“Lady Ilona tasked me to hunt down the Dire Wolf in the Western Forest, but unfortunately I know neither the region, nor where to find the wolf. Captain Bela said, maybe you could help me out.”
“Heh, the Lady finally found a dupe to do the work?” grinned Kendrik “Years ago I made a bet with Old Bela what would happen sooner: Spots dying of old age or the Lady finding someone to hunt him down. I think, I just won that bet. Thank you for that. How much time do you have?”
“Two days, originally, but since I got the task around noon, I have only one and a half left.”
“Hmmm… With a bit of Luck and lot of work, it is doable. Spots lives around half a day walk from here, so if we hurry up and don’t have to search a lot, we can do it.”
“That means, you will help me, Master Kendrik?”
“Find him, yes, fight him, no. And not for free.”
Prof already suspected that no one will follow him into danger just by asking nicely – especially since the Captain told him plainly, there are not many in the village with a high enough Level or Skills
“My offer is this: I get every part of Spots, save for the head and I keep a third of everything else we find. Since you are still a stranger to the village, one third of your loot goes to the Lady, so you can keep a third of everything else. I do warn you, I will fight only to defend myself. Deal?”
Of course, there would be taxes! 33% at that! What happened to the oppressive, undemocratic, feudalistic tax system where you paid one tenth to the Church and one ninth to your overlord, making your taxes an impoverishing 21% of what you earned, or the absolutely democratic and fair and reasonable modern system, where you had to leave only around two thirds of your earnings in some government agency’s pockets?
Be it as it be, but Prof didn’t have much of a choice: either the deal, pay his taxes like every normal hard-working person, or he had to walk away and try his Luck in the next village over. And start anew. They shook hands on the deal.
“Right! We will set out tomorrow before dawn! I suspect, you don’t have lodgings yet, so you can sleep here on the ground. Tomorrow, bring only the necessary, we will have to push it a bit!”
Prof thanked them for to possibility to sleep inside and not be forced to enter vagrant territory under some bushes. And he realised, he didn’t buy a tent. Before turning in, Prof reorganised his stuff: it was unnecessary to bring his spare cloth and most if personal effects for the hunt so he stuffed them, his reserve hatchet and the rope into his sack. He planned to bring only his food, bedrolls and his first aid kit (containing the bandages and health potions). With a bit of organisation everything could have been placed into his messenger bag, onto his belt or back, but he decided to bring his backpack too, just in case there was more loot.
It couldn’t be said that Prof slept well, but better than he feared. Obviously sleeping on the floor or out in the wilderness gets only annoying with higher age, and Prof was only twenty-two.
Thinking back, he did slept basically everywhere after a long night’s party in University, the need to have a proper bed arose years later. Well, and he also couldn’t drink that much any more.
Kendrik woke him well before dawn and motioned to the table, where milk and bread awaited Prof. Breakfast. No meat, no vegetables, no tea – and thank all the Gods and Administrators – no coffee. He abhorred that abhorrently abhorrent stuff. Well, if you are living in medieval times, do as the medieval folks do. Prof wolfed down the not-so buffet style no-so all-inclusive not-so continental breakfast quickly, washed himself even more quickly (who would have though that you got only cold water in Medieval Fun-Time World?) geared up and met Kendrik outside. Yeah, so much about not getting up early any more…
“We will start with the fastest pace we can manage” Kendrik warned him “As soon as we enter the forest, we will slow down a bit, but will keep it up till Spot's lair. If we don’t find him there, I will try to track him, and we hope for the best. On the way back we will need to run anyway to get back in time. Are you ready?”
Prof just gave a nod. They ran till the forest’s edge – Prof had a stance regarding running in his previous life: if someone wants do it, don’t stand in their way. A familiar Doctor said to him, that he should only run when someone else is shooting at him, giving out stuff for free or your lover's husband is chasing you. Since the Doctor was over eighty in perfect health and fought on the Eastern Front, that should mean something regarding health tips. That the Doctor did the fighting as a radioman in a Tiger Tank didn’t change the core of his wisdom.
In light of this doctor-induced stance he was surprised how well he could keep up (here and there he even almost overtook the ranger) – probably all thanks to his new Stats. How would you translate eighteen in Agility to Earth-Standard? World-class athlete? Sure, the technique wasn’t there (he remembered some Perks that made running even faster) but the raw Stat was enough. Reaching the forests they took back a bit on the speed but even so they followed the trails in a strong jog. Prof really was thankful for the ranger’s help, he could probably made it this far, but a lot slower – assuming he knew where to go. After about two hours after setting out, Kendrik stopped beneath a huge oak.
