seep from the cracked chest, a      
 black mist forming into a human shape - the Ring Keeper, a cursed spirit of   
 death and decay. A hulking humanoid with long arms, it strikes with mighty    
 swings and geysers formed of the power of Hell itself!                        
=Dungeon Conditions: Suffer===================================================
DG: The party led by Talise Gianfair 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.
DG: Ida Everstead-Rey has drawn a new Challenge.
=======================<* CHALLENGE - The Great Escape *>=======================
|Type: Final       |Dungeon Ability: Wits      |Challenge Rating: 4          | 
---------------------------< Challenge Information: >---------------------------
 With the Ring Keeper defeated, it seems like it should be easy to take the    
 only object in the chest out: a ring that glitters improbably despite being   
 jet black, so dark it seems to eat the light that falls on it. As soon as     
 anyone in the party touches it, though, they find that's not all it absorbs;  
 it eats away at the surrounding dirt and rock, causing small showers of dust  
 to fall from the ruin, and even life itself.                                  
                                                                               
 This is the Corpse Ring. While your party carries it, it makes you feel       
 vaguely ill and nauseous, intensifying if you're actually hurt after you      
 pick it up. Nothing can heal you, and even minor damage will render you       
 unable to do much.                                                            
                                                                               
 The cursed ring can be destroyed by sunlight. But for that, you need to       
 actually get it out first... which means retracing your steps while it feeds  
 on the life force of everything and everyone nearby, and quickly. You'll      
 have to avoid the monsters while retracing your steps; it'll take guile to    
 plot a course that will keep you safe enough to escape, but you've seen       
 enough shortcuts to find your way out safely... hopefully.                    
                                                                               
 (OOC: If you fail from this point on, you had to release the Corpse Ring and  
 escape without it. Doing that makes the Corpse Ring turn into foul-smelling   
 smoke as soon as you put it down, roiling back toward the chest in the        
 center of the Decaying Labyrinth. Whoever tries next will have to start from  
 square one.)                                                                  
=Dungeon Conditions: Exhaust, Wound, Maim, Bad Luck===========================
<Pose Tracker> Rosaline Calice has posed.

The Ring Keeper takes buckshot and wind blades without so much as a scratch. With an unnatural, deep rumbling, it swings its powerful, enormous fists towards the women. Chauncey flies in from the front, letting Talie and Layna perform an impromptu team-up maneuver, both managing with great effort to cut into its rock-hard hide.

Black blood seeps out, and the Keeper roars in pain. More of that pitch-black hellfire spews out every which way, threatening to sear and curse whoever brushes against it. Luckily, Rosaline's rain makes it hard for the terrible power to set in.

Finally, Ida moves in for a single, perfect punch fueled by her very essence. "Yes!" Rosaline calls out, perhaps surprisingly. There is a sharp crack of bone as literal cracks form in the hellish creature's gut. It staggers backwards, stumble back, connects with the ground and...

Dissipates into black smoke.

The prize awaits.

<Pose Tracker> Sephilia Lampbright has posed.

Sephilia, thankfully, has been taking notes and drawing a map! "Dad taught me never to not have a map you can follow back out," she explains. "Sort of. Because he wasn't any good at it." This is the first time Sephilia has ever admitted that her Dad might be less than perfect! "But--he taught me how to do it right! So that counts."

<Pose Tracker> Ida Everstead-Rey has posed.

Ida takes a breath, and rubs her hand as the Keeper dissolves. "Stay back," she whispers, holding up a hand--and she tucks her fingers beneath the chest's lid, opening it oh-so-gently. There is nothing inside but a circle of perfect blackness, small enough to fit on someone's finger. It's sitting in a little spot of shadow, even though Rosaline's light is shining right on it.

This is the source of the foulness in the earth. They need to get it out of here.

Ida reaches into the chest. Her gauntleted fingers close around the ring, and as soon as they do, her face contorts--her eyes close tightly, and her lips twist apart. It feels like something just tried to snuff out the fire of her life-force. She does not let go of the ring, and forces herself to hold it tighter. Eventually, the feeling dies down to a sort of dull nausea, but that's because it's spread to everyone else. "Be careful," Ida says. "We need to leave, but with this in tow..." They can't afford to fight. They can't afford any mistakes. Ida thinks a moment, decides oh, why not, and offers the crew one last round of biscuits.

