TrollMan's Twisted Beachside Citadel

The sun shines down over a bright, picturesque, beachy day at BeachNet. In a public area, where everyone else is building sandcastles, a dark shadow threatens to overcome them as the sun moves. Someone has constructed a giant ebony spire upon a cliff-face nearby. Who would do such a thing? Rachna might have an idea.

Just beyond the spire, a pit has been dug into the wall of the cliff-face. Torchlight shines from within. The design doesn't bode well for the structural stability, but at least for the moment, it seems to be holding. Rachna could easily assume that this was the place.
There was only one thing to be said for the large, out of place spire and pit in the middle of Beach Net, Rachna concluded. And that was that a certain troll navi was an even bigger idiot than she thought.

She hadn't realized that such a thing was possible.

But apparently it was, and now this was where she was supposed to go. Maybe she could bring it down as she left. That was a thought. But for now, it was best to play along. And so, Rachna entered, mentally bracing herself for whatever would come her way once she entered.
The entrance to the spire was easy to locate and unguarded. It seemed that the troll assumed nobody would really be looking to just waltz into the place to begin with. Furthermore, the inside was somewhat painfully empty, although full of surprisingly well-crafted architecture. Perhaps the troll had skill at craftsmanship, although he clearly had no eye for coordinating or placing the products once he was finished.

A few figures moved around here and there, all of them female, all clad in some monstrous fashion of gear. Presumably, these were the summoned creatures that Rachna's admirer had mentioned in his letter. It seemed easy to put together that Octopressure, who Rachna had met before, was one such being.

"Greetings, traveler! I am the humble servant of darkness, Myrmaidon,"[font=perpetua][/font] a voice greeted Rachna from nearby. A woman with long, golden hair and fair skin, dressed in a black and white maid's uniform, had stepped out from underneath the dark staircase of the spire to speak with the newcomer. Her eyes were purely white and, while her facial features were attractive, her face seemed lacking in intelligence or curiosity.

Blackness itself seemed to ooze off of her body as she came closer into view. As she finally reached close proximity to Rachna, she seemed unfitting and far too bright for the dark decor. "What can I help you with today, o traveler? Have you come here today with a purpose?" she continued in a pretty voice, bowing with her head towards the floor and one arm across her breast.
Well. That was something. Who knew that there would be someone so...bright, Rachna guessed, in the middle of this place. That wasn't to say that Rachna hadn't counted out the possibility of pretty young girls being among these trolls' 'pets', but she had expected something more stereotypical. Perhaps some black hair, way too much eyeliner, gothic lolita fashion...instead, she was faced with a blonde navi that, while some sort of black aura emanated from her, didn't have a bit of it on her actual body.

Not that Rachna was going to complain.

"The humble servants of darkness seem to have gotten prettier lately," she said, smiling to Myrmaidon. "I am Rachna. I believe my presence here was requested by an 'admirer'."

That was another thing. Did she introduce herself as a 'humble servant of darkness' to everyone who wandered into this place, even if they just wandered aimlessly inside or were trying to take shelter from a freak datastorm? That had to be incredibly awkward. 'Hello, you just wandered into the lair of a cartoonishly evil troll navi, but please, don't be alarmed! What can I help you with, now that you know we might stab you in the back at any moment?', stabbing anyone in the back was too subtle for these guys.
"You are too kind, Miss Rachna! Please don't waste compliments on a servant such as myself," the maid laughed, shading her painted lips briefly with something like a blade of shadows; it grew quickly from her forearm, then vanished once she settled. "I'm glad that you haven't wandered in by accident. Our placement has a lot of people coming in, inquiring if we're part of the sandcastle competition."

Her wry smile seemed to indicate that she found all of the silliness as laughable as Rachna, but she continued on without much pause. "Master TrollMan has been looking for you, I believe. Despite that, the matches are close upon starting, so he has taken back to the lower chambers. I have a few instructions that you must heed before going down to join him," Myrmaidon explained, leading Rachna towards the stairs down as she spoke.

The tap of both navi's boots echoed throughout the spire as they made their way down the ominous, spiraling staircase. "You've been summoned here as an eligible summoner, one who Master TrollMan believes has potential to control the likes of us monsters. Currently, only two navis have such rights: Master TrollMan and Mistress Trik. You and one navi of Mistress Trik's choosing have been brought here to control monsters in battle, to test your aptitude at the summoning arts."

