2018-03-15: Dangerous Ground Indeed

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DG: That's not a valid party leader.
DG: Catenna has left your party.
DG: You have left Cyre H. Lorentz's party.
DG: Catenna has left your party.
DG: A party led by Cyre H. Lorentz is now entering Aifread's Hunting Ground.
DG: Party formation is now over. An Entry Challenge will now be drawn and displayed to the party.
========================<* Aifread's Hunting Ground *>========================
=======================<* CHALLENGE - Where to Begin *>=======================
|Type: Entry       |Dungeon Ability: Wits      |Challenge Rating: 2          | 
--------------------------< Challenge Information: >--------------------------
 Everyone who comes to hunt at Aifread's Hunting Ground knows to turn to the   
 authority. You open your inventory, and pull out the book in question...      
                                                                               
 	***                                                                          
                                                                               
 Welcome to Aifread's Hunting Ground!                                          
                                                                               
 An expansive, rolling plain stretches out before you. Rocky cliffs,           
 treacherous plateaus, and not-so-distant mountains make these lands more of   
 a maze than one might expect. Knowing that dangerous, but profitable          
 monsters are here to hunt, though... that might make one eager to get on      
 with it. However, blindly charging into the hunting grounds is not            
 recommended! One might get lost.                                              
                                                                               
 Or make too much noise and frighten off the game. Or, worse, make noise and   
 lure things in that prey on you. Caution is recommended for the eager         
 hunter.                                                                       
                                                                               
 -- Going Hunting: A Traveler's Guide to Aifread's Hunting Ground,             
 Frontmatter                                                                   
=Dungeon Conditions: Reckless, Tire===========================================
<Pose Tracker> Cyre H. Lorentz has posed.

...Is what the guidebook says.

Cyre is seated at a campfire situated atop a bluff and overlooking a vast, lush plain. In the distance far below, enormous creatures straight out of storybooks about things that once were stride long and proud across the rolling prairie. Cyre sets the book down for his companions to take a gander for themselves. "So according to this," he says, "We should probably be careful about where we situate ourselves. To make sure we don't get lost, or eaten."

"That first one isn't too much of a concern seeing as I can, you know, fly. But--" Cyre gestures over at where something that resembles an enormous, bipedal crocodile is munching at relatively smaller (still huge) cassowary-looking things. "I can't do that if I get eaten. So let's make sure we have everything we need, okay?"

But why is he even here?

That's simple...!

Cyre... has come to hunt...!

Sure, the promise of treasure is enticing too, but as a man of Wehaca, he can't help but feel the thrill of the chase once in a while. Or maybe that's because he's part cat and the urge to assert dominance over one's domain (read: the entire planet) can be kind of hard to fight sometimes. Either way, according to every guide he can find, this is one of the best places to do that!!

"Everyone got their stuff in order? We should pick out a place to start. I'm thinking here--" he jabs a finger at a point on the book-map, noticably right below them. He might intend to fly everyone down. "Anyone have any thoughts?"

DG: Cyre H. Lorentz has contributed a Wits Basic Action toward his party's challenge, Where to Begin.
<Pose Tracker> Catenna has posed.

Catenna settled on her Lunar disguise, mainly thanks to Drago and his troupe of illegal entertainers. She kept her fans and her sort-of-Jean outfit. If anyone asks, she tells them she's Salyani, since that's what a few people assumed and that's where Catenna assumes people with her complexion come from on the Moon.

Thus it's with a pair of blade-edged fans in hand that she leans over Cyre's shoulder to try and peek at that guidebook of his. "I suspect we can keep you from becoming food," she says with a slow shrug before taking a step back from him.

Something else burns by the campfire. Moments before, Catenna had set out a few sticks of her incense and muttered a prayer. The scent of it continues to hang in the air, sharp and clearing, as the disguised priestess snaps her fans closed, concentrating the bladed edges. Handling them is quite a bit different than handling her sword, but she doesn't have an option for that.

Mostly because her sword died with Berserk's bulging bicep.

"That would be a good place to start," she opines, "but only if you enjoy being bitten by snakes. That looks like a tallgrass area. Creatures like to hide there and strike unsuspectingly."

Catenna taps another part of the page. "Touch down there," she says with a nod for the catman. "It is open dirt."

DG: Catenna has used her Tool Ritual Incense toward her party's challenge, Where to Begin.
<Pose Tracker> Matilda Whitehead has posed.

Matilda -- and, by extension, Oasis Free Company -- has been moving between Volgran Forest and Aifread's Hunting Grounds pretty regularly. It's important not to exhaust either food source; on top of that, Kaguya is a vegetarian so regular foraging is also necessary if she wants to keep Kaguya equipped with diverse and exciting meals.

Today, she's here alone, rather than with the whole group, though. She stalks into the hunting grounds at very nearly a right angle from the CaraKin approach; Freischütz is not at the ready, but instead worn at her side. The weapon she presently favors is a long knife -- not the one she brought from Filgaia, but a messer-style blade that splits the difference between dagger and shortsword. She also has another, longer blade worn at her side.

She spots the CaraKin members, pausing a moment... and then decides that, honestly, she might as well. Raising a gloved hand and giving a wave, Matilda calls, "I'm surprised to see you here!"

This also draws attention to the fact that her entire aesthetic has changed to suit Lunar, with a breastplate, thigh-high greaves, and a bright green mantle. The compounder certainly looks the part she's chosen...

<Pose Tracker> Ida Everstead-Rey has posed.

    The Caravan Kinship's little group has camped near the foot of a tall shade tree. It might be a hundred years old, or even more--and it's a far healthier specimen than most of Filgaia's trees. Its leaves are just starting to bud, as spring is just around the corner.

    Something rustles through the brush at its foot, and then scuttles up the trunk. Judging from the steady tick-tick-tick of legs, it might be nothing more than a large insect making its way up to the tree's budding canopy.

    It is not.

    The little metallic spider-thing hops up onto an outstretched hand, reverting back to its original shape: a multitool, with tools poking out of its sides. The figure holding it is of average height, and kind of thin, but it's hard to make out more details, because they're wearing a long, grey riding cloak. Memories flow into their mind--ones recorded by their little scout. Memories of a strange, breathtaking valley full of wonder and horror.

    Ida can't help but feel a little giddy, even as she keeps out of sight of the others.

DG: Ida Everstead-Rey has used her Tool Loyal Demon Eye toward her party's challenge, Where to Begin.
DG: Matilda Whitehead has contributed a Wits Basic Action toward her party's challenge, Where to Begin.
<Pose Tracker> Jacqueline Barber has posed.

Jacqueline was against this hunting trip from the moment Cyre brought it up. She made that quite clear, and warned him strongly against it - pleaded, in fact.

Of course, in all likelihood that just made him all the more interested.

It was obvious that she was afraid of something, but what that was, she wouldn't elaborate.

She still came along in the end, of course - even if there was something out there that frightened her, she wasn't about to abandon her friends. She had been here before, and could act as something of a guide.

"...Be careful. There's, um...rockslides..." Jacqueline murmurs. "And...watch out for rounded footprints..."

She glances about cautiously, a hint of nervousness in her stance. ...Moreso than usual, that is.

The first thing she catches sight of is Matilda. She returns her wave with a slight smile.

"O-oh, Matilda! Hello..." Jacqueline greets.

The second thing she notices is the sound of something scuttling nearby. Jacqueline whirls toward the sound quickly.

...She doesn't see anything.

Jacqueline takes a deep breath, returning her attention to the others. She had to stay calm...

DG: Jacqueline Barber has contributed a Wits Basic Action toward her party's challenge, Where to Begin.
<Pose Tracker> Lydia Seren has posed.

Lydia is excited to find pirate treasure. That is likely why she's come, to be totally honest. She can enjoy cooking like anybody else but killing animals is kinda gross. She'd much rather collect the treasure and use it to rebuild Vane or something Or build a spaceship or something. She is completely ignorant of Jay being nervous about this place and, in fact, is completely clueless as to why she would be.

