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Jonas called for a break following the ordeal of going through Adaptation all over again. It had been as terrible as the original, fire coursing through all of his blood, hammer-like blows tenderizing his muscles, and a vice squeezing inside his head. But at last, they were now all tier two.

 

Team

 

Professions

Health

Mind

Jonas Sims

Aetherist (31)

271/286

310/325

Jonathan Gilbert

Layman (31)

300/312

220/236

Ira Heard

Layman (43)

693/693

396/396

Guss Fullmore

Hospitaler (31)

280/295

310/323

Laura Harvey

Smasher (31)

301/325

281/293

Alton Raby

Piercer (31)

356/370

270/283

 

“So what do we do?” asked Ira.

“We figure out our new skills, we get some levels… and we try to find more lairs. I’d love to find a lair that’s easier than that boar-infested ruin.”

Jonas walked toward Laura and Guss, who were discussing around the partially filled hole in front of the Plaza.

“So? Still looking for an explanation?”

“Yes. But we haven’t figured out what could have been there, and who or why it was removed,” replied Laura.

“Not enough information. I agree,” said Jonas.

“Well, Guss has ideas,” she added, looking at the Hospitaler.

“There’s probably something special about Plazas, beyond the obvious regeneration boost and the fact that you can get new Professions.”

“Maybe,” offered Jonas.

“The outfit my cousin work in is about getting special stuff from the Labyrinth. Not the Power Crystal thing, but more high-price stuff.”

“So? Do you think they came and dug out some statue or something?”

“Who knows? I’m sure there’s a market for works of art if there’s any to be found in the Labyrinth,” said Guss.

Jonas pursed his lips, adopting a dubious look. “That hole looks big. It seems a lot of trouble for some statue.”

“Well, if they can sell it for 100 quid… Or even a grand. Or maybe more,” countered Guss.

“Who could pay that? 100 pounds is… more than my master makes in a year. A good year,” said Jonas.

“You didn’t work for a wealthy merchant. But yes, 1,000 pounds would be a fortune for Morvell. He does make more than that a year, but spending that…” said Ira.

“There’s always nobles with more money than you can dream,” replied Guss.

Jonas contemplated the hole a bit more, trying to gauge what had been buried into the earth before being dug.

“Even then. It looks large and would be terrible to transport. Notably in the mountains without a road.”

Laura noted, “which probably meant it wouldn’t be transported too far. Maybe only a few zones.”

“Maybe,” offered Jonas before shrugging the suggestion as impossible to evaluate.

Both Laura and Guss bent again over the hole, trying to make more guesses about the nature of the ‘statuary’ lifted from there. If it was statuary. Jonas spotted Jonathan trying to swing his swords as if getting used to the new Profession. He and Ira made their way to his side.

 

“So, how is your new Layman Profession working out,” asked Ira.

“Trying to see if I get skills. So far, nothing,” he replied.

“I got all of them during combat. Heck, all of us got theirs during combat,” he added.

“Well, not exactly. Got one when I wore that mask,” he said, gesturing toward the leather band covering his eyes.

“You still seeing through it?” asked Jonas.

“Yes. And I still have all my old skills. I was worried they’d go away as you said for Guss, but I think you worried for nothing.”

Jonas frowned, then realized immediately a possible reason.

Watcher was Environment/Defence, right? And Layman is Physical/Defence. So that’s still defence, just a different way.”

“Just like me, when I switched from Personal/Defence to Physical/Defence. Still Defence,” added Ira.

“Oh? Does this mean I was some kind of… defender something?”

“No, I don’t think so. The vital points you get in levelling are very different.”

Jonas quickly added, “however, if you still have your old skills, then you can still do the same things you used to. At least for now. Until you get more health and equipment.”

“Speaking of which,” said Ira, rummaging in his belt pouch. He pulled out his old cap and handed it to Jonathan, who took it and turned it in his hands. Without visible eyes, it was hard to read him, but he was clearly ‘frowning’.

“The only thing on it is the Defence rating, right?”

 

Flimsy Light Ringmail Cap

Head

Starter equipment

Requires: none

Provides: 2 defence rating

 

“Yes. It’s that starter gear we got back when we…” explained Ira.

“Then I think my mask is currently better. Got 6 Defence rather than 2.”

“That sounds… well, that sounds weird. I mean, that cap is armour, not some leather stuff…”

“Labyrinth stuff, right?” said Jonathan.

Jonas acknowledged the remark by shrugging.

“I think he’s right, Ira.”

