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  • #61
    Chapter 57: Isekai Life & Town Arrival

    The streets of Rhymer's Cross was crowded with tents and lean-tos. The night was quiet, and the sounds of our horses' hooves echoed from the buildings. Occasionally, a curious peasant or townsperson would peer at us from a window or shelter, as we were escorted through town by spearmen and their sardonic leader.

    I look aside at her. She had mousy, short-cropped hair, a lean, wolfish figure, and was wearing studded leather armour. “So, uh, are you the captain of the militia, or...?”

    “Shire-reeve,” she replied brusquely, “Or, at least, I was his daughter. Papa disappeared two months ago, and the mayor was killed in a raid three weeks gone. I stepped up, and so here we are.”

    “Do attacks happen often?” I asked, “The fields outside don't look like a battlefield....”

    “Aye, the gobbos don't attack our walls,” she explained, “They wait until we work the fields, or go foraging. Walls stop them, guards don't.”

    “If that's the case, and you're still working the fields, why are there so many hungry people here...?”

    She gave me a cutting glance. “Aye, I'd believe you're from Tresens. That's a dumb city-folk thing to say.”

    I was opening my mouth to reply when she cut me off.

    “The wheat's almost ready, aye. But once it's harvested it needs to be dried, which takes time. We've got enough hands to make the winnowing and grinding easy, but the drying can't be rushed. So, if the wheat is ready tomorrow, and we harvest it all, and the crows and the moles haven't eaten too much of it, and we don't lose any to mold, we would have usable flour in three months and probably not enough to feed everyone by that time.”

    I frowned. “Then what is missing that you would be eating, otherwise?”

    “Spring vegetables,” she replied, “Carrots, artichokes, and peas would be ready at this time. Last year's flour would still be good, and aye, we still have some, though we're mixing it with sawdust. We fish the river, but the fish have started avoiding the length within our walls. We would hunt, but the hunters get ambushed and are never seem again. We took in all the homesteaders who came seeking shelter, so our stores are getting gobbled up. Rationing is pushing us to the brink. So, you and your friends had better be worth taking in, because we've got maybe another week of rations left, then it's rats, boots and riverwater.”

    Now that she was talking more, the things she was saying were so bleak I kind of regret pressing her for information....

    “What's your name, anyway?” I asked, “I can't just call you 'Shire-reeve'.”

    “Estrid.”

    Well, at least we're back to one-word answers.

    We drew up next to the shire-reeve's guard office. “You'll have some privacy, but the only place we have room is here in the cells,” Estrid said, “You can store stuff inside, I'll give you the keys so you can lock it up. I won't rob you, but if you have any fruit I will have to insist you trade most of it to us in exchange for other food. We're going to have a hard time with Sailor's Sickness soon.”

    “We'll sort that out in the morning, if it's okay,” I replied as I dismounted Snacks and began to unbuckle my saddle. “Is there someone to help my kn- allies with their wounds? The goblins weren't gentle with us on our way in.”

    I almost called Voss “my” knight. I'd have to be more careful if we were going to masquerade as just adventurers.

    “Aye,” she replied, “I'll send along the high priest from the temple in the morning. He's been using his miracles to extend our food supplies, but I'll tell him to hold off on that to see to your wounds.”

    I frowned. The people here won't love us if we keep stealing their priest away from casting Create Food & Water to tend to us. We would have to come up with new food, fast, on top of making headway against the goblins.

    The cells were pretty basic, eight foot by eight foot cages with wooden walls and wrought iron gates in place of doors. Estrid handed us rust-spotted iron keys to open the locks, before departing to carry on with... whatever she was doing. The rest of the office was pretty simple, just a desk and some notepaper for the reeve, a framed map of the town, and an empty spear rack.

    As soon as Estrid wad out of sight, I heard Calliope sigh. “Such a welcoming and warm presence, isn't she?”

    Pot, meet kettle.... “She's probably got a lot on her mind with this situation,” I replied, “But you're not wrong.”

    Yua didn't seem perturbed at all by our new base of operations, and busied herself setting up my bedroll on one of the hard wooden benches in the cells. Voss stacked our chests in one of the cells, then ran a hand through his hair. “This is really all they have, huh....”

    “They're probably giving up their ability to lock up troublemakers just to house us,” Calliope replied, “It's not like they have many other prospects for breaking out of this situation.”

    Calliope sat down heavily on the second bench in the cell that Yua had picked out for me, the one without all the stuff in it. “What is our plan, then? The situation here seems pretty bad.”

    “We have two problems to solve, ultimately, the food shortage and the goblins,” I said, looking at the framed map, “Working on the goblins helps the food shortage, since they'll be able to do more hunting and foraging, but all the same we might want to make some time to do something to help their food situation.”

    “Okay, so I guess we hunt game while we hunt goblins, and try not to get the two mixed up,” Calliope said, “That seems simple enough.”

    “We should also see if this priest guy has any acolytes he can spare,” Voss interjected, “We need someone who can heal us in the field... I swear, Theo, I was this close to gelding you the past few nights.”

    My eyes went up in surprise. “Gelding...?”

    “Yeah,” he said with a wry grin, “If you hadn't knocked up our only healer, we wouldn't be in this mess.”

    You don't have to say it like that....

    “We should also ask around, see if there are any other volunteers for our party,” Calliope said thoughtfully, “Surely there's someone our honourable shrine-reeve will spare to join our hunting party.”

    I nodded. “I'd like to get an idea of where the goblins are coming from, first,” I said, “So I figure we'll do a series of searches. We'll start to the east, but each day we'll pick a direction and travel half a day out and back. Our main goal for now is locating the goblin stronghold. Once we have that information, we will have our hunting grounds.”

    “And then...?” Voss replied.

    “We pick off their patrols one by one, take back the countryside for the people, and when we're ready, assault them and wipe them out.”

    “You make it sound so simple,” Calliope quipped sarcastically.

    “Yeah, it'll probably be more complicated than that,” I said with a shrug, “But you can't expect me to have an answer for every problem right away. Our goal is simple: defeat the goblins and destroy their stronghold. So, I intend to begin by doing exactly that, and tackling any other problems as they happen to crop up.”

    Calliope sighed and made an exaggerated shrug. “Whatever you wish, my prince.”

    After that, she said nothing else, as we settled in for our sleep, but her words had me awake and pondering long into the night.

    ---------------------------

    Character Name: Theodore Esche
    Race: Human
    Class: Transmuter
    Level (XP): 3 (5121/10000)
    Hit Points: 7

    Ability Scores
    Strength 11
    Dexterity 17
    Constitution 8
    Intelligence 17
    Wisdom 13
    Charisma 14

    Weapon Proficiencies: Darts
    Nonweapon Proficiencies: Direction Sense, Etiquette, Reading/Writing, Swimming, Tailoring

    Spells Per Day:
    1st Level- 3
    2nd Level- 2

    Spellbook:
    (1st Level): Armor, Burning Hands, Detect Magic, Detect Undead, Enlarge, Featherfall, Magic Missile, Mending, Read Magic, Sleep, Tenser's Floating Disc, Wall of Fog
    (2nd Level): Knock

    Spells Prepared:
    (1st Level): Burning Hands, Sleep, Wall of Fog
    (2nd Level): Knock, Knock

    Equipment: Backpack, Bag of Fine Sand, Belt, Belt Pouch (Large, 3), Belt Pouch (Small, 4), Boots, Darts (43), Hand Mirror, Hat, Hooded Lantern, Pearl (worth 100gp), Robes (3), Signet Ring, Small Tent, Oil of Acid Resistance, mint green potion, Potion of Rainbow Hues

    Money: 350 gp, 332 sp

    Languages: Common, Elven, Dwarven, Orc, Goblin, Draconic, Ryujin

    Companions: Calliope (Level 2 Invoker, fiancee), Voss (Level 3 Fighter), Yua (Servant?)

    Elsewhere: Katriana (Level 3 Fighter, sister & wife), Ashryn (Level 3 Cleric, fiancee), Smokey Enna (Level 4 Fighter/Level 4 Thief), Bekker (Butler)

    Sexual Partners: 5

    Storage Chest: Alchemical Steel Broadsword, Alchemical Steel Bastard Sword, 299 pp, 2386 gp, 16 sp, 50 cp
    Currently Playing: Dragon Star Varnir
    Currently Working On: Vacation Updates
    Current Waifu: Charlotta, Dragon Star Varnir

    Comment


    • #62
      Chapter 58: Isekai Life & First Recruit

      I was awoken in the morning by the sound of prayer and the scent of incense. I groaned- while it was marginally better than a random patch of ground, the bench was hardly a comfortable place to sleep, and my back ached fiercely. For a moment, I felt a pang of sadness. Katriana would have never let me sleep in these kinds of conditions, but she was miles away. For literally the first time in my new life.

      I shook my head and levered myself up from the bench. I couldn't bear to risk Katriana or Ashryn or our unborn children... but I could at least wish that we were adventuring in a big ol' city again, where I could visit them at any time while they held the fort at our base of operations.

      Rising, I took in what was actually happening in the Shire-reeve's office. An absolutely ancient old man- a white-haired wizen man with brittle white hair that matched his white robes- was chanting over Voss, who was lying down on the desk in the common area. Yua sat cross-legged beside the door, meditating or something with her sword close to hand. Calliope stood near Voss, with our map rolled up and in hand.

      Trying in vain to stretch the kinks out of my back, I headed over to Calliope. Quietly, so I wouldn't interrupt the prayers, I motioned at the old man and asked, “Our healer, I presume?”

      Calliope gave a short nod. “He's already gone over Yua, just waiting for him to finish with Voss.”

      I looked back at the old man. He was obviously in no shape to be adventuring. I could see a distinct tremor in his hands, and one of his eyes was clouded by a large cataract.

      I grimaced. We're going to need to find another healer for the team. “I was hoping to recruit him, but....”

      Calliope frowned. “We may need to do without,” she replied, “Unless you can conjure a priest with healing powers out of nowhere.”

      I had a dark chuckle. “You know I'm a transmuter, not a conjurer.”

      That gave her a small smile.

      Voss sat up on his desk, swinging his legs around as the old man took a step back. With a grin, he hopped down lightly, experimentally kicking his leg. “Good as new,” he announced to nobody in particular, then turned to me. “I'm all ready for the goblin hunt. Bring them on!”

      “Well, I'm glad you're feeling better,” I told him, “But we have a few things to do before heading out, so you'll have a few hours, at least, to enjoy your good health.”

      “Sure, take as long as you need,” he replied, “I'm just feeling energetic. I could swear that last night was the first time in a long time that I got some real rest.”

      Considering what happened the one night we were relatively safe, he wasn't lying.

      “Um, excuse, er, father?” I said, approaching the priest, as he was preparing to leave, “We are looking to have a cleric join our party when we go hunting for goblins. Would you happen to have any kind of acolyte or assistant that can use magic?”

      “Oh, you are, are you?” He blinked at me sleepily, “Too bad my own adventuring days are behind me... but, no, lad, a provincial priest like myself has no students.”

      Shit. I turned to Calliope and Voss. “Well, perhaps if we sally out, we can just get healed when we come back in? It means we can't really camp in the field, though.”

      Calliope had a thoughtful expression. “I suppose it would work to begin with. We could always send a rider back...”

      The little old man loudly cleared his throat, drawing our attention.

      “I did not say I was the only cleric in town,” he said.

      That was how Yua and I found ourselves standing outside a filthy dockhouse in the north end of Rhymer's Cross.

      After some discussion, Voss and Calliope agreed to stay behind to monitor the trade of our iron rations with the local militia, which we were still expecting. So it was left to Yua and I to go actually make the pitch to the town's other cleric.

      It was not a shock, when two and two were put together, that the old man cleric would know of this guy and Estrid would not. Suleyar, the last child of the All-Father by Lathlys, the celestial goddess. By the time of his birth, the marriage between Lathlys and the All-Father had long since gone cold. Neglected by his father, and often overlooked by his mother, Suleyar was quiet and kept to himself, choosing to gather secrets and listen rather than speak. Thus, Suleyar became the God of Secrets.

      It didn't seem that it was a complete tale- the old man seemed vague, especially compared to Ashryn's more lively tales- but to Estrid, the priest of Suleyar in town would just seem to be an drunk and occasional thief. The old man was made aware of his colleague after investigating reports of healing being done to the townsfolk, worrying that a charlatan was taking advantage of people's suffering. Instead, he found a legitimate cleric of uncertain morality who merely acted like a charlatan.

      I approached the door, which seemed to be fashioned out of driftwood and baling wire, and knocked, loudly.

      Then, after no answer came, I knocked again, even louder. When there was no other answer, Yua impatiently stepped forward and pushed the door open.

      The interior of the dockhouse was filled with with the reek of malt and the husks of rotting boats. Nobody had seriously used this place for some time, which made it an ideal hideout for someone without a lot of money, I suppose.

      There were signs of habitation, however. A long, low table- no more than a foot off the ground- held a crude glass still. Bags, casks, and a leather backpack sat in the corner, and at the mouth of where the dockhouse let out into the river, a short, pudgy gnome stood pissing into the river.

      The gnome gave a heavy sigh without turning around. “You know, if someone doesn't answer the door when they're home, it's usually because they don't want to be disturbed,” he said, not turning around.

      Yua glanced back at me, hand on the hilt of her greatsword. “Not necessary,” I told her in her own language, before stepping forward. “Well, our time is short, so I hope you'll forgive the intrusion,” I replied, “Are you Brother Raszil?”

      The gnome finished tucking himself away, thankfully, before he turned to the sill. “What's it to you?” he asked offhandedly, wiping his hands off on a leather vest. He had a rat's nest of orange hair, a soft face, and a sharp, aquiline nose. He trudged over to the still, grabbed up a pewter mug, and twisted a knob, allowing a drizzle of dark brown liquid to pour into the cup. The gnome tossed back the liquid, and smacked his lips with satisfaction. “Perfection itself.”

      I frowned. “Isn't this town rationing food?”

      “Perhaps they are, do I look like a human?” he replied, giving me a suspicious eye. “But you wouldn't be out here looking for Brother Raszil if you weren't willing to overlook something like that.” For the first time, he seemed to notice Yua, and had an almost comical double-take. “What's with her? I've never heard of humans with antlers.”

      I glanced from Yua, back to the gnome. “She's not from around here.”

      “No shit,” he grew a lecherous grin, “Tell you what, girlie, if you show me yours I'll show you mine. If you let me see what's under all that mail I could teach you how to pleasure a gnome, what do you say?”

      Yua gave me an uncomprehending look. I glanced back at the gnome. “She doesn't speak common, either.”

      “Oh yeah?” he tilted his head, staring at her, “I will eat your ass. Be happy to. Just stick my tongue straight in there and wiggle it around til you squeal. Don't even care how long it's been since your last bath. I'd drink your piss, too, gargle it before guzzling it down like thirsty man in a desert.” When Yua just gave me another bewildered shrug after this tirade, the gnome finally nodded. “Yeah, guess she's really not fluent. You shouldn't have given that for free, though. Could come in handy one of these days.”

      “Master, am I being insulted?” Yua asked softly.

      “No, it's fine,” I said to her, reached out to put a hand on one of her arms. The last thing I needed was for the gnome to critically fail a Charisma check and get bisected by her.

      “She going to be okay?”

      “Yes, don't worry about her,” I focused my attention on the gnome. “Look, I'm the leader of an adventuring party that wants to help with this goblin problem, and we need a cleric with healing powers to assist us.”

      “And you want that cleric to be Brother Raszil, huh?” He wiped his hands once more on his vest and offered one to me in a handshake. “Guess I should drop the charade, huh? It's just Raszil, though. The priests of my order never take titles.”

      I gave his hand a shake, then made sure to check without looking that all my rings were still in place. “Theodore.”

      “So, Theodore, what's in it for me? Surely you didn't hear about a priest of Suleyar and expect him to just totter along obediently.”

      “Well, I thought about paying you,” I admitted, “But I figured I could offer you something you might find even better.”

      “Oh yeah?” he said, raising an eyebrow, “What's that?”

      “The chance to find out why two wizards, a knight of Tresens and Yua here came to the ass end of nowhere to fight some goblins.”

      Raszil barked a laugh. “Yeah, maybe. I'll admit, you have me piqued. But that's not enough.”

      I shrugged. “It beats starving, getting enslaved by goblins, or getting butchered?”

      “I don't think that rushing to die in a field or a river somewhere is an improvement over staying here and dying warm and drunk,” he shook his head, “Come on, I thought you wizards were smart.”

      “It's less boring?”

      “Bingo.” Raszil sighed. “I'm sick to death of these fucking farmers. The bar is low for now, but you'd best get interesting quick.”