"For luck," she says. "And to keep our energy up." As if biscuits could help, with this horrid, cursed thing draining their lifeforce.

Ida retraces her steps. The labyrinth is going to be especially problematic, but Sephy has a map, and Rosaline and Layna are alert. If something happens to her, Talise can take the ring.

If something happens to her...

As the crew crosses over the pit, the anxious thoughts start creeping in. You shouldn't be carrying that. Give it to Talise. Watch your step. Pay attention.

If something happens to her...

DG: Ida Everstead-Rey has used her Tool Chocolate Biscuits toward her party's challenge, The Great Escape.
<Pose Tracker> Sephilia Lampbright has posed.

Sephilia, thankfully, has been taking notes and drawing a map! "Dad taught me never to not have a map you can follow back out," she explains. "Sort of. Because he wasn't any good at it." This is the first time Sephilia has ever admitted that her Dad might be less than perfect! "But--he taught me how to do it right! So that counts." She isn't feeling well, but she's trying to keep her spirits high, that must be it!

DG: Sephilia Lampbright has used her Tool Dad's Journal toward her party's challenge, The Great Escape.
<Pose Tracker> Talise Gianfair has posed.

"You've got nothin'," Talise shouts to what's left of the Ring Keeper, before coughing up a large puff of smoke. "Ow."

As Ida takes the ring, Talise presses her lips together, looking down at her stomach. "I don't feel that great," she murmurs, but she takes one of the biscuits anyway and nibbles it down.

It doesn't help.

It's a struggle to force down that nauseous, sickening feeling. Talise's stomach churns like a whirlpool, her muscles seem somehow inadequate to the task of moving her across the pit. It's a ginger, perilous process; she has to stop to regroup a couple of times before continuing on.

Damn it all, what kind of hero am I, she chides herself mentally as she moves to walk beside Ida, her sword in one hand and her gun in the other. I have to be bigger than this horrible feeling. Ida, Sephy, Ros' and Layna... they're all counting on me.

I have to be bigger than this.

Talise steels herself. It takes a lot of effort. She does at least contribute one thing: Shouldering Rastaban after awhile, she reaches into her inventory and instead pulls out a shockingly tall slab of metal.

It's the tower shield she stole from Amon Rau months ago, and she uses it to keep incidental critters from whacking Ida.

DG: Talise Gianfair has contributed a Wits Basic Action toward her party's challenge, The Great Escape.
<Pose Tracker> Rosaline Calice has posed.

Rosaline's holy rain dies down, just as she feels that weakness seep into her. "Ida, are you okay...?" she finds herself asking, even as things get worse for herself and the rest of the group.

She quickly finds out that her spells are no use in getting everyone on their feet. That ring's power is stronger than her, much stronger.

Ida explains the plan, or the closest thing they have, and provides treats. It's the intention that counts.

"O-Okay," she says, even quieter than usual. Her eyes dart about as they make their way out of the dungeon. She doesn't let go of her Crests for a single second, ready to cast a shield spell at a moment's notice. This is about all she can do, she feels.

DG: Rosaline Calice has contributed a Wits Basic Action toward her party's challenge, The Great Escape.
<Pose Tracker> Layna Manydays has posed.

A wide grin sweeps over Layna's face as the creature crumbles into black smoke. She grins and straightens up, returning her gauntlets to their usual position. She then glances to the side, where Ida has gone to examine the contents of the chest. When Ida grabs onto that ring, and that terrible sensation spreads...Layna stumbles backwards, her eyes growing wide as she feels as if the very strength has been sapped from her body.

What in Althena's name was going on...? One arm wraps around herself and she shuts her eyes tight.

She has to focus. Stay strong.

"...Alright. Guess this is the treasure we came here for. Let's get outta here, aye?" Layna comments, her usual wide grin spreading across her face. It's not easy to maintain it...but she has to stay strong.

She accepts a biscuit from Ida and takes a bite.

She immediately feels like she shouldn't have...but forces it down anyway, reaching into her coat for another swig of alcohol.

She follows along behind the others, keeping an eye on everyone as they move. She can feel it.

They're weakened.

