Skill Experience Earned
Mana Manipulation: 1932 [Rank Up]
Dark Revenant’s Armor [Bound]
Rain scribbled in the dirt with the long stick that he was using as a stylus. He’d started the day by charging up his armor to reactivate the enchantments, then melting off all of the fresh snow in the clearing with Immolate. Now, he was working on his next project while he waited for Tallheart to return from the river. Rain had been worried about him last night, but Detection had revealed that he hadn’t gone far. Absently, he activated the skill again.
Oh, good. He’s coming back.
Rain turned back to his drawing. He wanted Tallheart’s input, so he hurried to finish sketching out the outline and some of the interior walls. Ameliah was tending the fire, searing some of the remaining crawler vine pieces on a rock as they had left the griddle behind at the mine. Rain was holding off on breakfast. He’d had a ration bar last night, and though his sense of taste was boosted, zero flavor times two was still zero. At least Force Ward let him bite into the things as hard as he wanted to without the risk of shattering his jaw. That skill is weird. I bit my tongue as hard as I could just to test it out. All I lost was a few points of mana. I felt it, but it didn’t hurt. So strange.
He was just finishing the final section of his drawing when a deep voice spoke behind him. “What is that?”
Rain smiled. Ha. He must be feeling better if he’s playing his sneak-up-on-Rain game. He set the stick aside and turned to look up at Tallheart. His armor was frosted with condensation, the cold metal from his night by the river reacting to the warm, humid air in the clearing. Rain hadn’t kept Immolate going long enough to dry the air out, preferring the slightly muddy ground for his drawing. “Good morning, Tallheart. Look, about last night. Thanks for telling us all of that. I’m really sorry. What happened to you was terrible.”
Tallheart closed his eyes and nodded slowly. “Yes. Thank you for your sympathy. If not for the rare humans such as you, I do not think Lilly and I would have ever stopped…” He paused. “It was good for me to speak, even though it hurt to do so.” He shook his head slightly then opened his eyes. “Enough. The past is gone.” He motioned to Rain’s drawing. “Is that supposed to be a building?”
“Yeah,” Rain said. “I figured, since you don’t want to run from this noble, we might as well build you a better place to live. That,” he nodded at the pitiful shack, “is an embarrassment.” He pointed at the drawing. “Entrance, kitchen, fireplace, living and dining area, three bedrooms, bathroom, the works. I don’t think I’m brave enough to try for a second floor, but I think we could manage a cellar. Hey, have you ever heard of people using ground-up stone powder to build? You add water and it sets, hardening until it’s solid. It’s more than just ground up stone. In my language, the word is cement, and when you add in a bunch of sand and gravel and stuff it’s called concrete. There’s different kinds. I never had to actually make it, though, we had these trucks with spinning barrels on the back…”
Ameliah’s voice spoke from near the fire. Clearly, she’d been listening to the conversation. “The words you are looking for are <something> for the building material, and <something> for the binder. And yes, it exists. We’re not primitives.”
Rain looked over at her. “Right, of course you’re not. I never meant that you were. For all I know, magic makes the stuff irrelevant. Could you repeat those two words?”
“Concrete and cement,” Ameliah said, Rain quickly memorizing them.
“Any idea where I can get some?”
“You should be able to find a few chemists in Fel Sadanis that might have a supply of cement,” Ameliah replied. “I know there are a few around. There is an awakened chemist who has a shop near the south wall, but you just need a regular one for this. Try around the market square. You might find someone selling concrete premixed, but I doubt you will want to carry it out here. There is plenty of sand by the river. Just get cement and we can mix it ourselves.”
“Thanks,” Rain said, turning back to Tallheart. “So that’s good. Step one is digging a hole. Step two is getting the concrete and pouring the slab. I need to get you some metal so we can reinforce it, too. Rebar is the word. Any idea how much metal costs in bulk if I buy it in the city?”
“It is not expensive,” Tallheart said. “I have enough pure iron here to make a new crucible, so any scrap will do. However…I do not think it would be wise for you to make too many trips to the city to bring it here. You will bring attention to me. I have warned Jamus about this in the past when he has suggested similar plans.”
“Oh,” Rain said. “That’s…a good point.”
“It should be fine,” Ameliah said. “I’ll go to the Watch and get a permit for building something in the forest. They’ll think it is for me. People won’t bother us if I make it clear that I don’t want visitors.”