      ---------------------------

      Character Name: Theodore Esche
      Race: Human
      Class: Transmuter
      Level (XP): 3 (5121/10000)
      Hit Points: 7

      Ability Scores
      Strength 11
      Dexterity 17
      Constitution 8
      Intelligence 17
      Wisdom 13
      Charisma 14

      Weapon Proficiencies: Darts
      Nonweapon Proficiencies: Direction Sense, Etiquette, Reading/Writing, Swimming, Tailoring

      Spells Per Day:
      1st Level- 3
      2nd Level- 2

      Spellbook:
      (1st Level): Armor, Burning Hands, Detect Magic, Detect Undead, Enlarge, Featherfall, Magic Missile, Mending, Read Magic, Sleep, Tenser's Floating Disc, Wall of Fog
      (2nd Level): Knock

      Spells Prepared:
      (1st Level): Burning Hands, Sleep, Wall of Fog
      (2nd Level): Knock, Knock

      Equipment: Backpack, Bag of Fine Sand, Belt, Belt Pouch (Large, 3), Belt Pouch (Small, 4), Boots, Darts (43), Hand Mirror, Hat, Hooded Lantern, Pearl (worth 100gp), Robes (3), Signet Ring, Small Tent, Oil of Acid Resistance, mint green potion, Potion of Rainbow Hues

      Money: 350 gp, 332 sp

      Languages: Common, Elven, Dwarven, Orc, Goblin, Draconic, Ryujin

      Companions: Calliope (Level 2 Invoker, fiancee), Voss (Level 3 Fighter), Raszil (Level 2 Cleric/Level 2 Thief), Yua (Servant?)

      Elsewhere: Katriana (Level 3 Fighter, sister & wife), Ashryn (Level 3 Cleric, fiancee), Smokey Enna (Level 4 Fighter/Level 4 Thief), Bekker (Butler)

      Sexual Partners: 5

      Storage Chest: Alchemical Steel Broadsword, Alchemical Steel Bastard Sword, 299 pp, 2386 gp, 16 sp, 50 cp
      Currently Playing: Dragon Star Varnir
      Currently Working On: Vacation Updates
      Current Waifu: Charlotta, Dragon Star Varnir

      Comment


      • #63
        Chapter 59: Isekai Life & Stressful Moment

        When we returned to the Shire-Reeves's office, there was quite a crowd. A group of sunken-cheeked and hollow-eyed villagers had gathered and stood, watching the building with uncertainty. A pair of the city watch's guardsmen were protecting our wagon with spears, eyeing the crowd warily, so at least our wagon would be unmolested, though most of the real valuables were inside, safely locked in a cell.

        As gently as I could, I began to shoulder my way through the crowd, begging pardons and excusing myself the whole way. I got partway through the crowd, when a bony hand seized my arm. I turned and saw a hollow-cheeked man, unnaturally aged by hunger, who seemed to stare past me.

        “They took my boy, those goblins did,” he muttered, “'Is name was... is... Karl. He's a wagon wheel tall. A whole wagon wheel.” The man's eyes started tearing up, and his grip on me got tighter. “He's got chestnut hair, just like his mum. His mum....”

        Slaves, women, meat, in gutteral goblin, came unbidden to my mind.

        “Uh, yes, goodman,” I replied, gently trying to pry his fingers off my arm, “I'll be sure to keep an eye out for your boy.”

        I barely managed to extricate myself from the man, when a young, starved-looking woman with a prominent birthmark took his place. “My husband went hunting,” she said, in a pleading tone, although she didn't ask anything, and just repeated, “My husband when hunting.”

        After that, it was like a dam had burst. People surrounded me, reaching for me, trying to grasp my robes. “My mother....” said one, and then another shouted, “You have to find my baby!” “My friend! My friend!” The rest was lost in the babble of pleading voices. My heart thundered in my ears, and my breath came ragged and thin, like a hand was slowly tightening on my throat.

        Slaves, women, meat.

        “Can I have your attention please!”

        All the voices stopped immediately to regard Raszil. The redheaded, pudgy gnome had managed to climb aboard the wagon, and now stood barely a head over the crowd, with his arms outstretched. Nonetheless, his voice rang through like a bell, and he seemed to have the crowd enraptured.

        “We will do our utmost to try and find all the missing people of this village,” he continued, his voice somehow projecting the kind of confidence that assured that all would be set to right by a firm yet gentle authority.

        “However, we can't do our work so long as the rest of you aren't doing yours,” he said, his tone suggesting a gentle chastisement, “Please, good people of Rhymer's Cross, there are arrows to be fletched, walls to be mended, spear-hafts to be hardened over fire. Please, return to your duties, and allow the good mage Theodore and his companions to return to theirs.”

        People all around me began murmuring their agreement, quietly releasing their hold on me, and Yua gave me a nudge towards the door, breaking the hold of what I suddenly realized was Raszil's spell. We hurried along inside the office, while the crowd of hungry villagers murmured among each other about what Raszil had orated, and- very slowly- dispersing.

        Once we were safely out of sight, I collapsed against a wall and gasped for air. I trembled uncontrollably. Even in the middle of battle, nothing quite like that had even happened to me. The people reaching for me, tugging at me....

        I felt gentle hands grasp my shoulders, pulling me forward. Calliope's scent filled my nostrils as she pulled me into a comforting hug. For a long, wordless, moment, we just stood there, her holding me while I trembled like a leaf in the wind.

        “You scared me,” she said, softly and without a hint of accusation.

        “Y-yeah...” was the only thing I could mutter in response.

        “I can hear your heartbeat...” she said, “You seem so strong most of the time, so brilliant and cunning, but Katriana was right, your health....”

        “Y-yeah, I guess.” I certainly didn't expect to be suddenly and violently reminded of my low Constitution score. Dog was certainly not cutting me any slack just because I happened to have slightly higher HP, now, was he?

        I heard someone clear their throat uncomfortably.

        “Uh... Greetings! I am Raszil, I understand your adventuring party is in need of my assistance.”

        “Oh... right. I'm Voss, a... knight. I guess you already know Yua here. This is Moruca, another new recruit, I guess.”

        “Charmed,” came a third, reedy old woman's voice.

        I tried to pull away from Calliope, but she held me fast and looked into my eyes. “Are you really ready to go, or do you need another minute?” Her gaze held no judgment or consternation, only concern.

        My pulse had slowed down to normal, and the trembles had stopped, so I gave her a nod. Only then did she release me.

        “Uh, yeah, sorry about that....” I looked around the room. The new voice belonged to a tough, wizened old knot of a woman, who resembled a gnarled old branch. She was clad in a plain woolen tunic and leggings, with leather armour strapped on over top, and while she had a bitter cast to her features, and one was clouded with cataracts, her once clear eye was bright and a aware. “Uh, I'm Theodore. I guess I'm sort of the leader around here.”

        “Right,” Moruca replied, looking doubtfully at me.

        Voss quickly explained. “When that Shire-Reeve was here, Calliope brought up getting volunteers from her guards to join us. The Reeve didn't want anyone to go over, but Moruca stayed and told the Reeve to try and keep her from killing goblins.” He shrugged, “I don't know how well she fights, but that was pretty badass.”

        I recalled Estrid's intimidating, no-bullshit presence. If this Moruca was able to beat her at her own game, well, at least we won't be short on bad attitude. “Can you fight?” I asked, curiously, “I mean, I've known some pretty tough old buzzards at academy, but they had magic on their side. I'm not about to turn down free help, but....”

        “Look, boy,” she sneered at me in response, “I've known these woods since I was a wee girl, I know every track and every river better than my poor departed mother's face. I'm a better shot with one eye than most folks who shoot with two. All I want is to feather them goblins like fair day hens.”

        By the look of some of the swollen joints on her hands, I had a little doubt about her shooting skill. At her age, she'd be at -3 Strength, -2 Dex, -1 Con due to aging effects... but she would also be collecting bonuses to her Wisdom and Intelligence. So, assuming she was a top-notch archer when she was young, she'd still be decent-to-pretty-good now, but her tracking and woodscraft would be higher than ever, which was even more important.

        “Alright, welcome aboard,” I said simply, “But we can't be slowing down for you to keep up. You'll have to pull your weight same as everyone else.”

        “Boy, if I start to slow you down, you have my permission to leave me,” she replied, “I'm going to die out there with a weapon in my hand, not starving to death cowering behind some gods-be-damned wall.”

        Well, that settled that.

        “Then, could you please lend us your expertise, and hear out our rough plan?”

        The old woman grunted, and came to join me at the desk where I spread out our map. I explained our plan as best as I could, wanted to sortie out in everything direction, hunting for wherever the goblins made their lair.

        Moruca shook her head. “Nah, that won't work. The Lakelands aren't like that. If you head a day out straight east, you'll have to ford a half-dozen rivers and get in maybe a half-day's distance, wet boots and eaten by leeches besides.”

        “So what do you recommend?” Calliopse asked, “We've managed to narrow down that the goblin tribe in camped somewhere within a night's travel of the road south of here, but we don't have much information beyond that.”

        The old woman contemplated the map silently, then nodded. “I can think of three places that be fittin' your description, each one is a way's out though. We'll have to check 'em each one by one.”

        “Then that's what we'll do,” I said, fetching the pen and ink from my backpack. “Where are we looking at?”

        Moruca ended up pointing out a boggy island shortly to the west of the road, a ruined village that was unmarked but apparently was a slightly out-of-the way stopover between Pendleton and Rhymer's Cross. I dutifully circled each point on the map. Lastly she tapped the old fortress on the coast, well out of the way of the south road.

        “Really?” I asked, taking a second look. “I know it's a hand-drawn map, but I don't think the proportions are that warped as to put the coast within a day of the road....”

        “That's 'cuz you aren't thinking, boy,” she replied sharply, “Imagine you're looking to raid us here at the village and you're on the coast. You put your gobbo boys on a boat in the morning, they sail upriver with the evening tide for a few hours, using the current to propel them upstream. They conduct their raid or patrol, then turn about and zip back home with the morning tide. Be doubly attractive for nocturnal creatures like them gobbos.”

        I thumbed the map idly. That seemed to make sense. “Alright, then,” I said simply, “Tonight will be a dry run. We will leave this afternoon, search some nearby farmsteads for food, and set up an ambush for any goblins that happen to come hunting near the city walls. I want to make sure that we can cooperate with our new party members before we get in over our heads. If everything works out, I'd like to start checking the sites Moruca mentioned on our next expedition.”

        “But what if no goblins show up?” Voss asked, “These people are too afraid to leave, and we were a day or more away from here when we were first ambushed. The last time we saw goblins was three nights ago. What if they've moved on?”

        “A fair point,” I granted, “but by now they know that we're here, that someone was out and about, killing them. I imagine whatever chieftain is in charge of the goblins wants answers, or at least revenge, and the most likely place to look for us is the city fulls of humans that is increasingly desperate against them.”

        Voss frowned. “But what if these goblins aren't behaving in the most logical fashion? What if they don't know about the situation here?”

        Before I could respond, Calliope chimed in. “Theodore may be overthinking it, but what he is saying is fundamentally sound. Think like a brute for a moment- you minions have died, someone in your zone of control is defying you and murdering your underlings. Some of said underlings might even be thinking that if the perpetrators aren't found, there might be reason to have a new goblin king... or whatever.” She made a fist. “So you have to set an example, by finding the nearest group of victims,” she said, before dramatically punching her palm, “And punishing them.”

        “And those victims would be the people here, in this village,” I finished.

        I mean, maybe I was overthinking things, but fundamentally Calliope was agreeing with me, right?

        “Get some extra rest and get ready,” I continued, “We'll head out this afternoon, and we'll be up all night into the morning, so make sure you're ready for that.”

        The others murmured their agreement. First to leave was Moruca, but as Raszil was heading for the door I intercepted him.

        “O captain my captain,” Raszil said with some amusement as he saw me heading for him, “That was a bit of a stressful moment out there, wasn't it? I take it you've never really dealt with large crowds of people.”

        “I suppose not...” I said uneasily, “I just wanted to say thank you, for intervening back there.”

        Raszil paused and looked me in the eyes for a time, evaluating me. Long enough for me to shift uncomfortably and look away. It was hard enough to look into the eyes of someone you know, nevermind the next thing to a complete stranger.

        “It's no matter,” he said, eventually, “Most of the spells I find that I have a day to day use for aren't the kind that will be very practical for this little operation of yours, so I have to use them anyway.” He smiled, “I'll be back in a few hours. Until this afternoon, o captain my captain.”

        And with that, he headed out.

        ---------------------------

        Character Name: Theodore Esche
        Race: Human
        Class: Transmuter
        Level (XP): 3 (5121/10000)
        Hit Points: 7

        Ability Scores
        Strength 11
        Dexterity 17
        Constitution 8
        Intelligence 17
        Wisdom 13
        Charisma 14

        Weapon Proficiencies: Darts
        Nonweapon Proficiencies: Direction Sense, Etiquette, Reading/Writing, Swimming, Tailoring

        Spells Per Day:
        1st Level- 3
        2nd Level- 2

        Spellbook:
        (1st Level): Armor, Burning Hands, Detect Magic, Detect Undead, Enlarge, Featherfall, Magic Missile, Mending, Read Magic, Sleep, Tenser's Floating Disc, Wall of Fog
        (2nd Level): Knock

        Spells Prepared:
        (1st Level): Burning Hands, Sleep, Wall of Fog
        (2nd Level): Knock, Knock

        Equipment: Backpack, Bag of Fine Sand, Belt, Belt Pouch (Large, 3), Belt Pouch (Small, 4), Boots, Darts (43), Hand Mirror, Hat, Hooded Lantern, Pearl (worth 100gp), Robes (3), Signet Ring, Small Tent, Oil of Acid Resistance, mint green potion, Potion of Rainbow Hues, plain gold wedding ring.

        Money: 350 gp, 332 sp

        Languages: Common, Elven, Dwarven, Orc, Goblin, Draconic, Ryujin

        Companions: Calliope (Level 2 Invoker, fiancee), Voss (Level 3 Fighter), Raszil (Level 2 Cleric/Level 2 Thief), Moruca (Ranger 2), Yua (Servant?)

        Elsewhere: Katriana (Level 3 Fighter, sister & wife), Ashryn (Level 3 Cleric, fiancee), Smokey Enna (Level 4 Fighter/Level 4 Thief), Bekker (Butler)

        Sexual Partners: 5

        Storage Chest: Alchemical Steel Broadsword, Alchemical Steel Bastard Sword, 299 pp, 2386 gp, 16 sp, 50 cp
        Currently Playing: Dragon Star Varnir
        Currently Working On: Vacation Updates
        Current Waifu: Charlotta, Dragon Star Varnir

        Comment


        • #64
          Chapter 60: Isekai Life & Tactical Flour

          Voss decided to have a nap while we waited, and I wanted to follow suit, but first, Yua needed to be informed of our plans. So I got her to sit down and a chair, and tried my best.

          “We will go...” I said in her language, and had to pause. Had she ever said the words for 'hunt' or 'fight' around me before? “...Hit bad things,” was what I settled on. “Tonight,” I continued, “So sleep now.”

          Yua stared at me oddly for a moment, then nodded. “We will go, tonight, and kill evil creatures. My blade is yours, my lord,” she finished by pressing a closed fist to her chest and bowing. “I will rest, as you have ordered.”

          Well, that ended up being pretty easy.

          While Yua joined Voss in the cell, Calliope took her place in the chair by the desk. For a long moment she stared at me, head in her hands.

          Being stared at by a woman always makes me uncomfortable, but I tried to maintain composure, distracting myself by examining her features. She lacked any of Katriana's slender, regal beauty, or Ashryn's ethereal qualities, but she had a plainer, more earthy sort of attractiveness that belied her skill at magic.

          Not for the last time, it struck me how lucky I was to have three women of her calibre interested in me.

          “I have a problem.”

          Unfortunately, my plan not to squirm under her stare backfired when I was so distracted it actually startled me when she spoke.

          “Um, pardon?”

          “I have a problem, Theodore.”

          “Okay,” I replied, as I tried to re-compose myself, “What is your problem?”

          “Well, to start with, my darling fiance has been cavorting around with dryads while I've had to sit by and get nothing,” she said with a nice, big, fake smile plastered on her face.

          To say I was startled would be an understatement. Considering how quickly she dropped the topic of the dryads that morning, I had thought I had gotten away with it.

          “You knew about that...?”

          “Well, I know for sure now,” she said with a sardonic grin, easing back in her chair with her arms crossed.

          Well, crap.

          Calliope gave a bitter little chuckle. “Please, Theodore, relax. If I had a problem with you having sex with other women, I wouldn't be here. I'd prefer that you kept it, well, in the family, but with the weird standards we're sort of setting for ourselves, having sex with some dryads isn't the worst thing.”

          “As long as I don't get some weird dryad social disease, I'm sure,” I replied.

          Calliope gave another chuckle. “Well, I wouldn't make a habit out of it,” she said airily, “If you do a lot of screwing around on three wives we're going to start wondering what we can't provide. And on that wild run north with goblins on heels, I couldn't provide. So that's why I'm letting you off so easily.”

          She had a point... although I was kind of strong armed in that situation. “How do you feel about all of this?” I asked, “You didn't seem one hundred percent on board with everything, and now that you have me all to yourself, we've hardly getting any time alone.”

          Now it was Calliope's turn to look a little defensive. “I am disappointed that I haven't gotten you all to myself,” she said after a moment to collect her thoughts, “And, well, I guess there's a little juvenile part of me that is jealous of all the attention you get, and are going to get.”

          I waited, silently. She trailed off, but Calliope didn't seem to be quite done yet.