"Trik constructs all of us from SP bases; we start as cauldrons. When the time is right, we are converted into monster navis, like myself. I believe you've met Octopressure, correct? I think you'll be seeing her a little differently in this tournament," Myrmaidon chuckled. "The reason why will shortly become evident. At any rate, the last important matter is choosing a monster. Any unclaimed monster in the tower is fair game, but why don't I help you pick, so that we aren't forced to spend hours combing the tower?"

"First off, you should know that Octopressure, Rotwounder, and Dullaharm have all already been picked by other masters. If you'd like some recommendations, I would suggest either Robozerker or Serpentwine. Robozerker is historically a very powerful fighter and Serpentwine's record is also somewhat better than the rest of ours, although she might be adverse to dealing with a summoner. We can also look around some more, if you'd like, or you can make some requests of your own? Is there anything I can help you look for?" Myrmaidon finished, dusting off the railing habitually as she descended the stairs.
'TrollMan' was it? That was...entirely too obvious for Rachna to have not guessed it. She could see a theme going on between these two...although it wasn't one they were suited for demonstrating effectively, if TrollMan was any indication. Then again, neither were many others who aspired to be internet trolls, so Rachna supposed they were in good company.

She pondered the choice of recommended monster navis for a moment as she followed Myrmaidon. One sounded like some mechanical monstrosity with control issues, while the other sounded like some sort of snake lady with a taste for fine wines. That was just going on their names, at least, although Rachna doubted that she would be too far off the mark if Octopressure was any indication. In addition, the latter was apparently adverse to dealing with summoners. Taming a wild beast like that sounded fun, but at the same time it would be a shame to not win this 'tournament' with a complete nobody.

"I'd actually like to try my hand at working with someone lesser known," Rachna said.
"I can see why the master likes you, Miss Rachna! You have an eye for evil that's much more inventive and less conventional than his own," Myrmaidon chuckled, her fully white eyes regarding the visitor with admiration. "Fine then, why don't we discuss some of the lesser know alternatives? Maybe one of them will tickle your fancy... I know! Let's go over the chamber servants~"

"Goremelt is the troll family's personal chef. She has seen almost no battle before in her long entire life time. Cauldrone is another, whose entire purpose is to prepare the cauldrons that later become monsters. She has literally never been in battle before, but you could choose her. If these sound a little outlandish, I can always move up a tier to those who sometimes fight but usually lose!" the maid offered with a grin.
"Beating them with their personal that is an idea," Rachna mused. Probably a little too far out there, though. Whether it sounded fun or not, she couldn't expect to win a fighting tournament with an entrant who had almost never seen combat. Sure, the chef could probably poison their meals or something, but that wasn't exactly useful in battle. "Sadly, that sounds like something that would be better done outside of the arena. Let's try one of your underdogs, then," she said.
"Very well, my esteemed guest. Let's see... You may be surprised to know this, but Octopressure's record is actually fairly good. She wasn't 100% last time you saw her, let's say. Rotwounder is currently one of our greatest picks. As such, if you could beat her with one of our underdogs, you'd be accomplishing a rather spectacular feat. Who all do we have appropriate for such a task..." Myrmaidon continued, tapping her chin with one left hand finger while still wiping the rail with her right hand.

"Tortura has a very poor record, but still fights constantly. Calabasher has a similarly poor record; the two are often dispatched together and often fail together. Additionally, there is Grimlyn; she just gets too caught up in what she's doing and is overall very prone to distraction. Do any of these suit your tastes? If not, we will move on to the mid-tier."
"Mm...that does sound about right for what I'm looking for," Rachna mused as she followed the maid navi. Fought constantly but rarely won...that should do nicely. She would have preferred obscurity over the infamy of a poor record, but striking a balance between obscure and capable was difficult, and she doubted she would get the exact combination of the two she wanted out of a place like this. That just left the matter of who each of these navis were. She could wager a guess from the names, as unsubtle as they were, but it wouldn't hurt to hear a bit more about them.

"That just tells me about their records, though," she said. "What else can you tell me about each of them?"
"Tortura is a turtle, good with defense but terrible at attacking. Calabasher is a soft-shelled crab; her strong claws are good for attacking but her armor is weak. Grimlyn has a number of powerful attacks and possesses an ingenious mind, but she has a tendency to destroy herself with her own inventions. It's very entertaining to watch," Myrmaidon chuckled absently. It was amazing that the two had not run out of staircase to walk down yet. "Do any of these sound like something to please your palette?"
Rachna thought it over as they walked. It was clear that each of these had a significant weakness that made them so...'low-tier', as it were. That would have been something that could be fixed if she had the chance do to something of her own with them, but she doubted she would be able to. It was supposed to be a tournament based around controlling them as a summoner, after all. She would more than likely have to make the best of what she had. Still, something to keep in mind if she got the chance.

