Continuities » Sandboxes » Why does the dungeon always collapse
Jul 27, 2017 8:46 AM
Veron in Arda
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Nod.

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"Getting to the guy was a bit of a hassle, there was a desert in the way. On the bright side, Deekin decided he liked me enough to follow after me - he didn't really want to go home to his tribe, he had a lot of bad memories associated with it. Travel through the desert got, uh. More interesting than it rightly should have, but what happened wasn't super relevant to anything else? I don't know if you want to hear about it or not."
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"I would!"

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"Okay," he laughs. "So, first, the caravan I was with was ambushed, and several people were dragged off to become sacrifices to an evil god. One of them was our guide through the desert. Putting aside considerations of, you know, not wanting people to get sacrificed to an evil god, we absolutely could not make it through the desert without a guide. But also, I didn't want anyone to be sacrificed on general principle. So Deekin and I went after them. Miscellaneous heroics ensued, we rescued everyone we could, guide included, and we were back on track."
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"'Miscellaneous heroics ensued.'"

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"Sneaking in, learning important secrets about how the group worked, getting caught, fighting a large terrifying beast called a manticore, stopping an evil ritual at the last possible moment, dramatic final battle with the person in charge, releasing all of the prisoners and then looting the place for anything valuable. Standard miscellaneous heroics, really. Though I'm now a lot better at not getting caught after sneaking in. So I guess standard heroic fare for like, my early career as a professional lost person?"
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"...the stories I hear usually don't skip over those parts. Maybe it's a humans thing."

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"It's probably just a me thing, really. It feels weird to go on about, uh, that sort of thing? Deekin's better at describing it, I tend to just say something like, 'There was a big monster thing, and then I stabbed it, and there was no longer a big monster thing,' which always feels anti-climactic."
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"Yes, that's not at all how to tell stories about battling monsters."

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"See! I know my weaknesses. So I elide over the battling bits with 'miscellaneous heroics ensue' and leave the rest as an exercise to the listener. Imagine whatever you find most heroic. Or funny, I guess. Whatever you'd find most narratively satisfying, whatever that is."
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"I don't think I have enough imagination to imagine out the adventures. I wouldn't have thought of an evil ritual or sneaking in or important group secrets relevant to monster-stabbing."

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"Oh. Well. Um. ... Ordinarily I'd recommend reading Deekin's book, here, he wrote about all of those pesky details I can't seem to talk about, but it's in Common and also you guys don't have writing, so um. I could. Read to you?"
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"That sounds fun!"

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"All right, but I warn you, it gets a bit, uh, flowery sometimes."

He retrieves the book titled 'Shadows of Undrentide' from its place of honor next to his journals, finds a place to sit, and opens it.

"Do you want me to start from the beginning, or from where I left off in my story?"
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"...where you left off, I suppose, and then we can go back and hear the whole later?"

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"Sure."

Veron finds the correct chapter ('A Burrow Invaded') and begins reading.

"A shadow flits from behind a rock to behind an abandoned barrel, silent as death itself. The shadow pokes his head up to peer at the gloom of the Stinger's burrow, studying the passage with a trained and discerning eye. Few things made it past such a - okay we're in purple prose territory I'm just skipping that - His observations complete, he crouches back down, hidden behind the barrel.

'Little effort made to light the place,' murmurs Veron to the smaller shadow behind him. 'That'll mean they probably have better vision in the dark, but not perfect, or they wouldn't bother to light the place at all. Think they work like, I don't know, bugs and have a queen somewhere?'

'They be part scorpion, spider-like, not bug,' points out his faithful kobold companion, sniffing.

'Okay, yes, thank you, but is this a hive-mind situation or, I don't know, pheromones?'

'Deekin not be from desert. Deekin doesn't know very much about scorpion-people. Could be?'

'Well. We don't know how long we have, I don't want to waste too much time worrying about it. They made a point of taking them alive, but I don't know how long they mean to keep it that way, or why they'd do it.'

'Living food keeps longer than dead food. They just feeds them occasionally, clean up after them...' Deekin trails off.

'Let's not let that happen,' says Veron firmly. 'We'll just have to be careful...'
"

He reads on. The duo creep through the maze of a burrow, sounds of skittering legs echoing through the passageways as they try to work out where the prisoners have been taken. After a close call with a patrolling Stinger, they figure out that they've been taken down, to be sacrifices to the goddess Talona, and then -

"'... Um, Boss?' hisses Deekin.

'Mm?'

'Do you feel wind?'

