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[F2-PP] Embers Fanned into Flames


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image.png.9b7fd5c5437433a518fe86ffd9866345.pngSitting in the living room at Witherwind Rest, Freyd stared ponderously at an idle bit of crimson crystal in a bell jar sitting at the centre of the heavy oak table.  He'd been staring at it for nearly an hour, packaging and unpackaging every bit of data his labyrinthine brain had every squirreled away about an existential threat that had marked his own rise to the ranks of the front lines, and also nearly cost hundreds of fellow players their lives.  Katoka would have received his invite by now, coordinates provided with a request for discretion.  Though he hated the necessity, Freyd wasn't about to take unnecessary risks with their lives.  Elora meant too much to him.  

Forsaking his hermit's life in a sterile underground dungeon, they had found this place together, on the edge of the High Fields of Crossing, upriver from Urbus.  Isolated, scenic, surrounded by cascading waterfalls and lush greenery against the backdrops of limestone cliffs, they had both agreed that it was perfect.  And so, they built a home.  Its details mirrored traits from both of them, some elements in stark contrast and others in harmonious balance.  It was so them, that Freyd smiled every time he discovered another sign of its presence.  The house felt warm, and full of life.  So did he, which made the threat Katoka had carried to his doorstep all the more poignant.  Realizing what truly matters means facing the potential to lose it.  Freyd's original, clinical solution, had been to allow himself nothing to lose. It maintained his existence, but he was never truly allowing himself to live.  Elora had taught him that, with her vibrancy and passions, ebbing and cresting all at once.  What a majestic, furious storm she was - and unimaginably appealing to the steady rocks upon the shore. Given enough time, even they were worn down and forced to realize and admit to themselves how much they loved the sea.

Two steaming cups of tea simmered on the table, scented with a dab of vanilla he'd acquired from a vendor whose shop was nearest Marv's post along the wall at the Town of Beginnings.  It was the scent he most closely associated with peace and tranquility, and they would need both based on the threat sitting bare and defiant before the Whisper's inquisitive gaze.

***

@Katoka

Vanity Tag: @Elora

Note: CS (Shades of the Gemini) is in use.  If any other player objects to this, please state in first post and it will be considered inactive.

Advanced Training: +10% Exp to a thread. Limit one use per month [1/1] - Used 2024.06.26

Freyd | HP: 1180/1180 | EN: 156/156 | DMG: 21 | MIT: 45 | EVA: 4 | ACC: 3 | BH: 64 | LD: 6 | FLN: 16 | HLY: 16 | REC: 8 | V.D.: 129

Spoiler

Freyd, The Whisper in Shadows
Level: 33
Paragon Level: 130
HP: 1180/1180
EN: 156/156

Stats:
Damage: 21
Mitigation: 45
Evasion: 4
Accuracy: 3
Battle Healing: 64
Loot Dice: 6
FLN: 16
HLY: 16
REC: 8
V.D.: 129

Equipped Gear:
Weapon: Samael's Pride | T4 MA | FLN 2 | HLY 2  
Armor: Black Cowled Traveling Garb | T4 CA | VD 2 | REC 2
Misc: Fight O'er Flight (ACC 2 | EVA 2)

Combat Mastery: Damage R3
Combat Shift: AOE
Familiar Skill: Grappling Familiar
Custom Skill: Shades of the Gemini

Skills:
Martial Arts R5
Battle Healing R5
Cloth Armor R5
Searching R4
Charge
Energist
Quick Change
Extended Mod Limit
Extended Weight Limit
Fighting Spirit
Howl

Active Mods:
Night Vision
Tracking
Athletics
Emergency Recovery
Untraceable
Detect

Inactive Mods:

Addons:
Focus
Precision
Nimble
Reveal
Stamina
Focused Howl

Active Extra Skills:
Disguise
Survival
Forgotten King’s Authority
Hiding R4

Inactive Extra Skills:
Meditation
Frozen Hide
Brawler
Photosynthesize

Battle Ready Inventory:
Teleport Crystals x7
Mass HP Rec [Inst] (+10% HP) x7
T4 Vitality (+16 EN) x7
Crystal of Divine Light (Reusable) x1
Rhino's Horn (Reusable) x1
Hmr.Pk:  Hope's Covenant - Resolve +4 (T4 Demonic Weapon (MA) - AA, Phase, Frostbite, VO x1
EWL: The Thing Behind All Lies (T4 Demonic MA, AA, Blight, Static, Para.Ven (Off))    x1
EWL:  Shadowed Rose (ACC 3 | Para.Imm.) x1