          After a few moments, she rewarded my patience. “Logically, there's a man I can't live without, so if I have to share him because he can't live without these other two girls, so be it,” she said, “But, it's not always that simple, particularly when I feel like I'm letting you down because Katriana and Ashryn are giving you children already, and I'm not. Sure, this particular moment it helps me that they are incapable of adventuring, and I am, but it's not always going to be the same.

          “So, long term, I don't know what I'm going to do,” she concluded with an exasperated sigh, “If I'm feeling this petty and jealous now with only two other wives, how am I going to feel with five? Eleven?” She shifted uncomfortably, looking at her hands. “I don't know. Maybe you should pass me over. Maybe I'll make a terrible wife.”

          That kind of shook me. I had no idea that Calliope was having these kinds of thoughts- sure, she didn't always get along with Katriana, but I didn't think it was to the point that Calliope wanted “out”.

          “I... I...” I stammered, unsure of how to proceed. Was there supposed to be this kind of rejection in my personal Heaven? “I... maybe... now's not the time....”

          “It's fine, Theodore, really,” Calliope said, biting her lip, “I guess I'm just having cold feet. Katriana and Ashryn are both very beautiful, and... well... I'm just a plain farmer's daughter who happens to have learned some magic.” She gave a bitter chuckle. “And I'm foolish enough to risk being able to live as queen over my own insecurity.”

          I opened my mouth to respond, but she cut me off by standing suddenly. “I'm just wasting your time, now, aren't I? I'm going to get some rest. We need to be rested for tonight.”

          I quickly reached over and grabbed her by the wrist, just as she was walking away. She didn't look at me.

          But now that I had her, what to say?

          “I... want you, here, I mean... In my life,” I said, lamely, “I mean, I don't know how to make you feel better, exactly, but you belong in this family because I say you belong here. So... don't compare yourself to others.”

          Without looking back, Calliope shook her hand free. “Come on, Theodore, let's get some rest, alright?”

          And just like that, I blew whatever chance I had of settling Calliope's anxiety.

          You'd think that, after that, I wouldn't be able to sleep, but I suppose I was still recovering- either from the flight away from the goblins or the panic attack (I think?) I received from getting swarmed by the crowd, take your pick. I napped pretty soundly until a gentle hand shook me awake.

          I was hoping to see Calliope again, but no, it was Voss, fully armoured in his platemail. “It's time to move, boss,” he said with a bit of a grin, “Noon's well past, your new minions are back, and we're just waiting on you.”

          I nodded and rose. Calliope was there, doing a last minute check of her saddlebags. Yua was at the ready, greatsword strapped to her back and armoured in Katriana's old scale. Moruca was giving me a skeptical look, while Raszil merely rolled his eyes, and muttered, “I resent being called a minion, thank you very much.”

          There was no point in inspirational speeches or brave words- we knew what we had to do.

          “Let's go,” I said, after checking my own bag, “We should hit the farmhouses before we're out of daylight.”

          I'm sure to the people of Rhymer's Cross, we must have made an odd sight- lead by Voss, looking almost like a proud knight, followed by the old woman with the longbow, and then me, the sickly, pudgy wizard. Fourth was the gnome sipping from a flask as he rode, then the pretty mage girl and last, the silent swordswoman with antlers.

          Almost like we were a real adventuring party already.

          The afternoon sky was beginning the redden by the time we reached the first homestead. Gathering food was fairly easy, since so much had been simply abandoned. The fear of becoming like their neighbours to the north- who vanished completely- must have already had these people on edge when the goblins showed up. We found sacks of grain and flour, sausages left out to cure, and all sorts of vegetables left on the vine that we could pick. There was a real bounty, not hours outside the city walls, but the people of Rhymer's Cross were too afraid to seek it out.

          We were just cleaning out one last storehouse, when the sun was finally setting below the horizon. I nodded, and turned to Moruca. “Alright, do you know a good place where we could set up an ambush?” I asked.

          She nodded. “Down by the riverside, 'tis not far.”

          She took us to where some enterprising farmers had built a tall embankment of rough-hewn granite slabs, a levee to keep the river from their fields in case of a flood. It had a commanding view up and down the river, and overlooked a bridge along the main road east, and a flame from up there would be easily spotted.

          We gathered what dry would we could find and stacked up a sizable bonfire, one that would burn late into the night. We surrounded it with a patch of upturned earth, to keep the grass from catching, while I explained my plan.

          “We pile up these bags of flour right here, by the fire,” I said, pointing to a patch of ground only a few feet away.

          Calliope and Voss exchanged glances, while Moruca's brow furrowed. “I thought part of this operation was to gather food for the sots at the Cross, and we're just leaving out flour for goblins to piss on?” the old woman said, without bothering to hide her annoyance.

          “It'll be worth it, trust me,” I said, “Calliope, when you see goblins in the firelight, I want you to put a magic missile right into these bags, alright? Then we commence our attack.”

          “Alright, if that's what you want, Theodore,” Calliope replied, still sounding skeptical.

          We headed off into a stand of trees not far from the levee. My hope was that the wargs with the goblins would get confused, and think our scent came from the campsite itself. We hobbles our horses (and Raszil's pony), prepared ourselves, and waited while the bonfire burned. It was a long night, but the intensity of waiting to spring our trap kept us awake, even though we had to be perfectly silent.

          It was close to dawn- I almost thought that our ambush was going to trigger on nothing- when the first shadowy figure flitted in front of the flames. Then another. I heard the creak of Moruca's bowstring, and the familiar sound of steel whispering on leather.

          “Wait,” I said, softly as I could. The silhouettes in front of the flames were small, and I recalled the ambushes past, how the goblins often formed a first wave, and the worgs were saved for after. But of course, the goblins would investigate things, but wouldn't be able to track us....

          When the first pony-sized shadow fell across the flame, head bent to the ground, sniffing, I gave the command. “Now!”

          Calliope's magic missile flew, a bright blue bolt in the darkness, and landed among the flour sacks. Predictably, the exploded, the simple force of the missile cause a great cloud of flour to envelop the levee top like a fog. Then, it exploded in a fireball that momentarily turned night to day.

          The explosion was brief, and probably didn't have much force, but it was enough to provide the chaos that we needed. Some of the goblins were already down, those closest to fire still and burning in the moonlight, while the others scattered. Some were fleeing the xplosion towards us, and I responded by tossing my darts in their direction, though in the darkness it was impossible to tell if they struck home or not.

          What was immediately noticeable was when, to my left I saw Raszil spinning in place. Momentarily confused, I realized what was happening when I saw the firelight gleaming off of a heavy, metal throwing hammer as it spun out and clobbered one of the oncoming goblins with a sickening thump.

          By the time our “volley” was done, goblin bodies littered the ground. Of the original patrol we had ambushed, only four were still upright, being chivvied into place by some of the worgs. Not a single worg had fallen to the explosion- expected, perhaps, but more dismaying was their sheer number. I suppose this patrol was sent out to find us in particular, as they had a huge pack of nine worgs with them, and every one of them was singed, pissed-off and closing in on our location.

          I tossed my darts into the oncoming rush of fur and slavering jaws, and then stepped back to get ready for a real fight. Raszil followed suit, after unleashing a second hammer, cursing loudly as he began to fully appreciate the situation, and unlimbered his buckler and mace. Yua stepped forward into a defensive stance before me, and the goblins, being driven before the worgs, fell upon her, knives and crude clubs skittering off her mail. Voss pulled his halberd from where he had stuck it, blade-down into the earth nearby, and in a single stroke slammed it into the side of an oncoming worg, tossing it aside with a pained yelp. Moruca got off one last arrow, and the worgs were here.

          One of the worgs came right for me, jaws snapping shut on empty air as the blue flash of my Armor protected me. Raszil was less lucky, and one of the worgs came in low under his buckler and savage him in the thigh. There was hardly time to survey the damage when Calliope stepped forward, arms raised, spraying the two worgs with a Burning Hands spell.

          What could I do but follow suit? I made the Sigil and canted the runes, and added my fire to Calliope's. I wasn't sure how effective sleep would be, with so many high-hp monsters nearby, and I didn't want to risk putting my own allies to sleep with these brutes around. Burning Hands proved more than sufficient to put these brutes down, however, and by the time the jet of flames from my outstretched fingers subsided, the two worgs were burning quietly to themselves, unmoving.

          Yua was holding her own against the goblins, of course, but in this situation her greatsword was wasted- unable to get in her full damage potential against the the small, screeching humanoids. That situation would need correction- fast. Voss wasn't doing much better with his halberd, accomplishing little except to ward off the massive wolves.

          It was Moruca that forced me into action, as she came yelling out of the night to hack one of the goblins off Yua with a hatchet. Calliope followed, slashing with her dagger. I tossed my darts at one of the wolves, though I had no idea if I actually hit anything.

          Free of the remaining goblins, Yua was able to charge and strike home on one of the worgs, while Voss dispatched a second. The numbers were beginning to even up- though no doubt the worgs still possessed much more HP than the rest of us. I decided now would be the time to risk it, and cast the Sleep spell. I tried to position myself so that the only creatures that would be affected were Voss and the worgs surrounding him, and let fly with the sand. To my surprise, one of the worgs immediately fell to the ground, asleep- for once my poor luck with Sleep worked on our side, and Voss was unaffected. We now had the advantage of numbers, and it was time to finish this.

          The last work was bloody, but slowly we began to make make gains on the worgs. Moruca, to surprise, fought with a ferocity I did not expect from such an old lady, laying into the worgs with swift chops of her little hatchet. Calliope went straight in with her dagger, as usual, although Yua and Voss did most of the work. I even managed to find an opportunity to peg one worg in the eye with a dart, sending it crashing to the ground. Only Raszil held off- though, given how severe his wounds must have been, I wasn't surprised.

          The final tally, twelve dead goblins and nine worgs, and we were all still on our feet. Some just barely- Voss, Yua and Raszil were all on their last legs- but we had survived our very first ambush, as a team.

          ---------------------------

          Character Name: Theodore Esche
          Race: Human
          Class: Transmuter
          Level (XP): 3 (5462/10000)
          Hit Points: 7

          Ability Scores
          Strength 11
          Dexterity 17
          Constitution 8
          Intelligence 17
          Wisdom 13
          Charisma 14

          Weapon Proficiencies: Darts
          Nonweapon Proficiencies: Direction Sense, Etiquette, Reading/Writing, Swimming, Tailoring

          Spells Per Day:
          1st Level- 3
          2nd Level- 2

          Spellbook:
          (1st Level): Armor, Burning Hands, Detect Magic, Detect Undead, Enlarge, Featherfall, Magic Missile, Mending, Read Magic, Sleep, Tenser's Floating Disc, Wall of Fog
          (2nd Level): Knock

          Spells Prepared:
          (1st Level): Wall of Fog
          (2nd Level): Knock, Knock

          Equipment: Backpack, Bag of Fine Sand, Belt, Belt Pouch (Large, 3), Belt Pouch (Small, 4), Boots, Darts (35), Hand Mirror, Hat, Hooded Lantern, Pearl (worth 100gp), Robes (3), Signet Ring, Wedding Ring, Small Tent, Oil of Acid Resistance, mint green potion, Potion of Rainbow Hues

          Money: 350 gp, 452 sp

          Languages: Common, Elven, Dwarven, Orc, Goblin, Draconic, Ryujin

          Companions: Calliope (Level 2 Invoker, fiancee), Voss (Level 3 Fighter), Raszil (Level 2 Cleric/Level 2 Thief), Moruca (Ranger 2), Yua (Servant?)

          Elsewhere: Katriana (Level 3 Fighter, sister & wife), Ashryn (Level 3 Cleric, fiancee), Smokey Enna (Level 4 Fighter/Level 4 Thief), Bekker (Butler)

          Sexual Partners: 5

          Storage Chest: Alchemical Steel Broadsword, Alchemical Steel Bastard Sword, 299 pp, 2386 gp, 16 sp, 50 cp
          Currently Playing: Dragon Star Varnir
          Currently Working On: Vacation Updates
          Current Waifu: Charlotta, Dragon Star Varnir

          Comment


          • #65
            Chapter 61: Isekai Life & Goblin Montage

            “Dammit, watch what you're doing!”

            “Sorry!” I grimaced and shifted my grip on the needle. It turns out, gnomes were smaller than humans in ever dimension- even in skin thickness.

            We were gathering ourselves in the early dawn. Moruca and Calliope busied themselves with turning the bonfire into a proper pyre for all the goblins and wargs, while it was left for me to tend to the wounded.

            “Why aren't you healing us, anyway?” Voss asked, examining his own set of fresh stitches that lined one arm, “Didn't we take you on because we needed a cleric?”

            Raszil glowered at Voss through his one eye that wasn't swollen shut. “I don't normally go finding trouble like this,” he explained bitterly, “If you asked me to purify a drink so you don't get the shits, or protection against how hellishly hot it gets sometimes in summer, aye, I'd be able to help you out. But I can't come up with fresh miracles on the spot- I'll need to pray for divine interventions fresh after we've rested.”

            As good an explanation as any as to how spell slots worked, I suppose.

            “So, how is what you do different from what Calliope and Theodore do?” Voss asked in reply, “That sounds almost exactly like their kind of magic.”

            The knowledge came to me, unbidden, but at this point I was more or less used to the senesation of remembering things I was never really “present” for when “I” learned them. “Clerics can only hold so much of their patron diety's divine power at once,” I explained, “They request miracles through prayer, and their god or gods infuse some of their divine power into them. For us wizards, it's the energy that courses through us when a spell cast that blasts the knowledge of that spell from our minds. Through focused study it's possible to retain a spell for multiple castings, but that simply delays the inevitable.”

            I tapped Raszil on the shoulder. “You're done, switch with Yua,” and then chided him, “And be careful, I don't want to have to kneel between your spread legs and sew up your thigh again.” To Voss, I continued, “I know to a layman it might seem like a really subtle difference, and I don't have a complete understanding of it myself, but you can tell the difference in some of the subtleties. There exist arcane spells whose purpose is to help you memorize additional, weaker spells, but clerics can't do that. Clerics can combine their powers to beseech the gods for more powerful miracles, but mages can't do that. To say nothing of how clerics are capable of miraculous healing, and wizards cannot.”

            In 2nd edition AD&D, bards couldn't use Cure Light Wounds. It was the god way or the highway. Or, the healing proficiency, I suppose, but that would be dramatically less efficient.

            While Voss pondered over my impromptu lesson (or just tuned me out entirely, which was certainly possible), Yua came over and took her seat on the stump in front of me. I asked her, in her own tongue, to show me her injuries, and she showed off a few shallow cuts in her side where her scale shirt was riding up.

            I took a double take. Just a little while ago she seemed to be really badly injured, and I had seen those goblins crawling all over her, trying to drive their daggers under her armour. But now... her worst injuries seemed to amount to no more than scratches, and some places there was only unmarred flesh where she'd clearly been bleeding on the inside of her armour. I had to stitch closed a couple of the worst wounds, but that is all.

            Judging by her expression, Yua was getting increasingly uncomfortable with my poking and prodding at her while I puzzled away, so I stopped and sat back.

            “How are you alright?” I asked, “You were hurt a lot worse before.”

            She didn't respond at first, taking the time instead to adjust her armour, and, I assume, collect herself. “It is nothing, my lord,” she said, after a long moment, “Do not worry yourself about it.”

            I honestly didn't know where to take my inquiry from there. I knew nothing about what Dragonborn (I assume that's what she's supposed to be) were supposed to be like in 2nd edition. They were an invention of 4th edition, a response to the common criticism that there were often few dragons in “Dungeons and Dragons”, and were never a part of AD&D. I don't know what kind of bizarre house rules Corgiel had come up with for the race in this setting. Did they have regeneration? Did they have a Constitution bonus high enough to give Yua natural regeneration? I hadn't seen her deploy a breath weapon yet....

            Yua got fed up with me trying to figure it out, and just readjusted her armour and got up.

            “What was that about?” Voss inquired after she was out of earshot, helping Calliope with the pyre.

            “I'm not at all certain...” I trailed off with a sigh. “I'm losing my touch, Voss. I have no idea what to say to Calliope or what's going on with Yua.”

            “My heart goes out to you,” my knight said, dryly.

            I frowned at him for that, and he raised his hands defensively. “Come on, what do you want me to say? That I'm so sad your third wife is upset with you, and your next piece of ass is being terse?”

            “She's not my next piece of ass, nor yours,” I said, feeling a little cross, “I guess... I'm just now realizing how little we know about Yua. I'm beginning to understand her language, but she does a lot that we don't understand. Have you noticed how quickly she recovers from injuries? It's uncanny.”

            It was Voss' turn to frown and turn to examine Yua. “You know she prays at night, right? I wouldn't be surprised if you missed it, given how deep you tend to sleep.”

            “She does?” I had no idea, of course.

            “Something like that, at least. She sits cross-legged and mutters to herself. I noticed it a few times getting up to make water, or just when I had a hard time sleeping.”

            I guess we really didn't have any idea what Yua was about. “Well, considering how she was when we first met her, I doubt she means us harm....”

            “Theodore, don't mistake meaning us no harm with being a good person. Mariska didn't mean us harm, either, until we got in her way.”