She isn't disguised at all just yet. She may still be waiting for her Lunar costume upgrade.

"Hey Tilde," Lydia says, casually as ever. "Heard you formed a merc company. How'd you get the cash to get started?" She tilts her head. "Or didja pay with gella? Still surprised they'd take different coinage. S'not like they're in it for the metals, though I guess it could depend on territory."

She shakes out her hands and lifts up Schrodinger. Schrodinger raises a paw and slaps the book-map with it.

Is it...Is it telling Cyre to start there?

She remains ignorant as to Ida's presence as well, or MYSTERIOUS FIGURE X's presence actually.

DG: Lydia Seren has used her Tool Schrodinger the Cat toward her party's challenge, Where to Begin.
==========================<* Aifread's Hunting Ground *>==========================
=========================<* CHALLENGE - Where to Begin *>=========================
|Type: Entry       |Dungeon Ability: Wits      |Challenge Rating: 2          | 
----------------------------< Challenge Information: >----------------------------
 Everyone who comes to hunt at Aifread's Hunting Ground knows to turn to the   
 authority. You open your inventory, and pull out the book in question...      
                                                                               
 	***                                                                          
                                                                               
 Welcome to Aifread's Hunting Ground!                                          
                                                                               
 An expansive, rolling plain stretches out before you. Rocky cliffs,           
 treacherous plateaus, and not-so-distant mountains make these lands more of   
 a maze than one might expect. Knowing that dangerous, but profitable          
 monsters are here to hunt, though... that might make one eager to get on      
 with it. However, blindly charging into the hunting grounds is not            
 recommended! One might get lost.                                              
                                                                               
 Or make too much noise and frighten off the game. Or, worse, make noise and   
 lure things in that prey on you. Caution is recommended for the eager         
 hunter.                                                                       
                                                                               
 -- Going Hunting: A Traveler's Guide to Aifread's Hunting Ground,             
 Frontmatter                                                                   
=Dungeon Conditions: Reckless, Tire===========================================
========================<* Aifread's Hunting Ground *>========================
=======================<* CHALLENGE - Where to Begin *>=======================
|Type: Entry       |Dungeon Ability: Wits      |Challenge Rating: 2          | 
--------------------------< Challenge Information: >--------------------------
 Everyone who comes to hunt at Aifread's Hunting Ground knows to turn to the   
 authority. You open your inventory, and pull out the book in question...      
                                                                               
 	***                                                                          
                                                                               
 Welcome to Aifread's Hunting Ground!                                          
                                                                               
 An expansive, rolling plain stretches out before you. Rocky cliffs,           
 treacherous plateaus, and not-so-distant mountains make these lands more of   
 a maze than one might expect. Knowing that dangerous, but profitable          
 monsters are here to hunt, though... that might make one eager to get on      
 with it. However, blindly charging into the hunting grounds is not            
 recommended! One might get lost.                                              
                                                                               
 Or make too much noise and frighten off the game. Or, worse, make noise and   
 lure things in that prey on you. Caution is recommended for the eager         
 hunter.                                                                       
                                                                               
 -- Going Hunting: A Traveler's Guide to Aifread's Hunting Ground,             
 Frontmatter                                                                   
=Dungeon Conditions: Reckless, Tire===========================================
===================<* Aifread's Hunting Ground - Round 1 *>===================
=========================< Results - Where to Begin >=========================
Player                               Exhaustion                      Pass/Fail
------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Ida Everstead-Rey                   0 --(5)--> 5                   Pass
Loyal Demon Eye                     2   Wits    Effects: Enlighten            
------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Jacqueline Barber                   0 --(5)--> 5                   Pass
Investigate                         0   Wits    Effects: BASIC                
------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Matilda Whitehead                   0 --(5)--> 5                   Pass
Investigate                         0   Wits    Effects: BASIC                
------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Cyre H. Lorentz                     0 --(5)--> 5                   Pass
Investigate                         0   Wits    Effects: BASIC                
------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Lydia Seren                         0 --(5)--> 5                   Pass
Schrodinger the Cat                 2   Wits    Effects: Enlighten            
------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Catenna                             0 --(5)--> 5                   Pass
Ritual Incense                      1   Wits    Effects: Cleanse              
----------------------------------< Party >-----------------------------------
Leader: Cyre H. Lorentz             0 --(20)--> 20                 Pass
Conditions: Reckless(2)|Tire(2)
Effects: Cleanse|Enlighten(1)
==============================< Dream Chasers >===============================
DG: The party led by Cyre H. Lorentz 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> Cyre H. Lorentz has posed.

In Jay's defense, Cyre does tend to hear 'there are horrible monsters here' and go 'is it worse than a giant, handsy necroctopus.'

That was a... Time. Certainly.

"Hmm," he murmurs as both cats suggest different places to land. No, is it... That Schrodinger was actually pointing out the location of some kind of awful gigapotamus!? A cat's instincts are never to be questioned. "Alright, so it sounds like we've got a landing zone, at least. Careful of..." Cyre scribbles something in the margins of the map. "Rockslides... and rounded footprints."

It sounds like Jay has experience.

He glances up at Matilda then, and offers a mild wave. "Hey. Heard you were gathering a band of hired guns or something." He says nothing about HORRIBLE ALIEN LOVE INTERESTS. This is probably for the best. "Anyway, let's--"

Skitter-skitter-skitter.

Cyre's ears twitch. They turn suddenly in the direction of MYSTERIOUS FIGURE X. "...Anyone else hear that?"

DG: Catenna has drawn a new Challenge.
==========================<* Aifread's Hunting Ground *>==========================
====================<* CHALLENGE - Admiring Yaks From Afar *>=====================
|Type: Exploration |Dungeon Ability: Agility   |Challenge Rating: 3          | 
----------------------------< Challenge Information: >----------------------------
 The noble yak can only be found in Aifread's Hunting Ground, at least on all  
 of the known Silver Star. This majestic beast, with its thick fur, is an      
 impressive specimen that can survive and indeed thrive at high altitudes!     
 Herds of the beasts can be admired from afar.                                 
                                                                               
 CAUTION: YAK STAMPEDES CAN BE SUDDEN AND DANGEROUS. IN THE EVENT OF A YAK     
 STAMPEDE, BE ELSEWHERE.                                                       
                                                                               
 -- Going Hunting: A Traveler's Guide to Aifread's Hunting Ground, pp. 77      
=Dungeon Conditions: Overwhelm, Cripple=======================================
<Pose Tracker> Catenna has posed.

Catenna lets out a slow breath as Matilda approaches. She can't fault the young woman for changing her look; Catenna did much the same. "Hello," she greets with a simple smile.

She's still not sure how Matilda feels about her, but the compounder showed her something back there in the Pleasing Garden, and it's pushed a lot of Catenna's initial anxieties about her aside.

Besides... it's not Matilda giving her anxious feelings right now. Something nags at the edges of the priestess's senses but she dismisses it for the moment. It's probably nothing, she determines. Just more of the ambient Malevolent weirdness that seems to flutter around Lunar - at this point, Catenna's fairly sure she can't go five minutes without spotting a Hellionized person or critter.

Then again, this is the home world of that power... and of the Lord of Calamity. "I would not worry too much about it," she offers Cyre. "We will likely hear many things."

Pulling into Cyre, she steps into the catman and waits for the jump. The wind buffets the group as they descend towards that open patch of dirt far below. The tall grass waves majestically as the group upon the reverse parachute sails near to the touchdown. Birds sing in the trees. Yaks stampede through the grass. Overhead, a couple songbirds flit--

Catenna does a double-take.

"WHAT," she shouts as she realizes that, yes, there is a massive herd of yaks stampeding right through their landing zone.

