Sam led Randidly over to the far side of the table, where most of the people were clustered. Then Sam picked up what seemed to be a strange sort of wide woven blanket, and threw it to Randidly. Reflexively, he caught it, marveling at the strange clinking noise the thing made as it flew through the air.
With his hands on it, Randidly abruptly realized that the source of the strangeness was because it was chainmail; it was hundreds of quarter sized circles of bone woven together. Someone without Sam’s Skill would have been unable to manage it. Each was slightly curved, so the joining flowed seamlessly, and the woven bone could moved like a very heavy cloth.
But then Randidly looked closer at each bone, and saw that each and every one of the smaller circles of bone was Mana Engraved. Every single one. As he scanned over the portion that his hands were holding, he saw several he recognized, and a few others he didn’t and was instantly perplexed. Instead of asking questions, Randidly simply brought up the description for the item.
Masterwork Bone Cloak (A) Lvl 50: An inspired bonemail cloak from the man known as the Dawn Smith. Although the elements between the work and the forger are somewhat conflicting, they have been weaved together in a harmonious manner. The many runes that cover the cloak only possess a portion of their usual strength, but together they add to the defense of the armor. Touched by Twilight IV. Forged by Dawn IV. Endurance, Vitality, Strength, Agility, Reaction, and Perception +10.
Touched by Twilight: The creator of the Cloak infused it heavily with the Shadow V Mana Engraving, but this shadow was heavily influenced by the first rays of the Dawn. Enemies will find it very difficult to pin down your location. Sound made by the Cloak will be muted and echo strangely in the surrounding area. Leave a trail of afterimages in your wake. There is a random chance that a projection of your future moves with be sent forward, confusing your opponents. While wearing the Cloak, you gain the Skill Twilight Manipulation Lvl 75.
Forged by Dawn IV: The light of the Dawn fills the armor, granting it a random quality that few other armors possess. While some armors inherit the dawn’s heat, or brightness, or awe inspiring presence, this armor has been infused with the Dawn’s purity. Health +300, Resistance +30.
Randidly whistled. Then, with trembling hands, he slid the Bone Cloak over his shoulders. It settled there cleanly, the clinking sound echoing out, filling the air, bouncing back and forth as the thing swung softly back and forth. Then he pulled up the bone hood. Immediately, Randidly could feel the twilight around him, and he could sense the small vision impurities in the air around him, hiding his movements, just slightly, from those that watched. As he moved, it was as if he was moving behind a grey curtain, the specifics fuzzy, the details of his face and motions obscured.
Randidly grinned. He really fucking liked this. Twilight Manipulation was something he needed to practice more with, but giving him more stealth and feints in close combat was exactly what he wanted for an extended campaign into the Dungeon. The bonus Health, Resistance, and other Stats were nothing to sneeze at either.
Slowly, Randidly pulled the hood back down and looked at Sam with a meaningful glance. “...Thank you.”
Sam grunted, waving his hand. “It was nothing. A little bit of a bitch to Engrave so many tiny bits, but… all in all, I’d say it's one of the only things that I think is passable-”
“Seriously,” Randidly said, somewhat frustrated by Sam’s gruff exterior. It was still one of the reasons that Sam was the first person in Donnyton that Randidly truly opened up to, but Randidly had matured a lot since those days. For him, two years had passed. It was one thing to be emotionally muffled out of awkwardness, it was quite another to allow a debt like this to simply lie, because he wasn’t willing to put himself out there and ask the price. “Tell me what you want for this. It’s… it’s the highest Rarity I’ve ever seen on an equipment.”
“Yup.” Sam said, as if this was the most natural thing in the world. “And don’t think I wasn’t rewarded for making the second Ancient Rarity equipment: I was. Which is why, the only payment I need is to see you fight.”
Randidly almost wanted to roll his eyes. But he could sense that Sam wasn’t going to back down on this one, so he just resolved himself to be on the lookout for things that he could do for Sam. “Alright then. Who am I dueling?”
“Me.” Sam said, pulling a large set of plate armor over his head. Then, after he latched it shut, he began to put on vambraces and grieves, and then finally a metal helmet, like a jousting knight of old. Looking profoundly silly, armor-Sam stood, hefting a war hammer.
Perhaps not silly, Randidly reminded himself. It was just… Sam looked very much like a legitimate knight out of a fairy tale. Most of the people Randidly had seen around had an amalgamation of armor, leathers, and jeans, a strange mixture of olden style armors and current leftover fashion. But Sam had abandoned that, and simply embraced the tried and true utility of a suit of armor. The armor itself was nothing to sneeze at either, glistening silver gold in the light as Sam approached.
