As the evening drew in, the small party continued to talk, discussing the ramifications of the wording in Leah’s skills and traits. None of them had ever heard of any skills related to the Magalyte Dolls, so it ended up mostly being conjecture and wishful thinking, mixed in with a healthy dose of surprise at each new revelation. Eventually, though, the siren song of sleep beckoned, and the group made ready to bed down. Cassandra offered to take the first watch.
“Just so you know, and I’m sure you’ve already had this drilled into your head, but we aren’t to talk about this at all outside the muffle field. Speaking of, Liam, how much longer has that thing got?”
Liam tilted the box over, squinting at a particular line on one side of the box while giving it a shake.
“Honestly? Hard to tell. I can’t imagine it has much left in it, though, I didn’t think we’d need it for more than a few minutes.”
“Damn. Well, in that case, we better hold off on anymore discussions before we get to town. In the meantime, I suggest we get you some basic training. As wide a range as possible. That lack of skill limits in your Doll trait has got me interested.”
Liam chimed in.
“And you don’t want to be stuck babysitting until we hit pay dirt on this.”
“And an extra pair of hands would be nice, yes. Preferably a pair I can see on a regular basis.”
“You can’t argue with results.”
“Have done, am doing, will continue doing so. Leah, you aren’t to learn any of his rogue tricks unless absolutely necessary, got it?”
Cassandra’s serious expression was marred by a twinkle of mirth in her eyes. Whatever she was, and whatever the pair actually felt about her, it seems the revelations she’d provided had helped lift her spirits. She raised her hand in a mock salute.
“Yes ma’am. No skulduggery.”
The two peered at the hand against her forehead, then at her face, eyebrows raised. Leah coughed, and lowered her hand.
“Well, at least I’ll be able to teach you not to stick out like a sore thumb. If that isn’t too roguelike for her highness?”
“That’ll do, I suppose. We can pass you off as a foreigner if needs be, which I suppose you are. We’ll go over the details on the road, but I think I’ll leave that to our resident spy.”
Leah checked her Analyse skill again. Liam came up as a rogue, and Cassandra as a ranger, as she remembered seeing before.
“Oh, right. At your current skill level, you can only see the general class of someone. These are pretty broad, almost to the point of being useless, but you can get a general indication of a person’s skill set from the class. Usually.”
Cassandra cut in over Liam.
“Ranger is a pretty good example. You can get rangers who are primarily archers, like me, or swordsmen, or spearmen, or all kinds of weapons really. Or they can be full mages, or they train animals. I know of one guy classed as a ranger just because he picks herbs in the forest all day. Really, the only thing that joins them together is the fact that we tend to prefer operating away from large groups.”
“I’m a spy as my actual class, and Cass is a scout, but again, that really doesn’t do much justice to our actual skill sets. In my case, it gave me access to Compel Truth and handy bonuses to some skills, but thats about it. There’s people at the guild who spend their entire lives trying to catalog and decipher the rules for gaining certain classes, what the bonuses and perks for each class are, how rare they are… the list goes on. Theres loads thats unknown, and way more that I don’t know.”
“So, why don’t I have a class?”
“You just don’t have enough skills yet. And as for your next question, it’ll be a while yet. Your a level three right now, so you’ll have plenty of time to learn the ropes before that comes up. Lets save the rest of the questions for morning, though. We’ve got a lot of ground to cover, and no one wants to do it dog tired.”
The logic was sound, and Leah promptly gave up. While she didn’t exactly need to sleep, she knew it would still give her some benefits, but she also wanted to go over what she could from her status page, and see what more she could glean. She especially wanted to go over her other trait again, as discussing it with the others had left her just as clueless as when she had started. She decided to split the difference, and spend half the night sleeping, and the other half going over her mental notes.
The morning rolled around, and Leah was still no closer to deciphering anything immediately useful about her other trait.
[Trait: Of Another World]
This unique trait is given to those who are not from this plane of existence. Its usage and effects are vague, and highly dependent on the holder. Through experience, its effects may be uncovered.
New knowledge skills may be gained or created based on what the user knew in their past life.
