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Power Eternal (Worm / Warcraft) (Post-GM)

Discussion in 'Questing' started by Aldsan, Oct 9, 2020.

  1. Threadmarks: New Beginnings

    Aldsan (Mysterious Heroine)

    Nov 29, 2019
    Likes Received:

    “Just as the blade rends flesh, so must power scar the spirit.”

    I let out a hiss as my knife slipped and cut into my fingers.

    Sighing, I reached down to force the fingers open, checking them for damage. It wasn’t a particularly complex mechanism -- I could manually adjust the elbow to an angle and lock the fingers open or closed if I needed to grip something -- but it served well enough. I ran a finger along the notch my knife had left before satisfying myself that the cut had only been superficial. That was good. Wooden though the fingers might be, I didn’t have money for a new prosthetic if I happened to break this one.

    Shaking my head at my own carelessness, I retightened my grip around the plant below me and carefully pruned the distinctive silvery leaves that lent the herb its name. I would only be paid a few coppers for each leaf I brought back, but the work was easy enough, and more importantly, it helped keep the local apothecary’s stock of healing poultices high.

    It had been a rather surprising discovery. Back home, herbal remedies were the sort of thing that quacks would try to sell you for a quick buck. I’d been more than a bit surprised to see how effective the mixtures here had proven in treating surface level wounds, stopping bleeding and closing cuts in seconds. They still struggled with deeper problems (such as broken bones) and for serious diseases someone would almost certainly need to see a priest.

    Not for last rites or anything like that. No, apparently priests here had actual healing magic, and while not exactly common, were still common enough that I’m fairly certain their presence had hindered the development of more mundane medicines. A potion might save a soldier’s life in the field, after all, but anything else that was less immediately life threatening? Why bother spending money on an expensive concoction when magic could do a better, quicker job?

    However, dangers had been rising. There were reports of gnolls in the area, and packs of wolves had supposedly been attacking farm animals lately. I wanted to make sure people had that quicker healing available to them, just in case they found themselves hurt out in the wilds. It didn’t hurt that my job as a supplier meant that I got my own small stock for free as well. I might be living the peaceful, retired life now, but you could never be too careful.

    I finished filling the last bit of space in my pack and started the trek back to town. A bee flew past, buzzing a small circle around my head and I gave it a faint smile, instinctively reaching out to touch its mind -- to look through its eyes, to hear through its ears. But… there was nothing, no different from every other attempt I’d made since arriving here. The bee landed on the edge of my pack, investigating the scent of the plants within, before flying off again.

    My power was gone.

    When I’d fought Scion, winning had seemed such a distant prospect, but a part of me had looked forward to the chance to set my burdens down. To rest. And yet… And yet. Here I was, my goals accomplished, and all I felt was lost. Directionless. What did I do now? I had been cut off from my Dad, from my friends, and even my Passenger. I had no mission to drive me forward, no fight left to fight.

    Sighing, I tilted my head back, watching the light play between the leaves. A fine joke my life had turned into. All I had left to me was to wait and hope that one day I would find my way back to my friends.

    I rounded a bend in the road and stopped, eyes narrowing. A man in rough leathers was holding a girl by the wrist and leaning in to tower over her. They were too far away for me to hear what they were saying, but the scene didn’t paint a pretty picture.

    On the one hand, this guy looks like trouble and the best way to deal with trouble is to hit it hard before it has the chance to hit you. On the other, you lack a second hand, putting you at a disadvantage if things should come to a fight.
    []Use force to get the man to back off.
    []Try to talk things down.
    Hello everyone. Some of you might remember me from my previous quest, Occular. This time, I’ve decided to take some of the lessons I learned from running Occular and this time, run a Warcraft crossover.

    To start, decisions will largely be for important things instead of relying on daily minutia / training the way I did in Occular. Generally speaking, this means each choice should be a bit more impactful, but it also means that failures are likely to hurt a lot more when they happen.
    Mechanics wise, I’ll be running this off a d100 this time. Certain actions might raise or lower the DCs involved. For example, if you’re investigating a criminal, you could ask around in the shady underbelly of the city, or you could try playing Sherlock Holmes with what evidence is available. Both choices can be successful, but one might be easier than the other.

    For Omakes, I plan to award perks that give situational bonuses to future rolls. For example, you might give Taylor “Studious” perk that gives a bonus to any rolls that involve poring through books or information. I do plan to maintain quality control on this. Two sentence omakes do not qualify. My judgement on this is arbitrary and at my own discretion.
    Finally, you will see that Taylor will have “stats” in various disciplines. Overall, I don’t plan for these to affect rolling. Instead, it’s more of a way for you the reader to keep track of how you’re specializing Taylor. If you spend a lot of time learning to fight with a sword and using the Light, then you will see those stats increase over time, and Taylor will act more like a Paladin in the story. These may come into play in the same manner as the Omake “Perks” in specific circumstances however.

    Voting for this quest will take place on Space Battles. Sorry to those of my readers from SV and QQ who followed Occular, but splitting voting between three different sites was a pain.
  2. Index: Character Sheet

    Aldsan (Mysterious Heroine)

    Nov 29, 2019
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    Last edited: Oct 9, 2020
    caspian1a and ShadowNic94 like this.
  3. Aldsan

    Aldsan (Mysterious Heroine)

    Nov 29, 2019
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  4. Aldsan

    Aldsan (Mysterious Heroine)

    Nov 29, 2019
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  5. Aldsan

    Aldsan (Mysterious Heroine)

    Nov 29, 2019
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    You may post now
  6. Dreameater2579

    Dreameater2579 Versed in the lewd.

    Aug 27, 2016
    Likes Received:
    [X]Try to talk things down.

    Watching for now.
  7. Aldsan

    Aldsan (Mysterious Heroine)

    Nov 29, 2019
    Likes Received:
    Voting for this quest will take place on Space Battles. Sorry to those of my readers from SV and QQ who followed Occular, but splitting voting between three different sites was a pain.

    Sorry for any confusion on this. I welcome any discussion, but this thread is mainly going to be an archive for the quest. Voting is on SB.
  8. Threadmarks: Scars 1.1

    Aldsan (Mysterious Heroine)

    Nov 29, 2019
    Likes Received:
    [X]Try to talk things down. (DC 40)
    Rolled: 9
    Rolled: 46
    Yeah, that seems about right for Taylor trying to deescalate a situation.

    I slowly lowered my bag to the ground and started forward, a finger running over the hilt of my knife.

    “...Pretty little thing like you, who knows what could happen? Good thing I’m here to watch out for you, eh?”

    “I’ll be quite fine on my own. Let go of me.”

    “C’mon, don’t be like that. It’s dangerous out here.”

    “I said let go!”

    “You spitting on my good will, girly? Hah, guess you rich types are all the same.”

    God, what a cliché. It felt like being back in Brockton Bay all over again. If I had to take a guess, the man would escalate from here to where he started demanding payment, as though his harassment were some sort of service. It was the sort of tactics that scumbags used when they wanted to pretend they had a veneer of civility. Saw it as taking deserved payment instead of simple violence; not that it made much difference to the victim.

    The man let out a yelp as the girl stepped down on his foot, snapping me out of my reverie. He shoved her back against a tree. “...Need to be taught some manners.”

    Yeah, there it was. I cleared my throat and both of their heads snapped up in surprise. I tried to ignore how the sudden hope in the girl’s eyes made my gut squirm in response. “I believe the Lady asked for you to let go of her.”

    “Yeah?” The man half turned towards me, not releasing his grip on the girl. “I don’t see how that’s any business of yours.”

    “I guess I wasn’t clear enough. Either let the girl go or I’ll break every bone in your hand one at a time.”

    “Heh.” He pushed the girl away, letting her fall to the ground as he began swaggering in my direction. “If you’re going to make a threat, girly, you need to be able to actually back it up. Skinny thing like you couldn’t break a twig.”

    My lips twitched upwards, the barest hint of a smile. “You’re free to test that, if you’d like. You’ll regret the attempt.”