For that purpose, it seemed like the inventor, which Rachna was going to assume was a gremlin, was almost the best bet. Good offense and the brains to use them in creative ways was always a plus...but there was also the obvious downside of destroying herself with them. Rachna had a mental image of a certain cartoon coyote always chasing after a flightless bird, never able to catch it and always having his clever traps backfire on him. That coyote never won. Maybe with someone else at the reins, Grimlyn could do better, but....Rachna decided to save that as a plan B.

Conversely, Tortura presented the problem of very limited options. A turtle, good with defense but poor with what was more than likely everything else, was probably only good for hiding in her shell. Sure, it was probably a good shell, but if it was capable of lasting forever she wouldn't have such a poor record. Calabasher, though...claws were good for attacking, as Myrmaidon said, but they were also good for holding things, crushing things, prying things off of other things, throwing things...Rachna could work with that.

"I think so," Rachna answered. "Why don't we go see Calabasher, then."
"You want Calabasher, then? I think this will be a surprise to everyone," Myrmaidon chuckled. "I hope you are as witty as you seem, milady, or this will end up embarrassing for everyone~"

The maid did not change her direction, but rather, continued down the staircase as she had been, leading her guest along. They'd nearly reached the bottom now. "Calabasher should be somewhere down here. While I go and fetch her, I would recommend that you do not stray too far, lest you run into the esteemed head of the castle," she suggested, vanishing into the darkness, turning on her heels to face Rachna and giving another amused smile. With amazing speed, she dissolved into shadows, moving between the rails and then vanishing completely beneath the staircase.

At the bottom of the stairs, a massive amount of various monsters sat around in what looked like bleacher seats. It turned out that the pit she'd seen from the outside, dug into the cliff, was not the stage for the tournament, but rather, a theater. The theater looked outside, onto the ocean. Where was the arena, exactly? Would the monsters be flying, or perhaps some terrain would be projected out for them? If they were going to fight in the sea, it would explain all of the sea-based monsters, at least...

In the distance, Rachna spotted a robed figure. The figure seemed similar to TrollMan, but with better posture and armed with a tall broom. A female knight, clad from head to toe in black armor and carrying its severed head by the plumed tail extending up from the helmet, stood next to the robed navi.

Further off to the left, Octopressure was standing by herself. Rachna didn't see the troll in question himself, however, nor did she see anyone that looked like a soft-shelled crab.
And that would be that, for the moment. The maid disappeared into the darkness, which wasn't a terribly surprising feat when there was so much darkness around to disappear into. And that left Rachna at the bottom of the staircase, where a number of monstrous navis were sitting in bleachers. Sadly, none of them looked like the one she was supposed to be working with, but that was what the cute maid navi had disappeared for, right?

She took up a spot leaning against the railing, where she could get a good lock at most of the theater's occupants. Most of them probably would not be taking part, although the troll-ish one almost certainly would, as another competitor. And if the simple logic of proximity and similar names was to be believed, the headless navi next to her was probably Dullaharm. And then there was Octopressure, standing off by herself. Rachna wanted to start thinking of strategies for each of them other than what she had already come up with, but she knew that she would have to see what she was working with first.

Until then, though, she simply stayed where she was and waited for Myrmaidon to return. She took the maid's recommendation very seriously. Not as any kind of warning, but because running into TrollMan at this point was definitely not something she wanted.

"So first you get a virus as an adopted 'daughter', then I find you in a den full of monster girls? Just what are you getting up to when I'm not paying attention?" Ellen asked, breaking the silence.

"Oh, nothing terribly unusual. To me, at least," Rachna answered.

"I would hate to see what is unusual for you then."
Rachna decided to keep a low profile, in order to avoid getting wrapped up in another confusing game of "try to make TrollMan realize that he's being insulted." Thankfully, she fit into a crowd of women who all looked like they were dressed for Halloween pretty nicely, and thus was not bothered. With surprising speed, Myrmaidon returned with the monster she'd promised to introduce Rachna to. "Hello again, Miss Rachna. I've brought Calabasher, as you requested. Calabasher, this is our esteemed guest and your master for the evening," the maid announced, keeping a polite smile.

