A note from Mighty Moushie

Taking a break from Marty this chapter, he will be back on Monday.  Enjoy the weekend everyone!

Oh, and the results of the poll:  though a continued dungeon dive started out strong, in the end progressing along with the story won out.  So Marty will be leaving the dungeon on Monday and continuing his journey.

Draconian challenge chatroom

Current members:  Likes2lurk, WarriorPrincess, TheUnrustable, RycranSeacrest and JimboJonsies

Likes2lurk:  It’s quiet.  Too quiet.

TheUnrustable:  Everyone is out trying to hit the level cap, thinking they will be joining the raid.

Likes2lurk:  Good luck with that.  The only person who would possibly have a chance is Rycran

RycranSeacrest:  I’ve already declined.  There’s no way I can jump up over a hundred levels in a month and be good with my character.

JimboJonsies:  *Gasp* You mean, someone recognizes the pitfalls to power leveling?

RycranSeacrest: Hah!

TheUnrustable:  Are they at least picking your brain on possible traps?  You do have the most experience with Angus.

RycranSeacrest:  Yeah, I’m heading out to visit the Needlers in a half hour.  Mr. Whiskers wanted to meet and pick my brain.

WarriorPrincess:  Just the Needlers? 

RycranSeacrest:  Yeah.  They are in charge of strategy.

TheUnrustable:  Can you leave out any mention of glory holes?  See if any of the top guilds fall for that trap.

RycranSeacrest:  I’ll think about it.  They are paying me generously though, so I doubt it.

JimboJonsies:  Equipment?

RycranSeacrest:  Cash, and helping grind out a few dungeons.  I get up to ten runs, for a combined ten drops.

WarriorPrincess:  Wow, that’s a heck of a deal.

Likes2lurk:  Seriously?  Ten drops, no questions asked? 

Likes2lurk: So jealous

RycranSeacrest:  Sorry all, I’m out.  Gotta go meet with the Needlers

TheUnrustable:  Later

WarriorPrincess:  Ciao

Likes2lurk:  later

RycranSeacrest has left the chat

TheUnrustable:  So.  Anyone found anything amusing?

WarriorPrincess:  Not really. 

JimboJonsies:  Wish they would start giving us more quests to challenge the monster players.

JimboJonsies:  They’ve had it out for long enough, but most of it is limited interactions.

Likes2lurk:  I hear ya. 

Likes2lurk:  But the monster players really need a kingdom before we can really go through and attack, no?  Hold a second.

Likes2lurk:  Wasn’t there a commercial about a kingdom taken over by an incubus a while back?  Anyone got a lead on that?

JimboJonsies:  I know of a few guilds searching, but he covered his trails fairly well.

TheUnrustable:  How so?

JimboJonsies:  The NPC in the commercial was found a few days later with her throat slit.

Likes2lurk:  Well that’s convenient.  And since the commercial never showed the face of the demon, we have no leads.

JimboJonsies:  Not a one.  Her friends all know of her mysterious paramour, who insisted on remaining hidden away from company.  He was securing safety from political enemies.

TheUnrustable:  Oy vey.  What about the others from the commercial?  I remember a demon training, as well as someone assaulting a guild headquarters.

JimboJonsies:  Not sure.  I guess the demon army is on the far side of the desert area, and the other one dropped off the radar.

WarriorPrincess:  Speaking of the desert, any idea when they are going to switch away from rebuilding quests?

TheUnrustable:  Great for building reputation, but the sand gets everywhere

WarriorPrincess:  Hear, hear.

TheUnrustable:  At least we all get to watch the dungeon dive for free.  Wonder how they are going to get everyone into taverns.

Likes2lurk:  Open up the arenas?

JimboJonsies:  Not enough room to make money.  I hear that the taverns are going to have instances.

TheUnrustable:  That’ll be fun.  Some idiot starts annoying you, just hop over to a different instance

JimboJonsies:  Should cut down on bar fights.