"CYRE, FLY HIGHER," Catenna squeals as she wraps her arms and legs around the Beastman. She even tries blowing on the parachute as hard as she can to get more altitude out of it.

The yaks just keep on stampeding. There are a lot of them. And they're big.

DG: Catenna has contributed a Agility Basic Action toward her party's challenge, Admiring Yaks From Afar.
<Pose Tracker> Cyre H. Lorentz has posed.

"...I thought I heard a giant spider or something," Cyre murmurs as his ears twitch away. "You're probably right though. Best to just... Focus on the hunt." And on the flight down! Cyre does not at all complain about this part of the adventure. Nope. Not one bit.

Well. That is, right up until they get ambushed by a HERD OF YAKS.

"Oh what even-- how did we not see those coming!?" Obviously because yaks are experts at stealth. Nobody has ever seen a yak ninja and lived to tell the tale. The wind suddenly picks up, a great gust surging underneath the two shamans. Cyre strains against his parachute, fighting hard to keep altitude and avoid being gored simultaneously. It's a bit rough with the extra passenger, but...

At least there are a few benefits. Yep.

It's almost enough to offset the overwhelming sense of danger.

DG: Cyre H. Lorentz has used his Tool Reverse Parachute toward his party's challenge, Admiring Yaks From Afar.
<Pose Tracker> Lydia Seren has posed.
<SoundTracker> https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TgMKoQxyWtk

~See your body, into the moonlight, even if I try to cancel~

Lydia looks up. Is she...hearing music?

No. It becomes apparent that it's not music but rather a rythmatic stampede of Yaks. Lydia yelps and starts running away. Schrodinger leaps back up onto her shoulder so that they can sacrifice Lydia to the Yaks should it prove neccessary. She glances over her shoulder as the yaks rapidly close on her. She draws her pistols, but they just hop over the portals before she can properly set up the second one. "Sh...shit!"

~All the pictures into the mind, there's a flashing in my eye!~

"Gahhh...!" Lydia then sees an opportunity, a turn caused by a natural overgrowth of foliage and trees twisting into the road. She suddenly twists her body to the side as she turns the corner, skidding on her feet as she hops rapidly to the side.

"D...DRIFTO!?" The nearest yak howls.

Lydia then launches a pair of portals out to help divert the Yaks away from the rest of the group, using that little bit of extra time to prepare and set up her shots properly. Of course this might not help everyone as she's bound to miss SOME. Lydia then smacks her own head a few times to clear out the weird audail glitch.

DG: Lydia Seren has used her Tool Portal Pistols toward her party's challenge, Admiring Yaks From Afar.
<Pose Tracker> Ida Everstead-Rey has posed.

    When Cyre turns to look, all that he sees are tree branches blowing in a gentle tailwind. Nothing to worry about, surely.

    The group sets out on their hunt, and not five minutes in, it is rudely interrupted.

    As Cyre and Catenna desperately try and keep their chute aloft, a grey-cloaked figure presses itself tightly against the underside of a rock overhang, not daring to breathe deeply lest they get gored by a stray yak horn. Slowly, one of the figure's hands inches upwards, and presses a tiny object into the face of the rock wall. There's a soft pulse of Malevolence, and the seed sprouts. Hungry, Malevolence-tainted roots dig into the rock as though it were the mud of a river bottom, forming a long, braided climbing surface as they grow up the rock. The figure turns, ever-so-carefully, and starts to climb.

    The roots remain for a time--and they're within reach, if any of Cyre's party need a way out.

    How odd.

DG: Ida Everstead-Rey has used her Tool Stainless Lotus Seeds toward her party's challenge, Admiring Yaks From Afar.
<Pose Tracker> Jacqueline Barber has posed.

"I-I did, but..." Jacqueline murmurs, shaking her head. She felt it, too - a small, subtle aura of Malevolence, that disappeared almost as soon as she sensed it. ...That didn't make things better.

They've managed to figure out a decent course of action, though, and it's time to set off.

She joins the others on Cyre's parachute. It's safe there, at least unless something attacks them...like, say, a giant bird Hellion. Fortunately, that doesn't happen. What does happen is a stampede - a massive stampede of yaks that threaten to crush everything in their way. Jacqueline pales.

"Th-they're stampeding... They're...they're running away from something...!" She murmurs, shaking. "Is...is it near...? It...it can't be...we aren't..."

She shuts her eyes tight and decides to focus on something else - rummaging through her bag for a series of bottles to hand out to everyone. Especially Cyre, to make sure he has enough energy to ensure that they can continue flying right over the stampede.

"They weren't a problem last time. They like soup..." Jacqueline murmurs. ...That must mean Lunata was with her last time.

And she feels it again. Another soft pulse of Malevolence.

...It still doesn't help her mood.

DG: Jacqueline Barber has used her Tool Rapid Remedy toward her party's challenge, Admiring Yaks From Afar.
<Pose Tracker> Matilda Whitehead has posed.

Surprisingly, Matilda doesn't seem that nervous about Aifread's Hunting Ground. Perhaps she's made her peace with the idea of cutting and running from... whatever it is they happen to find. Unaware of the spidery creature, she turns her attention to Lydia. "Hm? Oh -- in societies like this, silver spends as silver, regardless of the stamp, generally..." She does not elect to mention further about how she came into mercenaries or how she's paying them. It sounds like the answer is 'gella.' Cyre gets a, "Yes, that's correct," but nothing else.

As the yaks start to stampede toward them, though, she has to cut herself off from speaking too much further and focus down on the more immediate problem of running from yaks.

"Run!" she cries, as if that wasn't keenly obvious. She spots those strange roots, then glances at the yaks -- and decides that she's not going to question the provenance of a new option for escape at a time like this. She starts climbing.

DG: Matilda Whitehead has contributed a Agility Basic Action toward her party's challenge, Admiring Yaks From Afar.
==========================<* Aifread's Hunting Ground *>==========================
====================<* CHALLENGE - Admiring Yaks From Afar *>=====================
|Type: Exploration |Dungeon Ability: Agility   |Challenge Rating: 3          | 
----------------------------< Challenge Information: >----------------------------
 The noble yak can only be found in Aifread's Hunting Ground, at least on all  
 of the known Silver Star. This majestic beast, with its thick fur, is an      
 impressive specimen that can survive and indeed thrive at high altitudes!     
 Herds of the beasts can be admired from afar.                                 
                                                                               
 CAUTION: YAK STAMPEDES CAN BE SUDDEN AND DANGEROUS. IN THE EVENT OF A YAK     
 STAMPEDE, BE ELSEWHERE.                                                       
                                                                               
 -- Going Hunting: A Traveler's Guide to Aifread's Hunting Ground, pp. 77      
=Dungeon Conditions: Overwhelm, Cripple=======================================
=====================<* Aifread's Hunting Ground - Round 2 *>=====================
======================< Results - Admiring Yaks From Afar >=======================
Player                               Exhaustion                      Pass/Fail
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Ida Everstead-Rey                   5 --(5)--> 10                  Pass
Stainless Lotus Seeds               2   Agility Effects: Quicken              
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Jacqueline Barber                   5 --(5)--> 10                  Pass
Rapid Remedy                        1   Agility Effects: Cleanse              
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Matilda Whitehead                   5 --(5)--> 10                  Fail
Rush                                0   Agility Effects: BASIC                
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Cyre H. Lorentz                     5 --(5)--> 10                  Pass
Reverse Parachute                   1   Agility Effects: Rally and Quicken    
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Lydia Seren                         5 --(5)--> 10                  Pass
Portal Pistols                      2   Agility Effects: Stalwart             
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Catenna                             5 --(5)--> 10                  Fail
Rush                                0   Agility Effects: BASIC                
------------------------------------< Party >-------------------------------------
Leader: Cyre H. Lorentz             20 --(20)--> 40                Pass
Conditions: Cripple|Overwhelm|Reckless(1)
Effects: Cleanse|Quicken(1)
================================< Dream Chasers >=================================
DG: The party led by Cyre H. Lorentz 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> Catenna has posed.

