They gathered their belonging from the toppled walker and set out. Sandi offered to flip the several thousand pound oak spider back on to its feet, but Garth said no. While he was pretty sure she could do it, they would get to each of the Mythic cores dotting the landscape much faster on foot with an application of Forestwalk.
They didn’t have much between the two of them. Garth retrieved his reading lantern, miraculously unbroken by the storm of cores falling from the sky, and Sandi picked up her little sundew, two branches torn off in the tumble, and it’s sticky leaves covered in dirt.
Normally Garth would write the plant off as toast, but the broken stems looked like they had already scabbed over, and the dirt was gradually flaking away. The plant was a tough bastard. He was a little proud of himself actually. It also made him excited to master the Design Plant spell.
Whoops, can’t get ahead of myself. Garth thought as they set out toward the west under the effect of Forestwalk. Garth had almost tried to cast it without removing the Mythic core from his possession, nearly exploding. The mana he saw condensing around the stone was so highly compressed that trying that simple spell would have blown his top off.
As it was, he gave the core to Sandi and took quite a few steps back before the mana in the air didn’t feel like it was about to ram itself down his throat, casting Forestwalk on both of them.
The Outpost to the East that they had come from was filled with people who would no doubt be flooding into the surrounding countryside, picking up and killing each other over fortunes laying around on the dirt. And it was only thirty or so miles away.
They set out gliding through the woods toward the mental map he had made of where the cores had fallen, the memory clear as day. Garth pulled the memory up in his mind, spotted a landmark tree, mentally dropped a you are here dot on the mental map, and oriented himself on the most efficient path to get their next three cores while still heading in a generally westerly direction.
Garth had never been able to process information like that before. Hell, his sense of direction had never really been that good, requiring him to live long periods of time in one place before he was able to take the leap of faith and not use his GPS to tell him where the damn supermarket was.
Wilson riding his shoulder, Garth sprang through the trees like a gazelle, running faster than humanly possible through the woods…only to be left in the dust by Sandi. Without the advantage of the Forestwalk spell, Garth was eating her dust.
The succubus stopped a few dozen yards ahead and looked over her shoulder watching him impatiently.
“You know what?” she asked, matching his pace.
“What?” Garth asked, springing through the woods.
“We can go faster than this.”
Once again giant invisible hands clamped down around his waist, lifting him up and up into the air, dangling over nothing. Garth bit down a squeal of discomfort. No way was he going to squeal in front of Sandi.
“Spread your legs,” Sandi commanded.
Never thought I’d be hearing that… Garth widened his legs, and the hands gently lowered him. He felt his feet bump against, then slide around something big and warm, a bit less wide than a horse, and more comfortable. Still looked like he was sitting in mid air just behind a pretty blonde.
As a matter of fact, the height offered him an interesting view of her thong. The map in Garth’s head wobbled a bit, and Garth fixed his eyes forward, determined to weather the storm of hormones.
“There’s a spine behind my neck, you can hold onto that,” Sandi said.
Garth felt blindly forward on Sandi’s back, taking in the soft skin of the succubus’s real body until he felt a hard pole sticking from it, emerging from the skin and feeling a bit like a horn. Garth got a good hold on it and nodded.
Sandi took off, and Garth nearly flew off the enormous invisible creature. They must be going close to fifty miles an hour through the forest, and he could only attribute six or so to himself. He saw Sandi’s Lure moving with inhuman speed just below him, eyes fixed forward with her plant tucked under her arm like a running back.
“Left a little,” Garth said, leaning left, and she corrected, putting them on course with Garth’s mental map.
“Are you tired?” Garth asked as they travelled, “because we can stop.” To which Sandi shook her head, cruising along fast enough to make the spider-oak seem laughable.
“Sometimes I wonder why I even bother being clever when you can just brute force solutions like this, no problem.” Garth said. “You are a smoother ride though.” Garth spotted the back of her neck turning red at his comment.
“I liked the walker, it was relaxing, and I got a little sleep.”
True, eventually she did need to sleep, but at the rate they were going, it would only take one more day to reach the next outpost. Even snagging Mythic cores on the way by, they’d made excellent time.
“I’d make another one, but it’ll be better to camp in a safe spot and not move around too much. Getting closer to civilization means it’ll be a bad idea to attract attention to ourselves.”
Garth’s status band held a good fifteen of the gently glowing priceless golden spheres. He’d briefly considered shoving a couple up his ass for safekeeping, but he was a little concerned about what mana at that concentration would do to his prostate. That and Sandi had refused to let him sit on her back if he did.
Fifteen Mythic Cores was a king’s ransom, capable of powering several national treasure level artifacts, or keeping entire cities powered for hundreds of years in the Inner Spheres, at least according to Sandi.
Garth studied one of the gold golf balls in his fingers as they cruised through the tall grass, halfway to the next outpost already. They might be incredibly valuable on an industrial level, but Garth couldn’t do a damn thing with them yet. He didn’t dare use spells within twenty feet of his collection. The minimum safe radius for spellcasting kept getting wider as he acquired more of them.
