Difference between revisions of "2020-05-16: Where the Dead Sleep"

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(Created page with "*'''Log: Where the Dead Sleep''' *'''Cast:''' Character :: Jacqueline Barber, Character :: Yue Rohay, Character :: Ashley Winchester, [[Character :: Venetia Vuong]...")
 
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Latest revision as of 22:37, 18 May 2020


DG: A party led by Jacqueline Barber is now entering Arastell Catacombs.
DG: Party formation is now over. An Entry Challenge will now be drawn and displayed to the party.
===========================<* Arastell Catacombs *>===========================
==============<* CHALLENGE - Drifters' Worst Enemy... A Door *>===============
|Type: Entry       |Dungeon Ability: Brute     |Challenge Rating: 2          |
--------------------------< Challenge Information: >--------------------------
 The entrance to the Catacombs is a dig site in the hillside, opening up onto
 a crumbling antechamber - one scarred by recent battle, with slashes and
 bullet scars etched newly into ancient brick. At the back wall of the
 chamber, cracks riddle a heavy stone doorframe, as if the door has been
 blown out.

 And yet, there is a door here. It is a huge slab of stone, featureless and
 cold, without so much as a crack on it. It appears to be much newer than the
 rest of the catacomb. There's no obvious hinge or handle on it. It simply
 won't move.

 The only way into the catacomb is to crack this bad boy open.
=Dungeon Conditions: Weaken===================================================
<Pose Tracker> Jacqueline Barber has posed.

Word had gone out about ancient catacombs discovered in a Merian hillside. If it were as simple as that, it would have been pretty low on Jacqueline's priority list. But, rumor had it that these catacombs were connected to Valmar. A dangerous prospect - there was no telling what could lie dormant within the catacombs, waiting for some unsuspecting soul to stumble upon it...

And there was the possibility, too, that she might learn what the cult of Valmar might be up to - and how she can stop it.

And so, Jacqueline has decided it's worth investigating. After gathering some allies, she finds herself at the entrance to the catacombs themselves - a battle-scarred antechamber.

"...What happened here? This doesn't look old - these bullets look too new, and the slashes don't seem worn at all..." Jacqueline says, folding her arms in front of herself with a pensive frown. Her attention is soon turn toward the ball wall, where there's a heavy stone doorframe riddled with cracks.

It looks like someone might've blown out the door, but...

"...This door must be new. ...Well, I call it a door, but... it looks more like a slab of rock. I think we're going to have to do this the hard way." She says. And with that she brings out a bottle of red liquid - her familiar Brewte Force potion, for enhancing one's strength. There's a flash of sorcery in the air and the liquid evaporates into glimmers of red light that settle over the party to give them a boost!

DG: Jacqueline Barber has used her Tool Brewte Force toward her party's challenge, Drifters' Worst Enemy... A Door.
<Pose Tracker> Yue Rohay has posed.

    Yue's had a weird sometimes-on, sometimes-off then-and-again relationship with ARMS lately; she's helped them fend off a Vampire Supersoldier at a farm by jumping straight out of a Gear, and at other times been at odds elsewhere due to Veruni orders.

    And there's rumors of her and a red-haired reporter that just won't go away...

    It's One of Those Relationships (tm), okay.

    "Marivel told me of a battle she experienced here recently," she explains to Jacqueline, though there are some people who have first-hand accounts, so she doesn't say too much.

    At least she's still not entirely covered in bandages. For even the most stubborn Drifters will eventually heal.

    There is a tilt of her head, as she looks towards the slab of rock. She accepts the power from Jacqueline and gathers it, before--

    "... a single-point strike might work for rock," Yue murmurs, as she thrust-kicks with her heel what she perceives might be a weak point.

DG: Yue Rohay has contributed a Brute Basic Action toward her party's challenge, Drifters' Worst Enemy... A Door.
<Pose Tracker> Ashley Winchester has posed.

"I think we could probably explain that," Ashley Winchester says, standing just behind Jacqueline. He rolls his shoulders, limbering up his arms. "There was some... Priestess of Valmar here. Some kind of living avatar of the Evil God. ARMS ran into her when she started undoing the seal to this place, and had to burn her corruption from a friend of ours. We'd been putting off looking into it... But I guess now that everyone knows this is here, it's better to take a look inside before anyone else accidentally trips into a den of evil. Right?"

Right.

But... How does one... Move a giant slab of rock?

Ashley, for his part, presses his shoulder into the narrow side of the slab and starts trying to shoooovvvve it out of the way.

"It'd be good if we could keep this thing in one piece," he says with a grunt. "I mean, it'd be nice to plug the entrance up again when we leave, you know...?"

DG: Ashley Winchester has contributed a Brute Basic Action toward his party's challenge, Drifters' Worst Enemy... A
Door.
<Pose Tracker> Venetia Vuong has posed.

"If this is someone from the College and they're not doing this to seal some kind of... I don't know... Double Metal Demon death weapon away from the world," VENETIA VUONG says, "I'm going to tan their hide."

Venetia breathes in, breathes out, and fishes out one of her Crest Graphs. "Alright," she addresses the stone.

She raises her bronze rod. Purple swirls of light spiral clockwise round her feet as the bronze Graph gleams and -

"COMPACTION!"

A huge stone-crunching tube of FORCE is projected out, into the massive stone!

DG: Venetia Vuong has used her Tool Stygian Crest Graph toward her party's challenge, Drifters' Worst Enemy... A Door.
<Pose Tracker> Venetia Vuong has posed.

Venetia adds to Ashley after this, "Don't worry. What stone can seal, the Stygian arts can *re*seal. You can quote me on that, if you want."

<Pose Tracker> Ida Everstead-Rey has posed.

    Behind Ashley Winchester is another person who witness the Claws' reawakening. Ida Everstead-Rey frowns as she considers the stone slab, running her thumb along the smooth metal of her prybar. "Do you remember if this seal was here?" she says, once Ashley is done giving the basic rundown. "I don't think it was the one keeping the Claws in, but either way, we'll have to get through it." She glances back at Venetia. "Assuming it isn't holding anything else inside. If we have a second Valmarian abomination in there, I'm going to be very cross."

    Ashley has the right of it, though, Ida thinks. She stands still for a moment, letting the Brewte Force infuse her with its familiar invigorating energy. Living Metal sluices up her arms, forming gauntlets. The musculature in her arms changes subtly beneath her combat armor. Ida hooks the prybar in, and starts shoving in tandem with Ashley.

    "Of course," Ida says, in between shoves. "The College is always on top of such matters, hm?"

<Pose Tracker> Avril Vent Fleur has posed.

    "Whatever has happened in here?"

    More or less without ceremony or fanfare, a certain wayward queen has entered into the antechamber. The fingers of her left hand only barely touch her lips as she takes in the full extent of this space, her gaze sweeping the chamber...

    And it is then that, with a pair of blinks, that Avril realizes that she is not in fact in here alone.

    "Oh, I did not expect..."

    Her gaze settles on one person in particular, whereupon her throat feels as if it has instantly gone dry.

    Yue Rohay.

    With trepidation, she takes a step forward.

    After which, gaze forward, she approaches what passes in here as a door.

    "I..."

    How precisely do you say 'I came here because I felt like it was important to be here'? How do you say, 'Filgaia brought me here'?

    "I, too, am curious about what has happened in here. Please, if I might..."

    With that she approaches the rock, standing as it happens not more than inches from Ashley Winchester, baker at large. She turns her head this way, her eyes widening in surprise, but she says nothing, instead returning her focus to the task at hand:

    Which is to place her palm upon the stone and will it to glaze over with frost.

DG: Avril Vent Fleur has contributed a Brute Basic Action toward her party's challenge, Drifters' Worst Enemy... A Door.
DG: Ida Everstead-Rey has contributed a Brute Basic Action toward her party's challenge, Drifters' Worst Enemy... A
Door.
===========================<* Arastell Catacombs *>===========================
==============<* CHALLENGE - Drifters' Worst Enemy... A Door *>===============
|Type: Entry       |Dungeon Ability: Brute     |Challenge Rating: 2          |
--------------------------< Challenge Information: >--------------------------
 The entrance to the Catacombs is a dig site in the hillside, opening up onto
 a crumbling antechamber - one scarred by recent battle, with slashes and
 bullet scars etched newly into ancient brick. At the back wall of the
 chamber, cracks riddle a heavy stone doorframe, as if the door has been
 blown out.

