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Taking the entirety of the circumstances of my second life into account, overall I should be pretty happy. I got a chance to be reborn as a long lived, intelligent race with a relatively high technological base included with a substantial series of research points put into magic theory. I was also fortunate enough to be born into a mildly successful clan as part of an expedition to claim untamed territory and am a vital part of the community with my ‘innovative’ style of gastronomy. My family both immediate and extended are good, hardworking people and the friends I have made are much the same.

As such, the positives thus far listed have allowed me to venture south into the tropical rainforest with two childhood companions in the search for pepper vines. Or at least something similar to it. Maybe even wild rice if I’m lucky.

The conditions for growth are good and pepper was originally cultivated in southeast asia during my previous life, specifically India. With similar growing conditions, I have a better than average chance of discovering an analogue if I spend enough time tromping through the jungle.

Or at least that was my mindset when I began this trek with the optimism of comfortably warm temperatures and the occasional, stiff breeze to soothe my worries.

Yo.

His balls are sweaty, pits stink and shirt is heavy.

The pastrami’s gone bad already, goodbye my packed spaghetti.

Gonna lose myself in the jungle, and stumble…

If heatstroke don’t do it first. Yo.

Ugh.

Lets list the downsides currently weighing down my mind and normally good humor.

Being a dwarf is cool and all, but short, stumpy ass legs really don’t help me when there’s fallen logs, vines, and chest high thorny plants getting stuck on cloth. The only fucking reason I’m out here is because Dhurger ‘cuisine’ is shit, and demi food is only marginally better by dint of it being mildly easier to get down the throat without breaking a tooth on gravel.

It adds texture and strength for the body, or so said the former Hearthkeeper who sampled the buttered toast I made as a toddler and left on a religious pilgrimage.

He comes back every few years in an effort to instruct his blessed apprentice turned impromptu master after developing some secret technique or another. Unfortunately, one soul shattering breakfast, lunch, or dinner later, the old man once more ritually shaves himself before setting of on another journey towards a random destination. Pre Dhazad dwarven pride can be eye rolling like that.

My next gripe on the list somewhat has to do with my current companions Freki and Geri, but more with the Master Huntsmen who decided that this would be a good training exercise for their apprentices prior to their journeyman examination.

Yes, let’s allow the sixteen year old wolf demi and his fifteen year old younger brother to act as guards and guides for the fifteen year old Master dwarf on an expedition in what is probably the most dangerous area bordering the village’s territory. While mentally I’m aware that the we probably won’t run into anything truly dangerous only a mile within the jungle’s edge, I can’t help but be ever so slightly butthurt that one of the elder hunters didn’t join us.

My companions would be bitching less, I’m sure.

“So, this plant you’re looking for is supposed to smell… spicy? Like an onion?” The younger wolf whines with his arms folded behind his head.

“Yes Freki.”

“Yumly, the only thing I can smell out here is rot, sweat, and the stink of unwashed despair mixing with the water in the air.” The elder takes his chance to add his two cents to the conversation. “Oh no, that’s just us stewing in the jungle like one of your steamed buns.”

“I know Geri.” I groaned with gritted teeth.

The bitching really isn’t helping my mood guy.

“Why are we even out here anyway? We could just go where we usually do and get some fresh jungle fruit. This place sucks.” The blonde wolf flicks his ear irritably, eyes narrowed at something in the distance before sighing. “This place really sucks.”

“I’m questioning that myself Freki.”

“You know we’re northern wolves, right Master Dwarf? We’re not made for this kinda thing you know.” The older demi moans dramatically, easily wading through the undergrowth like he’s been doing it all his life.

Which he has.

Dick.

“I understand Master Wolf. I’m still going to kill you if you don’t stop talking.” I threatened, picking up my axe and shaking it for good effect.

The wolf snorts as he takes a deep breath and nods towards a nearby grouping of bushes.

Immediately all of us have our free hands on the handles of our rifles even as we continue speaking like we haven’t noticed a thing.

