For some reason or another, the system had allowed me to ‘put off’ the notification about upgrading Tamer into something… else. I’m able to see it as a ‘+’ in my Secondary Skills list. I’m sitting pretty at 1094 Power, so I can definitely afford it, and even though it’s a little different from the way my healing skill reverted back to the start, it still seems to promise growth. The only thing that gives me pause is the ‘attempt upgrade’ part, seeming to imply that it isn’t guaranteed. I sigh. Nothing ventured, nothing gained. They system hasn’t killed me yet.
[Tamer upgrade initiated…
Checking soul integrity…
I barely manage to read the last word and start to worry before a mind rending pain fills my body. I feel like I’m being torn to pieces, my consciousness fracturing into a million glittering splinters, before seeming to rewind back to a whole. I’m barely able to perceive the feelings past a mask of the purest agony I’ve felt since the ‘genetic rewrite’. I fall to my knees, coughing, and even though no blood comes out, I genuinely feel like a lot should be.
The feeling passes, leaving me on the edge of awareness, gulping down air as I stare at the cool stone surface of The Barrows main hallway.
“You alright there, Anthony?” Tom. I shake my head slightly. “I’m good, no worried. The system was ‘helping’ me.”
He smiles in recognition and empathy. “Power to you, kid. We need all the strength we can get!”
Huh. Funny how that saying takes on new meaning now. I shakily get to my feet.
[Perforation complete. Soul integrity…
|[Congratulations! Tamer has been upgraded into Summoner.]|
[Summoner (Active/Passive) - The user has achieved a deep enough connection with another entity that the user now holds the entity’s soul within them. Due to this synchronization, the bonded entity has tied its fate irrevocably with that of the user. The user may now summon the entity at will, at a temporary cost of max Energy equal to the Power value of the entity. The max Energy is refunded when the entity returns to the user’s soul.
Kaythe bonus: +10 max Energy. Kaythe upkeep: 10 max Energy.]
|[Domination capacity reached! User may now adapt bonded entity.]|
Everything pops, and suddenly I’m suspended in what looks like a bubble. My movements are slow, as though through water, and Kaythe twists around in the suspension with me. A glowing light made of some kind of gel-like substance bounces slowly between us.
“What is this?” A voice rings through my mind. Mild, quiet, but very familiar.
“Kaythe? You can talk?” Kaythe wiggles excitedly. “I can! I can talk and think and feel all these new things because of the predator! Though, I believe this connection is with you alone.” A foreign happiness radiates through my mind. “But predator, you seem sad? Why is this?”
I guess it would make sense that if I can sense Kaythe’s feelings, he can sense mine. “I’ll explain it later, Kaythe. For now, I think we need to do something with this gel.”
“Yes! Yes we do! We can use it to adapt me, improve me, and let me be more useful to you! I’ve been waiting so long!”
I smile despite myself. His enthusiasm and happiness almost make me feel better. “You’re great just the way you are, you never needed to worry about that.”
“But! But! I can be better! More! Predator, give me claws, arms, pointy spikes, let me fight with you! Give me legs to move, muscles to strike, let me run alongside you!”
His excited wiggling intensifies even more, like a dog wagging its whole body while trying to just wag its tail.
“Fine, fine. I hope I can figure this stuff out.”
I grab ahold of the gel and begin sculpting. My knowledge of biology and the multiple looks I’ve taken at how Kaythe functions as an organism allow me to make pretty strong guesses as to where things should best be attached. I provide two bone spikes attached to limbs that resemble arms. They don’t rotate very well, but Kaythe’s squishy body allows him to strike from any angle he needs to without requiring the limb to help. I add a lot of muscle, and bone plates to work as armor. It takes some time to figure out how to interlieve them without constricting Kaythe’s movement, but it gives me attachment points for the muscle and adds a substantial amount of defense. I use the last of the gel to give Kaythe a bit more length in his body, allowing him to coil like a snake and maybe jump or strike harder if it needs to. When Kaythe and I are both pleased with the additions, the bubble pops, and we’re back in the cave.
“What in the god-damn hell is that!?”