            While I could debate as to whether “summoning the god of destruction” is “intended harm” or not, Voss' words did cause me to recall one thing- how, despite being party members, Mariska, Gogol and Ricard were completely different people with vastly different goals and circumstances. I've mulled over, in idle moments, what might have happened had Ricard bought Gogol's loyalty first, or even if Gogol was just a decent enough guy to tell Ricard about Mariska....

            “When she seems more patient, I'll try to talk to her, figure out what's going on,” I promised Voss.

            Voss nodded, and clapped me on the shoulder. “Come on, let's just get back to Rhymer's Cross so I can get all this damn thread of yours out of me.”

            With everyone focusing on feeding the pyre, cleaning up after our battle didn't take long. Well, almost everyone- Raszil was content to sit on his pony and complain about not pulling his stitches.

            The trip back to Rhymer's Cross was much less dramatic than our journey out. We stopped here and there, partly to give our injuries team members time to rest and partially to check other homesteads for supplies. By the time we returned to the town, we were laden with sacks of flour and cornmeal, bags of fresh vegetables, and strings of smoked sausage and jerky.

            When we arrived, it was still the early morning. I would like to say we were treated like returning heroes, but that wasn't the case. The people of Rhymer's Cross were simply too depressed to rejoice at our return, even when we started unloading the food we captured into the warehouse where the rations were kept.

            Estrid kept up her end of the bargain, sending the old cleric to tend to our wounded while she nodded with approval over our contributions. “I honestly didn't think you were going to pull through,” she said, her voice only a few degrees warmer than when we first met, “This won't be enough to extend our rations for more than a day, but it's something.”

            “We haven't even started yet!” Voss bragged with a bit of a grin, “A few more ambushes like last night your men can start taking back the fields.”

            Estrid responding skeptically, with only a cold “Perhaps.”

            After having a well-deserved rest, still in our cells at the Shire-Reeve's office, we headed off again, this time to the southwest, searching a new batch of homesteads for food. Our “take” was the same as before, flour, dried meat, some fresh vegetables, although this time we were able to supplement it with some wild garlic Moruca found.

            Our trap that night wasn't as elaborate as the previous night's. We simply built a roaring fire on the hearth of one of the abandoned farmhouses, and waited in the darkness for the goblins to investigate. Our basic method was generally the same, however- peg them with ranged attacks and let them come to us, which was a little bit harder because we could only see so many goblins in the light of the open windows, compared to the naked bonfire of the night previous.

            We did end up attracting goblins, as intended, but the battle was brief- over so quickly I didn't even need to deploy my Sleep spell. Voss ended up being the big hero, striding into the midst of them and laying about with his spear and somehow getting through the swarm of goblins without receiving a single scratch. I was the only other uninjured person, but, happily, Raszil was on hand for magical healing care of the God of Secrets, and we returned to Rhymer's Cross with only a few scratches to go around- although, once more, Yua seemed to get by with lighter injuries than it initially appeared.

            Oddly, it was only goblins this time, no worgs. I suppose the worgs could have slinked off in the dark while the goblins did all the fighting, but if that was the case, why abandon their allies? If they didn't, why were the goblins patrolling without? It's possible we simply had killed all the worgs, as we had passed the bottom threshold of the potential number of worgs we were facing... but for some reason, I was uneasy about assuming that.

            On our way back, after seeing a sixty-something year old woman go toe to toe with goblins armed with nothing but a hatchet for the second night in a row, I sidled up to Moruca as we rode. “Where did you learn to fight like that?” I asked, nodding at the axe hanging from her belt, “I thought you were going to be more of a guide, but you're eager to get right in the thick of it.”

            “My old Timothy was a hunter, used to bring down game and we'd dry venison, hare and boar for me to sell at market,” she replied after a moment's thought, “Didn't like the idea of me being at the homestead, defenseless, while he would tail game for days, so he showed me a thing or two.”

            I nodded. It made sense, she would have class levels but not enough xp to have levelled much, which matched her combat performance, as far as I could tell. “Why so eager, though?” I pressed, “It seems unusual for....”

            “Mister Theodore,” she said somewhat angrily, cutting me off and eyeing me sideways, “Those goblins are not mere bogeymen scaring people out of their homes, they are a serious problem. I had a son, a granddaughter, and a mighty fine young lady who called me her goodmother. Had.”

            That told me everything I needed to know. “I'm sorry for your loss,” I replied, “I can't bring them back, but we'll at least make them pay for it.” Well, partly true- if we somehow earned enough experience to get Raszil to level 14 and he possessed 18 Wisdom we could, but that's not something you tell a grieving person.

            “That's all I ask.”

            When we returned to Rhymer's Cross that day, people for the most part still seemed rather dour, though the guards seemed happy to see us. Estrid was her usual overly-serious self, though she actually said “Thank you” this time.

            Our third sorties took us northeast, leaving, for the first time, from the northern gate of Rhymer's Cross. The land here was sparser, and given over largely to grazing land for cattle. The amount of food to be scavenged was far less, but Moruca was able to track down an errant cow and a pair of lost sheep that had somehow managed to avoid getting poached by goblins. Which was something, at least.

            That night, for our ambush, we simply found a mouldy old haystack left out in the field, and set it ablaze, feeding it would a few logs before stilling back and waiting for our bait to be taken. We didn't have to wait long, but the group of goblins we attracted was small- a mere seven of them, which we dispatched with no wounds or casualties on our side. And again, there were no worgs, and with w sinking feeling I realized that the goblins were probably catching wise to our tactics.

            When we arrived back at Rhymer's Cross this time, it wasn't just Estrid and the guards there to greet us. A massive, pot-bellied man with heavily muscled armed, wearing a apron, pants, and little else was there. He singled me out with a frown, looking me up and down. “Are you lot the reason I finally have to work, again?” he growled.

            “Uh, maybe?” I replied, unsure of myself. “I'm Theodore, and this is Sir Voss, Lady Calliope, Yua, and you may already know Raszil and Moruca.” I dismounted to face him while the others busied themselves with dropping off our meager delivery.

            The man offers one massive hand for me to shake, and I noticed now that his clothes weren't necessarily white- they were coated in flour. “Big Dap Baker's the name, Daprin Baker to my mother,” he explained, as he put in a good effort to shake my arm off, “Now that we have flour, that means bread, and bread means my daughters and I are out of the house before dawn every morning to stoke the ovens and knead the dough.”

            “Right...” I said, listening but not really seeing what he was getting at.

            “Well, seems to me that you lot have the opposite sleeping schedule, and you're heading out every night to fight the good fight,” he said with a nod of approval, “How about you and yours bed down at my house, let my wife dote on you a little, and get a decent bit of sleep while I'm at work? As long as you treat my home with respect, and keep bringing in the flour, I won't mind one bit.”

            Calliope came up beside me, and gave me a shy little smile as she took my hand. I gave her a smile back, and nodded. “That sounds wonderful, Mister Dap. Thank you, we'll be happy to take you up on your offer.”

            ---------------------------

            Character Name: Theodore Esche
            Race: Human
            Class: Transmuter
            Level (XP): 3 (5644/10000)
            Hit Points: 7

            Ability Scores
            Strength 11
            Dexterity 17
            Constitution 8
            Intelligence 17
            Wisdom 13
            Charisma 14

            Weapon Proficiencies: Darts
            Nonweapon Proficiencies: Direction Sense, Etiquette, Reading/Writing, Swimming, Tailoring

            Spells Per Day:
            1st Level- 3
            2nd Level- 2

            Spellbook:
            (1st Level): Armor, Burning Hands, Detect Magic, Detect Undead, Enlarge, Featherfall, Magic Missile, Mending, Read Magic, Sleep, Tenser's Floating Disc, Wall of Fog
            (2nd Level): Knock

            Spells Prepared:
            (1st Level): Wall of Fog
            (2nd Level): Knock, Knock

            Equipment: Backpack, Bag of Fine Sand, Belt, Belt Pouch (Large, 3), Belt Pouch (Small, 4), Boots, Darts (35), Hand Mirror, Hat, Hooded Lantern, Pearl (worth 100gp), Robes (3), Signet Ring, Wedding Ring, Small Tent, Oil of Acid Resistance, mint green potion, Potion of Rainbow Hues

            Money: 350 gp, 703 sp

            Languages: Common, Elven, Dwarven, Orc, Goblin, Draconic, Ryujin

            Companions: Calliope (Level 2 Invoker, fiancee), Voss (Level 3 Fighter), Raszil (Level 3 Cleric/Level 3 Thief), Moruca (Level 2 Ranger), Yua (Servant?)

            Elsewhere: Katriana (Level 3 Fighter, sister & wife), Ashryn (Level 3 Cleric, fiancee), Smokey Enna (Level 4 Fighter/Level 4 Thief), Bekker (Butler)

            Sexual Partners: 5

            Storage Chest: Alchemical Steel Broadsword, Alchemical Steel Bastard Sword, 299 pp, 2386 gp, 16 sp, 50 cp
            Currently Playing: Dragon Star Varnir
            Currently Working On: Vacation Updates
            Current Waifu: Charlotta, Dragon Star Varnir

            Comment


            • #66
              Chapter 62: Isekai Life & Baker House

              Big Dap must be a pretty high level baker, or the only baker in town or something, because his house was pretty sizable. Not massive by any stretch, but it was closer in size to a modern house than some of the shacks I've seen people call home in this world. Separate kitchen and dining room, a pleasant little sitting room, and a second floor with what seemed like three bedrooms.

              The man himself only stayed long enough to introduce us to his wife- an attractive, buxom redhead in her forties by the name of Ina. While I didn't mind looking, I silently resolved to keep an eye on Voss and Raszil while we were here. The foul-mouthed gnome might be more trouble overall, but I could see Voss saying or doing something to insult our hosts just because he winds up thinking with his dick.

              And Raszil was staying with us. Moruca still had a room somewhere in town, and begged off to return to it, but Raszil ended up deciding that a proper bed in the baker's residence sounded better than returning to his dockhouse, moonshine or no moonshine.

              Before we were even shown to our rooms, Ina sat us down at her table and made sure we had a proper hot meal. Fresh fruit, fresh bread (albeit without anything to spread on it), pine tea, and most importantly, not a drop of plain porridge to be found. It was amazing to me how such simple things could become heavenly after awhile.

              What was equally delightful was just the opportunity to simply relax. We weren't sleeping in cells or on the ground while on the run. It felt like forever since the last time Calliope, Voss, and I were able to just... rest. I couldn't really speak for Yua, because for all I know the little time we spent on the road together was the temporary blip of relative calm for her.

              I was musing quietly oven my tea when Voss gave me a nudge with his elbow. I looked over only to see Ina smiling expectantly at me.

              “Uh... pardon?” I asked tentatively.

              “Oh, I'm sorry, I didn't mean to distract you,” Ina replied politely, “I asked how long you all have been adventuring together, and this young man said that you would be the best person to ask.”

              “Ah, right,” I said, thoughtfully. I could see why Voss tossed the question to me. Before, when we were asked about this sort of thing on the road, we would say that Katriana was my sister and Ashryn was my fiancee, but if I wanted some alone time with Calliope it would be best not to mention other fiancees. It was probably best to keep things as simple as possible. “Calliope, my fiancee, and Voss here met up with me in Tresens, and we had some adventures there. Then, we travelled all the way out here, to Pendleton. We picked up Yua in Osgoode Gate, where we rescued her from a menagerie that enslaved her. Raszil we only met a few days ago, after arriving here.”

              “Oh!” she replied, turned to Calliope. “You two are to be married? When? After your journey?”

              Calliope cleared her throat uncomfortably. “Sometime later,” she said simply, “Theodore has something he needs to accomplish first.”

              That something happened to be “marry Ashryn”, of course, but Calliope wisely didn't illuminate further.

              Instead, she stood. “Would it be possible to have a bath?” she asked politely, “If it's too much trouble, don't trouble yourself, I've been able to wash in the rivers from time to time, but a hot soak would be nice.”

              Ina stood as well, nodding. “Of course, of course. Dap set the tinder and filled the basin before he left to fetch you, I'll just have to light it. Shouldn't take more than a nonce to heat up.”

              The two ladies left, leaving only us men- and Yua- sitting at the table.

              Raszil swallowed the bit of bread her was chewing, and cast an aside glance at me. “Not comfortable answering questions, are you? Nor her, apparently.”

              “She was prying into our romantic life,” I said, defensive, “Calliope is a bit of a private girl, and I certainly didn't want to share the details of our relationship.”

              “I mean regarding your sister,” he replied, offhandedly, and he seized a knife and sliced off another hunk of fresh, warm bread, “You skipped over her entirely.”

              I hadn't realized that Voss or Calliope had mentioned Katriana to the gnomish cleric. “I didn't want to make things more complicated than they already are,” I replied with a shrug, “I'm tired, and having to explain about Katriana would mean also having to explain about the other half of the party, and Katriana's pregnancy, and everything. Just thinking about it makes me exhausted.”

              Raszil nodded, carefully tearing off the crust of his new slice. “Out of curiosity,” he asked before helping himself to a bite, “What is Calliope's family name? I don't think you've fully introduced us.”

              “Uh, Blevins, I think,” Voss replied, reaching over to help himself to more grapes.

              “Brevins,” I corrected, “With an 'R'.”

              “Brevins, right.”

              Raszil frowned. “The Brevins of...?”

              It was my turn to frown. She didn't often speak of her hometown. “I'm not sure, to be honest,” I replied, “She said she was born to a farming family.”

              “Ah, I see,” Raszil replied with a shrug, “Sorry if I was prying myself, but she seemed to carry herself a certain way, I figured she was from some noble family somewhere.”

              Voss barked a laugh. “No, Calliope's just kind of like that, I guess because she got into magic school on her own merits.”

              Raszil grinned in response. “Yes, I think I know the type.”

              Soon enough, I was stuffed. In my previous life, I'd be horrified at the amount of plain white bread I just stuffed into my body, but of course, I could rely on my “heaven” to keep me from getting too fat. When Ina returned to the dinner table, I excused myself to go get my own bath, ordering Yua to come along as I did so.

              The bath house was behind the main building, a small shed with a stone tub above a large wood stove. It appeared that the building was shared by a few of the houses on the same block, but despite that the people seemed to take their shared property seriously, and it was very clean and in good repair. As I headed over, I passed a flushed pink and squeaky clean Calliope, who only gave me a shy smile before heading back inside.

              My bath was pleasant enough- more of a rinse, really, as soap was one of the things in short supply due to the siege-like condition of the town. Still, I was grateful to Ina and Dap for their generosity and hard work. Not that they didn't benefit from our scavenging, but we were willing to do that even without borrowing anyone's house.

              Yua had obediently stood in a guard position outside the bath house, and stared at me, with a look of shock, when I ordered her to go wash herself. Still, she did so, while I poked at the hot coals in the stove with a stick.

              Once Yua was done (and we traded off with Voss), I had to take her to get bedded down. She's stayed with us at inns and camping before, but this was her first time as a house guest in our culture, so I intended to make sure she was taken care of first. Ina directed us to rooms- Yua got the youngest daughter's room, while I was directed to the master bedroom. I escorted Yua to where she needed to be, and gave her a brief goodnight- the dragon girl seemed a little distressed at being left alone in what was clearly a stranger's home, but I knew she'd be able to figure things out from here.

              I was feeling pretty exhausted after all that. The breakfast and bath were nice, but I had been awake since mid-afternoon the previous day. It was time for a rest.

              I pushed into the bedroom. It was a fairly cozy space- a few cabinets, night stand, bed large enough for Dap's huge frame.

              What I didn't expect to find was Calliope, naked except for her choker, lying faceup on the bed, with her head oriented towards me.

              “Hello, Theodore,” She said with a small smile, I closed the door behind me.

              “Uh, hi,” I replied.

              “We have a bed now.”

              “Yes, I noticed. And privacy.”

              I stripped off my robe, fatigue washing away with my increased arousal. My body, it seemed, was thirstier than it was tired.

              As I was about to join her on the bed, Calliope put a hand on my chest. “Wait, no, this isn't right.”

              I was confused. “What's not right?”

              “I don't want to leave these nice people with messy sheets, after they were nice enough to open their home to us,” she said as she climbed out of bed, looking about. Realizing that the room was too cramped for much else, she faced the door, gripped the door frame, and bent over. “It'll have to be like this, sorry,” she said, blushing furiously, “I'd love to do more... you know... but it's been so long, and there isn't a lot of room.”

              I got up and stood behind her, hardening cock in hand. “I understand,” I replied softly, “This is fine, soon enough we should be able to enjoy ourselves in peace.”

              She swallowed, hard, and nodded, reaching between her legs to pull her labia apart for me. “Please, then....”

              I placed my cock at her entrance, and took her gently by the hips. She was wet enough that I penetrated easily, gliding in with a great sigh of satisfaction from both of us.

              “Oh, I missed this so much...” Calliope moaned as I began thrusting into her.

              We struggled to keep our noise- both our moaning and the creaking of the wall as Calliope put her weight against it- under control. We were still in a small house, after all, with no common room of deafening conversation or the stone walls of a castle to dampen our sounds.

              For all that our lovemaking was simple- not being able to use the bed dictated that- and that we couldn't make noise, those factors seemed to act like a crucible and make everything more intense.