Rain nodded. “Building permits, huh? Some stuff is just universal, isn’t it?”
Ameliah smiled. “Still, you will want to be at least a little discrete about it. Curiosity is a powerful force. If people see an armored adventurer carrying armloads of scrap metal out into the forest, it will raise a few eyebrows. If we’re doing this, the best way would be to hire some laborers to do the work for us, or at least to bring us the materials. Hide it in plain sight. The less out of the ordinary we make it seem, the better.”
Tallheart frowned. “I do not want the Watch to know I am here. If you hire laborers—”
“They already know,” Ameliah said. “I guarantee it. It might not be common knowledge, but there is no way they don’t know about everything that goes on within a dozen leagues of the city. They know, and either they don’t care, or are actually protecting you by hiding the secret. The Watch is many things, but an ally of the Empire, it is not.”
“Humm,” Tallheart said. “I suspected, but…” he shook his head. “It is difficult for me to trust humans that I do not know.”
Ameliah nodded. “The only difficulty will be getting them to let us build something out here. The city doesn’t want people just cutting down all the trees nearby. They only open this forest for a few months every few years. I should be able to convince them, though. I’m a silverplate, and that comes with certain privileges.”
“How do you know all this?” Rain asked. “I thought you wandered around. How long have you been in Fel Sadanis?”
Ameliah shrugged. “A few months, all told. The forest was open the last time I was here, about four years ago.”
“What you say makes sense,” Tallheart said. “I had to hide farther in last summer. There were humans everywhere.”
“Tallheart,” Rain said, looking back at his plans, then up at the antlered smith. “You’re sure you don’t want to run? This noble seems like she could be bad news.”
Tallheart shook his head. “I will not run from this. I will make what she wants, provided that she will respect my conditions, and that she will get me what I want.”
“Okay, well, if you’re sure,” Rain said with a shrug. “What do you want her to get you? Anything we could get on our own?”
Tallheart shook his head. “My armor…is damaged,” he said. He raised his left hand and looked at it, flexing the fingers before dropping it to his side again. “The materials that I need to repair it are rare and expensive.”
“How expensive?” Rain asked.
Tallheart sighed. “Hundreds of GranTel, though past a certain point, prices become…arbitrary. It is difficult to put a price on things that are that rare.”
Rain blinked. Hundreds of…holy shit. If there’s 1,000 Tel to the GranTel, and 1 Tel is 14 copper, and 2 copper gets me a bowl of soup… Call a Tel around $30, that works out to…millions of dollars. Holy shit. Holy. Shit. “Umm, is that as expensive as I think it is?”
“Yes, it is,” Ameliah said. “Do not sound so surprised.” She turned to Tallheart. “What would you say the armor that you made for Rain would sell for?”
Tallheart tilted his head, considering. “It is unlikely that someone else would value the enchantment. For the metalwork alone? Perhaps a single GranTel. Forgive me if I am not an expert on the economics of human cities.”
“Sounds about right,” Ameliah said.
“Tallheart, if what you’re saying is right, we could make out like bandits,” Rain said, starting to get excited. “We could make, like, all of the money! I can bring you metal and you can make…” Rain trailed off as he noticed Tallheart shaking his head.
“No,” the smith said.
“Why not?” Rain asked.
“I will not make things that could be used by people that I do not know. I will build…restrictions into the item I create for this noble. It will be one of my conditions. Even then…”
Rain paused. Huh. That…is a fair point. I get where he’s coming from. He wouldn’t want to make weapons and armor for people who might use them to…yeah. I get it. I totally get it. Maybe I could convince him to make some innocuous stuff, like heater plates and whatnot. Now’s…not the time for that discussion. I’ll save disrupting the entire world economy for another day. I should get going. I’ve got a lot to do in the city.
Rain nodded to himself. “Right, well, I need to meet up with Jamus and I want to get some shopping done before then. Do you need anything in the city, Tallheart? What do you like to eat?”
“Anything will be fine,” Tallheart said. “Do not concern yourself. Snow has fallen, so I will be able to gather iceberries. They are plentiful.”
“Ice…berries? Okay, sure, but come on, Tallheart, there must be some things you like. Potatoes? Can you eat bread? Milk? Cheese?”
“I can eat bread and milk. Cheese is…abhorrent,” Tallheart said.
