Itet’chi’zzt was starving. Her mourning had made her ignore her hunger, walking aimlessly and staring into a fire for days on end. It was only when she slipped and fell that she realized she was dying.
“The Z’Tet hive…” She said, grunting with effort as she tried to stand. “Is the strongest, most unshakable hive, with roots that go beyond the Groundbreaking. Z’tet warriors… Eat Ch’Ti’zet and crap Ze’Chi.”
She pushed herself to her feet, buoyed by the pride and the expectations of her Hive. Her group was dead, but she still had work to do. She had to reframe her thought process. She wasn’t abandoned in exile: This was an extended work tour, away from the Hive. It was nearly unbearable, but it was necessary, she had to retrieve a Mythic Core and send one back to her tribe.
After that, who cared what happened to her? The Queen probably said those words to her to make her less reluctant to go.
Itet’chi’zzt hissed with self-loathing and punched a nearby tree, splintering the bark under her hard fist. Why must she always doubt?
She took a deep breath and felt her lungs filling her thorax. She was still alive, she would continue her mission. First thing first, she needed food.
Checking her quiver, she saw two dozen arrows remaining. Her Hive-mate’s arrows.
A crackling sound drew her attention, and she took aim at the sound. It was a four-footed earth creature, with strange, mossy skin that was colored light brown with white spots.
The sudden movement made the animal bolt.
Itet’chi’zzt fired, missing the fleeing animal by fractions of an inch. She followed up that arrow with another three in the space of a breath, but her hunger-weakened body missed every shot, allowing the animal to put distance and the strange Earth-trees between her and itself.
It’s over, she realized. That was my last chance. The male had been carrying the food, and there was no way she could go back there now. She could feel herself growing even weaker as the creature bounded through the underbrush offering barely a glimpse of its brown hide.
That was my Hive’s last chance. She saw a fleeting glimpse of the animal beyond a stand of trees. Once she died of hunger, there would be no one to save them from slavery to the Inner Sphere banks for another several thousand years, not until another Sphere was added.
More than dying, as a warrior, letting her Hive down because she couldn’t land a single shot infuriated her. They could have sent T’chetizz, whose arrows never missed their mark, or Sh’tizit whose natural Endurance made her almost immortal, but they sent me, and I. Am. Failing Them!
“Nooo!” Itet’chi’zzt hissed, a flurry of impotent rage overwhelming her.
Rage, and something else. Something colder.
She reached out, trying with the last of her strength to capture the impossibly distant creature, when a blast of ice erupted from her splayed palm, driving her backwards and slamming her against a tree none-to-gently.
When her vision cleared, there was a trough of upturned earth, so cold it was making a stream of mist gather at the bottom. At the end of the trough was half of the Earth creature, the other half embedded in the earth by a massive boulder of ice.
Her vision wavering, Itet’chi’zzt crawled toward the food, determined to survive, ignoring her Status Band that was telling her of the changes in her body.
|You have spontaneously manifested Ice bolt!||Proficiency 0.5%|
|Itet’chi’zzt||One star Iron Soldier||Blessings:||None|
|Strength||14||Class:||Rime Spellblade *NEW|
|Endurance||20 (+)||Skills:||Swords, Bows, Mana Wielding *NEW|
|Speed||22 (+)||Magic:||Ice Bolt *NEW|
|Memory||12||Inner Sphere Bank account:||-375438453 credits|
Ignoring the Band, Itet’chi’zzt put two hands over the other two, dragging herself to the fresh kill. The bitter cold air in the ice-covered trough didn’t seem to bother her so much. Her whole body ached from the impact with the tree, and her blood was becoming dangerously depleted of nutrition. If she didn’t eat soon, she would fall asleep and never wake up.
Keep going, keep going… Itet’chi’zzt’s world went dark, her last sight her own arm from about two inches away.
“Itet’chi’zzt.” She heard a voice call her name, and looked up. She was no longer in a forest, instead she was standing in some kind of massive black space, with no visible floor, walls or ceiling.
Above her stood a massive Tzetin, Her carapace showing signs of great age. A Queen of Queens. Itet’chi’zzt knelt instinctively, her antennae twitching with the sign of respect due such a being.
“You may stand, I am not one of your Queens.” The Queen said. Not a queen? Obviously the queen suffered from dementia, but that didn’t excuse any disrespect. She was caught in a dilemma, obey her and show disrespect, or disobey, to the same effect.
“I am Greg, the god of generosity, honor, filial piety, and timely intervention. You see what you wish.” The Queen spoke.
Confused, Itet’chi’zzt climbed to her feet. The exhaustion and pain in her body seemed to be gone, allowing her to move as she would. A god, then, not a queen. What could a being like that want with this failure of her species?
“You may not know this, but the Tzetin are among my favorite species.” Greg spoke.
“There has never been a Tzetin blessed by you.” She replied.
Greg’s antenna twitched in the equivilant of a shrug.
“While they are consistently loyal to their Hives, there have been very few who have been blessed with a choice. You are one of those rare few, and you have chosen to stay true to your Hive, and that makes you special.
“I don’t feel special.”
“Do you not?” The god asked, her antennae twitching with humor as she stepped forward, bringing her wizened form closer.
“Then let’s fix that.” The age-spotted hand settled on Itet’chi’zzt’s chest.
A cleansing wind blew through her body, invigorating every inch of her.
