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“Ok, I give up.”

Lumi threw up her hands in exasperation after her tenth attempt at trying to silently cast one of her [Spell Shaper] forms.

They’d been traveling the road again for the past few hours. Lumi had told Jason and Kera that despite how well things had gone in the dungeon, she felt that announcing her moves to her opponents was more than sub-optimal, so she had been trying to set her up a series of silent commands similar to what she now used for [Elemental Cantrips]..

The results had not gone well.

Lumi growled under her breath.

“I just can’t get these gestures exact enough each time. The System wants something very precise. Words, thoughts, phrases... the trigger has to be performed exactly the same each time or it doesn’t work. I don’t get it. It’s not like my [Mobility] or [Cantrip] skills need that kind of precision, why do spells?”

“Because magic?” Jason suggested. “I kid, but that really could be the reason. I mean, we can infer that [Elemental Cantrips] is a bit unusual, right? And we’ve seen that normal spells do very specific things so they probably have some kind of structure even if we don’t know what it is.”

“And therefore it stands to reason that casting them needs precision,” Lumi finished for him with a sigh. “Yes, I know. I’d hoped it wasn’t the case, but until I can get someone to teach me more I guess I’m going to have to resign myself to shouting all my attacks like some kind of bad anime character.”

“Is that really such a terrible thing?” asked Kera, removing the strawberry she she’d been nibbling from her mouth.

Jason had wanted to just take all the ones they’d harvested before leaving the dungeon and store them in the [Handy Haversack], but Lumi had overruled him, pointing out that they now had several pounds of them, and everyone, including Jason, was tired of mushrooms day and night.

Not that that had stopped them from adding more mushrooms to their stock as well, given they were good for more health potions.

In the end, Jason had conceded the point, and they’d stored a significant number of both strawberries and mushrooms in one pouch for potions, while putting the rest in a second compartment to be raided for snacks as they traveled.

“I’m just saying,” Kera, said, gesturing with her half-eaten strawberry, “at least you can have fun with it right? I mean I don’t disagree with why you want to change it, but you could always do something really silly with the names, or yell ‘Fireball!’ but actually rain water on their heads.”

Lumi shook her head. “You can’t do that second one, actually.”

“What, really?” Jason asked.

“Nope. Tried already. The system won’t even let me register a trigger like that. Almost like a chat filter. It has to be a vocalization that’s at least kind of accurate, or a complex gesture or thought. Or a combination. But you can’t misdirect for some reason.”

“That... kind of sucks actually,” Jason said. “From a gaming standpoint I could see someone doing that for balance reasons, like how in MMOs that have the ability to alter your equipment models, you sometimes can’t do it in PVP because otherwise people would make themselves look like other classes, but why would that matter here?”

Kera and Lumi both shrugged. Kera went back to sucking on her strawberry.

“Who knows,” said Lumi. “Just chalk it up to more weirdness I guess. Maybe someone will know the answer.”

Ceri suddenly came squawking down from the canopy, landing with a frantic flapping of wings in Kera’s arms.

“Ow, Ceri, watch the claws,” Kera said with a wince. “What’s got-“ she paused as Ceri made a series of chirping sounds.

“Oh!” She said. She stood a little straighter, her voice perking up. “Speaking of someones...” she said brightly, “We’ve got company incoming.”

“What, really?” Jason said. He felt a rush of excitement. “The good kind I’m guessing?”

Ceri seemed to be alternating between odd hisses and small squawks, all directed at Kera. Jason knew the girl had [Empathic Link], and that Kera had said she could use it communicate with the drake, but this was the first time Jason had seen Ceri try to actively ‘talk’ to Kera. Usually it was more like Kera talking at him than an actual conversation.

After a few seconds of listening, Kera rewarded her friend with a second, un-nibbled strawberry, which he eagerly seized with his long, thin talons. Ceri then clambered up Kera’s arm to usual shoulder perch.

The sight of the small lizard greedily chewing on the overly-large berry while sitting on the girl’s shoulder reminded Jason somewhat of a squirrel or a hamster chowing down on nuts.

“Looks like travelers,” Kera confirmed to them. “Or maybe a lone merchant. Hard to say, since there’s um, lots lost in translation so to speak, but Ceri says there some kind of horse drawn-vehicle approaching, with a single driver. At least I think he was describing horses. I got the overall impression of something like a wagon or carriage.”