    The man scowled and hesitated a second. We were of a height, but he had muscle on me and I only had one arm. I stared him in the eyes however, unflinching in the face of his bravado, and that made him nervous. He was smart enough to know my confidence meant that I had some sort of trick up my sleeve. It wouldn’t make a difference though. He was the sort of person that had a lot of pride. He couldn’t back down from a challenge offered by some slip of a girl.

    I saw his eyes firm up as he came to a decision. He stepped forward and reached out to grab hold of my arm.

    I dodged, leading with my prosthetic, and slammed the heel of my palm into his sternum. I wasn’t about to rest on a single blow however. Darting my foot out, I swept the man’s legs even as I tangled my fingers in his shirt and yanked him past me to the ground. He hit with a whump and I followed, putting my knee onto the small of his back as I grabbed his wrist and lifted, twisting his arm back into a submission hold.

    “Fuck! What the hells just happened?”

    “What happened is that you picked the wrong fight. Now do I need to start breaking bones, or will you get lost once I let you up?”

    “Light blind you! Let go of me!”

    “Will. You. Leave?” I punctuated my words by tightening the hold, sending a spike of pain to the man’s shoulder.

    “Yes! I won’t bother you no more! Please just let me go!”

    “Good. Next time I won’t let you off so easy.” Taking my weight off of him, I watched as he scrambled to his feet before jerking my head to the side. “Now get out of here.”

    I could see the temptation on his face to take another swing at me, to try and reclaim some sort of victory. I raised an eyebrow. “You gonna fight me?”

    He hesitated before turning and running away. Huh, guess he was smarter than I thought. Well, that was fine too. I walked over towards the girl he’d been harassing and offered a hand to help her off the ground. “You okay?”

    “Yes! I mean… Yes, I am unharmed.” The girl smiled up at me, her pale blue eyes bright. If I had to judge, I’d peg her as maybe a year younger than myself, though the sheer innocence of her expression was something I hadn’t had since middle school. She took my hand to stand and once she’d found her feet, immediately reached up to begin fixing her golden-blonde hair.

    A nervous habit, probably -- a way to comfort herself when stressed. Or maybe she was just vain enough to worry about her hair right after being mugged. I shrugged and turned away, talking over my shoulder as I picked my bag back up. “Well, I’m glad you weren’t hurt, at least. Don’t suppose you’ve got a name?”

    “Oh, I’m sorry. I’m…” She frowned, hesitating a moment. “Caitlyn.”

    And that was a fake name, I was nearly certain. She’d needed to take a bit too much time to think about it.

    It wasn’t that surprising.

    The jackass from earlier hadn’t been wrong about the girl looking rich. She had her cloak drawn up to hide her features, but I could still make out threads of golden embroidery on her dress, the sort of intricate work that most common folk wouldn’t be able to afford. However, she didn’t have much in the way of possessions on her beyond her own clothes. No parents or adults were travelling with her. Most of all, Vandemar Village was the only place around for miles, and was pretty isolated despite being relatively close to the Kingdom’s capital.

    All the signs of a runaway.

    “Right. I’m Taylor. Good to meet you, I guess, even if the circumstances could be better.”

    Caitlyn smiled and jogged a few steps to catch up to me and started to walk in my wake. “Are you a knight, Taylor? The way you took out that scoundrel… I barely had time to even see what you were doing!”

    I snorted softly. “Not a knight. Just someone trying to make do. Anyways, Vandemar is still a good half hour’s walk from here and is the only place in the area you’re likely to find an inn before nightfall. I’m headed in that direction. You’re welcome to join me if you’d like.”

    “Yes, I think I would like that. That ruffian was the first bit of trouble I’ve had on the road, but… well, it would be nice to have some company.” She paused and then frowned as if realizing I’d diverted her attention. “In any case, if you aren’t a knight, then how did you learn to fight like that?”

    Shrugging as nonchalantly as I could, I replied, “It really wasn’t as amazing as it looked. He underestimated me and that let me take him by surprise. If it’d turned into an actual fight, I would have lost.”

    Caitlyn pursed her lips and she glanced meaningfully down at my prosthetic. “Would you still have lost if you weren’t missing an arm?”

    I hummed a not-quite response and Caitlyn smiled as though she’d teased some great secret out of me.

    “Well, if not a knight, then perhaps a soldier? Did you fight in the Great War?”

    “Pretty sure I’d make a terrible soldier.” I’m told that I have something of a problem with figures of authority.

    “How did you lose your arm then?”

    “Whaling accident,” I answered dryly.

    “You’re a sailor then? Are you from Kul Tiras?”

    “Never even been on a boat.” Which was kind of odd to think about. Despite having grown up in a bay, I’d never taken much interest in the marine side of Brockton.

    “But then how…”

    I grinned at Caitlyn’s visible confusion. Unfortunately, the rest of the walk went much the same way, with Caitlyn badgering me with question after question as though she thought I had some deep, mysterious past that I was hiding. Yeah, sure, to be fair I actually did have a deep, mysterious past that I was hiding, but I think I was entitled not to share it if I didn’t want to. I couldn’t help but let out a sigh of blessed relief once Vandemar finally came in sight.

    Vandemar wasn’t particularly large, even by the standards of this world. In truth, it was little more than a trading post. There were a few scattered shops, the church, the inn, the blacksmith. Most of the activity the town saw came from people living in the outlying farms who would bring in their crop to sell and to buy whatever they might need to stock up on. From what I’d heard, the only time the town was actually crowded was when a festival was going on, though I’d yet to see one for myself.

    “Here it is. The inn is the second building on the right. It’s large enough that I think you’ll have a hard time missing it.”

    “Oh… Are you not coming with me?”

    “I do live here, you know. Not much reason for me to visit the inn. Besides,” I said, hefting my bag, “I need to get this stuff over to the apothecary.”

    Caitlyn frowned and twirled a lock of hair around her finger. “Well, I suppose I shall see you around later then?”

    “Sure, it’s not like it’s all that big a town. I’m sure we’ll see each other now and then as long as you’re in the area.”

    Caitlyn gave a brilliant smile in response and I turned away, feeling strangely embarrassed by it.


    “Taylor. You’re back late today. Didn’t run into any trouble, did you?”

    I offered Joshua Kien a small smile. He was an older man, maybe in his mid-forties by my estimation, thickset without quite being fat, with his hair noticeably thinning. I wouldn’t say he was particularly good looking, but he’d always had a smile for me when I came by. I appreciated it, seeing as I visited his store fairly often.

    “No trouble, really. Just met a traveler on the road.”

    “Huh, it’s not really the time of year for any merchants to start showing up. I wonder what a traveler’s doing all the way out here.”

    “Who knows?” I shrugged and set my bag down on the counter. “Anyways, I’ve got most of the usual today.”

    “Alright, give me a minute to look it over and I’ll see about getting you your pay.” I nodded and stepped away, letting myself wander around the store while Joshua worked.

    The place was kept brightly lit, relatively speaking. It still seemed a bit gloomy to my modern sensibilities, but there wasn’t exactly a surplus of overhead electrical lighting here. Instead, Joshua relied on open windows, closing down entirely once it was night. Along the walls and shelves ran a gamut of miscellaneous goods, from rope to arrows, to preserved food and alcohol. Mostly alcohol, if I was being honest.

    For all that I’d called him an apothecary earlier, Joshua’s store was more of a General Goods. He did some brewing on the side, but there just wasn’t enough demand in a village as small as Vandemar for a full-time alchemist.

    I scanned idly over his goods, long since familiar with the selection, and raised an eyebrow. “You’ve raised your prices, I see.”

    “Unfortunately. Rumors are trickling in that taxes are going to be higher this year.”

    I glanced over my shoulder at him. “How bad is it?”

    A faint grimace crossed his face. “We’ll find out for sure when the tax collectors make their way out here. It doesn’t sound good though. Speaking of which, this is the last time I’ll be able to pay you full price on the herbs. I’m at full stock on potions and…”

    “Don’t worry about it. I’ll find some other way to make do.”

