Randidly and Rejt trooped down the long tunnel toward the second Obelisk. The traps and monsters had already been cleared through, but monsters would continue to spawn until the obelisk was claimed, Randidly was informed. Not that it mattered. Randidly kept a sliver of his Perception forward and simply ripped the Level 7 mobs to shreds as soon as they spawned. For them, the walk down was downright leisurely.
As then walked, Randidly chewed on his lip in confusion. “So you never received any notifications about Village Spirits or Villages?”
Rejt shook his head. “No. Only the obelisks. ‘Seek the Obelisk to find your destiny, and leave a legacy for those that follow.’ Very intriguing. I was tempted to seize the obelisk for myself, but Allica was… rather rude about it. As you know, she has strong feelings. Apparently, it is a strategic resource. You’ll see below.”
But Randidly couldn’t wrap his head around what was going on here. Why had the methods of the System changed? “So everyone who gets a Class at the obelisk gets the same? And are there any requirements for getting a Class? How many Classers-”
“Easy!” Rejt laughed. “You take this almost as seriously as Allica. Why stress, when we can simply look around and find more obelisks?”
“The monsters and traps that guard them are going to become more powerful,” Randidly said with a short shake of the head.
Rejt grinned back at him. “Not as quickly as I will. You forget how invincible I am. But no, not all Classes are the same, but they are related. From the first Obelisk, most of those who chose to obtain a Class obtained Wayfinder, but we also acquired a few Hunters and Woodsmen of the Baleful Wood. As for requirements…”
After rummaging in his pockets for a while, Rejt produced a handful of sparkling copper coins. “These are dropped by monsters. A hundred copper will allow you to purchase a Class. I took only a day to reach a sufficient point, but most others are still struggling to do so. Only the best obtained a Class so quickly. Still, the one Class we have is rather… well. What is this ‘Baleful Wood’ that the Class refers to?”
“What sort of Skill restrictions do the Classes have?” Randidly asked as he had ignored the jab at his own Class, his heart tightening in his chest. Good thing that Rejt himself hadn’t received a Class. He could explain about gathering enough Skills prior to obtaining a Class… That would likely help these people grow.
But Rejt just stared at him. “Skill restrictions? I have not heard of this. It was not included in the Class notifications. Why would there be Skill restrictions?”
Randidly had no response that would make sense. Why, indeed? He supposed that since he was supplying the Aether rather than the System, people could gather as many Skills as they wanted.
“Can you buy anything else at the obelisk?” Randidly asked instead.
Nodding, Rejt said, “Yes. One hundred thousand coins can be turned in for an upgrade to the obelisk. Although no one knows what that means, most of those not part of the Torchbearers are clamoring for the Torchbearers to clear out the surrounding area and upgrade the obelisk. They seem to think it will solve the food crisis.”
Randidly’s mind moved lightning fast. If the obelisk was really a streamlined Village… “Probably won’t even affect food. But it might offer more Class options, allow you to buy weapons, or learn special utility Skills that are pretty useful. I would recommend trying it as soon as possible.”
Rejt threw up his hands. “Always more work! Gather the coins yourself. Are you not all powerful?”
Grinning, Randidly said. “Only compared to you.”
“Pah, then why did we walk all the way down here on foot? Someone one of your godly steeds,” Rejt grumbled.
The two arrived at the labyrinth, which now had helpful signs that allowed them to reach the center without trouble. As promised, the central clearing was dominated by a crystalline obelisk with a black stone at its tip, very similar to the one at the center of the shanty town above. In addition, there were a number of tents and carts spread in the surrounding area, as well as almost fifty people.
Monsters and White Hunters helped Weavers carry boxes too and fro, while there were other groups studying the obelisk directly with strange devices. Randidly couldn’t suppress a wince as he noticed most of those devices had the distinctive mark of Alta’s handiwork. It will take a long time to rid ourselves of your habit of taking the energy from the world itself, without a thought to the consequences…
When the two arrived, they were immediately swarmed. Not because of Randidly, but because of Rejt. He was immediately bombarded with questions about the obelisk, the plans for a permanent settlement here, and when the obelisk would be activated.
Rejt acted like he hadn’t heard a thing and walked calmly forward, forcing the group to scramble sideways to not be trampled. Amused, Randidly followed.