“Thank god,” Lumi said, rolling her head and shoulders. Though Jason was the only one with a loaded backpack currently thanks to his [Handy Haversack]’s weight reduction, all of them were suffering from sore muscles. They were all used to the soft life of the city, not sleeping rough for days at a time. Even Jason, with his camping and hiking experience, was suffering. He was still used to a higher level of comfort in the form of modern tents and tools, after all.

“Hopefully this means we’re close to civilization finally,” Lumi continued.

“Maybe we can even get a ride,” Kera suggested. “Trade a potion or two for a lift?”

“Ok, well, let’s do this properly,” Lumi said. “How soon will they be here?”

“Very shortly,” Kera replied.

Lumi grumbled. “No time to prepare then. Too bad, I’d’ve liked a wash before we talk to people.”

“Oh well.” she said a shrug.

Turning to Jason, she gestured for him to take the lead. “You do the talking for now. We don’t know anything about these people’s culture around here, so I don’t want to risk insulting someone because women aren’t supposed to be talking to them or some bullshit like that. I’m probably just being overly cautious here but, well, it’s far more likely that if there is an imbalance the people here will be patriarchal. I suspect that with the System in place that adventurers are common, which should translate to more acceptance of females taking charge, but that’s not a guarantee. After all, the vikings had the Valkyries, but their art was still full of men being served by women.”

“Really?’ Kera asked. “Viking types are usually pretty pro-warrior-women in games.”

“I’m afraid thats a case of ‘what we like to believe’ rather than ‘what the historical evidence actually implies’,” Lumi replied.

“Oh.”

“So you do the talking til we know otherwise,” Lumi said, referring to Jason. “I’ll stand a bit behind you, but I’m going to have my sword visible just in case. Kera, you hang back a bit, and keep Ceri quiet, but don’t hide him. We don’t know how people will react to him either, so let’s not call attention to him. That sound good to everyone?’

Jason and Kera both nodded. They moved to the side of the road, out of the way, with Jason slightly in the lead, attempting to look like merely a group of travelers themselves.

In the distance, a covered wagon that bore only a slight resemblance to the those of the old American Midwest that Jason had learned about in high school. The wagon itself was made of polished wood, with a high-backed seat for a single driver placed above and to the front, much like a carriage would have. The wagon itself was open to the air on the sides, but a had low wooden rail with six tall posts, three along each side, that supported a high roof made of cloth that served as a covering for both wagon and driver. The roof was slightly curved, serving to ward off both sun and rain.

In moments, the lone driver was pulling back on the reigns of the two horses responsible for pulling the vehicle. Jason looked up into the friendly, weathered face of a woman much older than he was. She was deeply tanned, with once-black hair now streaked heavily with gray. Dressed in simple leather armor, she had a short sword sheathed at her hip, with a second, longer sword strapped to her back.

“Wellanow,” the woman said, looking down on them with a chuckle, “here I’d thought at first you lot might be bandits and I’d finally need to actually put my swords to use, but you aren’t much more than a bunch of kids. What on earth has you out in the middle of the Prisal Woods looking like you’ve been roughed up from one end of it to the other? I don’t recognize you, so you aren’t from Arnvale.”

“No, ma’am,” Jason said politely. “We’re um, sort of lost, actually. It’s a little bit of a long story really-“

“Lost?” the woman interrupted. “What do you mean ‘lost’? This road goes one of three places, and one of those is a real long trip. Not sure how you could get lost walking the only road between Arnvale and the rest of civilization without knowing where you were.”

Jason hesitated. The woman spoke with a fair bit of force, and gave off a rather intimidating vibe, for all her age and the friendly look on her face. He looked to Lumi, unsure of what to say.

The woman seemed to pick up on his hesitation. She sighed, and tried to moderate her tone.

“Sorry kid, I’m not trying to be hard on you. My patience is just a bit thin after having to deal with those price-gouging money-hoarders back in Feron. I don’t bite, really.”

“What brings you out here? From the looks of you, something gives me a feeling you aren’t just a bunch of kids playing around at being newbie adventurers.”

“Playing!?” Kera said indignantly. “We’re not kids!”

