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Water crashed into Jason like a derailed train, ploughing him straight into Hiram and blasting them both out the end of the tunnel. Sensations came faster than he could process; pain, wet, disorientation. He couldn’t breathe, or even tell which way was up.

Jason and Hiram had clutched onto each other reflexively, their limbs tangled together. Landscape blurred past as they span through the air, tumbling like the now-resumed waterfall. Jason’s first coherent thought was Hiram slipping away and he reasserted his grip. Darkness emerged from Jason, enveloping both men.


  • Extending the weight-reducing function of [Cloak of Night] increases the cost from low mana-per-second to moderate mana-per-second.

Their downward plunge was reduced to a drift, floating out and away from the waterfall. Their wild spinning was arrested, and they were able to orient themselves as they descended. Jason was grateful that his cloak could be conjured at a thought. If it had required an incantation like a spell, he doubted he would have been able to get the words out. Only now they were free of the water and gently drifting could they even speak intelligibly.

“What in the Gods’ merry garden is going on?” Hiram asked, voice tinged with panic. He was half-hugging Jason from the side,

“The first thing you should know,” Jason said, “is to not let go.”

Hiram lurched as he looked down, almost letting go.

“What did I just say?” Jason asked.

“We’re in the sky!”

“Awesome, right?” Jason said.

“ARE YOU INSANE?”

“That was right in my ear!”

Jason started laughing madly as they drifted down to the ground.

“This is fantastic,” he said.

“You’re crazy!”

Between the force with which they were ejected from the mountain and the lightness of their reduced weight, they had drifted some way from the mountain before they lightly touched down. They landed close to the channel leading from the pool under the mountain to the village lake. Hiram immediately fell to the grass and hugged the ground, tension escaping his body in sobbing laughs.

Jason took a look around. They were about halfway between the mountain and the village, in an expanse of shin-high grass. The channel ran dead-straight through the grass from the base of the waterfall to the village. He could see people heading for the mountain trail he and Hiram had taken earlier. None of them seemed to have noticed his and Hiram’s descent.

On the other side of the channel were a bunch of children who had been looking up at the absent waterfall until they spotted Jason and Hiram fall from the sky. Jason gave them a wave. He then looked back up at the mountain and saw how far he had just fallen. A grin spread across his face.

“If this is the adventuring life,” he mused, “I think I want some more.”

“You’re a crazy person,” Hiram said, getting unsteadily to his feet. He looked uncertainly at Jason, still shrouded in the cloak of stars. Under the desert sun, the void black stood out more than the starlight.

“Hiram,” Jason said, still looking up at the mountain. “Are they what I think they are?”

Hiram followed Jason’s line of sight to the top of the waterfall. He spotted objects being tossed out the same way he and Hiram had been, at least a dozen of them.

“People?” Hiram asked. They were distant and hard to make out as they fell.

“Those aren’t people,” Jason said.

As they fell from the sky, the objects grew larger in their vision. Horror crossed Hiram’s face as he recognised the shape of the creatures.

“More of those things!” Hiram said with horror.

“Don’t be too worried,” Jason said. “A shab is a half-shark, half crab. Neither of which have wings.”

The large creatures lacked Jason’s weight-reducing power and fell well short of the distance Jason and Hiram had reached. The first one hit the ground with a sickening crunch, with others soon following. Jason counted seventeen by the time they finished falling, most of which died on impact. Those that fell either side of the water channel hit the ground and didn’t get up. Of the six that landed in the water, two struck the surface at a bad angle. Hitting water flat from that height was as good at hitting solid concrete, with similar results. The other four survived, but were clearly injured as they staggered out of the water.


New Quest: [Protect the Village]

A number of shabs have emerged from the astral space. Intercept them before they wreak havoc in the village.

  • Objective: Defeat [Shab] 0/4.
  • Reward: Iron-rank (uncommon) magic bracelet.

One of the monsters had emerged on Jason and Hiram’s side of the channel, the others on the far side. They all looked about, disoriented, then made a straight line for the village. The sideways walk of the creatures wasn’t a breakneck pace, but was at least faster than what Jason had seen from the one in the tunnel.

“What do you think, Hiram?” Jason asked.

Hiram’s face was stern as he stared at the creature on their side of the channel. It looked to have at least two broken legs and the shell around its body was cracked and oozing.

“I think I can take one,” he said. “If it’s injured. But what about those kids on the other side?”

“I’ll get the kids away,” Jason said. “Then I’ll deal with the other shabs.”

“Are you up for that?” Hiram asked.

“I guess I’ll have to be,” Jason said, flashing Hiram a grin. “Don’t worry; I’ve still got a gimmick or two.”

Jason started sprinting toward the channel. It was a natural waterway, thirty or so metres across. Jason leapt off the short embankment, landing on the gently flowing surface of the water as if it were solid ground. He laughed with delight as he sprinted over the surface to the other side. He ducked down briefly as one of the dead shabs floated past, long enough to brush his fingers over its shell.


  • This monster corpse is unclaimed.
  • Would you like to loot [Shab]?

Jason kept moving as he looted the body, rainbow smoke rising behind him.


  • [Monster Core (Iron Rank)] has been added to your inventory.
  • 10 [Water Quintessence] have been added to your inventory.
  • 10 [Iron Spirit Coins] have been added to your inventory.