              Calliope was very wet, the walls of her pussy accepting me easily and clinging to my shaft gently while I pistoned my cock into her. Eventually, I lost myself completely, driving my cock into poor Calliope while she could do nothing more than take it.

              We came at once, Calliope struggling not to make any noise through gritted teeth while I sank my cock deep into her and pulsed out stream after stream of semen into her.

              After that we collapsed, leaning on the door and gasping for breath, clinging to one another.

              “Y-you idiot,” Calliope said softly, “I-I wanted you to finish in my mouth or something... we just talked about why I shouldn't get pregnant....”

              “I'm sorry,” I replied, panting, “But it's not like you were complaining....”

              She kissed me gently on the forehead, and shook her head.

              “Whatever will be, will be, I guess... let's get some rest, my love.”

              ---------------------------

              Character Name: Theodore Esche
              Race: Human
              Class: Transmuter
              Level (XP): 3 (5644/10000)
              Hit Points: 7

              Ability Scores
              Strength 11
              Dexterity 17
              Constitution 8
              Intelligence 17
              Wisdom 13
              Charisma 14

              Weapon Proficiencies: Darts
              Nonweapon Proficiencies: Direction Sense, Etiquette, Reading/Writing, Swimming, Tailoring

              Spells Per Day:
              1st Level- 3
              2nd Level- 2

              Spellbook:
              (1st Level): Armor, Burning Hands, Detect Magic, Detect Undead, Enlarge, Featherfall, Magic Missile, Mending, Read Magic, Sleep, Tenser's Floating Disc, Wall of Fog
              (2nd Level): Knock

              Spells Prepared:
              (1st Level): Wall of Fog
              (2nd Level): Knock, Knock

              Equipment: Backpack, Bag of Fine Sand, Belt, Belt Pouch (Large, 3), Belt Pouch (Small, 4), Boots, Darts (35), Hand Mirror, Hat, Hooded Lantern, Pearl (worth 100gp), Robes (3), Signet Ring, Wedding Ring, Small Tent, Oil of Acid Resistance, mint green potion, Potion of Rainbow Hues

              Money: 350 gp, 703 sp

              Languages: Common, Elven, Dwarven, Orc, Goblin, Draconic, Ryujin

              Companions: Calliope (Level 2 Invoker, fiancee), Voss (Level 3 Fighter), Raszil (Level 3 Cleric/Level 3 Thief), Moruca (Level 2 Ranger), Yua (Servant?)

              Elsewhere: Katriana (Level 3 Fighter, sister & wife), Ashryn (Level 3 Cleric, fiancee), Smokey Enna (Level 4 Fighter/Level 4 Thief), Bekker (Butler)

              Sexual Partners: 5

              Storage Chest: Alchemical Steel Broadsword, Alchemical Steel Bastard Sword, 299 pp, 2386 gp, 16 sp, 50 cp
              Currently Playing: Dragon Star Varnir
              Currently Working On: Vacation Updates
              Current Waifu: Charlotta, Dragon Star Varnir

              Comment


              • #67
                Chapter 63: Isekai Life & Party Problems

                I awake to the sensation of lips and a warm moistness on my member. Exhaustion suffuses every fibre of my being, and I want nothing more than to just roll over and go back to sleep, but I can tell from the position of the sunlight through the room's only window that it's some hours later- and, of course, nobody bothered to tell my cock how tired I was.

                Calliope knelt over me, head bobbing on my rod, her short brown hair swaying with her every movement. I ran a hand through her hair, enjoying the sensation as she eagerly pleasured my cock. Her hair felt soft and light as cotton, and just the act of brushing a hand through it caused her to moan pleasantly.

                “I'm glad you're finally awake,” she said releasing me so she could speak while stroking my cock, “I know we both need to memorize new spells, but do you think you have it in you for something quick?”

                I sighed heavily, mocking. “Well, I guess if my fiancee needs to be satisfied, I must....”

                This time, at Calliope's suggestion, I sat on the ground, with my back to a cabinet, while she straddled me. It was a little uncomfortable, though it was difficult to focus on that when Calliope slid my cock inside her and settled her weight carefully onto me.

                “Mmm,” she sighed, voicing her pleasure, “I wonder what Ashryn and Katriana are doing right now....”

                “Not this, I hope.”

                “Oh, there's no danger of that.. ah!”

                Calliope went quiet, riding up and down on my cock, the room filling with the low, wet sound of our slow, deep lovemaking. It felt heavenly, as Calliope's moist, warm pussy engulfed my cock over and over, and I was just losing myself in the sensation, when...

                Skrrrt!

                Suddenly, the cabinet lurched backwards, it's feet squeaking, hard, on the bare hardwood floor. Calliope and I immediately stiffened, before she exploded in nervous giggles and I could feel a flush creeping into my face.

                “Fuck...” I swore, hoping that the weight of the thing didn't end up up gouging the floor.

                Calliope firmly turned my head back to face her. She was blushing deeply. “W-well... at least, if everyone already knows... y-you could fuck me like you mean it....”

                Who could possibly refuse that kind of plea?

                I ended up pinning her down on the floor, and thrusting inside her with all the strength I could muster. We both ended up moaning loudly, and making the floor squeak, but I was able to throw my cares away and just focus on the simple animal act of fucking my fiancee.

                When we climaxed, it felt as though I was spurting forever. I was shooting off semen inside Calliope even after most of my orgasm had subsided. It felt good to really empty myself like that.

                Again, Calliope was mad. She slapped my chest, and pushed me off of her. “I told you we shouldn't finish like that, and you did it again! Urgh, don't be so stupid next time....”

                But, despite her attitude, she seemed satisfied, radiant with a bit of a blush on her face.

                We didn't have a ton of time to study our spellbooks at that point (Calliope's affinity for sex before and after sleep was turning out to be somewhat self-defeating) but I didn't need more than twenty minutes to load back up on Burning Hands, and Calliope didn't need much more than that. Thankfully, the floor was fine, and I didn't need to waste a spell slot on Mending.

                Immediately when we came downstairs, Ina gave me a judgmental, cold stare, but didn't say anything else. I felt the heat rising in my neck. I guess premarital sex was frowned on in these parts. I glanced back at Calliope, who shrugged. “We've nothing to hide,” she said simply, “And if you're going to be breaking the bounds of common propriety as much as you plan to, you're going to have to get used to some odd looks and awkward silences.”

                “Fair enough,” I muttered, though I was a little uneasy about drawing that level of disapproval from our host. Hopefully, she was only annoyed, thinking that we messed up her sheets or had sex in the bed.

                Raszil gave us a sly grin as we joined his and Voss at the kitchen table. Voss was completely unfazed, having been subject to my nocturnal activities, well, for all of the last few months.

                Being the bro that he was, Voss immediately disarmed any lewd comments by diving right in. “I was thinking about what Moruca said about that fortress awhile back,” he said, passing a basket of fresh buns to Calliope as she got comfortable, “We could follow the shore of the island, ambush the goblins at their landing site.”

                Calliope helped herself and passed the basket to me. “But if the goblins aren't coming here by boat, we could end up wasting a day and not getting any more food for the town,” she replied, “We've finally begun earlier the trust of the people here, and you want to toss that away so quickly?”

                Voss frowned, and looked like he was about to snap back, when I raised a warding hand. “We can do both. We're due to try looking to the southwest anyway, and if we come upon the river, we can keep an eye out for the goblin landing area. Considering how many goblins and wargs we've seen, it would have to be a pretty obvious site. I don't think they're clever enough to hide that kind of thing.”

                Voss shrugged and sighed, “Yeah, I guess. I just think it'd be better to find their hideout and get rid of them all before long.”

                It was Raszil's turn to interject. “Even if you could do that today, these people won't believe you until you earn their trust anyway,” he replied, “It's always wiser to distrust a stranger, even when they claim to have your best interests at heart.”

                “Still, we don't have an infinite amount of time,” I added, to sooth Voss's ego a little, “So I think we should start stepping up our efforts to find the goblin hideout. Maybe in a day or two we can start looking into that list of locations Moruca mentioned.”

                Voss was still frowning, but he wasn't arguing back. And I understood perfectly where he was coming from. The plan that we were limited to wasn't great, and whittling away the goblins at the rate we were going was going to take a long time. There were somewhere in the neighborhood of one hundred fifty and two hundred goblin warriors left- the fact that they were apparently all out of worgs aside, there was still a lot of fighting to do.

                “Where's Yua?” I asked, suddenly realizing she was absent. The dragon-girl was normally quiet, but she didn't avoid group meals entirely.

                Voss shrugged. “She's behind the house, splitting firewood,” he informed me, “Seems upset about something. When I tried to get her to come eat, she gave me a look like she was sizing up my head for the axe, so I left her alone.”

                I frowned. “Alright, I'll talk to her, then we should get going.”

                I pushed back from the table and went through the kitchen to the back door. The sound of wood splintering became clearer once I was in a room and shared a wall with the back yard. I opened the rear door and stepped outside in time to see Yua miss a swing and just barely dodge planting the wood axe in her shin. Yua stared at me with wide open eyes for a moment, dropping the axe, before seeming to snap out of it. It all happened so fast, I almost missed watching the whole thing unfold.

                “Excuse me,” was all she said at first, dropping to get knees to retrieve the wood axe.

                I was bewildered. “Uh, is everything okay?” I asked, tentatively.

                Yua nodded, though she seemed glum and tried to avoid my gaze. She set the axe on top of the wood pile, and reached over to where her greatsword was leaning against a wall. She bared a couple inches of the black alchemical steel, as if to check that the blade was still there, before sheathing it. Without looking at me, she said, “I am shamed.”

                “Shamed?” I asked, “Shamed how?”

                “I cannot say.”

                I immediately thought, can you not say because you don't want to tell or can you not say because you don't know? But I hesitated. That seemed like a subtlety of language that I shouldn't possess yet.

                “Come, then,” I replied, “Time to go.”

                As we prepared to head out on the night's adventuring, I tried to think what Yua could have done that would have caused her shame, but kept coming up blank. Most of what Yua was, right down to her species, was a mystery to me still. For her part, once we got going Yua seemed focused and businesslike, deepening my utter bafflement.

                Our journey out was the same as usual. We met Moruca near the town gates, and I explained that today we were headed southwest, maybe close to the river, and she lead us on our way. We stopped here and there to harvest wild tubers or horseradish, stopping at this farm or that to gather up things like flour, salted meat, and so on.

                We hunkered down in an abandoned farmhouse just before dark to have our repast of cold porridge and dried fruit, which went down a little bit easier after a day of hot, fresh food. We has selected out ambush site- a gully not far away that was overlooked by an ancient shed on the same acre as the farmhouse. The shed was in a bad state, but the missing slats in the construction would give us some cover as we shot down into the gully.

                We made our fake camp fire as usual, and waited. As luck would have it, we didn't have to wait long- very soon the familiar blank silhouettes of investigating goblins stood out in front of the flames, making me believe that what Voss had surmised- that their landing area was in the area.

                We began our ambush, raining down ranged fire onto the few silhouettes we could make out. Calliope unleashed her magic missile while the rest of us used more mundane projectiles- except Yua, of course, who was on guard outside our shed.

                The battle was over quickly. Most of the goblins in this group were dead before they realized what was going on, and the patrol collapsed into confusion without being able to mount a proper counterattack. It was simple, like most of the other ambushes had been.

                We were cleaning up the battlefield- retrieving still-usable arrows, stacking the goblin bodies on a pyre, the usual- when Moruca stood stock-still for a moment, as if someone had replaced her spine with a metal rod.

                “What's going on?” I said, heading over to her. When I was within her reach, she hurriedly clamped a gnarled hand over my mouth.

                “Listen,” she hissed.

                On the wind came the baying of wolves in the distance.

                Then, a second pack answered, much closer.

                It's the smell, I abruptly realized, looking over at our fake-campfire-pyre. That's why there haven't been any worgs. They've been trying to hunt us and counter-ambush us.

                “They're coming,” she said, “Dozens of them.”

                “The farmhouse,” I replied, “It's our only chance. Run!”

                ---------------------------

                Character Name: Theodore Esche
                Race: Human
                Class: Transmuter
                Level (XP): 3 (5683/10000)
                Hit Points: 7

                Ability Scores
                Strength 11
                Dexterity 17
                Constitution 8
                Intelligence 17
                Wisdom 13
                Charisma 14

                Weapon Proficiencies: Darts
                Nonweapon Proficiencies: Direction Sense, Etiquette, Reading/Writing, Swimming, Tailoring

                Spells Per Day:
                1st Level- 3
                2nd Level- 2

                Spellbook:
                (1st Level): Armor, Burning Hands, Detect Magic, Detect Undead, Enlarge, Featherfall, Magic Missile, Mending, Read Magic, Sleep, Tenser's Floating Disc, Wall of Fog
                (2nd Level): Knock

                Spells Prepared:
                (1st Level): Wall of Fog, Burning Hands, Burning Hands
                (2nd Level): Knock, Knock

                Equipment: Backpack, Bag of Fine Sand, Belt, Belt Pouch (Large, 3), Belt Pouch (Small, 4), Boots, Darts (28), Hand Mirror, Hat, Hooded Lantern, Pearl (worth 100gp), Robes (3), Signet Ring, Wedding Ring, Small Tent, Oil of Acid Resistance, mint green potion, Potion of Rainbow Hues

                Money: 350 gp, 703 sp

                Languages: Common, Elven, Dwarven, Orc, Goblin, Draconic, Ryujin

                Companions: Calliope (Level 2 Invoker, fiancee), Voss (Level 3 Fighter), Raszil (Level 3 Cleric/Level 3 Thief), Moruca (Level 2 Ranger), Yua (Servant?)

                Elsewhere: Katriana (Level 3 Fighter, sister & wife), Ashryn (Level 3 Cleric, fiancee), Smokey Enna (Level 4 Fighter/Level 4 Thief), Bekker (Butler)

                Sexual Partners: 5

                Storage Chest: Alchemical Steel Broadsword, Alchemical Steel Bastard Sword, 299 pp, 2386 gp, 16 sp, 50 cp
                Currently Playing: Dragon Star Varnir
                Currently Working On: Vacation Updates
                Current Waifu: Charlotta, Dragon Star Varnir

                Comment


                • #68
                  Chapter 64: Isekai Life & Critical Error

                  We fled.

                  I had stayed at the shed long enough to fish a handful of dried peas from a pocket in my robe and fling them into the air, gesturing in arcane mudra and chanting the words to Breath of the Sea Dragon, better known to myself as “Wall of Fog”. Because I was third level, I had some wiggle room to work with regarding the size of my “wall”, so I settled on blanketed the site of the actual ambush a thick, twenty by twenty by ten cubic foot haze. Hopefully that would buy us some time by obscuring the direction of our attack.

                  When my spell was complete, Yua seized me by the wrist and took off after everyone else. It wasn't long before my throat started to burn and my breath wheezed in my throat. That 8 Constitution was really making itself known in this situation.

                  If this were certain other versions of D&D, I'd be able to look forward to address that specific lack on my next level up, but not here. Alas.

                  Calliope was the first to arrive at the house, followed by Voss, only slightly weighed down by his heavy armour. I barely had any time to register who arrived next- Raszil, I think- when a black corona started to grow around my vision. I could hear my heart pound, and my chest felt tight. The blackness was about to close in when I felt a hand gently stop me. As I stood, wheezing with exertion, arms folded around me, and I was carried.

                  Not was how I re-entered the farm house- in a bridal carry, hoisted by Yua.

                  Yua set me down, and while I gasped on the floor like a fish, I could hear the others talking.

                  “Is he hurt?”

                  “No, he's sickly, you know that. A run like that would take everything out of him.”

                  “I hate to interrupt, but now that we're here, what the hell are we doing?”

                  I coughed, and flopped onto my side, spitting up a clump of bloody phlegm. “B-barricade the d-door,” I wheezed, “A-archers on the windows.”

                  I heard Yua say... something I couldn't make out, in her native tongue. Then, Voss giving orders- “We need to barricade everything! They can't get in here!” Then a growl, a loud slam, and Voss shouting “Okay, okay! What should we do, then?”

                  The group around me bustled while I slowly recovered. It didn't take that long for me to get back to full awareness- I was only out of breath, if catastrophically so. My legs and chest still fiercely ached, but at least I could stand and see what was going on.

                  Voss and Yua were hauling furniture in front of the door, which I could see, over the debris, was already barred shut. Moruca was stoking a fire in the farmhouse's firepit, while Raszil seemed to be gathering up anything remotely useful- kitchen knives, fireplace pokers, and arranging them for easy access on the dinner table.

                  The farm house was a small affair- a single-storey dwelling with a thatched roof, a pair of bedrooms, and a common room built around the hearth. This was all laid out in a box, with the two bedrooms next to each other- meaning that to have someone playing lookout to that side of the building meant they'd be fighting from one of the cramped bedrooms.

                  I grabbed Raszil by the wrist as he finished a trip, and nodded towards the bedrooms. “Can you keep an eye out one of those rooms, and still throw one of your hammers?”

                  In response, he gave me a look like I was stupid. “I need space to spin them, and besides, I only have one left. You can't do it with your darts?”