The navi who'd shown up with Myrmaidon was a slightly taller girl with a body that looked very similar to Myrmaidon's own in build, only slightly more toned and with darker skin. Her armor seemed vaguely reminiscent of Octopressure's, except that hers was closer fitting, had a much less distracting helmet, and had giant blue crab claws instead of tentacles. "This is great! I didn't think there was a chance I was getting to take part in the tournament, but here I am! Who do I have to thank, huh?" the navi chuckled, her grin widening beneath her bizarre, crab-shaped helmet. Like with Octopressure, the helmet obscured her eyes to the point where it was hard to imagine what her face looked like. Her claws clapped mechanically with a quiet noise, but snapped especially hard at certain words.

"Do you remember when I said that Calabasher is based off of a soft-shelled crab?" Myrmaidon asked, giving Rachna a cryptic stare.

"Soft-shelled? Just cause don't like to wear armor doesn't mean I'm ready for the pot!" the monster griped, snapping her claws irritably. "I even dressed up for the occassion!"

"Calabasher's weakness is exactly opposite of Tortura: she refuses to wear armor. As such, she has a difficult time defending herself. I wish you luck in devising a strategy that compensates for her foolhardy behavior," the maid chuckled, bowing and backing away. "I am off to attend to other guests; please ask Calabasher here if you have any more questions before we prepare to begin the competition."

The crab-like navi watched the maid leave, then turned back to Rachna. "What's there to strategize, am I right? See these big, pinchy snappers? They'll take care of anything! Doesn't matter how much armor the other girl wears, these things'll go right through it!" she commented, clacking the scissor-like hands together menacingly to emphasize her point while grinning deviously. She seemed to have a lot of confidence for someone with such a poor record.
Already, Rachna could tell that this was going to be a very...interesting tournament. The crab navi that she had chosen for for her entrant was about what she had expected from Myrmaidon's description, but even listening her Rachna had to chuckle inwardly at her attitude. Rather headstrong, despite her record. At least she had confidence. Now Rachna just had to mold that into something useful.

"Yes, those are certainly some impressive claws," Rachna answered, trying to ignore the way Calabasher snapped them with every few words. "And they do look like they can go through anything. But if that's all you needed then I'm sure you'd have a better record, hmm?"
"Hrk! I was hoping you didn't already know so much about my record...!" Calabasher sighed, crossing her claws in front of her. "But look! I actually wore most of my armor this time! It's hot, but I'm wearing it anyway! I'm sure to win this time!" she declared triumphantly, pressing one claw to her chest and cackling evilly.

"Attention everyone!" the robed figure from earlier shouted. Thankfully, the voice was female, and thus could not belong to TrollMan. As Rachna got a better look at the announcer, however, she realized that the robed figure and the dreaded TrollMan might very well be siblings; although not deformed and lumpy, the sister's face had green skin, white eyes, and sharp fangs just like the original troll's. "The fights will begin soon! Prepare for the first matchup: Octopressure, coached by myself, versus Calabasher, coached by the newly arrived Rachna!"

"Octopressure! We aquatic monsters kinda look up to her," Calabasher whispered, covering the side of her face with one of her tremendous claws in humorous mimicry of speaking through one's hand. "She's not so tough normally, but once Mistress Trik uses her magic...!"

"Monsters, approach the cauldron launcher and prepare to transform!" the troll woman commanded. With that, Calabasher nodded and bounded away towards a cauldron at the center of the room. Octopressure stepped towards it at the same time, dragging her tentacles behind her unenthusiastically. Apparently she wasn't in a very good mood.

"Remember: you can communicate with me using the magic orb near the window looking out at the sea!" Calabasher informed her master. Apparently, she was going to be transported somewhere else...? Both monsters climbed into the cauldron together, which entertainingly was barely big enough for the two of them, making it look like they were sharing a very intimate jacuzzi. "I won't hold back just cause you're another aquatic monster!"

"You should not hold back in a fight. But know that I won't go easy. I have something to gain from this. And I must beat you to progress," Octopressure informed her opponent. A plume of purple fire erupted from the cauldron then, consuming them both and leaving no-one. At that point, everyone began to move towards the window, leaving enough space for Rachna to take up a floating orb at the left side.

Amazingly, the purple fire which had been in the cauldron moments ago now erupted across the sea itself, visible from the window carved into the side of the cliff. The flames expanded outward into a ring, then two figures began to grow up from the water. Rachna was quickly able to identify them as increasingly giant versions of the two monsters who had occupied the cauldron moments ago. After reaching an immense size, Calabasher snapped her claws menacingly while Octopressure whipped her appendages against the sea floor.