“Spots’ lair is about two kilometres from away, from now on we should be careful. We will rest here a bit and than continue.”
Prof drank a few sips of water and started to climb the tree. As he suspected, his Mental Map’s… mapping function was practically useless in the woods, only the trails got some colour. Reaching the top of the tree, he took a good look around – deep forest all around, some scattered hills and in the West a mountain range. He estimated the range being about twenty kilometres away, and about five hundred meters high for the highest peeks.
Prof was happy that the surroundings got colour on his map, and even the range appeared. At least as vague contours.
A few minutes after they continued on their way, the reached a clearing where Kendik took his time to examine the prints. Prof tried to copy him and make sense of the prints, upturned earth, broken or flattened plants, but realised, his Skill is too low. He mostly recognised, what he should look at, but the clues didn’t mean anything to him.
“What did you find, Master Kendrik” Prof asked finally.
“Spots was here one or two days ago, there a fox got a rabbit, and over there bucks visited.”
Prof didn’t know how high Kendrik’s Level in the related Skills were, but he doubted they were below 200%. Prof didn’t find it necessary to have such high level in [Tracking] or [Wilderness Survival] or [Hunting]) but realized, his current level was not enough to make it in the wilderness. He didn’t need to know where rabbits did what rabbits usually did, but tracking something edible sounded like a good thing to know.
He decided that after completing the task he would try to get an apprenticeship with Kendrik, at least for a short time. Every bit helped, and if someone taught you a Skill, all the better. Almost free stuff was almost free stuff after all.
In the next hour the pair slowly made their way towards the point where, according to the ranger, the Dire Wolf had it’s lair. Kendrik stopped often to check prints and clues, listened to rustling or disappeared into the bushes. That last point was interesting to Prof: he knew were the ranger should be, but couldn’t see him till the ranger finished with being stealthy. After that he couldn’t tell why he couldn’t see him, because he was just there. Almost like a Spec-Ops Sniper back on Earth. You see the bushes and grass and stuff and then are surprised that bushes and grass and stuff could shoot you from two kilometers in the head.
Despite all the caution they were surprised when entering a small glade they found themselves eye to eye with Spots.
Obviously the Dire Wolf wasn’t counting on a business meeting either, since he just finished marking a tree – not something you do when you try to ambush someone. The wolf and Kendrik reacted at the same time, the ranger sprinted in the direction of a large tree, the animal (or monster? Prof needed to get a definition what was considered what yet) started to growl at and going after Prof. He had only time enough to dump his backpack and draw his axes, before Spots started to circle him.
Prof stood his ground and followed the wolf with his eyes while taking stock of his enemy. The wolf has huge, reaching to Prof’s chest, the maw was filled with nasty-looking five to ten centimetres long fangs and Prof also realised, why everyone called it “Spots”: after the black spots on it’s reddish-brown pelt.
The wolf got bored of the circling first and tried to overwhelm the puny Human with a huge leap.
Prof dodged in the last second and took a swing with his left (smaller) axe – neither move was conscious, the absolute and objective measurement expressed in his Skills provided the muscle memory how and when to do things. Muscle memory he didn’t have a day ago! The System was awesome!
Turning an average pencil pusher into a martial arts master just by assigning a few point! Of course, he wasn’t (yet) a master and hadn’t spent just a “few” points, but to receive the equivalent of multiple years of hard training so fast, was still awesome. What could really dedicated and proficient folks do? Chuck… no, if he got systemed, the System would just assign an infinite number to his Skills (all of them) without further ado and go into retirement. That’s how good he was. You know: on a scale of one to ten, you can do no better than five, your boss is proficient of around eight, and the gods would be ten. He would get a round hundred.
Sorry for the tangent.
So, the wolf tried to pounce Prof, but he could dodge with his awesome new super powers of Not Getting Hit and tried to counter-attack. The last one wasn’t successful. Landing next to Prof the wolf tried to sweep his legs with its front paw, luckily for Prof, equally unsuccessfully. Prof was sure, if he got to the ground, the fight would be a very short and very bloody one – the bloody part being provided with him. With his own blood. He did, what everyone with two axes and a Skill of 150% in [Axes] would have done.
No, not running away.
He countered, counter counter-attacked with both his weapons, feigned with his right and did the real attack with his left. Both attacks missed, the wolf danced away. At least Kendrik gave some encouraging words.
“Watch out! Level ten Elite!”