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But you have [Ward] and it was great in the desert. No reason not to get it!”

And now, thanks to Irogh, I realize that purchasing that skill was a mistake. If I use [Ward] more than I have then I’m going to get classes I don’t want, and now is the most important time to cement my future build. I need to be using [Strike] and [Blink] and [Rejuvenation] and train to exaustion.”

I don’t like [Strike].”

HP is not your physical wellbeing. It’s a buffer to damage; a resource exactly like MP.”

“… I don’t want talk about magic anymore.”

Erick and Jane walked out of the courthouse, into the sun. He held a map of the city of Spur, making sure that they were headed in the right direction. Jane had her own map marked up with directions to the Adventurer’s Guild, but it was in her back pocket, along with her letter of introduction from Irogh. Erick’s letter from Irogh was in his own pocket.

Jane remained quiet for all of ten seconds.

I want to talk about magic, Dad. You’ve had a slower start than me. I’m already at 20 Focus. It only took one point to buy Concentration for double daily MP regen.” They stepped down onto the road in front of the courthouse and headed right, further into the city. Jane continued, “You need that too, and you can’t get that without first spending 3 points in Focus. That’s all of that special reward and—”

I’m almost at level 2. I’ll get the points. It’ll be fine. I’m going to be fine.” He turned left at the next intersection. This part of the city had more people than the legal district. A few old whitescales watched Erick and Jane walk by, but went back to playing their boardgames. It was a straight shot from here down to Erick’s destination which was ‘impossible to miss’, so he put away his map. No need to appear like a total tourist to anyone who might be watching. “I’m more worried about you than I am about myself. An adventurer? You’re really going to go out there and kill some wolves?”

The city here was half deserted. The buildings were several stories tall, but there were only four visible people; two giants walking together one way, two redscales walking together the other way. Spur was big, but it wasn’t very full once you got away from the marketplaces.

They’re shadowolves, Dad. They’re not innocent wildlife displaced by people encroaching on their territory. They’re maneaters that flow out from the Dead City unless they’re culled into manageability.”

The road angled left to accommodate a park. The green space was empty save for trees and a public water fountain that burbled in the center. After the park, the road angled back to the right. Some of the buildings down here were clearly in disrepair. Missing glass in the windows, broken walls, absent upper floors.

You could hunt slimes in the sewer. That’s supposed to be a good starter mission.”

Yes. But hunting slimes is a solo endeavor, not a group mission. I need to be a part of the community in order to understand this world, and don’t forget: we’re humans in a non-human town. There are incani around here and they seem to hate humans.”

Jane had tried to change the subject. Erick wasn’t going to let that happen.

I’m probably going to have to hunt slimes to pay for us tonight. What’s it called? That thing that the slimes have that’s worth—“

Jane rattled off, “Rads. All living things condense rads in the body. Those that don’t -or can’t- constantly expel their rads will turn into monsters. Rads are easiest to see in a slime; they’re part of the slime’s core. Finding them in the entrails of other monsters can be a difficult but rewarding task, since rads are what you use to make enchantments. Because rads are used to both make and renew enchantments, and of course enchantments fade over time, rads define the value of everything else.” She glared at Erick. “Learn the basics, please. Irogh repeated this information several different ways.”

Erick smirked. “I might have to hunt slimes all on my own. I might even have to spend another point on a damage spell. I’m thinking [Force Shrapnel] because it sounds cool. What do you think?”

Jane grumbled, frowning. She said nothing.

Erick continued to tease, “I’m glad that resting turns MP per day into MP per hour. Otherwise those [Mend]s you had me do—”

You can stop it now. You do you. I’ll do— Look lively. We’ve got trouble ahead.”

What?” Erick scanned the streets. He understood Jane’s concern. “Them?”

A pair of Incani sitting on a nearby porch stared daggers at Erick and Jane. Erick waved at them. They hopped down from their porch. Jane cursed, saying something unkind about Erick’s willingness to be friendly to obviously dangerous people.