No amount of being leglocked by one's girlfriend can make the hooves of many stampeding yaks entertaining, Cyre. Catenna still clutches the catman for dear life.

Yaks plow through the portals Lydia fires off even as Cyre struggles to keep the parachute aloft. Several of them reappear on the other side of the portal, bellowing with confusion at one another. But there are a lot of yaks down there, and they're not going to stop for just anyone - certain not a bunch of aliens from the earthmoon. As Jacqueline hands out potions, Catenna snatches one and holds it up to Cyre's lips. "Drink, drink!!" she urges him.

Matilda, god bless her, manages to fall off a root and land on the back of a yak. It is currently taking her for a ride somewhere out thataway.

As for Catenna, she clings to Cyre for dear life - until her grip slips. She gasps and falls out of her tight embrace of him, but manages to catch herself at the last second by locking her legs around his thighs.

It still leaves her dangling upside down. Her hair brushes the top of a yak. She flails a little. "Cyyyyyre~!"

The mysterious absolutely-not-Ida'ish figure has the right idea, taking cover until the stupid yak havoc passes.

DG: Lydia Seren has drawn a new Challenge.
========================<* Aifread's Hunting Ground *>========================
===================<* CHALLENGE - On Clearing Obstacles *>====================
|Type: Exploration |Dungeon Ability: Brute     |Challenge Rating: 2          | 
--------------------------< Challenge Information: >--------------------------
 High winds and storms will, at times, create temporary obstacles. The         
 enterprising hunter knows to never be deterred! Use of a handaxe, the         
 Goddess Althena-given sorcery, and chains and porters will clear the tree     
 trunks, stones, and other debris that may fall and block your way. As         
 always, please exercise caution in the event of such an occurrence.           
                                                                               
 -- Going Hunting: A Traveler's Guide to Aifread's Hunting Ground, pp. 129     
=Dungeon Conditions: Weaken===================================================
<Pose Tracker> Lydia Seren has posed.

Lydia says, "Are you comin' back to Carakin or are you stickin' to the merc business for the moment? I guess doing half and half is possible but I kinda feel like I showed up and then half my friends left. It's kinda a bummer. I am a little nervous about getting into all this business in the war without knowing much about it too. Didja figure out the deal?"

She watches Matilda get carted off by yaks.

"Okay good talk see you later!" She calls out to Matilda who probably only got about half of that because of yaks.

Eventually the party is able to regroup and Lydia snatches the book out of Cyre's hands. "Sorry but my turn." She flips through it for the moment and then jams a finger at the map. "This should be a good spot to head towards. We could maybe cut off some time provided there's no obstacles."

SOME TIME LATER.

"There's an obstacle." Lydia frowns.

The obstacle seems to be a tree and some boulders that have tumbled down in front of the so-called shortcut. If it's not dealt with efficiently, the shortcut will turn into a long...cut. Lydia sighs, turns her arm into a sword, and gets to working on it. "By the by." She adds, quietly. "I totally feel the Angst Energy following us. Or something like that."

DG: Lydia Seren has contributed a Brute Basic Action toward her party's challenge, On Clearing Obstacles.
<Pose Tracker> Catenna has posed.

When the group does finally set down, Catenna flops off of Cyre and sprawls out on her back for a moment.

She rolls back onto her knees, then to her feet, blushing and brushing dust off of various parts of her anatomy - including her hair. "I was never good with cattle," she mutters to herself, not for the first time a bit bitter about it all.

She was never good with any animals. It's why the Owlet makes her so nervous.

Nevertheless she begins to move after Lydia, seeming mildly more confident in the girl's read on things than on Cyre's yak-finding sense of direction - at least, until a roadblock looms before them. The priestess sighs and sets her hands at her hips. "I do not think my fans were meant to chop wood," she says a bit tartly, looking down at the items hanging from what passes for her belt.

Catenna sighs and eases forward. For lack of a blade designed for lumberjackery, the Shamaness maneuvers under the tree and begins to carefully climb into the branches, stripping some of the more intrusive smaller branches to try and clear a path through the deadfall and rubble.

DG: Catenna has contributed a Brute Basic Action toward her party's challenge, On Clearing Obstacles.
<Pose Tracker> Cyre H. Lorentz has posed.

No, Cyre is pretty sure that there are a few upsides to this whole thing. Even if he also has to deal with his girlfriend shoving a strange bottle into his mouth and also dangling upside down over a bunch of angry animals. Like, for example, getting to make horrible jokes.

IE: "You don't need to OX me twice!"

...Cyre says, as he hinges his legs to try and prop Catenna up out of the way of the cavalcade of yaks.

But then... A pulse of Malevolence. Cyre shudders reflexively and then, equally reflexively, unleashes a single reaping beam that scythes through those awful, evil vines.

How strange, the reflexes of a shaman.

And then Lydia steals his book. "Wh--" She decides their next course, "Hey!!"

Too late Cyre. Lydia leads them now. She leads them... right to a pile of toppled-over trees and stones.

"..." Cyre un-says as he lights up his incense burner. The scent of the day is... Actually a little bit harsh. It seems like he's purposefully burning some strong stuff to keep animals away. At least it's still as invigorating as always... but it also doesn't do anything to help clear the land on its own. For that, Cyre will need to get his hands dirty.

Or rather, he starts hurling cutting arcs of wind at the branches. Magic! It's useful!!

"Are you sure that's not just Matilda finding her way back?" Cyre says to Lydia on the subject of ANGST AURAS. "I mean, it's either that or Ethius."

<Pose Tracker> Catenna has posed.

"It might be something wild," Catenna puts in as she picks chunks of wood as Cyre foofs them around with his fooshy powers.

"Have you noticed it? There is ambient Malevolence everywhere. I have seen quite a few Hellions without even really looking."

<Pose Tracker> Ida Everstead-Rey has posed.

    Matilda is not left to her fate, precisely.

    The figure reaches the top of the cliff, and sees an armored figure being swept up in the stampede; they frown, deeply, beneath the shadows of their hood. A hand clad in a leather riding glove gestures in the compounder's direction, and lotus roots branch off the main bundle, chasing Matilda down--and offering her a handhold, and a way out of her present predicament. Cyre, meanwhile, scythes through the main stalk, but the one supporting Matilda remains intact. For now.

    As soon as she gets on solid ground again, the lotus roots sprout pure white blossoms, and dissipate into motes of Malevolence.

    Further up the trail, the figure plucks a white lotus blossom off the root, and crushes it to Malevolence in a fist. They pocket the seeds within.

    The deadfall. As Lydia starts to cut, the tree trunk above the one she's hacking into... lifts up, slowly, and starts dragging itself off the pile. Is someone doing that? They might be hiding behind part of the deadfall, a projection of rock just to Lydia's left.

    At least they seem to be helping?

DG: Ida Everstead-Rey has contributed a Brute Basic Action toward her party's challenge, On Clearing Obstacles.
<Pose Tracker> Jacqueline Barber has posed.

"C-Catenna!" Jacqueline cries out in shock, scrambling to help her back up onto the parachute. Fortunately, though it was a close call, they were able to pull her back up before tragedy occurred.

Jacqueline takes a deep breath, trying to stabilize herself. Eventually, the party manages to regroup, and Lydia leads them...right into an obstacle.

It's not her fault, these things just happen. Maybe the yaks did it, who knows? The only thing Jacqueline is sure of is that it's in the way.

Before, Jacqueline would have drawn out one of her Crest Graphs, and conjured an earth pillar underneath it to lift it out of their way.

Unfortunately, right now, that was impossible. She can't really help with this without potentially causing further trouble, so she rummages through her coat and passes out a round of strength-boosting potions before shaking her head at Cyre.