They eventually arrived at the largest tent, and only then did Rejt speak to the group. “Send Talim, Grem, and Eulia to me. We will activate the obelisk within the hour.”
Then the two shut the tent flap and Rejt rubbed his neck. “I much preferred when it was not I who was so impressive that the crowds gather for me. The pressure of being influential… I shall soon buckle under its strain.”
“Don’t be dramatic,” Randidly quipped back. “What you are feeling is likely just old age.”
“Ha, coming from you?” Rejt shot back. “How ancient are you, anyway? To have seen the dawn of the world… it must have been quite a sight.”
Randidly shook his head helplessly, with the time difference, this debate would become largely semantic. Instead, he asked, “Are you really going to activate the obelisk now? I’d appreciate the chance to watch, but-”
“I am,” Rejt affirmed. “Not because of you, but because we must know what it does to the mist in the surrounding area when the obelisk is activated. We expect that it will drive the mist away, but that is just conjecture based upon the lack of mist around the first obelisk. The mist can be slowly driven away by careful exploration, but that process is very slow. Plus, the new Class option might draw more to join the Torchbearers. The addition area cleared of mist certainly will, if it happens.”
On cue, the tent flap opened and three figures walked through it. Of the three, Randidly recognized two: Talim was Allica’s brother and Grem was a dour Monster that Randidly had often eavesdropped on while he was staying in Carthak. The third was a Weaver with luminous chitin exterior that was really rather lovely in its cream color.
Rejt gestured lazily toward the three. “The choice is rather straightforward. Talim is a solid warrior. A battle focused Class would be useful, I feel. Allica leans more toward Grem. He is a craftsman and a carpenter, which would hopefully give us more capability to build cities and walls. The monster threat has proven to be more problematic than we anticipated.”
Randidly nodded. Both were understandable choices.
“Finally…” Rejt studied the Weaver, Eulia, for several long seconds. “This one is the follower of the Scarred Woman. She can use Mana to Engrave strange symbols into all manner of substances. It is… admittedly useful, but would not address either of our short term problems.”
Randidly’s heart rate increased and he raised an eyebrow. Had she truly lived…? “...the Scarred Woman?”
Rejt bared his teeth. “You have to admit, keeping the name Queen of Talons wasn’t really an option, was it? The number of people she has killed… well. Her small role now is enough for her. And it cannot be denied that she is useful.”
To his surprise, Randidly felt a flash of relief. Lucretia is alive. All the knowledge she had gathered with him about engraving and the System hadn’t been lost!
But then he focused and considered the three options in front of him. Talim regarded Randidly suspicious. Eulia’s Weaver face was rather mystifying to Randidly; he couldn’t make heads or tails of what she thought. And Grem just morosely looked straight ahead, as if all of this had nothing to do with him.
Scratching his neck, Randidly finally said. “...Grem is probably the best option. Anyone who already wanted to fight probably is already in the Torchbearers. A combat Class won’t sway people much. And I saw the city of hovels springing up; you need a cohort of people who can build. And it will give the people who want to help, but aren’t brave enough to fight, a way to contribute.”
Rejt nodded, and very quickly the ceremony was complete. Randidly wasn’t sure what he expected, but the activation of the obelisk was rather underwhelming. Grem trudged up to it and laid his hands upon the exterior. After a few seconds, the crystal at the top began to glow rust red. The exterior of the obelisk changed to a slate grey.
Grem announced he had obtained the Class “Stone Singer” and proceeded to demonstrate by singing in a jaw-droppingly impressive baritone to cause the stone beneath his feet to slowly rise into a low platform.
It was rather slow even by old world building standards, Randidly noticed, but he knew that this would improve with Skill Levels and Stats. These people were all so new to the System. They had so much room to grow.
Like predicted, about a two-kilometer circle of space was cleared of mist. What was revealed was a rather grim and inhospitable mountain range, but Randidly was incredibly amused to witness Grem’s reaction to the new surround land.
“Huh,” He said stiffly after he had clambered out of the tunnel into the ground and looked around. It wasn’t a smile that crossed his mouth, but it seemed for a second that the deep lines across his face disappeared. “Reminds me of home.”
Afterward, he immediately began constructing a Fortress of Solitude in which to spend his time learning about his new Skills.
Rejt sighed woefully, “He’s not going to just make houses for people, will he…”
Chuckling, Randidly shook his head. “I suppose not.”