“Get away from her!” Garth heard a…chittering shout, as four more arrows followed the first. All this happened in the amount of time it took him to realize there was someone else out there. Possibly several someones.
Garth hit the deck and rolled out of the way as the Thrask with the meat cleaver toppled to the ground, rusty blade landing just shy of Garth’s leg.
The remaining Thrask skidded to a halt, looking around themselves with rising panic. To their right, Sandi seemed to be dancing in the middle of an invisible people-blender, and to their left, there were arrows coming from the tall grass, picking them off one by one. In front of them was a cowering wizard.
They looked like they were about to come to a decision, but Garth took away any choice they had, tossing an acorn on either side of the group. The charged acorns still had Beladia Juice in them, apparently, shooting out of the ground and reaching massive size in a fraction of a second.
Before they could get their bearings, Garth took control of the oaks, spreading their thick branches around the group to pen them in before pummeling them to death with the huge tree’s main trunk.
Control Plants proficiency has reached 35%!
After a few seconds of that, Garth glanced around for the source of the arrows, but found nothing in either direction. To his left, Sandi pounced on the last fleeing Thrask bandit, tearing him to pieces as she lost herself in the kill. Her Lure moaned with her back arched in pleasure as her main body chewed through armor, spitting out buckles and hard leather before she could get to the tasty meat.
That image is gonna linger, Garth thought, averting his eyes as he scanned the edge of the grass clearing, looking for their bow-wielding benefactor.
It didn’t take long for them to appear, and it was…not what he was expecting. A giant ant…man with a bow stepped into the clearing. With the mandibles and the big compound eyes, Garth couldn’t make heads or tails of the creature’s expression, save that it wasn’t aiming the bow at him. That had to count for something.
It was, however, keeping an arrow strung and ready to fire. Clearly this ant-man had some reservations about the two of them. He turned its head slightly, and Garth got the feeling he was studying Sandi.
“Why does your companion seem to be…mating with those corpses?” Bug-man finally spoke, tilting its head back towards Garth.
“She’s a succubus.”
“She’s not Tzetin?” Bug Man studied Sandi and the corpses disappearing into her real body for a moment, his stance shifting as he took in the way they seemed to be disappearing into something huge and gluttonous. Thankfully the guy didn’t raise his bow. Garth didn’t want to start another fight.
“I see.” Bug Man said, turning back to Garth. “Three cores.”
“The cost of your rescue.”
Oh, great, as soon as I think being robbed is over and done with…Well, he did save my life. Being alive was something Garth did feel grateful for, but he couldn’t afford to give away three cores to everyone who rescued him from a dangerous situation. Who said this bug person didn’t stake out the bandits for this exact reason?
“We don’t know that you save my life for sure…But you sure did lend us a hand, and you earned a reward. You can have the one over there.” Garth said, pointing at the Core that had been used as a Lure by the bandits. “We could have come out of this conflict much worse, so I’m willing to call this debacle a wash.”
“I will take half of the Thrask’s Cores.”
“A third.” Garth nodded to Sandi. “She did most of the work. I only saw you take down four.” Garth crossed his arms and scowled up at the bug-man in a way he hoped was intimidating. Bug-man’s antennae twitched rapidly, making Garth wish his handy dandy Status Band could translate body language, because aside from the antennae, this creature was entirely motionless.
Finally he said, “Agreed.”
Garth held out his hand, and the creature tensed, it’s Antennae twitching.
“When you make a deal on Earth. It’s customary to shake hands.”
The Tzetin hesitantly held out one of his four hands and clasped Garths. It was an odd handshake, the smooth, unyielding carapace the only thing he could feel from the creature’s hand.
“I’m Garth. She’s Sandi.” He said, nodding toward the succubus devouring the dead Thrask.
“I am called Itet’chi’zzt.”
While Garth’s memory was good enough to remember her name, his mouth just didn’t want to make those noises.
“Can I call you Itet?” he asked. Sounded fancy. Egyptian, even.
Still gonna do it.
As it turned out, The Thrask did have three more Cores, if you included the one Garth threw at the mage, which Itet did. It rankled Garth a bit, but when you looked at the big picture, he was still walking away with one Core more than he walked in, so he shouldn’t be too picky.