“Let’s begin,” Sam said, stepping forward.
When Dozer walked into the room, Annie looked up from the baby, narrowing her eyes at him.
“So?” Annie asked, her tone extremely casual. Inwardly, she winced. He would know immediately from the way she said that how much it meant to her. But to her surprise, Dozer said nothing, he just grunted and sat down on his chair, then spoke after several seconds.
“It’s like you said. Is there anything that’s needed to watch the baby…?” As he spoke, Dozer stood again, and went to the wall for a pack. Then he began to slowly move items into it.
Annie’s heart clenched. She was very glad in that moment that Dozer was turned the other way, so he couldn’t see her face. He would see how devastated she was, how resentful, how… how…
It wasn’t that any of this should come as a surprise. Dozer, aside from Donny, was the best of anyone in the Village at locking down one powerful foe, while the rest of the party inflicted damage. Inside a Dungeon, Dozer’s contributions would be invaluable. And because of the baby, only one of them could go, no matter how useful Annie would be.
Hell, she would be-
She could be-
Silently, tears streamed down her face, running down her cheeks and dripping onto the baby’s sleeping face. The little girl stirred, and Annie leaned back, wiping away some of the tears, all the while, keeping her eyes trained on Dozer’s back. She could be like this now, while he worked, and while he was away, but… but… if he were to turn around…
And that was the worst part. Because in her heart, Annie knew she would say nothing, no matter how upset she was over this, over the fact that she would have loved the chance to go on this journey, relished this chance to finally get to go out of Donnyton since being pregnant. Dozer had worked so hard to protect her, and now he was doing it again, and was so fucking logical about it.
She wanted to manipulate him, to wrap him around her finger, but-
Dozer turned around. Annie sneezed, managing to pick up a tissue and reasonably wipe her face before he could see her. Were her eyes red? He was staring at her for a long time. Was this one of those things where he could see through what she was doing again…? God, she fucking hated his stupid-
“Be careful.” Dozer said simply offering her the pack.
“Eh…?” Annie blinked slowly, unable to understand. She looked at him, and then the pack. Setting the baby down, she took the pack, cradling it in her arms, unsure of what was going on. Dozer picked up the baby.
“Like I said earlier,” Dozer said, a decided twinkle in the corner of his eye. “Is there anything that’s needed to watch the baby? I’m not you, but-”
Annie took the baby from Dozer, carried her to the crib, and set her down gently. Then she tackled the man she loved to the ground, or tried to, filled with manic energy and glee and euphoria, fully intending to bite off a chunk of him to take with her for the road, so the nights wouldn’t be too lonely.
As it happens, she only managed to embrace him, and then collapsed in his arms, letting his huge hands pick her up and cradle her.
Randidly cracked his neck, wincing. Although he hadn’t really been all that pressured by Sam during their duel, the other man was almost annoyingly impervious to damage. It took Randidly a full 15 minutes to work up the nerve to hit the armor with a full strength attack, only to have it rebound, almost useless. Then a further 15 minutes of methodical targeting to rip into it.
All in all, it had filled Randidly with an awe for Sam and his craft, and also a healthy curiosity about how Dozer and Donny would look in full armor, protected like that. But apparently their vicious duel was enough of a sample, and Sam went to work, preparing the materials for the spear Randidly would use.
So Randidly had come back to the headquarters, and was speaking with Mrs. Hamilton.
“All I’m saying is that it would be wise to invite them.” She said with a shrug.
Randidly gave her a bitter look. “Sure, we were friends before, but Ace… he’s a little off these days. Everyone has scars from the System. He’s not someone I want at my back. I get that you think this makes it better politically-”
“Oh hush, that’s all a front,” Mrs. Hamilton said, waving her hands. “But it’s always good to keep those things in mind. No, the reason you invite Ace is not for him, but for Rose Calloway. Even you cannot deny that her ability to read Skills is… useful. In the middle of a Dungeon, with unknown threats….? Her detection would make the trip that much safer. Just consider it, alright? She won’t come without the man who calls himself Dauntless. And if anyone could control him… wouldn’t it be you…?”
Then she left, leaving Randidly to mull this information over. Or likely, she hoped that would be the case. But instead, Randidly met Neveah outside of town, and had her carry him far to the East again. When he did this, he wanted to be alone, with a lot of buffer around him, in case… in case something went wrong, and there was some sort of Aether reaction.
“Alright…” Randidly said to himself, psyching himself up. “Time to make a Class.”