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A note from Selkie

REMEMBER I'M ON BREAK THE  26th!

After about an hour of working on the Fortress of Hydra Death, Serondes’s Sizzle Shack, or Castle Why-Does-The-Swamp-Smell-So-Bad - the name was a work in progress - it had cooled enough that Aegion and I could get in. The entrance was a bit too narrow for Tyriss to comfortably enter, and he was looking more than a bit nervous at the entire thing.

 

I mean, I would be nervous as well, if the people helping me out were building a fort that explicitly didn’t let me inside.

 

“Hey Serondes! Why the narrow entrance that Tyriss can’t enter?” I asked him, noting that Serondes had built Tyriss a special little lean-to for his own, clearly indicating that he wasn’t joining us. It didn’t seem nice to poor Tyriss.

 

“Simple. Anything large enough to permit Tyriss entry, would likely allow a head of the hydra to enter, which would entirely defeat the purpose.” I thought about Tyriss, and how he was so damn big that I could almost walk under him. I looked at the narrow passageway that was slightly wider on the bottom than the top, probably a minor concession to Kiyaya crawling in, and getting our Spatial Box in and out. I thought about how stupidly large the passage would need to be to accommodate Tyriss, and how it’d lose the zig-zagging property.

 

I reluctantly, to myself, admitted that Serondes was right.

 

He gestured, numerous thick spikes erupting out of the ground. I eyed them, thinking about what myths and legends had to say about hydras, and while the spikes were thick, they didn’t seem large enough to properly stop something the size and weight of what we were dealing with.

 

Then again, maybe they were purely a deterrent? A hydra-be-gone?

 

Either way, I wasn’t an engineer, nor was I an overly talented elf that could somehow do everything. What did I know about this stuff? It was possible that Serondes had some sort of skill that was backing up the construction, making the spikes deceptively powerful. Or he was next-leveling the hydra, and preparing something that the hydra would think was strong enough to be a problem, without having the needed power.

 

I dunno.

 

Either way, I kept my mouth shut and entered the building, violating hundreds of safety regulations.

 

Serondes had arranged a few rooms here and there. One was obviously a dining room, we each had our own little room - no doors, of course, Lava wasn’t that busted as an element - a communal gathering area, and some storage rooms. I had no doubt that we’d end up getting doors somehow though.

 

Oh, and a considerate room for Aegion’s moonshine. I suspected it was more to keep it out of our hair, than out of any desire to be nice to him.

 

Aegion and I got working on unpacking all the gear, and making the place cozy. To his credit, he was making sure everyone else’s stuff was unpacked and settled in before tending to his latest attempt at seeing if he could overcome our vitality, and poison us all to death.

 

Aegion focused on unpacking, while I ended up arranging the fortress to specs. I’d never been much of a homemaker, and now I was suddenly finding myself more or less in charge of getting a fortress arranged. Literally single-handedly.

 

What had my life come to? Also, I needed to figure out a sling or something for the egg. Being permanently down a hand was no good.

 

Every now and then, a roiling wave of heat would wash over us, Serondes expanding the fortress in some new and inventive way. There were no stairs to the top of the walls, but they’d either come later, or everyone had the ability to make it up there on their own. Well, everyone except Tyriss, but he wasn’t inside the fort. Like, I could fly up there, Awarthril could probably just flat-out jump that high, the entire castle was made out of Serondes’s element, and Aegion?

 

I wasn’t sure, but if he told me that Cordamo could lift him up that high, I’d believe him. Stats and skills, especially at the level the elves were at, made seemingly ridiculous ideas and feats commonplace. Heck, Aegion might have the strength to just leap up the wall, or the dexterity to use the tiny cracks in the rock to climb up the side!

 

Either way, we finished up, and I was lounging in the living room, open to the sky above, without anything better to do.

 

“Water. I should get some water.” I sighed and hauled myself up, as Aegion emerged from his brewery, evil-looking green gases following behind him.

 

“Hey Aegion! Got a spare barrel? Figured I should stock up if we’re going to be here for a while.”

 

He looked thoughtful at the idea, eyes rapidly flickering as he inventoried his stuff.

 

Wait.

 

Don’t tell me he’d hijacked the team’s water barrel for his own brewing?

 

I could totally see him doing that.

 

I could also see the elves blithely assuming they’d always be set on water, and just not bothering to have significant reserves.

 

“I’ve got a few spare, yeah, good idea Elaine.” He walked over, plopping himself down on a large pillow.

 

“Alternatively, I know you’ve been trying to aspect your Radiance magic with more destructive elements, right?”