Housing Buffs:
Rested: -1 energy cost for the first two expenditures of each combat
Clean: The first time you would suffer DoT damage in a thread, reduce damage taken from DoT each turn by 20% (rounded down)
Hard Working: +2 EXP per crafting attempt and +1 crafting attempt per day
Filling: Increase the effectiveness of a single food item consumed in a thread by +1 T1 slot.
Item Stash: +1 Battle Ready Inventory Slot
Delicious: Turn 3 identical food items (same quality, tier, & enhancements) into a Feast. A Feast contains 6 portions of the food items sacrificed.
Relaxed: Increases out of combat HP regen by (5 * Tier HP) and decreases full energy regen to 2 Out of Combat Posts.
Skylight (Searching): +1 Rank to the Searching skill.
Angler: +2 Fishing EXP per attempt
Practiced Angler: +2 Fishing EXP per attempt, addition +1 LD/CD to fishing attempts
Advanced Training: +10% Exp to a thread. Limit one use per month [1/1] - Used 2024.06.26
Multipurpose: Gain +1 to LD, Stealth Rating, Stealth Detection, or Prosperity to one post in a thread. Can be applied after a roll
Decor [Potted Tanabata Bamboo Tree]: This buff affects the player and their choice of up to two party members.

Guild Hall Buffs:
Lucrative: Reduce LD needed for Salvage by 5 (10+ for Alchemist crystals, 6+ for everything else). +2 EXP per craft. Rank 9 crafters receive +1 crafting attempt per day. Rank 10 crafters receive +2 crafting attempts per day.
Col Deposit: +5% bonus col from last-hit monster kills and +10% bonus col from treasure chests.

Scents of the Wild:
Tanos Statue: +25 Mitigation for a thread.

Wedding Ring: n/a

Fishing: Level 5 | 576XP"                                                

 

Edited by Freyd
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The urgency of Freyd's invitation to his and Elora's home was something that cause Katoka to think that maybe her trip through the Fire Forest just last week had been something a bit more pressing. While the message he had sent had simply invited her over to talk over tea, deep down she knew that the items she had left with him had spurred a much more visceral reaction than she had thought. The blonde had spent the morning tidying up around her home, mostly busy work to keep her anxiety in check. She kissed Sam goodbye, only exchanging a few words before she finally left.

Her relationship had become a bit, strained as of late. Kat had found herself keeping the information of her last few close calls from her fiancé, certain that the news would cause her more distress than she was already feeling. She hated keeping things from her, but she didn't need her to worry more than she already was. With a sigh she began her walk towards the teleport gate, making sure to double check the route she needed to take in order to find her friends home.

Half an hour later she was knocking on the door to a beautiful home that had seemed like it was out of a magazine. When she had first set foot into the area she had felt her mouth drop at the gorgeous waterfalls and lush greenery of the area. It was both secluded and foresty, both perfect for Freyd and Elora. After a few moments the door opened and she flashed the brother of her found family a bright grin. She could tell that this new life was doing him good.

"Well, I wish my first visit was here under better circumstances, but regardless thank you for having me over."

----

Katoka | HP: 780/780 | EN: 112/112 | DMG: 23 | MIT: 78 | EVA: 1 | ACC: 5 | BH: 42 | FLN: 16 | HLY: 16 | REC: 8

Spoiler

Katoka,
Level: 33
Paragon Level: 20
HP: 780/780
EN: 112/112

Stats:
Damage: 23
Mitigation: 78
Evasion: 1
Accuracy: 5
Battle Healing: 42
FLN: 16
HLY: 16
REC: 8

Equipped Gear:
Weapon: Muramasa's Legacy | T4/Demonic/Katana | Holy II, Fallen II
Armor: Oni Haori | T4/Demonic/Light Armor | MIT 2, REC 2
Misc: Aquamarine | T4 Demonic Trinket | ACC III, EVA I

Custom Skill:


Skills:
Katana R5
Light Armor R5
Battle Healing R5
Energist

Active Mods:
Meticulous
Vengeful Riposte

Inactive Mods:

Addons:
Ferocity
Stamina
Resolve
Precision

Active Extra Skills:
Survival
Concentration
Parry
Forgotten King’s Authority

Inactive Extra Skills:

Battle Ready Inventory:
Teleportation Crystal x5
Starter Healing Potion x1
Tincture of Recovery | HP Recovery x5

