“So what now?” Sarah asks after a long awkward silence. There are not any low level quests available today either. We had gathered in front of the quests board at our usual watering hole, which by the way I only found out today is called O’Brians tavern.
“Well since slimes are not a good fit for us, that only leaves the general goblin subjugation quest.” Hardoen was offering a general purpose quest posted on the board that the Adventurers guild issued on behalf of the city council, to kill any goblins you can find and bring them back the ears in exchange for coppers. Five coppers per ear to be precise.
“Like I’ve said before, we’ve seen a goblin first hand and I don’t think we could kill a bunch of them without dying,” I reiterate. Me and Jessica are naturally not keen on fighting those things.
“Alright how about this then,” Hardoen offers an alternative, “we go out scouting for goblin camps, since reporting these dangerous camps to the guild pays okay enough. Finding them on the other hand is luck of the draw. If we run into any goblins in small numbers that we feel we can take on, then we do that too. Somewhere between these two things we can just make it work and earn enough for our ‘breadline’, until better quests become available.”
Jessica was the first one to actually agree, “This sounds like the only half reasonable plan anybody’s come up with so far, so I say, yeah, let’s do that.”
Since nobody else had any other ideas, we ended up going with that plan. Sarah provided a camping pack that she had in her possession, as well as breakfast for everyone and some food and supplies for the trip. We of course promised to pay her back for all this. Well not Hardoen, that jerk didn’t seem to mind leeching off Sarah one bit.
The idea behind all of this, was that we may very well not be able to find a goblin camp on the first day, if that were to happen we might be more than a bit screwed. So like this we can stay out for another day or two without wasting time having to travel back and forth, in other words, we can search deeper.
Hardoen returned from the room at the back of the tavern where I learned an official from the Adventurers guild works. He brought with him a strange pyramid shaped object.
“You guys all set?” he asked.
“Yeah,” I responded. “You all done with the paperwork for the quests?”
“Yes, there wasn’t much paperwork needed. None for the goblin killing, for that we just bring back ears. I just needed to fill in some to get hold of one of these,” he motions towards the pyramid thing in his hands.
“What is it?” I ask.
“A locator artifact.” Sarah instead answers, “It is used to mark a location and send information to a paired artifact about monster populations in a small area around it.”
“Right,” Hardoen carries on explaining, “We deploy this when we locate a goblin camp and the guild will instantly know its location and how many goblins there are. They also won’t have to send anyone out to confirm that we actually located a goblin camp, and we can just come back and collect our reward.”
“Well that’s really handy,” I comment.
“So I guess we’re all good to go?” Hardoen does one final check.
It’s another beautiful day. There seems to be one after the other in this world. It’s like god is mocking us, making this cruel world so pretty, as opposed to the one we come from being all gloomy and rainy, well at least in our little London at any rate.
We are trudging along through the Eastern forest, well a bit to the south this time, so at least we won’t be running into the slime cave. The info Hardoen got from the guild was that the most recently logged goblin camps were behind the Eastern mountains. Sarah claims she knows the area and can guide us through a mountain pass.
Well, that’s the plan at least. I am of course worried about running into actual goblins.
“What’s that noise?” Jessica stops to ask.
“I don’t hear anything”, Sarah responds.
“Me neither,” Hardoen agrees.
“It’s like a faint thumping noise,” Jessica explains.
I can’t help but wonder if those elven ears of hers are the reason she can hear it.
“Wait, I hear it too!” Hardoen exclaims.
But there was no need, everybody could hear it by this point, myself included. ‘Doof-, doof-, doof-’, a rhythmic thumping sound that was getting louder by the second.
“I don’t like the sound of that, we should get out of here,” Hardoen suggests.
“Agreed,” I quickly add.
Just then, however, the bushes and trees ahead of us start rustling. Our attempt to flee is immediately foiled.
Eeeaaah! eeeaah! eeeeeaaah! A swarm of creatures are running towards us. No, judging from the movement of the trees, they are also ‘flying?’ towards us.
Eh, eh, eeeaaah! “Rabid squirrels!” Hardoen shouts, “Get closer and stand your ground!”
We all practically fall over ourselves to follow his instructions, as the one amongst us who has actually fought these things before.
The squirrels come into sight, but to be honest they are easily the size of small dogs and they look absolutely ferocious. I don’t see how these things can be called squirrels.
“Brace yourselves!” Sarah calls out.
And then they hit. I’ve stepped in front of Jessica with my shield raised to try and keep the bulk of the incoming squirrels off of her and begin slashing wildly, trying to ward them off. God, there’s so many of them, this is way worse than with those slimes.