 

I nodded. I had no idea when he’d picked that up, but for all I knew he’d heard everything we’d ever said. Or Serondes had told him. Or… there were a lot of options really. It didn’t matter.

 

“Well, Lightning is somewhat destructive, and Cordamo is an expert at other types of destroying. Figure we could try and give you a hand. Grabbing a specific skill is never easy.”

 

Well, between chores, and learning magic, the chores went right out the window.

 

“I’m all ears!” I flicked my fingers, letting the soft Radiance glow emanate.

 

“Right. All elements have concepts behind them.” Aegion started to lecture, retreading some familiar ground. “Water is flexible and flowing, while Earth is hard and rigid. Easy to be flexible with Water, while Earth being flexible is difficult, for example.”

 

I nodded. Maximus had lectured on similar principles in the past, although there was a lot more hemming and hawing and “not entirely sures”.

 

“Destruction is a concept that’s primarily in Dark, and secondary in Fire. Now, just because a concept is in the base element, doesn’t always mean it ends up in the final combined element. A good example of this would be Light to Sound, where the illumination aspects of Light don’t carry over.”

 

I thought about that for a bit.

 

“Let me guess - Sand lacks rigidity?” I asked, going back to his prior example.

 

“Exactly! Now, new aspects and concepts show up all the time in advanced elements, and the list is frankly exhaustingly long, and probably incomplete. Poison, for example, might have destruction as a concept, given that the element revolves around, well, poison. It might not, it could just be an effect. We’re not sure.”

 

He shrugged, as Cordamo, the poison couatl himself, curled around his horns, flickering his tongue at me and sunning his wings.

 

“Either way, seeing things get destroyed should help.”

 

I gave him a Look, with a twist of the corner of my mouth.

 

“Where’s your latest concoction? Might as well put it to good use! Destroying it with Radiance is a much better look than letting it destroy my sense of taste!”

 

Aegion swatted me for my insolence. Undeterred, I stuck my tongue out at him, and grabbed a barrel he deemed “safe enough”, and went to get some water.

 

The swamp looked like an easy place to get water, and an utterly terrible idea. Instead, I flew around a bit, finally finding a nearly hidden stream. The entire time, I was meditating on the idea of destruction, because, well, I wasn’t about to start lighting the grasslands on fire.

 

What did it mean to destroy something? Well, that was fairly subjective. It meant it had fallen apart, or wasn’t working anymore, right?

 

As I watched the water barrel fill up, I came to a conclusion:

 

There was no way I was getting a “destruction” skill on meditation alone, even with [Butterfly Mystic]’s help in getting new skills. I needed to get out there, and blow stuff up.

 

Hopefully it’d be fairly easy to merge with [Sun’s Heart], and then I could get a NEW skill, and work on merging that!

 

As difficult as this new skill was to get, I did like how I was freeing up a skill slot, then abusing the heck out of it to improve all my other skills. I could try to directly improve the other skills as well, and maybe that was more efficient… although, if I managed to earn an upgrade for a skill, wouldn’t it be more likely that I was directly offered the upgrade, instead of getting a skill for it?

 

Getting the skill felt like a solid half-step in the process of upgrading a skill.

 

Still, I wasn’t quite getting what the elves meant by “aspecting with destruction”, which was doing me no favors. I strained and heaved the full barrel of water over one shoulder.

 

Legs wobbling, I leaned down to pick the egg back up - I only dropped it for a second! - rewarmed it, then took flight with [Scintillating Ascent], heading back to the fortress, awkwardly balancing the half-full barrel with one hand, using my knees as extra support, flying in a weird squat.

 

I needed a sling, badly.

 

I doubt I could’ve carried the barrel back on my own, but I just needed to keep it somewhat stable, and let my poor flight skill handle the rest. I should study hawks or eagles or other large fliers that carried things. It would help the skill.

 

Well, I was in for a long, long stretch with minimal class ups or skill changes. Might as well make the most of it, especially if [Butterfly Mystic] didn’t have the fancy skill evolutions in its next tier.

 

I made it back, only to see a completed Castle Evil Overlord. Seriously, made out of dark, hardened Lava, nasty spikes in every direction, and an artistic Lava flow acting as a moat? Only thing the Castle was missing were some banners and Totally Evil guards patrolling. Oh, and the screams of the damned.

 

Either way, I landed, and Awarthril and Kiyaya were back!

 

“Thanks Elaine! That’s super helpful.” She gave me one of her radiant smiles, which had me feeling all warm and fuzzy inside.