Lumi put a hand on her shoulder and whispered something, and the girl quieted, allowing Jason to reply.

“No ma’am, we aren’t,” Jason said. “In fact, we were hoping you might be able to assist us. You’re the first person we’ve seen out here for days, actually.”

“Days?” the woman asked, “it’s 30 miles between Arnvale and Feron. That’s only a one day trip on horseback. How long have you been out here?”

“Ummm...” Jason scratched at his head, thinking. “Let’s see...”

“Four days.” Lumi said, speaking up. “But some of that was off-road.”

“Only four...? But you aren’t from Arnvale or Feron? That doesn’t make sense.”

A sudden idea occurred to Jason. It was only a half truth, but could be plausible, and might get them some more information. He decided to gamble.

“Right. We um, we actually aren’t from anywhere around here,” Jason began. He heard Lumi inhale sharply behind him.

“We.. well like I said it’s a bit of a story, but uh, there was this... wizard... who was making some kind of big... teleport thing for long range travel-“

“You mean a Wayfinder’s Gate?” the woman asked.

“Maybe? Anyway, the three of us were nearby when something went badly wrong, and we all got hit by some kind of spell that picked us up and hurled us around like rag dolls, and we ended up here. I don’t have any idea where we are, but I’ve got some wilderness skills, and half the plants and animals we’ve come across I've never even heard of, so... wherever we got teleported, it was really far. Like, maybe even ‘other side of the world’ far.”

The woman gave Jason a long look, and then transferred her gaze to Lumi, and then Kera. She seemed to take in the state of their clothes.

She turned back to Jason. “If that’s the case, you’re lucky to be alive, then. Really lucky. I saw the results of a Gate malfunction, once. It... wasn’t pretty. Half the town died, in probably one of the worst ways possible."

“I’m sorry if you’ve... lost anyone,” she finished quietly.

Jason cleared his throat and took a big breath, as if putting on a show of being brave. “We’re um, trying not to think about it too much and make do.“

“Sorry to bring it up. But if you ever make it back, assuming you do go back, you’d better prepare yourselves for the worst. In all my time adventuring, I don’t think I’ve ever seen a long range teleport go bad that ended in anything but tragedy. You are very lucky to still be standing, much less be in one piece and not stuck half inside a tree. Teleporting farther than you can see requires some serious work and absolute precision.”

“You’re an adventurer then?” asked Kera brightly.

The woman chuckled to herself. “Ex-adventurer. Maybe semi-retired is a better word. I still do odd jobs here and there to keep myself busy, but ever since I nearly lost my leg below the knee to a warlock’s [Black Arrow], I-“

Jason was overcome by a sudden coughing fit. Lumi pounded him on the back, glaring at him from behind, where the woman couldn’t see her trying to suppress a laugh of her own.

“Sorry, uh,” Jason said, covering his mouth with a fist and faking a cough. “Swallowed a bug. Yuck. Carry on.”

The woman looked at him suspiciously for a second, but then continued “Anyway, that wised me up that I was getting on in age, and I married my partner and we moved way out here to the frontier to spend our well-earned loot in peace. Set ourselves up a nice little farm, and we do odd jobs to help out the locals when we feel like it, and so on.”

She slapped her palm against the side of the wagon. “Bought this old thing so I could occasionally run goods up to Feron’s market for folks who ain’t willing or able to make the trip, and I live a pretty decent life these days. Not bad for retirement; beats getting turned into dungeon food on some damnfool crusade.”

“The name’s Raelin, by the way,” she said holding out a hand to Jason. “Now, would I be right in assuming you lot got picked up and thrown out here without much if anything to your name? I do see the young lady there has a sword, but you all don’t exactly seem to be carrying much.”

“Ahh, yes, basically,” replied Jason, after introducing himself and the others. “We’ve managed to make do thanks to me having some crafting skills, but we basically started out with just my bag and her sword and nothing else. Everything else we’ve got with us I’ve had to make.”

Raelin eyed Jason’s spear and Lumi and Kera’s empty frogskin packs critically.

“That frogoid skin those’re made of?” She asked. “Not half bad for a bunch of novices.”

“Yeah, we ran into one our first day,” Lumi said.

