“Are you feeling better now?”
“A little bit.”
Edithe held up a hand, conjuring a small candle-like flame. The fire danced in her palms, almost like it was locked in battle with the air. She banished the spell and turned to me.
“I can start to cast more complex spells now— the sageberries really are helping.”
She smiled, and I nodded eagerly.
“They’re expensive, right? Xidra was so nice for giving it to you.”
“Well, more rare than expensive. [Mages]— especially ritualistic and experimental ones— tend to hoard them for themselves, so it’s kind of difficult to find anyone selling it. But if you can find a seller, it’s not going to be super costly like a Medium or High Grade artifact.”
“Wait, I thought rare things were expensive.”
I cocked my head. Edithe shrugged.
“That’s not how it always works— anyway, just know that it's complicated, alright?”
I had always known Humans were weird, but this just confused me more than anything. I sat back down on the ground, deciding to focus on studying my scroll. Edithe had taken her sageberries a few days ago. Xidra checked up on the red-haired woman back then, and was optimistic about her speed of recovery.
“A few more days.”
I heard Edithe mutter from the side. I glanced up at her.
“A few more days until what?”
“Until we can get back to it. Return to the Plaguelands, no longer wasting more time here.”
“We’re not wasting time here, Edithe.”
Daniel spoke up from the side.
“This is a reprieve for all of us— it’s important that we get proper breaks, unless we get ourselves killed… wait, why am I telling you this? You’re not Salvos.”
“Yeah! You're not me! Don’t steal my lines!”
I nodded eagerly, agreeing with the Human man. As much as I hated to admit it, Edithe was beaing a bit overzealous right now. Especially after we had nearly died, and she was nearly crippled from magic.
While I enjoyed and preferred to remain active, I could understand when the situation called for otherwise. Just like right now.
“Xidra’s going to take a look at you again today. So, don’t do anything stupid until that happens!”
I waved a clawed finger at her, as if I was talking to a… me. I was still in my Kobold Mortal Form. It was better to remain this way until we were back in the Plaguelands. Or the Dead Zone, since I’m supposed to pretend to be a Kobold right now.
Edithe chuckled, making herself comfortable as she lay back down.
“Of course not. It’s like you said: I’m not you.”
I crossed my arms, nodding. Then I blinked.
Sure enough, Xidra the [Herbalist] returned after the sun had set. Each time she had visited, it was after evening had come and gone. But before morning arrived.
While Kobolds did not need as much sleep as Humans, I assumed that they still spent most of the day busy with activities, slowing down only when night came. I could have been wrong— that was what I had seen from the very few times I had been in Unarith.
Daniel stood on guard as Xidra made herself known to us— he glanced about warily, as if he could be attacked at any moment. But the Kobold woman waved a hand off placatingly.
“Hoxle the [Diviner] did not follow me today. You can be at ease.”
The Human man’s shoulder sagged. Nav, the red-scaled Kobold, followed behind Xidra. He had a bored look on his face, leaning against his spear as he stopped by a tree.
Xidra settled herself before Edithe, laying out her belongings in a neat pile.
“Take this, Edithe the [Mage]. This drink will help your mana flow ease back into normalcy.”
“Have you been practicing your magic?”
The two broke off into a conversation which I wasn’t really interested in. I sidled over to Nav, peering over at him.
“So… how have you been?”
“I have been doing my job, Salvos the [Mage].”
His voice came out almost like a hiss. He stared at me with a frown.
“And I can see you are back to being your normal self.”
“Yep! Trying to be a proper Kobold is hard.”
“I do not believe it takes much effort to be more reserved.”
I tilted my head up. Then I grinned.
“But it’s not fun!”
I could almost see Daniel give Nav a sympathetic look. However, the red-scaled Kobold did not seem too enthused to receive any kind of pity from the Human man. He kept his gaze pointedly turned away from my companion, only facing me.
I crossed my arms.
“Do you not like Humans?”
“I am indifferent about his kind. However, I was informed by Hoxle the [Diviner] of your friend’s disrespectful use of artifacts to hide his true Class.”