“Oh, come on,” Rain said. “Cheese is great!” Fortunately for my reputation, that’s not a pun in Common. Cheese is ‘grate’, ha. Wow, that’s so…cheesy. Damn, I’m a horrible person.
“Okay, so I’ve gotta get the bread and milk.” They said snow! Damn it, Rain, be serious. You can reminisce about the internet later. “Anything else? Eggs?”
“No.” Tallheart shook his head.
“Okay, well, I’ll get some basics. Anything you can’t eat, I will. I’m so done with ration bars. Anything else you need right now, besides food and metal?”
“That will be fine,” Tallheart said. “Do not worry about me. Jamus and Carten already brought me a few things.”
Rain nodded. I’ll look and see if there’s anything else that he might like. I don’t have a lot of money, but finding a gift for someone who lives alone in the woods with nothing shouldn’t be hard. Not like shopping for my grandparents. Finding gifts for them was impossible.
“Okay, I’ll be back tonight, probably. I’m going now. Tallheart, think about what you want your house to look like. I promise I can do better than our first attempt. I’ve never built a house before, I mostly worked on big office buildings and the like, but we should be able to figure it out. Now that we’ve got metal, we can make the tools we need.”
“Rain,” Ameliah said, halting him as he turned to go. “I’ve got something to tell you. I’m leaving.”
Rain froze. No…
She laughed at his stricken expression and held up a hand. “Don’t make that face. I’m not going to be gone forever. I’m going to go north and see what I can find out about this noble. I’ll take care of the building permit this morning and meet you and Jamus at the guild. If I miss you, I’ll leave it with Gus. If he opens the envelope, you’re allowed to punish him however you see fit. I should be back by the time Velika gets here. After that…we’ll see.”
She walked up to him and offered him her hand. “If I don’t see you, good luck.” Rain took her hand and shook it. He wished he wasn’t wearing his gauntlet, even if it meant his fingers might have gotten crushed.
I don’t want her to go… “Ameliah…Thank you. For everything.”
“You’re welcome. Don’t mess it up. I’m going to take care of a few things before I go to the city. Go ahead without me.”
Rain reluctantly let go of her hand. “Okay. Be…safe. I know you’re really strong, but if anything happened to you…” He shook his head. Damn it.
“Thanks,” Ameliah said with a smile. “I’ll be fine. Go on.”
Rain closed his eyes. So be it. He turned silently and started walking in the direction of the city. He closed the visor of his helmet. He didn’t want anyone to see his face right now. He waved to them over his shoulder. Damn it, why is this getting to me so badly? I…don’t want to be alone again. Carten left the group, Val’s MIA, and now Ameliah is leaving… Come on, Rain, keep it together. Be strong and independent, not clingy. They’re not leaving you. They’ve got their own lives, and so do you.
He caught his thoughts spiraling as he walked through the snow. It really wasn’t that long since he’d been living alone in his apartment, struggling to free himself from a well of depression. By all accounts, his life had improved immeasurably since he’d woken up in that forest. I’ve got friends again. Real friends. And I can use magic for crying out loud. I’ve got no damn reason to be like this. He forced himself to stop thinking about it, focusing on his breathing as he made his way to the city.
He walked slowly. By the time he reached the gates, he had pulled himself together somewhat. The guards stopped him and he was forced to dig his plate out from his pack before they would let him in. Despite the fact that one of the guards had been there the day before and recognized him, there was a protocol. He’d only made it through the gate yesterday without his plate because Jamus and Carten had been there to vouch for him.
He added a leather cord to his shopping list to replace the broken one that he had been using before. He’d be able to wear the plate around his neck again, rather than keeping it in a pouch. There wasn’t enough of a gap for him to tuck it inside his armor to keep it hidden, but it was unlikely anyone would mistake him for anything but an adventurer at this point anyway.
His first stop was the Guild. He needed to turn in the quest for the Mucus King. Right now, he only had 18 Tel and a Cryst of unknown value. The quest would get him another 20, bringing him up to 38. By his estimate, that was the equivalent of around $1,000, but the uncertainty on that number was huge. Right now, he was working on an assumption based on the price of soup at a random inn. Given his limited data and the differences between this economy and his own, he really had no idea how accurate it was. This whole adventurer thing is pretty lucrative, though. 20 Tel for killing a slime, and people said that was a crappy reward. It took me half a day. Not even.