'Wind? Why would there be - oh. Oh, son of a -'
not saying that in front of a lady, '- How did they even get that down here?!'

The winged beast approaches, whisper quiet on the sand on it lion paws, too-wide jaw filled to the brim with knife-like teeth. It spreads its tattered and underused wings, blocking the entire passageway with their size. A putrid stench fills the air as it roars, and the beast charges forward, stinger-tail raised to strike and dripping with venom.

'Actually, manticores be very low maintenance in terms of -'

The faithful kobold companion's very important explanation of manticore care is sadly interrupted, when Veron decides that keeping the kobold alive was more important than hearing the end of it. Also that he has longer legs and can run faster. He picks up Deekin and dashes down the passageway, barely ahead of the great beast.

'Rhetorical question! I have a better one! How do we kill it?!'

'Um. Stabbing?'

'Thank you, me and what room to dodge?'

'This not be enough room for manticore, would be clawing at walls and eating people unhappily, there be larger nest somewhere that it lives -'

'So we need to find and draw it back to its lair to maybe have a chance at -'

He turns a corner and slams into something with altogether too many legs, sending himself and the Stinger sprawling in a messy heap in the sand, and the poor kobold flying. For a second, the two of them stare blankly at each other, like two oxen that just wandered into a dragon's cave, unsure of quite what to do. Veron is the first to recover his wits, and he draws his sword and leaps at the half man, half scorpion. His enemy raises his own weapon, expecting and preparing for a strike that doesn't fall. The rogue parries away the waiting scimitar, diving lower than expected and twisting underneath the Stinger to kick up and back towards where he came.

Right into the charging manticore.

Deekin, meanwhile, tries to remember which way is up, a task made difficult by how deeply he is embedded in the sandy wall...
"
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"Yes!! That's how to tell a story!!!"

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Veron smiles, a little.

"Yeah. Deekin's a pretty talented storyteller. Granted, he's taking some liberties here - we got caught before we found the manticore, and while I did, uh, kind of feed a guy to it, I didn't do it by leaping beneath him and dramatically kicking him into it. That sounds impractical. It was more like a shoving match that I won."
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"I suppose all the details would be a bit of a blur if he was scared and there was fighting."

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"A bit. And also he's interested in making it all sound like a good story. 'Veron got into a slapfight with a Stinger and won' doesn't sound very impressive."
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"It still kind of does."

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"Oh. Well. I got into a slapfight with a Stinger and won, and then he was eaten by a manticore."
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"Okay. And then -"

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"And then I go back to reading because I know I'll mangle everything else."

He resumes reading Shadows of Undrentide.

Novel-Veron and Deekin resume running, Deekin working out where a manticore's lair would be, and Veron working out how to keep the manticore from eating them. The tense moment is made tenser when an alarm rings throughout the tunnel system; the heroes are about to be overrun. They locate the lair, draw the manticore into a hastily made trap that utterly fails to kill the beast. The duo improvise again, Deekin weaving a song that confuses and blinds the manticore, and Veron taking advantage of this to make a daring and risky attempt at killing it. He leaps upon the beast's back, dodging poison spines and the creature's stinger to stubbornly climb his way to the creature's head. The manticore struggles and thrashes and tries to dislodge its passenger, and Veron is buffeted by a wing and at the creature's mercy. Deekin distracts the beast from what would probably be a killing blow with a well-timed magical shout, and Veron takes advantage again to drive his sword into the beast's eye, slaying it.

The duo find and fight their way to the ritual chamber, where they come face to face with the queen of the Stinger colony. She had grown into a spellcaster of impressive power, fueled from the ritual sacrifice of her minion's victims. What Veron described as the 'dramatic final battle' begins, Deekin and Veron racing to cut their way past her hordes of minions before the queen sacrifices members of their caravan for power to kill them both. Deekin embroils himself in a spellcaster duel with the queen, Veron distracts and then outmaneuvers the Stinger minions. At a critical moment when it looks like Deekin will lose against the queen's foul magic, Veron interrupts her spell with a well timed decapitation. The remaining minions are confused and disorganized, and no match for Veron and Deekin's superior skill and teamwork.

The day is saved, the prisoners are freed, and the chapter ends with Deekin asking if Veron remembers which way is out. He does not.

"Also we looted the place," says Veron, "but Deekin tends to elide over those bits, they make us seem less like heroes and more like, uh. Hobos that murder people and take their stuff."
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"I mean, they seem like very terrible people and also it's not like the treasure bought you much contentment so far, so one assumes contentment is not what you were doing it for."

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