 And yet, there is a door here. It is a huge slab of stone, featureless and
 cold, without so much as a crack on it. It appears to be much newer than the
 rest of the catacomb. There's no obvious hinge or handle on it. It simply
 won't move.

 The only way into the catacomb is to crack this bad boy open.
=Dungeon Conditions: Weaken===================================================
======================<* Arastell Catacombs - Round 1 *>======================
================< Results - Drifters' Worst Enemy... A Door >=================
Player                               Exhaustion                      Pass/Fail
------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Jacqueline Barber                   0 --(8)--> 8                   Fail
Brewte Force                        1   Brute   Effects: Fanfare and Strengthe
------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Ida Everstead-Rey                   0 --(8)--> 8                   Pass
Force                               0   Brute   Effects: BASIC
------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Yue Rohay                           0 --(8)--> 8                   Pass
Force                               0   Brute   Effects: BASIC
------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Avril Vent Fleur                    0 --(8)--> 8                   Fail
Force                               0   Brute   Effects: BASIC
------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Ashley Winchester                   0 --(8)--> 8                   Pass
Force                               0   Brute   Effects: BASIC
------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Venetia Vuong                       0 --(8)--> 8                   Pass
Stygian Crest Graph                 3   Brute   Effects: Fanfare
----------------------------------< Party >-----------------------------------
Leader: Jacqueline Barber           0 --(20)--> 20                 Pass
Conditions: Weaken(2)
Effects: Strengthen(1)
==============================< Dream Chasers >===============================
DG: The party led by Jacqueline Barber 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.

"I heard something happened, but I don't really know the details." Jacqueline replies with a nod toward Yue. Fortunately, she's brought along some people who were there! Ashley gives a helpful explanation. Jacqueline listens in, nodding to herself.

"...So Neriah was after something here, huh?" Jacqueline replies with a frown. At least, she can't think of any other 'living avatar of Valmar'. "But yeah, that's what I thought, too, when I heard about this place - I don't really like the idea of leaving a place like this unattended."

She looks toward Venetia, then.

"You might not be that far off, really, unless my fears are unfounded..." She says. Well, nothing Metal Demon related, but 'death weapon'... maybe. Or, as Ida says, another Valmarian abomination.

Avril approaches the slab, then, and at her will the door begins to freeze over. Ice seeps into it, weakening its overall structure - which is then blasted by the force of Venetia's spell. There's a loud crunch, and cracks begin to spider-web through it - which is then capitalized on by Yue. Half of the door shatters outright into rubble, leaving the rest to easily be shoved out of the way by Ida and Ashley working in tandem.

Before long, the way is clear, leaving nothing but the yawning darkness before them, ready to be explored. Jacqueline takes a deep breath to steel herself, and then with a gesture of her left hand invokes a light spell.

"...Shall we?" She says, looking around at the others.

DG: Yue Rohay has drawn a new Challenge.
===========================<* Arastell Catacombs *>===========================
=================<* CHALLENGE - Less Solid Than They Seem *>==================
|Type: Exploration |Dungeon Ability: Agility   |Challenge Rating: 2          |
--------------------------< Challenge Information: >--------------------------
 The tiles beneath your feet in this room are polished and patterned ceramic,
 solid enough that your footsteps ring out clearly and firmly with each step.
 It seems nothing will interrupt you as you stroll through here.

 Until one of them suddenly gives way.

 One by one, the tiles beneath you begin to fall, revealing a yawning abyss
 beneath them - endless darkness, with a flicker of ghostly light visible far
 at the bottom, glinting with menace. Nothing holds the tiles up - only
 magic. They fall away in a random pattern, the seemingly-solid floor simply
 giving up and dropping into the bottomless pit. You'll have to be fast to
 keep ahead of the pace at which your footing is simply... vanishing.
=Dungeon Conditions: Slow, Fright=============================================
<Pose Tracker> Yue Rohay has posed.

    "True, but... as Venetia has mentioned, I believe there may be other effective ways to seal a ruin than mere rock," Yue responds as the rock crumbles away with with their combined efforts, including the ice that'd webbed all over it. That's convenient, and...

    ... also very familiar.

    Yue's eyes widen as well, in that way that they do when you come across someone you least expect (and yet fully expect, in the ways fate often plays with her).

    "... Avril," she expresses, her mouth dry.

    Heart twisting not terribly lightly, she listens to the Queen's words as she glances away and focuses on the others. Ida and Ashley have the story to share, after all.

    "Valmar... unfortunately, that is not a topic I have a great grasp on," Yue does admit. "But I do not believe the Hyadeans are related here, I would believe," she tries to reassure Venetia.

    Her desire to give herself some space from Avril, even subconsciously, winds up being troublesome when she paces onward and the ceramic tile goes 'CLICK CLACK CLICK CLACK THROOOM'--

    Ah, the classic pitfall. Yue starts freefalling, but winds up grabbing onto the side of the ledge that's still solid as the rest of the tiles start giving way, in seemingly random pattern.

    "We had best make haste," she says, dangling off the edge of the abyss still.

DG: Yue Rohay has contributed a Agility Basic Action toward her party's challenge, Less Solid Than They Seem.
<Pose Tracker> Avril Vent Fleur has posed.

    To Yue, Avril says not a word. But perhaps the shock followed by grim acceptance as her gaze turns away from her fellow Veruni may itself speak volumes.

    As long as she pursues her present course, she will someday do battle with Yue. That much is certain. But, can she now truly turn back?

    "So this... has to do with Valmar." There is a long, pregnant pause.

    "I... have heard that name," the amnesiac woman says at length, "but I cannot recall where. So they are an evil god...?"

    What rock has Avril been living under, precisely?

    Further digression on the matter of a major figure in a major religion (really, Avril) might need to wait, however--

    The floor is beginning to fall away.

    "Yue--?!"

    Yue's grabbed onto the ledge, at least. But the floor is still crumbling away, tile by tile. Avril hesitates, but for a fraction of a second.

    The Medium's light shines forth. "Lucadia--!"

    She surges forward, reaching to grab Yue's arm and leaps over the gap in the floor that is forming.

    The pragmatic thing would have been to have crossed over without worrying about Yue.

    But the thing she has learned from her friends is... different.

DG: Avril Vent Fleur has used her Tool Sea Medium toward her party's challenge, Less Solid Than They Seem.
<Pose Tracker> Ashley Winchester has posed.

Oh, it's Avril! Ashley gives the Ice Queen of the Veruni a warm smile mere moments before she flash-freezes the obstacle in their path. Ashley doesn't know how it feels to have every molecule in your body suddenly robbed of every erg of energy, but he imagines that maybe it might make you a little brittle.

He's thusly not surprised at how the rock falls apart under Venetia's and Yue's joint assault. If you hit something frozen hard enough, it'll shatter! That's just what happens!

Too bad, they'll just have to put a bigger rock here to replace the one they broke. Ah well.

"I think that name sounds familiar," Ashley says to Jacqueline. "Neriah, huh? Do you know her?" ARE YOU A VALMAR CULTIST TOO!? Ashley has seen the wanted posters, Jay Barber...!

But he can worry about that later. Right now, there are... Issues.

"Uh," the baker starts as the floor ahead of them starts tumbling into the abyss, seemingly at random. This might be a problem. What kind of help can a set of weighted knives possibly be in a situation like this...!?

Well, Ashley... decides to hold one of each in a reverse-grip just in case he slips and falls and needs to dig his daggers into a stable floor tile to heave himself back up. Otherwise, he'll just have to use simple speed and footwork to--




"Aw crackers," Ashley hairpins back around and dives across what remains of the pathway. "Yue!" He yells, letting one knife tumble into the darkness to free up a hand. He thrusts it out at her, hoping to seize the Veruni by the wrist...! "Grab hold! We need to--"

Avril does magic guardian things and grabs Yue's other arm.

She might have just daisy-chained Ashley along for the ride too.

DG: Ashley Winchester has used his Tool Weighted Knives toward his party's challenge, Less Solid Than They Seem.
<Pose Tracker> Jacqueline Barber has posed.

When Ashley asks that question, Jacqueline hesitates a little, thinking about how best to answer it.

"She's... We're friends, sort of...? It's... complicated." Jacqueline replies, deciding to be truthful. "She wasn't always like... well, how you saw her. But she's been doing awful things... so, that's why I'm hoping to learn more about what she's after, so I can stop her."