The main Layman frowned, before acknowledging defeat.

“Okay, I’ll keep that cap. Don’t worry.”

 

 

“Okay, everyone. Time to move. I suggest we keep that Plaza as our base, even if we can’t Recall to it. By the way, try not to start Recall. If we get back to Ovildian, we’ll have to trek back here, and that’s lost time.”

The team gathered, ready to follow Jonas.

“So far we’ve seen three lairs, but the last one is way too high for a long time. We should get more levels quickly now, and if nothing else, we’ll try the frog lake soonish. But if we can find another easier lair, that would be good.”

Jonas looked around before settling on a direction.

“So far we’ve followed the river on both sides, and we came by that pass. There are a couple more passes going out, so let’s see what this zone has for us.”

 

 

The whole valley looked like a sinkhole of kind. Trails were snaking around the edges, offering multiple way of descending until it reached an overhang and plunged into semi-darkness. Even from there, Jonas could see some light coming from the depths.

What worried him, however, was the things crawling around. They looked like flattened livestock. A grey leather skin, limbs that stretched around, and weird eyes with a barely visible nose.

 

Irritable Grey Newt

Level 74 veteran

Health: 1124

Mind: 414

Stamina: 585

Aether: 668

 

“Never saw a newt. Just heard some witches use them…” started Guss.

“You see them on the Thames. If you’re lucky. Those are twenty times bigger. And look meaner too,” interrupted Alton.

“Aren’t they poisonous?” asked Guss.

“They are. Can’t eat them, or you sicken. Of course in the Labyrinth, they’re certainly worse.”

“Got a skill against poison,” started Guss.

Jonas shook his head, interrupting the exchange.

“We’re definitively not going down this lair. That’s an obvious lair, but no way we’re doing that. The boars would be easier.”

 

 

The pass had four trees aligned on each side. The trees looked almost planted. All of the same height, all in a row, at almost regular intervals. Jonathan spotted the box to the side.

Jonas looked carefully around, and seeing nothing, knelt over the box, trying to budge it open. Unlike all the boxes they’d seen so far, however, this one remained closed. It did not seem to have a lock or anything, it just didn’t open.

The rest of the team congregated around Jonas, and both Alton, then Laura, tried to pry open the box, without any success either.

“Why doesn’t it open?” finally asked Ira.

Nobody answered for a while. Then Guss hazarded an explanation, “Maybe because we haven’t fought its guardian?”

“Then where is it? There’s nothing around. It doesn’t even look like we’re in a lair area or anything like that. The last cat on the way up to the pass was a single normal, not even a veteran.”

“Monster day off?” joked Alton.

Jonas tried to find a good answer and failed.

 

 

The second trip out of the Plaza yielded a better prospect for a lair. From a distance, this looked like a smaller copy of the Plaza, except that the pillars were in disrepair, compared to the pristine state of the Plaza. The “plaza” floor was cracked. And where the Profession choices would have popped up, a spiral staircase was inviting them.

As in the cellar from Ovildian, the staircase had self-lighting torches spread at close intervals along the spiral path downward. Once they reached the bottom however, they found themselves facing three corridors branching from the landing, and no further stairs.

Jonas peered into each tunnel before picking one at random. At least, all of them looked to have a good amount of torches.

The first room they found was a hexagonal room, with vaulted arches culminating into a small pillar reaching down to almost head height. The occupants of the room, however, were well under that size.

 

Lost Mole Digger × 2

Level 67 veteran

Health: 1018

Mind: 381

Stamina: 903

Aether: 0

 

“Bollocks! High levels!” screamed Ira in warning upon seeing the beady eyes turning toward him.

Ira… and Jonathan stepped up to intercept the two mole-things. For a second, Jonas almost stopped the former Watcher to let Alton absorb the attacks, but he realized that their new defender needed to get more skills in defence. And confidence. If things went wrong, he’d try to get Alton involved, but otherwise…

“Focus on the second one. The one on Jonathan goes first!” shouted Jonas, before starting his Flame Bolts. He’d keep aether enough to use one or two Air Bursts to create chaos, but otherwise, it was time to use all of his reserves.

Lost Mole Digger slashes wildly for 42 damage. One hit noticed.

Both Alton and Laura yelled. Neither had moved into position yet, and the attack had managed to snag them. But apparently, Jonathan still had triggered one of his old skills, so at least he did avoid that damage.

Lost Mole Digger claws for 80 damage (16 defence).

As Jonathan was mauled by the mole’s claws, Ira yelled.