A pair of humans around here? In Spur? Kinda shifty. Kinda concerning.”

I agree, Brother. We might have to call the guards. Maybe even the army.”

They moved in tandem, the larger one stepped in front of them, the smaller one moved behind Erick. Another Incani watched from the front of a nearby apartment building, but made no move otherwise. A pair of dragonkin children noticed what was happening and quickly vanished around the corner of a house. In moments, only five visible people were concerned with the confrontation in the street.

And Erick and Jane had stopped walking. That was a mistake. Erick knew he should never have stopped walking, but freezing in the face of obvious danger was practically instinctual. With how Jane looked, though, she didn’t freeze like Erick. She had chosen to stop when Erick had stopped. She was protecting him.

Hello.” Erick said, “What’s happening, my dudes? Ah. Dudette for you. Sorry about that. Not from around here as I’m sure you’re now aware.”

They don’t speak the language? Sister! These people need an education.” The larger male incani patted the knife in his belt. “What would they pay us for such a service?”

Everything in that blanket they’re carrying, for sure.” The smaller woman touched the knife in her belt, eyeing the blanket wrapped around Jane’s chest and shoulder. “Give us the blanket, please?”

Irogh had told them many things about the Script and a few things about the law in Spur. Erick wasn’t worried for Jane. He wasn’t worried for himself. He was worried for these people if they continued on this path. Their body language had them on a crash course in pain.

Erick said, “Please don’t make my daughter hurt you.”

I’m not going to throw the first punch. Irogh was very clear on how Spur works.”

As the three of them waited for any reason to start a fight, Erick decided to try something else. He calmly walked forward, briefly touching Jane’s shoulder. “Keep walking. I shouldn’t have stopped. That was my mistake.” Erick walked forward. The man did not move out of the way, so Erick stepped clear to the side, nodding at the man, pausing beside the mugger to say to Jane, “I’d like to go now.”

Jane huffed, moving to follow.

The two muggers stayed behind. The male mugger waved to Erick.

Erick replied, “Nice to meet you, too.”

Erick did not run away, but he kept a steady pace. Jane lingered as she followed Erick down the street, her eyes locked on the pair of incani, and the one to the side who remained out of the conflict.

There were no other incidents all the way to the ‘sewerhouse’.

Thank the gods and goddesses for small favors.

 

- - - -

 

The sewerhouse was a solid gold two story building with holographic pipes floating around the entirety of the flat, blocky structure. There were no windows on the ground floor and few on the second. Beside the wide-open and well lit entrance were two holographic monsters, one on each side, each looking like jello molds with a golden light in the center. Erick wouldn’t have thought them monsters, because they had no eyes or anything else monstrous, but they were animated. They bounced. They wiggled. That was the first major clue that they were monsters sculpted from light. The second clue came when Jane called out—

Slimes!” She laughed. “So cute!”

Those are slimes?”

Duh!” Jane walked into the open building. “Come on, Dad.”

Ignoring his own lack of monster knowledge, Erick focused on the building instead, saying, “I expected some sort of smell. Maybe a plain brick building? Open water pits, etcetera.” As he stepped into the building, even more oddities appeared. The theme of this place was clearly overstated opulence, and, of course, there was A/C. “I did not expect this.”

Bright lightorbs illuminated a gold-pillared show room floor that only had a single exhibit to showcase: A glass case sitting twenty feet inside the room. But then Erick immediately noticed a massive dragonkin standing to the left, inside the open front room, seven feet away. Erick looked up at the man. The man was silent, except for the singular release of a heavy huff of air through the faceplate of his black, full body armor. The only reason Erick knew he was a dragonkin was because his armor did not cover his fingers or palms; large claws capped the tips of blackscaled fingers.

Hello, custo— Humans?” A cheery voice cracked out from behind the front counter. A purplescaled woman stood there. She coughed small once, mumbling something. She beckoned them to come to the counter. “Sorry. We don’t get many humans in there. Please don’t mind Savral. He’s a great guy.”