She didn’t know the ramifications of what being able to access new skills would be, considering she already knew what she knew. She would have to ask about what the difference between the types of skills were - didn’t one of them mention active and passive skills? There was no time to ask right now, though, as everyone was busy breaking camp. With no experience in these matters, Leah did her best to simply stay out of the way, and let the clearly experience party handle matters. Not long after she started watching, Cassandra came over, a bundle in her arms and a grim expression on her face.
“Seeing as we’re about to be traveling through dangerous territory, you’ll need to change your clothes.”
She set down the bundle, and rolled it out. Inside a large piece of fabric, lay a set of light padded clothes, consisting of a brown tunic fringed with blue, a matching pair of leggings, a deep blue cloak and a pair of well worn boots. All the clothes looked like they had been well worn, as Leah looked them over, and she had an uncomfortable revelation of where they came from. Her comment to that effect was cut off.
“Look, I’m not happy about this either. But you can’t go around barefoot, and these’ll protect you better than that ratty robe. Its not like you aren’t already wearing a dead mans clothes, anyway.”
Leah shut her mouth. Cass clearly wasn’t in the mood for chatter right now.
“Can’t do much about the small clothes, and I doubt it will fit very well, but it doesn’t need to be for long. You’ll need to carry your share of loot as well.”
She unslung an extra backpack from her shoulder, and held it out. Leah took it, and went back to eyeing the clothes, before another thought sprang to mind. Cassandra was on point once again, and beat her to the punch.
“Theres a thicket that way,”
She pointed off to her left.
“Within earshot of us. No one here’s going to be ogling right now anyway, but if you aren’t comfortable…”
She trailed off, ending with a shrug. Leah rolled the clothes back up in their bolt of fabric, and made to head that direction, though she couldn’t help leaving without some attempt to lighten the mood.
“Thanks. I know it must have been hard for you, giving me a chance to change away from prying eyes.”
A bark of laughter, suspiciously Liam like, rang out from the other side of camp, and the tips of Cassandra’s ears went red as she spun off to help with the packing up without another word. Oh well. Hopefully that would get her mind off the fact she’d just given her comrades clothes to her.
Cassandra was right - the clothes did not fit well at all. While the leggings fit about as well as she could hope, once she turned up the ankles, the tunic was too tight and the boots too loose. And with her present lack of underwear, she suspected chaffing would be a problem before too long, as the rough fabric of the clothing was clearly designed more for protection than comfort. Still, she thought, it was better than letting it all hang out under a robe, where a sudden gust of wind could leave her more exposed than she would like. She managed to get the cape around her shoulders, but had no clue how to fasten it. There seemed to be points to tie together, or buttons, or anything. Cursing the lack of cloaks in modern day fashion, she simply draped it over her shoulder and decided to bite the bullet and ask. The noise from camp seemed to be reaching some sort of crescendo, and while they probably wouldn’t leave her behind, it was probably not a good idea to push the point on a wardrobe issue.
Returning to camp, Leah found that the preparations to leave had been all but completed, and Liam and Cassandra were apparently waiting for her. Liam’s grin grew wider at her return, and he nudged Cassandra with his elbow.
“Oh that is adorable. You did give her a cloak buckle, right?”
“Its pinned to her tunic.”
She walked over, leaning down to take the buckle that Leah had assumed was an ornament of some kind, and clasped the two sides of the cloak together.
“Seriously, were you never taught to dress yourself?”
Acutely aware of their height difference, and that the whole scene looked like a mother fussing over her child, Leah turned her head and coughed uncomfortably, avoiding the gaze of both Cassandra and Liam - who had also apparently picked up on how it looked and was busy trying to hold in another bout of laughter.
“Cloaks aren’t exactly in fashion where I come from. We tend to wear coats instead.”
Seeming satisfied, Cassandra straightened up to examine her handiwork, her arms folded across her chest. She half frowned, one side of her mouth tipping down in concert with her ears.
“Well, this is about as good as its going to get, I suppose. Can you walk in those?”
She pointed to Leah’s ‘new’ boots. Leah took a few experimental steps, and shrugged.
“I’ll probably have blisters soon, but its better than cutting up my feet. I guess we aren’t going to be walking on soil the whole way back?”