Beyond the slab sealing the way forward is a path of polished and pattern ceramic. It looks... nice. Almost a little too nice. Jacqueline steps forward... and then, the ceramic tiles begin to fall out under their feet.

"Move!" Jacqueline urges, breaking into a run. She brings out another bottle this time - this one a pale green liquid that leaves the party with a protective mist that will help keep them refreshed.

She gestures with her left hand and a pillar of earth emerges from the side of the wall. It begins to crumble quickly from this place's power, but for the time being at least it'll make a good foothold for them to progress. But, then she spots Yue, hanging from the edge.

"Yue!" Jacqueline says, surprised. She starts to invoke a spell - but, fortunately, Avril gets to her. Jacqueline breathes a sigh of relief, then invokes another spell - this time to create a foothold for the Yue-Avril-Ashley daisy-chain to land on.

DG: Jacqueline Barber has used her Tool Rapid Remedy toward her party's challenge, Less Solid Than They Seem.
<Pose Tracker> Venetia Vuong has posed.

Venetia purses her lips. "A death weapon is a rather useless thing," Venetia says. "If you slay your enemy you can't put your boot on them. And if they're sufficiently terrified, you've just escalated the battle..."

Valmar, Venetia thinks. Didn't I know a guy named Valmar? No, it was like Valdemar, she thinks as she continues forwards, letting Yue take the lead. She seems about to say something when

snap

G O I N G

D
O
W
N

Like love in an elevator, Venetia's anger goes up when she's going down. She has to reach down with one hand to keep her mushroom-gill-patterened skirt from fluttering up, and the other raises up her rod of command - though what spins is her yashichi ring, buoying her descent and meaning she will be... the last to come down, which is probably why the hand on her skirt. Is her plan to just... fall to her death?

Well, perhaps.

'ancient pillar!' thoom
'ancient pillar' thoom!
'Ancient pillar!' thoom!!
'Ancient Pillar!' THOOM!
'ANCIENT - oh.'

Venetia clambers up on the far end of the massive pitfall, scrabbling for a moment as her Jenga tower of magically created marble slabbery falls into the void, potentially awakening a Dweller. But that's a problem for Future Venetia.

"So did Valmar design this trap, or just Valmar's architect?" Venetia asks, heaving for breath.

DG: Venetia Vuong has used her Tool Yashichi Ring toward her party's challenge, Less Solid Than They Seem.
<Pose Tracker> Ida Everstead-Rey has posed.

    Ida looks between Yue and Avril, seeing that moment's hesitation. She has no idea what to make of it as she thinks back to what she knows of the young woman. A tomb encased in a glacier...

    Ida shakes her head. She turns to Ashley. "Neriah was not... always a willing agent of Valmar's power," she says. "From what I gathered, she might have been born with it--an ancestral curse of some sooo--" The Galadian heiress trails off in a cry of surprise as the floor starts to crumble. She leaps forwards, motes of greenish light igniting beneath her heels. A fierce gust of wind billows up from below, trying to catch Yue and the others before they can fall any further. Ida herself dashes onwards, the stones crumbling away beneath her feet. The urgency stops her from making a suitable reply to Venetia's question.

DG: Ida Everstead-Rey has used her Tool Zephyr Boots toward her party's challenge, Less Solid Than They Seem.
===========================<* Arastell Catacombs *>===========================
=================<* CHALLENGE - Less Solid Than They Seem *>==================
|Type: Exploration |Dungeon Ability: Agility   |Challenge Rating: 2          |
--------------------------< Challenge Information: >--------------------------
 The tiles beneath your feet in this room are polished and patterned ceramic,
 solid enough that your footsteps ring out clearly and firmly with each step.
 It seems nothing will interrupt you as you stroll through here.

 Until one of them suddenly gives way.

 One by one, the tiles beneath you begin to fall, revealing a yawning abyss
 beneath them - endless darkness, with a flicker of ghostly light visible far
 at the bottom, glinting with menace. Nothing holds the tiles up - only
 magic. They fall away in a random pattern, the seemingly-solid floor simply
 giving up and dropping into the bottomless pit. You'll have to be fast to
 keep ahead of the pace at which your footing is simply... vanishing.
=Dungeon Conditions: Slow, Fright=============================================
======================<* Arastell Catacombs - Round 2 *>======================
===================< Results - Less Solid Than They Seem >====================
Player                               Exhaustion                      Pass/Fail
------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Jacqueline Barber                   8 --(8)--> 16                  Pass
Rapid Remedy                        1   Agility Effects: Cleanse
------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Ida Everstead-Rey                   8 --(8)--> 16                  Pass
Zephyr Boots                        2   Agility Effects: Quicken
------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Yue Rohay                           8 --(8)--> 16                  Pass
Rush                                0   Agility Effects: BASIC
------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Avril Vent Fleur                    8 --(8)--> 16                  Pass
Sea Medium                          2   Agility Effects: Quicken
------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Ashley Winchester                   8 --(8)--> 16                  Pass
Weighted Knives                     2   Agility Effects: Resilient
------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Venetia Vuong                       8 --(8)--> 16                  Pass
Yashichi Ring                       3   Agility Effects: Rally
----------------------------------< Party >-----------------------------------
Leader: Jacqueline Barber           20 --(20)--> 40                Pass
Conditions: Fright(2)|Slow(2)|Weaken(1)
Effects: Cleanse|Quicken(1)|Resilient(1)
==============================< Dream Chasers >===============================
DG: The party led by Jacqueline Barber 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> Yue Rohay has posed.

    Yue feels a hand grabbing her arm.

    It's a cold, and yet intensely familiar hand, whose touch she knows more than anyone else's; it instinctively drives chills into her spine... and yet, as she looks up towards Avril, a confused scowl crosses her face. "Foolishness, Avril! Why would you...?"

    Ashley also grabs hold onto her other hand, and there is a shake of her head as she says, "Ashley, you may be dragged down as well! Save yourselves, it matters not if I live or die--"

    Ida's winds help counteract gravity for the moment and prevents her from finishing that sordid thought as Lucadia and Jacqueline's pillar boosts them up towards solid ground, as Venetia fortuitiously comes up towards the other end with her own ancient pillar, and a Dweller from Deep Beneath the Earth stirs quietly.

    (don't worry about it)

    ...

    They've come up onto the other side where the floor is solid, and the Veruni quietly nods, as if equal parts embarrassed and ashamed.

    "Why would you..." she speaks to Avril, sounding heavier than before, but forcibly stops herself before she can spiral deeper into herself.

    "... let us move on."

DG: Avril Vent Fleur has drawn a new Challenge.
============================<* Arastell Catacombs *>============================
=======<* CHALLENGE - The Skull Exhibiteth A Fireball Most Pronounced *>========
|Type: Exploration |Dungeon Ability: Combat    |Challenge Rating: 2          |
---------------------------< Challenge Information: >---------------------------
 The catacomb is not merely a hideaway, but a place where the dead have been
 hidden away - and many of them seem centuries old, reduced to little more
 than heaps of bones. In this room with a few wall niches, most are empty,
 only a few holding bone scraps, with mainly empty skulls intact. The room is
 very dim.

 At least, until a flickering bluish light begins to emanate from the skulls.
 The light resolves into halos of flame, radiating from empty eyeholes as the
 skulls float up into the air and begin to circle menacingly. They dart and
 weave towards you, occasionally spewing fireballs - and some attempting to
 take a bite out of you!
=Dungeon Conditions: Fright, Exhaust==========================================
<Pose Tracker> Avril Vent Fleur has posed.

    She isn't the only one who dives to rescue Yue. One other joins, and thus is buoyed up by the power of the Sea Guardian's fabled 'Jump' ability...

    "Ah?!" is more or less Avril's reaction to this turn of events, because when you're in the middle of invoking a Guardian's power this does not precisely permit much in the way of attention diverted elsewhere.

    The pragmatic impulse in her is strong -- even now she is aware, keenly, of what it has to say. To an extent, she can even say there is sense in it: she cannot be certain this power is enough to let her cross with the added burdens, and moreover, there are Yue's future intentions of which to be wary against.
    But, she can only say that there is sense in it to an extent.

    Besides, outside all moral quandaries specifically in regards to Yue, to release her grip now would spell Ashley's doom, and that more or less settles the matter.

    She lands in tandem with Yue and Ashley, safely on the other side.

    Why would she?