*             *             *             *             *             *             *             *             *             *             *             *             *            

Rycran’s POV

                “Rycran?”  I turned at my name to find a character with an odd ensemble.  Only around five and a half feet, he wore high level rogue leathers but his weapon was odd.  A white bone bow, with gemstones set along the arms. 

                “Crimson King?”

                “The one and only, but just call me King.  First, you have our thanks for helping us out with this.  Go ahead and join my party, and I’ll teleport us to headquarters.”  As he spoke, he invited me to join his party, which I readily agreed.  Almost immediately came a notification that the leader had instituted a party teleport, and three seconds later we left the city square where we had met and were in a perfectly circular room.  Smokeless torches lined the walls at regular intervals, and just at the edge of my perception I thought I saw some sort of grate set within the wall.

                “Crimson King escorting Rycran of the Screaming Eagles to see Mr. Whiskers.”  King called out.  I heard several bolts being slid and heavy locks being undone from the opposite side of the room as the door.

                “I thought teleports had to come out in a courtyard?”  I asked, looking at King.

                “Heh, it’s an open secret now so I don’t see the harm.  The Mad Emperor raid has a special base drop if you find it.  If more than 40% of a teleporting group is not part of the guild or an allied guild, the teleport gets shunted away to a secondary teleport pad.  It was fantastic the first time we used it, we were in a war with the Lionhearts.  You remember them?”

                “Not particularly.  Probably before my time.”

                “Eh, no worries.  Back in the day, they were neck and neck with us for the longest time.  They even cleared the Mad Emperor first, but we got lucky with the drop conditions and ended up getting it first.”  As he spoke, we headed out through an illusory door and down a hallway, picking up two nameless and silent rear guards.  “Whiskers noticed right away the importance of the item, and immediately prioritized our little trap room back there.  It’s still the fastest we have ever had a room or building go up, even with all the traps.  So Whiskers, he gets his room all set up and ready, and starts pokin’ the bear.  Little taunts here and there, camping their newbies.  Minor annoyances, especially since we made sure to guard whatever the newbies dropped until they could reclaim it.  Some of ‘em even got a bit of gold added, as thanks.  Well, that was the straw that broke the camel’s back, and the leader, RegalRich, he gets fed up.  So Whiskers orchestrates a ‘betrayal,’” making quotation marks around betrayal, King continued, “and gets someone to leak our teleport codes and coordinates.”

                “Didn’t they suspect?”  I interrupted as we started heading up a flight of stairs.

                “Oh, I’m sure they did.  But Whiskers had set up a massive public fight with Fingers, ending up with Fingers making a dramatic exit.  Rich thought they could get in quick, and organizes a group of his best.  Max party, they pulled out all the stops.  They needed to take the gate quickly and let the rest of their guild in.  So Fingers and the party of Lionhearts teleport in, only instead of a courtyard in the middle of the night, they are back in that room.  They start immediately hammering away on the fake door, only to have our alchemists and rogues start peppering them with sleepy time potions.”

                “Sleepy time?  I would have thought they would go for the kill.”

                “Ah, but we didn’t want to kill them.  See, after the mages burned up their mana pots, they had no recourse.  Eventually everyone dropped off to sleep.  That’s when the best part of Whiskers’ plan kicked in.  The rogues, all with gas masks, headed into the room and robbed ‘em blind.”  He burst into laughter at that point, and I heard one of the guards chuckling behind me as well.

                “Wait, robbed them?  Of what?”

                “Eh.  Eh.  Everything!”  He stutter laughed, continuing.  “Picked their pockets, and took all their equipped gear!  Thirty max level players with all their expensive gear, and the only stuff they kept was soulbound!  So they come to in our dungeon, where we can hold ‘em for four hours.  Except they are down their best people, so we left a skeleton crew here to guard the walls and went and raided their place!  It took two hours to break the door to their vault, but without the top players in their clan our raid had really nothing to fear.”

                “Good god they must have been pissed!”  I said, rather awed with their audacity.