The troll woman smiled at Rachna, revealing rows of sharp teeth. "You're the one my idiot brother's been going on about! Too bad he dragged you into this, because I'm not going to lose at my own tournament in the first round," she cackled, crossing both sleeves of her robe confidently. "You chose poorly. Calabasher doesn't stand a chance against Octopressure! You can instruct her by speaking into that orb there, but I wouldn't bother if I were you; this will be over in just a second!"

"Alright, Boss! What do you want me to do? Should I just pinch her reeeal good?" Calabasher's voice boomed. It didn't sound like she had much of a plan...
Rachna smirked. She could certainly see why Calabasher had such a poor record. The crab girl was cocky, overconfident, unbalanced for one on one combat, and content to leave armor behind because it was uncomfortable. Having her work cut out for was one thing, but this crab was something else. But that just meant it would be sweeter for her, and all the more embarrassing for TrollMan if she actually succeeded in coming out on top. The only downfall to this plan was that it would probably do nothing to deter his bizarre, irrational worship of her as some kind of evil goddess of magic. But she would just have to deal with that some other way.

"Octopressure, huh," she said as the fight was announced and Calabasher mentioned looking up to her. "I remember beating her with a bit of sand awhile back. Shouldn't be too hard for you."

Nonetheless, she couldn't help but be impressed when both monster navis were transported out to sea and materialized in it, now positively massive. So that was how the arena was going to work: with both combatants so large that the ocean was little more than a hindrance, if even that much. Rachna made a mental note to ask later about what kind of magic the one called Trik used to do it.

Just in case she felt like creating a kaiju battle scenario of her own, of course.

Rachna turned toward Trik while approaching the magic orb she was supposed to talk through, smirking and answering "Well, at least we both recognize that he's an idiot. Do you think you can take away his evil button in the future? Last time I was unfortunate enough to run into him he kept mashing it like a lunatic."

Before saying anything into the magic orb, she shot one more remark at her opponent. "Yeah, maybe I did choose poorly. What can I say, I'm new to this and clearly don't have any idea what I'm doing yet."

Rachna grinned, then turned her gaze back out to sea. "Okay, here's what you do," she said in a hushed voice into the orb. "You can grab things well enough with those claws, right? So go for her tentacles. Clamp down on them as hard as you can so she can't use them well. Then if you can manage it try and throw her around a bit."
"At the very least, it is comforting to see my brother's affections for you are one-sided. The last thing he needs is for anyone to encourage that behavior of his," Trik sighed. "Go, Octopressure! Anticipate a frontal attack; Calabasher always goes straight for the vitals!"

The defense would have been a sound strategy, based on past experience, but this time, Calabasher had fresh tactics. As the giant octopus navi extended her tentacles to catch the crab navi moving in, Calabasher took the opportunity to snatch them up in her claws, grabbing two tentacles with each massive claw. On the upside, this seemed to disable Octopressure's greatest weapons. On the downside, the cutting power of the claws must not be what it looked like; Octopressure's armored tentacles withstood their pinch.

"I faced such strategies before," Trik's combatant boomed. "Enemies often think to attack those. That's why I have them armored now."

"Yeah? Well you haven't faced anyone like me before!" Calabasher boasted. "I'll just keep pinching in harder and harder until they tear off! What'll you do then!?"

As if answering the question, Octopressure began to walk towards her opponent. Although Calabasher didn't seem to perceive it, Rachna could clearly see that the strategy had left her monster with two free limbs and the opponent with four... While it was possible Calabasher's strategy might eventually work, time was not on her side.
"Well if that's the case, maybe you should stop making monsters that suck up to him," Rachna said, shrugging. "Even for being the sensible one Octopressure out there certainly wasn't doing much else. 'Your way is right, evil lights our path'...or whatever it was in her strange octameter."

She turned her attention back to the fight, quickly noticing that while Calabasher had indeed managed to grab the octopus navi's tentacles, she had not managed to cut through them. Armored tentacles, was it? That seemed almost cheap...although now that she thought of it, Rachna did remember Octopressure using them to block some of her own magic. She'd gotten around it by attacking from behind, but Calabasher didn't have that option. Nor, for that matter, did she have the option for going for the body, unless she wanted to let go of the tentacles. Not a good idea.

"Okay, I think I got it," she said in a hushed voice. "Wait until she gets to you, then let go of one side, just one side, and go for her body with it. Actually, no, wait, go for her dress. That'll get her off-guard." Rachna grinned. She had no idea if that strategy would work, but she couldn't think of any options that didn't involve taking a chance letting go of those tentacles. And if they were going to take risks, they were going to do it in style.