"N-no, I...definitely feel something following us. It...it isn't Matilda..." She murmurs, shaking her head. "Matilda wouldn't- she wouldn't do that - couldn't. She was..."

Jacqueline wraps her arms around herself. She has a feeling she knows what it is. The thought terrifies her.

It was definitely following them.

She looks up, suddenly, as part of the tree just starts...dragging itself away. She backpedals, going pale for a moment.

DG: Jacqueline Barber has used her Tool Brewte Force toward her party's challenge, On Clearing Obstacles.
<Pose Tracker> Matilda Whitehead has posed.

Matilda gets carted off and it's the worst. It's not the absolute worst, in some ways -- she lands in an actual riding posture, and manages to get her hands to dig into the... yakness, of the yak, but it's a pretty rough ride.

When she sees that hand up, though, she takes it without hesitation. ... well, metaphorical hand up. Lotus blossoms. Those are like hands. She climbs off the yak and jogs toward the group, managing to get back to them not long after Lydia reflects on the obstacle.

"No, I feel it too," she says, coming in at the tail end of Jay's statement. "Something is definitely haunting this place. ... it seems to be the done thing." Reaching into her pack, the compounder draws forth a flask, applying it to some of the boulders; they should sizzle and melt.

... then the tree nearby starts scootching away. "... That's definitely, absolutely not me," she confirms.

DG: Matilda Whitehead has used her Tool Bubble Lotion toward her party's challenge, On Clearing Obstacles.
DG: Cyre H. Lorentz has used his Tool Invigorating Vapors toward his party's challenge, On Clearing Obstacles.
========================<* Aifread's Hunting Ground *>========================
===================<* CHALLENGE - On Clearing Obstacles *>====================
|Type: Exploration |Dungeon Ability: Brute     |Challenge Rating: 2          | 
--------------------------< Challenge Information: >--------------------------
 High winds and storms will, at times, create temporary obstacles. The         
 enterprising hunter knows to never be deterred! Use of a handaxe, the         
 Goddess Althena-given sorcery, and chains and porters will clear the tree     
 trunks, stones, and other debris that may fall and block your way. As         
 always, please exercise caution in the event of such an occurrence.           
                                                                               
 -- Going Hunting: A Traveler's Guide to Aifread's Hunting Ground, pp. 129     
=Dungeon Conditions: Weaken===================================================
===================<* Aifread's Hunting Ground - Round 3 *>===================
=====================< Results - On Clearing Obstacles >======================
Player                               Exhaustion                      Pass/Fail
------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Ida Everstead-Rey                   10 --(10)--> 20                Fail
Force                               0   Brute   Effects: BASIC                
------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Jacqueline Barber                   10 --(5)--> 15                 Pass
Brewte Force                        1   Brute   Effects: Fanfare and Strengthe
------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Matilda Whitehead                   10 --(5)--> 15                 Pass
Bubble Lotion                       2   Brute   Effects: Strengthen           
------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Cyre H. Lorentz                     10 --(5)--> 15                 Pass
Invigorating Vapors                 1   Brute   Effects: Cleanse              
------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Lydia Seren                         10 --(10)--> 20                Fail
Force                               0   Brute   Effects: BASIC                
------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Catenna                             10 --(5)--> 15                 Pass
Force                               0   Brute   Effects: BASIC                
----------------------------------< Party >-----------------------------------
Leader: Cyre H. Lorentz             40 --(20)--> 60                Pass
Conditions: Weaken(2)
Effects: Cleanse|Strengthen(1)
==============================< Dream Chasers >===============================
DG: The party led by Cyre H. Lorentz 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> Lydia Seren has posed.

Lydia says, "Awesome." after a moment, "I'm betting it's the ghost of Dread Pirate Aifread helping us find their treasure." This becomes especially evident as Ida literally sneak pulls a tree away though it's likely helped by all the various chemicals and earth pillars lending a hand and, of course, Cyre's drugs are always helpful. Maybe not in clearing the path but they're still helpful.

Lydia feels better after taking in a deep breath. "Excellent. Cool. THANK YOU GHOST OF AIFREAD. We'll put your treasure to good use! Or at least fun use!"

She looks back to Jay, no longer just ignorant of Jay's uncomfortableness. She pats her a few times on the shoulder. "What's wrong? Something really seems to be bugging you. Or is this just random sadness because of the spoopiness? It's okay. They're helping so, like." She shrugs.

"Anyway for now we just gotta move on."

DG: Jacqueline Barber has drawn a new Challenge.
========================<* Aifread's Hunting Ground *>========================
============<* CHALLENGE - Rushing Waterfalls and Scenic Vistas *>============
|Type: Exploration |Dungeon Ability: Agility   |Challenge Rating: 3          | 
--------------------------< Challenge Information: >--------------------------
 Three rivers cut through Aifread's Hunting Ground. Given the elevation, each  
 moves quite rapidly, and they can make truly breathtaking waterfalls!         
 Despite this, one should never, ever enter a river near a waterfall.          
                                                                               
 As a brief aside, this travel guide has waterproofed pages and a cover. You   
 may ask why. You may ask if we expected you to fall into a river and be       
 swept away, hurtling towards a waterfall. That, dear reader, would be silly.  
 After all, we warned you of the danger of slippery rocks and deceptively      
 fast currents.                                                                
                                                                               
 You or those representing your estate could never prove that we did not       
 before a court of inquiry.                                                    
                                                                               
 -- Going Hunting: A Traveler's Guide to Aifread's Hunting Ground, pp. 6       
=Dungeon Conditions: Injure, Bad Luck=========================================
<Pose Tracker> Jacqueline Barber has posed.

Jacqueline jumps slightly when she feels a hand on her shoulder, but turns out it's just Lydia. She offers her a weak smile, then turns to glance in the way the tree was dragged off.

"W-we...we shouldn't be here. There's...something here. Something that shouldn't be here either. I-It...it's..." Jacqueline shuts her eyes and shakes her head. "I-I don't want to think about it. I just hope..."

She just hopes they don't run into it. Lydia says it's helping, but Jacqueline can't be sure they're not being lead into a trap.

With the tree safely removed, they're able to progress. Unfortunately, it isn't long before their path is cut off by a river flowing right through the Hunting Grounds with a waterfall at the end of it. It's moving at rather high speeds, and the only way over appears to be a set of rocks, slippery from the water. If you fell in, there would be no guarantee you would get out.

...This would be another place where an earth pillar would be useful. This just serves as another reminder of how...cut off, she is here.

She draws out another set of potions, passing them around.

"We...may need your help again here, Cyre..." She comments.

DG: Jacqueline Barber has used her Tool Rapid Remedy toward her party's challenge, Rushing Waterfalls and Scenic Vistas.
<Pose Tracker> Catenna has posed.

Pressing her lips together, Catenna nods to Jacqueline, a growing tension beginning to take her. "...Perhaps it is more than another wild Hellion," she murmurs as she hops down from the tree. Reaching to her sides, she draws her bladed fans and snaps them closed to reveal the sharp edges, like a pair of short swords.

The river rushes ahead of them. Catenna moistens her lips with a quick pass of her tongue and takes the potion from Jay, sipping once, then tucking it into her pouch. "Thank you, Jay," she says.

And then she stows her fans again, stoops to slip off her shoes, and proceeds to jump.

The river rushes around the rocks as Catenna hops confidently to the first one, landing with care and immediately shifting her ankle to let the arches of her feet settle against the curve of the rock. Her arms fan out to her side to balance her. With a look back towards the group, the priestess checks to ensure the others are alright, before jumping smoothly to the next rock, then taking a try at the next one. She'll try to hop to each and every one, seeming quite sure of herself as she does it.

Catenna grew up in the wilderness, surrounded by wild beasts, with no real bridges to speak of thanks to the absence of infrastructure. Hopping rivers falls into the "life skills" category to her. (Granted, sometimes you fall in.)

