“You know, Thorn, I don’t know that I have ever encountered someone as lucky as you in this game.” Velin tucked a strand hair behind her pointy ear as she looked at Thorn’s seated figure.
“Haha, I told you.” Mina stood up from where she had been playing with Akira. “Big guy has the best luck ever. And if we hang out with him, maybe some of it will rub off on us.”
“That is not how it works.”
“Says who? You told me that the gods were all dead, too. But he met one. And now he is an avatar. I bet he has a rare race, too.”
“Unique, actually. I’m a Titan.”
“What!” Mina and Velin both yelled, startling Akira, who jumped up onto Thorn’s head and squeaked angrily at them.
“Yeah, the system could not handle my size with any of the existing races, so it gave me a unique race.”
“I take it back. I have certainly never encountered anyone as lucky as you,” Velin gave a sigh of defeat.
“This is so awesome! I bet Ouroboros will be so jealous when he finds out!” Mina danced around in excitement. “We should call him and rub it in his face.”
“That is a terrible idea, Mina. Thorn, I don’t know if I can handle any more surprises, so if there is anything else, keep it to yourself for now.” Velin cracked a rare joke.
Laughing, Thorn led the girls to the cave where he had fought against the corrupted wolves. He had explained how Akira had found the last few ingredients that they needed for the potions, but he was simply too large to fit inside the cave to retrieve them. While this earned him endless mocking from Mina, Thorn did not mind. Her teasing was meant in good fun and did not bother him at all.
Velin had shown an interested expression when Thorn brought up the glowing stone that Akira found, but declined to comment when he asked about it, saying that it would be better to see the stone first. When they got to the cave, Akira affirmed that the logs had not been disturbed, so Thorn lifted them out of the way, and the girls scrambled into the cave after Velin summoned a light.
Standing outside, Thorn looked around at the quiet forest while he waited, thinking about the fights that were coming. His encounter with Gargish, the Blood Hunter, had given him a healthy respect for werewolves, and it had only been reinforced by the fight with Amis. While he was much more confident in his fighting ability than he had been back then, his fight with the corrupted wolves at this very spot made him very aware that he could not take anything for granted.
Gargish had been one of the few things Thorn had encountered so far that was able to move him, and, combined with the werewolf’s blistering speed, he had made for a nasty foe. Just thinking about a whole castle full of enemies like that made Thorn shiver.
Mina and Velin took half an hour to collect all the Sliverleaf in the cave, before crawling back out to join Thorn. They had picked close to forty plants, giving them more than enough for the potions. Velin had also spent some time looking at the glowing stone that Akira had spotted. Unsure of what it was or how it worked, she left it in place.
The three players made good time on their way back to Greymane, arriving mid-afternoon. After delivering the last of the herbs to Charles, the girls explored the town, while Thorn hung out with the alchemist. Since he had the books for it, Thorn figured that picking up some alchemy would not hurt. In reality, however, turned out to be much more difficult than he had anticipated.
Charles settled down on a tall stool at his alchemist lab in the back room of the inn. He explained that, more often than not, alchemist labs would be hidden in a basement, or somewhere underground, but that the inn only had a cellar, and it was too small to use. Wiping away imaginary sweat from his brow, Thorn could only be grateful that he did not have to squeeze into a tiny space to watch.
The initial steps of the potions seemed reasonable. Charles crushed the Blue Bells and, carefully separating the plant pulp out, poured the remaining liquid into little containers. The pulp was piled together in a large press that he used to squeeze out the last few drops of liquid. After clearing the press and washing all of his tools, Charles repeated the process for the Silverleaf and Wolfsbane.
The Zimph root and the deer hearts were diced into tiny pieces, placed into separate pots, and set to simmer over a low flame. While waiting for the cooking mixtures to finish, Charles began to carefully portion out the Blue Bells, Wolfsbane, and Silverleaf liquids with a dropper. He paid special attention to the Wolfsbane, making sure to only get four drops in each container.
Watching Charles use the tiny dropper to mix the potions, Thorn immediately gave up the idea of becoming an alchemist. The closer he looked, the more tiny implements he saw. There were tiny spoons, knives, droppers, mixers, glass beakers, and countless other apparatus that he had no desire to try and fiddle with.
