He received a rough map, sketched onto a piece of parchment and got direction, which points he needed to visit.
If he had to patrol the whole circuit, it would have taken around ten to twelve hours, but since he only needed to check on them every other day, he could finish in four. That was manageable. After he received his orders, he returned to the ranger’s house.
“Kendrik! It’s good you are still home! The Lady didn’t want anything from the loot, so I thought I give everything to you, hopefully you can do something with it.”
“Thank you, Prof, but I already feel bad. I got everything from Spots, and even leveled up, and you got nothing. Keep the stuff! Maybe you will find a girl someday, and can present her with the ring. Straight out of a big bad Dire Wolf’s lair! How proud she will be! But don’t forget to make a few copies first! Hahaha!”
“Oh, Kendrik, don’t be such a leech!” interjected Hajni “Prof is not like that! He is just so polite and nice!”
“Yes, of course! He needs the copies only for the case he lost the original” Kendrik winked at Prof.
“Kendrik, there was something else I wanted to talk about.” Prof steered the conversation away from his non-existent love life. “I will stay at least a month here in the village, and I realised, I’m not really proficient in [Wilderness Survival] and [Tracking]. Just to name a few. Would it be possible for me to take a brief apprenticeship with you for a month?”
“Hmmm… What do you want to learn?”
“I’m interested in [Tracking] above else, and a bit of [Wilderness Survival]. [Hunting] maybe [Fishing] wouldn’t be bad either, but I wager I would need to know how to use a bow, but my Skill in [Bows] is really low. Maybe a bit of [Skinning] and [Dressing]?”
“Killing your prey is just a part of [Hunting], knowing where and when you can kill the game is as important, as it is to know which one is edible in the first place. To skin and dress the kill is somewhat part of the [Hunting] Skill, the separate ones just give better results and can be used to, well skin and dress rarer animals and monsters. [Tracking], Wilderness Survival] and [Hunting] build on each other in some way, so I can teach you all three to about the same level. However, my [Teaching] Skill isn’t that high, so the points you will get in one month will not be that terribly high.”
Since it was about points, Prof was pretty sure, he could harvest some extra ones. Even if not, every last little bit helped, and he had nothing better to do anyway.
“It’s all right, Kendrik! When do we start?”
“Right now? I wasn’t planning on doing anything else today. Tomorrow evening we will have the celebration, so till then I will give you some orientation and the day after we go into the woods.”
“That’s fine by me! Thank you!”
The next day was spent with lectures about the common animals around Smallgrovewell and in Wanderberg. Prof learned a bit about boars, stags, deers, rabbits and weasels, but also about wolfs, bears and large cats. He was told, what plants were edible, which ones he should steer clear of (there was even one with honey-sweet fruit that turned you into a tree), where to find drinking water and grubs to eat.
Prof felt like he was watching the show of a famous survivalist on TV – eat this, drink that, DON’T go near that, build your fire this way, your shelter that way. There were parts he already knew thanks to his Skills, but it was nevertheless interesting to hear it from a professional. Not that Kendrik was a terribly good teacher, he often went of tangents, repeated previous details, and jumped from topic to topic. Sometimes he just told a few stories or bantered a bit with Prof.
All in all, it was time well spent. It transpired, that Kendrik was an easy-going and friendly fellow, who moved to Smallgrovewell on the invitation of Lady Ilona’s father. They knew each other previously because of some old story, involving a boar, a deer, a weasel and a bar (Prof couldn’t make a rhyme of the story, though).
On the evening of the celebration Prof dressed in his dark green pants and shirt, put his hat on his head, his cape on his back and went to meet Kendrik. He left his armour and weapons at home – that is, in his rented shack – but after some deliberations took his knife with him.
Just to be sure.
The ranger and Hajni were both dressed in their better (or best?) clothes and they set out together to the village square. You probably imagine a cobbled square shaped square with flower beds, benches, artfully groomed botanics, and maybe even a fountain with an allegorical figure fountaining water out of orifices. Well, think again. We are talking about a tiny medieval village on the border of a kingdom, not a tourist trap in modern Italy!
At least the square was almost square shaped – if looked at it from a certain point, while drunk, and didn’t know what shape a square should have. There were no cobbles, just dirt (and a bit of… let’s call it mud next to the ditches), no flower beds, and no groomed green stuff, just another old willow and some bushes, strategically placed next to the ditches. Since the village didn’t have running water, there was no fountain – and probably even the Lady didn’t have enough money to commission an allegorical figure with or without orifices – but there were at least benches.
Brought out of the houses with the almost matching tables.
“Matching” meaning in this context: made of heavy wood, and having no decorations whatsoever. It seemed like the whole village was there, dressed in their best clothes, and even the Lady making an appearance, and there was even food on the tables. Real food, not just porridge.