    “At least with Father Sarvis vouching for you as a ward of the Church you’ll be safe from having to pay yourself.” He shrugged and tossed a pouch towards me. I caught it, the familiar clink of coins coming from inside. “Small victories, right?”

    Funny how my victories always felt like losses.

    I said my goodbyes, stepping out into the still brisk spring air. Three months ago, my near-corpse had been found half-frozen in the snow. Since then, the town’s priest had been kind enough to lend me a room at the local church. I’d been grateful for it, but I still hated having to rely on his charity without giving anything back.

    Shaking my head, I started up the hill towards the church. Gathering herbs had only brought in coppers for a day’s work, but it let me feel like I was standing on my own feet at least. Now, I would need to find something else to do.

    A pair of children waved as they ran by and I let myself smile, forcing myself to let go of my newest worry.. Well, it wasn’t like the chores around the church were particularly onerous. I’d manage until I figured something out.

    Approaching the church, I tilted my head back, taking in the steeple. Despite being built for a completely different religion, the architecture reminded me more than a bit of some of the smaller Protestant churches I’d seen around, both Brockton Bay and Chicago. Similar needs, perhaps, as the spire doubled as the town’s bell tower, tolling out a warning for important events or emergencies.

    Inside, Father Sarvis had already lit several candles to combat the oncoming night. A row of pews ran down the either side of the church, to where a familiar head of blonde hair was already talking with the priest. I raised an eyebrow as I walked down the aisle. “When I said I would see you later, I didn’t expect it to be quite this soon, Caitlyn.”

    Caitlyn jumped at my voice, spinning around to look at me. “Taylor? What are you doing here?”

    “I live here,” I answered Caitlyn dryly, before reaching up to undo the leather band that I’d used to tie my hair back while I was working. I shook the ponytail out, letting my hair fall free.

    Father Sarvis simply smiled. “Welcome back, Taylor. I see you’ve already met our erstwhile traveler.” Sarvis was a thin, wiry man. Not skeletal, in the way that Coil had once been, but simply whipcord lean. He’d long since gone bald, apart from a fringe around his ears, but kept a beard. Small flecks of gray dotted the auburn brown, a testament to his advancing age.

    “I guess you could say that. So what brings you down to our local parish, Caitlyn?”

    “I -- um, that is… Father Sarvis is an old friend. I didn’t know you were involved with the Church, I’m here for my own reasons and...”

    I shot a glance at Father Sarvis. He was a bit too dignified to actually roll his eyes, but his exasperation was palpable as Caitlyn tried to stammer out an excuse. Finally, he threw the poor girl a rescue. “Miss ‘Caitlyn’ will be staying with us for a little while, Taylor. Please try to get along with your new roommate.”

    “Roommate?” Caitlyn turned back to Father Sarvis. “Don’t you think that’s…?”

    “Our chapel isn’t an inn, Caitlyn. We don’t have an excess of rooms just lying about, and Taylor is already using our guest room. I know you might be used to more spacious accommodations, but you will have to simply make do for however long you seek sanctuary here.” He paused a moment, examining Caitlyn’s wide eyed expression before adding, “If you’d like to put your things away, the room is the second on the left if you take the hallway behind the altar.”

    Caitlyn nodded mutely and turned away. I’ll give her points for keeping to a brisk walk and not outright fleeing, given how her face was doing an impression of a sunset. Father Sarvis waited for a full minute after she’d left before letting out a chuckle. “I’d say you made an impression on the poor girl. How exactly did you meet?”

    I shrugged. “Some idiot was harassing her by the side of the road. I taught him some manners and told him to get lost.”

    The priest raised an eyebrow, but I’d long since learned to ignore his questioning looks.

    I jerked my head towards the back rooms. “What’s her story anyways?”

    “Her father wished for her to marry for political aspirations, it seems. However, she found herself rather disinclined towards the match.”

    “So what? She thinks it’ll all blow over if she hides out here for a month or two?”

    “I couldn’t speak to the actual politics of the situation. Perhaps her suitor is the sort to be aggravated enough by the apparent refusal to call the whole thing off. Or perhaps, it is an important enough match for her father to send out search parties. Time will tell.”

    Raising an eyebrow, I asked, “And it’s okay for you to take sides in that sort of thing?”

    “I am hardly taking sides,” Father Sarvis smiled. “Simply providing shelter to a young woman in need. If her face happened to look familiar, well, an old man’s eyes can be mistaken, and it’s not as though she gave me her true name.”

    I snorted softly. “Yeah, I’m sure that won’t cause you any trouble down the line.”

    “If it does, then it does. More importantly, you weren’t hurt during your altercation earlier?”

    “No. I’m fine. The guy had more muscle than sense. That sort is easy enough to deal with. Probably one of the miners from up north from the look of him.”

    “Hm. I hope that is all that it turns out to be.” Father Sarvis rubbed at his beard, some hidden worry crossing his features. “In any case, will you be available for tomorrow?”

    I hadn’t been planning on being available. But it seems like my schedule had just recently opened up. “Maybe. What do you need?”

    “The children should be by for their lessons tomorrow. I know you have been somewhat… reticent to involve yourself thus far, but the invitation to attend is still open.”

    “I’m just not sure I have all that much to teach. I’m not particularly religious, and it’s not like I’m capable of telling them anything about the wider world.”

    “You can read and write, Taylor. That alone is worth a great deal to these childrens’ future. I am capable of teaching them myself, of course, but having your assistance with some of the lessons would help ease my burden. I am getting rather up there in years, I certainly wouldn’t mind the help.”

    I nodded my acquiescence. “I get that. I just…”

    “I understand,” Father Sarvis replied. “Teaching can be nerve wracking in a way. You are putting yourself in a position of responsibility for a child’s future. However, watching the next generation grow is one of the most rewarding things you can do. I think the experience would benefit you a great deal.”

    “I’ll think about it okay? You don’t need to keep working to convince me.”

    He chuckled softly. “Yes, I suppose that is true. Please forgive me my tendency to preach. It’s become something of a habit at this point.”

    “Sorry, I’m more of an ‘Eye for an Eye’ sort of girl. You’ll just have to sit through one of my lectures at some point to make up for it.”

    “A terrible trial, I’m sure.”

    “You have no idea,” I grinned.

    “If you decide not to, then perhaps you could take the time to show Caitlyn around town instead. She could use a good friend, I’m sure. In the meantime, I suppose I should let you go get better acquainted with your new living situation. I do hope it doesn’t prove too onerous.”

    “Sure. I can do that.”

    It wasn’t like I was in any position to complain about it. I waved him good night and walked back behind the altar, down the hallway, to the second door on the left.

    Caitlyn looked up at me as I opened the door to our shared bedroom. She’d discarded her cloak and taken a seat on the bed -- a bed that was narrow and would be a tight fit for two women sharing it, I noted with displeasure. My room, such as it was, had been tight living quarters even when it had been only me living there. Caitlyn hadn’t brought much in the way of luggage with her, thankfully, but it was small enough that even just having the both of us inside left me feeling claustrophobic.

    We both stared at each other for a long moment. Finally, I stepped inside and closed the door behind me. “So. Roommates. Any bad habits I should be aware of? You’re not the sort to snore, right?”

    “Of course I’m not!” she snapped, her face reddening. She took a slow breath before continuing, “Is it really fine? I know Father Sarvis told you my circumstances, but it isn’t as though you know anything about me.”

    “And you don’t know anything about me.”

    “It’s not that simple.”

    “It is. Father Sarvis wants to protect you, so I’ll help out with that where I can.” I worked on the latch for my prosthetic as I talked, setting the false arm down on the corner table. “There’s no need for it to be complicated.”

    Caitlyn went quiet. I let the silence linger, not wanting to interrupt her thoughts. Instead, I focused on getting ready for bed -- kicking off my boots, putting away my bag, changing my clothes to the long, dress-like shift that I’d been wearing for pajamas. With only one arm, the entire process took awhile to get through and involved more struggling than I would like to admit. I still had the shift tangled over my head, trying to pull it down around my shoulders, when she spoke again.