Erick walked forward while Jane kept glancing at the big guy. “Hello. I know you can’t understand me. I can’t understand you, either. I have a letter here for Al—” He pulled out the letter and set it on the counter while Purplescale stood dumbfounded at the words coming out of his mouth. “I was informed that I could work here, using [Cleanse] somehow. I’m not interested in killing slimes, but I understand that might be a part of the job.”

Purplescale frowned but took the letter. She read the cover, then said, “One second.” She called to Blackscale, “Keep an eye out.” She smiled serenely as she rapped a knuckle on a bell sitting on the counter. It made no sound. “He’ll be with you in a moment.”

Jane looked at the bell. She looked at Blackscale as the giant dragonperson moved slightly closer to the door. She looked at Purplescale smiling like an idiot. Erick just mimicked Purplescale's smile, trying to keep calm in a situation that had every indication of rapidly decaying.

Erick said, “Jane. Please relax. If we can’t survive this, we can’t survive Veird.”

I don’t think they like us.”

I don’t think they know us and are just being cautious because we’re human.” Erick changed the topic by pointing at the items under the glass. “What do you think these things are? They’re obviously for sale. But why would a sewerhouse be selling crystals? And powder? Do you think these are drugs?”

Jane spared the glass case a glance. “Not drugs. Not sure what those are.”

Purplescale asked, Are you interested in purchasing some rads today? Or are you selling?”

Blackscale said, “They’re too poor to afford rads, Bacci.”

I think Blackscale insulted us.”

Erick said, “Probably.”

The echo of heavy footsteps carried on the air from somewhere in the back of the room. What’s happening, Bacci!” An absolutely enormous man walked up from a hidden staircase, stepping into view. “Humans? How quaint.”

The man was impeccably dressed in something that was a cousin to both a gangster’s pinstripe suit and a sultan’s fancy flowing clothes, and he looked good. Seriously, the giants of Spur were too pretty. He had short black hair, deep black eyes, light brown skin tinted green, and, of course, obvious muscles underneath all those loose clothes. Scars on his face and his hands just added character. A hint of gold near the collar of his neck was the perfect accent to his whole look.

Purplescale handed the giant Erick’s letter of introduction.

This must be Al.

Oh gods, I’m going to have to work with this dude?

Hello, sir. I understand you—”

The man held up one hand to silence Erick, flipping the wax seal off of the letter with the other. He quickly read it, then read it again. The man smirked at Erick. The letter turned to ash in a puff of red fire. Uhhh. Was that supposed to happen? Was that a good sign, or a bad sign? Irogh had refused to tell them the exact contents of the letter, saying it was better this way. But was it really? Erick supposed he could learn to kill wolves with Jane if he needed to do that in order to live, if this didn’t work out. But he really didn’t want to kill anything.

Al said, “This one might be a new employee for us. The girl might end up an adventurer. The man comes recommended by Irogh, though I’ll have to get him into shape first, of course.” He leaned behind the counter and pulled out a piece of bread, hidden in the cabinet below the display case. He crushed it into crumbs, then scattered the crumbs into two piles on the pristine floor. “[Cleanse].” One of the piles vanished into wisps of air. He gestured to Erick.

Easy test. [Cleanse].

The other pile vanished, same as the first.

Silent casting? You’re only level one, though, so we have a long way to go.”

A level one?!” Blackscale blurted. But he looks so old!”

Exactly! And he wants to be an aura mage, too. This might be perfect.” Al said, “He doesn’t know the language yet, but he’s had [Language Acquisition] and [Bacteria Ecology Transmutation] cast upon him, so that won’t take long to fix, and those first levels always go fast. Just have to talk around him and he’ll pick up what you’re putting down. As for the low level, he’s an outsider. We’re his first experience with Veird, so let’s make it a good one.

Purplescale said, If you say so, Boss Man.”