Housing Buffs:
Rested: -1 energy cost for the first two expenditures of each combat
Clean: The first time you would suffer DoT damage in a thread, reduce damage taken from DoT each turn by 20% (rounded down)
Filling: Increase the effectiveness of a single food item consumed in a thread by +1 T1 slot.
Relaxed: Increases out of combat HP regen by (5 * Tier HP) and decreases full energy regen to 2 Out of Combat Posts.
Col Stash: +5% bonus col from monster kills and treasure chests
Basic Training: +5% Exp to a thread. Limit one use per month [0/1]

Guild Hall Buffs:
Lucrative: Reduce LD needed for Salvage by 5 (10+ for Alchemist crystals, 6+ for everything else). +2 EXP per craft. Rank 9 crafters receive +1 crafting attempt per day. Rank 10 crafters receive +2 crafting attempts per day.
Col Deposit: +5% bonus col from last-hit monster kills and +10% bonus col from treasure chests.

Scents of the Wild:

Wedding Ring:"

 

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Showing his friend into the living room, without grand ceremony or any semblance of a tour, it was blatantly obvious that Freyd didn't entertain, didn't care too, or - more likely - didn't have a clue that people did such things.  That he'd even thought to pour her a hot beverage was progress.  Gesturing for this fellow captain to take a seat, the Whisper practically flopped into his own, his eyes flickering repeatedly back to the crystal on the table.  

"You're looking good, as always, Kat, but something tells me you haven't been getting much sleep lately."  Any subtext was left as such - whether a reference to her revealed escapades on floor 28, added duties as captain, or less obvious tensions with Sam.  Freyd would not say and merely put it out there that he recognized the telltale signs.  "I've been meaning to check out that floor myself, after certain, odd and recent reports.  There are questions, but perhaps you can answer them just by filling me in on what happened, and where this came from."  If eyes could grimace, his were surely doing so, glaring angrily at the shard as if its very existence was a source of displeasure.  Kat knew him well enough to know his ire was entirely focused on the stone, and though his manners were curt, he was thankful that she'd informed him so swiftly.

Settling into his chair, Freyd pulled his own drink to his lips, slurping silently while waiting for the tale to begin.

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A long sigh escaped from Katoka's lips as she sat down opposite of Freyd. She rarely could keep her feelings hidden from him, which was ironic considering he rarely displayed his outwardly. Forcing a grin that didn't reach her eyes she shook her head, "That's a story for another time. For now I feel like this is a more pressing matter."

Despite her being a captain for their guild she still saw herself as the Whisper's subordinate. He was much more active than she was and he was several steps ahead of her in strength. Her hand rested reflexively on the hilt of her katana in an attempt to comfort herself. She would catch up. Especially with his new sword. After a moment she cleared her throat and began to give Freyd her formal report on her trip.

"Last week I set out into the Fire Forest on floor 28." her voice was bit shaky at the start as she wasn't very good at 'public speaking', "I initially was just planning to explore the floor itself to see if there were any hidden quests or objectives that hadn't been reported just yet. I know that information gathering is your expertise but I like to do my own from time to time. " now her tone had settled into something a bit more formal. Her mind distracted by the replay of the events in her head. "At first there was more of the same. Just your ruin of the mill animals, mostly albino like the info brokers all put out."

As she spoke more she eventually made eye contact with Freyd, her face serious and no longer held any traces of her initial anxiety. "I heard voices in the forest, off the main road that I had been following. I let my curiosity get he better of me and looked for the source, wanting to see if it was NPCs with any information or just players doing much of the same." Her mouth formed into a thin line as she inhaled through her nose, taking a moment to gather her thoughts before continuing.

"It turned out to be a couple of players. Just two guys that seemed to be putting... Something together. I couldn't really make it out at the time. They were anxious though, well one of them was. The other was more concerned with finishing with whatever it was that they were assembling. They mentioned having a boss I think?" she shook her head as she bit her thumbnail for a moment, attempting to remember the details in the correct order. "I couldn't make out what they looked like unfortunately. The anxious one was short and a bit on the plump side, wearing a skull mask, and the other guy was tall and hooded. Once they finished up they both used teleport crystals to get the hell out 'before it spreads' I think one said."

"I could only make out one's destination, Tolbana. The other was too hard to hear." the samurai felt her skin begin to crawl as she remembered the next part. She looked away for a moment and rubbed her arms in an attempt to calm herself. She leaned forward to take hold of her cup, taking one more sip of tea before continuing. "It was... meat. They were spreading cuts of meat around the tree and hanging a jar above it to drip down. There were crystals, weird looking crystals that were resting on top of the cuts and the potion was dripping down onto them."