    “Can I trust you?”

    I paused, forcefully tugging the shift the last bit down, before turning back towards her. Taking a deep breath, I lowered myself down to look into her eyes. “I swear I will protect you. Whether that be from your father or your suitor, it doesn’t matter. I won’t let anything happen to you, Caitlyn.”

    Her eyes glistened and I smiled gently in response. She’d been betrayed by her father and thrown herself instead upon the mercies of a stranger. I wasn’t much good as a Hero these days, but I refused to let her be disappointed by the choice.

    Her arms wrapped around me and I hugged her close, letting her cry on my shoulder until her tears were spent.

    Well, you’re out of work for the moment. What do you do tomorrow?

    [] Help teach the children.
    [] Show Caitlyn around town.
    [] Look for a new job.
    [] (Write-In)

    Just a reminder that voting will take place here, in an effort to keep things consolidated.
    Last edited: Oct 12, 2020
  9. mperalta

    mperalta Not too sore, are you?

    Feb 6, 2019
    Likes Received:
    I hate post-GM stories where Taylor doesn't have her arm especially in a world like Wow where she could easily get that shit fix easily

    It's just pointless and makes melee combat completely non-viable so yeah, not reading this
  10. Aldsan

    Aldsan (Mysterious Heroine)

    Nov 29, 2019
    Likes Received:
    That's your prerogative. It's pretty intentional to start her rock bottom. It doesn't mean that there aren't going to be options for her to be functional in melee later on. I'm not writing healing as being capable of bringing back that severe of a dismemberment, but there's plenty of more advanced prosthetics, whether from the wonders of gnomish engineering, an arcane simulacra akin to a golem, or getting a necromantic skeleton hand. It's not like she'll be permanently helpless.
  11. taovkool

    taovkool Verified Ishigami

    Sep 22, 2014
    Likes Received:
    [X] Show Caitlyn around town.
  12. Snipper8

    Snipper8 Your first time is always over so quickly, isn't it?

    Apr 24, 2018
    Likes Received:
    [X] Help teach the children ​
  13. Aldsan

    Aldsan (Mysterious Heroine)

    Nov 29, 2019
    Likes Received:
  14. x50413

    x50413 Verified Eldritch Husbando

    Jan 15, 2018
    Likes Received:
    I'm glad I was reading by myself, because this made me laugh so hard I almost choked.

    This seems interesting. I'm on board!
    VisV, Eryk, Acerrrr12 and 1 other person like this.
  15. magic9mushroom

    magic9mushroom BEST END.

    Feb 11, 2016
    Likes Received:
    You are aware that many of us are banned there, yes?
  16. heralding_bubble

    heralding_bubble Dog Pottery

    Sep 26, 2015
    Likes Received:
    Since this is an archive, wouldn't it be better for this to be in CrW with an (Archive) notice in title?
    Seems interesting though.
    ShadowStepper1300 likes this.
  17. Aldsan

    Aldsan (Mysterious Heroine)

    Nov 29, 2019
    Likes Received:
    That's a shame, but I'm not going through the hassle of tracking votes across three separate sites a second time.
    heralding_bubble likes this.
  18. Threadmarks: Scars 1.2

    Aldsan (Mysterious Heroine)

    Nov 29, 2019
    Likes Received:
    [X] Help teach the children.

    As it turned out, Caitlyn had told the truth. She didn’t snore.

    Instead, I found that she was entirely too free with her elbows, her feet were like ice, and she talked in her sleep. She also treated me like some sort of teddy bear, hugging herself tightly against my back. That last one might have been for the best though, as otherwise I probably would have fallen off the narrow bed.

    When morning came, I carefully extricated myself from her embrace, having only had small bouts of fitful sleep. She murmured in discontent, but I ignored it. Slipping on a shirt and pair of pants, I stepped out into the cool morning air.

    The town was still quiet. The first light of dawn had already filled the road, but I knew from experience that the chill of night would hang on in the valley until nearly mid-morning. I stretched out, enjoying the small bit of warmth that the sun gave and began my exercises.

    I’d kept up with my regime as best as I was able. Unfortunately, as best I was able wasn’t especially good. Even after months of adjusting, my balance still felt off when I went running, and I constantly had to adjust myself. As for push-ups… Well, needless to say, it had been a struggle to do those with only one hand. My perseverance had paid off however, and my body was finally starting to adjust.

    Once I was finished, I used a sleeve to wipe the sweat from my face and went back inside to wash up.

    My bath was a rather hurried affair. The church had something resembling functioning plumbing, with a hand pump to draw water up from a well and keep it in reserve. They didn't, however, bother with running the boiler now that the winter months had passed. That was reserved mostly to keep the pipes from freezing over, not for comfort in the middle of Spring.

    Shivering, I dried myself off and headed back to my room. Caitlyn was half awake by the time I got back, though she’d drawn the sheets up tight around herself. I gave her a smile as I passed by to the closet and began dressing. “The bath is filled if you want it.”

    “Thank you. I’ll go in a few minutes.”

    I nodded in response and fell into silence. It wasn’t until I’d finished redressing and was wrestling with getting my prosthetic strapped back on that she spoke again. “I… do you think it would be alright if I borrowed some of your clothes? I realized from the encounter yesterday that I… perhaps stand out a bit.”

    I glanced back at her. She’d sat up, the sheet having fallen away to leave only her shift, which draped over curves that were far more generous than my own. I’d largely gotten over a lot of the body image issues that I had back in high school, but there was still that small twinge of jealousy that called back to when I was a bullied teenager. I ignored it. In any case, I felt safe in saying, “Somehow, I suspect that my clothes wouldn’t fit you all that well, Caitlyn.”

    She caught where my eyes were pointed and flushed a deep scarlet. Really, that was all it took to embarrass her? Well, she was some sort of nobility. She almost certainly had never needed to endure the locker room experience.

    I suppose she would adjust eventually. “Go ahead and use them for now. It’ll probably be a bit tight, but I’m sure we can make it work until we can find you something better.”

    “I… Thank you.”

    “No problem.”

    Caitlyn descended into silence once again, the awkward sort where I could tell that she wanted to talk but wasn’t sure what to talk about. I stayed quiet, taking the time to simply run a brush through my hair, careful to get out any knots that had developed without damaging it. I hadn’t been able to keep to my usual standard of hair care since coming here, but I still did the best that I could. Finally, she spoke up. “What brought you to Vandemar, Taylor?”

    “What do you mean?”

    “I mean… You clearly aren’t from here. Your accent is all wrong for one thing, and you don’t learn skills like you showed yesterday from a sleepy little village like this. So why are you here?”

    I paused in my brushing. “I don’t know.”

    “What do you mean?”

    “I’m told that I was found in the woods with a shattered skull.” I met Caitlyn’s eyes. “Sorry, I can’t really tell you about anything before that.”

    Caitlyn’s brow furrowed. Then, the implication hit and she gasped in horrified realization, her hands rising to cover her mouth. “I’m sorry I…”

    “It is what it is. Don’t worry about it.” I turned away and grimaced. It was a familiar deception at this point, but the concern etched on her face still made me feel a little guilty for misleading her. “Father Sarvis was kind enough to take me in, and I’ve been living well enough since then.”

    The silence dragged, Caitlyn clearly unsure how to respond to that. Finally, she spoke up and quietly said, “I think I’ll be going to take that bath now.”

    Ah. She’d chickened out it seemed. “Enjoy yourself.”

    Caitlyn gave a stiff nod and left. I stepped out a few minutes behind her, though my own destination was the kitchen.

    Father Sarvis was already there, of course. Before Caitlyn had arrived, it had only been him and me living here, though a couple of girls from town would come and help clean the place once in awhile. I tried to take on my share of chores, but for whatever reason, he’d always insisted on cooking the meals. It was probably for the best. The one time I’d made an attempt… hadn’t ended well.

    He gave me a nod from his position at the stove as I entered, and I gave a half-hearted, “Good morning,” in response.

