I woke up in the courtyard outside of the arena in town. Damn, those hounds are tough. I’ll have to think over how best to tackle them, especially if they can see my traps. Oh well, at least I’m back in town with everything in my inventory. I had some time to kill, as the death miasma was still in effect. As a penalty for choosing to revive in a safe location, adventurers suffered the death miasma, which lasted for ten minutes and lowered all stats by 60%. This was to prevent people from needlessly throwing away their lives in an attempt to kill whatever took them out before it could heal. If you died before the death miasma went away, it would build.
Threading my way through the crowds, I headed towards Dharkiss’ shop. “Yo Dharkiss, you in?” I called out as I walked into an empty front of the store.
“Well, well, well, if it isn’t Angus back already. What happened? It seems your pants there are a little worse for wear.”
Looking down, I could see massive tears where the hounds and rats had managed to slash them. “Yeah, met up with somethin’ that was a little tougher than I was. Rock hound sent me to respawn.”
“Heh, yeah, them are some right terrors if you aren’t prepared. So I’m guessing you need some repairing?”
“Yeah, can you go ahead and top everything off? How much do I owe you?”
Walking closer, he started inspecting everything I was wearing. “Fifty silver to fix everything.” Nodding at him, I handed over the money and was enveloped in a golden light. In order to balance between realism and expediency, the game had all repairs done at a blacksmith’s shop at a vastly increased pace. Of course, you were always free to try and repair it on your own, but it had two downsides. It took a lot longer, and there was always a chance that you could lower the effectiveness and maximum durability of what you were repairing. Rumor was that a player that reached grandmaster rank in blacksmithing would be able to repair things like the shopkeepers did, but I had no idea if anyone had reached that level yet. Most likely those people were squirreled away among the top guilds, living an easy life so long as they repaired the clan’s equipment.
“Thanks Dharkiss, I appreciate it.”
“Not a problem, I’ll always be willing to make your purse just a little lighter, heh.” Nodding once again, I headed out to check in and hopefully learn alchemy. The crowd was a little lighter near Djarleen’s shop, so I didn’t have to rub as many shoulders as before. I walked in and saw her hunched over a vat, turning between a book and whatever she was brewing. I silently stood by as she muttered to herself, stirring in ingredients at a rapid pace. At one point she had a finger holding her place in the recipe, her other hand stretched out to grab an uncorked vial, and the spoon had enough energy from her stirring it was still swirling in the pot. After adding that last ingredient, she immediately heaved the pot higher on what was obviously a variable stand, then bent down and tapped the fire mana stone underneath it to shut off the heat.
“Thanks for waiting, if you had tried anything I had a rather nasty potion ready to throw at you. Congrats on passing the first test.”
“Umm, Thanks? Anyway, I have plenty of the reagents for making those potions. Can you show me how really quick? Or point me to a book that has the instructions?”
She frowned. “There’s a practice lab in the back. Book is on the table, the first two pages are what you need if you want them for a reference. All of the lower level alchemy potions use purified spring water, there’s a large vat of it on the bench. These are incredibly simple. Chop up the mushroom, put it in the beaker, and add 50 milliliters of water. Heat it until it turns red or blue, but don’t boil it. After a few minutes, strain the mushrooms out as you transfer to an Erlenmeyer flask.” At my confused look she clarified, “Erlenmeyer flask is the one that has a narrow neck and sloped sides. Once you get it in there, reduce it so that the liquid volume is halved. Once again, it is important that you DO NOT BOIL IT! Get it so the mixture is steaming only. Once it is reduced, you can cool it down and put it in vials. You should get three vials for each attempt.”
“Thanks, but how do I tell how well the potions turned out?”
“Make at least ten health and mana potions, and I’ll show you. Start with the health potions, they are a little more forgiving than the mana potions. Now shoo, I’ve got important things to do.”
Knowing any more questions would probably end with me covered in that nasty potion from earlier, I headed into the back. The first thing I did was locate everything, and set it up for a dry run. Beaker over flame, strainer above funnel, funnel in Erlenmeyer flask. There was a lovely knob setup with the flasks that raised and lowered the entire apparatus to control the heat. Looking around, I decided I was going to add a small step to Djarleen’s directions and got a glass rod for stirring. I had made far too many stews in my life where the bottom was scorched long before everything cooked because the cook didn’t stir it often enough. I wasn’t about to let that happen in an alchemical reaction. Once I was confident with everything, I measured out my water and began heating it while I chopped up the three of the health mushrooms.
