The forest smells were refreshing. I already had the aerosquirrels catalogued, so they were basically ignored. I did start hunting the wolves, though the groups recognized my strength and would leave the weakest to delay me while the rest of the pack escaped. Surprisingly one of the stronger beasts in this area were the lightning elk, and they had an annoying stun attack as well. Between their antlers they would form a ball of electricity, and blast you with it. Direct strikes resulted in a 3 to 5 second stun. If you hadn’t damaged them before that, they would simply flee so I had to make sure that each one got shot before I started to close in on it. Hiding behind trees wasn’t an option either, as they could hold the charged electricity for at least 30 seconds.
I had just finished my tenth kill of the elk, when I heard a twig snap behind me. Turning on my heels as fast as I could from my crouched position, I heard someone activating skills. “[Piercing arrow][Heartseeker].” I barely had the time to get my weapon centered over my chest before it got hit hard by an arrow, and I saw the elven archer seemingly melt out of the trees
“Lucky for you it survived Alyonna. You know Goliath wants us to bring back one of them alive.” A second elf emerged from hiding. This one was also an archer. Cursing in my head, I got back into a crouch and ready to attack. I had no ranged weapon handy as I hadn’t reloaded my arbalest yet.
“[Nature’s grasp].” An elf druid caused vines to explode out of the ground and bind me before I could get into a position to attack. “He almost got you two when you managed to distract yourselves.” Sneering, I let them think they had me. I had four uses of it, and I was going to make them pay for being so lax.
“Who cares what Goliath wants? I want experience for killing one of these drakelings. Capturing him for study gets me a whopping zero xp.”
“These three are for you, Thanatos.” I muttered. “[Cold grasp of Death][Death’s gaze][Reaper’s edge][Dancing shadow steps].” I burned through my mana, but it was well worth it. One of the archer’s got targeted with the grasping spell, while I stepped through the shadows in the forest and appeared in front of the druid. She had just enough time to widen her eyes in shock before a backhanded slash with my scythe opened up her throat.
“[Keen edge].” I spoke as I used my second step, appearing behind the archer that wasn’t bound. Again I targeted her neck, as she started to turn to try and locate me. I got lucky with this one, as decapitation activated. Using my third step, I was crouched to the side of the bound archer, and smashed the hammer into her knee as hard as I could.
“AAAAAAhhhhh!” Her scream of pain distracted me just enough that I couldn’t continue with my last step, instead kicking her off her feet and turning to finish off the druid. She had just finished downing a health potion, which was rather annoying of her. I used the last of my mana to do a charged strike against the side of her head, the vial of her own potion blocking her view enough that she couldn’t react in time to get a defense up. Stunned and disoriented, a few more hammer blows were all that was required to finish her.
“[Toxic barrage]!” The downed archer had managed to roll onto her back, and activated a skill that launched five poisoned arrows at my back. As soon as I heard her words, I started to hunch over, but it only saved me from one of her arrows.
“That hurt damnit.” I swore at her as I turned and charged.
“YOU!” She managed to exclaim before I started hacking and slashing at her.
“Me.” I answered mid barrage with a smile, as she was futilely trying to block everything with her bow. As she tried one last time, I hooked the bow with my scythe and nearly yanked it out of her hand as I leaned forward and punched her in the face. The unexpected strike and watering of her eyes let me smash her in the chest with my scythe, ending the fight.
“Not bad.” I muttered, putting their bodies into my body bag. It had been far too long since I had practiced my anatomy skill, I wasn’t about to let three perfectly good elven bodies go to waste. Besides I had already given them to Thanatos, so I wouldn’t be able to loot them.
Thanatos finds your offering acceptable!
For sacrificing a group of higher level players, you gain 375 favor. (3 players x (120 favor per player + 5 group bonus))
For sacrificing a player at full health, gain 20 favor.
Total favor: 589/5000
Champions killed: 0/10
Elites killed: 0/1
Weekly kills: 3/25
Damn, I forgot I still had to get weekly kills! The local wildlife wasn’t going to cut it, I would definitely need to find a dungeon soon. Or a higher level area. In addition to boosting my reputation with Thanatos, I also gained a level from killing the trio. Though the damn nerf from the devs probably cost me a better kill. First I get hit with the power ataxia from gaining so many levels, and then they go and take half of my kobold stats away and I’m left feeling sluggish. I was glad for the battle though, as it seemed to really boost my recovery from the yo-yoing stats.
I spent the next few hours thoroughly exploring the forest, but nothing of interest really jumped out. I managed to get the ranges for the elk and the wolves, and started my return journey along the eastern edge of the forest. This brought me to the foothills of the mountains, where I met the occasional bear. Most were lower leveled cave bears, but there was the occasional granite claw variant.
* * * * * * * * * * * * *
“Greetings brother.” I spoke as I entered the temple of Thanatos. “It’s been a while since I’ve managed to make it here.”
“Hello brother, how was your time in the dungeon?”
“It was a lot of fun until that last day.”
“Oh? I heard you were still an undefeated team, what happened that last day?”
“A battle with an old foe. It was broadcast to everyone, so people learned most of my ambush and trap locations. I was forced to fight in open battle after that.”
“Ah, that makes sense then. Taking away your class bonuses would cripple your fighting ability. Though I assume from just stats you would be their equal?”
“For the most part. But even if you are on an even footing with one person, you will still lost most of the time in a 5 on 1 situation.”
“Ah. And being competitive, you hate losing?”
“Yeah. I guess I got used to winning from the early days of the dungeons. Back when people didn’t have a great idea of my abilities.”