    "Would you have rather I had left you to fall? Yue," Avril says quite bluntly, gazing now at her fellow Veruni directly. "I do not regret my course of action. For me, that is sufficient."

    Then she turns, heading deeper into the catacomb.

    What lies beyond are some of the niches for the dead. Avril stops alongside one of the niches, her expression more curious than frightened as she gazes on the remnants of the occupant. "I had thought that humans buried their dead," she remarks, slight confusion slipping into her voice. "So why are they now... ....!"
    Her question trails out into a gasp of surprise

    The occupant of the niche has begun to move, even if they are only a head, now. Glowing from within, they are soon swathed in an eerie flame... and joined by several occupants of other niches!

    Avril goes for her blade, parrying a fireball flung by one of the skulls as she attempts to close, but a flying skull is a difficult target, indeed!

DG: Avril Vent Fleur has contributed a Combat Basic Action toward her party's challenge, The Skull Exhibiteth A Fireball
Most Pronounced.
<Pose Tracker> Yue Rohay has posed.

    Avril speaks bluntly.

    But she knows her better than that. Avril isn't someone without her own internal struggle, which through some cruel trickery that can only be described as 'fate', she feels she understands quite well.

    And when she asks that question...

    Would you have rather I had left you to fall?

    She turns and heads deeper.

    The anguish inside of her, that there's no will to simply answer 'no', is genuinely heartrending.

    "Some cultures..." Yue employs the age-old tactic of distracting herself with another topic, "Lay their dead to rest in large underground structures, rather than burial..."

    She looks towards Ida as she catches a little of the conversation of the Priestess Jay knows.

    "Some... are born with a destiny already engraved in their entire existence, unable to resist it." There is a side-glance from the Veruni. "It may... only hurt more to have people try to change their minds, for even with a free will..."

    A pause. She's a mess today.

    She hears Avril's gasp, though, and the flaming skulls rise as she leaps to the defence, Guardians Save her from the Queen. "Avril!"

    She darts up to simply stomp on one of the skulls with a mythril-tipped heel, and aims to rebound off another in sequence.

DG: Yue Rohay has contributed a Combat Basic Action toward her party's challenge, The Skull Exhibiteth A Fireball Most
Pronounced.
<Pose Tracker> Ashley Winchester has posed.

Flying through the air, no matter how brief it might have been, is still the kind of thing that turns one's stomach upside-down. Ashley yelps as Lucadia's fabled Jump power (how is the Sea Guardian associated with Jumps!? (Perhaps because she is a dragon, and thus must have dragoons...!?)) sends the cluster of self-sacrificing bonklers hurtling to safety. He lands with a solid 'oof' and a teetering stagger that, thankfully, doesn't send him tumbling over the precipice.

To Avril, he offers a thankful, sheepish grin.

To Yue...

A frown.

"...Don't ever say something like that again," he says, softly but firmly. "Of course whether you live or die matters. Do you think I'd be able to look Acacia in the eye and tell her that I let you die? Acacia," Ashley finishes, his gaze hardening, "Please, whatever you do, don't give up on living."

...With that, they proceed, only to find themselves in a set of catacombs that would give the city of Paris on a distant star a run for its money. "All these dead... Were these all Valmar-worshippers...? Why would they stack themselves along a hallway like this, unless--"

Unless they were laid to rest here to keep watch!

A fireball nearly singes Ashley's eyebrows right off his face, if not for a healthy set of reflexes and a sudden backstepping dodge. "Watch out! We've got company!"

If it only wasn't so dark even with all this fire...!

But Ashley has a solution to that.

He snaps the top off a magnesium flare, starting a blindingly bright chemical reaction that floods the hallway with light. With a grunt, he hurls the burning flare into the air where it lodges in the eyesocket of a sessile skull like it were the world's most morbid sconce. "Ida! Medusa Head Formation!!"

What is Medusa Head Formation, you ask?

Why, standing back to back so that you cover one another's blind spots! It's just the thing when you're dealing with horrible floating skull monsters. You know, just like how a medusa has snake-eyes staring in all directions!

<Pose Tracker> Jacqueline Barber has posed.

"It was something she was born with, yes - a curse passed down throughout her family line." Jacqueline confirms with a nod. "I... can't hate her, because of that. With the curse of Valmar weighing on her soul like that... I don't think anyone could fight it off forever. Much less someone in her position."

She shakes her head.

"...Not that it excuses everything she's done, of course." She adds.

She looks toward Yue, then, and frowns at her.

"...Don't say that, Yue. Of course it matters." Jacqueline says, echoing Ashley's sentiments. "And what would the Minder think? You've got a lot to live for, Yue."

And with that, they continue forward. This hallway is more like what she thinks of when she hears the word 'catacombs'. She's quiet, though she glances toward Ashley when he suggests they might be Valmar-worshippers. Before she can comment, though... the skulls blaze into life!

"Be careful!" Jacqueline warns. She backpedals, gesturing with her left hand. The air around several of the skulls begins to lower in temperature abruptly, looking to freeze them out and extinguish the flames within. With her right hand, she draws out the Codex and begins to flip through the pages.

"I'm not sure what manner of sorcery is animating them, but be careful... it looks like they can attack both with fireballs and bites! They're fragile, but there's a lot of them... try to incapacitate them quickly so we don't get overwhelmed!" Jacqueline advises. "I feel a little bad about disturbing their rest like this... but right now we have to worry about ourselves."

DG: Jacqueline Barber has used her Tool The Lifeweaver's Codex toward her party's challenge, The Skull Exhibiteth A
Fireball Most Pronounced.
<Pose Tracker> Venetia Vuong has posed.

Spooky scary skulls opening fire on them with balls! Goodness gracious! Venetia flinches back, having taken a position nearer to the rear due to the fatigue of scrabbling up a rock wall while being less than petite and carrying like ten pounds of bronze around at all times.

"Perhaps they were denied burial by the religious authorities? I don't understand it," Venetia states. "They used to place the dead in high places for the vultures but Guild Galad's far too big for that - it'd be disgusting, you could never keep track -" She sees a flare coming and turns away.

"Ancient dead or not, I'm not going to sit here and let some old fossil get saucy when I have things to do," Venetia says, which is probably a good summary of the Guild Galadian spirit. She digs up another Crest Graph, blinks through a momentary headache, raises it up -

"Faceter!"

It's a streaking bullet hail of shards of semiprecious stones, Charlie Brown!

DG: Venetia Vuong has contributed a Combat Basic Action toward her party's challenge, The Skull Exhibiteth A Fireball
Most Pronounced.
<Pose Tracker> Ida Everstead-Rey has posed.

    Once everyone has regrouped, Ida takes a moment to collect herself--she takes deep, steady breaths until her heart stops racing. She looks at Yue, then at Avril, wondering for a moment what transpired between them to bring up this conversation. She doesn't know Yue well at all, but saying they should've let her fall is... well, it doesn't seem to fit with what little Ida knows. "Ashley is right," Ida says, softly. Her throat begins to constrict. Neriah made her choice. But with the way Yue sounds, Ida's... not sure anything she says on the matter will be helpful.

    "It's certainly... extravagant, by the standards we have back home," Ida says, as her light iluminates another burial niche. "They didn't so much as cremate their dead. Perhaps--"

    A fireball surges from the darkness, racing past Ida's shoulder. The martial artist reacts on reflex, whipping a flare grenade from her belt and touching it to the ignition filament on her palm. She hurls it at the formation of skulls--it erupts in mid-arc, flaring brilliant magnesium-white. Ashley's flare erupts a second later.

    Ida moves to stand back-to-back with Ashley, drawing Devil's Due. She takes aim at the floating skulls, and opens fire!

DG: Ida Everstead-Rey has used her Tool Flare Grenade toward her party's challenge, The Skull Exhibiteth A Fireball Most
Pronounced.
============================<* Arastell Catacombs *>============================
=======<* CHALLENGE - The Skull Exhibiteth A Fireball Most Pronounced *>========
|Type: Exploration |Dungeon Ability: Combat    |Challenge Rating: 2          |
---------------------------< Challenge Information: >---------------------------
 The catacomb is not merely a hideaway, but a place where the dead have been
 hidden away - and many of them seem centuries old, reduced to little more
 than heaps of bones. In this room with a few wall niches, most are empty,
 only a few holding bone scraps, with mainly empty skulls intact. The room is
 very dim.