"One of the guys left that jar behind so I grabbed it, and I corked that potion bottle to try and stop it. Unfortunately it was too late. A few wolves had come out of the woods and some of the pieces had fallen into place. They were luring the mobs of the forest with whatever this stuff was."

"There were only three of them so at the time, while freaked out by this gross potion, I still thought I had things under control." she eventually met the Whisper's eyes once more. "I was wrong Freyd." she shivered but continued, "The first one was covered in crystals, growing out of it like a weird infection, but they were different than the ones in the jar. These ones looked wrong, like they themselves were corrupted. And even though I killed it, the damn thing didn't stay dead."

"While we fought the other two wolves ate the meat trap and just fell over dead, but they eventually got up again. They all had the same growths and every time I killed them they didn't shatter, they turned into this blight goop and the crystals slurped them up like they were a dog smoothie and just made them whole again." her voice was beginning to shake again and her eyes were growing wide. "I eventually figured out that destroying the crystals before they could spit the wolves back out again was the strat, but they were wearing me down. Their bites... They hurt so bad. And they were resistant to the blight effects of my old weapon."

Kat finally fell silent, her breathing ragged and her eyes slightly moist. She spoke one final time, "I don't know what the hell those things were, but I'm sure of a few things after that. The first? Those guys wanted people to get hurt by those things, they made it seem like that wasn't the only monster lure they had set up. The second, they were acting on someone else's orders, so they probably have been planning this for a while. Hell they have probably been doing this on other floors for all we know! And finally, when I left those woods? It felt like I was being watched by someone or something. I don't know which of those scares me the most."

With a final sigh she slumped back into her seat, drinking the last remaining bit of her drink.

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“I had really hope that Firm Anima had put an end to Lun’Rael’s foul curse,” Freyd muttered, having listened in stillness and silence to the fullness of Katoka’s story.  Like a sponge, he’d soaked in every detail, building a memory model in the bag of conniving cats - or maybe mongooses - that passed for the  ever-spinning wheel of a Whisper’s mind.  But it was the other half at play, not the goofy agent of chaos constantly flirting casually with doom, but his colder, calculating self that was the truly terrifying part of the guild’s head of O&I.  Tempered by the influence of his friends, Katoka chief among them, Freyd had learned to harness that analytical machine for better purposes than sheer ruthless calculus.  Caring could go a long way.

“These players you mentioned, did either of them use or give up a name, even in passing?  That would be enough for us to track them.”

Examining the vial of tainted pheromones, accessing the item properties via his appraiser’s menu, the wily spymaster gleaned for them their first clue. 

"Crafted items often bear a tag revealing their creator as a means of boasting and promotion.  Few ever remembered the feature even existed. That oversight granted an opening, which might be all we need.  Pride goeth… or some such. Based on your tale, I’d say the best place to start would be Tolbana.  I’ll have someone look further into the Fire Forest, then follow up myself when we’re done elsewhere.  Thanks for bringing this to me, Katoka.  This.. thing,” he added, jerking his thumb to the red crystal shards.  “I have a long history with it.  One I would really rather close, if only to ensure that it can’t hurt anyone else again.”  

Freyd leaned forward, uncharacteristic concern in his eyes.  “Are you okay to do this, or would you prefer that I investigate on my own?”  He didn't doubt her abilities or ferocity, but the Curse of the Sundered Spire twisted things upside down, even occasionally inside out - literally.  It led to the sort of experiences even veteran players couldn't casually dismiss.  Her reactions had already revealed as much.  First and foremost, Freyd was worried about his friend.

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  • 2 weeks later...

"An end to who now?" the samurai arched a brow at the name, wondering where she had heard it before.

Her hands felt slightly clammy as Freyd spoke, her anxiety doing its best to grab hold of her and not let go. She wiped her hands on her legs and shook her head, "No, I didn't hear any names used unfortunately, only them arguing in a panic before leaving as quickly as possible."

Her eyes drifted to the jar of crystals and rested there for a moment, "Whatever these things are, I really don't like the fact that players are going out of their way to try and hurt people. It's... wrong. Cowardly and horrible and just..." she let out an angered sigh before looking up at the Whisper with a fiery gaze, "I can't look the other way knowing what I do now. I'm apart of this whether I like it or not and I plan to see whatever this is through until the end."

She crossed her arms and waited, her determination unwavering despite her knee bouncing nervously.

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