 

“Right. Now that we’re all here, I want to tell you about what I found, and what the plan’s going to be.” She said, changing gears into a serious mode that I knew so well. Reminded me of Julius.

 

“Where’s Tyriss?” I asked. He wasn’t hard to miss, and this was the “no centaurs allowed” fortress. I mean, he was probably outside, but I meant more in the “why isn’t he part of the planning?”

 

Aegion shrugged.

 

“Probably off to find another herd. He’s done his part, leading us here, and he knows we’ll kill the hydra. He might hang around a bit just to get confirmation that we’ve succeeded, but he’s not going to be part of the fighting.”

 

That was a lot of confidence in people he’d barely met. I guess elves did have that sort of reputation, and they’d helped him re-gear up before sending him off. Just like they’d helped me.

 

It did imply that the moment the elves stopped finding me useful or entertaining, they’d just leave me behind. Then again, I believed I was both useful and entertaining, and they had said they’d help me get home. I suppose Tyriss had asked for help with the hydra, and the elves were helping out.

 

“The hydra.” Awarthril said, getting back on track. “It’s in the swamp, level 700 or so. Seven heads, and it was able to detect me through my invisibility.” Awarthril frowned at that, seeming to take personal affront to the hydra detecting her.

 

Personally, I thought it was because of her smell - clean, pristine, and vaguely of flowers, which was totally out of place in a swamp - and I considered keeping my mouth shut. At the same time, it was needed information.

 

“Awarthril, politely…” I said, hesitating a bit.

 

“Yes Elaine?” Awathril made sure I could say my bit.

 

“You smell.” I bluntly told her, and at her affronted look I backpeddeled.

 

“Not in a bad way! In a good way! You smell great!” Well shit I was putting my foot in my mouth. “But it’s not how the swamp smells, and the hydra might’ve noticed the slight change, of a beautiful floral scent instead of rotting decay.”

 

Awarthril’s face had a mix of affronted, offended, and thoughtful. She gave me a curt nod.

 

“Thank you.” She said, and moved on.

 

“There are numerous deep ponds in the area, and the tree cover gets somewhat thick. I didn’t engage, but hydras almost universally have Verdant as their primary element, with two more coming along. Given it’s living in a swamp, and from what Tyriss has told us, I’d guess Decay, Miasma, or some of the Water-related elements.” Awarthril finished her summary. “Ideas?”

 

I had six different plans of attack ready by the time she finished her summary, Ranger Academy and the endless lessons and training on fighting monsters coming in handy. However, I kept my mouth shut for now. I didn’t know my team’s full capabilities, and I wasn’t the leader here. Heck, I was a hanger-on, and unlike the dwarves, the elves were competent. As well as having their leader.

 

I’d be happy to contribute and refine ideas.

 

Aegion spoke up first.

 

“I’m almost useless here.” He freely admitted. “Whatever support you can think of me doing, I’ll be happy to perform.”

 

I tilted my head in confusion, but the elves were in serious-face mode, not inclined to explain things to me. I’d ask later.

 

“Most of this fight is going to come down to my Lava.” Serondes said. “Only thing we’ve got that can stop a hydra’s head from regenerating.”

 

Ok, that I needed to correct.

 

“Uh - “ I slapped a hand over my mouth as I realized I was about to say something monumentally stupid, given that I’d never seen or studied a Pallos hydra. They might not follow the same rules, and I should absolutely, 100% make sure my knowledge properly aligned with what they did. I’d been burned too many times relying on Earth knowledge, assuming that it worked the same way in Pallos.

 

“Yes Elaine?” Awarthril gently, implacably, removed my hand from my mouth. “If you’ve got something to add, please, we’re all ears.”

 

I eyed their long, pointy ears, and with superhuman effort, kept a lid on the jokes.

 

“Hydras regrow their heads. Wouldn’t Radiance be able to stop that?” I asked.

 

Awarthril frowned.

 

“Ok, technically, yes. Radiance can sear a hydra stump and prevent regeneration, along with most of the Fire-aligned elements, and weirdly, Acid. However, even if we were bringing you on this fight, your range is too short. You’d be right in the middle of their heads, I’m not convinced you have enough power to properly sear the head shut, and you’d break my Mirages.”

 

I bought the part about me not having enough power to properly sear a hydra’s neck shut. Awarthril knew roughly how much magic power I was working with, and had seen the hydra. The part about my relatively short range I could also accept. I had no idea how long the hydra’s heads were.

 

I was skeptical, but willing to accept Awarthril not wanting her Mirages broken. She had a style, and I wasn’t going to gimp it.