 At least, until a flickering bluish light begins to emanate from the skulls.
 The light resolves into halos of flame, radiating from empty eyeholes as the
 skulls float up into the air and begin to circle menacingly. They dart and
 weave towards you, occasionally spewing fireballs - and some attempting to
 take a bite out of you!
=Dungeon Conditions: Fright, Exhaust==========================================
DG: Ashley Winchester has used his Tool Flare Gun toward his party's challenge, The Skull Exhibiteth A Fireball Most
Pronounced.
============================<* Arastell Catacombs *>============================
=======<* CHALLENGE - The Skull Exhibiteth A Fireball Most Pronounced *>========
|Type: Exploration |Dungeon Ability: Combat    |Challenge Rating: 2          |
---------------------------< Challenge Information: >---------------------------
 The catacomb is not merely a hideaway, but a place where the dead have been
 hidden away - and many of them seem centuries old, reduced to little more
 than heaps of bones. In this room with a few wall niches, most are empty,
 only a few holding bone scraps, with mainly empty skulls intact. The room is
 very dim.

 At least, until a flickering bluish light begins to emanate from the skulls.
 The light resolves into halos of flame, radiating from empty eyeholes as the
 skulls float up into the air and begin to circle menacingly. They dart and
 weave towards you, occasionally spewing fireballs - and some attempting to
 take a bite out of you!
=Dungeon Conditions: Fright, Exhaust==========================================
=======================<* Arastell Catacombs - Round 3 *>=======================
=========< Results - The Skull Exhibiteth A Fireball Most Pronounced >==========
Player                               Exhaustion                      Pass/Fail
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Jacqueline Barber                   16 --(8)--> 24                 Pass
The Lifeweaver's Codex              2   Combat  Effects: Embolden
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Ida Everstead-Rey                   16 --(8)--> 24                 Pass
Flare Grenade                       2   Combat  Effects: Embolden
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Yue Rohay                           16 --(8)--> 24                 Pass
Fight                               0   Combat  Effects: BASIC
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Avril Vent Fleur                    16 --(8)--> 24                 Pass
Fight                               0   Combat  Effects: BASIC
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Ashley Winchester                   16 --(8)--> 24                 Fail
Flare Gun                           1   Combat  Effects: Cleanse
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Venetia Vuong                       16 --(8)--> 24                 Pass
Fight                               0   Combat  Effects: BASIC
-----------------------------------< Party >------------------------------------
Leader: Jacqueline Barber           40 --(20)--> 60                Pass
Conditions: Exhaust(1)|Fright(2)
Effects: Cleanse|Embolden(1)
===============================< Dream Chasers >================================
DG: The party led by Jacqueline Barber 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> Avril Vent Fleur has posed.

    "Lay their dead to rest underground," Avril echoes, her expression pensive.

    Until the dead rest no more and rise up to attack the lot of them!

    The blade, as it happens, turns out to prove best at keeping the skulls at bay than damaging them, though this means that her role -- at least at the moment -- is one of pure defense. For now, she is unscathed, but how long might that continue...?

    Yue provides her own statement on this turn of events then, puncturing the skull currently menacing Avril with a single thrust. Its light dies; it moves no more. "Yue?" Avril hazards.

    Elsewhere in the melee that has broken out, Ashley has the good idea to throw a flare at one of them--
    It's just too bad that since they don't have eyes, they can't precisely be blinded. Though, it does make that unlucky one that much easier to hit.
    Particularly when he gets into formation with Ida, the two of them from that point laying waste to the animated dead, drawing upon the information that Jay provides from the pages of the tome. Indeed, none of the skulls can so much as get close to the pair of them.

    Which leaves Venetia and the sole remaining clattering skull. It swoops for her--

    Bone doesn't stand a chance against a stone bullet. It explodes into an impressive spray of powdery shards.

    "I assume this is not normal for those buried in this manner," Avril says, in such a way that it's hard to tell if she is making a little bit of a grim joke, or being entirely earnest...

DG: Ida Everstead-Rey has drawn a new Challenge.
============================<* Arastell Catacombs *>============================
========================<* CHALLENGE - Guard Lizards *>=========================
|Type: Exploration |Dungeon Ability: Combat    |Challenge Rating: 2          |
---------------------------< Challenge Information: >---------------------------
 As you traverse this chamber, it's hard to miss the row of statues against
 one wall, each on a small podium. They're stone carvings in the shape of
 hunched lizardmen, each holding a large cleaver. They're awfully realistic.

 The reason becomes clear as you pass by a predetermined point in the room.
 Stone gives way to cold grey-green flesh and weathered steel as the statues
 surge to life and descend from their perches with a hellish shriek. The
 Lizard Sentries descend with broad swings of cleavers, fanatically focused
 on dragging your party into a melee and cutting you down.
=Dungeon Conditions: Wound====================================================
<Pose Tracker> Ida Everstead-Rey has posed.

    'I assume this is not normal for those buried in this manner.'

    Ida chuckles, darkly. "For the agents of the God of Darkness, perhaps," she says. She slips Devil's Due back into its holster, and steps over the shards of broken bone. As the group comes to an archway, Ida pauses a moment, as if scenting the air. The air is thicker here, but not by virtue of the architecture of the catacombs--there's something foul in the depths, and they're drawing closer to it. "If the Claws were further up," she murmurs, "then what could be down here? What would they consider more valuable?" Ida pauses, and looks back at the others. "But I'm getting ahead of myself." She glances around the room, and resumes.

    "The Church teaches that Valmar, the Bringer of Darkness, was slain in battle centuries ago--torn to pieces by the God's servant Granas to prevent his resurrection." Ida speaks with the authority of someone who grew up with that story--who learned a slightly sanitized version of it as a child, and internalized it. "God only knows what really happened, but Valmar and his sundered corpse do exist. That seems to be what Neriah is after--to reunite the pieces and resurrect her god."

    Ida stops again, in the middle of a smaller antechamber, decorated with elaborate-looking frescoes. Ida turns to look at one of them, frowning as she studies the eerily lifelike illustration. "I don't recognize these creatures," she says, and in that instant, the painting's eyes meet hers. In a rush of sorcerous power, the paintings' subjects tear free from the walls, charging the Drifters with weapons raised. Ida lets out a cry of alarm, and sweeps up an arm to block an axe. Steel grates against Hyadean biometal; she twists to the side, pulling herself out from beneath the weapon. "Grenade!" she shouts. A moment later, she hurls a small metal sphere to the floor, where it erupts with a brilliant flash of white.

DG: Ida Everstead-Rey has used her Tool Flare Grenade toward her party's challenge, Guard Lizards.
<Pose Tracker> Yue Rohay has posed.

    The skulls are dispatched in brief succession. It's all the best, too, because they could be quite the issue if not; she averts her eyes from the flare, and looks back towards the team...

    Yue hears their voices.

    Ashley, with a stern face, telling her to not say that again. What would he tell Acacia if something were to happen? ("W-why would Acacia, of all people, matter," she might grumpily huff in weak defence in another mood, but alas, this is not that.) Ida confirms it as well, and Jacqueline reminds her of how the Minder would think...

    ...

    Of course, it isn't the first time she's had that kind of exchange. Acacia is fiery when she missteps like that. But every time, she feels she drifts a little further from people who can say those kinds of things... the kind of people who can have that certainty. What is it that they have? That kindling inside of them, like a spark of...

    Hope?

    Avril calls her name again, and there is a quiet look passed her way for a longer moment, before she turns away. "... not right now."

    "I apologise," she says, trying to not sound too hollow. "I am fine now. I will keep Acacia and the Minder in mind, of course."

    She listens in on Ida's explanation, tilting her head.

    "The pieces of Valmar... I doubt anything good can come out of possessing them." There is a tilt of her head, as they pass through some awfully realistic statues of lizardmen...

    "... ah. This is that setup, is it not? Where we pass by and then suddenly they--"

    --come to life.

    Ida calls out for her usage of a grenade, and she leaps clear as she taclkes one of the lizardmen directly and whirls with a powerful, broad-sweeping axe kick that seeks to snare one of the cleavers' hilts and--

    "Haah!"

    --you know, just impromptu-wield a lizardman cleaver pinched onto your high heel in a flourish of painting-made-steel.

DG: Yue Rohay has contributed a Combat Basic Action toward her party's challenge, Guard Lizards.
<Pose Tracker> Ashley Winchester has posed.