    “Yes, good morning. The children should be here within the hour, so you will need to eat quickly.” He paused and I hummed an acknowledgment as he set a bowl of oatmeal in front of me. “Did you come to a decision on whether you’ll be helping or not?”

    “Yeah,” I nodded, “I’ll help out. Just tell me what to do.”


    There were about twelve children in total who came to the church for lessons, ranging anywhere from four to fourteen years of age. It had to be a nightmare for any single teacher to deal with. Father Sarvis couldn’t teach anything too advanced or he would leave the younger children behind. And he couldn’t teach anything too simple or the older children wouldn’t make any progress. The result was something where he’d assign one group practical work while giving lessons to the other, essentially taking turns with each group. With me here, he was able to foist the older students off to me so that he could devote his attention entirely to the younger group.

    I frowned as I looked over the group of five students that I’d gotten. When Father Sarvis had asked for help, I’d imagined it as more of a Teacher’s Assistant sort of role, not getting a group entirely to myself. Mostly because I had no clue what I was doing. In the end, I’d dug a book out from Father Sarvis’ office and had the kids passing it around reading a passage at a time.

    The story recounted the tales of some knight, a Sir Haldrath. His adventures, despite supposedly being grounded in history, went as most of these stories did. He fought against trolls, rescued a Duke’s daughter from bandits, and finally rode out to meet his end chasing away a dragon. It was all very romantic and very predictable.

    Personally, I thought Haldrath was a bit of a dumbass. He always charged in, no plan, no backup, no dirty tricks to even the odds. Really, if he was going to fight a dragon, he should have at least gone for the eyes instead of uselessly stabbing at the thing’s scales. The kids enjoyed it though, and that’s what was important.

    Overall, the experience wasn’t as bad as I’d thought it would be going in. I wasn’t any sort of real teacher -- it was one thing to give a one-off speech to high schoolers about why drugs were bad, another entirely to have an actual long-term lesson plan -- but I’d enjoyed myself. I still sighed with relief however, when Father Sarvis called for the group to gather back up so that he could begin their seminary lessons. I let the kids go and headed towards a pew near the back so that I could listen in.

    “Who here can name the first of the Three Virtues?” Father Sarvis began.

    One little girl’s hand shot up and she shouted before the priest even had a chance to call on her. “Respect!”

    He laughed, not unkindly, and said, “Yes, very good Maquell. Can you tell me what it means?”

    “It means -- Um… It means that we need to be nice to people.”

    Father Sarvis turned his gaze to another girl. “And do you agree with that, Isabella?”

    “Not really. You don’t see knights going around being nice to monsters after all.” That got a few snickers out of some of the other kids. “It’s about dignity. Even when you’re fighting something, you treat it with dignity.”

    “A good answer,” Father Sarvis nodded. “Speaking of the orcs, King Terenas recently decided to imprison them now that the Alliance has crushed their offensive. There have been many arguments both for and against this, but I would like to hear what each of you think. Does this embody the Respect that the Light calls upon us to show unto others?”

    I leaned back in my seat. Like I’d told Father Sarvis, I’d never been particularly religious. Neither of my parents had been believers, though my Mom always had the occasional Bible verse that made me think she might have been raised in the Church. Even if they had been though, I’d grown up in a world with the Endbringers. Faith had a tendency to wither when faced with an annihilation that couldn’t be stopped no matter how much prayer was directed towards it.

    Despite an inherent disinterest however, Father Sarvis had a way of making his seminary lessons fascinating. He didn’t just quote rote passages, but instead made it a philosophical discussion over the basic tenets of the religion, bringing in actual examples for his students to argue over.

    I heard a quiet rustle and a moment later, Caitlyn lowered herself into the pew beside me. “A discussion over the Three Virtues?”

    “Respect, specifically. They just finished arguing about whether the Internment Camps embodied the First Virtue or not.”

    It wasn’t a particularly surprising choice. The Orcish Internment Camps had been the greatest source of gossip in the town ever since word came of their establishment. Even the appearance of a strange, amnesiac girl hadn’t been able to draw attention in quite the same way. I wasn’t sure why -- most of the people here hadn’t even seen an orc. There was a bare handful of men in the entire area that had served during the war, and none of them had ever seen the frontlines.

    “I mean… Of course it does.” Caitlyn frowned. “The Dark Portal is closed, we couldn’t just send them back to their world. The only alternative would have been genocide.”

    “One could argue that it’s an act of Compassion but not Respect.” I could see the argument already forming on Caitlyn’s face, so I continued before she could speak up. “It’s entirely possible for virtues to contradict. It’s not a perfect world and solutions aren’t always perfect.”

    “You said ‘one’ could argue. Would you?”

    “I think it depends a lot on what the conditions are like in the Camps, how the orcs are being treated there. It also depends on what comes after the Camps. Because whatever reasons drove their creation, the Camps are not a permanent solution.”

    There were uncomfortable parallels to be made between the Camps and what the Nazis had done during World War II. What’s more, I’d grown up in Brockton Bay, with the E88 preaching hate against Blacks, Jews, Gays, and anyone else who didn’t meet their standards of purity. I’d learned to be wary of that sort of demagoguery. I wasn’t ready to just write the orcs off as monsters.

    On the other hand, there were differences between that situation and this. The orcs had been an actual invading army for one thing. That complicated things. The Alliance couldn’t just let the orcs roam free, for fear of another war. Yet, there was something about the Camps that struck me as dehumanizing in a way that left me uneasy.

    There had to be a better way.

    “So what do you think should be done with them?” Caitlyn asked.

    I sighed and ran a hand through my hair. “I don’t know. I don’t know enough about the orcs or about the situation. Everything I know about them is from rumors that have managed to make their way out here, and Vandemar isn’t exactly a hub for information.”

    “Hypothetically then?”

    “Hypothetically, the best place to start would be finding out why they invaded in the first place. Were they driven by a lack of resources? A desire for conquest? Was it religious in nature, or the result of xenophobia? Was it done out of obedience to their leader, or was it a widespread fervor among their populace? Knowing what drove the orcs to begin with would do a great deal in informing how to deal with them going forward.”

    Caitlyn giggled softly and I raised an eyebrow in response. She shook her head. “Sorry, it’s just, that was nearly word for word what the representative from Dalaran’s stance was on the issue, though they used it to argue in favor of the Camps.” She paused, and then in an affectedly pompous tone continued, “‘This bears careful consideration. We cannot act rashly. We must carefully examine what led to this point if we are to prevent it from happening again.’ From what I understand, they’ve recently been floating the theory that the orcs were driven to a magically induced bloodlust by their warlocks.”

    I shrugged, “Well, they would know better than I would.”

    She hummed an agreement and I let my gaze wander back over to the lesson. Father Sarvis had grown more animated during my discussion with Caitlyn, a smile on his face, and the kids had responded, even the bored teenagers starting to pay a bit more attention. He cared about what he was talking about in a way that the teachers at Winslow never had.

    If I had seen my Mom teach, would it have looked something like this?

    Blinking the tears from my eyes, I swallowed down the sudden wave of nostalgia that threatened to overtake me. “I think… I’m going to step out for a few minutes.”

    Caitlyn looked up at me questioningly but I just gave her a brittle smile and walked quietly down the aisle to step outside. I found myself blinking against the sudden glare, everything seeming a bit too bright after the gloominess of the church. Blue sky stretches overhead. Lisa. Rachel. Aisha. Were they looking up at a sky like this also?

    I reach out. The sky feels so close. Yet, no matter how I stretch, I can never touch it.

    The door creaked open and Caitlyn stepped out alongside me. I glanced over my shoulder. “You didn’t have to stop listening to the sermon on my account, you know.”

    “Who said anything about it being on your account? I’ve had enough stuffy sermons to last a lifetime.”

    “You make me feel so loved,” I said dryly.

    Caitlyn flushed red. “That’s not to say your company isn’t welcome or you aren’t wanted!”

    “Yes, I suppose you do still need a guide around town, don’t you?” I teased.

