When the next morning dawned, the three stooges, who had tried to attack us during the night, had demonstrated that they were travellers, by virtue of their bodies despawning at some point in the night. To us, it was an incredibly useful thing, or there would have been three dead bodies that raised questions and could cause trouble. Now, we just had to leave before the stooges respawned and the situation would have time to blow over.
Lenore and I happily discussed what had happened, what we had discovered, partially merging our minds to do so. We now had ideas how to create direct sensations in the mind of a target, not just slamming into the mind with brute force, but inducing the sensations we had experimented with, adding to my repertoire in Mind-Magic.
And I had gained two skill-points in it, bringing it to twelve, not tremendously high, but I had not done a lot with the skill. It was a type of magic we both enjoyed, seeing it as something very, very interesting. We often discussed magic and the application, it was one of the things that united us, our interest and our fascination with magic experimentation. Lenore was a little more conservative, less prone to simply saying, “Let’s find out what happens if I do, insert borderline insane idea.” but that did not stop her from evaluating the results and enjoying the new knowledge.
Another thing we were both curious about was if I would be able to use the blood I had drawn from the last traveller would allow me to locate and track him, or even attack him from a distance. I had mostly worked out the process to use blood as a link to target someone with runic magic, but I was not sure if it would work with a traveller. Not because of the way the local magical lore worked, but more because of the insane imbalance that would create in a game-world. Just capturing someone once, would enable a sufficiently ruthless Blood Mage to kill the traveller at any point. Or torture him. It would, in essence, erase the character, something I doubted Pantheon would want in a game, even if they tried to make it as realistic as possible. However, I felt that, as a Beta-tester, it was my solemn duty to test that particular theory.
The innkeeper looked at us with suspicion in his eyes, he had seen the confrontation the night before and when three fewer people came downstairs, it was not too big of a stretch to suspect that something had happened. It was not as if the attic-dorm was so inviting and comfortable that people would stay in it, just for the comforts of home. But, at the end of the day, he was just an innkeeper and not interested in confronting four adventurers. So, he just served us breakfast. The breakfast would not win any awards, nor was it so plentiful that one could eat with abandon, but it was adequate in quality and quantity. Not great, not even good, but adequate.
A quick discussion during breakfast revealed that none of us was too keen on staying in town, there was little to see or do, unless one wanted to stay for longer than we could afford. There were a couple of craftsman who would be able to train us, but convincing them to do so was outside of our financial ability and staying long enough was not really possible as well. Just trying to estimate the time needed to complete the journey we were on was close to impossible, so there was no way I was willing to stay here, in a small town in the middle of nowhere.
Lenore wanted to go into the southern mountains, apparently hoping that the wind raptors had the right kind of energy she needed to break through the first divide and I was very willing to help her find out. I had offered her to add my own Astral Power into the mix, but what she needed was neither Darkness nor Ice, it was Death as a basis and Air as a supporting element. I had been able to help Ylva, as she had needed physical strength as a basis, which I had taken from the wolves, and Ice as a supporting element, which I had added into the mix, allowing her to cleanly break through.
On the way towards the gates, I saw a small store that seemed to be a herb-store and remembered the incredibly useful Shadeleaf I had found long ago and the variety of herbs we had taken from the dryad Tegi, all still in my bag, as I had no way to deal with them.
Pulling the others along, I entered the store, interested in what they were selling and was greeted by a dim room, the air heavy with smells ranging from stingingly sharp to soothingly mild. There was a light undercurrent of magic in the air, hard to detect and mixed with the other smells, making it hard to accurately asses. Smelling the magic in the air, I unconsciously let my tongue dart out, tasting the air and the magic carried on it, trying to understand it. But even with the additional informations, I was unable to separate the myriad traces in the air, they were just too intermingled.
The sight in front of me was not much better, the store itself had a tiny space in front of the counter and a large space behind it, making it almost look like a pharmacy in the real world, you did not browse here, you asked for what you needed and were given it, if it was in stock.
I approached the counter, looking the proprietress over, trying to understand what she was. She looked like a human, only rather small, with rougher features and mostly covered in grey fur, only in her face there was visible, pale skin. Well, small compared to most humans, compared to me, she was maybe half a head taller. I could only guess at her race, it might be some sort of dwarf, some sort of orc or something else entirely. Even elf was remotely possible, even if I doubted it, she was too sturdy to make me believe that she was one.
“What do you need?” she asked, in a gravelly voice, sounding a little like a rock slide going down a mountain.
“I am looking for a guide to local fauna. I have some interest in the magical properties of herbs and their usage as magic foci.” I explained.
“You want to learn herb-lore? Mhrm, I might have something for you, but it’ll cost you.” she smirked. I somehow had a feeling that it would be more coin than I could afford. She turned around, looking through one of the cupboards behind her and turning back with an old and worn book, the jacket made out of wood to protect the bound pages within.
“There it is, my old tome. Got every herb of the region I know and what I know about their effect. But if you want it, you’ll have to pay for it.”
“How much?” I asked, thinking about possible ways to get coin and a lot of it.
“If you pay in coin, fifty official guild gold coins.” the woman announced. I had been prepared for a high, even a brutal price, and she did not disappoint. The official exchange of silver into gold were hundred-ten silver-coins for a single gold-coin, if you used the guild, which took ten percent, so she essentially wanted at least five-thousand silver coins, depending on the exchange, it would be up to five-thousand five-hundred.
My face must have given away the impossibility of that number, as she cackled.
“I can also lend the book to you. But I will need collateral in exchange for it.”
“What type of collateral do you have in mind? I can leave these herbs here, this staff, or this book.” I suggested, getting out the vast herb-collection I had taken from the dryad Tegi, the Earthen Magic-Staff and the book I had been given by the Grandmother. It would not be useful to the hag in front of me, but it was good collateral.
“That book? Where did you get it?” she asked, her eyes wild, the moment she saw the Zevarra Agha.
“It was given to me, by a dear teacher who helped me to find my own path.” I explained, not naming the Grandmother directly.
“She taught you? In that case, you will give me your word that you will return my book to me. I will keep those herbs you offered and you will give me your word.” the hag seemed rather subservient now, almost afraid.
“Very well. I, Morgana the traveller, give my solemn word to…” I trailed off, waiting for her name.
“I am Suja, of the Greyfur tribe.”
“...Suja, of the Greyfur tribe, that I will return the book of herb lore she lent me, within two weeks.” I finished my promise. There was no fanfare, no system announcement, but Suja seemed happy with the deal. I carefully took my new book, softly stroking over it’s weathered cover, placing it into my bag, together with the Zevarra Agha.
“Thank you, I will take good care of it.” I told her before leaving the store behind.
As I left, Suja bowed to me, it was a slightly strange experience.