That dropper was half the size of his pinky, for goodness sake. Handling fragile glass like that? Forget it. At first, Thorn was disappointed that he would not be able to become an alchemist, but the more he thought about it, the less of an issue it seemed to be. From the detail and care Charles was applying to his tasks, it was obvious that alchemy was a tricky, detailed occupation, so it made much more sense for Thorn to hand the books to someone who would be able to focus on alchemy completely.
After watching for a few more minutes, Thorn excused himself and went to look for Mina and Velin. He found them sitting in the shade across from the inn, drinking lemonade and eating some cakes that Mina had brought with her.
“Hey, Thorn,” Mina waved as Thorn’s large figure appeared.
“Find anything interesting?” After a sceptical look at the bench they were sitting on, Thorn settled for squatting next to them.
“Nah, this town is pretty desolate. Everyone is really down. Velin thinks it is the curse you mentioned.”
“Correct.” Velin meticulously licked some remnants of frosting from her fingers. “There is a curse over the whole village. I haven’t worked out the exact details, but apart from making everyone depressed, it seems to lower the effectiveness of most actions by at least 30%. This village will bloom, should we be successful in returning the statue.”
“What do you think about our chances of succeeding?” Thorn asked, swallowing the food he had gotten out.
“That high?” Thorn raised an eyebrow at Velin’s flat statement.
“Thorn, have you paid any attention to yourself recently?” Mina jumped in. “You are a walking boss. You beat an entire squad of Crimson Snakes to death with almost no effort. As long as you have a healer and someone to watch your back, there is no question about succeeding.”
“Mina is correct. Our party composition is ideal. Though you are still classless, you can operate as both a tank and as our main damage. Mina and I can support through crowd control and healing while handling any rogues or stealth.”
“And me! And me!” Akira, mad at being left out, jumped up and down on Thorn’s shoulder.
“And we cannot forget Akira, who can support all of us with healing,” Velin smoothly continued, not missing a beat as she broke off a piece of her pastry and held it out. Akira, quite pleased, scampered down from Thorn’s shoulder and took the piece of pastry in triumph.
“Once we have the potions, we should be able to mount ambushes on the werewolves, which will help us clear Greymane Keep. We will want to be cautious. The werewolves are pretty tough enemies.”
“We burned through them pretty fast last time. What’s the big deal?”
“Those were not werewolves; they were wolfkin.” Thorn shook his head at Mina. “The difference is pretty substantial. Remember Amis? Imagine an army of him. After he hulked out.”
“Okay, that might be scary. Are all werewolves that big?”
“Actually, the first werewolf I faced was bigger. So I would assume that the current boss of the keep will be the biggest so far. We’ll have to move carefully, so the potions will certainly help.”
As the three players hung out, chatting about their upcoming adventure, Charles emerged from the inn, looking tired.
“Hey, Thorn. Those potions are done, but they need to sit overnight otherwise they will not be as potent. They should be ready to go tomorrow morning.”
“Thanks for your hard work, Charles.”
“It’s my pleasure, if you can wipe out those monsters in the keep. A couple things to note: the scent erasure potion works for you and anything you have equipped when you take it. If you get other things after that, it will not block their scents, so be careful what you pick up. Also, the attraction potion is quite potent, so only use a bit at a time. Just splash it on a wall or something.” The tired alchemist waved a hand and walked off, calling back over his shoulder, “Oh, if you haven’t talked to Thomas, you should. He knows more about the keep than anyone.”
“Thomas is?” Velin asked Thorn, watching Charles’ back.
“Hm? Oh, Thomas is the village elder. Old guy, big beard, hangs out in the mayor’s office? Or jail. I think it is both.”
“We should definitely go talk to him.” Velin perked up at the prospect of getting more information. Half an hour later, the group sat around a table in the town’s makeshift mayor’s office. Thomas, as grumpy as always, seemed secretly delighted to have an audience and began chatting as soon as they sat down.