Skimming through the recipe, it didn’t mention anything about what part of the mushroom I would need, so I ended up dicing everything and transferring it to the beaker. Keeping a steady stir going, I occasionally had to adjust the knob to keep it from boiling. The faintest of pink wisps started leeching from the mushrooms, and I kept stirring for at least five minutes. By that time, it was the color of an apple so I shut off the heat. I put on one of the overstuffed gloves and quickly transferred the mixture through the strainer. After about thirty seconds of draining and pressing the mushroom bits, I had the vast majority of the potion out. I removed the strainer and started to clean it and my beaker as the potion started reducing. It was much simpler keeping the second flask at the proper temperature as the adjuster had much finer gradations. After another five minutes of near boiling, it had changed from a bright red to a much darker, almost maroon potion. I stopped the heat and transferred it to the three vials with the aid of the funnel. I left them to cool for a bit, and started a marathon of potion making. It took about ten minutes per batch of three, slightly less as I was cleaning glassware as I went along. The mana potions ended up being the color of blueberry pie filling, and by the time I had started them my technique was fairly settled, and they all came out uniform in color.
I finished ten batches of health and mana with no issues, but only ended up making one batch of stamina potions. Djarleen was right, something was weird about those mushrooms. The solution barely had any yellow coloring at all, and I didn’t feel like wasting any more time on it. I had already spent over three hours at this point, and was starting to go cross-eyed. Walking in to the main area, I placed both sets of trays of vials on the counter in front of Djarleen. “Finished, ten batches each of health and mana. Can you show me the way to determine how I did?”
“Color me impressed, most of you adventurers don’t have the patience to spend a few hours brewing minor potions like that. First, have you figured out how to manipulate your mana yet?”
“Yes, I can form mana blades.”
“Great, that’s the hardest part. What I need you to do is to put one hand on each side of the bottle, and send a mana stream from one hand to the other. Keep your mind blank, focus only on information. Your mana is going to travel through the object, and pick up that information for you. When you start to understand, you should get a tingle in your receiving hand. At that point you are done, and can identify the potion. Go ahead and try.”
I closed my eyes, and concentrated on sending a stream of mana from my right hand to my left. Once I had that established, I started to try and feel what the potion was. After a while, I felt my left hand start tingling, and opened my eyes to a prompt.
New skill gained!
Essence of Potions beginner lvl 1. For ten mana, can identify low level potions and poisons. Increasing this skill will increase the level of potions that can be identified and can sometimes include the ingredients of the potion.
Minor health potion (High quality)
Though created by an amateur alchemist, care was taken during the brewing of this potion and has resulted in a slight increase in potency.
Heals 55 hit points (50 + 5 quality)
“You ever been an alchemist before? Not many can say that they have made a high quality potion on their first try.”
“No, never been an alchemist but I am a cook. I used a few tricks I have picked up in the kitchen to prevent it from burning.”
“Well, either way I am going to have to reevaluate my impression of you. Congrats, I now name you my apprentice. I’ll give you a bit of training in a few days, I have quite a large order to fill. Sadly, it is a rather complicated process and I won’t have time to even show you what I am doing. So you have two days before it really begins. Until then, I want you to make as many health and mana potions as you can and use them to grind your new Essence of potions skill. I see you tried making one of the stamina ones, go ahead and identify it.”
Minor stamina potion (Poor quality)
Though care was taken during the brewing of this potion, there was an error somewhere along the way and drastically reduced the potency of the potion.
Recover 5 stamina (50 – 45 quality)
“Ouch, that took out a lot of the possible boost from that potion. Any idea what caused it?”
“No, and not many people are willing to research it for such a low tier potion. Now, come back tomorrow and grind your skills out.”
“OK, well thanks Djarleen. I can’t wait for that training, but if you need anything from me let me know, ok? I’m heading back to the inn and logging out for the night.” I looked at her, but she was already organizing for her next round of brewing. Shaking my head, I headed out and into the crowds one last time. It seemed like the city was winding down, as it was nearing dinner time. It took me twice as long to get back to my inn, just because of the foot traffic.
“Welcome back Angus! Dinner is running a bit late tonight, all my deliveries were a few hours behind.”
“Damnit, just what I didn’t want to hear.”
“Hey now, there’s nothing I can do about it. Unless you know of a way to make lamb roast cook faster? No? Then stop complaining.”
“Sorry Alnoss, just got frustrated with all the people around and the day I’ve had.”