    “Why, Taylor,” she said, putting her hands on her hips, “If you wanted to be my escort so badly, all you had to do was ask.”

    I let out a startled laugh. “Maybe next time. For now, let’s just see about getting some lunch.”


    The walk to the town’s tavern was a short one. It was actually just the first floor of the inn, but visitors were rare enough that it doubled as the town’s restaurant and bar. The place had its lunch and dinner rush hours, but I’d never actually seen it get more than half full. Today was different.

    The room was packed, every seat taken by an unfamiliar face. I glanced around from my position at the door before slowly stepping inside and waving the innkeeper down.

    “Taylor. Tea again, or are you going to have a real drink for once?”

    I rolled my eyes. “It’s barely past noon, Kay. Tea and whatever you’ve got for lunch today. What’s with the crowd?”

    “Some trouble up at Lightstone,” she shrugged. “All the miners are down here until it gets sorted. Who’s your friend?”

    “This is Caitlyn.” I introduced, and I could see she was already gathering looks from the men scattered around the room. “Father Sarvis is an old friend of her family, so she’s here to visit him.”

    “I can speak for myself,” Caitlyn pouted.

    “So she says. She’ll have the same as me for lunch,” I grinned.

    Caitlyn smiled sweetly and then drove an elbow into my ribs before primly stating, “I will have the same as Taylor.”

    I bent over coughing and Kay laughed. “Hah, I like this one. Sure, sweetie, I’ll get you your lunch. There’s still some space near the back if the two of you want to find a table.”

    The table we wound up at wasn’t empty, but we managed two seats with a couple of miners sharing. The two were a study in contrasts.

    The first was a lifer, who had been a miner for so long that his face had begun to resemble a cliffside, with deep crags and valleys pitting its surface. The other was a younger man, freshly back from the war, who was planning on only sticking with the mine for a few years to build up a nest egg for himself before opening up a store. It was apparently a common tactic, as the mine paid better than most of the other jobs in the area at the cost of backbreaking labor.

    “Wait, so you were in the Great War?”

    “Sure was,” the younger miner, Randolph, replied. “Saw some action even. Was involved in one of the skirmishes in Hillsbrad.”

    “Hillsbrad, that’s the region near Dalaran, right?” I asked.

    “Parts of it,” Caitlyn answered. “The upper regions were considered Alterac’s territory, the eastern regions Stromgarde’s. Dalaran doesn’t actually lay claim to the region at all, despite its proximity. Unlike the other city-states that eventually grew into nations, Dalaran has kept firmly to its walls.”

    “Huh. Sounds like there would be a lot of defenses in the area. So what was the deal with the skirmishes?”

    Randolph spoke up again. “Ah, well, it wasn’t anything all that special really. A few orcish scouting parties, a few raiding parties looking for easy loot, that sort of thing. Most of our time was spent just putting up housing for the survivors of Stormwind to settle into while the fighting was going on.”

    “Whole load of foolishness, that,” the elder miner, Bartrand, said. “Spend a whole load of money putting up houses for people who used them for a scant few years before abandoning them again.”

    Caitlyn frowned. “I’m sure it meant a great deal to the people of Stormwind to have a place to stay. Would you have preferred that the Kingdom simply toss them into the wilds to fend for themselves?”

    “We could have brought them to the cities, shared houses and put them up in inns. I’ll tell you who those houses actually meant a great deal to. The orcs!”

    I raised an eyebrow. “Care to explain that one to me?”

    “It’s simple,” Bartrand said and took a swig of something I was pretty sure was a lot stronger than my own tea. “All of that housing we paid to put up? After the refugees moved out, we moved the orcs in. They’re all those blasted internment camps now.”

    Randolph shook his head. “Alright, old man, zip it up. We don’t need another lecture on why the internment camps are a terrible idea.”

    “Pah. You say that now. Let’s see if you still feel that way when the tax collectors come and we’re still out of work. All of our money is going to these damned camps and all of our soldiers are too. No one’s left here to help clear out beasties, so we wind up with infestations like what happened at the mine.”

    “Speaking of that,” Caitlyn cut in, “What exactly happened at the mine?”

    “We found a cluster of giant spiders in there and they took exception to being disturbed,” Randolph said. “It happens now and again. They usually hunt up in the mountains, but they like to find caves or mines to nest in, and occasionally they’ll slip in. Usually we’d just call for a few soldiers to help clear them out--”

    “--But our soldiers are spread thin because they have to watch those damned orcs. So it’ll probably be weeks before the magistrate can muster a group to send out here,” Bartrand finished.

    “Yes, that.” Randolph rolled his eyes. “The foreman will probably try and see if the town militia would be willing to help, but I wouldn’t count on it. It’s one thing to muster arms if there’s a clear and present danger to take care of. It’s another when the beasties are perfectly willing to keep to themselves until the real soldiers show up.”

    “So what’s the solution then? Just sit back and wait?” I asked.

    Randolph shrugged. “Might put a bounty up for any mercenary types. That’s a common enough way of handling things. It’s a bit hit or miss though. Sometimes you get people to help, sometimes you don’t.”

    I drummed my fingers on the table. It was a hard situation in a lot of ways. I knew from experience that having a large population of people with no work to occupy them or to fill their pockets would only lead to trouble down the line. They might not have too many problems right now, but eventually their coin would run thin. They would either have to find some other work or turn to banditry just to eat. And if the army was spread too thin to help here, then it was almost certainly spread thin elsewhere as well. How many other people in the Kingdom were in the same situation as these miners?

    A tug on my shirtsleeve drew me out of my thoughts and I glanced over at Caitlyn. She met my eyes and said, “We should help them.”

    I blinked. “What?”

    “You know how to fight, Taylor. And I can help too. We can take the bounty and help clear out the mine.”

    “Just because I put some idiot on the ground yesterday, it doesn’t mean I’m cut out for dealing with a bunch of giant spiders on my own, Caitlyn. I’d need more than just me down there,” I said, my head already turning towards the tactics of the situation. “In tunnels like that, it’d be easy for them to ambush me without someone to watch my back. And I’d need a better weapon, something that could pierce their carapace.”

    “You wouldn’t be there alone. I’d be there with you.” I shot her a skeptical look and she hunched her shoulders defensively. “Really, I can help. Look,” she said, lifting her hands in front of her. She closed her eyes, concentrating, and a moment later a golden glow gathered into a sphere held between her palms.

    Randolph let out a low whistle. “Well how about that, a genuine priestess of the Light.”

    “Oh, I’m not a priestess,” Caitlyn blushed, “I haven’t taken any vows. I’m still a laywoman of the Church.”

    “You called and the Light answered. I’d say that makes you qualified,” Randolph winked. “And you know what? With all the talk of the War earlier, I think I’d be willing to pick up my old sword and give things a try as well. So what do you say? That makes three so far.”

    I hesitated. I’d been telling myself that it was okay to enjoy my retirement. That my fighting was finished. That I could take the time and rest. Yet, a familiar energy was thrumming through me and I wondered how I’d ever set it aside. Two frontliners of questionable ability with a Blaster in the back. It could be worse, I suppose.

    I met each of their eyes.

    As a reminder, voting will take place on Spacebattles.

    The mine is swarmed with spiders and the miners need help. It’s likely to offer a decent sized bounty. On the other hand, it’s likely to be more than a bit risky.

    [] Help clear the mine.
    [] You’ve got better, safer things to do.
    -[][Refuse] Look for less dangerous work.
    -[][Refuse] Give Caitlyn that tour.
    -[][Refuse] (Write-In)
    [] (Write-In)

    Hello everyone.

    This time Taylor returns to teaching kids. No lessons on why drugs are awesome this time, but maybe you’ll get that in the future. Actually, I wanted to have her give her observations on Haldrath and how to fight (go for the eyes, kick em in the crotch), but I had difficulty segueing into it, and then I wound up spending pretty much the entire week sick. As you can imagine, it made it difficult to focus on writing.