 

Staying out of the fight though? As much as I wanted to, I didn’t agree.

 

“Look, I’ve spent my entire adult life, and half my childhood being the healer in a fight. You saw my armor. Any injury you take, I can immediately heal. Any poison that’s used, heck, any poisonous plants we pass, we can entirely ignore. Heck, if someone makes a mistake and is bitten in half, I can heal that. Nothing short of an instantly lethal blow will kill one of you.”

 

“But we’re not going to die anyways?” Aegion asked, seeming confused at the idea.

 

I facepalmed at the sheer arrogance in the words.

 

“You wanted to get me leveled up right? How am I suppose to level enough to improve my [The Stars Never Fade] if I never get into fights, if I never take risks?” I asked, trying a different track. Awarthril was looking hopping mad at that, and I mentally berated myself. Kiyaya’s lifespan was her sore spot, and I’d just poked at it hard.

 

“Look, if Elaine wants to tag along, we should let her. She’s got a flying skill, she can be with me in the air.” Serondes suggested.

 

Cordamo landed on my hair, wrapping his tail around my neck as I went very, very still. He let out a long hiss at Aegion, who seemed to understand. He rolled his eyes.

 

“Cordamo’s fine with you coming along, provided that you’re his new sun spot. The lazy git doesn’t want to do his own flying.”

 

I leaned back, only to have a medium-sized heart attack as Cordamo popped into full view, hissing something at me and nodding towards my egg.

 

It was Aegion’s turn to facepalm.

 

“No, you can’t have the egg! Leave Elaine alone! That’s hers!”

 

More hissing.

 

“No, it’s not ‘fair payment!’”

 

“How about I drink a full mug of your swi - err - sweet drink as well?” I tried to shamelessly bribe Aegion, almost punting the entire thing as I nearly called his drinks “swill”.

 

He shrugged.

 

“Alright, I’m fine with it.”

 

Awarthril’s face had thunderclouds going across it. Kiyaya nuzzled her, and she glanced down, pursing her lips.

 

“Is your general healing able to handle animals? Specifically, dire wolves?” She idly scratched behind Kiyaya’s ears.

 

“Yes, at a steep but manageable penalty.” I replied, seeing where this was going.

 

Awarthril continued to frown, then sighed, letting the tension out of her shoulders.

 

“Right. Fine. I don’t like it, but I see when I’m outnumbered. Right, what’s the range on your healing?”

 

I told her, along with the caveat that I needed sunlight or moonlight to make it work.

 

“Right. Here’s how I see it.” Awarthril blurred, stone chips flew, and there was a miraculously detailed and well-measured map carved into the floor of the fortress. I’d bet my teeth that it was accurately to-scale to boot.

 

She told us the plan.

 

I applied my critical eye towards it, but I had to reluctantly admit it was good, and I couldn’t think of a way to improve on it.

 

“Right, let’s check our gear, get a good night’s sleep, then move out first thing in the morning.” Awarthril said, clapping her hands together, indicating that the meeting was over.

 

[Name: Elaine]

[Race: Human]

[Age: 20]

[Mana: 411,030/411,030]

[Mana Regen: 340,040 (+355,281)]

Stats

[Free Stats: 90]

[Strength: 942]

[Dexterity: 1,465]

[Vitality: 11,142]

[Speed: 11,142]

[Mana: 41,103]

[Mana Regeneration: 41,192 (+35,528.1)]

[Magic Power: 18,136 (+340,050)]

[Magic Control: 18,136 (+340,050)]

[Class 1: [The Dawn Sentinel - Celestial: Lv 419]]

[Celestial Affinity: 419]

[Cosmic Presence: 286]

[The Stars Never Fade: 1]

[Center of the Universe: 419]

[Dance with the Heavens: 419]

[Wheel of Sun and Moon: 419]

[Mantle of the Stars: 419]

[Sunrise: 344]

[Class 2: [Butterfly Mystic - Radiance: Lv 345]]

[Radiance Affinity: 345]

[Radiance Resistance: 345]

[Radiance Conjuration: 345]

[Lantern: 345]

[Nectar: 345]

[Sun's Heart: 345]

[Scintillating Ascent: 313]

[Kaleidoscope: 345]

[Class 3: Locked]

General Skills

[Long-Range Identify: 370]

[Pristine Memories: 217]

[Egg Incubation: 42]

[Bullet Time: 419]

[Oath of Elaine to Lyra: 375]

[Sentinel's Superiority: 395]

[Persistent Casting: 291]

[Passionate Learning: 377]

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Selkie

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