Vulnerable.

The creatures of this decaying labyrinth might very well take this opportunity to try and prey on them. If they're attacked now...

...No. She couldn't think like that. She'd do what she had to do. She had a responsibility to these people. To her, they might as well be part of her crew. And she would never abandon one of her crewmates, or leave them to die in a place like this.

Very carefully she reaches for her telescope, drawing it from her belt. In this place, it wouldn't be incredibly useful...but it might allow them to spot a shortcut they hadn't noticed before, a trap just underfoot...or a monster lying in wait.

"Keep strong, me hearties. I'm here for you, aye?" She says. She sounds as confident as ever, but...

========================<* CHALLENGE - The Great Escape *>========================
|Type: Final       |Dungeon Ability: Wits      |Challenge Rating: 4          | 
----------------------------< Challenge Information: >----------------------------
 With the Ring Keeper defeated, it seems like it should be easy to take the    
 only object in the chest out: a ring that glitters improbably despite being   
 jet black, so dark it seems to eat the light that falls on it. As soon as     
 anyone in the party touches it, though, they find that's not all it absorbs;  
 it eats away at the surrounding dirt and rock, causing small showers of dust  
 to fall from the ruin, and even life itself.                                  
                                                                               
 This is the Corpse Ring. While your party carries it, it makes you feel       
 vaguely ill and nauseous, intensifying if you're actually hurt after you      
 pick it up. Nothing can heal you, and even minor damage will render you       
 unable to do much.                                                            
                                                                               
 The cursed ring can be destroyed by sunlight. But for that, you need to       
 actually get it out first... which means retracing your steps while it feeds  
 on the life force of everything and everyone nearby, and quickly. You'll      
 have to avoid the monsters while retracing your steps; it'll take guile to    
 plot a course that will keep you safe enough to escape, but you've seen       
 enough shortcuts to find your way out safely... hopefully.                    
                                                                               
 (OOC: If you fail from this point on, you had to release the Corpse Ring and  
 escape without it. Doing that makes the Corpse Ring turn into foul-smelling   
 smoke as soon as you put it down, roiling back toward the chest in the        
 center of the Decaying Labyrinth. Whoever tries next will have to start from  
 square one.)                                                                  
=Dungeon Conditions: Exhaust, Wound, Maim, Bad Luck===========================
DG: Layna Manydays has used her Tool Captain's Telescope toward her party's challenge, The Great Escape.
=======================<* CHALLENGE - The Great Escape *>=======================
|Type: Final       |Dungeon Ability: Wits      |Challenge Rating: 4          | 
---------------------------< Challenge Information: >---------------------------
 With the Ring Keeper defeated, it seems like it should be easy to take the    
 only object in the chest out: a ring that glitters improbably despite being   
 jet black, so dark it seems to eat the light that falls on it. As soon as     
 anyone in the party touches it, though, they find that's not all it absorbs;  
 it eats away at the surrounding dirt and rock, causing small showers of dust  
 to fall from the ruin, and even life itself.                                  
                                                                               
 This is the Corpse Ring. While your party carries it, it makes you feel       
 vaguely ill and nauseous, intensifying if you're actually hurt after you      
 pick it up. Nothing can heal you, and even minor damage will render you       
 unable to do much.                                                            
                                                                               
 The cursed ring can be destroyed by sunlight. But for that, you need to       
 actually get it out first... which means retracing your steps while it feeds  
 on the life force of everything and everyone nearby, and quickly. You'll      
 have to avoid the monsters while retracing your steps; it'll take guile to    
 plot a course that will keep you safe enough to escape, but you've seen       
 enough shortcuts to find your way out safely... hopefully.                    
                                                                               
 (OOC: If you fail from this point on, you had to release the Corpse Ring and  
 escape without it. Doing that makes the Corpse Ring turn into foul-smelling   
 smoke as soon as you put it down, roiling back toward the chest in the        
 center of the Decaying Labyrinth. Whoever tries next will have to start from  
 square one.)                                                                  
=Dungeon Conditions: Exhaust, Wound, Maim, Bad Luck===========================
DG: You have overcome the dungeon's trials! This run is a success!
DG: The party led by Talise Gianfair has successfully explored The Decaying Labyrinth!
=======================<* CHALLENGE - A Day in the Sun *>=======================
|Type: Discovery   |Dungeon Ability: Conclusion|Challenge Rating: 1          | 
---------------------------< Challenge Information: >---------------------------
 You've escaped - and with the Corpse Ring!                                    
                                                                               