“These things hit harder than anything I’ve seen. We won’t last the fight.”

Jonas decided to try running away. They had never done it, and in those confined areas, it would be hellish. But if those things did so much damage, they couldn’t survive long.

“Run. Everyone, get out of that room and run as fast for the stairs…”

The team turned as one and ran for the door. The corridor was thankfully large enough that they could run in a hurry without hampering themselves, but Alton yelled twice as one of the mole raked him from behind. He had already lost over half of his inconsiderable health. As they sprang out of the corridor, another claw hit brought him down to below 100 health.

Ira stopped, slashing and kicking at the mole as the rest of the team rushed to the stairs. Then Jonas saw that only one moles had come out of the room and was still trying to get them. Somehow, they’d managed to lose the other. Maybe it had been blocked by its companion and lost track of them.

“Stop. There’s only one left. And we can’t let it attack again from behind!”

The team turned and looked at the Layman engaged with the mole creature. Then, they rallied and moved back from the stairs into position.

“Alton, if you get slashed again, retreat. No sense in getting killed… even if Ira can resurrect you after it.”

The Piercer silently acknowledged the order as he slid behind the mole, to use his Backstabs. Laura squeezed herself next to him, to avoid a repeat of the wild slashes.

 

Lost Mole Digger : 1136XP/6 contributors = 189XP. Level up.

 

“Okay. Too high a lair. We’re retreating,” said Jonas.

“Yea. Too close for me,” breathed Alton.

Laura reflexively checked the corpse for anything useful and was surprised to see an item folded under their pursuer.

 

Simple Grey Leather Trousers

Legs

Basic equipment

Requires: level 59

Provides: 7 defence rating

 

“Some leggings…” she commented.

“Well,” said Jonas. “If we really don’t have anything better by then, we may still use them. I mean, most of us have our starter equipment without any benefits either.”

“Really?” she asked.

“It might even count as an upgrade for me,” confirmed Ira.

Seeing her incredulous look, he quickly added, “The ringmail I have does have less defence. It’s like Jonathan’s mask. Just because it’s not sturdy ringmail doesn’t mean it’s bad.”

Jonas cut the discussion.

“Someone, pick it for now. We’re just 34 now… well, except for Ira, so it’s going to be a long time until we can use that. And until then, it’s useless.”

He gestured toward the entrance.

“Meanwhile, let’s not risk ourselves further. This fifth lair is not a good thing.”

“It could have been the newt things,” said Guss.

“Yes. And in that case, we might have needed to come back for the dead. Maybe even more than one,” said Jonas.

 

Hospitaler

(tier 2)

Required: 25 WIS

Provides:

+5 health/+2 endurance/+3 mind/+8 aether per level

+1 Milestone/14 levels

Hospitaler Milestone: +5 WIS, +3 FOC, +2 STR, +1 INT, +1 STA, 5% healing

Skill set: Aether / Support

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A note from Vincent Archer

Tier 2 is hard.

On the speculation about the potential cost of Labyrinth-made art.

Things that are cheap today would be unimaginatively expensive at the time. A laborer or farmer's annual income is around £15-20. If you've read the prequel short story, Rowan (the MC) gets offered a £3/month wage, which is an immense amount of money for him and his fellow recruits (enough that, as a poor day laborer, he's willing to abandon all of its meager possessions when moved into the Labyrinth). Oakden, Jonas' employer, is assumed to make over a hundred pounds a year profit from his shop (which is a medium store, has half a dozen apprentices, including Jonas).

The Morvells, which are Ira's employers, are an upcoming merchant family and probably make around £2,500-3,000 a year. It's the entry ticket for the 1% of the era. I stole the evaluation from some Jane Austen's analysis. In Jane Austen’s time, about £1,000 a year was enough for a family to afford “three female servants, a coachman and footman, a chariot or coach, phaeton or other four-wheeled carriage, and a pair of horses”.

 


About the author

Vincent Archer

  • France

Bio: Vincent Archer wrote his first story around age 11. On a mechanical typewriter, with carbon paper for a mimeograph to distribute in class. His teacher knew enough to make vague encouraging noises rather than really tell him what she thought. He wrote more stories afterward, but Time has thankfully managed to erase every trace of them.

Now that his career has settled in a mix of routine and insanity and that he's figured out that herding cats would probably be easier, he's finally started to write stories again on a media rather than inside his brain. Some of those are even potentially good enough to show to other people.

Silvergates is his first attempt to finish one rather than admit defeat against the usual writer's block.

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