“Well, you lot seem pretty alright, and I’m not one to turn down travelers in need. Couldn’t really call myself a proper adventurer if I did now could I?” Raelin gestured towards the back of her wagon. “Hop in. I can give you a lift to Arnvale at the very least. It’s only a few hours from here if I miss my guess. Should be there by evening.”

Jason paused while the girls unhitched the door and began climbing into the wagon. He pulled a few of his stone vials from his belt.

“Actually, thank you, um, I don’t want to impose, but seeing as we’re totally devoid of money for a place to stay... would you maybe be willing to make a trade? I’ve got some healing potions I made, and you said you were an adventurer...”

He trailed off as Raelin gave him an odd look.

“Kid,” she began, “if you’re capable of making healing potion, you’ve got coin available. Any adventurer around would buy even the weakest of them off you if you didn’t want it. If you can make them fresh, any Guild branch would at least buy them on the cheap if they were out of stock. If it’ll make you feel better to sell one rather than take some charity, I’d be more than happy to take one off your hands. What’s the duration?

“Uh, like five minutes,” he replied. “They’re only least potions,” Jason said with a shrug.

Raelin rolled her eyes. “I don’t mean how long they take to work, I mean how long will the enchantment hold?”

“Enchantment?” Jason asked, confused.

“You know, how long til they go bad?” Raelin replied, impatient.

“Uhh, they don’t?” Jason looked down at the stone vial in his hand. “I mean my skill said permanent so I don’t think...”

He trailed off. The woman was staring at him, a mixture of different emotions flickering rapidly across her face. Coming to some sort of decision, she held out a hand.

“Show me,” she ordered.

Jason cringed inwardly, for woman’s aura of intimidation was back, her face serious. He passed her a vial.

Raelin pulled a small gemstone out of her pocket, and passed it several times around the vial. She muttered a few different analyze commands under her breath; Jason didn’t catch them all. Finally, put the stone away and handed the vial back to Jason.

Then she just leaned back in her seat, crossed her arms and looked at him for a few moments, considering.

“Kid,” She said quietly. “Don’t lie to me. This is important. Where did you get these?”

Jason considered lying anyway for a moment, and saying they’d gotten them among the dungeon loot, but something about the woman’s seriousness stopped him. She wasn’t hostile, just... concerned. And this seemed like important information. So he gambled again, this time with the truth.

“I told you, I made them,” he said, looking her straight in the eye.

“Impossible,” Raelin said. “Liquids can’t hold enchantments beyond a certain point. Without a runic structure to hold the mana in, enchantments dissipate at a rate proportional to the amount of mana used to fashion them. And you can’t very well engrave shapes into a liquid.”

“I assure you I made these myself,” Jason insisted. “And did it without using enchanting; I don’t know anything about runes. Here, look, I’ve got antitoxin potions as well.”

He passed her a second vial. She repeated her examination process.

Once again she passed the vial back to him, and then regarded him carefully.

“You don’t have any idea how valuable these are, do you?” Raelin shook her head ruefully. “You three must be some of the luckiest people in the world to have stumbled across this and have survived your... mishap. Kid, less scrupulous adventurers would kill you for the secret of how to make those vials, least potions though they may be.”

“What?!” Jason exclaimed, aghast.

“Eternal Potions are rare. Nobody remembers how to make them. The very best enchanters today can only manage pale imitations that weaken over time and last maybe a few years by forcing massive quantities of mana into them. Most don’t last more than several weeks. The handful of Eternal Potions people find are usually the result of discovering some hidden cache in an ancient ruin. Every so often they’re received as rewards from a loot chest, but those are few and far between unless you’re a member of the Black Thorns or are willing to pay their exorbitant fees to risk your life in one of their homegrown dungeons.”

“Every adventurer out there has to live with spoilage. As a result, most enchanters who make them specialize in short-lasting cheap ones, because people don’t want to pay a lot for things they might not use before the magic fades. The smarter adventuring teams will stock up all at once and try to take on several dangerous jobs at a time, to maximize the chance of not wasting money. If they work in a densely populated area, sometimes afterwards they can then sell off the extra potions they didn’t use to other teams if the remaining duration isn’t too bad.”

