"Multi-shot, you air-headed tart!"
"Homing Shot, you stubborn, old crab!"
River smiles to himself as he finishes the last of the sweeping for the fifth floor, listening to Agmus and Sarna argue for the hundredth time. Even though they both agreed in the beginning on the subject of using a throwing essence over a bow essence, neither could agree on which support card would go best with it.
When River suggested getting both, they simultaneously reminded him how expensive each card is and how he wouldn't have money leftover for anything else; Agmus with an admonishing lecture and Sarna with a bonk to the head.
His clothes, weapons, and their respective enchantments ate up most of his funds, while not being in the adventurers guild cost him earnings in fees. The loot sold at good prices, but those in the merchants society got the best discounts and bonuses for goods.
Sarna waves a broken arrow at him, "You were the worst at teaching the Archers! If I didn't step in, the others would've been stuck focusing on whatever classes they had left! Aviva was almost a full time Healer before we realized she only had the two classes!"
"I was training heroes since before you were born! There's never been an instance when a famous hero was a full time Archer!"
Sarna counts on a finger each time she recited a name, "Aoulus the Red, Hector Lingen of Clan Cinderwood, Miranda Cloudhunter... basically, every female Cloudhunter ever born?"
"Famous hero. Historical figures from textbooks are not the same."
Her gloved hand slaps her own forehead in frustration and it slides down, as if trying to wipe the incredulous expression off.
"--Look, speaking of text books... Have you assessed River's scholastic prowess? He can read, write, and do some market math, but I know you didn't teach him."
She brandishes an accusatory finger at him like a rapier. He deftly parries with the back of his hand.
"What, and how, I teach River is my prerogative, but... no. No I haven't. I'm retired! What do you want me to do? Write up a syllabus for a solitary student? While some overindulged entity out there scours the world for my home?"
Another voice, rich as warm honey comes in from the stairway, "Why would anyone search for a half drunk, arrogant hedge mage in an overgrown outhouse?"
The pair turn to find Cillin Dirgesinger wearing fine, creme colored robes, flowing to the floor like cascading milk. Along with accents of silver, the robe highlights his obsidian scales and pale green ridges.
River appears by his side, proffering a crystal mug of something steaming with a stick of cinnamon poking out. He accepts it without turning to him, giving him a curt side nod in gratitude. River takes his place off to the side of Agmus Mak.
"Took you long enough," Mak says.
"Can't be helped. I had a group of would-be heroes trying to tear down my own tower last week, only making it to the thirty ninth floor. Wholly disappointing. But one of them had an essence called Juggernaut, and it made a horrible mess. Took my staff longer to clean and repair the dungeon than to dispatch the heroes."
"Well they weren't any of mine," Agmus Mak snaps back a bit too defensively upon the gazes of the other three.
"Obviously, you just said you've been retired." Sarna adds, rolling her eyes with a smirk. Those same golden eyes turn to the draken. "Good to see you again, Agmus Cillin. How are the Grave Golem cores working out?"
He clasps his scaly claws together in delight, "Wonderfully my dear! Worth every copper bit. In fact, they're what finished off the Juggernaut user. He kept smashing them, while they continued regenerating. His stamina bottomed out and the whole party was wiped."
They both laugh.
"Anyway," Agmus Mak interjects, "I'm loathed to request your assistance in such a matter, but apparently my presence is being aggressively sought after by someone with both capability and means."
"I've been telling you for years to just turn this place into a dungeon. With your breadth of knowledge and range of abilities, you could turn it into quite a formidable one."
"That would just attract more attention," Mak argues sullenly.
Sarna links an arm with River, "Well, you two look like you have a lot of work to do so I'll just be taking young River here and we'll give you some space to work your magic, so to speak."
"Not so fast, young lady..."
To River's surprise, it was actually Cillin who spoke those words. She sheepishly looks up at the draken's face, arms still locked with River with a hand on his elbow to keep it in place.
"Tell me--" His eyes squint in a scrutinizing fashion, as if trying to peer into her very soul. They dart briefly to River, but fix themselves on Sarna. "--what is Juno's Second Law of Essence Description?"
River's look of confusion is matched only by Sarna's expression of enthused comprehension, "The descriptions of essences are to be taken literally, in that their capabilities and limitations will be spelled out exactly."
Agmus Makamendius beams, but Agmus Cillin rolls his eyes, "That's so textbook that I'm surprised you forgot to recite the punctuation marks, page, and edition of said book."
She grins as he sips his drink, "It means essences are inherently amenable as long as they don't state otherwise. No rules, no problem!"
"Exactly!" Cillin says as he cracks a toothy grin.
Now it's Mak's turn to roll his eyes, "Not exactly... many other sorceological laws not withstanding..."
"Hush," Cillin interrupts, handing Sarna and River each a black leather pouch meant to be attached to their belts. "I rented a room at the Lotus Vale in Ruminy. I'll need you two out for at least a couple of weeks for what I have planned--"
"--We have planned." Mak corrects.
"Yes, yes. River, I know you feel like you have duties to perform here, but most of them can wait. You've already accomplished more than anyone could ever expect of this place. Seriously, there's magic, and then there's miracles."