I’m not the only one, we’re all scrunched up into a ball swinging wildly at the mass of squirrels. How long did this go on? It felt like forever, although I suppose, realistically it could not have been more than a minute so far.
There’s just so many of them, it’s a miracle no one’s been seriously injured so far. Actually now that I think about it, most of the squirrels are just running right past us, aren’t we fighting a bit one-sidedly here?
“Aaaargh!” Sarah suddenly cries out. Of course I had to jinx the moment. A squirrel had landed on her head and started clawing at her. She immediately fell over in pain or shock, or maybe both. The squirrels did not miss this opportunity and a bunch more attacked her.
Jessica and Hardoen are moving to assist her, I on the other hand am currently their sole vanguard and am too afraid to drop my shield to assist them. I fear if I stop ‘tanking’ for even a second then we will all suddenly become the squirrels prefered snack.
Hardoen grabs one of the squirrels by the scruff and pulls him off, he grabs another by the tail and flings it across the battlefield, it protests loudly while mid-flight.
Jessica’s got her dagger in a backhand grip and brings her arm round in an arc, until the dagger buries itself into the side of one of the squirrels. But her motion doesn’t stop there, it continues, ripping the squirrel off Sarah while impaled on the daggers blade. The arc of her movement complete, she instantly reverses her motion. The new direction of her dagger coupled with the momentum of the squirrel, causes the dagger to part from the squirrels side, while the squirrel flies off the blade, leaving a trail of blood between the two.
Her daggers new course is taking it straight towards another squirrel that’s stuck to Sarah. Jess leans in as she completes the motion, seemingly to get more power into the strike, and gashes the squirrel wide open along its back and side as the blade glides over it. The whole movement was so elegant, it was like I was watching a fucking ballet or something. Must be that innate knowledge really paying off.
I nearly lose my balance as multiple squirrels crash against my shield. Jessica’s already helped Sarah to her feet, while Hardoen applies healing magic. I on the other hand am running out of steam, I can’t keep this up.
“Guys, a little help here!” I call out. Hardoen turns towards me to assist, but immediately freezes in place, his eyes wide. A chill runs down my spine and I instinctively turn around to the direction the squirrels were bombarding me from.
I see two strange looking abnormally large tree stumps. No, they are attached to something, they are legs. I look up to see what they are attached too. A giant. There’s no other way to describe the thing towering over us.
“Ogre!” I hear someone call out, but it’s too little, too late. The Ogre had already started bringing down a giant sized club upon us. It was so big and swung with such power that I could hear the air pressure changing in its path. So this is how it ends hey. Man I really sucked at this game.
“Respite!” I think Hardoen muttered something. Just before the club reaches us to smash us into dust, it suddenly explodes into thousands of splinters and with a deafening crashing sound. My senses are overwhelmed, but I think I can make out electrical sparks flowing away from where the club had seemingly struck something.
The ogre was so caught off guard that he fell over on his ass and was now trying to get to his feet. “This way, run!” Hardoen calls out to us, he has already started to run in a direction not dissimilar from the one originally intended for our party. Of course nobody in our group needs to be asked twice and immediately chases after him.
I run like my life depends on it, well it actually does, while keeping an eye on Jess to make sure she’s keeping up. I chance a glance back at the ogre. He’s already stood up, but seems more interested in chasing down the squirrels. Maybe they did something to piss him off.
Everybody is gasping for breath, either sitting down or keeled over. We are all exhausted. Holy shit. A fucking ogre. This is nuts. We ran all the way out of the forest and most of the way across the plains between the forest and the mountain range that we were initially aiming for.
There is no sign of the ogre any more, actually there hasn’t been for a while now. Didn’t stop us from running though. Hardoen and I were the slowest in the group. I had the heaviest equipment in the group and Hardoen was carrying the camping pack. This was decided as he is one of the two males in the group and had very little weight to carry around equipment wise.
“What was that spell?” I ask him, “That was you right?”
Hardoen nods. “It’s called ‘Respite’. I acquired it when I became level two. That was admittedly a bit of a lucky break though, as this is the first opportunity I’ve had to test it out. That could have gone very differently,” he motions back towards the forest. “I did know what the spell is supposed to do of course, I had gotten the necessary information on its usage from the guild. Basically it creates a really powerful, invisible shield. They say it’s so strong that it might as well be invincible for all intensive purposes. The catch is, that it literally only lasts a second, hence its name.”
“That actually sounds really useful,” I comment.
“Nah, I can feel it used more than half of my available energy reserves. It’s usefulness is definitely very limited.”
We rest a little bit longer to catch our breath before continuing on our way. We will just have to try and avoid that section of forest on our way back, take a different route. Sarah leads the way once again, towards the mountain pass.