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Chapter 15 - First Contact VIII

Bone daggers drawn, Claire slowly approached her target from behind. Keeping quiet was difficult, as the branches would often shake as she stepped across them, but it wasn’t impossible. Sneaking was suppressing her footsteps and she was invested enough in the bird’s death to give the sneak attack her best attempt. She wasn’t about to let the black-winged pest escape after emptying its bowels on her lunch. Even if she hadn’t exactly enjoyed the meal to begin with.

The leaves that made up the great oak’s canopy served as camouflage. Though often in the way, they were dense enough to keep her hidden from sight until she was upon the oversized crow. Her breath still held, she struck. Two blades assailed her victim, one from overhead, and another from the side. The crow’s metal frame collapsed with surprising ease, failing to resist for anything more than the briefest moment before giving in and crumbling under the weight of the attack.

Log Entry 559
You have slain a level 4 altered raven.

This feat has earned you the following bonus rewards:
- 1 point of dexterity

A raven? No wonder it seemed a bit big for a crow.

Log Entry 560
You have unlocked a new spawnable drink item.

Log Entry 561
The following Llystletein Rogue skill has been acquired:
- Assassinate

Claire popped open the skill’s description as she wiped the oil and blood off her daggers and returned them to her thigh strap.

Assassinate - Level 1
The cold blooded murder of a single mother has proven that you are willing to deal death to all without remorse. Your thoughtless act of revenge has left her children without a caretaker. As they are unable to fend for themselves, the only fate that awaits them is starvation. You may as well put them out of their misery, murderer.

Thanks Box, now I feel awful.

Effects
- Unperceived attacks deal an additional 60% (50% + 10% per level) damage.
- Striking a weak spot increases this bonus threefold to 180% (150% + 30% per level).

This skill was unlocked by fulfilling the following requirements:
- Sneaking level 5 or higher.
- Rogue level 10 or higher.
- Slay a hostile without it becoming aware of your presence or realizing that it is under attack.

At least the skill is nice.

Claire moved the raven, which was surprisingly light for something made out of metal, aside and confirmed that it had indeed been a mother of four. The upside-down chicks had been sleeping, but upon detecting movement, they woke and started to cheep, begging for food.

Did you really have to tell me about its kids, Box? She pursed her lips.

On one hand, they were monsters that would one day find her hostile, and on the other, they were still undeveloped hatchlings completely unaware of their mother’s untimely demise.

“Just put them out of their misery,” said a voice, from over her shoulder. It was the serpent, the one that wasn’t real.

“Shut up, Shouldersnake. I wasn’t asking you.”

“Think of the free experience. It’s right there, ready to be taken.”

“You’re not making a very convincing argument,” said Claire. “Look at them. They’re probably still just level 1.”

“All the more reason to harvest them,” hissed the snake.

“Whatever.” Claire rolled her eyes, gesturing to her other, emptier shoulder after a brief pause. “What happened to her?”

“I don’t know,” said the scaled noodle. “But I like it better this way.”

“Can’t disagree with that,” said Claire, with a frown.

“Enough about her. You have chicks to kill.”

“Oh, shut up already.” Claire waved a hand through the space her conversation partner occupied. “Shoo, go away.”

The halfbreed directed her focus back to the birds. She picked up the nearest food source, tore off a few small pieces, and dropped them into the chicks’ mouths.

Log Entry 562
Achievement Unlocked - Nemesis of Altered Ravens

Feeding a group of chicks the flesh of their dead mother was an outright act of blasphemy. The birds you have wronged will never forget your actions. Altered ravens will now identify you as a natural enemy of their species on sight.

Oops.

The achievement affected even the chicks’ behaviour. They began backing away from her, nearly squishing each other as they huddled up in the nest’s furthest corner. Their chirping turned more aggressive, louder and deeper, and the largest pecked at her hand, its razor sharp beak drawing blood. Narrowing her gaze, she nearly considered following through on the snake’s suggestion, but settled for inaction. She withdrew her hand, got down from the tree, and headed for the building that linked the two opposing realms.

The first thing she did upon reaching it was furiously wipe her feet on the doormat. She even sat down on top of the building’s porch and summoned a stream of stale water to try to get rid of the mud stuck between her scales, to little avail. A few futile minutes of struggling later, she gave up, dried her feet off, and twisted the door’s lower knob.

“It’s not opening…”

Since the lower knob refused to budge, Claire tried the one that was a bit higher up, but it was the same. Both were unwilling to turn. Inspecting the door again, she confirmed that there wasn’t a keyhole, nor any other obvious physical mechanism keeping it from opening.

It’s probably broken. I doubt even the Gods know when it was last used.