Someone (probably the Lady, there were no other “wealthy” people in the village as far Prof could tell) even provided a largish pig that was roasting in the middle of the square on a spit. Prof felt like being an actor for an advertisement for a “rural” and “classical” and “original” village festival (entry fee 10,- EUR, food, drinks and souvenirs not included), but there was real food there! He found out earlier, that the food and drinks were for free – if you didn’t bring anything, you had to at least help, or make a voluntary donation to the village.
Since Prof didn’t have any spare food, and was occupied with Kendrik’s lessons, so been unable to help out, he ended up with making the donation. It turned out, he was the only one doing so, so he donated half a silver. Better not be viewed as skimpy or as a freeloader.
After a short time mingling and everyone arriving – save for Little Bela who was out patrolling our doing things a deputy does – the Lady gave a short speech about honouring every level up, and how important it was for the village and the common good to strive for more levels and congratulating Uncle Kendrik for his eleventh one. Prof was taken aback. Uncle? Level eleven? He found Kendrik afterwards, and posted a few questions.
“I told you, I was friends with her father, no? I know Lady Ilona since she was eight, so no surprise, she calls me uncle still! Ha! As for the levels? Heh, I wasn’t always a ranger in a small village! I did some adventuring in my younger days. You know, Old Bence – Ilona’s father – brought a few interesting figures here! Old Bela was an adventurer too – guess his level!”
“Nice try, Prof, but no. Sufficient to say, he’s the highest leveled one in the village, but there are others with interesting backgrounds and surprising levels here. Most are just happy with anonymity, so don’t pry. You have been probably told already, but be careful with unknown people, especially if you don’t have your [Observe] Skill at a high enough level. You never know who a beggar on the side of the street is or was. Even with a good [Observe], there are Skills and Perks that can make an observation tricky. With you being still Level 2, you should be careful!”
Prof didn’t remember telling Kendrik about his Level, but the ranger had quite a high level in [Observe], since he could read the Dire Wolf, so didn’t think of it further. He chatted for a while with the ranger and his wife, when hey were interrupted by a man in his late thirties. The interrupter was of medium height with a bit of excess fat on his ribs, and a bit better clothed than the average villager.
“Hey, Kendrik! Congratulations! And this should be our newest addition to our little village, yes? My name is Horka, I’m the cook for the Lady, and I heard you are looking for tasks to complete, yes? I do have one for you! Sorry, for that, Kendrik, my friend, but I need to diversify my sources, you understand? So, I need special ingredients to cook for the Lady, and level myself. Kendrik here brings sometimes good stuff, oh, the Dire Wolf parts were good, my friend, but the more I get, the better. If more people look for good foodstuff, the better, yes? So, my deal is this: for every portion of above average ingredient you bring me, I will pay one coppers, and for every five, I throw in a good meal? What do you say?”
“I would recommend accepting the deal” Kendrik interjected “The pay is not that good, because Horka here is a cheap bastard, but he is the best cook I have ever met. He could open a tavern everywhere in a big city, and get customers and fame in no time, but...”
“Slow down, Kendrik! That is none of his business. Say, one and a half coppers for each portion, and you don’t ask any further questions”
“Deal!” One task logged, a myriad to go! Of course, you would ask, what a “portion of food” was, right? Prof would have no clue in his previous life, but with his Skills and cultural awareness he had the answer ready: for main dishes one portion equalled the amount a normal sized dish could be prepared from. That is, around one sixth of a kilogramme of meat (that is a bit more than a third of a pound for you using that strange imperial measurement) or two chicken-eggs or some vegetables or fruit, and so forth.
You saw a kitchen from the inside? You got the idea.
For spices, it was a bit more tricky, but the small bags of spices you buy in the supermarket are around a dozen portions.
“Good! I heard, Sag, the Lady’s steward was a few tasks in mind too, you should check him out! Have a nice evening, my friends!”
Prof did, as was suggested, and there was an avalanche of possible tasks after that. Everyone knew someone who had some bothersome task to complete, but there were some that Prof was loath to do. Basically everything in conjunction with agriculture, digging dirt, or care for animals. At the end of the evening, he had marked three other quests in his notebook:
1, Get two tons of firewood for Sag, the steward. Payment: one silver
2, Kill rats crawling in the village granaries for Sag, the steward. Payment: Five coppers and lunch for a week for thirty rats
3, Collect one hundred kilogrammes of forest fruits for Aunty Nelli, operating the village distillery. Payment: Fifty coppers and ten meals.
Neither of the tasks was interesting or really hard, but they had two very important advantages: first, he could do them while in the forest, and secondly, it solved his food issue at least partially. He planned the first month as a trial, and the main part he stayed in Smallgrovewell were the lessons Kendrik provided. Everything other was just a bonus.
Prof set out for his new life.