Once Sandi calmed down, she helped clean up the ambush sight and cut Heartstones out of the bandits. The ones she hadn’t eaten, anyway. Garth was quite happy he didn’t have to do it himself, since all Sandi had to do was snip a corpse in half in the right spot, then pluck out the Heartstone in a matter of seconds, rather than the fifteen minutes it would take him to hack through the ribcages. All Garth had to do was haul them.
“Oof,” Garth grunted as he slung a Thrask over his back. His knees wobbled as he tromped over to Sandi and tried not to gag. The face peeking under his armpit with wide, lifeless eyes didn’t help much. He’d killed eight of them in the heat of the moment, but now his stomach was trying to do backflips.
Fighting other people felt like an out-of-body experience, and when it ended, all the sounds, sights, and smells of death assaulted him all at once. Garth was happy he wasn’t curled up in a ball or tossing his cookies.
Itet had decided to help, and was dragging two corpses by their wrists beside him.
“You are rather weak. Are you a male?” Bug-man said. What did he mean by that?
“I am,” Garth said, not bothering with deception. Bug-man’s probably a bug-girl.
“She and I can deal with the dead. Why don’t you wax my bowstring and clean our gear? Males love making everything tidy.”
Garth stopped dead and stared at Itet with his mouth open, then glanced at the little pile of gear by the fire she’d started. He let the corpse slide off his back, hitting the ground with a thud.
“Sure,” he said. “Then maybe after you’re done here, you can make me a sandwich and fetch me a beer. I know how much females like cooking things and…fetching things.” Garth gesticulated toward the growing pile of corpses.
The bug warrior’s antennae twitched rapidly as it watched him motionlessly. Garth had no idea if it was going to laugh or fly into a rage, as she gave no sign of either.
“Are you being sarcastic?”
“I see. Humans are almost impossible to read.” She glanced toward the fire, and then to the bodies strewn around the clearing. “Do as you think yourself capable, then.”
“Actually, I’d love to stop carrying dead bodies and go lube up your junk. I’ll do that when I’ve carried eight of them, at least.” Garth said, slinging the corpse back over his shoulder. “I’m gonna carry the ones I’m responsible for.”
There was no logic to it, but Garth felt that he had to deal with their remains himself. They once again began hauling bodies toward Sandi, who was humming as she dissected them.
“You’ve got a good sense of honor. I’m glad that my junk will be in your hands.”
“Heeheehee.” Garth giggled as they walked.
“Maybe I’ve been hanging out with her too long.” Garth nodded toward the succubus.
The Thrask leader had a particularly clear, round stone with tiny cracks running along the inside of the stone, while the mage’s was a vibrant green, with a bit of an ovoid shape. These two were larger and finer quality than the others, but they were all, to a man, far better than the stuff Garth had gotten from the Kipling.
That might explain why Harold was so beefy, if he was getting his stones from people rather than Kipling.
“The color reflects the mental Attribute that the Heartstone raises,” Sandi said, giving Garth a lecture as he sat there, her inner Receptionist coming through as she gave him a much needed explanation. Itet sat and watched impassively, apparently just as intrigued by her explanation.
“Blue for Intelligence, red for Memory, and yellow is for Senses.”
I think she should be a sexy librarian for this explanation. With a minor effort of will, Garth used his homemade spell to shape his own desires, causing Sandi’s Lure to shift in response. She became a brunette with her hair tucked in a bun, dressed Business Slutty.
Sandi frowned a moment, taking off her new glasses and studying them, along with her new outfit.
“Something wrong?” Itet asked.
“There’s no one else here, right? I can only sense two people looking at me, but I’m not…” She gave Garth an odd look.
“I guess it’s fine.” She shrugged.
“So since the mage’s Heartstone was green, that means it’s a combination of Intelligence and Senses?” Garth asked.
“Right, experts can identify what the ratio of each attribute in a Heartstone is by closely studying a stone’s shade. Clarity determines the potency.” She held the mage’s aloft, studying the slightly murky stone.
“This one is good, but not great. A perfectly smooth, clear stone of one of the three primary colors and in a perfect spherical shape would be the most potent you could find. There are other Heartstones taken from powerful creatures that can have additional effects, but the vast majority of them will only raise your attributes.
“How do you determine if the stone raises a physical Attribute?” Garth asked. Itet seemed content to watch silently.