“Is that a bad thing? Aren’t I technically hiding my Subspecies when I transform to my Mortal Form?”
Nav shook his head.
“It is a different case. A Skill like you have does not truly alter your identity. It simply matches your Subspecies to your closest Class equivalent.”
“Huh. But I always thought I was more of a [Rogue] than a [Mage]?”
“You mainly fight with magic, do you not?”
“I guess I do.”
The red-scaled Kobold cast his gaze back towards Xidra. He spoke softly.
“And I know your true Species. Your Subspecies even. So, it matters not.”
I scratched the side of my head. Truth be told, I did not quite understand this Kobold fixation on addressing people by their Class. I could obviously tell it was some kind of formality thing— and I did see my own Subspecies as a part of my identity— but I wouldn’t care too much if someone hid their Class from me.
Not unless it was someone I was close to. Or if it was directly detrimental in dire circumstances. I glanced over at Daniel, glaring. He wasn’t even looking my way, but I did so anyway.
Maybe that’s it? Kobolds have a different kind of social boundary from Humans— lying in such a blatant way is considered bad to them? It was something I probably should keep in mind when getting to know other Kobolds.
My thoughts were interrupted as Xidra stood up. I turned my attention to her, blinking.
“Are you finished?”
“I came here today solely to administer the necessary treatment to Edithe the [Mage]. Of course, we have exchanged some idle conversation with each other. And that is why I would like to request your presence, Salvos the [Mage].”
I straightened, pointing at myself.
“What do you need me for?”
“Your companion has made her intentions clear. She wishes to return to the Dead Zone to continue growing stronger. However, it is dangerous. Especially with the blight. As such, I have advised her to seek out the only thing capable of staving off its effects.”
She gestured for me to follow. I stared at her back as she spoke, raising her head to the sky.
“You will have to seek out the treasures of the Scale Guardians: the Totem of Incense and the Herald’s Brush.”
Xidra led me back through Unarith. I was caught off-guard by her proposition at first, but she elaborated on what she meant on the way to the Shrine of the Risen Dragons.
“I will not guide you to these artifacts myself, nor will I give them to you for free.”
“Oh, uh, I don’t think we have enough gold— wait, do you Kobolds even use gold?”
“It is not for you to buy, Salvos the [Mage]. It is a trade offer.”
She stopped right in the middle of a small bridge, right over a stream that ran down in between fertile land growing with crops. The [Herbalist] looked past me, straight at the tall minaret of the Scale Sentinels.
“I have realized how dangerous the Zix and his faction truly are now. They will not stop at anything to bring us to war with the Humans. One such way they intend to do this is with the Totem of Incense.”
“It removes the blight, right? How does that lead to war?”
“If the Scale Sentinels get their hands on the Totem of Incense, they will be able to cleanse the Dead Zone of its blight. The buffer between the lands will be gone, and an invasion from either side can easily be waged.”
Xidra continued on, and I followed her. I felt a tingling in the back of my head as Nav looked around.
“Before the Dead Zone was formed by the [Necromancer] Lilian, war between Kobolds and Humans would occur almost every other decade. Of course, the severity of such conflicts varied quite greatly. But since the Dead Zone came about, it was reduced to once every century— and now, there hasn’t been a war for hundreds of years.”
Taking a deep breath, she clenched her clawed hand.
“If the Dead Zone truly were cleansed and war broke out—”
“Then we’ll be able to put an end to the Human problem. They will be wiped off the face of the world, once and for all.”
A deep voice cut her off. Three figures stood before us, cutting us off. Zix stood at the front, his arms were folded, but his single wing was spread out wide.
“Would that not be for the best, Xidra the [Herbalist]?”
Nav immediately took a step forward, placing a hand over the Kobold woman. She narrowed her eyes, and she did not back down.
“The extermination of an entire people is not the solution, Zix the [Warrior].”
“Would you prefer the end of all things, then? Because I do not see any outcome otherwise.”
I glanced between the two of them. Was this about that whole Apocalypse-thing again? This seemed like something maybe Edithe or Daniel would be interested in— not me though.