Somehow, possibly because Ashley knows that deep psychological issues are not simply dispelled by firm reassurance and desperate pleas alone, Ashley finds Yue's answer somewhat... Half-baked. It's crispy and golden brown on the outside, but only because you accidentally left the oven on too hot, and the insides are all gooey and doughy because barely anything baked beyond the shell.

This is a strong metaphor. Ashley knows his baking.

But he lets it slide for now. THEOLOGY is afoot.

"I mean, maybe we're thinking backwards here," Ashley says, hopefully trying to ignore the thickening miasma. "Maybe the Claw of Valmar, and all these monsters, were placed between the surface and some holy relic of Granas? To keep the righteous from reclaiming a powerful weapon against the God of Evil! You know!?"

(This is a foolish, futile hope.)

(Also, there are angry statues.)

"Gargoyles!?" Ashley gasps, meeting the business end of a stone battleaxe with the broad blade of his Bayonet. "What is this place trying to protect!?" Ashley pivots, firing an incendiary round right into his dance partner's toothy maw. It's made of stone, so this doesn't actually do much-- but it does help light up the area a little bit more.

DG: Ashley Winchester has used his Tool Flare Gun toward his party's challenge, Guard Lizards.
<Pose Tracker> Jacqueline Barber has posed.

Jacqueline looks at Yue for a moment. Her answer... she's still a little worried.

"...Alright." She says reluctantly. She doesn't want to leave it at just that, but she's not sure what else she can say.

She then listens intently as Ida explains Valmar, and what Neriah's after.

"...Is that what she's after? I didn't know that part - about wanting to reunite the pieces..." Jacqueline replies with a frown. And one of them was here - the Claw of Valmar. "That's a little worrying."

With the skulls taken care of they move on into a smaller antechamber, filled with statues of lizardmen, that Ida says she doesn't recognize.

"Maybe there's something in the Codex about them?" Jacqueline replies consideringly. And, as she flips through the pages... of course they come to life. "...I guess it's a good thing I was already opened to the right page..."

With a sigh she backpedals to keep herself out of range and put herself in a good position to read.

"These lizardmen... it looks like they primarily prefer close-quarters combat! Those cleavers are dangerous, and give them a fairly wide array of attack - and they're quick, too! Don't let them corner you if you can help it!" She advises. "They have a weakness to the cold, so ice-based sorcery is particularly effective - but they don't have any particular resistances, either."

For her part, Jacqueline shuts the Codex and stores it away. With a gesture of her right hand, she brings lightning crashing down on the nearest Lizard Sentry's head.

DG: Jacqueline Barber has used her Tool The Lifeweaver's Codex toward her party's challenge, Guard Lizards.
<Pose Tracker> Venetia Vuong has posed.

What could they consider more valuable?
The sundered corpse of a god... broken like an old-fashioned sky burial.
Strange creatures...

Ashley presents a theory.

"Phooey on old relics," Venetia says to herself. Then she has her eyes flick towards the lizardmen as they rise. "If there's some sort of ancient fragment of a dead super-entity here, it doesn't need to be resurrected or sealed or anything like this. If it's truly vile, destroy it or drop it into a magma seep. But if it's just some ancient piece of this world's history, it doesn't belong in one of these death traps."

Behind her lacy mask, Venetia's eyes practically gleam as one of the lizardmen comes towards her. "It doesn't belong where it can threaten the peace of this world. It doesn't BELONG to whatever MANIAC has decided to bring TERROR to a planet that already suffers enough!"

Is she going to cast a spell? Apparently not. Maybe she's out of TP.

"If some dark relic of Valmar or whoever truly rests here," Venetia says as a lizardman swings up a cleaver, "Then it belongs --"

Venetia twists forwards to get her shoulder underneath a lizardy armpit and twist!

"In a museum!"

DG: Venetia Vuong has contributed a Combat Basic Action toward her party's challenge, Guard Lizards.
<Pose Tracker> Avril Vent Fleur has posed.

    Of all things, Avril smiles at Yue. It is a faint and rather worried smile, but a smile it remains nonetheless.

    Avril appears to consider what Ida has said. Her expression retains its pensive cast as Ida continues on, speaking of Claws, subject that evokes such naked bafflement in the woman's expression that it suggests that she...

    ...doesn't really know any part of what is being discussed here at all, huh.

    "I see," she says, at significant length, following along as they head into a new chamber. "Then, this god of darkness, Valmar, was defeated by God's servant Granas a long time ago." That's not quite it.

    Avril is silent a moment, then.

    "What domain does this 'God' command?"

    Listen, Avril has spent most of her time either trucking about with Guardianists or Althenians, and the closest she's gotten to the orthodox belief was the one time she went to Nisan to ask questions about letter from a long-dead Bishop of Nimrod. Monotheisim, as the Granas church practices it, is not her forte.

    But perhaps theology lessons might need to wait, as the statues and paintings are attacking them now.

    "Is this also typical for agents of the God of Darkness?" Avril voices, taking her blade to one of her attackers. Even stone doesn't stand a chance against her sword -- Absolute Zero may not possess an edge that cuts all, but it cannot be broken. Drawing upon Jay's guidance, she circles her current target, trying to keep a route of retreat open.

DG: Avril Vent Fleur has contributed a Combat Basic Action toward her party's challenge, Guard Lizards.
============================<* Arastell Catacombs *>============================
========================<* CHALLENGE - Guard Lizards *>=========================
|Type: Exploration |Dungeon Ability: Combat    |Challenge Rating: 2          |
---------------------------< Challenge Information: >---------------------------
 As you traverse this chamber, it's hard to miss the row of statues against
 one wall, each on a small podium. They're stone carvings in the shape of
 hunched lizardmen, each holding a large cleaver. They're awfully realistic.

 The reason becomes clear as you pass by a predetermined point in the room.
 Stone gives way to cold grey-green flesh and weathered steel as the statues
 surge to life and descend from their perches with a hellish shriek. The
 Lizard Sentries descend with broad swings of cleavers, fanatically focused
 on dragging your party into a melee and cutting you down.
=Dungeon Conditions: Wound====================================================
=======================<* Arastell Catacombs - Round 4 *>=======================
==========================< Results - Guard Lizards >===========================
Player                               Exhaustion                      Pass/Fail
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Jacqueline Barber                   24 --(8)--> 32                 Pass
The Lifeweaver's Codex              2   Combat  Effects: Embolden
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Ida Everstead-Rey                   24 --(8)--> 32                 Pass
Flare Grenade                       2   Combat  Effects: Embolden
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Yue Rohay                           24 --(8)--> 32                 Pass
Fight                               0   Combat  Effects: BASIC
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Avril Vent Fleur                    24 --(8)--> 32                 Fail
Fight                               0   Combat  Effects: BASIC
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Ashley Winchester                   24 --(8)--> 32                 Pass
Flare Gun                           1   Combat  Effects: Cleanse
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Venetia Vuong                       24 --(8)--> 32                 Pass
Fight                               0   Combat  Effects: BASIC
-----------------------------------< Party >------------------------------------
Leader: Jacqueline Barber           60 --(20)--> 80                Pass
Conditions: Fright(1)|Wound(2)
Effects: Cleanse|Embolden(1)
===============================< Dream Chasers >================================
DG: The party led by Jacqueline Barber 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: Venetia Vuong has drawn a new Challenge.
===========================<* Arastell Catacombs *>===========================
==================<* CHALLENGE - Everdead But Never Bowed *>==================
|Type: Final       |Dungeon Ability: Combat    |Challenge Rating: 3          |
--------------------------< Challenge Information: >--------------------------
 This circular chamber is lit only by a ring of candles, flickering with pale
 blue flame. Carved into the dark marble of the floor is a jagged emblem of
 Valmar. Amidst the dancing shadows, there is a ripple of something - a mist
 that begins to creep along the floor.

 The haze builds and swirls, collecting rapidly at the heart of the chamber
 and taking form. It coalesces into a figure, a skeletal entity in billowing
 robes and gleaming silver pauldrons, blue flame streaming around its skull
 and through its eyeholes. The lich brandishes a massive glaive as it
 advances on your party.

 The Everdead comes at you not just with bladed strikes, but high-powered ice
 magic, calling forth huge shards of ice at will to try and freeze and
 shatter your party - and it has a disconcerting propensity to teleport
 around the room when threatened. It does not fight you mindlessly. Its
 strikes are calculated and deliberate.

 After all these ages, its mind is still whole.
=Dungeon Conditions: Fright, Suffer===========================================
<Pose Tracker> Ida Everstead-Rey has posed.