River bows with a smile.
"So just, uh, wait until we message you. No need to return until then. You don't want to, uh, mess up any ritual circles, you know?"
River nods in understanding while Sarna glances between the two old men with a cocked eyebrow, "Okay..."
Acting on a hunch, she looks into her pouch and discovers that it's a two star inter dimensional storage container. It's not as big as her old four star bag and nowhere near is spacious as her new five star one. It's main appeal is the convenience of being right on the hip, strapped in by buttons and two strips of leather.
On the outside, it's an unassuming black leather pouch as tall as an open hand, with a buttoned flap on top. The inside, like all such magical devices, is like an endless void save for a lit up space for the item's contents. The pouch's space looks large enough to hold about as much as a five gallon bucket.
It's here that Sarna finds the key to their room; four, small, potions in glass bottles (2 reds and 2 blues); and twenty, silver, half-circle coins.
The money was a little insulting to her; about a grin a day is only as much as the average person makes in folded (or non essence) work. The potions are nice, probably good enough to heal a moderate amount of health or mana. But, the pouch itself is the real prize.
She looks hers and River's pouches over once more and notices the droplets of blood stains on hers. A realization dawns on her and she looks over at Cillin who noticed her noticing.
"Did these... belong to those heroes you killed?" She asks in a slow, accusatory way.
"I didn't kill them," Cillin responds, drinking more from his mug, "They walked into my dungeon. According to adventure guild guidelines, that's suicide."
The Lotus Vale is a six star hotel near the administrative district, north of the market square. Of course, six being the upper limits of uncommon, the hotel is just below where visiting royalty would slum, but merchants and high-end crafters would splurge.
Their room is more like a suite, with a kitchen, dining area, small entertaining room, and a single bed chamber. They even have a bathroom that looks like a garden where, after using a ritual circle carved into stone on a wall, water pours from the ceiling like rain and drains into the smooth stones below.
Before she could test it out, Sarna is with a nervous River, "Is this your first time?"
He nods, looking up at her hesitantly.
"Don't worry, youngin, I'll take good care of you. And you'll take care of me, right? Can you do that for me?"
His face grows more uneasy, but she places her gloved hands on his cheeks and lines up their eyes. Her golden eyes sparkle like nebulas of promised pleasure. His heart beats faster.
"Just follow my lead and everything will be alright."
He gives her a solitary nod and her golden lips split into a mischievous grin, "Good boy. Now... just get back down there and keep working your magic. That's it... Oh... yes... banished gods, that's good."
Her gloved hands had left his face in exchange for tussling his azure grey hair. This bothered him a little, since he had learned how to use heavily diluted slime ooze to create a slicked back fade that's quickly becoming popular in the business district.
She had given him a cushion to soften the pressure on his knees, but years of scrubbing the tower floors by hand have increased his endurance for such a position.
Her moans fill the living room, as an embarrassed River massages Sarna's feet. He can't tell if she's playing it up, or if he's apparently quite the natural, so he continues applying his improvised technique for the next twenty minutes.
Though rubbing her feet was a first for him, she actually referred to his first time living outside the tower on his own. He may be rooming with her, but there really isn't anything tying him to her aside from lack of experience.
Afterwards, they take turns using the garden shower and River can't help wonder at the simple, yet ingenious way it was designed. He couldn't wait to find a way to imitate it.
Sometime around late afternoon, the two find themselves on the streets of Ruminy. Sarna wears her mask, while she gave him permission to wear his Fifth Street Set since this is their preferred "disguise" while in town.
Paltry allowance aside, they both have money enough to fully enjoy a little well deserved, stay-cation. Temporary residence, possibly the largest expense of such a retreat, is already taken care of.
However, that was never the plan for Sarna. She always intended to bring River back to the market square to find a dealer who might have the Homing support essence. In spite of her teacher's preference, her conviction in her choice is unassailable.
Unfortunately for her, of the four dealers she could find, none of them had the essence she wanted. She is impressed, however, that a place as small and out of the way as Ruminy has as many dealers as it does. Usually, even for marketplace as varied as the one found here, there wouldn't be any more than two or three.
There might be one in the adventurers guild, but they would have to apply for a membership first, which didn't sound like such a bad idea considering how much free time they would have. After walking around until the sun started to set without getting much done, she grew tired, bored, and a little frustrated. Trying again the next day becomes the new plan.
While walking back to the Lotus Vale, Sarna takes an odd detour to the western part of Ruminy. The new route would cause them to hook around several blocks before they got back to the street taking them to the hotel. River expresses his confusion in a look, and she responds in a low, whisper.
"One of my boons allows me a better, broader perception of my surroundings. There are five people who have been following us since we left the hotel. I just want to know why since they don't look too friendly..."
- United States
Bio: Hello! I'm a bartender in Las Vegas who used to write for fun as a kid. I'm not a literary major so I'm still pretty rusty with the mechanics. I just have a story in my head and I can't progress it unless it's written down. I love DnD, RPGs, MMOs, and have recently been introduced to the LitRPG genre and am loving that too. This is my small contribution to the great fantasy stories that have entertained and inspired many of us.