“I’d take it as a favor. Beats walking back home.” Freki retorts with a snort, waving his brother off a good dozen feet away while he stays several steps behind me.

I grunted in return, hacking away savagely at the thick tree the width of my body with an axe. The single strike from the cold dwarven steel powered by densely chorded musculature is enough to embed the axe blade nearly all the way through the soft wood. Like I’ve done with the other two dozen trees we’ve killed to clearly mark the way back home, I place my shoulder against the nearly dead tree and push against it while pulling up my axe as a lever.

The last bit of tree snaps from the involved forces and topples away from myself and my companions who look ahead with eyes as dead as my own at the daunting undergrowth ahead. I glance towards the brothers who both shake their heads and bring their rifles up towards whatever it was they had scented or heard.

Somehow the jungle seemed to get thicker with every step we took into the shadowed, mosquito filled depths of endless greenery. A minute later I hear the hoof steps of a large something tromping its way through the brush and I slowly replace my axe into my belt holster and take a two handed grip on my gun.

Ah. A boar.

At this point the noisy grunts and sounds of tree bark being scraped away by arm sized tusks was a gods sent outlet for our combined frustrations. Neither of the brothers or I have to communicate beyond a single nod as the two fan out to the sides and I bring up my rifle towards where the noise is slowly rumbling closer through the foliage.

I’m very sorry oh dangerous creature.

There won’t be any finding of peppercorns today, but I’ll happily take your offered meat as a consolation prize.

“It’s the least you can do for forcing us to pull your carcass back home.” I grumble under my breath and pull the trigger. This action is promptly followed by a thunderous crack and a jarring impact against my shoulder.

The plated boar that just reared its bone armored head out of the brush is pushed back slightly and manages to remain on its feet for all of three seconds before realizing it has died. As it tumbles to the floor in an ungainly slump, my two friends walk out of the brus with their own rifles tucked firmly in their shoulders.

Wordlessly Freki stops out of lunging distance and puts another shot through the creature’s armored eyelid, making sure the boar was down for the count. “Thing’s pretty close to the jungle’s edge, didn’t expect to bag one of these today.”

Levering a new round into his rifle, the elder brother mumbles with narrowed eyes as I do much the same with another Monster Stopper.

“You think something’s pushing them out, brother? The Ferals?” Geri cocks his head, ears poised and alert as he looks around with a renewed sense of vigor without thought to the heat bearing down on us all.

“Could be. We haven’t seen them in a while so either they’ve gone back deeper into the jungle or they’re getting better at hiding themselves.” The redheaded older wolf replies with a small frown.

“It’s probably nothing. It’s too early for culling season, but that doesn’t mean there haven’t been an above average number of monster births this year.” I note with a shrug, picking up the used brass and placing it back in a waterproof pocket. “Anyway let’s get this big boy back home, no point letting this meat go to waste.”

Dual grunts of agreement call back as I lift the corpse around three times my weight with a groan of effort over my shoulders.

I’m not really worried about the weight, dwarves are built stronger and tougher than most. What I’m more concerned about is how miserable it’s going to be carrying this heat sink through the jungle at a fast enough pace that the meat will still be decent by the time I’m able to cool it down in a cold bath.

Well, sweat is just weakness leaving the body and all that. Least I don’t have to worry about pulling ticks out of my stubble.

“Alright boys, lets get dinner back home.” I grunt and take off at a shuffling jog I could keep up for hours on end even with the weight on my back.

The wolf brothers roll their eyes and walk faster with lengthened strides.

Bastards.

On the way back something in the jungle causes both boys to stiffen during their walk momentarily. They say nothing but we quicken our pace just a tiny bit.

The entire way home I see their furry, canine ears swiveling around their heads in an effort to triangulate the creature that spooked them to no avail. Fortunately whatever it is didn’t seem keen on following us out of the forest.

Later conversation would lead to the discovery that whatever it was that was watching and carefully tracking us for several minutes didn’t give off a scent, not something that didn’t blend in with the rest of the jungle in any case.

A little concerning, but it was probably nothing more than a curious Feral.





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konamikode

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