                  “Too little range, I can't throw that far,” I said, biting my lip, “This is going to be a tough one.”

                  “Yeah, I'm beginning to regret that conversation we had a few days ago. You're beginning to remind me why 'May you live in interesting times' is a curse.”

                  I didn't reply instead walking over to Voss on legs that felt as though they were made of rubber. “We need to barricade the doors, and leave the windows open....” was as far as I got.

                  “Yeah, Yua damn near tore my head off over that,” he replied, as he tossed a wicker rocking chair onto the stack of furniture at the door, for all the good that would do, “I can understand wanting to shoot out at them, that makes sense, but what if they jump through the windows, though?”

                  “We'll have them trapped, then,” I said, looking around the room, “Close quarters like this, those big worgs will hardly be able to turn around.”

                  “I hope you're right.”

                  “Well, how about this, then?” I said, “The roof here is thatch, and if they decide to come at us with torches, we'll need to pick them off as they approach.”

                  Voss gave me an incredulous look. “Worgs with torches.”

                  “Well, more like goblins with torches riding worgs, but hey, stranger things have happened to us.”

                  “Yeah, I guess.”

                  Our discussion was cut short the sounds of howling, incredibly close. Together, rushed to one of the windows and looking out into the night.

                  The light from the fireplace spoiled our night vision, but with the flame flickering behind us, we could see the light reflecting off of eyes- dozens of them, glimmering in the dark like dewdrops in the morning sun.

                  Voss cursed. “We're fucked, look at how many there are.”

                  I clapped him on the shoulder. “Magic arrows. Aim for the worgs.”

                  “Right.”

                  Moruca already had her bow at the ready, at the other window facing the oncoming worg horde. I went to give her some words of encouragement, but she cut me off before I could say anything. “Watch the back, you idiot. I don't want to get surprised.”

                  Chastened, I hung back, peeking out a window at the inky blackness of night. Yua, Calliope, Raszil... most of us were useless for now.

                  With 3d8 hit points each, and each arrow only dealing 1d8 damage, we didn't have nearly enough arrows- even counting the magical ones- to deal with all the worgs. I had seen at least a dozen pairs of eyes from the window before, and there could be more worgs behind them, so there wasn't a clear idea of the enemy numbers.

                  Moruca and Voss began shooting, accompanied by a bunch of cursing. “I can't hardly see them!” Voss complained as he knocked a fresh arrow.

                  It was on Moruca's fourth that we finally heard an answering yelp from outside. “Got 'em,” she hissed with satisfaction. Voss must have started hitting home as well, because he stopped talking and seemed more focused. I really hoped that he was putting those magical arrows to good use.

                  Eventually, Moruca yelled back, “They're circling the house!” Calliope, eager as ever, sprang into action, going to one of the windows. I move into position next to her, thinking. She normally had her Shield spell ready, and she used a Magic Missile against the goblins earlier. Hopefully she had Burning Hands as her third spell- though I wouldn't say no to a second Magic Missile.

                  I saw a grey blur streak by and started tossing darts, hoping to hit something. There were no lack of targets, but the night made it impossible to get an idea of their numbers. There were no torches- just inky darkness and worgs circling the house, not even moving forward.

                  Waiting for us to run out of ammunition....

                  Suddenly, there was the sound of cracking wood, and a huge, snarling beast was straining to get into the farmhouse through one of the remaining, unmanned windows. Yua, who was readied in the centre of the room, strode forward and thrust awkwardly with her greatsword. The worg yelped, and drove back, out of the window... but the frame was now visibly cracked.

                  “Shit, I'm out!” Voss yelled, but everythinig was happening so fast that it barely registered.

                  There was the sound of shattering wood, and I turned to look into the bedroom to see one of the worgs fully smashing through the window and clawing it's way over the bed. I saw the goblin crawling in behind him, so I ran forward, and without thinking, cast the Sigil of the Burning Hand.

                  I heard the worg howl in pain, and realized by mistake as the bedding ignited. I was staring- how could I forget that the area we were fighting in was flammable!- as Yua pulled me away so she could engage with the now-burning worg.

                  “What the hell are you thinking?” Calliope yelled at me, pulling me away from the burning end of the house.

                  I couldn't say, but I knew exactly what I was thinking- Burning Hands had the best damage potential and area of effect of all the level one attack spells. Considerations of terrain or safety was the furthest thing from my mind. But I couldn't tell her that, of course.

                  “We've got to get out of here,” I told her.

                  Yua finished off the worg, and as soon as she was inside, I slammed that bedroom door shut, hoping it would slow the spread of smoke. “We've got to get out of here!” I yelled, louder, in the direction of our two archers.

                  Moruca didn't respon, but Voss, his quiver almost empty, stood and looked around, and really took in the situation. The destroyed window, Yua's bloody sword, and the shapes moving in the darkness. He grabbed up his spear and came over to me. “What's the plan?”

                  You're asking me? I wanted to ask, but I tried to focus. “This house is burning. We need to get to the barn.”

                  Calliope frowned at me. “You almost passed out running here from the riverside.”

                  “Yes, I know,” I replied, “That's why you have to abandon me if I get surrounded.”

                  “Fuck off,” Voss swore, stamping his feet, “You can't just give that kind of order!”

                  Calliope scowled. “Forget that,” she spat, “I'll get Moruca, you get ready to move.”

                  The worgs were backing off, waiting. They could see the flames. They just had to wait. We'd get smoked out sooner or later. The upside of this was that Voss could slip out a window unmolested. But the second his heels hit earth the worgs were on him. Well, worg riders, I suppose I should say- there were goblins armed with crude spears riding on them.

                  Voss was able to swing his spear wide, holding the worgs off while we slid out of the burning house one by one. Yua was second, and the danger of what we were trying to accomplish because immediately obvious as a worg darted in to savage her, badly, as soon as she was clear of the window.
                  She fought back as best she could, but it was becoming obvious that this run to the barn was the next thing to suicide.

                  Calliope helped Raszil over the sill next, so he could go help her, rushing over to lay on hands when she desperately fought back.

                  I slipped out next, landing on the ground in an inelegant pile. I struggled to get out of the way as Calliope began to climb out herself, and got shakily to my. Huge, beastlike forms swarmed in the night.

                  And now I was properly free to spray some fire around.

                  I cast the sigil, driving my hands forward as flame sprayed from them, trying to ward them off, set them on fire, anything I could do to help my allies. At least one went down because of my flames. I could see at the edges of my vision, flashes of light indicating that Calliope and possibly Raszil were applying spells of their own.

                  Fur filled my vision and I felt a deep sharp pain in my side as a worg lunged forward and sank filthy teeth deep into my abdomen. I could only grunt in response. I wasn't dying- not yet, at least- but it was a pretty savage wound regardless. And I was completely out of spells. There was nothing to be done.

                  My head lolled back as the beast started to shake me, and thought that the black shape moving in front of the stars was the life going out of my eyes.

                  Instead, there was a cry, not quite eagle and not quite lion, as a griffon came out of the darkness and landed amongst the seething worgs.

                  The attention of the worgs shifted immediately, as the griffon launched into them, biting and slashing. Two humanoid figures, clad in furs and bearing bows, leapt off the griffon's back and joined in the fighting. The worg that had bit me let go, and I went sprawling into the churned up dirt and ash of our battlefield.

                  I saw a figure wrapped in a sky-blue robe collapse to the ground not far from me, and my mouth went dry with anxiety. “Calliope,” I called, my voice a harsh, unrecognizable croak. Shuddering from the pain, I dragged myself over to where she was, and pulled her towards me.

                  She did not react when I touched her body, and fear surged through me. I sought her face, hoping to see her nostrils flare, her eyes blink, anything to deny the growing dread surging up inside me.

                  I turned her head towards me. Her eyes frozen and fixed, her mouth opened in an unending scream, and six inches of broken goblin spear protruding from her throat.

                  ---------------------------

                  Character Name: Theodore Esche
                  Race: Human
                  Class: Transmuter
                  Level (XP): 3 (6170/10000)
                  Hit Points: 3/7

                  Ability Scores
                  Strength 11
                  Dexterity 17
                  Constitution 8
                  Intelligence 17
                  Wisdom 13
                  Charisma 14

                  Weapon Proficiencies: Darts
                  Nonweapon Proficiencies: Direction Sense, Etiquette, Reading/Writing, Swimming, Tailoring

                  Spells Per Day:
                  1st Level- 3
                  2nd Level- 2

                  Spellbook:
                  (1st Level): Armor, Burning Hands, Detect Magic, Detect Undead, Enlarge, Featherfall, Magic Missile, Mending, Read Magic, Sleep, Tenser's Floating Disc, Wall of Fog
                  (2nd Level): Knock

                  Spells Prepared:
                  (1st Level): none
                  (2nd Level): Knock, Knock

                  Equipment: Backpack, Bag of Fine Sand, Belt, Belt Pouch (Large, 3), Belt Pouch (Small, 4), Boots, Darts (28), Hand Mirror, Hat, Hooded Lantern, Pearl (worth 100gp), Robes (3), Signet Ring, Wedding Ring, Small Tent, Oil of Acid Resistance, mint green potion, Potion of Rainbow Hues

                  Money: 350 gp, 703 sp

                  Languages: Common, Elven, Dwarven, Orc, Goblin, Draconic, Ryujin

                  Companions: Calliope (Level 2 Invoker, fiancee), Voss (Level 3 Fighter), Raszil (Level 3 Cleric/Level 3 Thief), Moruca (Level 3 Ranger), Yua (Servant?)

                  Elsewhere: Katriana (Level 3 Fighter, sister & wife), Ashryn (Level 3 Cleric, fiancee), Smokey Enna (Level 4 Fighter/Level 4 Thief), Bekker (Butler)

                  Sexual Partners: 5

                  Storage Chest: Alchemical Steel Broadsword, Alchemical Steel Bastard Sword, 299 pp, 2386 gp, 16 sp, 50 cp
                  Currently Playing: Dragon Star Varnir
                  Currently Working On: Vacation Updates
                  Current Waifu: Charlotta, Dragon Star Varnir

                  Comment


                  • #69
                    Chapter 65: Isekai Life & Blood Promise

                    I gently brushed Calliope's hair away from her face, as her head rested on my lap. Thanks to Yua, the blade that had penetrated her throat was gone, though the wound was still an ugly, puckered line where there should be the smooth skin of her neck. Her skin was marvellously soft, and with her mouth and eyes closed, her face seemed more peaceful. I wondered, briefly, where her soul was residing, and whether she was comfortable there.

                    When the griffon appeared and distracted the worgs, Voss, Moruca and Yua were able to rally and fight back. Confronted with a larger, more powerful predator and my rallying allies, the nerve of the worgs (or goblins? It was hard to tell who was in charge between the predatory, massive mount and the cunning yet weak rider) finally broke and they fled.

                    The house has burned down to ashes and foundation, with nothing left of what had once been a family's home. The glowing coals and a few hastily-constructed torches gave off what little light we had, although the horizon was already glowing with the promise of dawn.

                    Not for the first time, my mind seemed split in two.

                    On one hand, my old mind was telling me it was alright. Calliope was an invoker, so her constitution was supposed to be high- high enough that she wasn't likely to fail her resurrection roll, high enough that losing a point of constitution to being resurrected shouldn't be an issue. Even if someone couldn't be found to cast Raise Dead in time, we could cremate her and save her ashes for a Resurrection later. It was simple, we just had to get by without an extra caster for awhile.

                    The other half of my mind was in turmoil. Calliope, my friend since magic school, my lover these past few months, was dead. Worse, it was because of a tragic mistake that I made in the heat of the moment. I was oh-so-confident that I had picked the best spells, made the best tactical decisions, and then in the moment when I had almost no other option, I failed the party. And poor Calliope, who just days ago was expressing her angst over our relationship, paid the price.

                    The mean between these two warring states of mind was silent, sullen depression. I had no clear idea of how much time had passed, but I couldn't pull myself away from Calliope's body.

                    Yua was kneeling off to one side, her greatsword sitting in front of her, and her head inclined- in shame or in prayer, I couldn't say. Voss was standing nearby, looking visibly upset. He had cried some earlier- I couldn't make out the fine details of his face, but I thought I heard him sobbing- but occasionally he would sidle over and give me a comforting pat on the back.

                    Moruca had vanished early on, saying she would gather spent arrows and count the dead. And Raszil... was dealing with our new guests.

                    The two people who had arrived on their griffon were clad all in black- black feathered cloaks, black clothing, black boots, except for their shining elven chain mail, which gleamed silver even in the dim light of the coals. They were elves, a slender, smaller one and a taller, broad-shouldered man. I could hear the low sounds of their discussion with the gnomish cleric, and although I couldn't make out the words, it had the trilling, singsong quality of elvish.

                    As for the griffon itself, it was... somewhere, noisy snacking on some worgs in the dark.

                    Suddenly, a light grew stronger in the corner of my eye. “Well, it was a hell of a battle,” I heard Moruca's voice say, “Sixteen dead worgs, almost as many goblins. They won't be trying this again any time soon, that I promise you.”

                    A major victory, all things considered. The tribe couldn't have much in the way of worgs, cavalry or otherwise, left. But I didn't feel any joy or pride from this input. It was just another fact, as cold and dead as-

                    I bit my lip to prevent myself from sobbing, hard enough to taste blood.

                    “Only managed to find one of those special arrows of yours. Here, Voss, you gave 'em hell.”

                    “Thanks, Moruca.”

                    “S'nothing.”

                    Then, I felt a light hand squeeze my shoulder, and the old woman's voice again. “We're still in enemy territory, lad. You've had your moment, but we're going to need you back soon.”

                    “Right,” I replied, numbly.

                    “It ain't never going to stop being sad, son, but sooner or later it'll stop hurting so bad. But right now, the living need you.”

                    I nodded, and gently lifted Calliope's head off my lap so I could rise. Yua rose with me, reaching out to steady me with a hand when I stumbled on my numb legs. Despite her wounds, she was much more steady on her feet than I.

                    With an effort, I pushed away that half of my mind- the one in mourning. Having my thoughts and feeling divided like this had some advantages, it seemed. I could seal up that grief and deal with it later, with an ease that I never had in life.

                    I looked towards the two elven warriors. “What's their story, anyway?”

                    “I don't know, Raszil has been the one talking with them this whole time,” Voss replied, “But, look at this.”

                    He handed me an arrow from the bundle that Moruca had gathered for him. It was carved from pale, bone-white wood, and fletched with black feathers.

                    I nodded and handed the arrow back.

                    As a group, we marched over to where the gnome and elves were standing. Their conversation cut off as we approached. I must have seemed a little intense, because Raszil cleared his throat nervously. “Theodore, Voss, everyone, this here is Haseth and Seran. I think they've got something to say that you might be interested in hearing.”

                    The two elves were both men. Despite their drastically different body types- one was a typical short, slender pretty boy elf, while the broad-shouldered man had a hard, stoic face, and a nasty scar that ran across his left eye, leaving it milky and sightless. They both had black hair- which oddly still had some of the shimmery quality of Ashryn's- in short military cuts, and dark eyes.

                    The tall one stepped forward and offered his hand. “I am Haseth, captain of the Ravenwatch,” he said in a crisp, military tone that wouldn't be out of place on a drill sergeant. When I clasped his hand, it was dry and rough, like shaking hands with a stone.

                    “Theodore,” I said simply, meeting his gaze. I had gotten used to dealing with his type when we were slouching around the palace in Tresens. “How long have you been following us?”

                    Haseth and Seran exchanged glances. “We weren't following you, although we have been noting your presence,” Haseth replied, “We seemed to have similar goals, and while we do not often make our presence known to outsiders, we are not heartless. When we noted your trouble, guiding you to a place of refuge seemed prudent.”

                    “What do you mean, similar goals?” Voss asked in return.

                    Haseth narrowed his eyes a little bit giving Voss a glare that could cut glass. “Pardon me, but it is customary among our people to introduce ourselves before speaking.”

                    Voss straightened up, crossing his arms. “I am Sir Voss Durand, a knight in service to House Esche, and I'll thank you not to lecture me about politeness. We've been scrambling all over the countryside trying to feed a city full of people under siege, and my lord's lady is dead, and you say that we have similar goals but couldn't be arsed to do more than give us a breadcrumb trail when we were being hunted by goblins and worgs. So, I ask you again, what similar goals are you speaking of?”

                    The tension between the two was palpable. I could have facepalmed. Voss just spilled the beans not only to these two complete strangers, but in front of Moruca and Raszil, too.

                    Haseth turned back to me. “We are also in the area hunting the goblin menace. We have reason to believe that these creatures have taken something of great value to our king, and have sworn to not rest until the goblins have been defeated and our... our goals achieved. Improving the situation for the humans living here on the frontier is a secondary goal to us.”

                    The stumble stood out to me, but there were more pressing matters at hand. “Alright. Because this is the second time you've seemingly gone out of your way to help us, I'll believe you,” I said, “What did you have to say?”

                    Haseth nodded. “We both wish to see the goblins destroyed. Seran and I have managed to locate their headquarters, but we lack the numbers to mount an assault. You have a number of skilled individuals at your disposal, but lack the information necessary to make an attack. Let us work together.”

