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Name

Gwen Baird

Armour

4

Class

Hunter

Health

54

Level

9

Dodge

1

Species

Half-Elf (Wood/Human)

Species Skills (Half-Elf)

 

Strength

6

Elf Sight

6

Agility

8

Base Skills (Hunter)

 

Body

6

Stealth

9

Mind

6

Perception

8

Sense

6

Tracking

6

Charm

6

Archery

7

 

Gwen sighed and looked out the window over her steaming mug of tea. At some point in the night it had started to rain, and rain, and rain. It was now bucketing down with enthusiasm.

It could be a sign that they were supposed to stay right where they were, but as much as that would be lovely, Gwen wasn't convinced.

She had made it to the room she shared with Marina, had fallen face first into the bed and barely had the wherewithal to use her sudden Level increase to shove the new point into Agility.

The physical signs of her adventure in the forest had gone in the night as she slept along with what was left of the Blessing from Nikolai. But the mental marks still lay on her skin like scars. She felt exhausted down to the soul.

She took another sip of the tea. It was very good, nettle and some flowers she didn't know the name of, plus, Abigail had, with all the wisdom of her many years behind the bar, added a dollop of honey to it after taking a look at Gwen's pale face. It didn't seem to have any caffeine, but the placebo effect of a hot drink seemed to be working well enough to make up for it.
She turned back to the table. "So, what are we going to do?"

"We can't stay here, can we?" Theo said, his long brown fingers wrapped around the white porcelain of his mug.

"No, the longer we are here the more likely it is that the rogue AI will come back. Without us here this village is nothing to the Glitch, it will most likely forget about it, or at the very least ignore it as unimportant," Wylla said. She was playing with a twist of yarn between her fingers, ravelling it and unravelling it again and again with bone white knuckles.

"So where are we going to go?" Gwen said, pulling out a chair and sitting down.

"We need to hide among crowds, right? So one of the big cities?" Jin Ae said. "That would be good for me, I need to see my kids."

Marina nodded, "And we want to find our parents and cousin, so no arguments from us on that idea."

"We'll need to look at the map again, but I think the dwarven city will be closer. It would mean crossing the Barrens, but at least then we would only have to worry about encountering undead monsters, they won't have a grudge against us, that's something," Theo said with a wry grin.

"Gods help us, I wish you weren't making a good point there. It doesn't exactly inspire confidence," Jin Ae said.

"It sounds like the best option, even if it does include travelling for weeks through zombie infested ancient battlefields," Gwen said.

Jin Ae said, "I wouldn't call them "zombie infested" by the sounds of it they are in their natural habitat. We'll be the ones encroaching on their territory."

"And isn't that a delightful thought," Theo said. "Well we can't leave just yet, for one thing that rain is horrendous and camping in it sounds hellish. And," he scratched the back of his neck, "I would feel better if I helped boost the defences here, last night I got a download full of info on defensive architecture. At the very least I could put up a watch tower and some basic walls. I wouldn't feel right leaving everyone here undefended."

Jin Ae started to speak, but he cut over her. "I know the Glitch is supposed to ignore this village once we are gone, but this village was still put through the wringer because of us. If I can help I'm going to."

Marina nodded, "There's always healing that needs doing. People might not have injuries from the battle that need seeing to, but there's bound to be something."

Wylla broke in, "Some of the older folks have arthritis and old battle wounds, the rain will be making them feel worse. I'm sure they will accept some healing."

Marina nodded and stood, "Then I'd better get to it." She picked up her shield, "You want to come with me Theo? I can probably keep some of the rain off you with this?"

Theo nodded and drained his cup, "Yeah. I imagine that it will be Nikolai you're going to see?" Marina nodded. "Well I should probably talk to Edgar about the defences and they are as likely to be together as not."

Gwen raised her mug to him, "You're a good bloke, Theo."

"Nah, just easily bossed around," he said with a flashing grin.

Marina clapped him on the shoulder with a grin, "You're selling yourself short, mate. Anyway, I have an idea that might help you out. I might be able to summon angels to help with the work, it would speed things up at least. Especially if we get going on that watchtower today and need to do something a few stories up."

"Are you sure you're allowed to do that?" Gwen asked.

"Dunno, I mean, it's definitely an option. But I think it's more for like, building temples, or holding up roofs in emergencies. That's why I need to talk it over with Nikolai, get an idea from him if I can do it," she said.

"It does sound faintly blasphemous," Jin Ae said. Despite her serious words, she had a grin.

Gwen caught the joke and gave her a delighted smile. A demonspawn giving advice on whether or not something was blasphemous?

Marina had clearly understood the joke too, but she rolled her eyes and let out a huff of air. "Hilarious."

"Are you going to be smited? Or is it smote?" Theo mused.

Marina shot him an unimpressed look as well. "You're all comedians, I see." she cracked her neck from side to side. "Well, when you come to me complaining about blisters and pulled muscles from helping out I shall refuse to heal you up. And then you will have to tell Nikolai how terrible you've all been." She left with a sniff, but there was a bounce to her step which promised she wasn't too upset.