                “Oh they raised hell, you better believe it.  The mods came down in our favor though, and as a concession they made it so that you can only remove one piece of equipped gear from someone, and even then it’s a random draw.  If you happen to get a soulbound item, tough luck.”

                “Heh, I’m rather glad for that.”  I said with a relieved chuckle.  “So what happened afterwards?”

                “The Lionhearts broke.  They lost their best gear, and we took everything that wasn’t nailed down in the vault as well.  They couldn’t ransom their raid party, and had to take a level penalty.  With all that, people just left.  Most blamed Rich for not seeing the red flags, and rightfully so.”  As he was finishing the story, he knocked on a door and opened it almost immediately. 

                “Rycran?  Welcome to the Needlers headquarters.  I’m Mr. Whiskers, pleasure to meet you.” Another rogue was behind the desk, standing and offering his hand.  As he stood, I saw that he wore two Kris instead of traditional daggers.  The bone handles were shaped like dragon heads gripping a gemstone, each eye a different color.  The dragon with a topaz in its mouth had an emerald and a ruby as eyes.  The other head was gripping an opal, while the eyes were a sapphire and some sort of brown gemstone.  “I hope King wasn’t boring you too much with the tale of the Lionhearts.  He really enjoys it.”

                “It’s fine.”  I said, shaking his hand.  “I’m rather glad that I heard it.  I know that what I tell you won’t go to waste.”

                “Glad to hear that.  So, what can you tell me about his traps?”

                “They are annoying.”  I said with a chuckle.  “He likes misdirection, and he will play with your rogues’ minds.  You know that, right?”

                “I had assumed as much, but if you have some examples I would love to hear about it.”

                “Sure.  The annoying part.  Imagine a hallway filled with tiles.  Every single tile has a metal clicker under it.  So no matter where you step, you hear a click.  These wouldn’t do any damage, so they don’t show up to a detect trap skill.  Three out of every four tiles have a small needle designed to do one damage.”

                “Ah.  So the tiles that look safe hide traps, and the ones that are showing as traps are just there to herd people or cause them to lose their minds with disarming so many useless traps.”

                “Exactly.  Keep in mind, this is also going down like a PvP match, and he will be taking shots at your healers.”

                “Unfortunate.”  Whiskers answered with a sigh.  “The rest of the groups are thinking this is going to be a simple jaunt into a dungeon, and are prepping for a slightly tougher PvE dive.  King, can you make a note to have everyone bring triple the resurrection scrolls?”

                “They’re gonna fight that.”  He warned.

                “Of course they are.  Tell them if we use less than half of the total, the Needlers will reimburse for cost.”  Once King nodded, Whiskers looked back at me.  “Alright, so he’s going to take down the healers first.  Any specific warnings?”

                “Yeah.  That arbalest of his is incredibly powerful.  Plus he has some special bolts, so go heavy on the ranged defense when wandering around.  Luckily it takes a while to reload, so expect hit and runs.”

                “I saw as much, but it’s good to get that confirmed.  What do you know of specialty bolts?”

                “Well, he had one that gave one of our guys a pretty vicious curse.  If you die from the bolt, you lose ten percent of your stats for the day, and it can’t be removed.”

                “Brutal.  That could easily be the difference between winning and losing.  I’ll have to let everyone know to remove bolts immediately.  King, can you make a note to have everyone bring along a full stack of cleanse potions?  That should hopefully take care of all the bolts he has.”

                “I would hope so.”  I said with a chuckle.  “So expect attacks from the walls, and misleading traps.  You saw the wire trap we ran into, right?”

                “Yeah.  Still not a hundred percent sure on how it worked though.  Ideas?”

                “From what we could tell, the wire was attached beneath the chest, and threaded through the ground.  When the tension was removed from the wire, the ground lost its support.”

                “That’s just, King.  Get our defense people prepping traps like that in the castle.”

                “Heh, good idea.  You also have to beware the mind games.  You saw the holes that people were sticking their heads in?”  At his nod, I continued, “Yeah.  Expect things like that.  I wouldn’t be surprised if there was a big red button with a sign that says not to push it.”