“Eternal Potions are different matter. Those are high in demand, because if you have one of those you know it’s always good. You don’t have to worry about kneeling over your best friend who’s bleeding out on the floor in front of you, only to crack open your last healing potion and find its magic has weakened to the point of uselessness. You don’t have to worry about walking into a dragon’s lair only to realize at the worst possible moment that you bought a bad batch of fire resist from that shady merchant. And so on.”

“Those vials you’ve got there?” Raelin asked, gesturing. “Even though they’re the lowest of the low, they’re easily worth a full set of good-quality armor to just about any adventurer looking to take on high risk quests from the Guild.”

“I-I had no idea.” Jason stuttered. “I only just got the class and...”

Raelin held up a hand to silence him. “No. Don’t tell me. I don't want to know. I don’t need that kind of trouble, I’m too old for it. Look, whatever you do, be careful who you tell this to. Personally, I’d advise you to just lie and say you got them from an undiscovered loot chest you were lucky enough to stumble across. Because the moment you start advertising you’ve unlocked the secret to Eternal Potions, every guild out there is going to be banging down your door trying to recruit you. And they probably won’t stop trying to buy the knowledge off you even after you’ve signed up, not for something like this.

She sighed heavily, dropping her hand. “Look. I’ll take you to Arnvale. I can put you in touch with the Branch Manager for the Adventurer’s Guild there; she’s an old friend of mine. She’ll be discrete, it comes with job. She can help you quietly offload a few potions, get you set up with some proper gear. Or you can use the money to get to Feron and try and see if you can make it back to wherever you came from. Might be for the best. Either way, she’ll know how best to help you, whatever you want to do. In the meantime, I’ll give you enough coin for a few days and drop you off at the best inn in town. Just... try not to lead trouble to my doorstep? Willum and I have had enough of that for our lifetimes.”

“I-“ Jason swallowed, then simply bowed his head.

“Thank you,” he said.

 


 

The rest of their trip was relatively uneventful. Jason, Lumi, and Kera rode in the wagon, occasionally asking Raelin questions about the general area.

As it turned out, the reason they hadn’t seen anyone was primarily because Arnvale was located ‘in the back-end of nowhere’ as Raelin put it. It was a walled frontier town, one of two that were situated in the Prisal Woods, which lay just at the edge of the Crystal Wastes, a region of dense, unstable mana that made it difficult for crops to grow, and thus remained unclaimed by any city or nation. She explained that if they continued along the road and passed through Arnvale, eventually they would reach the Wastes; the road continued straight on through them, one of the sole paths through to the other side, but that that journey was exceptionally dangerous so the road wasn’t maintained and was rarely taken. Raelin wasn’t even sure who had originally built it.

As for herself, Raelin and her husband Willum were retired adventurers, whom as she’d previously said had come to Arnvale to get away from everything and retire to a simpler life where they could live off the treasure they’d acquired over their career. They had a small farm where they grew textiles, which they’d sell to the handful of local weavers to produce cloth for the village. Their particular crops didn’t need much tending to, so Willum and Raelin kept themselves busy by occasionally doing odd jobs posted at the local Adventurer’s Guildhall, and otherwise kept to themselves and their hobbies.

Jason asked Raelin a question about the nature of the Guild, which earned him another odd look that made him feel like he was dangerously close to revealing his complete and total lack of knowledge about the world, so after learning that it wasn’t really one single guild, but rather a loose consortium of different organizations of adventurers that had agreed on a combined, central system, he decided to hold further questions until they reached town and could speak to the Branch Manager there.

Arnvale really did look like something right out of a video game to Jason. As the travellers cleared the trees, he could see massive farmland surrounding a walled town in the distance. Peaked wood and thatch rooftops rose over a simple stone wall ringing the whole town, with the road passing through a large open gate, seemingly the only entrance from this side.

When Jason remarked on it, Raelin mentioned there was actually another exit out the western side, as Arnvale was basically shaped like a great backwards ‘L’ with a single main road passing straight through. It was divided into four small districts, thought Raelin commented that calling them such was probably an insult to larger cities, as Arnvale only held about 300 people. Essentially, it was composed of four circular plazas; the one large market area, where the Guildhall was located, took up the inside portion of the ‘L’, while the other three districts were smaller, and lay along the outside edge. The larger of the outer districts was comprised of some of the more affluent commerce buildings, as well as the mayors house, town hall, and library, while the other two ‘districts’ were where the bulk of the populace lived, if they didn’t live in the market area. Some, like Raelin herself, lived in smaller satellite housing just outside the walls, nearer the farms, but most people lived within the walls where they would be safer from the chance of wandering monsters, not that they had much issue with that.