DG: Catenna has contributed a Agility Basic Action toward her party's challenge, Rushing Waterfalls and Scenic Vistas.
<Pose Tracker> Cyre H. Lorentz has posed.

Yet more mysterious happenings. Could it really be the Ghost of Aifread...? "Yeah," Cyre says, a shiver running up his spine. "I feel it too. It's not just the... ambient crap floating around everywhere. There's something following us." But who? For what reason? "Stay alert," he says, taking a moment to prime his rifle. "You never know what to expect out here."

Except Jay.

Jay seems to know exactly what to expect.

He kind of feels bad about getting her to come along with them.

But... Well! There's something Cyre needs to help with. He nods, taking a swig from Jay's proffered potion. "You got it," he says, unfurling his ever-handy parachute. The wind stirs, lifting him up into the air over the river. "How do we want to do this? I could ferry you all across, or maybe just bring a rope over, or something."

OR Lydia could just... warp them all across. Like a cheatyface cheater.

DG: Cyre H. Lorentz has used his Tool Reverse Parachute toward his party's challenge, Rushing Waterfalls and Scenic
Vistas.
<Pose Tracker> Ida Everstead-Rey has posed.

    There's a glimmer of Malevolence, and something falls into the water with a soft splash. Moments later, something erupts from the water--not a horrible beast, but a lotus flower the size of a one-person coracle. The outer petals are sturdy enough to repel water, and buoyant enough to keep the thing afloat even when it's carrying someone. Several more lotus coracles erupt from the water, one after another--they're quite pretty, if you ignore the tiny motes of Malevolence wafting up from them like pollen.

    (It's likely a negligable increase in the overall Malevolence level, though still a little intimidating.)

    Further upstream, another coracle floats across the river, carrying a passenger--they're hard to make out, but they're wearing a grey cloak, and their face is hidden in shadow.

DG: Ida Everstead-Rey has used her Tool Stainless Lotus Seeds toward her party's challenge, Rushing Waterfalls and
Scenic Vistas.
<Pose Tracker> Matilda Whitehead has posed.

"... We won't suffer it forever," Matilda says. "I've begun formulating a plan of attack for it, truthfully -- it may be some time before it's complete, though, since much of it is guesswork based on half-evidence of capability..." She's trying to be reassuring to Jay, at least.

Matilda turns her gaze down toward the rocks, chewing at her lip and canting her head a bit. "... Hm," she murmurs, with a glance toward Catenna as she accepts a potion. "The rocks do look stable, but..." She considers how on Lunar she's going to approach them, though -- they don't feel big enough to just sprint across, or close enough...

She spots that purple glimmer, and that massive lotus flower. "... I suppose I shouldn't question it..." After all, the mysterious blooms have already helped her once...

DG: Matilda Whitehead has contributed a Agility Basic Action toward her party's challenge, Rushing Waterfalls and Scenic
Vistas.
<Pose Tracker> Lydia Seren has posed.

"...Jay, honestly, I'm not sure how to feel about what it could be if it's something that's making you unable to talk about it." Lydia says. "But it's okay. When I see it I'll be super fearless and make you feel better. Maybe. I mean I don'tk now what it is so maybe it's actually super scary or whatevs."

Those little splashes of malevolence continue but it seems that Lydia is pretty pleased with herself even if it was Harken that said she had no fear. Still, she wouldn't say she has no fear herself even if it was pretty awesome to hear and she's going to ignore the second part about not having strength to match.

Lydia, naturally, cheats with the portal gun. But she can only get partway through the jumping puzzle. Hopefully that'll help!

Or maybe it won't help because you'll be popping out on a small rock. ... Oh well!

"HEY JAY I THINK I SAW A GHOST!" She shouts as she hops in, pointing towards the cloaked figure.

DG: Lydia Seren has used her Tool Portal Pistols toward her party's challenge, Rushing Waterfalls and Scenic Vistas.
========================<* Aifread's Hunting Ground *>========================
============<* CHALLENGE - Rushing Waterfalls and Scenic Vistas *>============
|Type: Exploration |Dungeon Ability: Agility   |Challenge Rating: 3          | 
--------------------------< Challenge Information: >--------------------------
 Three rivers cut through Aifread's Hunting Ground. Given the elevation, each  
 moves quite rapidly, and they can make truly breathtaking waterfalls!         
 Despite this, one should never, ever enter a river near a waterfall.          
                                                                               
 As a brief aside, this travel guide has waterproofed pages and a cover. You   
 may ask why. You may ask if we expected you to fall into a river and be       
 swept away, hurtling towards a waterfall. That, dear reader, would be silly.  
 After all, we warned you of the danger of slippery rocks and deceptively      
 fast currents.                                                                
                                                                               
 You or those representing your estate could never prove that we did not       
 before a court of inquiry.                                                    
                                                                               
 -- Going Hunting: A Traveler's Guide to Aifread's Hunting Ground, pp. 6       
=Dungeon Conditions: Injure, Bad Luck=========================================
===================<* Aifread's Hunting Ground - Round 4 *>===================
==============< Results - Rushing Waterfalls and Scenic Vistas >==============
Player                               Exhaustion                      Pass/Fail
------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Ida Everstead-Rey                   20 --(5)--> 25                 Pass
Stainless Lotus Seeds               2   Agility Effects: Quicken              
------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Jacqueline Barber                   15 --(5)--> 20                 Fail
Rapid Remedy                        1   Agility Effects: Cleanse              
------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Matilda Whitehead                   15 --(5)--> 20                 Fail
Rush                                0   Agility Effects: BASIC                
------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Cyre H. Lorentz                     15 --(5)--> 20                 Pass
Reverse Parachute                   1   Agility Effects: Rally and Quicken    
------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Lydia Seren                         20 --(5)--> 25                 Pass
Portal Pistols                      2   Agility Effects: Stalwart             
------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Catenna                             15 --(5)--> 20                 Fail
Rush                                0   Agility Effects: BASIC                
----------------------------------< Party >-----------------------------------
Leader: Cyre H. Lorentz             60 --(20)--> 80                Pass
Conditions: Bad Luck(2)|Injure(2)
Effects: Cleanse|Quicken(1)
==============================< Dream Chasers >===============================
DG: The party led by Cyre H. Lorentz 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> Jacqueline Barber has posed.

There's a glimmer of malevolence, followed by a splash. Jacqueline freezes up, staring into the water as lotus flowers bloom in succession, forming a pathway across that's much sturdier than crossing the rocks will be.

"I-I know. I'm sorry, Lydia. I...I just..." She murmurs, shaking her head. It was something she didn't want to think about, if at all possible, even though that image was practically burned into her mind...

Catenna aims to cross over the natural way. It's something she's done many times before. Of course, she would know that, especially in a situation like this, there were no guarantees. Even if it was something you had done many times before.

One slip, one miscalculation is all it takes.

Catenna does slip. This may, however, provide an opportunity for Cyre to swoop down in a heroic rescue.

Jacqueline elects to also travel by the rocks. She doesn't trust the lotus flower coracles, even if it may seem as if they were placed there to form a bridge. She doesn't know who or what is responsible.

Lydia will find that the rocks make excellent portal platforms, and will have no trouble making it across under her own power. However, when she shouts back about the 'ghost'(who, by virtue of providing her own lotus flower is able to cross without any trouble)...Jacqueline lets out a small shriek and misses her next jump. She lands on the edge of the next rock and slips off, sending her tumbling into Matilda, who was jumping toward the next coracle.

The two of them go crashing into it. Fortunately, it's buoyant enough to carry both of them without sending them both into the river.

Jacqueline frantically gets to her feet, stammering apologies and trying to help Matilda up.

Well, at least she apparently realized these flowers are safe...in some fashion...