Jane mumbled, “This is all very confusing.”

An outsider?” Blackscale said, “Should we keep that under our helmets?”

It’ll probably get around fast enough, but I don’t want either of you spreading it around. The girl is going to become an adventurer and that’ll out her, for sure. Come with me, Erick Flintt.” Al gestured to follow as he walked back to where he came from in the back of the room. “We’ll get you what you need today. Your status is mostly there.”

Blackscale said, You got his status?”

Erick turned to Jane. “I guess we’re starting right now. Um. Do you—”

Yes, I got his status.” Al frowned at Blackscale. “That’s why I destroyed the letter.”

I’m not going into a sewer, Dad. You go do your thing. Either meet me at the Guild, or I’ll come back here. Hopefully one of us will be able to rent a room and buy food tonight.”

And then Jane was gone, out the door and on her way. It happened so fast Erick had no chance to—

Coming?” Al waited by the stairs. “Don’t worry about your daughter. This is a safe city! Come, come! Down this way, future mage.” Al’s heavy footfalls carried him out of sight.

Erick followed.

Further inside the sewerhouse, Erick realized that it wasn’t just the front room that was opulent. Thankfully, yellow-white light orbs clung to the ceiling every five feet, shedding bright light, chasing the shadows away. This whole place was as expensive on the inside as it looked on the outside. And for a sewer, the smell was nonexistent, the lighting was plentiful, the ground was clean. Actually, for any business at all, all those things were still true. Down the stairs there were other rooms, a few of them filled with couches and pillows and tables, while others looked like offices for kings, or at least minor lords. The ground and walls were clean, light brown stone, like the walls of the city, but of a nicer texture. Smoother, maybe? Polished, for sure. And the space! So much space. Erick felt like a child in a castle, and even Al’s head was still three feet from the roof. This place had either been built, or rebuilt, with people like Al in mind.

Past that hallway a winding, wide staircase led into the depths. The air was heavy with moisture, but the walls were clean, devoid of moss, mildew, or stains. [Cleanse] was a truly wonderful spell. The spiral staircase ended in a landing overseeing a deep underground river that frothed and seethed far below. Aside from that main torrent down there, a secondary flow of water emptied into the underground river from an unreachable wall on the other side of the cavern.

A thick railing kept Erick apart from the torrential depths, and from worrying too deeply about falling in to that dark river, but some primal part of him still worried at the possibility.

What monsters might live in those ancient waters? Terrifying.

Al patiently waited for him to stop staring at the cavern. When Erick recovered himself, Al kept walking to the left, into a short, hundred foot hallway that ended in a person-made dome room. Five doors occupied the room, all of them metal and each somewhat equidistant from the entrance hallway. One of them a vault door compared to the other four, which were still giant-person-sized. Erick kept right behind Al. Al turned right and opened the nearest door; the vault door drew Erick’s attention, but that was not their destination.

Now this was more of a sewer that Erick was thinking of when he thought ‘sewer’. There was still no smell, though. The main feature of this room was the cesspool that took up most of the space. The other features included a catwalk over the center of the cesspool and a dark barred hallway leading into the rest of the sewers. Very large metal bars blocked anything larger than a mouse from crossing over from the greater sewer into this cesspool room, but holy hell, the yawning darkness beyond those thick metal bars was terrifying. The water that poured from there was… not clean. But honestly not that nasty.

No… it was bad. This was bad.

The light orb hanging in the center of the room was not bright enough.

This was a bad idea.

Before Erick could run away, Al walked across the cesspool’s catwalk to stand in the very center of the circular room, then bade Erick to watch. Erick watched, not sure what his other options were. Air flexed from Al as a massive [Cleanse] tore through the whole area, pulsing deep into the cesspool, all the way through the water to the very edges. The water cleared in seconds. A massive torrent of twisting air held contained to some invisible barrier just bellow the catwalk, dissipating down the cesspool’s outflow. The water that continued to pour into the pool was [Cleanse]d as fast as it poured in, but those twisting tendrils of thick air washed out through vents in the ceiling.