He set one foot inside the guild, then immediately turned around and walked out. The lines at the counters were absurd. The entire guildhall was packed. Nope. I’ll come back later. Where the heck did all these people come from? The place was deserted yesterday afternoon. I know it’s busy in the mornings when people are looking for new quests, but damn, it was never THAT bad. Oh well. I suppose I need to find a bank next. Regular people don’t seem to like working with Tel, and I only need regular things at the moment, not special adventurer gear.
Rain stopped a passerby for directions. The man was a bit nervous at being approached by a man in plate armor, but gave him quick and helpful instructions. Rain walked through the city, enjoying the space that he was given as he made his way through the crowded streets. He didn’t particularly enjoy the looks of fear and distrust, however. The Watch also took notice of him, the numerous patrols eyeing him warily as they passed.
I suppose being an adventurer is like walking around wearing a gun in the open. Even if you’re a police officer or something, that can make people nervous. I can see why lots of people keep their plates hidden. I need to get that cloak. Even then, I’m pretty sure that I don’t have much hope of not being noticed, not with this armor. Come on people, I’m friendly. I’m not going to burn the city down.
Eventually, Rain made it to a part of the city where the buildings were larger, and generally more prosperous looking. Most were made from stone and had decorative features that spoke of casual wealth. The bank turned out to be a massive building of black marble, easily five times the size of the Adventurer’s Guild. The building was all columns and gold inlay, with an ornate golden plate hanging over the doors showing an image of a scale. Yup. Ostentatious as expected.
He pushed lightly on the marble door. The enormous slab of stone moved easily though it was at least twice his height. Must be enchanted for lightness or something. As he entered the bank, he was immediately accosted by a man in a black and gold uniform. “Hello, adventurer. What business do you bring to the Bank today.” Rain looked down at the short man in surprise. Somehow, he’d managed to capitalize the word ‘bank’ even though he was speaking. The man bowed, and when he rose, Rain was further startled by the plate hanging from the man’s neck. The plate itself wasn’t what was alarming—he’d half expected other organizations to use the same system for denoting rank. What was alarming was that the plate was made of gold. The design was much more ornate than the simple bronze plate that Rain was wearing.
“Uh, hello,” Rain said. Maybe they use different metals? Gold might be entry-level here…otherwise, why’s this guy greeting people at the door? Looks like the plate has the same symbol as the one marking the building.
The man was looking at him expectantly. Rain shook himself out of contemplation and nodded to him. “I’d like to exchange some Tel for copper. Can I do that here?”
“Certainly,” the man said, bowing again. “Right this way.” He led Rain to a counter that ran along the left side of the room. Rain looked around as he walked. The ceiling was high, the decor was ornate, and the staff were neat and professional. The room was warm despite the cold outside, though there was no obvious source for the heat. Everything was polished black marble and gold trim. Jamus really worked at a place like this?
The man left him with an attendant at the counter, bowing once more and returning to his position by the door. Rain turned his attention to the attendant, an attractive woman wearing the same black and gold uniform. She also wore an ornate silver and gold plate around her neck, inscribed with the scale emblem. She greeted him. “What business do you bring to the Bank today?”
“I’d like to exchange some Tel for copper,” he said, shrugging out of his pack, conscious of the patched-together straps and its ragged appearance. He hunted around inside it, retrieving the pouch that Jamus had lent him. He counted out 10 Tel, placing them on the counter. The gauntlets made it difficult to pick up the tiny crystals, but he didn’t want to remove them. It was only possible because the tips of the fingers were slightly pointed, acting almost like tweezers. The woman nodded and swept them up. “The current exchange rate in Fel Sadanis is 14.3 copper to the Tel. Ten Tel less the Bank’s exchange fee comes to 135 copper and 8 bits.”
She’s fast! The woman quickly and efficiently counted out the money, giving him two of the small copper bars, one of the half-size tiles, and three of the large coins. She added 8 small iron coins, which Rain assumed to be the ‘bits’.
“Will that be all?”
“Um, yeah,” Rain said, picking up the coins carefully with his gauntleted fingers and placing them in the pouch along with his remaining Tel and the Cryst. “Wait, how many bits are in a copper?”
The woman gave him a look like he was an utter moron. “Ten,” she said.