                    It was my turn to frown. “I'm sorry, Haseth, but right now our priority is to find a way to bring back Calliope, if we can. If we send for another priest, perhaps we have a chance of bringing her back in a timely manner....”

                    The boyish elf stepped forward, giving a salute. “If I may, I am Seran, Haseth's subordinate. Barador, our mount, was injured in the fighting, but is still highly mobile. If you agree to assist us in our mission, it would be my honour to take your companion back to the capital and have her seen to by the clergy in service to our king.”

                    My heart skipped a beat. Would it be possible? Did we chance into a solution, here?

                    It was Moruca who clued in first, giving the two elves a skeptical sidelong look. “You're from the Misty Kingdom.”

                    “Avenda Vereh Loica, if it pleases you, elder,” Haseth replied tersely.

                    In common, the Kingdom of the Throne of Mists. I resisted the urge to roll my eyes.

                    A chance to get Calliope back. And all we had to was help this one elf get something back from the goblins.

                    “Is it just the two of you?” I asked, “I don't mean to offend, but if we're not getting a net gain of manpower, fighting an entire goblin tribe, even after the losses we've inflicting, is going to be next to impossible.”

                    “For now, yes, it is just myself and Seran,” Haseth replied, “But there are several other members of the Ravenwatch that we believe were captured by the goblins. If we can free them, it would help even the numbers.”

                    I nodded. They would be starved and beaten, but elves were famous for making military use of fighter/mages. If they were holding on to a handful of spells, biding their time, that could make for one hell of a force multiplier.

                    “Alright,” I said, extending my hand to clasp Haseth's once more, “It's agreed, we help you on your mission, and you get Calliope the help she needs.”

                    “It is agreed. The lady will need a shroud to keep her safe on the journey.”

                    “Alright,” I said, turning my back on the elf. “Voss, there should be a blanket in Calliope's saddlebags.”

                    I walked back to where Calliope lay. Maybe it was my terse attitude, but this time nobody followed me back except Yua.

                    I again knelt by her body. Carefully, I undid her belt, and began sliding her spell component pouches off of it. When it came to her dagger sheath, I turned it over in my hands a moment, before finishing my work. I carefully removed all her personal belongings, and set them aside. I didn't suspect that these elves would steal them, but it seemed wrong, somehow, to send her off with all her personal possessions like that.

                    When Voss returned with her blanket, the three of us- Voss, Yua and I- reverently laid Calliope and wrapped her up tightly.

                    Seeing her wrapped up that struck a chord in me. I felt tears sting my eyes, and forced myself away.

                    As Seran brought around the griffon and prepared it to fly, I sought out Calliope's dagger. I wasn't difficult to find, on the blood-slicked ground where we had made out final stand. I wiped clean of blood and grime on my robes, and examined the weapon. It was a simple and well-made dagger, with a plain hilt of brass and what seemed to be antler. Unadorned and sturdy, befitting Calliope's personality.

                    I clutched the weapon to my chest. “I promise...” I whispered hoarsely. But, promised what? Hadn't the damage already been done, the mistake already been made?

                    “I promise... if you return to me... I'll do better. Be better. I'll make sure you know that's welcome, and a part of my family.”

                    I didn't even notice the blade biting into my palm, and the blood seeping out of my fist.

                    ---------------------------

                    Character Name: Theodore Esche
                    Race: Human
                    Class: Transmuter
                    Level (XP): 3 (6170/10000)
                    Hit Points: 3/7

                    Ability Scores
                    Strength 11
                    Dexterity 17
                    Constitution 8
                    Intelligence 17
                    Wisdom 13
                    Charisma 14

                    Weapon Proficiencies: Darts
                    Nonweapon Proficiencies: Direction Sense, Etiquette, Reading/Writing, Swimming, Tailoring

                    Spells Per Day:
                    1st Level- 3
                    2nd Level- 2

                    Spellbook:
                    (1st Level): Armor, Burning Hands, Detect Magic, Detect Undead, Enlarge, Featherfall, Magic Missile, Mending, Read Magic, Sleep, Tenser's Floating Disc, Wall of Fog
                    (2nd Level): Knock

                    Spells Prepared:
                    (1st Level): none
                    (2nd Level): Knock, Knock

                    Equipment: Backpack, Bag of Fine Sand, Belt, Belt Pouch (Large, 3), Belt Pouch (Small, 4), Boots, Darts (19), Hand Mirror, Hat, Hooded Lantern, Pearl (worth 100gp), Robes (3), Signet Ring, Wedding Ring, Small Tent, Oil of Acid Resistance, mint green potion, Potion of Rainbow Hues

                    Money: 350 gp, 794 sp

                    Languages: Common, Elven, Dwarven, Orc, Goblin, Draconic, Ryujin

                    Companions: Voss (Level 3 Fighter), Raszil (Level 3 Cleric/Level 3 Thief), Moruca (Level 3 Ranger), Yua (Servant?)

                    Elsewhere: Katriana (Level 3 Fighter, sister & wife), Ashryn (Level 3 Cleric, fiancee), Smokey Enna (Level 4 Fighter/Level 4 Thief), Bekker (Butler)

                    Sexual Partners: 5

                    Storage Chest: Alchemical Steel Broadsword, Alchemical Steel Bastard Sword, 299 pp, 2386 gp, 16 sp, 50 cp
                    Currently Playing: Dragon Star Varnir
                    Currently Working On: Vacation Updates
                    Current Waifu: Charlotta, Dragon Star Varnir

                    Comment


                    • #70
                      Chapter 66: Isekai Life & Difficult Concepts

                      Seran securely strapped Calliope's body to the griffon's complicated saddle, while Haseth stood off to one side, organizing his kit. There was enough light now that we could see, and , Seran assured us, for Barador to take off with. The griffon's beak was still wet with blood and sticky with giblets of flesh from his post-battle meal. One taloned fore-paw was held almost daintily up in the air, where an unlucky hit from one of the worgs had bit through feathers, flesh and tendon. Despite the injury, Haseth and Seran swore that the beast could both fly and land safely.

                      Raszil chose to save his healing powers for our party, as both he himself and Yua were badly injured in the battle.

                      “Um, so, this is going to be okay, right?” Voss asked nervously, “This big guy isn't going to get hungry and... need a snack, right?”

                      Seran laughed. “No, Sir Voss, you needn't worry. Barador is a good boy, he knows better. And besides, he's had his fill. It should take us about three days to return to Avenda Vereh Loica, and griffons are gorging predators- once their belly is full they can go a week between meals.”

                      This easy banter kind of pissed me off, so I went over to stand beside the griffon and seize one of the straps of its' harness. I looked Seran dead in the eye. “Take good care of Calliope,” I commanded, “If I return from completing your mission and find that something has happened to her....”

                      “I understand, Lord Theodore,” he said, taking up the reins, “Your lady is safe with me, rest assured. We may be a reclusive people, but you would not be the first travellers to have chanced upon assistance from the mist elves... although it is somewhat unique for you in be in a position to give back.” He grimaced suddenly. “Please, I leave my honour in your hands. Complete my mission so that I do not dishonour myself to assist your lady.”

                      I nodded, and released the harness. In truth, I was sad to see the beast go- I could think of a lot of good tactical uses for a flying, seven hit die monster with three attacks per round.

                      So burdened, Barador needed to take off like a plane. Seran heeled the griffon to a wide stretch of field, far from the farm buildings, gave a brief salute, and then Barador ran forward, great eagle-like wings spreading and flapping until the great beast was able to find the momentum needed to catch the wind and soar up into the air.

                      On the ground, the griffon was huge and ungainly, but with it's wings outstretched and paws gathered close to it's body, Barador's flying seemed graceful, even majestic.

                      Voss whistled, evidently impressed. “I have got to get one of those.”

                      Moruca snorted. “You want to fall that badly?”

                      “I want to fly,” Voss corrected, “Falling is what happens when you screw up.”

                      Moruca smirked at the knight. “And how many times did you fall learning to ride a horse? You think that won't happen just because your mount has wings?”

                      Voss scowled. “If these elves can do it, so can I. Besides, haven't you ever heard of rope?”

                      “Come on,” I interrupted, “We need to get back to Rhymer's Cross and plan our attack on the goblin hideout.”

                      Voss turned his back on the old woman, seething. We weren't really in a hurry, but I had never seen Voss like this. He was gregarious, cocky, occasionally witty, but he never seemed so bitter and angry before. I guess I wasn't the only one who was feeling Calliope's loss.

                      I think I could understand, though. Calliope- smart, witty, courageous and magically potent- could not possibly by replaced by an old woman, a pervert gnome, and some half-blind elf dude. Part of me resented all three of them for having the audacity to live when Calliope had died. I suppose my semi-split personality let me control that emotion to a degree, but as we rode in silence back to Rhymer's Cross, it only grew. My mind gnawed at that resentment like a dog chewing a bone. Especially seeing Haseth riding Buttermilk, since we had no other horses... it all seemed wrong, somehow.

                      The gate guards, who had become used to our coming and goings, immediately intuited that something dire had happened when they saw that Calliope had been replaced by Haseth. As they helped us unload our forage, one disappeared, heading further into town. When he returned, it was with Estrid- the young Shire-Reeve's usually stoic expression only slightly softened.

                      “You have my condolences about your lost party member,” she said, with all the sensitivity of a brick, as expected.

                      “It's a dangerous job,” I replied bitterly, “This is Haseth, a warrior from the mist elves. He's agreed to assist us with the goblin problem.”

                      Haseth gave a salute, as one warrior to another, but Estrid was already shaking her head.

                      “Aye, I know he's a mist elf, and that's why he's not welcome here.”

                      My eyes narrows in confusion. The drunken gnome worshipping the literal god of secrets was welcome, and this elf wasn't?

                      “Sir Theodore,” Haseth spoke into the awkward silence, “I think I see what is happening here, if you care to listen. And this young lady may feel free to correct me as she sees fit, to represent her point of view.”

                      “Alright...”

                      “This land- what humans call the Lakelands, we refer to as Kreieth Shai- the Shattered River. Once, a long time ago, we conquered this land from the hill dwarves, and ruled this land as part of our kingdom. But due to internal strife, we had to recede back to the valley containing our capital city, and the Vale of Mist beyond,” he explained, “It was some decades after that, when humans migrated into the area. Officially, the Mist-King knows that this land is outside our influence, but that does not keep some of citizenry from seeing it as ours, and the humans as interlopers. They have been known to occasionally make mischief for the human settlers.”

                      “Mischief!?” Estrid's eyes went wide with a mix of surprise and anger, “You call driving people- good, honest people- off their land with sword and fire, torching homes and fields, to be mere mischief!?”

                      Great, there's an elven Klan. This won't be an awful situation to explain my way out of.

                      Haseth bowed his head, in response. “Forgive me, I did not mean to cause offence. And allow me to apologize for our failure to police our own. I can understand your... reluctance to offer one such as myself hospitality under these circumstances. But if you'll allow Sir Theodore to explain, I believe I can help.”

                      “He thinks he knows where the goblins are operating from,” I explained, “We haven't discussed it in detail, but I think we may rest a day, and then make an assault and try to address the source of the problem.”

                      Estrid frowned. “Well, if it keeps my people safe, perhaps we can tolerate him for a few days.”

                      It was my turn to bow my head, this time in gratitude. “Thank you for understanding.”

                      “If there's trouble, I'm holding you responsible,” she replied, simply, before marching off to return to her duties.

                      I sighed. “Well, great. As if we didn't have enough going on, we also have racial tension,” I gave Haseth a wry look, “I thought you said that the mist elves were friendly to humans?”

                      “On the whole, we are,” Haseth said, sounding tired and sorrowful, “However, we have a bloody history, and there are many who have trouble in seeing that aspect of our culture for the cruelty and barbarism that it was. We are a people divided against each other, and for that reason, the Mist-King's council is deadlocked and we remain incapable of healing these old rifts.”

                      That made me blink in surprise. That went against everything I'd ever known about elves in AD&D, that's for sure. It was one of the fundamentals- sky is blue, water is wet, orcs are always chaotic evil and elves (except drow) are always good. I was driven to ask, “What the hell did your people do that was so terrible?”

                      Haseth hesitated for a moment. “My people's ancestors were the storm elves,” he said simply, as if that explained everything.

                      For some reason, the hairs on the back of my neck stood up, but I had no real clue what he was talking about. “What's a storm elf?” I asked, resolving to someday invest in the History proficiency.

                      I heard an impressed whistle, and looked behind me to see Yua and Raszil standing nearby. Yua I expected- she usually followed close behind me- but I didn't realize Raszil was eavesdropping.

                      “Oh, they were nasty folk, alright,” he said, strolling up to fully join our conversation, “Blood sacrifice, dark magic, piracy, slavery... they worshipped nature, sure, but it was nature, red in tooth and claw. The kind of nature of predators and prey, and to hear it told, to a storm elf you were either a dangerous rival, or a prey animal to be used and abused as the predator saw fit.”

                      Haseth was trying to be stoic, but it was hard to miss the tightness in his eyes. I couldtell he was trying to hide his shame. The tall elf gave a reluctant nod. “It is as his his eminence says. The internal conflict that lead to our decline... to the storm elves, even someone who was part-slave was a storm elf so long as they were fully elven and strong enough. Those who were descended partly from other enslaved elves- the celestial elves, for example- inherited some of their slave-parent's culture, and wanted to live in a more peaceful society. It took a long time for the movement to gather steam, but eventually they overthrew the Storm-King and the druidic priesthood that supported his rule, and renamed their society.”

                      “Being a decent fucking person, as an idea, is kind of insidious in it's own way,” Raszil pointed out,
                      “You get enough elves that got tired of seeing mom or dad get raped and whipped, and empathizing with their would-be victims, and from there it was only a matter of time until the mist elves outnumbered the true believers.”

                      “...And because you had alienated all your trading partners and potential allies as the storm elves, when the mist elves gave up their raiding culture it put the kingdom into decline,” I finished, thoughtfully, “I think I see, now.”

                      Back in my previous life, I hadn't really lingered on ideas of cultural or inherited guilt... that seemed like stupid normie stuff. Why should I waste precious gaming time worrying about that kind of thing? It didn't have anything to do with me. But I could see how visibly it affected Haseth... no wonder he and Seran were so eager to offer help, if they were carrying around this kind of baggage.

                      “Anyway, that's enough history lessons for now,” I said, waving my hand as if to fan away bad air, “Let's get back to the Reeve's office.”

                      “We're not going back to the baker's house?” Raszil asked, “You know, with the proper beds and warm meals?”

                      “Yes, we will,” I explained, “But somehow I don't think Haseth here will be welcome... and he might appreciate a bedroom he can lock himself into.”

                      We agreed to meet up at the Shrine-Reeve's office that afternoon, and Moruca said her goodbyes for the morning. When we showed Haseth his sleeping conditions a short while later, he was less than impressed.

                      “When you intervened with that young lady,” he said somewhat sourly, “I thought the intention was to keep me out of a cell?”

                      “Yeah, well, this time you have a key, so there's that,” I replied.

                      He frowned as he accepted the key from me. “I suppose it shall do.”

                      “Great, because frankly I'm too exhausted to make other arrangements for you,” I said flatly, “We'll see you this afternoon.”

                      I really was exhausted. Being up all night and doing a ton of walking around was taking it's toll, but at least Yua was kind enough to carry Calliope's saddlebags- including her two heavy-ass spellbooks- around for me.

                      When we finally arrived back at Big Dap and Ina's place, I was just done. I mumbled a brief “Thank you for taking care of us again” to the lady of the house, and went straight to bed, leaving the bountiful breakfast to everyone else. The events of the night weighed on me, and all I wanted to do was sleep.

                      I only took enough time to kick off my socks before collapsing into bed. Something poked me in the side as I landed, hard enough to make me grunt in pain, and I rolled over to relieve the pressure. The pommel of Calliope's dagger had dug into my belly, from it's new home on my belt.

                      That's when I noticed Yua standing at the door, look awkward. I was so tired I didn't even notice she had followed me in.

                      “Forgive me, my Lord,” she said softly in her mother tongue, looking pained. She was normally so stoic that any expression at all was a bit of a shock to me.

                      “Oh, it's all right,” I said, sitting up, “I should have told you to go get something to eat.”

                      “No, it's not that,” she bit her lip, looking sad, “I-I failed you, and Lady Carriope is....”

                      Her accent struggling with the unfamiliar name would be adorable in other circumstances.

                      I laid back with a sigh. “It's my fault, Yua. I set the building on fire, because I didn't think. I kept using the Sigil of the Burning Hands because it was the best choice... if we kept fighting from ambush, in open fields. I didn't memorize the sleep hex, because I was too busy fucking her to take the time to think before I memorized my magic, and now....”

                      Yua was staring at me with wide eyes. Abruptly, I realized I had gone through this entire rant in her tongue without simplifying my language.

                      Shit.

                      “Y-your magic is indeed powerful, my Lord,” she said in awe.

                      I closed my eyes and breathed a small sigh of relief. Well, at least this time it appeared self-correcting. “Yeah, I suppose so,” I replied.