DG: Matilda Whitehead has drawn a new Challenge.
=========================<* Aifread's Hunting Ground *>=========================
==================<* CHALLENGE - On Demolishing Large Rocks *>==================
|Type: Final       |Dungeon Ability: Brute     |Challenge Rating: 3          | 
---------------------------< Challenge Information: >---------------------------
 Some of the rarest game have taken to hiding in areas sealed away behind      
 large rocks, which slid into place after some of the worst landslides. This   
 prevents easy access for most hunters, but a resourceful one knows the        
 truth: mattock, spell, pluck, and an appreciation for natural beauty even     
 after it has been irrevocably marred is how one bags the most rarest and      
 deadliest game!                                                               
                                                                               
 CAUTION: DEMOLITION OF LARGE ROCKS MAY ALERT GAME TO YOUR PRESENCE. THIS      
 GAME MAY BE HIGHLY AGGRESSIVE.                                                
                                                                               
 -- Going Hunting: A Traveler's Guide to Aifread's Hunting Ground, pp. 153     
=Dungeon Conditions: Overzealous, Suffer======================================
<Pose Tracker> Matilda Whitehead has posed.

Jay stumbles into Matilda, and Matilda lets out a quiet squeak before the coracle... floats, charmingly buoyant, toward the other side. She does her best to support Jay as the pair of them get up, though once she is standing, she rubs at her shoulder a little bit. "... have to get that adjusted," she reflects, with a wince.

As they finally all manage to get across, Matilda takes a moment to try and untwist her ankle. Whatever she does, it seems to be working -- at least after a few moments.Unfortunately, what they've come to is... a dead end -- or at least the appearance of a dead end. She frowns for a moment, looking at the wall of rock, chewing at her lip a little bit.

She opens the book a moment. She then closes the book.

"Apparently formations like these are the result of landslides -- and game animals often hide behind them," she explains. "So -- let's start trying to clear everything away, I suppose...?"

She starts with a splash of that familiar, sizzling lotion. "Ah, Lydia..." she adds, after a little thought. "... I'd appreciate it if you didn't joke. There's -- definitely been... presences, in this area... of the sort that Jay is right to be afraid of."

DG: Matilda Whitehead has used her Tool Bubble Lotion toward her party's challenge, On Demolishing Large Rocks.
<Pose Tracker> Cyre H. Lorentz has posed.

Did someone call for a HEROIC RESCUE?!

"Catenna!" Cyre cries, a sudden rush of wind accompanying the sensation of suddenly being swept into the air as if in the talons of some kind of predatory bird. Except in this metaphor the talons are 'Cyre's arms' and the bird is actually a cat. He brakes hard, stirring the river's surface into a haze of steam and foam with blasts of white-hot light. The water flash-boils, sending one of those strange lotuses careening off-course. Heated vapor rises, catching in his parachute and sending the pair of shamans hurtling towards the distant shore.

"Are you okay?!" Cyre breathes a worried sigh, "Jeez. You should give me a chance to get in position next time. That was a close one."

Why, if he'd missed, she'd be a Catenna pancake by now!

Or, you know, just wet. She probably could have just borrowed some of Lucadia's power to bridge the gap.

...

But it seems like Lydia's shortcut was in fact... not. Cyre frowns at the great wall of stone and rubble that seems to be anything but passable. "This is going to take us a while," he says, a slight hint of disappointment and anticipation in his voice. He hasn't gotten to hunt even one monster yet! What a ripoff! But... Still, if there's something beyond this, it'd be best if they remain patient and try to keep the beasts at bay. So he lights his incense burner up again. "Well. Let's get to work."

DG: Cyre H. Lorentz has used his Tool Invigorating Vapors toward his party's challenge, On Demolishing Large Rocks.
<Pose Tracker> Lydia Seren has posed.

"I wasn't joking." Lydia says. "I did see a mysterious cloaked figure watching us that was probably a ghost." She looks towards Matilda. "So why don'tja check yoself before you embarass yoself when the cloaked person is like 'You didn't believe in me so now I will eat your soul' or whatever,"

She glances to Cyre as if to say it was totally a shortcut and it ain't her fault y'all can't jump. She doesn't say it because it wasn't said but you can tell she's thinking along those lines anyway.

Speaking of she takes a baseball bat to the rubble and gets to smashing loudly.

"It totally saw a ghost or weirdperson thing." Lydia mutters to herself.

DG: Lydia Seren has contributed a Brute Basic Action toward her party's challenge, On Demolishing Large Rocks.
<Pose Tracker> Catenna has posed.

Falling off the rocks sometimes when you jump a stream is just a natural part of growing up Zortroa. Catenna still pinwheels her arms and gasps as she begins to topple over.

Until a windy kitty chooses to be a hero. There is a breath of wind, and Catenna gasps as she's suddenly scooped up in what is probably a princess carry. She squeaks, instinctively looping her arms around Cyre's shoulders to better distribute her weight.

Ugh! It was more slippery than I thought," she grumbles, blushing furiously - less from being carried and more from the fact that she missed a jump. "There is always a chance of slipping and of course it happened this time!"

When Cyre finally does set her down, Catenna sighs, leaning in and giving him a grateful kiss. He earned that much.

The rubble pile, however, gets no such tender treatment. With a wince, the priestess-turned-dancer begins to move forward, profoundly wishing she had a shovel or something.

Who am I kidding, I don't have the upper body strength for that.

There's not much in Catenna's repertoire of spells that'll help this mess so she settles for throwing a few light gravity spells in the hopes of dragging a few larger rocks out of the pile.

DG: Catenna has contributed a Brute Basic Action toward her party's challenge, On Demolishing Large Rocks.
<Pose Tracker> Ida Everstead-Rey has posed.

    The 'ghost' turns away when Lydia points them out. Did they overhear, or see her? Maybe they're just shy. They arrive at the other side with no further problems, and vanish in a blur of motion.

    Ida comes to a stop behind a boulder, and breathes heavily, trying to gag down the awful, awful sensation that is the Malevolence surging up her throat like bile. She saw, in that brief moment, the look on Jacqueline Barber's face, and while she might not see eye-to-eye with her philosophically, she is clearly scaring the hell out of her. Ida coughs, and black-purple smoke hisses out from between her lips. She coughs again, and flecks of Malevolence-laden spit spatter the grass. Any plant life it touches shrivels and withers, turning into a shadow of its former self.

    Ida hears discussion. A rock fall? She--she can help with that. She'd best be a bit more direct about it, because this damnable Malevolence is starting to get out of hand.

    The 'ghost' turns downwards, considering a roughly head-sized rock lying at their feet. They heft it up, weighing it experimentally--and then studying the way the others are taking to the obstacle. In particular, it sees Matilda applying that corrosive lotion.

    Once a clear path presents itself, and there's no one in danger, the figure presses two fingers to its lips and lets out a short, sharp whistle. A moment later, it pitches the rock past the gathered Drifters, aiming right for the weakened, cracked portion of the boulder. Said rock must weigh at least twenty pounds, and they threw it like a fastball.

DG: Ida Everstead-Rey has contributed a Brute Basic Action toward her party's challenge, On Demolishing Large Rocks.
<Pose Tracker> Lydia Seren has posed.

"GHOOOOOOOOOST!" Lydia spins around and points towards, well where the rock came from.

<Pose Tracker> Cyre H. Lorentz has posed.

Cyre got a kiss! Cyre gains +1 hearts.

And then a goddamn rock comes out of goddamn nowhere.

"Damnit, Ghost Aifread!" Cyre shouts into the sky, "Careful where you're shooting those damn ghost cannonballs!"

<Pose Tracker> Catenna has posed.

Catenna lowers her eyelids ever so slightly as the rock hurtles overhead.

"I am not sure that is a ghost," she opines. "Do ghosts whistle?"

<Pose Tracker> Cyre H. Lorentz has posed.

"I dunno," Cyre answers. "Maybe moon ghosts do?"