“Understandable. So, what brings you here today?”
“I have three bodies to examine, and figured you might enjoy watching. Adventurers like myself, and elves.” Seeing his eyes light up, I chuckled. “Let’s go, this should be fun.”
“Indeed.” Leading me back to the same stone table, I started on the examination. I took a lot more care this time around than I had with the goblins, as I was sure I would be facing more of them in the future and any possible bonuses would be incredibly important. Besides, how many times was I going to come across the body of a sentient light sider without starting a war?
“I’m going to start by completely skinning the body, so that I can try and see the muscle groups and where they attach.” I explained, though my job was much easier since all their gear had disappeared once I placed them in my bag. Convenient. I had a bit of trouble identifying everything, but some of the easier ones like the calf muscle were a good starting point.
“You seem troubled.” The Cardinal spoke. It was near the end of the first body, and I didn’t really see anything that would be giving the elves their boosted agility and dexterity.
“Yeah. From what I vaguely remember from other sources, this body doesn’t really differ from humans. Minor things like slightly longer bones in the legs and arms, but that’s it.”
“Racial abilities. Elves are more dexterous by far. There has to be some fundamental difference. I thought it would be in the muscles, but the groupings that I remember are all the same. Perhaps the connecting tissues are a bit springier, but that would just let them bend more without injuring themselves.”
“Well, what have you noticed? Perhaps if we start from there we can figure this out.”
“Some longer bones, and the body is a bit lighter than you would expect from a human. The heart and lungs seem a bit larger as well. How did they lose the weight though?” We both sat there, trying to figure it out. While the elves had much smaller fat reserves, they had just as much muscle as a human, perhaps even more if you considered the added bit of height. That would extra muscle would wash away any gains from the fat loss. As I sat there staring at the remains, I looked at the thigh bone.
“BONES!” I slapped my forehead as I exclaimed. “It’s gotta be the bones. Those are by far the heaviest portions of a body. I’ll bet that the longer bones are thinner.” Taking out my weapon, I held up the thigh bone. “[Keen edge].” Slashing through it, we both peered inside it.
“Holy crap, it’s like a birds.” I mumbled, stunned.
“Yeah. Birds and apparently elves have hollow bones to lighten them. Birds become light enough that flight is possible, and this must be how the elves get the boost to agility. I would be willing to bet that if we tried this on a dwarf bone, it would be much denser than a human.”
“Denser would make it stronger then?”
“That, and give them much more mass. That extra mass would definitely explain the [Roots of the Mountain] skill of theirs.”
“I’m not really familiar with that ability.”
“It lets them absorb a blow without getting knocked back.”
Your insights into the bone structures of different bodies and your study of how the muscles are connected has gained you a great boost to your anatomy skill.
Anatomy skill is now Advanced level 5.
Gain 35% damage and +35% critical chance against enemies you have studied.
Goblins, elves, humans*, dwarves*
* - partial conjectures. Half of bonuses applied until these races are studied.
Linking skill acquired!
You have unlocked a linking skill, Physiology. Linking skills allow you to apply learned knowledge about species to species you haven’t studied yet. There are no levels for these skills. Currently you may apply half of your bonuses from your Anatomy skill to races you haven’t studied yet, provided you demonstrate a probable linkage to a race you have studied.
“Wow, that was unexpected. I just got a linkage skill from guessing about the anatomy of dwarves and humans.”
“Interesting. What does it manage to do?”
“Gives me half the bonus I would get from anatomy to any creatures I can theoretically link to a species I have already studied. So right now I have a half bonus to humans and dwarves.”
“Very nice. Shall we see if there are others we can link?”
“Sounds good to me, I’m not about to turn down bonuses. Though from my quest line from Thanatos, it sounds like I’m going to be seeing a lot of undead. Do you mind if we focus on them for now?”
“Bah, abominations. I’m rather glad you took the quests to exterminate the creatures you have. Unfortunately, there are so many variations of undead that you won’t be able to glean much insight into it.”
“Damn, so much for that idea. Though on creatures that were converted to undead from a base form, I should still benefit a little bit, right?”
“You thinking of vampires? I would think so, though you have to realize their organs will differ greatly.”
“Yeah. Basically I have to hit the heart or decapitate them to put ‘em down for good.”
“Don’t forget the stomach.”
“Yep. They often store blood in their stomachs to fuel their high speed regeneration. Breaking that open will cripple a huge advantage.”
“Wow. I, I never would have thought of that.” I said, stunned at the glaring weakness. It made perfect sense now that someone pointed it out.
“Not a lot of people outside of dedicated hunters know about that.”
“Yeah, it seems so obvious now.” I said with a yawn. “Ugh, I’m sorry. It’s been a long day and studying this body has really worn me down. Is there a way I can store these other two so that I can study them some other day?”
“I’m sorry brother, that won’t be allowed. We have to dispose of them.”
“Ok, I think we are going to have to do that then. I don’t have enough awareness to really learn anything else from them. Thanks again for all your help on this.” I said, placing the other two bodies on the table where the Cardinal lit a flame to burn them.
“Anytime brother. Have a good night.”
“You too.” As I turned to go, I cursed myself for forgetting to study those bodies with [mystic vision] activated. If I could find a way to sever the mana lines inside a person I might be able to prevent a mage from casting spells. Too late now, as the bodies were merrily burning. Instead I headed out to turn in my catch of the day and log out for the night. Perhaps Derrick would be able to give me some tips for switching from days to nights. I had one last day I could spare before I needed to go out and start hunting for my weekly quotas.
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.