“You are too set in your ways.”
Xidra snapped back. She glared daggers at the obsidian-scaled Kobold.
“You do not believe there is any other solution beyond yours. I believe. And that is why I am trying.”
She started around him. Nav cautiously walked by her side, while I slowly slipped behind them. Zix scoffed.
“And that’s why you’re asking this outsider of yours to go on a fetch quest?”
She paused mid-step.
Xidra spun around to face Zix. Their gazes clashed— the tension was almost electric.
“And when she finds the treasures of the Scale Guardians, I will ask her to do the only thing that should be done.”
“And what, pray tell, is that?”
Her eyes slide off of Zix, turning slowly to me. She faced me with a solemn look.
“I will ask her to destroy them.”
The obsidian-scaled Kobold stared at her dubiously.
“You think someone of her level can destroy some of the greatest artifacts our people have ever made?”
Xidra continued forward, speaking softly.
“But Dragon’s flame can.”
His eyes widened as we left him behind. It took him a moment to gather himself, and when he did, he barked after us and pointed an accusing finger.
“You’re going to waste such powerful magic for that? You’ve truly lost your mind Xidra the [Herbalist]—”
None of us turned back once, even when we reached the Shrine of the Risen Dragons. I could no longer hear Zix’s angry shouting, but his rage had been almost palpable— I felt like I could still feel it lingering over me.
I looked over at Xidra, raising a brow.
“So… you want us to find both the Totem of Incense and the Herald’s Brush just to destroy them?”
“Destroy only one of them.”
She corrected me.
“The Herald’s Brush is far weaker. Its effects are only temporary, and it cannot be used to transport an army through the Dead Zone. However, the Totem of Incense will have to be destroyed.”
It was really none of my business. And if we had something that could help us fend off the blight, it was better for us. I turned inquisitively towards the Kobold woman.
“Where are they at, anyway? Are you going to give me another magic compass to show me the path?”
Xidra spoke simply, shaking her head. I frowned.
“Wait, then how are we supposed to find it?”
“Hoxle shall use his magic to illuminate a path for you. A vision of the way to go. And with those directions, you’ll have to search for the treasures yourself.”
I stared at Xidra. My jaw dropped, mouth hung fully open. Then I sighed.
“Oh no… I’m so going to get us lost, aren't I?”
The glamorous double doors of the Shrine of the Scale Sentinels were smashed open. Zix stormed in, followed by his two bodyguards. Bodyguards? As if he needed them.
However, he was glad they were with him today. If not for them, no one would have stopped him from killing that cursed Xidra there and then.
His shout drew the attention of more than one [Cultist] praying off to the side. They were bowed over a golden fang— it was said to be the teeth of the last Dragon, given as a gift to Koboldkind before he departed to fight off the corruption.
A young Kobold woman— one of his servants— hurried over to him. She lowered her head, bending over almost parallel to the ground as she addressed him.
“High Zealot, how may I be of use to you?”
Zix turned his fury towards her. Did she not realize that he did not need anything from her right now? She was just like his bodyguards— utterly worthless. He was just about to snap when he stopped himself. He placed his clawed hand on his chin, speaking slowly.
“Yes, Iblo. You can be of use to me.”
His tongue slithered out in between his teeth as he smiled.
“Gather anyone above Level 90. Anyone who wishes to be of use to the Scale Sentinels. Tell them that I have a job for them.”
He glanced back at his bodyguards. He couldn’t have sent them both— one of them would insist on following him around. So, he chose the higher leveled one.
[Rogue - Lvl. 103]
“And Tarba. You shall be in charge of them.”
“What am I to do, High Zealot?”
“You shall follow that girl— the one with Xidra— once she leaves Unarith.”
Zix spun around, walking to another doorway guarded from either side by [Warriors]. She was familiar. He thought she was familiar, although he couldn’t place it. But it didn't matter.
“Follow her until she finds the treasures of the Scale Guardians. I want you to take it for the Scale Sentinels, and— kill her.”
“Yes, High Zealot.”