    It's clear that whomever designed this chamber made a nasty little trap--between the lizardmen emerging from the frescoes on the walls and the animated statues, there's enough foes to overwhelm your average group of Drifters. How fortunate, then, that this is not an average group of Drifters.

    Yue's leg snaps forth, relieving one of the statues of its weapon in a single strike. With the cleaver secure, she lays into the nearby lizardmen, kick-slashing with terrifying force--chunks of stone and shreds of dissipating magic fall to the floor. Ashley shoots another statue point-blank in the face, reducing its head to chunks of rubble. The magnesium flare still burns as its headless body drops to the ground. Venetia hurls another lizardman off its feet with some deft close-quarters action--it faceplants onto the floor, where a point-blank stomp from Ida finishes it off. Jay's lightning sweeps through more of the enemy, along with Avril's blade. It isn't long before the trap has been comprehensively disarmed.

    Ida brushes stone dust off her pants. "Does that feel like a holy relic of Granas to you?" she says, to Ashley. She lets that hang in the air a moment, before turning to Venetia. "Agreed. Though I'm inclined to believe it's almost certainly the former, and not the latter."

<Pose Tracker> Ashley Winchester has posed.

"It--" Ashley hesitates, "It could be! Maybe there's some kind of evil Valmarian monster sealing it up!!"

<Pose Tracker> Venetia Vuong has posed.

The chamber is circular and vast. "Ah," Venetia says breathlessly, "we're getting into a ritual space, now. It's not going to be much further. Interesting, isn't it, how these places tend to be round?"

The light shines out - a blue, cold, corpse-light. Venetia looks at the candle ring as the temperature, palpably, discernibly, drops. She feels the cold clamp at her spine, at her endocrine network.

No, she thinks to herself, with a stony resolution. I'm not going to let it scare me.

Venetia's shoulders roll for a moment as she says, even as the Thing begins to coalesce, "Right, I'm getting a jump on this for once. This place isn't that big. I'm going to purify the entire floor. We'll see what this damn apparition thinks of that." And with that she begins to run forwards, though she is not arrogant enough to get within that circle.

And within that circle the haze, the mist, rises. It congeals. It conglomerates, forming a shape, a shape that pushes through the boundaries. A skeletal figure in billowing robes. Pauldrons gleam. Blue flame lights its eyes with corpselike intelligence. It opens its jaw and exhales icy mist as it reaches forwards, drawing its glaive from the depths of the underworld and raising it up -

CONSIDER THE BATTLESCAPE LAYOUT.

Everdead in the center.

Entrance at six o' clock.

Venetia at 2 o' clock, where she pauses, pants for breath for a moment, and draws out a Crest Graph. She chants to herself.

The entity, the undead Thing, was already malicious. There is a powerful sense that the group is Unwanted. That this is not a place for Them, nor should it ever be. That malice, already potent, begins to intensify; what had been curdling *ignites*. Rime on the glaive's blade crystallizes, making an already wicked blade fractally elongated. It raises the weapon up to SWEEP THE ENTIRE ROOM --

INSERT: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ECNRH3-j5WY

* The Everdead entity will grow in fury and power as the room is systematically purified by spammed Crest Sorcery!
* What happens when there's no room in the room for it any more?
* Maybe secret bonus treasure!
* Avoid Death for High Score

DG: Venetia Vuong has contributed a Combat Basic Action toward her party's challenge, Everdead But Never Bowed.
<Pose Tracker> Yue Rohay has posed.

    They've come rather swiftly onto the end, now.

    She catches a glimpse of Avril's smile. Yue doesn't know what to make of it. It's tugging away at her heart, threatening to toss it into not so much as a crumpled piece of paper. Jacqueline also looks concerned, and there's something in her voice that tugs at her as well.

    "Forgive me, but... I feel as if I have heard that 'museum' line a lot, and it always winds up with a museum heist where it is stolen and misused for nefarious purposes," Yue remarks quietly.

    But Venetia says she will purify the floor, and the mist... rises, a skeletal figure in billowing robes. Pauldrons gleaming... eyes lighting with corpselike intelligence.

    Yue looks to Avril, then back towards the creature as she slips out from her pouch an old golem core and--

    *rumble*

    *rumble*

    *rumblerumblerumble*

    Shaaaaaaaal...

    Avril is not the only one who can summon Golems, though in Yue's case, there's only one steadfast and everlasting one that will beckon to her call. And, burrowing through the depths, out emerges!!!

    A Friend-shaped Golem... except she has gained a black coat of paint with Boos painted all over her, and in place of white chauffeur gloves, her gloves are black with spoooooooooky skeleton hands!!

    "... ah. Yes... it is an apt time to be Spooky Shal," Yue pats Big Shal on the side, who looks to the lich and...

    Oooooooo~!

    Attempts to out-spook the dead out of the Everdead!!!

DG: Yue Rohay has used her Tool An Old Golem Core toward her party's challenge, Everdead But Never Bowed.
<Pose Tracker> Ashley Winchester has posed.

Forward! The party enters a chamber illuminated by naught but cold, blue fire. No warmth radiates from those infernal flames, and the only light that they shed casts ominous shadows into the dark. "Why do I hear ominous chanting?" Ashley asks, every one of his senses keenly aware that he's just stepped into a boss room and that this is probably not going to go well. "Hold on," he double-takes at Venetia, "You know how to purify-!?"

Inauspicious darkness advents.

There is an evil Valmarian monster. Whether there is also a holy relic of Granas hidden behind it is uncertain but irrelevant, because fate itself seems determined to break all of Ashley Winchester's fragile hopes and dreams.

Well.

He's not about to let it!

"Fire in the hole!" Ashley yells as the Everdead entity winds up for a sweeping blow. A white-hot magnesium flare erupts out of his ARM. Ashley follows with another. And another! And when he runs out, he swaps ammunition, launching canisters full of WAR CRI-- napalm.

Canisters full of napalm.

And then a spooky Shal bursts out of the corrupted ground. Ashley wonders, briefly, if golems can be corrupted by Valmar.

Granas above, Ashley hopes golems can't be corrupted by Valmar. This world does not need to suffer the unholy might of Shalmar the Defiler.

DG: Ashley Winchester has used his Tool Flare Gun toward his party's challenge, Everdead But Never Bowed.
<Pose Tracker> Jacqueline Barber has posed.

"I tend to agree. If it's something that can help people, or at least educate them, it shouldn't stay locked up or buried. It's important to learn from the past, in the hopes that it'll give us a chance to improve our future." Jacqueline comments, in response to Venetia. Whether or not there'll be anything useful here that wasn't horribly tainted by Valmar is another thing entirely - but, that's why it's important to look. "But..."

Well, like Ida says, Jacqueline as a feeling anything hidden here will be more of the dangerous sort.

They move forward and, eventually, they find themselves in, as Venetia says, a ritual space, encircled by candles lit with pale blue flames. And on the floor is carved the emblem of Valmar.

"This place... there's an ominous chill..." Jacqueline mutters. Soon, the room fills with mist. And the mist rises, converging into an undead form.

Once again, Jacqueline breaks out the Codex.

"That form... that's an Everdead. That glaive is dangerous - try not to group up! It's incredibly talented with the blade - but it also has ice-based sorcery, too! Be careful... it isn't like any of the enemies we've fought up to this point!" Jacqueline warns. She looks, then, toward Venetia.

"Purify... okay! I'll focus on support!" She says. She reaches into her bag, drawing out potions and keeping them at the ready to tend to the party.

She is momentarily distracted by the sight of Big Shal, who emerges from the depths! ...With a rather spooky new paint job. Jacqueline has to try very hard to keep herself from laughing. It's too cute...!

DG: Jacqueline Barber has used her Tool The Lifeweaver's Codex toward her party's challenge, Everdead But Never Bowed.
<Pose Tracker> Avril Vent Fleur has posed.

    At the heart of this city of the dead there lingers a lich.

    Avril gazes up it, her attention snapping in Venetia's direction but the once as she darts off to the other side of the room.

    "So, is this the reason why I must come here," she asks, perhaps of the Ley and whatever will the planet possesses.

    Her gaze meets Yue's own, then dips to the core in Yue's hand. Then, this only means that...

    ...

    "It is good to see you again, Big Shal," she says to the Golem as it arrives. "I am grateful to be able fight alongside you."

    But the time available for such niceties is quickly dwindling. Venetia reaches her spot and begins to cast.