 As soon as the Corpse Ring is touched by the sun, it begins to smoke,         
 sublimating into nothing but a foul mist. It starts to move toward the        
 Decaying Labyrinth like something alive, but it fades and disperses in the    
 sunlight before blowing away on the wind. Something seems subtly different    
 about the Decaying Labyrinth; the corruption that filled it is fading.        
                                                                               
 While you didn't bring any reward out from the ruin, you now have access to   
 the statue of Duras Drum to defend or attack as you see fit. With the         
 destruction of the Corpse Ring, it has appeared in the entranceway as if it   
 had always been there, looking far more pristine and untouched by age than    
 anything else in the ruin.                                                    
                                                                               
 The destruction of the Corpse Ring has also begun the process of purifying    
 the soil near the Decaying Labyrinth, and you may wish to tell Mariel.        
                                                                               
 (OOC: Whether or not you contact her ICly, you should let Mariel know about   
 your success by @mail.)                                                       
=Dungeon Conditions: Treasure=================================================
<Pose Tracker> Ida Everstead-Rey has posed.

Idiot girl. Are you trying to prove something? Is that why you're doing this?

The team picks its way back across the pit. Ida's able to tie Talise's rope to the grappling piton she left in the ceiling, allowing everyone something to hang onto while they traverse the gap. About halfway across, Sephilia's foot slips, and it's only a last-second save by Chauncey that keeps her from falling. As the team regroups on the other side, Ida makes the mistake of looking down, and has to gag down what's left of the biscuit that she just ate.

Are you going to be sick? At least have the decency to vomit into the pit, selfish girl.

Ida does not vomit. She keeps going.

Between the map, the telescope, and five pairs of perceptive eyes, the team manages to retrace their steps through the maze. Ida finds herself hearing things--everything could be the rattling of bones, or the scuttling of small, venomous creatures. And that's not all--she suddenly turns a corner, and hears the telltale rumble of crumbling masonry. "MOVE!" Ida screams. She throws herself to the side as part of the ceiling suddenly gives way beneath the entropic power of the Corpse Ring. A block of solid stone falls from above, blocking off the corridor--and separating Ida and Talise from the rest of the group. "We're all right!" Ida screams.

No you're not, idiot girl. Let go of that ring. This dig is a wash. Let go before you get someone killed.

They are not all right. There's a sound like a boiling kettle, going off entirely too close to where Ida and Talise are picking themselves up. Talise, quite predictably, throws herself in front of the gout of steam, shield-first. Ida's eyes go wide in terror. She runs.

The labyrinth is even worse alone. Ida foregoes stealth entirely, skating along on a razor's-edge of adrenaline; her chest starts to constrict, and the walls start closing in.

The Trial Knight was right. You're going to die here, alone, because you're a petulent, spoiled, stubborn child who doesn't know when she's outmatched. What are you trying to prove? You didn't even bother to look back--

Ida looks down, and sees a fragment of a biscuit lying in the dust. She looks ahead, and sees another--and a 'WE WENT THIS WAY --->' sign. She sets her jaw, even as tears cloud her eyes. She follows the path, and fifty paces later, she's back at the entrance, with the gates. Ida feels about as bad as she did after she went a round with Lady Harken. She can feel the ring's power sapping away at her life-force, which is growing fainter with every second. And yet, the door is right there, she can make it--

Time seems to stretch. Seconds lengthen into an eternity. Ida walks out of the labyrinth, and the sun hits her bloodless face. It's setting, now--and as she opens her hand, tendrils of inky black smoke coil up from her hand. The horrible, sickening sensation vanishes as suddenly as it appeared. Ida's chi flares to vibrant life again. As the Corpse Ring dissolves, something... appears, as though an illusion was just broken. It's a great statue, ensconced in an altar of basalt and glass and steel--a figure halfway between a stag beetle and an armored man.

Ida looks back into the ruin. Her stomach immediately begins tying itself in knots. The others--?