“Physical attributes for physical Attributes,” Sandi said, her breasts nearly destroying the buttons of her blouse as she chewed on her glasses. “A smooth teardrop shape represents Speed. Hairline cracks in the gem itself represent Strength, and a pebbled, pitted surface represents Endurance.”
Sandi pulled out some Heartstones that had the qualities she described. None of them were quite as stark as the leader and the mage’s, but Garth got the idea. He could also tell that the ovoid shape of the mage’s Heartstone favored speed as well as two mental Attributes.
“Does having multiple attributes on a stone limit its potency?”
“Correct. The potency is dictated by the clarity, divided by the ratio of the attributes displayed. There are specialized tools and techniques out there to tell you exactly what you’ll get out of them, but it’s easy enough to eyeball a stone’s quality. Only Alchemists and Enchanters need to know the precise amount of energy in a Heartstone.”
Once they were done for the night, Sandi curled around the fire, and Garth used her main body’s underbelly as an invisible sofa, leaning against the soft flesh as he counted the day’s haul. Thirty eight stones, fourty seven bad guys. Sandi had already eaten nine of them in her bloodlust.
Itet sat across from them, two of her arms cleaning arrows while the other two tended what looked like roast venison on a stick, it seemed.
“What happened to your mom telling you not to hurt people?” Garth asked as he divvied up the stones, prioritizing colored mental stones for himself.
Sandi’s Lure snuggled up against him, her soft flesh warm under her clothes.
“My dad told me that if I ever did get into a fight, that I shouldn’t take any prisoners. That and my mom told not to play with my food.”
“Huh, was your dad a fighter?”
“No, he’s an Oroyan, he owns a farm one layer in. I grew up next to Brian’s farm, actually. My dad said the Dungeons were reaching the end of their legal working period, and that there was gonna be a really bad economic downturn and me and my sisters should seek our fortunes elsewhere.”
“Farm girl, huh?” Garth said, picturing Sandi in a cowboy hat and chaps. That suited him just fine. “What’s an Oroyan, if you don’t mind my asking?”
“Kind of a land octopus I guess. He’s really smart.”
Garth chuckled. “Your dad’s a tentacle monster.”
“Is not.” Sandi pinched his ribs.
Garth set aside sixteen Heartstones and stood, bringing them over to Itet. The insect-person paused, staring at him silently as he held the gemstones toward her in his cupped hands.
“Are you offering those to me?” She asked.
“Yeah. A third, right? I know you only took out a few of them, but it made all the difference.”
“The deal was for one third of the bandit’s Mythic Cores.”
“The spirit of the deal, the way I see it, was a third of whatever they had.”
Itet studied him in silence again, antennae waving.
“Very well.” She reached out and received her share without complaint.
“Now,” Garth said, sitting down in front of her. “How do you feel about another Core to watch our backs?”
|Garth Daniels||Human||One Star Iron Soldier of the Inner Sphere||Apostle of Beladia|
|Strength||13||Blessings:||Photosynthesis, Temperature resistance, Empowered Plant Magic, Pheremones, Hyper-fertility.|
|Speed||15||Skills||Mana Channel, Mana Wielding, Spell Theory.|
|Intelligence||24||Spells:||Control Plants, Force Armor, Forestwalk, Design Plant, Create Fire|
|Senses||18+3||Inner Sphere Bank account:||1246 credits|
Tzetin are a strongly matriarchal race of insectoid people, with two feet and four arms, each with hands with opposable thumbs. While they have an overabundance of tool-using hands, their lack of creativity and initiative dampens their future as inventors and smiths. Instead, their four limbs and excellent eyesight make them famous bow and swordswomen, among the most deadly in the Inner spheres.
They have a strong bond with their Hive, and will blindly follow the orders of their Queen. Their governmental system makes for incredibly efficient economies on the small scale, but the race is poor at delegation, making large governments less than ideal.
Perhaps as an unfortunate consequence of their blind devotion to their queen and kin, Tzetin have very little suspicion of strangers and tend to be taken advantage of. This happens so often, some kind souls have spread rumors that to deceive a Tzetin is to invite bad luck in order to prevent the uneducated from taking advantage.
The females of the species seem to be infertile without some kind of initiation ceremony preformed by the previous generation's queen. This author was unable to get any information on what such a ceremony might be, only that it exists. This bottleneck makes the spread of Tzetin as a species rather slow, putting them firmly in the exotic races category. -Exotic Races of the Inner Spheres.