Apart from the hard rock of the barrow, the only ground she had walked on was the mercifully soft soil and underbrush of the copse they were camped in. She hadn’t been looking forward to walking over stones, or worse, brambles, barefoot.
“Definitely not. Today we’ll be travelling on dirt paths, but tomorrow we’ll reach a rocky hill that would have torn your feet up. And after that, its a loose gravel road. What I meant was, are they too loose? I’m not carrying you if you turn an ankle.”
Ignoring a muffled “Liar” from Liam, Leah shook one foot. The boot was loose, but a thick pair of socks she’d found at the bottom of her pack helped.
“About as good as I could hope for. I’m ready if you are.”
“Almost. We’re just waiting for Connor to get back from scouting. He’s one of the guards, in case you hadn’t guessed.”
“Scouting? Isn’t that your job?”
“What, just because I’m a Scout?”
Her frown turned into a smirk.
“Ordinarily, it would be. But we already have these guys paid up, so we might as well get our moneys worth.”
Liam piped in.
“Even if we weren’t the ones paying.”
Leah turned her head to the side, her ears tilted back in confusion. She noticed in the back of her mind that these new habits seemed as natural as if she were born with them - using her ears to augment her expression should be odd, but it just felt normal. That was something else to consider, perhaps when she got some ‘sleep’. On the topic of sleep, she quickly checked her Internal Mana Pool from Magalyte Mana Pool. Her trait had said she would take a hit to this pool if she went without sleep, so she was curious to know how much it had been affected. She certainly didn’t feel any different.
Magalyte Mana Pool: 9/10
So, assuming she hadn’t regenerated anything in the hour she’d been awake, that meant that it was 1 point of Magalyte Mana per 4 hours of sleep lost. So, 2 for a full nights rest. The ability to function for five days in a row without any sleep, even if there were other side effects, was very interesting to keep in mind. Returning to the real world, and noticing again her increased ability to process information - barely a second had passed - she asked the question that prompted that rabbit hole of thinking.
“So if you didn’t pay, who did?”
“Ah, that would be our employer.”
Liam grimaced slightly as he spoke, and looked over at the handcart with the shrouded bodies.
“We were hired to rescue one of the captives for the ritual, and it seems we were too late. But thats our problem, and we’ll sort it out. And if you are as useful as I think you’ll be, then failing this quest and, well, incurring a little ire seems like a decent trade off.”
“It wasn’t just him that died.”
Cassandra cut in solemnly. Liam met her gaze, and they shared a look for a moment before he averted his gaze.
“No, it wasn’t. But they knew the risks, as did we. Anyway…”
Liam and Cassandra both looked over to the entrance of the former campsite, where one of the guards wearing leather armour was returning. His blond hair had a few stray leaves in it, but he otherwise looked like he’d just been on an ordinary stroll through the woods. He gave the pair a thumbs up, and moved over to his pack.
“Looks like its time for us to set off. We can talk more on the road.”
Together, the three of them shouldered their packs, and set off on what could prove to be a long adventure together.
The guard, Connor, led the group, one hand in a belt pouch as his eyes and ears scanned for danger. Though he wasn’t a ranger, his specific Rogue class had granted him the rare skill Danger Sense, and it had proved very useful on the trip so far. He’d taken them around packs of animals and monsters that would have delayed their trip, held them up to wait out an unforeseen rock slide, and snagged an odd piece of parchment from the loot the group had carried from the barrow. The hand in his pouch gripped the parchment tightly. He hadn’t know why he wanted this ragged old piece of paper, but he knew that it was important to him. It must be valuable - he’d had a nose for gold before he joined the mercenary band, and while it had gotten him into trouble, it had never steered him wrong in terms of value. Whatever secrets it held, he knew it would spell the end of his working life, and the start of one of comfort and luxury. A small smile played across his lips, and a single finger caressed the rough surface of the ancient relic.
The trip started off well, with the dry soil making for easy terrain to move over. Though rough and almost unworn, the lack of mud and Leah’s higher Dexterity from her levels, she kept up easily with the party. Curious as to how much the stats might be affecting her, she asked Liam about them in a hushed whisper.