That had to be an aura. It was still active. It was not a one-and-done cast like how Erick had cast [Cleanse] before. And then Al cast another spell while maintaining his aura. It might have been a [Ward]. It probably was a [Ward]. The air certainly glittered like it was warded.

No. Wait. That wasn’t just a [ward] glittering. Sparkles floated out of the water, into the air, only to crash into the space in front of Al like they were falling due to gravity. As Al maintained his [Cleanse] Aura, the [Ward] did the work of gathering the sparkles. In a minute, most of whatever Al was gathering had settled into a shimmering cloud. He pulled out a bowl from a pocket and held it under the sparkling mass. The mass fell into the bowl. Al dismissed the [Ward]. Then he dismissed his aura. The water below began to turn murky again as the inflow resumed dumping dirt into the cesspool.

Al walked over to Erick with the bowl of sparkles. He took a knee to get eye-to-eye with Erick. Erick’s heart beat a bit faster, but he ignored that for now. The bowl was filled with fingernail-sized sparkles amid grains of crystal sand and white powder. Al opened the upper flap of his shirt with a single, sexy move of his fingers. He pulled out a gold chain necklace with a rough-poured gold bar as a centerpiece. The bar was the size of a giant’s pointer finger, but it was still more gold than Erick had ever seen in person, aside from that one trip to the Shipwreck Museum when Jane was ten.

Al held the bar in one hand and the bowl in the other, then pretended to be a balancing scale.

The message was clear.

The bowl and the bar were the same price.

Haha!” Erick laughed. “That’s a lot of money!”

You can make a good life for yourself with this job.”

Erick paled. “I understood that.”

Al stood up, smiling. “[Language Acquisition] is a good buff spell. You be learning fast.”

Erick laughed again.

Okay. The job might be shit. But it’s not like Jane’s plan of being arms deep in monster guts is any nicer. This is just picking up the money. But…

Why are there so many sparkles in the sewers?

Why are the sparkles so expensive?

Erick thought about his words, then asked, “Why are sparkles so expensive?”

Some of that might have gotten through. Erick hoped it was enough. It wasn’t, of course. It took five tries and a lot of gestures before Al understood the question.

Al put a cap on the bowl and put it in his pants pocket, saying, “Because you make magic items out of them. Enchanting.”

Not a very clear answer, but Erick was getting there.

Cheers to progress!

But seriously. Did he actually want this job?

There was one question that would make or break this for him. Erick used his hands while he spoke, hoping he was speaking correctly, “How often do you clean these four pools?” He had to ask the question eight different ways. His main breakthrough in communication happened when he made a sun with one hand and arced it over his other arm, held flat, to indicate a day.

Al said, “I clean pool every four days.”

Erick smiled. That was a good answer. What came next was a bad answer.

I hunt slimes every day.” He picked out one of the largest sparkles in the bowl. “Rad slime bigger than this. You no hunt slimes. Oozes in sewer last few days. Oozes will eat you alive.”

Ah. No hunting for Erick then. That’d be fine.

Al gestured that it was time to go. Erick left the room first. Al closed the door to the cleaned cesspool with a heavy clank. Then it was time for Erick to clean his own cesspool behind a different door. The vault door remained closed at the end of the hallway, and Erick was thankful for that.

When Erick couldn’t manage to clean his whole cesspool at once, Al just laughed, saying something that might have been cheerful disparaging about low levels. Al kept pushing Erick to cast again, and when Erick was finally spent, down to his last fourteen mana, they went back upstairs, back to one of the pillow rooms. Al burst his cleaning aura, then pointed Erick to the couches. Erick gratefully laid down as Al left to go about his business elsewhere.

Erick really, really wanted to nap. His HP had even taken a hit with all that casting. But he had gained some skill in [Cleanse] as well as two base levels, and he had points to spend.

Status.