When he had the leisure, Garth wanted to cast simple spells closer and closer to one of the Mythic Cores, tempering his ability to channel large amounts of mana until he could actually cast a spell while touching one.
The problem he’d discovered during a small break, was rather than having to wrangle the mana where you wanted it to go, you had to have major skill at pumping the breaks and exercising restraint, an entirely new concept to Garth’s attempts at spellcasting. Garth’s mana channeling proficiency had increased according to his Status Band, due to trying different things than he was used to.
They were cruising through tall grass, making great time. The sun was starting to sink down from its zenith, putting the time at maybe two o clock when Sandi spotted another Mythic Core’s drop site.
“Over there!” Sandi said, pointing with her Lure through the tall grass. She’d spotted one first again. The five foot four blonde simulacrum had no way of seeing above the tall weeds, but her main body’s eyesight was on line with Garth’s own, and despite Garth having a class that enhanced his Senses, the succubus seemed to be blessed with better eyesight naturally.
When asked, he’d gotten the succubi’s admittedly incomplete explanation of Attributes and how they worked. According to Sandi, the Attributes weren’t fixed numbers. They were rather more like multipliers than specific quantities detailing how strong or fast someone was.
A man with 15 strength would be 1.5 times stronger than he rightly should be, but if he didn’t work out a day in his life, he’d be put to shame by one with 10 Strength who worked out religiously.
The same was true for intelligence. Someone who never applied their Intelligence could be outperformed by a rather studious, hard-thinking individual with lower Intelligence. It was a matter of effort.
The reason she always spotted things first was that Garth had always had bad eyesight. While it had been improved tremendously, to near superhuman levels, even, he still was starting from a far lower point than Sandi was. He narrowed his eyes, focusing in the direction Sandi had started towards.
A moment later, he saw the tiny bit of black, burned grass on the horizon, barely a smudge on the waves of green. She’d spotted another one.
“Alright, let’s go for it,” Garth said, glancing down at the Succubi’s Lure gliding through the grass. Since he didn’t have a lot to entertain himself on the trip, he had spent some of it reading his spellbooks, and the rest of the time working on his own special method of bedeviling the literal man-hunter. If what he read was true, she could feel her Lure’s form somewhat, so Garth had to practice while she was distracted.
Garth closed his eyes and send tendrils of thought exploring every belief and motivation he’d ever had, until he was just outside the core of his being. Not gonna touch that!
After a moment of mapping out his base desires and why he had them, Garth introduced the notion that black hair was exotic.
Black hair was sexy, but forbidden. His mother would be ashamed of him if she ever knew he was dating a girl with black hair. Black haired girls were wild in the sack. The shine from their hair glistened in the most enticing way…
Garth created layer after layer, tying it together into a mental construct that embedded itself in his mind before powering it with a tiny dollop of mana. The stones safely in his storage had no effect on the mana in the surrounding area. In a matter of seconds it should run out.
That done, Garth opened his eyes, and glanced down.
Sandi’s Lure sported a head of long black hair. A few seconds later her hair shifted back to blonde as the mental construct fell apart.
Lets see what she thinks when I turn her Lure into a giant chicken! Garth thought, then immediately reconsidered. Wouldn’t she get the last laugh, because by that point he would be genuinely attracted to giant chickens?
Garth decided to keep his pranking of Sandi within the realm of things he could be physically attracted to normally, because that image was going to haunt him. Imagine if she wanted to get one back at him by seducing him, and when the spell wore off, Garth would have memories of having sex with a giant bird? Or a chair? Garth shuddered.
“What’s up?” Sandi asked as they approached the black spot in the grass.
“Just thinking.” Garth said. Come to think of it, he’d actually invented a spell! The Archmage class kicked ass! Or whatever weird-ass variant of it he’d gotten. Maybe he could call it Garth’s Marriage Rekindler. He was fairly sure no one was going to use his experimental self-hypnosis designed to mess with succubi to make their husband attractive again, but who knew?
They approached the black circle, about ten feet wide, where a single golden sphere rested.
“Garth, something’s weird.” Sandi said as they approached.
“What?” Garth asked, his attention turning to the windswept grass around them. He didn’t see anything moving.
“I can feel other people looking at me.”
Crap. The Mythic Core is a trap. We need to bolt!
“Sandi, run aw-“
Hold it right there!” a voice emerged from the grass, along with no less than fifty armed Thrask aiming thick recurve bows at them, with arrows that looked like they could puncture steel. The dusky skinned, barrel chested men had them totally surrounded. Were Thrask just more inclined to organized crime?
“Drop everything you’re carrying!” the one in front said, leveling a sword at them. “Do it quick and without a fuss, and we won’t have to kill ya.”
“Bet you wish you’d have let me put the cores in my ass now, huh?” Garth asked, his hands up.