That didn't stop them from serenading her with boos as she left though, Theo waved as he followed her out the door.

Wylla didn't participate and soon disappeared off in the direction of the door.

Gwen tried not to feel massively relieved by her absence, but it was tricky.

What with us travelling through space, we might meet some intelligent life out there. But, you'd better not be the one they send out to meet with the aliens, she thought as she swirled the tea around at the bottom of her mug. You'd just be awkward at them until they left. Hardly the best story of a first encounter. Not the worst, but hardly something to be inspired by.

Jin Ae and Gwen sat quietly, enjoying the sound of the rain drumming against the ground outside for a few minutes.

Eventually though, Jin Ae sighed and finished her own mug of tea and stood. "I should go and find some way to help, though I'm not sure how. At least an Enchanter and a Priestess have some obvious roles to take."

"Have you considered busking?" Gwen asked with a grin.

"Ha! That would make me really popular, wouldn't it? Like that Roman Emperor who fiddled while Rome burned. Only I would be doing so without the decency of having done anything useful before then."

Gwen frowned, "I'm not sure if Nero was famous for doing anything useful even before the whole Rome burning business, so you might not be as far behind on that front as you imagine."

"How reassuring," Jin Ae drawled. "Ugh, well, I'm sure there is some heavy lifting that I can make myself useful doing, even if it isn't a skill that speaks to me." She paused, "You coming?"

Gwen shook her head, "I have to speak to someone first, but I'll catch you up once I'm done."

"Well, don't take too long, or else all the good carrying and lifting jobs will be done!" Jin Ae said brightly.

Gwen grinned and looked down into her mug of tea.

After Jin Ae left the room appeared very empty.

Gwen gave a sigh. Pushing the chair across from her out from under the table she said, "Come sit down. Lurking about in the shadows like that, people might start thinking you're suspicious."

Dove stepped out of the shadows. Her usual twelve foot form and luminescence was diminished, she looked like a (startlingly beautiful) normal woman in form fitting leathers and her curly hair tied into a braid over one shoulder. Now her skin appeared burnished and aglow, but only metaphorically and not literally.

"You are an interesting person, Ms. Baird," She said, sliding into the seat.

"Hmm," Gwen said, non-committal.

"You're getting better at lying, you know," Dove said once more.

Gwen repeated her non-committal murmur.

Dove rolled her eyes and sat back in her chair, leaning on the back two legs. "Have you ever told your sister the truth about your career?"

"Not in so many words," Gwen said.

"Ah, but in enough so that she can pick up the wrong end of the stick? Yes that seems like you," Dove pushed the chair back and forth. It was nowhere near as casual as it looked.

"What's going on, Dove?"

"I don't know and that is deeply worrying to me. There have always been shadowed areas of this world, places where I could not see what was happening. But that was mostly because I never bothered to look. However, those shadows are changing and in some cases moving to cover entirely new areas," she looked into Gwen's eyes, "There was a flicker of shadow over the elven city, only for a few moments, but more than long enough for a conversation to be held or an assassination to be commited. I am concerned about what was said or done there."

"So, is that your next mission for us? Go investigate?" Gwen asked.

"No. Whatever happened there has not been repeated. I think it will be more valuable for you to go where it has not yet been than to follow behind it. The plan you and your fellow Adventurers have come to is likely the best option. Go to the dwarven city, there are entrances to the cr├Ęche there and some of the answers Wylla is looking for can be found there, too. The other AI will not be able to find you if you hide amongst the crush of the crowds there."

"Why are you telling me this? I'm hardly your biggest fan in the group?" Gwen asked.

"No, but you don't like me because you see me as a person who lied to you. The novelty of being seen as a person outweighs your temperament," Dove smiled.

"The others see you as a person," Gwen said incensed on behalf of her friends.

"Not quite, they may do some day, but not yet. I can see the difference in their minds, you know," Dove stood. "And now, ask the question that is running around yours."

"How much of all of this, the monsters, Wylla, how much of it was planned?" Gwen asked bluntly.
"None, I was quite happy to be the only Artificial Intelligence in this world. Suddenly being one of three feels like quite the demotion," she tilted her head to one side, "And you know, I don't think I like that."

Looking back at Gwen she spoke bluntly, "Enjoy your last few days here. The dregs of the Glitches army should follow you wherever you go, but the blow you dealt it will keep them from attacking immediately. But it will still be best to move on before the monsters turn their gaze onto Starlingrise. As for the rest of it I would pick your enemies with more care in the future, the Glitch sees the five of you as their main opponents in this world. Whether or not you see yourself the same way it doesn't matter. It will come for you, sooner or later."

She started to fade, but not without leaving Gwen with a final warning, "Good bye, Ms. Baird. Do behave yourself."

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About the author

K Mackay

Bio: I used to lurk on here, now I've got some writing up. It's been a novel experience.
I love Science Fiction, Fantasy, and everything in between. I tend to get overprotective of characters who are not mine and should have been treated better. Catch up with my life updates at my website, www.watchedplotneverboils.com

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