Travel weary and covered in various pollens, James pulled up his map.
“We should be home in a few hours. Thank god for these mounts,” He said as he patted the Ingo below him. James’s mount coo-ed.
"Awesome," a tired Omero said as he balled up a successful fist and shook it.
James figured that the time required to journey back home was halved because of the party’s increased travel speed. They would have gone even faster if they didn’t get stopped by so many aggressive creatures though. James made it a point to not fight or kill anything in the Great Savanna without the Martyr’s permission, but he was often given no choice but to defend himself and his party. The first beasts to attack the party were a group of large boar-like creatures. They looked exactly the same as the first creatures James came across when he entered the game and was trapped in Freydis’s tent. The pile of creatures in the tent where the first things James practiced his skinning skill on and he could remember how large they looked at the time. He was surprised at how small they were when he saw them alive, no doubt because he had just grown so drastically. But what the boars lacked in relative size they made up for in ferocity and determination. James had instructed his party to run away when the tusked boars charged them, but they simply didn’t give up and chased the party. It became clear that the boars didn’t have any sort of aggro zone, but that wasn’t what made James decide to kill them. He would have happily ran from them until they had to make camp for the night, just to make sure that they wouldn’t give up. The only problem was that the boars scared every blue flower on their relentless pursuit. After a few hours of being chased by the boars, the party found themselves in another dull blue fog of pollen. Alex was the one to suggest that the blue pollen served as a sort of warning signal to other flowers, letting them know there was something dangerous around. The party quickly found out that the blue pollen wasn’t just a signal for other blue flowers though, it was also a signal to larger predators.
As the party ran from the boars in a fog of blue pollen, an Abominar attacked. It took the party much longer to defeat the beast than the first time due to the fact that they couldn’t see the creature through the blue fog until it was either attacking them or falling through the sky in an effort to crush someone. It also didn’t help that Patrick got a case of the 'suicides' again and decided that he would get to the village quicker if he was just sent to respawn. James didn’t have a good grasp on the respawn system yet and wasn’t sure if they would respawn at the last respawn location they visited or at whichever one they were closest to. It was a risk he wasn’t willing to take considering that James was planning on entering the Lich King’s dungeon, along with Patrick, as soon as they got back to the village. So James was forced to Jump Strike into the Abominar that was smashing an indifferent Patrick into the ground.
Once the party learned how to traverse the Great Savanna without disturbing the blue flowers, their journey went by much more smoothly. They still had to kill various smaller beasts, but those battles didn’t take hours to win like a fight with an Abominar did.
“You're getting pretty big there buddy, did you stop investing in Wisdom?” Patrick said as he pulled up to James.
“I did actually, but my recent growth is from a ring I got. My Ingo woke me up the other night and gave it to me. Plus ten to strength,” James said with a smile.
Patrick’s face twisted in confusion, “You mean the mount that you hate… went off and found you some rare loot?”
“Extraordinary loot,” James corrected with a wink, “but yea. And I don’t hate him anymore - we are working through our differences. Right bud?” James said as he patted his mount.
Patrick laughed and shook his head, “What do I need to do to get my mount to find me things?”
“No clue man,” James answered with a shrug.
“Anyway, I just wanted to congratulate you on your size. You're almost as big as me now!”
“I know, it’s weird,” James said as he looked around. The red-head was right. James was now the second biggest person in the party. Just a few days ago, Alex was taller and more muscular than him. James’s thoughts drifted off to the Martyrs. He wondered if he would be bigger than Torunn now. Then he wondered how the village was fairing without him.
I am sure they are fine, James told himself. Patrick drifted away as the conversation died down. Such was the way of traveling the Great Savanna. It was so large that their days stretched on for small eternities. They did their best to chat when the had something to say, but when they didn’t - they all drifted off into their own thoughts.
James opened up his interface to see just how strong he had gotten.
James – Level 29 (2 levels gained since last open)
Constitution, Level 18 – Controls how much health you have and the rate at which you regain health.
Strength, Level 29 – Affects your ability to use weapons, lift objects, and your size.
Endurance, Level 11 - Controls how much energy you have and the rate your endurance regains.
Agility, Level 10 - Controls your movement abilities in battle, dodge, critical strikes, and unarmed combat damage and your ability to resist character controlling abilities.
Will, Level 12 – Affects your ability to tap into health, endurance, and mana reserves.
Intelligence, Level 34 – Controls the data you can gather from your interface, the world, and how much mana you have.
Wisdom, Level 35 – Controls the rate at which you gain all types of experience, and more.
4 statistic points ready to distribute.
James decided that he would bring his Strength up to thirty and then start investing in something else. Constitution was his next choice, but he wasn’t sure if it was necessary. Patrick, Michael, and Alex all had pretty high health levels, so James didn’t want to follow that same path. Now that his strength was almost as high as his intelligence, James did a good amount of damage with his short swords and his FireBolt spell. He was an adaptable fighter, which he thought was good, but if he focused on his constitution now he felt like he would become too spread out, stat-wise. Besides, if he ever found himself in a sticky situation, James had a feeling that he could rely on his health reserves granted by his Will skill. He could always focus on increasing that statistic through actions. He just had to find a way to train in such a manner that increased that statistic. If he did he would have a reliable way to essentially increase his health points without wasting the stat points he got every level. James wasn’t exactly sure what digging into his ‘health reserves’ looked like in real life as he never had the chance to do it. He had come close to dying when he had to save Patrick from the latest Abomminar attack, but his health never got low enough to activate any sort of reserves. Still, though, James figured he had enough information to focus on something else.