    And the malice from the thing in the center of the room only intensifies.

    In one hand, Avril bears her sword; with a twist of the wrist, the blade itself vanishes.

    In the other hand, she bears the Medium.

    "Lucadia--!" she invokes, as it begins to raise its glaive, and launches herself ceilingwards.

    Only to descend like a falling star and nearly as bright, lashing out with Absolute Zero's beam.

DG: Avril Vent Fleur has contributed a Combat Basic Action toward her party's challenge, Everdead But Never Bowed.
<Pose Tracker> Ida Everstead-Rey has posed.

    '...and misused for nefarious purposes.'

    Ida's lips curl into a slight little frown. Her thoughts on Odessa's doings have to take a backseat to the unpleasant situation before her. "We're close," she says. "Whatever it is, it's certainly nearby, we just need to--" The corpse-light ignites, and a frisson of fear races down Ida's spine. "A guardian!" she cries, as the thing takes shape. That sensation of wrongness intensifies to the point where it's tangible; rather than ignore it, Ida allows the fear and uncertainty to animate her. The thing draws back its blade, preparing to strike.

    Ida does her best to deny it that chance. The martial artist hurls her last flare grenade at the creature's face, hoping that it will at least distract it. She shuts her eyes--the flashbang ignites, casting bright light against her closed eyelids. Ida moves by sensation, not by sight; she charges across the room, towards the blood-curdling presence.

    The martial artist opens her eyes, breathes in, and explodes into a flurry of furious strikes--kicks, punches, and open-palm blows. Something huge appears in the corner of her eye, but sadly, she's too focused on her foe to notice that a certain friend-shaped Golem has decided to lend a hand. Give her a moment.

DG: Ida Everstead-Rey has used her Tool Flare Grenade toward her party's challenge, Everdead But Never Bowed.
===========================<* Arastell Catacombs *>===========================
==================<* CHALLENGE - Everdead But Never Bowed *>==================
|Type: Final       |Dungeon Ability: Combat    |Challenge Rating: 3          |
--------------------------< Challenge Information: >--------------------------
 This circular chamber is lit only by a ring of candles, flickering with pale
 blue flame. Carved into the dark marble of the floor is a jagged emblem of
 Valmar. Amidst the dancing shadows, there is a ripple of something - a mist
 that begins to creep along the floor.

 The haze builds and swirls, collecting rapidly at the heart of the chamber
 and taking form. It coalesces into a figure, a skeletal entity in billowing
 robes and gleaming silver pauldrons, blue flame streaming around its skull
 and through its eyeholes. The lich brandishes a massive glaive as it
 advances on your party.

 The Everdead comes at you not just with bladed strikes, but high-powered ice
 magic, calling forth huge shards of ice at will to try and freeze and
 shatter your party - and it has a disconcerting propensity to teleport
 around the room when threatened. It does not fight you mindlessly. Its
 strikes are calculated and deliberate.

 After all these ages, its mind is still whole.
=Dungeon Conditions: Fright, Suffer===========================================
======================<* Arastell Catacombs - Round 5 *>======================
====================< Results - Everdead But Never Bowed >====================
Player                               Exhaustion                      Pass/Fail
------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Jacqueline Barber                   32 --(12)--> 44                Pass
The Lifeweaver's Codex              2   Combat  Effects: Embolden
------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Ida Everstead-Rey                   32 --(12)--> 44                Pass
Flare Grenade                       2   Combat  Effects: Embolden
------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Yue Rohay                           32 --(12)--> 44                Pass
An Old Golem Core                   3   Combat  Effects: Fanfare
------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Avril Vent Fleur                    32 --(12)--> 44                Fail
Fight                               0   Combat  Effects: BASIC
------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Ashley Winchester                   32 --(12)--> 44                Pass
Flare Gun                           1   Combat  Effects: Cleanse
------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Venetia Vuong                       32 --(12)--> 44                Fail
Fight                               0   Combat  Effects: BASIC
----------------------------------< Party >-----------------------------------
Leader: Jacqueline Barber           80 --(35)--> 115               Pass
Conditions: Fright(2)|Suffer(1)
Effects: Cleanse|Embolden(1)
==============================< Dream Chasers >===============================
DG: You have overcome the dungeon's trials! This run is a success!
DG: The party led by Jacqueline Barber has successfully explored Arastell Catacombs!
===========================<* Arastell Catacombs *>===========================
=====================<* CHALLENGE - Something Remains *>======================
|Type: Discovery   |Dungeon Ability: Conclusion|Challenge Rating: 1          |
--------------------------< Challenge Information: >--------------------------
 Even as you emerge from your eerie encounter, the sense of being watched
 does not diminish. Something clearly remains here. The Power of Darkness
 ebbs and flows through the place - the power of the agents of Valmar, cold
 and ancient.

 The room you emerge into seems to have once been a storage room. Now it's
 mostly empty, but you can find one item clearly enough: A dry, dusty
 parchment into which a map of the catacombs has been carved. Clearly flagged
 on the map is a circular room at the lowest level, a short string of text
 marking it as the Sanctum. The map illustrates thirteen notches around that
 room - burial niches for someone important, no doubt.

 Only one of the niches is marked: A small, jagged icon - part of the mark of
 Valmar - has been painted on one of those at the left. Perhaps the source of
 the lingering darkness can be found there. But what can be done about it?

 (You should @mail Neriah Parringer about this discovery!)
=Dungeon Conditions: Treasure=================================================
<Pose Tracker> Venetia Vuong has posed.

SPACE PURIFIED: 1/9

"Yes!" Venetia calls crabbily back to Ashley. "Why! I mean, I don't know if it's the same as some religious nonsense, but the ground is mine to control! What, you think a lady with a slit in her dress can't purify weird s-"

Venetia doesn't finish her sentence because she has to dive away from a lethal ice needle.

Ashley sensibly resorts to napalm. As the burning flame rises around the creature, the hot thermal hope of life - for napalm, in all its horror, is almost the quintessence of Fire itself, and Fire catalyzes and brings life and heat and chemical Reaction anew - struggling with the cold gloom of death. The Everdead is mad about it.

"Maybe," Venetia answers Yue, "but it's going to get stolen either way, by that self same logic. Some things you can't destroy. This way, at least there will be some good - scholars will learn! It will be brought into the light of the street, not left to moulder like some canker in the heart of the world! It will have a place, a place that can be controlled, defined! A place for the living, not for the dead!"

SPACE PURIFIED: 2/9

The face of a Spooky Golem appears. The Everdead is locked in contention with it, a silent exchange of force direct. Can the golem's core prevail...? Perhaps it cannot - but the entity drifts back, a great leg's length away.

And immediately raises its glaive to try to chop down Jay, even as Jay provides some tidbits. The strikes leave spikes of razor-sharp frost wherever they hit, even as Venetia pants a little, reaches another space, and

SPACE PURIFIED: 3/9

the Everdead whirls to face her. The glaive comes up. Venetia swears viciously and turns to run back the other way, narrowly avoiding the first strike. The second one brackets her in and she falls on her backside. She stares upwards, sweat soaking the lace of her mask when

SHING

A B S O L U T E Z E R O

The third strike doesn't come. Venetia keeps moving, though the Everdead does not. Ida lunges forwards, subjecting it to a brutal set of

STRIKE! STRIKE! STRIKE!
STRIKE! STRIKE! STRIKE!
STRIKE! STRIKE! STRIKE!
STRIKE! STRIKE! STELLAR!
STRIKE! STRIKE! STRIKE!
STRIKE! STRIKE! STRIKE!
STRIKE! STRIKE! STRIKE!
STRIKE! YEAH! STRIKE!

-- and then suddenly her blows touch nothing but mist. The chill breathes out. The candles gutter their way out as well. The room is dim for a moment, and in the chamber, Venetia says, alertly, "Is it destroyed?"

It is not.

But the malice has been hemmed in. Space and opposition have kept it from rising, and there is abeyance for now. In time the purity that Venetia's scholarly arts have evoked will fade... but that is a problem for the future.

A portal is revealed... (a stone one, not a cosmic one)

The power of darkness is in abeyance thanks to the power of Shal, Napalm, the Stygian arts, the weavery of life, and karate, not necessarily in that order. Venetia breathes out as they move inwards. "This place is obviously still used by someone and I am unhappy about that," Venetia states. Then -

"Is that a map...?"

<==== TO BE CONTINUED