Jason recalled an odd potion he had looted from the first shab. After climbing onto the grass on the opposite embankment he pulled it out of his inventory.


Item: [Shell-Skin Potion] (iron rank, uncommon)

Potion that increases the hardness of skin at the cost of agility (consumable, natural).

  • Effect: Skin is hardened against physical attack and [Speed] attribute is decreased for 10 minutes.
  • Uses remaining: 1/1.

The kids, five of them, came running up to Jason with the fearlessness of children.

“Are those things monsters?” they asked.

“Yes,” Jason told them. “You need to run back to the village.”

“Are you going to fight them?”

“Yes. You need to run back to the village.”

“Can we watch?”

Jason sighed, and dropped down to one knee.

“Look, everyone,” he told them. “I have an important mission for you. I need you to go back to the village and warn everyone about the monsters.”

He took five iron-rank spirit coins from his inventory, holding them in front of the children.

“This is a very important job,” he told them solemnly, “and I need some brave junior adventurers to help me. Do you think you can help?”

Jason smiled at the five eagerly nodding heads, handing them each a coin.

“Hurry up now,” he told them. “Warn everyone, fast as you can!”

As the kids sprinted away, Jason turned to look at the three shabs that were scurrying alongside the channel in his direction. They had emerged from the water much closer to the mountain than where Jason had landed, placing him comfortably between them and the village.

“Why didn’t you stay in the water?” he wondered. “Did getting belted down here by water give you a complex?”

Their sideways crabwalk was faster than they could manage moving forwards, but their injuries were slowing them down. Jason looked at the potion in his hand, which would slow him down as well. He wasn’t skilled enough that the extra agility would do him any good, so he drank it.


  • You have used a defence potion, hardening your skin and reducing your [Speed] attribute.
  • Until the remnant magic fully dissipates, consuming further defence potions will result in toxic side-effects.

He could feel his skin tightening, like he’d left it too long in the dryer. It felt like old leather as he flexed, restrictive but tough. He looked at the approaching creatures, wondering about the range of his spell. He could feel his abilities instinctively, realising that anything he could clearly see was a viable target. He fixed his gaze on each monster, chanting a spell for each.

“Your fate is to suffer.”

The inexorable doom spell would add more and more of any stacking effect on the victim. The shabs didn’t have any on them yet, but Jason would change that as soon as they caught up with him. He drew his dagger, he ran the blade across the back of his forearm, but it didn’t draw blood.

“Huh.”

He realised he should have done it before drinking the potion. He gripped the blade tightly in his fist and yanked it out, this time managing to a shallow cut on his palm.


  • Weapon [Night Fang] has inflicted [Umbral Snake Venom] on you.
  • You have resisted [Umbral Snake Venom].
  • [Umbral Snake Venom] does not take effect.
  • You have gained an instance of [Resistant].

Jason, swore, having forgotten that his dagger was poisonous. Luckily, it didn’t take effect. There was now an icon representing the resistant buff next to his mana and stamina bars.

“Not that I want to complain, but why didn’t the poison work?”


Combat Log

  • You have been afflicted with iron-rank poison [Umbral Snake Venom].
  • Ability [Sin Eater] gives you increased resistance to all afflictions.
  • You have resisted [Umbral Snake Venom].
  • Resisting an affliction has triggered ability [Sin Eater], granting you an instance of [Resistant].

Sin eater was one of the abilities Jason had awakened from a feast stone. Most of his planning and discussion involved his active abilities, while this passive power went largely overlooked. The sluggish pace of the injured shabs meant they were still some distance from him, so he had time to pull up the description.


Ability: [Sin Eater] (Sin)

  • Special ability (holy)
  • Cost: None.
  • Cooldown: None.
  • Current rank: Iron 0 (00%)
  • Effect (iron): Increased resistance to afflictions. Gain an instance of [Resistant] each time you resist an affliction or cleanse an affliction using essence abilities.
  • [Resistant] (boon, holy, stacking): Resistance to afflictions is increased. Additional instances have a cumulative effect. Consumed to negate instances of [Vulnerable] on a 1:1 basis.

“Not bad,” he said. “It’s a holy power, too. From the sin essence, no less.”

Jason glanced down at his hand, which had a line of blood but the wound had closed. The healing his familiar provided couldn’t swiftly regenerate the kind of impaling wounds he took from the shab, although thinking back, it may not have been pure adrenaline that kept him moving. A little cut on the hand, though, it made short work of.

“Oh, come on.”

He put his dagger in hand and yanked it free again, reopening the wound.


  • Weapon [Night Fang] has inflicted [Umbral Snake Venom] on [Outworlder].
  • You have resisted [Umbral Snake Venom].
  • [Umbral Snake Venom] does not take effect.
  • You have gained an instance of [Resistant].

“I’m liking this ability,” he said as the number two appeared on the resistant icon.

He held his hand out, wounded palm pointed at the ground. Leeches started pouring out like water from the world’s most terrifying shower. By the time the pile was finished, the total volume of leeches was more than his entire body.

“How did you all fit in there?”

The pile had no way to respond. Jason intrinsically understood the nature of the familiar and knew there wasn’t anything like telepathic communication. He would have to command them verbally, although he wasn’t sure how that worked.

“Do leeches have ears?”

The pile said nothing.

“We’ll have to work out a system.”

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Shirtaloon

  • Australia

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