Claire still needed to get the door open, even if it wasn’t cooperating, and she wasn’t exactly in the mood for thinking the problem through, so she chose to apply the only reasonable solution. Violence. The rogue lifted her heavy mace with both hands and smashed it against the door with enough force to tear the wooden barrier straight off its hinges. With the only obstacle removed, Claire stepped straight through the doorway and examined the building’s interior.

Her first impression was that it was halfway between a home and a disorganised workshop. A variety of different objects were strewn all over, and not because breaking the door down had caused them to fall. Clothes, mechanical parts, and tools were all given the exact same haphazard treatment. And yet, they had remained in excellent condition, no doubt in part because the wooden boards were padded with a variety of different skins and pelts, all bolted in place. In spite of the exterior’s lack of maintenance, it was hard for Claire to think that the residence had truly been abandoned for long.

Directing her gaze past the foyer led the halfbreed to cock a brow. Only half the furniture was on the floor. The remaining half was upside down, suspended from the ceiling. Some pieces were strapped down with metal clasps, regardless of whether they were on the floor or not, while others remained in place even without any additional support. Pushing on the dining table, which was fastened to the ground, confirmed that bolts weren’t capable of keeping everything in place anyway. She suspected that the fitting wasn’t exactly supposed to move, but two of its legs had happened to give way when she pushed on it. It clearly wasn’t her fault. The unmaintained, decrepit furnishing had obviously reached the end of its serviceable life span to begin with.

The fragility of the dinner table aside, the first discovery she made upon exploring the building was a kitchen whose pantry was as sad and barren as a desert. That wasn’t to say, however, that it was without any treasures to be discovered. The rogue soon came across a series of knives still sharp and unrusted. Though they were not meant to be used as weapons, they were every bit as, if not more dagger-like than the bones strapped to her thighs, so she took them with her, knife block and all for ease of transport.

Exploring the building and opening every door soon led her to a room repurposed as a closet, a massive walk-in wardrobe that contained a variety of clothes ready to be pilfered. None were in her size and they were all for men, but it was still far better than nothing. Claire had wanted to change out of her mud-covered attire immediately, but chose not to upon recalling that whatever she put on would wind up just as filthy the moment she stepped back into the bog. She instead focused on shoving different pieces of clothing, mostly cloaks, into a large leather pouch she found in the room’s corner. Unlike the smaller bag that hung from her waist, her newly discovered satchel had a strap that allowed her to suspend it from her shoulder. More importantly, it housed roughly ten times the total volume. Clothes and bag aside, she pocketed a tailor’s toolkit, which had been sitting around atop of a shelf near the entrance. The needles and thread would surely come in handy should she need to repair anything.

After making her way through the rest of the house and finding nothing noteworthy, Claire walked back downstairs so she could grab some of the tools she had spotted on her way in. She had no idea what they were, but they had seemed like they were durable enough to serve as weaponry. Casually returning to the first floor, however, led instead to a run in with a person. A dog person.

The husky-headed man was tall and muscular, standing at twice her height and over one and a half times her width. Though beardless, he had an impressive moustache that grew far beyond his face. Its edges curved towards the floor, as if to resemble an exaggerated frown. At first, he had been scratching his incredibly messy hair while he examined the broken table, but his gaze snapped to her as she stepped out of the stairwell and onto a creaky wooden board. The dog man’s eyes shone with an odd red light. It was artificial, mechanical and unnatural just like those of the altered raven sitting between his ears.

“Who are you? And why have you broken into my home?”

She had expected his voice to be a low, intimidating growl, but instead, it was oddly metallic, synthetic even. Noting the odd voice pulled her from her trance. She grabbed the nearest object, a hammer strapped to a nearby wall, and chucked it at him full force as she made a mad dash for the exit.

He evaded it and grabbed her by the arm before she could escape, the force of his grip making it no secret that he was many times stronger than she was, a feature of both his stats and massive frame. But his raw power did nothing to prevent the attack that came from underneath Claire’s cloak.

She knew what people did to thieves. Her very own father was a prime example. He had always used his status as an excuse to condemn those who took from him for “stealing from the whole populace,” after which he would promptly see them unjustly executed. No excuse or justification was ever considered. Bearing witness to this behaviour time and time again, Claire knew that the dog man was unlikely to give her the chance to explain herself, nor would he be particularly understanding of her circumstances.

That was why she struck him where it hurt most. Her knee drilled itself straight into his dachshund. Assassinate activated, and because she had struck a major weakness, the attack’s damage nearly tripled, rupturing the least muscular part of his body and leaving him literally frothing at the mouth and howling in pain as he collapsed.

Log Entry 563
Assassinate has reached level 2.

She stabbed him in the wrist with a boney knife, wrenched her hand free, and ducked to dodge an attack sourced from the bird that had been situated above his head. Leaving him where he was, she leapt out his front door, evaded another blow from the mechanical raven, and sprinted off at top speed without a word.

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Spicy Space Squid

Bio: Surprisingly tangy and delicious.

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