                “And we will have that idiot that just has to push it.”  King said, shaking his head. 

                “Yep.”  I agreed readily.  “He will split you up and wear you down.  We got lucky when he finally decided to go all out against us as he missed the timing.”  They both perked up a bit at that, so I kept explaining, “We were just about to pull a monster from a different room.  Had he waited a second or two more, we would have had to deal with him, his clone, and a third monster all at once.  I don’t know what his stats are, but he will definitely be able to hold his own against at least two, possibly three people.”

                “You think he will be that strong?”  King asked with a questioning tone.

                “I do.  Be expecting poisons as well, I heard he was an alchemist.”

                “We know about that.  Do you know of his specialty?”  Whiskers asked.

                “No, sorry.”

                “It’s ok.  Anything special about his fighting style?”

                “Physical melee mostly, though he does have some augmenting skills for damage.  I don’t know about any movement skills though.  He did have a binding skill as well.”  I added at the end, remembering how he bound us with chains. 

                “Ok, thanks.  So we are going up against someone who will chip away at us and likes to think outside of the box.  He’ll probably have a few monsters here and there, but he mostly stuck to traps right?”  I nodded.  “Right.  And we have a group that doesn’t think this will be a vastly different dungeon than something we have done before.  Are you sure you don’t want us to power level your group and join us?  I would gladly kick out two of each of the other guilds just to have someone with experience.”

                “Sorry, I talked with everyone already and they are against it.  We like progressing at our own pace, and feel like we would be more of a hindrance at the upper levels since we won’t have the skill progressions down.”

                “No worries.” Whiskers said with another sigh.  “I’m glad you answered that way, you’ve really helped me out with this dive.  In addition to everything we have offered for the information, I would also like to offer an alliance invitation to your Screaming Eagles.  No defense pacts or anything like that, I don’t want you guys to get targeted.  Just information transfer and priority trade agreements.”

                “I can’t accept right away, but can I ask about the trade agreements?”

                “Sure.  We go through a lot of ingredients, more so than what we can honestly expect our newer members to collect.  If you find you have spare reagents of a certain level range, we will give you market rate plus 10% for the trouble if you trade with us.  In return, if you need some high level reagents we can either sell them to you, or provide information on where to locate them.”

                “That’s, well that’s damn generous of you.  I’ll pitch it to the guild, and have an answer to you in a few days if that’s ok.”

                “Take your time, we are in no rush for it.  I do hope this is the start to a profitable alliance though.”  He said, standing and offering a hand. 

                While I was shaking his hand, King stepped forward and held out a sealed scroll.  “A copy of the normal agreement we offer.”  He explained as I took it.

                “Well, good luck with your leveling Rycran, and thanks again for the information.  King will return with you to the teleport room, and you can head to wherever you need.”

                “Thanks Mr. Whiskers, and good luck with the dungeon dive.  I have a feeling you’ll need it.”  As I turned to leave, I remembered the ring that Corrigan had picked up off of Angus’ corpse.  “Wait, there is an ability that I know he has.  When we killed him, our rogue got a ring that let him create a shadow copy with slightly less stats.  The flavor text said that it was based on an ability of the monster it was looted from, so that’s something to be worried about.  I don’t know if he can give his clone abilities or not.”  I drew out the last word, hoping they would understand my uncertainty.

                “But it is better to assume that he can and not be surprised, right?”  Mr. Whiskers asked with a smile, picking up exactly what I was hoping he would.  “Don’t worry, we will work on countermeasures.  I’m sure a sufficiently strong dispelling could stop the clone.”  Satisfied, I nodded and followed King as he lead me back to the teleporter room.

A note from Mighty Moushie

Added some edits that @Runner suggested.

About the author

Mighty Moushie

Bio: I'm a chemist that gave writing a try, and loved the results. Everything is mostly for fun right now, though I might try and get some things published eventually. Certain traits of my daughter have made it into bits of my stories, and she sometimes keeps me company when we both have trouble sleeping.

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