“Thanks,” Rain said, collecting his pack and stepping away from the counter. He made his way toward the door. More questions for Jamus when I see him. Unless I miss my guess, the bank is actually ‘The Bank’, and it’s another organization like the Guild and the Watch. I wonder what they do if someone steals from them or defaults on a loan. Do they have a collections department? Awakened leg-breakers?
He walked back through the wealthy part of the city, heading for the market square that he remembered. He didn’t want to look for a shop around this part of Fel Sadanis. While he thought he had a decent amount of cash, he knew it would evaporate if he wasn’t careful. I wonder if the Bank would let me open an account? Can I start earning interest? Is there a money market? Are there stocks? Investments? Frozen concentrated orange juice futures? He shook his head. I’m getting ahead of myself. First things first, I need to get a cloak. It’s damn cold. Not as bad as yesterday, but I’m wearing a gigantic metal heatsink for crying out loud.
He found the market square and a few vendors selling various articles of clothing. Rain was disappointed that there was no sign of the flamboyant merchant that he’d bought his last outfit from. He’d liked the man, and his daughter was adorable.
He eventually found a different merchant who was selling cloaks. The man had a hooked nose and haggled like a fishwife, not that Rain had ever met a fishwife. He came away down 70 copper, but as the proud owner of a wonderfully thick cloak with a deep cowl and numerous pockets sewn on the inside. He’d had a couple options for color, but he’d decided to avoid any half-measures and go full-ringwraith.
The heavy cloak was midnight black and covered him completely when he fastened it shut. The hood fit easily over his helmet, shielding him completely from view with its deep cowl. He was also pleased to learn that the cloak was sufficient to activate the Dark Regeneration rune on his armor, though he quickly lowered the hood to avoid draining the charge. It seemed the armor needed to be covered completely for it to work; partial coverage wouldn’t do it. Rain was grateful for this, as he was cold and the cloak was warm. He could still wear it without draining the enchantments, provided that he kept the hood down. The only downsides of the cloak were the fact that it didn’t have sleeves and that there was no practical way for him to wear his backpack while wearing it.
His next purchase was therefore a sturdy leather belt and a pair of deep pouches that he fastened to hang against his thighs where he could get at them easily. He got a small discount, trading in the old ratty belt that he’d been using to secure his chainmail, as well as his old blanket. He didn’t need either anymore. He had his cloak and the chainmail had long-since been melted down by Tallheart. The belt and pouches had cost him 33 copper. Another 20 copper or so got him a money pouch to replace the one Jamus had lent him, a canteen to go along with his waterskin, a new leather sheath for his knife, and a few other odds and ends.
He spent a few minutes arranging his belongings, transferring everything out of his old pack and into his new pouches and the pockets of his cloak. He fastened his knife to the belt, leaving it to hang on his left hip in its nice new sheath. His waterskin got tied to his right hip aside the new canteen. He decided to keep his money pouch inside one of the larger leather bags rather than tying it to his belt. I’m going to find you one of these days, horrible thief person.
Lastly, he spent the remainder of his copper as well as five Tel on a finely-crafted leather messenger bag that he could wear slung over his shoulder. The woman that he had bought it from had given him the stink-eye because of the Tel. Rain was fairly sure she had overcharged him out of spite. He was annoyed, but not willing to walk back to the bank to get a better rate. He was happy with the bag, though. It would hang at his waist without getting in the way of his cloak or his movements, and it would give him quite a bit of storage for the future. He’d already tucked his remaining ration bars and his full notebook into the pockets of his cloak. The only things that went into the messenger bag were the crown and his old shirt and pajamas. Ruined as the clothes were, he was feeling a bit sentimental. They were the only things that he had from his Earth.
He sold the old patchy bag to a man with greasy skin for a single copper. He didn’t even bother trying to get more. He smiled and turned in the direction of the guild, pleased at the way his cloak swirled with his motion. His bronze adventurer’s plate dangled around his neck, hanging from a cord of black-dyed leather. Now, this is more like it.
Suddenly, Rain froze. Is that… He breathed deeply, focusing on his sense of smell. It is! He whirled, activating Detection. He stalked straight for the source of the clear signal in his mind, a grin on his face. The man running the stall jumped as he noticed the black-cloaked and armored adventurer making a beeline for him.
“Uh, can I help you?” The man asked, looking concerned.
Rain flipped back his cloak, freeing his arm to slam down all of his remaining money on the counter. He stared at the man through the eye-slit of his helmet. “Give me all of the coffee that you have.”