“Wanna talk about it? I think that’s in the job description of inn keepers and barkeepers.”
“Tell you what, let me vent a bit of frustration in your kitchen? Do you have eggs, flour and some frying oil?”
“Sure, I’ll set it out for you but whatever you make you gotta share. Remember our deal?”
“Oh yeah, I’ll fry up a whole plate. Just show me the way.” Following her back, I saw her pull out the requested ingredients. While she was heating the pan and the oil, I took out a handful of the stamina mushrooms and started cleaning them. I don’t care how some people eat them, I will never eat the gills of mushrooms, and most of the time not the stems either. After cleaning them, I rinsed them rather well, then diced the caps on the cutting board into bite sized pieces. Scramble the eggs in a bowl, dredge the mushrooms in the flour in a separate bowl, egg dunk, then flour again to make a decently thick batter, then into the oil. The whole process took about thirty minutes, and about six separate batches of mushroom chunks, but we filled up a large platter. “Hey Alnoss, why don’t you head in before me for a second, I just got a notification that I want to check. I’ll only be a minute.”
“Sure thing, hopefully it puts you in a better mood.” As she walked off, I was rather surprised by the notification that popped up.
New skill gained!
Cooking Advanced lvl 3. You take the time to properly clean and prepare all ingredients. Increasing your skill will increase the bonuses from your food as well as the chance for creating superior dishes.
Well, I guess the game thought frying mushrooms was an advanced technique. Not only that, but tough enough to do properly to completely skip the beginner and intermediate levels. I had no problems with that, as it would take far less grinding to get to where I can make decent dishes. I couldn’t help but smile as I headed into the main area. “Hey Alnoss, guess who just unlocked the cooking skill at advanced level 3?”
“Seriously? This is the first thing you’ve cooked? I hate to admit it, but that’s somewhat impressive.”
“Eh, I’m a cook in the adventurer’s world, so it really isn’t that impressive. I’ve actually had years of practice.”
“Oh, that makes sense then. So what do you call this dish? And when would you serve it Mr. Chef?”
“Ha! I’m no chef, just a cook. This would be a great appetizer, fried mushrooms. Let’s dig in, see how they taste.” I popped the first one into my mouth right after Alnoss did, and we both closed our eyes in pleasure as the juices flooded our mouths. Nobody said a word for the next few minutes, until the entire platter was gone. “Oh god, I ate way too much.”
“Me too. Damn, those are delicious. What mushrooms were those? And how did you prepare them? I am totally using this recipe in the future.”
“Stamina mushrooms, remove the stems and gills. Then chop ‘em up, batter ‘em, and fry ‘em.”
“Wonderful. Care to make some for our customers? I’ll give you half of what they bring in, I’ll sell them at 20 silver a plate.”
“Tell you what, I’ve got a bunch in my inventory. I’ll prepare about 100 mushrooms, and you can flour and fry them to order. If you do anything else, they will get soggy.”
“Deal. That should make about fifty plates or so, I’m not going to overload them. Does that sound like the right amount?”
“Yep, sounds perfect. Ok, I’m going to go and set this up, good luck with your sales tonight.” I went back into the kitchen as Alnoss went to set up a sign with the special. Midway through preparing my mushrooms, I noticed I had a buff icon above my status bars. Mentally clicking it, I got a rather impossible message.
You have eaten a high quality meal, Fried Mushrooms (stamina). For the next 8 hours you will recover stamina 75% faster while outside combat.
How the Hell? The mushrooms didn’t do anything for making the potion, what caused them to give me that buff when I made food? Damnit, I was too tired for this. I headed up to my room and laid down on the bed. “Logout.”
* * * * * * * * * * * *
I left the game and decided to swing by the café to chat with the others. It had been a few days, and I needed a few fresh brains to pick for some ideas that were percolating in my head. Walking in, I saw all of them at our usual table. “Hey guys, how was your first day outta the dungeons?”
“He lives! Missed you yesterday. You feeling a little better today?” Derrick asked.
“A little better, but I’ve got a few issues from today I’m still trying to work out.”
“Well, let’s hear ‘em.” Phoebe said. “Perhaps the group will succeed where the individual fails.”
“Sure. First is something you guys won’t be able to help with, I got my first death today at the jaws of a rock hound.”
“The hell is a rock hound?” Jon asked.
“Think of the biggest dog you’ve ever seen. Then triple his muscles, and give him a set of rock armor thick enough that a crossbow couldn’t pierce.” I shuddered at the memories. “I underestimated how much momentum one could generate, and he made me pay. I think Derrick’s character is the only one strong enough to face it in straight up strength.”