    Ultimately, I decided to push the story out rather than sitting on it longer.
  19. taovkool

    taovkool Verified Ishigami

    Sep 22, 2014
    Likes Received:
    [X] Help clear the mine.

    We got a quest and there's no WoW players that would ignore a quest.
  20. Ragura

    Ragura I trust you know where the happy button is?

    Dec 15, 2017
    Likes Received:
    [X] Help clear the mine.
  21. Gryphalcon

    Gryphalcon Making the rounds.

    Oct 10, 2019
    Likes Received:
    Ah, just checked back and realized you're not taking votes here.
    Would you still accept omakes?
    Last edited: Oct 16, 2020
  22. Threadmarks: Scars 1.3

    Aldsan (Mysterious Heroine)

    Nov 29, 2019
    Likes Received:
    [X] Help clear the mine.
    [X] (Write-In) Help clear the mine, but ask the town militia to provide assistance in the form of spare gear, if no militia members can be spared. Ask the miners for info on the layout of the mines.

    Party Performance:
    Taylor: 75
    Caitlyn: 90
    Randolph: 42

    Average: 69

    Lightstone Mine stood a half day’s travel outside of town, but it wasn’t until a few days later that the three of us made our way there. Despite Caitlyn’s eagerness, I’d insisted on taking the time to get at least marginally better equipped and confirm that there would actually be a bounty for clearing the place. Ultimately, it turned out that instead of clearing out all of the spiders, we’d just have to kill the nesting queen and destroy whatever eggs she’d laid.


    Sarcasm aside, the more I heard about these spiders, the less they sounded like spiders at all. Most species of spider were solitary hunters. Swarming was largely limited to species in tropical areas of the world, where food was plentiful, not temperate forests like what was found in Lordaeron. What’s more, spiders, even social spiders, didn’t typically have queens.

    “I think,” I started, glancing around the area, “That we might be dealing with a few more spiders than was previously indicated. I thought you said they kept mostly underground?”

    “Their nest will be underground,” Randolph answered. “They still have to come up here to hunt for food.”

    Despite the miners having been driven out only a few days previous, I could already see thick strands of webbing running between buildings and trees and dark shapes skittered through the area. Most of the spiders were the size of a large dog, and there were a lot of them. Most kept to the ground, but I saw one or two in the trees, so they weren’t limited to it.

    “Right. Okay.” I took a deep breath and hefted the pickaxe I’d taken as a weapon. It might not have quite the length of a sword or spear, but it had piercing power in spades and I could use it one-handed. “Focus on stabbing attacks over slashing. At that size, their chitin is likely to act like armor, so blunt impacts or something that can pierce through is going to be the most effective. If you have to slash, then you’re going to want to aim for between their cephalothorax--”

    “Their what?”

    “Their head. Aim for between their head and the rest of their body. Failing that, either the joints of their legs or the eyes are probably your best bet. Just watch you don’t get bitten.” I scanned over the area. No signs of trapdoors, which was good. They would probably be closest to a wolf spider in behavior then. Hunters instead of trap-makers. “We’re not likely to run into webs, but they’ll almost certainly use ambush tactics. Caitlyn, you’ll need to keep an eye out for any spiders that try to hit us from above.”

    “Sure,” Caitlyn murmured, her voice faint. “Keep watch. I can do that.”

    I glanced back at her. Where Randolph had scrounged up a chain shirt and wooden buckler, Caitlyn was still in light cloth robes with only a wooden staff to fend attackers off with. Given how pale she’d gotten, she was probably starting to regret not having equipped herself a bit more thoroughly. I tried giving her a reassuring smile. “Caitlyn. You okay?”

    Caitlyn hesitated for only a brief moment before returning my smile. “Yes. I’m sorry. Just… It's the first time I’ve actually gone out and fought anything. I’m sure my brother would just barrel into it without a thought, but I can’t help but feel worried that something will go wrong. What if I’m too slow, too weak, too stupid? What if someone gets hurt because I thought I was up to this and I wasn’t in the end?”

    “Hey. It’s okay. Just stick close to me. I told you I’d protect you, right? We’ll be fine.”


    Caitlyn bit down on her lip and turned her gaze towards the spiders.

    You put people into danger so you can feel better about yourself when you pull them out again.

    Her fists clenched around her staff, her knuckles turning white.

    I shook my head, banishing the echo of Brian’s words. This expedition hadn’t been my idea. I wasn’t falling back into old habits.

    It was a long moment before Caitlyn looked back to me, her grip slowly loosening as she finally nodded. “Alright. I can do this. Let’s do this.”

    I nodded and the three of us moved forward, careful to avoid any roaming spiders.

    The mine had a small compound outside of it -- an area for processing ores, an office for the foreman, a set of squat log houses for the miners to live in. The buildings were arranged mostly to either side of the mine, with the center left as a large, open area. Dirt and gravel crunched underfoot as we crept quietly along the side of the administrative offices, freezing now and then as we saw spiders skitter across the yard. Distant from us, but near enough to worry that we might be spotted.

    Ahead lay the tunnels. We glanced out to the yard, waiting a few moments to check for any activity, before dashing the last stretch to the entrance. I let out a sigh of relief as we got there unmolested. The easy part was done, and without any fighting to boot. Here’s hoping that our luck would keep up.

    Taking a moment to relax, I glanced around the tunnel. Wooden struts ran the length of the wall, reinforcing the stone. Lightstone was a long established mine, and it showed in the care that had been taken to prevent any sort of collapse. Lanterns hung in intervals, but whatever fuel they’d had was burned away, leaving the shaft in darkness. Already, Randolph was striking flint to steel to light the lantern he’d brought, light blooming around us.

    “Okay. Randolph, you’re the one most familiar with this place. Where are we going down here?”

    Randolph led the way, Caitlyn and I following in his wake. “There are three main shafts, with a few more minor branching tunnels from each. The spiders came mostly from the third shaft, so that’s likely where we’ll need to go to find the Queen. Fortunately, the third shaft is the least developed, which means less paths we have to search.”

    We turned a corner, the sounds of our footsteps echoing down the passageway. The light from our single lantern didn’t stretch far, the darkness seeming almost to press back against the wan circle it drew and our shadows danced along the walls with every movement that jostled it. We wandered down stone corridors, twisting and turning until I had lost my sense of direction. My sense of time soon followed it. My grip tightened on my pickaxe, nervously scanning the darkness for any hint of movement.

    In the end, it was Caitlyn who spotted them first.

    “Above us!” She cried, even as the first spider dropped onto Randolph, bearing him to the ground.

    A ray of golden light flashed out, knocking the spider back into the wall, and I instinctively flinched away from the sudden glare. Another spider replaced the first, skittering along the wall before leaping towards Caitlyn. I intercepted it, swinging my pick to hit it mid-air. I drove down, dashing it against the ground. My pick lodged into its carapace, but failed to pierce through, so I quickly put a foot onto the handle, putting all my weight behind it until the tip sank in, leaving the spider twitching for a few seconds before going still.

    Randolph had gotten his back to a wall, but he was surrounded by two spiders that were lunging at him relentlessly, leaving him to hide behind his shield to try and fend them off. A flash of light hit the closer of the two spiders, sending it tumbling back and Randolph took the opportunity to dart his sword out. The first thrust skimmed off the spider’s carapace, but the second managed to score a hit, going through the spider’s eye instead. It wasn’t a killing blow, but the pain made the spider hesitate long enough for me to get there and place my pick through its head.

    And then there was one. The final spider charged for me, only for light to form above it and smash it against the ground.

    With that, everything fell silent again. The fight had been short. It was hardly worth mentioning compared to some of the fights I’d had during my career as a cape. Yet, I still felt that surge of adrenaline, that excited tension at the base of my spine. I let out a slow breath, loosening my grip on the pick, and asked, “Everyone alright?”

    “A bit rattled,” Randolph answered, getting back to his feet, “But otherwise fine.”

    Caitlyn didn't answer right away and I glanced over to her. Her eyes had gone wide, looking into the darkness as though she expected another spider to suddenly lunge out at her. “Caitlyn? You okay?”