                      I heard Yua's soft footsteps as she approached the bed. “My Lord, if I may... please allow me to take care of you as your lady wives would.”

                      My eyes snapped open suddenly. “Wait, what are you...!?”

                      “If it pleases My Lord, you should not sleep in your clothes,” she said as she gently undid my belt.

                      I tried to creep back on the bed, but with my belt in her hands I couldn't get far. “S-sorry, but this is proceeding a little too quickly....”

                      Instead, I found myself pulled to the edge of the bed, very firmly. “My Lord, please,” she said, with a pleading look, “At least... give me the satisfaction of assuaging some of my guilt.”

                      I sighed. “I guess, just... now's not the right time, okay?”

                      Yua looked to one side, blushing deeply. “M-my Lord... you misunderstand... please....”

                      I could feel my own face heating up as well. “Ah... sorry,” I replied, “D-do as you like.”

                      Yua took a deep breath to steady herself. She then- very carefully- took off my belt, and helped ease off my robes. Folding my robes carefully, while I sat awkwardly in my small clothes, she began stripping off her own mismatched armour.

                      When she was down to her own underclothes, she joined me on the bed, sitting on her knees with her back to the headboard. Gently, she pulled me back onto the bed, laying my own head on her lap. My nostils filled with the sweet smell of her sweat, and I could feel the softness of her thighs, which, I suddenly appreciated, had filled out quite nicely since we began feeding her properly.

                      “I know you feel, guilty, my Lord,” she said softly, stroking my hair away from my face, “But if the gods are good, your lady wife will be back with us, Sheomurath willing.”

                      I briefly began to wonder just who that was, and why the name seemed somehow familiar, but Yua began to sing. It was a simple, wordless song, and she wasn't exactly a masterful singer, but combined with the sensation of her fingers through my hair, it was comforting.

                      ---------------------------

                      Character Name: Theodore Esche
                      Race: Human
                      Class: Transmuter
                      Level (XP): 3 (6170/10000)
                      Hit Points: 3/7

                      Ability Scores
                      Strength 11
                      Dexterity 17
                      Constitution 8
                      Intelligence 17
                      Wisdom 13
                      Charisma 14

                      Weapon Proficiencies: Darts
                      Nonweapon Proficiencies: Direction Sense, Etiquette, Reading/Writing, Swimming, Tailoring

                      Spells Per Day:
                      1st Level- 3
                      2nd Level- 2

                      Spellbook:
                      (1st Level): Armor, Burning Hands, Detect Magic, Detect Undead, Enlarge, Featherfall, Magic Missile, Mending, Read Magic, Sleep, Tenser's Floating Disc, Wall of Fog
                      (2nd Level): Knock

                      Spells Prepared:
                      (1st Level): none
                      (2nd Level): Knock, Knock

                      Equipment: Backpack, Bag of Fine Sand, Belt, Belt Pouch (Large, 3), Belt Pouch (Small, 4), Boots, Darts (19), Hand Mirror, Hat, Hooded Lantern, Pearl (worth 100gp), Robes (3), Signet Ring, Wedding Ring, Small Tent, Oil of Acid Resistance, mint green potion, Potion of Rainbow Hues

                      Money: 350 gp, 794 sp

                      Languages: Common, Elven, Dwarven, Orc, Goblin, Draconic, Ryujin

                      Companions: Voss (Level 3 Fighter), Raszil (Level 3 Cleric/Level 3 Thief), Moruca (Level 3 Ranger), Yua (Servant?)

                      Elsewhere: Katriana (Level 3 Fighter, sister & wife), Ashryn (Level 3 Cleric, fiancee), Smokey Enna (Level 4 Fighter/Level 4 Thief), Bekker (Butler)

                      Sexual Partners: 5

                      Storage Chest: Alchemical Steel Broadsword, Alchemical Steel Bastard Sword, 299 pp, 2386 gp, 16 sp, 50 cp
                      Currently Playing: Dragon Star Varnir
                      Currently Working On: Vacation Updates
                      Current Waifu: Charlotta, Dragon Star Varnir

                      Comment


                      • #71
                        Chapter 67: Isekai Life & Dragon Lore

                        I awoke to the soft sounds of someone snoring. I wriggled and stretched, feeling barely rested at all, and when I reached up to rub the sleep from eyes, my had encountered a gossamer curtain that felt impossibly soft.

                        I blinked sleepily upwards, to see that Yua had herself drifted off, with my head in her lap, in her sitting position. Her head had fallen forward at some point, and now I was surrounded by a curtain of her dark blue hair.

                        Her face was so close, I could feel her breath on my eyes. I swallowed, hard, and tried not to focus on my unattended morning wood as I oh so carefully shimmied out from beneath her. I didn't realize how my heart was pounding in my chest until I struggled to rise without disturbing the sleeping dragonborn.

                        Once I was back on my feet, I could regain some composure.

                        The first thing I thought up was Yua's position. She was still on her knees, just sleeping, with her lower back resting against the headboard of the bed and her body curved forward from there. I shook my head. That had to be hell on her back, and even if we were taking the day off from goblin hunting, she didn't deserve to wake up aching.

                        As gently as I could, I took her my the shoulder and slowly tipped her forward, pulling her back straight so she didn't feel as though she was falling. There was a brief moment of panic when, as I was setting her down, her antler caught on the sheet, but she barely stirred as I carefully unhooked the fabric.

                        There. She was splayed out on her front, with her feet on the pillows, but at least she wasn't crouched over like before, and she hadn't woken up. An overall win, I told myself.

                        Quietly as I could, I crept over to where Yua had put down Calliope's saddlebags. It felt a little bit like cheating- certainly Calliope, had she been alive to do so, would object to my poking through her things like this- but I promised myself, this was ultimately in service of getting her back as soon as possible.

                        I found what I was looking for- the slim travel copy of the spellbook Calliope had been awarded by Hawkins back in Tresens, and cracked it open. Luckily for me it was written in ascending order of spell complexity- ie, spell level- so it was pretty easily to find what I was looking for.

                        I flipped through the first level magic, at first struck by Calliope's poor luck. Of the five spells here, four of them were things we already had covered between us- The Sigil of the Burning Hands, Hex of Lotus and Willow, Eyes of the Arcane (that is, Detect Magic), and Mind of the Arcane (Read Magic). The fifth spell was unique (or at least I didn't think Calliope had it before), “Summoning of Celestial Lanterns”, aka Dancing Lights. It was a moderately useful alternate take on the basic Light spell that sacrificed tactical utility for the ability to conjure up to four torchlike lights, lighting a wider area, being able to snuff them quickly, and so forth. It was useful, but nothing to write home about.

                        Then I hit upon the stuff I was seeking- the second level magics. At first it started with more niche stuff, enough so that I was somewhat bewildered at exactly what kind of mage Hawkins had working for him. “Grasp the Fog of Thought”, or ESP, was certainly useful in the right situations, but of niche use. It'd be handy to have for negotiations or interrogations, but it wasn't what I was looking for. “Shroud of Waking Dream”, or Forget, was even less useful, as the “forgetting” effect only deleted a minute of memory and you couldn't make stuff up to fill the void, so under most circumstances you couldn't use it with perfect stealth. It could be useful, but it required a certain amount of set-up, or the perfect opportunity. “Kazar's Cunning Rope Trick”, or, well, Rope Trick, was a very useful travel spell that I honestly wish Calliope had let me study on the way up here from Pendelton- it let you conjure an extradimensional safe zone thirty feet up in the air, big enough for a certain amount of people to safely rest in. Then, finally, I hit gold.

                        “The Breath of Malediction”, more commonly known as Stinking Cloud, one of the gold-tier second-level spells. Or at least silver-tier. Affecting a twenty-foot cube, creatures within the gas had to save vs poison for me rendered completely unable to attack for up to five rounds after leaving the cloud. With a chokepoint or bottleneck, or even casting it into the middle of a mob, could render large numbers of enemies largely helpless for a long time. Using it against a crowd would be for the best, but even deploying it against a single enemy could make a hard boss fight into a breeze.

                        First things first, though, I had a lot of study of my own to get to. I set the smaller spellbook aside, open to the page I wanted, and dragged my larger personal spellbook out of my own bags.

                        After yesterday's (this morning's?) ordeal, I didn't have a firm grasp on how my Armor spell protection was doing, and while the spell was never explicit on whether you could renew it while the effect was still on, it couldn't hurt to just leave it to Corgiel's judgment whether it was okay. So, first spell was obviously Armor, and with study tomorrow I could replace it with Burning Hands, which did too much damage to safely ignore. I just had to be more careful with how I used it.

                        For the next time I found myself in a position where it was tactically unsound to use fire magic, I picked Magic Missile. It's damage was severely under par still, but I could take some comfort in the fact that since I was now third level, I got to fire two magic missiles at once, which could be useful for taking out two weak goblins at once or just dealing like sixish damage to something larger.

                        Finally, Sleep was my third choice. It was still far too useful to abandon, and I was still cursing myself for not memorizing it yesterday.

                        The next step in my spell-learning sequence today was to dismiss one of my previously memorized uses of Knock. There weren't any locked objects in Big Dap's house that I was comfortable opening, but luckily Knock was a bit more multipurpose that than. I drew Calliope's dagger, and wedged the blade in the doorframe, down near the floor, careful not the damage the wood, although scracthing the paint a little was inevitable. When the door was good and stuck, I cast the spell- only once, as I might have need to open a cell or unlock a manacle in a hurry if there were slaves to rescue.

                        I don't know if the it was the sound of the spell “knocking” on the door or the clatter of the dagger falling to the floor, but I heard a sleepy groan from behind me. I rubbed my face with my palm in exasperation with myself. I had totally forgotten about Yua.

                        When I turn around, she was scrambling back to her knees, looking like a startled animal. “M-my lord, I-I'm so very sorry,” Yua babbled in her native tongue, “I-I-I may have done something indecent.”

                        I gave her a perplexed look, as I sat down on the edge of the bed next to her. “Indecent? No, nothing indecent happened,” I explained, “I finally had time to really process my grief, and you comforted me with some gentle words and a song. It was very appreciated, thank you.”

                        “B-but I shared my Lord's bed!” she protested.

                        I sighed. Was this some cultural thing or was she totally uneducated when it came to sex? “It's fine, Yua. As your lord, I'm telling you, you did nothing wrong, and I really appreciate you doing what you did.”

                        Yua seemed to relax a little, but them put her head in her hands and groaned. “E-everyone's going to think we... we....”

                        I puffed out my cheeks in thought. She wasn't wrong, especially with the reputation I had with Voss. “Well... I mean, really, is that a bad thing?” I replied, “You were there for me in a time of need, and it's not like you can understand their comments anyway.”

                        She looked away. “I've learned... some things. Enough.”

                        “Then I'll tell them what happened,” I said plainly, “Raszil is... well, a hanger-on, maybe hireling, sort of, I guess? ...So I can't control him, but Voss will trust my word.”

                        Yua stayed silent, pulling her legs towards herself and hugging them, looking ashamed.

                        I sighed. Maybe it was better to change the topic?

                        “So... why are you so concerned with what a Lord should and shouldn't do with their retainers?” I asked, “You know how to fight, were you a knight or something.”

                        Yua was quiet for a long stretch. I honestly did think she was going to reply, and was formulating what I was going to say next when she shifted.

                        She slipped off the bed, kneeling down on the ground and bowing until her forehead touched my foot.

                        “My name is Ayanokouji Yua, first daughter of the Ayanokouji family of the Blue Dragon Clan,” she said to the floor.

                        “Uh... that's fine, but will you explain what all that means?” I asked, reaching over to tug at her arm, “And don't bow to me like that, anything you need to tell me you can tell me to my face.”

                        She reluctant sat up, although she didn't look directly at me. “My homeland is... far from here. I'm not certain which direction. It is all one island, that takes a healthy man one season to walk from it's most southern point to it's most northern. Technically, we are ruled by the Fifteen Dragon Emperor, but in truth he only holds sway over the clans who reside closest to his capital, and every clan is mostly autonomous. I am from the Blue Dragon Clan, which lives at the tip of the island at the most southern point. My family is minor nobility, in service to Lord Aoru, master of the Blue Dragon Clan.”

                        “A warrior family, like knights?” I asked. I already had a decent idea of what she was talking about- thank you, Legend of the Five Rings- but I still had to stay “in-character”, and wanted her to keep going.

                        “I'm still uncertain on exactly what a knight is, but yes, we were a warrior family,” she replied, “Since I could walk, I have studied the way of the sword, the bow, and other weapons. I was also schooled in the Sixfold Way, and walked the path of the warrior-monks of Sheomurath, the Dragon-God of Protection.”

                        That gave me pause. “Sheomurath...? Yua, do you recognize the name 'Magarath'?” I asked.

                        She shuddered involuntarily. “Yes, the Dragon-God of Destruction,” she answered, “Why do you ask?”

                        “The belief system you follow is connected to the one we follow here.” I explained what I could remember of the religious lore of this world, primarily about the All-Father, his wives, the gods that they all spawned, and the story of Magarath being born from the All-Father cursing his cheating wife and her lover.

                        Yua nodded along. “Yes, that is familiar. We know of the Father of Creation, and his three brides, the Heavens, the Earth and the Sea. They had children, but beyond that their stories are unknown to me. Our faith focuses on the Five Dragons of Blessing, the Five Dragons of Curse, and the Five Dragons of Thought.”

                        At a guess, we would have our five chromatic dragons, five metallic dragons, and five gem dragons out of that. “But, wait,” I interrupted, “Isn't blue the colour of one of the evil dragons?”

                        Yua nodded. “Kaphegorath, the Dragon-God of Envy. However, it is said that the worshippers of the Curse Dragons were driven out of my homeland long ago, and those of us faded dragonborn who remain have converted to the faith of the Blessing Dragons, and the righteous path of the Sixfold Way.”

                        Talking to Yua about her homeland was like trying to solve a Rubic's Cube, where every attempt to solve it just introduced a cavalcade of more questions. “Okay, what's a 'faded' dragonborn? And what's this Sixfold Way that you keep talking about?”

                        “The dragonborn who were created when the Curse Dragons dallied with mortals, just like the metal dragonborn and the jewel dragonborn,” she answered, “As for the Sixfold Way, it is a code of honour that guides our behaviour. All of the nobility of my homeland is expected to follow it, though not everyone has the strength of soul to swear to the way of the warrior-monk.” She smiled sadly. “I used to be so proud. I was the first woman of my clan to overcome the trials and swear the oath in a generation. Now....”

                        A thought suddenly occurred to me. I seized Yua by the shoulder and looked her in the eye. “Swearing you oath gives you powers, right? Powers granted by Sheomurath?”

                        “Y-yes,” she said, looking startled, “How did you...?”

                        “You can heal people with a touch, you're immune to disease, and you can... you can detect ill-intent?”

                        “Y-yes, that's exactly right. How did you know?”

                        I sighed, wishing that I had known it sooner.

                        “Yua, in these lands, this kind of warrior-monk... we call them a 'paladin'.”

                        ---------------------------

                        Character Name: Theodore Esche
                        Race: Human
                        Class: Transmuter
                        Level (XP): 3 (6170/10000)
                        Hit Points: 3/7

                        Ability Scores
                        Strength 11
                        Dexterity 17
                        Constitution 8
                        Intelligence 17
                        Wisdom 13
                        Charisma 14

                        Weapon Proficiencies: Darts
                        Nonweapon Proficiencies: Direction Sense, Etiquette, Reading/Writing, Swimming, Tailoring

                        Spells Per Day:
                        1st Level- 3
                        2nd Level- 2

                        Spellbook:
                        (1st Level): Armor, Burning Hands, Detect Magic, Detect Undead, Enlarge, Featherfall, Magic Missile, Mending, Read Magic, Sleep, Tenser's Floating Disc, Wall of Fog
                        (2nd Level): Knock

                        Spells Prepared:
                        (1st Level): Armor, Magic Missile, Sleep
                        (2nd Level): Knock

                        Equipment: Backpack, Bag of Fine Sand, Belt, Belt Pouch (Large, 3), Belt Pouch (Small, 4), Boots, Darts (19), Hand Mirror, Hat, Hooded Lantern, Pearl (worth 100gp), Robes (3), Signet Ring, Wedding Ring, Small Tent, Oil of Acid Resistance, mint green potion, Potion of Rainbow Hues

                        Money: 350 gp, 794 sp

                        Languages: Common, Elven, Dwarven, Orc, Goblin, Draconic, Ryujin

                        Companions: Voss (Level 3 Fighter), Raszil (Level 3 Cleric/Level 3 Thief), Moruca (Level 3 Ranger), Haseth (Level 3 Fighter), Yua (Servant?)

                        Elsewhere: Katriana (Level 3 Fighter, sister & wife), Ashryn (Level 3 Cleric, fiancee), Smokey Enna (Level 4 Fighter/Level 4 Thief), Bekker (Butler)

                        Sexual Partners: 5

                        Storage Chest: Alchemical Steel Broadsword, Alchemical Steel Bastard Sword, 299 pp, 2386 gp, 16 sp, 50 cp
                        Currently Playing: Dragon Star Varnir
                        Currently Working On: Vacation Updates
                        Current Waifu: Charlotta, Dragon Star Varnir

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