They passed through the gates without being challenged; Jason didn’t even see any guards, though he presumed someone open and closed the gates. Soon, Raelin’s wagon was clattering to a stop in front of a rather fancy-looking two story inn. Jason climbed out of the wagon and turned to Raelin.

The woman passed a small pouch of coins over to him that she fished up from somewhere beneath her seat.

“Now remember what I told you. Tell no one. Don’t let anybody other than Therissa see them. It’s late, so she’ll be closing up, but someone can give you directions in the morning. She’ll be able to help, I’m sure.”

Jason bowed his head slightly to Raelin as the girls climbed out of the wagon.

“Thank you for all your help. Really, I mean it.”

“Just remember me when you strike it big, yeah?” She gave him a wink and a smile before flipping the reigns, turning the horses back down the road with a wave.

“Well,” said Lumi. “That was... informative.”

“You’re telling me. We’ve got some decisions to make, I guess,” replied Jason.

“Decisions later!” Kera said loudly. “I could kill for a hot meal of something other than mushrooms and frogmeat.” She poked Jason towards the door.

“And an actual bed,” grinned Lumi, as she turned and entered behind the others.

The inn was brightly lit with a chandelier that glowed with what looked like a light spell of some kind, and Jason guessed that the place also served as a local watering hole, as a fair number patrons sat at various polished tables in the common room. A large man stood behind what served as a bar, wiping up some kind of spill on the counter, while a young woman with long dark hair who looked to be the man’s daughter was carrying a tray of steaming bread and meat to one of the tables. Ceri poked his head out from under Kera’s hair, sniffing the air, and she put one hand on him and quietly told him to stay where he was.

Jason thought she had the right idea. While having animals in the party was a pretty common thing in RPGs, that didn’t mean innkeepers neccesarily liked pets running about, plus having a flying lizard zooming around pestering people was no way to endear yourself to the locals.

He moved up to bar and approached the man, whom he guessed was the owner. Raelin had said his name was Arnold, but everyone just called him Arn, though he had no relation in any way to the town’s origins. It was just a coincidence.

Jason cleared his throat, clicking the pouch Raelin had given him down on the counter so the man could see that despite their appearance, they had coin to spend.

“Hi. Um, we’re travelers from way out of town. Raelin recommended you to us. I’d like to get some rooms, and food as well. I’m not sure how long we’ll be staying, but at least a day or two.”

The man grunted, taking in Jason’s rather disheveled appearance. Jason was painfully aware of how much he contrasted with the cleanliness of the Inn, but the man didn’t seem to make much of it.

“Basic rooms are a silver a night, two if you want to include meals. You all together? We don’t get too many travelers, and the merchant caravan ain’t due for another few weeks, so the suite’s available if’n you want. Comes with two rooms, a lock, enough beds for each of you, plus full service, including a bath.”

He gave a sniff in their general direction. “Which, no offense, you seem like you could use.”

Jason gave the man a wry grin as Kera elbowed him lightly in the ribs. He looked into the pouch, unsure how much Raelin had given him.

“How much?” Jason asked. “You’re not wrong, there.”

“For the three of you, and your pet, plus meals? Call it a gold a day.”

So much? Jason wondered, looking into the pouch Raelin had given him. Is he ripping us off?

But no, it appeared that he wasnt, and that Raelin had been familiar with the price: nestled amongst the copper pieces and the few silver ones she’d given him were two small, golden coins. Jason fished them out and passed them over to Arn, who scooped them into a pocket in his apron with a nod. He produced a small brass key from somewhere and handed it to Jason.

“I’ll have Leska show you to your room, then.” He said with a smile. He called the young woman who was waiting tables over to them.

“I’ll take over down here, Leska. This lot’s paid for two days of the full service suite, so with Bani gone helping her parents til spring planting’s finished, I’m counting on you to take care of ‘em. I suspect the young ladies here would like to start with a bath, yes?”

Kera nodded vigorously. Ceri gave a small squawk and clung to her shirt to avoid falling off.