    She jumped, startled out of her reverie, and took a deep breath before answering, “Yes. Sorry. I’m fine. How much deeper does this mine run, Randolph?”

    “Not too much further. There should be a large cavern coming up. After that, it’s just a few branching paths that don’t lead anywhere.”

    “Okay,” I said. “Let’s keep it moving then. The sooner we’re done, the sooner we’re out of here, right?”

    The other two nodded and we started to slowly advance once again, Caitlyn clinging close to my side. I eyed her as we walked, hoping that her fear would not turn to panic.

    The cave, despite Randolph’s description, wasn’t especially large. Or perhaps, it was just that my own perceptions were skewed. When I heard the word cavern, I half-expected some cathedral-like space, filled with glittering stones and gleaming crystal, where my voice would echo from one end to the other. But that was a stupid thing to expect from the bottom of a mine, however disappointing the reality was.

    Instead, it was roughly the size of a living room. More spacious than the tunnels we were in, but not by much. Webs ran along nearly every surface and sacs of eggs dotted the walls. We had found the nest. I counted at least seven more of the giant arachnids chittering within. A fair few more than the small ambush that had met us further back.

    “Alright. Let’s try and lure them into the tunnel. We can use the narrow space to advantage and keep from being surrounded.”

    Randolph nodded and stepped ahead, bringing his sword up to bang against the rim of his shield. The resulting clang echoed down the passage. I found myself holding my breath for the split second before the spiders screeched in response, rushing towards us. Before, they had ambushed, spilling out of the dark. This time we were prepared.

    The first leapt for Randolph and he ducked, lifting his shield to let it skim off the top and fall behind him where I waited for it. I dug my pickaxe into the creature’s head before it had a chance to recover and dashed forward to help Randolph ward off the others. A spear of light flashed over my shoulder and a spider fell from the ceiling into my path, it’s carapace burnt but otherwise unharmed.

    Hissing, I danced backwards as the spider lunged at me. If I compared it proportionately to the smaller jumping spiders that I was more familiar with, then the distance the thing covered was rather pathetic. It was still far enough to be a threat however, and I found myself scrambling to keep away. I ducked under a leg and swung my pick, swearing as it struck at an angle and skidded off the carapace. Another leg struck me in the chest as the spider turned, and I fell backwards, ducking into a tumble and letting myself roll back to my feet.

    The spider was already chasing me down, however, and I was left with my back to the wall. I crouched, waiting for the spider to get close, before springing upwards, jumping my way onto the spider’s back. It reared, trying to dislodge me, but I wouldn’t be gotten rid of so easily. I firmed my positioning, tightening my legs around the creature’s thorax, and drove my pick down between my knees. It took three tries before it finally pierced through, and a fourth before the spider collapsed beneath me.

    I stood back up on shaky legs and spared a glance for how the others were doing. Randolph was holding the line, but there was a ragged, bloody hole in his leg and he was barely keeping up with the numbers that were swarming him. Spiders were piling at his feet as bolts of light tore through their bodies, Caitlyn’s casting steady despite how pale her face had gone. Slowly, but steadily, the spiders’ numbers were dwindling.

    My stomach twisted. We were winning. We were winning, but something was wrong. I scanned over the battlefield a second time before it hit me. Where was the queen?

    A deafening screech echoed down the tunnel. I winced, my hand coming up to cover a single ear. Randolph couldn’t even manage that much, and another spider managed to sink its fangs into his arm as the sound left him reeling. A moment later, a hulking body burst out of the darkness behind us. It rushed for Caitlyn, but I was already moving, shoving her out of the way and turning to use my wooden arm as a make-shift shield. The queen’s fangs sunk into the wood and it jerked me from side to side before tossing me against the tunnel wall.

    I stared up at the thing, dazed by the impact. The queen towered over her kin. Where most of these spiders came up to an adult’s waist, the queen stood at height with me, her legs stretching out from wall to wall in the tunnel. A long, black leg lifted over me, poised like some morbid guillotine set to cave my chest in. It descended.

    A sudden burst of golden light burned itself into my retinas, and I found myself blinking away tears as the queen stumbled back under Caitlyn’s assault. I flinched back before forcing myself to my feet again. I couldn’t waste this opportunity. I buried my pickaxe into the queen, at the joint where one of its legs met its body. The spider screeched again and tried to pull away, but I held firm until, with a pop, the leg tore free of the queen’s body.

    The queen stumbled away, unbalanced for a moment by the loss of the leg. It wouldn’t take long for it to adjust to the mutilation, but even those scant few seconds would be enough. A bolt of light knocked another leg out from under it, and I rushed to repeat my earlier performance by mounting myself onto the queen’s back. Its chitin was thicker, harder than the one before, and already it threatened to buck me off. I wouldn’t get anywhere just hammering at it until it broke.

    Instead, I took my own advice. I shifted to line up my strike and drove my pick deep into the spider’s eye. The spider jerked, hurling itself against the wall in an attempt to knock me free, smashing my body up against the rock. I held on however and drove my pick down again, widening the hole I’d left. Again, I was smashed against the wall, the breath knocked from my body, and this time I did find myself hurled free, tossed down the tunnel.

    Caitlyn however, had realized what I was trying to do. Already I could see the light forming in her hands, hardening into form before she hurled it forward like a javelin, piercing through the eye I had destroyed to burn the monster from within. The queen thrashed, throwing itself against the walls, unheeding of its surroundings. One spider got past Randolph only for the queen to land atop it as it finally fell, the last of its death throes spent.

    That didn’t end things, of course. Caitlyn and I turned our attention back to helping Randolph in warding off the rest of the spiders. Soon enough however, we had finished off the last of them.

    “Light, I’m glad that’s over. I think we might have gotten a bit more than we bargained for,” Randolph said, leaning against the wall. He was pale and sweating, and though Caitlyn was already seeing to his wounds, the spiders’ venom had already had time to work its way through his bloodstream.

    “We still have the eggs to deal with, but I think we should be in the clear after that,” I replied. “Think you’ll be okay?”

    “He’ll be fine,” Caitlyn answered. “Just give me a minute to get his system clear.”

    “How did so many get down here anyways?” I asked, nudging a spider with my foot. “These are too big to be recently hatched.”

    Randolph shook his head. “One of the tunnels probably connected to a natural cave somewhere. We’ll have to send in an expedition to scout it out and seal it once things are back up and running.”

    I tilted my head back and let out a slow breath. What a mess. “Can you give me the lantern? I’ll go work on destroying the eggs so we can get out of here.”

    “Uh, sure, just let me--”

    “We shouldn’t split up,” Caitlyn interrupted, frowning at me. “Just give me a moment and I’ll go with you.”

    “It’s fine. I’ll be just the next room over. You’ll be able to hear if anything happens.”

    Caitlyn’s fingers trembled for a moment, the soft golden light that played beneath them flickering. “Fine. Yell if there’s any trouble at all.”

    I smiled and took the lantern. “Of course.” It didn’t seem to reassure her much, but I doubt there was much I could do on that front. I turned and strode away, into the web-covered cave beyond. Bruised and battered, my body ached to move, so the sooner we were done with this the better, in my opinion.

    I set to my grisly work.

    As a reminder, voting will take place on Spacebattles.

    Later, you see a soldier in full plate in town. He’s asking around after a blonde girl who had gone missing. Do you:

    [] Warn Caitlyn to hide at the Church.
    [] Take Caitlyn with you to hide in the wilderness for a few days.
    [] Work to disguise Caitlyn but otherwise go about business as usual.
    [] Turn Caitlyn in.
  23. Aldsan

    Aldsan (Mysterious Heroine)

    Nov 29, 2019
    Likes Received:
    Sorry about the late response, Gryphalcon. Yes, you can still put up omakes here. If they're not nsfw, I'll even cross post them to the other threads for you. If they are nsfw, I'll still give credit, but they won't be cross posted for obvious reasons.
    Gryphalcon likes this.