“Yes, but I told you to wait until we make camp before you ask questions like that.”
“Sorry. Damn, I should have known better. Shouldn’t my Intelligence be helping me here?”
“Ha. That sounds more like Wisdom to me.”
“Fair point. I suppose it is more like knowing tomatoes don’t go in a fruit salad.”
Liam just shook his head, and Cassandra, eavesdropping, gave Leah an odd look, halfway between confusion and pity. Turning the conversation away from Leah’s odd, possibly mistranslated comment, she took over.
“We aren’t going to get much training done on the road, but you are going to need to start as soon as possible. This evening, you are coming hunting with me. Have you used a bow before?”
“Not much call for them where I come from. As far as I know, the only people still using them are hunters who like a challenge.”
“Oh, so you use magic then?”
“No, its more…”
A thought passed over Leah, her pseudo-neurons firing rapidly as she ran through the possibilities and dangers of the knowledge she held. While she had never held a gun, much less fired one, she knew enough about the fundamentals of how they worked to engineer one. At the very least, she could bootstrap off her, admittedly basic, knowledge of modern chemistry to get black powder, and from there, a musket wasn’t too far to go. Though it would depend on the metallurgy of the world, and if they even had the same chemistry, which would have to be ascertained. At the very least, an analogue could be found for gunpowder, so the theory could be tested. But what would the ramifications of introducing firearms to what appeared to be a medieval society be? Were there already analogues out there? Magic existed, so maybe it wouldn’t be such a game changer. She definitely needed more knowledge about the world before she could make any decisions, but the idea of bringing modern technology into this world to complement magic, the possibilities were…
“…Leah? Leah? Are you ok?”
She returned to the present, and realised the whole party had stopped, waiting for her. She’d gotten so wrapped up in her thoughts that she’d unwittingly reentered her mental space while running through everything, and even still, a noticeable amount of time had passed. She shook her head to clear her thoughts, and smiled awkwardly.
“Sorry. Got lost in thought for a moment there.”
Liam and Cassandra shared a look of concern, then looked back at Leah. Liam spoke first.
“Try not to do it again, eh? We want to reach town sometime this year.”
“I’ll do my best. Though thats never happened to me before, not like that anyway.”
“It must be the fresh air cleaning the cobwebs out of your mind. Caves aren’t good for elves.”
Cassandra adjusted a strap of her pack as she spoke, and motioned for the group to keep moving.
“Come on. We can talk about it when we make camp.”
The rest of the days journey passed without event, the three making small talk with each other and the guards as they moved from the lightly wooded hills into a plain of long grass. Gentle hills surrounded the plain, and the sudden lack of tree cover let the wind cut into them. Leah pulled the cloak around her tighter as they made their way across the open ground, in the direction of a gap in the hills. The lack of any landmarks made gauging distance difficult, and what looked at first to be a short hike across the plain turned into multiple hours, as the group veered slightly off track towards the hills to their side. Cassandra explained that they were going to camp in a spot they had used on the way out from town, at the foot of a small cliff face by a river. There were ample woodlands around for her to take Leah out hunting there, and it was far less exposed than camping in the field would be.
“Little chance of any bandits striking us this far off the beaten path, but monsters are another matter. The smart ones will avoid a group our size, but not all of them are smart.”
Connor, the lead guard, announced to the group that they weren’t far off the camp, and that the route ahead was likely safe. Cassandra took that as her cue to pull Leah with her, and the two broke off to head deeper into the woods, while the rest of the party forged ahead to make camp.
“I know this is going to sound stupid, but its not dangerous for us to go off alone?”
Cassandra looked at her like she was indeed stupid.
“Leah, the day that the forest is dangerous to a Ranger, much less an elven one, is the day that the sky should fall and end it all for us. I’ll be able to pick up on anything stalking us, and if we run into trouble, I can signal for assistance. I’ve spent damn near my whole life practising this craft, so trust me when I say that you’ll be as safe as you can be out here.”
Deciding to trust her on this, Leah shrugged her pack into a more comfortable position, and the pair broke off into the woods. With a few hours left until sunset, they had ample time to make a kill before returning.