“Ok!” Leska said brightly, beckoning the three of them to follow. She took them up a short flight of stairs, where they passed several doors until they came to the end of the hall, which ended in slightly larger, much sturdier oak door. This one had a keyhole and a brass plate, unlike the others.

She pushed open the door, leading them into a rather pleasantly furnished room. Jason was privately of the opinion that this room was even more appealing at first glance than most hotels he’d been in. There were two moderately sized beds, heaped with blankets and several pillows. A low end table sat between them, with a side table with two chairs in another corner of the room. A small metal container lay in an opposite corner, near an actual glass window that could be opened to let in fresh air.

Jason noticed the container was inscribed with some kind of glowing rune, grimacing internally as he realized it was a chamber pot. He hoped the rune did something to remove the smell.

The room itself was lit by several glass globes placed around the room, which ignited with a pale white light as Leska touched them, and Jason wondered if everyday enchantments were a normal thing, or if this was just a very classy kind of place. He supposed it could be both, given the cost of the room.

After turning the lights on, Leska gestured to a side door in the room, saying that there were another two beds on the other side, which was part of suite.

“And, if you need anything, just pull that bell rope there - it won’t make noise, but it’s got a spell on it that will let me know you need me; I’ll pick up the matching token from my dad when I go back downstairs.”

“Now,” She said, beckoning to Kera and Lumi, “if you two ladies would like to follow me, I’ll get you your bath. I’ve got a spell I can use to heat up the large tub, so there’s no need to wait around, you two can just jump right in.”

“Together?” Lumi asked, alarmed.

“Well of course, it’s much more efficient that way. Why, is that a problem?”

Kera looked beet red, stammering, and Lumi seemed to choose her words carefully. Jason looked on in amusement.

Ah, culture shock. He thought to himself. I'd wondered when that might rear its head. Though I shouldn’t laugh; watch the girl insist on scrubbing my back when its my turn, or something else equally embarassing.

“I, um,” Lumi hesitated, looking at Kera. “It... wouldn’t be appropriate. For me, at least.”

“Ohhhh,” Leska said, a look of realization dawning. “You’re the type who likes other women, is that it?”

“Well that’s fine,” she continued. “Who wants to go first, then?” She didn’t seem all that bothered by the idea.

Jason looked at Kera as she mumbled something he didn’t catch. Her eyes were a little red, and she looked...upset. Or angry. He couldn’t tell. It didn’t seem to be directed at Lumi, or even Leska, though.

Lumi didn’t notice the other girl’s reaction. Instead, she seemed caught by surprise at how casually the girl dismissed her being into other women. “I, um, actually like both,” she said, seemingly at a loss, “but um, yeah.”

“Could I go first?” Kera spoke up suddenly, blinking away whatever dark thought had come over her. “I don’t want to get my bed all dirty, and Ceri needs a good scrubbing before I let him sit on any furniture.”

“Sure,” said Lumi with a shrug, “I don’t mind.”

“Ok, that’s all settled then. I’ll get you squared away, let me know if you need anything. You can either eat downstairs, or I can bring food up to you if you’d prefer.”

“Actually,” said Jason, “why don’t you bring food up to us once we’ve all had a chance to soak? We’ve got to work out what we’ll be doing next, and a hot meal and some privacy would be a good time to do it. Maybe you could bring up some fresh bread and some stew? Or maybe some of whatever that meat was you were serving people downstairs?”

“Can do.” Leska said with a nod. She motioned to Kera, who followed her out of the room.

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A note from Ashkari

I started writing Raelin's backstory, and the meme just popped into my head. I couldn't not use it, given the genre, so I spiced it up a little.

I'm not sorry. Too much growing up on a diet of terrible dad jokes and references left its mark on me, so it'll happen here from time to time. Deal with it Tongue


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About the author

Ashkari

  • Novice Ink-Slinger

Bio: I’m a disabled, semi-experienced amateur writer who’s decided to finally get off his bum and make use of all the wonderful self-publishing tools out there. I’ve joined the RoyalRoadL community with an eye to finally get my work out there in the world, hoping that feedback and criticism from real people will lead to people enjoying my work as it evolves, which will help motivate me to try and achieve my dream of becoming a professional writer.

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