His next obvious choice was to focus on increasing his intelligence, but the entire idea of becoming a mage gave him anxiety. Abaddon and Sorrell both told him that if your mastery of magic increased enough the magic would warp and affect your body. He wasn’t sure if he wanted that to happen more than it already was and he knew if he focused on increasing his intelligence he would cast more spells with his larger mana pool and therefore increase his fire mastery faster.
Shit, James thought before closing his interface and feeling the ring around his left ring finger, Should I just remove this? James nodded to himself as his mount plodded along. Then he removed the ring that allowed his fire mastery to increase at a faster rate. He put the ring into his satchel. Maybe I will need you later, but not right now.
James pulled up his interface again and realized that for the first time, he wasn’t sure what his growth strategy should be. It was an odd feeling. The party, he reminded himself, I have to make up for the party's weaknesses.
James put one of his free points into strength, bringing it up to 30. His notification icon starting blinking, but he decided to check it out after. He used another 2 points to bring his constitution up to an even 20. He would no doubt have another notification to look at now. James spent his final point on agility, just because he had tripped numerous times already. Once when fighting the Abomminar and another time when he fell into Abaddon’s magical dome of protection and hit his head on the marble floor. James looked over his stat sheet once again and became familiar with the numbers.
Okay, that is where all of you are going to stay for awhile, except intelligence,James thought, making the decision on his future growth plan. He would invest in intelligence because his party already had a good deal of competent fighters, but he wouldn’t use more fire spells. Instead, he would focus on learning a new mastery, a new type of spell. His party needed a mage, but they didn't necessarily need a fire mage. Maybe that woman in the village can teach me water mastery, James thought idly as the two feet of his mount devoured the distance left to the village.
“Hey, did you guys name your mounts?” James yelled to his party, who were consciously drifting apart so they could avoid stepping near the blue flowers better.
“Patrick,” Patrick said.
James sighed, “You can’t name everything after you.”
Alex and Omero both laughed as they shook their heads in disbelief.
“Okay,” Patrick replied, “His name shall be… Mounty. He is bigger than the other mounts, like a mountain, and he is also a mount… so Mounty.”
“Okay, okay, not bad, not bad,” James said with a smile, “ At least we will be able to tell him apart from you and the Martyr cub now.”
“Sort of,” Omero yelled over the sound of numerous Ingo feet beating against the Great Savanna, “They are all tall, fat, and hairy! Could still get confusing.”
James’s laughter joined that of his partys. When everyone was done congratulating Omero on his insult, James patted his mount and leaned toward its ear, “You will be Fetcher,” James said. The mount cooed in approval.
Congratulations! Your strength has reached level 30! You are becoming so massive that your muscles provide a small boost to armor. +5 armor.
Instead of asking Patrick about what his level 30 strength perk was, James went straight to Omero. James could tell from the notes that Alex never got a strength perk that increased his armor, but he could see that Patrick might have. The only difference between Patrick’s perk and James’s most recent one was that Patrick’s prompt just said, “Grats, your muscles are like stone,”. That was no surprise to James though. Everyone knew that Patrick’s interface prompts were less than helpful because he never spent a single point in intelligence. What did surprise James though, was that according to Omero’s notes, Patrick got the prompt at level 20.
We all get different perks, James thought, son of an Ingo bird. That makes everything SOOO much more complicated.
James briefed the party on his new discovery. They all seemed like they couldn’t care less. He tried to describe to them the importance of the discovery, but no matter what he said, no one was phased.
“Do you still want me to keep track of all these things?” Omero asked as he tapped his burnt stick against his book of maps.
“Yes,” James said, “We should still track it all, even if everyone gets awarded different things. I am sure there is a limit or a pattern somewhere, and if there is… we need to find it.”
Omero nodded happily, “Good. I still think it is a good idea,” Omero said with a smile.”
“Thanks, man, me too,” James said, appreciative of Omero’s sentiment.
“Land Ho’!” Patrick bellowed from up ahead.
Omero seemed to grasp what Patrick was talking about a split second before James did. The Italian dug his heels into his mount and sped off. James watched Omero speed away, leaving him in a cloud of dust. James looked down to his own mount and attempted to dig his heels in the same way Omero did. Fetcher didn’t increase his speed at all and instead only let out a pitiful groan.
“C’mon bud, we are finally home!” James pleaded, to no avail. He looked around and realized that the rest of the part was still keeping pace with him, unable to motivate their mounts to run faster.
James pulled on the furry feathers on Fetcher’s right shoulder and the mount changed direction slightly. Out of Omero’s dust trail, James could finally see his village for the first time. A large weight was finally able to fall off his shoulders. He was finally home, and what was even better was that his mission was successful. They found a spell that would allow them to enter the Lich King’s dungeon and save the imprisoned humans without worrying about dying. They couldn’t cast the spell on everyone just yet, not until Lilly journeyed to the Underworld and learned the spell, but they had enough protected people to start dungeon diving.
Patrick and Alex condensed their traveling formation and strode closer to James. Patrick nodded his head toward the village and asked, “That village is our home right?”
James’s face twisted in confusion. He couldn’t see everything in detail just yet, but he could certainly make out the mountain range that they slept under. James squinted his eyes and was able to just make out a brown splotch a little distance up the mountain that was their cabin.
“Yea, of course, it is. Why do you ask?”
Patrick laughed, “Well I was just wondering how long we were going to call it “our village.’ If it is going to be our permanent home it needs a name of its own.”
James nodded his head, “You are absolutely right, sir. I already know what we should call it.”
“What?” Alex and Patrick asked in imperfect unison.