 

Erick Flatt

Human, age 48

Level 3, Class: None

Exp: 90/300

Class: -/-

Points: 7

HP

75/80

150 per day

MP

14/160

170 per day

Strength

8

+0

[8]

Vitality

15

+0

[15]

Willpower

16

+0

[16]

Focus

17

+0

[17]

 

Ward 1, instant, short range, 24 hours

Create a small ward that can have minor effects, or prevent Z damage from attackers. 10 + Z MP

Minor Effects: Bug Ward, Temperature Ward, Alarm Ward

Exp: 0/100

 

Mend 3, instant, touch, 10 mana

Touch a non-magical medium sized object, or small complicated, and restore it to its prime.

Exp: 10/300

 

Cleanse 2, instant, short range, 10 mana.

Purge an area equal to the level of the spell in meters of all Toxins, Disease, Filth, and Corruption.

Exp: 80/200

 

He had 7 points. It was, honestly, a lot of points. They just started to add up. He needed to spend some. It was time to start the plan he had worked out with Irogh.

+3 Focus first… Done.

Then comes the 20 focus double regen ability…

 

Concentration 1

Multiply your base MP regen by 2.0

Requirements: 20 Focus

Exp: 0/100

 

And the prerequisite for Aurify… Where is it… There it is!

 

Mana Shaping 1

Alter AOE in subtle ways, 10 MP + spellcost

Requirements: 10 Willpower

Exp: 0/100

 

And now for what Irogh called arguably the most important skill.

I shouldn’t buy it yet. Look at those downsides.

 

Meditation 1

You are at Rest while Meditating.

Afflicted ailments: Immobile, blind, deaf, ten minutes to begin.

Requirements: 10 Willpower

Exp: 0/100

 

Gotta be honest, Meditation does not look good. Not at level 1. I’ll keep those points in reserve for now.

Status.

 

Erick Flatt

Human, age 48

Level 3, Class: None

Exp: 90/300

Class: -/-

Points: 2

HP

80/80

150 per day

MP

10/160

400 per day

Strength

8

+0

[8]

Vitality

15

+0

[15]

Willpower

16

+0

[16]

Focus

20

+0

[20]

 

Using [Meditation] here was a bad idea. Blindness and deafness in the sewerhouse? With the darkness only a thousand feet away? No thanks. Not to mention the raging underground river which is, FOR SURE, full of monsters. Strangers all around. Slimes. Monsters worse than slimes. There’s metal doors on each pool, but who can trust a door when it comes to monsters?

Oozes will eat you alive’.

What the hell is an ‘Oozes’?

 

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Arcs

Bio: The writer of Ar'Kendrithyst! If you want to support the story, there's either patreon, or https://ko-fi.com/arcs33454

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Comments(61)
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jacobpaige ago

If its the most important skill in the build, then why not buy it? Even if he's not going to use it until he feels safer, he's defintiely going to buy it eventually. Better to get it sooner rather than later so that he won't be tempted to screw up his build.

Rdogsonfire ago

Adaptation to new environments is different for everyone. Fear of the unknown is crippling for him and the thought of a sensory deprivation skill in a strange place. Yeah procrastination isn't going to help but it's understandable.

Graestra ago

Language acquisition is an amazing buff

Seth Jakill ago

For those who cant read that script. You can go to the top of the page and over write the aurthers font to make it a readable.

jonnnney ago

I would recomend using *words* or <words> when the city residents are talking to each other because it a fucking confusing to have two groups of people talking to themselves in their own language with no indication what so ever as to who understands what.

Stormblessed ago

I'm loving having to decode what those guys are saying. It's taking me forever to finish each chapter, but I'm getting faster and faster!

SenescentSoul ago

Purplescale’s smiled, trying to keep...

DonkeyKong ago

Thank you for the Banana chapter.

lenkite ago

[Meditation] is a skill that can probably be learned over time anyways.

Landi ago

All about sexy this sexy that is annoying. He is 48 years old for fks sake.

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