‘Wheeeeew.” Derrick whistle in appreciation. “That’s one tough dog if it has the strength of a troll. I’m sure you’ll figure something out about how to take it down, they can’t have armor everywhere.” The others were nodding in agreement, so I decided to keep the conversation moving.
“Yeah, I’ve got a few irons in the fire on that point. My other issue is alchemy related.”
“Got your job, eh?” Phoebe smiled.
“Yeah, made a few potions, and got someone to agree to take me as an apprentice. I’m having an issue with a minor stamina potion though.”
“Well that’s because there aren’t any minor stamina potions.” Phoebe said matter of factly. “I’ve known several alchemists, and everyone agrees. There’s no way to make a minor stamina pot.”
“I would agree if not for something weird that happened. I made the potion like I would a mana or health one, and ended up with something that only gave about 5 stamina recovery.” Phoebe was nodding, this information was apparently nothing new to her. “Well, I took those same mushrooms later and cooked ‘em up. Diced, battered, and fried. They were honestly delicious, and gave me cooking skill advanced level 3. Nothing too spectacular, until I noticed the buff I received.”
“Wait, you got a buff for eating fried mushrooms?” Jon asked.
“Seriously Jon? You never splurged on food have you?” Phoebe asked. “If you get someone to make it right, and use quality ingredients you can get a decent buff that lasts up to 24 hours. High quality chefs can basically name their price and guilds would be more than willing to pay. There’s always a slot open for long raids as most of the drops can be cooked into helpful dishes.”
“What do you mean by that last bit? Drops on a raid?”
“Ok, say you are going on a raid through a volcanic wasteland, and the majority of the monsters are fire breathing salamanders. If you cook the meat they drop properly, it will give you a good boost to fire resistance without having to change any of your equipment. So, Marty, what buff did you get from those stamina mushrooms?”
“Boost to out of combat stamina recovery, 75% for 8 hours.” Jaws collectively dropped.
“Seventy five? That’s. . . that’s HUGE!” Phoebe shrieked when she found her voice. “Seriously, what did you do to get that bonus?”
“That’s what I was wondering myself. I didn’t do anything weird to them, just diced them up, battered in flour and fried them. No special ingredients other than the mushrooms themselves.”
“Ok, walk us through both preps.” Derrick said. “We will find something different, you just have to tell us exactly how you did it.”
“OK. Potion prep first. Dice up the mushrooms, put them into hot water, stirring occasionally as you keep it just under boiling temperature. Anything beyond that wouldn’t have mattered because the potion never really changed colors. For the fried mushrooms, I cleaned them and diced them.”
“Stop!” Derrick interrupted. “Cleaned them how?”
“Oh, cut off the stems and removed the gills.”
“Thought gills were only on fish?” Jon asked.
“Naw, they are also those little brown flaky things on the underside of a mushroom’s cap.” Derrick clarified. “So you removed the gills and stems. There’s the difference, and I’m willing to bet that is the issue with the potion.”
“You’re saying make a potion with just the cap tomorrow?”
“Yeah, you can do a lot. I would also bet that you could find a stamina potion recipe from those gills and stems. Just gotta find the right solvent.”
“Hmm, there’s a thought. What solvents am I going to get in a medieval setting though?”
“Pretty much going to be limited to alcohol and water to be honest.”
“Yeah, I figured as much on that point. How come you know so much about this anyhow? You a chemist or something?”
“No, nothing like that. I’ve just had my share of Wiki benders.”
“What the heck is a Wiki bender?” Phoebe asked the question on everyone’s mind.
“Simple. Sometimes I like looking at things on Wikipedia. You’ll get half way through an article on say beer, a wonderful topic I like to look up. You notice something about old friars brewing it way back in the day. So you click on the link, and get half way through that article before you find another tangent to go down. Soon enough, what started out as a history of beer has you looking at the evolution of the seals for British nobility and what the heraldry stands for. That, my friends, is a Wiki bender.” Staring at him for a bit, we all broke down into laughter at the absurdity of tangents that are possible. The rest of the night went pleasantly, without any more serious topics coming up.
Bio: I'm a chemist that gave writing a try, and loved the results. Everything is mostly for fun right now, though I might try and get some things published eventually. Certain traits of my daughter have made it into bits of my stories, and she sometimes keeps me company when we both have trouble sleeping.