<Pose Tracker> Catenna has posed.

"Those often have butterfly wings," Catenna says with a shrug.

<Pose Tracker> Lydia Seren has posed.

"Ghosts can whistle if they wanna!" Lydia says, standing up for the dead.

<Pose Tracker> Cyre H. Lorentz has posed.

"That doesn't really preclude whistling," Cyre ponders. "I'm really not sure if they can. Don't you need lungs to whistle? And like... saliva."

<Pose Tracker> Jacqueline Barber has posed.

Jacqueline can't help but notice that. She studies Matilda's shoulder carefully.

"Did something happen?" She asks, keeping her voice low.

Fortunately, the coracle floats them all the way over to the other side. Eventually, they find their path...unfortunately blocked. Jacqueline frowns.

A part of her feels that...maybe they shouldn't go any further. Maybe this landslide happened for a reason. Maybe they should just turn around and leave...but the others seem confident that this is what they should do.

She knows she won't be able to stop them. The only thing she can do is be there for them when terrible inevitability happens. As such, she passes out yet another round of those bright red potions.

And then, she hears a sharp whistle. She jumps to the side quickly, watching as a rock goes flying at high speeds toward the boulder that blocked their path.

...Whatever this 'ghost' was, at least it saw fit to warn them. She stares in the direction the whistling came from...and though she's clearly still panicking slightly(well, okay, more than slightly), offers a faint nod in that direction.

DG: Jacqueline Barber has used her Tool Brewte Force toward her party's challenge, On Demolishing Large Rocks.
<Pose Tracker> Lydia Seren has posed.

"Uh, they are ghosts," Lydia says. "They have an entirely different biology probably."

<Pose Tracker> Cyre H. Lorentz has posed.

"I'm really not sure ghosts have biology! They're ghosts!" Cyre is sounding increasingly incredulous.

<Pose Tracker> Matilda Whitehead has posed.

"Hmmm... strictly speaking, no, you just need a means by which you can push air through an aperture..." Matilda muses. She does hear the coughing, though, and cants her head. "Hrrmm... that doesn't seem like a ghost kind of thing..."

Then, to Jay, "Just a notch in the armor -- that's all. It doesn't fit perfectly yet."

=========================<* Aifread's Hunting Ground *>=========================
==================<* CHALLENGE - On Demolishing Large Rocks *>==================
|Type: Final       |Dungeon Ability: Brute     |Challenge Rating: 3          | 
---------------------------< Challenge Information: >---------------------------
 Some of the rarest game have taken to hiding in areas sealed away behind      
 large rocks, which slid into place after some of the worst landslides. This   
 prevents easy access for most hunters, but a resourceful one knows the        
 truth: mattock, spell, pluck, and an appreciation for natural beauty even     
 after it has been irrevocably marred is how one bags the most rarest and      
 deadliest game!                                                               
                                                                               
 CAUTION: DEMOLITION OF LARGE ROCKS MAY ALERT GAME TO YOUR PRESENCE. THIS      
 GAME MAY BE HIGHLY AGGRESSIVE.                                                
                                                                               
 -- Going Hunting: A Traveler's Guide to Aifread's Hunting Ground, pp. 153     
=Dungeon Conditions: Overzealous, Suffer======================================
====================<* Aifread's Hunting Ground - Round 5 *>====================
====================< Results - On Demolishing Large Rocks >====================
Player                               Exhaustion                      Pass/Fail
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Ida Everstead-Rey                   25 --(100)--> 125              Pass
Force                               0   Brute   Effects: BASIC                
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Jacqueline Barber                   20 --(100)--> 120              Fail
Brewte Force                        1   Brute   Effects: Fanfare and Strengthe
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Matilda Whitehead                   20 --(100)--> 120              Pass
Bubble Lotion                       2   Brute   Effects: Strengthen           
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Cyre H. Lorentz                     20 --(100)--> 120              Pass
Invigorating Vapors                 1   Brute   Effects: Cleanse              
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Lydia Seren                         25 --(100)--> 125              Fail
Force                               0   Brute   Effects: BASIC                
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Catenna                             20 --(100)--> 120              Fail
Force                               0   Brute   Effects: BASIC                
-----------------------------------< Party >------------------------------------
Leader: Cyre H. Lorentz             80 --(10)--> 90                Fail
Conditions: Overzealous(2)|Suffer(1)
Effects: Cleanse|Strengthen(1)
===============================< Dream Chasers >================================
DG: Ida Everstead-Rey is too exhausted to continue!
DG: Jacqueline Barber is too exhausted to continue!
DG: Matilda Whitehead is too exhausted to continue!
DG: Cyre H. Lorentz is too exhausted to continue!
DG: Lydia Seren is too exhausted to continue!
DG: Catenna is too exhausted to continue!
DG: The party has failed this challenge! All party members are now Exhausted. This attempt is over.
DG: The party led by Cyre H. Lorentz has been fully Exhausted by Aifread's Hunting Ground!
DG: The party will now draw a conclusion.
=========================<* Aifread's Hunting Ground *>=========================
=======================<* CHALLENGE - Majestic Vistas *>========================
|Type: Landmark    |Dungeon Ability: Conclusion|Challenge Rating: 1          | 
---------------------------< Challenge Information: >---------------------------
 One should always take time to enjoy the majestic vistas of Aifread's         
 Hunting Ground. While we may not find the game we desire, nor hint of         
 Aifread's lost treasure, the chance to breathe fresh air, to see towering     
 mountains, and to enjoy rushing rivers and green grass... why, that staves    
 off the feeling of disappointment that exudes from every single blood         
 relative one has, when they look at your life and ask, "How in the name of    
 Althena did it come to this?"                                                 
                                                                               
 -- Going Hunting: A Traveler's Guide to Aifread's Hunting Ground, pp. 228     
=Dungeon Conditions: Treasure=================================================
<Pose Tracker> Matilda Whitehead has posed.

There's simply too much debris.

In the end, that's all it comes down to; there's no amount of elbow grease that's going to get rid of this rockslide. ... or, for that matter, the one behind it. This isn't the first time this has happened, even, in Matilda's recent experience... but it doesn't feel good.

As she sees the vastness of the rocks, Matilda lets out a small, slightly annoyed sigh. "... I think we're going to need to turn back. Then again -- the last time we found a rocky outcrop here, it was..."

... she trails off there, already starting to turn away.

<Pose Tracker> Lydia Seren has posed.

"Man," Lydia says. "This is the tamest hunting ground ever. The scariest part was the yaks."

<Pose Tracker> Catenna has posed.

With a puff of breath, Catenna sags forward to lean against a boulder she just can't budge.

"...Yes, we saw... we saw shockingly little life," she murmurs wearily, her eyes closing parway. "Or perhaps only the dead... or the walking dead."

She squints off into a random direction that is a few degrees off the hiding place of one I. Everstead-Rey.

<Pose Tracker> Cyre H. Lorentz has posed.

"Uuuugh," Cyre growls, hurling a rock off into the river. "Man! This was the lamest hunting ground ever. I mean, we didn't even get to hunt anything! We got hunted, if anything. By yaks. That guidebook was such a ripoff!"

Well. At least they got fresh air.

...Right?

<Pose Tracker> Ida Everstead-Rey has posed.

    The grey-cloaked figure just stands there, their face shadowed, their cloak blowing in the wind.

    They could be staring at the deadfall, growing increasingly angry at the situation. But ghosts don't do that, right?

<Pose Tracker> Jacqueline Barber has posed.

Matilda doesn't need to remind Jacqueline of what it was. She wraps her arms around herself.

"Th-this is...for the best, really..." She says, shaking her head. "Whatever your after...it...it isn't worth it..."

Catenna mentions 'the dead' and Jacqueline freezes up for a moment...and then runs. She'll probably stop eventually, or at least once someone calls out to her.