<Pose Tracker> Talise Gianfair has posed.

Talise spends a lot more time hiding behind a shield than she's really used to.

She has to struggle to keep from throwing up. Monsters slam into the shield. A scissor blade punches through it. Masonry bounces off of it. The iron wall seems barely able to hold on. The stone falls down; cloud and dust separate herself and Ida from the others.

She can't go back. An undead reptile is gurgling.

Talise throws herself into the path of the steam. A shield can only do so much. "IDA," she shouts, her voice hoarse and sick as she leans on the shield in the hopes of keeping herself standing.

It's all she can do. The last Ida sees of her is the swordswoman's broad back wreathed in steam.

And those little chalk signs on the walls.

A lonely naturalist steps out into the sunlight to gaze upon the jagged shards of victory. When she looks back, she finds herself alone.



Several minutes pass. They are cold, empty minutes.



Only after a horrible, long, empty moment will Ida hear it. A distant sound, seeming to come from a little below her and not far away. A very faint, muffled bang.

A few seconds later, the sound comes through again. It's a bit louder and clearer this time. Then it comes again, after a break of several seconds. The trained ears of a young woman from a family of armsmiths can make out what the sound is after the next couple of times it goes off.

An Everstead-Rey Model 492 being fired repeatedly.

A sudden burst of stony shrapnel and broken bones erupts from the cave mouth, followed by a belch of dust and smoke. As the plumes of it clear, a battered and bloodied Talise whirls, her shotgun in hand. "COME ON!" she shouts back into the dungeon as she opens fire; steam gouts around her, but soon enough a reptilian monstrosity goes down with a gory splatter as the tall swordswoman blasts away at what menaces managed to pursue her this far.

It's not for her own sake. She's providing covering fire for others. She'll stand in the entryway and blast away anything that dares trouble those party members coming after her.

As she loads her shotgun up again, she looks back towards Ida. Rough shape or not, her smile's steady and full of pride.

You did it, the expression says.

<Pose Tracker> Layna Manydays has posed.

'MOVE!'

At Ida's call Layna grabs Rosaline and Sephilia and pulls them back, right as the ceiling collapses. That was close...if she had been even a second later, they might've...

...No. She couldn't think about that.

"We're fine, don't worry! Go on without us. We'll figure somethin' out, aye?" Layna calls back to Talise and Ida, who stand beyond the rubble.

And then, Layna offers Sephilia and Rosaline that confident grin, the one she always wears. Though worn and tired and struck through by a foul curse....that grin is the best thing she can offer them.

"Let's go." Layna turns away from the pile of rubble, starting down another path...and as she does so, her lips move, and she pulls her hat down to conceal her eyes. Her body glows with a green light, and winds form and swirl around her. She takes point, marching forward through the ruin.

There's something different about the way she moves. Her ususal confidence is there, but there's something...else, there beneath the surface. She's tense, ready to react, as opposed to the loose, relaxed stance Layna usually held, even during what was supposed to be a life-threatening battle. And her eyes don't carry any of her usual kindness...

Though she tries to avoid any encounters on the way out, the commotion has attracted some attention. She falls upon anything that looks upon them threatening, laying into them in a quick and brutal, rather than her usual method of taking time to enjoy the fight.

In much this way, Layna's group - however many of them manage to stick with her without getting separated again - can eventually seen sunlight ahead of them...accompanied by the sounds of gunfire.

Layna extends her hand, and a great tornado sweeps out, pushing everything ahead of her into the sun, where it will disintegrate just like the ring did.

And then, shortly after the tornado, Layna steps out. She looks up at Talise and Ida, offering them a grin...before the green aura finally fades and Layna falls face forward, as if it was what kept her going the whole time.

She lies still for a moment...before turning herself over, looking up at the sky, and beginning to laugh.

She doesn't stop for a while, or at least until someone manages to get her attention, and it might be just a little disturbing.

<Pose Tracker> Rosaline Calice has posed.

Rosaline is quick to magically protect her friends, but the ceiling's collapse is one thing she didn't count on. Layna is quicker that the rest of them, pulling both her and Sephilia to safety.

The group is split up. Rather than thanks, a wailing sound escapes from Rosaline's throat. "Ida! Talise!" Tears flow in earnest. This is too much.