I raise my hands to Tom, trying to calm him. “It’s just Kaythe! Just… ya know, with a few modifications.”
Tom lowers his hammer, but still looks on edge.
“It is sad I cannot speak to them. I do not want to scare them.” Kaythe’s voice echoes in my mind.
“Kaythe regrets that he can’t talk to you directly, but he apologizes for his new appearance.”
Tom scratches his head, looking slightly off put. “Anthony, I don’t know how else to say this, but you’re one weird kid.”
I smile back. “Tell me about it.”
Lauren, Lynn, and I set off to take a recuperative visit to the forest. Marie had been kind enough to turn the shitty Carnine hides into bags and provide us with… something ropelike to tie bundles of wood. I didn’t ask what they were made of, exactly. Kaythe is a little less good at balancing on my shoulders with the new additions, but I’m sure he’ll figure it out quickly enough. That, and maybe he’ll stop poking me as frequently. I made those spikes really sharp. Kaythe was a scout, and now he’s an assassin. An assassin that can communicate with me telepathically, and is functionally immortal (if the tooltip is to be believed) as long as I don’t die. I’ll need to figure out how long it takes to bring Kaythe back if he takes fatal damage.
I don’t really want to test it, honestly. I don’t want my friend to die, even temporarily, but he’s too excited about being able to help in combat for me to say no. We’ll see how he does with trees.
The short answer to that question is: poorly. Combine his relative ineptitude in regard to fighting with the fact that stabbing wood rarely does much damage to the creature inside, and you have a whole lot of floundering, flailing, and failing. Fortunately, for all his inexperience, the Treants certainly didn’t expect us to be hunting them, and they especially didn’t expect a Cathid to be the hunter. Frankly, they couldn’t deal with him. Their primary method of attack is to trap things with their root structure and hold them down with numbing/paralysis until they die, but Kaythe just jumps at them and starts hacking. His movements get a little wonky after a few moments, as he’s exposed to the paralytic, but he gives a solid effort until he inevitably throws himself a few feet away with the force of his thrashing. Of course, this eventuality opens him up to attack by any nearby tree monsters, so I have to pick him up and finish the fight he started while he recovers. Lauren and Lynn stick close by, but have no desire to try and fight around Kaythe like I have to, so they mow through a bunch of the Treants nearby.
On a whim, I burn some Light while close to a Treant. Though it easily falls within the light I cast, nothing changes about it. I frown slightly, suddenly unsure if this is actually a Treant, but then a vine creeps over my shoe, firmly convincing me otherwise.
They must have a really high level hiding skill… well, higher than five, anyway. Or maybe it isn’t a skill, and they just happen to look like trees? This raises a few questions. Will Light reveal traps? It can certainly pierce some illusions, but seemingly only illusions raised by living things. Not that I can check anymore, but I bet it wouldn’t pierce the illusion that used to cover The Barrows. Regardless, it’s probably for the best. These things are so easy to hunt, now that we know what they look like, that it would be grossly unfair to also strip away their ability to hide. Before long, we’ve all filled our packs, and Kaythe… levelled.
|[Congratulations! Summoned monster (Kaythe) has reached level 2. +1 Endurance, +1 Strength, +2 Intelligence, +1 Dexterity.]|
I was wondering about the idea of a comprehensive level-up sort of thing. It seemed like this world’s system relied on a slow power creep through skills and levelling those, but… well, this. Kaythe clearly doesn’t follow those rules. Kaythe was definitely a Tier 0 entity before being Dominated, and integrating with my soul. I assume that weird dream state we entered in which he was allowed to evolve was akin to him taking on my status as Tier 1. However, I haven’t seen any notifications about him gaining or levelling Secondary Skills. Can he even get Power to gain them? I’d expect something like that he’d siphon off some of mine to get skills, but again, no notifications. Zathis taught me that the creatures around her are Fixtures, and as such, designed to be static. They stay at a set difficulty to surmount, offering a set challenge to those being tested. Maybe monsters aren’t allowed to be Tier 1 by the system? Maybe they just skip over that? I’m really confused, but, ultimately, grateful. Kaythe can grow with me instead of just benefitting passively from my Primary Skills being higher than his.