“So, you want to know the history of the keep, do you?” Pausing to take a swig from the bottle of wine that Thorn had handed him, he coughed and wiped his mouth with the back of his hand. “It’s a pretty dark tale. Not sure if your ears will bear the telling of it. Still, if you are going to go into that den of evil, you should know what you are getting yourself into. Let me think now. It has been about twenty years since the curse of the blood moon appeared, but to get to the true heart of the story, we must go back much farther.
“In the Era of Gods, this land was prosperous. The forest kept to the mountains, and the valley was filled with farms. Humans lived together with many other races here in Greymane. The land was peaceful, protected by the Temple of the Moon, a fortress monastery in the mountains. The warrior monks protected the valley, and in return were provided with food and other resources. Every generation, one of their numbers would be chosen to come down to the valley to lead the people of the valley, being named Lord Greymane. The other monks became Night Walkers, worshipers of Hati, the god who rules the night. The Night Walkers ranged far from the Temple, destroying evil wherever it was found.
“Yet, in time, a corruption set in. The Night Walkers grew stronger and fiercer, becoming a powerful force that many other gods feared. They ranged farther afield, leaving the valley defenseless. One day, the army of another god came, overrunning the valley and destroying the Temple of the Moon. Furious, the Lord of that generation, a wolfkin named Davyos, led the few remaining wolfkin monks in a terrible ritual, producing the blood moon curse. Their act plunged the land into chaos, and the valley was devastated.
“When the Night Walkers returned and saw what had become of the valley, they blamed Davyos and cast him from the valley. The few remaining Night Walkers appointed a Lord Greymane from the village and chased after Davyos. Where he went, no one knows. Nothing was heard from the Night Walkers, or Davyos’ descendants, until twenty years ago, when a powerful werewolf returned, bringing with him the curse.
“Slaughtering his way into Greymane Keep, which had been built on top of the ruins of the Temple of the Moon, the werewolf turned the resident Lord Greymane, Gargish Moonclaw, into a beast like himself. Since then, the werewolves have ruled the valley with the aid of their corrupted wolves, treating those of us in the valley as nothing more than vermin. The curse deforms anyone who remains in the castle past nightfall into a werewolf and binds them to the property, except on the full moon, when they come out and scour the land.
“If you are able, travelers, I beg you to save us from this cursed life.” Putting the bottle of wine on the table, Thomas stood unsteadily and bowed his head to the three players. “The valley desperately needs a true lord, and if you can destroy the evil that plagues our land, we will willingly serve.”
Quest Updated - Lord of Greymane
Elder Thomas, the Greymane Village leader, has asked you to break the curse hanging over these lands by claiming your position as the Lord of Greymane. To break the curse, you must sit in the Wolf Throne while wearing the Ring of the Wolf Lord. As an added requirement, defeat all of the werewolves in the castle.
0/1 Greater Werewolf
Title: Lord Greymane Unlocked
Area: Greymane Keep
Area: Fang Forest
Area: Greymane Village
Area: The Twins
“Well, the good news is that we know how many werewolves we have to kill,” Thorn said with a sigh, sharing the quest with the two girls. “The bad news is that there are a lot of them.”
“Sheesh. 100? No, 101. That is only a little bit terrifying.” Mina paled as she read the quest.
“It is alright. We’ll just take it slow. Thomas, do you have any advice for us?”
“Hmm? Advice? For attacking the castle?” Thomas sat down and took a long swig of wine. “Go during the day? The werewolves seem to be more active during the night time, so maybe attacking during the day would be the best.”
“Thank you. We will accept this quest and will break the curse over the valley.” Nodding to the headman, Thorn and the girls left the building.
“Thorn, is Oberlin going to be joining us?” Velin asked without lifting her head from her notepad, where she was writing something down as she walked.
“I am not sure that he will make it back in time, so it will probably just be us. We should plan that way, at least. Let's go get some sleep. We have a crazy day tomorrow.”
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Bio: My name is Seth Ring and I am a writer. I create worlds and tell the stories of those who inhabit them. I love exploring these new worlds with other people. I post a chapter every Friday around 12 pm EST. To get advanced access to chapters you can support me on Patreon at https://www.patreon.com/SethRing.