But they have no choice but to go on. She can't let Sephilia down. And soon... "This passage smells like chocolate," she remarks, slowly.

Hope. The guidance of a Layna different from the one they usually see. After some time, relief as the curse is lifted from them. Someone made it. They find their way back to Talise, and soon... the maze's exit.

Rosaline seems understandably harried and fraught when she finds the light of the sun, but her eyes light up at the sight before her. The statue hasn't quite registered yet, though it's certainly a pleasant surprise. No, the sight of Ida safe and sound is more than enough.

"I'm so glad," she tells her, tearful once again.

And after a happy reunion (and some quick, well-deserved healing spells) comes the full realization of the task before them. Perhaps the true reason for their visit. Once more, Rosaline refuses to see this as coincidence. "Praise be," she says, clasping her hands in prayer.

And soon, she's holding up her sealing rod. "Blessings of earth..."

<Pose Tracker> Sephilia Lampbright has posed.

Sephilia is pretty battered and exhausted, but in good spirits, and helps with some of the healing!

<Pose Tracker> Ida Everstead-Rey has posed.

Seconds tick past. Ida stares into the darkness, her guts tying themselves into knots. Grey Lady trots up behind her, and nudges her gently with her muzzle--but even that doesn't comfort her. For all she knows, she could be the only one to make it out of the ruin alive.

Was it worth it?

Ida cannot answer that thought.

Gunfire. Familiar gunfire. Ida snaps out of it, and steps back through the entrance. "Talise?!" Rushing winds. "Layna?!" Tears stream down her face. One by one, the other members of Fox Company stream out of the dungeon entrance, into the light.

"Thank you, God," Ida whispers. As Talise steps out, Ida throws an arm around her and hugs her, as if reassuring herself that yes, she's real. They made it.

Ida takes a few minutes to recover. Once she's recovered her wits, she goes to retrieve the Sealing Rod from Grey Lady's saddlebags, and takes up position beside Rosaline. "Blessings of Zephyr. Blessings of Life--"

A sense of stillness falls across the statue, along with an unfamiliar but undeniable aura of power. It's not like Schturdark's, or Aru Solatu's--each Guardian's is different. This one took as its Shaman someone Ida would rather not deal with, but Ida is not thinking about her right now. She's remembering the last five minutes of her escape, and how it all felt hopeless.

She's going to be thinking of that a lot.

<Pose Tracker> Talise Gianfair has posed.

Soon enough, Layna, Rosaline and Sephilia come along behind.

Talise's eyes shine. Not much for tears herself, she still has to fight a couple back as she looks back into the cave mouth, satisfied that no further corruption is about to come crawling after them all. Finally, she lets her gun barrel lower, the weapon hanging from her hand as she slouches against the rock face with a big, weary smile that has to somehow contain the totality of her emotions.

It can't possibly. She shakes her head and closes her eyes, that smile not fading in the least - though she nearly does lose her face as Ida hugs her. Throwing an arm around the other woman, she hugs her firmly for a moment. "Tch," she says, brushing a lock of hair back with her thumb and doing her best to play it cool. "Just goes to show you those dungeon critters picked the wrong friends to mess with."

Her voice breaks a little in the middle of the sentence. Ida's close enough to see the unshed tears standing in her eyes before she brushes them away.

Patting Ida on the shoulder briskly, she steps to the side, then turns with a big, satisfied smile as she watches Rosaline carry out the ritual. Nothing else needs to be said.

From hopelessness came hope. She's going to be thinking of that a lot.

<Pose Tracker> Layna Manydays has posed.

Layna doesn't have it in her to assist with the sealing. Keeping that spell up for so long...all's she can do is lay there as Sephilia heals her. But once her friend is done she forces herself to her feet, her grin this time much more genuine than before.

"Aye! That's a mistake they won't get the chance to make again. Good work, me hearties! I knew we could do it!" She says, throwing her head back for another laugh...that gets interrupted by a slight cough.

...They didn't find treasure, but they did find something of value, she supposed. A Statue...one more step on their journey to protect the world.

Seeing the Guardian, though...

It makes her think back to a certain troubled youth who was relying on their help. With a frown, Layna folds her arms in front of her pensively, though it quickly turns back to a grin.