Itet’chi’zzt’s sight came back into focus, expanding out as her mind came into full control of her body. With a shuddering gasp, she pushed herself up onto her elbows, looking around as the Status Band updated.
|Blessings of Greg:||Paragon of Good|
Time had passed. The sun had changed its angle, streaming down from the west, and only a few feet ahead of her, big black birds had gathered to peck at the cold half of the spotted brown animal – a deer, she would later learn – peeling away bits of flesh and skin.
Reinvigorated, she shooed the crows out of the way, pulling flint out of the backpack hanging over her thorax. She glanced at the creature, wondering what it tasted like, and deciding she didn’t care as long as it wasn’t poisonous. It would be far safer to cook it. That broke down most poisons.
She needed to be ready. She needed to be healthy and fit when the Mythic cores came down, so she could enter the fray and secure one for her Hive. One core would reinvigorate their run-down hive, allowing them to pull themselves out of poverty, While a second could be used to buy off the Bank and those ruthless Entramond worshippers, making their recovery even faster.
A third… Itet’chi’zzt didn’t even dare hope for a third. The competition would be fierce and bloody, the chances of her walking away alive with even a single Mythic core were astronomical. That is, if she behaved like a Tzetin.
If she acted like an outsider, if she relied on the Tzetin reputation for naivete to lure a group into a false sense of security and killed them when they’d fended off competitors and laid their hands on a core, then she’d have a chance.
Itet’chi’zzt recoiled from the idea. The thought was so foreign to her that the concept flew from her her mind, like trying to grasp a slippery ‘tchi’z seed. It made her think of the human in the ‘bar’ who’d acted friendly, showing them native drinks and chatting as though they were old friends before turning on them.
Could she do something like that?
Itet’chi’zzt shook her head, antennae quivering with disgust. She couldn’t. Nothing like that, to anyone. She may not trust as easily as her kind, but she would never break it. The very thought made her stomachs churn.
What options did that leave her?
Speed. She had to get her first core through sheer speed. If she was as far as possible from an outpost, then she could approach one, secure it and be gone before any other prospectors showed up. Not a bad plan.
The second Core? She would think about that after she’d gotten the first.
She got the fire going well, and used her knife to cut strips from the deer’s flesh, roasting them over the flame. The meat was lean, without much fat, and no seasonings, but her insistent hunger pangs made it the sweetest meal she’d eaten in some time. She just wished she had hive mates to share it with.
The bell of the tailor’s shop rung as Garth pushed the door open, aggravating his hangover.
Apparently, Minotaur beer was stronger than human beer. Go figure. Still worth it. He’d settled up with Brian for the meal around midnight and Sandi had shown him to the local inn, where adventurers paid for their stays by the night, seeing how they sometimes don’t return.
The inn gave him a room somebody hadn’t returned to in two weeks, clearing out the presumed dead man’s possessions in a detached, efficient manner in exchange for one hundred and fifty credits. When asked why the inn was so expensive, the fat orc manager shrugged and told him he could sleep outside if he liked. Supply and demand, I guess.
Sandi offered to keep him company, but Garth gently turned her down. He was drunk, but he still wanted to keep his wits about him, and felt like sex with Sandi was ill advised without Protection with a capital P. That, and Sandi was not good for his wits. She was, however good for his heart and autonomic nervous system. Really kept his gears oiled up, made him feel like he was twenty again. Like he wanted to fight somebody.
Autonomic nervous system, jeez. Garth shook his head. Ever since he’d begun improving his stats, his physique had gotten better, sure, but his mind had grown by leaps and bounds, allowing him to recall every useless piece of information he’d ever seen, even in passing.
It wasn’t so much like all his memories were constantly present in the back of his mind, and more like a powerful search engine with an AI autofill would pull memories as they pertained to his situation and apply them.
It was like being smarter without feeling smarter.
Garth glanced at Wilson on his shoulder, wondering how much of that was his influence. The lizard was busy inspecting the man in the shop, ignoring Garth’s navel-gazing.
A thin man about four foot five with white irises turned from his sewing work as the door rang, glancing at Garth’s ragged polyester kilt. How is this guy a blob’s brother in law? Wait. Brother in law. Does that mean this guy is married to a blob-girl? Wonder how that played out. Guy probably has a hideously oversized cock that will only fit someone who literally stretches.
“You need help,” the tailor said, more of a statement of fact than a question.
“I lost my clothes about a week ago.” Garth said, stepping into the shop and dismissing his unkind thoughts. “Looking for durable a new outfit and a bandolier.” The shop smelled a bit musty, and was completely constructed out of rough-cut wood, like every other building in the outpost. The lighting came from a small white orb on the top of a lamppost that was reflected down at the work in his hands. It looked almost like a normal lamp, except it had no cord, and was made of ornamental wrought iron.
“It was a bridal gift. Terribly expensive to ship out, but it means a lot to us.” The tailor said as he hopped off his seat, picking up his measuring tape. The man barely surpassed Garth’s waist, but he had all the confidence of a professional as he pulled up a chair and started taking Garth’s measurements.
In a matter of minutes, he’d gotten started making his clothes and shoes. Luckily there was a bandolier that fit Garth, so he paid for all of them and left, with instructions to pick up his order at sundown, walking out with the new leather strap hung over his shoulder.
Now the second order of business: Magic.
Garth tried to fight down his grin, but he failed miserably, prancing down the street and smiling like an idiot.